Tuesday, June 30, 2009
An this is an important one. It's going to give Obama a solid 60 votes when the two independents who vote with the Democrats are added.
Monday, June 29, 2009
What are you going to do with people like this? Hey, I have an idea: let's let those poor, unfortunate pot smokers out of prison and replace them with truly dangerous people like this "Christian."
The rest of this story is not encouraging. I didn't know that 40 states have so-called "right to carry" laws, and 20 of them allow guns in churches. Well, why not? They are letting people carry them in restaurants, parks, bars, cars.
"Public attitudes also seem to be turning more sympathetic to gun owners. In April, the Pew Research Center found for the first time that almost as many people said it was more important to protect the rights of gun owners (45 percent) than to control gun ownership (49 percent). Just a year ago, Pew said, 58 percent said gun control was more important than the rights of gun owners (37 percent)."
Update I: About 180 people took Pagano up on his invitation on Saturday, the Times reports. All kinds of talk about self-defense and the gun-God partnership. "I believe everybody should carry a gun," said one attendee.
Good Lord, help us!
Saturday, June 27, 2009
Friday, June 26, 2009
Paul Krugman says Obama doesn't have enough audacity for the moment. Like me, he fears that Obama will sign what he can get out of Congress, and that he won't insist on anything. But this guarantees that what he will sign will reform nothing. It will, in fact, probably be as bad as what we have now. As Krugman says: "The point is that if you’re making big policy changes, the final form of the policy has to be good enough to do the job. You might think that half a loaf is always better than none — but it isn’t if the failure of half-measures ends up discrediting your whole policy approach."
The president is but one obstacle to a successful health care reform effort. The other is more numerous and in all likelihood more powerful, especially since Obama is the way he is. The other enemy is the ever present, oiled to the gills army of lobbyists who have descended upon the Congress like a swarm of locusts . . . actually more like ravenous rats who are going to chew the guts out of any meaningful health care reform bill. Make no mistake about it: the Republicans and lobbyists for the for-profit hospitals, the drug giants, and the insurance industry don't want any reform at all. They are gloriously happy with the present system which is rewarding them quite handsomely, thank you, but which is cost the American people about twice as much as the next most expensive health care system in the world. And they don't really give a flying fuck for what's best for the country, or some nonsensical concept like the greatest good for the greatest number. But they realize something is going to pass, so their job is to pass legislation which is as meaningless as possible and which preserves the status quo as much as possible. This is what they've set out to do with all their millions, and quite frankly, I have little hope, as I've said before, that Congress is going to be able to resist these blandishments--regardless of what the American people want, regardless of what is desperately needed.
So what I fear is passage of an unadulterated POS that Obama will claim is great for the country and sign with great fanfare surrounded by bunch of grinning politicians, every single one of whom knows that nothing has really been reformed at all.
Thursday, June 25, 2009
Most people will think of one of the huge hits off his "Thriller" album when they think of his music. But for me the two songs below are the ones I think of. Both of them still give me chills and sometimes, like now, make me cry.
I recognize almost everybody, but don't know two or three. How about you?
UPDATE I: Andrew Sullivan has a sensitive and insightful take on Michael Jackson. I agree with it.
Wednesday, June 24, 2009
This whole thing has a really bizarre aspect to it. For Sanford simply disappeared for a week, and nobody, including his family and staff knew where he was. Well where he was was in Argentina, poking his girlfriend. In the meantime, he misses Father's Day with his four sons, and the lieutenant governor of the state has not even been put officially in charge. A spokesman said the governor had gone hiking on the Appalachian Trail. His wife claimed she didn't know where he was. Are you kidding me?
Well, all of that turns out to be b.s. What actually happened was that Jenny Sanford had basically kicked the governor's butt out of the house two weeks ago "to maintain my dignity, self-respect and my basic sense of right and wrong."
Of course, there's been the usual apologies and expressions of regret. Sanford says he is resigning his post as head of the Republican governor's conference. How much do you want to bet he doesn't resign as governor of South Carolina?
