Sunday, May 31, 2009

The Devil in the Kitchen - book

The Devil in the Kitchen, by Marco Pierre White (Bloomsbury, 2007), is the story of Marco Pierre White, a working-class Englishman, who became the first British chef to win three stars from Michelin, and was also the youngest chef ever to win three stars. His Italian mother died when he was six, so his father, who was a chef, but not a very distinguished one, raised him and his two older brothers. His youngest brother, who was only a few days old at the time, was adopted by his mother’s relatives. Before his mother’s death he had spent some little time in Italy, and although he perceived Italian food was not like what he was accustomed to, he was not really interested in food. A poor student, he dropped out of school before his exams and began working, first helping to deliver milk, and also caddying. At fifteen his father advised him to become a chef, “as people will always need to eat.” Following his father’s advice, he presented himself at the kitchen door of a decent restaurant asking for a position, which he was given. From then on his rise toward greatness was rather meteoric. He quickly absorbed everything he was taught, moved on to better and better restaurants where he learned even more, ultimately owning his own restaurants and winning the coveted Michelin stars.

Although this is a story of great success, it is also a grim tale of sixteen hour days and total dedication, striving constantly for perfection. He drove his assistants almost to the breaking point, insulting them at times, bullying them at times, and at all times insisting only on the very best they could do. He was like a man obsessed with cooking and the kitchen, and one sees just how difficult it is to achieve the stars. To become a chef is to undergo an initiation by fire, given difficult and impossible tasks, teased and bearing up under what he calls “bollockings” from the head chef and his assistants as well. As an apprentice he was the constant butt of jokes and tricks. And when he finally became a seasoned chef, and eventually a head chef, he dished out the same to those he employed. Many of those who trained in his restaurants went on to become very successful and well known chefs on their own, not the least of whom was Mario Batali. As difficult as he must have been, he still had loyal chefs who worked with him for many years. But the description of his being a devil in the kitchen is certainly well-founded. He not only ran roughshod over his assistants, he at times did so even with his customers. He became perhaps the most famous chef in England, certainly one of the best two or three ever.

Of course working long hours six and seven days a week does not leave one much time either for fun or romance. Even so, he spent his spare time chasing “birds,” and having brief affairs. His first two marriages were ill-advised and did not last long, because his wives had to take such a back seat to his restaurant, and did not like being neglected. A bit later he found the right woman, who gave him children and happiness, stuck with him until he finally gave up his stars (I believe he was the first chef to ever do so) and could devote more time to his own life and family.
Reading this book, if you can cope with the English slang and coarse restaurant language, you learn a great deal about the highest-level restaurant business, the glamour, how it is financed, who finances it, the power and magic of the chef, the upper-class clientele, how absolutely nothing is left to chance, and why the food becomes so terrible expensive for all except the truly rich and famous. Even the food he describes is foreign to those of us not fortunate enough to experience it (you have to have your Escoffier handy). You also see what comes with fame, the fawning women, the demands on your time, the foolishness and superficiality of much of it, but most of all the constant pressure to keep your stars once you have them, and the never-ending stress that drives many away from the business.

Marco (from his Italian mother), Pierre (from an eccentric aunt), and White (his father’s name) was an enigma of sorts. Many apparently did not want to believe he was basically just a working-class Britisher. British food has never been considered haut cuisine, and for a British chef to win Michelin stars was unusual, and in the case of three stars, unprecedented (and virtually unbelievable). Of course Marco Pierre was fortunate in that he began in, and worked in, only the finest of restaurants. But there must be more to it than that. I don’t believe his genius in the kitchen was not entirely just learned. He must have been blessed with senses far superior to most, and with an insight and ability to understand combinations that most people would not have conceived. To start at fifteen, become well-known at seventeen, and be a head chef by twenty or thereabouts, cannot be merely the result of training. Marco Pierre is humble enough to admit that most dishes that are created are not entirely original. They are, rather, different chef’s interpretations of them, little additions to them, little tweaks here and there if you will. One of his best known dishes was something he called Pied de Cochon Pierre Kaufman, because he took it from Pierre Kaufman, who had taken it from the great French chef, Charles Barrier (who knows who he took it from). In any case, from the opening of Marco Pierre’s first restaurant, Harveys, he served this dish for years wherever he was, having changed it in subtle ways to make it his. Pied de Cochon is basically a stuffed Pig’s trotter. Although my cooking is about as pedestrian as cooking can be, and as I like pigs feet anyway, inspired by this book, I am going to make Pied de Cochon Marco Pierre. It will be mine. My wife and son will refuse to eat it. Such is life among the masses.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

The White Southern Honky Party

Tired of its “constant squawking,”
Hawaiian woman kills peacock
with a baseball bat.

Republicans abandoned their attempt to label the Democrats as the Democratic Socialist Party. Who knows why? Who knows why the current Republican Party does anything? As they have behaved so terribly over the past few years, and as they are currently on a run to do even worse, and as their name now become so tainted, I believe it is they who should consider being renamed. You know, like AIG and others who crashed. Someone suggested the Republican National Socialist (Nazi) Party. Not bad, but at least the Nazis were organized, which is more than one can say for the current Republican Party. Then there is the very appropriate, “The Party of No,” which I believe to be overly generous to them. I have been trying to come up with a new name that would be more precise and descriptive. “The Southern White Honky Party” came to mind immediately. Another possibility could be something like,”The George W. Bush Crusader Party.” Earlier I renamed them the “Brafia” (the Bush Mafia Party), but that didn’t seem to catch on. How about “The Reform Party of the Black Hand?” Maybe something really simple like just plain “X” (ex, get it?). ”Sons of Torquemada” would certainly be appropriate. They could campaign for the return of thumb screws, the rack, and the iron maiden. Some people insist the Republican Party will make a comeback. I hope not, even though I believe we need a second, third, or even fourth party. I can’t say I hope they fail. They have already failed. I know! The perfect solution! They should just go back to a name they used previously, a name so perfectly apt and descriptive I don’t know why I didn’t think of it immediately – The Know-Nothing Party! To distinguish it from its previous incarnation they would merely have to label it “The New Know-Nothing Party.” Perfect. Sometimes I’m so smart I feel like bursting. It’s called High Blood Pressure. I get it from just thinking about these selfish, greedy, dishonest, elitist, lying, warmongering, working-class-hating, obstructionistic, torturing, non-empathetic, holier-than-thou, racist, hypocritical, sexist, Limbaugh-loving, homophobic, xenophobic, phony patriot know-nothings who think they should somehow once again be put in charge of looting and destroying the country. Never again!

By refusing to release the torture photos Obama is causing far more trouble than if he had just released them. I don’t think the reason for his refusal has as much to do with stirring up our enemies as it has to do with stirring up things here at home. Our enemies already know how disgusting we are. If the photos are truly as bad as they are being described, Obama would probably be absolutely forced to take some kind of action, which he seems unwilling to do. I gather he prefers to join the war criminals than try to do the right thing. As it is now, different people are claiming different things for the photos, all of which are apparently so disgusting as to be beyond belief. And those who do not know what the photos consist of are imagining what they must be like. Are we to believe that the British are lying about what the photos contain? How about the General who claims to have seen them? Is he lying also? The obvious solution to this problem now is to just release the photos and have done with it. If Obama continues to refuse to release them, and if he continues to insist on looking only forward (and thus letting the guilty go unpunished) what can we conclude other than that he is one of them, a war criminal? He is also a true hypocrite who insists that Sotomayor believes in the Constitution just as he does, while at the same time he refuses to do his Constitutional duty and investigate war crimes that have not only been admitted, but boasted about. I understand the economy is in terrible shape. I understand that he has two “war” on his hands. I understand North Korea is a difficult situation. I understand that the Israeli/Palestinian problem in virtually intractable. I understand he has to do something about global warming. And I also understand he wants to get Sotomayor confirmed. What I do not understand is how he can ignore so blatantly the rule of law that he insists is so fundamental to our democracy. As I have said before, we are not talking about “bean bags” or “politics as usual.” These are individuals who are responsible for hundreds of thousands of deaths, if not more than a million, four more millions or more displaced from their homes, torture most vile, indescribably misery, and many war crimes. This is not something you can just dismiss casually by insisting on looking to the future. Indeed, I suspect that if some action is not taken to hold these criminals accountable, the future of the U.S. itself is seriously in doubt. The world knows what happened. They are waiting to see if we are a nation of laws or just another brutal empire, bereft of both laws and morality. We should not have to force Obama to do something, it is his fundamental responsibility to do it. If he fails to act he is not the person he pretends to be, and we will certainly not be the nation we pretend to be.

It's silly to go on pretending that under the skin we are all brothers. The truth is more likely that under the skin we are all cannibals, assassins, traitors, liars, hypocrites, poltroons.
Henry Miller

Tobacco was apparently originally considered to be a medicine.

Friday, May 29, 2009


Eighty-two year-old man beats
and strangles 74 year-old girlfriend
for loading the dishwasher wrong.

How much longer can Obama and Holder refuse to acknowledge the war criminals in our midst and take some action? Every day we learn more about just how awful the torture was. Now we have learned that the memos Cheney claims will prove torture worked, won’t, thanks to Carl Levin. Not that it would matter whether it worked or not as it would still be illegal. Bush himself has now re-entered the fray, claiming, as Cheney does, that it was all legal. But finding your own pet lawyers and instructing them to write memos claiming it was legal, does not make it legal. Does Bush really believe this? Perhaps. But you can bet your life that Cheney doesn’t believe it. He is frightened that his lies and torturing may catch up with him and he might end up in prison where he rightfully belongs. He should, of course, be joined by Rumsfeld and Rice, at least, and surely a few others. Bush might not have to worry as much, there are laws protecting the retarded.

