Monday, June 29, 2009

Old Hat

While I was sorry to hear of Michael Jackson's untimely death, and even sorrier when I reflect on his unhappy life, I have to say I never was enthused about his style of music. I guess that's because I have a decided preference for more traditional and "old hat" styles.

The best singer among the various African-American traditionalists of all time? For my money it was Tony Williams, lead singer for The Platters, 1953-1960. He left the group in 1961 to pursue a solo career and was never heard from again. He died from emphysema in 1992 at age 64.

What a remarkable talent this man was.

For another and perhaps more jaundiced view of Michael Jackson's career and life, see this week's Kunstler.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

The Age of Aquarius

Who could doubt that the Age of Aquarius, whose advent was announced 41 years ago in a Broadway musical and trumpeted over the radio by a top-40 vocal group, is now in full swing? Only those who fearfully try to cling to the past, that's who.

Even Barack Obama himself, a cynical and calculating politician and newcomer to the political big time, seems to have missed the significance of his own elevation to the highest office. In 2009, a black family presides in the White House, Cinco de Mayo is a holiday everywhere in North America, and it's okay to be gay.

This is not your grandpa's American society.

And despite the howls of fear and rage from the right, it's now clear that the huge majority of Americans will no longer accept excuses for this country's failure to institute a rational health care system, like the ones civilized countries have, rather than treating citizens' health as a commodity to be auctioned off to the highest bidder. It's as if the citizenry went to sleep one night and awoke to find themselves suddenly conscious and present, realizing that they have been deprived of their rights, and that (as Jefferson, so far ahead of his time, recognized) any government which doesn't exist to serve the needs of its citizens deserves to be sent packing.

In addition to fomenting a revolution in health care, Americans are suddenly and very dramatically awake and aware of the need for environmental activism. As world weather patterns and oceanic conditions have become increasingly unfamiliar and frightening, our collective responsibility for cooling the atmosphere has become obvious, and as a country and a people we will take the lead in reducing greenhouse gases in order to effect the necessary changes.

Climatologist Bill McKibben, writing in National Geographic and elsewhere, has even told us how much we need to reduce greenhouse gases in order to eventually return the planet to normal conditions. "350, as in parts per million carbon dioxide in the atmosphere," McKibben says, is the number that defines our future. We're over 350 parts per million now, at about 383, but McKibben and others have given us an achievable target, and a goal to shoot for.

And this brings us to the soundest evidence of all that the Piscean age is now behind us, that the Aquarian time has already begun, and that, in the words of John the Revelator, a new world has arisen, and the old one passed away.

I meet people every day who are suddenly aware of their responsibility in these matters, and knowledgeable that the old ways of doing things, from car dependency to the suburban paradigm to political cynicism, are not going to survive the changes we're experiencing now.

And we're not done. In fact, as the Grateful Dead sang in one of their earliest hits, "The Golden Road," "Nobody's finished, we're not even begun." We are going to go further and demand an end to the warfare state, with its prodigal waste of resources, its cynical and immoral "military Keynesianism" by which our economy is propped up by death and destruction, and its unacceptable cheapening of human life. Jefferson assured Americans of his time that they possessed a God-given, inalienable right to "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness." If they did, so do we, and we also have the right to pursue it in peace.

Expect more violence from the right. Their rhetoric has taken an ominously violent turn lately, and the word is the father of the deed. But in the final analysis, violence won't gain them anything but well-deserved disrepute. They're making a furious noise at the moment, but overpowering volume is no match for expanded consciousness, and the irresistible onrushing stream of history will carry their outmoded and fear-driven dreams of the past away like so many chips of driftwood.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Beer-Drinking Mayor Camps in the Nude

When the first sentence of a news article reads like this you know something real weird is coming. Something tells me this is not going to be good for Mr. Musselwhite's political career.

A former mayor found sitting naked and holding a beer at a Rabun County campsite told police he wasn’t the same naked man seen walking around earlier.

Story here.

Uh, code blue.

Schnorred from TPM.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Howard's Call to the Faithful

Howard Dean had a message for some of the more timid members of his party today: Get Your Shit Together.

He had a few choice words for those Democratic lawmakers who are not committed to including the public option as part of healthcare reform bill we're about to get.

“We are here; we’re not going away. We voted for change a few months ago. We expect change. And if we don’t get it, there’s going to be more change,” said Dean.

A meaningful healthcare reform bill is a must for the Democrats if they hope to retain any legitimacy with voters, Dean told the online newspaper "The Hill." “I think it’s going to be a catastrophic problem for the Democratic Party if they can’t get this bill out,” he added.

Progressives will not accept concessions, Dean and added “The public option is the compromise position. That’s going to be the difference between real reform and a bill that doesn’t do anything.”

Dean is absolutely right about this legislation being a game-changer for the Democrats if they can't get a real health reform bill with a strong public option out of Congress.

This guy needs to preach more often. I think he does more good from outside Congress than he would if he were in it.

Smells Like Victory

With U.S. troops imminently preparing to pull out of Iraqi cities, violence in that country is spiking. Iraq seems once again to be on the verge of the kind of sectarian warfare that wracked the country in 2005.

What a great victory this has been for our country!

With less than a week left before the Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) deadline for US troops to leave Iraqi cities, a week of anti-Shi’ite bombings has left nearly 200 civilians dead and has seriously damaged the credibility of the Iraqi government to handle security in the nation.

A bomb at a bus station in a Shi’ite neighborhood in southwest Baghdad today killed at least seven people and wounded 31 others. In most cities, such a story would be called an appalling calamity. In Baghdad its (sic) called Thursday.

