Monday, March 31, 2008

Need a Reason Not to Vote?

So: since I'm soft on Rev. Wright, why am I not taking the bit in my teeth in eagerness to get out and vote for The Young Senator? Here, in his own words, are some excellent reasons:
Our starting point must always be a clear and strong commitment to the security of Israel, our strongest ally in the region and its only established democracy. That commitment is all the more important as we contend with growing threats in the region -- a strengthened Iran, a chaotic Iraq, the resurgence of al Qaeda, the reinvigoration of Hamas and Hezbollah. Now more than ever, we must strive to secure a lasting settlement of the conflict with two states living side by side in peace and security. To do so, we must help the Israelis identify and strengthen those partners who are truly committed to peace, while isolating those who seek conflict and instability. Sustained American leadership for peace and security will require patient effort and the personal commitment of the president of the United States. That is a commitment I will make.

Throughout the Middle East, we must harness American power to reinvigorate American diplomacy. Tough-minded diplomacy, backed by the whole range of instruments of American power -- political, economic, and military -- could bring success even when dealing with long-standing adversaries such as Iran and Syria. Our policy of issuing threats and relying on intermediaries to curb Iran's nuclear program, sponsorship of terrorism, and regional aggression is failing. Although we must not rule out using military force, we should not hesitate to talk directly to Iran. Our diplomacy should aim to raise the cost for Iran of continuing its nuclear program by applying tougher sanctions and increasing pressure from its key trading partners. The world must work to stop Iran's uranium-enrichment program and prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons. It is far too dangerous to have nuclear weapons in the hands of a radical theocracy. At the same time, we must show Iran -- and especially the Iranian people -- what could be gained from fundamental change: economic engagement, security assurances, and diplomatic relations. Diplomacy combined with pressure could also reorient Syria away from its radical agenda to a more moderate stance -- which could, in turn, help stabilize Iraq, isolate Iran, free Lebanon from Damascus' grip, and better secure Israel.
See what I mean? Israel uber alles, the U.S. as Omnipotent World Leader and Manager ... what exactly will distinguish an Obama administration from a Clinton one, or a McCain one ... or, for that matter, from a third Dubya term? True, Sen. Obama can pronounce "nuclear" correctly, so there's a trivial answer to that last question. But it's a long, long, long way from being reason enough.

Thanks to Stop Me, etc., via IOZ.

Friday, March 28, 2008

The Wright Stuff

What an original fellow I am! I bet nobody's thought to use that title for a blog post lately ... just as I'm sure I was the first person to type the words "so it goes" after the death of Kurt Vonnegut last year. No doubt, no doubt.

Obviously, all right-thinking folk are supposed to have their enthusiasm for Sen. Obama curtailed by all the last few weeks' simulated outrage over the utterances of the Rev. Jeremiah Wright. Finally, the propaganda machine has done its work -- even I now think worse of Sen. Obama than I did before. Of course, my case is hardly typical: I wasn't going to vote for him in the first place, and I still have no such plans, so ... so what? And my reasons for thinking less well of Candidate Obama also differ from what they're supposed to be. The Youthful Senator has disappointed me by pandering to the propagandists; I hope the Rev. Mr. Wright is enjoying his quick trip to the underside of the bus, courtesy of the apologetic Sen. Obama. Check it out:
Sen. Barack Obama says in an interview scheduled to air on TV Friday that he would have left his church if his pastor had not retired and had not acknowledged making comments that "deeply offended people."

