Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Why You Must Always Do Your Homework, and Why Ultimately invoking the name of God will get you what you want...

(a political rule of thumb the President was, by the looks of 'im, too exhausted to remember on Thanksgiving)

1803 map of US

I found this in my email this morning, from a friend here in North Carolina.

Part of rebuilding New Orleans caused residents often to be challenged with the
task of tracing home titles back potentially hundreds of years.. With a community
rich with history stretching back over two centuries, houses have been passed along
through generations of family, sometimes making it quite difficult to establish ownership.
Here's a great letter an attorney wrote to the FHA on behalf of a client:

A New Orleans lawyer sought an FHA loan for a client. He was told the loan would be granted if he could prove satisfactory title to a parcel of property being offered as collateral. The title to the property dated back to 1803, which took the lawyer three months to track down. After sending the information to the FHA, he received the following reply.

(Actual reply from FHA)

"Upon review of your letter adjoining your client's loan application, we note that the request is supported by an Abstract of Title. While we compliment the able manner in which you have prepared and presented the application, we must point out that you have only cleared title to the proposed collateral property back to 1803. Before final approval can be accorded, it will be necessary to clear the title back to its origin."

Annoyed, the lawyer responded as follows: (Actual response)

"Your letter regarding title in Case No.189156 has been received. I note that you wish to

have title extended further than the 206 years covered by the present application.
I was unaware that any educated person in this country, particularly those working in the
property area, would not know that Louisiana was purchased by the United States from France , in 1803 the year of origin identified in our application. For the edification of uninformed FHA bureaucrats, the title to the land prior to U.S. ownership was obtained from France, which had acquired it by Right of Conquest from Spain. The land came into the possession of Spain by Right of Discovery made in the year 1492 by a sea captain named Christopher Columbus, who had been granted the privilege of seeking a new route to India by the Spanish monarch, Queen Isabella.

The good Queen Isabella, being a pious woman and almost as careful about titles as the FHA, took the precaution of securing the blessing of the Pope before she sold her jewels to finance Columbus's expedition...Now the Pope, as I'm sure you may know, is the emissary of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, and God, it is commonly accepted, created this world. Therefore, I believe it is safe to presume that God also made that part of the world called Louisiana . God, therefore, would be the owner of origin and His origins date back to before the beginning of time, the world as we know it, and the FHA. I hope you find God's original claim to be satisfactory. Now, may we have our loan?"

The loan was approved.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Happy Birthday, John Stewart!

HEY! It's John Stewart's Birthday!!

And whatever his shortcomings in the wuss department when confronted with the presence of truly powerful and nasty people, we owe him a great debt for giving us something akin to real news focus and the opportunity to laugh at the madness. So here ya go, John. This Bud's for you, guy.

and many happy returns of the day..

Oh, and bill maher is a weenie.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Brandon Watts lies injured as Occupy Wall Street protesters clash with police in Zuccotti Park
Occupy Wall Street protester Brandon Watts lies injured on the ground after clashes with police over the eviction of OWS from Zuccotti Park. Photograph: Allison Joyce/Getty Images

US citizens of all political persuasions are still reeling from images of unparallelled police brutality in a coordinated crackdown against peaceful OWS protesters in cities across the nation this past week. An elderly woman was pepper-sprayed in the face; the scene of unresisting, supine students at UC Davis being pepper-sprayed by phalanxes of riot police went viral online; images proliferated of young women – targeted seemingly for their gender – screaming, dragged by the hair by police in riot gear; and the pictures of a young man, stunned and bleeding profusely from the head, emerged in the record of the middle-of-the-night clearing of Zuccotti Park.

But just when Americans thought we had the picture – was this crazy police and mayoral overkill, on a municipal level, in many different cities? – the picture darkened. The National Union of Journalists and the Committee to Protect Journalists issued a Freedom of Information Act request to investigate possible federal involvement with law enforcement practices that appeared to target journalists. The New York Times reported that "New York cops have arrested, punched, whacked, shoved to the ground and tossed a barrier at reporters and photographers" covering protests. Reporters were asked by NYPD to raise their hands to prove they had credentials: when many dutifully did so, they were taken, upon threat of arrest, away from the story they were covering, and penned far from the site in which the news was unfolding. Other reporters wearing press passes were arrested and roughed up by cops, after being – falsely – informed by police that "It is illegal to take pictures on the sidewalk."

