Friday, July 31, 2009

Trough of Dark Despair

The title is where I am with this whole health care thing. That is to say, I think health care reform is going to be defeated . . . or, worse, some cumbersome conglomeration of hash will pass that doesn't reform anything and only assists the very people whom health care reform is meant to stymie: big pharm, hospitals, and the health insurance thieves. Of course, the assistance to these enemies of health care reform will be hidden in the depths of the hash. What I'm saying is I don't think the country is going to see any meaningful health care reform, because I define that as legislation that cuts drastically in to the profits of the aforementioned criminals. The ideal, of course, would be a reform that completely eliminates profits in health care, single payer. But that only happens in my dreams and yours.

Robert Creamer has a good piece about health care reform in today's Huffington Post. He still thinks it's possible that reform will pass. He makes the point that's the whole reason I think reform is doomed. The role of fear in the process. The focus is the "four emotions that will drive the outcome of this essentially political battle: fear, anger, hope and inspiration." To me, only the first two are of any real potency. If hope and inspiration are of any meaning at all in an "essentially political battle"--and I don't think they count for much in this one--then they have been drained out of me already.

Here's what I think: there are way too many, millions too many stupid people in this country who are going to be convinced and already are convinced by the unadulterated b.s. being shoveled by the ton by health care reform opponents into every possible medium. All the same tired lies: rationing, loss of choice in doctors, government bureaucrats, etc., etc., etc. The only reason somebody would believe this horse crap is because they're scared. And you can bet the heartless, greedy bastards who are moving heaven and earth to keep the billions flowing into their pockets are going to try to keep everybody petrified with fear. Talk about terrorists.

Thursday, July 30, 2009


Well, here I am, blogging from a room in a Holiday Inn in Steamboat Springs, CO. If yesterday was any indication of how this little trip is going to be, we're really going to have a good time. There's no point in trying to be too organized about this report, and doubtless any that follow if I chose to blog again on this trip. I probably will since my sweet sister has made it so easy for me: packing a laptop along and even setting me up as a separate user on it. So just some random thoughts:

--Any kind of terrain is fascinating for somebody who doesn't see it all the time, or in the case of the high desert wilderness we observed in northeastern Utah yesterday, has never seen it. I was struck by the profusion of Russian Olive trees. I didn't know they grew wild anywhere in any great numbers. The great rocks and cliffs, the interplay of dusty colors, and just the magnificent desolation. Thrilling. We're in the Rockies now. Gorgeous. All the little towns we've come through over the last 100 miles or so have been festooned with petunias in these huge pots sitting curbside or hanging.

--At supper last night we drank a bottle of the most unusual Zinfandel I think I've ever had. It's from a California vintner MonteVina Sierra Foothills in Amador County. It was a pale ruby red, not the deep scarlet of the usual Zin, and so much lighter in the mouth than the usual. I made a point of remembering the wine, because I really liked it--even for a Zin it had an extraordinarily fruity taste--and if I can find it in some wine store--which we will visit while we're in Denver--I'm gonna ship some home to Oklahoma.

--Family is best. I'm again struck by how close we are. It was a great treat for me to spend time with my brother-in-law, Lenny, whom I see so rarely and who loves to laugh with me, and my niece Gretchen, now a young lady old enough to vote and living on her own. With any amount of luck, I'll get to see my other niece and fellow poet from this end of the family and her two kids whom I've never met. They might be able to make it to Salt Lake before we leave. I'm really blessed to have such a wonderful family on both sides of the aisle, because I love my wife's family, too.


Monday, July 27, 2009

Not Worthy

A recent piece by Robert Wright taking the "new atheists" to task for lapse in rationality for what amounts to a vocabulary inaccuracy. I.e., calling a virus "parasitic" when in fact they are often are but also something that can be helpful. "If Dawkins and Dennett were being truly rational, they’d call religious belief a “symbiont” that can be either parasitic or “mutualistic” (i.e. win-win), depending on the belief in question."

Wright attributes the lapse of reason to the warping of vision brought on by "adversarial instincts" which naturally cause one to cast their enemies in unflattering light. Wright continues:
"This human tendency to view enemies through a biased lens points to another flaw in the thinking of the “new atheists”—their belief that when religious people display seemingly irrational intolerance or hatred, the root of the problem is religion. No, the root of this irrationality is the same as the root of Dawkins’ and Dennett’s irrational deployment of the term “virus”. When you view people or ideas as your adversaries—view them in zero-sum terms—your unconscious mind does the rest of the work, making you conceive them and depict them in less flattering terms than is objectively warranted."
Allow me to observe that although I certainly don't share the views of Dawkins, Dennett, and Hitchens, I do believe we can come up with a more compelling argument against their dismissal of God than this. This strikes me as rather thin, blaming the ids of these guys. I would have much preferred that he take on the arguments as arguments. This position certainly isn't up the caliber of Wright's recent book, The Evolution of God.


