Monday, March 23, 2015

The Globe, Warren and a Glimmer of Hope

An editorial in the Boston Globe forcefully urges Sen. Elizabeth Warren to seek the Democratic nomination for president, a prospect that will surely rouse what remains of the party’s left.

Warren, an anti-politician whose trope has been the wealth gap and the subjugation of the masses by the wealthiest one percent of us, has won particular applause for demanding that banksters go to jail for their crimes — or at least be put on trial for them.

But where she stands on other big issues is not clear.  One could presume, reading between the lines of her public stances, that she would favor ending the policy of endless war that enriches the oligarchs at the expense of the common man.  This is closely intertwined with the issues on which she has so infuriated Wall Street.

But is she bold enough and savvy enough to plot an independent foreign policy, unblinded by the lies that have steered us into so many blunders and follies?  Would she step into the Oval Office and immediately announce that Victoria Nuland had been dismissed from the State Department?  Would she tell Bibi Netanyahu that he must stop the expansion of settlements and expropriation  of Palestinian land or face the loss of United States support?  Would she by executive order halt the militarization of domestic police forces and order the CIA to stop fomenting the overthrow of legitimately elected regimes abroad?  Would she shape and send to Congress legislation repealing the so-called Patriot Act?  Would she tell our nervous toadies in Europe that the United States no longer endorses a policy of eastward expansion of NATO to challenge the Russian bear?  Would she embrace and push forward Dennis Kucinich’s fine idea of a cabinet-level Department of Peace? Would she turn her economic populism into a new New Deal of social activism, expanding Social Security and putting jobless Americans to work on programs to repair our broken infrastructure and improve people’s lives?  Would she stand up to the NRA and demand meaningful gun control, kick the right-wing’s ignorant anti-science arses on climate change and restore the Bill of Rights to our Constitution? Would she be the liberal savior we thought Obama would be, but wasn’t?

The Globe editorial acknowledges Hillary Clinton’s enormous head start advantage in the presidential nomination derby.  But it says:

“The Democratic Party finds itself with some serious divides that ought to be settled by the electorate. Some are clear-cut policy differences, such as the Trans-Pacific Partnership, an enormous free-trade agreement with Pacific Rim nations that Warren opposes and Clinton backs. Even in areas where the candidates agree, there are bound to be different priorities: It’s hard to imagine a President Clinton defending and enforcing the Dodd-Frank legislation with as much vigor as a President Warren, for instance.

“Indeed, the big-picture debate on financial regulation and income inequality is what’s most at peril if the Democratic primaries come and go without top-notch opponents for Clinton. While she has a great many strengths, Clinton seems far more likely to hew to a cautious approach on economics. Her financial backing from Wall Street, her vote in the Senate to reduce bankruptcy protections, and her past reluctance to reduce capital gains taxes are no secret. Nothing about her record suggests much gumption for financial reform or tackling the deeply entrenched economic problems that increasingly threaten the American dream.

“Warren’s dedication is obvious to anyone who watched her raise funds by rallying thousands of grass-roots supporters in her 2012 Senate campaign. She should not shrink from the chance to set the course for the Democratic Party or cede that task to Hillary Clinton without a fight. The gap between the Facebooks and Googles of America and the rest of the economy has grown too large, and it deserves the kind of public debate and scrutiny that a national political campaign can spark. If she puts her causes and goals front and center, as Democrats gather their forces for the crucial 2016 campaign, Warren could enrich the political process for years to come.”

We don’t really know what all those causes and goals are, but IF she chooses to run, and IF she articulates an entire platform as clearly and forcefully as she has articulated her economic populism, there might be a glimmer of hope of saving this sorry country.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Ah, The Joys of a Long Life

I read years ago about a study wherein people were asked, “How old is OLD?” and not surprisingly the answer depended upon the age of the respondent.  The older the respondent, the older the age he answered.

I now have the definitive answer: 80.

Walter Cronkite was in his 80s when he cooked up his rules for old men: ”Never trust a fart. Never pass up a drink. Never waste an erection." 

The eighties is when it all happens.  And it’s all bad, or, at the very least, damned annoying.

One day you’re on the tennis court, kicking butt with the other geezers.  The next day you can’t get out of bed.  You don’t want to get out of bed.  Ever.

