Saturday, May 31, 2008


From the National Gallery of Art. Sorry, I lost the artist information. Maybe you can find it at the link.  I have a vague memory of a last name beginning with G.  This was somewhere in the Italian 13-16 century galleries. The serenity of the face captivated me.


Thursday, May 22, 2008

The How and Why of Bush

H.L. Mencken:
As democracy is perfected, the office represents, more and more closely, the inner soul of the people. We move toward a lofty ideal. On some great and glorious day the plain folks of the land will reach their heart's desire at last, and the White House will be adorned by a downright moron.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Your alienable rights

More on the modern American (and in this case Republican) theme that the government owns the people: via digby. The bigger story is that the Republicans are rushing to put similar rules in effect in Missouri, a key swing state, and where, without such rules, Obama can be expected to bring out a huge number of first-time voters. So much for government of the people, by the people, for the people, it is no different from Santa Claus or the Easter Bunny
"All the discourse here is about immigration," Arizona ACORN organizer Monica Sandschafer observes. "But we're really talking about Arizonans who are Americans and whose legal right to vote is being denied. And while Latino citizens are hit hard, we're finding that all Arizonans are at risk of being disenfranchised by this requirement."

Perhaps no one knows that as well as 97-year-old Shirley Freeda Preiss. She was born at home in Clinton, Kentucky in 1910, before women had the right to vote, and never had a birth certificate. Shirley has voted in every presidential election since FDR first ran in 1932, and proudly describes herself as a "died-in-the-wool Democrat." After living in Arizona for two years, she was eagerly looking forward to casting her ballot in the February primary for the first major woman candidate for President, Hillary Clinton. But lacking a birth certificate or even elementary school records to prove she's a native-born American citizen, the state of Arizona's bureaucrats determined that this former school-teacher who taught generations of Americans shouldn't be allowed to vote.

"I have a constitutional right to vote, don't I?" she asks with her soft Southern drawl. "I didn't get to vote because of a birth certificate. What am I going to do now?"

Her strong-willed 78-year-old son, Nathan "Joey" Nemnich, a World War II veteran, is infuriated. "I'm pissed. She's an American citizen who worked her whole life and I want her to vote," he says. He went down to the local Motor Vehicle Division to get her an Arizona ID and register her to vote, armed with copies of his mother's three drivers' licenses from her previous home in Texas, along with copies of her Social Security and Medicare cards. All that wasn't good enough for the state of Arizona. "The sons of bitches are taking away our Constitution," Nemnich says.

In Arizona and now as seems likely in Missouri, Kafkaesque rules blend with right-wing ideology to block American citizens like Shirley Preiss from voting, collateral damage in the Republican-led war on democracy. "I was very disappointed," she says of the state's roadblocks to voting. "It's not acceptable. I've always voted."

Engelhardt on our security

Read this through.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Lenin and Trotsky

Modern neocons are intellectual descendants of Trotsky. Trotsky/Lenin are two faces of the same coin. What Lenin wrought in Russia, the neocons have brought about in the US of A.

Back in the USSR:
“The U.S. government has injected hundreds of foreigners it has deported with dangerous psychotropic drugs against their will to keep them sedated during the trip back to their home country, according to medical records, internal documents and interviews with people who have been drugged,” the Post reports.

The drugs? Haldol, which is used with schizophrenia patients. Ativan, a tranquilizer. Cogentin, a muscle relaxer helpful with Parkinson’s patients.

“Haldol gained notoriety in the Soviet Union, where it was often given to political dissidents imprisoned in psychiatric hospitals,” the Post said. Then the story quoted a specialist who pointed out — as if it needed to be pointed out — that giving these drugs to people who are not psychotic “is medically and ethically wrong.”

Often, deportees were given a “cocktail” of all three drugs at once. And they were given the shots many times — in detention, on the runway, on the plane, while changing planes.

Since this morally depraved practice not only violates any sense of decency that we might still have left as a country, but international law as well, it is interesting to note that during plane-changing layovers on the ground in Belgium and France, the nurses were not allowed to give their patients “booster shots.” They had to wait until they were back on a plane.

According to the Post, our government has been discussing deportee drugging for a long time. By the end of the Clinton administration, it had decided that it could be done “only if a federal judge gave permission in advance.”

