Thursday, December 28, 2006

My post on Gerald Ford

he political use of Gerald Ford's death is not going to be mentioned, contrast the media's reaction to the funerals of Coretta Scott King and Paul Wellstone.

The reason is that the clear lies being told about him at his death are an intrinsic part of the modern political mythology of the financial-political establishment. That began with his continually re-run speech on taking the presidency. He was not restoring democracy, he was not relieving the country of the nightmare Nixon had started and his subsequent actions put the president above the law. If he had not pardoned Nixon and Nixon had been impeached and convicted of the high crimes he clearly was guilty of, Reagan and the two Bushes would never have dared commit the crimes they have. Gerald Ford, the media and the courts have given the president imperial status. So much for the plain spoken common man garbage.

In retirement he skied and played golf and once in a while said something public. While Jimmy Carter was establishing himself as the greatest ex-president, John Quincy Adams his closest competition, Ford was living the good life that most obnoxious of rat pack songs sang of. The country suffered through three of the most corrupt administrations in its history. And that nightmare continues.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

The Ethics of Pig

by O Henry

On an east-bound train I went into the smoker and found Jefferson Peters, the only man with a brain west of the Wabash River who can use his cerebrum cerebellum, and medulla oblongata at the same time.

Jeff is in the line of unillegal graft. He is not to be dreaded by widows and orphans; he is a reducer of surplusage. His favorite disguise is that of the target-bird at which the spendthrift or the reckless investor may shy a few inconsequential dollars. He is readily vocalized by tobacco; so, with the aid of two thick and easy-burning brevas, I got the story of his latest Autolycan adventure.

"In my line of business," said Jeff, "the hardest thing is to find an upright, trustworthy, strictly honorable partner to work a graft with. Some of the best men I ever worked with in a swindle would resort to trickery at times.

"So, last summer, I thinks I will go over into this section of country where I hear the serpent has not yet entered, and see if I can find a partner naturally gifted with a talent for crime, but not yet contaminated by success.

"I found a village that seemed to show the right kind of a layout. The inhabitants hadn't found that Adam had been dispossessed, and were going right along naming the animals and killing snakes just as if they were in the Garden of Eden. They call this town Mount Nebo, and it's up near the spot where Kentucky and West Virginia and North Carolina corner together. Them States don't meet? Well, it was in that neighborhood, anyway.

"After putting in a week proving I wasn't a revenue officer, I went over to the store where the rude fourflushers of the hamlet lied, to see if I could get a line on the kind of man I wanted.

"'Gentlemen,' says I, after we had rubbed noses and gathered 'round the dried-apple barrel. 'I don't suppose there's another community in the whole world into which sin and chicanery has less extensively permeated than this. Life here, where all the women are brave and propitious and all the men honest and expedient, must, indeed, be an idol. It reminds me,' says I, 'of Goldstein's beautiful ballad entitled "The Deserted Village," which says:

'Ill fares the land, to hastening ills a prey, What art can drive its charms away? The judge rode slowly down the lane, mother. For I'm to be Queen of the May.'

"'Why, yes, Mr. Peters,' says the storekeeper. 'I reckon we air about as moral and torpid a community as there be on the mounting, according to censuses of opinion; but I reckon you ain't ever met Rufe Tatum.'

"'Why, no,' says the town constable, 'he can't hardly have ever. That air Rufe is shore the monstrousest scalawag that has escaped hangin' on the galluses. And that puts me in mind that I ought to have turned Rufe out of the lockup before yesterday. The thirty days he got for killin' Yance Goodloe was up then. A day or two more won't hurt Rufe any, though.'

"'Shucks, now,' says I, in the mountain idiom, 'don't tell me there's a man in Mount Nebo as bad as that.'

"'Worse,' says the storekeeper. 'He steals hogs.'

"I think I will look up this Mr. Tatum; so a day or two after the constable turned him out I got acquainted with him and invited him out on the edge of town to sit on a log and talk business.

"What I wanted was a partner with a natural rural make-up to play a part in some little one-act outrages that I was going to book with the Pitfall & Gin circuit in some of the Western towns; and this R. Tatum was born for the role as sure as nature cast Fairbanks for the stuff that kept /Eliza/ from sinking into the river.

"He was about the size of a first baseman; and he had ambiguous blue eyes like the china dog on the mantelpiece that Aunt Harriet used to play with when she was a child. His hair waved a little bit like the statue of the dinkus-thrower at the Vacation in Rome, but the color of it reminded you of the 'Sunset in the Grand Canon, by an American Artist,' that they hang over the stove-pipe holes in the salongs. He was the Reub, without needing a touch. You'd have known him for one, even if you'd seen him on the vaudeville stage with one cotton suspender and a straw over his ear.

"I told him what I wanted, and found him ready to jump at the job.

"'Overlooking such a trivial little peccadillo as the habit of manslaughter,' says I, 'what have you accomplished in the way of indirect brigandage or nonactionable thriftiness that you could point to, with or without pride, as an evidence of your qualifications for the position?'

"'Why,' says he, in his kind of Southern system of procrastinated accents, 'hain't you heard tell? There ain't any man, black or white, in the Blue Ridge that can tote off a shoat as easy as I can without bein' heard, seen, or cotched. I can lift a shoat,' he goes on, 'out of a pen, from under a porch, at the trough, in the woods, day or night, anywhere or anyhow, and I guarantee nobody won't hear a squeal. It's all in the way you grab hold of 'em and carry 'em atterwards. Some day,' goes on this gentle despoiler of pig-pens, 'I hope to become reckernized as the champion shoat-stealer of the world.'

"'It's proper to be ambitious,' says I; 'and hog-stealing will do very well for Mount Nebo; but in the outside world, Mr. Tatum, it would be considered as crude a piece of business as a bear raid on Bay State Gas. However, it will do as a guarantee of good faith. We'll go into partnership. I've got a thousand dollars cash capital; and with that homeward-plods atmosphere of yours we ought to be able to win out a few shares of Soon Parted, preferred, in the money market.'

"So I attaches Rufe, and we go away from Mount Nebo down into the lowlands. And all the way I coach him for his part in the grafts I had in mind. I had idled away two months on the Florida coast, and was feeling all to the Ponce de Leon, besides having so many new schemes up my sleeve that I had to wear kimonos to hold 'em.