On your computer, the Top Ten on the “favorites” list are medical sites.  You’ve got a private “book” on your cause of death:  Cancer 5-1; heart attack, 7-5; gout . . . . and so forth. 

You can’t remember all the names of everyone in yesterday’s foursome, but you can remember a telephone number from your childhood — Jefferson four, two six nine two — and you cannot get it out of your head.  Whose number was it?  Er. . . . .

Of course you don’t want to get out of bed in the morning!  If you get out of bed you have to put yourself together.  You have to find all the damned spare parts.  Eyeglasses.  Store-bought teeth.  Hearing aids.  Heel lifts.  Walking cane. Back brace. Support hose.  Knee brace.   Any day now add diapers.  You’ve got to remember to take your medicine, your vitamins and your constitutional. Especially your constitutional or else today will be the day you need diapers.  When you finally get around to getting dressed the pants you intended to wear will be at the cleaners, the shirt you intended to wear will have gone to the Goodwill months ago and someone will have moved the sock drawer while you were sleeping.  When you finally totter out to face the world your wife looks up from the newspaper, gives you one glance and asks, “Why are you wearing one brown shoe and one black shoe?”  You thought you’d put on sneakers.

When you were a kid of, say, 70, you’d never have dreamt how many things can ache at once.  Back then you’d wake up bright and early to take the dog for a brisk walk but suddenly be reminded that you had a sore knee from yesterday’s walk.  Gulp down a couple of ibuprofen and everything’s OK. Now you wake up bright and early, put off getting up as long as you can, and when you finally face the inevitable, each thing you try to move hurts. Neck.  Shoulders. Knees.  Feet. You name it.

You ask your wife, “How many ibuprofen did the doctor say it’s safe to take at one time?”  “You asked me that yesterday,” she says.  “I did? Well, tell me again.”

Naps.  Once you've put yourself together, dressed, gone out to face the day, you immediately start thinking about nap time. Other than cocktail hour, nap time is the best time of day.  Before it became politically incorrect, cartoonists used to draw images of Mexicans under big sombreros taking their siestas.  WE thought it was funny then. Now it's the mental image that sustains you through lunch.

One of the reasons you need naps is because you spend so much time looking for things. Once I vowed never again to spend 45 minutes looking for keys.  I made five duplicates of every key and put the spares in places where I was likelyn to need them.  From then on, whenever I needed reading glasses, all I could find were keys.

Slogans help, too, when you're in your 80s.  Take cocktail hour.  Used to be, it never began  before 5.  Hence the slogan of the old man:  "Hell, it's five o'clock somewhere." Winston Churchill is a good role model.  In his 80s, he'd sip brandy morning till night.  And he was still working.

Acid reflux.  I think that’s what we used to call “indigestion.”  Whatever it is, you only get it from eating your favorite foods.  Turnips?  You could gorge all day on turnips and you wouldn’t get acid reflux.  Walk past a simmering bowl of pasta with scallops and green chili alfredo — you don’t even have to taste it — and you’re doubled over with acid reflux. As Dick Cheney will say, when he turns 80, “Go reflux yourself.”

Or, as someone else — I forget who — once said, “Old age ain’t for sissies.”

It begins at 80.  Trust me. I’m there.

Monday, March 9, 2015

A Seditious Act of Contumely

Forty-seven Republican members of the United States Senate have gone to the very brink of treason.

Their letter to Iran concerning the so called P5+1 nuclear negotiations in Geneva is an overt act of sabotage that cannot be tolerated.

This goes beyond politics.  This is a brazen effort by members of Congress to destroy the power of diplomacy vested by the Constitution solely in the executive branch and its Secretary of State. Never has a more profane extra-constitutional act been committed by one branch of this government against another.

The 47 senators sent an open letter to the government of Iran, warning  that any deal they strike with the United States and its international partners at the nuclear  negotiations in Geneva will not last past the Obama administration. The negotiations are between the so-called P5+1 — the governments of the United States, United Kingdom, France, Germany, Russia and China — and Iran concerning the Islamic Republic’s nuclear program.  Iran wants to end western economic sanctions and the west seeks to assure that Iran could not build a nuclear weapon.

Word of the Republican letter comes one week after Israel’s warmongering prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, made a lie-laden, bellicose speech to Congress at the invitation of the Republican leader of the House of Representatives, John Boehner.  Boehner arranged the speech secretly without consulting the White House, a breech  of protocol that some officials called treasonous.

