Saturday, June 30, 2012
Writing under the title "The Second Secession Continues," Steve M. at No More Mister Nice Blog says:
Abortion is theoretically legal nationwide, but it's widely available in only some states, and it soon won't be available at all in some. Gay marriage will probably soon be legal in many states -- and will probably never be legal in others. Up here in the Northeast, we have gun laws; in most of the country, it's a firearms free-for-all.
And now, as ProPublica, The Wall Street Journal, and The New York Times have noted in the past couple of days, it's quite likely that many states of the Union simply won't go along with the Medicaid expansion in the health care law, thus continuing the process of turning America into two nations engaged in -- to use a phrase I didn't coin -- a cold civil war...
and he also quotes a Times article with states that Republican governors in Kansas, Nebraska, South Carolina, are opposed to expanding Medicaid on the grounds that the states will have to pick up a small portion of the costs.
A house divided against itself...
There will be no more plastic bags at Seattle's grocery stores, starting tomorrow, when the city-wide ban goes into effect. Numerous other communities around the Sound are following Seattle's lead. I believe Port Orchard, where I'm staying right now, is one of them.
You'll still be able to get a paper bag to haul your groceries home in, but it'll cost you a nickel. That, too, is a good thing. Though it's not much money, it will motivate people to finally carry that re-usable fabric bag to the store.
Remember, you'll need to put that cloth bag through the washer once in a while, now that it's no longer lingering in a kitchen drawer.
Friday, June 29, 2012
"It's amazing who shows up in the Rolodex," says Atrios, by way of linking to this story about the prevailing sentiment among small-business owners, as NPR heard it from good old Joe, down at Joe's Print Shop.
Joe, the humble, ink-stained workingman, gets around to a lot of places as it turns out. Fox Business News, NBC, where he appeared last evening after being heard on NPR the same morning, MSNBC, House and Senate committees, have all benefitted from hearing the testimony of this salt-of-the-earth tradesman, who just happens to be connected with the corporate-lobbying organization ALEC and Karl Rove's Crossroads political action committee (PAC).
How dumb do NPR (the "liberal" network) and NBC think we are? They think we're so dumb that if they don't tell us something, we'll never find it out.
This, gentle reader, is the essence of what they call "astroturf." Fake grass roots, abetted by a corporate media establishment arrogantly confident that they have a monopoly on information in the USA. Maybe in the old days, but not any more, suckahz!
Thursday, June 28, 2012
You can't describe, but recognize
When it comes your way; you say,
"That's the fullback whose fullbackness
is the very essence of fullbacks. May
he play for our team, stay healthy all year,
And fill the Green Bay Packers with dismay.
Bronco Nagurski, age 35, Chicago Bears, 1943
Otherwise, a great capture of an echo, and the screen shot on that big i-pad is genuine.
Serves em right, for reporting the story before it happened.
I can't ID the miniskirt Mussolini with egg on her face in the picture, but if it's any consolation to her, the Wolf Man over at CNN did the same damn thing.
Fair, balanced, and full of bazonga. Remember folks, you heard it here first! On TV!
Wednesday, June 27, 2012
The Rude Pundit, who lives up to his name, has already produced a thorough takedown of David Brooks's New York Times column yesterday.
I would like to add one minor observation, however, concerning this silly analysis of Bruce Springsteen's œuvre, which Brooks honors by constructing a psychological landscape within the heads of old Bruce's audience:
My best theory is this: When we are children, we invent these detailed imaginary worlds that the child psychologists call "paracosms." These landscapes, sometimes complete with imaginary beasts, heroes and laws, help us orient ourselves in reality. They are structured mental communities that help us understand the wider world.
Over the years, Springsteen built his own paracosm, with its own collection of tramps, factory closings, tortured Catholic overtones and moments of rapturous escape. This construction project took an act of commitment.
Nice theory, except what Brooks fails to notice is that Springsteen's work is what painters call "representational." His "tramps and factory closings" are as real as a heart attack, and never more so than in a song like "Youngstown," which Brooks mis-heard at the Springsteen concert he attended in Madrid.
Having never been a Springsteen fan, I wasn't familiar with the song, but I appreciate its history of Youngstown's tragic fate, interwoven with Springsteen's ideology. Afte all, it's where my family lived when I was a small kid, and my earliest memories are of this dreadful place as it used to be.
David Brooks is the Times's useful-idiot-in-chief, employed to tickle and stroke that massive American audience seeking reality, as long as it's not too real.
Sliding through to primaries victories yesterday were a couple of our old favourites, as we posted earlier at Beliefnet's US Snooze and Politics bored. Sen Orrin Hatch of Utah and Rep Charlie Rangel of New York are both going to return to the august halls of Congress, after facing token opposition this fall.
Their retention of their seats was energized by Geritol™ and helped along by Metamucil™. Both these great statesmen were favored by older voters, who show up more often than their younger cohorts, and are more dependably predictable, which makes them a lot like the people they vote for.
Hatch was endorsed by Sarah Palin despite his opponent, Dan Liljenquist's, tea party credentials. Rangel's opposition was Adriano Espaillat, an up-and-coming young Dominican-American, and I doubt this is the last we'll hear of him.
For now, however, there'll be no significant changes in Congress this year. We'll see the same old faces returning in 2013, running their same old song and dance, passing jobs bills with no jobs in them, moaning and groaning that Congress (that's them) is spending too much, while at the same time they pass more tax cuts for their rich pals. Anybody who points out that they're under-funding government operations by about 18 per cent, year after year, will be ignored.
This looks really stupid, as if the left hand didn't know what the right hand was doing, but appearances are deceiving. Orrin Hatch and Charlie Rangel and the rest of em know exactly what they're doing. That's why their campaign donors and the amounts they spend are big secrets.
This year, on the surface anyway, there will be no changes. Obama will win again, since the Republicans chose to nominate a dildo with hairspray. We'll get the same Congress back also, so it'll be status quo ante.
This entire crew of criminals and cretins, from Obama on down, are so numb with corruption they can't feel the ground shaking under their feet. There are huge changes happening in this country right now, and covering them up with the same old politics won't help. In fact the most significant political change happening now is the calcification of our institutions and the people filling them, as their roles and positions harden into stone.
