December 31, 2012

On Old long syne . . .

Should Old Acquaintance be forgot,
and never thought upon;
The flames of Love extinguished,
and fully past and gone:
Is thy sweet Heart now grown so cold,
that loving Breast of thine;
That thou canst never once
reflect On Old long syne.

 On Old long syne my Jo,
 On Old long syne,
That thou canst never once reflect,
 On Old long syne.

. . . a tip of the hat to master Robert Burns . . .

December 28, 2012

birds are dinosaurs too . . .

I guess I am a dinosaur . . . I keep reading where folks have grown beyond paper . . . like here . . . but I haven't much of a techie soul it seems . . . so am I still a tree-hugger when I subscribe to the Times Sunday edition? I noticed this holiday season that much of the packaging for some gifts has evolved into sensible, and 100% recycled, plainer paper product . . . is that a way to rationalize the continued overuse of paper?

December 26, 2012

protecting the middle class . . .

Raising the agreed threshold from $250,000 to $400,000 (or to $1,000,000) does not qualify as "protecting the middle class" no matter how often or how loudly Republicans proclaim such nonsense . . .

discussing guns . . .

Daily Times/Gannett editorial
We are not in a war zone, but we might as well be.

A frequent factor in these violent incidents is mental illness. In many — but not all — of these incidents, the weapons used to wreak havoc were obtained legally.

This is not a proposed assault on the Second Amendment. There is, of course, no way to avoid all gun violence. But there is a clear choice we must ultimately make: What kind of society do we want to inhabit — one in which we risk our lives to watch a movie, go shopping or enter a classroom?

Or one where capable and responsible adults are free to own guns but every effort is made to weed out those who could turn violent?

December 23, 2012

what's for dinner . . .

I harvested most of our meyer lemons today and was a bit overwhelmed so I decided to try to find a recipe for dinner . . . since we also have a surfeit of goat cheese (for holiday dishes) I decided to google the pair and came up with what will be tonight's dinner.

Maybe we'll add a bit of chooped green onion or a some basil from the yard to give a little color (our pasta is whole wheat so there will be some darkening of the palette) to the serving dish . . .

epistemic closure and political marginalization . . .

Andrew Sullivan (speaks for many of us) has had Enough!
This faction and its unhinged fanaticism has no place in any advanced democracy. They must be broken. But the current irony is that no one has managed to expose their extremism more clearly than their own Speaker. His career is over. As is the current Republican party. We need a new governing coalition in the House - Democrats and those few sane Republicans willing to put country before ideology. But even that may be impossible.

December 21, 2012

reading brooklynbadboy . . .

Over at Daily Kos, brooklynbadboy has written something well worth the read . . .
Last night, the House of Representatives was actively working on a bill that would not even be brought to the floor in the Senate and would face certain death at the president's desk. But let's think about that fact for a minute. Is this the way American government is supposed to work? Seriously? Back room negotiations between the speaker and the president? Bills that are written up on the fly and go nowhere? Bills that never even get considered for a vote for the other body? Bills that are vetoed before they are even passed?

Think about this: Guess how many vetoes President Obama has issued. The answer is two. The average for presidents is 48. FDR vetoed an average of 53 bills per year and he never once had to deal with Republican majorities. President Obama has less vetoes than Warren Harding—and he was only president for four months! It seems to me the system isn't working properly when the president isn't seeing bills he doesn't like. That isn't a sign of a healthy separation of powers or checks and balances.

long winter's night . . .

December 16, 2012

blues with an extraordinary lady . . .

My army bud and mentor Brian Voorhies was invited last evening to sit in on harmonica with a fine blues band from Syracuse led by the extraordinary Carolyn Kelly who "sings with as much power and style as anyone I've ever heard,and is such a gracious person as well." Enjoy.

December 13, 2012

math is hard . . .

Jonathan Chait has the answer to why the Republicans aren't providing the spending cuts they desire . . .
“Where are the president’s spending cuts?” asks John Boehner. With Republicans coming to grips with their inability to stop taxes on the rich from rising, the center of the debate has turned to the expenditure side. In the short run, the two parties have run into an absurd standoff, where Republicans demand that President Obama produce an offer of higher spending cuts, and Obama replies that Republicans should say what spending cuts they want, and Republicans insist that Obama should try to guess what kind of spending cuts they would like.

Reporters are presenting this as a kind of negotiating problem, based on each side’s desire for the other to stick its neck out first. But it actually reflects a much more fundamental problem than that. Republicans think government spending is huge, but they can’t really identify ways they want to solve that problem, because government spending is not really huge. That is to say, on top of an ideological gulf between the two parties, we have an epistemological gulf. The Republican understanding of government spending is based on hazy, abstract notions that don’t match reality and can’t be translated into a workable program.

. . .

When the only cuts on the table would inflict real harm on people with modest incomes and save small amounts of money, that is a sign that there’s just not much money to save. It’s not just that Republicans disagree with this; they don’t seem to understand it. The absence of a Republican spending proposal is not just a negotiating tactic but a howling void where a specific grasp of the role of government ought to be. And negotiating around that void is extremely hard to do. The spending cuts aren’t there because they can’t be found.

December 10, 2012

hey, A! . . . I love you . . .

recommended read . . .

From Nulwee over at Daily Kos . . . Pisugtooq ...
The Arcitc is a constantly variable dreamscape, and with its variations comes fortune or doom for the individual. These are populations that already reside in conditions that are as unpredictable and unrelenting as possible. We are throwing too much chaos in the equation.

Variations. It is very frustrating to behold months of dry conditions and then have your friends and neighbors complaining at the first, briefest rains that do little more than tide over wild biota as the streams run low, and the heat that is just not right to those with what's called 'native eye' and an affinity for the land. And it is troubling to know that whatever pleasant warmth these people feel, disproportionately larger changes are happening in the North's landscape of desire and imagination.

The Arctic is very sensitive to oil spills and other forms of pollution. Polar bears in areas affected by oil spills have been observed licking oil off their fur, resulting in the agony of renal failure. Of climate, the yearly return of something as simple as the narrow stream-like leads in the ice and a particular amount of snow is vital to the health of the population. There are so many things that climate variations can throw out of whack, and we don't know most of what those are. At the same time, the Arctic nations are witnessing the scramble for the next, great natural resource bubble.

December 09, 2012

he said / she said journalism and 2012 election . . .

The Lawyers, Guns & Money blog calls this "the cult of false equivalence" . . . somehow much more to the point than my own "balance" lines earlier . . . Dan Froomkin calls it How the Mainstream Press Bungled the Single Biggest Story of the 2012 Campaign . . .
... according to longtime political observers Thomas Mann and Norman Ornstein, campaign coverage in 2012 was a particularly calamitous failure, almost entirely missing the single biggest story of the race: Namely, the radical right-wing, off-the-rails lurch of the Republican Party, both in terms of its agenda and its relationship to the truth.

Mann and Ornstein are two longtime centrist Washington fixtures who earlier this year dramatically rejected the strictures of false equivalency that bind so much of the capital's media elite and publicly concluded that GOP leaders have become "ideologically extreme; scornful of compromise; unmoved by conventional understanding of facts, evidence and science; and dismissive of the legitimacy of its political opposition."

The 2012 campaign further proved their point, they both said in recent interviews. It also exposed how fabulists and liars can exploit the elite media's fear of being seen as taking sides.

Dan Froomkin's column has valuable links to Thomas Mann's and Norman Ornstein's work.

December 06, 2012

balance . . .

too much is excess . . . not enough is unacceptable . . .

ed . . . my man . . .

fox hannity is an asshole . . . ed asner is a pisser . . .

"right to work" laws are anything but . . .

