Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Drill, Baby, Drill!

I'm wondering if we elected a closet Republican in 2008. Barrack Obama claims to be a progressive Democrat, but he's giving an excellent job of mimicking a GOP president. Latest is the news this morning that he has decided to permit offshore oil drilling along the Atlantic and Gulf coasts--from Delaware to Florida. And more Alaskan coastline, too. This decision, of course, runs contrary to what he said during the presidential campaign. But then Obama the president has hardly resembled Obama the candidate for president.

This move appears to be yet another overture to the Republican party, a strategy that for the entire length of Obama's presidency has proven singularly barren. If there's any silver lining to this decision, it's that right on cue, the Republican party goes ballistic. John Boehner blasted the plan as not going far enough. You know, the GOP might be something to worry about if it ever grew a brain. Remember the rallying cry during the campaign from the McCain crowds: Drill, baby, drill! Well, Obama is saying to the oil barons here's 167 million acres of ocean you can drill, babies, drill . . . and it ain't enough for the Republicans. Good. Let them holler and scream some more about this latest Obama cave to the right. It just makes them look ridiculous to oppose their own ideas.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Nascent Fascism

I'm not the only one who sees nascent fascism lurking in all this mindless anger and the spitting on congressmen and the cursing of Democrats, all this Tea Party insanity. Chris Hedges is again today calling for all us who are good and true to stop supporting the Democratic party, which is a tool of the corporate interests who are the true enemy. "We are bound to a party that has betrayed every principle we claim to espouse," he writes, "from universal health care to an end to our permanent war economy, to a demand for quality and affordable public education, to a concern for the jobs of the working class. And the hatred expressed within right-wing movements for the college-educated elite, who created or at least did nothing to halt the financial debacle, is not misplaced. Our educated elite, wallowing in self-righteousness, wasted its time in the boutique activism of political correctness as tens of millions of workers lost their jobs."

I don't disagree. Not at all. Just by accident I stumbled across this story of the arrest of 10 so-called Christian kooks in Michigan (it ended up being big news last night) who are apparently gunning for the anti-Christ and were actively involved, according to the report, in a plan to kill police and incite an uprising against the government. I mean, it's getting so loco out there that I'm running out of adjectives.

I abhor violence. Hate it. It's the violence in our souls that makes us beasts. The better angels of our nature flee from it in detestation and fear. Violence corrupts us, twists us. Like meth or heroin or crack cocaine, it seduces us and makes us its slave. But violence is where we're going, it's the slop pit we're going to roll in unless things get turned around fast. The mob out there is mindless, but it is not without grievance. These are the people who have been left in the gutter by the system. They can't make ends meet; their jobs are gone; their houses are being foreclosed; their kids are a mess; their mom is dying of cancer with no healthcare. They are not students of fine analysis. They're going to strike whatever enemy they're pointed to: Muslims, foreigners, black people, progressives, the government. It will not be a pretty or edifying sight.

Hedges concludes his piece with this: "Our continued impotence and cowardice, our refusal to articulate this anger [the anger of the Tea Party people] and stand up in open defiance to the Democrats and the Republicans, will see us swept aside for an age of terror and blood." The "us" in Hedges' calculations, presumably, are all us progressives who have not realized that the Democrats are as much the enemy of real reformation as the Republicans are. There is no compromising with the existing system. It's too far gone. It needs to be replaced, not tinkered with. Unfortunately, the cost of bringing it down is astronomical and forbidding.

Monday, March 29, 2010

New Look II

Not so different from the old new look . . . but this look is much more crisp, at least to my eyes. Makes all the colors more vibrant. Did not do much to the basic design. But the title and title quote are now in the masthead photograph. Much better there. And all the stuff that used to be in a left-side column has been moved over to the right. Don't know if it's just because it's new, but now to my eye all that stuff looks like it belongs there. I also tinkered around with the colors and text fonts. Overall, it's a small step up. As befits a blog that has just gained its fifth follower! I'm blown away. [Thanks, JoAnn. May all your cares fit in a pill box.]

(Bloggers who use "Blogger" as their software--if you click the title of this entry, you'll be brought to the template editor in case, like me, you're an inveterate tinkerer with this stuff.)

Sunday, March 28, 2010

"Sorry" Doesn't Quite Cut It

The pope says he "truly sorry" for the crimes of pedophilia and child abuse for the abuse, physical, mental, and sexual, visited upon the children of Ireland for decades by Catholic priests, brothers, and nuns. Well, that's not quite good enough, Pontiff. Because, just as has been the case with every diocese in the world, your apology was not coupled with a declaration that the bishops in charge of these dioceses who allowed this abuse to continue by continually transferring the child predators will be punished.  Much less any acceptance of responsibility by the Vatican itself from whence all the inclinations and practices of cover-up originate. (They ain't buying it in Erie either.)

Lemme put it to you this way, Vicar of Christ on Earth: up till now after years of revelations about sexual abuse of children by priests (and some bishops, too, while they were priests), about their being shuffled from unsuspecting parish and unsuspecting victims to yet another unsuspecting parish and victims, not a single bishop anywhere, i.e., the guys who were not unsuspecting, the guys who knew about these pedophile scumbags, not a single one of them has taken responsibility for his crimes, much less been disciplined.* Oh, I take that back. One guy in the U.S. did lose his job: Bernard Cardinal Law of Boston, who got kicked upstairs to a better job at the Vatican. And he was certainly not fired by the Church--in fact, he was downright defiant in the face of incontrovertible evidence that he virtually suborned pedophilia in the archdiocese by his neglect of the problem--he was forced to resign by the sheer volume of public outcry.

And, Your Holiness, "I'm sorry" is certainly not enough when there's a question about just how clean your own hands are in this whole sordid mess. Oh, yeah. Just what exactly did you know about sexual abuse by clergy in your own diocese of Munich when you were still just Cardinal Ratzinger and a bishop? There have been questions. And worse, you also helped cover stuff up. See this article.

And how do you think Rome is responding? Are you serious? We're not getting any kind of pastoral response from Rome. What we're getting is outrage that the pope should be attacked and implications that there's a giant conspiracy against the pope. Rome ain't giving an inch. Well, really. What else could we expect from this institution which has done nothing but stonewall and lie since these horrendous crimes became known several years ago? Why should we be surprised when the Church behaves like any other human institution when it gets caught in the midst of criminal activity? That is, circle the wagons, obfuscate, and sacrifice the lower ranks of the organization while protecting the ones ultimately responsible?

Just for the record, there has been a huge flood of allegations of abuse of minors from all over Europe. Ireland and Germany are not the only places where accusations against priests have surfaced. They have also arisen in Switzerland, The Netherlands, Austria, Italy.  This site summarizes.

Update I: Matt Taibbi has a typically bitter and sarcastic take on the whole problem and in particular his reaction to the pastoral letter of  Archbishop Tim Donlan's of New York on the subject of child molestation by the clergy. Taibbi describes it as an "incredibly pompous and self-pitying rant [and] some of the most depraved horseshit I’ve ever seen on the internet, which is saying a lot."

