Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Where is Dickens?

Thirty-seven year-old woman
beats 69 year-old boyfriend in
shower for cheating on her.

What a pleasure to get away from Sandhill for a couple of days! We went to Canmore, B.C. and basically did nothing but eat and relax. There is something about those stupendous awe-inspiring mountains that truly is peaceful. Not only that, the food is better, the news is more interesting, and the accommodations more comfortable. There is a fairly new restaurant called the Iron Goat that has the most fantastic view of the mountains. The weather was a bit chilly but otherwise wonderful. Don’t forget to try the wild boar pate.

Where is Charles Dickens when we need him? Here it is the year 2009 and there are many who do not want to pass the Employee Free Choice Act. I mean, like, it’s not the beginning of the Industrial Revolution anymore. One would think that an enlightened democracy like the United States would be interested in paying decent, livable wages to its millions of workers, if only to insure they could afford to buy the junk being produced for them and thus keep the economy afloat. But no, I guess the fact that wages have been stagnant for years, or even decreased, isn’t good enough for our present-day scrooges. But, then, what would you expect, when you are paying the few at the top more than all the rest combined year after year, no matter how incompetent they are, there just isn’t any money left over for decent wages. It seems that the powers that be, the corporations and the filthy rich, are not interested in a healthy middle class, but, rather, in wage slaves. I think they prefer wage slaves to real slaves because they don’t have to feed them. On the other hand, they don’t get to whimsically beat and rape them either, perhaps that will come back next. I find the opposition to the Employee Free Choice Act to be completely and totally disgusting, and those like Arlen Spector (and maybe Nancy Pelosit as well), sold out to the Corporations, to be beneath contempt. Hey everyone, this is the 21st century, not the 18th or beginning of the 19th! Not only do I find this utterly disgusting, I find it virtually impossible even to believe. Has greed finally become so commonplace and acceptable that it is now the mainstream?

I find it interesting (and somewhat amusing) that the MSM seem to be more concerned with Michelle possibly upstaging President Obama than they are with what he might or might not accomplish at the meeting. I guess they seem to have already concluded that he won’t be able to do much so they have decided to go with their usual emphasis on infotainment (what will she wear, will they really like her, bare arms, young designers, how daring, what might happen when she meets the French first lady, etc., etc.). You know, the real news. Of course there is the French threat to walk out if they don’t get their way, but nothing unusual about that I guess.

I guess the Spanish better be very careful about what they do. They are talking of bringing war crimes charges against at least six of the neocons responsible for the Iraq “war” and such. What a great idea! But Bill O’Reilly, that master of international politics, is threatening “not to go there” if they continue. Wow! I bet that will put them in their proper place.

I saw somewhere that Newt Gingrich is converting to Catholicism. He is a thrice married adulterer and arguably the worst hypocrite ever spawned, so what might this be all about. Someone said he is doing it in preparation for a run for President in 2012. I don’t think so. Why would adding Catholicism to his vitae help to get him elected President? None of this makes sense. But, then, it is Newt Gingrich we’re talking about. He seems to have fooled some people into believing that he is not merely a phony, braying jackass, pontificating his idiocy at every opportunity. The Republican party certainly has more than their fair share of borderline lunatics: Sarah Palin, Bobby Jindal, Joe the not plumber, Michael Steele, What’s-his-name Boner (sorry, Boehner), Eric Kantor, Mike Huckabee, Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Ann Coulter, Glenn Beck, Bill O’Reilly, Newt Gingrich, and many others cut from the same pattern. With a lineup like that how can they possibly fail, especially with their tried and true mantra: tax breaks for the rich, tax breaks for the rich, tax breaks for the rich, etc. ad nauseam?

Was I hallucinating? I thought I heard somewhere that someone had videotaped Joe Biden’s daughter sniffing cocaine. Then I thought I heard it was one of her “friends” out to make a bundle of money by betraying her. Then I thought I heard that his lawyer refused to have anything more to do with him. What I did not hear was anything about this whatsoever on the news anywhere. You can find it mentioned on Google, but nothing is very clear. It might have been someone who just looks like her. It might have been her. It seems as though it might have been hushed up, at least temporarily. So what if it is was Ashley Biden? And so what if she was sniffing cocaine? All kinds of people are doing it nowadays. It ought to be legal. Do you think she’d being doing it if it was legal? I hope she wasn’t doing it. But if she did maybe it will motivate her father to think more seriously about the hopeless “war on drugs” he has been so active in. When is anyone going to wise up enough to know that drugs should be decriminalized? What a disaster! What a relatively easy solution. But, like, you know, this is America. We don’t do anything sensible here.

I did not learn until today there was such a thing as motorized bar stools. What a terrific idea! Unfortunately there is no provision for a designated driver. A man was arrested for driving one while drunk. He says he only drank after he wrecked his motorized bar stool because his head hurt. Of course, we should have known that. The inventor was on Rachel Maddow tonight demonstrating his product. What a clever way to save gasoline. I’m sure they get far better mileage than the Hummer, and they doubtless are attractive to the same population of mental midgets. Ah, American innovation! It makes one right proud.

I never took hallucinogenic drugs because I never wanted my consciousness expanded one unnecessary iota.
Fran Lebowitz

The Galapagos penguin lives near the equator.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Dorothy Parker -- book

Morialekafa is "getting out of Dodge" for two or three days and will not be blogging until he returns.

I love Dorothy Parker. Of course if I had known her when she was still alive I almost certainly would not have. I just finished a book called Dorothy Parker, in Her Own Words (Taylor Trade Publishing, 2004), edited by Barry Day (who seems to have developed this technique on P.G. Wodehouse and Sherlock Holmes). Day has selected passages from Parker’s very substantial writings, her poems, lyrics, movie scripts, short stories, articles, reviews, and correspondence, and used them to illustrate her opinions on sex, marriage, Hollywood, actresses, dogs, writers, and suicide, among other things. As she lived to be 74 and was just as cynical and acerbic at the end as at the beginning, it is quite a tour.

She was, of course, best known for her wit and her acid tongue, and she did not suffer fools gladly. As a reviewer of books and plays she was more often than not rather devastating. Reviewing a performance of Katherine Hepburn in a play she once said, “Her emotions run the gamut from A to B.” Hepburn later allowed that she had been right. She compared a performance by Billie Burke (who was married to Ziegfield) to an imitation of Eva Tanguay (who was a burlesque performer and not considered a serious actress), a review that got her fired when Ziegfield was not amused. On seeing Tolstoy’s play, Redemption, she wrote: “It isn’t what you would call sunny. I went into the Plymouth Theatre a comparatively young woman, and I staggered out of it three hours later, twenty years older, haggard and broken with suffering…”

When it came to book reviews she could be equally devastating. For a time she reviewed books for the New Yorker as “The Constant Reader.” Confronted with A.A.Milne’s, the House at Pooh Corner, when Piglet asked Pooh “why he has added the phrase ‘Tiddely-pom’ to a song, Pooh answers “To make it more hummy.” She wrote, “And it is that word ‘hummy,’ my darlings, that marks the first place in The House at Pooh Corners at which Tonstant Weader fwowed up.” On another occasion, reviewing a novel, she wrote: “This is not a novel to be tossed aside lightly. It should be thrown with great force.”

She was one of the founding members of the famous Algonquin Round Table, along with Robert Benchley and Robert Sherwood. They met there for lunch almost every day and the group soon included Alexander Woolcott, Franklin P. Adams, Edna Ferber, Tallulah Bankhead, Harpo Marx, Harold Ross, George S. Kaufman, Heywood Broun, Ring Lardner, and others. There is no doubt it was a witty group and the conversation was remarkable, but it was also kind of incestuous in that the members tended to publish and promote each other and were not quite as successful as they appeared to be. They played, among other things, a game in which you were given a word and tried to turn it into a pun. Parker was superb with things like: Horticulture: “You can lead a horticulture but you can’t make her think.” She also did Penis: “The penis mightier than the sword.” The Round Table came to an end with the 1929 crash.

Parker quickly became known for her wit and it was expected of her. She seldom let anyone down at the parties and events she attended, and she left so many skewered she was not always appreciated. There are endless examples of this in this book, which covers her years in Hollywood as well as her marriages and love affairs. For me, I think her greatest put-down came when she worked for the New Yorker. Harold Ross, the editor, wanted his writers to come to the office to work, but most of them did not. Once when Parker arrived to deliver a story he demanded to know why she had not been there to work. She replied simply: “Someone was using the pencil.” Her accounts of exchanges with Samuel Goldwyn and other Hollywood biggies are absolute treasures of understatement, as are many of her comments on Hollywood in general. The following anecdote I think gives some idea of what she encountered:

When she contracted to work with Cecil B. DeMille on a film called Dynamite, she was asked to write a theme song for it. She did, but it was rejected. She decided it would be sensible to try to find out what the film was supposed to be about.

“Getting to see DeMille was ‘like riding a camel through the eye of a needle,’ but finally she managed it. DeMille took her through a convoluted plot, which involved the wrongly accused hero sitting in his prison cell with only his guitar for company, which is where Dorothy’s contribution was to come in. At a comparative loss for words, she could only mutter how the details were ‘just staggering.’ ‘Ah, yes,’ DeMille replied, ‘zebras in the King of Kings,’ as if that explained everything. It was only later when she had the temerity to ask him where the zebras came in. He explained that they were pulling the chariots of Mary Magdalene. Unfortunately, when they kicked, their legs were inclined to break. “Of course,’ said the sympathetic Mrs. Parker, ‘I should have known that.’”

Her heyday, and the heyday of the Algonquin Round Table was in the 1920’s when it was fashionable to be cynical and wild. Dorothy Parker, an early feminist, did her best to live up to the times. She promoted human rights with respect to both blacks and gays when it was not at all fashionable to do so. Although she was never a communist, she was blacklisted for being a sympathizer. She drank at times much more than was good for her and on quite a few occasions attempted suicide (although how serious she was is open to question). She accepted the good and the bad with a kind of cynical resignation and left her mark on the permanent literature. I believe she was a much better writer than she believed and that she is given credit for.

