Sunday, November 30, 2008


Terrorism . . . what does it mean?
In the late 1700s, the British citizens of the American colonies, decided that King George was a tyrant and acted consistently against their wishes and, in fact, their interests. Those citizens rose up and launched what became a War of Independence, or the American Revolution. Eventually, those citizens succeeded in gaining their independence from Great Britain.
In 1857, Indian citizens rose up and launched what they call their First War of Independence, and what the British call the Great Indian Mutiny. That mutiny, or war of independence was put down, albeit with great violence and brutality. Eventually, following WW II, it became clear to the British that holding its “Crown Jewel”—India—was not worth the probable eventual cost, and on August 15, 1947, they granted independence to India.
Spring forward to 2001. A group of 19 Muslims, operating out of Afghanistan, hijacked and then crashed commercial airliners into first the World Trade Center, then the Pentagon. A third plane was forced by the hijacked passengers to crash into a field. That series of acts triggered what has become known as the global war against terrorism. This war was largely initiated and carried out by Americans, although some allied support has been provided.
One difference between the first several wars cited above and this latter “war” was the intended outcome—independence from an occupying colonial power, as opposed to . . . What? We don’t seem to know the answer to the question—“what are they trying to achieve? With the latest outrage—the savage attacks and killing spree by some ten terrorists, presumptively of Pakistani origin, although that is not known yet with certainty—we do not even have an announced motive. The terrorists made no claims, captured no hostages. They simply arrived in Mumbai, India, and began systematically killing people.
My best guess on this enigma is that the terrorists are indeed Muslim, and that their motive is a systematic attempt to inflame the world—to trigger another “holy war” by non-Muslims against the Muslim world. Why would they want such an unholy outcome? Because, I now believe, they expect that the remainder of the Muslim world—that part not now engaged in their quest, will perforce have to join them, or be destroyed by the non-Muslim world in the coming "Crusade". Horrible to contemplate, I realize, but I can find no other, less cataclysmic, (even if delusional) reasoning. At least with the pirates who operate out of Somalia, we can see the purpose—money, pure and simple. But with the attacks in India, and with many other attacks taking place throughout Iraq and Afghanistan, there is no mercenary purpose. Rather it all seems either vaguely religious in origin,(a seriously twisted corruption of their religious tenets) or some grand (and demented) form of imperialistic thinking by deluded people who live in caves, possess 12th century minds, and dwell on some future world in which they would rule the earth.
It is likely that, had we reacted differently to the 2001 attacks, perhaps with greater intelligence and less hardware, the current global mess might have been averted. But also, perhaps not. We cannot know. But going forward, there appear to me no reasonable, completely military solutions. We need to return perhaps to an earlier age—“speak softly, but carry a big stick.” Somehow, we need to rally—organize really—the entire world—Muslim and non-Muslim alike—against these brutal and immoral acts of savagery. The US right wing seemingly loves to mock the United Nations, but I see few alternatives to employing and even expanding the role of the United Nations against the terrorists, especially in anarchic states such as Afghanistan, Somalia, Pakistan and Iraq. I am hopeful that a President Obama will succeed in gaining global support, through international agencies to arresting the current sharp increases in world savagery. Civilization is at stake.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Thanksgiving is Over

Thanksgiving is Over . . . or is It?
So, we gathered together, all 23 of us, to celebrate the plenty in our lives. In my growing up years, a family gathering might include six or seven people, never more. Now, having moved around the country and globe, and finally settling here in North Carolina, our extended family has grown, and settled within hailing distance—from New York to Alabama. And we do come together now and again. Babies, old people, and lots in between.
We gather together partly just to be together. But we also have to celebrate the goodness in our collective lives, and the soon to arrive addition to the family—another beautiful soul to join our ranks. Happily, these gatherings are without the family battles that often characterize large families. We don’t all think alike, but that seems to be ok. I guess it’s a sign of health that we are able to tolerate each other’s quirks, and beliefs, mainly because we love one another, and we have this family tie thing. We have some history together, and when we recount some of that history—tales told over and over—everyone laughs, or groans. We also note during our gatherings the missing ones—some now gone from this earth, others just residing in different places around the globe, but all still remembered. The missing are part of our gathering, in spirit if not physical presence.
So, we gathered, and then in an instant, we dispersed, scattered again to places near and far. But we all left behind within each person, a small memory fragment, of good times, and shared emotions. It is the memory fragments that provide the ties that bind, to be renewed at each similar gathering. The ties are strengthened, the extended family grows slightly, and we become, like another universe, spinning around one another.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Obama Moves In

