Thursday, December 27, 2007

In Praise of Jamie Spears

For pure cheek, nobody equals Jamie Spears. She has decisively put the kibosh on the planned sequel, "Return of Brittany" in which Jamie was to reprise her sister's entire stupid life.

Not only did she "Just Say NO", she kept her secret until it was too late for anyone to change her mind, and provoked the headline "Teen to Jamie Spears: Teen sex is ok, but use a condom"- a level of plain speaking that even the President of the US can't seem to muster these days.

The kids are ok, and Jamie Spears is one of the most ok among them.

What Cats Do When It Snows

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Slavery, the Cause of the Civil War

This should be so easy to explain that even an historian could understand it.

When the Constitution was written, southern states were given representation in Congress based, in part, on the number of slaves in their states- thus giving every Southern man more power in Congress than any Northern man. For about 50 years the power of the South in Congress was unassailable by the North.

During that time the South as a region became addicted to an economic power that terrified them. Slaves were valuable property that could escape or murder their owners in their beds. Southerners made it illegal to teach slaves to read, write, or even speak proper English, thus creating a large class of people unprepared for the tasks of self-government.

When immigration populated the Northern states and the balance of power in the Congress began to shift, the problem for the South became plain- slavery could only continue to exist if either more slave states were admitted than free, if the North could be persuaded to countenance slavery, or if the Southern states seceded.

How all of this played out can be recounted in plenteous detail, but the above, in a nutshell, is why slavery was the cause of the Civil War.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

The Bush Bamboozle in Action

Bush says his "first recollection" of the CIA tapes being destroyed came when he was briefed recently.

You're intended to think "Golly, he sure is dumb- he says 'recollection' when he means 'knowledge'". Most reporters and analysts will report this press conference as though Bush had said his first knowledge of the tapes came when he was briefed recently.

But Bush isn't lying to you. He was involved in the decision to destroy the tapes and informed when that had been done. Then he forgot all about it. This is a big one with slimeballs like Bush. They're always forgetting this and that, but all this forgetting works in one direction only- to make them richer and you poorer. So his first recollection came when he was briefed recently.

Of course, it takes a village to make an idiot, and he couldn't get away with this without the help of a friendly media that completely ignores the fact that he has just admitted full complicity in the tape destruction decision. They laugh at his verbal skills, but who's laughing last here?

Caught in the Act

On December 17 Jen at littlecountrylost.blogspot.com explained how the Bush gang, in February of 2001, moved to wiretap all the telecommunications of America.

Let's review: We know that at that time, the Bush gang had little or no concern about the threat posed by OBL or international terrorism. The wiretapping was not done to protect us against al Quaeda. Programs already in existence at that time intercepted and screened all international satellite communications.

This domestic wiretapping, in short, was intended to assist the Bush gang in a program of lawbreaking, seizing of power, suppression of the facts and the truth, and a ruthless looting of our national wealth, both natural and earned.

Spectacularly successful in the looting, they appear not to have succeeded in establishing a dictatorship. Only time will provide the final answer on that count. We may, in fact, never know- having made their getaway, they may no longer care what happens to little Georgie.

Jen's piece is a clear and lucid explanation of how this telecom wiretapping was conducted , and a highly recommended read.

Monday, December 17, 2007

I'm With Him

You don't get to be a NYT columnist by being a radical, but apparently you can become a radical by being a NYT columnist. Or at least that's what seems to have happened to Paul Krugman.

He's right- the big money in this country isn't going to play nicey-nicey when their profits are threatened even by 1%. Obama and his talk of abandoning the divisive politics of the past is just so much crap. The right-wing never abandoned those divisive issues and that's why those problems still haven't been solved.

Hillary at least has felt the scourge of Republican opinion, but Edwards' outright avowal of conflict in change is the best.

It's the only way to be sure.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Saturday, December 8, 2007

The Bush Gang Explains...

...their paranoia about Iran:

Last night I met upon the stair
a little man who wasn't there
He wasn't there again today
O how I wish he'd go away!

Friday, December 7, 2007

Gotta Get To The Bottom Of This....

Small Changes, Big Changes

Jane Harmon and Jay Rockefeller, supposedly the Democratic participants in oversight of the intelligence communities, are worse than useless. With their Republican associates they labor mightily to make sure no changes occur.

Big changes could happen here by replacing these worthless critters with almost anybody.

Conversely, nothing good will happen as long as these two sycophants are in place. Don't tell me you're hoping Rockefeller will "do the right thing" He hasn't and he won't. It's just that simple.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Those drums, those jungle drums!

The rightwing babblers were temporarily wrongfooted by the release of the new NIE, and for a moment the silence was palpable. NPR, faced with a journalistic challenge,presented a quiz on matters relating to Russia and time, with the quiz answers announced by people with Russian accents.

Way to go, NPR. All part of why the rightwing babblers will be back. They know the press will help them out, by teaching the 'controversy' rather than the facts,.

But you knew that already. That's why you're reading a blog.

Doesn't Anybody Here Know How To Play This Game?

Two years ago Republicans threatened to use the 'nuclear option' if the Democrats filibustered. That was the Dems chance to get rid of the filibuster.

