Monday, November 29, 2010


In a mediation on the meaning of hope in this near hopeless situation we find ourselves in, Chris Hedges in this piece doesn't sugarcoat anything. He cites a long litany of things that hope is not. It's not trusting Obama, having a positive attitude or false optimism, chanting campaign slogans, trusting the Democratic party. Moreover there is a longer litany of things hope won't do, such as "awaken the dead consciences, the atrophied souls, of the plutocrats running Halliburton, Goldman Sachs, ExxonMobil or the government." Or stop the war in Afghanistan or stop the pillaging of the economy. It won't wake up the country's religious leaders to practice what they preach.

Hope demands that people do something. It means action. It believes that unless "we physically defy government we are complicit in the violence of the state."

Obviously, if you do this, you're going to pay a cost. It's not comfortable, it's not easy.
Hope requires personal risk. Hope does not come with the right attitude. Hope is not about peace of mind. Hope is an action. Hope is doing something. The more futile, the more useless, the more irrelevant and incomprehensible an act of rebellion is, the vaster and the more potent hope becomes. Hope never makes sense. Hope is weak, unorganized and absurd. Hope, which is always nonviolent, exposes in its powerlessness the lies, fraud and coercion employed by the state. Hope does not believe in force. Hope knows that an injustice visited on our neighbor is an injustice visited on us all. Hope posits that people are drawn to the good by the good. This is the secret of hope’s power and it is why it can never finally be defeated. . . .
Hope is not for the practical and the sophisticated, the cynics and the complacent, the defeated and the fearful. Hope is what the corporate state, which saturates our airwaves with lies, seeks to obliterate. Hope is what our corporate overlords are determined to crush. Be afraid, they tell us. Surrender your liberties to us so we can make the world safe from terror. Don’t resist. Embrace the alienation of our cheerful conformity. Buy our products. Without them you are worthless. Become our brands. Do not look up from your electronic hallucinations to think. No. Above all do not think. Obey.
What Hedges is telling us is that any act of rebellion or physical defiance of the the warmongers and corporate and state criminals can draw "the good tot he good," as he puts it. Plus it nourishes our souls and offers the same sweet solace to others.

I can never read these things without feeling terribly guilty. My little forlorn gesture of standing out on a public corner with a peace sign once a week for an hour seems so insignificant and useless. I should be doing more. We're all being swallowed up in violence and greed, and we shouldn't go down without a fight. If not us, who? If not now, when?

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Not to Beat a Dead Horse . . .

. . . but there are a whole slew of questions arising from the use of TSA's pornoscanners at airports. And let's just leave out the part of the slew that has to do with civil liberties, invasion of privacy, etc. Let's just concentrate on questions concerning the safety of these machines. Serious scientific questions are being raised about the effects of the radiation produced by these scanners on the human beings. A young scientist at the University of California Davis has put out a layman's friendly explanation of the concerns being raised by him and his colleagues. The bottom line for these investigators is that the machines are not safe for use.

Here are the questions these scientists are asking about the scanners:
  • What happens if the machine fails, or gets stuck, during a raster? 
  • How much radiation would a person's eye, hand, testicle, stomach, etc be exposed to during such a failure? 
  • What is the failure rate of these machines? 
  • What is the failure rate in an operational environment? 
  • Who services the machine? 
  • What is the decay rate of the filter? 
  • What is the decay rate of the shielding material? 
  • What is the variability in the power of the X-ray source during the manufacturing process?
Needless to say, answers to the questions have not been satisfactorily answered by TSA. Responses appear to be quickly cobbled together reports by "mid-level lab technicians" with no scientific publications or academic or medical pedigrees. Safety concerns are even more serious for women, children, and infants subjected to radiation doses far exceeding advisable limits. 

So . . . what do you think the odds are that these scientists are going to be heeded?

Friday, November 26, 2010

Sound and Light Show

Now I would not do this to my house for Christmas. In fact I've never been a serious Christmas-lights-outside type person. But this is some serious decoration and whether you like the music or not--I don't--you gotta admit this is pretty cool. The band is Slayer, and the tune is "Raining Blood."

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving!

