Well, my first thought is that we're obviously just a bunch of spoiled first world whiners, complaining that Starbucks is out of stoppers for our extra-shot, double syrup, half-caff carmel mocha latte Venti whatever...as a stockholder in Howard Schultz's empire, I feel your pain, but in small town America and in the poorer sides of town, Starbucks has closed their nearest stores and the local Safeway is out of coffee-flavored coffee. Metaphorically speaking, of course, except that here in the California Crossroads of Opportunity, the downtown Starbucks runs out of coffee occasionally. Seriously, once or twice a year...go figure.
However, in today's America, we are often bitch slapped back and forth for hours, and then end up focused on something completely insane and irrelevant. I had a mentor and friend commit suicide a decade ago after deciding that what he had spent his life working for was impossible to achieve and his legacy was being poisoned by the greed and petty jealousy of his friends and family. He stopped taking his medicine for the blood pressure and other cardio-problems so he could watch what was happening around him, and told only a few people.
While not up there with Cato the Younger slicing his belly with a gladius, screwing it up, and then talking about philosophy with his friends, this was a pretty stoic way to do it. When I found out, I was not surprised; he'd done this once before but someone had talked him out of it, saying that without his example, the whole thing would be morally bankrupt. He accepted that, and then, when the enterprise was overrun by weasels and was a sinking black hole of moral bankruptcy, he did it again.
There was an interesting bit of bi-play on Twitter about this, when that exemplar of modern ethics, integrity and community spirit, Rupert Murdoch had the gall to tweet this nonsense: Maybe most Moslems peaceful, but until they recognize and destroy their growing jihadist cancer they must be held responsible. --R.Murdoch, Lake of Fire, Hell
The thing we should remember is the difference between not enough and more than enough is some indescribably small amount. I give what I can and wish it was more. Today, I'm just incensed. Cognitive dissonance got me, and here's why. I got a request for help from Jim Davis, the founder and CEO. Here's the relevant part.
Four days ago one of our sister organizations called trying to get a Veteran in New Jersey some help. And originally we turned them down providing referrals to several other organizations and letting Laura (the Vet Service Coordinator) know she was really going to have to push hard as most simply weren’t assisting for various reasons. Lawrence Bergjans, served two tours in Iraq as a SPC in the Army. He is 28 years old, and he does receive 10% benefits for hearing loss and is still pending on his claim for PTSD.
With Laura’s persistence she was pretty successful in that she raised nearly $2,000 of the $2,600 needed, and she called to ask us if we had other agencies we could refer her to call on, and we did provide her an addition 11 more in other states. Laura informed us that food pantries there were empty or had very little to offer and asked if we could assist in that area as well. We did tell her we would make the effort, but we could not promise nor could we guarantee anything.
We did make a few calls to organizations here on the west coast as well as a few churches and we were able to have one church in Nogales assist and gave $650.00. We’re hoping we can raise an additional $40-50.00 or more to help cover food items, and Laura will be making calls on Monday to social services and try to assist Lawrence at enrolling into the welfare and food stamp programs. We’re hoping we can raise an additional $40-50.00 or more to help cover food items, and Laura will be making calls on Monday to social services and try to assist Lawrence at enrolling into the welfare and food stamp programs.
I sent a bit and apologized for not having more. Jim takes no salary from this labor of love he started when his father passed away after a deathbed request to keep fighting for Vets and their rights. He
dropped a note back, and the relevant parts are these:
Thank you, and I know what you mean by tough. Damn, just barely got the utilities here at home covered and was left a whopping 28 cents in the account.
We’ve been running into empty food pantries all over the place. I lost track of all the calls we made but roughly 70% were empty, and the rest just barely had anything but were still offering it up.I honestly don’t know what is going on with the Govt. grants either, most have not been renewed yet, and I was told by a Veteran Liaison in Congresswoman Sanchez’s office that many grants were being reviewed in committee, and it looked like they were going to make them more tougher to award grants. Doesn’t surprise me, they’re not giving up any money for Veterans and what is being given up who the hell knows where it’s going but it’s not going where intended.
In case you're not aware of this aspect, Nogales is a border town, and not a particularly rich one (oxymoron) in Arizona. The state of Arizona ranks 41st in the US for per capita income. New Jersey ranks 3rd in per capita income. That kind of says it all, doesn't it? One of the richest states in the country, run by a sociopathic bloated crook who likes to act tough and use his power to bully anyone who crosses him, and to get assistance for one of their "honored veterans" who is pending the PTSD call they have get assistance from a very poor city in a relatively poor state. In 2013, the per capita income for a resident of Nogales was slightly over $13000; according to the World Bank, in 2013 the average US per capita income was over $50,000.
Cognitive dissonance. If you don't feel a bit confused by this, or angry, or disillusioned or something; if you think Murdoch has a point and Rowling is just being bitchy, well -- seek help. Or run for office as a Republican.
It's not that nothing happened; it's just that everything that happened pissed me off more. However, I saw an article today in Foreign Affairs that as Kant said of David Hume, awakened me from my doctrinal slumbers. Actually, it just pissed me off some more, but...
