Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Perpetual War for Perpetual Peace

One of the most memorable of the many chilling government slogans in George Orwell's 1984, is the title today. Perpetual war for perpetual peace. It describes perfectly the mindset of the Pentagon, the service leaders, and, i greatly fear, the Obama White House. Glenn Greenwald's brilliant column of yesterday in Salon, makes precisely this point. I don't know what's gotten into the skulls of the editors of the Washington Post, but they argue that the country should continue to fund the never-ending war in Afghanistan as vital to the national security, but that healthcare for all Americans is an expense that must be paid for on borrowed money, and thus should be postponed. Like Greenwald, who cannot understand or countenance this logic, I too wonder what in the name of all that is holy has gotten into the heads of these well-dressed, well-stuffed, well-insured purveyors of Beltway wisdom. Have all those three-martini lunches and heavy hors d'oeuvres at the soirĂ©es of the powerful completed addled their brains?

Staying in Afghanistan, and following Army and Marine Corps doctrine--as an aside, I was always struck by the idea that all the dense justification for what these guys do and how they do it and why they do it, goes under the title of "doctrine." Kinda like the teaching of the Church, eh?--anyway, their doctrine on counterinsurgency is what in practice is nation-building, "securing the population." And this the Pentagon argues is what has to be done in Afghanistan. What this means, of course, is that the US is then committed for who knows how many more years and billions of dollars and who knows how many deaths of American troops. This is necessary, on hundreds of billions of dollars of borrowed money, and healthcare for millions of US citizens without it is not necessary and too burdensome on the budget?

[Days later in a new city]: To wrap up the above: I cannot understand for the life of me why the American people put up with these huge lies we're told. Can anyone seriously believe that the tripe now be dished out by our best military mind in Afghanistan, the sainted McChrystal, i.e., that 40,000 more troops is what he needs to implement the correct strategy that will turn the war around in that God-forsaken corner of the world. You mean that's all? Oh . . . I see, there are no guarantees or promises or timetables. Just give me the troops and the billions and we'll see.

Right. This is an exciting prospect for me. How about you?

Friday, October 23, 2009

Wouldn't Ya Know It . . .

I had just typed an entry last evening about defense department contractors defrauding us taxpayers out of billions of dollars, went to post it, and Blogger was having difficulties. I lost the post, and now I'm about to depart on a little week-long vacation. I'm bringing a laptop with me, so there might even be some updates along the way. Sorry about being so abrupt this time. I'll see you all regularly in a week.

Update 1: I see last evening's post did make it. Right below.

Laughing all the Way to the Bank

Speaking of lovable defense contractors like the Halliburton/KBR gang rapists, you'll want to check out all their friends on this list. It's called the Federal Contractor Misconduct Database, and it's a product of the Project On Government Oversight. Our government doesn't keep such a list, so we are glad somebody does. Otherwise how would we keep track of all the money the defense department is pissing away on contractor fraud. This is a list of the top 100 defense contractors we taxpayers are funneling billions to who are guilty of some kind of misconduct. Like contract fraud, or environmental, ethics, or labor violations.

Oh, you can start with the rapists of KBR, a company this country paid $4.8 billion to in FY 2007, and presumably more in FYs 2008 & 2009. Since 1995, this outfit has ripped the taxpayers off to the tune of $103 million.

And they're just one of a hundred. No company on the list got any less than half a billion dollars in FY2007. Collectively in FY2007, they had contracts worth $2.6 trillion. And they had defrauded the taxpayers of almost ten percent of that staggering total (9.88 percent if you're being picky). That's a cool $26 billion, brothers and sisters. 

These guys are laughing all the way to the bank . . . the banks on Wall Street, of course.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Let's Hear It for Gang Rape

You've doubtless read about this: a woman named Jamie Lee Jones, 20 years old at the time, was gang-raped by her co-workers at Halliburton/KBR in Iraq four years ago and then locked up in a crate for a day to keep her from reporting it. "She was detained in a shipping container for at least 24 hours without food, water, or a bed, and 'warned her that if she left Iraq for medical treatment, she'd be out of a job.' (Jones was not an isolated case.) "

 She wants to sue the bastards responsible--the company. But the terms of her contract with KBR prevent her from doing this. So enter new Minnesota senator Al Franken: who introduces an amendment to deny defense contracts to companies that require their employees to sign away their right to sue. The amendment passed, but 30 Republican senators including our two Oklahoma dunderheads--Inhofe and Coburn--and the honorable senator from Arizona, John McCain.

This is gang rape we're talking about here. I have no words. None at all.

Rachel Maddow interviewed the rape victim tonight on her show. 