Even after 9/11, the government was still “wary about drugging detainees.”

But Bush and Cheney rushed to the rescue. In early 2003, “They handed the job of deportation to the Department of Homeland Security’s new Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency, known as ICE.”

The appropriately-named agency, according to an internal policy memo, decided that a detainee “with or without a diagnosed psychiatric condition who displays overt or threatening aggressive behavior… may be considered a combative detainee and can be sedated if appropriate under the circumstances.”

And guess who got to determine what might be considered “combative”?

Today, more than 250 druggings, at least 83 deaths and two lawsuits against the U.S. government later, the rules may have been changed. Or they may not. And by the way, ICE has never asked for a court order.

As if Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib weren’t enough, now we’re taking a page from the bad old Soviet Union. What’s next? Bush and Cheney flying to Myanmar to see how it’s done over there?

Friedman's Foreign Policy

Glenn Greenwald summarizes NYT columnist Thomas Friedman's ideas on foreign policy:

That's what passes for Serious Foreign Policy commentary in America -- the Most Serious commentary, actually. World War III has started! We need to be like Tony Soprano, threatening everyone with our big baseball bats. Those Muslims -- we can just pick the targets indiscriminately -- need 2-by-4s across their heads to get the message. And the message we need to convey with our baseball bats and 2-by-4s -- still -- is "Suck. On. This."

If you didn't get it, here's a further excerpt:

Friedman spent months before the invasion of Iraq continuously supporting and cheering it on based on righteous appeals to the transformational values of freedom and democracy. But once the invasion was complete, he unmasked himself, acknowledging in that NPR interview that the real purpose of the invasion was that the U.S. had to send a message to Muslims generally and "sometimes it takes a 2-by-4 across the side of the head to get that message."

That admission was accompanied by Friedman's 2003 "epiphany" on The Charlie Rose Show that the invasion of Iraq was "unquestionably worth doing" because "looking back, I now feel I understand more what the war was about." Only once the deed was done did he magically realize that the real purpose of his war was not, after all, that "a more accountable, progressive and democratizing regime" in Iraq would "have a positive, transforming effect on the entire Arab world" -- as he continuously claimed while convincing Americans to support it.

No, instead, it turns out that the real purpose of invading Iraq, what made it "unquestionably worth doing," was that we needed to invade some Muslim country -- Iraq was just one of many that would have sufficed -- in order, using his words, to "take out a very big stick" and say: "Suck. On. This." That comes from one of the most revealing (and most repellent) three minutes of commentary one can find, illustrating the real face of the Friedman-led American foreign policy class...

Bush's Bogey

From a Keith Olbermann Special Comment:

Then came Mr. Bush's final blow to our nation's solar plexus, his last reopening of our common wounds, his last remark that makes the rest of us question not merely his leadership or his judgment but his very suitably to remain in office.

"Mr. President," he was asked, "you haven't been golfing in recent years. Is that related to Iraq?"

"Yes," began perhaps the most startling reply of this nightmarish blight on our lives as Americans on our history. "It really is. I don't want some mom whose son may have recently died to see the Commander in Chief playing golf. I feel I owe it to the families to be as — to be in solidarity as best as I can with them. And I think playing golf during a war just sends the wrong signal."

Golf, sir? Golf sends the wrong signal to the grieving families of our men and women butchered in Iraq? Do you think these families, Mr. Bush, their lives blighted forever, care about you playing golf? Do you think, sir, they care about you?

You, Mr. Bush, let their sons and daughters be killed. Sir, to show your solidarity with them you gave up golf? Sir, to show your solidarity with them you didn't give up your pursuit of this insurance-scam, profiteering, morally and financially bankrupting war.

Sir, to show your solidarity with them you didn't even give up talking about Iraq, a subject about which you have incessantly proved without pause or backwards glance, that you may literally be the least informed person in the world?

Sir, to show your solidarity with them, you didn't give up your presidency? In your own words "solidarity as best as I can" is to stop a game? That is the "best" you can do?

Four thousand Americans give up their lives and your sacrifice was to give up golf! Golf. Not "Gulf" — golf.