Update II: Maureen Dowd is not as profane as Taibbi, but she's right on in her column about these crimes.

Update III: Something much closer to a smoking gun involving Ratzinger has emerged from a case involving a pedophile priest in the Oakland diocese. Office he headed up in the Vatican dallied for years about defrocking the scumbag priest. And there's a letter with the future pope's signature on it that suggests that "for the good of the Church" the guy not be thrown out.

*The episcopate in the U.S. has essentially swept the problem of tainted bishops under the rug.  In this it follows the Vatican lead. The latest allegations about a priest who apparently molested over 200 deaf children in the 1960s and 70s, have roiled the waters again.

Friday, March 26, 2010

And Here's the Thumbs Down

Now let's not go crazy about this healthcare bill. And especially let's not get to thinking that the administration has stood up to the special interests, as some of their ardent cheerleaders would have it. Ever precise, ever vigilant, ever incisive Glenn Greenwald begs to differ with this assessment. And he ticks off several excellent reasons why. To wit:
  • All of the special interests--doctors, hospitals, Big Pharma, insurance companies--came out ahead on this bill. Do you think the average 71 percent appreciation in the value of insurers  stocks is because the reform is going to hurt their business? All real reform got squeezed out. Just consider what's NOT in the law:
    • the public option 
    • Medicare expansion 
    • drug-reimportation 
    • bulk price negotiations 
    • an end to the insurers' anti-trust exemption
  •  The bill was "enacted by invoking and strengthening precisely the same corrupt, sleazy practices that have long driven Washington."
  • The bill admirably serves the interests of the lobbyists. Corporations still control the government. That has not changed. So every future "reform" bill on banking, energy, national security, surveillance . . . are going to be shaped and approved by these very corporations. In fact, these corporate forces have been strengthened by the healthcare "reform" process over the past year.
So we need to put away the champagne.  Perhaps a small glass of flat light beer is more appropriate.

Update IChris Hedges is having none of it. "Chalk this up as yet another victory for our feudal overlords and a defeat for the serfs." Cannot say I don't resonate with what he says.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Oh, And Yet Another Thumbs Up--With Reservations

How could I, in my listing of the benefits of the healthcare reform passed Sunday, neglect to mention yet another glowing benefit I see? It just fries the living hell out of the Republicans and all their slavering Tea Party allies. Who, by the way, I applaud. The Republicans can use all the daft and ignorant help they can get. And if they get enough of them to help, the Republicans will be running the Tea Party pinup heroine, Sarah Palin for president in 2012.  Which means the country will not have them running anything for another four years, the sweep would be so massive. And who knows, a massive sweep like that might just do them in as a party . . . and that would be a very good thing, indeed.

Sorry. Sometimes I let myself indulge in such flights of fancy. It would be nice if the country could count on something like that actually happening. But I seriously doubt the Republican party would be so self-destructive as to actually put up a candidate like Palin, or even a guy like Newt Gingrich, who, only God knows why, thinks he could be president.

In fact, although it's amusing to see the apoplexy on the right that's greeted passage of the healthcare bill, there are some aspects of this whole matter that are really not so amusing at all. A Washington Post columnist commented that the passage of the healthcare bill was "one of the ugliest and strangest periods the American legislative process has ever experienced." Last Sunday in the capitol in Washington, D.C. Two drunken hecklers were cheered by House Republicans from the floor when they were escorted out of the galleries. A black Democratic Congressman was spat upon, and some of his other black colleagues were called "niggers" by a raging crowd of tea party demonstrators on the Capitol steps. Dozens of Republican congressmen egged the crowd on with cheers, applause, and banners from the Capitol balcony and by leading chants of "Kill the Bill!" Of course, Oklahoma nitwit Republicans were represented on the balcony. Congresswoman Mary Fallin helped two of her colleagues drape a "Don't Tread on Me" flag over the banister.

Barney Franks was verbally assaulted two consecutive days by people screaming "faggot" and "queer" at him.The entire Democratic caucus walked through a gauntlet of protesters to screams of "You communists! You socialists! You hate America!" The tone was not any better inside. Read the piece. She names names of Republican congressmen who contributed to the acrimony on the floor. Apparently the tone remained acidic right up until the time the bill passed. GOP House leader John Boehner of Ohio, whom I must confess I heartily dislike, completely lost his composure, shouting at his Democratic colleagues, just as did many of his fellow Republicans.

Need we belabor the perfectly obvious point? This is just despicable, shameful behavior. To think that members of the U.S. congress would stoop to the kind of scurrilous antics that the crazy people out on the lawn were engaged in. It should be a scandal . . . but of course, it's not. Millions of people think this kind of behavior is just fine. Note also that not a single Republican has lifted his voice to protest the ranting lunacy of Glenn Beck, Limbaugh, Hannity, and other dangerous demagogues stirring up hatred and fear in millions of people.

A small footnote. My wife had lunch with a friend today, a college graduate, who was relating a story about talking to her daughter, who is visibly distraught about the socialism Obama is bringing to the country. She's greatly concerned that she won't be able to afford private schools for her little boy so he won't have to listen to socialist teachers saying it's OK to marry homosexuals. Can you believe this? The country is off its rocker.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Here's the Thumbs Up . . .

As some of you know, I've wavered on supporting the so-called healthcare reform bill. At nearly the last minute, I decided (along with probably a majority of my progressive friends) that A bill is better than NO bill. (Even my man Dennis Kucinich was persuaded to support it.) Which, when you think about it, is more or less about the most tepid endorsement you can give it. So today, let's detail what's good about this legislation. There's no question that it represents a great leap forward in some crucial areas.

Arianna Huffington is no great fan of the bill either, but she recognizes that it's going to help millions of people. A blogger I read regularly sums up the benefits nicely with wry commentary, the best of which, and none of them are bad, rein in the insurance industry and puts a halt to the unconscionable practices that have wreaked such financial havoc on so many people and literally condemned some of them to death. Here's a more straightforward list by one of Jim Kuntsler's readers. All of these reforms will happen this year.

1. Adult children may remain as dependents on their parents’ policy until their 27th birthday
2. Children under age 19 may not be excluded for pre-existing conditions
3. No more lifetime or annual caps on coverage
4. Free preventative care for all
5. Adults with pre-existing conditions may buy into a national high-risk pool until the exchanges come online. While these will not be cheap, they’re still better than total exclusion and get some benefit from a wider pool of insureds.
6. Small businesses will be entitled to a tax credit for 2009 and 2010, which could be as much as 50% of what they pay for employees’ health insurance.
7. The “donut hole” closes for Medicare patients, making prescription medications more affordable for seniors.
8. Requirement that all insurers must post their balance sheets on the Internet and fully disclose administrative costs, executive compensation packages, and benefit payments.
9. Authorizes early funding of community health centers in all 50 states (Bernie Sanders’ amendment). Community health centers provide primary, dental and vision services to people in the community, based on a sliding scale for payment according to ability to pay.
10. No more rescissions. Effective immediately, you can't lose your insurance because you get sick.

