Friday, May 18, 2012

History of Beer and its impact on the conservative-liberal dichotomy (a digression of humor, as suggested by one of my "conservative" friends, who, as a youth, was a perpetual fuck up, who seldom got caught).

History of Beer

Humans originally existed as members of small bands of nomadic hunters/gatherers. They lived on deer in the mountains during the summer and would go to the coast and live on fish and lobster in the winter.

The two most important events in all of history were the invention of beer and the invention of the wheel. The wheel was invented to get man to the beer. These were the foundation of modern civilization and together were the catalyst for the splitting of humanity into two distinct subgroups: 

           1 . Liberals
           2. Conservatives. 

Once beer was discovered, it required grain and that was the beginning of agriculture. Neither the glass bottle nor aluminum can were invented yet, so while our early humans were sitting around waiting for them to be invented, they just stayed close to the brewery. That's how villages were formed. 

Some men spent their days tracking and killing animals to BBQ at night while they were drinking beer. This was the beginning of what is known as the Conservative movement... 

Other men who were weaker and less skilled at hunting learned to live off the conservatives by showing up for the nightly BBQ's and doing the sewing, fetching, and hair dressing. This was the beginning of the Liberal movement. 

Some of these liberal men eventually evolved into women. They became known as girlie-men. Some noteworthy liberal achievements include the domestication of cats, the invention of group therapy, group hugs, and the concept of Democratic voting to decide how to divide the meat and beer that conservatives provided. 

Over the years conservatives came to be symbolized by the largest, most powerful land animal on earth, the elephant. Liberals are symbolized by the jackass for obvious reasons.

Modern liberals like imported beer (with lime added), but most prefer white wine or imported bottled water. Tofu and French food are standard liberal fare.. Another interesting evolutionary side note: most of their women have higher testosterone levels than their men. Most social workers, personal injury attorneys, journalists, dreamers in Hollywood and group therapists are liberals. Liberals invented the designated hitter rule because it wasn't fair to make the pitcher also bat.

Conservatives drink domestic beer, mostly Bud or Miller. They eat red meat and still provide for their women. Conservatives are big game hunters, rodeo cowboys, lumberjacks, construction workers, firemen, medical doctors, police officers, engineers, corporate executives, athletes, members of the military, airline pilots and generally anyone who works productively. 

Conservatives who own companies hire other conservatives who want to work for a living.

Liberals produce little or nothing. They like to govern the producers and decide what to do with the production. Liberals believe Europeans are more enlightened than Americans. That is why most of the liberals remained in Europe when conservatives were coming to America. They crept in after the Wild West was tamed and created a business of trying to get more for nothing. 

Here ends today's lesson in world history: 

It should be noted that a Liberal may have a momentary urge to angrily respond to the above before forwarding it. 

A Conservative will simply laugh and be so convinced of the absolute truth of this history that it will be forwarded immediately to other true believers and to more liberals just to piss them off.

And there you have it. Let your next action reveal your true self...I'm going to have another beer.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Liberal or Copservative? Why must it be only one or the other? Only because our political discourse has been so degraded that things have evolved into a state that neither word carries any sense of it's historical meanings and distinctions.

Playing duplicate bridge with a group of grade school students, my own partner being a delightful 10-year old Irish Dancer with a significant apptitude for the game of bridge, one of the older girls asked, "Why are you playing bridge with us?" To which, I replied, "Because I believe that children are God's most precious gift to humankind." Which ought to have ended the conversation, but, the enquiring one had one more inquiry: "Are you a liberal?" Immediately, I replied, "Yes. A FLAMING liberal," which is really not true at all, I just love children and find their company more gratifying than that of (most, but, surely none of my F/B friends who have not yet defriended me) so-called adults with whom I have contact.

There is a perception that the terms "liberal" and "conservative" are mutually exclusive, and this is a terrible shame, because, in a real world inhabited by fleshed and boned human beings (and other breathing creatures), there are good and righteous reasons to want to conserve (hold on to) institutions, beliefs, and myths that help societies to better themselves, while it is equally important to liberate, change, renew, those institutions, beliefs, and myths that put human beings into bondage and keep them impoverished of healthy nutritious food, clean air, unpolluted waters, common spaces, and enough free time (time away from labor) to consider just what it is that the Lord God Almighty wants us to do.

