Sunday, October 31, 2010

Check This Out

Entertaining . . . educational. And it makes all kinds of sense too. I liked the first part of it, where our system of educational system is tied to the Enlightenment and the Industrial Revolution. Never thought of it that way at all.

Friday, October 29, 2010

"This is going to be terrible."

Although I may not be exercised over the mid-term elections (see what I had to say yesterday), others are not so resigned (And yes, I've gotten to the point that I'm so fed up with the brainless electorate and the venal, lying pols that I just cannot get worked up about it anymore. If this is the measure of my discontent and despair, so be it.) Paul Krugman of the New York Times writes that the impending GOP takeover of the House will be catastrophic for the country. "This is going to be terrible," he writes. "In fact, future historians will probably look back at the 2010 election as a catastrophe for America, one that condemned the nation to years of political chaos and economic weakness.

I cannot say that I disagree with him at all. The economic woes besetting the country now will be as nothing compared to the chaos that is going to ensue when this whole sucker goes down, as our esteemed former president so eloquently put it.
Krugman again:
The economy, weighed down by the debt that households ran up during the Bush-era bubble, is in dire straits; deflation, not inflation, is the clear and present danger. And it’s not at all clear that the Fed has the tools to head off this danger. Right now we very much need active policies on the part of the federal government to get us out of our economic trap.
But we won’t get those policies if Republicans control the House. In fact, if they get their way, we’ll get the worst of both worlds: They’ll refuse to do anything to boost the economy now, claiming to be worried about the deficit, while simultaneously increasing long-run deficits with irresponsible tax cuts — cuts they have already announced won’t have to be offset with spending cuts.
So if the elections go as expected next week, here’s my advice: Be afraid. Be very afraid.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Have You Noticed . . .

. . . that I haven't said diddly about the mid-term elections? Know why? Because I really don't care. The Democrats are going to get their asses handed to them by the Republicans, you remember, the party of the miserable little fraud who occupied the White House for two terms and who spawned all of the problems that are besetting the country: the recession that's sucked away 8 million jobs, the two failed wars in the Middle East, the financial meltdown of 2008, and on and on. Only the Republicans have now managed to blame Barack Obama with all these problems. And the only way these people could do that is by getting the electorate to believe them.That is, forget what happened to the country while Bush was in office. I say anybody who's going to do that is also going to believe that the Republican party is best to guard all their civil liberties, take care of Medicare and social security and restore the economy--are you kidding me? It sounds laughable, brothers and sisters, but this is what the polls are showing. Is a citizenry this ignorant and deluded worth worrying about?
The only reason I'm going to vote at all in these elections is to vote no against every single one of the mindless constitutional amendments being proposed for Oklahoma.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Calling All List Lovers

The first volume of The Book of Lists.                                           Image via WikipediaWho doesn't like lists? I remember some guy named David Walchinsky* or something like (When I looked on Amazon, I discovered that I was not that far off: David Wallechinsky.) who put out a big thick paperbound book--it had to be back in the 1960s or early '70s--called The Book of Lists (He was also involved with something called The Peoples Almanac which came out at around the same time and then was followed by an Almanac II & III). It was just what it said: pages and pages of lists of all kinds of things. I spent hours with this book, and with the Almanacs too, for that matter. I love lists. Doesn't everybody?

Anyway, while I was on the Amazon site, I run across the name of this website: which if you're a lover of lists or trivia is the place for you to go. Hundreds of lists and more going up all the time in 15 categories, such as history, art & literature, science, entertainment, bizarre, and controversial. Every list is ten items--top 10 lists, right? On the home page today such lists as:
You get the idea. This place is just fun, and--fair warning--it will suck time from you like a giant leech.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Headline Surfing