The letter to Iran was written and circulated among colleagues by Sen. Tom Cotton, a freshman Republican from Arkansas. He is a former member of the House, where he voted against federal aid to the victims of Hurricane Sandy and was investigated for violations of ethics rules regarding campaign donations.  He urged Congress to provide money for bunker-buster bombs to Israel to launch what he hoped would be war against Iran. He opposes health care choice for women, marriage equality and voted repeatedly against laws to protect women from spousal violence. He opposes food stamps for the poor whom he calls “addicts.”

And who are the 46 others who signed this hate-filled fool’s letter?  Here are their names:

David Perdue, Joni Ernst, James Inhofe, John Cornyn, Mitch McConnell, Marco Rubio, Roger Wicker, John Hoeven, Richard Shelby, Thom Tillis, Richard Burr, Steve Daines, Jeff Sessions, John Boozman, Cory Gardner, Shelley Moore Capito, Ron Johnson, Mark Kirk, James Lankford, Chuck Grassley, Roy Blunt, John Thune’ Mike Enzi, Pat Toomey, Bill Cassidy, John Barrasso,Ted Cruz, Jim Risch, Mike Crapo, Deb Fischer, Ben Sasse, Orrin Hatch, Dean Heller, Pat Roberts, John McCain, Rand Paul, Rob Portman, Lindsey Graham and Mike Rounds.

If there is a citizen in any of their constituencies who has a modicum of intelligence, an iota of respect for the Constitution of the United States, a soupcon of love for the country, an ort of respect for American values, a preference for peace over the merciless carnage of war, and a desire for a better world for our children and their children, then I urge that citizen to begin immediately to work for the recall of these treacherous idiots.

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Two Cops, Post-Racism and Selma

Nearly 20 years ago, my wife and I were driving south on Interstate 65 in Alabama when we decided to stop for breakfast in Montgomery.  The exit we took happened to be just north of the intersection with U.S. 80, the “Selma road” to locals.  

A state police cruiser stopped outside the restaurant. Its occupants entered the restaurant and took a booth near ours.  One of the officers was white, the other, black. Their interaction was pleasant,  comradely.

We could not help but take notice.  We of course talked about “how far we’ve come” since civil rights advocates marched that Selma road toward “bloody Sunday” and into history in 1965.

Today is the 50th anniversary of “bloody Sunday.”  Selma is celebrating the Jubilee with ceremonies and speeches. Yesterday, Barack Obama, the finest presidential orator since Lincoln, delivered one of his best speeches there. The march is not finished, he said, but we have made progress. We need to make still more.

Much more.

When Obama was elected in 2008 many people who get paid to pontificate in print and on the air declared it was the beginning of a post-racial America.  They were wrong.  Latent racism actually emerged from hiding when he entered the White House and has seeped back into the fabric of our lives.

Fear feeds racism.  The Ku Klux Klan recruited members by kindling fear of white women being raped by “niggers,” of black men taking our jobs because they were willing to work cheap, of blacks “moving in next door” to us. When brown people struck unprecedented terror into our hearts on 9/11, our elected representatives began the still ongoing process of repealing the Bill of Rights,  and our politicians kindled new fears of all people of color.  Black, brown, yellow, whatever tint, people of color once again became “them” to the white-skinned “us.”

We began to militarize our police,  equipping them ever more with the tools of war.  We are seeing a rebirth in our police forces of the same racism that motivated a cop nicknamed “Snake” to murder innocent blacks in Detroit in 1967 in what came to be known as “the Algiers Motel incident.” Only the names have changed.  Trayvon Martin. Michael Brown. Eric Garner. Tamir Rice.Tony Robinson.  Young, unarmed, black — and dead.

So much for post-racist America.

We have to recognize,” Mr. Obama said yesterday in Selma, “that one day’s commemoration, no matter how special, is not enough. If Selma taught us anything, it’s that our work is never done – the American experiment in self-government gives work and purpose to each generation.”

He mentioned the recent Department of Justice report on the killing of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo. “The report’s narrative was woefully familiar,” he said. “It evoked the kind of abuse and disregard for citizens that spawned the Civil Rights Movement. But I rejected the notion that nothing’s changed. What happened in Ferguson may not be unique, but it’s no longer endemic, or sanctioned by law and custom; and before the Civil Rights Movement, it most surely was.

