Sunday, October 31, 2010


For reasons I will not explain I recently found myself about to spend a few days in the Presidential Suite of a large and reasonably “up-scale” resort. As I have been a card-carrying member of the hoi polloi all my life I looked forward to this sudden bump up in at least temporary upward mobility. I’m certain this particular Presidential Suite was extremely modest compared with the real thing in the Ritz-Carleton or the Waldorf Astoria, but I looked forward to the experience and what it might tell me about what I have been missing for so long.

If I had but one word to describe this suite it would be BIG! Everything about it was big, the rooms were big, the furniture was big, the kitchen was big, all cupboards and drawers were big, the patio was big, and the overstuffed stuff was just that, big overstuffed stuff. The towels were big, the wine glasses were big, even the coffee cups were bigger than normal, the entryway itself was huge, everything seemed to cry out “grandeur.” There were two large master bedrooms, one at each end of a long hallway. Walking from one to the other was rather like going on safari. Of course each of these master bedrooms was big, and they each had a big bathroom and a big jacuzzi. They also had what I regarded as mysteriously large shower stalls. I confess this led me to believe that whoever stays in these places must take communal baths and showers (I swear the shower stalls could easily accommodate at least ten people). There was another very large Jacuzzi on the oversize patio that I gather is constantly heated and ready for action at all times, presumably to be followed by a gigantic barbecue cooked on the oversized, gleaming and beckoning barbecue conveniently located at the opposite end of the patio. What I took to be emperor-sized beds would easily accommodate up to six people at a time, leading me to the conclusion that two separate orgies could take place simultaneously with no loss of privacy. Somewhere in the midst of this complex was a third, relatively small bedroom, with twin-sized beds and access to a smaller bathroom, sans Jacuzzi. I assume this was either for children or servants.

There were some unusual features of this somewhat plush suite. For example, the showers had two shower-heads that worked simultaneously, one beating down on your head as is usually the case, and the other positioned carefully to pour water directly into your ear (I guess this could be avoided by experienced guests who know how to properly position themselves while showering). I noticed the servants’ bathroom lacked this unique feature, perhaps to protect them or the children. A huge dining-room table was surrounded by equally huge chairs that, while comfortable enough, forced you to sit with your chin at about table-top level, much as you did when a child, but without the thick family bible to sit on. Similarly, there was a mirror on one wall meant to symbolize a port-hole. It was a lovely piece of some rare wood and a highly polished mirror, but you could not see yourself in it unless you were at least six feet six. Another unusual feature was the number of lights and light switches. Light switches seemed to cover the walls in all directions, so many it was virtually impossible to find the one you needed at the moment, and lights everywhere, some that looked remarkably like eye-balls that followed you wherever you went. It was eerie.

One cannot adequately describe this taste of luxury without mentioning the décor that featured above all, truly ugly lamps. I thought they must have scoured the world to find the ugliest lamps they could find, huge rather grotesque designs in repulsive tile, metal shades, and unpleasant colors. And everywhere there are goo-gaws of various kinds, lots of sea shells, embedded in tables, mounted on frames, and collected in glass vases and such. There were also fake flowers, ferns and other mysterious greens, to say nothing of fake vegetables decorating the kitchen. Here and there were other interesting objects, an antique camera, a cleverly designed box, or assorted unidentifiable ceramic objects and those ubiquitous glass balls found in all coastal towns. Needless to say the pictures were the latest designer chic, all done in pastels, sand dunes, ocean shores, geometric designs, all so innocuous they hung there inoffensive and mostly unnoticed.

There was, of course, a large, new, flat-screen TV in every room except the bathrooms. I think these are for people who soon tire of the ocean view they paid extra for. After all, a view of the ocean is just that, a view of an empty expanse of space hovering over a huge body of equally empty water. In this particular case they had cleverly reconstructed the bones of a beached whale to add interest to the otherwise pretty blank scene. The bleached bones of deceased whales quickly lose their charm. The only location from where you could not see a TV was the dining room table. This was, I thought, thoughtless, and must be very inconvenient for those accustomed to taking TV with meals (not me, I never pass up a chance to not watch TV ).

All in all it was a pleasant enough experience, interesting, educational, comfortable, and relaxing. I would not do it again, however, as I regret to say I am a timid, not very aggressive go-getter type of guy, careful with money, no longer upwardly mobile or impressed with up-scale, and appreciative of the more simple things in life. I prefer my surroundings to be smaller, more manageable, cozier, and less garish. More womb-like you might say.

One of the major attractions of this particular resort is seafood, fresh clams and oysters, especially the world-class oysters. As I subscribe in general to the Woody Allen credo, “I will not eat oysters. I want my food dead- not sick, not wounded – dead,” we compromised and had them fried rather than on the half-shell. They were truly world-class and memorable.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Time Out

My mother-in-law arrived day before yesterday and our server went out. I am not suggesting a causal connection between these two events. It doesn't matter as I have been unable to blog. Our server has just now been activated but we are about to leave for a few days where, mercifully, I will not have to be exposed to any of the complete nonsense that tries to pass itself off as "news." I will most likely not write another blog until probably November 1st.

I still do not believe the Republicans are going to win as big as the MSM keep insisting they will. Time will tell. In the meanwhile, best wishes to all, and remember, "don't trust nobody, not even your own fatha!"

Saturday, October 23, 2010

The "Dark Side"

Man, 73, armed with bolt cutter,
drives lawmower to pound and
busts out his dog,“Buddy Tough.”

Perhaps we were just not listening, or, if listening, not truly paying attention, or if paying attention, not paying close enough attention, or if paying close attention simply did not understand what we were hearing. You may recall that at some point when we were hearing endless lies about terrorism, Iraq, the conduct of our “war,” or whatever, our self-appointed Vice-President and chief puppeteer said, “we may have to go to the dark side.” I don’t remember exactly when this was, I don’t remember the context, but I clearly remember him saying it. I do not believe that anyone, at the time, bothered to ask what the dark side was, what did he mean, why did he say it, or anything like that. He said it and we just all moved on. Why was this?

I suppose it could have been simply that no one took him seriously. It might have been that as it was not the major point of what he was talking about it was taken merely as a casual remark. But Cheney himself must have had a reason for saying it, and he must have had something specifically in mind. He might have had any number of things in mind, but in our language the phrase, “the dark side” does not have any benign connotations. Indeed, darkness is always associated with evil or bad things and qualities: a black heart, a black rage, funereal black, the black arts, afraid of the dark, black pit, black cats, etc., etc. He could have meant, I suppose, we were going to embark in some more clandestine activity, spying or such. He might have meant we might have to do something somewhat out of the ordinary when it comes to the rules of war, something that would not ordinarily be acceptable. I guess he even could have meant we were going to have to do everything possible to win no matter what. But did he mean what we now know he must have had in mind…torture? Personally, I think he did.

I suggest that even if there had been a few people who registered this phrase when he uttered it, and then thought about it even carefully, they would not have thought of torture. Why is this so? Because I don’t think anyone would have believed that we, the noblest and best country on earth, the great “beacon on the hill,” the champion of liberty and freedom, the land of milk and honey, would ever have done such a thing. Never mind that we have almost certainly employed torture at times in the past as that was not common knowledge. I submit the idea of torture, per se, simply would not have occurred to anyone. This is precisely why everyone was so surprised, horrified and upset when we first learned of Abu Graib. Cheney has argued ever since that torture was not only necessary, it worked, it produced information we would not otherwise have been able to obtain. It has now been pretty well established there is no basis in fact for Cheney’s claims. It has also been established that organizations responsible for interrogations have known for years that torture does not, in fact, work. It produces faulty information as people are willing to say anything under such extreme duress. We also know now that most of the useful information we received from our prisoners was actually produced prior to the torture episodes.

