Friday, July 3, 2015

A Glorious Fourth

 Old Times Not Forgotten
Who won the war? The Union Army obviously won the war... [but] if we're not just talking about the series of battles which finished with the surrender at Appomattox ; but talking instead about the struggle to make something higher and better out of the country -- then the question gets complicated: The slaves won the war, but they lost the war. Because they won 'freedom' -- that is, the removal of slavery -- but they did not win 'freedom' as they understood freedom.

I think what we need to remember most of all is that the Civil War is not over until we, today, have done our part in fighting it... William Faulkner said once that, "History is not was; it's is" -- and what we need to remember is that the Civil War is in the present, not just the past.

The generation that fought the war... also established a standard that will not mean anything until we have finished the work. You can say, "There's no more slavery any longer; we're all citizens." But if we're all citizens -- then we have a task to do to make sure that, too, is not a joke. If some citizens live in houses, and others live on the street, the Civil War is still to be fought -- and regrettably, it can still be lost.

Barbara J. Fields, Historian
In Ken Burns' Documentary, The Civil War, 1990

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Reprint Heaven: Justa Guy From Jersey

At Last Their Love Has Come Along 
(This, from October, 2011. Strange how 2015 all seems like a weird kind of replay of the 2012 season, doesn't it?)

(From October, 2011) In Future, All Presidential Press Conferences Will Be Held
Outside George Washington Hospital's ER. Just In Case.

"Those pushing Mr. Christie to run include the media mogul Rupert Murdoch, former Secretary of State Henry A. Kissinger, Nancy Reagan and the conservative columnist William Kristol. If the odds of a campaign were very low just weeks ago, they are increasing."
("Christie Team Assessing How Fast a 2012 Campaign Could Be Mounted", New York Times)

[In 2011] The Rethug Leadership, and the Big Money behind them, have looked at their pack of GOP presidential candidates:

The Mittens is seen as a mock-pseudo-crypto-quasi christian by Real christians (Read: We Conservative Evangelicals Will Never Allow Some Apostate Cult Member A Mormon To Be Elected), and isn't very exciting;  

Crazy Lady Grand TurtleBear Bachmann of the Church of I Kill You! and Le Gouvernor Placard Mssr. Perry have crashed and burned, because they say manifestly stupid things and are mentally ill;

Newt (" Rockin', No Knockin' ") Gingrich is too overly intellectual for the, uh, average Republican, and is too busy looking for the next Mrs. Gingrich he'll have to marry.

Herman Cain is Waaaaaay Overtime, and John Huntsman might be sane, but that may be why Herman is watched as entertainment and John can't find traction with the, uh, average Republican -- plus, Huntsman is (cough cough) one of Them, too (We mean Mormons. See "Mittens", above);  

Ron Paul looks like Don Knotts in Three's Company and is close to crazy;  

Mike Huckabee is mentally ill too; Crazy Moose Lady Little Sarah, Straight 'n Tall, is crazy, but knows being President would put a stop to her 'Little Sarah Brand'™ Money Machine, once and for all.

And, The Donald can't get the Weasel That Lives On His Head to agree that they should run. So there you are.
We're Whalers On The Moon. We Carry A Harpoon.
Who's left? Who can you "sell" to the Tea Partei brownshirts as well as the Joe Sixpack Average Republicans? Who do The Koch Brothers and Harold Simmons and Addled Sheldon and Little Rupert Murdoch see as the figurehead for their personal agendas? That they will put their personal power (most importantly, huge sums of money) behind?

How about a man who talks like a dock worker -- no-nonsense, spade's-a-spade, You-could-have-a-beer-wit'-this-Guy. Looks just the guy next door. Sweats like you. Got a weight problem like you. Probably whipped like you, too, Bud.

Not like that over-educated uppity illegitimate leader Negra up th' White House what thinks he's the Pres-o-dent. Think you could have a beer with that Socialist Kenyan? No way, pal.

No -- Chris Christie Is One Of You Unwashed Ignorant Peasants. Of course you'll vote for him.

And the sad thing is, politics being what they are -- the members of both parties doing everything they can to provide America's wealthy with The Soft and The Nice, and Treats, and Safety Nets -- and vote-rigging being what it is; The Powers That Be may decide hey; our money's on The Fat Boy.

Because ultimately, elections aren't about reality -- not for these people. For the Rethugs, it's not about adult debate on the directions to take with issues that threaten the species, or about ensuring stability and prosperity for all Americans, as opposed to greed and short-term gains.

It's about selling a product, so that the Gravy Train for the Few can continue without a hiccup. Like Little Rupert, they treat their "political consumers" with contempt: Just give us your Money votes; accept whatever we decide to tell you; shut up, don't talk back; and stay out of our Business. You don't like it? We'll run right over ya.

And, with an Oligarch, two unindicted war criminals, and the widow of the Zombie Candidate For President all saying, Run, Fat Man, Run -- well, if not the Best, why not the Biggest?

Lard Boy will love the idea, I'm sure.