Dorothy Parker: two marriages, one abortion, one miscarriage, no children, many lovers, alcohol and drugs, nominated twice for screenwriting. She loved dogs. A nasty neurotic bitch, an innocent brown-eyed doe, caught in the headlights of an era and a society that gave no quarter. She was all of that and more. If you are interested in this period of time, and/or in Dorothy Parker, or even in finely honed wit, you should enjoy this book.

Friday, March 27, 2009

On terrorists

Told by girlfriend to watch TV
in another room, he rips off
her bra and pours chili on her.

On that terrible day (9/11), 19 highjackers, mostly Saudis, armed only with box cutters, hijacked four passenger jet planes, crashed two of them into the twin towers, one into the Pentagon, and the other crashed in Pennsylvania. All this is well known. It is also well known that the U.S., in retaliation, immediately attacked Afghanistan, because presumably that is where the attackers planned their horrendous deeds. We are still fighting a “war” in Afghanistan, the new purpose of which is to destroy al Qaida, the group that sponsored the terrorism. Al Qaida is believed to have its headquarters, not in Afghanistan, but it neighboring Pakistan. This new plan is said, to deny them a base for planning further attacks against us. What I cannot help but wonder about is why al Qaida needs a nation (or two) to plan further attacks. I know we are shown pictures of Arabs training on monkey bars and with automatic weapons and in general going through what I suppose we might think of as terrorist boot camp. But what, if anything, might this have had to do with the planning and execution of 9/11? First of all, all Qaida is supposedly an international terrorist organization. They are known to have operated in Somalia, Germany, perhaps in Kurdistan, and I guess elsewhere as well. Their attacks are always carried out by a very small number of people, often fewer than the 19 involved in 9/11.

My main question is, why does such a group need an entire nation or two to plan and carry out terrorism? It would seem to me that most of their attacks could have been planned in hotel rooms anywhere in the world, at virtually any time at all. Surely they didn’t need the cover of Afghanistan to get their hands on some box cutters, nor did they have to necessarily undergo rigorous physical training to do what they did. In the case of 9/11 they didn’t even need to find explosives. All they needed was money and passports they could have obtained without either Afghanistan or Pakistan even necessarily being involved. So why are we spending billions in Afghanistan and Pakistan to deny them a base of operations when they could be operating out of virtually any place? And what if they are training in Afghanistan or Pakistan? Are they training an army that we need to fear because they are going to attack us en masse? I should think that as long as they are kept in place they do not really constitute much of a threat to anyone except the Afghans or the Pakistanis, and I doubt that either nation is going to allow themselves to be taken over by al Qaida. So what if the Taliban are giving them protection? As much as we might not like the Taliban they are not really our enemies and, again, not all the Taliban are extremists, and it is not likely they can completely take over either country. And, as they are not our enemies, what would it matter if they did? The only real potential danger to us would be if they got their hands on a nuclear weapon of some kind. We should certainly see to it that does not happen, but beyond that we should let them fight their own battles and work out their own problems, but with our help in the form of goods and services to try to overcome their unfortunate recent violent histories at the hands of unwanted and uninvited invaders.

As far as Osama bin Laden goes, if we have not found him by now I doubt we are going to find him. I have my doubts that Bush/Cheney even wanted to find him. In the meantime killing more and more innocent people with our robot drones is probably counterproductive. I also wonder about Obama’s sending additional troops to train an Afghan army. On the one hand this does seem like a good thing to do, but on the other hand, why train an army for a government known to be entirely corrupt? If our goal is no longer to “spread democracy,” and if we acknowledge that a military solution is not possible, it seems to me we should just “butt out” entirely, but be open and willing to aid whatever government arises out of the present mess, as long as it is in our interest to do so. The only troops allowed should be those required to protect those working to reconstruct the country. Even with Obama’s apparent good intentions, and his change in our goals, I fear Afghanistan/Pakistan may still become his Vietnam.

Only after the last tree has been cut down, only after the last river has been poisoned, only after the last fish has been caught, only then will you find that money cannot be eaten.
Cree Indian Prophecy

The game we know as Contract Bridge was developed from Whist. The word bridge came from the British pronunciation of Biritch, also known as Russian whist.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Hooray for Hillary

Caught having sex with goat,
Sudanese man forced to pay
bride price, keep goat as “wife.”

Hooray for Hillary Clinton! On her trip to Mexico she opened up two issues that Obama seems unwilling to deal with, or even want mentioned, at least at the moment: gun control and drug policy. She acknowledged that one of t he biggest problems involved in the Mexican drug wars is caused by the insatiable demand for illegal drugs in the U.S. And she also acknowledged that weapons, including automatic weapons, were being smuggled into Mexico from the U.S. Obama apparently does not want to confront either of these two issues. He doesn’t want to have to take on the powerful gun lobby, nor does he want to decriminalize marijuana (let alone any other drugs). But it would seem to me, as I have said several times before, that if you wish to eliminate the drug wars and the enormously expensive “war on drugs,” the best way to do that would be to decriminalize drugs and deal with them as a medical rather than a political party. As for guns, I have no problem with people owning rifles and shotguns and even handguns. I do not see any reason for ordinary citizens to possess fully automatic weapons. As far as I can see there is not argument in favor of such ownership other than the paranoid and unjustified fear of the Federal Government. If that is the justification for owning AK 47’s and other such weapons, it should also justify private ownership of tanks, howitzers, mortars, and even fighter planes. I believe this whole argument is nonsense. When the prohibition on drugs goes so far as to ban the planting of hemp it becomes utterly ridiculous. And we already know that the billions we have spent on the “war on drugs” has accomplished absolutely nothing. I understand Obama’s reluctance to confront the NRA at this moment, I do not understand his timidity on drugs (there seems to me a growing desire to decriminalize drugs, especially marijuana that would make this relatively easy to do, and would save a great deal of badly needed money. There is also in New York a move afoot to modify the draconian Rockefeller drug laws). Hillary’s public statements on these two topics indicate to me that she is not just going to toe the party line on everything. In this case she is absolutely right.

I am more and more of the opinion that not only are Republicans merely the party of “no,” they are also the party of no brains. How else can you understand some of their recent behavior? For example, today they presented their budget which, except for a massive tax cut for the wealthy, contained no other numbers. A budget without numbers? They expect anyone to take this seriously? Then we have Sarah Palin, complaining that she had no one to pray with before her VP debate, along with her usual story that the media was to blame for her defeat. Newt Gingrich, hypocrite of the century, has now warned that Obama is becoming a dictator (from communist to socialist to fascist to dictator in four easy Republican steps). Mitt Romney, who had no trouble with the unlimited borrowing of Bush, now thinks borrowing (by Obama) is terrible. Glenn Beck, that fountain of utter foolishness, criticized Obama for using a teleprompter (while he was using one himself), and claimed that Bush did not use one. I swear he does exist in another universe. And finally, Michael Steele has claimed that everything he does is well planned, including his gaffes. Why does this remind me so much of the Pink Panther? Anyway, to me, all of these statements reveal stupidity on such a truly grand scale my mind suggests to me I must not have heard them right. The possibility that anyone would take any of them seriously escapes me, but, then, we are speaking of Republicans.

Anyone who goes to a psychiatrist ought to have his head examined.
Samuel Goldwyn

TILT:The platypus is one of the few venomous mammals.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Why Republicans Lie

Man walks out of jail after
27 years for crime he did
not commit, is hit by a taxi.

Why do Republicans lie? I wanted to say, “so much,” but that would be misleading, insinuating that they might not lie all the time. I trust no one is going to challenge my assertion that they lie. The evidence is ubiquitous and overwhelming. For example, Condi Rice recently insisting that no one in the Bush administration ever linked Sadam Hussein and Iraq to 9/11, a blatant lie, Dick Cheney insisting that Iraq had ties to al Qaida, Bush claiming we do not torture, many of them on WMD’s and “mushroom clouds,” Ari Fleischer on nation-building, Bobby Jindal on Katrinia, others on the high-speed train from Disney to Las Vegas, and their current lies about the Employee Free Choice Act, and on and on. Republican lies are too numerous and consistent to even try to completely document, just look up “Republican lies” on Google and get an eyeful. Yesterday some Republican kept repeating something about the “huge bureaucracy” Obama would create. I don’t know what this was about as I have never heard anyone else even mention bureaucracy. Anyway, as I am confident Republicans lie incessantly, I have been led to wonder why.

Obviously it would not do to simply claim Republican lying is a genetic trait, even though it seems it might be because it is so widespread. Thus it must be learned, nurture rather than nature. It must be due to their enculturation. That is, once they accept Republicanism they are then brainwashed into lying. This is at least partly true, I think, because of the fact that Bush/Cheney never told the truth about anything and followers do seem to follow the leader. Furthermore, the Republicans in the last eight years have developed the use of “talking points,” that must be used by all. As these talking points invariably were riddled with falsehoods the lying became epidemic. And you will remember that once one of these talking points was released you could find them being repeated ad nauseam by all Republicans.

Then there is the obvious point that they have to lie because they do not dare to speak the truth. What did they accomplish over the past eight years they could feel justified in mentioning? Nothing, that’s what, so they have no choice but to lie. Not only can they not boast of their achievements, they must also deny some of them which, again, requires them to lie.