A "right to work" law does not provide work nor give workers any right other than free representation at the expense of their unionized coworkers. No state requires a worker to join a union to keep a job. In free bargaining states, people in union workplaces pay a fee to cover the direct costs of representing them. By creating such free-riders, RTW laws weaken union workers and provide employers additional power over workers. Follow the reasoning behind a 2011 briefing paper from the Economic Policy Institute:
Wages in right-to-work states are 3.2% lower than those in non-RTW states, after controlling for a full complement of individual demographic and socioeconomic variables as well as state macroeconomic indicators. Using the average wage in non-RTW states as the base ($22.11), the average full-time, full-year worker in an RTW state makes about $1,500 less annually than a similar worker in a non-RTW state.

December 04, 2012

omg . . .

HuffPost is reporting that Elizabeth Warren will have a seat on the banking committee!

wherefore reality . . .

It's becoming clearer - the President is overplaying his hand . . . he is attempting to pursue what he promised to pursue during the recent election . . . a clear sign to the right that he has gone overboard . . .

November 29, 2012

don't give credit where none is due . . .

E.J. Dionne makes a valid point about ignoring Grover Norquist.
Here’s the first lesson from the early skirmishing over ways to avoid the fiscal cliff: Democrats and liberals have to stop elevating Grover Norquist, the anti-government crusader who wields his no-tax pledge as a nuclear weapon, into the role of a political Superman.

Pretending that Norquist is more powerful than he is allows Republicans to win acclaim they haven’t earned yet. Without making a single substantive concession, they get loads of praise just for saying they are willing to ignore those old pledges to Grover. You can give him props as a public relations genius. Like Ke$ha or Beyonce, he is widely known in Washington by only one name. But kudos for an openness to compromise should be reserved for Republicans who put forward concrete proposals to raise taxes.
But Daily Kos' Joan McCarter makes a more basic, and just as valid a point in her reaction to Senator Schumer's opinion that the Republicans want to divorce Grover Norquist:
The problem, of course, is that there's no such break happening. Whatever flirting various members might be doing around the edges of tax "reform" has nothing to do with breaking the pledge on tax rates. That's been made abundantly clear by House Speaker John Boehner. Schumer is smart enough to know this, so maybe he's just trying to keep the narrative going in the media that Republicans are in disarray.

If that's his strategy, he might be being a bit too cute. There's advantage to the Republicans in these negotiations if there's a media narrative that they're not wholly intransigent. Which they are, and which they should be called out for.

November 24, 2012

zombie legislation . . .

Maybe Senator DeMint is making some sense . . . according to Roll Call the senator thinks zombies should not legislate . . . omigawd, I seem to agree: I, too, would rather zombies lie down deep and warm and leave the legislating to those accountable . . .
Sen. Jim DeMint would rather see Congress go over the fiscal cliff than have a group of “zombie legislators” make tax and spending policy in final post-election weeks of the 112th Congress.

In a report on the dangers of legislating in lame-duck sessions, the South Carolina Republican argues, “The American people were never presented with competing ‘lame duck’ agendas, so Washington has no business trying to pass one. Conservatives may not like the policy outcome in any case, but rejecting the ‘lame duck’ and achieving an honest, transparent process respectful of the American people and our republican institutions is significant in its own right.”

blandification of our situation . . . dreaming deep to find real life . . .

November 23, 2012

chia this . . .

Salvia hispanica, commonly known as chia, is a species of flowering plant in the mint family, Lamiaceae, native to central and southern Mexico and Guatemala (Wikipedia). How big a niche market is chia? Some of friends use it everyday . . . (disclaimer) while I have a bag of chia in my cupboard, I usually use it sparingly and with a slight grimace waiting for the the what I use it in to turn to tapioca pudding without the tapioca taste . . . maybe I should just believe that the Aztecs gods may have known of what they spoke . . . (so to speak) . . . Some folks are ahead of me. Not surprising as I've noticed some folks who are also aft (some no doubt daft), before (or heretofore), starboard (or overboard) and port (my favorite holiday guests) . . .
... Whole and ground chia seeds are being added to fruit drinks, snack foods and cereals and sold on their own to be baked into cookies and sprinkled on yogurt. Grown primarily in Mexico and Bolivia, chia is rich in the same omega-3 fatty acids found in fish, along with antioxidants, protein and fiber. Recognition of its nutritional value can be traced as far back as the Aztecs.

imagine . . .

the world could be one . . . for the many of us . . .

making decisions about our future . . .

connecting the world through music . . .

November 18, 2012

first paragraphs . . . to inform myself . . .

John Steinbeck's Travels with Charley in Search of America was published the year I graduated from high school . . . a while ago and sometimes a bit frayed around the edges . . .
When I was very young and the urge to be someplace else was on me, I was assured by mature people that maturity would cure this itch. When years described me as mature, the remedy prescribed was middle age. In middle age I was assured that greater age would calm my fever and now that I am fifty-eight perhaps senility will do the job. Nothing has worked. Four hoarse blasts of a ship's whistle still raise the hair on my neck and set my feet to tapping. The sound of a jet, an engine warming up, even the clopping of shod hooves on pavement brings on the ancient shudder, the dry mouth and vacant eye, the hot palms and the churn of stomach high up under the rib cage. In other words, I don't improve; in further words, once a bum always a bum. I fear the disease is incurable. I set this matter down not to instruct others but to inform myself.
And so it goes . . . a fine book of its time and a comforting companion on some few lonely and mostly cold hitch-hiking nights trying to sleep under bridges . . .

November 17, 2012

turnip stem potato cod soup . . .

Let's say you've bought a mess of turnip greens to cook and freeze for your fairly normal diet of greens, beans and fish . . . sometimes greens, rice with beans and fish evening meals . . . and you realize that you have a couple of potatoes starting to go to seed (but still firm enough) in the pantry, one red and white . . . what to do? Easy, delicious answer: turnip stem potato and cod soup (assuming you have some frozen cod waiting for a menu to flower around it) . . . a bit of veggie stock, kosher salt, black pepper, garlic, and cayenne pepper and you have a swell mid-day Saturday meal . . . some whole grain crackers and butter is even more swell . . . no leftovers . . .

November 16, 2012

first paragraphs . . . the appetite for wonder . . .

Mervyn Peake in The Glassblower: To live at all is miracle enough.
We are going to die, and that makes us the lucky ones. Most people are never going to die because they are never going to be born. The potential people who could have been here in my place but who will in fact never see the light of day outnumber the sand grains of Arabia. Certainly those unborn ghost include greater poets than Keats, scientists greater than Newton. We know this because the set of possible people allowed by our DNA so massively exceeds the set of actual people. In the teeth of these stupefying odds it is you and I, in our ordinariness, that are here.

November 15, 2012

oatmeal and such . . .

Stop by and visit for a few moments. You'll be glad . . . and you are welcome.
I work fairly long days . . . but on occasion, as I can, I collect some stuff . . . like stamps, but I'm only peripherally, it really at all, into philately . . . and like coins, mostly pennies, started probably because of my birth year . . . as you probably know, the steelie was a variety of the U.S. one-cent coin which was struck in steel due to wartime shortages of copper . . . I was born during the war . . . anyway, I collect stuff . . . some stuff is tangible and needs envelopes, boxes, etc. and demands (though seldom receives) inventory on occasion . . . I also collect family history, photos, etc. and pay a larger sum that I'm always comfortable about to a website that allows me to catalogue (actually most Americans usually say/write/type "catalog" . . . not sure why I'm stuck on catalogue . . . ) the information (and some of the photographs) . . . but some of what I collect is more difficult to put in a box and count up the collected numbers . . . for instance, I find that I always have a clear favorite poem in a book of an author's poems (more problematic in collections) . . . it is sometimes a temporary favorite and can change but there is always a poem I gravitate to when I first pick up the book (for instance with a book of Yeats poems at one time):
I whispered, 'I am too young,'
And then, 'I am old enough';
Wherefore I threw a penny
To find out if I might love.
'Go and love, go and love, young man,
If the lady be young and fair.'
Ah, penny, brown penny, brown penny,
I am looped in the loops of her hair.
O love is the crooked thing,
There is nobody wise enough
To find out all that is in it,
For he would be thinking of love
Till the stars had run away
And the shadows eaten the moon.
Ah, penny, brown penny, brown penny,
One cannot begin it too soon. 

that has now changed . . . I still very much love this poem but it is not my particular collected first choice . . . (perhaps I may share that some other time) . . . but I also collect first paragraphs of books that I have read . . . or rather of books that bend the rainbow of my life a bit . . . books that change the way the wind seems to move over water . . . books like Nikos Kazantzakis' Report to Greco . . . .
I collect my tools: sign, smell, touch, taste, hearing, intellect. Night has fallen, the day's work is done. I return like a mole to my home, the ground. Not because I am tired and cannot work. I am not tired. But the sun has set. 
I fear that different editions have slight variations on the first pages of this book . . . but still . . . this book kept me sane for a time in Bavaria but may have slightly skewed my life in other directions . . . this father of Zorba is the real Greek deity . . . the rest are mere broken statues . . .