I'm actually feeling somewhat optimistic.
Tuesday, June 26, 2012
A teen-aged lesbian couple living in a small Texas town were shot by an unknown assailant this past Friday. Mollie Olgin, 19, was dead at the scene, and Mary Christine Chapa, 18, is in a local hospital in serious but stable condition.
Olgin's roommate told reporters the couple, who had been dating for about five months, hadn't received any threats or been harassed. (Portland, Texas Police) Chief (Randy) "Wright said that although the events did seem more like measured attacks than a random action, they were not currently investigating the murder as a hate crime."
Full story here.
Since Chief Wright has no suspects and the motive for this murder and attempted murder is thus not known for certain, his reticence to categorize it as a hate crime is understandable. However, Portland, Texas listeners can tune their radios to 88.5, KAYK, out of Victoria, Texas, Monday through Friday. One of the American Family Association's network of 200 stations in 35 states, KAYK features "Focal Point," a two-hour daily talk show hosted by Bryan Fischer, the AFA's "director of issue analysis" and one of the country's most strident opponents of what he calls "the homosexual-rights movement."
Fischer, profiled by Jane Mayer in the June 18 New Yorker, holds social and political positions Mayer describes as "far to the right of Fox News," and is dangerously obsessed with homosexuality. No one should be surprised if hate radio should bear, or has already borne, a bloody harvest.
This is ludicrous. It's June 26, temp is 53 degrees and it's drizzly. The calendar says it's summer, but you could have fooled me.
My friend Dian posted the BC strip on F___eB__k (cross yourself if you said it out loud). Click on it to make it bigger.
At last, the Supremes have delivered their decision on that Arizona anti-illegal-immigrant law.
So now this case finally comes up, and people continue getting all wrapped around the axle over all these dern furriners a-comin here, but I'd say the timing is inappropriate.
'Cause it's like those yahoos in AZ and the Supremes and everybody haven't even noticed that nobody wants to come here any more, because of the crappy economy mainly. Just as if two guys in a bar are fighting over some woman, and while they're at it she leaves with somebody else.
Monday, June 25, 2012
I was over at Miss Moneypenny's Saturday evening, and she cooked something the world should know about. (Or maybe it already does, and I was the last one to find out.) One great thing about it is it's real simple -- "EZPZ" as Ms. Moneypenny herself puts it. Another is how it tastes, and a third is that it's comfort food.
Use whatever kind of vegetables you want; tonight I'm using Roma tomatoes, an yellow onion, red bell pepper, broccoli, mushrooms, and zucchini. I'll cut em up bite size and toss em in a bowl with olive oil and spices, then dump em onto a pizza pan to bake at 400 for half an hour.
While that's goin on cook up your pasta in an amount appropriate for the number of food eaters on hand. After you drain it mix in a bit of pesto. Have a nice pile of Parmesan cheese grated, and after mixing vegetables & pasta together, top it with cheese while it's still very hot. The cheese will then melt. Yum, yum.
As you can see, it's a totally flexible recipe. Just pick whatever vegetables ring your bell, those can and should vary. If you're a garlic person, I don't know when or how you'd put the magic in. Maybe roast the cloves with the vegetables, then put em through a press?
Sunday, June 24, 2012
I'm still a political creature, but I don't know if I can write about politics and economics any more. Every time I read a politics or econ news story lately, I end up either angry or depressed. Sometimes both. Then if the story proves worthy of becoming a clump in the Catboxx, I'll end up writing an angry-depressed blog piece.
For example, looking at a few random news stories just today I come up with this.
Or maybe you prefer exotic and heavily-overdecorated fantasy to mundane, boring money-grubbing.
Or maybe you're afraid the Iranians are going to nuke us while we sleep with that bomb they don't have. Or maybe you're not. Either way, the standard story on this topic -- on all these topics -- is depressing and dumb. I don't know what's worse, the stories, or the stories about the stories.
The problem is, if I don't write about politricks and ecomics, what can I write about? Maybe I could just write about Jesus and the money. And you know, Jesus hasn't been doing too good lately. He's been striking out an awful lot. I hope he's OK, and just having a little slump.
Photo: Silvio Berlusconi
Saturday, June 23, 2012
This dispatch comes to you from far away, deep in the interior. I'm in the rain forest, where it's always cool and wet, in a gingerbread house full of living things -- dogs, cats, birds, plants, worms, intestinal microorganisms, humans.
It's like living in a dream, being in this place, dreaming of a better world, one that's at peace with itself, and men and women work together in the green fields with dignity, for the laborer is worth her or his hire.
I suppose I could wake up and escape -- if I wanted to, but where would I go then? Back to the city? The city is a racetrack; its narrow streets crowded with noisy vehicles rushing about aimlessly, full of concrete, asphalt, glass, and steel. I've had enough of the urban dream-crusher.
A better world begins with a dream.
My grandfather, who was the oldest pinko in Spokane, Washington, invented his own TV mute button in the late 1950's. Actually it was a toggle switch, not a button.
He was decades ahead of his time, but had high hopes for this little device, which he modestly called "the greatest invention since the wheel."
When I sleepily opened the back door at my girlfriend's house on getting up this morning, I was jolted fully awake by the beauty of what greeted the eye. Even though it's another wet and crappy June day here, the wet, shiny boards of the deck, the neon green of the freshly-cut grass, and the ridiculous, startling red of a couple potted geraniums, looking like exclamation points in a gray day, caused me to wonder, "What could be better than this?"
Friday, June 22, 2012
The graphic shows partial results of a poll constructed by Dartmouth Professor Benjamin Valentino and conducted last month by the professional pollsters at YouGov. (Click on it to improve legibility.) There was lots more to it than what's shown above, and the results are analyzed in more detail here.
However, the figures from this poll commentators have zeroed in on so far are the same ones we can expect pundits to hammer on going forward, which show that significantly more than half of all Republicans believe to this day that we invaded Iraq because Saddam Hussein was threatening us with a big pile of doomsday weapons, and that President Obama was born outside the United States.
