.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, March 30, 2009

Qualities of Leadership

To be a real leader, it seems that a person has to have either great respect or utter contempt for his fellowmen.

My rrouble must be that not nearly enough of either has ever been detected in me.

Meanwhile is it possible to have enough of both?

I don't see how.

"Neither a borrower nor a lender be."

That's an old adage that still largely holds. And here's another that reads much like it.

"Neither a follower nor a leader be."

But I don't know if that, too, actually is an old adage. Instead it could just be a principle that at birth dropped from the ceiling and seeped into my marrow and then into my mind, where it stayed.

Maybe that's why every day I would favor cats over dogs.

...Unless, of course, something drastic were to happen to my eyes.

Free and Clear

With my wife I bought a house, once. (I did not buy this house in Virginia in which we are living now. I built this one myself, oak board by board, hauled in by countless pickup truck excursions.) I did that relatively late in life, as I have done everything else, including arriving here -- my mother and father tried for a good 15 years before something finally clicked and I emerged ...alive -- and also, hopefully, the same might be applying to my leaving here. I was nearly 40, finally married, and my wife was herself finally expecting after a somewhat shorter but still extended period of trying.

The house we signed for was very modest, two story, built of brick, with three bedrooms, one bathroom, a basement, no attic but with a working fireplace even, and small front and back yards. It was in a nice area, one of the outlying stretches of Northeast Washington, D.C., in fact right across from the National Arboretum. And the price was right.

But this was in 1969, and six years before that I had also bought my first car, a gleaming brand new VW Bug fresh off the boat from recently Nazi Germany, for the princely sum of 1,800 dollars.

And in other respects, too, I was fortunate enough to make this first and only venture into house-buying in much better circumstances than most people can enjoy today.

For one thing I have always had a strong aversion to borrowing money, or borrowing anything else. So I put down as large a down payment as we could muster. For another I had done an unusual thing. I had studied amortization tables, and I had taken to heart, with a great deal of horror, the fact that if you took the whole 30 years to pay off a mortgage, you would end up paying several times what you would've if you had paid for the house in front in cash. I had heard that that kind of thing is what makes the economy go round, but that still seemed to me to be something to be avoided at all cost, and I figured I could do that by insisting on a loan with the option to pay 15 percent of the remaining principle in a lump sum each year.

And that was easy to do, first because we had good saving habits, and second because my mortgage lender was someone that I knew, and quite well in fact, though in former times we hadn't had much use for each other at all.

His name was Orlando Darden, and we happened to have attended the same senior high school in the same late 1940's. It was at Dunbar in the then officially and now defacto segregated public school system in D.C., and in fact we had even been the two head honchos in the same platoon in the high school cadets, an institution that was most likely a fine idea even with the neutered rifles involved, though just because of its merits it has probably been totally unknown in the American education system for a great many years now.

O. Darden was a year ahead of me, a lieutenant and as such the leader of the platoon, while I had marched at the platoon's extreme rear, impersonating the platoon sergeant.

I had been put into that exalted position after only half a year in the cadets because of my facility at passing written tests. It did not happen at all because I had demonstrated leadership skills. My total lack of those has been noticed everywhere I have gone, and indeed my idea and experience with leadership is to inform people of what I think would work best and then stand back and watch them deliver themselves straight into the jaws of perdition, because they prefer the tunes coming from there and because, just by looking at me, they're certain that I can't possibly know what I'm talking about, and besides, where I want to go would be unexciting and a big drag. My thinking is that one will most likely encounter bumptious, blinkered characters with poor taste in music, and that figures because they are born of women of their same highly deficient, violent, and virulent species, instead of arising from a much nobler and definitely less harmful to all the world family, such as butterflies, goldfinches, meerkats, and even cheetahs.

Darden had gone on to what the teachers at Dunbar had so tirelessly urged us to become, a credit to his community and to something called his "race." He had become one of the numerous Rainbow (misleadingly called "black") Firsts of that era, having set up the very first Rainbow-owned savings and loan bank in D.C., right down there on K Street, an area that, however, has since become so infamous as the center of the dens inhabited by Congressional lobbyists and other unsavory political types.

It was quite a scene when I sat down across from Darden in his luxuriant office in his brand new establishment, after such a long time during which we had followed our very different destinies, his already fully in view and a true achievement, while mine -- naturally -- was on a much slower track and was in comparison so minute and unclear that to this day apparently it has still not even identified itself, much less finished working itself out. That must be why it has needed so much time, while, though I avoid reading obituaries like the plague, one day some years ago, by exactly the same element of pure chance that characterized all my dealings with this man, I happened to notice, with sadness, that he, like a number of my other early contemporaries, had already left this world.

Actually in school, despite being in the same platoon in the illustrious Company B, Darden had struck me as being snotty and needlessly hostile, while he had probably ladled on me, though never directly saying so, the same charges with which I have been dismissed so often but especially in that world, for not being "regular" or "hip" or "with it" or whatever you need to conform -- or either he saw himself as being stuck with someone who was entirely too unforceful to be any sort of second-in-command. And now nothing much had really changed in that respect. I could see in his eyes -- maybe because of how I was dressed but definitely because of that pre-payment clause that I wanted -- his impression that I was still a hopeless weirdo, while I had no doubt that he was still something of a prick. After all, he had become a big banker.

