Sunday, July 31, 2011

The Actual Conversation Going On

Brooylyn Bridge Baby's Photosteam

Watched a good deal of C-span yesterday, the various speeches concerning whether to pass the Reid Compromise.  Now and then some interesting things got said.  Interesting in the sense that they revealed some truth.  Mr. Coburn (R, OK), for example, was nearly in tears over the fact of waste in government programs.  He cataloged program or agency after program or agency where millions were in fact (assuming he wasn't flat out lying) wasted.  Stuff didn't work like it was supposed to.  Stuff was redundant with other stuff.  Funded studies were just plain silly, pointless, ill-conceived or ill-executed.  It all adds up to a spending deficit.  Another group of Republicans got up to say that all cuts to military programs are dangerous in these dangerous times, and the Democrats wanted to cut defense spending.  Speaker after speaker resorted to the good old "family metaphor."  Congress can't police it's own spending, therefore Congress has to simply cut up it's "credit card" in advance and just live with the consequences, whatever ever they happen to be.  This metaphor is delightful and can be developed into a full length movie by the way--can't pay for your gas with your paper route, son?  Well I guess you'll have to walk to school, or drop out and get a job at the gas station pumping gas.  Sounds perfect.

On the Democratic side, Nancy Pelosi gave the best speech.   "They are trying to destroy the entire public sector," she said.  She's right.  I'm hoping this whole weekend will conclude in a stalemate, and that President Obama will have no choice but to evoke the Fourteenth Amendment and raise the debt ceiling as a simple edict.  That would be, at this point, the very best the United States could hope for.  I wish he could then adjourn Congress entirely until after the 2012 Election, and spend the next months educating the nation on why it needs to elect competent congress-persons who understand what the US government they're running is, why it exists.  I wish he could simply rule out of order any parties that claim to run on the proposition that if elected, they will destroy their office and the government they were elected to serve.   There ought to be some kind of standards of logic at work in our political life.

But there aren't.  Mr. Coburn's angst concerning waste is of course sensible in itself.  No one wants waste.  But the fact that no one wants waste should be an obvious spur to ongoing efforts to eliminate waste.  It's not like that job is simply done at some point.  Waste is part and parcel of effort.  Waste happens in all industry, private and public.  So does fraud, thievery, various kinds of blatant misuse of power.  Let's see Congress eliminate power.  I don't think they'll have that conversation.  What's going on now is the on-going effort to privatize all government functions, today tied to a debt and deficit which the privatizers for the eight years of the Bush Administration created in significant part by their privatizing efforts.  It's indeed crazy circular thinking.  What the Republicans are arguing for, fundamentally, is abdication of all Congressional responsibility.  Instead of dealing with these examples of waste and fraud which Mr. Coburn cataloged yesterday during this past Congressional session, these people did everything but.  They spent their time primarily attacking their own offices and closing essential government agencies and services such as the FAA.

If government is so reduced, power will not therefore vanish.  Instead, power will be unaccountable.  And all the slow agony of making power accountable, which is one story of America starting with the War of Independence and moving down the long march of struggles--expanding suffrage, ending human slavery, improving working conditions, ending legal segregation, Labor struggle, etc.  All these things except possibly direct human slavery are mitigations of naked power, primarily leveraged by economic forces.  (Indeed, even slavery is probably in theory on the table, since slavery can be masked so as not to be unpalatably obvious.  Quite a few slaves will tell you they love their masters, for example.  In some sense they do.)   Moreover, the list of public goods which Mrs. Pelosi catalogued will not be served in the privatization process, except coincidentally.  She mentioned clean air and water several times as an example.  The best we can hope from privatization is somewhat clean air and water, in some places.  Corporations are duty bound to provide dividends to their stockholders.  They are not duty bound to provide them with clean air and water.

I'd recommend watching some C-span as this debate continues.  There's a good bit of reality slipping out around the rhetoric.

Meanwhile, there are also other things to think about.  I direct your attention to this post:

Can even one member of Congress comprehend the rightness not to mention brilliance of this argument?   I doubt it.  Not when Kansas can actually outlaw all abortion clinics via the absurd lever of arbitrary building code standards designed specifically with all existing clinic buildings in mind, and Congress doesn't bother to stop its infernal angels on the head of a pin argument to send in the New York National Guard.  Not when North Carolina's Legislature can actually write and pass a law (over our Governor's veto) requiring that women thinking of abortion must be "counseled" for at least 24 hours by people who by definition have utterly zero comprehension of the argument linked to above.