Violence is up across Iraq, and nowhere is that more plain to see than in the various Shi’ite neighborhoods of Iraq. Only yesterday a vegetable cart exploded in Sadr City, another Shi’ite district of Baghdad, killing at least 76 and wounding well over 100 others. Just days before that an attack in the northern city of Kirkukdestroyed a Shi’ite mosque and killed at least 80.

I wonder how long we have to wait before Obama puts an end to this sorry business.

I suppose it's too much to ask that someone be held responsible for this crime against the human race.

The hundreds killed this week will just be added to the million or so Iraqi war dead that this country is responsible for so far. And who gives a damn about them? These are people about whom the U.S. government obviously cares less than nothing.

We need to get serious about stopping the war machine. We're already accomplices.

Michael Jackson and Health Care Reform -- Updated

Look for the autopsy performed today by the LA County coroner to reveal the major role of prescription drugs in Michael Jackson's death.

Like Mr. Presley before him, this confused "star," who was deeply alienated from himself, was done a tremendous disservice by a personal physician.

It's not health care when it kills you.

UPDATE: The LA County Coroner says it might take as long as four to six weeks to determine the cause of Michael Jackson's death depending on the results of toxicology reports.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Scary Day Blog

Very scary day today. The reaper has been busy. Michael Jackson, an unfortunate soul, died not knowing who he was. Farrah Fawcett died, I suspect in a somewhat more self-aware condition.

And the fetching former Bush White House spokesbabe Dana Perino and I are in agreement about something. That doesn't happen very often.

Responding to the flap over South Carolina's adulterous governor, Perino writes in the National Review:

While I am not able to explain, I do think I know the answer to all of this: Elect more women. No woman I know has the time for such trysts, nor do I know any who say the desire one. They’re too busy trying to keep all the plates spinning at home, at work, and at the gym to make sure none fall and break.

I agree entirely. You'll never find someone like Olympia Snowe hitting it with a congressional page in the broom closet. Men lose their minds too easily; it's the same for all guys, gay, straight, ambidextrous, or whomever. A man sees a pretty face smiling at him, combined with a fat fanny, and the mind goes out the window. It never changes.

Anti-government, anti-tax whiny titty baby and Rebooblican neocon prophet Grover Norquist has a different take on these matters, however. and says the Sanford affair suggests that women might be the problem. "It does indicate that men who oppose federal spending at the local level are irresistible to women,” he said.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Ask Any Vegetable*

I never linger in grocery stores. OK, I seldom, as in hardly ever, linger in them. I can count the number of times in my life I've done so on one hand, and today was one of them.

The Fred Meyer store in Port Orchard is sooooo pleasant. I wandered among the vegetables, looking for the best of the best, and planning a dinner of seashell pastas with a fresh, very Italian-tasting primavera sauce.

So first, vine-ripened tomatoes. Yum yum.

Then a purple onion. This one's small, quite fresh, grown organically by Peri and Sons, an American, probably Californian firm.

The gold-colored bell pepper is from Canada. No actual farmer's name on it, just the word "Greenhouse."

Had to have some fresh basil to make it just right; that's organic too, The trade mark says "Earth Sound," but it's distributed by some outfit in Cincinnati, so I doubt that it's local.

Got me some Inglehoffer (the mustard people) minced garlic in a jar. That will dissolve nicely in the olive oil.

The crowning touch is a very delicate, very tender-looking clutch of broccoli spears grown by Earthbound Farm of San Juan Bautista, CA. I know right where that is.

Checking out I was chatted by a very young, very outgoing male checker and found out my QFC discount card works at Fred's. Same owner (Kroger Corp.), but what a difference in the stores.

This evening I'll heat the olive oil in a skillet once I have the shell pasta bubbling in a pan. I'll melt some garlic and sautee the onion, then add the bell pepper. Once they're cooked down, the tomatoes will go on with their juice, then the broccoli florets and maybe some stem pieces too, and this wonderful-smelling melange will simmer until the broccoli is perfected. The basil goes in last.

Now, don't you wish you were eating at my house tonight?

*"Ask Any Vegetable" is a song by Frank Zappa.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Ollie's New Book

Life hasn't been all peaches for American patriot Lt. Col. Oliver North since his career peaked back during the Reagan days. At that time he was working out of the White House basement, arranging weapons sales to the new theocratic, anti-American Iranian government that had recently overthrown our man in Iran, the shah. Then he would channel the money from the weapons sales to a U.S.-supported fascist insurgency (the Contras) that eventually undermined Nicaragua's Sandinista (socialist) government, with tremendous loss of life and property in that tiny and defenseless country.

That was the episode now celebrated -- if that's the right word -- as "The Iran-Contra Affair."

But Ollie's doing what he can to stay relevant in the wake of his salad days as a national insecurity operative, and his new career as a writer has gained him a bit of attention at times. He has a whole shelf full of fiction and nonfiction books at Amazon, although most of them are co-authored with someone else, most often a guy named Joe Musser. Ollie's even been described as a "New York Times best selling novelist," but I don't know how many copies a book has to sell for a co-author to gain that distinction.

It looks like his apprenticeship is over, though, since his latest is a solo effort entitled "After Jihad." The synopsis reminds me of a lot of the fantasies I frequently encounter at BeliefNet:

America in 2032 is a poor shadow of the great nation its founders envisioned. The "Better Deal for All Americans" born of the Great Recession two decades earlier hasn’t solved its economic crisis. Growing dependence on government has altered citizen rights—special interest groups have no voice, and a new intelligence system knows every person’s actions and whereabouts.

And in this election year, the standing U.S. president will do anything to stay in power—even negotiate with terrorists who have forced world market oil prices over $500 per barrel. Amidst the corruption some covert patriots still won’t play by the new rules, including Peter Newman, military veteran and U.S. trustee for three of America’s biggest private armies. When his close friend—the inventor of a revolutionary fuel cell—disappears at a major energy conference on the thirty-first anniversary of 9/11/01, Newman calls on his son, James, to help find the missing scientist. The search becomes a perilous quest fraught with government duplicity, human betrayal, and international stakes. Those who look at the fluctuating world today and wonder "What if?" will find a sharply written cautionary tale with heart-pumping action and a surprising climax...

