Friday, August 31, 2007

Inquiring Minds Want to Know

In Defense of the Wrongly Maligned Senator Craig Whom We Are Sure is Being Railroaded and Abused by the Press

Here's an interesting statistic: 41 guys over a four-month period were busted for cruising in the that rest room where Larry Craig was unfairly entrapped.

So my first question is, isn't that kind of a vice squad version of a speed trap?

And secondly, why are the cops in that town spending so much of their time sitting on toilets?

You can't run down and collar too many robbers from that position, especially if you've got a "wide stance."

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Be Choosy. Chew Chew-Z

Today's GAO report is only the latest interesting development in what has been a week of them.

This morning's AP story covering the premature release of the report strongly implies that General Accounting Office personnel leaked it to forestall the administration's revising and editing of it before the public got wind of it. "The political wrangling came days before the report was to be officially released and while most lawmakers were still out of town for the August recess, reflecting the high stakes involved for both sides in the Iraq war debate," the story by Anne Flaherty says.

To put it another way, GAO personnel wanted to make sure that reality trumps the spin generated by Bush-Cheney's habitual fantasy.

"Reality," said the science fiction writer Philip K. Dick, "is the one thing that, when you stop believing in it, it doesn't go away."

Earthlings who people some of Dick's novels have been transplanted to hostile extraterrestrial environments, and chew exotic drugs like Can-D and Chew-Z in order to escape their bleak reality, which unfortunately always returns when the drug wears off.

The boy king and his vice-Lucifer have been hitting the Can-D pretty hard for years now, but there are signs that the comedown and hangover are imminent, and assumptions that the war will continue until this pair of inebriates leaves office are up for revision.

There is now an antiwar movement inside the government and, apparently, inside the Pentagon as well. From a McClatchy News story yesterday: "In a sign that top commanders are divided over what course to pursue in Iraq, the Pentagon said Wednesday that it won't make a single, unified recommendation to President Bush during next month's strategy assessment, but instead will allow top commanders to make individual presentations."

We already know that General Petraeus is going to deliver a report that panders to Bush's Can-D-induced hallucinations, but the McClatchy story reveals without going into detail that a significant number among the top brass in the DoD are no longer willing to play that game. They're planning to get real, or in other words, come out against the war.

Add to that the growing opposition to the war in Bush's own party, especially among high-profile senators like Warner and Lugar, and what we're describing is a tight circle closing around the Oval Office.

Up until a few days ago I thought Bush and his Rasputin would get their way, and that nothing could prevent their continuing the war unobstructed at least until January 20, 2009. But their position is beginning to look bleak, and a combination of forces may conspire to pull the rug out from under them, and confiscate their stash of Can-D.

"Earth to George and Dick; it's time for you guys to come down."

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Vapour Trails

President Bush was in New Orleans yesterday. Well, he has to be somewhere. And he told the people of New Orleans that "There are better days ahead."

He also said, "Workers of the underworld arise, you have no place to go but up." OK, I'm just kidding about that part. But he did actually say, "It's sometimes hard for people to see progress when you live in a community all the time."

I know what he means. Like most of us, I never saw myself growing when I was a kid, but there it was.

So look a little harder, people of New Orleans. If you don't see the progress, it's because you live there all the time and you're just not looking hard enough.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Aw, Leave the Poor Kid Alone

Everybody's bagging on the Miss Teen USA contestant from South Carolina, 18-year-old Lauren Upton, because she turned into mumbling bowlful of quivering curds when fielding a question about geography education, or our lack of it.

She still finished third in the pageant.

And no wonder. Ms. Upton is so devastatingly beautiful it's scary. A person like this shouldn't have to be smart and articulate as well.

In 1976, President Ford revealed during a debate with Jimmy Carter that he had only a hazy idea of what the Iron Curtain was, and didn't know that Poland was on the other side of it. Very few people made fun of his ignorance at the time, even though he was a) President of the U.S., and b) unlikely to drive anyone mad with desire.

For a chance to interview Ms. Upton on her knowledge of geography, I would climb the highest mountain, swim the deepest river, travel through the Dismal Swamp, and collapse wet, exhausted, and muddy at her feet.

I think she should immediately be named ambassador to Iran, even if she has no idea where it is. Working through a translator, she could meet with Ahmedinejad and skip the geography, instead falling back on the standard beauty-pageant default answer to all questions: "Pray for world peace."

