Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Me too, Rush

Poor ol’ Rush Limbaugh, I guess he thought he was delivering a bombshell to his loyal patriotic followers when he announced the other day he was, “for the first time in his life ashamed of America.” He is ashamed because he says “the ‘left” has taken over, liberals have won, they have created “more low-information, unaware, uneducated people” and what not. Low-information, unaware, uneducated people sounds to me like a perfect description of his own audience, but leave that aside for the moment. I never thought I would agree with him in any way, but I agree with him that I am ashamed of my country, although for very different reasons.  Let me list some of the ways:
First, I guess I am ashamed to confess that such a large number of my fellow citizens actually listen to Rush’s daily stupid, mostly infantile, unfounded, hate-filled babble, and seem to take it seriously and delight in it.
I am also quite ashamed to live in the only highly industrialized, supposedly “modern,” supposedly “democratic” nation that does not provide universal health care to its citizens. I am likewise ashamed to live in a country that devalues education to the point we only begrudgingly finance our schools and teachers and carelessly allow them to deteriorate so badly (producing the very uneducated, unaware people Rush disparages). Of course I cannot say I am very proud to live in a country where our infrastructure has likewise deteriorated to the point that it will take trillions to repair it all. Of course there is also the fact of global warming, probably the most serious threat we have ever faced, and about which we have so far done next to nothing (except to deny it). I am also ashamed to live in a culture where the environment is considered completely expendable when it comes to making a profit.
I am ashamed, too, to be part of a nation eternally at “war,” or so it seems, especially as at least some of these so-called “wars” have never been authorized and are internationally defined as war crimes, Iraq comes specifically to mind, but there are others as well. Similarly I am ashamed to live in a nation that protects admitted war criminals while at the same time demanding those of other countries be held accountable.  I am even more ashamed to acknowledge our uncritical, unquestioned, and immoral support for another country obviously guilty of multiple ongoing war crimes against an essentially helpless population.
I also find it difficult to be proud of our use of drones wherever we choose, violating international law and killing hundreds, even thousands, of innocent people. Along with this outrageous behavior is the claim that our government (President) claims the right to kill whomever they wish if they define them as “terrorists” (one nation’s terrorists are another nation’s heroes). I also find it shameless that using the excuse of promoting democracy around the world we continue to exploit other countries and attempt to maintain hegemony around the world. I am also not very proud to acknowledge that with some 5% of the earth’s population we use somewhere around 25% of the known resources.
 I am also ashamed to live in a country where the wealth is distributed so unfairly, and even stupidly. One percent of the population owns as much or more than the 99% and fight endlessly to not have to share it with anyone no matter what their obvious needs. I think this kind of naked greed is truly shameful and should not be permitted (let alone promoted as somehow rightful). Most of all I am ashamed to be living in a nation of cannibals:
“Capitalism turns men into economic cannibals, and having done so, mistakes economic capitalism for human nature.” Edward Hyam.

Basically, I believe this is so, and if left unchecked and unregulated it will inevitably lead to the demise of our society as we have known it. The battle against greed ebbs and flows, at the moment greed is winning.   

There is no calamity greater than lavish desires.
There is no greater guilt than discontentment.
And there is no greater disaster than greed.

Monday, February 25, 2013

The Pipeline

I am not all confident I understand what this Keystone pipeline is all about. If I do understand it, it must be about the craziest idea ever proposed, and if President Obama approves it, it will prove that he is not only in the pockets of big oil, but also crazy himself.
Of course I am not confident that I truly do understand it as nowadays you cannot believe anything you see or hear, especially when it comes to politics and government. You have to listen to what different sources claim and then pick the ones that at least seem to be the most accurate or logical. With this in mind, it seems to me that what is being proposed is so outrageously awful it should not even be taken seriously, let alone approved.
As I understand it, in the Province of Alberta there is a vast expanse of underground oil that can only be obtained by what is known as “fracking.” This is an extremely destructive and expensive way of producing crude oil that will apparently destroy miles and miles of forests and other aspects of nature. This exceptionally dirty oil needs to be transported to centers where it can be processed into saleable oil. Alberta cannot build a shorter pipeline directly to the west coast across Canadian territory because of environmental objections. As they cannot take this option they are suggesting a 1700 mile pipeline across the entire Midwest of the United States, through Montana, Nebraska, and on down to processing centers in Texas.
Needless to say this is a multi-billion dollar project fraught with real dangers as it will pass over critical aquifers as well as much productive agricultural land where the possibility of spills could be devastating. Proponents of this project claim it will be safe, will create 20,000 jobs, help stop our dependence on oil from other parts of the globe, and so on.  They also argue it is critical for the U.S. to maintain good relationships with our Canadian neighbors who will, of course, at least in the short run, benefit hugely from selling this valuable resource.
Opponents of this monumental project say it will not produce that many jobs, certainly not permanent ones. It is dangerous, environmentally damaging, and potentially disastrous. Furthermore, they point out, the oil so transported is not really for use by the U.S. but is, in fact, for export to China and other nations, thus doing nothing to reduce our need for other foreign oil. They also point out that while it is true Canadians will profit from selling this oil, the true beneficiaries will be the giant international oil corporations.
In summary, Alberta is willing and eager to destroy enormous areas of their Province to produce very expensive and very dirty oil they will not be allowed to transport across the Province of British Columbia because of the opposition of their own citizens. They propose building a gigantic pipeline across the entire United States in order to transport this oil to processing centers in Texas where it can be refined and then sold to other countries. The only benefits of this for the U.S. are apparently the promise of 20,000 mostly temporary jobs and congenial relations with Canada. The potential environmental destruction to the U.S., as well as the almost certainty of spills, are being downplayed by those eager for the presumed jobs (but more realistically by those U.S. Congresspersons being bribed by the Oil corporations). As this project involves crossing an international border it must be approved by President Obama. Imagine the pressure he must be under to approve this monstrosity of capitalism.
 There is extreme opposition to this pipeline on the part of environmentalists and scientists who believe it will be symbolic of where the U.S. (and the world) will go with respect to energy. Will we continue to depend on unrenewable fossil fuels rather than commit to other more renewable forms of energy? Will we continue to put jobs ahead of environmental protections? Whose side will Obama elect to support? He is certainly not in an enviable position, no matter which way he decides there will be monumental objections and complaints. Obama has said he (we) will deal with global warming. This pipeline is said to represent a crucial step in attacking that problem. I believe this is one of the most important, indeed crucial, decisions faced by any U.S. President. No doubt I have oversimplified the situation, I’m sure there must be more to it than the simple scam I have outlined. But even so, we are being asked, once again, to risk hundreds of miles of our productive land and our basic water supplies, potentially massive environmental degradation, for the benefit of Oil company profits. An old union man once told me if it came to a choice between a stupid little owl and a job he would of course go for the job. And so it all  continues. Who needs owls and healthy environments anyway? If Obama decides against this pipeline he will no doubt face excruciatingly painful recriminations from Republicans (and maybe even a few others), but he will also go down in history as one of the most important and greatest Presidents of all.