An interesting question that might be asked, did Dick Cheney know that our chief interrogators did not believe torture worked and ordered it anyway? After all, Cheney has been in high-level government positions virtually all his life, would he not have known this? Aside from the question as to whether torture works or not, he must surely have been aware that torture was illegal both under U.S. law and International law. He ordered it anyway, a clear, premeditated, and indisputable war crime. It doesn’t actually matter what he knew or didn’t know about torture, it would still be considered a war crime (ignorance is no excuse). I believe Cheney knew full well it was against the law, and probably knew professionals did not agree with him, but ordered it in spite of that. If it is true that he knew it didn’t work, and that it was illegal, and ordered it anyway, why? What was his motive, his purpose? That is, he committed an intentional war crime that was not even necessary and has sought to exonerate himself by pretending to be so vitally concerned with our safety he had no alternative, or at least, he believed there was no alternative. Of course he has to make such a claim because any other motive might reveal personal qualities best kept deeply buried in his psyche. Anyway, it doesn’t matter what he believed, it is still a serious war crime, for which he has not been held accountable or punished. President Obama and our Attorney General have chosen not to investigate, thus, I believe, probably becoming criminals themselves.

I wonder what fine times the Cheney bunch enjoyed in their regular White House meetings, discussing and deciding on what specific forms of torture could be applied next. Rumsfeld, Rice, and a few other apparent ghouls were regulars at these meetings. It angers me no end to know that Cheney is still moving in high circles offering gratuitous comments on the performance of President Obama, and the latter recently entertained Condi Rice at the White House, and has treated George W. Bush with a respect he certainly does not deserve. Bush and Cheney actively boast about committing these crimes and go about their business completely free of accountability, and presumably even remorse. It appears that as far as the U.S. is concerned, American and Israeli war criminals are never to be held accountable for their crimes, whereas war criminals in Africa or the Balkans and elsewhere definitely should be. We are indeed a nation of hypocrites (and criminals).

To his dog, every man is Napoleon; hence the constant popularity of dogs.
Aldous Huxley

One of the chief characteristics of Australian marsupial wombats is their backwards pouch.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

In Defense of Corporations

Belgian schoolteacher gets
30 years for sabotaging
love rival’s parachute.

What is all the fuss and concern about outsourcing jobs overseas? I am not a student of economics, indeed, I believe economics is truly a dismal “science” (probably more akin to witchcraft than anything else), but what corporations are doing by shipping our jobs overseas is precisely what they should be doing. If you wish to live in a capitalistic society with a free-market economy, labor has to be considered a commodity just like everything else. If labor is simply a commodity, and if you have as your sole goal the creation of profit, it follows that you go where labor is the cheapest. To argue that capitalism is the best economic system there is, and at the same time argue that outsourcing is wrong, is hypocritical (or at least stupid) in the extreme. The sad fact is, labor is just another form of human behavior, one that is not easily separated from other forms of human life and behavior. To expect people just to labor for wages, disregarding how that affects the rest of their existence is dehumanizing them, and reducing them to little more than nuts and bolts. It also implies that people are of no importance to society or culture outside of their role as laborers. Thus there is a fundamental conflict between the need for a society to be concerned with the welfare of its citizens (if any given society actually believes in such needs) and the desire of corporations to seek cheap labor and profit. If all people can depend on are low wages, (also preferably with no other benefits such as a limited work week, health care, retirement, vacations, and so on), society is not doing its job of looking out for the well-being of the populace. So grudgingly, over the years, mostly in response to union and basic humanitarian demands, workers won the 40 hour work week, the 8 hour day, holidays and days off, unemployment insurance, retirement benefits, health care, and etc., all those things that business complains about being “socialistic,” “communistic,” or harmful to their business (profits).

Capitalism leads inevitably to the situation we now find ourselves in, most of the wealth concentrated in the hands of very few, huge unemployment rates (there is a surplus of labor), low wages, many without benefits such as health insurance or retirement, and little or no desire to help people who are “non-productive” and do not produce any profit. Basically, the only way profit can be achieved is through the exploitation of labor or the environment, so a for-profit system, from the point of community, is extremely dysfunctional. It seems to me the current Republican Party, not content to merely refuse to help the middle class with unemployment insurance or health care, would like to even take away the hard-earned benefits fought for in the past, like Social Security, Medicare, and even Public Education. This battle between business and labor has raged from long before I was born and now throughout my entire lifetime. From my point of view corporations are greedy, insatiable, evil monsters, preying upon citizens being rendered more and more helpless. If corporations are “persons,” as our unconscionable Supreme Court has ruled, they are those on the very lowest rungs of humanity, sadly lacking in those traits we value as the most desirable human qualities: empathy, compassion, understanding, altruism, fairness, fellowship, kindness, conscience, and the sense of community. The Supreme Court has used the concept of “person” is a purely sociological sense, merely as a unit in a society, and as distinguished from the “individual”, thereby ignoring anything about social relationships or human nature. I think the historian, Edward Hyam said it well: “Capitalism turns men into economic cannibals, and having done so, mistakes economic cannibalism for human nature.”

The current political season is so completely ridiculous it is unworthy of any further attention. Let us hope November 2nd will come soon and help put us out of our misery, or perhaps put us into even more misery. Sigh!

An economist is an expert who will know tomorrow why the things he predicted yesterday didn't happen today.
Laurence J. Peter

The European magpie is one of the few species known to be able to recognize itself in a mirror.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Eschew Obfuscation

Orthodox Jews, forbidden
anything by mouth during Yom Kippur,
turn to caffeine suppositories.

I confess I do not understand the problem with Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. It seems perfectly obvious that eventually this is a policy that will be given up. Apparently the Pentagon insists there needs to be more study before it should be implemented. I find it impossible to believe that after all these years the policy has not been studied to death, quite likely more than once. No further studies should be necessary. I also don’t understand why they believe they have to prepare for the implementation. What is it, precisely, they have to prepare? Are they going to remodel all military living quarters so Gays can be separated from others? Perhaps they need to install all new showers? the fact that virtually all other armies have had Gays serving for years with no particular problems means nothing to our military planners. As some of our highest level Generals have stated the policy should end, and as President Obama has said it should end, and as it is pretty clear that most ordinary soldiers could care less about it, and as we ourselves have had Gays in the military for years serving with distinction and honor, and as the courts have said it is unconstitutional and should cease, one would think it should not be such a problem. So why is it? Why the stalling, the obfuscation?

I don’t think I have ever looked forward to an election more eagerly than this one. I am so tired of hearing about it I just want it to be over. Sometimes I think I don’t even care anymore who wins, just get it mercifully over. Of course I do care who wins as the thought of a bunch of near lunatics being in positions of power and authority is frightening. I mean, like, don’t we already have enough screwy Congresspersons and Senators? I would have thought that candidates like O’Connell and Angle, along with Rand Paul, Joe Miller and Buck in Colorado would simply be laughed off the stage, but to my surprise and chagrin they were and are not. And the idea that Sarah Palin could be President I find so utterly absurd I don’t know how to react to it. I have had to conclude after observing this for the past few months that the U.S. is no longer interested in democracy or even in serious government. I think this may well be that it doesn’t really matter how ignorant or pedestrian the candidates are, they will just be servants of the corporations that finance them and keep them in office. Our politics have degenerated into little more than a charade, like betting against a two-headed coin. The powers that be select the candidates so whoever wins will be fine with them, we will have had our opportunity to vote even though it really doesn’t matter, to pretend we are a democracy even though the dice are loaded from the very beginning. While it may be true the respective platforms of the two parties may differ, as a practical matter the eventual outcomes will be pretty much the same. As compromise is the essence of our so-called democracy, no truly substantial changes can take place. The recent health care legislation is a good case in point, although it might have a couple of good features it was far from being what would be far more desirable and what was favored by serious reformers.


