Monday, December 31, 2007
"Morning," he says to me. "Merry Christmas."
I stopped and waited for the "Can you help a guy out," but it never came.
Curious, I walked over closer to him. "How are you this morning," I asked.
"I'm doin' good," he says. And still, he didn't ask for anything. Although probably younger than me, he appeared old -- no teeth, and little hair. He had one wooden leg and one stump.
"Do you need anything?" If he wasn't going to panhandle, it was on me.
"Ya know, I could use a pretzel from Jamba Juice, so I can feed my birds," he says. "Let me give you some money for it."
"No," says I, "I got it."
Returning with the pretzel, I sat for a few minutes and listened to his story. Disabled and legless after being struck from behind by a drunk driver 23 years ago, he'd been living on the street ever since.
"Welfare doesn't want to pay enough for me to get an apartment," he said without a trace of self pity. He's independent, sober, self-respecting.
I went to get coffee and a scone at Starbucks. When I walked past him to return to the car a few minutes later he was inundated by pigeons flocking to feast on pretzel crumbs. No passers-by had any objections to him feeding those dirty birds.
Saturday, December 29, 2007
By: Bernard Chazelle
Benazir Bhutto's assassination is a tragedy for her relatives and those of the 20 others who died in the attack. It is a sad day for her supporters.
Ms Bhutto was courageous to the point of recklessness. Her father was both Pakistan's great hope and bitter disappointment. But she lacked his considerable political skills. Upon her return to Pakistan at Bush's behest, Musharraf made mincemeat of her. It is doubtful he had anything to do with her death: in fact, his political future is now in jeopardy. If anyone besides her killers has blood on their hands, it is Bush, who sent her to her death in a harebrained scheme.
Bhutto's two stints as Prime Minister were marked by massive corruption and gross incompetence. But she agreed to do America's bidding and so she was merely, in the words of the New York Times, "imperfect."
In the corridors of power in Islamabad, few will mourn her passing. In fact, Agatha Christie could have written the script: the victim is dead and all the usual suspects have reason to celebrate. The military hated her; the master triangulator Musharraf couldn't stand the thought of the power-sharing agreement the US was trying to shove down his throat. Her nemesis and chief rival, former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, had been mentored by Zia-ul-Haq, the man who killed her dad. The Inter-Services Intelligence (the infamous ISI) wished her dead. So did the Islamists and tribal leaders.
Pakistani politics is not for the faint of heart. One can imagine Iran's president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, muttering to himself: "And they think we are the crazy Muslim country!"
One man wasn't too thrilled by yesterday's events: Bush. His entire Pakistan policy is in tatters. For this he can also thank torture-loving John "Musharraf is our indispensable ally" Negroponte. The US gave Musharraf $11 billion in 6 years and the good general used that money to rid Pakistan of the last vestiges of American influence. He may well meet Benazir's fate one day or be ousted by his former protege and replacement as Army Chief, Ashfaq Kiyani, but don't discount his extraordinary survival skills. In particular, for years now Musharraf has been running circles around American policymakers; or, for that matter, the imperial satraps manning the fort at the New York Times.
Washington must now call for new rules
Washington must also demand
[Washington] must insist that
Washington will need to send the same message
How about "Washington must learn to mind its own business"?
Now, on to the nut graf.
American policy must now be directed at building a strong democracy in Pakistan that has the respect and the support of its own citizens and the will and the means to fight Al Qaeda and the Taliban.
This is a statement of breathtaking ignorance. A strong democracy in Pakistan that had the respect and the support of its own citizens would have neither the will nor the means to fight the Taliban, an organization that Pakistan helped create in the 90s to pacify its Tribal Areas and maintain its influence in Afghanistan. The US is losing the war in Afghanistan and is pressuring Pakistan to fight the good fight for us. Trouble is, Islamabad has long nurtured a careful relationship with the tribal belt and has no desire to start a full-fledged civil war within its borders. The low-level skirmishes that the Pakistani army wages (and usually loses) in Balochistan and the North-Western regions are more than it can handle.
Bush got mad at Musharraf for negotiating with the Taliban. Never mind that
Britain and the US are currently in negotiation with the Taliban in Afghanistan. (Has the NYT noticed that European diplomats were expelled from Afghanistan last week?) The hypocrisy is staggering.
Speaking of which, President Bush said this today:
The United States strongly condemns this cowardly act by murderous extremists who are trying to undermine Pakistan's democracy
Forget about the use of words: the "cowardice" of suicide bombers; the murderous extremists (not to be confused with the murderous moderates). How can Bush speak of those "trying to undermine Pakistan's democracy"? What democracy? The US has been propping up a dictator to the tune of $11 billion for 6 years, and The Decider goes after the Underminers of Pakistan's democracy...
Why must Orwell always have the last word?
Friday, December 21, 2007
Huckleberry is campaigning in Iowa and getting rave reviews. By way of Atrios, I found this little nugget from the NY Times coverage of this triumphant campaign.
“Who is your favorite author?” Aleya Deatsch, 7, of West Des Moines asked Mr. Huckabee in one of those posing-like-a-shopping-mall-Santa moments.
Mr. Huckabee paused, then said his favorite author was Dr. Seuss.
In an interview afterward with the news media, Aleya said she was somewhat surprised. She thought the candidate would be reading at a higher level.
“My favorite author is C. S. Lewis,” she said.
They tell us to make lemonade when life gives us lemons, but what are we supposed to make when the polticial system gives us morons?
“What’s wrong with our country, what is wrong with our culture, is that you can’t say the name Jesus Christ without people going completely berserk,” Mr. Huckabee told a crowd in Dike, a tiny farm town about 80 miles northeast of Des Moines, where people also stood to applaud.
God, what a complete and utter dildo this guy is.
And yes, the wild nut rat was right. Fascism has arrived, wrapped in the flag ad carrying the cross, and it's going to get worse. It's going to get stupider.
Wednesday, December 19, 2007
Edward Gibbon, The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, Chapter L, "Description of Arabia and Its Inhabitants,"
Tuesday, December 18, 2007
The war on Christmas by Islamofascist terrorists and alien foreign immigrants from other lands continues. These are people who want to destroy our way of life, our religious observances, and our busy retail outlets.
The latest blow in this cultural war was struck in Danbury, Connecticut this past weekend when a crazed female woman whose national origin is not known at this time, but who has way too many vowels in her names, sexually assaulted Santa Claus.
Santa Claus says that a woman who sat on his lap was naughty, not nice. A Santa at the Danbury Fair mall said the woman groped him. "The security officer at the mall said Santa Claus has been sexually assaulted," police Detective Lt. Thomas Michael said of the weekend complaint.
This latest incident, along with the usual annual spate of nativity scene vandalisms and chain stores whose flyers include phrases like, "Nothing says Happy Holidays like Free Shipping!!" are potent evidence showing that the war on our sacred traditions, our family gatherings, and our precious bodily fluids continues.
Sunday, December 16, 2007
I had occasion earlier today to write something about the first band I was in, the V.I.P.'s, in Marin County in 1963 and '64, when I was 19 and 20. We played around town for a little money now and then: Stones and Beatles covers, along with the Kinks, Van Morrison's first group, "Them," and work by a local group, the Beau Brummels. They were quite good.
We were a good band. We played cleanly, and with vigor. We were young and hot and out to get laid, and I can assure you we did. We were just boys, really.
Those were magic days, and we had only a vague notion of how specially lit up they were. I look at the very young Stones and wonder if they knew how good some of that stuff was they were doing. They must have felt it, yes?
That was when I learned to get drunk, stoned, etc., with band members Shari Pandit and Joe Mulder. When we listened to new music, it was like a flight into the unknown. I won't forget the struck-by-lightning feeling of hearing the Stones' "The Last Time" for the first time. That would have been, I think, late '64.
We didn't last long, us V.I.P.'s, and I being the oldest and only one in college. Moved on first. But we were together just long enough.
Saturday, December 15, 2007
We've entered a serious economic downturn, maybe the worst one since 1930--1940. We'll get through it the way we got through the last one, by eating lots of rice and potatoes and throwing potlucks for entertainment.