Still another reason they lie, I suppose, is because they only listen to liars. Rush Limbaugh, Bill O’Reilly, Sean Hannity, Glenn Beck, Ann Coulter, and many others, especially on Fox News, all of whom are professional liars, that’s how they make their living. And who listens to these lying hatemongers, Republicans, of course. And the lies they tell get repeated endlessly by their gullible “dittoheads” that are so certain of their beliefs they refuse to even look anywhere else where they might find the truth, or at least a different opinion. Lied to by the party leaders, and lied to on a daily basis by these radio and television liars, the Republican world view is nothing but a gigantic web of lies: Ronald Reagan was wonderful, FDR was terrible, taxes are terrible, the poor are terrible, anything designed for the common good is “socialism” or “communism,” greed is good, government is bad, “trickle-down economics,” Democrats just tax and spend, and so on. Clifford Geerts once wrote that people “are suspended in “webs of significance they themselves have spun.” Unfortunately, the webs of significance Republicans have spun have proven to be totally self-serving and harmful to others, as well as the nation, and are now collapsing from the winds of reality and justice.

Some of their lies are so patently silly or ridiculous that virtually no one believes them except for the most extreme and far-out loonies that infest the Republican party: Obama is not qualified to be President because of his birth, for example, even though this has been officially disproven, or Obama is a secret Muslim sent here to destroy America, and such. I won’t even mention what you might see on the tabloids. Other of their lies probably capture a somewhat larger audience who want to believe the worst: Obama is a communist, Obama is a socialist, Obama is a fascist, Obama wants to take away their guns, Obama will raise everyone’s taxes, and so on. These lies are the most insidious because they are not necessarily so outrageous enough to be dismissed out of hand, especially by those who want Obama to fail. Even so, the most outrageous liar of them all, Dick the Slimy, has finally gone too far and is being castigated and shushed by his fellow Republicans (where have they been all this time). In any case, now that Republicans have been exposed as simply the bankrupt party of “no,” they have no choice but to continue their web of lies. Remember that once you tell one lie, unless you immediately repudiate it, you must tell another to defend it. And then another to defend that, and still another, and another. Soon you are living in a web of lies you yourself have spun and it is too late to do anything but continue lying. But, not to worry, by now it is completely naturally to them and the truth is no longer available to them.

If you tell the truth you don't have to remember anything.
Mark Twain

Albatrosses have an acute sense of smell.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Obama Press Conference

Nebraska town requests
state’s old electric chair
for tourist attraction.

President Obama gave his second open press conference since taking office 64 days ago. Whatever you may think about Obama’s plan for our future, you have to admire his knowledge of the issues and the straightforward way he speaks to us. Can you even imagine, in your wildest imaginings, George W. Bush giving a press conference like that? Obama is articulate, confident, knowledgeable, obviously on top of what he is doing, completely unlike the bumbling moron we had a year ago who often apparently even wore a secret wire at times. Obama pointed out, rightly, that while the Republicans and others criticize and carp at his plan, they offer no plan of their own. I believe he is also right when he attributes this to the fact that if they did they would have to acknowledge that we can go nowhere unless we do something about health care (and Republicans do not want to see health care reform). I do not find the criticism that Obama is trying to do too much at once very thoughtful or useful. I think Obama is quite right when he says these things are all related to each other: health care, energy, and education. If this is so, it would not make much sense to try to deal with them one at a time, however difficult it may be to face them simultaneously. I regard watching Obama as a genuine pleasure, knowing that he can speak the English language and is in command of the program. The Republican objections are objections with no real basis other than being designed to simply bring down the Obama administration for their own selfish reasons.

As the Republicans are basically impotent and can just be ignored, the real threat to Obama seems to be coming from a few conservative Democrats led by Evan Bayh that are threatening to join with Republicans to force Obama to tailor is plans more to their specifications. It turns out that Bayh has been taking big bucks from some of the companies who want him to swing things their way, in other words, politics as usual. Where was this noble band of Democrats for the past eight years?

I have often found Senator Chuck Grassley of Iowa mildly amusing, but I hadn’t realized until just now that he is apparently also brain dead. He has suggested, seriously I fear, that what we need is a moratorium on spending for the next three years! While most everyone else agrees that what we desperately need is to stimulate more spending, Grassley wants no spending. Sometimes I wonder if we are all on the same planet. Walt Minnick, on Lou Dobbs, wasn’t much better. He kept saying that we can’t keep borrowing trillions from the Chinese, as if no one else is aware of that. And he insists that we must cut down on our spending, apparently following the same logic as Grassley. Lou Dobbs seemed to me to be mostly ignoring him while repeating ad nauseam that we are not producing anything and until we do we can’t possibly get anywhere. I guess Dobbs believes that the jobs that Obama is trying to create will be devoted only to more totally unproductive activities like banking and pontificating on TV. And what does he think bailing out the auto industry is supposed to do, just sell insurance? Obviously we have lost lots of productive jobs, except, of course, in the shameless defense industry where we keep on producing tanks and planes and ships, and weapons of all kinds, that we don’t really need.

Whereas Obama keeps insisting we are all in this mess together, Republicans and a few Democrats apparently believe that doesn’t include them. It is unfortunately true that Obama’s stimulus plan is extraordinarily expensive and will certainly put us further into debt. But it is interesting that the Republicans didn’t worry about such things for the past eight years. Remember Cheney’s dictum, “Ronald Reagan showed us that deficits don’t matter.” Remember how they converted a huge budget surplus into the largest deficit in history. They did this with no plan other that to snatch up all the money they possibly could from the taxpayers and hand it over to their corporate masters and the already obscenely wealthy. At least Obama’s plan has a more noble purpose and is not being proposed merely on a whim. We are in big trouble. Obama has a plan to save us. No one else does. Like I say, “if you can’t beat it, don’t knock it.”

“It grieves me deeply to find out how frequently and how violently wrong I can be—it doesn’t seem reasonable, somehow.”
Dorothy Parker

The Lascaux cave paintings are believed to be 16,000 years old.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Very interesting

Teen stacks chairs on
24th story balcony to view
sunrise, falls to his death.

When a highly respected Professor of Constitutional Law appears on national television (the Rachel Maddow Show) and says that Bush/Cheney are obviously guilty of war crimes and need to be prosecuted, what are we to do? Professor Jonathan Turley minced no words about their guilt and insisted that any investigation would be the shortest one in history because the case is so obvious. He also said that President Obama is blocking any prosecution, and obviously for political reasons. Turley believes that we (Obama) should do what is right, not what is politically advantageous. I agree completely with Professor Turley. I know that Obama and his administration have “a lot on their plate,” and I understand why politically, and perhaps even practically, they do not wish to prosecute, but if they do not, under the Constitution, they will themselves be equally guilty of a crime. I would like to think it is only a matter of time until such prosecution will have to take place. And, indeed, until it does, there is no way American will ever be restored to a respected position in the International Community.

Bush/Cheney are guilty of the most heinous war crimes possible. They lied to preemptively attack a nation that was no threat to us. They have engaged (admittedly) in torture. They have encouraged and accepted war profiteering, they have allowed the use of prohibited weapons, allowed the killing of innocent women and children and other civilians, they have hidden prisoners from the Red Cross, and they have stood by while a nations national treasures were looted. They have violated the Geneva Convention in more than one instance. They have incarcerated for years individuals they knew to be innocent of any crime against us. Here at home they have made a mockery of our Constitution, taken away civil liberties, illegally spied on us, and more. And yet, to date, they have gone unpunished, and Dick the Slimy continues to spread lie after lie about what they did and what Obama is doing. He clearly belongs in jail, if not in the dock at the Hague. So how about it President Obama? Are you going to step up to the plate, or just beg off. If the latter, do not expect any respect from me.

I have never believed there was much of a connection between the performance of the Stock Market and reality, so I don’t know what to make of today’s spectacular 500 percent rise. Those who comment on the market seem to think it rose so much because the banks and Wall Street are in favor of the Obama plan to buy up the poisoned assets. But no one has bought any yet, and perhaps they won’t. Besides, what conceivable realistic change could have occurred overnight to make a stock so much more valuable the next day? I believe those clever souls (insiders) who drove the market down, and still have money, will buy now and drive it back up again, thus realizing enormous profits. But what has that to do with reality, other than the surreality of the Stock Market itself? I recall seeing somewhere that fully 90% of those who try to play the market, fail. No wonder. In the meantime, those of us whose only investment in the market are pension plans and such, can merely stand by helplessly and watch others at play in the fields of greed and avarice.

Somewhere today I saw where members of our Idaho legislature were arguing about whether we were a union or a confederacy or a democracy or a republic or a confederate republic or sovereign or………and someone else wants to go back to the gold standard and….Don’t they have enough to do?

Quite a long time ago a couple of people argued that the measure of how civilized and progressive a nation was had to do with how much energy they consumed (the more energy, the more progressive). Bill Sali has reportedly said he is proud of how much energy we use. I should think the measure should be quite the opposite, the less energy used the more progressive and civilized. Doing more with less energy seems to me to be a highly desirable goal, but a highly unlikely one in the U.S.

It is partly to avoid consciousness of greed that we prefer to associate with those who are at least as greedy as we ourselves. Those who consume much less are a reproach.
Charles Horton Cooley

The only fruit eaten by the aardvark is the aardvark cucumber.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

The Journey to the West 14

After my grandparents died it was decided that Parm would keep the farm as none of the other siblings wished to do so. Some idea of the value that was placed on the farm might be seen in the fact that my mother’s share consisted of a piano. I don’t know what arrangements were made with Wade, who was making his way as an auto mechanic. Uncle Otto, for reasons that I do not know, did not settle for a share, simply postponing the decision indefinitely. Of course my mother was married by then, as was her adopted sister Mary. Otto must have graduated from Stanford as an engineer at about this time (more on Wade and Otto later). Under Parm’s management real changes began. This was partly because of Parm, but also because of the times. Electricity came fairly quickly (I assume under Roosevelt’s Rural Electrification Project). Running water came next, and then, eventually, an indoor bathroom. All three of the brothers were very mechanically inclined. This, too, was part of the times. When my grandfather bought the first car, a model-t Ford, it was said the brothers had it completely apart and rebuilt on the first day. Tractors, that did not come into widespread use until after WW II (at least in North Idaho), soon followed. I remember the first tractor being a gigantic machine that required someone strong to steer it. One year, when times were apparently tough, my father took time off to help out on the farm. His job was to drive this monster tractor. He did well on the farm except for the fact that he was allergic to wheat straw. Tractors, like automobiles, evolved quickly, becoming more and more efficient. Parm, being a kind of mechanical genius, could actually buy various parts of old tractors and make serviceable ones out of what many would have regarded as junk. Somewhere, somehow, he learned how to weld and do metalwork, and I guess just about everything he needed to do. He continued to farm, of course, and with the new equipment he was able to cultivate more and more acres. In what had been a large root cellar, about 50 yards from the house, he installed a sawdust-burning furnace that he fed with sawdust he got free from somewhere. He had created a large workshop in part of the barn where he had every tool or gadget he needed. To an outside observer the place appeared to become more and more chaotic as Parm collected things he felt he had to have. In the evenings we listened to Amos n’Andy on the radio, and then later followed news of the war.