Here are headlines from today's USA Today newspaper. You don't have to go far to find something interesting/irritating/amusing/boring. Headlines in bold w/commentary.
  • Poll: GOP voters far more fired up--Says that the "enthusiasm gap" seen as bad for Democrats. Oh, really? The Democrats are going to lose badly to the right-wing crazies in a few days. Why? Because Obama has proven himself just another tool of the corporate state. He has betrayed too many Democrats by being just like the Republicans on war and torture, and because he has wasted two years trying to work with people who hate him, and because he's compromised himself out of an energy bill, and because generally he comes across as just another politician full of air and empty promises. I mean, really, what difference does it make in your life who is president? Oh, if I have to have one or the other, I'll take a Democrat, but when it's all said and done, nothing changes. The Democrats just aren't as blatant about screwing the rest of us. They pretend they're not doing it. Republicans don't bother.
  • Teens say bullying is widespread--The numbers are horrifying. A large study on the subject finds that 50% of students "bullied, teased or taunted someone at least once." 47% had been "bullied, teased, or taunted in a way that seriously upset me at least once." Also 52% have hit someone in anger; 28% (37% boys, 19% girls) say it's OK to hit or threaten somebody who angers them. I got bullied in high school. I still haven't forgotten it.
  • Health care law's Medicate trims altering seniors' views--In short, a lot of seniors are pissed because the bill cuts $533 billion from Medicare over the next ten years. So now we have the ludicrous spectacle of the Republicans higher than the Democrats on the poll question of which party would do a better job dealing with Medicare. 
  • At least 10 dead in attack on Tijuana rehab center--horrific drug-related killings in Mexico, why, that's pretty unusual, isn't it?
  • Lingering issues in France (picture caption)--Marseille has 9,000 tons of garbage piled up on the streets because of strikes by municipal workers. Continuing strikes by the workers over the raising of the retirement age from 60 to 62 (we should have such problems here) are costing the country $557 million a day.
And this was only four pages in.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Guest Appearance

Remember this guy? Well, I'm done with the article on him, but now I'm up to my eyeballs in reading ten other articles on various Confederate generals that are going in the same book. I have to have them all done within the next few days.  (Did I mention I'm co-editing this upcoming book?) Which explains why I have not yet resumed my every-day-without-fail blog entry. When I miss posting, I feel like it's a guest appearance the next time I show up.

I think I've mentioned before that when I miss a day, it's not without a tinge of guilt. Don't ask me why this should be. I used to carry guilt around like a huge sack of rocks on my back. It took me years to realize what a corrosive emotion it can be. I'm glad I'm done with it for the most part. A little guilt every once in a while is not a bad thing; a lot of guilt all the time is a really bad thing.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Now This is Strange . . .

For the first time since starting the blog over two-and-a-half years ago now, I had to leave it for over two weeks without making a single entry. (It was traumatic, let me assure you. Like leaving the baby unattended for a couple of hours.) And then, I come back and I notice that overnight (almost literally) I have gained four or five new "followers". This, after going along for months and months with just a handful, and after the longest period I've ever let the blog languish in silence. I don't know about you, but I consider ten more than a handful. How many actually is handful? Who knows? (An old friend of mine with whom I used to consume vast quantities of beer used to debate exactly how big was a shit-load. We never came to a definitive resolution of that conundrum either, other than to conclude it was pretty many.)

But I digress . . . I've always wondered what it was about these daily ramblings that anyone finds interesting, especially people who aren't related to me in some way or another. These I number among followers too, but they are there maybe from interest but also from some vague sense of loyalty I would imagine. (I assume "interesting" is the proper adjective, although there are many adjectives that could describe why someone could be following a blog besides "interesting." Habit-forming, perhaps, or intoxicating or magnetic or gripping or . . .  well, you get the point.)

So I come back to Oklahoma from the European travels and lo, about five more people are following "Powderfinger." I don't know why, but it pleases me considerably to learn that anybody, even relatives, finds what I have to say interesting (there's that word again) enough to check in here regularly or even sporadically on a regular basis. But upon reflection I remember something that I've always said: nobody is boring. Not a single person. Everybody and everybody's life is a completely unique story and is inherently interesting. Hearing stories about who people are and their lives is never boring unless the story-teller is not too skilled in the telling. But that doesn't make the life any less inherently interesting. By my own theory, even my

So the point of all this is just to say hi to all those who've recently hooked up with "Powderfinger" for whatever reason. I'm glad you dropped by.

Friday, October 22, 2010

There's Only One Story Today

About 3-4 seconds after the final out in Texas 6-1 win over NY Yankees
that sends the team to the World Series for first time ever.
This is the whole story here: a picture of how all Ranger fans feel.
 My Texas Rangers are going to the World Series!!
It was not even close tonight. Yankee manager Joe Girardi said it best after the game: "They out-hit us, they out-pitched us, and they out-played us." Precisely. You do that and you're going to win baseball games. I have been waiting with my two sons for this day since the early 1980s. It is really impossible to say what this feels like. I've been following the Rangers since the early 1980s, and from that time to this have endured some really crappy baseball teams. Somehow all that is background. Everything that's happened before now seems like it was pointed just to this moment, when all the heartache, disgust, and bone-weariness with losing, with errors, with sloppy base-running, and more than anything else, awful pitching. All that. It's all gone. This team is so together, there's such unmatchable chemistry that--you heard it here first--the Rangers will win the World Series (against either the Philadelphia Phillies or the San Francisco Giants, it's not decided yet) in fewer than seven games. This is a team of destiny.