American "free enterprise" system: Socialize the risks, privatize the profits - thus we have -- the new clearer in dust tree

May 16, 2012 by Greenpeace Blog

Fukushima Nuclear Disaster: 

Socializing Risks, Privatizing Profits

The nationalization of TEPCO, together with a legal practice called “channeling of liability” in which all liability related to the Fukushima nuclear disaster has to be channeled to TEPCO, means Japanese taxpayers and ratepayers will foot most of the bill.(Photo: Reuters)
Last week, the inevitable finally happened. The company responsible for the Fukushima nuclear disaster, Tokyo Electric Power Company, or TEPCO, has been nationalized. Japan’s trade and industry minister Yukio Edano announced a de facto state take-over of the company with a further injection of $12.5bn, bringing the total of state capital in TEPCO to $33.2bn. Edano has said that:“Without the state funds, (TEPCO) cannot provide a stable supply of electricity and pay for compensation and decommissioning costs”.

The Fukushima Daiichi catastrophe has cost TEPCO over $100bn in estimated costs, which includes compensation and clean-up costs. However, the actual costs are much bigger. Many Japanese are bearing the brunt of the damages in their daily lives with most of their claims and losses going uncompensated and most of their suffering unrecognized.
The nationalization of TEPCO, together with a legal practice called “channeling of liability” in which all liability related to the Fukushima nuclear disaster has to be channeled to TEPCO, means Japanese taxpayers and ratepayers will foot most of the bill.
An infuriating aspect of this story is that in a recent presentation by General Electric (GE) about its “success” over the past 50 years, there was not a word about the Fukushima disaster and nothing approaching an apology. Yet the Fukushima disaster was affected by well-known problems related to GE’s Mark 1 design, which was used at all four troubled reactors. Furthermore, GE was involved in maintenance throughout the four decades of the plant’s operation and had 44 on site at the time of the accident.
GE, together with its corporate mates from Hitachi, which is responsible for the construction of Fukushima Daiichi Unit 4, and Toshiba, which delivered Reactor No. 3, as well as Ebasco, Kajima, Areva and many others, have mostly kept mum about their involvement.
The Prime Minister orders venting
Prime Minister Naoto Kan had to order venting the day after the disaster. Without venting the containment might have given way to the rising pressure, which is a problem identified 30 years ago by several GE whistleblowers. It was not easy to give the order. Workers would risk potentially lethal doses of radiation and the evacuation around Fukushima had not even started. Venting would expose thousands of people to radiation, but the alternative of an exploding reactor would create even more havoc. TEPCO, GE, Hitachi, and Toshiba knew that this could happen. Not one of them ever demanded the closure of the reactors. By closing their eyes to their obviously faulty product they have spread the impression that people are safe.
Socializing risks, privatizing profits
TEPCO is different than Chernobyl where the state owned and operated the reactor. A private enterprise developed the Fukushima Daiichi’s Mark 1 reactors and GE, Hitachi, Toshiba and other companies made huge profits building and servicing the power station. If this were a car, these companies would recall all their nuclear reactors and compensate customers for the costs and losses incurred.
But this is not a car. This is the nuclear industry and these companies continue as if nothing has happened to them. They are saved by TEPCO’s bankruptcy and nationalization, and they are saved by the unique liability regime surrounding the nuclear industry where profits are privatized but accident liabilities are socialized.
It is clear why we don't see GE, Hitachi and Toshiba rush to put hundreds of millions of dollars into the Fukushima compensation fund. If they did, they would be admitting some kind of guilt and could open up an avenue for making compensation claims against them. Their share prices would plummet and it would force them to rethink their involvement in the nuclear sector. And who wants that?
Well, I want it.
I think that what we see now is an utter shame and outrage. Elsewhere, Hitachi and GE are trying to convince the Lithuanian government to pump almost $9bn into a new nuclear reactor, andaccept a liability regime that is capped at $160m. Toshiba, with its sub-group Westinghouse, is wooing Czech CEZ to buy two reactors with the cap on liability in the Czech Republic at $450m. Hitachi is also actively lobbying Turkey with a cap of $24m, and Vietnam with a $230m cap to buy one of its reactors.
At the same time, I hear of people struggling to make ends meet after they fled the Fukushima region, of suicides because the hardships are too much to bear, of families split apart because they do not dare let their children grow up in the contaminated areas even though the father's work is still there, and of companies gone bankrupt because their resources are suddenly taken off the market due to contamination.
First, all victims need to get the compensation they deserve. The nationalization of TEPCO is a step that could improve the situation. But this should not mean that those who profited from the risk that Fukushima Daiichi clearly posed and those that are profiting from all the other uncovered risks from nuclear power in the rest of the world should escape their responsibility. Paying up and accepting responsibility could help prevent a disaster like this happening again.