"I intended to assume a funnel shape and mow a path nine miles wide though the farming belt of the Middle West; so we headed in that direction. But when we got as far as Lexington we found Binkley Brothers' circus there, and the blue-grass peasantry romping into town and pounding the Belgian blocks with their hand-pegged sabots as artless and arbitrary as an extra session of a Datto Bryan drama. I never pass a circus without pulling the valve-cord and coming down for a little Key West money; so I engaged a couple of rooms and board for Rufe and me at a house near the circus grounds run by a widow lady named Peevy. Then I took Rufe to a clothing store and gent's-outfitted him. He showed up strong, as I knew he would, after he was rigged up in the ready-made rutabaga regalia. Me and old Misfitzky stuffed him into a bright blue suit with a Nile green visible plaid effect, and riveted on a fancy vest of a light Tuskegee Normal tan color, a red necktie, and the yellowest pair of shoes in town.

"They were the first clothes Rufe had ever worn except the gingham layette and the butternut top-dressing of his native kraal, and he looked as self-conscious as an Igorrote with a new nose-ring.

"That night I went down to the circus tents and opened a small shell game. Rufe was to be the capper. I gave him a roll of phony currency to bet with and kept a bunch of it in a special pocket to pay his winnings out of. No; I didn't mistrust him; but I simply can't manipulate the ball to lose when I see real money bet. My fingers go on a strike every time I try it.

"I set up my little table and began to show them how easy it was to guess which shell the little pea was under. The unlettered hinds gathered in a thick semicircle and began to nudge elbows and banter one another to bed. Then was when Rufe ought to have single-footed up and called the turn on the little joker for a few tens and fives to get them started. But, no Rufe. I'd seen him two or three times walking about and looking at the side-show pictures with his mouth full of peanut candy; but he never came nigh.

"The crowd piked a little; but trying to work the shells without a capper is like fishing without a bait. I closed the game with only forty-two dollars of the unearned increment, while I had been counting on yanking the yeomen for two hundred at least. I went home at eleven and went to bed. I supposed that the circus had proved too alluring for Rufe, and that he had succumbed to it, concert and all; but I meant to give him a lecture on general business principles in the morning.

"Just after Morpheus had got both my shoulders to the shuck mattress I hears a houseful of unbecoming and ribald noises like a youngster screeching with green-apple colic. I opens my door and calls out in the hall for the widow lady, and when she sticks her head out, I says: 'Mrs. Peevy, ma'am, would you mind choking off that kid of yours so that honest people can get their rest?'

"'Sir,' says she, 'it's no child of mine. It's the pig squealing that your friend Mr. Tatum brought home to his room a couple of hours ago. And if you are uncle or second cousin or brother to it, I'd appreciate your stopping its mouth, sir, yourself, if you please.'

"I put on some of the polite outside habiliments of external society and went into Rufe's room. He had gotten up and lit his lamp, and was pouring some milk into a tin pan on the floor for a dingy-white, half- grown, squealing pig.

"'How is this, Rufe?' says I. 'You flimflammed in your part of the work to-night and put the game on crutches. And how do you explain the pig? It looks like back-sliding to me.'

"'Now, don't be too hard on me, Jeff,' says he. 'You know how long I've been used to stealing shoats. It's got to be a habit with me. And to-night, when I see such a fine chance, I couldn't help takin' it.'

"'Well,' says I, 'maybe you've really got kleptopigia. And maybe when we get out of the pig belt you'll turn your mind to higher and more remunerative misconduct. Why you should want to stain your soul with such a distasteful, feeble-minded, perverted, roaring beast as that I can't understand.'

"'Why, Jeff,' says he, 'you ain't in sympathy with shoats. You don't understand 'em like I do. This here seems to me to be an animal of more than common powers of ration and intelligence. He walked half across the room on his hind legs a while ago.'

"'Well, I'm going back to bed,' says I. 'See if you can impress it upon your friend's ideas of intelligence that he's not to make so much noise.'

"'He was hungry,' says Rufe. 'He'll go to sleep and keep quiet now.'

"I always get up before breakfast and read the morning paper whenever I happen to be within the radius of a Hoe cylinder or a Washington hand-press. The next morning I got up early, and found a Lexington daily on the front porch where the carrier had thrown it. The first thing I saw in it was a double-column ad. on the front page that read like this:


The above amount will be paid, and no questions asked, for the return, alive and uninjured, of Beppo, the famous European educated pig, that strayed or was stolen from the side-show tents of Binkley Bros.' circus last night.

Geo. B. Tapley, Business Manager. At the circus grounds.

"I folded up the paper flat, put it into my inside pocket, and went to Rufe's room. He was nearly dressed, and was feeding the pig the rest of the milk and some apple-peelings.

"'Well, well, well, good morning all,' I says, hearty and amiable. 'So we are up? And piggy is having his breakfast. What had you intended doing with that pig, Rufe?'

"'I'm going to crate him up,' says Rufe, 'and express him to ma in Mount Nebo. He'll be company for her while I am away.'

"'He's a mighty fine pig,' says I, scratching him on the back.

"'You called him a lot of names last night,' says Rufe.

"'Oh, well,' says I, 'he looks better to me this morning. I was raised on a farm, and I'm very fond of pigs. I used to go to bed at sundown, so I never saw one by lamplight before. Tell you what I'll do, Rufe,' I says. 'I'll give you ten dollars for that pig.'

"'I reckon I wouldn't sell this shoat,' says he. 'If it was any other one I might.'

"'Why not this one?' I asked, fearful that he might know something.

"'Why, because,' says he, 'it was the grandest achievement of my life. There ain't airy other man that could have done it. If I ever have a fireside and children, I'll sit beside it and tell 'em how their daddy toted off a shoat from a whole circus full of people. And maybe my grandchildren, too. They'll certainly be proud a whole passel. Why,' says he, 'there was two tents, one openin' into the other. This shoat was on a platform, tied with a little chain. I seen a giant and a lady with a fine chance of bushy white hair in the other tent. I got the shoat and crawled out from under the canvas again without him squeakin' as loud as a mouse. I put him under my coat, and I must have passed a hundred folks before I got out where the streets was dark. I reckon I wouldn't sell that shoat, Jeff. I'd want ma to keep it, so there'd be a witness to what I done.'