As Obama begins the process of picking out the curtains and hiring the maids (Hillary, Bob, Timothy, et al) in his new digs, one thing he needs to focus on is the moles, burrowing as we speak, from Shrub’s gang of thugs. Little Shrub has been a busy bee lately. In addition to accelerating his attack on the nation’s regulatory structure by deregulating almost everything in favor of his rich contributors), he has also been busy burrowing his incompetent staffers within the ranks of the career civil service. I guess all presidents have done this kind of thing. It’s just that, like everything else he has done, Shrub is carrying this effort beyond anyone’s imagination. So what I think is this.
Obama needs to create a new subcabinet position, maybe within that department we never really needed—you know, Homeland Security (the solution in search of a problem). The new subcabinet post would be something like Assistant Secretary of Doofuses. As soon as Obama takes office officially, he would begin the task of transferring all the newly burrowed republican moles to the new Office of Doofuses within Homeland Security (kind of like the Turkey Train that occurred when the Department of Education was created and people were transferred from DHEW). Then, after the transfers are official, he would announce that the Office was being located in Alaska. And not just anywhere in Alaska. Since Republicans are so fond of ANWR, I’m thinking that they could move the office to the end of the line, where Ernest Leffingwell traveled.
Alaska’s Arctic Expeditions might provide travel agent services for the newly arrived Republican staffers. On November 23, 2005 , an Arctic Expeditions crew set out from Kavik River, Alaska on the first year (winter) of an unprecedented journey in Alaska's arctic Brooks Range and the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR). With a team of 22 Alaskan malamutes, pulling three sleds with 2 tons of supplies, the crew mushed for five months into some of the most rugged and inaccessible regions of the arctic. During the expedition they faced 70 mph winds, -100 degree wind chills, and 72 days of no sun. Five months later, they returned to Kavik River with the dog team, three completely empty sleds, and many tales of the adventure. Now doesn’t that just sound like the kind of government experience the newly burrowed Republicans were hankering for, I mean especially after they all breathlessly pursued the Wasilla Barbie for VEEP. That Arctic Expeditions trip was a tribute to the "forgotten explorer," Ernest de Koven Leffingwell (1876-1971). Leffingwell was a member of the Anglo-American-polar Expedition (1906-1908) which established that there was no land North of Alaska. Leffingwell is credited for mapping much of the arctic coast and the Brooks Range, which is now part of ANWR, between 1908 and 1914.
Now wouldn’t that just be the perfect spot for the little Shrubbies?
And what would be their task? Well, they could be placed in charge of protecting Alaskan ice. Yep, you do know that Alaskan ice is one of the great American national treasures, don’t you? I know, when I last visited Alaska in 1968, the hotel in Juneau served Alaskan blue glacier ice in their drinks. Now, doesn’t that suggest a true national treasure, eminently worthy of the Republican staffers’ best efforts? I mean, they are so into preservation and conservation. Right?

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Mencken on Politics

HL Mencken once wrote:
“Turn, now, to politics. Consider, for example, a campaign for the Presidency. Would it be possible to imagine anything more uproariously idiotic — a deafening, nerve-wracking battle to the death between Tweedledum and Tweedledee.
I defy any one to match it elsewhere on this earth. In other lands, at worst, there are at least intelligible issues, coherent ideas, salient personalities. Somebody says something, and somebody replies.

