Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Keep Talkin' Dick

Woman sues restaurant after
décor (a 50 pound Moose head
with antlers) falls on her head.

Keep talkin’, Dick, it’s your only chance, or would be if Obama and Holder weren’t also fast becoming fellow war criminals. I’m reasonably certain that the U.S. constitution and U.S. laws require the President and the Attorney General to prosecute war criminals. As Obama and Holder, so far at least, have failed to do so, this would, I surmise, make them fellow travelers. Perhaps I am the only one obsessed with the idea that Bush/Cheney should have to stand trial for their (both admitted and un-admitted) war crimes, at least we don’t hear much about it.

I have previously discussed why it is that Dick (the Slimy) Cheney is compelled to constantly criticize Obama for failing to adequately protect our country. By attempting to make and keep this a political issue, if any action were taken by the Obama administration against him, he and his followers would immediately claim it was because he was criticizing Obama, that is, it would be purely political. Cheney does not dare just keep quiet as he would lose whatever protection this strategy might possibly offer him. This fits nicely with his recent remarks about Obama not wanting to think of our fight with al Quaida as “war.” For Cheney it would be dangerous for what is happening not to be considered a “war.” Very few people are sympathetic to torturing ordinary criminals, whereas there are at least quite a few who believe torturing “war criminals” might well be justified. Cheney may be evil as hell, and he may have been wrong about virtually everything, but he is not really stupid. He knows perfectly well that Obama is not soft on terrorists and is not neglecting the defense of our country. But he needs this to be “war,” not merely international crime, because the claim of being at “war” is the only possible justification he could have for the torture that he seems to have delighted in, and keeps insisting, “worked.”

And speaking of “war,” the “war on terror” is definitely not “war.” Obama is quite right to point out that you cannot be at “war” against a tactic, but there is more to it than that. There has been no declaration of “war,” merely the use of that term for fighting terrorists. Thus in reality the “war on terror” is no more a “war” that the “war on drugs,” or the “war on obesity,” or even the “war on Christmas.” Of course it was in the best interest of Bush/Cheney to call it “war,” as it helps to make Bush a “war president,” and it gives Cheney an excuse to torture (how eagerly he embraced “the dark side”).

I guess that technically speaking we are not at “war” at all, as Congress, which alone has the authority to declare war, has not done so to my knowledge in the case of either Iraq or Afghanistan, and they certainly have not done so yet against Iran or even Yemen, whom we are now attacking. So, we are fighting in Afghanistan because they harbored terrorists, and we are now fighting (surreptitiously) in Pakistan because they are harboring terrorists, and now we are attacking Yemen because they are harboring terrorists, and so on. Following this logic we will no doubt soon be attacking Berlin and London, as well as Somalia, Kenya, and god knows who all else. But wait a minute, maybe not. Yemen has oil, London and Berlin do not. Maybe we only attack countries that have oil and harbor terrorists. Actually, who knows what we are doing, it is all so stupid that it makes no sense whatsoever. There are a relatively small number of international terrorists scattered around the world that are trying to perform criminal acts against different countries. These people are criminals, not soldiers, they do not represent nations or any known polity. They will probably never be completely defeated, certainly not by armies, and should be treated as ordinary criminals. We should definitely not be fighting them with the full force of our military, thus eventually bankrupting ourselves just as Osama bin Laden planned and predicted. I doubt that the military/industrial/political complex cares very much who we are fighting or why, as long as we keep on doing it. If we were suddenly to be attacked by creatures from outer space you can bet we’d all be on the same side, Iran, Israel, Iraq, Kenya, Yemen, Luxembourg, Lichtenstein, and even Monaco. Perhaps an attack from outer space might be a good thing, we could call it a “war” against war, and be proud to be fighting once again, a “good war.”

I can picture in my mind a world without war, a world without hate. And I can picture us attacking that world, because they'd never expect it.
Jack Handey

I read somewhere today (on google) that Donald Rumsfeld bought a mansion called Mount Misery.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

The White House Objects

Angry at having to make
his own lunch, Florida man
pistol whips his father.

Israel has announced it will build 700 new apartments in East Jerusalem. The White House objects. Get that, the White House objects (hahahahahaha). So who cares if the White House objects? Certainly not the Israelis, who always do as they please, while the U.S. meekly goes along with whatever it is they wish. The Israelis are also in the process of seizing more Palestinian land in the West Bank to build a sewage facility for a village that was illegally constructed in the first place. And, if I understand it correctly, they have also recently budgeted more money for more illegal settlements elsewhere. They are also suspected of authoring a forged documents accusing Iran of experimenting with some kind of nuclear process related to bomb making. Of course they have been lobbying for months, maybe years, for the U.S. to attack Iran for them.

You see, there are special rules for Israel. Unlike most other nations they are not required to pay any attention whatsoever to U.N. sanctions, rules, laws, or whatever. Israel has ignored and broken more U.N. strictures than probably all other nations on earth put together, and no one, absolutely no one, does anything about it. How does a little country like Israel get away with so many things like murder, kidnappings, assassinations, assorted war crimes, and other repeated violations of international law (to say nothing of morality and common decency)? It is entirely because they can count on the backing of the U.S. no matter how flagrant the violations or murderous the intent. The truth of the matter is, on the international scene, Israel and the U.S. are the true rogue nations. The Israeli treatment of the Palestinians is shameful beyond belief, and the U.S. involvement is even more shameless by being so hypocritical. Any recent U.S. President could have rectified this terrible situation, but none have chosen to do so, and it appears that Obama is not going to be an exception.

Israel has herded somewhere around a million and a half Palestinians into the tiny Gaza strip where they are being systematically denied supplies of most kinds and are slowly being killed by Israeli assassinations, bombings, hunger and disease. The only life line the people of Hamas have are tunnels that allow things to be smuggled in from Egypt, tunnels that are destroyed by the Israelis whenever they find one. Now Egypt is building a wall (with U.S. funding), with a foundation fifty feet into the ground, to prevent even these supplies from entering. A large contingent of Palestinian sympathizers composed of people from all over the world have been trying to march into Gaza in support of those trapped there and abused, Egyptian forces are preventing them from doing so, no doubt at the behest of Israel and the U.S. What “crimes” did these Palestinians commit to bring on this punishment? They voted for and supported Hamas, the legally elected government of the Palestinians. Surely you remember the democratic elections we forced on the Palestinians, the one in which Hamas surprisingly won fair and square, contrary to Israeli and U.S. wishes, and then were refused any further aid and ignored in favor of Fatah, the side we wished had won, so much for democracy, American and Israeli style. Of course some of the more militant citizens of Gaza occasionally lob homemade rockets into Israel that are mostly harmless, and Israel responds with totally asymmetrical violence. Virtually nothing in the way of supplies are permitted to enter Gaza, either by land or by sea even though the world is aware of the suffering of the people being held there. Would Israel be able to get away with this slow genocide without the aid of the U.S.? I doubt it. Most of the news of this atrocity does not appear in the MSM, who favor news about Sarah Palin and disgraced beauty queens, car chases, sex scandals, and anything else that will help keep us from hearing about the terrible things being done in our name around the world.

There is a new report out, prepared for General Petraeus, that points out that an Afghan army and police force that can take over and manage Afghanistan is not even close to being realized and won’t be probably for several years. As this is supposedly our main objective now in that war-torn land, it would seem we are doomed to fail. I don’t want to claim any particular expertise on this matter but I have been saying this for a long time, and anyone with half a brain would have known this was not going to be a success. This idea was a no-brainer from the beginning, just another old-fashioned colonial attempt to force our ways on others who neither want nor need them. In its simplest form this is like invading a society and demanding to be taken to their chiefs, not believing there could be a society without chiefs, and then, learning there are none, arbitrarily appointing chiefs and expecting people to accept them as their leaders. Afghanistan is a tribal and clan-based society. People do not feel allegiance to the nation, but to their own clan or tribe. If soldiers and policemen can be trained at all (they are mostly illiterate to begin with) they are not going to police or fight against their own. They will do precisely what the Afghans are doing, joining together to fight outsiders, when the outsiders leave they will go back to feuding with each other, forming alliances and changing enemies as needed. They do not understand democracy, didn’t ask for it, don’t want it, and will not have it imposed on them by outsiders. It is really quite simple, just look at how widely Karzai is accepted by the people of Afghanistan. Hundreds of years of colonial adventures have taught us nothing.

The 'eathen in 'is blindness bows down to wood an' stone;
'E don't obey no orders unless they is 'is own;
'E keeps 'is side-arms awful: 'e leaves 'em all about,
An' then comes up the Regiment an' pokes the 'eathen out.

From Rudyard Kipling

Monday, December 28, 2009

No Hat and all Prattle?

Man injured in house fire
he set himself while
burning his divorce papers.