“If you think nothing’s changed in the past fifty years, ask somebody who lived through the Selma or Chicago or L.A. of the Fifties. Ask the female CEO who once might have been assigned to the secretarial pool if nothing’s changed. Ask your gay friend if it’s easier to be out and proud in America now than it was thirty years ago. To deny this progress – our progress – would be to rob us of our own agency; our responsibility to do what we can to make America better. . .

“We were born of change. We broke the old aristocracies, declaring ourselves entitled not by bloodline, but endowed by our Creator with certain unalienable rights. We secure our rights and responsibilities through a system of self-government, of and by and for the people. That’s why we argue and fight with so much passion and conviction, because we know our efforts matter. We know America is what we make of it. . .

“ . . the single most powerful word in our democracy is the word ‘We.’ We The People. We Shall Overcome. Yes We Can. It is owned by no one. It belongs to everyone. Oh, what a glorious task we are given, to continually try to improve this great nation of ours. . . . we believe in this country’s sacred promise.”

A century before Selma, an American president’s words and the way he spoke them saw this country safely through a great civil war, freed the slaves and guided the United States to “a new birth of freedom.” Words a biographer called “Lincoln’s sword.”

Has the century and a half since then warped us so as a people; has greed and cynicism so gripped the political processes here; have we dismissed our better angels and become inherently so evil that “We” don’t give a damn about this country’s sacred promise?  Is Obama just a good talker and Selma just another dirty little now mostly black southern town? Do enough of us even care?

I wonder what ever became of those two state policemen in the cafe in Montgomery.  I wonder what they would say today.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Journalism: The Dying Craft

I first became aware of Bill O’Reilly in the year 2000.  I was ranting to a friend about the many shortcomings of television news, a rant triggered, as I recall, by one or more networks’ flawed coverage of the round of clashes between Israelis and Palestinians in autumn of that year.

“Do you ever watch Bill O’Reilly?” my friend asked.  Since I had long since determined that any news operation owned by Rupert Murdock wasn’t worth paying attention to, I told my friend I wasn’t familiar with O’Reilly’s work.

“You should watch him,” my friend said.  “He tells it like it is.”

I buried my misgivings and watched Fox’s rising star several times over the next week.  I was appalled that my friend lent credence to such tripe. The next time my friend mentioned O’Reilly, I remarked that “he isn’t a journalist, he’s an entertainer.”  I’m not sure my friend grasped what I was saying, but the subject never came up between us again.

I am wryly amused by the current flap about O’Reilly’s veracity in describing on the air his attempts to be a newsman for CBS years ago. He “saw” nuns “shot in the back of the head” in El Salvador.  He’d have to have had mystic powers to have done that, since the four American nuns were slain in El Salvador long before he arrived in that country.

Well, O’Reilly said, he meant that he had seen “horrific images” of the dead nuns when he was attempting to report for CBS from that country.

Earlier, he had clearly misrepresented what he had seen and done while he was in Argentina for CBS during the Falklands war.  The magazine Mother Jones  called him on that, and several former colleagues who really are reporters disputed what he said about his own exploits.

The guy is a sham and so are the gaggle of Fox foster children he has spawned.

Real journalists have come to be errant enough in this era of corporate news outlets.  It’s a pity that so many people, like my old friend, have come to rely on whatever it is that Fox peddles as if it were, in fact, news.

I think with particular sadness of my old paper, the New York Times, whose transgressions against truth in the last dozen years or more have been too numerous on too many stories of enormous importance.  Jayson Blair
was the author of more than 70 articles that not merely contained errors; some of them were made up out of whole cloth with datelines from places he had never been.  Judy Miller and Michael Gordon did the nation a far greater disservice with their irresponsible reporting during the run-up to the U.S.invasion of Iraq, reporting as fact unchecked leaks from the likes of Dick Cheney.  Now, David Sanger is on the same path with regard to Iran, and the Times team covering Ukraine is ever more looking equally irresponsible.  At this very moment, the Times continues to “stand by” a story that wrongly reported that Hillary Clinton’s use of a personal e-mail account while Secretary of State “violated the law.”  It did not and the source of the story maintains that he clearly told that to the Times reporter. For all of these sins, however, the Times is the closest thing to a reliable source of information that can be found among the mainstream media of this country.