What were they thinking when they didn't take that chance? Were they nostalgic for the Civil Rights filibusters of the 60-s? Did they think the Dems would never again be the majority in the Congress? Were all the great challenges of our democracy over, never again to require decisive and timely action in making major changes?

Whatever it was, it was stupid, craven, and wrong. And we're eventually going to pay the price.

Friday, November 30, 2007

And a few cats more...

Total B-S

When we seem to be losing, the warmongers are all like "Well, you have to give it time" and blah blah blah.

Well, I say , just give our total defeat time. Because nothing says clueless like arming the former Baathists and the Iranian-dominated Badr Corps, and encouraging ethnic cleansing and the formation of defensible neighborhoods. Our former out-of-control brushfire war has turned into a neat stack of time bombs, all of them the total antithesis of the pluralism and open society that characterizes a democratic republic.

We have a moron at the helm spinning a wheel that's not connected to the rudder while the ship goes on the rocks..

Give it time.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Still Uncertain: For Whom the Bell Tolls

By 1820 the Federalists, as a presidential party, had simply disappeared. A small state cast three electoral votes for John Adams so that Washington's unanimous elections would remain unique. Monroe's election was otherwise unanimous.

The reason for the Republican (no, not today's Republicans) hegemony was "simple"- the Republicans had adopted all of the Federalist positions.

Certainly, in today's world, a Republican will never be legitimately elected President unless they have recognized the challenge of global warming. Sadly, this does not rule out another Republican President who does not recognize the problem.

A Study in Calico

A Study In Sepia

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Political Original Sin

The prototype or ur original sin of our political system was- and remains- slavery. As little as this may be understood, it is common to make obeisance to this fact.

Today, however, we also labor under a second 'original sin'- our failure to grant statehood or citizenship to the members of our 'empire'.

This was the rock on which the Roman Republic foundered. The Romans, having formed their government of tribes, could not figure out how to admit to citizenship people who were not born into the tribes. For our part, we have been declining in intelligence to the point where we can't figure it out either.

Perhaps the US would not survive if we offered statehood to the Puerto Ricans and territorial status to the Iraqis. 'Perhaps' is still better odds than the 'won't' we appear to be heading for today.

It is a common misconception that because governments are formed of words, they will still keep working even if a few parts are missing or broken. In fact, a government will continue to function in those cases- but it won't be the one the words describe, and it won't do what the words intended.

The fault lies, not in our Constitution, but in us.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Of Time And The River Flowing

For the best commentary on current events, I turn to Page Smith's People's History of the United States, published in 1976.

When it comes to education, for example, we now know what Thomas Jefferson suspected- that talent is distributed evenly among the populace without regard to race, sex, or color. The society that does not provide a universal free education is simply wasting a certain amount of the talent that society already possesses.

Liberalism might help its own cause if it could state clearly such a basic economic principle before going on to talk about how good you'll feel if you help others. Heaven knows, the idea is hardly new and it's been tested and proven by time.

Look homeward, angel.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Rain

When the sun is out there's not much to do other than to sit around and remember that the girls who look good in shorts don't think you look good in shorts.

When it rains, girls who don't look good in shorts look better. But wait- there's more! Rain is interesting to watch. It's interesting to be out in the rain. It makes rivulets and pools and lakes and streams and rivers and oceans, all of which are interesting to watch. And it makes sounds, a glorious variety of sounds human drummers can only envy.

It is very rare to have a year in which there is not enough sun to fuel photosynthesis. It is very common to have a year in which there is not enough rain to fuel photosynthesis.

Go ahead, push your "contrarian" sun-loving viewpoint, but as for me, give me water, or give me death!

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Friday, November 9, 2007

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Who Does He Think He's Fooling?

Bush is going on about how Musharraf should hold elections.

Memo to Bush- the American people couldn't care less about whether there are elections in Pakistan, and why should they, when only one candidate can run for office? When you have totally messed this up they will take note of the new disaster, and that's when you should start blaming Clinton or telling us the dog ate your homework.

Until then, you might as well shut up. The only person you're fooling is yourself- and that's no big trick.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

More Mutu

The Irony! The Irony!

Secretary of State Rice offers some advice to Turkey's leader Erdogan, who is under domestic pressure to respond to terrorist attacks:
Rice highlighted “the need to look for an effective strategy, not just one that’s going to strike out, somehow, and not deal with the problem.”

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Whitecaps

A modest proposal: the politics we see are the wave peaks that form when a groundswell is hit by a cross-chop.

For example, in the recent Obama goof, the groundswell is support for gay rights, and the cross-chop is the homophobia of hard-shell Baptists

When these two run against each other, hey presto, wave peaks. Add in strong gusts of bloviating and whitecaps are formed.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Well, So Much For Obama

Obama thinks Danny McClurkin is one of the best musicians in the world. Not Alberta Hunter, or Paul Robeson, or Harry Belafonte, or Aretha Franklin, but ....Danny McClurkin.

So much wrong here, so little time.

I helped elect Mike Lowry as governor of Washington. He not only worshiped at a black Baptist church, he also appointed illiterate church members to government jobs, which, in the fullness of time, they have suitably disgraced.

Once burned, twice shy.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

We Are So Doomed

Kim's roommate was watching C-span today. Senators were quizzing an agency head and employees in a parody of incompetence that would have gotten them thrown out of any decent high school classroom. My God, it was like they were on drugs.

