Thursday, November 29, 2012

U.N. Assembly Recognizes Palestinian State

The United Nations Assembly has formally recognized Palestine in the West Bank and Gaza as a nonmember observer state.

I'll say it again: This may well turn out to be a good thing for those Israelis and the rest of us who believe in the two state solution. See here for my post from September 2011.

As always with the 100 years war between Arabs and Israeli Jews, we'll see...

Monday, November 26, 2012

Oliver Stone catches up to the original sci-fi opening of "A Disturbance of Fate"

As longer time readers of MF Blog may recall, I have noted the original manuscript for my alternative history novel, "A Disturbance of Fate," had begun its existence with a science fiction opening, where, in the year 2033, a time machine was finally perfected--which causes an American president facing an imminent civil war to find the moment in the past where the war could have been averted. The president, a woman modeled after Jennifer Lopez (the original opening also posits the full triumph of celebrity culture) calls in her old professor, the latter who often spoke of "counterfactuals," to help her decide where to send the agent back in time to change "History."

From what I read, the new Oliver Stone show on Showtime (which I alas do not get) about "untold" American history apparently posits that FDR should have never allowed the Democratic Party powers to substitute Truman for Henry Wallace. Funny, I said to myself, the old professor Julian Lewis--a rare fictional person in the novel--said the same thing in the original sci-fi time machine opening to "Fate" back in the early drafts of 1998-2000. Searching through my computer, I found a semi-early draft and reprint the particular passage from that draft that deals with the issue of Henry Wallace and Harry Truman. Please note I have left the following passage in its unedited rawness except for the parenthesis in the initial paragraph to explain who is who talking:

Then, she (the president) let him (Professor Lewis) go and said: “I want to stop this civil war! I want stability for once, not chaos.”

“You ask too much, my former student. There is always chaos. You want to go into the past, like some historian, where everything is understood and explained. Well, there is only stability and order in historians’ minds, I’m afraid. But, go ahead. Say what you want to say and I will too. Even if you are settling some old score with me. Go ahead. Trap me. You can't hurt me. I've already been fired, and now--I'm retired!”

He stood up and pointed an arthritic, cold finger at her. “You want to go backwards in time? Fine. And you want to know where you should go back and change things?” he demanded more than asked. “I’ll tell you! How about going back to 1944 to stop FDR from dropping Henry Wallace and installing Truman as Vice President?” The President looked a bit blank, but since she was his student again, she let him explain.

He continued. “Henry Wallace was a devoted New Dealer who had no use for the hysteria of the Red Scare and the Cold War. He was better able to stand up to the corporate elite than Harry S Truman could, or did. Unlike Truman, he was part of that elite. Remember that in the 1930’s the corporate elite wanted to be pals with Hitler and Mussolini, not fight against them in World War II. FDR saved America not so much from communism, but fascism and Nazism! The heads of Ford, GM, Alcoa Steel, Kaiser Steel, Goodyear, you name it, all were infatuated with fascism and doing business with Hitler and Mussolini right up through, and even after, Pearl Harbor! The attempted coup against FDR in 1935....You don’t remember?”

At her blank expression, he grunted the grunt of a disappointed professor. “That stupid little machine politician, Truman, is the key catalyst for the eventual domination by global corporations. The CIA was created under Truman’s watch. He admitted, years later of course, that it was one of his biggest mistakes. The whole National Security apparatus, that was what President Eisenhower called--as he was leaving office of course. The coward!--the military-industrial complex, was created under Truman. Henry Wallace, unlike Truman, understood that the Soviets lost 20 million people just in World War II alone, and that there were actually coalition governments in several of the Eastern European nations just after 1945 that could have gone toward the west as long as we were willing to support some important land reform. The Soviet archives, when they were opened in the late 1990’s, showed that Stalin had left the coalition governments, led by non-communists, in place in most of the Eastern European countries after World War II and up through 1947. He was adamant in making sure he didn’t do anything there to upset the Americans. He also kept his part of the bargain with British Prime Minister Churchill in 1944 by not supporting the Greek communists against the Greek military, nor the Indian communists and Indian Left in India.