Parm was married to Mamie. Mamie had been previously married and had a son almost exactly my age, Ted. As the farm was his turf, and as he was at times a bit of a bully, we had a few bad moments. But they were very few and most of the time we got along splendidly. We went together every morning and afternoon, along with a clever dog, to bring in the milk cows. I remember being absolutely amazed when Parm got his first milking machine. It was pretty good but the cows still had to be stripped by hand and Parm would shoot the milk right from the teats into the mouths of cats and idle youngsters. They acquired an electric separator that would separate the cream from the milk that was still part of their income. I also remember being amazed when we visited some neighbors and I saw them milking a mare. I had never heard of such a thing and certainly Parm and Mamie didn’t do it. But there were still horses, now mostly just for pleasure, and Ted and I each claimed a grey half-brother that we rode regularly. On a couple of occasions we went on camping trips into the nearby hills. Like all young boys we rough-necked and dreamed of becoming cowboys or rodeo riders and such. Once, before the indoor plumbing, Ted and I retired to the two-holed privy where we could smoke (yes, we were pretty young) and talk. So intent were we on our conversation that we didn’t notice at first the smoke and the sound of crackling around us. Apparently, after lighting our stolen cigarettes, Ted had thrown the match out the wide crack in the door and it had started the grass on fire. We frantically managed to put it out before it got out of hand, but Parm, who didn’t approve of smoking at all, let alone for youngsters, was not amused.

Along with the changes and modernization that came to the farm came changes that were perhaps not so positive. One of the first things to go was the garden. Mamie still baked her own bread once a week, but now they bought most of their food just like urban dwellers. Mamie cooked breakfast, lunch, and dinner, but that was it. You either ate what she cooked or you went hungry until the next meal. Alas, for breakfast she usually cooked oatmeal that I hated, but that was it. She was otherwise good to me but she had her ideas about how things should be and we all had to follow her rules. She, too, loved horses, and had a big white stallion that only she could ride. She was not too popular with my parents because when my father and his cronies wanted to hunt pheasants and ducks in the Post Falls area, Mamie refused to cook and cater to them. But she was strong and adamant and that was that. In those days the pheasant hunting was very good there and we always were successful. Ducks, too, we hunted at Hauser Lake and some of the streams nearby. And of course we fished in Hauser as well, perch, crappy, and bass were plentiful. In the spring the runoff from the lake went all the way down the mountain and onto the flat pasture, carrying with it bass and other fish. The bass could be speared with pitchforks and were sometimes even shot with .22 caliber rifles. Interestingly, I don’t think any of the farmers, and certainly not Parm, ever hunted or fished. I guess they didn’t have time for such sports, but they never gave up on their relentless destruction of their “enemies.” The enemies were, of course, anything that threatened their well-being. Gophers and badgers were despised because the horses would step in the holes. Hawks of any kind were shot on sight because they preyed on the chickens, coyotes likewise. On occasion I saw captured badger or coyote pups that were soon destroyed. Ecology or balance of nature I’m sure were completely unknown concepts. Of course bears, wolves, and cougars had long since been eliminated except for far back in the mountains.

There was a general store referred to as Ma Cogan’s. Mrs. Ma Cogan was a grey-haired Irish lady who spoke with a brogue and managed to have most anything one needed, including candy. My cousin liked Horehound drops that I thought were the worst tasting candy in the world. The store was at a junction where the road to Hauser Lake joined a secondary highway. About a mile down the road lived Jerry Cogan on a small farm. He was apparently quite a drinker and I remember he used to keep his booze in a ten gallon cream can. His house was built right up against a mountainside with huge boulders that we loved to play among. I don’t think he was much of a farmer but he seemed to eke out a living and always had something to drink. It was Jerry who threw a bunch of newly born kittens into a shallow puddle, which caused my cousin to break into tears and refuse to visit there any longer. It took me a long time to finally realize that Mrs. Cogan must have been married to Jerry Cogan. I never saw them together.

By the time I was fifteen or sixteen spending time on the farm no longer held any charm for me. This was partly because I did not like being away from my girlfriend, and partly because my interest in farming and horses had waned. By the time I stopped going there Parm had managed to cover an acre or two with his “treasures” that everyone else regarded as junk. My farming days came to an end, but there is no doubt that I learned much and benefitted from the experience. I saw Parm and Mamie and Ted only rarely after that.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

On Google recipes

Angry because woman walked
in front of her golf cart, she
deliberately runs over her.

To me, google is even more mysterious than electricity. I have no idea how it works. No idea of how it even could work. How is it that you can type in most anything you can think of and almost immediately find it. And not only can you find it, you can probably be absolutely inundated with it. I have found using google to be both a blessing and so overly helpful as to be frightening.

I like to cook, at least sometimes. Of course I can’t even begin to compete with my wife who is a life-long, serious cook, and now a chef. But as she is often gone I delight in cooking things I like that she would never eat, like liver and onions, pigs’ feet, lutefisk, stuff like that. We have a plethora of cookbooks, all kinds of cookbooks, shelves of cookbooks, even boxes of cookbooks there is no other room for. I like to use cookbooks, or at least I did before I found google. No matter how many cookbooks you have, you can’t even come close to competing with google for recipes. Are you aware, for example, that if you look up something as common as roast chicken, you will learn there are 8,830,000 recipes. I’m not entirely certain how you would find out if this is true or not, unless perhaps you were willing to devote an entire lifetime to this topic. Even if you understand you can’t possibly use so many recipes, you will find a minimum of 540 readily available. I find this unsettling. I just wanted a recipe for roast chicken, I didn’t want to have to choose between more than I even have time to consider. I might as well just have looked in a cookbook. It would not be nearly as frustrating.

I grant you that roast chicken is a pretty common dish, which no doubt explains the millions of recipes. Out of curiosity I typed in “tripe” (even though I never eat the stuff). Would you believe there are 2,270,000 recipes for tripe? If you find that sort of mind numbing as I do, type in “pickled pigs feet.” According to google there are an unbelievable 5,320,000 recipes for pigs feet. I began to get really suspicious at this point, and I am beginning to suspect that google is spitting out both “pigs,” and “feet,” as well as “pigs feet,” and “pickled pigs feet.” But how am I to know? I couldn’t possibly pursue over 5 million entries. I have found, pursuing this line of inquiry, there are some recipes that are somewhat more manageable. For example, there are only 1,190,000 recipes for pot roast. Whew, I’m glad I found something at least a bit more realistic (but not much more). Going down the scale, you will be relieved to know there are only 768,000 recipes for poached eggs, 468,000 for salami sandwiches, 285,000 for Lutefisk, and best of all by far, a paltry 22,900 for apple pie.

I must confess, I cannot deal with google when it comes to cooking. It is too overwhelming, there are far too many recipes, too much choice. When I want to cook and need a recipe I don’t need overkill, I just need a single recipe. While I’m certain that some recipes may well be more delicious or easier to prepare than others, I don’t want the hassle of having to make too many decisions. Frankly, I find it absurd there are so many recipes for roast chicken. I mean, after all, it’s just a chicken, you put it in a pan, stick it in the oven, take it out a hour later, and voila, roast chicken. The only thing all these recipes add is something to gussy it up a bit: garlic, lemon grass, oyster stuffing, mushrooms, a bit of tarragon, thyme, some kind of fancy spice rub, whatever. The more I think about it, I don’t really believe there are over 8 million ways to improve on a roast chicken. When you find out, please let me know. I would also like to know how many recipes call for chicken breasts (which I regard as tasteless and inedible). I’m afraid even to look.
I have been challenging google for months, trying to find a word or phrase that cannot be found there. So far I have not been able to find something that google does not already know about, and usually has far more information than I would ever want. The temptation is to cheat and use nonsense syllables, but that would not be sporting. I lost count of my failures somewhere back around 250, that is to say, google 250, Morialekafa 0. Some of my attempts only resulted in displaying my ignorance, as, for example, when I thought I had a sure winner with “milkfish bellies.” But I do not intend to ever give up, there just has to be something google has not already found. If you find something you will receive a bona fide Morialekafa championship certificate (that I will create upon proof of your achievement).

It rained hard most of the day. I have cabin fever and addled brain syndrome. Is anyone still solvent?

