Wednesday, December 30, 2009

9/11 Redux . . . Almost

So, the CIA strikes again. Remember 9/11 . . . that momentous event brought to us by Al Qaida, and the CIA? And remember also the reaction of the Republican's Bush Administration to the failures of the CIA and the FBI to prevent the attack? They created the Department of Homeland Security. When in doubt, reorganize seems to be a classic Republican approach to problems that they wish not to deal with.

The central issue then was the incompetence of our intelligence agencies, principally the CIA and the FBI. They failed both on their intelligence analysis and on their willingness to share information. Had they been competent, and had we then had competent leadership in the White House, 9/11 would never have happened. So Bush created this huge department, but, guess what? It did not include the two agencies most responsible for the failures that led to 9/11. We have two incompetent agencies, and in response we create a department to coordinate all the other agencies, except the two most at fault. Huh?

So, now, we have a second example. A Nigerian linked to Al Qaida and known to the CIA as a potential terrorist, was allowed to board a US airline with explosive devices strapped to his leg. Two failures here: first the CIA failed to add two and two and get four. Second, the airline security system is more concerned with preventing breast milk and perfume from getting on board than explosive devices.

Ok, what’s next? Well, I guess if the Republicans were in charge we would create an even bigger department, maybe the Department of Global Security, which would fold Homeland Security into a larger department that folds all remaining federal agencies into one big department, except of course the CIA and the FBI. Can’t have anyone fussing with them, can we? Actually, the CIA seems to be a quintessential republican agency—it is both incompetent and arrogant. No wonder Poppy Bush ran the place.

Now the republicans are declaiming the Democrats, claiming that they are “soft on National Security.” Huh . . . the guys who allowed 9/11 to occur on their watch yelling about being soft on security. Now, that’s funny . . .

And elsewhere Janet Napolitano allowed as how she may have misspoken. She says that she was misunderstood, and that she really meant that the system worked in the case of the Nobel Peace Prize Committee.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Christmas Greetings

It has been a difficult year to send out messages of unalloyed joy and blessings to all. Many Americans lie in harm’s way in several foreign and hostile places around the globe. We need to think of them as we toast one another in Christmas Greetings.

And as the senate pats itself on its collective back for passing a health care insurance bill that may . . . may . . . cover the 30-40 million people in this country currently uninsured, we do need to give some thanks that Democrats at least were capable of considering the plight of the 40 million people who are currently without regular access to this fine health care system—you know the system . . . the one that is routinely available to members of Congress, rich republicans and fat cat bankers, even as they plot how best to squeeze more millions out of our dry, dry collective national piggy bank. I guess we will have to await another day to hope for some actual reform.

And as I think about health care, I am drawn inevitably to thinking of our daughter Kathleen. She has been told that she has a cancer in one of her breasts. It is susceptible to treatment, thankfully, and we believe that she will come out of this experience even stronger than she was, and she was very strong. We are thankful both that Kathleen has insurance to help protect her, and that she avails herself of the insurance coverage by seeing her doctors regularly for extensive health examinations. We are all thinking of you my dear.

Our year is not yet at an end. Hopefully, it may close on a quiet and hopeful note.

So, Merry Christmas to all , , , and to all, a good night.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas to all of our loyal readership.
And a happy New Year to boot.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Man of the Year

