Sunday, December 30, 2007

Notes from a Prol

It is amazing how history repeats itself. The striking similarity between our Government and that of the last Tsar (Nicholas II, 1868-1918) is one instance. OMG, Dr. C., you must have flipped your wig, you say. Well, I was led to that conclusion by Glenn Greenwald this AM in his excellent post on the multiple crimes of Cheney/Bush et al. and how they have out-tefloned Reagan. In particular, the fact that our Country has become a Surveillance State. Actually, I can't say that there is such a a great similarity because, although the oligarchic class does what it wants, our proletariat has not yet become uneasy. And, of course, we have no Lenin. That will happen when the enormous debt that we have incurred (one trillion dollars to China alone) starts coming due. Marie Antoinette was at a disadvantage, she couldn't borrow from anyone to pay for cake. (as some wag has recently said: "Let them eat Yellowcake!")

The similarity is very simple, we have abandoned the rule of Law. We have become autocratic. Again, as long as the proles are well fed (and boy are we well fed!), and have our Wii's and iPods, there will be no problem. But just as soon as Joshua and Brittany get kicked out of their little house because they can't pay the mortage, and then get their credit cards cancelled, there is going to be some awful rumblings in the street. I don't think we will ever storm the Winter Palace (there are too many traffic barriers around the White House), but there may be a move on a certain ranch in Texas, and I don't mean by Cindy Sheehan. Imagine a couple thousand pissed off 30 somethings moving across Texas and upset because their cell phones have been silenced. Hell hath no fury, etc.

What I am commenting on here is the tremendous fence that Americans have put off to shield them from reality. At first this was just passive. By that I mean things like the Today Show, which is watched by millions and millons of Americans, ignoring the carnage that occurs in Iraq on a daily basis to focus on missing white women or a starlet's pregnancy (Spears) or demise (Anna Nicole Smith). I mean, many Iraki men, women and particularly children die horrible deaths by bombing every day while Meredith Viera babbles on incessently about the most inane things. When I ask many people about current events, i.e. something not connected with Hollywood, the most common reply is "What?" Is this a deliberate ploy by the Media to distract people from the awfulness that we have created? (Of course, as we have pointed out here before, BushCo and CheneyCo are in the process of shifting blame to the puppet government in the Green Zone for the fact that Irak is in such chaos.)

So, on the one hand we have a once wonderful country that is now dominated by a lawless group of mostly men (and Condi) who refuse to submit to our most basic laws (e.g. against torture and against violation of privacy), that hide their lawbreaking by denying that it exists, and get away with it by distracting the proles with endless, useless goodies and a media that is focused on trash.

In the meantime, children are dying every day in Irak. Dying horrible deaths in burning, exploding scenes.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007


I hope that you and your family are having a peaceful holiday season. I hope that for a few days all of us can try and forget where we have been as a country over the past year. I, for one, feel totally exhausted in that part of me that responds to the plight of the world's children. What we all need to do is to find something that is moving in the right direction and attach ourselves to it like super glue. I'll have some candidates for myself soon.

Dr. C.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Friday Crab Blogging

Two from the files; slow day on the Bay

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Alternative Reality

First we have:

Bush not satisfied with progress in Iraq

WASHINGTON (AFP) - US President George W. Bush said Thursday he was not satisfied with the central Iraqi government's record on reconciling the country's rival sectarian groups and carrying out reforms, vowing to press for more progress.

Bush conceded Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki's government needed to do more work but insisted it is functioning and passing budgets when asked if US troop reinforcements this year had given it enough room to press ahead with reconciliation as well as political and economic reform.(emphasis added)
But if one goes to the daily slide show, we see:

Children are still being injured and dying. So, where's any "progress" at all? It seems to this observer that things are just as bad if not worse for the majority of the Iraki people. Especially the children.

George’s Surge Leaves Iraq’s Children Behind
By: Siun Sunday December 16, 2007 6:05 pm

A number of reports have appeared over the last few days that place the supposed “success” in Iraq in stark contrast with the reality. Just as during the long years of sanctions it was the children of Iraq who suffered the most from our disastrous policies, today – again – they suffer even more.

A few weeks ago I hypothesized that this whole thing with Nuri al-Maliki's government was a scam; that it was designed to get Bush off the hook when we reach next March and the fifth anniversary of the invasion.

