Monday, April 30, 2012

vishnu's treasures

Reporter Jake Halpern has written a story in this week's (April 30) New Yorker that reads like a real-life "Raiders of the Lost Ark."

The Padmanabhaswami temple in Trivandrum, Kerala State, India, may be more than 12 centuries old, although its most visible feature, the seven-story tower (or gopuram), writhing with gods, nymphs, demons and saints on all four of its sides, in the manner typical of southern India, was built only recently, in the 1560's and 70's.

But long before the tower rose, devotees and pilgrims visited the temple to leave gifts for Vishnu, the supreme Hindu deity who presides here, (and is even the legal owner of the place). Over the centuries, these gifts, which include gold jewelry and precious stones, have mostly accumulated in vaults beneath the main altar, where the deity reclines on a couch formed by the body of a five-headed cobra.

Last summer, the first of these vaults was entered by observers appointed by the Supreme Court of India, accompanied by witnesses who had an interest in discovering the truth about the legendary treasure vaults of Padmanabhaswami. The head clerk of the temple believed no one had been inside for over a century.

The treasure inside the first vault was astounding. It had once been stored in wooden boxes, but these had long since fallen to dust, and the golden, jewel-encrusted chains, rings, statuettes, and loose stones lay in heaps throughout the chamber. One estimate of the value of the hoard is $20 billion.

Vault B, like the first vault, had a locked iron grille in front of a locked wooden door. However, unlike vault A, it also had a metal door with three locks, one of which was found to be frozen. At this date, the room still has not been entered.

So you're wondering, what will happen to all that incredible treasure? Probably nothing. South Asian religious conservatism is about as conservative as anything could possibly be, and don't forget. all that incredible wealth belongs to Vishnu alone.

season's joys

According to resident experts, the earth in the vicinity of Port Townsend has now warmed enough to support young plants.

I returned to Chimacum Creek this past weekend for the festive planting of the greens --the first agricultural work of the new season. As you can see, lettuces, chard, and kale are now in the north end of the raised bed, protected from one-footed pests by an application of Slug-Go™, along with wire hazards to keep out quadrupedal lettuce predators.

I'll go back again next weekend for the ceremonial potato-planting ritual. This is really a lot of fun, and I can't wait for the tomatoes and bush beans, which won't come till June.

das boot

Clive Palmer, an Australian billionaire who made his fortune in mining, is planning to build a modernized replica of the Titanic and sail it from London to New York. The maiden voyage is scheduled for 2016.

How much ego, I wonder, does it take to duplicate a project which has become a universal symbol of hubris?

The ship, to be christened Titanic II will be built in a Chinese boatyard, CSC Jinling, and is the first of a projected fleet which will sail under the banner of Palmer's new Blue Star Line.

The maiden voyage of Titanic II should be an exciting experience for everyone who books passage on her. If you're planning on doing so, don't forget your snorkeling gear.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

who I did on my vacation

Seattle photojournalist John Keatley, taking documentary photos on the streets of a notorious Manila red-light district, Angeles City, was surprised when an American sex tourist approached him and asked to have his picture taken with four hookers.

Keatley was even more surprised when the man turned out to be an American politician, Bernalillo County (New Mexico) commissioner and ex-state senator Michael Weiner. The photos, along with a description of the encounter, were soon posted on Keatley's web site.

What is it about guys named Weiner anyway?

meatball sandwich

When I was a kid in my early 30's I played around Seattle in a guitar-and-drums duo. We made the rounds of small joints and piano bars where provincials would stop by occasionally to harass the musicians.

"Ted Nugent," they would holler between songs. "Ted Nugent," knowing full well that Mark De Julio and I were definitely what you call "a lounge act."

Fast forward 37 years, and I'm long gone from the music biz. Ted Nugent, on the other hand, is still laboring before the footlights, and in his spare time (musicians always have lots of that) has also become a political exotic.

After telling the faithful at an National Rifle Association convention that if Obama was re-elected he'd be "either dead or in jail" soon after, and the subsequent conversationette he had with agents of the Secret Service (by invitation), Nugent subsequently was told the Army was canceling a scheduled concert of his at Fort Knox. He said he was insulted.

"To think that there's a bureaucrat in the United States Army that would consider the use or abuse of First Amendment rights in determining who is going to perform at an Army base is an insult and defiles the sacrifices of those heroes who fought for the U.S. Constitution, Bill of Rights," Nugent hperpobilized. He's never been known for musical restraint or subtlety either.

I hate to generalize, but there's something about hot guitar players. Word is that Dave Mustaine of Megadeth has also become a right-wing cyborg.

Drummers, on the other hand, tend towards idealism. For example, Jim Morrison's drummer John Densmore in the doors has been the holdout in a dispute with the other surviving band members over the commercial licensing of "Light My Fire" for advertising, to sell charcoal briquets and such, claiming that the music of the '60's was sacred and not about money.

if you can't beat em...

Beeologics was a big international research firm committed to analyzing the potentially catastrophic decline of honeybee populations worldwide, and finding the causes and possible solutions.

I say "was," because the company has been acquired by agribusiness giant Monstanto. Critics of the genetically-modified corn-and-soy-growing corporation say the chemicals and pesticides Monsanto uses are contributors to colony collapse disorder (CCD) and Israeli acute paralysis virus (IAPV).

A press release from Monsanto's newest subsidiary says "Monsanto will use the base technology from Beeologics as a part of its continuing discovery and development pipeline. Biological products will continue to play an increasingly important role in supporting the sustainability of many agricultural systems."

That's another way of saying "We'll use more of what has caused the crisis to solve it." So now it seems to me that the only way we'll ever get a handle on this is to revoke Monsanto's corporate charter, along with those of other agricultural monstrosities such as Archer-Daniels-Midland, Cargill, and Tyson. All of them need to be broken up into smaller, more governable entities.

