Wednesday, November 30, 2011

The One Percent

Every week The New Yorker has a humor column entitled "Shouts & Murmurs." To be honest with you, lots of times I just skip it because, as I have mentioned before, my reading burden in heavy, if not back-breaking. This week though I was caught by the title of the piece by John Kenney, "We Are the One Percent." It begins "We, too, have mobilized," and continues in the voice of a fat cat. I have to tell you, it's been a while since I read such brilliant satire. Here are a couple of samples, but I commend the piece to you for full appreciation.
We're angry. We're angry at something we're calling "imagined frustration." By this we mean that, except for Congress, the White House, banks, major lobbyists, and the editorial boards of Fox News and the Wall Street Journal, no one is listening to us. And we're tired of it.
And more:
Here is our manifesto, still very much a work in progress, as it's cocktail hour and several of our protesters are out at the pool:
    • All wealth should be shared equally among the wealthy.
    • Eradicate poverty. (Note: Maybe a clearer way to say this would be "Eradicate the poor." Need to discuss.)
    • End business as usual. (Note: several members like the sound of this, but they don't know what it means. A suggestion has been made to add the word "hours" after "business.")
    • Implement a rule whereby the public cannot look at us and must keep a distance of at least twenty feet at all times.
 And so on. Like all effective satire, this bites enough to be felt, but not to break the skin. Great stuff.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Rats on the Move

Hi! My name is Herman Cain and I didn't do it.
Out of the truly motley gaggle of people who are seeking the presidential nomination for the Republican party, none of whom can I possibly imagine in the White House, one has stood out as buffoon in chief. Admittedly a difficult choice for the title, nonetheless Herman Cain gets the honor. No need to recount the many reasons this guy won the title going away . . . well, maybe not going away because Michelle Bachman and Rick Perry were closely contesting the spot, rivaling Cain in the display of the unfathomable depths of their ignorance. Cain was busy doing this himself, but being ignorant is no bar to the presidency. He was kinda hanging on as a curiosity. The black Republican pizza king. That in itself was enough to keep the guy hanging around. But that was before a passel of cluster bombs fell on his head.

A couple of weeks ago, or was it longer? Doesn't matter. Cain was accused of sexual harassment by a number of women. These acts allegedly took place when he was the president of the National Restaurant Association. He has been dogged to death by these charges ever since. Nine-nine-nine has been bye-bye-bye. Till now all Cain has been doing is a pretty poor tap dance around these charges.

Now a nuke has been dropped. A woman in Atlanta named Ginger White has informed the world that she and Cain carried on an affair for the past thirteen years. The buffoon in chief has suddenly morphed into a big, scraggly rat. Do I need to tell you he denies the charge? And does it surprise you to learn that his campaign now reports that he is "reassessing" his run for the presidency. What are the odds do you think that he'll be in the race more than a couple of more days? He ducked a big shindig in NYC tonight with a bunch of media heavies, and reportedly a couple of his staffer rats are deserting the sinking ship and going over to the King Rat: Newt Gingrich.

Gingrich! Can anyone believe that this despicable clown is the best they can find? I have not mentioned Mitt Romney, whom you would think would be the beneficiary of all this, but it's apparent that there's a fairly determined segment of the GOP, not clear how big a segment, who cannot abide Romney. He's an oily, lying bastard who's changed his position on so many issues, he cannot remember where and what he said a week ago. So the beat goes on. Is there a woodwork candidate for the Republicans? Rats are all that's left in the daylight.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Let's Play Pepper

Pepper is a game played by baseball players in close proximity to one another. It's also a game, a brutal game played by the police against students at the University of California campus at Davis recently. They were in close proximity too. Close enough for cops to pepper spray people as nonchalantly as if they were watering a garden. If you have not seen videos of these public servants at work on students sitting cross-legged in the quad, you need to see it right now. It's chilling and frightening. Pepper spray in the face of perfectly peaceful protesters! Elsewhere on the same campus students were being jabbed with overhand baton thrusts, female professors were being pulled to the ground by their hair and arrested. Go to YouTube. You will find video of all these outrages. Notice the Nazi storm trooper gear. It's de riguer now for the cops everywhere.