I'm neither surprised nor dismayed by this. I've known for a long time that most Republicans are convinced that "I'm entitled to my own opinion" means the same thing as "I'm entitled to my own facts," and, feeling tremendous resentment toward the world they see unraveling in front of them, feel entitled to construct one they like better, inside their heads.
So, are we to conclude, then, that Republicans are delusional? That's not news, and if you wonder why this particular aspect of this particular story is getting so much play (check for yourself on Google or Yahoo), stop thinking about Republicans, and turn your attention to the Democrats.
When it comes to spreading propaganda, Democrats tend to choose tools like the hypodermic needle, so as to inoculate sleeping victims. Republicans, of course, prefer a combination of the sledge hammer and the Goebbels technique, with a lot of yelling and arm-waving.
To clearly conceptualize the difference in propaganda techniques, see this Huffington Post story from yesterday, on the topic of this poll. Read it carefully, and if you don't agree that this is subtle, low-key, but very definitely anti-Republican, pro-Obama Democratic Party propaganda, I'll eat Karl Rove's tighty whiteys.
It doesn't much concern me that most Republicans think that Saddam was about to smoke us like so many little oysters, if we didn't whack him first. It's a nice cowboy narrative that gives pleasure to a lot of cowboys -- that's just how they are. We don't get upset at a fire because it's hot.
And anyway, I've seen polls that show over half of us disbelieve Darwin's thesis, and according to Morris Berman*, 12 percent of us believe that Joan of Arc was Noah's wife. Everybody has to be somewhere.
Forget these bimbos, these Republicans and Democrats. Now's the time.
The revolution won't be accomplished by confrontation, but by passive-aggressive means, by boycotts, absenteeism, migration out. Goin' up the country, baby, don't you wanna go?
We are leaving. You don't need us.
*in The Twilight of American Culture.
Thursday, June 21, 2012
Roberto Unger, all his adult life a professor at Harvard Law, posted a video to YouTube a month ago in which he argued that "Barack Obama must be defeated in the coming election."
This is not some Republican booger boy mumbling incoherently about "socialism." Unger's leftist credentials are impeccable, and in addition, he was one of Obama's most influential law school teachers.
"He has failed to advance the progressive cause in the United States," Unger solemnly intones, looking and likely sounding like the Roman Censor Marcus Portius Cato, who concluded each of his Senate speeches with "Carthago delenda est" (Carthage must be destroyed).
"He has spent trillions of dollars to rescue the moneyed interests," says the professor, "and left workers and homeowners to their own devices. He has delivered the politics of democracy to the rule of money. His policy is financial confidence and food stamps."
This broadside from such a platinum-grade source was quick to draw fire from the ranks of the Obamapologistas, and Garry Wills, a heavy-hitting popular historian and former classics professor, wrote a serious rejoinder to Unger's blast. He begins by admitting that Obama's progressivism is "muddy and blunted," but shrugs it off with the kind of hey-nobody's-perfect-it's-a-dirty-game rationalization that makes me wonder why we ever vote for anybody. At all.
Wills defends not just Obama but the Democrats with an argument that boils down to the contention that they're not as bad as the other guys, which is debatable at best. Ask yourself if you're better off now than you were five or six years ago, when Dick and Dubya were co-kings. Except for being spared the King-Kong routine, it's a different day, same old shit.
Garry Wills says "To vote for a Republican means, now, to vote for a plutocracy..." And a Democratic vote means...what? Not plutocracy? Roberto Unger calls it "a policy of hand-holding." In other words, we're getting delivered to the same predators now as we were then, but with a sympathetic kiss.
The rest of Wills's piece is an attack on third-party voters, whom he characterizes as silly idealists attempting to create a perfect politics. But is it asking for perfection to reject this kind of cynicism, and actually believe in something?
When I vote this fall for the Green Candidate, Jill Stein, I know I won't be helping to elect someone, but I'll certainly be helping to un-elect a counterfeit-liberal president, and voting against a party which has lost a lot of people's respect.
"Unless he is defeated," Roberto Unger concludes, "there cannot be a contest for the re-orientation of the Democratic Party as an alternative..." And unless that happens, there'll be nobody anywhere near the top on OUR side, and no one to speak on our behalf.
Note: the video I linked to is just the tail-end of Unger's presentation. YouTube has more complete versions as well.
Wednesday, June 20, 2012
Right. So this Darrell Issa veck, a Republican from SoCal, wants to cite the Attorney-General, Eric Holder, for contempt o' Congress because he's refusing to turn over documentation of this operation, run by the AT&F, to Issa's house committee.
But now Obama claims executive privilege, so it's a very big brew, ha ha.
Nobody has yet asked why Obama wants to keep the details of the Fast and Furious operation secret, but if you think about it, it must have been a real stinker of an operation, and looking at it in any detail would be, I strongly suspect, very embarrassing for the administration.
It was one of those clusterschnazzles the current
The acting director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosions is in the sweatbox this very minute, heavily pressured to resign because of this thing, if he hasn't done so already.
It's kind of nice to see the current little dictator with his tit in the wringer. Also, too, Darrell Issa is a grumpfaced, short-fingered, thick-witted thug with a rap sheet and a nasty gust in his inclination.
As reported in Glenn Greenwald's column at Salon.com and elsewhere this morning, Wikileaks founder Julian Assange has applied to the government of Ecuador seeking political asylum.
After spending nearly a year and a half in England engaged in legal wrangling aimed at keeping the Brits from allowing Sweden to extradite him, Assange has exhausted all his appeals. Yesterday he turned up at the Ecuadorian embassy in London to formalize his asylum request.
He's wanted in Sweden for questioning in connection with a sexual assault case, but hasn't been charged with anything. However, his apprehension has nothing to do with the Swedish case, as he's all but certain that the Swedes would turn him over to the US, where politicians from both parties are howling for his scalp, and where he would almost certainly be tried for espionage, with a possible life sentence.
Assange committed the one crime against the majesty of the United States that can never be forgiven: he told the truth. That he did so in a spectacular and well-publicized fashion makes the transgression worse.