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

Friday, February 22, 2013

I'm Somewhat Sympathetic

In a somewhat perverse way I am sympathetic to those who are taken in by lies, rumors, and deceptions. There are at the moment probably dozens of falsehoods making the rounds of the media. I came across one just now that claims to have proof that Obama is Gay, not only that, he was apparently once married to a Gay man.
There are also now claims that the Pope resigned because of a report of a Gay cabal in the Vatican that would be so difficult and embarrassing to deal with he felt it wise to get out of the situation.
Our new Senator from Texas, Cruz, is reported to have claimed there were 12 communists on the Harvard Law School Faculty while he was a student there. And, of course, he has also said President Obama is the most radical President ever.
Then there is the now famous case of those currently imprisoned at Gitmo receiving G.I. benefits, an absolutely ridiculous claim that was apparently taken seriously by one of McConnell’s staff.
There has also been the completely false claim that Hagel has received support from an organization called “Friends of Hamas,” an organization that does not even exist, and if it did it would not go by such a name. This has apparently been believed by at least some of our Senators even though it is ridiculous on the face of it.
Of course there are also the longstanding claims that Obama was born in Kenya, is a Muslim, a Socialist, Communist, Fascist, mysterious intruder from outer space who wants to take away guns, promote abortion, and so on.
All of these claims are obvious nonsense with no factual basis whatsoever, but yet t here always seems to be some who accept them, or at least give them the benefit of the doubt. And for those who believe it is virtually impossible to convince them otherwise. How can this be? Why are so many willing to believe what most of us recognize immediately as utter hogwash, balderdash, claims so far-fetched as to deserve no credibility whatsoever?
It is true, I guess, that in some cases there might at least be some sliver of truth involved. I suppose it could be true there is some Gay faction in the Vatican, and depending upon your definition of radical I suppose one could conceivably argue the point about Obama, but there certainly can be no question of Obama’s sexuality, his birth, 12 communists on the Harvard faculty, Gitmo prisoners getting the GI Bill, and whatever. Unfortunately it has become increasingly difficult to separate the remotely possible from the obviously impossible.
The unfortunate ability for people to believe virtually anything these days has to do, I think, with the fact that lying has become the norm rather than the exception in our political system. It is doubtless true that politicians have lied from time immemorial, at least about certain things, but I don’t think they lied on the massive scale, and about almost everything, that has become so commonplace in recent years. The Bush/Cheney administration made lying the norm rather than the exception. I doubt that anyone, especially Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, or Rice ever told the truth about anything. This has created a situation of such massive distrust on the part of the public they are no longer capable of separating fact from fiction, truth from untruth, and are thus far more susceptible to accepting even the most outrageous lies as possible truths. While I obviously don’t know the exact extent of lying in previous administrations, I seriously doubt that any of them lied so persistently, glibly, or unconscionably as Bush/Cheney and their gang of loyal prevaricators. Being a pretty forgiving person I would like to think they might have believed the lies they fed us on a daily basis, but I know better. They knew they were lying, and I guess they thought that lying in the pursuit of oil was no vice.  They even outdid Richard Nixon.

