Saturday, May 31, 2008

We have the pressure, but where is the grace?

Laurel and Hardy - Way Out West (1937)
"Courage is grace under pressure." - Ernest Hemingway
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The charming film clip that hovers above this post through the miracle of YouTube was made in 1937.

Grace, fun: the simple pleasure of life, preserved "forever".

Here below is a heavily edited list of other things that happened in 1937, copied and pasted from the miracle of Wikipedia:
  • January 1 - Anastasio Somoza García becomes President of Nicaragua.
  • January 31 - 31 people executed in the Soviet Union for alleged Trotskyism
  • February 8 - Falangist troops take Málaga
  • February 8-February 27, Battle of Jarama
  • February 11 - A sit-down strike ends when General Motors recognizes the United Automobile Workers Union
  • February 19 - During a public ceremony at the Viceregal Palace (the former Imperial residence) in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, two Eritrean nationalists attempt to kill viceroy Rodolfo Graziani with a number of grenades. The Italian security guard fire into the crowd of Ethiopian onlookers, and over the passing weeks indiscriminately slaughter native Ethiopians in reprisal.
  • February 21 - The League of Nations Non-Intervention Committee ban on foreign nationals fighting in the Spanish Civil War.
  • March - The first issue of the comic book Detective Comics is published in the United States. Twenty-seven issues later, Detective Comics would introduce Batman. The comic would go on to become the longest continually-published comic magazine in American history; it is still published as of 2007.
  • March 10 - The Encyclical Mit brennender Sorge of pope Pius XI is published in Nazi Germany
  • March 18 - In the worst school disaster in American history in terms of lives lost, the New London School in New London, Texas suffers a catastrophic natural gas explosion, killing in excess of three hundred students and teachers.
  • March 26 - In Crystal City, Texas spinach growers erect a statue of the cartoon character Popeye.
  • April 17 - Release of the animated short Porky's Duck Hunt, directed by Tex Avery for the Looney Tunes series, featuring the debut of Daffy Duck.
  • April 26 - Spanish Civil War: Guernica, Spain is bombed. In his report of the Falangist attack on Guernica, British journalist George Steer reports that he had found German bomb casings, connecting Luftwaffe planes with the attack.
  • May 6 - In United States, the German airship Hindenburg bursts into flame when mooring to a mast in Lakehurst, New Jersey.
  • May 7 - Spanish Civil War: The German Condor Legion Fighter Group, equipped with Heinkel He 51 biplanes, arrives in Spain to assist Francisco Franco's forces.
  • May 21 - As one of the reprisals for the attempted assassination of Italian viceroy Rodolfo Graziani, a detachment of Italian troops massacre the entire community of Debre Libanos. 297 monks and 23 laymen are killed.
  • May 27 - In California, the Golden Gate Bridge opens to pedestrian traffic creating a vital link between San Francisco and Marin County.
  • May 28 - Neville Chamberlain becomes Prime Minister of the United Kingdom.
  • June 3 - Wallis Simpson and the former Edward VIII of the United Kingdom marry.
  • July 1 - Gestapo arrests priest Martin Niemöller.
  • July 2 - Amelia Earhart and navigator Fred Noonan disappear over New Guinea during Earhart's attempt to become the first woman to fly around the world.
  • July 7 - Sino-Japanese War: Battle of Lugou Bridge - Japanese forces invade China. Often seen as the beginning of World War II in Asia
  • July 24 - Alabama drops rape charges against the so-called "Scottsboro Boys."
  • July 28 - IRA attempts bombing assassination against King George VI in Belfast.
  • August 5 - Soviet Union commences one of the largest campaigns of the Great Purge, to "eliminate anti-Soviet element". Within the following year, at least 724,000 people were killed on order of troikas, many of them chosen for shooting by their ethnicity.
  • August 6 - Falangist artillery bombards Madrid.
  • September 2 - The Great Hong Kong Typhoon of 1937 killed an estimated 11,000 persons.
  • September 5 - Spanish Civil War: The fall of Llanes.
  • October 1 - Marijuana Tax Act in USA.
  • October 3 - Japanese troops advance toward Nanking.
  • October 13 - Germany, in a note to Brussels, guaranteed the inviolability and integrity of Belgium so long as the latter abstained from military action against Germany.
  • October 15 - Ernest Hemingway's novel To Have and Have Not is first published.
  • October 21 - The whole Spanish northern seaboard in the Falangists' hands.
  • November 5 - Spanish Civil War - Massacre of Republican supporters in Piedrafita de Babia, near León. Possibly 35,000 executed.
  • November 5 - World War II: In the Reich Chancellery, Adolf Hitler holds a secret meeting and states his plans for acquiring "living space" for the German people.
  • November 6 - Italy joins Anti-Comintern Pact.
  • November 9 - Japanese troops take Shanghai.
  • December 11 - Italy withdraws from the League of Nations.
  • December 12 - Mae West makes a risque guest appearance on the NBC Chase and Sanborn Hour that eventually results in her being banned from radio.
  • December 13 - Battle of Nanjing ends and the Nanjing Massacre begins. Japanese troops would slaughter over 250,000 civilians and prisoners over three months.
  • December 21 - Walt Disney's Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, the first feature-length animated cartoon, opens and becomes a smash hit.
What is the point of this juxtaposition?

First it is reminder that, no matter how bad you think this year is, that year was much, much worse.

But, it is also a reminder we aren't producing (not us, not anybody) the kind of art that was produced that year.

Athough Wikipedia's list does mention the debut of Daffy Duck, they don't get around to mentioning Pablo Picasso's painting "Guernica".

Jean Renoir made "The Grand Illusion". Over in Japan, Ozu made, "What did the Lady Forget". Tolkien published, "The Hobbit" in 1937. None on the list.

It was a busy year. DS

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Unpotted Harry Potter

"The Story Teller" - Wil Cormier

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I've had people ask me why I think the story of Stanley Anne Dunham, Barack Obama's mother, is of any general interest.

What got me started was the very human and complementary piece that Eric Stone wrote in his blog about her. What interested me most was that it was personal, first hand observation, unfiltered by the great "story teller" himself.

Since Obama is simultaneously Harry Potter and J.K. Rowling, any information about Obama that Obama hasn't already pre-chewed for us is of interest.

The interest is to check cold reality against a well told story.
"I went to school with Harry Potter and man he couldn't make himself invisible or nothing and Vernon and Petunia Dursley are real nice people and I sat next to their kid Dudley in algebra and he was the coolest kid in school."
Something like that might hurt sales.

Obama is, in fact, almost nothing more than Obama's story, Obama's words, Obama's speeches.

The other candidates (all that have contested the primaries in both parties) have public CVs not "stories", so what their mamas were like is not very relevant.... They all have obviously survived them.

The reason Stanley Anne is important is that all the buzz about Obama is from the stories Obama tells about Obama, not about the things that Obama has done publicly.

Let me remind you that someone is coming very close to getting his hands on the atomic bomb, strictly on the strength of a well told story.

Popular wisdom has it that "talk is cheap" and that "actions speak louder than words," but it seems that Hollywood has finally leached that simple common sense from the American mind.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

The Oozlum protocol

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Yesterday, I wrote about Stanley Anne, Barack Obama's mother.

