Thursday, April 30, 2009

Embracing Heresy

I must confess that it is with some trepidation that I lay bare what flashed through my mind when I saw a clip of the president's news conference the other night. He was responding to this truly inane question from New York Time's reporter Jeff Zeleny. (Sounds like this guy ought to audition for a high school yearbook job to me.) Here's the question:

During these first 100 days, what has surprised you the most about this office? Enchanted you the most from serving in this office? Humbled you the most? And troubled you the most?

Obama was cool about handling this. Wrote down the four words after getting them repeated one by one. What I want to consider is his response to the third part of the question. Here is Obama's response:

Enchanted? Enchanted. I will tell you that when I — when I meet our servicemen and -women, enchanted is probably not the word I would use. But I am so profoundly impressed and grateful to them for what they do. They're really good at their job. They are willing to make extraordinary sacrifices on our behalf. They do so without complaint. They are fiercely loyal to this country.

And, you know, the more I interact with our servicemen and -women, from the top brass down to the lowliest private, I'm just — I'm grateful to them.

At the risk of being pronounced an incorrigible, hateful heretic, and then receiving an immediate patriotic pummeling from the outraged assembly, and then being spirited off to the nearest hillock there to be trussed up to an upright and burned alive for my sin before the outraged masses, the light of my pyre sparkling in their eyes, growls of satisfaction on their lips . . . let me say this: I, for one, am wearied by the constant adulation and puffery accorded the US military. It has become de rigueur for politicians of whatever stripe, like wearing the American flag lapel pin--I'm still disappointed at how quickly Obama folded on this during the campaign--to stroke the military with never-ending encomiums to their excellence, their patriotism, their bravery, their superiority to all the other militaries in the world, etc., etc.

Plain common sense ought to dictate some toning down of the kind of spread-eagle pronouncement Obama made every time the US military is mentioned in a sentence. Why? Because plain common sense tells us that not everybody in the military is good at what they do, or is willing to make extraordinary sacrifices on "our behalf,"* or does so without complaint. Alas, "fiercely loyal" may indeed be near the truth, but the kind of loyalty referred to here almost always means knee-jerk, flag-waving, kick ass, Toby Keith-mindless-my-country-right-or-wrong loyalty. How is it that patriotism has become identified in minds of people in this country with only this kind of (usually) unreflective loyalty? Is there no other kind?

If there's one thing the US military does not need, it's any more smoke being blown up its butt about how great it is. The sense of arrogance and entitlement that adheres to the Pentagon and its minions has already far exceeded the bounds of propriety. After being associated with the military for over 30 years, I can attest that as an institution, it is profoundly convinced that it, and it alone, is the sole remaining repository of virtue and patriotism left in the land. True believers in its own righteousness. True believers, just like the people who burned witches and heretics at the stake. I define this kind of institution as profoundly dangerous to liberty, something that ought to be curbed. Exactly the last kind of organization that needs to be constantly stroked.

Most Americans, the vast majority, are utterly unaware of the extent to which the Pentagon has spread its tentacles throughout the whole of American life. (In this regard, I highly recommend Nick Turse's The Complex: How the Military Invades Our Everyday Lives.) The Pentagon is out of control. It wants to be, and almost is, God. The last thing it needs is every politician and his brother and sister publicly falling down in worship at every opportunity. And that includes the president.

*"Our behalf" is the principal formulation that props up the military in people's minds. But actually, the words are code. Code that translates to "whatever political purpose the rulers of the country have decided it's worth sending people to die for." This definition is universal. It works any time, for any country, for any political philosophy. The military is always on "our behalf," otherwise it could hardly command the support of the population and the obscene amounts of money that population freely bestows on it.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Once Upon a Blog

My objection to show trials concerning torture is not that these are not crimes, or that these acts are not evil. Instead, my objection is that, as monumental an evil as torture is, it is not the first evil, or the greatest one. The all-encompassing evil, the evil that is the bedrock on which a series of additional evils, including torture, has been erected is the system of governance involved and the nature of the State at issue: a corporatist-authoritarian-militarist State, one devoted to the expanding regulatory-surveillance State at home and to an unending series of aggressive interventions abroad. That is the evil that must be recognized and, if at all possible, rectified or minimized, if the series of evils and the unending path of destruction and death are to be ended.
Thus concludes a remarkable blog entry by a guy whom I've just discovered, one Arthur Silber who writes a blog called "Once Upon a Time." I've read about three of his pieces so far--they tend to be lengthy and chewy, not for the faint-hearted. But for the dogged, those who are willing to follow the fine turns of a fine mind, especially if their views tend like mine to be strongly supportive of civil liberties, world peace, and left of the conventional left; if they are convinced that the present situation in the world and our country is a result of decisions by the ruling oligarchy in America (and that this has been the case for years), then you will find "Once Upon a Time" quite congenial. Actually, after a little more poking around, I find that Mr. Silber and others of like mind can be characterized as "left libertarians," sometimes called "libertarian socialists." Like many political labels, it encloses a big tent, with lots of diverse types under it, including Noam Chomsky, whom I've admiringly mentioned before, and probably me as well.

I was diverted to this guy be a reference to him in one of Glenn Greenwald's recent posts about the torture debate. While Greenwald favors prosecution of the torture criminals, as do I, Mr Silber does not. He makes a most interesting case in the blog entry cited above, and he promises further installments. I will not restate his argument here. It is multi-faceted, and although I did not find it totally convincing, I certainly sympathize with his general understanding of broader events, and his passion to unmask what's going on in our government and what's really happening in the world. And I certainly share his disgust for the rampant stupidity, cupidity, and violence that pervade not only our government, but our whole society.

Another bonus in finding this site is a whole list of Mr. Silber's blogging friends, only a very few of whom I had not heard of before. (Samples: James Benjamin, James Bovard, Dom Eggert, William Pfaff, and many others. I haven't looked at half of them yet.) He says they are "Friends, Allies, and (Mostly) Sane People," so I can only assume that this is a gaggle of similarly-minded leftist reformers singularly fed up with how the millions in this country are manipulated by the rich and powerful, the ones who are really in charge, and who have been for well over a hundred years. And who are sick to death of militarism and corporatism.

