Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Winging to Where It's Warm

Well, faithful readers, I have to take leave of you for about a week. I trust you'll check back in when I get back from the little trip the wife and I embark upon later on today. We're winging down to sunny Florida to see our sons and a bunch of old friends we left there when we moved to Oklahoma a couple of years ago. Good time to be going. Tonight here in OK, this enlightened land, we had a pretty hail, wind, and rain storm. Oh, yeah, spring's coming to Oklahoma.

I debated what's the best thing to leave you with. Tell you the truth, I have no great thoughts at the moment. I haven't even watched the Obama "60 Minutes" interview with Steve Croft yet. So I cannot comment on something that millions of people know about already.

Leave 'em laughing, they say. But I've got nothing particularly funny for you either. So leave 'em with music is the next best thing. Here's how you know when you're really getting old: you look down a current list of the top ten songs in any genre, and you don't recognize anybody. I have to tell you that one of the few TV programs that I just never miss is "Austin City Limits." This is a PBS show that's been going strong for 34 years. That puts it in the same class as "60 Minutes," heady company. Not only does ACL let me hear bands and singers I know--I saw Van Morrison not long ago--it exposes me to bands I'd never hear of otherwise, like a repeat show like night before last. A band called "Los Lonely Boys." Three brothers + two and, for a couple of songs, their dad. Wouldn't it be great to a be a family band? It was Texican stuff, and good.

Meantime here's a clip of another band I discovered on ACL. Enjoy. See ya in a week. Keep the faith!

Monday, March 23, 2009

Help Jesus Don't Need

What are we going to do with this pope? We all know he is conservative to the marrow of his Germanic bones. We all know that he speaks 98 languages and has more degrees than Carter has liver pills--now that there phrase really dates me!--and is tops on the hit parade of every reactionary Catholic in the universe. But, why oh why must he feel impelled to just say the stupidest things where people can hear him? Stupid things that can be attributed to him instantly in 98 languages across the world? He seems to feel compelled. The latest is his pronouncement on the plane winging its way to Africa, the world capital continent of the AIDS pandemic, that the distribution of condoms was not going to resolve the AIDS problem, AND, if that were not enough, distributing condoms is going to make the situation worse. I forbear trying to speculate on what universe exists where this makes any sense.

I mean what are we going to do with this guy? At a time when Jesus needs all the help he can get, we have his so-called Vicar on Earth sounding like he's been tippling way too much German schnapps. And he's not doing Jesus a bit of good in the process.

Jon Stewart puts it all in the right light. He reports what the pontiff had to say about condoms, and added that the pope also announced that "Smoking cures cancer" and "For a quick morning pick-me-up, try heroin." Actually he could have been rougher on him, but he just concluded: "Now if there's anybody who knows about sex . . . " Har! Har! Really. Christianity doesn't need this.

There was a time when I'd really cringe to see the Pope or the Catholic church held up to ridicule. But that seems like a long time ago now. The fact is if the the Church and its most visible representatives didn't make themselves so publicly and abundantly ridiculous, they wouldn't be ridiculed.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Fries with That?

Here's something that a couple of years ago might have sounded really weird. But now, it doesn't sound that way at all. There's competition between people over 70 and people in their late teens to early 20s for the same lousy jobs. The old people are looking for work at the Mickey D's and KCFs of the world, at the Wal-Marts and super markets to stock shelves and bag groceries. The reason? Obvious: with the economy in depression, millions of older people cannot afford to retire any more. Their 401(k)'s have been wrecked, they've been laid off the jobs they used to have, their health care costs continue to skyrocket, and social security simply is not enough to live on. Apparently the older people are winning out in the competition for jobs. Whether this is because they are more reliable and dependable, who knows? But the numbers, according to the NY Times story are stark: "The proportion of older Americans who hold jobs has also risen strongly — 16 percent of Americans 65 and over had jobs last month, up from 11 percent 10 years earlier. But for workers age 16 to 24 the percentage with jobs has fallen to 49 percent, from 59 percent a decade ago. As for Americans age 25 to 29, 74 percent now have jobs, down from 81 percent a decade ago." Don't know about you, but I always feel a great tinge of pity and sadness when I see a person obviously over 70 years old refilling the ketchup down at the Wendy's or wiping down the tables in some plastic fast food joint. You know she wouldn't be there if she didn't have to be. What kind of society let's this happen to millions of its people?