So, Time anointed Ben Bernanke as Time Man of the Year for 2009. I guess a case could be made for him. After all, he was one of the participants in the economic meltdown of the Nation, although, to be fair, he was but one of many.
Frank Rich, NY Times Columnist, makes a fair case for Tiger. His case rests not so much on the simple fact of his headline dominance for the past few weeks. No, Rich’s case is that Tiger represents a peculiar class of personages in the country—the iconic human—perfect in all respects, except of course in reality. Tiger was/is very much a creation of the media and a fawning, and fairly gullible public. He’s one of a class, like Eliot Spitzer. Rich’s case is fairly convincing, but perhaps I might go one step beyond Tiger (anyway, I’m really tired of Tiger-News).
I would nominate as Person of the Year – Publicus Americanus, PA for short, a new class of humans residing in North America. PA is recognizable by the following characteristics:
1. Gullibility –PA will believe anything fed to him by the media, especially by the Faux News Network—anything that is, so long as it does not resemble reality. Reality is to be avoided.
2. Anti-Government – PA resembles nothing short of an anarchist, since he believes that anything undertaken by Government is necessarily evil, and probably incompetent. The odd exception to this ironclad rule seems to be our military killing machines. So long as it is engaged in blowing up things foreign, Government is fine.
3. Anti-European – PA seems to believe that all of Europe is hopelessly socialist, immoral, and elitist. They think they’re better than we are, just because they’re better educated, so they’re, ya’know, hoity toity.
4. Anti-Liberal – Since all members of the Democratic Party are either Liberals or Socialists, or Fascists, (PA has trouble keeping these disparate ideas separated)) they are not to be trusted on any subject. So, anything they propose—anything—is cause for alarm, and a tea party of some kind.
Now the other dominant characteristic of PA’s is that they don’t actually live in the real world. Instead, they reside permanently in a state of Altered Reality, mostly manufactured by FAUX News anchors and assorted other political bimbos (see Sarah Palin). They love TV shows like American Idol, the reality shows, and the survivor shows, mainly because they bear no resemblance to anything real. The reason George Bush was able to sell the Iraq War was because PAs were eager to believe his line of untruths and half truths. The only thing they cannot tolerate is reality, or perhaps, The Truth. They want, nay need to be lied to. And curiously, they mostly aren’t even on drugs. Remember that old joke—in the 1960s, people took acid to make the world weird. Now they take Prozac to make the weird world normal. PA seems hooked on the drug of FAUX News Altered Reality Shout-Outs. They can’t resist.
So, PA, you’re the Real Person(s) of the Year for 2009.
Time, eat your heart out.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Looking to Our Future

I read that the President’s popularity has fallen to the point where almost half of the Americans who respond to polls claim they would prefer having Bush back in office.
Who are these people being polled? Fox News bimbos? Now, whatever my disappointments at what I see occurring in his country, over the past year especially, having George Bush returning to run the Nation would fall into the set called ultimate nightmares. Worse even than having Sarah Barbie in that office, or John McCain, caught smiling recently as he plays with the people’s health care business.
Actual, real people would prefer Shrub back in office? It gives me great pause in thinking that this Nation, which possesses the means to blow up the entire world, has actual sentient human beings who think that the guy who gave us not one but two wars, the greatest financial disaster since the Great Depression, Katrina-gate, and other assorted disasters, is somehow preferred to once again preside over the people’s business.
It is, I guess, a sign of the times. These are presumably, the same people who are so desperate to appear on American Idol that they will do anything to achieve their 15 minutes of fame. How, I wonder, did we fall into this state of ungrace? We used to be a people with some ethical side. We once sided with the world against Nazi Fascism, and went to war to defeat the truly bad guys. Now, all we want is our bonus, and damn the consequences.
I continue to think, despite the evidence to the contrary, that we will once again return to a moral society, one that at least pauses before firing the guns, and that thinks twice before proceeding with Ponzi schemes to defraud friends and family. But my hopes now lie with our grandchildren. Somehow, we “adults” seem beyond caring about “doing the right thing.” But my grandchildren still seem to know the difference. Perhaps yours do too. In this season of joy and hope, maybe we should all begin hoping, or praying, for a return to sanity and ethical behavior, once our grandkids take over this weary old planet.
And let’s leave poor old George to whatever his demons have in mind for him, and whatever hell awaits him and his cronies. We have better things in mind for this country and this world.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Deals that Ain't

