.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.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Bad Hospital Visitors

One Douglas Kennedy, a member of the famous Kennedy family, and also presumably of the posh set in New York's famously affluent Westchester County, and also of the gangsters at Fox News Network, since -- unaccountably -- he also seems to be one of their reporters, has been charged with a misdemeanor allegedly committed in a hospital. He is accused of reacting badly to two nurses in the maternity ward there. They caught him toting his newborn child out of there, supposedly to give it some "air," and among other things, one nurse claims that he gave her the knee.

The circumstances of this incident haven't been coming down to us in a coherent whole. That happens with many news stories, and sometimes we have to wait till the trial before it's all sorted out, and even then we can never be quite so sure. But what we do have is entirely fitting, because this man is said to be nothing less than the 10th child of the Robert F. Kennedy who was also a brother of JFK and was in fact his attorney=general, if I remember correctly, and RFK, like JFK, and their "soul brother," too, MLK, was felled by an assassin's bullets in the 1960's. But I guess JFK just didn't have as much time or inclination or whatever to be nearly as prolific with generating the offspring as his brother, Douglas' dad, and let's not forget Robert's wife, too, because Ethel obviously had a role in it all. That pair did their bit in helping along the overpopulation that was first ordered by unknown cavern dwellers several thousand years ago and has been religiously carried forward by the Catholic church for just about ever since, though the need for such rampant reproduction no longer seems to exist. And now we have one of their descendants trying to carry his newborn out of the hospital, for some "air."

Still, I would not be interested in this news report, were it not that it chimes in with a pet peeve that I am having with a miniseries called "House." I am late in seeing this show, because it has already been "on the air" for seven years and in fact will not be renewed next year. I don't understand how "House" could've stayed popular for that long, because though it often gives interesting medical facts, it also has a number of glaring faults, the worst of them being that it is far too formulaic.

Douglas Kennedy's run-in with the maternity nurses makes me think that he has been looking at too much of that show and has bought heavily into its practice of having relatives and friends usually taking such active parts in everything that is going on, in ways that give "up close and personal" new meaning, that you wonder why the show doesn't have them leaning over the surgeon's shoulders and putting in their two cents while he is trying to perform a heart bypass. If those rascals are not always there right in the room arguing with the doctors and doing all kinds of other intrusive stuff that I had thought were strict no-nos in hospitals everywhere, they are still shown plastered to fancy floor-to-ceiling glass walls through which they can still see and maybe even hear everything that is going on, to the point where you get to thinking that "House" visitors never go back home or get any sleep but instead forever stand right there against that wall, burning for their chances to meddle in the deep medical deliberations therein. I realize that this makes for heavy dramatic conflict, but I had thought that there still are limits, especially in settings as crucial as hospitals.

But I don't get out much, and times change, and maybe that kind of thing is the norm nowadays. Maybe nowadays newborns are no longer kept strictly behind glass and off-limits, until such time when they have ceased to be newborns in the strictest sense of the word, and the hospital is ready to see the parents take them home, to make room in the ward for the new arrivals. Still, anything other than these previous practices seems strange to me, and that goes double and triple with arguing, much less striking, any nurses or doctors.

In one scene in "House," an irate male relative of a patient actually socks the hero doctor and knocks him down. Yet none of the other characters so much as suggests that they think he has done the absolutely unthinkable and should be arrested on the spot, no matter what the motivation.

I was badly stunned by that scene. I know times have changed, and that in this "Republican era" of unremitting nastiness, pugnacity is the in thing. But that was ridiculous.

Maybe, then, I'm the one who is grievously at fault. Maybe I am way too docile. Maybe I shouldn't go along with everything a doctor or nurse says.

My excuse is that maybe, just maybe, medical people know volumes more about a crucial area, the workings of the human constitution, than I have ever bothered to learn. So I just leave them to their work and let things be.

I behave that way toward longtime workers in any field of activity, except the political.

Politics is another area altogether, and there's no such thing as "expertise" there that can't be challenged all along the line.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

The Snow's Last Chance

I am one of those people who, when they hear that a storm is coming, stays up late at night to see it happening. But this winter I haven't had much to look forward to, because here, as in other sections of the country, it's been so unusually warm, though we have had our long stretches of cold mornings, but nothing below 10 F.

I am informed that I am not alone in looking forward to the snow especially. Snow is a funny thing. Seeing it fall is one of the greatest gifts that Nature affords us. But it can also be like a house guest that stays too long. After about three days I want it to suddenly disappear, poof! Just like that! But if it is a real snow, four inches deep or more, it often gets other ideas and tries to stick around for weeks.