Gentle readers, you will have to carry on without me for the next 8 days. I'm going off from Oklahoma to Utah and Colorado to visit my mom, and all three of my sisters. I am so looking forward to seeing them all. So I will see all of you again on August 6. Stay cool. Don't let 'em lie to you.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Pot's Coming

I'm finally getting around to pot. You know, the piece about the herb that I said I was going to do early last week and then got distracted. What got me thinking about the subject was an article I ran across several days ago. California, a true pauper among the states, $26 billion short in the state's budget, has seen serious moves made in the state legislature on the pot question. Actually, it's not much a question: the state legislature has a proposal to legalize weed outright so as get at the $1.2 billion in estimated tax money it would raise. A congresswoman has also introduced a bill to lay a tax on medical marijuana, which is legal in California. (Actually, this kind of surprised me. I would have thought they were taxing it already.) Governor Arnold Schwartzenegger has called for serious discussion of the subject. Bottom line is that no action on this subject is about to happen in California this year. But . . . marijuana is, in my opinion, on its way to legalization. It's power to raise dollars for state governments staggered by the recession is not going to go away.

Articles like this one certainly seem to indicate that marijuana is a growth industry in California, and as in so many other things, as California goes, so goes the nation. Pot is a massive business in California. Last year's crop was worth about $17 billion. That is a lot of scratch.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Buried Above Ground

Progress on the poetry project: I spent all day today finalizing the content and order of the poems to be included in the collection of my poems soon to be published. I've decided to call it Buried Above Ground, a title that works on several levels, not the least of which is that it carries the connotation of New Orleans with it. In going over the poems I've written over the past 7 years--the length of time I've been working at the craft of writing poetry, I'm struck by the number of them that allude to or directly reference my youth in that wonderful city. Poetry taps deep currents, and I suppose that the Crescent City is in me forever, just below the surface. Still working on a subtitle. Considering "Poems for Here, There, and In Between," which more or less fits the organization schema of the book. I'll have to see what the editor thinks of that. I'm not happy with the idea of something like "new and selected poems."

I've often said in the past couple of years that getting volume of my verse published would bring me more satisfaction and pride than to have another history book published. It's still true. I've written a lot of history, and I've had a major work published and lots of smaller things, which certainly is a source of pride and maybe even a contribution to the vast store of human knowledge. But my poetry is me in a way my history cannot be.

I also have to reflect that writing poems is no less onerous and taxing than doing history. More painful in some ways. The bottom line is writing is damn hard work. Period. I wish I were one of those rare, rare birds like Isaac Asimov who thought writing was a joyful experience. If that were the case, I'd sure have a lot more stuff out there because I've found nothing save being a husband, dad, and granddad quite as fulfilling.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Caught You Dancing

Maybe you won't dance, but dare you not to tap your foot.

Video includes the dub.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Serial War

I was of a mind to write about pot today . . . I've read a couple of things on that subject to comment about, but it keeps get pushed back by my daily encounters with other articles on the Net that are much more pressing. For example, this one today in Huffington Post by David Bronwich. It touches on a subject that always gets my attention: war and peace. This is a long piece, and you should read it if you can spare the time. The main argument of the piece is this: the United States has become a country that will be constantly engaged in wars. Bronwich calls them "serial wars." Our young people are actually being taught to expect no end of war--no end to wars.

It was not always this way. In the wake of World War II, the country, indeed, the world was virtually united on the idea that human beings had to advance beyond war--for its own survival. The Cold War did not negate this idea. The "lesson of Vietnam" was "never start a war without knowing what you want to accomplish and when you intend to leave."* Whether Democrats feel obligated to wield the sword more robustly than the Republicans, who according to folk wisdom are more adept about all aspects of war, is arguable, but not essential to the argument. The key event that shaped the "American military-political consensus in favor of serial wars against transnational enemies of any sort" was the defense of Kosovo during the Clinton administration. It was the kind of clear conscience war that won universal media support. It appeared humanitarian, but in actuality was not.