"'The pig won't live long enough,' I says, 'to use as an exhibit in your senile fireside mendacity. Your grandchildren will have to take your word for it. I'll give you one hundred dollars for the animal.'

"Rufe looked at me astonished.

"'The shoat can't be worth anything like that to you,' he says. 'What do you want him for?'

"'Viewing me casuistically,' says I, with a rare smile, 'you wouldn't think that I've got an artistic side to my temper. But I have. I'm a collector of pigs. I've scoured the world for unusual pigs. Over in the Wabash Valley I've got a hog ranch with most every specimen on it, from a Merino to a Poland China. This looks like a blooded pig to me, Rufe,' says I. 'I believe it's a genuine Berkshire. That's why I'd like to have it.'

"'I'd shore like to accommodate you,' says he, 'but I've got the artistic tenement, too. I don't see why it ain't art when you can steal a shoat better than anybody else can. Shoats is a kind of inspiration and genius with me. Specially this one. I wouldn't take two hundred and fifty for that animal.'

"'Now, listen,' says I, wiping off my forehead. 'It's not so much a matter of business with me as it is art; and not so much art as it is philanthropy. Being a connoisseur and disseminator of pigs, I wouldn't feel like I'd done my duty to the world unless I added that Berkshire to my collection. Not intrinsically, but according to the ethics of pigs as friends and coadjutors of mankind, I offer you five hundred dollars for the animal.'

"'Jeff,' says this pork esthete, 'it ain't money; it's sentiment with me.'

"'Seven hundred,' says I.

"'Make it eight hundred,' says Rufe, 'and I'll crush the sentiment out of my heart.'

"I went under my clothes for my money-belt, and counted him out forty twenty-dollar gold certificates.

"'I'll just take him into my own room,' says I, 'and lock him up till after breakfast.'

"I took the pig by the hind leg. He turned on a squeal like the steam calliope at the circus.

"'Let me tote him in for you,' says Rufe; and he picks up the beast under one arm, holding his snout with the other hand, and packs him into my room like a sleeping baby.

"After breakfast Rufe, who had a chronic case of haberdashery ever since I got his trousseau, says he believes he will amble down to Misfitzky's and look over some royal-purple socks. And then I got as busy as a one-armed man with the nettle-rash pasting on wall-paper. I found an old Negro man with an express wagon to hire; and we tied the pig in a sack and drove down to the circus grounds.

"I found George B. Tapley in a little tent with a window flap open. He was a fattish man with an immediate eye, in a black skull-cap, with a four-ounce diamond screwed into the bosom of his red sweater.

"'Are you George B. Tapley?' I asks.

"'I swear it,' says he.

"'Well, I've got it,' says I.

"'Designate,' says he. 'Are you the guinea pigs for the Asiatic python or the alfalfa for the sacred buffalo?'

"'Neither,' says I. 'I've got Beppo, the educated hog, in a sack in that wagon. I found him rooting up the flowers in my front yard this morning. I'll take the five thousand dollars in large bills, if it's handy.'

"George B. hustles out of his tent, and asks me to follow. We went into one of the side-shows. In there was a jet black pig with a pink ribbon around his neck lying on some hay and eating carrots that a man was feeding to him.

"'Hey, Mac,' calls G. B. 'Nothing wrong with the world-wide this morning, is there?'

"'Him? No,' says the man. 'He's got an appetite like a chorus girl at 1 A.M.'

"'How'd you get this pipe?' says Tapley to me. 'Eating too many pork chops last night?'

"I pulls out the paper and shows him the ad.

"'Fake,' says he. 'Don't know anything about it. You've beheld with your own eyes the marvelous, world-wide porcine wonder of the four- footed kingdom eating with preternatural sagacity his matutinal meal, unstrayed and unstole. Good morning.'

"I was beginning to see. I got in the wagon and told Uncle Ned to drive to the most adjacent orifice of the nearest alley. There I took out my pig, got the range carefully for the other opening, set his sights, and gave him such a kick that he went out the other end of the alley twenty feet ahead of his squeal.

"Then I paid Uncle Ned his fifty cents, and walked down to the newspaper office. I wanted to hear it in cold syllables. I got the advertising man to his window.

"'To decide a bet,' says I, 'wasn't the man who had this ad. put in last night short and fat, with long black whiskers and a club-foot?'

"'He was not,' says the man. 'He would measure about six feet by four and a half inches, with corn-silk hair, and dressed like the pansies of the conservatory.'

"At dinner time I went back to Mrs. Peevy's.

"'Shall I keep some soup hot for Mr. Tatum till he comes back?' she asks.

"'If you do, ma'am,' says I, 'you'll more than exhaust for firewood all the coal in the bosom of the earth and all the forests on the outside of it.'

"So there, you see," said Jefferson Peters, in conclusion, "how hard it is ever to find a fair-minded and honest business-partner."

"But," I began, with the freedom of long acquaintance, "the rule should work both ways. If you had offered to divide the reward you would not have lost--"

Jeff's look of dignified reproach stopped me.

"That don't involve the same principles at all," said he. "Mine was a legitimate and moral attempt at speculation. Buy low and sell high-- don't Wall Street endorse it? Bulls and bears and pigs--what's the difference? Why not bristles as well as horns and fur?"

This story is in the collection "The Gentle Grafter"

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Just Time For A Quick Commentwhore

Got to get back to not spending money.

My irony meter just exploded.
Dr. Wu

Irony in the Age of Bush, too cheap to meter.
olvlzl The Heretic | Homepage | 12.20.06 - 10:43 am

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Alan Dershowitz Has Placed Himself Outside The Realm of Moral and Intellectual Respectability, not Jimmy Carter.

It's entirely understandable to me why Jimmy Carter wouldn't debate with Alan Dershowitz. I don't know exactly why Jimmy Carter wouldn't do it but I wouldn't because Alan Dershowitz is a proponent of torture. A proponent of torture removes themselves from the range of moral respectability. I consider proponents of torture in the same way Deborah Lipstadt considers David Irving and for similar reasons. Like Holocaust deniers they should not be given extra chances to promote themselves or their public careers pretending to be legitimate and respectable members of the intellectual spectrum. Alan Dershowitz used to be a supporter of human rights who was a rather too uncritical supporter of whatever unsupportable actions the Israeli government happened to engage in, now he is a supporter of torture who occasionally also supports selected human rights. I consider him the way Deborah Lipstadt considers David Irving and for similar reasons. It could also be pointed out that Dershowitz isn’t without issues of accuracy and honesty but it’s the support of torture that puts him definitively outside what should be acceptable.