November 12, 2012

The Unknowable

The universe came into existence a little over 67 years ago, and it will end - well, who knows for sure, but almost certainly within the next 5 years. Before what I have learned to call the summer of 1945, there was nothing; and, unless one or another of the great religious fairy tales turns out to be more than ardent wishful thinking, when my light goes out there will again be nothing.

Throughout this span of time (whatever time is), I've been driven by one overarching question: What's going on here? I do know, incontrovertibly, that there is something going on - even if it's just one grand hallucination, it is at least that, and not simply nothing. I'll not venture as far as Descartes famously did with "Cogito, ergo sum"; the best I can do is "Sum, ergo sum."

At various times, I thought I was hot on the trail of some answers. But, sooner or later, every single one of the leads I pursued petered out in an absurdity or a mystery. It didn't help that I was raised in the old-school, pre-Vatican II Roman Catholic church, which claimed to have all the ultimate answers. I found out pretty early on, though, that these answers invariably relied upon either more mysteries or simple bald-faced assertions. Despite all this (I didn't adopt my online alias of "hardhead" for nothing) I've persisted and persisted in my search, far beyond any hope of finding even fragments of answers.

It's been gradually dawning on me over the last decade or so that, even were I to have 10,000 years at my disposal, I'm not going to find any answers beyond what I've already got. And that's because, in the nature of this hallucination or whatever it is that I find myself (and everything else, if it really exists independently of me), it is far, far beyond our powers, either individually or collectively, now and forever more, to find an answer or answers. We, either as we are or as we might become, will never and can never know why there is something rather than nothing (which is just another way of asking what's going on here).

Some philosopher/linguist types will insist that my questions themselves are meaningless or silly; I guess that suffices for them, but I can't help feeling deep pity for those who have no more sense of awe or mystery than to hold such views. It's also common for scientist types to imagine that they have answers for at least some of what's going on and why; but I invite you to peruse the history of science and tabulate the number of "eternal verities" that have turned out to be pure poppycock. As John Gray remarked in Straw Dogs, "after all the work of Plato and Spinoza, Descartes and Bertrand Russell we have no more reason than other animals for believing that the sun will rise tomorrow." I think it the deepest wisdom to get it into our bones that we don't know even the tiniest fraction of what we think we know, and to start acting accordingly.

Still, whatever it is that's going on, it's a wonder through and through, riddled with great beauty and deep joy. Despite the misery, anguish, and pain that also comes with the territory, I wouldn't have missed it for anything.

November 10, 2012

changing . . . the times . . .

John K. Wilson interviews Ian Reifowitz about his book Obama's America: A Transformative Vision of Our National Identity at In These Times . . .
The language of unity, and specifically the language of cross-ethnic, American national unity that Obama has used so often strikes me as clearly progressive because it is a direct contrast both to laissez-faire hyper-individualism as well as to racial bigotry and other forms of prejudice. If Obama can get a middle-aged, middle-class white American to feel a stronger connection with someone different from himself on the basis of their shared American-ness, then that first person is more likely to be supportive of progressive ideals broadly defined, whether it’s on the economy or immigration or even gay rights.

Ultimately, left and right are relative terms. They are meaningless without a comparison that defines “left of what?” and “right of what?” Obama is to the left of conservative Republicans on virtually every domestic issue. On foreign policy, as he said in 2002 when he came out against the Iraq war, he’s no pacifist, he’s not against all wars, just “dumb” ones.

turning a corner . . .

hardhead said, "please explain."
After months of campaigning at a cost of around $6 billion, it looks almost exactly like the status quo ante to me. We've got the same president; the Democrats picked up two seats in the Senate (hooray for Elizabeth Warren!), but nothing like a super-majority; and the House is essentially unchanged, with the Republicans still firmly in control. Think this crew will be able to accomplish any more than they have the last 2 years? If so, please explain.
So, very much off the top of my head - no lengthy term paper, just some jotted notes . . .

Let me start by disagreeing that the Republicans remain firmly in control (see earlier post quoting Matthew Iglesias). And I'm satisfied with having the same President and expect as the economy continues to improve, he will be able to accomplish more of what he has talked about. I think the President's win was stunning in its potential to make sweeping changes - maybe more long-term than short-term. He has fashioned a coalition that is now the Democratic party going forward. This coalition is real (certainly not permanent) and promises to be long-lasting. It is the first time in the nation's history that we have a true multiracial political party. And if you go down the list of politicians at the forefront of the two major parties, the Democrats have almost without exception the cream of that limited crop. The Democrats are far more willing to accept reality - global climate change, dinosaurs with feathers that pre-date all the biblical stories, etc. Even with all of our fears of the Republicans owning and rigging the voting machines we manage to still stand in the long lines and vote. This country has an incredible way to go to overcome the continuing bigotry of our citizenry, but the Democratic party is no longer the party that accepts that bullshit - and says so. There appear to be some Republicans rethinking their silly tax pledges to Lord Darth Norquist and there are certainly many who were never that fond of weak tea. If the Senate reforms its rules as Senator Reid is suggesting to limit the filibuster that will be a starting victory for the short-term. President Obama ran very specifically on raising taxes on the very richest among us and I suggest that may well develop enough votes in the house to accomplish that - yes, I definitely fear what our side may bargain away. But I think the electorate will continue to pay attention our occupy cousins will continue. I think the tea party is mostly over . . . it was not quality tea anyway. I'm obviously optimistic (juices still flowing from Tuesday evening) but there is some room to be when the Bush era seems more and more behind us.

Update:Clearly spin is part of all this . . . I've just been scanning the WSJ Opinion section in the weekend edition, reading Peggy Noonan and Holman W. Jenkins, Jr., and learning that Obama won in 2012 with a smaller total vote than he did in 2008 (not much on the fact that the Republicans lost with a smaller total vote than in 2008), and that the President won by: "savaging the character of his opponent, and assembling a jigsaw coalition based on micro-targeting . . ." but the totality of the message as I read it is that the Republicans were out-organized, that the voters clearly would still prefer the Republican clarity of message to the hodgepodge mess of Democratic nonsense . . . that Republicans must work better to get out the vote but must not change their message or opposition in any form . . . full speed to the repetition of the nonsense of the last four years . . . etc. It is discouraging but not totally unexpected. In the world I inhabit, I experience a different election.

Boehner's bluff . . .

As often happens, Matthew Yglesias understands the bluffing Boehner better than the Speaker's fellow pols . . .
Remember the famous scene from Raiders of the Lost Ark when Indiana Jones faces off against a guy who unsheathes a scimitar and wows the audience with his fancy swordsmanship--only to get shot in the chest by Indy? The swordsman—that’s House Speaker John Boehner right now on the Bush tax cuts. Whether it’s out of deference to the office, eagerness to have an interesting story to write about, or plain gullibility, every congressional reporter in town is now dutifully reporting on his negotiating strategy. But this fight is over. Boehner has brought a knife to a gunfight, only nobody seems to have told anyone in the conservative movement.

To recap, the basic situation is this. Back when George W. Bush was in office, he wanted to cut taxes. And he wanted to disguise the cost of his tax cuts. So he had his allies on Capitol Hill write the legislation so that the tax cuts would automatically expire at the end of a 10-year window.