I am still of two minds about President Obama. On the one hand I think he has done some good things, closing Guantanamo (not entirely his fault it is going more slowly than we would like), stopping torture (if, indeed, he truly has), passing the stimulus package and now health care reform (at least in some form), trying to make nice with the rest of the world, insisting we will get out of Iraq (we may not), reversing some of Bush’s more obnoxious practices, and so on. But I fear that where Bush was “all hat and no cattle,” Obama may be no hat and all prattle.
For example, Obama has to know that Bush/Cheney are war criminals (they have even admitted it) but he does nothing about it. What he does do, if pushed, is prattle on about how we have to look to the future and not the past. This is not in the least bit satisfactory. It is also probably illegal and unconstitutional, as I am pretty sure a President and his administration are required by law and constitution to prosecute war criminals. Some may say there is no precedent for a new administration to investigate their predecessors, but I say there has never been a past administration that openly admitted its war crimes, and, as one of Obama’s goals is to restore the U.S. position in the international community, letting Bush/Cheney off the hook is not the way to go about it. Obama/Holder apparently want the world to believe that prosecuting war criminals around the world is necessary, but prosecuting our own war criminals is not. This is hypocrisy of the worst kind. Not only does he do nothing, he allows Bush/Cheney to continue to appear in public making speeches criticizing his administration and drawing big speaking fees in the process. He could easily stop this, I’m sure that just the threat of doing something would shut up the cowardly draft-dodging Cheney (who truly belongs in prison), and Bush would quickly withdraw to his hole in the ground as well. You don’t notice Rumsfeld or Rice making a lot of noise these days.

Obama has asked the Israelis to stop building settlements. I say “asked”, because you could hardly say “demanded.” Here again we have what is apparently little more that prattle. Obama has it easily within his power to stop the Israelis from building settlements, and to even stop them from their slow genocide of the Palestinians. But he doesn’t, he just keeps prattling on about peace in the Middle East and how it is the Palestinians should have a state of their own, and blah, blah, blah, but takes no meaningful action to bring this about. Instead of bringing sanctions to bear against Israel, where the basic problem originates, he listens to their paranoia about Iran and prattles on about sanctioning that nation instead. I do not believe Iran is an “existential threat” to Israel. They may be a threat in some sense as they clearly wish there was no Israel, but they are not insane enough to attempt to destroy it militarily, knowing full well what would happen to them if they did. Somewhere I read that if Obama would guarantee Israel’s safety from Iran they might start cooperating about the settlements and such. That should be easy for Obama as Iran is not much of a threat in the first place, except in the opportunistic minds of Israelis.

Then there is Afghanistan, where Obama wants us to believe we are sending more troops so we can withdraw. Both our Secretary of Defense and our Secretary of Defense have already explained that Obama’s claim of withdrawal is just more prattle, and there is no timeline for withdrawal. Here again Obama has it within his power to get us out of Afghanistan, but horror of horrors, he might offend some of the warmongers on the right.

On the matter of health care reform, still more prattle. Obama backed a public option all the way, until such time as he didn’t. He could have fought for what he said he believed, but when the time came he didn’t. He will now be able to prattle on about having passed health care reform, it having everything in it he said he wanted (which it doesn’t), and how it is such a remarkable victory (in a way it is), and how maybe it will be improved. He also prattles on about how he is going to end “don’t ask don’t tell,” and he has the power to end it right now, but he doesn’t. And he continues his futile prattle about bipartisanship while the Republicans repeatedly spit in his face and refuse him the courtesy of a vote on anything, while at the same time deliberately trying to engineer his waterloo. So I say prattle on McBama, and damned be him who first cries hold, enough! Personally, I’m still waiting for you to do all these things you claim you want to do, and I wish you success, but I’ll believe it when I see it.

No wonder Americans hate politics when, year in and year out, they hear politicians make promises that won't come true because they don't even mean them - campaign fantasies that win elections but don't get nations moving again.
Bill Clinton

All the pigs in the Balearic Islands are black.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Milk - book

Milk, The Surprising Story of Milk Through the Ages, Anne Mendelson (Alfred A. Knopf, 2008)

The first third of this book is an interesting, even fascinating account of the use of milk by different peoples, in different parts of the world, at different times in history. The remaining two-thirds consists of recipes which, I confess, I only briefly perused, partly because most of them require the use of milk in forms that I know I will never obtain. Her account of different kinds of milk, different ways of processing milk, and what happens to milk when processed is a bit technical but it is not difficult to at least understand the basics involved. She describes how it is that not only has milk been changed by modern demands for it, but even how the cows themselves have been changed. A family Jersey Cow, for example, could provide milk for up to twenty years, the average life of a dairy cow under modern factory farming conditions lasts for three years before becoming hamburger. Basically, Mendelson does for milk what others have done for most of the other foods we consume in industrialized nations. It is not a very happy story, especially for those like herself, who obviously love milk and its products.

I was somewhat amazed to learn that prior to Columbus there was no tradition of milking in the Americas. I was even more amazed to learn that the way we consume milk here in what she describes as a sort of “Northwestern Cow Belt” is, in traditional and historic terms really rather aberrant. The use of milk as a beverage, for example, is virtually unknown in the rest of the world. This is partly because it is only in this northwestern region that adults are for the most part lactose tolerant, but it is also, as she carefully details, because of the way cattle, sheep, goats, camels, and buffalo are raised, and the environments where they are raised. In harsh and dry environments milk from cattle is not practical, and milk from the other milk-producing beasts predominates. And also, without refrigeration, milk does not keep well and is manufactured into cheese, yogurt, and such. Mendelson discusses the differences in milk from different animals, the different amounts produced, the different cheeses and other milk products produced, and different cultural practices surrounding the use of milk in its various forms. She bemoans the fact that so many of these traditional practices are being lost and urges the reader to employ them, if, in fact, they can find milk in a pristine enough form to even attempt it.

In her analysis of milk and its history she discusses different ways of pasteurization, homogenization, and other treatments of this basic substance so necessary for human life, and concludes that while milk can be made to keep longer, taste differently, contain more or less butterfat, and be shaped for the marketplace, this has done nothing to make it a better or more nutritious food. She reviews how our demand and taste for milk has been sculpted by medical beliefs about its value and advertising touting claims about the benefits of milk that have not necessarily always been true. This is not truly a polemic about the horrors of milk as we now know it and consume it, but, rather, a factual-based account of how this has all come about and why it is not necessarily all for the better. I found it of interest, but as I am not a true aficionado when it comes to milk (as I suspect it was related to a kidney stone I once experienced), I believe many will find it of greater interest than I did. I should think that for those who devour books on food (as I do) this one should find its place on the shelf alongside Bread and Oil, Salt, Codfish, Olives, Pepper, Shad, Wheat, Caviar, Saffron, Charcuterie, The Omnivore’s Dilemma, and so on.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Now the Re-runs

Well, that part of this somewhat dreadful season is over. I confess I don’t think Christmas is all bad, or at least it wouldn’t be if we exercised a bit more restraint. We did this year. First of all we, especially my wife who runs everything, were unusually busy, so busy we didn’t even get our tree up and decorated until two days before Christmas. We barely got the presents wrapped in time to get up this morning and open them, and there were fewer than ever before. But it was still Christmas, we still enjoyed it, and we managed to experience it in only four days instead of the usual month or six weeks it takes. I liked it. I hope it works the same way next year. We still managed to have a wonderful Christmas Eve dinner with friends and today an absolutely marvelous bouillabaisse for Christmas day (at least as wonderful as is possible here in Podunk-away-from-the-sea, thank goodness for flash freezing).

But we are not, as they say, “out-of-the-woods” yet, as we still have to suffer through until New Years Day. That is, not much of anything will be reported as happening in the world for the next few days. This means we will be subjected to innumerable year end reviews, repeated reporting of events of the past year. I already know what happened. I was present. I think the past year was pretty dismal and I don’t really want to have it reviewed ad nauseam. Indeed, I believe the first decade of the 21st century will be remembered as the “Nightmare Decade,” and I am greatly relieved to have done with it. I would prefer only a dim memory of all the lies, murders, secret prisons, assorted war crimes, illegal and unconstitutional acts, foreclosures, unemployment, and general misery that was engendered by the Bush/Cheney criminal conspiracy to create a Fascist Dictatorship. I gather that is all I am going to get is a dim memory because the Obama administration is doing its utmost to pretend none of this happened and refuses to investigate and prosecute even those who have admitted their crimes. I think their failure to investigate the Bush/Cheney crimes has been a terrible mistake. In my opinion it should have been a priority, they should have started by cleaning house and bringing to justice those who rightfully deserve to be brought to justice. The world knows Bush/Cheney are guilty, and they now know that we are apparently going to protect them. This is not a way to regain the confidence and respect of other nations. Obama may achieve some progress in restoring our international relations, but I doubt he will ever convince others to fully trust us, knowing we are willing to prosecute other war criminals but not our own. It is called hypocrisy, and it clings to us like stepping in dog shit. It was also a mistake because the same people that committed these terrible crimes and atrocities, and have been demonstrably wrong about everything, are allowed to run free, making speeches, criticizing the current administration and creating an environment of unnecessary confusion and discontent, to say nothing of trying to promote even further “wars” and misery. Bush/Cheney should be in jail, not out getting even richer by lying and revising history at every opportunity.

Given the current state of the Republican Party I find it virtually unbelievable that anyone would want to join it. But some supposedly Democratic Representative from somewhere-or-other (I can’t remember where at the moment) has announced he is going to do just that. I understand that whoever he is, is a genuine creep, but I guess the Republicans will be glad to add him to their roster of creeps. They are so pleased they are apparently trying to recruit other Democrats. I wonder what they say to them, “Come and join the asylum?” Maybe it’s “Come and join the party of “No.” They seem to think they are going to make great inroads in the 2010 elections. What I find terrifying is, they might, which will just prove what I already believe about the American electorate -- crazy is the word that comes immediately to mind. Even if you are one of those terribly disenchanted supporters of Obama, how could you possibly believe turning to the current Republican Party could be an improvement? But of course, I forget, they have those incredibly brilliant leaders now: Sarah Palin, Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh, John Boehner, Bobby Jindal, Chuck Grassley, Inhofe, Coburn, Kantor, New Gingrich, and, if God sends a message on time, maybe even Michelle Bachman. Now there’s a lineup that can fill one with awe, a veritable idiot’s parade that can surely lead us to the Promised Land.