As things are now, they govern us.

We're already hearing "too big to fail" arguments from the agribusiness boyz, what with so much of the world supposedly dependent on their GMO grains. The "too big to fail" banking debacles of the past few years reveal such statements as signs that Monsanto is too big to function in anybody's interest but its own.

Found this item at Susie's place.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

time to do it again

In the fall of 1967, about 75,000 antiwar protesters converged on the Pentagon, performed a ritual exorcism, and attempted to levitate the building.

The levitation failed, and looking back over the last 45 years I'd say so did the exorcism. The ritual, hand-crafted by New York poet and singer Ed Sanders:

The ritual may have to be fine-tuned a little to work effectively, but it's definitely worth another try. Found all this neat stuff at a Church of the Sub-Genius site called Underground Bound, and to see the manuscript in an easily-legible size you'll need to go there.

deus ex machina

In four days it will have been a year since we got the news that Osama bin Laden was killled by US commandoes in Pakistan. Collectively, we congratulated ourselves and our president for having done a great thing.

We didn't seem to notice that the United States is no longer obeying its own laws, much less that any country which habitually violates its own code quickly stops making history, and soon becomes it.

Legitimate governments take suspects alive and try them. The suspects are allowed to see the evidence against them, call their own witnesses, and seek representation from competent attorneys.

Gangsters rub people out.

peace, assholes

I read a headline on Yahoo this morning about how the US is now deploying stealth bombers in Iran's back door. Obama and his Pentagon had better stop this idiotic warmongering immediately, or somebody's going to get hurt, and I don't mean somebody in Iran.

And one more thing: since the vast majority of people on earth want nothing more than peace and freedom, the Pentagon and the world's various other assholes and shit disturbers need to begin disarming immediately. If they don't, we will make their world completely ungovernable.

Starting Tuesday.

Friday, April 27, 2012

चक्रीय वास्तविकता

Atrios employs his usual salty language to underscore that if you point out to people who are pushing the idea that we can return to prosperity by cutting spending (such as Paul Ryan) that that's a stupid scheme, they'll look at you exactly the same way they did ten years ago when you told them that invading Iraq was a stupid idea.

Nobel-prize-winning economist Paul Krugman has been saying pretty much the same thing for a while now. Indeed, the notion that we can austerity our way back to a dynamic, growing economy has been acknowledged by people in the know as pure idiocy since 1932 -- that's 80 years.

There's one small problem with the usual, Keynesian approaches this time though. Do we really want to return to a dynamic, growing economy? Or should we suck it up, embrace poverty, and start truly living differently than we have been? It's only what we're going to have to do in the long run anyway, if we're planning to live on this planet.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

the good old p.o.

Yahoo News has an item about how the Senate voted to delay the scheduled closing about half our post offices and ending Saturday mail delivery.

The PO has been a great place to work for a lot of people who couldn't get jobs elsewhere, not because they were lazy or poor workers, but because they were hippies, or weirdos, or just non-conformists of one sort or another.

My friends used to tell me it was hard work, but nobody messes with you. You just suit up, show up, work hard for four or five hours, then stop and have a sandwich, burn half a joint, and then go back out and finish the route.

There's got to be someplace for people the bank won't hire because they're silly asses who believe in UFO's, but they don't believe in Jesus.

not a chance, biyatcheslav


The Romney campaign condemned Prez Obama today for not taking a hard enough line against the Soviet Union. I'm not making this up.

Romney and his surrogates have revealed an ongoing Cold War fixation. Former Reagan Navy Secretary John Lehman and former Bush administration Ambassador Pierre Prosper, on Thursday derailed Romney messaging in a conference call with reporters by raising the specter of the “Soviet Union” and slamming Obama for not protecting Czechoslovakia — a country that was peacefully dissolved in 1993...

“We’re seeing the Soviets pushing into the Arctic with no response from us. In fact, the only response is to announce the early retirement of the last remaining icebreaker,” Secretary Lehman groaned with a groan, citing the threat from a country that hasn't existed for over 20 years.

The former Navy secretary and former ambassador needn't worry. That's why we have those nuclear submarines, down-Sound in Bangor. The current occupant, in addition to dealing effectively with non-existent nuclear threats in the Middle East, is also vigilantly on guard against our enemies on the shores of the Baltic who have gone to dinosaur heaven.

And here I thought "living in the past" was just a figure of speech.

dealing death in yemen

Obama has granted General Petraeus's request to expand the drone campaign in Yemen, with the added proviso that the identities of the targeted victims need not be known beforehand. Petraeus, you'll remember, is now head of the CIA.

With the "known terrorists" requirement for siting targets lifted, the war in Yemen now becomes a straight-up war against civilians. That makes it a war crime by anybody's definition.

For more detail, see Glenn Greenwald.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012


I think most corporate media pundits do a pretty good job.

Of course, you have to keep in mind that their job is to blow smoke up our butts and confuse us, attempting to keep as much truth at bay as possible. It's right there in the job description, along with "Keep them distracted with irrelevant details and/or frivolity."

My favorites at the moment are David Brooks and Thomas Friedman, both of whom labor in the increasingly irrelevant and frivolous New York Times. They share a passion for centrism -- you know, the idea that the two major parties represent ideological extremes that force voters to choose between unacceptable alternatives, and that the solution is to find a spot exactly in the middle of the two extremes, and to value compromise above all else.

That sounds awfully much like the Obama administration, but nevermind...

Now the purpose of compromise is to end the gridlock, so as to get stuff done. What kind of stuff? Well, you know, stuff.

This tragic misreading of the political landscape extends beyond well-oiled Times scribes toting that barge and lifting that bale for their pals among corporate elites. It has hypnotized some of those elites themselves, leading to the founding two years ago of a plutocratic pipe dream called "Americans Elect."