Here, having perfected democracy, we lift the whole combat to symbolism, to transcendentalism, to metaphysics. Here we load a pair of palpably tin cannon with blank cartridges charged with talcum power, and so let fly. Here one may howl over the show without any uneasy reminder that it is serious, and that some one may be hurt. I hold that this elevation of politics to the plane of undiluted comedy is peculiarly American, that no-where else on this disreputable ball has the art of the sham-battle been developed to such fineness…”

And so, we are finished with this silly season, happily. Finished also with a pseudo-leader who is incompetent in two languages, a man who cannot complete an intelligible sentence. We now come to a period in which we will have a leader who is a learned man, one who actually speaks English.
What will we do, having such a leader?
Perhaps, such a leader will make us to understand that a leader cannot solve most of our problems. He may guide us to a solution here or there, but largely we remain masters of our own universe. If we choose to work at solving the problem of undereducation, then solutions are possible, even if at some cost. If we choose to work at bringing peace to places that have not known peace for many decades, perhaps centuries, then perhaps peace may arrive.
If we decide that all of our people should have access to decent health care, then perhaps, one day, such a health care solution might be devised.
But our leader cannot do such things on his own. He can only point to the way.
I expect our new leader will do just that. Whether we the people will follow his advice and his guidance is still in doubt. Remember, 143 years after another leader showed us a new way, we seem to remain committed to continuing The Civil War.
But perhaps our new leader will ignite a new flame, and something akin to enlightenment will follow.

Friday, November 14, 2008

More Chutzpah

Ahhh, yet another example of Republitive chutzpah.
Now, we have President Stupidhead arguing to the G20 (when did it change from the G8—inflation at work?) that we need to preserve the "free market" system. So, what I’d like to know is, when did we ever actually have a "free market" system? Seems to me, if he really wants the free market to continue working its magic, he should be arguing for no public money ever being used by any government to rescue the greedy doofuses (economic criminals) who managed to wreck the world economic system through its systematic looting behavior. Why in a”free market” would any public money ever be required?
And why in a theoretically free market would any government subsidies ever be required? And, by the way, why should Alaskan natives (Governor Palin and her crowd) ever receive payments from big oil companies just for living in Alaska?
And why would we subsidize oil companies by building superhighways that support an automobile transportation approach, but refuse to build the equivalent rail infrastructure that might compete with the automobile?
That fact seems to be that President Stupidhead and his white collar criminal friends like to have their cake while they also consume it. When they screw up, they yell for government bailouts. When their approach is not yet in free fall, they want government out of their way.
They don’t want to pay any taxes, but want roads, schools, police forces, teachers, a strong military.
Chutzpah . . . the man fairly drips with chutzpah, every time he opens his mouth.
Is there still time to impeach and then jail him and his criminal co-conspirator VEEP?

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Starting Over

What, the recession isn’t over yet? What gives, Obama has been president-elect for a week now. He hasn’t yet solved our financial crisis? And hey, Iraq is still a mess, Afghanistan is on the edge of collapsing and returning to Taliban rule, and the Congolese continue their killing spree. There’s no Middle East Peace as of this writing. What has the man been doing?
Think the expectations are a bit high? I guess that’s what eight years of the Doofus Reign will do.
But first things first. The man needs to get his cabinet named, and then his subcabinet, perhaps even more important than the top jobs. I still remember the transition from Carter to Reagan, when I was sitting in the Department of Health Education & Welfare, awaiting the incoming team. And what proud moments they were. Until Bush, Reagan had in my limited view, the worst cabinet I had ever seen. But the bottomless barrel theory was alive and well, when Shrub took office. Reagan’s legacy is safe, as long as the world has George Bush to kick around.
This transition team appointments process is vital and a bit scary. I mean how does one avoid appointing people like Sarah Palin? It isn’t easy. One continuing problem is this notion, promulgated by Reagan, that “Government isn’t the solution, Government is the problem.” So, with that mentality, you appoint people to run these vast government agencies, who are essentially at odds with the mission of those agencies. So, you put people opposed to family planning in charge of the Federal family planning program. Or you place antagonists at the helm of agencies such as Justice, or the Food and Drug Administration, or the Environmental Protection Agency. Now, when you do that, you create dysfunctional agencies., much as happened at the Federal Emergency Management Agency, under Bush’s “heckuva job Brownie.” I guess, if you are a Ronald Reagan, or a George Bush, creating dysfunctional government agencies may seem a good thing—it’s a self-fulfilling prophecy. But if you’re an ordinary American citizen, you might have come to rely on these regulatory agencies to protect you from the worst excesses of predatory capitalism. Who wouldn’t want protection from Chinese capitalists, for example? How much melamine would you like in your breakfast cereal, please?
So, Obama’s first very large job, apart from refloating the US banking and auto industries (the latter so they can keep producing Hummers for Joe Six-Pack), is finding a few thousand, highly competent people, who are not actually opposed to the mission of the agencies they will be asked to run. He will have lots of help, not just from employment agencies. He has all those lobby groups, whose job it is now to staff the agencies with people their industries approve of. He has all those now unemployed people who worked on his campaign.
And last of all, he has a virtual army of people who will now be unemployed for the first time in eight years—cartoon columnists, and comedians, whose industry has suddenly collapsed because Obama is not funny—he’s, gasp, thoughtful, and double gasp, smart.
Heaven forfend.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Turning the Page