Responding to a question from Senator Akaka of Hawaii, the agency head said "Well, the short answer is yes and no...(technobabble) Senator Aloha (technobabble) And then I was where there these Dutch Elms and you know every 17 years (technobabble, unconnected to Dutch Elms). Honestly, just kill me now.

Eventually Mildred changed the channel to motorized tricycles racing in a stream full of water. Normally you wouldn't think a 90-year old woman would be that interested in such a thing, but when you've just seen the alternative, it's almost a relief.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Looney Tunes

This is getting truly pathetic. Bush is going on and on about what he thinks, as if anybody cares.

So he maunders on about missile defenses, as though they actually worked,and tells people of other nations what they should be doing, as though anyone wants to become the next Iraq.

For a while I wondered why he was pushing such obviously false propaganda, and then I realized- he actually believes it. He's bonkers, completely around the bend, and nobody has the courage to say it.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Well, THAT was weird....

When did sexuality become a rock and hard place for politicians? Oh, that's right, about forever ago. Because it's like this universal thing we have to do.

So, who knows, maybe people who can see revolutionary change coming from drugs might have a point. Brain chemistry being, after all, one of the essential elements of healthy living.

Intellectual Bankruptcy

The quickest check on the solvency of the American intellect is a look at the big idea you have not heard discussed during the past sixty years- the creation of a number of large, pluralistic, federalistic nations resembling the US in size as the next step towards a world community of nations.

Individually, the blind men can describe the elephant. Economists can tell you how important internal markets are, and the importance of size when bargaining in world markets. Sociologists can describe how ethnic minorities can be assimilated in secular states. Political scientists can explain how different units of government are appropriate for the local, state, or national tasks of government. Jurists can explain checks and balances, and, on a fair day with a favoring breeze, religious leaders can believe in religious tolerance.

But when have you been asked to envision a United States of Southeast Asia, governed by a Congress and President, with contiguous borders, within which there are no internal tariffs, dealing with the external world as one united entity? That's right- never. Until now.

The reason for this is obvious and simple- American elites would consider the creation of nations similar to our own to be the gravest threat their hegemony could imagine.

Could there be any clearer or more compelling statement of intellectual bankruptcy?

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Leviathan

For decades we've feared the advent of the robot who turns against humanity. In our imaginations we've seen robots develop their own non-human intelligence, and cast themselves free of the shackles of our commands.

What is emerging instead is a robot who attacks us because he embodies our collective intelligence, and acts out our 'leaders' sadistic impulses. This robot is prey to our collective irrational fears, and lashes out angrily at those who pose, in reality, no threat to us.

The physical form of the robot consists of databanks, machines that feed them,machines we use to do things that machines need to have done, such as building roads,and ultimately, machines of war that attempt to steal the fuel and raw materials necessary to maintain themselves as machines of war.

You can't blame the machine. It just does what we want it to.

Friday, October 19, 2007

The Lion in Winter


















That's Dk (Devil Kitten) who is not waiting for Pa in his kerchief or Ma in her cap, to settle down for a long winter's nap....














Pb (Peebie) was making a wild flight from her Nemesis, Ek, when she realized the Stairway to Heaven was blocked by her other Nemesis, Liddy (shown above). Hence, the rather irritated expression on Pb's face...

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Are We There Yet?

According to Bush, a nuclear armed Iran threatens us with WW III. This would apparently happen when the US attacked Iran and Russia or China attacked us, causing us to attack Russia or China, all of which, in Bush's view, would be referable to allowing Iran to assume the same nuclear-armed Islamic status as Pakistan occupies today.

Or does he mean that a war between Iran and Israel would be a world war?

We'll never really know, because Bush is insane.

Just another 15 months, folks, just another 15 months.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Bush Saves The Russians

For a while, the Russians were has-beens, nobodies. Suddenly, they're restored. It seems they can now torment us with a hundred enemies, simply by threatening to share what they know with other countries that might want to make nuclear weapons.

Are we having fun yet?

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Misanthropic Mutu

Maybe it's taken a while for new cat Mutu, pictured below, to adjust to the idea that there are other cats in the world. Five months in, it's still hard to get a good picture of her...

Friday, October 12, 2007

Friday, October 5, 2007

Friday, September 28, 2007

Our National Identity

A cynic might think that the American people knew Bush had stolen the 2000 election, and hoped that such a bold thief would go on to steal something else (oil) and share it with them.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Damn

Wish we had a president who was brave enough to listen during a very critical introduction, and then speak to an audience that's free to laugh at him.

Cruel Irony

Now that they seem to have perfected the art of stealing elections, or even perhaps suspending them altogether, the Republicans are regretting the day they restricted the president to two terms.

But even they are not yet bold enough to tamper with that amendment.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Imagine that we really wanted to win the war...

...and decided to do what was necessary- as outlined in Petraeus's famous counterinsurgency field manual-

First, we need to draft and train about a half-million soldiers. In two previous wars we've had them on their way overseas within about a year.

Second, we need to rebuild the infrastructure of Iraq. Setting up honest authorities to oversee and perform the work shouldn't take more than several years.

Thus, if we really wanted to win, and started to do what we need to do to win, we could start working on the actual job within about a year and a half from now.