He'd deactivate those reactors in a heartbeat.

U.S. Economy in Foreclosure

What a great economy, eh? The only thing keeping it from utter collapse right now is the steady price of oil, hovering a couple clicks above $70 for weeks now. If that takes off again...or I should say, when it takes off again this fall, look for something like real panic to set in.

The first signs of panic are already apparent. The Dow fell over 280 points today, apparently in response to the Fed's refusal to bail out the Big Money Boyz more than they have already, and lower the prime interest rate.

"There had been some hope on the Street that Fed policymakers might have sent a stronger signal that they were more willing to cut interest rates to help calm turbulent market conditions," said the radically understated AP story reporting on the free-fall.

"The task of people holding power now in the finance sector (which itself may be a conceit at this point) is to manage the rapid dissolution of hallucinated wealth in such a way that as few people as possible notice that x-trillions in dollar denominated pixels have vanished from the hard drives," says Jim Kunstler, describing the "turbulent market conditions" alluded to in the AP story with a little more gusto.

The Big Money Boyz are the ones who are going to lose all those trillions. They're the ones left holding the bag, and they should be. They're the ones who made the "sub-prime" loans, and bundled them, and sold them to people who would bundle them into securities and sell them again.

All that money isn't going to disappear without repercussions.

What's driving it? 100 Homes a day are getting foreclosed on in Southern California right now. That's the regional story anyway -- each region has its own.

The other shoe is about to drop. "(E)ven the optimists," says the LA Times story, "predict that the problem will soon get much worse."

"'We know it's coming,' said Tina Hess, the assistant Los Angeles city attorney who handles housing enforcement and problem properties."

In LA, Orange, San Diego, San Bernardino, and Riverside counties, abandoned pools in foreclosed back yards are breeding mosquitos. People are afraid of West Nile virus. Plagues are descending on our unhappy, decaying country.

"(T)he damage may not occur all at once but be stretched out into the Fall of this year. Anyway, the massive amounts of adjustable mortgage resets coming down through Christmas, will blow out many more cell walls in the ailing body politic," Kunstler says.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Sam Berdino

xxxxxxxxxxxxxxIts proper name is San Bernardino, and once upon a time it was an all-American city. But people who grew up there call it San Berdino, or Sam Berdino, or sometimes just Samberdino, and today it's an all-American mess.

What makes this sunny, smoggy city of 200,000 or so such a fascinating study is its prototypical decay. Sam Berdino has declined much in the same way as most of the rest of America has, at the same rate, and over the same period. Its illnesses -- pollution, a shrinking tax base, a dying downtown, the eclipse of agriculture and collapse of key industries, petroleum dependency, and a widening gap between a small, rich elite and the increasingly nonwhite and non-English-speaking mass of workers, their dependents, and other assorted hangers-on -- typify the malaise afflicting the U.S. as a whole.

If citizens of our country once considered the U.S.A. paradise on earth, then Sam Berdino was Paradise with a capital "P." When local merchants the Harris family opened their massive, palatial department store at Third and "E" Streets in 1927, the springtime air in Sam Berdino was heavy with the syrupy fragrance of orange blossoms wafting from the thousands of acres of groves surrounding this gorgeous town of 35,000. The white, heavily-ornamented Harris Building, as beautiful as it was prosperous, was a source of pride to the community as well as one of its primary economic mainstays, much as similar independent, family-owned community department stores all over the country were during the half century between 1925 and 1975.

Twenty years after the opening of Harris's masterpiece, another local Sam Berdino business took a great leap forward, one which carried with it extraordinary cultural, gastronomic, and nutritional significance for the entire country. In 1948 the brothers Maurice and Richard McDonald decided their barbecue restaurant at 16th and "E" needed something to set it apart from the other cheap eateries downtown and hatched an original idea. They called it the "Speedee Service System," and their new McDonald's Restaurant was an overnight sensation. The birth of fast food did not go unremarked by other entrepreneurs, one of whom, Glen Bell, began opening taco stands featuring the McDonald brothers' instant service system. His fast-food mini-empire culminated with the appearance of the first Taco Bell in Downey in 1962.