Since it's Thanksgiving, this could very well be imagined as a flock of turkeys making
for the skies in fear of their lives. But it's not. It is indeed a flock of pigeons
This photo was taken in New York City.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

The Rich Are Getting Much Richer . . . But It's a Secret

It's not really a secret. But you would think it was. The facts of the matter are perfectly plain and easy to discover. But as I've noted before, the facts don't matter. For all kinds of reasons, the huge, huge majority of the American people, let's say about 95 percent of the populace who are not rich and never will be, refuse to believe that they are being snookered and hornswoggled into believing that anybody in this country can be rich. Well, brothers and sisters, that's mythical. It's simply not so. The one or two examples of modern day Horatio Algers don't prove anything, except maybe how utterly gullible the American people are when it comes to embracing national myths.

And what's happened over the past few decades is that that same vast majority exists solely for the purpose of making the very richest people in this country even more rich. Want some facts? Well, there is a ton of them, all documented, in this article. I'm going to share just a few of them with you:
  • The US now has the highest number of poor people in 51 years. Official poverty rate is 14.3 percent (46.3 million people). That's one in five children, one in ten senior citizens.
  • Fifty million people in the US don't have health insurance.
  • About 3.5 million people and over a million of them children are homeless at some point.
  • 49 million people in this country live in households which eat only because they receive food stamps, goto food pantries or soup kitchens for help. Sixteen million are so poor they have skipped meals at some point last year.
  • One or two generations ago, middle class families could live on one income. No more. Adjusted for inflation they have lost ground. Cost of housing, education, healthcare have all increased at a much higher rate than wages and salaries.
  • 2.8 million homes were foreclosed in 2009; it will be over 3 million for 2010.
  • Eleven million homeowners (about one in four houses) are "under water" on their mortgage.
  • The wealth of the richest 400 people in the US grew by 8 percent in the last year- last year, at the height of the recession everybody else is experiencing--to $1.37 trillion.
  • Of the top ten hedge fund managers in 2009, the tenth one on the list made $825 million. The top guy made $4 billion.
  • From 1979-2006 the richest one percent better than doubled their share of the total US income pie: from 10 percent to 23 percent. The average income for these people is $1.3 million. For the last 25 years, over 90 percent of the total growth in income in the US went to the top 10 percent. That left 10 percent of the increase in income to be shared by the bottom 90 percent.
  • Since 1992, the average tax rate on the richest 400 taxpayers in the US dropped from 26.8 percent to 16.62 percent.
  • The US has the greatest income inequality between rich and poor among all the Western industrialized countries and it's been getting worse for 40 years. 
And we have just installed a whole bunch of politicians in Congress who want to make the rich people even richer yet. It's unbelievable. 

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Buy, Buy, Buy Me

These old ads are always both entertaining and revealing. Check out the clothes, the pastoral bliss outside the window, the centrality and near worship of the PRODUCT. And as the original poster on Boing Boing says, the "demented" facial expressions. Great stuff!

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Bedrock Justice

Here's Richard Rohr's entire reflection for today. If anybody ever needs a prime example of why true Christianity is really, really hard, just pay attention to what he's saying here. I know that I'm guilty of thoughtless consumption--everybody is. I'm amazed every time we have had to move and I get to see and pack all the "stuff" we own and have acquired over the years. Who gives a thought to what the global implications of capitalism are . . . except in those quiet reflective moments when it occurs to you that the entire capitalistic system is totally illogical. And of course, as Rohr points out. It's really a matter of bedrock justice we're talking about here. By its very nature, the capitalistic system is an unjust system. Nobody wants to hear this. Nobody.
Economic Justice
It is only in the last couple of centuries that we saw the possibility of actually increasing our goods and resources, and this is called capitalism. Its many good aspects have helped countless people to have the necessities of life and even comforts. It has also allowed a small number of people to have excess and luxury that surpasses anything available to even kings and queens in previous empires.
Our present capitalistic world view is based on an assumption and goal of constant and never ending growth (GNP), which is, of course, logically impossible on a limited planet of limited resources. Those of us born into this capitalistic period have taken it as the only pattern.
Limits should be just common sense but, then again, we tend to be blind when it comes to our own self interest. Logically and sustainably, we cannot just keep expanding, growing, and consuming. We must return to lives of humility, simplicity, and limits (“justice for all”) which is what the Gospel said all along.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Black Life is Still Cheap, Chapter II

The murder captured in this video happened last year when a Transit cop in Oakland shot and killed an unarmed man on a BART train platform. You will note that the victim, Oscar Grant III, is already face down on the platform with a cop's knee on his neck. So another cop pulls his weapon and shoots the guy in the back. The cop was white, and guess what color the victim was. Can there be any more blatant proof of why any black person in their right mind should fear the police?

