Flimsy Sanity: October 2008

Flimsy Sanity

In individuals, insanity is rare; but in groups, parties, nations and epochs, it is the rule. - Friedrich Nietzsche

Friday, October 31, 2008

Point - Counterpoint on Voting

And James Clay Fuller lists just a few voter fraud red flags. One has to wonder if Bush brought soldiers back because he is anticipating riots from another stolen election.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Hate and Fear

Monday, October 27, 2008

James Clay Fuller

James Clay Fuller wrote a great blog entry on voter mentality. Here are a few samples:

Get out there and listen to those people, the American electorate. You'll find they believe that “all men are equal,” and don't grasp the fact that the equality the founders of this country aimed for was equality of opportunity. If you're a dummy, you are NOT equal to a knowledgeable, intellectually active person when it comes to discerning how best to govern this over-sized country.

It was not the illiterate stable hands nor even the barkeeps, good men though they may have been, who wrote the Declaration of Independence and led the Revolution against England.

That is an admission none of us are supposed to make, lest we be struck down as “elitists.” Strive to elect politicians who are smarter than the average loaf of bread and know more than the average 12-year-old and we become “Eastern elitists,” which is something as repulsive as dog droppings on the soles of one's shoes.

To some unknown degree, a majority of the American public walks blindly through life because we no longer have a functioning mass news system. We have a mass propaganda system, easily manipulated by the political right and inclined anyway to believe whatever the power elite tells them.

Need an example?

People who regularly read good Internet news sources such as TruthOut, know that the Republicans already have in place a massive system of vote suppression and election fraud which will function powerfully on Nov. 4. But ask your neighbors what they know of that.

You'll find that most of them “know” ACORN is a corrupt organization that has been busy registering fraudulent voters. They don't know that's been disproven time after time. They know nothing of the huge Republican vote suppression efforts in Florida, Ohio, Michigan, Colorado and other states, and they certainly don't know about the blatant fixing of voting machines to produce Republican election victories in some of those states.

CNN tried Thursday, Oct. 23, to report on vote suppression, but it so carefully, and falsely, “balanced” the reports that they gave the impression that the suppression techniques were necessary to stem massive voter fraud – which, in fact, is nonexistent except in swing states where the Republican Party has set up its scams.

The two Americas cannot cooperate in any meaningful way. The far right does not compromise, and it has filled its army of the ignorant with hate; it is like a horde of Genghis Khan's Mongols, intent on destroying all who impede conquest.

Wordsmart, a company that sells vocabulary-improvement home courses, says that from 1950 to the present, the useful vocabulary of the average American teenager dropped from 25,000 to 10,000 words. That's roughly a 60 percent decrease in the number words kids readily recognize and can use. It seems obvious: If you lack the words to describe, analyze, think with, you can't think critically to any real depth. At this rate, Americans will be reduced to “Me Tarzan, you Jane” by 2050.

Eric Fromm’s observation: “That millions of people share the same form of mental pathology does not make those people sane.”

I just don't understand

If the banks are insolvent, wouldn't it make sense to raise the interest rate so that people put their money into savings? Are USA'ers addicted to always operating on credit?

Moving to the Center of Elite Consensus

Joe Bageant: Moving to the Center of Elite Consensus

By an anonymous political consultant

Over the last many weeks we have all been subjected to endless news stories about Senator Obama's campaign "Move to the Center". Leaving aside the political illiteracy which underlines this phrase, the use of it reveals important clues about the rhetoric of electoral campaigns, whom they target and what they are trying to communicate.

Put simply, what "Moving to the Center," means is: moving towards power and money.

"Moving to the Center" is not a move to where the center of public opinion is, but it is a move to the center of where elite consensus is. Once the boundaries of that elite consensus are understood, then we can comprehend the limits of our public choices and more importantly what will be allowed within the confines of our electoral system.

It is important to understand that elite consensus itself is not static and can shift in moderate degrees, but it has definitive boundaries of which you can not cross and still be a viable player within the electoral system. These boundaries exist to the left and right within that consensus, but the institutional bias of the system is much harsher towards any moves to the left. This is because in its essence elite opinion is anti-populist and primarily concerned with protecting the fundamentals of the established economic order.

Every national campaign is in fact a dual conversation, one targeting voters while the other is directed towards the political, media, and economic elites. The purpose of the message targeting the first group is to win votes. The messages to the latter group is designed to form elite consensus, first for it not to correlate against you and secondly to have it help you win and eventually govern.

Surviving the contradictions of these dual dialogues is the primary element that makes a successful national campaign.

Let's examine the primary public policy issues and areas of discussion, and examine what the boundaries of elite opinion are on how they contradict or mirror public opinion.

Economics Trade and Globalization

The elite consensus on these issues is solidly to the right of public opinion. This is especially the case on the issues of trade and globalization. Support for supposed free markets, free trade and globalization are almost universal and unquestioned within elite circles.

This is the establishment issue, all else can be argued and debated but to question the system of privatized profit and socialized cost is the fastest road to political oblivion for any candidate for national office.

Within the confines of elite consensus no cost is ever too exorbitant in "reassuring" Wall Street and "calming the financial markets". No better example of this than the prompt and generous response of the Federal Reserve and the Congress to the recent financial crisis in the housing markets. With hardly any opposition the United States Government nationalized the losses which resulted from the bursting of the housing bubble. There where no calls of prosecution, lectures on personal responsibility, fears of creeping socialism or demands for conditional structural adjustments from bankers and investment houses. The scandal in fact is not the crime in this case, which is to be expected, but in the silence of the public and the political class to this public thievery.

It is precisely because of the iron grip of this consensus, that even if we have a new Democratic President and an enhanced Democratic majorities in the Congress, there will be no legislation signed into law to make it easier to organize workers, provide universal health care or deal with our ever widening class and income divide in the United States.