Another So-Cal entrepreneur attracted by the McDonalds' success was milkshake machine salesman Ray Kroc, who at first partnered with the brothers, then bought them out in 1961 for $2.7 million, and proceeded to carpet the earth with McDonald's restaurants.

By the time the McDonald brothers' new marketing idea was up and running, Sam Berdino's population had ballooned to almost 75,000 as the city was transformed once again during World War II, when it found itself with an air force installation and a major steel mill. Thanks to Congressman Harry Shepard, the city's WWII air depot was preserved, expanded, and christened Norton Air Force Base. Kaiser Steel, looking for inland plant locations during the war, built the steel factory, which was actually next door to Sam Berdino in the Hispalachian town of Fontana, sometimes called Fontucky due to its hillbilly/Mexican ambience. But the extension of the Sam Berdino freeway, also accomplished during the war, made the Kaiser mill an easy commute for the many Sam Berdinoans who found work there.

To the discerning eye, the seeds of destruction are found in the glow of success, and as Sam Berdino's orange groves and sleepy, two-lane streets gave way to steelmaking, aerospace activity, and freeways, the quality of life in Paradise insensibly declined. Plus, Sam Berdino's relationship with the great city to the west, Los Angeles, usually called "Allay" by its residents, had always been uneasy. Less prosperous Angelinos seeking cheaper rents had gravitated toward the eastern side of the basin for decades, and the increasingly dangerous clouds of toxic smog generated by Allay's auto traffic tended to drift eastward also, carried by the prevailing westerlies, only to lurch to a sudden stop against the wall of the converging San Bernardino and San Jacinto mountain ranges which stand on the city's eastern margins.

By the time Sam Berdino was designated an All-American City by the National Civic League in 1976-77 it was on its way down. Business was off at the Harris store, although it would limp along another 20-plus years, finally closing its doors for good in January of 1999. By that time Kaiser Steel was already long gone. During the 1980's production at the plant gradually slowed, and it had already gone cold by the time Norton Air Force Base was deactivated in 1994.

Today the empty, still-imposing shell of the Harris Department Store broods over the bleak vista of Sam Berdino's nighttime nightmare downtown streets, now peopled mostly by winos and crackheads. What commerce is left in the city has migrated miles to the south, to a smoggy, treeless, paved-over expanse called Hospitality Lane, a five-mile-long strip mall bordering the freeway, whose interminable vistas of fast-food joints, gas stations, muffler shops, and standard chain retail outlets are a microcosm of the complex of diseases killing the United States.

For as it turns out, the McDonald brothers' Speedee Service System, which so delighted customers and restauranteurs alike in its salad days, is now seen to be the pestilent agent responsible for the twin plagues of obesity and diabetes from which America suffers so grieviously. As for Hospitality Lane itself, like any other petroleum-dependent nexus of commerce built at the very end of the age of cheap oil, it will be a ruin by 2027, just as downtown Sam Berdino is today.

Does Sam Berdino have a future? It might. It was Paradise once, and it could be again. But if Paradise lost is to be regained, Sam Berdino has to correct it's past mistakes and do one thing differently.


Friday, August 24, 2007

David Tweaks Goliath

No, David didn't kill Goliath this time, but that heavily-armored, overgrown, dumb, slow-moving giant is really gonna be pissed.

A New Jersey teenager spent his last summer before college figuring out how to uncouple an i-phone from AT&T. It took extensive knowledge of both software and hardware, a soldering gun, and gallons upon gallons of energy drinks, but he got the job done (story here).

George Hotz doesn't plan to seek a patent or go into business to market the unlocked i-phone. He'll leave that to others. He published a step-by-step "how I did it" series of posts on his blog.

"I believe information should be free," Hotz says, adding that his obsession with unlocking the i-phone wasn't motivated by money, but because of his resentment of AT&T's monopoly on the device. He wanted to be able to incorporate his i-phone into his family's T-Mobile plan.

Right now, "T-Mobile is the only major U.S. carrier apart from AT&T that is compatible with the iPhone's cellular technology," the AP story on Hotz's accomplishment reports, "but smaller carriers also use the technology, known as GSM. In Europe and Asia, GSM is the dominant network technology."

So even though George Hotz won't turn his idea into a business, we can expect a mushrooming cottage industry based on his idea to materialize overnight. Droves of European and Asian i-phone unlocking businesses should spring up in the next few weeks.