The intellectual puzzle given by supporters of torture poses that the one to be tortured would be able to provide information essential to prevent the deaths of many other people and so needs to be made to talk. The situation is compelling and I believe that if such a situation existed and could be proven in a court that the illegal use of torture saved many lives, it is unlikely that either the torturer would be convicted or that any sentence would be imposed or upheld, at least here. Torture might be morally justifiable, I don't know. I do know that making it legal would open up too many trap doors on too many slippery slopes and would certainly be taken as permission to start "pushing the envelope". It is now. If it is adopted within the offical toolbox of the military and intelligence establisments - and if them why not local police - we will live to rue the day.

The invitation to Jimmy Carter has the feel of a set up job, Jimmy Carter’s new book "Palestine: Peace not Apartheid," has a provocative title and it has provoked a response. Of all the people who he could have been invited to debate, choosing Dershowitz, a poison pill if there ever was one, could be taken as evidence that the proposed debate wasn't the real motive of those making the offer.

As for the use of the word apartheid, today’s Boston Globe prints an interesting response by Norman Finklestein which shows that the practice of the Israeli government has been called “apartheid” or its equivalent by none other than Ariel Sharon, the Israeli human rights group B'Tselem, and Haaretz.

Indeed, the list apparently includes former Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon. Pointing to his "fixation with Bantustans," Israeli researcher Gershom Gorenberg concluded in 2003 that it is "no accident" that Sharon's plan for the West Bank "bears a striking resemblance to the 'grand apartheid' promoted by the old South African regime." Sharon reportedly stated around that time that "the Bantustan model was the most appropriate solution to the conflict."

Why can the word be used in Israel but not by a former America President with more credibility than any other American in promoting the security of Israel?

Thursday, December 14, 2006

What Needs To Be Done

he news about Sen. Tim Johnson highlights the vital necessity of putting maximum pressure on the "moderate" Republicans, to put that pressure on them on every issue and to not let up on that pressure. The "moderates" hold the ability of keeping the country out of the strangle hold of the Republican-fascists, if they choose to. Their "moderation" is a pose for election purposes, to be abandoned when the Republican-fascists tell them to OR it's a deeply held principle of "moderation". The proof is in what actually happens in real life, not in the mealy-mouthed platitudes that are the only tangible substance of the pose. In other words, as things stand, the "moderates" are a bunch of liars. Let them prove that wrong with their actions, not with their lying mouths.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Sorry About The Cheney-Poe Baby, How Do You Feel About The Other Children?

he Boston Globe printed an editorial on Wednesday calling for the privacy of Mary Cheney and Heather Poe as they become the parents of a baby. The editorial praises Dick Cheney for not being a Republican morality policeman on the issue of gay rights while attributing this lone spec of light to his having to deal with his daughter’s sexuality.

Sorry, Boston Globe but wrong, wrong, wrong on all counts. Mary Cheney campaigned to put the Republican party in power, the party that has been using hatred of lesbians and gay men as one of the pillars of its frighteningly effective electoral strategy. The Republican Party, with the Log Cabin dupes, is the home of hatred, the epicenter of the attack on all of us who go into the category.

Mary Cheney and Heather Poe gave up any right to privacy on this issue for themselves when they supported putting people in power who were dedicated to taking the same rights away from the rest of us.

It is one of the favorite gambits of wealthy, powerful conservatives to carve out these zones of personal privilege for themselves, even islands of alleged enlightenment as they support those who turn out the lights and break down the doors for those without power and protection. That tactic of “moderate” Republicanism is over. With the defeat of Lincoln Chaffee it is so over. If they don’t like where it leaves them, well isn’t that just too bad. The rest of us are even more inconvenienced by the hate campaign that the stinking Republican Party has waged against us. You don’t like it, Lincoln, Mary, Heather, choose sides but don’t expect us to make any concessions to your other loyalties. If your families and party weren’t using the politics of hate to begin with we wouldn’t even be talking about them.

As for Dick and Lynne Cheney, two bigger hypocrites are seldom to be seen in one marriage. Going so far as publishing, one expects perhaps even profiting from, very badly written lesbian sex scenes while campaigning for the party of gay baiting, campaigning for “traditional morality” against just such sex scenes and while insisting that out of all possible targets of their parties and their own hatred that their child have a place of safety? They are the poster couple of Republican-fascist degeneracy, “The Damned - America 2000 ".

The well positioned in the media, in academia, in the law talk about a lot of different, valued rights. Freedom, privacy, free speech, etc. But they don’t seem to be very much interested in that one value that gives everyone an ironclad incentive to not violate the most cherished rights of other people. EQUALITY, the absolute and firm requirement in the law and in society that rights and liberties that one person or one group is allowed to exercise are exactly the same for every single other person. Equal rights, equal exercise of rights goes to everyone or no one gets to exercise them. Mary and Heather don’t deserve privacy when they, their parents, their party actively violate the privacy of numerous other people and not just gay people and lesbians. They don’t get to promote bigotry while enjoying a sort of social Ziebart to protect themselves.

If you ask what about their child when it is born, what about it's rights and feelings? Well lots of other lesbians and gay men have children. What about them?

Frontiers in Market Style Education

An e-mail Offer in my Box This Morning

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Bring in a_Bachelors, Master.s, MBA, and Doctorate (PhD) diploma.

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Noobdy is pushed away

Complete Anonyimty set

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No proof reading either.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Oh, Clap Your Hands, Media Whores
Every Time You Say You Don't Believe A Fascist Dictator Dies.

In a move more cruel than telling a little girl that Santa Claus is a myth, Greg Palast breaks the spell. Pinochet's miracle, still fervently believed in even by columnists at the WaPo and other such idiots who can't even surf the web - nevermind track down real news - turns out to have been entirely the surrender to Keynes and Marx:

In 1970, 20% of Chile’s population lived in poverty. By 1990, the year “President” Pinochet left office, the number of destitute had doubled to 40%. Quite a miracle.