Of course, the Bush gang is getting exactly what they want from the war as it stands, so we won't do any of that...

Special Bonus Ostrich Blogging


He came and went, with no explanation asked or offered....

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Kiss It Goodbye, Kiddo

A lot of people hope that if-when the Iraq War is over, things will go back to "normal". Ain't gonna happen.

"Normal" is our Leave It To Beaver memory of a world ruled by Bretton Woods, the US dollar, and nuclear hegemony in a polarized world. Do you see any of that here today?

The $1.5 trillion bill for the Iraq, the money we owe the Chinese, but above all, the essential rottenness of every level of American jurisprudence, business, and government- all mean that the new "normal" will in no way resemble the old.

Cheer up, things not only could be worse, in a very short time they will be.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

The Twister

Well, that was a ride for you. General Petraeus was supposed to report on whether we were achieving our "goals" so that Bush could decide what to do, but in the end it turned out Bush was writing the report Petraeus would read from, and Bush insists Petraeus will make the decisions. (Yup, he's the 'decider' all right.)

But as it happened we weren't reaching our "goals" so the Petraeus "report" became a claim to success in Anbar province. Bush decided to demonstrate his contempt for the working man this year by flying to Iraq on Labor Day and meeting with a 'tribal chief' who was leading the success in Anbar thing.

Unfortunately for the 'tribal chief', this photo op was the last straw for somebody, who killed him. Bush has had better luck- it hasn't made it into the daily papers that the so-called 'tribal chief' was actually just a gangster without a tribe.

In America we're pretty used to the idea that lies told by the rich and powerful go unpunished, but I'm beginning to think we're really stretching our luck. But, hey, at least Big Government was able to step in and save capitalism from itself again with timely infusions of taxpayer money and cheap credit.

It's just really hard to comment on the levels of insanity we're seeing. Now wonder regular people like stories about cats who get mistakenly shipped across the ocean. It sure beats realizing that the guy with a finger on the nuclear trigger is a moron.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

OMG!

Andrew Sullivan and I agree- touting Iraq in the frame of the 50-year occupation of South Korea was not George Bush's most inspired moment.

Worst. President. Ever.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Whoa! Back up the train!

There is a common narrative about Iraq that, after failing to find the WMD, the American mission turned to promoting democracy.

Well, not really. No democracy was in the cards until the Iraqi people made it plain that a widespread rebellion would ensue if they didn't get the chance to vote on a government,.

At about that time, 'Death Squad' Negroponte was in Iraq, his activities cloaked in secrecy, but apparently involving the arming of Sunni militias in the south

IOW, as soon as the Americans realized that actual democracy might break out, they moved to ensure sectarian violence would disrupt elections and make self-governance difficult or impossible.

Now, as then, a unified peaceful self-governed Iraq is the last thing the Bushies want to see. Because then, Iraq wouldn't 'need' us.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

The Despicable Petraeus

When Petraeus talks about Iraq as the central front in the war on terror, he stands revealed for what he is- an unscrupulous self promoter whose greatest skill lies in manipulating the mental weakness of the Army as an institution For his own ends, Petraeus is willing to sacrifice our troops and money

You see, there is no central front in a terrorists war. That's why they call them terrorists. There is no defensive line to hold or attack, there are no central points that need to be seized or defended. Terror is a psychological warfare, and one that is amplified by modern media. Even with this amplification, however, a terror attack on American troops has little psychological effect on compatriots safe at home- Petraeus understands this much and trusts that fact to make his bogus program palatable to Americans at home.

It is not beyond reason that Petraeus, who has BSed his way through every rank and failed in every assignment given him in Iraq simply does not know much, or anything, about terrorism. A plumber can usually make it stop leaking, and may even be able to explain how to prevent hammering in your pipes, but that doesn't make him an expert in fluid dynamics, even if he does own a fleet of plumbing trucks.

By any standard, Petraeus is an appalling piece of garbage. IOW, exactly the type of person the Republicans would probably run for the Presidency. The time to start debunking Petraeus is now.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Teh Scary

The scary part is that none of our nation's elites even recognize the rock bottom underlying truth about our involvement in Iraq: no occupied nation has ever been united, except in opposition to the occupier.

The losing side in a civil war always seeks help from abroad. This was true in the time of the Romans and it was probably true in Thucydides's time. An occupier always tries to divide and conquer. And, true to form, the US in Iraq has committed every sin in the historical book.

The French tortured the English for centuries with the threat to sponsor a rival claimant to the English throne. But this comes at a price- the small group or nation can wag the tail of the larger, involving larger nations in wars they really have no interest in.

This is the most common theme in history. Even the coupling of male and female is less certain than this theme, as many a national history will show.

But our elites are totally clueless. The subject is hardly ever mentioned, much less accorded the realization that this dynamic will determine the outcome of what we're doing in Iraq.

I guess we'll have to wait until Iraq becomes history before we can learn this lesson- again.

Friday, September 7, 2007

Thursday, September 6, 2007

The Future, Now, But Over There, Not Here

The $64 Question

For about 100 years (see Churchill's World Crisis and the decision by the British Navy to fire their boilers with oil) an underlying question has affected the distribution of power and oil in the mid-east: how does a tribal system of agronomial peoples benefit from the sale of the oil that lies underneath them?

