Friday, August 31, 2012

The Greatest Scam Ever

I know I have written about this before, but as I think it is the single most important thing to understand about the current election cycle I feel compelled to pursue it again and again. Republicans are attempting what has to be the most important and potentially dangerous scam ever, especially in Presidential politics. They have been promoting this absolutely shameful attempt at a sort of nonviolent coup ever since President Obama was elected and it was now featured in their convention.

Republicans met apparently on the same night Obama was sworn in as President and devised a strategy to make him a one term President. They may have hidden the fact of the meeting but they announced publicly their intentions. They have remained remarkably faithful to this scenario and have acted accordingly, opposing everything Obama has tried to do to help our country recover from the worst recession since the 1930’s. The results of this are obvious, few jobs created, the national debt increased, wages lower than even previously, unions busted, education shorted, infrastructure ignored, and nowhere near what might have been accomplished for the almost four years of Obama’s Presidency. That Obama has managed to accomplish anything at all is nearly miraculous.

What makes this of unusual significance is that it is completely unprecedented. Never before has one of our two political parties simply refused to govern, to take part in the ordinary management of our nation. The minority party is not supposed to just quit, to do nothing when it comes to the business of the country. It is true they are the opposition party, but they are supposed to be the loyal opposition, not the disloyal opposition. No provision was made for this situation and there seems to be nothing that can be done about it. No provision was made for it because no one, including the Founding Fathers, ever imagined it could or would ever happen, that any political party would put its own ambition above the welfare of the country. Politicians are not supposed to throw their patriotism and concern for the country out the window when they lose an election. But this is precisely what the modern Republican Party has done. In my opinion this could easily be considered treason as it is a deliberately organized attempt to overthrow the legitimately elected President of the country. If treason is not the right word for this I suggest there is no word for it, as it has never happened before in the history of our country.

Republicans deliberately hatched this plot to refuse to cooperate with the legally and constitutionally elected President of our Republic, to ensure that he would fail, and then to blame him for the failure. It is basically a simple and completely transparent attempt to wrest power from a sitting administration and replace it with another. It is hypocritical in the extreme, dishonest in its operation, shameful in its conspiracy, completely un-American, and ought to be both unconstitional and illegal. In some other nations plotters like this would be thrown into psychiatric institutions, jails, or even shot or “disappeared.” It is much to our credit that this does not happen here, but this does not make the problem any the less important and problematical.

What is worse, this scam may potentially work. The MSM, owned by the very corporate powers that want to see Obama defeated, are not exposing it for what it is and never even mention it, and the Democrats seem to me to be oblivious to what is going on. I cannot understand why they are not screaming and yelling and exposing this treasonous behavior at every opportunity. This treasonous scam is so obviously at the heart of the Republican question repeated ad nauseam, where are the jobs, it cries out for exposure. President Obama, Vice-President Biden or someone who can command an audience should make a major speech about this, pulling no punches, and placing the blame for our lack of jobs and progress exactly where it belongs, on the Republican Party conspiracy to make it so.

“Hi, how are you? Don’t run away. I want to shake your hand. I know, you haven’t got your makeup on yet, right? You do, you do.” — The charming Mitt Romney on the campaign trail while running for the U.S. Senate, to a random woman outside a store in 1994.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Republican Convention

Yes, I watched the convention. I had to force myself to do so, thinking I should not try to comment on it having not watched it. Aside from Boehner’s speech which I thought was really stupid, there were, for the intended audience, some really quite good speeches, much better than I would have predicted. The problem with the speeches, all of them, was that the truth was not in them. The entire underpinning of the convention was the same web of lies and distortions Republicans have been using for days and weeks.

Santorum’s contribution, for example, which I thought was well done, was based almost entirely on the demonstrably false claim that President Obama took the work requirement out of welfare, which, as everyone should know by now, is completely false. I am sure that Santorum and the rest of the cast of dozens know full well the claim is false, but as they believe it is working they use it anyway. They seem to believe that no lie is too extreme in the defense of dishonesty.

Ann Romney’s speech designed to humanize her husband I thought was okay but not outstanding, most of the reviewers seemed to think it was much better than I did. I think if you analyze it carefully you will find that she really said very little other than that he was a good husband and father and, if elected, would work hard. It is difficult to disagree with her remarks that she loves women, and women are mothers, sisters, daughters, wives, and etc. And who will find fault with her focus on love and that she still loves her husband? I thought it was a bit disappointing.

Unfortunately she was followed by New Jersey Fats who dismissed love in favor of respect, and talked tough as is his wont. It was a pretty good speech if you are far more interested in Chris Christie than Romney, and some even went so far as to describe it as his acceptance speech for the 2016 election. Many of the boasts he made about his record in New Jersey, if not false, were at least exaggerations. It seems there was no coordination between Ann’s speech and his.

The main theme of the evening was “We Did Build It” (or something like that). And they did build it, a complete distortion of something Obama had previously said. When Obama said “you didn’t build that,” he was referring to the roads and bridges and public facilities that are provided by the government. Actually, I believe he was even referring to the sociopolitical and cultural climate that makes it possible for entrepreneurs in the U. S. to succeed. Most of the speakers came back to the phrase “we did build it,” over and over, when giving examples of businesses that had been created, survived, and were successful. Awkwardly enough, at least two of these claimants are known to have received rather generous help from the government in the form of loans. The various speakers pushed this theme so far I began to think there were only three possibilities: (1) they actually believe they personally created the roads, bridges, and business climate, (2) they are too stupid to understand what Obama was talking about, or (3) they simply lied (the most probable possibility).

It was during Condi Rice’s speech that I began to realize the audience was actually not paying any attention to what was being said and applauded everything she said. I am pretty sure that some of what she said was not much in line with their platform. I was a bit puzzled by her appearance there as her fellow war criminals were not invited. I guess the Republicans were so desperate for diversity and women they overlooked her role in the Bush/Cheney disaster. She did give a fine speech, the usual bullshit about America’s greatness and altruism around the world.

Huckabee and others gave what I thought were fine speeches but, again, just promoted the same lies over again. It was fitting that Paul Ryan’s speech was the high spot of the evening as it contained so many lies and distortions it was like he was reviewing them. I began to fear that lightning would strike him dead right there on the podium. Even the conservative media were offended by the unremitting falsehoods. I thought Romney would not be able to do as well when it was his turn in the barrel.

And he didn’t, I had to turn him off tonight after the first few minutes when it became clear he was going to say nothing. There was no mention of any of the problems that beset us at the moment, no details about what he might do to actually correct them, nothing but platitudes about how great America is/was, how much he admired his father, how America could be great again (no explanation for this remarkable claim), and so on, nothing but gross generalities and nonsensical claims. It was, in my opinion, a complete waste of time and opportunity. But you can’t expect much from an empty suit. I was rather amazed to learn that Clint Eastwood is either senile or stupid and that Marco Rubio apparently lives in a dream world.

My general impression of the convention is that it was built entirely on a fabric of lies and distortions, had little or no connection with reality, but did apparently appeal to the audience of nitwits who were prepared to accept and like everything no matter how untrue, farfetched, or even divorced from their own platform. It was almost entirely devoted to demonizing Obama and offered nothing specific of a positive nature.

A government that robs Peter to pay Paul can always depend on the support of Paul.

George Bernard Shaw,

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

He Am what He Am, but what Am He?

Am is the present first singular of Be. Does that help in understanding who Mitt Romney is? It is all well and good for Romney to say “I am who I am,” but all that really tells us is that he exists. His existence cannot be denied, but people want to know HIM, who he actually IS? Does he even know himself who he is? It would seem to me that to claim your existence does not define you as a person and what kind of person. To be a person should mean there is something that defines you apart from your mere existance, some core of beliefs and principles that make up a personality that identifies you apart from others. Looking at Romney’s history he seems to be lacking in a core that defines him, the very characteristics people want to know about.

But Romney as a person is elusive at best. He was once considered a moderate Republican but now claims to be an ultra-conservative Republican. He once was in favor of a woman’s choice but now he is anti-choice. He claimed once that his first name was Mitt when in fact it is Willard. He claimed to be a lifelong hunter, but it turns out he only did something resembling hunting twice in his entire lifetime. He claimed to be a lifelong member of the NRA but he wasn’t. He professes to be a committed Mormon and is active in his church, but he lies incessantly even when it is obvious he is lying. He also appears to be a warmonger that I think should be incompatible with his religion. I could be wrong about this as I do not know the position of the Mormon Church on war, I can only assume they do not approve of violence and killing and lying. He does appear to be a good husband and father.

Romney claims to have been a successful businessman. If you equate success with making lots of money he certainly was. On the other hand, if you think vulture capitalism involves a number of questionable, possibly unethical or immoral activities, perhaps he was not such a great businessman. He boasts about saving the Olympics but doesn’t mention the more than a billion dollars he was given by the Federal Government for that purpose. He claims to have created jobs but it seems many of those jobs were overseas and as Governor of Massachusetts he was something like 47th in job creation. In addition to being a chronic liar he is also a hypocrite, accusing Obama of running a negative campaign while his own campaign is much worse in terms of the negativity. Similarly, he claims to have cried when the Mormon Church finally agreed to accept Blacks, but now he is clearly playing the race card in his campaign.

