Monday, July 30, 2012

Dick Cheney is Right!

Never in a thousand million years did I believe I would ever agree with Dick the Slimy about anything. Nor did I believe he would ever say anything that might actually be true. But he did! He said the choice of Sarah Palin for Vice President was a mistake. I believe that is definitely true, in spite of John McCain’s attempt to declare it was not. Not only was it a mistake, it was a HORRIBLE mistake. Not only did it contribute to McCain’s loss to now President Obama, it also gave a venue for this absolutely fish-brained, fishwife to broadcast her screeching nonsense to the entire world, her fifteen minutes of fame that she has managed to turn into an ongoing career by appealing to the lower half of the bell curve of intelligence. Thus she has grown from a questionably know-nothing halftime Governor of a huge state, inhabited by a small population of near hermits, to an authority on foreign affairs, health care, the economy, and U.S. politics, among other things. Not bad for a little girl from Sandpoint, Idaho, who finally managed to graduate from college with a degree in journalism and bit of experience as a beauty queen. She was totally unqualified for the Vice Presidency then and still would be now. John McCain has to defend her or otherwise admit he made an idiotic, indefensible mistake, and no one wants to admit their stupidity, better to appear a bit “dotty” than imbecilic.

The more I see and hear about Mitt Romney the more I am coming to the conclusion that he, too, is a horrible mistake. Even Republicans now admit he is not a strong candidate, and each day he seems to make things worse for himself. Having insulted the British and relegated the Palestinians to being culturally inferior, who knows what might come of his visit to Poland. It is not clear to me why he picked Poland to visit in the first place, unless perhaps to gain some credibility for his antiquated cold-war belief that Russia is still our number one enemy. When it comes to foreign policy he is no better than Palin, and when it comes to anything else he is completely unknown because he has been on two or three sides of every issue you can name. Having now alienated the British, Palestinians, seniors, juniors, women, blacks, Hispanics, most Jews, Muslims, and everyone except the uneducated White minority, the polls insist he is “neck and neck” with Obama. Go figure.

I do not really understand the Republican hatred of Obama and I have concluded it must be primarily his race (he is Black, you know). That is, all of the objections I have to Obama are not things Republicans should be objecting about. Obama has defended Wall Street, he has been remarkably hawkish, managed to kill bin Laden and other terrorists, has done nothing whatever about guns, passed Obamacare, modeled on Romneycare, that preserves the ridiculous and unnecessary insurance industry ties to health care, has maintained the defense budget far beyond reason, promoted many things first suggested by Republicans, and has proven to be pretty conservative in most everything. Much to my dismay he has supported Israel banditry and paranoia, and has slavishly given in to Israeli wishes on Iran (short of outright war). These are all things one would think would please Republicans. But they don’t, which I find rather surprising. I can see nothing Obama has done that should bring about such hatred on the part of Republicans, other than being Black. It is true he has suggested the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy should expire, but as this only involves a rather minimal increase in taxes that were designed to be temporary in the first place, and will only affect individuals with so much money they won’t even notice, it seems to me rather inconsequential. Republicans appear to have constructed a character named Obama to hate that is completely artificial and has no resemblance to the real President Obama whatsoever, a character they can hate passionately for completely political gain. However much I question Obama’s administration, the thought of a Romney/Republican administration is so terrifying as to be unthinkable.

[George Bush] has raised taxes on the people driving pickup trucks and lowered taxes on the people riding in limousines. We can do better.

Bill Clinton

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Chutzpah, and How!

The Israelis have raised chutzpah to entirely new soaring and unprecedented heights. They are requesting permission to annex the West Bank! They want the Israeli military occupation of the West Bank to be retro-actively legalized. That would effectively make the West Bank part of Israel. You have to follow this very carefully in order to properly understand the logic of this request and the unbelievable chutzpah involved.

Start with the finding of the World Bank that the Palestinian economy is not sufficient to sustain statehood. If they do not have an economy sufficient to become a state there will presumably not be a Palestinian state, at least not in any foreseeable future. If there cannot be a Palestinian state Israel might as well claim the West Bank as not, especially as they have already established many completely illegal settlements there and basically would now have to merely extend Israeli law to that territory. The only problem with this, from the Israeli point of view, is the presence of 50,000 or more Palestinians. As the Israelis want the land and the water but not the Palestinians their plan to take the West Bank has not as yet happened.

But consider what has happened up until now. Why is it the Palestinians do not have a viable economy? Could it possibly have anything to do with the already substantial encroachment by Israel on the West Bank? They have constructed more and more illegal settlements on Palestinian land, have destroyed Palestinian homes, orchards, fields, herded a million or more into the little sliver of land called the Gaza Strip where they have not permitted them to create much of anything by not allowing them building materials and other vital products. And in this process Israel has managed to locate Palestinians in separate parcels here and there, making it virtually impossible for them to ever have a viable country of their own. Ignore for a moment the fact that Israel has murdered Palestinian leaders and even children at will, arrested and tortured, made it extremely difficult for Palestinians to even travel easily from one place to another, bulldozed Palestinian homes, and on and on, all in violation of international law and the sanctions of the U.N.

In short, Israel has rather systematically destroyed any chance for the Palestinians to have a viable economy, and thus a state of their own, and now they think they should be entitled to keep the spoils gained through their illegal and brutal treatment of them. This is akin to murdering your parents and then asking for mercy because you have become an orphan. The Israelis have never lacked for chutzpah, but this is such an outrageous proposal they should be forced to give up the settlements, pay big-time reparations to the Palestinians, and be forced back to the previously agreed upon borders. They should also apologize to the entire world for their brazen criminality and lack of human decency. However, with American support for any atrocity they commit, that, of course, is not going to happen. Why the U.S. has supported them in their criminal enterprise year after year I do not know (actually I think I do know but it is too disgusting to contemplate).

As far as I know virtually the entire world is opposed to the Israeli expansion and behavior in general. Without U.S. support they would have little choice but to curb their excessive colonialism. But the U.S., the only nation that could actually do something about it prefers to aid and abet them at every turn. Mitt Romney, that wizard of foreign policy, who insists Obama has not done enough for Israel, is meeting with Netanyahu at the moment. Will he stop them before they kill again? Of course not, he will just continue outsourcing U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East to Israel and trying to encourage a war with Iran.

Next to knowing when to seize an opportunity, the most important thing in life is to know when to forego an advantage.

Benjamin Disraeli

Thursday, July 26, 2012

On "Rights"

Contrary to what we often hear from one person or another, particularly politicians on various occasions, there are no “God-given rights,” nor are there any “Natural rights,” and there are certainly no “Divine rights.” If you live in some sort of society, as all people do, whatever “rights” you enjoy or lack originate or fail in the social contract in which you inevitably exist.

Let us take “life, liberty, and happiness,” as an example. “Life” is not a right, it is simply a matter of fact. Somehow animals, including humans, exist, they are born, they simply “are,” existence just “is.” The reason we hear about the right to life is because the society you participate in defines who can or cannot take your life, and in what circumstances it might or might not be taken. Some people use right to life to mean abortions should be prohibited, but not everyone agrees as there can be untoward consequences or compelling reasons abortions may be necessary, but to be born and live in general is not truly a “right.”

“Liberty,” likewise is not truly a right. Liberty is something you would have only if you existed outside of human society entirely, because then, and only then, would you (at least theoretically) have the liberty to do whatever you wished, whenever you wished. We have liberty because society grants us the liberty to do certain things that are necessary for lives to be lived. We clearly do not have unlimited liberty to do whatever we wish to do as that would result in anarchy.

The same thing is true of happiness. You have a right to seek happiness, of course, but your happiness cannot come as the result of harm to others or (in principle) to the environment. If it makes you happy to make money off the misery of others, or to damage their property, and so on, you cannot pursue happiness by doing such things. Happiness is a curious concept. I’m not at all certain that previous generations even had any expectation of happiness, life for them was often difficult, sometimes virtually impossible, and they just accepted it as it was, survival was the goal. I suspect for many, happiness was not even perceived as a goal. Of course if it makes you happy to believe that some form of supernatural being or nature gave us “rights,” you are free to think so. But you should be aware that not everyone agrees with that point of view, and, in fact, there are malevolent gods as well as benevolent ones.

When it comes to something like health care, it is true it is not a god-given or natural right, and some argue that because it is not you should not necessarily expect or receive it. But health care is provided by all industrialized or “civilized” societies (except the United States). It is not a “right,” it is a privilege (a right) granted you by virtue of your being a citizen of an enlightened and compassionate society that is concerned with the health and well-being of its citizens. It would also seem obvious that it is in the best interest of a society to have healthy citizens for a stable work force and a strong national defense, as well as perhaps a modicum of happiness thrown in for good measure.