So, now we have a climate deal that is so unambitious that all the participating nations might actually sign it. That’s kind of like reaching an agreement on health care reform that both republicans and democrats would sign. I’m guessing that the only ones popping bottles of champagne at the prospect would be the energy companies, and the health insurance companies. So, after these triumphs, our political leaders around the globe are probably next going to turn their limited attention span to financial reform—you know some really tough new regulations that the “too-big-to-fail banks“ and Ponzi investment houses like Salamon Smith Barney would welcome. Congratulations Big Guys. All those lobby bank checks have really paid off, huh?
And elsewhere, there is unrest among the several hundred thousand civilian contractors who perform tasks in war zones (think of Iraq and Afghanistan as real war zones) that our military used to perform—like peeling potatoes on KP duty, and shooting civilians in the middle of traffic jams. Turns out there are at least as many civilian contractors in these war zones as we have actual troops. So much for the “all-volunteer” army. When Blackwater was being chastised for gunning down Iraqi civilians, I started wondering just why Shrub & Co decided to privatize the war. But then, they really tried to privatize everything government does, including the warrior thing. Anything for a buck, I guess.
But it seems to me that this mess over there is a grand argument for bringing back the draft, and flushing the “all-volunteer” army idea. Only this time, we might consider no draft deferments for any reason. No Dick Cheney (“I had other priorities”) five deferments. There could be jobs for everyone, including people physically challenged. Hmmm . . . maybe a universal draft could solve our 10 - 20% unemployment rate. Oh, and then there’s the other advantage of a universal draft. It might get in the way of our moronic political leaders who are always rushing us into a war, so long as they or their kids can sit on the sidelines. Oh, and a really wonderful side effect. All the Fox News bimbos like Laura Ingraham would first have to go to Iraq in uniform and dodge explosions before they could resume their acting careers as faux-news people.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Happy Birthday

So, today I close out my 75th year. I am thinking about my mom, laying in some bed in Brooklyn on December 17th, 1934, hoping I’d quit fooling around and get my tushie into the real world. She probably had no anesthetic to help her, as she probably had no money to pay for the hospital bill. Nobody had health insurance in those days. You either had money, or you didn’t. If you didn’t, and you had to bring a new kid into the world, you either did it yourself, at home, or you went into some charity hospital. She opted for the latter.
And then, I opened the morning’s newspaper to read that any chance of a government-operated health insurance plan was now officially dead, thanks to that little shit Joe Lieberman. Joe is in the pocket of his Connecticut insurance companies, so of course he is against the “public option”, the only thing that made reform real. And then I thought about all the people, like my mom 75 years ago, who may have to continue scrambling to get their kids decent health care. Thanks again, Joe. We’ll all remember you for a long time.
And elsewhere, the rest of the world’s little shits have officially decided that global warming is something for their grandkids to worry about. Copenhagen will close without results.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Let Them Eat Cake

I’ve been thinking about the French and Russian revolutions lately. The world has largely given up its actual monarchies, or reduced them to cartoon forms. In some places, Scandinavia and Britain, we continue to have monarchies, but mostly they lack any of the attributes, i.e., power over the people, that drove events like revolutions. So, one could conclude, I guess, that revolutions of the bloody sort, as in the French and Russian varieties, are a thing of the past.
But two sets of information keep flowing at me, causing me to wonder about that supposition.
Set One: The banks, the health insurers, and the other super-monied people continue to act like Marie Antoinette—“Let them eat cake”. The entire financial system in this country, and in other nations, has created a class of super-rich who are in most important ways, our royalty. We have no kings or queens, I guess, but lots of dukes, barons, et al who rule our lives in ways large and small. Mostly, they extract money from us and then hoard it, or use it in ways designed to piss off those of us who are not in their little world. That most of them are republican/conservative goes without saying, but their politics is not their most important attribute, since democrats seem to offer homage to them almost as much as republicans. We have learned from the bank-and insurance industry bailouts that both political parties are willing to serve up public monies to this class, without expecting much in return. Too big to fail is their mantra.
Set Two: A very large part of the US population is highly annoyed, one might even call them enraged at what they see occurring. The fake tea parties organized by monied republicans, while faux grass roots events, have surfaced genuine anger. Currently, that anger is directed mostly at democrats in general and President Obama in particular. The focus of the angry people on the Dems is mainly because of Fox News, and the right-wing politicos like Sarah Palin (who has only one actual belief—“make me rich and powerful”). But at some point, I assume the angry people may begin to get the point that the rich people and the political whores with whom they are aligned, are their real enemies. They are the ones who are making their lives miserable, by rigging the system such that they continue to suck money out of the global system for the sole purpose of making themselves rich. Greed, completely unrestrained, keeps driving that group of very rich folks.
So, if that ever happens, if the angry people ever begin to understand, we may get to observe the 21st century version of the Russian revolution, this one directed at the very rich financial barons and dukes and their right wing political allies, by the heavily armed army of pissed off Americans. It’s that second amendment thing coming home to roost. Watch for it on the six o’clock news.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

