Thursday, July 30, 2009

U.S.S. Indianapolis

Today is Thursday, 30 July 2009.

On 26 July 1945, the U.S.S. Indianapolis (CA-35), a Portland-class cruiser, delivered the cores of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombs to Tinian Island in the Pacific, from whence they were delivered to their targets.

On this date in 1945, the Indianapolis was torpedoed, sinking in 12 minutes, carrying approximately 300 men with her. The remainder of the crew of 1,196 was stranded in shark-infested waters. Through incompetence and malfeasance, the SOS was ignored. Only by chance did a patrol plane on 2 August spot the survivors, numbering 321.

More sailors perished than in any other event of the U.S. Navy.

Several years ago, at the Hobby Lobby store at 51st and Harvard in Tulsa, I bought, on sale, which perhaps tells us something, a scale model of the Indianapolis. Most of the year, it resides on a shelf in the Family Room, which, I suppose, since the TV is there located, might also be called, in the spirit of our times, the “TV Room”. Each year, from this date to 9 August, it is moved to a place of memory in the middle of the room.

In memory of all victims of the First Atomic War.

Note: the character of Quint, the professional shark hunter in Jaws, played by Robert Shaw, is a survivor of the Indianapolis.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Criminal, Not Stupid (Part 3)

Today is Wednesday, 29 July 2009.

My thanks to “disappointed” and “reader” for your comments.

I did not write that “officers of the law are gangs”. I wrote that often some officers, and in many instances even majorities of departments, act as Blue Gang members serving masters other than the people.

It’s quite simple: when officers break the law, they have repudiated and dishonoured their oaths as officers, and have by their own evil will chosen not to be officers, but merely common criminals.

Having known honest officers, believe you me: they know all too well who in their departments are the “rotten apples”, and despise them. The honest officers know that the dishonest officers increase the threat of harm to all officers.

The Black officer on the scene. By supporting Crowley, who had refused to obey the law and properly identify himself, the Black officer had sided with Blue Gang values and against the people, his employers, and the very ones he has sworn to serve.

Again, I was at pains to note that not all officers “are just legalized thugs”, only the law-breakers who are therefore, inevitably and objectively, legalized thugs.

Yes, I’ve had unpleasant encounters with lawless officers. I’m not particularly angry with them as individuals: I am outraged at the crimes committed by lawless officers against anyone.

I’m not “cynical”, but rather extremely critical of injustice. Unlike many, perhaps most, I refuse to sweep officialized illegality under the rug, because such behaviour is a cancer on attempts to create a free and just society.

As to “sad”. I don’t judge myself as pathetic, but I’m certainly distressed and sorrowful.

There is and will be no “Pigs Are Thugs” sign in the yard; I prefer "Eschew Obfuscation". Also, I don’t believe in insulting animals.

As to anyone breaking in: if the dogs and cat didn’t finish them, Mrs. HH would.

I don't assume that “the conflict was solely due to racial differences between the participants”. I would assume that there is a great likelihood that Crowley, cavalierly breaking the law in this instance, would break the law and disrespect any citizen, regardless of “race”.

Some persons with certain class prejudices would consider Prof. Gates’ job more “elite” than Crowley’s job. Personally, I evaluate people by their intentions, values, and actions, not by hierarchical rankings or bankrolls. As to the “race” of the Cambridge mayor or the Massachusetts governor, I don’t perceive the relevance.
(I personally repudiate the validity of “race” based on skin colour. I recognize the existence of races such as foot, auto, rat, space, and human.)

One of the lessons every mom and dad should teach: always argue with injustice, whether it comes clothed in police uniforms, Armani suits, or buck naked.

As to “respect for authority”. “Authority” is an abstract concept, and “respect”, in terms of obedience, is therefore meaningless. There are only particular, concrete authorities. I repudiate obeying authorities simply because they are described with that term. I believe in obedience to justice, and opposition to injustice.

On this date in 1890, Vincent Van Gogh died.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Power in Iran

Today is Tuesday, 28 July 2009.