In New York, a state supreme court justice and a New York City council member were beaten up; in Berkeley, California, one of our greatest national poets, Robert Hass, was beaten with batons. The picture darkened still further when Wonkette and reported that the Mayor of Oakland acknowledged that the Department of Homeland Security had participated in an 18-city mayor conference call advising mayors on "how to suppress" Occupy protests.

To Europeans, the enormity of this breach may not be obvious at first. Our system of government prohibits the creation of a federalised police force, and forbids federal or militarised involvement in municipal peacekeeping.

I noticed that rightwing pundits and politicians on the TV shows on which I was appearing were all on-message against OWS. Journalist Chris Hayes reported on a leaked memo that revealed lobbyists vying for an $850,000 contract to smear Occupy. Message coordination of this kind is impossible without a full-court press at the top. This was clearly not simply a case of a freaked-out mayors', city-by-city municipal overreaction against mess in the parks and cranky campers. As the puzzle pieces fit together, they began to show coordination against OWS at the highest national levels.

Why this massive mobilisation against these not-yet-fully-articulated, unarmed, inchoate people? After all, protesters against the war in Iraq, Tea Party rallies and others have all proceeded without this coordinated crackdown. Is it really the camping? As I write, two hundred young people, with sleeping bags, suitcases and even folding chairs, are still camping out all night and day outside of NBC on public sidewalks – under the benevolent eye of an NYPD cop – awaiting Saturday Night Live tickets, so surely the camping is not the issue. I was still deeply puzzled as to why OWS, this hapless, hopeful band, would call out a violent federal response.

That is, until I found out what it was that OWS actually wanted.

The mainstream media was declaring continually "OWS has no message". Frustrated, I simply asked them. I began soliciting online "What is it you want?" answers from Occupy. In the first 15 minutes, I received 100 answers. These were truly eye-opening.

The No 1 agenda item: get the money out of politics. Most often cited was legislation to blunt the effect of the Citizens United ruling, which lets boundless sums enter the campaign process. No 2: reform the banking system to prevent fraud and manipulation, with the most frequent item being to restore the Glass-Steagall Act – the Depression-era law, done away with by President Clinton, that separates investment banks from commercial banks. This law would correct the conditions for the recent crisis, as investment banks could not take risks for profit that create kale derivatives out of thin air, and wipe out the commercial and savings banks.

No 3 was the most clarifying: draft laws against the little-known loophole that currently allows members of Congress to pass legislation affecting Delaware-based corporations in which they themselves are investors.

When I saw this list – and especially the last agenda item – the scales fell from my eyes. Of course, these unarmed people would be having the shit kicked out of them.

For the terrible insight to take away from news that the Department of Homeland Security coordinated a violent crackdown is that the DHS does not freelance. The DHS cannot say, on its own initiative, "we are going after these scruffy hippies". Rather, DHS is answerable up a chain of command: first, to New York Representative Peter King, head of the House homeland security subcommittee, who naturally is influenced by his fellow congressmen and women's wishes and interests. And the DHS answers directly, above King, to the president (who was conveniently in Australia at the time).

In other words, for the DHS to be on a call with mayors, the logic of its chain of command and accountability implies that congressional overseers, with the blessing of the White House, told the DHS to authorise mayors to order their police forces – pumped up with millions of dollars of hardware and training from the DHS – to make war on peaceful citizens.