They spent $9 millon on a website where ordinary people could log on and nominate what Mayor Michael Bloomberg and other deluded fat cats hoped would be the perfect centrist candidate -- the "MiddleMan" who's going to come and save us from all that nasty partisan bickering. Then they watched in horror as their beloved fellow citizens proceeded to nominate Ron Paul.

The Huffington Post distills press reports and says: "Last week, the Washington Post's Ned Martel reported that Americans Elect had to postpone their first week of online voting. The reason? Extreme lack of interest."

Fortunately, the political reality of a society divided between a tyrannical aristocracy of wealth and the 99.9 percent who are the rest of us is in the process of blowing up, and the long-term job prospects for smokescreen artists isn't all that great.

your morning read

Slavoj Zizek in The Guardian: Occupy Wall Street: what is to be done next?

Tuesday, April 24, 2012


So I found out today while glancing through the Port Townsend Leader that my favorite grocery store in the world, the Chimacum Corner Farmstand, is asking for donations in order to finance expansion of the store.

They're planning a permanent covered porch for displaying produce and also for seating, and a building extension in back for more storage capacity. Total cost of these improvements is estimated at $130,000.

It's extremely unusual for a privately-owned, for-profit business to ask for donations to finance facility expansion rather than taking out a bank loan. In this case, however, it's highly appropriate, because the Farmstand is a lot more than just a business. It's also a priceless community resource, bringing together local food producers and local food eaters.

I find the idea of being invested in an enterprise like the Farmstand much more appealing than simply being a customer and "consumer." On their website, the owners and their spokeschicken ("Cracker") explain:
As a society we are waking up to the importance of creating robust local economies that encourage financial stability, but ultimately honor the people and land. Some folks call this the “triple bottom line”. When measured using these values, the Corner pays off in healthy dividends.

Shopping and eating local stuff gets people a lot more than just nutritious and wonderful-tasting food; it's also the best way to strike a blow against industrial-style agribusinesses such as Monsanto, Cargill, and Archer-Daniels-Midland. Why sign petitions or donate to anti-agribusiness lobbyists when you can fight the agri-giants most effectively just by spending the cash you used to give them in your own community?

What it comes down to is our local communities, at long last, are the only thing standing between us and the Monsantos and Bank of Americas of this world.

Monday, April 23, 2012

all throttles open, strokin for broke

I went to Jim Kunstler's blog first thing after getting up this morning, as I usually do on Mondays, but for the first time found the old doomer not only boring and predictable, but not as useful as I would like in helping us pinpoint our position.

Kunstler's great talent over the past seven years, which is as long as I've been reading him, has been his ability to locate the precise spot in western civ's downward trajectory we've reached at any given moment. That, and predicting how the next crisis will unfold -- the one our rulers and their mouthpieces are working overtime to convince us will never happen.

However, this morning he trotted out some familiar Jeremiads, and throughout seems to think the present crisis is going to play out very quickly, while I'm thinking the climate fiasco will unfold much more slowly, and finally be resolved without much actual human intervention, except for those forces Republicans like to call "the markets."

You may have asked yourself why we're still driving cars that run on refined petroleum, and the answer is simply that there's a buyers' demand for both. Demand for good old whatever-it-is gets analyzed by the companies that provide the stuff, which determines what kind of stuff and how much of it they're going to provide.

The big deal the Putin government just concluded with Exxon/Mobil (see царь Владимир) tells us a lot about world economics and energy demand. Among other things, it tells us that oil and gas are still going to be the predominant forms of energy 10 years from now.

In other words, we're going to keep smoking. That's what I did, about ten years and half the damage longer than I should have. I can live with the result, but I regret not doing the hard work of changing my ways earlier, just as we all shall, collectively.

So how about 20 years from now? Will our lives still be ruled by fossil fuels then? Don't forget, the "new normal" price of a barrel of crude in now $100, projected by market analysts to sit at $120 by year's end. Plus, in our lifetimes we've seen extraction grow more and more difficult, increasingly dangerous, and more expensive both financially and in terms of the environmental costs.

Oil will still be around in 20 years, but it won't dominate the energy markets the way it does now. In the times to come, people will be scrambling around getting energy from multiple sources, mostly wherever they can grab some without going broke.

swamp thing

Back in January I wrote here about some of the problems south Florida is having with invasive species such as giant snakes and lizards in the Everglades, and nine-pound African rats in the Keys.

The subtropical jungle-like habitats of south Florida provide an ideal home-away-from-home environment for all manner of gigantic reptiles. Now there's word that the region has been invaded by aquatic monsters as well as terrestrial serpents and rodents; the new menace is an armored catfish not at all similar to its cousin, the smooth-skinned catfish that are good to eat.

This is in essence nothing more than a bulked-up version of the sucker catfish people use in their fishbowls and aquariums to keep the sides free of scum. But behavior that's beneficial in a bowl quickly turns destructive in the wild, and the damage the fish wreaks on shoreline vegetation can severely erode banks, causing them to lose up to ten feet of earth.

Prospects for controlling these suckerfish are not good, as there are millions of them living in the fresh waters of south Florida, plus they've spread westward as far as Texas. The armored catfish has no known natural predator.

This is just one more insane clusterschnazzle brought to us by modern life, although this one is certainly more exotic and entertaining, as well as a lot less potentially lethal than global climate change or the threat of nuclear war.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

geography lesson

I've been mostly residing in the edenic vale of Chimacum Creek, in eastern Jefferson County these past few months. I recently found out the area, which has most of the county's people and economic activity, has a geographical designation of its own.

