Monday, June 29, 2009

Obama's unbelievable hypocrisy

Welsh artist gets grant
to make plaster casts
of women’s bottoms.

The unbelievable hypocrisy of President Barack Obama is more than I can bear. He has come out with a statement that says the U.S. is committed to punishing torturers and helping the victims. And he has listed some countries believed to be offenders. He has vowed to uphold the International rules about torture and said that the U.S. will accept no excuses for torture, no exceptions. Except, of course, when it comes to the U.S. itself and the obvious case of Bush/Cheney torture policy. He continues to oppose a Truth Commission or an Independent Investigator and insist we must look only forward. Apparently his main reason for this is that he does not want to appear vindictive. Got that? He will not prosecute known war criminals because he does not want to appear vindictive. He apparently believes this is in the same universe as someone stealing his basketball or cheating at bridge. THESE ARE WAR CRIMES OF THE FIRST MAGNITUDE! Thousands of people have been killed, both Americans and Iraqis, millions displaced from their homes, who knows how many tortured and even murdered, human misery too immense to be grasped by the human mind, and he’s worried about being seen as vindictive? What kind of person is he? Actually, to claim he doesn’t want to be seen as vindictive is really just a cover story for what is the real reason, politics. To act against Bush/Cheney and their torture machine would be used by some to paint Obama as vindictive, conveniently ignoring the underlying reality of the torture. Torture is illegal and is supposed to be punished under the law. In some sense, in the very nature of law, prosecutions are always vindictive. Obama wants to jettison morality and justice in favor of politics, as he knows that to do what is right in this case will threaten to split the country. The neocons and Republicans will accuse him of being vindictive, of course, as they have abandoned morality and justice long ago in favor of power. Thus from a purely political view Obama is doing what he feels he needs to do, but he must know that what he is doing is just plain wrong in a moral and legal sense. Perhaps he can get away with letting this terrible moment in our history just fade away, and let the obviously guilty go unpunished, but if he does he certainly won’t ever get another vote from me. Of course I would never vote for a Republican, I just won’t vote, and I know there are others who feel much the same way.

I knew it would just be a matter of time before there would be a problem with knives. There is apparently some attempt to change the definition of switchblade knives that would potentially outlaw quite a large number of knives. There have been rules about switchblades which cover only knives that open with a button so they can be operated with one hand. The NRA (who else, of course) is arguing that changing the definition might even apply to Swiss Army Knives (although I don’t see how) and many other knives as well, which would, in their logic, seriously affect hunters. To me this is just another tempest in a (hot) teapot. If you have ever been in stores that specialize in hunting equipment, guns, and knives, you will know that there are usually dozens, sometimes even hundreds of knives of all kinds. Some of these knives are, in fact, hunting knives, useful for skinning and dressing game, and some are various versions of useful pocket knives. But there are also many, many knives that obviously have no purpose whatsoever other than as potential weapons, knives so huge as to be useless for any other purpose, and knives designed obviously for stabbing, ripping, frightening, and whatever. Occasionally you see knives with a handle of brass knuckles. Many of these knives, indeed, probably most of them, are not particularly sharp, are not of very good quality, and are mostly for show. Some of them are engraved and sometimes dedicated to someone like Kit Carson or Daniel Boone or whomever. I understand there are large numbers of people who collect these knives, just as there are people who collect swords. I am certain there is a large element of fantasy involved in the interest and ownership of knives, probably often a carryover from the wooden swords and knives that fascinate children. You do read about occasional stabbings but never with the same emotion as deaths from handguns. Knives do not seem to me to have been (or are) much of a problem. To single out switchblades from this mass of potentially lethal hardware strikes me as absurd. And banning knives in general would obviously be absurd. If banning switchblades makes anyone feel safer, fine, but in the overall context of the universe of knives and knife lovers it is simply rather fruitless, even petty. What would come next, forks?

Mishaps are like knives, that either serve us or cut us, as we grasp them by the blade or the handle.
James Russell Lowell

The Appaloosa is the official horse of the state of Idaho.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Corelli's Mandolin - book

Corelli’s Mandolin, by Louis de Bernieres (Vintage International, 1994).

I rarely read novels anymore, but having time while trying to recover from a terrible bout of Strep Throat, I read this one. Having read it, I decided to comment on it, although it is now some fifteen years old and has been widely reviewed and praised. It has also been translated into more than fifteen languages and was also made into a motion picture.

If you read the comments from various sources, you will find the book has virtually everything: “Brims with all the grand topics of literature – love and death, heroism and skullduggery, humor and pathos, not to mention art and religion…” Then more: “de Bernieres dances nimbly from bawdy humor through parody, satire, chronicle, idyll, romantic comedy and epic chant.” Still more: “His work encompasses cruelty, humor, love and friendship, hope and horror…”
It seems virtually nothing is left out of this tour de force of a novel and it has received high praise indeed. It has within it everything mentioned above and more. It offers a most interesting look at the Italian occupation of Greece as well as some observations on Italian, Greek, and German military prowess and interaction. There is a humorous and rather insulting portrait of Mussolini as well as a not very flattering picture of the Italian army. It features some marvelous characters. On the one hand it is a novel of considerable complexity, but the basic story is simple, revolving around four main characters: An intelligent and philosophical “doctor,” his beautiful and somewhat willful daughter, her Greek fisherman fiancé, and Captain Corelli, the mandolin playing Italian army officer who falls in love with her (the eternal triangle). There are other well-created but somewhat less important characters as well: A huge homosexual man who has to hide his sexuality and love, a physically unattractive older woman, the mother of the fiancé, a small girl who challenges the doctor to do things he would not otherwise do.

I confess that I truly enjoyed this book and it lived up to the descriptions of it above. I must also confess that I found it rather “weird,” for want of a better word. I think the reason for this may lie in the fact that the book does contain so many different themes and so many different styles or forms. For example, in the first chapter, and in other places also, I began to wonder if it was a serious novel being written in the style of Max Schulman. On a couple of occasions I wondered if the author was sitting there with his worn Thesaurus by his side. There were moments when I thought the humor was perhaps out of place or inappropriate. Sometimes I thought the author was trying to do too much in a single novel. At times it appeared to me the author was employing humor to compensate for the more horrific and realistic scenes that were to follow. I found it truly strange that the two leading men both disappeared from the text for a long time. The fiancé fights for the Greeks although we hear very little of him for long periods of time. His rival, Captain Corelli, also disappeared for quite a long time. One rather expected there would ultimately be a confrontation between the two, but conveniently, a contrived ending manages to solve this problem. I guess you might say the book has a happy ending, but it depends upon your particular interpretation. I thought it was a strange ending, having the two men appear as they did, having been gone so long, and I actually began to wonder if the author had actually planned it that way or just remembered to retrieve the two men at the last minute.

None of this kept me from enjoying the story and I believe I actually learned something from it, especially about a theatre of operations I knew little about. I also thought that many of the doctor’s observations on life and love and death were quite profound. As de Bernieres was both young and English when he produced this complex tale, he could have had little actual experience with either the characters or the situations. I am fascinated with how he managed to write such a remarkable tale and cannot help but wonder how it came about. I have not seen the movie but I believe this might be a case where the movie is better than the book, mostly because the movie would not be able to cope with the complexity of the book and thus would be a more straightforward and purer tale. My son, a true movie aficionado, assures me this is the case.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

What's in a name?

Running red light, improper
lane change, no seat belt, 100
pounds of marijuana in casket.

What’s in a name? This can be a problem. For example, my name is Lewis. I have never liked it. My entire name is even worse but that is not for here. No one else in my Elementary School or High School was named Lewis. They all had real names like Jim, Bob, Tom, Dick, Joe, Pete, and such. I always thought Lewis was a sissy name. But I’m not certain I just had a sissy name or if I was really a sissy. And, as I recall, the villain in the book Little Women, I believe was named Lewis. That bothered me for years. Now that Lewis Black is doing so well I feel a little better about things. But anyway, this is not just my problem. I know lots of people who do not like their names for one reason or another. I know a young man named Julian. He wants to be called Jack. He thinks that is more masculine. I also had a friend once named Harold. Harold, for reasons I do not understand, is actually funny. Elmer, too, is funny, as are Louie and Archibald. Anyway, Harold wanted desperately to have a nickname. He was a small Jewish lad from somewhere in the Midwest, St. Louis or Kansas City or someplace like that, and could probably be fairly described as a kind of milquetoast. He wanted to be nicknamed “Spike.” He was serious. Everyone he tried this out on became hysterical.