A couple of days ago, we finally had a real snow, and yesterday morning we awoke to see nearly four inches of it standing in one of our snow guages, the roof atop our sun room. It was quite a sight, but this time the snow never had a chance, I guess because it is late February. The temp rose to 50, and by 1 in the afternoon all the snow had dropped off the trees in various, dramatic showers, and our transportation was no longer trapped at the bottom of our driveway -- the only real objection I have to the snow sticking around for as long as it pleases.

It's Happening, Angry Arab!

Yesterday morning my wife somewhat triumphantly informed me that she had just seen an article in the NY Times in which a Middle East authority named As'ad Abukhalil is quoted. The article had to do with a scandal involving one of the royal princes in Saudia Arabia, or some such, and her satisfaction was due to having quickly realized that she knew just who this expert was, when otherwise he would have just been one more obscure name, But this name rang a definite bell, because I had mentioned this man so often in the past.

As'ad Abukhalil (that is a singularly cool name, I think) is the proprietor of the weblog, "The Angry Arab News Service," a site to which I have been a more or less regular visitor for a long time, maybe almost since I started up my own weblog here, an event that is now sneaking up on having been a full eight years ago. I don't recall what drew me to that site, unless it was out of an interest in trying out a place that would be the Arab equivalent of "Google News (because after all, we all need to stay on top on where our oil is going to come from, don't we, lest all civilization should begin to collapse), but once I started reading it I was hooked on a habit that persists to this day. I think it was the sheer quirkiness of this guy's posts, which are usually but not otherwise short, as befits a "news service," though in those days he kept what turned out to be a very uncharacteristic low profile, because he was badly "backgrounded" by his own site's comment section.

I have never seen a comment section like it, even while I inquire as to why do all comment sections all over the world seem sooner or later to degenerate into bilious, salacious messes if they are popular enough yet are left unmoderated. Can it be that people the world over are given to giving themselves up to quick cracks and the more obscene and narrow-minded the better, especially if the commenter need not even give a fake name but instead can hide behind the cloak of being called "Anonymous?"

Eventually things got so bad there, with all the nastiness of all kinds and knots of bitter feuds all tangled together like a pit full of insane snakes, that Angry Arab had to dump his commenters altogether, though I now think his his biggest reason was that that section overshadowed him so badly, because you had to read that site for a while before you could figure out who was supposedly rnnning things there. But not anymore, by a long shot.

Now Angry Arab, by his own testimony, which is meant to be imparted to us slyly and with seeming modesty, is big, and his opinions are highly sought after, and I can believe it, because he is nothing if not conscientious, in his attention to Arab affairs and in the conduct of his site, for in a world where regularity of posts is such a rare thing, not a day goes by that you don't see eight or nine new items up there, though he appears to be greatly helped along by numerous contributors. whom he always acknowledges by calling their names and saying, "Thanks (so and so).'

But he is also highly egotistical, so that it is easy to believe that his being cited in this NY Times article as a recognized authority, his shirt size must've increased by a couple of inches at least. He would probably concede the overwhelming prestige of the Times, even though his contempt for that publication seems to have no bounds, because he thinks it leans far too much toward being supportive of Israel.

Lebanonese (as he and his commenters used to like to say) by birth and upbringing, his utter contempt for Israel is such that regularly he predicts that that country's days are numbered, to the point where I definitely think that he himself would not be surprised and he would even be gratified, should the Lieberyahoos finally decide one day, as is their wont, to send the Mossad to bump him off. He has as much as said so himself, and, as if to underscore this point, he made a speaking tour of some presitigious British colleges a few weeks ago, and over his objections one of those universities, I think it was the one at Leeds, assigned some security to the event.

But, referring back to this article about the Saudi prince that my wife saw, Saudia Arabia and the House of Saud is just a notch below Israel in its placement at the very top of Angry's shitlist. So by that you can say that at least he spreads his contempt all around, even for the U.S., or at least various aspects of it. The U.S. is supposed to be his place of refuge and his home now, and he is a professor at a California school, though you get the feeling that he hangs out in the Middle East and other places so much that his students don't see much of him. This reflects the fact that there is plenty in the Middle East, and actually all over the world to be perturbed about, though I still think that anger is in no way a useful state of mind and efforts should be made to avoid it at all times, and I fail to understand why it is so commonly thought that dropping into that condition is such a smart thing to do.

But I can say that, can't I, because I have conspired to live on a road that is so lightly traveled that at certain points of the day -- and especially at night -- you could conceivably lie right in the middle of it for as long as an hour without anybody running over you.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Integrity Bump

Yesterday I did something I had been proud of never doing in all the games I have played against B., who has been coming here nearly every Tuesday to play chess while his Pick's Disease-afflicted wife goes walking with my wife. By now we must've played close to a hundred games, of which we have had two draws and I have won all the rest. I take absolutely no credit for that. It's no reflection on my skill as a player. Instead it's all a matter of his skill, or more correctly, his lack of it, though that lack is far from total.