Of all the documents leaks that Wikileaks has published, none has had the impact of a videotape which Assange introduced to the National Press Club in Washington D.C. showing the American crew of an Apache helicopter in Iraq casually blowing away a dozen civilians on a Baghdad street below. If you're upset by seeing this sort of thing, I wouldn't advise watching. Little wonder that our government wanted to keep this information secret, and went into full revenge mode when it was revealed.
Assange obtained this piece of tape from Bradley Manning, the army lieutenant who has been held for trial by the Pentagon for the past couple of years and tortured during most of that time. What a pass we've come to, when a reporter is threatened with life behind bars and his source is locked away in solitary confinement for the crime of telling the truth.
Tuesday, June 19, 2012
Anybody who reads this space once in a while knows I don't much like Barack Obama, the counterfeit progressive. Like the majority of his fellow Democrats, he's a gopher for the banksters, the "defense" contractors, and big corporations.
But I must say, as a political campaigner he's really taking the poor Mittens man to school.
First was the gay marriage stroke (so to speak). This involved no executive order or signing anything -- he just went on TV and said he was dropping his opposition to it. It was a very popular move (and preceded, I'm sure, by plenty of "market research"), and poor Mittens was left looking like a potted plant, handcuffed and sputtering that he was still against it. And here's another thing: Obama changed everything just with his mouth. There was no act of Congress and no court decision. That says something about how much power the prez has, if he knows how to use it.
Then comes the forgiveness for all the child illegales thing, and it was like an instant replay. BO makes his move, and Romney is left with the choice of going along with it (as with gay marriage, the public is overwhelmingly behind it) or simply saying "I don't like it." He looks like a boob, standing there with his hairspray on his head while Obama skates circles around him.
I have no interest in the outcome of this election, and not much interest in the "horse race" aspect of it. It's going to be close, but Obama will pull it out in the end. As the campaign unwinds he's making Romney look like someone with no imagination, no sense of strategy or tactics, a clueless hack, and one who knows only how to react, rather than act.
Which is exactly what he is.
This race is between a speed bump whose only plan is to keep things exactly as they are (only more so) and maintain the status quo, versus one whose program is basically the same, but appears to have a broad, creative plan to engineer a few high-profile, hot button changes in social relationships. If you were a bettor, who would you pick?
And Obama hasn't played his hole card yet -- medical marijuana. He's keeping so as to use it if necessary, down the home stretch.
Monday, June 18, 2012
I never was one of those people who sits around at home guzzling liquor all day and watching TV. Instead, I sat around all day guzzling beer and playing video games.
After finishing that last beer, I didn't feel so good. "I think I'll wait a while before the next one," I thought. And that was 18 years ago.
Which brings us circuitously and clumsily to our topic: the high prices of liquor in Seattle today.
The state of Washington used to have a state monopoly on liquor, and the prices at the state stores were high, compared to say, prices in Oregon. But then in the last election, voters were given a choice between keeping things the way they were or allowing liquor sales in grocery stores.
As our rulers are aware, giving voters a genuine choice about anything is exceedingly risky, especially if a TV ad campaign is thrown into the mix. And in this case, voters were barraged with ads paid for by the grocery tri-opoly and liquor distributors telling them that privatization would make them happy, because it would introduce competition into the equation, and everybody knows that competition means lower prices.
Except when it doesn't. As soon as our big three markets began selling liquor, prices mostly went up.
So for all you members of the drinking class who just got fooled again by a TV ad campaign, when are you gonna learn? When big companies tell you that they want to save you money, what they really mean is they want more of your money for themselves.
The rule of thumb is, if you become aware that a TV ad campaign is running spots around the clock, to the point where it begins to crowd out programming, you need to be aware of it, and most importantly, do the exact opposite of whatever they're telling you to do.
Mensos. Babosos. Idiotas. How many times I should have to tell you?
At a discussion forum I frequent, a familiar correspondent, one that I would recognize just on the basis of style, even if he didn't give his name, writes:
And ... what I find just ironic as all get out ... is how they talk about the "rich", when the overwhelming majority of filthy rich support Democrats and higher taxes. It all goes back to that theory that I posted up some time ago from the net ... Rich People support any measure that increases their advantage. By making it impossible for any new commer to become rich, via Democrat Policy, they are in reality protecting their privileged status.
What makes this croque de pou more odorous than usual is the fact that we've been around this block before, several times, and I'm growing arm-weary from having to knock it down. So this time I decided to do some real research (not done yet) and save it in the word processor, so that the next time this or some other Rehooligan dweeb comes up with the startling theory that most billionaires and millionaires are Democrats, front loading the system to get higher taxes for themselves and everybody else, I'll just be able to copy and paste.
So far, I've looked at the 50 richest people in America, all with $6 billion or more personal worth (aource: Forbes Magazine 400), and they break down like this:
Neutral or apolitical.....11
To determine who was who, I used the campaign donation record feature at fundrace.huffingtonpost.com/
But as with anything this complex, there are subtle nuances that contribution records and statistical databases can't tell you. For example...
The two richest men in the US, Bill Gates, Jr. and Warren Buffett, are committed Democrats, although neither has given a significant amount to the party or their candidates this year. By "significant" I mean over $5,000, although Buffett gave exactly that amount, and Bill Gates's wife Melinda kicked in $35,000 to the re-elect Obama effort.
Soros, the 7th-richest person, has given over $100,000 to Democrats this year.
Larry Ellison, owner of Oracle and the third-richest person, appears to have no interest in politics and gives nothing to parties or candidates.
Tied for fourth position are the Brothers Koch, who are already well known for the millions they have sunk into Republican and libertarian causes, think tanks, and candidates, in amounts which dwarf political spending by all the Democrats on this list combined, and extend way beyond electoral politics. Their penetration of our politics is on a different plane from that of anyone else in their class except for one person -- casino mogul Sheldon Adelson -- who checks in at number eight, and whose political tentacles extend beyond the U.S. and into the Middle East.
The top ten is rounded out by the Wally-World/Walton clan, at positions 6, 9, 10, and 11. Two are significant (over $50,000) givers to Republicans, and two are real cheapskates.