And still it gets worse. Because it proves that the president's unendurable sacrifice, his unbearable pain, the suspension of getting to hit a ball with a stick, was not even his own damned idea.

"Mr. President, was there a particular moment or incident that brought you to that decision, or how did you come to that?"

"I remember when [diplomat Sergio Vieira] de Mello, who was at the U.N., got killed in Baghdad as a result of these murderers taking this good man's life. And I was playing golf, I think I was in central Texas, and they pulled me off the golf course and I said, it's just not worth it any more to do."

Your one, tone-deaf, arrogant, pathetic, embarrassing gesture, and you didn't even think of it yourself? The great Bushian sacrifice — an Army private loses a leg, a Marine loses half his skull, 4,000 of their brothers and sisters lose their lives — and you lose golf, and they have to pull you off the golf course to get you to just do that?

If it's even true.

Apart from your medical files, which dutifully record your torn calf muscle and the knee pain which forced you to give up running at the same time — coincidence, no doubt — the bombing in Baghdad which killed Sergio Vieira de Mello of the U.N. and interrupted your round of golf was on Aug. 19, 2003.

Yet CBS News has records of you playing golf as late as Oct. 13 of that year, nearly two months later.

Mr. Bush, I hate to break it to you 6 1/2 years after you yoked this nation and your place in history to the wrong war, in the wrong place, against the wrong people, but the war in Iraq is not about you.

PS: The President also "sacrificed" candy.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

A Peek into the Right Wing Blogosphere


Monday, May 12, 2008

Enemy of Freedom

If legislation works out as various nutcases want, Americans will have to prove to the Federal Government their right to work.
A bill by Heath Shuler, a North Carolina Democrat, and Tom Tancredo, the Republican anti-immigration extremist from Colorado, would require each of the 7.4 million employers in the United States to participate in E-Verify — and to fire anyone, citizen or otherwise, who cannot prove that he or she has the right to work.
This inverts the usual civil liberties principle that by default, the citizens are right, the Government has to prove its case to punish or inconvenience them.

The problem is that the American sheople are likely to go along with this, as they continue to squander their precious heritage.

PS: Think about it. Your "inalienable rights" now depend on your name being in an electronic database system somewhere; your rights will be in jeopardy whenever the system is down, or if someone hacks into it. And you are relying for your liberties on a government that cannot maintain a "no-fly" list.

This country is not your country, it is the Government's country. You are permitted to live here, work here or vote as a special privilege granted by to you by the Government. The Government is here to make the world safe for democracy and can do anything, from suspending habeas corpus and torture to using unreliable electronic voting machines to further its God-Given Purpose. Criticizing the Government is anti-American and unpatriotic and may result in the suspension of your privileges.

Sunday, May 11, 2008


Posed photograph of purchased cut flowers. Still have a way to go to make them really pop.


Garden roundup

Some of the things in the garden on May 11:


One of the few varieties of Clematis that I found that can do well in the shade. First flower of the season, and as you can see, more are threatened.


May Garden Roundup

May Garden Roundup

New experiment for this year. Fuchsia and amethyst something in hanging coco pots. Notice how bowed the iron stand is in the second picture. (It is deceptively straight in the first picture.) Comes from listening to the shop assistants.


May Garden Roundup

May Garden Roundup

White azalea - always a challenge to get the right exposure. I didn't quite get it right.


May Garden Roundup

A small bush of orange azalea that I had thought I had killed through neglect. I guess the call of spring was too strong.


May Garden Roundup

The rhododendron towards the front has not yet bloomed.


May Garden Roundup

May Garden Roundup

May Garden Roundup

Various views of rhododendron.


May Garden Roundup

On the other side of the rhododendron is a light pink azalea...


May Garden Roundup

...and then these azaleas.


May Garden Roundup

Another view of the whole thing.

Green cities

Atrios quotes a story of a man who drives 200 miles to work and back every day, because of the problem of finding affordable housing in a good neighborhood.
Guettinger lives on Arena Way in rural Livingston, where he moved a few years ago with his wife and kids because he couldn't bear the thought of his sons growing up in an unsafe Bay Area neighborhood.
A great improvement in quality of life comes from not having to spend so much time on commuting. Less commuting also means less gasoline consumed.

