Thursday, May 31, 2012

going down?

Atrios feels about like I do about Facebook, and said today

"I can't imagine how any new users actually see any appeal in Facebook. Leaving aside all the privacy issues, I imagine any new user would just see it as a multidimensional spam projection machine."

Then he links to an LA Times article that suggests that younger internet users don't generally care for the place, and see it as the place where their older sibs hang out.

don't believe it

in last few days we've all been seeing news that housing prices are finally bottoming out, and will soon turn the corner and start back up. But stop and think for a moment: does this sound familiar?

Economist and investor Barry Ritholtz writes Ever since the data made it obvious — at least to us — that Housing was topping out in 2006, we have watched with various degrees of bemusement the annual ritual that is the erroneous housing bottom call.

Many casual observers of Housing (along with a few pros) fail to understand the difference between monthly seasonality and actual improvement. This first came up in March 2008, when the (Wall Street Journal) screwed the pooch on February 2008 existing home sales, incorrectly reported Wave of Foreclosures Drives Prices Lower, Lures Buyers. Actual (existing home sales) were down 23.8% year over year. The Journal was suckered by how the (National Association of Realtors) spinmeisters shaped the narrative, emphasizing monthly data (at least from March to September).

These bad calls reoccur every Spring, as the data begins its annual improvement. I use the phrase Perennially Wrong Bottom Callers and its acronym PWBC™ (I may have to trademark that!).

A reader doesn't have to get very far off the beaten track to realize that a lot of what we read in the whitebread media is frequently either inept and weak analysis or establishment propaganda. Or in this case, both. Ritholtz is not a radical anarchist-type economist, but he's impolite enough to point out that the same people trip over themselves every spring rushing to report the same good news they did last year.

Not one to make an unsupported assertion, Ritholtz backs up his argument/accusation by appending a long scroll of dozens articles from chronic perennially wrong bottom callers over the years, starting in '06. Every year, the same thing. Every year, the same people.

The US economy remains stagnant. There's nothing happening, and this is not the sort of money environment that gives any indication that a housing uptick is imminent.

what gives?

Has Seattle suddenly morphed into the nation's murder capitol?

By my count, eight in the city have been killed in the past week, starting when Justin Ferrari got shot on Cherry Street last Thursday while he was driving home from the airport with his parents and two kids in the car.

The next evening there was a fatal shooting at the Folk Life festival, which is an annual event at the Seattle Center -- the old world's fairgrounds.

Mostly there were yesterday's six fatalities, at least five of whom were shot by Lee Stawicki, who was also one of the dead.

All of this killing was done with handguns, which is what a bunch of suspected gangsters used to spray four south Seattle houses with bullets this past Saturday morning. Nobody got hit in that incident, but that was the same day a guy walking near the Space Needle got hit in the leg with a stray bullet.

I suppose I could suggest we adopt the intuitive solution to the problem of handgun violence in America, but what good would it do?

without no pants on

Spike Jones and his City Slickers perform the 1921 hit song, which was inspired by the movie sensation "The Sheik," starring Rudolf Valentino.

Valentino's love scenes with Agnes Ayres in "The Sheik" were considered scandalous by many at the time, and you can see one here.

smoakey the log

Our Seattle Mariners demolished Texas last night, running up a ridiculous score: 21-8. A big part of this lopsided victory was provided by Justin Smoak, 25, the pride of Goose Creek, South Carolina. Smoakey is a big, strong kid capable of hitting the long ball, and last night he hit two of them, driving in six runs in the process.

Jesus Montero, who has appeared in the space previously, also had a three-run homer, and Kyle Seager hit two doubles and two singles in four trips to the plate.

The Mariners are a very young, inexperienced team, but now showing definite signs that they're packing heavy lumber. They just need to find some consistency, and the right pitching combination. This week they're calling up a kid named Pryor from Tacoma, who reportedly throws 100-mph rockets and can hit a fly's eye at 90 feet.

Led by their no-nonsense and very serious manager Eric Wedge, the M's provide some hope for a city currently going through a tough time, seemingly competing with Detroit for the title of murder capital of the US.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

profits of doom

"Choose" is a big-ticket word among capitalists and those who carry their water.

According to those who believe that the profit-driven society represents the best of all possible worlds, if I can come up with a product -- any product which people want and choose to buy -- I have the right to sell it in the open market.

Now, when a product is both lethal and addictive, as cigarettes are, the concept of "choice" becomes very dicey. Still, those who wish to sell this product are protected by the First Amendment, since advertising is certainly speech, and by the unwritten law that says profit is sacred, and must under no circumstances ever be portrayed as something sick, twisted, or unethical.

After all, those smokers "choose" to buy and "consume" this product.

However, when we collectively realized that tobacco companies were deliberately targeting 14-year-old kids in their advertising, getting them hooked early and fortifying their product with extra nicotine in order to produce a nice strong addiction, and that furthermore tobacco smoke contains numerous substances which can kill if taken in large enough amounts or over a long enough time, the redeeming aspect of the holy profit motive was laid aside (just in this one case).

Tobacco addiction was trendy, fashionable, and all the rage from the time of World War I until about 25 years ago. Today, smoking is socially gauche and decidedly unglamorous, and the companies which make this product are on the outs. But if you want or choose to get lung cancer or emphysema, cigarettes are still sold legally. For a profit. And the overseas markets are booming.

