Monday, October 13, 2008


Ragnarök – the world tree, Yggdrasil uprooted, the road to Hel opened, the Bifrost bridge destroyed and Asgard forever rent asunder from us, Jörmungandr, the Midgard serpent bound around the world – writhes free, Fenris breaks his mighty chains and Garm, the Helhound is loosed at last. Heimdall sounds his horn as the Aesir assemble – Odin, Thor, Tyr and Freyr come forth, the lesser gods fill in their ranks and the heroes from Valhalla at last fulfill their ancient oaths to fight the hordes of frost giants: Jotunn from Muspelhiem and Niflheim – the cities of Fire and Ice that mark the ends of the Ginnungagap – the Void. The Aesir know it is the Last Battle and they know that they, too, will die. It is the end of the world, it is end of the gods, it is the end of all things...

Whew! If you want a real end-'o-times apocalypse scenario - don't waste time with the Greeks or the Romans, don't even bother with Yaweh or Revelations – go due North, the Norsemen have that story all sewn up.

Why talk about this now? Well, we've seen the financial folks running around these past few weeks saying 'the sky is falling, the sky is falling' till they're hoarse. The international markets are jittery and the usual suspects (Russia and China) are twisting the knife as much as they can. The election is only two or three weeks away and it looks like it may be very, very close – again. You'd think that by this time the US electorate would be able to tell a con man when they see one...

So what else is new? Well, as they say, there's good news and there's bad news and then there's the really ugly stuff:

The Good News

Even the Vikings weren't completely despondent about the future, Ragnarok notwithstanding – there was a 'morning after'. After the last battle, when all the elder gods are dead and the earth has sunk beneath the waves, it rises again, green and beautiful, self-stocked with amber waves of grain. Vioarr and Vali, Odin's sons, appear (somehow), as do Mooi and Magni, the sons of Thor as well as Baldr and Hoor – all the younger gods are suddenly present to order the Sun and Moon upon their ways and bring order to the universe. The general sense of good feeling is increased when it seems that none of the Jotunn has survived to make mischief, not even one of Loki's sons. Worse luck in my opinion, it looks to be rather boring in the Norse 'brave new world'. Oh, and there are some brand new humans, Lif and Lifhrasir, available to repopulate the earth.

All of the above is in aid of saying that, despite our fears, our anger and our rage. Things will likely muddle along for quite some time – certainly for our lifetimes and probably for our childrens' as well. A colossus like the United States doesn't fold like a cheap suit, it takes time to let the air out. Even spectacularly bad mangement like W's (and likely Gumby's as well) can only do so much damage.

“Don't Panic!” as THGTTG*used to admonish. We'll survive. Even if we, as a nation, elect another grinning idiot. BushCheneyPaulson represent a class of predatory ferals, they see only their own needs and desires and have no conception that they represent another or owe anything to someone other than themselves. BHO belongs to this group by deed as well as by avocation.
Nonetheless, his impact will be limited by factors already in play (see below) not to speak of his total lack of vision, jellyfish leadership potential and an interest level approaching that of a sponge. Vapid suitracks may con their way into power but their elemental stupidity prevents them from doing nearly as much damage as they could wish.

The Bad News
The bad news on the political front is that BHO could win – more incompetence at the helm, possibly a fascist coup, definitely democracy in serious jeopardy.
On the international front we have the usual crew of tinpot dictators: Chavez, Ahmadinejad, Putin as well as the military/fascist juntas in Burma, China and elsewhere. The end result of seven years of misrule by BushCo is that we have lost the respect of the world and what's more, we have lost our claim to the moral high ground so the jackals think they are in the ascendent.

The bad news on the financial front is truly staggering – you think $700 Billion is a lot for the mortgage banker bailout (actually the true cost of this is more like $1.5 Trillion)? Here's the part of the iceberg below the surface: the companies that insure those mortgage notes, like AIG, are on the hook for $62Trillion if this all goes south.

The big bad news is that, in this world, economics and politics are joined at the hip.

Ok, let's take these in order:
BHO could win – let's not forget that this is the country that elected Richard Nixon – twice; elected Ronald Reagan – twice; and George W. Bush – twice. With this extensive track record of electing grinning idiots, why wouldn't we elect Barack Obama?
So, what does that mean for real Democrats (I don't count Obamabots as Democrats)? In the best case scenario it means that we've lost the party and will have to form another – I've been advocating this for some time now.