But yesterday for the very first time during those sessions, having vowed to always play "touch-move" regardless of what he did, I violated that pledge that I had made to myself, while wondering why all this time I had never come close to having it tested -- we all go to sleep sooner or later -- and I took back a move.

One second after I put my Knight on that fatal square and drew back my hand, I saw that there was nothing protecting it there, and that B. could not only take it for free, but also that capture would suddenly leave my once-promising position in a total shambles. So, intensely embarrassed, I blurted out, "That's not what I wanted to do," and I instantly pulled back the Knight.

Upon which B., a man who takes back several moves per game, startled chortling and said, "All right! I won't tell anybody you did that! I promise."

I then studied the position for several minutes while trying to decide to let my blunder be, in not only the hope but also in the near certainty that B. would mess up badly later on, and I would win anyway.

But I had only slept three hours the previous night, and I had been hard at work on my "Iris Window Project" all day, which involves standing up all the time, and I was tired and sleepy, and I didn't feel like going through all that waiting for my chance, win or lose.

Quite often, when you make a blunder like that, there is still some compensation that can still make things interesting. But I could find absolutely none of that here. Instead my position would suddenly have been left without any prospects at all, and that was extremely disheartening. And anyway, did I really want to play on only while waiting for him to make his inevitable later mistakes, because for some reason he plays the endgame worse than he does all the earlier stages of a game when there are more pieces on the board.

And besides, till then we had been waging an interesting positional struggle, in which I thought I had good prospects of seeing my efforts pay off at last, and I badly wanted to see how that was going to come out.

So I swallowed my embarrassment and let my takeback stand, and I played a different move, with the vow, however, that as soon as I had won so little as one little Pawn while also retaining a good position, I would offer B. a draw, which he would gladly take as a victory that he could crow about to his daughter and his brother-in-law, who seem to be keeping tabs on how he's been faring in these games, because they think that by now he should have won at least one game. I mean how difficult can that be? Don't both sides start out with identical armies?

Actually it can be unbearably difficult if one person has a lifelong deep respect for the game, while for the other playing chess is just something to do while he gets his wife off his hands long enough for her to take a walk, because dealing with such a situation 24 hours a day, month in and month out, is very difficult indeed

And that draw, which I offered him as soon as I had won a Pawn with a great position besides, was exactly how that game turned out.

My wife was very happy about that, because she has long thought that I shouldn't be so avid about playing to win. But that goes against all my chess instincts, hard-wired into my cranium decades ago, and also I think B. should just take his lumps regardless, because of the fact that he makes no effort whatsoever to improve his play, by such means as (gulp!) merely reading a chess book. By my codes of conduct that is an absolute crime, with no extenuating circumstances, not even a wife with a disorder in the forward lobes of her brain. Besides, she, whose name also begins with a "B," remains happy and content with everything, win or lose, rain or shine, and the Alzheimer's-like Pick's Disease is not taking her down nearly as fast as it could.

Fine Points About Car Company Bankruptcies

M. Romney is in Michigan trying to keep the latest of his Republican competitors who have, one after the other, found more favor with the Republican primary voters, namely that true monster of morality, R. Santorum, from scrambling over his head and placing first in the final accountings. To that end, in the capital of the U.S. auto industry, in an op-ed piece for one of the Detroit newspapers, he attacked President Obama for carrying out the Bush-initiated auto bailout that Clint Eastwood praised so highly just a few days ago, during the football game. Romney said that things would have worked out better had Obama not followed through with the bailout.

But an opinion piece in the L.A. Times shoots down that view in a very convincing and easy to understand way. Here are just a few lines stating the reasons why Romney's statement is so off-kilter:

As Romney surely knows, money-losing companies that go into bankruptcy need a lender's help to stay afloat while their debts are restructured. GM and Chrysler ran out of private sources of credit in 2008, when Wall Street was reeling from the collapse of Lehman Bros. and credit was barely flowing even to healthy companies. That's why they ran to Washington for help. It's hard to believe that the automakers could have lined up multiple billions of dollars in new financing from any private source, whether it be debt or equity.

The reality is that if the feds hadn't put up the loans needed to keep those two companies afloat, they would have gone into liquidation, not reorganization. Chaotic sell-off, not managed bankruptcy. And such a collapse could have taken with it companies that provided critical parts to all U.S. auto factories.