What a sorry situation! 

Hang down your heads, journalists; hang down your heads and cry.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Truth vs. What Bibi Said Today

Don’t hold your breath for the mainstream media to point out  the array of fabrications, misstatements, misleading interpretations and glaring obfuscations in Israeli Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu’s speech to the United States Congress.

He began at the very beginning: My speech has been the subject of much controversy. I deeply regret that some perceive my being here as political. That was never my intention. He accepted a secret invitation from one of the most outspoken right-wing Republicans in the United States, who deliberately avoided any consultation with the head of state. Netanyahu knows very well that this defies all the norms of diplomatic protocol.  That’s not “political?”

“The alliance between Israel and the United States has always been above politics. It must always remain above politics.”  Check out the list of politicians who receive big money from AIPAC, and their political actions on behalf of Israel.

“I’ve come here today because, as prime minister of Israel, I feel a profound obligation to speak to you about an issue that could well threaten the survival of my country and the future of my people: Iran's quest for nuclear weapons.” This is the most repeated and most blatant canard in the international conversations about Iran. Netanyahu offered no evidence that Iran is trying to build nuclear weapons because there is none. “Over 10 years with more than 7,000 man-day inspections, the International Atomic Energy Agency has confirmed no evidence of diversion,” says Seyed Hossein Mousavian, a senior research scholar at Princeton University’s Woodrow Wilson School. “The number of inspections is unprecedented in the history of the IAEA.” By comparison, there has never been an IAEA inspection in Israel.  Iran has signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. Israel refuses to do so. Yet Bibi, the pot calling the kettle black, contended again before Congress that it’s Iran “that won’t come clean.”

“We must stop Iran’s march of conquest, subjugation and terror”  Bibi said. Conquest of what?  Bibi didn’t say.  Subjugation of whom? Bibi didn’t say. But Peter Jenkins, a senior diplomat for the United Kingdom, points out that it is Israel, not Iran,  which occupies territory outside its borders.  It is Israel, not Iran, that stands accused in the international court of war crimes committed in occupied territory outside its borders.  

“In the Middle East,” Netanyahu asserted today, Iran now dominates four Arab capitals, Baghdad, Damascus, Beirut and Sanaa. And if Iran's aggression is left unchecked, more will surely follow.”

In fact, the only capital where Iran has significant influence today is Baghdad, and that’s because of the disaster the United States created by its invasion of Iraq, and its capture and killing of Saddam Hussein. As for Damascus, Charles D. Smith, Middle East history expert from the University of Arizona, says, ““The irony is that Assad’s support relies largely on the non-Muslim Christian communities of various denominations who fear a radical Sunni takeover.” No Iranian influence there. The presumption of Iran’s “domination” of Syria, Lebanon, Yemen and Iraq is, according to another Middle East expert, William O. Beeman of the University of Minnesota, “beyond ridiculous.” Beeman adds  that if Iran did dominate those nations, “there would be a lot more stability” in the region.

Netanyahu slipped into his remarks a reference to “Iran’s intercontinental ballistic missile program” as if it, too, were an established fact. The truth is, the missiles Iran is building today are short- and medium-range weapons with up to 1,500 miles range. Netanyahu said Iran’s non-existent ICBMs would be capable of delivering its non-existent “nuclear arsenal” to the “far corners of the earth including to every part of the United States.”  That would require missiles capable of flying 8-10,000 miles.  That’s a massive technological step, one most defense experts think Iran is not capable of achieving and does not need.  Under the stringent economic sanctions the United States and its allies have imposed on Iran, it simply couldn’t scrape up the money for IBMs even if it wanted them.

All of this merely scratches the surface of Bibi’s assault on truth before congress today. The nuclear agreement the United States and five European partners are trying to forge with Iran, which Netanyahu desperately wants to sabotage, would be a major step toward peace in the Middle East.  Bibi says he’s all for peace.  He’s like the character in the old comic strip Pogo, who declared: “If I had The Bomb, I’d force peace down their throats.”

Bibi has The Bomb. He and his pals in congress want only an excuse to use it to force peace down Iran’s throat.

Friday, February 27, 2015

What's Hidden in All Those "Riders"

Government is supposed to be accountable to the people (play the laugh track here) and that includes the scoundrels we elect to Congress (guffaws) who devised their committee system so that accountability is impossible.