Even self-defense is not truly a right. Self-defense is basically a reflex action that all living creatures display when attacked by someone or something. Self-defense may merely take the form of running away, but it may also involve physical violence of some kind. As far as I know all societies acknowledge the right of self-defense, but what constitutes legitimate self-defense can vary from place to place (and even from judge to judge, it appears in the U.S.). Attempting to codify what constitutes legitimate self-defense can be complicated as the Trayvon Martin case has shown us, but no one is questioning the basic principle of self-defense.

Do all people have a “right” to food and shelter? Historically, and even currently, it would appear they do not, or at least some societies are quite ambivalent on the subject. How, for example, does one account for the fact that even here in the U.S., said to be the wealthiest nation on earth, there are homeless people trying to eke out an existence by “dumpster diving” or searching through garbage dumps. This is even more common in many other nations. This would appear to prove that, indeed, people do not have a basic “right to live,” as the poor with no health insurance, garbage for food, and without shelter, do not live long, healthy, and happy lives. It appears that in our society that any attempt to alleviate this dreadful situation is a form of socialism, and socialism is considered even worse than what is becoming more and more common these days under our capitalistic economy, said to be the best economic system in the world. Thus it is, if rights are a result of the social contract, you may or may not have them, depending upon the nature of that contract. It seems that in an unregulated capitalistic society like ours you have no right either to life, liberty, or happiness, unless perhaps the latter can be found in the depths of a Dempsey Dumpster. You can be pretty sure that if “The Great White Dope” manages to get elected President, conditions are not likely to improve.

Where justice is denied, where poverty is enforced, where ignorance prevails, and where any one class is made to feel that society is in an organized conspiracy to oppress, rob, and degrade them, neither persons nor property will be safe.
Frederick Douglass

Wednesday, July 25, 2012


Today marks the eighth year of Morialekafa. Wow! It seems like only yesterday. But Morialekafa is not the nitwittery I have in mind. We can always depend on Republicans for an endless supply of nitwittery, especially after some momentous event, but regularly in any case.

Let me begin with one of the usual suspects, Michele (McCarthy) Bachmann. You will recall at one point she suggested Congress should be investigated for anti-Americanism. That didn’t go very far. Now she has fixed her laser-like vision on Huma Abedin, a long-time aide of Hilary Clinton. Bachmann and two or three of her equally unbalanced cronies have written a letter insisting that Ms. Abedin be investigated for possible ties to Muslim terrorists. There is, of course, no supporting evidence of any kind this might be true. The only conceivable reason she might be suspected is the simple fact that she is a Muslim and comes from a Muslim family. She is also married to Anthony Weiner, a disgraced Congressman who also is an American Jew. Bachmann’s seedy attempt to place suspicion on Ms Abedin brought forth criticism from both sides of the political aisle. Even John McCain, in a moment of sanity, took some time away from his constant demands for more and bigger wars, and defended her from this scurrilous attack.

For this noble effort a leader of the Arizona Tea Party, Wes Harris, said he would try to get McCain recalled and Louie Gohmert, Republican Congressman from Texas, referred to McCain as “numbnuts” for the same reason.

Then we have Darrell Issa suggesting (seriously it is said) we should name part of the Pacific Ocean after Ronald Reagan. Perhaps that might be fine for the ocean of plastic now floating around in it.

Not to be outdone by the nitwittery of others, Jon Kyl, another Republican from Arizona, suggested  President Obama should stop talking about the Middle Class because that made people feel animosity towards the wealthy, who he described as "the Michael Jordans of the United States." And besides, he added, still, apparently with his head up where the sun don't shine, both the Middle and Upper classes share the same values.

We mustn’t forget that perennial nitwit, Dinesh D’Sousa, who insists that President Obama is living out his father’s dreams of defeating colonialism, promoting the values of African tribesmen. I guess the only evidence for this interesting bit of fantasy is that Obama’s father was from Africa (and apparently left his son when he was still a very small child). I guess anti-colonialism is passed down through the genes.

D’Sousa’s absurd beliefs about Obama are downright sane when compared to those of another Republican, worse than a nitwit (probably certifiably loony), Judson Phillips. He thinks Obama should have to prove that he is not a drug addict who also engaged in Gay sex before becoming President. He has, of course, no compelling evidence for this as far as I know, except for the fact that Obama has admitted smoking pot and trying cocaine as a teenager in Hawaii (along, no doubt, with hundreds of other Hawaiian teenagers in those days).

The unfortunate and horrible mass murders in Aurora, Colorado, did not fail to bring more nitwittery. Senator Ron Johnson said that restricting gun magazines that allow someone to shoot 100 rounds in about a minute would infringe on freedom (the freedom to kill one hundred at a time, I guess). This utter nonsense was joined by Russell Pearce who blamed the victims for not having their own guns and killing the shooter (someone should have just stood up in the face of the withering fire and shot the guy, I suppose). Anyway, we mustn’t forget Mike Huckabee who blamed the massacre on “sin,” too much secularism in America. Someone else blamed it on women. Apparently the shooter, Holmes, had been on the internet attempting to attract women who it is said, all turned him down, and that may have caused him to do what he did.

Last, but not least, I should mention another of the usual suspects, Louie Gohmert of Texas. Louie can always be depended on to say something completely idiotic, he never fails. Louie believes the massacre was a result of too many attacks on Judeo-Christian beliefs (someone must have once mentioned such beliefs to him and he thought it sounded important).

I don’t know how it is that Texas and Oklahoma manage to produce so many truly mindless Congresspersons year after year, but somehow they do. Governors, too, it seems. Sometimes I think they do it on purpose. They don’t like the Federal Government so they deliberately pick the dumbest people they can and send them to Washington as a kind of cruel political practical joke. I could be wrong about this, of course, but there is plenty of room for nitwittery these days.

By their own follies they perished, the fools.

Monday, July 23, 2012

As the Worms Turn

If you have been watching this program for the last few years you will remember the trials and tribulations of the main characters. There was and is the one and only “Mitt,” the candidate almost no one wanted, competing desperately against a host of others all determined to defeat him, there was the memorable Sarah, also Michele, Herman, Donald, the two Ricks, that Minnesota guy who didn’t last long at all, and Ron, the Libertarian, to say nothing of the indefatigable Newt, all with their moments in the sun competing to defeat Mitt and earn an opportunity to bring down the Black knight, Barack Hussein. One by one they lost and dropped out until Mitt achieved the cherished goal of potentially riding the white horse to victory.

There were some epic moments when various candidates tried to defeat Mitt, who some believed belong to a strange cult that was not what it claimed to be. They all insisted Mitt was a notorious flip-flopper who had been on both sides of every issue of importance, an accusation that was known to be true but simply did not seem to matter. Mitt was savagely attacked by his rivals for claiming false credentials, for his life style, his fortune, his lack of military experience, his ignorance of foreign policy, and even the treatment of his dog, all to no avail. Mitt, with virtually unlimited support from wealthy donors, and his ability to spend lavishly to overwhelm his rivals eventually emerged the clear victor.

Now, the battle joined, we watch breathlessly as the story develops. Mitt, with no program of his own to offer, has to attack Barack Hussein mercilessly. Barack Hussein, he repeats endlessly, is a failure, does not understand how to manage the economy, and is naïve when it comes to foreign policy. There are also sly hints about his background and his ancestry. Was he actually born in the U.S., might he really be a Muslim, a socialist, an “Other” of some kind with a secret plan to deliver our country into the hands of our Muslim enemies? Of course he has a plan to take away our guns and does not support our ally, Israel, the country that can do no wrong no matter how many times it is condemned by the international community. Mitt’s supporters are prepared to spend billions to remove Barack Hussein from office. Unfortunately for Barack Hussein there are enough members of Congress to successfully block all of his attempts to govern effectively. They manage to keep unemployment at levels high enough to presumably end his Presidency at the end of one term.

Barack Hussein is proving to be tougher than Mitt and his cronies thought. In spite of their attempts to cripple him Barack Hussein has managed to accomplish some worthwhile things and has his own supporters who are committed to keeping him in office. A bit of an idealist, Barack Hussein began his term in office attempting to compromise with Mitt’s factions, only to find after years of experience, that would be an impossible task. We have had to watch in awe as the Mitt supporters have taken us to the brink of bankruptcy to get their way. Tougher now than in the beginning, Barack Hussein is fighting back, more or less successfully so far, turning Mitt’s supposed strengths into weaknesses and exposing him as a merciless vulture capitalist making his fortune by exporting jobs and dodging taxes.