And the President doesn't act either.  On this front Mr. Obama lags behind General Eisenhower fer gawd's sake!  The "Markets," the Congress, the States, the President, the Countries of the Developed World--they all deserve a US default on Wednesday morning next.  The only people who don't deserve it are the people who just struggle to survive, here and elsewhere.  And they are the people not being represented in our Congress right now, even though they're supposed to be. 

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Remember "Isolationism"?


Back in the day, when I was taking a history class, there was a ribbon of a concept marbling the message called "isolationism."  The isolationists, it was said, were folks who were on the "wrong side" of history, who didn't understand how the world worked.  Coming out of the Second World War, isolationists were pretty much viewed as proven by history, that is the War, to have been utterly wrong.  And their wrongness was grounded in their mistaken idea that America could be an isolated country, that we could somehow remain apart from the rest of the world's roiling.  Isolationists were also in a fairly vague way (probably vague because to really cash all this in is impossible in one measly American History class--what is required is at least a PhD worth of study, including of course reading much thinking that had not, in the early '60s (when my class was taking place), even been written.  Alternatively, one reads as the years roll by, as one can--and eventually things may become clearer.  But I digress.)

In short, while it was clear that to be an isolationist was to be something of a potato-head of an American, we never delved into an analysis of just what being an isolationist is all about.  As life ticked by, I did notice from time to time a new mention of the term, particularly as it related to economic matters.  Mr. Clinton was a "globalist," not an isolationist.  Thus, the US signed economic contracts with other countries, and our overall economy was more and more officially tied into the world economy--an officiality which let us stress because it's true, simply recognized the boots on the ground, as it were.  There is a global economy, stupid.  If you acknowledge and work with it, money gets made (by a lot of people).  The Democratic Primary of 1992 included a conversation on the American relationship to the global economy.  Mr. Harkin lost.  Mr. Clinton won.  During the general election the conversation continued, with Mr. Perot taking the "isolationist" position.  Mr. Clinton again won.   Mr. Harkin and Mr. Perot both raised the issue of the wholesale export of American jobs--this issue was not addressed except to simply say that a global economy is a fact of life. ( This "fact" has never been analysed at the political level, in any detail--no efforts have been made to mitigate the terrific negative effect on the American economy and the American people of wholesale job export to the world labor market.)

But I think the idea that "isolationism" is just a stand-offish economic position very much misidentifies what isolationism is really all about, at its core.  Isolationism is more deeply to be understood as a kind of egocentrism, the idea that Americans stand in some very special place and hold a special perspective.   Understood more deeply, isolationism can actually be the underpinning of acts which on the surface seem to engage with the world.  Examples would include our war of choice in Iraq, not to mention our horrific meddling in the Reagan era in Central America, in Nicaragua, Honduras, and El Salvador. 

In Congress right now, isolationists are seizing the day.  The most radical of them seem to believe that Americans are so special that we can actually change the laws of mathematics, for this is exactly what a "Balanced Budget Amendment" actually is.  And anyone who continues to brush aside the danger to the country of people who believe a law requiring a balanced budget is possible ignores the obvious fact that many such believers are already now in power.  It will only take the capture of the Senate and we will find our country hell bent on changing the laws of mathematics, as these same people have already tried by mere legal means to change the laws of physics and the realities of medicine (particularly when it comes to women's medicine). 

There was a sad time when people who started out trying to fundamentally alter the deeply terrible conditions in Russia ended up writing false sciences and histories, and imagining that they could simply erase knowledge and thus obliterate their deeper and deeper crimes.  Their world was tangential with that of Hitler's--two great iron wheels grinding against each other and lubricated with the flesh and blood of millions of innocent Europeans trapped in their orbits.  These days our Congress is trying to blot out scientific inquiry on a number of fronts by simply defunding agencies dedicated to such fields.  This is an isolationist bent. 

At its core, isolationism is authoritarian.  It is the Daddy, putting a stop to this foolishness, snipping the credit card in two, spanking the recalcitrant child.  It is the edict that people who do not "produce" shouldn't vote anyway.  And since authoritarians actually admire authority, it is the bizarre notion that only the wonderfully rich people can create jobs.  When the jobs don't appear, the authoritarian simply grovels and presents yet another offering.  More subtle concepts, such as "demand," simply evaporate from the mind's eye. 

Fundamentally, isolationism is arbitrary.   It is a presumed singularity.  We are special.  And the "we" tends to be tribal--one feature of the campaign of fear that began with the election of a black man to the Presidency in 2008.  We all have a tribal gene, which can be massaged and appealed to.  Many of us, perhaps particularly those of us who yearn for an authoritarian solution to life, can find that tribal evocation seductive.  And thus a body of foot soldiers, Tea Partiers, arises. 