And Jon Stewart went absolutely nuts over this outrage.

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Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Huffin' 'n' Puffin'

Every day I get the latest edition of The Huffington Post ["news blogs video community"] in my email box. And every day, or mostly every day, I read at least one of the pieces. For a couple of reasons. They almost always reflect my point of view on something, or at least some facet of my point of view, because the writers for HP are intelligent observers of the folly and outrage of contemporary American life. And HP almost always points me to aspects of the ongoing folly and outrage that in the avalanche of news (and my bounce around the web way of reading it), there's always stuff that eludes me, either because I've read it and forgotten about it, or because I'm not aware of it. This is the advantage of having a blog like the HP coming every day. So, with all that out of the way, here's what struck me today.

Arianna Huffington's lament about the absurd media circle jerk over the so-called "Balloon Boy." Are you kidding me? This is the kind of utter nonsense that our brainless cable media simply find irresistible. And it all turned out to be a hoax. They say, all these supposedly sophisticated media mavens, that all they're doing by spending hours and hours telecasting this shit is giving the people what they want. Well, that's true. The people are clueless slugs that require constant stimulation of the reptilian brain nodes. What the mavens neglect to mention is that they too love this ridiculous stuff. They only giving the people what they all want. And to think there was serious talk back at the beginning of TV--yes, I fear I am that old--of its potential to literally change humanity as a medium for dispersion of education. Arianna cannot contain her scorn today for the massive attention given to the pseudo story of the balloon boy while the 1.5 million homeless children (42% of whom are under 6 and 17% of  whom have emotional problems) are ignored.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009


It's been quite some time since I've been away from Powderfinger for as long as this last lapse. To tell the truth, I always feel a twinge of guilt when I don't attend my postings. Even if I have the very best of excuses. Like I have now. My son who lives in Florida arrived here on Friday to attend

Event 1: the U2 concert in Norman, Oklahoma. [Set list, pictures, and fan reviews of the show here.] On Sunday evening at the OU football stadium before an estimated 60,000 people. I've been to a lot of rock concerts, though probably not as many as my children, and I have to say this was one of the best ever. My wife, not what you would call a heavy rocker, really loved it too. Review of the Oklahoma show here. Spectacular lighting, staging, sound. This is not my favorite band, but it could easily have been last night. Pleased to report that the geezer contingent of which my wife and I proudly belong, was well-represented at the concert. Bono and crew was worth the slight discomfort of a chilly Oklahoma fall wind.Opening act, for the first time on the tour, was The Black-Eyed Peas. A hip-hop band that the kids seem to like. It will take a little more time for me to get to that point, I think.

Event 2: the New Orleans Saints crushing win over the also-unbeaten New York Giants on Sunday at the Super Dome. I am normally not a pro football watcher, but I recorded this game to watch later. And I did. For a New Orleans kid who followed the Saints with mild interest until I inhabited Tampa when the Bucs won the Super Bowl (XXXVII, I forget what year that was), seeing any Saint team seemingly this good is something of a wonder. I mean, they put a severe hurt on a team with serious championship pretensions. 48-27 doesn't leave much doubt about which team dominated. Saints had over 500 yards of total offense. Amazing. This is not going to be the last time I watch them this year.

Event 3: Baseball playoffs. (NL here, AL here) I've seen parts of several games. I watched the entire one-game playoff for the American League for the Central Division champ--Minnesota over Detroit in a great ball game. A 12-inning nail-biter that the Twins won. Which now seems like a million years ago, since Minnesota has been eliminated by the hated Yankees and both the league championship series are well along. The aforementioned hated Yankees are leading the Angels 2 games to one--and I saw the better part of an extra inning game that the Yankees won the other night--and the Phillies are up 3 games to 1 over the Dodgers.

(I also had an assignment poem to write before Sunday.)

The point is Powderfinger has taken a back seat to several instances of million-dollar entertainment. Which, when I state it like that, seems like not a good enough excuse to avoid blogging. This weighs on me more than it should, but I'm already thinking about the 8 days or so I'm going to have to shut down beginning on Friday while I'm out of town in Texas.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Tabbai Can't Believe Obama's Nobel Either

I'm of the same mind as one of my favorite guys, Matt Tabbai, who wonders how in the world Barack Obama merits the Nobel Peace Prize. Although he claims there have been sillier moments in the history of the prize, he is amazed for all the reasons the rest of us are. He's scathing, but also incisive.

The Nobel Peace Prize long ago ceased to be an award given to people who really spend their whole careers agitating for peace. Like most awards the Prize has evolved into a kind of maraschino cherry for hardcore  careerists to place atop their resumes, a reward not for dissidence but on the contrary for gamely upholding the values of Western society as it perceives itself, for putting a good face on things (in Obama’s place, literally so).