I don’t know if I am becoming more cranky because I am older, or if I am older because I am more cranky. I can’t believe just how bad things have become. When politics becomes as stupid and ridiculous as the television ads you have to wonder what is happening to us. Think of all this fuss about Sonia Sotomayor. Everyone knows she is going to be confirmed, even those who are slandering and attacking her. So what is the point? They pick out little nonsensical examples of things she once said, take them out of context, and makes mountains out of molehills. It’s disgusting, to say nothing of being silly and a complete waste of time. But that is basically what our news has become, a complete waste of time. I don’t think it is too far-fetched to say that we really do not get news anymore. The news has been abandoned for infotainment. Infotainment is much cheaper than actually having to pay real reporters to go out and seek real news. And the public seems willing to accept this, as they have been conditioned by now to not know enough to care about what is happening. So the networks just keep feeding us more and more trivia, and laying off more and more reporters, and trying to make more and more money by giving us less and less, and then they wonder why they are failing. I think they are failing because there are more and more people like me, right on the edge of refusing to even watch any longer. The ads are insulting, the news is insulting, the whole system is rotten and about to collapse (and rightly so). I have now reached the point when almost the only show I watch is Rachel Maddow, who so far has not completely disappointed me. Radio is dominated by a bunch of right-wing wackos, Fox News is out of the question, CNN isn’t much better these days, Chris Matthews is an egomaniacal mental midget, Olberman is overbearing, and most all of them just tell you the same thing over and over again all day long. I hate to be so old-fashioned, but I would like to return to the old days when we had real newspapers, with real reporters, who went around the world and gave us real news.

I was really excited to learn from our weekly newspaper that a new Militia is forming in our county. We are told that it “won’t involve men running through the woods with six packs of beer and guns.” No, not at all. “This militia will involve men helping their neighbors whether it be in times of flooding, forest fires, or protecting one’s right to bear arms.” Note this last phrase, which implies of course that someone (Obama? Democrats? People from Outer Space?) is threatening to take away their right to bear arms. We have a large and active National Guard in our country. We also have a Sheriff and his deputies, a very adequate Police Force, a fine Forest Service, a Search and Rescue Group, several volunteer Fire departmens, plus our city Fire Department. Presumably these fine organizations are not competent enough to take care of floods, fires, and whatever. It’s really those pesky people who insist on taking away our right to bear arms. I’m certain that with the newly formed North Idaho 21st Battalion of Light Foot we can rest assured that we will be in good hands should anyone actually try to take away our guns, all two million or more of them.

Every decent man is ashamed of the government he lives under.
H. L. Mencken

An adult male salt water crocodile can weigh up to 3,000 pounds and grow to 20 feet in length.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

There oughta be a law

Russian woman, upset her boyfriend
was leaving her, tied firecrackers
to his penis and exploded them.

Really, there oughta be a law. It should be illegal to pollute the airwaves with nothing but hate and ignorance. But that is precisely what that fat blob of protoplasm, Rush Limbaugh, has been doing for years. Now he’s screaming his head off about Sonia Sotomayor being a racist, apparently on the basis of something she once said taken completely out of context. And who is fat boy to accuse someone else of being a racist, he’s one of the worst, in addition to being a sexist, homophobic jerk that even makes fun of the handicapped. I find it incredible that he has an audience at all, let alone an apparently very large one. Realizing this makes me sick to my stomach. Then when you add Coulter, Hannity, O’Reilly, and Beck, it makes you wonder if life is even worth living in such an environment. Fortunately, one does not have to listen to any of these vicious clowns, but one cannot escape the knowledge that they are busily poisoning our populace with their ignorance and hate. Would someone like to explain to me what socially redeeming virtue is possessed by any of them. Although you do not have to listen to these hatemongers, here in our little town you cannot escape them entirely as Limbaugh, for example, is on our local radio station three hours a day, and is played even in offices in our courthouse, as well as our Health Food Store and elsewhere. You don’t need to wonder why our local citizenry votes a straight Republican ticket even though it is obviously not even in their best interest to do so. I think this might well come under the heading of brainwashing, although that presupposes there are brains to wash in the first place.

I am usually a pretty patient fellow when it comes to most things. But I find myself becoming more and more hyper as time goes by and nothing seems to be happening. It’s like we are constantly on the edge of some important event that just doesn’t seem to happen, on the precipice, if you will, of potential disaster, waiting for the next hurricane or tidal wave or tornado. For example, is the economy going to recover or not? Will Israel defy the U.S. and the rest of the world and continue their illegal settlements? Are we ever actually going to get out of Iraq? Will Korea blow up the world in a fit of imaginary pique? Most importantly, for me, will Dick Cheney ever be held accountable for his war crimes? I cannot believe he is allowed to continue walking the streets and appearing endlessly on TV, repeating his lies and deceptions over and over. I absolutely cannot understand how Obama or anyone else finds this acceptable. Are we truly now living in a post-moral, post-legal world? It seems to me that this is no longer even politics as usual, it is more like two rival criminal gangs fighting over who gets to fleece the public the most. And what about universal health care, the banks, the insurance companies, corporate farms, the huge conglomerates that are sucking away our life’s blood? Is this going to continue endlessly? Whatever happened to the idea of change? Although Obama has done a number of good things, when it comes to the most important problems he has yet to score any victories, and there is some danger that he may not ever. In all my many years I cannot remember a time like this. We always had difficulties to overcome, but we always also had clear-cut goals, and we worked together to solve our problems. Never before did we have a party of “No,” a party devoted to seeing our country fail. What was once a legitimate political party that shared a belief in the well-being of our nation, has become in recent years little more than a criminal gang interested only in gaining and maintaining power. The siren song of greed has seduced us to lose our way, it is like the madness described by Fitzgerald: “But the brilliance, the versatility of madness (greed) is akin to the resourcefulness of water seeping through, over and around a dike.” There is a cure for this type of madness, but unhappily when anyone tries to use it in any way, those who are obsessed with it, label it “socialism,” and the ignorant, fearful people, hearing this, rush to bury their heads in the sands of doom.

Socialism needs democracy like the human body needs oxygen.
Leon Trotsky

Octopus, when simmered for a time, loses easily half its size.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

More Republican Nonsense?

Japanese horror writer
publishes latest story
on rolls of toilet paper.

What kind of nonsense will the Republicans put us through now? Obama has nominated Sonia Sotomayor for the Supreme Court to replace David Souter. She is Hispanic (Puerto Rican), raised in the Bronx. In spite of her difficult beginnings she graduated summa cum laude from Princeton University and went on to edit the Yale Law Review. She is divorced with no children. She has thirty years of experience in the legal profession at all levels. Twice she has already been confirmed by the Senate for judgeships. She is, in general, highly regarded by her peers . All in all she has way more experience than any currently serving Supreme Court Justice. We have to assume she has been carefully vetted by the Obama administration. Her record is crystal clear. Unless there is some strange secret that we know nothing about, there is no reason she should not be confirmed. But don’t think for a moment this will stop the Republicans from raising doubts about her. They will look for one or two decisions she made they do not agree with and try to make an issue out of a molehill. They will claim she is not “intellectual enough,” as if any of them had any intellect at all (you don’t graduate summa cum laude from Princeton, or edit the Yale Law Review without some intellectual abilities). They will claim she is a liberal (this will prove hard to demonstrate, given her record). Mike Huckabee, that intellectual giant who doesn’t believe in evolution, has already said she comes from the “far left,” for which there is no evidence whatsoever. They will claim she is an “activist,” also hard to prove from her record. Some will say she is an uninspired choice who will not be able to make an impact on the court (like Clarence Williams, for example?). There is no reason she should not sail through her confirmation quickly and easily, but don’t bet on it, Republicans, having no shame at all, will do whatever they can to hold it up. It will all be utter nonsense, a waste of time, but it will no doubt allow some of them to demonstrate their shallow but newsworthy opposition for their few moments in the spotlight. The idea that they would attempt to filibuster this appointment is so stupid it would just prove their inability to do anything other than just get them even deeper into their hopeless pit of shame. Of course they will also claim this is just a cynical Obama trick to keep the Hispanic vote (thus implying that she is not qualified for the court, which is absurd). I think she is a fine choice, certainly for the moment, a Hispanic, a woman, and a wonderful example of “the American experience.” And don’t forget, Obama may have a chance to appoint two or three more. Of course Obama is a politician, and he is also shrewd. With this appointment he has forced on them a true Hobson’s choice – either vote to anger the Hispanics, or vote to anger the Republican base. There certainly is no reason we should not have an Hispanic on the court, and there is every reason we should have another woman. As the old saying goes, Republicans would bitch if they were being hung with a new rope.

The California Supreme Court has come up with an interpretation of the California Constitution that may well be legal, but at the same time demonstrates the lack of common sense so characteristic of those who cling to the rules no matter how ridiculous their position may be. They have decided in their wisdom that Proposition 8, banning gay marriages in California must stand as is. But at the same time they decided that the 18,000 gay marriages that occurred previously are legal. To people with minds as simple as mine, this is obviously absurd, and may, I suppose, even be unconstitutional, as it discriminates against those who did not marry previously. I guess the best thing one might say about it, is that it opens up the possibility for endless litigation, and possibly new voting, to make right what never should have been made wrong in the first place. At times I find the American political/legal system little more than a bad joke.