Today, we're undergoing the same experience with processed foods as we did earlier with tobacco, as there is no longer any doubt that this is the cause of the twin epidemics of obesity and diabetes currently plaguing the U.S. White, refined flour has been identified as the "original fast food" by Michael Pollan, and after it was joined by white, refined sugar in the 19th century, led to processes being applied to every conceivable foodstuff, since processed food delivers big profits to the producers, and people over the decades have tended to "choose" it enthusiastically whenever it was available, and especially when it's been heavily advertised.

Our legacy from this has been premature death, cancers, and other chronic intestinal diseases.

I can't leave this topic without saying a few words about pornography, still a taboo subject, even though in recent times, especially in the new century and largely because of the spread of the internet, it's become ubiquitous due to its profitability and the tendency of people, especially men, to "choose" to "consume" it.

Like cigarettes and processed food, pornography is immensely profitable. Unlike those other things, it isn't lethal, but works its destructive effects on society by poisoning relationships between men and women. Fifty years ago, what little porn was available was extremely ugly and low-quality, and a person would have to be pretty weird to find it stimulating.

Naomi Wolf explains in some detail what has happened to us, what porn destroys, and why. It's not an academic study, but as clear explanations go, this one would be hard to beat.

We desperately need to re-examine the assumptions that provide the foundational ideology of our economic system, and re-think the unquestioning adherence to the idea of profit as the highest good. In such an environment, culture follows economics like the wagon follows the horse, and if death and destruction are profitable, then they are "good," and that's totally wrong.

enquiring minds want to know

Why is this man laughing? And why is he wearing a clump of hair from the shower drain on his head? (Betty Cracker wants to know that one.)

We would also like to know if he thinks he's flashing a peace sign? Probably not. And wondering, does he know that with the palm of the hand facing toward him, that makes this an obscene Italian hand gesture? Probably so.

Mighty flows the Don. His bizarre attempts at clever humor make ya wonder.

crude gestures

The price of crude oil fell below $90/barrel this morning for the first time this year.

With the fate of the Euro still up in the air and Greece continuing to teeter on the edge of default, there's no mystery to why this is happening. But still, I wonder why gasoline prices here in the Pacific Northwest keep going up, when the cost of crude oil has been falling for the past month.

Gas prices appear to be falling everywhere except on the west coast, so I guess we must be special out here. At least we're not creeps, but it's tough, having to pay for the privilege.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

changes in attitude, changes in latitude

Closing his eyes and going to sleep, Bob Dylan was at the White House today where he accepted the presidential medal of freedom from the hands of the president and from a grateful nation.

(klap klap)

Dylan did not wear jeans or a denim jacket, did not carry his guitar to the ceremony, and did not attempt to sing "Masters of War" to Obama.

Times have certainly changed. I remember a time when Dylan would have done all those things. He had a much stronger voice in those days.


We already knew that the masters of the universe don't want any of their hard-earned money being spent to subsidize a layabout lifestyle. But are they so sick that they'll stoop to rolling us for the change in our pockets?

With the standard measure of unemployment still over eight percent, (it dropped one percentage point over the past year), all the states which haven't already done so will now cut the maximum duration of the period a worker can be eligible for unemployment compensation. From the Yahoo news blog The Lookout:

Hundreds of thousands of jobless Americans are losing their federal unemployment benefits earlier than they expected due to new rules passed in February that make it harder for states to qualify for extended jobless aid, the New York Times reports.

At the height of the recession, Congress passed a law to boost unemployment assistance to up to 99 weeks: The unemployed would receive federal money instead of state funds if they continued to be jobless past the traditional period of six months. In February, Congress extended this law, but added rules that would draw down the number of weeks the government would pay for, based on whether a state's jobless rate had decreased and other factors. Now, only three states still offer 99 weeks of assistance, and all three will stop doing so in September.

The only reason the current depression, which began at the end of 2007 and will turn five years old this coming December, the only reason it's not as bad as the Great Old One of 1929-1939 is because of government payouts to the proles, Social Security and unemployment insurance, mainly. Nearly all of this money is used for life's necessities -- rent, food, fuel, and bills. If there's any left, a person might be able to see a doctor or dentist. People aren't making payments on Cadillac Escalades with their $275 a week unemployment checks.

So once again, the victims of this second Wall-Street depression in 80 years pay the price, and this, as the song says, "While there are others living among us who go unmolested, though in the wrong."

Monday, May 28, 2012


Those who died in the service of the United States will surely be remembered today, as they should be.

Less frequently remembered by Americans are the non-combatants killed in the countries the US has warred with since the end of World War II.

About 935,000 Korean civilians died during the Korean War, with higher mortality in the North than the South (

There were roughly a million civilian deaths on both sides of the Vietnam War. That's a moderate-to-conservative estimate; in 1995, the Vietnamese government estimated the civilian death toll at twice that number. (

It was very difficult to find any statistical information on civilian casualties in Nicaragua and El Salvador during the Reagan interventions of the '80s.

There were fewer civilian deaths during the first Iraq War, known officially as Desert Storm, than in most American expeditionary actions. However, Baghdad was bombed repeatedly, leading to something in excess of 100,000 non-combatant fatalities (

The web site Iraq Body count estimates between 107 and 117 thousand civilians died during the second Iraq War of 2003-2011 (

Although it has lasted longer than the second Iraq War, the war in Afghanistan has been fought at a low level of intensity off and on since 2001 when it began, and has not been as deadly. Still, roughly 50,000 civilians have been killed by belligerents on both sides since the conflict began (–present).

