Tuesday, July 29, 2008

The Greatest Generation?

As the years pass, and only a handful of folks who took part in World War II are left, there are fewer and fewer homages paid to that intrepid cadre of young men and women who bore the full brunt of the war. And while I have tremendous respect and admiration for the so called "greatest generation", and all that they sacrificed during those days of peril, I have always bristled at the very idea of a greatest generation. What of the sacrifices of those who fought in World War I, or perhaps even The Civil War? Ah, but of course, the Civil War was so long ago, and has problematic moral aspects that I imagine, at least in the minds of some, removes its participants from consideration as being the greatest generation. As for World War I, well, it just didn't have quite the urgency of World War II, did it? Ditto for Korea, and the poor folks who fought in Vietnam are, however unfair it would seem, only in the running for a prize for ignominious failure. So, properly tabulated those who took part in a morally unambiguous conflict of the size and sweep of World War II are at quite an advantage in the "who will be labeled the greatest generation" sweepstakes.

And yet, as I ponder the combined contribution of such political leaders as Lyndon Johnson, Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan and Bush senior, I am sorely tempted to observe that since victory was sealed with the dropping of two atomic bombs on Japan in 1945, the greatest generation's record is, at best, spotty. And, as fate would have it, today, another of their member, if only just, eighty four year old Alaskan, Republican Senator Ted Stevens has, shall we say, let the celebrated side down, what with his indictment for not reporting to the tax man a quarter of a million dollars of bag money he received from big oil. It's nice to know that after generations of being harangued about the debt we all owe to the greatest generation, we probably deserve a refund.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Dark Knight Indeed.

Putting aside "The Dark Knight's" bleak subject matter, subject matter of which I do not have first hand experience, one can hardly imagine a movie title more eerily appropriate to our nation's current condition. Merely employing just one of "The Dark Knight's" double meanings puts one in mind of such national catastrophes as the collapsed housing market, insolvent banking system, inept and grotesquely corrupt political class, seemingly indefinite military engagements, and last but not least, and by no means particular to the U.S., climate change. In the main, the aforesaid horrid phenomena might be said to seal the deal on the idea that the present period in our nation's history does indeed amount to a very dark night.

Employing the other referent in the title's double entendre, one can't help but associate it with Democratic nominee for President, Barack Obama, a figurative and literal dark knight if ever there was one. Obviously the filmmakers could not have had all of these connections in mind when they made the movie, but that is beside the point, the point being that by hook or by crook, "The Dark Knight" is a very powerful and important cultural signifier, relevant in myriad ways and on several levels. I imagine, at least in part, this is what accounts for its seemingly stunning popularity at the box office where it is resonating with viewers, many of whom are committing to multiple viewings, to a degree that puts the movie on a pace to break all sorts of revenue records. In a nation where literally breaking the bank has become an everyday concern, that seems only fitting.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Loserman Resurrected!

During the contretemps that ensued in the aftermath of the 2000 election, zombies for Bush ran about in graceless fashion carrying signs reading Sore Loserman. For them, this indelicate bit of - dare I call it- word play aimed at Al Gore and running mate Joe Lieberman amounted to wit. Now that Senator Lieberman is, for all intents and purposes, one of them, one almost pines for the days when large numbers of admittedly stupid people effectively, and collectively, spat at one of the most loathsome characters to ever drag his knuckles through the halls of government.

Senator Lieberman's latest affront to decency is the fawning relationship he has developed with the vile "Reverend" John Hagee, he of the lunatic notion that, and here I slightly paraphrase, Katrina was New Orlean's punishment for having a gay rights parade. John McCain, a former Hagee devotee, has distanced himself from him, if only under duress. But if, like Pastor Hagee, you support Israel, even if only because you are eager to usher in the Apocalypse tout suite, Lieberman is ready to extend a sweaty, smarmy hand to you, and a public pat on the back. After all, Joe's motto might as well be, Israel, Israel, uber alles! Loserman indeed.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Of Food Stamps, Soup Lines, and Income Tax Abolition.

For all you very strange people who continue to spew nonsense about how a recession hasn't taken hold, perhaps you might, for a minute, remove your very small heads from your rear ends and peer at some genuine evidence as opposed to Alice in Wonderland statistical jiggery pokery of the sort concocted by federal bureaus. For example, the use of food stamps in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts is now the fastest growing program in the U.S. Earlier this decade, Massachusetts had the lowest number of eligible residents for food stamps, but my how things have changed what with declining economic fortunes, soaring food prices, and a little less bureaucratic red tape. Why if you cup your ear and listen carefully, you can almost hear, in the manner of The Great Depression, the rattling of large metal spoons on the sides of very big kettles of watery soup. Could it be coming to that? I wouldn't bet against it just yet. Then again, if the voters of The Commonwealth, many of whom are now availing themselves of food stamps in record numbers, decide to vote to repeal the state income tax, there will likely be no money for soup of any kind, watery or otherwise.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Withdrawal Talk Symptoms.

The subject of the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq has been broached of late, more specifically the issue of a timetable for withdrawal has been raised, and it has caused no small amount of consternation among the guardians of the status quo. As such, I suspect the low level conflict between those who want us out of Iraq, and those who want us in indefinitely is becoming a bit more intense. As usual, those who seek to defend our presence there are, at least from my perspective, less than convincing.

Of course Barack Obama, the primary torch bearer these days for the withdrawal contingent, may simply be posturing for votes when he intones that he would have troops out of Iraq in eighteen months. After all, such talk is a sure vote getter, and he is in a credible position to attract the votes of those who are like minded. In the meantime, I am mindful of the desperation of those who want us in Iraq for a seemingly permanent stay. The only questions in my mind are how reckless are they, and how much wherewithal do they have to, for example, go to war with Iran, which would seal the deal on U.S. troops remaining indefinitely, not just in Iraq, but in the entire region. These are the $64 trillion dollar questions, and I, for one, hope the answer to those questions are that the administration is not, prospectively, so reckless, and that, in any event, they do not have the maneuvering room to engage in any more major military expeditions. Having said that, it is becoming increasingly clear that, we live, as per the Chinese curse, in interesting times.


