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?

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Black Friday, Tiger Woods, and the Secret Service

We apparently live in interesting times, even aside from our crazed Foxpublicans.
Black Friday came and went and nobody died, and that’s a good thing. Wal-Mart apparently opened its doors to a less unruly crowd of bargain hunters this year, and “let the games begin”. I wonder how big the discounts were on the Alaska Barbie book? By most accounts, shoppers were interested in serious bargains, and the shoppes accommodated by stocking at least three of each of their serious bargains. We have never attempted to master the black art of Black Friday shopping. But we are not what one might call “serious shoppers”. We prefer the Black Friday deals on the Internet. We can sit in the comfort of our home, with a nice cup of morning coffee, and browse to our heart’s content. I always assume that Black Friday shoppers learn their craft by observing the commodity traders on Wall Street. I am much too intimidated to imitate those crazies. So Black Friday passed us by once again. Such is life.
Then I noticed an e-mail from our BBC and ABC news connections that our boy Tiger tried to back out of his driveway at 2:00 AM, careened into a fire hydrant and wound up semi-conscious and unable to get out of the car—his wife had to smash his windows with one of his favorite golf clubs to free him. Huh??? And alcohol was not involved??? Yeah, right . . . and if you buy that one, I have this nice old bridge in Brooklyn that I’d like to sell you.
But the really weird one is the couple who gate-crashed the first Obama state dinner, in tux and flowing gown no less. Somehow, the Secret Service neglected to check their invitations and they just strolled on in and introduced themselves to the President, and the Vice President. Happily, the couple used their camera, instead of a Mach 9 pistol to preserve their evening. Are you f…..g kidding me??? The Secret Service is now imitating the FBI and the CIA-- you remember them—the guys who missed 9/11 and the collapse of the Soviet Union. I’d like to believe that their apparent screw-up has nothing to do with the fact of a first black president, and more to do with the fact that the Service is now part of the Department of Homeland Security, that very large agency that is unable to extricate its multiple heads from its multiple assholes. That’s the agency that Shrub created after his buddies in the CIA and the FBI screwed up and allowed a bunch of Saudi Arabians living in Afghanistan to destroy the World Trade Center. For guys who hate big gubment, they really know how to prove their point. So, now we’re left with a bunch of over-armed national police forces that probably couldn’t compete with the Iraqi police. Bet they can still waterboard, though.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

The Day of Thanksgiving

It's fast approaching, that day in which we give thanks for the bounteous feast we are about to receive. I think sometimes that we all need to pause more and think about that harvest of goodies heaped on the table in front of us, and what that represents in our world. We talk a lot these days about the roughly 40 million people who have no regular access to health care. But the other day, I saw the same number being reported, only this time it was people who don't have enough food. When I look at our healthy grandchildren, I am aware that they are probably exceptional in this world. They are healthy, well fed, and well cared for by parents who care deeply about them.
Whenever I do some minor thing for our local domestic violence shelter program, I become aware of how lucky we are. And when I read about children sold into sexual slavery, I become angry, but I always begin thinking once again about fortune and how we need to think more about the goodness in our lives.
So, when we pause, just prior to diving into the turkey, and the mashed potatoes, and the stuffing, and the cranberries, I plan to take a deep breath, partly to thank our whole family for being who they are, and our children and our grandchildren for being who they are, and our relatives near and far, for being such an important and happy part of our lives. And partly, I just want to say out loud that we are all fortunate creatures, alive and smiling on this globe spinning steadily in this vast, cold universe.
Eat on folks, but never forget the less fortunate among us.

Friday, November 20, 2009

America the Great

I have begun to wonder about America and our good citizenry. I realize that, in days past, we have always had competing ideas and competing interests that drive our political system. But rarely in my past experience have we had a political system in which the two parties were so far apart that the interests of the Nation now seem to disappear into the mists. One party, the Grumpy Old People seems intent on blocking anything that threatens to move through the Congress, regardless of the subject. Health Care Reform of course is highest on their blocking agenda, because they do not want another Medicare or Social Security on their hands. Those programs, wildly successful by almost any measure, are both democratic party triumphs from another age. The Grumpies won’t have it. They will apparently stop at nothing to defeat any attempt to deliver health care to the uninsured. Heaven forbid the (formerly) richest nation on earth should actually care for its citizens enough to provide them with decent health care.
And then there’s the bowing thing. Obama actually paid his respects to a foreign leader by bowing. The Grumpies regard bowing as akin to subservience, instead of simply a polite paying of respect to an older person of equal rank. See, the thing is, Dickie Bird Cheney and The Shrub never bowed to anyone (daddy-shrub, of course opted to throw up at a formal state dinner, which I guess is not quite the same thing). So, they’re all throwing a hissy-fit.
And then there’s the deficit. Heaven forfend we should run a deficit (His Royalness Ron the Magnificent never proposed, or achieved a balanced budget). The Shrub actually achieved a degree of longtime fame because of his cavalier approach to budgeting and the deficit game. But given that he achieved his level of incompetence as a Yale cheerleader (see the Peter Principle) our expectations for his performance were not exactly at an all-time high (by the by, ever notice the scary parallels between the Shrub and Sarah? Both cheerleaders, both unsuccessful governors, both amazingly ignorant about world affairs, both super machos – actually, to be fair, the Shrub probably could never field dress a dead moose).
So, I begin to wonder what we should think of all this. Have the Grumpies simply opted out of the human race and decided to become officially the party of Fascistas, opposed to everything democratic, and anything that might benefit Americans, i.e., Anti-American? Hmmm . . . what would Lincoln say?
And on another planet, Rudy Giuliani has announced that he plans to become Supreme Leader of the Universe, unless Oprah gets there ahead of him.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Fiscal responsibility

I’m impressed at the cautious approach to health care legislation by republicans and blue dog democrats. They are all really, really concerned about the effects of the legislation on our deficit and our vastly expanded public debt. And that is a good thing. After all, our great, great, great grandchildren may have to pay off that debt some day, won’t they?
I just wonder why these same ladies and gentlemen didn’t seem as concerned when the Shrub was running things into the ground. It was after the Shrub cut the taxes to his richest friends that we once again descended into that circle of deficit hell. And everyone applauded. Suddenly, they’re all snarky about the deficits. Wouldn’t do to run deficits just to allow people to have health care, would it? In the paper this morning, some gallant reader responded to an Op-Ed piece by Nicholas Kristof. Kristof had claimed that 45,000 Americans die each year, because they have no health insurance. He used as one example, a case of a 31-year old woman who died from cervical cancer, because she didn’t get pap smears in an annual physical. The reader, a compassionate woman no doubt, asserted that the woman who died simply showed bad judgment, and that having insurance or not having insurance wasn’t the problem.
See, I like it when we reduce everything to individual morality and judgment. It’s not that the (formerly) richest nation on earth is, shall we say, remiss in failing to assure that its inmates have access to the same high quality care as our commercial CEOs and their legislative handmaidens. No, it’s that those without health insurance are immoral, or simply exercise bad judgment. That way, we the people don’t have to accept any responsibility for these, shall we say, premature deaths. Meanwhile, we can get on with the real bidness of AMERICA—making our CEOs safe from socialists. I wonder whether we just shouldn’t convert AMERICA into one of those off shore tax havens, and stand ready to accept all those illicit profit dollars from Colombian and Afghan drug dealers. I mean, why should we let the Bahamians have all the fun?
And elsewhere, the Bimbo Barbie from Alaska is readying herself to make a few million from that book someone else wrote about her. No wonder she wanted so badly to quit from all that governing stuff. It must have been great sitting out on her back deck, looking across the straits to Russia and listening to her ghostwriter spin a tale of magic about herself and her loony family. I wonder whether her ghostwriter inserted anything about when Barbie-doll plans to secede from the North American continent?