Obama talked about the dispute as it continued to brew over some of the Rev. Jeremiah Wright's sermons and comments, which many viewed as anti-American and racist toward whites.
Of course, I shouldn't be too quick in my evaluation of Sen. Obama's statements; context is everything, and there's been no shortage of slanted, agenda-driven "journalism." But let's have a look at the fresh, new, piping-hot outrages from the Rev. Mr. Wright:
Bulletins from Chicago's Trinity United Church of Christ in 2007 include comments -- reprinted from other sources -- that maintain South Africa and Israel worked on "an ethnic bomb that kills blacks and Arabs." They also quote a historian who said that "what the Zionist Jews did to the Palestinians is worse than what the Nazis did to the Jews."
Hmmmm ... ethnic bomb. That's very likely false; how's it supposed to work, anyway? And, of course, absolutely nothing can be worse -- or even a tenth as bad -- as what the Nazis did to the Jews; that's an unquestioned axiom of our civic faith. But something else I notice here: both these juicy tidbits came from other sources -- which aren't named! It's difficult to believe that our intrepid journalists do not know, or could not discover, who or what those sources were. Who is this "historian" -- does he or she not have a name? Why aren't we told? Could it be ... and this is, ha ha ha ha, purely a hypothetical, hee hee hee ... that naming the sources or supplying context might have, uhhhh, detracted from the delicious shock value here?

Naaaah. Couldn't be.

Tell you what, though ... let's dig down further in the story. I want some more powerful & juicy outrages. I mean, I live for this stuff. Let's see ... blah, blah, blah ... Mark Halperin of Time magazine told CNN's Anderson Cooper on Thursday night,, yeah, yeah, right-right-right ... oh! Here it is:
One of the church bulletins that came to the fore Thursday, from July 22, 2007, includes an article by Mousa Abu Marzook, deputy of the political bureau of Hamas. "Why should anyone concede Israel's 'right' to exist?" he wrote.

Another bulletin, from June 10, 2007, contains on the "Pastor's Page" an "Open Letter to Oprah" by Ali Baghdadi, an Arab-American activist. He refers to "Israeli death squads" in a letter urging Oprah Winfrey to explore Palestinian suffering on a trip to the Middle East.

"Arnold Toynbee, the world-renowned historian, stated that what the Zionist Jews did to the Palestinians is worse than what the Nazis did to the Jews, because, as he stated, Jews should have learned from their tragic experience," Baghdadi wrote.
Well! If we dig far enough, down there where most folks (with less appetite for outrage than we have) wouldn't have read to, we find out who the Mystery Historian is: Toynbee! One of those world-renowned guys, very respectable, don't ya know. And with a little context, that isn't nearly so good a killer soundbite, is it? (Good thing the context and ID were pretty much buried.) And as for this "Baghdadi" guy (real towelhead name, right?): to refer to "Israeli death squads" is pretty outrageous, I guess ... I suppose ... I mean, all those dead Palestinians were ... well, I mean, they probably had really unhealthy lifestyles. I mean, we know Israelis didn't kill them. And anyway, they had it coming, dammit.

And that Hamas guy ... asking why anyone should concede Israel's "right to exist?" There might be some context for that question, too; maybe he went on to say as a "Jewish state." Fortunately, we are spared whatever context there was. As it happens, that seems to me to be a fair question, or at least an askable one. Unlike Sen. Obama, though, I have yet to grovel at AIPAC's feet. Of course, since I lack any shred of significance, AIPAC can afford to overlook my omission. Sen. Obama's a different story altogether.

I can go this far with Sen. Clinton: the Rev. Mr. Wright wouldn't be my pastor, either. In my case, this would be fully automatic, since I would also never be affiliated with the train wreck that is the United Church of Christ (three falsehoods in a four-word title: impressive!). But the hatred of Rev. Wright that's being whipped up by both the Clinton and GOP smear machines is entirely misdirected. Much of what he's said that we're supposed to hate him for is simply true -- not that truth has ever been much of an excuse in American politics. As William N. Grigg, one of the few who (forgive me!) got Wright right, wrote:
Jeremiah was a defeatist.

No, I'm not referring to Rev. Jeremiah A. Wright, the much-execrated former Pastor of Chicago's Trinity United Church of Christ. I'm referring to the Hebrew prophet for whom Rev. Wright was named.