The more interesting question is what we're going to do to recover from it. Historically, big capital recovers from its periodic collapses by having wars. It's been that way since modern times began. When the economy is in the bucket, building a war machine, then using it, is always a road to recovery.
European societies recovered from the economic downturns of the 1870's by unleashing an orgy of colonialism on the parts of the world that weren't already under their control, and toward the end of the century carved up Africa like a turkey. Many short but quite violent and destructive wars accompanied the end of the age of imperialism -- the Sikh War in Punjab, The Boer War, and the Russo-Japanese nightmare.
The U.S., done with conquering North America, got ino that race partly to recover from the stagnant economy and very tight money supply of the '90's. Teddy Roosevelt built us a modern navy of steel ships fitted with guns that could shoot exploding artillery shells, and we jumped into a very cool little war to pick up territory and prime the economic pump.
Hitler understood almost instinctively that the quickest way for Germany to recover from the hyperinflation and economic collapse of the Weimar years was through massive defecit spending for military purposes, which suited his intentions anyway. Defecit spending doesn't matter, because if you've got a big enough, technologically intimidating army, you can always get that money back.
The New Deal notwithstanding, we didn't begin recovering from the depression of the 30's until after the buildup for WWII began, first with lend-lease and then to produce the hardware for our participation. But the U.S.'s main role among our allies was as "the arsenal of democracy," or in other words, the main supplier of materiel for the allied war effort. The money that was made by manufacturers in Detroit, Chicago, Cleveland, and Pittsburgh during those hectic days when they made the tanks, planes, bullets, and bombs was the embryo of our present-day war machine.
Capitalism's business cycle hasn't changed since the beginnings of modern times. it always follows the same familiar pattern of growth and exuberance, followed by boom and mania, followed by hysteria and panic, followed by collapse and depression, followed by slow recovery. And in modern times, recovery means preparation for war, then war.
Now is the time for us to start preparing for the future. We actually do have choices, and this endless cycle of boom, bust, and war does not have to continue. We can actually have a different kind of world, but we have to be able to envision it first.
Friday, December 14, 2007
Back in the seventies we had "stagflation," a new economic term coined at the time to describe something that had never happened before. It was right after President Drahcir Noxin was chased from office and Gerry Ford had stumbled into the presidency and there was an oil embargo. Stagflation is what happens when there are rapidly rising prices (the "flation") at the same time as the economy slows down and wages and new jobs dry up (the "stag").
Then Jimmy Carter got elected and he had no more idea what to do about stagflation than Ford did. It was the old bipartisan shoulder shrug.
Today we found out that inflation jumped up more in November than at any time in two years. The AP article on this new round of inflation reports that "In a troubling juxtaposition, the rise in inflation is coming at a time when economic growth is slowing sharply under the weight of a steep slump in housing and a severe credit crunch."
Long story short -- prices are going up real fast at a time when there's very little money out there. Very little money and just a lot of bad paper left over from the last gold rush.
"We are in store for a period of very weak if not recessionary growth and uncomfortably high inflation," says the chief economist at Moody's. "People are going to get hit with both a weaker job market and having to pay more to fill their gas tanks and buy groceries."
It's a pretty alarming article, ostensibly about the stock market drop today, but really covering the whole spectrum of disturbing economic changes occurring right now.
Inflation is one of the most socially destabilizing economic phenomena. I once had a history teacher who said the only thing more destabilizing than inflation is food shortages. Nowadays I would think gas shortages are right up there in the same league as food shortages.
Inflation is especially bad when there's little money because credit has dried up. Most people can still buy food and a little gas, but we're not going to be able to move those microwave ovens, or be able to move those color t.v.'s (apologies to Dire Straits). And that means more layoffs, more foreclosures, more people sitting at home wringing their hands and crying all day long wondering how they're going to pay the heating bill.
Merry Christmas to you, too, Mr. Greenspan.
Wednesday, December 12, 2007
Now that Huckabee's under the microscope, because it looks like he's going to be the one, since he's more or less acceptable to all Republicans, his position on immigration had to be checked for RPC (Republican Political Correctness). It was duly checked and found to be ok. He's for sealing the border and patrolling it with pit bulls.
Republican Political Correctness consists of alternating enraged yells of "Get those bastards!" with tearful, solemn recitations of "God Bless the USA." It's an emotional ritual.
In the New Yorker profile on him, Huckabee sounded real reasonable on the immigration issue. He even said he understood why a family man with kids to feed might feel like he's being forced to come here illegally (rather than wait seven years to have it done legally, while his family starves). But when push comes to shove, he comes down for the most hardass possible position. That's the Republican way, and it's half of the two-part ritual.
It's like a church service with them. The fear and rage are so predominant in the Republican mentality that they are projected onto anyone perceived as a threat, even a trivial one. Thus immigration needs to be shut down, we need to "double Guantanamo" as Romney or Giuliani or one of those pinheads said (I forget which one), and we need to bomb a couple more countries where the scary brown people live.
What we got going on in this country and under the Empire of the Pentagon right now is a kind of half-assed debate in which one side is trying to discuss the issues in a factual sort of way, using statistics and citing historical facts, and the other side is going "Shoot 'em! Hit 'em harder! Punish 'em! Get those bastards!" alternating with "We're so lucky to live in this the most wonderful country on earth, blessed by God and filled with our spotless virtue."
It's starting to seem really silly, besides being pointless.
Tuesday, December 11, 2007
I'm proud to say I never served in the U.S. armed forces. My splendid opportunity to do so came during the Empire of the Pentagon's murderous and totally pointless season of carnage in Vietnam, a 14-year-long conflict that ended in the Empire's utter defeat, and judging from the recent barrage of lies directed against Senator Kerry, is still going on in some deluded heads.
Well, bring it on, assholes.
I chose not to participate in this crime called Vietnam, but was reminded of it this past week when I re-read some of Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn's masterpiece "The Gulag Archipelago," a passionate factual account of what happened in the Siberian death camps of the U.S.S.R., where somewhere between ten million and 100 million innocent victims froze and starved to death between 1930 and 1980. Neither the actual numbers, nor even an accurate estimate will ever be known.
Reading Solzhenitsyn is like looking in Satan's face, because in those pages the reader encounters the indifference at best, and raw sadism at worst, of the bureaucrats, stool pigeons, and torture masters who made up the lists of people to be rounded up in Russia on any given night during the years of the Stalinist terror. I get much the same feeling when I look into the faces of the Empire of the Pentagon's Masters of War during the Vietnam era, under Lyndon Johnson: Rusk, Laird, McNamara.
Not satisfied with killing a million Vietnamese in its war against a country which had done absolutely nothing to us, the fear, rage and bloodlust of the Pentagon was only satisfied when the Masters of War employed their violence against the very soil of Vietnam itself, dumping thousands of tons of a deadly herbicide -- Agent Orange -- on the croplands and waterways of that unfortunate country. The long-term effects of this deadly poison included loss of health and longevity for thousands of American servicemen, and are still playing out in the form of birth defects among the affected portions of the Vietnamese population today.
In addition, the Dow Chemical Corporation made millions from selling their product Napalm, an incendiary jellied gasoline, to the Masters of War, which they proceded to drop on any Vietnamese who resisted us as well as any Vietnamese the Masters suspected might possess the capacity to resist. This led me to the conclusion at a young age that the chief difference between Lyndon Johnson and Adolf Hitler was that Hitler had loaded his victims on trains and took them to where the gas was, while Johnson loaded the gas on planes and took it to where the people were.
But I didn't learn to hate the Empire, at least not enough. After 1975, for the next 30 years, I assumed the Vietnam war was an aberration. It took Bush, Cheney, and the Neocon clique surrounding them to teach me the whole truth -- that war is the normal and natural state of the Empire of the Pentagon.
After causing nearly a million civilian deaths in Iraq and presiding over the demolition of that country's infrastructure, the Empire of the Pentagon can proudly take its place among the rogues' gallery of murder empires of the 20th and 21st centuries, along with Hitler's Reich and Stalin's Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, and its insatiable thirst for blood puts the blood sacrifice cults of the Ancient Aztecs in the shade.