There are, of course, some names that have problems just built in to them. Dick, comes to mind. Dick, like Harold is just funny to begin with, but as a slang term for penis it becomes even funnier. John, too has come to have its own problem, like “I have to go to the John.” And guys like me, who want to go by Lew, run into the same problem, especially in England. Sometimes it is the context that renders someone’s name problematical. When I was in High School, for example, during WWII, we had a classmate named Adolf. Adolf was an unusual name in the U.S. even then, but in the context of the war, poor Adolf was absolutely miserable, and through no fault of his own. Similarly, we had a girl named Goldie Glasscock. Now having such a name in our rough little town was bad enough, but Goldie also had the misfortune of being blond, nice looking, really stacked, and looking older than her years. I doubt that a day went by that poor Goldie didn’t suffer from her name. Having struggled with Lewis all my life I have developed empathy for people with strange names and never make fun of them. Indeed, I often truly admire them, especially if they are names of longstanding, like Featherstone, Sidebottom, or Snodgrass, or even Hogg, Snipes, Marx, Pratt or Butts. I admire them even more if they have family names that are unusual or embarrassing but refuse to change them.

There are lots of foreign names that Americans regard as terribly funny. But to deal with them I believe is cheating. And it is possible, of course, to change your name if you wish. Many people do, especially people in show business. W. C. Fields I believe was born William Claude Dukinfield. Jack Benny was born Benjamin Kubelsky, John Wayne as Marion Robert Morrison, Cary Grant as Archibald Alec Leach, and Marilyn Monroe as Norma Jean Mortenson. Sometimes, especially in the early days of the 20th century, people sometimes changed their names so as to be not easily identified as Jewish. Sometimes people changed their names to make them fit better on a marquee. Sometimes the studios changed their names for them. I don’t know if it makes much sense, but it does seem to me that Norma Jean Mortenson or Benjamin Kubelsky would not have helped. Some people change their names for the simple reason they are too common, or because they don’t like the diminutives. Patricia might not like to be Pat. Joseph John might not like to become J.J., and Theodore might not like being called Teddy. Short of changing your name legally there is not much you can do about your name or nickname. And you don’t always get to pick your nickname, sometimes people just do it for you and you are stuck with it. “Kid Slick,” for example, or “Charlie the Hook,” or “Fat Albert,” or “Red Grange.”

There do seem to be names that are so ideally suited for their purposes as to be virtually magical. Could there possibly be a better name for a football quarterback than Joe Montana? How about Sugar Ray Robinson for a great boxing champion? These names just seem to fit somehow. Billie Jean King for a woman tennis champion? To me it just seems right. And there are nicknames that seem to fit also, think of Satchmo, Satchel, Tiger, Dizzy, Two-Ton Tony, Radar, Cher, Babe, The Little Tramp, Chico, Harpo, and Groucho, and many more.

Often someone changes their name to something so strange, obvious, or common you immediately recognize it as a change. If someone wants to change their name to “Uncle Sam,” for example, or even “Jesus Christ” you would recognize it for what it was. I recently came across the name “Crescent Dragonwagon” that I thought was unusually creative. There really is such a woman, a writer with many books to her credit. I think she is a musician as well. I have no idea what the background of this name change was but she has been successful with it. It wouldn’t do for me, it has too many letters, in general, I like shorter names. Even so, you have to admit it’s a pretty great name.

In rare cases someone has a name that fits them perfectly. Joe Montana I already mentioned, but others as well. I may be entirely wrong about this, but I believe I could pick out of a crowd someone with a name like Polly Pudlak, Bennie Groseclose, Uno Johnson, or Ivan Sebastian, even if they were not wearing their name tags. These strike me as the kinds of names that just have to fit.

I cannot tell you why, but I have envied the name Otis Birdsong since the day I first heard it. He was born Otis Birdsong, actually Otis Lee Birdsong, and as you may know was a great professional basketball player. There is a purity or something about the name that has always attracted me to it. I wish my name could have been Otis Birdsong instead of Lewis Langness, but, then, it probably wouldn’t have mattered much. Otis Birdsong has that ring to it, such a lovely name. I don’t believe a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.

“He had a conservative mind but a liberal penis.”
Jon Stewart

The octopus is the most highly intelligent invertebrate.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Obama and torture

Jealous rage and simple
misunderstanding result in
death of innocent woman.

Since 1997, June 26th has been set aside as a day to reflect on and help victims of torture. Leaders from around the globe usually make statements condemning torture. This certainly put Obama in an awkward situation. He had to make a statement condemning torture while at the same time doing absolutely nothing to hold our already confessed torturers accountable. I absolutely cannot understand Obama’s refusal to go along with a Truth Commission or Independent Investigator or whatever. Bush/Cheney have admitted to torture and even go around boasting about it and how effective it was. Both Obama and Holder have said waterboarding is torture. They know it happened. They know who authorized it. They know other forms of torture were also involved. And yet they do nothing about it. I find this not only impossible to understand but also infuriating. More importantly, as I understand it, their failure to take action on this is both illegal and unconstitutional, and in effect makes them also guilty. I might be able to understand Obama’s failure to end don’t ask, don’t tell, I might also forgive him for his opposition to gay marriage, his failure to act on gun control, and perhaps even his inaction towards ending the ridiculous war on drugs. But I will never forgive him if he fails to deal with the war criminals flaunting their crimes right in front of him, never. Furthermore, if he doesn’t take action against Bush/Cheney/Rumsfeld/Rice/et al, I will never vote for him again even if he solves the economic crisis, gets universal health care, ends all the wars, and walks on water. What he is doing (or failing to do) is not only illegal and unconstitutional, it is immoral. Politics may trump morality for our current administration and Congress, but it doesn’t for me.

Of course we don’t have to concern ourselves with this, or much of anything else, because we’ll always have Michael Jackson (for no doubt a very long time), and also (at least for a while) Governor Sanford, who is now comparing himself to King David of biblical fame. Appealing to the bible seems to be one of the standard practices for these hypocrites when they get caught. I guess they think they deserve to be forgiven because they read (or have read) the bible at some time or other. This actually seems to work in some cases. I’ll be surprised if it works for Sanford.
Are there still fools who listen to that fat bucket of slop, Rush Limbaugh? I mean, really, he has become so far out and divorced from reality that I would think anyone would see it by now. His latest blathering pig pucky is that Obama caused Sanford to cheat on his wife in Argentina. How pathetic does someone have to become before being abandoned? And why does the media keep giving time to hopeless creeps like Coulter, Hannity, Beck, and Gingrich?

I suspect that Rachel Maddow’s absence from her show last night and tonight was purely serendipitous, but I would like to think that she simply refused to go along with the Michael Jackson marathon. My TV viewing for some time now has been Olberman/Maddow and Stewart/Colbert, but I think it is about to become just Maddow and Colbert. Maybe I can eventually give it up entirely. Oh, happy day!

I seek an
innocent country.
Giuseppe Ungaretti

The adults of cutworms are night flying moths that do no damage.

Thursday, June 25, 2009


Man in miniskirt, fishnet stockings
and heels, arrested for hiding and
watching porn in weight room.

We have a real problem with “news.” First of all, definitions of news are not helpful. You find definitions like “material that is newsworthy,” or “announcements of recent events,” or “what appears in a newspaper,” and so on. Thus it appears that anything and everything can be news, and is. It is not clear to me who decides on what is news. Do reporters decide on their own what is news? Probably in some cases, but in others, like on TV, there is probably an editor who oversees things and decides what is news. It appears to me there are no ground rules for news, or for how important any particular piece of news is, or for how long it stays news, or whether something is considered news at all. More often than not it seems to me news is determined by whatever someone thinks the public will want to hear about, and for how long. I find this whole business about news to be completely unsatisfactory. Today is a great case in point. If you are deaf, dumb, and blind, and live somewhere in the remote wilds of British Columbia under a rock, a hundred or more miles from the nearest burg, have no radio, TV, or telephone, you might not have heard that Michael Jackson died. Michael Jackson, you know, the used-to-be and recently wanna-be-again “pop star.”

I mean no disrespect to the now deceased, but I must question why his unexpected death is of such overwhelming importance that it displaced all other news for hours on end. Even Keith Olberman, who I like to think is a more conscientious newscaster than most, spent his entire hour on this topic, and then went on into Rachel Maddow’s hour as well. He repeated I don’t know how many times that Michael Jackson died at precisely 2:26 p.m. We also heard over and over again that he was not quite 51 years of age. Then there was a kind of review of his life, pictures of him as a boy, and on and on. Now here is where I think there should be some ground rules for the News. Olberman (and others) should simply have reported that Michael Jackson died unexpectedly of a massive heart failure at 2:26 p.m. If you are interested in any further details there will no doubt be retrospectives from now until doomsday. In the meanwhile in Iran today…Benjamin Netanhayu said…Things are not going well in Afghanistan…and so on. I simply do not believe that the death of Michael Jackson (God bless him) is so important it should dwarf all other news. And if people are really that interested in the details they should be able to find them later (and believe me, they will be able to). They should have said the same thing about the death of Farrah Fawcett – she died today of cancer. She was 62. All the details will be forthcoming shortly. In the meanwhile…

The MSM seems to be determined to force news on us that we don’t require and in many cases probably don’t even want. Why for example, should they start covering a car chase when they say they don’t know who is driving, why they are chasing him or her, what it is all about, and so on. Why can’t they say (if they must), there is a car chase. When we find out something about it we’ll tell you about it. In the meanwhile…Ditto for train wrecks, hostage situations, and what have you. Just say there is one, we don’t know anything about it yet, when we do we’ll let you know. In the meanwhile…They simply refuse to do this, they just begin speculating about everything which then later turns out to have been completely false. The Columbine case is a classic in this respect. It is not that there is no news of importance elsewhere, it’s because the Newspapers and Networks don’t want to spend the money to actually cover the news when it’s so much cheaper to just focus on nonsense that will keep the public entertained. The net effect of this is, we just don’t really have any news anymore. What becomes news is what is in the paper or on the TV, not what is actually happening around the world. We are not better off for this, and it is almost surely the case that the average American knows far less about current events than most Europeans and Iranians. The motto for American newspeople seems to be “keep ‘em empty-headed and fat.”