Here's the article posted over at Veterans Today. Topic is about weasels, varmints and government staffers. Thanks to the one and only Montag Beetlebox of Maine for illustrating my feelings with so much...feeling?
Ever listen to one of these dweebs as they talk about stuff that they have no experience with but took a seminar from someone who had no experience with it either but had talked to someone about it, so...really made me think of this one...
Behind a web of bottles, bales Tobacco, sugar, coffin nails, The gombeen like a spider sits, Surfeited; and, for all his wits, As meagre as the tally-board, On which his usuries are scored. —Joseph Campbell, The Gombeen Man This is a great day to be Irish-American. Barrack Obama is of Irish descent, which I suspect might bother a large number of his critics almost as much as his Kenyan ancestry. Joe Biden is of Irish descent, and embodies the stereotypical Irish post Tammany East Coast Irish politician. On the FOX right, pundits Bill O’Reilly and Sean Hannity show that we have an exceptional capability to kiss the ass of the establishment while on the progressive left, Chris Matthews, Chris Hayes and Alex Wagner (Half Irish, Half Burmese!) show that we can still be critical, and open to more inclusive approaches. Ireland won the Six Nations, and Brian O’Driscoll was reduced to tears as a result. O’Driscoll is the greatest Center and possibly player of his generation of Ruby players, and is retiring this year…so far.
And, then there is Paul Ryan, our national Gombeen man. Sigh. Paul Ryan is a weasel. His family was in construction and remains there; he’s wealthy on his own and has been, even though his mother thought nothing of signing up for survivor’s benefits for the family after his father died…and, she shouldn’t have. That’s the idea behind social insurance; you pay into the system and you draw benefits from it. Everybody who draws wages earns it for his family. What makes the Ryan thing obnoxious is that he now spits at the whole concept…entitlements are anathema in his world, things to be cut down and treated like leeches on the body politic.
Those F*CKING GOMBEEN MEN, SCHEISTER,CON-MEN GANGSTERS They've ruined the country , they've ruined the people and they took away the future of any young person in this country They should be in F*UCKING Jail This song tells the story of the whole F*UCKING thing , BANANA REPUBLIC—Bob Geldorf
Of course, we did pay for them – Social Security is paid for; pensions are deferred earnings. There are demographic pressures, but those seem largely based not so much on population decline as on income inequality and a progressive tax system that has rapidly become regressive.
\ Mr. Ryan was a right wing bonbon tossed to the Republican right by Mitt Romney and his handlers. Since no matter what amazing nonsense he of the perfect coif and big teeth and dancing horse tossed to the crowd, he was still considered a “Moderate Republican” – whatever the hell that is, Abby Huntsman, maybe? – and Ryan was intended to shore up his bona fides as a supply side, budget-hawk, small government slasher of the true Freddie Kruger style. He’s a Laffler curve type of guy who realizes that the true drivers of the economy and success are the rich, and those who work for a living are just drones. Venture capital man; if you blink at the cost of a bottle of wine or an elevator for your cars, you’re just not getting it.
Well, there are some serious problems with Ryan. Besides being factually wrong, he’s a hypocritical, treacherous bastard with a Eddie Munster haircut. There is a pattern to the immigrant experience, and the Irish have mirrored this quite well; in fact, the Irish are the model of this pattern at certain levels. The Kennedy’s are a good example – first generation in the Potato famine, followed by Pat Kennedy who ran a bar and was involved in the Irish political machine, then his son Joe who went to Harvard and resented being snubbed by the WASPS and then Joe Jr.,Jack, Bobby, and Ted who could charm and woe the Protestants and such but never forget what they were and where they came from. The pattern deviates when the political machines driving the local politics were Republican and the Irish just sort of joined in. Then the Irish worked harder to forget where they came from, and adopted the patterns of behavior and political judgment that betrayed the Irish reality.
No immigrant came to the United States because they just thought it was a nice day to go on board a coffin ship and take a sea voyage. They did it because they wanted to leave some level of oppression – religious, economic, ethnic or intellectual. In the case of the Irish, they left behind all three. You would expect those of us who come from those roots to respect the traditions that led to the journeys of our ancestors. You are right in slightly over 50% of the population; you are wrong in slightly less. However, the hopeful 50%--plus tend to not be so passionate; the pessimistic 50%--minus are permanently aggrieved. They have a scarcity mindset – they don’t have enough and somewhere someone is getting something that they themselves are not getting, and there isn’t going to be enough. The more optimistic approach, the Democratic approach, is that there is plenty for all if we distribute it better. I respect kindness in human beings first of all, and kindness to animals. I don’t respect the law; I have a total irreverence for anything connected with society except that which makes the roads safer, the beer stronger, the food cheaper and the old men and old women warmer in the winter and happier in the summer – Brendan Behan I have no inking nor do I really care whether the Ryan family made its way here in Black 1847 or in the crackdown on the Irish Republican Brotherhood and Sein Fein or following the defeat of Father Murphy and the Pikes in 1798. The fact is that Ryan espouses a philosophy long discredited by its practice particularly between 1846 and 1852 or so, when the potato blight destroyed the Irish sustenance while the country exported millions tons of food to England…Ireland was the English Industrial Revolution’s breadbasket, you see, and the absentee English landlords believed that their tenant farmers should live only on potatoes and similar poor man’s grub. Cuts of meat so old and tough and discarded as to require soaking in brine for weeks so as to be edible, some cabbage perhaps, root vegetables – hence, corned beef and cabbage and the obsequious New England boiled dinner of boiled protein, boiled potatoes, boiled cabbage, some root vegetables, boiled until as Dennis Leary describes it, “you eat it through a straw.”