The Quimper Peninsula and the waterways that lie along its eastern shore were complex and confusing for the first Europeans who explored and charted the area, and the various names they and the immigrants who followed them gave to the region's inlets, bays, and passages can still be complicated, due to overlapping designations.

For example, Port Townsend Bay is one side of the entrance to Admiralty Inlet, the opening from the Strait of Juan de Fuca into Puget Sound. It initially passes between the east side of Marrowstone Island and the west side of Whidby Island, and provides the only navigable route for ocean-going vessels to reach the ports of Seattle and Tacoma. Another part of Puget Sound lies on the eastern side of the island, but you can't get there from here unless you have a boat small enough to navigate Deception Pass.

Confused yet? The whole area is like that.

To see a bigger version of the map at right, go to

The larger version shows the whole peninsula, starting with the Hood Canal Bridge on the south, which connects Jefferson and Kitsap Counties. Beaver Valley Road (Hwy 19) is the Peninsula's main drag, and passes through the intensely productive local food mecca of Chimacum before merging with highway 20 and rolling on into Port Townsend, the county seat and only real city on the Quimper Peninsula, with its fortress-like Victorian buildings and eccentric population of slightly over 12 thousand.

Chimacum Creek, whose source is just north of highway 104, flows northward to Chimacum and Hadlock before turning east and opening its wide mouth, the geographical epicenter of my life right now, into the south end of Port Townsend Bay just west of the US naval installation on Indian Island. Deep in the heart of the enchanted forest, there's a peaceful aura in this place amplified by the cool eternal presence of the trees and the brooding climate.


Photo of Jefferson County Courthouse, Port Townsend by Walton Ciferri.

Friday, April 20, 2012

the lovely weeds

I took this photo of a beautiful field of blooming dandy lions in the valley of the Chimacum today, a soft and mild day all around, as they mainly are here.

back in the cccp

You don't know how lucky you be, boy.

Today, as promised, I want to take up the subject of how the Soviet Union went out of business and became Russia again, with a few geographical revisions. You'll be glad to know it's not a long or complicated tale.

First of all, if you're American you probably know that St. Ronald, by spending unprecedented amounts of cash on the preparations for war he called "defense," including billions for a missile shield he called "Star Wars" (later renamed "Strategic Defense Initiative or SDI), economically overpowered the poor old CCCP to where they were unable to maintain the weaponry of a superpower. Reagan forced them to relinquish their superpower status and, eventually, their government. Problem is, if that's is as much as you know about this chapter of history, then everything you know is wrong.

The real story of the Soviet Union's collapse has been told in the US, but gets little attention, since it doesn't support Americans' desire to feel exceptionally strong and to canonize Reagan at the same time. It's told by one of the world's premiere energy experts, professor emeritus of geology Kenneth Deffyes of Princeton in his 2005 book "Beyond Oil: The View from Hubbert's Peak."

Deffyes writes, "At that time, Soviet oil production was larger than Saudi production by a factor of three, but Saudi Aramco (the state-owned oil company) had much lower production costs. Saudi Aramco resorted to a familiar tactic: a price war. They flooded the world with oil and drove the world price of crude oil below the Soviet cost of production and transportation."

It was the hard currency from oil profits that enabled the Soviet Union to produce the consumer goods necessary for a functioning modern-day society. Six years into the price war, the country collapsed from lack of money. Essentially, the Soviet Union defaulted on its social contract to provide citizens with everything from shoes to shoelaces.

It wasn't Saint Ronald Reagan who demolished the Soviet Union, but the ghost of old John D. Rockefeller, channeled through the Saudi royals and obsessed as always with destroying the competition.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

nicotine fit

Tobacco is nasty stuff. Its active ingredient, nicotine, besides being one of the two or three most addictive drugs, induces irritated, annoyed, angry, and even reckless speech and behavior in the user who suddenly finds him or herself cut off from it, even temporarily.

This is the roundabout way of introducing John Raese, a Republican running for the US Senate in West Virginia. Huffpo has an account of a speech of his a week ago during which:

Raese turned to Monongalia County's recently enacted smoking ban as an example of government overreach.

"But in Monongalia County now, I have to put a huge sticker on my buildings to say this is a smoke-free environment. This is brought to you by the government of Monongalia County. Okay?" he said. "Remember Hitler used to put Star of David on everybody’s lapel, remember that? Same thing."

Later on in the video, Raese calls President Franklin D. Roosevelt "General Roosevelt" and "Fidel Roosevelt."

OK, big guy, probably at this point you need to go outside and light one up. I don't say this to be critical. I've been there myself -- a ragehead for nicotine. But I have to tell you, I don't do that shit any more.

In the past. Raese has said he favors abolishing the minimum wage, and that the US should put "a thousand laser systems" in the sky to ward off a "rogue missile" attack, so on second thought, maybe he wasn't feening. Maybe he's just a nut.

царь Владимир

Vlad the Inhaler, Czar of all the Russias, is working on a deal that will put him in partnership with some of the world's most notorious capitalist buccaneers, global warming deniers, and political reactionaries, namely Exxon/Mobil Corporation.

Agence France Presse reported a week ago that Vladimir Putin vowed Thursday to win $500 billion in investment for Russian offshore field development over 30 years to tap the country's full energy potential with the help of foreign expertise.

Putin outlined a broad new and largely business-friendly energy vision whose implementation will be vital to the success of his third term as president following a wave of protests that greeted his March election win.

Russia's president-elect promised to cancel export duties on new projects for its vast and mostly unexploited Arctic shelf and other offshore fields as an incentive for their rapid development.

He also laid down clear guidelines that require 70 to 75 percent of offshore projects to be remain under Russian ownership while relaxing some tax legislation.

And he vitally signalled an imminent change in the rules that permit private Russian players to compete openly for the development of the lucrative fields against the state-owned oil and gas champions Rosneft and Gazprom.