Tuesday, June 23, 2009
Monday, June 22, 2009
While there's certainly nothing profound here--great thoughts don't necessarily have to have that attribute--it's something that bears some contemplation. It occurs to me that by the measure suggested here, very few countries are going to make the cut as caring much about the well being of their people. And I can say without fear of contradiction that no capitalist country will. The only countries that I can think of are the ones we disdainfully dismiss here in the US as those practitioners of "European Style Socialism." Countries such as Switzerland, Denmark, Sweden . . . you know, those crazy, corrupt countries with everybody on welfare. Nobody worrying about health care costs, higher education costs, disability insurance, or millions of nimwits running around armed with handguns and assault rifles. How unAmerican! What a stupid way to organize a society.
Bottom line: the American canary is long since dead.
Sunday, June 21, 2009
According to research announced in May by pediatrics professor Jennie Noll of the University of Cincinnati, the more often that teenage girls tart themselves up in online presentations, the greater the sexual interest they provoke. [Forbes-HealthDayNews, 5-26-09]
I need to get in on one of these research projects . . . I could do at least as well.
Friday, June 19, 2009
The state of health care reform in Congress
Take your pick or take both. True in any case. ====>>>>
"Where did we get the idea that the only good health care bill is a bipartisan bill? Is bipartisanship more important than whether a proposal is practical and effective?" E. J. Dionne asks in the latest Truthdig. The questions get to a theme I've been humming since a few weeks after Obama took office. It's perfectly obvious that the Republican party is not the least bit interested in bipartisanship. If it were, the party would come to some agreement on fundamentals, the core goals, with the Democrats, and the bipartisanship would involve compromising on the details.
But on health care, as well as on every single other issue that's been addressed by the Congress, the Republicans simply stonewall, say no. They refuse to acknowledge that the Democrats have any core goals or espouse any fundamentals that they can agree with (other than worship of the military.) The great divide on health care is whether the government should be involved in the reform at all.
Despite evidence that by any stretch of the imagination has to be regarded as overwhelming, the GOP continues to insist that relying on the market is the best way fix a health care system that has been brought to its knees by the market principle of profit. And it continues to trumpet the absolute falsehood that what the Obama administration proposes is "socialized medicine."
Here's what I fear: whatever "reform" happens is going to be worse (if you can imagine such a thing) than what we have now, because Obama doesn't have the cajones to stand up not only to the Republicans, but also to the weak-kneed blue dogs in his own party. It's obvious to me that Obama would much rather kiss ass than kick it.
Thursday, June 18, 2009
In the months and years after September 11, the worst possible thing was to know what you were talking about. People who knew too much were dangerous; on this the country largely agreed. It was a huge and expensive demonstration of Hofstader's* argument: The case against the intellect is founded on a set of fictional and wholly abstract antagonisms. Intellect is pitted against feeling, on the ground that it is somehow inconsistent with warm emotion. It is pitted against character, because it is widely believed that intellect stands for mere cleverness, which transmutes easily into the sly and diabolical. It is pitted against practicality, since theory is held to be oppose to practice. It is pitted against democracy since intellect is felt to be a form of distinction that defies egalitarianism. . . . Once the validity of these antagonisms is accepted, then the case for intellect is lost.So what we're talking about here is all the sneers and jokes and hostility you have probably heard about "pointy-headed intellectuals" in their "ivory towers." I'm sure you've heard all these criticisms in various guises. How if you're too smart, you're out of touch with reality, you're impractical, you're automatically a snob, too good for regular people.
Why is it, do you think, that to be elected to office in America, somebody has to be a "regular" person, i.e., one of the "people," which often enough means being unlettered and ignorant, if not actually dumb as a frigging post? I submit to you Exhibits A and B: the two senators from Oklahoma, Tom Coburn and James Inhofe.
Richard Hofstader, American historian, in his seminal book Anti-Intellectualism in American Life (1964) shows how the hostility to pointy-headed intellectuals is a facet of the American character almost. It goes far back into our history.
Wednesday, June 17, 2009
The Austin City Limits performance of their song "Sad, Sad City" can't be embedded. But you can find it here. It's cool too.
But the bucks were a family affair entirely, and I must say, they raise a stench in my nostrils--and I'm not the only one. The legislative assistant, Doug Hampton, was knocking down over $100,000, well over in 2007, and wife and love interest for the pure-as-driven-snow Senator from Nevada, that would be Cynthia Hampton--well, she was making $1,400 a month in 2007 and then her salary was doubled in 2008, which, oddly enough, coincided with the time she began sleeping with the holy Senator.
