Saturday, June 30, 2012

Love of My Life

Tonight Susan and I are driving down to Stark Restaurant in Pauls Valley OK to eat what we hope will be a fine dinner in celebration of our 45 years of marriage. Our anniversary is actually tomorrow, but we're celebrating tonight. Celebrating a love that has so deepened and rooted over the years that neither of us can contemplate life without the other. Being married to someone this long entwines you to them, like something the trunk of a tree will just encircle to itself over the years. Susan is so much a part of who I am and who I have become for loving her and being loved by her that it's utterly impossible for me to think of myself as separate from her. As I've said many times, everything good about me is in some way because of her. She is the love of my life, a phrase I wish were not so tired, but one which says all that needs to be said.

Friday, June 29, 2012

Yet Another List . . . But Not Quite

Following the lead of my dear daughter Tanya, who like me admits to a certain degree of discombobulation when she cannot think of anything to blog about--delighted I was, yes I was, to hear that somebody else besides me had the same difficulty. That is, a feeling of guilt and discomfort about not being able to conjure up something to write about. So imagine my thrill when Tanya writes two blog entries recently about things she likes and dislikes. Whoopee! I steal the ideas . . .

But are you ready for this? In the course of typing this entry, I distract myself on purpose by deciding it's a perfect time to send out half a dozen Postcrossing post cards. So I go through that ritual of getting the names, printing up the addresses, picking out the card to send, putting the postage, and jotting the message down on about half of them. Oh, and next I look up all the addresses in Goggle Earth, see exactly where this card is going, ya know.* Well, after stops in Germany (Bielefeld), Finland (Nastola), Texas (Rowlett), and The Netherlands (Amsterdam), I start looking in the ocean near Finland at some little bitty islands and gradually panned over to the North Atlantic, west of Iceland and I encounter the site of the sinking of the British heavy cruiser HMS Hood on 24 May 1941.** Although I vaguely remembered about this ship and her encounter with the German battleship Bismark, I didn't remember details. So I was amazed to read that out of a crew of over 1400, only three guys--three--survived. All were enlisted guys. (You can read bios with links to their names below.) Incredible.

HMS Hood in 1938 - She went down with all but three hands.

I was immediately struck by the monstrous loss of life and the unbelievable good fortune of these three young men. I mean what are the odds? (Well actually, to be exact the odds were .21 percent of being one of those guys.) They all went on to survive the war. I still cannot wrap my mind around such numbers. All those lives snuffed out with ramifications that are still rippling out even today. War is such a pitiless exercise.

The HMS Hood Association has a considerable web presence, with lots of information to get hung up in if you're so inclined. Below is the chronology of the sinking from the Google Earth site. I had every intention of attaching a shot of the Google Earth screen showing the site, but damned if when I tried to email the citation to myself (the only way I can see of getting the .jpg), the damn program tells me I am giving it the wrong account name. This is my Google account, for Pete's sake! I get mail there every day and have used same account name for oh, say over five years.

HMS Hood Sinking Chronology
16-21 May: Based on reports that Bismarck was likely to attempt a breakout into the Atlantic, the ship was more-or-less on alert. Strategies were planned and discussed.

22-24 May: At sea with the battleship Prince of Wales, and destroyers Acates, Antelope, Anthony, Echo, Electra and Icarus. The force proceeded to waters off southern Iceland in case Bismarck and the accompanying cruiser Prinz Eugen attempted a breakout into the Atlantic in that vicinity.

23 May: Bismarck and Prinz Eugen sighted by H.M.S. Suffolk in Denmark Strait.

24 May: Hood sunk in the Battle of the Denmark Strait. In the engagement, Hood, Prince of Wales and Bismarck all received damage. At 0600, Hood sank following a catastrophic conflagration/explosion resulting from a deep penetrating hit from Bismarck. Out of a crew of 1,418 only three (Ordinary Signalman Ted Briggs, Midshipman William Dundas and Able Seaman Robert Tilburn) survived. Despite the loss of Hood, the action DID achieve the result of effectively cancelling the German sortie: Though Prinz Eugen escaped, Bismarck was later defeated and sunk with a heavy loss of life. No convoys were lost to either ship.

H.M.S. Hood sank at @0600 hours, 24 May 1941, whilst engaged in battle against the German warships Bismarck and Prinz Eugen. All but 3 of her compliment of 1,418 crewmen went down with the ship. It was the single worst Royal Navy ship loss of the Second World War.