So now we watch and wait while this national soap opera continues. Will the mysterious Mitt have to release his taxes for the past few years, making public the dark secrets contained therein, or will he continue to stonewall? Will Mitt’s unscrupulous allies raise enough doubts about Barack Hussein to gain enough votes? Will the Rove behind the “roviating” strategy he perfected against Kerry work this time? Will a few billionaires succeed in buying the U.S.? Will Mitt continue to perform so badly his own supporters might abandon him at the last moment? Will Ron disrupt the coming convention, demanding the impossible? Will Mitt’s chickens come home to roost and lay the golden egg of defeat? Will Barack Hussein’s marvelous smile be enough to win him enough votes? Can the grand Republican scam work or will the voters see through it? Will Barack Hussein survive the “slings and arrows of outrageous fortune?” Will “happy days” be here again? There has never been an election cycle as fantastic as this one, enjoy it while you still can, before all those neglected problems like global warming and nuclear disaster render it all moot. Those parasitic worms otherwise known as humans have led the good life long enough, they are finally about to destroy their host.

The word 'politics' is derived from the word 'poly', meaning 'many', and the word 'ticks', meaning 'blood sucking parasites'.

Larry Hardiman

Saturday, July 21, 2012


There is apparently no evidence that Phineas Taylor Barnum ever actually said, “There’s a sucker born every minute and two to take him,” but he might well have done so. In any event, if he were alive today he would have said it differently, to the effect that, “Suckers are born every minute and a few to take them.”

Another “savvy” guy said, “Follow the money,” particularly good advice for the times as money has become considered speech and obviously is driving our politics. I suggest that if you follow the money these days you will discover a massive amount of suckers, otherwise known as the American public. You will also begin to see how it is that the duration of our elections, now beginning at inauguration and lasting until the next one, has developed into a permanent “cash cow” for the powers that be.

Consider, if you will, where do all these massive amounts of money originate? They come primarily from corporations who want something in return. Where does the bulk of all that money go? It goes to the major media, mostly television and to a lesser extent to radio and newspapers. And who owns the major media? Corporations own them, of course. So when a corporation donates money to a campaign they take it out of one arm of their huge conglomerate and give it to another arm of the same conglomerate. Ultimately it costs them nothing.

Along the way, however, it picks up more and more taxpayer money, as taxpayers are urged to give in order to counteract the more massive amounts corporations donate. The more the corporations donate the more taxpayers are motivated to give more. Even better, if Republicans promote causes they know the public opposes, like doing away with Roe vs Wade, Planned Parenthood, Medicare, voter suppression, global warming, and so forth, the public becomes angry and is thus even more highly motivated to give more. When you believe you are supporting the candidate of your choice you are, in fact, donating to GM, Wells Fargo, Boeing, Lockheed Martin, Bank of America, or some other corporate owned enterprise. It doesn’t matter which candidate you support as your only choice is between the two candidates the powers that be allow you to choose between. And in spite of the rhetoric, whichever candidate gets elected, the outcome will be remarkably similar. If the person elected for some reason cannot fulfill their promises completely the other party will be blamed, even though they would almost certainly have done the same thing. It is basically a single party system disguised as two separate but more or less equal parties.

Basically what happens is that one corporate entity is acting as a “shill” for the rest, priming the system in order to increase the “take.” This is a scheme so diabolically clever it ranks right up there with the invention of credit cards and compound interest, both modern day functional equivalents of slavery. Of course the dumber and less educated the public the easier it is to con the suckers. Like all such con games it is necessary to let the suckers win once in a while, but you can be sure the changes will be more cosmetic than substantive. If you are angry about the state of education just give a bit more to the guy who promises to fix it…but don’t be surprised by the result.

You must have noticed that each election cycle lasts longer and is more expensive than the preceding one. Candidates have to raise money to ensure their re-election so the money begins flowing almost immediately and the charade continues on for months on end. Who benefits from this the most, obviously corporate owned media. This goes on for months, even years, in spite of the admission on the part of virtually everyone involved that the public actually doesn’t even pay attention until after Labor Day! The only conceivable reason for this to happen is to constantly milk the cash cow elections have become. Never before in U.S. history have so many been “taken” by so few. The beauty of the system is, as they own it outright, they don’t even worry about being punished, paying a little fine once in a while helps to keep it going. I can’t imagine any other population on earth putting up with this but, hey, hey, it’s the American way.

I can imagine some of the world’s greatest con men meeting either “down below” or “up above” to discuss what is going on in the world of confidence schemes: Charles Ponzi, who needs no introduction, Joseph “Yellow Kid” Weil, Victor Lustig who sold the Eiffel Tower, and George Parker who repeatedly sold the Brooklyn Bridge, and others as well. They must no doubt be laughing at their own little “Mom and Pop” schemes, when compared to the current super-colossal fraud we are now experiencing.

There is no kind of dishonesty into which otherwise good people more easily and frequently fall than that of defrauding the government.

Benjamin Franklin

Friday, July 20, 2012

Thank the NRA

Ho-hum, just another massacre, this time in Aurora, Colorado, 12 dead, 50 or more shot and injured. The NRA will disclaim any responsibility whatsoever, after all, “Guns don’t kill people, people do.” There will be new claims by at least some politicians, mostly Mayors and Governors, for stronger gun laws, but nothing much will happen. After all, the NRA is the strongest lobby in Washington, D.C. and few dare to stand up against them, they might actually lose office for attempting to do the right thing and pass some legislation that actually makes sense of gun control.

The NRA, I believe, started a long, long time ago, in response to the finding that American troops could not shoot straight. After investigating various European programs with respect to this problem a program was began here at home to improve shooting skills. This was a perfectly respectable thing to have done. Subsequently the NRA has acted as a protector of the rights of hunters and sportsmen to own and use firearms, also a perfectly respectable thing to do. More basically, they have been champions of the 2nd Amendment, the right to own and bear arms, again a perfectly respectable goal. But somewhere along the way the respectability of the organization has vanished, or at least been masked by activities far from the original or basic intentions.

So thanks to the power of the NRA lobby we now have laws that encourage or allow individuals to own assault rifles, completely useless for any purpose other than killing other human beings. Individuals can now have oversize clips for their handguns allowing them to shoot far more rounds than necessary out of weapons that again have no useful purpose other than killing other people. And we can now not only carry concealed weapons, we can carry them everywhere including churches, schools, theatres, and bars, ostensibly for personal protection or the protection of others such as school children or whatever. One might wonder where these eager protectors of us with their concealed glocks and Berettas were when this latest gunmen entered the theatre and blasted away blissfully at anyone and everyone.

Many of the things the NRA has successfully lobbied for or against are little more than absurd. No individual, for example, needs an assault rifle. They cannot be used for hunting, are certainly not necessary for home defense, and do nothing but allow deranged individuals to kill many more people than they could otherwise manage. Of course the more ardent (and dim-witted) in support for assault rifles will tell you they are to protect us from our own government. Yeah, really, as if that would ever happen so they would protect us from the full force of the U.S. military. This is nothing but paranoid nonsense. Similarly, no one needs a clip for their handgun that allows them to shoot more than the regulation six to nine rounds. Home invaders do not come equipped with weapons for sustained hostilities. And why should anyone need to go armed into a school or church, or even worse, a bar? Some of these gun nuts think everyone should be required to be armed at all times. This is, of course, basically insane. But not, I guess, if you believe that President Obama is going to take your guns away, and you know he is because so far he has not done so.

I don’t personally have any objection to gun ownership. Hunters should certainly be allowed to own ordinary rifles and shotguns. I don’t have any objection even to the ownership of handguns for home protection although I can understand why handguns can be a serious problem in some urban settings where gangs are common. Beyond that I see no reason for assault weapons, enhanced clips, silencers, 50 caliber weapons, fully automatic weapons, and the right to concealed carry for people going to church or out for a drink.

I find the idea that President Obama or anyone else is going to take away guns totally unrealistic. Given the millions of guns that exist in the U.S, I would say it is too late for that, and even trying to control them beyond certain limits is completely impractical. Most gun owners would not turn in their guns if ordered to do so. Guns of all kinds are readily available in most states. In fact there are even laughable laws in some states that prohibit individuals from buying more than one gun a month. I guess you just can’t have too many guns. Guns are bought and sold at guns shows with no restrictions on who can buy and sell them, and, more importantly, but rarely mentioned, is the fact that guns are advertised, bought and sold in newspapers and magazines. As far as I know (at least in Idaho) all one needs to buy or sell a gun from another individual is a sales receipt or some other record of the transaction. I do not believe that at this point in time it is even possible to control this kind of commerce.

What is both practical and possible, however, are restrictions on the sale of assault weapons (that we had for a time), fully automatic weapons, sawed-off shotguns, silencers, enhanced clips, Saturday night specials, and other such obviously unnecessary arms with no purpose other than killing other humans. Even handguns I find questionable, although there is a point in arguing for home protection.

