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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.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Gadhafi's Gone

Suddenly it seems that Moammar Gadhafi is no longer with us, as of yesterday, just seven months after the sweep against his longtime rule began.

There was a certain inevitability about the revolt in Libya that has some jarring elements, and as so often, those elements can probably all be chalked up to ego. After NATO joined in chasing him across Libya's top rim, along the Mediterranean coast, I thought it was likely that the moment Gadhafi saw the tide turning, he would seek refuge somewhere else, just in case, and there were lots of suggestions about that. Unlike the Tunisian former leader, Ben Ali, Gadhafi doesn't seem to have cultivated much in the way of friendship among his fellow Arabs, so that instead the speculations centered on various countries in the sub-Saharan region. But instead he stayed in Libya the whole time, so that eventually, as the rebel forces closed in on him in the last big hurdle, his hometown of Sirte that was so fiercely defended, he was eventually reduced to hiding in a drainage pipe, from which he was dragged out while still alive, much in the fashion of Saddam Hussein, who was pulled out of a previously prepared hidey-hole in the ground.

I had hoped that, like Saddam, Gadhafi would have a trial, so that we could hear what he had to say. He always had interesting things to say. But instead, after being captured alive, he was shot and killed almost on the spot, and so that was that.

As to who fired the fatal shots, there is, as of now, a bewildering variety of guesses, opinions, and what-not. with the headline suspects including crossfire between the various rebel groups, NATO, and even Gadhafi's own bodyguards.

Meanwhile the partnership between the U.S. news media and the Republican Party is hard at work trying to make sure that there is no suggestion that President Obama should get even a shred of credit for the ultimate disposal of the tyrannical Gadhafi, though that is hard to do, because the facts that are known should be obvious to even the dimmest of minds. But never mind. All that matters to those trying so hard to keep America's thought processes in a tight death grip of ignorance is that this comes at too inconvenient a moment, as typified by a remark make by the femina horriblis of the Republican President wanna-bes, the Bachmann woman, just a few days ago in the Las Vegas debate, to the effect that "Obama got us into Libya, now he's getting us into Africa," as if Libya and Uganda are not parts of the same continent.

The Repub-Media partnership has gotten so used to having the news reports all to itself and its scruffy Presidential aspirants, like a ghastly orchestra playing a piece consisting of only one theme, and that is that Obama is responsible for every ill in sight, and it can't have people playing any attention to this nevertheless all-important news item from Libya, because Gadhafi's end is full of significance for just about every other situation that is hanging fire in the oil-soaked Middle East.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Cain & Thomas, the Gold Dust Twins

No reality of American life is more carefully and constantly left unsaid yet is always widely understood among at least one sector of the populace than is the fact that the main raison d'etre for the Republican Party is to "keep the neegaz down." But once that certainty is faced and acknowledged, then everything about that party suddenly falls into place. And by "neegaz" I refer not only to the descendants of the slaves brought over Africa and commonly but erroneously called "black" instead of the far more precise and charitable term, "Rainbows." Instead it also embraces members of many other groups whose interests and well-being overlap those of Rainbows, and whom I generally lump under the term of the "Have-Nots." But it is for the Rainbows that the sharpest and most numerous, lethally intended spear thrusts of the Republicans are always reserved. And among the longest and most poisonously tipped of those weapons is humiliation.

Right now two middle-aged Rainbow men in particular are standing out as being all too eager to serve as tools of that humiliation, and no wonder, for that activity has paid off handsomely for them, financially speaking, as have the careers of so many people who have chosen the Cruel and Nasty Side as the way to go in this country, which only goes to show that the old maxim that "money is the root of all evil" stands on firm ground, no matter how much lucre and all sorts of material stuff are worshipped, today as in so many past days.. These two men are Clarence Thomas, the longtime fraudulent occupier of one of the nine seats on the U.S. Supreme Court,.and a more recent arrival on the stage of national dishonor, Herman Cain, who has somehow jack-knifed himself into being one of the lead figures in the current run-up to the Republican primaries to determine their nominee to run for President.

Thomas, who gained his post as a result of being the mascot of a Republican Senator from Missouri whose name I am now pleased to be unable to recall, has since then gone a long way toward establishing himself as one of the most backward and inept Supreme Court justices ever -- an automatic vote for the perpetuation and enlargement of the American police state, and guess what is the preferred color of those confined in these ever-multiplying gulags? Those of his own color, naturally. This is a result that was easily foreseen those 20 or however many painful years it has been since Thomas was elevated to that lifetime post, to the eternal disgrace of many Democratic Senators as well as Republicans. The Democrats must've gone along with that blindness so as not to be seen as being racially prejudiced, and there were not a few ignoramus and chauvinistic Rainbow "brothers" who also went along with it, having had their jaws bent badly out of shape when, during the nominating process, Thomas was charged, and convincingly, with having sexually harassed a "sister," Anita Hill -- a thing they thought she not have done even if he was guilty, simply because he was a "brother.".