In the worst case it may mean we have to form a resistance movement, if as I suspect, Obama will move to take the country in the direction of an authoritarian dicatatorship. If you think I've gone 'Area 51' on you, I refer you to the current power grab inherent in the so-called 'bailout bill' that just went through Congress: Paulson wanted no oversight, no questions and no redress, just total control of more money than anyone has ever had in the history of the world. See also, the Patriot Acts I & II, see The March to Iraq, subset: WMD, sub-subset, ref.: mushroom cloud. Yes, these are all Republican perfidies but listen to any of Elmer Gantry's BHO's speeches, see 'The Triumph of the Swill' production at Invesco Field, note adoring crowds, also note US flags in the trash.
No, I don't think he'll try to dissolve Congress or use the First Brigade Combat Team of the Third Division under NorthCom – now stationed in the territorial US for use in quelling 'domestic disturbances' - to stage a military coup d'etat (not enough troops yet to stage a successful operation on a country the size of the US). He won't have to, the pitifull compliance of the Congress to GWB's every whim has set the standard for the stature of future congressional representatives: on bended knee.

Oh, and by the way, I think we've already seen the 'October Surprise'. I know it's supposed to be the one that the Republicans use to swing the election their way but let's look at the facts on the ground:

GWB and his cronies hate, and have always hated, John McCain and everything he stands for i.e., reform.

Why would they back a candidate who promises reform and transparency?

Cheney and company believe in a closed-door informational system, viciously attack anyone who has the termerity to question them in any way, believe in unlimited autocratic power for the executive and have no qualms about using propaganda, misdirection and outright lies in defense of their actual, hidden, agenda.

...remind you of anyone? Of course it does.

Add to this the fact that the big transnational money donors who usually back Republican conservatives surreptitiously moved to back a particular Democratic candidate starting early in 2007, guess who?

Notice also the peculiar silence from BushCo on all fronts... this is usually the case when things are going your way – no complaints.

If you look at it with your critical thinking cap on the puzzle pieces fall into order:

Our several wars are simmering along quite nicely:

Iraq is in wind-down status; we've paid off enough of the Sunni tribal leaders to avert them from starting a civil war and...

Our proxy war with Iran is taking up the slack: the Imams are keeping al-Sadr on a short leash in return for us muzzling the Israelis. I notice that there's been a virtually complete lack of activity on either side of the latest 'Intifada' for more than a year now, interesting isn't it? Even such activity as there was, got absolutely zero attention in the press – other fish to fry, perhaps?

We continue to run our brushfire wars in Afghanistan and Pakistan (guess who wants to ramp up the Afghan conflict?)

Essentially, the United States foreign policy agenda has already been set for the next four years, no matter who is in the Oval Office next year.

On the economic front the power of choice has, similarly, been taken away from the next president.

The current 'financial meltdown' is a completely fabricated crisis and it is a financial crisis, not an economic crisis. This doesn't mean it can't have real world consequences but it does mean that this crisis was set up and triggered for a particular purpose and at a selected time. This meltdown could easily have been triggered last year with the collapse of BearStearns but that would have had minimal political impact – too far away from the election for people to remember. But – create a crisis in late September when your chosen candidate is sinking in the polls (remember that BHO was looking like a loser at that point) and, voila! you revitalize the Democratic candidate's campaign – the threat of domestic economic disaster being both a traditional Democratic election issue and revving up the anti-imcumbent party resentment to boot.

Look at the firestorm of panic promulgated by Hank Paulson and the US Treasury – Cheney's financial storm troopers - the constant push to take drastic action, instantly, with neither reflection nor examination and without regard to efficacy or consequences.

Look at what is achieved by these concerted actions: an enormous injection of cash into companies selected to survive (selected by Paulson, no less) with the promise of as much more cash as they want, whenever they have another hissy fit.

Look in the dark corner of this mess, look right where they don't want you to: what is being done to correct the problem? What is being done to make those bad loans whole? What is being done to turn the ARMs into reasonable fixed rate mortgages that the home 'owners' could actually afford to pay?
Answer: nothing

Oh, an actual fix has been suggested by, among others, one Hillary Rodham Clinton. Based on the old HOLC idea that FDR used to begin rebuilding the US economy in the '30s. Go out and take in all that bad paper, guarantee it, make the payments affordable, turn it into good paper. This restores confidence to the financial markets because, mirable dictu, the loans are actually good loans now.
Yes, this has some cost but it's far less than the $700 billion extortion we've just experienced, not to speak of the next round coming to your neighborhood soon (just need to get that pesky election out of the way).