Still we were genuinely glad to see each other, and he didn't give me any trouble then or through the next several years, when annually I would walk happily back into his gleaming emporium down on high-toned K Street with my little 15 percent of the principal, except that once he remarked with a wry smile, "You don't care at all about being a part of the American economy, do you?"

O. Darden wasn't alone in that kind of view. My brother-in-law, a stable shrewd guy if there ever was one, didn't think that paying off my house in just the little more than five years that it took was a good idea at all. He argued that going for the tax deductions on mortgage payments was much to be preferred, while my dear mother, also a quite practical person, seemed to think that the ambition to have a fully paid-for house was unthinkable, absurd, and maybe even scandalous.

But I thought that aside from (if I may be allowed to jump ahead to today) being in the company of Emily Watson, Alex Kingston, Janet McTeer, Helena Bonham-Carter, Helen Mirren, Julie Walters, Tilda Swinton, Brenda Blethyn, or any other of that incredible number of accomplished and mature British actresses and listening to them talk, and aside from living in a house that you built yourself, oak board by board, a person can't do better than live in a house that he owns free and clear. And never since has any reason to regret that decision come my way.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Verdicts About Females

The decisions are all in, and they're final!

The winners are British women for audio, Arab women for looks, redheads for hair, women of any nation for slinkiness, and American women for when you run out of matches for lighting fires.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

A Simple Loan

The social conservatives, ever eager to denigrate the descendants of the recent slaves, have jumped at the chance to blame even the current economic crashes on them. (And, in the grand scheme of things, slavery was quite recent, despite all the efforts to put it far behind, though I admit it's pretty wild to think that when I was born, there must've been at least a few people still alive who remembered hearing A. Lincoln give his little address at Gettysburg in honor of the newly fallen dead, when the Civil War still had a year or more to run, or at least they remembered seeing him there.) The Right Wingers argue that the crisis was brought on by "these people" taking out loans that they knew they couldn't really repay, at least in the time stipulated, just so that they could jump at the chance to live in a house of their very own, as unseemly as that was.

But that's been shown to hold no water.

A man, an ordinary citizen far removed from the phallic tip of downtown Manhattan, takes out a mortgage loan to buy a house. As far as he is concerned it is a loan little different from the borrowings in which he has indulged from his friends for much of his life, except that this time the amount is much larger, and for this reason there's paperwork, a lot of it, and there's interest involved, a lot of it, and also he'll have to remember to pay back a small part of what he owes every month, so that generally the house won't really be his till 30 long years later.

All that is not generally good, but he figures it's still generally bearable, and he signs all the papers and moves into his nice new house, though usually it is not really new, and it was rarely built with him in mind. But thereafter, except when time for the monthly payment rears its ugly head, he doesn't think much about it. He thinks he has merely made a simple transaction between him and a lender, in much the same way as with a 20 dollar loan from a friend. And if he tries, as with those friends he can even put a face on that lender

But then things happen with his loan, after which he can't put a face on anything at all even if he tried, but he doesn't know this -- until social conservatives blame him and people like him for bringing the whole world economy to its knees, the first time he is a month or two late in paying.

It turns out that in the attempt to make two dollars out of one, the original lender literally sells this guy's loan to somebody else -- which ought to be illegal right there -- and to someone in a foreign country even, and at that point some of the guy's safeguards start to slip. But that's not all. The person who bought the mortgage then proceeds to make a bet as to whether the borrower will pay it back or not. He makes the bet in a form of insurance called credit default swaps. But that's still not all. He can take out other credit default swaps on the same loan, a lot of them. And that's still not all. The persons with whom the bets are made can then turn around and take out insurance on their side of the wager in the form of a second tier of credit default swaps, and the whole thing goes on and on, until pretty soon, as Sen. Dirksen so memorably said, you're talking about real money, not the billions of his paltry age but in trillions nowadays, which no one could live long enough to count if it was possible to hand it to him in one-dollar bills. For all I know, even 100-dollar bills.

And when all this nonsense gets noticed and the whole house of default swaps starts to fall, people expect their noxious bets to be paid off in their entirety, and that's the hardest part of all to understand -- unless a way has been found to make high dollar notes out of a few grains of sand.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Covering Their Positions

In his article that I mentioned yesterday, George Soros did good in its opening statement, till he typed its last three words, "covered their positions."

Speaking of "covering positions" is the most Wall Streetish stock marketish kind of jargon, and you would think that in this time of monster bailouts of big banks and other high finance institutions, that world has been so discredited that G. Soros would want to use some other kind of lingo.

But it does furnish the opportunity to say that now AIG, bankers, the Detroit auto tycoons and the rest are struggling mightily to cover their something elses, which have expanded exponentially and in the last few months have hung out in such quantity and in such plain sight that these execs have had to resort to asking for and then even arrogantly demanding enormous help from the American taxpayers in the form of cold cash to allow them to make up for this failure of their trousers and their intestines, lest their excesses gush over and smother everybody.

But I have to wonder.

Despite all the outcries you read, my sense of things is that generally the spirit, in this country at least, is still business as usual, and there is no sort of hysteria at work as yet.

To switch metaphors then, I like to liken the U.S. in all its aspects, including the economy, to an oil tanker that is so oversized that it can't easily -- or maybe even at all -- change direction, slow down, or stop. In fact it can't even fully sink, because the waters under it are so shallow.

