Friday, February 29, 2008

Same Old, Same Old

Germany: Gallery Shut After Muslim Threats

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Published: February 29, 2008

The authorities in Berlin closed a gallery whose exhibition included satirical works by Danish artists that caricatured the Kaaba shrine in Mecca after Muslims protested, the German news agency Deutsche Presse Agentur reported, citing the local arts council. The protesters had threatened to use violence if the posters of the Danish art group Surrend were not removed from the gallery, Galerie Nord, the report said.

The Bike Path

I have long been an advocate of the most heinous of incorrigible criminals being set to the task of building the Trans-Antarctic Bike Path. There would be no need for security since everyone would be free to escape whenever they liked. Lots of fresh air and open space which would be a big improvement over tiny repressive cells in prisons. It would be a Gulag with a purpose, our Australia. They would also be getting in on the ground floor of global warming. The benefits to the rest of humanity of the T-ABP would be inestimable. Or at least difficult to estimate.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Readings in Ancient History

Readings in Ancient History,
Thought and Experience from Gilgamesh to Saint Augustine
edited by Nels M. Bailkey

Dear Janet,
I was unwilling to tell you about the book I just finished for fear I would seem pedantic. But it ended so movingly with an exchange between the late 4th Century poet Ausonius and his pupil Paulinus of Nola, that I am no longer embarrassed. They are writing in an era when the Roman world is in decay, dying, about to be over-run by barbarians, an age when people had lost hope in the future and were turning away from life. Ausonius has had a long career as a professor of rhetoric and adviser to emperors. He has retired to his estates near Bordeaux.

On Newblown Roses

Spring, and the sharpness of the golden dawn.
Before the sun was up a cooler breeze
Had blown, in promise of a day of heat,
And I was walking in my formal garden,
To freshen me, before the day grew old.

I saw the hoar frost stiff on the bent grasses,
Sitting in fat globes on the cabbage leaves,
And all my Paestum roses laughing at me,
Dew-drenched, and in the East the morning star,
And here and there a dewdrop glistening white,
That soon must perish in the early sun.

One moment, all on fire and crimson glowing,
All pallid now and bare and desolate.
I marvelled at the flying rape of time;
But now a rose was born: that rose is old.
Even as I speak the crimson petals float
Down drifting, and the crimsoned earth is bright.

So many lovely things, so rare, so young,
A day begat them, and a day will end.
O Earth, to give a flower so brief a grace!
As long as a day is long, so the life of a rose.
The golden sun at morning sees her born,
And late at eve returning finds her old.
Yet wise is she, that hath so so soon to die,
And lives her life in some succeeding rose.
O maid, while youth is with the rose and thee,
Pluck thou the rose: life is as swift for thee.

Ausonius' student Paulinus was a lawyer and poet. He rose in the administration, became wealthy, eventually became a provincial governor in Italy before he was 30. Suddenly he stopped writing to Ausonius. He had undergone a spiritual crisis, given away his vast estates, and become a parish priest in the obscure town of Nola in southern Italy. Here he sounds the death-knell of the Roman world.

To Ausonius

Not that they beggared be in mind, or brutes,
That they have chosen their dwelling place afar
In lonely places: but their eyes are turned
to the high stars, the very deep of Truth.
Freedom they seek, an emptiness apart
From worthless hopes: din of the marketplace,
And all the noisy crowding up of things,
And whatsoever wars on the divine,
At Christ's command and for His love, they hate;
By faith and hope they follow after God,
And know their quest shall not be desperate,
If but the Present conquer not their souls
With hollow things: that which they see they spurn
That they may come at what they do not see,
Their sense kindled like a torch, that may
Blaze through the secrets of eternity.
The transient's open, everlastingness
Denied our sight; yet still by hope we follow
The vision that our minds have seen, despising
The shows and forms of things, the loveliness
Soliciting for ill our mortal eyes.
The present's nothing: but eternity
Abides for those on whom all truth, all good,
Hath shone, in one entire and perfect light.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

'S Wonderful

Ralph Nader has just announced that he is running for president. So now we have an Arab and a guy named Hussein. They are expected to split the Empty Rhetoric vote. Governor Huckabee, ever honest to a fault, observed that Republicans were glad to see him because he had taken votes away from the Democrats in the past.