Associated Press / MANCHESTER, New Hampshire (AP), [October 2011] — Republican presidential candidate Rick Perry said Saturday that he is open to sending American troops to Mexico to help battle drug cartels.

Perry, the Texas governor, likened the situation to Colombia, where the government accepted American military support in battling drug trafficking. Mexico's government, however, has been opposed to foreign forces in its territory.

Perry saids the current violence may require similar military action.

"It may require our military in Mexico working in concert with them to kill these drug cartels and keep them off of our borders," he said.

Where Der Elites Meet

More Kulturschande

(Original photo: 2015 Reuters / Michael Kappeler / Pool Photographer)

Reprint Heaven: Kulturschande *

John Derbyshire's Public, Total, And Irreversible Loss
Of Bowel And Bladder Control

(This, from April 2012; "Same As It Ever Was")

John Derbyshire, a conservative pundit and gadfly at the National Review (originally founded by William F. Buckley, and later run by unindicted war criminals), author of several books, including We Are Doomed: Reclaiming Conservative Pessimism, provided us with a spectacle last week: Virtually dousing himself with gasoline and lighting a fantasy match, via this post at the Takimag website: "The Talk: Nonblack Version".

Apparently, John-Boy had read several articles that referenced a "talk" which at least some Black parents purportedly have with their children about living in a society dominated by non-African Americans (I've preserved some of the links to them from Derbyshire's original below):
[Derbyshire quotes:]“Sean O’Reilly was 16 when his mother gave him the talk that most black parents give their teenage sons,” Denisa R. Superville of the Hackensack (NJ) Record tells us. Meanwhile, down in Atlanta: “Her sons were 12 and 8 when Marlyn Tillman realized it was time for her to have the talk,” Gracie Bonds Staples writes in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.

Leonard Greene talks about the talk in the New York Post. Someone bylined as KJ Dell’Antonia talks about the talk in The New York Times. Darryl Owens talks about the talk in the Orlando Sentinel.

Yes, talk about the talk is all over.

There is a talk that nonblack Americans have with their kids, too. My own kids, now 19 and 16, have had it in bits and pieces as subtopics have arisen. If I were to assemble it into a single talk, it would look something like the following...
Herr Derbyshire said, to paraphrase, Blacks are generally less intelligent than Caucasians or Asians, whom Blacks simply lump together as "white"; are more likely to be undeservedly promoted into management positions in the workplace; and are prone to violent behavior against "whites", if only on the basis of statistics. All this, and more like it, is what he tells his own children.

He tells this to his children. And where, pray, do people like him believe that racism comes from? Not only in the images and attitudes children unconsciously absorb from the world around them -- but because someone teaches them.

It's What They Do

Some pundits with a large soapbox to stand on, or their own site -- precisely because they publish lies and drivel, and use the Net to sling their own feces beyond their cages -- deserve to be ignored, vilified; to have their IP addresses blocked and sent to dwell in the land of Little Rupert, East of Podhoretz, with the crying, and the wailing, and the gnashing of mandibles (and the hey hey hey, as Professor Frink might tell us).

A few obvious examples of public masturbation are Drudge, Malkin; Goldberg, Erikson; and Breitbart (a Grand Public Masterdebater); but it's a long list. Thinking human beings recoil from the junk that spills out of their addled minds and into the rinse-cycle whirl of the Intertubes (Or, we laugh our asses off. Or both). They deserve our contempt, and receive it -- but they won't leave. They won't perform a swan song -- a GBCW! post: Good-Bye, Cruel World!.

However, the GBCW doesn't tend to happen in Right Blogostan, where the operative principle is to lie, and outrageously. As (for example) Breitbart and O'Keefe have shown us, don't just strain credulity, piss on it. And, Right bloggers have automatic support among a large community, willing to swallow every wingnut, asshat, echo-chamber fantasy of the moment.

Because, you see, the Right must stand in solidarity. They see a hostile world, dominated by elite Liberals and their Media; Jews; non-white people; and the undeserving poor and undocumented aliens, all supported by the taxes of honest working Americans (Also, there are giant radioactive scorpions being trained by the UN to bring about a one-world government headed by George Soros).

So You Wanna Be One Of The Kool Kidz

Sometimes, the GBCW is purely voluntary. At some level, the Blogosphere -- Left or Right -- mimics high school. Bloggers and regular commentors tend to affiliate, and like any other association of humans can be exclusionary. On occasion someone appears whose style in posting comments is grating, awkward. They insist on being right, on dominating a thread; they just don't express ideas well. They may be off-topic, and are thin-skinned when teased -- as they will be (humans are humans, and anonymous ones even more so).

Usually, these people have a blog of their own. They want to be one of the Kool Kidz, too, and have lots of site traffic -- to be popular. To "be someone". The problem is, they already are someone, and that they've confused the raison d'etre of their blog, or commenting on someone else's post, with wanting to appear on something like the old Gong Show.

