Saturday, October 23, 2010

I sing of Olaf, glad and big

As the Spring cleaning 1992 project continues, four-five pages a day (out of thousands) get committed to my computer archives, I keep running into treasures from when I was a very serious young man in high school, most probably my senior year, 1968-69.

I found my typed copy of this e e cummings master piece, which speaks for itself:

i sing of Olaf glad and big
by E. E. Cummings

i sing of Olaf glad and big
whose warmest heart recoiled at war:
a conscientious object-or

his wellbelovéd colonel(trig
westpointer most succinctly bred)
took erring Olaf soon in hand;
but--though an host of overjoyed
noncoms(first knocking on the head
him)do through icy waters roll
that helplessness which others stroke
with brushes recently employed
anent this muddy toiletbowl,
while kindred intellects evoke
allegiance per blunt instruments--
Olaf(being to all intents
a corpse and wanting any rag
upon what God unto him gave)
responds,without getting annoyed
"I will not kiss your fucking flag"

straightway the silver bird looked grave
(departing hurriedly to shave)

but--though all kinds of officers
(a yearning nation's blueeyed pride)
their passive prey did kick and curse
until for wear their clarion
voices and boots were much the worse,
and egged the firstclassprivates on
his rectum wickedly to tease
by means of skilfully applied
bayonets roasted hot with heat--
Olaf(upon what were once knees)
does almost ceaselessly repeat
"there is some shit I will not eat"

our president,being of which
assertions duly notified
threw the yellowsonofabitch
into a dungeon,where he died

Christ(of His mercy infinite)
i pray to see;and Olaf,too

preponderatingly because
unless statistics lie he was
more brave than me:more blond than you.

The poetry of e e cummings always attracted my attention, but today, with 41additional years of experience plus the wisdom (or lack thereof) thereby obtained, AND the great gift from God of many manic moments, I have insights and understandings whereas previously, I had only a soul-full psychic connection.

Child was father
to the man

The REAL News in America - and it's GOOD NEWS!

Here's a sampling of today's news headlines from the Chicago Tribune:

Cholera Spreads in Haiti
Drug-resistant bacteria raises alarms in Chicago
Cop-in-training critically injured trying to help motorist
Attorney withdraws in NU's battle with prosecutors
Nephew defends man accused in murder for hire plot
Federal report on Giannoulias bank will come after election
Maywood Bank closed
Randy Quaid, wife, arrested in Canada: seek refugee status

From the Chicago Sun Times:

Man charged in 2007 murder of teen runaway
Stroger office: aides deny it was swept for bugging devices
Iraq War: Wiki leaks documents cite torture, killing by Iraqi forces
Waitress' stalker gets 33 months in prison
Blacks, Latinos agree, racism a "major problem," whites say no
Former choir director sentenced for child porn possession
Nanny cam leads to arrest in toilet
Potential lethal 'superbug' spreading in local hospitals
Mom who threw posh party accused of embezzling $4.5 million
Brand new British attack sub grounded
Japanese mass grave discovered on Iwo Jima
Obama assassination plotter gets 14 years

Here's an important secret. NONE of that is even remotely the real news in America. HERE is the real news in America, and it is taking place in my town, which I sometimes criticize as being, uppity, boorish, etc, etc.

Well, when there is something good to say about it, I will be there to say that something good.

I was out walking with my 79-year old mother in the late afternoon last Tuesday. We planned to take the out of the two mile into the center of town route. About a mile from the house, we were walking down the most severely steeped sector of hill, when she slipped, fell and hit her head on the street (there are no sidewalks in that residential section of town, so we had to be street-walkers). I was in front, bloviating, as per usual, when she let out a quiet yelp. I turned in time to see as she lost teetered, and then fell.

And I was utterly useless, as is often the case in these situations. Pathetic.

HOWEVER, immediately both husbands of two young couples playing with their children in their front yards came to the rescue. They each grabbed an arm and gently lifted her to her feet, and the helped her sit on the curb. As this happened, two south bound cars (we were walking north) both came to complete stops, and the women drivers each wanted to know if they could help; could they call 9-1-1? "No that won't be necessary, thank you very much."

"Are you sure you don't need anything?"

"No, we're okay now."

And one of the drivers went on.

The other driver waited.

Mom gets embarrassed when these things happen, and her plan was to catch her breath and continue the walk. AHEM, now, I could be useful. "Mom, the last time you were in the hospital, you slipped and fell twice on your head. You might have a concussion. You will need to see the doctor."

The waiting driver asked, "Can I give you a ride? Where do you live?"

Mom replied, "About 1/2 a mile from here."

Going into manly mode, I corrected her, "It's about a mile. One and a quarter blocks South of ----- ------ elementary school."

"I work at the school. I know right where it is. Let me take you home," the lady said.

Mom accepted, but instructed me to continue my walk, which I did, leaving my mom with a stranger, who might ...

Well, the stranger took mom straight home, and when I returned from the walk, mom had started supper and was talking about what a nice woman that lady was.

Yes. Indeed.

Two days later, I was out walking alone, when I passed the elementary school. The lady, in a white van (probably what she drove before) called out to me, and asked if my mother was all right. I assured her that she was. Corrine told me "your mom is such a nice lady." And I agreed.


Yesterday, mom son Adam James and I stopped by Rainbow Records, my home. Adam's first trip to the store, he barely remembered John T, the owner, who had coached Adam in little league, a mere 15 years before. T----- was in the store, and he had had an ugly interaction with the county police at the University he attends. A female art student has gone missing, and she and T----- were close friends. The police had interviewed him the day before, and gotten him to sign a waiver to search his room. They had called him in the morning. They wanted to talk with him some more. He explained that he was home for the weekend. They told him they would be happy to drive out here and talk some more. T----- had talked with his father, who recommended that any more talking T does with the police be in the presence of a lawyer.

Well, THAT was pretty interesting. And then the talk moved to ... surprisingly, MUSIC, and Adam, who had by now purchsed both a CD (son, you're setting a bad example, John might want ME to buy something sometime) and a green iced-tea and Jays potato chips from the next door wine store, pretty much listened (he is a marvelous listener, a skill he developed probably in self defense from all the bad examples set by me and my side of the family). At one oint, a lull in the conversation when T went outside for a smoke, and John went to put some of the CD's in their places, Adam apologized to me for not talking. He was hungry.

Hell, son, you don't have to talk. I just wanted to welcome you to my world, that place I go when seeking shelter from the storm.

He had a good time. If he has some free time (odds of that are diminishing dynamically as he starts his phlebotomy career Monday! Ta Da, he is PSYCHED) and he will continue to drum every saturday and sunday with his church, and every third saturday at my parents' church, so there will be some MAJOR changes in how he allocates his time; and he decieds what to leave in; what to leave out.

But it was still a very special time for me.

But ... THAT's not the news.

Here's the news. I stayed at the store another 4 hours after Adam left. And it was BUSY. CD's, vinyle, 45's were flying off the shelves like hotcakes, when one customer, who had purchased about a half-dozen CDs looked at his copy of the credit card receipt and said, "John, this is not right ... shouldn't it have been about $60 not $36?"

"Forty percent off," said the pithy one.

And after that customer left, John just smiled and said, "That's the second person today who was worried I hadn't charged them enough. They want to make sure I don't get cheated. How good is THAT?"


And that, dear readers, is the REAL NEWS from America.

That neighbors will come to the assitance of strangers, the customers look out for merchants. The people care about one another, in so many small, kind, decent ways.

