Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Hey Mister, Where's That Train Headed?

The Buckeye Express Diner

There is nothing at all new in the observation that money is power.  This is the nature of things.  There was once, however, at least the romantic idea that there were also other sources of power, by which I don't mean Mao's dictum, although that dictum represents the clarity of the extreme, and you can observe it in action in my favorite documentary, "Harlan County, USA," when the pistols come out on both sides of that wet spur track of rails.

Still and all, Ms Maddow had one for the books last night when she reported that university professors in good standing (not Gingriches I mean) are being asked to give up all their emails in response to their resistance to these draconian legal measures being enacted by various states under the sway of Tea Party rule, and that one search word in the email analysis is "Maddow".  This all flows out of some conservative think tank called the Mackinac Foundation*, which according to Maddow is funded by the Koch Brothers, the Walmart family, and the parents of Eric Prince amongst others.  She couldn't get any sort of response out of either the Foundation or the various funding parties, beyond "no comment."

I don't want to try to get into the details of Ms Maddow's investigation--but it's worth watching and understanding.  It would seem that money these days is in the process of consolidating its already extensive power, which may well be a kind of "natural" consequence of money, just as business begins as a multitude of small shops offering a variety of products to the public, but seems to trend to a monopoly, a monolith making all the various products and simply stamping different names on them to keep it more colorful and interesting.  E.g., I used to have a yellow DeWalt 4" Angle Grinder, and before that a black Black & Decker 4" Angle Grinder, and after that the one I have now, a green Makita 4" Angle Grinder (which has lasted longer than the other two, but cost a bit more).  But whether these three products were made by different manufacturers I couldn't really say, and actually kinda doubt.  Or to ask another question, what happened to the Packard and the DeSoto and the Plymouth?

It is possibly a matter of little consequence that we can no longer find us a good Packard.  But if it's not possible to find a viable political candidate who isn't funded by corporate money (and thus who's politics are approved by the corporate view), that's a different matter, isn't it?  The Michigan Tea Party Governor has actually passed a law which allows him to remove from elected office officials of a town which in his judgment is in economic straits.  State employees who question this can have their emails studied by the powers that be for thought crimes, signs of conspiracy, mentions of Marx or Maddow.  This is the developing story in the United States right now.  There's a paternalistic feeling in the air.  Governor Walker of Wisconsin isn't going to put up with "it", and if the smart-aleck kids down at the end of the table don't shut up and eat their English peas, they will not get any cobbler.

There was a nice historical ring to it, last night, when Maddow interviewed the Wisconsin Secretary of State, a Democrat named LaFollette.  But she might have been talking to a relic, an appendix, a vestigal tail.  Savor her shows.  If she makes it on the air to the end of this year, things are better than they look right now.   As it is, I would not make book on Ms Maddow investigating GE with regard to their interesting tax-paying record.

*Update: Mackinac Foundation can of course be googled with good results.  Check out the following URL:

Note the people and corporations who fund the foundation.  Note the spiffy little essay contests they sponsor.  Note the spiffy salaries of their top people.  Do just a little reading between the lines! Where oh where is Donald Segretti today, I have to wonder.  Was he ever ahead of his time or what?

Thursday, March 24, 2011

In the Same Sentence

I usually manage to listen to the Rush Radio Drive Show for about 30 seconds.  Now, with yet another war to cover, I'm listening to serious news, e.g., NPR, about as long.  It's just easier to drive along in silence, and note each morning that another tree or bush has blossomed.  We've got the red bud, the pears, and breath of spring going good.  Possibly way up high, the tulip poplars as well.  If Libby and I don't get to the tin roof quick, it'll be covered with pollen again, and we'll have to wait till it's so hot we can't get up there at all except before about 8 am.  Yes, it's just like the dang song.

Anyways, Monday the guy on the morning drive, one Casey O'Day, says (re the current story on our military atrocities in Afganistan), that there will always be a few bad apples.  And then, in the next sentence, or maybe it was a semicolon, he says "In Vietnam they had necklaces of ears, and it worked.  We need to leave five bodies here, and then five over there, and in a while the people will start cooperating."  (I paraphrase, but not by much.)  So then, how's that for having it both ways?  You got your bad-apples, you got your ear necklaces.  Effective ear necklaces, by the way.  Does Lindie England get a post-release medal then, or does the thing work this way--that you always have rules in place, and what you have to do is break those rules and not get caught--deniability will always be maintained.  As for getting serious about those ears, just google "ear necklace" and you'll find some pretty interesting reading.  My guess is, Mr. O'Day was born after 1975.
He certainly missed the lesson of Yugoslavia, which Hitler learned in '42, on his way to the Soviet Union to die.