Social Issues

Elite consensus on the issues of race, sex and role of faith in public life are to the left of public opinion, the only area in which this is the case. Elite opinion is overwhelmingly secular, pro-choice, supportive of gay rights and hostile to overt displays of racism.

Tolerance and liberalism on this front is a very useful tool, since it buys political space to be more conservative on the more important money issues. It also enjoys the advantage of making the right enemies, after all who wants to be on Pat Robertson's side during weekend dinner parties at the Hamptons.

When social conservatives complain about the "Liberal Media" they are not wrong, but only in regard to their issues. The contempt of the American elite for the religious right is quite real. What social conservatives misunderstand is that the hostility against them is not because the threat their ideas represent but only a display of the traditional contempt that the merciless strong have for people they consider to be the feeble minded weak.

The significance of the religious right in our politics is only in the wonderful diversions their issues create. Issues that feed a war between urban educated middle classes against the more numerous, the ever more frustrated lower income fundamentalists on issues that are unsolvable in nature.

Foreign Policy

Elite consensus on this issue is center to right, discussions are allowed on the mechanics of running the empire and the management of the military industrial complex, but never regarding the reality of its existence, its necessity or usefulness to most Americans.

Within this narrow context there are always code words and phrases used to differentiate one candidate from another. Words and phrases like "all options are on the table", "realism", "toughness" and "experience" are simply a sliding scale on the willingness to kill in order to defend the interests of our ownership and governing class. This is an especially critical issue for Senator Obama, considering that most victims of our killing are non-whites. His vulnerability to the charges of dual loyalty on this issue, almost certainly means no end to wars, expansions of foreign military bases and occupations of third world countries under his watch.

The made up charges of having a radical minister, or being a Muslim, a Palestinian sympathizer or being married to a black nationalist was meant to limit his room to maneuver on these issues even if there was never any indication he was ever serious about moving in a bold progressive direction.

With his "weakness" defined as his associations with progressive movements, ideas or individuals, he can do nothing but run to the other direction for the next four years if he ascends to the office of President. This is the genius of McCarthyism at work, fifty years after its namesake split hell wide open.

The Politics of Personal Responsibility

Personal responsibility is a legitimate issue when discussed in the context of family and personal lives. When dragged into the political arena it is an issue that is entirely an elite construct. The actual positions of the elite are not particularly relevant. What is important is that the issues get discussed, not what results from that discussion. The relevance of this issue is not in what it illuminates but in what it hides.

The recent enthusiastic embrace of Senator Obama of the call for "responsibility" from inner city black fathers is a prime example of this issue. What he is really saying is, "I will never blame the owners of the country for the social problems caused by their economic policies." Senator Obama knows better than anyone that you can eliminate most of the problems of inner city fathers in a generation with a decent educational system and living wage jobs.

But all systems of power need a convincing and unlikable enemy, which can bury the contradictions of the system. In our case incoherent, undereducated black urban males fit the bill perfectly. They are being attacked not because they are a threat to the power structure, but precisely because they are not.

What voters are expected to believe is that after a 30-year class war against the bottom 90% of income earners, the source of their troubles are black rappers and inner city fathers and not criminality on Wall Street or a corrupt political system. The road to the White House over the past 30 years has been paved by pretending to believe the absurdity that the individuals who pull the levers of power over people's lives are named Willie Horton, Sister Souljah and Ludicrous, and not Robert Rubin, Phil Gramm and Hank Paulson.

If as a society we are prepared to believe this, then we have lost the stuff that makes free men.

Sick and tired of re-fighting Vietnam War

Joe Bageant: Sick and tired of re-fighting Vietnam War

Dear Joe,
Here's one of the reasons I'm voting for (in fact, already voted for) Obama: he is untainted by the Vietnam War.

McCain is a very dangerous man because he is so hungry to win a war, that is, to win Vietnam. I even heard him say in one of the so-called debates, "I know how to win a war." Oh, yeah? Not much evidence of that particular competence, but lots of evidence of a deep desire -- let's say, acute obsession.

I am sick and tired of re-fighting Vietnam and re-fighting the '60s. In 2004, Kerry made a tactical mistake by trying to cast himself as a Vietnam war hero, but not as the hero he was for his opposition to it. Then he got slimed by the old soldiers who were still pissed at him for that opposition. Today, McCain and Palin are trying to get mileage out of the Bill Ayers/SDS story -- but guess what? Nobody under 50 gives a damn! And they are right. It's time GET OVER IT.

I'm 61, so the 1960s is "my time." I'm not a bit sorry I opposed the war, broke a few social rules, and opted for a simpler life. Back in 1992, I had high hopes for Bill Clinton because he was of "my generation." I actually thought he would represent a turn-around toward some of the counter-culture values -- peaceful, creative, anti-materialistic, pro-human. Can you believe a grown woman could be so naive?

Well, I'm not so naive now as to believe that Obama is anything but a competent politician (thankfully, an intelligent one). But at least he isn't weighed down by the stinking leftovers of the military and social battles of 40 years ago. I am very much hoping that people younger than I am will determine this election -- and that's as it should be.

With modest hopes, but not succumbing to the "disease of optimism,"


Sunday, October 26, 2008

How to do that irritating voice

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Steve Conn: The Real Story of Troopergate

When Power Corrupts

When Power Corrupts: 'Those People' Look a Lot Like Us
In the hindsight of headlines and media coverage, it's easy to see the executive being led away in handcuffs as a corrupt individual. But that same person probably perceives himself as ethical within the context of their organization. "These people sincerely believe that this is the way things are done at their company," Ashforth says.