It is interesting that fixing our greenhouse gas problem will to some extent require fixing the chronic crime problem in our cities. I think this will prove to be a general rule that a greener earth requires fixing problems of poverty, crime, homelessness.

Another point - amply evident to someone who has observed India, but forgotten by the compassionate conservatives in the US - is that to enjoy what you earn in peace and safety and without the constant fear of being robbed or worse, you need the people around you to also be earning and productive to a similar level as you. Inequality, especially of the extreme sort, is a great downer on quality of life. A billionaire can have his bodyguards of course, but the rich-but-not-plutocrat-types should reflect on this, if they want to enjoy life outside little fortified enclaves.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Live Ecstatically!

Read Arthur Silber.

PS: in a spirit of wonder, see photograph #7 on this page.

Thursday, May 08, 2008

The Crucifixion of Jeremiah Wright

The Crucifixion of Jeremiah Wright - I am in strong agreement with this and am disappointed, e.g., in Digby.

A question

Arthur Silber points out that the very Wall Street that has defied the EEOC (Equal Employment & Opportunity Commission) and not hired black stockbrokers is strongly in support of a black President; and asks the question - why?

He quotes Pam Martens thusly:

We are asked to believe that those kindly white executives at all the biggest Wall Street firms, which rank in the top 20 donors to the Obama presidential campaign, after failing to achieve more than 3.5 per cent black stockbrokers over 30 years, now want a black populist president because they crave a level playing field for the American people.

A honest person might vote for Obama as the least bad of bad choices; but not as someone who will bring about real change. A.S. writes:

I urge you to keep in mind the full meaning of the following from [Chris Floyd's] post: "even minute mitigations in the operation of vast power structures can translate into real benefits for many ordinary people, simply due to the scale on which such structures operate." If you choose to support one party over the other because of those "minute mitigations" that "can translate into real benefits for many ordinary people," that's fine -- but intellectual honesty ought to compel you to recognize the great danger you're courting. That danger lies in "the scale on which such structures operate." We are talking here about the massive power of government on a huge scale. A government that has the power to save you also has the power to kill you. When power is institutionalized on a gigantic scale of this kind, as it now has been in the United States, it is easy enough to flip the switch from a policy you abhor to one you approve, depending on who holds power at any given moment. But government is not run by some impartial, unbiased, God-like and fictitious force: it is run by individual human beings. One person may flip the switch in a way you think is wonderful; the next person in control may flip it back again, and slaughter another million people.

You may think that this system is not going to change in the foreseeable future or in your lifetime, so it is better to have at least semi-decent human beings in charge of it. In some circumstances and with regard to certain issues, I might even agree with you. But be clear about the nature of the system you are thereby supporting: one of immense power, that can cut down any one of us if even a single individual in a critical position decides to do so. And given the issues on which the two parties agree at present, I see nothing to recommend the Democrats over the Republicans. They both stand for endless war and global interventionism; they both stand for authoritarianism on the domestic front.... For me, all other issues recede into insignificance. If you make a different decision, at least be honest about the nature of your choice. That's all I ask.

An appeal from a dkos diarist

The west is ripe for a democratic revolution, and

Nobody here cares that Obama is black. Don't let the predilictions of some Midwestern machinists convince you we do. Obama's blackness isn't going to stop him from being our next president. If you harbor some deeply felt suspicion that it will, I submit to you that the principles of our party demand you keep those feelings to yourself and cast your vote for him as if you were color-blind. If we really our a country of racists, then we deserve John McCain. At least give all of us whiteys a chance to prove that we're not. History says we probably don't deserve that chance, but I'm asking for it anyway.

Monday, May 05, 2008

Bush's "Cruel Joke"

Bush repeated the conventional wisdom that India is responsible for the world food shortage, via the growing demand from its burgeoning middle class.

Arab News points out:

But Bush’s analysis has no takers in India. Figures released by the US Department of Agriculture for 2007 say each Indian eats only 178 kg of grain in a year, while a US citizen consumes 1,046 kg. Likewise, milk consumption per person per year is 36 kg in India, while in the United States is 78 kg. While each American consumes 45.5 kg poultry meat per year, an Indian takes in only 1.9 kg. Besides, while the US per capita grain consumption rose from 946 kg in 2003 to 1,046 kg in 2007, India’s per capita consumption remained static during this period.