I have been lamenting for several years now what we as a country are becoming. The aftermath of 9-11 has loosed the hounds of hell upon us. It makes me both fearful and furious to see what has become of our once precious civil liberties. Now it's dangerous to confront authorities, period. But we all have allowed this to happen. By our fears, by our paranoia, by our ignorance, and by our complacency. The buzzards have come home and are roosting, brothers and sisters. And their breath stinks of rot.

Here's Matt Taibbi on this incident:
What happened at UC Davis was the inevitable result of our failure to make sure our government stayed in the business of defending our principles. When we stopped insisting on that relationship with our government, they became something separate from us.
And we are stuck now with this fundamental conflict, whereby most of us are insisting that the law should apply equally to everyone, while the people running this country for years now have been operating according to the completely opposite principle that different people have different rights, and who deserves what protections is a completely subjective matter, determined by those in power, on a case-by-case basis.
 He quotes Glenn Greenwald on the reason things have come to this unfortunate pass:
Despite all the rights of free speech and assembly flamboyantly guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution, the reality is that punishing the exercise of those rights with police force and state violence has been the reflexive response in America for quite some time. As Franke-Ruta put it, “America has a very long history of protests that meet with excessive or violent response, most vividly recorded in the second half of the 20th century.” Digby yesterday recounted a similar though even worse incident aimed at environmental protesters.
Although excessive police force has long been a reflexive response to American political protests, two developments in the post-9/11 world have exacerbated this. The first is that the U.S. Government — in the name of Terrorism — has aggressively para-militarized the nation’s domestic police forces by lavishing them with countless military-style weapons and other war-like technologies, training them in war-zone military tactics, and generally imposing a war mentality on them. Arming domestic police forces with para-military weaponry will ensure their systematic use even in the absence of a Terrorist attack on U.S. soil; they will simply find other, increasingly permissive uses for those weapons. Responding to peaceful protests and other expressions of growing citizenry unrest with brute force is a direct by-product of what we’ve allowed to be done to America’s domestic police forces in the name of the War on Terror (and, before that, in the name of the War on Drugs).
The second exacerbating development is more subtle but more important: the authoritarian mentality that has been nourished in the name of Terrorism. It’s a very small step to go from supporting the abuse of defenseless detainees (including one’s fellow citizens) to supporting the pepper-spraying and tasering of non-violent political protesters. It’s an even smaller step to go from supporting the power of the President to imprison or kill anyone he wants (including one’s fellow citizens and even their teenaged children) with no transparency, checks or due process to supporting the power of the police and the authorities who command them to punish with force anyone who commits the “crime” of non-compliance. At the root of all of those views is the classic authoritarian mindset: reflexive support for authority, contempt for those who challenge them, and a blind faith in their unilateral, unchecked decisions regarding who is Bad and deserves state-issued punishment.
Both these guys are far more elegant and at this moment more in control of themselves than I am when I contemplate what we've allowed our country to become.

Sunday, November 27, 2011


Front of 1930s era truck sunk in the waters around Truk since 1944
I actually knew about Truk (only now it's called Chuuk), knew that it was a battleground in World War II in the Pacific. But that's about all. I didn't know exactly where it was--somewhere down there in the southwest Pacific. I wasn't even clear on when the battle took place.

I found out: The island's lagoon was main base for Japan's South Pacific fleet and had a 45,000-man garrison. The island was heavily fortified and known to the Allies as the "Gibraltar of the Pacific." Operation Hailstone, launched by the United States with carrier aircraft in mid-February 1944 was one of the most important naval airstrikes of the war. Twelve Japanese warships, thirty-two merchant ships and 249 aircraft were destroyed, although the larger warships had moved to Palau a week earlier.

Japanese freighter struck by U.S. torpedo at Truk, 17 Feb 1944

This was long time ago--I would have been about six months old at the time. But I learn via HDNet World Reports that the idyllic lagoon, long a lure for divers who flock in there in their hundreds to enjoy the beautiful setting and the greatest shipwreck dive in the world, that a looming ecological catastrophe looms. Sunken tankers, not to mention all the other vessels, are reaching the point where they will break up* releasing millions of gallons of oil into the lagoon. This catastrophe would be worse than the Exxon Valdez Alaska spill. It would kill the lagoon and destroy the fragile, bare-existence economy of the island. There's a very expensive procedure by which the oil can be sucked out of the tankers, but the dirt-poor islanders cannot even afford to fix the potholes in their roads. Somebody else will have to pay. I nominate Japan. All in favor say "Aye!"