The laws of physics, and of national inertia facilitated by size, geographical variety, a common language, non-existent memory, and sports insanity, dictate that.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

The Good Ol' CDS's Reprised, re: AIG

George Soros is a man who has a LOT of money, yet he cannot be well-liked by the Haves of the U.S. and the world. He has used some of it to support progressive causes. That is not liked by the Haves, and they probably consider it to be high treachery, because he is nominally one of them.

He could well be the same George Soros who has an essay running in the Financial Times and the Alternet titled "We Need to Regulate the Instruments That Took AIG Down." And its very first sentence was a clear winner in more than one sense. It read: AIG failed because it sold large amounts of credit default swaps (CDS) without properly offsetting or covering their positions.

Though I know nothing about credit default swaps, that hasn't stopped me from approaching that subject in not one but several posts, in the attempt to get to the place where I will know something about them, though I can't be sure that I really want to know anything at all about them.

--Except that I do know this. They fail one critical economics test that I've known about and applied ever since the age of about seven. They are not something solid to the hand that I would send off Ralston boxtops to get, as I did for various valuable items at the urging of the Tom Mix shows in radio's Golden Age.

Actually I doubt that very many other people know even as little I do about credit default swaps. And I would go farther. I could add that everything the Big Money experts say when they sound so authoritative about those and the numerous other "instruments" of their world is really just more of that high-sounding bullpoop that people in high finance use either to cloak what they are doing or to hide the fact that they themselves don't truly know what all those big money shenanigans are really about.

I hoped that all the money that George Soros has and the fact that he has spent at least a little of it wisely meant that he does know just what he's talking about and that he was going to lay something out clearly here. And he surely does know, but the problem was that that opening sentence, sadly. was almost the last reasonably comprehensible statement in his essay, and he spent the rest of the time "covering his position," using the seemingly unavoidable financial verbiage that was not at all transparent to my very limited economic understanding. (I would call it "ignorance" if I didn't believe that in that inability I have whole nations of company, even others with PBK keys.)

However, I did manage to gather that he doesn't approve of credit default swaps, and he called them "toxic." But. alas, he didn't call for them to be wired to concrete blocks and dumped en masse into the East River,. which is my gut feeling and I think the most meaningful cure for the whole financial malaise. Instead he said they had one small use, which sounded so devoid of being of any real use to anyone who still finds pennies among his change when he empties his pockets on the bureau that I figured it wasn't something that I could take to the bank.

In all, I highly recommend studying that article.

Instant Fame, in a Non-Religious Way

Guy Andrew, over at his weblog Rook's Rant, is beside himself with joy. He reports that after struggling to get what he seems to regard as the paltry total of 39,000 hits, which took five years, suddenly something happened that more than doubled that number, to over 100,000 -- and in less than three days!!

After that initial upsurge of no less than around 6,500 (six thousand five hundred) hits a day, that average has dropped down to between 400 and 500, though to me that is still a simply astounding number. In contrast, over nearly the same period of years, I have not gotten anywhere near his initial 39,000. I don't even have 15,000 yet, though I'm getting close. But even that number is misleading, because a great many of those visits were the results of my returning to correct or to improve something on my posts, sometimes as often as four times. My mind and my fingers often play tricks on me, and to see what has happened it is much easier to enlarge the print on the screen where my post appears than it is on the composition form that Blogger provides.

Blogger is obviously a case of the young doing things only for the young. You see that kind of thing all the time, because the world is dominated by young people with no sense of the definite certainty, barring certain kinds of generally infrequent mishaps, at least in this country, that they will themselves one day reach a stage in which, one by one, their facilities will start slipping. So the tyranny of youth continues, unabated and unstoppable, though I would at least advocate a law that no one above the age of 60 should be allowed to take any part in the design of any labels and literature that have to do with pharmaceuticals.

But I have not yet told you what our good friend, Guy Andrew, did to achieve his current high measure of fame, even though I myself hate being held in suspense. I hide behind being 77 -- a truly excellent number that, by the way, I miss no opportunity to announce.

Some months ago he published a long list of religions in which neither Christians nor atheists believe. The most surprising and enlightening thing about that list was that there are so many recognized religions in which anybody believes. And recently that list found its way into the hands of someone who gave it special attention on the atheist section of what appears to be a huge and popular site that, however, I had never heard of, though the world is full of huge things that I've never heard of. It is called StumbleUpon, and voila! Suddenly hundreds of hits per day for him.

You don't know how glad I am for him, and I only have one question. I didn't notice a similiar upsurge in the comments he gets. I would like to see what all those people think of his thoughts and doings. The cause of that absence must be the truly crappy comment section that he has, which is strange, because he is otherwise constantly improving his site. But to post a comment there, first you have to go through a cumbersome process of registering, which so far I have not yet managed to do. I think this is because his bloggery, Movable Type, is supposed to send an email confirming your registration, but they never do. If that ever becomes possible, I intend to bring this problem to his full attention.

On the other hand, though, I shouldn't doubt that he is well aware of this shortcoming and is glad for it, because he is too busy, and also probably too intolerant and fearful of spam and other nonsense to want to devote any time and energy to answering people.

I, however, find comments entertaining. But on my considerably lower level of things I can afford to.