Now we see this Herman Cain guy taking advantage of a whole gang of inept Republican aspirants to the Presidency to try to vault over their heads into the preeminent spot, using as his pole a long series of notions that sound good to hell-bent conservatives but almost never make any sense in the larger world of common sense. They defend the things he says by calling them "plain-spoken," and it's just the kind of idiocy that they want to hear, though it might not be things they would want to say in good company, for fear of having their sanity seriously questioned.

But Cain serves an even more important service for them: they imagine that their support for him proves beyond any doubt that they are not racist, when, however, just the opposite is true, because it's clear as anything that he works for them only in the role of carrying the Republican's water, as does C. Thomas on the so-called "highest" court.

A good example of Cain's weak and shapeless mentality --_he comes out with these things every day, it seems -- is his recent declaration that if elected President he would separate the U.S. from Mexico with an electrified fence that would kill any Mexican attempting to scale it. Later on, when the towering inhumanity of that idea had been suggested to him, he came out with one of his favorite cover-ups for his various natterings, namely that he had just said that as a joke. But then, just a little later, after having apparently gotten a booster shot or something or another from an Arizona sheriff who has gotten a name for himself by terrorizing the so-called "illegal immigrants" in his state, Cain changed his mind again and said he would stand behind his notion of frying Mexicans on a fence after all. But doesn't that also involve, among other things, a certain number of Americans trying to go the other way as well, because that is the way that things work out? National borders are always crossed in both directions and not just one.

Therefore, for instance, we have it on the very best authority, the 0/11 hijackers, that Mexican women make the best wives, and that has not been forgotten.

And then there is Cain's much-discussed and simple-sounding "9-9-9" tax plan, with which he would replace the entire U.S. tax code. You would think that when he first voiced this idea, he would've realized how easily it could have been characterized as being the famous Satanic number turned upside down. The other Republican candidates, all male except for a shrill woman named M. Bachmann, deferred to her to make that all too obvious charge, though I think it would be even more effectively questioned by being called the "$9.99" plan, referring to the habit of retailers that has become so firmly embedded in the American fabric to put prices on everything ending with nines that are only one digit short of a good, round number, as if to always suggest to the consumer that he or she is getting a big bargain that actually amounts to only one cent -- a kind of commercial jiggery-pokery that I always thought should've been outlawed long ago..

I think of Thomas and Cain as being two shysters who are similar in their approaches to things and in being unapologetic humiliations not only to Rainbows but to the human species as a whole. And more than that, they also bear a certain physical resemblance to each other, with their heads that bring to mind oversized cannonballs, a likeness that is close enough to their being seen as modern-day Gold Dust Twins, harking back to the days when one often saw not only on grocery labels but also quite generously in the movies and on the radio and elsewhere, frequent depictions of Rainbows that were never meant to be complimentary. But when these discomforts are pointed out, there is also never an end to the Cains and the Thomases, whose advice always is, "Get over it."

But humiliation is not so easily dealt with -- or forgiven, or forgotten.

Friday, October 14, 2011

The Bogus Anti-Iran "Assassination Plot"

During the primaries in the 2008 election cycle, I was an admirer and supporter of H. Clinton -- until from out of the blue she showed that she had become a heavy smoker of the anti-Iran drug -- an addiction that is common in the high places of politics and foreign policy but that makes no sense to me.  I know that the officials in those high places can't possibly care that the people of Iran are under the heavy hammer of Islamic theocratic rule.   And after all, the Iranian people don't seem to be screaming too loud about it.   Maybe, after having had a close-hand look at how many Iraqis look back fondly at the despotic rule of Saddam Hussein and compare it favorably to the total ruin inflicted on Iraq by the Bush invasion, the Iranian populace has decided to let well enough alone . . .for now. 

The only explanation for the anti-Iran attitude and its strength must be that in those American high places where H. Clinton lives, there is still great resentment about the hostage crisis of 30 years ago.   Maybe they think that the ayatollahs have never been sufficiently punished for that bit of inhospitality toward the American ambassodorials, and Clinton and the others use their perception of a Iranian push to develop nuclear weapons as an excuse for a constant barrage of threats, sanctions, and other measures just short of outright warfare.  And maybe they also do this on behalf of their two great friends in the Middle East, Saudia Arabia and Israel, both of whom, for very different reasons, would love to see an American military attack on Iran.