For about a quarter-century, Jeremiah made himself notorious in Jerusalem for loudly and unapologetically denouncing its religious and civic corruption: "... from the least of them even to the greatest of them, everyone is given to covetousness; and from the prophet even to the priest, everyone deals falsely." (Jer. 6:13, NKJV).

The City's inhabitants had come to trust entirely "in lying words that cannot profit." Those were seductive deceptions, all the more alluring because they were clothed in diaphanous robes of piety, giving them license to "steal, murder, commit adultery, swear falsely," commit idolatry of various kinds, and then take comfort in the conceit that they were God's Chosen People in His Chosen City. Yet Jeremiah's prophetic message was one of irrepressible divine judgment, with the Lord repeatedly posing the rhetorical question, "Shall not my soul be avenged on such a nation as this?" (See 5:9, 5:29, 9:9).

Not content merely to speak the message he had been given, Jeremiah chose to act it out as well, walking through the streets of Jerusalem wearing a yoke to symbolize the impending conquest of the City by Babylon and subsequent captivity.

This did nothing to enhance Jeremiah's social standing, of course. (See 20:7-10.) He suffered relentless ridicule, arrest, and mistreatment of various kinds, such as being imprisoned in a miry pit.

But this is only to be expected: shouldn't Jeremiah have knelt in abject gratitude every day for the singular blessing of being born in the greatest community in the world? Why couldn't he find something positive to say about the Holy City and its inspired rulers? How dare he undermine civic morale, thereby emboldening Jerusalem's implacable enemies!

After the first Babylonian assault on the City, Jeremiah was thrown in prison as punishment for his "defeatist" talk -- specifically, his prophecy that the Babylonians would come back and finish the job.

He was still imprisoned when that prophecy was fulfilled. The Babylonians freed him, and some traditions claim that Jeremiah wound up in Egypt, where he was murdered in his dotage by former fellow citizens of Jerusalem who had never forgiven him for bearing prophetic witness against the City's evils.

What got Jeremiah killed -- if the tradition averted to above is true -- was his disdain for Jerusalem's Civil Religion. His anti-social insistence on telling the truth, as God inspired him to understand it, about the evil of the government that ruled him, and the people who sustained that government and permitted it to lead them to destruction, was what provoked people to kill him.

Rev. Jeremiah Wright has on occasion displayed a gift for anti-social truth-telling. His notorious and much-misrepresented post-9/11 sermon did not minimize the horror inflicted on our nation that day, or the blood guilt of those responsible for the atrocities.

Speaking with commendable courage and mesmerizing passion, Wright described the long train of abuses and outrages committed by the government that rules us -- from the Trail of Tears through Hiroshima and Nagasaki, from Wounded Knee to the first Gulf War -- and asserted that the criminal violence of our rulers did much to sow and nourish what we harvested on that terrible Tuesday morning.
And ...
What I find most interesting about the manufactured controversy about Wright is this: Nearly all of the commentary generated about Wright's sermons focuses on the racial aspect of his theology, rather than examining the merits of his critique of the warfare state. Even Obama's widely praised speech about his decades-long relationship with Wright focused chiefly on issues of race relations, while either ignoring or condemning Wright's principled critique of Washington's wars and foreign policy.

Clearly, there are people who seek to exploit, for consummately cynical reasons, lingering inter-ethnic tensions (Michelle Obama, an attorney who specializes in "diversity consulting," could be considered a profiteer of sorts in this respect). Republican herd-poisoners are already preparing to depict Obama and Wright as closer than Damon and Pythias, and on previous experience I don't think many of the GOP's campaign flacks care whether or not that characterization is true.