The book is due to come out in November, so that means he's already gotten the advance from somebody. I think I'll pass on this one; something tells me it won't exactly be in the running for the Nobel literature prize.

But I have to say, since I am one of "those who look at the fluctuating world today and wonder 'What if?'" what if the people of the U.S. were to demand that their government get out of the empire business, demand that it end the endless war, and from now on devote its resources to the promotion of real democracy and to the health, welfare, and (real) security of its citizens?

Such ideas as those might produce a very different kind of story from the one Ollie is working on, ¿Que no?

All power to the people.

Monday, June 22, 2009

The People Versus the Insurance Companies -- Updated

Here's what Paul Krugman, the Nobel-Prize-winning economist who writes for that liberal socialist Marxist New York Times, had to say about this issue this morning:

(I)f surveys like the New York Times/CBS News poll released last weekend are any indication, voters are ready for major change.

The question now is whether we will nonetheless fail to get that change, because a handful of Democratic senators are still determined to party like it’s 1993.

And yes, I mean Democratic senators. The Republicans, with a few possible exceptions, have decided to do all they can to make the Obama administration a failure. Their role in the health care debate is purely that of spoilers who keep shouting the old slogans — Government-run health care! Socialism! Europe! — hoping that someone still cares.

(Note to Paul: Someone does still care -- the clueless one-quarter.)

The polls suggest that hardly anyone does. Voters, it seems, strongly favor a universal guarantee of coverage, and they mostly accept the idea that higher taxes may be needed to achieve that guarantee. What’s more, they overwhelmingly favor precisely the feature of Democratic plans that Republicans denounce most fiercely as “socialized medicine” — the creation of a public health insurance option that competes with private insurers.

Yep. Paul's got it. I'll only add to his analysis that progressives know who these Democrats are that he's talking about. We're taking names and compiling a list, and a lot of these mopes are going to get an election-year primary surprise in 2010 if they vote the wrong way on this one.

The purpose of taking names is to prepare for kicking some ass. And it's Democratic asses we need to kick this time. The Republicans have blathered themselves into total irrelevancy.

As I said before, I doubt that we'll get health care legislation this time. What we're going to get, thanks to Democrats like Ben Nelson and Evan Bayh, is insurance company legislation. Then next year they'll find out the true meaning of the rainbow:

God fixed heaven with the rainbow sign;
No more water; fire next time.

That's from an old spiritual.

Are you reading this, Senator Murray? The real races next year won't be the November runoffs, in which Democratic incumbents and challengers beat the Republicans up one side of the map and down the other. They'll be in July, when many old-guard, status-quo-supporting Democrats suddenly find themselves in life-and-death primary struggles against progressive upstarts. And many of those contests may be decided by the impeding health-care votes. I wouldn't want to be a Democratic incumbent having to recite to my constituents one year from now the reasons why I voted against their health care today.

All power to the people.

UPDATE: There were signs just this morning that the Democrats may respond to public pressure, do the right thing, and enact a public health care bill after all.

See the Talking Points Memo piece, Democrats May Go It Alone...

If Congressional, and especially Senate Democrats as a group should have the hearts and spines to do this, it would mean they'll be biting the hand that's been feeding them, and siding with the people instead. That might be a momentous step.

Keep watching to see who (besides Republicans) votes against it.

All power to the people.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

In a World Gone Nuts

I'm not always enamored of yoga people. Some of them sometimes seem obsessed and given to monomania. But at the very least, you'll never see an American yogi or yogini sitting down to a big platter of greasy pork ribs and a side of fries.

I'm not always crazy about hanging out with Unitarians, because so many of them seem to want to put everything anybody says through the PC-o-meter. Plus a lot of them are atheists, and some, like my late mother, are born-again atheists. But I'd rather hang out with a born-again atheist than somebody like my mom's niece, who kept trying to give her the old "Come to Jesus" pitch as mom lay on her death bed struggling mightily against the reaper.

I sometimes feel an intense dislike of Democrats, but "Who ya gonna call?" (as the song asks) when you find yourself in a room, or a city, or a world inhabited by nutjob fundies, greedhead plutocrats and anti-tax whiners, hypocrites, liars, and morons?

And by the same token, I'm not always delighted by what I read in the New York Times, but it's going to have to do. And on balance, there's more to admire in the worst of the New York Times than you'll ever see on Fox News, even if all of Fox's anchors came equipped with electrified admirability machines.

That's why I was extremely happy to read in today's Times that one of their Pulitzer-winning reporters, David Rohde, has escaped from Taliban captivity in Afghanistan where he'd been held prisoner by those fundamentalist losers since November. I felt proud when I reflected on the simple truth that Western concepts of free speech, open debate, and the rule of evidence obtained via the senses are superior to backward, repressive, fearful, medieval notions of revealed truth, which suck. Big time.

Rohde, by all accounts a humble and hard-working guy, isn't just any reporter.

Mr. Rohde joined The Times 12 years ago after winning a Pulitzer Prize in international reporting in 1996 for documenting the massacre of Bosnian Muslims in Srebrenica...

Mr. Rohde was part of The Times’s reporting team that won a Pulitzer Prize this spring for coverage of Afghanistan and Pakistan last year.

Mr. Rohde told his wife, Kristen Mulvihill, that (Afghani local reporter Tahir) Ludin joined him in climbing over the wall of a compound where they were being held in the North Waziristan region of Pakistan. They made their way to a nearby Pakistani Frontier Corps base and on Saturday they were flown to the American military base in Bagram, Afghanistan.

