Saturday, April 30, 2005

Our Dear Gov 01

Friday, April 29, 2005

Outbreak of Foot in Mouth Disease

There was an outbreak of Foot in Mouth Disease in Maryland this week. Our dear Lt. Gov. was on the roll pimping for his commission to investigate quality of education (a Repub chip off the White House Block). In the process:
Steele was quoted in the Calvert Recorder as saying, "Parents need to wake up and stop being selfish," during an April 18 meeting at Mill Creek Middle School.
Lovely, just lovely. We have a history of inept Lt. Govs in Maryland. The last was Kathleen Kennedy Townsend who lost to the current squarehead in the Gov's mansion.

How about a Lt. Gov. who recognizes that education costs MONEY and that MONEY can only be obtained from taxes and that this is the way a government operates. No, they just think that having a Commission of Poohbahs and testing children until they die from writer's cramp is going to make all Maryland peelers into Einsteins (excuse the crab lingo).

Lord bless, what are we going to do.

Friday Crab Blogging

Finding NeverLand

In 2004, Johnny Depp starred in Finding NeverLand, a disturbing movie about the playwright J.M. Barrie (Peter Pan). Basically, Barrie never wanted to grow up. Part of this syndrome is not knowing what is real and what is fantasy. It also has to do with running away from reality to a land where everything you believe in comes true. I looked out the window last night and there was our President gliding through the air, heading for Wendy's, doing a Disney and singing "We can fly" -
He pledged to encourage oil-producing nations to maximize production and promised to protect U.S. consumers. "There will be no price gouging at gas pumps in America," Bush said.

He spoke on the same day the world's largest publicly traded oil company, Exxon Mobil Corp., announced that its profit for the first three months of the year had risen 44 percent to $7.86 billion from the corresponding quarter a year ago. (emphasis added)
We have got to start facing reality. Our country is controlled by a small coterie of very rich and powerful men, much like it was in the American colonies in 1776. That was the year the Thomas Jefferson said:
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. --That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, --That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. (emphasis added)
Now I am not advocating overthrow of our government by any means. I'm simply advocating that the idiots in Washington govern according to the rules.

The first Rule is: "Tell the Truth."

Thursday, April 28, 2005

Scrooge "Robbing Hood" McBush

We have a rip roaring deficit, pretty far into the billions of dollars. We are borrowing money from China, Korea and Japan. And our need for Medicaid is growing. We keep producing the old, the poor and the children. And don't tell me its their fault!
What do we do?
WASHINGTON - The House and Senate debated a budget Thursday that would cut spending on Medicaid health care for the poor for the first time since 1997 in an effort to trim federal deficits...

The budget would shave automatically increasing benefit programs by $35 billion over five years while also cutting taxes by as much as $106 billion over the same period (my emphasis).....

Medicaid gets marked for the single biggest change, a $10 billion reduction over four years.
Let me repeat: The Old, The Poor and The Children.

If you think the man running our country is anything but the biggest fucking hypocrite that ever lived, then may all the people who are going to die because of his insanity just fly down from Never Never land and smack you on the side of the head.

Alice, get out of the way, I'm coming down the Rabbit Hole. Its got to be better than this big ole place that looks like a bally waterhole in Texas.

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Civilization and its Contents - IV

It will always be said that America brought technological advance to civilization. But the problem in assigning fame or blame for technological advance is that it can be duplicated. Although the transistor was invented in America, it was the Japanese Transistor Radio that made headlines. And now when one can make an atomic bomb in the basement, who cares who invented it. The difference between the Arc de Triomphe and and atomic bomb is uniqueness. Do we celebrate who invented the catapult? And, of course, the Italians would claim that Leonardo de Vinci invented everything. (Incidentally, he almost did.)

I think, in spite of its appeal, we can discard technological advance as our mark of civilization. That even includes going to the moon (The Union formerly known as Soviet was the first in space. What did that count for?)

We have breezed by architecture and technology. There is not much left. Certainly, those in academics will say, we should consider the contributions of Americans to literature, music, art and law. In spite of their awesome (for the times) military accomplishments, we learn in grade school that Rome should be known for its law giving. (Napoleon, also, was no small fish when it came to distributing uniform law).