*Have you noticed how this keeps one from doing the writing task?

**One of the many things you can do with Google Earth is mark shipwreck sites in the oceans of the world. That's how I found the Hood. Just by the by, there seem to be about ten times as many U-boat sinking sites than any other kind. Google needs to do some work in this area.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

I'll Have One of Those . . . and One of Those

My daughter recently had an entry in her blog which he entitled "Things I hate" – one of which was something like constantly gettting hung up with things on the Internet. I have to confess that I have that exact same weakness, and I also hate it. The picture above is an example the kind of thing I'm talking about. I ran across it at a site that somehow connected to Wikipedia – I know there's a bunch of those – that at one time or another I ran into and just recently ran into again.

What is it, you say? Well, it's a marketplace in the city of Praia, which is the capital of Cape Verde.* I don't know, but this picture strikes me as utterly fascinating. What of those root-like things in the center? And aren't you curious about what the lady on the right is buying? How much to those bags of beans cost? And what kind of beans are they?

By the way, I'm going to steal my daughter's idea and blog about things I hate. She also had one about things she loved. I was steal that idea too. Thank you, Tanya!

*I had to look it up . . . it's in the Atlantic, due west of Mauritania and Senegal.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

The "Fortnight"

Its full title is "Fortnight for Freedom." It began on June 21. What we're talking about here is two weeks of "non-stop nationwide teaching, preaching and public events to press" what the US Roman Catholic bishops are calling "freedom of religion." What the bishops are all exercised about is a requirement in the new healthcare law that institutions provide free contraception insurance coverage. Now, never mind the contraception is an issue that Catholics really don't give a hoot about for the most part. Never mind that the Obama administration has offered a workable compromise on the issue. And, oh, let's not mind that the bishops are denying this campaign has anything to do with partisan politics.

They have been forced to deny it of course because the secular press has been all over them. Why?  because to any normal person the fortnight for freedom looks like a nationwide "Vote Republican" exercise. It certainly does to me. The bishops claim it's about religious freedom, but if you'll pardon my saying so, that's a load of crap. In the same issue of USA Today that ran a story about the Fortnight, there is another story reporting that in the Philadelphia trial of Monsignor William Lynn, accused of facilitating the transfer of pedophile priests in that diocese, had not yet reached a verdict. This guy served as the Chancellor of the archdiocese, and of course he's the fall guy for the real criminal, the archbishop. And thus it's been all over the United States, the bishops have steadfastly refused to own up to their crimes. And these very same guys are now telling us about religious freedom! Give me a frigging break.

The local Catholic paper here in Oklahoma is full of Fortnight stuff. The local bishop* is careful to say that the debate is "not about contraception . . . not about religious freedom for Catholics only . . . not about the Church attempting to force anyone to do anything . . . not a fight that the Church asked for, but one which is been forced upon us by the federal mandate." And let's not forget the mandatory statement: "This is neither a partisan issue, nor liberal or conservative issue, but an American issue." 

What pious nonsense. What it all boils down to is supporting the Health Care Act is a blow to religious liberty, which is un-American, and which means you should vote for the party and candidate opposed to the affordable care act.

*You can find the entire statement here.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Er . . . About our American Values. How 'bout Let's Not Spread 'Em Around

Now I have to admit to being a little surprised by this. In a recent Atlantic survey, in answer to the question "Should America focus on trying to spread our values to other countries around the world?" the answers actually came back relatively sane.
  • 15 percent said yes
  • 31 percent said US should try to learn other countries' values
  • 51 percent said that the US should do neither one, spread or learn
 The article says that what this shows is that "American have a low opinion of this country's values, perceiving that they are in decline." In fact, 68 percent of those asked said that American values have weakened since the 1940s. And about the same percentage said they have declined since the 1970s. (I find this extremely interesting in light of the fact that the Republican party has controlled the country since the 1970s. Is it any coincidence that with the dawn of the Reagan years came the overweening influence of great wealth both in politics and in the culture? Influence which has continued unabated since.)*

So OK, a majority think our country's values are weaker than others. Why? These answers are really revealing. What they indicate is that the American citizenry knows what's going on. All of the factors cited by over half the people reflect the shallowness and venality of American society. And yet, even with this awareness, we seem hell-bent on keeping everything as shallow and venal as possible.