Surely this kind of gross misbehavior on the part of a law enforcement should be punished, right? What kind of sentence do you think would be just? Well, the wheels of justice have turned and the killer cop, one Johannes Mehserle, has been sentenced . . . to two years. For involuntary manslaughter. A considerably harsher penalty could have been imposed had the "gun enhancement" provisions of California law been applied. But the jury found that enough evidence to support Mehserle's claim that he thought the gun he used to kill Grant was a taser. Well, excuse me if I find this hardly creditable and, if not so tragic, laughable.

This is the kind of thing that makes black people both fearful and angry. Angry enough to riot in the streets. Which is what they did in Oakland after the verdict. I deplore violence of any kind, but sometimes, just sometimes, smashing some windows seems like the only appropriate response to the endemic injustice meted out to the black people of this country.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Sixteen Really Dumb Things People Believe

They come all shapes and sizes. 
And we're talking a lot of people. Millions of people. And there are probably more than sixteen of these "truths" floating around out there, but these sixteen were conveniently aggregated in this Alternet piece. It's been one of my constant themes that Thomas Jefferson was completely correct when he premised the success of democracy on an educated electorate. Of course in his day, he was thinking of the mostly rich, well-born, and able who had the franchise, but that doesn't negate his point. Ignorant people can be led about  by their noses by the unscrupulous. They've got no tools to deal with lies, with misrepresentation of the facts, with contrived schemes to manipulate them. It's done all the time. And in our time it's being done on a colossal scale by the right, especially the talk-radio goons like Limbaugh and the Fox News stooges such as Beck, Hannity, and O'Reilly, hell, the whole Fox News collection of bimbos and brain-dead commentators. It is a constant source of amazement to me how people are just effortlessly gulled into believing the veriest nonsense.

I know you can't wait to know what these dumb things are. I feel pretty sure in saying none of them will surprise, but then again, one or two might. Without further ado, here we go. (links to all the following reports are in the source article)
  1. Twenty percent of Americans believe Obama is a Muslim. 
  2. Twenty-five percent deny Darwin's theory of evolution, and even more striking, less than 40 percent (39) actually believe it. The rest don't have an opinion.
  3. Forty percent of people believe one of Sarah Palin's favorite lies, that "death panels" were included in the health care reform bill.
  4. Just a few years ago, about half of all Americans believed Saddam Hussein was connected with the attacks on the World Trade Center. Not sure how many have made that nonsense part of their unchanging truth.
  5. A majority of under-30 Americans cannot identify Iraq and Afghanistan on a map.
  6. Forty percent of Americans think teachers should be able to lead prayers in school. Despite the fact that church/state separation is one of the chief foundations of the American system of government.
  7. Many Americans believe in witchcraft, ESP, and other para-normal phenomena.
  8. A decade ago, 20 percent of Americans believed the sun revolves around the Earth. (One in five!! It doesn't get much dumber than this. I don't think even Glen Beck believes this.)
  9. Only about half of Americans know that Judaism is the oldest of the monotheistic religions. There are other crazy ideas about religion and church/state separation. See last fall's Pew survey on Americans' religious knowledge.
  10. People believe Obama has raised their taxes. Nope. He's actually lowered them for the vast majority of us.
  11. More Americans could name two of the seven dwarfs than could name two justices of the Supreme Court.
  12. Along the same lines, more Americans can ID the Three Stooges than can name the three branches of government!
  13. Polling data reveals that many Americans actually believe that Obama is a Muslim.
  14. Fully half of the new congressmen don't believe in the reality of global warming. This phenomenon, which hardly lacks scientific data to support it, is in fact a bugaboo for the right, which sees it as a plot by the left and government to increase the size of government and interfere with the benign marketplace.
  15. The efficacy of abstinence-only curriculum in schools to curb teen pregnancy, which has been a disaster.
  16. Obama's trip to the Far East cost $200 million a day, one of the latest flat-out lies that people on the right believe.
I tell you, all of this just makes me depressed, knowing that I cannot do anything about it. The combined efforts of schools, media, and (presumably) those who actually know the facts, have had no impression whatever on this gross ignorance. We're already in a situation in which Jefferson did not believe democracy could survive. We've been in it for quite a while. Now, if you want to call what we live in a democracy, that's OK with me. But put me down as a person who doesn't believe it.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Don't Eat 'Em