It is very dangerous to have a man who is unconnected from reality as President of a country that possess thousands of nuclear weapons and the means to deliver them. To think that saner heads will prevail in the event of a nuclear crisis is in itself insane; I have no doubt that this man Bush would push the button without hesitating a second.

I never thought I would wind up a radioactive cinder.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Friday Crab Blogging

We start with a quite nice, classic crab:

Then one on the "joie de vivre" side (crab in Santa hat!):

Then a crab to test your imagination:

A montage with Caterpillar

And, to remind us about global warming, a penguin:

Thursday, December 13, 2007

What in the **** is going on?

A year ago in November we voted in a new Congress. While not "veto proof" there was still a majority in both House and Senate.

A year later, nothing is working. The SCHIP bill, which enjoys wide support across America has been vetoed twice and the Democrats won't even try to over ride the veto. They won't even make Republican Senators stand up and say they are voting against children!

New taxes on oil companies? Not even attempted since it would be vetoed.

If you thought democracy was dead in Irak, just look in the mirror.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007


Torture is much in the news these days. One of the more outlandish defenses of this horror is the one that claims "Our President says that we don't torture; therefore, waterboarding is not torture." Today, I believe that the current director of Intelligence is going before a Congressional Committee. I am cyinical enough at this point to predict that absolutely nothing will come of this.

I posted a letter I had sent to the local paper a month ago. It wasn't printed. This is the second letter that they have refused to print. The one before this was about bombing Iran. I realize that my local paper is strongly Republican, but it seems like a distortion of democracy to put a filter like this on LTE. This is particularly biting since they tend to publish the most amazing right wing loonies.

Many of the bloogers that I follow (like Blue Girl, Red State today and Authur Silber) are much more cynical than I. The idea, and I find it hard to refute, is that we, as a nation, have irrevocably destroyed our legitimatcy by allowing torture. No matter what the excuse.

Food for thought.

Saturday, December 08, 2007

All over but the shouting

There is an excellent speech given by Sheldon Whitehouse in the Senate concerning the President and the Constitution. Senator Whitehouse is the junior Senator from Rhode Island, a state I called home for five years. This speech encapsulates in a few well chosen words where America has allowed itself to be taken in the last seven years. It is not pretty. Senator Whitehouse summarizes three opinions generated by the Office of Legal Council (for the President). These are the only three that Senator Whitehouse has been able to get declassified, so you can imagine what other opinions read.
1. An executive order cannot limit a President. There is no constitutional requirement for a President to issue a new executive order whenever he wishes to depart from the terms of a previous executive order. Rather than violate an executive order, the President has instead modified or waived it.

2. The President, exercising his constitutional authority under Article II, can determine whether an action is a lawful exercise of the President’s authority under Article II.

3. The Department of Justice is bound by the President’s legal determinations.
These three opinions I consider to be completely antithetical to the United States Constitution. They basically obviate it in favor of an imperial Presidency. No wonder so many people are running for that office. Who would not want to be King of America?

I am very impressed by Whitehouse. In fact:


Friday, December 07, 2007

Friday Crab Blogging

I am sorry to report that the Crab Drawers (not to be confused with the Crab Knickers) are still on strike. You will have to do with Sponge Bob.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Book Review

A few books from the last few years:

Achebe, Chinua Things Fall Apart
White man disturbs paradise; our arrogance is overwhelming
3 Stars

Ackroyd, Peter The Clerkenwell Tales
By the author of “London” sometimes hard to follow
2 Stars

Amis, Kingsley Lucky JimApparently a seminal novel; England from the ashes of WWII; another faculty novel
2 ½ stars

Banville, John The Newton Letter
Trivial stuff
1 Star

Barnes, Julian England, England
A Theme park based on, well, England. Another dystopia novel. Very good.
3 ½ stars

Barnes, Julian Aurthur and George
Sherlock Holmes and racism in late Victorian England. Interesting.
2 ½ stars

Bester, Alfred The Demolished Man
Bester, Alfred The Stars My Destination
Classic Sci Fi. Reading TSMD again after 50 years was a trip. Rewire my nervous system, please.
3 stars

Black, Benjamin Christine Falls
Ireland not only has high tech, it now has junk detective novels. They’re all the same.
2 stars