“Instead, Truman sees nothing but commies everywhere. He goes along with loyalty oaths and red-baiting. And he does this while letting Nazis, real live top Nazis, get back into the new West German government. He lets other Nazis and fascists slide down ‘rat-lines’, in cooperation with the Vatican—which barely lifted a finger to help Jews or Gypsies during the goddamned war!--to South America, and even further, allowed for the recruitment of Nazi officers into U.S. military intelligence and propaganda agencies, not just the space program. Plus, the Democrat Truman, with the Republicans in Congress, write off Eastern Europe as Soviet-dominated, at a time when it wasn’t, started helping the Greek military get control of Greece against moderates and leftist civilians—most of the moderates and leftists had actually fought bravely against Nazis and Fascists in World War II—and looks for trouble everywhere against Stalin. Truman and his administration clearly bear more responsibility for the Cold War than the otherwise odious butcher, Stalin!

“Years later, George Kennan, the U.S. State department dean of the anti-Soviet containment policy, from the 1940’s, would say—in the 1980’s--that our Cold War policies did more to maintain the Soviet Union, a system disintegrating from within, than undermine it!”

The Professor began citing memoranda, from memory, from Acheson, Kennan, Dulles and others in the late 1940’s and 1950’s, including NSC memo number 68, to make his case for stopping Truman, and trying to get to then-President Franklin Delano Roosevelt to somehow keep Henry Wallace as his Vice-President in 1944.

The President, who had gone over to her office couch, interrupted the Professor, just as he was building to his crescendo that Harry S Truman was the anti-Christ: “Professor, this is all too much beyond me, and way too complicated. I remember a little of this years ago, and found it too complicated then, too! I was thinking, why not save John F. Kennedy...or Robert F. Kennedy?”

The Professor, wanting to scream at her, took in another breath and said: “My dear, you have revealed yourself as sentimental! Anyone who wants to save a Kennedy is sentimental. Look at Jack Kennedy’s actual record. No movement on civil rights, except when cornered, but he did increase the troops in Vietnam. The son-of-a-bitch gave the order to overthrow the Diem government in South Vietnam because Diem was talking with the North Vietnamese about reunification between North and South Vietnam—and some people think Kennedy would have pulled out troops if he lived?! Oh, sure, Kennedy talked with some doves about pulling out, but the documents that his courtiers bandy about contain enough loopholes to let JFK stay there forever! Jack Kennedy and,” he shuddered, then almost spit out, “Bobby”--pausing for professorial effect--”wiretapped Martin Luther King and had to be dragged kicking and screaming to make a positive statement about the most moral issue facing the nation at that time, race relations.”

The Professor was rolling now. “Oh, and did I mention that Kennedy gave birth to the policy to instruct Latin American military leaders how to more effectively torture and kill their citizens under the auspices of the Latin American AID program? Lyndon Johnson had more populist instincts and concerns than Jack Kennedy ever did, but outside of civil rights, LBJ isn’t someone high on my list to help either with a time machine!”


I ultimately agreed to remove the entire opening time machine scenario because it was, admittedly, overwrought--the speech does read like a speech in Ayn Rand's "Atlas Shrugged"--and worse, the time machine futuristic opening was itself about 50 pages, which left the reader impatient to get to RFK surviving Sirhan's bullets. Still, I made Lewis' viewpoint a bit more radical than my own, and his history lesson is purposefully not completely perfect. The speech was designed to give a sense of how the professor had gone too far in a way that caused him to be fired from his professorial position in the mid 2010s, not merely for readers to think about 1944 as an alternative focal point in American history. Suffice it to say I am personally glad Oliver Stone seems to find the Henry Wallace focal point fascinating, too, even if he reads the above passage and finds the view Lewis expresses about JFK not to his liking...:-)

One day, though, I hope a literary historian finds the original opening interesting enough to release it along with the rest of the book. And I hope they find where I was wrong in my predictions about 2033 and where I was correct. That will be fun, too...

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Just a little reminder of how "principles" about the life of fetuses end up killing a living person

Katha Pollitt explains...

So tired of "principles" trumping policy making....

Los Angeles Times Sunday Book Review on fire today!

The Los Angeles Times often has better reviews than even the august NY Times Book Review, but often so few books are reviewed at a time. Today, there are insightful and critical reviews of books, where the reviews may be more important to read than the books themselves.

Here is a fascinating read about the rise of the global fashion industry through the prism of a memoir from Grace Coddington, a former Vogue magazine powerhouse. The author is deeply knowledgeable and engaging about an industry I find so utterly trivial and often ridiculously pretentious. I am reminded what I had enjoyed about "The Devil Wears Prada" film, which was the way in which the fashion business operated as a business.