When committees do “mark ups” of pending legislation corruption is in  full flower.  The foxes are loose in the hen house.  Let the good times roll! Fill the pork barrels! Crank up the policy riders!  Anything goes! These guys work behind closed doors and hide their dirty work deep in the innards of the legislation they mangle.

The federal budget is a favorite playground.  Because the thieves and scoundrels know we have to have a budget, they hide all kinds of mischief in it.  In order to provide money for the necessary functions of government, the frivolous, the pork and the mischievous riders have to be passed, too.  

The right-wingers couldn’t pass a stand-alone bill banning abortions, but they can insert riders into the budget bill that deny funding for abortion services and otherwise restrict women’s access to this vital element of their health care.

Republicans hate having health care be affordable for low income Americans, but have failed repeatedly to get Obamacare repealed in the House.  But they can put a rider into the budget bill that cripples it by denying new money for it.  

They hate the fact that the Clean Water Act, which protects the health of the public, is enforced by the Environmental Protection Agency, so they sneak in a rider that cuts the funding of the EPA.  They’ve slashed EPA funding by nearly a quarter since 2010.

What they can’t do in the public eye, they do in the darkness of the committee rooms with riders, mirrors and voodoo.  The result, in the words of that infamous Straight Arrow  Sen. John McCain, is legislation “jammed full of shit.”

Shit like giving away our land, yours and mine, to rich and powerful private interests.  Even foreign private interests.  The richer the better.

Our enormous military and national defense organism is a huge giant squid, sucking up money like plankton.  Thus you simply gotta  pass the National Defense Authorization Act, right?  Right.

For ten years and counting, the biggest copper mining outfits in the world have coveted a hunk of our  land — we own it, you and I — in the Tonto National Forest fin Arizona.   They could dig more than $130 billion worth of ore out of it, by a process that’s only slightly more destructive than fracking for gas.  The mining giants are Australian and British-owned Rio Tinto and BHP Billiton and their wholly-owned subsidiary Resolution Copper. Each time their land grab came up as stand-alone legislation, it failed to pass. Even in Congress, some noses can still smell a rat.

To the rescue now comes Straight Shooter McCain, charging into the Senate Armed Services Committee room with a rider that would approve the copper mining land grab.  His piece of shit, er, rider, was written into page 1,105 of the National Defense Authorization Act — gift of 2,400 acres, four square miles, of our  national forest land to a foreign corporation.

Since long before there even was a National Forest Service, that particular bit of land has been used by the San Carlos Apache tribe for religious rites and for the harvest of medicinal plants.It is part of their ancestral homeland, supposedly protected forever from logging and mining.  

Ah, but white eyes has a mythology, too.  The mining masters say their raping of the landscape will generate $61 billion in economic activity and 3,700 direct and indirect jobs over 40 years.  These ethereal jobs presumably will come from the same Happy Hunting Grounds that magically would have produced 44,000 jobs as a result of building that great health and environmental disaster called the Keystone XL pipeline.  The jobs materialize when corrupt office-holders, snatching polluters’ bribes in their left hands, snap the fingers of their right hands and— Shazam! — armies of happy workers  emerge from the blue smoke.

Buy into that fantasy and next year they’ll sell you their grand plan for storing nuclear waste in the Grand Canyon.  Or something. 

Friday, February 20, 2015

Some Oklahoma History for Its GOP

An expatriate friend just received  the news that Republicans in the Oklahoma legislature have voted to toss out the Advanced Placement examinations in American history because they are too negative; they don’t teach enough American exceptionalism and good ol’ patriotic bovine excrement.

I sought to mitigate his outrage by reminding him that the textbook commission in Texas had demanded similar changes in the history teachings there.  Among them was a requirement that history texts publish lists of “outstanding Americans.”  Phyllis Schlafley was on the required list; Martin Luther King was excluded. 

Oklahoma’s legislation mandates certain required reading matter, including, for example, three Ronald Reagan speeches.


Reminds me of a Nathan’s hot-dog-eating contest.  Or that restaurant in Amarillo that offers a 76-ounce steak with “all the trimmings” that you can have for free — IF you can consume everything, including the “trimmings,” within an hour.

Oklahoma, according to the report my friend read abroad, ranks 47th among the states in educational attainment.  Also ranks high in obesity.