Also, in many communities - half-rural and half-suburb -- community health centers will receive funding to provide health and preventive services to people with no access right now. And that's just one benefit. They're all valuable.

I cannot help but think that these things must improve the overall health of the country.  And as the program phases in, 35 million Americans, with no insurance now, will be able to obtain health insurance. All good. For the not so good. Tune in tomorrow.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Blogging . . . and Oh, That Bill That Passed on Sunday

You thought I might write about the so-called healthcare reform bill passing yesterday, didn't you? Well, guess what? I'm going to write about it today. Not because I'm writing this on Tuesday. No, you're just seeing it today because I wrote it on Monday, just as I wrote yesterday's uplifting entry last Friday. Now, are you totally confused?

Don't be. The software that I blog on--the imaginatively named "Blogger"--allows you to date an entry at any date and hour your little heart desires. So it's not at all unusual for me to post-date entries when I write them, or, as in the case yesterday and for all the entries you'll see when I'm out of town next month, pre-date them. What happens is I run across something that I say "Well, this is something I've got to blog about," and I put the URL on the desktop. But, I can hear you thinking ahead, don't you end up with more than you can possibly blog about because of all the shit that's constantly happening that requires (or at least elicits) your commentary? Answer: of course. I always have much more stuff than I can write about. Indeed, I throw away many more URLs to bloggable items than I use. Indeed, there's no end to them.

All which is to say that what you end up reading here, those few of you that do read here, is the product of: 1) a lot of more or less aimless reading I do on the Net--well, not really "aimless" in that sense, "randomly focused" might better describe it; 2) an obsession with politics (this goes back virtually to childhood); 3) an ego large enough to suppose that at least a few people might care what I think; 4) a mostly unconscious, although sometimes not, desire to leave some trace of the fact that I was here once; to leave some evidence for my kids and grandkids of what I thought about things, a little trace of me for history (and for a historian, history is never out of our minds)*; 5) unadulterated obsession--I have several of these, as my family will attest; 6) a desire for amusement. Yes, I did find it amusing at times to write this blog, and I worked a lot of years, and a great deal of them in an environment I did not find particularly congenial, the military (I much prefer the academic environment; I could go to school all the time. Indeed, in grad school that's where I thought I was heading. Fate intervened: it's another whole story how a near pacifist ended up working for the Dept of Defense his whole life).

Hey, remember I was going to say something about the healthcare bill that passed on Sunday? My time is up. I'll have to take care of that tomorrow.

*Long about the mid-1980s or shortly thereafter, the practice of writing and mailing real letters that you sent by first class snail mail began waning even for those of us, like me, who were regular letter writers. Obsessive that I am, I saved all those, too.

Monday, March 22, 2010

A Busload of Faith

A highly interesting piece by Chris Hedges is appearing on progressive blogs all over the Web. Here's where I read it. Fair warning. It will take you about five minutes to read, and it's not what you want to hear. Like most of us, I would just as soon entertain the comforting fiction that the future is going to be pretty much like the past, which, I have to confess, has been more than tolerable for me personally. Because its led to my comfortable present. I have a wife I love more than life itself, and miraculously she's stuck with me for 43 years. Three kids, whom I adore, who are all healthy, gainfully employed, and (for the one who is) happily married . Healthy, wonderful grandchildren. Good health. An active intellectual and social existence. A nice, right-sized retirement house with my library in its own room (my own little cocoon, I like to call it). Enough income and savings to feel secure. And on and on I could go with the blessings that are mine. I'm "happy" and my love Susan is "happy." Retirement has dealt us a nice, playable hand . . . which is why it is not at all pleasant to contemplate what Hedges has to say . . . which is basically the future we're heading into is not going to be like the past, and it is going to destroy the present.

He argues that the country, which a large segment of the population is in the habit of calling "the greatest country on Earth," is definitely not. In fact, it has already slipped--I don't know if "slipped" is the right word, more likely "marched" works better for true accuracy--into a state of what he calls "inverted totalitarianism." He didn't invent the phrase himself. He's quoting a political thinker named Sheldon Wolin, who coined the phrase in an article in The Nation way back in 2003. It's safe to say that matters have deteriorated since then.

Here's just part of what he has to say. I suggest that you read the whole piece, but only if you're willing to confront the ramifications of what's actually happened to our country and what it means for you personally. Resistance is possible, and may be ultimately successful--but no time soon--but what it is right now is ennobling and the right thing to do.
Democracy, a system ideally designed to challenge the status quo, has been corrupted and tamed to slavishly serve the status quo. We have undergone, as John Ralston Saul writes, a coup d’├ętat in slow motion. And the coup is over. They won. We lost. The abject failure of activists to push corporate, industrialized states toward serious environmental reform, to thwart imperial adventurism or to build a humane policy toward the masses of the world’s poor stems from an inability to recognize the new realities of power. The paradigm of power has irrevocably altered and so must the paradigm of resistance alter.
Our democratic system has been transformed into what the political philosopher Sheldon Wolin labels inverted totalitarianism. Inverted totalitarianism, unlike classical totalitarianism, does not revolve around a demagogue or charismatic leader. It finds expression in the anonymity of the corporate state. It purports to cherish democracy, patriotism, a free press, parliamentary systems and constitutions while manipulating and corrupting internal levers to subvert and thwart democratic institutions. Political candidates are elected in popular votes by citizens but are ruled by armies of corporate lobbyists in Washington, Ottawa or other state capitals who author the legislation and get the legislators to pass it. A corporate media controls nearly everything we read, watch or hear and imposes a bland uniformity of opinion. Mass culture, owned and disseminated by corporations, diverts us with trivia, spectacles and celebrity gossip. In classical totalitarian regimes, such as Nazi fascism or Soviet communism, economics was subordinate to politics. “Under inverted totalitarianism the reverse is true,” Wolin writes. “Economics dominates politics – and with that domination comes different forms of ruthlessness.”  
Inverted totalitarianism wields total power without resorting to cruder forms of control such as gulags, concentration camps or mass terror. It harnesses science and technology for its dark ends. It enforces ideological uniformity by using mass communication systems to instill profligate consumption as an inner compulsion and to substitute our illusions of ourselves for reality. It does not forcibly suppress dissidents, as long as those dissidents remain ineffectual. And as it diverts us it dismantles manufacturing bases, devastates communities, unleashes waves of human misery and ships jobs to countries where fascists and communists know how to keep workers in line. It does all this while waving the flag and mouthing patriotic slogans. “The United States has become the showcase of how democracy can be managed without appearing to be suppressed,” Wolin writes.
Lou Reed has a great song off his great album New York called "A Busload of Faith." The chorus goes "You need a busload of faith to get by." Honestly, I think it's only prescription.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

It's Healthcare Day, Boys & Girls!