I need to point out, however, that the Empire of the Pentagon is an entirely different entity from the United States of America, a large geographical area whose inhabitants are mostly overweight and increasingly impoverished "consumers," living for the most part in a state of debt peonage and rising illiteracy, and hypnotized by disinformation fed them 24/7 by the corporate media. They're also basically kind and good-hearted, and increasingly politically disconnected. Interacting with people over the past few days, the two things I've noticed about most of them is their political naivete and disconnectedness and the unaccountable kindness of strangers.
Sunday, December 09, 2007
I keep wondering when large numbers of American voters are going to completely, once and for all, reject the political establishment, Republicans and Democrats alike, and move on. We've been given more than sufficient reasons to do so.
I think the only thing preventing it is lack of imagination. "Move on to what?" people ask. To whatever happens next, is what I answer.
A story in the Washington Post this morning provides further proof of the Democrats' complicity in the crimes of the last seven years. Its lede paragraph:
In September 2002, four members of Congress met in secret for a first look at a unique CIA program designed to wring vital information from reticent terrorism suspects in U.S. custody. For more than an hour, the bipartisan group, which included current House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), was given a virtual tour of the CIA's overseas detention sites and the harsh techniques interrogators had devised to try to make their prisoners talk.
Now we now why impeachment was "off the table," eh? The court where you can haul in defendants and accuse them of crimes in which you yourself participated hasn't been born yet. The Post story goes on to say:
Among the techniques described, said two officials present, was waterboarding, a practice that years later would be condemned as torture by Democrats and some Republicans on Capitol Hill. But on that day, no objections were raised. Instead, at least two lawmakers in the room asked the CIA to push harder, two U.S. officials said.
Too many people who regularly participate in this forum are distracted and hypnotized by the Republican vs. Democrat diversion, and bogged down in pointless ideological tennis games on threads like the ones started by our own version of Sideshow Bob. I've pointed out before that if the Republicans were the main perpetrators of the crimes of the last seven years, the Democrats were their main accomplices, and today's Post story proves it.
With one known exception, no formal objections were raised by the lawmakers briefed about the harsh methods during the two years in which waterboarding was employed, from 2002 to 2003, said Democrats and Republicans with direct knowledge of the matter. The lawmakers who held oversight roles during the period included Pelosi and Rep. Jane Harman (D-Calif.) and Sens. Bob Graham (D-Fla.) and John D. Rockefeller IV (D-W.Va.), as well as Rep. Porter J. Goss (R-Fla.) and Sen. Pat Roberts (R-Kan).
I don't know who the "one exception" was, but I do know I'll not spend any more time in criticism of Republicans, or patiently explaining to a pair of earplugs why it's certain that Bush is a liar. From now on the brunt of my anger and political efforts will be directed against the Democrats, with a few, nonestablishment exceptions.
The Democrats are traitors and Pharisees. They're hypocrites who pretend to be on our side and then stab us in the back at the first opportunity. And they've done us again, in the matters of first the Iraq War, then torture, and now Social Security (a work in progress). Like the Republicans, they are the enemy, and they will be destroyed.
To hell with these people.
We don't need an election in this country, we need a revolution. And I ask you, what good is an election if it doesn't give us an opportunity to overthrow the government?
Saturday, December 08, 2007
The popular website Beliefnet, was recently purchased by Fox Entertainment. Liberal posters at the the Beliefnet political forums, upset and imagining that Fox might impose some sort of censorship on the discussions there, stirred up a bit of a mini-tsunami on several threads and in innumerable internal e-mails. So of course, I posted my own take on the situation.
The one change I would hope for under the new owners is that they finally obtain enough bandwidth to run this sucker, so it doesn't take two or three minutes (on dial-up) to go from one page to another. I assume Fox is a little more flush than the old owner, which was AOL if I'm not mistaken, and that they've got enough money and interest in seeing this place thrive to make the necessary upgrades.
The purpose of BNet, when you boil it down, is no different than television. It's a platform for advertising, and all those fancy ads that have cute little gizmos that pop up and flash and make noises when you drag the mouse over them require mucho bandwidth to run efficiently.
As with television (thank god for remotes with "mute" buttons) the stupid ads can be and will be ignored by most of us. But don't lose sight of the fact that those ads are what this place is all about.
As for Fox subjecting the content here to some test of ideological purity as some have suggested and others apparently advocate, I think you're suffering from delusions of grandeur. Nobody really cares what you or I think about things, or what our political opinions are, and as long as liberals have money to spend there'll be niche markets for the kind of stuff they like -- hiking shoes, organic blueberries, hybrid cars to make them feel less guilty, and places like this where they can go and vent about George W. Bush and the evils of our heartless, soulless capitalist society.
Thursday, December 06, 2007
He lived in no place, which is exactly midway between here and there.
Believe me, I've been to San Francisco and Seattle and Frankfurt and Tokyo. Those are places. Omaha is no place.
Born in an unremarkable time, bearing no distinguishing characteristics, and having no attributes worth noting, he lived a short, bleak life among the televisions, public institutions, retail outlets and fast-food joints, and what pass for families in the place that is no place, in a time frozen at the precise wrong moment.
Weak-eyed, long-haired, immature, with no particular academic inclinations and no identifiable ambitions or desires or passions, he became a high school dropout at 17.
Kicked out of the parental hut for his multiplicity of failures, then taken in by a sympathetic household, his life seemed a short while marginally tolerable, though it would never qualify as pleasant by any standard.
But then came the inevitable breakdowns -- loss of the job at McDonald's; the optional girlfriend bails out of this nowhere scene.
It's hard to imagine a life of such stark, brutal, and unremitting spiritual poverty. I'm surprised more such lives don't end in blood and mayhem, but mostly they don't. The majority of them, lives of "quiet desperation" (as Thoreau said) simply peter out the usual way.
This one, however, exploded under pressure. After leaving a note in his adoptive home explaining, "I'm a piece of shit and now I'm going to be famous," Robert Hawkins, 19, of Omaha, Nebraska, went to a local shopping mall where he shot and killed eight people he didn't know, then himself.
Years ago, during the sixties, I met a 15-year-old runaway girl who was beginning to get a handle on life after a rough transition brought on by her leaving home at 14. "Living this way," she said to me, "in this place, it's like somebody putting you on a piece of steel, then saying to you, 'OK, live.'"
Isn't it wonderful? We're living do-it-yourself lives in a do-it-yourself world.
Wednesday, December 05, 2007
I saw bits and pieces of Bush's Tuesday presser on NBC News last night, and it looks to me like the Geo W Bush administration is over a little early. It's kind of hard to tell who's running things right now.
Bush gave that little speech yesterday that insulted the intelligence of anything marginally smarter than a brick, and now it's time for him to take the advice the King of Spain gave to Hugo Chavez. The timing of the release of this NIE, which effectively ends the Bush/Cheney years, is very odd.
The country's basic foreign policies haven't changed, and the incoming president 13-1/2 months from now, whether a Republican or a Democrat, will continue to try to implement them just as the neocons have done. These basic policies are:
1. The United States must control and run things in the Middle East (more specifically, the Persian Gulf).
2. The way to do this is to form close alliances with as many countries there as possible.
3. Those who hate us and refuse to cooperate with us have to be crushed.
Bush and Cheney won't get to bomb Iran like they wanted. But the policy requirement that Iran somehow be crushed hasn't changed and won't go away. How we're going to do it simply hasn't been decided yet. That'll be priority one for Hillary or Mitt or whomever.
The next president, again whether a Republican or a Democrat, is now also locked into an Iraq policy that has us there permanently, with four or five huge permanent bases requiring a permanent complement of 45--60,000 personnel. That's not going to change either.
The Bush presidency was a disaster, but many of the policies that began with him will now continue no matter which party is in power. The way to change in this country is no longer through elections, and any genuine and significant political change movement at this point can only come out of the grass roots.
I'm afraid there isn't all that much to celebrate in the end of the Bush/Cheney show. If anything, I'll miss the comic relief that Bush provided every time he flapped his slack jaws.