News and the Internet

Today I received yet another lesson about the basic unreliability of the Internet. The specific lesson concerned a claim posted and widely circulated about a roll of film left in a brownie box camera for 68 years, revealing, when developed recently, a host of amazing photographs of the Pearl Harbor attack. The pictures were indeed impressive, and, had they been taken by one sailor using his brownie box camera, it would have indeed been amazing. I failed to check it out before sending it on to my grandson. Happily, he sent it on to his history teacher who checked it with Snopes, who debunked the assertion. Had I been careful, I might have done the same thing, but I was too lazy. Mainly, I saw these pictures and thought of the technology involved—Kodak film developed after 68 years, plus this fantastic quality taken with the types of lenses common to box cameras. Indeed, yet another example of, if it seems to good to be true . . . it is.
Exactly why someone would go to the trouble to collect together a bunch of pictures from Naval archive files and then put together this story of the brownie box camera is not immediately clear. I understand that people who attempt to circulate widely some tale about a fantastical software virus that will erase your entire hard disk if you don’t pass the warning on to thousands of people simply get off on conning thousands of gullible people. I suppose, in the final analysis that is all that is involved here—yet another piece of evidence that we who use the Internet are mainly lazy fools easily conned.
It was a valuable lesson for my grandson. But I wonder whether this isn’t another nail in the coffin of the news business. I know, I know, the Internet isn’t news. It’s merely a pipe for whoever wishes to send out stuff. But the model for the news business being widely discussed is an Internet model—as newspapers and print magazines die out, they will be replaced by their Internet equivalents. And these hoaxes help to breed people who basically can no longer believe what passes across their desktops and laptops. Because people are too busy, or too lazy to validate what comes across the Internet, they may slowly not believe anything they read from that source, or, worse yet, believe everything. It may become akin to having nothing on your TV except Fox News, and the Daily Show. Of course, the Daily Show is closer to real news every day.
Isn’t it??

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Religious Tests

Interesting article in this morning’s newspaper about how an elected Asheville, NC city councilman was being challenged by a local citizen, who asserts that the councilman should be denied office because he is an atheist. Turns out that the NC constitution, written in 1868, and revised as recently as 1971, still contains language that states a person cannot hold public office if he does not believe in God. That language is, of course, unconstitutional under the US constitution, but that rarely seems to matter to some folks. Whether the challenger actually believes that atheists should be denied public office, regardless of things called elections, is unclear. It may be, as the councilman notes, that some people are simply trying to overturn an election result that went against them. So, like War, religion may just be politics by different means.
But it makes me wonder why religious believers seem so easily threatened. Are they really all so insecure? Kind of like their war against gay and lesbian marriages. I have never understood how the marriage of two men, or two women as life partners would even in the slightest threaten the “sanctity of marriage”. Having been married for 54+ years, I confess to never feeling threatened by the prospect of homosexual weddings. I have often thought and said that heterosexual weddings seem to be a larger threat to the sanctity of the institution of marriage than anything homosexuals could possibly do. I refer, of course, to the high (50%??) divorce rate, and the continue high rates of domestic violence in which heterosexuals seem to think it’s ok to abuse their spouses and children.
Maybe we need something else to weed out threats to public institutions. Perhaps we need psycho-social tests that could demonstrate a person’s mental health status (with emphasis on potential violence traits). Or perhaps we should insist on intelligence tests as a requirement to hold public office (though, that might weed out ¾ of our current office-holders).
I always believed that this nation’s great strength was its plurality. We created and built this nation on the notion that all men (and women) are created equal. We need to celebrate that notion by eliminating these absurd religious tests, and by ignoring, perhaps even ridiculing, the silly folks who insist on applying them.

