.comment-link {margin-left:.6em;}

Unpopular Ideas

Ramblings and Digressions from out of left field, and beyond....

Location: Piedmont of Virginia, United States

All human history, and just about everything else as well, consists of a never-ending struggle against ignorance.

Monday, September 29, 2008

The Pirate Movie in Somalia

Pirates operating in the Indian Ocean from Somalia are holding a Ukrainian freighter that contains a lot of ammunition, grenade launchers, antiaircraft weapons -- and 33 Russian-built battle tanks that weigh 80,000 pounds each and that, as you can imagine, require a lot of a lot of things in order to do anything with them at all. Plus the pirates are holding the mostly Ukrainian crew of 21, one of whom, a Russian, has already died, of hypertension. They were asking for a ransom of 35 million dollars, but after several warships from the U.S. and other countries showed up and surrounded them, they scaled that down to 20 mil.

I suppose that even now people are finding it hard to get stirred up about this. Kenya is a third world country with lots of impoverished people. The 35 mil happens to be the exact amount that the Kenyans had contracted to to pay for the gear once it reached their shores and they could take possession, though they are saying that until then it is a Ukrainian affair instead. So it seems quite perverse for them to be spending that kind of money that could be used for so many better purposes. And besides, what neighbor is Kenya at war with, that it would need 33 Russian 40-ton behemoths rolling across the delicate savannas? But now it is suspected that Kenya will merely trans-ship the tanks across to the Southern Sudan where a vicious war has been going on between the Arabs and the Rainbows, with the disadvantage to the Rainbows. It seems that the Kenyans have already done that with three other military shipments so far.

It's hard to get detailed, close up reports on this drama, as it is in a badly forsaken part of the world where reporters of any sort can't find a comfortable perch from which to operate. Plus in the U.S. at least, everyone is too consumed with debates, a woman from Alaska, and events on Wall Street. But as Americans finally got in on the act by having a destroyer captained by a man with the cool name of Goodnight showing up on the scene and so casting that authoritative American eye over things, coverage has picked up though still not enough.

That U.S. Navy ship is reputed to be heavily armed and is described as being either a mile or 5 miles away and watching closely, while a similarly lethal Russian warship is en route, though it had a much longer way to go, because, as happens with Russian affairs, it started out from way up near the Arctic Circle. Also a submarine belonging to somebody is on the scene. So far, however, the Ukrainians haven't sent any of their navy. The Kenyans are reputed to be sending some of theirs, but they are taking their good time about it, being that they are right next door, and this makes one suspect that "Kenyan Navy" is just an expression. And the law-abiding among the Somalis are asking the Western nations, any at all, with all their vaunted SWAT teams, to get some good use out of one for a change, or preferably a bunch, and send them in quick, because it is reported that Islamist radicals are sending pickups up the coast from Mogadishu toward the ship, which is anchored a few miles out at sea. These birds can't do anything with the tanks, but they would love to get their hands on the smaller stuff, which wouldn't be at all good for already badly battered Somalia and other places.

We can bet that the film industry action people have the same idea about the commandos, and at this very minute they are falling all over themselves to be the first to make use of this wonderful, readymade plot, which means that eventually we will have no shortage of such flicks to pick from, just as there are many Bruce Willises, Wesley Snipes, Steven Seagalls, and others waiting and eager to play the starring roles.

These Somali pirates operate in the same way that whaling and fishing fleets hve done. A bigger mother ship finds the prey and then sends out several speedboats to make the kill. The efficiency of this is why there aren't nearly as many fish and whales left in the oceans as there should be.

I'm afraid that if I were the U.S. President, I would be paying more attention to this than anybody in the leadership has given any sign of doing. That's because I would have engineered things so that there wouldn't be the big issues that are getting all the attention, such as the Great Wall Street Bailout Stickup and Iraq. And though it is normally far from my nature, in this one case I would definitely be bloodthirsty, because I consider piracy to be one of the most serious of matters, no matter where it happens. The ocean is dangerous enough, and there's nowhere else to run out there. A ship ought to be able to plod its way across those poisoned depths without having to deal with pirates, too, and I could feel justified about getting totally personal about it, as I have enjoyed several trips across the Pacific on slow, plodding ships of the sort that these guys hunt down and take back to undoubtedly the most cursed piece of real estate on the planet, despite all the beach frontage.

So the plot I like is first to hunt down and blow up the pirate mother ship of this particular gang and as many other such vessels as can be found, and second, to enable the U.S. military to achieve the glory that has eluded them in Iraq and Afghanistan by staging an Entebbe-like rescue off the Somalia pirate coast, complete with leaving quite a few new speedboats as wreckage at the bottom of the sea and old pickups burning on the beaches.

These pirates have highjacked so many ships that it's estimated that from the ransoms they divide a hundred million a year, and in that part of Somalia, oddly and from an American point of view appropriately called "Puntland," a whole culture and industry has sprung up around the piracy, including restaurants catering to the crews of various nationalities from the detained ships.

And meanwhile these guys don't lack for the same kind of nerviness that has long been shown in the language of the "Nigerian" scams that so often have been attempted via "Murphy game" propositions popping up in emails of practically anyone. So these guys say they are not pirates at all. Instead they call themselves protecting the environment of the Somali coastline, alleging that Western nations use those waters as dumping grounds for toxic substances. So they combat this by kidnapping ships and their crews, exacting ransoms, and using the proceeds to buy big new cars and large new houses, presumably out of sight and scent of the toxic wastes.

Congress's Collective Congenital Criminality

"Women!" some men like to exclaim, to demonstrate their worldly-wise insights. "You can't do with them, and you can't do without them."

The same must be true about congressmen and senators. The ancient Romans -- who were inspirations during the founding of the U.S -- seemed to think so, judging by the regularity with which a number of emperors consigned large numbers of senators to the executioner's ax. Still, the Romans considered being a senator to be a great honor, and they loved having one or more of that ilk hanging somewhere on their family trees. And today, in our home states, we honor and respect these so-called "solons," while paying no attention to their defects that become so pronounced once they arrive in the sacred corridors of the U.S. Capitol building, because usually the blame for any misdeeds is placed on the rascals that some other misguided state sent and not on one's own.

Early in life I chanced upon several Mark Twain remarks that have stuck in my mind and have remained unfailingly accurate ever since. One, formulated back in the 19th century, went something like: "Congress is the only true American criminal class."

The exterior of the U.S. Capitol building is more familiar to me than is my neighbor's house across the road. Yet, though I was born in and spent the next 45 years of my life in D.C., I was never once moved to set foot inside that place. I never heard of it having any graces that even remotely compared with all the books in the Library of Congress, or the paintings in the National Art Gallery, or the objects in the many other galleries and museums. Even the stern simplicity of the Washington Monument, with its numerous flights of stairs to climb to the top in lieu of taking the less challenging elevator, was more interesting than anything the Capitol ever had to offer. I knew that that joint teemed with ugly, officious characters, including the infamous Capitol police, and they were best left to snarl endlessly and unobserved, in their glorious, domed, marble pen.

Something happens to otherwise good people in that building. The power, the prestige, the perks, and the pay overcome them, and their heads become so inflated with the gasses of mechanisms much like hot air balloons that they soon have trouble remaining attached to the general populace. It's especially disconcerting to see how, during hearings shown on C-Span, people who appeared to be so modest and humble at home while begging for votes and money, become angry tyrants behind their inquisatorial microphones and brook no challenges to their wisdom, their all-embracing knowledge, and what they take to be their absolute authority, to the point where they're not above snapping viciously even at their colleagues.

One of the tragedies of Presidential campaigns is that, with so many worthwhile possibilities in other fields, the candidates have to be chosen from the political world. Due to the habits they cultivate in that line of work, that prior employment is actually a poor reflection on them, and so excuses must constantly be made.

Ever since the Democrats gained the majority in both Houses during the last go-round, I had been willing to overlook their frequent and odd willingness to go along so often with what the Republicans wanted. I rationalized that they had some deeper and more subtle purpose in mind, such as letting the miscreants get even farther out on the limb before sawing it off. But now that the Democrats in Congress appear to be on the verge of again buying a pig in the Bush poke by going along with the big Wall Street Bailout stickup, just as too many of them did in going along with the Iraq thing and later rued the day, it's beginning to look as if all hope finally has to be abandoned here.

Maybe it is, in fact, time for another deluge to cover the earth. I would suggest that this time a better choice of the sole survivors would be a good thing -- provided that that's possible. Noting the preferences that were made among Noah's children right at the new beginning, it was easy to see the inequities and the iniquities that would plague the world ever after, and that included the "necessity of solons."

Sunday, September 28, 2008

How to Get a Novel Written

Okay. So, as a weblogger, for several years you've paid attention to the emanations of another man in the same activity and with a lot of the same mindset, though with some decided differences in a large number of areas, especially the use of language. Yet, great as these differences are, both of you have admiration for what the other does with words.

Regularly this other weblogger has spoken, painfully, of his difficulties in settling down to writing a novel that obviously has taken a grip on his mind and won't let go.

Meanwhile you have long since discovered that, in your case at least, the difficulty with novels is not at all in the writing but instead is entirely in the selling of them. So, as long as the writing is mainly what his trouble is -- for now -- you finally can't resist dropping the following long comment onto his latest complaint on the matter:

Actually there's a way that makes it quite easy to write a novel, and a long one, too, and in just a few months, without going on a hiatus or anything else of the kind. I know, because I've done it several times.