Romney is somehow basically unlikeable. In his attempt to become likeable he and his wife have recently appeared on television with Mitt turning over pancakes while his wife boasts about how much they love (and by implication shop at) Cosco. He brags about the shirts he bought there, what fine shirts they are, and so on, even though everyone knows that is not ordinarily when he buys his clothes. His wife gushes about how much they love Cosco, but she doesn’t claim to buy her $900 blouses there. Like his claim to be a hunter this is so phony it is actually insulting. It is as if they think they are talking to a bunch of completely illiterate peasants too stupid to realize what they are doing (sorry, you and your corporate friends have not yet accomplished that condition you are striving for). As Romney made 20 million dollars last year but refuses to reveal his taxes, and as his wife drives “a couple of cadillacs,” their attempt to pretend they understand ordinary folk, and are just ordinary folk themselves, is ridiculous in the extreme. When she said they were so poor they had to sell some of their stock it made me want to cry. Their attitude towards us ordinary folk was made quite clear when Mrs. Romney said about their taxes, “you people have all the information you need.” Romney’s frequent gaffes also give away his abysmal ignorance when it comes to dealing with the public. He has been running for President for several years but remains the worse candidate probably ever, even most members of his own party do not like him, he’s sort of like the pest that just won’t take “no” for an answer and persists no matter what. Even most of the speakers at the Republican convention last night barely mentioned him, preferring instead to boast of their own achievements, and he is in danger of being dramatically upstaged by his Vice Presidential choice. So who is this mysterious, secretive, elusive creature that exists, and wants to be President of the United States, but has no apparent personhood, no convictions, no personality, a man who just doesn’t seem to be there and seems to have no real explanation for why he wants the office in the first place?

In Christianity neither morality nor religion come into contact with reality at any point.

Friedrich Nietzsche

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Past all Dishonesty

I guess I should say, past all previous dishonesty. Bush/Cheney, as far as I can remember, never told the truth about anything. You might think that is a record that could never be broken. Romney is trying as hard as he can to break it, but as it’s technically impossible to break such a record he’s doing it in a somewhat unusual way. You will recall some of the more egregious lies of Bush/Cheney: “We know Iraq has weapons of mass destruction,” “We know where they are,” “Sadam is trying to get uranium from South Africa,” “The Iraq war will pay for itself with their oil,” and on and on in their lying attempt to start an illegal and unconstitutional war with Iraq. Although there may have been reasons to suspect these of being lies, as many of us did, they were at least hypothetically possible. They could have of at least been possibly true.

Romney’s lies are quite different in that he lies about things that are already known not to be true. Even if he knows something is untrue he lies about it anyway. For example, he repeats the lie over and over again that President Obama has taken the work requirement out of welfare.” This is demonstrably untrue, most everyone who is paying attention knows it is untrue, but Romney and his not so merry band of vulture capitalists and their supporters use it anyway. The same thing is true of the endlessly repeated claim that Obama is ruining Medicare by taking away 715 billion dollars from it. This is, of course, not true, and we already know it is not true, but this does not deter Republicans from saying it at every opportunity. As these claims are already known to be false they cannot even hypothetically be true. This would appear to be an unprecedented use of lying for political purposes, as has been already pointed out by at least a few observers. Thus it is that Romney lies constantly, just as Bush/Cheney did, but his lies are virtually unique by being widely known to be false even before he uses them and continues to use them. It would seem that for lies to be effective they must at least be possibly true, a fact that seems to have escaped Romney and his supporters (but, of course, the voters have to be paying attention as well, a condition apparently not always the case for some).

In fact, the entire Republican campaign against Obama is nothing but an elaborate web of lies, deceptions, and distortions. The worst lie of all is their endless lying refrain that President Obama has failed to produce jobs. In this case it is at least possible that might be the case, but it is not, for the simple reason that Republicans have consistently blocked any attempt by Obama to create jobs. It is not Obama that has failed in this respect, it is Republicans who have failed, even to the point of wrecking our economy in their frantic attempt to defeat Obama. There is no doubt whatsoever their strategy has been to keep Obama from succeeding at anything, especially at creating jobs, and then hypocritically blaming him for the failure. Unfortunately this seems to have worked, at least to a point.

The same thing is true of their campaign to block the votes. It is (or perhaps was) possible that there could be voter fraud, their ostensible argument for the series of onerous blocks they have attempted to put into place to keep minorities from voting, but we know now that voter fraud is virtually unheard of, has not been a problem in our elections in the past, and cannot be a legitimate justification for their attempts to keep certain voting blocks from exercising their right to vote. This was a lie so outrageous they have now had to admit they are deliberately trying to hinder the voting of Black and Latino voters, as well as some others.

Still another lie repeated over and over again by Republicans is that the stimulus didn’t work. In fact it did work, but it was not generous enough to do the job as it should have. It was not generous enough because of Republican opposition to it, and also because of their insistence that fully one third of it had to be tax cuts. It did not work only in the sense that it did not do enough to solve the massive unemployment problem bequeathed Obama by the Bush/Cheney administration. But there is no doubt that it did preserve perhaps as many as two million jobs that would otherwise have been lost, making the problem much worse.

Republicans have woven a web of falsely significant (to them) lies portraying President Obama as something he is not: an un-American, Muslim, socialist, communist, anti-Christ, Kenyan anti-colonial, illegitimate President, who faked his birth certificate and is going to take their guns away.

Sociology: The study of how the masses (proletariat) are being exploited by an elite bourgeoisie.

Max Schulman (I think)

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Falwell and Robertson?

So, where are Falwell and Robertson when they are needed? You may recall neither of them was in the least bit bashful about speaking out after hurricanes or other natural disasters. Remember how they assured us that the terrible hurricane that devastated New Orleans was obviously God’s punishment for abortionists, feminists, gays and lesbians, the ACLU, pagans, and secularization in general. Steve Lefimine of Columbia Christians for Life, another true believer, assured us it was punishment for shedding innocent blood through abortions, and so on. I think most of the leaders of the various Churches of the Altogether Bonkers agreed that natural disasters were our punishment for such horrible things as homosexuality, abortion, and etc.

So where are they now with hurricane Isaac bearing down on the Republican convention in Tampa? They are remarkably silent. Could it possibly be, perhaps, maybe, fundamentally, justifiably, God’s wrath for the unbelievable Republican greed? For their uncharitable, even mean spirited treatment of the poor? Maybe even punishment for discrimination against Gays and Lesbians, or for the Republican war on women? I suppose it could be for Republican immorality and unethical behavior in general, or perhaps merely for their pathological lying. Maybe it has something to do with the Republican desire for permanent war and increasing the already bloated national defense budget, or even their plan to mistreat the elderly and students. No, I guess it couldn’t be for anything like that, after all, Republicans are God’s chosen children, especially those billionaires at the top using their obscene fortunes to undermine democracy and buy the election. Of course it is possible that God may be angry with them for their obvious willingness to destroy the environment, and even the planet, for more short-term profit. Even more basically, God could be really pissed off because he gave people dominion over all else and we have completely botched the opportunity, a bipartisan failure, but more readily attributable to Republican stupidity and refusal to cooperate. Who knows? Certainly not me, I don’t believe in any of this religious mumbo-jumbo and magical thinking. Even so, I guess I’ll have to go down with the sinking ship like everyone else at the mercy of the billionaires in charge.

The most common of all follies is to believe passionately in the palpably not true. It is the chief occupation of mankind.

H. L. Mencken

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Journey to the West - Tipping Points

I have in the past discussed some of the factors involved on the journey to the west. As I have aged, for example, I have passed through many different stages of my life: infant, child, teen, young adult, Mr., Sir, Grandpa, Pops, and now “Old Mr. So-and-So.” There are, of course, physical changes that accompany these various stages of life. There was a time, quite a long time, relatively speaking, when I had hair, nothing fancy but real more or less normal hair, brown and not unattractive. When I was a little boy my mother combed my hair in a fashion that she apparently thought reasonable, parted toward the right, and brushed over towards the left. I came to believe it was overly “Hitlerish,” but by then it was too late, it remained that way throughout most of my life. Eventually it began to turn slowly grey, and then, what was worse, it began to disappear, horrors, I was balding, and I could not deny it. Even so, I could more or less live with it, but then it became more serious, to the point where I had what is known as a “combover.” Unfortunately, this combover has become increasingly obvious to the point where it has now become somewhat ridiculous. At the moment I desperately need a haircut. But what to do, cling to a really silly combover or give in to reality and go for the truly bald with the fringe on top. This is not funny, it is a serious tipping point. I realize these problems confront different individuals at different ages, but this is me, now. I keep putting off the haircut while wrestling with this traumatic decision.

But this problem is insignificant when compared with the problem of increasing invisibility. I have found that once you reach a certain age (no doubt different for different people at different ages) you begin to become invisible. I mean, you don’t really physically vanish, people just no longer see you. When tasks arise that you once were routinely expected to perform others do them. They no longer even ask or expect you to do them. They assume you are unable to do them. This has nothing to do with the reality of whether you can do them or not, the assumption becomes on the part of others that you cannot. I have discovered that once this judgment is pronounced there is little or no point in trying to fight it. If you let it, it can be genuinely frustrating. But you must resist the normal frustration-aggression routine as if you become aggressive this puts you into another category entirely, what you might call the “cranky-old-man syndrome.” It seems inevitable that as you age, even though you remain alive, your life slowly slips away from you. In the world we now live in you become invisible in the sense of being useless, just a creature somehow still attached to the world and family, but basically inconsequential. In the world as it was throughout most of human history the elderly (I cannot bear the term “oldsters”) were considered the repositories of the accumulated knowledge of the culture. As they knew how things were supposed to happen, and how, they were both respected and consulted (at least until they became so old as to be truly senile). Now, however, as technology changes so rapidly, it tends to be the young who possess the knowledge and have to be consulted. Even small children often know far more about computers and all the new gadgets than even middle-aged adults. I guess you might consider this something like “Early onset obsolescence.” This, too, can drive you mad if you let it. Thus as you age and become increasingly invisible and obsolete, you have to be constantly on the defensive, it just doesn’t do to rebel too actively or complain too loudly, or even to withdraw too obviously, as these actions can threaten the status quo no matter how unrealistic it may be.

I believe it was Bette Davis who said, “growing old is not for sissies.” As my journey to the west continues I have found that is true, but it is also not for the thin-skinned, the inept, or the hopeless. Growing older requires survival skills, cleverness, innovations, determination, and strategies you did not anticipate or acquire while growing up, lest even those who claim to have your best interest in mind actually turn you into what it is they often erroneously think you are. Even in old age only the clever and the fittest survive.

The ability to delude yourself may be an important survival tool.