Friday, March 20, 2009

Deep, Deep Kimchee

A couple of thoughts before I call it an evening, curl up with my Kindle, and engage in some true mind rot: a book about an ATF agent who infiltrates the Mongol outlaw motorcycle club. This is really a job that requires a major league set of cajones, and I suppose the Harley-borne criminals in leather and chains ought to have somebody watching them and building cases against these dudes for drug and gun-trafficking, rape, murder, and assorted other anti-social behaviors.

But the thought occurs to me that we the people should have had some kind of agent from some kind of bureau concerned with the general welfare wearing a wire in the plush dominions of Wall Street beginning, oh, sometime in the 1990s. Maybe they could have saved us before those greedy bastards pulled the temple down on all of us. And friends, we are now in the deepest kimchee you care to imagine. The more I learn about what's going on, the more convinced I become that we have no idea where we are headed--except that it is bad--and the bottom is not even in sight. Rumor has it now that because of the AIG middle-finger-in-the-face-of-all-America bonus, Congress is going to be most reluctant to pass any further stimulus packages . . . at least for a while. Particularly if they resemble bailout money. Not that stimulus or bailout would necessarily do any good--I've been checking: nobody seems to know how much it will take to "work"--but I hardly think doing nothing is a good way to approach this fiscal catastrophe. The Republicans are, of course, in a patented frenzy about fiscal responsibility, damn their two-faced, hypocritical souls.

Here's some more good news: The Congressional Budget Office says that the administration predictions on the budget deficit this year are too rosy. It's likely to be in the neighborhood of $1.8 trillion. I have to tell you that these kinds of numbers just make no sense to me at all. I mean that much money has to be a hallucination, right? What are they smoking up there in the CBO? Are the Mongols selling them some extra special stuff? How does anybody figure this out? Suppose the deficit turns out to be only $1.4 trillion. Is that better? A deficit of a trillion a year for the next three years . . . another of the CBO predictions. Suppose it turns out to be only $.8 trillion a year. Is that better?

Remember, brothers and sisters, that the president's idea of a solution is to get us back to where we were before all of this unpleasantness. That is, restoration of the hoary old American Dream: the economy "moving again." Cars coming off the assembly line, hammers on nails building all those new houses, shoppers shopping, coins clinking on the tables of the money changers. Except that everybody's going to have health care, and we'll be building solar farms and windmills like it's going out of style. I'm thankful to all the gods that John McCain is not the president, but pardon me for observing that a restoration of anything resembling rapacious, destructive capitalism, i.e., an economy moving again so we all can consume ourselves into a stupor, is not what I want for a solution. No. That's not where we want to go, not what I want for my kids and grandkids. But at least so far that's the only place Mr. Obama seems to want to take us. With luck, the true gravity of this situation will prompt some creative and by-God-bold solutions.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

A Seat in the Sky

This is Louis C. K. I never heard of this guy before today. This bit is really insightful. Like all good comedians, he shows us the folly of human beings and how utterly clueless we are about how utterly clueless we are. Comedy, when you really look at it, is serious stuff.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

¿Legalización de la droga? Si!

What can be done about the horrific drug war going on in Mexico? What's our knee jerk answer? More police. More guns. More patrols. More of what doesn't have any effect on the problem.

Maybe another approach is called for. It's one that an increasing number of Americans support. Not yet a majority, but a substantial and growing minority--42 percent with 7 percent undecided. It's a common sense answer to a problem that's not--not ever, that is, never--going away. Legalize marijuana. That one drug alone is 65 to 70 percent of the Mexican drug trade.

But a good case can be made for legalizing all illicit drugs. With the slaughter going on just south of the border, you're going to be seeing more and more articles like this one by Glen Greenwald about the whole war on drugs question. This piece talks about Portugal, of all places, and how the land of Vasco de Gama has decided to decriminalize drugs, all drugs, including cocaine and heroin. The result?

Evaluating the policy strictly from an empirical perspective, decriminalization has been an unquestionable success, leading to improvements in virtually every relevant category and enabling Portugal to manage drug-related problems (and drug usage rates) far better than most Western nations that continue to treat adult drug consumption as a criminal offense.

What a concept! Stop wasting billions of dollars on something that does not work. Stop making criminals of normal people. Stop generating billions of dollars for Mexican drug cartels and feeding the horrendous violence in Mexico. The person who wrote this to the U.S. News and World Report survey has it right:

If we were a free society, people would be allowed to use any drug they wanted. If we were a compassionate society, we would put people with drug problems in rehab, not in prison. But we are neither a free nor a compassionate society. We are a moralistic one. So our response to the problem is predictably stupid.