The reason for both rankings, I suggested, is that the brains Oklahomans are born with are replaced, over time, by pure lipids. They’re not born morons, like many Republicans, but they become fatheads.

In fact, through my own research, I have determined that the smartest person in Oklahoma is a hostess at a Mexican restaurant just outside Clinton, OK.

Driving west on Interstate 40 a while back, we overnighted in a motel in Clinton.  We asked the desk clerk to recommend a good place to eat dinner.  He gave us directions to the Mexican eatery and warned us we might have to wait for a table because it was extremely popular, but the wait would be more than justified by the quality of the meal.

We followed the directions, found the restaurant and saw a waiting line that stretched through the lobby and out into the parking lot.  Everyone in the queue seemed to be in good spirits, and we had nothing else to do, so we joined them.

As we waited, the world’s most opulent RV pulled up.  The parking lot was full so its driver parked illegally beside the curb.  This thing was about the length of the Queen Mary, bedecked with enough running lights to illuminate two blocks of Broadway, with Brahama bull’s horns mounted over the cab.

Out strode its operator, wearing a Stetson the size of Rhode Island, a western-cut suit obviously tailor made to try to flatter his rotund Me-ness, diamond rings on both hands, a Rolex and cowboy boots that must have cost at least three alligators their lives.

He stomped past the waiting peons outside, admitted himself to the lobby and addressed the hostess monitoring the wait line.  From a pocket he fetched a money clip inlaid with turquoise and pearls.  He withdrew a $50 bill which he flashed before her wide eyes and pressed into her hand. “Honey,” he said, “y’all set up a table for me and my seven friends, OK?  Skeedaddle now!”

Without a word, she stared him down, wadded up his $50 bill, tossed it onto the floor, and ushered the couple at the head of the line to a table that had just been vacated.

The people in line applauded.

The cowboy admiral walked back to his landship muttering curses.

Somebody needs to find that lady and elect her to the Oklahoma legislature.

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Nuclear Brinkmanship

Barack Obama hadn’t even been born when Herman Kahn’s classic “On Thermonuclear War”  was published in 1960. But there’s still time for him to read it before he goes further down his suicidal road in Ukraine.

John Kerry was 18 and bound for military duty in Vietnam when the somber, scholarly warning against  mutual nuclear destruction first appeared in print.  Whether Kerry has read it is immaterial.  He is, after all, the “veterans against the war” actor who burned someone else’s medals in his demonstration on the Capitol steps.  Kerry’s public life has been and continues to be that of an opportunist and congenital liar, born with a natural ability to shed logic as ducks shed water.

Meanwhile, nothing has changed since Kahn wrote his book except the weaponry: it’s vastly more powerful now.

Yet Obama, Kerry and the rest of the Washington’s Ship of Fools continue to lead this country and its allies in Europe, Canada and the U.K. toward an inevitable nuclear confrontation with Russia.  To risk repeating history by ignoring it, one must first know history.  These idiots appear not to have bothered learning history.  It would be worthwhile for some journalist to ask Obama at his next news conference if he’s read Kahn’s book. Better use of time than most of the foreign policy softballs the hacks toss to him.

The fools weren’t content planning and financing a coup d’etat that drove the democratically elected head of the Ukrainian state into exile.  The fools aren’t content with installing their own stooge as head of the new ersatz government, which promptly turned over two of its ministries to neo-Nazi leadership. The fools aren’t content with a western network of countries illegally smuggling armaments into Kiev.  Now the fools want to take the penultimate step to war itself: openly and officially providing a hostile government in Kiev with the means to attack Russia itself. 

Retired diplomats and intelligence experts in Europe, England and the U.S. have warned repeatedly that this would be disastrous. Then, as the respected German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung put it, “Russia would have to intervene, and then, bluntly speaking, to take Kiev. Then NATO would be in a difficult situation. Then you would have to start World War III, which no one wants.”

Well, that’s not entirely true.  The fools want war.  They want war because the indescribably wealthy oligarchs, who owe much of their power-through-riches to the very policy of endless war, want still more war.  And since they own the very minds and souls of the people we elected ostensibly to run this sorry-assed country,  America’s continuing pursuit of war is a certainty. If that pursuit leads to war with Russia over Ukraine, does anyone really think it will be fought with conventional weapons for very long?