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

A Wrongful Vote

Our Congressman just decided to vote against the health care reform bill that just passed in the House. His reasoning was that the bill would result in Medicare reductions. So, he joined the “loyal” opposition of reactionary republicans and blue dog democrats to attempt defeat of the bill. We know that republicans have no plan to extend health care to the uninsured and to begin reducing the overall cost of health care. Mainly, what we know is that the leading republicans, currently all the crazy people in the US, basically don’t care about the people who are uninsured. I guess they view such people as somehow morally inferior. But then they view everyone who isn’t in their camp as morally inferior. See, it’s not just politics, or even policy with them. It’s all about their view of what is moral. It’s why they’re so crazed about Gays, and about abortion.
But I digress.
What should I be thinking about my Congressman who voted no on what I consider to be one of the most important pieces of legislation since the passage of Medicare. A good friend once told me that I should never allow “the perfect” to get in the way of “the good.” By which he meant that when we strive to improve our lives, or the lives of others in our world, we should always reach for high order goals, but we should never allow our goals to prevent making actual progress, even it meant that real progress was less than we intended. So, in this case, a bill was being proposed that would advance the cause of universal health care, something republicans oppose. That the bill was imperfect everyone agrees. But passage would enable debate to go forward. Defeat would have strengthened the cause of the crazed opposition. So, regardless of the reasons for my congressman’s vote, he placed himself on the wrong side of history. I understand that he may still vote yes on some subsequent piece of modified legislation, after the bill has gone to reconciliation with whatever the senate passes. But, nonetheless, he took the risk that this bill could have been not only defeated, but buried, as republicans devoutly wish. From my perspective, that risk is simply too large. So, I have informed my congressman that I shall no longer support him. He is assuming, of course, that I have nowhere to go and that I will support him in the future, regardless of what he does. He is wrong. If he continues to act as a republican, then he is no better than the republicans, and does not deserve my vote.
Somehow, some day, democrats are going to have to begin acting like democrats and not scared rabbits, running for cover every time a crazed republican shouts fire in a theatre. They need to stand up and be counted among the responsible Americans, and reject the crazed and twisted arguments of nuts like Michelle Bachman and Sarah Palin. Let that day come soon.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Crazy People

A crazed woman claiming to be from Minnesota was seen screaming at an angry crowd, that “they” shouldn’t take away her health care. Clearly delusional, and in need of psychiatric medication, the woman was overheard repeatedly muttering under her breath, “hoist up the ladder, Jack, I’m aboard”, that well known mantra of compassionate-conservatives. The woman seemed to be suffering from some form of republican PTSD, that now common psychopathic state induced by the withdrawal of someone named Dickie-Bird Cheney from her life. The crowd was seen comforting her by chanting “Heil Hitler” over and over again.
And elsewhere, The New York Yankees decided to move to Peoria as a protest against the re-election of Mike Bloomberg. A Yankee spokesperson stated, “we’re the world champs, and we don’t want to be associated with rich assholes like that. Even we have standards, you know.”

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Off Years

So what did we learn from this off-off year election? It depends on where you sit. Republicans seem to be breaking out the champagne, letting the good times roll. Democrats are savoring their victory in upstate New York, the first for a Dem since the 1800s. The sensible view this election landscape as a signal that the few people who actually cared enough to vote are expressing their concern for the economic wreckage that continues to sprawl across our land. The recession may be over, but only for the economists of the country. For the unemployed, or simply the employed-scared, the economy continues to suck. Certainly, for those whose mortgages are now higher than the value of their homes, the recession continues.
Some Republicans are announcing that Democrats should be very, very scared right now, for the ground is rumbling underneath them. But I find myself wondering, just why Republicans should be so giddy. The wreckage, after all, occurred under their watch, and largely because of actions taken by their core base—rich republican greed-masters at the helm of the nation’s financial institutions, and their government lackeys who allowed them to do whatever they wanted, until it was time for the public to rescue them. I understand that some republicans continue to insist that the current government is responsible for our current mess, but they are simply wrong. They refuse to face facts. I know it is tiresome to continue to blame George Bush, but he really did wreak havoc across the globe—two wars, one of which was entirely unnecessary, and the other of which was badly mismanaged, a tax policy that was fiscally irresponsible, producing deficits beyond belief, and a broader government mismanagement that is leading this nation toward second class status.
We are certainly a nation in decline, thanks to republican mismanagement. Whether Obama, or anyone else can arrest the decline is at least questionable. Obama may turn out to be the right man at the wrong time. He still has time to pull a Roosevelt out of his hat, but he may not be given the time by an electorate with the attention span of a gnat. The United States is suffering from ADHD, and the people want their revenge. George and company slunk out of sight like a pack of hyenas banished from their kill. Whines are heard occasionally from one or another, mostly from Dickie-Bird who refuses to disappear.
We continue to hope that this decent man we elected last year will inspire a turnaround in the world, or at the least in our economy. But time is not on his side. Perhaps he will be lucky. Often, it is better to be lucky than good. We hope he will be one of the chosen lucky ones. Good luck President Obama. The hyenas are beginning to bark again. They need to be silenced.