We Americans live in a nation where the medical-care system is second to none in the world, unless you count maybe 25 or 30 little scuzzball countries like Scotland that we could vaporize in seconds if we felt like it.
Dave Barry

There are no moles in Ireland.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010


Ten people in India killed
In argument over whose
goat should be sacrificed first.

Sometimes I am left speechless, or virtually so. The United States, when George W. Bush and Dick Cheney were in charge, illegally attacked Iraq, a country some eight thousands miles away that posed no danger to us, under false pretenses, destroyed their existing government (such as it was), killed hundreds of thousands of innocent people, including women and children, committed other atrocious war crimes such as torture and war profiteering, has left the country little more than a shambles, and still attempts to control their politics, has now had the audacity to accuse Iran of “meddling” in Iraq.

Iran, a country that shares a border with Iraq, that was not long ago involved in a devastating war with that country (that was being aided by the U.S.), and obviously has vital interests in what transpires in their neighboring country, has far more compelling reasons to be meddling there than we do. And not only are we meddling in Iraq, we are meddling in Iran as well. I am sorry to say it, but the U.S. is a nation drunk with power and dreams of a worldwide empire, so in love with its belief in its own exceptionalism it seems to think that no other nation on earth should have national interests contrary to our wishes, a belief that is rapidly fading and soon going to come crashing down with devastating effects.


He who loves the world as his body may be entrusted with the empire.

The average life expectancy of a camel is 40 to 50 years.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Crossing the Bar

Crossing the Bar

Twilight and evening bell,
And after that the dark!
And may there be no sadness of farewell,
When I embark;
For tho' from out our bourne of Time and Place
The flood may bear me far,
I hope to see my Pilot face to face
When I have crossed the bar.

Alfred Lord Tennyson

My oldest and one of my best and dearest friends has died. He was a wonderful man, kind and just, Husband, Father, Grandfather, Fisherman, Hunter, “Working Stiff,” Veteran, Patriot, and Survivor. He lacked even a hint of meanness, spoke softly, thoughtfully, with malice toward none. He was truly one of the very best of us. Goodbye Bill, rest in peace.

We had to learn and recite this poem in High School, 65 years ago.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

A Sane Society?

Oregon woman, 82, ticketed
for going 110 mph to appointment,
claims she was unaware of speeding.

You will have no doubt by now seen the commercial for Brita water filters. You know, the one that says in the U.S. alone we produced enough plastic bottles to circle the earth 190 times. We know there are already vast islands of plastic in our oceans and that plastic is hardly a blessing, even a mixed one. I cannot help but wonder, what would a sane society do in such a situation? To me an answer seems obvious, stop manufacturing and using plastic bottles (at least in such large quantities and for such questionable purposes). Thinking of the ocean made me think of drilling for oil in the deep waters of the oceans, a practice fraught with potentially disastrous consequences, as we recently experienced by what happened in the Gulf of Mexico. Again I thought, what would a sane society do about such an enormously terrible and potential ecological disaster? Again, an answer seems clear to me, stop deep water drilling entirely and turn to alternate energy. Of course neither of these sane responses to horrible ecological problems are likely to occur (it seems we just can’t wait to start over again). These thoughts, in turn, have led me to wonder if it is even possible for the human species to live together in a sustainable and sane way. My answer, alas, is “no,” it is not possible.

How do I arrive at this pessimistic conclusion? In my 80 years of life on earth I have seen absolutely no evidence whatsoever that any units of human society, from persons, to families, lineages, clans, phratries, tribes, confederations, local communities, counties, states, or nations, have been able to overcome the basic problems of greed and short-sightedness (and apparently stupidity as well). Nor have I seen any evidence of a genuine desire to act together as a species in the best interests of such an entity. This is, I think, not only a problem of fundamental human nature, but is also exacerbated by the conditions in which we must live, that is, the different distributions of food supplies, arable land, suitable climates, and the occurrence and non-occurrence of natural disasters. That is to say, you cannot always blame people for coveting their neighbors gardens, water, and what-have-you. As an anthropologist I am aware that very small-scale societies, often referred to as “primitive,” such as the Bushmen of the Kalahari, that exist in very harsh conditions, do have cultures that emphasize sharing, non-violence, and put the well-being of the group into the very forefront of their existence. I am also aware of Robert Redfield’s, The Small Community, in which the virtues of small communities are insightfully presented. But even in such small groups there has never been a complete absence of violence, and cultures around the world have now evolved into such larger and more complicated groups those older ways of life are no longer practical or possible.

I am aware that Eric Fromm wrote a book entitled, The Sane Society (among many others) in which he argued for a humanistic, social democratic way of life. I read this book so long ago that I barely remember it, although I recall being mostly in agreement with his basic socialistic aims, as I am to this day. But also, as I recall, his fine book begged the issue of whether or not it was even possible for people to accomplish such a utopian existence even if they wished to do so. As above, I doubt it.

If you are old enough you might recall the Reagan years that ushered in an ongoing attack on our natural resources, “You’ve seen one redwood, you’ve seen ‘am all,” and so forth. You may also remember James Watt (arguably the worst political appointment ever made in the U.S.) who was seemingly committed to the destruction of most everything in nature. He started something called the “Wise Use Movement,” that argued in favor of local control of natural resources. There were attempts by counties to take over the responsibility of managing their own resources and affairs. Unfortunately, as the rivers and forests do not begin and end at county lines this was eventually abandoned. But it illustrates the basic problem. Just as rivers and forests do not begin and end at county lines, neither do they begin and end at the boundaries of states, or of nations, so a sustainable future for humans would require cooperation on a world-wide level. Although there are, I believe, at least a few attempts at international cooperation, there is far more conflict over natural resources than ever. Most everyone wants more oil, more water, more territory, more mineral rights, and so on. Absent a strong world-wide governing body, nowhere even on the distant horizon, these conflicts cannot be readily settled to the satisfaction of all parties. Thus it appears we will continue squabbling and fighting and exhausting the earth’s resources and fouling the environment until, at last, we will have fouled our own nest so completely it will be too late. If our current out-of-control, greedy, capitalistic society with its obsession with profit could be replaced with a more sensible social democratic form it would help, but even that seems out of the question in a society that has been conditioned to panic hysterically at even the very mention of socialism. It would be nice if we could grow up but even that is not truly being permitted in a society that seems to favor ignorance over intelligence.

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

Thomas Gray

Friday, October 15, 2010

Republican Contempt

North Carolina woman arrested
when her missing boyfriend’s
body is found in her freezer.

It should be perfectly obvious by now that Republicans have nothing but contempt for our nation and its ordinary citizens. The latest clue (as if any more were necessary) comes from their support of Sharron Angle, Joe Miller, Rand Paul, Marco Rubio, and others on the extreme fringe. I heard they said they would even support Christine O’Donnell if she could demonstrate enough fund raising appeal. Some of their candidates, especially the Tea Party candidates, might remotely be considered as Senatorial material, but others are just downright kooks of one kind or another. What this means, if you think about it, is the sad fact that Republicans could care less about our country and whose hands might be on the throttle. They are so greedy for power they are willing to sacrifice the well-being of our very nation. They are willing and eager to support candidates no matter how ignorant, how extreme, how unqualified, how unprepared, and how even barely sane or retarded. Is this a good thing for our government, our country? We had a good glimpse of this attitude when John McCain picked Sarah Palin to be his running mate, a woman virtually unknown, who was completely unqualified to be Vice-President and perhaps President. It is also apparent in their enthusiasm to be the party of “no” and oppose everything President Obama wanted to do, irrespective of whether it was good for the country or not. Further evidence can be seen in their enthusiasm for accepting money from anonymous donors, even if they are foreign companies. This is clearly a terrible thing for our country, to allow foreigners to influence our elections and policies that are obviously not in the best interest of our citizens is little more than a variety of national suicide. Republicans just don’t care, they are overwhelmingly on the side of corporations and completely opposed to American workers. These huge corporations already have incomes that exceed that of most nations, if this is allowed to continue, nations and national interests will become virtually irrelevant. If they can buy our elections, as they are currently attempting to do, the marriage of corporations and government, Benito Mussolini’s Fascist dream, will have come true.