These are fine points that are not too fine and also appear to be self-evident, and the big likelihood is that Romney did indeed know them all too well.. He's been in the business world, and his father ran a well-known auto company back in the day. But all that matters to him right now is that he is in danger of losing the primary in Michigan to the same Santorum bird who just finished besting him in the last three contests, in Missouri, Minnesota, and Colorado and has been severely postponing Romney's deep desire and expectation that by now he would instead be breezily cruising into being chosen as the Republican candidate for the Presidency. So right now M. Romney is not interested in dealing with the truth of anything. Instead he is appealing to the basest instincts of those prospective voters who are likely to be doubtful about Obama, and the operative part of his argument is his statement that with the bailout Obama made a big and costly mistake, period, end of story. Little else needs to be said.

In short, like all his competitors in the Republican primaries, Romney depends on the ignorance, sloth, and ugly attitudes of those whose votes he seeks, though he is thereby essentially insulting them even as he dissembles, secure in his certainty that they are not interested in such fine points about anything, and, if informed would not understand them anyway.

I know that in all the hurly-burly of an intense and bitter political fight, there's a big temptation just to look for the nearest rock or other potentially damaging object that one can grab up in an instant and hurl willy-nilly at his opponent. But there are limits. You are supposed to be clear-eyed about something every now and then.

Armed Forces Anniversary Again

I have managed to live long enough to accumulate a great number of important anniversaries, though I am probably habitually remiss in observing most of them in ways that most people would consider appropriate. But today, 15 Feb, marks one event that always stands out in my mind and that I never fail to remember, because it quite unceremoniously and even rudely grabbed whatever had been the horns of my life till then and turned my doings in another and very different direction, where for a long time I scarcely knew what to think. For it was exactly 60 years ago today that, along with several other guys of my age and color and bearing documents attesting to an agreement that we had all made with the U.S. government a day or two earlier, we boarded a train in Union Station in D.C. and took a long, leisurely ride in a cold, cloudy day straight north to a strange place where none of us had ever been before but would now spend the next three or four months in a ragged, intense, definitely absurd, and sometimes desperate state. Namely, we were to start undergoing military basic training at a former Navy but converted to Air Force base alongside Lake Geneva in the Finger Lakes district of western New York state, after which we would spend the rest of at least four years serving in the U.S. Air Force in whichever capacity that that service found appropriate for our particular D.C.-reared aptitudes.

I know I have said all this before on this site, probably many times, and maybe even every year without one miss. But, as my dear mother liked to say, never mind. I'll just say it again, because it bears repeating, at least to my thinking, which is in that same bemused, quirky, and casual state that it bore that long ago day when I was just 20 and I heard the first of many utterances of that supreme motto of that cold, blustery, and unbelievably inhospitable place: "You will shape up or ship out!"

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Defilement of a Death

If there was ever any doubt as to the complete evil of the kind of people who eat, drink, and sleep the toxic wastes of that internet and media dump called the "Fox Cable News Network," their reactions to the death a few days ago of a singer of popular songs named Whitney Houston should sweep those away forever.

Though I admire many forms of music, for some reason unknown to me I was never into her kind of renditions, and for that reason I didn't pay the slightest attention to Whitney Houston during her lifetime of a mere 48 years. Even among the myriad pop songs that I recorded off of FM radio over the years and collected into my 120+ 4- and 8-hour "concept" VCR tapes and DVD's, I don't think I accidentally included even one that she sang, and I have no idea of what her biggest hits were, nor can I remember any of what I understand were the special circumstances of her life. Therefore there's no way I can feel qualified to join the much hipper legions who have been mournfully singing her praises.

But I have been badly struck by one special circumstance that I know of only by the second- and third-hand testimony of other weblogs. And they report that a comment thread over at Fox now has run up to over 5,000 posts in which those teeny meanies (the "teeny" referring to their very limited brain capacities) of the Fox Lower Depths have celebrated Ms. Houston's tragic death by making remarks concerning her that are so consistently obscene that, contrary to their usual custom, none of those weblogists have been able to bring themselves to show even one of those comments as an example, for fear of fatally contaminating their own sites.

Still I've been wondering what these right-wingers could find to say about Ms Houston and her death that would merit such a gigantic spit session on their part. For all of not knowing anything about her, I was living on the same planet as she and keeping reasonably aware of much of the newsworthy events of that and other periods. Yet I can't recall ever hearing anything about her and the things that she said or did that should have aroused such deep and instant hatred upon her death. I mean, even if we were to buy the admiration of her by the late and unlamented arch-terrorist, Osama Bin Laden, as indicated by a very far-fetched tale told by a Sudanese poet, paralleled the actually documented way that another similarly newly deceased Middle East villain, M. Gadhaffi, was taken with another Rainbow female notable, though not nearly as accomplished a woman, Condoleezza Rice, that should not have been enough to raise anything close to that much rage and the desire to defile.