But wait: why on earth would Congress advise violent militarised reactions against its own peaceful constituents? The answer is straightforward: in recent years, members of Congress have started entering the system as members of the middle class (or upper middle class) – but they are leaving DC privy to vast personal wealth, as we see from the "scandal" of presidential contender Newt Gingrich's having been paid $1.8m for a few hours' "consulting" to special interests. The inflated fees to lawmakers who turn lobbyists are common knowledge, but the notion that congressmen and women are legislating their own companies' profitsis less widely known – and if the books were to be opened, they would surely reveal corruption on a Wall Street spectrum. Indeed, we do already know that congresspeople are massively profiting from trading on non-public information they have on companies about which they are legislating – a form of insider trading that sent Martha Stewart to jail.

Since Occupy is heavily surveilled and infiltrated, it is likely that the DHS and police informers are aware, before Occupy itself is, what its emerging agenda is going to look like. If legislating away lobbyists' privileges to earn boundless fees once they are close to the legislative process, reforming the banks so they can't suck money out of fake derivatives products, and, most critically, opening the books on a system that allowed members of Congress to profit personally – and immensely – from their own legislation, are two beats away from the grasp of an electorally organised Occupy movement … well, you will call out the troops on stopping that advance.

So, when you connect the dots, properly understood, what happened this week is the first battle in a civil war; a civil war in which, for now, only one side is choosing violence. It is a battle in which members of Congress, with the collusion of the American president, sent violent, organised suppression against the people they are supposed to represent. Occupy has touched the third rail: personal congressional profits streams. Even though they are, as yet, unaware of what the implications of their movement are, those threatened by the stirrings of their dreams of reform are not.

Sadly, Americans this week have come one step closer to being true brothers and sisters of the protesters in Tahrir Square. Like them, our own national leaders, who likely see their own personal wealth under threat from transparency and reform, are now making war upon us.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Thanksgiving, Part deux:

And lest you think I've gone all mushy, I haven't forgotten the horrors at UC Davis.

You gotta wonder if the now infamous pepper spraying cop has anyone to spend this day with. And if he does, would you want to be there ? He's made a nice name for himself... and it starts with an A, courtesy of tongue lashing Gene Simmons.

Happy Thanksgiving

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone. On this day last year I was on a train from Paris to Burgundy, France, contentedly watching the French countryside fly by and feeling grateful indeed for the diverse experience of living and the good hearted people I know. I hope you can think of at least one person in your life this day you're deeply thankful for; it's more reassuring than trying to recall "things" we're thankful for, as those "things", whether possessions or health or wealth, are apt to disappear at the drop of a hat and quite unexpectedly and leave you scratching your head, wondering what happened to your simple desire to be loved -- and to love.

I've always been lucky; I think people who see themselves as lucky are. Call it an attitude of gratitude. It draws the good stuff into your life. There are people in my life I'm deeply grateful for; ya'll know who you are because I tend to let you know that. So here's a big muah! on your kissers. And my wish today, my vision, is all of us gathered in one big room around a table of beautiful food and wine all made with love, in a peaceful world where the true wealth of the planet is universally and reverently shared, where no one goes hungry or shelterless, everyone does fulfilling work, no one's afraid of the truth so they tell it, and politicians aren't needed, or they're all Elizabeth Warren --- and that that occasion won't be someone's funeral.

The coast of Carolina, where I am this day, is very different from rural New England. For one thing, it's flat, no hills to catch sounds and trap them in valleys. Although the height and intensity of pine trees here would astound you, given the havoc of hurricanes. The thing I look forward to most on Thanksgiving and Christmas is the silence the world takes on. I walked outside early this morning anticipating that blessed silence I always experienced on Thanksgiving and Christmas in years past up north, even in New Jersey. That withdrawal from the rat race people allow themselves on this day – unless they run out of cigarettes or something. Now, this town is a churchgoing town, and tends to be very very quiet on any given Sunday morning, and today was like that, quiet, but not silent. Not like the silence I used to 'hear' in Maine on this day. The peace. Course I"m closer to roads here. And there is the occasional car. Still, there isn't much going on for a weekday, and I do feel that universal withdrawal. The late sleepers, the quiet early morning risers (I'm one) stuffing turkeys while the rest sleep in. I've always loved being up early, like my dad. HIs elfin joy at preparing a turkey at 6 a.m. or playing Santa before dawn, same thing. Same childlike joy he brought to both. Whatever his faults, he and Mom both taught me to cherish moments like that, that it was the essence of life. God, I miss their smiles, their voices, the unabashed love and pride in their eyes when they looked at their kids. Their love of laughter.