For about two decades, I’ve been noting a striking resemblance of the roll of the Revolutionary Guards in Iran to the rolls of the militaries of Indonesia and Pakistan. Each isn’t just a traditional military force: each is also a major capitalist enterprise.

On 20 July, The New York Times (citation below) finally got around to taking (partial) note of the situation. “The corps has become a vast military-based conglomerate, with control of Iran’s missile batteries, oversight of its nuclear program and a multibillion-dollar business empire reaching into nearly every sector of the economy. It runs laser eye-surgery clinics, manufactures cars, builds roads and bridges, develops gas and oil fields and controls black-market smuggling, experts say.”

In Indonesia, during the years of the Suharto-led dictatorship (1965-1998), the military not only established its own commercial businesses, it also ran a form of protection racket. It was nearly impossible for anyone to open a private business of any size without taking an NCO or officer (the more lucrative the business, the higher the rank) as silent partner. This military man contributed no capital, only the use of his name and influence in navigating bureaucracies. The officer received a cash payment each month, whether profit had been generated or not. Failure to pay resulted in closure.

In Pakistan, the military has deeply penetrated the economic life of the nation, as described in Military Inc.: Inside Pakistan's Military Economy by Ayesha Siddiqa. Its range of businesses is even more extensive than that of the Revolutionary Guards.

In addition to commercial ventures, the Guards have also inserted dozens of members and cohorts into the Parliament, and tens of thousands into the bureaucracies. Guard members and their families enjoy preferment in access to higher education and other perks.

The following from the Times article may overstate the situation, but not by much. “It is not a theocracy anymore,” said Rasool Nafisi, an expert in Iranian affairs and a co-author of an exhaustive study of the corps for the RAND Corporation. “It is a regular military security government with a facade of a Shiite clerical system.”

I believe it’s more accurate to say that the Iranian ruling elites are deeply divided between hardline factions (strike early and often with the iron fist, and forget the velvet glove) and more subtle factions (conceal the fist in the glove until necessary). Neither is truly democratic nor serves the people.

In the end, it will depend on which faction within the Guards has greater firepower and will to use it.

If you’re experiencing Déjà vu all over again, there’s a reason. The Shah, vigorously backed by the USA/USE, ruled through a military dictatorship with a veneer of compliant Shiite clerical stooges.

Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose.” “The more things change, the more they stay the same.” – Jean-Baptiste Alphonse Karr

Reference from above:

On this date in 1914, the Empire of Austria-Hungary declared war on the Kingdom of Serbia, beginning The Great War.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Criminal, Not Stupid (Part 2)

Today is Monday, 27 July 2009.

Anyone who’s considered armed social formations, such as police and military, in terms of sociological and anthropological analysis, knows that often, elements or majorities of each are indistinguishable from “gangs”. In particular, they adopt the gang attitude toward “disrespect”.

Theoretically, in a democracy, armed social formations are the employees and instruments of the popular will. In practice, they usually serve primarily the interests of ruling elites. This separation from the people facilitates their adoption of a self-image that they are over the people, not employees.

Often, when such police move into a “gang-infested” neighbourhood, or encounter non-elites (particularly persons of colour, the poor, etc.),they act as a super-gang. In these instances, they demand "respect" (i.e., craven fawning and fascist-style obedience) for themselves as the gunmen of the elites, not respect for the people and the law which originates from the people.

Thus, when Prof. Gates required Sergeant Crowley to produce official ID, as the latter is required to do by law, Crowley refused. (Police are equivalent in this requirement to municipal meter readers.) By his lawless actions, Crowley expressed the fact that he fancies himself, not a citizen, but a gang enforcer. By requiring Crowley to legally identify himself as if he were, not the representative of a feudal lord, but an employee of the people, Prof. Gates had disrespected the Blue Gang, and the penalty was violence and humiliation, just as if Gates had disrespected a Blood or Crip.

This abusive practice is independent of racism, though often part and parcel of it. One of the other Cambridge police on the scene is Black, and supported Crowley. Obviously, the former identifies himself more with his Blue Gang than with victims of police abuse and white racism. (Is it instructive that the president of the Cambridge Police association is a male white whose SUV has the vanity plate, “Why-tee”?)