Silly Sarah, whom you might well think is herself the number one denizen of some fantastic “Unicorn Ranch,” has now proclaimed the Democrats are living in such a place. But can there be any more of a whirling whirlwind of chaotic fantasy than that surrounding the Republican Party and their Tea Party contingent? Is this truly not a fantastic web of lies, half-truths, wishful thinking, downright ignorance, absurd claims, and foolish babbling? I’m not a witch, reduce taxes, do away with education, the Chinese have a plan, masturbation is adultery, do away with energy, no abortion, even in cases of rape and incest, the lord will provide a solution, minimum wage is unconstitutional, amend the 14th amendment, e-mail dirty pictures, teach creationism, mice have fully functioning human brains, evolution is a myth, leave health care up to the free market, Obama is a Kenyan, Obama is a socialist, my opponent is a Marxist, do away with public schools, exercise our 2nd amendment rights, only ask me questions I want to answer, I’ve got Hannity in my back pocket, Obama is the anti-Christ, privatize social security, do away with Obamacare, Obama is a Muslim, a communist, the worst President ever, preserve DADT, no Gay marriage, Gays can be cured, fortify the borders, unemployment benefits make people lazy, private businesses should be able to discriminate, no amnesty, no Mosques, the Muslims are establishing Shari’a law, bomb Iran, Reagan was a saint, government is the problem, the fetus is a “pre-person,” we didn’t come armed (this time), and on and on and on in a gigantic feverish whirlwind of absolute nonsensical gibberish, a mélange of verbal garbage, a diatribe of hate, racism, and misunderstanding, the siren song of the crazies, the true language of the fantasy Unicorn ranch. This is what now passes for political discourse here in the USA.

Why would anyone even allow this to happen, allow people so extreme and In some cases so apparently incompetent, ignorant, and unbalanced, to run for high public offices? Why was the Tea Party able to override the wishes of the more moderate Republican base? Why do they now support such foolishness? How has what once was a more or less respectable political party allowed itself to fall so low? Money is of course a large part of it. It really doesn’t matter anymore who is in office as whoever it is will do the bidding of their corporate masters. You might as well have robots in office, in fact they would probably be better and not cost so much. And they would have just as much empathy for ordinary citizens as the current crop of Republicans.

I am not usually into fear, one way or another, but I am fearful now. I am afraid. I think any person who values freedom and the right to a decent job at a decent wage, a reasonable middle-class status, at least a taste of the pleasure of life, should be afraid. The hoofbeats of Fascism are getting louder and coming closer at an alarming rate.

If it's true that our species is alone in the universe, then I'd have to say that the universe aimed rather low and settled for very little.
George Carlin

Mink oil is used to treat, preserve, and waterproof leather.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

The Double Standard

Florida jogger stun-gunned
and arrested for wearing
only a pair of goggles.

We all know there has long been a double standard when it comes to males and females. You remember, of course, that women were not allowed to vote, were wards of their husbands, were not permitted to sue for loss of consortium as men were, even now do not get equal pay for equal work, and so on and on. It has always been so. But now, in South Carolina, there is what I think is a truly strange example of this type of discrimination. You may know that Nikki Haley is a Republican candidate for Governor of that state. There are apparently other Republican candidates as well. Supporters of one of these other candidates have resorted to what has to be regarded as an unusual strategy to attack Haley, two of them have signed affidavits to the effect they have had affairs with her. One of them I guess was simply supposedly an all-night stand, the other a more serious, longer lasting affair. Haley, of course, who is married, denies either of these claims is true. I suspect they are not true as I know Republicans have no trouble in making up outrageous lies to get their way. But what a pair of great guys, at best score and tell, at worst disgusting liars. But what I find most interesting about this is so-what? What if it is true she had a couple of extra-marital affairs? Would that somehow have something to do with whether or not she would be a good Governor? Think about it, what would happen if two women signed affidavits claiming affairs with a male candidate for Governor? First of all, that is not at all likely to happen. If it did strangely happen it probably would only result in the candidate being even more highly regarded. There is no male equivalent for “slut” or “whore,” at least not that you ever really hear. This is a true example of the double standard at work. Does it mean that any woman running for office has to be considered a virgin, or having not had any sexual experience prior to running for office? If so, is this the same standard that should be applied to male candidates? And how would we ever know, especially when it is a case of he-said, she-said. This is simply ridiculous, and you can thank Republicans for opening up this Pandora’s Box when they savagely attacked Bill Clinton (you notice that he survived a real scandal that was much worse than these accusations). Prior to what they tried to do to Clinton a candidate’s private life was that, private. John Kennedy, for example, was a far worse offender than Clinton, many people were aware of it, but at that time it was not regarded as fair game for politics. This preoccupation with sex, Gay and extra-curricular, is a peculiarly American thing, in Europe it is basically expected to occur. Notice also that Meg Whitman has been labeled a whore by someone in Brown’s campaign, still another example of this insidious business. I would never vote for either of these women, not because of their sex lives, but because they are Republicans. Anyway, now that Republicans have let this cat out of the bag I doubt it will cease anytime soon. Perhaps we could establish standards of promiscuity, two or three instances are okay but five disqualify you. Maybe men could be allowed more than women. Perhaps we should insist that every candidate be a virgin (that would eliminate a lot of difficulty). If O’Donnell were to get elected and get her way I guess even masturbation would disqualify one from holding office. The political system in this country has become nothing more than a bad joke, childish, ridiculous, stupid, and virtually meaningless.

Now on to the situation in the Middle East, where an Israeli MP, Aryeh Eldad, has called for the assassination of Ahmadinejad when he visits Lebanon. He has urged Israeli soldiers to do everything they can to kill him, insisting he should not be allowed to leave Lebanon alive. What do you suppose would happen if Putin were to visit Cuba and one of our Congresspersons insisted we should try to kill him? Eldad has also said that his other time is spent in trying to prevent a Palestinian state. Does this sound to you like the behavior of someone who is interested in peace? And speaking of that, it appears that Netanyahu has said if the Palestinians would recognize Israeli as a Jewish state, he would be willing to talk peace. The Palestinians have said they would consider Israel anything it wants them to if they would agree to return to the 1967 borders. What do you think will happen? Nothing, of course, Israel does not want peace, certainly not badly enough to give up all that stolen Palestinian land and water. The whole negotiation business is basically little more than a charade. Even the idea that the U.S. could be an objective broker between the two sides is absurd, the U.S. has almost always supported Israel no matter how outrageous and criminal their behavior.

I am a true believer when it comes to free speech and its protection. But it seems to me there might be some limits placed on it in certain instances. I mean, you already are not allowed to yell “fire” in a crowded building. But what about this recent Supreme Court decision about this insane religious group that goes to funerals holding signs that say more soldiers should be killed, it’s all because of homosexuality, and so on, truly vile, hateful, disgusting, and offensive speech. I agree that offensive speech should be protected. If someone says something of substance that is at least reasonable but offensive, that is one thing, but how about this case where the speech is not only offensive but absolutely ridiculous. Could there not be a category of unprotected speech when it is both offensive and ridiculous? I think a lot of so-called hate speech might well fall into this category as well.