And so we are here, on the cusp of a possible isolationist revolution in our political dimension.  One House to go.  And don't be surprised if these isolationists don't decide that attacking Iran makes sense too, down the road, or even Pakistan.  Economies before ours have been militarized as a presumed solution to chronic unemployment.  Since the isolationist believes that we are singular and special, we therefore have a "right" to deal with countries around the world who prove to be irritants, rocks in our sandals, argumentative.  

For further reading and better, see James Fallows:

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Barking the Squirrel Down

Once upon a time I saw a squirrel get barked out of a tree by a pack of dogs.  The squirrel was entirely safe.  The dogs couldn't climb the tree.  This is pretty much what is going on now with this deficit and debt panic.  President Obama is already nearly out of the tree too.  Meanwhile--the news media coverage notwithstanding--the facts remain.  The tree is solid and safe.  The dogs can't climb.  Here's a link, from last Sunday's New York Times.

You may also recall that Republicans very much wanted the Bush Tax Cuts not to expire--for some reason in December, 2010, there was no debt or deficit crisis.  Meanwhile, last Friday Congress shut down the FAA, a little-noted event given all the coverage devoted to the "debt crisis."  Some 1200 post offices are also going to be closed down due to budget issues.

Most pundits I've read still predict a last minute resolution of some kind.  Wall Street, it is opined, will simply not "allow" the country to teeter on default, or actually go over that precipice.  But Wall Street seems to be entirely unable to explain to the people it helped elect last year that the Federal Government cannot be understood as simply a big family, where dad cuts the credit card up when sis buys too many pairs of tight jeans without his permission.  Indeed, as Obama did point out in one of his attempts to direct the American people towards reality, the debt ceiling "issue" is about paying for stuff we've already bought, not about new spending.  Even in the false Iowa Family metaphor Mrs. Bachmann's shrill voice invokes hourly (snipping with her most articulate fingers an imaginary credit card, for all to visualize), Dad is going to have to pay for those jeans, because sis has worn them twice, they've been washed, and there's a catsup stain on one knee.

Or maybe, in Bachmann world, the jeans go back anyways.  Not to any store I know about.   As most people know, reality is a stern teacher.  Much of the government's efforts go into softening the blows that reality will be happy to met out, all things being equal.  If the debt limit isn't raised, it might be better for the country as a whole to pay treasury bond interest, than to pay social security recipients.  At that point, perhaps the rank and file tea party people--not finding their needed check in the mailbox--may begin to wonder what they actually have signed up for.  Ain't no doubt a passle of tea party members do get those checks, and use Medicare.  You can see the demographics in the photos.

While I certainly don't want to see such an eventuality, I have to wonder what the hell is really going on these days.  Shutting down the FAA is not even making the news.

Thursday morning update:   NPR yesterday was musing that wasn't it amazing that America could ever get even so close as it is to a default, being as how we're so amazingly sophisticated about these things, not to mention rich.  Seems like NPR forgets that the nation that brought us the most sophisticated music, physics, philosophy, and theology in the western world blossomed in the late 1920s into systematic extermination of their own citizens and a military conflagration that killed some 50 million people and left their own country utterly flattened.  Obviously we do not have a vaccine against crazy.  OBVIOUSLY.  The procession of events in one of our most sensible, educated states, Wisconsin, should give all pause.  Even NPR.  Michele Bachmann is an elected representative from another of our most sensible, educated states, Minnesota--a state which also put a professional wrestler in as Governor.  And of course I'm not living in some glass house around these parts--my benighted state gave the world Jesse Helms, and more recently, Rep. Virginia Fox, who sits squarely in the hen house now, on the Finance Committee.   (The NPR musing was going on on the Diane Rehm show, by the way, where Alice Rivlin, who used to be sharper, evoked the "both of  'em do it" meme on the grounds that the Simpson-Bowles Commission Report, of which she was a signatory, was pretty much ignored back in January.) 

In the larger perspective the public continues to be played.  While everything focuses on a phony crisis that at best will be ended by Presidential Invocation of the 14th Amendment, our voting rights are being dismembered at the state level via i.d. laws which are going to change voting demographics significantly.  Meanwhile the Supreme Court considers whether the Civil Rights Voting Laws are now irrelevant.  Ha.  The only people who can seriously deny that racism still flourishes in the United States are themselves racists, and people who seem capable of living in denial on many fronts these days.  Voter ID laws are the new strategy in the age old game of stopping all but the privileged from getting to vote. 