For those of us whose main interest in politics is to mock, it is a joy and a promise of wonderful things to come.

[It is common to denounce Nader for his ego, a euphemism for arrogance. Notice how Arabs so frequently denounce the US and Israel for being "arrogant"? Not aggressive or imperialist or bullying or any other of the adjectives of denunciation. Always arrogant. Which is exactly how outsiders generally experience Arabs. What can it mean?]

So with a convention fight as a real possibility if Clinton wins Texas and Ohio, and the assurance that the nominee would come out of it dirtied up, there is now someplace for offended and disaffected Democrats to go to waste their votes.

As the clock has been wound backward to 2000, does it mean I have to give back the seven years worth of birthday presents?

Saturday, February 23, 2008


was here yesterday because a deposition ran short. Played "Tequila" on the shofar. Not everybody can do that.

The Lessig Campaign

Letter to Mardi
Many people are impressed with the campaign of Lawrence Lessig, a Stanford professor running for the congressional seat of the late Tom Lantos.

Sorry to be so (old and) cynical but I have seen it before and it was a fraud every time. Ron Dellums was going to be a new broom who would change everything. Spent 30 years becoming a member of the Old Guard of Democratic House politics. Barbara Boxer - redhot radical progressive - now a member of the Senate power elite. Even more so Pelosi, now Speaker of the House. Look at all the revolutionary reforms she has introduced now that she is in power, in actual control of Congress. Even Bill and Hillary Clinton were going to make a break with the politics of the past. Kennedy's administration was going to be a New Frontier in American politics and history. In his three years in power he did nothing but get us into and barely out of nearly-catastrophic confrontations with the Russians. Jimmy Carter was going to clean up Washington after the corruption and scandal of the Nixon years. Accomplished nothing. Ruined the economy. Currently on the Saudi payroll. Ditto Jerry Brown and Tom Hayden. Valuable and important contributions by the progressives include Ralph Nader not seeing "a dime's worth of difference" between the author of "Earth in the Balance", Al Gore, and two Texas oil men. Whereupon he sucked away enough Florida votes from Gore to give Bush the presidency.

As to Lessig himself, his one-second attack on Jackie Speiers is itself typical of what is wrong with our politics. I don't know anything about Jackie Speiers but I know a smear when I see one.

Lessig wants to "Build a Movement"? How long have we been hearing that tune? I have been hearing about "Building a Movement" since I was a freshman at Berkeley in 1964. They have been building it for 40 years and still there is no Movement.

Nevertheless I am going to do my duty to the nation. On election day I am going to pick up trash in one of California's national parks.

I have long struggled with the impulse to get a bumper sticker that reads, "Vote for the Scumbag of Your Choice!", but cooler heads have prevailed.

Better Late Than Never

Somehow I missed Stanley Kubrick's "Barry Lyndon" when it came out in 1975. It was nominated for, but did not win, Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Screenplay Adaptation. It won Best Cinematography, Best Art Direction, Best Adapted Music. It is based on the mid-19th Century William Makepeace Thackeray novel of the same name.

It is a truly beautiful movie. Every scene is a gorgeous still. For reasons best known only to the late Stanley Kubrick, Ryan O'Neal who plays the lead has the same hangdog expression in every season no matter what is going on. Every other actor performs handsomely and persuasively except Marisa Berenson as Barry Lyndon's wife, who is kept as expressionless as O'Neal.

There is some sort of story, presumably a cautionary tale about being an asshole, but it doesn't seem to signify much. Rather it is a series of views of the most beautiful scenes of rural Ireland, England, and Germany, invariably in the most lovely late afternoon light, and of glorious interiors of 18th century palaces in each country.