Burke, James Lee The Neon Rain
Burke, James Lee Heaven's Prisoners
Burke, James Lee Black Cherry Blues
I read them to get a New Orleans experience. Just can’t take the gratuitous violence.
1 ½ star

Butcher, Jim Storm Front
Butcher, Jim Fool Moon
High Tech Vampires and Wizards. Clever but no thank you.
1 star

Caldwell, Ian and Thomason, Dustin The Rule of Four
Absolutely, positively the worst book on the list.
½ star

Chayefsky, Paddy Altered States
From the man who brought you Network. I’m interested in the isolation tank, but he got a little far out. (A little? More like waaaaay far out.)
1 star

Chomsky, Noam Hegemony or Survival
From the man who brought you THE theory of linguistical knowledge. Now a champion of the liberal position. He is actually very good. You can tell that by how badly he is trashed.
3 stars

Clark, Susanna Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell
First Harry Potter, now a different angle. An effort to domesticate magic. Not sure it works. Long, long, long.
2 stars

Connelly, Michael The Black Echo
Connelly, Michael The Black Ice
Connelly, Michael The Concrete Blonde
Connelly, Michael The Last Coyote
Connelly, Michael Trunk Music
Connelly, Michael Angels Flight
Connelly, Michael A Darkness More Than Night
Connelly, Michael City Of Bones
Connelly, Michael Lost Light
Connelly, Michael The Narrows
Connelly, Michael The Closers
Connelly, Michael Echo Park
Yea Harry Bosch. I have to say, one keeps coming back and reading him. Quite a bit of development of the main character. I am not sure how real the others are. Most are stereotypes.
3 stars

de Assis, Machado Dom Casmurro
Very interesting Brazilian writer from the last century. Apparently a classic in Brazil.
2 ½ stars

de Kretser, Michelle The Hamilton Case
Now this is a switch. A murder mystery on Sri Lanka, and not by Michael Ondaatje. Absolutely fascinating in its depiction of life there.
3 stars

Dibdin, Michael Ratking
Dibdin, Michael Vendetta
Dibdin, Michael Cabal
Dibdin, Michael Dead Lagoon
Dibdin, Michael Cosi Fan Tutti
Dibdin, Michael A Long Finish
Dibdin, Michael Blood Rain
Dibdin, Michael And Then You Die
Dibdin, Michael Medusa
These are all set in Italy with a single detective. They are pretty bloody and I guess they are true to life. Except Dibdin is an American. Recently expired. Probably worth a read if you like Italy.
2 ½ stars

Dick, Philip K. UBIK
Started it all. What can I say. A little hard to read today.
2 stars

Dideon, Joan Play It As It Lays
Another Hollywood novel. Angst. Angst. Angst.
2 stars

Farrell, J.G. The Singapore Gap
Farrell, J.G. Troubles
Farrell, J.G. The Siege of Krishnapor
Now this guy is great. Why have we not heard more from him? I particularly liked The Singapore Gap. What is best is the wry humor.
3 ½ stars

Fitzgerald, Penelope The Book Shop
Fitzgerald, Penelope The Golden Child
You got to like Fitzgerald. Quirky to the enth degree, but worth every bit of it.
3 stars

Furst, Alan Night Soldiers
Furst, Alan Dark Star
Furst, Alan The Polish Officer
Furst, Alan The World at Night
Furst, Alan Red Gold
Furst, Alan Kingdom of Shadows
All of these are set in pre WWII Europe. They are well written and very dark. I couldn’t finish Red Gold but some were very good.
3 Stars

Galouye, Daniel Dark Universe
Interesting old Sci Fi about people caught below ground until they go blind.
1 star

Galsworthy, John The Forsythe Saga
Finally read this. As you will see, I have high standards in this kind of fiction (Trollope). However, a good read and presages Buddenbrooks.
2 ½ stars

Harris, Sam The End of Faith
The first few pages are great. Then he gets shrill. A little too much blame on the Muslims and a little too much exoneration of us and the Israelis.
2 stars

Heinlein, Robert Starship Troopers
Ouch! I used to really like Heinlein (The Roads must Roll). This is just a pean to militarism. The only people who can vote on this world have served in the army. A high tech army, no doubt.
2 stars