Tuesday, December 04, 2007
All creatures suffer, as the Buddha taught. It's the one thing we have in common with each other, with weasels and wolves and wombats.
All creatures grow old, grow sick, and die as well, but we're the only ones that know in advance those things will happen. The weasels and wolves and wombats are off the hook of that sorrowful knowledge.
Some suffering is inevitable, but other kinds are optional. Smoking was always optional in the old days, and now my heroin is nicotine. It's like a demon that's determined not to let go, so the struggle and the suffering will go on, probably a year or more. All I can do is take each day as it comes, and take them all one at a time. After a year has gone by I'll re-assess my relationship with this dirty fighter, who makes me sick in other parts of my body besides brain and lungs, and will go to seemingly any lengths to avoid relinquishing control of me.
It was probably good, in that case, that I was called out this morning to make a 12-step call, and asked to intervene in the case of a young alcohol addict coming off a nine-day run on hard booze. He was a pitiful sight by the time I got to him -- red as a hunk of corned beef, shaking, and blind in one eye.
"I guess I didn't take my contacts out for a week," he said.
And he was grateful for the ride to rehab, where he'll spend the next three days or so detoxing. I've never done it, but I've heard it involves significant amounts of intense suffering. So it goes, as Vonnegut always said.
"For a while the fool's mischief
Tastes sweet, sweet as honey.
But in the end it turns bitter.
And how bitterly he suffers!"
After I grumbled, rolled out, got some hot water on my sore back, and generally scraped myself off getting ready for that 12-step call this morning, I ran into the old lady from up the street who takes care of cats when people are gone, and has an unknown number of her own. She asked about my twin tomcats, then said,
"That new little kitty that I got sure thinks I'm her mama."
And it hit me, as I said goodbye and turned away, how many people in the world are only looking for something warm-blooded that they can love, and that might even love them back. The incredible loneliness of the human soul hit me like a bullet as I walked away, and the tears stood in my eyes, and I wept bitterly to think of all this suffering.
Monday, December 03, 2007
I'm beginning to wonder whether people are supposed to be living in these things. Since they're designed as temporary shelter, living in a trailer takes some doing, sort of like living in a tent. You've got to be kind of a permanent outdoors/maintenance person.
That's not as true of the double-wides, which are intended to be semi-permanent structures sitting on foundations, but even they feature the same mix of cheap materials and hurry-up workmanship as travel trailers. There are the ubiquitous fake-wood panelled interior walls -- really a type of cardboard, and the same tinny furnaces, substandard plumbing, and flimsy wiring in nearly all these things. Believe me; I've been inside a few, and seen the way they leak through the seams at the first hint of rain.
The newer ones are often built of vinyl, the new universal building material, and there are definitely third-world undertones to seeing Americans housed in vinyl or plastic huts. From what I've seen, those living in them are engaged in constant struggles keeping the plumbing functioning, the air conditioning from blowing out the breaker box, the seams caulked sufficiently to hold the water out, and so forth.
It's a part-time job and some people jump right into it. Living in a trailer is a challenge that requires a do-it-yourself self-reliant type of person, and a lot of these older guys in trailer parks really enjoy that kind of stuff. It helps them feel useful in retirement, and still good for something.
I had an electrical fire here a couple nights ago, during the great one-day deluge. I never thought twice about that electrical coupling lying on the ground in a layer of rotting vegetation, the one connecting the main cable from my box to the park's power source. But when that coupling got wet inside and burst into flames, I was fortunate not to have lost my hut or worse. It should have been off the ground, and minimally sheltered from the elements, but how am I to know such things?
I've never in my life done "stuff," and I didn't retire from my last job to become a maintenance man and gardener. I don't have the knowledge or inclination to do maintenance, and gardening hurts my back. I remember when I lived in apartments, if something went wrong I called the landlord to send someone to fix it, plus the guys with the truck came every week and did the yard.
Still, it's kind of nice living here in the tin shack, and I'm learning, slowly. I'm going to have to think about this some more. If the trailer doesn't kill me it might make me stronger.
Friday, November 30, 2007
It's raining here in the desert.
There hasn't been any measurable rainfall here for over two years, and the drought conditions were partly responsible for the fires that tore through SoCal last month.
It started early this morning, just before daylight. It's raining hard right now, and it'll continue off and on throughout the day and night, and give us a good, thorough soaking. The drops are big and there are puddles in the street.
Tomorrow the wind will come up and dry things out. Two or three more days like this between now and the first of February and this place will explode in a riot of color in early March, as the desert blooms.
I grew up in Seattle, and never thought I'd be so glad to see rain, or consider that a day when water falls out of the sky is momentous and unusual.
Thursday, November 29, 2007
I didn't watch the Republican candidates' debate last night, but I saw out-takes this morning and that was more than enough. It looks to me like nearly all of these guys are werewolves, vampires, mutants, or in Romney's case, a robot. McCain was the only one that came off like a human being, because he doesn't deny the obvious. At least he knows that waterboarding is torture.
The Republican nominee will be Romney. Giuliani is an obnoxious creep, and a crook. The details of how he ripped off the City of New York when he was adulterously wooing his -- what is it? -- third wife? -- haven't been fully revealed yet, but they will be.
"Giuliani billed obscure city agencies for tens of thousands of dollars in security expenses amassed during the time when he was beginning an extramarital relationship with future wife Judith Nathan in the Hamptons, according to previously undisclosed government records," Ben Smith at Politico reports.
So what's the alternative to President R2-D2 Romney? It's pretty obvious to most American voters that the Democrats are the lesser of two weevils. The problem is, I wouldn't vote for Hillary Clinton if she was running against Darth Vader.
Tuesday, November 27, 2007
It might be fun to revisit some of the most common informal fallacies, because we see and hear so many of them these days. Let's start with that old favorite, the straw man.
Debaters construct straw men by deliberately misinterpreting their opponents' arguments, then use these distortions to attribute opinions to the opponent which he or she does not hold. Debater A then gleefully demoishes the straw man he himself has created. It works well if the audience is unsophisticated and gullible, as most are.
With this in mind, consider Dinesh D'Souzas contention that the conflicts between scientists and religious fundamentalists are the fault of...atheists.
About a hundred years ago, two anti-religious bigots named John William Draper and Andrew Dickson White wrote books promoting the idea of an irreconcilable conflict between science and God. The books were full of facts that have now been totally discredited by scholars. But the myths produced by Draper and Dickson continue to be recycled. They are believed by many who consider themselves educated, and they even find their way into the textbooks. In this article I expose several of these myths, D'Souza recently wrote as historical introduction to this topic.
There's the setup. Now watch for the hayguy:
According to the atheist narrative, the medieval Christians all believed that the earth was flat until the brilliant scientists showed up in the modern era to prove that it was round. In reality, educated people in the Middle Ages knew that the earth was round. In fact, the ancient Greeks in the fifth century B.C. knew the earth was a globe. They didn’t need modern science to point out the obvious.
OK, class, what medieval theory is Galileo famous for debunking? Was it the belief that the world is flat? That doesn't sound right, let's see...
D'Souza is a fairly popular fascist writer and the author of books with silly titles like "The Enemy at Home." He's done more than his share to kick off the revival of McCarthyism we're seeing these days. When you read people like this or listen to wingnut radio, try keeping a list of informal fallacies handy, along with a sharp pencil.
Many thanks to Sadly, no for this item, quotes, and the idea.
Monday, November 26, 2007
Sunday, November 25, 2007
She was greatly jazzed by her mother's account of watching the Democratic debate together with stepdad (which proves conclusively that somebody in a regular household watched at least one of those things) and then getting into a hot political argument with this curmudgeon.
"There's nothing I love more than thinking of the two of them sitting in their living room arguing about politics," says the always-deadpan Blue Girl. If there's nothing she loves more than that, I wonder how she lives in such an overstimulated society.
I also wonder if she's going to ask her mom why she's married to a guy who blames 9/11 on Bill Clinton.