Do yourself a favor and read the whole thing. It's an exciting yarn, and inspirational for anyone who knows enough to realize that there is such a thing as truth, that two plus two always equals four, and that the people who try to fuck with freedom of thought and conceal the evidence, whether they be American Christian Republicans or Afghani theocratic Muslims, are sooner or later going to eat dirt.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Brown Shoots -- Updated

There's more evidence today from Bloomberg News that the "economic recovery" is a hoax.

After slowly struggling upward for the last couple of months, the prices of both crude oil and gasoline collapsed today and started back down on news that gas consumption is, month-over-month, continuing at a rate six percent lower than a year ago. As a people, we're simply driving significantly less.

“The demand numbers are just too weak to ignore,” said Rick Mueller, a director of oil markets at Energy Security Analysis Inc. in Wakefield, Massachusetts. “The big gasoline build suggests that refiners are chasing a diminishing target.”

Crude oil for July delivery fell $1.82, or 2.6 percent, to $69.55 a barrel at 2:50 p.m. on the New York Mercantile Exchange, the lowest settlement since June 8. It was the biggest decline since June 3. Futures, which are up 56 percent this year, dropped 3.5 percent this week.

Gasoline for July delivery fell 10.51 cents, or 5.2 percent, to end the session at $1.9244 a gallon in New York, the lowest settlement since June 3 and the biggest decline since April 20. Futures fell 5.8 percent this week, the largest drop since February.

The fact is, there is no recovery, and there won't be one until there are more people getting jobs than losing them, and more people buying houses to live in than getting foreclosed out of them. This is true no matter what the stock market is doing: as long as unemployment continues to rise and the numbers of properties getting paid off in a regular fashion continues to decline, our troubles will continue also.

It's brown shoots, not green shoots.

Of course, as I've said before, lower levels of economic activity and "negative growth" are not entirely a bad thing. I wonder how many people are working in the underground economy now.

UPDATE: Another quote from the Bloomberg article linked above: “The slowing of the economic contraction is not a sign that energy demand is about to grow,” said Michael Fitzpatrick, a vice president for energy at MF Global Ltd. in New York. “The prices right now don’t reflect the fundamentals of the market.”

Fitzpatrick contradicts what people like Bernanke and Larry Kudlow have been trying to tell us -- that because things are getting worse more slowly, that means things are getting better.

But things can't be getting better when they're still getting worse. It's like that scene in "Through the Looking Glass" where the Red Queen says, "You call that a hill? I've seen hills compared with which that would be called a valley." Then Alice politely points out to her that a hill cannot be a valley, another way of saying the queen is just playing games with words, not describing reality.

The "fundamentals of the market" Mr. Fitzgerald refers to is the fact that things are still getting worse.

Crude oil is set to drop another 10 bucks in July and August -- the height of the "happy motoring" season.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

The Rehooligans Throw a Party

Ossum. We were so preoccupied with Sarah Palin's invitation to speak, first extended then withdrawn, at this gala occasion, that we forgot to take note of how it actually looked and felt, not to mention its ambient fragrance.

I know I toss that word "plutocracy" around a lot, but what does the plutocracy actually look like as it gathers itself together in one place to devour its pork chops?

It wears tuxedoes, I think, and listens to Rush, Darth, and that other loser...what'shisface...Newt.

And then, having been suitably fed and entertained, it ponies up the big bucks to continue the disinformation campaign against Obama, which will be duly parroted and channeled here.

But do our rulers still make the rules for the wise men and the fools? Stay tuned. They may yet have to swallow the Public Option on health care if they can't come up with enough dollars to get their corporate media shills to scream loudly enough.

I got a mail message from Paul Begala today who described it this way:

A year ago if you'd told me Rush, Newt and Cheney would be the new faces of the Republican National Committee, I'd have asked what you were smoking.

But, then again if you'd told me the Republican Party would raise over $14 million in one night in a hotel ballroom in Washington, D.C. I would have asked if you had some more to share.

Seriously, just last week 2,000 Republican fat cats gathered inWashington to gawk at Sarah Palin and listen to Newt Gingrich call President Obama a failure. And, they ponied up millions of dollars to fuel unrelenting attacks by Republican retreads on President Obama and his efforts to get America back on track.

Two thousand head and 14 million bucks -- do the math, and imagine them sitting there "clutching forks and knives to eat their bacon."

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

A Gentler World

I've got a correspondence going with a woman I've never met, someone who lives in a rural outback somewhere south of here. Her name, location, circumstances, and so forth, aren't germane, as none of that is pertinent except maybe in an anecdotal way to today's topic.

However, in the process of learning this woman's story, a wife's history which I would judge neither typical nor atypical, I began to get a larger view of the overwhelming male dominance of our society and all its institutions, including marriage, from a different perspective than the one I'm used to.

In western society, and in most others too for that matter down through history, the large majority of crimes, in and out of marriage, have been committed by men and boys. Men are much more susceptible to destructive behavior than women, and commit offenses most often involving physical aggression, property crimes, or sex crimes. The masculine tendency toward misbehavior is frequently attributed to testosterone, but I have to wonder in my heart of hearts how much of it is due to hormones and how much results from conditioning.

And another thing: is it possible that the behavior I'm talking about is exacerbated by the standards and expectations of "traditional" social settings dominated by religious institutions and arrangements? Were "the good old days" maybe not so good after all?

I don't know; I'm asking. But this is what I suspect. Men are "supposed" to have all the power, and the corruption that inevitably comes with it, because God set Adam up to rule over Eve way back there in Eden, and who's going to argue with God?

"With our thoughts, we make the world," said the Buddha, and he might have added that we often use those same thoughts to build the prisons we inhabit. What else are those prisons, those walls of rules and convictions concerning how "real men" and "good women" are supposed to behave made of, except our thoughts. There is the meaning of the word, "conditioning."