So, when no one reads their amazingly important, detailed, lengthy blog posts; and they're ignored when adding to threads on other sites... finally, they may write that GBCW post, clomping off the Internet stage with a final, long soliloquy explaining ad nauseum why they are right and the rest of the world is wrong, wrong, wrong; and also, bad. If they are religious, they may hint darkly that god (somebody's god, anyway) will punish everyone for not eagerly lapping up their vomit.

(For some reason, I'm reminded of R. Crumb's Everyman character, Flakey Foont, constantly looking to Mister Natural for enlightenment, befuddled; angry at his mistreatment in life. In one final panel, Foont weeps as, in a thought bubble, he imagines his tombstone's epitaph: Here Lies Flakey Foont / A Beautiful Soul / Crushed By An Uncaring World..)

Wingnut Self-Immolation

Then, there's the other category of GBCW, almost unique to the Right, where a Rightist pundit's mask slips and the true reptilian horror is shown for all to see and wonder at. This sort of thing happens all the time -- you can't get through a week without a Rightist politician, or self-proclaimed pundit like Lard Boy, saying something insulting or incendiary.

So, when a wingnut pundit like Derbyshire can't maintain the Right's cherished fiction of bipartisan cooperation, or that they believe non-white persons are their equals, for anyone on the Right to take notice their outburst has to cross a line that is damaging for conservatism in general -- particularly in an election year.

A recent example: Lard Boy's public ridicule of a young woman as a slut and a prostitute, over her appearance before Congress on the subject of contraception. After enough heavy-hitters on the Right strongly hinted he'd stepped over a line, El Fathead reluctantly made a self-justifying half-apology -- as good as you'll get from a pathetic bully like Rush.

Trent Lott Flies The Bonny Blue Flag

But an example more to the point is then-Senator Trent Lott's fulsome praise of Strom Thurmond at his 100th birthday party in 2002: "When Strom Thurmond ran for president, we voted for him," Said Trent. "We’re proud of it. And if the rest of the country had followed our lead, we wouldn't have had all these problems over the years, either".

Thurmond had run for president in 1948 as a 'Dixiecrat', expousing what Wikipedia notes as "an explicit States' Rights platform that challenged the Civil Rights Movement and later, the Civil Rights Act as illegally overturning the Separation of powers under the United States Constitution." In other words, Antebellum 'Southern values'.

In the appropriate storm of criticism that followed, Lott was forced to resign as Majority Leader of the Senate in 2003, and blamed the evil nasty Intertubes bloggers for keeping the story alive (Lott resigned from the Senate in 2007, and opened a lobbying firm a block from the Senate offices).

Missy Laura Talks To The Nation

On August 10, 2010, Laura Schlessenger, right-wing radio commentator "Doctor Laura", had an exchange with a Black woman who had called in to her syndicated program to speak about a personal issue: Occasional racial slurs her husband (who is Caucasian) and his friends would make in front of her.
CALLER: I'm having an issue with my husband where I'm starting to grow very resentful of him. I'm black, and he's white. We've been around some of his friends and family members who start making racist comments as if I'm not there or if I'm not black. And my husband ignores those comments, and it hurts my feelings. And he acts like --

SCHLESSINGER: Well, can you give me an example of a racist comment? 'Cause sometimes people are hypersensitive. So tell me what's -- give me two good examples of racist comments.

CALLER: OK. Last night -- good example -- we had a neighbor come over, and this neighbor -- when every time he comes over, it's always a black comment. It's, "Oh, well, how do you black people like doing this?" And, "Do black people really like doing that?" And for a long time, I would ignore it. But last night, I got to the point where it --

SCHLESSINGER: I don't think that's racist.

CALLER: Well, the stereotype --

SCHLESSINGER: I don't think that's racist. No, I think that --

CALLER: [unintelligible]

SCHLESSINGER: No, no, no. I think that's -- well, listen, without giving much thought, a lot of blacks voted for Obama simply 'cause he was half-black. Didn't matter what he was gonna do in office, it was a black thing. You gotta know that. That's not a surprise. Not everything that somebody says -- we had friends over the other day; we got about 35 people here -- the guys who were gonna start playing basketball. I was going to go out and play basketball. My bodyguard and my dear friend is a black man. And I said, "White men can't jump; I want you on my team." That was racist? That was funny.

CALLER: How about the N-word? So, the N-word's been thrown around --

SCHLESSINGER: Black guys use it all the time. Turn on HBO, listen to a black comic, and all you hear is n----r, n----r, n----r.

CALLER: That isn't --

SCHLESSINGER: I don't get it. If anybody without enough melanin says it, it's a horrible thing; but when black people say it, it's affectionate. It's very confusing. Don't hang up, I want to talk to you some more. Don't go away.

I'm Dr. Laura Schlessinger. I'll be right back.
It continued in the same vein after "Doctor Laura" returned. "Yeah," Frau Schlessenger said; "We've got a black man as president, and we have more complaining about racism than ever. I mean, I think that's hilarious". When the caller disagreed, the good doctor responded, "[You've] got a chip on your shoulder. Can't do much about that."