"Ensign is a member of the Christian ministry Promise Keepers and has championed causes pushed by the GOP's conservative religious base while seeking to raise his political profile for a possible presidential campaign."
Well, the holy Senator from Nevada is all sorry now. He's given the obligatory press conference and he's resigned from GOP Senate leadership--oh, yeah, he was one of the leaders. And apparently, he was diddling around with somebody else back in 2002. This hasn't been confirmed yet, but where there's smoke . . .
Monday, June 15, 2009
But isn't a steady diet of these people dangerous? I simply pose a question, how can a constant stream of anti-Obama rhetoric, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week that you can hear on Fox or on your AM radio dial not enflame the minds of the truly twisted who are out there in their hundreds of thousands in this country? As we know, any one of these certified loonies can obtain a gun as easily as they can buy a tomato in a store.
There have been an amazing number of attempts or what appeared to be attempts on the life of presidents. It takes a nut case to kill a president. Every assassin or would-be assasin of a president has been if not certifiably deranged--Leon Czolgosz, Charles Guiteau, Squeeky Fromme--then certainly obsessive to the point of derangement--John Wilkes Booth, Lee Harvey Oswald, John Hinkley, Jr. The atmosphere to breed and incubate murderous hatred in the crazed among us is palpable.
An exhibit. This is from Fox News, of all places. You don't have to believe me. Just watch this.
Now I ask you, if this is what they're saying on Fox News, is fear for something really terrible happening to Obama misplaced?
Saturday, June 13, 2009
Moyers laments the latest firearm killings: the recruiter in Arkansas, the security guard in the Holocaust museum, the abortion doctor in Kansas . . . these will be as forgotten as the multiple victims of crazed guys with guns who have already made the news this year. But the tone of the piece is almost resigned. What we do now is the same thing that our president says to do: pray for the victims and be sorry for their families. But we don't do anything else. Just as we're perfectly content to watch billions being pissed away in the Middle East wars, not to mention the carnage, we're content to let the gun nuts triumph. Staunch opposition to the spread of violence--remember that campaign promise by Obama?--is a pipe dream. Like others, you may remember it, but he doesn't.
The stark facts about guns still have not changed. "There are already some 200 million, privately owned firearms in America. Every year there are 30,000 gun deaths and in some years more than 400,000 non-fatal, gun-related assaults." These numbers are appalling. But nobody cares.
*There's an excellent piece here about this decision that explains why it's wrong but also the limits it still imposes on gun ownership. It's these limits that the NRA is now going to make a full time job of challenging.
It's all over, brothers and sisters. The cultural wars have ended, and the idiots have won.
The three great premises of Idiot America.
1. Any theory is valid if it sells books, soaks up ratings, or otherwise moves units.
2. Anything can be true if someone says it loudly enough.
3. Fact is that which enough people believe. Truth is determined by how fervently they believe it.
Tell me this doesn't ring completely true . . . and you thought they might be a joke.
One quote, this from one Pastor Mummert, a church leader in Dover, PA, who led the "intelligent design" forces and supported the school board there when they tried to replace the textbook being used with a text supporting ID. The conflict between the school board and the people of the town who weren't idiots ended up in U.S. district court. The famous case, heard by a Republican judge appointed by Bush, dealt a stinging blow to the ID forces (score one for the non-idiots).
Here's what the good pastor said: "It seems to me that the educated segment of society that reads the books and gets the new ideas, and that's the basis of the cultural wars we have going on now."
And on another occasion: "We're being attacked by the intelligent, educated segment of our culture."
Mull that a moment. This is a community leader in America.
Why do I do this to myself? Why do I remind myself of what's out there? Would it not be better not to dwell on this?
Thursday, June 11, 2009
And that seems to be the problem. For the Republican party and the "moderate" Democrats--see how things get distorted? If you are in favor of the public plan, you're not a "moderate." What the hell???? Anyway, these people are unalterably opposed to any kind of government-sponsored program. Does this really surprise you? That these lackeys of corporate power are getting ready to stick it to us again? A system that by its nature is intended to keep the insurance companies honest and force them to actually compete is going to be spurned the guardians of our rights in Congress. Something that will actually be something resembling reform the health care system is going to be opposed by the Republicans automatically. We need people, ordinary people, the people who are being bilked and hurt, to insist that there be no compromise on the public plan.