Kind of reminds me, or a song:

I Think It's Going to Rain Today
Randy Newman

Broken windows and empty hallways
A pale dead moon in the sky streaked with gray
Human kindness is overflowing
And I think it's going to rain today

Scarecrows dressed in the latest styles
With frozen smiles to chase love away
Human kindness is overflowing
And I think it's going to rain today

Lonely, lonely
Tin can at my feet
Think I'll kick it down the street
That's the way to treat a friend

Bright before me the signs implore me
To help the needy and show them the way
Human kindness is overflowing
And I think it's going to rain today

Thursday, October 21, 2010

The Children's Prayer

A few years ago, I was attended a childrens' Christmas concert. The staging for the opening song had the children surrounding the audience in the auditorium. Each child held a flash light with paper shaped over the end to appear as a candle. They were given a signal to which they simultaneously lit the flash light and began singing. As I searched their faces, I found my own son, Adam James, and in that moment tears began to stream down my face and these words came to me:

The Children's Prayer

that children
be loved, for
if they are loved,
they will be loving.
Grant too that they might
find their instrument, for with
their instrument, they will come
to know their song. And when they
know their song, they will be able to
make music, and give all of what they are,
and more, to a world which needs their song.
Finally, Lord, find ways to remind us ever, that in Your
eyes we are
all children.

Luke-warm soup served by a red-hot waitress looking very good in what she had squeezed into

Modem burnt out sometime last night. Am composing this at our local public library; a very fine public library, I must add.

Bob Larson, the one-eyed actuary, was the smartest man I ever met. He was the author of a textbook on actuarial science: The Mathematics of Life Insurance, which was a big seller in India, where he once deplaned and was greeted by dozens (it maybe have been 100's according to Bob, who was not prone to exaggeration, but memory is a net full of holes, and mine is perhaps more or less holy than ever) of Indian actuarial students seeking his signature.

Bob was a dear friend, a man I admired greatly, a brilliant bridge player, a gifted raconteur, a man I loved and admired. He was also one of the finest writers I've encountered; a master of pith. As my Spring Cleaning 1992 project continues ambling along, I uncovered this Larson treasure. It brought many, many fond memories, a smile to my face, and a hurt stomach as I had to stifle a round of gut-bursting laughter lest the other library patrons complain.

All that Bob wrote of was based on his experiences. He did not write fiction (but he maybe have embellished for literary effect; I never asked, and I didn't care - he was just so so so good at it).

Early 1990



The purpose of this letter is to announce a new address. Since we have few friends and not many relative to whom we speak, I can't justify a form letter without adding a few names. Therefore, some of you may wonder who we are and others of you are still mad at me for something you think I said (or might have thought) many years ago. To this last group I deny everything. I didn't even know what an opinionated idiot was until I retired and started playing bridge in Hinsdale.


It finally dawned on us that (1) our house was now too bid and (2) we needed a major change. Therefore, when we got back from our June trip to Chicoutini, Quebec (the famous sin city), we put our house up for sale and said we planned to move to California. We had to endure many house showings and--worse--innumerable comments about smog, earthquakes, kookie people, and expensive housing. It was sort of like our 1966 move from Nebraska. I was in the yard when a passerby saw the for sale sign and asked where we were going. When I said Chicago, she said, "Oh, your poor thing."

We didn't sell until November, closed on January 4, and left the next day. During the last days, we got rid of a large percentage of our possessions by selling, giving, and tossing. I went so far as to toss grade books, diplomas, and pictures of old girlfriends.


Since Fern is our only driver, we didn't try for speed records. We took 8 days to get to Southern California and two more days and a bottle of tranquilizers to make the last 80 miles. When we got here, we looked at apartments in Leisure World, made an offer, had it accepted, and then spent a long stretch in a motel waiting for red tape to be cleared away.

I thought we had an interesting and varied trip. Motel 6 one night and Embassy Suites the next. I thought it said Economy. That's why Fern is our only driver.

The car started misbehaving badly as we crossed the line from Texas to New Mexico. Fern limped into a Weight Station and a mechanic came out from the little bitty nearby town. He raced the motor for 10 minutes and then asked what kind of car it was. When we said Pontiac, he said he wasn't familiar with the new cars. We hadn't even told him it was a 1982.

Eventually a tow truck towed us into Tucumcari where they found the trouble, fixed it, and we haven't had any trouble since. It seems the trouble was a bruised franistan. This is a very expensive part.

While waiting for the car, we found a restaurant called El Toro. There we were served luke-warm soup by a red-hot waitress, who looked very good in what she had squeezed into.


Our new address is
XXX D Ave. Sevilla
Laguna Hills, CA 92653

The "Ave." stands for "Avenida" but I plan to pretend I don't know that.


Leisure World is a walled retirement community with about 21,600 people. There's another one in Seal Beach.

We used our daughter Katie's ... address as a mail drop until we had a place in Leisure World. We still haven't convinced all of our correspondents that we aren't in Western Springs, IL., anymore. Getting an address changed is truly frustrating. One non-profit outfit says they have no time for address changes because they work only a 4-day week.

I had planned to write about our marvelous marriage, our super family, my collection of antique cars, and our busy, busy life but I ran out of gas.

Bob Larson

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

The Wisdom of Online Commentators - perhaps not always so wise or informed

The online commentators to Thomas Friedman's NYT op-ed make a number of excellent points:

Tynan Kelly from Beriut, Lebanon writes:

There is no such thing as striking back in this conflict. Both sides have accused the other of unprovoked attacks and both feel the other is a great threat to their security; and both are right in saying so.

Not mentioned, however, is the tiny matter of PROPORTIONALITY. One striker strikes quite a bit harder than the other, and always has, and always will.

Joesav from Tel Aviv writes:

The view from here is .....really depressing. The only decent prospect that I can see is the deeper and deeper U.S. involvement. Not that that's a guarentee of success, but things left to their own otherwise is a sure disaster.

I'd call this wishful thinking. The U.S. has been involved to various extents (sometimes pretty deeply) for 40 years. And we haven't accomplished, well, anything, really. This is perhaps the most obvious example of American impotence in the sphere of international diplomacy, OR, a subtle example of American kabuki posturing, to deflect its citizens (and media commentators) from pressing domestic concerns.

Alex T. commenting from Paris says:

Only the USA has the power to get Israel to comply. At no time does Israel feel the massive subsidies it gets from the US are in jeopardy. Its time to bring this to bear.

Most commentators agree that the Israel/Palestine conflict is a prime factor in conflict throughout the middle east and terrorism around the world. Its bigger than just the countries involved.

Time for America to do the 'unthinkable' and make the real threat of cutting off its multi-billion dollar allowance to its very spoiled child. Only that will focus the minds of the Israeli administration.

I seriously doubt that the US has neither the political or economic power (any more) to make any kind of impact. Certainly not the political will. Back when Al Franken's senate election was being held up, and the great state of Minnesota was limited to one Senator in Congress, there was a joke going around that went like this:

Q: What's the difference between the State of Minnesota and the State of Israel?

A: In the US, the interests of the people of the state of Minnesota are represented by one senator, while the interests of the people of the state of Israel are represented by 73 senators.

Anyway, making the "threat" of cutting of aid to Israel, and actually cutting of aid to Israel are two VERY different things.

Brendan Holleran of Dublin Ireland writes:

Israel has come up with a new demand before it will agree to the 2 month halting of construction on the West Bank. The Palestinians must recognise Israel as a Jewish state. Israel created this new demand that the Palestinians recognise Israel as a "Jewish" state knowing that the Palestinians could not do so. At the same time when a Palestinian negotiator tried to give an Israeli negotiator in Washington a paper on their position on borders he refused to take it. This happened in the presence of US officials including George Mitchell. So, it's quite clear Israel is not serious about peace. As one of the Palestinian negotiators says in an article in the Israeli newspaper Haaretz today, Palestinians recognised Israel's right to exist in peace and security 17 years ago. Israel has 78% of the original land of Palestine. Before the 1948 war 33% of the population were Jews.

But of that 33% of the population or the Palestinian territories, most of those Jews were indigenous to the lands, their families having lived there for several thousands of years. That dirty little secret: Jews and Arabs lived peacefully together in the Palestinian lands for centuries. Further little dirty secret: the Jews living in what is now Israel are regarded as being of lesser and lower class than the European immigrants.

Commentator Bruxman from Europe perceptively writes:

I have watched this conflict for the last 35 years and I have come to the conclusion that a majority of Israelis wants the land. If the land comes with peace, even better, but peace is clearly not the priority.