This guy is right up my alley.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Gagging the Founders

Torture is an issue that simply won't go away. I've been reading a spate of articles lately about this. I won't call it a "debate." It simply mischaracterizes the discussion to call this a "debate," as if there were a pro and con position on the question of whether to prosecute the perpetrators of these horrors, each equally defensible by the side that employs the most skillful rhetoric. No. Not given the plain facts which are not in dispute, and which the entire world knows. The fact is the US military and CIA engaged in systematic torture of prisoners, torture that was "legally" sanctioned by a Justice Department and Office of White House Counsel abjectly subservient to the executive branch: the evil twins Bush and Cheney. But make no mistake, the rest of the top dogs: Condi Rice, Rumsfeld, Tennant, Powell, Ashcroft . . . every last one of them endorsed the policy.

The basic point doesn't have have to be belabored: torture is a crime. The US executed Japanese and Nazis for torture. The people who engaged in torture, who constructed legal justifications for it, and who instituted torture as policy . . . all of them are criminals. They broke the law. But this country has so forfeited its moral compass that a huge outcry has arisen against enforcing the law against these criminals, bringing them to trial, and exacting justice. The country needs to "move on," goes the refrain--and sadly it originated with Obama himself. (I suspect that Obama is so desperate for the biggest consensus he can get on his health care and energy initiatives, he's momentarily taken leave of his senses. As if letting the Bush criminality off the hook could possibly buy support from these people who have opposed everything, EVERYTHING, he's proposed right up till the present moment.) Read Glenn Greenwald here on the exalted David Broder of the Washington Post, probably the number one establishment pundit in the country. The gist of it is that Broder is now characterizing the Bush administration as "the darkest chapter in American history," but in the midst of things, when it mattered, he did not make a peep.
Like so many of his colleagues, Broder played a critical role in defending these crimes and insisting that they were not taking place.This is a crucial and oft-overlooked fact in the debate over whether we should investigate and prosecute Bush crimes. The very same pundits and establishment journalists who today are demanding that we forget all about it, not look back, not hold anyone accountable, are the very same people who -- like Broder -- played key roles in hiding, enabling and defending these crimes.
Read Paul Krugman, who recalls how all the "sensible" people, the same corporate pundits Greenwald is referring to, assisted Bush in getting his war in Iraq back in 2002 by either backing the whole sordid enterprise and/or not raising a single question during the whole spinup to the war, although hundreds begged to be asked.
I’ll never trust “sensible” opinion again. But for those who stayed “sensible” through the test, it’s a moment they’d like to see forgotten. That, I believe, is the real reason so many want to let torture and everything else go down the memory hole.
Of course, Krugman's got a major problem with whole sorry attempt to sweep the torture question under the rug, too:
For the fact is that officials in the Bush administration instituted torture as a policy, misled the nation into a war they wanted to fight and, probably, tortured people in the attempt to extract “confessions” that would justify that war. And during the march to war, most of the political and media establishment looked the other way.

It’s hard, then, not to be cynical when some of the people who should have spoken out against what was happening, but didn’t, now declare that we should forget the whole era — for the sake of the country, of course.

Sorry, but what we really should do for the sake of the country is have investigations both of torture and of the march to war. These investigations should, where appropriate, be followed by prosecutions — not out of vindictiveness, but because this is a nation of laws.

Read Greenwald again today, who destroys the incredible argument being advanced by Broder and virtually all the rest of the media elite that "presidents and vice presidents are not always above the law." Can you believe this? We have a vast number of media pundits willing to give crimes committed by a president or vice president a pass on because they are not always above the law--just some of time, we surmise. Can you really believe that American opinion shapers are saying this, that they can actually believe it? It gets worse: Jon Meacham, the editor of Newsweek, says it "would set a terrible precedent," if a former president is prosecuted for his crimes in this particular case. You really have to read this piece to believe it. Here's just a taste:

The idea that our only options are to move on completely or to prosecute is a classic false choice. A third way would be a 9/11-style bipartisan commission that would include clear supporters of the Bush administration. Such a panel would meet largely in private, have the power to grant immunity to witnesses and be charged with answering, as clearly as possible, the central question of whether Bush's war on terror in its entirety saved lives.

So the central question is whether the so-called war on terror "in it's entirety saved lives"? Which means, of course, that the answer will be yes, and the corrollary will be that whatever was done--torture, illegal wiretapping, rendition, and all the rest--are OK because they are part of the "entirety" and "saved lives"! The Founders, brothers and sisters, are spinning in their graves. The rule of law in the Republic they founded was absolute. It's nothing but a trifle now--it doesn't count for anybody powerful enough to have the pundits kissing their asses. Don't kid yourself: that's the function of media today. Lick the boots of the powerful and construct arguments for their benefit that would gag a John Adams or Thomas Jefferson, a James Madison or Ben Franklin.

Sunday, April 26, 2009


What follows is Jon Stewart's advice to all of the Republicans frothing at the mouth because of the supposed political crimes of Barack Obama. This amusing and pointed monologue occurred in early April (I'm just now getting around to posting it) and was prompted by the rampant "Baracknophobia" among the Republicans,who were--and still are--bloviating about the "tyranny" of the Obama administration. As usual, Stewart was right on point. And I quote:
I think you might be confusing tyranny with losing. And I feel for you, because I've been there. A few times. In fact, one of them was a bit of a nail-biter. But see, when the guy that you disagree with gets elected, he's probably going to do things you disagree with. He could cut taxes on the wealthy, remove government's oversight capability, invade a country that you thought should not be invaded, but that's not tyranny. That's democracy. See, now you're in the minority. It's supposed to taste like a shit taco.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Yet Another Appalling Accomplishment

Anybody who's paid the least bit of attention to commentary and just general news over the past 20 years or so, knows that the United States besides leading the globe in national debt, trade deficit, and consumption of a vast number of commodities, including illegal drugs, also leads the world in numbers of its citizens in prison. And it is not even close. Just in terms of raw numbers, the U.S. is far and away the world leader. More than 600,000 ahead of the next highest in the world, Communist China, our valued trading partner and financial sugar daddy who is keeping this country afloat. The figures below spell this out. These statistics are startling. Virtually 9 percent of all people imprisoned in the U.S. are women. No other country is even close. 1 in 5 people in U.S. lockups are not serving a sentence, presumably because they have not yet been brought to trial, or are awaiting sentencing. Finally, with 5 percent of the world's population, the U.S. has 25 percent of the world's imprisoned people.