Jane Wagner

Friday, August 24, 2012

Did He or Didn't He?

What unemployment problem? What deficit problem? What Iran problem? What energy problem? What Afghanistan war? What problem with Pakistan? Julian Assange? Drones? War on women? What? The biggest problem of the day seems to be, did Romney make a ”birther” joke on purpose, or was it just another gaffe? This vital question, coming on the heels of the Akin controversy that has occupied the news for the last few days, seems to have outraged the left and further endeared Romney to the right (if that is really possible). Oh, and yes, there was another shooting in New York, right near the Empire State building, two dead, several wounded. And, by the way, there were 19 shooting deaths and stuff in Chicago overnight. We really ought to do something about this gun problem, someday, maybe, if we ever get around to it, but, really, did Romney make his birther remark on purpose or not? I am torn over the answer to this monumentally important issue.

On the one hand, you might well think this was just another Romney gaffe, as it is basically similar to other such thoughtless, rude, and inconsiderate remarks he has made in the past. “I like to fire people,” for example, or “these cookies must have come from 7-11,” or “where did you get those cheap raincoats,” and “I’m unemployed myself,” “just borrow some money from your parents,” and others I’ve probably forgotten. Because his birther remark is so much part of this pattern I am tempted to believe it may well have been just another gaffe.

On the other hand, there are those, perhaps even a majority, who are absolutely convinced the whole thing was deliberately planned in advance in order to make points with the Republican base (the Tea Partiers, and they did like it). Frankly, I don’t really give a damn, and I don’t know why I am wasting my time (or yours) with this latest bit of time-wasting, conversation-changing, relatively unimportant, blathering, mind-numbing, nonsensical piece of pretend “news.” If Romney did it on purpose, he’s a scheming cheap-shot creep who has now sunk to the absolute bottom of the political world. If it was just another gaffe, it’s probably even worse because it reveals what he most probably actually believes, making him into another mindless, racist twit. In either case it is hard to see it as merely an innocent slip of the tongue.

I am still bothered by the polls. I know people often say you can’t really trust the polls, or the early polls, or any polls, and so on. I have never really trusted the polls although I didn’t really bother thinking about them much. I am aware, of course, they can be skewed this way or that, depending on the questions, the timing, the population being polled, and so on. I have to confess that this time I am absolutely flabbergasted by what seems to be the result of the polls, namely this is going to be a close election, a nail biter that Obama could easily lose, and so forth. How can this be? One recent poll shows 94% of Blacks will vote for Obama, 0% for Romney. Another indicates Obama leads the Hispanic vote by some 30 points or so. We also know he leads the women’s vote by a very large margin. These results alone would seem to make it impossible for Romney to win. When you couple them with the likely elderly vote (they are not likely to appreciate making Medicare into a voucher program or touching Social Security), the youth vote (Romney/Ryan want to take away Pell grants and cut education in general), the Muslim vote, the Jewish vote (predictably favoring Democrats), and so on, it is impossible to believe Obama and Romney could be neck and neck. Besides, there is the fact that Obama’s favorability rating is also vastly superior to that of Romney. You have to wonder just who in the world it is they are polling, and what in the hell they are asking? Granted there seem to be a lot of Obama haters out there, and granted the racism that permeates American society, and granted that less educated Whites favor Romney, how can they possibly be enough to override the women, Blacks, Hispanics, and all the others? There has to be, as we say, “something really fishy about this.”

We know that polls are just a collection of statistics that reflect what people are thinking in 'reality.' And reality has a well known liberal bias.

Stephen Colbert

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Say Something Really Stupid...

Say something really stupid and get virtually non-stop television coverage for four, five, maybe even more days. We have heard virtually nothing else for days now except about Todd Akin’s incredibly stupid remark about rape and abortion. If it is true, as some say, that all or any publicity is good publicity, I reckon Akin must have received about a free billion dollars worth by now, and I fear it might continue forever. While Republicans are trying to flee from any association with Akins asinine remark, you may notice that they have accepted his basic position about abortion as one of the planks of their platform. Go figure.

Happily the media doesn’t go to such extreme lengths covering all the stupid things Republicans say. Judge Tom Head, a county judge in Lubbock, Texas, for example, has requested further funds for deputies and help to prepare for the war he believes will break out if President Obama is re-elected. Somewhere he acquired the belief that if Obama is re-elected, he will somehow bring in U. N. troops to take over our country and he wants to be prepared to stop them. He also added that he doesn’t want just ordinary officers but those with real experience.

Then there is the dependable Iowa Republican, Steve King, who now has uncovered a scheme of what he calls communist victimization. This scheme involves making students, minority students in particular, feel sorry for themselves. When they feel sorry for themselves they are likely to join in this communist plan and, I guess, work to undermine our country. He has it all worked out, it begins with Antonio Gramsci, who he claims to be the father of multiculturalism, and involves both Karl Marx and Saul Alinsky. He sees multiculturalism as the basic problem and claims to have encountered 59 different student groups at the University of Iowa that are involved in this. Wow, no wonder he wants to make English the official language of the country where it already is. I don’t know if this ties in with Head’s U.N. takeover conspiracy, but it might, you know the U.N., that hotbed of multiculturalism.

Frank Szabo, a candidate for Sheriff in some New Hampshire county, has announced that he would be ready to use deadly force to prevent abortions. It is not entirely clear if he means all abortions or just elective and late term abortions, but he is quite clear he would not hesitate to kill to prevent a perfectly legal procedure.

Where do you suppose the Republican party finds these people, do they scour the asylums? In any case, saying really stupid things can pay off big time, just consider Sarah Palin who has now made a very lucrative career of saying really stupid things. Some of the other Republican women haven’t been so successful, but it’s not from want of trying. Certainly Sharon Angle and the “I’m not a witch woman” have done their best, along with the “take a chicken to your doctor” woman who lost out to Angle. Of course there are also Ann Coulter and that terrible Malkin woman who make their living saying stupid things designed to offend. Before you accuse me of sexism and a war on women, I cannot let this go without those truly remarkable famous men who have all become fabulously wealthy by saying stupid things with a regularity mind boggling to anyone but those stupid enough to listen: Rush Limbaugh has to be the absolute king of stupid, well maybe Glenn Beck, but Bill O’Reilly and Hannity are not far behind and I know there are others that I do not know about because I don’t listen to enough right wing nonsense (actually I don’t listen to any of it but occasionally a bit shows up on a more “normal” station).

It seems these days you do not need any special talent to succeed in talk radio or television shows, just a loud mouth and the shameful ability to say truly stupid things, the more outrageous the better will make you rich and famous (and despised by anyone with the brain of a doughnut). Free speech is a wonderful thing, unfortunately sometimes too wonderful for words.

Conservatives are not necessarily stupid, but most stupid people are conservatives.

John Stuart Mill

Wednesday, August 22, 2012


It seems to me there is “a whole lot of confusion going on,” what with all the propaganda and lies being so casually tossed around these days. For example, in this current flap over Todd Akins idiotic remark about “legitimate rape” and abortions, the status of abortion rights seems to have gotten lost somewhere. I notice that many of the remarks about the argument are that women “should have” a right to choice, or it “should be” up to a woman as to the treatment of her body, or there “should be a law,” or abortion “should be” legal, or there “should not be” restrictions, and so on. It’s as if Roe vs Wade never occurred, and the fact that abortion in the United States IS legal, the actual law of the land, settled some years ago by a 7-2 (I think) judgment by our Supreme Court. The anti-abortion crowd has raised such a hue and cry for so many years, and so many abortion clinics have been bombed, abortion providers shot and killed, and so on, it has come to appear that it is abortion that is the crime rather than the law of the land. Have so many people just forgotten that abortion is legal and those who are using any and all means to criminalize it are themselves the criminals? These anti-abortion zealots are subversives by trying to subvert the laws of the United States and they should be treated like the criminals they are. It is perfectly legal, of course, for those who are opposed to Roe vs Wade, to try to get the law changed, but only provided they follow the law and approach the problem truthfully and try honestly to understand the complexity of the issue. It is all well and good to shout about how abortion is wrong, and wrong under any and all circumstances, but that would seem to just beg the question. As far as I know, no one is in favor of abortion, or somehow prefers abortions, we all think it would be much better if there were no abortions, but as in so many other things, reality rears its head from time to time and demands attention. It might not be quite so bad if the anti-abortionists did not so loudly proclaim the rights of the fetus while at the same time seemingly having no concern for what happens to the infant, the mother, and the child. The idea that the immediate union of a sperm and an egg actually and immediately creates a “person” would seem to be a carryover from the days of alchemy when people believed lead could be turned into gold. It completely ignores the effects of growth, maturation, temporal, environmental, and experiential factors, in favor of a completely and purely magical transformation. Granted there seems something magical about the creation of life for we poor mortals, but the process is no different for human life than other live creatures. We don’t race our horses at the moment of conception or market our cattle at conception, or even eat our eggs at that critical moment, and we certainly don’t drink liquor and vote, fight stupid wars, marry and divorce, or even play football. Come on, “get a grip on yourselves.”

Another area where I worry that confusion will lead people to forget reality has to do with the question of jobs. “Where are the jobs?” This question has been repeated over and over and over so many times by Republicans you might think there is no explanation for it. But of course there is, and the explanation is beyond a doubt, the jobs are in the pockets of the Republican saboteurs that have resisted and opposed any and all attempts by President Obama and Democrats to create them. This Republican strategy has been so transparent for so long it is a wonder they have the audacity to keep repeating the question. But as the MSM is clearly on their side and never seems to question any of their blatant lies and subversions, this disgustingly dishonest strategy might even work for them. If voters either don’t know this, or forget it between now and election day, they will deserve the resulting apocalypse. Here again you can see the results of propaganda and confusion. Obama has taken the work requirement out of welfare, not true, Obama is destroying Medicare by taking 716 billion out of the Medicare budget, not true, Obama is going to take our guns away, not true, Obama was not born in the U.S., not true, Obama is a socialist, not true, Obama hates Israel, not true, Obama is an Arab, not true, Obama hates farmers, not true, Obama hates White people, not true, Obama wants to turn the U.S. over to the United Nations, not true, and on and on and on, truth no longer even matters in this cacophony of lies, rumors, and deliberate false attacks. Republicans know they cannot win honestly with their scorched earth agenda and platform for destruction, so they simply lie, sow confusion, and attack Obama for the problems they themselves mostly created.