The people basically know what's going on

It would repay your reading the whole article.

*You cannot count Bill Clinton as a Democrat, in my opinion. Nor Obama, for that matter. For me, true Democrats are progressive democrats, and I don't think we've had one of those in office since Carter.

Monday, June 25, 2012

The Way It Was Ain't the Way

Here is James Kuntsler today in a weekly blog I never miss. He is referring to the Aspen Institute here.
    It's a very odd mix of hard-headed science and the most dismaying sort of crypto-religious faith in happy endings, tinged with overtones of corporate log-rolling and government propaganda. The basic message is: the world is hopelessly fucked up but thank God for technology. There is not even a dim apprehension that many of the aforementioned vexations originate in technology itself, and its blowbacks. Alas, this is about the best that the American intelligentsia can do right now, collectively, and it explains why we have such uniformly impotent and clueless leadership across the board in America, from the White House to the CEO offices to the diploma mills to the news media and every other realm of endeavor where thinking realistically about the future might be considered valuable. 

Let me observe that I've noticed the same thing about this "impotent and clueless leadership" in America. Indeed, the more you compare and contrast it with leaders around the rest of the world, the more clueless it does appear. As if everything is just going to be just like it was once we get the "recovery" to where it should be, that is, just like it once was.

Does it strike you as odd that in the face of completely obvious problems such as global warming, overpopulation, runaway militarism, creeping police-state, rampant poverty and unemployment, gross disparity of wealth distribution, crumbling infrastructure, a sick educational system, corporatism taking over everything, etc. that the best thing our leaders can tell us is everything will be fine just as soon as we get everything back the way it was? Isn't the way it was what got us here?

Friday, June 22, 2012

And One More Thing . . .

. . . this Writing Handbook I've been talking about. The last half of the book is full of information that writers need once they've gotten past the necessary stuff like parts of speech, punctuation, spelling, capitalization, abbreviations, and so forth. And that would be things like these sections: Unity, Coherence, Emphasis, Variety of Development, Interest and force, Exposition, Description, Narration, Argument (there's a whole section of this section about logical fallacies!) Now, I ask you, do kids in English classes ever get exposed to logic at all?  Would "post hoc, ergo propter hoc" make the slightest bit of sense? Judge for yourself. Illogical thinking is normative. Logic is a dying concept.

Would they learn the proper way to define things? "Define a word by giving (a) its general class and (b) the characteristics that make it different than other things in that class."

Would they learn about emphasis . . . in sentence, paragraph, theme?

And on, and on, an on.

I'm beginning to sound like a real geezer, but I'll tell you, brothers and sisters, the basics are still the basics. And I think we have more than enough proof that neglecting them when we're teaching kids is a guarantee that you're going to end up with a generation or more of people who at best achieve a barely functional literacy. Look around you. Does it fill you with confidence?

Thursday, June 21, 2012

The Way They Used to Do It

Back in the days before everybody started worrying about letting little Susie and little Johnny "expressing themselves" and to hell with spelling, grammar, punctuation, parts of speech . . . you know all that stuff us old people learned back in those decidedly non-progressive, not-up-with-the-latest-cutting-edge-educational-theory days in school, we had to employ books like the one I talked about yesterday. The Writing Handbook. [How would you like to diagram that sentence?]

So pedestrian it is too. What's this I see? The book divided into sections . . . and the first, lo and behold, "Parts of Speech." Before you're two paragraphs into the book, you have been exposed to names of all the parts of speech, all nine of them (including "exclamatory words"--what I learned and maybe you, too, as "interjections"--and "dummy subjects") plus gerunds, infinitives, and participles. By the time you've gone two pages, all these have been defined with examples:
A dummy subject (expletive) is the word it or there used simply to indicate that the subject is coming afer the predicate verb or to avoid awkward constructions.

It was plain that he was distressed.
There are no cars available.
 To tell you the truth, I don't remember these "dummy subjects"--they were just pronouns to me, I think--but the point is, before you started building with words, you learned about the bricks.

Next a section on "The Sentence." Of course. Also "Punctuation" and "Spelling." Yep, a whole chapter on correct spelling of words, a subject today that has become optional. It begins with, guess what?--Spelling Rules. Yes, rules. Here's the first sentence of this section: "Practically every rule of spelling has exceptions. But the rules given in this book hold often enough to make them worth your while." The very next sentence says "When in doubt about the spelling of a word, consult a dictionary. Only the dictionary habit ensures correctness."