Update 1: Strapped sorely for cash the city of Philadelphia might be mulling marijuana legalization.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Oh, Good

I stole today's title from a story in This Modern World. It hits just the right note of wearied cynicism.

I've talked about this kind of thing before. But I just can't help it when I encounter these kinds of stories. They make my flesh crawl. First because I know them to be true. And second, even worse, I know that they are disbelieved by the vast majority of the American people because they think our military, "our boys," is composed of just a bunch of patriotic grown up Little Rascals. (What a rehabilitation these guys have gone through since the 1970s! At least they deserved their reputation then.) Seems like now that we've got "professionals," all-volunteer, ya know, we don't have blood lust in the ranks and we don't have murderers in the ranks.

Well, here are couple of cautionary tales, both via Sy Hersh, who's never taken his eye off the military ever since Mai Lai showed him what these armed to the teeth gatherings of "our boys" can do.

1. A super secret organization called JSOC. These are really special special operations forces. What these guys do is go all over the world and kill people our leader(s) deem worthy of killing. Here's a little taste:
They do not report to anybody, except in the Bush-Cheney days, they reported directly to the Cheney office. They did not report to the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff or to Mr. [Robert] Gates, the secretary of defense. They reported directly to him. … Congress has no oversight of it. It’s an executive assassination ring essentially, and it’s been going on and on and on. Just today in the Times there was a story that its leaders, a three star admiral named [William H.] McRaven, ordered a stop to it because there were so many collateral deaths. Under President Bush’s authority, they’ve been going into countries, not talking to the ambassador or the CIA station chief, and finding people on a list and executing them and leaving.
Here's the link. Doesn't it make you just quiver all over with patriotism to know that your tax dollars are being used for this? And that these killers are plying their trade in your name? God bless America!

2. We still kill innocent civilians among the people we're at war with. Yes, I know we kill a lot of them by accident. The ones I'm talking about here are on purpose. Another little tidbit:

. . . as he told the story, another platoon from his company came and executed all the guards, as his people were screaming, stop. And he said they just shot them one by one. He went nuts, and his soldiers went nuts. And he's hysterical. He's totally hysterical. And he went to the captain. He was a lieutenant, he went to the company captain. And the company captain said, "No, you don't understand. That's a kill. We got thirty-six insurgents.

Here's the link. Read some of the comments to this piece, and you'll see what I was talking about above.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Huge Bonuses (Our Money)

The headline on the New York Times story says it all:

"AIG Planning Huge Bonuses After $170 Billion Bailout"

Get this:

The bonuses will be paid to executives at A.I.G.’s financial products division, the unit that wrote trillions of dollars’ worth of credit-default swaps that protected investors from defaults on bonds backed in many cases by subprime mortgages.

The bonus plan covers 400 employees, and the bonuses range from as little as $1,000 to as much as $6.5 million. Seven executives at the financial products unit were entitled to receive more than $3 million in bonuses.

I'll bet there's a whole bunch of people that "as little as a $1,000" sounds like a lot of money.

Now you tell me. How much longer are the American people going to put up with this crap? I don't have to rehash the whole horrible story for you. Since these people almost brought down the entire financial system last year, we've had to cough up billions on four separate occasions to keep their company from going under. And since that time the country's unemployment has reached 8.1 percent (double it to get the real figure). Thousands more people have had their houses foreclosed. All the predictions continue to be dire.

And the fat cats at AIG are rewarding themselves with millions for bringing their company to its knees. Words have not been invented to express my outrage at this gross, blatant injustice being perpetrated upon us. If I have to read one more time that these bonuses are required to keep the best people from leaving . . . I mean WTF! The "best" people? You mean the ones who sent the largest insurance company in the world to intensive care? The ones who have saddled my progeny out to who knows how many generations with crippling debt? The ones who have visited misery on millions of people? These bastards are going to pay themselves millions of dollars with OUR money?

The story says the company is legally bound to pay these bonuses. Well, let's hire us some lawyers and undo the legalities. This is beyond outrageous.

I'm a non-violent person myself, but I don't think I'd protest too loudly if somebody is angry enough to break the knee caps of a few of these greedy bastards.