You have only to tighten up your mind to the vow that every day, no matter what, rain or shine and regardless of any emergency, you WILL write at least three consecutive, complete sentences a day. It should take you hardly any time to write three sentences, in the mornings, during lunch, or any other time THAT day.

What you will find happening is that most times you will find yourself writing much more than three sentences. If you get on a roll you might end up with 10 pages. But in that case you don't get flabby and say that that ought to cover the next few weeks. No, the next day you do the three sentences, and again the following day, etc. It also helps if you break off each day at an interesting point where you can hardly wait to pick it up again. Hemingway recommended that. I forgot where I heard about the Three-Sentence Method. I just know it's a sure thing.

As this guy is not religious about responding to comments on his site unless you stir him up, he is obviously not stirred up, and several days pass. Then, without directing his post at anyone, in the midst of having to go through one of the direst situations possible in a person's personal life, he excitedly speaks of how, suddenly, for the last four days, he has gotten some real work done on his novel, when formerly he could write something down only once every three or four months. And he follows that just yesterday by exclaiming that in that one morning he produced no less than 1,700 words, and he is "hot."

Though you naturally have to wonder how much effect what you said about the "Three-Sentence Method" had on things, you're glad that if it did, he didn't implicate you. You know from many experiences that you don't care to recall that writing can be a surprisingly sensitive subject in so many ways. So, to avoid any appearance of wanting to take credit for anything, you refrain even from dropping onto that post a second comment that would have simply said, in the spirit of congratulations: "It's happening!"

Meanwhile if instead you want to find out "How to Make Popcorn," go here for some out-of-the-ordinary instructions of Sept 26.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

No, to Debates and Speeches

I probably didn't have a way to anyway, but I didn't catch the debate between B. Obama and J. McCain last night. I can think of few things more futile and toxic to the soul than listening to arguments, and so I avoid them like the plague, even the ones in the movies that don't concern me in any way.

In any case, in a debate like this one, you get out of it only what you bring to it. That is always shown in the news reports the next day. In their hurried attempts to announce who "won" and who "lost," their decrees, as in this one, tend to fall all over the place, depending on where they're coming from in the first place.

Maybe it's a sign of my own predisposition that from the reviews I read, I got the feeling that the debates were chiefly characterized by McCain's usual hyper-pugnacity and -- reserved especially for his dealings with the likes of B. Obama -- his extreme resentment. I don't know what it's like now, but a naval officer of McCain's day got used to seeing men of Obama's hue mainly alternating with Filippinos in serving him coffee and meals in wardrooms. That was their "proper place." So it must gall him no end not only to have to compete this late in life with someone of that persuasion but even more to do so with that "inferior" having a good chance to win, and in a contest with such tremendously high stakes as this.

For related reasons I never listen to campaign speeches either. The promises that candidates make usually don't have much to do with their behavior once they're in office. And that's logical, because the events to which they'll have to respond are mot openly waiting just ahead. In fact, sometimes there doesn't even have to be such an event.

The most egregious example of this in recent times was provided by GWBush. While he was running in 2000, to my recollection at no time did he tell the electorate that if elected he would invade Iraq. And yet that criminal act alone has shown how tragic it was for the Iraqis, the Americans, and for humanity in general that those machinations succeeded in landing him into office.

A person's own words are good for supplying his vital statistics, but to learn more about him it's best to rely on other ways.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Ms's Rice and Palin Trip Out Over Russia

Secretary of State C. Rice and candidate for VP S. Palin are not doing much for the already doubtful concept of "foreign policy experience" and, more importantly, for the distaff side of power politics.

Ms Rice has been in her post for several years and has met with "world leaders" all over the place, yet has shown no more proficiency in it and has accomplished no more than you and I have done from our obscure chairs at home. And recently, like some sort of irked, imperious schoolmarm, she capped her performance by calling Russia "irrelevant."

Russia irrelevant, the largest country in the world in area, covering one-sixth of the earth's land mass, and one of the largest in population, a group of active, energetic people with an abundance if achievements in all areas of human activity? Russia irrelevant, with all that oil, gold, and other minerals, and all those forests and waterways? Russia irrelevant, with all those nuclear subs, both attack and missile, still roaming the seas and still with enough firepower to render not only the U.S. but also all of civilization null and void? Russia irrelevant, with not one but two vigorous leaders in the prime of their lives who make the man currently occupying the Oval Office and the man that his party blundered into choosing to try to succeed him look like even more of a pair of stumblers and bumblers than they would already be? Russia, the country that not long ago at a tremendous cost to itself on a scale totally unknown to the U.S., did the lion's share of the work in beating back perhaps the biggest threat to civilization ever, the German war machine of the 1940's, irrelevant?

As it happens, Ms Palin has also run afoul of the same country, with her claim that the proximity of the extreme eastern edge of Russia to her home state has given her, as governor of ALaska, the requisite "foreign policy experience." One wants to ask how many treaties has she discussed with them? How many real life Russians has she met on one of the frigid coasts of the Bering Strait, and whether she even knows that that area is literally the hind end of Russia and so remote from its business end that they pay as little attention to events there as we might do to the tails that somewhere back in evolution we lost. The Russians don't spend much time engaging in dirges lamenting the way that they turned over to the Americans their confiscation of Alaska for little more than a song.

Actually these two ladies need to talk, because in her interview yesterday with K. Couric, Ms. Palin, in her desire to show how aware she is of situations overseas, it occurred to her to call Russia "a powerful country." So which is it? Hopefully in a few months they will have all the time in the world to sip some rum and to resolve this and other issues, from the comfort of a veranda in Wasilla, during which Ms. Rice might ask, diplomatically, "I thought somebody said we could see Russia from here."

Thursday, September 25, 2008

"Fast Eddie" McCain

Though it has never been a thing of mine, I find it the easiest thing in the world to pin nicknames on J. McCain, and I'm surprised that he hasn't affected many others in the same way, in the news reports and in commentaries. I understand this in the case of the news reporters, because they are under the gag orders of their Republican employers, but commentators in places like weblogs are supposed to have more freedom. But I have read of least one instance. His colleagues in the Navy derisively called him "Ace" McCain, because he had so many aerial mishaps with the machines he piloted -- something you never hear amid all the mentions of the "war hero."

Whenever I see a photo of him, I am jarred by the appearance of his bulging jaws, and that has led to me thinking that he should be called "Bucklejaws." If attacked by a Republican hardcase or by a righteous person saying that I shouldn't judge a person by his appearance, I thought I could at least argue that one should never trust a person with bulging jaws, because it means he has been raiding the scarce food supplies at night.

Actually I think "Bucklejaws" is a cool nickname, and I could be the only person left on the planet who has ever heard it used, which was only once, approximately 70 years ago, and then I could've heard it wrong, mistaking it for "Bubblejaws," which makes more sense. But all this time I've hung on to "Bucklejaws," because I liked the sound of it better, along with thinking that it must've had an interesting origin. The person who said it was referring to a player for, I believe, the Homestead Grays, the D.C. team in the Negro Baseball League of that era. Picturesque nicknames were common in that milieu, as they are in lots of Rainbow milieus, and when I was living primarily in that world I had several pinned on me. But until I saw the recent shots of J. McCain, the idea behind "Bucklejaws," misheard or not, had merely been the subject of one of my lifelong meditations on various mysteries, right up there with the Morton's salt box and the reason why hearing cloth tearing makes my blood run so unrelentingly cold.

But instead of the baseball player, whoever he was, now I think McCain should be linked instead with a pool shark, using the name but not the character of Fast Eddie Felson, the character played by Paul Newman in "The Hustler" and in its sequel, named appropriately for the hustle that McCain is trying to work today, "The Color of Money."

GWBush, along with the big Money Changers, B. Bernanke, head of the Federal Reserve, and H. Paulson, the Treasury Secretary, are howling hourly about the need for Congress not to read the small print -- or the large print either -- but just to pass the Wall Street Bailout Plan, period and posthaste, and forget the tiny detail that it involves spending 700 billion of their constituents' taxpayer dollars.

Meanwhile the first debate between the two Presidential candidates had been scheduled to be held tomorrow, at the University of Mississippi. But yesterday B. Obama phoned his adversary, suggesting that before the debate, the two of them should make a joint statement about the bailout plan. After a short while McCain agreed, but said that he would like to stop campaigning so as to work on the bailout plan. Obama said that was his prerogative but that first they should make the statement, and he thought they had an agreement on that.

But while Obama was headed back to his hotel to work on the statement, Fast Eddie went on TV and announced that he was suspending "the campaign" along with taking part in the debate, and instead he was going back to Washington to work on the bailout. And not long afterward, GWBush joined his Republican ally in using his White House power to put the squeeze on Obama, by calling him and McCain and summoning them to the White House, where, predictably, he will instruct them to follow his lead and to help persuade their colleagues to pass the plan, based on some very unjustified faith.

Obama probably thought he had it tough while dealing with H. Clinton, but she was a sweetheart compared to these guys!

Hopefully there are enough people in the country who realize that the Republicans are the Big Money people, and therefore the blame for the current financial mess rests on their badly soiled doorsteps, and they can't be trusted to come up with any sort of equitable solution.

And meanwhile hopefully the public also can see that the brave "war hero," J. McCain, is actually wearing a bright suit of chicken feathers here. He had been trying to lower expectations for this debate, by talking of what a good speaker B. Obama is, compared to himself. He probably didn't add what is sure to happen should J. Biden get to debate Ms Palin.