There are some wonderful scenes of armies of the Seven Years War (1756-1763). As an aside, Churchill with justice called it the first world war. It was fought in India, in America it was the French and Indian War, and was fought all over Europe from Spain to Russia. It is estimated to have cost a million lives overall.

The music was as sumptuous as the cinematography. Some of the music during the Prussian scenes was by Frederick the Great.

Once one gets used to Ryan O'Neal never changing expression, it is a genuinely fine movie and if one hasn't seen it, one should definitely rent it.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Down Came the Rain

A pretty silver-gray day. I am conflicted in that I am enjoying the rain but don't want to go out in it. It is like admiring someone but not liking them. Even so urgency in and of itself is a reason to do things. Life passes us by else. And that is a matter of life and death, arguably something to take seriously.

I have decided that it is madness to have this enormous RV and never go anywhere in it. It is living with relatives now, the Golden Gate Truck Center ("your Freightliner chassis' home away from home") but it should come back soon with all new pneumatic control valves and ride properly. I have to get the heater working (I think it just needs a new switch.) and I am good to go.

I can spend days like this one at Fort Ross, in the Sierra, in Death Valley, Humboldt, the Oregon Coast, anywhere. Not every trip has to be to the end of the world.

For short trips it is not as risky-unto-suicidal to take a companion as for longer ones. Presumably any two people, no matter how mistakenly they chose one another, can tolerate one another for two days if they know it will be over in a few more hours. But not every time. I cannot imagine a woman who will let me read, daydream out the window, read some more, take a nap, then read and daydream some more, drink beer in the afternoon. Even if she would let me be, I would feel that I needed to attend to her, to take responsibility for her not being bored. So I wouldn't let me be, even if she would.

There are small errands I can run on a day like this. I need milk. I don't like coffee without milk so it is an issue. I bought a carrying case for this laptop at Staples and it is too small so I should return it.  I should return Nancy and Bohun's Jumpin' Johnny covered pot that they left here on New Year's Eve, not quite a sixth of a year ago. There is lots of stuff to do, all of it trivial. Some of it is not so trivial. I am two years behind in sending in my tax returns. I really have to send them in. Really.

Humourous Interviews on Public Television

The Navy today shot down an obsolete spy satellite. The nominal reason was to prevent it from hitting anyone and making a mess when it hit. In fact the purpose was to demonstrate the Navy's capability to shoot down satellites, and by extension, missiles. The Chinese have already shot down one of their own weather satellites for the same reason. Absurdly the United States protested the Chinese satellite-whacking as provocative and complained that it littered space with debris. Lehrer had a military camp follower in a suit and a pious schmuck from MIT to debate the shooting down.

The pimp in the suit pretended not to know that the purpose of the shoot was to demonstrate the capability of doing it. The pious schmuck from MIT (he even had a beard) belabored that the purpose of the shot was not actually to shoot the satellite down.

The MIT professor went on to object to the shot on the ground that the Russians and Chinese wouldn't like it. I guffawed. The purpose of the exercise was for the Russians and Chinese not to like it.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

A New Economic Power?

The German government is putting the screws to the Principality of Leichtenstein. Apparently the entire country is a tax dodge for German tax frauds. Leichtenstein may be looking for allies to help it resist Germany. Leichtenstein considered France and Poland but decided not to. Early reports that I have just made up indicate plans for anschluss with the Cayman Islands. The proposed national motto of the new country is "We Have No Idea What You're Talking About".


Whenever there is a small earthquake there is the question, was that the earthquake or was it a foreshock of the much bigger earthquake that will happen soon? The house was just jolted (12:37 pm). It may have been a temblor. If this is the last you hear of me, it was a foreshock.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

New and Better Fantasies a Lot Like Old Ones

The basic premise of my life before, and especially since, retirement has been that if I could not find a way to have a meaningful life or a meaningful relationship, that the thing to do is to travel. Absolutely everybody, when asked what they would do when they retire, says that they will travel. When asked what else they would do, there is some hemming and hawing, and then a reference to travel again.