Every single one of us is getting a royal screwing by the health insurance companies. Their miserable friends in the Congress want to make sure this keeps happening. If we blow this chance to stop this crime, we're finished--if we aren't already.
BTW, did you know that the health insurance industry has invested $14. 5 billion in the tobacco industry? That's billions to help a product that will kill us.
Update 1: Former Secretary of Labor Robert Reich talked about health care reform with Bill Moyers last evening. He says the opposition to real reform, to anything that is going to cut into the obscene profits of big drugs, big insurance, and others is tres formidable, and the real test will be whether Obama has what it takes to stand up to them and demand what he wants. Frankly, I don't have much hope of this.
Wednesday, June 10, 2009
Anyway the piece under discussion leads to substantial discussion about the violence that's been engendered by the extremely hard times. And leads to the following observation:
An analysis by TomDispatch of national, regional, and local news reports in 2008 and early 2009 indicates that a silent, nationwide epidemic of drastic measures may be underway. News of such acts linked to economic woes -- from armed robberies to pay the rent to financially-motivated suicides -- has filtered out of cities and towns in no less than 30 states, many of which have seen multiple incidents. And since only a fraction of such acts ever receives media coverage, what is being reported, even if mostly in local newspapers, qualifies as startling.Bottom line: people are killing themselves over foreclosures and debts--they're calling it econocide. Sometimes they are taking their families with them. And the mainstream is slow to connect this stuff with the economy. I'm telling you, all the stress is making people crazy. Look at the nut cases in the news lately: the guy who killed the abortion doctor in Kansas, the Muslim who shot and killed an Army recruiter in Arkansas, and just today the 88-year old white supremist idiot who murdered a security guard in the Holocaust Museum in D.C. Who's to say the natural crazies aren't overstimulated by hard economic times?
Tuesday, June 9, 2009
In all the blather you read about the Obama reach-out to the world of Islam, what criticism you can find is usually from the screeching Right. What the Left is concerned with, what I'm concerned with is the clear indication we've gotten from the Obama administration that as far as those miserable wars in the Middle East that are hollowing out our substance, Obama's policies will not be discernibly different than those of Bush. For starters, there's been a huge plus-up of DoD contractors in Afghanistan. Thousands and thousands of these guys. Mercenaries and support tail guys. Wanna take a guess at how many are already there? Are you sitting down?
In Iraq: 132,600+ In Afghanistan: 68,000+. In the entire Central Command area of responsibility, the U.S. had almost 250,000 contractors! What this translates to is fully half of the people we've got over there are on the payroll of some corporation. Under our let's-get-our-troops-out-of-the-Middle-East president, just in the last quarter, the military contractor contingent went up over 25 percent in both countries. Does this sound like draw-down to you?
And then we have the constant, consistent, and increasing toll of civilian lives we're snuffing out in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and have snuffed out in Iraq, where we're presumably not killing nearly as many. Chris Hedges points out in his latest piece for Truthdig that besides the innocents we're killing in our wars, the Muslims have a list of grievances against us, and no progress is being made in addressing them. While we may thrill to Obama's soaring words,
very few of the 1.3 billion Muslims in the world are as deluded. They grasp that nothing so far has changed for Muslims in the Middle East under the Obama administration. The wars of occupation go on or have been expanded. Israel continues to flout international law, gobbling up more Palestinian land and carrying out egregious war crimes in Gaza. Calcified, repressive regimes in countries such as Egypt and Saudi Arabia are feted in Washington as allies.Listen. To me, this whole thing is just as clear as can be. If you kill members of my family, kill my neighbor's family, blow up my mosque or my house or village or my marketplace, the likelihood that I'm going hate you and your country is about 100 percent. The likelihood that either I or someone I know or is related to will assist the enemies of the U.S. after this are about 100 percent. Explanations about how careful you're trying to be and how exaggerated I am in telling the story will not endear me to you. They will not erase the crime you've committed against me, who was merely living his life before you showed up.
So who loses here? The Americans, of course. What blockheads we are! Prediction: Even if Barack Obama serves two terms, at the end of the second term, this country will still be fighting a war in the Middle East. We're laying the foundation--already have!--for a perpetual war there. Mamas with 4-year-olds. Get ready. They'll be next.