“Speak, Memory.”

Vladimir Nabokov

Monday, August 20, 2012


There is certainly no lack of oxymorons in politics and government these days, and you would be hard-pressed to say Republicans are alone in their creation and use of them, but they do appear to have a gift for some of the more questionable ones. The current flap over Missouri Senatorial candidate Todd Akins is an interesting case in point. “Legitimate rape” is an excellent example of the genre and has single-handidly taken over the news for the past couple of days.

I guess it was George W. Bush who promoted perhaps one of the greatest oxymorons of all time when he presented us with “compassionate conservative” (it was probably some Republican speechwriter or consultant) and used it successfully for a time. We know now from bitter experience just how oxymoronic it really was.

Mitt Romney seems to have a peculiar gift for the oxymoron although some of his utterances may not be pure examples of the genre. “Corporations are people” would seem to be a good case in point, “I’m unemployed” would be another. “Planned parenthood, we’re going to get rid of that,” if taken literally makes no sense whatsoever.

Some previous oxymorons, such as “liberal Republican” are never heard anymore since if there ever really were any they have been purged or driven underground by now. Unfortunately you can still hear “conservative Democrat” as we still have the so-called “Blue dog Democrats” occasionally fouling the works. Depending on how much of a nitpicker you wish to be I suspect you might argue that “small government” is a bit of an oxymoron. Government is government, neither small or large, just the government you have. “Government is the problem” seems to me to be a genuine classic oxymoron that completely misses the point. Nowadays we put up with things like “Liberal bias,” “Reagan democrats,” “Christian militias,” “Congressional ethics,” “ Known unknowns,” “Humane wars,” “Known conspiracies,” and even such outrages as “Conservative think tanks.” Oxymoronics has become so commonplace in our society, and especially in politics and government, it threatens to bury reality in such a heavy fog as to keep us perennially lost in webs of meaningless verbiage on the way to linguistic armageddon.

Depending on how liberally you interpret things you might argue that many Republican actions might be seen as oxymoronic. “Romney foreign policy” might qualify, along with “Private Universities” and “Private prisons” (you have to think about it). “Obama is a socialist” probably ranks up there with “Compassionate conservative” for sheer incredulity.

Oxymorons aside, I thought George W. Bush had an absolute lock on meaningless gibberish until I stumbled across this from Mitt Romney:

“I believe in an America where millions of Americans believe in an America that’s the America millions of Americans believe in. That’s the America I love.”

I also find inspiring (I like consistency):

I'm not familiar precisely with what I said, but I'll stand by what I said, whatever it was."

I am returning this otherwise good typing paper to you because someone has printed gibberish all over it and put your name at the top.

An English Professor

Sunday, August 19, 2012

The Ass B'long Tok Tok

Melanesian Pidgin is a rather simple language that sometimes uses words and phrases extremely useful in many contexts and for many purposes. Ass b’long tok tok means, roughly, the source of the information, or rumor, gossip, lie, and so on. It can also mean the source of something, like the ass b’long pit pit (the main place where the cane grows), the end of something, as the ass b’long line, ass b’long diwai (the stump of a tree), or the ass b’long cargo (where all the goods come from), and so on. It is, as you can see, a very useful phrase.

I have long wondered about the ass b’long many things and I wonder if there is some secret source of information I do not know about. For example, where does Hank Wiliams Jr. acquire the information that allows him to state that President Obama “hates farming, hates the military, hates the U.S.?” I assume he most probably just made this up, but the basic idea must have come from somewhere. Or where did Todd Akin (Republican running for Senate in Missouri) get the idea that in cases of “legitimate rape” women rarely get pregnant? Where did he discover or learn about legitimate rape, whatever that may be, and how does he know it rarely results in pregnancy? Did he just make it up? He did say something about talking to doctors, but unless they were some kind of witch doctors this would not seem like useful information. Where did Ted Nugent get the apparently unknown information that President Obama represents “everything bad about humanity?” Did this come from some secret source known only to Ted Nugent, or perhaps only to Republicans? Perhaps it just materialized out of thin air.

Republicans make all kinds of claims of this sort, often they are unfounded rumors, sometimes more far-fetched than others, but where do they originate? There is a recurrent rumor or claim, for example, that Obama is going to ditch Joe Biden and replace him with Hillary Clinton. This has been repeatedly denied, there is no evidence for it, but persists. Where did it come from? Similarly, the claim that in his second term Obama is going to take away our guns persists, although there seems to be no basis in fact for such a claim and it would probably be impossible (this one was probably started by the NRA). For years there has been a claim that abortion can led to breast cancer, a claim that has been shown to be completely false, but, again, seems to have a permanent life of its own. I suppose it doesn’t really matter much where these things originate, they are usually quite transparent in their motivation, but I wonder if there might be an important single source specifically for the generation of such claims, a Bureau of False Claims, an Institute for Creative Falsehoods, a Department of Falsehoods, or some such thing. I have considered just a simply named organization called The Ass B’long Tok Tok that would cover the entire universe of mysteriously generated, mostly false information, but Fox “News” has already claimed that responsibility. If, however, someone would offer me a substantial grant I would consider creating an Institute for the Study of the Ass B’long Tok Tok, right in the center of the Ass B’long Tok Tok itself (that I take to be our nation’s capitol).

Actually I have wondered about this for a long time, long before the connection with politics. I guess my first curiosity about this had to do with the source of jokes, especially what we know as “dirty” jokes. Where do such jokes come from, or originate? In the case of many more ordinary jokes we know many of them are generated by the large staffs of comedy writers employed by our comedians. It is obviously the case that Leno, Letterman, Stewart, Colbert, and others do not create all of their own material. But dirty jokes are another matter. Is there a central sort of “kitchen” where dirty jokes are “cooked up?” Maybe many of them just arise spontaneously in the mind of some individual, but are there some people who sit around making them up year after year? More interesting perhaps is the question of how they become so well known. How do they enter the mainstream? There doesn’t seem to be a newsletter that publishes the newest dirty jokes, regular newspapers don’t report them, they aren’t featured on television or radio, but they quickly become passed around, I suppose mostly by word of mouth. Not only are they picked up and widely circulated in the underworld of conversation, they often have staying power far beyond jokes that are less titillating. I guess there may be books of “Classic Dirty Jokes,” or “Jokes I Wouldn’t Tell my Mother,” or even “Dirty Jokes Up to Date,” but I’ve never looked into this possibility, not being an aficionado. Some dirty jokes are actually funny, many are disgusting or even “sick,” so it’s no wonder the authors might not wish to be revealed. But what an ignominious fate, being the master of jokes you cannot admit to being. Someone has to create dirty jokes. Is there an organized group that sits around the dinner table brainstorming the off-color, perhaps they meet regularly in bars, maybe they are mostly created by individuals while showering, I do not know, but I have wondered about it for many years. It’s like the tremendously gifted individuals who write their best material on bathroom walls but never sign their names. Pity.

Good taste is the enemy of creativity

Pablo Picasso

Friday, August 17, 2012


It is no secret that the big money backers of Romney/Ryan are outspending the Democrats by a very large margin. It is clear there is no way Obama supporters will be able to compete financially against them even though they have raised a great deal of money and do not have to fear being unable to compete at all. I am now wondering if there might reach a point where this huge imbalance in funds might become less of an asset than anyone might think. There must at least theoretically be a saturation point where further money and ads become counterproductive. First of all there is only so much air time available for political ads, second it is quite possible that after hearing an ad over and over and over it no longer resonates with the listeners, third, it is questionable if the sheer quantity of ads will produce much more than fewer ads of higher quality, and fourth, if the Republican ads are as dishonest and stupid as their campaign in general , they may have little or no effect on anyone but the Tea Party believers. It is possible, I believe, the claim that the most money always wins may well be incorrect.

Overkill may also be a factor when it comes to the threat of war with Iran. Israel has for years made claims about a Iranian nuclear weapon that apparently does not exist. And even though their claims are shown to be false over and over again they go right on making them. It’s like the shepherd by crying wolf to the point where no one believes him anymore. Similarly, Netanyahu keeps threatening to unilaterally bomb Iranian nuclear facilities even without U.S. support, although that is highly unlikely. What makes the situation even worse is the fact that from time to time even Israeli generals and others admit that Iran is not in fact an existential threat to Israel, is not about to attack Israel even with a bomb, and so on. The fact that this is true makes the Israeli threats all the more suspicious. I assume that as the Israelis know Iran is not a genuine threat to them their concern really has to do with not wanting Iran to have any significant influence in the Middle East, a goal shared apparently by the U.S. It appears that at the moment Netanyahu is threatening to attack in order to pressure President Obama into taking even more actions against Iran, if not outright military action at least more and more severe sanctions. I think it is much to Obama’s credit that so far he has refused military action and avoided another war in the Middle East that would be absolutely devastating for everyone concerned. Obama would earn the gratitude of the entire world (sans Great Britain and perhaps a couple other European nations) if he would announce publicly that under no circumstances will the U.S. support military action against Iran, continue his pressure on Netanyahu to stop the illegal settlements, and insist there be a fair and equitable solution to the Palestinian/Israeli problem once and for all. Is such thing likely to happen? Of course not. The Neocon warmongers in favor of permanent war, along with the Evangelical nitwits yearning for Armageddon, as well as the Congressional mindless puppy love of Netanyahu and Israel, would never allow it. While Obama would go down in world history as a truly great leader he would probably face immediate impeachment here at home.