Pinochet did not destroy Chile’s economy all alone. It took nine years of hard work by the most brilliant minds in world academia, a gaggle of Milton Friedman’s trainees, the Chicago Boys. Under the spell of their theories, the General abolished the minimum wage, outlawed trade union bargaining rights, privatized the pension system, abolished all taxes on wealth and on business profits, slashed public employment, privatized 212 state industries and 66 banks and ran a fiscal surplus.

Freed of the dead hand of bureaucracy, taxes and union rules, the country took a giant leap forward … into bankruptcy and depression. After nine years of economics Chicago style, Chile’s industry keeled over and died. In 1982 and 1983, GDP dropped 19%. The free-market experiment was kaput, the test tubes shattered. Blood and glass littered the laboratory floor. Yet, with remarkable chutzpah, the mad scientists of Chicago declared success. In the US, President Ronald Reagan’s State Department issued a report concluding, “Chile is a casebook study in sound economic management.” Milton Friedman himself coined the phrase, “The Miracle of Chile.” Friedman’s sidekick, economist Art Laffer, preened that Pinochet’s Chile was, “a showcase of what supply-side economics can do.”

And just to show that in the world of finance, the lessons of history fade faster than anywhere else:

In 1998, the international finance Gang of Four - the World Bank, the IMF, the Inter-American Development Bank and the International Bank for Settlements - offered a $41.5 billion line of credit to Brazil. But before the agencies handed the drowning nation a life preserver, they demanded Brazil commit to swallow the economic medicine that nearly killed Chile. You know the list: fire-sale privatizations, flexible labor markets (i.e. union demolition) and deficit reduction through savage cuts in government services and social security.

In Sao Paulo, the public was assured these cruel measures would ultimately benefit the average Brazilian. What looked like financial colonialism was sold as the cure-all tested in Chile with miraculous results.

But that miracle was in fact a hoax, a fraud, a fairy tale in which everyone did not live happily ever after.

And we thought it was only here that the best and brightest forgot those lessons such as that which Neil Bush's Silverado Savings and Loan should have taught.

Commies Under The Garden Bed?

Have you ever had a seed catalog that prints letters from customers warning that it is too leftist?

“When you stick to facts and seeds, I am in your camp.... but when you run babbling off into the leftist dogma wilderness... you are close to losing me as a customer,” Customer from Shrewsbury, VT

But the response isn’t all that way. Right below that they printed: “ I love Fedco. The cooperative. The politics. The information. The prices. The catalog!” Customer from Plainfield, VT
You can look at page 55 of the Fedco 2007 Seed catalog to see.

The Fedco Cooperative is my favorite source for seeds and growing supplies. Its catalog is, well, to quote another customer: “This catalog is more engaging than most novels: all those intriguing characters. Who should I root for???” (Page 40)

There are a few other seed catalogs that come close to matching the number of varieties but none that match the Fedco catalog for its informative and entertaining descriptions and boundless asides.

Here, from a sidebar on it’s essay on global warming, Top ten reasons for not curbing global warming:
8. Does evolution really work? - we’ll soon find out.
5. No more Florida election surprises.
1. Maine-grown coffee at MOFGA’s Common Ground fair.*
All joking aside, the essay on page 6 is serious and worth reading.

The pictures, all black and white on newsprint, are funny and beautiful and make wonderful coloring books. It is one of the few seed catalogs that I’ve seen children who are uninterested in gardening leaf through.

Other than being a customer and an admirer, I have no financial interest in Fedco Seeds, Moose Tubers or Organic Grower’s Supply. If you are interested they have a website but the paper catalog that carries the mystique. There is nothing like picking it up on a snowy January day when the power is out and imagining the garden in August. To conserve paper, you can download it. All seed is untreated, many heirloom and open varieties are sold and all of them are worth considering if you have a garden.

* The Maine Organic Farmer’s and Gardener’s Assoc. fair’s “no coffee because it’s not a Maine grown product” fight is one of the most enduring controversies up here. Ok, so it’s an inside joke, unless you get stuck at the fair with caffeine withdrawal.

This is Disturbing

The fact that in 2006 there are enough supporters of a known mass murderer and mega-thief to require that the place his foetid body was lying in state to stay open all night is really disturbing. Ted Bundy murdered at most several dozen people, Augusto Pinochet murdered thousands. If I was living in Chile I’d be proposing immediate steps to de-fascify the country. And if that word doesn’t exist it needs to.

Isn’t it time to put Henry Kissinger on trial for crimes against humanity?

Theory is Sloppy And So Was I

Arggh! I think that's how it's spelled. I left off the punch line when I was copying the story about Brooks' phony sociology about charity.

The last line, after mentioning the bilge suckers of his kind of phony number rigging is, "I wonder how many of Brooks' admirers have uttered the line, ' Evolution is only a theory,".

Monday, December 11, 2006

Before The Bargaining Begins

ithout environmental and worker’s protection here and abroad the answer would have been, no dice. So it’s good that Open Source had Barney Frank on the other night to explain his proposed grand bargain. That’s the one in which businesses get a decrease in some kinds of regulations and more open trade in return for things like a more friendly climate for unionization, increased wages and national health coverage. Robert Kuttner has a column last Saturday that gives more information about the deal and why it could bring in a return to policies that built the now moribund middle class.

I’m not entirely sold on the bargain and am very skeptical that it will be taken up. Kuttner mentions in his column that the ideas seem strange to the left because they haven’t been taken seriously by those in power for decades. That is primarily the fault of conservatives who from the late 40s till today have done everything they could to destroy the New Deal and other programs that benefitted the large majority of people in the United States. They owned the media that carped about every tiny fault and blew those into a climate of cynical dismissal of both the public sector and unions. When they didn’t have anything to blow up, they invented it. And there was also the conservative, entrenched leadership of the unions who not only played the very unattractive roles assigned to them by the conservative media, they squandered too many opportunities to increase membership. Without an expanded membership the union movement started to die. Both will have to be overcome to make this bargain work, neither side will give up their perks without being forced to.