Any shrimp, oysters, crab, and fish coming out of the Gulf, I mean. The Fed has fallen over backwards to assure us all that seafood coming out the Gulf of Mexico is perfectly OK to eat. Don't believe it. And we're talking here about not just the shrimp. Crab and fish too. Apparently the testing the federal government uses, well those methodologies are, according to reports, "woefully inadequate and permit high levels of toxic compounds to slip into the human food chain." Separate tests conducted by a toxicologist and chemist confirmed "unusually high volumes of crude oil and harmful hydrocarbons" present, and it was in food that was reportedly being sent to market.

Oil and grease were found in the digestive tracts of shrimp as well as in edible portions. Scientists say that the oil is in undersea plumes and in sea floor sediments, and the likelihood it will degrade quickly is virtually nil. One of the scientists who conducted tests said: "We've collected shrimp, oysters, and finned fish on their way to the marketplace--we tested a good number of seafood samples and in 100 percent we found petroleum." Dr. William Sawyer of Toxicology Consultants Assessment Specialists of Sanibel, Florida, said that the test conducted by the government are "little more than a farce." Another added that the FDA's safety threshold was "borderline absurd." It was geared to getting shrimpers back to work, but . . . what about long-term effects on human health? What about it indeed. Crude oil has elements that can cause cancer and which are toxic to the brain and nervous system.

Does any of this surprise you?

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

103 Candles

It's Oklahoma's birthday. This appeared in the Writer's Almanac today:
It was on this day in 1907 that Oklahoma joined the Union, becoming the 46th state. It's one of the top natural gas-producing states in the U.S. There are 25 Native American languages that are spoken in Oklahoma, which is more than any other state in America. It's one of most tornado-prone areas of the world, averaging more than 50 tornadoes a year. And it's the setting for the opening of John Steinbeck's The Grapes of Wrath.
What they don't mention is that the state is the reddest in the Union, with many, many more red necks than Native Americans.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Without Major Outcry

Here's Richard Rohr once again, the voice of what should be the Christian conscience. He consistently speaks to my heart.
The very fact that Glenn Beck, a national commentator, could get away with criticizing and even mocking the phrase “social justice” without major outcry, shows how comfortable and numbed much of our country and church have become.  He dared to infer that it was a non-Christian concept and even sank to calling it socialism or communism.  To my knowledge and disappointment, no bishop or church conference has publicly corrected him on this.
Can we not see that the other justice issues we are supposedly concerned about (such as abortion) are one “seamless garment,” to use Cardinal Bernardin’s brilliant metaphor?  If social justice is not the foundation of God’s kingdom then it is hardly God’s kingdom at all, but merely tribalism.
 How many so-called Christians would sign up to that last statement do you think?

Monday, November 15, 2010

A Black Life is Still Pretty Cheap

English statesman William Gladstone said "Justice delayed is justice denied." And I think this is probably true in the great majority of cases. But for 77-year-old James Flowler, it's justice that he is finally getting punished.

A former Alabama state trooper, he fatally shot Jimmie Lee Jackson, a black man, more than 45 years ago in Selma, Alabama. (At the time, killing a black person in the South was probably not much more serious than killing a dog. Whites brought to trial for these kinds of crimes were invariably found innocent. And many times charges were not filed at all.) According to witnesses, Jackson was trying to protect his mother and grandfather, both of whom had been previously clubbed by the police in Marion, Alabama, and Fowler shot him in the stomach. He died eight days later. Fowler claimed that Jackson was going for his gun. It was self defense, he said. (Of course.) The killing gave rise subsequently to Bloody Sunday, when a large contingent of state police with clubs, gas, and horses prevented a march by protesters, led by Dr. Martin Luther King. A number of protesters were injured, and film of the police whaling into the crowd was shown nationwide. This outrage was probably the turning point of the civil rights struggle.

At the time there were no charges filed. Hardly a surprise. The case wasn't resurrected until 2007 . . . by a black D.A.

So what did this murderer get? He plead to second-degree manslaughter and received a six-month sentence in his hometown jail house. Oh, and he said he was sorry.