The NRA was at one time a respectable organization. In the hands of some like Wayne LaPierre and other lunatics it has degenerated into a hotbed of insanity, promoting laws that have no purpose other than keeping the organization in business. I think Carleton Heston’s famous performance about prying guns from his cold, dead hands is probably the most ridiculous, overdramatic, stupid performance by an actor in the history of show biz.

No society that feeds its children on tales of successful violence can expect them not to believe that violence in the end is rewarded.

Margaret Mead

Thursday, July 19, 2012

The Arrogant and Oblivious

Ann Romney in an interview said, among other things, they (the Romneys) would not release any further information about their taxes because “You people already have everything you need to know.” By “you people” I assume she meant all of us “Little people” that actually have to pay our taxes (you will remember the notorious Leona Helmsley’s comment to her maid about the little people). The arrogance behind such a statement is obvious, as is the fact that “you people” are basically irrelevant and have no right even to ask about such things. This was an incredibly stupid thing for Mrs. Romney to have said, especially at a time when there is so much controversy over the 1% vs the 99%.

The interesting thing about this, I think, is that she did not say it after having thought about it, or even truly out of arrogance, she said it just as a matter of course, as if it was the most natural thing in the world for her to have said, which, unfortunately, it was. The fact is she, and others like her, are completely oblivious to the fact that we “Little people” might find it offensive. This attitude is an integral part of being wealthy, it is perfectly natural to them to feel as they do, to believe they are above the proletariat. They believe it is their due simply because they are wealthy, and they expect others to accept their presumed superiority without question, they demand, you obey, they say jump, you say how high. If you have ever worked in a position that involved serving the wealthy you will recognize this as true, they expect servility, and if you do not provide it you don’t last long. It is true that power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. This kind of behavior reached the most extreme form during colonial situations:

“The logic of colonial relations favored arbitrary and brutal conduct towards the natives, whether they were coolies, peasants, laborers, or white-collar workers. A European might believe he had the right to beat, sometimes fatally, a worker whom he perceived to be lazy or rebellious, or a random person who had not made way for him quickly enough or who had refused him his seat closer to the screen at the movies. The records are rich with incidents and even crimes that illustrate in a tragic and revolting manner the nature of the relations between the French and the Indochinese, despite the advice given to those considering emigrating to become colonists in Tonkin, to whom it was recommended to treat the ‘docile and hardworking’ laborers well and to ‘pay them regularly.;” (Pierre Brocheux and Daniel Hemery, Indochina An Ambiguous Colonization, 1859-1954: p. 193).

This was fairly mild compared to what happened in other colonial situations but is representative of what happened everywhere that the wealthy and powerful were in control. This seems to be a human universal, wealth and the power that goes with it, seemingly guarantees arrogance as a perquisite. It is an unusual person indeed that does not give in to the temptation to exercise their power over others, sometimes in the extreme, sometimes more restrained. I recall with some satisfaction once suggesting that new Assistant Professors not be allowed to take positions before spending some time on a remote island where they could be schooled in how to treat secretaries and other assistants, as this was a recurring problem in Universities where I was employed. You do not have to be wealthy to be a jerk, but it certainly helps.

I’m sure the Romneys do not think of themselves as jerks. I’m sure they do not think it untoward to have an elevator for their cars, or multiple homes, or expensive dressage horses, or wear thousand dollar blouses, and so on. Having been born into wealth such things are perfectly natural to them. That is why, try as they might, they cannot understand the lives of the have-nots. They don’t know such people, except as servants or people they can fire, they are oblivious to the fact that everyone cannot just borrow money from their parents to start a business, and to be unemployed and/or on food stamps or homeless represents failure. They just don’t relate, as they can’t. The lives of you little people are no more real to them than the elves and imps that are believed to frolic in the forest.

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

Abraham Lincoln

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

The Pathetic and the Pedestrian

Well, ex-President George W. Bush has surfaced again, one of his relatively rare appearances since he left the White House in disgrace. During an interview he said something to the effect of, “I got out of the swamp and have no desire to get back in. Being President, I was famous and had power, it was awesome.” I suggest that if that is all he has to say about being President of the most powerful nation on earth for eight years that is pretty pathetic, even hopelessly so.

During his Presidency I believed that he must surely be borderline retarded. I have no reason now to change my mind. If not borderline retarded at least the most pedestrian President we have probably ever had. I like my Presidents to be intelligent, more intelligent than the ordinary run of the mill American citizen, certainly more intelligent than me. Bush fails that test miserably. He was pathetic as President and remains pathetic even now. I quite frankly don’t believe he really wanted to be President in the first place, and I believe this is true because he recognized his own intellectual limitations. No truly intelligent person would have said many of the things he is reported to have said, even omitting those things that were grammatically incorrect or perhaps even accidental slips of the tongue.

“I think we agree, the past is over.

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

America has never been an empire. We may be the only great power in history that had the chance, and refused – preferring greatness to power and justice to glory.

I promise you I will listen to what has been said here, even though I wasn't here."

We spent a lot of time talking about Africa, as we should. Africa is a nation that suffers from incredible disease.

You teach a child to read, and he or her will be able to pass a literacy test.

I am here to make an announcement that this Thursday, ticket counters and airplanes will fly out of Ronald Reagan Airport.

You know, one of the hardest parts of my job is to connect Iraq to the war on terror."

I'm the commander -- see, I don't need to explain -- I do not need to explain why I say things. That's the interesting thing about being president.

I know how hard it is for you to put food on your family.

I know the human being and fish can coexist peacefully.

I would say the best moment of all was when I caught a 7.5 pound largemouth bass in my lake.

This foreign policy stuff is a little frustrating.

If this were a dictatorship, it'd be a heck of a lot easier, just so long as I'm the dictator.

See, in my line of work you got to keep repeating things over and over and over again for the truth to sink in, to kind of catapult the propaganda.”

I could go on, there are literally dozens of statements like these. While Bush was President these kinds of absurd comments we were led to believe were just Bush’s tendency for malapropisms, just a kind of cute speech. I don’t believe that. I think if you analyze these and the dozens of other examples you can find they reveal the truth about Bush as an uninformed, not very bright individual, who was completely out of his depth and should never have been elected President. If you can find anything of substance, any semblance of statesmanship, any insightful remark of any kind, you can be sure it was given to him by some speechwriter and he most probably did not understand it. They betray an awesome lack of thought or understanding and are comments so pedestrian they could have been uttered by anyone.

Bush’s remark that he managed to get out of the swamp indicates to me that he at least knew he was in over his head and expresses his relief over his Presidency being over. We should all be relieved that his Presidency is mercifully over. It is commonly understood by most that he was one of the worst, if not the worst Presidents of all time.

"People say, how can I help on this war against terror? How can I fight evil? You can do so by mentoring a child; by going into a shut-in's house and say I love you."

George W. Bush

Monday, July 16, 2012

Yes, Let Us Talk of Jobs...and Lying Hypocrites

One of the Republican talking points they repeat endlessly, starts with “President Obama, where ae the Jobs?” Then they often follow up with something to the effect that Obama dwells on Bain Capital or other Romney problems because he does not want to talk about jobs, having failed to manage the economy and create jobs, and so on, ad nauseam.

If I were Obama, or if I was one of his advisors, or even if I was (and am) a complete nobody, I would suggest to Obama to call their bluff, to say, yes, let us talk about jobs. He should give a major speech on the subject of jobs, in which he should list every single suggestion, attempt, or bill he has proposed and how it is that in case after case after case Republicans have blocked them. I would also point out as clearly as possible that Republicans have not submitted any serious or realistic plan of their own to create jobs. I would conclude by saying, the jobs are in your back pockets along with all the corporate bribes you have taken to destroy the economy in order to destroy my Presidency. This is, I believe, completely true, and they should be forced to answer for it. Starting with the stimulus itself, now widely known to have been not large enough to do the job it was intended to do, and which included at Republican insistence massive and unnecessary tax breaks that helped make it inadequate, to every other proposal Obama has put forward to improve the economy and create jobs, Republicans have filibustered or otherwise found ways to derail. Rather than try to help Obama to help the country they have chosen repeatedly to help themselves. They have simply refused to participate in the governing of our country, an act completely unprecedented in American politics, and they have deliberately chosen this strategy to discredit Obama, a goal they stated publicly and have followed religiously. They have, in short, shown no interest whatsoever in creating jobs.