Turning the Page
Yes, the election of 2008 is over and it’s time to get on with the business of Government again. But, before we leave, a few farewells are in order.
1. Miss Vanilla Wasilla, the Alaskan iceberg who personally sank the SS Maverick, an old rustbucket that deserved to sink anyway, gave us many moments of sheer joy (assuming you were a thinking moderate). Her “deer-in-the-headlights” look when asked by Katie Couric to recount which newspapers she read. Her assertion that Africa was a country, not a continent. Her ignorance of the countries involved in NAFTA; her inability to name the countries in North America. Her constant characterization of her supporters as the only “real Americans".
And then her shopping spree. Who will forget her shopping spree, spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on her wardrobe and a few (thousands) of dollars for her precious first dude and her extensive family. All those and more, for which we thank Miss Wasilla. That the Republican Party is gearing up to nominate her in 2012 as their candidate, we can only say, Thank You.
2. Our own Robin Hayes, who believes and says that Liberals all hate America and those hard-working, God-fearing "real Americans". His farewell concession speech will long be remembered, when he said to Congressman-elect Kissell, “well you’ve been chasing this train for quite a while. I only hope you know how to drive it.” Now that ranks as perhaps one of the lowest in low-class concessions, making Hayes forever remembered as a mean-spirited little man, of no distinction, a man made rich through birth, who has never actually worked at anything. May he enjoy his retirement.
3. Also, kudos go out to Liddy Dole, who has now succeeded in trashing her husband’s good name on at least four separate occasions. Liddy has been given repeated opportunities to perform, thanks to Bob Dole. She was Secretary of Transportation, President of the American Red Cross, senator from North Carolina (talk about carpetbaggers) and head of the Senate GOP Committee on electing GOP senators, all of which she neglected. Apparently, nobody told her that these were actual jobs, where she was supposed to do actual work. And then her ad, accusing her opponent of being “Godless”, an atheist who doesn’t believe in God. (in North Carolina, that would be a mortal sin in Catholic terms) Turns out her opponent was a church elder who teaches Sunday School. Yes, we will long remember Liddy as one of the true village idiots of the Grand Old Party. We send her back to her home state of Washington, DC (oops, not yet a state, but still . . .)
So, yes, let’s get on with the business of governing. But first, will someone come in and sweep up all the broken china left behind by that Texas village idiot?
Yeah, thanks.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