That window closed at the end of 2010. But during the 2010 lame-duck session, Republicans were riding high on electoral victory and the Obama administration was concerned that tax hikes would hurt the economy. So they cut a deal to extend the Bush tax cuts two more years into the 2012 lame-duck session. It was a smart idea for everyone concerned. With the economy weak, there really was no case for a short-term tax increase, and this way the presidential election would resolve everything. If Obama lost, his GOP opponent would surely sign a permanent extension of the Bush tax cuts. But if Obama won, then he’d block any extension.

As you probably heard Tuesday night, Obama won.

. . .

The conceit here is the frankly bizarre idea that since Obama wants to extend the Bush tax cuts for the middle class, he needs to engage in some kind of bargaining process. But this is silly. The Senate already passed a plan to extend the middle-class tax cuts. Now the choice before the House of Representatives is whether they want to vote to pass that plan before the new year or after the new year. Grover Norquist, the conservative Solon on taxes, appears to have made a metaphysical ruling that a vote for partial extension (before the new year) is a vote for higher taxes. That’s silly, but the dictates of holy writ are often a bit arbitrary. All Republicans need to do is wait until the Bush tax cuts have already expired. At that point, a vote for a tax cut that Obama will sign—i.e., the middle-class tax cuts only—would clearly be a vote to cut taxes rather than raise them.

. . .

There’s no political or substantive reason for Republicans to resist a post-new-year tax cut proposal. That means there’s no leverage on the GOP side and nothing for the parties to negotiate over. Republicans took a risk with the tax sunsets, and they lost. Boehner is bluffing, and it’s time for everyone to recognize that, take the next couple of months off, and pass the Obama middle-class tax cuts in January.

November 08, 2012

there are differences . . . some potentially dramatic . . .

This is a Trailer (or "coming of attractions"), of sorts, to the conclusion expressed below . . . One of the things we discussed, when I invited (was trying to convince) hardhead to take up some of the slack on "Peripatetic Patter" posting, was a "he sez / he sez" dialogue as we progressed . . . I discounted the idea (and might still do so to some extent) but I've noticed that one of the reactions I wait for when I post is his possible input or response to some of what I spew after having a Saint Arnold brew in hand (nectar of the saints) . . . and also, I find that I sometimes yearn to respond to much of what he says . . . while we are clearly not coming from an identical world view (migawd he sounds like an anarchist), even if we admit to a helluva lot of similar basic tenets as well as some 2-3 years of shared army security agency experience in Bavaria we do appear to share in some abundance a willingness to bullshit and to do so publicly (or as publicly as a blog like this - with so few followers that I can't count that low - will mathematically allow) on occasion . . . I think hardhead deserves an explanation and I plan to supply one . . . BUT it happens that I think slower than I talk (and too often slower than I write) so I will not elaborate this evening . . . this is a preliminary announcement to keep me on course; however, I have, from my prospective, a very adequate response (at the least, a most plausible rejoinder) to my friend's pessimistic review of the last election . . . there are differences and some are potentially dramatic . . .
  • After months of campaigning at a cost of around $6 billion, it looks almost exactly like the status quo ante to me. We've got the same president; the Democrats picked up two seats in the Senate (hooray for Elizabeth Warren!), but nothing like a super-majority; and the House is essentially unchanged, with the Republicans still firmly in control. Think this crew will be able to accomplish any more than they have the last 2 years? If so, please explain.

November 07, 2012

What's different?

A few observations about this election, just off the top of my head:
  • After months of campaigning at a cost of around $6 billion, it looks almost exactly like the status quo ante to me. We've got the same president; the Democrats picked up two seats in the Senate (hooray for Elizabeth Warren!), but nothing like a super-majority; and the House is essentially unchanged, with the Republicans still firmly in control. Think this crew will be able to accomplish any more than they have the last 2 years? If so, please explain.
  • I've now finished reading American Nations, the book I recommended earlier, and I must say I'm somewhat disappointed with it, especially in regard to Woodard's conclusions about how contemporary America is divided. I've been perusing a fascinating breakdown of the returns by state and by county at, and it seems to me the most obvious divide we have is between urban and rural. To be sure, many of Woodard's nations do appear to hold up, especially El Norte, the Left Coast, and Yankeedom; but the Deep South and the Far West, in particular, don't seem to be quite so solidly Republican as we're led to believe. In fact, nearly all the cities in those areas went to Obama, often by large margins. That, to me, bodes ill for coming to any kind of consensus on where to go from here.
  • Isn't it high time we discarded that elitist relic: the Electoral College?
  • Congratulations to Colorado and Washington for voting to legalize marijuana; shame on Oregon for failing to do so.
We'll know by Christmas a whole lot more about how much things have changed, if at all. I'm not holding my breath ...

the coalition is bigger than you may think . . .

The American Indian vote scored some big victories for politicians on election night in America.
In the days leading up to the November 6 election, incumbent Sen. Jon Tester, D-Montana, told Indian Country Today Media Network that he was relying on the Native American vote to help him defeat challenger GOP Rep. Denny Rehberg.
Just as in 2006, Tester pulled out a close victory, where the margin of votes from reservations in his state likely put him over the edge, according to Native political observers.
American Indian organizers, including Tom Rodgers, a Blackfeet citizen and tribal lobbyist with Carlyle Consulting, worked hard to secure Indian votes, canvassing the state and expressing support for Tester’s efforts on behalf of Indians. Several tribal citizens also filed suit in Montana to have satellite-voting offices opened on reservations—a battle that goes on now that the election has concluded.
“Every vote mattered,” Tester spokeswoman Andrea Telling said when asked whether the Native vote put him over the top.
One state away, Natives are taking credit for the slim margin of victory for Democrat Heidi Heitkamp, who defeated Republican Rick Berg in a very close North Dakota Senate race. Her win was a surprise to many national political pundits reflecting on the race.
Chris Stearns, a Navajo lawyer who previously was a House staffer, said he campaigned with Heitkamp 12 years ago when she ran unsuccessfully for governor of the state, and he came to the conclusion then that she’s an “awesome lady.”
Stearns believes Native efforts and votes for Heitkamp tipped the scales in her favor. Tex Hall, chairman of Three Affiliated Tribes, hosted a get-out-the-vote rally on her behalf on his reservation the Saturday before the election, and also campaigned for her.
“Sometimes the good candidates really win,” Stearns said. “Even a Democrat in a Republican state.”

Read more:

elections mostly over . . .

time for some healing . . .

November 06, 2012

O . . .

yes . . .

early votes . . .

and it is still early votes (in counties as much as in states at the moment) . . . are looking positive for President Obama; I hope TX remembers to count the paper ballots since I voted by mail . . .

November 05, 2012

perfect . . .

Romney logic . . .

total capitalism . . . what is it?

My ignorance sometimes astounds me . . . (only sometimes because often I am acutely aware of it . . . what the hell is that, or this or the other, etc.) but, as I said, sometimes it astounds me . . . (and at least as often embarrasses me . . . what is that? upbringing, cultural claptrap, character defect, common sense . . . I doubt I nailed that . . . ). BUT there are some definitions and guide posts for "total capitalism" and as I come across them and read some of the text it is apparent that I am even aware of some of the argument . . . a good place to start (a little dear for my current pocketbook - but that's relative not only to obvious circumstances but to current dreams of growing a budget for retirement . . . ) is a a book of the name: Total Capitalism. So I may start there - I'll discuss the budgetary consequences with A and take her advice (but I sometimes am able to argue an effective way around the obvious shortcomings of the developing expenditure . . . ) and probably buy the book (FYI, she seldom reads over my shoulder - or visits this blog - her world tends to be full enough of the real concerns of food, happiness and a retirement off the street . . . ).