OK. I'll be better in the morning.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Kindled--I Love It

I've been Kindled and basically set on fire. I've had it long enough now to say something about it. I've had my Kindle for about three weeks. And I have to tell you. This is one cool piece of technology. I really can see how this thing will become an indispensable thing. I'm already in love with it.

Where to start? How about how cool it looks? It weighs about 10 oz and is 5.2 by 8 inches. And thin, thin. Not as thin as the after-dinner mint the guy in the restaurant ate in Monty Python's The Meaning of Life, but: think five quarters high. Easy, easy to tote around. That little button on the lower right is a joy stick. And it's an enter key. You can see how crisp the text is. It's adjustable to 6 different sizes. I find that the second smallest is most comfortable for me. Easy to read. Real easy. Even in sun. Even under real bright light. You use the keyboard when you need to type something. (Novel, eh?) I thought it might be a problem, but two thumbs, no problem.

But the best part of all is how you get books. Through the air. In about half a minute. Poof! It's on-board and listed in your table of contents. Magic. You go to the Kindle store, tell Amazon which book (or magazine or blog or newspaper) you want, push the little button and, whoa, that sucker is in there. And you can sample anything for 2 weeks free. I've looked at everything. It was nice getting the NY Times for a couple of weeks. On books, Amazon will download you the first chapter to sample the wares. Newspapers, not many yet, 32, but all the US heavyweights and then some, and some foreign papers, too. The Times of London, anyone? Almost 1,500 blogs are available, and most of 'em cost 99 cents a month to get downloaded daily to your Kindle. The best Texas Ranger blog is there!

Biggest complaint? Price. $359. That ain't chicken feed. But oh, the games we play with ourselves: I rationalized mine (and paid for it) by taking on extra a student for individual study. See? No harm, no foul.

And selection size. That's to say there are classy choices in everything. Just not enough of them. On a few occasions now I've checked the store for a book I had in mind (and thought there was a good chance of finding it) and not found it. But this is going to get better. In the three weeks I've had my Kindle, Amazon's added over 6,000 books--so they're up to 246,000 titles.

Check back. I'm not through talking about this thing yet.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Broken Record

I know I'm a broken record on this, but it is amazing, fantastic, criminal how much money we waste on so-called "national defense." The intelligence operation alone costs us up to $66 billion every year. Nobody can really be sure. Just let that figure roll around in your head for a minute. You think the CIA is this expensive? Oh, no. The CIA accounts for only about $10 billion. The rest goes to the Pentagon. And like almost everything Pentagon, there's no way in hell they can tell you what they actually spent all this money on. These are the guys who lose, that is, misplace, can't find, billions of dollars remember.

The only politician I've found with the guts to speak out against the annual Pentagon rape is Barney Franks, and what he proposes--a 25 percent cut--is an excellent start. But that ain't gonna happen, despite the fact that almost half of the American people think the Pentagon gets too much money. All our Republican friends (and the miserable blue dog Democrats) who are rending their garments and beating their breasts about the awful government spending . . . well, you don't hear one peep out them about the horrendous waste the military visits upon we paying sheep every year, year after year.

Does anyone else savor the irony of the Obama administration's boast that they only increased the Pentagon budget by 4 percent this year?

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Crazy as He Is

Here are suggestions for the Obama administration from Noam Chomsky. I endorse every one. I guess that makes me as crazy as he is.

Cut Pentagon funding by the same amount that's expected to be distributed for economic recovery.

That means, decommissioning every military base abroad, ending all Hessian-style private contracts, ending all armaments contracts that enable foreign adventures, and rationalizing the military and civilian staff.

Shift the vast resources freed up by these and similar measures to eliminate all the pointless exercises in futility and misery that America has wrought to rebuilding America in the areas of public transportation, a single-payer health care system, and education, particularly vocational.

These things will raise the level of productive rather than destructive economic activity that is the hallmark of our current situation.

And the banks should not be treated as too big to fail. No company should be treated as too big to fail. No government department should be treated as too big to fail.
These suggestions headed a fairly lengthy article about American foreign policy, the upshot of which is Obama is not going to change much of anything in that arena except maybe tone.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009


Maybe an antidote to my previous entry . . . or a hallucinatory experience . . . or a slice of real life. Who knows?