But if we believe in a world that is still halfway rational, that is not in the cards, because Iran is not Iraq or Afghanistan.   It is a big country.   It has 72 million able, energetic people, as compared to the Saudi figure, which is unagreed upon but ranges between 15 and 28 million, and the Israeli figure of only 8 million.   And that means there is no way that Iran can be suddenly rendered null and void.  You can't just shove that many people out of the way, just like that.

In the light of all that, this Iranian plot to kill the Saudi ambassador that the U.S. spy agencies claim to have detected and foiled seems to have been made to order.   And that's just the trouble with it.   It is too pat, too made to order, and too full of characters straight from the laptops of uninspired tipsy TV crime drama writers.   And that is not to mention the dragging in of another big foreign policy bugaboo, the Mexican druglords and what-not.

In my rejection of this plot, I am not alone.   In Europe there has been widespread pooh-poohing of the credibility of this charge.   And that has also been the verdict of the two authorities that I go to first when it comes to Middle East affairs: Juan Cole's "Informed Comment," and As'ad Abukhalil's "Angry Arab News Service."   Forget anyone at all in mainstream news media when it comes to reliability and reporting things thoroughly.   Almost without exception those sources have long since been badly corrupted by the heavy hand of conservative ownership and the fashionability of conservative ideas.  Cole, on the other hand, and more so than Abu, always has the best take on things, though Abukhalil still has interesting things to say about almost anything, and they both present convincing reasons for thinking that this "plot" is all a big crock -- starting with the fact that it doesn't fit in at all with the modus operandi of the Iranian version of the espionage spooks.  Note especially what Cole has to say about perhaps the main character in the supposed plot, in a post that he titles "Wagging the Dog of Iran's Maxwell Smart."

I am surprised that both Obama and Clinton put perceptions of their credibility and common sense at so much risk by buying so heavily into this thing.  They must be depending on the attention deficits that are so prevalent.


Monday, October 10, 2011

Philosophies of Face-Offs

Sometimes, as I walk my woods and garden paths carrying only a naval whistle and a notably dull penknife, I think of the likelihood of encountering a bear, which could happen, because a number of them live in this area, and they're free to roam as they please.   More than anyone else on this road, I have personal experience with this, because back when I had a chickenyard here at home and also a beeyard, those efforts gave two different bears the excuse to pay us several close-up visits, about 10 years apart.

 Today, as in those other days, I have no fear for my own safety, at least nothing to compare with how I feel whenever I hear neighbors enjoying their target practice while I'm splitting or hauling firewood..   Instead I entertain myself with the purely theoretical (I hope) question of what would happen if a charging bear (grizzlies in the west, black bears around here) were to encounter a samurai of bygone ages armed mainly with his sword.   Not the short sword sashed to his midsection that those warriors seem to have used mainly to disembowel their own selves while committing seppuku, but the long one, the katana, meant to finish off their adversaries by the boatload.  You know, those fabulous blades interleaved and tempered with 40,000 hits of a swordsmith's hammer and said to be so exquisitely sharp and strong that they could easily cut through a 16-penny nail, which is a pretty substantial nail, almost as thick as a lead pencil.

I'm thinking that when faced with a charging bear the samurai ought to be able to get in the first lick before it gets too close.   He ought to be able to lop off a paw or put a truly serious gash in the bear's chest or belly, or he might even be able to relieve the bear of its head with a single initial swipe.   But would any of that be enough to stop the bear in its tracks, as the instant pain and shock caused it to realize that it had suddenly lost some absolutely essential part of its anatomy?   Or would the sheer momentum of the onrushing bear with its huge, flailing arms and its snapping teeth carry it into the warrior regardless and thereby cause lethal harm to his person as well?

This scene must've already occurred in ancient Japan many times, because as far as I know, bears have always lived there as well, but I've never read about any such encounters, nor has such an occasion ever fit in, I guess, with the dramatic intent of Akira Kurosawa and the others..

Meanwhile the same principle and question of reflex and momentum must apply also to those scenes that you see all the time in crime dramas on TV and in films -- those faceoffs in which two enemy parties are pointing guns straight at the foreheads of their antagonists, and they're sweating and breathing hard, suffused with tension.   But somehow I never feel that tension, because it merely makes me think that one or the other could easily win merely by squeezing the trigger.   Wouldn't the other person be hit so quickly that he would never know what happened and so would have no chance to respond in kind?   Or is it the thinking that the mere impact on the person being hit would cause his trigger finger to reflex just enough to fire his weapon as well? 

You will never see this question answered in films.  Instead, invariably both parties will back down.  We could never expect any such resolution to occur between a charging bear and a bloodthirsty samurai.