[T]he State Department stressed that none of the weapons approved for transfer could be used in [Bahrain] ongoing efforts to suppress growing unrest on the island, especially among its majority Shi'a community. (Yeah, right, like, we're gonna' keep a bunch of weapons inspectors there to ensure that this is the case!]

May 15, 2012 by Inter Press Service

US Arms Sale Sends Wrong Signal to Bahrain

The administration of U.S. President Barack Obama is sending the wrong signal to the government of Bahrain in proceeding with a partial sale of new arms to Manama, according to human rights activists and some lawmakers here.
Their reaction followed Friday's announcement by the State Department that it had cleared a number of items for transfer out of a 53- million-dollar arms package that the administration originally announced last September but subsequently held up due to opposition from key members of Congress.
In announcing what it called the "renewal of U.S. security cooperation with Bahrain", the State Department stressed that none of the weapons approved for transfer could be used in the kingdom's ongoing efforts to suppress growing unrest on the island, especially among its majority Shi'a community.
Demonstrations have been taking place on an almost nightly basis in Shi'a villages in recent weeks and have increased in violence, with some youths throwing Molotov cocktails at police, and with police firing tear gas and birdshot to disperse the protests, with sometimes fatal results.
"Given the continued deterioration in the human rights situation there, we think it's a bad call to be releasing arms - any sort of arms - to Bahrain at this time," Joe Stork, a veteran Middle East specialist at Human Rights Watch (HRW), told IPS.
"We're very concerned with the signal that this sends both to the Bahraini government and the Bahraini people," said Stephen McInerney, executive director of the Project on Middle East Democracy (POMED).
"And we're very disappointed that this announcement was not accompanied by an announcement of any real progress on reform issues, including the numerous recommendations made by the Bassiouni Commission that have yet to be implemented," he said.
He was referring to the Bahraini Independent Commission of Inquiry (BICI) that was chaired by the noted Egyptian-American jurist, Cherif Bassiouni and which last November issued a nearly 500-page report on serious human rights abuses committed by government forces during its Saudi-backed crackdown against the pro-democracy movement last winter and spring.
Among its most important recommendations, it called for the immediate release of hundreds of people imprisoned for exercising their right to free speech or peaceful assembly and for the investigation and prosecution of officials at all levels responsible for serious abuses, including torture and unlawful killings.
While officials who briefed journalists here declined to specify what arms will be transferred or their value, they insisted that they could be used only for Bahrain's external defence, presumably against Iran.
According to's well-connected "Cable" blog, they will likely include six harbor patrol boats, communications equipment for Bahrain's U.S.-designed air-defense system, ground- based radars, air-to-air-missile systems, Seahawk helicopters, air- defence systems, parts for F-16 fighter engines and Cobra helicopters, and night-vision equipment.
"The items that we are releasing are not used for crowd control," State Department spokesperson Victoria Nuland said in a statement that noted that Washington remained "mindful of the fact that there a number of serious unresolved human rights issues that the Government of Bahrain needs to address."
She noted, in particular, that TOW missiles and Humvees that were part of the original package would not be transferred.
The announcement appeared to be timed to the visit last week of Crown Prince Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa, the ostensible purpose of which was to witness his son's graduation from American University but who also met with top administration officials, including Vice President Joseph Biden, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and Defense Secretary Leon Panetta whose particular concern is the future of the Navy's Fifth Fleet, which is based in Bahrain.
The U.S.-educated crown prince has long been considered the leader of the reformist faction in the royal family, which, unlike most Bahrainis, is Sunni Muslim.
Washington has tried to bolster his position vis-à-vis the Saudi- backed hardliners, who reportedly are led by the world's longest- serving prime minister, Khalifa ibn Sulman al Khalifa. King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa, who committed himself publicly to implementing the recommendations of the Bassiouni Commission in November, is generally believed to side with the crown prince.
"(The announcement) gave Salman something to take back, but indirectly signaled the old guard that the young prince, not his great uncle, is the preferred interlocutor with Washington," according to Emile Nakhleh, a former top Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) analyst for the Near East and South Asia, who last month called for Washington to begin pulling the Fifth Fleet out of Bahrain to distance itself from the Gulf's autocratic Sunni monarchies.
But whether the gesture will have the desired effect in the internal deliberations of the royal family is not clear at all.
"Of course, to save face, the old guard has touted the release of the arms as a sign that they are still in Washington's graces," noted Nakhleh, while Stork told IPS that he had "no basis for thinking it would make a positive difference."
"There's every reason to think that they (the hardliners) would just keep the crown prince in the drawer and send him to Washington to pick up the goodies," Stork added.
Indeed, on the eve of the crown prince's visit here, security forces arrested Nabeel Rajab, the head of the non-governmental Bahrain Center for Human Rights, on his return from meeting in Lebanon with the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights. The detention was based on his "tweets" encouraging individuals to take part in peaceful demonstrations and allegedly "insulting" the Interior Ministry.
His arrest followed that of Zainab Al Khawaja, the daughter of another veteran human rights activist, Abdulhadi Al Khawaja, who has been on a hunger strike for more than three months to protest his conviction – now on appeal – and life sentence for allegedly trying to violently overthrow the monarchy.
"The Bahraini government continues to imprison political opponents…," noted Rep. Jim McGovern, one of the lawmakers who pressed the administration to suspend its arms sales last fall.
"(P)roviding more arms sends the wrong signal about America's commitment to human rights," he said.
Friday's announcement also came just before Monday's meeting in Riyadh of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) where Saudi King Abdullah was expected to press his call for a regional to transform the Council from a joint security arrangement to a political confederation – an initiative for which thus far only Bahrain has expressed much enthusiasm.
Riyadh, which is connected to Bahrain by a causeway, deployed more than 1,000 of its police and troops to its neighbor as a reserve force during last year's crackdown, and hundreds are believed to remain there.
"It's clear that Saudi Arabia is trying to expand its hegemony over the rest of the GCC, beginning with Bahrain," according to Nakhleh.
"Prime Minister Khalifa and his supporters within the ruling family no longer seem to care about the sovereignty of Bahrain or its historically liberal tradition. Their main concern is their own survival," he told IPS in an email exchange.