(Absolutely no one at all ever mentions watching television as something they plan to do in retirement though it is perfectly foreseeable that they will and they know it. My plan to protect myself from watching too much television by cheaping out and get only basic cable has worked. There truly is not much on basic cable. There doesn't seem to be anything any better on the blocked channels either. Baruch Hashem!)

So, being of a perennially literal turn of mind, I have been traveling and then hemming and hawing, then traveling some more. This year is no different. I am going to Death Valley for the wildflowers in March, April in Paris, May visiting my father's hometown of Jelgava in Latvia, then leaving in the Pachyderm for BC and Alaska. I leave in July for an eclipse in China. After the eclipse I mean to take a side trip to Tibet on the famous pressurized train.

I am not sure what the point of all this running around might be except that I have nothing better to do, everybody (by which I mean women) admires me for doing it, and I have talked myself into doing it. I enjoy it too.

But is it really a life?

Sunday, February 17, 2008

The Last Quarter

One would think that so late in life I would have by now grown a carapace, or at least a thick hide, in which to hide. Being subject to the unpleasantnesses of women should by now be familiar and easily borne. The fact that the one is a great virago, an admitted emotional cripple unable to endure an equal relationship, and the other a dope with an inflated opinion of herself, does not make it easy. It should, but it doesn't. Being bound as a gentleman not to exchange insults with a woman, albeit no lady, makes it harder still.

Being smart not only doesn't help, it is a positive hindrance. Seeing a smaller mind struggle with her insecurities and inadequacies, and understanding her behavior, makes me unwilling to make her feel bad just because she made me feel bad. I am indeed positively grateful in each case to be shut of them. But there is no getting away from feeling buffeted and depressed.

Sheila being, as she now admits, "entitled and arrogant", is hardly news. The other being erratic, self-righteous, and hypersensitive was unfamiliar ground but not unexpected. If I am glad to be done with them, why does the unpleasantness of the exchange in each case continue to upset me?

The truth is that for all my pretense of rhetorical toughness, I am so thin-skinned that I bleed to death from a pinprick.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Wikipedia Bio of McCain

I recommend the Wikipedia biography of John McCain. (use 'Wikipedia' and 'John McCain" as search terms). It seemed a fair and balanced treatment. He has lots to recommend him and lots to condemn him. He seems to me someone who is frequently an asshole, but sometimes commendably so, if that makes any sense. Well worth reading.

There is a saying that one should never get in bed with anyone crazier than you are. Probably one shouldn't elect as president anyone crazier than you are either.

Which raises the question of how many of your presidents would you say have been crazier than you are? I think we can all agree Nixon was a bit of a loon, with that lifetime fake persona. Ford may have been the sanest simply on the grounds of being dull and unimaginative. How about a brilliant gifted man with a compulsive self-destructive trouser snake problem? Are you saner than he? Or a reformed alcoholic who, according to the 12 Steps, has no more than a daily reprieve from his compulsive self-destructive impulses? Reagan strikes me as fairly sane in spite of being frequently self-deluded - like when he liberated Auschwitz though actually he was in Hollywood at the time. But his sunny optimism seems a healthy attitude.

If we regard McCain in this spectrum, with Nixon as the top scorer, of our presidents since Ike, he would be in the top half. He is definitely crazier than I am.

Another virtue McCain has is that, if he were elected, the president would still be someone older than I am. I have been able to dodge the bullet by a few months with both Bill Clinton and George Bush. Hillary Clinton and especially Barack Obama would both ruin my heretofore unbroken string of having been younger than every single president. Is it worth having some impulsive senile fool in charge of 'The Button' just to salve my feelings of getting old? Probably.

Imagine the US with an angry impulsive militaristic president while Russia is led by the angry impulsive militarist Putin. Hot times a-comin....?

Hillary is lookin' better all the time though I don't like her, believe her, nor trust her.

Shabbat Shalom

The cherry blossoms have come in my yard. The joy and beauty bring me almost to tears. I can understand the inner impulses that drive religions of Spring Rebirth, including one popular in the Americas. And gratitude that the winter is past and that we are still alive.