Here is an excellent review from Carolyn Kellogg (one of the best reviewers working today) of Louise Erdich's latest work, which the reviewer makes a case that Erdich is finally getting the awards she has long deserved, and where her latest work ironically serves as an opening to her rich world of Native American life in the late 20th Century America on the faded plains of North and South Dakota. I think this book serves as a good introduction to Erdich, who I personally like, but who I do not find as compelling as say, Walter Mosley or Barbara Kingsolver. However, this is because the protagonist in the latest novel is a young person feeling his way through life in a Native American reservation in North Dakota. It's almost got the feel of a young adult novel, and yet more than that.

I might have been sucked into buying the new Titian biography from Sheila Hale, but this review has made me cautious. The reviewer, again an eminently knowledgeable person on the topic of art and art history, makes a great case for waiting for another biographer who appreciates and who can explain, yea, illuminate, the art of Titian. The reviewer should give it a try, as I think Nicholas Delbanco, the reviewer, is more than capable.

This review is again knowledgeable and exciting because it really makes me want to get hold of the book, which is about a fascinating subject, the Crypto-Jewish Catholics of New Mexico, and their legacy of secrecy and strange customs. Hector Tobar wrote the review with a sensitivity toward Jews and Crypto-Jews that is more than commendable, it is remarkable. And the book from Ilan Stavans and illustrator Steve Sheinkin is deeply intriguing. I will say I never heard of Luis de Carvajal the Younger until reading this review....History at the margins, of sub-sets of human communities, is often helpful to understand patterns in the larger currents.

And, finally, here is an amazing review of the re-release of Vince Guaraldi's "A Charlie Brown's Christmas." The author, Chris Barton, has a gift for explaining the feel and power of music in word prose. It is a beautiful tribute to Guaraldi and to his musical creations for the "Peanuts" cartoon, which illuminate the otherwise less than compelling "Peanuts" cartoon.

Adam Schatz explains the latest skirmish in the 100 Years War Between Arabs and Israeli Jews

Adam Schatz, formerly the Book Editor at The Nation, and now a writer who often contributes to the London Review of Books, sets forth what I think is a largely unassailable view of the latest battles in the 100 Years War between Arabs in Palestine and Jews in Israel.

And it ain't pretty...

Open letter to a Clintonian Democratic Party strategist

Phil Singer, a near ubiquitous presence behind the scenes in Democratic Party circles in the Washington, DC area, is quoted in this AP article about the new Congress. He says the American people want to end gridlock and find solutions to our challenges, yet there is now a more "extreme" Congress. His specific words are these:

"Congress seems to be going in the opposite direction of the country, just as the country is screaming for solutions to gridlock," said Democratic strategist Phil Singer.

This is my response to Phil the "strategist":

Dear Mr. Singer:

I saw your quote in this morning's paper about the Congress getting more extreme when the nation cries for a solution to legislative gridlock.

However, the public, in poll after poll, wants both higher income taxes on the wealthy and no cutting of Medicare or Social Security benefits. That's the solution they want. The cause of the gridlock is that there are more Republicans in Congress than would occur if votes were national, and Republicans want neither of those solutions.

It is not both sides being "more extreme"--unless you think the public's position is "extreme." And if you do think the public's position is extreme, then say so. Don't hide behind philosophizing about the need for bi-partisanship and making up something the public does not in fact want. For they don't want a solution that hurts their interests. They do want specific solutions the Democratic Party should be the first to move to deliver.

Elizabeth Warren, to take an example of a new Democratic Senator, supports what the majority of Americans support on both of these issues. She therefore has no reason to compromise with that and yet, she is someone anyone would rather negotiate with in good faith--compared to those particular Republicans still fastened to Grover Norquist's mindless anti-tax pledge.

So, please. Stop the talk about bi-partisanship. It is not about bi-partisanship. It is about the need to shame into reality enough Republicans in the House of Representatives, and for those Republican representatives to defect from the grasp of Grover Norquist and Rush Limbaugh, starting with these two issues. That would be a welcome change, as Democrats have been defecting from their party (more for delusions than reality, I must say) for decades starting under Reagan. And, concurrent with those defections, the Democratic Party Senators must vote with the public on these two issues, and have the Democratic Party President sign the legislation. There is no need to negotiate with Senate Republicans if the damned filibuster is simply ended and democracy among Senators is restored.

That's the way we should speak about ending the gridlock. It is both politically smart, as it puts the Democratic Party in the position of driving change and solutions, and meets the public policy desires of the populace as a whole.

Thank you.

Just end the filibuster power in the Senate. Now.

There is a continued dance about reforming the filibuster that should be disconcerting to anyone who favors good government. The reform of making the Republican Senators talk in a filibuster is easily overcome by teams of Republican Senators and it just takes up unnecessary time that could be given to governance.