Monday, March 9, 2009

It's Not Going to be OK

I've been saving this column by Chris Hedges for several weeks waiting for an opportune time to talk about it. I first became aware of Hedges some years ago when I read his book War is a Force that Gives Us Meaning, a heart-felt, moving anti-war tome by a guy who's seen one hell of a lot of war, death, and destruction. (I also must confess I found it intriguing that a guy with a B.A. in English lit and a Masters of Divinity ended up being a war correspondent. And by God, a guy who got booed off the stage where he was delivering a commencement address in 2003 for denouncing the war in Iraq can't be all bad.)

So maybe the time for sharing this is "opportune," but I don't think there will ever be a good time to share this. Because what Hedges has to say will not cheer anybody up. But who's to say he's not right? I, for one, do not believe that America has a special guardian angel that protects us from history, from the fate of all overextended empires. Nor do I believe that there is anything special about this nation that insulates it from history. "All Things Must Pass," as George Harrison reminds us. It's just that most of us don't want to believe that the time to pass for the U.S. has arrived so quickly.

Hedges is a true prophet of doom. Here's what he says: because of the economic crisis in the country, social unrest is inevitable. Millions out of work will put people on the streets rioting just as similar problems have done in many countries recently. Economic crisis = political crisis. The danger of totalitarianism from the right is very real. People will readily give over control to a demagogue who promises order.

Our way of life is over. Our profligate consumption is finished. Our children will never have the standard of living we had. And poverty and despair will sweep across the landscape like a plague. This is the bleak future. There is nothing President Obama can do to stop it. It has been decades in the making. It cannot be undone with a trillion or two trillion dollars in bailout money. Our empire is dying. Our economy has collapsed.

Hedges has no faith that Americans are going to cope with our present difficulties with intelligence and with the foresight to change our way of living.

Now, you tell me, do you really think things are going to revert to the way things were before all this unpleasantness? Do you really think your kids are going to be better off than you are (or were)? These are the kinds of worries that keep me up nights, typing up blogs rather than tending to writing that I should be doing. I wonder how many other parents are bothered by these same questions. Don't know about you, but they won't go away for me.

Honest. I truly hope I'm drastically mistaken. What do you think?

Update 1: In his latest piece, "Forget about 'Recovery'," Jim Kuntsler likewise thinks that violence by the people being (still!) screwed by Wall Street and the bankers is also highly likely. Read the comments after this piece, too.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Doom Bunker

I had never heard of this jerk before.Which, I suppose, puts me in the category of some woefully uninformed person. But this guy Beck is, after all, a Fox News person, and before that a CNN bubblehead. So how was I supposed to know who he was?

Never mind. It's not necessarily important that we knew who he was then. We know him now and . . . surprise! Like many another conservative millionaire, he's loony. (Maybe his migration from barely-high-school graduate to alcoholic Catholic to Mormon has something to do with it. Sounds like a good way to get whiplash of the brain to me.) I've bemoaned the distressing fact that way too many wingnuts like this are afforded a public platform to reach millions with their pronouncements on what's wrong with the world (government and the existence of liberals) and how to fix it (eliminate both). Well, unless you saw this stuff, you cannot imagine how crazy these people are.* Check out this video of Beck's program of Friday, February 27. (The accompanying Crooks & Liars commentary isn't bad either.) The "War Room." Scenarios of the disasters that will befall the country as a result of a Democratic administration. This is so damn scary and creepy. These people are for real, and they number in the millions. And you watch and tell me if it doesn't sound like wishful thinking by these guys.

Well, check out what Stephen Colbert does with this in the video above. The best thing to do with idiots and their ideas is to mock them. And that's what he does, thoroughly. Like the Jon Stewart piece the same week, it's brilliant satire, and it plainly exposes the fear-mongering for what it is: crazed hallucinations.

*I'm assuming that you aren't familiar with this tripe because you just don't waste your time watching it. But millions of people do, and they believe every word of it. Encouraging, no?

Friday, March 6, 2009

Say It Ain't So, Neil

My man Neil Young dropped a bomb in Germany the other day. Music cannot change the world. He actually said this. "I think that the time when music could change the world is past," he said. "I think it would be very naïve to think that in this day and age." Geez, Neil, if you're not holding on to the dream that music has transformative power, then what does that mean for the rest of us? I'll tell you the truth, man. I don't want to stop believing that Beethoven, Mozart, Bach, or, yes, Neil Young or some other troubador of peace, love, and understanding can't bring this world to its senses. I know you can't help it. You're getting old, just like the rest of us. And you've seen what we did with our dreams. We've made an unholy mess of things, and it ain't getting better. No wonder you're discouraged. I am too.