I post this without comment. It needs none. What it requires is weeping and cold, cold fear when you realize that this is just a small sampling of the people like this out there and the further realization that they and all their relatives and friends are armed to the teeth. Happy healthcare day!

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Happy Anniversary!

Lest we let an important anniversary slip by unnoticed, I hereby inform you, if you didn't know it already, that today is the 7th anniversary of our invasion of Iraq.

Costs (best estimates) so far for this illegal and immoral war:
  • 4,300+ American lives
  • $747 billion and rising
  • at least 95,600 Iraqi lives and rising (nobody really knows, some estimates put the number six times higher)
  • reduced, not enhanced, American security
  • unremitting hatred by the vast majority of Arabs and pretty much all their countries, too
  • a truly baleful and crippling effect on the American economy
  • immeasurable fraud, waste, and abuse by defense contractors, the bloated maggots of the Iraq invasion story
Allow me to repeat: Happy Anniversary!

Lone Star Loonies

The pinhead state board of education down in Texas is one again covering itself with glory. They've decided to rewrite history so it's more appealing to them. It's been all over the media lately. Guess who's responsible for this? Correcto! The lunatic right wing which lets nothing that might be construed as accurate get in the way of its seriously flawed ideology. Pardon me, but isn't this the way all totalitarian regimes handle history? Isn't this what Big Brother did in 1984?

So what millions, literally, of schoolchildren are going to get in Texas is the yahoo spin on everything. For example:

Teachers in Texas will be required to cover the Judeo-Christian influences of the nation's Founding Fathers, but not highlight the philosophical rationale for the separation of church and state. Curriculum standards also will describe the U.S. government as a "constitutional republic," rather than "democratic," and students will be required to study the decline in value of the U.S. dollar, including the abandonment of the gold standard . . . [also included] is heralding "American exceptionalism" and the U.S. free enterprise system, suggesting it thrives best absent excessive government intervention. . . . Board members argued about the classification of historic periods (still B.C. and A.D., rather than B.C.E. and C.E.); whether students should be required to explain the origins of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and its impact on global politics (they will); and whether former Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir should be required learning (she will). In addition to learning the Bill of Rights, the board specified a reference to the Second Amendment right to bear arms in a section about citizenship in a U.S. government class. Conservatives beat back multiple attempts to include hip-hop as an example of a significant cultural movement. Numerous attempts to add the names or references to important Hispanics throughout history also were denied, inducing one amendment that would specify that Tejanos died at the Alamo alongside Davy Crockett and Jim Bowie. Another amendment deleted a requirement that sociology students "explain how institutional racism is evident in American society."
And let's not forget that they will also have to study Jefferson Davis's inaugural address right alongside Lincoln's, as if they were of equal weight. No more "capitalism" either: it's the "free enterprise system" now. Thomas Jefferson is gone now, too, from a list of people who inspired revolutions in the 18th century. He got blackballed because he originated the phrase "separation of church and state." Further changes are detailed in the article here.

Such changes are going to apply to all social studies--history, government, sociology, and economics--elementary through high school; and worse, since the Texas schoolbook market is so huge, it will have a huge influence on the entire country's textbooks. Lovely, eh?

Friday, March 19, 2010

While Rome Burned . . .

According to the tale, Nero played his lyre while Rome burned. It's become the standard image for ignoring the problem and filling up precious rescue time with frivolity. Here in the dying empire we're doing the same exact thing. Here's James Kuntsler last Monday:

      This disintegrating nation is woefully distracted by Web 2.0, iPads, Avatar movies, Facebook, and the idiot celebrity spectacles of TV, not to mention the disasters of job loss, foreclosure, medical extortion, bankruptcy, corporate loot-ocracy, and the squandered moments of politics. We know we have to go somewhere.  We know that something like history is leaving us behind. We have no idea how to get to a new place. And we're spending most of our mental energy gaping into the rear-view mirror, which is the last place to look for your destination.

I'm a Nero a lot of the time. Who among us doesn't have several lyres?

Thursday, March 18, 2010

A Scary Friend with Even Scarier Friends

The following post is long and scary. I have this friend from back when I worked for the Air Force in the 1980s. He's a Pennsylvania Republican, gun nut, and convicted right-winger. But he's not incapable of thought. We've been arguing for years. But sometimes  I wonder. The people he tends to support are really crazy. For example, here is something he just sent me. (He never ceases to believe I'm going to see the light one day.) 

First comes the attachment he included with his post. This is followed by my response.

HOMELAND REBELLION -- State plans $2,000 fine for feds over gun rules -- 2 years in jail also possible for US agent enforcing U.S. regulations on firearms in Wyoming        BY: Bob Unruh, © 2010 WorldNetDaily    SEE:

Wyoming has joined a growing list of states with self-declared exemptions from federal gun regulation of weapons made, bought and used inside state borders – but lawmakers in the Cowboy State have taken the issue one step further, adopting significant penalties for federal agents attempting to  enforce Washington's rules.

According to a law signed into effect yesterday by Democratic Gov. Dave Freudenthal, any agent of the U.S. who "enforces or attempts to enforce" federal gun rules on a "personal firearm" in Wyoming faces a felony conviction and a penalty of up to two years in prison and up to $2,000 in fines.

This was reported just days ago when Utah became the third state, joining Montana and Tennessee, to adopt an exemption from federal regulations for weapons built, sold and kept within state borders.

A lawsuit is pending over the Montana law, which was the first to go into effect.

But Wyoming's law goes further, stating, "Any official, agent or employee of the United States government who enforces or attempts to enforce any act, order, law, statute, rule or regulation of the United States government upon a personal firearm, a firearm accessory or ammunition that is manufactured commercially or privately in Wyoming and that remains exclusively within the borders of Wyoming shall be guilty of a felony and, upon conviction, shall  be subject to imprisonment for not more than two (2) years, a fine of not more than two thousand dollars ($2,000.00), or both."

Gary Marbut of the Montana Shooting Sports Association, who has spearheaded the Montana law, now describes himself as a sort of "godfather" to the national campaign.

He said the issue is not only about guns but about states' rights and the constant overreaching by federal agencies and Washington to impose their requirements on in-state activities.  He also said South Dakota, Oklahoma, Alaska and Idaho also appear to be close to adopting similar legislation, and several dozen more states have proposals in the works.

According to an analysis by Michael Boldin at the Tenth Amendment Center, the federal government has used the Commerce Clause**, which authorizes the regulation of commerce that crosses state lines, to regulate just about anything.

In the Montana lawsuit, the Federal Government's brief argues it can regulate intrastate commerce because of the Commerce Clause**.  This analysis said what the states are doing is simply a nullification.  "Laws of the federal government are to be supreme in all matters pursuant to the delegated powers of U.S. Constitution. When D.C. enacts laws outside those powers, state laws trump. And, as Thomas Jefferson would say, '[when the federal government assumes powers not delegated to it, those acts are unauthoritative, void, and of no force]' from the outset," Boldin wrote.