Indeed, by convincing themselves that their behavior really is not unethical, employees can engage in corrupt business practices without feeling any pangs of conscience. Corrupt individuals depend on rationalizations to justify their behavior, including:

Denying responsibility: actors convince themselves they had no choice but to participate in unethical behavior.
Denying injury:if no one is hurt, the behavior isn't really unethical.
Denying victims: blaming violated parties for what happened on the grounds that they "deserved it."
Social weighting: this rationalization includes condemning anyone who questions their actions as a way of mitigating the charges. Individuals may also focus on other companies that are "worse than we are" as a way to deflect responsibility.
Appeal to higher loyalties: unethical behavior is justified if it was "for a good cause" like loyalty or higher ideals.
Metaphor of the ledger: using seniority or other variables to justify unethical behavior on the grounds that they have earned the right.

As a group, department or organization systemically adopts rationalizations, employees reinforce each other's behavior and corruption is accepted as valid business practice. But this is not to say that individuals are not aware that their behavior violates societal norms –- that's why people don't talk about their actions outside of work. Instead, they compartmentalize their lives so that work becomes a separate world with different rules and norms -- a world that neighbors and friends wouldn't understand.

Socialization is another critical factor in understanding how corruption becomes institutionalized. To survive, newcomers must be initiated into the organization's corrupt systems. "You cannot coerce corruption in an organization because people will rebel," Ashforth says. Instead, organizations subtly socialize newcomers by rewarding attitude change toward unethical behaviors, gradually introducing corrupt activity, and creating situations where individuals feel they must compromise their values to solve problems. The key is to convince the newcomer that she or he has a choice all along when in fact, they really don't.

Often an organization is just too mired in corruption to be helped from within. In those cases, a strong external force -- often a lawsuit or criminal charges -- is needed to bring about change. Organizations can recover and even thrive after a bout of corruption, but it requires that current leadership -- scarred by too many years of rationalizations and excuses -- be replaced with new management that has a clear mandate to clean up the organization and the authority and support needed to get the job done.

I was doing a little math this morning. I read that subprime mortgages made up about 20% of the mortgages. According to 2000 statistics, there were about 106 million households and I rounded that up to 110 million. Dividing 20 percent of those into 700000000000 means those poor people were buying houses valued at over 300 thousand. Talk about your welfare queens and/or those mortgages were sold many times and it will take trillions to balance the books.

Or as one commenter said:
The normalization of white collar crime without punishment is now complete. I have not read of a single instance of any leaders responsible for the largest collapse of financial institutions in recent history being prosecuted for illegal activity. Most are receiving huge payments as they leave their wrecked organizations. The legitimization of cunningly crafted misrepresentation has permeated every sector of government and industry, leaving us a profoundly sick and dysfunctional economy. We will now reap the consequences.

There is no quick structural fix for societal decadence. It will take decades to recover."

Monday, October 13, 2008

Not a bang or a whimper but just a fart.

Methane study reveals serious new climate threat as methane release in Russia occurs from polar ice melt. According to this article the dinosaurs suffocated from something similar. Time to quit worrying about right wing power crazed wackos rounding up liberals to put them in concentration camps and go for a walk. Something kind of comforting that everyone is in the same boat.

The Credit Crunch set to music

The Coming Month

Swiftboaters Start Your Engines is an interesting article about other attack dogs besides Rove.

I just think our country is racist and even the worst white man can beat the best black guy. This makes me so sad. I'm not saying Obama is the best black guy (picking someone like Biden, the credit card business whore) but he is leagues ahead of an idiot whose rise is due entirely to the misfortune of being a publicity-hound POW (most were ignored) because he was the son of privilege.

Few cartoons

Jerry Holbert, cartoonist

Joe Heller, cartoonist

Gary Varvel, cartoonist

Sunday, October 12, 2008

This Just In: Greed Is Not Good

This Just In: Greed Is Not Good | CommonDreams.org Good use of the word entrepreneuriating in this excellent rant, very possibly the best I ever read..

Sons of Privilege

I find it so disingenuous that McCain goes on and on about how inadequate (dog whistle for unionized) teachers should be fired. Now I don't know how much a plane costs, but McCain crashed three (five but we cannot count the one that blew up on board ship or the one shot down in Vietnam) but continued a career as a pilot rather than being demoted. I just cannot understand how any veteran who had to earn their rank could support either McCain or Bush who were unqualified for their positions from the very onset.

BTW I agree that poor teachers should be fired. Also poor doctors (a small percentage is responsible for most malpractice suits). Also poor lawyers such as those who are often used as public defenders. I believe in firing politicians (throw the bums out and get new bums) and impeachment.

Economic Problems and Global Warming

Yahoo news article on global warming says economic disaster might delay the human solutions to global warming. IDJETS. Reduction in consumption and it's relation to earth health might be the one good thing to come of this.

Disney will never get another dime from me

Scientific Misconduct has an interesting post about Disney. Seems laws only protect the people with power. No wonder so many people are anti-authoritarian.
After the painful experience of losing Oswald the Rabbit, the Disneys "held on to everything they did with a ferociously strong grip".

The discussion about Mickey resulted in a 2003 paper in a University of Virginia legal journal that argued "there are no grounds in copyright law for protecting" the Mickey of those early films. A Disney lawyer "threatened the author with legal action for "slander of title" under California law".

Earlier, Gregory S. Brown, a Disney researcher challenged the arguments of Disney lawyers who wrote that "Mickey Mouse had been created by Walt Disney Co. in 1928". The former archivist knew that the company didn't exist then. Without ruling on the merits of Brown's arguments, the judge tossed it aside as untimely. "He was clobbered with a $500,000 judgment". "His appeal was dismissed when he missed a filing deadline. Disney then seized $20,000 from his accounts" and he was left bankrupt.

They "threatened to sue three Florida day-care centers for painting Disney figures on their walls." They sued a a home-based business for $1 million "after a couple put on children's parties with ersatz Eeyore and Tigger costumes."