Thursday, October 29, 2009


I guess if you look hard enough, there’s probably an upside to most situations. Every time the “news” people report on a political event or process, they are bound to inform us that, while the Democrats have to attempt to balance their initiatives so as to appease both the liberal and the not-so-liberal wings of the party, whilst the Repubs present a solid front—united in their nay-saying. They have “No” down to a fine art it would seem. So, what might the upside to such a situation be? Well it occurs to me that, if the Repubs have settled in as the official government nay-sayers, marching in lockstep to their very right wing drummers, then it no longer matters what the Dems actually do. It has been established through multiple attempts at “bipartisanship” that, it matters little what one promises the “loyal” opposition, they will, in the end, say No. But I regard that as a freeing signal. Now, it would seem, the Dems can do whatever they like. The Repubs will say no, but everyone already knows that.
So, on health care “reform” they should proceed with a public option in whatever form they can devise that will satisfy their own conservative wing. And on Afghanistan, the President is free to do what he believes to be in the best interest of the American people, and the world actually. And on government regulation of our various “too big to fail” commercial entities, regulate away.
Now, with every upside, there is always a potential downside—the yin and yang I guess. The downside is that, whatever they do, the Dems will own the solution, and the repubs will use any negative outcomes as ammunition during the election. So, it behooves the Dems to be sensible and to attempt to craft solutions that might actually work—i.e., produce the intended results without any awful unintended consequences. But any successes can also be claimed as “mono-partisan”, i.e., without regard to the “loyal” opposition.
And, Guys, lay off the Fox News shtick. They are not worth the time it takes to blow them to hell. So, forget about them. They’re an entertainment outlet, not a news outlet. Treat them accordingly. That means, you should laugh at them more often.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Wandering in the Forest of Thoughts

This morning’s Charlotte Observer contained a column in the Living (Religious) section of the Saturday paper. The columnist was reporting on an interview he had with Richard Dawkins, and the responses he had received from his readership on that interview. The responses were entirely predictable here in Charlotte, where the only thing that exceeds the number of Wal-Marts is the number of churches.
Most people were adamant that Dawkins is unworthy of any space in the newspaper, and a few were equally adamant that Dawkins is of course, correct in his assertions that there is no God. Having read Richard Dawkins, I concluded that he was at his silliest when he reached his “conclusive proof” that there is no God. It made me wonder, though, why we even bother to publish such material, either in book form, or in the columns of local newspapers. To be fair, I have read Dawkins, Hitchens and Sam Harris, to try to understand whether they had anything to share with me that might enlighten me on this troubling subject. Please note that I read such writers not because I imagine they can shed light on the fundamental issue of whether there is, or is not a God. I long ago concluded that, whether there is or is not a God, we will never understand the truth in any of our lifetimes. Instead, I read them to see whether they could shed light on the basic issues of religion, and why and how organized religion manages to hold onto the world’s population. Also, I always hope to understand why the world’s religions seem so firm in their conviction that science is their enemy (perhaps that is a Christian thing??). I assume that religion is always at risk when people become educated and begin entertaining doubt. But many people obtain education, while holding fast to this basic belief in an ultimate being. And that seems ok to me.
What is not ok is this notion that believers and non-believers should not occupy the same planet. That is why I keep hoping that some religious leaders will emerge somewhere, sometime in the future, who will be able to connect with the agnostics of the world in order to reach an accommodation that allows everyone to live in peace.
But maybe that is just another silly idea, like Republicans and Democrats sitting together at a table to work out solutions to the Nation’s many problems. Silly, I know . . ..

Friday, October 16, 2009

Bankers & Organized Crime

I received the other day in the mail a nice note from Chase, the banker of note on one of our two bank credit cards. It explained how much they cared and how they were driven to providing us with the highest possible service. And they just wanted us to know about this little issue of rates and how they might be changing. One of the rates was the base rate, I guess, for people who largely pay on time, but still revolve. That rate might be going up to, hmmm, I don't know, maybe 15%. And if we were naughty, or were experiencing some serious financial problems, you know, like losing a job, or something, and if we had some difficulties paying on time, the rate might be, umm, maybe 30%.
And so it set me to thinking. See, there's this Canadian crime program, called Intelligence, all about how Canadians fight organized crime. And in one episode, the bad guys (in this series it's a little hard to always tell the difference between the bad guys and good guys) decide they need a place to park their ill-gotten gains, after they have succeeded in washing it. So they basically buy a bank in the Bahamas. And then, see, I got the letter in the mail from Chase. So, I began wondering about bankers and organized crime. So, how would I know if our bank credit card company was being piloted by good guys or, you know, the bad guys. I mean, 15-30% interest? Doesn't that begin to sound like your friendly neighborhood loan shark? And what else does Chase have in mind here? Do they contract with guys like Blackwater, who will offer to kneecap you, if you fail to pay the 15-30% interest rates?
And these are the guys who are "too big to fail", and therefore deserving of a Federal bailout?? So, how much worse would Federally run banks really be?

And elsewhere, Glenn Beck has made his first bid to become the US Surgeon General under the next republican doofus administration. By telling his listeners not to get the flu shot, he has placed himself as the pseudo-physician of record in the republican camp. Way to go repubs.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Governance vs. Electioneering

Governance turns out to be tough stuff and Obama must now be asking himself, "why in heaven's name did I do this to myself?" We all know that Congress avoids taking on governance at all costs. Their normal routine, when presented with evidence of a problem, is to pass some piece of legislation, preferably one involving the spending of public money, and then to move on, as in, "alright, we've solved the problem of poverty in America, what's next?"
Having worked within government for a few years, and studying it for several decades, one thing became clear. Congress has the attention span of a gnat. So, governance, or in their case, oversight, gets short shrift. Maybe, they just don't know enough; they're not, after all, the brightest lights on the planet. But they also seem incapable of focusing on big problems like war, poverty, health care, fiscal meltdowns, and even outright thievery by banking executives, for more than a few days at a time, before changing the subject.
But we expected a bit more from our President. He is, after all, a very smart man, and a highly principled one (also a foreign notion in Congress). He promised us the moon, and hasn't yet delivered, despite the Nobel award vote of confidence.
It is true that he received from President Doofus, a giant platter of dung--two wars, both of which bore more than a passing resemblance to Vietnam, and a wrecked economy, caused by Bush, Congress, Clinton, and criminal CEO's.
His promises on health care reform may have been just silly, given the health insurance industry's death grip on Congress. I mean, what could have been worse--trying to extract the guns from a bunch of cold dead republican hands???
It's just possible that he should have avoided mention of health care reform during his campaign. He probably could have won by simply not being Bush, given his opposition, the Bush-Lite and Barbarella Barbie team. Maybe the next time, a democrat even thinks about reforming the health care financing system in this country, he should adopt a stealth campaign. Build up his credentials by accomplishing a few things the public likes, then quietly introduce a law that "tweaks" the insurance system by introducing a single payer for Democrats only.
Try to get it passed during some twilight hour period, when republicans are too drunk or strung out on drugs to notice.
But now, instead of following through on his promise to Gays, and his promises to all of us to rid the Nation of corrupt banking system CEO's and their hired guns, he's picking a fight with Fox??? I know, I know. Fox is a nasty piece of business, and yes, they are an enemy of sorts. But they're not Al Qaida. They're not even Al Jazeera. It seems to me they are best left alone, even to simply ignoring them altogether. Glenn Beck is nuts, Rush is a fat dopehead, and the republicans deserve them. They are the perfect representation of what republicans stand for now. Leave them to their own devils. Let's get on with the governance thing, Barack.
And elsewhere, Bob Dole objected to having the Dems agree with him. He wants to go back to the folks what brung him--Rush, Glenn and the Christian Taliban. Have at it Bobby.