Don't believe anything you read on the net. Except this. Well, including this, I suppose.
Douglas Adams

Calico cats are almost always female. In extremely rare cases of a male calico cat they are unable to reproduce.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Happy Holidays

Mother turns in her
six-year old daughter for
shop lifting, asks for reward.

It is Christmas Eve. Sugarplums are dancing in my head. We have at least a few presents under the tree, a roof over our heads, and a fine dinner resting easily where it should. I thank the Great Mystery for looking after us so well. Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, Best Wishes to all. Let us be thankful the Nightmare decade is finally coming to an end. Perhaps there will be better times ahead. Perhaps justice and fair play will win out after all. Perhaps there will be peace and good will on earth. Perhaps Polar Bears, Pygmy Rabbits, and Homo Sapiens will survive, perhaps pigs will fly, hell will freeze over, and someone from the planet Krypton will appear to save us all, perhaps, perhaps, perhaps. Remember, all we need is love, love is all we need, all we need is love, and it’s a great big wonderful world, on the sunny side of the street, where every cloud has a silver lining, the deer and the antelope play, nothing is heard but an encouraging word, the buzzing of the bees in the cigarette trees, what’s good for GM is good for the country, and Karl Rove is smiling benignly on the country he has created in a mere eight years. But listen, listen carefully, you can hear our ancestors rolling over in their graves.

The idea of an incarnation of God is absurd: why should the human race think itself so superior to bees, ants, and elephants as to be put in this unique relation to its maker? . . Christians are like a council of frogs in a marsh or a synod of worms on a dung-hill croaking and squeaking "for our sakes was the world created."

Julian the Apostate
Martha, the last passenger pigeon, died in Cincinnati in 1914.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Cultural Lag

New Zealand Constable,
Cathy Duder, stops two nude
bikers, tells them to wear helmets.

Cultural lag occurs when aspects of a culture do not keep up with technological advances. This can create problems with the social and cultural life of a people. I think we are seeing a good example of this at the moment when it comes to our political culture. It seems that our politicians, on both sides of the aisle, have not yet come to grips with the fact that with modern technology in the form of audio and videotape they have to stop lying all the time (as politicians have done consistently in the past). We have seen repeated cases of this in recent months, where someone denies having said something and a videotape is produced to prove that, in fact, they did say it. So many have been caught at this it would be impossible to enumerate them all, but Bush, Cheney, Palin, McCain, Rice, Rumsfeld, and many others come easily to mind. Now President Obama has been caught in the same way, denying that he ever campaigned for a public option, and there is footage showing that he indeed did just that. I doubt that the full meaning of this technological trap has been fully realized as yet. It would seem to me that eventually politicians would have to realize the “good ol’ days,” when they could just say anything that they wished for the moment, are past. But what might be frightening about this, is, what if they all told the truth? What would happen if they confessed they were trying to steal oil rather than export democracy? Or they were voting against something because they could not disappoint the companies that had given them money? What about a politician exposing the lies of his colleagues? I’m sure you all know from personal experience that your life would be hell if you were forced to tell only the truth, as when your spouse demands you agree that something that looks awful, that you believe is terribly ugly, like someone’s new baby, for example. Anyway, it is hard to decide which is worse, having politicians lie constantly or the threat of having them tell the truth. When we dealt only with printed matter things weren’t so bad, modern technology might well be said to have made things worse. Indeed, if politicians are not allowed to lie, our social system may collapse. To lie or not to lie, that is the question. There is no easy answer.

“We can’t afford it.” This is a claim we hear regularly, mostly from Republicans, but also from conservative Democrats as well. Thus it is we can’t afford health care. We can’t afford to give up our reliance on oil, or coal, or nuclear, or whatever, because we can’t afford it. We can’t destroy any dams to save the salmon because we can’t afford it. We can’t take any serious action on global warming because we can’t afford it. We can’t replace our crumbling infrastructure because we can’t afford it. We can’t do anything about our broken educational system because we can’t afford it. We can’t afford to have an endangered species act because we can’t afford it. And so on and on, ad infinitum; but we can afford “wars,” lots of them, and we can afford to even begin new ones, and we can maintain somewhere in the vicinity of a thousand (mostly unnecessary) bases all around the world, and we can afford a defense budget greater than all the rest of the world combined, and we can afford nuclear bombs, missiles, planes, tanks, submarines, cannons, land mines, poison gases, and other horrible weapons of destruction. In short, if it kills and maims and destroys, and causes untold misery, we can afford it, but if it threatens to improve the lot of mankind even one iota, we can’t afford it. This is a strange world we are living in, and it doesn’t say much about the mythical superiority of the human species. Don’t be surprised if we are one of those species inevitably doomed to extinction because, again, cultural lag does not permit us to keep up with our technology.

This is an interesting time of the year, here in our little county. Hunting season is about to come to a close and the hunters are all entering a contest to win a new hunting rifle. To enter you have to have your game butchered by one of our local butcher shops, then pose holding the gruesome head of your kill, deer, elk, moose, bear (a bear head for some reason won’t do, it has to be the whole bear), for a photo that appears in the local weekly. This year, for the first time in a very long time, we were even treated to pictures of a couple of dead wolves (they were legally hunted this year for the first time in I don’t know exactly how long). I don’t know precisely how they determine the winner but they always do. Also exciting is the glimpse we get just before Christmas of the “hill people.” I call them hill people because I don’t know how else to described them (delicacy does not permit me to call them hillbillies). These are people who live somewhere “back in the hills,” where many of them have no electricity, running water, or much of anything else. They don’t appear often in town but they do come in for supplies, especially around now. Many of them look like they haven’t bathed or washed their clothes for months, one of them I missed so far this year, comes dressed in deerskins with a huge hunting knife hanging from his waist (actually, quite a lot of them wear hunting knives). More often than not they arrive in old pickups with a gun rack and a dog or two, or three, riding in the bed. Many of them are on food stamps, of course, but I did see a couple the other day peel off some big bills for what I took to be several months worth of supplies. A terrible thing happened this month, every bar in town was closed down for licensing violations, except for one non-smoking bar (the non-smoking had nothing to do with it). I bet all those smokers who never go to that bar were forced to go. How they must have suffered! You see, things are not all a bed of roses here. Anyway, Happy Holidays to all, and good night.

Lying increases the creative faculties, expands the ego, and lessens the frictions of social contacts.
Clare Booth Luce

Hawaiians tend to think that forcing small children to sleep alone is a form of child abuse.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

None Dare Call it Treason?

Told she could not return items without
a receipt, woman at Joy Joy Beauty store
destroys $1000 worth of perfume.

1: the betrayal of a trust: treachery
2: the offense of attempting by overt acts to overthrow the government of the state to which the offender owes allegiance or to kill or personally injure the sovereign or the sovereign’s family.
Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary

The original book, None Dare Call it Treason, 1964, by John A. Stormer, an ardent John Bircher, was about our losing the Cold War, presumably because our government was infiltrated by communist subversives. This paranoid fantasy eventually collapsed as there was no legitimate evidence for it. But it seems to me we have a new problem with subversives. If you follow the definition of treason above, how can you not conclude the present Republican Party is not engaged in treason? First of all, are they not betraying a trust? That is, they were elected by their constituents to act on their behalf with respect to the various problems and requirements of their society and government. By announcing they were going to vote “No” on everything, and then actually doing so, is this not a betrayal of trust? Simply announcing they would vote no on everything, and then doing so, cannot reasonably be seen as legitimate participation in government.

More importantly, by announcing very early in the Obama administration they wanted him to fail, and then refusing to cooperate with him and continuing to vote "no" exclusively on everything he attempted, is that not “attempting by overt acts to overthrow the government…?” It seems to me that it is. It also seems to me the Obama administration has simply buried its head in the sand, so to speak, and refuses to act in any way against this subversion. Indeed, in face of continued rejection, Obama still tries to reach out to these traitors. There is no doubt the motivation for Republicans has solely to do with bringing down the present administration to replace it by a new Republican one. How is that any different than, say, a revolution? Some may wish to argue that this is merely “politics as usual.” I do not think so. Normal political activity involves a give-and-take between the parties involved, there has never to my knowledge been a provision for simply opting out of politics when things do not go your way, and certainly this cannot be regarded as proper when the country is facing so many absolutely crucial decisions like those having to do with “wars,” global warming, financial meltdown, joblessness, bank failures, unprecedented home foreclosures, and so on. If this does not represent treason it certainly represents irresponsibility carried to an unprecedented extreme.

In my opinion what is happening now with the Republican Party is simply an extension of what happened during the Bush/Cheney administration, when a legitimate political party morphed into little more than a criminal conspiracy. This was a conspiracy designed to eliminate the Democratic Party (for all intents and purposes) and create a one party (Republican) system that would reign for (presumably) eternity. This would have been a Fascist regime in the best Mussolini tradition, a political party in tandem with huge corporations (the very definition of fascism). This strategy can be attributed in large part to Karl Rove, who also made it clear that no means for obtaining these ends were off limits, including the lowest, dirtiest, slimiest, most dishonest and disgusting. These developments were right in line with those of Dick (the Slimy) Cheney to change the office of the President into a Monarchy. They very nearly achieved these goals and now, having been frustrated by the unexpected election of Barack Obama, they have not given up. Why else would they have abandoned any pretense of acting in the public interest and planned instead to devote all their energy to bringing down his administration. I cannot see any other explanation for their unprecedented and destructive behavior. Those behind this attempt I am certain have nothing in common with Sarah Palin and the tea baggers, but they will not hesitate to encourage them in threatening Obama with their guns and Hitleresque slogans, their claims of death panels and socialism, and their small-minded racism. They will use them just as they used the Fundamentalists, laugh at them behind their backs, and abandon them once they have attained their goal of “The Divine Right of Corporations and the Filthy Rich.”