After all, for all their many undeniable faults, those Mediterranean rascals did at least show a few signs of having had good taste in women, at least from afar, as was first indicated when after 9/11, it was disclosed that those who hijacked and crashed those four airliners were told, while they were in the U.S. preparing for the event, that they should preferably hook up with Mexican women, because "they make the best wives." And, if I had not already seen, twice, a fascinating little 2006 documentary called "Cowboy Del Amor," about a guy in New Mexico who specialized in crossing the Rio to find wives for American male crusties like himself, just recently this impression was further bolstered by a comment I saw posted by a "white" man who lived in Los Angeles or some such place, and he said that, as for the much feared dilution of his majority by the influx of immigrants from south of the border, illegal or otherwise, he didn't give a royal damn if the proportion of his to them did drop, because he was so appreciative of all the "Latinas" that he had been seeing all over the place.

The fact that I was not myself born to be one of the Masters of the Universe puts me into an even better position to understand all that.

Wednesday, February 08, 2012

It's Halftime in America

B, the man who comes over here every Tuesday to tolerate yet another defeat at chess while his Pick's Disease-afflicted wife takes a walk with my wife, watched the Superbowl game on TV this past Sunday. Being a lifetime NY Giants fan, as well as having sports of all kinds hardwired into him, he would not have missed it under any any conceivable circumstance short of severe injury or death, and he was intensely gratified to see his team win. Yet, from where I stand, for him it was a big loss, because he watched only those moments of millionaires running up and down a field while fighting over the possession and whereabouts of a little leather ball , a spectacle whose huge popularity among the American populace, to the point of football being America's true biggest religion, has amazed and baffled me ever since I was old enough to put the finishing touches on having ordinary common sense.

Instead, knowing exactly how long the halftime TV ads would run before the game would resume, B. carefully devoted those 31 minutes or so to other pursuits before returning to the screen just in time for the second half kickoff, and thus he completely missed seeing the ad in which Clint Eastwood expounded at the behest of the Chrysler corp. This is tragic, because I wouldn't be surprised if long after the plays in that game and even who won or lost it are completely forgotten, people will still be referring to that ad, because of the huge yet totally unexpected significance it could easily turn out to have on one of the most crucial Presidential elections ever, the upcoming one that will determine whether or not the already deeply history-making B. Obama will serve a second term., and therefore whether or not the nation will be drawn down into the black pit of the American version of fascism sooner, as would be the case if the Republican won, or later or even not at all, if Obama, the Democrat, won. And B.'s luck here is all the worse because ordinarily he is also a political nut, too.

It is the exception that the right wingers instantly took to Eastwood's brief oratorical turn that is reponsible for the huge significance that that ad immediately assumed, and it is amazing -- and enlightening -- to see how livid it made them, though that is not surprising. To have Eastwood, a man who said he didn't think he had ever voted for a Democrat to be President, saying that an economic upturn, even the most modest one, is in progress was absolutely the last thing they wanted to hear, because they are praying that the American economy stay in the doldrums until election day seven long, painful months from now, so that they can keep hitting Obama over the head with it, and they have done all that is in their power to ensure that the economy stays in that stressful shape. Therefore they don't want anyone of any stripe to tell the American public that any sector of the economy is doing better, and never mind that it was under their Bush bird that things got this bad, and that it was that seme GWBush who, in his last days in office, then turned around and started that initiative that Obama pushed through Eastwood's disapproval and all kinds of other flak, to bail out the auto industry.

Eastwood's ad was called "It's Halftime in America." This refers, naturally, to the traditional peptalks that coaches traditionally give to their teams, wining or losing, in the locker room during the halftime. Some adversary said that the Obama people have not yet been able to find a slogan as it starts going in earnest. Could it be that the Chrysler corp has unintentionally found the perfect one for them, and being as how in some ways the ad, whose message was so clear, was also so subtle that nowhere in it was Chrysler mentioned, though some say they paid as much as 12 million for it, nor were any of the candidates or either of the political parties also spoken of, and could it also be that even as we speak Chrysler and the Obama people are in serious negotiations for the rights to that title, for its perfect use as the Democratic slogan for this latest of these all-important years? I hope so, though there is also the chance of the wrath that the always vengeful right-wingers might have decided to wreak on Chrysler car sales -- a weakening of the U.S. automotive comeback that in their eyes would also work to their diabolical advantage.