Another avenue is, of course, the Internet (with all of its dark, cavernous recesses where one may be mugged in an endless variety of ways . . . mostly, not pleasant) where sometimes there is light, with an attached dimmer, and a chorus, not necessarily Canadian, singing Leonard Cohen's Hallelujah. One such locale, not the music but the economics of private gain, may be Colin Leys' flat somewhere in London. I leave you to find the relevant baedeker, I've become consumed with an irresistible urge to listen to something that better fits my pre-2012 election mood (I'll be back to total capitalism):

Civilized Perspectives

A couple of articles posted today on Der Spiegel Online:
Divided States of America - Notes on the Decline of a Great Nation
The United States is frittering away its role as a model for the rest of the world. The political system is plagued by an absurd level of hatred, the economy is stagnating and the infrastructure is falling into a miserable state of disrepair. On this election eve, many Americans are losing faith in their country's future.

Destroyed by Total Capitalism - America Has Already Lost Tuesday's Election
Germans see the US election as a battle between the good Obama and the evil Romney. But this is a mistake. Regardless of who wins the election on Tuesday, total capitalism is America's true ruler, and it has the power to destroy the country.
For what it's worth ...

November 04, 2012

if you had asked me . . .

We all need to vote on Tuesday, even folks like me who live in TX, one of the reddest of states. We all need to vote. And up and down the ticket, not just for President, vote Green if there are no Dems running for the office . . . VOTE . . .

Quack heard up and down the coast . . .

Who says Kenjon Barner isn't the favorite to win the Heisman Trophy?

incurious sumbitch . . .

As he often does, I think James Wolcott nails the campaign both now and for 2016 . . .
I confess that as a liberal Democrat I'm amazed that Obama isn't 20 points ahead in the race. Yes, he had that one lousy debate, but what a truly vapid, uninspired candidate Mitt Romney is, standing for nothing, a glistening shrine to hackitude. Romney's been compared to Nixon in his mendacious duplicitous insincerity but Romney's actually worse: Nixon knew stuff, he did his homework, not like Romney, who has a vacancy sign on his brow whenever he's forced to discuss an issue--usually foreign-policy related--that he's had six or seven years to study up on if he hadn't been such a complacent, incurious sumbitch too busy admiring his fucking hair and winning smile in the mirror. I really thought he'd be smart enough not to glue himself to Tea Party positions that become a mite uncomfortable in the general election, such as hey let's send disaster relief back to the states or better yet privatize it, but no, he pandered like a fan dancer. His shape-shifting about the Detroit bailout couldn't be more spazzy. And he's the best the Republicans had! Santorum, Cain, Rick Perry, et al are even more ignorant than Romney, and Newt Gingrich is a yeast infection. In 2016, assuming Romney loses, the Conservative Base isn't going to want Chris Christie, they're going to want Allen West spraying the air with machine-gun fire, like Nick Fury and his Howling Commandos.

Assuming, that is, West wins reelection. Me, I'm pulling for Patrick Murphy.

November 03, 2012

what tribe do these people belong to . . . ?

Some swing voters spell out their indecision on their checks . . .
Meet the undecided donors. They are not lobbyists or other members of the political class — donors with a professional imperative to hedge their bets — but ordinary voters whose back-and-forth donations mirror the undulations of the swing electorate.

Some have attended small fund-raisers for both men, curious to hear what the candidates’ more ardent supporters have to say. Others have responded to the campaigns’ daily barrages of e-mail solicitations, or to the ups and downs of the candidates’ debate performances and public gaffes. Still others said they simply could not make up their minds.

“I’m all mixed up between being a conservative and a liberal,” said Kurt Schoeneman, a grape grower from Northern California, who added that some of his friends thought he was “senile.” He had found himself seized by waves of enthusiasm, Mr. Schoeneman said — first for one candidate and then for the other.

“Some of these people, they just loathe Obama, and they’ll write something really nasty about him,” said Mr. Schoeneman, who has given checks to both candidates, most recently $100 to Mr. Romney in June and $100 to Mr. Obama in July. “And then something else will happen, and I’ll go give Romney some money.”

Charles Y. Chen, a salesman in Virginia, gave Mr. Romney $100 on the day of his convention speech in late August. But in September, Mr. Chen donated to Mr. Obama every few days, $50 here, $55 there. Then he switched again, giving Mr. Romney $50.

“I think the Republicans have better ideas on the economy and the Democrats have better ideas on social issues, immigration and social justice,” Mr. Chen said in an interview. “Just like anything, both have something that they do great and something that they need to improve.”

Gretchen Davidson, a homemaker in Birmingham, a Detroit suburb, said she had gone to several events to hear different ideas and arguments. She gave $500 to Mr. Romney in early August and $1,500 to Mr. Obama in late September.

“You have friends that throw parties on each side, and honestly, I am someone in the middle that didn’t really know which way I was going,” Ms. Davidson said. “You try to sort of see what people are so excited about.”

minority of white men . . .

I'm obviously a member of the white man minority that will vote for President Obama; somehow, the Romney message people have not been able to find the right message to pull me in . . . Tom Scocca has an interesting story on Slate about the passions of the Romeny campaign and why white people (mostly men) don't support the President . . .
The passion comes from what Romney is running against. For more than four years, without pause, Republicans have been campaigning and propagandizing against an imaginary Obama. At the most grotesque end of the fantasies, he is a foreign-born, anti-colonialist Muslim. In more reputable precincts, he is a power-mad socialist and a dumb affirmative-action baby, promoted all the way to the presidency by a race-crazed, condescending liberal elite. (As if the presidency of the Harvard Law Review were awarded to anyone but the hungriest shark in the shark tank.) This is the position of the party's mandarins and reputable spinners—that Obama was foisted off on regular Americans against their will, despite all those votes last time around.

Hence the baiting of Obama, throughout his term, for supposedly being unable to speak without a teleprompter. Republicans predicted, over and over, that the president would be exposed and humiliated in face-to-face debate with an opponent (Newt Gingrich especially fantasized about being that foe). Eventually this led to Clint Eastwood haranguing the empty chair. And then in the first presidential debate, Obama was slack and ineffectual against a sharp Romney. See? It was true!

And then Obama shredded Romney in the second debate, and kept cuffing him around in the third. Now Romney was the deflating balloon, wild-eyed and babbling and licking his dry mouth in desperation. From which Peggy Noonan—whose proudest credential is having written the scripts for a Republican president who couldn't function without being fed his lines—concluded in the Wall Street Journal that the only meaningful debate was the first one.

November 02, 2012

Mr. Obama is the Electoral College favorite . . .

From 538 Blog, here is The Simple Case for Saying Obama Is the Favorite.

Please know that

Today The Times will reinstate the free article limit on and its mobile apps that was lifted during and after the storm.

O yeh . . .

Good poll day for O.

7.9 is not good enough . . .

The U.S. economy added 171,000 jobs in October, according to the Labor Department's monthly jobs report. The unemployment rate is 7.9 percent. The recovery is slow but continuing . . .

I, too, trust the veracity of Nate Silver's wager . . .

Conor Friedersdorf, a staff writer at The Atlantic, says that Nate Silver's wager makes him trust Nate all the more . . .
America is filled with people who think its okay to lie, bullshit, or otherwise misrepresent the truth in order to advance the electoral prospects of a politician or the cause of a governing coalition. Let's call them shills. Other people aren't necessarily aware that they're misrepresenting the truth, but their work is so shaped by what would advance the causes of a candidate or governing coalition that it's often indistinguishable from the shills. We'll call them hacks. In a better world, journalists would be sworn enemies of shills and hacks, and the best are. Unfortunately, the press, especially the political press, has more than its share of shills and hacks.

There are shills and hacks in the polling business too. You'd think that all pollsters would have an incentive to be as accurate as possible. But telling partisans what they want to hear, or telling undecided voters what partisans want them to hear, can be lucrative - it is widely believed in politics that if enough people say something will happen, there is a better chance of it happening.

And that may be correct.

. . .