A politician can usually live with one act of protest, and the higher up you go, that politician can easily weather multiple protests. But none can survive opposed to a movement that is growingexponentially.

Inside Agitators Stride Toward Peace
Walk to the NATO Summit

On what is now the 17th day of our walk from Madison to Chicago, the
number 165 does not seem to encapsulate all the progress we have made.
 We are 17 days and 165 miles away from the day I drove into Madison,
 where news arrived that Air Force One had descended on pre-dawn Kabul
 for the forging of the Enduring Strategic Partnership Agreement.

When I spoke at the May Day rally later the same day, I denounced what
 all indications show to be Obama’s continuing-for-another-decade war
 in Afghanistan. Almost immediately a lone man in the dwindling crowd
 started shouting vulgar slurs at me, with a lack of decency that was
 amazing considering young kids were present.

The psychology of the moment is worth some analysis. What of the
 people who approached me and thanked me for my speech after I
 finished— what stopped them from shouting some slogan of affirmation 
to counter the trash talk? Maybe it was a lack of preparedness to 
respond, maybe a reluctance to be the first one to take a risk.

An analogy can be made for the United States government, although of
 course the stakes are infinitely higher. The powerful do hope people
 will be uninformed and ill-prepared, about NATO or any other pressing 
issue of justice. They certainly want complacency to carry the day, so
no one will jump-start a movement to reject the belligerent, fake
 virtues of poverty and war.

The miles go by, and we’ve now passed through more than 20 cities and 
had 5 formal speaking stops. Since this campaign started I’ve heard 
from people who didn’t even know NATO was in Afghanistan— they now 
know how the two are linked. Many others have come away with useful 
new information about NATO and about people in Afghanistan, Iraq,
 Pakistan, Bahrain. All people not fundamentally different from
 ourselves, who wish and hunger for peace and friendship.

Others expressed disbelief that protest can be effective. I maintain 
that first off, if we suppose it already has made a huge difference,
 it won’t necessarily be obvious what that difference is. It can mean
we don’t yet have another war. Secondly, it’s not necessary to recruit
 51% of the public to our ranks, only a critical mass of people to
 start a chain reaction. Two becomes 4 becomes 8 becomes 16, and after 
a while, a bigger group offers some anonymity, making it easier to 
join. A politician can usually live with one act of protest, and the
 higher up you go, that politician can easily weather multiple
 protests. But none can survive opposed to a movement that is growing 

This walk has been a movement-builder. We’ve informed and motivated
 people, and we have received information and motivation from folks
along the way— not to mention all the other kinds of physical
sustenance we have been given, for which we are very grateful.

We’ve recently been joined by a group of walkers from New York State,
 who brought enlarged pictures of some of the kids we know in 
Afghanistan to tape onto our placards. These young peacemakers are 
wearing blue scarves, which invoke the blue sky as a common symbol of
 comfort and peace. No one can buy and sell it, and it touches all
 nations and cultures. I’m glad the kids will be present with us on the 
walk in this small way because I know they will move more people to take new steps, commit acts of protest in favor of peace.