The deal with deniability is, it's not real.  Has this been forgotten?  It's a PR ploy.  Newt Gingrich can't really get away with saying two weeks ago that we should have a No Fly Zone imposed, and yesterday say that Obama is being reckless and also overly cautious.  There is the film, as even Jon Stuart can point out. 

And apparently, this gibberish works in economics too.  "Works" that is.  You can cut taxes and then have a budget deficit crisis, and continue to follow the principle of never raising taxes.  It's breathtaking.

Eventually somebody's going to examine those ears a bit more closely, and maybe it'll be like in the Searchers:  "That's your mother's scalp on that pole, Jeffrey."

Monday, March 21, 2011

Atom Kraft? Nein Danke

I put one of these stickers on my MT-50 back in 1980

The dictum "you can't derive an 'ought' from an 'is'" suggests that whatever we might opine about nuclear power can be countered from some quarter or other with some other "argument."  Don't like radiation getting into the spinich?  Well, how bout the fact that coal dust gets into miners' lungs and slowly suffocates them to death, or that windmills kill thousands of innocent birds, or that BP pollutes the Gulf of Mexico.  And after you've been reduced to silence, there's the silent final coup de grace: so what do you want, that we go back to huddling around the wood stove and trying to read by candle light?  Well, wood smoke pollutes too, buddy.

This was pretty much how Rumsfeld "won" his arguments about the War in Iraq.  There's always somebody who will disagree.  So what?  He got enough traction with that to where, hey, we're still there, ain't we.  Down at the Texaco there's a guy who comes in every Tuesday with a new complaint about "electric cars," which he wants to assure all of us that he'll never ever buy.  Far as I know, no one has tried to "make" him buy one either.  He just feels the need to keep showing the world its profound folly, to even bring the damn things up, much less build one.  (This impulse was apparently shared by Limbaugh the other day, when he sneered that Japan didn't deserve the tragedy "nature" has delivered upon her because, after all, Japan gave the world the Prius.)  I don't know why the Right imagines that some big but nonexistent government is going to "make" everyone buy a Prius.  Ain't ever going to happen.  What might happen is, the economic circumstances of travel and fuel costs may at some point make owning a conventionally powered gasoline engine simply too dear for all but the most wealthy to consider as an option.  You cannot these days buy a steam car.  And you cannot these days get around on a horse, either--at least not as a regular mode of transportation.  (And by the way, when Gingrich and George Will suggest that the private passenger automobile is the true "American" vehicle, and that railroad transportation is "collectivist," they miss the point that roads as much as rails are a collective enterprise.  It was the horse which inspired true American individualism--because a horse didn't need no steenking roads.  But you might want to consider how the everydays of horse travel are pretty much always removed from view in the most heroic of your favorite Westerns--not much about how the critters must have water and food even when they are just "parked," nor about how they now and then kicked their tenders to death, or keeled over "way out there."   Want to see just one realistic appraisal of the horse in the modern world--watch Kirk Douglas in "Lonely are the Brave.")

So anyways, accepting that an ought can't follow from an is, let us soldier on.  Does it not bother you, gentle reader, that in the case of nuclear power we have a situation where we're producing tons and tons of material which is deadly poison to all life (as we know it) for the next 200,000 years or so, given that us humans have only been part of the story of the planet for about that long, and only have even a marginal written history for maybe a couple of thousand years, depending on what you call "history.  Doesn't it seem some what, ummmm, "hubristic," to just generate this deadly material to make electricity, with no good solution for what to do with it?  And isn't that one of the things brought to mind by this Japanese nuclear disaster--the third or fourth time since the '50s when a nuclear reactor has had major problems and leaked "significant" radiation.  That is, given that nuclear material is dangerous for 200,000 years, and we've had serious problems with reactors four times in 60 years, you do the math.  What the math suggests to me is that, over a time span relevant to nuclear poisioning, nearly every reactor is going to have a disaster of some kind.  And yet we are actually in a situation where a goodly number of other reactors are even sited on or near fault-lines!  WTF is that.  To quote La Palin I mean.

Ok.  So nothing I just said really "proves" we shouldn't be building nuclear reactors, or choosing to direct our long term energy grid in a nuclear direction.  But then humans do not follow the Kantian logic as a general matter do they?  If ought doesn't ever follow from is--and if that is a principle to keep in mind when we're confronted with a moral choice--well, why are we now shooting missles into Tripoli?  Or into Pakistan?   And why not into Ivory Coast?