In fact "many of Disney's most famous figures were the creations of others, including Cinderella, Pinocchio, Pooh and Snow White, though it has vigorously protected its depictions of them." (A legal dispute with Disney bankrupted the publisher holding the Bambi copyright).

Capitalism is anti Ten Commandments

Stores and restaurants open on the Lord's Day that should be kept holy? How about not coveting the neighbors goods - what does that do to advertisers? Not killing to the military?

Pit bull with lipstick

My mom's coffee group gets together on Thursdays and I have been sending her jokes for the ladies. It isn't very much work to assemble 20 or so since I kept emails of jokes that I thought were funny when I first got a computer. In 2000 I got a bunch of lawyer jokes and one was, "What is the difference between a female attorney and a pit bull?" You guessed it. Plagiarism must be the preferred VP candidates hobby. Of course, if there were fines for stealing jokes, we would all be in debt.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Views of some Alaskans

As for you my fine friend, you're a victim of disorganized thinking...You're confusing courage with wisdom. —The Wizard to the Cowardly Lion

Sorry, Dad, I'm Voting for Obama

Sorry, Dad, I'm Voting for Obama - The Daily Beast by William Buckley's son, the libertarian writer of the great book/movie Thank Your for Smoking

The Derivatives Game


The derivatives markets of today have become a high stakes casino of unimaginable magnitude. Wall Street's bets have gone bad, and now the whole financial system is in peril. In a best-case scenario, it appears, the taxpayers will be required to rescue the system from itself. This is why Warren Buffett labeled derivatives "weapons of financial mass destruction."

Amazingly, there seems to be some lingering sense that current-day derivatives properly perform an insurance function.

Case in point: Alan Greenspan, the former Federal Reserve Chairman. Greenspan says the world is facing “the type of wrenching financial crisis that comes along only once in a century,” but, reports the New York Times, "his faith in derivatives remains unshaken." Greenspan believes that the problem is not with derivatives, but that the people using them got greedy, according to the Times.

This is quite a view. Is it a surprise to Alan Greenspan that the people on Wall Street -- said to be ruled only by the opposing instincts of greed and fear -- "got greedy?"

This might be taken as just a bizarre comment, except that, of course, Alan Greenspan had some considerable influence in driving us to the current financial meltdown through his opposition to regulation of derivatives.

A series of deregulatory moves, blessed by Alan Greenspan, helped immunize Wall Street derivatives traders from proper oversight.

In 1995, Congress enacted the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act (PSLRA) of 1995, which imposed onerous restrictions on plaintiffs suing wrongdoers in the stock market. The law was enacted in the wake of Orange County, California's government bankruptcy caused by abuses in derivatives trading. An amendment offered by Rep. Ed Markey would have exempted derivatives trading abuse lawsuits from the PSLRA restrictions. In defeating the amendment, then-Representative and now-SEC Chairman Chris Cox quoted Alan Greenspan, saying “it would be a grave error to demonize derivatives;” and, “It would be a serious mistake to respond to these developments [in Orange County, California] by singling out derivative instruments for special regulatory treatment.”

The New York Times reports how the Commodity Futures Trading Commission aimed for some modest regulatory authority over derivatives in the late 1990s. Strident opposition from Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin and Alan Greenspan spelled doom for that effort.

Senator Phil Gramm helped drive the process along with the Commodities Futures Modernization Act of 2000, which deregulated the derivatives market.

Defenders of deregulation argued that sophisticated players were involved in the derivatives markets, and they could handle themselves.

It's now apparent that not only could these sophisticated players not handle themselves, but that their reckless gambling has placed the entire world's financial system at risk.

It seems to be then a remarkably modest proposal for derivatives to be brought under regulatory control.

Warren Buffett cut to the heart of the problem in 2003: "Another problem about derivatives is that they can exacerbate trouble that a corporation has run into for completely unrelated reasons," he wrote in his annual letter to shareholders. "This pile-on effect occurs because many derivatives contracts require that a company suffering a credit downgrade immediately supply collateral to counterparties. Imagine, then, that a company is downgraded because of general adversity and that its derivatives instantly kick in with their requirement, imposing an unexpected and enormous demand for cash collateral on the company. The need to meet this demand can then throw the company into a liquidity crisis that may, in some cases, trigger still more downgrades. It all becomes a spiral that can lead to a corporate meltdown."

That is to say, our current problems were foreseeable, and foreseen. There is no excuse for those who suggest that present circumstances --what many are calling a once-in-a-hundred-years event -- were unimaginable during earlier debates about regulation.

Some ideologues continue to defend derivatives from very strict government control. As Congress moves to adopt new financial regulations next year, hopefully the proponents of casino capitalism will be given no more credence than those insisting that the sun revolves around the earth.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Open the Debates

Open the debates by Amy Goodman.

At the core of the problem with U.S. presidential debates is that they are run by a private corporation, the Commission on Presidential Debates, founded in 1987 by the Republican and Democratic parties. The CPD took over the debate process from the League of Women Voters. Just once since then has a third-party candidate made it into the debate—Ross Perot in 1992. After he did well, he was excluded in 1996. The CPD requires contenders to poll at 15 percent before they qualify for any debate.

Nader calls the 15 percent threshold “a Catch-22 level of support that is almost impossible for any third-party candidate to reach without first getting in the debates.”

Angry people

This is what Fox, O'Reilly, Ann Coulter, Palin, and Limbaugh have wrought.

One comment on Metafilter:

I found all those people shouting get a job to be hilarious. If you are liberal and out in the middle of the day, you are a stinking hippy. If you are conservative and out in the middle of the day you are running errands for Jesus.