Love is an ideal thing, marriage a real thing; a confusion of the real with the ideal never goes unpunished.
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

The word “fighter,” in the realm of aircraft, first meant a two-seater plane with sufficient lift to carry a machine-gun, its operator, and a pilot. Such a plane existed as early as 1914 but was too slow to be effective.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Man Without a Face - book

I just finished reading Man Without a Face by Markus Wolf (with Anne McElvoy, Random House, 1997). This is described in a subtitle, The Autobiography of Communism’s Greatest Spymaster. It is what it claims to be. Markus Wolf was in charge of the East German spy apparatus for about 30 years and has a great deal to say about that tumultuous time. Unlike many spy books this one isn’t really much about individual spying and intrigue, but, rather, about recruiting, training, and maintaining a group of spies working all around the world. It is mostly concerned with spying within Germany itself, when it seems that half of East Germany was spying on West Germany, and half of West Germany was spying on East Germany. Of course West Germany was supported by England and the U.S., while the East Germans were supported by the Soviets. But over his lengthy tenure Wolf was involved in most of the major events of the time, and also in some capacity with most of the most notable spies, such as Klaus Fuchs, Kim Philby, Aldrich Ames, and many more. He discusses the problems in recruiting spies, various techniques for doing so, and in many cases what happened to them and why. He discusses the use of sex in spying, the money involved, and, more importantly in the case of East German spies, the ideology that motivated them. It seems that East German spies were far less likely to spy for money than American spies, although a few did it for the money and the privileges. He also discusses the relationship of the East German spies to Russia and some of the problems involved. Although his territory was mainly Germany, he did travel quite a lot and was at various times in Africa and South America, and discusses the different problems he encountered in the different countries. He was one of the first to travel to Cuba shortly after the Cuban Revolution where he trained them in techniques and other tricks of the trade. In his capacity of chief of operations he either came into contact with or knew about most of the notables of the time: Willy Brandt, Yuri Andropov, Konrad Adenauer, Yassar Arafat, Carlos the Jackal, Raul Castro, Mikhail Gorbachev, Erich Honecker, Erich Mielke, Walter Ulbricht, and many, many more.

Friedrich Wolf, Marcus Wolf"s father, was a Jew who came from a devoutly Jewish family. Altough his parents wanted him to become a Rabbi he refused and studied medicine instead. He did not come to socialism until he was almost forty years old, having first read writers like Tolstoy, Sinclair, Nietzsche, Kropotkin, and other more or less utopian scholars. He fought in the Kaiser's army in the First World War and was severly wounded. When German revolutionaries sought to establish a just and egalitarian state in 1918, and were soundly defeated, he turned to Marx and Lenin and the Soviet Union. Marcus Wolf was raised in Russian, learned the language, and became a true believer in socialism. He thought it would be possible to create a more or less ideal socialist state. Although he apologizes for some of his behavior as a spymaster, for the most part he did not believe he did anything wrong in the service of his country, and thought the punishment of East German spies for their service was unfair, in that the West German spies who engaged in similar behaviors were not. Of course they were on the winning side. Wolf was eventually arrested, tried, and sentenced to six years in prison. It is not clear from the book if he actually spent any time in prison because shortly after he was sentenced new provisions were put in place that allowed him to return to a normal life. He is philosophical about his life, the nature of capitalism and socialism, and realizes that in both systems the basic problems are much the same, the inability or unwillingness to make them work as they should. As an unrepentant socialist he obviously prefers it to capitalism which, like Marx, he thinks cannot ultimately succeed because it contains the seed of its own destruction. He expresses a very low opinion of our CIA, and believes the FBI was a much more formidable opponent. He remains quite proud of his accomplishments, especially with the relative lack of funds the East Germans were permitted. He believes, and he is no doubt correct, that if the spying did nothing else it at least helped to preserve the peace and avoid all-out war during these suspicious and trying times.

The title of the book has to do with the fact that for a very long time the West had no photograph of him and he was known as the man without a face. In fact, there was one photograph of him in the possession of his rivals but they did not know who it was. In order to fully enjoy and understand this book one would have to be much more familiar with this recent history than I am. There are so many names and organizations it slows down the reading. But even so, I found it fascinating to learn of all the problems and intrigue during the period of the Cold War. And in spite of the seriousness of the subject matter there are rare moments of humor. I believe Marcus Wolf was basically a fine and intelligent human being, and compassionate, and did the best he could with the hand he was dealt. When he died in 2006 at the age of 83, dignitaries from Russia, Germany, and elsewhere flocked to his funeral to pay homage.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Is we is, or is we ain't...

Tried for killing his wife,
accused gets new trial
because of blind juror.

Is we is, or is we ain’t…in a real “pickle?” I have I missed something? I thought that virtually everyone realized we were in crisis situation similar to what happened in 1929. And I thought most everyone agreed that in order to overcome this desperate situation we all had to cooperate. But it looks to me like all is pretty much just “business, or politics, as usual.” Certainly the Obama administration is getting no cooperation from Republicans. Indeed, they have made it clear they will obstruct and obstruct until they cause him to fail. As Obama represents our government, they apparently want our government to fail. There seems to be no reason for this other than their hope that they will eventually return to power. That is, their loyalty is to party, not to the nation. They intend to filibuster and drag their feet, and criticize at every opportunity to make sure than Obama and his plans will not succeed. I suggest this is not only a failure to cooperate, it is also un-American in the extreme.

It also seems clear that the massive corporations that have ripped off the taxpayers over the past years are also failing to cooperate. Even though they have begged for handouts, and been given massive assistance, they continue to live the good life with multi-million dollar bonuses (for failure) and lavish trips to the best hotels and hot spots. They are also spending our millions of re-decorating their offices, buying new corporate jets, and whatever. This does not seem to me to represent cooperation. Of course they are going along with Republicans as they always have. If they can just return their lackeys to power they won’t have to think about regulations, honesty, decency, law, justice, compassion, or any of those sissy democratic ideals that might prevent them from robbing the poor to further enhance the rich.

Even in democratic circles there seems to be those who do not want to cooperate, unless it is on their terms. A small group of so-called Centrist Democrats has formed with the apparent intention of insuring that the Republicans can continue their endless filibustering and thus keep preventing the majority from actually prevailing. These Centrists are being led by Evan Bayh of Indiana, who has apparently at long last decided he wants to demonstrate that he is not merely an empty suit. There is nothing that would prevent any of these individual Democrats from disagreeing with Obama’s priorities, or anything to force them to vote against their better judgment, or expressing their opinions, or whatever. I cannot understand why it is they feel it necessary to join together as a block so as to thwart Obama, unless they feel safety in numbers or something. In any case, no matter what they do, it does not seem to me to be being done in the spirit of cooperation.

Of course I suppose it would be out of the question for the MSM to cooperate with anyone but Republicans, and certainly the right-wing blowhards would never consider cooperation no matter what. It would be different if all these people were merely disagreeing with Obama because they have honest differences of opinion. This does not, however, seem to be the case. It seems clear that they have no alternative proposals that make any sense (and do not seem even to exist), and they basically make no pretense about their goal of bringing down the Obama administration in order to return to power. It is threatening to become a self-fulfilling proposition: we want him to fail, we will cause him to fail, and thus he will fail. Now that’s what I call cooperation!

I think it is becoming quite hilarious that many of our “leaders” have still not figured out that technology will no longer permit them to lie constantly as they have always been accustomed to doing in the past. Last night, for example, on Charlie Rose, Condi Rice sat there denying that anyone had ever linked Saddam Hussein to 9/11. Rachel Maddow then produced clips of them doing just that repeatedly. A few days before that Ari Fleisher was doing precisely the same thing, blatantly lying even though there were clips demonstrating that he was doing just that. Of course Jon Stewart has used this technique often to demonstrate the lies being told. Do you think they will ever come to the realization that “those days are gone forever?” Or is it the case they are so hopelessly revealed as incompetent they have no choice but to keep on lying. I rather doubt that either Bush or Cheney have ever told the truth. It could be in their cases they just don’t even know the difference.

The only thing that will redeem mankind is cooperation.
Bertrand Russell

The great Chicago fire was not started by a cow kicking over a lantern.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Let Them Eat...Fancy Feast

I was going to entitle this “Whatever Happened to Compassion,” but a moment’s reflection made me realize there probably never was much in the way of compassion. There certainly wasn’t much in the days of Genghis Khan or Attila the Hun or Ivan the Terrible or Hitler or Stalin. And there certainly was none to speak of during the Colonial Period. Of course there have been rare moments of individual compassion, but I believe in general compassion is rare indeed. Given the widespread existence of the Golden Rule and other equivalents found around the world, this strikes me as strange. I once saw a photograph that I believe summed up, at least for me, the horror of the absence of compassion. This photo appeared, I think, in the well-known book, The Family of Man (a collection of Edward Steichen photographs put out by The Museum of Modern Art). It showed a sort of plump, well-fed Chinese shopkeeper sitting at her shop, and in the foreground was a naked and obviously hungry (probably starving) crying boy. I can’t say the woman was smiling, but I think she was, and the picture has haunted me ever since. I tried to find it in a first edition (1955) of this book that my wife has, but it doesn’t appear there. Either it is in the revised 1986 edition or I am wrong about where I saw it.

In any case, I was stimulated to recall it when listening to all the fuss about AIG and the obscene bonuses they recently awarded some of their employees. Most everyone is outraged at this because the company has been the recent recipient of billions of taxpayer money to bail it out, and given the dire straits of the middle class at the moment it seemed entirely inappropriate, and to me, lacking in compassion. It is as if these hot-shot traders and brokers, or whoever they are, have no understanding of the world outside of Wall Street, and thus apparently no compassion either (of course you might well think they had little in the way of common sense or decency either). As I began to think about this I was drawn also into TV commercials that also seem to lack any feelings or sense of compassion. The one that always sticks in my mind has to do with cat food. It shows someone coming out of a very fancy and expensive kitchen, where presumably the chefs have cooked up marvelously delicious meals that are then compared to Fancy Feast cat food (that, to add insult to injury, is served to an all white fancy long-haired cat in a crystal glass). It is a rather disgusting commercial at best, but I wonder how it appears to the thousands of people in the U.S. who go hungry much of the time. Then when you begin to think about it, you realize that virtually the entire world portrayed on TV has nothing to do with the lives of the poor or downtrodden, or even the middle class. I believe this results a great deal more in animosity than in stimulating envy. I recall once being in a roadside tavern where the regulars were watching some event in which everyone was dressed in tuxedos or formal gowns (it might have been the Oscars). Every time the camera would focus on someone new the bartender (a 300 pounder named, of course, “Tiny”), would growl, “look here comes another one of them assholes.” Perhaps there was some repressed envy involved, but I think not-so-repressed-hate would be more accurate (why I was in this tavern is a story for another time).