I don’t know if overkill is the right word to describe our numerous tax breaks for the wealthiest among us, but it might at least partly serve for that purpose. Reflect for a moment on the fact that we live in a culture where working is actually punished by the tax code. One main reason Romney and the rest of the obscenely wealthy pay a lower tax rate than working people is because taxes on investment income are lower than those for working income. That is, once you have enough money to just sit back and clip your coupons, you pay lower taxes than the average working man. This strikes me as absurd, as rewarding non productive activities greater than productive ones. In effect, the lower down on the financial level you are the more you will be taxed, whereas the higher you are on the financial scale the less you pay. Is that fair? Is it even sensible? I suppose there are arguments for why this different scale was created, probably having to do with claims that those investing money are thereby creating the very jobs that can be taxed, but I doubt this is a very credible argument. I would have to be shown that the money saved in taxes by those at the top actually produces jobs rather than yachts, mansions, and art collections. There is little doubt in my mind that the reason the tax code is as it is, is because those with all the money have more influence on members of Congress and thus get legislation that favors them above all others. Don’t color me green with envy, color me red with outrage because of a system so patently unfair to those who do productive work and so favorable for those who do nothing except count their money. Money should not be allowed to breed and reproduce itself, at least not without paying for the privilege.

The easiest way for your children to learn about money is for you not to have any.

Katharine Whitehorn

Thursday, August 16, 2012


The Romney campaign, now the Romney/Ryan campaign, has become so awfully bad, so unbelievably bad, so excruciatingly bad, so embarrassingly bad, indescribably, pathetically, stupidly, ridiculously, dishonestly, even outrageously and breathtakingly bad as to defy imagination. Now when I see either Romney or Ryan speaking on television I feel the air has been sucked out of my lungs and I find myself gasping and speechless. I turn it off, refuse to listen to anymore. It has become obvious this comic duo has come to realize they have no chance of winning on their merits so they have turned to obfuscating nonsense to try to reduce Obama to their dismal level of utter balderdash.

All the “roviating” strategies are in play, project your own shortcomings onto your opponent (Obama is running a hateful campaign) , try to turn his strengths into weaknesses (Obama didn’t kill bin Laden and shouldn’t boast that he did), Obama is not an American, may not have been born here, is an “other” of some kind, he’s a socialist, communist, Muslim, antichrist, he’s going to take away your guns, he’s going to destroy Medicare (instead of them), the stimulus didn’t work, Obama has failed to create jobs (as the Republicans have tried to do), and quite probably, the drought, too, is all Obama’s fault. The best you can be said for this is that it is genuinely pathetic.

The Republicans started off by allowing their standard bearer to be someone that virtually none of them wanted. He turned out to be another know-nothing empty suit who offends virtually everyone he comes into contact with, he is completely out of touch with ordinary people, a 1% dandy who refuses to release his taxes, because if he did people would find fault with them (a tacit admission there is most probably something with which to find fault), he won’t tell anyone what he might cut as President because they then wouldn’t vote for him (a tacit admission that what he would cut would be something people like and depend on), he (and Ryan) now refuse to spell out or acknowledge some of their positions until after they are elected (another tacit admission of something people don’t want), and so on.

The much lauded Ryan budget, that virtually all Republicans supported, and that Romney has embraced repeatedly, is proving to be so unpopular they are now scrambling to distance themselves from it. They were already in trouble with the women’s vote so they picked Ryan, the most extreme anti-choice, anti-woman person in Congress, who is opposed to abortion even in cases of incest and rape, promoted the personhood at conception nonsense, and has vowed never to vote otherwise.

So now they have a Presidential candidate with the courage of no convictions whatever, and a Vice-Presidential candidate with nothing but convictions, all of which are so extreme as to be on the ultra, ultra right wing of the party. What can they do except lie and try to destroy Obama by painting him as worse than themselves. Project your own shortcomings onto your opponent, try to slime and destroy him by any means possible, swift boat him, roviate, attack, prevaricate, use innuendo, rumor, whatever lies come to mind, throw crap on the wall and see if any of it will stick. This is indeed perhaps the most negative campaign we have seen in modern times, and it’s all Obama’s fault, he, and he alone, is running a deceitful, hateful, dishonest campaign while the Republican efforts are as “pure as the driven snow.”

These deceitful, lying bastards should be hooted off the stage, banished from what used to pass as politics but has become increasingly criminal in their hands, starting with their brown shirt attack on the vote counting in Florida in 2000 and becoming worse by the year. No lie is too outrageous (the media doesn’t call them out), no distortion too egregious, no rumor too fantastic, no disrespect too un-American, no means too low, no cheap shot left out, no money too sleazy, and, alas, no Republican with an independent mind. Reagan started it, Bush/Cheney nursed it, and now Romney/Ryan have managed to bring it to full fruition, a universe of discourse so devoid of reality as to have us all now floating in an ethereal vapor of bullshit, horseshit, and pig pucky, demonizing a Presidential image that does not exist, and describing a future that may also not exist. “Come in, see our show, you’ll go out happy, happy, happy.” To vote Republican now would be like buying a third class ticket to Hades.

“Abandon all hope ye who enter here.”

Dante Alighieri, The Divine Comedy

Monday, August 13, 2012

Mitt the Twit

I guess it was one of the British newspapers that headlined “Mitt the Twitt” on Romney’s recent disastrous trip to Britain during the Olympics. I think they were on to something, but now I’m confused because I can’t decide if Romney is Twit, a Nitwit, a Half Wit, or completely Witless. Take his choice of Paul Ryan, for example. Romney has fully embraced the now famous and atrocious Paul Ryan budget at least five times in public, including his statement that he would sign it if President. So now he has picked Ryan as his running mate, but says they are not running on the Ryan budget but on his own version of a budget. His own budget has not been spelled out in much detail as has the Ryan version, but as far as I know doesn’t differ very much. But what are we to make of his claim they are not going to run on Ryan’s budget? Is it (1) an evasion, (2) a lie, or (3) another monumental flip-flop? Whatever, I say, in the immortal words of George W. Bush, “Bring it on.”

I think Romney has made a potentially disastrous mistake, both in picking Ryan in the first place, but now trying to distance himself from the Ryan budget. This will probably lead critics to insist on knowing just what the difference is between the two different budgets, thus bringing more attention to just how bad they both really are. We should all enjoy watching Romney squirm as he tries to explain the differences, and Ryan may or may not agree, thus putting him on the spot as well. If pursued this could be real entertainment for a while. Oh, I almost forgot, under the Romney/Ryan plan, Romney, who made a mere twenty million dollars last year, would pay less than one (.01) percent in taxes. Cool, huh?

If that is not enough of a mistake, Ryan has announced he will only provide two years of his taxes. This is obviously to defend Romney’s witless refusal to release only two years of his returns because, as his wife said, “You people know all you need to know.” As in the case of taxes, this is only going to increase the interest in Romney’s taxes rather than decrease it. It’s the issue that won’t go away that could have been easily avoided in the first place.

Romney is in real danger of being so upstaged as to become in effect the number two man on the ticket as he pretty clearly will not be able to hold his own when trying to explain the tax issue or his taxes, and he will probably suffer during his debates with President Obama. The Ryan/Biden debates will also be fascinating to watch as I doubt that Biden will be much impressed or awed by the so-called “intellectual leader of the Republican Party.”

Interestingly enough, the tax questions may not prove to be the most important problem for Romney/Ryan. Although this has not been much noted until now, Ryan is a virulent opponent of abortion, and what is worse, a proponent of the “personhood begins at conception crowd.” He has supported this and voted for it in the past, which means he is against abortion for any reason and also opposed to contraceptives. This, of course, will not endear him to the female vote and quite likely, just by itself, will lose Romney/Ryan the election. Ryan would like us to believe he represents his Catholic Church on this issue which, I guess he does. But his position on doing away with the social programs that benefit the poor have been described by the Church itself as “immoral.” While immorality might bother many of us, it won’t bother the Republican Tea Party base because they apparently have no concept of either “moral” or compassion.

There are those who believe Ryan is a truly brilliant pick for Vice-President, because he will take the heat off Romney (acknowledged as a terrible candidate) and, they think, may help to swing the election to Romney/Ryan. Even if this fails they believe that Ryan will be the perfect conservative candidate for 2016, having received so much exposure and experience. He is said to be the Koch brothers’ candidate, and with his selection as Romney’s running mate, has effectively turned the Party and the election over to them. Be that as it may, if this means the Republicans will continue to obstruct President Obama for another four years as they have done so far, there won’t be enough of the country left to worry about. Like it or not, the only hope for any of us in the near future is a Democratic sweep to take back the House and remain a majority in the Senate. There are things I do not like about Obama, but even if, for the moment, he has to cater to Wall Street to save the rest of us, so be it. Reality is not always pleasant.

Place one hand on the telly-vision, and one hand on your damaged brain, pray for the pain to go away.


Saturday, August 11, 2012

In Yer Face, Dems!

Strange things are done in the summer sun
by the “Pols” who grub for (more) gold,
but the strangest of all I ever did see
was that one hot day in August,
when they cremated Mitt Romney.

Apologies to Robert Service. Corny, yes, I know. And of course Romney was only metaphorically cremated. But the Tea Party base of the Republican Party, by apparently forcing Romney to choose Ryan, has virtually guaranteed he will lose the election in November. Romney could not have picked a more provocative, or, I think, a more useless choice. It is a remarkable choice, almost belligerent, sort of “Take that, Democrat dogs!”

It’s like throwing down a gauntlet, or waving a red flag in front of a bull as far as Democrats are concerned. They will eagerly tear Ryan apart and feed him in small pieces to the electorate at large. I cannot see how Ryan changes much of anything for Romney other than reinforcing the support of the Republican base that would have had to vote for Romney in any case.