Bush's remarks were termed by the Indian Defence Minister as a "cruel joke".

I've collected various reactions here:

Bush has the analytic and research power of the entire Federal Government at his hands and ought not to make such statements. His own Department of Agriculture contradicts him. National Public Radio story quoted an economist (sorry I forget his name) saying that the food trade figures for China show that China is not responsible either.

But the idea that increased consumption in India and China has resulted in the world food shortage is uncritically accepted as true by far too many people.

Sunday, May 04, 2008

Friedbrain strikes again!

Thomas Friedman, of Moustache of Understanding fame, has reemerged at the NYT, after spending the last several months on a book shortly to be inflicted on the public.

Today's column is seemingly ok. Friedman tells us that his months of travel have led him to believe:
...if there is one overwhelming hunger in our country today it’s this: People want to do nation-building....They sense something deeper — that we’re just not that strong anymore....millions of Americans are dying to be enlisted — enlisted to fix education, enlisted to research renewable energy, enlisted to repair our infrastructure, enlisted to help others.

There are two problems with his article, however.

The first is that all this nation-building angst arises, in part, because we can't bomb Iran, the full quote is:
They sense something deeper — that we’re just not that strong anymore. We’re borrowing money to shore up our banks from city-states called Dubai and Singapore. Our generals regularly tell us that Iran is subverting our efforts in Iraq, but they do nothing about it because we have no leverage — as long as our forces are pinned down in Baghdad and our economy is pinned to Middle East oil.

The second is that there is the usual values pablum:

We are not as powerful as we used to be because over the past three decades, the Asian values of our parents’ generation — work hard, study, save, invest, live within your means — have given way to subprime values: “You can have the American dream — a house — with no money down and no payments for two years.”

Nothing in America today prevents the vast majority from working hard, studying, saving, investing and living within one's means. How cultivating these values will fix education, infrastructure, energy availability, or our inability to bomb Iran is unclear. How these values feed into a thirst for nation-building is not explained. And just where does one enlist for these values?

Friedman's stuff is substance-free, no different from this kind below, except with better packaging:

Nobody says you must laugh, but a sense of humor can help you overlook the unattractive, tolerate the unpleasant, cope with the unexpected, and smile through the day

Self-confidence gives you the freedom to make mistakes and cope with failure without feeling that your world has come to an end or that you are a worthless person.

Life is not what it's supposed to be. It’s what it is. The way you cope with it is what makes the difference.

We rate ability in men by what they finish, not by what they attempt

Every success is built on the ability to do better than good enough

Leadership is not magnetic personality/that can just as well be a glib tongue. It is not making friends and influencing people /that is flattery. Leadership is lifting a person's vision to higher sights, the raising of a person's performance to a higher standard, the building of a personality beyond its normal limitations.

The more chance there is of stubbing your toe, the more chance you have of stepping into success.

Atomic Tragedy

(via dkos): Pictures of Hiroshima
Warning: You will be upset by these pictures.

Photos of Hiroshima from the Robert L. Capp Collection

The Robert L. Capp collection at the Hoover Institution Archives contains ten never-before-published photographs illustrating the immediate aftermath of the Hiroshima bombing. These photographs, taken by an unknown Japanese photographer, were found in 1945 among rolls of undeveloped film in a cave outside Hiroshima by U.S. serviceman Robert L. Capp, who was attached to the occupation forces. Unlike most photos of the Hiroshima bombing, these dramatically convey the human as well as material destruction unleashed by the atomic bomb. Mr. Capp donated them to the Hoover Archives in 1998 with the provision that they not be reproduced until 2008. Three of these photographs are reproduced in Atomic Tragedy with the permission of the Capp family. Now that the restriction is no longer in force, the entire set is available below. Please contact Sean L. Malloy ( if you have any information that might help identify the original photographer.

Friday, May 02, 2008

Photographers encounter the police state

In the US and Europe, photographers have become subjects of suspicion for police, security types and regular citizens.

Via Rajan Parrikar: this.
From the BBC: this.
From this.

On Iran

Pepe Escobar describes Iran, without the usual filters of the American media.