Darker Days Ahead?
October 24, 2010 

  The moron contingent of the electorate has always constituted the swing vote.  They almost elected the Chaney-Bush administration to its first term (it was finally shoehorned in by a right-wing-dominated supreme court (a court whose makeup is due to the spineless Democrats who do things like accepting the claim by Clarence Thomas that he had no opinion about anything) and actually did elect Chaney-Bush to its second term, thanks in part to the Republicans’ mastery of the politics of fear.

  Now, the moron contingent is dissatisfied because the Obama administration has not been able quickly enough to correct the disastrous situation the Chaney administration created.  They seem to feel that the people who created the mess should be put back into power.


Ambrose Bierce said “War is God’s way of teaching Americans geography”.

How do we account, then, for the fact that more than five years into the Iraq war, only one in seven Americans can find Iraq on a map?

October, 2010

Muddiest pronouncement we’ve heard this month

An international trade pundit referring to a recent international agreement:
“It has a high degree of saliency in the United States in terms of its constitutional legal status”.

Adventures in Alaskan Justice,
in Collaboration with the US Supreme Court

On June 18, 2009 the United States Supreme Court, by a 5-to-4 vote, ruled that following conviction, prisoners need not be granted access to evidence that under newly-developed tests would prove whether or not they are actually guilty.

Even in the face of more than 240 exonerations* based on DNA tests, the Court ruled that Alaska, along with the only two other US states with similar laws, is not denying a person due process of law when it denies access to DNA that was the basis of conviction at a time when DNA testing was relatively primitive.  The Court agreed with Alaska’s attorney that it is more important for convictions to be final than it is to ensure that the convicted person was actually guilty.

The only two other US states that do not provide access automatically, are:  Oklahoma (no surprise), and Massachusetts (big surprise).  Access is, by the way, available in all federal court proceedings.

* as of June, 2009

The Anti-Drug War

Updated December, 2009

There is a growing movement to decriminalize recreational drugs, based on the mass of evidence that the Drug War* is utterly ineffective and that decriminalization would have great advantages such as control, taxing ability, reduction in crime by addicts who rob and steal in a desperate effort to support their habit, and an end to the killings by drug dealers fighting turf wars.  Apparently nothing was learned by the disastrous period of alcohol prohibition, which gave organized crime its first major foothold in the United States.

A minor roadblock to decriminalization efforts is the puritanical attitude of many Americans:  One of the three matters about which much of the population is imbecilic, is drugs.  Where else would doctors have been afraid to provide sufficient amounts of narcotics to patients who were dying, on the grounds that they would become addicted?  They were dying, but they should not be allowed to become addicts in the last weeks or months of their lives.

That attitude however, is the lesser of two roadblocks.  The greater one is the existence of a multi-billion dollar anti-drug industry, including a mushrooming, increasingly private prison industry.  The United States now leads the "developed" world in the proportion of its population that is incarcerated, and the majority of prison inmates are there because of drug offenses.

Some people claim that the powerful alcohol industry also maintains a political lobby that campaigns against decriminalization.  It makes sense - no business wants competition.

Is it possible that drugs will be decriminalized?  Sure.  Less likely things have happened.

But don't hold your breath.

* Have you noticed that our social wars have all been dismal failures?  The War on Poverty, the War on Illiteracy, the Drug War, all the others.  And what is this penchant for naming efforts "wars"?

The Surprising Election, and the American Empire

Updated December, 2009

In 2008, we finally got rid of what was probably the most destructive federal administration in American history.  In the final days, it continued to enact legislation and issue rulings, that slash at the environment and endangered species, apparently hoping to do as much damage as possible before it had to relinquish power.  Now, we have our first African American (actually, mixed race) President, whose IQ is a multiple of what the half-wit Zealot-In-Chief figurehead former president could boast.

So a brown-skinned man has been elected President, and by a substantial margin.  Is American racism a thing of the past?