I saw a quote last week.  I forget the mathematical term, but it doesn't really matter.  Let's call it a terrawatt for the sake of the point.  Humans these days, according to analysis, use 14 TW of energy per year to live as we live.  Of these 14 TW, 12 are derrived from fossil fuels.  During that same year, the sun delivers 86 TW of energy to the Earth.  (The sun is of course nuclear, but it is a safe distance from us.)  Today I saw a comment (over at Digby I think it was)--stating that the real turning point of recent American history was the fact that a majority of American voters decided that Jimmy Carter was a "loser," Dick Cheney a "winner."

As John Prine once said:

We are living in the future
I'll tell you how I know
I read it in the paper
Fifteen years ago
We're all driving rocket ships
And talking with our minds
And wearing turquoise jewelry
And standing in soup lines
We are standing in soup lines

Well of course we can just look at the surface of things.  The man with the turquoise rings on his long, thin fingers passes us a mysterious pipe, and tells us that we should give it a hit, just one toke, before we make a decision. His nails are long and rather dirty; his dark eyes glitter, and his smile is a bit too wide. 

Even back '50s there was more going on than immediately meets the eye.  I offer you a still from "The Wild Ones":  

Did they ever have fun making movies back in the day, or what?
I was just reading Kim Morgan's essay on "The Wild Ones" this morning, and borrowed the still from her essay.  She said they banned this movie in England until the late '60s because they were afraid biker gangs would get the idea to invade villages.  I have to wonder if, subliminally, there were other things motivating the censors. 

Monday, March 14, 2011

The Sea

Sandy Denny

Browsing around this weekend, at James Wolcott's place in particular, I discovered that Keith Olbermann now has a blog.  I posted a link in the "tubes" section.  I have heard rumors that he will resurface on the teevee at some point, perhaps with a chunk of time on the "Current" channel, which is 196 on Dish and probably other things on other systems.  While television will have it's place in the coming months and years--it can deliver a certain kind of real news very well if its cameras are pointed at the right piece of real estate--it appears that points of view as mild-mannered as Olbermann are going to fade away from general public view, to be discovered only by an apparent minority who bother to look for them.  And this ain't news, except to some few who have been engaged elsewhere.  The fact that the right is determined to bury NPR/PBS is testimony to a determination to remove any alternative to the vast corporate point of view which utterly dominates all mass media.  Any sensible person not already entirely under the sway of the corporate point of view can see that NPR is 99% about delivering factual information.  Thus, the goal of the right is not to stamp out some supposed doctrinaire infection of the national conversation, but to keep people in the dark.  It is a sad truth, but it is obvious.

Some truth is too big to deny.  Such are the on-going events in Japan.  On the sub-topic of the failing nuclear power plants, too many liberal commenters seem to see these failures as simple indictments of what they already "knew," that nuclear power is too dangerous to consider as an alternative power source.  While the siting of these Japanese plants seems fundamentally shortsighted--since tsunamis are after all a Japanese concept as well as a fact, and since plate techtonics was known by the '70s, and beyond that, Japanese engineers certainly knew that for whatever reason Japan was highly subject to major earthquakes--carping from liberals who are knee-jerk anti-nuclear is also myopic.  After all, the fact is that Japan is oil poor.  One could actually say that Japan's part in World War II has a lot to do with their lack of oil (and also with the Tokyo earthquake of 1923, come to think of it).  What are they to do.  Nuclear energy is probably a reasonable option, particularly given that they were utterly defeated by the United States in 1945--flattened in a way almost identical to the situation they now face on their northeast coast.

I've never been to Japan, but of late I've grown more and more fond of the Japanese culture, as expressed in the films of "Beat" Kitano in particular.  (You might want to watch his film, "Dolls," which is as epic and culturally aware as Ford's "The Searchers.")  Someone remarked in the coverage of the disaster that Japanese culture embodies a deep fatalism which is grounded in their environment--a world in which the sea can engulf the land at any moment, and where all that is constructed can be broken asunder by both water and the very ground itself.  I kept thinking of two songs on the subject--Gram Parson's beautiful, surreal dreamscape, "A Song For You": "Oh my land is like a wild goose, wanders all around, everywhere; trembles and it shakes till every tree is loose, rolls the meadows and the rolls the nails...." and Sandy  Denny's "The Sea."  To have one's simple, literal, everyday world upturned in an instant--that would indeed be a perspective changing experience.