A related story from Reuters is even more edifying: Rosneft and Exxon Mobil Corp wrapped up a landmark alliance on Monday that will secure vital know-how and upstream access to North America for the Russian state oil firm and bulk up the U.S. major's global reserves base.

The wide-ranging deal will grant Rosneft access to three projects in North America, where Exxon is developing hard-to-recover reserves in West Texas, the Canadian province of Alberta and in the Gulf of Mexico.

The two companies will also seek to transfer know-how from those projects to develop Rosneft's own vast reserves of so-called 'tight' oil trapped in non-porous rocks like shale at three of its biggest fields in Western Siberia.

"Today really is a historic day ... it marks the beginning of a new and broader relationship between our companies," Exxon CEO Rex Tillerson told a signing ceremony hosted by Prime Minister Vladimir Putin at his Novo-Ogaryovo residence outside Moscow.

Fears of environmental damage and global warming are apparently not among the Czar's big concerns, and if he has any misgivings about partnering with a company whose name in the US has become a byword for reactionism, they're not showing.

I don't know anything about the oil reserves on the northern Siberian shelf, but I'm guessing these would be some of the most difficult and dangerous places to site a drilling operation that the world has to offer.

But for Putin, who shows all the audacity that Obama lacks, the potential rewards outweigh the dangers, and he might even be looking for some payback aimed at the Saudis. Later on I'll tell you how it was Saudi Arabia, not Saint Ronald Reagan, who destroyed the Soviet Union.

thar she blows!

Yesterday morning was good for whale watching in West Seattle. Local photographer Gary Jones snapped this picture of an orca leaping from the water between Alki Point and Bainbridge Island.

Story and more pictures at the West Seattle blog.

hanging out at the airport

So what's the best thing to wear when you're anticipating air travel, and you know you're going to be screened by the Travel Security Agency (TSA)? Flip-flops or backless sandals, obviously. But if you want to make sure they know you're not carrying weapons or contraband, how about taking everything off?

From the Portland Oregonian: A 49-year-old Portland man was arrested on charges of indecent exposure and disorderly conduct Tuesday evening after he tried to get through security at Portland International Airport wearing his birthday suit.

John Brennan, a frequent flier, apparently became annoyed at the way the TSA screeners were treating him, so he responded with a protest they couldn't ignore. Unfortunately, this caused him to miss his flight.

However, I think he got his point across.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

it's a dog-eat-dog world

Smarting under the Democrats' and media's refusal to forget that Romney mistreated his Irish setter some years back by enclosing him in a crate strapped to the roof of the car for a trip from Boston to Ontario, Romney's camp fired back today that Obama is a dog-eater.

And indeed, Obama's memoir, "Dreams of my Father," tells how during the part of his childhood spent in Indonesia, he was introduced to dog and snake meat, as well as eating roasted grasshoppers.

To Obama's defense that he was just a little kid at the time he ate Fido, some twitterers have resonded with purported Obama household recipes for Beagles with cream cheese, Pugs in a Blanket and Chicken Poodle Soup.

All kidding aside, can our political discourse get any sillier than this?

tuff talk

RIPPED from the headlines at Huffpo:

In the second major shot in Washington's ideological battle over taxes this week, the White House on Tuesday slammed a small-business tax-cut proposal in the House as a handout for the "fortunate" and threatened to veto it.

The Small Business Tax Cut Act of 2012, sponsored by House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.), would slash taxes on the adjusted gross income of as many as 22 million small businesses -- those with fewer than 500 employees -- by as much as 20 percent for one year. It would add $46 billion to the deficit.

It's the second confrontation of the week because the Buffett rule was "defeated" in the minority-ruled Senate by a vote of 51-47 on Monday.

So it sounds good, right? Who could be against a tax cut for small, tiny, struggling businesses like Joe's barber shop? Even if it would add to the deficit, in an amount nearly identical to the revenue that would have been realized by enacting Buffett.

Except is it really a small business tax cut, designed to help out poor Joe? The White House says "not so much."

Congress' revenue estimators, the Joint Committee on Taxation, has calculated that the top 11 percent of small businesses would grab 64 percent of the break, while the 125,000 firms with $1 million a year in adjusted gross income would snag 18.3 percent. The 9.2 million small businesses at the bottom of the income heap would share about 15 percent of the break.

The bill "is not focused on cutting taxes for small businesses, but instead would provide tax cuts to the most fortunate," says the White House statement.

Yeah, that sounds about right for Repub legislation. More tax breaks for jillionaires, while the truly small (i.e., insignificant) people get the greasy end of the stick again.

Will Obama really veto this turkey? Nah...he'll weenie out.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

levon helm

Levon Helm, the terrific drummer and lead singer for The Band, is dying.

This note, posted by Levon's wife and daughter, appeared on his web site today.

Levon is in the final stages of his battle with cancer. Please send your prayers and love to him as he makes his way through this part of his journey.

Thank you fans and music lovers who have made his life so filled with joy and celebration… he has loved nothing more than to play, to fill the room up with music, lay down the back beat, and make the people dance! He did it every time he took the stage…

We appreciate all the love and support and concern.

From his daughter Amy, and wife Sandy

If you're not already a fan of Levon's gritty vocals and classic R&R drumming, you can sample some of his best work on YouTube, with this live version of The Band's late 60's hit, "Cripple Creek."

We'll mourn this event as we do the passing of all the great old ones. Good-bye Levon Helm, and Requiescat in pace.

necessary, but not sufficient

When an interviewer for New York magazine (as related by Susie Madrak) asked him if there are any structural changes that need to happen in American government, retiring Democratic congressman Barney Frank replied, "Get rid of the filibuster in the Senate."