And while most of my family isn't here with me today, I'm grateful for the friends I have, those who've called to see what I'm doing, who email for news, who've invited me to share their table, or carry on down to the "$7.99 turkey special" downtown one very special friend is excited about. (I call her The Queen, cause she is.) I got a card recently from an old, old friend I never expected to see again; we'll visit soon. You just never know what's around the corner. You truly don't. And if you think you do, well, I guess that's the day the life goes out of you and you huddle in a corner waiting for the end. There's only one thing that truly keeps us going in this world, and that's curiosity about what's next and an eager willingness to find out. So we must have the courage to carry on up to that door and open it, step through, and behold the new. Have faith the universe will love us if we just love. And laugh.

Here's a good one. From - "A new survey from Fairleigh-Dickinson University has found that viewers of Fox News are less informed of world events than people who don't watch any news. The study found that Fox News viewers are 18 points less likely to know that Egyptians overthrew their government and 6 points less likely to know that Syrians have not yet overthrown their government compared to those who watch no news. Fairleigh-Dickinson political science professor Dan Cassino said of the study, "the results show us that there is something about watching Fox News that leads people to do worse on these questions than those who don't watch any news at all."

Yeah, we knew that.

Holidays can be rough on those who love addicts and alcoholics, not to mention on the addicts themselves. And from the addictions and recovery website The Fix , this commenter nailed it when she said of the addict she loves: "I wish I could say something helpful that would make sense but his addiction is like a woman who understands..Ya just can't compete with that."

"Like a woman who understands..." Like totally. I wonder how long it took her to realize that.

And here's something from a commenter on NPR recently about the failure of the Subparcommittee to come up with a solution to cost cutting:

"Republican President Dwight D. Eisenhower had a TOP TAX RATE OF 91% ON BILLIONAIRES & MILLIONAIRES. Further he warned us about the "Military-Industrial-Complex", we didn't listen. He took that money and built the INTERSTATE HIGHWAY the ELECTRICAL GRID and DAMS (infrastructure), then he turned around and built the finest Public School System in the free world. When Republicans asked him to lower taxes he stated ... "We cannot afford to reduce taxes and reduce income until we have in" sight a program of expenditure thatshows that the factors of income and outgo will be balanced."

I may just take to wearing my "I Like Ike" button again.

Finally, for those I miss most on this day who are with me in spirit always. I know because I know they would never abandon me, even in death and because they live on in my bones and in my head and in my heart. So for Mom, Dad, and Patti, and my Eno and Tess and Bim and little Winston, who taught me love and who I'm blessed to have shared part of life's journey with:

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

J. F. K.

R. I. P.

An impossible sadness steals over me when I remember Nov. 22, 1963. Odd how that day is rarely mentioned in documentaries about "the sixties" and all those drugs and dropouts from the system. And yet, there it is, THE defining moment for a generation. The Baby Bummers. The same ones now suffering from amnesia.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Earth | Time Lapse View from Space | Fly Over | Nasa, ISS

Just because. . . . and with thanks to Michael Konig for taking the time to wow us with our own reality, here are your five minutes of zen... Locations listed below.. enjoy.

Time lapse sequences of photographs taken by the crew of expeditions
28 & 29 onboard the International Space Station from August to October,
2011, who to my knowledge shot these pictures at an altitude of around 350 km.
All credit goes to them. I intend to upload a FullHD-version presently.

HD, refurbished, smoothed, retimed, denoised, deflickered, cut, etc.
All in all I tried to keep the looks of the material as original as possible,
avoided adjusting the colors and the like, since in my opinion the original
footage itself already has an almost surreal and aestethical visual nature.