I'm the oldest person in my yoga teacher training class, and one of only four men (that's me on the far right-hand side of the front row; click on the image for a larger view). The first night of class we all had to introduce ourselves, of course, and I've completely forgotten what I said. But I'll never forget the words of one of those young guys in the class (and they're all young compared to me):

"I'm kind of on a mission to see more men involved in yoga," said Eric, who's gay and lives with his boyfriend on Capitol Hill. "I'd like to see the world become a gentler place," he added, "and getting more men involved in yoga would be one small way to help achieve it."

I wondered then what Eric, a mild and harmless person who speaks softly and leaves no turmoil in his wake, had gone through to become who he is. What had his life been like when he was 16? How many times was he called a fag and a sissy? How many times did he get beat up?

And I quickly felt a rush of respect and admiration for this man. How much courage does it take for us to be who we really are?
How much abuse does it take? How many beatings?

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Ahead and Behind

It's getting harder to think of things to write about, partly because I'm losing interest in politics. There's not really anything happening in the political sphere right now that could properly be called a debate. Instead, we've got a timid and ineffectual liberal administration constantly under attack by howling lunatics, supposedly for implementing some sort of radical agenda. It's more farce than debate.

Among people I know and associate with, there's pretty much a consensus on what needs to be done. As individuals, as a society, and as a country, we need to learn to get by on less, especially less energy consumption, which means fewer cars, and driving those that remain fewer miles. We need to save whatever affordable petroleum-derived energy remains for those small, unimportant details that make survival possible, such as food production and transport. There are other trivial matters to consider as well, such as the fact that the fate of the earth depends on it. Of course this means we'll have to sacrifice the really big, important things in life, such as driving our SUV's to the mall to buy tchotchkes on our credit cards, and each individual household ferrying the kids to soccer practice, ballet lessons, obedience school etc., on a daily basis. Such is our cruel fate.

How we're going to accomplish these tasks, which would be relatively easy if we'd accept their inevitability and necessity, is anybody's guess, since the very worst people in this society continue running it and calling all the shots, by laying on bribes in high places and calling this activity "lobbying." Nobody has the slightest idea how to dislodge the rule of money, the deeply-entrenched "plutocracy," ruling this country.

Meantime, we continue expending precious resources, money and energy which could otherwise be turned to our rehabilitation and renaissance, to foreign wars and the maintenance of an overseas empire. Even after we have decided to end our foolish and futile attempt to rule the world, we'll still have to commit significant resources to defending ourselves, as we have made many enemies by behaving badly all over the globe. But the drones are still buzzing the Pakistani border with Afghanistan the last I heard.

People are having a hard time wising up, and our leaders and rulers are having the hardest time of anyone, as Fleetwood Mac's unforgettable lyric echoes down through the years, "Yesterday's gone..."

It's time for us to forget this lame political process and create our own world. If our leaders can't lead us anywhere except to death, then it's time for us to lead them -- by example.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

I-ran, I-ran's So Far Away

Apparently, Ahmedinejad stole that election over there in I-ran.

Lots of I-ranians are pretty pissed about it too. Mostly young ones, from the looks of it.

Well, I feel your pain, because I know exactly how you feel. Don't you just hate it when that happens? I know I do.

Talking Points Memo has a slideshow of photos of today's violence in Tehran.

Also, there's word that Hashemi Rafsanjani has resigned his government posts to protest the theft of the election.

We can be sure Obama and Hillary and her crew at the State Dept. are watching all this closely, if silently. The I-ranian government is going to be quite vulnerable and defensive for some time now.

Maybe we could even bring the Navy home from the Persian Gulf for a while. That would save us a few billion bucks a week.

Click on the image for a larger view.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Homage à Moll

I'm currently devouring a critical readers' guide to "The Catcher in the Rye," one of my all-time favorite works of fiction. It concerns a kid who's smart and sensitive enough to know that society sucks, but hasn't matured enough to figure out a way to live a decent and satisfying life inside such a beast.

The readers' companion is a very impressive virtuoso performance of scholastic competence, "Ossum" as we say nowadays, and criticism at its best. It's a fun and informative read, to say the least.

No comparable readers' guide exists, as far as I know, to accompany my other favorite work of fiction, "Moll Flanders" by Daniel Defoe, written nearly 250 years before "Catcher" and featuring a female protagonist, but otherwise very similar to J.D. Salinger's celebrated novel about Holden Caulfield. Both works are fictional autobiographies told in the first person. The most important trait they share is their respective authors' abilities to find a "perfect pitch" for their protagonists' voices, thus creating believable characters, we almost might say, "by ear." Defoe accomplished this same feat also in an earlier and highly celebrated work, the story of an isolated human being who had to provide the material necessities for sustaining his life without help, companionship, or reliance on the social web of interdependency through which we normally live. That was "Robinson Crusoe."

Moll Flanders's problems with society stem from her circumstances. At a time when single women were constrained from making a decent living, when society was so thoroughly patriarchal that women were allowed to own property only under the most unusual and rare circumstances, and when the only real opportunity for a woman consisted of making an advantageous marriage dependent on family connections and the wealth she would bring into the matrimonial bargain, Moll Flanders comes of age finding herself alone in the world, a penniless orphan without a family, and with only her good looks, her ambition, and a bundle of healthy instincts to help her make her way.

Daniel Defoe himself was a shadowy and inscrutable character, and his motives for writing "Crusoe" and "Flanders" are unclear. All his life he wanted to be a rich, hot shot business man and entrepreneur, but his every attempt to achieve that station failed and he gradually sank into debt. He behaved unethically at times, and once got himself out of debtor's prison by offering to turn informant and also write political propaganda for his enemies. Defoe was fully embroiled in the complex political and religious disputes of his time, and often worked as a hack writer for broadsheets, producing pamphlets on contract, and that sort of penny-a-word stuff. He wrote complex prose rapidly and never revised anything, sort of like Johann Sebastian Bach wrote music.