We all know that Israel cannot have both, the land between the Jordan river and the sea and peace. It is the job of the USA to teach this lesson. It's simply just not being done.

One can read comments here that peace would come once the Palestinians give up the armed struggle. But this is a flawed perception. The armed struggle is the result of Israel's land grab and oppression. It is not the cause.

And lest we forget, there is another overarching issue - the right of return of the exiled Palestinians, the millions whose families were driven from their homes during the ethnic cleansing by the Jews of the Arabs from the late 1940's. The Palestinians living in Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, do not have the rights of citizens in those countries.

Eric from Minneapolis writes:

Israel's actions demonstrate that its primary goal is not peace, or even security, it is land--Palestinian land, I doubt that the President--or anyone--will ever convince Israel to make any real concessions. The U.S. should cut its umbilical cord of money and weapons to Israel.

And stop buying Israeli technology to support what was once the Global War on Terrorism (GWOT) but has now been aptly renamed "The Long War." Let American workers produce that technology, dammit! (Soon I will post on what Naomi Klein has written about this in her illusion shattering book The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism.)

Carol Christ writing from Molivos Lesbos offers this:

I have been against anti-Semitism and anti-Judaism all of my adult life, but Israel has been consistently acting as if it intends to keep the territories (or parts of them) that it conquered in the 1967 war, which is against international law. This is wrong.

Keeping those territories, and adding others. In one instance paying 500 settlers money to settle in the heart of an Arab city of more than 200,000 people, and then sending in 1,500 IDF troops to "protect" the settlers.

Israel is a colonial enterprise, just as was American, back in the day, when the desire for settlement expansion was one of the drivers of support for the revolution against Britain. The British had made treaty with the Indians, forbidding settlement west of the Appalachians. This was not acceptable to many of the American colonists.

It's interesting that of the 15 highlighted comments, 10 come from outside the U.S.

It's also interesting that so many of the highlighted comments are fact free.

But then, this is a very emotional, tribal issue.

Not a single sentence in Reagan's pseudohistory was accurate or truthful

In my last post, I harshly criticized the New York Times' Thomas Friedman for lying / dissembling in an op-ed column. Friedman's presentation of lies as facts reminded me of this "extraordinary example of the denial of historical reality" from a Ronald Reagan press conference from February 1982, the text of which appears in H. Bruce Franklin's deeply insightful cultural over-view of the American War upon the Vietnamese People, Vietnam & Other American Fantasies. Let's hear it from the Gipper:

If I recall correctly, when France gave up Indochina as a colony, the leading nations of the world met in Geneva with regard to helping those colonies become independent nations. And since North and South Vietnam had been, previous to colonization, two separate countries, provisions were made that these two countries could by a vote of all their people together, decide whether they wanted to be one country or not.

And there wasn't anything surreptitious about it, that when Ho Chi Minh refused to participate in such an election -- and there was provision that people of both countries could cross the border and live in the other country if they wanted to. And when they began leaving by the thousands and thousands from North Vietnam to live in South Vietnam, Ho Chi Minh closed the border and again violated that part of the agreement.

And openly, our country sent military advisers there to help a country which had been a colony have such things as a national security force, an army, you might say, or a military to defend itself. And they were doing this, if I recall correctly, also in civilian clothes, no weapons, until they began being blown up where they lived and walking down the street by people riding by on bicycles and throwing pipe bombs at them. And then they were permitted to carry sidearms or wear uniforms. But it was totally a program until John F. Kennedy--when these attacks and forays became so great that John F. Kennedy authorized the sending in of a division of Marines. And that was the first move toward combat troops in Vietnam.

Franklin then notes that:

This rewriting of history was fundamental to Reagan's definition of the war as "a noble cause," a phrase he first presented along with another new term -- the "Vietnamese syndrome" -- in a 1980 campaign speech to the Veterans of Foreign Wars.

Astonishingly, not a single sentence in Reagan's pseudohistory is accurate or truthful...

This ought to teach us to be VERY leery of that which the political and media elites pitch our way. They always have an agenda. And their priorties will never be the priorities of the every day working person, the chronically unemployed / underemployed people, the marginalized, the aged, the infirm, the widow, nor the orphan

Thomas Friedman: Serial Liar

Seldom has one man managed to get so much wrong in one single paragraph as Thomas Friedman in today's New York Times column:

Some of Israel’s worst critics are fond of saying that Israel behaves like America’s spoiled child. I’ve always found that analogy excessive.

It is far more accurate to say that the U.S. acts as Israels' suzerain, paying Israel billions of dollars a year in military tribute. Dwight D. Eisenhower, the only U.S. President to ever contravene Israel's politico-military aspirations (during the Suez Crisis) could do so because he did not need the support of the Jewish vote in America, according to George Ball's little known and seldom read stinging critique and history of U.S. - Israeli relations from 1947-1992, The Passionate Attachment: America's Involvement With Israel, 1947 to the Present

Of the Suez Crisis, Wikipedia says:

The Suez Crisis, also referred to as the Tripartite Aggression was a war fought by Britain, France, and Israel against Egypt beginning on 29 October 1956.

The attack followed Egypt's decision of 26 July 1956 to nationalize the Suez Canal, after the withdrawal of an offer by Britain and the United States to fund the building of the Aswan Dam, which was partly in response to Egypt recognizing the People's Republic of China during the height of tensions between China and Taiwan.

The three allies, especially Israel, were mainly successful in attaining their immediate military objectives, but pressure from the United States and the USSR at the United Nations and elsewhere forced them to withdraw. Britain and France completely failed in their political and strategic aim of controlling the canal.

"The Most Dangerous Man in America," Daniel Ellsberg then a marine, was on board one of the U.S. ships that sailed to intervene. Of this experience, Ellsberg wrote that it was his proudest moment in being part of the U.S. military; he was proud for his country's principled stand in calling down the dogs of war.

But back to the serially lying Friedman:

Say what you want about Israel’s obstinacy at times, it remains the only country in the United Nations that another U.N. member, Iran, has openly expressed the hope that it be wiped off the map.

This tripe results from a mis-translation of a speech given by Iranian President. Red meat to incite, a lie that has legs to this day. Professor Juan Cole American's most astute student of middle-east politics, a speaker of Arabic and Persian, has frequently debunked that sound-bite lie. Cole writes:

As most of my readers know, Ahmadinejad did not use that phrase in Persian. He quoted an old saying of Ayatollah Khomeini calling for ‘this occupation regime over Jerusalem” to “vanish from the page of time.’ Calling for a regime to vanish is not the same as calling for people to be killed. Ahmadinejad has not to my knowledge called for anyone to be killed. (Wampum has more; as does the American Street).

If Ahmadinejad is a genocidal maniac who just wants to kill Jews, then why are there 20,000 Jews in Iran with a member of parliament in Tehran? Couldn’t he start at home if that was what he is really about?

I was talking to two otherwise well-informed Israeli historians a couple of weeks ago, and they expressed the conviction that Ahmadinejad had threatened to nuke Israel. I was taken aback. First of all, Iran doesn’t have a nuke. Second, there is no proof that Iran even has a nuclear weapons program. Third, Ahmadinejad has denied wanting a bomb. Fourth, Ahmadinejad has never threatened any sort of direct Iranian military action against Israel. In other words, that is a pretty dramatic fear for educated persons to feel, on the basis of . . . nothing.

I renew my call to readers to write protest letters to newspapers and other media every time they hear it alleged that Ahmadinejad (or “Iran”!) has threatened to “wipe Israel off the map.” There is no such idiom in Persian and it is not what he said, and the mistranslation gives entirely the wrong impression. Wars can start over bad translations.

It was apparently some Western wire service that mistranslated the phrase as ‘wipe Israel off the map’, which sounds rather more violent than calling for regime change. Since then, Iranian media working in English have themselves depended on that translation. One of the tricks of Right-Zionist propagandists is to substitute these English texts for Ahmadinejad’s own Persian text. (Ethan Bronner at the New York Times tried to pull this, and more recently Michael Rubin at the American Enterprise Institute.) But good scholarship requires that you go to the original Persian text in search of the meaning of a phrase. Bronner and Rubin are guilty [of] disregarding philological scholarship in favor of mere propagandizing.