Music: Jan Jelinek | Do Dekor, faitiche back2001
w+p by Jan Jelinek, published by scape Publishing / Universal |

Image Courtesy of the Image Science & Analysis Laboratory,
NASA Johnson Space Center, The Gateway to Astronaut Photography of Earth

Editing: Michael König |

Shooting locations in order of appearance:

1. Aurora Borealis Pass over the United States at Night
2. Aurora Borealis and eastern United States at Night
3. Aurora Australis from Madagascar to southwest of Australia
4. Aurora Australis south of Australia
5. Northwest coast of United States to Central South America at Night
6. Aurora Australis from the Southern to the Northern Pacific Ocean
7. Halfway around the World
8. Night Pass over Central Africa and the Middle East
9. Evening Pass over the Sahara Desert and the Middle East
10. Pass over Canada and Central United States at Night
11. Pass over Southern California to Hudson Bay
12. Islands in the Philippine Sea at Night
13. Pass over Eastern Asia to Philippine Sea and Guam
14. Views of the Mideast at Night
15. Night Pass over Mediterranean Sea
16. Aurora Borealis and the United States at Night
17. Aurora Australis over Indian Ocean
18. Eastern Europe to Southeastern Asia at Night

Monday, November 14, 2011

In _______ We Trust?

Today I came across an essay I wrote in January of 2003, just before we shockan'awed the national treasures in the cradle of civilization – that place we learned about as schoolchildren, precious to the history of humankind, some said it was the Garden of Eden. The essay struck me as worth posting here for the sake of perspective, but I do so even as it gives me no pleasure to have been right. Anyone who says they didn't see the mess we're in now coming back then, all I can say is: if you wanna sit behind the wheel of democracy, you'd best have your eyes open when driving or you're sure to lose control. It's a powerful vehicle subject to wild behavior.

A Nation in Denial: Duck and Cover Revisited January 2003

The excretory system is a wonderful thing: what you don’t use, you lose. It appears that our Constitution’s protections are similarly designed.

Last year while digesting the aftermath of Nineleven, I suggested (in The Maine Progressive) we all take a moment to mindfully bake a pie, share it, and meditate on the principles our leaders insisted were the target of terrorist threats. I myself took to baking with a vengeance, withdrawing from public discourse at the behest of apolitical friends weary of my alarms and convinced that the nation was in good, if admittedly cretin, hands. Content in the satisfaction of manual work and its attendant illusion of control, I assumed the old “duck and cover” posture and waited for the system to clear itself.

Apparently I was not alone. This season holiday shoppers altered their buying habits en masse, reflecting a creeping national discomfort and a need to palliate the collective dyspepsia. We eschewed plastic tchotchkes in favor of snug-as-a-bug items from Martha’s armoir, cozying up in down comforters, L. L. Bean sweaters, and gas masks, reassured that we are safe and sound in our brand name homes, consumers ever loyal to the belief that this retreat to domesticity and debt will put us right with the Lord and keep me and mine safe from future threats to the status quo.

Years ago the public response to the Cuban Missile Crisis -- fallout shelters, basements stocked with enough canned goods for forty days and forty nights, duck-and-cover drills for school children -- revealed at least a more practical, if overly optimistic, response to the threat of imminent peril than the denial that’s sweeping the country as 2003 unfolds. That the source of our present danger is so ill defined contributes mightily to its ability to chasten – and to silence -- skepticism about possible responses. The nation has swallowed whole the broadly cast, highly indigestible, assumption that the most perilous threat to our way of life is of exterior origin – that old bogeyman, the “outside agitator” – and can be militarily defeated.

Sedative sales are up, as are alcohol consumption, visits to shrinks, and anxiety disorder prescription sales. Cognitive dissonance emanates from the screen in a blizzard of TV “snow”. But as the recovery folks like to say, God keeps sending you the same message ‘til you get it, and, short of being comatose, you can’t miss the sound of startling changes in the air every time you watch TV, hear a radio, or read the paper.