"In the spring a young man's fancy turns lightly to thoughts of love." (Tennyson, 'Locksley Hall')
So what does an old man's fancy turn to in the spring?

"The flowers appear on the earth; the time of singing is come, and the voice of the turtle is heard in our land." Song of Solomon (JPS translation)

I am restless. The spring is a time of new beginnings. What will I begin? Is there more to life than travel, running errands, and dating old ladies? In an earlier era I would have begun the spring planting. I would have begun pairing cattle, sheep, and goats as their breeding season began.

For medieval Vikings and Arabs, spring was the beginning of monastery-looting season. For baseball players it is the beginning of steroid and lying-to-Congress season.

I can feel the sap rising but I don't know what to do with it.

Friday, February 15, 2008

A Peculiar Posture

Today the House refused to renew the Surveillance Act which empowers the FBI to watch you go to the bathroom. If there is a major terrorist attack on the United States between now and election day, the Democrats are almost certainly toast. So the prospects of the Democratic Party and its candidates are dependent on the efficacy of the Republican government to prevent terrorist attacks. In particular they are dependent on the very branch of government, Homeland Security, they most despise.

How twisted am I that I find this funny?

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

A Family Story

My great-aunt Lena was wealthy but lived in a small stucco bungalow in then-seedy Venice, California. She attracted a vulture named Sarah Bloom. Mrs. Bloom was endlessly attentive to Lena and Lena would always senilely and sentimentally proclaim her gratitude and that she would leave her everything when she died. This went on for years until one time Mrs. Bloom lost her temper and shouted, "But you're not dying! You go on and on!" Lena was taken aback but seemed to have forgotten Mrs. Bloom's outburst, as she had forgotten so much else.

In 1961 Lena died. Her will left Mrs. Bloom only "a rope with which to support herself". The block of 4,000 GM shares went to obscure relatives in Michigan. She left the bungalow to my father, subject to him paying $5,000 to his brother, or failing the payment, splitting the house with him. My father wanted the house more than the money, so he went to a loan shark in Hollywood for the $5,000. He paid the legbreaker off by mortgaging the house as soon as he got it from the estate. A bridge loan.

According to that never-modified bungalow in now ever-so-chic Venice was worth a million dollars last summer.

Vaguely Political but Fun Anyway

The Clinton campaign has just dumped its chief of staff and replaced her with Maggie Williams.

Wikipedia bio of Maggie Williams --

"Williams received her undergraduate degree from Trinity College in 1977 and her Masters from the Annenberg School for Communication at the University of Pennsylvania.

She served as Chief of Staff for Hillary Clinton during her first term as First Lady of the United States, the first African American woman to hold that position. Prior to this, she was employed by the Children's Defense Fund and Senator Robert Torricelli [of New Jersey]. In 1995, a Secret Service officer testified that he saw her leave Vince Foster's office carrying documents after Foster committed suicide; Williams denied the allegation. In 1996 Williams accepted a $50,000 check for the Democratic National Committee from fundraiser Johnny Chung; more than $300,000 that Chung had raised was returned by the DNC because of questions about the source of the money. In Clinton's 2006 re-election campaign, Williams's consulting firm received a $37,500 fee that was questioned due to excessive consulting fees for a barely contested election that cost $30 million; it was determined by the campaign staff that the payment was in error and should have been for less than $5,000 to reimburse travel costs, and they stated that the overpayment would be returned to the campaign.

Since 2000, Williams served as the President of Fenton Communications. In this position, she became the highest ranked black woman in an American top-50 public relations firm. Previously, Williams served as a communications consultant in Paris."

Once women began to run for and hold high political office, I suppose it became inevitable that there would be henchwomen.


Tuesday, February 12, 2008

OK, so I lied

I promised no more politics but tonight I saw an interesting map/graphic spreadsheet on CNN. According to that map, because of proportional representation, if Governor Huckabee wins every state from now on by 55%-45%, Senator McCain still ends up with more than enough delegates to win the nomination.