The men the American public admire most extravagantly are the most daring liars; the men they detest most violently are those who try to tell them the truth.
H. L. Mencken

Some species of tapeworms can grow to 100 feet in length.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Armenian Golgotha - book

I have just finished the book, Armenian Golgotha, by Grigoris Balakian, Knopf, 2009). Grigoris Balakian is the great uncle of the translator, Peter Balakian. The first volume, Armenian Golgotha, was published in 1922 in Armenian. Because of a lack of funding the second volume was not published until 1956. These two volumes were edited and published together as this version. I find it incredible that a book of this importance did not find its way immediately into publication, especially in an English language edition.

I found this remarkable book somewhat difficult to read, for two reasons. First, the many personal names, along with the place names, were completely foreign to me. Second, it is a very depressing account of almost unbelievable savagery and greed. Grigoris Balakian was a well-known and important priest in the Armenian Apostolic Church, and also an intellectual who had studied for some time in Germany. His duties involved him in Armenian and international politics so he was in a good position to understand what was happening in Turkey, Germany, and Armenia during the First World War, when the Turks developed their national policy for the final and complete extermination of the Armenians. There had been several large-scale massacres of Armenians: 1890, 1895-96, 1902, and 1909. But what began in 1915, under the cover of the larger world war, was unprecedented in its scope and horror. The previous massacres were somehow forgiven, and Armenians continued to live under Turkish rule with seemingly little resistance to their periodic persecutions.

On the night of April 24, 1915, 250 of the finest Armenian cultural leaders were arrested in Constantinople, and deported by bus and train to a prison in Chankiri, two hundred miles to the east. Thus began a journey of unspeakable horror and hardship that lasted for months while these prisoners were forced to walk, under constant police guard, through rain, snow, and mud, with very little to eat and drink. On the way they witnessed and heard about scenes so terrible they can scarcely be believed. Because this group had at least some money they managed to survive through bribery and good luck, and arrived eventually at their destination hundreds of miles away having lost only one of their number (some of the Turkish Commanders could scarcely believe it). Even so they arrived in rags, many without shoes, sick and malnourished. They were the lucky ones.

Hundreds of thousands of Armenians were driven this way towards Der Zor, the desert in the south where they perished of starvation and disease. Those, that is, who actually made it that far. It was commonly the case that hundreds were simply massacred by ambushes led by gangs of criminals who had been released from prisons for just that purpose. It was also common for local peasants to be invited to participate in these massacres and participate in the bloodshed and looting. The victims were stripped of whatever possessions they had, even down to their clothing. When Balakian asked one of the Turkish commanders if the victims had been shot or bayoneted, he replied as follows: “It’s wartime, and bullets are expensive. So people grabbed whatever they could from their villages – axes, hatchets, scythes, sickles, clubs, hoes, pickaxes, shovels – and they did the killing accordingly.”

These were scenes of killing and bloodlust so terrible they can hardly be described. Not content with merely killing their victims, they decapitated them, cutting off arms and legs, heads, and ripping bodies open to spill out the intestines. Balakian continued his questioning by asking the commander if he felt any remorse or guilt: “’Not at all,’ he replied. ‘On the contrary, I carried out my sacred and holy obligation before God, my Prophet, and my caliph…a jihad was proclaimed…a fatwa to annihilate the Armenians as traitors to our state…And I, as a military officer, carried out the order of my king…Killing people during war is not considered a crime now, is it?’”

On another occasion Balakian asked a guard why he didn’t sleep. “…I killed so many people in this past year that my victims won’t let me sleep peacefully. I can’t even close my eyes because those I dismembered appear before me. In particular, the souls of the more than twenty virgin girls whom I violated and then killed won’t let go of me.” One might well wonder why it took twenty victims before he began to feel any remorse. I cite these merely as examples of what was happening at the time, there are many more.

The main part of Armenian Golotha is a virtual step by step account of Balakian’s miserable journey under the supervision of mostly sadistic and unsympathetic guards. He lists each village where they stayed, the conditions under which they slept (in a stable, on the wet ground, on the rocks. In deserted buildings, and so on). And he recounts their delight at times in even a dry crust of bad bread. Balakian survived to write his account of what he had seen and heard. He eventually, largely because he spoke fluent German, managed to escape and find work on a huge railway project under the supervision of a German engineer who needed whatever help he could find and protected his Armenian workers. After years of living in fear, hiding out and moving frequently, most often with the help of sympathetic others, Armenians, Greeks, and even Germans, he made it back to Constantinople, was briefly reunited with his mother, and then left for Paris, Manchester, and elsewhere.

Since the publication of Armenian Golgotha in 1922 there has been great interest and much research dealing with what we now consider The Armenian Genocide. This book, and many others, make it quite clear what happened, in spite of the Turks many and consistent attempts to deny it. It is interesting to note that Germany and Turkey were allies in the war, fighting against Russia, England, France, and eventually the U.S. The Germans were aware of what was happening to the Armenians, and while they did not actively participate in the slaughter, they did nothing to stop it, and at times referred to the Armenians as the Jews of Turkey. The only thing that even resembles this Armenian Genocide is the Holocaust, which killed many more than the million and a half estimated Armenians who perished. But the Germans at least conducted their genocide more or less in secret, did not publicly boast about it, and certainly did not encourage the participation of local citizens. The excuse the Turks employ has mostly to do with their claim that the Armenians were undermining their war effort (there were some Armenians fighting with the Russians), and of course Armenians would have liked independence from Turkish rule, but this is mostly just a made-up claim on the part of the Turks. The real reason, I believe, is that the Armenians were not Turks, they were not Muslims, and they had wealth and lands that were eminently desirable which, of course, ended up in the hands of the Turks. What happened is unforgivable. The Turks will never admit what they did, some things are so heinous they simply can never be admitted. Christians, with their history of murder, rape, torture and plunder, rarely admit to it either.

Balakian’s comments on what happened might well be accepted for all of human history:

“If all the seas were ink and all the fields were paper, still it would be impossible to describe, in detail, the reality of the endless tortures of hundreds of thousands of them – men, women, elderly, sons, daughters-in-law, daughters, down to children and innocent suckling infants…”

Saturday, May 23, 2009


Angry passer-by pushes
would-be suicide off bridge
for selfishly tying up traffic.

You have probably heard by now that a right-wing Chicago radio personality, who did not believe waterboarding was torture, volunteered to prove it wasn’t by offering himself as a victim. He lasted between six and seven seconds, came out swearing it was torture and that he would confess to anything rather than experience it. Dick Cheney and his daughter continue to maintain that waterboarding is not torture. They (and anyone else who still believes it is not torture) can easily prove their contention by volunteering themselves. Do you suppose they could sue the lawyer(s) who told them it wasn’t torture for malpractice or something? Cheney must be getting more frightened by the day. But not to worry, his buddy, Obama, will look out for him and all the rest of the war criminals (have to look forward, you know).

It is no secret that Republicans want Obama’s economic plan to fail. They are also wishing for a terrorist attack on Obama’s watch so he can be blamed for it. Can this really be considered just politics as usual. I mean, after all, they want our nation to both be attacked by terrorists and also fail. Would this not be better and more accurately described as treason? And not only are they wishing these things, they are doing everything they can to bring these things about. How else does one explain their consistent and unanimous “no” to everything Obama tries to do to save our country.

I do not understand greed, at least in its extreme form. How, for example, could anyone not want people to have universal health care? And how could the same people not want everyone to have a decent job? They also seem to be opposed to welfare in any form, and do not want to pay their taxes even though they depend upon government for services. They want more and more tax breaks for the wealthiest individuals, including doing away with the inheritance tax, this, in spite of the fact that many of them already have far more money than they can possibly ever spend. These people are collectively known as Republicans, and they have been like this as long as I can remember. They laughingly passed themselves off as “compassionate conservatives,” an oxymoron if ever there was one.

It is planting season here at Sandhill. I have been working so hard in the garden I am so tired I can barely think of writing a blog. We garden the old-fashioned way – we work at it. Our raised beds do not lend themselves to much in the way of machinery. We do have a Mantis tiller, the greatest machine I have ever owned of any kind. However, the ads you see for this marvelous machine are quite misleading as they show someone tilling soil that has obviously already been prepared. If there are weeds and grass the tiller doesn’t work very well. This means only one thing – you must resort to the Norwegian bulldozer to prepare the bed for tilling. And, as we literally live on a hill of sand, it has to be augmented yearly. Fortunately our good friends with the Highlands Cattle provide us with manure, which is great. But even manure has its problems. You would think that creatures with four stomachs would have better digestion. I have suggested a digestive of half a bucket of wine per beast per day, but this has fallen on deaf ears. Eventually things work out, and then you hope the weather does not betray you. The last couple of years have not been very kind. This year, so far, has been great (we knock on wood, pray to the Great Mystery, and try not to sin very much).

I kill an ant
and realize my three children
have been watching.

Kato, Shuson

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Running scared?

Teenage German girl auctions
her virginity online for $13,827,
may have to pay 50% in taxes.

Let me get this straight. Dick Cheney made a speech in which he said they (the Bush/Cheney administration) did not torture (they used waterboarding which is torture, and has been so designated for hundreds of years). He said the Enhanced Interrogations worked (which even the actual interrogators deny), he thus implies they were not illegal (which they were), and he claims they kept us safe from terrorists for seven years (which cannot possibly be proven and is probably not so), and then he castigated President Obama for stopping the use of these procedures. In other words, according to Cheney, Obama should continue the war crimes that were started by Bush/Cheney. Of course he said many other things as well, all lies and fabrications of the worst kind that he has been repeating over and over again. The MSM billed these as “dueling speeches” and such. Why should Cheney, an ex Vice-President, with no authority, be given equal billing with the President of the U.S.? Furthermore, why, when Cheney’s approval rating is almost sub zero, and he has been shown wrong on virtually everything for the past eight years, should anyone pay attention to anything he says? Why? Because the MSM is owned and controlled by the Corporations that made billions and billions from the Bush/Cheney administration’s absolutely phony “war,” and they don’t like Democratic Presidents. As near as I can tell Cheney is not really that concerned with our security, but, rather, with trying to salvage some kind of legacy and, more importantly, trying to stay out of jail. I think he is scared. Or, perhaps as I suggested previously, he may be so deluded he has lost track of reality.

