Sunday, July 31, 2011

We Lose

It's about 2:30 in the afternoon on this Sunday. I have not checked the TV for the current state of negotiations on the debt ceiling. The pols are going to work something out after all this drama, and the country will hail the end of the sweatshop it's been in for the past week. Everything will be hunky-dory again. The all-important markets will be soothed, and everybody can go back to making money . . . or looking for a job.

We don't know yet what the final provisions of this so-called "compromise" will be, but this much is pretty certain. The Republican party is going to come out way ahead in this deal. This much was surmised last night.
I can do no better than quote the writer of the piece on the Daily Beast: ". . . it’s a bleak day for this presidency, and really in American history, as we’ve now embarked on a path that’s very likely to lead to huge cuts in entitlement programs, the domestic budget, and more or less everything every Democrat in Washington (except, apparently, one) wakes up to fight for every day."

It's been the aim of the Republican party since FDR and LBJ to dismantle the social (justice) programs those stalwart presidents enacted. And it now appears the GOP is going to get its way. And why? Because we don't have a president with the courage to insist on advancing the Democratic agenda, not the agenda of the opposition.

So what's going to be the upshot of all this. The Republic party wins and the rest of us lose. And not only will the Republicans win, but the most extreme element of that party of the right will have the undeserved satisfaction of knowing that their asinine ideas actually shaped the entire debate. This article written around 11:30 this morning presents this outline of the "deal."
- Cut the deficit in two phases by as much as $3 trillion over the next decade (Just the fact that cutting the deficit has been tied to raising the debt ceiling is win for the Tea Party nuts. Bear in mind that tying demands to raising the debt ceiling in the future has been forever poisoned by allowing it to succeed here)

- Require both chambers of Congress to vote on—though not necessarily pass—a balanced-budget amendment. (GOP/Tea Party plank)
- Initially require no new tax or revenue increases. (GOP and Tea Party plank)

- Enact the cuts in two phases, the second led by a first-ever bipartisan committee of Congress with equal representation of both Republicans and Democrats. Congress would enact a round of easier discretionary cuts now, and the commission would have until Thanksgiving to find the harder ones, including those involving entitlement programs like Medicare and Social Security. (GOP plank)

- Delay the next congressional vote on raising the debt limit until after the 2012 election. . . . This requirement would be couched with a so-called trigger mechanism that would automatically impose spending cuts if the joint congressional committee fails to reach agreement or Congress rejects its ideas. (Democrat/White House plank)
I am totally disgusted with Barack Obama, who has shown himself to be a pitifully weak man. Letting the Republicans tromp over him at will.

Do not for a second allow yourself to minimize the extent of the Republican triumph here. Once sacrosanct social programs that protect millions of people are being cut, not reformed. Once this ugly camel has got his nose under the tent, we lose.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Have to Tell You . . .

About an amazing service I just discovered. It's a music-lover's dream. It's called Spotify. You sign up, and for six months you will have access to a purported catalog of over 15 million songs. Price: nothing. (Well, you do have to listen to occasional adverts, but even these aren't so bad most of the time because they puff some group or singer you have never heard of with samples of the music. You can discover even more music you like.) This means you can listen to entire albums from thousands upon thousands of artists. You name the album and poof . . . there it is. Any kind of music: country, classical, reggae (one of my favorites), show tunes, techno, rock, punk, you name it. Any artist (with the sole exception of those Internet-shy people like The Beatles, Led Zeppelin, and Metallica and probably some others). Any album.* Type in the band's name, and you get a list of their albums in chronological order. There's another huge plus. You can share music with anybody else who is using Spotify. So if there's a song I like, and I want to tell my kids about it, I simply drop it on their names from there in the program. Simplicity itself. I'm convinced this is going to change the way we all listen to digitized sound. If you like music at all, this is terrific!

So what happens after six months? Glad you asked. There had to be a catch, right? Well, here's the deal. After six months, you can only listen to ten hours a month of free music (and the ads). If you want to have unlimited play, it'll cost you $4.99 a month. There's a more expensive plan available which allows you operate the program from various other platforms like your iPhone.

*Although I have found that this is true for the most part, it isn't always true.
Here's one by a band I had never heard of, and I'll bet you haven't either. But according to Pitchfork, they put out one of the best albums of the entire decade of the 2000s. They are called Ariel Pink's Haunted Graffiti and the song is "Bright Lit Blue Skies." Enjoy.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Inmates in Charge

The U.S. government is paralyzed. It appears unable to avert the disaster that is now breathing down the country's neck.

It's surreal. I was watching the news tonight and here's John Boehner, the speaker of the House, raving on the floor about how he stuck his neck out to deal with the White House on this debt reduction thing. All I can do is shake my head. Here's a guy who cannot keep his own troops in line, and he's blaming his problems on the executive branch. And he's in the same apoplectic  mood he was during the health care debate. He had to cave in to the fanatical right-wing of his own party to get his own bill out of the House.