Does anyone seriously believe that if they should somehow miraculously succeed in regaining power by destroying Obama they are going to create jobs? Of course they won’t, they will do what they have been doing all along: going after health care, unions, women’s health, abortion, minimum wages, food stamps, the right to vote, and even Social Security. They will attempt to privatize everything, including the air we breathe and the water we vitally depend on for life itself. The environment will continue to be sacrificed in the pursuit of short-term profits, global warming will be dismissed as a democratic invention, and science will be ignored in favor of fairy tales. There will no doubt be prayer in schools, if, that is, there are still schools, women will be forced to hobble about with an aspirin between their knees, no one will be allowed to run for President unless they were born in a manger in Arizona surrounded by birth certificates and other legal documents. Our economy will consist of nothing but manufacturing military products, million dollar yachts, and gourmet feeds for polo ponies and Pekinese. Voting will be permitted only to those who can trace their ancestry directly to White European landowners, billionaires, or those who own at least five mansions. Of course you will only be allowed to vote to one of two virtually identical candidates chosen in secret behind the doors of some exclusive country club owned by the Koch brothers. There will be two classes only, “Haves” and “Have-nots.” To become a Have you need to be White, obscenely wealthy, lack compassion, and be ruthless in pursuing endless wealth by any means possible. How you achieved your position among the Haves is a matter of no consequence whatsoever, as long as you profess to believe in some God of European invention, worship capitalism, and disavow any reality that threatens your status quo.

This happy paradise on earth will be realized as soon as the “Spit-in-Your-Face” party has successfully and completely overwhelmed, and finally completely defeated the “Turn-the-Other-Cheek” party, that being the only remaining difference between the two presently existent, significant political parties in this here land of brave and hypothetically free.

Enough babbling, good night and good luck.

Saturday, July 14, 2012


: characterized by or based on the attitude that one's own group is superior

Ethnocentrism as a word in the English language, or any other language as far as I know, did not exist until it was coined in 1906 by the Sociologist William Sumner in his book, Folkways. It grew out of the question of cultural relativism first brought up in Anthropology by Franz Boas in 1887. Boas argued that as human cultures were so varied over time and location the behavior exhibited in them could only be understood relative to the cultural context in which it was found. Ethnocentrism is also intimately related to questions of race or national character.

You will note that both of these concepts only rose into prominence after the horrors of Western-European colonialism had raged for more than 400 years. I don’t believe the full importance of the role ethnocentrism played in both the motivation for colonialism, and the almost unbelievable brutality associated with it, has been fully appreciated or acknowledged. It is possible that if they had, things may have been somwhat different.But that is for another time and a more ambitious project (that I am currently working on).

It seems to be true that most people in most cultures tend to believe their own way of life is superior to others. It could be argued, however, that while American music, jeans, coca cola, Kentucky Fried Chicken, and other products have spread so rapidly around the globe this might indicate otherwise. But the fact that so many people appear to want the material goods and technology of the U.S. (a bigger slice of the pie, so to speak), does not necessarily mean they want to truly be like us. Often foreign items introduced into a culture are modified and used in different ways and many adaptations can occur that do not change more important values and customs in the most fundamental ways. This can be seen in many cultures that have adopted certain features of American culture but still maintain their basic lifeways, and also in the failure of multiculturalism in most European nations. Although we in the U.S. do have occasional problems with immigrants who try to cling to their native traditions that conflict with American laws and customs, multiculturalism has not failed in the U.S. in the same way it has in Europe. This is probably due to the fact that we have a longer tradition of accepting a greater variety of different immigrations, we have a long tradition of being a kind of melting pot, and it is easier in many ways for immigrants to assimilate.

Be that as it may, what I wish to suggest here is that (1) ethnocentrism is still an active force in human affairs, especially Western-European ethnocentrism, and (2) ethnocentrism is so ingrained in the United States it has virtually been institutionalized. With respect to the first point, Germany has been criticized for not wanting to help countries like Greece and Spain. I am not the first person to observe this has to do with beliefs in (especially) Germany, but other Northern countries in Europe as well, about the relative inferiority of Southern countries. Greeks, Italians, and Spaniards are generally believed to be somewhat lazy, unwilling to work as hard as Northerners, are less well-organized and efficient, and so on. The concept of ethnocentrism has this element of inferiority built into it, as inferiority has to be the logical corollary of the belief in superiority.

With respect to the second point above, there has been expressed by some in the U.S. that we are in danger of becoming like Greece. In fact a Republican strategist, Rich Galen just argued that if States accept the Medicaid expansion they will end up like Greece, Spain, or Italy! This fear is not simply based on the fact that these countries are in financial difficulty, after all our own finances are not without serious problems. There is the obsessive and completely irrational fear of socialism (as these countries are supposed to represent), but there is also the lingering doubts about the inferiority of some groups as opposed to others. You will remember our immigration history has a lot to do with restrictive quotas for Southern Europeans, Asians, and others. Don’t forget the “Shanty Irish,” the “Dagos,” the Chinese and Japanese, and previously even Catholics and Jews. Now, of course, the greatest problem is the influx of those from south of the border. Immigration into European countries is quite different from our experience. Most of the immigration is relatively recent and was a response to shortages in countries like France and Germany as a result of WWII. And In some cases the influx has made substantial difference in the ratio of immigrants to the host populations. Our larger host population and our already vast diversity have made our immigration problem quite different.

In any case, I doubt there is any country more ethnocentric than the United States, although some smaller countries with completely homogenous populations, and perhaps even Japan, might be. We wear our ethnocentrism as a badge of honor. We boast constantly about American exceptionalism, America the beautiful, and being the great “Beacon on the Hill,” the richest nation on earth, about being the greatest democracy, about our military might, and about having to be the world’s policeman. We can’t be bothered to learn other languages, have no interest in other legal systems, and fear being “Europeanised.” We insist on spreading democracy around the world (whether anyone wants it or not), we have the best educational system, the best health care, the best products, are the greatest innovators, and, in short, are the crème de la crème, the apex of civilization, the top of the food chain, the “cat’s meow.” The fact that almost none of this is true, and if it was once true is not anymore, does not keep us from cherishing and repeating these American myths. I am compelled to remind you that “Pride goeth before a fall.”

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

H. L. Mencken

Thursday, July 12, 2012

"Star Power," Really?

Earlier today while seeking in vain to find some news that was not “political,” I spotted a headline that said, as I recall, “Dick Cheney to Lend Star Power to the Romney Campaign.” Political, I know, but it did make me pause and wonder, ‘Star Power,” really? Doesn’t it make you wonder what a “Star” is? I mean, like, really, when Cheney left office his favorable rating was 13%, below that even of George W. Bush, the President, lower than that of Congress at that time (they may have exceeded that by now), somewhere about level with a snake’s belly. There may be some who think Cheney is a Star but they have to be very few and very strange. Probably the same people who want to believe Adolf Hitler was a great man because he made the trains run on time. Cheney is such a big Star he is afraid to leave the U.S. for fear of being arrested for war crimes. Such a big Star he is not to be seen in public with Romney and the $30,000 a plate fund raiser he is hosting in Jackson is not going to be photographed. It is being said by some that the purpose of this underworld event is the symbolic passing of the Republican torch from Bush/Cheney to the new leader of the Republican cause, Mitt Romney. You know, from one lying administration to the next.

It appears that Mitt Romney’s claim that he left Bain Capital in 1999, and therefore cannot be responsible for some of its worst offenses, may not be true. I guess there is evidence he may have still been with the company (his company) until 3 years later, 2002. If this is so he obviously lied about it. One reason I believe this might be true is that Romney immediately attacked President Obama for lying, the absolutely classic Karl Rove strategy of projecting your own worst faults on your enemy. Or, conversely, turning someone’s strength into their weakness (remember the Swift Boaters and what they did to Kerry?). I wonder what the Mormon Church position is on lying? There is little doubt that even as a Presidential candidate Romney is an unusually consistent liar. Maybe lying to become the first Mormon President is okay with the Church. I haven’t heard any criticism coming from them about Romney’s often blatant, transparent, opportunistic , and sometimes outrageous lies.

Now there is all this noise about Romney’s offshore accounts, his investments in China, his taking advantage of all the tax breaks, and so on. This may well hurt him but does anyone believe that someone who has accumulated fortune of a quarter of a billion dollars (quite likely more) would not have used offshore accounts, invested overseas, and taken advantage of all the tax breaks possible? I don’t know what Romney did, or if he broke any laws or not, but if nothing else his case should help point out the absurdity of our tax laws and business regulations that allow this to happen.

I find it hilarious that at this particular moment in time, with all the controversy over outsourcing and such, whoever is in charge of the Olympic Games actually had our new Olympic uniforms made in China. Not only are the uniforms ugly (at least I think so) they also carry the logo of the Chinese company that manufactured them. I wonder if Romney had any input into this, as previous head of the Olympic committee he may well be a consultant to the current head, whoever he or she is. It would be even more hilarious to learn that Romney may have stock in the company that made these uniforms (I doubt that even President Obama could be that lucky).