Frau Schlessenger spent much of the next week trying to defend herself on air, and on August 17, announced on Larry King Live that she was leaving commercial AM radio, moving to subscription-only Sirrus to continue her special brand of joy without "some special interest group deciding this is a time to silence a voice of dissent."

Old School Dog-Whistle

Derbyshire is originally British, a naturalized American citizen; well-educated; his wife is Asian, and his sons are mixed-race Amerasians. You'd think he knew exactlywhat was about to happen as he clicked "Send" to upload his article to 'Takimag', and it did: The National Review terminated Derbyshire; the NROnline's editor, Rich Lowry, posted:
[Derbyshire's] latest provocation, in a webzine, lurches from the politically incorrect to the nasty and indefensible. We never would have published it, but the main reason that people noticed it is that it is by a National Review writer. Derb is effectively using our name to get more oxygen for views with which we’d never associate ourselves otherwise. So there has to be a parting of the ways.
(I so like Lowry's use of the nickname, "Derb"; it smacks of Groton or Andover, of lacrosse or crew at Yale. Just kind of tone the NR likes to have amongst its own; so "Our Crowd".)

I don't agree with Lowry that Derbyshire's views are such that the NR "would never associate ourselves otherwise". I believe the Right perpetuates racist perspectives, the common assumptions that Derbyshire is so willing to teach his children -- but assumptions only admitted to quietly, between the "right sort" of people.

One Cardinal rule of the wingnut tribe is not to embarrass the Right by admitting to its true shared values, particularly about how icky Blacks and The Poor are (they're so -- well, so Black, and so poor). Derbyshire's irretrievable sin was to say so, openly and in public.

But in calling him 'Derb' (both affectionate and dismissive at once), Lowry showed he didn't repudiate an old friend and member of his class; only that he was uncomfortable with Derb's statements. Lowry will meet Ol' Derb, buy him a drink and say, "What were you thinking, Derb? I mean, we all know about 'Those People'; but you had to go and say it. I had to cut you from the NR; you didn't really give me a choice, old man."

(Think this is a stretch? Possibly. But I doubt it.)

The Right is eager to play the race card with a sitting Black President, but they have to do it through innuendo, metaphors, verbal allusions. I understand that I'm offering no examples, but I believe Lowry and people like him on the Right tacitly support Derbyshire's "views" concerning the comparative intelligence, aggression and "otherness" of Blacks in America. And, so they can't be accused of overt racism, they'll just make oblique references. They'll use the dog whistle.

Race is an issue in America. There's been a tremendous amount of racist garbage, blog posts and comments, crudely-drawn cartoons, aimed not at Obama's policies but at his race (One of the first comments I heard after the 2008 election from someone at work was, "Guess we can't call it the 'White House' anymore!").

And Right blogostan has never stopped baying about the 'conspiracy' around the legitimacy of his birth certificate. Breitbart's last super-secret, stop-the-presses video was about Obama giving someone a hug -- proof of his radicalism, that he is (hint, hint) a Black man first and an American second.

You can barely hear the National Anthem any longer for all the dog-whistling on the Right that's been going on since 2008. And none of the Good Ole Boys repudiates it; I see Sessions, Haley Barbour, and Saxby Chambliss (who crawled into office by calling a triple-amputee Vietnam veteran a traitor) whining on television and want to puke. People like this are a shame on my country.

We're a badly polarized society -- possibly more so than at any time since The Great Depression, certainly since 1965 -- and at a time when we can least afford to be so divided. Asshats like Derbyshire (aber natürlich, only for the purest of reasons) have pushed and escalated our society's divisions and put us at each others' throats. They'd like to keep us there.

Race is an issue in America. Electing Barack Obama as president didn't solve it. I'm not happy with Obama as a president, or a Democrat -- but it would never cross my mind to believe his public policies or decision-making are the product of his being Black.

The Right, on the other hand, seems to think that is the case -- and while Derbyshire will be publicly repudiated by conservatives for his remarks, many of those same people on the Right will attempt to perform a quiet, virtual lynching as they attempt to 'save' America from ... the Justice in Equality, I guess.

Auf Nicht Wiedersehen, Derbyshire, you Lumpenhund nutter.

( * "Kulturschande" Is more than just bringing shame upon one's culture, because the concept in German of Kultur encompasses much more than that. But, trust me; it's pejorative.)

NOTE: Offered without comment, per Wikipedia: "In early 2012, [Derbyshire] underwent treatment for chronic lymphocytic leukemia."

Monday, June 29, 2015

Never On Sunday

Greek Odyssey
Εμείς δεν χαμήλωσε το βλέμμα, αλλά έδωσαν τη ζωή μας για να σώσει την Ελλάδα, όταν η μοίρα της κρεμαστεί σε κόψη του ξυραφιού.