Among other things, he wrote half a dozen or so novels within the space of four or five years, starting just before age 60. The degree of mental concentration he brought to the two best of these, "Robinson Crusoe" and "Moll Flanders," was extraordinary, for both exhibit a degree of clarity and seeming authenticity that's scary at times. How he managed to achieve the authenticity of Moll's voice in the midst of an age of high paternalism will forever remain an unanswerable question. My speculative answer is that he became obsessed through repeated failures in his own life with the processes by which we deal with the needs of material existence, and wanted to create, for purposes of making an argument, that person who faced life under the most disadvantageous circumstances, yet found a way to live.

Defoe seems to have concluded that such a person would inevitably turn at least in part to a life of crime. He then had to determine, for purposes of the argument forming in his head, whether such a person is a victim of society, or should be held responsible for his or her criminal behavior on the basis of moral culpability. You can see him debating this topic with himself all through the pages of "Moll Flanders," and he seems never to have arrived at either an answer or an argument.

I would like to know whether he ever took a firm position on this difficult question by the time he died alone at about age 70, while hiding from his creditors in a hovel in London's Ropemakers Alley.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Computer Virus Alert (For Reals)





Emails with pictures of Osama Bin-Laden hanged are being sent and the moment that you open these emails your computer will crash and you will not be able to fix it!

If you get an email along the lines of 'Osama Bin Laden Captured' or 'Osama Hanged', don't open the attachment.

This e-mail is being distributed through countries around the globe, but mainly in the US and Israel

Be considerate & send this warning to who ever you know.


You should be alert during the next few days:
Do not open any message with an attached file called 'Invitation' regardless of who sent it.

It is a virus that opens an Olympic Torch which 'burns' the whole hard disc C of your computer.

This virus will be received from someone who has your e-mail address in his/her contact list, that is why you should send this e-mail to all your contacts.

It is better to receive this message 25 times than to receive the virus and open it
If you receive a mail called 'invitation', though sent by a friend, do not open it and shut down your computer immediately.

This is the worst virus announced by CNN, it has been classified by Microsoft as the most destructive virus ever.

This virus was discovered by McAfee yesterday, and there is no repair yet for this kind of virus.

This virus simply destroys the Zero Sector of the Hard Disc, where the vital information is kept.


Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Kraphammer's Lapse -- He Inadvertently Tells the Truth

Fox News talking head, famous professional pundit, and apologist for the Cheney-Bush-Rove Cabal Charles Krauthammer, aka The Vampire, finally busted loose from a career of crafting false analogies, creaking moralisms, half truths, outrageous distortions, and outright lies by forgetting himself momentarily and letting slip a profound truth.

Yesterday during remarks he made as he accepted the New York Post's Westbrook Pegler Award for Excellence in Opinion Journalism, Kraphammer referred to the Fox News Network by noting that:

"What Fox did is not just create a venue for alternative opinion. It created an alternate reality."

Damn, that's well put. I couldn't have said it better myself.

He went on to explain that because fascists and reactionaires like himself don't like the reality that's reported on the front page of the New York Times, they should create their own damn reality, which is what Fox News and the remnant of the Republican Party have done. It's a reality in which, for example, Barack Obama is responsible for the entire national debt.

Good work, Chuck. It's nice to hear the truth slipping out from between your fangs for once, even if it was unintentional. Now, get back in your coffin, otherwise you're going to get caught out in the daylight.

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Take That, Captain Crunch!!

A woman in California is appealing her suit against General Mills for calling one of their boxed "cereals" "Captain Crunch Berries." The suit was dismissed by a judge back on the fourth of this month, but the woman and her lawyer say they are not giving up yet.

I can't get a link to this story, because I saw it on a video on Yahoo! and the little pop-up window won't let you get the i.p. address.

The basis of the suit is that there are no berries in "Captain Crunch Berries." All it is is baked blobs of berry-shaped, day-glo colored glorp, made mostly of refined white flour mixed with high-fructose corn syrup. You know, childhood obesity and diabetes stuff. Some sources are saying that for years the woman bringing the suit thought they really were berries. Whatever; I guess that's possible.

I'm also guessing judge #1 decided General Mills could call their stuff whatever they want to, whether it bears any relation or not to what's in the box. Besides there being no berries, there's no real cereal in a box of "Captain Crunch Berries cereal either, just a bunch of refined, processed wheat and corn dust. Let's see if judge #2 has any more respect for truth in advertising. An appeal is always like putting the dice back in the box for another throw.

I wish this woman and her lawyer well in their efforts. Thus are a mighty people rendered weak and helpless, by eating whatever garbage they're fed by the God-machine, and feeding an even worse version of the same stuff to their kids.

Strike a blow today for alimentary liberation! You are what you eat!! So don't be a baked blob of berry-shaped, day-glo colored glorp!!! Instead, be two boiled eggs with whole wheat toast and hummus, an orange, a banana, half an avocado, and some pieces of broiled fish.

Monday, June 08, 2009

The Heavyweights of Blogging

The most widely-read bloggers have in common that they're good enough that lots of people want to read them. My own favorites are Kunstler and Duncan Black. Especially Duncan Black, because Kunstler's not really a blogger.

James Howard Kunstler is more of a journal-ist (but not a "journalist") who posts a weekly column on Monday mornings, as opposed to the daily-and-hourly type of politics and news blog that Duncan Black keeps up. Kunstler also writes books, both fiction and non-fiction, like "A World Made by Hand" (the former) and "The Long Emergency" (the latter).