The single issue anti-abortion people think that abortion will end if it is against the law. All I have to say about that is "look how well that worked for drugs". Abortions were available before they were made legal, they were just more dangerous. Same thing with drugs - available and rip offs everywhere and the users are the only ones who have to pay for breaking the law (sometimes with their lives spent in prison) - more of the "punish the monkey, let the organ grinder go."

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

A Little Humor

Raymond James | Glossary of Investment Terms

Raymond James | Glossary of Investment Terms: "Blue Sky Laws – A popular name for laws various states have enacted to protect the public against securities frauds. The term is believed to have originated when a judge ruled that a particular stock had about the same value as a patch of blue sky."

Replacing the values of right and wrong are the concepts of legal and illegal as if that’s the beginning and end of what dictates behavior. -Charles Osgood

James Clay Fuller poses this possibility

So how did this American dive turn so quickly into a crisis involving the biggest banks around the world? France, Germany, all of Europe, in fact, have had to bail out some of their biggest banks over the past couple of weeks, apparently because all of them owned some of those mostly worthless mortgage-backed securities and/or depended on big American banks for loans. Now its spreading into Asia.


It doesn't track, unless, for example, there is some sort of gigantic Ponzi scheme underlying the crisis. Did some of the undeniably crooked subprime mortgage lenders sell the same bundles of mortgages, the same securities, to more than one buyer? Are the perpetrators more criminal and are the banks even more careless and more stupid than we think?

On the other hand, it might be the End Times (In Abrahamic religions, End times are often depicted as a time of tribulation that precedes the appearance or return of the Messiah, a person who will usher in the Kingdom of God and bring an end to suffering and evil). Crackpots like Bush and Palin believe in and are praying for and indeed, helping to orchestrate the prayers of the nutters. No one is hoping for the rapture more than I am as then we will be rid of those loons. Here is a little of what McCain buddy Hagee has to say:

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

American RadioWorks - What Killed Sergeant Gray

American RadioWorks - What Killed Sergeant Gray

I just listened to this and it was very interesting. Supporting soldiers and hating the war is like smiling at your bank cashier and hating the investment banker. PTSD through the eyes of the soldier.

More Realists, Less Pollyannas

Naomi Wolfe on American coup

She doesn't even mention America's Stasi, the informant brigade called Infragard (grown rich by the drug industry - ok that is my foil hat theory based on observation of launderering businesses and the righteous people who own them and too many pipes with timed fans on too many right-wing people's houses - probably not raising tomatoes in hydroponic gardens and not even bothering to hide them from the law). See you at the camps.

An excerpt from
They Thought They Were Free; The Germans, 1933-45 by Milton Mayer
describes how the Germans were influenced. A quick read for those few people that believe anything useful can be learned by history. The right wing propaganda machine has inflamed the hate for liberals to equal any feelings the good Germans had for jews. Liberals believe in the innate goodness of man. I am so relieved that I am not a liberal.

Monday, October 06, 2008

Too late for Reason now


Wall Street demonstration I think they are chanting: "You broke it, you bought it, the bailout is bullshit"

This American Life episode from this weekend explained what is going on and why it is so much more than bad mortgages. The program airs on Saturday afternoon and then again on Sunday night. The Saturday one was blacked out after the first few minutes - one hour of dead air which was really strange. I'm expecting an innocuous sounding 'bank holiday' quite soon.

And this tragedy is damn sad.

Sunday, October 05, 2008

Karl Rove the master debater

Why Obama Cannot Win

I don't know what it is, but every time I see a white guy walking towards me, I tense up. My heart starts racing, and I immediately begin to look for an escape route and a means to defend myself. I kick myself for even being in this part of town after dark. Didn't I notice the suspicious gangs of white people lurking on every street corner, drinking Starbucks and wearing their gang colours of Gap turquoise or J Crew mauve? What an idiot! Now the white person is coming closer, closer - and then - whew! He walks by without harming me, and I breathe a sigh of relief.

White people scare the crap out of me. This may be hard for you to understand - considering that I am white - but then again, my colour gives me a certain insight. For instance, I find myself pretty scary a lot of the time, so I know what I'm talking about. You can take my word for it: if you find yourself suddenly surrounded by white people, you better watch out. Anything can happen. As white people, we've been lulled into thinking it's safe to be around other white people. We've been taught since birth that it's the people of that other colour we need to fear. They're the ones who'll slit your throat!

Yet as I look back on my life, a strange but unmistakable pattern seems to emerge. Every person who has ever harmed me in my lifetime - the boss who fired me, the teacher who flunked me, the principal who punished me, the kid who hit me in the eye with a rock, the executive who didn't renew TV Nation, the guy who was stalking me for three years, the accountant who double-paid my taxes, the drunk who smashed into me, the burglar who stole my stereo, the contractor who overcharged me, the girlfriend who left me, the next girlfriend who left even sooner, the person in the office who stole cheques from my chequebook and wrote them out to himself for a total of $16,000 - every one of these individuals has been a white person. Coincidence? I think not.

I have never been attacked by a black person, never been evicted by a black person, never had my security deposit ripped off by a black landlord, never had a black landlord, never had a meeting at a Hollywood studio with a black executive in charge, never had a black person deny my child the college of her choice, never been puked on by a black teenager at a Mötley Crüe concert, never been pulled over by a black cop, never been sold a lemon by a black car salesman, never seen a black car salesman, never had a black person deny me a bank loan, and I've never heard a black person say, "We're going to eliminate 10,000 jobs here - have a nice day!"

I don't think that I'm the only white guy who can make these claims. Every mean word, every cruel act, every bit of pain and suffering in my life has had a Caucasian face attached to it. So, um, why is it exactly that I should be afraid of black people.