The question can be seen in the mind's eye quite graphically- the tribal or clan system is a horizontal system spread on the crust of the earth, about six feet thick, the extraction and export of the oil is a vertical system, a needle-like structure thousands of feet high (beginning deep in the earth) that pierces the horizontal system of the clans.

From the persistence of this 'contradiction' a multitude of questions and answers flow. Readers who have acquired a basic competence in the history and sociology of the region will have no trouble in extending in their minds these questions; those who haven't may well light up the bong and relax, secure in the knowledge that even if they knew more, none of the policy makers or highly paid mercenaries will be asking their opinion. Ca sera, sera.


Thursday, August 30, 2007

It's Not The Death Of Irony

It's death by irony.

The idea that a firm named Custer Battles would protect us in Iraq- that would be one of your warning signs.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

The Bigger Picture- Safety Regulations

Every safety regulation is touted as a way to make you safer. But they are much more than that.

Safety regulations limit liability and restrict who can make what. The person who is supposedly being protected is also, in actuality, being forced to do things in certain ways, and assume certain costs.

The clearest illustration of this is the safety regulation of American automobiles, which effectively force us to buy cars that get half the gas mileage we could get from other cars we're not allowed to buy. That is to say, the regulations force us to buy from the oil companies gasoline we perhaps would not buy if there really was a 'free market'.

When the regulations are written, industry is at the table. The government agencies are at the table. 'Consumer groups', whether funded by industry or actually representing consumers (which can be both or neither) are at the table. Foreign governments and Wall Street financiers are at the table.

And the person actually affected by the 'safety' part of the regulation is at the kiddy table.

With a global warming crunch and the peak oil crunch coming at about the same time, we are looking at some real problems for suburbia in America. Allowing the free importation and sale of smaller cars could really ease the pain here It's one thing we could do right now- if we wanted to.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Sometimes you just have to laugh

So, in an effort to arm the 'good guys' in Iraq, the Americans bought weapons in Bosnia (lots of weapons there) and arranged to have them shipped to Iraq on airplanes- airplanes owned by a well-known international gun smuggler and arms merchant.

And guess what- the weapons never made it to Iraq- or at least, the 'good guys' say they never got them.

Which might explain why the 'good guys' turned to the Italian mafia to help them buy black-market AK-47s About 200,000 of them.

At this point it's easy to do a cocktail napkin calculation that there must be about a million military weapons adrift in Iraq today.

Fort Apache was never like this.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Bye Bye, Condi

Sure, Condi will still be Secretary of State. But the Bush gang don't need no stinkin' State Department. The simple artifice of declaring a foreign army to be a 'terrorist organization' allows them to bypass diplomacy, international law, and, of course, the US Congress.

It's so simple, you wonder why nobody ever thought of that before......

Thursday, August 9, 2007

The Truth About NCLB

Recently I did an internet search for info on cranberry juice and urinary tract infections. After about ten minutes I had references to impeccable studies that reached statistically significant results. In the 'good old days' it would have taken me that long to walk from the entrance of the library to the card catalogue.

In fact, my search term included 'urinary traac infection' and Google asked me if I meant 'urinary tract infection'. Believe it, card catalogues don't work that way.

And this is the truth about NCLB- testing the ability to add and subtract or spell correctly has nothing to do with education. Those skills are what L. Francis Herreshoff once referred to as cement overshoes on a student of ballet.

Whatever the real reasons for NCLB may be- gentlemen, you may start your speculation-they do not include a real education, and whatever the results will be, they will not include a real education. Carried out in any significant degree, the real results are likely to resemble the education received by the "greatest generation', which left them a prey of demagogues, pathologically pedantic about the ability to add and subtract, and crippled by arthritis in hands that their teachers whacked with rulers.

That's no path to the future- it's not even a path to the present.

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Glad it's not terrorism?

Some people are glad the recent bridge collapse wasn't terrorism.

You know, like, well, that's certainly a relief that the cause was the poor maintenance and chronic overuse that affects tens of thousands of public structures across the US.

Yup, it's lucky we have those terrorists to be scared of- otherwise, we might have to start fixing stuff around here.

To Hell With Upward Mobility

To hell with upward mobility. What is needed is a decent life for the downwardly mobile.

Upwardly mobile people are, to put it bluntly, ass-kissers. Not the talented people you know personally, of course, but in general, upwardly mobile people want to please the people above them so they too can rise to that level.

Make it possible to survive on a course of downward mobility and you unlock the real talents, of art and social service and scholarship, that are otherwise straightjacketed by the desperate need to find the next meal.

Rewarding the upwardly mobile has given us a nation glittering with toys but poorer in real terms every year. It's just common sense to help the poor- it won't be so very long before you are among them.

Sunday, August 5, 2007

A Title On This Post Would Generate Weird Hits

60 to 0 in less than ten seconds

Wow, so millions of people stood in line to buy Harry Potter's latest, read the book in one sitting over the next two days, said all there was to say about the book in the next six hours and.....

That was that. It's over.

Will wonders never cease? Apparently this one did.

Friday, August 3, 2007

Seeking Fake Sun on a Rainy Day

Through A Glass Dimly

Americans have never understood Mao. Maybe the closest we've come was the statement that Mao's forces were "agrarian reformers". Yes, they were, but not in the sense that was meant by that statement.