Here's the way I see it: the entire country is in the hands of about 80 Tea Party idiots in the House of Representatives who are quite willing to visit an economic cataclysm upon the country unless their agenda is enacted. And what do these people want? It's a simplistic formulation which to their minds explains everything that's wrong: the federal government is too big and is involved in all kinds of projects that we don't like; taxes are too high too. Therefore we are going to put a stop to both these things because we cannot trust the parties, either of them to change. So we not going to authorize further government spending, we are not going to authorize raising the national debt ceiling unless it is offset by cuts in federal spending equal to or higher. Further, the U.S. Constitution has to be amended by a balanced budget amendment or we're still not going to authorize raising the debt ceiling. Have I got that right?

And these people are running the country right now. All I can do is shake my head in bewilderment at this moment . . . fanaticism triumphant, White House powerless. Can you remember the last time that Washington bothered itself with something that actually mattered to the people of this country? We have been lurching for months on end. Now we're crashing, and I don't know what's going to happen when we hit the ground. But it's scary.

The inmates are running the asylum, my friends.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Who Cares What the Public Says?

This is a question that can be posed about US politics almost all the time. For years, the people at large in the US have had their heads screwed on straight about any number of subjects. Far more then the knuckleheads in Washington. A case in point is gun control. Check these numbers out.

So it's no surprise that the people--and this is a government of, by, and for the people, remember--are far, far ahead of our numbskull politicians who are about to submerse the country in an economic disaster of unfathomable proportions. According to a recent web article on First Read from NBC, here's a report on what the people favor doing about this (artificially manufactured) debt crisis. Although I certainly don't agree with people on a number of these things, it's very interesting that our citizenry doesn't have any problem tapping wealthy beneficiaries of the American system for more cash to help keep that system running. But under the political madness we operate under today, that idea is almost heresy.
-- Placing a surtax on federal income taxes for people earning over $1 million a year: 81% acceptable
-- Eliminating spending on so-called earmarks for special projects and specific areas of the country:78% acceptable
-- Eliminating funding for weapons systems the Defense Department says are not necessary: 76%acceptable
-- Eliminating tax credits for the oil and gas industries: 74% acceptable
-- Phasing out the Bush tax cuts for families earning $250,000 or more per year: 68% acceptable
-- Freezing annual domestic spending at its current level for the next five years: 67% acceptable
-- Reducing Medicare and Social Security benefits for wealthier retirees: 62% acceptable
-- Gradually raising the Social Security retirement age to 69 by 2075: 56% acceptable
-- Cutting funding for the new health-care law so that parts of it will not be put into effect or enforced:51% acceptable
-- Reducing agriculture subsidies or support to farmers and ranchers: 45% acceptable
-- Eliminating funding to Planned Parenthood for family planning and preventive health services:45% acceptable
-- Gradually turning Medicare from a system in which the government pays for most beneficiaries' medical bills into a program in which seniors would receive government-assisted vouchers to purchase private insurance: 44% acceptable
Among the budget cuts:
Subsidies to build new nuclear power plants: 57% acceptable
Federal assistance to state governments: 52% acceptable
The Environmental Protection Agency: 51%
Transportation and infrastructure projects: 51%
Scientific and medical research: 48%
National defense: 46%
Unemployment insurance: 43%
Head Start: 41%
College student loans: 39%
Heating assistance to low-income families: 34%
Medicaid: 32%
Medicare: 23%
K-12 education: 22%
Social Security: 22%
 Interesting, no?

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Reality Check

The source of the chart above can be found here

I have not commented on the ongoing melodrama in Washington, because whole thing makes me crazy. I have nothing but loathing for the Republican hypocrites who have manufactured this crisis for their own narrow political ends. Apparently they don't care what damage they inflict on the country in the process. As usual, every time they open their mouths they lie and distort the facts. Here's just off the top of my head are some of the continual lies they are telling the American people.
  • that they give a damn about the working and middle class families in this country
  • that they speak for "the American people"
  • that the deficit is something they had nothing to do with
  • that millionaires and billionaires are by definition "job creators" (we all saw how that worked during the Bush administration)
  •  that anything remotely resembling a "solution" to this crisis cannot contain new tax revenues
It's all moonshine. Apparently, for the situation is still the same today as it was a month ago, with only a week left before the August 2 deadline, the GOP is perfectly willing to pull the temple down on all of us unless they get everything they want. As usual, Obama has shown himself willing to bend over and grab his ankles once again for the Republicans, but they have already taken the measure of this man. Their intransigence has always worked before. Why not now? Only this time, they flirt with a manifest disaster. But ideologues don't care about consequences. All they care about are their own ideological fantasies. This will be the doom of us all.

Sunday, July 24, 2011


I really wish I could issue an unwelcome to Norway to the family of nations that has experienced a horrific terrorist attack. Norway! How many less offensive nations are there than Norway? A right-wing nut with a gun and a collection of kooky causes blew away at least 93 people, most of them teenagers at a camp. Anders Behring Breivik is his name and apparently he has been planning the attack for nine years and written extensively about his ideas. According to a Time magazine write-up: "Breivik's rambling writings, grandly titled 2083: A European Declaration of Independence, present him as a right-wing nationalist fueled by a combined hatred of Muslims, Marxists and multiculturalists. His beliefs recall neo-Nazi politics that continue to linger throughout Europe, but freshened with a new, 21st century toxicity."