Her life and the life of her children, which, if you have lived in expatriate communities as much as I have, are not that unusual or exotic, sadden me. Some unbreachable loneliness, some endless purging of context, of freedom as a curse more than as a blessing.

All of it is deeply familiar to me and it brings back memories of dozens of Americans: families, broken, half-families and wandering individuals that I have known over the years. Some of them, when I ever think of them, I miss. Ships that pass in the night. Many farewell dinners. Too many.
Take my true love by her hand lead her through the town
Say goodbye to everyone goodbye to everyone
She and her children are people I could have easily known; I think I would have liked Stanley Anne and I imagine she would have liked me too; intelligent, flakey people with a sense of humor often have.

Being a Celt, certain types of sadness are pleasurable for me in a way similar to the Portuguese "saudade," and I tend to nurse melancholic feelings along to see what juice they have in them.... Melancholy is like the dear pig, all of whom, except for his death screams, is either useful or delicious.

Thinking about Stanley Anne and ruminating on the sadness her story dredges out of me, I remembered something that Felipe González, the former president of Spain, and an extremely intelligent and perceptive man, once said about Americans.

I'm quoting from memory, González said something like, "Americans are sad people, I find them touching" (me enternecen). My first reaction was to find his remark condescending and offensive, but after thinking about it at length, I decided he was right.

What is this sadness, where does it come from, what is it about?

Everybody, even Thomas Friedman, has read that bit in the Communist Manifesto, describing the action of capitalism on society that goes, "All that is solid melts into air" The full paragraph goes like this:
The bourgeoisie, wherever it has got the upper hand, has put an end to all feudal, patriarchal, idyllic relations. It ... has left remaining no other nexus between man and man than naked self-interest, than callous “cash payment” ... for exploitation, veiled by religious and political illusions, it has substituted naked, shameless, direct, brutal exploitation ... Constant revolutionizing of production, uninterrupted disturbance of all social conditions, everlasting uncertainty and agitation distinguish the bourgeois epoch from all earlier ones ... All that is solid melts into air, all that is holy is profaned, and man is at last compelled to face with sober senses, his real conditions of life, and his relations with his kind. (emphasis mine)
Taking that as my text, I would preach that as America is and always has been the absolute vanguard and the world's most enthusiastic advocate
of capitalism, logically no other people have ever felt capitalism's effects half as directly or half as powerfully as Americans have. If we add to that the deracination of the process of immigration, then we also talking about people who have had all the defenses and the retarding effects of "feudal, patriarchal, idyllic relations" already stripped from them when they arrived. More than even the British who invented it, Americans therefore stand naked before the forces that "melt all that is solid into air" with all that is holy profaned.

That leaves the American "at last compelled to face with sober senses, his real conditions of life, and his relations with his kind". How to avoid that self-examination is the central task that Americans have set for themselves.

This has led to a frantic search for new "veils of religious and political illusions" to make all of this contemplation of "
his real conditions of life, and his relations with his kind" bearable.

The man and his companion whose statue grace this post are symbols of an industrial effort at distraction from the "naked, shameless, direct, brutal exploitation" and the "uninterrupted disturbance of all social conditions, everlasting uncertainty and agitation" which make up the actual warp and woof of our lives.

The consolation would be that since American society has advanced far further on this road than any other, if capitalism is ever to take the path of the Oozlum Bird*, it will be in America first. DS
*The Oozlum bird, also spelled Ouzelum, is a Legendary Creature found in Australian and British folk tales and legends. Some versions have it that, when startled, the bird will take off and fly around in ever-decreasing circles until it manages to fly up itself, disappearing completely, which adds to its rarity. Other sources state that the bird flies backwards so that it can admire its own beautiful tail feathers, or because while it does not know where it is going, it likes to know where it has been.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Eric Stone's story: " ME AND OBAMA'S MAMA"

Stanley Anne Dunham Suntoro

David Seaton's News Links
The Internet is nothing if not serendipitous. My wife, who is a painter and a graphic artist, was running a search in Google images, using the string, "kitsch". An amusing photograph of a little statue of Chairman Mao accompanied by the "see no, hear no, speak no" monkeys turned up and she followed the link, which led her to the blog of a writer, Eric Stone.

"Hey, take a look", cried my better half, "you'll be interested in this, here is somebody who says he knew Obama's mother". She was right, I was interested.

The personage, the myth of Barack Obama has been so carefully stroked, stoked and crafted, that to bump into anything spontaneous, unrehearsed and untainted by manipulation anywhere around it is a real find. Like a collector of rare beetles or old 78s, I was galvanized.

Here are some quotes, if you want it uncut, you can read it here.
(snip) I met Ann Sutoro when I was working for Asian Business magazine and interviewing people for a cover story on what the private sector can do to help alleviate poverty. She was an economic anthropologist working for Bank Rakyat Indonesia, the rural development bank of the country. She was in charge of the bank's microfinance program.(snip) I liked her, a lot, the moment I met her. We became friendly and for several years, whenever I was in Jakarta I'd give her a call. We'd have a drink, a meal, hang out talking in her beautiful house in Jakarta. She had a great, quirky, sense of humor, was kind and decent to a fault and was just plain whip smart, one of the sharpest people I've ever known. I envied her her job, admired her tremendously and always looked forward to seeing her.

She died of cancer in 1995 and it was a tremendous loss. I've thought of her often over the years. Whenever the subject of great things to do with one's life comes up, I always trot out the story of Ann Sutoro.(snip) Today, I was trying to think up a subject for this blog entry and (...) I thought I'd write about a few of the world's best jobs, so Ann immediately popped into my head. Just for the hell of it, I googled her, not really expecting to find much, if anything. What I found out is that she was Barack Obama's mother.

There's much that I like and admire about Obama. But, as with all politicians, there is also much about him that makes me suspicious and nervous. But I do know one thing for sure. He comes from a very good family. At least on his mother's side.
I know nothing at all about Eric Stone so I read further. The entry preceding the eulogy to Ann Suntoro was also a eulogy, one to the late Albert Hoffmann, the inventor/discoverer/synthesizer of LSD. Mr. Stone writes:
The first time I took LSD was in September 1966 (I was fourteen), about two weeks before it became illegal in California. I had traded a UCLA professor a bag of mediocre Mexican pot for a dosed sugar cube. Over the next three and a half or so years, I probably took acid between two and three hundred times. It was easy to lose track.(...) here's what LSD did for me.

It made me, mentally, stronger. I guess in the Nietzschean sense of "what doesn't kill me, makes me stronger." I don't fully believe that. Some of the things that don't kill you, can maim you. But still, in some of my most formative years I dealt with a lot of really strange and challenging stuff in a wide variety of circumstances. No matter how bizarre the world around me got, or at least the world as I was seeing it, I learned to cope with it.(...) It helped give me a great deal of tolerance for things that might otherwise strike me as weird, strange, abnormal. I hardly think of anything as abnormal or normal anymore. When something seems weird or strange, I find it more interesting than threatening. That helps my powers of observation.(...) Who knows if I killed off a bunch of brain cells or not? Maybe I could have been smarter or saner. I don't know and I don't care. I'm smart and sane enough as I've ever needed to be. Either that or deluded enough to think that I am. And so far at least, I've escaped the attention of the nice men in the white coats.
I am a dues paying member of my generation and anything smokable I smoked in those years, but so many people I knew at that time were so badly damaged by acid that I gave it a wide berth. I would say to any kid even today, especially today, "never swallow a chemical somebody hands you in discotheque." Acid still makes me nervous after all these years.