So, according to the argument, Clinton and Kosovo brought us to the current period, in which we're totally self-deluded about our wars. For behind the legitimization of both our current wars "lies a broad ideological investment in the idea of 'just wars'--chiefly, in practice, wars fought by the commercial democracies in the name of democracy, to advance their own interests without an unseemly overbalance of conspicuous selfishness." Savor this. In plain English, it says we have come to the mind set that sees our wars which have no purpose other than preserving corporate capitalism as good. That means we're always the good guys.

The article goes on to show how this attitude easily accepts the notion of crossing the border of one county into another. We will constantly be weighing the strength of our footholds in a region in anticipation of the war to follow. Tell me true: does it look like we're ever going to get out of war the Middle East? Not from where I sit.

*Just as an aside, our conflict in Afghanistan does not meet these conditions.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Raining Spears

It's been raining big spears on us for the past couple of days--points down. It all started on the trip back home to Oklahoma from the funeral in Baton Rouge. The plan was to avoid the running sore that is Dallas and take the blue highways through Oklahoma back home. Great idea until we got to Atoka, OK. Sounds like a speed trap, doesn't it? Well, it was, and the ticket for "72 in a 55" cost me--are you sitting down?--$241 frigging bucks!! The cop was polite, and I knew the minute I saw him, we were doomed. No mercy: he could plainly see a couple of geezers in the car, but that didn't stop him from writing us up. It's obvious this is Atoka's sole source of income. And it occurred to me that this cop got paid out of the same pot that these outrageous fines go into. There's a conflict of interest here somewhere.

But this is just the first in a series of disasters to befall us in the past three days. Next thing was my discovery on Saturday, that the battery in the car was dead as Franco and had to be replaced. Which in turn required my going to the Mart of Darkness, and worse, hanging around for almost 2 hours in the hideous place until the car got fixed. More money for this.

There's more: my iPod has crapped out. I don't know if it will be worth fixing. It's got some kind of hardware problem. Will not play after being turned on. Sad, sad face. I use my iPod a lot. I will have to be repaired or replaced.

There's more: the microwave oven in the kitchen has also crapped out. My wife says she overcooked an egg in there, and after that happened, the thing would make this awful noise whenever the door on the microwave was shut. When the noise stopped . . . eventually after I gave it a couple of hits with my fist, no more heating. Let me make this observation right now: modern man cannot live without a microwave. Susan says she would give up just about every other appliance before the microwave. Yet another costly problem staring at us. Guy is coming tomorrow to fix it, we hope. Maybe it will be something simple and cheap.

Against all these disasters, Susan leaving her phone charger in Baton Rouge and being without a phone since we got back . . . well, this is just a very minor annoyance.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

New Music Flood

Lateralus by Tool ==>>>

I can think of several things in life bring me right up: having all of my kids together in one place, red beans and rice, my wife's fried chicken, being at the ballpark, finishing a writing assignment, a new book, new music. I've been really blessed in the latter department. I recently discovered that an old grad school bud likes all the same kinds of music as I do: everything. He plays guitar, loves rock music, and has a whole bunch of stuff by bands I've never even heard of. But it so happens I've got a lot of stuff he doesn't have a lot of like blues, reggae, country, and classical. It didn't take us long to figure out that a swap of music would be beneficial to both of us. And we're in for the long haul. I can see a whole bunch of new CDs on the horizon.

Long story short: I got a real jolt of feel-good on Saturday morning when the mail came. I got the first batch of music from him while we were in Louisiana for the funeral. All of it of the rock, metal, alternative variety. Honestly, I had never heard of most of the bands--I suspect my kids and younger readers might know them. But that was the whole point: we're sending stuff the other guy has probably never heard of. I've finished to listening to over half of the 15 CDs by such artists as: Tool, Porcupine Tree, System of a Down, The Mars Volta, Sonny Landreth, and Thenewno2. (Any of you out there heard of these bands? The only ones I knew were Frank Zappa and Gov't Mule.) The long and short of it: I'm pretty tickled with what I'm hearing.

Saturday, July 18, 2009


The guy's name is Robin Wright, and his book is The Evolution of God. He talked with Bill Moyers last night on TV. Most interesting. Man's concept of God evolves along with man, he says, and God has evolved to a much more tolerant being than the vengeful earlier forms of his evolution. The whole process is a net positive, a net gain in human morality.

So it's against this backdrop that Wright notices in this piece that the modern day atheists are also all right-wingers about foreign policy. Now, why would this be? Because, Wright argues, the "new atheists" [Christopher Hitchens, Sam Harris, and Richard Dawkins--recent authors calling God's existence into question] all brand religion as evil. The Middle Eastern conflicts are a good example. Both Harris and Dawkins contend that the Arab-Israeli struggle is rooted in religion, and that's what explains Islamic radicalism. So, the line of reasoning goes, since "Muslims are possessed by this irrational, quasi-autonomous force known as religion, then there's no point in trying to reason with them, or to look at any facts on the ground that might drive their discontent." Hence, right wing foreign policy, which posits as a given that the West is the only rational player on the field.