Coffin Ship Memorial Croagh Patrick, Eire
Brendan Behan, the poet, playwright, author and IRA soldier who wrote Borstal Boy and The Quare Fellow often cited the story of Queen Victoria who donated five pounds to Irish famine relief and then donated five pounds to the Chelsea Dog and Cat hospital because she did not want to be seen as favoring the Irish. On the BBC on Sunday evening, “Ripper Street” portrayed a MP in his club babbling that the “Irish were blacks turned inside out…” to applause.
In much like Isiah crying out in the wilderness, the Liberator, Daniel O’Connell told the House of Commons in 1847 that “Ireland is in your hands, in your power. If you do not save her, she cannot save herself. I solemnly call upon you to recollect that I predict with the sincerest conviction that a quarter of her population will perish unless you come to her relief. O’Connell underestimated the impact because while 1 in eight died, 2 in eight emigrated. So, thank English disdain and neglect for the Irish populations in the US, Canada, South Africa, Australia and New Zealand.
Timothy Egan in his column this weekend “Paul Ryan’s Irish Amnesia” puts Ryan in an ethnic and valid historical perspective. Eagan points out that while the English lasiez-faire, Malthusian approach to genocide by the stuff, Victorian-Anglican establishment doesn’t equate to the modern US conservative attempt to dismantle the safety net and poverty programs in this country, there is a certain resemblance because they have the same roots – a misreading of Adam Smith, a misunderstanding of social dynamics and the desire on a large part of humankind to blame others for their problems while regarding those happy accidents of birth to be earned. Egan is scathing.
In advance of St. Patrick’s Day, I went time traveling, back to the 1840s and Ireland’s great famine. On one side of the Irish Sea was Victorian England, flush with the pomp and prosperity of the world’s mightiest empire. On the other side were skeletal people, dying en masse, the hollow-bellied children scrounging for nettles and blackberries. A great debate raged in London: Would it be wrong to feed the starving Irish with free food, thereby setting up a “culture of dependency”? Certainly England’s man in charge of easing the famine, Sir Charles Trevelyan, thought so. “Dependence on charity,” he declared, “is not to be made an agreeable mode of life.”
And there I ran into Paul Ryan. His great-great-grandfather had fled to America. But the Republican congressman was very much in evidence, wagging his finger at the famished. His oft-stated “culture of dependency” is a safety net that becomes a lazy-day hammock. But it was also England’s excuse for lethal negligence…The Irish historian John Kelly, who wrote a book on the great famine, was the first to pick up on these echoes of the past during the 2012 presidential campaign. “Ryan’s high-profile economic philosophy,” he wrote then, “is the very same one that hurt, not helped, his forebears during the famine — and hurt them badly.”
What was a tired and untrue trope back then is a tired and untrue trope now. What was a distortion of human nature back then is a distortion now. And what was a misread of history then is a misread now. Ryan boasts of the Gaelic half of his ancestry, on his father’s side. “I come from Irish peasants who came over during the potato famine,” he said last year during a forum on immigration. BUT with a head still stuffed with college-boy mush from Ayn Rand, he apparently never did any reading about the times that prompted his ancestors to sail away from the suffering sod. Centuries of British rule that attempted to strip the Irish of their language, their religion and their land had produced a wretched peasant class, subsisting on potatoes. When blight wiped out the potatoes, at least a million Irish died — one in eight people...
“The Almighty, indeed, sent the potato blight, but the English created the famine,” wrote the fiery essayist John Mitchel, whose words bought him a ticket to the penal colony of Tasmania…
As Ryan has started his earnest if hypocritical, ingenuous and ignorant poverty tour, a number of commentators have pointed out that his numbers and estimates are as ludicrous as his budgets and deficit projections. Ryan knows what he thinks he thinks, and damn the facts. It’s interesting because the economy has to add up somehow or another. And saying that gaps and problems and shortfalls will be made up by “American exceptionalism” or the “market dynamics” is absolutely absurd.
That basic, blind love of absurdity drove the economic theory of the Bush years, of course: Greenspan, Cheney et al looked at the ten year budget projections, observed a growing surplus and cut taxes a lot. And then started a war and then another war…of course, the further out the budget projection or any projection, the less likely it becomes in direct relation to how optimistic it is. A pessimistic projection may not come true if we decide it’s unacceptable and decide to do something about it; but if everything is beautiful, well, what’s to do about nothing, ehh?
In addition to the hypocrisy and rejection of history while claiming his Irish roots give him some legitimacy in the discussion of poverty, Ryan’s comments are also a dog whistle. Talking about entitlements is a way of talking about minorities; we all know this. Ryan somewhat illegitimate wonk reputation depends on seeming to be all about logic and numbers and reality; in fact, his routine is taken up by racist troglodytes as a way of slapping at the poor, the hungry, the undereducated. It’s their fault they…don’t live in Scarsdale?