Kirk Gibson
Seconds after the Famous Home Run
I don't know. Decadence to some people is not the same as it is to others. As you all know, I love baseball, so this item, which I first read in USA Today, caught my eye. Those of you who don't know baseball will not know who Kirk Gibson is. Briefly, he hit one of the most famous home runs of all time. Crippled up with hamstring problems in one leg and a bad knee on the other, he was sent in as a pinch hitter for the LA Dodgers against the Oakland A's in the bottom of the ninth inning in the first game World Series game of 1988. He faced one of the most fearsome closers in the game, Dennis Eckersley. The "Eck" as he was called was later inducted into the Hall of Fame. Well, long story short, Gibson hit a walk-off home run into the right field stands with a runner on to win the game for LA. You can watch it here. It really is quite dramatic, and worth seeing if you never have seen it.

That's background. Here's the point. A couple of brothers, Chad and Doug Dreier, just paid at auction--are you ready for this?--$575,912 for the bat* Gibson hit the homer with. As if that were not enough, they bought his jersey, too. That was a mere $303,277, his batting helmet ($153,388), plus the National League MVP award and World Series trophy for another $155,871. All that totals up to a tidy $1.2 million.

Now what's your definition of decadence? This fits mine. For you see, some people inhabit a perpetual playground no matter what's happening in the rest of the world and the other people in it. I don't know, this kind of conspicuous consumption somehow just doesn't seem right to me. Can't exactly say why, because ofttimes the general public ends up benefiting from the acquisitions of private collectors. Still . . . You're free to disagree.

*only the second highest amount ever paid for a bat. The one that Babe Ruth used to hit the first home run ever in Yankee Stadium went for $1.265 million in 2004.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

You Can Set Your Clock by It

On the first day the Atlantic Magazine comes. On the following day comes the Harper's Magazine, thereby laying out my reading for the next couple or three days, and of course the Harper's Index, tidbits of which I've gotten in the habit of sharing with you. Tell me which one comes as the biggest shock to you. It will probably be a hard choice.
  •  Percentage change in reading scores for the public-school fourth-graders since No Child Left Behind became law: +1
  • Number of delayed-notice search warrants granted by federal judges last year under the Patriot Act: 1,150
  • Number that were related to drug offenses and terrorism, respectively: 844, 6
  • Date a congressional report called the number of government entities to be created by the health-care reform "unknowable": 7/8/10
  • Value of economic-recovery bonds the State of Louisiana has sold since Hurricane Katrina: $5,900,000,000
  • Percentage of the revenue that has been spent on projects in New Orleans: 1
  • Percentage spent on the Lower Ninth Ward: 0
  • Portion of all pencils, pens, and crayons sold last year that were manufactured in China: 1/3
  • Rank of carbonated beverages among the best-selling grocery items in the United States this year: 1
  • Rank of baked desserts, pizza, and soda as sources of calories for American children, respectively: 1, 2, 3
  • Chances of an American believes that Jesus Christ will return to Earth by 2050: 2 in 5
  • Chance that a US Protestant knows who Martin Luther is: 1 in 2
  • Percentage of Americans who believe that Stephen King wrote Moby-Dick: 4
  • Proportion of the world's reindeer herds that are currently in decline: 4/5
Related articles

Friday, November 12, 2010

"I Kan Rite--and Lie" by George W. Bush

This Modern World: Election Roundup

I wonder how many millions that vile little fraud is going to make off his tissue of lies and confessions to crimes?

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Naked or Groped . . . Your Choice