The great Pelosi story seems to be dying down a bit. I think she called their bluff, insisted they release all the memos, and of course they don’t want to do that. She was also helped by Bob Graham and several others who all agreed with her that the CIA doesn’t always tell the truth. When Panetta had to admit the CIA could not guarantee what they told people that probably did it. If there was to be a serious investigation into CIA briefings and such I bet they would find out it’s much worse than anyone thought.

Rachel Maddow, liberal that she is, doesn’t cut Obama much slack (so to speak). She is all upset over his statement that he (they) are going to create a new system of law that allows for holding people indefinitely. I’m not certain her complaint is all that justified. Obama pointed out there is a real problem with a few detainees who are avowed enemies of the U.S. and cannot either be tried (for one reason or another) or released. He also made it clear that he did not believe that any one individual, including himself, should have the power or authority to put someone away indefinitely. Thus he wants a system that will insure oversight and allow for periodic reviews of each individual case. While I agree it is terrible that anyone should be held indefinitely without charge, I can see there is a real problem here, and a solution is not easy. Anyway, this does not bother me near as much as Obama’s refusal to have an independent investigator or truth committee or something, to investigate the obvious Bush/Cheney war crimes.

The optimist proclaims that we live in the best of all possible worlds; and the pessimist fears this is true.
James Branch Cabell

The American beaver, now estimated at 6 – 12 million, was once believed to have been 60 million.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Is Cheney entirely sane?

Abused, traumatized cat, with
behavior problems, put in
homemade bong to soothe it.

Is Dick Cheney entirely sane? Think about it. Someone suggested the other day that after 9/11 and the anthrax problem Cheney became quite paranoid. It was said he feared the U.S. might be attacked again, possibly with nuclear material, and he began traveling with a doctor and a gas mask, and so on. Now I don’t know if this is true, but even apart from this, consider his behavior after 9/11. He essentially went into hiding, whether in one location or many, all secret. As you will recall we all joked about this. He even went so far as to have his residence removed from Google and was not often seen in public. When he was it was always in front of a carefully screened audience. Then there is the issue of torture, which he most certainly was responsible for. This was unprecedented and not what you might consider normal behavior, given its illegality. There is also his obsession with national security. No other Vice President in history has attacked a sitting President as Cheney has gone after Obama. He insists Obama has made us less safe. It is completely irrational to believe that Obama and his administration, with many of the same people carried over from the Bush administration, are unable to keep the nation just as safe as Bush/Cheney did. And it is unprecedented for a previous Vice President to essentially refuse to get off the stage, at least for some period of time. Furthermore, I suggest it is entirely delusional for Cheney to apparently believe that only he knows how to keep the country safe. Similarly, he must be aware of the fact that even his own party wants him to cease and desist in his current behavior, but he stubbornly refuses to do so. He is an embarrassment to his party and to the nation, like a crazy uncle that doesn’t know when to stop his inappropriate behavior. All of this suggests to me that he may well be paranoid with delusions of grandeur, and is so far gone as to be unable to control himself. He also seems unable to comprehend that he has been wrong on virtually everything for the past eight years, a fact that is known to virtually everyone else. He is apparently to give a speech tomorrow attacking Obama, while Obama is supposed to give a speech on Guantanamo. Can the nation really stand for an apparently delusional paranoid constantly challenging the duly elected President? Is Cheney unaware that he and his criminal ideas were rejected soundly by the voters? And what is Obama to do? It is virtually impossible to reason with a crazy person. I regard this as a very serious problem with no very ready solution. Cheney may be doing this on purpose, knowing it would be virtually impossible for Obama to have him either institutionalized or incarcerated. And if he were to be he could plead insanity. I didn’t label him Dick the Slimy for nothing.

Along these lines, I am almost as disgusted with Obama as I am with Cheney. There was a meeting at the White House today between Obama and a number of those on the “left.” I don’t know what all happened during this meeting but apparently one thing was made clear, Obama does not support an investigation of the Bush/Cheney war crimes. He reportedly regards this as a “distraction.” In other words, he is putting political expediency ahead of morality and the law. I regard this as completely unacceptable. I realize he has to deal with the economy, two “wars,” health care, Israel, and so on and on, but ignoring blatant and terrible war crimes, especially when the guilty have confessed and are boasting about them, is not something that can just be dismissed as a distraction. Furthermore, he apparently even spoke for Holder, who is supposed to have an office entirely independent of the White House. If this is true it is every bit as bad as Bush’s meddling with the Department of Justice. Then there is Obama’s reneging in a single-payer health care system, his maintaining Bagram prison, his failure to act on don’t ask, don’t tell, his…his…oh, to hell with it. Michael Steele was right on one thing: the honeymoon is over. My father, bless him, although he had his quirks and foibles, was about the only man I have ever known who didn’t have feet of clay. My high hopes for Obama have been dashed on the rocky shores of hypocrisy (just another word for politics, I guess).

Could someone explain to me why it is necessary for anyone to have a loaded gun (or a gun at all, for that matter) in a National Park? The Senate not only has feet of clay, it has clay for brains, to say nothing of pure pig pucky for courage. But, better yet, explain to me the point of discharging from the Air Force a distinguished fighter pilot with 18 years in the force, 88 combat missions, decorations, etc., two years before his retirement, because he is gay, or highly in demand Arabic language speakers, or…or…or…oh, to hell with it. You cannot expect anything sensible out of anyone. Perhaps the most laughable and absurd of all, at the moment at least, is the absolutely mindless hysteria over what to do with the detainees (prisoners) at Guantanamo. Our Congress seems to have been taken over by hysterical and helpless little old ladies.

We certainly aren’t going to have single-payer universal health care. At the moment we may well not have universal health care of any kind unless we give in to the parasitic blood-sucking insurance companies who have no business meddling in health care at all. Medicare works fine, it should be expanded to everyone, no exceptions and NO INSURANCE COMPANIES!!!

Where does the violet tint end and the orange tint begins? Distinctly we see the difference of the colors, but where exactly does the one first blending enter into the other. So with sanity and insanity.
Herman Melville

Cassowaries can run up to 31 miles per hour through the dense forest and can jump nearly five feet.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

My bad?

German woman punched, threatened
with attack dog, because her white
asparagus was too expensive.

My bad? My bad? Does Michael Steele have any connection with reality? Can he really believe that the terrible horrors of the Bush/Cheney administration can be dismissed with the kind of cute juvenile slang a teenager might use when caught with his hand in a cookie jar? He said in his supposedly major speech today that Republican apologies are over, after having confessed only to a bit of overspending. It was a speech with no substance whatever, loaded with clichés, and apparently designed to inspire the Republican base. They gave him a standing ovation, which might indicate just how desperate they are for anything resembling leadership.

You might recall that Bush/Cheney, with the full support of the Republican Party, lied to lead us into an illegal, unconstitutional, and unnecessary “war,” the mother of all war crimes. In their pursuit of this abomination they indiscriminately killed hundreds of thousands of innocent people, including women and children. They engaged in massive war profiteering, employed weapons that are regarded as illegal, hid prisoners from the Red Cross, created secret prisons, tortured people, destroyed much of Iraq, including much of their illustrious history, wasted billions of dollars, sacrificed thousands of our best young people to death and permanent injuries, both mental and physical, and displaced upwards of perhaps as many as four million Iraqis. The human misery they caused is absolutely incalculable. Here at home they lied constantly, engaged in illegal wiretapping, did away with habeas corpus, ran up the national debt to previously unknown heights, stold money from the middle class to give to the obscenely wealth and corporations, and so on. Steele thinks all this can be dismissed simply as “my bad?” Unhappily, it looks like they may get away with it, the ultimate insult to morality and ethics, to say nothing of common sense and decency. Where are Obama and Holder when they are so desperately needed?

The more Republicans attack Nancy Pelosi the more it looks like she is right. It appears the CIA has no idea what they told anyone, anywhere, at any time. More people are lining up on Pelosi’s side than one might expect, and not just Bob Graham. This reminds me of my days as a Teaching Assistant for a couple of new Assistant Professors. They would lecture their classes for an hour, at the end of which students would ask me to translate, as it was obvious no one knew what they had actually meant. I would bet the same thing is often true of CIA briefings. They can get by with this because no one actually understood anything they were told, and were not permitted to mention it to anyone else. I hope Republicans keep up their demands for releasing all the memos and such, but they probably will drop them once they realize they won’t prove anything.

It appears to me that those who were involved in the terrible doings of the past eight years are more and more trying to dissociate themselves from what happened and tending to blame most of it on Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld. This is, I believe, probably as it should be. I should think it would be easy to make a case against either of these individuals, or both of them. I cannot understand why no one is doing so. Is it just that I am too impatient and the wheels of justice are in fact slowly turning? I saw somewhere today that Cheney is said to have become paranoid after 9/11, believing we were about to be attacked by nuclear weapons, traveling with his own doctor, gas mask, and such. Is this just the first attempts to fashion for him a temporary insanity defense? Insanity may in fact be the only way to understand his evil doings and apparent sadism. I doubt that Rumsfeld even has any defense, other than just being a doddering old fool who should never have been Secretary of Defense in the first place. The more I am learning about what happened the more I tend to feel sorry for Bush, who was clearly out of his league. I have always believed he is borderline retarded, which may explain his vulnerability to his two evil Rasputins.