And George will make a little college money from his accomplishment. According to his blog, he's planning to sell his unlocked i-phone, the one that is now an internationally significant prototype, on E-Bay.

I love it when one of our giant corporation's plans for monopolizing markets, locking out all competition, and ruling the world, the skies, the oceans, and outer space, is sabotaged by one of us. And by "us," I mean one of those insignificant and inconsequential creatures known as a human being.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Larry the Swamp Cooler Guy

Larry the Swamp Cooler Guy is the kind of neighbor most of us dread. He shows up unbidden and unannounced at various hours of the day and night, invites himself in, and then becomes a free-flowing fountain of unsolicited advice.

"You really need to get a canopy for this place."

"Why don't you get a water pik? You'd really feel a lot better if you'd clean your mouth with one two or three times a day."

"You shouldn't be eating that. You need more vitamin B12."

He also volunteers to "help you with that," which for a person as allergic to home repairs and renovations as me is vaguely threatening.

But I'm glad to have Larry as a friend. He's annoying at times, but for someone as lonely as I've been for the last few months, it's a relief to have regular human contact, even from a noodge who won't take "no" for an answer. He's tactless, but he really just wants to help. Limited intelligence, unlimited heart, and definitely an unlimited capacity for repetition.

"You know, you really need a canopy for this place. Why doncha let me help you with that? If you just go down and by the parts we need, I could put it up for you in no time."

"Larry, I already told you (five times in the last fifteen minutes) I don't want a canopy like that."

However, others who know Larry have sternly warned me: "Don't let him 'help you with that.'"

Forearmed, I was ready, when the electric motor driving my prehistoric swamp cooler burned out yesterday, to resist his relentless insistence, once he got wind of the problem, to "Let me get up there and take a look at it." I'd already determined to rid myself of that ancient, rusty artifact which has been clanking and wheezing on my roof since I moved in here over a year ago. I'd arranged for a contractor friend of mine to install a new one on Saturday, which I planned to buy first thing this morning.

But first thing this morning there was Larry the Swamp Cooler Guy at the door, demanding almost angrily to be allowed to inspect my ancient Egyptian prototype of a cooler. What could I do? I folded, and within minutes he had removed the dead motor and its auxiliary parts and sent me off to Home Depot to buy replacements.

"I'm gonna save you hundreds of dollars," was both his stern admonition and modus operandi.

And good to his word, Larry and I -- but mostly Larry -- had the machine back on line by three in the afternoon, after a second trip to the hardware store and an instructive joint effort in reconstructing the motor assembly. He's more facile with tools and machine parts than I am, but because of a learning disability he's not always able to visualize how things are supposed to go together, which I happen to be pretty good at.

So now I can stay in my tin shack again because my cooler's working, and much better and more quietly than before, I might add. But more importantly, Larry the Swamp Cooler Guy taught me something about who I am and where I'm living. I'm no longer a man of means with extensive resources, who satisfies his infrastructural requirements by hiring self-effacing and polite temporary Mexican servants to haul away the old one and install a new one. Many of the people in this trailer park are poor, or at least, like me, not rich, and we get along by repairing things and helping each other and jury rigging life's paraphernalia. Financially, materially, and ecologically, it's the only way of getting by that makes sense.

So thank you, Larry. But I gotta tell you, I still don't want that hard canopy. Sheesh.

By the way, for those readers who don't know what a swamp cooler is, a.k.a. air cooler, desert cooler, evaporative cooler, and poor man's air conditioning, see this article at Wikipedia, and click on the illustrative diagram about halfway down the page for a bigger view. The machine is really beautiful in its functional simplicity, and it only eats about one-third the electricity an air conditioner does.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Horselover Fat

In 1974 the science fiction writer Philip K. Dick went crazy after having a vision at least partially brought on by an injection of sodium pentathol he had taken to undergo a dental procedure. Thereafter he worked under the signature "Horselover Fat" (Philip means "lover of horses" in Greek, and dick, in German, means "fat"), although the books of his last eight years include interpolations by Philip K. Dick, who criticizes Fat's philosophy and personal shortcomings.