“History proves that dictatorships do not grow out of strong and successful governments, but out of weak and helpless ones. If by democratic methods people get a government strong enough to protect them from fear and starvation, their democracy succeeds; but if they do not, they grow impatient. Therefore, the only sure bulwark of continuing liberty is a government strong enough to protect the interests of the people, and a people strong enough and well enough informed to maintain its sovereign control over its government.”
Franklin Delano Roosevelt

Milking was unknown in America until after Columbus.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Republican Wonderland

Man dressed in a barrel and
Santa Claus hat, arrested
for defacing Las Vegas sign.

Alice’s bizarre adventures in Wonderland would seem to have nothing on the Republican adventures in politics. Republicans announced months ago, after Obama was elected to the Presidency, they wanted him to fail. They also promised they were not going to cooperate and were, in fact, proud to be the party of “No.” They have voted NO religiously every since, to a person (except for one vote by Olympia Snow). Now that the Democrats have managed to pass a Senate health care bill against the overwhelming opposition from Republicans, these latter are now complaining it was not a bipartisan bill. If that does not one up Alice in Wonderland I wonder what would? Republican refusal to cooperate on health care (and everything else) has meant Democrats have been forced to give outrageous concessions to a few Democratic shills for the Insurance companies, like lifetime Medicaid expenses to the state of Nebraska, and other concessions to Lieberman to get their required 60 votes. And now the Republicans have the gall to criticize this. But I think all this pales into insignificance when you consider what Republicans are actually doing, deliberating killing health care reform if they possibly can. Put simply, Republicans do not want American citizens to enjoy universal health care. Put even more basically, they want Americans to continue to suffer illnesses and deaths and misery, to say nothing of bankruptcies caused by health related expenses. They apparently want this to continue so badly they even pray for it to happen. Apparently many Americans do not understand that Republicans are their deadly enemies who want them to die and go bankrupt, presumably because the Insurance and Pharmaceutical industries have pumped so many billions of dollars into outright lies and misinformation about health care and the ability of the government to manage it.

If it is not bad enough that Republicans in general are opposed to health care reform, they have forced the Democrats to have to deal with a pair of Democratic Senators who are being paid by the Insurance industries to help kill any reform. Joe Lieberman has refused to vote even on things he himself once proposed for health care, piously claiming he is ideologically opposed (all of the sudden). Ben Nelson is using the excuse that he does not believe abortion should be funded by government money, but he is himself an old Insurance man and obviously is in the pockets of the Insurance giants, piously claiming his reasons for opposing health care have to do with how abortions are being paid for. These two hypocrites having been bribed to vote for cloture are now threatening to vote against the combined bill when it finally materializes out of the House and Senate. In short, they are going to keep millions of Americans without health care because of their claimed personal beliefs. We are apparently supposed to accept the fact that Ben Nelson’s private beliefs about abortion are so strong he is going to allow hundreds of thousands to die from other causes, while Lieberman will let them die because his beliefs about government programs is stronger than the lives of others. What hypocrisy, what bullshit, what unconscionable and unbelievable positions, all for money.

The Republican Party has done something I believe is completely unprecedented in American political affairs – they have taken their ball and gone home, refusing to play. Given what is at stake for the United States, when it comes to all of our current problems, two “wars,” a recession, unemployment, global warming, a dysfunctional health care system, and so on, this petulant infantilism simply cannot be permitted. They have no right to desert our country in its time of need, even desperate need. Republicans have abandoned any pretense of being interested in the welfare of our country or our citizens, they seek only to regain power so they can continue to loot the taxpayers and give even more to those who already have far too much. Make no mistake about it, these are evil, greedy people who will apparently do anything to achieve their goal of autocracy, where a few at the top will apparently be able to fulfill their desire to build a new paradise for the wealthy while the rest of us, having lost our homes, can live once again in mud huts and tenements and work for the Lords who own everything.

It is not at all obvious that the Democrats are going to prevent this from happening, for they, too, with a few remarkable exceptions, seem to be willing to do the corporate bidding. We have come dangerously close to a one party system that is going to separate us into haves and have-nots, the super wealthy and the poor, the Rulers and the ruled, the “Divine Rights of the Rich,” against the piteous cries of the peasants. What is even more threatening in this situation is that unless Obama changes course and begins to act as he said he would, or some new truly remarkable leader emerges, we could end up with Sarah Palin and Glenn Beck, representing the growing body of tea baggers, full of sound and fury, but so ignorant, inept, and incompetent they would be totally unable to govern.

All in the golden afternoon
Full leisurely we glide,
For both our oars with little skill
By little arms are plied
While little hands make vain pretense
Our wanderings to guide.
Lewis Carroll

Sunday, December 20, 2009

True Compass - book

True Compass a Memoir, Edward M. Kennedy (Twelve, N.Y. and Boston, 2009)

This wonderful book is more than a memoir, it’s a love story, a love story about family, place, and tradition. It is also about the love of sailing, the sea, duty and obligation, the Senate, and even more fundamentally, love of country. I found it truly inspiring and I would recommend it to everyone.

Edward Moore (Teddy) Kennedy, the youngest of the nine Kennedy children, spent his life in public service, trying to do what he felt best for his country and its citizens. His was a remarkable family, born into wealth and privilege; none of the Kennedy children would have needed to spend their lives in public service, but all of them (with the exception of the unfortunate Rosemary) did, in one way or another, three of them paying the ultimate sacrifice for their choices: Joe Jr., killed on a volunteer airplane mission during WWII, John and Bobby both assassinated. Teddy, who might have seemed at first to be the least likely to rise to the heights, after some youthful mistakes, then hard work and perseverance, was rewarded by being elected to the Senate by age thirty, representing Massachusetts for forty-seven years thereafter.

This memoir was begun in 2004 as part of an oral history program at the University of Virginia. In it Senator Kennedy reviews his fifty years of public service, describing his role in the election of his brother John to the Presidency, his work on civil rights, Vietnam, Watergate, Northern Ireland, health care, and on through to his role in the election of Barack Obama and his unfortunate health problem at the end of his life. He also reviews the politics of his brother Bobby, the Carter, Reagan, Clinton, and Bush years, and much more.

In addition to being an enlightening discussion of American politics in the past fifty years it is also a fascinating personal account of his early life, his father and mother, his siblings, all of whom he adored, his first wife, Joan, from whom he was amicably divorced after many productive years together, and finally his second wife, Vicki, whom he credits for changing his life. Whatever questions there may be about his father, Joe Sr., and the source of the family fortune, there is no doubt his youngest child worshipped and was inspired by him, and also no doubt that he raised an incredibly fine family. Jackie Kennedy is highly praised along with all of Ted’s siblings. In spite of the fact they were all brought up to be highly competitive, there seems to have been a remarkable absence of serious sibling rivalry. Ted was awed by all of his older brothers and felt he had to live up to their remarkably high standards.

If there was any major flaw in Senator Kennedy’s character it might have been his penchant for occasional bad judgments. This can be seen in his early school days when he sometimes engaged in questionable practical jokes, was certainly featured in the Harvard scandal when he allowed another person to take a Spanish exam for him, resulting in a year’s suspension, and can be seen in other cases as well. Curiously enough, sometimes what I take to be his bad decisions turned out to have positive consequences, as, for example, when he agreed to ride a bucking bronco in a Wyoming rodeo, something he had never done before, which turned some Wyoming voters more favorable to his brother John’s quest for the Presidency. On another occasion he attempted a serious ski jump with no previous experience that again gained him favor. He could easily have been seriously hurt on both of these attempts but, as luck would have it, he wasn’t. His later bad judgment at Chappaquiddick, however, was to haunt him the rest of his life and helped to keep him from the Presidency he later sought. There is no way of knowing what actually transpired on that unfortunate evening, but he does confess to bad judgment, and I have no reason to seriously question his account. I do believe there was absolutely no romantic involvement with Mary Jo Kopechne, contrary to the scurrilous accounts at the time. Kennedy does admit to sometimes drinking and partying too much, and enjoying the company of women, but there is no indication of the notorious philandering characteristic of John. After the assassination of Bobby, Ted became the oldest male of the Kennedy clan, and as such responsible for their welfare. He performed these duties cheerfully and well. He was a good father, a responsible uncle, and a fine grandfather. If there was a dark side to Teddy Kennedy we would not expect to find it in his autobiographical memoir, perhaps future biographers will uncover something, but I doubt they will find anything very telling. The fact seems to be that although Edward M. Kennedy was, like all of us, flawed in some ways, he was always on the right side, if the right side involves trying to do what is best for the American public. He was a “liberal’s liberal,” who spent his entire career trying to improve the lot of his constituents as well as the public at large, attempting to look out for those lacking but needing influence. Unlike many of our current Senators there is no suggestion he was “bought” by subversive elements attempting to keep us in chains. He was, in short, a good and great man, representing what I believe to be the best in America. He did, as well as he could, follow a “true compass.”