If we assign Reagan's Central American wars an arbitrary civilian death toll of 50,000 -- actually a conservative estimate -- and add it in with all the other civilian war death figures above, and keeping in mind that these are rough guesstimates only, then between two and two-and-a-half million civilians have died in American expeditionary conflicts since the end of World War II.

No matter what they turn out to be, these numbers are much higher than the total numbers of American war dead in all these wars.

I believe we should remember the victims of war. I believe we should remember and honor the memory of all of them.

Photo: My Lai Village, Vietnam, 1968.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

rehooligan intestine discord

Famous pundit George Will today called Donald Trump a "bloviating ignoramus."

This morning on "This Week," ABC News' George Will called Donald Trump a "bloviating ignoramus," questioning why presumptive Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney is associating with the real estate mogul, who once again falsely questioned President Obama's birthplace this week.

I love it when these guys fight amongst themselves, especially over something as stupid and pointless as the birther meme.

re-runs, clean and dirty

As a kind of public service, I want to re-run the info I posted six months ago under the title "The Dirty Dozen."

This is a critical health issue for all Americans because pesticides overuse is completely out of control in California's central valley, where so much of our food comes from. In addition, cotton farmers in the area around Bakersfield defoliate their crop so it can be picked by machines, and some of the paraquat, a cousin of Agent Orange, which they use for that purpose is carried by breezes to where food crops are growing.


A non-profit watchdog organization, the Environmental Working Group, has compiled a list of the 12 most heavily-pesticided fruits and vegetables which they call the dirty dozen. For example, when we eat a stalk of non-organically raised celery, we're taking in as many as 67 different pesticides. The foods on this list all have soft skins which makes them more likely to absorb the poisons they're sprayed with. They are:

1. Celery

2, Peaches

3. Strawberries

4. Apples

5. Domestic blueberries

6. Nectarines

7. Bell peppers

8. Spinach, kale and collard greens

9. Cherries

10. Potatoes

11. Imported grapes

12. Lettuce

When you buy these items, you should either pay the extra money for organic or avoid them altogether.

In addition to the dirty dozen, the EWG also lists the "clean 15" roster of non-organically-grown produce which is relatively safe to eat. Most of these have a thick outer layer which protects their insides from contamination.

1. Onions

2. Avocados

3. Sweet corn

4. Pineapples

5. Mango

6. Sweet peas

7. Asparagus

8. Kiwi fruit

9. Cabbage

10. Eggplant

11. Cantaloupe

12. Watermelon

13. Grapefruit

14. Sweet potatoes

15. Sweet onions

I've noticed that carrots, oranges, and bananas, which many people eat every day, are not on either list. I always buy organic carrots because they're thin-skinned, but I don't mind eating non-organic oranges and bananas because they're thick-skinned.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

not even a mollusk

Governor Sam Brownshirtback of Kansas has signed a new state law forbidding the use of sharia (Muslim law) in his state.

I haven't seen any detailed reports, but I assume the state of Kansas has been under siege from hordes of Muslim immigrants who, as we have seen before, attempt to impose their furrin and barbaric standards on whatever societies they penetrate. They constantly agitate to replace the steeples and crosses on all churches with domes, turning them into mosques (or maybe synagogues -- it's so hard to tell the difference).

They also insist that local native residents pray five times a day. Most Kansans already do that, but the Mohammedan interlopers demand they call God "Allah" instead of "Jesus," and face eastward toward Mecca while praying. Then they shout their battle cry, "Allah akbar -- today Kansas, tomorrow, Oklahoma."

They also would like the poem "The Night Before Christmas" replaced by their own children's narrative, "The Night Before Ramadan."

'Twas the night before Ramadan, and all through the mosque,
Not a creature was stirring, not even a mollusk

Thanks to Jesus, we have vigilant state governments whose members work hard to prevent the intolerant fanatics of a paternalistic and aggressive form of monotheism from dominating our society.

Friday, May 25, 2012

the profit

The blogger Magorn, writing at DKos, informs us that Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin has appointed a "deer czar," but I learned from the new "czar" himself that his actual title is "White Tailed Deer Trustee."

"To win this thing," Magorn says of the Wisconsin recall election campaign now in progress, "we need a wedge issue that peels off some of his support, particularly in his Northern WI base areas. Fortunately Scott Walker has just handed us just such a wedge on a sliver platter in his appointment of Dr. James Kroll as the State's "deer Czar". You see Dr. Kroll considers allowing hunters to hunt for free on state-managed game lands, 'the last bastion of communism' and want (sic) to do away with it altogether."

Dr. Kroll answers this charge on the Ultimate Outdoors Radio site with a posting which begins, "I always have made it my policy not to become involved in political issues," which ignores the fact that he's a political appointee in a new, controversial position which is bound to become a lightning rod.

The doctor goes on to say in the second long, tedious paragraph of a very long and nearly opaque essay that "Although there is no way to combat anonymous postings on Internet blogs about me, I can speak in a straightforward manner about my positions and will continue to do so."

"OK," says I, "you can start any time." But Dr. Kroll is just beginning to warm to his task, and two paragraphs later says, "I think this is the time to firmly and completely express what my values and philosophies are."

But by that time I had figured out that anyone waiting for him to do what he said he wanted to do was waiting for Godot. After another eight or ten volleys of word salad, he closes with "I cannot undo this slander, but I can be clear. If you read my words above carefully, you should understand where I stand," then finishes by saying he "stands" with the sportsmen and women of Wisconsin, the rural lifestyle, Native American rights, hunting and fishing recreation, and the white-tailed deer. After thousands of words of evasion and obfuscation, it becomes obvious Dr. Kroll is hoping whoever reads this crap won't notice that he hasn't said a single word about what specific policies he favors.