Many Americans (particularly whites) who have infrequent and usually benign contact with the police fail to grasp the crucial importance of the ID issue. Failure to produce police ID shows that the officer concerned considers himself above the law, and facilitates untraceable criminal police behaviour. This is intolerable in a democracy.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Some Birthday Candle!

Today is Saturday, 25 July 2009.

The Museum of the Bourgeois extends warmest birthday greetings to Hari Seldon, old and dear friend of HH.

Also on this date, in 1946, the fifth atomic bomb, Crossroads-Baker (HH's favourite), was detonated underwater at Bikini Atoll in the Pacific.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Criminal, Not Stupid

Today is Friday, 24 July 2009.

A white female in Cambridge, Massachusetts, employed by Harvard Magazine, sees two Black males attempting to open a recalcitrant front door a few doors down from her office. (She doesn’t recognize one of the males as Prof. Henry Louis Gates, Jr., one of Harvard’s most prominent scholars, and known world-wide.) Fearing it’s a burglary attempt, she calls the police.

Meanwhile, Prof. Gates has entered his home through the rear door. Sergeant James Crowley, the responding officer, sees Prof. Gates through a glass panel in the front door, and orders him to come out. Prof. Gates refuses and requests that the officer produce his official ID, listing his full name and badge number. The officer is required, by state law, to produce the ID. Crowley doesn’t. He claims later that Gates turned and went into the kitchen to retrieve his ID from his wallet before the officer could produce the ID. Uninvited, Crowley follows Prof. Gates into the kitchen. (Recall he has no warrant, merely a report of a possible crime, which does not seem to rise to the level of exigent circumstances which would justify his invading the house.)

Prof. Gates produces his state ID, proving that he resides in the house, and his Harvard ID. At this point, Crowley has no reason for remaining: he has no warrant, and he now knows that no burglary is in progress. Crowley should immediately have apologized and exited the house, but instead he remains illegally.

Crowley is a sergeant, having received appropriate training and passed the relevant exam. It is therefore not too much to expect that the officer would have produced his ID, walked into the kitchen, and shown it to Prof. Gates. Unless, of course, the officer feared Prof. Gates might file a complaint against him, and he wishes to illegally obscure his identity. Conversation ensues, and the officer indicates he will finally become law-abiding, and display his ID, if Prof. Gates will walk onto the porch with him.

Crowley later claims that this is because the “acoustics” of the kitchen interfere with use of his radio. This claim is patently absurd, since the only thing which could interfere with use of his radio is an impediment to the reception and transmission of radio waves, and not the internal acoustics of sound within the kitchen.

Crowley also claims, in contradiction, that he had remained in the house because he feared actual burglars might be in the house, unbeknownst to Prof. Gate. This is obviously a lie. Crowley knew several officers had gathered outside. Had he harboured such a fear, he would have claimed exigent circumstances and enlisted them in a sweep of the entire house.

Once on the porch, with Cambridge and Harvard officers lurking on the sidewalk, Gates continues to ask the officer for ID, the officer continues to violate the law by not producing it, and Gates is shortly arrested for disorderly conduct (i.e., demanding Crowley abide by the law.) (See full text of disorderly conduct law below; obviously doesn't apply.)

I can only conclude that Sergeant Crowley arrested Prof. Gates, not for disorderly conduct, but for “uppity n---erness”, which is not a crime.

I can only conclude that Crowley lured Prof. Gates from his home onto his porch, so that Crowley could claim Prof. Gates was making a public disturbance (by objecting to being abused).

Whether Crowley is racist I cannot at this point determine. Obviously, he’s a thug willing, in at least this instance, to pervert the law so that he may abuse an innocent citizen. Thus, Crowley is corrupt.

I can only conclude that Crowley was a white male with a gun and authority to use it, offended by a Black male who refused to be intimidated and abused, and so Crowley criminally abused Prof. Gates under colour of law by knowingly and intentionally falsely arresting Prof. Gates.

Obama’s choice of the word “stupidly” to describe Crowley’s behaviour was inappropriate: he should have said “criminally”.

Crowley should be immediately suspended without pay pending speedy dismissal, and prosecuted for abuse of office and false arrest.