I'm not going to run through the whole list, but it's worth underscoring the fact that quite a few of these moneybags don't seem to care who wins, but appearances can be deceiving. For my own convenience I flagged significant givers (over $20,000), very significant contributors (over $50,000) and committed activists (over $100,000), and that worked out like this -- so far. (Remember, I'm not done.)
Significant Democratic contributors -- 1
" Republican 2
Very significant Democratic givers 2
" " Republican 4
Heavily Committed Democrats 2
" " Republicans 4
In short, nice talking point; too bad it isn't true.
However, all the statistical information and number-crunching can't begin to convey the degree to which our political system has been deformed and sabotaged by a very few men at the very top of the food chain. Their names are Koch and Adelson. Also, too, lest we forget, Rupert Murdoch, a billionaire (#37) who this year has made no dollar donations, contributes heavily to the Republican cause through the magic of televised fascist propaganda, and makes money with his 24/7 jihad.
Sunday, June 17, 2012
Sometime before I take the walk down that long hallway to meet my maker, I'd like to be able to spend some time in Washington, D.C. Call it a pilgrimage.
True, American democracy wasn't born in D.C. -- that would be Philadelphia. But it didn't take long for the new capitol to spring to life on the banks of the Potomac, which began functioning as the seat of government beginning with the first Adams administration.
The monuments and archives of the great city, with their narrative of a noble and heroic national past, are intended to evoke feelings of awe and reverence in the faithful who come to view them, almost in the same way as the monuments and artifacts of a holy city such as Rome.
Shortly after 1510, a young Catholic monk named Martin Luther made a pilgrimage on foot from Germany to Rome, hoping the church hierarchy would be able to adjudicate a legal dispute troubling the Augustinian Order to which he belonged. Beyond that, he was hoping for a genuine religious experience in the city of the martyrs, through his nearness to the throne of God's own priest, the Pope.
I guess the main difference between my projected pilgrimage to D.C. and Martin Luther's hike to Rome, besides the differences in the means of getting there, is that I know what I'll see if and when I go. Poor Luther apparently had no idea.
What Luther saw when he got to Rome was worse than anything he could have imagined. The Church was rotted through with money and luxury. Sexual morality didn't exist, and cynical, materialist priests mocked the sacraments even as they performed the mass. Luther made a mental note that the bulk of the money came from the selling of indulgences -- buying forgiveness for your sins from an authorized forgiveness dealer -- that would be your local Church rep, the priest.
How much different is Washington D.C. today from Rome 500 years ago? Instead of having the continental monopoly on forgiveness, our present-day high priests of budgets and finances have the exclusive franchise on everybody's future, and the world's. What they need is some competition.
Have you ever noticed how much the capitol dome in Washington, D.C. looks like the dome of St. Peter's?
Saturday, June 16, 2012
Here's a found object, picked up at Facebook.
7H15 M355463 53RV35 70 PR0V3 H0W 0UR M1ND5 C4N D0 4M4Z1N6 7H1N65! 1MPR3551V3 7H1N65! 1N 7H3 B361NN1NG 17 W45 H4RD BU7 N0W, 0N 7H15 L1N3 Y0UR M1ND 15 R34D1N6 17 4U70M471C411Y W17H 0UT 3V3N 7H1NK1N6 4B0U7 17, B3 PR0UD! 0N1Y C3R741N P30PL3 C4N R34D 7H15. R3 P057 1F U C4N
Well, you don't have to shout, but otherwise nicely done. We read with our brains, not our eyes.
7H15 M355463 53RV35 70 PR0V3 H0W 0UR M1ND5 C4N D0 4M4Z1N6 7H1N65! 1MPR3551V3 7H1N65! 1N 7H3 B361NN1NG 17 W45 H4RD BU7 N0W, 0N 7H15 L1N3 Y0UR M1ND 15 R34D1N6 17 4U70M471C411Y W17H 0UT 3V3N 7H1NK1N6 4B0U7 17, B3 PR0UD! 0N1Y C3R741N P30PL3 C4N R34D 7H15. R3 P057 1F U C4N
Well, you don't have to shout, but otherwise nicely done. We read with our brains, not our eyes.
I'm sitting in the window of Starbutt's on Holman Road on this cool, overcast, and quiet morning, watching the ebb and flow people through the door. When it's sunny and warm in Seattle like it was yesterday, people get drunk on the sunshine and have little use for coffee houses or restaurants with only indoor seating, as if they're thinking "This might be our last chance to ever see blue sky."
True to form, our usual June gloom is back today, and it's jacket weather...again. And as much as I enjoy the sunshine, the cloudy skies encourage contemplation. In addition to people watching this morning, I'm contemplating the months-long war or words between duelling New York Times columnists Paul Krugman and David Brooks, neither of whom thus far has referred to the other by name, probably because of some rule sent down from on high by the editors. But that changed this morning.
Friday, June 15, 2012
The Mars Chocolate Company ran some kind of survey and now announces that Seattle is not a very manly place. But then neither is anywhere else on the west coast, which turns out, according to the confectioners, to be the wimpiest region in the country.
Part of this survey was based on how many retail outlets like home-improvement stores and steak houses there are in a city, compared to nail salons and yoga parlors. Also, surveyors determined how much of the local work force is in manly occupations, such as police and bricklayers -- you know, real sweaty guy stuff, as opposed to computer programmers or government employees such as deputy assistant fertilizer generals.
I swear, I don't know what motivates people to come up with this stuff.
The photo is a still from Stanley Kubrick's "Dr. Strangelove" (1962): Sterling Hayden as General Jack D. Ripper.
Beef has become a luxury item. Now over $5/pound on average, prices of burgers and steaks are rising faster than the rate of inflation, running eight percent higher now than a year ago, when it was already ten percent higher than in 2010.
So far, accelerating beef prices are a function of decreasing supply rather than increasing demand. The severe drought afflicting the southwestern US has forced a large-scale liquidation of herds in Texas and Oklahoma, and our domestic herd of 30 million is 10 percent smaller than in 2006.