We did not flinch but gave our lives to save Greece when her fate hung on a razor's edge.  
--  Cenotaph at the Isthmos

The current Odyssey of the Greek economy and its citizens can be summed up thus: The world's economy was given a 9.0-Richter Scale shock in 2007 - 2008, courtesy of the Bankster class. In the fall of 2009, Greece revealed that it had been understating its annual budget deficit figures for years -- meaning it's National Debt was also large -- then, approximately 175% of its Gross Domestic Product.

Greece was then shut out from borrowing in the financial markets -- and by the spring of 2010, the country looked as if it might have to declare bankruptcy. That could destabilize other EU countries whose internal finances were also shaky -- Portugal, Italy, Spain;  France wasn't far behind. Iceland's economy had already imploded, and Ireland's was preparing to.

The European Union was created as a cooperative structure based on trade, a single currency, and a European Parliament to speak with one voice to the rest of the world. It was the only way Europe could maintain political and economic sovereignty as a whole, against economic juggernauts like the United States, China, and the former Soviet Union (i.e., "Putinlandia").  The Bankster-created financial crisis threatened, by destabilizing the economies of weak members like Greece, to blow the EU apart, and its political leaders (Germany's Chancellor Angela Merkel most prominently) were determined not to allow that to happen.

Per the New York Times, "To avert calamity, the so-called [T]roika — the I.M.F., the European Central Bank (ECB), and the European Commission — issued the first of two international bailouts for Greece, which would eventually total more than ... $264 billion." There was other money at stake, too -- loans to Greek businesses and institutions, principally from German, and French, banks.

But taking the Troika's bailout money meant Greece had to accept austerity measures -- deep cuts in government spending (reductions in government pensions, government workers), and steep tax increases. Greece would also have to restructure its economy by reducing the size of its government, curbing tax evasion, and "making Greece an easier place to do business".

This last included such things as maintaining a high VAT rate on business being done in the offshore Greek islands, and selling ownership in the country's electric utility, and its principal port of Piraeus, to Oligarch vultures "investors". The Greeks weren't wild about any of it, needless to say.

Austerity was insisted on by EU leaders like Die Eisen Kanzellerin Angela -- because the "PIGS" (and that's the term which the press in more economically sound, core EU countries referred to them) -- EU members Portugal, Italy, Greece and Spain -- had been "profligate" and irresponsible spenders during the Go-Go, "Lil' Boots" Bush years of shadow banking and Derivatives fun.  

(Even during this current crisis, it's interesting to note how the English-language media of core EU nations [BBC, Deutsche Welle; Financial Times; France24], portray the Greeks as being the architects of their own misfortune, 'coming back to the ECB with an outstretched hand' for more money, unreasonable in negotiations, with broad hints that they should just take their Austerity medicine and stop whining because it's all their fault.)

And because they had been imprudent and foolish, Austerity was what they would have to accept before their stern, Northern European uncles would give them a loan. Accepting harsh measures would mean a financially stronger EU in future, its proponents said. The problem, of course, is that austerity utterly and completely fails to do what it claims to do -- stimulate private economic growth and lead to a slow return to higher standards of living.

Greek national unemployment rose to 25% (fifty per cent, for people under 25) and stayed there. Pensioners were forced to live with less. Businesses failed. After 2010, there were five separate "crises" when the Greek government might default on payments to the $264 Billion they had been loaned. Each time, the Troika restructured the terms of those repayments -- and each time, demanded further austerity controls be instituted. 

I've barked about this current situation before. Ultimately, the Greek polis revolted, and replaced a succession of Center-Right governments (which had supported Austerity) by electing a majority of Leftist Syriza party representatives to the Greek parliament. Alex Tsipras, the Greek Prime Minister, and his finance minister, Vanis Varoufakis, have attempted to restructure their $264 B debt with the Troika -- they want to reduce or eliminate the austerity controls; the Troika has said no.

There will be a default on loan payments owed to the ECB today (not so big a deal, but a symbolic, Rubicon-style line crossing). This coming Sunday the Greeks will vote to accept the EU/Troika's terms to restructure their $264 B debt and its austerity controls (a "Yes" vote), or to vote "No", which will most probably lead to the fabled "Grexit". We'll see.

This isn't the harbinger of doom that some believe it to be (I could be wrong; Dogs can be); this isn't Ragnarok or even October of 2008. There will be a sell-off in equities (which I'm sure hedge fund managers are positioning themselves to take advantage of), but people are still partying like it's 1979.

 As default looms, Merkel rules out more negotiations with Greece

(Reuters)  German Chancellor Angela Merkel ruled out new negotiations with Greece until after it votes on a proposal from creditors, leaving virtually no hope left to avert a midnight default despite a plea from Athens for a last-minute bailout extension... euro zone finance ministers called a conference call (1:00 a.m. EDT) to discuss the Greek request.

Merkel said there could be no new negotiations until after a July 5 referendum that Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras has called on an offer made last week by creditors, which Tsipras has told Greek voters to reject. Tsipras, who says the creditors' proposals ... would ruin Greece, responded with a counter-proposal requesting a two-year deal covering funding support and debt restructuring, an issue the lenders have so far been reluctant to tackle.