Thursday, February 21, 2013


I’m not in the least impressed with President Obama’s attempt to raise the minimum wage or increase taxes on the obscenely wealthy. Suggesting the minimum wage should rise to $9 an hour is truly pussyfooting. If the minimum wage had kept up with inflation over the years it should probably somewhere closer to $20 per hour. I understand why Obama would not suggest such a dramatic increase all at once, but $9 an hour, while somewhat helpful, would still leave workers basically in poverty and is little more than a polite gesture in the right direction.
Similarly, the attempt to raise taxes on the wealthiest individuals and corporations, currently making more and more money all the time, a mere 3 or 4% is pussyfooting on a grand scale. When you realize their taxes are at an all time low, and have been as much as 90%, the piddling amount involved is just that piddling, more pussyfooting. I don’t know exactly what the increase should be, but it should involve far more than merely closing some obvious and totally ridiculous loopholes. As profit comes from exploiting the environment and labor, and as the filthy rich are exploiting both by far the most, they should pay the most by far. If they were our national debt would soon decrease significantly while at the same time workers could have decent wages and a decent living above the poverty line. There is plenty of wealth in the U.S., it is unfortunately distributed so unequally as to mostly be wasted.
I believe that those who are talented enough or hardworking enough to do better than others should be rewarded for their talent and effort, but certainly not in the obscene amounts they currently enjoy. So enough pussyfooting around, we should go for the major changes that need to be made, eliminate the national debt, help everyone better their circumstances, and forget the greed driven unchecked capitalism that has created the current mess. It can be done, should be done, must be done. We need a form of democratic socialism that does away with the terrible imbalances that are leading us inevitably to doomsday.
I must say, as I’m sure I have said before, it is hard to comprehend Republicans.  Here they are, opposed to just about everything ordinary citizens want: abortion, contraception, minimum wages, universal health care, food stamps, Planned Parenthood, equal wages, unemployment insurance, environmental protection, women’s rights, fair taxes, even government itself, and somehow they think all they need to do is explain these positions more adeptly to attract votes, apparently oblivious to the obvious desires of the citizenry.
Along these lines it is being said by many, or at least some, that Republicans are “out of touch” with the people, or “not paying attention,” or oblivious to the polls, and so on. I think what is meant by out of touch needs to be clarified. They are out of touch if you concede their positions are contrary to the desires of the majority, but if you mean they are out of touch because they don’t understand the situation that seems to me quite misleading. I think they understand the situation full well, they just don’t care about ordinary people. When you consider what many of them say from time to time it is pretty clear they would be willing to let the poor live in misery, poor health, and just die, rather than provide for them. Think of the 47% Romney spoke of, or the 51% Herman Cain recently spoke about, those without health insurance Ron Paul spoke of, the comments of the “Base” in Arizona to McCain, those who would suffer from the lack of food stamps, health care, and so on. Think also of their callous attitude towards the Palestinians, Iranians, and others who do not enjoy the same “exceptionalism” they do.
I suspect nothing of substance will be accomplished until our timid pussyfooting is abandoned in favor of genuine attempts to change things: poverty, guns, fairness, global warming, environmental degradation, superstructure, education, health care, and just about anything else you might name. And I assure you no positive changes will result from “privatization” and the “free market.”  

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Abandon all Hope...

Ye, who live in these (hopefully still mostly) United States of America. Now that it has become clear our government is apparently in the hands of second and third graders engaged in unsupervised play on our national playground, Washington, D.C.  I am not sure that even hope is warranted as it is becoming more and more obvious our elected Congresspersons are now operating on the basis of personal grudges and animosities. John McCain has confessed the Republican opposition to Senator Hagel can be traced to his criticism of former President Bush and his opposition to the Iraq war (never mind that Hagel was quite right about  all of this). More importantly, however, is the now openly admitted opposition to President Obama because they do not like him. This is playground childishness if ever there was such, pathetic to the point of infantile rage. Republicans can apparently not get over the fact they lost the election, Obama was elected to a second term, and they continue to oppose him at every turn. As many of the things Obama wants to do are precisely the same things they themselves once proposed this constant opposition makes no sense whatsoever aside from their irrational hatred of him. Like children on the playground they want to take their ball and go home.
I am perhaps too dense to “get it,” but I confess I cannot understand the depth of their hatred for our President. Although there are things Obama has done I do not personally approve of, all in all he seems to me to be a fairly decent President, even quite a successful one in spite of overwhelming opposition for no apparent reason. I mean, really, he is not a foreign born imposter, not  a socialist, not  a Muslim, has not tried to take our guns away, tried to do well by the middle class and the poor, has saved our automobile industry, staved off a depression, improved our health care, championed women’s rights, Gay rights, ended our  unfortunate “war” in Iraq, is winding down our foolish “war” in Afghanistan, and so on. No matter how one might feel about any one or all of these accomplishments, I fail to comprehend what he has done to deserve the hatred that seems to be driving the Republicans. His greatest problem, it seems to me, is simply being President while Black.
How can a government function if those in charge act like children? So, your lost an election, that does not give you license to refuse to do your duty and cooperate in the operations of government. What Republicans have been and are doing seems to me completely unprecedented. In a system such as ours you cannot have one party simply refusing to cooperate at all, refusing to do the public’s business, refusing, basically, to govern. I cannot believe the Founding Fathers could have even imagined such a situation. The basic premise of our Republic is that we elect officials to conduct public and national affairs on our behalf. Many of our currently elected officials have simply abandoned public and national interest entirely, concentrating solely on staying in office and serving those private interests that keep funding (bribing) them, and, in this case, also attempting to humiliate a President because they do not like him. They say he is not friendly enough to them, does not reach out enough, is aloof and distant, doesn’t have enough personal friends in Congress, and etc. I take this to mean they basically think he is Black and “uppity.”
I knew that when Obama was first elected as our first Black President the ramifications would be far deeper and more serious than anyone seemed to think, that talk of a “post-racial” society was nonsense, that he would face almost impossible opposition. The basic paradigm of White superiority, which had been in existence for hundreds of years, would not be easily abandoned, and it unfortunately has not. Black people were not supposed to be competent, intelligent, or successful. Obama has exposed the lie for what it was (and still is for many).  That is why he is hated and disrespected, it has little or nothing to do with his policies and much to do with his successes. Stepin Fetchit made a fortune portraying what a Black man was supposed to be, Obama will make a fortune and go down in history as what a Black man can truly be. I will not be around to see it but I would bet that someone in the future will argue he was successful only because he was half White, fundamental beliefs even while false and stupid do not die easily.