This demonstrates yet again that total obscurity is not all bad.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Mix-ups and Flip-flops

Alert newscasters are losing no time in pointing out that, so soon after chastising the big insurance outfit, AIG, because of the bonuses it is paying to some of the same executives whose bad judgment led to the perceived need for huge bailout gifts from the Government, B. Obama is now calling for the widespread attacks on the bonus handouts that followed his pronouncements to be dampened down. He must think it has gotten out of hand, or maybe he shares my deep, visceral distaste for commotion of any kind, though, if true, he's never going to be spared that in the job he has taken.

But on the same day Google News directed our attention to an article in an Israeli publication, Haaretz, titled "Barak's Flip-Flop."

If, just before noting that, you had seen the business about B. Obama's apparent AIG reversal, as I had, it was easy to assume, as I did, that, setting aside a slight misspelling (which Obama's first name might have already often appeared to be to anyone who has been in the military), the Haaretz article referred to the same subject, and you might quickly turn to it while wondering why that would interest the Israelis when they are usually totally consumed by their own sorely pressing issues. And as you read deeper and deeper into the article and found nothing but stuff about Israeli politics, you would start wondering when they were finally going to get to the important business, about AIG and the U.S. Prez.

Then finally it would occur to you. They weren't referring to our Chief Executive at all. Instead they were talking about their former prime minister, Ehud Barak, and whether or not, after fighting against them, he would change course and join the rightwing Netanyahu\Lieberman coalition, which is now poised to lead that country ever deeper into the Valley of the Condemned.

In defense of both the Barracks guys, we might also note how inconsistent people are when they use the word "flip-flop" in a spirit of so much scorn, while they themselves might turn around in the next moment and praise somebody they like for his or her "flexibility" in thought and action. So when is it the one and not the other?

Monday, March 23, 2009

Political Redefining

Contrary to what might have been expected, I was slow to become enthusiastic about B. Obama, in spite of his incredible achievements. That was because he was such an unknown quantity to me, and in some respects he still is. Despite having called myself keeping my eyes open all along, it was only about two years ago that I even first heard of him. In contrast, I had been following H. Clinton and her various steps for several decades, and that was one main reason why I supported her instead, up to the moment when she ceased to have any chance.

I wondered where B. Obama had been all this time, meanwhile. The answer must be Chicago, and that explains it. Chicago is to me what the West Bank and Gaza are to the Israelis, in that I have always felt cut off from it, and consequently it is cut off from me.

Still, in Chicago, B. Obama must have been where he had had not enough occasion to observe the ways of the Republicans over a long span of time. If he had, he wouldn't have shaken the fruitless tree so often during his first several weeks in office, in the admittedly admirable but still hopelessly futile exercise of trying to bring a number of Repubs into his administration and also trying to get them to work with him in Congress.

I wonder if the Republicans realize how hyprocritical they are in their ceaseless accusations that B. Obama is abandoning his campaign pledges to act in a bipartisan fashion, when (1) they never did that during their time in power, and (2) they have rebuffed all his efforts so far to get them to act that way in these, his times.

Now that he is in warm, sunny D.C. instead of on the dark, cold, windy shores of Lake Michigan, B.Obama is where considerably more light shines on things, and he is undoubtedly picking up on his adversaries' definitions of matters. So, for instance, to them "being partisan" is bad because it means doing things strictly the Democratic way, while "being bipartisan" is wholly admirable because it means doing things not in the expected conciliatory manner but instead wholly in the Republican way.

Meanwhile B. Obama probably is no longer concerned one whit about anything his adversaries say, now that they have made clear the twisted way that they use the language while praying for all they're worth that people being polled and prospective voters -- all dummies to them -- take what they say at face value and not at all with an understanding of what they really mean.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Statue on a Courthouse Lawn

On the lawn of the one courthouse in this county stands a single statue. It is of an unknown Confederate soldier. I have seen it many times, yet I can't give any sort of accurate, detailed description of it. That is partly because, despite its prominent placement where you can't miss seeing it any time you approach the courthouse's front entrance, that figure is distinctly low key as such creations go, and the soldier isn't doing anything in particular except just standing there in an "at ease" position, if I remember right.

I think it's mounted on a small stone pedestal, and the figure itself is about two feet high, though I'm sure that those whose breathing is caught up short every time they see it will snort loudly and shout that it is actually four feet high, and bigger. But that all has to depend on what the statue means to a person. So, because this one is devoted to the memory of those who fought for all they were worth for four years to preserve the right to keep people like me in a state of abject penury and bondage, I'll stick to my perception that it is about one foot tall -- or less.

Until now I never thought much about that statue, and I suspect that, going by the total absence of any mentions of it that I've ever heard, few people of any persuasion in this county think much about it either. But yesterday an article in the news alerted me anew to the fact that, because this figure doesn't represent a general or even a captain but just an ordinary enlisted man, it belongs to a special genre of such statues, though I already knew that, having seen a bunch up in New England as well. But I didn't know that, with about a hundred, Virginia has more of these than any other state in the South. And most interesting, this one in the county where I live was the last erected, in 1965, two years after the watershed March on Washington and in the year when some of the most important Civil Rights laws were being enacted.