"When a state 'nullifies' a federal law, it is proclaiming that the law in question is void and inoperative, or 'non-effective,' within the boundaries of that state; or, in other words, not a law as far as the state is concerned. Implied in such legislation is that the state apparatus will enforce the act against all violations – in order to protect the liberty of the state's citizens," he continued.

"By signing HB95, Gov. Freudenthal places Wyoming in a position of proper authority while pressing the issue of state supremacy back into the public  sphere," he continued.

On a blog, one commentator noted, "This is a healthy sign. Legislators in several states are working to take back sovereignty and restore constitutional government. The next step that has to be taken is to replace representatives and senators who don't support states rights. Then, the House needs to introduce impeachment proceedings against Supreme Court justices who exhibit bad behavior. Contrary to popular belief, Supreme Court justices do not serve lifetime appointments. They serve for periods of GOOD BEHAVIOR. I contend that erroneous decisions constitute bad behavior."

** See: especially the "regulation column" -- One decision was how much wheat a farmer raises -- affects commerce so he can be fined if he raises too much, even if it is for is own feed use!

Bob, my friend,

What insanity! From all this I assume that the federal government has no responsibility to uphold quaint notions like the "common good" as opposed to the parochial interests or asserted rights of states. And what about individual rights if states are given overweening rights over the federal government, which is the only thing in many cases standing in the way of oppression by a state?

I shake my head in disbelief . . . nullification was tried in 1832 and it failed. Whether a state had sovereignty over whatever the state damn well decided it was sovereign over was decided at the cost of over 600,000 lives in 1861-65. That was when the nature of the federal union was defined, remember? Alas, there's no Jackson or Lincoln on the horizon to do anything about this today.

Who is this Michael Boldin? Following his impeccable logic, the US needs to return the Louisiana Purchase territory to France, since purchase of land is not delegated in the Constitution to the president.

Bob, seriously . . . can you possibly endorse the kind of thinking that says "erroneous decisions" by Supreme Court justices constitute impeachable "bad behavior"? And did you take the time to look at the list of commerce clause cases? I did, and I wonder which of those are "erroneous"? Most of them, I would imagine. Which would mean child labor is OK, transport of prostitutes across state lines is OK, strike-busting is OK, unionization of workers is, of course, not OK. Nor are federal standards for manufacturing, transport, food processing.

This country is turning into the f**king Balkans. I truly don't know or understand what kind of madness has taken hold of people. And I'm sure when the time comes, they will be coming to take people like me and my family away as obvious menaces to liberty, freedom, and democracy.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Legalized Bribery

A long article in the NY Review of Books entitled straightforwardly "The Money Fighting Health Care Reform" tells in some detail this depressing tale. Suffice it to say, millions upon millions of dollars were marshaled by big insurance and big pharm, mostly, both against various proposed provisions of the bill and for the reelection campaigns of key players. Although the article is careful to detail the positive aspects of the legislation--end of discrimination for preexisting conditions or catastrophic illness or health status, subsidies for 30 million uninsured, and more precedents that take us a long way--the pity of it is, the bill could have been a lot better. The list of provisions that were thrown out: public option, reimportation of drugs, collective Medicare buying of drugs, closure of the "doughnut hole" in current Medicare drug coverage, speeding up of "biologic" drugs to market, and more.

Plus, White House strategy, which put the entire process of writing the bill and moving it through to the legislative branch was faulty. It avoided the White House-centric process that sunk the Clinton bill, but it went too far the other way. That's why it's a year later, and the country has no bill . . . and what it's actually likely to get is wimpy.

It goes without saying that had we gotten anything close to what Obama said he supported during the campaign, we would be getting something that actually resembles a true reform bill. As it is, what we've got here is something crafted by the entities that require reformation! This is nuts, but given our present system of legalized bribery of legislators, what could we really expect?

I have reluctantly, very reluctantly, come to the conclusion that some bill on healthcare reform is better than no bill at all. But I'm not happy. Not in the least. 

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Monday, March 15, 2010

Whoops . . .

Glenn Beck, truly one of my favorite half-wits--in fact, he may even be my most favorite--has done it again. He's discovered that Bruce Springsteen's huge hit song from the '80s, "Born in the USA," is "propaganda". It's about a beat-down Vietnam vet. (If Beck knew anything about Springsteen, he'd know that not many of his songs could be described as patriotic.) So Beck is warning everybody out there about this latest danger. The song is "anti-American," he says. He's going to have to change the minds of lots of people. Virtually all the yahoos, including the all-time yahoo demigod, that turkey-necked, grinning nitwit Ronald Reagan, who disgraced the White House for two terms and who wanted to use the song in his 1984 campaign (The Boss said hell, no.), well, virtually all of them thought the song was the last word in patriotic ditties. Think again. You really have to shake your head. These people are really clueless.

Born in the USA

Born down in a dead man's town
The first kick I took was when I hit the ground
You end up like a dog that's been beat too much
'Til you spend half your life just covering up

Born in the U.S.A.
Born in the U.S.A.
Born in the U.S.A.
Born in the U.S.A.

I got in a little hometown jam
And so they put a rifle in my hands
Sent me off to Vietnam
To go and kill the yellow man


Come back home to the refinery
Hiring man says "Son if it was up to me"
I go down to see the V.A. man
He said "Son don't you understand"


I had a buddy at Khe Sahn
Fighting off the Viet Cong
They're still there, he's all gone
He had a little girl in Saigon
I got a picture of him in her arms

Down in the shadow of the penitentiary
Out by the gas fires of the refinery
I'm ten years down the road
Nowhere to run, ain't got nowhere to go

I'm a long gone Daddy in the U.S.A.
Born in the U.S.A.
I'm a cool rocking Daddy in the U.S.A.
Born in the U.S.A. 

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Catchers with Sticks

A baseball oddity, one of many, really, if you get right down to it.

In the American League, since 1901, only one catcher has won the batting title. And it was the same guy, and he did it three times in the past four seasons. (Sorry I can't list these in tabular form. Blogger software just ain't good enough to turn out something decent when you try to do that.)

                    Joe Mauer/Minnesota/.365/2009
                    Joe Mauer/Minnesota/.328/2008
                    Joe Mauer/Minnesota/.347/2006

It's only happened three times in the National League also, and quite some time ago.

                    Ernie Lombardi/Boston (N)/.330/1942
                    Ernie Lombardi/Cincinnati/.342/1938
                    Bubbles Hargrave/Cincinnati/.353/1926

Hargrave won the title with only 326 at bats, far fewer than would be required today. But in 1926, the rules required that a player appear in 100 games to qualify for the batting title. Hargrave caught only 93 games, but he also served as a pinch-hitter on occasion, enough to bring his total game appearances to 105. His teammate Cuckoo Christensen was second in the league with .350, hit in the same way with fewer than 400 plate appearances but with over 100 games. Oddly enough, Cincinnati was not a hitter's park. The "real" winner of the batting crown in 1926 was Hall of Famer Paul Waner in his rookie year. He hit .336 in 144 games with over 500 at bats.