I doubt that anyone with a brain larger than a pea expected any compassion to come out of Bush’s “Compassionate Conservatism.” And certainly none did. American culture, it seems to me, is shot through with the lack of compassion. This probably helps to explain the runaway greed that we have seen in the past few years (not that there was not always greed, but it seems to have become more widespread, more acceptable, and, indeed, even culturally prescribed). Think of “shop til’ you drop,” “he who has the most toys wins,” $5000 shower curtains, million dollar weddings, and so on. Conspicuous consumption has become the rule rather than the exception. Even the size and scope of the scams and thefts has grown, who previously would have even considered stealing 95 billion dollars, or paying CEO’s a hundred million a year (especially as a reward for failure). Marie Antoinette would seem to have personified the ignorance (or disinterest) of those in power for we commoners, when she famously exclaimed, “let them eat cake” (there is some doubt that she actually said this). But in any event, it eventually cost her, her head. It doesn’t appear likely that our current crop of high-level thieves, with their equivalent lack of understanding or compassion, will suffer much of anything. Even if they are forced to return the money, they will no doubt remain healthy, wealthy, but probably no wiser. What they have done is apparently legal. It’s the American way. In the meanwhile, there are probably thousands upon thousands of ravenously hungry people who would be happy to share a can of Fancy Feast , and they wouldn’t need a crystal bowl. Perhaps Congress could prescribe a week-long diet of Fancy Feast for these happy millionaires, a lesson in compassion.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Too big to not fail

Fights with wife, throws four
young children off bridge to
their deaths, laughs.

Surprise, surprise! In the annual rating of which states have the most influence in Congress, Idaho has come in 50th.

Apparently Canada, like the U.S., has decided to ignore their laws about war crimes and such. Bush managed to go there, speak, and return without being jailed. Maybe next time he travels somewhere.

The American empire has grown too big to not fail, and it is failing. It has become apparent that we can no longer afford our current lifestyle, especially as it relates to our hundreds of overseas bases and our pathologically bloated defense budget. Nor can we afford to keep pouring money into massive corporations that are themselves probably too big not to fail. We also cannot afford the price of the “privatization” of essential services and commodities, things like energy, medical care, prisons, food, and drugs, retirement, employment, and other things essential to basic human welfare. We cannot afford to service our massive debts to China and others, or our completely unnecessary and immoral “wars.” We have allowed ourselves to be exploited by our own short-sighted greedy elected officials and others to the point of potential extinction, certainly to the end of life as we have known it in the past century. I do not believe this is much of an exaggeration. If just China, alone, were to suddenly cash in their “chips,” our nation would be reduced to little more than a shell of its former self.

There is probably still time to prevent the worst of the potential disaster facing us, but I doubt that we have either the intelligence or the political will to save ourselves. There is almost certainly enough wealth in the U.S. to allow us to potentially solve our current insolvency. But first, we will have to give up doing stupid things for the wrong reasons. One of the obvious places to begin would be with the defense budget. As it is now, we produce weapons on a massive scale that we do not need. While it may be true that this production creates jobs, it is not productive. It is not productive because many of these products are not needed in the first place, and many of them just end up as scrap, to be replaced by newer models that we also do not need. It is well known that our defense budget is larger than all the rest of the world combined. For what purpose, who is the enemy against which this overkill is aimed? Related to this unnecessary expense is our maintenance of more than 700 bases all over the world, in some 100 countries, most of these we could easily do without, in some cases because the countries involved are perfectly capable of looking out for themselves, and in other cases the reasons for their existence are merely trivial. As defense eats up somewhere around 50% of our annual budget, imagine how many hundreds of billions could be saved by cutting back drastically on this ongoing stupidity.

Our system of health care is another case of unbridled stupidity. Although we spend much more on health care than other civilized countries, our health care, except for the very wealthy, doesn’t match up very well, and what is worse, about 50 million of our citizens do not even have health care. This is a national disgrace. We know that a single-payer system would be far more efficient and cheaper, but we resist such an obvious choice with a passion exceeded only by the greed of the insurance companies and pharmaceuticals. Why should the insurance companies have anything whatsoever to do with health care? And why should pharmaceutical giants be allowed to game the system so shamelessly for no reason other than their short term profits? Billions more could be saved if we did not insist on maintaining this basically criminal enterprise.

Related to this is our completely failed “war on drugs,” a war so misguided and stupid it boggles the mind of anyone who seriously thinks about it. Starting before him, but given more incentive by Richard Nixon and other like-minded nincompoops, what was always a medical problem became mysteriously converted into a political problem. Physicians and patients no longer have much say about their uses of, or problems with, drugs, as these decisions are now made by politicians and the drug companies. Not only do these ridiculous laws put thousands of otherwise innocent people in jails, they also bring about criminal activities on a massive scale, culminating now in the terrible “drug wars” in Mexico. Billions of dollars could be saved, and most of this violence could be stopped, merely by legalizing drugs and having them regulated by prescription and physicians, and taxed. Most of those who actively and aggressively resist legalization most probably know nothing about drugs except what they gleaned from watching “Reefer Madness.” What have we gained from our years of fighting illegal drugs and the billions we have spent needlessly? Most drugs are now in greater supply than ever, less expensive than ever, and our nearest neighbor in B.C. now lists marijuana as its leading export. Columbia and Afghanistan continue to produce as much or more than ever. Our demand for illegal drugs is the basic problem, and the one problem we seem most uninterested in changing or controlling.

In addition to these obvious sources of money there are other areas that would produce billions for the national budget. Huge subsidies for oil companies and big agriculture, that they don’t even need, come readily to mind. Higher taxes on the obscenely wealthy would also help. No one needs to make 100 million dollars a year, and no one needs to make billions either. These outrageous sums could be taxed at a much higher rate and no one would even know the difference in terms of living their lives in luxury.

President Obama seems to understand most of these problems, and he is making at least some strides in trying to correct some of them, but in my opinion he is, probably by political necessity, going about it too cautiously, and I doubt members of Congress will have much stomach for it, being too much in the tentacles of big business and the wealthy.

Some scientists claim that hydrogen, because it is so plentiful, is the basic building block of the universe. I dispute that. I say that there is more stupidity than hydrogen, and that is the basic building block of the universe.
Frank Zappa

The DNA of the Bonobo (Pan paniscus) is known to be more than 98% similar to that of homo sapiens.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Only in Idaho?

Growling man found on
all fours eating dirt and
dog food arrested for drugs.

Barack Obama is the 44th President of the United States. His birth certificate has been presented to the courts and the State of Hawaii has authenticated it. So when Justice Roberts spoke at the University of Idaho the other day he was presented with a petition with 325,000 signatures asking him to review whether Obama is a citizen or not. I would like to say “only in Idaho,” but I know there are loonies elsewhere as well, perhaps just not as many (well, maybe in Florida).

Is there a bottom line at which point saying “things could get worse” no longer applies? People here say that often. It is usually people who are upset over the stock market or the price of food or gasoline or some such thing, but still have food to eat and a roof over their heads. And so, for most of us, I guess it is appropriate, or permissible, to use such a phrase. But where would there be a situation in which it would simply no longer apply? How about a crippled, homeless, beggar on the streets of Calcutta? Would observing to him/her that “things could be worse” make any sense. I suppose he or she could die. But would that be worse? How would anyone know? I think we should scrap the phrase “things could get worse,” along with “I’m sorry,” as basically useless and unhelpful things to say.

Where does Dick the Slimy get the nerve to even appear in public, let alone pontificate about the condition of the country and the world. He has been so consistently wrong about just about everything why do people continue to even listen to him. Indeed, why does the MSM bother to showcase him when he pretty clearly belongs in jail. And why do they allow him to get away with his truly outrageous claims, like the current economic situation is not the fault of the Bush/Cheney administration, or that Obama’s policies are placing us in danger, and so on. And when he does make such outrageous claims why is he not asked serious follow-up questions. Everyone seems to be terrified of him, perhaps for good reason as he has made it clear he revels in the “dark side.” Now that he is rumored to have his own assassination team things will no doubt be even less challenging for him. He makes Rasputin look like a saint. He belongs in the Hague being tried for his blatant war crimes.

Speaking of such things, will Canada enforce its own laws about letting criminals into their country? Bush is scheduled to speak there tomorrow, but there is a cadre of Canadian lawyers and activists that want him barred from the country, and I believe their laws are clearly on their side. He was given immunity previously because he was then President, but as an ex-President presumably he has no such immunity. If he is allowed into Canada there will be those who will want him arrested and investigated. This could prove to be very interesting. Apparently Canadian law is such that a person needs only to be seriously suspected of war crimes to be arrested, Bush would certainly meet that criterion.

There is apparently some serious controversy between the White House and the Veterans organizations. It seems that the White House wants to privatize at least some part of veterans care, and all of the veterans organizations are dead-set against this. I don’t understand it very well, but frankly, I cannot see why Obama would even consider privatizing anything. When you hear the word “privatize” reach for your six-shooter.

My friend “Bubblehead” has a blog called “The Stupid Shall be Punished.” I’m sure these are submarine talk as his blog is mostly about submarine doings. I think I can understand why the stupid should be punished, and quickly, when it comes to life aboard submarines, but the phrase certainly doesn’t seem to apply outside of the submarine world. Witness the AIG scandal, where the stupid people responsible for their abject failure are receiving enormous bonuses. And think of people like Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck, and Hannity and Coulter, who not only go unpunished for spouting the most simple-minded hatred and utter nonsense, but make millions doing so. Stupid hatemongering pays off big-time in the U.S. What is worse about this, is that each of them apparently has an audience willing to listen to their endless drivel and even believe it. I think that just as those who knowingly hire illegal workers should be punished, the corporations that hire and promote these hatemongers should likewise be punished. This is not an example of free speech, it is the equivalent, only far worse, of falsely yelling “fire” in a crowded theater.