This kind of thing would be considered radical off-the-charts today. Did you get that part about "correctness"? The notion that there is a right and wrong way to do this. Good Lord! What are we coming to?

[One more entry coming on this remarkable book.]

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Isn't This Magnificent?


The New York Times ran a piece, "Taming Sentences," today about diagramming sentences.* I wonder when they stopped teaching kids how to do this? Long ago, I'll bet. Guaranteed: a vast multitude out there has not the foggiest idea what "diagramming sentences" even means. And the majority of that extremely vast multitude probably doesn't know what a sentence is either . . . but I digress.

Of course, since I'm as old as dirt I remember quite well learning how to diagram sentences when I was in school. I still have English textbook we used. It's called Writing Handbook (Chicago, 1953), and it's written by a couple of Jesuits: Michael P. Kramer, S.J. and Charles W. Mulligan, S.J. [Now in a second completely revised edition, would you believe?] After getting lost in this book for a few minutes, I decided I have to blog some about it, so stick around for some really interesting chatter about this. (And from where I sit now, I don't see how I can possibly restrict myself to just one blog on this subject of this book. So be forewarned; if you don't want to listen to anybody talking about a book called Writing Handbook, skip a few days.) I wish I could remember exactly what year in school we used this book. My guess is around middle school years. I do remember that we had to write all the time in English class. We did one-, two-, three-paragraph exercises. We did longer essays, and usually the subject was assigned.

But I am digressing again. What I really wanted to do when I started was simply to point out the magnificence of the diagrammed sentence above. It's from a 1904 Henry James novel entitled The Golden Bowl. Here is is straight up:
The spectator of whom they would thus well have been worthy might have read meanings of his own into the intensity of their communion — or indeed, even without meanings, have found his account, aesthetically, in some gratified play of our modern sense of type, so scantly to be distinguished from our modern sense of beauty.It is taken from a Henry James novel. I've never read one of these, actually, but if this sentence is representative, I don't want to.
I think I could probably diagram sentences again after just a little brush up. I remember being pretty good at it, but I was good at English, period. It was just never hard for me, and I could not understand how it could be hard for anybody.

*Actually it was the second article on the subject. The first, "A Picture of Language," is here.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

The Cheater Is Not Guilty

. . . in the courtroom, that is. He is in every other way. Roger Clemens, former major league star pitcher, was found not guilty in what appears to be the last in a string of trials that arose out of the steroid scandal in baseball. The government had even less luck with Clemens than it did with the other marquee cheater Barry Bonds. This trial was about lying to Congress during testimony in 2005, but everybody knows the trial was really about steroid use in baseball. And looks like we're at the end of that road.

There are a billion news stories out there about the verdict. This one makes the points I would underscore. "Count Roger Clemens lucky for many reasons. First, he can afford a good attorney or attorneys. Second, the star witness was a clown. Third, Andy Pettitte’s recent amnesia. [First time around he heard his buddy Clemens say he used HGH; this time he said "he might have misunderstood" that. Yeah, right.] Lastly, the Government, or more specifically Attorney General Eric Holder, had inept lawyers." Surely all of this is true. The main witness against Clemens was a low-life character who claimed to have shot Clemens up numerous times. He was doubtless telling the truth, but he was easy to destroy in the hands of Clemens' smart, expensive lawyers.

I don't for one microsecond believe that Clemens didn't juice up like half of baseball was doing during the steroid era (roughly 1990 to 2005). The numbers he put up between the ages of 35-44 (1998-2007) defy belief, unless a guy is on the juice. But he walks, and now the papers are full of all these testimonials from other players about how somehow after this Clemens has a clean slate and calling for "moving on" and --a lot of them Yankees, which was the team Clemens pitched for during most of those last years in the game.

Anyway. There's no doubt Clemens is a cheater, and I trust the baseball writers who vote for the Hall of
Fame members keep his cheating butt out. He doesn't deserve the honor.

Sunday, June 17, 2012


Don't be put off by the song's title. This is a really nice tune by a group I just discovered called Girls from an album called, are you ready for this? Father, Son, Holy Ghost.