One of the other guests on Open Source gave one more essential part of the bargain, this time business goes second. Last time, with NAFTA etc. they went first and our turn never came. Without the pressure of them not getting what they want, they will never allow us to get what we need. After the failure of the Clinton administration to give us health care and the essential protections that should have been a preliminary requirement, NAFTA should never have been passed. Our rule going into this has to be that without us getting the things we need in the bargain then the others things don’t happen.

And if it fails, if the conservatives refuse the offer? What then? I hope that Barney Frank has thought of that. I can’t imagine he hasn’t. If it fails then, among other things, free trade should be scrapped. Without the things Frank has listed as the requirements of the labor side then free trade is a quick trip to the bottom, the one the middle class has been on since Reagan took office. If a decent standard of living isn’t possible under the rules as they stand, it’s not time to give up on people having a decent standard of living. It’s time to burn the rule book and get rules that provide for one. To start, I’d say that the program in Marjorie Kelly’s book, The Divine Right of Capital, is a good place to start.

Why is it that workers who produce all of the wealth don’t have at least as much ownership of a company as the one-time investor gets in perpetuity? Investor ownership is eternal. Stock can be sold over and over again without a single cent of additional capital investment in the company being made. Yet a worker who works for the company from the beginning till her job gets outsourced when the eighteenth owner of the stock decides that slave-labor overseas will maximize the value of the stock, has no legally protected ownership rights at all.

Swellfare Cassocked Hacks? Is It Really Charity?

s the book "Who Really Cares" by Arthur C. Brooks an indictment of stingy liberals who don’t put their wallets where their mouths are or is it yet another in the long, long series of books written to both further the ideological propaganda effort of conservatives and make them feel smug? Is it another fat-cat and wannabe, feel good book? I haven’t read it so I don’t know. What I’ve seen about it doesn’t exactly put it on the top of my “to read” list.

"Who Really Cares" is creating a stir in philanthropy circles -- and garnering acclaim from conservative pundits like ABC News's John Stossel and the radio host Michael Medved -- but is it to be trusted? At the AEI forum, Alan Abramson, director of the philanthropy program of the Aspen Institute, said that one should treat Brooks's sweeping conclusions with caution, given the "softness of the data" on charity in general. (He noted that Brooks himself concedes that we don't even know with certainty whether 50 percent or 80 percent of adult Americans donate to charity.)

I’ll pass up the temptations presented by the Stossel and Medved acclaim, though their recommendation would be a red flag of fawning that what was contained within was probably predictable B.S.* What really should concern anyone who is interested in the truth is Abramson’s “softness of the data” statement. Soft numbers can’t give you accurate results. They can’t and anyone who uses them should be called on their use. Even professors at Syracuse University. No, make that, especially professors at major universities.

Brook’s concession that there could be as great a gap as thirty percent in such a basic number makes me wonder why he would have gone on to write the book. Even the gap in the value of that variable would be enough to make everything else unreliable. But even if you had a solid value, what does it mean? Would it really show what Brooks and his happy audience of right wingers say it does? It all depends on how you define “charity”, the rigor with which you observe your defined limits and the general agreement that your definition is the right one.

Junk in junk out is the polite way of putting it. You plug in all kinds of numbers collected from various places and dazzle the innumerate press and the side your results are spun for and no one looks to see where the numbers came from and what they mean. When it comes to crunching numbers dealing with complex phenomenon, such as an observable behavior, it becomes a bit tricky to even tell if what the hopeful researcher wants to see is what was really there. If it is something too complex and diffuse to observe, say “charitable giving”, then the numbers can really mask other intentions.

First, what constitutes “charitable giving”? Giving itself can be anything from entirely self-serving to entirely selfless. Is that huge donation, with tax exemption, going to get your name put on a building at Harvard or will it go anonymously to pay tuition and instructors at Roxbury Community College? Does the condition and level of need of the recipient matter? Does ten-grand given to the Mercedes fund for the pastor of a mega-church qualify as charity? How about paying for a piece of stained glass in a window of dubious artistic merit? How about giving to an ideological institution which will lobby against the estate tax? Of the above, only the donation to the Roxbury Community College, if it goes to teaching children in need, makes it as charity with me.

Before I’m going to even consider a book about who is more generous I’m going to have to know what the numbers represent in both their raw form and in their refined form.

In preparing this post I looked, for the first time, at the reviews of the book on J. Straka’s was interesting. He makes some interesting observations, the ones I have had time to look into, check out. **

*Stossel in particular is untrustworthy. A “journalist” who has declared that his job is to promote the corporate agenda is a self-proclaimed propagandist dishonestly pretending to be a reporter. Junk in guarantees junk out. Medved is one of the legion of those Hollywood hangers on who can tell us what Mel Gibson’s shoes taste like. Anyone who wants me to read their book should not use their blurbs on the cover.

**J. Straka - See all my reviews (REAL NAME) In the national press release for this book, the big "news" is that "religious conservatives donate far more money than secular liberals...". What an interesting spin! What makes it especially interesting is that in an October 2003 article by Arthur Brooks in the Policy Review, he states that religious liberals give and volunteer at rates comparable to religious conservatives. Now that is an apples to apples comparison, but not very interesting "spin material". I wonder why the press release didn't contain the findings found on Mr. Brooks' own web page showing that the "working poor" give more to charity than both the middle and upper class. That statistic wouldn't sell books to his conservative audience, I guess. And while Mr. Brooks tries to come off as a neutral observer "shocked" by the results of his studies, all the other articles he has written on the internet shows he has no love for the liberals (one article entitled "The Fertility Gap" predicts the demise of the liberal party because they were having 41% fewer babies than the conservatives!).

I question the need for this book: if you are giving your money and time to those in need out of true compassion, why do you need to compare yourself to others? If you have a need to compare and judge and belittle others, I really question that you are that compassionate. Though I'm sure many conservatives will buy this biased book because it will make them feel good about themselves, they would be much further ahead to donate the money to a charity.

Note: I wonder why only 24 of 126 people found his review helpful. Maybe Brooks is preaching to the choir gloriously robed in his kind of charity.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Still Reading the IGS Report

so no comments yet except to say if you think Bush is going to do anything decent or wise except by threat, fat chance. Before I'm ready to comment here's one of the best comments on Bush War II as it is presented by our kept media.