Great. So almost 100 innocent people have to die because of one individual's irrational hatreds. Unfortunately, yet one more country has had to experience this searing pain.

Friday, July 22, 2011

The Dog Days Are Over

Withal not a very hopeful message, despite the angelic voice. (First time I've ever seen a harp employed in a rock tune.)

And here's another version, live, less striped down and still great.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Astounding Technology

This is not faked. Truly mind-blowing. Lord only knows what this technology costs, but can you imagine the possibilities here?

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

No Doubt in My Mind

I am always wary of the institutions of power in the U.S. It matters not whether these institutions are corporate, military, or governmental, including and maybe especially, law enforcement, agencies. Power has but one aim, self-perpetuation, and part of that impulse is its imperative to grow. There never was an agency of power that was satisfied with its allotment of power. It always wants more. This is why the massive enlargement of domestic surveillance and monitoring capabilities bestowed upon agencies such as the FBI and CIA in the wake of the attacks of 9/11 is so dangerous. These were not benign agencies to begin with, and especially in the case of the CIA, which was an out-of-control agency from its inception. The CIA has always been involved in sinister activities.

Do you think the adjective "sinister" a bit to strong? Well, consider this narrative which appeared today in the Writer's Almanac. It will give you the creeps.
On this day in 1977, the Central Intelligence Agency released 20,000 documents revealing that they had engaged in mind-control experiments. They released the documents after a request under the Freedom of Information Act, and the revelation triggered a Congressional hearing in August. The program was named MK-ULTRA; it began in the early 1950s and ran at least through the late 1960s. 
MK-ULTRA had its roots in Operation Paperclip, a program to recruit former Nazi scientists who had conducted studies on torture and brainwashing. Operation Paperclip spawned several secret government programs involving mind control, behavior modification, hypnosis, and the like. It's not clear whether the CIA's real aim was to produce a "Manchurian candidate" who could be brainwashed to carry out various tasks, or whether these off-the-wall "operations" were a smoke screen to keep attention away from their real mission: to come up with better torture and interrogation techniques. The program received 6 percent of the CIA's operating budget without oversight or accounting. 
Since then-director Richard Helms ordered all the MK-ULTRA documents destroyed in 1973, the investigation had to rely on sworn testimony and the 20,000 remaining documents, which had escaped destruction because they were stored in a different warehouse. The limited information that was available at the Congressional hearings revealed that "chemical, biological, and radiological" methods to achieve mind control were studied. This involved, among other things, administering drugs like LSD, heroin, amphetamines, and mescaline to people without their knowledge or consent; they also used, according to the Congressional report, "aspects of magicians' art." In one project, called Operation Midnight Climax, the CIA set up brothels in San Francisco, gave patrons LSD, and filmed their responses through hidden cameras. They figured that even if subjects got suspicious, they would be too embarrassed to report anything to the authorities. In other experiments conducted at McGill University in Montreal, subjects — who had come to the institute thinking they were to be treated for anxiety or post-partum depression — were put into drug-induced comas and exposed to tape loops for weeks at a time; others were given electroconvulsive therapy at 30 to 40 times the normal dose. Many subjects suffered lasting damage. 
The CIA had the assistance of nearly a hundred colleges and universities, pharmaceutical companies, research foundations, hospitals, and prisons in conducting the MK-ULTRA project. Some evidence suggests that Unabomber Ted Kaczynski was one of the subjects; Ken Kesey, author of One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, volunteered for the LSD tests at a Veterans Administration hospital when he was a student at Stanford. The official CIA position is that they no longer conduct mind-control experiments, although at least one veteran of the agency has said that the tests continue.
The whole story is appalling. But certain aspect of it are positively chilling. First, there's the fact that the agency effectively has no oversight. The citizenry of this country, which pays who knows how many billions every year for the operations of this agency don't know what it's doing. The fact that it can destroy records of its activities at whim should give us pause immediately. Second, the cooperation of "nearly a hundred colleges and universities, pharmaceutical companies, research foundations, hospitals, and prisons" in conducting the experiments is disheartening, to say the least. It's appalling actually.

Proving once again that there is no limit to what people will do under the impetus of fear. From the late 1940s to the fall of the Soviet Union, our government kept us terrified of the godless communist conspiracy that threatened our existence. Now of course, it's the Muslim terrorist conspiracy. Note that in either case, opposing the conspiracy demands extraordinary governmental powers. And the threat is constant, never-ending. (Who knew the Soviet Union was going to collapse? The CIA, NSA, and all the other intelligence apparatus of the U.S. didn't have a clue.)

Keeping us afraid is the primary tool that the government employs in also keeping us docile. Why else would we put up with the TSA and cameras everywhere and the powers we have handed over to the government under the so-called Patriot Act? There's no doubt in my mind that these same agencies are carrying out any number of illegal activities even as I type this. We will never know.

(The Wikipedia article on MKULTRA has many more details about this horrible program.)

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

WWJ Think?

I post the following with minimal comment. Results from a survey of 554 Republican primary voters nationwide.