McCain and Obama had already had a kind of mini-debate earlier, and the impression was that McCain had actually done slightly better. The deal had been that Obama would be asked some questions first, with McCain absent and in a situation in which he wouldn't be able to hear the questions, because he would be asked the same ones and so would have time to be prepared. But he clearly arrived knowing the questions in advance.

I guess he and his handlers hadn't been able to find a way to similarly get around the more extended debate in William Faulkner's home town. Also, oddly, the venue wasn't right and would represent a victory in itself, of sorts, for B. Obama, because many people still remember when that town was a quite different place when Mississippi was somewhat different, during all the hatred and turmoil that dogged James Meredith's every footstep, when he became the first person of his and Obama's hue to enter that school, back in the bitterly segregated days.

So McCain grabbed his chance to postpone the debate, permanently if possible, while also trying to make it appear that he was showing more concern than Obama for the state of the American pocketbook, by eschewing politicking in favor of going to D.C. just as if he, and he alone, holds the key to straightening out the whole financial mess. And he the one who has so many houses that he couldn't remember the number of them, so that his wife is the one who handles all that sort of thing, and he certainly had never had to deal with foreclosures on them. And he also having been a member of the infamous Keating 5 and so a collaborator in the savings and loan scandal of a couple of decades ago. And also as if McCain -- and Obama, too -- aren't just two in the smaller club of 100 Senators and the larger one of about 535 Congress members, each of whom has as much say as they do in what Congress will do, so that obviously the two of them should not disappoint the people of Oxford and the country and should go ahead ahead with the debate. As many have pointed out, communications today are such that to be in one place rather than another is not the big disadvantage that it used to be not long ago.

Given the nature of his adversaries, B. Obama has a tough landing to make on this particular beach, but that's part of the nature of politics and goes back as far as the ancient Greeks and Romans, if not earlier. So it is a tremendous miracle and a salute that he has gotten this far, and he shouldn't lack for people to give him good advice on negotiating the remaining shoals, provided that not too many of them are envious of this progress that they themselves would have liked to have made in the same situation.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Palin Meets Karzai...and Then What?

In a carefully orchestrated but entirely artificial move, the McCain campaign arranged for their VP candidate, freshly grabbed out of the freezer where no one knew she was hiding, S. Palin, to say "Hi" to two so-called "world leaders," H. Karzai, of Afghanistan, and A. Uribe, of Colombia. Depending on their reactions to female pulchritude, they were unfortunate enough to be attending some U.N. sessions at the time and so found themselves roped in by the urgencies and the foolishness of the ongoing U.S. Presidential campaign.

I said "so-called" because the term "world leaders" suggests leaders of large parts of the world, when in reality the people who are usually referred to by that term are merely national leaders at best, and Karzai is not even that. His control over affairs in Afghanistan have become so constricted by the resurgence of the Taliban and other factors that he is sometimes referred to instead as "the mayor of Kabul," and he hardly dares stir from that place save for glorious trips to more salubrious climes abroad, like the U.S., where he can enjoy being referred to as someone having enough influence on many others in the world to be called a "world leader."

The idea of encounters such as these is to drop some quick "foreign policy experience" over the lady. Apparently being pointed out as being the "Commandant" of the Alaska National Guard didn't fly high enough. But I would argue that in her case a whole lot more than this still wouldn't be enough, A person who has been heard to refer to B. Obama as "Sambo" and to the Inuit of her state as "Arctic Arabs" still has a long way to go when it comes to harboring anything but ill feelings toward anyone who doesn't share her demography.

How deeply disheartening it is to see the tremendous risk in which J. McCain has placed the United States by positioning this lightweight, multi-biased person so close to being the Vice-President and even President, when even an outfit as hidebound and misguided as the Republican Party had other people, one or two of them women, who had put in hours and even years in thinking about not only foreign but also domestic policy and would not have needed these sudden crash courses to trick the American public into thinking them at least vaguely qualified.

From her photos S. Palin seems to be quite qualified to be a sex object, but that's not the idea ...or at least it wasn't till a man with no appeal of that sort at all nearly knocked himself dizzier than usual with a sudden slap on his forehead, a couple of months ago.

Meanwhile, thinking of McCain, Ms Palin also talked with another old warnorse of the Nixon years, H. Kissinger. He has maps on which he could've pointed out to her Iran, China, and Stalin's -- not Ty Cobb's -- Georgia. I figure that, going by his record in the past, ol' Henry felt especially gratified at meeting her.

As to her reactions to him, well.... That couldn't have been the first moment on the campaign trial when she must've regretted that she wasn't a Democrat instead.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Mountains of Debt

In trying to understand a situation, it's helpful to try to find out how it got started, and at no time does this apply more than when contemplating the mountains of all kinds of debt that are piling up in the U.S., more numerous than the peaks of the Rockies.

If you were born with any sense of prudence at all, or if you had any sort of good home training, near the top on the first page of your private bible is the admonition to avoid debt of any kind and to do this religiously. This policy makes life easier all around. It might mean going without various amenities that some might even think are necessities, but if one has the fortitude to ignore the expectations of others, as time goes by, the regrets over this become more and more infrequent.

Even 30 years ago some people thought that the U.S. national debt was disgraceful. If they could only see it now! Whenever this came up a friend would say something like, "I would just like someone to tell me, who in the hell do we owe all that money to?"

From his tone I got the feeling that rarely did he get an answer. No one knew, though when I finally did some research, the answer was simply "the banks." But then a solid brick wall consisting of follow-up questions with unavailable answers would rise up between that and understanding any farther. What banks? Where and how did they pile up all that money originally? If they were to get it back, what would they do with it? Is there even that much money in all the world? Do they really think they will ever get it back anyway?

The miniseries "John Adams" that recently ran on HBO was great for shedding light on how a lot of U.S. policies got started, especially one scene in which Adams and, I believe, Thomas Jefferson, the new country's foremost thinkers, are being informed by Alexander Hamilton on how the fledgling U.S. will make it financially. Hamilton says the answer is simple. In order to gain sound financial footing and so to obtain the large sums of money necessary, they had to go into debt.

Due to your good home training, you expect two characters as sage as Adams and Jefferson to at least blink if not frown, but their expressions stay deadpan, and they keep listening with high interest while Hamilton explains why that apparently drastic and on the face of it even contradictory step is necessary. One must go into debt in order to establish a credit history so that other countries will lend them money.

I doubt that the central banks, who are undoubtedly the ones who extended to the U.S. those enormous lines of credit, ever expect to get more than a fraction of those unbelievable trillions. For one thing, the U.S. has too many guns and missiles. So they settle for taking little slices at a time, though the current Wall Street Bailout Plan looks like quite a good-sized chunk, in order to continue paying for the privilege of running up still more debt.

Monday, September 22, 2008

The Wall Street Bailout -- the September Surprise?

For a long time during this Presidential campaign some progressives have speculated that, to put the Republican candidate over the top in the closing days, the Bush administration will use its control of the many tools of government to stage an "October Surprise." This Surprise was expected to consist of a military move, and several possibles were mentioned, though eventually only one mattered, and that was an air attack on Iran's nuclear establishments and on hundreds of its other utilities and facilities as well.

Now we have a big financial crisis, which started with a credit crunch in the banks and with mortgage loans going bad, and that accelerated sharply, with so many huge, financial machines suddenly bursting into flames that spread from one to another, like overloaded planes clustered tightly together on a tiny flight deck, that many suddenly saw another Great Depression looming right around the corner. And now I'm wondering if in that circumstance, GWBush and his people, especially including H. Paulson, his Treasury Secretary, who hasn't even been in that post that long, saw a golden opportunity to stage the long-feared Surprise, except moved up a few weeks.

They would use this crisis to give the strong impression that, rather than sitting back like lame ducks for sure, they would affect future American policy after all, hitting the American body in one of its most sensitive spots, second only to the racial one, and that is the area of the wallet and the purse. And as H. Paulson clearly represents those Money Changers whose actions control all big events, and who might even be one himself, the Surprise would bring happiness to the hearts of all Money Changers around the world. And they calculated that it would even have the effect of ensuring that a Republican, any Republican (J. McCain could not have been their candidate of choice -- he's not a team guy) is again in the Presidential seat.

The Surprise would work because though it would come almost totally at the expense of the Lesser Men, the Lesser Men would be relieved of the ability to have anything to say, so great would be their fear of the economy crashing, banks closing, jobs becoming non-existence, and some 21st century equivalent of selling apples on the corner becoming the norm. The plan would entail earmarking the huge sum of at least a trillion dollars that would come from the monies paid into the government primarily by the Lesser Men, and it would be given to the financial institutions in exchange for the bad debts that are bringing these companies so much embarrassment, under the shell game promise to the public that at some time in the future, suddenly these bad debts would become good debts. Meanwhile, the one person who will decide which of those bad "instruments" to buy and hold will enjoy total immunity from being sued, penalized, or in any other way having his judgment seriously questioned. In a nutshell the reckless and the greedy bankers who brought about all the worries would be let off the hook, while the non-reckless and the prudent would see their hard-earned dollars, which they would prefer to see going toward some lowering of the costs of health care and lower energy costs and improvements in the infrastructure, will now see it being passed into the Money Changers' hands in a classic case of throwing good money after bad.