CountryPrison populationPopulation per 100,000Jail occupancy level %Un-sentenced prisoners %Women prisoners %
SOUTH AFRICA158,501334138.627.52.1
N IRELAND1,3757991.537.42.2
SOURCE: International Centre for Prison Studies

All of this ties in directly with the ongoing furor over the so-called "torture debate." (Just an observation, but "torture debate" is something the media has laid on us. There's no "debate"--not among people with a shred of conscience, I should say. Count me among those who think it will take at least a generation for this country to establish itself as a moral leader again because the U.S. government authorized torture as a legitimate and legal tool of interrogation, the latter by torturing logic, morality, and reason into a barely breathing, bloody hulk. We really need to prosecute those responsible for this blot on our national character, but that is another whole blog entry.) It ties in because its yet another illustration of the callous meanness that skeins through our national character. And our willingness to accept cruelty and degradation to people we define as "dangerous" to our way of life: criminals (by our curious standards that treat pot smokers as dangerous and cheating, thieving CEOs as mistaken), enemy combatants, and people on the lower end of the economic totem pole who cannot afford legal defense.

All these thoughts have been spurred by review on Truthdig I just recently read of a book by by Anne-Marie called Cruel and Unusual: The Culture of Punishment in America. The thrust of the argument is that our punishment has gotten worse over the past 35 years. "Should offenders have their wills broken by pain and suffering, or do they retain some capacity for rehabilitation? As Cusac shows, we lean far more toward the former." This shouldn't come as a surprise to anybody. The torture policy we "debate" today is simply a logical outgrowth of this mentality.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Joklahoma: A Continuing Series

At least I don't have to report that the absurd bill passed by the Oklahoma legislature, a bill that would have made it a crime to conduct any kind of stem cell research whatsoever in the state, had actually become law in the state. News just out says that Governor Brad Henry's veto of this clunker bill was sustained by the Oklahoma Senate. The House had already voted to override the veto. So what it came down to was this: by six votes the state of Oklahoma avoided making itself once again abundantly ridiculous in the eyes of the world.

The worst part of having to live here--otherwise, not nearly as bad as you might think--is being identified with the dangerously ideological conservatives that run this state and their hordes of bubble-brained acolytes that comprise the electorate. It amounts to a statewide pathology, actually. Sometimes, like now, you can detect a glimmer of sanity. But it's always transitory.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Think Happy Thoughts

This is for all of you who might be entertaining some of the same thoughts that continually rise up to plague me. Not a day goes by that I don't think some variation of this line of reasoning: everything that's supposedly being done for "recovery,"--the bailouts, the propping up of the auto industry, the budget initiatives, as well as the little bleeps of encouraging economic news, the "glimmers of hope"--maybe all this is just like what the corporate media fed us when everything in the country was supposedly "normal." That's what they said, and that's what we all thought. But in fact we were heading for the massive trainwreck we're currently experiencing, something that the more prescient among us warned us about before it happened. But nobody listened.

So what the corporate media and the politicians feed us is bullshit, because what's really happening is too nightmarish for anybody--other than those who prefer the unvarnished truth even if it's uglier than a two-headed vulture--to contemplate. Much less our spineless politicians who bestir themselves from self-preservation activities only on occasion. And never, ever, ever to present bad news.

Here's Jim Kuntsler in his latest blog entry, another of my "never miss" blogs.

The truth is that we're comprehensively bankrupt, and no amount of shuffling certificates around will avail to alter that. The bad debt has to be 'worked out' -- i.e. written off, subjected to liquidation of remaining assets and collateral, reorganized under the bankruptcy statutes, and put behind us. We have to work very hard to reconfigure the physical arrangement of life in the USA, moving away from the losses of our suburbs, reactivating our towns, downscaling our biggest cities, re-scaling our farms and food production, switching out our Happy Motoring system for public transit and walkable neighborhoods, rebuilding local networks of commerce, and figuring out a way to make a few things of value again.

What's happened instead is what I most feared: that our politicians would mount a massive campaign to sustain the unsustainable. That's what all the TARP and TARF and PPIT and bailouts are about. It will all amount to an exercise in futility and could easily end up wrecking the USA in every sense of the term. If Mr. Obama doesn't get with a better program, then we are going to face a Long Emergency as grueling as the French Revolution. One very plain and straightforward example at hand is the announcement last week of a plan to build a high speed rail network. To be blunt about it, this is perfectly fucking stupid. It will require a whole new track network, because high speed trains can't run on the old rights of way with their less forgiving curve ratios and grades. We would be so much better off simply fixing up and reactivating the normal-speed track system that is sitting out there rusting in the rain -- and save our more grandiose visions for a later time.*

I wish, hope, pray, long for the return of some semblance of what we all call "the American way of life." Transformed, of course, by adversity and humane thought into something more rational and certainly more just and equitable. And in this, I suspect I'm pretty much like everybody else: comfortable with the status quo I know and fearful of a new paradigm I don't. But in my heart of hearts, I don't really believe we're ever going to go back to anything any of us would easily recognize as the familiar way of life in this country. The historian in me knows that vast wrenching changes happen in history. And few in the midst of them understand. We might be able to escape into some fantasies we build in our heads--the stuff the corporate media and the politicians stoke constantly--but the reality of history is on the front porch knocking on the door. It won't be long before we have to open the door and let her in.

*I am nothing without the ability to admit an error. And I 'fess up to a major mistake I made some weeks ago in a blog about high speed rail. In light of new information, I'm backing off that position. Let's fix what we have makes much more sense. Alas, this course isn't nearly as sexy as the promise of a 200 mph train.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

A Little Obama Dance

Out on my street corner yesterday with my "Honk for Peace" sign with four ladies who are as nuts as I am, we were talking about Obama. Specifically his announcement that anybody in the CIA who actually carried out torture on people is not going to be prosecuted. Everybody agreed that they disagreed with this. Then we got to talking about Obama and other things, such as: the additional swarm of American troops being sent to Afghanistan, the continuing bailout of the financial industry, his continuing illusion that the Republican party is one day going to cooperate with him. It turns out that none of us are particularly happy with any of this.

Now, the question arises, are people standing on a street corner in a fair-sized Oklahoma town with peace signs more likely to be uneasy with these aspects of the Obama presidency than your normal person who voted for him? The answer would be yes, I think. Of course, most Oklahomans did not vote for him, and don't like anything Obama does. But it does seem that at least this particular little gaggle of peaceniks is more to the left on most issues. Which is doubtless why I find their company so congenial. (I should observe, however, that we seem to be getting more people honking than usual. We don't have a good theory for this, but we hope it means all those honkers also think the Afghanistan thing is insane. The Iraq thing has been insane for years.)