A stupid man's report of what a clever man says can never be accurate, because he unconsciously translates what he hears into something he can understand.
Bertrand Russell

Jack Benny's favorite comedian was said to have been Percy Kilbride.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Pro sex?

Japan sets record for sex orgy,
250 men and 250 women have
sex at same time, same place.

“But there is neither Border, Breed, nor Birth, when two strong men stand face to face, though they come from the ends of the earth.” Rudyard Kipling

President Obama and Benjamin Netanyahu met face to face this morning for the first time. How I wish I could have been a fly on the wall. Naturally they posed for pictures and claimed to have made progress, but I wonder what really transpired between these two who claim, at least, to have diametrically opposed ideas about an Israeli/Palestinian peace. Obama and virtually all the rest of the world wants a two state solution. Netanyahu has said he does not. Netanyahu says Iran’s (supposed) nuclear threat should be dealt with first. Obama says peace talks should proceed first. Netanyahu wants to believe the status quo between the U.S. and Israel should continue, with the U.S. giving them 3 billion or more a year, and not questioning what they do. Obama, reportedly, is going to insist the U.S. will decide itself on its best interest and not just follow wherever Israel wants to lead, and he will no longer just give them a blank check. Netanyahu wants all of Jerusalem, Obama wants part of it for the Palestinians. Netanyahu does not want to deal with Hamas, Obama apparently does. Obama wants peace in the Middle East, Netanyahu wants permanent strife because otherwise the Israelis would have to give back their stolen land, and give up their racism. I believe that Obama is going to have world public opinion on his side in this argument, but when has Israel given two cents for world opinion? It is going to be most interesting to see how this plays out over the next two or three years. Will Obama, on his great white stallion, bring peace to the Middle East, or will the Israeli Black Hand prevail once again?

It is becoming more and more apparent that we will never know for certain if the CIA lied to Congress or not…because the CIA apparently does not know itself what it said, to whom, and when. Personally, I have no doubt this is a deliberate policy of the CIA. They have never been open and honest about their doings around the world, and the idea they would not lie is so naïve as to be absurd. And the evidence mounts every day that Dick Cheney was the moving force behind the torture. We will never know for certain what the truth is unless all the relevant documents are made public. As Pelosi seems eager to have them all made public, and confident she will prevail, you can be pretty sure they won’t be.

In a strange interview tonight on the Colbert Report, John McCain’s quite attractive 24 year-old daughter, announced that she was pro-sex, pro gay marriage, and pro choice. Actually, I’m not quite sure about the pro choice, she might have said pro-life. The reason I can’t remember for certain is that I am still puzzling about what is meant by pro-sex. I should think that quite a dangerous statement for an attractive woman as she will probably get propositioned by every male that heard it. Steven asked her if Republicans procreated differently from most people, like, maybe mitosis, but she didn’t really answer. I think what she thought she was saying is that she is anti-abstinence only, but that would seem to be quite a different thing. Of course when she proclaimed she was proud to be a Republican I dismissed her as just another air-head. I wonder how it is there are so many young, blond, air-headed women who claim to be Republicans? I think Democrats should hold a meeting and vote to re-name the Republican Party the “White Cracker Party,” which would be pretty descriptive of what they really are, Michael Steele notwithstanding.

I don't think anyone should write their autobiography until after they're dead.
Samuel Goldwyn

George Orwell was born Eric Arthur Blair.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

A Land So Strange - book

A Land So Strange, by Andres Resendez (Basic Books, 2007).

This is one of the strangest accounts of culture contact during the early Colonial period to survive. It is the true story of a Spaniard with an unlikely name, Cabeza de Vaca (Cow’s head), who survived a journey in the 1500’s, on foot and by raft, all the way from Southern Florida to the Pacific coast. He, two other Spaniards, and an African slave were all that survived of a party of 300 who were charged with finding gold and other riches in the New World. Based primarily on two separate accounts by the survivors, as well as the considerable literature that now exists on this subject, Resendez has written an interesting, if attenuated, account of this remarkable, indeed, almost unbelievable journey.

There is an extensive discussion of how it is this particular voyage came about. It was to be a voyage of revenge, sponsored by Diego Velazquez, the official Spanish ruler of Cuba, because he was betrayed by Hernan Cortez, who without Velazquez’s permission, undertook the journey that eventually resulted in his conquest of Mexico. This gives the reader some insight into the politics of the Spanish exploration and settlement of the Caribbean and Mexico. Angered by the behavior of Cortez, but unable to do much of anything about it, Velazquez, too old to lead a voyage himself, charged one of his partners, Panfilor de Narvaez, to lead an armada designed to extend his authority to the mainland of the U.S., and also to bring Cortez back in chains if possible. Unfortunately, because of bad weather, and because they had so little knowledge of where they were to go, many of the ships were lost in terrible winter storms that swept across the Gulf of Mexico. Narvaez’s own ship, ignorant of the strength of the Gulf current, was taken to the west coast of Florida, far from where they thought they were. Hearing of large settlements in the north (where they optimistically thought they would find gold) they decided to send an expedition of 300 men by land, who were then to eventually meet up again with the ship. As they had no idea where they were this did not work out, and the expedition was forced to walk, first from near Tampa Bay to the north of Florida, and from there all the way across to what is now Mississippi. Because of the terrain they were forced to build rafts to take them from there to the coast of what is now Texas.

This was a journey fraught with almost unbelievable hardships. By the time they arrived in Florida, half of their horses had died and the forty that lived were so feeble they could not be ridden. They encountered various tribes of Indians, some of whom were helpful and some not at all. They were eventually forced to butcher and consume their horses, and by the time they reached Mississippi there were fewer than 200 of them left. With few tools, and not very much knowledge, the fashioned a number of rafts and set out to get to Mexico. The rafts landed at different spots and the party thus split up with most of them perishing from illness or at the hands of Indians.

Back on land they continued on foot, at times living as slaves for various Indian tribes, and then managing to move on to the next group. Soon there were only the four of them left. They somehow became perceived as shamans, and were apparently quite successful, so their lives became much easier as they continued. In any case, nine years after they began this unlikely trip, they were discovered by a Spanish expedition and their terrible ordeal came to an end. Two of the Spaniards became landholders and slave owners and lived out their lives in relative luxury. Cabeza de Vaca did not fare so well, spending some time in prison, before dying in Spain. The black slave was allowed to lead an expedition of exploration and was murdered by Indians.
This book was carefully researched and contains a long list of the literature relating to this strange episode so that if you become interested in reading further you may do so at length. If you do become so interested you will have to read further, because the problem with this book is that it does pique one’s interest but offers very little in the way of detail. It rather typically reports, “they stayed with that tribe for two months,” or they remained at X for six months, or they were forced to stay for four months, or so on, with virtually no discussion of what it is they were doing during that time. This is all the more unfortunate as they were the first Europeans to see much of the New World. I don’t know if this is because the detail doesn’t exist, even in the original accounts, or if Resendez didn’t choose to write in such detail. I enjoyed reading about a strange journey I had not previously been aware of, and I marvel once again at the unbelievable resiliency of the human spirit in the face of the most difficult, nay, even impossible, circumstances.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Another Imperial Presidency?

Woman arrested for assaulting
84 year-old husband for
cheating on her 35 years ago.

Someone should remind President Obama that becoming a politician, even President of the U.S., does not absolve one of moral responsibility. I understand that when one becomes President, the claims and promises you made as a candidate more often than not are not easily fulfilled. Thus, while I am not happy about Obama’s failure to get us out of Iraq on time, or his reinstatement of military tribunals at Guantanamo, or his equivocating on NAFTA and FISA, or Cuba, and other such things, I understand there may be reasons for these things that I do not understand, or at least I am willing to think so. There is one area, however, where I am not inclined to give him the benefit of the doubt, allowing political expediency to trump morality.

We know now with a high degree of certainty about large areas of wrongdoing. Starting a so-called preventive “war” against a country that is no threat to you is wrong. Lying to bring such a “war” about is wrong. Killing innocent women and children in the process of that “war” is wrong. Torture is wrong. Using banned munitions like white phosphorous is wrong. Hiding prisoners from the Red Cross is wrong. War profiteering is wrong. Illegal wiretapping is wrong. Lying to Congress and the public is wrong. Doing away with habeas corpus is wrong. Keeping prisoners in prison for years without bringing charges against them is wrong. We know that all of these things happened under the Bush/Cheney administration. But have we finally arrived at a place in our history where concepts of right and wrong are now just considered “quaint,” like the Geneva Convention?