He who endeavors to serve, to benefit, and improve the world, is like a swimmer, who struggles against a rapid current, in a river lashed into angry waves by the winds. Often they roar over his head, often they beat him back and baffle him. Most men yield to the stress of the current... Only here and there the stout, strong heart and vigorous arms struggle on toward ultimate success.

Sunday, February 17, 2013


Tomorrow is Monday, finally, thank goodness. I don’t like weekends, Saturdays and Sundays, as not much of anything happens, at least according to the MSM. It’s like the world shuts down for the weekends and then begins again on Mondays. But does it really?

Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow,
Creeps in this petty pace from day to day,
To the last syllable of recorded time;
And all our yesterdays have lighted fools
The way to dusty death. Out, out, brief candle!
Life's but a walking shadow, a poor player
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage
And then is heard no more. It is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury
Signifying nothing.
— Macbeth (Act 5, Scene

I find it incredible that Shakespeare could have written this description of U.S. politics so far in advance. He must have been psychic. But isn’t it an almost perfect description of what is going on at the moment in our Congress? Nothing much happens, the pace creeps on, we are still dealing with yesterday’s foolishness (as well as today’s), McCain and Graham and Cruz (and others) strut and fret their hours on the television stage soon to be left behind, their idiotic tales full of sound and fury, signifying nothing (except their personal animosity towards a perfectly qualified candidate). Shakespeare was indeed a genius, as it were, having his hand on a future situation he could not even have imagined. Oh something will eventually happen, when Congress gets back from their vacation they will eventually vote for Secretary of Defense and turn their attention to what else they can do to keep us from making any progress on the many problems that face us. They will no doubt continue to concentrate their efforts on trying to make President Obama fail at all things. I guess they will never admit, however begrudgingly, that for a Black man Obama has been remarkably successful as President in spite of all their blatant efforts to thwart him at every turn. I like to imagine how much better things would be if Al Gore had not been cheated out of the Presidency, or how much better they would be if Republicans had not chosen their strange form of quasi- treason rather than cooperate for the sake of our nation. It almost makes me wish there was some kind of supernatural being that punished greed and stupidity.
Of course it is true the world is changing, even more rapidly than ever before, and apparently not always for the best. As one example I like to think of Will Rogers:  “You can't say that civilization  don't advance, however, for in every war they kill you in a new way.”And then I think of Kipling:  

Oh, East is East, and West is West, and never the twain shall meet,
Till Earth and Sky stand presently at God's great Judgment Seat;
But there is neither East nor West, Border, nor Breed, nor Birth,
When two strong men stand face to face, though they come from the ends of the earth!

 A new medal has just been commissioned, to be given to those fine warriors who man the drones, thousands of miles from their killings. Sitting in chairs at computers (sipping tea and eating crumpets?) while “fighting,” that is, engaged in something that used to be called “battles” is indeed quite a change. I guess we might describe this as “The War of the Nerds.” This is something that never should have been started and may well result in the end of “wars” forever, along with the short-sighted species that invented it, what an absolutely stupid idea, destroying the “romance” of war.

Thursday, February 14, 2013


Someone described Wayne LaPierre (surely you know him by now) as a lying lunatic. I have no doubt he is a liar, in fact it would be virtually impossible to believe he is not a liar, but a lunatic? That raises a most interesting question that I think is much broader than the individual case of LaPierre. In his particular case, however, whether he is a lunatic or not hinges on whether or not he actually believes the pig pucky he routinely mouths, or whether he has another motive for saying it, which he probably does. Rather than describing him as a lunatic it might be more accurate to describe him as a marketing genius because he truly DOES SELL GUNS, and lots and lots of them. By promoting fear and helplessness to a gullible public he makes them believe their only chance to survive the collapse of civilization as we know it is to buy and have more guns, the more the better, and the more powerful (and expensive) the better. Going by the reports of gun and ammunition sales in the past couple of years you have to admit he is unbelievably successful at what he does.
Probably the best example of this is in the strange case of assault rifles. It is being reported that we might actually manage to get universal background checks, in spite of LaPierre’s objection, but we are unlikely to get a ban on assault rifles. I find this extremely interesting given the fact there is absolutely no genuine reason or need for any ordinary citizen to need such a weapon. But as this is true, and it is also true there is such resistance to giving up such unnecessary weapons, one can only conclude the motivation for this is fear, fear of government. I suppose you could argue people like to use them for target practice (as they have no other practical use) but that is a feeble argument at best . They are not used for hunting and serve no useful purpose. There is no point in having one…except to presumably protect yourself from your government, a threat that of course does not even exist. It is based purely on the propaganda that has been promoted for years by those who know that fear is a great motivator and if you can keep the public fearful enough you can get them to buy guns, and more guns. I suspect we have Saint Ronnie to thank for this completely irrational fear as he assured us “government is the problem,” read “enemy”).  As assault rifles serve no useful domestic purpose, other than killing policemen and miscellaneous civilians including children, you might think citizens would quite rationally agree to give them up. But fearful people are not rational and thus fall prey to LaPierre and his gun manufacturing sponsors. I (foolishly I suppose) would have thought it much easier to get an assault weapon ban than universal background checks.
But the problem of distinguishing lunacy from other motives is not found only with respect to LaPierre and the problems of gun violence. It seems to be involved in other aspects of politics as well. I think it is one of the reasons President Obama has had so much trouble trying to get any form of bipartisanship from Republicans. I don’t think he ever believed that any American politician would behave in ways that are contrary to the national interest. He has now learned after four bitter years of experience that Republicans have had no interest whatsoever in the national interest and have consistently put personal and party interest ahead of public or national interest. From the standpoint of our national interest this can easily be seen as lunacy. How is Obama to know if his Republican opponents actually believe the nonsense they spout endlessly or if they are crazy enough to believe it. This has become a genuine problem in the past few years because members of the Tea Party rather routinely take positions one can only assume are truly loony. Do they really believe the nonsense they peddle or do they do it for other reasons (like to bring down Obama, he’s Black, you know).
So how do you separate the crazies from the others? How can you be certain? What can you do about it in any case? In some other more authoritarian nations such people might well end up institutionalized, shot, or even “disappeared.” Here we can only wait until the next election and then hope for the best, and now that gerrymandering has been so successful for Republicans there may not be a “best” for quite a while. I don’t believe LaPierre is a lunatic, I think he is a lying, evil, money grubbing, unconscionable shill for an equally disreputable and disgusting gun industry willing to sacrifice innocent lives for profit.
 For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Ho Hum, the Israelis...