O.K., then, let's look at this area. Quick, name one prominent 18th century American painter. (No, you can't Google it.) And no, I couldn't either. O.K., then, try the 19th century. Well, Eakins and Whistler and a bunch of others. But, can you honestly argue that even combining the whole raft of artists, poets (Emily Dickenson excepted), novelists, etc. can really outclass any other civilization of even half its size? Look what Greece did in the Golden Age. Could there have been more than several million that lived in the city states at the time of Pericles? And how many of them actually participated in the culture.

No, I am afraid that when compared to other civilizations, our arts are a little shabby. Yes, we have been on the forefront for the last 50 years, but, my God, what a forefront. Pollack splatterings and Warhol soup cans. This cannot hold a candle to the French impressionists. Not a candle.

So, if the Romans were known as the law givers, maybe we will be known for our government. How poignant to be talking of America's government now, when we are in our deepest crisis. When it is possible that a radical fringe will undo over 200 years of admirable example. Yes, I think our Constitution, as imperfect as it is, is still one of the greatest documents of all time. The very basis is that the government derives its right to govern from those it governs. All of us have been imbued with this since we were tots. It is what has set us off from the rest of the World, whether that exceptionalism was warranted or not.

But in the end, it is not our Constitution or Laws, as excellent as they are, that defines our civilization. It is something else.

To be continued.....

Sunday, April 24, 2005

Civilization and its Contents - III

So where does our American civilization lie? Well, the obvious answer is in the technology that we have discovered and perfected. A lot of people will wonder if the trade off between all the good things we have found and nuclear weapons has been worth it. [There will always be someone to point out that the Germans or the Russians would have discovered them in any case. I am not so sure. (Read Richard Rhodes the Making of the Atomic Bomb).] In any case, America has certainly been on the forefront of technological advance in almost all fields. While many of the physicists on the Manhattan Project were from foreign countries (Fermi, etc.), and, of course, Einstein was also, others such as J. Robert Oppenheimer were home grown. Because of the devastation of WWII, physics outside the United States took years to recover. While Japan and Europe are now contributing, in my mind the US still leads in many areas. Unfortunately, physics hasn't brought us any useful goodies for a long time. While they probe subatomic particles and meander through 12 dimension string space, our world is in deep trouble.

Chemistry used to be the provence of the Germans. In fact, in the 50's and 60's US chemistry graduate students had to learn German. That has changed, but all that original work is still there.

It is in the Medical field that the US has appeared to excel. Most of the major advances both theoretically and practically have originated here. While this has been a boon for some few patients, the overall health of the planet has decayed dramatically. What good does an MRI do when millions of children die every year from diarrheal diseases that are both preventable and easily treatable? One could go on for a long time on the problems with US Medicine. But, the fact remains, from the polio vaccine to the human genome, we have excelled intellectually. If one is going to list our contributions to civilization, this may have to be near the top.

While many other areas in science and engineering have had their stars, for instance Henry Ford bringing an affordable automobile to the masses, it is possible that these advances would have been discovered in due time elsewhere. One can only speculate where Europe would have gone if it had not had WWI and WWII.

High on the list of inventions that have changed the way we live must, regrettably, be Television. Again, one could wax long and vigorous on this subject. And maybe even include personal computers and the InterNet. I am going to think about this for a bit.

To be continued.....

Lay Tommy Lay, Lay across ....

I really don't like cigarette smoking. But smoking guns, that's a different story:
The airfare to London and Scotland in 2000 for then-House Majority Whip Tom DeLay (R-Tex.) was charged to an American Express card issued to Jack Abramoff, a Washington lobbyist at the center of a federal criminal and tax probe....
Multiple sources, including DeLay's then-chief of staff Susan Hirschmann, have confirmed that DeLay's congressional office was in direct contact with Preston Gates about the trip itinerary before DeLay's departure, to work out details of his travel. These contacts raise questions about DeLay's statement that he had no way of knowing about the financial and logistical support provided by Abramoff and his firm.
When will the Republicans understand that running this story out is doing nothing but shooting themselves in the foot. Of course, smile, I'm all in favor of foot shooting. Here, Tommy, here's an AK-47. Go for it.