Although the complaints against the president I've mentioned are all serious, the one getting the most attention now is the torture prosecution question. Today was a big shift in the White House position on this. Obama has responded to the outcry that's still going on about the horrifying information revealed by release of the latest White House memos on Bush torture policy. He did a little dance away from what he's been saying for weeks. He's been a broken record about "looking forward" and not back at the past on this issue, now Obama is leaving the door open for prosecution, either a bipartisan commission or justice department probe of the process and people who devised the torture policy that CIA interrogators put into effect. (He still doesn't want the torturers messed with.) Of course, the miserable little fraud and his vice president both ought to be tried for war crimes, but that's not going to happen. However, I'll be happy to see people like John Yoo and David Addington go to jail, and as many of their toady lawyer compatriots as possible.

I'm not standing up and cheering--there's no one in jail yet--but this is better than the situation was yesterday.

Monday, April 20, 2009


Great song. But then practically anything with a banjo is likely to be.

The video is described as "infamous." I cannot imagine why this would be so.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

On Rat Patrol (Video Bonanza)

Here are three videos that you should watch if you can spare the time. If you've just got time for one, watch the one embedded below. It's the first segment of 60 Minutes from earlier tonight. It's about 401(k)s and the victims of the crash in values of these things . . . . and more. First of all, there are the victims: good hard-working people who are now in their 50s and 60s who played by the rules and who no longer can reasonably expect to retire. The lady in her 50s who's checking out groceries, or running a day care out of her house, or the guy in his early 60s now working two jobs, one of them as a counter guy at Starbuck's. This is sad and heart-wrenching, but it's not what you will remember.

What you will remember is a Mr. David Kay who is a lobbyist for the 401(k) industry and president of some kind of 401(k) association. You will not believe this creep. As my son would say, "What a rat!" Not one microsecond of sympathy for all this suffering does he have. What he does have is a whole load of blame for the millions of victims of his industry for not being better investors! You see, it's their fault, all these millions who were forced to these plans because companies discovered how much cheaper they were than pension plans, all these millions who were ignorant about investing. You do know who made out like bandits, don't you? Wall Street. They made billions off 4o1(k) plans. Oh, and were you aware of the vast number of fees 401(k) owners have to pay? That they hardly if ever know about? And did you know that the industry has fought tooth and nail, so far successfully, to prohibit Congress from passing legislation to make these fees more visible? What a surprise, eh? Your blood will boil.

And if you've got the time--in fact, you can split up the task since the videos are divided into pieces--I heartily recommend you check out two more videos (slide a little down the page), both of speeches given by winners of the Izzy Award for Independent Journalism: Glenn Greenwald, whose blog in Salon you'll see listed over on the left under "I Never Miss." And Amy Goodman of "Democracy Now," who's another hero for people who remember what reporting is supposed to be about. These pieces are about what's happened to reportage in this country. It has virtually died, replaced by corporate journalism, which exists to disseminate government and corporate viewpoints, propaganda, properly so called. Greenwald says, "If it's not independent, it's not journalism." Everybody at the speech applauded "Amen"--hardly what would be mainstream opinion. But that's what's happened to the news in this country.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Weasel Report

Sorry to be so disagreeable lately. Really. I am. I'm not nearly the grump I sometimes appear, nor do I think the sky is falling, at least most of the time. But really, it's difficult to avoid being provoked sometimes. There are so many injustices, so many ridiculous people. Case in point: George Will, one of the most smug, holier-and-smarter-than-thou little weasels you're ever going to encounter. If the man did not know his baseball and if he had not produced a couple of good books on the subject, he'd be a complete waste of protoplasm. He's one of the worst kinds of people in my estimation. He's got NO empathy for people. None. His disdain for everybody beneath him, and believe me, this is everybody, is palpable. It oozes out of him constantly.

Did you catch him yesterday? If you didn't, read this. His problem this time? (He's always got a problem, and unlike people like me, he's got no discernible sense of humor, nor--heaven forbid it!--anything approaching self-effacement or ability to find himself silly sometimes.) Blue jeans. That's right. One of the most comfortable garments in my chest of drawers, and I'll bet yours, too. Take that back . . . the most comfortable garment in my chest of drawers, and I'll bet yours, too. And I'll bet you have more than one pair of jeans, too. Well, get ready. Little guttersnipe Will says: you're a "blight on America's surface." You're wearing an "infantile uniform." "Denim is the clerical vestment for the priesthood of all believers in democracy's catechism of leveling -- thou shalt not dress better than society's most slovenly." Got that, you ruffians, you tasteless slobs?

"Denim is the carefully calculated costume of people eager to communicate indifference to appearances," he continues. Only a pinhead snob like Will could conclude that when you put your jeans on, you are engaged in careful calculation about how little you care about appearances. Not only that . . . "The appearances that people choose to present in public are cues from which we make inferences about their maturity and respect for those to whom they are presenting themselves." So think about this next time you slip into those comfortable jeans: you're not only immature but just being seen in jeans is an act of disrespect to everybody who sees you. The girl in the picture above is disrespecting all of us as we speak.

What can we say about this supercilious little twit? Better yet, say to him? How about:
Hey, you self-satisfied, haughty little prick, I hope when you get to whatever circle of hell they're condemning the fatally proud to these days, I hope that you are condemned to wear a pair of unbroken-in blue jeans that ride up painfully in your crotch for all eternity.
It would serve you right. God is a just God

Friday, April 17, 2009

Doesn't Anybody Else Find This Scary?

Riffle through the pictures of the tea party attendees across the country. And tell me this doesn't scare you. At least a little bit. I can't help but think the presence of so many deluded people from coast to coast is a direct result of the dumbed down, broken down public education system in this country which has produced a citizenry utterly ignorant of the country's history and its Constitution. Not to mention the torrent of right-wing hate talk continuously broadcast and televised, 24 hours a day every day of the week into the eyes and ears of people to whom the process of taking an argument apart and exposing its fallacies is as foreign as Swahili. Add to this the patina of morality and so-called Christianity that adheres to the fundamentalist movement in Christian churches--which endows them with infallibility and fires them with holy zeal--and what you have is a recipe for who knows what kind of self-righteous violence and mayhem. What we're talking about here is rule by the Mob, something that any sensible person should fervently pray is never turned loose to follow its instincts. History has more than enough examples of what the Mob does when this happens. The stuff the nut case governor down in Texas is spewing is a perfect example of the bloody red meat being thrown to the Mob.

I don't mind telling you that I find the cultivation and agitation of the malletheads by the Republican party despicable . . . and not a little bit frightening. We have vast numbers of people across the country who are virtually frothing at the mouth because Barack Obama is president of the US. The Republican party has been out of power for three months, and look what it's spawned. Do you think things are going to get better?

Thursday, April 16, 2009

States Rights! States Rights! States Rights!