Now we have brought to Iraq a civil war and we must call it such. But, even that is far too tame a term to use for the senseless and barbaric slaughter of a guiltless people. When I first read The Lancet’s account of how many Iraqis now dead which is 655,000 my sympathy is for them and not Bush Sr. As each of those deaths occurred, people did cry and their tears could probably fill an ocean.

If we as a sympathetic society are to feel sympathy for anyone’s tears, let them go to a little girl whose father was lost in this most immoral war. I saw the photo below days before Election Day and wrote of what her father will miss out on because Bush Sr’s son took her father away. Let her tears be the ones to remember and not that of the late president. It is time for his family’s dynasty to end.

Good post, Mary MacElveen.

My Best Christmas Present Ever!!!! Can Now Be Yours Too

A war on Christmas proposal

Getting asked once too often decades ago what my best Christmas present ever was my usual response is "I don't know,". But having thought about it again I've got a definite answer, one that can keep on giving.

Once in a meeting of the board of a small, local non-profit I used to sit on, our most irritatingly juvenile member proposed that we "aren't doing enough for our volunteers. We need to show how much we value them by throwing them a Christmas party,". All of us slumped in our seats. Not another damned Christmas event we would have to go to.

In a really impressive bit of quick thinking, for which all of us have since been truly thankful, one of our members said, "Yes, let's have something but not now. How about in May,". Everyone, almost, immediately brightened, even smiled. The vote in favor was unanimous. A small non-profit was spared from instituting one of the most onerous burdens of the season, it has not had a single "Volunteer Christmas Party" since that blessed night.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Maybe A Better Discussion Could Be Had From “The Little Foxes”.

onight on Christopher Lydon’s usually excellent “Open Source” he and a small group of well spoken people considered the Bush II regime’s Iraq war in terms of Moby-Dick. The assigning of roles from the book to various people in the incumbent regime was generally unsuccessful, I almost hit the radio when one of them suggested Colin Powell as Starbuck. But it was in the attempt itself that the program failed. Moby-Dick is a rather overdrawn presentation of the dilemmas of human existence and our limited and too short consciousness. It is a novel. As a novel it is entirely inappropriate as a vehicle for looking at the Bush II regime’s entirely sordid and thoroughly banal mishmash of a war. Whaling by a ship of isolated, sexually repressed sailors led by a mad man might be a good metaphor for the Bush II adventure, but as reportage not with the glamour of existential despair and futile striving that Melville attached to a rotten and mercenary activity.

When or, since they seem intent on ending the world, if the history of the Bush II regime is written it will be mythologized . Republicans and the Bush Crime Family have the resources to do that, they will need to and it will be insisted on. In fact they are already shaking down large donors for that effort this very week. But for those of us who are interested in what really were the motives of Cheney, Bush, Rumsfeld, Powell, Wolfowitz, Chalabi, Feith, Miller, the entire range of people in government and the media who made this disaster there is one certainty. If we start looking for motives more noble or exculpatory than a quest for power and plunder we will propagate the lies that began this, the greatest crime committed by a modern American President, the kind of evil that ends empires. Those always begin in people telling themselves a tale, one in which what they want turns into what is noble, good and epic. Maybe the problem is that they were brought up on novels. An education based in fiction is a very bad idea. Look where the Homeric fables got it’s audience.

The origins of the Second Bush War were in the desire to get hold of the American government, the richest and most powerful government in the history of the world. It was a desire to use the mechanism of the military to invade Iraq to hand it’s oil concessions over to the Bush family and its associates. To do this invasion, especially with the “streamlined” military that Rumsfeld provided it was impossible to avoid paying large numbers of contractors associated with Cheney and the Bush family. Various other power players also made out. There are no metaphysical considerations that will shed light on the invasion of Iraq, there are no mitigating features of the kind Melville gave his fictional creations. There is nothing in this that is epic or tragic or revelatory in a greater sense. It is a case to study in the field of international criminology. It is entirely banal every way you turn it.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Resistance Is Useless, Cheney As Vogon Demolition Ship Guard

ohn Dean has an important article about why the Democrats are going to need support to finally provide oversight to the Cheney-Bush regime. The media has been doing their best on behalf of their god-king so it's going to be to The People to make certain the facts are discovered and made public.

Rumblings on Capitol Hill suggest that Republicans may literally be "out of control" as the minority party. Many Republicans in Congress are upset that they will lose their perks, and they want to punish the Democrats for winning. In addition, the White House believes its conservative base wants it to make life difficult for the Democrat Congress, so they will assist in doing just that.

The word on K Street is also that making life difficult for Congressional Democrats will help Republicans win the White House and Congress in 2008. As one well-connected Republican attorney in Washington told me: "We see a war coming on Capitol Hill." In fact, many Congressional Republicans believe they are better at being opponents than proponents, so they look forward to raising hell.

Since Democrats are going to encountering some major stonewalling, when they try to pursue oversight of the Bush Administration, this raises two key questions: What should the Democrats do in response to the stonewalling, and how should they do it?
A lot of people were predicting that Cheney in particular would go to any lengths to stop his activities from being looked at. The obvious reason would be that he has been guilty of high crimes of an impeachable nature. He is cornered. He and the Republican media will do everything they can to keep the Congress from doing it's job. Literally they will do anything that they can, don't be surprised no matter what happens. These are the people who invaded Iraq, afterall.

It's a two part article, the second part will be as important as the first.

Don't Bother Milton, The World Hath No Need of Thee

he short burst of adulation at the death of Milton Friedman was overly polite, hardly mentioning his association with Chilean fascism. He’d been smart enough to send some of his boys to do the dirty work, though it was under Pinochet that some of his more stridently held views got a try out. The favorite of those among conservatives is the pension system. That it has not turned out to not provide the boon that it’s admirers here continue to pretend it does hasn’t gone unnoticed in, now democratic, Chile. You can read this piece in The Guardian, which shows that Friedman’s only lasting achievement in the real world was one he was deeply ashamed of, witholding taxes.

Failure in the real world isn’t, of course, any bar to the establishment’s hagiography industry. Here in the United States an academic who has told the rich and powerful what they wanted to hear, didn’t get into trouble with his more powerful colleagues and, especially, who was successfully sold in the pop media is assured a place in the grand pyramid of hype. Friedman will, officially, be a genius for quite a while to come.