Saturday, April 23, 2005

Civilization and its Contents - II

Back to bricks and mortar. I forgot that when I was in Milan many years ago I came across a mausoleum that had been constructed during Mussolini's time. It was really rather frightening. It was, of course, in the neo imperial style with very dark, metal eagles, guns and helmets sprouting all about. One descended into the mausoleum and I don't remember who was buried there. It was pretty scary. This brings to mind the architecture of Napoleon and Hitler. Napoleon was going to completely redo Paris. I am not sure what he did construct, it isn't his tomb in Les Invalides which was an old soldier's home constructed by Louis XIV:
In 1670, Louis XIV - the Sun King - founded Les Invalides near what was then called the Grenelle Plain. An old soldiers home, it was funded by a five year levy on the salaries of soldiers currently serving in the army at that time. The first stones were laid in 1671, for what was to become a complex providing quarters for 4,000. Construction followed plans drawn up by Libéral Bruant, and was completed in 1676. The Esplandade was layed out by Robert de Cotte.
Of course, I guess we have to include the Arc de Triompe:
The Triumphal Arch dates back to 1806, when Napoléon commissioned Chalgrin to build an arch to the glory of the French Army. Construction on the Arch began in 1806, restarted in 1825, and was not finished until 1836. The Arc de Triomphe is built on the model of ancient Triumphal Arches, but it stands alone because of its monumental size: 50 meters tall and 45 meters wide (164 by 148 feet).
But then:
it was completed in time for Napoleon's hearse to pass beneath in 1840.
In other words, Napoleon got a good view on his last journey. We should be so lucky.

It is something to ponder, this lack of grandiose architecture in the United States. Here we are a country with wealth beyond imagining, and we can't seem to build anything but starter castles. Oh, yes, there is the new Disney Auditorium in Los Angeles and the renovated Museum of Modern Art in New York. But these would be paltry memorials to the wealth that we have. Or do we? and they would crumble in a decent earthquake. Or, probably more likely go submarine.

As for Hitler's monumental architecture, we have this:

The Courtyard of Hitler's Reich Chancellery

Friday, April 22, 2005

I'm afraid I'm going to get sick....

Friday Curmudgeon Crab Blogging

Thursday, April 21, 2005

Civilization and its Contents-I

"You work three jobs? Uniquely American, isn't it? I mean, that is fantastic that you're doing that."
George W. Bush, to a divorced mother of three, Omaha, Nebraska, Feb. 4, 2005
After you get to the airport 3 hours early; after you battle your way onto a sky bus; after you sit in a tiny seat for 10 hours; after you eat strange, plastic tasting food with plastic utensils; after you finally get there and out; you can look back on this country with a different eye. And, what you see at that point is devastating. In the city of Vienna, Austria, there is almost nothing to suggest that America is what George W. Bush thinks it is, the dominating player on the world stage. It is true, there are probably a half a dozen McDonald's, a Burger King and even a TGIF, but the cars on the street are all European, or Japanese. There are few American magazines on the newsstands. When one finds out that you are from this great country, the most common reaction is pity, or anger. So, I decided to look across the ocean and see what we really could offer as American Civilization.

Firstly, we should consider bricks and mortar. After all, when one considers the Mayan civilization, their pyramids are about all that is left. The Egyptians and the civilizations of Southeast Asia also seem to be known for their ruins. But I don't see anything in America to rival these architectural wonders. Skyscrapers just don't do it. The monuments of Washington, D.C., are paltry compared to those of, say, Vienna. We have added little of lasting interest. But, you might say, neither has England. I guess we could argue about it. But certainly the solidity of a civilization only seems to create paradoxically a sense of distant emptiness when viewed from centuries in the future. Again I would refer you to the Mayan and Aztec cultures of Central America. I don't think that it is in the now defunct World Trade Towers that we will find our apex, as iconic as those structures have become.

to be continued....

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Casting the first stone

Is this any way for a Secretary of State to Act?
MOSCOW (Reuters) - Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said on Wednesday Russian President Vladimir Putin had too much personal power and that Washington was closely watching the trial of oil magnate Mikhail Khodorkovsky.

Rice, ending her first visit to Moscow as Washington's top diplomat, said she had talked "pretty pointedly" to Putin about foreign investors' rights.

What is with Ms. Rice? One should not finish up a visit to a new found ally by slamming its Chief Executive. What would our response be if Putin said that "Bush has too much power?" We would impolitely ask him to mind his own business.

The only conclusion from all this is that Condoleezza Rice flunked International Relations 101 (along with the WMD seminar). It doesn't bode well for the future. Maybe she's been sitting on Bolton's knee.