Editor: a person employed by a newspaper, whose business it is to separate the wheat from the chaff, and to see that the chaff is printed.
Elbert Hubbard

Goldfish were kept as ornamental fish in China for hundreds of years prior to the 15th century.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Family values

French policeman cuts off
wife’s lover’s penis with box
cutter, then hangs himself.

Another holier-than-thou family values Republican hypocrite confesses to an affair. Mark Sanford, Governor of South Carolina, mysteriously missing for six days, reportedly hiking on the Appalachian Trail, finally surfaced and, to what seemed like a surprise to everyone, confessed to infidelity in Argentina. He resigned as the leader of the Republican Governors’Association but has not yet resigned as Governor (and most probably won’t). Republicans, of course, ignoring the hypocrisy involved in their family values shtick, began praising him for “standing up like a man and admitting it,” and so on. Personally, I don’t care if our Congresspersons have affairs, or even mistresses, as so many European politicians do. Indeed, I would be surprised if most of them (on both sides of the aisle) aren’t either closet homosexuals or are presently having affairs. What does truly irritate me is the Republicans constant claim to be the party of “family values,” (think Larry Craig, Bob Allen, Ted Haggard and Mark Foley), and their treatment of others like Bill Clinton for the same behavior they themselves indulge in (think Gingrich, Livingston, Edwards, Ensign, Vitter, now Sanford, and many, many more). I doubt that Sanford will resign as Governor. Actually, I don’t think he should. He’s probably a lousy Governor but the fact that he had an affair doesn’t necessarily mean he can’t continue to govern. Of course when the whole truth comes out, it could be the case that he inappropriately used taxpayer or Republican Party money for his dalliances, as apparently did Ensign, but that is a somewhat different matter. It’s the hypocrisy, stupid!

I absolutely disapprove of making Sanford’s love emails public. I think it is entirely unfair that his private communications are being read to a national TV audience. His or her expressions of love should not be the subject of ridicule anymore than anyone else’s. Apparently at least one newspaper had them for months but chose not to release them until just now. It seems to me it’s like kicking someone when they are already down. What is the point of releasing them other than to just deliberately and sadistically humiliate someone. It’s enough that Sanford admitted to an adulterous affair, no doubt being warned that the emails might be released, we don’t need all the gratuitous and intimate details. On the other hand, I guess it could be argued that the Republicans brought it on themselves with their unprecedented attack on Bill Clinton and the unbelievably shabby Starr report with its unnecessary and sleazy detail. What goes around, comes around? Clinton may have been a womanizer but he wasn’t a hypocrite, which is much more than one can say of Republicans. I must say I have lost some respect for Olberman and Maddow who both seemed to delight in revealing the gratuitous details of a private affair of the heart. Just because they committed adultery doesn’t mean they did not have genuine feelings for each other, as was obviously not the case for Vitter or others simply employing prostitutes for their pleasure.

Dick the Slimy finally landed a book deal, two million dollars worth. It’s going to be a real hum-dinger because the editor-in-chief is none other than Mary Matalan who used to be Cheney’s aide. Between the two of them they will be able to create the largest web of lies ever assembled in a single book, with apparently no one else with editorial authority over them. I am not ordinarily in favor of book banning (or burning) but I think this one should be boycotted by everyone, unless, of course, you cannot resist fiction that goes even beyond even ordinary fiction.

Hypocrisy can afford to be magnificent in its promises; for never intending to go beyond promises; it costs nothing.
Edmund Burke

Field mice are intelligent and, given time, will develop a strategy before doing something.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

How hard is it...

Police search for naked man
who ran between server and
car to steal fast-food order.

How hard can things be? I don’t know enough about our government and laws to know offhand just what a President can do and what he can’t do, or how easy some things can be done. What I do know is there are lots of people who want President Obama to do certain things, preferably now. For example, there is this Air Force pilot with eighteen years in the service, nine awards, including one for bravery in combat, and who has flown 88 combat missions. He is being kicked out of the service because he announced that he was gay. None of his squadron members want him out, nor, it seems, do most other servicepersons. His fate at the moment is up in the air. Now it seems to me that Obama ought to be able to at least suspend “don’t ask, don’t tell,” until Congress can do away with it, thus sparing this hero from being discharged (two years before he could retire, among other things). Although Obama previously claimed he would actively support gays and lesbians, so far he has done very little along those lines. I believe that a majority of Americans would be in favor of doing away with this gay bashing in the military, and while some might be angry if Obama took action, most probably would not. And you know you can’t please everyone. This would probably even apply if Obama were to actively seek to legalize gay marriages. Of course in this case Obama is not himself in favor of gay marriage, but everyone knows it is just a question of time. He could certainly move it along without damaging himself too much.

Similarly, what about the glaring and ridiculous loophole that allows people to buy guns with no background check at gun shows? Obama could probably eliminate this, perhaps even with a stroke of the pen, or could at least insist that Congress fix this obvious problem now. Granted this would irritate the NRA no end, but their position on this is so glaringly absurd I cannot see how it could cost Obama much in the way of popularity, the NRA can’t stand him anyway. He could probably reinstate the ban on fully automatic guns as well, as the NRA position here is as absurd as their insistence that people should have loaded guns in the National Parks and even in church.

How about legalizing marijuana? There is more and more talk of this now, especially in California where they can no longer afford to fill their prisons with pot smokers. And Barney Frank is working on the legalization of the weed as well. I suspect that here again the American public is way ahead of our Congress on this issue and Obama could probably get away with legalizing it. In fact, he might even gain in popularity by doing so. I don’t know precisely what he can do, but I know that he could do something to bring this about more quickly than it will otherwise happen.
I realize that Obama has an overfull plate already, but the above three things I should think would be so easy to do he could probably accomplish them with a minimum of effort. Obviously Universal Health Care, an Energy Bill, the Economy, two “wars,” Immigration reform, and war criminals are not things he could personally affect as easily, or quickly, and there would be more profound repercussions. I am content to know that he is working on these more important issues (except the war crimes), and in general I support these efforts, but I hate to see much more simpler things have to wait, especially as people continue to be hurt by them in the meantime.

I saw somewhere that the Uyghars were questioning the decision to send them to Palau. This makes me wonder if anyone even asked them if they wanted to go there, probably not. I wonder about the three that were sent to Bermuda. Were they asked? Somewhere I heard it said that they were each given $100,000. I wonder if that is true. And if it is, is there some rule that says they have to stay in Bermuda? With that much money (even less than that) they could easily leave Bermuda and go elsewhere (except, do they have passports?). I’d like to know a lot more about how these relocations work. What do we say to these people whom we have so seriously damaged? "Well, we finally found someplace that has agreed to take you. It’s in the heart of the Belgian Congo but you’ll love it there, especially in the summer." Remember, these are only a few people, think of the millions that were displaced from their homes in Iraq (I suppose you could argue they are lucky to be alive). When I think of the horrible things brought on by Bush/Cheney, all of the killings, tortures, displacements, and so on, I confess I cannot understand why they are not being tried for war crimes. The thought they will not be held accountable troubles me far more than being conned by the banks or losing my IRA. If I were a praying man I would pray every night for justice. Bush/Cheney et al, belong in jail, not blathering on TV.

"I don't know why we are here, but I'm pretty sure that it is not in order to enjoy ourselves."
- Ludwig Wittgenstein

A group of badgers is called a cete.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Sic 'em, Barack

Man breaks into restaurant,
feasts on lobster and wine,
is arrested asleep on bench.