It seems those who keep track of such things claim that Israel’s recent attacks on Gaza violated International Law. What is interesting or newsworthy about that? Israel has flouted and violated International Law so often it is merely commonplace and makes one wonder if there even is such a thing as International Law. Of course there is somewhere something called International Law, codified and written down, but as it is so rarely enforced it might as well not exist at all. Most everyone violates it at will. If you are a small and not very important country, and the violations are so abominable as to truly shock everyone, you might, just might, find yourself being tried for violating it. If you are a large and more powerful country you can apparently violate International Law whenever you wish, secure in the knowledge that you will never have to face justice.
The most obvious example of this discriminatory malfeasance is, of course, the United States. There is absolutely no doubt that George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, Condoleezza Rice and others violated International Law with respect to our unfortunate “war” against Iraq. Bush and Cheney have even publicly boasted about it. Have they been tried or otherwise held accountable? Of course they have not. It appears that the British, too, have been guilty of violations of International Law in Iraq and Afghanistan, but they, too, have not been held accountable. I have little doubt that many of the most powerful countries have violations that might have been prosecuted, but they never are. Does this not make you wonder if there really is such thing as International Law? If you have laws that are codified and recognized, but are rarely if ever enforced, are they really laws?
There are, I have been told, two kinds of recognized law, the “Written law” and the “Living law.” These concepts exist because of the realization that often written laws, if not enforced, are more properly conceived of, and commonly understood, as living laws. You know, the kind of laws that are more or less just winked at, that everyone understands will not be enforced. This would certainly seem to be the case when it comes to so-called International Law. How long, I wonder, will the international community continue to merely wink at the egregious Israeli and U.S. violations? Here we have an apparent example of that unfortunate reality , “might makes right .”
 I didn’t think much of Rubio’s rebuttal last night, he seemed to just reiterate the usual Republican nonsense about government and taxes, but I cannot understand all the fuss about  the fact that he had to have a drink of water. This is just another example of the media focusing on trivia rather than substance. What is unusual about a speaker taking a drink of water? In fact, more usually than not speakers are furnished with water and openly use it. Those who are so vitally interested in his water break seem to be basically uninterested in his speech, probably a good defense against having to comment on what was a pretty dismal performance, in fact, all performance and no substance. Anyway I cannot see him as the Republican “savior,” at least not until he grows up. He is certainly no Saint Ronnie.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Republicans Can't Help It...

Republicans can’t help being the Party of Stupid, for the simple reason that so many of them are genuinely stupid. I don’t want to mention names but I’m certain I could name many, especially in the House, who are (at least it seems to me), basically stupid. I base this on things they have either said or done. “Birthers” are a good example. Climate change deniers are another, as are those who believe “Government is the problem,” or evolution is an idea “out of the pit of hell.” And when you add those outside the party because they couldn’t get elected in the first place, you know, those who had to deny being witches, promoted the idea of paying your doctor with chickens, said truly stupid things about abortion, and etc., there are many, many more, those Karl Rove has now announced he will try to eliminate from consideration, only to find outraged opposition from those on the side of stupid.
In the past few years the Republican Party has engaged in a kind of reverse Darwinism. Where you might think they would have purged the stupid they have, in fact, done the opposite, purged those who were not stupid and promoted those who are. This process continues, consider for example the case of the Texas Representative who not only has suggested impeaching Obama over gun control but invited Ted Nuget to the State of the Union address. Personally, I think he should be held in contempt of Congress. But, alas, he is hardly alone in his stupidity. Even the one who has announced Republicans should not be the Party of Stupid has authorized the teaching of creationism in the schools, pretty damn stupid. It seems that any Republican in recent years who has not promoted the stupid is challenged by someone who will guarantee to promote it. Apparently they are too stupid to realize how stupid they are. As there is no cure for stupid I cannot see how they are going to change.
Even Marco Rubio, picked by the Republicans to give the rebuttal to President Obama’s State of the Union speech, and I guess regarded as the greatest Republican since Saint Ronnie invented fire, betrayed himself by giving the most sophomoric babble I have ever heard. Some seem to believe he is a Presidential candidate. Bring him on, I say, he’s no more qualified to be President than the Divine Sarah from Alaska who I hope has now gone back to her fishing, cooking Moose noses, and protecting us from the Russians, or whatever she does up there in the great beyond. I sincerely hope we never hear from her again (fat chance).
All State of the Union Speeches contain a great deal of “Pie in the sky” talk, pies that never seem to get baked. Obama’s speech tonight was little different in that regard, but oh how wonderful it will be if he manages to achieve even half of what he wants. I am not one for post-mortems, but I cannot help but wonder how different things would be if Al Gore had not been cheated out of the Presidency. But more pertinent to the moment, I will always wonder how much more Obama might have achieved, or perhaps still might achieve, if the racist House of Representatives stopped opposing him at every opportunity. In any case Obama has already secured a positive place in history, while the current House of Representatives “will live forever in infamy.”