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Amy Winehouse--'Scuse Me While I Kiss the Sky

I got this link from Edroso:

Nice youtube clips of her performances, and a sensitive comment on her life.  

Wednesday, July 20, 2011


Jerry Lee, from

From selfstyledsiren's wonderful blog:

The Siren hasn’t been able to track down exactly how The Rains Came made it past the Production Code’s miscegenation clause. This grimly simple statement (“Miscegenation (sex relationship between the black and white races) is forbidden”) was long interpreted as barring interracial love affairs whether they came via script or casting. (The rule cost Anna May Wong the lead in The Good Earth, scuttled Lena Horne’s chances for Show Boat, and was no doubt a big reason for Merle Oberon’s silence on her own Indian roots.)

Recognize the underlying attitude in this film code from America's recent past?  It's exactly the same tone taken by Mrs. Bachmann's husband in his comments on dealing with teens who might think they're gay.  It's the good old, tried and true solution, stretching back to when power was the only law.  Since those pre-historic days humans have struggled to find better solutions--at least some of them have struggled.  There have always been others who never see anything at all wrong with the old answers, and strive to employ them whenever they feel the need, using whatever "justifications" might be easily at hand.  Some talk about saving "marriage."  Others about saving "civilization."  It ain't nothing but Jerry Lee Lewis chunking a shot glass at the head of a Roger Miller sideman who asks him to play a song he's fuckin' tired of playing.  (Read the book, "King of the Road," for the details, and by the way, I love Jerry Lee Lewis.)  Everyone is susceptable to attacks of lizard brain, given the right circumstances.  After all, if anybody was a barbarian, it was Jerry Lee.

But when politicians start down this road, it's a red light for voters, or should be.  Not that Bachmann is anything more than bits of tinfoil fluttering down behind the B-24 fleet.  The real election questions are more subtle.  It's becoming obvious.  Mr. Obama is indeed going to give in to serious alterations in the structure of both social security and medicare, even in the face of the mathematical fact that a simple end to the cap on social security taxes at $100K would end the long-term problems the program now faces--a solution favored by large majorities of Americans.  What, I have to wonder, are the implications of that for folks who otherwise might re-elect him next year.  It really is quite possible that disillusion will become a major player in 2012, even given that allowing the dangerous fanatics who are now the Republican Party to gain full power will lead to certain disaster for the Republic.  Depression is a powerful force.  Depressed people kill themselves.  And that's another rise of the lizard brain I think one could say.

Friday Update.  Virginia's right-wing Governor's abrupt about-face on the debt ceiling issue, coming mere seconds after Moody's threatens to degrade Virginia's credit rating, is hilarious, and another example of the shot-glass method.  It all goes back in the end to the voters gaining more judgement--and not falling for impossible promises.  Running a competent government without appropriate tax revenues is utterly impossible. Only people who want an incompetent government want such a situation to obtain--these would be right-wing oligarchs and their syncophants--people who are cunning like Norquist and Rove, or simply stupid but articulate, Hannity and Limbaugh being the latter examples.  Ever tried to have a real conversation with a used-car salesman?  They might have some sales skills and know how to "close" (which is what successful browbeating is called in the trade).  They don't necessarily know shit.   Anyways, the Va Gov's pirouette is the first evidence I've seen that the debt ceiling will be allowed to rise.  Too bad Moody's didn't act six months ago. Wonder if there's an internal memo somewheres in the Moody's offices titled "Whole Lotta Shakin'".  None of these people should be paid a dime for wasting all this time on nothing.  They're supposed to be at work for "the people."  And I sure would like to hear the conversation between Rep. Cantor and the Va Guv.   One of 'em is now twisting slowly in the wind.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Sorry Mr. Chairman

Bolton, Watt, Murdoch statue--not the same guys you think

I'll just pass along this fine grab from Fox News, hard hitting journalism division, courtesy of Ataturk:

The other pretty hilarious quote I happened to catch on the coverage of Fox News's hall of mirrors was that highly intellectual discussion of how "we" have a hacking problem generally, that it's not particularly important whether we're talking about Fox or Murdoch's various other facets of empire, or your friendly corner bank, or that nice nuclear plant down the road.  Except, strangely (not), no mention in this sweeping upwards arc into the metasphere of the fact that in the Murdoch empire case, it was the empire that was DOING the hacking.

I won't be a bit surprised to hear the various radio stooges repeating this blatant distraction posing as argument either.  If I'm stupid enough to turn them on I mean.  I'm trying to resist that stupidity, since the entire point of doing that (turning them on) is just to find out what new lie is coming round the bend.  Mr. Edroso and Mr. Riley actually do a good job of sending out the alerts, not to mention Driftglass.