Unless I have been terribly misinformed all my life, I believe that morality has to do with the basics of right and wrong. While no one person (even the President) should be the sole judge of right and wrong, it is reasonable to suppose that the leaders in any given group would be primarily responsible for arbitrating questions of right and wrong. And it is equally reasonable to suppose that when wrongdoing is discovered these same leaders would be the most responsible for doing something about it. Unfortunately, this does not seem to be the case in our country at the moment. We have people, one in particular, going around the talk shows and radio actually boasting about his terrible wrongdoing. We have documentary evidence of torturing, even murdering prisoners, and we know beyond any reasonable doubt those who instigated our illegal “war,” our torture program, our illegal wiretapping, and so on. And yet, President Obama and his Attorney General, Eric Holder, are refusing to take any action against these wrongdoers, basically using the excuse of political expediency. This is not only itself immoral, according to U.S. and International law, it is also illegal. Unless their position changes, and soon, we can only conclude that President Obama, like President Bush before him, believes he is above the law, believes apparently, that “When the President does it, it’s not illegal.” This is not a situation in which I am prepared to give the President the benefit of the doubt. It is not an area for compromise. It is an area that cries out for justice and accountability. President Obama does not have the authority to deny us justice, although perhaps he believes he has the power to do so. Such power, if it exists at all, would be completely illegitimate, an unconstitutional theft, the claim of a dictator. I admire President Obama, and I believe that in general he has been acting mostly in the public interest, but I am not ready to proclaim him dictator, and I absolutely insist that he appoint a special prosecutor to investigate the terrible wrongdoings that we know occurred under Bush/Cheney and their collaborators. I view this as entirely non-negotiable. His failure to comply means (to me, at least) his Presidency will be forever compromised. I cannot believe he will allow this to happen but my impatience and fears grow by the day.

On a much lighter note, Rachel Alexandra, a filly, won the Preakness today, the first filly to win in about 80 years! One might think this was a great day for women… until they announced the formation of a Women’s Lingerie Tackle Football League! Yes, these women are going to play tackle football in their underwear. Their audience, and no doubt they will have one, will eagerly await costume malfunctions and hope for fights and such. Oh well… I guess it’s better than watching Christians being thrown to the lions.

“Technology is like giving an axe to an idiot.”
Via Mel Firestone (original unknown)

Unlike horses and donkeys, zebras have never been truly domesticated.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Say it ain't so

Small Colorado town celebrates 12th
anniversary for Miracle Mike, chicken
who lived headless for 18 months.

Please, say it ain’t so. There is an article today on Smirking Chimp so awful in its implications that I do not want it to be true. I do not want it to be true in spite of my utter contempt for Dick Cheney and my fervent desire to see him behind bars. This article, by William Rivers Pitt, entitled “Why the Caged Bird Sang,” suggests that the real reason Obama will not release all the torture photographs is because they are so horrible, so much worse than the ones we have seen, that their release might well spawn revulsion so great it might totally disrupt our country. Pitt, quoting Seymour Hersh, suggests that among other things, there are videotapes of boys being sodomized in front of women (some of them their mothers I assume). Their screams of terror and pain are said to be terrible beyond belief. There are also hints that women were abused so badly they attempted to get their husbands to visit them in prison and kill them, although there are no specific descriptions of what they must have endured. It is also suggested that this took place in response to orders from Cheney. I do not know if this is true. I do not want to believe it. But if it is true, it is understandable that no one would want it released. It would show American behavior so bestial and inhuman that no one would want to admit to it, that it could have been done by Americans, and no one would want the world to see it. If true, the evidence is so shameful it would have to be erased entirely from the record, or buried so deeply in national security issues as to never see the light of day. This means it is not merely the rest of the world we do not want to see these pictures, but American citizens themselves. And sadly, while I do not want to believe this, I have great respect for both William Rivers Pitt and Seymour Hersh. And furthermore, I know that Cheney and others lied to us virtually every time they have opened their mouths to speak. I am so horrified by this I am now of two minds about an investigation – for fear that it might turn out to be true, and my country will be shamed forever. Even without this, Cheney is surely one of the most evil people on earth, with it, he becomes an even more hateful creature, lower even than the worst scum of the earth.

Speaking of lying, I for one do not believe that Nancy Pelosi is lying about the CIA briefings she experienced. While the CIA may not have lied outright, I do not doubt that they gave in their briefings only what it was they wanted to reveal and nothing more. They have at least a 45 year history of torture and deception and I do not think they would balk at deceiving members of Congress. Fortunately, Bob Graham, who apparently suffers from some kind of Obsessive Compulsive note taking disorder, has shown that the CIA records cannot be trusted. I do not believe that Kit Bond seriously believes the CIA would not mislead the Congress. Boener, who two or three years ago, thought the CIA was lying about the Iranian nuclear situation, now wants us to believe that he, too, thinks the CIA is telling the truth. Of all the individuals and institutions in Washington D.C. that I believe would be the most likely to lie or deceive, the CIA would lead the list (after Bush/Cheney, of course, as they are in a lying class all their own). I don’t believe the Republicans necessarily believe Pelosi is lying either. They don’t care, as all they want is an issue to take the heat off the Bush/Cheney reign of torture and misery. I think the more frightened Cheney becomes the more he babbles on, a sign of guilt. Some insist that Cheney really believes in the efficacy of torture, all he says about being attacked by terrorists, saving the country, etc., etc. I might believe it only in the sense that he may have become mentally unbalanced under the weight of so many lies and horrible deeds. In any case he needs to be quieted down and put away someplace where he can do no further harm.

He who joyfully marches to music rank and file, has already earned my contempt. He has been given a large brain by mistake, since for him the spinal cord would surely suffice. This disgrace to civilization should be done away with at once. Heroism at command, how violently I hate all this, how despicable and ignoble war is; I would rather be torn to shreds than be a part of so base an action. It is my conviction that killing under the cloak of war is nothing but an act of murder.
Albert Einstein

The Ostrich can run up to 46 miles per hour, the top land speed for birds.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

It's not bean bags

Owner of Mighty the Monkey,
deceased pet, sues over
the neglect of his grave.

There are those who apparently believe it would be improper for the current administration to investigate the last administration. Their argument, as I understand it, has mostly to do with the fact that it might establish a precedent for incoming administrations to investigate outgoing ones and that would lead to all kinds of problems, if not chaos. I think this is nonsense. In fact, it might be a good thing if administrations knew they would be held accountable for their misdeeds, perhaps they wouldn’t so readily engage in improper activities. In this particular case the present administration is bound by law to investigate the last one because in this case it involves potential war crimes. For reasons I cannot fathom, Obama and Holder so far at least are ignoring rather than enforcing the law. This makes them equally guilty, at least in principle. Whether it becomes standard practice for one administration to investigate and prosecute the proceeding one, this particular case is entirely different precisely because it involves war crimes. This is a difference that truly makes a difference.

To use John McCain’s infelicitous phrase, we are not speaking here of “bean bags.” We are talking about war and other crimes of the utmost seriousness and importance. It is not as if one administration is spending time and money investigating whether a consensual sexual act between adults took place (oh, yeah, the Republicans already did that), it is, rather, whether the previous administration deliberately conspired to start an illegal, unconstitutional, and unnecessary “war” in which hundreds of thousands of people were killed, millions were displaced from their homes, lands and properties destroyed, people were tortured and even murdered in illegal interrogations, war profiteering was rampant, multiple war crimes occurred, and Congress and the American people were lied to repeatedly. If the Republicans who are critical of investigating the Bush/Cheney administration cannot see this as a unique and troubling case that must be investigated, they must be devoid of any sense of morality and justice whatsoever (personally, I do not doubt this is true of our current crop of Republicans).

It is simply beyond belief that we are arguing about whether or not waterboarding is torture, whether or not it works, whether a few Democrats might have known about it, whether the ends justify the means, whether it was done from patriotic or other motives, whether it was technically legal or not, whether or not it should be investigated, whether or not the guilty should be held accountable, whether or not it was a crime, and whether or not it even happened. We know it happened. There are not only confessions, there is overwhelming evidence of what happened, how and why. And we know who the major participants were, and where the major responsibility lies. Just because they wear shirts and ties and sit in plush offices doesn’t excuse them from the blood on their hands, the blood not only of some of our finest young people, but of hundreds of thousands of innocent women and children as well. Those who want to argue that it might hurt someone’s feelings or embarrass them or cause distress in the body politic should come to their senses and realize this is something that absolutely must be investigated and prosecuted. It is not simply “bean bags,” and it is not something that can just be passed over, letting bygones be bygones.

Hopefully, as more and more information is becoming available, it appears this problem cannot be ignored much longer. It seems there is now some evidence, leading directly to Cheney’s office, that they wanted a POW waterboarded to get him to confess to a connection between Al Quaida and Saddam Hussein. The interrogators involved refused to do this as they believed it was suggested for political reasons and they were already satisfied with the information they were getting without employing more “intensive”means. Robert Wexler has also reported that Eric Holder is going to investigate more seriously the deaths of some prisoners at the hands of interrogators. Nancy Pelosi has struck back strongly at accusations against her and insists that the CIA misled (lied to) her, and she is not the only one who believes this has happened (Bob Graham agrees with her). It appears that things are moving in the right direction, but much too slowly to suit me. The more Cheney bleats about this the closer he comes to a day of reckoning (I hope).

Rush Limbaugh, that bloated sack of pure pig pucky, is now arguing with John McCain’s 97 year-old mother. Sarah Palin, former beauty contestant, not one to miss out on publicity, has aligned herself with Miss California, demonstrating that neither one of them knows what they are talking about. The Senate has refused to put a 15% cap on credit card interest rates! Obama is about to announce his candidate for the Supreme Court (you know, the nonpartisan court that made George W. Bush President). America moves on (I think).

Question: Do you think there is enough gold in the entire world to allow the U.S. to return to the gold standard?

We have no government armed with power capable of contending with human passions unbridled by morality and religion (sic). Avarice, ambition, revenge or gallantry would break the strongest cords of our Constitution as a whale goes through a net. Our Constitution is designed only for a moral and religious (sic) people. It is wholly inadequate for any other.
John Adams

Clean coal is an insidious oxymoron.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

We didn't do it?

Undertaker hot wires
his vintage hearse
when rival steals the keys.