Could there ever be a concerted attack on a President more blatantly political and utterly useless than the current criticism of Obama by right-wing Republicans? Lindsey Graham, John McCain and others keep insisting that Obama is not doing enough about the Iranian situation. Graham says he’s “weak,” and his close buddy, McCain, says he needs to be stronger, and so on. It is not at all clear what it is that Obama could do that he has not already done, short of sending in the American military, or perhaps personally strangling the Ayatolla or something even more drastic. Virtually everyone of sound mind, including many important Republicans, have come out in support of Obama and believe he has handled the situation in the best way possible. It is perfectly obvious there is nothing he can do other than what he has done. But that doesn’t keep McCain and the neocons from constantly carping at him to do more. They seem to be saying “sic ‘em, Barack,” hoping to provoke as much trouble as possible. Obama, much to his credit, has so far just ignored these mindless loonies. As there is apparently considerable evidence that in spite of some irregularies, Ahmadenijad did, in fact, win the election, this is all the more reason for Obama to proceed cautiously. It appears the Republican noise is just another manifestation of the Republican strategy to never cooperate and to consistently try to destroy the Obama administration. So, so much for the national or public good, it’s all about the Republicans and what’s good for them. The neocons and some of the others simply cannot come to grips with the fact that they lost.

Speaking of such things, whatever happened to the idea of the public good or public well-being? It seems this is a concept totally foreign to today’s Congresspersons. It appears that the Senate, for example, is going to try to destroy any attempt to create a public program for health care that would in any way compete with private health insurance. They are doing this in spite of the fact that fully three quarters of the American public want the public plan, and some 57% even say they would be willing to pay more in taxes to have it. Our Senators, however, bought and paid for by the Insurance and Pharmaceutical corporations, could care less what the American public wants, they’ve got theirs, so screw everyone else. It’s the American way.

Republican compassionate conservatism just breaks out all over the place. Cynthia Davis, some kind of office holder in Missouri, has now suggested that no free meals should be provided during the summer for poor children. This, among other things, she says interferes with family integration (I guess because the kids eat while the parents go hungry), and besides, hunger acts as a motivator (so they can all go out and get jobs at McDonald’s where they will be fed). I guess she aspires to be the Michelle Bachman of Missouri. I bet hunger motivates a whole lot more than just getting a job at McDonald’s.

I have just witnessed what I believe may be the ultimate in capitalistic bad taste. There is an ad on TV now for Chia Obama, you know those little clay figures that get advertised every Christmas that you put the seeds on and they grow hair or fur or whatever. The Chia Obama is a sort of likeness of Obama (not a very good one), and when you put on the seeds it will grow an Afro of sorts. If I remember right, even WalMart has refused to sell this revolting example of profit at any cost. It is not only revolting, it is also insulting, but again, it’s the American way, anything to make a buck.

“Anyone, and especially a daughter, who could appear so virginal and sweet was quite obviously involved in mischiefs and misdemeanors.”
Louis De Bernieres

Certain species of weasel are said to perform a mesmerizing “weasel war dance” after fighting or stealing food.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Obama's next move?

Oklahoma man gets five years
for videotaping woman having
sex with dogs. She goes free.

Apparently our major media, along with our congress, and I assume probably the majority of Americans, simply cannot understand what it means to mind your own business. For example, a news program opened yesterday with the question, “What will Obama’s next move be?” I found this fascinating as it was my understanding that Obama was doing what he could to not make any moves at all. Indeed, he was receiving unrelenting criticism from Republicans (and others) for not making any moves. Perhaps he was making moves behind the scenes that I don’t know about, but I have to believe he was honestly trying to mind his own business. Congress voted something like 405 to 1 to support the Iranian opposition, even though we had very little information about what was actually going on there. Ron Paul, the only dissenting vote, pointed this out but, of course, no one pays any attention to common sense or Ron Paul. Obama seems to realize the importance of at least pretending to butt out of an internal Iranian problem, and has said that it should be left to Iranians to decide on their leaders. Remember, our CIA removed a democratically elected leader in Iran and installed the Shah, a move that proved to be disastrous and still has serious repercussions for our relations with Iran. But I guess McCain and others never learn and keep insisting it is somehow up to us to decide what other governments should do. This is just another example of “American Exceptionalism,” “White Man’s Burden,” “The Lone Superpower,” “We have to spread democracy around the world,” and the belief that we should be the world’s police force. As long as we continue to believe this we are not likely to be very successful at Foreign Policy. This is really just a more recent version of imposing Christianity through force as all Western-European nations routinely did, or attempted to do, for so many years. I believe that Obama has handled this Iranian crisis in the best way possible, but it is apparently inconceivable to most others that he should have done so. This is America after all, the best and greatest country on earth (with the 37th best Health Care, after Morocco, a lousy educational system, a terrible economic system based upon naked greed and runaway capitalism, and etc.).

There is talk now in certain places about privatizing water. What will the loonies think of next, privatizing air? What will it take to make people realize that there are certain things that are far too important to be privatized. Water is certainly one of them. Those that promote this use the standard arguments that government is too inefficient, the private sector would do it better, competition would result in a cheaper product, and blah, blah, blah. Any people stupid enough to allow their water to be privatized probably deserve to die of thirst. Look what the privatization of energy and medical care have done for us (if you can stand it).

Speaking of Universal Health Care, it doesn’t look too promising at the moment. The people who make their obscene profits from it have enough money to buy and sell our Congresspersons, and do. And as we no longer have anyone serving in public office motivated by anything as corny as the “public good,” the attempt to fix health care will probably go the way of the Dodo (as it always has). I believe that Bill Maher said it best last night, we no longer have a Democratic Party, what used to be the Democratic Party is now the Republican Party, and what used to be the Republican Party is now the Party of the Insane. Our current Democrats are every bit as deep in the pockets of big business as Republicans ever were, and significant change is not even on the horizon.

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

Spitting Cobras do not actually spit their venom but propel it with gusts of blown air as it leaves their fangs.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Republicans are so funny!

Unbeknownst to parents
British teenager paints sixty
foot phallus on rooftop.

Republicans are sooo funny! I hope they never regain any political power, not merely because their incompetence at governing is legendary, but because as a minority they are so absolutely hilarious. As comedy like this is not easily come by, sometimes I think they must be doing it on purpose, but apparently not. Consider their recently announced plan for Health Coverage, four pages, no numbers. None. I guess their four page stimulus package sans numbers was so successful they decided to try it again with Health Care. I know they are pretty dumb, but are they dumb enough to think that anyone else is dumb enough to take them seriously? Then I saw part of an interview with Republican Lamar Alexander who presented his view of what it would take to achieve universal health care. It’s really simple, according to him, you just find the people who can’t afford health care and give them four or five thousand dollars so they can buy health insurance. In case he might be misunderstood he repeated this solution several times. Poor Contessa Whats-her-face on MSNBC was so dumbfounded she was having trouble even trying to pose the next question. One might have thought that Alexander was just putting her on, but he seemed perfectly serious. Republicans are seemingly unaware there even is a problem with health care. Of course they are getting big bucks from Insurance and Pharmacy to be oblivious. It’s the American way.

I don’t know what is going on in Iran, except there is a lot of chaos and confusion. I (perversely, I guess) have a lot of respect for Iranians and Iranian intelligence. Thus I cannot figure out why things could have happened the way they are being reported. For example, I have seen several times that the results of the election were announced before the ballots could even have been counted. Now, if one seriously wanted to steal an election, would you do that? Of course not, that’s so stupid no one would believe they could get away with it, unless, of course, they felt they were so powerful they could repress any dissent. Then I saw where in some 30 towns the votes counted exceeded 100%. Again, that is so stupid no one would believe it could have been honest. All I know is that there are apparently some very high-level talks taking place and it is at least possible that the reigning powers may change. If they were as dumb as the above examples indicate, they certainly ought to be replaced.

George W. Bush, our only ex mildly retarded President, who has previously said he would not speak out about Obama, has now done so. In a speech last night to some business people he criticized Obama’s policies, although not Obama personally. Most of the comments I have seen about this seem to suggest that Bush, like Cheney, is trying to upgrade his legacy. While criticizing Obama’s policies, he attempts to put his own failed policies in a much better light, as if his policies have not already been revealed as dismal failures. Being of a most suspicious mind I don’t believe this is just about embellishing his legacy. I think he is taking a cue from Cheney and trying to make their criticisms all about politics. That is, if Obama were to act against them, they could make it appear to be entirely political, he’s going after them for political reasons rather than for the obvious war crimes they committed. And no doubt some segment of the public would buy this nonsense. They can’t very well go after Obama personally (although that too might conceivably work for them it would be seen as petty), and they can’t make much of a non-political fuss as that would leave them more vulnerable to investigation, so they make it all political, all about Obama’s policies. They could become political prisoners rather than major war criminals.

Digressions, objections, delight in mockery, carefree mistrust are signs of health; everything unconditional belongs in pathology.
Friedrich Nietzsche

Domestic pigs are known as sociable and intelligence and can be trained to do simple tricks and tasks.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

How Refreshing

Believing Wong Way was
sending wrong message, it has
been renamed Wong Street.