Ludwig Tieck

Sunday, February 10, 2013

The Luck of the Draw

It is strange, I have concluded, that while you are on your journey to the west you do not recognize it for the wonderful and exciting adventure it is.  And it is perhaps the greatest adventure of all, leading, of course, to the inevitable end. Along the way you experience true challenges and perils that may not be as romantic or dramatic as those of Indiana Jones or James Bond, but are equally and potentially as dangerous. I was forced to think about this by the most recent loss of another of my oldest and closest friends. I made a list of ten of the people who were the closest to me during my lifetime. I do not want to mention names but here is the account in chronological order of what has happened to them within the past roughly ten years:
One still alive but suffering from MS
There is an eleventh still alive and healthy as far as I know
There have been many others as well, but not as close to me as these ten, but very few of them are still alive and well.  Of course these are merely the ways they concluded their personal journeys to the west, along the way they endured all sorts of other perils: childhood diseases, mastoids, appendicitis, broken bones, gall bladders, kidney stones, ruptures, cancers, heart problems, stents, bypasses, drinking problems, and drugs, to say nothing of marriages, divorces, children, the loss of loved ones, including parents, siblings, children, and wives and husbands.  We do not, of course, think of these experiences as adventures, merely as “life.” To be sure there have also undoubtedly been moments of pleasure and happiness, made all the more blissful and memorable by the temporary absence of the abovementioned problems. Upon reflection I believe a person’s life is the greatest adventure he or she will ever experience whether it is recognized as such or not. I guess it can only be seen as a glorious adventure in retrospect when you begin to experience the twilight of your own journey to the west.
Reflection also raises, for me at least, a serious but unanswerable question, why me? Why is it I have been fortunate enough to outlast most, virtually all of my peers, my best friends? I can see no reason whatsoever why this should be so, it just is. I did nothing to bring it on, I surely cannot claim to deserve it, I have experienced many of the abovementioned ailments, problems, and experiences, in fact probably more than my fair share. But here I still am and they are not. As an atheist I cannot claim divine intervention. I’m sure that in the eyes of many I have sinned and I cannot claim to have been particularly virtuous. I do claim to have consistently followed the golden rule and never deliberately harmed anyone, I abhor violence and fervently wish (foolishly, I fear) for peace on earth (a goal I now believe unobtainable for our particular species). In any case, I know my own journey to the west is coming to a close although exactly when I have no idea. I find I do not fear death itself and, paradoxically, even look forward to it, but I confess to anxiety about the means. All in all, I guess it just is, as the saying goes, “the luck of the draw.”

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

Saturday, February 09, 2013

The Iranian Hysteria

I wonder why we just don’t admit we have no intention of negotiating with Iran and stop pretending. Khomeini has apparently turned down the offer of bilateral negotiations with the U.S., saying very clearly Iran cannot negotiate as long as they are being constantly threatened by the U.S. So what does our new Secretary of State, John Kerry, do? He begins by threatening Iran, making demands in advance, and, of course, making it impossible for anything positive to happen. This pattern seems to have repeated itself several times in the past few years. The U.S. threatens and makes demands, Iran resists, and, as I believe happened in at least one case, when Iran did not resist the U.S. withdrew the offer. This makes no sense to me unless you assume we do not truly wish to negotiate.
The U.S., and apparently at least some other countries, keep insisting Iran is attempting to build a nuclear bomb even though there is no evidence whatsoever this is true. Khomeini has said more than once they have no intention of building a bomb, evidence indicates this is so, but no one wants to believe it. Now it turns out there is some concern in Europe that their missile defense system may be flawed and might not protect them from Iranian missiles. What Iranian missiles? There is no reason whatsoever to believe Iran is about to attack Europe with missiles, none at all. And remember the excuse we were giving for building a missile shield system in Poland to protect Russia from Iranian missiles. There was, again, no reason to believe Iran was going to attack Russia. Nor is there any rational reason to believe Iran is about to attack Israel and certainly not the U.S., so why all the hysteria?
Personally, I believe there is a genuine element of racism involved in this peculiar situation. It seems predicated on the notion that Iranians are stupid, that if they had a bomb they would immediately begin to attack everyone, especially Israel and the U.S., apparently too stupid to understand they would immediately cease to exist. They are certainly not stupid enough to believe they could win against the overwhelming might of the U.S., Israel, and most of Europe. Iran has not attacked anyone for over 200 years, can we say the same? The IAEA has been monitoring the Iran program for years and have said they are complying with international rules, thus verifying they are apparently not trying to cheat and build a bomb. But still no one seems to believe them, seeming to believe instead that they are liars. As it is impossible for the IAEA to prove absolutely, beyond any doubt whatsoever, they “might” not be telling the truth, they cannot be believed. We demand in advance they do as we want and if they refuse they are the problem, they must be liars, cheats, and stupid. Now that’s the way to negotiate, especially if you have no desire to actually achieve anything.
And of course all the while the Israelis, along with the Neocons, are demanding we start bombing immediately, “before it is too late.” Too late to keep them from doing something they are apparently not doing. When you have someone like John McCain singing “bomb, bomb, bomb Iran,” and comparing their leaders to monkeys, while his woosie sidekick, Lindsey Graham, apparently just as bloodthirsty, echoing the same sentiments and bowing to Netanyahu’s demands that we attack Iran on Israel’s behalf,  can you wonder the Iranians might have reason to be concerned? Don’t forget the sanctions, now killing innocent Iranian women and children, another attempt to make them comply with our demands. Why should they have to negotiate over whether or not we kill their children, especially when we are not even at “war” with them? Killing Iranian children because of some paranoid Israeli fantasy is, at least in my opinion, even beyond immoral (it that is possible).  
It seems to me there is some kind of strange culture-bound “hysterical psychosis” affecting Western-Europeans, a form of temporary madness preventing us from acting rationally towards Iran. I also suspect part of the problem is the tendency on the part of many to confuse Iranians with Arabs, or lump them together. Thus Iranians, who are not Arabs, are unfortunately subjected to the same negative (and totally unfair) stereotype Westerners have long imposed on Arabs. I suggest this particular affliction is characteristic primarily of Western-European males who are middle-aged or older who have never overcome their stereotypical racist beliefs about citizens of the Middle East, especially Arabs (and especially including Palestinians).
Of course this whole pretense of negotiation has little or nothing to do with whether or not Iran is trying to produce a bomb. It has to do primarily with the Iranian threat to Western-European hegemony in the Middle East. Unless the Iranians are willing to concede that hegemony beforehand there can be no true negotiations. And of course if they did concede that in advance there would not really be negotiations because negotiations by their very nature imply a process taking place between equals. Khomeini understands this, the U.S. either does not or does not want to acknowledge it. Thus there will be no meaningful negotiations with Iran, the hysteria will continue, and unless President Obama can keep his head on straight in the midst of the crazies (including Netanyahu) there could even be another stupid, unnecessary and immoral “war” in the Middle East.