We hang the petty thieves and appoint the great ones to public office.

The Red Fox has the widest distribution of any land mammal on earth.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

The Journey to the West 13

Here it is again, another Sunday, another brief installment on my sort-of memoirs. I wonder if there will be enough Sundays.

I cannot continue without a digression here to report on my life on the farm. I didn’t spend all of my time growing up in what was sometimes referred to as “the biggest little city in the world.” No, indeed. Every summer, from the time I was about five (maybe earlier, I don’t remember) I spent a month or more on my grandparents farm in Post Falls, Idaho. Post Falls in those early days was little more than a wide spot in the road, a very few buildings and a population that probably didn’t exceed 100 or so. I don't know if my parents just wanted to get rid of me for a while or if they thought it was good for me, probably both. My maternal grandparents had a farm nearby. I don’t know the size of the farm but I doubt it was even 100 acres. But it included a large pasture and several 10 acre plots where they grew mostly potatoes, but also wheat, oats, alfalfa, corn, and I don’t know what else. They lived in a good-sized substantial two-story farmhouse with a windmill, well, barn, chicken coop, pig pens, and such. There was, when I first lived there, no running water, electricity, or indoor bathroom. The outhouse was a good 60 yards from the house, so we also used chamber pots. Grandmother and Grandfather were, of course, Norwegians. The family consisted of them, my mother, Judith, three brothers, Otto, Palmer (Parm) and Wade, a sister, much younger than all the rest, Verdie. There was also an adopted girl of my mother’s age named Mary. I’m sure she was not formally adopted but this kind of thing was fairly common back then. My grandparents died when I was only five or six, my uncle Parm decided to stay on the farm (which clearly would not have supported them all), and the others left to make their lives elsewhere. I don’t remember my grandparents very well. I remember, however, they had a large garden, as was common then. In the grocery stores they used to sometimes cut a triangular plug out of the watermelons to allow customers to see if they were ripe. Once I somehow got my little hands on a knife and went out into the garden and plugged every watermelon on the vine, thus killing them. I wasn’t punished for this but the realization of how stupid I was, was itself excruciatingly painful. I remember my grandfather holding me while they were all discussing this fiasco, Just another humiliation on my journey to the west. Not only that, there was also, I remember, a really aggressive rooster. When I went outside the small fence between the house and the barnyard this rooster, who had my number, so to speak, would rush at me with wings out and scare me. I would run through the gate that closed after me, sometimes to the amusement of the adults. The farmhouse had a large, screened-in porch on two sides. There was a large two-person hammock that I loved, and through the screen door you could see the lilac bushes. They are still there today, although the house was razed and replaced by a more modern style.

The Rathdrum prairie, where the farm was located, was not the greatest farmland by any means. Among other things, it was full of boulders. These rocks seemed to multiply over the years and one of the annual chores was using a stone boat (basically just a land-going raft), pulled by a horse to traverse the fields, pick them up, and toss them on a pile along the border of the plot. We farmed with horses then, right up until WW II. There was a hired man, Tom Reynolds, whose primary job was taking care of the horses, although he helped out in general as well. Farming there was a tough business and most of the small farms eventually went out of business and had to be sold for taxes. My uncle Parm managed to do quite well, because he was not only a farmer, but also an excellent mechanic, welder, and all-around most everything. As his neighbors went out of business he managed to take over their farms and thus expanded considerably on the original farm. Tom Reynolds lived in an old farmhouse about a mile away from us. He was a bachelor. He had a pool table in the living room which occupied the whole room. Like everyone else then, he used kerosene lamps. I remember vividly being in his kitchen one night when coyotes came right up to the door, their eyes shining in the dark. Tom decided to marry when he must have been about 70. We had an old-fashioned chivaree for them, with everyone marching around outside the house banging on pots and pans and making as much noise as possible. Tom and his wife retired shortly thereafter to run a small grocery in the town of Post Falls (such as it was).

I loved horses in those days and I thought Tom had the best job in the world. I watched him as he took care of them, harnessed them, drove them, and endlessly discussed them, breeding them, buying them, fitting harness, and so on. I remember being shocked to find him one day down on his knees with an ordinary handsaw, sawing away at the hoofs of his horses. I didn’t know that the hooves were pretty much like toenails. One horse in particular I remember was named Buster. He was a big roan that had served some time on the rodeo circuit. I expected him to be wild and difficult but he was gentle as could be (as long as you didn’t put a bucking strap on him). About the only other thing I remember about Tom was visiting him one day before he was married and finding him drying apricots on his ironing board.

During these early years it was just an old-fashioned farm. Tractors had not yet become common, nor had most of the machinery farms have nowadays. I remember when I was only 10 or 11 being allowed to rake hay with a team of horses hitched up to one of those old hay rakes. You had to work a lever to lower the tines, rake the hay in rows, raise the tines, and move on to the next row. It was hard for me to work the lever but I managed. We also used pitchforks to throw the hay onto a hay wagon, with one person on the wagon to arrange it and drive the horses. It was later thrown by hand into the barn. There was a separate building with no sides where we stored straw that was used for bedding animals and spreading around in the barn. There was also a silo where corn was made into silage. All of these small farms at that time kept milk cows that had to be milked by hand twice a day. The milk was transported to Coeur d’Alene by a small daily train we called “The Coeur d’Alene Dinky.”

The farm, in those early days of my life, still raised and butchered their own hogs. I remember them heating water in a huge metal container large enough to hold a whole hog. It would be heated, scraped, and then butchered. Virtually nothing was wasted, they made their own hams and bacon, head cheese, pork chops, and all. I don’t remember ever seeing them butcher a steer, but they probably did. They milked and churned their own butter, canned vegetables, made jam and jellies, and all. There were chickens, guinea fowl, calves, pigs, horses, everything you would have expected on a genuine old time farm. In those halcyon days my family was not wealthy but they were a hard-working, prosperous, middle class family probably representative of much of rural America.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

The Forever War - book

Man dragging pot-bellied pig
along street to “meet women,”
charged with animal cruelty.

I have just finished reading The Forever War by Dexter Filkins (Knopf, 2008). Filkins is a war correspondent who spent years in Afghanistan and Iraq, and has given us an eloquent account of what he saw and experienced. His account is what you would expect from a war correspondent reporting on a war. That is, the book is mostly a series of anecdotes about what happened to those he came to know, whether marines, army, civilians, sheiks. kidnappers, terrorists, important people such as Paul Bremer, Ahmad Chalabi, Bill Richardson, and many more of the most important players in the “wars,”. It gives one insight into just how difficult and enormously complicated the situation was and is in those troubled lands. As you might well suspect, it is not a pleasant account to read, being in large measure an account of shooting, explosions, tanks and helicopters, Humvees and snipers, arms and legs and severed heads, torture, and corpses by the hundreds; all of the grisly business of violent never-ending warfare you would expect from a front-line correspondent with a ring-side seat at the horrors unleashed by stupid and greedy leaders with highly questionable motives. It is much to Filkins credit that he did not match his written descriptions with the thousands of truly awful photographs he must have.

I think the most interesting feature of the book is that it has plenty of characters but there is no story line or plot, nor is there any moralizing or finger pointing. It is mostly just disjointed anecdotes about the various horrors he witnessed or the political machinations he observed. In that sense I suspect the book mirrors the actual situation as it is ongoing – mostly chaos. It is a fascinating record of the obvious problems involved in sending young monolingual American soldiers and marines into a country and culture they know absolutely nothing about, to bring democracy to a nation that has never experienced it, didn’t ask for it, and do not all agree that they even want it. It is also an expose of the greed, duplicity, and behind the scenes maneuvering for power and influence. I thought I had a pretty good idea of how bad things must be in Iraq. Filkins fine account makes me realize things are even much worse than I imagined.

Wonderful news! President Obama has apparently signed a law that makes it virtually impossible for the U.S. to use or export cluster bombs, thus bringing the U.S. closer to the 100 nations that have already signed an agreement not to use them. I have never understood what possible justification there could be for using weapons of this kind, especially when it is known they can last for so long and that children are by far the most vulnerable. How great it is!

There are some things Obama has done (perhaps not done) that I do not fully understand. But insofar as he is on a mission to restore the American middle class, and to restore American credibility in the world, I must say I remain enthusiastic about his policies so far, and even more pleased with the Bush policies t that he has abolished. Bush/Cheney were on course to destroy our wonderful nation entirely, Obama must have been sent by the Great Mystery to save us, or so it seems.

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing,
fly Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead.
Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved,
and now we lie,
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep,
though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

John McCrae

Skunks have poor vision and cannot see more than about three yards away.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Culture and Common Sense

In the random meanderings of my aging mind I believe I may have stumbled across a most interesting question that I doubt has ever been much researched: Is the concept of” common sense” a human universal? This may appear a simple question, but I assure you it is not at all simple. Let us use as our definition of common sense that of Merriam-Webster: “sound and prudent judgment based on a simple perception of the situation or facts.” Let me begin with some examples from our own culture. We have at the present time laws and rules that prevent children from bringing guns to school. There has been at least one case where a small boy brought a 2 inch plastic replica of a gun to school. This was confiscated and the boy was sent home (I don’t know if he was otherwise punished). It would seem to me that here is a clear case of violating common sense. There is no conceivable way a 2 inch plastic replica of a gun could be in any way a threatening or dangerous act. The common sense approach would have been to simply ignore this exceedingly questionable breaking of the rules. In another case an eight year old girl was having a tantrum and was out of control at her school. This was in full view of a number of adults and at least one police officer. She was tasered! Now, would common sense have not favored simply subduing her physically and removing her from the situation, after all there were several adults present at the time. How about this case? A number of boys with their dates, all dressed in their rented tuxedos, their dates in formal gowns, were 10 minutes late to the prom. They were refused admittance because of being late, as that was the rule. Would it not have made perfect common sense to overlook the rule? I’m certain there must be many cases in our culture where people do act in common sense ways, but we don’t hear about those. We only hear about cases in which obvious common sense solutions were bureaucratically or otherwise ignored, and we wonder how anyone could be so stupid or devoid of common sense. If in the above cases the outcomes had been different we would have said common sense prevailed.