In that regard--the alerts I mean--check out alicublog's piece on the sludge of racist comment which swamped the Village Voice comments section devoted to Edroso's column last week:

I guess it's been decided that it's time to amp all that stuff up again--what Edroso calls the "ooga-booga".  Maybe they're hoping that'll distract from the erosion of Murdoch's pedestal, or possibly even the debt ceiling thing, which ought by now to be a ten ton anchor around the GOP's leg.

Update for Tuesday morning.  I did listen a bit to Hannity yesterday on the drive home.  He was "conversing" with Sen. McCain.  McCain, who keeps one foot attached to reality (probably due to his war experiences), kept saying the GOP had to find a way out of the debt ceiling issue.  Hannity, talking as though he had any responsibility at all (which he doesn't), said he was against any compromise not tied to a balanced budget amendment.  McCain, proving once again why he should never have been elected to anything much, didn't walk of the show in disgust.  Later on, after I got home, I watched Matthews "converse" with Norquist, who evaded all responsibility for the debt ceiling crisis even though he's cooked up this "pledge" which apparently serves to shackle the few Republicans who have any common sense into the same corner.

In spite of much optimism on the left that the debt ceiling will be raised, I personally think it's not that likely.  Too many Republicans have lost their minds.   If it all plays out in this negative and foolish way, one would hope that the paymasters who bought this band of authoritarian fantasists will themselves find some unhappiness.  It's probably more likely that they're all simply selling short, and see more tidy profits from the various worldwide miseries that will ensue should we suffer a national bankruptcy.  That's what "too big to fail" really means. 

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Well Good

Roger and wife,


I was never much of a Roger Clemens fan, although he was certainly an interesting figure in baseball.  However, the idea that a man who spent almost his whole life (so far) focused on mastering the art of pitching should end up in his late forties facing the possibility of actually going to jail because he equivocated to Congress, well that's just amazingly absurd.  To Congress?  How is lying to liars any kind of crime?  Not that one shouldn't tell the truth under oath and all, but really, there ought to be some perspective, somewheres, otherwise the whole public show of law and trials and all just becomes so entirely kabuki that order is utterly molecularized, which anyways may be more the case than we hate to think.  So, as the curtain comes down on this, it is actually a wonderful, optimistic conclusion we are delivered.  Read the article cited at the start.  The prosecutor got the trial quashed by introducing evidence he was already ordered not to introduce, in his opening statement no less.  It's over.  Clemens will probably never get into the Hall of Fame--none of the steroids guys will apparently, even though Ty Cobb is in there.  That's just a Hall of Fame for ya.  And I'd think Clemens is probably out of the advertising bidness pert much.  So what.  If he wants to work with young pitchers, I'll bet he'll land a job one some club or other.  Maybe the Dodgers could use him.  He's in reasonably decent shape.  Better than O.J., another case of some justice being delivered albeit out of left field and probably more Roy Bean than William O. Brennan.   As Charles Pierce points out, the steroid scandal is not the Black Sox scandal: the men who took steroids were, after all, trying to win.

Meanwhile, Kyle won his 100th Nascar race at the age of 26.  Personally, I liked the big 100 flag he paraded around the track with better than Kez's attempt to bogart the stars and stripes.  The other Kyle grumbles about this, but Mr. Busch isn't saying he's Kyle Petty's daddy.  And since these guys race till they're past 50, Mr. Busch might well hit some of those bigger milestones before he's done.  I thought Mr. Harvick, yesterday, was rather pathetic, whining about how he wasn't allowed to wreck Mr. Busch as Mr. Busch drove past him to victory, never touching his car, not doing anything but out-racing him.  Maybe Mr. Harvick ought to just give it a rest, or go home and watch that moment last year when he wrecked Busch at Homestead, gratuitously as he said later, and savor Mr. Busch somewhat desperately departing his flaming car before he got incinerated.  The film is forever.  "He raced me like a clown," Harvick smiled later, to the reporters.  Well, yesterday in NH, it was Busch who was racing the crying clown I guess.  Busch knew it too.  "It wasn't passing Stenhouse that won it," he said.  "It was passing Harvick."  Yep.

Friday, July 15, 2011

What If It's All Private

I was watching one of those ads that are on constantly, about how we all need some private security system installed for mere pennies a day, to keep the bad guys from breaking into our homes while we're out working to pay for them and the stuff they contain.  It's a pretty good ad.  Features a frightened child being comforted by a visually perfect mom.  And I sort of vaguely realized that this was the privatization of the police.  You subscribe, you get protection.  Otherwise, not so much, particularly as the police are more and more starved of funds and equipment.  It's just like with schools, health care, etc.  The notion of "common good" is shrinking to the size of a pin.