Enjoy it.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

We Are the 99 Percent

This is from a web site that I check in on every so often. It is never a pleasant experience perusing the entries there. The site is called "We are the 99 Percent," and it consists of testimonials of people from all over the country, all ages and conditions, and how they are affected by the economic downturn which has been anything but that for the 1 percent. They have been accumulating for months now, and there are so many that if you started today, it would doubtless take weeks to read them all. And they are, pretty much without exception, heartbreaking.

Real people are behind these words. The victim below, typical as can be, is facing the prospect of becoming homeless, with her husband and three children, next month unless some miracle intervenes to save them. And it would take a miracle from the heavens, because this country has lost its heart and its sense of obligation to just plain people who are suffering.

Meanwhile a strong movement in the country seeks to cut benefits to these suffering Americans even more, spend more on war and tax breaks for the already fabulously wealthy, people for whom tales of unshirted woe like the one below is as foreign as the depths of the sea.

This is the sign I made today, and plan to stand at a busy corner in the rain.  I do not live in Oregon, or Washington state.  I am disabled, my husband lost his job due to illnesses which include Stiff Person Syndrome, scaring on his brain (could be MS) hypothyroid, sick sinus syndrome (requiring a pacemaker at 37), and now something showing up on his liver. 
We believed that it would only be a short time before he would be better and be able to get back to work.  That was two years ago.  His unemployment benefits have run out, and now with all his diagnosis we are able to finally pursue disability for him.  My SSDI and child support come to a monthly total of $2346.00 monthly.  Our rent - we can’t afford to buy - is $1150.00 a month.  We are currently $195.00 overdrawn, and the overdraft protection has been turned off by the bank.  We have no more gas in our car.  I will get the last half of child support next week; coincidentally that is exactly $195.00.  The next SSDI check won’t be here until June 1st.
We have not paid our utilities, or car payment in two months.  We have a six month old who needs diapers.  He was our 1% miracle - as in birth control is only 99% effective.  Go figure.  If my husband’s disability is not approved soon we will be homeless by July.  Because our situation is dire now, we have written letters through his SSDI attorney for compassionate allowances.  However, once we are homeless our situation is no longer considered “dire”.
We will survive this.  Our marriage will survive this.  But, I am putting my country on notice.  I will not accept this any longer, I will not back down, I will not forgive, and I will not forget.  I will fight for change, I will fight this oppression.  My family is the 99%, and I am PISSED OFF!!!
This is just one victim, just one, of the corporate bacchanal that now defines this country. 

This is the sign I made today, and plan to stand at a busy corner in the rain.  I do not live in Oregon, or Washington state.  I am disabled, my husband lost his job due to illnesses which include Stiff Person Syndrome, scaring on his brain (could be MS) hypothyroid, sick sinus syndrome (requiring a pacemaker at 37), and now something showing up on his liver. 

We believed that it would only be a short time before he would be better and be able to get back to work.  That was two years ago.  His unemployment benefits have run out, and now with all his diagnosis we are able to finally pursue disability for him.  My SSDI and child support come to a monthly total of $2346.00 monthly.  Our rent - we can’t afford to buy - is $1150.00 a month.  We are currently $195.00 overdrawn, and the overdraft protection has been turned off by the bank.  We have no more gas in our car.  I will get the last half of child support next week; coincidentally that is exactly $195.00.  The next SSDI check won’t be here until June 1st.

We have not paid our utilities, or car payment in two months.  We have a six month old who needs diapers.  He was our 1% miracle - as in birth control is only 99% effective.  Go figure.  If my husband’s disability is not approved soon we will be homeless by July.  Because our situation is dire now, we have written letters through his SSDI attorney for compassionate allowances.  However, once we are homeless our situation is no longer considered “dire”.

We will survive this.  Our marriage will survive this.  But, I am putting my country on notice.  I will not accept this any longer, I will not back down, I will not forgive, and I will not forget.  I will fight for change, I will fight this oppression.  My family is the 99%, and I am PISSED OFF!!!

Friday, June 15, 2012

Leaving Well Enough Alone

Leaving well enough alone is good advice probably more than half the time. (I have no empirical data to back that up, but I believe it's true. Unless it's causing pain or causing great expense, it's probably the better part of valor not to mess with it.) These ruminations stirred by this piece I stumbled upon today. The basic thrust is this: if Congress had left well enough alone in 2001 (and 2003) and not passed the tax cuts for the benefit of their fat cat constituency, all the debt the country has accumulated since then would have been obviated.