I look around at the world I live in - and, I hate to tell tales out of school, but it's not the African-Americans who have made this planet such a pitiful, scary place. Recently, a headline on the front of the Science section of the New York Times asked Who Built The H-Bomb? The article went on to discuss a dispute between the men who claim credit for making the first bomb. Frankly, I could have cared less - because I already know the only pertinent answer: "It was a white guy!" No black guy ever built or used a bomb designed to wipe out hordes of innocent people, whether in Oklahoma City, Columbine or Hiroshima. No, friends, it's always the white guy. Let's go to the tote board:

Who gave us the black plague? A white guy.

· Who invented PBC, PVC, PBB, and a host of chemicals that are killing us? White guys.

· Who has started every war America has been in? White men.

· Who invented the punchcard ballot? A white man.

· Whose idea was it to pollute the world with the internal combustion engine? Whitey, that's who.

· The Holocaust? That guy really gave white people a bad name.

· The genocide of Native Americans? White man.

· Slavery? Whitey!

· US companies laid off more than 700,000 people in 2001. Who ordered the lay-offs? White CEOs.

You name the problem, the disease, the human suffering, or the abject misery visited upon millions, and I'll bet you 10 bucks I can put a white face on it faster than you can name the members of 'NSync. And yet, when I turn on the news each night, what do I see again and again? Black men alleged to be killing, raping, mugging, stabbing, gangbanging, looting, rioting, selling drugs, pimping, ho-ing, having too many babies, fatherless, motherless, Godless, penniless. "The suspect is described as a black male... the suspect is described as a black male... THE SUSPECT IS DESCRIBED AS A BLACK MALE..." No matter what city I'm in, the news is always the same, the suspect always the same unidentified black male. I'm in Atlanta tonight, and I swear the police sketch of the black male suspect on TV looks just like the black male suspect I saw on the news last night in Denver and the night before in LA. In every sketch he's frowning, he's menacing - and he's wearing the same knit cap! Is it possible that it's the same black guy committing every crime in America?

I believe we've become so used to this image of the black man as predator that we are forever ruined by this brainwashing. In my first film, Roger & Me, a white woman on social security clubs a rabbit to death so that she can sell him as "meat" instead of as a pet. I wish I had a nickel for every time in the past 10 years that someone has come up to me and told me how "horrified" they were when they saw that "poor little cute bunny" bonked on the head. The scene, they say, made them physically sick. The Motion Picture Association of America gave Roger & Me an R [18] rating in response to that rabbit killing. Teachers write to me and say they have to edit that part out of the film, if they want to show it to their students.

But less than two minutes after the bunny lady does her deed, I included footage of a scene in which police in Flint, Michigan, shot a black man who was wearing a Superman cape and holding a plastic toy gun. Not once - not ever - has anyone said to me, "I can't believe you showed a black man being shot in your movie! How horrible! How disgusting! I couldn't sleep for weeks." After all, he was just a black man, not a cute, cuddly bunny. The ratings board saw absolutely nothing wrong with that scene. Why? Because it's normal, natural. We've become so accustomed to seeing black men killed - in the movies and on the evening news - that we now accept it as standard operating procedure. No big deal! That's what blacks do - kill and die. Ho-hum. Pass the butter.

It's odd that, despite the fact that most crimes are committed by whites, black faces are usually attached to what we think of as "crime". Ask any white person who they fear might break into their home or harm them on the street and, if they're honest, they'll admit that the person they have in mind doesn't look much like them. The imaginary criminal in their heads looks like Mookie or Hakim or Kareem, not little freckle-faced Jimmy.

No matter how many times their fellow whites make it clear that the white man is the one to fear, it simply fails to register. Every time you turn on the TV to news of another school shooting, it's always a white kid who's conducting the massacre. Every time they catch a serial killer, it's a crazy white guy. Every time a terrorist blows up a federal building, or a madman gets 400 people to drink Kool-Aid, or a Beach Boys songwriter casts a spell causing half a dozen nymphets to murder "all the piggies" in the Hollywood Hills, you know it's a member of the white race up to his old tricks.

So why don't we run like hell when we see whitey coming toward us? Why don't we ever greet the Caucasian job applicant with, "Gee, uh, I'm sorry, there aren't any positions available right now"? Why aren't we worried sick about our daughters marrying white guys? And why isn't Congress trying to ban the scary and offensive lyrics of Johnny Cash ("I shot a man in Reno/just to watch him die"), the Dixie Chicks ("Earl had to die"), or Bruce Springsteen ("I killed everything in my path/I can't say that I'm sorry for the things that we done").

Why the focus on rap lyrics? Why doesn't the media print lyrics such as the following, and tell the truth? "I sold bottles of sorrow, then chose poems and novels" (Wu-Tang Clan); "People use yo' brain to gain" (Ice Cube); "A poor single mother on welfare... tell me how ya did it" (Tupac Shakur); "I'm trying to change my life, see I don't wanna die a sinner" (Master P).

African-Americans have been on the lowest rung of the economic ladder since the day they were dragged here in chains. Every other immigrant group has been able to advance from the bottom to the higher levels of our society. Even Native Americans, who are among the poorest of the poor, have fewer children living in poverty than African-Americans.

You probably thought things had got better for blacks in this country. After all, considering the advances we've made eliminating racism in our society, one would think our black citizens might have seen their standard of living rise. A survey published in the Washington Post in July 2001 showed that 40%-60% of white people thought the average black person had it as good or better than the average white person.

Think again. According to a study conducted by the economists Richard Vedder, Lowell Gallaway and David C Clingaman, the average income for a black American is 61% less per year than the average white income. That is the same percentage difference as it was in 1880. Not a damned thing has changed in more than 120 years.

Want more proof? Consider the following: · Black heart attack patients are far less likely than whites to undergo cardiac catheterisation, regardless of the race of their doctors. · Whites are five times more likely than blacks to receive emergency clot -busting treatment after suffering a stroke. · Black women are four times more likely than white women to die while giving birth. · Black levels of unemployment have been roughly twice those of whites since 1954.