Dick Cheney actually said in a new interview: “They say it is torture. We didn’t torture, and we didn’t break the law.” Having been boasting for some time now how they did it, and how well it worked, he now says he didn’t do it. I guess it all comes down to what “it,” is. If “it” includes waterboarding, which he has admitted to, then he did it, and if waterboarding is illegal, which it is, he also broke the law. Why does this remind me of a small boy standing by a broken cookie jar with cookies in his hand claiming he didn’t do it? This is just pathetic. How long are we going to allow this obvious dishonest war criminal to appear on television repeatedly lying about his accomplishments and making false accusations against our current President? Of course he did it, and of course he broke the law, of this there is no longer even the slightest doubt. The only conceivable justification for his statements has to do with the fact that his bought and paid for lawyers made up laws and rules that don’t exist in order to give him what he wanted. And it is clear by now that this is precisely what happened. These toady lawyers will most probably be disbarred, at least, and possibly end up in prison. This has become some kind of weird charade that is being allowed to continue for reasons I cannot comprehend.

And related to this is my deep disappointment with President Obama, who has now done a complete about face when it comes to releasing more torture photographs. He promised transparency but is certainly not providing it. What bothers me by far the worse about this is not his refusal to allow the photographs to be released, which I do not agree with but at least can understand. I am truly bothered by his statement that “the small number of people who participated in it have been held accountable.” This obviously indicates that he wants to maintain the “few bad apples,” claim, which is utterly ridiculous. I keep trying to excuse him on the grounds that he is just cleverly trying to force the public and Congress to do what needs to be done so he will not appear to have been seeking partisan revenge. I am beginning to have my doubts about this which makes me very unhappy.

Someone once said that if the Republicans want to brand the Democrats as the “Democrat Socialist Party,” it would only be fair to refer to them as the “National Socialist Party.” I believe that given the past eight years of Republican reign this would not be far from the truth. Those who seem to be in charge of the remaining Republican Party are obviously such extreme right-wing ideologues they are completely blind to what is actually going on in the United States. Even Richard Steele, their elected Party head, tried to warn them off this idea but failed. It may be all to the best to allow them to just bury themselves in history as a failed party and hope that some new, more sensible and responsible party will arise to replace them. They will never rejuvenate themselves as long as they continue what they have been doing.

Arizona State University invited President Obama to give their commencement address but strangely refused to give him an honorary degree. This is indeed strange as they have awarded such degrees to a number of people who do not even approach the level of Obama’s accomplishments. For example, a few years back a man who made his fortune making golf balls donated money to the University and received an honorary degree. There was opposition to this on the part of one or more faculty members who believed such degrees should only be awarded either for academic or humanitarian accomplishments but they were eventually ignored. This perhaps also explains why ASU now offers a degree program in Golf Management or some such thing, very academic. ASU is little more than a joke as a University and apparently accepts some 92% of applicants. So, this is America ain’t it?

This is supposed to be the planting season. I have been trying to work in the garden but the weather has not been cooperative. It has been rainy and cold here at Sandhill, with a 100% chance of rain tonight and an 80% chance of thundershowers tomorrow. But then it is supposed to warm up. Weather here is very unpredictable. One year we were in Sweden and it was snowing in May. We thought that was hilarious. Then we returned home and it snowed late in June!

I know indeed what evil I intend to do,but stronger than all my afterthoughts is my fury,fury that brings upon mortals the greatest evils.

Among the Nuer it is possible for a woman to marry a ghost.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

A difference of opinion?

Indian man with six daughters does
not bathe, stands on one leg near fire,
smokes marijuana, prays to Shiva for son.

Dick Cheney, in one of his multitude TV appearances, recently said something to the effect of “they call it torture, but I don’t think it was torture.” This adds one more ridiculous non-excuse to his previous three. He has himself apparently demolished the idea that Pelosi was truly briefed on what was happening, his claim that the torture actually worked is in the process of being rejected, not that it was a valid excuse in the first place, his claim of good intentions falls on the revelation that the torture was really geared toward getting someone to make a false statement linking Saddam to Osama bin Laden, and now he wants to claim that the problem is really just a difference of opinion – “they” think it was torture but he does not. Unfortunately for Cheney this is not a mere difference of opinion, a case where one can argue that “reasonable people can disagree.” This is not an issue, like should I wear the blue tie or the red one, or should I buy the roses or the petunias, or some such. Virtually the entire world, including all reasonable people in the U.S., know that waterboarding is torture and has been for centuries. Cheney does not represent a reasonable person in the context of this argument, but, rather virtually a lone voice trying to keep himself out of jail or worse. While we might sympathize with his daughter, who is standing up for her father, and claiming it was not torture, and we may wonder about the very few “true believers” that might agree with them, this is an open and shut case. Waterboarding is torture, opinions to the contrary are desperation attempts at denial. The pressure on Obama and Holder to take action is increasing all the time.

Can you believe that people who are attempting to speak up for a single payer health care system are being shut out of the discussions and even arrested? Baucus in Montana seems to be one of the worst offenders. I find this unbelievable but it is apparently true. It is especially unbelievable (maybe not) because apparently a true majority of Americans are in favor of a single payer system. So…like, who cares what the American people want? Obama is on record from some time ago as being in favor of a single payer system. But now he is trying to get a Government program for health care that will compete with private sector plans. Of course the Insurance companies and others do not want this because they fear too many will opt for the Government plan and they will begin to lose out. I like to think this is exactly what Obama has in mind, and that eventually such a system would easily change into a single payer system. This may be just another one of my pipe dreams, like hoping he is just waiting for public opinion to force him into prosecuting Bush/Cheney.

Elliot Spitzer appeared on the Rachel Maddow show tonight. He was brilliant. What a shame that he had to resign over a stupid prostitution problem. As someone who pursued Wall Street greed and illegality very successfully it is too bad he is not available to continue doing so. He said as plainly as it can be said, Wall Street does not act with our country in mind. This is the one thing above all others that bothers me about Obama, he is far too cozy with Wall Street, and instead of trying to reign them in he seems to be content to let them just continue their short term profits and questionable ways to the detriment of the country. It will help, of course, if he can reform the credit card thievery, but he should be doing a lot more than that.

I admit to feeling strange about complaining about the prices of food, as I never had to do so previously. But really, the situation is becoming almost unbearable. I occasionally buy a bone at the market for my friend’s dog. Yesterday there was a single dog bone for sale, not a very large one at that, marked $3.08! I can remember when butchers gave dog bones away, and even liver, and certainly none of them would have even thought of charging people for fish heads and bones. I see people every day, mostly older people, staring longingly at the meat counter, knowing they cannot afford to eat steaks anymore. It is sad to see it, and I know that my own consumption of beef has fallen off as well. Even bread is becoming prohibitively expensive. When I was a boy and didn’t want to eat my food, my mother would often say, “think of the starving Chinese.” I wonder if the Chinese are now saying, “think of the starving Americans?” As unbelievable as it may seem, we do have many people going hungry right here in what is supposed to be the wealthiest and greatest country on earth. How ironic. How stupid. How unnecessary.

Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and not clothed. This world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children. This is not a way of life at all in any true sense. Under the cloud of threatening war, it is humanity hanging from a cross of iron.
Dwight D. Eisenhower

Southern Patagonia is now completely overrun with beavers.

Monday, May 11, 2009

The road to hell...

Rat snake lurking
in Taiwanese toilet
bites man on penis.

Remember that old saying, “The road to hell is paved with good intentions.” This seems to be another line that Dick the Slimy is promoting in his attempt to bamboozle everyone about his war crimes. Part of his argument is that whatever he and Bush did, they did to protect the country. There will no doubt be some who will believe this, but I don’t believe it at all. When we now know that torture was being used to force someone into making a connection between Al Quaida and Saddam Hussein, so Bush/Cheney could use it to justify their illegal “war” with Iraq, how can that be seen as doing it to protect our country? Unless, that is, one could somehow believe that going to “war” with Iraq, that was not a threat to us, was in the best interest of the U.S. (instead of Bush/Cheney’s big oil buddies and other corporations who stood to get away with billions). Promoting a pre-emptive and illegal “war” was in no one’s interest except those individuals and corporations that stood to make money from it. It would be nice, in a way, to believe that these blatant war criminals were acting in the best interest of our country, but they certainly were not. This argument from good intentions is no more convincing than the attempt to drag Nancy Pelosi or other Democrats into it, or the argument that “it worked.” There is no excuse for what they did other than greed and perhaps sadism.

Cheney goes on blithely bragging about his war crimes. Now he has implicated Bush as well. I cannot understand why no one is taking action against them. On the one hand we claim to be a nation of laws, but in this instance that would seem to be just a joke. If their admittance of guilt is not enough, there is a mountain of evidence that demonstrates conclusively what they did. For some reason this does not seem sufficient to motivate our so-called “leaders” to take any action. Remember, Pelosi refused to consider impeachment, saying if she had some evidence to go on she might consider it. There was all kinds of evidence. Now Harry Reid is saying the same thing with respect to Cheney – we need more evidence. This is absolute nonsense. I don’t know what more anyone could possibly want by way of evidence to at least begin to take action. When we have Cheney appearing repeatedly on TV boasting of his crimes, and we have Jonathan Turley, a respected law professor, saying openly on TV they should be held accountable, and Obama and Holder, knowing what should be done, and still nothing seems to be happening to hold these criminals responsible for their absolutely horrid deeds, what can one possibly conclude about a “nation of laws?” I know the wheels of justice work slowly, but this is ridiculous.