After reading Mr. Stone's lysergic panegyric, I began to think that the eulogy to Obama's mother was a plant by the Republican National Committee. Don't think the Roves of this world aren't already circling around in sky on all of this. Attacking the Obama myth has got to be their strategy, because there is hardly any record to attack.

I wonder why there is so much myth built around Obama's father, a minor Kenyan civil servant who had seduced a 17 year old girl and hardly stayed around longer than necessary to engender the candidate, somebody Obama hardly ever knew and why on the contrary there is so little interest among the Obamites in Obama's mother, who seems a truly remarkable woman, if a huge flake. Time magazine ran a gushing cover story about her and said:
Obama's mother was a dreamer. She made risky bets that paid off only some of the time, choices that her children had to live with. She fell in love—twice—with fellow students from distant countries she knew nothing about. Both marriages failed, and she leaned on her parents and friends to help raise her two children.

"She cried a lot," says her daughter Maya Soetoro-Ng, "if she saw animals being treated cruelly or children in the news or a sad movie—or if she felt like she wasn't being understood in a conversation." And yet she was fearless, says Soetoro-Ng. "She was very capable. She went out on the back of a motorcycle and did rigorous fieldwork. Her research was responsible and penetrating. She saw the heart of a problem, and she knew whom to hold accountable."(...) Born in 1942, just five years before Hillary Clinton, Obama's mother came into an America constrained by war, segregation and a distrust of difference. Her parents named her Stanley because her father had wanted a boy. She endured the expected teasing over this indignity, but dutifully lugged the name through high school, apologizing for it each time she introduced herself in a new town.(...)In the expat community of Asia in the 1980s, single mothers were rare, and Ann stood out. She was by then a rather large woman with frizzy black hair.

She and her daughter sometimes lived in garage apartments and spare rooms of friends. She collected treasures from her travels—exquisite things with stories she understood. Antique daggers with an odd number of curves, as required by Javanese tradition; unusual batiks; rice-paddy hat(...) Before her death, Ann read a draft of her son's memoir, which is almost entirely about his father. Some of her friends were surprised at the focus, but she didn't seem obviously bothered. "She never complained about it," says Peluso. "She just said it was something he had to work out." Neither Ann nor her son knew how little time they had left.
Being a huge flake shouldn't be such a problem, if every man and woman in the United States of America who had or has a flakey mother votes for Obama he'll be a shoo-in, he'd have my vote for sure, I would enter my late mother in a contest for flakey American women and give away weight and a head start. Mind you Barack Obama's mom had real cause.

Hell of thing, name a little girl "Stanley", hell of a thing. It's no joke to do something like that to a kid. I knew a girl once, a very intelligent, very pretty girl, raven hair, crazy-blue, Celtic eyes, whose father, a rich, brutal, lace curtain, black-Irish, son of a bitch, named her "Michael".... hell of a thing, hell of a thing. Like child abuse, maybe worse.

Obama tells his story very nicely, but I think he is leaving a lot out.

Is any of this important?

Everybody has got family. you can't choose them. I hear that McCain's father was not only a distinguished admiral, but also a nasty drunk. There must have been a lot of pressure on Johnny three sticks as a kid... so what. He's done so many things: good things, bad things, that the story he tells means very little, his story is just there... yez pays yer money and yez takes yer cherse.

Obama is his story, the story he tells, because he has never really done anything except tell his story and create his myth. The feeling I get is that Obama's mother was pretty flakey and that is his sore point, not dreams of absent Kenyans. Just another weird, unhappy American childhood. There always seems to be a nice little story to cover everything. It is his desire to push his mother's story to the background that is his weakness, not really the story itself. It is that weakness that will be explored in months to come. DS

Monday, May 26, 2008

The next President: Hood or Johnston?

Confederate Generals, John B. Hood (left) and Joseph E. Johnston

David Seaton's News Links

In his monumental history of the American Civil war, Shelby Foote memorably called General Joseph E. Johnston's defense of Atlanta, "The Red Clay Minuet": a masterpiece of defensive maneuver in the face of a superior force.

Here is how the Georgia Civil War Commission's William R. Scaife lays out the situation that Johnston faced in 1864:
In preparation for the campaigns of 1864, President Lincoln wisely appointed General Ulysses S. Grant commander-in-chief of all the Union armies in the field. Grant quickly developed a plan to take maximum advantage of his superior manpower by constantly hammering Confederate armies in Virginia and Georgia and keeping both so fully occupied it would be impossible for either to detach reinforcements to the other. If either of the badly outnumbered Confederate armies could be brought to battle and defeated, both Union armies could then unite and easily dispose of the lone remaining enemy force. In Sherman's words, "Neither Atlanta, nor Augusta nor Savannah was the objective, but the army of Joseph Johnston, go where it might.
Confederate General Joseph E. Johnston knew as Sherman advanced into Georgia he must remain near his only supply line, the Western & Atlantic Railroad to Chattanooga. Since General Johnston faced vastly superior numbers, he wisely fortified strong defensive positions along the railroad, hoping to entice Sherman to either attack him and incur heavy losses, or to expose himself to a counterattack, while attempting to maneuver around him. Johnston would preserve his army by entrenching every step he took, fighting only when attacked, and inviting battle only when conditions were heavily in his favor - refusing to commit to a major battle in which his army might be destroyed.
Sherman would counter by holding General Johnston in place with George H. Thomas' Army of the Cumberland, which was almost as large as General Johnston's entire army, and sending flanking armies under John M. Schofield and James B. McPherson right and left in attempts to cut General Johnston's line of supply and retreat, thus forcing him to come out and fight on even terms. But General Johnston repeatedly avoided Sherman's attempts to force the climactic battle, each time slipping away to fortify yet another strong position. The campaign thus became one of continuous maneuvering with Shelby Foote termed The Red Clay Minuet. On June 27th Sherman became so frustrated at his inability to trap and destroy General Johnston's army that he ordered the only all out assault of the campaign at Kennesaw Mountain, but was defeated with heavy losses and would never again attack Johnston in force.
But on July 17th, Confederate President Jefferson Davis, either not understanding General Johnston's defensive strategy or not agreeing with it, relieved the General of command and replaced him with General John B. Hood. The campaign of maneuver quickly changed as Hood did just what Sherman had been unable to entice General Johnston to do since May - come out and fight on even terms. In impetuous and mismanaged attacks at Peachtree Creek, Atlanta and Ezra Church, Hood repeatedly hurled his outnumbered forces against Sherman's advancing columns. In each case the confederates were repulsed with heavy losses, which demoralized and depleted Hood's forces to the point where their ability to successfully defend Atlanta and to cut the city's only remaining supply line, forcing Hood's evacuation of Atlanta on the night of September 1, 1864.
Another, simpler, example of this principal is light-heavyweight boxing champion, Billy Conn's legendary bout with Joe Louis, here is the Wikipedia description:
The fight became part of boxing's lore because Conn held a secure lead on the scorecards leading to round 13. According to many experts and fans who watched the fight, Conn was outmaneuvering Louis up to that point. In a move that Conn would regret for the rest of his life, he tried to go for the knockout in round 13, and instead wound up losing the fight by knockout in that same round himself. Ten minutes after the fight, Conn told reporters, "I lost my head and a million bucks,". When asked by a reporter why he went for the knockout, Conn replied famously, "What's the use of being Irish if you can't be thick (i.e. stupid)?" Later he would joke with Louis, "Why couldn't you let me hold the title for a year or so?", to which the Brown Bomber responded, "You had the title for twelve rounds and you couldn't hold on to it."
All of this is to illustrate that measuring your own strength and that of your your opponent carefully is the first step in avoiding destruction in a conflict.