This morning, in a piece called "Lagging Recognition," he said this: "Americans will never again buy as many new cars as they were able to do before 2008 on the terms that were normal until then: installment loans. Our credit system is completely broken. It choked to death on securitized debt engineered by computer magic and business school hubris. That complex of frauds and swindles coincided with the background force of peak oil, which meant, among other things, that economic growth based on ever-increasing energy resources was over, and along with it ever-increasing credit.

"... I'm not saying this to be a "pessimistic" grandstanding doomer pain-in-the-ass, but because I would like to see my country make more intelligent choices that would permit us to continue being civilized, to move into the next phase of our history without a horrible self-destructive convulsion."

Duncan Black preserved his anonymity as the blogger Atrios, writing a blog called "Eschaton" until 2004, when he was outed by some right-wing butthole or other. He took it in his stride and changed nothing. Like Kunstler, he's an economic pessimist, and the evidence and energy he brings to his short, choppy posts is beautifully concentrated. Rather than linking to Atrios's posts in what follows, I'll link to his sources.

Today Atrios wrote, "A recovery without jobs isn't really much of a recovery. An increase in GDP, if it happens, might cause lots of financial pundit happy talk but without jobs it's pretty meaningless."

And also, "It Does?"

Ezra (Klein):

'In other words, it doesn't seem like we know a lot more than we knew a few months ago. The economy certainly 'feels' better, and that's been enough to drain the urgency from some of these questions. But have the questions really gone away?'

(Atrios responds) The real economy is actually a hell of a lot worse. We have fewer panicking banksters and their mouthpieces in the financial press, so CNBC feels a lot better, because the liquidity crisis is at least temporarily gone. But the liquidity crisis was never the problem, just a symptom. And away from the world of big finance, the economy feels much worse."

Catboxer here. I guess the bad news and the good news are the same, judging from all the people I know of who are both honest and know what they're talking about, namely, we're never going back to the way things were.

Yes, my friends, that's change you can believe in. And count on it, there'll be some changes made, courtesy of that superlative songwriting duo, Billy Higgins and W. Benton Overstreet:

Now there's a change in the weather
And a change in the sea,
And from now on there'll be a change in me.
My walk will be different, my talk and my name,
Nothing about me is going to be the same.
I'm going to change my way of living
And if that ain't enough,
Then I'll change the way I strut my stuff
I must adapt to my environment or I'll fade away,
There'll be some changes made today,
There'll be some changes made.

Sunday, June 07, 2009

The Zen of Google Translation

I've been trying to make sense of Zen for years, despite having been told many times that trying to make sense of it is the wrong approach. Unfortunately for me, I simply don't know any other way, which leaves me pondering things like:

Chih-Men was asked, "What is my self?"
He replied, "Who is asking?"
The questioner said, "Please help me more."
Chih-Men said, "The robber is a coward at heart."

All I really get from that is that it's a very short, albeit complete story, even though the character of the questioner is never fully elucidated. I guess it wasn't really about him (or her).

So I decided, since I'm sort of a novice in the wisdom business, I'd try my hand at writing some of my own Zen-like wisdom kibbles. I accessed the translating device available at Google, wrote up a few phrases, translated them into Japanese, and then from Japanese back into English. The results may not be Zen, but they sound Zen:

ºTo know my son, always keep in mind is that a shortage of honey bees in their pencil boxes.

ºHe can not convey the knowledge is muted, if people do not know him instructions, the word is not included.

ºUnfortunately what follows, she is his grandmother's pot holders on spits.

The original versions of these nuggets of wisdom are as follows:

Know this my son, and keep it always in mind; that he who has bees in his pencil box will never lack for honey.

He who knows cannot tell, and he who tells does not know, for knowledge is mute, and words contain it not.

Misfortune will follow he or she who spits on grandmother's pot holders.

Makes perfect sense to me (even though it's not supposed to). After all, "Are there any elephant tusks in a rat's mouth?"

Quoted material is from Thomas Cleary, translator and editor, "The Pocket Zen Reader," Shambhala, 1999.

I borrowed the Google Translator English-to-Japanese-to-English idea from Sator Arepo at the Reciprocal Crap Exchange blog, who used the same method on the dialog in "Garfield" comic strips from the newspaper.

Saturday, June 06, 2009


A discussion topic I ran across recently expressed surprise (and pleasure) at the results of a recent Gallup Poll which showed that ex-Vice-President Cheney's popularity among voters is higher than Speaker Pelosi's, by a margin of 37 percent favorability to 34.

Actually, the difference in the approval ratings of these two politicians is negligible, as it falls within the margin of error.

And anyway, while we're on the subject, poll participants weren't giving their opinions of Cheney and Pelosi, but their opinions of the people they think Cheney and Pelosi are.

You may have noticed that both are heavily made up when they appear on TV, so we don't really have too good an idea what they really look like. By the same token, neither reveals his or her true personality to the public. We only see the person that each of them wants us to think they really are, which is to say, we see an image of a person, but not the person. It's just like the counterfeit physical image they show us.

As Andy Warhol once said, "It's not who you are that's important, but who people think you are."

Public opinion polls reflect the cumulative opinions of a shadow of a "typical" cross-section of the voting public, which indicates as a group whether it prefers the shadow of one politician to the shadow of another.

Dick Cheney and Nancy Pelosi really are real people, but we don't know them. I suspect that if I did know them, I wouldn't like either one of them. I know I wouldn't like Cheney because I suspect he's a power-mad sadist with dangerous mental disorders, like Josef Stalin. Pelosi is a little harder to formulate in the mind, but what I see through the cracks in the facade doesn't exactly thrill me.

Friday, June 05, 2009


"People who squirm at the sight of bugs or are grossed out by blood and guts are more likely to be politically conservative," says a science section story at Yahoo! news.