And is that moment, when Sandy Denny sang this beautiful song, any less vanished than these tragic vistas in today's Japan--houses with cars on their roofs, ships lying in gardens, highways split and chasmed, desolate lines of people waiting for water in the snow.

Update: on our local morning curmudgeon drive show, the opinionator remarked that we had better not give any aid to Japan, because "we're broke" and "they're a first world country."  This is what passes for "conservative thought" these days.   In the afternoon Mr. Gingrich continued his current theme--that the United States can achieve energy independence if only we'll drill willy-nilly within our borders.  "We were not designed for $5 gas," he said to Mr. Hannity.  How a conservative can talk of removing from a world commodity market and keeping gas prices low by fiat--yet at the same time be "against big government," is remarkable.  But then, Mr. Gingrich continues to pass as an intellectual, when what he really is is a poseur who learned some decades past that if you say things with a certain tone and keep your chin at a certain angle, quite a few people will mistake your views for intelligent ones.  Gingrich is a fraud.  He's been a fraud.  And he's also a weasel who will say absolutely anything to get a vote.  Had things not gone so well for him at the public trough, he would have become a true criminal.  He has the mind for it.  He lies constantly to himself.

Update 2.  My commenter pretty much misses all the points I'm making.  Mr. Gingrich is indeed proposing American "energy independence."  That's exactly what he said on Hannity on Monday.  That such an idea is preposterous in the context of his own alleged principles seems to matter not to Mr. Gingrich, which fact makes him patently a con-man.  Moreover, the general Right Wing assertion that we are not drilling for oil in the US is simply false.  No doubt there are some other considerations to be taken into account when particular drilling sites are either ratified or rejected at any given time.  This is simply prudent, and would be the case whatever party was in power (Tea Party being the case that would prove the rule, for if a real Tea Party President is elected we will find only that priorities will change, e.g., there will be no oil wells in certain Wasilla, Alaska, backyards.)   The oil industry is an international industry based on the extraction of energy resources located around the globe.  No doubt many American industry workers are working overseas--and no doubt they pay American taxes.  The huge problem of blue collar job exportation is not particularly about the oil industry.  It's primarily about manufacturing.  

Re his assertion that the Japanese nuclear plants have survived--it seems a bit early in the day for that assertion, but no doubt there will be a Rumsfeldian response to the facts as they unfold, no matter what they happen to be.  That is in the order of rhetoric however, not observation.  I have not argued in a blanket way against nuclear power--on the other hand, this nuclear disaster in Japan is a wake-up call to the US, particularly as we have a number of similarly designed plants, as well as plants situated near seismic faults and even near potential tsunamic activity.  The primary reason we have not been building new nuclear plants is that investors have not been interested in them, given the track record.  The Japanese events will not reassure investors--that's my guess anyways.  Perhaps our coming Tea Party Administration will invest tax dollars in Nuclear Plants, if they can find suitable backyards?  They'll have a lot of spare cash after they've defunded NPR, and, with leaders like Gingrich, they'll have no problems with intellectual consistency.  Maybe they'll even have government subsidies for gas at the pump so's to keep the price reasonable--the implication of Gingrich's most recent "position statement" on Hannity.  I've always loved the music of the tango. 

Thursday, March 10, 2011

My Pet Goat, the Sequel

Mr. and Mrs. Obama are doing a special live internet thing this morning on bullies in school.  In other news, the head of NPR has resigned for stating a patent fact--that the Tea Party utilizes the "Southern Strategy" in its methodology (see, e.g., the Mark Williams "letter to the NAACP").

Perhaps the working theory is, since the world is round, retreat can always be effective.  Union members in Wisconsin beg to differ one presumes.

Update: re Laurie's comment, here's a good post on the NPR subject, with several links to further bits of information:

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Oh, The Humanity

Doghouse writes a brilliant demolition of Douthat, who is never worth reading to start with, but is certainly good at tossing softballs to people with minds:

I have to wonder if Regnerus and Uecker are actually real people.  These names are names from a novel by Tom Wolfe, aren't they?  The first one evokes the infamous right wing publisher as well as St. Ronnie.  The second guy obviously evokes the dim but comic character Bob Uecker made of himself after his playing days were done.  What a pair.  A capable conservative would have spent his NY Times footage exposing yet another example of academic misappropriation of limited resources, on a par with the US Government spending .000001% of it's budget on NPR support (particularly when NPR is doing pieces suggesting that the Government of Kentucky's financial support of the Noah's Arc Theme Park is simply a matter of some folks believe the earth is 6000 years old, others believe different).  Instead, Douthat actually cites these muddled sociological con-men, which only makes his terminal muddle that much worse.  Next Brietbart will fund a movie about them--sort of an answer to the "Social Network," Liberal Hollywood's definitive statement on Sex in the 1990s.