Do I envy Kennedy’s birth into material wealth and privilege? Of course, in a way I do, but what I envy most is his being born into intellectual privilege, into a family that valued learning and knowledge, the wherewithal to achieve it, and the motivation and resources to convert it into notable public service.

Saturday, December 19, 2009


Killer of three trips over
his baggy pants and falls
to his death from fire escape.

One of the first things I heard this morning when I turned on my TV was an announcer telling us that Iran would not have missiles that would reach the United States for at least ten years. Boy, was I glad to hear that. Apparently some people worry about such things. They seem to believe that Iran is trying to develop nuclear weapons and missiles to attack us, or at least Israel. I cannot understand this paranoia when it comes to Iran. Does anyone with a mind above that of a second grader really believe that Iran is preparing to attack the U.S., or even Israel? Do they think the Iranians are so stupid as to believe either the U.S., Israel, or even the rest of the world would somehow fall to their weapons, no matter what they were without some kind of massive retaliation that would destroy them? This is about the stupidest idea I have ever heard. If it is true that Iran is trying to develop a nuclear bomb (and there is no evidence for this), and if it is also true they are trying to develop missiles with a longer range (that they probably are), they are obviously developing them to protect themselves from being attacked by Israel and the U.S. who constantly threaten them. As I can see no objective basis for believing we are about to be attacked by Iran I am forced to conclude that our verbal and probably illicit spying on them has to do with our hostile attitudes towards them rather than vice versa, trying to set the stage for an Israeli attack (with our blessing). Iran has not attacked another country for over 200 years, can we say as much?

It appears that the Senate has completed its dirty work and managed to more or less kill any meaningful reform of our totally dysfunctional for-profit health care system. The optimistic view seems to be that when the Senate bill has to be reconciled with the House bill something meaningful might ensue. I doubt it. I don’t believe our Congress or President had any serious intention of reforming health care. If they had they would have worked toward a single-payer system in the first place. They gave in to the Insurance industry before they even started. And with their billions of dollars to spend on false advertising, and their hundreds and hundreds of lobbyists, they have apparently managed to convince many Americans that health care is just too expensive, the government is too incompetent, or what they have is the greatest health care in the world. I guess people will believe anything if they see it repeated often enough on TV or hear it often enough on talk radio. I find it utterly amazing that there are some people who would seemingly rather die than have government health insurance. You can thank Saint Ronnie for helping convince people that government is all bad.

A California man, instead of having a crèche on his lawn, had a scene of Jesus shooting Santa Claus. Jesus is standing there pointing a double-gauge shotgun at Santa who is lying dead on the lawn. I gather one of the reindeer was stretched over a fender of the car. When the neighbors complained he claimed it was a work of art, with Santa representing commercialism. Not bad, but they will probably try to crucify him.

I hate to dwell on it, but I cannot reconcile myself to the fact that so many of our “leaders” in Congress and elsewhere simply do not want all American citizens to have health care. Until now I would never have believed this could be the case. How can any thinking, feeling, responsible, human being be opposed to health care for his/her fellow citizens, some of them to the point of actually praying they not have it? I do not have a very high opinion of human nature, it is true, but I would never have believed this. To me this represents greed, selfishness, and egocentrism magnified to the highest degree possible. I believe there are animal species that have more concern for their fellows than human beings do. I find this shocking and I am having a great deal of trouble trying to accept it. What makes it worse is that this seems to be a peculiarly American problem. All the rest of the industrialized world provides universal health care, and even in non-industrialized countries, not matter how “primitive,” people try to help those who are ill and cannot care for themselves. In the New Guinea Highlands, where I lived for a time with people who might be said to have been still living “in the stone age,” people took care of others when necessary. If someone became so old and inform they could not longer care for themselves someone would bring them food and firewood, often someone who had just volunteered to do it. They did not believe in modern medicine, the little they knew of it, but they cared for each other. They did not say, “I’ve got mine, you get yours.” When it comes to empathy and caring for each other it is capitalism that is the truly “primitive” form of society.

What we need to do is learn to work in the system, by which I mean that everybody, every team, every platform, every division, every component is there not for individual competitive profit or recognition, but for contribution to the system as a whole on a win-win basis.
W. Edwards Deming

There are 33 football bowl games this year.

Thursday, December 17, 2009


Four-year-old boy, with open
can of beer, found stealing
neighbor’s Christmas presents.

Tabloids, you know, those sensationalistic papers you cannot avoid while standing in line to check out of the supermarket, have become an item of interest to me. They also feature huge headlines like “Hippo gives birth to giant watermelon,” or “Tiger Woods seen dating Hillary Clinton,” or “Oprah Winfrey has only six minutes to live,” and other such gripping tales of utter foolishness designed to make you want to read them immediately (if, that is, you are a complete idiot). Anyway, they became of interest to me simply because I remarked to my wife that in all of my 80 years of life I had never, ever, seen anyone buy one of these rags. She replied that I must not be paying attention because people buy them all the time. I doubted this, but in the spirit of continued discussion I suggested I didn’t see how they could stay in business, just producing so much BS all the time. My wife, who is a very intelligent woman most of the time, but occasionally comes up with something that seems to me to be impossibly wrong-headed, said they stay in business because lots of people buy them. I suggested that was impossible, they could not survive just by the number of papers (I’ve never been able to decide if these are newspapers or magazines) people buy, they must have lots of advertisers. But, as I had never actually read one of these tabloids, I couldn’t prove it. Thus I was faced with having to somehow obtain one of these items. The thought of actually paying for one never crossed my mind. First of all, I could never pay money for something so frivolous and useless, but more importantly, I felt it would be degrading. I have already been stung by the looks I received from the checkout people when I bought pig’s feet, squid, and octopus, all of which they regarded with horror. My wife suggested I simply peruse one of the tabloids while in the store, an activity that I regarded as something akin to shoplifting, and besides, would make me look ridiculous. It’s easy to read the covers, in fact almost impossible not to, as they feature the damn things right there at eye level no more than a couple feet from where you are forced to stand and wait. But I wanted to get inside one to see who advertised and how lavishly in these fantastic journalistic masterpieces of utter crap. In desperation I approached a young man standing idly by and suggested that perhaps he would buy one of these for me when he went through the line. Apparently thinking I had asked him to perform an unnatural act, he looked at me with such disgust and sidled away so fast I feared he might call the police so I quickly left. The next day I tried to screw up my courage enough to buy The National Enquirer that featured a particularly racy headline. I thought I might explain to the clerk that I was buying it as part of a scientific study. Then, remembering that scientists here are regarded as people who spend their lives trying to prevent the locals from doing everything they would like to do, like killing all the animals, cutting down all the trees, polluting and damming all the rivers, and so on, I chickened out at the last minute. The following day, knowing my wife was going to the store, I slyly said, “Buy me a National Enquirer while you’re there.” She is no fool, my wife, she looked at me like she was about to step on a stink bug, and said, “Oh, no, Buster, if you want an Enquirer, buy it yourself.” I begged and pleaded, but to no avail whatsoever. Finally, exasperated, she said, ”Look it up on the web.” I did. I didn’t find out much, but I did learn that of course they have advertising, lots of it. When I tried to say, “I told you so,” she pretended she didn’t remember the original conversation. Everyone has to save face.

But enough of my misadventures with tabloids, let’s turn to serious stuff, like health care reform. It seems that now there are three schools of thought about what is currently happening. Everyone seems to agree the bill about to come out of the Senate is pretty terrible, but one group of people thinks it should pass because “it’s better than a kick in the ass,” and presumably can be improved later. Another group, those who did not want any reform in the first place (Republicans), and have done everything possible to destroy it, want it simply junked so we can start over (thus making it probably impossible to have any reform for a long, long time). A third group (that I gather might exist), following Dean, thinks the bulk of the bill should be scrapped but we should try to keep at least some portions of it (this group has been improperly cited as supporting the second group that wants it killed). I guess the strategy that will be followed is to pass any bill possible out of the Senate and hope that it can be improved when it must be reconciled with the House bill that is much better. I have sadly come to the conclusion that this is mostly farce. I doubt that Obama or anyone else truly wanted to reform health care, in spite of their claims. If they had they would have opted for a single-payer system in the first place, one that would have eliminated Insurance companies entirely. As far as I am concerned any bill they might pass would not constitute health care reform unless it eliminates entirely the Insurance companies. There is no reason whatsoever why Insurance companies should be involved in health care. They contribute nothing, skim off enormous profits for doing nothing except shuffling paperwork, and represent the privatization of health care. Health care, like the water we use and the air we breathe, and other very basic necessities of life, should not be privatized. It is possible, of course, to argue that health care is perhaps not a god-given, or even natural right, but it is certainly a priviledge (if not a right) that should be awarded the citizens of any so-called “civilized” society. We are seeing right now before our eyes the basic fact that our country is being controlled by Insurance and Bank companies, along with other huge corporate entities that are not going to allow us universal health care without their obscene profits being insured. They win, we (ordinary citizens) lose. President Obama and our “leaders” in Congress have sold us out once again. So be of good cheer, Christmas is here, there is peace and good will towards men everywhere (except on earth).

For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?

There are people in the United States, right now, actually praying that 30 million of their peers not receive health care.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

A Terrible Misunderstanding?

Drunken Santa stumbles
out of car, hugs children,
asks where his reindeer are.