Wright destroys this idea by pointing out that, er, other things besides religion trigger conflicts among human beings.

People are survival machines built by natural selection. (This Dawkins gets.) When they sense threats to their interests, they can not only get violent, but wrap themselves in a larger cause that justifies the violence. Here they're as flexible as you'd expect well-built survival machines to be: that larger cause can be religion, yes, but it can also be nationalism or racialism. Hitler whipped up more fervor with the latter two than the first. Whatever's handy.

Of course, when religion is handy, special problems can arise. If there were no belief in paradise, there would be few suicide bombers. Then again, there might be less charity. Whether belief in posthumous rewards has on balance done more harm than good is an empirical question whose subtlety Dawkins, Harris, and Hitchens don't exactly emphasize.

Which is putting it delicately. The trinity of atheists are not too subtle at all. Bottom line: There is a lot of hokum being dispensed by the new atheists. Whether it's as much as the Christian right has dispensed is a matter for debate. But I don't think intelligent reviews like the one I've been talking about are going to make the slightest difference. People have their minds made up on this subject of religion, and irrationality rules both sides.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Sick & Tired

It was a long ride back home from the funeral. Driving when there's no distraction like music or conversation is ideal for thinking. I don't have great thoughts often, and I can report that I had none on this trip. But there is one thought I remember well. I'm just damned sick and tired of "the bottom line," "market forces," and "profits." I think I'm damned sick and tired of this destructive, murderous brand of capitalism that we practice here. It doesn't give a damn about what's good for people. Doesn't give a damn about people in general. The only people who matter are stockholders. Period.

I was thinking about the health care issue. I simply cannot understand how people can honestly believe that:

a) the health of people--a life and death issue to every human being, literally--should be connected in any way with profits to some damn corporation;
b) the health of people in a society is not that society's business;
c) 50 million people without health insurance is acceptable in a supposedly civilized society;
d) continuing to succor the health insurance companies in this country is an acceptable "reform" of health care here.

I'm sorry. There are imperatives that citizens have to live with if they chose to be part of a society. Things like obeying just laws, serving the society in some way, and paying for services that societies are bound by their very nature as being composed of human beings to provide: health, education, transportation. A society's first responsibility is to have compassion. To take care of its least members: children, the poor, the crippled, the helpless, the sick. But where's the profit in that? Right? Hence the unshirted opposition to any meaningful reform of the vicious American approach to health care.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Keep America Beautiful

Another great poem for you while I'm on the road for this funeral trip. Keep the faith.

Keep America Beautiful
by Kenneth Hart

Somebody hung out his red, white and blue
laundry on the highway overpass outside Providence,

a short distance from the prison crew picking up
our Cheetos bags and burger wrappers

and monster drink cups. We're stalled in traffic;
bumper stickers announce the price of freedom,

claim liberty is our right.
The guard in mirror sunglasses leans against

the correctional facility van, props a shotgun on his knee
like he's auditioning for a movie. He's protecting

our freedom to litter from the inmates' desire
to be free to litter. We inch along;

past the Budweiser billboards and the ad haiku,
brakes wheeze – some like an espresso machine,

some like an aging soprano with emphysema.
It looks like this is going to take awhile, here

beneath the soiled laundry of the republic
which clings to a chain link fence.

Maybe the seagull floating above us
sees a few things that we can't.

He's probably scavenging for something
we've left behind.

Latina Worker

I'm in Louisiana. My brother-in-law died. No surprise. Hospice had been engaged, but only for a short time. He was supposed to have another six months to a year. He got three weeks instead. He has suffered for the last two years or so. He's better off now. His family is better off now. May he rest in peace with God.

Latina Worker
by Doren Robbins

Then I notice through a triple-Americano-awakening moment,
in the mall food court, a young Latina cleaning around by the chrome rail
at Sbarro Pizza. Maybe a Guatemalan, possibly Salvadoran or

could've been Argentinean or Columbian, Chilean, Bolivian,
Panamanian—good chance a Peruvian, Venezuelan, Nicaraguan, Mayan,
Toltec, Sephardic, Huichol coffee plantation or U.S. Fruit Company

or tobacco company or auto industry slave labor robot or CIA-trained
death squad Guardia Nacional butchery massacre survivor.