Friday, October 9, 2009


Yaaaay. Our President wins the Nobel Peace Prize!!
That’s good, no???
I mean, after eight years of a unilateralist, and essentially incomprehensibly ignorant foreign policy machine in Washington, we are regaining our position as a force for peace in the world. Yes, Obama has taken over the Presidency with two wars underway (has it really been eight years). And yes, it is to be acknowledged that he has a lot of time left in his term of office. But it’s a start. Someone recognizes that he is essentially a man of peace.
Now, I can’t wait for Fox News, to see Glenn Beck foaming at the mouth. I realize that he needs to be medicated, and probably should be warehoused in a state hospital, but he is the leading light and intellectual leader of the republican tea party. So, whatever Glenn Beck shrieks, will become the mantra for republicans. And I imagine George Will will weigh in with his usual pseudo-intellectual commentary, asserting perhaps that this award demonstrates the idiocy of the Nobel awards committee. George is never at a loss for words in such events.
But for at least some of us, sitting on the sidelines, and still hoping for good things to emerge out of this presidency, this is a hopeful sign, a recognition perhaps, that Obama was handed a giant dumpster of republican dung, and he is still trying to turn it into something meaningful. Maybe he will succeed, and maybe the nation’s conservatives will yet prevent him from accomplishing reasonable goals. We’ll see, and the world will see.
In the meantime, I rejoice at this modest recognition. He joins an august body of people. Thank you Nobel Committee.

Monday, October 5, 2009


The other day I was reading an article about a program in which students, middle-schoolers I think, were pitted against adults in an academic contest. One of the questions was “what is the grammatical term for the expression “jumbo shrimp”. The answer was “oxymoron”. And I found myself thinking, “well no, that’s not really an oxymoron at all. In that case “jumbo” is merely being used as a term of relative size, to denote a shrimp larger than other shrimps. I understand that jumbo shrimp is used commonly as an example of an oxymoron. But my mind immediately drifted off to other more serious forms, as “military intelligence”, or republican ethics”, both now fine examples of the form. And that got me to thinking about such terms.
Military intelligence—is that a reasonable interpretation of the military mind and it’s thinking potential? The more I think about that term, the more I am drawn to the notion that our military leaders are not so much lacking in intelligence, but rather that they narrow their focus to the tasks they understand and are committed to achieving. When military leaders committed their forces to the attack as in, say Gallipoli, they lost very large numbers of their troops in a vain attempt to capture the day. Similarly, the “Charge of the Light Brigade” is now a famous example of foolish leadership. But in Vietnam, we have a different kind of failure. There, the military did what they know how to do—kill as many of the enemy as they could identify, in an attempt to forge something called “victory”. Yet, lose we did, mainly though because of failures in our political leadership. Military intelligence had little to do with our eventual defeat there.
But the oxymoronic term, “republican ethics”, or perhaps more broadly, “conservative ethics” has more staying power these days. Is it true that republicans/conservatives are entirely unethical? Well, no, that would never be the case, any more than thinking that all Muslims want to kill innocents by committing suicide, or that all Christians want to bash Gays.
But conservatives really seem to have defined a territory of their own. That territory includes:
• All political battles are to be defined as zero-sum games, in which they can win only by forcing the other side to lose;
• All social issues are to be defended on the basis of the most conservative, narrowest interpretation of Christian tenets, regardless of their impact on society at large;
• All economic issues are to be argued on the basis of what is good for corporate America—generally following that old axiom, “what’s good for "GM" is good for America”, again without regard to the overall well-being of the American people;
• All advertising campaigns aimed at convincing Americans of their various causes are to include material that appeals to either greed, or fears, regardless of whether the required material includes patent lies. Lying works, so that makes it ok.
• Finally, the only thing that counts is power. Anything that will achieve or consolidate republican/conservative power is by definition good and acceptable. That is the principle that gave us an ok to employ torture as a routine interrogation approach.
So, I will continue to believe that conservative ethics will remain as the classic example of an oxymoron, until such time as responsible, thoughtful conservatives come out of their closets and re-engage in the battle for a healthy, ethical American Nation. I look forward to that day.