I don't know what that lste date relative to the rest of Virginia means. though I should say here that, compared to most other states of the South and other parts of the country as well, the Civil Rights movement was met with little if any outright violence in Virginia that I know of, which is why I had few qualms about moving here just a few years later

When I first saw that statue, fresh out of D.C., I thought it looked forlorn, funny, and incredibly modest, compared to what I was used to seeing and had likewise ignored without any trouble. As you know, Washington is chock full of statues of not only war heroes but also many other people, and most of those are really substantial figures that you wouldn't want toppling over on you. The generals and such from the older wars are usually seated on magnificent steeds, but the figures from the newer wars are more likely not to be of such high rank and to be instead standing on their own two feet.

Still, there are so many statues and also whole buildings devoted to memorials in D.C. that in my mind they tended to lose their meaning just by being there all the time. And actually I wonder if D.C. isn't destined for the fate that befell Rome. I recall seeing an engraving of how that once architecturally magnificent city looked a few centuries later, in the Middle Ages, when it seemed to be more than half buried in debris and millions of tons of soil hauled in or otherwise deposited, with the tops of once grand edifices sticking up at random out of the ground and of no more significance to the inhabitants grubbing there for a living than any old outcropping of rock.

Similarly for all their substance, those statues in what should be called "Monument City" instead of "the Nation's Capital" are of interest and utility only to the numerous pigeons of the city, and similarly this one on the Nelson County Virginia courthouse lawn has all the appearance of being only an idle gesture left there by some long-forgotten fanatics of some sort. Still it serves to remind at least this one non-native in the county that he is indeed in the state where the fiercest and most extended Civil War battles were fought, though not the state where the slaveowners of the South thought it was a good idea to bring on those deadly encounters. That honor by a long shot goes to South Carolina instead, where the capital of the Confederacy, and the battlefields, too, should've been put.

Most of these statues in Virginia were put up by women's groups, such as the Daughters of the Confederacy and the like. But that doesn't necessarily mean that women are more warlike. They're just more likely to remember fondly things like war in which they didn't have to do much marching and shooting and dying, and also they're more likely to mark the affairs and affrays in which their family members took part, however questionable those might've been.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Cinematic Appreciation Query

Could the iridescent and endlessly sweet if somewhat food-deprived French movie actress, Audrey Tautou, ever play a role in which she isn't always beaming, and instead portray a mean and scratchy virago? Well, I suppose that all women can go into that mode, if only briefly and given enough motivation. I personally have never seen one that couldn't. And I admit that in "Priceless," in which she plays a con artist of sorts, Tautou did approach and then even dip into bitchiness, but that was only for a single fleeting moment during which she was at her least convincing, as if that one bit was in her contract and in her mind had no other reason to happen, and her director couldn't bring himself to try to push her to anything more.

She doesn't strike me as being the sort, anyway, that you would ever try to push into anything at all.

"...And Parts of Kenya"

True to its perpetual and decidedly Unfair and Unbalanced agenda of demonizing large segments of the American population, the Fox (I barely resisted typing a "u" there instead of the "o" ) NeoNasi News network is running an article saying that the HIV rate in the Nation's Capital has soared and thereby placed it on a par with Uganda in the likelihood of contracting AIDS. Its loving readers and listeners will note with their usual satisfaction at anything that Fox says, first and foremost that D.C. has a majority Rainbow population, and that Uganda, which is in the heart of Africa, is therefore almost all Rainbow.

But "soared?" From what? Zero point five percent? I doubt that. So one or two percent? But from two to three is not quite "soaring" percentage-wise, even if Foxians will happily retort, "Not to those with the syndrome!")

When I saw that headline, I was surprised that. to the "On Par with Uganda," Fox didn't add "--and Kenya." That must indeed have been a powerful temptation, considering the immediate lineage of the current U.S. President. whom they do not wish well at all. But then I saw that in the body of their article they hadn't gotten far before they quoted a D.C. health official who according to them added almost just that, in the form of "and parts of Kenya."

One would like to think that Fox is reporting this in hopes that it will sound an alarm that will step up efforts to reverse this appalling situation in the town where I was born and where I spent almost the whole of the first half of my life. That's easy to believe in the case of many of the numerous other news services that reported this, but never in the case of Fox NNN. Instead, when eventually, in some way that isn't completely clear at the moment, that happy day of zero HIV in D.C. comes, Fox and its devotees will be nothing less than disgusted and enraged instead -- just as their heroes, the Republicans that remain in the Government that they've been trying so hard and for so long to reduce to the size and effectiveness of an ant have no intention whatever of helping President Obama dispel the present, riproaring economic agonies.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Analogy for These Times

If the ship carrying everybody hits the inevitable iceberg called "Greed," resulting in a large gash that quickly causes the ship to list and to begin to sink while under the control of a crew that, among numerous other ruinous acts, had earlier thrown all the lifeboats overboard with the argument that they were just taking up space and were no longer needed, it makes no sense that after their inattention and wrongheadedness caused the collision and they were thereupon replaced with a new crew, they should then spend all their time attacking the members of that new crew while it is working feverishly and constantly to seal off the gash and so prevent everybody from going down with the ship, including that diabolic old crew, which is so hopelessly consumed with a whole raft of resentments that they can think of nothing else, not least of which is their bitter but carefully unenunciated disapproval of the persuasion of the new captain's father.