He's not my governor. He's the governor of the state below us, the gret stet of Texas! His name is Rick Perry. He is a Republican. He is also a nut case. Reported widely in media and blogosphere were remarks he made yesterday at one of the three Texas tea parties he felt duty bound to attend. He's intimated that the secession of Texas from the union could be an option. Texas is not going to stand for any "oppression," he says. What can these people possibly be thinking? Oppression? What are they talking about? I've just lost the bubble here. Maybe it's me who doesn't know what the word means any more.

Have a listen to this guy . . . and then think about this: what you hear is the voice of the Republican party. The extreme is now mainstream. Brothers and sisters, this cannot be good. At least in Texas, there's a whole bunch of people who have forgotten the Civil War. But it's not just Texas.

According to Rachel Maddow tonight, our own looney state of Oklahoma--which is second to none in kooks per square mile--has the honor of being the first to pass a so-called "sovereignty resolution." Same sort of measure is pending in Texas, Washington, and several other states. Here's the language: ". . . the State of Oklahoma hereby claims sovereignty under the Tenth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States over all powers not otherwise enumerated and granted to the federal government by the Constitution of the United States." The language of HJR 1003 further serves notice to the federal government "to cease and desist, effectively immediately, mandates that are beyond the scope of these constitutionally delegated powers."

It's 1860 deja vu all over again.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Mad Hatters--Every One

What is a sane person to make of all these so-called tea parties? Hundreds of them. All over the country. Stirred up by the right wing nuts of radio and Fox news to protest government spending and the Obama budget. And, get this: Obama's tax plan to get more out of the hugely wealthy and cut the taxes of 95 percent of Americans. Have you got that? Thousands of Republicans, assorted nut cases, and Obama-haters are out on the streets raising hell because the government, in their judgment, is spending too much money. Give me a frigging break!! And why is the government spending "too much money"? Because it is desperately trying to undo what the vile little pretender to the presidency did to this country during his 8 years in office.

The rampant illogic of it all is just stunning. Where were all these people when that miserable little pretender was spending us into oblivion on his war in Iraq and his war in Afghanistan and his multi-billion dollar give-away to the pharmaceutical companies with the prescription drug bill and his tax cuts for the richest people in the country? Where were all of these protesters when Bush paid for his wars off-budget in special appropriations bills? Where were these people when the Bush administration ran up the greatest deficits in the history of the Republic?

I'll tell you where they were. They were sitting on their asses in their smug little houses enveloped in the cloud of self-satisfaction, oblivious to all of the crimes being perpetrated in their names, all the while telling themselves that the little idiot in the White House was their friend. When in actuality the little idiot in White House befriended only the super rich. Those were the only people benefiting from his reign. And make no mistake about it. These very same people grin from ear-to-ear while all this goes on. Because they're still rich, and thousands of their ignorant lackeys are out on the streets helping them get richer.

America Needs a Moral Bailout

We live in an age of moral nihilism. We have trashed our universities, turning them into vocational factories that produce corporate drones and chase after defense-related grants and funding. The humanities, the discipline that forces us to stand back and ask the broad moral questions of meaning and purpose, that challenges the validity of structures, that trains us to be self-reflective and critical of all cultural assumptions, have withered. Our press, which should promote such intellectual and moral questioning, confuses bread and circus with news and refuses to give a voice to critics who challenge not this bonus payment or that bailout but the pernicious superstructure of the corporate state itself. We kneel before a cult of the self, elaborately constructed by the architects of our consumer society, which dismisses compassion, sacrifice for the less fortunate, and honesty. The methods used to attain what we want, we are told by reality television programs, business schools and self-help gurus, are irrelevant. Success, always defined in terms of money and power, is its own justification. The capacity for manipulation is what is most highly prized. And our moral collapse is as terrifying, and as dangerous, as our economic collapse.

The above from a Chris Hedges piece. You should read the whole thing.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Wiki Wiki Wow!

The chart shows the curve of articles submitted to the online encyclopedia Wikipedia. When I stumbled over this article in the Chronicle of Higher Education about the imminent demise of Microsoft's Encarta, I was reminded again of the technology which we people of the Information Age deal with daily. And with no more thought about the miraculous wonder of it all. I don't know for sure, but I think there are a lot more people in the world who were born after the first personal computers hit the market than those who were born before this. So forgive me if I sound like the creaky old dude I'm getting to be.

I'm so old I can remember actually having to go to libraries and use actual printed encyclopedias to ferret out information I can now get in a few seconds or minutes online. And now, even what were once impressive technological advances, like Encarta, are going down.

“The category of traditional encyclopedias and reference material has changed,” [Microsoft] said. “People today seek and consume information in considerably different ways than in years past. As part of Microsoft’s goal to deliver the most effective and engaging resources for today’s consumer, it has made the decision to exit the Encarta business.”

Actually, I cannot remember the last time I used Wikipedia, and the reason is I use it all the time. Not as often as Google--that's probably 20 times a day--but at least 3-4 times a week. Let me ask you a question: when's the last time you looked something up on Wikipedia that wasn't there? Unless it happened to you this morning or yesterday, I'll bet you cannot remember a time. I don't think it's ever happened to me.

Anyway, I was about to say that the article in the Chronicle says that Encarta, which was cutting edge 15 years ago, has bascially been killed by Wikipedia. There's a better NY Times piece about this here.

It's no wonder to me. Wikipedia is just one of the miracles we take for granted all the time. Some people decry it as likely to be full on inaccuracies because it's publicly produced. But they are wrong. A number of serious studies and some more impressionistic tests have proven Wikipedia surprisingly accurate. And I can attest to its accuracy and completeness in the little corners of human knowledge I know something about: American history, chess, baseball, and a few other subjects. Academics are still leery of Wikipedia, and I suppose they should be, but let me wonder out loud how likely is it that Wikipedia is going to have an error stand for a long period of time in virutally any area? Not long, I'd argue, what with the number of eyes that are constantly upon it. Even now Wikipedia pieces are more complete normally than your typical encyclopedia article.