To find that out, you'd have to do a little more research, and learn about Dr. Kroll's relationship with Harrisburg Plantation, which is one of those for-profit operations where rich assholes pay big bucks up front to go shoot an animal.

So until he denies it directly or I see evidence to the contrary, I'll maintain that the policies of the new Deer Czar of Wisconsin are to prohibit hunting in the places it has traditionally been done -- public lands and private farms which aren't posted -- and to "privatize" deer hunting in Wisconsin, thereby turning a tidy profit for the state and the Walker regime.

By their fruits you shall know these MF's, even when they blow tremendous smokescreens.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

hoarse race

According to the Yahoo elections blog The Ticket, cell phone users will vote heavily in favor of Obama, while land line users prefer Romney.

The article doesn't say anything about the political preferences of rotary phone users, though, and now I'm really curious.

just around the corner

New unemployment claims this week: 370,000 -- not good news.

And no, the economics shamans pulling this handful of rabbit turds out of a top hat are not handing us this shit because the confidence fairy didn't leave a nice, shiny new dime under their pillow. They're doing it because they don't give a rat rump about ordinary people.

So the captains of finance and industry keep telling each other that EL DEFICITO is the main problem, which gets repeated by the administration they appointed, and then is amplified through the network TV echo chamber. Trouble is, nobody actually believes it any more, not even the people saying it.

They all know as well as John Maynard Keynes did that cutting spending during a depression makes things worse. They simply don't care.

This is the fifth year of the depression. Unemployment is stuck at slightly above eight percent. Where's our hope and change?

Dump Obama.

But don't vote for that poorly-programmed idiot robot running against him. You'll be sorry if you do.

This is going to be difficult.

hot time in the old town ain't over yet

Reported by the Chicago Trib:

Thousands of Chicago Public Schools teachers rallied at the Auditorium Theater tonight to loudly voice their displeasure with their salaries and the longer school day that’s being extended district wide next fall.

One of the key targest (sic) for the teachers was Mayor Rahm Emanuel, who has pushed the longer school day among other education reforms. His name elicited loud “boos” whenever it was mentioned.

"He's lost touch with reality," said John Thuet, who teaches History at Harper High School. "I feel like we're getting walked on. They’re extending our hours, not giving us raises. And if we don’t stop it now, I don’t know when it will stop."

If Rahm thinks people are going to work longer hours for the same money, then in the immortal words of Cab Calloway, "Look at this dog, he looks like he's losin his mind."

Really, the guy's gone off his trolley, with power gone to his head. It happens to a lot of em, and this one's the mayor of Chicago who thinks he's the king of Town.

He can't dictate such stuff -- that's ridiculous. If he wants to negotiate, let him sit down and stop ordering people around.

Everyone has dealt with this situation. It's always the same, whether it's the new mayor, the assistant director of the library, the assistant night manager, or whatever. Give a little person a big job and watch the ego swell up like a sprained ankle.

Photo by Terrence Antonio James, Chicago Tribune.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

changing of the guard -- UPDATED

Police in Frankfurt sent to arrest "blockupy" demonstrators instead took off their helmets and badges and joined the demonstration. They then defended the demonstrators against military units sent in to disperse them.

I guess they don't like "austerity" very much. Frau Merkel will not be pleased, but seriously, I don't think anyone cares about that any more.

UPDATE: OK, I got snookered. The German cops did not join the protesters.

I generally consult two sources for a story, for my own comfort and safety. The two for this story were first Ted, my friend at BNet, and secondly it was all over the Twitter. Twitter is not a totally reliable source of hard information, but the picture Ted supplied sealed the deal for me. However, what's happening in that picture is not what we had hoped it was.

The true story from the Associated Press:

"German police officers escort an anti-capitalism protest march with some 20,000 people in Frankfurt, Germany, Saturday, May 19, 2012. Protesters peacefully filled the city center of continental Europe's biggest financial hub in their protest against the dominance of banks and what they perceive to be untamed capitalism, Frankfurt police spokesman Ruediger Regis said. The protest group calling itself Blockupy has called for blocking the access to the European Central Bank, which is located in Frankfurt's business district." (AP Photo/Michael Probst)

Mea Culpa, and next time I won't regard what I read on the Twitter as a reliable source for anything except tentative and as-yet-unproven facts.


none of the above

That's who I'm voting for this year.

Lips which suck on the corporate money hose will never touch mine.

Planning to vote? That's OK, but don't touch the screen for Robamney. If you do, you'll get the Romnobushma administration.

Vote for anybody else. Or anything else. I'm voting for either Jill Stein or Pedro. I'm not sure yet.

list of charges

Why occupy? In the absence of specific demands, what are the protests about? What are the grievances for which we seek redress?

1. The depression: for the second time in 80 years, the financial sector (Wall Street) descends into a feeding frenzy of speculation which crashes the entire economy, causing millions to lose their jobs -- their only means of material support. Rather than using available resources to help the victims, our elected government bails out the perpetrators.

2. The wars: The capitalist war state, not satisfied with imposing unemployment and foreclosure on the masses at home, continues campaigns of murder and mayhem overseas, in piratical invasions which by design go on forever, sucking up resources which could be used to alleviate the ravages of the depression.