How refreshing to have a President who knows when to keep quiet and mind his own business. This controversy in Iran really is none of our business and Obama is wise indeed to stay out of it and let the Iranians work it out for themselves. What makes it all the better is the frustration it seems to be causing Republicans who somehow cannot conceive of letting sleeping dogs or other countries alone. They are all coming out strong about how we should be taking sides and denouncing the current Iranian regime thus, of course, compounding the problem. McCain in particular has come out with particularly strong denunciations of the Iranian government, making accusations that cannot but reinforce Iranian beliefs that we are determined on regime change for them. “Bomb, bomb, bomb Iran” is not a message we need to send at the moment. I’m somewhat surprised that McCain has not suggested an immediate attack. But will the Republicans let Obama conduct his foreign policy before they insist we take military action against a regime that is no threat to us? Mindless, predictable, Republican twits, every one of them.

So what’s with Obama anyway? It has just been announced that tomorrow he will send a memo allowing the same sex partners of Federal employees the same rights as heterosexual couples already have. This is a fine thing but very confusing, at least to me. Remember that just last Friday there was a big stink about his administration defending the asinine Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), and especially about the disgusting language that was used in defending it. This new plan certainly does not seem to be very consistent with DOMA. Was it just a mistake? Will Obama actually keep his word and eventually do away with it? For the most part Obama does great things, but then he seems to do something that seems completely out of character. For example, the White House is resisting making the list of visitors available. This seems very strange to me and I see no reason for it. Some say Obama, like all Presidents, just wants to preserve as much power as possible, but in this case that would seem to me to be so petty as to be unworthy of such motivation.

The one thing, above all others, that has me questioning Obama, is his apparent disinterest in investigating the war crimes of Bush/Cheney/Rumsfeld/Rice et al. These crimes were so blatant, and there is so much evidence, and they were so horrible, I simply cannot believe that Obama is not going to hold these ghouls accountable. But so far there is no indication that he will, he just keeps wiggling out of his constitutional responsibility by “looking to the future.” If he persists in ignoring his duty to investigate and prosecute these criminals, nothing else he can do, no matter how wonderful, can make up for it. You cannot just let bygones be bygones when it comes to crimes so heinous, so deliberate, so completely wrong. This is more than just a matter of law, it strikes at the very basis of morality and justice.

Every ten days or so I speak on the phone with my friend in Tempe. He lives, as I do, surrounded mostly by right-wingers, and we commiserate with each other on that score. But as he is about my age we also discuss problems of growing old. It is said that 20% of the population has 80% of the illnesses. Unhappily, my friend falls into that 20%, whereas I, for whatever reason do not. He is thinking of getting a button made that says “I’m a 20 per-center and proud of it,” as he has fought the good fight for a long time. I feel guilty that I seem to be so much better off (I’m knocking on wood as I speak). In any case we have been thinking of bumper stickers for the elderly. While the possibilities are endless: “Driver Falling Apart,” “Driver Protected by Medicare,” “Beware, Octogenarian,” “Forgot Where I was Going,” and so on, we have more or less agreed that “Deteriorating Graciously” would be the most suitable.

“Love itself is what is left over when being in love has burned away, and this is both an art and a fortunate accident.”
Louis De Bernieres

Merkeets have no body fat and must forage daily.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Go Down Together - book

Go Down Together the True, Untold Story of Bonnie and Clyde, by Jeff Guinn (Simon and Schuster, 2009). Like the Columbine book I recently reviewed, this book about the short and unhappy lives of Bonnie and Clyde, and their roughly two year crime spree, will almost certainly become the definitive account of that unhappy and murderous time. Guinn has done a fine and thorough job of researching the lives of Bonnie and Clyde and presents a remarkably detailed account of their movements during their heyday. The book is most interesting and important in several different ways.

First, people can dispense with any ideas they may have that Bonnie and Clyde lived a life of romance and glamour, eating and dressing well and living lives of relative luxury. Aside from very brief moments when they had money to buy decent clothes and occasionally have a sit-down dinner in a restaurant, they spent most of their time sleeping in the cars they had stolen and eating canned beans and Vienna sausages, or, at best, ordering takeout sandwiches from roadside cafes. Often forced to flee at short notice, they had to leave all their possessions behind and could not replace them until they could steal more money. At one point they were actually reduced to temporarily wearing sheets.

Second, they are not well described as bank robbers. They only occasionally tried to hold up banks and sometimes failed. Even when successful they never netted what would be considered a truly big haul. In fact, they preyed mostly on gas stations and grocery stores, getting barely enough money to keep going to the next one. John Dillinger, when asked, dismissed them rather contemptuously as “a couple of kids stealing grocery money.” Baby-face Nelson refused to have anything to do with them.

They were, basically, just “a couple of kids…,” but very complicated ones whose story is, on the one hand, somewhat easy to understand, but on the other hand, not at all easy to understand. The many murders they were involved in gives what I believe is a somewhat distorted view of what they were like. You must understand that with two exceptions Clyde was never involved in premeditated murder. And the two exceptions can easily be seen as entirely justified homicide, if not self-defense. While Clyde was in prison he was brutally and repeatedly beaten and raped by a sadistic inmate. He finally killed the man by hitting him with a lead pipe. It was this early experience that made him vow to never go back to prison. On a later occasion he assisted a friend to murder a similarly sadistic person for revenge. All the other murders he was involved in (supposedly or not) occurred when trying to resist arrest and were sometimes not even done by him but, rather, by other gang members. In fact, on more than one occasion Clyde preferred to take police or sheriffs into custody, treating them well, and quickly releasing them. He also, even at great risk, kept in touch with his family, visiting them periodically in secret, bringing them gifts, and maintaining close family ties that were of great importance to him. He adored his mother who stuck by him to the end. He was loyal to his friends and often helped them in important ways, such as breaking them out of jail, among other things.

This book is a classic, textbook case, for those who believe that criminals are made rather than born. After reading it there is no doubt in my mind that Clyde was forced by poverty and circumstances into a criminal career, especially after his initial brush with law enforcement. Dirt poor, living in squalor in West Dallas, where he could see into Dallas and the much better life possible there, he began by stealing cars. Caught and sent to one of the worst Texas prisons, where he was terribly abused and thought he might die from the unending and grueling work (he was really quite small), he cut off two of his toes to escape the worst of the work. Upon his release he was constantly picked up and questioned by the police, harassed almost daily, and literally driven to his brief life of crime.

Then, of course, there was Bonnie, a small, pretty, delicate child born into poverty who aspired to a better life. She married early to a man who soon deserted her. She fantasized about becoming a star and seeing her name in lights. She wanted desperately to be famous and have a better life. When she met Clyde it was apparently love at first sight. She fastened herself to him and stuck with him no matter what the hardships and dangers. She had many opportunities to leave him and the life of crime, along with the unremitting fear of capture and prison, but she never did. Even when towards the end her leg was seriously damaged in a car wreck and she was in constant pain she stuck it out. Before it was over she could only hop on one leg and Clyde would have to carry her, but he, too, stuck with her to the end. It was Bonnie who said they would “go down together,” as they did, finally betrayed by one of their gang members. She was 23, Clyde was 24, just “a couple of kids.”

This is really a fine book, readable, exciting, informative, and well worth your time (if that is, you have any interest in such things).

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Enough already!

Ohio man gets nine years
for repeatedly stealing
women’s underwear.

So enough already! Is everyone crazy? What’s with this nonstop MSM coverage of the ridiculous exchange between Sara Palin and David Letterman? This is just another example of our so-called news media ignoring the real news of the world in favor of utter drivel. Yes, David Letterman said some things that were inappropriate. Actually, they were not only inappropriate, they were downright stupid. But, hey, David Letterman is paid millions of dollars annually for saying stupid and inappropriate things. He’s been doing it for years. While he has acknowledged that what he said was offensive he hasn’t really apologized. He says he was commenting on Palin’s eighteen year-old daughter who has already been “knocked up,” but Sara, not one to let any opportunity slip by for publicity and the public eye, insists he must have been talking about her fourteen year-old. This has given her an opportunity to portray herself as a great champion of the rights of young women. Not satisfied with a good thing, Palin has now raised the level of idiocy by suggesting outrageously that her daughters might not even be safe around Letterman.

Letterman said something stupid and offensive, just like he does night after night. His writers must have trouble finding lines night after night. Apparently they have no one with the good sense to say, hey, that’s stupid, when they should. I’m not a fan of Letterman, never watch him (and only very rarely watch Leno), largely because I believe his humor is basically stupid. But Palin should have left it alone after the initial complaints. But think of all the free publicity she would have missed, and she has never been adverse to exploiting her children for political purposes. I find quite terrifying the fact that there are people who actually see her as Presidential material. This is just another symptom of a truly sick society.