The anger at the school lunch program that is being touted by so many on the right is absurd. In the old days, farm subsidies supported the school lunch program by providing subsidized food to schools. In poor communities, a hot breakfast and lunch may be the only full meal the child gets. By demanding that idiocies like the spiritual enrichment of knowing mom stuck a couple of pieces of bologna and some stale bread into a bag for you as opposed to the hot spaghetti and meat sauce being offered by the lunch program is mindboggling. This is not even Malthus, this is Oliver Twist and the workhouse…
“When I came back to Dublin I was courtmartialed in my absence and sentenced to death in my absence, so I said they could shoot me in my absence.” ― Brendan Behan
In appealing to the racial dog whistle, Ryan betrays his Irish heritage in another way. Now, we Irish bow to no other country in our own xenophobic and racist approach to other cultures, ethnicities and faiths. As ignorant and racist clowns go, we have produced some great examples. But, a significant portion of us, possibly most, have accepted that we’re all god’s children and she expects us to be good to each other.
Our clannishness and callousness proceeds from 800 years of English exploitation and imperialism. We should recall that the Irish and highland Scots and Welsh as well were seen as sub-human scum with the equivalent of “weighing 100 pounds and having 30 inch calves from carrying bales of marijuana.” I’m sure Ryan has done his gym time this morning and has a nice green tie and maybe socks as well. Possibly some Donegal tweed…and is very satisfied with himself.
We can do a helluva lot better. Erin Go Braugh and Up the Republic!
Earlier in the week many tribesmen fought against the government, following the arrest of the Sunni lawmaker and the dismantling of the protest tents, but when Al Qaeda returned many quickly switched sides. “We don’t want to be like Syria,” said Sheikh Omar al-Asabi, who led a group of fighting men in an area east of Falluja. For many men of Anbar over the last several years, fighting has been a constant, even as the enemy has shifted. “We fought the Americans, and we fought the Maliki army, and now we are fighting Qaeda,” said Firas Mohammed, 28, who is an engineer when he is not at war. “We will not allow any outsider to come here and impose his will on us.” -- NY Times, January 3, 2013
Falluja and Ramadi are the Iraq wars' on-going versions of Stalingrad, Hue and the Battle of Hurtgen Forest. These were brutal battles, and while individuals and units of the Marines and the Army covered themselves with glory, they did so at a tremendous cost in blood, treasure, truama and moral authority. There is nothing measured or glorious inherent in battle - but urban conflict and clearing cities of insurgents, aggrieved locals and perceived threats are inevitably brutal, costly and vicious. Anbar province was not so much an al Qaeda issue as a Sunni issue. As the times points out, a third of US casualties in the Iraq war occurred here. Suspicions of US use of tactical nukes, white phosphorous rounds as anti-personnel weapons, and other complaints justified or not indicated that this was a problem area. Then, of course, Anbar province became the home of the Sunni Awakening, the proof that Petraeus was the greatest military genius since Giap and that COIN was the greatest thing since C-rations. Yeah -- it proved that if you gave the Sunnis in Iraq a certain level of autonomy, armed them, bribed their leaders and then let them go about their business, outsiders would have very little sway. Outsiders being broadly defined as Shiites, Qaeda, and anyone else except those bearing gifts of money, weapons and stuff...
One thing we should have learned and that should be mandatory headings on briefing papers and slide shows throughout the high end of the military industrial complex anytime someone decides to do something in the Middle East and Central Asia is a quote from an anonymous British officer briefing a bunch of American officers on the disintegration of Yugoslavia and the resulting unpleasantness during the 90s --" You need to remember that they are all guilty bastards!" That can be the top heading; at the bottom, the legend should quote Egyptian diplomat Tasheen Bashir's quip on the Arab World that " When the chips are down, there is only one real place in the entire area – Egypt. All the rest – forgive me – are tribes with flags. " with a parenthetical sub-text that reads "Who Really Hate Each Other!"
Of course, what's happening in Egypt now should probably make us stop for a second and evaluate the mess more stringently -- frankly, Egypt is pretty much shattering. The less homogeneous Arab states are in absolute turmoil -- Iraq, Syria, Egypt, Lebanon, Palestine. In a March 2013 in Foreign Policy titled Tribes With Flags: How the Arab Spring Has Exposed the Myth of Arab Statehood AaronDavid Miller of the Woodrow Wilson Institute makes some very interesting arguments that should have been made and listened to ten years ago:
...it may be time to ponder another proposition: In the wake of the Arab Spring, we're witnessing the beginning of the end of another Arab illusion -- the functional and coherent Arab state.
....understand that however empathetic we may want to be, it shouldn't willfully blind us to certain realities either. And perhaps one of the most disturbing is the accelerating trend -- long present in the Arab world -- toward decentralization and weak state control. The political turbulence of the past few years has only deepened this lack of coherence. And it raises serious questions about whether even basic governance is possible...