Airport Body Scan Images -- Feel safer?
More than once, you have heard me rail here about the absurd, absurdly expensive, and demeaning process we law-abiding U.S. citizens go through so we can get on airplanes to go visit grandma. This is the last time I did so. You've also heard me bemoan the steady descent of this country into what can only be described as a place of increasingly paranoid fears. With each new "terrorist" threat that's thwarted, the citizens of the US are subjected to ratcheted up security procedures at the airports. What you see to the right are images of the full body scan devices that are employed at a lot of the nation's airports, and which will be employed at a lot more in the future. The TSA has now moved to a much more intrusive and invasive body pat-down if you are so unpatriotic as to refuse having yourself electronically strip searched by these machines. Flat of palm over every inch of your body, including genitals and breasts, regardless of sex. Horror stories abound. Here's one from a woman who suffers from chronic fatigue syndrome. (This story and others can be found here.)
I was subjected to a TSA rub down in Pittsburgh in September. There is no patting happening. The officer ran her hands over every square inch of my body, firmly pressing into my flesh in every area when I declined to have myself irradiated. Being a recovery from chronic fatigue syndrome, I am extremely aware that my body needs protection from anything that is unnatural or unnecessary, and excess radiation is on my list of things to avoid. Unfortunately, the rub down elicited some trauma issues, and when I got upset and started crying, they started the "pat down" all over again. After I received my belongings, I attempted a photo of the TSA station and officers, at which point I was apprehended, my ID was taken and I had to delete my photos at their demand. Eventually when they realized I had no record, they told me to go get on the plane before I got into trouble. Why am I, a 49-year-old woman, employed for 28 years by IBM, mother of two teenagers, married for 27 years, being viewed as a terrorist? The trauma of the "pat down" has reactivated an autoimmune condition and I have spent the last 4 weeks working to bring my immune system back into balance. I can't imagine getting on an airplane with the possibility of this happening again. I would like to protest this invasion of privacy, but how?
There's a another story making the rounds today about young gal, Meg McClain, who works for a radio station in New Hampshire who "opted out" of the full body scan at the Ft Lauderdale airport and who also expressed her objection to being patted-down. Well, according to her, was set upon by several TSA agents and a squadron of local cops and subjected to various indignities, including handcuffing, having her airline ticket torn in half by a TSA goon, and being escorted from the airport. (If you look at the video TSA released of the incident, none of this seems to be borne out. Me, I don't trust the TSA.) The kind of abuse she reports does not surprise me at all. These people who work for TSA are suspect from the get-go. This terror of terrorism has spawned these people, and now the whole country is caught up in this ever-widening spiral of abuse from these people at every airport in the country. And every incident calls down more hell on our heads. First it was shoes, then you couldn't bring toothpaste and other liquids unless they were in little bitty containers, now you have to be virtually strip searched to get on a figging airplane.

When are the sheep in this country going to wake up? All this screeching about freedom and liberty, and this sort of blatant violation of our civil liberties happens hundreds of times every day at airports all over the country with hardly a peep. There's a movement for a national "opt out" day on the day before Thanksgiving to force the TSA to pat down every single passenger. I'll be interested in seeing how that goes. It's the first organized protest against these wholesale violation of our civil liberties. 

Wednesday, November 10, 2010


I learned how to play chess when I was about 10 years old. By that I mean, I learned how the pieces moved. It was not until I was in college that I learned how to play the game. My mentor was a Jesuit priest by the odd name of Hacker Fagot. He and I played hundreds of games. I was hooked for life after that. I've played chess virtually every day of my life ever since, either out of books, by correspondence, or now, the easiest and most convenient way possible, via computer. It's rare that I don't have 15-20 games going on simultaneously.

When I was a member of the Baton Rouge Chess Club, we used to play five-minute chess--each player has five minutes on his clock. If you time runs out you lose. Three-minute chess also. I was never very good at speed chess. In fact, I was lousy.

Now, in top-ranked world class chess Speed (or Blitz or Bullet) Chess Tournaments and Championships are common. If you've never seen a speed chess game, have a look at this one. It's between two strong grandmasters, Maxim Dlugy on the right and Hikaru Nakamura, US chess champion for 2009, on the left. The game takes a minute. Nakamura wins. It's astonishing to watch, and you can bet the quality of the game was quite high.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Sorry 'bout That

My wife and I took two cruises when we lived in Florida. Susan loved them. I was OK with them. On board was OK, if a trifle decadent: endless food and drink and "entertainment." Non-stop having "fun." But the ports of call tested me.The idea of a monstrous cruise ship pulling into some Caribbean port and disgorging 2,000+ passengers to swarm over the tacky gift shops and crowd the bars and restaurants to eat overpriced food and watered down drinks all for the benefit of the poor people who live there--well, not my idea of a great time. Then everybody back on the boat to go do the same thing at the next stop. (Yes, I know it may be different on a different cruise line (or even the same) depending on different destinations . . . but our two cruises were in the Gulf of Mexico.)