At least the MSM did manage to inform us that people in Iran were rioting in the streets to protest what they believe was a stolen election. And there does seem reason to believe that it was indeed stolen. This controversy will no doubt continue for several days but we are unlikely to get an unbiased view of it all. It would seem to me, however, that no matter how it finally comes out, the young people of Iran have made it very clear they are unsatisfied with the status quo and crave a better relationship with the West.

Curiously, none of the Doctors I have encountered in the past couple of years belong to the American Medical Association. And they all claim (at least) to be in favor of a single-payer health care system. My friends tell me the same thing about their doctors. So, although the AMA is supposed to be the single largest Medical Organization in existence, it pretty clearly does not represent all Doctors. From the days of Franklin Delano Roosevelt (if not even before) until now, the AMA has opposed all attempts to create a viable universal health care plan. They claim mostly, I think, that they don’t want any interference with the patient/doctor relationship, but what they really want, of course, is to protect their profits. As one of their principles is supposed to be the promotion of public health, one wonders how their resistance to any change in the system for the better does that. Anyway, between the AMA, the Insurance companies, and the Pharmaceutical industry, you can bet they will do anything and everything to torpedo public expectations for a decent health care system.

Extremism is the pursuit of nonsense is no vice. Now the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals want the fishmongers at the Pike Place Market in Seattle to stop throwing dead salmon to each other. They say it is disrespectful to the fish. I suspect they would rather we not catch and eat the salmon in the first place but, as we do, we are not treating them with enough respect (they are, of course, dead). I agree that we should treat all animals (even fish) with respect, but, really, I think this idea is going too far. I guess they would have the fisherman transport the fish to each other in special cases built for the utmost in comfort. While this would slow down sales and packaging, especially if they had to stop for religious rites on the way, I guess it would show more respect. What I wonder about is People for the Ethical Treatment of Plants. It seems to me that plants are often truly brutalized. Think of carrots, for example, ripped out of mother earth, aborted, that is, before maturity, at the whims of humans. These are not fetal carrots but full-grown adults with deep roots and a history of belonging. We can’t hear them but I’m certain they must be screaming in agony. The same thing is true of rutabegas and turnips. Parsnips must have a stronger union as we are told they must be dug rather than jerked. Some would say that carrots and turnips are not truly sentient and have no feelings, but how does anyone know that? Has anyone ever been a carrot or a turnip? How about a parsnip?

I am sorry that plants and animals have to give up their lives for mine. But unless we learn how to exist purely on inanimate objects that’s the way it is. Remember, when people still lived close to nature, and knew where their food came from, there were rituals of thanks to the animals and crops. Giving thanks to cans of beans, cartons of milk and tins of sardines and corned beef is not the same thing.

Thought: Why does man kill? He kills for food. And not only food: frequently there must be a beverage.
Woody Allen

Carrots were first cultivated in Afghanistan. They were every color except orange, and very often purple. The Dutch created the orange carrot during the Middle Ages.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Paradigm shift

Argentine man tried for
passing counterfeit bills
acquitted for incompetence.

Change, for human societies, is always difficult. But the most difficult changes of all involves major paradigmatic shifts. Think how difficult it was for humans to deal with what was once termed the four great blows to man’s ego. The Copernican revolution was truly a massive shift from an earth centered universe to a heliocentric one and, as you will recall, did not occur easily or overnight. Darwin’s theory of evolution was a similar blow when we had to confront the fact that we were just as much part of the animal kingdom as other animals. Freud, of course, demonstrated that far from being the rational beings we believed we were, we were subject to all kinds of unconscious and emotional constraints we had not previously thought about. Then, as the great age of (European) exploration began, and as more and more information was gathered about other peoples and their behavior, it became clear that values were not fixed and unchanging as we tended to believe, but were, in fact, relative to their cultural context. All four of these developments were resisted, sometimes violently, and in some circles may still be resisted. These kinds of massive changes do not occur easily or quickly.

I suggested previously (Morialekafa 8-29-08) there was a fifth great blow in store for Western-Europeans if Barack Obama was somehow to be elected President of the U.S. This was so because it would challenge the basic paradigm that had informed Western-European thought for hundreds of years. The notion of a Great Chain of Being in which all creatures were ranked from the lowest to the highest on a scale of value with white Western-European males at the very top of all creation. Remember, everything was so ranked, cultures (from savage to civilized) and even races (with blacks at the very bottom), and so on. Thus if a black man (even a part black man) was elected President it, would not only represent a precedent in race relations in the U.S., but would also violate this most important cultural belief system. And, of course, it happened. When Obama was elected our most basic paradigm was finally shattered (Morialekafa 11-5-08). Thus it is not at all surprising that Obama has been subject to far more threats than previous Presidents, that the sales of firearms has increased dramatically, and that white males have come out shooting. Most Americans (whether they have thought much about it or not) seem willing to accept a black President (or at least give him a chance), or they do not actively oppose him, but those who are much more true believers in white superiority (and the Great Chain of Being) are obviously having a great deal of trouble. To these believers it was unimaginable that we would ever have a black President, and to many it still is. They don’t want to (cannot) accept a Latino on the Supreme Court (Latinos not being at the top of the scale), and they cannot bear the thought of a black President, a development that threatens their most basic beliefs. Indeed, some are so threatened by an American black man as President they are denying he is who he claims to be, and insist he is some kind of plant from Kenya or who knows where. Jews, too, are not considered to be high on the scale, and anti-Semitism fits easily into their lost world. This is for some a very serious, personal, and frightening business because it tears at their most fundamental beliefs. Some people fear we may be seeing the beginning of a revolution. A large-scale, serious revolution is not going to occur, but it is not at all surprising that there is a real upturn in violence against minorities, authorities, and cultural symbols of various kinds (Wall Street, Banks, Museums, Abortion Clinics, Synagogues, Mosques, etc.).

Surely there is a correlation between level of education and beliefs about racial inferiority. And there must also be a correlation between social class and the desire for revolution. The much touted White Southern Republican “base” can easily be seen as a hotbed of such beliefs and desires.Think of how different things might be if we had a better educated populace and everyone had a decent job and health care, a condition incompatible with a capitalistic free-market economy. We must continue to have uninformed voters and cheap labor. It’s the American way.

You have to give credit to the American Medical Association for being consistent. They have now come out once again against changes to our Health Care System, just as they did against Truman, Carter, Reagan, Clinton, and now Obama. I guess the Doctor’s credo, “Do no harm,” doesn’t apply to society-wide medical care. Perhaps if we are lucky, people by now realize that Doctors are not as god-like as they perceive themselves to be. I bet we could import well-trained Doctors from Cuba who would be happy to be part of our new Universal Health Care System, especially those American Medical Students who went there where they could afford to be trained. With Cuban/U.S. relations beginning to thaw perhaps we could start an exchange program – wheat for doctors. Anyway, don’t bet that Insurance, AMA, and big Pharma won’t kill Universal Health Care again.

Capital is reckless of the health or length of life of the laborer, unless under compulsion from society. Karl Marx

Both male and female Mountain Goats have beards, short tails, and black horns.

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Who loves Jesus

Chinese narcs looking for drugs,
stop van, find 173 bear paws,
4 python skins, and a dead anteater.

The MSM went out of its way today to report that President Obama uses the word Jesus more often than George W. Bush did. Wow! Now that’s what I call news. I never thought I would see the day when our leaders were compared on the basis of how often they used the Lord’s name. I guess it’s okay, so long as Obama doesn’t take orders from, or claim to talk with him. Obama seems to have escaped the ubiquitous separation of church from brain so characteristic of Bush and others.

Well, the big health care problem is now on the table. True to the best of American politics, we already know that the cheapest, most efficient and sensible way to go about health care will not even be discussed. Single-payer is a system that has to be supported by people who seriously want a decent, universal, efficient, most-affordable plan. As we seem to have virtually no one who meets that description in our political system, we will now argue over some lesser, more complicated, more expensive, and less efficient plan. On the one hand we will have those who want to have a Government sponsored plan for people who might desire such a plan rather than a private plan, as it will quite likely be cheaper and better. But there is great opposition to this idea because, the opponents say, it will compete with the private plans (which is, of course, the basic point of having it). Confusingly, they also argue that our current private plans are so wonderful not enough people would want to switch, so why bother. Then, in the next breath, they say 119 million people will switch, which will then leave so few in the private sector plans their costs will increase. I guess there are 119 million people who don’t agree with them on how great our current plans are. If we do get a Government plan, and if it is less expensive and better than private plans, it is quite likely the case that it will draw many people and might well harm the private sector. But that is precisely as it should be. Who will care about this? Mostly no one will care but huge Insurance companies, who are to health care what parasitic worms are to their hosts. We could have a perfectly wonderful, less expensive, well-run, health care system without insurance companies being involved at all. Up until now the Insurance people, along with big pharma, have managed to keep any reform from happening. They could prevail once again unless the public absolutely insists they get out. If you are sick and need treatment, why should you be at the mercy of some insurance bureaucrat to make decisions about your treatment? Oh, in a government run system you would still run up against a similar bureaucratic problem at some point. Probably true, but would you rather have the decision made on the basis of what might be best for your health, or what is the most profitable for the insurance company? This whole controversy is a no-brainer. We already know single-payer is the best, and if we can’t have that a government sponsored plan will greatly help and be by far the most sensible. But hey, this is the U.S.A., we don’t do sensible here. If we are, at last, to have universal health care, the Democrats are going to have to drag Republicans into the modern world, kicking and screaming all the way.