Thursday, December 10, 2009


The continued fuss by our conservative commentariat in this country about the Obama Peace prize really seems to provide all the evidence one needs for the depravity of the right wing. Rather than rejoicing in the notion that at least one part of the world holds out hope for America as a beacon of peace, they continue to blab on about how undeserving he is. Well, people, he already said that. He knows he isn't Nelson Mandela. We all know that. But some of us continue to believe, despite Afghanistan troop orders, that Mr. Obama is all about doing good in the world. He was willed an awful mess by George W. Bush and Dick Cheney, a mess that will not yield easily to even Herculean efforts.
So, I continue to wonder about the savage efforts by Fox News to demean the President. Why do I wonder? Well, I can see nothing good coming from Mr. Murdoch's efforts to tear down this Administration. Apparently, Mr. Murdoch, an Australian, objects to anything that might get in his way--taxes, regulations, anything that will cause him to slow down in his effort to destroy the very essence of what made America a great nation. Mr. Murdoch, why don't you and your Fox robots return to whatever spiderholes you occupy and let this country begin to heal itself?

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Guns vs. Butter

Afghanistan is beginning to weigh heavily. The longer I consider the President’s decision, the more distressed I become. The thought of dispatching 30,000 additional troops to defeat the Taliban and Al Qaida begins to sound like the definition of insanity—“doing the same thing over and over, while expecting a different result.”
I no longer even can be sure how we would know success. For a large part of my career, I taught and practiced that arcane field called program evaluation. We were taught and we attempted always to practice the art by starting with a definition of success on which all the participants could agree, and for which we were confident in our ability to measure objectively the outcomes. We also focused in this art on the intervention that was being put in place to achieve the desired ends. Our first question always was, “is the intervention plausible?” If the answer was, “No”, then we would stop, because proceeding with an evaluation would be pointless.
When our right-wing antagonistas, such as John McCain, insist that we should never leave until “Victory” is achieved, I keep wondering whether they/he has any idea how we might know whether “Victory” was at hand.
But even beyond the simple issue of measurement, and our ability to know whether what we are doing is likely to succeed, I keep asking myself whether we have learned anything from our own experiences in Vietnam, and our predecessors and our own experience in Afghanistan, mainly the British and the Russians. They shot up the place fairly dramatically, yet, in the end, they gave up and walked away with their tails between their legs. Now, to be fair, we provided substantial material assistance to the Taliban, the first time around, to help assure the Russian defeat. We assume the reverse is not operating now. Mainly, though, it is becoming clear that, short of killing everything human in Afghanistan, we probably cannot subdue a population by killing innocents and true enemies willy nilly. We never really seem to know the difference, so in the end, we seem to make as many enemies as we kill or subdue.
We also seem to be incapable of moving the Afghan population very far beyond their 14th century lifestyle, so they may never adopt our view of a democratically stable nation. I do imagine that the Afghan people would prefer a government that doesn’t cheat them, and doesn’t threaten them routinely, and, since we support corrupt, essentially evil national governments, it seems unlikely that we will “win the hearts and minds of the Afghan people.”
But perhaps my biggest problem is what we should do instead of shooting up the place. Walking away seems a non-starter, mainly because, after nine years, our past investment of blood and money really would be simply wasted, much as our investment of blood and money in Vietnam was wasted. So we seem faced with two equally awful alternatives. I keep hoping some third alternative will suddenly occur to one of our resident geniuses, although why I keep hoping is beyond me.
What might an alternative look like, I wonder? I keep thinking schools, hospitals; some global cooperative economic development program would be preferable to gunslingers. Certainly, a strong police force, either local, or international would be needed, to keep the thugs from blowing up the schools. But that should be different from drones shooting missiles at wedding parties. I wonder whether anyone has consulted anyone on this strategy beyond our generals and retired military minds. Wouldn’t hurt guys.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Advisory Guys