Certainly not.  You have only to look at which states voted solidly against him, and listen to the comments by some who seem to represent a segment of public opinion, to see that.

What happened this time, I believe, is a result of several factors:

First, the progressive majority was sufficiently energized by the eight-year rampage of the Chaney administration, that they came out in droves, not just to vote, but to get others out and to monitor the polls.  As a result, it was not possible to successfully conduct the program of massive voter suppression seen in earlier elections.

Secondly, most of the electorate’s moron contingent, which has often been the swing vote, had begun experiencing the metaphorical two-by-four-to-the-side-of-the-mule’s-head* when they, their relatives and their neighbors, began losing their savings, their jobs, their pensions, and their health care.  That swamped the Be Very Afraid And Stick With Us Because We're Tough messages that they had been buying for so long.

Like many others, I had expected the election to be very close, and was dreading the possibility of another drawn-out series of lawsuits culminating in another appointed President (and guess which one this Supreme Court would have appointed in a 5-to-4 decision).  I’ve never been happier to be wrong.

Does this mean we’ve progressed socially?  Yes, a little.  But not very much.  For instance, the voters of California, who have elected two movie actors Governor and helped one to become President, have now decided along with several other states, that letting same-sex couples marry would
make marriage meaningless and destroy our social fabric.  America is still insane when it comes to matters of sex, and we’ll continue to be laughed at by all of Europe and much of the rest of the world unless and until we become more enlightened.

We also need to get used to the fact that although the United States is, for now, still the strongest military power in the world and among the most powerful economic forces, our empire passed its peak some years ago and is now in a decline observable even to the experts and the pundits.  Still, there are those who predict that even at worst, the United States will be "first among equals", whatever that is supposed to mean.

Usually, nations take decades or even centuries to admit that they are no longer in charge of a major portion of the world.  I’m sure the United States will be no exception.


*There’s an old joke about a farmer who was chatting with a friend when a mule that he had purchased was delivered.  The farmer told his friend that he was going to begin the mule’s training immediately.  With that, he picked up a two-by-four and slammed it against the side of the mule’s head.

“Why did you do that?” his shocked friend asked.

“That”, the farmer told him, “was to get his attention”.

Posted July 14, 2008

What Governments Do
to Anyone They Deem a Potential Threat

>  First, They try to convince him that his views are mistaken.

>  If that doesn’t work, they try to bribe him.

>  If that doesn’t work, they try to discredit him.

>  If that doesn’t work, they threaten him.

> If that doesn’t work, they kill him.

The Bill of Rights as it Stands Today

 (This was first posted in the autumn of 2007 and was updated in the summer of 2008.
As of late 2009 we have seen no discernible change.)

Amendment I

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.

   The first gray portion was watered down by a national administration
that sought to impose its own religious views
through regulatory agencies and enactment of laws.
The second gray portion has been weakened  by local governments
that require permits for assembly on public streets, and that
often use barriers to closely confine demonstrations .

Amendment II

A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.

Weakened in some states, and nullified in some cities.
A recent Supreme Court decision may change the situation substantially.

Amendment III

No soldier shall, in time of peace be quartered in any house, without the consent of the owner, nor in time of war, but in a manner to be prescribed by law.

Amendment IV

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

  Mortally wounded by provisions of the “Patriot Act” of 2003,
further eviscerated by the amended FISA law passed in 2008, and
largely ignored by investigative agencies, whose actions are sanctioned by
the Executive branch of the federal government.

Amendment V

No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a grand jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the militia, when in actual service in time of war or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offense to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.

      The crossed-out portions have been nullified by unilateral actions of
the Executive Branch of the federal government, which actions were later endorsed
by the Legislative Branch.

Amendment VI

In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the state and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the assistance of counsel for his defense.

Canceled by unilateral action of the Executive Branch of the federal government,
which actions were later endorsed by the Legislative Branch.

Amendment VII

In suits at common law, where the value in controversy shall exceed twenty dollars, the right of trial by jury shall be preserved, and no fact tried by a jury, shall be otherwise reexamined in any court of the United States, than according to the rules of the common law.