The Republicans claimed, just as they are doing today in the face of evidence that proves the exact opposite of their assertions, that additional tax cuts will stimulate the economy. It is patently false, but since when has evidence meant anything to ideologues? Here is the meat of the article:*
The 2001 tax cut did nothing to stimulate the economy, yet Republicans pushed for additional tax cuts in 2002, 2003, 2004, 2006 and 2008. The economy continued to languish even as the Treasury hemorrhaged revenue, which fell to 17.5 percent of the gross domestic product in 2008 from 20.6 percent in 2000. Republicans abolished Paygo** in 2002, and spending rose to 20.7 percent of G.D.P. in 2008 from 18.2 percent in 2001.
According to the C.B.O., by the end of the Bush administration, legislated tax cuts reduced revenues and increased the national debt by $1.6 trillion. Slower-than-expected growth further reduced revenues by $1.4 trillion.
However, the Bush tax cuts continued through 2010, well into the Obama administration. These reduced revenues by another $369 billion, adding that much to the debt. Legislated tax cuts enacted by President Obama and Democrats in Congress reduced revenues by an additional $407 billion in 2009 and 2010. Slower growth reduced revenues by a further $1.3 trillion. Contrary to Republican assertions, there were no additional revenues from legislated tax increases. . . 
Putting all the numbers in the C.B.O. report together, we see that continuation of tax and budget policies and economic conditions in place at the end of the Clinton administration would have led to a cumulative budget surplus of $5.6 trillion through 2011 – enough to pay off the $5.6 trillion national debt at the end of 2000.
Tax cuts and slower-than-expected growth reduced revenues by $6.1 trillion and spending was $5.6 trillion higher, a turnaround of $11.7 trillion. Of this total, the C.B.O. attributes 72 percent to legislated tax cuts and spending increases, 27 percent to economic and technical factors. Of the latter, 56 percent occurred from 2009 to 2011.
The horrendous expenses from the Bush wars would have still pumped up the deficit, of course, but not by nearly as much.

So idiotic results like this are what we can expect if we give the Republicans free rein . . . something that I very much fear is possible in the fall.

*Original source article by Bruce Bartlett in the NY Times is here.

**You will note that Paygo is now Republican orthodoxy. It is only mandatory when the Democrats were in charge. Soon as the GOP was in charge, they ditched it and set about spending without revenue streams to support it.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Not to Harp on It . . .

Latest facts from Harper's Index. Almost all of these entries are either scary, unbelievable, or just plain stunning. What they have in common is that they're all true.
  • Percentage of independent political spending on television advertising in the past year that came from anonymous donors: 91 [Positively astonishing! And this is a democracy??]
  • Number of college graduates currently working as astronomers, physicists, chemists, and mathematicians, or Web developers: 216,000
  • As waiters or bartenders: 216,000
  • Number of the 30 occupations with the largest projected job growth over the next decade that require a college degree: 4 [Really??]
  • Number of dolphins found dead in the Gulf of Mexico since BP's 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill: 496
  • Factor by which the rate of dolphin death during this period exceeds the average: 4
  • Minimum amount Georgia has lost in fruit and vegetable sales since the passage of a a 2011 anti-immigration law: $75 million [Absolutely worth it to keep those damn illegals out, one supposes]
  • Percentage of American households made up of just one person in 1950: 9.3
  • Today: 27 [Not sure what this means . . . what do you think?]
  • Factor by which a religious website is more likely than a pornographic site to infect a computer with malware: 3 [Ditto]

Santa and His Little Elves (An Early Christmas)

This is an accurate depiction of the state of US politics today.     

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

More Leaks, Less Classified!!

It's encouraging to run into people, even if they are just in print on a page, that subscribe the same kind of views as yourself . . . even if the milieu in which you find yourself would automatically brand your views as damn near radical. Case in point: this piece in Atlantic Online by Conor Friedersdorf. All those leaks of State Dept stuff and military stuff and lately Afghan War stuff . . . well, great, I say! Let's have more of them. Why does the government hide stuff from us? Don't even think that national security has much to do with any of it . . . No, it's more elemental than that. The government doesn't want us to know what it's doing in our name and with our money. So all this latest brouhaha about leaks of classified information about CIA drone attacks in Pakistan is just nonsense. Everybody in the world knows we're using drones to kill people in the Middle East. Yet the president is hollering and so are members of both parties in Congress, especially members of the Senate Intelligence Committee such as John McCain and Diane Feinstein. Give me a break.