It is Over

It’s over.
The months of anticipation are now done, and hard work lies ahead. Perhaps the most immediate hard work involves disabling George Bush, who seems intent on gutting every protection we have as citizens from the worst instincts of predatory capitalism. Bush apparently has no intention of going quietly into the night. His ongoing assault on regulations looks like something akin to the scorched earth policies of past military dictators. We hope he will be stopped, as he seems to be operating on his own worst instincts, which are bad enough even in “normal” times.
President-Elect Obama also needs to focus on his appointments to the senior cabinet posts and, as importantly, the next several layers down—the Assistant secretaries, and their Deputies. Having worked at that level during the Reagan Administration, I am acutely aware of the problems created by incompetent people who are also overtly hostile to the mission of the agencies they will be managing. Mr., Bush apparently knew no competent people, so he tapped into his phone directory of rich and not so famous donors. “Heckuva-a-job-Brownie” was only one of probably thousands. He even screwed with the health and science agencies, something most past Republicans have left to the professionals. So, now Mr. Obama must find dedicated and highly competent professionals to begin to right the wrongs of the eight year desert called Bush.
Many people both here and abroad will surely be disappointed, since Mr. Bush has stripped away most of the resources normally available to the Federal Government. Even if Mr. Obama decides to raise taxes, the deficits created by the Bush years will continue for many years. It will be difficult to deliver on many of the promises made until the economy is righted again. And that will take some time, and the active cooperation of Democrats, Republicans and the American people. To those who whine about having to pay taxes, my response is that taxes represents the glue that binds us together as a civilized society. Mr. Bush focused his eight years on rewarding his richest friends. The piper is now playing his tune and he is demanding payment. It is time to restart our American society as the just nation it has been in the past.
We wish Mr. Obama well. We are confident that he intends to restore our national honor and dignity. We are confident that he will begin again working with the rest of the world. We are all on this sphere together, hurtling through space on a heavenly voyage. It is again time to begin acting as though we are one world.

Monday, November 3, 2008

What Will We Do?

What will we all do when it’s over?
“It” in this instance is the never-ending campaign soon actually to end. For myself, I started writing a Blog for reasons unknown—“Because it’s there, said the man when asked why he climbed Mt. Everest?” Now, the Blog has turned into this liberal rant on the election. But, now, “whither thou goest?” We’ll just have to see, I guess.
I’m also thinking of my Bush corner. See, for the past several years, I have been producing a Bush calendar. It obviously makes fun of Bush—he’s such a target . . . like those mighty hunters who shoot moose and other sides of barns. My calendar is pretty funny, and allows me to laugh at this most disastrous president we have ever had in this once proud nation, soon to be proud again. But my Bush corner also contains a Bush countdown calendar—a little electronic thing about the size of a credit card that counts down the days til he leaves office and returns, with Cheney, to his spiderhole in Texas. Our little corner contains a daily calendar that you tear off each day, to reveal something inane our doofus president has said, and there are so many. Finally, there is a collection of little buttons that proclaim something about our stupid president. That whole corner will now have to go, to be replaced by art . . . or maybe just by soap, a truly symbolic gesture.
I also wonder what will happen to Jon Stewart and Steven Colbert, whose careers have been made by our comedic president and his idiotic advisers and spokespeople. . Think of William Krystol, “why is everyone so exercised? It’s not a psychodrama; it’s ONLY AN ELECTION.” Or about his latest press spokeswoman, Dana Perino, who seemed to have no idea what the Cuban Missile Crisis was all about—Uhh, the possibility of blowing up the entire planet??? Or his VEEP, who shot his friend in the face after having a few beers and then deciding to go shooting quail. Who will provide Stewart and Colbert with such rich material? I realize you can make fun of anyone, but Bush is like the Mother Lode of comedic material.
Well, I guess we’ll all just have to cope.
Of course, if Sarah Palin gets elected . . .

Sunday, November 2, 2008

The Civil War

Here in the South, they call The Civil War, the War of Northern Aggression. The first time we heard that term, we had no idea what they were talking about. But we soon got it. When we lived in India, the Indians refer to The Great Indian Mutiny (British term for the bloody uprising of 1857) as The First War for Independence. It's true, where you stand seems to depend, at least partly, on where you sit.
When we see guys (mostly guys) driving around in trucks with Confederate battle flag license plates, we are uncomfortable, since, to us, it translates to "racist". No other explanation suffices, and references to history or culture never quite pass the sniff test.
So, as we approach the great election of 2008, I am holding my breath. Hopeful, but frightened at the same time. We know that Bush's team stole at least one election, and that attempts to stifle the vote are ongoing in this one.
Still, I'm hopeful.
Part of what I hope for is a final end to The Civil War. Maybe this is the time when we can finally say, "It's over." And, as Lincoln declared, "we can all play Dixie again."