Several tables down from mine--roughly stacking chairs on tops
of tables—cussing in Spanish, in the mall food court, she hates her job,
I hate her job.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Dolts, Buffoons, Etc.

Every once in a while, something comes along that just tickles me. This was one of those things. Let me quote a line:

"America’s history of electing dolts, buffoons, scoundrels, knaves, low-jackers, pig-fuckers, gomers, dog-whistlers, Kloset Klansmen, recidivists and sheep pimps to the Highest Elected Office in the Land does not make one optimistic about the prospects for Barackapalooza."

This is the kind of marvelous invective that I can't write myself, which maybe is one of the reasons I find the piece so enjoyable. I don't think I've got much quarrel with any of the characterizations either. I've long been a spokesman for the "Jimmy Carter Will Be Vindicated by History" point of view. And anybody can tell you what I think of Reagan, W, his father, Tricky Dick, etc. The first two so ignorant as to lead to a false sense of security when a guy with obvious intelligence such as Obama comes along. That--intelligence--of course, is no guarantee of anything being broken being fixed, and everything is broken. As I've intimated, and the current piece suggests, even given the immense problems Obama faces, he's not exactly going at the enemy tooth and nail. Indeed, it's beyond question that he's all about saving the scumbags of banking and Wall Street that brought us to our present pass.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Fatally Flawed

The climate course set by Waxman-Markey is a disaster course. This bill is an astoundingly inefficient way to get a tiny reduction of emissions. It's less than worthless, because it will delay by at least a decade starting on a path that is fundamentally sound from the standpoints of both economics and climate preservation. And we don't have a decade to waste.

Check this out, from a web site that advocates solid direct taxation of carbon.

"By any measure, the bill would do little to address the climate challenge. For example, the International Panel on Climate Change figures that the United States will have to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 2025 to 25 percent less than in 1990. The official line is that the bill would cut emissions in 2020 to 17 percent less than 2005 levels — and that comes to just 3 percent less than the 1990 levels. Moreover, the actual reductions would be even less: Greenpeace has calculated that because the bill provides “offsets” to power companies and energy–intensive industries — letting them emit more greenhouse gases so long as they take “offsetting” steps such as planting trees — its actual caps “could be met without any reduction in fossil fuel emissions for more than 20 years.”

and this, from a recent post on Huffington:

For all its "green" aura, Waxman-Markey locks in fossil fuel business-as-usual and garlands it with a Ponzi-like "cap-and-trade" scheme. Here are a few of the bill's egregious flaws:
  • It guts the Clean Air Act, removing EPA's ability to regulate CO2 emissions from power plants.
  • It sets meager targets -- 2020 emissions are to be a paltry 13% less than this year's level -- and sabotages even these by permitting fictitious "offsets," by which other nations are paid to preserve forests - while logging and food production will simply move elsewhere to meet market demand.
  • Its cap-and-trade system, reports former U.S. Undersecretary of Commerce for Economic Affairs Robert Shapiro, "has no provisions to prevent insider trading by utilities and energy companies or a financial meltdown from speculators trading frantically in the permits and their derivatives."
  • It fails to set predictable prices for carbon, without which, Shapiro notes, "businesses and households won't be able to calculate whether developing and using less carbon-intensive energy and technologies makes economic sense," thus ensuring that millions of carbon-critical decisions fall short.
Bottom line is we're dooming our kids and ourselves. And there's not much that can be done. The worst kind of government possible when there's a genuine crisis like climate change is an oligarchical system such as ours, or if you prefer the so-called democracy in the US that can ignore 70 percent majorities among the people so the porcine capitalistic system can continue to devour us all. The first thing to always ask about anything passed by Congress is who benefits. I think you can guess on this bill. It will be the same with health care reform.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Money Talks, Sarah Walks

The Alaskan Bimbo Sarah Palin has hit the news big time again. A week ago she up and just quit her job as Alaska governor. To the mystification and surprise of everybody. There's still a great deal of speculation as to exactly why. Her own explanation is virtually gibberish. I can make no sense of it, and neither many other people. See what you make of it. At least one explanation she offered, that she would save the state of Alaska all this money it was spending fending off ethics charges, has been shown to be bunkum.