To move beyond the challenges they now face, Arab states need three things they seem unable to produce.First, they will need leaders willing and able to think and act in truly national terms, transcending their narrow sectarian, corporatist, family, and religious affiliations. Name one leader in any Arab country that fits that description.Second, Arab states need inclusive and legitimate institutions that aren't hostage to political intrigue or playthings of the elites that compete for power. Their primary objective should be representing the nation's citizens -- not the perpetuation of their own perquisites and those of the ruling elite.And third, the Arab world needs a mechanism for negotiating differences and accommodating polarization without it spilling into the streets. As the recent riots in Egypt and the killing of Tunisian opposition leader Chokri Belaid show, the alternative to this is violence and murder.
Since March, of course, things have continued to go down hill. The Times article cites the presence of a Hezbollah Office in Anbar, which makes as much since and is about as sensitive to local realities as putting a US Marine Corps recruiting office there. Egypt has been doing its continuous remake of the Battle of Algiers, Syria is looking less like a revolution than a Capone reply from the Chicago of the 20s, and on and on and on. Miller points out that the monarchies seem to be holding their own but the other Arab nations are pretty much bordering between anarchy and...well, different anarchy. He also reminds us that the potent political states in the region are non-Arab: Israel, Turkey and Iran. It's probably worth pointing out that all three have strong, somewhat dictatorial governments; in Israel's case, the more conservative religious parties have the ascendancy; Turkey is starting to struggle with the conflict between a modernist but Islamic government in a secular state; Iran is dealing with issues related in some ways to the tension between the Persian culture and fundamentalist Shiite approaches to governance and law. ( I'm tempted to go all neo-Marxist on describing the problems the three nations face, but that's for another time. Still, the conflict between secular and religious pressures sure looks like an iteration of thesis/antithesis to me). However, compared to who's running the neighborhood, who's the boss of me sort of issues facing Eygpt, Iraq, Syria, Lebanon et al, these are sophisticated problems concerning application of law and governance. The chaotic nations of the Arab world are faced with trying to put out the fires and get the blood off the floor while burying the dead -- when everything is going to hell in a hand basket, is really sucks to run out of baskets.
So, it's reasonable to say that the prognosis is not great for the outbreak of region wide Jeffersonian Democracy. Anbar Province is a particularly nasty reminder of a totally bankrupt -- morally, philosophically and practically -- approach to working our will or the will of any outside agency in the region but it's not unique. It's just louder -- civil wars tend to be noisy. They are also best handled internally. So, before someone decides to head back in to help -- and I'm sure the words Al Qaeda in Iraq will incite all sorts of Republican orgasms of anger and demand for blood and treasure to pour all over Iraq again -- we need to look long, hard and if it seems at all like a good idea, look hard again.
And now for some post Paisley-ite tolerance...
Never a big fan of Robert Heinlein, but the idea in Starship Trooper that voting should be limited to those who served in the military may have some merit. Amazing that at 90 this old sailor has to answer the call again on something simple...the duty of the House is to legislate. So, work at it.
I find the shutdown absurd, the inability of the House to follow regular order absurd, the failure to pass a CR after 9 months of refusing conference on the budget absurd and the threatening of the good faith and credit of the United States for no reason at all absurd. And, a lot of this is treacherous absurdity. Most of soldiers I know are pretty good at negotiating, although we'd never call it that. Most of us would not think of damaging the United States for our own political benefit or financial benefit or anything else. Congresscritters, as Molly Ivins used to call them at times, are obviously more malleable than that.
There's a moment in Bolt's A Man for All Seasons that kind of sums it up. Thomas More's protege Richard Rich has just testified, falsely, as to a conversation they had had that would lead to conviction and condemnation of More for treason. More is stunned -- didn't see it coming, this betrayal--and then when he gets a chance to question the witness, he asks " I see you are wearing a chain of office that I do not recognize. Would you enlighten me as to what honor that represents?" Rich, both pompously and a bit sheepishly says something to the effect that it represents his appointment as Chancellor of Wales. More smiles, chuckles and says, " Richard, it says in the bible what does it profit a man to gain the whole world but lose his soul? But, Richard, Wales?"
You know, John Boehner was a PO2 in the Navy and went to college on the GI Bill. Sad commentary...I think he's probably feeling a lot like Rich, realizing that his office as Speaker is really like being the Chancellor of Wales...not anywhere near what it cost him...
The class warfare issue: my working theory is that wealthy individuals bought themselves a radical right party, believing — correctly — that it would cut their taxes and remove regulations, but failed to realize that eventually the craziness would take on a life of its own, and that the monster they created would turn on its creators as well as the little people. And nobody knows how it ends. --Paul Krugman
I seldom agree with Congressman Pete King (Republican, County Antrim...err, New York) about much of anything. Certainly, we both have the Irish ability to prevaricate which enables him to see a difference between the Provisional IRA and al Qaeda or Hamas that really doesn't exist. Seriously, Franz Fanon could have written about Falls Road as opposed to Algeria, and same story. So, King's advocacy for gunrunners and money launderers for Green Power while absolute condemnation of anything pro-Palestinian or prop-Arab is interesting. Since I stopped drinking 23 years ago, it's harder for me to do that. I just run out of patience with my own bullshit.