Wikipedia is currently debating the question of whether content review of additions by unknown editors should be subjected to accuracy review. This pits the people for accuracy against the people for speed. I vote for the first bunch, but I'm not going stop looking stuff up in Wikipedia while they make up their minds.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Give the SOBs What They Deserve

Back when I was in graduate school eons ago, David Broder of The Washington Post was even then a grey eminence in political commentary. I remember having to read a forgettable book by the guy for a political science class. I really haven't read him since, mostly because I find him a colossal bore and next mostly because I don't agree with his ill-disquised establishment (read: middle-of-the-road vanilla Republican) viewpoint. I'm certainly not alone in the latter judgment. Witness this piece from Crooks and Liars taking Broder to task for siding with what seems to me to be the majority voice on whether to prosecute the criminals of the Bush administration. That counsel runs something like this: there's nothing to be gained by punishing the people who brought us illegal spying on American citizens, torture, unlawful wire-tapping, a war of agression in Iraq, back-breaking budget deficits, the largest gap between rich and poor in fifty years, and on and on. We should just forget about all that stuff and move on. "We are better off focusing on cleaning up the policies and practices for the future than trying to settle scores for past actions," Broder says.

Well, I hope that somebody up in our Democratic administration takes time out from his busy schedule to "settle scores" (what in normal language would be "administer justice") with the plethora of criminals from the Bush administration, who like the fat cats of Wall Street are just waltzing away back to their more than comfortable lives as if they had nothing to with trashing the entire country and its constitutional liberties and safeguards. One wonders what sort of crimes Mr. Broder would find repugnant enough to prosecute. I, for one, am for hunting these bastards down with dogs, if that's what it takes. The monumental crimes that have been perpetrated on the American people for the past eight years . . . and not a single indictment, nobody in jail, nobody being humiliated for the dastardly deeds of what can only be described as a rogue administration. When are the American people going to get justice?

Friday, April 10, 2009

Who Needs The Onion?

I watch two news programs every weekday evening: The Lehrer News Hour and The Rachel Maddow Show. For the past two evenings, I've turned to my wife after about 90 seconds of reportage on the American ship captain captured by pirates and said, "OK, I've heard enough of this. Let's move on." Futilely in both cases, because the story droned on and on. This is the sort of thing that passes for news that requires near-breathless coverage--it led the news on both shows on both nights, and it will again tonight, too, whether this "crisis" is resolved or not.

Jeremy Scahill in a rare back-t0-back inspiration for a blog entry notes the absurdity of this situation in this entry on "The Huffington Post" today. As the entire world and probably all the eavesdropping aliens, too, know, Somali pirates tried to hijack a US-flagged merchant vessel off the African coast a couple of days ago. The deal went bad, and for the past couple of days now we have the ship's captain and four armed pirates floating around in a lifeboat that's basically dead in the water because it's out of gas. This is obviously a situation that calls for . . . Superman! That is, as Scahill calls him, "the Grand Puba of militarism," General David Petraeus, who has taken personal in charge of this operation, as part of his charter to direct US foreign policy in the Middle East.

You can read the piece, but just consider for a moment the utter imbecility of this situation: a dinky little lifeboat with four denizens of starving, chaotic Somali and an American is being confronted by an $800 million destroyer, being surveyeled by an Boeing spy plane in the sky above, and is the subject of legions of news people. More warships--including, and I'm not kidding, a frigging guided missile cruiser--are on the way to the area. FBI hostage negotiators are on the job. The merchant ship, by the way, sailed off with an armed-to-the-teeth Navy SEAL team on board! The president is being briefed regularly on the situation. Meantime one of the fearsome pirates in the lifeboat, equipped with a sattelite phone, has requested our prayers. He's probably about 17 years old. I for one am praying for him and his comrades, because mark my words, contingency plans exist right now to storm the lifeboat with special ops guys and "take out" the dastardly pirates if the situtation doesn't get resolved quick enough to suit the Supreme Puba.

You cannot make this stuff up. Nobody with half a brain would believe it. "Who needs The Onion?" Scahill asks. Indeed. Consider for a moment that this little operation is costing us taxpayers God knows how many millions of dollars. I cannot wait to see what Jon Stewart does with this. I promise I'll put it up here when he does. We are truly a demented people.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Screaming Bloody Murder

Disturbing news today from a piece by Jeremy Scahill posted on Common Dreams, to wit: Obama plans to request an additional $75.5 billion in a supplemental appropriation to fund the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Could happen as early as today.

Say what??? A thousand times NO to this. No, no, NO! A million times NO. This is not what we elected Barack Obama to do; this is certainly not why he got my vote. If this is what his even-handed, let-me-listen-to-all-sides approach has produced, then he needs to find a new strategy. What's wrong with this plan? Where to begin?

How about: it perpetrates the abysmal failure in the mid-East bequeathed to the Democrats by Bush? I've been increasingly concerned that Obama is showing no great urgency about getting out of Iraq, and at the same time he's evinced great willingness to shovel more thousands of troops and billions of dollars into Afghanistan, a war that has even more hazy objectives than the one next door.

How about: we cannot possibly afford ratcheting up our military commitment for an undefined goal for an undefined amount of time in the midst of our current economic crisis. And to borrow a page from Bush and get funding for this by the off-book supplemental sleight of hand is just despicable.

How about: this course toadies to the Pentagon, which has stalwartly backed continued open-ended engagement in Iraq and Afghanistan, despite their noises to the contrary and Secretary of Defense Robert Gates' ongoing PR campaign about reformation of Pentagon spending.

How about: no matter how much money we pour into the Afghanistan rat hole, we cannot succeed there.

How about: nobody in the administration, or anywhere else, for that matter, has defined what success in Afghanistan is. What is the end state of the war there? When do we withdraw entirely? What are we doing there? What are we trying to accomplish?

How about: this is just plain madness because it will alienate a substantial number of his supporters both in the Congress and out here in the country.

I could go on about what an outrage this is just on the general principles of the inherent evil of war and how it robs the poor and destitute of their chance to improve their lives, but I won't.

One of the more insidious things about this betrayal of the antiwar Democrats is the lack of outrage among supposedly staunch liberal groups such as and the Center for American Progress. And why? Because they're afraid of getting on the wrong side of the administration on this (or apparently any other) issue and getting cut out of the White House loop. This report says Obama chief of staff Rahm Emanuel is behind these machinations.

Well, I'm not going to silent about this disgrace. I'm going to scream bloody murder, and I'm going to continue screaming till sanity prevails. (I will probably destroy my voice forever.)

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Looney Tunes II

This conversation between one of my favorite right-wing media crazies and a caller who identifies himself as a Republican who voted for McCain, a Marine and Army veteran, and a person who does not approve of torture doesn't require much commentary. The caller takes issue with Limbaugh's approval of torture and states that he, Hannity, and some other right wingnuts of the air waves are "brainwashed." So what does Limbaugh do? Guess. Right. He humiliates the caller, since he cannot refute the caller's assertions. Just a measure of the ignorance of Rush Limbaugh is his declaration that he knows of no one who died at the hands of US torturers. This is absolute nonsense. As one of people commenting on this coversation points out, in March 2005, the AP reported: "At least 108 people have died in American custody in Iraq and Afghanistan, most of them violently, according to government data provided to The Associated Press. Roughly a quarter of those deaths have been investigated as possible abuse by U.S. personnel."