And any Democrat, especially the one now running to be President, B. Obama, who would dare to say, "Wait a minute. Let's hold up. There's a lot here that needs to be looked at closely," will be accused with deadly affect of not caring about Americans having enough money to put bread on the table and feeding their children.

So, to that end, once again this morning, like a real estate agent selling a mountain top ski chalet in Florida, GW Bush is out in the news again, insisting that Congress should not bother to read the fine print but just hurry up and sign on the dotted line without changing a word and so do the non-partisan thing, which in Republican lingo means taking the Republican line and passing legislation as presented purely by Republicans. Because if you don't, Demos, his message unmistakably adds in so many unspoken but highly audible words, we will tell the electorate how you chose to try to bring on the next depression, and your man and your party will be toast for sure.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

The Wall St. Bailout - Honest Questions, Trickster Answers

The NY Times is carrying an article supposedly intended to help the American public understand the Wall St. Bailout Plan that is being rushed through Congress without the careful study that it should get. But the article has all the appearance of what I would expect of playing a part in a unified effort across the country to talk the public into accepting this plan at face value -- and get ready to be bilked to an extent that will dwarf what it has already experienced in the past eight years. Note that those in the upper brackets, the ones most able to pay the taxes that will be required, have long ago been relieved of the requirement to pay their fair share, and in fact McCain and his Pal are campaigning right now to make those cuts permanent and even to institute new cuts, always a surefire Republican vote-getter. But even now?

The article is in the form of question and answer, and it is as if one person, the honest and frank one, wrote the questions, while the dissembler and the con artist wrote the answers.

For example:

Q. How is it that the administration and Congress, which have not tried to find huge amounts of money to, say, improve the nation’s health insurance system or repair bridges and tunnels, can now be ready to come up with $700 billion to rescue the financial system?

A. The first question will surely come up again, involving as it does not just issues of spending policy but also more profound questions about national aspirations. As for rescuing the financial system, elected officials in both parties became convinced that, while a couple of venerable investment banks could fade into oblivion or be absorbed by mergers, the entire financial system could not be allowed to collapse.

Not until almost midway through the answer, with the words "elected officials," was any attempt made to come up with something that had the appearance of being forthright. But meanwhile what about health care and the bridges and tunnels? Those concerns won't vanish and no longer be of any concern. Instead they will remain upfront and urgent, yet they are still to be left twisting in the wind, becaise the greedy and reckless bankers must first and always be saved from suffering the consequences of their ways.

All this is so disheartening that I'm tempted to say that maybe it would've been best to call the bankers' bluff and to do precisely nothing. This whole crisis has too much of an air of being a concerted effort, with all the players knowing which parts they will play and playing them perfectly, so that the guilty will go unpunished and the innocent will have to pay.

What If, Evacuation

In Texas a drama is taking place that is claiming a lot of my attention. It's about evacuating places in advance of a hurricane, but it's not because I want to be prepared. I've never been in an evacuation scene, and I think the chances are nil that I ever will. Still, I find it incredibly easy to put myself in the place of those who are faced with it.

Ordinarily I try to avoid speculations like this. Too often I've heard people saying, with the utmost self-assurance, that if they had been in such-and-such a situation in which so-and-so did such-and-such a thing that didn't work out at all, they would have done something else entirely that would have solved the whole problem.

So quite often descendants of the slaves from Africa will hold slaves and even survivors of Jim Crow in contempt, saying that if they, the modern generation, had been around, they wouldn't have stood still for a moment for such treatment. Instead they would have picked up guns and kicked butt, and so forth. They can do this so blithely because they can afford not to bother with taking the time and the trouble to consider all the thousand and one factors that caused those on whom such injustices were inflicted to take other courses of action, or inaction, as the case might've been.

In the case of evacuations, I chance the "I would've done such-and-such" snare because it's a question that strikes directly at several aspects that are important to me.

Newsweek ran an article called "Riders on the Storm" by two writers that addressed this issue, but I think it announced that it was going to fall short at some point and lapse into the merely patronizing when it began with the tale of a "stay put" who survived his house breaking into two but had to watch his dog being carried away by Hurricane Ike, and then they asked the question, "Why do people stay when they're told to leave? Is it out of necessity, or ignorance, or foolhardiness?" Note that by the number of words they gave the choices, they suggested that the non-sensible reasons are twice as likely to be the case as what they regard as being the sensible ones, which involve
not acting on one's own information or calculations or instincts, but instead doing strictly what one is told.

They then went on to discuss the "legitimate" reasons and then the non-legitimate ones. The people with legitimate reasons included the elderly and feeble who are too fragile to go anywhere on their own, poor people who have no car or other means to escape, or can't risk losing days from work in case it's a false alarm, and people who have "legitimate concerns" about the security of their homes and their belongings. But wouldn't that last one include everybody anyway?

The illegitimate reasons involve denying reality and engaging in denial, thrill-seeking, depending on having survived previous storms, being part of a community culture that values being stoic and defiant, and being the independent kind that rejects being ordered by the authorities to do anything at all. But isn't that last one legitimate nevertheless?

The authors then arrived at their conclusion, which is that laws should be passed to eliminate all those foolish stay-puts, and they ended by returning to their ultimate horror story, and saying in effect, "See? Though your own misguided life as a stay-put may be spared, you will be punished worst of all by seeing your child or, even worse, your dog being carried out to sea."

But I think they left out some important aspects. One is free will. Another is the sanctity of one's home, and still another is abhorrence of the supreme self-importance that authorities love to assume in out-of-the-ordinary moments, and nowhere is that more obvious than before, during, and after evacuations.

Of course, in today's world, with travesties such as all these wars on drugs, on terror, and on countries one after the other in the Middle East, free will is scorned whenever the opportunity presents itself.

Meanwhile, when you're talking about evacuation, you're talking about not merely leaving a crucial part of one's being, his home, but instead abandoning it to its fate. And one of the worse results is that when you try to return, you might very well be barred from doing so by men with guns and the full force of the law, for some period of time, as happened in Galveston, or conceivably, as has happened in various ways in New Orleans, forever.

And as for the elderly and infirm, children, and even dogs being wards of the state and therefore out of the hands of the ordinary citizen, the state is so indifferent to the welfare of the less advantaged that it doesn't do the best job of warding, and therefore, because its decrees too frequently are put into place by people who are more interested in being obeyed than they are in being charitable and considerate, what the law orders doesn't automatically come under the heading of virtue. Nothing does when it's at the point of a gun.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Using the Bankers' Code Book 4 -- The Bogus "Rescue"

From my reading of the Money Changers code book, everything is going according to plan. In the last seven and a half years GWBush has done exactly what they put him into office to do. He has delivered the goods. In two big swoops he has transferred the cash from the pockets of Mr. and Mrs. America to the Changers' vaults, though both times in ways that didn't make the larceny so apparent to the frequently stupified sensibilities of that pair. The first was with the tax cuts and other policies that increased the gap between the haves and the have-nots, and the second was by invading and occupying Iraq, an enterprise that is currently costing the country close to a cool 4 billion a month.

Now, in the last few days, which in turn are in the closing weeks of his invading and occupation of the Oval Office, the piece de resistance of his monetary confiscations has been set into motion. Using the threat of a second Great Depression arriving within minutes if nothing is done, he has sent to Congress a plan that is currently pegged at a cost of 700 billion. The ostensible intent is to rescue all the ailing financial institutions by buying their bad debts, while saying that after obtaining these at a discount, the Government will then make a tidy profit by unloading them at a later and more stable time at a higher price.

The media reporters, as usual, are giving us information on this while never giving answers to questions that they don't seem to have any stomach -- or paycheck reasons -- for asking. That's where having the Money Changers code book and the inexplicable urge to write stuff on a totally obscure weblog come in handy.

Where is the money for this plan coming from? --From the American taxpayers, one way or the other.

Where will this money go? --Ultimately to the central bankers.

What about the profit that the Government stands to make? --But we all know that things rarely if ever work out the way that the con men advertise.

Will this plan really put the stock market and the economy on a sounder footing? --No, because if anything like a new regulation is involved, it hasn't shown itself yet.

The promoters of the plan say that a lot of details still have to be worked out, yet they insist that everything must be done without a moment's delay. Isn't that plainly contradictory, and instead indicates that actually a lot of details will indeed be overlooked, while other bad and even fascistic ones will be sneaked through unexamined ? Yes, but nobody is supposed to put those sorts of 2 times 2 calculations together, including the most glaringly obvious aspect of all. If GWBush thinks this "rescue" is a good plan, then the opposite definitely is true. The proof of this is that never in all these years that he has been allowed to operate as the supposed President has this man praised any initiative that has been beneficial for the ordinary citizen and for which History will praise him. Never. None.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Visit to the Nephrologist

Charged by my doctor with having weak kidneys, the other day, on the 10th, I braved the wilds of the Outside World (which, by the way, looks weirder every time I slide out into it) to keep my appointment with the nephrologist in Charlottesville, 45 miles away. Naturally i looked for ways not to do this, but kidneys are a serious business, and I couldn't think of a dodge that would make sense to anybody. Besides, I wasn't really that worried.

So I had a suspicious creatinine count. But if it was so crucial, why had they set the appointment so far ahead, a month? And besides, I rely on that loudest of alarm systems, pain bordering on the excruciating or at least some discomfort, to tell me that something definitely is no longer right and it's finally time to get moving. But it hadn't reported anything at all about my kidneys. It keeps up running commentaries about other physical issues almost constantly but not about that.