Friday, October 2, 2009


I have written a bit about religion and my lack of empathy for most religions, or their followers. Mainly, as I have noted, I find this disconnect between religion and God, so I find the whole subject to be a cynical exercise in power aggregation. Further, it is akin, I think to one of our more recent sad economic activities, namely Ponzi schemes. In the most egregious, the Bernie Madoff Ponzi. Bernie basically took money from friends and colleagues in exchange for promises of grand returns on their investment, returns no sensible person should have found believable. Yet believe him they did. See, they believed in Bernie, so they followed his dictates, regardless of how absurd his promises. But that’s what religions do. In exchange for your obedience, and often your money, the high priests promise you things they can’t deliver. You want what they are offering so badly that you gladly give up your intellectual freedom in exchange for their empty promises. In the case of Ponzi schemes, eventually the truth comes out, because nobody can keep a Ponzi going forever. Sooner or later, the Ponzi masters run out of fresh sources of money and they run out of their ability to keep the Ponzi going. The whole enterprise then comes crashing down, and everyone involved discovers the awful truth that they have been conned.
In religion, nobody ever literally discovers the fraud, because they die first. Nobody ever returns to rat out the Ponzi master—the high priests. So, the religious Ponzi continues.
But where does all this belief in the absurd originate? My theory is that it originates from tribes and tribalism. Man seems naturally drawn to tribes, for protection if no other reason. Early tribes must have been simply early man and his/her close relatives living within the same caves, and looking out for predators. Acting in concert would have been more effective than acting alone. As the tribes acquired more members, they increased in strength. So, larger tribes could intimidate smaller tribes, forcing them to move farther away.
Within the tribes, physical strength, and eventually skill in fighting or in weapons handling, when they became available, led to leaders, chiefs and subchiefs. Over time, the tribes organized rituals to ward off bad events, or to encourage good events, such as weather for their crops or animals. Periodically, odd events would occur, events for which the strong chiefs had no answer. Over time, some men would have stepped forward with explanations that satisfied the tribe. These men became the wise ones, men less physically able than their chiefs, but more glib. Surely, as rituals were invented by the strong ones, even more rituals would have been invented by the wise ones. All the rituals offered the promise of protection in the future—greater food stocks, health over time, victories over neighboring/warring tribes. The key is that, sometimes the rituals seemed to work—the food stocks increased because the weather cooperated, or the neighboring tribes were subdued. Probability laws figure here. So, what happened when the rituals seemed not to work?
Here is the true genius of religion, even in its earliest stages. The wise men always asserted that, when rituals failed to deliver, they had been carried out incorrectly. Someone, never the wise men, was flawed. Scapegoats could always be found, or virgins sacrificed. The priests always supervised. In early times, the priests actually carried out the sacrifices, but later, the priests withdrew from personal participation, so as to seem above the entire enterprise.
One could imagine that periodically, the strong men and the wise men would differ over policies. While it certainly would have been the case that the two fought, it is as surely the case that the two groups would have decided that working together produced the strongest hold over the larger population to be commanded. The chiefs could command the tribe’s warriors, and the priests could command the people’s fears. Together, they could rule without any fear of tribal revolution.
Over time, it seems clear that the two merged the belief systems, such that the chiefs were accorded even more mysterious and higher order powers—thereby enabling the notion of “divine right” to enter the systems of rule. Kings/chiefs were said to be endowed with their earthly authority by none other than God. Their children were accorded the same mystical authority, thereby eliminating challenges from other earthly sources (the people). Clashes between the two groups proved difficult, as in those cases where kings decided to operate against the wishes of the ruling priests. Such clashes were never easy to resolve, because they involved a clash between raw power—armies, and otherworldly power—threats of damnation and banishment to the burning fires of hell (after priests decided to invent the concept of everlasting punishment through fire, e.g., hell).
It is not difficult to envision the even larger clashes that were to come, between a population that was becoming educated, and that population’s ruling classes. As people become better educated, the people can themselves begin to ponder the questions of life, mortality, its aftermath, and the earthly powers granted to both chiefs/kings, and the priests of the world. Over time, as the population became increasingly educated, or increasing discontented with the privileges accorded the ruling classes, rebellion was inevitable. Thus, in France, the ruling classes were eliminated by the sword/guillotine. In places such as England, the ruling classes also acquired enough education to understand that ceding power to the people was the only way to stave off their almost certain elimination through harsher methods. It is interesting to observe the various ways divine authorities were overthrown. In France, the crowds of discontented—mobs—acquired power and killed the rulers, paving the way for initially rough forms of democratic power-sharing.. In England, wiser ruling heads decided to cede to the people, in the form of elected subrulers, much of the power they had enjoyed. In Russia, crowds prevailed, much as in France, but these crowds simply substituted their own forms of absolute rule, giving rise to the Soviet state, which killed millions of the people, in the name of saving the people from their monarchical rulers. In Iran, a modern version of substitution occurred, when, in 1979, the religious classes overthrew the monarchical classes, throwing out the king, and bringing in an even more absolute dictator, in the form of a high priest, the Ayatollah Khomeini.
As tribes became nation-states, clashes between the tribes were inevitable, and wars became the way to resolve the conflicts. Humans have rarely conceived and implemented intellectual approaches to conflict resolution, when arms can be employed. Modern man seems curiously primitive when it comes to conflict resolution. Tribal preservation seems to represent the dominant motivation in these cases. People are taught to think of themselves as tribal members, as distinct from individuals with free will and a capacity to think. Tribal preservation becomes substituted for preservation of the individual as the “greater good.” People no longer think for themselves.
On average, I see an inverse relationship between education and people’s willingness to be led over the cliff, as in sheep/lemmings, by their leaders (who never by the way, actually lead their people over the cliff, instead, stepping to the side while urging on their followers). Where the relationship exists, it seems to have something important to do with the polar opposite notions of ambiguity--certainty. We must all be born, or acquire as we age/mature, with fear of the unknown—the dark, strangers, other cultures and rituals, and death and its aftermath.
As people acquire more education, they acquire an ability to define more colors in the world than black and white. We begin to see subtlety in the world. We begin to see that many other cultural rituals are just different, rather than inherently threatening. We begin to understand that the world is in fact a more interesting place if variation is preserved. Other tribes and other tribal customs need not be viewed as potentially hostile. Yet tribalism remains the dominant cultural fact of life today, seemingly as alive as it was hundreds of years ago, with all of its sinister implications. I keep wondering whether in a StarTrek fantasy world, hundreds of years in our future, mankind will have overcome this cultural device that divides us all, conquering our seemingly innate desire to look down upon people in other “tribes.” Perhaps in that world, Republicans and Democrats will be able to discuss problems rationally and reach solutions based on what is best for the people at large. Perhaps Christians will no longer seek to demonize Gays who wish to marry, and Muslims will no longer strap on dynamite vests so as to blow up innocents in a marketplace. What a wonderful world that would be.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

I perceive, therefore . . .

I stood outside on our porch one morning, just the other day. I often come out early, as the sun is rising, just to look. As I stood there, I began thinking; someday this will all be gone. I will no longer stand here looking out at the sky and the trees, and the houses with their residents just beginning to awaken. It will all be gone.
Then I corrected myself.
No, one day, it will remain, and only the image in my brain will be gone. But if there is no image in my brain, does it actually exist, this thing I now see? It’s the old, “if a tree falls in the forest and there is no one to hear it, does the tree actually fall? Perhaps, if I am no longer here, then nothing exists.
So then, what are we all doing here? Are we all simply sitting around, waiting for Godot?
I think of the expression about people who, “are simply taking up space.” That is, they aren’t doing anything useful, but what is useful anyway? Is useful getting up in the morning, strapping on a vest filled with dynamite, driving to some crowded marketplace, and then detonating the vest?
Is useful deciding to feed a hungry child?
Is useful, then, a relative term, meaning, in the final analysis, exactly nothing?
In a million years, would being useful matter?
We fuss about such terminally stupid things, like whether two people of the same gender should be allowed to marry, while ignoring the fact that half of the “correctly married” will eventually divorce one another, some after great stress, and even violence. But of what consequence are such things anyway? Will the earth cease to rotate if we do one thing and not another?
Did it matter that Adolph Hitler decided to kill six million people simply because they were Jews, or Gypsies, or some other condition he deemed un-Germanic?
Well, it turns out that it did matter, but only briefly, and only to the people he killed, and the people who loved the people he killed. In a million years, Hitler will be as though he never existed. He’s the tree that fell in the forest while no one was around to see it or hear it fall. And the people he killed will also be as though they never existed.
What matters then is the moment . . . now. And the only moment that matters is that which I perceive. And if I act, always act, so as to create beauty, then for those brief moments that I exist, I may fulfill the only possible purpose for which I exist. And if I understand that beauty exists in many forms—a work of art surely, but also the smile of a child, the caress of a loved one, the rising of the sun, or its setting, the low whirring of a hummingbird’s wings as it caresses your path. These matter, even if only for the briefest moments. For those moments, I truly exist.. .

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Rupert & His Right Wing Whores

I guess the world has changed. It used to be that we thought yelling "FIRE" in a crowded theatre was a No-No. But in today’s weird world, we have the whole of the Fox network yelling “FIRE” daily, even hourly. Why, I wonder?.
What could this far right wing agenda really be all about?
I am tempted to consider Beck, Limbaugh, O'Reilly and Hannity as mere right wing entertainers, the way I once looked upon Dennis Miller. But, whereas Miller simply told jokes about Bill Clinton, years after he had Bush as a potential target, these other guys really do seem to fit Hillary's definition of a "vast, right wing conspiracy." That they are well paid entertainers goes without saying. But who is pushing their buttons? And Why?
I keep coming up with Rupert Murdoch. He owns them, lock, stock and barrel--in that regard, I guess they're all just lively whores. Presumably, he could stop them, or urge them on. He chooses the latter. But, again, Why?
The "why" thing bothers me a lot. What is it Rupert wants, and why is nobody asking that question? I know, I know, we have this freedom of speech thing in this country.
But is this really just all about money? Does Rupert simply make a lot more money with his gang of right wing media thugs, than he would with responsible programming? Does anyone know? More to the point, I guess, is, does anyone in the country care?
I actually envision the possibility of a hard-right, fascistic takeover, or at the least, serious right wing violence triggered by this gang (I think of the Fox network as an anti-American, organized crime ring). They will deny any responsibility should that occur, because they lie for a living.
But do the rest of us have to simply sit back and allow them to destroy what is good about this country?
The only thing I can imagine is to boycott all of the advertisers who support both Fox and anything Rupert Murdoch owns.
Just a thought.

