Thursday, October 30, 2008

The Limits of Experience

Fifty years ago Bill Lederer wrote The Ugly American, based on his two decades as a US naval officer in Asia. He believed the US was "losing" Asia because we didn't understand the area and communicated poorly. In a sense he was right- our racial prejudice and the message we communicated of white dominance were ignorant and dysfunctional. But the US did not "lose" Asia, we discarded it when they didn't accept our proposed dictators for their countries. When we recovered from our attempts to rule Asia, we regained much of what we had discarded.

In the interim, of course, we fought two full scale wars and continuously in half a dozen other countries. We made ourselves insane with fear and suspicion, fired and blacklisted all our actual experts about the region, lost 60,000 of our young men to war and 400,000 to Canada, and convinced most Asians that the US was no longer the country of George Washington or democracy. In fact, the entire productive capacity of the Baby Boomers, over their entire lives, was wasted, and we opened the 21st century with nothing more than improved Levittowns and safer Model Ts.

In spite of his years of experience, Lederer was massively wrong. Seen from the vantage point of what we've learned since, it's a painful read.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Oh To Be A Fly On The Wall

It's starting to look like we're going to miss some real boffo humor when McCain loses the election- or be in for the ride of our lives, if he wins.

Imagine, for example, Sarah Palin going to "take charge" of the Senate. My god, what would you give to be a movie-maker with a budget shooting this scene? It would have to be a sort of Rashomon multi-viewpoint narrative to convey the full horror and humor of the experience.

The innocence of Sarah Palin would be charming- if she were still in the third grade. As matters stand, it's just plain scary.

Mutu (L) and Liddy (R)

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Basta! Enough Already!

Supposedly we've got big financial problems, and of course we do, but also an opportunity to stop doing stupid stuff.

The problems come from wasting money on the military and the drug wars, failing to provide universal health care and education, and putting all our eggs in a suburban basket. And we'll have these problems as long as we keep doing stupid things.

Because we have Social Security, and some experience pump-priming with Keynesian spending, this depression will be nothing like the last- unless we screw it up. As Jack Belden said, there's still time to die.

Let's start by legalizing pot- the only part of healthcare that has made significant gains in treatments and cost over the past 20 years. Don't come whining to me about public budgets if you're still arresting pot smokers. I just don't want to hear it.

And that goes for the rest of the dumb stuff we're doing. Don't expect me to share your alarm about no money for soldiers or freeways or new aircraft carriers. Just stop it already, and start doing something smart. It's long overdue.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Why Are We Even Having This Discussion?

The NYT will ask again this morning about John McCain's medical records. Hey, the guy is collecting $54,000 a year of medical disability as a veteran. Is this a fraudulent claim, or, as seems equally plausible, is he actually disabled and over the hill? Either answer should mean 'No electoral victory for you, John'. Why are we even having this discussion?

As for Sarah Palin, a cursory exam reveals she's a trainwreck of populist palaver, incompetence, and delirious dialogue that rarely flirts with reality. Why are we even having this discussion?

The answer, of course, lies in America's 'elites'. They created the poisonous pool that spewed out McCain and Palin as one of the choices. Like the man who bought a pit bull pup, the elites now need to choose- put the McCain campaign to rest, or watch the country fail?

And the saddest part is, that, for the wealthiest among us, this is a really hard choice. That says so much.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Friday, October 10, 2008

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Hindenberg and Hitler

By now we're all pretty sick of Sarah Palin. She's just another comment on McCain's unreadiness to be President, and this may be what saves us in the end- the realization by "conservatives" that McCain's upbringing and mental degeneration have resulted in the most corrupt and self-serving attempt to grab the Presidency of our history.

So, buckle your seatbelts. At the bottom line the election is about race, and whether a Republican party that has depended on racism to win elections for 40 years can pull it off one more time. Either way, the Republicans lose.

What the Rs haven't realized yet is that if they win, they really lose. In that event, McCain, depending on the people who looted Wall Street, will attempt to govern, while Palin will attempt to seize power. McCain is obviously unhinged, Palin is a fascist, and the institutions that might maintain a semblance of governance have been corrupted by Bush. This would not be a pretty sight to watch.

If she brings you brownies, John, be afraid- be very afraid.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Enough Already

Should we rush to shore up the economy so we can build more freeways and pump more carbon in the atmosphere? You might think the answer is "Obviously not", but a lot of people don't realize that is exactly what a bail-out bill is going to do.

We're not hitting a speed-bump here, we've gone past the end of the road. The American Empire is dead already, it just ain't laid down yet. Our credit is bad because we doubled the national debt in seven years. Our Army is broken and our "leaders" are drooling mad-dogs who have alienated everyone else in the world who can read.

Business as usual is over, and some serious market losses are just what you would expect to see now. They will continue until our economy is put on a sound peace-time renewable energy basis with good jobs, affordable housing, and universal healthcare. What would be wrong would be if that were not the case.