Dick's descent into insanity was no accident or Act of God, however, because he was working hard at going nuts when he finally went there in 1974. He wrote a large number of amphetamine-fueled novels in the sixties and seventies, one of which ("The Man in the High Castle") won a Hugo Award in 1963. It was included along with three others among his best books in a just-published prestigious Library of America volume, signaling that the science-fiction pulp author has now been accepted into the hushed cloisters of "great literature."

The New Yorker's editors assigned Adam Gopnik to review the new book and recap Dick's life and career, which is probably what motivated me to buy the book within hours of receiving this week's issue. Gopnik is a marvelously disciplined writer and critic whose concision, clarity, and economy insure that no reader could possibly ever misunderstand him. His comprehension of Dick's central philosophy, repeated throughout the early novels and then articulated incoherently at the end, is surpassed only by his highly concentrated and accurate synopses of it.

In Dick's most famous novels, Gopnik writes, "the future (is) like the past, in the sense that, no matter how amazing or technologically advanced a society becomes, the basic human rhythm of petty malevolence, sordid moneygrubbing, and official violence, illuminated by occasional bursts of loyalty or desire or tenderness, will go on. Dick’s future worlds are rarely evil and oppressive, exactly; they are banal and a little sordid, run by a demoralized élite at the expense of a deluded population. No matter how mad life gets, it will first of all be life."

Philip Dick had no pretensions of being a great writer. His prose is boilerplate narrative, characterized by a pedestrian technique and stock characters suitable to the lowbrow genre he labored in. What makes his work valuable and timeless is his philosophy and acute perception of the eternal human condition, his recognition that there is no hope, and that technological miracles, past, present, and future, have done nothing to alter the fundamentals of existence. As Gopnik explains it, "No matter what things may come, they will be exploited, merchandised, and routinized by the force of human weakness."

History is Merciless

The study of history, unlike the studies of philosophy or religion, has no idealized aspect or aspirations of transcendence. It's simply a dispassionate catalogue of the errors, disasters, and follies of the human race, punctuated at times with traces of integrity, or nobility, or acts of compassion. The truths told by Philip K. Dick resonate with me because I already knew them, having learned them 20 years ago in the history classes taught by Dr. Will Jacobs at the University of Alaska in Anchorage.

Jacobs used to point out that in the late 19th and early 20th centuries (before 1914), nearly all historians, theologians, and philsophers alike believed that the human race was on the verge of creating a second Garden of Eden, this one to encompass the entire earth, due to the tremendous burst of creativity unleashed by advances in science and technology. Then came the two world wars with their incomprehensible slaughter and, in the case of the second war, unprecedented mass murder, and history's more perceptive observers recognized that advances in science and technology had unleashed at least as much destructive force as they had creative energy.

Likewise, there is a thread running through all modern history (from the 17th century on), Jacobs taught, that explains poverty, crime, and all forms of human degradation and misery as resulting from the greed, ignorance, and violence of corrupt institutions. Voltaire railed against the corruption of the Church and the animal greed and cupidity of Europe's aristocrats, and was convinced that if those institutions were abolished a utopian society must be the necessary result. Karl Marx was absolutely convinced that when capitalism was suprseded by communism, as it inevitably would be, the only possible outcome would be a human race at last free to bask in the warmth of its own fundamental goodness. Voltaire and Marx may not have had much in common, but they agreed that human nature was basically good.

"What's obvious, when we look at the holocaust and firebombing and nuclear warfare of World War II," Jacobs said, "is that the problem is not with corrupt institutions, but with us."

"We have met the enemy and it is us," said Walt Kelly's Pogo Possum.

I would disagree with my teacher only so far as to argue that corrupt institutions are a part of the problem, but that those institutions are an inevitable product of human nature. This was Philip K. Dick's core realization, and in his work, Gopnik says, "the social arrangement of power is always that of a brute oligarchic minority forcing its will on a numbed population, with amusements the daily meal and brutality the implicit threat; for all that has changed technologically, that fatal pattern has never really altered. The future will be like the present, he had once known, and now he saw that the past was like the future, too."

"The surest sign of the madness of the world," Gopnik says, paraphrasing Dick's central message, "is the violence that we accept as normal." All ruling classes, past, present, and future, rely at bottom on violence or the threat of violence to maintain and expand their authority, and the empire has always been, and will always be with us.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Bellydance Superstar

My daughter Rachel has carved out an illustrious career for herself as a professional belly dancer and dance teacher, and has become famous for her interpretation of "American tribal" style, which decoded means free-form.