“Common night walkers, common street walkers, both male and female, common railers and brawlers, persons who with offensive and disorderly acts or language accost or annoy persons of the opposite sex, lewd, wanton and lascivious persons in speech or behavior, idle and disorderly persons, disturbers of the peace, keepers of noisy and disorderly houses, and persons guilty of indecent exposure may be punished by imprisonment in a jail or house of correction for not more than six months, or by a fine of not more than two hundred dollars, or by both such fine and imprisonment.” - Chapter 272, Sec. 53, Massachusetts State Code.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

My Cronkite Moment

Today is Thursday, 23 July 2009.

The funeral of Walter Cronkite was conducted today in New York City.

At the time the “Iranian Hostage Crisis” began, on 4 November 1979, I worked in the Special Collections, Maps, and University Archives Department of Edmon Low Library at Oklahoma State University.

At that time, OSU had a close relationship with its counterpart in Iran. Many Iranian students attended the College of Engineering, particularly in petroleum engineering. Many American students at OSU were bigoted and reactionary; verbal abuse and physical attacks immediately commenced against those perceived as of Iranian origin. Many victims were, of course, of Middle Eastern (Arab) origin, not Iranian (Persian/Aryan) origin, but the bigots were not educated enough to know the difference.

Two American students picked an Iranian name and address out of the phone book (actually a Saudi name) and tossed a fire bomb through the front window of the house. They were too liquored up to notice it was actually the house next door to their target. Fortunately, no one was hurt.

I arrived at work one morning shortly after 7am, to find a banner stretched over the Library main entrance, “Sand Niggers Go Home”, which I promptly tore down.

A few weeks after the incident began, a campus reactionary group, Young Americans for Freedom, held a “support” rally for the American hostages in front of the Library. Posters were waved of John Wayne, recently deceased. One sign, believed by some to be witty, read: “Will Rogers Never Met an Iranian”. Most signs rang changes on the “Sand Nigger” theme.

I took position on the parapet separating the plaza area from the Library Lawn, a couple of dozen feet from the speakers, and proceeded to provide, gratis, in my far-carrying, classically-trained stage voice, an under-appreciated running commentary and critique of the overtly racist speeches. A common thread of the rants was condemnation of the Iranians for burning American flags.

The surprise climax to the rally came when the leader produced an Iranian flag (“My mother sewed it”), which he announced would be burned. The hypocrisy of this intention burned me. I leapt down, strode up to him, and, just as the flag began to burn, tore it from his hands and snapped it, extinguishing the flames. The flag was snatched back from me and disappeared. Several ruffians attempted to attack me, but were restrained: “Not in front of the cameras!” Microphones and cameras were quickly thrust into my face, and I made an extemporaneous statement.

“If they don’t like their flag being burned, they shouldn’t burn the flags of others. The racism of this rally is no different from that of the Klan against Blacks or the Nazis against Jews”.

As I prepared dinner that evening, my phone began ringing off the hook. Friends were calling to tell me that my action had just been on the CBS Evening News with Walter Cronkite. I didn’t own a television set at the time, so I’ve never seen it.

Such was my Cronkite moment.

Thanks, Walter, for everything.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Good For What Ails You

Today is Wednesday, 22 July 2009.

Heard some right-wing bleeding heart on TV damning the proposal to raise taxes on those with more than $500,000 per year in adjusted gross income, in order to pay for increased health insurance for many without. Also heard some think tank did the math for a married couple, no dependents, living in suburban Maryland, grossing $1,500,000 per year. Under new rules, they’d pay $650,000 in Federal taxes, condemning them to scrape by on a paltry $850,000 per year. Obviously qualifies as “cruel and unusual punishment”.

The HH household (Mr. & Ms., plus 1 cat and 4 dogs) scrapes by quite comfortably on far less than $850,000 per year. Perhaps you do also.

In the last available ranking of the world’s health care systems by the World Health Organization (2000), the USA/USE ranked 37th. In the WHO’s ranking of Total Health Care Expenditures by % of GDP (2000-2005), the USA/USE ranked 2nd.