I guess the moral of this tale, if even it has one, is beware of headlines. Remember after the recent Supreme Court decision on health care some newspapers ran headlines that said, “Supreme Court Gives Blow to Obamacare” (or something like that), while other papers said, “Obama Wins Major Victory.” The Court had, of course, held that three of the four provisions were constitutional and the fourth was questionable. The absolutely worst (completely misleading) headline of today was, “Sarah Palin Was Right About Death Panels.” You only had to begin to read the piece to learn it had nothing whatsoever to do with Palin’s silly prattlings on the subject. Not to worry, it’s the American way.

The fact that an opinion has been widely held is no evidence whatever that it is not utterly absurd; indeed in view of the silliness of the majority of mankind, a widespread belief is more likely to be foolish than sensible.

Bertrand Russell

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

On Labor

In a full-blown capitalistic society, labor, as Karl Polanyi has made clear, must be considered merely a commodity, along with land and money. As a commodity it is subject to the laws of supply and demand, competition, and the vagaries of the marketplace. That is why at the moment we find unemployment as a serious problem. As so many laborers have little money they cannot buy the goods and services that are offered by businesses. As businesses cannot find a ready and reliable market for their goods and services they cannot afford to hire workers. Thus we have a kind of self-defeating situation that cannot be rectified or even helped short of government intervention, a remedy to which Republicans are violently opposed. They have been successful so far in thwarting any attempt to use taxpayer money to create jobs even though that is known to be a useful tool during recessions. Thus unemployment remains higher than it should be and they can use this situation to discredit President Obama. I noticed the other day an article in the Wall Street Journal that began by claiming high unemployment is “unnatural.” I don’t believe it is unnatural at all given the current circumstances. But there is another problem with unemployment in the modern world, particularly the United States but true in other industrialized nations as well. Technology and population growth have combined in such a way as to make high unemployment virtually inevitable without some basic changes in how we think about labor and organize our work force.

It is widely known that productivity has increased rapidly in the past few years. This has resulted in the creation of a great deal of wealth. But we also know this wealth has not been shared with labor, has all gone to the already wealthy individuals and corporations. If it had been shared more equitably our employment situation could be, and probably would be, much different than it is. Imagine, if you will, that labor, rather than being considered merely a commodity along with pork bellies, potatoes, and cheese, was considered a national treasure. That is, labor would be considered a valuable national asset, a resource, and as such would be highly trained, well-paid, kept healthy, and valued. As productivity continued to increase, and was shared with those who made it possible, it would not be necessary for individual workers to work as many hours. We could have, say, a 30 hour work week. Workers would be entitled to longer vacations (as many already enjoy in Europe), and, having money, could afford such leisure activities. Unemployment would be rare, full employment would be more “natural,” and the citizens would be much happier, healthier, and in general much better off than they presently are. I do not believe this is at all far-fetched. But it would demand a drastic change in the commodity value of labor.

You will notice that U.S. companies are often complaining they cannot find the trained workers they need here and thus have to import them from European and other nations. Is it not obvious that our educational system needs to be seriously upgraded to provide the talent required? Our educational system is basically a shambles as people, especially Republicans, refuse to fund it and even seem to wish we could be rid of it entirely. Workers who are paid minimum wages, and sometimes even more, even though they work a full 40 hour, or more per week, still find themselves living below the poverty line. Republicans are adamantly opposed to increasing the minimum wage. As many workers do not have health care our work force is not as healthy or productive as it could be. Republicans do not want them to have health care. In a large scale, highly populated, complex industrialized economy it is necessary to have a well-trained and competent police force, firemen, teachers, and all kinds of other public servants. Republicans think we should do without these necessities as they represent “big government.” Similarly, we need a strong and functioning infrastructure, roads, bridges, schools, etc. Republicans are opposed to spending money on such necessities. They do not, however, object to a massively bloated defense budget, giving tax breaks to huge international corporations that do not need them, and tax breaks for the wealthiest among us who also do not need them.

There is not the slightest doubt in my mind anymore that the root cause of our current deterioration, including unemployment, has to do with our insane obsessions with capitalism as the only viable economic organization possible. The basic necessity in such a system is that everything has to be reduced to a commodity, including labor, and these commodities have to be pursued for the sole reason of making a profit. This has allowed corporations to move overseas in search of cheap labor, to neglect having to educate workers here at home, and to generate large surplus populations of uneducated, untrained and largely unnecessary workers. Rather than trying to alleviate this problem there are those who prefer the surplus to lack health care, decent jobs and wages, adequate food and housing, and eventually not so mysteriously just somehow disappear.

“…labour is the father of material wealth, the earth is its mother.”

William Petty

Monday, July 09, 2012

Is Anyone Still Paying Attention?

Is anyone still paying attention to the utter insanity that is being passed off as politics and government in the United States of America? I know that I’m not. I have been so turned off by what is going on I no longer pay attention to any of it. This ridiculous farce of government has been going on for months, perhaps over a year, I can’t remember. It seems it has been going on FOREVER! Hundreds of millions of dollars have been spent to date on each of the campaigns, mostly on television ads, and virtually nothing has changed. We are no more enlightened now that when we started. Actual governing (if you can even remember that) has come to a standstill while we are fed the same crap by the same people over and over and over until you realize there is basically no hope. And now we are told the electorate won’t even be paying serious attention until after Labor Day! So what was the point of it all, all that hot air, all that money, all that complete bullshit, all that air time, all that apparent waste of time and effort?

The United States now appears to apparently consist of millions upon millions of morons, half-wits, idiots, and cretins, controlled and managed by a small elite so criminal as to make gangsters look like the “Good Guys.” Not only is nothing being done about this, it appears that nothing even CAN be done about it. War criminals strut about boasting of their crimes and go unpunished. Wall Street and the banks that brought about the worst recession since the 1930’s also go unpunished, and even in a sense rewarded with huge cash infusions from taxpayers. We have a Supreme Court that can no longer be trusted, Congress has an unprecedented all-time low rating, but Congresspersons stay in office endlessly. We fight illegal and unconstitutional “wars” that are not paid for, and give massive tax breaks to those who do not need them and have left us in serious debt. In what is touted to be the wealthiest nation on earth millions are living in poverty. Our educational system is a shambles, our young people drowning in debt, our health care is absurdly expensive and doesn’t even cover many millions, our infrastructure is falling apart before our eyes, and global warming, the most terrifying challenge of all time, is simply ignored. The environment and our natural resources are being raped and plundered for short-term profits with no concern for the future, and those doing so are irate because they are not allowed to do even more damage. Corporate profits are at heights previously unknown while wages have actually gone down. Unemployment is out of control and little can be done to improve it. It probably cannot be much improved as whatever solutions are being proposed do not appear to understand that conditions now are not what they were in the days of FDR, prior to massive technological changes, population increases, globalization, and etc. One so-called political party is so obsessed with continuing things as they are they refuse to cooperate with anyone who tries to change anything.

I am quite convinced this current situation cannot continue much longer. Free market capitalism has proven itself to be completely unsuitable with respect to the environmental necessities for continuing human life on earth over time. It is clearly not sustainable, the earth’s resources are not infinite as some seem to believe. Similarly, the inequality between classes of citizens, haves and have-nots, will be unsustainable over time. Unregulated capitalism will inevitably destroy itself, just as some political and economic writers have warned us for years. Rather than deal honestly with this problem we are at the moment actually arguing about whether multi-millionaires and billionaires should have to pay slightly higher taxes, an argument so pathetically absurd on the face of it, it cannot be taken seriously. Why this has been allowed to happen, and why it is allowed to continue, does not speak well for citizens of the United States, and certainly not for our pretend “leaders.”

Do not disrespect
she who gives you sustenance
move gently across
the land and the blue oceans
like dancing with a lover.


Saturday, July 07, 2012

Myths of Saint Ronnie

President Ronald Reagan was responsible for the famous phrase, “Government is the problem.” He is also remembered for saying, “The worst words you can hear are I am the government and I’m here to help.” He said a lot of other stupid things as well, but the damage that followed from his anti-government remarks is with us still. He was apparently also responsible for encouraging Grover Norquist to start Americans for Tax Reform, itself having done almost irreparable damage to our body politic.

I don’t know where Reagan acquired his anti-government bias but he apparently believed it. I guess he had in mind programs like Social Security, Public Education, the IRS, Medicare, the Post Office, the Veterans Administration, and other such harmful programs. He was also apparently obsessed with welfare and I gather really believed that “Welfare Queens” drove to pick up their monthly checks in large pink cadillacs.