Friday, March 13, 2009

And Now Today's Weather

The stirring, bright yellow colors of the jonquils (also called "daffodils") that are blooming now are to remind us that the several late season snowfalls that we've been having are not to be taken seriously, and have been sent here for effect -- and to twit me for my contention that the Winter Solstice is not the beginning of Winter at all but of Summer instead, because that's when the days finally stop gettimg shorter and shorter and instead suddenly start growing longer and longer. Regardless, the ever-earlier sunrises. along with an unusual number of nights lit by moons that look closer than usual and therefore reflect more light, have been taking some of the brunt out of the continuing cold.

Nobody in New York City, Tokyo, or Lagos would notice something like that.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Mayhem Made Easy

More shooting sprees, which seem to have become regular occurrences in recent years, have erupted, one in Germany and yet another in the U.S. After racking up a sufficient number of victims, with between 10 and 20 being popular, the shooter always excuses himself from having to hear about it later, by offing himself as well.

And immediately, yet again the same argument wells up fiercely all over the land, as the gunlovers, fearing the loss of their right to always own and caress as many firearms as they want, immediately go on the offensive defensive, with the main cry being that it's people, not guns, that kill people.

But how can they argue with the proposition that guns sure do make the urge to hurt and kill much easier and quicker to bring about?

Still, they will argue to their last breath for a world teeming with guns of all sorts and calibers, lest they miss a chance to realize their biggest hope should the opportunity present itself, which is shooting intruders on their premises, justifiably confident that any court will find them guiltless, especially if the least little suggestion can be made that the shootee was that most despised of beings these days, even suddenly more than Rainbow males (who after all at least play sports and can once in a very great while even win at golf or become U.S. President) -- a so-called "illegal" immigrant. That happened in Houston just last year, a quickly silenced case made more suspicious when the shooter claimed to be defending not his own but a neighbor's house. And he shot the two men in the back and killed both as they were trying their best to relieve him and everyone else around there of their presence, which is supposed to be most to be desired.

Because of the several years of careful research that I made into the matter, between the ages of about 6 and 9, looking at every Western that came through the Strand Theater in Northeast D.C., I seem to recall that in the Cowboy Code of Honor it was a strictly observed practice never to shoot even your worst enemy in the back. And isn't Texas the most celebrated home of cowboys?

Yes, guns make everything easy, including instantly dropping your most fondly held rules of conduct, and that's one of the several cold, hard terrors about them.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

The Arrival of the Second Octopeeps

Several months ago, from the body of a single hapless yet seemingly intelligent and well-spoken young woman, a huge team of medical workers pulled no less than eight infants in one day, and as far as I know, all eight are still alive. It was the second such never-before multiple birth on record, at least in the U.S.

Though this woman would vigorously insist that she did, it's almost impossible to see how she or anyone could say that she "gave birth to" these octopeeps, because actually she didn't, in the ordinary sense of that term, and that started even before the time of conception.

In addition to the woman herself, the main culprit in this extreme stretching of the human reproductive process was modern science and medicine. Copulation as we all know it, followed by the full term of carrying and climaxed by a normal birth, whether in a taxicab or a quiet hospital operating room, could not have pulled this off. Instead she had to hand to the fertility doctors some sperm in a bottle from a donor of her choice, and that and other special procedures had to be followed in the same vein right up to the moment of emergence, while other out-of-the- ordinary procedures figure to stay in the picture far into the future, with her playing a spectacularly detached role, especially given all the amazing stuff that has come out about her and from her.

--Such as that she has no husband to help her with all this, and that she's not gainfully employed, and that she already had six (6 -- count them!) other children that not she but her badly put-upon mother had been taking care of in modest circumstances, and that, though this woman knows that she herself can't begin to take care of all 14 of her progeny properly, she plans to be able to soon -- that is, as soon as she completes a couple of years in college so as to get some kind of degree that will enable her to obtain the required earnings.

This woman has been roundly attacked by a wide variety of people, to the extent that I haven't heard much about the enormous outside help on which she is obviously banking, though so far all her octopeeps are still in Kaiser Permanente or wherever and will not be released to her till she shows sufficiently more in the way or resources and -- I would think -- responsibility, and I don't see how that can come any time soon, or ever, despite her "good looks." Responsibility trumps physical appearance every time, especially when you're talking about fourteen (count 'em --14!) small kids. That enormous number, all obtained in little more than two shots, is a LOT of tots for even a team of fully responsible women. Yet that must be the real thing in her mind, as shown by her use of the statement made famous long ago by H. Clinton, about "it takes a village to raise a child." But there's a big difference in what Ms Clinton was talking about.

In all the criticism of this act, you mainly hear only one question asked, and that is, where will this woman (at one time I had her name memorized but now I've already forgotten) get the necessary wherewithal? And I guess that at this moment even the octopeeps would agree that that's really the only question worth asking.

Yet I still think that actually there is a much bigger one, and that's what this says about the curse that is quickly undermining everything that not only people but also most other living things on the planet, excluding critters like bacteria, are trying to do, and that is human overpopulation.

In her defence people will say that the birth of the octopeeps is just an extremely rare, zoological curiosity and nothing more, and that even the growing frequency of multiple births is no crime, because also a far larger number of other people are limiting themeselves to just one child or none at all, and anyway, the Earth still has a huge number of largely unpopulated areas in which many more people could still live comfortably, and you should see especially how the populations of sizable countries have been projected fitting inside just the state of Texas, though we can easily guess how unhappy everybody would be with that idea, especially the Texans.