Monday, June 8, 2009
Obvious Terrorist Threat Being Scrutinized
A. T. S. = Air Travel Sucks. It ought to be a universal acronymn, like AIDS. What twisted bastard thought up the exquisite torture of airline travel? I would really like to key his car, kick his shins, and strap him into an airplane seat at the back of coach and send him across the country on a five-hour flight. Where do I start to relate my loathing for anything and everything connected with air travel? For starters, it just really steams me that we don't have any other alternative other than the highway for trips such as the one I was just on . . . a trip over 700 miles from home. Then there's the parking at the airport . . . I park a mile away at $4 a day because I don't chose to spend a lot more closer in--a royal pain in the rear especially in bad weather. Baggage check. Boarding passes. Boarding. Exiting. Bathrooms on the plane. Seats in the waiting area. Carry on luggage. All of this is painful to a greater or lesser degree, depending on your temperament, the airport, airline, and/or karma.
And your flight is going to be late over 80 percent of the time. Bank on it. Planes don't run on time anymore. Your seat will be too small--unless you weigh 85 pounds or less and are no taller than 4'9". For the average traveler, not the royalty in first class, there are no amenities. None whatever. Everything that used to be free now costs.
And then there's the utter nonsense and indignity of "security"--hundreds of people forced to take off their shoes, their belts, their coats, their hats and caps, deposit their cell phones, money clips, loose change, etc., etc. in the little bins so they can be scanned. Your carry on is scanned, your purse is scanned, your body is scanned! You can't carry a pocket knife, a lighter, clippers of a certain size. You can't have a bottle of liquid, any liquid, more than 2 oz, or some such ridiculous amount. My wife has to go through all kinds of contortions with her makeup before flying. How can supposedly civilized people put up with this kind of shit? You tell me.
The answer, of course, is that the American people have long since become a nation of helpless sheep. Baaaaa. They're so easy to terrify, you can manipulate them into believing just about any kind of absurdity. Such as, going through airport security is making them safer. That is the last thing it's doing, brothers and sisters. What it's doing is convincing a bunch of ignorant people that this indignity is necessary for their safety, and it's arranging for yet another massive layout of taxpayer dollars against a phantom danger, an employment program for thousands of half-wits, and the handsome financial enhancement of the "security" sector of the economy.
Why don't we just dismantle this sham, and put all these people to work on something the country really needs? I can think of about half dozen things right off the top of my head. Let's start with building affordable, decent housing for people who we house like cattle in places that would insult any self-respecting bovine.
Thursday, June 4, 2009
Drat. I can't embed this video. But you should still watch it. The video's cool and so is the music.
Here's another. Hey . . . what the hell? I was gonna put a tune up here by The Cure. But no video allowed. "Embedding disabled by request" it says. Same as it did with Keane. Not by my request! No Radiohead either! What. The. Hell.
UNFAIR! Could the miserable record companies have something to do with this?
Well, at least it's not a universal law on YouTube. Dvorak. A divine composer.
Country is OK, too.
Electronic works . . .
So does Dylan.
This is beginning to look like a selective rock & roll lockout. I haven't found the pattern yet. Anyway, enjoy the music. It's all 5-star stuff.
UPDATE I: I did a little poking around. Apparently artists who don't want there stuff embedded have the right to disallow it. There is no pattern. Not just rock either. Only question now is how in the world did I go this long without knowing this? All the YouTube music I do? Seems impossible, but there it is.
Wednesday, June 3, 2009
I've been so tied up trying to get my paper done for Saturday's Civil War shindig in Louisiana, I haven't been able to post a blog entry. Would you believe I miss it? This little few minutes a day where I get to say anything I want about anything I want. I'm convinced that to enjoy doing this, you have to have something of the egoist about you, at least have a fairly good opinion of yourself.
Doesn't everybody who blogs expect somebody to read them? I cannot imagine anybody would do this and not expect that somebody out there in the whole wide world would take the time to read. Otherwise why do this? Is not the whole point to communicate with somebody? And in the case of blogs, anybody?
Nobody writes letters anymore. When's the last time you actually got a letter that somebody had written? Blogging, I think, resembles letter writing. In some cases, it can be an intimate form of communication, blogging, that is. In all cases, it's self-revelatory to some degree. And that's because the writer wants to do that. Wants to let you know him or her. In a way, blogging is kinda sad. All these people saying "Here, here I am. This is me." And they don't say it to another real person. They say it to a screen.