It's only 21 days to opening day . . . but who's counting?

Friday, March 12, 2010

Cockroach on Parade . . . Enough Already!

Here's a copy of an email I sent to a friend a little while ago. He lives in Utah, which as you know, is populated with a considerable flock of Mormons (LDS), who in fact control the entire state. Attached to his email was a newspaper article detailing the apology of a member of the Utah House, a Republican, for frolicking naked in a hot tub years ago with a former female employee--when he was 30 and she was 15. Oh, and the payment of $150,000 hush money he gave her when he was running for congress in 2002. Here's what I wrote:

Well, I'm delighted to see that the "healing process" is proceeding splendidly for the both of them.

A question: how much of this sordid shit happens at all levels of government that never sees the light of day? Tons and tons, I would argue. So are these people any less guilty for not being found out? No, indeed. Just less lucky. Let me stress that I'm glad to see cockroaches like this guy Garn getting his deserved dose of public humiliation. (
Isn't it always "a terrible mistake"? These guys are never too hard on themselves, are they? And, I notice, his faithful spouse was at his side. What a humiliation these women must endure for their crime of being married to these guys.) But just imagine the volume of roaches that would scurry if more dark pantries got opened. There was a whole room full of them applauding their repentant-because-he-got-outed colleague.

I have to confess to a certain weariness with all these revelations.
It's media porn. Isn't hypocrisy a universal human trait? Let him who has never practiced it cast the first stone. I'm almost to the point that I don't wanna know. Alas, I will whether I want to or not. 

Media porn, indeed. People lap this kind of thing up. I suppose it makes them feel superior. But it's distressing to realize that the vast majority find this much more interesting than say, the facts about health care or the endemic wastefulness of the Pentagon.

Me? I've had enough of this crap. Somebody tell me something that's new. That politicians are slimy hypocrites . . . that's old news.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

A Pithy Summation

Five Jewish men virtually set the course of Western civilization.

Moses said the law is everything.
Jesus said love is everything.
Marx said capital is everything.
Freud said sex is everything.
Einstein said everything is relative.

Where Does This Belong?

Not on the front page of a major U.S. newspaper, that's where. Now let me tell you how nuts some people who should know better are. The Washington Post ran this picture on the front page of the paper last week and the paper's Ombundsman is still hearing from disgusted, upset, and angry readers. And the vast majority of them are not homophobes. There are probably many like me, supporters of gay rights, even of gay marriage, who simply don't want this kind of thing on the front page of the damn newspaper where kids can see it, and where even grown-ups can't help but see it. Call me a fossil, but there it is. What do you think?

For the record the ombundsman defended both the picture and its placement on the front page. Said pictures "capture reality" and "reflect the historical significance" of what's occurring. OK, fine. Then let's have pictures of dead Palestinians, Iraqis, Americans, Afghans with their guts running in the streets or half their heads blown away. On the front page. That's even more real than this shot of wedded bliss.

Update I: I changed the original title and first sentence of the original piece as the result of a note from a friend I've known for 15 years or so. I trust the revision shows more sensitivity. It does reflect more accurately the content of the piece.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

A Couple of Religious Notes

Note 1: Let's play word association, shall we? Vatican = Pope = holy = trusted aides = homosexual prostitution ring. Doesn't exactly have a ring to it, does it? But that's what we've got here. Italian police who were wiretapping on another matter entirely intercepted conversations between Angelo Balducci, a Gentleman of His Holiness, that is, a member of the pope's bevy of ceremonial ushers, guys really close to the pontiff. Are you ready for this? Balducci was one of the pallbearers for funeral of Pope John Paul II. Carried his coffin. What you're not ready for is the transcripts of Balducci "negotiating with Thomas Chinedu Ehiem, a 29-year-old Nigerian Vatican chorister, about men he wanted brought to him for sexual purposes." Apparently, Balducci was quite explicit about physical details of the guys he wanted. Nice, eh?

Note 2: Is there no end to the idiocy of Glenn Beck? And the perfidy of this man? Millions of people too dumb or blinded by fury to know what sense is, hang on this creep's every word. Here's the latest stream of evil shit issuing from his mouth: he's telling his viewers that they should immediately leave their church if they hear the words "social justice" being preached or urged. Because these words don't mean what they say, they are code words for communism(!) and Nazism(!!).  How much more idiotic can one be? But as I've stated so many times before, creatures like Beck influence millions of people. He stokes their hatreds every day, along with all his other colleagues on Fox news.

You need to hear it from his own lips, and I quote:

I'm begging you, your right to religion and freedom to exercise religion and read all of the passages of the Bible as you want to read them and as your church wants to preach them . . . are going to come under the ropes in the next year. If it lasts that long it will be the next year. I beg you, look for the words 'social justice' or 'economic justice' on your church Web site. If you find it, run as fast as you can. Social justice and economic justice, they are code words. Now, am I advising people to leave their church? Yes! 

Communists are on the left, and the Nazis are on the right. That's what people say. But they both subscribe to one philosophy, and they flew one banner. . . . But on each banner, read the words, here in America: 'social justice.' They talked about economic justice, rights of the workers, redistribution of wealth, and surprisingly, democracy.
Later, Beck held up cards, one with a hammer and sickle and other with a swastika. Listen, there's a religious word for this kind of unmitigated evil. Sin. And that's what this is, sin. If there is a hell, there's a special place in it for guys like Glenn Beck. But let us leave room for charity, we can acquit Beck of moral culpability if he's a lunatic . . . and that's a strong possibility, too. However, I'm going to resist the urge to charity . . . I hope the son of bitch burns in hell.

Update I: Rev James Martin, SJ, the editor of America magazine, blasts Beck saying he's basically telling people to leave Christianity, not to mention of course attacking hundreds of years of Catholic social teaching.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Blue Monday

UCal Berkley student at campus protests over budget cuts
To the right, a grim, scary face for grim, scary times. Monday is the day I read two of my never-miss bloggers, James Kuntsler over at Clusterfuck Nation and Chris Hedges at Truthdig. The former never fails to be entertaining . . . and grim. The latter never fails to be grim. But I resonate with what both have to say because they are, I think, realistic about the true state of affairs in this country and, more particularly, where we are headed as a country. Kuntsler was rather tame today, actually, musing on the string of relatively quiet days recently. Rather like the quiet days of 1860 or 1939, he observes, before cataclysmic events unfolded that wrenched the country completely out of its socket and in the process took hundreds of thousands of lives. Kuntsler sees cataclysm on the horizon.