I thought [the wager] was pitch perfect. It communicated, in one provocative Tweet, I am not a shill, I am not a hack, I know my business, and just to prove I am not bullshitting about any of that, I am willing to risk $1,000 of my own money on the accuracy of my model. It's the reaction of an honest professional confident in his craft - and it's very difficult to imagine, for example, Dick Morris reacting to Dave Weigel's criticism in the same way. For all I know, Silver would lose the bet, but the fact that he made it seemed to exude earnestness, and probably caused Scarborough to reassess how sure he was about his own claim. (Of course, since his claim was that the election is a tossup, Silver should've given him odds.)


Quickie: I'm seeing reports of citizens in the NYC area "losing patience" with the response to Sandy. Two observations:

1. These people don't seem to grasp that they've just gone through a major storm that's done about $50 billion in damage. This is not like TV or the movies, where everyone lives happily ever after by the end of the show; things take time to get fixed.

2. Everyone is clamoring endlessly for ever-lower taxes, yet they expect universal and instantaneous aid from tax-supported institutions when something goes wrong. Can they not connect the dots?

3. (OK, so three observations) This nation is plumb eat up with the dumb-ass.
Yo - it's the bad penny again, slowly climbing up out of the Valley of the Shadow. Got a ways to go yet, but I figgered to keep my hand in with a short recommendation.

If you were raised with the standard American education, especially one dating from the Eisenhower-Kennedy years, unless you've tried to continue it on your own, I think it's fair to say you've been led down the garden path, at least in regard to American history. Now, I always detested history as it was taught to me, so much so that I didn't pick it up again until I was well into my forties. But when I did finally resume - actually, begin is probably more accurate - reading history, the scales began falling from my eyes, and continue to do so, even today.

I just happened across a book a few days ago that I've been engrossed in ever since. It's by Colin Woodard, entitled American Nations: A History of the Eleven Rival Regional Cultures of North America, and as the Boston Globe says, it "feels particularly timely now, when so many would claim a mythically unified 'Founding Fathers' as their political ancestors." It offers a different perspective on how the US came to where it is now, a provocative and stimulating one that meticulously debunks a whole lot of myths so many of us labor under. A few quotes:

Americans have been deeply divided since the days of Jamestown and Plymouth. The original North American colonies were settled by people from distinct regions of the British Islands, and from France, the Netherlands, and Spain, each with their own religious, political, and ethnographic characteristics. Throughout the colonial period, they regarded one another as competitors — for land, settlers, and capital — and occasionally as enemies, as was the case during the English Civil War, when Royalist Virginia stood against Puritan Massachusetts, or when New Netherlands [New York City and environs] and New France were invaded and occupied by English-speaking soldiers, statesmen, and merchants. Only when London began treating its colonies as a single unit — and enacted policies threatening to nearly all — did some of these distinct societies briefly come together to win a revolution and create a joint government. Nearly all of them would seriously consider leaving the Union in the eighty-year period after Yorktown; several went to war to do so in the 1860s. All of these centuries-old cultures are still with us today, and have spread their people, ideas, and influence across mutually exclusive bands of the continent. There isn’t and never has been one America, but rather several Americas. [Emphasis mine]

America’s most essential and abiding divisions are not between red states and blue states, conservatives and liberals, capital and labor, blacks and whites, the faithful and the secular. Rather, our divisions stem from this fact: the United States is a federation comprised of the whole or part of eleven regional nations, some of which truly do not see eye to eye with one another. These nations respect neither state nor international boundaries, bleeding over the U.S. frontiers with Canada and Mexico as readily as they divide California, Texas, Illinois, or Pennsylvania. Six joined together to liberate themselves from British rule. Four were conquered but not vanquished by English-speaking rivals. Two more were founded in the West by a mix of American frontiersmen in the second half of the nineteenth century. Some are defined by cultural pluralism, others by their French, Spanish, or 'Anglo-Saxon' heritage. Few have shown any indication that they are melting into some sort of unified American culture. On the contrary, since 1960 the fault lines between these nations have been growing wider, fueling culture wars, constitutional struggles, and ever more frequent pleas for unity.

The event we call the American Revolution wasn’t really revolutionary, at least while it was underway. The military struggle of 1775–1782 wasn’t fought by an 'American people' seeking to create a united, continent-spanning republic where all men were created equal and guaranteed freedom of speech, religion, and the press. On the contrary, it was a profoundly conservative action fought by a loose military alliance of nations, each of which was most concerned with preserving or reasserting control of its respective culture, character, and power structure. The rebelling nations certainly didn’t wish to be bonded together into a single republic. They were joined in a temporary partnership against a common threat: the British establishment’s ham-fisted attempt to assimilate them into a homogeneous empire centrally controlled from London. Some nations — the Midlands, New Netherland, and New France — didn’t rebel at all. Those that did weren’t fighting a revolution; they were fighting separate wars of colonial liberation. [Emphasis mine.]
Right now, I don't necessarily agree with all of Woodard's conclusions - but I haven't finished reading the whole book yet, and I'll need to think some when I do. Still, it's a good read and very refreshing. Highly recommended.

October 31, 2012

all hallow's eve . . .

A soul cake is a small round cake which is traditionally made for All Saints Day or All Souls' Day to celebrate the dead. The cakes, often simply referred to as souls, were given out to soulers (mainly consisting of children and the poor) who would go from door to door on Halloween singing and saying prayers for the dead. Each cake eaten would represent a soul being freed from Purgatory. The practice of giving and eating soul cakes is often seen as the origin of modern trick-or-treating. In Lancashire and in the North-east of England they were also known as Harcakes.

The 1891 song contains the following lyrics:
A soul! a soul! a soul-cake!
Please good Missis, a soul-cake!
An apple, a pear, a plum, or a cherry,
Any good thing to make us all merry.
One for Peter, two for Paul
Three for Him who made us all.
In 1963, the American folk group Peter, Paul and Mary recorded a version of this traditional song, titled "A' Soalin," whose verses include the following:
Soul, soul, a soul cake!
I pray thee, good missus, a soul cake!
One for Peter, two for Paul,
Three for Him what made us all!
Soul cake, soul cake, please good missus, a soul cake.
An apple, a pear, a plum, or a cherry, any good thing to make us all merry.
One for Peter, two for Paul, and three for Him who made us all.

October 30, 2012

Should FEMA be a political issue? . . .

Yes, of course. It is a political issue . . . Republicans want to send the responsibility back to the states . . . Democrats want the responsibility to be with the larger community . . . Yeh, it's a political issue, the difference between libertarian "I got mine, screw you" and the larger sense of community notions that we're all in this together . . . All it takes for a libertarian to become a short-term community-minded citizen, is a little need for help (check out Ayn Rand's history and Republican governors' conversions when their states have natural disasters) . . . but when the need is gone, it's back to the "I got mine, screw you" philosophy . . .

October 29, 2012

'Spiegel im Spiegel' . . .

Ry Cooder and David Lindley . . .


To win one World Series in this era of parity and expanded playoffs is hard. Two in three years bespeaks a continuity of success rarely acheived.
The Giants are the second team to accomplish the feat since the playoff field was doubled from four to eight teams in 1995. The other was the New York Yankees, who won three in a row from 1998 to 2000. The Giants, Yankees, Marlins, Cardinals and Red Sox have won multiple titles in the wild-card era.

The Giants also got hot at the right time, as many title teams do. They finished their run to the championship with seven straight wins. Their longest winning streak during the regular season was six.

And a group of players who spoke so often about "team" put their final rally where their mouths were.

Read more:

October 28, 2012


Colcannon is traditionally made from mashed potatoes and kale (or cabbage), with scallions, butter, salt and pepper added. It can contain other ingredients such as milk, cream, leeks, onions and chives. There are many regional variations of this dish. It is often eaten with boiled ham or Irish bacon. At one time it was a cheap, year-round staple food, though nowadays it is usually eaten in autumn/winter, when kale comes into season. An old Irish Halloween tradition is to serve colcannon with a ring and a thimble hidden in the fluffy green-flecked dish. Prizes of small coins such as threepenny or sixpenny bits were also concealed in it.
The song "Colcannon", also called "The Skillet Pot", is a traditional Irish song that has been recorded by many artists, including Mary Black. It begins:
"Did you ever eat Colcannon, made from lovely pickled cream?
With the greens and scallions mingled like a picture in a dream.
Did you ever make a hole on top to hold the melting flake
Of the creamy, flavoured butter that your mother used to make?"