Soon-to-be-US-Senator-from-Minnesota Al Franken still has the most accurate characterization of Rush Limbaugh: "big, fat idiot." And, let me add, dangerous neo-fascist.

Update I: Keith Olberman blasted Limbaugh on his show last evening. The Nation's Chris Hayes commenting on the event, said it represented a philosophical divide in what's left of the Republican Party:
Right now, I really think you see a fissure between the right wing coalition in the people who want to kind of double-down and follow Limbaughism off the cliff…and then the people that have some sense that this is actually going in the wrong direction . . . I don't think there’s an iota shame in Limbaugh or in Limbaughism. There’s a large part of the conservative base that doesn’t feel it has anything to apologize for.

Looney Tunes I

A buddy alerted me to this story that ran yesterday on NPR. Apparently the sales of guns of all kinds and ammunition have gone through the roof since Obama was elected president. And why, you might logically inquire. Because, dear friend, people think Obama is going to take away their guns. Here's what a gun shop owner says:
. . . people are buying the guns to protect themselves because they perceive Obama's policies as socialist and rewarding those "people who are not working hard." They are also afraid, he says, of more restrictive gun laws.

"Everybody was scared he was going to take the ammo away or he was going to tax it out of sight on the prices," [the gun shop owner] says. "So people started stocking up, buying half a lifetime to a lifetime supply of ammo all at one time."

Right. So let's think about this for a minute. We don't have such things happening without prerequisites. In this case, I can think of several, none particularly encouraging:
  1. Probably the most striking of all, for this to happen, you must have a population who are terrified of "people who are not working hard." This is code language. What it means is "poor people," and specifically black poor people, or to a lesser extent, Mexican poor people. In America, don't start analyzing any social phenomenon without first considering race.
  2. A population totally ignorant of the meaning of "socialism."
  3. A population credulous and uninformed enough to have swallowed whole the entire Republican smear against Obama in the election. Moreover, who still believe it after the man has been in office for two and half months. This in itself is no great endorsement of the intelligence of the American people.
  4. A society that blesses and encourages the notion that such people should be able to buy as many guns as they want . . . and provides thousands of outlets for them to do so.
Even if the ammo shortage turns out to be permanent, (and would that that would happen!), not to worry. There are already hundreds of millions of guns in the hands of people who think Barack Obama is more of a threat to their liberty than the neo-fascist who just left office. Makes you feel real safe, doesn't it?

    Monday, April 6, 2009


    I cannot let the evening pass without noticing that my Texas Rangers won the season opener this afternoon down in Arlington, Texas. And they won it handily, beating Cleveland Indians by a score of 9-1. That actually is better than handily. That's a drubbing. If you're not a baseball fan, you can't really appreciate what a win on opening day means. Although it's not at all true, everybody interprets a win on opening day as portent for a winning season. So it feels much better than a loss, which is a foreboding of a losing season. Best part of the story today is the pitching. Starter Millwood only gave up 5 hits and 1 earned run in seven innings. That's good!

    I always feel better about everything when baseball is in season. If only just by a little.

    Sunday, April 5, 2009

    Blown Away

    Sometimes I just have to shake my head and wonder just what in the name of all that's holy is wrong with this country. I've almost lost the capacity to be shocked any longer by what some nut case has done has done with a gun or, in many cases, guns--almost. The lunacy that we witness in this country because any lunatic can own or procure a gun is simply unspeakable. I was truly shocked and appalled to see that another madman with a gun, actually 2 guns, had killed 13 random people and then himself in Binghamton, NY, a few days ago. Even as I am in shock, I could actually understand somebody not being shocked by these mass murders any longer. They've become routine. We can count on 3 or 4 of these every year, it seems. Just think about how many there have been in this country in the four weeks. Care to guess how many lives have been blown away in that time? Forty-seven, brothers and sisters. FORTY-SEVEN. From coast to coast: New York, Washington, Alabama, North Carolina, California. Oh yeah, this is nationwide madness.

    I sat down to write this piece about the Binghamton murders, but in checking Google News to get a link for the Binghamton story, lo and behold: two more stories of mass murder confront me. This violence leaves me speechless, and every time something like this happens, I go all nuts again about the idiotic gun laws we have in this country that unquestionably enable these killings. Worse and truly depressing, I don't think there's a snowball's chance in hell that those laws will ever change. Americans are a violent people, and we will not brook any curbs on our capacities for wreaking it whenever and on whomever we chose.

    In Graham, Washington, yesterday a guy killed his five kids and himself after his wife told him she was leaving him. The kids were 7, 12, 14, and 16. The kids were shot multiple times with a high-powered rifle just to make sure they were all good and dead. Four of the five were in their beds. My God!

    In Pittsburgh yesterday morning, some lunatic who was pissed off at his mother shot and killed three policeman who were responding to the domestic disturbance call. The whole tiff between mother and son started because the dog had pissed on the floor. In context, I suppose we should all be thankful that the guy didn't kill his mom, too. God help us all.

    Saturday, April 4, 2009

    The World is Changing

    As you know, I love my Kindle. And I'm not the only one. The latest paean to the remarkable Kindle that I've run across was in Newsweek, but apparently it showed up originally in Slate. The happy Kindle user is Jacob Weisberg, and he's been excited by the Kindle ever since the first one, not nearly as good as the Kindle 2, came out. He makes an arresting prediction:

    "Jeff Bezos [Amazon's CEO] has built a machine that marks a cultural revolution. The Kindle 2 signals that after a happy, 550-year union, reading and printing are getting separated. It tells us that printed books, the most important artifacts of human civilization, are going to join newspapers and magazines on the road to obsolescence."

    In other words, the world is changing. Weren't you aware that the electronic age we're in is just beginning? Vast changes that we cannot imagine are going to happen. Already popular culture has undergone a monumental change. Kindle is just part of it. "Why should a civilization that reads electronically be any less literate than one that harvests trees to do so?" Weisberg asks. Setting aside for the moment the massive amount of voluntary illiteracy in the US, why, indeed?

    I have to tell you that I pretty much agree with the assessment that books as we know them are on the way out. And I'm not concerned. I will still love books. I spend most of my life in a room where I'm surrounded by books. Books and I have a life-long love affair going. But I brought my Kindle with me on a recent trip, and, man, you talk about great. I kept up with the blogs I read daily and continued reading a couple of books. The Kindle is carry-on. No weight and no space to speak of. A dream of a piece of technology on a trip. Full disclosure: I also brought a book with me. It's part of my current research.