So does Chris Hedges, only the picture he paints is far more dire (at least today, because Kuntsler doesn't call his blog "Clusterfuck Nation" because he's got a benign view of the future). Basically Hedges argues that it's time for revolution; it's time for the true to stand up. It's folly to have any faith in American institutions because the country has been given over completely to the corporate interests. Here's the opening paragraph:
There are no constraints left to halt America’s slide into a totalitarian capitalism. Electoral politics are a sham. The media have been debased and defanged by corporate owners. The working class has been impoverished and is now being plunged into profound despair. The legal system has been corrupted to serve corporate interests. Popular institutions, from labor unions to political parties, have been destroyed or emasculated by corporate power. And any form of protest, no matter how tepid, is blocked by an internal security apparatus that is starting to rival that of the East German secret police. The mounting anger and hatred, coursing through the bloodstream of the body politic, make violence and counter-violence inevitable. Brace yourself. The American empire is over. And the descent is going to be horrifying.
What Hedges sees coming is repression. The collapse of the country--the so-called "recovery" is a phantasm; it's not happening--will be blamed on all the enemies of the tea-baggers: "people of color, immigrants, gays, intellectuals, feminists, Jews, Muslims, union leaders and those defined as 'liberals'.” Random acts of violence will justify harsh measures of internal control, and that will be the end of constitutional liberties. Hey, is this scenario so hard to imagine? Do you seriously doubt that there are enough nut cases in this country to make this scenario likely? I don't, and I also know what history teaches us about how societies destroy themselves, how empires crumble.

There's a substantial portion of country that already hates that list of people above, and all that it will take to get them swarming out of their hives is just a little more poking with the unemployment, hopelessness sticks. And these will be killer bees, brothers and sisters.

It's interesting that another writer, Bill Quigley, a professor of law at Loyola New Orleans, is also urging revolution today, and citing 15 reasons why. Among them: foreclosures, unemployment, bonuses for fat cats, assaults on civil liberties, the 2 million people in jail, the expensive & wasteful wars, and on and on. Hedges makes the better case; he focuses on the disease, not just the symptoms.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

And Again . . .

In re my post of yesterday about the Obama administration's probable switch from trial of 9/11 terrorists in civil court to the Bush-instituted military commissions, I knew that Glenn Greenwald of Salon magazine would have something to say about this. And indeed he did. And, as usual, he was cogent, forceful, and correct. It's fair to observe, I think, that Greenwald, like many another one of us on the Left who actually believed in Barack Obama and the possibility of substantive change in Washington when he took office, has been appalled by how far Obama has strayed from principles he espoused during the campaign and how many times he has simply done precisely the opposite of what he said he would do.

Here's the general flavor of it:
If, in the face of "GOP demands" that Mohamed be denied a civilian trial, he again reverses himself -- this time on the highest-profile civil liberties decision of his administration -- he will unmistakably reveal himself, even to his most enamored admirers, as someone so utterly devoid not only of principle but also of resolve:  you just blow on him a little and he falls down and shatters into little pieces.
Greenwald, as organized as ever in this presentation (just like the lawyer he is), makes the following points about what the Administration is about to do with these trials:
  • It's going to be quite difficult, even for Obama's most rabid supporters, to deny his fundamental cowardice in this instance. He's been backing off ground he staked out from the beginning. To wit: the FISA vote on telecom immunity, court-sanctioned release of additional prisoner abuse photos, and more.
  •  Obama's supporters have for months defended his decision to try these guys in civil court. What are they going to say now? "that he's shredding the Constitution and trampling on the rule of law?  If they have any intellectual integrity at all, that's what they will have to say.   The reality is that this praise for Obama never made any sense -- how can one claim that civilian trials are compelled by "our values" and "the rule of law" and praise Obama for following those principles when he's simultaneously denying civilian trials to most detainees? -- but since that's the argument they made to defend him, they should follow that through to its logical conclusion if he reverses Holder's decision."
  • This move by Obama is politicizing the justice department every bit as much as Bush and Alberto Gonzalez ever did. Yet more hypocrisy we're expected to swallow.
  • "the political excuse being offered -- that this will help secure votes to fund the closing of Guantanamo -- makes absolutely no sense for several reasons (aside from the fact that it borders on corruption to override the DOJ's decisions about prosecutions based on political horse-trading).  As The Post article makes clear, the objections to trying these defendants in a civilian court comes "mainly from Republicans," who only have 41 seats in the Senate.  If Republicans want to de-fund the closing of Guantanamo, it will be the GOP -- not the Obama White House -- which will need 60 votes to overcome a filibuster in order to enact that ban . . . "
You think any of this wisdom is going to make any difference? I don't. This administration has a death wish.

    Friday, March 5, 2010

    Let's Have Another, Right in the Chops

    Have you all seen reports that the Administration is about to reverse field on whether that jewel of terrorist captives, Khalid Sheikh Mohammad--you know, the guy in the torn tea shirt wearing a bear skin, him--on whether this guy and all of his 9/11 plotter cohorts are going to be tried in the civilian justice system or if he's going to be handed over to a military tribunal. The White House is sending out strong signals that it's going to be the latter, and to hell with the constitutional niceties. So much for the much-vaunted "rule of law."

    What??? How many betrayals is this now? I've lost count of the receding Obama has done from the bright promise of change he trumpeted a hundred times a day during the campaign that convinced people like me--a grizzled and natural skeptic about the trust we can place in politicians. I've done enough hand-wringing about what a mistake it was to let myself be so deluded, but really, this guy makes me sick. What aspiration, what hope did the left entertain when Obama took office just a little over a year ago that he has not dashed? 

    And why this change of heart? Why this latest slap across the jowls of the people who made him president. Why, for all the usual reasons. He feels a compelling need to suck up to his critics again, the frigging Republicans and other conservatives. That's why.

    Never mind that these kinds of legal decisions are not made by the White House. It's a Justice Department decision, but none of that seems to matter anymore. Principles and what's the right thing to do don't seem to matter at all anymore. The only honorable course for Attorney General Eric Holder is to resign. He's going to be publicly dissed if this happens.

    Thursday, March 4, 2010

    Now Here's a Good Deal

    Hey, music lovers. Did you know you can listen on the Web to full length albums by just about anybody? I know of two places--Grooveshark and I'm sure there must be others. So you probably know about this. But if you're crazy about music like I am, this is a great deal. You can hear what you're getting (or refusing to get) before you sink your hard-earned coins into an album purchase from iTunes. I can remember a time--1950s-80s--when I pretty much knew all of the bands out there. That's an exaggeration, of course, but a shorthand way of saying I was conversant with the major players and a lot of the minor ones making music in those years.

    Forget about that today. Not only have I aged beyond the stage where music is a frequent topic of conversation, but I've also outgrown the clubbing scene. In other words, I'm beyond keeping track of all this stuff. It would be quite impossible to do so anyway. There are thousands and thousands of bands out there. Tons of great music. So how do you know what to listen to?