So I thought there was a good chance that I wouldn't be told I only had x number of weeks or months left, or that at least I wouldn't be making the sudden acquaintance of dialysis machines. I thought that also they would draw more of my blood, but happily none of that happened. They just looked at all the meds I take, took all the normal measurements, and checked a urine sample, which the doctor judged to be okay. After taking an extra thorough reading of my blood pressure, he came up with the surprising news that instead of being high, it was too low.

The upshot of things is that the doctor took me off one of my two high blood pressure meds, which was fine with me, and also on the 30th I have to return for a test that I think I have had before but right now I can't recall its name.

The doctor also told me that I have a heart murmur, and he asked if I knew it.

That was the most uncomfortable moment of that trip, because it came back to that old question of how many days, weeks, months, or years I might have left, to keep my wife company, to see how various external matters in the news and elsewhere turn out, to finish all my incomplete projects, and to start and finish other projects of great interest to me.

The number of people that have already left here, some long ago and an uncomfortable number of them younger than me, can't help but make a person keep returning to the question of how long he might have left before it's his turn, in spite of all his best efforts to avoid thinking of such things and to hold off that event as long as possible.

Isn't it strange how you can be so interested in a question, when you couldn't be more aware that you definitely do not want to know the answer.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Using the Bankers' Code Book -- 3

In answer to the worldwide Monday morning stock market blues a few days ago, the Money Changers around the world pulled several billions each out of their well-filled coffers and dumped it wherever they would put it to ease those situations. This was climaxed a day or two later when the U.S.'s big Money Changer, the Federal Reserve Bank, told the American International Group (AIG), the biggest of the insurance biggies, that should they desire to avail themselves of it, loans totaling up to 85 billion were available to help in its hour of desperate need. Yet that hasn't done much to ease the economy jitters. At least not yet.

People are calling this a Government bailout of yet another monster concern, and they're troubled, because after he sent experts to take over the two mortgage holders, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the U.S. Treasury secretary, a man named Paulson, said that was the end of it -- no more bailouts. This shows, then, that contrary to popular belief, the Fed is a government body only in the sense that wearing a pilot's hat made Mohammed Atta an airline pilot, and that in reality the Fed is extra-Governmental, over and above the elected officials, a member of the entity that Andrew Hitchcock says is really in control of things -- the network of Money Changers, the central bankers in every country big enough to serve as hosts for them.

What exactly is money anyway?

It's likely that the Changers didn't have to use much at all in the way of machinery or manpower to provide this financial relief. They didn't have to dig a bunch of gold out of their various Fort Knoxes and ship it somewhere. Instead they just punched a few computer keys and that was it. The money moved.

So, again, what exactly is money? Why is its value so capricious and arbitrary? Why are some people deemed deserving to be given millions merely for being proficient at playing a game of some kind, while many others who do something really important and crucial, such as teaching in high schools, are seen as worthy of being paid only a living wage and little more?

Money appears to be a promise and nothing more. A promise that if you sign on the dotted line, various amounts will appear in your account that others will accept as payment for goods and services, and that therefore will show your monetary worth. But if that's true, and if we all must believe in those promises, than it's no wonder that we are so much at the mercy of the Money Changers and their crews.

It wasn't so long ago that money used to be thought of as representing tangible things that you could hold in your hand and had real value, if only for use in body ornaments. We read about banks holding something called "derivatives" that are worth hundreds of trillions of dollars and that could be "called in" at any time. Just one trillion of anything is a truly enormous number. But with an ounce of gold still costing not much more than a thousand dollars, how can there be that much gold and silver in the world?

Actually it's no longer necessary to make objects out of paper and metal to represent money when you're talking about large amounts of it. That kind of thing just gets in the way. Instead the big dealers in money, the Changers with national treasuries as their handymen, can just make promises and call it money when they believe that more is needed, or they can renege on those promises and go safely back inside their well-guarded gates whenever they find it expeditious to do so.

I have never been comfortable with the whole idea of money, and the feeling must be mutual, judging by how little of it has ever seen fit to come my way. Though I can't say the same for my contemporaries, this must stem from having been born just after the Great Depression started, almost as much as from hearing so much constantly being made over it. So I can come up with notions such as that money, like religion, is only a belief that can produce results, it is true, but in the end still doesn't amount to as much as even the smallest dandelion seed puffed into the wind.

And that's another reason why I take comfort in the scenarios depicted in recent National Geographic and History shows about the world when humans suddenly vanish from it. In these, nothing is said about what remains of either money or faiths, because, unlike pets, dams, or nuclear power plants, they have no real substance. Instead all that remains that relates to them are the edifices thrown up to try to give them substance -- temples all over the place and in the Nevada desert an incredibly garish town -- all destined also to vanish inside Nature's compost piles, in relatively short order.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Elusive Paradox, Starting With "J"

Though occasionally you hear about people, mainly celebrities, converting to Judaism, you really have to be born into it to be really in it. Therefore I've never been at any risk of hearing anything from their missionaries. This gives Judaism a big leg up in my book, over most other religions that I've heard of.

I often hear from the Jehovah's Witnesses' missionaries, and there must be something in that that causes me to feel just as charitable toward their religion. Yet there are no prospects of me ever joining them either, precisely because of the missionary stuff and their severely restricted literary taste.

--While I was thinking of writing this down, I thought I had a big inconsistency to ponder there, a paradox, but somehow during the process it disappeared.

Meanwhile I could've said similar things about all the other thousands of religions that are practiced around the world. I picked those two because at the present time certain things keep bringing them to my attention more than most, and also -- and even more importantly -- their names start with the same letter.

Maybe because "G" uses so many of its functions, we don't get much use out of the letter "J." As proof, where I come from, the Nation's Capital, the streets that run east and west are designated with all the letters of the English alphabet up through "W" -- with the conspicuous absence of "J."

There must be something significant that can be made of that, since "J" was apparently the first sound that came out of the mouths of many in the old days when they looked to the skies for guidance ...and for a method of non-binding confession.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Attacking Countries Wholesale

Very few people remember, or either they don't find it significant, but I do....

There is some chilling yet highly dramatic newsreel footage of A. Hitler giving a speech to his assembled political cohorts, in the days immediately following the Nazis taking power in Germany. Apparently they had received missives from numerous countries seeking reassurance of the Nazis' peaceful intentions, and, amid the growing chuckles of his audience, he reels off the names of these countries with growing relish while those in attendance all bask in the fear that their rise has induced, so that when he reaches the name "Palestine" they can no longer control themselves, and they burst into a huge roar of sardonic laughter.

That scene eerily anticipated how the onset of the Second Phase of the Endless World War a few years later was characterized by this peculiarity: the two main countries of the fascist sphere called "the Axis," Germany and Japan, were so sure of themselves that they attacked not just one country at a time but many nations en masse. Within just a couple of years the German army invaded and occupied France, Czechoslovakia, Yugoslavia, Poland, Denmark, Greece, Norway, Belgium, and Holland. At the same time they also tried mightily but failed to get a good toothhold on Great Britain, and instead a year or two later settled for ingesting a chunk of the Soviet Union that may have been bigger than all those other countries put together. Yet I think I still haven't listed all the German conquests of that moment.

Meanwhile over on the other side of Eurasia, the Japanese had already spent several years clamping their jaws on large parts of China, like a boa constrictor trying to swallow a water buffalo. Then, totally inebriated by their successful surprise raid on Pearl Harbor, they quickly went on to take over outlying U.S. possessions like Guam, Wake Island, and several of the Aleutian Islands, while at the same time they overran the Philippines, Burma, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, and Vietnam, and other places and peoples that I may have left out there, too.

How unthinkable that would be now! For one thing the little countries today have too much in the way of men and materiel (I love that old, outdated military term), while the big countries have too few, in the way of men eager to rush off to be killed. Yet there is still one supposed national leader who doesn't think this to be true at all.

In the time since Phase 2, several U.S. Presidents have ordered attacks on more than their share of (naturally!) much smaller countries, in pursuit of the missions that they felt obliged to take because of what they perceived to be the U.S.'s preeminent position in the world, but only one at a time, because, outside of Vietnam, these expeditions didn't last long.

But GWBush took advantage of 9/11 to try what I consider to be a choice only of the Non-Attentive and the Hopelessly Reckless -- invading Afghanistan -- and he quickly followed that by also invading Iraq. And now, by sending in troops on operations inside its borders, he has essentially declared war on a third country in that region and a supposed ally, Pakistan, while at the same time he has been lining up firepower to attack a fourth, Iran, and he is busy sending military advisers a la Vietnam plus materiel to a fifth, Georgia. And let's not forget how, during one of his early State of the Union addresses, he likewise read off a list of countries, considerably shorter than that heard in the Reichstag but a list nevertheless, of countries that he considered potential targets and that he called the "Axis of Evil."

This demonstrated practice of attacking other countries wholesale strikes me as being just one more sure sign that, however much they might deny it, Bush's end of the political spectrum has taken as its models the Brownshirts, the Blackshirts, and the Japanese militarists of just a few generations ago.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Using the Banker Code Book - Pt 2

If you go to Japan, though it won't do much to get your adrenaline flowing you can see the Bunraku. This is a type of puppet theater that differs sharply from what you might see in the West, in that the puppeteers are not hidden from sight on some level above the puppets and handling strings. Instead they appear right there on the stage, one with the puppets and operating their charges with hands buried in the puppets' costumes, moving their lips and their bodies in unison. These manipulators do make a concession to the suspension of your belief or whatever you want to call it, by wearing dark and unremarkable clothing, but their heads, emphasized by haircuts that make them look as if they are fresh from the barbershop, are bright and shiny and in full view, making them easily distinguishable with obvious personalities of their own.