Parked in front of big screens offering endless escapism, we seem to have dozed off, adrift in comforting dreams of inchoate empire and military invincibility. Those screens, by the way, were purchased in record numbers over the holidays from discount chains, whose entire inventory came from countries where labor can be had for a pittance from workers desperate for income because their governments, our new trading partners, are hoarding all the dough.

Trouble sleeping? Pass the Pinot and Prozac. It will all work out in the end. And what do we mean by that – The End? Oh, let’s not go there. We can leave that concern to the new anti-Enlightenment Southern Protestant Calvinist cadre that’s taken charge of our safety, our constitution, and our democracy. These born again Bible-thumpers are sly and ardent purveyors of the very theocracy they decry in nations like Iran. These are not “good old boys”, just as Mr. Lott is not the exception to the rule. (And why did no one ask him exactly what he meant by “all these problems” anyway? I think that would have cleared the air nicely.)

Writer Michael Lind plows right through the snow job. He reminds us that Bush and his cronies come from that southern God fearing and vengeful (rather than turn the other cheek) Protestant tradition that aligns neatly with Ariel Sharon’s view of which people God has chosen to control the oil (for us) and water (for them) in the Middle East. This “violent Scots-Irish strain of Old Testament religiosity… that strongly favors commodity-driven capitalism of cotton and oil over high tech manufacturing and R and D” believes that Jefferson, Washington and Franklin were “infidels and agnostics”. Seen in this context the edicts of the Bush Administration portend a malevolent end to democracy as we knew it, and yet people seem okay with that. How did Americans slip into this state of acute mental sloth, ignorance and gullibility? Is it the carefully edited conglomerate media? Public education that disdains real knowledge? Obesity brought on by the sixty-eight fat calories in every Big Mac eaten five times a week – with fries?

We seem to have forgotten Ben Franklin’s warning, that it is only “A Republic, if you can keep it”. Keep it? Jefferson said, “Every government degenerates when trusted to the rulers of the people alone”. Keep it -- from whom? Monarchists (dictators) is probably who Franklin had in mind. And keep it for whom? We are handing over our democracy to a group of folks who over the last twenty years have publicly vowed, and have already begun in the name of (whose?) national security, to dismantle, one constitutional precept at a time, an open government that is the product of two centuries of evolution, until by any objective standard it will function more as a democratic (in name only) dictatorship (whose hallmark is arbitrary exercise of power, the Bush administration’s forte) than a democratic republic it should be – one where the people’s elected representatives do things like declare war on behalf of those who will do the fighting, and hold the now muscular executive and judiciary branches in check.

Can we really believe a president is still “elected” if citizens are selectively restrained from voting, or their votes invalidated? Virtually every recount of the valid votes in Florida gave the election to Gore, months after he conceded of course, a fact downplayed by nearly every media source. Bush and his team know they would not be sitting in the White House today were it not for the collusion and cooperation of Jeb Bush, Katherine Harris and a Supreme Court that stopped the vote counting. (And let’s not forget to give the religious right its due.) If these folks have no qualms about rigging a national election, should this not give us pause as to how serious they are about undermining the constitutional bases of our government altogether?

The Bushites know that most of the nation, exhausted from the 2000 election debacle, struggling for economic survival, and cowering with fear fueled by Nineleven and repeated danger alerts, is now asleep at the screen; but not everyone has amnesia, and many people were outraged by the judicial coup d’etat that was Bush v. Gore. Even if most folks didn’t really get how serious was that decision’s threat to democracy, everyone, even Bush voters, sensed a gaping “wound… to the loser…[that loser being] the Nation’s confidence in the judge as impartial guardian of the rule of law” following the majority’s order of “the disenfranchisement of an unknown number of voters” (Justice Stevens, dissenting). The dissenters’ opinions are a plea to our collective conscience.