Tuesday, February 07, 2012

Grabs and Changes: the Rove/Eastwood Dust-Up

An incident during the telecasting of the latest of the interminable Super Bowls, just a few days ago, prompted K. Rove, GWBush's former chief political operative, to once again "grab the sow by the wrong teat," to use an expression that James Joyce so memorably included in his "Ulysses." But this goes hand in hand with being on the hind end of the political spectrum where Rove spends all his days..

It seems that the last ad that was run before the second half of that jivetime football game began, Clint Eastwood, the highly renowned film actor and film maker, showered two minutes of praise on the resurgence of the American car industry and specifically Chrysler, after they had been almost about to go under in the economic collapse that was the final insult that Bush\Rove inflicted on the country and the world.

Chrysler, which coughed up several million bucks for the ad, and Eastwood contend that the ad was only a sort of pep talk to cheer the country onward as it slowly floats back up into the part of the economic sea where the prevailing color is black instead of red. But because it is agreed that the industry was only saved by the bailout that the Obama administration carried out during its first days in office, Rove seized on Eastwood's statement as a chance to grab the ball and run for six, by accusing Eastwood of acting on behalf of Obama's re-election campaign. But several points of information shoot down that contention right quick. One is that despite having made several decidedly progressive films and the great roles that he has given to his close friend, the illustrious Rainbow actor, Morgan Freeman, Eastwood is a longtime Republican. Another is that he voted for J. McCain. And another may be that, for all I know, he has not yet been invited to the White House for dinner.

By now it's obvious that Eastwood is nothing if not flexible in his thinking, because if the report on this matter by Reuters is accurate, he was stoutly against the auto bailout when it happened, saying that if a CEO isn't bright enough to save his company, then he shouldn't be the CEO.

It could be argued that here Eastwood was speaking out of an interest in his bank account instead of from his personal convictions. But I believe that his integrity and, let's face it, his cowboy cantankerousness are such that he wouldn't have made that ad if he wasn't saying what he personally believed. That's been part of his schtick ever since his "make my day" days, and there is no law against an 81-year old guy changing his mind. Never mind all that claptrap that political people constantly make about the evil of "flip-flops," when it really isn't an evil at all. How does that old though probably half-sexist saying go? "Women always change their minds. Fools never do." Or maybe Eastwood doesn't think that the government had anything to do with the automotive industry's U-turn, and that instead they managed it all on their own.

As for Rove, I don't know what his excuse is. That's because, as usual, he doesn't have any.

Sunday, February 05, 2012

Russia's and China's Cruel Veto

As expected, Russia and China have vetoed a U.N. resolution that deplores all the killing that goes on daily in Syria, as the regime of Bashar al-Assad fights to stay in power through sheer military force.

The Russians and the Chinese are therefore okay with seeing a family that has already been ruling Syria with an iron hand for 40 years killing its subject Syrians by the thousands, as was already done once before by Assad pere in even greater numbers.

The reasons given by the Russians show that the vetos couldn't possibly have been the work of rational people. The Russians said the resolution "singled out" al-Assad and his family. That's crazy. Who else is giving the Syrian army the orders to fire at will upon the citizens? The Russians, well-known for replying in kind, also deplored those protestors who are shooting back.

These wacko vetos can only be because both the Russians and the Chinese of whatever stripe have long histories of giving protestors of any kind very short ends of the stick.

Bellowing Rights in the Middle East

It makes me smile to see how, lately, I've been posting almost more on Juan Cole's site than I have on my own. This is because a couple of days ago he penned a very interesting article on how U.S. generals have been trying to slow down the effort to drag the U.S. into even more of a war on Iran than it has already been waging with sanctions. And so, contrary to what I just finished saying was my habit, I've gone back there a couple of times to see what was happening, so important is that subject. Dozens of readers have chimed in, to the tune of 91 comments, before he stowed the article away under "Older Posts," though that article could still be under discussion for all I know, and up to a certain point they've explored numerous aspects of the Iran nuke thing -- except the one that interests me the most.

I keep being totally baffled by the failure of anyone to make explicit a good reason why Iran doesn't have a perfect right to have nuclear weapons of its own if it wants to, especially when the outcry against this comes from countries that have long had these weapons coming by the boatloads out of a certain part of their anatomy that a friend in the Air Force of long ago, unconsciously anticipating a certain conservative Presidential candidate of today, would have called their "gingies." Though I realize that Iran is a very uptight theocracy, I fail to see how that makes it a second Nazi Germany, as I have seen it described as being. They've been almost cuddly toward their neighbors, compared for instance to what the Israels have been toward theirs. Yet the idea of Iran developing those weapons is always spoken of as if nothing could be more obscene, and nowadays especially, many in the U.S. and in Israel have been beating the war drums as hard as possible, as if a pre-emptive military attack on Iran is not only absolutely justified but also imminent, as those neocons or whatever they are clamor to take the path already so bloodily and unsuccessfully hacked out by Saddam Hussein several decades ago.