Loss of virtue in a female is irretrievable; that one false step involves her in endless ruin; that her reputation is no less brittle than it is beautiful; and that she cannot be too much guarded in her behaviour towards the undeserving of the other sex.
Jane Austen

The vast majority of calico cats are female.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Still Roviating Obama

Egyptian woman granted divorce
when husband refuses to bathe,
claiming he’s allergic to water.

roviate v. to smear, slime, malign, denigrate, and attempt to destroy an opponent through the use of innuendo, rumor, slander, outright lies and any other despicable means available. Roviation works more effectively when done in collusion with major media.

I have been wondering for quite some time what Karl Rove was doing. For a while you didn’t hear much about him and he was apparently maintaining a relatively low profile. I always suspected he was behind the scenes involved in some form of devious, dishonest, disgusting business. As the Tea Party has claimed to be a grass-roots phenomenon, even though we know it is not, and as it has become so relatively large with many wealthy sponsors, it has been hard to see the clear hand of Rove in it. Now, however, he has exposed himself clearly. His claim that Obama has an “enemy’s list,” is such a signature Rovian touch there is no longer any doubt about his involvement. One of Rove’s classic maneuvers is to take someone’s strength and try to change it into his weakness. You will recall this is precisely what they did with John Kerry, a war hero challenged as a fake by Rove and the gang of sleazy liars (the “Swift Boaters) he assembled to challenge Kerry’s courage, bravery, and even his medals. By claiming Obama has an enemy’s list Rove is suggesting Obama is engaged in the same hateful, revengeful behavior of Richard Nixon. It seems to me there can be little doubt about Rove’s involvement in the Tea Party movement. It is a massive case of roviation. The accusations are outrageous: Obama is a Kenyan, a Muslim, a Socialist, Communist, Fascist monster who is going to take away our guns, at one point even our fishing rights, and so on. The thing about roviation is that it doesn’t matter if it has any substance or not, you just lie, exaggerate, sling mud, and say any outrageous thing you want and get people, especially the gullible, to believe one or another of these terrible falsehoods. Whether Rove is personally behind this movement or not it is clearly the technique he seems to have made not only acceptable to Republicans but even fashionable.

There is an even more despicable strategy at work in the case of Obama. I don’t know if Rove had a hand in the decision to just say “no” to everything Obama attempted, but I would not be at all surprised to learn that he did. The Republicans announced immediately after Obama was elected they would not cooperate, they wanted him to fail, and they would be the party not only of “no,” but of “hell no.” They have lived up to this procedure even to the point of putting our nation itself at risk. Having blocked any attempt by Obama to improve things, they now vociferously complain that he has done nothing. Actually he has done quite a lot considering this wholehearted attempt to bring him down. The Republican Party and the corporations they represent wanted Obama to fail, have prevented him from succeeding, and now, in a show of unprecedented hypocrisy, blame him for his inability to accomplish what he wanted. Their single-minded lust for power and their greed has led us into a situation so intolerable many have lost hope for the future. Having engineered this near collapse of our country they want us to believe it is Obama’s fault rather than theirs. And they also want us to believe that only they, the very people that caused our tragic situation, will be able to save us. There are signs that an American public may be falling for this outrageous claim. If this is so, P.T. Barnum’s claim “there is a sucker born every minute,” is true. He forgot to mention there are two or more Republicans ready to fleece him.

Now, with the help of a dishonest and partisan Supreme Court, Rove and Associates have created a scheme guaranteed to bring about the Fascist state they have long desired. The marriage of corporations and government is virtually complete. Corporate donors, even foreign ones, can provide virtually unlimited funds to Republicans, which they are apparently doing. The sources of these funds do not have to be disclosed, and so it is that now we have no idea who is funding anything, including the obvious attempt of the Republican Party to become the only party in the U.S. and rule according to the dictates of Big Oil, Big Agriculture, Big Pharmaceuticals, Big Banks, Big Insurance, and what have you. Needless to say, these interests are diametrically opposed to the interests of ordinary citizens and the middle class. It is now literally true that a vote for Republicans is a vote for Fascism.


As Mankind becomes more liberal, they will be more apt to allow that all those who conduct themselves as worthy members of the community are equally entitled to the protections of civil government. I hope ever to see America among the foremost nations of justice and liberality.
George Washington

Playing cards were known in China as early as the 9th century.

Sunday, October 10, 2010


Drunken man rescued from
icy river after jumping in
to chase one-legged goose.

Some, including President Obama, say that if we are patient enough we will experience a “recovery.” I take this to mean we will overcome some obstacle and go back to the way it was previously. This idea of (economic) recovery is based upon the idea that history repeats itself and that many times in the past the economy has slumped but then inevitably turned around (recovered). But what if there is not going to be a recovery? What if our unemployment rate is going to stay where it is no matter what Obama tries to do about it? I think there are reasons to believe this may well be what is going to happen. What if Stephen Pizzo (see his “Slouching Towards Austerity,” in today’s Smirking Chimp) is right (I suspect he is) when he says “the West’s one-time Horn of Plenty is now running on empty.” That is with centuries of “progress” with almost no competition for natural resources and markets, the West has lived a life of great affluence. But now, with serious competition from countries like China and India, resources becoming more and more scarce, this favored status is disappearing, we are, as he says, “Slouching Towards Austerity.”

That this is most probably true can be seen in the fact that most Americans have slowly (and sometimes not so slowly) seen their life-styles diminish. Wages have not kept up with inflation, more people are living in poverty, unemployment is rampant, the nation is deeply in debt, and recovery does not seem to be happening. Saying recovery is on the way but it just takes time may be just plain incorrect. This means, among other things, that Barack Obama is unfortunate enough to be President at a time when history is not repeating itself, recovery is not going to happen as predicted, and Obama is helpless to do anything about it. Arguments about who is chiefly responsible and why Obama isn’t doing anything about it become, if not meaningless, at least irrelevant.

Still another dimension of this problem can be seen in an explanation put forward about unemployment. Someone suggested that the reason there are so many unemployed people is simply because all the “good” and “necessary” people have jobs, the implication being there is clearly a large surplus of (useless) unnecessary workers. When you realize the number of unemployed actually exceeds the 9.6% official rate by quite a bit, it is obvious this is a much greater problem than we are being led to believe. You might also consider that Wall Street, and thus businesses and corporations, are making record profits even with this high rate of unemployment. This situation cannot be rectified in the U.S. because of the irrational and unfathomable, even virtually pathological fear of “socialism.” This is not to say socialism would be an easy solution, socialist nations in the West are no better, and perhaps worse off, than we are. This is perhaps not only because they are socialistic, but also because they allowed excessive immigration (and, of course have also experienced the disappearing fruits of colonialism and exploitation). Even so, it does appear to me that nations with the best likelihood of survival are those with forms of Democratic Socialism, nations which provide a basic safety net for all while at the same time allowing some to become more wealthy than others.

It is quite possibly the case there is no viable solution to inevitable austerity available (at least at the moment). The rapid growth of technology has made it possible that not as many workers are necessary to keep a nation in food and other necessities. Thus there is an unprecedented surplus of labor. In a capitalistic economy, where labor is viewed simply as another commodity, this surplus can simply be ignored and left to sicken, go hungry, and die in the vast slums surrounding all of our great cities, conveniently denying the fact there are living human beings involved, not merely commodities. This seems to be the current Republican plan for the future, shared, alas, by some Democrats as well.

It is possible to argue, as many do, that the basic problem is overpopulation. Perhaps it is in certain places, but more importantly, it is a result of our profligate waste of the earth’s resources and our inability or unwillingness to share. Both overpopulation and sharing are factors that could be controlled if the human species wished to control them. But we have no history of doing this and there seems to be little possibility for change in this regard. Indeed, it appears that more hostility and competition will be a more likely scenario.