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Us and Them

I used to live in Europe, 1970-72. It was a mark of honor to be a Yank. Things have changed since then. It appears to me that the honeymoon is long since over. Yes, I have been back. But not since we became the new theocratic State. For crying out loud, even the Italians don't carry religion to the extremes that the current dispensation in D.C. does. But I digress.

You would think after all this time and all the hoopala about American culture taking over the World there would be more of it on display in Vienna. Yes, there is an occaionsal McDonald's and one Burger King. And, there's a Starbuck's across from the Sacher (as in Tort) Hotel (the gods of Culinary are frothing at the mouth). But there are no American cars (wasn't this what Havana was known for?) There were no American electronics in the shop. While the styles for teenagers are the same (all that midriff skin), I don't see the American logos that I expected (of course American clothes are made in China, so there.) It is almost as if we didn't exist. What's a few McDonald's? Certainly not a Cultural Revolution. In a contest between Snoopy Dog (whatever) and Mozart, Beethoven, Mahler and Shubert, its hard to imagine a rapper victory.

We had better wake up. The World is moving forward without us (Romania and Bulgaria have been admitted to the EU and the euro is surging). European cars get many kilometers to the liter whereas we continue to support SUV's. This is food for thought. American Civilization. Where is it on its trajectory?

Monday, April 11, 2005

Dateline Vienna

Blogging from Vienna. And that's not Vienna, Maryland or Vienna, Virginia. (I guess in the spirit of the times I could say not-MD not-VA.)

Don't take a transatlantic flight in "economy" class if you don't want to feel like an Irish immigrant. Steerage is more like it. Can't imagine how our forefathers first spent six weeks (sail) and then a week (steam) crossing. Can it be that long ago that even students on Icelandic Air had a good time? Lots of free food and booze. Now its plastic, plastic, plastic. That includes the food. You have to be an insurance executive to afford first class. One is smothered with envy when departing through the forward cabin to see the detritus of their revels. Champagne bottles, used blankets (probably discarded after one use), baccarat tables...I digress.

What do Austrians think about this thing called America? Hard to say. I think they are ignoring us hoping that we will go away. Hopefully with a whimper and not a bang. Hopefully not with the Big Bang. Its known as perspective, something that is hard to obtain. Do we really have a President who hears voices talking to him? That feels he's in touch with a higher power? Scary.

The Hapsburgs liked to build monumental building with lots of thingys way up high so everyone could see. Like eagles and chariots and war gods, you know. And, you ask, where are the Hapsburgs now? I can't answer that at the moment. Check back later this week. That is my project for now.

Friday, April 08, 2005

Friday Crab Blogging

Thursday, April 07, 2005

Not-Not-Jenna (

Role Model?

Apparently not-not-Jenna was doing the butt dance this week and:
Jenna, who plans to teach school in D.C. next fall, wore jeans, moccasin boots and a midriff-baring, satiny blue top. She lit up a cigarette...
My local sparing partner, Rick Kollinger, will be delighted at this celebrity endorsement of the weed. I'm sure he'll throw it in my face in a cartoon.

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

The Rove Fix

I'm sorry, I can't stand it anymore. It appears that the defenestration of Tom DeLay may be orchestrated by Karl Rove:
...a prominent member of the Republican Washington establishment speaks on the record divulging information that can be harmful to the once dreaded House Majority Leader....

..........Long Quote...........

For you Kremlinologists, what is fascinating about the quote is that it is from a highly respected denizen of K Street and a former prominent staffer in both the Bush Administration and Capitol Hill. The Rove fix likely is in. (emphasis added)

I've said it before, this guy Rove makes Svengali and Rasputin look like pikers. I sure wouldn't want to be his grandmother.

Tom DeLay

From the NYT (via Atrios):
WASHINGTON, April 5 - The wife and daughter of Tom DeLay, the House majority leader, have been paid more than $500,000 since 2001 by Mr. DeLay's political action and campaign committees, according to a detailed review of disclosure statements filed with the Federal Election Commission and separate fund-raising records in Mr. DeLay's home state of Texas.
And then there's this gem:
"Mrs. DeLay provides big picture, long-term strategic guidance and helps with personnel decisions. Ms. Ferro is a skilled and experienced professional event planner who assists Armpac in arranging and organizing individual events."
I'd like to give Mr. Delay the big picture and some guidance. As for personnel decisions, see my last post. and, of course, I'd do it for a lot less than $500,000. Maybe $499,999.