Friday, September 11, 2009

To Muse or not to Muse on 9/11

It’s 9/11 again, only without President Doofus and his gang of thugs. 9/11 always makes me wonder about a lot of things. For example, I still don’t know whether George W. Bush caused the attacks to occur, by doing nothing in response to an obvious threat, or whether the attacks were just one of those numerous awful global events that occur, like hurricanes and earthquakes. I remain convinced that the CIA was complicit, simply by being so inept. And that the FBI compounded the problem by their unwillingness to collaborate. But I still weep internally for the victims and their families. Assigning blame doesn't seem to help those people.
I continue to be amazed at all the continued killing around this poor benighted globe of ours. For a brief moment after 9/11, I hoped that perhaps mankind would declare all this killing crap off and sit down and actually talk to one another. How silly of me.
Now, I just wonder how long the world’s population needs to remain both this ignorant and this brutal, in the name of (take your pick) God, or Greed. I alternate myself. Isn’t this phenomenon, all by itself, proof that there is no Godly intervention in the affairs of mankind, and there never was? Note, it is not the case that global killing is proof that there is no God. On that we have no evidence. But, for me it is compelling evidence that God does not ever intervene.
But on another line of inquiry, I also have begun to wonder why such a large percentage of the world’s population needs to remain stuck mentally in the 12th century. Part of it, I know, is caused by religion, i.e., the conscious desire of the world’s religious leaders, regardless of their belief system, to keep their respective populations ignorant. But it seems to me that the people happily cooperate in this crazy endeavor. Some do escape, generally by a personal decision to actually use the brain with which they were born. But so many seem unwilling to rely on their own brain, and instead rely on someone else for their life directions (often crazy people like Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh, the Ayatollah, or the Pope). How else can you explain the personal decisions of people to hijack airplanes and fly them into buildings full of people who have never harmed them? Or to strap on an explosive belt, walk into a crowded marketplace and explode themselves and dozens of innocents? Even given the inane promises made to them by charlatans who promise them a discrete supply of virgins after death (I wonder, do the virgins come supplied with wine and cheese--but I digress.), it seems a stretch that someone would actually buy into those crazy tales. Of course, Sarah Palin and Glenn Beck sold people on the notion that Obama was creating death panels that would send grandma on her way to her own nirvana. And most of these people were actually “educated” in this country. So, I guess we should not be surprised that people living a 12th century life in an isolated village in the middle of Afghanistan, would buy into such crap.
But how long does this go on, I wonder, before someone makes a huge goof, and commits some act that triggers all the crazy people to push the buttons of global destruction? Do we all really need this kind of crazy lifestyle? I mean, waiting for Godot is one thing, but this seems totally whacko.
I did hope, for a while, that someone both intelligent and with a social conscience, President Obama for example, could talk us down from our nutso desire to blow up everything. But since the election, republicans have been doing their best to destroy my hopes. And I can’t even figure out what they really want? Should we all just march back into the 12th century, and allow republicans to dictate from on high? Give them all the money, and everyone else jump off a high building. Is that what they want?
But then I keep thinking of that old saw, “Suppose they gave a war . . . and nobody came?” Where’s Jon Lennon when we need him?

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Republican Crankiness

Well, for heaven’s sake, I guess they were right after all, those cranky republicans. They didn’t want their kids exposed to President Obama’s socialist political message. I mean, if the school system isn’t a safe place, protected from all those nasty politicians from the wrong side of the tracks, where is?
And the President delivered just as they expected. What was his message?
Stay in school
Work hard
Listen to your teachers and your parents
Man, how unAmerican is that? This guy, our pseudo-president (see he’s not a real president, cuz he wasn’t born in Amurrica. He was born in Hawaii, and we all know what than means.) is appealing to kids to be rational and to pay attention to their academic studies.
Is he kidding? Doesn’t that sound like Commie propaganda? It’s obviously lifted directly from Mein Kampf, or some other Fascist, or socialist booklet.
These clever republicans have certainly acted in the best interests of their kids by keeping them home, or better yet taking them out to Pizza Hut. Wouldn’t want them exposed to a successful Black man, now would we?

Friday, September 4, 2009

Thinking Out Loud

Suppose, just suppose that George W. Bush was not an imbecile. I know, I know; it stretches the mind to imagine such a thing. But, just for laughs, suppose. And suppose, as a result, he actually understood what happened on 9/11—that is, that airplanes hijacked by mostly Saudi Arabians who had been trained in Afghanistan, were responsible for destroying the World Trade Center, et al.
Now what would a smart person have done?
Attack Iraq? Hmmm, I think not.
I’m imagining that a truly smart person might have convened the world’s powerhouse nations, together with the world’s Muslim nations (wealth and power often don’t seem to go together) to decide that we had all had enough of this Jihad crap. That maybe it was time for the world to end the jihadi nonsense before it led to Armageddon.
Now the Taliban in Afghanistan, protecting Osama & Co., might have objected to such a meeting and such a decision, especially since they reside mentally somewhere in the 12th century. But screw them. Surely the world powers, with the help of the World’s Muslim Nations, could figure out a way to isolate the Taliban. Note, there isn’t any sensible way to quickly bring democracy to a country such as Afghanistan, with or without the Taliban. Democracy is a 20th century concept and the Afghans are a 12th century people. Never the twain shall meet.
But I’m thinking that the Europeans, the Arab sheiks/kings, even the Pakistanis, might have been convinced to cooperate in a global jihadi-pacification campaign, one that wouldn’t lead to destroying the world. Who knows, if we (the powers that be) actually managed to succeed in talking down the Irish from their decades-long campaign to terminate (with extreme prejudice) one another of their several religions, perhaps the Arabs and the Jews might have been convinced finally to end the 60-year war in Palestine.
Think of what the world would have thought of George then.
Now, I know what you’re thinking. But then Sadaam Hussein would still be in power. So what? So would the latest leader of North Korea. And so would the latest leader of Burma/Myanmar or whatever the hell it’s now called. And so would the crazies who now lead Iran.
And some of you are thinking, “yeah, but the world’s powers would never have agreed to any such thing.” Again, so what? How could we possibly have been worse off than we are right now?
Would our national debt now be in the range of $12 trillion?
Would Osama Bin Laden still be at large?
Would there still have been between four and five thousand American soldiers dead?
Would there still have been between 100,000 and one million Iraqi’s dead, not counting the several million refugees created by our war in Iraq?
Instead, because George W. Bush was an imbecile, and his cabal of neo-con-men and women pursued war policies only the stupid could love, we now have a president whose every option seems constrained by the idiocies that were put into place before him.
Makes the mind reel.