[Note: The Greek government has requested an emergency disbursement from the European Stability Mechanism (ESM), set up after Greece had received the $264 B in bailout loans from the European Central Bank and which, technically, should be available to the country. It's more complicated than that, and would drag all negotiations between the Greeks and the Troika back to square one, but they did ask and now have been told No.]

... one well placed Eurozone official [said] there was "no way" euro zone finance ministers would release funds in time for the IMF payment [today, June 30th]. Merkel, whose country is Greece's biggest creditor, made clear she believed time had run out. "This evening at exactly midnight Central European Time the program expires. And I am not aware of any real indications of anything else," she told a news conference. She later said Athens would be to blame for allowing the bailout program to expire.


(Note: Man, this is like Liveblogging.)

(Reuters) A defiant Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras urged Greeks on Wednesday to reject an international bailout deal, wrecking any prospect of repairing broken relations with EU partners before a referendum on Sunday that may decide Greece's future in Europe.

Less than 24 hours after he wrote a conciliatory letter to creditors asking for a new bailout that would accept many of their terms, Tsipras abruptly switched back into combative mode in a television address.

Greece was being "blackmailed" ... "A 'No' vote is a decisive step toward a better agreement that we aim to sign right after Sunday's result," he said, rejecting repeated warnings from European partners that the referendum would effectively be a vote on whether Greece stays in the euro or returns to the drachma.

... The head of the currency zone ministers' Eurogroup, Jeroen Dijsselbloem, said he saw "little chance" of progress after Tsipras's latest comments ... However even if negotiations do restart after the referendum, Germany and others made clear that any talks on a new program would have to start from scratch with different conditions.

... "[The current Greek] government has done nothing since it came into office," German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble said in a speech in the [Landstag] in which he accused Athens of repeatedly reneging on its commitments.

... [In Greece] Of those polled before the announcement of the bank closures, 57 percent said they would vote "No" against 30 percent who would vote "Yes". However among those polled after, the "No" camp fell to 46 percent against 37 percent for "Yes".


Friday, June 26, 2015

Life, Liberty, And The Pursuit Of Happiness Means Exactly That

Quite A Day
Justice Anthony Kennedy, writing on behalf of the court, said that the hope of gay people intending to marry "is not to be condemned to live in loneliness, excluded from one of civilization's oldest institutions. They ask for equal dignity in the eyes of the law. The Constitution grants them that right."
In a dissenting opinion, conservative Justice Antonin Scalia said the decision shows the court is a "threat to American democracy." The ruling "says that my ruler and the ruler of 320 million Americans coast-to-coast is a majority of the nine lawyers on the Supreme Court," Scalia said.
Wasn't that true about the Citizens United decision, Tony? Of course, there's no comparison between allowing America's political system to be nakedly purchased by a wealthy elite, and recognizing that love, commitment and dignity deserve the protection of law. 

The New York Times online
“If you are among the many Americans — of whatever sexual orientation — who favor expanding same-sex marriage, by all means celebrate today’s decision,” Chief Justice Roberts wrote. “Celebrate the achievement of a desired goal. Celebrate the opportunity for a new expression of commitment to a partner. Celebrate the availability of new benefits. But do not celebrate the Constitution. It had nothing to do with it.”
“The opinion is couched in a style that is as pretentious as its content is egotistic,” Justice Scalia wrote of his colleague’s work. “Of course the opinion’s showy profundities are often profoundly incoherent.”
Poor 'Fat Tony' Scalia. Quite the ironic riposte from the architect behind the Bush v. Gore and 'Citizens United' decisions. But, mob bosses like Tony have never possessed much by way of humility or what was once referred to as "good sportsmanship". 

Go duck hunting with former President Dick Cheney, Tony, and let the rest of us get on with the business of real life.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Tightrope Walker

James Horner  (1953 - 2015)

The best movies, and Hollywood films in particular, are more memorable for the soundtracks which underscore (no pun intended) and add emotional color to the action. In the heyday of the studio era, film music was big, bold and dramatic -- Erich Wolfgang Korngold, Bernard Hermann and Max Steiner, even Leonard Bernstein, are good examples -- and that music made obvious the story unfolding on the screen: Shock! Suspense! Action! Danger! Love! 

When film began to change as an art form after WWII, the supporting music became more nuanced, less obviously another supporting star in the cast. Some film composers carried on the traditions of the old-studio, bold-as-brass soundtracks; Vangelis (Blade Runner; "The Bounty") and John Williams ("Star Wars", A.I.; Saving Private Ryan and too many others to mention) are good examples.

Others began as big-studio composers, but developed another language for their work later in life -- Maurice Jarre started with Lawrence Of Arabia and "Dr. Zhivago", but also provided work like the soundtracks for "Witness", Jacob's Ladder and Dead Poet's Society.  Jerry Goldsmith could deliver  "In Harm's Way", The Blue Max, and Patton, but also A Patch Of Blue, "The Island", Chinatown and Papillion.