    I go by recommendations of family, my kids. Since I'm an anal person about lots of things like this, I first go check out what "experts" are saying. And I listen to their recommendations likewise. The first stop would be which has everything about anybody going all the way back to the Creation. Separate section for reggae even! Check out the "editor's choice" section for takes on new releases. But all the history is here, the discographies, and reviews. Okay, so now for more critics. That would be (which does movies and other stuff, too). What a treasure trove. "Best of" lists back to 2000. Best band of the decade? That would be Spoon, according to them. Appraisals of new and upcoming releases (color-coded), plus all time ratings. Best album reviews I've found are at Pitchfork. Long and meaty. You might also want to check out Music Box; it's a daily Web magazine devoted to popular music. And it's got "best of" lists too. Love those things! But be advised this site doesn't really cover cutting edge stuff, i.e., it's nowhere near as complete as the other two.

    Here's a band I just discovered, Super Furry Animals. Whaddaya think? (Besides the awesome video and the fact that Allmusic loves 'em.)

    Wednesday, March 3, 2010

    Get Out of Afghanistan

    Here's the text of a resolution Congressman Dennis Kucinich will introduce into the House of Representatives tomorrow:

    Directing the President, pursuant to section 5(c) of the War Powers
    Resolution, to remove the United States Armed Forces from Afghanistan.
      Resolved by the House of Representatives (the Senate concurring),
      Pursuant to section 5(c) of the War Powers Resolution (50 U.S.C.
    1544(c)), Congress directs the President to remove the United States
    Armed Forces from Afghanistan—
      (1) by no later than the end of the period of 30 days beginning on
    the day on which this concurrent resolution is adopted; or
      (2) if the President determines that it is not safe to remove the
    United States Armed Forces before the end of that period, by no later
    than December 31, 2010, or such earlier date as the President
    determines that the Armed Forces can safely be removed.

    This resolution will have to be debated in the House within the next week. Contact your rep and ask them to co-sponsor this resolution.

    Although the resolution will probably fail--and even if it passed, it would still have to get past the Senate and the president--it will have the virtue of putting representatives on the record about their opposition to the war. And it will be especially difficult for progressives to vote to fund the accursed thing (to the tune of $33 billion) next month if they support this resolution, which of course they must. We're borrowing every last penny of this money to prosecute this conflict which has no discernible end state, no withdrawal plan, and, dare I say it, not a snowball's chance in hell of being "won." Hell, the leadership cannot even define what winning the war would be. It's beyond scandalous that we're committing such sums to war when we've got so much suffering happening right here at home. It's downright criminal.

    This miserable war in Afghanistan has now claimed over 1,000 American lives and God knows only how many Afghani lives, and it is now the second longest war in U.S. history. It must end.


    Tuesday, March 2, 2010

    It Bears Repeating

    While we're at it, let me remind you of a couple of enduring truths about American society.

    Where Your Income Tax Money Really Goes FY 2009
    Total Outlays (Federal Funds): $2,650 billion
    MILITARY: 54% and $1,449 billion
    NON-MILITARY: 46% and $1,210 billion

    First: we are bleeding our lives away to keep the Pentagon happy. It's helpful, I think, in this time of austerity and suffering by millions of people in this country, to see how much of our substance we're giving over to the department of war and its slavering maw that just engorges billions of our tax dollars every single day. God only knows how much money we've given the Pentagon since the end of WWII--certainly in the trillions of dollars. And what has the obscene amount of money bought for us? They call it "national security." Excellent! Now . . . just how secure do you feel? (You can see exactly how this percentages were arrived at here.)

    Second: Guess who's paying for everything, brothers and sisters? You think it's the people who have all the money? Why, hell, no! It's the people like I and thou. Note well that those with the most money pay comparatively less than everybody else. You can read all about this right here. Here's some of the relevant text:

    The effective federal income tax rate for the 400 taxpayers with the very highest incomes has declined by nearly half over the past two decades, even as their pre-tax incomes have grown five times larger, new IRS data show.[1]

    The top 400 households paid 16.6 percent of their income in federal individual income taxes in 2007, down from 30 percent in 1995. This decline works out to a tax cut of $46 million per filer in 2007, or a total of $18 billion in tax cuts for these households per year.

    To make it into the top 400, a household needed an adjusted gross income of at least $35 million in 1992 (in 2007 dollars) and $139 million in 2007.

    Now, don't that just give you a nice warm fuzzy? It just tickles me plumb to death.

    Monday, March 1, 2010

    Deadly Disparity

    Maybe because it's Monday, I don't know, but I'm really not bubbly today. I think, though, the real reason is this piece that was referenced in a Buzz entry earlier today. What really brings me down is realizing to my chagrin that I pretty much agreed with the overall contention in this article, just as did the original Buzz poster. Neither of us liked how it made us feel, but there's nothing really to be done about it. In a nutshell, it's this: the dreadful problems confronting humankind, and especially the portion of it that lives here in the U.S., are virtually insoluble. Here's the key idea:

    . . . it’s more honest, and potentially effective, to acknowledge how massive the obstacles that need to be overcome really are. We must not only recognize that the world’s resources distributed in a profoundly unjust way and the systems in which we live are fundamentally unsustainable ecologically, but also understand there’s no guarantee that this state of affairs can be reversed or even substantially slowed down. There are, in fact, lots of reasons to suspect that many of our fundamental problems have no solutions, at least no solutions in any framework we currently understand.
    What it all boils down to, I think, is just a crushing, unsustainable burden of disparities. Salvation for us all lies in the wisdom of the ancients: moderation in all things. Emphasis on the ALL. Because what the course of our history as a species has revealed is that unless there's moderation in everything, there will not be moderation in anything. But there is no cure for the greed and blindness of humans. We have so aggressively ignored this wisdom that we have, I greatly fear, passed the point of no return.

    Disparity, not moderation, in all things; that's what we have. Start with the obvious. Too many mouths to feed. Disparity between population and ability of planet to sustain it. We live on a planet that groans under the ravages of too many people. Way too many. All these people must eat, and that elemental fact is helping destroy us. Let's face it: we're raping Mother Earth every day. Clear cutting rain forests for timber and crop land, dumping our shit--literal and figurative--into the oceans and rivers and streams till they choke. How many species of fish have now arrived at the point where their very survival, much less their ability to help sustain human life, is in question? Our industry, so bloated, rapacious, and destructive, extends to every corner of the globe, spews waste into the air that affects the weather of the entire globe and all its ecosystems. There's fundamental disparity between rich nations and poor, and little inclination by the former to understand how their fates are inextricably bound. Disparity of power keeps the military of the strongest constantly beating up on the weak. Thus it has ever been, but now in the state of his evolution, man has come to the point where it's possible for him to destroy not only himself but the world he lives in. Where war has become a permanent condition . . . the Beast must be fed.

    We seem well on our way to assuring the demise of civilization as we know it. The signs of coming catastrophe are everywhere: a small number of sinfully rich, vast numbers of poor and hopeless; waste on colossal scale: of resources; of raw materials, of potential for billions; of lives, so many lives. The rule of violence. The rule of ignorance. The rule of death.

    You have no idea how profoundly sad this makes me. I think of my children, my grandchildren, all the wonderful young people in my family, all the young ones I know. None of them deserve what we're leaving them with.