Even when the award is given to a genuine dissident, it tends to be a dissident hailing from a country we consider outside the fold of Western civilization, a rogue state, “not one of us” — South Africa from the apartheid days, for instance, or the regime occupying East Timor.
You never, ever get a true dissident from a prominent Western country winning the award, despite the obvious appropriateness such a choice would represent. Our Western society quite openly embraces war as a means of solving problems and for quite some time now has fashioned its entire social and economic structure around the preparation for war.

Most of our important scientific innovations come, either directly or indirectly, through research into the creation of new weapons. Our media relentlessly praises and cartoonizes war and violence, blithely indoctrinates millions of children a day into the possibilities of military combat with video games and toy guns. We house an utterly insane percentage of nonviolent criminals in jails. And when a fringe presidential candidate named Dennis Kucinich announced plans to create a “Department of Peace,” he was almost literally laughed off the campaign trail.

We’re a society that believes powerfully in the divine right of force, but that doesn’t mean we don’t like to think of ourselves as being peaceful. And indeed, there are times when we actually do turn to peace and diplomacy to solve our problems. Usually this is because all other avenues of action have been exhausted first, or because it just happens to be the right logistical move at that particular moment.

Like for instance, we invade Iraq for whatever asinine reason was actually behind that decision, we stay there for, oh, seven years or whatever, and eventually it starts to occur to us that this is an extraordinarily expensive activity, pisses off everyone involved, destabilizes a whole region, and to boot puts the lives of countless innocent Iraqis and young Americans at risk, though of course this is the last consideration. Moreover the plan to gain permanent access to Iraqi oil reserves through the establishment of a friendly “democratic” regime with (let’s say) a “flexible” attitude toward foreign investment is turning out to be problematic at best.

So eventually someone will make the decision that this whole Iraq war thing is stupid, benefits no one, not even politically in the short term, and moves will be made to wrap up this idiotic business and bring everyone home. At which point someone making this dreary logistical decision will get nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize, and that someone will probably win it, allowing us all to bask in the glow of our “peace-loving” values which prevailed in the end over hate and violence.

That’s how this thing works. We ebb toward war most of the time. But sometimes, out of necessity, or when we run out of bullets, we ebb the other way. And it’s then that we give ourselves awards for our peace-loving behavior.
 And Glenn Greenwald uses Tabbai to make the point that the worst thing progressives can do is not hold Obama's feet to the fire when he deserves it. He's got no use for the knee jerk adulation of Obama from some quarters for this undeserved, unearned honor. And he's quick to point out that the bloggers on the left have been far more critical of Obama than their right wing counterparts were with W. I should say so. I should say so.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Look, Ma. No Mouse.

10/GUI from C. Miller on Vimeo.

As you know, if you're one of my 10 or so more or less regular readers, I like gadgets and technology. I just came across this video in my swing through Facebook a little while ago and was sufficiently impressed to put it up here for you watch, too. If, like me, you can foresee a future of a lot of hours in front of your computer, than anything that will make your time there more productive and easier deserves your attention. Hence 10 GUI, which has convinced me that this is something with a future. I saw similar sorts of GUIs demonstrated at Microsoft University in Redmond, WA, a few years ago, back when I was still employed, or should I say, before my glorious and blessed retirement from the work force and transport to the land of do-what-you-want-with-no-boss-to-stop-you. If you're interested in computers at all, the eight minutes of the video will be worth it for you.

Monday, October 12, 2009

A Vicious Dog

My, my. Here's a surprise. The health care industry has turned on Obama like a mean dog and has taken a piece out of his leg. And it is standing there with the hair up on its back, teeth bared, and growling. Don't come a foot closer. Just in time for tomorrow's vote in the Senate finance committee on its health care bill, the health insurance industry has issued a report claiming that costs of health insurance for the typical American family will rise hundreds or thousands of dollars under proposed legislation. Although the Max Baucus's committee bill leaves much to be desired from any progressive standpoint, it has reportedly been gaining momentum, whatever that means, among the legislators. Indeed, the Baucus bill has been hammered out over the past few weeks with substantial input from the health insurance industry. In other words, the administration continued its disastrous policy of playing footsie with the enemy in the name of bipartisanship, whatever that means when not a single Republican has supported anything the Democrats have proposed to reform the healthcare system that's eating us all alive.