Meanwhile, over at Edroso today you can find a serious discourse (via YouTube) between Hugh Heffner and some guy with a porn 'stash on the nature of "watering holes" around the world.  Roy suggests a new gig for Sheen.  Good plan.  When Sheen appeared on O'Donnell last week it was the first naked-eye glimpse of the on-rushing asteroid, the end of theorizing about the mysterious vaporizing of Olbermann.  Now we know.  And last night the infernal glow grew brighter.  O'Donnell interviewed David Brooks. 

I'm hoping women's softball starts soon on ESPN.  I only watch it for educational purposes.  If I was in New York City myself in a couple of weeks (March 26), I'd try to catch Si Kahn's concert commemorating the Triangle Shirt Waist Fire.  Apparently we're going to have to relive the whole struggle for worker's rights again, if the efforts to demolish Unions succeed.  Already Mr. DeMint has suggested a national "right to work" law.  It's too bad Henry Ford is not running in 2012. 

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

March, Madness

Rhody and Dan tend NC's old cash crop

As winters have been in the last decade here in NC, this one was first an exciting entrance, with snow and icy winds, and us walking out to the road where the truck could safely park, and spinning out on the ice when the road turned out to be not so safe.  But after all that big first third flurry, things settled in to wood fires and scraping the windshield.  There was always enough time to harvest dead fall and snag to keep ahead of the pace, and I still see a chance of meeting my permanent goal of ending winter with four good piles curing for next year, and done before the ticks really come out and make being in the woods a danger and discomfort, not to mention avoiding the copperhead encounter that's certainly a possibility amongst the upturned and disinterred stillnesses wood-hunting entails now and again.  And so it is March, and the Heels have turned into a "freight train," to quote Tony Kornhauser, a good man indeed, and we give thanks that the NC sportwriters managed to leave every Tar Heel off the First Team ACC list, even when the Heels have the Regular Season Champeenship in pocket and look poised to take the Tourney as well.  Toss another shovel in the firebox, you can hear old 97 roll.  I had to laugh when Julius Hodge opined on the radio yesterday that Drew II was a simpering bushwad for deserting his mates in midseason, but on the other hand, that's what Tar Heels did, Mr. Hodge being the epitome of a State Fan and one of the greatest State Players since Sammy Ranzino and Ronnie Shavlik, meaning Julius can indeed talk the talk, and Lenny Rosenbluth always did drive State crazy with that oh-so fey jump shot of his, and never in his life drove to the basket when he could hit a fall-away.  (And even Mr. Hodge must admit the true fact that pasty Rosie accomplished 32-0 against the greatest player of the 20th Century, including getting the Wilt fouled out for the last of the 3 o.t.s--whereas the year previous the Wolfies went 4 o.t.s against Cansius... and Lost.)

We'll be driving back from Greenville, a non-ACC town, this coming Sunday, hopefully at least hearing a Championship Game which includes Carolina.  Why we booked a dance on the Tourney weekend I don't know.  I never think to look ahead when we book things.  Libby and I played our worst gig at the Cave the night UNC won the semis in the NCAAs in '93, and the teevee was telling people to stay clear of Chapel Hill (where the Cave resides) cause the kids were burning cars in the streets.  The bar owner was so pissed off she tossed our only drunk fan because he kept requesting (but in a nice way) a song we didn't know.

Here in NC it could be 85 before it's Spring.  It's happened.  We have a big roof-painting plan, Libby and me.  When I put up the tin roof in '79 I thought it would last forever, but just like Republicans, rust really does never ever sleep, and acid rain does not help either, nor leaves from all the big oak trees I didn't cut down when I sited the cabin back in '79.  I thought it was like pitching a tent, and that anyways, I could always do it again if a tree fell wrong.  So far the shade has out weighed the possibilities.

Meanwhile, in Wisconsin, where it's still snowing, it begins to look as if the Gov. has made a tactical error in his role as point for the destruction of the American way of life.  People are even laughing at him.*  It would be sweet to see him melt down, like a chocolate Easter Bunny forgotten on the sidewalk, little white patent leather shoes disappearing in the distance towards home and a Sunday chicken dinner, church bells tolling a brand new year, the damp earth rolled over by the old spring tooth harrow, the rattle and clink of harness.  "Gee, boy, gee."