So why has this happened? I confess I cannot fathom the Republican mind. Indeed, I sometimes believe they do not have minds but, like all “lesser” creatures, operate only on instinct. They seem to have only two instincts, lower taxes, less government. But I digress. One guess is simply that Romney has proven to be such a disaster as a candidate, but as it is too late now to replace him, the Party has done the next best thing, namely, chosen a Vice-Presidential candidate that will so upstage him as to become the ipso facto Presidential candidate, much like the Bush/Cheney situation. It could be, of course, that Romney picked him to shore up his credibility with the base that obviously doesn’t entirely trust him. If this is so, I think it was a mistake, because by shoring up the base he will probably lose some others, especially independents. It might also be seen more as a desperation move to change the subject from Romney’s taxes, a matter that will continue to haunt him probably forever unless he does actually reveal them.

I cannot see how Ryan adds anything much to the ticket. By being against Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, he can’t expect to attract many elderly votes, Blacks and Latinos are not going to change their minds for Ryan, nor will Jews, Muslims, and especially not younger people. Ryan is also part of the “war on women” so can’t change much of anything there. And, of course, by wanting to lower taxes on the obscenely wealthy while raising them on the middle and working classes, he changes nothing from the Romney position. He is also no more informed on foreign policy than is Romney, a serious shortcoming. All in all, I think it was a truly strange choice. Ryan will have to try to sell his famous Ryan budget, already about as popular as death adders, to an already pretty much opinionated electorate. To say this will be a “hard sell” is, I think, putting it mildly. It is true that Ryan is young and enthusiastic, and will no doubt bring more excitement to an extremely lackluster and bumbling campaign, but his ideas are diametrically opposed to what most voters believe in: Social Security, Medicare, fairness, and etc. Ryan may turn out to be another Palin only without the appalling ignorance and fishmonger voice.

At least they will have shifted the focus from Romney’s taxes, a problem that probably will never be solved, but in the process they will have also shifted the focus from Romney himself. All eyes will now be on Ryan and the Ryan budget that Romney so cavalierly endorsed repeatedly. Up until now Ryan has been successful in the world of think tanks and theory, it will be interesting to see how he fares in the political world. They are touting him as the brilliant, young, intellectual leader of the Republican Party, but we know what the voting public does to intellectuals in America, think Adlai Stevenson, Newt Gingrich and Eugene McCarthy, for example. An electorate that seems to favor Truman, Nixon, Reagan, and George W. Bush isn’t much interested in intellectuals, they favor someone they could have a beer with. Intellectuals are known to be “pointy-headed.”

Democracy means that anyone can grow up to be president, and anyone who doesn't grow up can be vice president.

Johnny Carson

Friday, August 10, 2012

Decline of the Nation State

A nation state consists of two parts: the “state” is basically a political and geographical entity that claims its sovereignty from its political legitimacy in acting on behalf of a “nation.” A nation is both a sovereign territorial unit and also a cultural or ethnic entity. The term “nation state” implies the two entities coincide in one and the same place and have a polity. That is, they possess and control their own political organization. The origins of nation states may have occurred in somewhat different ways and at different times, and there are various explanations for this, but the nation state has been the dominant form of state organization for quite some time. It is the contention of this brief essay that we are now witnessing the historical break-up of the traditional nation states as we have known them. I focus here on the United States but the same processes are at work elsewhere as well.

It is reasonable to believe that if a nation state wishes to remain so, protecting its sovereignty, competing with other nation states for wealth and resources, and maintaining the safety and well-being of its citizens, there are certain basic needs that must be given priority on behalf of survival and success over time. If these basic needs or requirements are not met the nation state, as such, will eventually decline and disappear or become something else. There are clear symptoms of decline at work in the U.S.

Clearly a functioning and successful nation state requires an educated citizenry. This is especially true in the modern, highly technological world we now live in. The U.S. has for years shamefully neglected its educational system at all levels, devaluing education and learning, demonizing teachers, making fun of “egg-heads,” “pointy-headed intellectuals,” “nutty professors,” and so on. Anti-intellectualism has been exceedingly destructive to our society, shrinking school budgets, allowing physical facilities to deteriorate badly, paying very low salaries to teachers, crowding classrooms with far too many students, not providing the best and most up-to-date equipment and textbooks, raising tuitions and costs while providing fewer services, shortening school years, forcing students to take on enormous debts in order to attend, and in general abandoning any genuine interest in learning in favor of basically warehousing young people while they waste their time. At best we have turned our colleges and universities into trade schools where students prepare themselves for jobs that no longer exist. Respect for learning and knowledge for its own sake has disappeared.

Related to this general debasement of education in general has been the reduction of funds for research and development. The higher costs of education have not been passed on to better labs and equipment but, rather, to more administrators and million dollar football and basketball coaches. We have fallen behind most other industrialized nations and are not producing enough well-trained people to supply whatever demands there are. Science and research have been increasingly denigrated so that we now have large numbers of people who don’t even believe in science.

As a nation we have also seriously ignored our infrastructure. Roads and bridges have fallen into serious disrepair, buildings neglected, trains underfunded and not much better than they were in the last century while our competitors in other nations have developed high-speed trains that make our seem rather medieval. Environmental protections have been unenforced and ignored so that we have thousands of acres of contaminated ground, mountaintops bulldozed into rivers, salmon runs depleted, species carelessly allowed to become extinct, and so on. And now, having ignored global warming and all scientific advice on the subject it may already be too late to act.This has to be seen as a nation that just doesn’t care and is symptomatic of our decline.

Similarly, when a nation would rather see its citizens unhealthy, miserable, and dying rather than provide them decent universal health care and keep them healthy, because it might be “socialism,” you know you have reached a point of national suicide, a true and serious symptom of national malaise, to say nothing of idiocy.

There are still other symptoms that may not be as obvious. Our military, for example, is no longer a truly national system of collective self-defense, but, rather, an army of mercenaries. It might be seen as symbol of national pride but it no longer represents the people and those who are paid to serve in it may or may not have the same allegiance to the nation as an army more representative of the population at large. The average soldier, sailor, or marine no longer represents a cross-section of the general public but has been recruited from the margins and may have more allegiance to who pays him than the nation. Mercenary armies can be dangerous and become private armies. And when this is coupled with the obscene military/industrial/political complex that controls the military and functions more for corporate than national interests, you have once again reduced the importance of the nation state.

Privatization also contributes to the demise of the nation state as it removes the responsibility for vital services from the nation state and places them in the hands of private companies, thus weakening the power of the state. The privatization of vital needs like energy, communication, health care, Social Security, and such, when placed in the hands of private corporations, obviously helps to undermine the power and authority of the nation state and gives more power to the corporate control of our lives.

The waning importance of the nation state is directly a result of at least two related facts, the growth and power of international corporations, and the importance of globalization. A few giant corporations have managed to basically rule the world with the help of the U.S. military establishment. Because they can draw on workers and talent from elsewhere, less expensive than here at home, they don’t care about our educational system (why pay for something they can find cheaper elsewhere), nor do they care about the health of the population (they can find workers from countries that keep them healthy), and, as they have budgets larger than those of many nation states, they have the power that comes with all that wealth. Similarly, they are not as dependent on U.S. infrastructure as they were. They have their own fleets of planes, ships, and facilities that are not necessarily even housed in the U.S. They are not all even U.S. citizens, nor do they need to be. They can all live where they wish, rely on banks and other facilities around the world. Now they have even been buying up prime agricultural land all over the world, in Africa, South America, and even here in the U.S., land that belongs to them, not the nation state of the United States of America or the nations that sold that land. The requirements for a successful nation state are no longer relevant and can be and are increasingly being ignored or abandoned. As far as a work force is concerned, they can find that anywhere, cheaper, better trained, healthier, and probably happier.

This spells doom for the importance of nation states, especially for the U.S. with its ideology of social Darwinism and resistance to anything that smacks of government help to anyone other than Banks, Insurance companies, large corporations, and the wealthy people affiliated with them. Now we are even in danger of losing any semblance of control over our polity. It has always been possible for other countries to indirectly influence our politics, but with Citizens United there is no telling how much greater and more secret influence they can and will surely have. There are no effective controls over how much money China or other countries might be donating to influence our elections and government. In fact, we don’t even know who is in charge of our government, but it is obvious they do not have our individual welfare in mind. They seek profit, and there is profit galore in permanent war, the military/industrial/political complex, globalization, and weaker and less powerful nation states.


Thursday, August 09, 2012

Reality and Impossibility

I know I have commented on this before, but it is so perplexing I can’t give up thinking about it.

Yesterday I saw an announcement from one or more polls that President Obama is leading Romney among women voters by 22 percent, there are more women voters than men, and women are mad as hell about Republican attacks on them. It is also clear that he will get the vast majority of the Black vote, perhaps even as much as 95 percent. Similarly, we know he is leading Romney by a large margin among Latino voters. As he has jumped on the Ryan budget bandwagon that threatens both Medicare and Social Security it is unlikely he will get many of the elderly to vote for him. Jews always vote democratic and Romney did not make a big impression there on his recent visit. I cannot imagine Muslims voting for Romney, nor do I think he will get much of the youth vote as the Ryan budget of which he approves threatens Pell grants and education in general. The relatively small number of independent voters that seems to still exist are unlikely to vote for Romney, at best he might expect to see a split vote. This would seem to leave Romney the Republican Tea Party base, a few independents, and of course White less educated males and assorted racial bigots. This would not appear to be enough of a vote for him to win, unless some terribly unforeseen disaster befalls Obama between now and the election in November. If this reflects the reality of the situation, and I believe it does, I am tempted to believe Obama should win in a near landslide.

The polls, however, along with all the pundits and the MSM, including even many Democrats, keep insisting it is going to be a very close election. This strikes me as a complete impossibility. It makes no sense. Perhaps I am too dumb to get it, or perhaps they are privy to information I know nothing about, maybe I am too biased to see it otherwise, but if the reality of the situation is pretty much as I described it above, a close election would seem to be either a Republican fantasy or a deliberate construction of the media who want us to believe in propaganda. If polls truly suggest a close election one can only wonder who they are polling, and what questions are they asking. It would seem obvious they are not polling a random selection of the electorate.