3. The medical-industrial-insurance complex and the education distribution machine: The cost of routine health care is completely out of reach for average wage earners. Instead of addressing the problem, our elected government hands more power to the health insurance "industry" via a bogus health care "reform" program. The higher education necessary to make a decent living is likewise unaffordable for most citizens today, but our elected government chooses to abandon us, leaving our futures to the tender mercies of money lenders running a loan scam, rather than underwriting education.

4. & 5. The fate of the earth: Environmental degradation threatens all life on the planet, a threat our elected government refuses to seriously address due to its Babylonian captivity by multinational corporations, whose methods and techniques of production have caused the crisis.

It's that final item which is the root and origin of all the others, and if we can't have a government that represents us and our interests, rather than representing the corporations which have bribed the governors to represent only them, then we will make this country totally ungovernable.

Revolution now.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

unsuitable for family viewing

Orson Wells was a deep thinker, and never willing to dumb down for Hollywood. "Citizen Kane" is often called a masterpiece, but I don't believe it. "Kane" was certainly on the cinematic cutting edge, but never rises above its somewhat tawdry two-part mission: it's equal parts biopic and vendetta.

Wells did make a masterpiece, but nobody has ever seen it. The studio condensed Wells's 132-minute epic, "The Magnificent Ambersons," to 88 minutes, then tacked on a re-shot "happy ending." Wells's greatest movie became the film equivalent of a painting by Leonardo or Vermeer getting re-worked in primary colors by a sign painter.

After that Wells was pretty much done directing for the studios. He did some independent work which tended to suffer from its very low budgets, and continued acting in Hollywood to try to finance his own pictures. He was frustrated most of his life and died an incompleted genius.

Dennis Perrin has a heartfelt appreciation of "Ambersons" on his blog today. Noting that the film is impressive even in its mutilated form, he analyzes the theme of "lost time and altered lives," and includes a wonderful short clip of this now-lost adaptation of the novel of the same name by Booth Tarkenton, featuring Joseph Cotton as Eugene Morton, and Tim Holt as the petulant and spoiled George Amberson.

felix the k

I have no intention of turning the catboxx into a baseball blog, but I simply can't allow last night's Mariners win over the Texas Rangers, touted by some as "the best team in baseball," to go unremarked.

Our Cy Young Award pitcher, Felix Hernandez, demolished 'em, and Seattle's bats are finally cracking for a change, with lots more hitters besides Jesus and Ichiro getting into the act. See the Seattle Times for details of last night's 6-1 romp.


The best synopsis and analysis of the extended weekend's events in Chicago I've seen, by Gaius Publius at AmericaBlog. An excerpt:

"These images sum to an establishment that's frightened and feeling under siege. They are afraid that Occupy will have an effect and are determined to stamp it out.

"This is excellent news, in my opinion. It means:

--Occupy still has their attention...

--The Masters of the State are determined — stupidly in my opinion — to make themselves and their cops the news; to send a message, as it were.

"Message sent. I was worried during the winter hiatus that Occupy would become ho-hum, last week's newspaper. The State's preoccupation (heh) means Occupy might still build critical mass."

Monday, May 21, 2012

getting unstuck

Obama came out of his NATO meeting today with an announcement that the 33,000 "surge" troops he sent to Afghanistan in 2009 would all be home within 15 months, with 10,000 of them leaving by the end of this year (Video and text).

This is good news, but not good enough, since 70,000 American troops will still be over there after this drawdown is finished. The plan now is to leave them in for a couple more years, and it'll take at least a couple more really big demonstrations to get that revised.


Under a headline reading "NATO Talks a Sham: War in Afghanistan Is Not Ending," Rep Dennis Kucinich responds to the NATO summit and Obama's announcement as follows:

"Today, NATO leaders are meeting in Chicago to discuss the future of Afghanistan. The talks are being billed as discussions of plans to end the war. The war in Afghanistan is not ending. These talks are simply about financing the next phase of the war.

"The Strategic Partnership Agreement between the U.S. and Afghanistan commits us to the country for at least another decade, despite public support for the war being at an all-time low. The United States will pay for half of the estimated $4.1 billion per year cost of supporting 352,000 Afghan army and police officers. Afghanistan's contribution will be $500,000. The rest will be financed by our 'NATO partners.' It is not surprising that support for the war among NATO members is waning, with France threatening to pull out its troops by the end of this year."

My take on all this is that this clusterschnazzle will be over some time next year, as it will be forced by public turmoil and pressure exterted by our underwriters allies.

everything's wrong, & nuthin ain't right

On a discussion board I frequent, a poster complains that she doesn't know what the 99 percenters want, and tries to find something to focus on:

I want to see *everything* down to their hides taken away from the 'bankers' and 'brokers' who falisfied incomes, etc to write those shaky mortgages. Absolutely! But - I also want the people who applied for those fraudulent mortgages to be held responsible in some way for the papers tehy signed. I am NOT buying it that each and every person gettting into one of those disastrous mortgages was a totally innocent lamb who was led astray and had no idea they were committing fraud.

My only disagreement with her has to do with the need to focus on one problem, and while I can't speak for the occupy movement (nobody can), I believe it's a mistake to address specifics this way. At this stage of the game we need to use a shotgun (metaphorically speaking), not a rifle.

You don't go to the NATO protest to talk about liars' loans.

The liars loans' bubble created an enormous and still largely unresolved mess, but it was only one aspect of the financial meltdown of 2007-08 and the ensuing depression. And the crash and depressed economy are only one facet of the comprehensive economic, political, ethical, and ecological crises we're now stuck in.