Conversely, if Senator Obama wins every remaining state 55%-45% he won't have a winning majority. Neither would Senator Clinton if she wins the rest. Only a series of runaway wins can lead to either candidate going to Denver with the nomination already in hand.

Which means that the Republican convention will open with McCain already the nominee. And the Democratic convention will probably open without a nominee.

That creates the prospect of a desperate fight over seating the Florida and Michigan delegations, protracted and visibly corrupt deal-making for the super-delegates, and, of course, litigation.

The nation's attention will be on the struggles among the Democrats during the convention, which will dirty up their nomination as the product of a corrupt deal. The Democratic convention is scheduled to open in Denver on August 25th and close on August 28th.

McCain will run around the country with no one laying a glove on him for months. McCain will continue spouting the same twaddle I heard yet again tonight. He argued that what the most unfairly stacked-in-favor-of-the-rich tax system of any developed country needs, is more tax cuts for the rich. He has the gall to run against Washington apparently on the theory the voters can't remember that his party has had the White House the past 8 years, and that two years ago the voters threw his party out of power after 14 years of controlling Congress. He is running against Washington in spite of being one of the main rascals at the center of it for more than 30 years. And getting away with it.

Jon Stewart of 'The Daily Show' has wondered aloud how the Democrats would find a way to yet again snatch defeat from the jaws of certain victory. They seem to have found it.

The Evolution of Jewish Humor

The President of Iran was wondering who to invade when his telephone rang.

"This is Mendel in Tel Aviv. We're officially declaring war on you!"

"How big is your army?" the president asked.

"There's me, my cousin Moishe, and our pinochle team!"

"I have a million in my army," said the president.

"I'll call back", said Mendel.

The next day he called. "The var's still on! We have now a bulldozer, Goldblatt's tractor, plus the canasta team!

"I have 16,000 tanks, and my army is now two million."

"Oy gevalt!", said Mendel. "I'll call back."

He phoned the next day. "We're calling off the var."


"Well," said Mendel, "we've all had a little chat, and there's no way we can feed two million prisoners."

Hoofers #1

ONe expects little among the prosperous mudflats on which Sacramento is built. Yet I found a gem there. The Sacramento Ballet performed 'Streetcar Named Desire' last week. Like most modern ballet it has evolved away from classical forms toward modern dance. Yet the evolution here is not objectionable. It is not done out of mindless self-indulgent latest-moment fashionableness. Here it is done for the sound and reasonable purpose of acting out a play-in-dance, as opera is a play-in-song. Even without words, the story is powerfully affecting.

I assumed as a matter of course that the choreography was done in New York, London, or LA and imported to the mudlands of the capital. I was surprised unto astonished that it was written by Sacramento Ballet's own Artistic Director, Ron Cunningham, now in his 20th year there.

If 'Streetcar Named Desire' is representative, the Sacramento Ballet is worth a drive from places even as remote as, say, Chico.

Note: Do not get carried away and get seats in the front row. From there the orchestra railing prevents the viewer from seeing the dancers' feet when they are in the front part of the stage. Not seeing them defeets the purpose.

Gore's Boiled Frog Metaphor

James Fallows wrote a series of blog entries for 'The Atlantic' decrying Al Gore's boiled frog metaphor, particularly as adopted by Hillary Clinton.
Notably, though Fallows requested alternative metaphors, he didn't get any he thought worth repeating.

How about this one?
Put a generation of frogs in a vast container of cold water, then turn up the heat. The most heat-sensitive of the frogs will die. Those best adapted to higher temperatures will survive to reproduce as the following generation. Occasional mutants will occur who are more heat-tolerant than any frog in the initial generation. They will survive in disproportionate numbers. As the temperature rises still more, even-more-heat-tolerant mutants will arise among them and eventually replace the original mutant population. And so on. Eventually the mutants-upon-mutants will be splashing around happily in boiling water. But they will be nothing the first generation would recognize as frogs.

e.g. tolerance of Muslims in the UK evolving into the Archbishop of Canterbury saying publicly that elements of shari'a law should be adopted in the UK.