Here's the box score and play-by-play.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Purged? Not Likely

I've been back from the Europe trip a whole week today. And for the moment, something strange has happened. Right now I don't give a tinkers damn about what's going on in politics. Now why would that be? Can Ireland and Spain purged me of this virus? Or is it that I've not been back long enough yet to get sucked into all that stuff, or more likely, that I've got so much work on my plate* I have not been able to devote the reading time necessary to get sufficiently outraged by the endemic stupidity and venality of what passes for leadership in this country. And I don't mean just political leadership. Not to mention those qualities in many of those who follow leaders (against some of the best advice Bob Dylan ever gave).

So for the moment, at least, I'm going to pass as a fairly normal human, not obsessing on the hundreds of ways the ordinary have-not-or-have-little people of the world get screwed by the already-have-more-than-enough dirt bags. I'm sure this will be just a temporary condition. Incentive to get all wrapped up in all this kind of stuff  is just another Chris Hedges, Matt Taibbi, or Huffington Post column away.

*I've finished my Jubal Early piece, but now I've got to edit the other eight articles that are going into this book about generals in Robert E. Lee's army.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010


I don't know why I love this song so much. I first heard it in the original version by Radiohead about two years ago. It is from the group's very first album, Pablo Honey, which came out in the early 1990s, long before the band became probably the most accomplished art-rock band in the world.

The song drips with angst . . . but it's beautiful, and it's been covered high and low by the known and unknown. If time doesn't allow you the reward of listening to all of these versions, don't miss at least one of the choral versions of the song at the bottom. The first version below is a Radiohead live version. The Pretenders version supplies the lyrics.




The Pretenders


Damien Rice

The Cure

Scala and Kolacny Brothers

Vega Choir

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

How Did I Do Without . . .

. . . James Kuntsler's cheery Monday tidings while I was gone? I had to catch up on a couple of weeks worth of his blog entries upon return from Europe. (Check here and here.) Would it be redundant to mention that he's not particularly cheered by the the state of things in the country? What's bothered him the past couple of Mondays is the discovery of all irregularities in the mortgage contracts that have been turning up now for the past few weeks. In plain English, during the bacchanalia of greed and everybody getting rich and housing prices going through the roof and mortgage backed securities not worth diddly in the trillions . . . well, guess what? The banks were not too particular about who got the mortgages, and they seemed to care even less about correct documentation of these loans. It's turning out that the records are rife with error. And that's what Mr. Kuntsler is concerned with. I can never resist quoting this guy. Here he is leading into a piece that asks basically where the hell was everybody who was supposed to be monitoring these things: Fannie & Freddie, the hotshots at the investment firms, and numberless federal agencies whose job it is to watch over these things. Here's a flavor of it. I can never resist quoting this guy. He's eminently quotable almost all the time:
The banking authorities were shocked - shocked - to discover last week that an awful lot of mortgage paper in this country is not quite in order... appears to contain, er, irregularities... seems less than kosher... frankly, exudes an odor like unto dead carp or, shall we say, a heap of dead carp the size of the building at 3900 Wisconsin Avenue, N.W., Washington, D.C. Any day now we will hear that... mistakes... were... made.  
Is it indelicate to say that the USA as an enterprise has its head so deeply and firmly up its ass that the all the proctologists alive on planet Earth could not extract the collective cranium from the collective cloacal chamber even with the aid of a Bucyrus-Erie 1060-WX bucket-wheel excavator?
And so it goes in the land of the free. 

Monday, October 18, 2010

Post #700 -- GO RANGERS!!

I cannot believe that I've actually posted 700 times to this blog. It doesn't feel like that. What is does feel lis is as if I've been gone a year without posting to Powderfinger, whereas it's only been about two-and-a-half weeks. At this point all I can report is what's on my mind . . . and that's my Rangers and the fact they are a game up in the ALCS (American League Championship Series) after crushing the hated Yankees tonight 8-0. They now lead the best of seven series, 2 games to 1, and that one they should not have lost. My boys must get two more wins before they earn the right to go to their first World Series ever. But I do firmly believe that this is the year and the Rangers are a team of destiny. I am so excited, I almost can't stand it. Which makes me wonder once again what it is about a sports team that so captures the affections and grabs the emotions of people. When it comes to the Rangers, I have to confess, I'm a little bit loco.

Check this out. The game is still going on. The Rangers will score another run to make it 8-0. But Yankee Stadium is well-nigh EMPTY! All those lovable Yankee fans have left. How sweet it is.