"The notion that the United States government should wage ongoing war in multiple countries while keeping it secret from its own citizens is noxious. By my lights, the CIA drone program's existence should not be a state secret. Obama ought to declassify it." Right on, brother.

Fact is, Obama has been only too happy to talk classified information himself when it's politically beneficial, and he's has been pure hell on whistle-blowers (this guy is just so wrong on so many counts) All this fuss about something kids in the Congo know about strikes me as a bit more than slightly ridiculous.

"Congress ought to be forcing Obama to declassify more. An illegitimate cult of secrecy is the problem. But Feinstein, McCain and others seem determined to have a less transparent executive. They want a man they regard as having put his political prospects above the safety of Americans to be even less transparent about his actions and more secretive."

Monday, June 11, 2012

A Thousand Years Ago

For the first time in 36 years, the famed Washington Post duo of Woodward and Bernstein have a joint article in the newspaper. It's about, as you might suspect, Watergate. It was the most serious assault on the constitutional liberties of U.S. citizens to date when it happened in the early '70s. I was in graduate school at LSU when all this was happening, and I remember it being a matter of intense discussion . . . constantly.

But from my vantage point now, in 2012, Watergate seems like it was a thousand years ago. Watergate investigations were bi-partisan and the vote to impeach Nixon was likewise. Can you imagine something like that happening today . . . bi-partisan anything??

If you are not familiar with Watergate, this piece will spin you up pretty well. If you are familiar, well, it will give you creeps all over again.

But my point here is that as dangerous and criminal as Nixon was, I don't see him as any more of a threat to the Constitution of the country than the plutocracy that tightens its grip on the Congress, Courts, and White House. Nixon was a clear and present danger that the majority of the country recognized. What we are confronted with now is a toxic ideology that is embraced by ever-increasing numbers of people. That the market is god; that compassion is weakness; that military power should be exerted to achieve whatever end we desire in the world; that science is opinion . . . indeed, that everything is opinion. 

Saturday, June 9, 2012

And While We're on the Subject . . .

We All Love Him: Why?
. . . of our worship of the military, here comes one of the military gods in chief with a book that will doubtless sell hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of copies and further enrich another of that privileged class who don't pay enough taxes. There's his sainted countenance on the cover of the book in question. I will never read it, of course, because ever since the Vietnam War I have know that Colin Powell is a snake. He was directly in the chain of command that covered up the My Lai massacre in that despicable war. Do we really need to say any more about him? His hands are as bloody as any in that murderous platoon that blew all those innocent people away.

But this is the sort of thing, this engagement in war crmes, that fades quickly into the mist when you talk about figures lionized for their probity and honor. Powell has toted both around on his four-star, secretary of state shoulders like a birthright for lo, these many years.

This piece doesn't talk about Vietnam for Powell; it talks mostly about Powell as secretary of state and the infamous speech before the U.N. which justified the heinous war we launched against Iraq in 2003. But it's the same guy who lied through his teeth throughout his career. He's the kind of guy Americans just fall over themselves to worship.

Friday, June 8, 2012

No Thanks for Your Service

Regulars here know how I detest the fawning over the military that apparently has become obligatory now in the USofA. They are not soldiers anymore. They are all "heroes." I never could quite figure what is up with that . . . Webster's doesn't seem to bear out this description. In one case we have "an illustrious warrior." Well, OK. We probably have a few illustrious warriors among these guys and gals in uniform. Just like we have a few illustrious ballplayers, truck drivers, authors, and artists. The rest are ordinary. What about other definitions? The only other that could be meant here is "an object of extreme admiration or devotion." Okay. This is closer to it. These people are such objects . . . why is the question I have. Because apparently they wear a uniform and have been sent off halfway around the world to fight our trumped up wars in the Middle East. Why all the fawning over these people?

Well it's yet another sign of the steady descent of our country into proto-fascism where the military and military trappings and nationalistic displays and spread-eagle patriotism is what substitutes for thinking seriously about what we're doing.

So it's in this vein that I read with pleasure yesterday this piece by a former Marine that began thusly:
I do not want to appear disrespectful or ungrateful, but should we meet on the street one day, do say "Hello," or "Fine day" or other such nicety, but please do not thank me for "my service" as a United States Marine. I make this request because my service, as you refer to it, was basically, either to train to become a killer or to actually kill people and blow shit up.
He goes on to say why he feels this way. You can read the piece, but any thinking person knows what he says. It boils down to being ashamed. Ashamed of stuff he did, ashamed of what he once thought, and ashamed of what his country is doing.