How much more indictment is needed for the feeble-mindedness of evangelical Christianity? Just out of curiosity, I wonder how many of these respondents would wonder about black people's chance of being raptured? It goes without saying that Jesus is mightily amused by this . . . He is not the type to be appalled or feel wronged, don't forget. But amused? He certainly has a sense of humor.

You will find the source of this information here.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Golden Years?

If you think you're in good shape to retire, it appears that most of us have to think again. I cannot see this situation improving for many Americans given that the economy appears to be in the tank for the foreseeable future. These figures come as no great surprise to me, and given the situation the country is now in, I cannot see that the numbers are going to get any better. Indeed, I think they will only worsen. Although as a retired federal employee, I enjoy a secure retirement, I knew many people who easily fit into the less-desirable categories on this chart. The more I compare the way things work in this country as compared to the way they do in other countries, the less inclined I am embrace the standard mantra that the "U.S. is the greatest country in the world." I'm not saying it isn't, mind you. I'm just saying it's true for the people with money, who are secure in their present and futures. Just like they are for citizens of many other countries on this globe who are not rich, but live in places where the well-being of the whole society is a concern of government and citizenry.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

And So the Week Begins

Welcome to America!
Rais Bhuiyan after he was shot
. . . with my noticing this uplifting piece on Boing Boing. And the picture. This poor guy is Rais Bhuiyan, an immigrant from Bangladesh. He was working in a gas station in 2001 and in walks Mark Anthony Stroman, a white supremacist, with a gun. Can you guess the rest? Here, I'll let this devout Muslim tell it:

It was Friday 12:30pm, September 21, 2001. A man with a gun entered the gas station where I was working. He asked me, "Where are you from?"
The question seemed strange to ask during a robbery, which certainly this was -- the man wore a bandana, sunglasses and a baseball cap, and aimed the gun directly at my face as I stood over the gas station register. "Excuse me?" I asked. As soon as I spoke I felt the sensation of a million bees stinging my face, and then heard an explosion. Images of my mother, my father, my siblings and my fiancé appeared before my eyes, and then, a graveyard. I didn't know if I were still alive. I looked down at the floor and saw blood pouring like an open faucet from the side of my head. Frantically, I placed both hands on my face, thinking I had to keep my brains from spilling out. I heard myself screaming, "Mom!" The gunman was still standing there. I thought, "If I don't pretend I'm dead, he'll shoot me again."
Texas, as is its wont, has sentenced Stroman to death, because he killed two guys in revenge for 9/11 for the simple reason that they existed, and one of them wasn't even Muslim but Hindu. Mr Bhuiyan doesn't think his attacker should be executed, and has said so before the world. See here and check his website:

But don't be betting that an executions are going to be commuted during the term of that outstanding Christian Rick Perry. We all know that God endorses vengeance.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

In Case You Were Wondering

Here are some revealing data a friend sent me. I have to say, this doesn't surprise me in the least. Just think what kind of shape we'd be in if George W. Bush had not loafed for a third of his time in the White House.

Here's the tally on George W. Bush's vacation time while he was in office:

Number Of Visits To His Texas Ranch: 77, totaling all or part of 490 days
Number Of Visits To His Parents' Home In Kennebunkport, Maine: 11, totaling all or part of 43 days
Number Of Flights On Air Force One: 1,674
(Source: Presidential Airlift Group)

Veteran CBS News White House correspondent Mark Knoller, a fastidious keeper of presidential statistics, has kept count. By his tally, Obama has embarked on nine "vacations" since taking office, bringing his total days off to 48. Some of those trips lasted a day and some, like his Christmas holiday in Hawaii, more than a week.

By comparison, Bush had visited his ranch in Crawford, Tex., 14 times at this point in his administration and spent 115 days there. And yes, Democrats let him have it, too, complaining that he was a chronic vacationer.

Here are the stats on recent presidenti­al vacation time:

George W. Bush eight year totals:
487 days at Camp David
490 days at Crawford Ranch
43 days at Kennebunkp­ort Compound
Total: 1020 days, more than 1/3rd of his presidency­. 

Bush set the record for most vacation time taken by any president.

Carter took 79 days in 4 years.
Clinton took 152 days in 8 years.
Reagan took 335 days in 8 years.
Bush Sr. took 543 days in 4 years!

In their first year in office:
Obama - 26 days
Clinton - 19 days
George W. Bush - 69 days

Friday, July 15, 2011

Every Now and Again . . .

. . . comes a poem that just grabs you. The one below did me. There's no explaining why. There's nothing particularly extraordinary about this poem. It is technically competent and, I think, metaphorically brilliant. But it's not profound and certainly not difficult. And therein, I think, resides its artistry.

I discovered George Bilgere, the poet, some time ago when I read that Billy Collins, who is among my favorite practitioners of the craft, thought this guy was good. Collins was right. Bilgere has a sense of humor and writes about the everyday stuff no one notices. I get the sense that he and I are somewhere near the same age, but maybe not. At any rate, I have gotten to the stage of my life where I am pretty skeptical of what anybody proclaims as truth. But I do not doubt for a moment that truth resides in art: music, literature, poetry, painting, etc. I don't look for it anywhere else, though I do have a soft heart for scholarship.

Today I sit on the sun porch
with my body, just the two of us
for a change, the flu
having left me for someone else.