Yesterday the New York Post, a proletarian tabloid newspaper, ran a catchy headline which read, or rather shrieked: "'BLAME U.S. FOR 9/11' IDIOTS IN MAJORITY -- 'PLOTS' THICKEN IN SHOCKING POLL"
The subsequent article said in part, "Nearly two-thirds of Americans believe the federal government had warnings about 9/11 but decided to ignore them, a national survey found."
The headline was, I think, obviously a teaser deliberately meant to give a false impression. A lot of readers, like myself, expected to see a story about a majority of Americans credulously believing the Bush administration perpetrated the 9/11 attacks. This impression is conveyed by the word "PLOTS."
However, the article doesn't even go there, and deals instead not with suspicions of "plots," but with mundane beliefs which also happen to be true. The "idiots" the headline speaks of are people who happen to remember that Bush received a Daily Presidential Briefing on August 6, 2001 entitled “Bin Laden Determined To Strike In US.” It warned of “patterns of suspicious activity in this country consistent with preparations for hijackings or other types of attacks,” particularly targeted at New York.
Anybody else remember that from the 9/11 Commission hearings? Sure you do.
There were other warnings as well, as detailed by this article at Think Progress, and these also were revealed during the nationally-televised 9/11 Commission hearings.
And I alsmost forgot...there was also the headline you see above in...GUESS WHO?...the New York Post in May of 2002.
Yeah, I know, that was a long time ago.
Thanks, as usual, to Atrios.
Fred Thompson, aka Frederick of Hollywood, says Fox News don't like him and are picking on him and he don't like it. Read the details and see the video here.
It's pretty obvious that Rupert Murdoch has passed the word along to the errand boys and bims who do his imperial bidding ("fair and balanced?" They forgot "independent.") that the candidate Fox News supports is that great statesman and hero of 9/11, Publius Assholius Giulianius.
Thursday, November 22, 2007
If we don't cut our gasoline consumption at least in half over the next five years, we're nuts. And I don't mean figuratively nuts.
Here's an interesting little story about record oil prices that ran in USA Today a couple days ago. I'm not sure what it proves, but I plan to use it as evidence to argue that economists are the dumbest people on earth, with maybe a couple possible exceptions.
"The price of oil again set a record Tuesday, easily blowing through the previous high earlier this month," says the McPaper, "in a move some analysts said was absurd because there was no solid, supply-and-demand reason for it. 'Very overdone,' commented Mark Vitner, senior economist at Wachovia.
"'Fundamental reasons? I don't see any,' said James Williams, economist at WTRG Economics."
WTRG.com, incidentally, is the best and most up-to-date source for information on all things petroleum.
I'm not even going to go into what people like Mark Vitner and James Williams are missing. I've noticed that economists as a class are prone to cranial-rectal syndrome, and that the price of oil has been trending upward since 1998, and that it's not going to ever go back down significantly, for reasons Messrs. Vitner and Williams just don't understand, even though petroleum geologists like Kenneth Deffeyes have been telling us for years now that the age of cheap oil is over.
Long story short -- this is terrible. A fill-up that used to cost twenty bucks now costs sixty. Add to that the inconvenient truth that burning all this fossil fuel is making life on earth unlivable, and it's terrible times two.
What are we going to do about it? That's simple! The answer is staring us right in the face, although most of us refuse to see it and few people are talking about it. But here's a hint: what do fat people do when they want to lose weight?
I'll say it again: if we don't cut our gasoline consumption at least in half over the next five years, we're nuts. And I don't mean figuratively nuts.
Really, it shouldn't be that hard. All it would require is a little planning, fewer trips, fewer cars. A good place to start would be to abolish the standard that says in every household, there is one car for every adult member of the household. That always seemed a little extreme to me anyway.
And if you've got one of those big-ass SUV's, get rid of it. You really can't afford it any more anyway, unless you're a Republican.
I know, I know, some people are going to say, "But I LIKE my SUV." Yeah, yeah, such are the problems of the rich and privileged. Now here's the latest news: you're not as rich as you used to be.
Wednesday, November 21, 2007
Unless things are a lot better than I think they are, I won't be posting here for the next few days. It's because we're having a major power outage in the park where I live.
Something called a "transformer" blew up (I heard it) which caused the "main station" inside the park to catch fire, and a bunch of main wires got "fried," they're still trying to figure out how far down the line. So I'm guessing maybe a week. That may seem a long time, but tempus fugit.
Monday, November 19, 2007
The perpetual war has a dual objective. Besides establishing and maintaining an empire and controlling the world's most important resources. The chefs who cooked up this war also aim to keep the citizens of the home country impoverished, indebted, and desperate, otherwise those citizens might have the leisure to inform themselves about what's being done to them, and why. In addition, channeling most of the country's resources into the endless war also makes it easier to keep the citizenry in a state of frightened, ignorant, homicidal fanaticism.
That last part hasn't worked out so well, though. Polls show that more and more American citizens as time goes by are recognizing that they are being robbed to feed a war machine that is weakening the country, not making it stronger.
There was a time when the anti-war message was delivered by people in very high places. Guess who said this?
"Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed. This world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children. The cost of one modern heavy bomber is this: a modern brick school in more than 30 cities. It is two electric power plants, each serving a town of 60,000 population. It is two fine, fully equipped hospitals. It is some fifty miles of concrete pavement. We pay for a single fighter plane with a half million bushels of wheat. We pay for a single destroyer with new homes that could have housed more than 8,000 people. This is, I repeat, the best way of life to be found on the road the world has been taking. This is not a way of life at all, in any true sense. Under the cloud of threatening war, it is humanity hanging from a cross of iron."
That was a Republican president, Dwight Eisenhower, who was also the supreme commander of allied forces at the D-Day landing and invasion of Europe in 1944. He was speaking to the American Society of Newspaper Editors in April of 1953.
Sunday, November 18, 2007
Most marriages don't last forever. For better or for worse, there was a time not so long ago when most did, except those that ended prematurely because somebody died.
A recent Associated Press feature story called attention to rising levels of child abuse in America, and the corresponding rise in households where a parent and another adult -- the new spouse or boyfriend or girlfriend -- are living with children.
"(M)any scholars and front-line caseworkers interviewed by The Associated Press see the abusive-boyfriend syndrome as part of a broader trend that deeply worries them" writes AP's David Crary. "They note an ever-increasing share of America's children grow up in homes without both biological parents, and say the risk of child abuse is markedly higher in the nontraditional family structures.
"'This is the dark underbelly of cohabitation,' said Brad Wilcox, a sociology professor at the University of Virginia. 'Cohabitation has become quite common, and most people think, "What's the harm?" The harm is we're increasing a pattern of relationships that's not good for children.'"
Is there something wrong with people today that's keeping us from staying married? Or are marriage and the nuclear family institutions that we stubbornly and somewhat desperately cling to, insisting they will retain their old forms in spite of the changed social conditions that make family life as it once was immensely difficult if not impossible?
Most of us are conservative by nature, that is, conservative in our subconscious and instinctive selves, and we try to hang on to familiar and traditional social forms and functions for the security we expect them to provide. But when we look at marriage today, or typically fractured, cobbled-together families, or contemporary versions of an evangelical religion that once gave us workable codes of behavior and conduct, we're seeing the ghosts of those institutions that once provided social cohesion, but are now a source of social dysfunction; we see the shadows of forgotten ancestors in the hollowed out, lifeless conventions of a gone world.
It's the old meanings that are fading away, and the new ones are not yet in focus. But out of the struggle to save life on earth and end the universal reign of terror by the masters of war, we'll get new ways of organizing society, new tribes and clans, a new rubric for morality, and new meanings.
But only if we win the struggle.
Saturday, November 17, 2007
Writing on the Wall Street Urinal's op-ed page this past Wednesday, Peter Berkowitz, one of the regular contributing parrots at that forum which has become one of the administration's echo chambers, took as his thesis that "Bush hatred" is a sign of "insanity." At one point in this meaningless bundle of generalizations, Berkowitz sniffs, "Alas, intellectuals have always been prone to employ their learning and fine words to whip up resentment and demonize the competition."