Other artists were less obvious in their composing styles from the beginning, and (at least, for me) more effective in adding the added dimension of emotional color to a film without being intrusive -- three I would mention are Michael Covertino (Children Of A Lesser God; Bed Of Roses), Thomas Newman (The Shawshank Redemption), and James Horner.

Horner died over the weekend in a small plane accident in Southern California. He was capable of providing a bigger-than-life soundtrack (several "Star Trek" films, or Cameron's Titanic are the best examples), but also created specific scores that I enjoy as music, as evocations of particular emotions; as an analog in sound for what is sometimes difficult to define in words. He once described satisfying the demands of a specific medium, a director or producer, and maintaining artistic integrity at the same time was “like being a tightrope walker with one foot in the air at all times.”

Now he knows what we do not. Horner provided his own artistry in that extra dimension which music provides to film, and gave something to our collective culture. We won't move into the future and hear more of what he might have created; I'll miss that.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Solving That Pesky Nuclear Waste Problem

Thinking Of The Children

Key Facts, From The Nucular Energy Institüt, A Nuclear Industry Lobbying Group
(Uh, 'Editing' By Mongo)
  • All the used nuclear fuel produced by the U.S. nuclear energy industry in the past 50 years -- about 72,000 tons -- if stacked together would only cover a football field to a depth of six to seven yards (Think of a single-story Ranch House, 300 feet long, and 150 feet wide, that if you tried to live in, you would die). This of course does not count all the byproducts of the U.S. nuclear weapons industry, which would cover the State of Kansas to a dept of eight inches. Its nighttime glow would be seen as far away as Pluto, and you could roast marshmallows in Alberta and Los Angeles. Cool, huh?
  • Used nuklar fuel is a solid material that looks something like string cheese and is stored at nuclear power plants. Normally, it's placed in concrete pools filled with water or Old-Growth tree sap, or in containers covered with wax paper. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission determined that this method is both "wacky" and unsafe, but heck, we like the smell of the sap and the the wax paper only catches fire on occasion. We never intended this storage to be permanent -- we always thought all this stuff could be shot into the sun, or sold to Developing Countries™ as building materials.

  • Since the Obama administration suspended the NRC’s review of the Yucca Mountain repository in 2010, the federal government has been bad, and we never liked them and it's all their fault. We're looking at that whole Kansas option again.

  • Advanced technologies are being developed to make new Apps, hire more Uber drivers, open new pizza restaurants, create new careers for Miley Cyrus and Justin Bieber, and new iPhones and Iron-Man-like exoskeletons. Oh, and about recycling used nuclear fuel; right, sure. These technologies are mostly in comic books or movies for pre-teen children, and if they ever come true will reduce but not eliminate nuklar stuff.  So don't worry your little heads about that.

    Disposal of radioactive stuff in a "permanent geologic repository" is necessary until, oh,  roughly 308,000 A.D. We were thinking about asking the Indians if they could, you know, move again -- so all that empty Reservation land we shoved them into could be put to good use.


Tuesday, June 16, 2015

London Financial Times: Donald Trump 'Pillaging' Greece, Ass...

Hey, We Didn't Say It

(Screenshot: FT Online, June 16, 2015; Video Section)

The Donald, in all his bling-like faux splendor, appeared today before members of the media (all present wondering whom they had enraged to be stuck with such an assignment), and made his by-now-expected quadrennial announcement that He, and The Weasel Who Lives On His Head, are again running for the Republican nomination for President of these United Sates.

El Donaldo used Neil Young's "Rockin' In The Free World"  (better, I'm guessing, than excerpts from Scene de la foile from 'Lucia de Lammermoor', particularly as Don doesn't look that good in a torn dress). Young blasted back at Donny via Twitter, and Cindy Lauper called out both The Donald, His Weasel and his wife for "fat shaming" on Celebrity Apprentice.

Meanwhile, in other, less important news, Greece and TPTB in the EU, IMF and ECB continued to reenact the playing-chicken scene from Rebel Without A Cause; Prime Minister Tsipras plays the role of James Dean, and Angela Merkel plays Sal Mineo. We all know how that ended up.

Friday, June 12, 2015

Reprint Heaven: In The Buh-Buh-Bubble

Will Ann Ever Ride Horses Again?

(This post is worth repeating as we move into another Presidential election season -- filled with conservative intraparty warfare: Hereditary Wealth and Patrician Privilege, versus vicious, god™-fueled liars and black-helicopter Randian libertarians.  And on the Left -- well, Hillary.

(It'll be fun.  Jebby is an Empty Suit for the Carlyle Group; Greg Stillson Cruz, Le Gouvernor Placard Perry and Lil' Mikey Huckabee are the Guns 'n Jesus candidates of the Church Of I Kill You ! ; Good-Ole-Boy Sen Graham is there to uphold 'Southern Values'; Randy Paul has a mop of hair [Is there really anything under there?]; and let's not forget Lil' Ricky Santorum extolling Amerikanischer values.