The interviewer followed up with "Is that the only one," and Frank answered "That's the only one."

Barney Frank is certainly right that changes in the rules governing the Senate filibuster are necessary to restore democracy in the U.S.

Whether such a reform, which would deliver the Senate from the tyranny of minority rule, would be sufficient to restore democracy is another question.

I would like to know how Barney Frank, and every other sitting Democratic congressperson and senator would react to a proposal for a constitutional amendment banning private money from our public politics. I want to know whether they would consider such a measure "structural change," and whether they would favor or oppose such a proposal.

green energy!

Here are the top five green energy stories of the day. Got this at

5. France has decided to build 2 gigawatts worth of wind turbines offshore, as its nuclear plants age and updating them or replacing them becomes expensive and unpopular. France gets roughly 80% of its electricity from nuclear plants. It is the 20% coming from hydrocarbons that desperately needs to be replaced by sources such as wind power.

4. In Germany, wind and solar are still rapidly increasing as a share of German energy-producers (renewables produce about 20% of German electricy but only 8 percent in the United Kingdom.

3. About 7 gigawatts of solar energy installations were put in, in the United States in 2011. That is roughly equivalent to 7 nuclear reactors. The US has a little over 100 of such nuclear reactors.

2. Mexico is considering becoming only the second country to pass a really strict hydorcarbons law.

1. Morocco, which has no oil of its own to speak of, is doing a big wind project. Morocco hopes to build 4,000 megawatts in wind and solar power capacity by 2020 which would be about half its energy needs.

After all is said and done, we're moving ahead, because you can't legislate the future out of existence, and after all is said and done, petroleum is now a sunset industry.

fascism growing weaker

Ever since the beginning of the Reagan administration, the American version of Italian fascism has dominated our political lives. This 30-year trend culminated with the stolen election of Y2K, establishment of the Bush administration's upside-down tax code to benefit the super-rich, the Iraq and Afghan wars, the financial meltdown of 2007-08, and its subsequent and still-ongoing depression.

Fascism is a system of government characterized by corporatism, which is the combining of big business and government, and militarism, a large, aggressive, and expansionist military pursuing dreams of empire. It also encourages submission to the fundamentalist form of whatever religion is traditionally practiced in the society dominated by the ideology.

The signal that fascism had peaked and was in decline arrived with the idiot's crusade known as the Tea Parties, and the subsequent appearance of its opposite number, #Occupy Wall Street.

The eclipse of this noxious trend is now in full swing, as shown by the stampede of corporate sponsors abandoning the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), the right-wing lobbying organization which has been in control of Republican-dominated state legislatures for several years now.

Almost needless to say, ALEC is covered all over with the fingerprints of America's premier fascist ideologues and bankrollers, Charles and David Koch.

Kraft Foods, Coca-Cola and Pepsico, chip-maker Intuit, and McDonald's Corp. have abandoned their support of Alec recently as its shadowy, anti-democratic machinations have been exposed in the press and on the web.

The political pendulum swing away from fascism is now under way, and nothing will stop it. It will continue no matter which one of the silly twits currently running for the presidency is elected in the fall.

Monday, April 16, 2012

the buffett rule, and other rules

Today the Senate will decide whether to let the Buffett Rule legislation proceed to the floor of that chamber for a vote. And I can tell you in advance it ain't gonna happen.

The Buffett Rule proposes that middle-class taxpayers pay federal income tax at a lower rate than rich ones. It would raise taxes for the wealthy, and lower them for working people. Currently, Mr. Buffett's secretary pays the tax at a rate nearly double that paid by her billionaire boss, so the fairness of this legislation is intuitively obvious. But not to the millionaires in the US Senate.

According to the Senate rules, moving the measure to the floor for debate requires 61 votes, and there are only 54 Democrats. They would need seven Republicans to cross over to get it to the floor, and they probably won't get one. So then they'll shrug and say "We tried."

No more of this nonsense. The Democrats have had a majority in the Senate for years now, and it's within their power to force a rules change. They don't, because they like the rules the way they are now. They can blame the Republicans for everything, and get plausible deniability at the same time.

The fact is, most of our Democratic senators don't want the Buffett Rule any more than their Republican opponents. Don't be taken in by the show, as this absolutely vital and necessary tax plan goes down to a 54-46 "defeat."

reporting on facebook

The 2012 Pulitzer Prizes were announced today, with no awards for editorial writing or fiction this year.

Among the prize-winners, the most innovative was The Tuscaloosa (Ala.) News Staff, for its enterprising coverage of a deadly tornado, using social media as well as traditional reporting to provide real-time updates, help locate missing people and produce in-depth print accounts even after power disruption forced the paper to publish at another plant 50 miles away.

That kind of dedication will still get you a Pulitzer sometimes, and all shows that we still are capable of genuine reporting and real journalism -- sometimes. When people take advantage of every possible tool at their disposal, including Facebook, to report the story and help the community, it's magic happening.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

jesus at bat

Jesus is at the plate right now.

He was the hero of last night's Mariners' win against those flippin A's, along with the starter, Héctor Noesi, who pitched a nearly flawless eight innings. Jesus sealed the deal with a solo homer and an rbi double, powering the M's to a 4-zip triumph.

Jesus and Hector both came to Seattle in an off-season trade with the Yankees. Now Jesus has flied out to end the inning.

Why is it that baseball players have always flied out since time immemorial? Not one ever flew out.

action mcnews

Here's a perfect example of the way information is controlled in this country by the Demolican-Republicrat-bankster-corporo-military-medical-industrial one-party system, author of the "official version."

Chances are you never heard of Lt. Col. Daniel Davis, the 17-year army veteran who has become the major whistle-blower of the Afghan War, exposing the happy chatter of our commanders there for the crock of public-relations b.s. it is.