I think an expectation for recovery, as we have thought of it in the past, is unrealistic, given the current conditions of this tiny and abused planet (and the irrationality and greed of the humans that inhabit it). Certainly there is not going to be a “full recovery,” although things may improve somewhat temporarily (a bit more socialism would help). The glory years of “the American Century” are over. Make your peace with austerity, but let’s make it austerity for all, not excepting those hoarding badly needed resources.

When commercial capital occupies a position of unquestioned ascendancy, it everywhere constitutes a system of plunder.
Karl Marx

Help is not on the way.

Friday, October 08, 2010

The Incomprehensible

Korean “Happiness preacher”
and husband found dead
of joint suicides in motel room.

I hope it is clear to anyone who stumbles across this blog that I do not presume to speak for others of any kind, not the everyone of “everyone knows,” not the people of “the American people,” not the voters of “the voters say,” or even for the “left,” “progressives,” democrats, or whoever. I speak only for myself. I have been a lifelong Democrat, that is, until the past few years when things have become so awful I now consider myself a “democratic socialist.” That being said I will continue my ranting, raving, and frothing at the mouth.

It seems to me that in the past few years, and particularly in the past two years, at least, part of the American political scene has passed through three phases: the ridiculous, the idiotic, and now the incomprehensible. The first phase, when the Tea Party chose their candidates and upset the wishes of the more traditional Republican Party, I view as ridiculous, as the candidates were largely ridiculous. Take Palin, Angle, and O’Donnell as perhaps the best examples. None of these candidates can reasonably be considered prepared for holding high office in our nation. Neither Angle nor O’Donnell have had much of anything in the way of experience although they seem to have tried often for office and failed, Palin’s qualifications are not really much better, a failed governor of a small population state where many of the independent citizens don’t pay much attention to government in the first place. The idiotic phase began when these candidates began opening their mouths in public and on television, and idiocy poured forth like molten lava from an erupting volcano. This began at first with Sarah Palin who claimed to have foreign policy expertise because she could see Russia from her front porch, insisted there were going to be “death panels,” and continued to grow worse and worse the more she spoke. This was mild, however, compared to the idiocy that has spewed forth from the likes of Sharron Angle and Christine O’Donnell: “we may have to resort to our 2nd amendment plan,” “scientists have created mice with fully developed human brains,” “I was never a witch,” “I am privy to secret information about the Chinese plan to take over America,” and so on. Many of these statements, made on video, are so idiotic they should have rendered the candidates complete laughingstocks.

This is where the incomprehensible phase kicks in. The polls suggest that all of these candidates may have a chance to win, a situation I find incomprehensible. Either there is something wrong with the polls, something wrong with voters in Nevada, Delaware, and the U.S. in general, or something wrong with me (perhaps all three are relevant). I have always believed the affairs of the U.S. Government were important, even in some cases vitally important, so how can candidates so ill-prepared and unsuited for office be doing so well? I confess I do not understand it. For me, even if I had inside information that Harry Reid was the devil himself, I would not be able to bring myself to vote for Sharron Angle. I feel exactly the same about O’Donnell and Palin. Add some already existing Congresspersons like Michele Backmann and reflect on what our country might be like when such persons are in positions of power and influence. I find this possibility frightening almost beyond belief.

Lest I be branded a sexist, let me be quick to point out that some of the male candidates are just as bad and perhaps in some cases even worse. Rand Paul, Joe Miller, Ken Buck, and Art Robinson are great examples, but there are others as well. These candidates are so extreme as to make you wonder about where they have actually spent their lives (like, maybe, on other planets). Most of these candidates, as those mentioned above, tend to believe abortion should not be allowed, even in cases of rape and incest. They apparently also believe that if you are careless enough to forget to pay a special $75 fee, you deserve to have your house burned to the ground while the Fire Departments just stands by to observe. Similarly, they believe the minimum wage is unconstitutional, Gay marriage is an abomination, the rich should get even more tax breaks, the poor and unemployed are just lazy, Social Security should be privatized, and on and on. And there are plenty of already elected male Congresspersons who are so ridiculous they should never have been elected in the first place, Jim DeMint, Louie Gohmert, James Inhofe, Tom Coburn come easily to mind, but there are others as well.

The essence of American journalism is vulgarity divested of truth.
Sir Winston Churchill

Chief Joseph’s Indian name can be translated as “Thunder Rolling Down the Mountain.”

Thursday, October 07, 2010

Stupid Questions

Florida man, 87, shoots
84 year-old girlfriend he
suspected of cheating.

What is this penchant people have for asking really stupid questions? Once, for example, a woman I knew was in a drug store looking at sun glasses. You know, looking at one of those revolving stands that display sun glasses. She was crouched down as near the floor as possible looking intently at pairs of sun glasses. A clerk approached and asked her, “You interested in sun glasses? She replied, without hesitation, “No, I just come in here for the exercise.” We encounter these kinds of really stupid questions on an almost daily basis. Upon entering a store that only sells shoes you might well be asked, “Interested in shoes.” Or, when standing at a bus stop waiting patiently you are asked, “Waiting for the bus?” Once I entered a cutlery store where the only things sold were knives. I was asked, “You want a knife?” And so it goes. It is not always easy to reply to stupid questions, sometimes they are so stupid you are left speechless with wonder. A really good reply is hard to come by, as in the well-known tale of a man who asked a stranger, “How do you get to Carnegie Hall,” and received an immediate response, “Practice, man, practice.” Or another wonderful example, as when someone was asked “Does the cross town trolley pass by this way,” and received “Do dah,” as an answer, but enough of this.

I was prompted to think of this when reading that Sarah Palin’s husband, Todd, berated her candidate for Senate from Alaska for refusing to say Silly Sarah was qualified for the Presidency. That is, when asked, Miller refused to give a straightforward answer. Now this strikes me as an example of a truly stupid question. Two years ago Palin was widely regarded as unsuited to be the Vice-Presidential candidate, and for good reason, as she demonstrated repeatedly her empty-headedness with a vengeance. In the two years since then she has given speeches in which she has demonstrated over and over again how little she knows and how ignorant she really is. So why would anyone ask if she is qualified to be President. When even one of those she is responsible for sponsoring refused to answer it is pretty obvious what an honest answer would have to be. I think it is fair to say that the overwhelming majority of American voters know full well she is completely unqualified. You cannot, as the saying goes, “Make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear.” But wonder of wonders, there actually are people who believe she would make a good President. I guess these are the same people who ask stupid questions on a daily basis, like, Do you believe President Obama is really a Kenyan Muslim secretly trying to insert Shari’a law into the U.S., or is he a communist, socialist, fascist, or perhaps a secret Zoroastrian?

I find what is currently going on in American politics to be virtually unbelievable, with a number of candidates with little or no experience, insanely absurd views of what should be done, being supported by tons of corporate money donated to them by corporations who don’t care who they are as long as they are anti-Obama. Even foreign corporations and companies are donating huge amounts of money to defeat Obama in an unprecedented and illegal manner. Illegality, hypocrisy, theft, dishonesty, deceit, immorality, you name it and it seems to be okay these days. Even blatant war crimes go unpunished. We even have some candidates at the moment whose only claim to high office is that they have fortunes so bloated they can afford to buy a seat in government at whatever the cost. Most of them will probably (at least hopefully) fail, but the very fact they believe high office can legitimately be purchased is a step so far backwards in time as to be pathetic. That, I fear, is precisely what our political system has become…pathetic.

They want the federal government controlling Social Security like it's some kind of federal program.
George W. Bush

Kinkajous can live to be 23 years old in captivity.