That's the plan:

Hopefully people will recall, before it's too late, that private security forces have been well tested in places far more dangerous--so far at least--than the U.S.  The test results were not particularly comforting.
Meanwhile, a relative moderate writing in the New Republic of all places offers some perspective on the people who are trying to hold our economy hostage via the debt ceiling issue:

From all the evidence, they really do think it's just like when a bread-winner gets laid off (something they saw in the movies, and mostly in black and white--and they never saw "Make Way for Tomorrow" of course).  You just prioritize.  You pay off these bills, and you make those bills wait.  Natch.  Meanwhile, in the real world, real laid off bread-winners, the sharp ones, are climbing telephone poles and cutting the third wire, the neutral, for the copper that's up to $3.25 a pound.  For example I mean.  The stupid ones cut the wrong wire.  Kinda like how we went into Iraq to get the oil, dontcha know.  

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Way Back When

Pete Maravich, 1970

Hey, remember when those awful SEIU goons beat up that nice black man who was giving away American flags at a Tea Party rally in St. Louis, back a couple of years.  Vaguely, right?  Well, he had his day in court, and Tbogg reports the results here:

I don't think the results are too surprising, and Mr. Tbogg also points to the lameness of various rejoinders offered.  But the problem for people trying to keep a realistic eye on life is, this stuff is an endless onslaught, a daily flood of lies.  And look how long it takes for even one of these lies to get quashed by reality.  In this case, two years and counting.  Meanwhile, the folks who think they can invent a right wing reality by just snapping their fingers together and believing continue on.  Yesterday on the news I heard both Michelle Bachmann and Rep. Steven King say that the debt ceiling is not really an issue--that default cannot happen, and that anyway, it's just like balancing a family's checkbook, this international web of financial transactions that we live in and that orders our economic life.  There's also intense lobbying on the Right for a balanced budget amendment--one of the stupidest ideas ever, but of course that's just like the family check book.

Maybe legislators need a degree in economics as a qualification for office?  Oh right--too late for that too, because the Right has built its own universities now, with their own "degrees."  It all goes back to the time, probably around 1970, when "Oral Roberts University" actually fielded an NCAA men's basketball team which made it to the big Tourney.  That moment probably mattered even more than Watergate.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

The So-Called Green House Effect
A fairly short fellow down at the Texaco used to tell me that CO-2 was not a "green house gas" because it only "operated" close to the ground.  He was right too.  If you go up in an air plane, even a few thousand feet, it'll be a lot colder.  My dad used to fly biplanes, which had open cockpits of course.  He nearly froze one day when he went up without a heavy coat because it was hot on the ground.  And this was back in 1920 or so, well before anyone but a British scientist had even thought of the problem of global warming.  Anyways, "Shortie" might get a kick out of this article:

(You have to click the link in the article I have linked to get to the article claiming that toxic emissions will "cure" the green house problem.  Of course this might be a true argument, such as it is.  Unless the emissions are themselves greenhousey and do their own reflecting of heat.  As this experiment is being conducted on the real planet, no doubt our kids will probably find out.)
Meanwhile, "gmta" as the kids say on the internet tubes.  Libby and I had many of the same thoughts last night as we watched the cited footage.  Quell droll.  Sacre Bleu, Sgt. Preston:

(We were more in the psychological mode on this, wondering if there wasn't quite a bit of projection in an ostentatious effort to "pray away the gay.")  However you slice it, something's definitely up.  Further evidence is our local right wing morning talk extravaganza, which was already yesterday morning making heated efforts to distinguish between the gotcha "journalism" of Mr. O'Keefe and company and the ABC undercover piece on the Bachmann clinic.  I wondered why they were devoting so much time to it.  It's called a fire line.  

Monday, July 11, 2011

Half Moon

Bahman Ghobadi

I watched a beautiful, tragic movie yesterday called "Half Moon," directed by the Persian director Bahman Ghobadi (who has also done the wonderful "No One Knows about Persian Cats.")  Half Moon is a story that morphs subtly into an allegory about the tragedy of the kurdish people, divided perhaps forever by three different national borders, all of which house non-kurdish majorities who find these people difficult and generally a problem--so much so that now and again one country or another (Iran, Iraq, Turkey) decides to wipe a few thousand of them from the face of the planet.  It's the story of cultural minorities everywhere of course.  If you are different, some people find that annoying, or incomprehensible, or frightening.  And of course politicians have always found scapegoats handy levers to power.  The list of examples is endless.