The experts in the USA capable of crafting anti-terrorism policies, or climate change policies, or economic development policies to arrest our deterioration and correct for our national indebtedness, always amaze me. I wonder why we bother to debate such topics within the ranks of, say the White house, or the halls of Congress, when we have the likes of George Will, or Charles Krauthammer, or even, for heavens sake, John McCain. I mean, he’s such an expert on everything, it isn’t clear to me why he deigns to bother his head with these mundane issues. But, whenever we need advice, we ought to simply ask any one of them what our new policies should be. I mean, John McCain says that our policy in Afghanistan should be Victory, period. We will leave after we achieve Victory. Timetables are clearly the wrong tactic, since the opposing forces will simply outwait us. Well, everyone knows that! But only John McCain can articulate such a clear-headed vision. I mean he was so clear about Vietnam. We would have won, had we only been willing to stay the course until Victory had been achieved.
Apparently John, and George, and Charles, and of course that old dog Joe Lieberman, held off on their clear-headed vision until Shrub and Dickie-Bird had left Dodge City and the new Sheriff arrived. I guess they didn’t want to embarrass the old guard dogs with their inherently superior knowledge of everything.
It’s really comforting knowing that we have all these experts to shore up our national leadership whenever the Dems take charge. And to know that, if the big Guys ever falter, we have Sarah Barbie standing in the wings, ever ready to advise us on any and all global crises, just as soon as she is finished with her book signing. I mean, first things first, huh?

Wednesday, December 2, 2009


So, we watched last night. The Prez made his case, convincing enough to those who are open to being convinced. The jackasses of course will never be convinced by anything he says. I noted several things.
1. He was, as always, brilliant at saying what had to be said. He was speaking to a tough audience, some of whom seemed actually to be dozing off—odd I thought.
2. I believe he is correct in asserting that both Afghanistan and Pakistan are places on our globe that are potentially dangerous to the United States. But then so is Somalia, and a few other places that are not really nations, more spots of dirt on the globe open to any thugs or robber gangs who have enough arms to grab some the territory for their own.
3. Fundamentally, I believe that nation-building is a chimera. It is likely never to happen in Afghanistan, Somalia, or western Pakistan in our lifetimes. These are places deeply rooted in the 14th century. Democracy isn’t as high on their agenda as getting enough rice or potatoes to eat for the next meal. Also, they are sufficiently befuddled by their views of their religion that they have no concept of an open society with democratic values. We are surely wasting our time, money and blood.
So, basically, I think the faster we can execute a quick march out of Afghanistan, the better. Having said that, however, I am still awaiting some pronouncement from the Prez on the subject of the aftermath. That is, what do we plan to do, perhaps what does the world plan to do about terrorism once we all leave the Afghans and the Pakistanis to themselves? If the Taliban regroup and come roaring back in Kabul and they allow Osama (remember him, that guy who Bush allowed to escape??)to begin organizing terror again, what will we do—begin viewing Afghanistan as a free fire zone, as we did in Vietnam (remember Vietnam?)? We had this brief period after 9/11 when the entire world, even for heaven’s sake Iran, was aligned with us. We could have organized a world-wide effort to eradicate Islamic terrorism, mainly because it was in everyone’s best interest, including most of the Islamic world, to get rid of thugs like bin Laden. But no, our Neo-Con ship of fools decided to attack one of the Islamic nations uninvolved in 9/11, just because they thought they could. And then they forgot about the guys who brought us 9/11, and they allowed the world-wide support to evaporate.
So, now of course, all the idiots in our nation who acted as cheerleaders for Shrub’s gang of thugs are now decrying Obama’s considered decision.
I continue to hope that he is correct in his latest decision. I know that, unlike Bush, he at least used his considerable brain in reaching that decision. But his decision is a high risk one. Of course, so would a quick march out of Afghanistan. Remember that last helicopter leaving Vietnam?