Pay much more, receive much less. For-profit health care pays off! And the right-wing’s cure for what ails the system …even more of the same!

After all, if one’s playing Russian Roulette, and one bullet is good, five bullets must be better.

Sewer-dwelling hack Bob Dole is 86 today. MoB’s birthday wish: “Hope your every waking moment is haunted by the screams of the millions of Indochinese you helped exterminate!”

Monday, July 20, 2009

Moonday (Part 2)

Today remains Monday, 20 July 2009.

Let no mistake be made about it: landing first on the Moon wasn’t about expanding the spirit and consciousness of humankind, or enriching science, or sense-o’-wonder, or any such damn fool thing.

Certainly, spirits were raised, mental horizons were expanded, scientific discoveries were made, but that’s not why the lunar landing was decreed by the ruling elite and paid for by the masses: it was all about winning.

The lunar landing was always and only about a victory in the Cold War, obtaining advantage in the clash of Evil Empires (USSR and USA/USE), seizing (in the military sense) the high ground.

The lunar landing wasn’t about “all mankind”, but about narrow nationalist chauvinism. Us, not Them. We’re Number One.

We could put Whitey on the Moon, but we refused to make similar sacrifices/investments in feeding, healing, educating all humanity.

It would be another human tragedy to export such vile values to permanent settlements on the Moon or Mars. We must heal humanity and our planet, not waste scarce resources corrupting the rest of the Universe.

Moonday (Part 1)

Today is Moonday, 20 July 2009.

More later, but for now, Mr. Gil Scott-Heron.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Support Uigher Freedom

Today is Sunday, 19 July 2009.

Among the many cruelties of history are those which placed ethnic groups such as the Tibetans and Uighers within the boundaries of the Modern Chinese Empire (MCE, which calls itself the “People’s Republic of China”), which is dominated by the Han Chinese ethnic group, which makes up 92% of the total population.

Significantly, Han Chinese constitute a majority in every province, municipality, and autonomous region, save for those of Tibet and Xinjiang (the latter the homeland of the Uighers). This is not for lack of trying, since it has been the policy of the MCE since it came to power in 1949 to transfer Han Chinese in large numbers into these areas, giving them preference in every field of endeavour, thus diluting the influence and prosperity of the original inhabitants.

The Hanization campaigns have involved constant brutal repression in both areas, resulting in passive resistance and attempts at violent self-defense. It is in this context that the recent “rioting” (or “hooliganism”, a classic Soviet word, of which the Beijing dictatorship is also enamoured) in Xinjiang has occurred.

Some have remarked at the curious relative silence of the leadership of the MCE in regard to the W. Bush-Cheney regime conquests of Afghanistan and Iraq. This is easily explained when one notes that, in return, the W. Bush-Cheney regime officially listed Uighers who resist the MCE as “terrorists”. This latter is akin to labeling the German, Polish, and Russian Jews who opposed Nazism as “terrorists”, and gives the lie, as if another example were needed, to the W. Bush-Cheney claim of support for “freedom and democracy”.

I fear it’s too much to expect the Obama regime to offer concrete support to the Uigher and Tibetan peoples. The least the regime could do is remove the stigma of labeling the Uighers as terrorists.

On this date in 1799, invading Imperial French soldiers discover the Rosetta Stone, which eventually enabled the translation of Egyptian heiroglyphics.

On this date in 1898 was born philosopher Herbert Marcuse (d. 1979). “Liberal democracy is the face of the ruling class when it is confident. When it is afraid, its face is fascism.”

On this date in 1922 was born George McGovern, to whom the Museum of the Bourgeois sends fond best wishes.

On this date in 2003 died Bill Bright, multi-millionaire con artist and founder/proprietor of Campus Crusade for Christ (born 1921 in Coweta, Oklahoma). 1975 prophecy: “Unless a Republican President and Congress are elected in 1976, there will never again be a free election in this country.”

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Happy Birthday, Fry in Hell

Today is Friday, 17 July 2009.

In understanding the situation in Iran, it’s instructive to recall 16th century England.