And, there will be plenty of money! Kochbruder money. Addled Sheldon money. Money from corporations and hedge funds and donors abroad. There's so much money -- and there is soft music, and treats, for those who deserve so much; because they are the Owners, and we are their chattel, one way or another. Go vote, Little People; do as we bid you. Then clean our toilets.

(On the Left , despite the fact that Bernie Sanders is an adult, as is Elizabeth Warren, it makes no difference. We're going to get a Hillary candidacy filled with Hillary issues -- it's fated; she's watched Ken Burns' The Roosevelts sixty bazillion times now and wants her own documentary.

(And lest we forget -- Herr Obama has been a lasting, fucking disappointment. But, hey; he was America's first non-Caucasian President. And Bin Laden!  S'all good. Corporations are people !!

(But, before you laugh too much at the capering antics of the Right -- remember what people like Mitzy are. Remember how they see the world, and what they believe your place is in it.)

I Just Really Like This Graphic.

It was surrealistic; Marcel Duchamp could have written the script:  Mitzy, arriving at The White House for lunch with the Once and Future President Of The United States, Barack Hussein Obama. The pair photographed shaking hands in the Oval Office -- Romney a textbook image of awkward discomfort, Obama at ease, hand-in-pocket casual. It was bizarre; What did these two people have to talk about, really?

This was followed by a Washington Post article which underscores how badly out of touch, how In The Bubble the Republicans were -- and specifically Romney, his wife Ann, and Little Paulie Ryan. All of them were served Kool-Aid by GOP pollsters, and had been drinking it for months.  Reality arrived on election night.

In a conference call with big-money donors after the loss, Romney claimed he had failed to win because of "big promises" made by Obama and the Democrats of entitlements or social program spending to specific constituencies -- Hispanics, African-Americans; 'the youth'. It wasn't because the message the GOP delivered during the campaign -- that they were the party of wealth, godliness, racism, homophobia and Good-Ol'-Boy southern power -- was so out of touch with... well, Reality.

At nearly the same time, one of Romney's campaign advisors quipped that Romney had carried the (Republican-defined) true middle-class voters, so by inference had actually 'won' the election. He hadn't failed. He hadn't really 'lost', and the Republican Party was really strong and a reflection of real America -- because the People Who Mattered had all voted for Mitzy. Simple! Wasn't it?

Now, Romney is in seclusion in San Diego -- not far from San Clemente, where another bitter Republican loser nursed his wounds, after being forced to resign ahead of an Impeachment for conducting a criminal conspiracy from the Oval Office. His wife, Ann, is heartbroken, and just can't make herself ride the horses again (These are rich people, remember. They can afford to buy, house and keep horses).
“Is [Romney] disappointed? Of course he’s disappointed. He’s like 41,” adviser Ron Kaufman said, referring to former president George H.W. Bush. “Forty-one would hate to lose a game of horseshoes to the gardener in the White House, and Mitt hates to lose. He’s a born competitor.”
Comparing the contest between Romney and Obama this past year, with an image of GHW Bush vs. the 'White House Gardener' is telling, given who Romney believes he is -- and who the GOP perceives Obama to be... because Romney is an elite multimillionaire with extensive property, investment holdings and Cayman Island accounts, and you're not.

That was really the crux of the election just past, and the Right is utterly gobsmacked to have lost -- not just the Presidency; they lost in most of the hotly-contested, controversial Senate and House races. The American voting population rejected their message.

The Right has been living in a Cloud-Koo-Koo Land of evangelical wishful thinking and Troglodyte hubris since the mid-1990's, and on the night of November 6th, that collapsed on itself again -- as it did in November of 2006, and again in 2008. All the bizarre, self-serving sore-loser comments made by Rightist pundits, the screeching of the Lard Boys and Little Mikey Wieners, ever since only serves to make that clearer.

If Romney had won, the next four years would have etched the divide between  people like Mitzy and Ann and The Rest Of You even deeper into American society -- and Romney would have presided over that with gusto, because he truly believes in that kind of social stratification as the natural order, something ordained by god.

Which is why, after the majority of the American people voted No to this notion, Mitzy is having such a hard time adjusting.

Meanwhile, back in Oz On The Potomac, President Boner and President Yertle The Turtle and President Graham and President Cantor are saying they will not play nicely with the evil illegitimate Socialist up the White House what thinks he's Prestident.

They intend to force Obama to give them what they could not win at the ballot box by dint of typical Rethug behavior -- bait-and-switch, outright lying, threats, and posturing for the cameras. Little Rupert's Fox is ready to support all this by repeating those same lies over and over, 24-7.  And all this is standard operating procedure for the Right, though these same tactics didn't work in the months leading up to the election. 

In November, the Republicans lost because they only saw what they wanted to see. So far, they haven't really admitted to themselves that they did, in fact, lose the election in a very fundamental and substantial way -- that the very 'Republican Brand' may be heading for extinction.  The reasons for that loss don't seem to have made any difference to the Republican Congressional leadership -- but, clearly, like Mitzy, they have Bubble problems of their own.