I'm thinking about how good it is
to have been sick, to have been turned
inside out. Until we are sick, says Keats,
we understand not. and for four or five days
I understood. Fully and completely.
There was absolutely no ambiguity,
no misunderstandings of any sort whatsoever.

For awhile I thought I'd never get better.
I'd be that sick eagle, staring at the sky
on a permanent basis. But
we're living in the age of miracles:
another jetliner smacked into New York,
only this time nobody got hurt. A black guy
thoroughly fumigated the White House.

And this morning I woke up
feeling like a little French village
the Nazis suddenly decided to pull out of
after a particularly cruel occupation.

The baker has come back to his store
and everything smells like warm baguettes.
The children are playing in the schoolyard,
the piano bars along the river
have thrown open their doors.

And here you are, with coffee
and an open blouse, and two cool breasts
from the land of joy

"Joy" by George Bilgere, from The White Museum. © Autumn House Press, 2010.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Why Doesn't This Happen to Poor People?

 I really cannot believe what I just read on the Net. Roger Clemens, another cheater in baseball who took steroids to enhance his performance and then has continued to lie about it now for at least a couple of years, was about to go on trial for lying to Congress and perjury. I say "was about to" because the jury had been selected and the trial was in its second day of testimony when Judge Reggie Walton declared a mistrial. He had barred testimony from the spouse of Andy Pettite, and he halted the trial when in video evidence someone referred to what she had said. The prosecution in this case, which apparently had built a very solid case against Clemens, either was incredibly stupid or careless. The judge said that any first-year law student would have known better and declared that it would be impossible for Clemens to get a fair trial now. Maybe not, legally he cannot, but that doesn't change the fact that the odds are now that Roger Clemens is going to skate for lying about his cheating in baseball. And instead of a conviction on his record that would prove he cheated, future generations will only have his steroid-enhanced numbers as a baseball player.

I'm not taking issue with the legal ruling here. Just with the uncanny good luck that seems to adhere to lying millionaires. Don't you think the millionaires of Wall Street, who are again enjoying obscene salaries and bonuses, two years after they brought the world to brink of financial ruin, have been lucky? A couple of centuries ago pitchfork-wielding mobs would have torn them to pieces in the street for what they did.

And let me just wonder out loud: are judges accustomed to being super diligent about fair trials for, say drug offenders? Petty criminals? I'm just saying . . .

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Are You a Netflix Person?

And are you pissed off? Well, join the club. The Net today is full of articles like this one recounting the overwhelmingly negative reaction of hundreds of thousands of Netflix customers, by all accounts among the most loyal of all, to a substantial across-the-board price hike. You can read the actual amount of the price increases--in some cases an up to 60 percent bump, but suffice it to say, people are not happy. About the only "bargain" left is unlimited streaming of the movies and TV shows for $7.99 a month. The minute you add a DVD to this capability, you're talking twice as much. And DVD only options are up too. And with the streaming only option, there's a catch there too. You could safely characterize what's available for streaming as mostly second-rate with an occasional exception. The TV shows available are passable.

I'm as angry as all the rest. Netflix was the one company among the few that I actually have kind words for. Not any more. They look like just any other corporate shark now, the same reaction everybody else is having. I have already changed my plan to streaming only. I'll give it a whirl for some months and see what happens, especially to see if Netflix increases the quality of what it's got available for streaming. If it doesn't improve, I'm gone. And I suspect many are gone already, as we speak.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

I Open My Mouth

. . . and out comes a torrent of lies. Did you know that's the motto of congressional Republicans these days? Hell, it's been their motto for as long as I can remember.

I was watching the news tonight, PBS News Hour, and here's a story about the continuing negotiations between the White House and congressional leaders about raising the debt limit. Let me say here that I think there is going to be some last minute deal struck. These Republicans cannot be so insane as to let this country default on its financial obligations. I keep telling myself. But maybe that is whistling through the graveyard. These people have already demonstrated they don't give a rat's ass about the good of the country.

But to listen to them, you would think that Obama has been responsible for the entire frigging mess that is our national finances right now. As if the eight catastrophic years under that vile little pretender in the White House, George W. Bush, did not happen. Two wars--still ongoing, two massive tax cuts for the wealthy--still ongoing, and one hugely expensive new drug benefit for Medicare--still ongoing, and not one penny raised to pay for any of it. Add to this the Bush administration's dogged refusal to regulate the financial industry, which of course the Democrats abetted, that greatly assisted the kind of greed-driven activity by Wall Street that brought the world to its knees in 2008, and you will understand my rage at scumbags like Mitch McConnell and John Boehner who have the gall to stand before the cameras and posture about fiscal responsibility. These guys who block attempts to remove sweetheart subsidies for the energy industry, who refuse to even listen to any talk about raising revenue to reduce the deficit, who continue to sustain the unconscionable Bush tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans.

Trouble is, Obama has shown himself to be such a pussy, these trolls can hold out from the slightest cooperation, just like they have done ever since Obama took office, in the almost sure conviction that the president will cave in and kiss their asses again and call it bipartisanship.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Oh, Let's Elect Her Next Time!