Amid all of this, it's important to remember one vital fact: What prompted the ritual denunciation of Wright (including an artfully parsed one by Sen. Obama) was not his congregation's aberrant race-centered theology or even his own intemperate remarks on that subject. Rather, it was his blasphemy against the Civil Religion and the endless good works done in its name -- bombings, invasions, official liaisons with dictators, all of that good and righteous stuff. That kind of "sin," as Rousseau warned centuries ago, simply can't be forgiven.
We're always being told that this upcoming election is all about change. (About what election has this not been said?) But these campaigns, allegedly so heavily pregnant with change, roll forward like rickety wagons in the narrowest imaginable wheelruts of possibility; the tiny, tiny range of permissible thought is rigidly enforced by the near-identical parties of the political duopoly, with the foot-slogging soldiers of the corporate media serving as auxiliary officers of orthodoxy. Our politics is a Beavis-and-Butthead sort of gotcha-fest ("heh heh heh ... he said 'Nazi,' heh heh heh ..."). It is able only to manage the gradual decay of a republic. If and when real change comes, it won't flow through the voting booth.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

What -- No Privacy?

I heard about this a few days ago:
The State Department is advising Americans planning to attend the Olympic Games in Beijing to take care and be mindful that they could be under surveillance.

"All hotel rooms and offices are considered to be subject to on-site or remote technical monitoring at all times," the department's Bureau of Consular Affairs advised on Thursday. "Hotel rooms, residences and offices may be accessed at any time without the occupant's consent or knowledge."
Wow! Surveillance and searches at any time, without my consent or knowledge? Sounds just like home.

For completeness, they should have added: "The State Department is advising Americans planning to stay home from the Olympic Games in Beijing to take care and be mindful that they could be under surveillance."

But, hey -- I'm sure the Chinese aren't surveilling anyone except terrorists. I guess if you aren't doing anything wrong, you don't have anything to hide, right?

Saturday, March 22, 2008

What Were They Thinking?

I made a stop at the local supermarket today. I have no dog, and my cat eats some sort of healthy-cat food dictated by the vet, so I usually pay no attention to the supermarket aisle where they park the dog food and cat food. I'm sure that today I wouldn't have noticed, either, except that my son happened to be with me. He saw it and pointed it out.

Saw what, you ask?

The "Old Yeller" brand dog food. In fact, there was a whole line of "Old Yeller" brand dog eatables, from kibble to pigs' ears.

The packaging depicted a big golden-furred dog that was reminiscent of the one from the movie. On the package, the dog is romping in a grassy meadow. Maybe they should have depicted it foaming at the mouth, with a weeping boy training a gun on it?

You have to wonder sometimes ... you really do.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Let's Take a Break ...

... in observance of Maundy Thursday. John 13, verses 1 - 17:
Now before the Feast of the Passover, Jesus knowing that His hour had come that He would depart out of this world to the Father, having loved His own who were in the world, He loved them to the end. During supper, the devil having already put into the heart of Judas Iscariot, the son of Simon, to betray Him, Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into His hands, and that He had come forth from God and was going back to God, got up from supper, and laid aside His garments; and taking a towel, He girded Himself. Then He poured water into the basin, and began to wash the disciples' feet and to wipe them with the towel with which He was girded. So He came to Simon Peter. He said to Him, "Lord, do You wash my feet?" Jesus answered and said to him, "What I do you do not realize now, but you will understand hereafter." Peter said to Him, "Never shall You wash my feet!" Jesus answered him, "If I do not wash you, you have no part with Me." Simon Peter said to Him, "Lord, then wash not only my feet, but also my hands and my head." Jesus said to him, "He who has bathed needs only to wash his feet, but is completely clean; and you are clean, but not all of you." For He knew the one who was betraying Him; for this reason He said, "Not all of you are clean." So when He had washed their feet, and taken His garments and reclined at the table again, He said to them, "Do you know what I have done to you? You call Me Teacher and Lord; and you are right, for so I am. If I then, the Lord and the Teacher, washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another's feet. For I gave you an example that you also should do as I did to you. Truly, truly, I say to you, a slave is not greater than his master, nor is one who is sent greater than the one who sent him. If you know these things, you are blessed if you do them."
And then, John 15, verses 10 - 17:
"If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love; just as I have kept My Father's commandments and abide in His love. These things I have spoken to you so that My joy may be in you, and that your joy may be made full. This is My commandment, that you love one another, just as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends. You are My friends if you do what I command you. No longer do I call you slaves, for the slave does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I have heard from My Father I have made known to you. You did not choose Me but I chose you, and appointed you that you would go and bear fruit, and that your fruit would remain, so that whatever you ask of the Father in My name He may give to you. This I command you, that you love one another."