The Bushites have succeeded in selling the idea that the past is irrelevant and dissent a selfish indulgence, politically incorrect, offensive to patriots; yet dissent is a democratic citizen’s only weapon against tyranny when elections no longer reflect the people’s will. The Democrats have recently begun to don the robes of bicameral opposition in the face of the looming 2004 race. But the American people, frustrated by Gore’s and the Democrats’ 2000 mute cave-in, and with an attention span conditioned by the remote control, rapid fire TV images, and a flurry of spin doctors afraid to tell it like it is, seem not to have the heart, despite a persistent queasiness urging them otherwise, to face the truth of their own complicity in failing to “keep” the republic.

In November of 2001, when asked what the most difficult aspect of the war on terror would be, Mr. Rumsfeld replied: “Selling it to the American people.” An odd response given our obvious vulnerability. What “product” did he think would need “selling”? The wildly inflated military budget whose allotments have more to do with Mr. Reagan’s fantasies than anti-terrorist precautions? The erosion of our constitutional protections?

Consider these recent items from The New York Times:

Electronic monitoring of civilian emails, online shopping, ATM transactions, travel booking, cell phone calls, electronic toll collection systems, and credit card terminals is already taking place. The Pentagon is developing software to connect these sources of data.

The INS has proposed a rule that would force airlines and shipping companies to submit to the government the name, birth date, passport number, sex, home country, and address of every passenger and crew member before leaving or returning to the US. The ACLU expressed concern that this information not be used for a national identification system.

Government openness experts describe the Bush administration’s penchant for secrecy as a “sea change in government openness”. Examples: John Ashcroft’s new policy on the Freedom of Information Act directing government agencies to resist attempts by the public to access unclassified information; Dick Cheney’s refusal to reveal to Congress the records of his energy task force meetings; an 18% rise in the first year of the Bush administration of the number of documents marked classified, and three new agencies given the power to stamp documents “Secret”. (This is Mr. Cheney’s idea of “restoring the proper powers of the executive branch” – by whose definition of “proper”?); Mr. Bush’s gymnastic efforts to keep his papers as governor of Texas from public scrutiny; the White House directive, well before 9/11, delaying the release of Reagan’s (and V.P. Bush’s) presidential papers; and a second directive in November 2001 protecting the papers of nearly everyone associated with a president and any of his advisors for a essentially any reason. Until then the Archivist of the United States could reject a former president’s claim of privilege – no longer. This circle the wagons and cover your tracks tactic undermines our ability to assess “how our government has operated in the past” and to reshape our possible future. Without that ability we allow autocratic businessmen (those “greedy capitalists” President Hoover warned of) to edit and rewrite our national history and laws. And people don’t see this as Orwellian?

The list goes on: closed courtrooms, indefinite detentions, dismantled user friendly disclosure systems on government websites that inform communities about risks from nearby chemical plants and maps that located pipelines carrying oil, gas and hazardous substances, government requests to our libraries to withdraw federal information from their collections, insisting that the public does not need such information. Hey, that’s my call isn’t it? And isn’t that my information anyway? I paid for it. And so did you.

Experts say this sand of secrecy in the governmental gears serves to hamper the US research enterprise (as this anti-R & D crowd pinches the one area where we might actually grow the economy), to decrease national security, and to slow down the information highway in one direction, to the citizen, while speeding the flow to Big Brother’s CPU. Whoa there, cowboy, that is not the direction you said we were headed!

Should we pass out the Ritalin so everyone can focus long enough to connect the dots? But neither Ritalin nor Rolaids can give us the will to act. Shall we succumb to a fallacy of naïve faith that everything will turn out fine (since we are, after all, the nation under God) if we just stay home and keep making good pies? Who ever said democracy was static, inherently ensured once established? Certainly not the Founders, who cautioned the opposite, or the abolitionists, the suffragists, the labor union organizers, or the Freedom Riders.