Berkowitz is particularly well qualified to lift his leg against people he considers "intellectuals." He's a paid shil for the Israel lobby and one of the administration's (and now one of Giuliani's) foreign policy bobbleheads. He sued Harvard when they refused to grant him tenure, and since he couldn't get the academic position he wanted, decided instead to become a whore and mouthpiece for a corrupt, violent, and sadistic political regime.
He's also a perfect example of the kind of disgusting creeps that crawl out from under various rocks whenever fascists are in charge. "Intellectuals" are always persona non grata among political troglodytes, who fear and despise anyone who knows more than they do.
Neither George W. Bush nor most establishment politicians can read this blog. The majority of public school administrators couldn't make heads or tails out of it.
And if you voted for Bush, or think the Iraq War is groovy, if you like NASCAR, if The Outback restaurant is your idea of gourmet eating, or if your wife's hairdo was ever ruined by a ceiling fan, this is not the place for you.
Thursday, November 15, 2007
The House just passed a $50 bil appropriations bill for the Iraq War, but it's got conditions attached. In order for the money to be disbursed, Bush will have to start pulling troops out during the next few weeks, and schedule combat to end by December 2008.
It probably won't pass in the Senate, and Bush says he'll veto it if it ends up on his desk in any case. But at the same time, Harry Reid says there won't be any more war appropriations bills without a withdrawal plan attached to them. The days of "OK, you win; here's the money" are over.
I guess that with exactly a year to go before the general election, the Democrats have finally decided they need to do something to prove to voters that they're not a bunch of cowering, quivering egg-sucking hounds.
In other news, violence in Iraq has subsided in the past few weeks. There are fewer suicide bombings, and a General James Simmons announced this morning that there were only 1560 roadside bombs found or exploded in October (imagine that -- only 1560), as opposed to twice that many last March.
Commenting that Iran's commitments to stem the flow of weapons and explosives into Iraq "appear to be holding up," Simmons added that bombs being found now appear to have entered the country months ago. He didn't say how he could tell by looking at a bomb when it arrived in country, and neglected to mention that nobody has ever proved that Iran is exporting weapons to Iraq, but oh well...
So let's do this. Let's say the surge worked, and that's why violence in Iraq has subsided. Let's say the contending sects and ethnicities have decided to work with each other rather than kill each other. Saddam is dead, and the country has a government that was chosen in an election. So let's say we won, and close down that dinosaur of an embassy in Baghdad and bring all our people home.
We can have a big victory parade down Fifth Avenue and celebrate. We'll all fly the flag at backyard barbecues, and eat barf on a stick and barbecue the neighbor's cat.
I just hope Reid and Nancy Pelosi are good for what they've promised -- no more war appropriations unless they're contingent on a withdrawal plan and schedule -- because if they weenie out on us again, the war will continue for reasons I utterly don't understand. Even though we've won.
Wednesday, November 14, 2007
The market research I've been doing today indicates that very few people are interested in the possibility of nuclear incineration or the Pakistani military's thriving trade in nuclear expertise, software, and hardware, so let's move on to more important subjects. And yes, it's no longer a rumor. Don Imus is soon returning to the airwaves.
After an eight-month involuntary vacation, Imus and his merry band will be working his usual a.m. drive-time slot on WABC-AM in New York City, starting December 3. The extent of his radio syndication is, of course, a work in progress, and the teevee simulcast will be on an up-till-now small cable channel, RFD (Rural Free Delivery) which currently reaches about 30 million homes.
Imus is a study in narcissism. While the supposed topic of his rants and interviews is current events, it's really all about him, and he keeps a stable of politicians and pundits who are willing to kiss up to him in return for air time and exposure for their careers and books. These include politicians like Joe Lieberman, Harold Ford, Jr., and John McCain, and even some pretty reputable pundits such as Doris Kearns Goodwin and the New York Times's Frank Rich.
Apparently Imus's Amen Charlie and sidekick newscaster Charles McChord will be accompanying the I-hole's return, but there is no word on whether the racist and fascist producer, Bernard McGuirk, who was the source of much of Imus's troubles, will be on board.
All the gory details are at Alternet.
Monday, November 12, 2007
If you look at which party the most Americans say represent them at Pollingreport.com, you'd think the next presidential election would be a stroll in the park for the Democrats. Exactly half of all voters say they're Democrats. Only 35 percent identify as Republicans, and the remaining 15 percent are other/unsures, or in other words independents.
But election predictions based on those statistics would be seriously flawed. In head-to-head polling, Clinton tops Giuliani by only one percentage point -- 46 to 45, with fully five percent saying they wouldn't vote for either one.
46 To 45 is within the margin of error. The Hillaryphobia of the American electorate is stalking the Democratic Party like a relentless zombie. I'd suggest the party eleders need to do something to head off disaster.
This is all very important, because some time when we were asleep or distracted by Teri Schiavo or Lindsay Lohan or something, the Constitution was put into cold storage, and the American government became synonymous with the administration. So any more the president, along with his or her cabinet and close advisors, the intelligence services, and the military are the actual government.
The presidential election is now the only one that mattes. Others -- representatives, senators, Supreme Court justices, are in the picture, but their tiny portraits are clustered around the big heads of the important adminstration figures like so many decorative small potatoes.
Incidentally, I'm with the five percent who will vote for someone else. In fact, that's probably who I'll write in -- "Someone Else." Either that or I'll go with the protagonist of Mike Judge's great political/cultural satirical movie, "Idiocracy:" -- "Not Sure."
Sunday, November 11, 2007
"On Christmas Eve," said Norad,
"A soviet Sputnik hit Africa,
It's coming fast --
Peru too --
It keeps coming..."
And now I'm mad about
I'm all burned out about
Ooh walk and talk about
It smashed my baby's head,
And now my Sally's dead.
Devo sang about Space Junk 30 years ago, and the last time anybody checked it hadn't gone away. It's now been joined by cyberspace junk -- discontinued blogs and aborted blogs, which litter the internets like so many defunct Telstar satellites.
Nobody knows how many active blogs there are in the world. I'd guess a couple million. But for every active, currently living blog, I'll bet there are ten or fifteen that were launched, kept up for a long or short time, and then abandoned to sit forever at April 28, 2004, forgotten by the proprieter and only visited accidentally by surfers committing unconscious typos.
Even more numerous are the aborted blogs. These were attempts to set up blogs by people who either didn't know what they were doing or were convinced by someone or something that they should try doing this blog thing, but lacked any enthusiasm for it. The result is a vast archaeological stratum of blogs with names and proprietors but no posting history, or maybe one experimental post and after that, nothing. Since 2002.
Some of these have interesting, even fascinating names. For example, how did Hogofogo arrive at that title for his blog and online identity? Did he or she know that Hogofogo was the name of the villain in the 1964 Czech western "Limonadovy Joe" (Lemonade Joe)? Lemonade Joe, by the way, is an extremely subtle piece of work, and I wonder if the blog proprietor appreciates its delicate and careful satirization of both communism and monopoly capitalism. But no matter, since the blog Hogofogo is now suspended lifelessly and indefinitely in the cyber ether.
Hogofogo survived for one post: a test message entitled "Testovaci," followed by the text, "adsfadsdsfadsfsfa" in two colors. And that is the last we will ever hear from Mr. or Ms. Hogofogo.
The blog Briney didn't even get that far. It only progressed as far as having a title and a proprieter (Ex_pat) before expiring at a date impossible to determine. I have a feeling that Ex_pat may have been a teenager or young twenty-something attempting to launch a blog called "Britney" (the sphere is full of stunningly original ideas), and that if he or she had spelled the name correctly, would have found out that the name is already taken. Or maybe she wanted the name "Briney." In either case, it's a shame the project was aborted, and I'm sorry the name is taken and consigned to permanent dormancy. The Briney Blogspot would be a great name for a blog.
Saturday, November 10, 2007
Didn't have a topic to write about today, so I put up this nice picture of President Drahcir W. Noxin.
I remember him almost fondly these days, probably because I've been feeling nostalgic lately. His antics seem almost quaint and droll compared to what's going on now, even though he was a war criminal, like the present crew.
President Noxin was one of the biggest phonies who ever lived. Since he was always trying to act like somebody else he was painfully ill at ease and awkward. In contrast, George W. Bush is down to earth and genuine.