So here are some things Ahmadinezhad has said that make clear his intentions, and which are translated by the United States government Open Source Center. He is hostile to Israel. He’d like to see regime change (apparently via a referendum on the shape of the government ruling over geographical Palestine, in which all “original” residents of any religion would get a vote). Calling for a referendum on the dissolution of a government is not calling for genocide. Ahmadinejad also says he has no objection to a Jewish state in and of itself, he just thinks it should be located in, say, German territory set apart for the purpose, rather than displacing Palestinians from their homes. He may be saying unrealistic things; he is not advocating killing Jews qua Jews, or genocide.

Note that Ahmadinejad below denies being an anti-Semite (why deny it if he supposedly glories in it?); points out that he supports Jewish representation in the Iranian parliament; and compares his call for an end to the Zionist regime ruling over Jerusalem to the Western call for the dissolution of the old Soviet Union. Was Ronald Reagan inciting to genocide when he called for an end of the Soviet regime?

Back to Friedman's serial dissembling:

And that same country, Iran, is trying to build a nuclear weapon.

The Internaional Atomic Energy Agency and the Central Intelligence Agency have both stated that Iraq is NOT have at nuclear weapon's program. (The DO however, have a nuclear program, which, as a signatory to the Nuclear non-proliferation treaty, they ARE entitled to have.)

Israel is the only country I know of in the Middle East that has unilaterally withdrawn from territory conquered in war — in Lebanon and Gaza — only to be greeted with unprovoked rocket attacks in return.

Israel is also the only country in the Middle East to have taken territory conquered in war, at least in the 20th & 21st centuries. What Israel is doing with its ever encroaching settler occupations, and its so-called security wall, is a pure and simple land grab. An effort to achieve so-called "facts on the ground" to justify its continued devouring of Palestinian lands. Hell, the whole of the middle east were tribal societies with undefined borders until after World War I when the allies divided the spoils of war.

FINALLY, by Friedman gets one thing right:

Indeed, if you want to talk about spoiled children, there is no group more spoiled by Iran and Syria than Hezbollah, the Lebanese Shiite militia. Hezbollah started a war against Israel in 2006 that brought death, injury and destruction to thousands of Lebanese — and Hezbollah’s punishment was to be rewarded with thousands more missiles and millions more dollars to do it again. These are stubborn facts.

That's a long way to have to wade through a column to get to a factual statement!

Of course, Israel's reward for its massive punitive retaliation against Lebanon was billions of U.S. dollars and military hardware, and that too is a stubborn fact.

Friedman goes on to chastise the government of Israel for its policies. But by the end of paragraph one, the damage was already done. The lies already perpetuated. The militant anti-Iranian narrative recapitulated.

It's enough to make one ask the question, "Just what does it mean to win a Pulitzer Prize?" Friedman has won three.

It's enough to make one ask the question: "If you can't believe the New York Times, just who can you believe?"

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

350 ppm

This is a couple of year old. The import is more critical now than ever. From Bill McKibben, writing in the Los Angeles Times:

A few weeks ago, NASA's chief climatologist, James Hansen, submitted a paper to Science magazine with several coauthors. The abstract attached to it argued -- and I have never read stronger language in a scientific paper -- that "if humanity wishes to preserve a planet similar to that on which civilization developed and to which life on Earth is adapted, paleoclimate evidence and ongoing climate change suggest that CO2 will need to be reduced from its current 385 ppm to at most 350 ppm."

As of October 2010, carbon dioxide in the Earth's atmosphere is at a concentration of 388 ppm by volume.

Growing, growing, growing ... gone?

Monday, October 18, 2010

The wisdom of online commentors

About a year ago, Carl Bloice, writing for the BlackCommentator, made this excellent point:

Often, the most perceptive rejoinders to articles that appear in the major print media are found in the comments section. But you won’t see them unless you are online because they don’t show up in the letters-to-the editor section.

The New York Times has cut off comments to Paul Krugman's recent column about China at 334. Here are some snippets of what some of their readers had to say.

Commenting from Taiwan, one Mr. Bill Pieper notes:

The Chinese are masters of two classic strategic and tactical policies used in concert and with complimentary effects. One is divide and conquer, that is, pitting nations which should be naturally allied against the PRC to instead quarrel with one another. This is frequently accomplished by pitting the US exporters and financiers against their European counterparts for example. The other is to exploit an opponent’s weakness, using it as a weapon. In the case of United States, the weakness would be the American slavery to an ideology of “free” trade and unrestricted capital flow; an ideology that provides a near perfect cover for unfettered greed on the part of the nation’s political and financial class. In a hyper-financialized oligarchy such as the US, this fanatic devotion to ideology has benefited a handful of players enormously, while contributing greatly to the ongoing decimation of the middle class.

The REE debacle illustrates an alarming trend that has been going on for decades. The loss of REE processing resources will take years to replace, so even if mining commences tomorrow, the ore cannot be processed until the plant and expertise is in place. But it is not just rare earths that should concern Americans. When a nation loses its ability to create things, even non-strategic industries will decline over time because there is a lot to learn by making stuff.

Even when products are produced using high level design, creation and engineering talent located in the US, many innovations in process and design are taking place in the locations that actually manufacture the products. The US is losing the “culture” of manufacturing, a culture that contributes to improvements of the products being produced. In addition to this, there is an enormous amount of technological transfer and outright theft of intellectual property from western companies going on, especially in China where western companies are forced to partner with local operations to produce at least some components. These local partners will flat out steal patented technology, even highly sensitive defense related technology, all while being protected by political allies in the PRC. The western companies go along with these risks and costs because they either feel they have no choice in order to remain competitive, or they are [eying] the alluring and thus far illusive carrot of a billion person market. Some companies are finding out too late that it has simply not been worth the cost. But the C-level managers who made the decisions to go to China in the first place - as well as their eager financier partners - have long since made their millions and care not a bit about the costs to their home countries and fellow countrymen.

Ouch. That's brutal, but entirely consistent with facts, matters that writers such as Paul Craig Roberts, Joe Bageant and Jim Hightower (among others) have been consistently making for years. Facts (not narratvies, hard facts on the ground) that never seem to make it into the "news," but nonetheless, percolate very closely to the surface of the consciousness of millions of Americans who have been down-sized, right-sized or out-sourced.

Andrew from Maryland adds that:

Two-thirds of the rare earth minerals [reside] in the civilized “free world” and one-third in the irresponsible economic power area, called China. How big a difference there is! When the U.S. vampire squids could not compete for blood with Chinese ones, they bluster against whichever rogue economic superpower.

Chinese oil company Cnooc Ltd. in August 2005 withdrew its $18.5 billion takeover bid for California energy firm Unocal Corp., saying it could not overcome resistance from politicians in Washington who said such a deal could threaten U.S. national security and violate the rules of fair trade. All [capitalists] are “unwilling to play by the rules. And the question is what the rest of us are going to do about it.” It is a good question for us non-capitalists to ponder.

You probably think that [capitalists] should be nationalistic. They are not. U.S. [capitalists] have outsourced jobs to China, Mexico, and India and elsewhere for four decades. Have they ever considered the basic and long-term interests of the U.S. working and middle classes? No, they have never done that. Mutually beneficial [capitalists] have no fatherland. Their empathy is not with the U.S. workers but with the friendly [capitalists] offshore and overseas, and vice versa.

Paul Cohen of Hartford CT echoes some of my concerns

There are already too many conflicts around the world that could embroil everyone. We are fighting two endless wars to protect our access to oil, without which, our mighty military machine would collapse. Now you want to escalate tensions with China because they won’t share their rare-earth materials? Let’s throw in Panda Bears. And hey, they have the Great Wall for tourism too. We need to end our colonial foreign policy, not extend it. The greed and selfishness (the ever escalating concentration of wealth flowing to the top) of Corporate executives is the reason we export jobs to exploit cheap labor. If there were a more equitable distribution of wealth in this country, Americans could support demand without having to cut jobs and the opportunity for amassing wealth would still flourish. I’m a bit surprised at the hawkish tone of this piece.