As conflict within and between kingdoms increased, and physical and social technologies of warfare changed, kings and princes required additional revenues. Henry VIII partially solved his problem by dissolving the monasteries and confiscating their assets.

In 1963, the Shah of Iran launched his “White Revolution”, ostensibly to put land ownership into the hands of farmers and democratize Iranian society. The Shah-na-na therefore confiscated much land owned by mosques (effectively by clergy) and reduced the role of clergy in rural life. (Most of the land ended up in the pockets of the Shah, often used to bribe and reward his cronies.) It was primarily this threat to relative wealth and power which sparked the clerical rebellion which finally, in 1979, would result in collapse of the Pahlavi regime and institution of a theocratic dictatorship under Supreme Leader Ruhollah Khomeini, succeeded by current Fuhrer Ali Hoseyni Khamene’i. The latter turns 70 today, although some sources list his birthdate as 15 July. We’ll go with today, since it’s also the anniversary in 1936 of the Fascist military coup in Spain.

Given the motivation of the Iranian Muslim clergy, it’s hardly surprising that, from the get-go, the theocratic dictatorship was at least as thieving, corrupt, and murderous as its predecessor.

Herewith, the birthday wishes of the Museum of the Bourgeois to Khamene’i: may you and your gangster friends soon be overthrown and imprisoned forever.

Today’s Fun Tip! Check out Vampire King Khamene’i’s website at .

Marvel at the Soviet-style slogan: “Towards Revising Consumption Pattern”. (Point to ponder: given that many educated Iranians speak and write English better than many Americans, why does the site sound as if it were translated by Borat?) Submit a question on Sharia law. Send the bloodsucker an e-mail. Note: don’t use your regular e-mail account; the prick has a nasty secret police. Use a free account from Hotmail, etc., and a cool username. I chose “MeHeartFloggingMullahs24/7/365”.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Day of Trinity, Day of Infamy

Today is Thursday, 16 July 2009.

Once upon a time, an evil (and quite possibly sociopathic) German named Hitler approved a research project for a weapon which he probably didn’t understand: an “atomic bomb”. Learning of certain German advances in nuclear physics, Albert Einstein sent a letter to Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1939, warning that the US should pursue its own atomic bomb programme.

It may be argued that the atomic/nuclear age began on 2 December 1942, when Chicago Pile-1 became the first nuclear reactor, achieving the first humanly-created, self-sustaining nuclear chain reaction. I prefer this date in 1945, and the success of the Trinity test, the first detonation of an atomic device.

Until 5.29:45 Mountain War Time on that date, atomic warfare was hypothetical. After that, it was inevitable: a weapon once created will be used. Within less than a month, the First Atomic War had been waged and concluded.

Since March 1970, under terms of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, the United Kingdom, USSR/Russia, and USA/USE have been obligated to reduce their stockpiles of nuclear warheads to zero. China and France have been so obligated since March 1992 and August 1992 respectively. None of these nations have shown the slightest appetite to do so. The reductions made, or rather, promised (“Trust me”), by USA/USE and USSR/Russia have been cosmetic: each retains sufficient warheads to exterminate all sentient life on the planet.

Like the man said: signing treaties is sweet, but ignoring them is sweeter.

So long as the respective ruling elites judge possession of nuclear war capability to their advantage, and the people of the world fail to enforce otherwise, the possibility of nearly-instant genocide will continue to hang perpetually over our heads.

No one should have such power.


On this date in 1969, the Apollo 11 mission launched for the Moon.

For those keeping score, this Museum of the Bourgeois column is number 1,000.

My heartfelt thanks to all who have read and commented since the column’s origin on 4 April 2006. Special thanks to Hari Seldon, who created the blog infrastructure.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Happy Bastille Day!

Today is Tuesday, 14 July 2009.

Happy Bastille Day!

What’s important about the French Revolution is that it was the first attempt at a genuine social revolution, one meant to fundamentally alter the nature and distribution of power within a society, as opposed to events labeled revolutions, which were in actuality mere squabbles within ruling elites.

The American (so-called) Revolution fits squarely into the latter category. The framers of the “Revolution” and Constitution meant power to be confined, as traditionally, to a narrow circle: no females, no First Americans, even no white males without sufficient net worth.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

A Predator in Chicago

Today is Sunday, 12 July 2009.