Back then I laboured at the aerospace manufacturing plant, where we all worked disharmoniously at making fuel flow guages for jet airplanes. Bowling was important in those beery, hazy, nicotine-drenched days, and so was Monday Night Football, romance, music, and marijuana. We didn't have much, but it didn't take much. We went wherever we wanted on leaded, 30-cent a gallon gasoline. Vegetables were cheap, we smoked a lot, and the good times rolled.
Come back, President Drahcir W. Noxin.
Thursday, November 08, 2007
There by the wayside they met an old man with bent frame, wrinkled face and sorrowful brow, and the prince asked the charioteer: "Who is this? His head is white, his eyes are bleared, and his body is withered. He can barely support himself on his staff."
The charioteer, much embarrassed, hardly dared speak the truth. He said: "These are the symptoms of old age. This same man was once a suckling child, and as a youth full of sportive life; but now, as years have passed away, his beauty is gone and the strength of his life is wasted."
Siddhartha was greatly affected by the words of the charioteer, and he sighed because of the pain of old age. "What joy or pleasure can people take," he thought to himself, "when they know they must soon wither and pine away?"
This past year I've been up to my ass in alligators, contending with divorce, prying my body loose from a vicious addiction, and aging, along with everything aging entails for a male of our uniquely blessed and cursed species.
Divorce is ugly, even when it's fairly congenial and doesn't involve lawyers, fighting over children, and revenge. I'd rather have a broken leg than a broken heart. The pain hangs around like an untreatable illness, and there's no cure other than time.
Likewise, the pain of narcotic withdrawal is remarkably persistent. The drug seems to have a mind of its own, like a sentient monster, which is why AA describes alcohol as "cunning, baffling, powerful."
About the only good thing to say about divorce and kicking an addiction is the old saw that what doesn't kill you makes you stronger. That, and the fact that for most of us, such things are simply trials to be got through, and eventually they're over.
Aging, as afflictions go, is the one that has real possibilities for positive outcomes. Of course, it ends in death, which certainly isn't amenable to a positive interpretation no matter how you spin it. But along the way, a person might be able to draw closer to some kind of perception of an ultimate truth. The cessation of desire, the end of ambition and striving, the death of any need to prove oneself -- all these things lead to enhanced possibilities, or even the probability of more accurate reflection than youth is capable of. And if fear could be banished, along with the rest of the stuff I mentioned, just think of where the mind -- all of it, conscious and unconscious -- might be able to go.
As the poet Bob Dylan sang, Yet I swear I see my reflection/So very high above this wall ("I Shall Be Released").
Wednesday, November 07, 2007
The neocon wing of the Republican Party used to be the headquarters of the American political system, but thanks to the disasters of the last seven years it's now become the hindquarters.
That's one bit of good news, and here's another: the American people are mad as hell and they're not going to take it any more.
Now here's the bad news: Most of the Democrats on the national scene are NOT mad as hell. And they'll take "it" indefinitely. They say they're willing to bend over backwards to work with the Republicans in Congress.
Bend over frontwards is more like it, if you ask me.
Paul Krugman attempts to explain what all this might possibly mean in a thoughtful NY Times op-ed that ran this past Monday. [url]http://www.truthout.org/docs_2006/110607O.shtml[/url]
Among other significant factoids, Krugman cites results uncovered by liberal surveyers who sampled the 75 percent or so of Americans who believe the country is on the wrong track, to find out what specific political or economic symptoms they found most troubling. They discovered it's not just about Iraq any more, although that's still a major concern. "The most commonly voiced complaints among the dissatisfied are 'Big businesses get whatever they want in Washington' and 'Leaders have forgotten the middle class,'" Krugman reports.
And currently it's their dependency on big business and big donors, not the Republicans, that is the biggest threat to the Democratic Party.
"The most conspicuous example of this influence right now is the way Senate Democrats are dithering over whether to close the hedge fund tax loophole - which allows executives at private equity firms and hedge funds to pay a tax rate of only 15 percent on most of their income," Krugman wrote.
"Only a handful of very wealthy people benefit from this loophole, while closing the loophole would yield billions of dollars each year in revenue. Retrieving this revenue is a key ingredient in legislation approved by the House Ways and Means Committee to reform the alternative minimum tax, something that must be done to avoid a de facto tax increase for millions of middle-class Americans.
"A handful of superwealthy hedge fund managers versus millions of middle-class Americans - it sounds like a no-brainer." is Krugman's conclusion.
It is a no-brainer. And I'd say the Democrats, after having pissed away the last year, had better figure out who they represent, and that they've only got a few more months to get a clue.
I predict they won't, and that before too long the "moderate" Democrats will join the neocon wing of the Republican Party in the extinct species wings of natural history museums.
"So, how wobbled (by corporate money) are today's Democrats?" Krugman asks in conclusion. "I guess we'll find out."
I think I already know, and I see a split in the party coming. This, of course, will make Republicans' eyes light up. "Goody," they'll say.
Let 'em think that. The history of American politics is full of sharp and sudden changes of direction that were total surprises to the people living then, and that the backward-looking conservatives of earlier times never saw coming.
Monday, November 05, 2007
Today, as reported by Atrios, it said, "Hot Gas in Crack," and "the Gasoline Crack Spread Trade." I'm not even going to tell you what kind of pictures stuff like this conjures up in my mind.
I'm afraid I just don't understand business and economics sometimes.
Here's a nifty little illustration of the fundamental truth observed over 2,500 years ago by the Buddha that all actions have consequences. Following trains of consequences is a little like a game of follow the string. In this particular case, the string ends with what that old CIA hand Chalmers Johnson would call "The Sorrows of Empire."
1. Early in the last century, Henry Ford perfected the technique of assembly-line manufacturing and made the personal automobile affordable for everyone in America who wasn't dirt poor.
2. For the first 30 years or so of the age of easy motoring (1920's--1950's) we were able to supply all the gasoline that all those cars needed from domestic oil supplies. But as time went on there were more and more cars, and domestic oil production peaked in 1970, and has been declining ever since, never to return to its former levels. We became dependent on imported oil to keep the wheels turning.
3. Manufacturers could have made other kinds of cars besides gas buggies. The technology needed to make electric cars, for example, has existed from the earliest days of automotive development. But too many people (auto makers, oil companies, tire manufacturers) were making too much money to permit a disturbance in the status quo.
4. A large part of the foreign oil upon which we have become dependent comes from the Middle East, a region whose people, as time went on, developed a growing antipathy toward us, and began to hate our attitude toward them, their religion, their demands for sovereignty, and especially their petroleum resources.
5. We found it necessary to establish a global empire, primarily to control the exploitation and flow of petroleum resources.
6. To maintain the empire we needed allies in the Middle East and elsewhere, and even though the government of the U.S. has paid lip service to the ideals of democracy and freedom, we have been undiscriminating in our choice of allies. Many of them are and have been brutal military dictators who stop at nothing to maintain their own power and enormous wealth. Ferdinand Marcos, the Shah of Iran, the Somoza clan, Papa Doc Duvalier...the list goes on and on.
7. We have lavished these erstwhile allies and "lovers of democracy" with money and weapons, and in one particularly inauspicious case, with the means to acquire nuclear weapons.
8. Now we're in a bad spot. The dictator Musharaff is going to fall in Pakistan, a pseudo-nation cobbled together from remanants of India just a few decades ago, and one of the most volatile and divided societies on earth. Whoever inherits Musharraf's government will inherit his impressive nuclear weapons along with the modern means (thanks to our generosity) of delivering those weapons.
9. Musharraf's inheritance very well may be passed to militant Islamists.
As Hardy used to say to Laurel, "This is another fine mess you've gotten us into." Thanks for nothing, Henry Ford.
If Bush and Cheney end up with their fat tits in the wringer in Pakistan and the larger Middle East, it serves them right. "You got what you wanted, assholes." is what I'll have to say about it. "You got an empire, and you got the consequence of empire, which is that inevitably you're going to make a lot of new enemies."
The problem is, the rest of us are in the same pot of soup they're in.