So to say the least speculation about why she is quitting has been rampant. But I'm here to tell you, the best and most likely true scenario is the one painted by Levi Johnson, the dude who was engaged to be married to Palin's daughter, the guy who got her preggie. Anyway, Johnson says Palin needs the money. She owes about $500,000 in legal fees, but she can get several million dollars advance on a book deal. (Just as an aside, it always is a source of amazement to me the vast amounts of money publishers will front celebrities--and certainly Palin is better qualified for this title than say, vice president, or even governor--for books that at best rise to the level of terrible. I wonder, too, who spends perfectly good money on such things.) There's also been talk of a reality show . . . how many truly needy people could be helped by the millions about to be lavished on this silly woman simply because she's famous?

Update I: Sarah Palin says she is not quitting politics, she's just "changing her priorities." Interesting--that when you're the governor of a state you should discern that your priorities do not include completing your term in office.

Friday, July 10, 2009

I Second the Motion

I have definitely exceeded my limit of lamentation for the death of Michael Jackson. Please make it go away. A quote from Michael David Green writing in The Smirking Chimp about the Michael Jackson memorial:

He goes on to observe about how Jackson's music compared to Lennon's is fluff, and how much more seriously Lennon was about confronting the real problems of the world in which he lived.

I don't mean to sound like somebody's craggy old grandpa, incessantly whining about how "it was better in our day", but I couldn't help thinking about the degree to which Jackson - in life and death - personified the utter shallowness of the culture we now endure.

And I certainly don't mean to play the game of My Dead Rock Star Is Better Than Your Dead Rock Star, but I also couldn't help being thrown back upon my memories and grief at the loss thirty years ago of a cultural figure who really did matter, John Lennon.

He goes on to observe about how Jackson's music compared to Lennon's is fluff, and how much more seriously Lennon was about confronting the real problems of the world in which he lived.

Thursday, July 9, 2009


Recently I wrote an email to a bud in which I had occasion to enumerate my frustrations with the Obama administration. The buddy sent me an op ed piece he wrote in favor of the House energy bill. I'm not real crazy about that, but I'll leave that discussion till tomorrow. For now let me just share with you the several issues I have with Obama:
  • Afghanistan war--we should be OUT, out completely, not building up; that place is a tar baby. I cannot believe this country is engaged in yet another war in the Middle East that's got no defined purpose. Why exactly are we there? What are we trying to accomplish, and how do we know when we've accomplished it?
  • Defense of Bush wire tap policies.
  • Continuation of Bush secrecy policies.
  • No prosecution of torturers. In typical American fashion, this once hot issue has dropped out of sight.
  • No prosecution of the malefactors of great wealth on Wall St and elsewhere. We're supposed to be satisfied with Bernie Madoff as a sop prosecution, the marquee bad guy. But hundreds more just as guilty remain. I don't think Obama is going to send any of these people to jail.
  • No executive order on "don't ask, don't tell." Obama is tossing that issue to Congress rather than cutting to the chase himself. Cool strategy. It keeps the onus of what will be unpopular with some people off himself. It will take longer this way, but Obama's butt is covered because he can now claim the policy change is the will of the country and not just the president.
  • Pussy-footing with the worthless set of bastards that call themselves the Republican party. I say to hell with these people. All they have done since the beginning is oppose everything outright. And in that vein, he better not be getting ready to sell the country out to big Pharm, AMA, big Insurance, and the hospital industry on health care. I hear disturbing things emanating from the White House about how far they're willing to go to appease these crooks.
You think that's enough? It seems to me that the core of Obama support is the left, not the mushy middle, not the Blue Dogs. He needs to start scratching that itch and soon. How else should the result of the election of 2008 be interpreted? The left didn't install this guy to accept the status quo in Washington on anything. But he seems perfectly willing to do so on too many things.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Honorable All

My guess is that the Republican party is fervently wishing that their honorable senator from Nevada, John Ensign, would just go away. Today there is new information out about how Ensign's honorable buddies in the Senate offered him helpful advice in this little matter of his screwing his senior aide's wife and getting caught at it. Turns out, according to Rachel Maddow tonight, said assistant, Doug Hampton, was trying to extort millions in hush money from the honorable Senator Ensign. But thank goodness for Senator Ensign's honorable senate colleagues, all of whom, I gather, including the most high honorable Senator Tom Coburn (R-OK) offered sage advice: pay these people off. Give 'em the hush money they want. Which, apparently, the honorable senator from Nevada, did, bestowing on his paramour a $25,000 severance payment in addition to the generous salary he'd been paying her up till then.

This is just some really sordid crap going on here. After this and the Sanford thing in South Carolina, which also gets more odoriferous the more we learn, I daresay we're not going to be witnessing the usual herd of raving GOP moralists on their white horses for a while. Unless of course, you're in Oklahoma.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

OK . . . Enough Already!