This weekend she was teaching and performing at a downtown hotel in San Bernardino, an hour's drive away from me. I went both nights, even though she only performed on Friday, since this kind of opportunity doesn't come up very often. Saturday night we watched the program and hung out behind the merchandise table.

A friend of mine once said, during a breakup, that that's when you find out who your friends really are. And be assured, my daughter and I are good friends.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

How to Steal an Election

California Republicans have hatched a plan which, if successful, might enable them to hijack the presidential election of 2008.

In mid-July of this year, quietly and without fanfare, one of the state's most powerful Republican lawyers filed a ballot initiative that will, if it passes, divide California's electoral votes, awarding all but two of them to the winner of the popular vote in each Congressional district.

Currently, California's 55 electoral votes (one for each of the 53 Congressional districts; one for each of the two U.S. Senators) go to the winner of the popular vote statewide, as is currently the practice in every other state except Maine and Nebraska. Republicans have long been aware that this state's huge bloc of electoral votes totals more than one-fifth of the 270 necessary for a candidate to be elected.

The attorney who filed the initiative, Thomas Hiltachk, is a legal expert described by Jonathon Alter in a Newsweek article as one "who specializes in ballot referenda that try to fool people in the titles and fine print," has placed the measure on the June, 2008 California primary ballot, which occurs four months after the state's presidential primary (now moved up to February 5), and for which a light turnout is expected.

In his lead "Talk of the Town" column in the August 6 New Yorker, Hendrik Hertzberg characterized the June 3 California primary as "...a few scattered contests for legislative nominations, but the only statewide items on the ballot will be initiatives," many of which will never make it onto the ballot for lack of signatures, or because of legal language problems, and so forth. But, Hertzberg explains, "Initiative No. 07-0032 -- the Presidential Election Reform Act -- is different. It's serious. Its backers have access to serious money. And it could pass."

The Republican strategy is this: suppose the 2008 presidential race, say, between Clinton and Giuliani, is close in both popular and electoral votes. In 2004, George W. Bush lost California and its 55 electoral votes, but he won the popular vote in 22 of the state's 53 Congressional districts. So "The bottom line" of this so-called Election Reform Act, Hertzberg says, "is that the initiative, if passed, would spot the Republican ticket something in the neighborhood of twenty electoral votes -- votes that it wouldn't get under the rules prevailing in every other sizable state in the Union." And those 20 hijacked votes might just be enough to throw a closely-contested national election into the Republican column.

The initiative is sponsored by Californians for Equal Representation, a false-façade non-organization whose mailing address is the offices of Hiltachk's law firm, which represents the California Republican Party. Hiltachk is also Arnold Schwarzenegger's personal lawyer for election matters, and he has been the motive force behind many well-funded ballot initiatives in the past, including the recall that catapulted Schwarzenegger into the governor's mansion.

Both Hertzberg and Alter point out that the same sort of subterfuge, only from the other side, is occurring in North Carolina, where the Democratic-controlled legislature wants to divide the state's electors in the same manner outlined in Hiltachk's California initiative. However the stakes are much smaller there. North Carolina casts 15 electoral votes altogether, and Alter notes that only three or four electoral votes are at stake.

He adds that "At least in North Carolina it's clearly constitutional. Article II, Section I of the U.S. Constitution stipulates that the selection of electors is up to state legislatures 'in such manner as the Legislature thereof may direct,'"
a criterion the California Republicans' "Election Reform Act" doesn't satisfy, thus placing it on shaky legal ground.

Initiative 07-0032, dangerous and destabilizing as it is, has attracted little notice among the voting public so far, although it has drawn the attention of more acute pundits such as Hertzberg and Alter. Most voters tend not to pay much attention to technical issues, especially those tinged with legal complexity, such as the arcane workings of the electoral college. Maybe California's voters will wake up when the t.v. ads start running, and they're alerted to the very real danger this underhanded and misnamed measure poses.

The so-called Election Reform Act would only be fair if every other state changed its rules in the same way, and everyone awarded electoral votes by Congressional district. "If California does what No. 07-0032 calls for while everybody else is still going with winner take all by state," Hendrik Hertzberg observes, "the real-world result will be to give Party B (in this case the Republicans) an unearned, Ohio-size gift of electoral votes."