Moral: We can adapt to anything if we don't mind paying with our identities and self-respect.

How to Get Over a Huge Misery-making Cold

1. Suffer.
2. Drive seemingly forever back from the funeral in Fresno of mother of one's compulsively bitchy ex-girlfriend.
3. Stop at office of telephone company that has been making life miserable for months to replace broken cellphone. Breathe on entire staff.
4. Home. Television. Cheap-but-actually-pretty-good California brandy from Costco.
5. Sleep 15 hours.
6. Still feel like sh_t but not as bad.
7 Repeat as necessary.

A Moment's Diversion

Friday, February 08, 2008

One Last Shpiel About Politics for Awhile

I have been going on about politics so much in this blog that I am boring myself so this will be the last one for a while.

The press and the Democrats have been acting like McCain is the GOP nominee already. He isn't. It has been the standard thing to say that McCain was winning because the conservatives were split between Romney and Huckabee. With Romney out, the conservatives aren't split anymore. A lot of them don't like McCain because he has voted for a number of crossover issues in the Senate including some that were pro-abortion. I don't think anybody can win the Republican nomination without conservative support. Romney still has more than a hundred delegates whom he has not released and he may well point them at Huckabee when he does.

Huckabee this morning was campaigning in Nebraska and used both "Wall Street" and "class rule" in his stump speech. If Huckabee wins Nebraska he will win lots of other states as well. He has the additional advantage that he is likable which McCain signally is not. Ronald Reagan proved beyond all question that Americans, particularly Republicans, will vote for brain-dead policies if they are attached to an attractive personality.

McCain has a substantial delegate lead but nothing like a majority. If Huckabee wins Nebraska Tuesday the GOP nomination would be wide open again. My guess is that this thing is not over 'til it's over.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

There will always be an...

Citing a YouTube video in which she is seen smoking crack cocaine, US immigration authorities declined to admit British rock star Amy Winehaus to the US for the Grammies, for which she has four nominations. Winehaus' lawyer said she should be able to leave rehab any day now.

Which is of no interest except that it recalled to mind the British government's refusal to admit rapper, hoodlum, and suspected murderer, Snoop Dogg to the United Kingdom in 2006. The immigration minister, Kevin Andrews, made the decision after Snoop Dogg's troubles with the law elsewhere. “He doesn’t seem the sort of bloke we want in this country,’’ he said.

What's Left

Romney dropped out today. With him went the hopes of the Eastern elite Wall-Street-and-banking wing of the Republican Party. Huckabee represents the religious-right wing of the party. (Why do those words go together? Jesus mocked the rich and exalted the poor.) McCain represents the military-jingoist small town narrow-mindedness-as-ideology, laughably called conservatism, the broad mainstream of the party. Ironically he is having trouble with the party faithful for not being conservative enough.

Judging by the California results, Obama represents a bizarre coalition of Black people and wine-and-cheese suburban liberals (some of whose Best Friends Are Black, i.e. the cleaning lady). He carried inflated-real-estate counties like Marin, San Francisco, and San Luis Obispo. Clinton represents a more reasonable coalition of Hispanics and working people generally. She carried counties like Fresno and Los Angeles. Butte County narrowly went for Clinton. Without Orland it was probably an Obama county. In terms of real estate values, living in an Obama county is a sign of having Arrived. Need I mention that proletarian Contra Costa is Clinton country?

Clinton represents Hispanics and people with jobs. Obama represents Blacks and people with careers.

The lumpenpunditariat have been dancing around the apparent dislike of Hispanics for Obama, and making up doofus explanations citing Clinton's "deep ties to the Latino community". By which we are supposed to believe that the vote of a Los Angeles gardener named Martinez is driven by whether Bill Clinton had lunch with Bill Richardson in 1996 or not. I don't think it is.