A more interesting view of his Chicago School style is held in this piece by Christopher Hayes, describing his experience while taking an Intro to Econ. class in the Vatican of neo-classical economics. His description of what he learned there should force a change in name, this program of dogma and theology isn’t neoclassic, it’s neo-scholastic. Most interesting to me is the section in which he describes the appeal of the system.

As taught by Sanderson, economics is a satisfyingly neat machine: complicated enough to warrant curiosity and discovery, but not so complicated as to bewilder. Like a bicycle, input matches output (wind the crank and the wheel moves), and once you've got the basics of the model down, everything seems to make sense.

He goes on to say that so much of the money babble in the media became comprehensible to him because he had learned the patter of the system, the lingo of this branch of the trivium. Marketplace and the Wall Street Journal became understandable. You can imagine that the beginning student in Thomist Philosophy or even quasi-religious, official system experiencing a similar thrill as the scales fell away and they beheld the majesty of their ticket to the easy life as a cog in the machine. Not the key to the universe exactly, to the university. Or at least tenure. This next paragraph in Hayes’ article holds not just for economics but for most of the social sciences:

The simple models have an explanatory power that is thrilling. Once you've grasped the aggregate supply/aggregate demand model, you understand why stimulating demand may lead, in the short run, to growth, but will also produce inflation. But the content of that understanding turns out to be a bit thin. Inflation happens because, well, that's where the lines intersect. "A little economics can be a dangerous thing," a friend working on her Ph.D in public policy at the U. of C. told me. "An intro econ course is necessarily going to be superficial. You deal with highly stylized models that are robbed of context, that take place in a world unmediated by norms and institutions. Much of the most interesting work in economics right now calls into question the Econ 101 assumptions of rationality, individualism, maximizing behavior, etc. But, of course, if you don't go any further than Econ 101, you won't know that the textbook models are not the way the world really works, and that there are tons of empirical studies out there that demonstrate this."

The damned empirical world, always marring the beautiful and simple thing. But for most people Econ. 101 is farther than they'll ever go. For them a small collection of slogans. As in the most famous model, they can still believe the earth is the center of the solar system, the real world isn't allowed to filter into the more popular areas of the media or political speeches. If anyone has seen any evidence of the real world in the Bush II regime or the cabloid media, it’s just a mirage.

The problem isn’t that reality isn’t known, it’s that like any late stage empire, the system and it’s rotting foundations are what are really important to those who hope to plunder the ship as it beaches. The scribes and praise singers don’t really believe what they’re writing, they just want their efforts to pay the most. That’s why they do what they do. How long do you think “Market Place” would stay on public radio if they focused on the worsening position of most people under the system we have now? How many working class people do you know who are better off after deregulation and open markets? I don't know a single one, not one. No money, no influence.

And it isn't just the working class and the destitute that lose from the agreed to lie of conservative economics. As we watch the disaster of global warming, pollution and overpopulation becoming real around us, remember that Friedman was a total opponent to environmental regulation. Looks like he got out just in time, doesn’t it.

Roberts, Alito, Thomas, Scalia
See, hear, speak and think no evil of industry.

It would be hard to imagine a more serious problem than global warming, the subject of this fact based column by Derrick Z. Jackson.

Just moments after James Milkey, Massachusetts assistant attorney general, opened his statement on how the state "will be hit particularly hard" by rising oceans, Scalia pounced on him with: "I thought that the standing requires imminent harm. If you haven't been harmed already, you have to show the harm is imminent. Is this harm imminent?"

Milkey responded, "It is, your honor. We have shown that the sea levels are already occurring from the current amounts of greenhouse gases in the air, and that means it is only going to get worse as the . . ."

Scalia interrupted again with, "When? I mean, when is the predicted cataclysm?"

Jackson then goes on to point out that the duck-killing "justice" should learn more about his hobby. Will he? It is unlikely. The case will be decided by whatever Anthony Kennedy decides to do. It is entirely possible that the future of the biosphere depends on what he has for breakfast the day the "justices" vote.

In the Globe's Quotes of Note sidebar there is this quote from Al Gore:

"In the arguments, Justice Scalia said, 'I'm not a scientist, I don't want to deal with global warming." I just wish he felt that way about presidential elections."

Also read Jackson's recent columns in an ongoing series about the real Martin Luther King. The great one who really lived, not the innocuous myth.

Friday, December 01, 2006

An Explanation To My Readers

I had expected to resume the near daily posting schedule after the elections were over but nature intervened. A chronic illness I suffer from had a major flare up. It seems to be subsiding under treatment and with any luck I can resume writing on at least an increased basis.

Blogger was also acting up, which didn’t help.

Now that we can get a few of our items worked on, my proposal for a leftist agenda are:

- To end the damned, criminal, idiotic and massively irresponsible Bush War II in Iraq, and to fully account for how it happened and who benefitted from it,

- To consolidate gains made in the election, to push those forward and increase the number of progressives in the House and Senate,

- To force honest elections WITH A PAPER RECORD OF VOTES COUNTABLE BY HAND AND STRICT STENTENCES FOR THOSE WHO TRY TO PREVENT ELIGIBLE VOTERS CASTING A VOTE AND HAVING IT COUNTED. AND I MEAN JUDGES TOO. Any public official of any kind who violates the right of The People to cast a vote and to have that vote counted should be impeached and imprisoned.

- To force media reform through the fairness doctrine, equal time provisions and local, community service REQUIREMENTS and diversified ownership. None of this phony, voluntary broadcast standards garbage. They’ve had those and they violate them every single time their corporate and personal interest benefits from violating them. They even violate them when they don’t need to, just out of habit.

At least that’s my beginning agenda. Oh, and, by the way, we have to save the biosphere or we are all going to die. I suspect that will include having to finally face the true nature of the Supreme Court, as mostly being a bunch of reality denying, favor the developers and eco-rapists as the world is ending nest featherers.

There is a lot to be done, time is short and as the attacks on the future Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, show, our enemies are working overtime to destroy the small gains we have made. We have no time to fight among ourselves, the tactic of dividing us through self-defeating, internal strife has been the fascists’ greatest weapon through out history. Attack the conservatives, the Republican-fascists. The time to fight among ourselves is after they have been definitively defeated.

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