The balance of power in the world is shifting in many ways and America's hegemony is much in question. It is not that power is shifting from America into the hands of another would be global hegemon, as would have been the case during the Cold War; rather, globalization has empowered so many different poles of power, even non-state actors like drug cartels and multinational corporations, that trying to grip it tightly and dominate it has become a futile exercise. An exercise that can drain, empty and hollow out the United States of America, should it persist in attempting it.

It is not that the United States is facing a superior foreign power or even a collection of hostile powers bent on its destruction -- something which would play perfectly to Washington's endless paranoias -- no, the USA is simply facing a situation that America, more than any power in history, has itself created.

This is a situation where finally, as the fella said, "All that is solid melts into air, all that is holy is profaned, and man is at last compelled to face with sober senses, his real conditions of life, and his relations with his kind."

The next President of the United States can either "box clever", like Joseph E. Johnston, and live to fight another day or go on the offensive, toe to toe with the world, and end up seeing stars like General Hood or Billy Conn.

The prognosis is not that encouraging: John McCain has a crazy, impulsive, hot temper: a natural fighter. And Barack Obama is arrogant and in love with himself and his own voice: As much as bad temper, arrogance and self love in commanders have proverbially been the heralds of endless disasters through history, as "pride cometh before a fall." Where some see a messiah in Obama, I see only the luciferian pride.

Perhaps long experience in politics, the ordeal of great physical and mental suffering and humiliation in Vietnam, combined with a military education, may give McCain a more lucid and skeptical estimate of his and other's limitations ... or maybe not.

McCain might work out OK, with one important caveat and condition: an ample Democratic majority in both House and Senate. This is the closest thing to coalition politics that the USA could produce.

Unless NASA makes the unlikely discovery of life on Mars, there will be little choice for us but to hang around here on the blue planet and find out. DS

Sunday, May 25, 2008

White cloth can be dyed to any color

"White cloth can be dyed to any color. Such is the way of the mind. It can assume any trait, good or bad. As such the ideal set before it should be great. God is held to be the repository of everything good. Adoration of God is therefore salutary." Swami Chidbavananda
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A regular reader of News Links wrote in today about the usefulness of ideology, his critique was brilliantly devastating:
Ideology gives me hives and I often imagine a certain sector of hell that Dante forgot to describe where the condemned enter a restaurant, and instead of taking the order, the diners are forced to listen to interminable verbal descriptions of all the marvelous specials. This goes on for hours, and then, finally the ordering. But no dinner, not even the appetizer is even served. Then, the waiter re-emerges and the specials list is repeated, as the kitchen hasn't available what the diners ordered.
That is really good! However I don't quite agree.

What is ideology? Webster defines ideology as "visionary theorizing". Having a vision, which is embodied in a system.

I was pleased that at almost the same time the reader wrote, I came across, in truly serendipitous fashion, a "message for today" (May 25th) in an old Hindu almanac written by
Swami Chidbavananda, which is pasted above.

It is interesting to note that in this passage by Swami Chidbavananda, the great Indian sage makes no actual claim that God, in fact, exists, he only states that since, "God is held to be the repository of everything good. Adoration of God is therefore salutary". What is salutary is adoring a great ideal, because, "White cloth can be dyed to any color. Such is the way of the mind": That, "the ideal set before it should be great."

In short, great ideals ennoble the mind. In the end, what is in your head is all you've really got.

It is important to have ideals even though nothing ever turns out how you first planned it. Probably no general ever planned more meticulously than Prussia's, Helmuth von Moltke the Elder, considered the greatest general in the second half of the 19th century, yet his most famous quote is the classic,
"No battle plan survives contact with the enemy"
Napoleon said,
"On s' engage, puis on vois"
Which means get started and then see what happens, but Napoleon always had before him the ideal of victory and planned for it.

When you swing at a baseball you never know if you'll actually hit it, but you try to hit through it, and follow through. If you don't do that, even if you connect with the ball, it won't go very far.

A home run is the result of
"visionary theorizing".

If someone accepts the idea that nothing can be changed, be sure that nothing will be changed... especially and most importantly in that person. DS

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Where is Jonathan Swift when we need him?

(detail) Bruegel, "The Triumph of Death" - Landesmuseum Joanneum, Graz, Austria

"Human brutes, like other beasts, find snares and poison in the provision of life, and are allured by their appetites to their destruction." Jonathan Swift
Australian grain growers are expected to benefit from greater export opportunities as rival US farmers focus on crops that can be used as biofuels. Rabobank commodities analyst Luke Chandler said crops such as corn, sugar and soybeans were increasingly linked to oil prices."Record crude oil prices will fuel further investment in ethanol and increase pressure on corn farmers to produce enough grain to meet supply," he said. ". . . (so) corn is expected to displace other crops such as wheat." Melbourne Herald Sun, Australia

Ailing leader Fidel Castro returned to the public debate — if not view — for the second time in less than a week with a column in the Communist Party newspaper denouncing U.S. promotion of using food crops for biofuels. Castro chided the Bush administration for its support of ethanol production for automobiles, a move that the 80-year-old leader said would leave the world's poor hungry. - IHT

Biofuels such as ethanol are the only alternative to crude oil, Sun Microsystems Inc. co-founder Vinod Khosla said in an interview on Bloomberg Radio yesterday. ``The only realistic option that we have, and there is none other, is to use biofuels,'' said Khosla, an investor in ethanol makers. ``There is only one choice.''
David Seaton's News Links
The Spanish language of Castille is a sonorous tongue. Charles the Fifth, the Holy Roman Emperor and Spain's first Hapsburg king, was said to speak French, Italian, Castillian and German. He was reported to speak French to gentlemen, Italian to Ladies, Castillian to God and German to his horse.

In the Castillian language, when something simultaneously outrages common sense and garden variety morality, then simple people call it a "contradíos", (literally, "against-God) which the The Royal Academy of the Spanish language defines as an action "absurd or vituperable."

Which brings us to ethanol, a "contradíos" if ever there was one.

I'm a wordy sort, but words fail me when trying to describe the bestial immorality, the besotted idiocy and sheer unkindness of using food to power automobiles when the world's poor are barely able to feed themselves.