Fortunately for the Republicans, John Bohener hasn't quit drinking. So he's able to babble insanely and push a legislative and economic agenda he doesn't believe in for a bunch of clowns he probably despises surrounded by a team he doesn't trust and NOT HAVE HIS HEAD EXPLODE! Fortunate for the Republican party in the short term, but bad for the country and the Republican party in the long run. But, with Guinness and Bushmills as opposed to Chardonnay comes clarity and Pete King has long since reached the point of cognitive dissonance and his constituents are probably telling him to knock off the crap and get something done. No Republican seat in downstate is a safe seat; to be successful, you have to understand people and compromise and the art of getting things done. So Pete King has a pretty good tether to earth and reality. Louis Gomert and Michelle Bachmann, not so much. So, he finds himself in something like the position of Lot in Sodom, trying to find a few more just men in the Republican Caucus. Good luck with that:
“We can’t be going off on these false missions that Ted Cruz wants us to go on,” King continued. “The issues are too important. They’re too serious, they require real conservative solutions, not cheap headline-hunting schemes.”
If you've been reading my rantings for any period longer than, well, this you know that I am a skeptic about most things but a firm believer that the rich and hyper-rich who are paying attention have pretty consciously been engaging in class warfare for decades. Paul Krugman's and Ezra Klein's analysis is spot on in this case. The question really is how'd we get here...and I suggest listening to The Talking Head's for the ontological answer. Or, Google the Senate Chaplain's Barry Black's opening prayer yesterday. As Alex Rogers commented at Swampland, Time Magazine's Washington Blog,
For some, at least, the only thing left to do was pray. “Eternal God, our ever present help in trouble, as our nation stumbles toward a seemingly unavoidable government shutdown, keep our lawmakers from sowing to the wind, thereby risking reaping the whirlwind,” prayed the Senate chaplain Barry C. Black on the floor before the vote. “Remember that all that is necessary for unintended catastrophic consequences is for good people to do nothing.”
Well, they certainly didn't do nothing. Rather, they kept doing the same thing, and frankly, it's hard to pick out the most egregious, disingenuous piece of bullshit spewed by the Republican conference. I particularly like the idea that the President wasn't willing to negotiate. WE'RE IN THIS MESS BECAUSE THE PRESIDENT REFUSED TO ACCEPT THAT THE REPUBLICANS IN THE HOUSE AND SENATE WERE INCAPABLE OF NEGOTIATING IN GOOD FAITH. If you have the patience for it, review the legislative history of the Affordable Care Act and the various budget issues over the last couple of years. I think in Barack Obama we are looking at the second coming not of Abraham Lincoln but of Woodrow Wilson. He's a reasonable man dealing with irrational people who are less interested in doing what's right for the country than in avoiding their "Base's" anger and primary action. Absurd. Wilson's ultimate failure was due to his inability to realize that some people won't see reason; Obama's history is yet to be inscribed, but I suspect that he'll have a similar fate.
I particularly like the R's decision to strip themselves and the Executive's employees of health insurance in supposed solidarity with what the American people are going through...despite the fact that there's a huge difference between the situation of the folks affected by the insurance coverage of the Affordable Care Act and the people who work for the Executive and Congressional Branches of Government. The Affordable Care Act, aka Obamacare, doesn't really have anything to do with the members of Congress or their staff...They Already Have Employer Provided Health Care. This is grandstanding by plutocratic jerks and while nothing will come of it, the staff of the Republicans on the Hill should start sending out resumes now. Just what K-Street needs, more lobbyists.
I'm also enjoying the coverage of the stench of booze on both sides of the aisle; however, it seems like the Dems wait until the bill is actually passed and something is done. (It's also possible that the media is trying to be "fair and balanced" damning both sides. ) Well, now we know...for sure. Wouldn't you love to get a urine sample result from Michelle Bachmann? A breathylizer reading from Boehner?
Now, certainly there will be peace in our time in the Middle East[/caption] A reader of the Financial Times which I will occasionally read whenever I get a chance particularly if Martin Wolfe is writing that day, provided the world today with the perfect explanation of the Middle East.
A Short Guide to the Middle East
Iran is backing Assad.
Gulf states are against Assad!
Assad is against Muslim Brotherhood.
Muslim Brotherhood and Obama are against General Sisi.
But Gulf states are pro Sisi!
Which means they are against Muslim Brotherhood!
Iran is pro Hamas, but Hamas is backing Muslim Brotherhood!
Obama is backing Muslim Brotherhood, yet Hamas is against the US!
Gulf states are pro US.
But Turkey is with Gulf states against Assad; yet Turkey is pro Muslim Brotherhood against General Sisi.
And General Sisi is being backed by the Gulf states!
Welcome to the Middle East and have a nice day.
Mr KN Al-Sabah, of London, SW1
There, that's all perfectly clear. What could possibly be the problem...