While reader Paul Cohen was a "bit surprised at the hawkish tone," reader Mark Ganzer was horrified.

I think you should be too.

Krugman (wrongly) goes all ballistic on China

Even the great ones get it wrong sometimes, as Paul Krugman amply demonstrates in this morning's New York Times column:

Last month a Chinese trawler operating in Japanese-controlled waters collided with two vessels of Japan’s Coast Guard. Japan detained the trawler’s captain; China responded by cutting off Japan’s access to crucial raw materials.

And there was nowhere else to turn: China accounts for 97 percent of the world’s supply of rare earths, minerals that play an essential role in many high-technology products, including military equipment. Sure enough, Japan soon let the captain go.

I don’t know about you, but I find this story deeply disturbing, both for what it says about China and what it says about us. On one side, the affair highlights the fecklessness of U.S. policy makers, who did nothing while an unreliable regime acquired a stranglehold on key materials. On the other side, the incident shows a Chinese government that is dangerously trigger-happy, willing to wage economic warfare on the slightest provocation.

Okay - a Chinese trawler collides with Japanese Coast Guard vessels in Japanese waters. Japan detains the trawler's captain (but, did NOT detain the trawler? We don't know, Kruggers doesn't say, and we are left to speculate; some disambiguation might be in order), for how long we don't know, because it isn't said. There are some facts missing in this presentation. In situations involving motor vehicles, if an automobile collides with a police squad car, we most assuredly expect the driver of the colliding auto to be detained but other passengers in the car, we would expect them to not be detained, and, if the car was in good enough shape to be driven away, perhaps they would be allowed to do so.
For just HOW LONG did the Japanese detain the trawler's captain? We don't know.

In response, to the captain's detention (of indeterminate length), China cuts off Japan's access to crucial raw materials. This makes it sound as if the captain was detained for a while, at least for long enough to make being cut off from said "crucial raw materials" painful. But still, we don't know about how long. And to me, this is a relevant factual point that out to be part of Krugman's story.

The statement "And there was nowhere else to turn" is incomplete. There was nowhere else for JAPAN to turn. Since China was attempting to influence Japan's decision about releasing a Chinese trawler captain, it seems logical that China would use Chinese leverage over Japan to influence the outcome they hoped to achieve. Note that China did not cut off "the world's" supply of rare earths, in an attempt to get "the world" to apply pressure to get Japan to accommodate China, and China didn't go to get a United Nations resolution condemning Japan, it seems as if China is using its diplomacy with Japan to accomplish its end. It seems as if China is behaving rationally trying to obtain the release of a Chinese citizen from the custody of a foreign power.

I conclude that China is looking out for one of its citizens. Certainly something the United States never did with Israel as regards Israel's unprovoked attack on the U.S.S. Liberty in which 34 crew members were murdered and 170 were injured. Something the U.S. never did in retaliation for Israel's murder of the U.S. citizen and Palestinian advocate Rachel Corrie. In contrast to how the U.S. reacts in defense of its citizens, I demand to know why we can't be more like China.

And in fact, yes I DO find this disturbing: that China acts to protect its citizens and the U.S. sits idly by and pays tribute to Israel, which has wantonly killed U.S. citizens, U.S. sailors.

In fact, I agree with Krugman's criticism of "feckless U.S. policy makers," - ineffective, irresponsible, weak and worthless - Democrats and Republicans alike.

Krugman calls the Chinese regime "unreliable" which I assume means, that they cannot be relied upon to do the bidding of the "feckless U.S. policy makers," which, from my way of looking at things, is not necessarily a bad thing.

Finally, here, Kruggers goes off the wall, demonstrating that for certain hot button issues, everybody can go a little bonkers: "the incident shows a Chinese government that is dangerously trigger-happy, willing to wage economic warfare on the slightest provocation."

Trigger happy? Economic warfare? Slightest provocation?

Good heavens Paul. You have fallen into the warmongering patterns of speech - the militarization of modern American discourse which pervades our television screen, movie theaters, print and radio media - that make it SO damn easy to sell the waging of wars on Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan, (South Yemen, Somalia, Columbia, et al) and so damn easy to justify them after they've been waged, Panama, Grenada, Guatemala, etc, etc, etc; the litany is long.

Ask yourself this: WWAD - What would America do, and then consider this episode in American history:

The Mayaguez incident involving the Khmer Rouge government in Cambodia on May 12–15, 1975, marked the last official battle of the United States (U.S.) involvement in the Vietnam War. The names of the Americans killed are the last names on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, as well as those of three Marines who were left behind on the island of Koh Tang after the battle and who were subsequently executed by the Khmer Rouge while in captivity. The merchant ship's crew, whose seizure at sea had prompted the U.S. attack, had been released in good health, unknown to the U.S. Marines or the U.S. command of the operation, before the Marines attacked.

I think China is to be commended for using its economic power to achieve a political ends. Clearly, the U.S. approach, shoot first and ask questions later, was a far more expensive way of getting the crew returned.

From this episode, we learn that China knows how to translate its economic power into political power, firing no guns, launching no bombs, keeping the military in line.

Back the great one's off-the-mark analysis:

Some background: The rare earths are elements whose unique properties play a crucial role in applications ranging from hybrid motors to fiber optics. Until the mid-1980s the United States dominated production, but then China moved in.

“There is oil in the Middle East; there is rare earth in China,” declared Deng Xiaoping, the architect of China’s economic transformation, in 1992. Indeed, China has about a third of the world’s rare earth deposits. This relative abundance, combined with low extraction and processing costs — reflecting both low wages and weak environmental standards — allowed China’s producers to undercut the U.S. industry.

Okay, so the U.S. "dominated production, but then China moved in." Just exactly to where did China move in? "China has about a third of the world’s rare earth deposits. This relative abundance, combined with low extraction and processing costs — reflecting both low wages and weak environmental standards — allowed China’s producers to undercut the U.S. industry." So, China moved in ... to China. Utilizing China's economic advantages to her advantage.

Please note, that with ONE THIRD of the world's rare earth deposits, China accounts for 97% of the world's supply of rare earth minerals. The reason for this imbalance (33% of the deposits, but 97% of the production) is that that the world has outsourced production of its resources TO China, in order to obtain the economic advantage. Capitalism at its finest. Find the cheapest labor costs, the cheapest environmental costs, and go there to produce. This is a model of how the world will be, given the neo-liberal economic vision of the Washington Consensus. There are consequences to putting all the eggs in one basket. Fancy that.

More alarm from Krugman:

You really have to wonder why nobody raised an alarm while this was happening, if only on national security grounds.

Well, not really. Our so-called national security state of mind has been focused on oil only since the Arab oil embargo of 1973. Out-side the box thinkers tend to rise only so far in both the military (colonel is as high as they are ever allowed to fly) and politically, no higher than chairman of the commodities futures trading committee.

But policy makers simply stood by as the U.S. rare earth industry shut down. In at least one case, in 2003 — a time when, if you believed the Bush administration, considerations of national security governed every aspect of U.S. policy — the Chinese literally packed up all the equipment in a U.S. production facility and shipped it to China.

Kudos to the Chinese for picking up unwanted U.S. scrap iron. Most enterprising and industrious. Very environmentally helpful. I wish U.S. corporations would clean up after themselves as well.

The result was a monopoly position exceeding the wildest dreams of Middle Eastern oil-fueled tyrants.

But did it exceed the monopoly positioning dreams of Bill Gates? Or of Jay Gould? Of John D. Rockefeller?

And even before the trawler incident, China showed itself willing to exploit that monopoly to the fullest.

What's the use of being a monopolist if you are NOT willing to exploit that monopoly to the fullest?

The United Steelworkers recently filed a complaint against Chinese trade practices, stepping in where U.S. businesses fear to tread because they fear Chinese retaliation.