It's now clear that Karl Rove's "permanent Republican majority" was a fantasy, but as the national election of 2000 clearly showed, the party of Bush and DeLay doesn't necessarily need a majority as long as it is able to grasp the levers of power one way or another. We've seen ample demonstrations in the past of Republicans' willingness to do literally anything to exploit, gain, and hang onto political advantage.

The California Republican party is now clearly planning to steal the presidential election of 2008, and only an informed, aware, and intelligent electorate in the state where this plot is quietly gestating will be able to stop them.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Goff's Bomb

Stan Goff is a sometime blogger and a very interesting guy, being as how he's a 26-year U.S. Army veteran (with time spent in the Rangers) who became a leftist revolutionary.

Now, most of you reading this are, I'm sure, familiar with DailyKos. It's the leading partisan Democratic mega-blog, and pretty much a party line type of place (Bill O'Reilly called it "a hate site"). So Goff goes there the other day and posts a diary entry in which he says he's not going to vote Democratic next year because the Democrats, local and national, are taking a timid, wishy-washy stand on the war.

He will not vote for any of the three leading Democratic presidential candidates, Goff says, because "They have consistently refused to do the one thing that has become a litmus test for a lot of people who generally hold their noses and vote for Democrats. They have refused to call for an immediate, unilateral, and complete withdrawal from Iraq."

And he goes on to say "Enough of us will stay home that fine November day to ensure that a Republican will win the Presidency; and enough will stay home to ensure that a Republican majority is returned to Congress."

The main reason he's refusing to vote Democratic, of course, is because the war is a "moral obscenity," but he adds that "An equally critical reason for allowing the Democratic Party to wither and die in 2008 is that it stand (sic) directly in the way of the people's movements in this country, especially the antiwar movement."

Almost needless to say, the response he got from the Kossacks was universally hostile. Typical was the guy who posted a picture of a kitten waving "Bye" under the title, "Please change the litter before you leave."

The Kossacks may have got all hot and bothered, but the fact is, the Democrats are useless. They promised action on the war. They ran against the war. They haven't delivered.

Some "opposition party" they turned out to be.

They're in the way, and they've got to go.

Like Goff, I'm not the least bit scared of those damned Republicans. We've already seen how much damage they can do to themselves and others.

I don't know how the rest of you here feel, but I'm with Stan.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

White Men in Blue Suits

All Republicans are pale white men in blue suits, except for Condoleezza the dominatrix.

The exception proves the rule.

There are some fairly hot mamas working in the White House, but they're not real Republicans. They're the ladies' auxiliary.

Dick Cheney: Good Monster, Bad Monster

From Tom Tomorrow via many others, we have the story which has popped up at various places on the net these past few days, of Dick Cheney's 1994 television interview in which he warned that invading Iraq would be a foolish and self-destructive move. Tomorrow links to the video and also to a transcript, for the benefit of those who are still in the dark ages of dialing-up.

Now everybody knows that Dick Cheney is Frankenstein's monster. But back in 1994, he was not yet the large, bad Frankenstein's monster, i.e., the red, rectangular one.

Back then he was the small, good monster. You know, the round, blue Frankenstein's monster.

But all seriousness aside, he was also Secretary of Defense under Bush I until January, 1993. Speaking as George Herbert Walker Bush's Secretary of Defense, I'm sure that even after Clinton became president, Cheney would still have felt obligated to be a good "team player," and echo the official line of the Bush I crew on Iraq.

What he said on the videotape was pretty much a carbon copy of a passage explaining the coitus interruptus of our initial penetration of the oil-bearing plum called Iraq in the senior Bush's memoir of his term in the White House.

I don't remember the name of the book, but I heard Andy Rooney read the relevant passage on his 60 Minutes segment shortly after the current war went south, and what Cheney was saying in '94 sounds just like what's in the book.

These guys always follow the script, unless they're writing it, which unfortunately is what Cheney is doing now -- writing the script for his somewhat literacy-challenged immediate superior.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007


There hasn't been, and won't be any posting here for a few days.

I've been traveling since 8/2. I've been with family on the west side of Puget Sound, currently with friends in Seattle.

I won't be posting regularly until I get home next Tuesday or thereabouts.