In any case, these myths still survive in some quarters, and are, in my opinion, completely false. He and his devotees think that the problem with government is bureaucracy and inefficiency. Those who believe this apparently have had no experience with the bureaucracies that exist in our overly large private companies. If you have ever suffered at the hands of big insurance, big banks, big telephone companies, and the like, you will know what I mean. Even if it were true that some governmental agencies were unusually inefficient, inept, or unresponsive, that does not mean they necessarily have to be that way. The idea that private companies can do things better than governmental agencies, at least in the abstract, is completely false. Basically they only perform the same functions as governmental agencies but tack on their profits as well. Privatizing health care, energy, the Post Office, and other such agencies is basically nothing but an unnecessary gift of money to the private sector. Student loans are a good example, as there was no reason they should have been outsourced to banks, and when Obama stopped this , billions of dollars were saved. Insurance companies certainly have no business being involved in health care and are the primary reason our health care is much more expensive and less efficient than that of other industrialized nations.

In all fairness to Reagan I doubt he realized the Frankenstein monster that would be created by Norquist. After all, he did not hesitate to raise taxes several times. The idea that government should not raise taxes at any time, under any circumstances, for any reason, is basically insane. The fact that Norquist managed to get virtually all Republicans to sign this ridiculous pledge has been exceedingly harmful to our country and continues to be so. There are hopeful signs that even some Republicans have finally realized this and are now refusing to sign.

There are some things in public life that are far too important to be privatized: Social Security, Medicare, Prisons, Education, the Post Office, and others. Somehow the private sector has been remarkably successful in promoting the myths of Saint Ronnie, and even the magic of Saint Ronnie himself. He was a terrible President, thoughtless, ill-informed, opinionated, stubborn, and in the cases of Iran/Contra and Granada, even criminal. He seems to have been at times unable to distinguish reality from motion pictures. And yes, he was a “Great Communicator,” because his intellect was on the same level as the audience he addressed: “If you’ve seen one Redwood tree you’ve seen em all,” “ A tree's a tree. How many more do you need to look at?” “Government does not solve problems; it subsidizes them.” Government is like a baby. An alimentary canal with a big appetite at one end and no sense of responsibility at the other.” “All the waste in a year from a nuclear power plant can be stored under a desk.” “You can tell a lot about a fellow's character by his way of eating jellybeans.” “Within the covers of the Bible are the answers for all the problems men face.” "Trees cause more pollution than automobiles do.” And etc. etc. etc. Genius at work.

Genius may have its limitations, but stupidity is not thus handicapped.

Elbert Hubbard

Thursday, July 05, 2012

On Accountability

There is a most interesting article on Smirking Chimp today, “How Scalia Distorts the Framers,” by Robert Parry. In their failed attempt to discredit “Obamacare,” the four conservative Justices quoted a passage by no less an authority than Alexander Hamilton. This was a quote they offered from the Federalist Paper #33 to prove the Commerce Clause did not support the President’s health care plan. Mr. Parry points out that Federalist Paper #33 is not about the Commerce Clause. Not only that, Scalia and his conservative buddies used the quote so far out of context it meant precisely the opposite of what Hamilton intended. If this is true, and I suspect it is true, it raises a truly interesting and important question. It seems to me that one would expect all four Supreme Court Justices would be more than mildly familiar with the Federalist Papers. Surely at least one out of the four Justices should have known that Paper #33 was not about the Commerce Clause. If it is true that none of the Justices knew this, or not even one of them did, I suggest they probably have no business being on the Court in the first place.

If, on the other hand, one or more of them did know that Paper #33 was not about the Commerce Clause, and if, indeed, they lifted a quote out of context deliberately to make a political point against Obamacare, this would constitute a serious, even egregious violation of their supposed objectivity, as well as undermining the credibility of the Court, the only thing that allows us to have confidence in it. It would be an obviously partisan act designed for a political end, an act supposedly forbidden to the Court.

I am virtually certain these Justices will not be held accountable for this obvious violation of their duty. Why should they be held accountable for it, they have not been held accountable for any of their other violations of their responsibility. When they chose Bush over Gore in 2000, with a decision so terrible even they announced it could never be cited as a precedent, they were not held accountable. When they passed Citizens United, quite probably the worst decision ever by a Supreme Court, they were not held accountable. Neither Scalia nor Thomas have been held accountable for their obvious partisanship and, in Thomas’s case, his obvious conflict of interest.

The sad fact is, accountability is no longer a part of the American political system. I don’t remember any obvious violations during the Clinton administration (there probably were some), but it is obvious that under Bush/Cheney the very concept of accountability seems to have vanished. No one was held accountable for “outing” Valerie Plame, except Libby, and he was pardoned. No one was held accountable for the obvious lies involved in leading us into the Iraqi “war.” You might also remember that neither Reagan nor Bush the First was held accountable for Iran/Contra. Nor was Clinton held accountable for his “war” over Bosnia.

Accountability has certainly not been a feature of the Obama administration. Bush/Cheney have not been held accountable, even for their confessed war crimes. No one on Wall Street or in the Banks has been held accountable for the recession they obviously created, or for the terrible foreclosures they have sometimes illegally engineered. Even now, when Barclays lost somewhere between 2 and 9 billion dollars, basically gambling with other people’s money, no one, not even CEO Robert Diamond, has been held accountable. It is true they paid a fine, a typical punishment for such malfeasance, but no one, absolutely no one, has ever gone to jail (where they clearly belong).

It seems that the “Too big to fail” crowd is rarely if ever held accountable for anything, no matter how illegal or egregious. But the “Too small to resist” crowd is easily and often held accountable. Smoke a “joint” and go to jail, speak the truth to power and lose your job or go to jail, steal a loaf of bread or a six pack and go to jail, kill or maim someone and go to jail, but kill thousands to protect democracy or an oil company and, well, "national security," spreading democracy, or doing the Lord’s work. Steal a billion, to big to fail. The freedom from accountability is directly correlated with your position in the pecking order or the size of the fortune you possess. Accountability for anyone in the one percent is virtually non-existant, for the 99% it is virtually inevitable. Lying on the part of politicians is now so commonplace and expected it is considered normal, even the most obvious and blatant lies regularly go unquestioned by the media. You might well say that between our politics, advertising, and the corporate owned media, we live in a world so permeated with such a web of falsehoods that neither truth nor accountability any longer have meaning for us. So it is that Obamacare is socialism, socialism is very bad, Iran is a danger to the entire world, Israel is a poor, put upon democracy, the poor are poor because it’s their own fault, welfare queens drive pink cadillacs, President Obama is a Muslim from Kenya scheming to take away our guns, global warming is a myth, Sarah Palin was fully qualified to be President of the United States, and Mitt Romney has a secret plan to create full employment and health care for all, but he won’t tell anyone until after he is elected.

“…man is an animal suspended in webs of significance he himself has spun…”

Clifford Geertz

Tuesday, July 03, 2012


As the political campaigns have basically exhausted themselves to the point where both parties are now just reciting the same lies and accusations over and over, and quite likely will continue doing so from now until the elections, and the corporations are simply recycling their money from one pocket to another (from one type of their business to another, that is, for example, from munitions to their media empires), I find my mind wandering. For no apparent reason I decided to examine quirks. That is, what precisely, is a quirk?

I should have known better. I quickly learned there is no precision in the study of quirks. Quoting my online dictionary I learned that a quirk can be an “abrupt twist or curve,” an “idiosyncrasy,” or even an “accident,” or “vagary.” A vagary can be “an erratic, unpredictable, or extravagant manifestation.” I suspect even these definitions do not exhaust the possibilities. But this has led me to consider a number of things that I guess might be quirks.

Is it just a strange quirk, for example, that in the English language the word “live” spelled backwards is “evil?” Or the word “god spelled backward is “dog?” I wonder if there even is an explanation for this, I guess it could be considered an accident. A different quirk might be a young man I knew who would fly into a near rage at the very mention of Ernest Hemingway. He was not a writer or a literary critic or a literary person of any kind. Although he had perhaps two quarters of college, he worked in a restaurant had nothing to do with academia, writing, literary criticism, or anything even distantly related to the subject of his ire. The object of his rage was his contention that Hemingway was a fraud who had actually stolen his famous style from someone else. I have no idea where he got this idea, whether it was true or not, or why it so bothered him. As far as I know he had no other similar quirks. I suppose one could consider it an idiosyncrasy.