The crisis is a nine-headed monster, like the mythological hydra, but it's a single thing that came out of a single egg: the modern industrial capitalist war state.

Some of the people involved with the various 99 percent movements are pro-Obama Democrats looking for reform (and I always say every home should have a liberal, to keep the kids entertained if nothing else). However, I think most of us are not liberals, but revolutionaries whose objective is the total dismantling of the captalist structure of this society and nation, a hydra consisting of corrupt politicians who follow orders given by multinational corporations and bankster buccaneers.

We really don't have attention deficit disorder; there's just a lot going on that demands attention: America as the war machine, endlessly pursuing its capitalist fantasy of controlling the global oil supply, Wall Street being bailed out for the losses it incurred in the meltdown it caused, a government catfood commission trying to monkey-wrench social security and medicare so capitalist elites can vacuum up in tax breaks the money that would otherwise be spent on those things, and possibly the most important issue, the fate of the earth itself, and everything living on it.

To point to abuses is to condemn them; to condemn them is to demand that they stop.

Our objective, in other words, is the utter destruction of this ruling class, whose continued existence is incompatible with the existence of society, or even life on earth. So I think that so far, the best mission statement/program/list of demands the occupy movement can come up with is still this one.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

jesus ball

When Jesus Montero hits a home run, it invariably goes out to center field, and doesn't just barely clear the fence, either, but always falls deep in the seats.

He hit one just a couple innings ago, just like that. One of these days he'll hit a ball that leaves the park.

The perennial story of the Mariners is "good field, no hit," but I expect them to lose that designation as this season progresses. Yesterday in Colorado they went bananas and scored 10 runs.

Montero is going to fill a key role in the team's renaissance. I had this guy pegged as a ringer the first time I saw him play.

Photo: Seattle Times

oil, jobs, and money

We don't need them.

We need land, peace, and freedom.

Give us the land ruined by monocropping and pesticides use by Monsanto and Cargill, and we'll make it right.

US out of Afghanistan, out of Iraq, out of Pakistan, out of Yemen, and out of our faces.

Tax the rich.

The Earth: love it or leave it.

Friday, May 18, 2012

jesus & the money

Ya, ya. Let's take a walk down memory lane; just 3-1/2 years ago, this birther delusion Assrocket here alludes to was #1!

Coming up next in the wingnut hit parade -- another oldie but goodie: Remember Rev. Jeremiah Wright? Yes, you do? Well let us refresh your memory anyway.

So here are the Mussolini Sisters with "You know he's Mister Wrong, though he says he's Mister Wright."

roundabout seattle

I'll be traveling to the forest this morning as I usually do, so chances are that my career as a blogger and know-it-all will be temporarily compromised. Forecasts are for light-to-nonexistent posting for the next couple of days, as I attack the weeds in the garden and the food at the local cafe.

I'm glad to say I'll be moving away from the city very soon, but as cities go, this isn't a bad one. If you depart from the beaten path just a block or two, you're liable to run across considerable civic pride, expressed in such little projects as this lovely traffic roundabout at 112th and Fremont. It's maintained by the totally voluntary, unsolicited, and anonymous efforts of neighborhood residents, although probably their immediate neighbors know who they are.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

heartbreak of ods

Absolutely, can't stand him and won't vote for him.

But I don't have Obama Derangement Syndrome. Don't know what that is? See anything by conservative media star Michelle Malkin, especially her Twitter™© feed.

I wrote her this morning with the good news: ODS is treatable.


It's an observation older than Jesus: "Just because you don't take an interest in politics doesn't mean politics won't take an interest in you" (Pericles, quoted by Thucydides).

temporary victory

A federal judge appointed by Obama has temporarily struck down ("preliminarily enjoined") the National Defense Authorization Act, which provides for indefinite detention without charges of US citizens deemed by the military to be supporting terrorism, because it violates the First and Fifth Amendments.

Glenn Greenwald has all the details.

The decision will stand only as long as it takes for the neocon fascist majority on the Supreme Court to get their paws on it. In this case, Roberts, Scalia, and Associates ought to be able to swallow supporting something that Obama signed.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

goldfish gorgonzola

Melvin Finnacle of Costa Mocosa, Florida, poses proudly with the ginormous salt-water goldfish he caught in the ocean, not far from his home.

Although goldfish are a type of carp, which is not a noted delicacy, Melvin swears they're delicious when baked at a medium temperature, topped with a mixture of gorgonzola cheese, blueberry yogurt, and graham cracker crumbs. Bon appetit.


The city of Seattle's ban on plastic bags takes effect on July first, and that's all right by me, and by anyone else who's the least concerned with our trash crisis.

We've ignored that plastic trash midden the size of Texas which is killing wildlife in the North Pacific for way too long. In fact, we've ignored the trash crisis much longer than we should have, and at our extreme peril.

The capitalist class of owners and manufacturers endlessly touts the ease and convenience of our disposable society, but if we look at what's resulted from it at ground level we recognize that it's not the least bit easy or convenient.

Wendell Berry grew up alongside the Kentucky River near where it joins the Ohio, at a time when the surrounding landscape was mostly small, gem-like farms, lovingly worked by hands and mules. Today the prospect has radically changed for the worse, and a large part of problems is trash.