But then you're not entirely without hope. "I think the world today is a different place," you said, "and that it's time for science and physics and spirituality to make a difference in this world and to try to save the planet." Well, I'm not sure about the science and physics part--they've got a lot of explaining to do--but I'll certainly buy the spirituality. If we had more of that, we'd all be better off. And music . . . well, it's hard for me to separate music from spirituality. So maybe we're on the same page after all.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Financial Gurus

Jon Stewart is a genius. This is classic.

Update I: Straight news outlets can learn a whole bunch from Jon Stewart's approach. "The piece wasn't just the laugh-out-loud funniest thing on TV . . . but it was exquisitely reported, insightful, and it tapped into America's real anger about the financial crisis in a way that mainstream journalism has found so elusive all these months, in a time when we all need to be tearing down myths. As one commenter on the Romenesko blog noted, 'it's simply pathetic that one has to watch a comedy show to see things like this.'"

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Something Happens

Is there something the matter with me? Why is it I cannot be relentlessly hopeful about the wonderful future that beckons us out there just as soon as Obama gets all this mess he's inherited cleaned up? Why is it that I'm getting the sneaking feeling that it won't be too long before Obama does something that's going to break trust with me permanently? Something that will put him in the same category as like when everybody in America was/is falling all over themselves about what a great American Colin Powell is, and I'm the only one in America that remembers he was part of the US Army's cover-up of the Mai Lai massacre. I fear that something like might be creeping in between me and Barack.

And on the same subject that came between me and Powell--accursed war. Mr Obama is beginning to look pretty shaky to me on the whole war question. And things like this little piece just reinforce my fears. Here's the way it starts: "It looks like the fat lady will become a Victoria’s Secret model before she sings the finale of our woebegone war in Iraq." The rest of it is commentary on this: strong, convincing commentary.

Something happens to these guys once they get to ride in the helicopter. They get to feeling all presidential. Obama, now that he's got the doomsday codes and all the top secret briefings about how every place in the world is important to America's national interests and how every disgruntled foreigner with an AK-47 is a danger to those national interests. That, and the top military brass and intelligence spooks whispering in his ear about how short-sighted and strategically unsound it would be to end our military involvements in the Middle East. Well something happens . . . you tell me: what in hell is sensible about drawing down in Iraq only to plus up by thousands our troops in a proven quagmire such as Afghanistan?

My bottom line has not changed for many years: get the U.S. military out of all its overseas ventures. End Iraq. End Afghanistan. Now. Put a stop to militarism. I don't want to hear anything about why we should be in either place. For a number of reasons. I'll just give two. First, it all depends on how you define our national interests. Two, whatever the Pentagon says is all lies anyway.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009


OK. I'll admit it. I will read the damn ingredients that go into Afrin Nasal Spray if that's the only reading matter around. I read all the time. I've always read all the time. Well, not literally, but you know what I mean, especially you inveterate readers. Doesn't matter what usually, if there's nothing else handy. So file the following under "Whoa! I didn't know that!"

So today I'm leafing through a magazine we get in the mail every month, which usually goes right in the trash, but today it's killing a few minutes for me. It's called the OEC News--that's the Oklahoma Electric Cooperative, the power company. On the inside of the back cover, there's this article about . . . toilets. A lowly appliance to be sure, but used more frequently than a dishwasher, more necessary than a microwave, and most missed when you employ a stranger. I'm sorry I can't give you the direct article directly, although it may indeed show up when the OEC page is updated, but this piece by the same author will give you the flavor of the original, if you will pardon the expression.

I'm so tempted to write as the lead in sentence, "Here's some shit you didn't know about toilets." But I will refrain. To wit:

  • You can install a urinal in your bathroom. I'm sure some people have thought of this, but I've never seen one. Apparently some of them are small and have a cover on 'em. Not like those in theaters and restaurants.
  • Toilets come in dual-flush models, one if by land . . . no, that's not it. You chose the flush: standard 1.6 gals for deuce, 1.1 gals for wee wee. (Article says you might consider unless you have small children who might get confused.)
  • How about pressure assist models? Something about compressed air, "effective flushing action in the back of the toilet," and rapid but louder, and might not want near a bedroom. Hmmm. I wonder if this has a decibel rating?
  • And then there are the composting or incinerating toilets. The former "allows waste to decompose into usable soil." Vented design = no odor. Comes in both electric (with "small fan and stirring device"--don't ask because I really don't want to know) and non-electric (do you have to stir yourself?) models. The incinerating kind use electric heating elements "to quickly incinerate wastes into fine ash." This gives a whole new dimension to the phrase "red ass." Btw, both these toilets are very expensive.
  • Then there's the "macerating" toilet. Say what? This kind "uses a grinding pump to move the water and waste as much as 12 feet vertically and 150 feet horizontally" to a septic tank or sewer line. Allows you to put a new toilet on a slab or in a basement with no nearby drain.
Amazing, no? I hope you didn't consider these thoughts a waste (har, har) of your time.