Thursday, August 27, 2009


Be afraid seniors, be very afraid. Michael Steele, (head doofus of the republican cartel) is talking about “saving” Medicare. In his opposition to any, repeat any public health insurance plan/option, Steele has been mumbling noises about Medicare. Whenever republicrats begin talking about saving a popular program originated by the democrats, I know that program has been targeted by them for “termination with extreme prejudice.”
The republicrats have largely been focusing on stupid Americans for their campaign to rid the world of health care. You know, the people who don’t seem to understand that Medicare, Medicaid, the Military health care, and the VA health care systems are actually government programs. They’ve been yelling at meetings that they, “don’t want the government messing with their Medicare program.” Even when informed that Medicare is already run by the Government, they are not to be pacified.
So, having captured the nation’s stupid people, the republicrats are now apparently trying to bring the broader population of seniors within their sway by doing what they always do--lying to them. That they have chosen Steele as their spokesman seems perfect, since he seems to be an idiot, albeit a middle-aged idiot.
His central point seems to be that Medicare is run inefficiently, whereas private health insurance is run efficiently. He has no data to back this up of course, and most accounts show a dramatically lower administrative cost to run Medicare than to run the private health insurance companies- He wants to cut Medicare, but doesn’t say where. His NPR interview this morning with Steve Inskeep bordered on the incoherent.
Let us all—we seniors who now rely on Medicare—hope that Mr. Steele will be kept very far away from deciding any changes to the Medicare program. In a recent article on Mr. Steele in the Washington Monthly, Steve Benen concludes:
The GOP's record on Medicare is clearly embarrassing to the party. In the 1960s, Republicans fought against Medicare's existence. In the 1990s, Republicans shut down the federal government because a Democratic president wouldn't tolerate proposed GOP cuts to Medicare. In 2008, the Republican presidential ticket ran on a platform of cutting Medicare.
And in 2009, the chairman of the Republican National Committee has decided, over the course of 24 hours, he's both for and against the Medicare program, for and against Medicare cuts, and for and against privatization.
From there, Steele talked up the ridiculous "death book" lie, either unaware of or unconcerned with reality.
The mind reels.”

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

The Senate is Poorer

The passing of an iconic figure. He was flawed, but then so are most great public figures. His enemies , and he had many, would never let him forget Chappaquiddick. But somehow, he managed to get past that awful tragedy in which a young woman died. Teddy kept on, as probably he had to.
As a younger senator, he seemed to have the right instincts for social justice, but he wasn’t skilled enough, or charismatic enough to pull it off. His pursuit for the ultimate throne—the presidency—seemed a Quixotic pursuit, aimed more at securing his brothers’ legacies than his own. But then, having failed at that game, he came into his own. He secured a position of power in that most powerful club—the US Senate-- and he used that power for public good, unlike many, perhaps even most of his senate colleagues.
Senator Kennedy is one of the last of his kind—rich public officials who succeed in giving back to the nation, and whose instincts seem drawn to at least try to better the nation. Many rich people still give—through foundations, or simply private giving. But Kennedy tried to give back by becoming a powerful friend to that public that has few friends, and fewer still powerful and rich friends. He pursued civil rights, health care reform, and other socially useful causes just because they were right, while others in this club, Jesse Helms for example, fought tooth and nail to prevent social progress.
The nation is poorer with his passing.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Giving up or In

Ok, so I guess the wealthy right wing has won. Health Care Reform is now over, and we can get on with other ways to kill/confound the Obama Presidency. It’s too bad, really. I actually thought he had a decent shot at fixing our broken health care system. It’s especially too bad for the 45 million uninsured, and the growing ranks of unemployed and uninsurable families. They really needed some of that “finest health care system in the world” but, thanks to the republicans--special thanks I guess to Rupert Murdoch--we will now have to keep on making believe we’re a great nation.
The problem as I best understand it, is that without a true public option, we cannot afford to cover the currently uninsured. We probably cannot even sustain the current system. The Public Option was truly the best shot we had at transforming our system into one that we could both afford, and that would cover everyone. Without it, we have no chance, and we might as well fold up our tent now, and steal away into the night.
Like Vietnam, let’s declare victory and go home. Who will be the last person in the US to have health care?

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Just Wondering

I’m wondering about the economics of health care reform. I know that republican-christians seem to believe, a) that they don’t want to pay for health care reform at all, and, b) that Jesus may well take care of them (at least senator Grassley of Iowa thinks and says so). So, maybe, just maybe, we should examine a health care reform act that is aimed only at democrats (whether they’re Christian or not), That is consider a much smaller public option for democrats only, one for which democrats only would pay. If democrats, and others of that ilk are told they need to pony up through the US tax system for a health care that would cover only democrats, that would still include at least 100 million people. If you could develop a public plan that eliminates the need for that group to buy private health insurance, it would save them a bundle, thereby enabling them to pay the taxes required to sustain a public health care plan. Private insurance companies would then have to compete for the reduced private market of republican Christians. And just imagine the super health care the republicans could be buying for themselves . . . and with no death panels, at all . . ., well at least no public death panels. I imagine the private health insurance companies would still reserve the right to pull the plug on granny, but you can’t have everything, right? Everyone would thereby be happy . . . right????
Just a thought . . . trying to be helpful in these troubled times . . .

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Getting a Grip

Getting a Grip
I have begun thinking that Republicans have lost their grip on reality altogether. In watching the most recent episode of the Jon Stewart show, he played a few bits from recent Fox “News” shows. Glenn Beck yells in rage that this is no longer “his country.” People attending the pseudo-town hall meetings are seen yelling about how they are scared of Obama, with one woman yelling that she “wants her country back.” Jim DeMint of South Carolina, a congressman who has been compared with Jesse Helms, informs his constituents that the United States is now like Germany under Adolph Hitler.
They seem vaguely psychotic, or simply good actors feigning rage.
I started thinking that these crazed people need to get on the road and begin driving.
First, I thought, they need to drive all the way out to Arizona, to Canyon de Chelly, where the Navajos have a reservation, with a history dating back to 950 AD, when the Anasazi lived in the pueblos there. It would be useful for these people to ask permission to attend a Navajo council meeting, so they could address the assembled Navajo people on their fervent wish to “take back their country.” I am left wondering what the assembled Navajo people would say to them.
Then, after they leave the Navajo reservation, I would suggest that they drive East, maybe going first to Detroit . . . inner city Detroit. I would suggest that they attend a Sunday church service in a black church there, and that they address that assemblage on how scared they are of President Obama, and how they want their country back.
Then perhaps they might drive to another city, I’m thinking maybe Atlanta and the Ebenezer Baptist church, where they could inform the mostly black audience there about their great fears of this first Black President, and how he resembles Adolph Hitler, and how they feel like the residents of Jewish Ghettos, just before the Jewish residents were hauled off to concentration camps to be gassed.
After those experiences, perhaps these crazy people might begin to understand just how far out of touch with reality they have moved. They might then be able to consider driving to the nearest dump and offloading their mostly racist attitudes and detritus. Then I would suggest they attend their neighborhood church and ask God for forgiveness.
Couldn’t hurt.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Lying and those Lying Liars