It is said that nothing can be compared to the pure evil of the Holocaust, to do so is considered most offensive and outside polite discourse, but read the following and then do the math:

The World Bank has estimated that in 2001, 2.7 billion people in the world were living on the equivalent of less than $2 a day; to them, even marginal increases in the cost of staple grains could be devastating. filling the 25-gallon tank of an SUV with pure ethanol requires over 450 pounds of corn -- which contains enough calories to feed one person for a year. - Foreign Affairs Magazine
I'm sure that there are kind, decent people who tie themselves into knots over baby seals being clubbed to death, but don't ever connect their driving habits to the unspeakable suffering those habits inflict on 2.7 billion people... high minded people who censure the brutality of the filthy junta of Myanmar, but wouldn't dream of taking a bus to work in order to help feed 2.7 billion people; surely there are rapturous Obamaites that haven't ever given it the slightest thought.

This is a subject that requires satire on the level of Jonathan Swift's, "A Modest Proposal", certainly it is beyond my more than modest talents, although I'm bound to keep hammering at it. DS

Thursday, May 22, 2008


The rapid reaction by China's government to the earthquake, along with media -- much of it state-run -- that has spotlighted the best aspects of that response to a newly unified public, have all helped enhance the central government's image as responsive and effective. The strong world-wide expression of sympathy, meanwhile, has quieted -- at least for now -- criticism of Beijing's policies in Tibet and elsewhere that had threatened to overshadow its hosting of the Summer Olympics in August.(...) overall, the government's response appears likely to give a meaningful, and potentially lasting, boost in support for China's leadership, analysts said. That is a stark contrast to the Bush administration's handling of Hurricane Katrina in 2005, which was widely criticized in the U.S. as slow and ineffective. The resulting public backlash helped send President Bush's approval ratings, already suffering from economic concerns and the war in Iraq, to their current lows. In China's response last week, the most visible figure was Premier Wen, who has become a populist hero as a result of his actions. While Mr. Bush waited until two days after Katrina made landfall to travel to stricken New Orleans -- and then flew over it without landing -- Mr. Wen arrived in quake-battered Sichuan province within hours after the quake struck on May 12. He spent the next four days traveling from one devastated town to the next, often by helicopter when roads were blocked, comforting the victims and promising more help. Wall Street Journal
David Seaton's News Links
I think it's time to give some serious study and analysis as to what exactly the Communist Party of China really is.

The recent earthquake is China put this huge organization to a brutal test, it responded
humanely, with efficiency, flexibility and imagination in taking care of the victims and simultaneously getting the maximum political benefit from the catastrophe both at home and abroad.

Many people, all over the world, have drawn unfavorable comparisons with the American government's handling of Katrina, a far less damaging crisis, where government at all levels: local, state and federal, showed a bumbling, autistic indifference to the suffering of their fellow countrymen. The much vaunted private sector certainly didn't "step up",
not one leader emerged from that crisis, from the President on down... This in a country that prides itself as no other on the quality of its management science, techniques that are exported to every corner of the earth, to MBA students who learn them and recite them with the devotion of little Muslim boys in a madrassa.

As a management team, the Communist Party of China is obviously agile, responsive and intelligent. Anyone with experience in large collective endeavors knows how difficult it is for such a massive organization to embody any of those qualities. I truly wish that Peter Drucker was still with us to analyze this dancing elephant!

We are looking at something truly formidable: massive and yet flexible. A listening organization and a learning organization.

How does it work? How are decisions taken?
How does it collect information and process it? How does information move within it?

Everything that I read about this organization is colored by politics. What I am interested in is understanding a triumph of management practice, that has taken a feudal country, overrun by foreigners, gained its independence and sovereignty, unified a thousand million people, organized them, and then has shown supreme, pragmatic, flexibility in transforming Really Existing Socialism into dizzyingly successful capitalism.... all without losing control.

What philosophy has remained constant in all of this? Certainly I am going to be looking for books to read this summer, but I don't think I'll find anything written from the angle that interests me. If any of my readers know of any text that would enlighten me I would be very grateful. DS

Wednesday, May 21, 2008


David Seaton's News Links
I draw my share of flack because I don't imbibe the Kool-Aid on Obama, and I'd like to clarify this a bit.

The problem here, as I see it, isn't
really Obama, as it isn't really Bush, they are just symptoms.

America and Americans give the impression at this moment of wandering through history aided only by a white cane.

On one hand the people
reelect someone who was already clearly incompetent in 2004 and now they are about to elect someone without any practical experience of government.

Not just that, but a lot of things don't make sense.

Look at the reaction of the Chinese people (not just their government) to the earthquake and then look at the reaction of the American people (not just their government) to Katrina.

50 years ago, I think Americans would have responded like the Chinese. The Chinese reaction seems to me the normal reaction of a great people to a terrible tragedy, the American reaction seems to me both autistic and decadent and America didn't get to the position it occupies by being either autistic
or decadent... and it certainly won't/isn't keeping that position by being autistic and decadent.

So, the problem in my view is not Obama, the problem is not the leaders.

In a Democracy, even a flawed one like America's, the leaders are only symptoms, the problem is in the
society and that is where the work has to be done.

I think the country has been somehow hollowed out.


Well, I posted the above over at TPM Café and I got this question,
First I'm struck by your cynicism, If there were ever a year to have some hope it's this year. We've had more young people be involved than ever before on both sides of the isle. Even Ron Paul has been huge in his groundswell of support. This is also the most educated young electorate we've ever had. Certainly you have to have a little confidence America is at least starting to head in the right direction.

Secondly I would like to know how you square Clinton's vote for the war? If you are not a Clinton supporter who do you support?

To which I replied:

First the secondly:

Secondly I would like to know how you square Clinton's vote for the war? If you are not a Clinton supporter who do you support?
And firstly the secondly of the secondly. I am not a "Hillary supporter", although I like the idea of a woman president (of any color).

I think that by far the best candidate this year would have been Al Gore: experience, vision, right on the war, great international prestige based on action, not "charisma"... It still might happen in a hung convention, but the Democrats are the Democrats...

And secondly the secondly of the firstly:

Certainly you have to have a little confidence America is at least starting to head in the right direction.
Really, do I have to?

Four years ago, in perfect good faith, the American people
reelected a war criminal who had proved to be totally incompetent... even as a war criminal. Now they are ready to elect president a community organizer under the patronage of Dick Daley, with no experience relevant to managing the affairs of a superpower... pure Frank Capra, "Mr Smith Goes to Washington". Really do I have to have confidence?

And thirdly the secondly or perhaps the thirdly of the secondly.
Who do you support?
Actually I support myself, eating my bread in the sweat of my brow.

As to the presidency.

I see different scenarios:

  • Obama wins and reality and the interest groups and his desire for a second term cause him to fudge. I don't think he has anything near Jimmy Carter's integrity or anything like Bill Clinton's sex drive, so he will be much duller than people think. The kids will be heartbroken.
  • McCain wins and this means the end of Goldwater/Reagan Republicanism. (see Peggy Noonan's lament). This would truly transform American politics. Interesting idea: to survive, the Republicans commit ideological hara-kiri.
I really like what Obama says and I am horrified by many of the things McCain says, however, as you have noted, I am rather cynical, (the Spanish say that the devil knows more because of his age than because he is the devil) I pay little attention to anything a politician says when running for office and much attention to what he or she has actually done when in office.

In this case, as Obama has done practically nothing, I am left with what he says.

In the case of McCain, he has a very long record, some of it is quite attractive and some less. It does give you the feeling that there won't be many nasty surprises and there might even be some pleasant ones.