Oh, almost forgot: the illustration is posted rules for the public toilet in Japan.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

A Very Thin Line

What you see to the right is a Seattle police officer about to land a punch on a 15-year-old girl. That's right. Fifteen years old. This story caught my attention today. Watch the whole video and see if you find it as horrifying as I do. This is Deputy Paul Schene in action in a holding cell at the Seatac county courthouse. And, as you will see, there's more to it than punching. Prosecutors evidently saw the same thing in it that I did. Schene has been charged with 4th degree assault in connection with using excessive force on a suspect.

You can also see the video in the context of this TV news report of it. And there the attorney for Schene claims that this video does not tell the "full story" of the event. Well, I'm sorry. What more do we have to know about this? It's perfectly obvious to me that this cop just completely lost it because a shoe hit him in the shin. This kind of incident always reminds me just how close to the surface murderous violence in this violent country is.

Police brutality is probably one of the most overlooked violations of civil rights that happens in this country. It's easy to understand why. There's nothing quite so impenetrable as the cone of silence the thin blue line maintains about the criminals in its ranks. Moreover, the victims of brutality at the hands of the law are from the lowest rungs in the society, people who are most helpless to resist in the courts or be believed in the face of law enforcement denials.

I've often contended with, I think, the best of evidence that the line between the cops who are supposed to be protecting and serving society and the criminals who prey on the society is very thin indeed. The kind of beserk tantrum of violence this Seattle cop throws is, I fear, only too common. What bothers me is the kind of personality types who are drawn to work that puts them in a position to give vent to their rage and, worse, puts guns in their hands as well. (This same Deputy Schene had shot and killed a mentally ill guy previously. That shooting was adjudged justified by the police department.) It's a shame for me to say it, but I'm always suspicious of cops. Yes, yes, I know. There are many honorable police out there, just like the kind in the children's books who walk little kids across the street. And brave ones, too. But it's the other kind that scare me. And I think there are a lot more of them than anybody wants to believe. Always ready for a beat down at the slightest provocation.


"He wants people in fear, angst and crisis, fearing the worst each and every day because that clears the decks . . . to come in with the answers which are abject failures, historically shown and demonstrated."

Who does this sound like to you? Who do you think is being described?

a. George W. Bush
b. Dick Cheney
c. An Apologist for the war on terror
d. Barack Obama

If you answered a., b., or c., guess what? You could not be more wrong. The correct answer, if you can believe it, is d. Barack Obama, our current president. This was among other things one of the profundities developed by that renowned intellectual and careful thinker, the big, fat idiot Rush Limbaugh. Rush Limbaugh, brothers and sisters, who yesterday gave the final speech at the Conservative Political Action Conference. Rush Limbaugh, a hack radio loudmouth, first among the preachers of hate on the airwaves is now apparently the voice of the Republican party. He was cheered by the conference like Roman emperor on a triumphal march at this gathering of Republican party faithful . . .

The statement at the top is typical of the kind of tripe emanating from these people now. The hypocrisy of these people makes me crazy. Keeping everyone in constant fear was what the Vile Little Pretender and his cronies did for eight years. And answers that were abject failures? Demonstrated by the history of this country in the era of Republican ascendancy? Can you imagine the utter disdain these radio blabbermouths have for their listeners? That they can confidently spew out reams of half-truths and outright lies in full confidence that their audience is going to lap it up and take it as gospel. Amazing, isn't it?

I can honestly say I find nothing quite as repulsive as the tribe of radio hate-mongers who number listeners in the millions every day. As I've said before, it's really scary the influence these despicable people have on political life of this country. Giving Rush Limbaugh a national platform to proclaim his twisted vision and spout his lies is yet another indication that the sun is setting on this country. Rush Limbaugh is mainstream! We are really in trouble.