U.S. businesses fear Chinese retaliation? What retaliation exactly is that? And why do they fear it? Is it because they have no leverage over the Chinese? That the U.S. government has no leverage over the Chinese? Who's fault is it that the Chinese seem to be in the stronger economic and political position here? That's a damn good question to ask. I would like some answers, and I would like those answers to become part of the national discourse.

The union put China’s imposition of export restrictions and taxes on rare earths — restrictions that give Chinese production in a number of industries an important competitive advantage — at the top of the list.

But in the U.S., government keeps doing ever more to weaken unions. It's probably accurate to say, that if a union wants it, the Republicans automatically won't, and the Democrats will make meak smiles of agreement to the unions, but will vote with the Republicans against the unions. That's just the way of the world, in which the U.S. has a one-and-a-half party political system: Republicans and Republicrats; where the Republicrats present a more kind and gentle face on some social issues.

Then came the trawler event. Chinese restrictions on rare earth exports were already in violation of agreements China made before joining the World Trade Organization. But the embargo on rare earth exports to Japan was an even more blatant violation of international trade law.

How dare them Chinese Commies blatantly violate international TRADE law. Hell, they should be satisfied enough with violating international arms and military conventions, like the U.S. does, all the time. Damn Commies!

It's okay, however, if the U.S. puts trade embargoes on Iraq which were responsible for the deaths of 500,000 Iraqi children under the age of 5; it's okay if Israel puts humanitarian aid embargoes on Gaza. But how dare the Chinese blatantly violate international TRADE law. If we can't have international norms for TRADE, whom can we trust?

Oh, and Chinese officials have not improved matters by insulting our intelligence, claiming that there was no official embargo. All of China’s rare earth exporters, they say — some of them foreign-owned — simultaneously decided to halt shipments because of their personal feelings toward Japan. Right.

While certainly the Cheney administration improved matters by waging and winning a propaganda war on the American people, claiming Saddam Hussein and Iraq had "weapons of mass destruction." It can't be called insulting our intelligence if they managed to get the New York Times in-bedded reporter to print it, the Sunday talk shows to telegraph it, and the American people to believe it. That's just good PR. That' just "creating our own reality."

So what are the lessons of the rare earth fracas?

First, and most obviously, the world needs to develop non-Chinese sources of these materials. There are extensive rare earth deposits in the United States and elsewhere. However, developing these deposits and the facilities to process the raw materials will take both time and financial support. So will a prominent alternative: “urban mining,” a k a recycling of rare earths and other materials from used electronic devices.

Perhaps the Obama administration could see fit to find funding to develop just such an industry right here in the good ole US of A? Well, probably not, it costs money. It would create jobs for U.S. citizens. And those are the kinds of policies that Republicans will not allow the Obama (mis)administration to get passed into law.

Second, China’s response to the trawler incident is, I’m sorry to say, further evidence that the world’s newest economic superpower isn’t prepared to assume the responsibilities that go with that status.

I call bullsh*t. I'd say the world's newest economic superpower is fully prepared to assume the responsibilities that go with that status. Using their combined economic and political power to seek political solutions to problems rather than military solutions.

I'd call this a model that is worthy of emulation. Maybe a third way, a new alternative. If the U.S. could change it's power politics from a virtual 100% reliance on military "solutions" which invariably give rise to more disasters, both economic and political, we might be able to regain the world's respect. We might become an example.

Major economic powers, realizing that they have an important stake in the international system, are normally very hesitant about resorting to economic warfare, even in the face of severe provocation — witness the way U.S. policy makers have agonized and temporized over what to do about China’s grossly protectionist exchange-rate policy. China, however, showed no hesitation at all about using its trade muscle to get its way in a political dispute, in clear — if denied — violation of international trade law.

The so-called "international system" to which Dr. Krugman refers, is in actuality the American System, of, What We Say Goes. And this is a system which is assuredly (perhaps even thankfully) running out of steam. This system was put in place by U.S. policy makers at the end of World War II, when the U.S. economy had all the advantages in the world, having been spared the devastation of war on our own soil, when the U.S. political, business and economic leaders looked to remake the world in an image pleasing to them, with Germany and Japan as manufacturing centers, Western Europe and America as financial centers, and the rest of the world as resource centers. That system was never fair, was never just, and the consequences of it are coming home to roost.

China's so-called "protectionist exchange policy" has a flip side - the over-valuation of American currency because the U.S. government can print as much money as it wants (quantitative easing) while the dollar remains the reserve currency for oil.

By his use of language, of superlatives, Krugman demonstrates what laws he holds dearest: "China, however, showed no hesitation at all about using its trade muscle to get its way in a political dispute, in clear — if denied — violation of international trade law."


China is to be lauded for using its "trade muscle" to get its way in a political dispute, compared with how the U.S. uses its "military muscle" to NOT get its way in political disputes.

Kruggers may not like it, but it works, and none of the children got killed.

Couple the rare earth story with China’s behavior on other fronts — the state subsidies that help firms gain key contracts,

In the U.S. they are called tax loopholes that help monstrously large companies, oil and gas in particular, banks too, and these increase the fortunes of the fortunate few favored at the top of these corporations.

the pressure on foreign companies to move production to China

In the U.S., this would be called "job creation," something we don't do any more, except for barmaids, waitresses, health workers.

and, above all, that exchange-rate policy — and what you have is a portrait of a rogue economic superpower, unwilling to play by the rules. And the question is what the rest of us are going to do about it.

Well, Paul, I suspect your column here will be held up by neo-conservatives as a reason why we need to be prepared to fight a war with China. Tis indeed a horrible thing when our favorite "liberal" columnist goes all chauvanistic on us.

And just why is it again that a New York Times headline reads U.S. Alarmed by Harsh Tone of China’s Military?

Giving credit where it's due

In two weeks time, Vaughn McClure has emerged as my favorite Chicago Sports writer, something I haven't had since the days of Mellisa Issacson and Bob Verdi.

For some reason, the headline of McClure's print and online columns is different. I much prefer the work of the print edition headline writer:

Sacks rain down again on Cutler which sizzles to Seahawks' blitzes keep Cutler uncomfortable which drizzles.

McClure wastes no time getting to the facts:

Of the six sacks Jay Cutler endured Sunday, 3½ came courtesy of the Seahawks' blitzing defensive backs.

Strong safety Jordan Babineaux was credited with 1½ sacks, while safety Lawyer Milloy and cornerback Roy Lewis each had one.

He assesses some blame, naming some names:

Bears tackles Frank Omiyale and J'Marcus Webb noticeably had trouble picking up the blitz, although they weren't the only ones slow to react.

And then McClure does an extraordinary thing: He gets a quote that gives credit, where the credit is due. Something so obvious that it's very easy to overlook:

"Coming into the game, we were prepared to give them something that they hadn't scouted," Babineaux said. "They hadn't seen a lot of things that we did.

"It was a great job by our defensive coordinator (Casey Bradley) because we disguised our coverages."

Babineaux said he could see the frustration mounting in Cutler.

"Most of the day, we kept Cutler uncomfortable," he said. "That was our goal coming in."

Did any of us sports fans think to give Seattle some credit for their victory?

Well, one Seattle player sure did. And if you were watching the game, you could feel head coach Pete Carroll's unbridled enthusiasm for the great plays made on both sides of the ball. You could see it in the attitudes of the assistant coaches. The contrast with Lovie Smith's bland game demeanor is stark, and startling.

The Seahawks had a defensive game plan. They executed it. A team in a state of continual upheaval as regards personnel. Clearly, they are looking for the kinds of players who respond well to their coaching. They are looking for Pete Carroll's kind of players. And let's be very clear about this: wide receiver Mike Williams is a Pete Carroll kind of player. Here's what Mike Williams accomplished while playing for Coach Carroll at the University of Southern California:

His freshman season, he had 81 receptions for 1,265 yards and 14 touchdowns. These statistics are all USC and Pacific 10 Conference freshman records.