If the news services are doing their job -- and maybe sometimes they do , in spite of operating in otherwise strict obeisance to the dictates of their regressive owners -- I'm banking on being able to see the biggest wheeling and dealing in the human experience as if it is a Bunraku performance, with the puppeteers being the Money-Changers of the world, i.e. the Central Bankers, as exposed recently in the Hitchcock article.

Lately the Money-Changers have been in the news every day, not necessarily the main one in the U.S., the Federal Reserve, but the big operators just one level below, mostly names like Bear-Stearns, Countrywide, Lehman's, and Merrill-Lynch. These institutions have been getting into trouble. There's something called the Credit Crunch and something else called the Subprime Mortgage Morass. Anyway apparently they have a lot of loans out but the borrowers are unable to pay the interest, much less the principal, and so these noteholders are running up lots of red ink.

You would think that these bleeding cash cows (if I understand all this correctly, and there's not the slightest guarantee that I do) wouldn't attract buyers, but one outfit, the Bank of America, has been going around buying up a bunch of these ailing bovines, while letting others either get rescued by the government or sink.

So what seems to be happening with the Money-Changers now is that mostly they're just deciding who gets to sit at the Big Table and who gets carried outside to be dropped down the incinerator chute.

I'm not acquainted enough with any of these guys to be able to know what sorts they are and therefore to make any kind of reasonable-sounding guess about what this means for the future, except that these characters are so less individualistic than Bunraku puppeteers that it doesn't make any real difference anyway.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

A Storm's Responsibilities

In Galveston, Texas, and in many other places, as so often in the past, one storm, a largely wet one, has passed while another, a mostly dry one, is beginning. And just about the time that this second storm subsides, another wet one will show up, and the whole cycle will be repeated, over and over.

After having done considerable damage to the human endeavors along a large part of the U.S. Gulf Coast, though not as much as expected, Hurricane Ike is now some mildly unsettled weather up in the midwest somewhere. But meanwhile the usual furore is building up in and about the damaged areas, in more forms than the beautifully simple hurricane could ever have taken.

This time a lot of it will center around the 25 percent or so of Galvestonians who chose to stay put when they were told in no uncertain terms to get out. I feel close to this, because I'm afraid in the same situation I would be one of those stay-puts, to whom the term "stupid" is now being so freely applied.

But even I wondered about all the calls for help that the emergency services received from the stay-puts at the height of the storm, which at that point was so fierce that the authorities couldn't possibly have come to anyone's rescue. Galveston seems to be in an especially vulnerable position, because it is built on what looks to be little more than an oversized sandbar, and Ike, unable to overcome the town with a full frontal blow, because of a seawall, attacked it successfully from the less ably defended rear.

In that situation, and after having made that decision, I like to think that, figuring the storm couldn't last forever, and as long as the flood waters weren't up to my nose, I would not have thought of calling for the help that I wouldn't have seen myself as deserving.

Events are so much a matter of taking personal responsibility, though I can understand that in moments of ultimate stress, those kinds of considerations can all fly straight out of the window, and the mouth automatically pops wide open for the scream.

Still, among the things that I've heard that have embedded themselves so deeply into my mentality that they have become part of its structure are a few last lines from the journal of an English explorer named Robert Scott. In 1912 he and four others raced to be the first to set foot on the South Pole, only to find that someone else had gotten there a month earlier, and on their weary and downcast trek back, all five died in the extreme cold. But in his final moments Scott still had the presence of mind to leave for us the following summing up of his situation that deserves to ring through the ages:

I do not regret this journey. We took chances, we knew we took them, things have come out against us. Therefore we have no cause for regret.

(Meanwhile we wait to hear again from Steve Bates, in Houston. It has been two days now since his last update. But clearly he is still enclosed in his girl friend's apartment or in his own, with no power and not much running water ...unless he is outside checking out things and picking his way through the debris, maybe with camera in hand.)

Saturday, September 13, 2008

When It Rains It Pours

Some people frequently change things on their weblogs, and every once in a while I get the idea that I might change something on this one, too. But despite all the improvements that Blogger says it is constantly making, its template is still a bear that isn't easy to confront, especially when a long time has passed since I last tried to accommodate my grasp of English to the template's highly clipped and often indecipherable use of language.

And anyway, whenever I think about making the effort, I end up deciding that I still like the appearance of this weblog just fine and can't find any good reason to change it. And so, so much for that situation that is so universally agreed upon as being always a good thing -- progress -- though many might say I'm showing my age and that, however I might like to think of myself, I am actually just a stick-in-the-mud after all.

I know that that's not a desirable state, and I've tried to avoid it as much as possible, but when enough time passes, I run smack up against another difficulty, and that is the great satisfaction that I feel whenever I see that in spite of everything, something I liked hasn't changed over a long period of time. For instance, take the Morton's salt box.

That blue, white, and yellow cylinder that is to be found on store shelves today is, as far as I can tell, almost identical in every detail to the one that the Morton Co. used 70 or more years ago, when, during the stage of life that you see displayed on my sidebar, I spent large amounts of time contemplating the picture on the box, with its accompanying slogan, both of which I found to be incomparably mysterious.

The picture shows a girl hurrying in a downpour while carrying a large umbrella, and under her other arm is clamped a box of Morton's salt, not vertically but horizontally, and for some reason she has opened the spout. --She must've opened it, because that spout doesn't easily fall open by itself, but now she is heedless of the fact that all the salt is pouring out on the ground, which means there will be none left when she arrives home and her mother sees what has happened. And this image is accompanied by the words: "When it rains, it pours."

When it rains it pours. There you have it, don't you? (Especially during a drought.)

I can't tell you how much it warms my heart that all the implications of that salt box, right down to its colors, size, and shape, are still there, as deep and solid as ever, unchanged despite the massive shifts in so much else that in the meantime have turned the whole world topsy-turvy almost as badly as runaway tectonic plates might do if they could move at such speeds, Over these many years the company has still managed to avoid wasting thousands of dollars on consultants to update and "improve" the box, which long ago would've thrown their product onto the trash heap of consumer history.

This also shows what a great thing it was to have engaged in such appropriate studies at such an early age. A person who has managed that feels vindicated, and he's glad that there are at least a few areas in which the passage of time can't play its usual tricks. Meanwhile, as the old saying goes, it's also as true as ever that it's the little things that count.

Friday, September 12, 2008

In a Hurricane's Eye

This is what I was doing 54 years ago, glad to be outside again and enjoying what we saw as the weirdness of the several peaceful hours of the eye of an otherwise endlessly raging, monster typhoon that passed directly over Okinawa while I was stationed there. I've forgotten the name of the man to my right. The guy on my left was named Sobchinski. I thought it was a cool name because he pronounced the "Sob" as "Sub." Having been snared in KP shortly after boarding, both of us plus two other guys had washed pots and pans together all through the two weeks on a troopship from San Francisco to the island. (This was in 1954.)

Note in the background the big steel shutters over the windows that helped give the barracks a definite mausoleum air during the two or three days that our aircraft maintenance squadron had already been penned up in there. And after this picture was taken and the storm returned we were completely shut in for several more days, living on snack food, beer, and sodas and slowly descending into a general state of torpor and raunchiness.

But we were much luckier than the Okinawans. They still hadn't recovered from the desolation brought on their small island by the fierce fighting only nine years earlier. They lived in wooden structures with sheet metal and thatch roofs, and nine or ten of them probably died in this same storm. Still, it would've been in my normal twisted state of mind to envy them, because at least they were in a good position to see everything that was happening, whereas we didn't know jack you-know-what.

Okinawa is a tropical island, just like Cuba or the Bahamas, and the hurricanes, cyclones, typhoons, or whatever you want to call them visit there with at least as much regularity and violence.

World Preference for the Next U.S. Chief Execs

A poll taken recently by the BBC of a little over 23,000 people in 22 countries resulted in an average of 49 percent who would like to see B. Obama/J.Biden being elected to the posts, as opposed to only 12 percent for J. McCain/S. Palin, a margin so large that the Democratic ticket was the preference in not just a majority but in all of the 22 countries.

This poll is an interesting result, because the McCain camp is forever saying that their man has so much more "foreign policy experience" that it's beyond being a given. So at first glance you would think that this poll indicates that, notwithstanding all his experience with them, the experience of citizens of foreign countries with him has not been good at all. Yet, much as I would like to, I wouldn't assume that, because what after all could his foreign policy experience have consisted of, that one doesn't find millions of community-minded Americans doing every week of their lives, and with more felicity and charity?

As far as I know J. McCain has never helped to solve any crisis during one of his many junkets overseas. Instead he has taken trips to the war zones to help keep propped up the American soldiers' belief that their trip is necessary. But he spends the bulk of his treks engaging in chats with national leaders who are obliged to be polite but only that, because he is (gulp!) a U.S. Senator -- along with the other 99 of that ilk, to say nothing of the 435 members of the House, many of whom are just as likely as he is to show up while expecting the same accommodations and especially with lots of picture-taking for use in money-raising and campaigns later.