The decrease in production is tied to ongoing changes in the US diet. We're eating a lot less red meat than we did just a short time ago. Average beef consumption is now at 56 pounds a year, a 10-pound-per-person drop in just six years. At the same time, foreign appetite for US beef has increased thanks to the weakening dollar, driving the price up further.
Chicken is more and more replacing beef as the meat of choice for Americans, and many are eating much less meat altogether.
I've eaten beef a couple of times this year, from locally grown, free-range angus steers, and it's pretty pricey. Ninety-nine percent of the beef sold here or exported, however, is feedlot-raised, full of growth hormones and antibiotics, and covered with a film of malevolent bacteria on its surface as it sits in the supermarket cooler, sealed in plastic on a styrofoam tray. I wouldn't touch it with a Roto-rooter™.
All in all, I have to consider this a good thing. Nothing motivates people to improve their dietary habits like higher prices on the bad stuff, which makes the relatively inexpensive good stuff more attractive. We've seen this with gas prices, consumption only diminishes when the pain of continuing our old ways reaches a breaking point. So eat your oatmeal and stop mooning over them burgers. They weren't good for you anyway.
Thursday, June 14, 2012
A friend of mine alerted me to a new Verlyn Klinkenborg op-ed in the New York Times, in which the aging farmer/wordsmith notes the passing of his father's generation, with the deaths earlier this month of his last surviving aunt and uncle.
In it he writes that he "can just barely grasp how much the home farm has changed since Everon (his recently-deceased uncle) was born. Even when I was young, it was still biologically complex, full of different animals and various crops and a huge garden. The place is economically more complex now — managing loan and insurance programs, subsidies and incentives — but it is biologically simple: corn, soybeans, no animals, no garden."
This is mainly a family remembrance, so Klinkenborg makes no further comment on the implications of the agricultural transformation to which he calls our attention, how any diversity of use is sacrificed to financial considerations and industrial production techniques producing industrial products. He only hints at what's been lost in the transition, how industrial agriculture wrecks the land and spells dietary disaster for both the people and animals who consume its "produce." For a full examination of that, you have to read that other great farmer/writer, Wendell Berry.
A post at Firedoglake this morning is partly a remembrance of the great '60's street preacher Holy Hubert, before it branches into contemporary politics. Hubert used to haunt Sather Gate, at the end of Telegraph Avenue and beginning of the UC Berkeley campus, admonishing the heathen and haranguing for the Lord.
He also crossed the water on Friday and Saturday nights, to tirelessly hold forth on the corner of Columbus and Broadway in San Francisco, which is mostly where I remember him from, since that was my neighborhood.
Hubert was a very effective speaker, with a loud, raspy voice that overpowered the hecklers and conveyed an extreme, very urgent message. The preacher pounded relentlessly on the few themes that are the stuff of hot-headed evangelism -- that we are wicked people, that we are doomed, that only Jesus can save us; that he gladly will if only we ask him to. No matter how many times he repeated himself, the pitch always appeared to seem new and fresh to him, as if he was grabbing each listener by the shirt and hollering in his face, "I got something I gotta tell ya!"
I could never subscribe to Hubert's religion, but it didn't take me long watching his great delivery to figure out that I liked him a whole lot better than the people who mocked him. One night at Broadway and Columbus, a sparse crowd stood around the little man waiting for something to happen. Four partiers, two male-female couples dressed in evening clothes and half soused came strolling into the picture. They began laughing at the overheated preacher, and stood in a clump, grimacing, congratulating themselves on their sophisticated coolness. I remember clearly contrasting in my mind the sincere, poverty-struck, fanatical facial expression of the fire-and-brimstone preacher with the silly grins and misplaced egotism of the four decadent nudniks who came into the picture like a prop sent from central casting.
I don't know whatever happened to Holy Hubert. I do know that just about all us proletarians are muddling along pretty much as we were back then 45 years ago, without a whole lot of money and without Jesus.
Wednesday, June 13, 2012
The Obama administration is getting hauled into court by the American Civil Liberties Union. The ACLU is attempting to shake more information out o the executive branch regarding its conduct of the drone war Obama is waging in the Middle East. The administration is saying these matters can't be broached in court, because the drone war is so secret that even the reason it's so secret is a secret. In fact, it's so secret that it might not even exist!
Ever wonder who got how much and where it all ended up in the biggest ever bank heist of 2008 and 2009? So did Senator Bernie Sanders, the socialist independent from Vermont, who had his staff compile the names and figures, and today released his list of bailout recipients and the amounts of Fed money they borrowed or stole, depending on how you look at it. He's already saved Attorney-General Holder a lot of work, as the intrepid lawman rushes forward to prosecute the Wall Street crowd (who gave us the Not-so-Great Depression), for conflict of interest (most of them) and securities fraud (all of them).
Actually, that's not likely. Holder may be a crappy enough AG to please even Republicans, since he hasn't exhibited any of the independence the AG theoretically possesses nor gone after a single bankster crook. But he's still a black guy working in the Obama administration, so naturally, they hate him, and want to punish him for that.
In the photo, a juvenile shoat sticks its nose between slats in the pen fence after a deluge in Austria.
Even though the month is less than half over, I'm awarding the Golden Catclump for parapgraph of the month to Charlie Pierce, who blogs on the Esquire Magazine site, for this masterpiece:
Consider: Most every state in the Union, including the Commonwealth (God save it!) here, would rather build 20 casinos than risk raising taxes a dime, as though gambling itself were not a brutal tax. (How do I know this? Because once, long ago, on the night Mark McGwire and his pharmacist went past Roger Maris and his bartender for the single-season home run record, I sat in a casino in Tunica, Mississippi, and watched a 300-pound woman with oxygen tubes up her nose feed quarters into a slot machine while wearing a T-shirt that said, "Jesus Is The Answer." This was the same trip on which I saw a billboard outside Vicksburg that suggested, "Sell Your Car For Cash.") The entire Republican economic plan is one long gamble on a bunch of economic theories that already have failed twice in my lifetime. Ask even earnest young liberals how you manage to get a middle class without a manufacturing base, an active government, and strong unions, and you get the same kind of shrug you get along the rail when you ask someone why they bet the 5-horse when the creature plainly has hooves the size of a country ham. Ask Willard Romney the same thing, and he makes even less sense.