Friday, March 14, 2008

Watch That Edge, Now ...

Anybody else have that edge-of-the-cliff feeling?
BBC business editor Robert Peston said Bear Stearns had been taken to the brink of insolvency over the past 24 hours by a sudden collapse in confidence on the part of its hedge fund clients.

As a result, these funds rushed to withdraw their assets.

"The rescue of Bear Stearns demonstrates that the worst of the global credit crunch is not yet behind us," he said.

He says that if Bear Stearns had been allowed to collapse, it could have put the whole financial system at risk.
Paul Craig Roberts is feeling it:
Today the US, heavily dependent on imports, is subject to double-barrel inflation from both domestic money creation and decline in the dollar’s foreign exchange value.

The US inflation rate is about twice as high as the government’s inflation measures report. In order to hold down Social Security payments, the government changed the way it measures inflation. In the old measure, inflation measured the nominal cost of a defined standard of living. If the price of steak rose, up went the inflation rate. Today if the price of steak rises, the government assumes that people switch to hamburger. Inflation doesn’t go up. Instead, the standard of living it measures goes down.
The Primate-in-Chief, on the other hand, says everything's just fine:
President George W. Bush, seeking to bolster faith in the economy amid fears of a recession, acknowledged on Friday the United States was going through hard times but said growth would resume over the long run because economic fundamentals were sound.

Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton countered that much of the country was already in a recession.

With oil prices at record highs, the mortgage market on the verge of meltdown and the specter of recession looming, Bush has been scrambling to halt the slide in the economy.

"In the long run I am confident that our economy will continue to grow because the foundation is solid," Bush told about 500 people at the nonpartisan Economic Club of New York, a group of top business executives, bankers and economists.
I wonder: what is this solid foundation to which El Supremo refers? The amazing productivity of the American mercenary soldier? The production of Super Bowl advertising? The explosive proliferation penis-stiffening prescription drugs? The vigorous rate of construction of two-thirds-vacant suburban strip malls? Yes, yes, a solid foundation indeed.

We now return you to our nonstop coverage of the exchange of pleasantries between Geraldine Ferraro and the Rev. Jeremiah Wright.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Two Cheers For the New Money

We have the "new nickel" ...

and the new dollar coins ...

and now ... the new $5 bill.

And it's all good with me. It's a limited sort of truth-in-advertising. I mean, if it's going to be worth about as much as Monopoly money, it might as well look like Monopoly money.

Anybody want to buy Virginia Avenue?

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

A Quick Stroll Down Memory Lane

Remember when the Soviet Empire was perpetually strapped for what were referred to as "hard currencies?" Remember when "hard currency" prominently meant the U.S. dollar?

Those were the days ...
VIENNA, Austria (AP) — Oil prices topped $109 a barrel for the first time Tuesday as investors sought refuge from the anemic dollar.

Speculation that rising prices for oil and other commodities will offset the falling dollar has driven oil up from $87 a barrel in January. Oil's latest rise came as the International Energy Agency said crude prices will likely be underpinned by brisk demand in China and other emerging markets.
Look, I know my fellow Americans don't care much about wogs' lives. When it comes right down to it, my fellow Americans don't care much about their fellow Americans' lives, either, unless they happen to be blood relatives or close friends. But maybe, just maybe, as gas heads for the $4 mark and real incomes continue to drop, Americans might have a passing thought or two about all the dollars -- borrowed from Asian bankers -- that have been flushed down the Empire's murderous overseas ratholes.