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

Basic Confusion?

Drunken brawl breaks out
when one woman blocks
the view of a male stripper.

There seems to be substantial confusion in our country over such basic things as common sense, morality, legality, and the ordinary functions of government. I believe this is at least partly what is responsible for our accelerating decline. Let’s take a simple example to begin with, the burning down of a house in Tennessee. You probably all know the story. A family either forgot or for some other reason failed to pay a special $75 dollar fee that would have protected them from fire. Their house caught fire, the fire department was called, but because they hadn’t paid the fee, simply stood by and watched the house burn to the ground. This has outraged some people, but has been defended by others as “what they get for not paying the special fee” (it’s their own fault). Forget for the moment that the homeowner and even his neighbor offered to pay whatever it would cost if they would spray water and keep the fire from further damage. One might think that anyone, even a stranger passing by, when seeing a house on fire would feel some moral obligation to do something to help. Certainly you would not expect a fire department to refuse to help put out a fire of any kind, whether a special fee had been paid or not. This homeowner already paid his taxes, money that is supposed to be used for government protection, so why was he expected to pay additional money? Presumably, I guess, because taxes in this community are not sufficient to cover expenses. But why are they not sufficient? Is it not the responsibility of government to impose taxes for the purpose of preventing fires, crime, and so on. This seems to be a kind of mini-privatization problem.

So what is the purpose of privatization? I guess the argument has to do with the belief that private industry can do things better and more efficiently than government. I believe this is a very questionable belief, given false credence by Ronald Reagan and other nincompoops. We have many governmental programs that function very well (or would if properly funded): the Post Office, Veterans Health, Public Education, Medicare, Medicaid, Highway construction, and so on. There is, alas, little agreement on this question. Some seem to believe government should have virtually no power over individuals, others believe in a strong central government that acts in the best interest of the citizens. After more than 300 years of our democracy there seems to be little agreement on the legitimate functions of government. Some seem to believe that taxes themselves are intrinsically wrong, that people should not have to pay them. But what, then, for things like fire departments, police, highways, schools, and etc.? Obviously in a large and complex society like ours, without some government control there would be chaos, nothing would work very well and the populace would suffer.

In our contemporary society this problem is confounded by the ridiculous idea of a “free-market economy.” That is, the market operating freely will bring about desirable results for most everything. If everything were just privatized, and business and the markets were allowed to function freely we would be living in paradise. It seems to me there is by now quite enough proof that this is completely nonsensical. There have been in recent years attempts to privatize most everything: energy, schools, fire departments, prisons, agriculture, transportation, and even in extreme cases, such basic necessities as water. And government has been denied even basic regulatory functions. You understand, I hope, where this has led us. I repeat once again, there are some things that are far too important to be privatized. All our basic necessities must be seen in this way. Private enterprise does not operate with the public good in mind, but, rather, only for profit. It is perfectly obvious that privatizing schools is going (in general) to lead to more shoddy education, private prisons are going to lead to less care, less food, and inevitably an increase in the prison population. Even our food supply has been corrupted by huge private companies operating solely for profit. We know what the privatization of energy has done in California. It should not be difficult to know what basic facts of human life should be protected.

There is another area in which I think governments have failed. I receive pleas very often to save the children, help the homeless, save the whales, save the apes, save the puffins, save the Polar Bears, and on and on. Now I am very sympathetic to all of these causes, and I sincerely believe they should all be protected, and I feel guilty if I do not contribute. But should this not be the responsibility of governments? Should not, over time, our governments, supposedly acting in our best interests, have seen to it that species did not disappear, there should be no homeless, no unemployed, nothing that is currently believed to be a serious problem. Do these problems not result from just plain neglect? These problems seem to me to be the result of our failure to agree on just what the responsibilities of government, at least our own government, should be? Doesn’t it seem reasonable that in over 300 years of our history we should have come to some agreement over just what government should and should not be expected to do. I personally believe that all governments have failed miserably when it comes to protecting their citizens, the environment, and all the wonderful creatures that exist on our little planet. At the moment I see little hope for any meaningful change. I think there is most probably a serious flaw in the human character that simply does not allow us to do the right thing, or perhaps even to know what the right thing is. We can’t even agree on whether or not human life is truly precious.

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

The age of the earth has been determined to be 4.54 billion years.

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Are We Serious?

Assaulted in SUV, she
grabs his knife and pants
and flees the scene.

Thank you for the wonderful and appropriate poem, Consolation, it was much appreciated.

Is this a serious nation or not when it comes to government? I think perhaps it once was, but looking on the contemporary scene in American politics I confess to having serious doubts. I have no idea what the solution might be but I am pretty sure the current practices have reduced our national politics to the same level as electing the President of the eighth grade. I guess the problem is that anyone can run for high public office no matter how ridiculously ill-qualified they might be. The cases of Senatorial candidates Sharon Angle, in Nevada, and Christine O’Donnell in Delaware are the best cases in point. Neither of these women have any genuine qualifications for office whatsoever. At best they are fast talking phonies and at worst, raving lunatics. Yet they are actually running for Senatorial seats in our highest echelons of government. This is absurd. There are other candidates, mostly, if not all Republicans, that are equally unsuited for office (perhaps not quite as badly unsuited as Angle and O’Donnell).

What I find more disturbing even than our current crop of Senate and House candidates, is the situation when it comes to Presidential aspirations. Here in America it seems that anyone and everyone can run for the highest office in the land (also probably the world). All you have to do to be a candidate for President, I gather, is simply announce that you are a candidate, or want to be. There are no prerequisites, no qualifications and experience necessary. While it is true that most of these self-proclaimed candidates never get anywhere, the line between a respectable, legitimate candidate, and a nonsensical one is not completely clear. I saw somewhere today, for example, that there are memos in existence that suggest Sarah Palin is actually going to run for President. I don’t know if this is true but it easily could be. Sarah Palin is not qualified to be President of the United States, or even to presume to such office. Being a failed half-term governor of a small population state is simply not sufficient experience for the most powerful position in the world (to say nothing of the fact she is apparently as ignorant as a cedar post). But if Palin is unqualified, what about some of the others who are aspiring to run, like Newt Gingrich, for example, the world’s greatest hypocrite, already driven from Congress for blatant violations of the rules, a pompous ass who pretends to be a great intellectual leader of the Republican Party. While it is true he has at least some high-level political experience, his obvious, blatant, dishonest, opportunistic, hypocritical and self-serving pontifications should easily disqualify him from office. Then there are a number of what might at best be considered “third-stringers” who have expressed Presidential aspirations: Eric Cantor, Bobby Jindal, Haley Barber, Mike Huckabee, and others, not Tea Party types, but not much to brag about either. Even those Republican candidates that might be accepted as serious are not without serious flaws, take Mitt Romney (the lying Mormon, and Jeb Bush (of the Bush mafia) as examples. It is a mystery to me who the Republican candidate for President in 2012 might be but certainly none of the above would seem entirely suitable. But what bothers me about this is not that these particular candidates are so inappropriate, but that it seems to indicate a lack of seriousness when it comes to electing our officials. This is perhaps because whoever is President serves only at the will of corporate interests so it really doesn’t matter much anymore who the President is, being mostly just a figurehead (George W. Bush would seem to be a good example). I see that the guy who wanders around New York strumming his guitar and singing in his underwear has expressed an interest in running for President. Don’t laugh, he might win.