Won’t someone please try to find the Republicans something to do, some kind of busy work at least? All they seem to find to do is just obstruct things for no reason. Now they are going to delay the Sotomayor hearing (if they can). Why? Because they just don’t have anything else to do. Of course they say they need more time, and they imply they are going to review her some 600 decisions, and this has to be done carefully and all. But that is all just more Republican nonsense. They will have at least 48 more days, they probably already know whatever they need to know, after all she’s been around for 17 years and is recommended by everyone, so what more would they expect to find, some inconsequential typo somewhere they can pounce on? There simply is no reason for delaying this. I don’t mean there is no good reason – there is no reason at all.

They are also raising a gigantic fuss over the fact that a terrorist has been brought to New York for trial, another fuss over absolutely nothing, with nothing to justify it other than making a fuss. They are acting like a bunch of hysterical old ladies that just saw a mouse, only worse. “Obama is importing terrorists into the U.S.,” they proclaim. “What if he is acquitted?” It would certainly never occur to them that if he was found innocent and acquitted he ought to be released. They act as if this is an unprecedented, even unheard of procedure, even though four of his fellow conspirators have already been tried, found guilty, and are serving time in one of our super prisons. Many previous terrorists have been tried and incarcerated here as well. It is all much to do about nothing, just like the case with Sotomayor, just more Republican obstructionism to no real purpose.

Then there is the case of the 17 (Chinese) Uygurs who remain at Guantanamo. Even though they are known to be completely innocent, no one seems willing to take them. As Uygurs they are persona non grata in China (as the large Uygur population has been restless for independence). Other places in the region don’t seem to want to irritate China by accepting them. They could be released in the U.S., but of course Republicans and some others won’t stand for it. They are not terrorists and had no history of anti-Americanism (although they might have by now). They were in Pakistan on their way to Turkey when they were picked up and sold to the U.S. where they ended up in Guantanamo. Seventeen innocent Uygurs who have basically done nothing wrong. I heard on Rachel Maddow just now that the U.S. is thinking about offering Palau $200,000,000 to take them. As only 20,000 people live on these small islands in the South Pacific, that would be $10,000 to each Palauan. But golly, what would happen if they escaped from there and came back to attack the U.S.? Can’t be too careful you know, especially with innocent non-terrorists.

The healthy man does not torture others - generally it is the tortured who turn into torturers.
Carl Jung

The wingspan of the largest albatrosses can exceed eleven feet, the largest of any bird.

Sunday, June 07, 2009

Columbine - book

Columbine, by Dave Cullen (Twelve, New York, 2009). This is not a book I would have read had it not been urged on me by my son. It is an interesting work. How could it not be interesting? An account of the most famous High School shooting tragedy ever to occur, Cullen has been pursuing the truth about what happened for nine years. He has researched the vast amount of material available in written form, along with the extensive audio and video tapes left by the perpetrators themselves. He deftly weaves the preparations for the killings into what was going on the boys’ lives at the time, and he offers a fairly detailed time line leading up to the event itself. He also writes extensively on how the media and the public reacted to these horrendous events. I would probably not have read it without the urging because I had either seen or heard an account of it elsewhere so I knew basically what the conclusions were. But if you want details you can certainly find them here. I think it is a bit too detailed for my taste but it is fascinating for many reasons.

One thing that struck me is that I think the book could have had a subtitle: Columbine The Big Book of Failure. I say this because the book is a detailed account of not only the prelude to the shooting, but also a detailed account of how virtually everyone got virtually everything wrong from the beginning. The two shooters, Erik Harris and Dylan Klebold, failed in their major goal, which was not merely a school shooting, but a major terrorist attack designed to kill hundreds of students and teachers. When the bombs that Erik designed failed to explode, the two were left merely shooting at individuals, throwing some small pipe bombs, and unable to fulfill their dreams of rivaling the Oklahoma bombing. The police and the Swat teams failed to organize quickly under a single command and wasted a great deal of time before actually entering the building. In one case they delayed something like three hours even though a teacher was reported bleeding to death. They also failed to realize for a long time that there were in fact only two shooters, believing there were more and searching for them. They failed also by reporting to the press what they thought it was all about, rather than the actual facts of the matter. Thus even to this day, for those who have not read this account, people believe the two were getting revenge for being bullied (they were not), they think it was some conflict between the “jocks” and the two boys (it was not), they think the boys were part of a larger group that wore trench coats (they were not), they believe the boys were just a couple of loners or losers with few friends (they were not), they think they were poor students (they were not), and they likely think they suddenly snapped for some reason (which they did not), some think there was something wrong with the families (it doesn’t seem so), and so on. But the press and TV snapped up whatever they were told and immediately announced it to the public who accepted it all without question.

Both Erik and Dylan planned this event for at least a year in advance, rather meticulous planning that involved accumulating explosives, guns, ammunition, and so forth. And both of them leaked their plans widely to some of their friends. Most of their friends didn’t take them seriously, and the two or three that did, and reported their behavior saw nothing come of it. One could also argue that the parents failed to see clearly enough what was happening. Dylan was often drunk in his room at night on vodka and revealed some of his thoughts on his computer. Both of them were arrested for breaking into a van and stealing some things, and were put on probation for a time. They were also reported for ravaging the homes of students they did not like. Their parents were aware of this, but obviously not aware of all their plans, and what parents want to think the worst of their sons? Those friends and acquaintances who helped them acquire guns and ammo, even though they were underage, obviously did not think carefully about what they might be doing. The police and County Sheriff was aware of their nefarious doings but they, too, did not give it sufficient thought or investigation. And when it came time to explain what happened they lied, especially the Sheriff, whose lies were not fully revealed until much too late. If you look at the parents’ intentions you cannot fault them, but if you look at their results you are led to wonder what truly transpired in those families.

One might also say that this book itself is a failure. Of course in most respects it has to be seen as a success, and it will quite likely be the definitive account of Columbine for a very long time. But if the goal of the book is to explain why this even happened, and why the two boys were as they were, it was doomed to fail from the beginning. First, the book, along with everyone else involved, was looking for a profile. But as the author finally concludes, there simply is no such profile, most of these cases are pretty unique. I believe the author does a super job of convincing everyone that Erik Harris was a psychopath. He runs through the symptoms, and illustrates them in Erik’s behavior, and makes an entirely convincing diagnosis of psychopathology. But of course there is no explanation for why it is that Erik became a psychopath. He clearly was, and he was the one who did most of the planning and gloating, and looking forward to the violence he was unleashing, that in his mind would make him famous. The case of Dylan might be seen as either much simpler, or very complicated. He was a personally troubled youngster, confused about his place in the world even though he was bright and a good student. He thought about love and about a girl who he mostly worshipped from afar, being too shy to really approach her. He often spoke of suicide, but apparently no one took him seriously except Erik. It appears that he went along with Erik’s plan as a way to end it all. Once he was “in,” it was out of his hands. And although he did kill some of the students, he fired his weapons relatively little compared with Erik. In the end, with their grandiose plan a failure, but with plenty of blood on their hands, both boys committed suicide.

What we seem to have here, boiled down to its essence, is a “bad seed,” who attracted one follower at least long enough to pull off a dramatic, sort of anticlimactic school shooting that was meant to be a full-blown terrorist attack. Erik himself seemed to be aware of this. Speaking of the trouble this would cause his parents, he concludes in a video tape rant, they could not have stopped him. Then he insightfully quotes Shakespeare: “Good wombs have borne bad sons.”

Saturday, June 06, 2009

Malevolent witchcraft

I am still subject to some kind of malevolent witchcraft. I do not even have the energy to write a blog. Tomorrow I shall buy a live chicken and seek out a shaman to divine who or what it is. You think I can't find a local shaman? This is North Idaho, we have religious people of all kinds.

Friday, June 05, 2009

Strep throat

To avoid going back to jail,
Russian brothers kill
and eat elder sibling.

I would never have believed that a sore throat could be so debilitating. I have had strep throat for the past two or three days and I am absolutely miserable with it. If you live in Bonners Ferry or environs you must be very careful. I would not wish this experience on anyone. Supposedly this malady goes away in from 3 to 7 days, no matter what you do. I have taken hydracordone, aspirin, lemon tea and hot whiskies, none of which worked. I finally had to see a doctor today. The medicines he prescribed do nothing. As I have been unable to do much of anything else, I have finished the book, Columbine, which my son insisted I read. More on his later, probably Sunday.