Want to really jump start the financial markets? Go back over the last two years and make those 2 million foreclosed loans good as well, put those people back in their homes and paying their mortgages again.
Yes, of course it's more complicated than just that, but that's where you start.

You'd think this idea would spread like wildfire after all it's already been shown to work, but instead we get: [crickets]

This is because the whole point of the exercise has been to continue the economic policies of BushCheneyPaulson into the foreseeable future – and it's been wildly successful. The next president, whoever he is, will be absolutely hamstrung on economic policy. By the nature and extent of the financial choices that BushCheneyPaulson have made in the last year the course of economics for the next four years has been completely determined. The next president will be unable to get out from under the consequences of these decisions, he will have no choice but to follow the BushCheney economic plan as it plays out.

The Really Ugly Stuff

The really ugly stuff begins to make itself felt when you start extending your view.

In general I think we have “misunderestimated” GWB+Co. Looked at in the light of what's good for the United States, they've been a catastrophe, easily the worst administration in our entire history, right enough... but looked at by their own lights they've not only accomplished everything they set out to do but they've actually managed to extend their administration's policies over the next four, possibly eight, years (if Gumby is elected).

Add to that their other subversive activites: suborning the Justice Department by stocking, and topping, the department with incompetent, ideological political hacks, they've managed to destroy the credibility of the 'brand'. No one for the next 20 years is going to look at the US Justice Department with anything other than thinly-veiled contempt. This isn't good for us but it is good for people who despise democracy.

The discrediting of government agencies. BushCo, over the last 7⅝ years, has made a fetish of demoting, degrading and dismissing crowds of public servants and replacing them with incompetent, ideological political hacks (No, Johnny, it's not just the Justice Dept, anymore). This is all part of the neocon political agenda which says that government is always bad, always wrong and always intruding on your property, er, privacy.

Note FEMA – revitalized under the demon Clinton and made into a useful government agency for helping citizens when natural disaster strikes. The gutting of FEMA began on day one of the GWB's reign, with results for all the world to see. This kind of sabotage has been going on wholesale throughout the entire civil service... and through the federal judiciary as well. Competent judges are harrassed and hounded by well-funded, outside 'interest groups' to be replaced with cadres of ideologically correct know-nothings.

Oddly enough one of the great shibboleths of the foaming-at-the-mouth right wingnuts was the inclusion of emergency powers granted to FEMA in the event of, well, an emergency. These folks fairly blew the tops of their heads off ranting about posse comitatus and the rights of the individual under the Constitution, they sat with 'locked and loaded' street sweepers waiting for the black helicopters and FEAM assault teams to break down their doors.

Fast forward a few years: Patriot Acts I & II, the sequential gutting of FISA, 'Gitmo' and where are those stalwarts now? Apparently, the danger has passed... but wait: early this year in an utterly unnoticed action, FEMA powers to usurp Consitutional rights were transferred out from FEMA to... the White House. So now vast powers to suspend the Bill of Rights, commandeer transportation systems, declare martial law and control and censor all communications media are fully under the control of the Executive branch. No oversight by the Legislative branch, no resourse to the Judicial branch.

Next we have the dismantling of the Posse Comitatus Act:

Major Craig T. Trebilcock of the JAG wrote in October 2000:

"The Posse Comitatus Act has traditionally been viewed as a major barrier to the use of U.S. military forces in planning for homeland defense. In fact, many in uniform believe that the act precludes the use of U.S. military assets in domestic security operations in any but the most extraordinary situations. As is often the case, reality bears little resemblance to the myth for homeland defense planners. Through a gradual erosion of the act’s prohibitions over the past 20 years, posse comitatus today is more of a procedural formality than an actual impediment to the use of U.S. military forces in homeland defense."

This is pre-911, folks.
After, it gets even worse:
"Public Law 109-364, or the "John Warner Defense Authorization Act of 2007" (H.R.5122) (2), which was signed by the commander in chief on October 17th, 2006, in a private Oval Office ceremony, allows the President to declare a "public emergency" and station troops anywhere in America and take control of state-based National Guard units without the consent of the governor or local authorities, in order to "suppress public disorder."