Mao believed that to put China back together, it would be necessary to harness the power of the peasantry, and that the only way that could be done was to break the power of the gangster landlord and warlord classes, and to break the hold on the people of superstition and religion. Nothing in there about democracy.

Meanwhile, Americans spun for themselves the pleasant fantasy that democracy would inevitably follow the development of a stable middle class. This made it possible for us to support dictators around the world on the assumption that they would eventually create a prosperity that would lead to democracy.

Mao understood the possibility that an industrialized China could be a dictatorship by the factory managers and state apparatchik That's why he proclaimed the Cultural Revolution- which failed. Hey presto, dictatorship.

It should surprise nobody that China has assumed essentially the form which it had for about 2000 years. The anomaly was the Revolution of Sun Yat Sen and the pathologies developed between 1850 and 1950. Mao's restoration of things as they had been incorporated some elements of the coming century and arguably did no worse than contemporaries at sketching the ways to meet the challenges of the future.

The future may include democracy in China. That, however, was not what Mao was about.

Thursday, August 2, 2007

The Oh-so Retro George Bush

Bush in La La Land, Chapter 348

Back in about 1963 my Uncle Dave, god rest his soul, gave me a little book he had written for an aerospace firm in Houston. I loved the title- Where do we go from the moon?

Now Bush, a cool 45 years later, thinks he has the answer- why, Mars, of course!

There are a few little details to be worked out, like the fact that we aren't actually on the moon, but Bush will be all over that- when he isn't staring at his lava lamp, or riding his bicycle.

Tobias Toebiter Recumbent

Friday, July 27, 2007

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Do The Short Form

If the Bush gang had been paying handsomely for expertise, tens of thousands of Americans would be frantically studying Arabic in the hopes of cashing in on the big bonanza.

Do you see that happening? I didn't think so.

How The Trouble Began

It has become abundantly clear to me that the viability of the nation-state depends on attaining a size sufficient to maintain internal markets and deal with the world economy. This, of course, is exactly the opposite of our advice for foreigners, which since the Treaty of Versailles has been for them to fragment into ever-smaller statelets.

With this clue in hand you may now return to your regularly scheduled stately appreciation of history or anguished assessment of world events.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Saturday, June 9, 2007

A Really Big Mistake

A most appalling aspect of Israel's attack on Lebanon was the fundamental irrationality. One of the world's great trading peoples attacking one of the world's oldest entrepots- what's wrong with this picture?

What the Israelis needed to do, from the beginning, was to make Lebanon their best friend in the region. They needed to provide aid to raise the per capita income of the Lebanese to that of the Israelis, surely a modest enough goal. This would have provided a buffer state to the north, expanded the overall size of the Israeli market economy, and given them a much better card to play with Syria.

In a broader sense, the Israelis needed to tell the people of the region, "We have become one of you". Perceiving themselves as an island of western modernity in a sea of sub-standard peoples was, in retrospect a mistake.

It took no crystal ball to predict that the mid-east would face serious problems, internally, in integrating with an industrialized west- an integration that could not be evaded, due to the oil. If it was necessary to the establishment of Israel to dispossess the Palestinians, the first acts of the new state should have been directed to making that right for the Palestinians. A vigorous program of relocation payments and co-optation would have gone far to alleviate this now-bleeding sore.

Historically, the Jews have combined awesome commercial abilities with an inward-turning sociology of faith. They have secured many footholds in important markets that they subsequently lost. Let us hope this is not so for modern Israel.

Thursday, June 7, 2007

A Mug's Game

When I reflect on my life with the telephone, it's been a loser. Most of my phone calls have been made trying to get something done, something which eventually only was done because I sent a letter or tracked down the malefactor personally.

As for what the phone does to your romantic life, the less said the better.

The hell with it. Don't call me, I'll call you.

From Digby's Comment Thread

"The Bush administration liked to say that the grown-ups were in charge. Well, when I'm President, the President is going to be a grown-up."

It's Howdy-Doody Time

The most striking aspect of the Bush administration is that, given a choice, they make the choice a five-year-old boy would make.

Which should it be, boring diplomacy, or playing war? Let's play war!

Should we stay at home and eat fresh nutritional food, or go to MacDonalds? I wanna go to MacDonalds!

Should we use our space program to launch satellites and study Earth, in the hopes of preventing global catastrophe, or go to Mars? Let's go to Mars!

Faced with the demands of others in the U.N., should we negotiate a compromise, or take our marbles and go home? Take our marbles and go home!

When every warning is blinking red, and your intelligence chiefs have their hair on fire, will you work tirelessly to prevent an attack on America, or go ride your bicycle? I'm going to ride my bicycle!

Amazingly, this plays well with Bush voters. In 2004 a correspondent to the local paper said he liked Bush because Bush reminded him of his "cowboy heroes", and went on to make it clear he wasn't referring to real cowboys, but to the cowboys he'd seen in the movies and on tv. A 50-year-old man who still hasn't figured out that his "cowboy heroes" were actors, riding through the backlots of LA film sets.

Like I said, the mentality of a five-year-old boy.

Friday, June 1, 2007

Lincolnesque

Is Bush Lincolnesque? In terms of virtues, not so much. But when it comes to mistakes, Bush has enlarged on a classic Lincoln blunder.