The image that all this arouses and that I keep seeing in my head, probably inspired by the types of cartoons that have been run for years by Bartcop, is a long string of naked, paunchy males in their 50's and 60's, Americans, Israelis, British, French, and other European types, heading in a very determined single file with each man holding on to the one behind him by their ...bell ropes, down a steep slope toward a dark pit filled with endless carnage and oblivion.

I wouldn't be surprised, however, if the Iranians are secretly pleased by their ability to thus pull the chains of their foaming-at-the-mouth critics at will, and that actually they have no intention of developing nukes, any more than Netan-Lieberman have, or ought to have, of sending F-16's against Tehran. I like to think that the Iranians are canny enough to know that nukes are way too costly and injurious to make and to keep, for many reasons, even if they are never taken out of the box. And I also like to think that the outrage of the Lieberyahoos doesn't at all stem from fear of a Second Holocaust, but simply because they want to keep their present monopoly on having the loudest elephant bellowing rights in the Middle East, stemming from the nukes that they themselves are universally thought to have, along with always having U.S. Big Brother at their backs should they mess things up, which they feel at liberty to do all the time.

Thursday, February 02, 2012

The Case for Obama

Below in the italics is an extended comment that I posted last night on Juan Cole's "Informed Comment." This is one of my favorite sites, and one reason is that he must put in some extra time and effort into moderating the comments to his posts, because what always appears are efforts to make sense, instead of being infested and eventually overcome by the dashed-off gutter-sniping that sooner or later mars so many comment sections to other people's articles and posts.

My comment was to a guest column by one Taylor Marsh, posted yesterday and titled "Marsh on Obama: The Party's Over." I wasn't the only one that was stirred by what Marsh had said, because as of now 51 comments have survived Professor Cole's moderating clicks, an unusual number for his site. I hope my comment contains enough indications of what the issue was all about:

After I finished struggling through Taylor Marsh’s guest article, I couldn’t believe it, and I wondered what it was doing being published on Informed Comment. Usually the stuff that Juan Cole writes or even just hosts comes from a much calmer and more well-reasoned and enlightened point of view than this rant about all that is wrong about some of the many approaches that B. Obama has or has not taken, while being written as if the author has paid little attention to all the horrible things that the Republican Party has been stooping to advocate, not just in this primary season but for years and even decades. So that in the end Marsh shows how lacking his presentation was by saying that the argument that Republicans are worse is no longer enough, presumably as a basis for voting.

My question is, why isn’t it enough, and more than enough? Since there is no other alternative available to American voters at this time, in terms of actually occupying the Oval Office, the author in effect is advocating bringing the Repubs back into power. But does he or any other sensible person really want that? Are memories really so short that people don’t recall the many messes that Bush & Co, certified Republicans if I recall correctly, had been creating in all the previous eight years and that Obama inherited little more than three short years ago? And don’t they also recall that almost on the day that Obama took office, R. Limbaugh, the guiding ayatollah of the Republicans, vowed to do all that he could to make sure than Obama’s presidency would not be successful? That was an anti-American act if I ever saw one, for it was the duty of every American to help the new President dispose of all those messes. Yet the Republican Congress especially took Limbaugh’s lead, and have done all they could to obstruct or poison everything that Obama has ever tried to do to set things straight, while at the same time firing up a chorus of concerted personal hatred toward Obama in preference to doing or thinking anything else, just so that they can guickly take over the reins and pick up again their ruinous deeds where they left off in 2009.

If the Obama re-election campaign hasn’t adopted a slogan as yet, it undoubtedly is because it has so many to chose from that it’s hard to decide, from the abundance of riches furnished by the staggering Republican poverty of ideas and of soul.

Confessions of a One-Shot Poster

Maybe I am indeed a cowardly and chicken person and poster. I would never argue with the certainty of others that I am.

All I know is that I am not here online or offline to get into any fights, by word or deed. So every once in a great while, if I get worked up about something , I pull myself together enough to drop a comment on someone else's site, but I never hang around to see what responses I get, if any. Earlier in my online days I would linger to see, and usually the reactions to something I had said were not generally as hostile as I had expected. But now I am a little older still, and nothing ever motivates me to tarry -- unless it's somebody like Guy Andrew of Rook's Rant. In his case it's always my motive to pull his chain to get a response, and he never disappoints. A weblogist like him serves valuable purposes.