Try as I might, I can't come up with a good nick-name. (I probably need W's help.)

Tom DeLousy?
Tom DeLouche?
Tom DeDisser?
Tom DeDope?

Mirriam Webster gives me:
offensive, disgusting, foul, loathsome, nasty, noisome, repellent, repugnant, revolting, vile

Tom DisGusting?
Tom DeFoul?
Tom DeNasty?
Tom DeVolting?
Tom DeVile?

Tom DeParted is probably the best.

[Atrios has a lot more.]

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

Books - A Review

Recent Books (with * to ***** rating):

And Quiet Flows the Don - Mikhail Sholokov (The sequel is “The Don Flows Home to the Sea”) **
Written in the 1930's and winning the Nobel Prize (1965) for this Russian author.
A long story of Cossacks and the Russian Revolution. To be honest with you, it is really not that great. I much prefer Doctor Zhivago, though it too is also not that well written.

The Gnostic Gospels - Elaine Pagels **
Dr. Pagels develops a thesis about the early Christian Church based on information found in documents discovered in Egypt in 1945. You will have a much different conception of the Church if you agree with her. While well documented, I find her excrutiatingly repetitive.

Faceless Killers - Henning Mankell **
Mankell is sort of the Raymond Chandler of Sweden. A fairly good read.

Dirty Snow - Simenon ****
First of all, you got to like someone with one name. This is his noir novel, and noir is what you get. The whole weight of WWII wells up here. You will remember the characters for a long time.

Garden State - Rick Moody ***
This is a Clockwork Orange novel set in, well, you know where. Its full of reference to a world of rock music, drugs and sex. A little bleak.

The Night World, Kingdom of Shadows, Night Soldiers, etc. - Alan Furst ***
Good reads, these. Furst has done his homework and he recreates Europe in the late 1930’s and during WWII with a bunch of romantic spies, mostly European with the wierd American thrown in every now and then. A lot about Paris, if you like that.

The Siege of Krishnapur, The Singapore Grip - J.G. Farrell *****
I can’t recommend this author too highly. He is wity, historical and creates memorable characters. The Siege of K. takes place in a city in northern India at the time of the Mutiny of 1856. The Singapore Grip is set at the time that Singapore fell to the Japanese. Well worth the read.

The Romantics - Pankay Mishra ***
Mishra is a writer for the New York Review of Books. He has done some excellent things there on Kashmir, etc. This, however, is a coming of age novel set in north India (mostly). There are overtones of Indian fascination with European women as in Passage to India and the Raj Quartet. I read this to prep me for his recent book on the Buddha. We’ll see if it helped.

Cloud Atlas - David Mitchell *****
This book jumps around like a jumping bean. It is a mix of classic writing, fantasy, future world and I don’t know what. He is not as glib as Pynchon, and doesn’t have quite the breadth, but his characters are more memorable. Nothing is ever as it seems.

The Jewel in the Crown, The day of the Scorpion, The Towers of Silence and A Division of the Spoils - Paul Scott ****
The books to read to understand the British experience in India. Of course, who cares about this anymore. (Maybe we latter day imperialists should care.) Well written with themes and characters that run through all four novels.

The Shape of Water, The Snack Thief, The Terra Cotta Dog - Andrea Camilleri ***
I know nothing about Sicily. Now I know a little. These are detective/police novels with a randy hero and lots of reference to the Mafia. They are good reads.

The Rule of Four - Ian Caldwell and Dustin Thomasen *
I found myself begging for this book to be over with so I could put it out of its misery. I never knew Princeton bred such prigs

The Hamilton Case - Michelle de Kretser ****
This is a sort of mystery novel. It is set in Sri Lanka and covers a fairly long time from the 30’s to the present. It has a murder mystery as its focus, but it is much more a pastoral novel describing the same changes as the Raj Quartet

The Root and the Flower - L.H. Myers *****
I don’t know why I am reading so many books about India. This one just sort of lay around for years and one day I said I had better read it. I think I didn't read it because the cover turned me off. It is an astounding read. The protagonist is the ruler of a small state in, you guessed it, north India. But the action takes place at the court of Akbar, the great Mogul ruler (late 16th century) and in the hill country. There is intrigue, beauty, Thugees and other nasties. You will not regret your time here.