Saturday, July 19, 2008

An Open Letter To The Voters of Massachusetts

Dear Fellow Residents,

Repealing the income tax in Massachusetts isn't a bad idea, it's an atrocious one that would usher in a debacle the likes of which the state has never experienced. Pardon my apocalyptic tone, but there can be no hyperbole when one considers the level of decimation to public services that would ensue if the income tax is repealed. And the widespread loss of public services is just one in a whole range of deeply unpleasant effects that would occur as a result of such a repeal. Why should this be so?

Massachusetts is already facing the prospect of severe budget shortfalls that will challenge its ability to meet its core obligations. Should the repeal of the income tax pass, the state will fall so far behind in its ability to raise revenue that government will have no choice but to massively cut services, even basic services. Concomitantly, unemployment will increase as state employees are fired en masse. And in order to try and compensate for the loss of income tax revenue, the government will resort to the following desperate measures, massive increases in real estate taxes, sales taxes, and corporate taxes. They will have no choice. Get your mind around a state full of renters and what that will mean, because no one will want to buy residential property. Equally, prepare yourselves for the sickening sucking sound of businesses deserting our inhospitable shores for more tax friendly ones.

Last but not least, Massachusetts as a viable financial entity will likely cease to exist, as the cost to borrow for municipalities and state government will skyrocket. After all, would you loan money to someone or something that had little prospect of paying you back? Perhaps, but only at astronomical rates of interest so as to cover your risk. Are you convinced yet of the epic badness of the proposition? If not, then perhaps you are impervious to reason or suffer from some equally unfortunate malady that precludes a sense of self preservation. I hope not, because the price for voting out the state income tax is far far too high.

Friday, July 18, 2008


The unfailingly odious Phil Gramm has resigned from The McCain campaign after he said, in so many words, that the nation's recession-slouching towards a Depression as we speak- is illusory, existing only in the fevered collective imagination of a nation of "whiners." I have news for you Mr. Gramm, it may be quite true that we are a nation of whiners, but we most certainly are in a recession and your public apologists have no clue. Officialdom's statistics on economic activity, employment, consumer and wholesale inflation, etc, etc, etc, are a mendacious heap of steaming caca bearing no resemblance to reality.

And here's some news for you Senator (Keating Five) McCain, short of yet another rigged election, you are going to get your clock cleaned come November, because I suspect that you, like your erstwhile campaign advisor, are deluded regarding the actual state of the economy. And more importantly where your prospects for election are concerned, America knows it.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

A Fearless Prediction! Divided In Two Parts.

Predictions are easy to make, usually fun, and most of the time come with very little risk to whomever is making the predictions. The following is one prediction that I hope and trust you will find interesting, even provocative.

Sometime in the next decade or two, the United States will come under threat of disunion. By disunion, I mean that, some area, some region of the country will come under such duress and suffer such discontent that the idea of initiating separation from the rest of the nation will take root and grow. It seems almost inconceivable and outlandish in prospect, and may in fact turn out to have no merit as a bit of prognostication, but bear in mind that all large empires have ultimately disintegrated. Rome, The Ottoman Empire, Ancient Islam, The British Empire, and more recently, The Soviet Union, have all, as they say, bitten the dust. Why should the United States, which has already had one tumultuous Civil War that very nearly sundered the nation, be an exception?

As I consider the fate of our empire, it strikes me that those empires that lasted the longest are those that came into being early in the history of human civilization. I posit that consolidating and controlling vast expanses of territory and ruling over diverse peoples was, while never an easy matter, more attainable then than now. And while I realize that the matter of how empires rise and rule is undoubtedly complex, my sense is that among other advantages empires have over their weaker adversaries, such as greater organization, leadership in technology is crucial. Certainly the U.S. has had a technological advantage for generations, and may still, but for the purposes of maintaining an empire, I wonder if our tech lead, such as it is, has become, among many other reasons, too thin for the maintenance of empire.

Clearly mismanagement of finances and ill chosen conflicts are writ large in the history of empires that fail, and it would seem that the U.S. is by no means exempt from such pitfalls. In fact, my view, my thesis is that U.S. financial and martial mistakes are of such magnitude that the very core of the American empire, the lower 48 states, will be at risk. The wherewithal of government plays an enormous role in government's ability to maintain authority over the citizenry. When central government becomes increasingly incapable of responding to crisis, man made and natural, the populace has little incentive to feel, let alone act, as if they are part of something greater than themselves.

The response of the federal government to hurricane Katrina, widely seen to have been profoundly inadequate, is instructive. Local governments almost certainly failed in their missions as catastrophically as the federal government did in theirs, but in the minds of most Americans, the greatest and most damning failure was, understandably, that of The Executive Branch of the federal government. Going forward, for a variety of reasons, such as climate change, disasters like Katrina stand to increase in number and intensify in severity. And as communities around the nation suffer from even more trying conditions, an over taxed federal government will have little in the way to offer in response. Equally, as per the legacy of The War on Terror, it is not unreasonable to expect the federal government to respond to growing social chaos with ever more repressive measures that will do nothing but inflame discontent and drive the citizenry towards separation, or if you prefer, independence from the rest of the nation.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Some Very Good News!

Occasionally, decisions are reversed, and I am very happy to report that the Bureau of Land Management's decision to stop
processing permits for solar projects on public land was so unpopular and elicited such protest that the BLM has rescinded their earlier decision.