Friday, November 30, 2007


It's raining here in the desert.

Thank God.

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

Debate Masters

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

Informal Fallacy, Pt. 1: Straw Man

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

Little Miss McClellan

Scott took some Immodium
And stepped up to the podium
To answer some questions re: Plame.

Along came a spider
Who said "I'm the decider,
Just tell 'em that I'm not to blame.

"And you better say it like you really believe it, you little shit."

Sunday, November 25, 2007

She Married a Bumpkin

I kind of like the blog "Blue Girl in a Red State." She has a way of combining her personal and political lives that brings them home, so they fit under the roof, so to speak.

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.

Journophrenia: How to Contradict Yourself

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.

Law Norder

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

Obvious Solutions of the Doh! Kind

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.", 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

Dead Catfish Blues

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

Ancient Wisdom

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

Things Fall Apart

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

Effete Snob and Proud of It

cash advance

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

War's Over Let's Go Home

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

Imus Returns

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, 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

Cyberspace Junk

"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
Space Junk
I'm all burned out about
Space Junk
Ooh walk and talk about
Space Junk
It smashed my baby's head,
And now my Sally's dead.

"Space Junk"

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

¡Mon Noxin

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

The Fifth Sutra

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

Twilight of the Dinosaurs

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][/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

Hot Gas in Crack

OK, so the blogger Atrios (Duncan Black) is watching CNBC, and there are a couple items going by on that crawler-thingy they have running at the bottom of the screen. Those things often say just flat-out weird stuff, especially on business channels.

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.

Thanks for Nothing, Henry

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

Neanderthalosophy Scribble Contest

Kevin Drum over at the Washington Monthly is running an "All Time Wingnuttiest Blog Post Contest." There are 14 entries total, so judging fairly would require a lot of reading, and I'm not sure I'm up for perusing such a huge volume of right-wing dribbling.

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

To a Newcomer

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

Soon-to-be-Forgotten Idea

Fausto, the proprietor of "the Socinian" (a blog not unlike this one in that its readership is limited, but very different in content) and a friend of mine has an idea that, while not exactly what you would call a great notion, is worth checking out.

Makes about as much sense as rapping for Jesus.