Conservatives also tend to be tidy little people who keep their rooms clean. Liberals are often sloppier, or as the story says, "creative."

This kind of goes along with what I've known for a long time, that prudes are also usually church-goers of the conventional, orthodox kind, and that if a person is prudish and Christian, 99 times out of 100 he or she gravitates toward the political right wing as well.

No wonder people like that are upset by things like gay sex. It turns their stomachs upside down and makes them want to go to church so Jesus can tell them it's not right. Then they go out and vote for somebody who feels like they do -- nauseated.

Life would be so much easier if they just took Di-Gel.

A disgust-measuring study at Cornell University reports that "they surveyed 91 Cornell undergraduates with the DSS (Disgust Sensitivity Scale), as well as with questions about their positions on issues including gay marriage, abortion, gun control, labor unions, tax cuts and affirmative action. Participants who rated higher in disgust sensitivity were more likely to oppose gay marriage and abortion, issues that are related to notions of morality or purity."

So everything is related to everything else. That's not news.

The same story also links to another story about "A large, global study in 2007 (which) concluded that political preference is 50 percent genetic." I haven't read the study, but wouldn't the fact that most folks adhere to the politics of the rest of their families be just as likely to be the result of environmental factors as inheritance?

Thursday, June 04, 2009

Mexicali Fats Knows Compulsion When He Sees It (Boy, Does He Ever)

Lou Dobbs, aka Mexicali Fats, CNN's Hispano-obsessed news commentator, sure knows how to load a question. Referring to Obama's Cairo speech in his daily poll question, America's favorite xenophobe asked poll participants:

Are you concerned that President Obama seems compelled to continue to apologize for the United States wherever he travels?

You know, if enough people felt like doing so, we could drive Uncle Louie nuts by participating in his poll. Just scroll down halfway and you'll find it on the right hand side.

I voted "no" for the following reasons: first of all, I don't think he feels "compelled to apologize" at all. I've seen abundant evidence that everything Obama ever says or does is thought out carefully beforehand, and executed by design rather than by compulsion. But if I'm wrong, and he does "feel compelled to apologize for the United States wherever he travels," so much the better, since the United States has a great deal to apologize for. Where would you like me to start?

Try again tomorrow, Lou; I'm sure you can be a little more subtle than that. Even a chump could see the marks on that deck you trotted out today.

Oh yeah, the "yesses" are ahead of the "no's" in today's poll by a margin of two to one. No surprise there.

Tomorrow's Lou Dobbs will feature a story on the Mexican plot to re-annex Texas by flooding it with illegal immigrants and putting a taco stand on every corner -- the gastronomic reconquista. And I'll register my opinion in tomorrow's poll that I wish them the best of luck with it.

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Redeye to Riyadh

President Barack "Yes I Can" Obama began his tour of the Middle East today, launched on "a mission to write a new chapter on Islam and the West" according to the Associated Press. After flying all night on Air Force One he landed in Riyadh, the capital of Saudi Arabia, the peninsula "where Islam began" and the light, sweet crude is pumped out by the tankerful, and was greeted by that nation's monarch, King Abdullah.

"We are lugubriously and most unctuously honored to welcome the illustrious media-star president of the venerable American republic," said Abdullah, handing his guest several pounds of 24K bling.

"We offer our humblest, most comprehensively lubricated, and thoroughly homogenized felicitations to your majesty," the prez replied, which leads me to wonder if he knows that the Ghawar Field, the biggest ever discovered, is depleting faster than a June snowmelt.

The AP story goes on to inform us that as the "Birthplace of Islam, Saudi Arabia is still considered guardian of the faith as home to the holy cities of Medina and Mecca. The Sunni Arab powerhouse also sits on the world's largest oil reserves, buys billions in U.S. military equipment and has cooperated extensively with the U.S. on anti-terrorist operations."

The AP reporter did not mention, however, that the close cooperation between the world's largest oil producer and the world's largest oil consumer have caused some serious trouble for us in the recent past. Osama bin Laden's 1996 declaration of war against the U.S. cites American occupation of "the land of the two holy places" as one of the most important, perhaps the most important reason for al-Qaida's desire to attack this country.

But why bring up such stuff on this happy occasion? The president and the king outdid each other with shows of respect, affection, and long volleys of effusive compliments, stopping just short of swapping wives, possibly because Abdullah would bring more units to the table than Obama could.

And this is just a warm-up! The big crescendo of Obama's Mideast trip comes tomorrow when he will deliver The Major Speech in Cairo, which he has characterized as a "truth-telling" address intended to launch that "new chapter" in our relations with the Muslim world.

However, Obama has made clear that he does not intend to make new policy in this speech, but to "frame it differently." I'm glad he clarified that.

I hope he gets the results he's looking for, but I think he'd get better ones if he did make a new policy, one whose centerpiece would be that from now on our number one objective in trying to root out al-Qaida and provide an ideological alternative to the Taliban will be to avoid the slaughter of Muslim civilians, bystanders, and the marginally involved.

Monday, June 01, 2009

Beep Beep

Here's one more "silver lining" we're getting along with the black cloud of recession hanging over the country.

Americans in recent years Americans were buying about 60 new cars per each 1,000 of our population, but recently that figure has sunk to 35 per 1,000. It's a trend I expect to hang around, since the kind of "recovery" Wall Street has in mind isn't going to happen.

In the long run, this means fewer jobs for auto workers, but it also means less gas consumption and less damage to the environment.

Ruth Bader Ginsburg once said that all real change is incremental, and accomplished by small steps.

It was slowly and by degrees we got ourselves into the mess we're in now. The only alarmingly rapid expansion of the failed, futureless way of life we're stuck in came during the last 10 years. It is by degrees that we will work ourselves out of it.

Illustration, "Beep Beep," by James Rizzi.