Amendment VIII

Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.

The crossed-out portion has been mostly circumvented by
 direction of the Executive Branch of the federal government.
The actions were later endorsed in part, by the Legislative Branch.

Amendment IX

The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.

Amendment X

The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the states, are reserved to the states respectively, or to the people.

          Although the Amendment above is still technically in effect,
the Executive branch of the federal government periodically
attempts, sometimes successfully, to override state decisions
by Executive Order, or by submitting new federal laws, or
by recommending new constitutional amendments.

So the score as of this writing

Two rights obliterated;
Three weakened almost into non-existence;
Two in questionable condition.

Heaven help us all.

Our One-Party System

Originally posted in January, 2008.  Updated in December, 2009 and April, 2010

Although informed opinion has it that the Chaney (a/k/a Bush) administration was dominated by maniacs, and was at once the most incompetent, blatantly corrupt, and destructive in living memory, it is not the only one to have done damage to our system of government.

Admittedly, that administration launched a particularly ferocious attack on individual rights and the constitution, and has given large corporations unprecedented power including ever more protection from being held to account.  [Note added in April, 2010: An increasingly "conservative" supreme court has now also given large corporations unbridled ability to influence elections at all levels, by removing any limitations on the amounts of money then can spend.]

But that is just a continuation (albeit a greatly accelerated one) of what predecessor administrations inflicted.  For example, that administration ha no monopoly on benefiting big corporations and the rich at the expense of the rest of us:  Tax rates for corporations have been reduced so much in recent years that some of the largest ones pay no federal tax, while net tax rates for individuals have been increasing through such indirect means as ballooning property taxes and sales taxes, which are needed to compensate for the trumpeted tax cuts to individuals (most of which provide the greatest benefit to the rich), and by the "Alternative Minimum Tax", which is as of this writing is still not indexed for inflation, causing more middle-income families and more seniors on fixed incomes to be hit with that surtax.

In case you’re among those who do not realize it:  These days there is actually just one political party in this country, and it is always in power.  It has a right wing (the Democrats) and a far right wing (the Republicans).  Thanks to actions by both wings, ever more couples find it necessary that both work full time in order to achieve a reasonable standard of  living.  Real income (that is, income adjusted for inflation) has been decreasing steadily over the past few decades for everyone except the rich, even if you  use the government’s understated inflation figures*.

The two wings of our one political party share responsibility for the fact that more and more people who were middle class have now joined the poor.  Both wings also have done their share to expand the ranks of the medically uninsured, who are left without access to adequate health care.  [Note added in April, 2010:  That situation has now been mitigated to a small extent.]

The single political party is constantly looking for ways to consolidate its power further, as witness the fact that debates among presidential candidates, which used to be conducted under the auspices of an independent organization (the League of Women Voters), have been taken over by the two wings of the one party, allowing them to shut out the candidates of all other parties.

Why are the rich and the corporations doing better and better as almost everyone else does worse and worse?  The answer is simple:  Although all candidates invite donations from individuals, the bulk of the major candidates’ money comes from corporations and rich individuals.  To whom do you think the candidates are obligated when they get into office?

People who call themselves "Progressives" (since the far right wing has made the term "Liberal" a pejorative) have begun to speak of "creeping fascism" in this country.  Most of us associate that name with the erstwhile racist governments of Germany, Italy, and Spain.  However, the term properly refers not to a social but rather to an economic system:  Fascism is the mirror image of Communism:  In a Communist system the government owns industry, whereas in a Fascist system the major corporations control the government.  Can you say: "Gradual consolidation of newspapers, radio stations, banks, hardware stores, pharmacies, and others"?

If you think that the claim of "creeping fascism" is a wild exaggeration if not downright false, but your mind is not closed on the matter, you would do well to read the article at the Web address cited below.  It is based on a study of classic Fascist regimes (World War II Italy, Germany, et al), and it enumerates the characteristics they had in common.  Simply click the address to go to the site. After you read the article, you can form your own opinion.