    Weisberg addresses the main argument that I've heard against this technology, that it is going to replace books and that books are just better. No, Kindle is not going to replace all books; books are still going to be around. Nice books. Well-made books. Throwaway, recreational, or transitory reading is what the Kindle's for. Book-lovers don't need to fear this device. I sure don't. It's the most helpful gadget I think I've ever had.

    Friday, April 3, 2009

    More, More, More: Give 'Em More!

    Here's a picture of everything that's wrong in conventional thinking, if not, in the broader sense what's wrong with the country. Or should I say one of the main things wrong with the country? It's a picture of the love affair our politicians--and it doesn't matter which party--have with the Pentagon. First of all, we have the sainted General Petraeus, whom the vile little pretender formerly in the White House--I really need to get an acronym for this oft-used appellation, but how catchy is VLPFWH?--appointed the Far-and-Away-Only-Qualified-Man-in-the-US-to-Set-Middle-Eastern-Policy. A title which the country continues to bestow in this guy, who, as far as I can tell has the same policy as every other flag-ranked officer in the Pentagon: more money for more troops and more billions for the ever-greedy, ever-present defense corporations and their lackeys. And then there's the senator from Connecticut. The photo above should be captioned: Aw, Come On, Joe, You Know You Want to Kiss Him.

    If there's one guy in the Senate who makes me retch, it's that grinning, pasty droop-face, Joe Lieberman. The last time I had to notice this repulsive specimen was when the Democrats decided they needed his vote too much to kick his ass out of their caucus over to the Republican knuckleheads where he belongs. So, surprise, surprise. Joe Lieberman thinks the military is not getting enough money. Just how mad do we have to get? How insane does this society have be before we wake up and realize how much of our sustenance as a nation we're pouring down the military rat hole?

    Here we are in the grips of the worst economic downturn that anyone alive has ever seen, with a military that consumes about $1 trillion a year (counting all the war-related spending that doesn't get counted in the so-called "defense" budget, things like spying, nuclear weapons, etc.), that furthermore got a 4 percent bump in the budget this year, and Joe Lieberman and other nimwits like him--Cornyn (R-TX), Kyl (R-AZ), Thune (R-SD), Graham (R-SC), and some so-called "centrist" Democrats--think the military needs more money. Apparently, goes the argument, they need this money for the Obama plus-up in Afghanistan.

    So are we now adopting the idea that $1 trillion a year is baseline for the Pentagon, that anything further they do has to be funded because they don't have enough to cover everything? Oh, please. This rant is long enough as it is.

    Tickled Plumb to Death

    By all accounts, the Obamas' first foray overseas was a great success. While Barack was being just his cool, articulate self at an almost hour-long news conference with journalists from all over the world; meeting with the president of India (who asked for Obama's autograph "for his daughter"); or flashing his ready smile . . . why I am just tickled plumb to death that I don't have to be embarrassed because our president is exposing his crudity, boorishness, and ignorance to the entire world. God, I used to cringe whenever Bush spoke in public anywhere, much less in some foreign country. No worries with Barack on that score. What a relief and a pride to have a guy like this speaking for America.

    And then there's Michelle. All she did on this trip was wow the entire United Kingdom. I listened tonight to a female British reporter who enthusiastically approved of the unheard of gesture of returning a back touch from Elizabeth II, the Queen of England, and the most famous monarch in the world. The Brits went bonkers with this action that we Americans don't think twice about--hell, I'd hug Michelle Obama if I ever got the chance, and I'll bet she'd hug me back, too--but the widespread opinion is that this was a good thing, not a breach of etiquette at all. But for my money, the best thing of all was the huge, friendly, and at times ecstatic reception Michelle got an English school she visited. I was really touched by reports of it, and touched by what she told these kids. (See below and there are photos and a story here.) Stuff like this can make you forget what a huge mess the country is in, and just for little while be proud that we're being led by a couple of genuine human beings.

    I just love the way she hugs these kids, and I love the consternation of the secret service when she decides to greet some girls in the audience. But they couldn't do anything about it.

    Thursday, April 2, 2009

    The Time Has Come

    Well, I'm back. And to tell the truth, I've missed being here to churn out something practically daily that nobody reads. Go figure.

    Two items of note today, both of them gleaned from The Rachel Maddow Show. While I was watching tonight, I told my wife, "I like her." And indeed that's the case. I can picture having dinner with us, and wine. And I think conversation with this savvy lady would be fascinating. But there I go down fantasy lane. I was going to tell you about . . .

    1. Good news from the Obama foreign trip. Evidently this guy was operating on fumes today after the flight that jet lags everybody else. He talked to the Russians, the Chinese, the Brits, the Queen . . . and some others. But apparently in conversation with Russian president, Medvedev (ok, I confess, I had to look it up), the two agreed to re-enliven actions to reduce nuclear weapons. What a concept! My understanding is that US and Russia each have about 10,000 warheads apiece. The two countries hold 96 percent of the world's nukes, which number about 23,000--enough to reduce this beautiful planet to a charred cinder. Apparently also, there's an increasing number of world leaders and indeed military brass who are raising questions about the utility of these weapons. Well, duh! What's driving this is the collective fear everybody with any sense has for a terrorist getting his hands on one of these weapons. Sane people won't use nukes; insane people will, and everybody who's sane knows it. So, good, let's get rid of every single goddamned nuclear weapon on the earth. The time has come. Today. Right now. If you want to do something positive yourself about this, go to Globalzero and sign the declaration.

    2. Rachel interviewed Colin Powell tonight. He was expansive on all the subjects except one. She asked him about the high level meetings (which reportedly included Condi Rice, Rumsfeld, George Tennant, Powell, and a couple of others I can't remember) that discussed torture, or in the euphemism of the day "interrogation techniques." On that subject, Powell said nothing. What a surprise. He said he would have to await publication of the "complete record"--which he fully expected to come out. Before that he couldn't say anything. He also dragged out the "it's a legal question" defense. Rachel kept after him, but he wouldn't budge. Why? What complete record? The answer is easy to figure out: Look, he, along with all the others, sanctioned US use of torture. It was Bush administration policy. As I've mentioned before, Colin Powell back in 1968 was part of the command chain that covered up the Mai Lai massacre. Not a common factoid on the guy. But for some reason, Powell is regarded as some sort of demigod.