Don't let the blazing style overshadow Charlie's point -- the Untied States now produces very little other than bets. So what are our chances for survival following our current format?
Suppose you're a computer programmer who knows how to create malware that could take possession of anyone's computer, forcing it to return again and again to a web page specified by the program. Then suppose you appropriate the conservative blog "Powerline" for that purpose, after renaming it "Newsfudge." Then, of course, you choose a computer to infect.
All of that has happened, and it led to one of the Powerline proprietors, John Hinderaker, a.k.a. Assrocket, getting an indignant call from a malware victim, who left perhaps the funniest voicemail I've ever heard. The nice lady, who lives in or near Cincinnati, doesn't understand why her computer has been hijacked, but seems certain that Hinderaker is responsible.
So she tells him in no uncertain terms what she thinks of him, and gives him "a piece of her mind," as we used to say. Listen.
For his part, Hinderaker has a pretty mellow attitude about this, and plans to call the lady back and explain what's wrong, as much as he knows about it, and adds: "I am not sure how computers get infected with this malware or how it works, but these folks–Russians, as I understand it from Joe–randomly stole the contents of our site. We will try to find a solution for this lady in Cincinnati, and anyone else who may have been victimized!"
Tuesday, June 12, 2012
If America seems a lot poorer today than it did just a few years ago, that's because it is. The average net worth of an American household dropped from $126,400 to $77,300, between the economic rupture of 2007 and 2010, a net loss of 40 percent.
The largest part of this massive loss of wealth resulted from falling real estate values.
Now of course, if you're among the top 10 percent of income earners, and thus by definition not average, the economy of 2007-2010 presents a different picture, because the value of your assets didn't go down. It increased. Slightly.
The whole sad story is at the Daily Ticker.
Monday, June 11, 2012
When asked why he didn't do more to help Mayor Tom Barrett, the Democrat who opposed Gov Scott Walker in the recent Wisconsin recall contest, President Obama said he was too busy.
"The truth of the matter is that, as president of the United States, I've got a lot of responsibilities," the prez rambled discursively in an attempt to explain this inexcusable snub of people who voted for him in 2008.
He could have told the truth, something like, Yeah, I had to hang him out to dry.
So then the question becomes, and why did you have to do that? Who gains by it?
I was idly flipping through mug shots of people arrested in Mecklenburg County this month, in the Charlotte Observer's site. There are 85 mug shots, merciless in their detail and specificity, and what characters they reveal.
Clicking through an unsorted mass of most types of people you could imagine, male and female, young and old and in-between, multi-racial with blacks somewhat over-represented, though not overwhelmingly so. Some looked sad and mournful, some bewildered, some angry.
They were mostly facing relatively small charges. Driving while impaired was probably the most common, but for second it's a toss-up among small larceny, assault on a female, threatening and/or resisting.
This bad boy was arrested and charged with shooting off a firearm inside the city limits.
The website Antiwar.com reports and the white-bread media confirm that a Navy drone crashed today into a marshy area near Maryland's eastern shore. Nobody on the ground was hurt.
The 44-foot plane went down during a routine training mission.
The Northrop Grumman RQ-4A BAMS-D drones with a range of 10,500 nautical miles can reach 11 miles above the ground, which is above most weather, and stay in the air for more than 30 hours with speeds up to 391 mph, according to the Navy. It is operated by a crew of four on the ground.
These things are used mainly for stuff like maritime surveillance, wartime reconnaissance, etc. More and more, police and Homeland Security types use them for domestic snooping.
Glenn Greenwald this morning notes caustically that one of the most enthusiastic congressional supporters of Obama's undeclared drone war in the Middle East is the Islamophobic clown and outspoken Republican moron Peter King of New York.
Appearing on CNN yesterday morning, King, who heads the House Homeland Security Committee, refused to confirm that U.S. drone strikes occur in countries other than Afghanistan, while insisting that “There’s evil people in the world. Drones aren’t evil, people are evil. We are a force of good and we are using those drones to carry out the policy of righteousness and goodness.”
"Rep. King apparently sees the U.S. as the Justice League," Greenwald says, "a heroic 'force of good' slaying the Evil Villains in pursuit of 'righteousness and goodness' — so it’s unsurprising that he’s an enthusiastic supporter of Obama’s drone program, given that this is the Saturday morning cartoon mentality that drives it."
Never mind that most of the victims of these bombings are innocent civilians, whom Obama has magically transformed into militants with his mouth. For this and his other anti-terrorism poliicies, Obama receives effusive and frequent praise from Rep. King. which Greenwald chronicles, at a time when other Republicans have nothing good to say about him.
And that's a bad sign. Everybody knows what happens when you lie down with dogs, but what exotic parasites, crawling things, and microbes can you get from lying down with a slack-jawed mouth breather like this guy?
Sunday, June 10, 2012
This weird and tragic-looking dude, one of the greatest baseball pitchers ever, was known to leave the ballpark if he heard a siren outside and follow fire trucks to fires.
He also loved to fish and drink, but not necessarily in that order, and strikeouts. He led the majors in strikeouts for six straight seasons, and his single-season record of 349 K's stood until the sixties.
George Waddell, called Rube, pitched 13 years in the bigs, despite the fact that he suffered from some sort of developmental disability which rendered him extremely childlike, and was amplified by alcoholism.
Fans of opposing teams found that Waddell could be easily distracted if they held up shiny objects or puppies. He wrangled with managers and team mates, was traded several times due to his inability to function in adult relationships, despite his prodigious abilities, and drank himself out of the majors, then out of the minors, then to death, at age 37.
He remains one of the most puzzling enigmas of an enigmatic game, this simpleton nimrod from fin de siecle rural Pennsylvania who possessed a talent so great that nobody equaled it for decades.
Transits of Venus such as the one which occurred a couple days ago come in pairs occurring eight years apart. The last one was in 2004.
The previous pair of transits was in 1874 and 1882, and the next ones won't come until 2117 and 2125.
Besides its astronomical significance, the event carries astrological implications. The transit of the ancient love goddess across the solar face marks a period of heightened awareness, and greater than usual pressure being brought to bear upon human relationships. Therefore, the time of Venus's transit is a momentous and remarkable time.