But, since I would have to vote absentee from Illinois, and the Land of Lincoln, will surely adorn itself with leis and hula skirts to vote massively for its favorite son, voting even for Ralph Nader would be a waste of time, so I probably will sit this one out. DS

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

The Corn Bomb

The US is starting to break its “addiction” to foreign oil as high prices, more efficient cars, and the use of ethanol significantly cut the share of its oil imports for the first time since 1977.(...) This new trend is likely to have domestic and international policy implications, making it harder to prove the case for drilling in Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and to reverse the ambitious biofuels production targets regardless of their impact on global food prices. Financial Times

Frustrations over rising prices and poor living conditions and resentment at a flood of immigrants from other parts of Africa have sparked some of the most chilling scenes in South Africa since the end of apartheid(...) "the problem will become worse because many people are without jobs and houses and food prices are rising. I can only predict worse." Financial Times

David Seaton's News Links
Above these lines are excerpts from the Financial Times. The first gives the "good news" that America is less dependent on Foreign oil, in great part thanks to Ethanol made from corn.... "regardless" of its impact on world food prices.

The second excerpt from the FT explains how the rising cost of food affects the poor of the third world and explains the horrific violence we are witnessing in South Africa.

And below these lines I have an extensive quote from an article by George Friedman of Stratfor warning of the dangers of Mexico collapsing into narco-anarchy as the drug cartels
bribe and intimidate civil servants at the highest level, fueled by the high prices their wares bring in the USA, prices pushed up by America's "war on drugs".

As Mexican President Porfirio Díaz once said, "Poor Mexico, so far from God and so near to the United States". How near and how far can be illustrated by the following excerpt from Business Week,
The U.S. slowdown is compounding poverty in rural Mexico as jobless migrants struggle to pay for rent and groceries, let alone send money home.(...) Mexico accounts for more than half of all remittances from the U.S., and they represent Mexico's biggest source of foreign earnings after oil. The country's rural poor, who rely on the wire transfers for basic consumption, are reeling from the drop. "For the families who are receiving this money, it can [be] around a third of household income," says Robert Meins, an IADB remittance expert. "It's that third that helps many…stay above the poverty line."(...) In the unpaved hamlet of Los Cuachalates, subsistence corn farmer Julián Calvillo, 65, sadly surveys a roofless bare brick construction site. His son, who worked in restaurants in Kansas City, Mo., had been wiring money to build a house. But he was fired because of the slowdown, has not been rehired, and has sent nothing for months. "We're all very sad," says Calvillo. "I'm borrowing from friends so that we can eat."(...) Even a crackdown on drug trafficking has been a mixed blessing. Michoacán is a major center for methamphetamine production and traffickers used to buoy the economy by splashing out on luxury goods. But an army crackdown by President Felipe Calderón has driven them underground and curbed their spending.
It seems so long ago, that it is hard to recall that once upon a time, when he was running for president in the year 2000, Bush said a number of sensible things that he quickly forgot on being elected. One of the most sensible was defining America's relationship with Mexico as its the most important foreign policy relationship. It was true then and it is true today: what happens in and to Mexico affects Americans, their prosperity and even their physical safety, much more than what happens in and to, say, Israel... Much, much more.

9-11 and the invasion of Iraq caused Mexico to disappear from America's agenda. However while we are following events far, far away, the rise in the price of corn, the staple food of Mexico's masses, due to ethanol production in the United States combined with the corruption flowing from drug money derived from from the bottomless appetites of American addicts, has put the political stability of Mexico is in grave danger.

If we add to that the effects of massive layoffs of Mexican workers in the USA due to the recession, with waves of unemployed
immigrants returning home empty handed to find corn meal priced out of their reach... combined with stringent border controls and the mass expulsions that so many US politicians are clamoring for... Add to that many armed and horribly violent cartel gunmen with money and automatic weapons.... we are looking at a potential geopolitical disaster far worse than the war in Iraq...

Mexico is not to be trifled with.

Mexico is a country of 100,000,000 people with one of the world's greatest revolutionary traditions. The legitimacy of the present government is not very great. As Professor Immanuel Walerstein observes, "the conservative government (of Felipe Calderón) won the last elections with about the same degree of legitimacy as Bush won the 2000 elections in the United States". If the drug cartels assassinated Calderón, who knows how quickly things might unravel?

In the same way that so many of the concerns we had in the golden summer of 2001 seem so frivolous and far off after 9-11, so today's disputes between Obama, Hillary and McCain may appear if Mexico explodes. All the elements are in place for disaster. And nobody seems to care very much. DS

Friedman: Mexico: On the Road to a Failed State? - Stratfor
Abstract: Violence along the U.S.-Mexican border has been intensifying for several years, and there have been attacks in Mexico City. But last week was noteworthy not so much for the body count, but for the type of people being killed. Very senior government police officials in Mexico City were killed along with senior Sinaloa cartel operatives in Sinaloa state.(...) Mexico now faces a classic problem. Multiple, well-armed organized groups have emerged. They are fighting among themselves while simultaneously fighting the government. The groups are fueled by vast amounts of money earned via drug smuggling to the United States. The amount of money involved — estimated at some $40 billion a year — is sufficient to increase tension between these criminal groups and give them the resources to conduct wars against each other. It also provides them with resources to bribe and intimidate government officials. The resources they deploy in some ways are superior to the resources the government employs. Given the amount of money they have, the organized criminal groups can be very effective in bribing government officials at all levels, from squad leaders patrolling the border to high-ranking state and federal officials. Given the resources they have, they can reach out and kill government officials at all levels as well. Government officials are human; and faced with the carrot of bribes and the stick of death, even the most incorruptible is going to be cautious in executing operations against the cartels.(...) There comes a moment when the imbalance in resources reverses the relationship between government and cartels. Government officials, seeing the futility of resistance, effectively become tools of the cartels. Since there are multiple cartels, the area of competition ceases to be solely the border towns, shifting to the corridors of power in Mexico City. Government officials begin giving their primary loyalty not to the government but to one of the cartels. The government thus becomes both an arena for competition among the cartels and an instrument used by one cartel against another.(...) It is important to point out that we are not speaking here of corruption, which exists in all governments everywhere. Instead, we are talking about a systematic breakdown of the state, in which government is not simply influenced by criminals, but becomes an instrument of criminals — either simply an arena for battling among groups or under the control of a particular group. The state no longer can carry out its primary function of imposing peace, and it becomes helpless, or itself a direct perpetrator of crime.(...) The killing of senior state police officials causes other officials to recalculate their attitudes. The state is no longer seen as a competent protector, and being a state official is seen as a liability — potentially a fatal liability — unless protection is sought from a cartel, a protection that can be very lucrative indeed for the protector. The killing of senior cartel members intensifies conflict among cartels, making it even more difficult for the government to control the situation and intensifying the movement toward failure. It is important to remember that Mexico has a tradition of failed governments, particularly in the 19th and early 20th century. In those periods, Mexico City became an arena for struggle among army officers and regional groups straddling the line between criminal and political. The Mexican army became an instrument in this struggle and its control a prize. The one thing missing was the vast amounts of money at stake. So there is a tradition of state failure in Mexico, and there are higher stakes today than before.(...) Mexico’s potential failure is important for three reasons. First, Mexico is a huge country, with a population of more than 100 million. Second, it has a large economy — the 14th-largest in the world. And third, it shares an extended border with the world’s only global power, one that has assumed for most of the 20th century that its domination of North America and control of its borders is a foregone conclusion. If Mexico fails, there are serious geopolitical repercussions. This is not simply a criminal matter. The amount of money accumulated in Mexico derives from smuggling operations in the United States. Drugs go one way, money another. But all the money doesn’t have to return to Mexico or to third-party countries. If Mexico fails, the leading cartels will compete in the United States, and that competition will extend to the source of the money as well. We have already seen cartel violence in the border areas of the United States, but this risk is not limited to that. The same process that we see under way in Mexico could extend to the United States; logic dictates that it would.(...) So long as vast quantities of goods flow across the border, the border cannot be sealed. Immigration might be limited by a wall, but the goods that cross the border do so at roads and bridges, and the sheer amount of goods crossing the border makes careful inspection impossible. The drugs will come across the border embedded in this trade as well as by other routes. So will gunmen from the cartel and anything else needed to take control of Los Angeles’ drug market.(...) One way to deal with the problem would be ending the artificial price of drugs by legalizing them. This would rapidly lower the price of drugs and vastly reduce the money to be made in smuggling them. Nothing hurt the American cartels more than the repeal of Prohibition, and nothing helped them more than Prohibition itself. Nevertheless, from an objective point of view, drug legalization isn’t going to happen. There is no visible political coalition of substantial size advocating this solution. Therefore, U.S. drug policy will continue to raise the price of drugs artificially, effective interdiction will be impossible, and the Mexican cartels will prosper and make war on each other and on the Mexican state.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Barack Gorbachev?