One of the things I most dread for my children and grandchildren is whatever the physical state of the planet will be in 40-50 years. How many other potential disasters like this loom that we don't know about? And will the world ever wake up to what humankind is doing to the planet? It's fast approaching the time when it will be too late.

*I didn't know this happened to metal ships, but it does. Apparently, this happens eventually to all submerged vessels. Note to self: need to find out more about this.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Geaux Tigers!!!!

Just a note to note that the LSU Tigers, the number one team in the land, pounded number three Arkansas yesterday by a score of 41-17. After two quick TDs by the Hogs, one of them on a runback of a fumble that took a weird bounce right into the hands of a defender, LSU scored 41 points to Arkansas's 3. For the first time in its history, LSU is 12-0 on a season. The domination was frightful to behold. I have been an LSU fan for my whole life, and I've seen a lot of good Tiger teams over the years. This one is the best one I've ever seen.

(Of course, I'm aware that this passionate devotion to a college football team is at the least unseemly for one who sees the larger context of the corrupt NCAA athletic kingdom. But I just can't help it.)

Friday, November 25, 2011

Quoting Kuntsler

The dust is finally settling, and I do hope I don't have to hit the road again till next year. I'm tired of traveling, tired of airplanes, airports, highways, and living out of a suitcase. We got back from Louisiana last Sunday. Our son Stu arrived about an hour before us, and he just left this morning after an all-too-short visit.

It's catch up time in a bunch of arenas, not the least of which is re-energizing this blog; I've been pretty spotty over the past week or so. And then there's all the blogs that have to be read . . . friends and relatives and my regulars. Of course, there's no way on God's green earth I keep up with all the blogs I dip into. There are few I read religiously, very few. James Kuntsler's "Clusterfuck Nation" is one of the exceptions to this rule (off the top of my head, I can think of only one other: "Baseball Time in Arlington" about the Rangers). Kuntsler and Matt Taibbi are writers who employ what I'd call the slashing style. No pussyfooting around with language niceties or foggy expression of their beliefs. And so Kuntsler begins his piece at the beginning of this month thus:
 Portents of winter and the toothless chatter of flag-draped traitors vies with a fog of lies spread by Koch Brother messenger boys, Reagan nostalgia hucksters, suck-ups in office, Murdoch empire servlings, Banker PR catamites, and Jesus terrorists to occupy the national mind-space with a narcotic Jell-O of half-formed wish fulfillment scams. The nation is hostage to a confederacy of racketeers. Banking. Big Pharma. The Higher Ed / Loan nexus. GMO agri-biz. Fast food. Mandatory motoring. You name it. What a disgrace we are, and the worst of us are the least to know that.
Is there a clearer expression of the calamity that is our current state of affairs than "hostage to a confederacy of racketeers?" Is there a stronger expression of condemnation of what we've become than "disgrace"?

His outrage at the Penn State sex scandal is near boundless. He begins "Rudderless" like this:
     The Penn State football sex scandal, and the depraved response of the university community at all levels, tells whatever you need to know about the spiritual condition of this floundering, rudderless, republic and its ignoble culture.
Correctly, trenchantly he interprets the hideous affair as a metaphor for America. And he's right on. He's revolted by every aspect of the scandal: "The intersection of America's fake warrior culture of football with the nation's fake moral and ethical culture is instructive. It has many levels . . . " from the cover-up by the university higher-ups to "the pretense that college football is a character-building endeavor." From "the phony 'prayer' session held in the Penn State stadium just before Saturday's 'big game' with the University of Nebraska" to the student demonstrations of support for Paterno and the football program to cable news wall-to-wall coverage of this event while several other earth-shaking events like the European debt crisis hardly got mentioned.

No, Kuntsler's not happy. He's angry and disgusted. Who can say these are unwarranted emotions? 