Williams was named First-Team Freshman All-American choice by The Sporting News, Scripps/Football Writers, and Selected as the Pac-10 Freshman of the Year, named to the All-Pac-10 second team, All-American honorable mention, The Sporting News Freshman All-Pac-10 first team, and The Sporting News All-Pac-10 Freshman Offensive Player of the Year.

In his final season, as a sophomore, Williams started all 13 games at wide receiver, and led the Trojans in receiving yards and touchdowns which resulted in 95 catches leading to 1,314 yards and 16 touchdowns. Williams was a finalist for the 2003 Biletnikoff Award (nation’s top receiver) while finishing eighth in Heisman Trophy voting. He also earned first team All-American (AP,, Football Writers, and among others) honors. Williams also was a 2003 All-Pac-10 First Team selection and National Player of the Year. That year he also completed two pass attempts for 38 yards and one touchdown against Michigan in the Rose Bowl, and blocked a field goal.

So, how is it that a man who hasn't played in the NFL for two seasons winds up on Sunday, October 17, 2010, playing wide receiver for the Seattle Seahawks against the Chicago Bears and manages to catch 10 passes for 123 yards?

To answer that question, check out wikipedia:

After spending 2 years out of football, on April 15, 2010, Williams signed with the Seattle Seahawks, reuniting Williams with former USC Head Coach Pete Carroll. He has received rave reviews from coaches (primarily Carroll) during the preseason. After the Seahawks released T.J. Houshmandzadeh, Williams has joined the starting unit and during his debut for Seattle, Williams recorded 4 catches for 64 yards. In his second game, he recorded 1 catch for 7 yards. In week 6, he had career highs in both catches and yards going 10 catches for 123 yards in a 23-20 win against Chicago.

Pete Carroll has a long memory and surely understands that one of the things you can't teach a wide receiver is how to be 6' 5" tall.

I've got a lot of family living in the Seattle area. My Uncle Con was an avid Seahawks fan. Out of my love for Con, and appreciation for the infectious enthusiasm Pete Carroll wears, the kind of thing that really can't be faked, I'm wishing Seattle a great season and much success under their new head coach.

A sports writer's redemption

It was good to see Dan Pompei providing cogent insights into the problems and challenges faced by the Chicago Bears offensive line as opposed to his piling on article after last week's game. He starts off giving some credit to the left guard:

The good news is Chris Williams wasn't the problem Sunday. The bad news is he didn't solve the problem, either.

In his initial assignment as the Bears' left guard, Williams appeared to hold up well enough in protection, and he didn't commit any penalties. But he was part of a unit that failed to affect the game in a positive manner.

Having accurately identified the problem, he leaves open the possibility that it might improve:

The Bears' 2010 offensive line, fourth generation, still is not good enough. Or at least it wasn't Sunday.

Then Pompei offers us some more about Chris Williams, including an assessment by the man Williams was tasked with blocking, as well as Williams own self-assessment:

Williams started a game at his third position in nine games dating back to last year when he played right tackle. But he said the transition from left tackle to guard wasn't a problem.

"It's all football, it's all technique and fundamentals," he said.
Williams did acknowledge playing guard was different.

"There are bigger guys," he said. "There are a lot more moving parts in there. I won't know until I watch the tape what happened."

One of those bigger guys, 6-2, 328 pound defensive tackle Colin Cole, said Williams did all right at guard.

"He was strong, he had some inside punch," Cole said. "He did a good job in the passing game."

Williams' own succinct assessment was harsher.

"I obviously didn't play well enough to win," he said.

Finally, Pompei cuts to the heart of the problem and gets quarterback Jay Cutler's realistic analysis.

Part of the problem with the Bears offensive line is guys like Williams haven't been in one spot for long enough. The line hasn't had continuity, and continuity is next to godliness for offensive lines.

"Obviously there is going to be a learning curve with those guys," quarterback Jay Cutler said. "You would like to see an offensive line all the way through in training camp, then get to know each other in preseason, then going into the season and learning from there. We haven't had that luxury, which is difficult on those guys. But we have to do it. That's part of the NFL. We have to figure it out."

We are then treated to real news, real information, that pinpoints and quantifies the extent of the discontinuity:

In six games, Bears have had two players start at left tackle, two at left guard, two at right guard and three at right tackle. Only center Olin Kreutz has started every game on the line, and he predictably took the blame for some of the problems.

"The breakdowns in communication, and the communication is my job," he said. "It's my job to get everybody on the right guys and I didn't get it done today. So, I have to go back and work and try to get everybody blocking the right guys."

There's a subtext working it's way through the comments of the players quoted, one that I think is extremely important. The players are taking personal responsibility, manning up, for their disappointing showing. There is NO whining. There is an acceptance of the realities of the situation, the difficulties. But it is what it is, and to succeed it must be faced and overcome.

What this article says about the honesty and character of these Bears players is that these are MY Chicago Bears once again.

Thanks Dan. Job well done.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Does anyone remember?

When presented in a certain light, some things are so obvious, that a child can say, "The Emperor has no clothes."

This Counterpuch article by Paul Craig Robers serves as a stark antidote to willful blindness in re the solipsistic question: Why do They Hate Us So? It's the policy, fools; it's the policy tools.

A must read.

Does anyone remember the “cakewalk war” that would last six weeks, cost $50-$60 billion, and be paid for out of Iraqi oil revenues?

Does anyone remember that White House economist Lawrence Lindsey was fired by Dubya because Lindsey estimated that the Iraq war could cost as much as $200 billion?

Lindsey was fired for over-estimating the cost of a war that, according to Joseph Stiglitz and Linda Bilmes, has cost 15 times more than Lindsey estimated. And the US still has 50,000 troops in Iraq.

Does anyone remember that just prior to the US invasion of Iraq, the US government declared victory over the Taliban in Afghanistan?

Does anyone remember that the reason Dubya gave for invading Iraq was Saddam Hussein’s weapons of mass destruction, weapons that the US government knew did not exist?

Are Americans aware that the same neoconservarives who made these fantastic mistakes, or told these fabulous lies, are still in control of the government in Washington?

The “war on terror” is now in its tenth year. What is it really all about?

The bottom line answer is that the “war on terror” is about creating real terrorists. The US government desperately needs real terrorists in order to justify its expansion of its wars against Muslim countries and to keep the American people sufficiently fearful that they continue to accept the police state that provides “security from terrorists,” but not from the government that has discarded civil liberties.

I keep returning to these facts:

(1) Atlantic Ocean to the East of us
(2) Pacific Ocean to the West of us
(3) Canada to the North of us
(4) A "wall" being built across the border to the South of us
(5) Our enemies have no army, no air force, no navy

And yet, what was formerly known as the GWOT (Global War On Terror) goes on and on, although now apparently it's fashionable to call it the long war. And it can't be won, but we'll have to fight it forever.

Does anyone remember why, any more?

Does anyone even ask?

Is the Chinese military's so-called "harsh tone" really all that surprising to students of history?

The New York Times reports:

Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates met his Chinese counterpart, Liang Guanglie, in Vietnam on Monday for the first time since the two militaries suspended talks with each other last winter, calling for the two countries to prevent “mistrust, miscalculations and mistakes.”

His message seemed directed mainly at officers like Lt. Cmdr. Tony Cao of the Chinese Navy.

Days before Mr. Gates arrived in Asia, Commander Cao was aboard a frigate in the Yellow Sea, conducting China’s first war games with the Australian Navy, exercises to which, he noted pointedly, the Americans were not invited.

Nor are they likely to be, he told Australian journalists in slightly bent English, until “the United States stops selling the weapons to Taiwan and stopping spying us with the air or the surface.”

Supposedly, back in "the good old days" relations between the U.S. and the Chinese military were all warm and furry:

The Pentagon is worried that its increasingly tense relationship with the Chinese military owes itself in part to the rising leaders of Commander Cao’s generation, who, much more than the country’s military elders, view the United States as the enemy. Older Chinese officers remember a time, before the Tiananmen Square protests in 1989 set relations back, when American and Chinese forces made common cause against the Soviet Union.