* The government's inflation criteria are periodically adjusted to reduce the apparent rate.  For instance, if the cost of an item such as a particular cut of meat makes it expensive, it is removed from the "market basket" list that forms the basis for the inflation figures.  So its price increase is not reflected in the new reported inflation rate.

The Explosion

A few minutes before 10 AM on May 7, as I was sitting at a computer in the Study, I heard an explosion and the tinkling of glass somewhere in the house.  I looked in the bedrooms, and finding nothing there, I proceeded to the living room.

The floor was littered with glass, and I heard a strange sound from the Buffet, on which I have my stereo system.  Was the sound gas escaping from an exploded electronic component?   The Buffet too, had glass on it.  (Fortunately, the turntable was covered at the time. )

Finally looking across the room, I saw the large hole and the long, radiating cracks in one of the windows.  
I began searching for the expected big rock that someone must have thrown.  (But why would anyone do that?  Random vandalism?  It seemed unlikely around here.)  When my gaze reached the area under the Buffet, I saw the still form of an animal that, as I got closer, I recognized as a small pheasant.   To get an idea of its size, note that it is lying partly on one of my running shoes.

The bird’s momentum, even after it had crashed through both panes of that double-glazed window, had carried it more than 13 feet across the room, and shards of glass had been projected all the way to the kitchen entrance, even further from the window.  I even found a piece in the middle of the kitchen, a total of 20 feet away.

The bird cannot have weighed even two pounds, so it must have been flying very, very fast.  It should have been killed instantly but I heard it moan a few more times (its moaning was the strange sound I had heard earlier).  Then it was silent.  I knew that it was probably now dead, and that in any case there was nothing I could do.  I carried it outside and laid it on the lawn.

The bird’s impact had made an 18-inch hole in the thick, outer pane of the window, and a 15-inch hole in the inner pane.

Procrastination can have its rewards:  I had a large supply of boxes in the basement that were long overdue to be put out for recycling, and one of the biggest boxes had a sufficiently large side to cover the hole.

I was surprised at how shaken up I was by what had just happened.  And that was before I realized what might have happened in only slightly different circumstances (see later in this narrative).

I started collecting all the visible shards of glass from the carpeting and the furniture.  I also treated the drops of blood along the bird’s trajectory, and started on the puddle left under the buffet where it had bled out.  After that, I vacuumed the areas I had cleared so far.

That day and part of the evening, I continued the cleanup intermittently, finding glass almost everywhere in the room, even in some places that by logic should have been shielded.  Every time my angle of view changed I saw more bits of glass.  There were countless barely visible flecks, some thinner than rice paper, and there were needle-thin splinters, but overall the shards spanned a range up to several inches on a side.  And there were some dagger-like slivers.

I put most of the glass in paper bags, and the next day I weighed them:  3½ pounds, and that’s not counting what I had already thrown away.  Although I thoroughly vacuumed the carpeting, I expected that tiny pieces of glass would continue to turn up there and elsewhere, far into the future.  [Note added in November, 2009:  Just this week I found two more tiny pieces.]

Considering the force with which the storm of razor-sharp shards had been propelled in all directions (for example, when I dusted the glass top of the cocktail table I found that bits of flying glass had hit so hard that they created pits), this had in effect been an explosion.  If I had been in the room, I would likely now be awaiting plastic surgery, possibly followed by acquisition of a  seeing-eye dog.  Worse yet, if I had been looking out that window, as I sometimes do, I would not now be awaiting anything.

I’m not a drinker, otherwise this would have been a great excuse to take a stiff belt.  Or two.  Or three.

The incident really cast a pall on my day and evening, and I suspect that it didn’t do that pheasant’s day any good either.

When I looked out the next morning, the bird’s corpse was gone from the lawn.  As I had expected, some animal had taken it during the night.  This is a very rural area.


The last update to this page was on October 24, 2010