In all the other cases, I wonder if what is happening is that in my mind I've already had the confrontation with whoever might take issue, in detail, and it was not pleasant or enlightening. I'm good at doing that == probably a result of so many years of concocting numerous dialogs in that slew of my unpublished novels. I can hear extended conversations unreeling in my mind at the drop of a hat, between two participants or with five or six.

Like almost anything else, sometimes that's a handy facility to have, while on other occasions it takes me too far out in places where I definitely don't want to be.

Wednesday, February 01, 2012

Where the Buffalo Roam

I find that after about five years, my memory of any movie I have seen, even films that impressed me greatly, suddenly drops off so sharply that very quickly I am left with only one bit from each film still left in my mental footlocker. The good thing about this is that it goes far toward making old films brand new again for me.

But that isn't my main theme in this post. Instead I wanted to speak about something that Mitt Romney said yesterday, right after his big win in Florida that has allowed him to just about wrap up the race to be the Republican candidate for President. Yet, to add to his already huge collection of cold-hearted statements, he said that he doesn't care about very poor people, because they have safety nets to take care of them. Never mind that for decades now his party has been slashing at those same safety nets so relentlessly that now, if commercial fishermen had to go to sea with comparable equipment, the fish would breathe a tremendous sigh of relief.

I think I have spoken of this before, but it bears repeating -- as Romney unconsciously did, but less vividly -- that in a 1980 movie called "Where the Buffalo Roam," Richard M. Nixon is portrayed as having conveyed exactly the same sentiment, in a scene that is the only thing I recall from that film, though it is probably the best of the small genre of movies focused on the late, renowned "gonzo" journalist, Hunter S. Thompson.

Bill Murray, playing the Thompson character, is shown following political figures around, trying to get intervuews. Finally he finds a way to be alone with Nixon in an airport restroom. While Nixon is using the urinal, Murray seizes this moment to fire a rant at Nixon that contains numerous references to how the doomed are suffering this, and the doomed are enduring that, and is he aware of how many Americans are falling into the ranks of the doomed.

Finally, while he is still squirting on the porcelain, Nixon calmly and mysteriously orders, "Come closer."

Murray hesitantly moves closer.

Nixon says, "No. Come closer."

While probably expecting some satrical toilet gesture, Murray shifts a few inches closer still.

"F-ck the doomed," the Nixon character says, and that was all.

The reason this one scene imprinted itself so indelibly on my mind must be the way that the film makers so masterfully hit on the idea of using simply that barebones setting and three short words to show the utterly contemptible uttering such utter contempt.

HBO and Palin

HBO has made a movie that, though unbroadcast as yet, has been roundly attacked by its right wing critics, who, as always, see it as being the most obscene of crimes not to be automatically on their side. The movie, "Game Change," is based on a book of the same name, and it is about the part of the 2008 Presidential campaign that involved J. McCain reaching way up into Alaska and improbably picking as his running mate the female governor there, S. Palin. These Fox-Limbaugh types are screaming that the film's trailer casts Palin in a bad light.

The obvious rejoinder among I would say the majority of observers is, how can any movie that claims to contain large doses of the truth about that event not cast S. Palin in a bad light?

One example of this purported mean-spiritedness has Julianne Moore, as Palin, saying that she has to win this, because "I so don't want to go back to Alaska."

What is so damning about that? And Palin's behavior during that time, climaxed by her resigning as the governor soon after she and McCain had indeed lost the election, strongly pointed to the likelihood that indeed she didn't want to go back up there amongst the glaciers, nose to nose with the Russians just across the bay. And where has she, or at least that part of her body up above her shoulders, been ever since? Not at all in Nome but on the Fox Phewey Channel instead.

One interesting thing about this is that "Game Change" looks to take its place (alongside any project depicting Valerie Plame, the outed CIA agent of Iraqgate times) as one of those rare films in which a historical female personage in appearance actually outshines the actress playing her. Julianne Moore is a great, adventurous actress, and she is an attractive woman, but, by the testimony at least of the one still shot that I saw, she still doesn't have quite what Palin has, though on the outside only. In all other respects Moore is, of course, way ahead of the said, sad woman.

(Extra-Added Note: I have a relative who holds some kind of high position at HBO, after having been there most of her adult life. She is the granddaughter of one of my first cousins, a guy that I knew well and who was like my second father, though he is now long deceased, and I guess that makes K. my third cousin. She is so fair that I had wondered whether most of the people at HBO knew of her derivation. But my wife just informed me of something that I didn't know, namely that K. has always made a big point of proudly telling the HBO people that she is a Rainbow. Forgive me. Maybe that was because I also had an uncle who for years "passed" as "white" in Chicago, and I strongly doubt that that was ever revealed, up there. The difference in the two eras must have determined what one could afford and the other couldn't.)