I would predict a virtual landslide for Obama, except for the fact that I am almost always wrong about these things. I never believed Nixon would be elected (too much five o’clock shadow, a “checkered” past, believed to be too “tricky”). I absolutely did not believe Ronald Reagan could be elected (a “B” level Hollywood star with the mind of a stubborn child), I never even thought Jimmy Carter could win (a Georgia peanut farmer with lust in his heart and a bible in his hand). I certainly did not believe George W. Bush could be elected (a known failure at everything he attempted, recovered alcoholic, born-again Christian, probably marginally retarded). Now we are confronted with Mitt Romney (a Mormon who lies constantly, a vulture capitalist who made his money shipping jobs overseas and stealing pensions, a moron with respect to foreign policy, an undiplomatic robot completely out of touch with the reality of normal everyday life, greedy almost beyond belief, and not really even wanted by his own party, the greatest flip-flopper of all time). I fear that with all these qualifications, in an American election, he probably can’t fail to get elected. It’s the American way! Sigh!

Elections are won by men and women chiefly because most people vote against somebody rather than for somebody.
Franklin P. Adams

Wednesday, August 08, 2012

The Silence of the Church(es)

As an Atheist I suppose I should not comment on the business and beliefs of churches, but I will anyway. I am not an Atheist because I made a serious study of various religions and then rejected them all, but because I could never get past the first few pages of any of the religious books I attempted to read, or past the apparent nonsense I was asked to believe. Lewis Henry Morgan once made a statement about religions that might be appropriate here:

“The Growth of religious ideas is environed with such intrinsic difficulties that it may never receive a perfectly satisfactory exposition. Religion deals so largely with the imaginative and emotional nature, and consequently with such uncertain elements of knowledge, that all primitive religions are grotesque and to some extent unintelligible.”

If you strike the word “primitive” from that statement it expresses precisely my feelings about all the religions I know about (even granted I don’t know much about any of them). Perhaps I was just born atheistic.

Along these lines, I know very little about the Mormon religion, the Church of Latter Day Saints. But I’m pretty certain it does not condone lying. As far as I know, no religion condones lying. Some say the Mormon faith is not a true Christian religion but, rather, a cult. From what I do know about it I should think it must be closer to a Christian cult than anything else. In any case I do not believe that unlike all religions it accepts lying as legitimate practice for its members. So what does the church think about Mitt Romney?

Romney’s lying about President Obama has reached the point to where it has so poisoned the political dialogue s to be inescapable. Most everyone is now aware of it, even many members of his own party. He takes virtually everything Obama says and deliberately distorts it in such a way as to make it sound the opposite of what it is. These are not mere slips of the tongue or gaffes, they are obvious, deliberate, attempts to accuse Obama of saying things he did not, in fact, say. Unfortunately, unlike the good old days when there was no audio and videotape to record everything politicians say, there are now precise records of what Romney has done and all of his lies have been exposed. There is no way he can credibly deny them. He has become (if he was not always) a rather pathological liar. This is even worse than merely being the world’s greatest flip-flopper.

But, you say, all politicians lie. Yes, that is true. But not many have ever managed to base their entire campaign on deliberate and consistent lies about their opponent. The Bush/Cheney set a standard for consistent serial lying I thought could never be outdone, but Romney is setting a new record, even outdoing them. But it is not the amount or the quality of lies that is of issue here, it is merely the fact of lying at all and how this relates to the beliefs of most if not all religions. Bush was supposedly some kind of born-again Baptist, I have no idea what Cheney’s religion is or was, perhaps a form of Satan worship, Gingrich is supposed to have jettisoned a couple of previous religions to become a Catholic, and so on. They all lie, some more outrageously than others.

But if churches do not sanction lying, and if Romney and others chronically and seriously lie, why are the churches silent on this issue? Is the Mormon Church not backing Romney? If they are they are backing a known and serious liar. Does the Catholic Church approve of Gingrich’s often ridiculous lies? How about the Baptists and Bush’s non-stop performance as President?

I guess the churches cannot come right out and publicly support a candidate for fear of violating the principle of separation of church and state. But is their acceptance of such egregious lying part of that same acceptance? Do they believe lying is wrong when done within some arbitrary parameters of “churchiness,” but is perfectly okay when done for political reasons? Does the Mormon Church desire a President so strongly they just do not care if he is a chronic liar with obviously questionable morals? Where do other churches stand on this matter? They appear to be remarkably silent about it.

He who has not a good memory should never take upon himself the trade of lying.

Michel de Montaigne

Tuesday, August 07, 2012

When Science Fiction was Real

When I was a boy my friends and I would bring our ten cents in our grubby little fingers and congregate every Saturday afternoon at the Liberty Theater for the matinee. The feature film was usually a western with Hopalong Cassidy, The Lone Ranger, Gene Autrey, or other of the famous cowboy stars of the 30’s and 40’s. Along with the feature there was always an installment of some ongoing serial, often having something to do with Science Fiction, the one I remember the most vividly was Flash Gordon. There were others, having to do with strange mud men and the like but I don’t remember them very well. This was our introduction to Science Fiction when it was still, literally, FICTION. That is, we didn’t believe these kinds of things would ever happen, were somehow realistically possible, we knew they were completely fictional. It was obvious that Flash Gordon’s space craft was little more than what appeared to be two or three metal garbage cans welded together that could barely even manage to land and take off from the completely artificial landscapes the cheap production companies could afford to produce, and even Flash Gordon himself was not a very convincing character. We knew it was all fake, just hokum to please the mostly juvenile audiences it sought to please. Those were happy times, we didn’t worry about any of it ever coming to pass, and we most certainly did not worry about any possible consequences if somehow it ever were to become real. To us, it was just not thought possible, it was simply real in the sense that it was real fiction.

In the 70 or more years since those happy, carefree days, a great deal has happened and what was simply science fiction then has become scientific reality now. First it was Sputnik, then the moon, and now, of course, we have managed to land an exploratory vehicle on Mars, some 154 million miles from earth. One cannot help but be in awe of the scientific achievement this represents, something that would have been unthinkable for thousands of years all of the sudden made possible by the scientific community, an absolutely colossal event! Everyone should rightly be proud of this fantastic event.

I am proud of it, but why is it that at the same time the first disturbing thing that entered my mind upon hearing about it was the thought it would just be another planet to ravish and trash. Why did I think that? Why have I become so cynical about such things? I guess it must be the simple fact that after watching for 80 years what we humans have done to this planet, and also to each other, I have lost all confidence in our ability to manage our affairs, both environmentally and interpersonally. I keep asking myself (1) Why are we spending these billions to reach Mars when there are so many serious problems here on earth that need fixing, and (2) Are we so close to the destruction of this planet we are now actively searching for the next one for our basically parasitical existence? Of course from the first couple of pictures I saw, Mars does not look very habitable. But that can’t be an impossible problem for people who have already moved mountaintops just to get the coal underneath them, or re-routed rivers that didn’t run where we wanted them to run, or shipped irradiated sand from the middle east to rest in Idaho, invented the internal combustion engine and plastic with no thoughts of the future, built gigantic dams on the rivers with no regard for the consequences, invented fracking, and otherwise fouled our little planet however we chose. No mountains on Mars? We’ll build our own mountains. No water, we’ll pipe it in from elsewhere, no available energy, we’ll install some gigantic wind tunnels, and maybe some artificial tides to produce it, not enough oxygen, no problem we’ll invent something. There is just nothing we can’t do, we’re the lords of the universe, masters of all, we know best what to do.

None of this will probably happen during the remainder of my lifetime. But I never thought that during my lifetime air travel would become commonplace, television would be invented, nuclear energy would be discovered, the typewriter would not only be invented but replaced by computers, a part Black man would be elected President, and one of two political parties would cease to govern. Some say “things change but stay the same. Wrong, things change but do not stay the same. Some say history always repeats itself. Wrong, when before was there television, nuclear energy, an explorer on Mars? If history merely repeated itself there would be no change, no “progress.” Perhaps that would be a good thing? Personally, I hope explorer will find nothing, no oil, no diamonds, no gold, no water, no habitable land whatsoever, and no traces of life either in the past or now, a dead and useless planet, and that we have wasted our billions on a fool’s errand. Alas, don’t bet on it.

If we have learned one thing from the history of invention and discovery, it is that, in the long run - and often in the short one - the most daring prophecies seem laughably conservative.

Arthur C. Clarke

Monday, August 06, 2012

time was soft there -- book

Time was soft there A Paris Sojourn at Shakespeare & Co., Jeremy Mercer (St. Martin’s Press, 2005)

In addition to being merely a sojourn in the famous Parisian bookstore, Shakespeare & Co., this was also obviously a great and significant experience for the author. He does not present it as a great adventure but, rather, as a more or less straightforward factual account of his time with George Whitman, the eccentric communist owner of said bookstore. This was not the original bookstore of that name, started by Sylvia Beach, that became famous and successful during the years between the two great wars, but a newer bookstore opened in 1951 called Le Mistral, but re-named Shakespeare & Co. in Beach’s honor in 1964.

It would obviously impossible for any bookstore to become as exciting as Shakespeare & Co. during the l920’s and 30’s, what with the presence of so many literary giants in Paris at that time: Ernest Hemingway, D.H. Lawrence, Ezra Pound, Thornton Wilder, Ande Gide, Gertrude Stein, Man Ray, among many, many others, and especially James Joyce whose famous book, Ulysses, was first published by Beach, causing her much financial hardship. Rarely is so much talent centered in one place.

Although George Whitman could not outdo the original, he kept alive the tradition of helping young writers by giving them support, free board and room for a time, and encouragement. It is said that during the more than fifty years as proprietor more than 40,000 guests enjoyed time at Whitman’s Shakespeare & Co., helping out with the store, enjoying free food and lodging, and supposedly writing or otherwise engaged in the arts, misfits or temporarily down on their luck travelers needing assistance.