ZO wrote me this:
Barack is going to do something ... he is going to increase our standing in the eyes of the rest of the world not only by virtue of the fact that he is articulate, charismatic and Black ... but because the old bullshitting bellicosity is so over. As a paradigm, it stinks, as a practice, it more than stinks.
And it got me thinking. (thanks for the prod ZO) She is right, absolutely right, but that isn't going to do us much good.

David Seaton's News Links

My problem with Barack Obama is that my intuition tells me he is an empty suit. He is as proud, clever, gifted and as opportunistic as Lucifer, but I don't think there is really that much human content there. Sorry, but I just can't get by my feeling on this. Here is a humorous way of saying it:
“Senator Obama answered doubts about his inexperience by saying he has gained tremendous insight from his work as a community organizer, civil rights attorney, constitutional law professor, key club president, 4H treasurer, lunch room monitor, two years of jazz, and four years of tap.” –Amy Poehler
ZO says:
"he is going to increase our standing in the eyes of the rest of the world not only by virtue of the fact that he is articulate, charismatic and Black ... but because the old bullshitting bellicosity is so over."
I agree that many people will expect great changes. But really, once in the White House ", Obama would be left holding the bag... a bag that dates at least back until the 1940s and not everyone on the helm since then has been as useless as Bush, in fact some of the Presidents since then have been top class, in that group I would even include such flawed figures as Lyndon Johnson and Richard (shudder) Nixon... Nixon, hateful as he was, forgot more about geopolitics in a minute than Obama will ever know.

The USA today, contradictions and conflicts, warts and all, is what we have all made it... day by day and year by year. Paraphrasing Donald Rumsfeld, "you don't go with the country you want, you go with the country you have".

As I showed in a previous post, even a real, revolutionary genius like Lenin and a mass killer like Stalin and all of his purges couldn't change the basic, "soul" of Russian culture, how can anyone expect a minnow like Barack Obama to succeed in changing America's?

If he gets a huge mandate and a Democratic Senate and Congress, there are two possibilities that I can see, either he doesn't try to really change anything... a lot of disappointed kids and a lot of wasted time.

Second possibility, he does try to change things... and it all falls apart.

How will we know right away? In the first year?

Whatever the positive effect of his being "articulate, charismatic and Black", it will not last very long if he doesn't face down AIPAC and the Israeli government in his first year in office. There will be no peace in the Middle East until an American president implements UN-242 or something very much like it.

I don't think Obama will ever dare to do that and as for the "old bullshitting bellicosity", I agree with ZO that it more than stinks, but Karma is Karma... Maybe a rich old geezer, can get a face lift, eat Viagra like candy and leave his loyal old lady for a trophy wife, but that doesn't work for countries.

Like it or not, what is left of America's prosperity, the dollar and its influence, has come to depend on America's military presence all over the world. This is one of America's greatest tragedies. And don't forget... Nobody is waiting for moral lessons from America. America has created its role as world gendarme and that is about all it still has to sell that can't be easily bought elsewhere.

We are not talking about change, we are talking about disaster management.

Things have practically unraveled already; they were unraveling before Bush, but he has accelerated the process by about twenty years. Without military credibility and endless shopping, the USA is going to see its "way of life" implode.

What has happened?

The secret of much of what is happening today is that America was almost as badly damaged by the cold war as the Soviet Union.

Like the Soviet Union, while others were learning to build good cars and TVs, airports and roads, Americans only built 'intelligent' munitions.
People are waking up to reality and in true American fashion, they are reaching for the tranquilizer... the man with a plan, the change they can believe in... Not that dumb? We are talking about the same people who reelected George W. Bush, now with buyer's remorse... Wheeee!

The USA is just waiting for an amateur to tinker with it.

Is Barack Obama to be the American Gorbachev?

Michail Gorbachev, in contrast to Barack Obama had a very rigorous ideological formation and a deep practical knowledge of his system from the bottom up and he was really tough... No choirboy ever got to the top of the CP-USSR. Obviously he should have chosen the Chinese path, but in fact he and Raisa had so much faith in Marxism that they thought it would survive his tampering.

Michail Gorbachev tried to change his system and it fell apart in his hands, everybody outside the USSR thought he was wonderful, "articulate and charismatic", he was a movie star for the whole world... In Russia they have never forgiven him. Putin calls what he did the greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the 20th century and most Russians agree.

Is Barack Obama to be the American Gorbachev?

Think very carefully before you answer that... remember that after Gorbachev comes Yeltsin and Putin.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

The Republican paternity suit

Sackcloth and ashes

David Seaton's News Links
(Before going any farther, at the bottom of this post, I've put down a short manifesto of what my objectives are, because the paths I take in following them may seem a bit tortuous to my readers.)

One of my favorite bloggers, James Wolcott, over at Vanity Fair, has written a good piece about a lament-filled article by Peggy Noonan in the Wall Street Journal, yesterday I riffed on it, today I'd like to riff a little bit more.

I think that, through an understandable lack of empathy for Republicans, Mr. Wolcott perhaps missed the significance of the most important phrase in Ms. Noonan's ashes and sackcloth aria. This was the phrase:
Mr. Bush has squandered the hard-built paternity of 40 years.
What Ms. Noonan -- with a broken heart -- is saying is that the Republican Party of Goldwater and Reagan (Ms Noonan's life's work) has been destroyed by feckless Bushism. That John McCain might very well win the presidency is no consolation to Peggy Noonan, because to win it, he will have to drive a stake through Barry Goldwater's and Ronald Reagan's hearts.