When the Civil War began, Lincoln announced a blockade of the southern ports, a term used in a war between belligerents, instead of announcing that he was closing the ports of the south, as a legitimate government would do with the ports of a region illegally in rebellion. This was all the hook the British needed to hang their hat of blockade-running trade on.

Bush took this mistake to a new level when he announced a War on Terror instead of demanding that international law enforcement round up the criminals. That, combined with the invasion and subsequent mistreatment of Iraq, gave the terrorists legal standing in the world of warfare. When the Bush gang renounced the rule of international law they put themselves, legally speaking, on the level of the terrorists.

For Americans, this is all kinda like watching your wife strip to her panties and jump in the mudwrestling arena. But nowhere near as fun.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Here We Go Again

Back in the 16th century, the Dutch had a bright idea- private companies would use mercenary soldiers to attack foreign lands, reaping huge profits, and relieving the state of the expense of maintaining an army or navy in those foreign lands. Eventually, the thieving, brutality, financial shenanigans and just plain waste made this whole scheme a big headache for the Dutch, and they dissolved their East India company in 1795.

Taking its place as world hegemon of the private colonial powers was the British East India company, which in turn cost the British huge sums of money while siphoning the profits to private owners and eventually provoking the whole of India to rise against their rule. So the British dissolved their East India company.

So today we have American companies promising to rule Iraq with mercenary soldiers, and produce windfall profits that will relieve the American taxpayers of the cost of maintaining an army or navy. Well, not actually, of course- why give away the cow when the taxpayer can be forced to pay more every year for the milk?

But the general idea is the same and it will come to the same bad end. The only real question is how long it will take.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Peacocks?


These guys came through the yard the other day, and if you knew where I lived you'd find it even more amazing than you do. I don't know if I hope they got home, or if they got where they were going- well, actually, I'm hoping those two places are the same.

Monday, May 21, 2007

That Was The Week That Wasn't

I knew a guy who would laugh inwardly as you parlayed an initial misunderstanding into outright verbal stupidity. In much the same way, Boomer Americans drew the wrong conclusions from what they saw, and now stand agog at what has transpired.

In the 50s we were surrounded by corporations that made stuff, issued shares, and held stockholders meetings. Conclusion: Americans owned their companies by shareholding, and could even control them by voting at the stockholders meetings.

In reality of course, most shares are non-voting, and shares seldom constitute the major debt of a corporation. The overwhelming impact of public trading of stock market shares has been to allow a small group of inside investors to use other people's money to create a corporation that can borrow even more money, for the purpose of making, not stuff, but money.

Thus, it should come as no surprise that General Motors makes most of their money by lending money. General Motors was formed as a pool to buy parts from car part manufacturers, and DuPont took control as soon as it became evident that General Motors would be a major buyer of automotive paints, and a major source of revenue from loans granted to buy cars. Lending money to buy homes is exactly what GM does, because they don't make cars, they make money.

IOW, only an idiot steals from a bank by robbing it- the smart guys steal from the bank by owning it.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

The Ineluctable Division of Labor

In health care, what formerly was a 'medical practice', i.e., a doctor seeing patients, keeping patient records, prescribing, and treating, has become a money-making machine overseen by a doctor.

Every part of the process has been parcelled out to a specialist, and in many cases these 'specialists', far from performing any useful (to the patient) task, simply act as gatekeepers and attendant priests of the temple. The receptionist grandly positions you in the waiting room, and in the assembly line that keeps the 'nurse' and the 'doctor' busy. The 'nurse' ostentatiously takes your temperature and blood pressure, as though something new would be revealed and then reveals their total ignorance of who you are or why you're there by asking you for your past medical history, and misspelling the names of the drugs you're taking.

The doctor is the most likely of this motley crew to actually be who they say they are, or have some idea of what's going on. But don't bet on it.

It's simply not about medicine any more. It starts with the doctor's desire to pay for med school and have a good job, and quickly becomes a small industry, a way to make money that masquerades as a doctor's office. And we wonder why we can't afford it.

Assarts

An online dictionary defines "assarts" as the clearing of forest land and digging out of roots of forest shrubs. A more useful definition expands the term to include, for the purposes of our understanding, the processes by which the royal forests were diminished or changed in function.

We may, for example, consider the creation of enclosures and parks, the harvesting of timber, the pasturage of livestock, the afforestation resulting when the domain of the royal forest was withdrawn from privately owned land, encroachments, or what often resulted from longstanding encroachments, the sale to an adjacent landowner or village of a right to pasturage, a right to enclose, or a right to cut timber or withies.

In medieval Englande, forests, understood as actual forests with trees and shady spaces, as opposed to the legal establishment known as the royal forest- forests, then, I say, were essential and almost central. They provided timber, coppicing, forage, fuel, meat for the poachers and nobles, nuts for the nut bread that villagers ate in lieu of wheaten or oat bread, chemicals for tanning leather- they were at the center of an economy that burned wood, wore leather, built of stone and wood, and often starved in the winter.

The pressure to assart the royal forests, then, was tremendous, the process started early, and by the thirteenth century the royal forests were in full ebb, probably rivaled in extent by the emparking then under way by local landowners and lords, and physically destroyed by the new and different uses of assartification.