In that same spirit of being realistic, I would also concede that, as with almost all polls except those in a jury room, the people who responded were just a small sample of the populations that these responses were taken to typify. Nevertheless such polls are as close as anyone can get to national referendums, and the answers of these 23,000+ at least suggest that though they may have not met J. McCain personally, they are familiar with his pitch, which follows very closely the very sad experience that Iraq has had at GWBush's hands, and that Iran and many other countries could surely expect at J. McCain's' as well.

I know that the Repubs will immediately seize on a news item such as this and wave it triumphantly in the direction of all "red-blooded" Americans while shouting, "See? Let's show those damn foreigners that we will never let them tell us who we should elect to be our head ramrod!"

The article that I read added that in 2000, J. Kerry won out over GWBush in a similar poll, being preferred by 30 out of 35 countries. But bowing before the criminality that characterized that year's elections, a few too many sectors of the American public refused to take the world's good advice to heart, though it was based on the excellent perspective of distance, and on the fact that people in other countries take American ideals quite seriously, while quite a number of Americans themselves, like drunks going out on sprees every night, tend to leave those ideals stowed in boxes set far back on overhead closet shelves where they need not ever be noticed. And, in those two tragic years of 2000 and 2001, so began eight years of intense damage to the country and the world in so many areas that it would be wearying to try to list them all.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

This Pregnant Day

Today is a pregnant day.

It marks 43 years that my wife and I have been married. She is thinking of marking it by driving 25 miles to Lynchburg to get some Red Lobster food. (She and I have ideas that are the exact opposite of each other when it comes to making long drives and also spending more than a max of about three hours away from home sweet home.)

My only sibling, my late sister, was also born on this date, a year and two months after I arrived.

And then there was also that tremendous catastrophe that happened exactly seven years ago, partly just outside my hometown but also simultaneously in a Pennsylvania field and, most disastrously of all by far, in New York City, a town with which I am also quite familiar, though from times so far back that the World Trade Center towers were built, did their thing, and then in just a few minutes were reduced to rubble before, to my best recollection, I ever got the chance to behold them in all their massive and soaring though I can't help thinking architecturally undistinguished glory. (But then I also happen to believe that there's no call for any building to be higher than something you can't jump out of without the certainty of breaking your neck.)


Another weather drama is in full swing. A hurricane this time named -- to LeftLeaningLady's great consternation -- "Ike."

A week ago, Lady was cussing Ike and wondering why it had to be given that name. She associated it with Ike Turner, the late husband of the hugely vivid and energetic singer, Tina Turner. I was amused because that person didn't occur to me at all, and I realized it was due to the gap in our ages. I think of the name "Ike" purely in connection with General and President Eisenhower, and, after asking around, Lady confirmed that it was indeed a generational thing, with everybody over the age of about 50 associating it with the general and everybody else with Turner. I held off on commenting to her though I couldn't help lamenting that to a great majority of the American population a confirmed wife-beater is therefore more famous than one of the biggest leaders in the WW2 victory over the German Nazis, even though as President that Ike failed miserably when it came to seeing the absolute rightness of Civil Rights.

Meanwhile today our weather "Ike" is, from my removed point of view, in a classic position. It is sitting smack in the middle of that great hurricane stewpot, the Gulf of Mexico, leisurely taking advantage of that body's warm waters and a shortage of wind shear to strengthen, before it completes its final leg to hitting land, which is forecast to happen in two more days, somewhere on the Texas southeastern coast, at a spot called Freeport, which Steve Bates says is the worse possible place where his town, Houston, is concerned.

If I was Steve Bates, I would be intensely excited right now, and it is easy to tell from his posts that in fact, for him "intensely" is almost an understatement. But I'm not sure I would be excited for the same reasons. Steve's concerns are clearly focused entirely on the personal and human aspects, where his loved ones and his Texas neighbors are concerned. Those aspects would occur to me, but, because storm calamities are so totally lacking not only from my personal experience but also even from my racial memory going back many thousands of years, I would take the probabilities of disasters to be too low to merit real anxiety. That is strange, because anxiety is practically my middle name. Instead my wife, as usual, would not be worried about a thing, while I wouldn't be able to resist indulging in the sensation of being in a real life drama that would last for days and in which the unfolding of the action would far overshadow any eventual outcome.

This blase attitude is surely influenced because twice early in adult life, on Okinawa, I was in the path of strong Asian hurricanes -- typhoons -- that passed directly overhead. But both times I was clever enough to be under the protection of strong concrete buildings, of a type that Steve and family are contemplating, should their decision be that that would be less stressful than their apartment. The first time I was in a U.S. Air Force barracks and the second in an Okinawan hotel. Therefore, though it wasn't pleasant to be shut up so completely behind concrete and steel shutters for several days straight, I still had the luxury of being able to view such events mainly as entertainments.

When it comes to calamities suffered elsewhere, it's mostly a matter of tradeoffs anyway, it seems to me. I rationalize that there are plenty of places to go where, for decades at a time, hurricanes are just largely hearsay, as they are where I am at present, even though that does mean suffering my kind of spiritual deprivation. I haven't glimpsed or heard or smelled an ocean of any sort for more than 30 years, as much as I love being on beaches and watching waves roll in. And just as I am quite happy that I don't live in Africa, I'm also glad that, long before I was born, my mother and father found good reasons to get out of their hometown, too, New Orleans, while the getting was good, though I'm sure that that city's totally illogical placement in a spot several feet below sea level was at the very bottom of their list of concerns.

But people still find plenty of good reasons to live in places close to and -- preferably, right next to the seas, even though there they can expect to be subject to extreme weather almost yearly -- or to the ravages of the overall rising of the water, as is happening now because of climate change.

Even in events such as droughts or late freezes in the spring that did directly damage my interests, I still have never seen the weather as being anything other than benign and also absolutely essential, and eventually it always responds to hopes for the best, which is much more than I can ever say for purely human affairs.

So, after doing whatever it is going to do in Texas and maybe also in the ancestral lands of Louisiana, Hurricane Ike is forecast, a week or more from now, to visit us here, too. This is because, after, as a tropical depression, Ike gets as far north as Oklahoma, the prevailing west to east winds will take charge and make Ike take a sharp turn and head right this way, though only in the form of welcome remnants with little to no wind. That's why the inland parts of Virginia see much more of the Texas and Lousiana visitors than happens with the seemingly much closer storms that come up along the Atlantic coast. They always get blown back out to sea or fade to inconsequential in places like New England and Canada.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Using the Banker Code Book - Pt 1

It didn't take long for the arrival of my first shot at using the code book/map that would shed light on the finaglings of the Money Changers, i.e. the Central Bankers of the world. It had fallen into my hands just a few days ago, in the guise of an article by Andrew Hitchcock. I am interested in what should be a leading issue in these final days of the Presidential elections but instead has been buried under the onslaught of utter trivia heaped on the whole effort by the Republican choice for Vice-Prez, and that is, what's shaping up between the U.S. and the one country that still has the ability to wipe the U.S. off the map, despite the never questioned orthodoxy about that country's supposed loss of the so-called "Cold War."

When I suggested in my earlier post that Hitchcock's article could serve as a sort of secret map showing what the Money-Changers are up to, and thereby disclosing what is likely to happen with the truly Big Issues of the world, I knew that that would be contingent first on being able to identify the main characters in the act, and two, on being able to understand what they were saying and what was being said about them. Of course there is also a third proviso, and that is being able to figure out what they can do and the effects it can have on our abilities to keep the burgers and the French fries coming.

Yesterday the Reuters business section carried several articles about the Russian central bank and specifically some of that country's finance officers. They don't seem to be worried about a thing, save for eventually having to follow the officials they replaced by spending time of their own in jail on routine charges of malfeasance in office.

(In Russia, which historically has had so many different kinds of prisons to choose from, to the point that that entire vast area that essentially defines it, Siberia, has long been used as a gigantic gulag, time in prison seems to hold no more of a stigma than does the process of learning to talk. So, if J. McCain were to use his vaunted "foreign policy experience" to go over there and open negotiations by brightly saying something that elicits so much instant sympathy in the U.S., such as, "You know, I was a POW for five years," the Russians would merely give him a cold, blank stare that would clearly say, So? What else is new, fool?)

It seems that Russia is holding some of that real estate paper that has gotten U.S. finances in such a bind, and they are thinking of being a little less enthusiastic about collecting any more of it. And meanwhile they're not worried either about their stock market having fallen some because of foreign investors being hustled by Western politicians into pulling out of the Russian sector. It seems that the Russians admit to having a reserve of at least 600 billion in gold, outside of a lot more that remains to be pulled out of the ground -- more than enough to cover a piddly 10 or 20 billion dollar loss on the stock market.

And meanwhile one Russian deputy finance manager, a central banker, said that the West was too involved with the credit crunch and bank failures to think about punishing Russia for the Georgia thing.

So there you have it. A Money-Changer has said it. There will be no shooting between the U.S. and Russia any time soon, and, among other things, that means that in his recent trip to Georgia and other nearby places, D. Cheney was acting only in his capacity as being himself a servant of the Money Changers, and this time he was playing one of the roles he does best -- that of a vicious dog running up and down behind the fence while snarling and snapping and barking as loudly as possible.

And since Russia is in line to become Iran's biggest asset, especially with regard to an anti-aircraft system that can track 100 enemy planes at one time and shoot them down from 75 miles away, this is sure to make the Bushies and the Olmerts say, "Whoa! Let's take another look at this."

Well, one of the staples of TV crime dramas for a long time has been, "...Follow the money!" And though no one could be worse equipped, I am making a feeble effort to do just that. It will help, however, if the news reports always use the term "central bank," as Reuters did in this case.