I have wondered a great deal why I have so got it in for Putin. What is it that makes me dislike him so much as to feel moved to write a book about him? I am not one of his political opponents or rivals, just a woman living in Russia.Quite simply, I am a 45-year-old Muscovite who observed the Soviet Union at its most disgraceful in the 1970s and '80s. I really don't want to find myself back there again. -- Anna PolitskovskyaBob Kraft of the New England Patriots; buy him a couple of drinks first, say something bad about Condolezza Rice and let him go off for a bit. If you're not familiar with the story, well, Kraft was meeting Putin for some reason in Russia, showed him his championship ring from one of the Super Bowl victories, and Putin took it, tried it on, said "I could kill somebody with this..." and left wearing the ring. Kraft was kind of dumbfounded, and then the Bush administration told him that hey, things are complicated so be nice please...now Putin is claiming to not remember stealing the ring which he claims that Kraft just gave him for no particular reason but that he'll replace it. ("Hey, Dubya, I'm getting some bad press about this Patriots ring thing with Kraft. I really like it, tho...I can kill someone with it. Tell Kraft, 'Just go by the Hermitage, Bob and pick something out!' Hey ask Cheney if he wants to come bear hunting with me. He has to wear a shirt tho! Cheers!") Billionaire owners of NFL powers are not used to being treated this way. Putin seems to enjoy twisting the tail of the rich and the powerful more than more world leaders, whether oligarchs in Russia, Mafia leaders or cultural figures. So, yeah, I believe Kraft. On one level -- the billionaire being put in his place by someone who isn't all that impressed with money except as a means to power, shock and awe -- I'm kind of amused by the whole thing. But, on a totally different level, I'm wondering what that means for the future of the Russian Federation and the world. I mentioned the two authors that I'm reading through to get a feel and understanding. The first, the dead one, is Anna Politskovskaya who wrote extensively about Chechnya as well as about the myriad issues of crime, corruption, military abuse and incompetence, and the continued prominence of the Organs of State Security in the Russian Federation. I'm reading a collection of her pieces, Putin's Russia in which she makes the case that the former KGB lieutenant colonel is running Russia in much the way the KGB would have done so and why not? She summed the situation up quite well -- "Society has shown limitless apathy... As the Chekists have become entrenched in power, we have let them see our fear, and thereby have only intensified their urge to treat us like cattle. The KGB respects only the strong. The weak it devours. We of all people ought to know that." Politskovskaya was murdered in the stairwell outside her apartment in Leningrad in 2006. The crime looks a lot like a Mafia hit, by the way -- no concern about being seen or heard, weapon left at the scene, no money taken, no signs of assault. No clues. No arrests. No witnesses. Hey, no problem, right? Just like in Jooisee... Politskovskya was a pain in the ass especially in her willingness to name names. There were lots of people -- military types who might feel insulted by her reporting of the corruption, brutality and basic insanity of the Russian Army's way of treating its soldiers, politicians, anti-Chechen activists, oligarchs, gangsters and so on. Somebody decided they'd had enough, and had her whacked. From their point of view, end of story...Did Putin approve the hit? We know that Leningrad is his geographic power base as much as the FSB/KGB/NKVD /pick some initials is his spiritual power base. My guess is that somebody decided to get "get rid of that lousy broad" and asked if anyone had any objections. Putin probably shrugged if asked...what's one more? Politskovskya probably wasn't surprised when she was shot; she probably expected it at some point. She wrote in Putin's Russia
Yes, stability has come to Russia. It is a monstrous stability under which nobody seeks justice in law courts which flaunt their subservience and partisanship. Nobody in his or her right mind seeks protection from the institutions entrusted with maintaining law and order, because they are totally corrupt. Lynch law is the order of the day, both in people's minds and in their actions. An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth. The President himself has set an example by wrecking our major oil company, Yukos, after having jailed its chief executive, Mikhail Khodorkovsky.Putin considered Khodorkovsky to have slighted him personally, so he retaliated.
The second Russian journalist I've been reading is Masha Gessen. I first discovered her in her blog on the New York Times. A civil rights and LGBT rights activist in Moscow, she's been a journalist there since the early 90s after her family had emigrated to the US in 1981 when she was 14. She holds dual Russian and American citizenship, which has probably afforded her some protection in Russia, but she admits to having been intimidated and bullied at various times. Since the Russians are now turning some unwanted attention to the LGBT population, I suspect she's going to become slightly more paranoid. I first read her stuff as she was going through a tough period with the Russian journalistic establishment. As Managing editor of a major publication, she had an editorial disagreement with the owner who had been pretty much been undermined and absorbed by the Russian government and she refused to send a reporter to cover a Putin environmental activism puff-piece. She was fired on the spot, and since she figured that this was going to happen sometime after the owner had found himself absorbed into the Russian Geographic Society. Let her tell it..
Early in the summer my publisher entered into a partnership agreement with the Russian Geographical Society. This innocuous-sounding event was actually part of a creeping takeover of the sort that businesses in Russia always fear and often face. The Russian Geographic Society’s board is chaired by President Vladimir Putin, which means the nongovernmental organization can have anything it wants — like a four-story building to house its offices a stone’s throw from the Kremlin. So when earlier this year, the group’s leaders decided they wanted to take possession of Vokrug Sveta, Russia’s highest-circulation quality monthly, the magazine’s publisher obediently placed the words “Magazine of the Russian Geographic Society” on the cover. He retained nominal ownership of the magazine — and full financial responsibility for it — but it now had an obligation to print at least one RGS-related story in every issue. Our journalists would go along on RGS expeditions, which were many, exotic, and lavishly funded. I worried.