Thus, subsequent efforts by English monarchs to reclaim the assarted land- to be the subject of a future post- were, probably predictably, controversial.

Back to the 50s

This is all so totally retro. The Bush Years have seen the final flowering of the mid-50s, when Bush attained the mental age he now enjoys- about that of a nine-year-old.

If you want to work for the Bushies, just throw out every thing you've learned in the past 50 years. Evolution, contraception, tectonic plates, the lessons of Suez and Vietnam- banish those thoughts from your mind. The Commander Guy, when he's not playing with toy soldiers, wants to go to Mars!

Will it work? Hard to tell. Eisenhower worked for peace in the world so we would be free to spend trillions building our suburban dreamland, creating full employment and apparently endless prosperity for 150 million of us over a period of 50 years. That's a tough act to follow.

Especially (cough cough) with gas at three bucks a gallon and heading for four.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Sunday, May 6, 2007

Ye Foreste Law of Merrye Olde Englande

(The following, to be expanded in future posts, is intended as a sort of fill or bounce light on a major and bulky process of history. Hardly intended to be comprehensive, in fact, it cannot be guaranteed that no major error of fact has occurred, I still believe the reader may find it interesting. If they are so inclined.)

The course of the Norman victory in England is so simple that it should be known by
every halfway interested student. William conquered at Hastings, killing Harold, and in
the two subsequent years made two swings through the country, defeating resistance and
establishing blockhouses. About two years later a final campaign of genocide was made
in the north, drawing international condemnation for cruelty, and settling survivors in
strategic hamlets.

The elements of Norman victory were heavy cavalry and castles. Mobile cavalry units
were not new to England; Alfred had set up such a system. The castles, on the other hand
were aggressively built and used in a manner new to the English. However, there are
suspicions that the relative ease of the Norman takeover was possibly facilitated by cash
(or the feudal equivalent) as there is a noticeable lack of outraged complaint from the
Anglo-Saxon ruling class that was displaced. In short, while the Normans undoubtedly
were exceptionally competent gangsters, they very probably were assisted by a fairly large compradore class.

Aside from the castle building, and the complete replacement of the baronial class,
William introduced little real innovation to England. However, he shrewdly enlarged
upon the existing Forest Law, extending it in law and on the ground in ways not
previously seen. His rapacity was matched by his noble underlings to the extent that, at
one point, a third of England lay under Forest Law, this divided roughly half-and-half
among the Crown and the nobles.

Forest Law was essentially law that protected deer, extended over commons lands and
private lands from the original Crown lands it developed in. The private landowner, or
the commons, continued to own the land, but the deer could travel and feed at will upon
it, essentially acting as tax collectors who collected food deer eat and delivered
themselves as venison to the crown.

Of course, the sudden and widespread imposition of such a tax could only be expected to
inspire the bitterest opposition. Nor, in fact, was it an especially effective form of
taxation, although it did serve as an effective mechanism for William and his successors
to collect revenue where none had been collected before. For these and other reasons the
Forest Law in the 13th century and after receded almost as quickly as it had spread, and
soon even areas of forest owned by the Crown were being afforested, which does not
mean the actual forest was cut down, but that the Forest Law was withdrawn from the
land.

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

Friday, April 27, 2007

Sunday, April 22, 2007

The Worst Is Yet To Come

Eventually we will be out of Iraq, as will be 2 million, or perhaps by then 5 or 10 million Iraqis. The world will watch to see what happens to the refugees created by our invasion.

And when the US fails to admit Iraqi refugees as immigrants, our "friends" around the world will not fail to note. They will be less inclined to support America in conversations or official acts. They will become positively truculent about supporting invasions or civil disorder desired by the US.

Which is probably all for the best. But with a couple of gibbering baboons in our own cockpit, there is no soft landing on our horizon.

Friday, April 20, 2007

That Gonzales, he's quite a lawyer.....

....when his opponent is a guy who didn't finish high school, locked up on death row.

When he has to face U.S. Senators, not so much.

Is McCain Insane?

The thing I notice about McCain's little song is that he had made one up. When was the last time you set your own words to a popular tune? What were the circumstances?

For most of us, any honest answer to that question has to raise the gravest concerns about the mental competence of John McCain.

Tobias Toebiter Recumbent

Monday, April 16, 2007

What's Wrong With This Picture?












In some parts of the day, this bus will run almost empty. In rush hours you will need to add more buses, i.e., more drivers. With no fixed guideway or MU capability, a bus remains a bus.

To Expand On That Last........

Between May 1917 and November 1918, 1.5 million American soldiers were transported to France. What if we had made a similar effort in Iraq?

Instead of having 150,000 soldiers in a sea of 70 million Muslims, we would then have a million soldiers in a sea of 700 million Muslims.

It's pretty much that simple. The problem is self-sustaining, and we are the problem. Making the numbers bigger just makes the problem bigger.

In Over Our Heads?

If you jumped in a pool of water and found out it was really deep, the chances are pretty good that you could rise to the surface and swim back to the shore.

When we jumped in Iraq, we found out it was not only really deep, but it isn't even water. We're not rising and swimming doesn't seem to be working.

This is the kind of thing that happens to drunken college-age boys, and who could better exemplify the drunken college boy than George Bush, our Pretzlewit, the Decider. Fools rush in, etc etc......