Beware of corporations and organizations bearing gifts. This meeting of everyone with an interest in health care, and their offer to save two trillion over the next ten years, is obviously designed to insure that they will all be able to continue enjoy their excessive profits. This is certainly true of the Insurance companies that are simply parasites on the health care system. There is no compelling reason why insurance companies should have anything whatsoever to do with health care. Why should doctors and patients need an insurance middleman to broker health care? But the insurance companies are the ones who would stand to lose out if we had a sensible, reasonable, efficient, and genuine one payer system, so you notice such a system is not even being discussed. Indeed, the fear that we might have a sensible one payer system is so great that proponents of such a system have been forcibly removed from meetings where health care is under discussion. This is almost as shameful as our failure to prosecute the war criminals in our midst.

Newt Gingrich, who at least some people believe is the intellectual of the Republican Party, would seem to me to be that only if it is possible to have an intellectual mental midget. He has now complained that the Democrats, having been in power since 2007, have failed to pass any laws about torture. Apparently he is unaware there already are laws against torture, and have been for a very long time. He often comes up with these intellectual pronouncements that make little or no sense. He is the ultimate example of a great pontificator who pontificates endlessly for the mere sake of pontificating. At least he wasn’t the Republican nitwit who announced today, in defense of the Catholic Church’s persecution of Galileo, “Well, Galileo would have died anyway.” I wonder more and more often these days if Republicans are born that way or shaped that way by their environment. It seems to me there is no other way to explain the preponderance of so many mentally challenged individuals in one organization.

Yes, I think Wanda Sykes went a bit too far when she said she wished Rush Limbaugh’s kidneys would fail, but I suspect she is not the only person who feels that way. I would never say I wished someone would die, not even Rush Limbaugh. I do, however, believe the world would be a better place if there were no Rush Limbaugh, or Beck, or Hannity, or Coulter. Could we find them a remote island somewhere with no means of communication with the rest of the world? I do agree with Wanda that Rush’s wish for American to fail is no different than bin Laden’s and does represent treason or something very close to it. It is a sad commentary on the U.S. when a bloated, racist windbag has so much influence. Cheney says if he had to choose between Limbaugh and Colin Powell he would choose Limbaugh. It is a sad commentary on the U.S. when an evil war criminal is allowed loose on the streets.

In my many years I have come to a conclusion that one useless man is a shame, two is a law firm, and three or more is a congress.
John Adams

Since their introduction in 1934 raccoons have become a major problem in Germany.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Obama hates Polar Bears?

Ronald Reagan claimed to have
seen three flying saucers, believed
earth was to be invaded by aliens.

Obama hates polar bears? The MSM, as well as many of the blogs I read sometimes, all report that the Obama administration has let stand an unpopular Bush ruling on Polar Bears. That’s it. With that bit of information we are supposed to conclude that Obama must hate Polar Bears and doesn’t care about the possibility of their going extinct, etc. No one bothers to mention why this ruling was allowed to stand. In fact, the ruling was allowed to stand because the Obama administration does not believe that ruling is the best or most efficient way to preserve the bears, and is therefore working on a better way to do so. Our MSM stinks, and as most blogs feed off the MSM they, too, often stink. At the rate things are going in the news business it won’t be long before there will be no real news at all, someone at AP or elsewhere will simply make things up and release them, and as there will be no alternative source of information, their fairly tales will be the news (this is not too far from the current situation).

Somewhere I saw on the web (must have been either on Buzzflash or Smirking Chimp) that some Republicans are lobbying Obama to proclaim the year 2010 the Year of the Bible. With two unfinished “wars,” an economy in the tank big time, to say nothing of the dozens and dozens of other problems confronting us, they want a Year or the Bible? Are these people crazy, or what? Actually, as they are beyond crazy, they must be “or what.” These numbskulls should not be allowed anywhere near government. We can thank Bush and his “born-again” crowd for allowing them to gain influence they never should have been allowed (anyone remember the separation of church and state?). As for me, I am a “born oncer,” and an atheist, one of a rapidly growing minority.

In general I believe Obama is doing a fine job in an exceedingly difficult situation. It appears that he may actually establish some form of universal health care, and perhaps the economy will pick up again. But I don’t understand how at the same time he can be so damn dumb when it comes to Afghanistan. He has allowed this Afghanistan business t o develop into another Vietnam for no good reason at all as near as I can tell. The Taliban, who now seem to be our main target, were not so when this all began. It was al Quaida that was the problem, and the Taliban were ready to turn Osama bin Laden over to us, provided we could give them evidence of his criminality (which Bush/Cheney refused to so). So because the Taliban exercised their thousand year tradition of hospitality to those who were guests in their clans, and refused to give in to our demands, they have now become our chief enemy, along with al Quaida (a much smaller enemy). Granted the Taliban are not the most pleasant of people when it comes to civil rights, the rights of women, and so on, is it really our business to tell other people how to behave? I realize we do so all the time, but if that is to be the case, why don’t we change the behavior of the Saudis and everyone else who do things of which we don’t approve? The Taliban are not sitting in Afghanistan and Pakistan plotting to invade the U.S., they just want us out of their country and out of their business. If they were not required by cultural tradition to protect al Quaida, they would probably get rid of them themselves once we butted out of their affairs. And, as Cheney’s dream of a pipeline across Afghanistan would seem now to be totally out of the question, what in the hell are we doing there? It is as someone recently said, “war simply for the sake of war” (to make sure our defense industry and military can continue to live the good life). Oh, yeah, I know, we have to protect those nuclear weapons in Pakistan (the Afghans don’t have any). Personally, I would bet that our continued presence in Afghanistan and Pakistan probably, in the long run, increases the possibility of nuclear stuff falling into the wrong hands. Bush/Cheney left the world in terrible shape, Obama is charged with cleaning up after them, no small task, but in Afghanistan and Pakistan he is doing a lousy job. We have to get out of there ASAP.

Does anyone intend to do anything about Dick the Slimy, or is he going to be allowed to go on boasting publicly of his war crimes forever? He has no defense whatsoever for his actions. It doesn’t even matter if somehow we gained evidence through torture, it wouldn’t matter. It would still be criminal. And there cannot possibly be any definitive evidence for this claim. Nor does it matter if Nancy Pelosi or any other Democrat was aware of what was going on, it would still be criminal (and I tend strongly to believe Pelosi on this matter. I do not doubt that the CIA was playing games with their briefings). My greatest fear is that Cheney will die of natural causes before he is found guilty and punished for his terrible crimes against humanity.

When you think of the long and gloomy history of man, you will find more hideous crimes have been committed in the name of obedience than have ever been committed in the name of rebellion.
C. P. Snow

There are an estimated 14,000 species of ants.

Friday, May 08, 2009


Two Hawaiian men plead
guilty to stealing and
eating man’s pet puppy.

Too many years of “free-market capitalism” seems to have spawned a managerial and upper class in the United States that truly believes greed is good and the proletariat exists solely for the purpose of exploitation. How else can one explain the passionate and unceasing objection on the part of some to the Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA)? I mean, with the history of the worst of the sweat shops behind us, our knowledge of the problems associated with the Industrial Revolution, the absolutely gruesome images of poverty in the 19th century, the labor wars of the late 20th century, the insights of Marx and other political philosophers, the rise of Schools of Business and Management, and so on, you might think people would know better than to try to continue to keep the proletariat in chains. Given the fact that wages for ordinary working people have actually declined in recent years, at the same time the salaries and bonuses for management have skyrocketed as never before, it is impossible to see any justification for the opposition to EFCA other than just plain naked greed. And not only is this opposition greedy, it is also stupid. Even Henry Ford, that paragon of capitalism, realized that you had to pay your workers at least well enough so they could buy your product. While it is true that corporations can find cheaper labor overseas, resulting in unemployment at home, where are these unemployed workers going to find the money to buy anything, thus resulting in a recession or worse? This seems to be about where we are at the moment.

Not only is opposition to EFCA greedy and stupid, it is also, in my opinion, un-American, in that it works directly against the most basic values as stated in our founding documents: “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness,” “all men are created equal,” “liberty and justice for all,” and so on. This is so because under this (largely mythical) free-market capitalism, everything has to be treated as a commodity, including labor. Thus those men (and women) who must work for a living are reduced simply to commodities. But as Karl Polanyi so insightfully observed, labor is not truly a commodity, because labor is another word for human behavior. If you deny someone the fruits of their labor entirely, or force them to labor for excessively unjust rewards, you are clearly depriving them of many of their rights, and certainly standing in the way of their pursuit of happiness (unless they are masochistically inclined to a life of unending and unrewarding labor).

One does not have to be a socialist or communist to understand that in a fair and just society everyone should be entitled to be fairly paid for their labor and talent. This does not mean everyone should receive the same as everyone else, some people work harder than others, some are more talented than others, some more creative and active, and so on. Such people should be rewarded for their superior efforts. But no one should be denied opportunities to do their best, destined by birth or circumstance to live out their lives in “quiet desperation,” hungry and miserable, wage slaves in a system designed to keep them that way forever. There is something fundamentally wrong with a society where the disparity between rich and poor is as great as it is in our current country. This is wrong, and no philosophy of Social Darwinism or free-market capitalism can make it right. Greed and its attendant short-sightedness and exploitation are not building blocks for a successful, satisfying, and continuing culture. Just look around and listen, the sounds and sights of crumbling are everywhere. When the President of the U.S. is criticized for putting mustard on his cheeseburger, you know the end is probably in sight, or at least it ought to be.

“Capital is dead labor, which, vampire-like, lives only by sucking living labor, and lives the more, the more labor it sucks.”
Karl Marx

TILT: There is evidence that camelina was grown in Europe 3,000 years ago.