A revision of the bill was enacted in 2008 purporting to somehwat limit the Executive's powers but GWB's signing statement averred that he had no intention of respecting those limitations.

Look, I could go on for pages about this stuff, in fact there's probably a book in here somewhere (like the proverbial pony). The point is: we're looking at a new future and it extends way past the horizon. I've written elsewhere about this but things have really changed, it's no longer just about you and me and the folks on the block, it's no longer about Demmican or Republicrat, it's no longer even about America vs the world.

Like it or not, we are all citizens of the planet now and the new conflict will be on that global stage, it will also be an enveloping conflict: the Jihadis are a global phenomenon, so are the transnational corporations. Neither of these groups has any love whatsoever for democracy, truth, human rights or the rights of individuals.

The ecological balance of the planet is a global phenomenon, pollution transcends all boundaries, melamine in your milk gets from China to your baby formula faster than you can say “This tastes funny.” So does Avian flu...

At the same time that all this is going on, we are on the brink of profound change rooted in our understanding of technology. It will soon be possible to make the kinds of changes we'll need to make to move us out of the mess we've made of things. But these changes will need to be coordinated and accessible on a global scale, that means we'll have to cooperate on that kind of scale, which means we'll have to change the way we interoperate – on a global scale.

Everyone has a stake in this, so all the stakeholders need to be recognized. In like wise, everyone has an ox to gore and that needs to be recognized as well.

How we handle this will define life on Earth for the next hundred years, at least.

A last word here to talk about my writing 'style'. Anyone who's read my articles has noticed that I use a lot of historical and mythological references. I do this for several reasons: the historical references are obvious, Santayana was right: “Those who do not study history are doomed to repeat it.” My observation is that very few of us study history at all – we always seem to be repeating our mistakes. It may be futile but I keep thinking that I must include the historical references so that the curious can follow up and get a better underpinning for their own critical thinking.

As to the mythological themes I sometimes use, I think that the pantheons of gods and demigods (both past and present) provide us with the opportunity to objectify our aspirations, our capabilities... and our fears. Jung (among others) understood this well, though I won't go so far as to call upon the 'collective unconscious' for any insight.

And... they're fun. By using them I can try to give readers, and myself, a little laugh now and then.

*”The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy”by Douglas Adams

Sunday, September 14, 2008

A Little Light Reading

A young colleague asked me to draw up a list of books I liked... he had no idea what he was in for.

Great Books and Shows

I don’t know your level of intellectual involvement, so I’m going from the ground up – no insult intended

Cultural Classics

The Iliad & The Odyssey

Get the translations done by Stanley Lombardo, he’s done them as performance pieces and the language is very modern and non-stilted. These are both extremely important to understanding how we got where we are.

Anaximenes, Anaximander, Heraclitus, Democritus and Thucydides

on general principles, learn about life, the universe and everything.

Euripides, Aeschylus, Sophocles

Every plot under the sun was invented by these guys.


Because this is where dialectic begins, this is also where critical thought begins.


Because this is where dialectic ends (until Marx), the man had an opinion on everything – and he was usually right. Defined western thought for a thousand years and more.

Ovid – “Metamorphoses”

The most subtle use of Latin - ever.

Julius Caesar

Clear, insightful, explicative… bloody, cruel, awful... brilliant, perceptive, prescient... shall I go on?

Lucretius, Marcus Aurelius

On general principles: Lucretius for the most beautiful Latin ever written and especially Marcus Aurelius 'Meditations' for the view of the Empire in Autumn.

Augustine – “The City of God”

To find out how one severely fucked up (probably sexually abused) priest proceeded to fuck up the entire western world for a thousand years or more…


If you read nothing else, Shakespeare would give you a complete education. Also the most beautiful period of the English language.


Proved you didn’t need god to justify your existence.


Proved you could be god if you wanted to (and re-invented The Calculus on the side – Archimedes did it first).

Adam Smith - The Wealth of Nations

Proved you didn’t have to be god if you understood markets.

BTW “The Invisible Hand” so beloved of ‘free’ market aficionados is mentioned only once in 1200 pages and even then in a very narrow context.

Locke, Hume, Rousseau

Progenitors of the Enlightenment, midwives of the American and French revolutions – some real thought here.

Darwin - The Origin of the Species

Everyone claims to have read this book but very few actually have, beautifully written by an excellent observer. Every religious fanatic should be required to read this, it will pretty much shut them up once and for all.