It was into this milieu that Jeremy Mercer, previously a reporter for a Canadian newspaper, but now on the run from a death threat, and with no idea of his future, found himself one winter in Paris, broke, not knowing what to do until he found temporary sanctuary and became friends with Whitman, a dedicated communist almost all of his life, with a philosophy of helping others. His motto was essentially “Give what you can, take what you need.” And painted over one of the doorways: “BE NOT INHOSPIT ABLE TO STRANGERS LEST THEY BE ANGELS IN DISGUISE.” Whitman insisted that each of his guests write a brief autobiography of themselves, which they did, and as they came to know each other they found themselves confessing their own problems and listening sympathetically to those of others. There were characters galore passing through the bookstore, each with a story to tell, problems to deal with, works in progress, and the usual foibles of humanity. Mercer swears that his account of his life as well as the lives of some of the others he writes about are true. I believe they are, and some are indeed “stranger than fiction.” Perhaps strangest and most interesting of all is that of George Whitman himself. Prudent to a fault, spending as little as possible for food, clothing, and supplies, he was at the same time incredibly careless with money, often leaving franc notes in books or lost somewhere among the clutter of the office, trusting others, even complete strangers, he was obviously taken advantage of by many, but he believed in community, in the idea that people should share and help one another. He was a perennial optimist when it came to the possibilities of communism, possibilities he believed had never truly been fully developed and thus abused by the likes of Stalin and others.

In the months that Mercer spent at Shakespeare and Co. he became close enough to George Whitman to become his confidant and played a major role in reuniting George with his daughter, Sylvia Beach Whitman, who eventually returned to her father and took over management of the bookstore, a very happy ending that George had desperately wished for. As she installed a telephone for the first time, and began accepting credit cards, Shakespeare and Co. will never be what it once was, but “there will always be Paris.” George Whitman died not too long ago at 98 years of age, knowing that his beloved bookstore had survived and was in good hands.

“time was soft there” is not a great book, but it is a good book, both interesting and edifying, and revealing a good deal about the nature of human nature, as well as useful hints about how to get along in Paris when “down and out.” If you are interested in books, bookstores, people who revel in books, Paris, sanctuary and redemption, and even biography, you will probably find this book of interest. The title, by the way, is adapted from prison parlance, where it is said you can do either “hard time,” or “soft time,” although I do not believe that is a very good comparison.

I know that Nicholas Basbanes did not have Shakespeare & Co. in mind when he wrote his fine book about” Bookpeople” (Among the Gently Mad), but there is no doubt the denizens and characters of Shakespeare and Co. should be included under that rubric.

Saturday, August 04, 2012

Yes, It's Real

Yes, it’s real, global warming that is. It has now become so obvious that even morons paid by the oil companies, like Sessions and Inhoff, are not going to be able to keep denying it. Or maybe they will as they seem to be either completely unaware of the scientific consensus on the subject or they just plain and simply don’t believe in science. Not only is it real, it appears to be occurring even more rapidly than we thought. I don’t know if it is already too late to do anything about it or not, but global warming deniers are playing fast and loose with the very survival of the human species, along with other species as well, and all so the extractive industries can make more obscene profits as fast as possible. I guess the motto is, “Let Nothing Stand in the Way of Greed.”

Clint Eastwood, who is now 82 years of age, has just endorsed Mitt Romney. Having met Romney previously he seems to believe that as he is handsome enough to be a movie star he is also handsome enough to be President. I believe that Eastwood has the right to endorse anyone he wishes, just like the rest of us. But when I read the following quote I confess I am suspicious that Eastwood may be senile. He said, “He hoped Romney would restore ‘a decent tax system that we need badly…so that there’s a fairness and people are not pitted against one another as who’s paying taxes and who isn’t.’”

Has he not been paying attention? Does he have any idea whatsoever of what he is talking about? Or does he somehow believe that a fair system of taxation involves loopholes for the wealthy so they can avoid taxes altogether? Or, I suppose maybe he thinks that more tax breaks for the filthy rich, paid for by the middle class and the working poor, is fair. Perhaps too many years in Hollywood have addled his brain. Maybe it’s too much clean air in central Idaho. I confess to be completely mystified by this.

Harry Reid has now maneuvered Romney into a complete no-win situation about his taxes. If Romney continues to refuse to release his returns he loses, if he does release them he will also lose. Even if it is not true that he paid no taxes at all for ten years, he will still be exposed as someone who pays much less than most of us, puts his money overseas and takes absurd deductions for his wife’s hobby horse, and so on. Very clever Harry, keep up the good work.

I am not one who believes that history repeats itself. Many seem to agree that no President has ever been re-elected when the unemployment rate is as high as it is at present. I would suggest that no President has ever faced the same conditions as those that exist at the present moment, never in history. Not only are there cogent reasons why unemployment is higher than it should be, technological innovations, automation, etc., plus the Republican inspired layoffs of public employees, but the facts are clear about who is obstructing all efforts to create jobs. Republicans think they can block all of Obama’s attempts to create jobs and then blame him for failing to create them. I don’t think this is going to “fly,” so to speak. The American public may not be the best informed electorate in the world but I doubt they are that dumb.

Romney is sinking in the polls, as he should be. He has proven to be a terrible candidate. Most people don’t trust him, for good reason, he keeps putting his foot in his mouth at every opportunity, he has exposed himself as an absolute know-nothing when it comes to foreign policy, merely following his mostly Bush neocon advisors, and he lies incessantly about most everything, especially about what it is that Obama is supposed to have said. I think Republicans have not yet come to grips with audio and videotape that captures and preserves what they say from moment to moment, thus making lying much more difficult that it “used to was.” The Republican Congress is less popular than Simon Legree, Romney himself is becoming about as popular as Dick Cheney, the Republican party has been taken over by a demonstrably lunatic fringe, Romney has no choice but to play along, it all spells doom and gloom for them. I fully expect their next move, having failed to ban contraception, will be an attempted ban on ice cream and apple pie. The pundits still claim it is going to be a very close election. If so, it may be the weirdest election since Truman vs Dewey. Maybe if Romney got a tattoo?

Who would venture upon the journey of life, if compelled to begin it at the end?

Madame de Maintenon

Friday, August 03, 2012

Calling them Out

Could it possibly be the case that at long last some of the worst offenders might be called to justice? Take the case of Sheriff Joe Arpaio, for example, the racist, obnoxious, publicity mad Sheriff of Arizona who has terrorized the Hispanic and prison communities for years. Finally he is being sued by the Justice Department for a whole host of civil rights violations. I cannot believe he will not be found guilty of all charges.

Then there is the case of Grover Norquist, the strange nobody who somehow managed to be important to the Republican Party, mainly by blackmailing prospective Congresspersons into signing a ridiculous pledge to never, under any circumstances, even national emergencies, agree to any tax increases. Steve LaTourette, a retiring Republican Congressperson, has now finally called him out as someone who basically just peddles “crap,” that has harmed our nation. LaTourette, now free of the restraints of office, has also likened Congress to the status of “alcoholics” who have yet to admit they have finally reached the absolute bottom of their disastrous fall before they can begin to recover. Actually, I think La Tourette is wrong about this, they have reached bottom a long time ago, and refuse to recognize it.

The case of Mitt Romney is another interesting situation. Harry Reid, the soft-spoken leader of the Senate, has called him out on his taxes. Reid claims to have been informed by a reliable source, that Mitt may not have paid any taxes at all for a ten year period, and thus should have to release his tax records for those years. This is most unlike the mild-mannered Reid who swears he is quoting a very reliable source. Romney is now in a bind and will probably lose either way. If he continues to refuse to offer his tax records everyone will assume he has something to hide. If he does release them no one knows what they may reveal, but whatever it is it will not reflect well on Romney. Of course he can always claim he paid all the taxes the law requires, but that will only expose how completely the tax code is written to favor the wealthy in the first place. It may well prove to be true he has always paid all the taxes the law requires but that itself may prove his undoing. In any case let’s watch how he tries to explain a $70,000 business deduction for his wife’s dressage horse.

An interesting situation on Sudan has arisen. Christiane Amanpour, one of my favorite foreign correspondents, asked the Sudanese Ambassador if Sudan was prepared to turn over their President, Omar al-Bashir, for war crimes (he has already been accused). His reply was, I believe, priceless. Yes, he said, but only if Britain is prepared to hand over Blair, and the U.S. is going to hand over George W. Bush. Right on! I don’t believe war criminals should be spared no matter where they are found, but, alas, that’s not the way it works. Bush might be able to plead for leniency on the grounds of limited mental capacity, but not so Dick the Slimy, who deserves no mercy whatsoever for his deliberate and premeditated crimes.

Kudos to Australia for rejecting the suggestion from one of the many conservative U.S. “think tanks” that the U.S. should position a Nuclear Aircraft Carrier Strike Group somewhere off the coast of West Australia. They do not want to alienate China, their major trading partners, but leave it to our local nitwits for another stupid suggestion. Oh, I forgot, China, to whom we are indebted up to our eyeballs, is a “bad” communist nation, but we are a “good” democracy. Maybe that’s wrong, maybe China is a good communist nation and it is Cuba that is bad, I just can’t keep up with these things.

Finally, when it comes to calling people out, perhaps Benjamin Netanyahu is getting the treatment he deserves. “Bibi,” as he is known to those who love him, as well as those who hate him, keeps calling for the U.S. to attack Iran, and threatens that Israel may do it unilaterally, in spite of the fact that he knows Iran is not building a nuclear bomb, his own military is opposed to such a ridiculous move, the U.S. is opposed to it, most Israeli citizens are opposed to it, Iran is not “an existential threat” to Israel, and his fears are basically groundless. Why does he continue to do this? Why not, he’s an absolutely spoiled brat of a leader who has been allowed to dictate American foreign policy in the Middle East for years, with the complete support of the U.S. Congress, no questions asked, no crimes too egregious, no excuse more feeble or obscure. President Obama, rather than imposing more and more sanctions on Iran to placate Bibi, should impose sanctions on Israel for their repeated violations of international law and human decency but, of course, he cannot, Bibi reigns supreme, he can do no wrong.

The hare-brained chatter of irresponsible frivolity.

Benjamin Disraeli