"When the river rises," Berry writes, "it carries a continuous raft of cans, bottles, plastic jugs, chunks of styrofoam, and other imperishable trash. After the floods subside, I, like many other farmers, must pick up the trash before I can use the bottomland fields." Noting that he has seen the Ohio so choked with this debris that an ant would be able to walk "dry-footed" from Kentucky to Indiana, Berry complains that "Our roadsides and roadside fields lie under a constant precipitation of cans, bottles, the plastic-ware of fast food joints, soiled plastic diapers, and sometimes whole bags of garbage."

"Moreover," Berry says, "a close inspection of our countryside would reveal, strewn over it from one end to the other, thousands of derelict and worthless automobiles, house trailers, refrigerators, stoves, freezers, washing machines, and dryers; as well as thousands of unregulated dumps, in hollows and sink holes, on streambanks and roadsides, filled not only with "disposable" containers, but also with broken toasters, television sets, toys of all kinds, furniture, lamps, stereos, radios, scales, coffee makers, mixers, blenders, corn poppers, hair dryers, and microwave ovens."

Berry sees the avalanche of trash appliances and furnishings as a result of "intentional flimsiness and unrepairability" of this stuff, and concludes, "There are days when I would be delighted if certain corporation executives could somehow be obliged to eat their products."

Obviously we're looking at a massive job cleaning up this mess, but even more obviously, the worst struggle occurs at the source, putting an end to the production of this garbage. And that's the hard part, because in this modern and up-to-date nation, anything that turns a profit and for which there is a demand is the holy of holies -- sacred and untouchable.

We live in the only country in the history of the world where people lobby for war, death (the weapons industry), and making more trash and garbage. But not here in the good old Northwest, where banning the bag is an important first step.

All quotes from Wendell Berry appeared in his essay "Waste" (1989).


There was an enormous demonstration and march in Madrid yesterday and last night to mark the one-year anniversary of the first protests against fiscal austerity in Spain.

There were also large 99% protests in London and in New York City, Chicago, Los Angeles, and San Francisco. This movement is not going away, and it appears to be gathering strength with the return of good weather.

No mention of any of this on the front page of the New York Times, of course. We're back to playing the news blackout game in the US, but comprehensive news and photos are always available at the Guardian (UK) site where I got these pictures.

Besides protesting the ongoing felonies and follies of our plutocratic overlords, demonstrators in New York had something to celebrate, as the first OWS trial in that city ended with the acquittal of photographer Andrew Arbuckle (they must be trying the cases in alphabetical order), who was found not to have been blocking street traffic after the jury saw defense evidence provided by other photographers and videographers which clearly showed the only traffic impediment at that time and in that place was da police.

And there's a nice little irony here too, in that Arbuckle was not a 99 percenter, but a conservative journalism student who thought the police were being abused by protesters, and wanted to document it. Details here.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

back to the drachma

With one possible exception, that of the extended swan song of General Francisco Franco, the late fascist dictator of Spain, I've never seen a death agony as drawn-out as the ongoing demise of the Greek banking system. People can be excused for thinking it will go on indefinitely, or perhaps even forever.

Except it won't, and thank God the end is finally here. The financial site Zero Hedge reports: Anxious Greeks have withdrawn as much as 700 million euros ($893 million) from the nation’s banks since the inconclusive May 6 election, President Karolos Papoulias told party leaders yesterday, according to a transcript of the meeting posted on the presidency’s website today.

So, after Greek depositors clean out the Euros that remain in their banking system, Greece can go ahead and default (they should have done it a year ago), the Euro will give way to the drachma, and we'll know just how ugly the ripples of Greece's fall on the US and western European economies is going to be.

crime doesn't pay well

I'll tell you what would deter

crime would be if every

time a criminal does

a crime, someone

would let the air out of

all four of his tires.

you got to move

The time has come, the walrus said, to put a penny-per-ounce tax on soda, and a similar tariff on chips, etc.

With 2/3 of all Americans overweight, and 1/3 of us having crossed over into obesity, the time has definitely come.

Some say you can't legislate behavior with taxes, but that's bologna. Remember how smoking used to be glam? But then most advertising was banned, and cigarettes were taxed out of reach. Result: few children take up the habit.

This is a national health issue, and the only thing standing in the way of our dealing with it is lobbyists for the agribusiness industry.

Seize the carrot. And lose the high-fructose corn syrup.

Monday, May 14, 2012

the handwriting on the wall

I keep coming back to this thought because I love the name of it, which comes from the prophetic OT Book of Daniel Ch. 5.

Belshazzar, the Babylonian king, made a big feast for a thousand of his nobles, and used the gold and silver plates and cups that his old dad, Nebuchad-nezzar, had stolen out of the temple in Jerusalem. "They drunke wine and praised the gods of gold and of siluer, of brasse, of yron, of wood, of stone," says the (original) King James Version, (1611).

(5) "In the same houre came forth fingers of a mans hand, and wrote ouer against the candlesticke vpon the plaister of the wall of the Kings palace, and the king saw the part of the hand that wrote. (6) Then the kings countenance was changed, and his thoughts troubled him, so that the ioints of his loines were loosed, and his knees smote one against another."

So it means the same thing today as it did then, that something bad is going to happen.

I agree in a way with conservatives who see this development of gay marriage as another sign that civilization as we have known it is falling apart. You're not wrong; it is.

I'm just not sure that civilization as we've known it, and what we today think of as "tradition," is all that groovy. For one thing, our way of life -- the industrial age -- only began to evolve a couple hundred years ago, and only really began to spread and dominate everywhere about 150 years ago. So what we think of as tradition isn't really all that traditional.