The Apotheosis of S. Jobs

Even long before his anticipated death a few days ago, at the hands of pancreatic cancer, Steve Jobs was so often mentioned and praised in the news for any number of reasons that I wonder if sheer embarrassment played a part in the escalation of his condition to that final state.   Every third or fourth news item seems to be about him and his demise, and about ways to set his memory into stone, and I am sure this deluge will go on for the next three or four weeks at least, no matter what happens in the rest of the world.  This universal outpouring of praise on him is so profuse that I am sure that if, instead of being one of the leading lights during a couple of periods of at the Apple computer company, he had instead done something really incredible, such as eliminating racism, genocide, religious intolerance, global overheating, warfare, African warlords, credit swap defaults, the theft of the West Bank, home foreclosures, evictions, pollution, overfishing, or any one of the million other ills of the world or of the Seven Deadly Sins, he would not be celebrated nearly as lavishly as he is now.

Who or what is responsible for all this cathedral-building in honor of Steve Jobs?   Can it be that the Mac and Apple users have finally taken over the world?   If so, how could that be?   How could I have missed that startling development?   For it seems to me that it was only a decade or so ago when the users of Apple machines were still a small minority -- about 10 percent or so -- of the total computer users in the world, with the PC users still in the great majority.

In trying to think of how I could've completely missed being affected by the wonders of what is clearly the Steve Jobs Golden Age of Computer Stuff, the cause must be that somehow I have managed to get along just fine without having bought one single Apple product of any kind, ever since things first heated up in the computer world, at least on the home machine front, dating from the moment that I first spotted that incredible miracle, the game of Pong on one of those little Atari 2600 consoles, probably in a Sears store, back in the mid-1970's.

I ignored the Apple machines on purpose, because I didn't like that company's way of doing business, though I believe Jobs and his buddy Wozniak were intimately connected with it even then.   I thought the early Apple computers and later the Macs were way too proprietary.   If you had one of their machines, whenever you needed a part to fix it or some peripheral, you couldn't buy one made by any company other than by Apple.   This struck me as being greedy, tyrannical, undemocratic, and un-American, compared to the way that IBM, with the introduction of their first basic home computer, the XT, threw open the architecture of their machine to the world at large, and that made it possible for hundreds of small companies to make and to supply stuff to go into those machines, and that made PC stuff not only less expensive but also easier to obtain, since one had so many choices.

Of course, I know that IBM, being a true part of Big Business, did not do this out of the goodness of their hearts.   But it also occurs to me that I don't know exactly how they came to this decision.   They either under-rated the importance of the home market, and simply let it go at that, or or they were so wedded to their bread and butter office machines that they weren't interested in the home market even when it became obvious that there were dollars to be made there, too.   For whatever reason their open architecture was a boon to many small businesses, software as well as hardware, and to the numerous little guys like myself, who could then repeat their Erector Set childhood days by buying empty computer cases of all descriptions and then happily filling them up with items also of every description, and without breaking the bank.

I also disliked the Apple community for another reason.   In the ensuing years, little wars of contention constantly broke out between PC and Mac users, and inevitably in these little spats the Mac users were the Republicans of the computer world, because they were always the more aggressive, argumentative, and nasty proponents of their machines.   Just as Republicans take so much exception to so many people who persist in voting Democratic, it galled the Apple users that so many people insisted on sticking to their PC's, despite all the claims that the Apple users made about the superiority of their machines.

Because I never had any reason to get any of that equipment, I've never been in a position to know whether their arguments had any merit.   The first argument that is always made is about how superior the graphics are on Apple machines, making them especially useful for artists.   But I've  never used computers for any of my painting or stained glass work.   Instead I use my battery of seven or eight PC's on probably a more primitive level -- namely for writing, listening to music, checking on the Internet, playing games, or just for the sheer joy of taking them apart and putting them together again,  and I have no idea what the sleek, miniaturized world of Iphones and Ipods is all about, except that they couldn't possibly fit my hands..

I can't help feeling that I'm not missing much, except strains from a constantly bent neck and on my eyes from punching the tiny keys on those little monstrosities that seem to be almost cemented to younger, sweatier hands.  And speaking of young, sweaty hands, I'm not in any social networks anyway, for obvious reasons.

Sunday, October 09, 2011

About Herman Cain

For days I've been trying to write a post about H. Cain, the end man on the vaudeville team that passes for the current aspirants to be the Republican nominee for President -- the one with the black face that is so skillfully put on that it looks real.  But he is offensive in so many ways that their sheer number overwhelms me, as does the size and the quantity and variety of the threats posed by the other members of that team as well.   My stomach isn't all that it could be.