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Hello Again

I've been "out of pocket," as they may still say in federalese. I've been engaged of late in heavy family matters. Driving Mom down to Louisiana--the trip went fine, by the way--and then the very day we got back, my son Stu is here to visit for several days. For the first time, I think, since we've been in Oklahoma, my two sons will not be able to sync their holiday visits. We will see Ben for a few days before Christmas. One of the awful things about having kids is that they invariably leave, and you have to fashion family out of these scattered precious times you have with them. All this by way of explanation as to where I've been and also to where I am if I cannot squeeze in a few moments to post over the next few days. It took me a couple of hours to catch up with all my online chess games that were hanging short of time just now.

Of course, the idiocy of what passes for our national government has not taken a holiday. It was announced yesterday that the so-called "super committee" that was going to attack the budget deficit has adjourned without accomplishing a damn thing. It's a broken record, this idiocy out of Washington. Naturally, I blame the Republicans, who would just as soon drive the country straight to hell before coming to grips with the perfectly obvious fact that the federal government requires more revenue to conduct its business. The vicious partisanship that has virtually paralyzed the government since Obama took office shows no sign of slacking.

I should mention that I don't consider the deficit the largest problem facing this increasingly sinking nation. No, first comes the economy with all those millions out of work, those millions who have been in this condition for months now. All those people who are losing their homes, and who are not going to have a Christmas this year. And then the interminable war in Afghanistan, which shows no sign of ever ending, and which is sucking billions of dollars out of us every month. So the government is as wrong-headed now as ever, and every day that passes just digs all of us into a deeper and deeper hole. Now I'm going to be a broken record: we are a doomed people.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

We ARE in Kansas, Todo

Got contraband, old lady?
So I'm about 12 miles west of Salina, Kansas, in a rented car with my almost 91-year-old Mom and my 64-year-old wife. I'm driving the former to Baton Rouge where she's moving in with my brother. It's been a long trip from Denver already. This Kansas State copper pulls alongside of me, gives me the eyeball, drops back and hits the lights. I pull over and the dude walks over to my mom's side of the car and tells me after I fumble with getting the window lowered--didn't know the car and fumbled with controls the whole day. Anyway, he tells me he's stopped me for--are you ready for this??--not using my turn indicator to signal lane changes.

He asks me for my license. Asks me if the car's rented (How did he know? We figured out later it has to be some code in the license plate number.) Checks out the rental papers. Wants to know where I'm going and why. Says he's going to run my license and if it checks out, he'll write me a warning ticket. While he's back there in his cruiser, another cop drives up beside him and sits there for awhile. (I wondered if I'd been reported as a possibly dangerous character with two lady cohorts, one near-ancient, the other obviously beyond poster-child status for the over-50 set. Not to mention fairly greying me, age 68.) The other cop leaves after a while, and the first guy comes back and gives me the warning ticket, and oh, by the way, do you mind if I look in your truck because there has been a lot of "contraband" crossing the country. (Why, hell yes, I frigging mind, think I, but I'm not going screw around with this yahoo; that's a no win game.) So we go to the trunk, and he finds it crammed with luggage (naturally!). I was sweating it like hell because I had two cases of wine in the trunk--is it not illegal to carry alcohol across state lines?-- and I would have been royally pissed if he said anything about that. But the wine was at the bottom of this spacious trunk, under all kinds of other other stuff, so he either doesn't see it, or less likely, decided not to say anything. But he does want to know what's inside a big roasting pan Susan is bringing home. I have to show him it's empty. He wants to know how my mom's stuff is getting to Baton Rouge. When were we going to get there, and some more questions I can't remember. Can you believe this?

Fact of the matter is, I was just being rousted. With my driving cap and pony tail and patterned tee shirt, I fit his and every other cop's profile of suspicious, and probably dangerous, character. Thus the hassle. Don't start me on the surpassing idiocy of it all, or on the fact that this is a clear example of police profiling--no way in hell I get stopped if I've got a high-and-tight Marine haircut--that one has no choice in such a situation but to allow this violation of his 4th Amendment rights (what would have happened if I said no to the trunk search?), that this situation happens all the time to the disadvantaged in our society. Don't start me.

Need I tell you that incidents like this don't particularly beef up my trust in cops?