Wednesday, February 06, 2013

Living in Wonderland

It has not been uncommon for many years now to see articles about how it is that people nowadays have lost contact with the earth, especially those who live in urban areas. You know, the children have no idea where milk comes from, they have never seen a vegetable grown,  never consumed an egg that had not been in cold storage, never tasted a ripe tomato, and have no personal connection to the food they eat, and so on. This is, alas, true, at least for some. But there is another dimension to this problem that I think has not had as much attention, or if it has I am not aware of it. It has more to do with the psychology of growing up in a kind of wonderland than with the material aspects of the problem. And while the personal experiences of everyone are in some respects unique there is a kind of pattern that probably repeats itself with many, especially those growing up in highly urbanized areas. Think what life is like for Americans as they grow up and mature.
As children many of the most pleasurable moments and activities center around Disney movies and Disneyland, where there are animal characters dressed more or less like humans, talking and behaving often in strange ways. Mickey and Minnie Mouse,  Donald Duck, and so on. Then there are characters like Snow White and the Dwarves, Cinderella, Wicked Witches, and more. Apart from the regular Disney fare, are the many other cartoon characters to grow up with: Elmer Fudd, Wiley Coyote, Woody Woodpecker, and so many more. Granted these experiences are not the sum total of young experiences they certainly play a role in growing up. We should not forget such other strange things children are told: Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, the Tooth Fairy, and such. These are all completely wonderland phenomenon having nothing to do with reality, just make-believe.
As one grows older one can still enjoy such childish fantasies but they lose much of their salience. Motion pictures and television become more important as we watch our many heroes take on the problems of the world. We now have characters like Superman, Batman, Spiderman, and others that portray good winning over evil while doing daredevil feats of superhuman effort. Even the apparently real characters are entirely fictional as they battle for good: The Lone Ranger and Tonto, Roy Rogers, John Wayne, Bruce Willis, Errol Flynn as Robin Hood, Perry Mason, Humphrey Bogart, Jimmy Stewart, and so on. But again these are basically all fictional stories even though they are passed off as perhaps true, at best they have the virtue of verisimilitude. They, too, are just make-believe.
There are also, of course, video games. I know nothing about them other than they, too, are completely fictional, fantastic creations that allow the players to kill and destroy, fight and win, and indulge in wonderlands even more divorced from reality than any of the above. You can also engage in fantasy football and other sports, just more make-believe. I should also mention such internet activities like Facebook and such where you can, if you wish, indulge in fictional romances or other adventures, or so I am t told.  
And all the while we are buffeted constantly with television and other advertising, every bit as fantastic as Disney. We see talking cars, talking cookies, talking insects, talking dogs and cats, talking vegetables, precocious children, silly adults, and any number of celebrities dripping false sincerity and mouthing obvious untruths and exaggerations. We are told if we use such-and-such a deodorant women will desire us, if we imbibe such a such medicine we will be free of ailments of all kinds, if we drive the right automobile women will adore us, the right hair product will have similar magical effects, if we do “X” we will lose weight, and if we do “Y” we will have a winning smile, and so on and on and on in a never ending barrage of clever falsehoods designed to get us to buy, buy, buy. The degree to which people are exposed to all this fantastic wonderland varies, of course, but if you grow up in America you are doubtless exposed to this kind of stuff just as part of everyday life. Virtually from birth to death you exist in what is little more than a wonderland of unreality, fantasy, make-believe, and depending on your personal circumstances, you may or may not have much of a connection with the “real world.” You might well grow up never seeing the stars, a wild animal, knowing where butter comes from (or even if there is such a thing as butter), expecting doors to open automatically, make and interact with “friends” thousands of miles away that you never ever meet, and live a life totally unlike any previous human experience. I wonder, what is the effect of living in such a wonderland on the human psyche? Are people changing psychologically or otherwise from this new and developing human experience? How might it be affecting us, if at all? Might it be for better or worse? I do not know. When someone asked me today if I thought things were better now than before I said yes,
We don’t have as many flat tires as we used to.