So how have we white people been able to get away with this? Caucasian ingenuity! You see, we used to be real dumb. Like idiots, we wore our racism on our sleeve. We did really obvious things, like putting up signs on rest-room doors that said WHITES ONLY. We made black people sit at the back of the bus. We prevented them from attending our schools or living in our neighbourhoods. They got the crappiest jobs (those advertised for NEGROES ONLY), and we made it clear that, if you weren't white, you were going to be paid a lower wage.

Well, this overt, over-the-top segregation got us into a heap of trouble. A bunch of uppity lawyers went to court. They pointed out that the 14th Amendment doesn't allow for anyone to be treated differently because of their race.

Eventually, after a long procession of court losses, demonstrations and riots, we got the message: if you're going to be a successful racist, better find a way to do it with a smile on your face. We even got magnanimous enough to say, "Sure, you can live here in our neighbourhood; your kids can go to our kids' school. Why the hell not? We were just leaving, anyway." We smiled, gave black America a pat on the back - and then ran like the devil to the suburbs.

At work, we whites still get the plum jobs, double the pay, and a seat in the front of the bus to happiness and success. We've rigged the system from birth, guaranteeing that black people will go to the worst schools, thus preventing them from admission to the best colleges, and paving their way to a fulfilling life making our caffe lattes, servicing our BMWs, and picking up our trash. Oh, sure, a few slip by - but they pay an extra tariff for the privilege: the black doctor driving his BMW gets pulled over continually by the cops; the black Broadway actress can't get a cab after the standing ovation; the black broker is the first to be laid off because of "seniority".

We whites really deserve some kind of genius award for this. We talk the talk of inclusion, we celebrate the birthday of Dr King, we frown upon racist jokes. We never fail to drop a mention of "my friend - he's black..." We make sure we put our lone black employee up at the front reception desk so we can say, "See - we don't discriminate. We hire black people."

Yes, we are a very crafty, cagey race - and damn if we haven't got away with it! I wonder how long we will have to live with the legacy of slavery. That's right. I brought it up. SLAVERY. You can almost hear the groans of white America whenever you bring up the fact that we still suffer from the impact of the slave system. Well, I'm sorry, but the roots of most of our social ills can be traced straight back to this sick chapter of our history. African-Americans never got a chance to have the same fair start that the r est of us got. Their families were wilfully destroyed, their language and culture and religion stripped from them. Their poverty was institutionalised so that our cotton could get picked, our wars could be fought, our convenience stores could remain open all night. The America we've come to know would never have come to pass if not for the millions of slaves who built it and created its booming economy - and for the millions of their descendants who do the same dirty work for whites today.

It's not as if we're talking ancient Rome here. My grandfather was born just three years after the Civil War. That's right, my grandfather. My great-uncle was born before the Civil War. And I'm only in my 40s. Sure, people in my family seem to marry late, but the truth remains: I'm just two generations from slave times. That, my friends, is not a "long time ago". In the vast breadth of human history, it was only yesterday. Until we realise that, and accept that we do have a responsibility to correct an immoral act that still has repercussions today, we will never remove the single greatest stain on the soul of our country.

© Michael Moore, 2002.

Originally published on March 29 2002 in The Guardian, UK.

Interesting Trivia

Before the Battle of Agincourt in 1415, the French, anticipating victory over the English, proposed to cut off the middle finger of all captured English soldiers. Without the middle finger it would be impossible to draw the renowned English longbow and therefore be incapable of fighting in the future. This famous weapon was made of the native English Yew tree, and the act of drawing the longbow was known as "plucking the yew" (or "pluck yew").

Much to the bewilderment of the French, the English won a major upset and began mocking the French by waving their middle fingers at the defeated French, saying, "See, we can still pluck yew! PLUCK YEW!" Since 'pluck yew' is rather difficult to say, the difficult consonant cluster at the beginning has gradually changed to a labiodental fricative 'F', and thus the words often used in conjunction with the one-finger-salute are mistakenly thought to have something to do with an intimate encounter. It is also because of the pheasant feathers on the arrows used with the longbow that the symbolic gesture is known as "giving the bird". And yew thought yew knew everything!

UPDATE: False according to Snopes - thanks BeyondKen. My apologies for not checking, I can't tell you how many times I have referred e-mailers to Snopes when they sent some trash and I am embarrassed about being such a dupe. I liked this one and heck, it used the impressive word "labiodental". Even more humiliating, it is from 1999 - nearly ten years old. So much for being up to date.

Jonathan Haidt on the moral roots of liberals and conservatives | Video on TED.com

Friday, October 03, 2008

An Excellent Rant

Looking on the bright side of a depression

Many of our most important social gains were actually achieved in periods of crisis.

Public education and shortening the 16-hour workday were first won during the tumultuous robber-baron years of the late 19th and early 20th century. Social security, unemployment insurance and other “New Deal” reforms were legislated right in the middle of the Great Depression. And finally, the historic GI bill was passed while the government was arguing, unsuccessfully, for “patriotic” extension of the WWII wage freeze.

From a business point of view, any profits diverted to social spending or to increased wages and benefits is a waste. As a result, all these reforms required enormously-powerful popular movements or serious threats of social upheaval such as the incredible 1946 rolling-strike wave in which 10 million participated.

Fortunately, from the very beginning there were many within the ranks of American labor who openly challenged capitalism’s primacy of private profit over public welfare.

In fact, at the beginning of the 20th century, there were actually some 323 newspapers and periodicals that took up the cause of democratic socialism and kept a steady check on the now thoroughly, historically-discredited JP Morgan, Andrew Carnegie and Rockefeller industrialists.