However, my cruise experiences were paradise compared to what the passengers on Carnival Cruise liner Splendor are enduring as we speak. (Another story here and a long one here.) The ship was on its way to the Mexican Riviera from San Diego until a fire in the ship's engine room knocked out air conditioning, refrigeration, toilets and locomotion. The ship was for a time dead in the water. We're talking 3,300 people here and about 1,100 crew. Carnival's CEO says the conditions aboard are "very challenging" and apologizes for any "discomfort and inconvenience" being endured by the guests. Are you kidding? Crammed up on crowded exposed decks to get some relief from the heat, eating Spam and croissants flown in by the Navy, and your sweltering stateroom smells like shit because you cannot flush the toilet. The USA Today this morning has this understatement of the year from a Coast Guard Captain who reported the passengers safe but "not necessarily happy."

Monday, November 8, 2010

Hypocrisy That Simply Reeks

Listen, I'm not crazy about the candy-assed Democrats who let themselves just get beat to death by the most shameless bunch of hypocrites to disgrace the body politic in a long time. I refer of course to the Republican stalwarts, who just cannot stand it they feel so good about their recent victories in the mid-term elections. Here's why these guys are scumbags. Let's talk about Mitch McConnell, the guy who orchestrated the policy of "no" that the party followed for the first two years of Obama's term. Not a policy really. Just intransigence about cooperating in any way shape or form with the Democrats and the administration.

Well, McConnell, who is minority leader in the Senate, says that banning lawmaker-directed spending projects (earmarks, or more accurately, pork)--they amount to hundreds of billions of dollars over the course of years--will not cut spending "but will only limit the discretion of where to spend the . . . federal budget." It's not "realistic" to cut earmarks, he says.

WHAT?? Cutting billions of dollars in unnecessary spending from the budget won't cut spending?? Does this guy think everybody is as stupid as he appears to be? This is just more Republican bullshit along the very same lines as making the obscene tax cut for the filthy rich permanent because that isn't cutting spending either. Have you heard the latest talking point on this? They have moved off the incredibly false contention that the $700 billion it would cost to extend the cuts is not cutting spending. Now we're told that allowing these cuts to expire would hurt small business, which is nonsense. Or even better, the latest: the money extracted by the government in taxes is not the government's money but the people's money. So goes this impeccably rational argument, the filthy rich should be allowed to keep their money because the government shouldn't take peoples money. Got that?

As I said, I'm no great fan of the Democrats, but I simply retch at the nonsensical blather we're enduring now from those supercilious corporate tools now cawing and crowing all over the media.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Just One Question . . .

Just be glad it's not a full body shot.
. . . was the deputy male or female? [In point of fact, it doesn't matter.]

The headline on the story says "Man arrested after exposing self to deputy." This incident took place in Dade City, Florida, a place I'm well acquainted with. Used to live in Tampa area. Was there for about 13 years before coming up here to Oklahoma. Florida certainly has their share of nut cases. I understand this guy Marco Rubio that the solid citizens down there just elected senator is a Tea Party guy, which makes his sanity questionable from the get-go. Now, the guy is trying to say he's not a Tea Party dude, but a Republican. Wonder if he thinks this will improve his image in the state, a state that has a surfeit of nut cases.

But I digress. This guy to the right, one Richard M. Garcia of San Antonio, is a transplanted nut case in Florida. He parks in front of court house, no less. Drops his shorts and starts masturbating. Right in front of a [generic] deputy sheriff. Senor Garcia protests his innocence. He's just applying hemorrhoid cream, he says. In fact, it's K-Y Warming Jelly. It will doubtless warm your hearts to know that Senor Garcia is now back out on the streets after posting $150 bail.

One cannot help but wonder about such people. What planet do these people come from?

Saturday, November 6, 2010

A Random Act of Culture

That's what they call this: a random act of culture. This happened in the Macy's in Philadelphia. 650 singers of the Philly Opera Company showed up and sang. The Wanamaker Organ is a permanent fixture in Macy's. It's beautiful. (Appears at the beginning of the video.)