Hornby, Nick A Long Way Down
Not Hornby’s best, but an interesting examination of people’s attitudes towards suicide.
2 stars

Ishiguro, Kazuo Never Let Me Go
He goes weird on us in this one. Raising people for their donor organs? What.
1 ½ stars

Kerrigan, Gene The Midnight Choir
A very dark Irish police story. Not a very satisfying one but since I lived in Dublin once, it was a nice trip around the city.
1 ½ stars

Leon, Donna Death at La Fenice
Leon, Donna Death in a Strange Country
Leon, Donna The Anonymous Venetian
Leon, Donna A Venetian Reckoning
Leon, Donna Acqua Alta
Leon, Donna The Death of Faith
Leon, Donna A Noble Radiance
Leon, Donna A Sea of Troubles
I don’t know why every thinks Leon is the cat’s meow. She has a fairly interesting detective and, like Dibdin above, she is an American living in Italy. But, you got to like Venice, so read them.
2 stars

MacDevitt, Jack The Engines of God
MacDevitt, Jack Deepsix
MacDevitt, Jack Chindi
MacDevitt, Jack Omega
MacDevitt, Jack Odyssey
MacDevitt, Jack A Talent for War
MacDevitt, Jack Polaris
MacDevitt, Jack Seeker
MacDevitt, Jack Eternity Road
MacDevitt, Jack Moonfall
MacDevitt, Jack Infinity Beach
Even if you don’t like Sci Fi, read MacDevitt. He has a very easy style and slips in some of the most interesting questions. Everyone has wondered how we could possibly be “alone” in the universe. MacDevitt explores that.
3 ½ stars

Mankell, Henning Faceless Killers
Mankell, Henning The Dogs of Riga
Mankell, Henning The White Lioness
Mankell, Henning Sidetracked
Mankell, Henning The Fifth Woman
Mankell, Henning One Step Behind
Mankell, Henning Firewall
Mankell, Henning The Man Who Smiled
Another detective series, this time in a small town in Sweden. Very well written and the protagonist is believable human with lots of foibles. Apparently made into a TV series in Sweden. Get them.
3 ½ stars

Mitchell, David Ghost Written
Mitchell, David Number 9 Cloud
Mitchell, David Cloud Atlas
Mitchell, David Black Swan Green
Alright. I admit, this guy writes for people like me. Particularly “Cloud Atlas.” He is all over the map but about as interesting as can be. A particular penchant for Japan in the first three. The last fits in with Julian Barnes genre.
4 stars

Moody, Rick Garden State
A dystopian novel about young adults in New Jersey. Grunge, Grunge and more Grunge.
1 ½ stars

Murray, John A Few Short Notes on Tropical Butterflies
Absolutely fascinating. Absolutely. Short stories done in an exquisite manner
3 ½ stars

O'Brien, Flan At War
Newspaper columns from the Master. During WWII in Dublin.
2 ½ stars

Pagels, Elaine The Gnostic Gospels
Sort of blandly written but what she says will make you think. For someone who had 16 years of religious teaching it will make your hair stand up.
2 ½ stars

Pearl, Matthew The Dante Club
Such a good idea. Such an awful book.
1 star

Sandford, John Broken Prey
This guy can churn out a mystery a day. I read this because I wish I drove a Porsche.
1 ½ stars

Scott, Paul Jewel in the Crown
Scott, Paul The Day of the Scorpion
Scott, Paul The Towers of Silence
Scott, Paul A Division of the Spoils
You want to know about the British experience in India? Read Scott.
3 ½ stars

Sebald, W.G. The Rings of Saturn
This man, who died in an automobile accident at the end of the 90’s, has one of most unusual perspectives on people and the landscape that you can imagine. I’ve read two others by him and they all haunt.
3 ½ stars

Sholokhov, Mikhael And Quiet Flows the Don
How this guy won the Nobel Prize I’ll never know. I guess it was a sop to Stalin. What the Cossacks did in the Russian Civil War.
1 ½ stars

Simenon Tropic Moon
Not his best but gripping. Right in there with “Heart of Darkness.”
2 ½ stars

Simenon Monsieur Monde Vanishes
Didn’t finish it

Skvorecky, Josef The Engineer of Human Souls
A Czech writer living in Canada teaching English and rewriting his experience in WWII. Hard to finish but interesting.
2 stars