The administration has blasted the industry report, of course, but shame on them for ever thinking or believing that the healthcare insurance industry (along with Big Pharm the biggest set of scumbags involved in this mess--even bigger than their tools in the Congress, I'd argue, although differentiating among the various tribes of scumbags involved in fighting reform is a formidable task) was trustworthy in the first place.  The timing of the report's release could not have been any clearer. It's a slap across the jowls of the president, his administration, all of the Democrats on the committee and especially the so-called "moderates" who voted against the public option and who generally supported the milquetoast approach to the industry.

I was about to end with a question about when will Obama and his people recognize what they're dealing with and stop playing nice. But I quickly realized that this White House doesn't have the cojones to play the game just as nastily as their implacable opponents, and it is not about to sprout a serviceable pair anytime soon. They've had innumerable chances to this point and have not seized one of them. Which means, of course, that what we the people are going to get is healthcare "reform" that the insurance industry approves of. And if you think that's going to be to your benefit, come see me. I have some oceanfront property in Kansas for sale.

Friday, October 9, 2009


You're kidding me, right? Barack Obama has been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize? (Longer story here.) For what? For being famous? For talking about peace? For being the darling of the world? Surely it cannot be for actually contributing to world peace. This dude is heading up not one, but two wars. And at the moment this prestigious award for promoting world peace is being bestowed on him--and don't forget the $1.4 million that goes along with it--world-renowned peacemaker Obama is mulling the possibility of sending an additional 40,000 US troops into the godforsaken, endless conflict in Afghanistan. And my prediction is he will do it. (I'll happily eat public crow if he fools me and doesn't.)

I'm hardly the only one scoffing at the notion that this award has been earned. Reactions from the left have been mildly supportive at best, non-plussed,  or, like mine, incredulous. And of course the right has been frothing. At some superficial level, I can understand this choice. Obama has worked to restart the Israeli-Palestinian peace process; he's been active in non-proliferation efforts; he's demonstrated a willingness to parlay with enemies; he's said all the right things. But still . . . but still. Here's a guy who's in charge of two wars. And I don't see any indication he's got a particular problem with either. Plus, I cannot separate the idea of a peace award to a somebody who has agreed to suppress evidence of the U.S. torture regime during the Bush years. Who still holds people without charges in Gitmo. Who presides over the largest arms exporter on the planet, and who constantly trumpets the excellence of a military establishment that absorbs hundreds of billions of taxpayer dollars when unemployment in this country is ten percent.

No. There's just too much shady ground around the administration and these miserable Middle Eastern wars for Obama to deserve the same award bestowed on such giants as Desmond Tutu, Nelson Mandela, and Martin Luther King.

Thursday, October 8, 2009


Outrageous! The Democrats of the judiciary committee of the Senate have approved three odious provisions of the so-called Patriots Act, one of the key tools the Bush administration used to subvert normal protections of civil liberties. From the piece:

The provisions include the "roving wiretap" clause, used to monitor mobile communications of individuals using multiple telephone lines, and the "lone-wolf" provision, which enables spying on individuals suspected of terrorist activity but with no obvious connection to extremist groups. Lawmakers also extended the life of controversial section 215, known as the "library records provision" that allows government agencies to access individual's library history.

And they did this at the request of the White House. I remember reading somewhere long ago that once power is given to someone, it is rarely given back. This has certainly proven true with Obama and his administration. My disillusion with Obama and his administration has reached fairly mammoth proportions at this point. Every time I turn around, it seems, I hear something else that the Democrats are doing that just warms the cockles of Mike McCormick's heart.

This, in tandem, with some Democrats on the Senate Finance Committee's craven refusal to support a public option in the healthcare reform bill that will be voted out next Tuesday is just about the final straw with me and these guys. The Congress of the United States has been bought like a side of beef by the fat cats of business. Doesn't matter which business you're talking about. Lawmakers will prostitute themselves to any one of them that ponies up enough cash.  It's criminal that poor people are going to continue to die at the hands of these miserable politicians and their masters in the insurance industry.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Can't Contain Their Cackles

A couple of months back, I wrote an entry pretty much despairing of anything in a healthcare reform bill but a hodgepodge of insurance-industry-serving provisions. I was convinced then, and even more so now, the American people are going to get screwed by the corporately-owned Congress doing the will of their masters. For me, it's perfectly plain and obvious that anything less than a single-payer system, socialized medicine, is a disservice to us, but I've long since acknowledged that compared to the vast majority of people I meet (and for that matter, don't meet), I'm on the lunatic fringe of US politics, not to mention other subjects. It's so plain to me that if a whole bunch of other civilized countries have adopted this system to take care of their people, then it must have something to recommend it. 