At long last, why aren't we just pushing to end the filibuster? The filibuster had no place in the original Senate after the Constitution was created, and it is obvious we've reached a point where its usefulness, if it ever existed, is now only an excuse given to justify its usual abuse.

The House of Representatives under Uncle Joe Cannon as Speaker of the House, at the turn of the 20th Century, wielded power that operated like a filibuster. He could stop legislation from getting a committee hearing, let alone a vote. The House members revolted, and now there is far more democracy among the Representatives. (See Wiki's entry on Joseph Gurney Cannon). It is time for a democracy among the Senators where a majority of Senators are allowed to pass legislation.

This dance that is going on is another sign that the Democratic Party leaders still don't get what the voters have handed them--again. It does not matter that the House of Representatives remains in Republican hands. There will be defections from Republicans if Democratic Party leaders would finally make a case to the American people to pass legislation that helps Americans as a whole. And most important, the Democratic Senators and President Obama, when it comes to judicial nominations to Federal Courts from District Courts to the U.S. Supreme Court, should not have to do anything to placate the Republican minority in the Senate. Nothing.

The latest in climate change issues

The greenhouse gases in our atmosphere are greater than they have been since the dawn of the Industrial Age 170 years ago. And it appears these are human-made.

As stated in NASA's recent GISS Surface Temperature Analysis report from a couple of months ago:

The year 2011 is the 9th warmest in the GISS analysis (since 1880). Nine of the ten warmest years are in the 21st century, the only exception being 1998, which was warmed by the strongest El Niño of the past century.

(Parenthesis added)

Meanwhile, scientists continue to learn more and delve more into regional impacts, and find a diversity that is upending some predictive models. Large scale atmospheric flow may drive whether a particular area suffers a catastrophic change in the climate or whether it is relatively unaffected, which will create large regional differences on the planet in different ways than we have previously seen. We often think in terms of the warming of the planet, on the average, or as a whole. However, while there is still a likely planetary warming over the next 50 years, what the scientists are learning is that different regions may find either no perceptible change or even a cooling, while other regions do have significant warming. It is why, in that admittedly extreme action packed film, "The Day After," there is the ultimate freeze in NYC while other parts of the planet are frying. Who knew that film would provide a way to understand the complexities of the effect...

Climate change science is an area where the corporate media political talk shows have shown no interest in imparting meaningful analysis and information, preferring instead doomsday scenarios juxtaposed against oil and gas fueled propaganda to do nothing but produce more greenhouse gases because "they're good for you!" Hence, the usual feeling among our populace is as follows:

"It's cold today. Al Gore is wrong," or

"It's hot today and yesterday, and it's gonna be hot tomorrow. Maybe there is something to this global warming stuff..." or

"That hurricane is worse than last year's. Global warming..."

It is not that these sentiments are fully wrong--or fully right. It is that we are letting a short-term local condition define what we think about the issue instead of pursuing a longer range analysis of data. And so far, the longer range analysis of data by oceanographers (who I find highly credible) and other scientists is that we are causing more of the overall warmth than in the past, and carbon dioxide is one of the main culprits. That means our public policy should be geared toward reduction in the production of that carbon dioxide and that the reduction should be pursued in a manner that does not wait for a regional catastrophe, but is fair for the greatest number of people.

Can't really see this being said on programs led by Wolf, Rachel or Rush, though, can we? Maybe Rachel, in between her Wolf and Rush versions of "gotchas" ("He said THIS? Can you believe THAT!"), but it's a long shot nonetheless...

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Polish complicity in the Holocaust was significant and the President was wrong to whitewash that complicity

This long book review essay in The Nation is brilliantly constructed. It begins in a manner that appears to promote the view that perhaps we have misjudged the people of Poland during the Holocaust, and that they were mostly victims of Soviet and Nazi oppression almost as much as the Jews of Poland themselves.

Instead, the essay eventually makes clear that President Obama was more correct than not when he initially used the phrase "Polish camps" to describe places in Poland where Jews were murdered, more because the rest of Poland was such a dangerous place for Jews during the period of 1939-1945--and therefore President Obama was wrong to apologize for his initial phrasing.

While there is no denying Polish suffering at the hands of German Nazis and Russian Communists, there is more than sufficient reason to remind the world that the Polish people, as a whole, were complicit in the mass murder of people of the Jewish faith in the years 1939-1945.