Or maybe not. Just as it's treasonous to wonder whether Imperial foreign policy is related to "why they hate us," I'm sure that any possible connection between that policy and "why they're not too crazy about our wastepaper currency, either" will also be quite unthinkable.

Friday, March 07, 2008

Spring Forward ...

As I was leaving the Y this morning, a few minutes before seven, I saw that the sky was sort of a deep blue color rather than the usual black. There was obvious danger that the Yellow Face ("it burns us, Preciousssss!") might soon be in sight. Well, Sunday's return to BDDST (Bitch Daniels Daylight Stupidity Time) will protect me from that ... I can go on being a morning cave-dwelling blind fish for the rest of the year.

Here, Your Worshipfulness Governor D., let me show you to your very own spot against the Wall. Care for a blindfold, Your Semi-Adequacy? No? Well, then, just watch those nice men over there who are pointing those long tubes at you, and wait for your surprise ...

Monsters Among Us

So, is Sen. Clinton really a "monster?" Former Obama adviser Samantha Power apparently thinks so, but I think maybe she's being unfair. It all depends on context, you see. In a group of normal, non-criminal, working Americanos, obviously she's a monster: willing and eager to rob her fellow citizens and kill many swarthy foreigners "from day one," as she likes to say of herself. But, as a "viable" candidate for the U.S. presidency in 2008, her monstrous tendencies totally fail to distinguish her from the rest of the Crowd of Three. They are all pretty horrible.

Mommy! Listen to the Funny Man Talk!

Chimp wisdom:
The package, recently passed by Congress, includes rebate cheques of $600 for individuals, $1,200 for couples, plus $300 each for dependent children for all but the very richest US citizens.

"We expect they will use it to boost consumer spending and that will spur job creation as well," he said.

Mr Bush had earlier said that "it's clear our economy has slowed".

He added: "Losing a job is painful and I know Americans are concerned about our economy."

"I know this is a difficult time for our economy," he said. "But we recognised the problem early and we provided the economy with a booster shot."
Besides, you know, there's always plenty of jobs available in the Army and the Marine Corps and various other gang-related enterprises.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Monument to a Tyrant

Whew! That was close:
Less than a month after the planned launch of a yearlong local celebration marking what would have been Abraham Lincoln's 200th birthday in 2009, Lincoln Foundation officials announced Monday the Lincoln Museum will close to the public effective June 30.

As a result of the closure, 79 historical items in the museum's collection will be displayed elsewhere and may be divided among more than one location.
Somehow, I'm sure that we will still hear enough extravagant and historically illiterate praise of the ├╝bertyrant to turn the strongest stomach. But perhaps there'll be less of it in this local area now, with a collection of relics of the true Worst President Ever having left town.

See you later, Dishonest Abe. Don't let the doorknob hit you in the ass on your way out.

Thank You, Sir ... May I Have Another, Please?

So. My wife encountered a problem requiring a brief hospital stay, which ended today. Her doctor (one of her doctors, I should say -- our general practitioner) prescribed a pain medication for her that falls under one of the federal "schedules" -- which meant that it would have been illegal for our doctor to phone it to the hospital. No, it had to be handwritten on dead-tree-type paper by the doctor, and then I had to journey to her office to pick it up, and then convey it to the hospital -- otherwise, she couldn't be discharged. Since we had easily the worst driving conditions of the entire winter during this late afternoon, I had more than two hours in which to contemplate this matter as I made the round trip.

Because fools might hurt or even kill themselves by gobbling up pharmacological candy, and because our supervisory fools decided it would be a useful countermeasure, I got the Freezing Rain Tour.

Just can't wait until After the Revo. There's a large number of tax-sucking parasites for whom I have nice spots reserved, up against the wall.