So, she hasn’t been out of office more than a week or so, and she is already on the money trail, trying to pick up all that geld lying around for . . . lying about the Obama health care reform intent. We knew Sarah had no ethical principles, but we are now beginning to see some signals of how far they (the Republicans) will go to secure its (and his) defeat. Listen to Fox news and they are all sounding the same Rupert Murdoch-inspired speech—“if he doesn’t pass health care reform, his presidency is over.” Then of course, they proceed to their other Murdoch-inspired speech about how awful his health care reform will be. In Sarah’s recent speech, she tells us that Obama plans to have a “death panel” that will be an integral component of the new health care system. Now, we know that is a lie and that they are willing to lie beyond any reasonable decency grounds to secure his defeat. Although, what Sarah is unwilling to disclose is that there may already be something akin to a “death panel” operating under our present “private” health care insurance system—that panel would be the health insurance CEO’s and their accountants. If there is anyone between you and your doctor, it’s more likely to be Blue Cross, or Aetna, and others of that ilk, than the government. But Sarah doesn’t want to talk about that. Instead, she stays busy raking in the cash placed on the stump by our health insurance companies and the “non-profit” organizations they founded to represent them in their death battle against the President.
We are also beginning to discover just how far the republican opposition will go to defeat these plans. They have sent out instructions to their loyal troops to attend all rallies or meetings scheduled to allow the public to speak before their congressmen about health care reform. The troop’s orders—bring those meetings to a halt by any means necessary. Yell, shout, scream until the meeting can no longer continue. And the latest tactic—death threats. At least one congressman has just received a death threat if he continues to urge passage of health care reform. That, it seems to me, indicates that republicans have passed beyond some point of danger, and are now fully in the embrace of fascism. When they will kill to secure their objectives, they are now fully anti-American thugs, resembling an organized crime ring. They deserve no more respect than we grant the Taliban, or Al Qaida.
First they sent in the clowns, and now they are sending in the thugs. What’s next, predator launched missiles to close down open meetings? Your call republicans. .

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Political Corruption

Gail Collins and Ross Douthat had one of their “conversations” in the NY Times--the subject: are liberals inherently more corrupt than conservatives? I thought the conversation came out about even, i.e., the corruption dishonors seem evenly distributed between the warring factions. But as I read the column, I found myself thinking of the “old days” when Nixon was in power. Then I used to debate in my head (I often argue with myself, but I’m weird that way) whether it was better to have a smart crook (say Nixon-Agnew), or a fool (say Ronald Reagan, George Bush, Sarah Palin . . .) for a President. I know, I know, it would better were we to have a smart, honest, ethical President (Obama) in power. But often we are not given that choice. We got lucky this time.
Then, I concluded in my head that perhaps a smart crook would be preferable. But why, you might ask? Well, it occurs to me that smart crooks almost always get caught, one way or another (Bernie Madoff comes to mind). Sooner or later, they do something not so smart, or they get too clever by half and then they get found out. And the good thing about that is, because they are acting illegally, we can do something about it. We do, after all, have laws that allow us to pursue the crooks of the world. So, whether you’re a crooked Congressman, Governor, or even President, once we find you out, you’re toast . . . eventually.
So, the corruption thing I find uninteresting, even silly as a debate topic. Gail and Ross need to consider other subjects to debate, like, for example, which group is more likely to lead the nation into an unnecessary war? Or which group is more likely to “legally corrupt” (as in Bush-Cheney) our system of government. How can one “legally corrupt” our system, you might ask? Well, if you appoint people hostile to the very notion of our current laws and structure, and you tell those people to go light on enforcement, then you get a legally corrupt system. For example, if FDA consistently refuses to monitor and enforce our food safety laws, you will eventually get a totally corrupt and very dangerous food supply system. Ditto on drugs. Similarly, if you appoint either incompetent or uncaring people to agencies like the Environmental Protection Agency, or to the Council on Environmental Quality, you will eventually see a degradation of the environment.
Why do these things happen, as sure as night follows day? Well, my view of the private sector is that, because profit is the dominant (sometimes the sole) motivation, eventually that factor becomes a corrupting influence. That is, people begin to act as though commercial interests are the only interests. And then companies will begin to slide on safety, or health, or environmental, or even employee issues.
So, to counter that tendency, you need some balancing force. Such a force tends to be government. A while ago, I wrote to President Obama about this issue. I said then:
“In economic matters, extremes do not work. Under Bush, we shifted dangerously in the direction of a fascist state—that is, a state in which private owners of businesses dictate government policies. The inevitable result is Enron, et al, as well as the collapsed financial system. We have been drifting in that direction for quite some time now, even under Clinton. Everyone has been so concerned with government regulation, that they failed to notice that unregulated business is as dangerous as unchecked government. One gives you fascism; the other socialism. Private business interests must always be checked to assure that the public is protected. So too must government overseers. Balance in everything is the answer. But balance requires mental agility. The public has little patience—they want the world to operate on autopilot. They need to be convinced that a world in which competing interests are balanced is both an efficient world, and a world that is worthy.
We need to pay for what we need. The Republican Party has been, almost as a matter of policy, fiscally irresponsible. They practice “charge and spend” politics. We will now have to pay for their profligacy. The public—the thinking public—needs to understand that we cannot continue on the course they charted and followed. Mainly the rest of the world will not allow us to continue on this course. They will simply stop buying our debt and then it will end, badly. Taxes are the way we pay for our policies. Taxes are neither good nor bad, in the abstract. They represent the price of operating our country, or, perhaps, the glue of a civilized society.”
So, there you have it. We need to operate as a balanced entity, occasionally twisting one way or another, but struggling always to stay upright and in balance, and to remain conscious that in the end we should act in the best interests of the American people—not just a small segment of that people. And, also, because we are big, relatively rich (well, we used to be prior to George Bush) and powerful, we need to be mindful that we affect the world in ways disproportionate to our size and population. There are in fact other inhabitants in this world beyond us Americans. They deserve a decent life also.
So, maybe, Gail and Ross, or David, the next time you debate, perhaps consider more important subjects than which party has a corner on corruption. These other issues seem to me more important. Of course, then you would have to check your usual biases at the door and actually think before you speak/write. Tough I know, but at least consider it.