There is a history that goes back even before common cause was made against the Soviet Union. Howard Zinn's groundbeaking book - Vietnam: The Logic of Withdrawal, makes it clear that in 1967, China was the demonized enemy, without whose help, opposition to the U.S. backed puppet government in Saigon couldn't have continued.

Ironically, in George Crile's 2003 book Charlie Wilson's War, Charlie Wilson and Gust Avrakotos are lend their considerable talents to aiding the Mujaheedan to combat the Russians in Afghanistan as payback to Russia for America's "losing" the war in Vietnam.

A nation that doesn't know who it is waging war upon or why, and that can't remember who it was waging war upon and why, is a nation hell bent on fighting endless wars, forever and ever. Amen.

And lest we forget, in Korea the "yellow hordes" rolled out of China and into Korea and sent the U.S. led NATO forces into retreat, leading U.S. military strategists to conclude that U.S. must never again wage a land war in Asia. By which they meant, that the NEXT time the U.S. fought an Asian army, it would use atomic weapons.

The younger officers have known only an anti-American ideology, which casts the United States as bent on thwarting China’s rise.

“All militaries need a straw man, a perceived enemy, for solidarity,” said Huang Jing, a scholar of China’s military and leadership at the National University of Singapore. “And as a young officer or soldier, you always take the strongest of straw men to maximize the effect. Chinese military men, from the soldiers and platoon captains all the way up to the army commanders, were always taught that America would be their enemy.”

"You always take the strongest of straw men?" Well, not here in the U.S. of A. We take Iran to be our straw man. And before Iran, Iraq.

That "Chinese military men, from the soldiers and platoon captains all the way up to the army commanders, were always taught that America would be their enemy."

That is a very rational teaching, and shows the wisdom and foresight of Chinese strategists. Of course, it never has to come to war, but, with the U.S., it always seems to. China's rise as an economic power is threatening to "the powers that be" here in the U.S.

The stakes have increased as China’s armed forces, once a fairly ragtag group, have become more capable and have taken on bigger tasks. The navy, the centerpiece of China’s military expansion, has added dozens of surface ships and submarines, and is widely reported to be building its first aircraft carrier. Last month’s Yellow Sea maneuvers with the Australian Navy are but the most recent in a series of Chinese military excursions to places as diverse as New Zealand, Britain and Spain.

These Chinese military maneuvers in diverse places point to agreement between the Chinese government and the governments of these diverse locals. Upon such agreement trust is forged.

Even improved Chinese forces do not have capacity or, analysts say, the intention, to fight a more able United States military. But their increasing range and ability, and the certainty that they will only become stronger, have prompted China to assert itself regionally and challenge American dominance in the Pacific.

The intentions are not to fight. The reality is, the U.S. may choose to. Certainly, in the economic sphere, the U.S. is attempting to dictate how China should evaluate its currency. Economic self-interest has always been one of the strongest motivations for making war.

From the Chinese military’s view, this year has offered ample evidence of American ill will.

The Chinese effectively suspended official military relations early this year after President Obama met with the Dalai Lama, the Tibetan religious leader, and approved a $6.7 billion arms sale to Taiwan, which China regards as its territory.

Since then, the Chinese military has bristled as the State Department has offered to mediate disputes between China and its neighbors over ownership of Pacific islands and valuable seabed mineral rights. And when the American Navy conducted war games with South Korea last month in the Yellow Sea, less than 400 miles from Beijing, younger Chinese officers detected an encroaching threat.

The United States “is engaging in an increasingly tight encirclement of China and constantly challenging China’s core interests,” Rear Adm. Yang Yi, former head of strategic studies at the Chinese Army’s National Defense University, wrote in August in the People’s Liberation Army Daily, the military newspaper. “Washington will inevitably pay a costly price for its muddled decision.”

Perhaps some diplomacy is in order?

Chicago Tribune headline tells the bigger story

From this morning's paper version of the Chicago Tribune, Nation & World section, the headline and sub-headlines blare:

GOP money floods electoral battlefield
Some Democrats fear tsunami like in '94, but Senate flip looks unlikely

While the online version reads:

Republican funding surge provides crucial advantage
Some Democrats now fear a historic rout in next month's midterm election as GOP advocacy groups funnel $50 million into campaigns.

Real news emerges:

[1] Money buys elections
[2] The money advantage is going to the Republicans

From the print version:

...Republicans, fueled by a surge of outside money and riding a wave of voter discontent, have begun gunning for Democratic House seats once considered safe.

Torrid spending by third-party groups, the so-called super-PACs, could reshape the electoral map and raises the specter of a historic rout.

The online version

Fueled by a surge of outside money, Republicans have begun gunning for Democratic House seats once considered safe and beyond GOP reach — a drive that threatens to reshape the electoral map and raises the specter of a historic rout ...

It would be interesting to know a little bit of what that wave of voter discontent is all about. But we do learn that

[3] There's enough "outside" money that God's Own Party will be "gunning" for even safe Democratic House seats. That sounds like much money.

The print edition tells us just a little bit more some of that outside money

Advocacy groups such as American Crossroads and the American Action Network have said they were funneling more than $50 into House races to back Republican candidates, on top of the more than $50 millioni already spent by the GOP's House campaign arm.

Print edition readers with access to the internet could go to Wikipedia to learn that:

American Crossroads is a 527 organization that has promised to spend $50 million to help members of the Republican Party win elections. Its president is Steven J. Law, a former United States Deputy Secretary of Labor for President George W. Bush. Advisers to the group include Senior Advisor and former White House Deputy Chief of Staff Karl Rove and former Republican National Convention (RNC) chairman Ed Gillespie. The group has over $30 million committed to it. Nearly all of the group's funding has come from billionaires...

Crossroads Grassroots Policy Strategies (Crossroads GPS) is an affiliate of American Crossroads. Crossroads GPS was set up as a 501(c)(4) nonprofit, which means that its main purpose is not supposed to be political. “Yet it has been the biggest third-party player on television in Senate races across the country over the last two months," according to the Campaign Media Analysis Group, an advertising tracking firm, reported the New York Times. In October 2010, two nonpartisan national watchdog groups, Democracy 21 and the Campaign Legal Center, wrote the Internal Revenue Service and asked for it to investigate whether Crossroads GPS was violating federal tax laws by its role in the 2010 midterm elections. As a 501(c)(4) nonprofit, Crossroads GPS is required to report what it spends, but it is not required to publicly disclose any donor information.

The Trib print edition continues

Part of the emerging Republican strategy is to sink money into more races to force the Democratic Party to spend defensively.

"The Democrats have a lot of money," said Nathan gonzales, a political analyst for The Rothenberg Political Report. "But there just isn't enough to go around."

[4] While the democrats have "lots" of money, the republicans have more. No surprise.

The GOP strategy has forced the Democrats to make some hard choices. Two weeks ago, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee said it was withdrawing financial support from some endangered first-term incumbents, such as Rep. Steve Driehaus of Ohio and Kathy Dahlkemper of Pennsylvania, in order to better allocate its resources.

[5] The DCCC is a club that takes care of its own tenured members. They don't give a damn about their first-term incumbents, their democratically elected congress critters who defeated republican incumbents. So kid, you say you want to be a democratic politician? We'll dump you like a hot potato when the going gets tough.

As the Democrats were pooling their resources, the GOP was dumping cash into races in Wisconsin, Ohio and Tennessee, once considered long shots for Republicans.

GOP-allied groups did the same, going after incumbents in seemingly safe districts.

[6] GOP remains the big money party, with so much money it can DUMP it into long shots.

The independent groups have drawn criticism, especially from Democrats, because they do not disclose the donors funding new money going into the races.

These "independent groups," you will recall, are advised by Karl Rove and Ed Gillespie, and for all practical intents and purposes, ARE another political appendage of the Republican Party.

[7] At one time, campaign finance laws made it possible to know just who was buying the politicians. The legislation enabling these new PACs make it more difficult to know just who our paid for politicians are beholden to. And, there will be no need for billionaires and huge corporations to hedge their bets by contributing to both the Republican and Democratic parties. But one thing is for certain. They won't be beholden to you, or to me.