Nice job, guys. What are you planning to screw up tomorrow?
Sunday, November 04, 2007
So far I've only read one entry: Kim du Toit's "The Pussification of the American Male," and it's definitely worth sharing. This du Toit character actually writes rather well, if you don't have any objections to the word "fuck."
His "Pussification" essay is also a long sucker, so be sure you have your reading glasses.
My favorite excerpt from this very long, very funny rant is: "You know the definition of homosexual men we used in Chicago? 'Men with small dogs who own very tidy apartments.'
"Real men, on the other hand, have big fucking mean-ass dogs: Rhodesian ridgebacks, bull terriers and Rottweilers, or else working dogs like pointers or retrievers which go hunting with them and slobber all over the furniture.
"Women own lapdogs. "
I never know whether it's self-mockery or serious when these macho guys get into one of these tirades about what "real men" say and do. Du Toit also notes that "real men" by definition enjoy getting sloppy drunk once in a while, smoke cigars, enjoy watching loud, overpowered cars going round and round an oval track, and like to leave their smelly underdrawers lying around the house. He pointedly omits discussing whether "real men" are supposed to give the old lady a mouth full of fist if she gets out of line.
I'm so impressed with Drum's selections I don't know what to read next. Should I choose Glenn Reynolds's "Maybe we should rise above the temptation to point out that claims of a 'quagmire' were wrong....Nah," or John Hinderaker's "It must be very strange to be President Bush. A man of extraordinary vision and brilliance approaching to genius...."
Yee-haw, and duh.
Friday, November 02, 2007
Welcome to the US Politics board. I'm glad to see new people here, but I have to disagree with your estimation of our little community. If you jump into enough threads, you'll soon see that even though we have our share of partisans, there are plenty of people here who are thoroughly disgusted with business as usual.
However, among those who realize that the two-party system has degenerated, and is now a parked car that's out of gas, there is little agreement about what comes next, or what should. So those of us who are disaffected are not a group, like the Demosellouts and Repubuffoons.
You speak of real reform, but I wonder what you mean by that, exactly. Are you talking about reform, or revolution?
My own feeling is that momentous change has already begun. It's apparent In rocketing oil prices and the collapsing dollar, and in the debts that we individually and collectively will someday fail to honor. We're seeing the beginning of the fall of the Global Corporate Order. The two main political parties are both dependent on the order, so they will fall along with it. But what happens as "the way things are" slowly dissolves is anybody's guess.
Competent and dynamic leaders could steer us in the right direction -- or in the disastrously wrong direction. What I have in mind is the revolution begun by Gandhi, and the revolt enabled by Martin Luther King.
But then I remind myself that both Gandhi and King watched horrified as the movements they started spun out of their control, gathered intensity, and took violent and radically separatist directions. A revolution is not something to be undertaken lightly!
On the other hand, when it's time -- and it's certainly time in this country right now -- a revolution or wholesale reformation is impossible to avoid. I believe we'll soon see the dissolution of the current political system, followed by a new national political orientation, and that this will follow our economic crises, collapse, and reconstitution exactly the same way the wheels of a wagon follow the horse that pulls it along.
When I listen to the ridiculous and pathetic posturing of people like Clinton, Obama, Giuliani, and Mitt Romney, I'm more convinced than ever that these clowns of the political circus have absolutely nothing to offer in the way of solutions, and in fact have no comprehension of the crisis that is even now upon us. They're turning into fossilized remains before our eyes, the remains of a gone world, and have already been consigned to what Leon Trotsky called the garbage can of history.
Thursday, November 01, 2007
Makes about as much sense as rapping for Jesus.
Wednesday, October 31, 2007
I've cut the number of eggs I consume in half -- eggs and toast for breakfast every other day. Raisin bran with two percent milk is the alternative.
No more butter; hummus instead.
Cheese and bread a couple times a week rather than every day. Mayonnaise is out, replaced by a health food store product called Vegenaise, which tastes wonderful and is exactly what it sounds like. Pizza, which used to be the default meal, and is now banished from the table.
No beef, no pork. Chicken and fish are okay, but I find myself eating each of those about once a week at this point.
For years I've been vitamin deficient from not eating enough produce and avoiding raw food altogether. I'm eating more cooked produce now, and one of the most important items in the new diet is the daily orange.
Approximately four nights a week I have brown rice cooked with a combination of three or four of any of the following: pinto beans, broccoli, bean sprouts, spinach, cashews, mushrooms, carrots, frozen peas, seaweed, celery, or lentils. Top with soy sauce and chow mein noodles, or skip the noodles if you're a gluten-free person.
Yogurt for dessert.
Others adopting such a regimen may feel differently, but for some reason I don't feel like this involves any sacrifice on my part. Maybe that's because the most important and least healthful item in my diet is still my Big Enchilada, joy, crutch, and ever-faithful true love: big, strong, bolshy tasses of hot black coffee.
Sunday, October 28, 2007
We've been sleepwalking into the future for years. Now the future is here. Crude oil closed at $91.86 on Friday. A month from now it'll close at $101.86. Welcome to the future; do yourself a favor and check your favorite fantasies and delusional behaviors at the door.
So today as my cigarette habit sets noisily in the west, I'm doing a little sleeptalking to myself. I know the routine so well I don't have to be awake to recite it. The Revolution will be televised. Forget Lenin and Robespierre. The foundations of Empire will soon be demolished to powder by organic carrots and armies of pacifist mystical chanting Buddhist vegetarians.
Americans are still dreaming that they'll be able to keep their insolent chariots running somehow -- on biodiesel, or electricity, or hydrogen, or French-fry grease. Meanwhile, Paris (France, not Texas) has begun to free itself from the embrace of the four-cylinder dinosaurs and rediscovered the bicycle, with the most progressive city in the U.S., Portland (Oregon, not Maine) soon to follow. As in so many other facets of the current economy, the past is the future.
Meanwhile, the numbers of house foreclosures set new records in September. They'll set new, and unprecedented ones in January, February, and March of next year. Real estate prices are going to drop anywhere from 50 to 95 percent in the next 40 months or so, depending on whether the property in question is viable (i.e., fairly close-in to a center of commerce and within reach of public transportation) or some loser McMansion in the farthest distant reaches of Slurbia. Those will end up abandoned, the yards turned into weedy jungles and the green swimming pools breeding mosquitos, and unsellable at any price. The cost of gasoline and heating oil and electricity will see to that.
It's nice to know that the gangsta lendahs who victimized the gullible during the first half of the decade, the Countrywides and the DiTechs, are losing their butts, but the problem is the collapse of the finance "industry" hurts a lot of us little guys too. This is certainly a very bad time to be in debt, and the more debt, the more trouble, for as the value of the dollar weakens against other currencies, debtors will be forced to repay expensive dollars with cheap ones.
But what it all means for people who have more assets than liabilities is hard to say. I don't really understand the dismal science of economics all that well, and a lot of what I read seems self-contradictory. However, another non-economist like myself, Manuel Garcia, provides an interesting look at future possibilities with his Counterpunch.org article called "Homes of the Crash Test Dummies."
Obviously the prices of some things are going to rise astronomically -- gasoline and all other forms of energy especially, but also stuff like insurance. The cost of other things, such as housing and a lot of consumer items such as furniture will fall rapidly. Hundreds of thousands of construction workers are or soon will be out of jobs, but on the other hand our now-arrived future will provide a tremendous market for people who know how to repair things.
Food is the most interesting and unpredictable commodity, because local farmers' markets and food cooperatives will start to come into play, and begin to elbow out the Safeways and Winn-Dixies, purveyors of our current diet of overpriced, overprocessed agribusiness stuff. But nobody knows how much influence alternative, local sources of food will have, or how quickly they'll come into their own.
Health care for the masses is a gigantic question mark.
It seems to me we're entering a sea-change as or more significant than the Great Depression, and that the economic crisis whose beginnings are now upon us will accomplish what decades of revolutionary rhetoric couldn't -- an end to our various war machines and their incessant wars, on Iraq, on Iran, on terror, on drugs, and mostly on common sense and sanity.