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

A General Exit

This will surprise you: According to USA Today, the Pentagon's pool of retired generals and admirals for use as "mentors," i.e., paid advisers, has dried up. There were 355 of these guys on the gravy train in 2010. Today there are 4. During the gravy days, the Pentagon was paying these "advisers" as much as $330 an hour. They worked as contractors for the services so normal ethics rules didn't apply. Sweet, huh? And almost to a man they were employed by giant defense contractors, whose products were sometimes involved in the projects the mentors were advising on.

After USA Today exposed the story in 2009, the secretary of defense capped the "mentors' pay, requiring public financial disclosures and hiring them as government employees, which required them to abide by federal ethics laws."

So guess what? The fat cat retired top brass quit. They said they didn't want to disclose their finances publicly. They also didn't want limits on working for private firms,* and of course there were numerous complaints that a cap of $179,000 a year and $86.10 per hour for their services was too low.

So how surprised are you? God, things are rotten in our state of Denmark!

*Which are invariably defense contractors, who invariably got cozy with the generals and admirals while they were still on active duty. The revolving door between the military and defense contractors is an ongoing, screaming scandal, but nobody cares.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Happy Valley

Scumbag Sandusky and enabler Paterno in happier times
I knew it at one time, but I was reminded by all the news out of Penn State of late that that campus is known as "Happy Valley." It's more than a little ironic, don't you think, that this latest mecca for pedophilia should bear such a nickname? I don't have to tell you the sordid details of the scandal that is engulfing the happy valley school with its sainted football coach. Seems the defensive coordinator there under Saint Joe Paterno, Jerry Sandusky, sexually abused boys over a period of years, in some cases right there in the Penn State showers where he was seen on different occasions by members a clean-up crew and by a graduate assistant. Early reports say eight boys were victimized; the latest number I've heard is 20. And this is almost certainly too low. We veterans of the Catholic priest sex scandal know two irrefutable facts about pedophiles. They are serial offenders, and they don't stop abusing kids until they are caught. If you're talking years these slime balls are abusing kids before that, the victims can easily mount to over 50 or 60 kids or even more. (Chronology of the events leading to arrest of Sandusky here.)

What makes this thing so sordid is the same exact thing that happened with the Catholic church. Here the institution was a university and its squeaky clean football program and its squeaky clean legendary coach. But confronted with allegations that one of the football lights, Sandusky, had been caught sexually abusing children, the university covered the thing up and two of the college officials, including the Athletic Director, went on to perjure themselves before a grand jury in connection with this. And Saint Joe? Well, he was informed about this in 2002, and he reported it up the chain. And then . . . . does nothing. Doesn't confront Sandusky. Doesn't follow up on the report he made. Doesn't say anything when nothing happens in the case. And of course the higher ups don't do anything either.

WTF is wrong with these people? You have to wonder how much of this heinous behavior--the crime and the silence--is going on all over America. Is Penn State and the Catholic Church just the tip of a huge rancid iceberg?

Update I: The news Wednesday evening is that Paterno and the president of Penn State have both been fired. Good.

Monday, November 7, 2011

The End

The truly amazing thing about these people who throw "class warfare" around is they don't have a frigging clue what they're talking about. True class warfare would have these people strung up long since.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

These Truths

the ones I'm about to list for you are supposedly self-evident. That's the way the Republican propaganda mill that's been churning out the same lies over and over for years on end now treats them. Here they are in no particular order:
  1. Business does everything better than the government. And by extension, business people, even if they are buffoons like Herman Cain and Donald Trump, will naturally be better at running the government than a politician, lawyer, or dishwasher. Really? None of our greatest presidents--Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln, FDR, TR--were businessmen. In fact, if you give me a minute, I might be able to think of a businessman president who rose higher than mediocre . . . hang on. I'll think of somebody . . .
  2. Rich people are "job creators." Sheerest poppycock. This is nothing more than the tired, old discredited "trickle down" theory in new clothes. Give the rich more money, and eventually some of it will fall on the heads of the rest of us. Mere accumulations of money don't create jobs. What really creates jobs is great big bunches of people buying things. Rich people don't create jobs; they spend some of their sums of money and sock the rest away in safe investments.
  3. Regulations kill jobs. Yeah, right. The lie is that regulations are so onerous and costly that businesses spend a lot of money that would be used to hire people. But this is nonsense. This country's experience with deregulation has shown over and over that in a deregulated environment businesses tend to consolidate into smaller numbers
You can probably think of others such as, free trade is always to be desired and criticizing the greedy rich is inciting class warfare. Equally as much bullshit as the other propositions. There is a real danger, of course, that constant repetition of these falsehoods will magically make them true at a certain point. I'm afraid we may have already reached that point. Not all of us, certainly, but a goodly number of people who are inclined to believe anything that drips off the lips of a Republican or somebody with lots of money. These things are believed because people desperately want them to be true. Because if these "truths" are not true, then the American system and the accompanying American dream--that part of it that says anyone in this "land of opportunity" can get filthy rich--are phonies also.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Your Neighborhood Poor