Christiana Fallin
And who in the hell is Christina Fallin you say? Well, this vamp you see above is the daughter of the governor of our great state of Oklahoma, "Oklahoma’s first woman governor, conservative Mary Fallin, who ran on the values of 'Faith, Family, and Freedom,' and whose husband Wade Christensen has received $1.9 million in federal farm subsidies. Gov. Fallin divorced her first husband in 1998, during her second term as Oklahoma’s lieutenant governor (she was the first woman to hold that office in Oklahoma’s history and later only the second woman Oklahomans ever elected to US Congress) amid rumors of an affair with her her bodyguard, who resigned over “improper conduct.”

Newlywed Christina Fallin-Bacon–named August’s “Girl of the Month” by Twenty-Something Magazine–certainly exemplifies her mom’s motto: Daughter = “family;” dancing in a transparent dress in the Governor’s Mansion=”freedom;” and “faith” — in her looks." (Source: here)

Aren't you just tickled to your core that we've got a staunch FAMILY VALUES executive down here in Okieland? I sure am.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

What you see here is the Pee Tree. This "toilet" is from the Netherlands, somehow that doesn't surprise me. But you will be entertained, I think, by the eleven other fabulous (or not so much) toilets that you can find right here. And yes, I am restraining my impulse to subject you all to a torrent of crappy puns.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Why We're Paying Through the Nose for Health Care, Part II

Hey, I discovered how to make the graphic bigger. Just a little tinkering with the HTML code. (I'm going to apply the same method to the post from yesterday, but we're still not perfect sized.) Anyway, yesterday were the lies. Here's the truth today. If you will notice, there's a common denominator to all of these truths. To wit: somebody is getting a lot of money out of the current system, and it ain't the people who most need the health care. And it ain't the people sweating to pay the ever-increasing premiums for health care insurance. And it ain't the thousands of small businesses straining to provide health benefits to their employees. The people getting fat off the broken-down health care system we have are . . . the already fat cats. Which will come as no surprise to anybody who's been paying attention. 

Friday, July 8, 2011

Why We're Paying Through the Nose for Health Care, Part I

Another neat graphic that I can thank one of my family members for. This time my sister who lives in Utah. She and I are pretty simpatico on lots and lots of things, political views among them, for the most part. This is the kind of information that it really doesn't matter how true it is. People who are informed know about these things. But it's becoming increasingly obvious to me that what is true, what can be proven, doesn't make the slightest bit of difference to the vast majority of people. They hold to their prejudices and their erroneous information for dearest life. There's an old saw that goes: "My mind is made up, don't confuse me with the facts." I always thought it was trite and corny, but turns out it is true. Here's the link to the source article. I'm going to post the second half of this graphic tomorrow. I'll just let the content speak for itself. Sorry about the size of the post; it's as big as I could make it, without it looking like a fun house mirror or overrunning the banks. Either consult the original at the link above, or hold down the control key and roller the roller on your mouse. You did know that shrinks and expands things, didn't you?

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Believe It or Not, Bad Things Can Happen at Ballparks

Fans react after Shannon Stone's fall over the railing in left field
at Ranger Ballpark in Arlington. The little boy in
the red Ranger hat and red shirt is his son Cooper 
Ballparks are some of my most favorite places in the world. I love the crowd at a ballpark, the beautiful expanse of Lots of times, most of the time, when I watch the Rangers on TV, it's late at night or early in the morning. I record the games and watch later. So last night I watched the first game of a four-game series between Oakland and Texas, in The Ballpark at Arlington. And I was happy with the result. Very happy because the Rangers won in convincing fashion, 6-0, and the winning pitcher, a guy named Derrick Holland pitched the whole game, a four-hit shut out. And this game was his first after the worst start of his career, which I also saw. He couldn't get out of the first inning, couldn't find the plate, gave up walks and hits and five runs.

It wasn't until this morning when I picked up the USA Today that I discovered to my horror that during the game a fan named Shannon Stone, a fireman who was there with his six-year-old son, had been killed by a fall from the stands in left field. My God, what a tragedy! I think of all the times I drove with my boys down to Arlington to watch the Rangers. It was, and is, a father-son ritual for millions of dads. Stone had reached out for a ball tossed into the stands by Ranger left-fielder Josh Hamilton. The incident has been a searing experience for Hamilton, who normally does not toss balls into the stands. But he responded to Shannon Stone's request in the first inning when he saw him there with his son. So in the second when a foul ricocheted to Hamilton, he tossed it to Stone. It was a little short. The man caught the ball and flipped over the railing, falling to the concrete 20 feet below. Hamilton says he can still hear the little boy screaming for his dad. (See this article as well.)

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

You Are Not Safe

From the ravages of medical care costs, even if you have health insurance. That's the thrust of this article in Salon. Now tell me . . . does this really surprise you?

The article reminds us all again of the really feeble bill that Obama got passed and called comprehensive health care reform. Progressives have not forgotten how as the process continued the health care bill was gradually diluted to a state where our masters, the health insurance industries, were happy. What we were left with was a bland bill--trumpeted by the administration as the greatest thing since the New Deal--that doesn't even protect people with health insurance from going bankrupt.