This is supposed to be the most powerful nation in the world, our President is supposed to be the single most powerful figure in the world, our Congress is supposed to be equal in importance, and yet we have an electoral system that allows even lunatics for compete for office (and sometimes win, witness some of our leaders who have already been elected and seem to have no sense of responsibility whatsover!). We seem to be no more serious about our government than we are about who leads the local cub scout troupes or the local knitting club. While nations in Europe and Asia have been moving ahead in technology and science we have been falling further and further behind as seen in comparisons now with other nations in education, math, science, and so on. In fact we are slowly being seduced into a nation of wage slaves, in debt to the “company store,” via credit cards, phony loans, and questionable laws that always favor corporate interests over those of ordinary citizens. We are seeing right now the results of the fixed Supreme Court’s ruling that corporations can make unlimited monetary donations to political interests they favor, a situation if not quickly corrected (somehow), means we will never be free of our corporate masters, “another day older and deeper in debt.”

The state is nothing but an instrument of oppression of one class by another--no less so in a democratic republic than in a monarchy.
Friedrich Engels

The U.S. Military is dropping mice laced with Tylenol by helicopter on Guam in an attempt to control the invasive brown snakes.

Sunday, October 03, 2010

Requiem for a Generation

My first and best friend, whom I have known for all 81 years of our lives, has been struck down with a stroke, brain tumor, and second stroke. He is currently installed in a special intensive care hospital that I am certain will be his penultimate resting place. I am horrified and upset by this unexpected event as he was expected to live at least four or five years longer, or so he recently informed me. We were small children and played together almost daily, went through 12 years of school together, shared all the adventures of adolescence together: fishing, hunting, hiking, working, girls, everything. We parted as he joined the army and I went off to college, but always kept in touch and in recent years have been close friends once again. When you lose someone like that, with whom you were so close and shared so much, it is like losing part of yourself. He was such a good man, married to the same woman for over 50 years, a father and grandfather, honest, hard-working, and kind. I cannot remember him ever saying a bad word about anyone, he never fought with anyone but was brave and strong, never cheated, and so far as I know never did an unkind act of any kind. I know one is supposed to speak highly of the dead, or not at all, but in this case the praise is entirely warranted. I sincerely wish I could say the same things about myself. Of course I will miss him and my life will not be the same.

Thinking now of those of my generation that were important parts of my life, a few are still alive and doing well, considering their ages and health. Of my High School graduation class of (wow) 37, I know that at least seven or eight are still alive. But so many others have gone, a good friend and college roommate dead by his own hand, another dead from the booze, one crippled with terrible Parkinson’s, another totally incapacitated by strokes, another with Alzheimer’s, my son’s Godmother dead from cancer, his Godfather rendered helpless from strokes, and others gone from cancer and heart disease, one or two others just mysteriously disappeared completely, two widowers absolutely miserable and lost without their wives, all of these gone or going on their individual Journeys to the West, carrying their memories and secrets and experiences with them. It is not a pretty picture, but one that I’m sure is typical of those fortunate enough to have lived into their eighties or nineties.

Of course people strive to avoid their inevitable fate, to live as long as possible, “rage, rage, against the dying of the light,” and the ideas of death and dying are not pleasant, but then, who would want to live forever? Death, after all, is not more unnatural than life, in fact is part of life. Is it not comforting to know that after years of toil, strife, anxiety, fear, and seemingly endless challenges to overcome, there is going to be an end, a finish, a completion, a time of complete and blissful peace? Do we not, when our time is near, wish it to come quickly, mercifully, and without undue complications and suffering? No one wishes to die prematurely, slowly and painfully, but does there not come a time when one wishes, even looks forward, to the end? Life can be pleasant, it is true, a wonderful gift from the Great Mystery, something to be treasured and treated with respect, but it is also hard, fraught with the demons and mysterious evils, frustrations and triumphs, victories and defeats, the very things make it what it is. Is not its peaceful end perhaps the greatest experience and triumph of all, the moment that brings the most revealing epiphany?

How appropriate,
when the Great Mystery calls,
to leave in autumn.


Friday, October 01, 2010

I Don't Believe It

Drunk driver crashes into house
wearing t-shirt that says,
“I have a drinking problem.”

Many pundits and others are predicting a huge Republican victory in November. For some it seems to be a foregone conclusion that Republicans will take over the House of Representatives, and there is hope even for the Senate. Even those who don’t necessarily believe this is a sure thing believe there is a good possibility it will happen. I don’t believe it. My political predictions have not been very accurate in the past, and of course I could be wrong, but I just plain cannot believe this will happen.

If it were the case that the Republican Party was truly and clearly split into two parts, the minority part being the Tea Party and the majority being more or less reasonable people, I might believe otherwise. But the split that is widely cited does not seem to be at all clear, moderate Republicans (if they still exist) are not disowning or disavowing the Tea Party candidates. Indeed, the Republican Party is in most cases actively supporting this rather lunatic fringe, the line between the Tea Party people and others in the Republican Party is not at all clear anymore. And if you consider what the Republicans say they will do once they get in office you can only conclude that it is equally as radical (and insanely undesirable) as anything proposed by the Tea Party. I will not list these goals here but you know they have to do with privatizing Social Security, giving huge tax breaks to the wealthy, and turning over Roe vs Wade, if they could, along with other equally deleterious aims. This is why I cannot believe they will win much of anything next month. My reasoning is simple. In spite of my dim view of the American voting public, in spite of my usual cynicism, in spite of what so many others are predicting, I absolutely cannot bring myself to believe that a majority of the American voting public could possibly be stupid enough to allow this to happen. So, if I prove to be wrong, let it be for a good reason. These various Republican candidates, along with the stated goals of the Republican Party, should they win, are so extreme, so “far out,” so potentially destructive, so (in my opinion) insane, I can’t believe they can produce a victory.

I seriously believe we should establish at least some minimum prerequisites for running for high-level political positions, especially for Senators and President. There should be some way of screening out candidates who are clearly not qualified or suitable for office, the O’Donnell’s and Angle’s, for example. Not only that, I would go farther and suggest that if a candidate somehow slips through the vetting process and actually gets elected, and then proves to be some kind of obstructionist nincompoop, there should be an easier way to get rid of them. I should think that the control of our country is too important to be put in the hands of know-nothings who seem to be ignorant of even the most basic facts of human, social, and cultural life in the 21st century, individuals too ignorant even to understand the importance of the science and scientific research that underlies our current existence. Even individuals who prove through their tenure in office they put personal and party interests ahead of the welfare of citizens should be removed (actually, they sometimes are, but only when their criminality becomes truly extreme). Our current political system is already probably too corrupt to be changed, when you have people who are elected mostly on the basis merely of becoming shills for corporations and big business, you don’t have to be much concerned if they know anything or not, you just have to be confident they do not have the public interest in mind.

Speaking of tenure, I am motivated to comment. In recent years there have been cases where established professors have been forced to defend their actions or behavior or lose their tenure. At the moment it appears the Governor of New Jersey is threatening the tenure system of teachers, wanting to fire those that might be regarded as incompetent. I believe there is a lot of misunderstanding about tenure. As I understand it, having been a University Professor for quite a long time, the tenure system was not designed to give permanence of employment to teachers just because of longevity. The basic importance of tenure has to do with the guarantee of free speech. That is, professors should not be fired because they hold certain political beliefs, or are somehow out of the mainstream of political opinion. Over the years this seems to have become more or less forgotten or neglected, in favor of arguments over competence or ability when teaching. It should not be too difficult to examine individual cases and determine if the motivation for stripping away tenure is political as opposed to incompetence. There have always been means available to get rid of incompetent teachers, but somehow this has been made more and more difficult and has not been widely employed. If we are to become more serious about our educational system, especially in improving it, this is obviously going to become an even more important issue. To just do away with tenure entirely would be a terrible mistake.

Just think of the tragedy of teaching children not to doubt.
Clarence Darrow

Evidence for human activity having to do with the production of salt dates back at least to 6050 B.C.