The Appeal to Reason, one of the most widely read socialist papers, reached a weekly circulation of 600,000 copies in 1912.

On Election Day in that same year, labor’s universally-recognized national icon, Eugene V. Debs, won 897,000 votes for President as candidate of the Socialist Party (SP)--and this was before women had the right to vote. The SP had almost 118,000 dues-paying members.
- http://www.counterpunch.org/finamore09292008.html

On the other hand, we could go the way of others in our hemisphere. We are just a fat banana republic (Banana Republic is a pejorative term for a small country that is politically unstable, dependent on limited agriculture (e.g., bananas), and ruled by a small, self-elected, wealthy and corrupt clique...a banana republic also typically has large wealth inequities, poor infrastructure, poor schools, a "backward" economy, low capital spending, a reliance on foreign capital and money printing, budget deficits, and a weakening currency.-Wikipedia). Good thing we have Blackwater to keep order but "Yes we Have No Bananas".


High school debating should be a required school activity. It teaches how to think on your feet and how to construct a persuasive argument. Sure, preparation is part of it, but the fun of watching a high school debate is seeing how they can think fast. Believe me, it is more interesting than sports.

The VP thing yesterday was not a debate. That thing (whatever it was) was a waste of time. People are complaining the Ifill is writing a book about Obama and three other young black politicians so she should not have been the moderator. That thing didn't need a moderator because the only function she performed was to interrupt the stump speeches of either side. BORING.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

I agree with Grandpa

In case you were living in a cave and never saw the movie

Anatomy of a Sucker

Yes, as through this world I've wandered I've seen lots of funny men; Some will rob you with a six-gun, And some with a fountain pen” - Woody Guthrie

Like clockwork, economic collapse occurs about the time that the people who lived through the last one die off. Day traders have replaced the Savings and Loan junk bond sellers that was just a preview of today's attraction but as Joseph Kennedy said in the late 20's, he knew it was time to get out when his shoeshine boy was giving him stock tips. As in all the other delusions, the true value of things gets inflated - perception becomes reality until the point where the illusion cannot be propped up. People are so stupid, there was even a tulip bulb bubble.

The book Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds is required reading in business classes but business students usually take the message that money can be made if one gets in early and gets out in time, rather than that humans are greedy nuts and have always been so and it is not nice to take advantage of their gullibility.

"Money for no work" is the cause of nearly all the crime in the world (call it greed if you prefer) and it is the hook used for bait in every con job. (The first known usage of the term "confidence man" or con was in 1849; it was used by the press during the trial of William Thompson. Thompson chatted with strangers until he asked if they had the confidence to lend him their watches, whereupon he would walk off with the watch. - Wikipedia). This whole mess was fraud and people want the bailout to save their 401K's and Money Markets. FAT CHANCE SUCKERS. Time to start saving and making do (like your grandma) and live in the world of reality until we can start the cycle again and time to quit listening to how we just need to remain confident in the free market.

PS: A cop who offers a pothead a joint gets in trouble for "entrapment". You can not believe how aggressive the loan companies were to get poor risks signed up. The guy who was going to buy my house had gone through a bankruptcy already and just worked part time as a jail guard at a city jail and they wanted to give him $70,000. They didn't care if he could pay, they just wanted a name on a piece of paper that they could resell to sucker investors looking for the next new thing. I think the meanest thing you can say to a victim is "you brought it on yourself" so if it helps, instead I will say, "I think it is unfair." I think it is most unfair to the people who kept their money in savings accounts and will have it devalued because everyone else wanted money for nothing.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

YouTube - The Truth about the Wall Street Bailout:

YouTube - The OBAMA GIRL and RALPH NADER Show!

Mike Whitney: Black Monday?

Mike Whitney: Black Monday?: "Indeed, the $700 billion is just part of a massive 'pump and dump' scheme engineered with the tacit approval of the US Treasury and the Federal Reserve. Once the banksters have offloaded their fraudulent securities and crappy paper on Uncle Sam, they will do whatever they need to do pad the bottom line and drive their stocks up. That means they will shovel capital into hard assets, foreign currencies, gold, interest rate swaps, carry trade swindles, and Swiss bank accounts. The notion that they will recapitalize so they can provide loans to US consumers and businesses in a slumping economy is a pipedream.

The US is headed into its worst recession in 60 years. The housing market is crashing, securitzation is kaput, and the broader economy is drifting towards the reef. The banks are not going to waste their time trying to revive a moribund US market where consumers and businesses are already tapped out. No way; it's on to greener pastures. They'll move their capital wherever they think they can maximize their profits. In fact, a sizable portion of the $700 billion will likely be invested in commodities, which means that we'll see another round of hyperbolic speculation in food and energy futures pushing food and fuel prices into the stratosphere. Ironically, the taxpayers’ largesse will be used against them, making a bad situation even worse."

Bill Maher on Daily Show

Maher and Jon Stewart talked about how religion gives comfort to people. Isaac Asimov said:

It is no defense of superstition and pseudoscience to say that it brings solace and comfort to people... If solace and comfort are how we judge the worth of something, then consider that tobacco brings solace and comfort to smokers; alcohol brings it to drinkers; drugs of all kinds bring it to addicts; the fall of cards and the run of horses bring it to gamblers; cruelty and violence bring it to sociopaths. Judge by solace and comfort only and there is no behavior we ought to interfere with.

Jon said that he understood how someone in prison might need faith but there are alternatives: "Don't believe them, don't fear them, don't ask anything of them" was Alexander Solzhenitsyn's mantra that helped him survive the Gulag.

According to the review in Village Voice the movie bombs. I think Julia Sweeney probably made the point better because she is less caustic. I don't know why I am posting on religion anyway when everyone should choose their own and then shut up about it instead of trying to convert people. My apologies.