Similarly, I once knew a young woman who was actually a pretty bad cook. She did cook, but only the simplest of meals, and was not in the least bit pretentious about her cooking. But she insisted, indeed demanded, that she had to use only parmesan cheese she could grate herself, none of that already prepared stuff that came in a shaker. This could, I guess be considered an idiosyncrasy, but perhaps it was more likely “an erratic, unpredictable or extravagant manifestation.” Also, I once knew a woman, a college graduate, perhaps not the smartest girl on the block, but not completely stupid either, who swore she did not know how to use a broom! I am convinced she did not say this merely to avoid having to sweep, she really meant it. She did not seem to be handicapped in any other way. I assume this comes under the category of idiosyncrasy.

There was a gambler I once knew who, when playing poker or any other game, insisted that all his coins, of whatever denomination, or his chips, had to be all heads or at least the same sides up. This to me was a strange quirk, but I guess you could consider it also an idiosyncrasy, but it was also pretty obviously a compulsion, still another variety of quirk? Another man I knew had a hobby, locking pay toilet doors shut. He would put in his quarter, locking the door, then climb out over the top, or creep under the doors, depending upon the style of the particular facility. He was otherwise as far as I know perfectly normal. Perhaps this could qualify as “an abrupt twist,” or maybe just another idiosyncrasy. Still another person I know has a strange thing about knives. Not necessarily sharp, pointed, or dangerous knives, just plain old blunt kitchen knives. If there are a number of kitchen utensils of any kind waiting to be washed, including even forks and spoons, she will pick out, wash, dry, and put away the kitchen knife and leave the rest. I have no idea why she does this but she always does it. I regard this as a genuine quirk as it does not seem to fit under any of the definitions I have of quirk. It could be considered an idiosyncrasy, but it is not an abrupt twist or curve, accident, or vagary. There is also the possibility that a quirk may also just be an affectation. A wonderful woman I once knew always wore a feather boa to parties. It was a quirk but also an affectation. No other women of that time or place ever wore a feather boa, it was an endearing quirk that made us all love her all the more. We all knew it was an affectation but we thought of it as just another quirk of her marvelous personality.

Still another possible quirk might have to do with superstitions. Another gambler I once knew refused to wear an opal stickpin his wife had given him because he believed opals were bad luck. He also refused to cross where a black cat had crossed in front of him. He did not seem to be bothered by broken mirrors, walking under ladders, or other common superstitions. I think his beliefs about black cats and opals may be considered quirks, but who knows, it seems quirks can be just about anything.

I could think of myriad other examples, but a recent (maybe) classic quirk might be seen in the decision by Chief Justice John Roberts when he agreed with the more liberal side of the Supreme Court Justices on the subject of health care. This can be seen both as an abrupt twist or curve, as well as an erratic, unpredictable and extravagant manifestation. It also raises an interesting question, does a quirk have to be accidental? That is, if something like Robert’s decision was carefully planned in advance, can it truly be considered just a quirk? The subject of quirks, I fear, is far too quirky for my feeble aging brain.

Life is a journey
forever towards the west
and the setting sun


Monday, July 02, 2012

What Comes Next?

After the Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of Obamacare one might well ask, what next? My guess is, not much. It is wise to remember that we are living here in the land of apathy and ignorance. Half the voting population doesn’t vote and the other half votes for reasons mysterious and not usually very well informed. It is difficult to imagine anything much happening, but if this were another country it might be a toss-up between revolution and civil war.

Take, for example, the Republican Governors who are now announcing they will not implement the requirements of Obamacare, especially the invitation, at federal expense, to expand it. While they apparently have the right to not expand their own Medicaid, they do not have the right to refuse to create the exchanges required. In other words, they are refusing to enforce a federal law, symbolically standing in the schoolhouse door a la Governor Faubas, so to speak. Now you might think if several Governors refused to follow a federal law this might lead eventually to another Civil War. But not here, of course, because everyone knows this is just more Republican bullshittery and when the time comes they will all give in and do what is required. First of all, it will be too expensive for them not to comply, and second, they know full well they really do not have any choice. But anything to stall for time, continue to obstruct everything, and hope Obama will not be re-elected. As they wish to block Obamacare, and as they have no plan of their own to replace it, one can only conclude they just do not want Americans to have health care.

If all this posturing about another Civil War is just talk, any serious plan for a revolution is equally harmless. If, that is, what you have in mind an armed rebellion of some kind. The only people who have threatened the use of arms (relying on the second amendment), or shown up armed at public meetings threatening to use them “next time,” are a few genuine kooks from the ranks of the Tea Party. These types have either been ignored or jailed as far as I know.

There could, however, be a revolution of sorts, a voter revolt, and I think there may be a genuine possibility here. The Republican attack on women, and also on students, as well as Latinos, Seniors, Muslims, Blacks, and so on, may be serious enough that when the election occurs women, students, and these others may well revolt and vote Republicans not only out of office but perhaps even out of sight for the next few years. This kind of revolution does not require arms, not even pitchforks, and in my opinion Republicans have gone out of their way to ask for it. One can only hope.

On the other hand, if Republicans and their obscenely wealthy benefactors persist in their attempt to establish a Fascist state, refuse to pay their fair share, refuse to help the middle class and the working poor, do nothing to ease the pain of ordinary citizens who have seen their jobs disappear, their incomes drop, their pensions, homes, and health care disappear, there could conceivably at some point in the future, be a genuine revolution, pitchforks and all. While it is true the American people are pretty apathetic, uninterested in politics, and relatively ignorant, there may well be a tipping point where even they can take it no longer. I think some of the filthy rich understand this and suggest they could do more, but they so far are being ignored while their peers demand even greater tax breaks at the expense of the many. I doubt that “even in America” this situation can continue for much longer without seeing more and more people in the streets, more and more strikes, more and more civil disobedience, more and more suppression and oppression, until it all truly “boils over.” Perhaps I am wrong, the next election will quite likely see the beginnings of a solution. If not, all bets are off.

Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable.

John F. Kennedy

Sunday, July 01, 2012

The Filthy Rich and the Dirty Poor

The fantastically filthy rich or the disgustingly dirty poor, take your choice. Oh, sorry, I forgot, you no longer have any choice. This is where, after more than 200 years, our nation has finally arrived. I don’t think this is exactly what the Founding Fathers had in mind. But thanks to a corrupt Supreme Court, a corrupt Congress, and corruption in general, this appears to be our crowning achievement.

Would you believe there is a substantial portion of our citizenry that does not want us to have health care, minimum wages, unemployment insurance, Social Security, freedom of choice, unions, public education, a Post Office, or even women’s health? I confess I did not believe this until fairly recently, but so it is.

Due to some strange quirk of conscience, perhaps just a moment of weakness, maybe even some as yet unperceived Machiavellian strategy, the Chief Justice of our Supreme Court sided for the first, and only time, with the more liberal members of the court. “Obamacare,” otherwise known as a genuine and worthwhile attempt to improve a dangerously dysfunctional health care system, is now to be regarded as constitutional (not happily by many, but in fact). Republicans and their completely dimwitted “base” vowed immediately to attempt to do away with it, with absolutely no plan of their own to replace it. Their philosophy, if it can be glorified with such a term, has become “If Obama likes it, we can’t let it happen.” I’m sure you see what a blessing this is for both our nation and our political system.

Now that our Supreme Court, apparently following the wishes of their corporate masters, has decided that money is speech and corporations are persons, we have been duly delivered into the clutches of a small but very wealthy cabal of Fascists who now control our government and will be able to do so for a long time to come if allowed to continue. Unless you believe our Supreme Court Justices are unbelievably stupid, you have to believe they did this on purpose. They simply could not have been unaware of the consequences of this completely absurd and unprecedented decision. And because they are appointed for life, and sanctioning them is virtually impossible, they also knew we would be helpless to do anything about it at least for several years.

With one decision the Court has replaced what was supposed to be a functioning 21st century Democratic Republic with what is to be essentially a Medieval system of Lords and Vassals, Royalty and Peasants, Haves and Have-nots, rich and poor, upper and lower classes, Con men and suckers. This did not come about by accident, it was planned, carried out with patience, well funded, and executed brilliantly. They managed over time to control Congress, the main stream media, the courts at all levels, and much of public opinion. With their control of the MSM they can make you believe more or less whatever they want. And what they want is not at all what is in the interest of the dirty poor who can look forward to getting even poorer and dirtier in the future, and almost certainly a lot less healthy.

I personally find it totally incomprehensible that there exist American citizens who do not want their fellows to have access to decent health care and who apparently do not care whether they live in misery and poverty and die before their normal time. They make a mockery of the very concepts of society and culture, the fundamental bedrock of human life. Let us by all means return to the law of the jungle, it will ultimately not treat them any better than the rest of us.

“For he who sins a second time wakes a dead soul to pain…”

Oscar Wilde