When did it become un-American to have strong opinions in the face of injustice? To be an informed political partisan? To take indignation to the street, or write a strong letter to Congress? To spend a few hours with C-SPAN, or reading your Constitution and Bill of Rights? Start noticing that the neo-Calvinists are reinterpreting those documents faster than you can say “fatwa”. The ancient Greeks understood that truth never brings repose. Turn off the screen, head for the nearest Starbucks, and start talking with people about this. Rabble rouse with a passion for the principles that give you the legal prerogative to do that. Unexercised free speech is silence. In the face of fear it is repression. So use it or lose it. Sound the alarm! The Redcoats are back! And they are making off with the national treasure. We will no longer have the Republic we are not prepared to defend and “keep”.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Maine Found to Be the Most Politically Active State!

According to The Daily Beast, Maine voters are the most politically active in the nation. Which is to say, they are the most likely to participate in the electoral process of voters in all 50 states. Who knew? Right on, Mainers. Way to exercise your right to revolution. Some good stuff goin on up there in the way north corner of the nation. (And some other weird stuff we don't talk about as well.)

Here's a useful web site if your moral compass starts to waver. From Vaquero Enterprises:

Code of the West
 (from "Cowboy Ethics: What Wall Street Can Learn from the Code of the West" by James P. Owen)

1. Live each day with courage.

2. Take pride in your work.

3. Always finish what you start.

4. Do what has to be done.

5. Be tough, but fair.

6. When you make a promise, keep it.

7. Ride for the brand.

8. Talk less and say more.

9. Remember that some things aren't for sale.

10. Know where to draw the line.

(And you wonder why we're in such bad shape?)

The Hubble Ultra Deep Field in 3D

Lest we take 0urselves too seriously....

Just a little thing to put everything in a fresh perspective....

Thursday, November 3, 2011

John and Condi, sittin in a tree....

Did you catch this? John Stewart, of whom I have from time to time been a fan, shamelessly attempting to charm (because she is a woman and he sees himself as a charmer) the truth out of Condi Rice, former Secretary of State for the Bushies, an incompetent, pathological liar and opportunist (a prereq in that administration) who will defend the crimes of the Bush administration with her dying breath.

Did he ask her if she was afraid to leave the US now because she was wanted in several countries for war crimes? No. When she objected to his one weak objection to the Bushies' "misrepresentations" (American politicians never "lie", you know) when "selling" the war to the public – she insisting they never tried to "sell" the war – did he come back with Rumsfeld's quip – two days after 9/11 – when asked by a reporter what would be the most difficult thing about the burgeoning War On Terra, Rumsfeld said (and this is a direct quote): "Selling it to the American People"? (I wrote it down in my journal, folks.)

Lame, lame, lame. The litany of lies she proffered, in a smooth but strident monologue that went virtually unchallenged by Stewart, reeked of condescension to the audience and the host. Basic fact checking beforehand would have been minimal responsible journalism, but Stewart simply wasn't up to the challenge. He showed his ego's true colors with this one and I wonder if he wasn't kicking himself afterwards, knowing he'd let people down (check the comments here as well) cause he was just plain chicken, pathetically not up to the challenge of his own power.

Those fluttering eyelids of hers every time he made a lame objection to anything she said gave her away. There she sat primly, in her bellicose red suit (no, no, there would BE no surrender to any facts by Condi), expecting to be treated like a visiting dignitary. It floored me that he could be such a coward, and I lost respect for a man who thought he could confront a person who was as responsible as any for perpetrating one of the biggest criminal hoaxes in human history on a willing public in cooperation with complicit media he pretends to mock, yet he either hadn't done his homework or didn't feel the need to. Either way, his arrogance is his shame now, and his fans didn't fail to notice if you read the comments at the Daily Show site.

I realize this is political commentary masquerading as comedy, but there must be the force of truth behind it in order to garner respect. I've seen John pander before, but this was too much. I'll be takin a break from Mr. Stewart for awhile.

And here it is, your moment of Zen.


i happened on this little nugget about the Jobs Bill floating around Congress. Anyone still thinking Obama is a good guy should read this brief report at Common Sense about what's really in that bill, what it means for the future of Social Security, and why FDR and JFK are rolling over in their graves.

And talk about not walkin the walk, the US threatens to withdraw funds from UNESCO after a majority vote there in favor of Palestine recognition passed? Shameful extortion.