Here's what I say: Thank God they've finally got Michael Jackson in the ground--well, maybe not yet because I think the family still has a private thing to do. But the massive memorial today in Los Angeles which was broadcast live worldwide and viewed by millions is finally over. (Thousands more people came to Los Angeles from Japan, Scotland, Aftrica! just to stand outside on the sidewalk near where the memorial happened.) After almost two weeks of near saturation coverage of the death of a song and dance guy, maybe the frenzied, slavering networks can get back to their normal task of dispensing just their normal eyewash and brainless banalities. Instead of the unrelieved, breathless hype they've been spewing for days about this pop star. You would think they were covering the death of president or something. Only difference: the TV would not go on this long if it were a mere president. Nor would people be interested this long. There are people out there who have been watching TV about Michael ever since the guy died almost two weeks ago.

Here's what I say: Don't ponder too long what all this hoopla and solemnity over the death of a maladjusted pedophile freak might mean. Or what it says about our society. Might give you an Excedrin headache.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Wait a Second . . .

If I understand this correctly, the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) is moving its baseball tournament games from South Carolina to North Carolina for the years 2011-13 because of the Confederate flag? Oh, no . . . that's not exactly right. It's because the NAACP doesn't like the Confederate flag. Does that make it all better?

No, I don't think so. Apparently the thought of the Confederate flag in sight at the capitol in Columbia, SC, is so offensive to the sensibilities of our black brothers and sisters--at least those in the NAACP (and admittedly lots more)--that they cannot abide the thought of a baseball tournament even taking place within the boundaries of the state because of it. Background: the state heeded protests about the flag being flown at the capitol nine years ago; they took it down and displayed it at the Confederate memorial. But since it's still in sight, the NAACP is still not satisfied. They want the flag in a museum. South Carolina said no to this, and the NAACP has led a boycott against the state ever since.

Naturally in our oh so sensitive times when avoidance of offense to just about anybody--except fat people, they're still fair game--the ACC, given its obligatory "commitment to diversity, equality and human rights," pulled the plug on the tournament in South Carolina.

This is not a silly redneck screed on behalf of the Confederate flag, brothers and sisters. This is simply a lament that we've reached the point of utter silliness with this stuff. Why don't institutions take decisive action against some things that are genuinely offensive: the fact that 48 million people don't have health care in this country, that we put mentally disabled people out on the streets, that we're spending billions upon billions for war, that we treat the vast majority of people of color in this country like dogs, etc., etc. Being offended by these things doesn't do squat. But a flag from a war that's been over for almost 150 years . . . well, stop the damn presses. Call out the guard!

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Evolution in Indiana

Evolution in Indiana

by Richard Cecil

I thought that species took ten thousand years
to gradually evolve new strategies
to deal with shifts in climate or environment,
but after two snow-free years in a row
the local robins all at once decided
to winter here instead of flying south.
I watched them pace my lawn in late November,
debating like small Hamlets with their instincts:
"It's way past time to migrate; why haven't I?"
Since, every fall, a few old feeble ones
decide they'd rather risk starvation here
than drop off dead of fatigue in Alabama,
at first I thought it was their kind I glimpsed
rummaging discarded Christmas trees
for grubs and squabbling with the greedy squirrels
stealing birdseed from my neighbor's feeder.
But then, one drizzly January walk,
I spotted dozens, looking sleek and healthy,
plucking worms who'd washed up on my sidewalk.
Why here, where I was forced to grub for money
all winter long, when they could fly away,
I wondered as they hopped out of my path.
Does flying hurt so much they'd rather shiver
and see the sun once every other week
than perch in palms swayed by an ocean breeze?
If I had wings, I'd use them…and on and on
I muttered as I trudged around the block
in pointless circles, just for exercise,
hands thrust into my pockets, arms tight to sides,
like some huge flightless bird, while overhead
the most successful members of my species
winged effortlessly southward in high Boeings
invisible from our side of the clouds —
we well-fed and hard-working flock of Dodos.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

USA! (<===irony)

I was at a wedding today. Yes, I know, it's July 4th. Odd time for a wedding. But there it is. Some holiday observations:

  • It's a terrible burden for me to be somewhere in a crowd of people whom I don't know. I'm not the least concerned about this in crowds at games, concerts, church, movies. It's not the crowd part that's uncomfortable for me. Not at all. It's the socializing part. A wedding reception is a social event. You sit at tables with people, and you have to talk to them. I have little or nothing to say to strangers, especially if . . .
  • . . . the wedding reception has not one discernible drop of alcohol, save the champagne the bride and groom sipped oh so delicately as part of the severely scripted event. Everything was on a schedule. Let me say this about that: I come from south Louisiana, New Orleans and Baton Rouge. You don't have a gathering of more than three people down there without alcohol. And you would risk social ostracism and perhaps a visit from a shrink if you threw a wedding celebration without alcohol. Wedding receptions? Hell, these are over when they're over. It's certainly most unnatural to have a wedding reception on some kind of schedule: this special dance, cake cutting, toasts, another special dance, now we're going to have the bouquet toss . . . give me a break! Wedding receptions are supposed to be spontaneous and noisy. Loud music, loud people. At times today, you could have mistaken the gathering for a funeral.
  • There are 84 houses in the little corner of suburbia I live in. A number of these are flying the flag today, of course. As you know, or might have guessed. I don't fly the flag. I think the flag is flown and waved way too much in this country. It's what defines our patriotism: waving the flag. I don't regard waving the flag, flying the flag, worshiping the flag, treating the flag like it was the Eucharist, as patriotism. Flags are symbols of the globe's national states. The national state is useless as a way of organizing people. By definition, it makes your nation superior to other nations. No one would think of saying that your race makes you superior to another, so why does another accident of birth make you superior? Patriotism has other unfortunate tendencies. It almost always stokes "love of country" to the point where you will kill somebody just because "your country" tells you to. But the point of this bullet is that of all the houses I could be residing next to, I reside next to a dude that's got a frigging flag pole that flies the flag every day. Every day. Today there are a slew of red, white, and blue decorations all over the yard in addition to the obligatory flag. USA! USA! USA!
  • Ended the day watching a DVD of Richard Wagner's Sigfried--that's four hours to end the day. I don't know which is more compelling: the magnificent music or the desire you feel to have the story move along a lot faster than it does. Nothing is slower to happen than something substantial in a Wagnerian opera. And Sigfried is notoriously slow to get off the runway.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Don't Ask

Here is a question that you should not ask your spouse: "If I were an animal, what kind of animal would I be?" Now, mind you, when I put this question to my dearest one, it didn't occur to me to apply the maxim I'm so fond of quoting, to wit: don't ask the question if you can't stand the answer. Anyway, I don't really know what I expected she would say, but I can tell you this, it was not what I actually heard.

Question: If I were an animal, what kind of animal would I be?
Answer: A turtle.

I won't even go into the explanation of why this answer was, according to my spouse, exactly right. She was surprised at my negative reaction to this characterization. (See accompanying photo.) Upon reflection, I think I can think of at least 100 animals off the top of my head that I would rather be. This is one of those sayings that even with my wretched, truly wretched memory, I won't be forgetting.

Thursday, July 2, 2009


Do you like it? I just stumbled upon this. Fantastic!

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Petri Dish for Wingnuttery

The title is a perfectly accurate description of the state legislature of Oklahoma. As a resident of this state, I must confess that any notice of Oklahoma politicians, local, state, or national, is embarrassing. Some of the things our illustrious senators have said border on outright gibberish. (See below) Yet these guys are perfectly representative of the population at large here in Indian Territory. Case in point: a resolution introduced by state rep Sally Kern--you wanna guess which party?--calling for an "Oklahoma Citizen's Proclamation for Morality." (This the same Sally Kern who says gays are a bigger threat to America than terrorists.) Which proclaims, as anyone with half a brain knows already it's so obvious, that the collapse of morality has caused the economic collapse of the U.S. Please allow me to quote from the proposed proclamation, which I really do hope passes so the rest of the country will again be treated to a dose of true 'Muricanism from right here in the Heartland:

WHEREAS, we believe our economic woes are consequences of our greater national moral crisis; and

WHEREAS, this nation has become a world leader in promoting abortion,
pornography, same sex marriage, sex trafficking, divorce, illegitimate births, child abuse, and
many other forms of debauchery; and . . . [so forth]
And while we're on the subject of idiots, that paragon of intelligence, the pride of the Sooner state, Senator James Inhofe, has announced that the legislative body which he disgraces by his presence every day is soon going to be getting "the clown from Minnesota." Can you believe this guy? Al Franken is a clown? This from a guy who compared people who believe in global warming to supporters of Hitler! and called Al Gore's An Inconvenient Truth "science fiction." The guy who refuses to even meet with Supreme Court nominee Sotomajor, who goes on about how the Gitmo detainees have the opportunity for a free colonoscopy as well as better health care than they've ever had before. And this blithering moron has the gall to talk about a fellow U.S. senator as a "clown"?