But what's plain to me simply is not plain to other people. To say the least. The frothing at the mouth that's ensued over the possibility that the government of the United States might actually be a participant in the providing affordable, trustworthy healthcare to all its citizens has been hysterical, irrational, and unceasing. And I'm convinced at this point that it and the evil forces on the right in this country are going to mutilate any reasonable attempt at healthcare reform, and by that I mean, some sort of plan with a significant government presence in it to compel the bloodsuckers--big pharm and insurance giants--to rein in their filthy and scandalous profits by being forced to lower prices.

But all indications are, this is not going to happen. Instead the Democrats seem determined to commit suicide on this healthcare matter. To buy into the insurance-company-approved expedient of healthcare cooperatives, which as the article explains, are easy for the companies to subvert. Here's the pertinent observation from the article. Really sounds like something any thinking person should embrace, right?

The danger for Democrats is that this industry-friendly legislation would impose new burdens on citizens, including government fines for failing to sign up for a health-insurance plan, without guarantees that the coverage won’t be almost as crappy and expensive as it is now. The bill rejects a public option that would put competitive pressure on private insurers.

Plus, key elements of the bill, like the so-called shopping “exchanges,” aren’t to take effect until 2013, meaning that Americans will have watched this messy process unfold for months and then be told that the current system, which has cruelly pushed millions of sick people into bankruptcy, will get four more years to bankrupt more Americans.
 Read the whole piece to get the full monty on this. The Democrats seem determined to put the crazies back in charge of the government at the earliest possible time. Indeed, who can trust a party that has screwed up so royally since it was given an unmistakable mandate and the majority to carry it out back in the November elections? That seems like a hundred years ago, doesn't it?

The Republicans cannot contain their cackles.

Monday, October 5, 2009

The End of Civilization as We Know It

McDonald's is establishing a burger bar and McCafe in the Carrousel du Louvre, the underground entrance to the most famous art museum in the world. Does anyone who has risen above the level of Philistine need to say more?

Sunday, October 4, 2009


It's certainly not a love story between me and capitalism, so I will probably approve of Michael Moore's new movie, Capitalism--A Love Story. Right here, you can read a favorable review of the movie. Even with warts, the movie's heart is in the right place. I'm waiting to see if any theater in Oklahoma is gutsy enough to show this movie. If one is, it's practically a lead-pipe cinch that it's not the kind of movie your average Oklahoma bubba is going to go to. But I'll be going. Seating shouldn't be a problem.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Wait Till Next Year

We're two games from the end of the season and my team, the Texas Rangers, will be going home when the season ends on Sunday. No playoffs this year, nothing but disappointment. Even if they win the next two games, they will fall short of winning 90 games, which to me--and this is just pretty arbitrary--distinguishes a really good team, 18 games over .500. The team had some key injuries--Josh Hamilton and franchise player Michael Young, who missed 22 games--at the worst possible time . . . September, the stretch run. Young will end the season having one of his best years ever, so it's difficult to believe that he might not have made the difference in at least a few of the games that were lost. Hamilton has been hurt off and on the whole year, and his production was way off.

Coming off a three-game sweep of the Indians on the road, for the 20 games beginning on September 12 and through yesterday, the Rangers managed to win only 7 games. Even worse was that they dropped 5 of 7 games against the Los Angeles Angels during this time, the team they had to beat to have any chance of winning their division. The totals for this sorry stretch are here.

The bright spot this year was, unbelievably for the Rangers, pitching. For the first time a good while the team's pitching staff top to bottom acquitted itself quite creditably. The staff turned in the best ERA since 1993. Also the fewest hits and runs per game since 1990. Overall the pitching has not been this good vis a vis the rest of the league in 12 or 13 years. The hitting, however, was also a surprise: it was for this team, anemic. Team batting average was 11th in the league, OBP 12th, hits 9th, walks 12th, strike outs 1st. Nobody on the team will have 100 RBIs, and assuming Ian Kinsler scores at least one run in the final two games, nobody will have scored 100 runs either. I hope the front office has a productive off-season. We need to put hitting and pitching together for next year.

So it's "wait till next year" again for Texas . . . but for the first time in a long while, next year could very well be the one we're all waiting for.

Thursday, October 1, 2009


From Richard Rohr of the Center for Action and Contemplation's daily mediation:

God is “within all things but not enclosed; outside all things but not excluded; above all things but not aloof; below all things, but not debased.” Bonaventure (1221-1274) was the first to speak of God as one “whose center is everywhere and whose circumference is nowhere.”

Therefore “the origin, magnitude, multitude, beauty, fullness, activity and order of all created things” are the very “footprints” and “fingerprints” (vestigia) of God, according to this Doctor of the Church. Now that is quite a lovely and a very safe universe to live in.