I try as much as possible to live in the future rather than trying to hang on to the past. The future I see coming will rely much more on old, semi-forgotten ways of life than we experience now -- people living in smaller places, getting (or growing) their food locally, and depending on local business. 90 percent fewer cars and no Wal-Mart.

It will be a democratic society, where nobody bothers about whether the neighbors enjoy themselves in their own way.

down the drain

Jamie Dimon says he doesn't know exactly what happened to the $2 billion. The head of the JP Morgan/Chase mega-bank may seem clueless, but I'm reasonably certain he's not.

Neither is John Corzine, the former chief of the now-defunct MF Global hedge fund, who sat in front of a congressional committee not very long ago and claimed that the $1.6 billion his firm had lost track of seemed to have "disappeared," to use his word.

Only a naif would believe a word these two grifters are putting out. They know perfectly well in both cases what happened to the "lost" money, but the last thing they're going to do is make that information public.

Don't believe it when they tell you that they're bankers, either. They're gamblers, and in JP Morgan's case, they've taken taxpayers' TARP money and now gambled a bunch of it away with the same kind of reckless double-downs and re-doublings that crashed the economy four years ago.

Just because the corporate press convey the mumbled evasions of banksters without blinking an eye doesn't mean we have to, even in polite society. Our lives will be a little less confusing once we start calling weasels and coyotes what they are -- varmints. Then maybe we'll be able to deal with them appropriately.

Sunday, May 13, 2012


If you would like to get a better look at yourself, avoid looking in the mirror.

Instead, close your two eyes and see if you can activate the other one, between your eyebrows. It's the one eye that looks in the opposite direction as the two eyes -- inward rather than outward.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

dead man walking

From the AP at Yahoo News:

In Egypt, Hamdi Hafez al-Nubi, a 28-year-old waiter, collapsed at work. Co-workers quickly took him to a hospital where he was found to be dead from a suspected heart attack.

The dead man's relatives retrieved his remains from the hospital, took him home to wash the body and prepare it for a Friday evening funeral and burial, and called a doctor to fill out the death certificate.

When the doctor arrived, he noticed the corpse was unusually warm. The funeral, now postponed, quickly became a party and family reunion after the doctor awakened Hamdi Hafez al-Nubi, whose mother promptly fainted. She was soon brought around and joined the festivities.

deep forest

Mr. and Mrs. Gnome, the mute gatekeepers standing permanent sentry at the doorway, graciously permitted me entry into the forest yesterday. Our minds have doorways too, like the one that snaps shut when we suddenly awaken from dreams which almost immediately begin to recede from memory.
Moving into the first layer of the woods, the traveler encounters a dream from the past, the fossilized remain of a 19th-century company town which prospered in a simpler time, when people's lives were organized on a much smaller scale. It's an early dream, like those which flit through our minds when we're still semi-conscious. The main gate into the depths is close at hand.

I've never seen the keepers of the main gate, who hide from view in their short towers and operate the fragile, temperamental mechanisms which permit, impede, or prevent access to the deep woods. I've heard them talking on the radio though, speaking in a cryptic, bureaucratic dialect that reveals as little information as possible.

Yesterday the gate was wide open. With the city, civilization's superego, receding into the distance behind, and the deep forest directly ahead, the mind prepares for the dream more real than any conscious perception, an egoless encounter with what religious devotees call "the soul," and which my late doctor, the famous Herr Jung, called "the collective unconscious."

It's a thrilling voyage, but you must be forewarned that you are likely to encounter your worst fear when you travel into the deepest part of the woods.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

mental dirigibles

I'm sitting here on my couch tonight listening to all that "modren" jazz and thinking really huge, ginormous thoughts, some the size of blimps. Have you ever thought of one nation, under God, in a dirigible? That's a very large thought, and would require a monstrous fat blimp.

Some of these thoughts are so huge they're flowing out my ears now and running around the room like those tiny bunny rabbits scampering among the creosote bushes in the shadow of San Jacinto on that spring morning in Desert Hot Springs so long ago.

I have seen the work of sorcerers and magicians.

I've been a visitor in hell and seen the suffering of the damned.

I went to the mountain and saw it burning when I was on fire too.

But now I'm here to tell you about it.

the handwriting on the wall

Actually, it says "Some come here to sit and think," but nevermind.

Belshazzar's Feast was painted by Rembrandt.

grabbing it with both hands

The Rude Pundit weighs in on the issue we're all talking about with his usual restraint, modesty, and razor-sharp perception.

No shit that it was a political calculation. In one of the most ignorant, backwards-ass editorials you'll read on the subject, the conservative roach swatter known as the National Review (motto: "Consistently against civil rights since before the Mulatto president was born") opined against President Barack Obama's statement that "I think same-sex couples should be able to get married." Said "the Editors"...Obama's "dishonesty is not merely a matter of pretending that he has truly changed his mind about marriage, rather than about the politics of marriage."

Of course it was political. The nation, as whole, has shifted towards supporting gay marriage. Actually, let's be a little more cynical about this. The Rude Pundit believes that when you see a poll that says, as a recent Pew one does, "65 percent of college-educated white women and 68 percent of whites under 30 backed the idea," what you're really seeing is that large swaths of the population just don't give a jolly rat shit about who's marrying who. The Rude Pundit talks on a regular basis to voters under 30 and to college-educated white women. You know what most of them say about gay marriage? "I don't care. If you wanna get married, get married. Now, pass the bowl."