In Half Moon the "plot" involves a venerated Kurdish composer, Mano, who gathers many of his sons together along with one wonderful woman singer to perform a concert in newly freed Iraqi Kurdistan.  They travel by bus through this remarkable, ancient, rocky mountain wilderness, reaching at one point a mountain top with a sign pointing to all three national states--an area otherwise totally barren and without any mark of civilization.  On their trip they come upon many remarkable sights--one of the most remarkable being a city of stone houses where thousands of women singers have been exiled.  Mano has to bribe a guard to even enter the place--but there he finds his singer and takes her on the trip to the concert.  All this, too, is a metaphor for the tragedy of women in this area of the world.  Mano tells us that 1334 women have been exiled in this place, and all sing with one voice.

So the trip progresses.  It does not end with a wonderful concert, but in a nightmare vision of failed efforts to reach Iraq.  Indeed, this part of the movie is such a nightmare that I had nightmares of a similar sort, concerning such activities as appearing on stage in concert only to discover that I had no memory of the words to a song I was about to start singing.  We all understand this kind of anxiety dream of course.  It's the "Oh fuck, I don't have any pants on" dream.  But I think we all should try to see these films from places in the world (such as Iran) where at the moment we have only the anxieties conferred on us by our political leaders, and the implications we draw, right or wrong, from events like the 9/11 attack.

An American director would not make a film like this, I don't think.  Not, at least, about Americans as a people.   This is a film about a beautiful dream which is in the end thwarted by larger forces, and in the face of many indications that the dream will be fulfilled.  Mano's "muse," a beautiful young woman named "Half Moon" who was born in the border region, does not manage to get him to the concert, though the film ends in some ambiguity, which amounts to hope.  There are strains of "I have seen the promised land--I may not be there with you."  The kurds are a people for whom hope is mostly a necessary delusion.  While certainly Americans have experienced this existential reality in specific circumstances, it is only American minorities who have known the bite of this qua their identities. ( Oh, and of course American women know it, and are seeing once again their dreams of equal status being dashed by political and religious forces that for various reasons object to the idea that a woman has the fundamental right to own her own body.  But that's something of another story.)

Half Moon is a beautiful movie about the Kurdish dream, filmed in the kurdish landscape.  It should give any viewer much insight into another part of the planet--a place different from here, but not ultimately foreign.  It's the politicians who trade in the "foreign," and who see places like this as primarily about the mineral content of the terrain, the people inhabiting it being distractions or impediments to be brushed aside.   This journey starts with the elimination of Saddam.  During the trip, Americans shoot at the travellers.  So it goes.

Keep an eye out for the next Ghobadi film.  He's simply wonderful.

Friday, July 8, 2011

So Tax is Theft?

Rand Paul, R, Kentucky

I'm probably going to write about this at some length, but for now here's just a little starter.  I've heard quite a number of "conservatives" assert that "tax is theft."  If so, what is it when some guys kick down your door and steal all your stuff?  And are you just calling more thieves when you call the cops to report the crime?  When we get done with this tax is theft policy the GOP is putting into practice, there won't be any more cops to call.  Meanwhile, the fact will remain--people will make every effort to survive, and for some, kicking down your door is exactly what that effort entails.

It's Saturday now, and getting towards 95 outside, with more or less 100% humidity, plus a veritable bloom of midsummer ticks, both the big'uns and the teenincy ones.  Might as well carry on with this here in the kitchen, with a cup of coffee and a doughnut.

What worries me, and particularly about the future as the generation now in its 20s and 30s faces it, is that this destructive ignorance which seems to be carrying the day with regard to our shared social world--our life as Americans if you like--is demolishing important and subtle features of life which it took many decades to create, and at a time when most people did believe in the "common good."  Today, on every hand, are examples of this ignorace knighted with power that simply boggle the mind.  Just this morning I read a transcript of some congressional conversation concerning cuts in Social Security which used, as an example, the wonderful, shoulder-shrugging idea that "if you can't afford a Mercedes, well, just by an Acura this time around."  Hey, great idea.  Where's my head-slap key.  In fact, real people are choosing between getting that hurting tooth fixed and getting enough food in the house to last till the next month's red letter day--the day that next little social security check arrives.  People talk about gramps moving in with the kids as though even that is at least an option--might be, but only if you have kids and if they aren't going to be sent over their own edge by such an eventuality.