I'd like to meet this guy and shake his hand.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

The Bitter Meter

Guess what? We're more polarized now in terms of political values than ever. Surprise, right? I heard this on the NPR News Hour yesterday. Today I found the data to show you. Not that you did not know this before. Hell, if you've paid any attention at all to what's been going on in this country, you know that you have never seen it so bitter. Each year it seems to get worse. Here we are, over three years into to Obama's term, and we measure that length of time since anybody had real hope--remember that campaign slogan?--that government could effect real change--and remember that one: change you can believe in?

A state legislator in New Hampshire declares that state in a state of virtual civil war. (source) I just got back from a conference in Louisiana where we spent a couple of days talking about our country's real shooting Civil War 150 years ago . . . I don't think we're there in New Hampshire. But I don't think the notion of political paralysis such as the country endured in the years leading up to the Civil War is all that far-fetched an idea. I do think we're pretty much there on the national level and in any state with a strong enough party grip on the government.

Here are some charts from the Pew Trust poll on partisanship. You'll find the whole article here. The second one bears particular scrutiny. We drifted dangerously apart in some critical areas. None of this bodes well. For example . . . how bad do you think it will be if Obama manages to win reelection? Now consider Romney in the White House? I think the country's in serious trouble no matter who wins.

6-4-12 V #2

How Partisan Divides Have Grown

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Back on Guilt-Ridden Duty

Believe me, I don't need this frigging guilt about not blogging. I marvel at my blog buds like Montag, who manage to have relatively coherent thoughts several times a day about all kinds of weighty things (and then blog about them) and my daughter who happily blathers on and on about the perfectly mundane at least three times a week. Except she has . . . oh, I don't know . . . is it five blogs and Twitter and Facebook? Or more? Or less? So it's really more than a blog three times a week. A bunch I would judge. Where does her time come from?

While I . . . I cast about my brain for something intelligent to say. It's not as if I don't have thoughts about things, but I'm not at all certain how coherent they are. And they tend often to be . . . shall we say "less than rosy." It's because I'm cursed with this raging contradiction personality. At the personal level I've got a sense of humor, I like to laugh, love baseball, take delight in my grandkids and kids . . . but then there's this other side. The one that's aware of history, that's been framed in a sense of the tragic. The last time my grandson TJ was over we got to talking about the future, and I really didn't have anything cheerful to say about it. Pretty awful to be dumping this kind of crap on an 18-year-old. But I cannot dissemble either. I don't believe things are getting better . . . and it kills me to think what's ahead for my kids and their kids.

The biggest fraud in the world is the politicians of this country, both parties, pretending that things are going to get back to the way they were. We're not going back there. And what they're doing is taking care of themselves and lying to the rest of us. The bastards.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Well, Here I Am

. . . In Hammond LA on another of what seems to be a never-ending series of trips. I've got to give a presentation tomorrow at an annual history conference. I've just discovered after arriving in the room that I left my phone charger in Baton Rouge. Of course there's no thought of going back for it--that would be an 80 mile round trip. So I'm stuck with the inconvenience of nursing this present power situation till Sunday when I get back to BR.

I'm supposed to be meeting a couple of guys for lunch somewhere, so I have to leave the phone on till they call. Not feeling real comfortable with my talk yet either, so I have to work on it a little more.

In the meantime I've become a non-person on my blog. I think, but I'm not sure that I haven't posted since before Memorial Day. In fact, now that I think on it, this is right, because I kept thinking what I wanted to say on Memorial Day--disquisition on the theme of "let's just establish a year-long, continuing memorial to the people we send to the slaughter perpetually since our country now exists in a state of perpetual war."

I would have been outraged, nay, am outraged at the nationwide gushing of grief and the myriad parades and maudlin speeches all over the country. All the energy spent on mourning and zero energy, as far as I can tell, in working to make Memorial Day obsolete. It's pathetic. And already there are unmistakeable signs that there is a a goodly number of people in this country who are quite prepared to go to war in Iran.

For the life of me, I will never understand why war exerts such a massive attraction on humankind. It is a patently useless and cruel activity that does nothing except deal death and destruction to any it touches. God help us all. We do so love it.