The career soldier is now a black sheep at the (Pentagon) where he still works. The reason was his extraordinarily brave decision to accuse America's military top brass of lying about the war in Afghanistan. When he went public in the New York Times, he was acclaimed as a hero for speaking out about a war that many Americans feel has gone horribly awry. Later this month he will receive a Ridenhour prize, an award given to whistleblowers that is named after the Vietnam war soldier who exposed the My Lai massacre.

Problem is I missed the NY Times piece by Davis, and I'm reading about this in the Guardian -- a British newspaper -- and a Yahoo search showed the story being carried only by one other mainstream US media source other than PBS, in San Antonio. Other than that, as far as I know it was only carried by left-wing sources like Common Dreams.

But this is a story that should be banner headlines all across the country, as the same story was during the Vietnam War, when we learned that America "can't handle the truth."

Biff, Wanda, and "Action McNews" are all copyrighted inventions of Tom Tomorrow<.

democratic republic

You'll often hear right-wingers say that our founding fathers designed our government as a Republic, not a democracy, but those are not mutually exclusive terms.

And if you think about it for 0.5 seconds or so, you'll realize that a democratic republic is a possibility.

A correspondent recently wrote that "the F&F quite despised democracy, which is why we were given a Constitutional REPUBLIC..."

If that's the case, then why does the Constitution begin with the words "We the people..."?

nooze quiz

I just took the latest news IQ quiz at Pew Research and found it ridiculously easy.

The quiz concerns the issue positions of the respective parties, and I doubt there is anyone reading this who couldn't get 13/13 as I did.

What's hard to believe is that the majority of the American public gets fewer than 10 of these questions right, but everybody has to be somewhere.

Saturday, April 14, 2012


Despite the best efforts of our corporate media, especially the television networks and cable networks, all of which except Fox News are owned by giant multinational corporations, more Americans every day are getting wise to the mean cop/con cop routine that is our national two-party system.

More voters every year register as "independent," and some of us really are.

To hell with the donklephant, or elephonkey, or whatever you want to call it. It is truly an unclean monster from out of the depths, like something out of the Book of Revelation.

brain trees

So I was wondering, how did Braintree, Massachusetts get its name? Is there such a thing as a brain tree, and were there a lot of them in that place back in the early days?

What would a brain tree look like?

Firing up the old search engine, I soon discovered that Braintree is named after a town in Essex (eastern), England, and is called that because it's named after, you know, that other place. Back to the old drawing board.

Searching again, I hit paydirt. "The origin of the name," my source informed me, "is obscure."

In Norman times the place was called Brantry and sometimes Branchetreu, as it is in the Domesday Book. That Frenchified name means "town by the river," and the Brain River obligingly runs through it.

For an anglophone speaker, it's a short hop from "Brantry" to "Braintree," and there apparently is no such thing as a brain tree. Glad you asked.

Photo: an old postcard showing the Thayer Academy, Braintree, MA.

more on the global warming hoax

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Tornado sirens sounded across Oklahoma City early Saturday as the nation's midsection braced for what forecasters cautioned could be a day of "life-threatening" storms, with the most dangerous weather expected to develop in the afternoon.

People throughout the midwest are flocking to shelters in advance of these storms.

The 2012 tornado season has already exhibited unprecedented extremes.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

hot tamale

Oooh, man, it's hot!

Scientists at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) are saying the month recently concluded was the hottest March ever, ever.

The entire first quarter of 2012 was also the warmest on record, and the tornado outbreaks early in the month gave us the year's first billion-dollar disaster.

NOAA's report goes on to say The average temperature of 51.1°F was 8.6 degrees above the 20th century average for March and 0.5°F warmer than the previous warmest March in 1910. Of the more than 1,400 months (117+ years) that have passed since the U.S. climate record began, only one month, January 2006, has seen a larger departure from its average temperature than March 2012.

Now I realize that there are those out there who take issue with this kind of report, and say that because there's no proof that humans are causing any of this, there's no reason for us to moderate the amounts or types of things that we do when we do things, such as drive cars or co-generate electricity for out-of-state sale at the pulp mill in Port Townsend.

Furthermore, all this alarmism about climate change smells suspiciously like a hoax (they say), perpetrated by opportunistic entrepreneurs who have bribed and connived with corrupt politicians in a plot to rip off a gullible public.

I mean, who ya gonna believe? Your lying eyes? Or the scientifically-based, politically neutral, uncorrupted, and totally objective assurances of spokesmen for the petroleum industry?

amber waves

The narration for this two-minute film by Marija Jacimovic and Benoit Detalle is an excerpt from a speech given by Michael Pollan before the RSA (Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce) in 2010, called "Food Rules." It was the winning entry in the RSA/Nominet Trust Film Competition.

witch hunt

The Associated Press reports that Republican Rep. Allen West said he believes at least 76 Democrats in Congress, all but one in the House, are Communist Party members, a claim that echoes Joe McCarthy's unsubstantiated 1950s charges that communists had infiltrated the top ranks of the U.S. government.

Addressing a town-hall meeting Tuesday in Florida, the freshman lawmaker was asked how many members of Congress are "card-carrying Marxists." West said that "about 78 to 81 members of the Democratic Party ... are members of the Communist Party." He did not provide names.

This is actually very good news, because it shows just how scared Republicans are right now.

When they're very afraid, as they should be at this moment, they start talking shit. The so-called Ryan budget is another example of this, and so was Mitt Romney's preposterous claim yesterday that over 90 percent of the laid-off workers in the current recession are women.

The Republican response to alarm, when their adrenal glands start pumping the "flight or fight" juice, is always to double down. They never have enough sense to back off. And I can't say this too many times -- the day is coming very soon when they're going to wish they had Obama and the Democrats back again.