Here, in case you're not inclined to read the article, I'll summarize the main points for you:

  • Obama, in concert with the health care insurance companies and big pharma, gutted the health care bill of any real reform that would threaten their interests. What got passed was, in fact, " a blank-check TARP-style bailout for the health industry"
  • An Arizona report: "Health insurance is not protecting Arizonans from having problems paying medical bills, and having bill problems is keeping families from getting needed medical care and prescription medicines, a new study has found."
  • "With 60 percent of all bankruptcies related to medical costs; with many of those medical-related bankruptcies occurring among those who have private insurance; and with the fear of medical bankruptcy encouraging the insured to unduly skimp on medical services, the Obama healthcare bill did purport to address the issue via caps on out-of-pocket expenses. But those weak caps -- and the bill's failure to achieve universal coverage -- promise to allow the medical debt problem to continue, just as they have in the state whose 'reforms' most closely mimic Obama's bill."
  • Reduction in bankruptcies because of medical costs is not likely, despite the promises of the White House.
  • American wages are still being eaten up by health insurance premiums which keep going up. "Events are proving that "real reform" and strengthening insurance industry power are mutually exclusive goals. That is, they are proving the veracity of progressives' original criticism of President Obama's healthcare legislation."
This is one of the many reasons I won't be voting for the neo-republican in the White House in 2012. 

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Avalanched III

How many times this many? I have no idea.
So all those books on my shelves that are in the category of bought to read but not read yet. As you might imagine, some of these volumes have been in this status for years, in some cases, quite a few years. In this category would be books such as The Hour of our Death by Philippe Aries. It's a history of changing attitudes about death in the West for the last thousand years. It's a dense book, a commitment to read. But I still want to read it. Let me emphasize that all the books I'm going to mention here are books I still want to read. Whether they ever make it up the queue for that actually to happen . . . well, we'll see.

An even bigger read is Bob Sptiz's The Beatles, but my daughter has read this--I think she said more than once--so I feel like I have to read this one. These unread books are in all kinds of categories. Paul Krugman's The Return of Depression Economics; Will Bunch's Tear Down This Myth: How the Reagan Legacy Has Distorted Our Politics and Haunts Our Future--this was written before the great crash of 2008. Erik Larson's The Devil in the White City (serial killer at the 1893 Chicago World's Fair). The Perfect Murder: A Study in Detection (guide to best murder mysteries). Three books in the "everyday thing" category: Cod, The Box (shipping containers), Salt. Somewhat akin is Steve Almond's Candyfreak. This one, like several others mentioned here are gifts. I made a pledge--as yet unfulfilled--to read all the books that have been given me as gifts, which is no small number. If I did just that, I'd probably have at least 50 books to read.

  • The World's 20 Greatest Unsolved Problems--one of many books I've started and didn't finish. Not because the book was bad, but because I got distracted by another book.
  • Bill Bryson's A Short History of Nearly Everything
  • Daniel Boorstin's magnificent trilogy: The Discoverers, The Creators, The Seekers. I'm almost finished with Discoverers, but not yet.
  • Shall I mention the baseball books that need reading? Biographies of Ty Cob, Lou Gehrig, Billy Martin. Team histories: Senators, Dodgers, Reds, Tigers, more. Sabrmetric tomes such as The Numbers Game and Baseball Between the Numbers. And some fat semi-reference works such as Rob Neyer's Big Book of Baseball Blunders, Big Book of Baseball Lineups. The book he did with Bill James on pitchers. Bill James's Guide to Managers. A couple of books about umpires. And more.
  • Multiple books in the following catgories: Middle Ages, Reformation, both World Wars, Ancient history, Civil War biographies and battle books, poetry, and so forth.
  • And on and on. This is just a tiny sample.
If I never borrowed or bought another book, I have enough to read here to see me to the grave. But I know that ain't gonna happen. I'll always be distracted by something else good. For example, I'm going to quit this now and go continue reading With the Old Breed, a memoir of the Pacific War by a Marine. It's a book from the Norman library.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Plutocracy, Baby

What better way to celebrate the 4th of July--Independence Day!--than this quick little portrait of the real state of the United States. It is a graphic representation of who really is independent in this country. And it ain't the vast majority of us.

This is what plutocracy looks like, brothers and sisters. I stole this right off my daughter's blog. It was so good, I thought I'd share. Do you think for one minute if this were put on billboards all over the country and televised all hours of the day and night that it would make any difference? I don't.

A huge share of the nation's economic growth over the past 30 years has gone to the top one-hundredth of one percent, who now make an average of $27 million per household. The average income for the bottom 90 percent of us? $31,244.

Average Income by Family, distributed by income group.
The richest controls 2/3 of America's net worth

Note: The 2007 data (the most current) doesn't reflect the impact of the housing market crash. In 2007, the bottom 60% of Americans had 65% of their net worth tied up in their homes. The top 1%, in contrast, had just 10%. The housing crisis has no doubt further swelled the share of total net worth held by the superrich.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Avalanched II

I couldn't pick her out of a lineup.
This is Flannery O'Connor.
So I'm looking around now at the shelves for books that are in the I-intend-to-read-and-that's-why-I-have-them category. I'm sorry to say, there are sooooo many of them. First off, I should tell you, that if you really like fiction, you probably would not be all that impressed with my library. My tastes in reading have always been much more tilted to non-fiction than fiction. Which, I suppose, is natural for a historian. There's a pitiful little section of a top shelf that has half a dozen (count 'em!) forlorn little books of fiction floating in this huge ocean of non-fiction books. There are three James Michener up there, one Tom Wolfe (I've read everything by this guy.)--I Am Charlotte Simmons--a collected works of Flannery O'Connor, one William Faulkner. Need I tell you that those books are up there because I have not read them?