Nevertheless for a long time I have been certain that before long the crowded conditions in the cities and elsewhere, coupled with declining resources, will result in people needing to get licenses before they can have children. And while they are bitterly bowing to that, rather then envying they will curse their forerunners for failure to be more circumspect in blessing the world with ever more of their kind.

And in that light, producing eight children all in one go without even an ecstasy fling in the back seat of a car would be enough to produce a real epidemic of sprained necks in the future, caused by uncontrollably shaking heads, more than has already happened, at the hands of this woman who was once world-famous but who has already started to recede far into the background, in the face of economic hard times all over.

Monday, March 09, 2009

Trees and the Middle East

In a movie that we netflixed recently, called "Body of Lies," which was yet another mostly gruesome story starring the CIA and its usually questionable activities OVER THERE with the idea of preventing such things from happening OVER HERE, the Leonardo DiCaprio character speaks of how he would like to live in the Middle East. In his particular case we know that isn't as unaccountable as it sounds. We know that it is mostly and probably entirely because of a certain young woman that he has met whose Arabic has an Iranian accent and to see whom he has the fortuitous excuse of needing to have her giving him weekly rabies shots. And if I were in his shoes I might almost feel the same way. Almost but not completely.

Instead, from my vantage point deep in this forest of oaks, hickories, maples, and pines in which I am so lucky to live, I would tend to go along with the retort given by the character played by Russell Crowe, when he states without any fear of refutation that nobody likes the Middle East, because it has nothing for anybody to like. And this even though I'm convinced that it is filled with armies of unusually appealing Arabic ladies, which is the main reason that the male limbarfs with which that badly afflicted region also teems are always so hot to keep them heavily concealed from appreciative Western eyes.

The reason for the Middle East's distinct unlikability can be reduced to just one factor, and one only. It has no trees, and in fact hasn't had any for a very long time, going back to the Biblical Age, And when you add to this the fact that people have nevertheless been living there almost as long, it's no wonder that the place has spawned so many uncharitable, inhospitable, unbending, and that is not to say prickly religions. Presumably characters like Abraham and Solomon cut down all the cedars and other cool trees to build temples, edifices for which j. Christ, a later man in the same line of work, never saw any need.

So the Christians were luckier. Though they still wasted a great deal of time, effort, and material on worship places filled mostly with empty space, they still tended to migrate to and become better established in regions where there were lots of trees (notwithstanding the unfortunate example of Spain.)

Trees were the original homes of the beings who eventually metamorphosized into humans, and as such they are naturally bound up with the human soul. They talk, even without the wind, in voices and with comforting and wisdom that we can all understand.

The great tragedy of the Middle East is that the overwhelming importance of having lots of woods is not at all appreciated there, and instead only bullets and other means of killing await any Johnny Appleseeds who would go there with dreams of it being a good place for living.

Thursday, March 05, 2009

Paying the Republican Price

It has already happened.

A few months ago I posted a piece here about "Judas Goats," that is, Rainbows who -- putting their desire for personal advancement ahead of all common sense -- take their chances in collecting glittering prizes dangled before them by that most cynical and sinister of bodies, the Republican political establishment. Sooner or later they all find themselves hopelessly degraded in some manner, so that in all the February observances to come, they will not hear their names mentioned alongside those of M.L. King, S. Truth, H. Tubman, W.E.B. Dubois, or even N. Turner. Instead they will be lucky to be lumped in with those who betrayed budding slave insurrections such as that of D. Vesey.

Yes, it has already happened, just as I thought it might when I wrote a couple of more recent posts implying that the election of M. Steele, a Rainbow, as head of the Republican National Committee, was sure to spatter back into his face like offal in a crowded, flooding cattle yard.

That had to happen, and so, this quickly, it has come to pass.

A few days ago the Voice of the Republican Conservative Nasties, one Pusher Limbarf (his actual name never bears repeating, and anyway this one is much closer to his true character), delivered a long speech in which he repeated his fervent desire that the legitimately elected present U.S. President and his programs should all fail, presumably regardless of the enormous ill that that would bring to the Nation in these unusually difficult times.

In reply a shred of the common decency that M.Steele still had left, as a human being and as a Rainbow (i.e. "black") human being, caused him to attack Barfy's remarks, and he called them "incendiary" and "ugly," as they definitely were.

Immediately the howls shot up out of the conservative backside of the Republican Party, which unfortunately is badly oversized in that group, and so shortly afterward Steele apologized to the Nation's premier barfbag.


That is the one man on the planet to whom no apology is ever due, and the days of his demise will not be nearly long enough to hold all the apologies that Boughboy owes to one and all instead, even his many mentally challenged minions who have disgorged so much filthy lucre on him.

So now M. Steele is in the wholly unenviable situation where he has only two terrible choices. He can decide to abdicate the debatably "high" position that he had only recently won, or he can try to stay on and tough it out. But whichever way he goes, the wolves and hyenas who are always hungry for Rainbow flesh will be constantly milling all around and will not go away any time soon.

That's the price paid by Republican-favoring Judas Goats, and the bigger the prize they grab, the worse the reckoning turns out to be, while their patrons laugh all the way to the banks now awash in red ink, sometimes known as "blood."

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Suspended in Ice

Ater the great snowfall night before last, a fair amount of it melted during the day, though the temp never got above 40. And now this morning it was back down to 3 degrees F. But everything is still pretty outside, and it's supposed to start getting warmer in a couple of days.