This is an election that McCain can win but which Noonan's Republican Party cannot. Dick Morris, former adviser to Bill Clinton and political analyst for Fox News sums the situation up brilliantly in the Washington Post:
A candidate who cannot get elected is being nominated by a party that cannot be defeated, while a candidate who is eminently electable is running as the nominee of a party doomed to defeat.
Morris then goes on to plausibly map out McCain's possible path to victory in November. It isn't pretty, but it sure isn't Reagan redux. here are some points:
McCain needs to go after the swing voters:

Lash out at the corporate greed that landed us in the subprime mortgage crisis. Attack the golden-parachute pensions, the ill-gotten commissions and the maddening lending fees.

Go after credit card companies' interest rates, late fees and consumer gouging.

Demand action on global warming (as McCain began doing last week, including hawking "eco-friendly" campaign T-shirts).

Call for a ban on all congressional earmarks, with their inevitable waste and pork, and insist that Congress appoint a permanent ethics special prosecutor to police itself.

Attack big tobacco, and blast the movie industry for helping sell its poison.

Pledge to make hedge-fund managers pay full earned-income taxes on their incomes, rather than the undeserved capital-gains treatment they currently get.(...)

McCain need not depart from long-held principles to wage any of these battles. He has always embraced these causes as a senator, and he needs to do so ever more forcefully as a candidate for president. The danger for McCain is that he will forget that he has already won the Republican nomination and retreat to safe GOP positions, which will alienate precisely the Democrats and independents whom he is uniquely positioned to attract.
I would add that only other Republican that could sell this convincingly with McCain is the populist, Mike Huckabee.

It is easy to see why Ms. Noonan, like Job, is sitting in the ashes scraping her sores with a pottery shard, but where I differ from James Wolcott is to think that Peggy Noonan's discomfort holds any comfort for Barack Obama or the Democrats this year. DS

Full disclosure (a declaration of principals)
I want to make it clear, where I am coming from so that what I say from now on can be correctly interpreted.

What I would like for the USA is first: a federal, universal, obligatory, public health system that would be so good that the private system would be reduced to preforming silicon breast implants on precocious 12 year old Valley girls. This would mean that a little black girl in Tupelo Mississippi would have the same medical care as a rich little white boy in Lake Forest Illinois.

Next I would like a free, federal, universal, public education system, from cradle through post graduate, that would be so good that only people belonging to strange sects, would think it worth the money to send their kids to a private school. Like the French Lycée system: the same all over the country, same courses, same exams, same standards for all students, so that the little black girl in Tupelo Mississippi would get exactly the same, quality education, as the rich little white boy in Lake Forest Illinois. All of this with a free public university system, so good that Harvard, Yale and Princeton would be reduced to diploma mills for rich kids that didn't want to study hard.

And a good pension system, of course. This what I consider the minimum a "progressive" should demand from the state.

You might have a few questions.

Does this mean big government?

You bet. It would mean a huge, unionized, bureaucracy.

Wouldn't that be very expensive?

Horribly expensive.

How would you pay for it?

To start with I would reduce US military spending to make it only more powerful than the combination of China and Russia and not more powerful than the next 19 countries on the list all together. I would be grateful to see the numbers, but I imagine that setting up my version of America would cost a lot less than the war in Iraq.

Now it is easy to understand that from my viewpoint the Democratic Party of the USA is the greatest bunch of wankers since Tommy Chong's
definitive, "Harry Palms". I am not sure that the Democrats are a path to the kind of America I would like, in fact they might be the greatest obstacle standing in the way. So while generally feeling more comfortable traveling in the company of Democrats, I am not rooting for them.

Having read and understood this, you may understand why I am often crueler to Democrats than to Republicans. With them, what you see is what you get, while with the Democrats we may be looking at nothing more than a Judas goat to neutralize the appearance of any social movement in America that might bring about social justice.

I think that all of this is something that the politicians really cannot be expected to do. The civil rights movement came from the African-American community's political agitation, the politicians bowed to that pressure. I think it will require mass movements, even a classic general strike to get my agenda taken care of. Barack Obama is not going to do any of this... people are fooling themselves if they think he ever will.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Bush's "appeasment" remark... What is he up to?

This is and will be the great challenge for John McCain: The Democratic argument, now being market tested by Obama Inc., that a McCain victory will yield nothing more or less than George Bush's third term. Peggy Noonan - Wall Street Journal (tip of the hat to James Wolcott)
David Seaton's News Links
George Bush has made so many mistakes in the last eight years attempting to run the country, that it is easy to forget that there is something that he is actually very, very good at: campaigning.

For if Barack Obama has managed to turn a vacuum, a veritable empty space, where others have a CV filled with achievement, into a serious bid for the presidency, George W. Bush has gone much, much farther and has turned a quite nasty CV, filled with misadventures, into two terms in the White House.

The President of the United States of America may have little idea about what to do after winning an election, but he sure knows how to win elections. Democrats, having experienced this in their own flesh, would be foolish to misunderestimate George W. Bush the politician. A cornered Bush should cause them some healthy respect.

Here is the problem: Bush the President is radioactive. Peggy Noonan puts it this way,
The Democratic argument, now being market tested by Obama Inc., that a McCain victory will yield nothing more or less than George Bush's third term.
A McCain victory will, in many senses, be a vindication of George W. Bush.

For McCain there is no way around this. There is no way that a Republican candidate can completely disown a sitting Republican president. Everybody knows that McCain is not Bush, but a McCain victory would, in a sense, be a plus for Bush's tattered, miserable legacy... in fact it would be a triumph under these circumstances.

Since Bush exists and even if McCain were Harry Potter
there is no way that he could conjure him away and at the same time, without a McCain victory, Bush faces being ridden out of Washington on a rail... a pariah.. it is obvious that Bush and McCain have to work together...

Bush is going to campaign for McCain as if his life depended on it... in a sense the rest of his life does. No one has ever failed as publicly and totally as George W. Bush, this is his last chance to pull it out...

All that is standing between George W. Bush and a decent place in history is Barack Obama... Knowing what Bush is capable of, if I were Obama, this would make me very nervous.

This does not mean that the President will be out on the hustings making speeches for McCain, because having Bush speaking for you is every Republican's present nightmare. No, he will be too busy in the White House being the President of the United States.

George W. Bush is going to use the Presidency of the United States of America, with all its power to control the news cycle, to create an environment where Barack Obama's perceived weaknesses: inexperience, naiveté and strangeness, will be shown off to his greatest disadvantage. Bush will attack Obama's position with acts and words. In unscrupulous hands the White House can create an environment of unbearable tension.
In this effort Bush may have the inestimable help of Osama bin Laden, who has done so well with the Republicans and would have no reason to desire a change.

The vast resources of the White House and the government of the country will be focused almost entirely on this till November.

While Bush uses the office of the President to play dirty, McCain will simply float above it all, the steady American hero, the maverick, plain speaker of vast experience... feisty, Scotch-Irish against a callow youth of uncertain background. I think he'll pick Huckabee as his VP, a great campaigner, a populist, evangelical, southerner. Here Hillary has clearly pointed the way. Neither McCain or Huckabee will stoop to any dirty stuff. That will be left to the 527s and POTUS. McCain will simply be who he is and Bush will use the power of the presidency to define Obama.

Good cop, bad cop.

I am a hundred percent sure that this is going to be the dirtiest campaign in the history of the United States. DS