The chorus:

"Yes you did, so you did, so did he and so did I.
And the more I think about it sure the nearer I'm to cry.
Oh, wasn't it the happy days when troubles we had not,
And our mothers made Colcannon in the little skillet pot."


Armed and accelerating, the San Francisco Giants became the first team to throw consecutive World Series shutouts in nearly a half-century, blanking Miguel Cabrera and the Detroit Tigers 2-0 on a chilly Saturday night for a commanding 3-0 lead.
Hunter Pence, who scored one run and drove in the other during a 2-0 win in Game 2, drew a four-pitch walk to begin the second. It was a telling sign - Sanchez had not walked a right-handed batter since August.

Pence stole second, took third on a wild pitch and, with the Tigers' infield playing in, trotted home when Blanco tripled off the wall in right. Crawford looped an RBI single with two outs for a 2-0 lead, and Rick Porcello began warming up in the Detroit bullpen.

October 26, 2012


Hunter Pence: "We played good small ball today. We played a great game of baseball, had outstanding pitching and great defense and we found a way to get it done."

October 25, 2012

blue note in A major . . .

just so you know that I know . . . for A . . . based on the latest polls, color NV and OH blue for now . . . if the blue doesn't fade, that colors Obama President, regardless of VA, FL, NC, CO, IA and NH . . .

October 23, 2012

Sunny, shelter pup from Houston on boards in NYC . . .

I haven't seen the headline in the Chronicle, "Dog from Houston makes debut on Broadway" but then maybe the Chronicle doesn't do that type of story . . . too busy endorsing Romney and losing my online readership (long ago lost me as paying member of the home delivery paper) . . . long story . . . never mind . . .

The dog playing Sandy in the current revival of "Annie" on Broadway, is none other than the Houston native, Sunny . . . According to the current (October 22, 2012) copy of The New Yorker, Sunny was a pick of the litter (and I continue to read The New Yorker even though they've just recent endorsed Obama . . . go figure. She was first choice among three applicants:
... It came down to three: Sunny (who came from a shelter in Houston), Casey (Nashville), and a dog from Indiana named Bart Star ... Bart Star was eliminated. ... Sunny won top billing over Case partly because of the mournful black rings around her eyes - the perfect Depression mutt.
Bart Star was male and a little too easily aroused to be a good choice as a Depression mutt.

thinking on Galileo . . .

Saw this on The Raw Story: Six scientists jailed for failing to predict 2009 Italian earthquake . . .
Seismologists said they were horrified after six of their colleagues were sentenced to six years in jail for manslaughter Monday on charges of underestimating the risk of an earthquake that struck Italy in 2009.

“We are deeply concerned. It’s not just seismology which has been put on trial but all science,” Charlotte Krawczyk, president of the seismology division at the European Geosciences Union (EGU), told AFP.

The verdict struck at scientists’ right to speak honestly and independently, she said in a phone interview from Germany.

“All scientists are really shocked by this,” said Krawczyk. “We are trying to organise ourselves and come up with a strong statement that could help so that the scientists do not have to go to jail.

“People are asking, ‘Is this really true?’ ‘What does it mean for us?’ And, ‘What does it mean for talking in public about risks?’”

“People are stunned,” said Mike Bickle, a professor of earth sciences at the University of Cambridge.

Roger Musson at the British Geological Survey (BGS) said the verdict was “unbelievable”.

He and other seismologists said it was impossible to forecast an earthquake, and scientists pressed to give a black-or-white answer could unleash panic or lose all credibility if nothing happened.

“Seismologists are more or less reconciled to the fact that the chances of predicting when a large earthquake is going to strike are somewhat more remote than finding the Holy Grail,” said Musson.

Where is that damned grail . . . ?

let the fun start . . .

So you may think that the St. Louis Cardinals really belonged in the series this year and that the Giants are just plumb lucky . . . maybe, maybe not. It brings to my mind the last time I sat in Candlestick Park in 1971 and watched as Willie Mays made an amazing catch in the outfield saving an inning . . . I don't remember how he hit that night (or how Willie McCovey) hit but that catch is mental picture for me that rivals his best long balls . . . best all-round ball player. Best. Tigers will be uphill for this team but then the Cardinals were uphill also. Let the fun start.

October 20, 2012

Quote for 10/20/2012

Today's quote from . . .
'Wall Street owns the country. It is no longer a government of the people, by the people, and for the people, but a government of Wall Street, by Wall Street, and for Wall Street.' - Mary Ellen Lease, lecturer, writer, and political activist, advocate of women's suffrage, Kansas Populist, a speech in 1890

wha th hell . . .

So this is what poetic justice really means. Utah's largest newspaper, the Salt Lake City Tribune Endorsement: Too Many Mitts
... Politicians routinely tailor their words to suit an audience. Romney, though, is shameless, lavishing vastly diverse audiences with words, any words, they would trade their votes to hear.


In the first months of his presidency, Obama acted decisively to stimulate the economy. His leadership was essential to passage of the badly needed American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. Though Republicans criticize the stimulus for failing to create jobs, it clearly helped stop the hemorrhaging of public sector jobs. The Utah Legislature used hundreds of millions in stimulus funds to plug holes in the state’s budget.

Update note: If interested, Meteor Blades on his Open Thread for Night Owls at Daily Kos has an updated list of newspaper endorsements for the election.

October 19, 2012

Jesus Wept

If this is for real, we may have an answer to the question I posed in my last post ...

How'd it come to this?

Been a bit preoccupied this week: Going over a bump in the road health-wise; plus, I've been kinda wrapped up in the baseball playoffs. After all, I am still an American male, and as a kid, back in the days when it really was the American pastime, baseball was my first love. Though I haven't followed the game much at all since the days of the Big Red Machine (the '75 Series was the best ever, in my estimation [why is Pete Rose not in the Hall Of Fame?]), of all the major sports, baseball has changed the least - the game itself, not so much the players - over the years. But (I hope this doesn't come across as maudlin) this very well could be my last chance to witness a World Series, and, with the Tigers and (it looks like) the Cardinals in it, both teams with long traditions, I just don't want to miss it.

So ... How the hell did we get so far up the creek? Always seeking to go to the roots (ain't that what a radical does?), and being a life-long amateur student of anthropology, I am drawn back to somewhere between 5,000 and 10,000 years ago, during the time when full-blown agriculture was becoming firmly established in the so-called "centers of civilization." Before some clever Mesopotamians invented literacy, pretty much the only evidence we have to go on is archeological, and that kind of evidence, notoriously, severely limits what we can know, or even reasonably guess, about the minds of those who left it. Nevertheless, we may still draw many illuminating conclusions and insights about the lifeways of pre-literate people from the artifactual clues they left. This kind of evidence has been steadily accumulating for many decades now, if not longer, to the point that we can now confidently say that the time-frame I'm focusing on marks a decisive watershed in the evolution of human social, economic, and religious practices (among others).

Before the time when we humans started living in year-round settlements, somewhere around 12,000 years or so ago, we were all hunter-gatherers (probably just scavengers for a long time), and it's that way of life that we are - today still - equipped for in body and in mind. It's very clear, both from the admittedly sparse archeological record and from the millennia-long, increasingly abundant ethnological evidence, that, in terms of social and economic arrangements, hunter-gatherers, even that tiny remnant still surviving today, are by nature strictly egalitarian, and have survived by cooperating, not competing. To be blunt, this means nobody runs the show, except ad-hoc, by agreement, and temporarily; and nobody owns anything, beyond small personal items, which, in any case, are easily replaceable by nearly everyone. And this egalitarianism is both explicit and enforced - every so often, some yo-yo gets it into (nearly always) his head to steal from or lord it over the others, but such are sooner or later brought back into line, if need be by being escorted into the jungle (or desert, or whatever's handy) and "lost."