ProPublica has an interesting online tool for you to give a whirl. Type in the zip code of your county (or parish) and it will tell you how it stands in terms of income inequality compared to other US counties. You can find it here. Just for information's sake, the county I live in, Cleveland, in Oklahoma shows 47 percent have more income inequality. That's about right. Oklahoma is in the middle on a lot of things. But just for grins I typed in a New Orleans address. Results: 99 percent of US counties have more income equality than Orleans Parish, LA. It does not get more stark than that. There is some discussion about the tool and its accuracy in the comments below.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Speaking of Texas

If it weren't so pathetic, it would be funny. I'm talking about the speeches of George W. Bush. You've probably seen some of these snippets before, but a few were new to me, and the one with the kid standing behind him while he's talking is worth the price of admission by itself. Enjoy!

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

It's Texas

She's one of the newer New York Times columnists, Gail Collins. Her most recent column points out once again just how crazy it is in Texas. This goofy governor of theirs Rick Perry who's embarrassing himself and his state daily is a perfect symbol of a place that, like Florida, has always been slightly unhinged.

Just a few days ago, Collins had a lot of fun in her column demonstrating this. To wit: a story about an assault with a frozen armadillo. Then there's the one about the pissed off Taco Bell customer who took out his aggressions with . . . not a taco, not a burrito. No, with a frigging gun! (But of course.)  “Brian Tillerson, a manager at the Taco Bell/KFC restaurant, told The San Antonio Express-News that the man was angry the Beefy Crunch Burrito had gone from 99 cents to $1.49 each." Oh, well, hell. That explains it completely.

All this led up to a few paragraphs about Herman Cain, the pizza man who's running for the GOP presidential nomination. The latest on him is that three different women are accusing him of sexual harassment when he was heading up the National Restaurant Association, or something like that. Collins dismisses Cain. "Sexual harassment is a serious subject. But Herman Cain isn’t." Right. It's not worth discussing. Odds are, the guy's guilty, but he finished anyway as somebody anybody could take seriously. Unfortunately, the whole country is thinking like Texans. This can't be good.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Great Websites

For various reasons.
  • Ninjawords: Doesn't everybody have a dictionary link on their toolbar? I cannot imagine anybody not having one. But till I discovered Ninjawords, I had to wait wait wait for the dictionary site to come up, type in the word, and wait for the system to grind out the word and definition. No more. If all you want is a quick definition, this dude will blow your hair back. Try it. Info about it here.
  • Wikisky: The kind of place that makes me realize just how little I know. But it fascinates me nonetheless. This is an astronomy site that you have to see to believe. Here's their own description of what it is: "Our on-line system is a detailed sky map. We generate the map automatically using our database with the positions and basic characteristics of space objects. You can get more details from Getting Started." I get lost here every time I go.
  • Kiva: Lend some money to some enterprising citizen of the developing world. Help them stand up a business, do yourself proud, and love your neighbor all at the same time. "[A] non-profit organization with a mission to connect people through lending to alleviate poverty. Leveraging the internet and a worldwide network of microfinance institutions, Kiva lets individuals lend as little as $25 to help create opportunity around the world."
  • Wikitravel:Wiki again? Yep. This is a Wiki Travel Guide. It's got over 25,000 destination guides and other articles for planning travel. Look up close by (ton of stuff on Oklahoma City) or what you're thinking about (rail travel across Canada). Tons of great information.