About 19 days from now.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

she don' like it

My friend and fellow blogger Miss Moneypenny doesn't like it at all when food gets wasted, and she will be more than happy to tell you why.

social insecurity

I was thinking about writing something nasty about Paul Ryan and his budget proposal which was recently approved by the US House of Representatives, but enough other people have done so lately that I'll pass on that.

Still, this is a good time to remind anyone who's drawing Social Security or plans to someday (that would be virtually all of us) that if this "zombie-eyed granny starver" and his running dogs have their way, we'll be out of luck, not to mention money.

As often happens, Atrios expresses my innermost thoughts on this subject better than I could, so I'll let him rap it down for you:

Our Galtian Overlords really do want to destroy Social Security. They have no interest in "reforming it" or "preserving it" or whatever. Some of them are haunted by the visions of someone else's grandmother not living in utter destitution, and others just want to steal the money or make sure rich people never have to pay any taxes again. Some grand bargain of revenue increases and benefit cuts to put it in actuarial balance until time infinity will not stop them from trying to impoverish old people and steal the money.

Once again, Atrios touches on the two main points pertaining to this matter that need to be hammered home:

1. The super-rich believe they should pay no (0) taxes, and

2. They really hate us, and want to see us suffer.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

perpetual war

George Orwell said the purpose of the perpetual war is to blow up a bunch of really expensive stuff. Instead of spending money on the health, welfare, and education of its people, the totalitarian state blows the money into the stratosphere, thinking that if they didn't, the people would become too comfortable, and hence, too intelligent. And that would be the end of the totalitarian government.

There's not much danger of that happening here, because Pentagon spending is running right around $700 billion annually, which is as much or more than the rest of the world combined.

The US also has over 300,000 military personnel stationed abroad, and that also is more than the rest of the world combined, plus 90,000 sailors at sea.

In Orwell's world, maintenance and expansion of the empire of over 750 bases in 40 or so different countries is supposed to provide the fireworks and TV show which will distract us from the predatory violence of domestic politics, but in the USA today that show is wearing thin. The heroics intended to ignite patriotic fervor in ordinary citizens are frequently as phony as they are ineffective in arousing the masses. Remember Jessica Lynch?

A lot of people these days need food stamps, but instead they're getting cops in Star Wars suits. The war was always primarily against us.

Illustration: WWII German poster depicting the USA as a robotic monster. This remarkable picture should be shown very large to be fully appreciated, as it is here. You'll need to scroll about halfway down the page.

ovular rug

I was looking at the ovular-shaped rag rug that lies in the doorway between the kitchen and the hallway. My mom wove this little braided rag rug some time in the nineties.

Then I realized that there is something wrong with this picture, namely, that there is no such word as "ovular."

gravy rainbow

I've decided that the rainbow I saw in the eastern sky last Thursday afternoon (I posted a pic of it this past Saturday) was the Big Enchilada -- TEH GRAVY RAINBOW.

Jumping so high we touch the sky,
So wipe the snot out of your eyes,
It's my Gravy Rainbow...

Monday, April 09, 2012

looked like guacamole to me

Even the most innocent activities can be fraught with peril in these depraved modern times.

An item at Getty News Service reports that A 3-year-old British boy on an Easter egg hunt Saturday morning discovered a live hand grenade.

The device was on the side of a busy road next to the field where families were conducting their Easter ritual in Holford, Somerset.

According to reports in the British press, the boy was actually standing on the device when an adult spotted him.

The kid thought the grenade, unexploded World War II ordnance, was a rock.

Fortunately for us, the U.S. has not been a war zone since 1865, otherwise we'd have to sweep the area for land mines before Easter egg hunts.

the year of living obomniously

In 2012 I shall cast my vote for someone other than Baritt Obomney.

The debate surrounding the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act illustrates the impoverishment of our political life. Here is a law that had its origin in the right-wing Heritage Foundation, was first put into practice in 2006 in Massachusetts by then-Gov. Mitt Romney and was solidified into federal law after corporate lobbyists wrote legislation with more than 2,000 pages. It is a law that forces American citizens to buy a deeply defective product from private insurance companies. It is a law that is the equivalent of the bank bailout bill—some $447 billion in subsidies for insurance interests alone—for the pharmaceutical and insurance industries. It is a law that is unconstitutional. And it is a law by which President Barack Obama, and his corporate backers, extinguished the possibilities of both the public option and Medicare for all Americans. There is no substantial difference between Obamacare and Romneycare. There is no substantial difference between Obama and Romney. They are abject servants of the corporate state. And if you vote for one you vote for the other.

--by Chris Hedges at Truthout.

dept of give it a rest

My girlfriend's parakeets are world-class hornbirds.

...and die behind the wheel...

The foolish dream of a pie-in-the-sky payout is but one of the many devices our rulers use to pry open our pockets and steal our money.

Another is endlessly repeating the blatant whopper that Social Security is insolvent, with the aim of stealing that money. Another is refusing to kick in for health care ("We cheat the other guy and pass the savings on to YOU"). But for right now, let's stick to the lottery.

As I'm writing this, the centrist (translation = "right wing") governor of Pennsylvania is planning to "privatize" his state's lottery, in order to encourage "innovation" and enhanced "cash flow." For those of you have not yet achieved a cynical attitude toward these "folks," that means robbing Pennsylvanians more efficiently, not to mention ruthlessly.

When states start fleecing their humblest and most vulnerable citizens in order to boost revenue, we've hit bottom. And I'll say here and now that this is going to end very badly.

civilization and its discontents

Tom Tomorrow's new cartoon illustrates the stark differences between the hard work of rationalism and the dangers of magical thinking.

We are being ruled by the superstitious devotees of a primitive cult. They may think themselves the cream of the Acropolis, but rational observers agree...