The Sunday Philosophy Club - Alexander McCall Smith **
Better known for his No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency, this is a new series by this interesting author. He has an interesting way of writing that is different from others in the same vein. Interesting stuff about Edinburgh. A good way to wile away time.

For Love of Insects - Thomas Eisner ****
This tome tells you so many things about bugs that you never knew it almost makes you want to go back to graduate school in entomology. I like bugs because they are fiendishly clever chemists. We all know that bugs will still be around when we are long gone.

Buddha - Karen Armstrong ***
This is good information if you are going to read more of Mishra. Although the Buddha lived in, you guessed it, north India, around 500 BC, what he encountered in his life sounds pretty modern (war, poverty, greed, etc.). Armstrong, an ex-nun, writes well and seems to be very well versed on this subject. (I wish she would use “dharma” rather than “dhamma.” Its like Peking Duck. I just can’t get myself around Bejing Duck.) The Buddha isn’t somebody you really like. More like respect. Then, again, I probably wouldn’t have really liked Christ or Socrates, the other two greats of the Axial age. Not one of the three ever cracked a joke.

Attack on the Judiciary

Another ho-hum day in America, except it ain't. We are under attack and, no surprise Pogo, the "enemy is us." Rep. Conyers says it succinctly:
...things are very quickly spinning out of control.

First, the Majority Leader of the House of Representatives, Tom DeLay, made the outrageous statement, and apparent threat, that "the time will come for the men responsible for this to answer for their behavior." When given repeated opportunities to disavow the interpretation of his comments as a threat or incitement to violence, DeLay has repeatedly declined to do so.

Tonight, my staff showed me a quote from Senator John Cornyn (found on Americablog) that speaks for itself: "And finally, I – I don't know if there is a cause-and-effect connection but we have seen some recent episodes of courthouse violence in this country. Certainly nothing new, but we seem to have run through a spate of courthouse violence recently that's been on the news. And I wonder whether there may be some connection between the perception in some quarters on some occasions where judges are making political decisions yet are unaccountable to the public, that it builds up and builds up and builds up to the point where some people engage in -- engage in violence. Certainly without any justification but a concern that I have that I wanted to share."
It used to be called "going postal," I guess the new term will be "doing a DeLay."

There are many precedents to this kind of behavior in the Congress. It used to be rather unsavory place to hang around and, back when men carried walking sticks, potentially detrimental to your health.
The Field of Blood: The Culture of Congress in Antebellum America
During the first half of the 19th century, violence erupted on the national stage. On the floor of Congress, brawls and fisticuffs, personal character attacks, shootings, and duels became almost commonplace. Some of these incidents have been studied individually, in clusters, or anecdotally. Some seem to have fallen through the cracks of the historical record - in several cases (particularly those that involved guns on the floors of Congress), because witnesses agreed not to discuss it. But the larger story of this pattern of political violence and its broader implications has not been explored. The Field of Blood will examine this pattern of violence, tracing the evolution and slow dissolution of national governance.
But hopefully we no longer settle our disputes at the O.K. Corral. In particular, we have judges and juries. These are dedicated professionals and if your ideas of morality clash with theirs, then that is your problem. To even suggest doing violence to them puts you in that Circle of Hell that Dante reserved for target practice.

Message to Mr. DeLay and Mr. Cornyn:
"I would like to humbly point out to you that you both took an oath of allegiance to the United States Constitution. Please uphold it in all its particulars. Furthermore, will you kindly shut the fuck up!"

You Gotta Lov our Gov

Got this message earlier today:
In today's Baltimore Sun, John Kane, Governor Ehrlich's hand-picked GOP Party Chair, called Democratic leaders in Maryland "left leaning liberal bastards" and "bozos," and suggested that they "grow up" rather than continue to explore changes to the state's election laws that include expanding voter rights and moving the primary election date.
For a Gov who took us all to task for dissing him when he gave the State of the State in January this is a little much.
Maryland Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. used his annual State of the State address yesterday to urge the Democrat-led legislature to sweep from Annapolis a brand of "Capitol Hill assassin politics" he said has degraded state government.
But then, as the mailing I got reminded me, Bobby Boy got his start at the knee of Newt Gringrich.
"I think one of the great problems we have in the Republican Party is that we don't encourage you to be nasty. We encourage you to be neat, obedient, loyal and faithful and all those Boy Scout words, which would be great around a campfire but are lousy in politics."
Are we witnessing the coming apart of the Republican machine? Usually when these things happen, they find something to rally around (and not a poor, comatose Floridinian). They'll come up with some way to salvage this. Newt and Karl are just to evil to go down without a fight.