The local al-Qaida franchise in Somalia, al-Shabaab, in response to the US State Dept's "Rewards for Justice" program putting $33 million bounties on the heads of seven of the organization's leaders, have offered to pay their own bounty to "Anyone who helps the Mujahideen find the whereabouts of Obama and Hillary Clinton."
The bounty is 10 camels for Obama and 20 chickens -- 10 hens and 10 roosters -- for Hillary.
I personally wish no harm to either Mr Obama or Mrs Clinton. But I do wish both their tongues would cleave to the rooves of both their mouths with the force of a thousand camels.
Saturday, June 09, 2012
It was a highly unusual game for a number of reasons. With the last LA Dodger out in the bottom of the ninth, only the catcher, Jesus Montero, realized immediately what had just happened: six pitchers combined to throw a no-hitter.
After starter Kevin Millwood took himself out of the game with a pulled groin muscle at the beginning of the seventh inning, he was relieved by (in order) Charlie Furbush, Stephen Pryor, Lucas Luetge, Brandon League, and Tom Wilhelmson.
Because the 1-0 score was such a fragile lead, none of the pitchers thought about the no-hitter aspect as much as they did just hanging on. And for long-suffering Mariners fans, who are used to one-nothing final scores, but with their formerly light-hitting team on the wrong end, this was a turnabout to remember.
And I've been looking for an opportunity to use that headline for a long time.
In 1953, during his first year in the White House, President Eisenhower spoke to the American Society of Newspaper Editors about the costs of war. I thought of this speech this morning as I was reading an Associated Press story about the Pentagon's plans to build a new "stealth" warship equipped with exotic science-fiction weapons such as an electromagnetic "railgun" and a host of automated systems. The price tag? Three billion dollars per ship!
Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed. This world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children. The cost of one modern heavy bomber is this: a modern brick school in more than 30 cities. It is two electric power plants, each serving a town of 60,000 population. It is two fine, fully equipped hospitals. It is some fifty miles of concrete pavement. We pay for a single fighter plane with a half million bushels of wheat. We pay for a single destroyer with new homes that could have housed more than 8,000 people. This is, I repeat, the best way of life to be found on the road the world has been taking. This is not a way of life at all, in any true sense. Under the cloud of threatening war, it is humanity hanging from a cross of iron.
Let's see; how many elementary schools could we build for three billion dollars? How long would such an amount fund an expanded food stamps program?
Some call it "defense spending," but as far as I'm concerned it's just good old piracy on the high seas.
Friday, June 08, 2012
--Concrete Man Drowns
--One-Armed Man Applauds Kindness of Strangers
--Federal Agents Raid Gun Shop, Find Weapons
--Midget sues grocer, cites belittling remarks
--A-Rod Goes Deep, Wang Hurt
--Stud Tires Out
--Statistics show that teen pregnancy drops off significantly after age 25
--Chick Accuses Some of Her Male Colleagues of Sexism
(Story about LA Councilwoman Laura Chick.)
--Utah Poison Control Center reminds everyone not to take poison
--Man eats underwear to beat breathalyzer
From the want-ads:
--USED TOMBSTONE, perfect for someone named Homer HendelBergenHeinzel, one only. Phone#
--Meeting on open meetings is closed
(And the reason we have to keep what's said there secret is also a secret.)
Police in Gloucestershire, UK, say they are looking for a man in "a blue morph suit" wearing blue paint on his face, for questioning.
According to the BBC, "One witness said the man, who was seen waving at women and running up to them doing star jumps, "looked like a Smurf." "Star jumps" are what we call "jumping jacks."
After police received calls about the man on May 20, plus a couple more last Saturday, they decided they would like to talk to the guy in order to "establish his motives."
Found this at Americablog.
...but not all that unusual. Cliff Mass, our local meteorologist, says next week will be drier and a bit warmer than the one we're in. I know it's silly to move to Seattle and then complain about rain, but it IS June 8, and we're way past ready for winter to be over.
Thursday, June 07, 2012
Everybody has seen them, usually on downtown streets in the big cities, although even small towns have their share of them. These are the homeless mentally ill, often schizophrenic men and women who literally have no place to go.
They look pretty much the same today as they have throughout most of western history, as evidenced by the picture on a tarot card from five and a half centuries ago, called "Il Matto" in Italian and "Le Fou" in French (in both cases meaning "The Lunatic"), or "The Fool" in English.
Then as now, he's a frightening and ominous figure, physically ill, possibly dangerous and violent at worst, disoriented and unpleasant to deal with at best. He's one of the ones Jesus called "the least of these," and if you want to see him begging on the streets or rummaging through dumpsters, you won't have far to look if you live in a town of any size.
It was just such a person police in Fullerton (near LA) encountered last July as they were searching for someone reported to have been vandalizing cars. Kelly Thomas, 37, was shirtless, disheveled, and uncooperative when officers attempted to search him, so they called for backup. When help arrived, the reinforced patrol proceeded to beat Thomas to death with tasers (up to five times), the butts of tasers, and by slamming him repeatedly against the ground, despite his pitifully pleading for his father the whole time. He never recovered consciousness and died five days later.
Two of the police involved in this incident, which was captured on videotape and the audio devices cops carry these days, are facing criminal charges, one for second-degree murder and the other for involuntary manslaughter. And the same night as Wisconsin voters decided to retain Scott Walker. three Fullerton city council members were turned out of office by a recall motivated by the killing of Kelly Thomas.
I have little faith that anyone will ever be convicted or serve a day in jail for this hideous and cowardly crime, and doubt very much that the replacement of three Fullerton councilmen will have any substantive effect on city government, other than the newly-elected Republicans will use the Thomas outrage as an excuse to gut police pensions. But I know for certain that I don't want to live in a country where this kind of thing happens, and that the best way we can serve Kelly Thomas at this point is to embark on a crusade for genuine reform, not just of government, but of the way our society works, and who it exists to serve.
Illustration: 'Il Matto' from the Visconti-Sforza tarot deck, Milan, about 1450.