While the truthless Kerry would have us believe — and the media sheep so report — that U.S. economic pressure brought Russia to the table in Moscow last week, the fact is that the leadership of both Germany and France — who are opposed to arming Ukraine — seek desperately now to hammer out a diplomatic solution that would head off the Ship of Fools. 

If the new negotiations in Minsk do in fact lead to a cessation of hostilities in Ukraine, there would be no immediate “necessity” for Washington to start arming Kiev to the teeth.

Maybe that would give Obama time to read Herman Kahn’s book.  Or to listen soberly to someone who has read it.

Friday, January 30, 2015

7 Vile Poseurs, and More to Come Forth

Virtually no Democrat holding public office, by any reasonable, historically accurate definition of the term “Democrat,” is in fact a Democrat.  Yet some of these poseurs are more deserving of contempt than others.

Among the most contemptible now doing time in the vile stinkhole that is Washington, D.C., are Sens. Michael Bennet (Colo.), Tom Carper (Del.), Bob Casey (Pa.), Joe Donnelly (Ind.), Heidi Heitkamp (N.D.), Joe Manchin (W.Va.), Claire McCaskill (Mo.), Jon Tester (Mo.), and Mark Warner (Va.).  They voted this week for the Keystone XL pipeline, a conduit of filth that threatens ecosystems and water tables the length of the country.

Other Dismalcrats in both houses will have abundant opportunity, as this session of congress drags on, to join or even supplant the squalid seven in the annals of American political venality. I wouldn’t attempt to predict how many will do so. Too many.

The American political system has been dragged so deeply into oligarchic fascism that it is no longer possible to restore a semblance of democracy.  There is no viable left in our system.  Most Americans think “liberal” is a dirty word, like “queer,” “nigger” and “non-Christian.”  Where there is no room for the liberal point of view there is no democracy.  Anyplace that equates wealth with speech is doomed to career forever down the sinkhole of anti-democracy.   In the United States Democratic capitalism has become a self-contradiction and Democratic socialism an object of scorn.

Keystone XL is just the beginning of the depredations of which this Congress is capable.  Its invitation to the Israeli war criminal, Bibi Netanyahu, to come here to speak against even the Milquetoastian efforts by President Obama to ease some of the bellicose tensions in the world would have been viewed as treason in saner times.  We have heads of important Congressional committees uttering crude nonsense that in other times would have brought their sanity into question. 

The laundry list of outrages created, endorsed, advocated and legislated by the fools we have elected to office now fills a volume at least as thick as the federal tax code.  It grows by the day, with each new set of outrages somehow managing to be more egregious than the one before it.  Their transgressions against the rights of women alone threaten to drag us back into the Stone Age.  Their commitment to war and to the obscene profit of those who supply its tools is barbaric.  They are in the forefront of a world-wide economic movement that within a few years will have more wealth in the hands of the richest one percent than in the hands of all of the rest of us.  By then, left or right or center won’t matter.  There will only be the indescribably rich and the rest of us, their slaves.

The police, envisioned as protectors of our rights and enforcers of our just laws, have been paramilitarized into racist, uncontrolled brutes whose overwhelming armaments preclude any attempt at armed insurrection, and who put down by force any grassroots expression of outrage against what’s happening.  Soon there will be no public outcry against even the grossest of abuses of power.

Our mainstream media are at the minimum cowed, at the maximum active propagandists for the rich and powerful and their toadies in government. 

Already saddled with the most poorly informed electorate in what we still naively call “the free world,” we are producing ever more poorly schooled young people because the fools we have put in office are systematically eliminating quality public education by hobbling good teachers and creating charter schools and other brainwashing factories.  The Christian churches of the United States are ever more complicit in the destruction of what once was a fragile democracy: no cadre of Catholics in the world is more horrified by the liberal views of that church’s new Pope from Argentina than the United States Council of Bishops.  Their umbrage grew exponentially when he named new Cardinals from Third World countries and (gasp!) none from the U.S.

During the Great Depression, when only the oligarchs had bread on the table and shoes on their feet, one of the monied class won election as president and led a leftward march toward Democratic socialism, revolutionary new steps toward civil rights and dignity for the common man.  Franklin D. Roosevelt “betrayed his class,” many people said, to create a viable American left within the tent of the Democratic party.

But that was oh, so long ago.  We’ve burned that tent down. The Squalid Seven and others of their ilk are urinating on the ashes.