Monday, April 04, 2005

If you have any interest in Science at all, go to Pharyngula

Sunday, April 03, 2005

Dear President Bush

I have some questions I was wondering if you can answer:

1. Whatever happened to the Plame affair? It has now been almost two years since a deep cover CIA agent was exposed as such putting numerous people at risk of assassination and decreasing our ability to detect and intercept weapons of mass destruction in rogue states. Could you please tell us who is responsible for this crime?

2. Who is responsible for the "intelligence failure" in Iraq. It seems to me that the CIA reports directly to the President of the United States. Do you not bear some blame for the ongoing fiasco in that woebegone country.

3. Speaking of Iraq, when will you withdraw American troops, dismantle the bases there and turn over the oil production to the Iraqi people. May I remind you that it is not the property of either Halliburton or, for that matter, the United States Government. An apology to the Iraqi people might be in order, but that is probably not forthcoming.

4. Why, when so much else is at stake, did you involve yourself with an issue, the case of Terri Schaivo, that was clearly something that was in the provenance of the State of Florida? (This does not excuse your brother for his behavior, but that is for another day.) Do you share Tom DeLay's reprehensible opinion of the judiciary that was involved in making those hard decisions? If so, have you ever read the American Constitution? (I'd sort of like to know that anyway).

5. If you ever realize how badly you are doing as President of the United States, might you consider resigning? (And asking your Vice President to resign with you.)

Just asking.

Saturday, April 02, 2005

The Pope - R.I.P.

Billmon has a long piece on the Pope today. As usual, it is extremely well written. He uses it as a springboard to comment on the history and significance of the Church, in particular, the Catholic Church. If I had read his piece before I had read Elaine Pagels' "The Gnostic Gospels," I probably would have agreed with him wholeheartedly. However, once you find out about some of the machinations that went on in the first few centuries, and how it was that the current version of the Church was actually the winner in a Darwinian battle for memes, it gets you thinking.

Billmon claims that, on the whole, the Church has been good for mankind (marginally). He also has admiration for an institution that has lasted intact for almost 2,000 years. I guess I would share some admiration but disagree on the first part. The reason I disagree is because, as a result of those machinations that Pagels describes, rather than a Church that focused on implementing the teachings of its founder, Christ, there came about a Church that was obsessed with what happened to its founder, Christ. (This obsession with Christ's death, e.g. in "The Passion of the Christ" which I did not see, has important structural significance for the Church. But, read Pagels and others for this.)

Man is by nature aggressive. You don't have to subscribe to a Darwinian theory to agree with this, though it helps. At the same time, if we are to have civilization, we have to live together. While I respect that Christ is many things to many people, it seems to me that the central meme of his teaching was getting along with one another. Sort of an anti-violence regime. Where I part company with Billmon is that I do not think that the Church has ever had this as its central teaching. (when it did, those who did like the Cathars, or Huguenots they were deemed heretics; Julian Barnes also has written about them) In fact, I would even go so far as to say that, in spite of its longevity, that the Church is the longest running scam in history. It says that its adherents believe in one thing, when they almost universally do the opposite.

Now there is no doubt that there have been holy people in the Church. But there have been selfless people outside the Church at the same time. On the balance, belonging to the Church doesn't seem to have made much of a difference in the most basic of behaviors, that towards one's fellow man.

Examples? How many do I have to give? Let's start with Hitler, (see Anschluss below. Stalin was once a seminarian. The British are held up as paragons of virtue but the reality of the British Empire from Cromwell to Cruzon was one of brutality in the name of civilization. (there is a review of the the awful experience in Kenya during the "emergency" there in the 50's in a recent New York Review of Books). Our own treatment of Native Americans and Cortez's actions in Mexico as described in "The Conquest of New Spain" by Bernal Diaz are further examples of Christians acting like barbarians.

Of course, no diatribe on this site would be complete without mentioning our own beloved Christians in what used to be a government separated from the Church. When hypocrites start chiming in on moral values it is time to run for cover. Except, there is no place to run.

Friday, April 01, 2005

Friday Crab blogging