Monday, February 04, 2013

The Party of Nuts and Dolts

After years of effort it appears the Republican Party has managed to strip away frivolity and unnecessary baggage so as to have reduced itself to a more serious party of basic nuts and dolts. This can be seen in the purity of their convictions, the depth of their passion, their willingness to share their wisdom with all. They do not hold back in expressing their beliefs. Think of Akins, for example, with his views on “legitimate rape,” or Richard Mourdock’s insightful claim that even a fetus produced by a rape must have been something God intended.
Of course there is James Inhofe, always good for something stupid, like global warming is the greatest  hoax ever perpetrated on the American public, LaPierre trying to justify the disgusting ad targeting Obama’s children as if they do not require special protection, Steve King wanting to revive the House Internal Security Committee to “study the ugly spread of Marxism in America, “ particularly in the Obama administration, and we should never forget the wisdom of Republican candidates like Sharron Angles who suggested if Republicans didn’t get their way they could always turn to the 2nd amendment strategy. Then there was Christine O’Donnell of “I am not a Witch fame,” and that other potential Republican candidate who suggested we pay our doctor bills with chickens.
The nuts and dolts just never let up. Recently we have Louie Gohmert (perhaps the greatest dolt of all) saying he will not play the game of assault weapons because “that could be any weapon. It’s a hammer … massive numbers are killed with hammers.” We have Gayle Trotter speaking for assault rifles and claiming American housewives need such weapons to defend themselves and their children from the 4 or 5 violent attackers that might invade their homes and attack them. There is also the brilliant woman in Arizona who says women who are raped and carrying a fetus should not be allowed to abort because it would be destroying evidence. Not to be outdone there is also Kevin Swanson of Generation Radio who claims recent research has demonstrated that women who have been on birth control for a time are found to be carrying “dead babies, tiny little fetuses.”  And we mustn’t forget Paul Broun who thinks he should stay on the House Science Committee even after announcing that evolution, the big bang theory, and embryology are lies “straight from the pit of hell.”
We also have John McCain referring to Ahmadinejad as a monkey, then claiming it was a joke. I guess a joke like his singing “bomb, bomb, bomb Iran.” I have no doubt this will help immeasurably in our relations with that country. McCain is the posture child for why we need mandatory retirements in Congress and the Supreme Court.
These are but a few examples of the nuts and dolts that constitute the contemporary Republican Party. I’m sure there are many more examples of complete lunacy and doltishness. Just thinking back on the recent Republican candidates is evidence of how nuts and dolts have come to take over the Party: Bachmann, Santorum, Perry, Trump, and Cain, surely fit into the categories of nuts and dolts. Gingrich too, but perhaps for different reasons. 
Now we still have the Tea Party to contend with, a collection of nuts and dolts unprecedented in the history of our Republic, willing to go to any lengths to get their way even if it might mean the destruction of our country. Their influence may be waning but it still wanes, driven by a large group of freshmen Congresspersons with little or no experience, little or no knowledge of how to govern, spouting ideas and beliefs some of which come right out of the Middle Ages, and completely unwilling to compromise no matter what.
What is worse is their apparent unwillingness to accept the fact we have a Black President. The Presidency of Barack Obama has to be one of the miracles of our time, the fact that he has been a relatively successful President is even more miraculous as they have opposed him at every turn. It also even makes me wish I could be around a hundred years from now to see what history will have to say about this incredible event.  

Friday, February 01, 2013

How Bad...

Really, seriously, honestly, actually, how bad does a country have to be before someone (anyone) makes an effort to stop them from any further criminal, immoral, and unconscionable activities? Yes, I am once again concerned with Israel and their treatment of the Palestinians.
There seems to be little doubt that Israel has for years been slowly and insidiously moving onto land that rightfully belongs to the Palestinians, building settlements that have repeatedly been considered illegal by the United Nations. They have been told over and over again what they are doing is illegal. They pay no attention. Now the UN has said they must give up all illegal settlements on the West Bank in order to make it possible for a two state solution (It is clear their illegal settlements are, among other things, designed to make a Palestinian state a virtual impossibility). Does anyone seriously believe they are going to comply? I doubt it.
There is also no doubt the Israelis regard Palestinians as at best second class citizens and at worst less than human. Their racism has been exposed for the world to see. They have assassinated Palestinian leaders at will, bombed Gaza unmercifully, even killed Palestinian children, and effectively made life as miserable as possible for the more than one million Palestinians they have kept herded into Gaza. It is no secret they would like the Palestinians to leave, going to wherever they might, especially Egypt. They have harassed and humiliated Palestinians for years, making them wait for hours to pass by check stands, have made some roads off limits to them, and allowed settlers to attack them, destroy their orchards and fields, homes, and so on. It has become clear that Netanyahu and his colleagues do not want a two state solution, a one state solution, or any solution at all, preferring the status quo and their ability to control the situation to the detriment of even basic Palestinian rights. While I do not know if it is true or not, there have been claims they have also tortured Palestinians held in their jails. I personally believe it may well be true as they seem to stop at nothing to get what they want.
If all this is not bad enough they have now admitted they have been sterilizing Ethiopian women without their knowledge or consent. This is naked racism in the extreme. Tell me how this is any different from similar things the Nazis did in Germany. It is absolutely disgusting, unconscionable, despicable, outrageous, blatant racism, imposed on some by others who apparently regard themselves as a “master race.”
And so I ask, how despicable, criminal, racist, greedy, and immoral does a country have to become before something can be done to stop it. The UN routinely condemns Israel for its outrageous violations but they are blissfully ignored year after year. The one power that could actually do something to stop what Israel is doing is the United States, but we prefer to aid and abet and protect them, thus making us equally immoral and disgusting. Oh, I forgot, one is not supposed to say a single thing against Israel, no matter how mild, apparently to be against murder, arson, and theft is anti-Semitic.