In a letter to the editor in the Business Section of today’s The New York Times, Robert Kaestner, professor of economics at the University of Illinois at Chicago, writes:

“In “Mortgages Made Simpler” (Economic View, July 5), Richard H. Thaler uses the analogy of ski resorts with expert and novice slopes to make the point that most people should stick to novice (plain vanilla) loans like the 30-year fixed-rate mortgage.

But in the recent financial meltdown, many expert skiers — sophisticated investors and institutions alike — also ran into trees on the slopes. The problem was not concentrated among unsophisticated investors who were duped by bad sales practices. The best and brightest financiers, along with people on Main Street, engaged in a gamble that housing prices would keep rising.

When the party stopped, many institutions and people of all backgrounds lost money. This is not an argument for more regulation, as the column suggests. Human nature cannot be regulated.”

I’m reminded of those in the 1960s who denounced civil rights laws: laws can’t change how people think or feel, and should therefore not be enacted. Kaestner makes a similar argument, and a similar error.

The point of laws and regulations is not to change “human nature” (whatever that might be), or how people think or feel, but how people act. If people wish to be prejudiced in their heart of hearts, I’m sad that they’re afflicted, but they’ve chosen their own private hell, and must suffer in it. However, if they act with prejudice toward others, they’re making a social hell, and should be sanctioned by law.

Racial bigots and such as Kaestner are simply apologists for predators.

On this date in 1817, Henry David Thoreau was born.

On this date in 1904, Chilean poet and Nobelist Pablo Neruda was born.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Palin Turns Tail

Today is Saturday, 11 July 2009.

Why did Palin resign?

1. Least likely is an actively threatening investigation which could lead to criminal or civil liability. Much as I’d like to see Palin cuffed, perp walked, and Supermaxed, I think she’d be shrewd enough to pull an Agnew: wait until the last moment, and then trade her office for no prison time.

2. Run for President.

In terms of exposure in preparation for a national race, there are fundamentally two types of governors: those from states such as New York, California, Texas, etc., on whom the limelight perpetually shines, and those from states such as Oklahoma, Idaho, Alaska, etc., who normally toil in obscurity unless they’re indicted or run into a burning building and emerge with a bawling baby.

In either case, 2009 and the near future are not the time to be a governor running for President, given the economic crisis and concomitant state budget difficulties, particularly in a state so closely tied to oil prices over which it has no control. The unappetizing choice would have been the death-of-a-thousand-cuts in Juneau, or neglecting her responsibilities, while continuing to draw a salary and gallivanting about the Lower Forty-Eight.

3. Cash in.

Palin probably realizes she was a fluke. Her selection was the result of three main factors. First, the desperation of the McCain campaign for a game-changer level gimmick. Second, the fact that the McCain of 2008 wasn’t as mentally acute as the McCain of 2000, let alone 1990, and would fall for it. Third, the fact that McCain is the type of male who, through his entire adult life, has shown a propensity for letting his crotch lead his brain around by the ... uhm … nose.

Palin probably realizes she may very well have a short use-by date, so best to gather the ro$e buds while one may: sell books, rant on radio, give $peeche$, before the day that the only way she’ll receive attention is to jump naked into the Tidal Basin, or sell National Enquirer lurid details of the sexual “exams” given her by the aliens on the UFO.

As ex-governor, she’s free to take a stab at running for President while making hay while the sun shines. Even if she becomes the 21st century Harold Stassen, she can still laugh all the way to the bank.

And, with any luck, she’ll commit multiple felonies along the way.

Thursday, July 09, 2009

Poetry and Power

Today is Thursday, 9 July 2009.

A particularly fine poem today in The Writer's Almanac.