But be the third millennium BCE, we have not only "written" documentation but abundant archeological evidence of elaborated hierarchy (to include several leisure classes), institutionalized warfare, and marked social and economic inequality in a number of the "centers of civilization" -eventually, all of them. This "breakthrough" has since spread over the entire globe, like bacteria in a Petri dish, until now scarcely a living being has not been engulfed in its seeming inexorability. (As with those bacteria, inevitably, we are now within sight of the edges of the dish; but, unlike the bacteria, our own Waterloo offers hope of a reset - to those with eyes to see and ears to hear.)

How did all this happen so quickly and so thoroughly? It's a question that's baffled me, and therefore fascinated me, all my adult life. Why have 99% of humanity allowed the other 1% to climb on their backs and ride them so mercilessly for so long? Even more perplexingly, why have they failed to recognize that it is well within their power to make an end of it? I've never been able to come up with an answer that satisfies me; it may well be that there is no ultimate reason, but rather a congeries of factors that, together, is enough to do the trick.

For now, though, I fear that this post has already exceeded many attention spans; besides, I have pressing business to attend to. I'll post again, hopefully, this weekend, to offer some possibilities for discussion. In the meantime, as maybe a kind of teaser, I offer two quotes that seem pertinent:

The first man who, having fenced in a piece of land, said "This is mine," and found people naïve enough to believe him, that man was the true founder of civil society. From how many crimes, wars, and murders, from how many horrors and misfortunes might not any one have saved mankind, by pulling up the stakes, or filling up the ditch, and crying to his fellows: Beware of listening to this impostor; you are undone if you once forget that the fruits of the earth belong to us all, and the earth itself to nobody.
 — Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Discourse on Inequality, 1754

I should like to see, and this will be the last and most ardent of my desires, I should like to see the last king strangled with the guts of the last priest.
— J. Messelier (clause in a will, Paris, 1733)

October 16, 2012

Cutting to the chase

I don't have much time left, so I'm gonna dispense with most of the niceties I'd planned, and just lay out what I want to say. Should there be time (and interest) later, I'll back-fill.

I. The shit is already hitting the fan, folks; nothing can be done to stop it, and very little, at this point, to ameliorate it. The easy pickings of the fossil fuels we've been running on the last 300 years are gone (not to worry, for now, at least, because the production and burning of said fuels will continue, albeit ever more sparingly and sporadically, until nobody can make any more money from it). Habitat destruction, climate change, and the continuing, ubiquitous poisoning of the entire planet have already launched us into Earth's 6th Great Extinction, which will now run its course. The great "elite" economic enterprise of theft and slavery, especially as manifested in the last 500 years or so as the ideology and practice of capitalism, is finally showing itself to be a house of cards, a gigantic chain letter which has finally hit its end. Depressing? Yes, if you're happy with the way things have been going for the last 15,000 years. The only consolation, if that it may be called, is that the brunt of this great unraveling will likely not fall upon us of the infamous baby-boom generation (the last who had a real chance to make a difference, which we blew, spectacularly), or even our children, but their children will almost assuredly begin paying the price.

II. Though there's little basis for real hope in the short- and middle-term, there is reason for great hope on the other side of the impending crash (slow-motion as may be). For starters, we are in desperate need of a drastic reduction (something in the neighborhood of an order of magnitude) in the sheer numbers of humans on this planet - and that is coming, one way or another, like it or not. For another thing, the institutions and practices that have been foisted upon us, by the thieves and slave-holders who have been so proud to call them "civilization," and that we have so docilely accepted, will be swept away, if for no other reason, by the utter lack of resources needed to support them. Ain't gonna be no rich folks like what we got now after what's coming, and that'll be the best chance in thousands of years to make sure there won't ever be any more.

III. What is still available to us old folks now is the opportunity to teach - and the best way to do that is by example. If we want change, as we claim, then we must start practicing that change in our daily lives and in our way of thinking. It is not enough to belong to or contribute to some organization or political action committee, or to march and carry signs in some demonstration or protest, or even to vote for a candidate (though a few, especially at the local level, are deserving of a vote) if we are not, at the same time, practicing real change every day. (For this notion [and much more besides] I am forever indebted to Mr. Wendell Berry; c.f. especially Chapter 2 of The Unsettling Of America.)

I offer an example from my own life, not to pat myself on the back or to proclaim my moral superiority, but to illustrate the kind of practice I'm talking about: In the past 33 years, I have not owned an automobile for 30 of them. For the first 7 years, it was much more a matter of necessity than virtue: I just couldn't afford a car. Then, from 1986 to 1989, I could (or thought I could) have one, which I did. Then, hitting another lean stretch, I went carless again, and though, later, I could once again have bought and operated one on several occasions, I've refrained, mostly because I've discovered that I can survive without one. Yes, there are many times I miss (sometimes sorely) the convenience of not having a car; but I have saved myself many many thousands of dollars by not having one, and I've also avoided injecting well over 200,000 pounds of CO2 into the air, and adding to the habitat destruction and social breakdown directly attributable to automobiles - not to mention contributing to the bottom line of some corporation. Near as I can figure, there are something like 7 million undecided voters in this presidential election. Can you imagine the effect these people, representing a bit more or less than 5% of eligible voters, would have if they parked their cars for even one year? A damn sight more far-reaching in many more dimensions, I assure you, than whether they vote for Obama or Romney.

IV. Dismantle your TV with a heavy blunt instrument, and do it immediately after reading this. The last event worth watching on TV was the Watergate story; before that, the JFK assassination. Everything else is highly refined and nearly perfected indoctrination, designed to make you a docile "consumer" of whatever notions, none of them ever explicit, the sponsors want you to respond to. You will not be able to even begin thinking clearly until you've completed this prerequisite.

... wanting good government in their states, they first established order in their own families; wanting order in the home, they first disciplined themselves  ... - Confucius, The Great Digest
You don't need to wait for anybody else. Start today. "If not us, who? If not now, when?" 

October 15, 2012

holes . . . in our world . . .

It was Adlai Stevenson who campaigned with a hole in shoes . . . a brilliant guy . . . he pointed me toward the type of politics that had some appeal for me . . . but it was George McGovern who campaigned with a hole in his heart . . . more than just a decent man, a man of much compassion . . . he is in hospice near the end of his life. Remembering what he attenpted . . . this deserves a candle in the window . . .

sublime . . .

Utah Phillips again and again . . .

- Das Archiv der Arbeiterbewegung.


When the union's inspiration through the workers' blood shall run,
There can be no power greater anywhere beneath the sun;
Yet what force on earth is weaker than the feeble strength of one,
But the union makes us strong.

Solidarity forever,
Solidarity forever,
Solidarity forever,
For the union makes us strong.

Is there aught we hold in common with the greedy parasite,
Who would lash us into serfdom and would crush us with his might?
Is there anything left to us but to organize and fight?
For the union makes us strong.

Solidarity forever,
Solidarity forever,
Solidarity forever,
For the union makes us strong.

It is we who plowed the prairies; built the cities where they trade;
Dug the mines and built the workshops, endless miles of railroad laid;
Now we stand outcast and starving midst the wonders we have made;
But the union makes us strong.

Solidarity forever,
Solidarity forever,
Solidarity forever,
For the union makes us strong.

All the world that's owned by idle drones is ours and ours alone.
We have laid the wide foundations; built it skyward stone by stone.
It is ours, not to slave in, but to master and to own.
While the union makes us strong.

Solidarity forever,
Solidarity forever,
Solidarity forever,
For the union makes us strong.

They have taken untold millions that they never toiled to earn,
But without our brain and muscle not a single wheel can turn.
We can break their haughty power, gain our freedom when we learn
That the union makes us strong.

Solidarity forever,
Solidarity forever,
Solidarity forever,
For the union makes us strong.

In our hands is placed a power greater than their hoarded gold,
Greater than the might of armies, magnified a thousand-fold.
We can bring to birth a new world from the ashes of the old
For the union makes us strong.