Smith, Alexander McCall The Full Cupboard of Life
Smith, Alexander McCall The Sunday Philosophy club
Smith, Alexander McCall Portuguese Irregular Verbs
Smith, Alexander McCall The Finer Points of Sausage Dogs
Smith, Alexander McCall At The Villa of Reduced Circumstances
The ultimate in trivial reading (well, maybe not the ultimate). But, I’ll be honest, they can entertain.
2 stars

Stegner, Wallace Angle of Repose
The great American going West novel. Actually quite good. A little forced, and interesting in its comments on the late 60’s culture.
3 stars

Stendhal The Charterhouse of Parma
You got to read this a few times in your life. It’s a rush and then its over.
3 stars

Trollope, Anthony Lady Anna
Trollope, Anthony The Belton Estate
Trollope, Anthony Rachael Ray
Trollope, Anthony The MacDermots of Ballycloran
Trollope, Anthony The Kellys and the O'Kellys
Trollope, Anthony Orley Farm
I never tire of reading this guy. I particularly liked The MacDermots and The Kellys because my ancestors came from Ireland where Trollope worked as a postal inspector or something (he invented the red British pillar mailbox). Somehow these stories in their certainty just fascinate me.
4 stars

Turgenev, Ivan Fathers and Sons
I know, I know, the modern classic. Introduces the blasé revolutionary. Still too Tolstoy for me.
3 stars

Waugh, Evelyn A Handful of Dust
This guy can be very cynical. Not up with Brideshead, but pretty close. Particularly the ending in the Amazon. Reading Dickens. Ah…
3 stars

Saturday, December 01, 2007

A Sadness Too Sad to be True

This by Jesse Winchester has always struck home to me. Like it or not, we are animals with emotions (limbic system; evolutionary advantage; large brain; fight, flight or sex; who knows?). Plus that, I'm a Tennessean. Dismembered, but a Tennessean never the less. Even the son of transplanted Yankees dreams of green hills.

How to deal with this on a day to day basis:

How will these children ever learn to live with us in the world to come? What about all the pain and suffering,

and death?

How morbid, Dr. C. Ugh! But this is the reality of what we have created in Irak.
This has become a conflict which is very much going to define us for long into the future. So it gets you thinking. The stunning thing about the American Constitution, as originally promulgated and interpreted by the Citizens, is that all individuals are considered equal. That includes Iraki children.The insidious dismantling of that constitution began long ago, with the advent of American exceptionalism. Rather, the exceptionalism of a certain class of Americans (mostly white, mostly male, mostly Protestant, and overwhelmingly rich). It finds expression in the absolute certainty of the white Southerner that the black man is inferior (when the reality is that it is simply a different concentration of melanin found in the skin that differentiates white from black. The absurdity of using this as an index of superiority was aptly described by Mark Twain in "Puddn'head Wilson.")

The treatment of Native Americans wasn't much different as we see from Wounded Knee:

It is impossible to remove this strain from a population short of violence. At every turn, because of our geographic isolation and our technical skill (especially in constructing nuclear weapons), Americans have been unconsciously reinforced as being superior to other humans. I can say this with certainty about the generation that grew up in the 1950's and early 60's. A dent was made in this ideology with the Vietnam War. But still, America did not shirk from being responsible for the death of up to two million Vietnamese. We had, you see, our Manifest Destiny. The rich of America could not tolerate the meme of Communism (in reality, an extension of the Constitution's embodiment of the "all men are equal.") Even if it meant useless slaughter.

Furthermore the mere fact that we do not mourn the one half million dead and dismembered Iraki children, yet feel that less than three thousand dead Americans on 9/11 have "changed the world," shows that the real basis of our civilization (on oxymoron in this light) remains this exceptionalism belief. If is very plain that we will never learn.

This brings us to the Dissembler in Chief. George W. Bush has existed in a cocoon of exceptionalism since birth. While his age mates were dying in the jungles of Vietnam, he was drinking his way through the politics of Alabama. How such an uneducated man could have passed through Harvard and Yale ranks right up there with some of the better biblical miracles. His tenure as President has been marked by his absolute certainty that he is exceptional. That he can break laws and kill people without thought or remorse. That he needs not justify his actions. That he is unique and needs no conscience.

And he reflects us all as the most perfect mirror.