My guess is that Hispanics are voting against Obama for the converse of the reasons the suburban liberals are voting for him. Prosperous whites do not feel Blacks are any economic competition to them. Hispanics do. Prosperous whites feel guilty about their heritage of slavery and racism. Hispanics drop out of high school before getting that far in their US history textbooks, and anyway it was all a century before they swam the Rio Grande. So they don't feel guilty.

Prosperous whites like affirmative action because it reinforces their sense of superiority in having gotten to the top of the heap without it. Hispanics are conscious that when Blacks get special attention from the government it is affirmative action. When Hispanics get special attention from the government it is deportation. Hispanics like affirmative action for themselves because it compensates them for having to go to school in a foreign language, English. Hispanics hate affirmative action for Blacks because Blacks go to school in their native language, Ebonics. Prosperous whites live far away from Black muggings, break-ins, and assaults. Hispanics do not. Hispanics know that crime should be committed not just by any moron with a shiv, but by joining the street gang of your choice.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Huckabee - McCain

Andrew Jackson was 'Old Hickory'. Zachary Taylor was 'Tippecanoe'. Abraham Lincoln was 'Honest Abe'. The Republican candidates are reminiscent of the saying of foxhole chaplains. They are "Praise the Lord" and "Pass the Ammunition".

I haven't got anything for the Democrats yet. Provisionally they are 'Phoney' and 'Baloney'.

Romney is on the tube now. He is such a mediocre nothing that he is not worth the powder to blow him up. Maybe putting a pillow shaped like one of those stupid styrofoam catcher's mitts over his face would be best.

The War

It is a remarkable feature of this election that in the midst of an unpopular war, the war is all but unmentioned.

Though many, perhaps most, people are viscerally opposed to the war and blame the US for it, the war no longer seems to be a stalemate. The various collections of primitives are beginning to fall into a status quo of some sort, judging by the decline of attacks as against last year. On this calculus, the war is on the way to being won. This is the position of General Petraeus and of George Bush.

On the other hand, the combatants are primitive but not stupid. How great an insight does it take to see that the party of an unpopular president is not likely to win the next election? How great an insight does it take to realize that a wave of attacks after one or the other of the Democratic peace candidates becomes president, will lead to a hasty withdrawal? Why get killed fighting the hated (despised religio-ethnic group) while they are defended from our holy wrath by the American soldiers -- when next year the American soldiers will be gone?

There has been a great deal of quibbling over timetables for withdrawal in both parties (which descended into the worst kind of demeaning petty bickering between McCain and Romney in their last debate) but the mere fact that the two candidates with by far the best chance of being elected are both peace candidates is itself a reliable timetable, declared or not. Not everybody in Iraq is there to commit suicide. Many of them can wait until 2009 to liberate Baghdad from the cowardly (despised religio-ethnic group).

So the defeatist spoutings from the left that the war has mobilized ordinary Muslims to become jihadis against us and that the war is lost, is seen to be false. So too the idea from the right that the decline in attacks means the war is won. I think what we are seeing is neither a defeat nor a victory but a lull pending our elections and the inauguration of the new administration.

Though I admit I know nothing at all about it, the only outcome that could with a straight face be called satsfactory would be if by the time Clinton or Obama is inaugurated and during the timetables for withdrawals each of them has set, the Sunnis can be damaged politically sufficient to permit a stable Shi'ite government. The only outcome that could conceivably be called a victory would be if that government were strong enough to not become an Iranian satellite. Who will actually know and honestly tell us whether that has happened or not?

Which means that unless it is a catastrophic defeat, which isn't likely, we will never know what the outcome of this war actually was.

Monday, February 04, 2008


The problem with the Superbowl result was that it left the perfect season unperfected. Nobody at all thinks the Giants were the better team. Does affirming the randomness in human affairs make anyone feel better about life? Is randomness better than predictability? Is irrational hope better than tedious certainty? Could we live without hope? Without predictability? Or maybe it was just a football game and the predictability was that there would be terrific commercials. Which there were.