Monday, September 08, 2008

Google News Goes Toxic

Google News used to seem safe for scanning right after coming online, under the assumption that it contained a representative sampling of what was appearing in the news media of many kinds all over the country. But increasingly Google News is showing that, far from having a non-specific agenda, it is following a program that is definitely hazardous to the general mental health of anyone who might be in the habit of reading it, especially those who have not yet bought all the way into regressive ways of thinking.

Google News claims to refer to thousands of news sources, which it groups under 18 or 19 headings, some of them duplicates, under each of which are three sources that have somehow been given precedence, and these choices are supposed to be made purely by machine and not by the human hand. But the day has not yet arrived when computers can or are allowed to think entirely on their own, at least when it comes to political matters. So Google's choices of what to present as news must be controlled by giving extra weight to certain names, and right now one of the heaviest of those belongs to an obviously malevolent, unthinking force named S. Palin.

(Her malevolence and thoughtlessness is most egregiously shown by her statement that the Bush invasion and occupation of Iraq was an act of God. Surely, with all the death, destruction, and suffering that that act has brought to the people of that country, you would think that a god of any sort would regard this as the worst kind of insult to His, Her, or Its largeness of heart.)

No matter what else is happening in the world, Google News will always include at least three and sometimes more topics centered on Palin, even if it's just about her taste in eyeware, with an emphasis on the most breathless articles, typified by one that Google flagged briefly yesterday morning from -- where else? -- Fox News. Mercifully I have forgotten the title but it suggested that there can't be too much heard about S. Palin.

It looks for all the world as if the U.S., with a plethora of huge and really important problems looming over it like massive boulders teetering overhead all along the walls of a narrow canyon, is under assault by what could be called the "Britney Spears Syndrome."

I may be dismayed but I shouldn't be surprised, because all along it has seemed to me that, thanks to the enormous powers of the advertising industry and to the mindset of the dominant culture, to be a modern American is to have been raised between the legs of women of a certain heavily favored age, hue, and physical configuration. But this Palin thing is ridiculous, because we're talking here about efforts calculated to appeal to voters who nevertheless are already grown. Or are they?

Right About Wright

Predictably, the wealthy people who own the U.S. media financed trips by reporters to attend yesterday's Sunday services in a particular church in an unusually far-flung small town called Wasilla. This was because a couple of weeks ago one of the members of that church suddenly became nothing less than one of the only two people in the whole U.S. with a real prospect of becoming the next Vice-President of the U.S. in less than two months.

The reporters must've been disappointed. For one thing, though almost any place in Alaska is scenic, the setting at the end of a gravel road might've still been a little too humble for their taste, especially because though the building was new, everybody was using folding chairs -- not a welcome situation for people with over-commodious behinds. But worse was to come in the form of things that the pastor said and other things that maybe they hoped he would say but didn't.

He asked the several new faces not to burden his people during the services with requests for interviews. Then he lavished praise on not just that one member of his flock but instead on all four people now running to be President and Vice-Prez, expressing gratitude for their equal readiness to be of service to the country.

And then came the topper.

He echoed another pastor in a Baptist church in North Phoenix, Arizona some time ago, by pointing out that B. Obama's much maligned former pastor, J. Wright, should not have been attacked without first reading what he had to say, which implies also mulling over it in the attempt to understand just why he said such things.

However, for the title of the article that I read, its author seized on the part of the sermon that she must've found to be the most meaningful -- a request to the congregation that they pray for the media.

A lot of us have praying for that for a long time, but to no avail.

Well, at least those guys and girls can return to the Lower 48 while being able to say to their colleagues with the same smugness that legions used on returning to the U.S. after visiting Russia following the breakup of the Soviet Union, "I just got back from Alaska." I expect that that will be the only way the trip would have been of any value to them, outside of trip expenses that they can pocket, etc.

Sunday, September 07, 2008

T. Haney, One of My Neighbors

One of my closest neighbors and good friends is Tom Haney, a longtime and relentless artist and phenomenon, whose work, however, is as different from mine as can be, and this is reflected as well as anything by the respective edifices that we chose to build and to live in. His house, which is right across from us but a distance down the road, is large and resembles a cabinet in a museum display of modern furniture, and in fact he used to build display cases and other things for the Smithsonian in D.C. He has gone to extra lengths to assemble everything in his home with precision, great artistic judgment, unbelievable industry, and especially with smoothness.

I emphasized the smoothness because my house is small, imprecisely constructed, and is characterized by the rough, unplaned lumber fresh from the local sawmills that I used to build it. Yet, after 30 years, it is still standing as sound as ever and giving us good shelter, and that's the main thing, and I even happen to think that it is also attractive and that it blends in great with the surrounding woods and...

But this post is not about my house or me but about Tom Haney and specifically about his great website that his daughter, Cynthia, recently showed the high quelity of her genes by upgrading with so much industry and artistry. I'm told that it contains 138 pages, one, I assume for each of the pieces that they chose to display. And you can reach his site by going here.

When they say that his art is centered mainly on the human female form, they're not just kidding. From the beginning Tom has zeroed in on that marvel of nature with the utmost dedication. Here is an example, one of my favorites among his work. It's called "Beads."

But as good as the illustrations on the site are, his work really demands to be seen close up. His attention to detail is really incredible, and even at times, a little frightening. Some of his pieces make me wonder how he could still have any eyesight left. And it doesn't matter if the piece in question is large or small

If you are ever in this neck of the woods, you would do well to drop in and see his stuff and hopefully even buy a piece or two. He and Cynthia will tell you how to get there. Not here -- you wouldn't be interested -- but definitely there.

He is a good example of those wonders that occasionally you read about, hidden unheralded in the woods, and are suddenly discovered and widely toasted to the amazement and admiration of all.

Quantity Discovery

Another thing I have found is that, if one is careful in his observations, over a long period of time he will notice that there is more at the bottom of a bottle of something to drink than there is at the top. It's amazing how that happens. One of life's hidden little laws, I guess.

Saturday, September 06, 2008

Not the Economy but the Money-Changers, Dummy!

Unless you're talking about activities that don't involve money, which range from rare to non-existent, everything is the doing and the fault of the Money-Changers, i.e., the big central banks like the Federal Reserve. That is the message of a long and comprehensive article that can be found in the Downside World News and is a survey of central banks throughout history. Written by Albert Hitchcock, it is titled The History of the "Money-Changers."

Being not only economics-challenged but also money-challenged, I still have not read the whole article but I have used two sessions to read large chunks of it. For a discussion of finance it is written clearly enough, but the problem is the same that you might find if you like bread well enough, yet you can't possibly down a suitcase-sized loaf in one sitting.

To put what Money-Changers are up to in a very few words, they encourage citizens to get deeper and deeper into debt, at the end of which the bankers aim to profit twice, first by collecting on the loans one way or the other, and second, by gathering up the foreclosed properties that the foreclosees are obliged to give up nevertheless, and reselling those at higher prices.

Hitchcock interweaves his Money Changer ideas into world history in some interesting ways.

As I understand it, he maintains that because nothing can be done in business and politics without money and usually large quantities of it, it is the relatively few people who control the money supply that also control all the big decisions. Those high up in Congress and other parts of the power structure understand this and go along with the bankers' desires. But below that level people are basically unaware of what is happening, and they just follow along, secure in their confidence that all the big decisions are made for them by people with reasonably good judgment and reasonable intent, when in reality the people that they elect are all being paid off by the bankers, and those officials, too, just follow along, happily or unhappily as the case may be, as long as they themselves, their families, and their close associates are all well taken care off, and never mind the common good.

One especially chilling consequence of this is the author's contention that basically all wars are launched by the Money Changers, and from the start they have already decided who will win. They do this by letting the losers have just enough money to keep their hopes up, and they give the winners enough to win, with the proviso that they guarantee the loser's debts.

Once I read that I could hardly wait to get to the section, if any, that would explain something that has long puzzled me, and that is how, after the period immediately after WW 1, when Germany was almost strangled with runaway inflation, how in a very short time in the 1930's the Nazis got hold of enough real money to build not only fabulous non-military structures like the stadium in which the famous 1936 Olympics were held, but also a war machine that later took enormous expenditures of all kinds but especially in lives and in money to defeat.

Hitchcock's answer is simple -- almost too simple. Americans paid for a large part of the Nazi buildup and the subsequent nightmare, ordinary Americans, during the Great Depression.

The Depression was caused by the money-changers cutting off the supply of money. It was commonly thought that this money had simply been lost, vanished into thin air, but in reality it still existed, as good as gold, such as the gold that the English had had to send to the U.S. during WW1 and now desperately wanted returned. Money that ordinarily would have gone into American pockets as honest wages had instead been sent overseas by the bankers, who meanwhile had been persuaded by the German Central Bank that investment in Germany was the best deal around.

An article like this makes a great benchmark for looking at historical events that are unfolding now, which are too numerous to count, especially if you check out Downside every day. Do these events, like the Afghanistan and Iraq invasions, and the new hostilities that various officials, especially in England, are trying to fan up now between the West and the Russians, fit in with what the central bankers might want, and if so, how?

This is an article whose propositions are definitely worth installing behind one's forehead, for ready reference. It's like knowing the code to a secret map, concerning which, however, we are largely restricted to reading and nothing else, because otherwise we seem to be caught in a tangle of traps that not even prayer can help us escape.

By "us" I mean you. :)