From what I can gather, and from the portions I heard, it appears that Obama’s speech yesterday in Cairo was well received by most. I thought it was remarkably straight-forward and honest and spelled out what he believes about our situation vis-à-vis the Muslim world, especially the Israeli/Palestinian issue which up until now has been totally intractable. But we know he can talk the talk, now we will see if he can walk the walk. It is long past time an American President told the Israelis to stop their illegal theft of land and water and negotiate for a serious Palestinian state.

Do you ever wonder how it is that people as far out and ignorant as Inhofe and Bachman get elected, and often reelected? I used to wonder things like that, because I was naïve and believed in the system. But now that I am older and much more cynical I know the answer. They get elected because their constituents are just as far out and ignorant as they are (if not moreso). Of course this works at the higher levels of government also. Witness the case of George W. Bush, almost certainly borderline retarded. He could barely speak our language and often said things so stupid that no one with even average intelligence would have said them. His gems of wisdom are widely available on the web if you care to look for them. Of course Bush was well marketed and was just the kind of President our corporate masters desired, malleable, not very interested in the job, easy to convince to do what it was Cheney and others wanted him to do. He may be able to use his diminished mental capacity to escape accountability for his participation in war crimes. Don’t forget his famous “ranch,” actually a converted pig farm that under his ownership had no livestock of any kind. He vacationed there often during his incumbency, pausing sometimes only for photo-ops. The “ranch” was sold even before he was out of the White House. It’s true, in America image is all.

The major difference between a thing that might go wrong and a thing that cannot possibly go wrong is that when a thing that cannot possibly go wrong goes wrong it usually turns out to be impossible to get at or repair.
Douglas Adams

As much as two thirds of an adult sloth’s body weight consists of its stomach.

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Is no one "all bad."

Threatened by storeowner
with rifle, thief begs forgiveness,
gets $40 and a loaf of bread.

Dick Cheney supports gay marriage. What’s he trying to do, prove that no one is all bad? He is also slowly changing his tune about some of his claims, someone said probably in preparation for his coming trial. Dreamer.

Do you think it is even hypothetically possible that TV ads have now reached an absurdity level so definitive they will never get any worse?

Some Republicans are now insisting they should filibuster Sonia Sotomayor’s confirmation. I doubt they will. But if they do it will be most interesting to see what it is they will be objecting to. Are they really foolish enough to review all 600 of her cases, plus everything else she might have written, to find one or two words they can focus on? They really do have a death wish, or so it seems. This is a perfect example of their being difficult just for the sake of it. But, then, it will give them an opportunity to try to demonstrate they still have something to say. All Senators seem to look forward to these hearings because they get their few minutes to show off how important they are.

Jon Stewart said tonight how pleased he was that we (American taxpayers) now own 60% of a company that is 90 billion dollars in debt. Amen. I have long since given up any hope of understanding the financial dealings of this administration. I used to worry that we were so many trillions in debt, but as I have no idea of what that actually means I have stopped worrying about it. It took me years to sort of understand what a billion was, anything beyond that is utterly incomprehensible to me. In fact, I rarely understand anything about business, finance, or debt any more. Ford Motors announced today that last month was the best sales month in a long time. Their sales were off by only 24%! At least they haven’t asked for any billions yet.

Single-payer health insurance is apparently not even being considered, even though a majority of Americans want it (so who cares what American want). Obama is reported to have said that if he were starting from scratch he would have attempted a single-payer system, but as it is now he thinks that would be too difficult. His solution is to have a Government sponsored plan to compete with private plans, thinking that this might eventually develop into a real single-payer plan. But you can bet that all of the entrenched interests are going to fight tooth and nail to prevent even this. If Obama fails, we will stay at the mercy of insurance companies, people who have no business in health at all, parasites living off the blood of those in need of care.

Now that our American Taliban have come out once again, murdering another abortion provider, and making a martyr out of the killer, perhaps the authorities will pay more attention. These despicable creatures have said that homicide is justifiable to prevent abortions, never mind that abortions are perfectly legal in the U.S. These are domestic terrorist organizations and should be treated as such. I wonder if murder is justified to prevent the murder of abortion providers? Then we could have murder being justified to prevent the murders of those who would murder the murderers of abortion providers, and so on.

Our gun laws still need a lot of tweaking. In order to visit the zoo you should be required to be armed. And it should also be mandatory to be armed while bathing or showering, and certainly while attending Sea World. And no one should ever be allowed in a bar without being armed. The NRA is doing great work, but they have a long way to go.

I want to tell you a terrific story about oral contraception. I asked this girl to sleep with me and she said 'no'.

Woody Allen

In Asia, and especially China, crickets are considered good luck and are often kept as pets.

Monday, June 01, 2009


Nancy Reagan says she sometimes
sees Ronnie’s ghost wandering
in the halls of her home.

I think I had an epiphany today, but perhaps I just realized something that many other people already know. I am kind of slow when it comes to some things. Anyway, I have been wondering for a long time what it is that Dick Cheney thinks he is doing. He keeps going on TV and radio and saying the same outrageous lies over and over again. As it is now eminently clear they are lies, and as most others, including those who certainly should know, have repeatedly repudiated them, why does he continue? I mean, we know that torture is a crime in spite of his disclaimer, we know that he was largely responsible for it, we know it doesn’t work, although he keeps insisting that it does, and we also realize that even if it did work, it wouldn’t matter because it would still be torture, and torture is illegal whether it works or not. As all of this is obvious to all but the deaf and blind, why does he keep on day after day pursuing this same line? But think about it. He only does it in the context of criticizing Obama, never just on its own. He claims always that Obama has made us less safe by giving up these “enhanced interrogation techniques,” that have worked to keep us safe for the past eight years (another lie). He even boasts about his role in this clearly illegal business, as if daring Obama to challenge him. And so far Obama has very carefully not challenged him. This has been a great mystery to me, as well as a source of anguish because it all seems to me to be so clear-cut and obvious. Cheney committed heinous war crimes that he admits to, war crimes that are against the law, and yet Obama and Holder do nothing to hold him accountable.

Today, while I was energetically employing my Norwegian bulldozer on a new garden plot, it came to me. I suddenly realized what Cheney was doing. Maybe others have known this all along, but to me it was an epiphany. Dick Cheney is a slimy old guy, more evil even than sin, but he also is a clever evil old guy. He is gambling on the fact that as long as he keeps criticizing Obama, Obama will most probably not arrest and prosecute him. The reason for this is pretty obvious once you think about it. If Obama were to try to arrest him now, he and the immoral and lawless crowd that support him would insist that his arrest was political, and here in the U.S. we do not arrest people for political reasons. The fact that Cheney is a vicious and sadistic war criminal would be overrun by the ridiculous claims of a political arrest. If Cheney were making his absurd claims about torture and how it works and so on, without the context of criticizing Obama’s politics, he would be much more vulnerable to arrest and being held accountable for his many crimes. Like all such moments, once you see it, it seems perfectly obvious. I don’t know what took me so long. I cannot think of any other reason for his continuing to make such outrageous claims that we all know to be false.

Well, the right-wing radio hatemongers finally scored. They managed to goad some nutcase into killing an abortion doctor. Their constant references to Dr. Tiller as “Tiller the baby killer,” and so on finally did it. Of course they disclaim any responsibility at all for this despicable act, but there is no doubt they have blood on their hands. Abortion is legal. You may not like it, but it is the law of the land. You cannot just go around killing people who do not agree with you and who do things you do not like. Indeed, if you could, we would be in constant chaos, killing each other for disagreements every day. These domestic terrorists say that Dr. Tiller was a mass murderer. He was not. Bush/Cheney/Rumsfeld are mass murderers. These anti-choice fanatics seem unconcerned with that.

I cannot understand the necessity or desirability of having loaded guns in the National Parks. I just assume this is another absolutely nutty idea of the NRA. But what makes me wonder even more is the fact that some members of Congress seem to fear this new rule won’t go into effect fast enough. As I can’t understand why the guns in the first place, I certainly can’t understand the urgency. Is there something going on the Parks I don’t know about? Are the animals all going berserk and starting a revolution? Or are those people in the black helicopters all landing in the Parks to plan their theft of our lawn chairs? Years ago, if you had a gun and wanted to go through the park, they would run a kind of little cable through the barrel with a lock on it which they would undo when you exited. This always seemed to me to be eminently reasonable. Have the Parks really changed so much we need to be fully armed to enjoy them? I do not view this new law as outrageous, merely silly, but, then, we are dealing with the NRA, they seem to have cornered the market on silly.

The discovery of America was the occasion of the greatest outburst of cruelty and reckless greed known in history.
Joseph Conrad

TILT: Twenty percent of the people in the U.S. own 55% of the estimated 200 million guns.