All the same this winter is starting to make me wonder if, after all those thousands of years of wandering around Europe in the cold while trying to sneak up on a decent meal every day with their pointed sticks, one day the Neanderthals finally decided to pack it in and that's why they're no longer here, and why a lot of the wild animal types that they associated with are also missing..

On the other hand it seems that everything that has ever lived in much warmer Africa is still there, going back many millions of years, though they all tend to be on the irritable side.

Yesterday my good neighbor across the road, L., told me that the only thermometer she and her potter husband K. have is the one inside her new hybrid Prias. And after my wife moved the fancy but little-used Cadillac that she inherited from her mother, at my urging because of all the frozen snow chunks and other stuff bombarding it from the trees, she said that it has a readout of some kind that said, "Ice possible."

How did it know that!

This is what comes of having vehicles that are more sophisticated than your houses, but as I spend practically no time in vehicles I wouldn't be appreciative of such. I have thermometers everywhere in my several buildings, and I read them as constantly as I do the Google or Obama News. My state of mind, if not my life, depends on that.

Monday, March 02, 2009

R. Limbaugh, America's Grand Champion A-------What?

Though I paid as little attention to it as I possibly could, I understand that recently the conservative Republicans, smarting from being ousted from positions that they probably thought they would hold forever -- or at least the thousand years envisioned by their chief inspirations, the mercifully long-passed Third Reich -- held a confab to try to determine how they would wrest back their odious control of the U.S. Government. And in the process they sat still for a speech for a radio spouter named R. Limbaugh.

Though I put nothing past that satanic host, I am still dumbfounded by this. Apparently the Republican conservatives have finally discarded all previous pretense of being a decent group, and are now openly showing their dripping, bloody fangs, just as the party headed by the former A. Schickelgruber did in 1933 after he was named by German's ailing President, Marshal Hindenburg, to be Germany's Chancellor.

But where is the aged, exhausted, and quickly deceased Hindenburg of today? (After whom a grand passenger zeppelin was named ...and then went on to meet a tragic and fiery fate a few years later in -- where else? -- New Jersey, exactly presaging many other debacles of the worst sort soon to come in Europe and a couple of other parts of the world.)

Very thankfully, B. Obama doesn't fit the Hindenburg bill in any way, and though he has bent a little too far over to accommodate his intractable adversaries, he isn't likely to appoint any of the true Republican Conservative bozos to anything, but to them that doesn't matter. So the other day they listened with rapt attention to every word of the poison sprayed from the mouth of America's most malignant man, and CNN disgraced itself by carrying the whole thing without commercial interruption.

Many years ago, long before I left D.C., my daily access to the Washington Post eventually moved me to bestow on the columnist George Will the title, "The Crown Prince of Smug," and instead of furnishing gratification it is appalling to see that after so long a subsequent time he is still living up fully to that appellation.

More recently I went on to dub Ann Coulter "The High Priestess of Hatred," and she, too, has done absolutely nothing to argue against her being called that.

Now R. Limbaugh's rightful title has also finally revealed itself, because he is a man who, among legions of other uniformly and unremittingly ugly and evil sentiments that he has voiced over the years, said openly and not just once that he wants the new President of the United States, B. Obama, to fail -- showing how little his true regard for the fate of the country really is.

So Limbaugh should now be called exactly what he is. He is "the Grand Champion A--hole of America." The "GCAA" for short.

And one reason that that title fits him so perfectly is that his claim to it, like A. Hitler's in yesteryear, is already and absolutely far beyond dispute.

Wouldn't You Know! A Real Snow!

We live in a miniscule valley that only our property occupies. The road runs along its northern rim and is higher than the house and the shop. This means that our driveway runs uphill. So every time there's a prediction of snow I park my little 20-year old Isuzu pickup up at the head of the driveway, close to the road, in case of some emergency, though my wife, a more phlegmatic type if there ever was one, always scorns the idea.

Night before last, when snow was predicted and was indeed falling, mixed with freezing rain, I went out after midnight and moved up the pickup. But I had no sooner gotten back to the house when the snow stopped, and the next day the driveway and the roads were as clear as ever.

But that has happened many times, and so last night, even with a more serious snow predicted, I let it slip out of my mind, as I let too many things do these days, and it was the first time in years that I didn't move up a vehicle.

So wouldn't you know!

This morning I woke to find that in the few hours while I had slept and hadn't kept my usual eye on what she was doing, Mother Nature had gotten serious as she hadn't for some years now, and there were four or five inches of snow standing up straight and tall on the deck rails, the trees, and everything else in sight -- a real Winter Wonderland! And Weather Underground is predicting temps that mean it won't start melting for the next two days.

Well, neither one of us is sick, and we have lots of food, firewood, and water, and the electricity is still on, and anyway this is one of the very situations that caused me to want to move to the country. In D.C. I was always dismayed at how, within just a few hours after a respectable snowfall, due to human activity the snow would start getting churned up into a blackish turmoil, an ugly sight that would hang around for days.

No problem with that here. Here the snow everywhere will stay totally unblemished and its normal color for days and the only tracks in it will be those of our one cat, the several wild animals, mostly birds, and my own, and I have only to wait for Mother Nature to do her thing and take back unto herself what last night she finally decided to stop being so lax in furnishing in the beautiful abundance of which she is always so capable, even in these days of threatening climate change.