Let’s hop to it … because Uncle Sam isn’t known for his decency.

Buddy Bell is co-coordinator of Voices for Creative Non-Violence.

Who amongst us would know the true value of a thing if there were no price tag? (They say the best things in life are FREE!)

Granny Spam and a Stradivarius

Joshua Bell in the DC Metro Station


Urban dictionary calls it “granny spam”. The kind of email Thomas Kincaid would send you if you were his luminous pal- and if he wasn’t busy in the afterlife urinating on Winnie the Pooh. Those emails bring to mind being tied up on an Ikea couch, forced to watch The Wedding Planning Sweet November Time Travelling Saccharine Bastards. Pray to Kivik, Norse Pagan lesser god of shitty furniture, it still won’t help end that movie any faster. He’s too busy getting them set up in Right to Work southern states. And now there’s a damn Allen wrench permanently stuck to my ass.
But that’s just how it is. The assaults are everywhere- pushing the sap and actively discouraging anything nuanced and real- filling minds with sweet cardboard. Any number of blatant attempts lurk out there trying to push those buttons- why? I have no idea, all I know is those damn inspirational emails give me rabies, and I typically place those who send them in a special compartment in my brain where I let them reenact Beaches and Snoopy Come Home. That’s not really fair to Snoopy Come Home, though.
I got one of these messages from my workplace the other day (they send weekly inspirational crap all the time) and it was something that made me ache (not the usual headache) – a sad-tinged and heavy ache. I think I took it farther in my mind than they intended.
Maybe you’ve seen this one. It goes something like this:
A guy in jeans and a baseball cap shows up to play violin music for cash. It’s a busy Washington DC Metro station, and he plays about 45 minutes of Bach. A couple thousand people go by, but only 6 stop for a passing moment. When the music ends, there is no visible response from anyone. Children passing had tried to stop and listen, but their parents, without fail, shoved them past, hurrying them to their destinations. That’s really not a very remarkable story at this point, is it?
But the rest of the tale becomes a little unbelievable so I did some due diligence to verify that it really happened–and it did. Here are the details, many found in an old Washington Post article, not just from that email that sparked this.
The man playing the violin was Joshua Bell. I don’t know much about these things, but evidently people who like to categorize think he is among the best classical musicians in America. Just okay seats at his concerts go for $100, and they sell out.
The violin itself is part of the story. Handcrafted in 1713 by Antonio Stradivari, it is reported to be of almost supernatural acoustic beauty. The original varnish is something of a mystery, but it’s thought to contribute to the perfection of the sound. That and the amazing wood that is imbued with the clarity of a glacier–an unintentional gift from the Little Ice Age.
From the cold mists that made that violin possible to ethereal fingers flying- unimaginably rare treasures combined to serenade those individuals hurrying to places like cubicles. And overwhelmingly, they did not stop.
This brings to mind how little value we place on something of exquisite beauty if there isn’t a corresponding high price to go along with it. You can bet those individuals who purchased pricey tickets to Bell’s concerts bragged at work about them. Yet only the children really seemed to want to stay and enjoy him in the DC Metro.
Accumulations and petty treasures pile up in our houses. Plato is said to have strolled the markets, pissing off vendors by saying “What a lot of things I don’t need.” Yet this horrible trajectory has continued, filling our lives up with meaningless trinkets, paid for by rushing past fleeting songs –miracles of so many layers we can’t begin to account for all of them.
Even the free and common can have a luscious grace. I mentioned waiting for mulberries to ripen with anticipation and my mother reacted with disgust at this free food (ironically she’s a child of the depression). “Who wants to eat those messy things?” But how many remember stretching childish arms to the branches, gathering those exquisite berries? With a sour under the surface to remind you that they are wild. Those berries would perish under fluorescent grocery store lights; they are too good for that. That’s a taste of perfect with no price. I still eat them.
They refer to normalcy bias in terms of disasters. People tend to discount the severity of what is occurring around them for all manner of reasons. Perhaps there is a facet of this bias that also hinders the perception of the truly peerless. And children haven’t had that bias stamped into their being so fully, hence their ability to damn well know that Joshua and his violin are worth listening to. And a taste of early summer is joy.
To live like that again, all the time.
So, sometimes a sweetness can be found even in a modified and chemical world (or a slew of granny spam)- for we do straddle two planes. One with hunks of old wood and pesky guys in jeans making noise at the Metro as well as worlds of exhausting beauty.
I know where I want to live.
Kathleen Peine writes out of the US Midwest and can be contacted at or at the website