Well, no one wants to be fired; but, this had turned out better than she thought. So far...So, again, let her tell it.
And then, last week, I shouted at him. I had been fired from my job as editor of Vokrug Sveta, a venerable popular-science magazine, for refusing to send a reporter to cover Putin’s hang-glider flight with endangered Siberian cranes. The following morning I felt hung-over and slightly disoriented. My phone rang and a male voice asked me to hold. I listened to silence for two minutes and fumed. A different male voice came on: ‘‘Don’t hang up. I will connect you.’’ I blew up: ‘‘I didn’t ask to be connected with anyone! Why do I have to hold? Who are you connecting me to? Do you want to introduce yourself?’’‘‘Putin, Vladimir Vladimirovich,’’ said the president’s voice on the other end of the line.
Well, as a certified pain in the ass myself, although at lower levels of importance, I've gotten calls like that. But, never from the big boss of the whole damn country. Or, for that matter, corporation. Did get one from a college president one time, but that was actually more like a touching base kind of thing since we'd met on a meet and greet thing and had stayed sort of in touch. And, there is a tradition of that sort of hands on intimidation and seemingly benign concern in Russia going back to the Czars. Ivan the Terrible was notorious for wandering around just checking in as was Peter the Great. It was not unheard of for intellectuals and artists, generals and diplomats to find themselves whisked away to Stalin's dacha in the middle of the night for salted herring and lots of vodka and sweet Georgian wine. (Given the choice between a glass of Georgian wine or a glass of pure liquid sugar, I'd take the sugar. Bleech.) But, I have to say that Gessen entered the Certified Pain In the Ass Hall of Fame in this one. She definitely won my heart, mind and admiration...she'd gone to work for this Russian Version of National Geographic because she wanted to get away from political writing because she figured it was a lost cause and...there she was. Again.
Putin supposedly felt badly about her losing her job and wanted her to come in and discuss it. She wasn't exactly sure this was what it was, but she agreed. The Kremlin set it up and she went in for the meeting. Turned out that Putin was doing what political bosses from Chicago wards to Leningrad Commissariats to Beijing Union Halls to Capetown Townships to Roman slums in the time of the late Republic always do -- trying to broker a deal in which everyone would feel that they'd gotten their way and that they owed him. He wanted the owner, who was also at the meeting, to hire her back while she was to act in a more disciplined and favorable way. He wasn't interested in her arguments or her position; he wanted to steamroll the problem. He was simply not aware that, well, he was the problem. Again, let her tell it...
The meeting had lasted 20 minutes. What had I learned? That the person I had described in my book — shallow, self-involved, not terribly perceptive, and apparently very poorly informed — is indeed the person running Russia, to the extent that Russia is being run.Difficult as it was to believe, it seemed he had not been warned that I had written a highly critical book about him, which has been published to much publicity just about everywhere in the world except Russia. It seemed that Putin, who gets most of his information from television channels he dominates, had been unwittingly set up to offer a job to one of his most vocal critics. Sure, I had held the job before — but if I accepted it now, I would be doing it as a Kremlin appointee. Which is precisely why I had to say no.
I think it's worth noting that act of courage, by the way. In her book The Man Without a Face: The Unlikely Rise of Vladamir Putin, Gessen makes it clear that she sees Putin as a thug, crook and bully by doing a pretty good journalistic review of what's occurred during his...tenure? Rule? Dictatorship? She believes that Putin was at least complicit in the murder of Anna Politskovkaya. She may be a US citizen but she's in Moscow; accidents happen. Putin has the "technology" to make her life short, painful and very frightening. Yet she basically told him to kiss off and die. Frankly, I would like to think I'd have that much courage. I don't know if I would -- but on September 9, 2012, Masha Gessen, a diminuitive Russian-American lesbian and Jew joined Socrates, Martin Luther, Thomas Paine and the unidentified man in Tienanmen Square as a hero speaking truth directly to power and putting herself at risk for it.
Politkovskaya was not the first journalist to be murdered in Putin’s Russia; the country has consistently been ranked by the Committee to Protect Journalists as one of the world’s most dangerous places to be a reporter. Nor was it the most brutal killing in recent years. But in part because the victim was a woman, in part because the murder occurred in broad daylight, and in part because it took place on Putin’s birthday, Politkovskaya’s death signaled a turning point for many people...Still, for the rest of his life, on the day Vladimir Putin celebrates his birthday, it is his slain critic many of us will be remembering...
I also posted this at Veterans Today which was interesting when I looked at the initial comments. I recommend visiting that site and reading the comments. I responded perhaps more gently than I should but when the comments indicated that I was prostituting myself for the Jewish-Communist-Lezbo conspiracy to pollute the precious body fluids of true Christian Americans, I thought I'd take the high ground. Your comments are welcome.
I am proud, proud I say, to prostitute myself in the service of the Lezbo-Jewish-Commie-Irish-American-Sein Fein-Marching Band and Chowder Society. In fact, I think I'll have T-shirts made. See if I can get some in Staid Francais Rugby colors. (Black and Pink...mainly Pink.)
(This is a bribe. Complete Dylan Concert with the Band...)