I hasten to tell you that I do read fiction--my God, I'm not a Philistine!-- it's just (obviously) not my first choice. I'm thinking now about whole boxes of fiction that I got rid of on the moves. I wish I had the sf books back, although I had read all of them.

But it's really depressing to look around at the shelves and seeing all these books that I've got sitting here that I was hot to read at some point (or they wouldn't be here), but that have now melted into the scenery, no longer with that read-me-read-me look they have when they first go up on the shelf. Lots and lots of really good stuff. Just at random, a very tiny sample of this category, and let's not even mention history books, by far the largest category of books in here.

Have I mentioned the categories? I think so: poetry, reference, chess, baseball, religion, biography, and history, and miscellany. A lot of the fun books are in this latter category. In American history I've gotten rid of almost everything but stuff in my specialty--19th century South, slavery, Civil War and Reconstruction. I've got basically nothing in early American history anymore and a smattering of books in 20th century. There are unread volumes in all these history categories. Some of the ones I really want to get to are Civil War battle books, mainly because I'm writing more and more about generals and the military aspects of the war. I've got history books on other stuff too, the stuff that interests me: World War I, Nazi Germany, WWII, Middle Ages, Reformation. (I've gotten rid of tons of this kind of stuff too.)

Guess what? I'm going to let this topic spill over into another post yet again. Which is not good because it keeps you in suspense (ha, ha) but is real good for me because it's a ready-made topic, and I won't have to struggle to come up with one. I have to tell you that coming up with something to write about that I figure you all won't consider utter tripe is the biggest challenge I have to deal with with this blog. So if you think some of the crap I write about is boring, you should see what I reject.

Saturday, July 2, 2011


Kind of in keeping with a theme I developed yesterday--the amount of work that's burying me at this particular time--I look around me and see something else, another task (or maybe that should be tasks)  in my life that I will never come near to completing. Reading just the books I have on hand that I want to read. I work from a study; I'm surrounded on three sides by floor-to-ceiling bookshelves. No, I've not counted them. My best estimate is something like 1,300 volumes, give or take. Now, admittedly, a number of these volumes are reference works: quote books, various dictionaries and thesauri, specialized encyclopedias (military/world/US history; supreme court cases, etc.), writing and usage books, guides (science, physics). Then there reference works within the specialties: baseball encyclopedias, record books, guides, etc. and in chess there are game collections, tournament books, opening/ending/middle game guides. Several Bibles and various theological works--I've read quite a few of these, but not all.

This leaves a huge number of books that are just book books. Books that I have acquired over the course of a long and lengthening lifetime. Which were acquired for either one of two reasons: 1) I needed them for research; or 2) I intended to read them. Books in the first of these categories, necessary for research, are pretty much unobtrusive as far as my conscience is concerned. I got them for research, I see reminders of projects long since or recently finished, remember using the books and being happy I had them here in my library.

And as I scan the shelves I see quite a number of books in the second of these categories, the ones I got to actually read, that I actually have read. But depressingly, quite a few more in the second category that sit accusingly on these shelves reminding me of how fickle I can be when it comes to my reading tastes, much less my reading commitments. Take poetry collections . . . some of these Billy Collins, Stephen Dunn, Stephen Dobyns, Bob Hicok, others I have read whole and entire. Quite a few other collections, I've read a few or several poems. Others, hell, I've never even opened them. And there are a depressing number of books in all subjects that join James Schuyler Collected Poems in the category never even looked at.

It makes me sad to see how many there are in this category, nestled sometimes up against a book I read, but sometimes abutting several more that are likewise unread.

I'll talk some more about this tomorrow. This going on longer than I thought it would.

Friday, July 1, 2011


A forbidding-sized pile . . . and I wish I had the cat, too.
Man, a ton of work has just fallen upon me. It appears I'm going to be buried in history stuff for some time. I received the copy-edited proofs of a book I'm co-editing with a friend today via UPS. I'm looking at this big pile of over 400 pages, each of which must be read very carefully because this is really the last time you get to catch any errors and make corrections. After the page proofs, the next step in the process, no changes except factual errors and typos. That means hardly any changes. I am also responsible for building the index for this hummer, which can't begin until the page proofs. And I've got a sinking feeling that I will have to do the indexing by hand, unless some way can be found to either perform electronic indexing on a pdf file or have a Word file to work.

And this is just one thing on the plate. I have also received another 400+ page manuscript for a book about Confederate generals in the Trans-Mississippi theater. This one is for the initial edit. I've already encountered one chapter that is just awful. It needs a  lot of work before it gets into our book. My co-editor and I are like good cop-bad cop. Guess who the bad cop is?