Can you believe the mess we seem to be in? Obviously somewhere along the way there has been a terrible misunderstanding. I thought, and I guess Democrats thought, that citizens of the United States would like to have universal health care, as does all of the rest of the industrialized world. Apparently this is not so. After months of (presumably) hard work to pass a health care reform bill of some kind, instituting universal care, reducing costs, and stopping some of the more criminal policies of our greedy Insurance companies, it appears this attempt is going the way of all previous attempts to reform health care, namely, nowhere. There are two reasons for this, one of which I could have predicted, the other I would not have thought possible.

It is no secret that the Insurance giants, pharmaceutical giants, and some others, are willing to do anything to prevent any change in the system of graft they have enjoyed for so many years. And as they have so much money they can pretty much undermine any serious attempt to change our dysfunctional health care system. This was predictable. I do not think it was predictable that every single Republican, with no exceptions, decided not to cooperate in any way. More importantly, however, some of those Republicans, joined by a small number of Democrats, are known to be essentially bribed by these corporations to do whatever they can to prevent any positive action on health care reform. They have been doing a fine job of obstruction, thus preventing 30 or more millions of their fellow citizens from enjoying any kind of health care at all. How they can possibly ignore their consciences I do not know. I do know that the reasons they offer for resisting health care reform are not the real reasons, and this is especially true of Joe (the Killer) Lieberman. Given the nature of our current political system I guess it is not surprising that Senators and Congresspersons can be bribed to essentially betray their fellow citizens, and do so with some regularity. We do indeed have the best Congress money can buy.

While I think this is unconscionable and even despicable, I am not surprised by it. What does surprise me, and where I believe there has been a terrible misunderstanding, is that such large numbers of citizens apparently would rather have no health care at all than have some form of governmental health care system. Frankly, I am at a loss to explain or understand this. Somehow, in recent years, people have been taught to distrust their government, and what is even worse, they have been taught to believe that government is incompetent to run things. I mean, we do have things like the Postal Service, Medicare, Veterans Care, Social Security, universal education (at least through grammar school), and such. And we do have Federal laws that function pretty well, and highways, and things like that (for which we pay taxes of course, for how else would we have them). For the most part these institutions, laws, and practices function very well (with the exception perhaps of education). But we hear this almost constant refrain coming from Republicans and their fellow travelers, “Do you want the government between you and your doctor?” I fail to see why having the government between you and your doctor (which is not actually something that would happen in any case) is any worse than having an Insurance person between you and your doctor. These kinds of claims lead me to believe that those making them have never had any experience with private corporations. I could tell you horror stories for a week about trying to deal with Insurance companies, telephone companies, energy companies, banks, and so on, experiences far worse than anything I have ever encountered when dealing with a governmental agency (although of course there are sometimes problems with them also). When you have a problem with some governmental agency you know they are at least not trying to maximize their profit at your expense. In principle, at least, governmental agencies are there specifically to try to help you with your problem, something that cannot be said for private companies nowadays who can rarely even offer a human voice to discuss your problem.

I do not understand where this irrational hatred and suspicion of government comes from. I find it interesting, even fascinating, that probably the majority of citizens in the county in which I reside are in one way or another on the “dole.” They get farm subsidies, social security, government jobs, unemployment insurance, dependency aid, welfare, food stamps, and so on. Even 4-H kids sometimes get subsidies. They also get their roads fixed, police protection, fire departments, and so on. And yet the very people who enjoy this government largesse are the ones who complain the most about government (and also at the same time pride themselves on being “rugged individualists,“ who whine incessantly about having to pay taxes). I do not believe this began with Saint Ronnie, but he certainly helped it along.

This dismal situation is related to the fear of socialism, which dates back to the late 19th and early 20th century when socialism was actually an active and important social movement trying to organize unions and improve the lot of working people (which, in fact they did). I believe there is an inverse correlation between the suspicion of socialism and any actual knowledge of it, and those vocal opponents of Obama who claim he is a socialist are so far from reality they might as well be on another planet entirely. That there seem to be so many of these appallingly ignorant citizens I find frightening. Our corporate masters with the elaborate propaganda organs (the MSM) they own and control have done a fine job in virtually eliminating any semblance of critical thought in our country. Why so many of our citizens would apparently rather die than have universal health care administered by their own government is a mystery so grotesque we should find a slogan to inscribe on their tombstones, something along the lines of, “I died a martyr to my own ignorance,” or something like that.

To be stupid, selfish, and have good health are three requirements for happiness, though if stupidity is lacking, all is lost.
Gustave Flaubert

Milkfish bellies are a national dish of the Philippines.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009


Man gets life in prison
for killing wife in dispute
over christmas tree lights.

Inspired by my recent reading of The Invisible Hook, an economic analysis of piracy, I have decided I should take economics more seriously than I have up to now. I have some questions that seem to be of a basic economic nature that I would like to understand. I confess I have long regarded economics as the “dismal science” and likened it to witchcraft, but I have decided to try to be more objective about it.

My first question has to do with gold. Every day I notice we are being beseeched to buy gold. Gold is said to be a wonderful hedge against inflation, just seems to increase in value forever, and should be part of everyone’s portfolio. I don’t really have what you might consider a portfolio but nonetheless I think about buying gold (I don’t have any money to buy gold either, but that doesn’t keep me from thinking about it). I don’t know what the price of gold is at the moment but I believe I heard somewhere that it is now well above a thousand dollars an ounce. That is truly expensive for gold as it used to be worth for a long time somewhere in the vicinity of 35 dollars an ounce. I do not understand how gold could be worth so much, and I would certainly not buy it at its current price. One of my questions has to do with the gold standard that we long ago abandoned. You know, it used to be the case that a dollar was backed up by a dollar’s worth of gold. There are some, like Ron Paul, I believe, who think we should go back to the gold standard. But given the amount of dollars we have printed since we went off the gold standard, is there enough gold in the world to back them up? I somehow doubt it, so I don’t think we could go back to the gold standard even if we wished to do so. Another question about gold that troubles me has to do with its intrinsic worth. I once knew an Economic Anthropologist who knew about such things and I asked him one day why gold was worth anything. He explained that unlike paper dollars and such, gold had an intrinsic value in that it could be used for practical things, like gold fillings in your teeth, gold watches, and other forms of jewelry. I guess it may have certain industrial uses beyond that but I don’t know what they are or how important they are. However, I do know that gold is no longer used to fill teeth, nor is it used to make handsome gold pocket watches or gold watch fobs, or such things. And as it is now so expensive I doubt that most people can buy the jewelry that it is used to make. I have concluded that the price of gold is mostly determined by the hype those who sell it use to get us to buy it. And as I know that historically the price goes up and down, sometimes dramatically, I would not advise anyone to buy it at the current prices. For those who buy and sell it, it doesn’t matter what the going price is, as long as they know enough to get in and out before the suckers. But, then, what do I know, I’m not an economist.

Another economic question that has been troubling me has to do with unemployment. It seems that unemployment has slowed considerably in recent weeks, leading some to conclude that the worst of it is over. But I do not understand why this is so. That is, it seems to me there must be a finite number of jobs in the United States. That means to me there are only so many jobs that can be lost. As jobs have been lost month after month for a long time, does that not mean that the number of jobs lost has to diminish simply because there are not that many jobs left than can be lost? If this is so, does it mean that the job market will necessarily pick up? I think it might, and I hope it might, but I cannot see why the slowing of the loss of jobs indicates that. Of course if we have arrived at the point where no more jobs can possibly be lost, and we are all still alive, I guess employment would have to go up as it cannot go down any further. But why could it not just stay where it is forever? I trust you appreciate my confusion here.

If my above (primitive) economic analysis of jobs makes any sense, how about applying it to mortgages as well? That is, like jobs, there must be a finite number of mortgages that can fail. As they have been failing at an alarming rate for a long time, could it not be the case that mortgage failures would necessarily have to slow down or even stop? And if this happens, can it be taken as a positive sign that the mortgage crisis is over? I wouldn’t think so, but, again, what do I know?

I would like to think that a crash course in economics might help me understand what is happening with respect to employment, mortgages, and even gold. But as I know already that for any given question you can find two equally respectable economists who will completely disagree, would it really be helpful? I would almost surely fail at economics because I do not believe people act rationally in the first place, and at the moment I see nothing coming out of Congress or anywhere else that would cause me to change my mind.

Economics is extremely useful as a form of employment for economists.
John Kenneth Galbraith

Deer are much, much smarter than you think.

Monday, December 14, 2009

In the Culture of the Absurd

German man floors pensioner,
steals his shopping cart. Oldster
retaliates by attacking with a salami.

Little did I know that my golfing idol, Tiger Woods, was not only going after Jack Nichols record of 18 major tournament wins, he was apparently also going after Wilt Chamberlain’s (exaggerated and unobtainable) record of 2000 sexual liaisons. Can you imagine how much money Tiger could make endorsing something like Viagra or Cialis? I saw today somewhere that Tiger’s conquests now stand at l6. I have no idea if this is true, no idea what all was involved, and, in fact, I don’t care. I promise here and now I will no longer mention Tiger Woods and sex together forever.

But speaking of absurd things, does no one appreciate how absurd it is that only one Senator, by himself, can potentially block health care reform for millions of his fellow citizens. Joe Lieberman is threatening to do just that, and his fellow Democrats are apparently going to let him get away with it. Rather than negotiate with him they should move his office into some convenient latrine, take away his Chairmanships, refuse to talk to him, and, if that doesn’t work, run him down the Senate steps tarred, feathered, and completely disgraced. Given the fact that Lieberman has done a complete about face more than once when it comes to this health care business, I suspect he may actually be crazy. Only a complete and total jerk could possibly bask in the negative attention he is getting. He seems to thrive on it.