I recall a story my Uncle tells. His family (Father, Mother, Sister and him) survived for four and a half years through the efforts of two Polish Catholic families who allowed them to live in a barn for periods of time near forests. They were turned in once by a neighbor and escaped by the skins of their teeth. Immediately after the European war ended, my Uncle, then in his mid-teens, insisted to his parents and sister that it was safe to return to their hometown. They refused to join him, but a male Jewish friend of his agreed to go with him. The two high school aged boys walked into their formerly hometown, whereupon in less than an hour they were met with many in the town carrying weapons (not guns, but tools and knives) where they were chased with a violence and vengeance that is blood chilling. My Uncle's friend did not make it and was killed by the villagers, while my Uncle was quicker and perhaps luckier in escaping.

My Uncle to this day is a person who says that the Holocaust only has meaning if it is universalized, meaning that it can only have meaning if others are able to identify with the point that creating an "other" is the root of mass murder on the basis of ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation or the like. He is quick to remind any listener of the bravery of those ordinary Polish citizens who risked their lives to protect his family--and openly questions whether he himself would have done the same if the positions were reversed, since those who protected his family risked near certain death at the hands of local Polish constables and German occupiers.

There is some truth to the point that the Polish people were under guard of German and Russian occupiers during those years and therefore had less room for autonomy in their actions. But it is foolish to suppose on the subject of "the Jews," the Polish people do not have as much to atone for as any other non-German group in Europe.

Oh my, did Ann Coulter write a column which I found agreeable?

My goodness. This is certainly strange.

Ann Coulter making some sense....

Friday, November 23, 2012

It's a start...

More than 1,000 Wal-Mart stores had protests. Did not see one where we were today...Too bad. But, it's a start.

ADDENDUM 11/24/12: For more, see this article in The Nation. And see this blog at The Nation reporting on various strike events at different Wal-Marts.

And whether or not Wal-Mart is being truthful about it being their best Thanksgiving weekend sales, the more important issue is whether this labor movement is going to gather momentum.

One more thing: Imagine if President Obama had gone out to a Wal-Mart on behalf of the workers. What impact would have made? A lot, folks. A lot. But we don't talk about that because we don't even expect it. That is a real shame of our times.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Obama's economic policies are too conservative for Ward and Beaver Cleaver

Read it here in this funny comic.

Thanksgiving morning roundup, Dissent Magazine edition

Some thoughtful articles from Dissent magazine for this Thanksgiving Day. These articles are thought provoking and contain wise analysis and factual content. These are far more worth our time than listening to your FoxNews in-laws and their ravings about UN Ambassador Susan Rice's "talking points" on the tragic events in Benghazi, or Petraeus-scandal conspiracy theories.

Here is an excellent summary from Nicolaus Mills regarding the corporate power trend in universities and how universities reflect the feudal trends emerging in our larger society--the rise of adjunct professors and the poor pay of custodial workers in the face of millionaire executive administrators. It also contains some useful information about federal policy in the growth of universities and the rise of American society over decades.

This related article about the rise and now beginning to fall University of California system is required reading for anyone not familiar with the importance of this institution for American society as a whole, and not merely for those of us who live in the Golden State.

And if you want a shock at how graduate students who wanted to form a union found themselves in a corporate-government maze that is straight outta Kafka, check out this article. It is a perfect article to understand how difficult it is to form a union in modern America and why we so need the ECA.

Here is an article about the state of English as a world language and its fragility in a wired world where China's power grows each year. A key graph states:

Chinese is almost as equally present on the Internet as English. India, home to the world’s largest film industry, produces movies in a staggering number of languages: in 2010 alone, 1,274 films were produced in a total of twenty-three languages—of these, 215 were shot in Hindi, 202 in Tamil, 181 in Telugu, 143 in Kannada, 116 in Marathi, 110 in Bengali, and 105 in Malayalam (and 117 films were dubbed from one regional language to another). Only seven were produced in English. While the Moroccan government joined the broader trend in English-language higher education when it opened the anglophone Al Akhawayn University in Ifrane in the 1990s, it is also currently breaking ground for a French-language engineering school in partnership with France’s elite École des Mines. Once outside Tokyo, try navigating Japan with only English. In the central Asian republics, Russian will get you a lot further than English, just as French will in most of West Africa. Good luck, by the way, to any well-meaning monolingual American doctor who heads off to treat villagers in Mali, Angola, or Chad.