Then, over at another place in this squeezed balloon, we're now fine with totally messing up a child's life just because their parents came here when they were an infant looking for work (and maybe they were in that boat because some rich people in America decided the NAFTA law was a great idea?)  Just sayin'.  I saw a moment the other day where a sweet little 9 year old girl was having to translate her parents through a complicated situation because neither of them could speak enough English to get what was happening.  Let's think about that, shall we.  First, this little kid sure does have a lot of responsibility on her--how'd that affecting her childhood?  Second, she's speaking English just like a "native," and that's because she is one to all intents and purposes.  So what happens to her if her mom and dad get arrested for not having documents?

And why is that the current state of affairs in America, that we would ever think blowing up a child's family was ok, and particularly in pursuit of some abstract concept defined as "well, they shouldn't have walked across the desert with their baby 8 years ago just to get a job they desperately needed to survive.  They should have jumped through all the hoops, period."  If they didn't, well it's just too bad for this little earnest child who deserves a medal for bravery and courage, and might well grow up to be as fine an American as we could ever imagine.  Where are these selfish people coming from?  (And why do so many of them claim in the most strident of voices to be Christian, of all things?) 

It's a great concern to me that our Democratic President is apparently willing to collaborate with these champions of selfishness and self-concern.  Who's going to make a stand if not Mr. Obama?   Certainly no one in the Republican Presidential Hopeful ranks.  All they offer, every one, is arguments justifying cruelty, selfishness, self-servingness, and the general attitude that each person fending for himself is the true American Way.  There are so many arguments to this awful conclusion that I think millions of our fellow citizens--worried as I am about the future--just memorize this stuff as an aid to better digestion and sleep.

If it's all torn down, this already tattered social fabric, does any one think it will be reparable?   This isn't like a bridge in Minneapolis, or a tornado ravaged town in Missouri.  And there are other symptoms--symptoms which indicate to me that the big money already owns the whole game.  Consider that last week gas taxes went up about $.02 on the dollar.  I don't know what happened where you live, but here in central NC, gas prices immediately went up about a dime.  What's that, if not a clear message to government--Do not mess with us, we will hurt you back, and instantly.  Seems like the oil companies might see it another way--that our oil-dependent world is their cash cow, that in a way they owe us for their success.  Exxon keeps setting profit records, year after year.  And they probably also chip in a few million to people who can articulately sneer at any idea which might mitigate our oil dependence.  The result?  It's physics: try taxing them and they'll cube the tax right back at the consumer, and give Mrs. Soccer Mom a nice free pamphlet with her fill up suggesting that her gas price might go down if she votes for folks who want to drill the continental shelf.  And it's all codified now, via Citizens United.

It's going to be an interesting month, August.  We haven't even started watching the hurricane map around here, and I'm still heating with the trees that Fran knocked down in '96.  Here's something you can do at this very moment.  It might matter:

Sunday, July 3, 2011

The Endless Manipulation

Just read this piece, from Edroso:

Maybe we're really geezer nation--a land of short-term memory loss, where the problems are all about finding the dang grocery store where we left it yesterday, on some street that has changed over night, trees in different places, new parking lots, a freeway over pass that definitely was NOT there yesterday.  Who can remember anymore anything so abstract as how to think about firefighters.  And anyways, you have to be careful to stay out of the way of their speeding trucks, with those awful sirens.  What's my phone number?  Where are my keys?

Saturday, July 2, 2011

A Patriotic Post

Fireball Roberts, 1961 
I'm sure this isn't my original idea.  Why doesn't Congress close out its fantastic health care insurance program and come join the rest of us in the real medical system of the U.S. of A.  It seems to me that, at the moment, far too many in Congress think they are among the "elite" in America, and are legislating in that vein, "from above" as it were.  But there is no "elite" in America, not officially, and certainly not endowed by vote.  The people who represent us should be "of us," that way they'll have a much better idea of how we as a people live.  The folks who think they are "above," mostly by virtue of their bank accounts, are in fact flat wrong.  While these folks will probably always encourage legislators to think they are also "elite," it's actually pretty sad when legislators fall for that.  (Not to mention a whole dang party.) 

That's it for today.  The Firecracker 400 ought to be pretty good--check it out tonight.

[photo from]

Update: just read this post:

The thing about people with money is, they have the leverage to create faux realities, such as fake think tanks or even fake news networks.  After a while, nobody in the real world knows what's going on.  I'll bet Ms Lohan didn't even get paid to further the cause either, poor dear--and as a celebrity, her "tweets" have value.  Surely she deserved at least a case of single malt, for the cold winter days ahead.  Ain't rite.

Update--the Firecracker 400 (I emphasize "cracker") was excellent.  Jeff Gordon pushed Kyle Busch (my main man) to 5th place.  A really good shew.