"The Place I Want To Get Back To"
by Mary Oliver

is where
in the pinewoods
in the moments between
the darkness

and first light
two deer
came walking down the hill
and when they saw me

they said to each other, okay,
this one is okay,
let's see who she is
and why she is sitting

on the ground like that,
so quiet, as if
asleep, or in a dream,
but, anyway, harmless;

and so they came
on their slender legs
and gazed upon me
not unlike the way

I go out to the dunes and look
and look and look
into the faces of the flowers;
and then one of them leaned forward

and nuzzled my hand, and what can my life
bring to me that could exceed
that brief moment?
For twenty years

I have gone every day to the same woods,
not waiting, exactly, just lingering.
Such gifts, bestowed,
can't be repeated.

If you want to talk about this
come to visit. I live in the house
near the corner, which I have named

"The Place I Want To Get Back To" by Mary Oliver, from Thirst. © Beacon Press, 2006.

One of the resonances of which this poem makes me think is The Great Gatsby, and the foolishness of how, when we've had a particularly wonderful, even life-changing, experience (as Gatsby did with Daisy), we often waste part of life trying to duplicate it, when, of course, the fact is "one can't step twice into the same river": even if the external stimulus is the same, we're no longer the person once we were, and we cannot, without deforming ourselves, duplicate the internal response. We can only seek to encounter joys resembling, broadly equivalent, but never precisely the same.

On 8 July 1999, students in Tehran demonstrated peacefully against the dictatorship’s closing of a reformist newspaper. That evening, paramilitaries attacked a student dormitory at the university, beating indiscriminately, and killing at least one student.

On this date in 1999, began six days of demonstrations all over Iran against this type of gangsterism. At least 70 demonstrators were kidnapped by security forces and disappeared; most must be presumed dead, and at least a handful are still imprisoned.

Today, tens of thousands of Iranians attempted to march in Tehran, commemorating the anniversary and protesting the stolen presidential election. They were again viciously attacked by the security forces. Casualties are unknown.

Smash religious fascism! Long live democracy!

Thursday, July 02, 2009

Good Guy in Honduras?

Today is Thursday, 2 July 2009.

In Honduras, the military ousts democratically-elected President Manuel Zelaya, so the latter must be the Good Guy, yes?


Zelaya is a member of the Liberal Party of Honduras, which is not “liberal” in the sense that Ronald Reagan used the word. The LPH is a center-right party preaching free enterprise, personal responsibility, and less government. In other words, more-or-less Republican.

Zelaya was born into the Honduran oligarchy; the family’s businesses center on agriculture and forestry. He campaigned on a traditional platform of free trade, toughness on crime, and cutting government spending.

Then, midway through his term, Zelaya saw some light or other, and allied himself with the Bolivarianismo of Hugo Chavez, caudillo of Venezuela. (Which leads some to regard Zelaya as a socialist, or a leftist, or at least a “populist”.) Then, he attempted to stage a national referendum meant to lead to amendment of the Honduran Constitution, so he could run for a second term. This move was branded illegal by the democratically-elected Honduran Congress and the Honduran Supreme Court. Persisting in his scheme, Zelaya was kidnapped by the Honduran military and sent on involuntary vacation in Costa Rica.

So, is Zelaya a Good Guy?

To use classic Marxist terminology, the ideology and practice of the Bolivarianismo of Chavez and Zelaya are “subjectively left, objectively right”. For example, in the case of Chavez, a military dictator talks left and acts right. Chavez may prate of fundamentally re-structuring society, but, in practice, the structure of society remains the same, it’s just that a single Jefe takes position at the top, forces the oligarchy to disgorge more of its profits, and then distributes same to the lower classes, thus making the latter dependent on El Jefe, and emphatically not freed to become independent historical/political actors. In other words, no difference from the corrupt shell games of Peronism or Fidelismo.

Zelaya isn’t a Good Guy, but just an oligarch who wants to subjugate other oligarchs to himself, buying political support from the poor with trinkets and crumbs, and reigning in splendid solitude as El Supremo.

What we are witnessing in Honduras is not a struggle between Left and Right, but a spat within the ruling class.

Note: today is the actual anniversary of USA/USE independence, when the Continental Congress voted: “Resolved, That these United Colonies are, and of right ought to be, free and independent States, that they are absolved from all allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain is, and ought to be, totally dissolved.”

What happened on 4 July was merely approval of the wording of the announcement of action which had already been taken.