I cannot see such a thing ever happening in Oklahoma . . . anywhere in Oklahoma, he observed dryly.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

We Going to Be Frozen

Just another few thoughts on the elections. (You knew I would not be able to lay off them completely.)
  • Republicans all of sudden think they've been given a mandate. They will not compromise. John Boehner, who sports a beautiful tan from all the corporate-sponsored junkets he takes to golf courses all over the world, says they are speaking for "the American people." It's a crock. People distrust the Republicans more than the Democrats.
  • Mitch McConnell, Senate Republican leader, has said more than once now that the main goal for his party over the next two years is to make sure Obama is a one-term president. Does this sound like the GOP is ready to work with the administration? All that party has is anti-government rhetoric and one platform plank: cut taxes. It's their solution to everything.
  • We are headed for two years of gridlock. Absolutely amazing considering the magnitude of the problems confronting this country. Just you watch: we're going to be frozen. None of the major problems of the country are going to be addressed: energy, the endless losing wars, the economy--do you really think the GOP is going to provide jobs?--environment, oil dependence.
  • Corporations and rich people are delighted with this results of the election. Signals return to their unobstructed running of the government. (The Democrats were just annoying gnats anyway.)
  • Healthcare bill will not be repealed--that was a joke from the beginning, and the GOP knows it--but the Republicans will get all kinds of political capital from the people who don't know any better. There may be some nibbling around the edges of it.
  • Obama will further demonstrate how much of a weakling he is by giving in on the tax breaks for the fabulously wealthy. He will extend the Bush tax cuts, which were obscene to begin with and should have never passed--and don't forget, they would not have without an appreciable number of Democratic votes.
  • The news media will pause for about 2 months before they start pumping up the 2012 presidential election. Just you watch. The only thing these people know how to do with politics is keep score. 
  • Fox News will be even more unbearable now that the GOP has won big-time. I don't watch it ever unless it's on in doctor's office or I see snippets on The Daily Show. Can't take it. It's like watching the Giants' World Series celebration. I couldn't watch that either.
  • Look for an emerging scramble for the Republican party nomination. They're salivating now that they think the country agrees with them. I'm lifting a prayer to the Lord right now that the party won't be able to shake their lunatic Tea Party fringe. Those mindless people are going to be big trouble for them. Think Sarah Palin. Think Rand Paul. Think Glenn Beck.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Promises, Promises

I'm gonna notice these mid-term elections just briefly. I've made the case here before that it makes little difference whom we elect to Congress. That body is so out of touch with what's going on out in this country, so owned by their corporate masters, so irrelevant to the lives of ordinary people . . . I mean, seriously. When is the last time you put your faith in politicians to make your life better? What they can do very well up there in Washington is take care of themselves.

Today's results are coming in as predicted. The Republicans are going to win something on the order of 60 seats in the House, and that consummate weasel John Boehner of Ohio will become speaker of the House. I cannot wait to see what these frauds are going to do now that they've got control. They have no program. They hate government, taxes, and debt. So we're going to see them try their hand again at running things. They did not openly promise to kiss the asses of the Pentagon generals, but that is one promise they will definitely keep. They promise to shrink the size of government. Don't hold your breath on that. They promise to lower taxes. They will take care of the filthy rich by extending the unconscionable Bush tax cuts, and that will be their "cut." They promise to turn back parts of the health care bill. Good luck on that. They promise jobs--that's a complete crock. Politicians are not going to produce jobs. Promises that can't be kept are nonetheless  the warp and woof of the nonsense that passes for politics in the US.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Drape It in Black

It's All Over
Wait till next year. This wasn't the year for my Texas Rangers. They lost the World Series tonight to the San Francisco Giants. They managed to win only one game out of five. I watched tonight more or less numb after a washed-up shortstop named Edgar Renteria* jacked a ball into the left-field seats with two men on after the game had gone six innings with neither team scoring. The Giant pitcher Tim Lincecum was lights out. The Rangers managed only three hits off him all night. I knew after that home run that the Series was over for us.

No excuses. Texas bats just did show up to this World Series. All the big guns were silent. I have to confess to tearing up a bit after the final out. I turned off the TV so I would have to watch the spectacle of the Giants celebrating their victory in the Ballpark in Arlington. Congratulations to them. They outplayed the Rangers, out-pitched the Rangers especially. First win for the franchise since it's been in San Francisco, so nice for them.

But as my son Ben reminds me, the Rangers have a whole new winning attitude, new leadership willing to spend money, and a young, young team with a fat farm system stuffed with great young players. Things look bright for the future.

Now that my bucket list wish to see the Rangers in the World Series has been fulfilled, I'm going to make a new entry. To see the Rangers win the World Series. And this time, I think it's really possible. (Not like the original entry about the Rangers . . . which I never thought possible.)

Only 104 days till pitchers and catchers report for spring training. Go Rangers!

*He hit 3 home runs all year . . . he hit 2 in the World Series.