Another absurdity of our Culture of the Absurd here in the U.S. was revealed tonight by Rachel Maddow. It seems there are seven states in which it is written into their state constitutions that atheists cannot hold public office. Ignore for the moment that this is entirely unconstitutional, as the constitution says clearly no religious tests can be required for holding office, and think of the fact that this represents a world view somewhere on the level of the Cro-Magnons (no, this probably does even them a disservice). Religious beliefs of this kind seem to be widely held in the U.S., far more than in any other industrialized nations, and can exist only because of an educational level akin to that of the Afghans (who are said to be only about 8% literate).

We traveled to Coeur d’Alene to do some business and Christmas shopping. As I predicted it was hideous, with that awful music being played everywhere and shoppers apparently oblivious to each other, shoving and pushing, grabbing and lining up like a bunch of idiots to buy mostly Chinese junk. I was struck again on the way by just how much storage has become big business in the U.S. There are huge storage facilities being built everywhere, as if there is no end to the demand. I guess everyone has to have a place to stash the junk they buy at Christmas. As I have observed previously, there is something very wrong with a culture that requires so much storage.

My wife prepared beef cheeks for the first time. I found them to be quite delicious, although I could see nothing in them that set them aside very importantly from most other cuts of beef. I guess their emergence in some of the more upscale or trendy restaurants lately probably has more to do with the novelty than with the taste. Food in general in the U.S. is another example of the absurdity of our culture. Fast foods predominate, along with obesity, and the apparently completely lost appreciation of dining. It seems like the easier something can be prepared, and the faster, the more appealing it is to most consumers. This goes hand in hand with corporate farming, genetically modified foods, and a diet that consists now mostly of corn that has to be subsidized to be grown. One of the great paradoxes of our time, it seems to me, is how can it be that our food and eating habits grow progressively worse at the same time we are living longer (of course we don’t live as long as many other people who eat much healthier foods, but we are living longer than we used to). I think this has to be the result of health care, but, then, as so many do not have health care, this would not seem to be a very good explanation. I shall have to look into this more carefully.

It is very difficult to know people and I don't think one can ever really know any but one's own countrymen. For men and women are not only themselves; they are also the region in which they are born, the city apartment or the farm in which they learnt to walk, the games they played as children, the old wives' tales they overheard, the food they ate, the schools they attended, the sports they followed, the poets they read, and the God they believed in. It is all these things that have made them what they are, and these are the things that you can't come to know by hearsay, you can only know them if you have lived them.
W. Somerset Maugham

When cooking octopus, remember it will shrink to less than half its original size.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

The Invisible Hook - book

The Invisible Hook The Hidden Economics of Pirates, by Peter T. Leeson (Princeton University Press, 2009)

I must say this is the first book I have ever read where the dedication is a proposal (I believe she accepted).

Peter T. Leeson is not a historian, anthropologist, or sociologist, he is an economist. Thus his approach to this analysis of Pirates and their behavior begins with the usual economic assumptions: (1) individuals are self-interested, (2) they are rational, and (3) they respond to incentives. Beginning with these rather formulaic assumptions, Leeson goes on to (quite predictably) demonstrate that Pirates, far from being irrational, lustful, revengeful, or insanely criminal, were in fact rational beings that acted in their own self interest most of the time. He describes how Pirates basically invented democracy far earlier than it came to England or the United States (or most anywhere else exceed ancient Greece). They did so out of necessity, he argues, because being beyond the laws of anywhere, they were forced to govern themselves and democracy proved the most useful way of doing so. According to Leeson, Pirate Captains were elected officials who could be replaced by their crews if they did not act properly. They also invented checks and balances because in addition to the Captain there was also an elected Quartermaster with a great deal of power, including the right to divvy up the loot. The Captain and the Quartermaster usually received a slightly larger share than the others but this was not excessive. The Captain’s main responsibility was to lead the crew in battle when taking over other ships. Both the captain and the Quartermaster could be voted out of office if they were found violating the terms of their offices. There was also, according to Leeson, a well-established Pirate Code that was followed by most if not all Pirates. This code, like most everything else, was designed to help Pirates maximize profits, and it limited in many ways what they were permitted to do to captives and each other.

Even the Pirate flag, the “Jolly Roger” (usually but not always a skull and crossbones) was designed for the purpose of helping to maximize profits. It did this by instilling such fear in their prey they would more or less gladly turn over their wealth rather than meet what were believed fearsome tortures and such that Pirates employed. And even the tortures were controlled and designed to maximize profits, in ways that Leeson explains in some detail. Walking the plank, he assures us, did not actually occur, and torture was not as widespread as everyone believed, as it would not have been economically rewarding beyond a certain point.

Pirate conscription is also discussed in detail in this interesting account. As you probably know, the British and others were notorious for the ways they conscripted individuals to serve in their navies, and you also doubtless are aware that service in the maritime industry was for ordinary seamen a most unpleasant experience. Not only were their floggings and other methods of severe punishment meted out at the whim of Captains, the pay was also very slight. It was from these regular navy vessels that many Pirates were recruited, as they could potentially make more money in a year than in forty years in the regular service (this is one reason the powers of Pirate Captains came to be limited). Part of the Pirate Code held that if a pirate was injured he would be paid a recompense geared to the seriousness of his injuries, a custom that did not exist in the regular service. Leeson also discusses the practice of equal pay for all (except for the Captain and Quartermaster), and the fact that this held even in the case of black Pirates (again, this was not because of lack of racial prejudice, but, rather, economic practicalities).

There is a chapter on “The Secrets of Pirate Management” that is of interest as compared with other management techniques, the conclusion being that Pirate Management was designed over time to deal with the unusual demands of Pirate society, being essentially lawless and otherwise unrestrained, but at the same time needing to always maximize profits for these early 17th and 18th century entrepreneurs. They were for a couple of hundred years pretty successful for a variety of reasons discussed, but of course quite a few eventually ended up on the gallows. There is little concern in this book with such uneconomic matters such as lust, sadism, revenge, pathology, or other human emotions or motives. Rape, for example, is not even mentioned as a possibility, and interpersonal relations on shipboard are deal with rather casually (he does claim that women and boys were not allowed on ships, however). Leeson does mention, more or less in passing, that such things might have occurred, but apparently for him they were somewhat rare aberrations. Nor does he deal with the basic question of leadership, assuming that all Captains were democratically elected and generally followed the rules. I find this not very convincing and I suspect that some Pirate Captains were not as democratic as he wants to believe.

In any case, this is an interesting book, and it does give a picture of Piracy that I am sure bears some resemblance to the real thing. While reading this account I began to wonder why all men do not act so rationally and inevitably become democratic, towards the end he discusses this. As for the “Invisible Hook,” he explains: “If the invisible hand examines the hidden order behind the metaphorical “anarchy of the market,” the invisible hook examines the hidden order behind the literal anarchy of pirates.”

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Notes on Christmas

I confess to being of two (or more) minds when it comes to Christmas. On the one hand I like the idea of the tree all decorated, hanging stockings, exchanging gifts, and even the pretense of peace on earth and goodwill to men and all that. But then there is the unfortunate reality of the Season. First of all there are those (to me) unbelievably dreary Christmas carols that I have heard every year now for 80 years. You know, the religious ones about mangers and wise men and angels and round yon virgins and stuff like that. If I find these dreary I must say I find the more secular Christmas songs absolutely insipid. Jingle Bells isn’t so bad, except that having heard it probably thousands of times it no longer does anything for me. But beyond Jingle Bells things really get stupid, “I Saw Mommie Kissing Santa Claus,” for example, or that all-time winner that made Gene Autrey so famous, “Rudolf the Red-Nose Reindeer.” I mean really insipid stuff that they play over and over and over until I want to cover my ears until New Years Eve when I like to hear the champagne corks, something to which I can truly relate, along with having made it one more year.

I confess that this year I have been spared Christmas and all the songs and hype because my life has become so sheltered. I do not listen to the radio, watch only a couple of TV programs, and seldom venture far from the safety of Sandhill. I did notice the first inkling of Christmas on November 2nd, I believe it was a Wal Mart ad, and I have accidently seen a couple of other ads, but nothing really offensive as yet. This will no doubt change tomorrow as I am visiting a city some hundred or so miles away that will no doubt be inundated with Christmas hype in all its overblown plastic forms and blaring music everywhere.

My mixed feelings about this important holiday have not kept me from thinking about possible gifts for people. As most of the people I know already have most everything they could possibly wish, this requires some creativity. One of my friends has a dog so my eye was caught by an ad for a collapsible water dish for a dog. It comes with a logo from a Brewhouse. Not a bad idea. Doggie doorbells are another possibility here, as is an “I love my grandogs” bone magnet. We only have cats but it is up to my wife to provide for them (which she does generously every Christmas when they stay high on catnip for days).