The article returns a few times to the persistence of the use of the French language in various parts of the world. This may be owing to the incredible work of French humanitarian groups such as Doctors without Borders, and face it, the French language exudes an air of sophistication that people around the globe wish to emulate. But as the article states, perhaps university administrators should find a way to promote English literature if they wish to protect English as the favored international language. It has a role to play in that policy.

Finally, this blog post sums up the greed of Papa John's CEO in the overall context of what is already happening to employer-provided health insurance. The worst thing about Obama's Republican-oriented reform is that it just creates more layers of bureaucracy, maintains the power of private insurers, and creates very few incentives to control costs. Medicare for All remains the only rational alternative, but corporate media narratives and the power of private money make that policy goal elusive at best.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

What the heck is wrong with Florida?

I have no sympathy for Congressman Allen West's (R-FL) political views, and he would call me a Commie soon as not.

But there is no reason whatsoever, from a fairness perspective, why there should not be a full recount and more time given for such a recount.

Getting back at West for what a Republican dominated Supreme Court did in Bush v. Gore is not justice. It is not fair and it is wrong.

Again, there should be a full recount. And it should not matter if it takes a month.

ADDENDUM 11/20/12: West concedes. He admitted his legal team told him that even with undervotes, overvotes or fraudulent votes rejected, the result would still be that Murphy beat him. See here. I had become interested in this because the registrar of voters that covered the area of St. Lucie, Florida had admitted to what appeared to be significant irregularities in the admittedly small precincts of voters. Still, it is more than significant for West to concede that his advisers are saying there were not enough to change the outcome.

Now, perhaps the Republican partisans will wake up and realize that just because a highly black and urban area in Philadelphia votes 100% for Obama, it doesn't mean there is fraud....Maybe if the modern Republican Party was not so hospitable to the promotion of white racism, this wouldn't happen.

It has to start sometime...why not now? Wal-Mart Workers Strike

This is important to the well being of American citizens everywhere.

Please support these brave Wal-Mart workers and give to the Wal-Mart Strikers Food Fund. It's a paltry level right now, and I hope more people give this week.

A salutary reality check against conservatives and libertarians

Please read this article.

It states what I have stated for years, which is that California can tax "rich" people more, and the "rich" won't leave. California has the highest number of billionaires and millionaires. And people like living here.

If Californians leave, it's because real property is expensive per square foot, which is a function of too many people for too few spaces within the 50 miles east of the Pacific Ocean. There is cheaper property in California, but it tends to be well due east in the State.

Articles like this are few and far between. I recall some years ago another salutary reality check from the Los Angeles Times Magazine (I have not been able to find the link on the web for it) where a reporter interviewed business people and families who left California for one of the Red States, such as Kentucky, and they found poorly educated citizens and oppressive cultural values--and they returned to California. I'll never forget the one family which thought it was "conservative" and then met some real down home people in one of those Red States....

The propaganda drum beat from libertarians and conservatives about people leaving California because of high taxes is one of those myths in the most philosophical sense of the term "myth." It is a perspective which contains a dose of truth, but it is far more a story people want to believe than anything to guide us in matters of public policy.

Could we reach a point where people leave California in droves? Yes, but it will be due to us losing our place as a pre-eminent higher learning center and leading technological and agricultural engine--and the waters rise amid nature's destruction worse than what Hurricane Sandy did to New Jersey a few weeks ago.

There is a reason Democratic candidates won in so many places in California a few weeks ago. Heck, I read the other day that long time right wing Republican Dan Lundgren (R-CA) just lost his congressional seat. It is because the State is eminently civilized, though it has had a 35 year temper tantrum against "taxes" that may finally be coming to an end.

For those who hate the State, the door is waiting for you. I remain a student of California's rich (pun intended) history and am a proud citizen of the State of California.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Sore losers...

This would be amusing if it was not so pathetic.

At least the last time these states attempted to leave the Union, it was for a clear cause: Slavery. See also here. And if we think there were other causes, there were, but they related back to slavery, whether it was the tariff, the fear that the Republican administration of Lincoln would not expand slavery into territories or enforce the Fugitive Slave Act (which was a federal law that pre-empted or overruled state laws that protected runaway slaves), and even less important at the beginning of the Civil War, "State's rights."

This time, this petition movement is incoherent and based upon a delusion that Obama represents something fundamentally different than the previous six presidents.

One can just imagine how these people pushing this petition would have felt if Massachusetts citizens pushed such a petition after the November 1972 election where Massachusetts and the District of Columbia were the only places where McGovern beat Nixon. We'd have heard these people calling Massachusetts' citizens efforts in this regard an act of treason. This current and petulant exercise is one more example of the hypocrisy of the right wing in our nation, and the remnants of racism that still pollute our land.