Viewed cross-culturally this becomes a much more difficult question. First, there are many things about other cultures that we automatically believe make no sense, common or otherwise. Anthropologists have spent years demonstrating that certain customs that seem repugnant and nonsensical to us, make perfect sense when seen in their cultural context. Senilicide among the Eskimo has long been an example. How could anyone leave their old people out in the cold to die? But when you consider that the survival of old people could potentially threaten the existence of the whole family it begins to make (common?) sense. Infanticide, too, has been an example. But in places like the New Guinea Highlands, when the threat of attack was always present and often occurred, a woman could not always adequately take care of more than one child, so if a second child came along too soon, it was often sacrificed to the necessities of survival. Some customs are much more difficult to understand. Honor killings, for example. If a daughter is raped, or elopes, or is suspected of doing something prohibited by the culture, her father or brothers, or all of them together, might kill her to defend the family honor. Or how about the custom of suttee, where a perfectly healthy young bride or wife is expected to climb onto the funeral pyre and be burned to death along with her deceased husband? To us Westerners these customs are irrational and despicable and make no sense at all. But obviously to the members of those cultures they are part of powerful belief systems that make sense to them. As Anthropologist Richard Schweder has said:

“There are cases where canons of rationality, validity, truth, and efficiency are simply beside the point—irrelevant. This third possibility is what the romantic rebellion against the Enlightenment is all about. What is that possibility? That there’s something more to thinking than reason and evidence—culture, the arbitrary, the symbolic, the expressive, the semiotic—that many of our ideas and practices are beyond logic and experience” (Richard Schweder, Thinking Through Cultures Expeditions in Cultural Psychology, 1991).

That is to say, much of our behavior is simply cultural and not subject to reason, etc. But what about common sense? Through our enculturative processes we come to believe in and practice certain customs that do not have to make sense, they just are, have been, and continue to be, no matter how irrational they actually are. If you ask New Guinea Highlanders why they do certain things they merely say, “fesin b’long tumbuna,” (the way of our ancestors). They have no idea why they do some things, especially ritual activities. In the U.S. we do not eat horse or dog meat , and we allow babies to sleep alone in cribs, and even sometimes in their own rooms, customs that in some cultures would be considered child abuse. We accept the idea that items should be priced at $1.99. or $5.98, or some other odd figure, instead of at even numbers which would be more sensible and efficient. We have lots of customs that tend to be irrational and inefficient and lack any cogent explanations.

All cultures, it would seem, have cultural traditions that do not necessarily make sense even to them. It is here we would have to look to discover any instances of common sense or its absence. That is, there would have to be a situation where the actors are aware of the norm, are confronted with a questionable situation on the periphery of that norm, and then use their common sense, or fail to do so. I do not have at the moment more than a few simple examples of what I might see as common sense in play or denied. A recent example might be seen in Saudi Arabia where a 75 year old woman is about to receive 40 lashes for allowing two men to enter her home while she was alone. One of these men she had actually nursed as a child, the other was a friend of his. The Saudis have a rule against a woman being alone in a house with men, not their husband or brothers. But surely this is a case where the rule could be overridden by common sense. After all, the woman was 75 years old, she raised one of the men, and neither of them could conceivably have been considered to be sexually predatory or whatever, nor couold she have been so considered. Alas, in this case, common sense apparently failed. I do not know if this proves that Saudis have no common sense, or if the cultural prescriptions and proscriptions are so strong they are absolute. It does suggest to me, however, that perhaps the Saudis do, at least in some cases, lack common sense. Obviously we would need far more examples and information about Saudi behavior.

In a case where you might be able to say common sense prevailed, I offer this perhaps questionable example. When my friend, Professor Philip Newman, worked in the New Guinea Highlands with some people known as the Gururumba, he recorded the following anecdote: You must first understand that when digging in the earth, people in New Guinea sometimes discover old stone tools they have no explanation for, other than believing they are put there by thunderbolts. Thus when there is thunder and lightning they rush to where they think it struck and dig in the ground looking for evidence of thunderbolts. One day, while Professor Newman was watching them do this, one man observed them briefly, got up and walked away, saying aloud, “there are no thunderbolts.” I’m not certain this represents common sense or just plain cynicism, but it is an example of an individual who knew the cultural belief but decided not to follow it.

A further example from New Guinea might be of relevance. There are periodic feasts where one group presents gifts of cooked pig to another group. Often this entails one group having to walk a long distance, spend a night, and then walk back carrying their gifts of cooked pig. As it is quite warm during the day, and they have a long distance to travel, they usually have to wait until the next day or two to consume the pig, which by this time has begun to spoil and smell bad. I have heard them say, “This pig stinks. If we eat it we’ll get sick.” But then they eat it anyhow. Is this a case where their common sense is telling them something but they reject it because of their desire for pork, their major source of scarce protein?

Here is one further example that I believe indicates that New Guinea Highlanders do understand the concept of common sense. When I had been living there for only a couple of weeks, and they were building a house for me, I asked my interpreter to go to where I was temporarily staying and bring me my axe. This involved a walk of at least one half mile and back. When he returned he had brought me a handkerchief. I was embarrassed because I realized my pidgin had apparently not been up to the task and, not wanting to embarrass him, I said nothing. One day, almost a year later, we were resting under some trees while on a long hike. Out of the blue he suddenly said, “You would never have sent me for a handkerchief.” I then explained to him that I had wanted an axe but my mouth was “heavy,” and I had not made it clear because of my limited pidgin. He had obviously thought about this for a long time and had concluded that such a request obviously violated common sense.

Perhaps this is a question only of interest to people like me. But I think this question of how universal the concept of common sense might be is an interesting one. Obviously I need many further examples, and much more thought. Any examples would be welcome.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Stuff happens

Told he can’t have more beer,
Florida man kills his girlfriend,
tries to have sex with her body.

Mark Sanford, Governor of South Carolina, wanted to refuse stimulus money because he said he didn’t want to spend money the government didn’t have. But he wanted to use it to pay down South Carolina’s debt. So I guess spending money you don’t have to pay off a debt is different from spending it on jobs? This is moot now, because he finally just turned down the money, at least the 700 million he would have controlled. I’m sure all those out of work people in South Carolina will appreciate his thoughtfulness. It appears that Governor Rick Perry of Texas is also going to turn down some money. You should be aware that both of these noble Governors know full well their respective Congress’s will probably override them and take the money for the state anyway. Will this gain the Governors any points if they want to run for the Presidency?

Another thing, if the idea of the stimulus is to be spent in creating jobs, and if everyone is supposed t o work together in this enterprise, isn’t refusing to spend the money very uncooperative and hindering the effort?

It’s not that Republicans are hypocrites, they actually are hypocrites, hypocrites. Take Norm Coleman, for example, When he was ahead in the Minnesota vote he suggested that Al Franken should give up because he was 1000 votes behind and it would cost too much to continue. Now that he is 255 votes behind he is demanding a new election. I guess that wouldn’t cost anything.

Sarah Palin, Governor of Alaska, and ex Vice-Presidential candidate, ran with John McCain and railed against earmarks just as McCain always does. But guess what, in the current budget just signed by Obama, on a per-capita basis, Alaska is getting more earmark money than anyone else. Ah, hypocrisy just spreads like wildfire in Republican circles.

Michael Steele, supposed head of the Republican Party has put his foot in his mouth big time. First he said a woman had the right to choose but then had to take it back under pressure from conservatives. He also said Homosexuality was not a choice anymore than being black was a choice. He also caught hell for that, too. He will soon be removed from office and replaced with someone more consistent as a bigot.

Republicans once again began their criticism of Pelosi for too extensive use of Military aircraft. Of course it turns out she uses it because the President thinks she should, given the fact that the is number two in line for the Presidency. It also turns out that in fact she uses these planes far less than her predecessor, Dennis Hatcher.

Apparently Coulter and Maher had a face-to-face contest in Chicago the other night and Coulter got all the worst of it (she and Maher are said to be friends, if you can believe that). The sales of her latest book are apparently down two thirds from the previous one. Is justice coming to the witch of witches?

It seems there were secret assassination squads that went around the world killing people and reported only to Dick Cheney. This has been claimed by Si Hersh, a very respectable investigative reporter. He says he does not have enough evidence yet, but surely Congress is going to have to look into this. If it is true (and personally I don’t doubt it for a moment) not even Cheney will be able to survive.

Just never a dull moment for these Republicans, hypocrisy, deceit, and blatant illegality everywhere you look. At least we have a real moment of honesty: Eva Morales, President of Bolivia, apparently stood before the UN and put a coca leaf in his mouth. He said, “this is not cocaine, it is coca. It has been an integral part of our culture for as long as anyone can remember.” Hooray for coca! Hooray for Morales!

As witnesses not of our intentions but of our conduct, we can be true or false, and the hypocrite's crime is that he bears false witness against himself. What makes it so plausible to assume that hypocrisy is the vice of vices is that integrity can indeed exist under the cover of all other vices except this one. Only crime and the criminal, it is true, confront us with the perplexity of radical evil; but only the hypocrite is really rotten to the core.
Hannah Arendt

Peanut were ground into paste by the Aztecs hundreds of years before peanut butter was invented.