My wife, being a very accomplished chef, has most everything in the way of kitchen gear and utensils. She does not, however, have a battery operated salt and pepper mill. However, a gift of such a thing might not please her as it could be seen as implying she is getting too old to use ordinary salt and pepper shakers. Then I thought of some stainless steel turkey lifters, large sort of claw-like things that help one lift turkeys out of the roasting pan, and a mere $34.99 on sale. That’s kind of expensive for such an unneeded tool, after all she’s been cooking turkeys for quite a long time without such specialized help. A “pizza dough docker” would be cheaper, you just roll it across the dough to keep it thin. Alas, that has sharp spikes that could hurt someone, and as she never makes pizza, I decided against it. A “single server sugar dispenser” might be nice. It would save her all the trouble of having to find a spoon and it can be operated with just one hand, of course she doesn’t use sugar herself. Then there is something described as a stainless steel “soap” that removes all onion, fish, or other odors from your hands. It comes with a wall mount so it is quite handy. But then I found the onion goggles with the fog-free lens and the soft foam seal, perfect for keeping her from crying, a really fine choice. I looked for a dressing gown made from the throat hairs of the wild Himalayan Ibex, but then I remembered that was something made up by Max Schulman, or maybe Perlman. When I was about to give up completely I finally stumbled on the perfect solution: Intentional chocolate---“delicious Hawaiian chocolate infused with positive intention my meditating Tibetan monks.”

We don’t have our tree yet, we’ve been just too busy. Unfortunately my wife, being thrifty, and living in the middle of an evergreen forest, refuses to pay money for a tree. She makes either me or my son find one somewhere on our six acres here at home. This is not as easy as you might surmise. There are lots of trees but most of them are not very suitable as Christmas trees. We invariably end up with what she refers to (for reasons I do not know) as a “Charlie Brown” tree. This cost-saving demand makes her happy and once it’s loaded with all the ornaments and lights you can hardly see how spindly and ill-formed and inappropriate it actually is. The cats love it so much we cannot put ornaments lower than about three feet above floor level. This does present a rather strange-looking, top-heavy, somewhat grotesque, but still functional object of reverence that satisfies our every Christmas wish until just after the New Year.

It’s Christmas time! Try to be of good cheer.

Dear Lord, I've been asked, nay commanded, to thank Thee for the Christmas turkey before us... a turkey which was no doubt a lively, intelligent bird... a social being... capable of actual affection... nuzzling its young with almost human- like compassion. Anyway, it's dead and we're gonna eat it. Please give our respects to its family...
Berke Breathed

We are importing octopus from Thailand.

Friday, December 11, 2009


Elderly woman, 98, indicted
for strangling her 100 year-old
nursing home roommate.

Money makes the world go ‘round. Tiger Woods has announced he is taking an indefinite leave from professional golf. I would bet a lot of money (if I had any) that indefinite in this case means until the next major championship in March. The PGA tour and the profession of golf cannot afford to let Tiger take any more time off than that. When you realize that their audience falls off by some 50% when Tiger is not playing you come to realize that for all intents and purposes Tiger Woods is golf. Besides, those who follow golf are going to be much more interested in whether Tiger can win the next major, or go on to beat Jack Nichols record of 18 majors, than in his extramarital affairs, no matter how juicy they may be. I suspect the only people who are concerned about Tiger’s affairs are his family. Many athletes have survived sex scandals. All they have to do to erase any stigma is win, win, win. It’s not that Tiger himself needs money, after all he’s the first athlete to earn a billion dollars (that ought to keep him for a time), he makes lots of money for others, and money is what it is all about here in the good ol’ US of A. I try not to get too interested in the extramarital affairs of Tiger Woods, but I must say I do find it curious. For example, what constitutes a “mistress.” It is inconceivable that all of those women Tiger slept with could all be considered a mistress. I should think that even trying to stretch some of the encounters into “affairs” is probably stretching it a bit. Anyway, there are more important reasons for questioning Tiger’s behavior than his sexual proclivities, his failure to denounce questionable business practices, for example, but enough of Tiger.

Speaking of money, and money making the world go, ‘round, consider our politicians and their rather futile attempts at reforming health care. Can you believe we have “leaders” who themselves have the finest health care available but do not want millions of their fellow citizens to have any health care? And can you believe this is happening in what is said to be the wealthiest country on earth, a country that is spending billions upon billions year after year murdering people around the world in futile, illegal, and unncecessary “wars,” but also contains many people who argue seriously that we cannot afford health care for our citizens? Why do these people oppose health care for their fellow citizens? For money, that’s why. They are being paid by the Insurance, Pharmaceutical, and other industries making gigantic profits under the existing scam that is called health care, and they are spending huge sums of money to make sure there is no significant change. We should change the way we describe our Congresspersons and Senators and introduce them as So-and-so money-grubber from wherever. This is shameful and those who have said we have the best Congresspersons money can buy are speaking the absolute truth.

Do you suppose even for a minute that it is not money that is going to bring Sarah Palin to speak to a Canadian socialized medicine group that also performs abortions? Silly Sarah has already proven she is in, whatever it is she is in, solely for the money. She has been milking her undeserved “fame” for all it’s worth, ever since the moronic McCain picked her as a running mate, surely one of the greatest mistakes of all time. Now she is presuming to argue with Al Gore about global warming, and with President Obama about Foreign Affairs. She refused to debate Gore because she says she will be “clobbered.” Of course she’ll be clobbered, she doesn’t have the slightest idea what the hell she’s talking about. The media is doing us a terrible disservice by even covering the activities of this genuinely ignorant and incompetent imposter. Hey, it makes the networks money, and money is what it’s all about here in the good ol’ U.S. of A.

I remain concerned with, perhaps even obsessed with, the fact that President Obama and Eric Holder are obviously not going to pursue war crimes charges against George W. Bush and Dick Cheney. I find this not only objectionable, but downright criminal. In fact, although I am not absolutely certain about this, I believe they are obliged by our laws and constitution to bring charges against war criminals. It is said that Obama has assured them he will not bring charges against them, I guess arguing that (1) there are more important matters, and (2) there is no precedent for an administration to press charges against the preceding one. Personally, I believe (1)this is an exceedingly important matter and should be given priority, and (2) we never before had a previous administration that admitted to war crimes, even boasted about them. I believe this behavior on the part of our President and Attorney General to be completely unacceptable.

Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man's character, give him power.
Abraham Lincoln

We are importing tilapia from China.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

A "Just" War?

Breaking up with her, he
gets second degree burns
as she pours boiling grits on him.

I did not hear Obama’s acceptance speech for the Nobel Peace Prize, but of course I heard several excerpts from it, and I know basically what he said. While it may be true that occasionally there is a “good” war, and sometimes wars may be necessary, as in the case of WWII, I cannot see how by any stretch of the imagination the “war” in Afghanistan can be seen as a case in point. Why would anyone go to “war” with a country whose citizens had nothing to do with the attack on 9/11. Remember, the men who hijacked the planes and destroyed the world trade center and tried to destroy the Pentagon, were all Saudis, not Afghans. And while it is true they may have received some training in the remote parts of Afghanistan, the plans were also laid in Berlin and the U.S. The attackers were in fact international criminals, not soldiers of war, and they did not represent any particular nation. To infer that Afghanistan is a “good” or “just” war I believe is demonstrably untrue. What is happening in Afghanistan, with the additional troops, is not going to lead to peace. Far from it, we will doubtless be there for many years, wasting more troops and more money, neither of which we can afford. With respect to Afghanistan and peace Obama is just faking it.

This leads me to wonder, once again, just what it is that is keeping us in Afghanistan. I do not believe it has anything to do with bringing democracy, improving women’s rights, or rebuilding the country, at least there is little evidence we have done much of any of those things. I am forced to conclude that we are not being told why we are there or why it is so important that we stay there. It must have something to do with oil and the proposed pipeline that would bypass Russia. I guess it must also have something to do with what we are doing in Pakistan. But what does a mere mortal like me, living in a remote part of the world and dependant mostly upon the internet for news, know about anything. I only work from whatever bits and pieces of information come my way, but on that limited basis, I think there is something very fishy about our obsession with Afghanistan.

Now General McCrystal says that success in Afghanistan depends upon capturing or killing Osama bin Laden. I find it incredible that after eight or nine years of neglect, when we seem not to have been very serious about finding him, that now all of the sudden he is regarded as the key to success. In fact, I find this rather hilarious as just the other day Gates admitted that no one knows where he is, or whether he is even still alive. We have been told over and over again that he is known to be hiding somewhere around the Afghanistan/Pakistan border, and now we are being told we have no idea where he is, but the success of our misadventure in Afghanistan depends upon capturing or killing him. Is this not something out of Alice in Wonderland? I think what we are doing, or trying to do in Afghanistan is terribly mistaken, a complete waste of time, troops, and money. If someone would admit that it is really all about oil and pipelines and stuff I might not feel better about it, but at least I might understand it. As far as bin Laden goes, my wife thinks he is probably living in Odessa, but what does she know (I have found, strangely and embarrassingly enough, that often her seemingly bizarre claims end up being correct). I have no idea why she believes this. I suppose it is no more far-fetched than my belief that bin Laden remains a CIA asset and we never have had any real intention of capturing or killing him (although if my belief turned out be true they might now want to kill him, just to keep him quiet about it).

Sarah Palin is arguing with Al Gore about global warming? And people might take this seriously? And apparently she has compared her book to Obama’s speech? Surely we have gone mad. Why can’t someone agree to just give her a couple of million agree to go away. And why is Dick Cheney not being put away? Somehow I keep (desperately, I guess) clinging to my belief that Obama might actually improve things. However, his Afghan policy and his failure to prosecute our war criminals, I will never be able to forgive, no matter how successful he may otherwise prove to be.

The individual has always had to struggle to keep from being overwhelmed by the tribe. If you try it, you will be lonely often, and sometimes frightened. But no price is too high to pay for the privilege of owning yourself.
Friedrich Nietzsche

We are importing smelt all the way from Peru.