Wednesday, November 07, 2012

Random thoughts down ballot...

While Americans were becoming more civilized about homosexual marriages, decriminalization of marijuana use and rejecting the most hateful anti-female candidates in the Senate, not enough Americans could bring themselves to jettisoning the mostly Republican jokers (Michelle Bachmann barely survived, for example) who still walk the halls of our Congress.

MEMO TO HARRY REID: Blow up the filibuster anyway. You'll need to avoid any filibuster on any judicial nominee Obama will send your way when Ginsburg and Breyer retire. And who knows? Scalia might have to retire at some point in the next three years, and there could be a pick up on the Court to overturn Citizens United and a few other decisions...Now back to random thoughts, though that was random, too, eh?

Down ticket here in California, we had some significant sanity. First, Proposition 30, which raises income taxes on the richest folks and sales tax on all of us just a bit, in return for funding more for our schools, passed fairly strongly with nearly 55% of the vote. Second, voters here strongly supported amending our three strikes law to stop putting people in jail for life for possessing cocaine or some substance. This is what was driving the explosion of our jail populations and costing 10% of our state budget (up from 3% just thirty years ago), and led the conservative United States Supreme Court to say our States' jail system was cruel and unusual in its housing of prisoners (!). It was as much a budgetary move as a humanity move.

And third, while we can't get labeling of genetically modified food (Proposition 37), and we still have the death penalty (Proposition 34 would have abolished the death penalty), we did close a loophole in our tax code that had given an advantage to companies that did business in other states (Proposition 39).

Some happy results in the Congressional races: First, Democratic Party Congressperson Brad Sherman, one of my favorite Congresspeople here in CA, stomped on his Democratic Party rival--a result of the new district lines and the new run-off structure--Howard Berman, who was on his way to becoming Joe Lieberman, and ran a nasty campaign against Brad, complete with Liberman's and right wing Republicans' endorsements of Berman against Sherman. This was the race where Sherman put his arm around Berman in an aggressive manner after Berman was yelling "Liar" to Brad's face when Brad was not lying at all. Great for Brad, and great for America to have someone who is a true supporter of labor rights and against trade treaties, and is not a complete Likudnik like Berman has been.

Second, in my old area of Thousand Oaks, there is a new Democratic Party Congresswoman, Julia Brownley, who defeated the career Republican and original Tea Party sort of person, Tony Strickland. The word was that Julia was "too liberal," but Strickland has been trying to find an open seat for years in Congress, found it, and realized people just don't like the guy. Julia will get stronger support as the district gets to know her.

Third, the biggest and happiest surprise for me was that my family and I may actually have a Democratic Party Congressperson representing us in the deep, deep Red Republican Poway area. I am not sure how this happened, but Scott Peters, an Obama corporate Democratic Party candidate, may have defeated an incumbent stealth Tea Party candidate, Brian Bilbray. Peters had initially made noises that he will support the Grand Bargain of Obama to cut Social Security and Medicare, but somehow I think he may be seeing the light. And he'll need some "education" as to why he should not support job-killing trade treaties.

Overall, America had a very good night that almost makes up for the disaster of 2010. But we've got a long way to go, and Obama is still gunning for our Social Security and Medicare, and stealthily pushing to further hollow out and destroy our manufacturing base on behalf of his corporate financier overlords. Now, maybe someone will tell Latino, black American, single women, and younger voters that off year elections count, too?:-)

Tuesday, November 06, 2012

Random thoughts on the presidential and senate races, 2012

I'm glad Obama beat back Romney, and had lightly taunted a Republican voting lawyer I know this afternoon before polls closed. He said he thought Obama would be crying even more tonight than he did in Iowa in the past 24 hours. I said Obama would be the projected winner by no later than 9 p.m. Pacific Time. The calls on the television networks came at around 8:15 p.m. Pacific Time (11:15 p.m. East Coast time). He was surprised when I said it, and I bet he was surprised again around 8:15 p.m. Pacific Time.

It is great to see Democratic Party victories for Senate races in Massachusetts, Wisconsin, Indiana and Missouri. Let's hope the latter two Senators who are Democrats get the message to act like Democrats. McCaskill has been a terrible disappointment and I don't hold much hope for her changing her corporate Democratic Party stripes.

As I predicted the other day, the Republican pundits who kept saying Romney would win and win big revealed themselves as the American versions of the Minister of Information under Saddam Hussein. These guys and gals are the equivalent to Baghdad Bob and they should be ridiculed and delegitimized in the eyes of television viewers and radio listeners everywhere.

While the House of Representatives remains fairly strongly Republican, let's hope the Laura Ingraham prediction comes true and the Republicans tear each other apart to the point of fracturing the entire Party, kind of like the Whigs did in the 1850s. MARK THESE WORDS: If the Republicans fracture, the Democratic Party will fracture soon thereafter. We need a true Labor Party in the U.S. and if Rich Trumka had or has vision, he would lead the Union workers into the Green Party IF the Republicans fracture into two or more parties.

But I somehow think the Republican poo-bahs will not let the Republican Party fracture. They are doing just fine as the whack-a-doodle party because they are there to "discipline" and limit the economic populism of the Democratic Party. The Democrats get to scare people into voting Democratic with the motto, "The Republicans are worse..." and of course, the Republicans are in many, though not all ways. In some ways, the two parties converge into the Property Party, which controls the nation.

Oh well, now to see what the blogosphere and news outlets have to say....

Saturday, November 03, 2012

Drop the teen angst novel already...

Someone at finally starts to say what I've said for the past twenty years about "The Catcher in the Rye," which is that it is a tired book that has not stood the test of time.

The problem is that the author of the article, Jessica Roake, wants to replace it with another teen angst book from "Cloud Atlas" author David Mitchell, "Black Swan Green," which I hate to say it, sounds even more creaky than "Catcher."

Enough with teen angst already, literature teachers!

If we want to turn on young minds, we need to stop the navel gazing. When I tell young people to read something, it's because I want them to read something that transforms themselves in relationship to the world around them. That's why I propose to young people books like...

"The Space Merchants" by Frederik Pohl and Cyril Kornbluth

"Doctor Rat" by William Kotzwinkle

"Black No More" by George Schuyler

"The Iron Heel" by Jack London

"Ever Since Darwin" by Stephen Jay Gould

"Arrowsmith" by Sinclair Lewis

"The Magnificent Ambersons" by Booth Tarkington

"In Dubious Battle" by John Steinbeck

"The Quiet American" by Graham Greene

"Class" by Paul Fussell

There is a reason most literature professors and teachers don't prescribe these sorts of books. It would greatly upset that contingent of anti-intellectuals and right wing business people who really do not want the great unwashed as they used to call them back in the day to start critically thinking about the world around them. And both groups are supported by the more "moderate" business leaders, including financiers, insurance company executives and bankers who are the true owners of the nation.

Let George Carlin explain it to us...

Thursday, November 01, 2012

Most Obama advisers cautious; Romney advisers risk sounding like Baghdad Bob

It is looking like the Romney advisers are sounding like the former Iraqi Minister of Information, the Muhammad Saaed al-Shaaf. Remember his golden oldies (scroll down on the link)?

"They (the Americans) are nowhere near the airport ..they are lost in the desert...they can not read a compass...they are retarded."

"They are not in Baghdad. They are not in control of any airport. I tell you this. It is all a lie. They lie. It is a hollywood movie. You do not believe them."

The Romney advisers quote no polls when they speak. They just bluster. Yet, in swing states, Obama appears to be pulling away from Romney. And right wing publications keep beating up on Nate Silver as if he is manipulating data. He is simply adding up polls, averaging them, and giving odds. It's not that complicated, and his model still shows a 25% chance of a Romney victory. He is also not above challenging his own data and noting that voter ID laws in places like Pennsylvania could make the election results even closer.

Unlike Romney's advisers, Obama's advisers are cautious and talk more about getting people out to vote. The only limb David Axelrod put himself--or really his mustache--out on are whether Obama carries the States of Minnesota, Michigan and Pennsylvania. That is not bluster based upon consistent polling for months now.

For me, I voted for Jill Stein here in CA. My vote simply doesn't matter and I just hope Stein can get a few percentage points here in the Golden State.

If I was in any swing state, or any state where polling shows less than a 10 point lead for Obama, I'd vote for Obama.

I hope Obama wins. I hope the Senate gets at least 54 Democrats and that Angus King, Maine's independent, caucuses with Democrats. I most hope that Harry Reid and Joe Biden end the filibuster rule in the Senate.

I also figure we're fighting a rear guard action against Obama after the election regarding (1) the undermining of Social Security and Medicare and (2) the Trans Pacific Trade agreement. That is not gonna be pretty...and I will be sad for America if Obama gets his Grand Bargain and his trade agreement.