High priest of German Romanticism (aside from Goethe), thought deeply, wrote beautifully and was barking mad, nonetheless, read “Genealogy of Morals” and “Thus Spake Zarathustra”
BTW “ubermensch” means “overman” not “superman”. He was referring to the ethical and moral qualities of the evolved human being, the fascist fanatics, as usual, got it completely wrong.

Von Clausewitz

Though a mere lieutenant in the Jaeger-Prussian army, his writings on the principles of war in simple, elegant prose have made him standard reading for warriors for two hundred years.

Bertrand Russell - Principia Mathematica

The last great re-invention of mathematics and written in Latin, no less. He and Alfred North Whitehead pretty much rewrote mathematics from the ground up at the start of the 20th century. Also was the first of the great modern peace activists.

Howard Zinn, Noam Chomsky on general principles

That pretty much covers my range of Great Western Thought. There are many more of course, but I think these represent the best of the best. Frankly, I think that anyone who wants to understand our culture should read as many of these folks as they can or just read Will and Ariel Durant’s 26 volume tome “The History of Philosophy” as an alternative.

now on to more fun stuff

Speculative fiction

The earliest SF writers are an astonishing lot:

Cyrano de Bergerac – From the Earth to the Moon

Jules Verne – 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea

H.G. Wells – War of the Worlds

But science fiction didn’t really arrive until…

The pulp authors – 30s and 40s authors who wrote the original space operas, cited for their adventurous imaginations not their technical or scientific rigor

E.E. “Doc” Smith

The Lensman series – everything George Lucas ever did, he stole from this.

Edgar Rice Burroughs

The Martian Series – just wonderful, completely off the scale as fantasy

There are many others here worth reading but these two are the class of the field.

The new guard (now old I suppose)

These are the first wave of serious speculative fiction writers who appeared in the late 40s and early 50s. A lot of these authors wrote short stories, novellas and novels that they realized later were connected in some way. You will often find ‘timelines’ with the various stories plotted along the way. These were mostly done after the fact but recognized the natural commonality of the tales. Some of these folks are in here for one or two of their tales only but they deserve their place nonetheless. I haven’t put in many from later periods, partly because I haven’t read them and that is mostly because they are derivative and boring. (So I’m a curmudgeon, sue me).

Arthur C Clarke

'Childhood’s End', 'The Deep Range', 'Tales from The White Hart', '2001'

Clarke invented the concepts of: geo-synchronous orbit satellites, re-usable orbital shuttles, tethered lifting ribbons, setting space colonies at the L3 and L5 points, and many other technologies.

Robert Heinlein

'Stranger in a Strange Land', 'The Moon is a Harsh Mistress', 'I Will Fear No Evil', 'The Green Hills of Earth', 'Starship Troopers', 'Friday', 'The Tales of Lazarus Long' and many, many others.

Bob Heinlein is not really a great writer, in fact he’s not a very good writer at all – he is, however, an absolutely wonderful storyteller with a keen eye for human foibles and a fearless advocacy for human freedom.

Isaac Asimov

'The Foundation Series', 'I Robot' and about 140 other books both fiction and non-fiction

Prolific and sometimes profound Asimov is always interesting. His intelligence and imagination have a huge range and depth.

Frank Herbert – Dune

The Dune series is probably the most complex political SF series ever. Intricate, complex, intriguing and exasperating.

Ray Bradbury

R is for Rocket’, ‘The Martian Chronicles’, ‘Dandelion Wine’, ‘Green Hills, White Whale’

Wonderful, evocative writer with a unique style, a peculiar look at the world and an unbounded imagination.

Larry Niven

'Protector', 'Ringworld', the Polesotechnic League, The Long Night

Great hard science type writer, the description of a realistic space battle complete with Bussard ramjets and using a neutron star in a battle maneuver in “Protector” are priceless.

Orson Scott Card

The Ender series – a series of six (?) books all revolving around a ‘first contact’ gone awry and the ramifications that ensue, “Speaker for the Dead” is especially good. Very empathic, try reading “The Lost Boys” with the knowledge that he has an autistic son.

Note: Quite a few of these authors run hot and cold, some of their books are really great while others are junk. If you’re not sure, ask me.

Robert Silverberg

Wrote three great books: ‘Dying Inside’, ‘The Stochastic Man’ and ‘Up the Line’. The Majipoor stuff is crap.

John Brunner

Great British writer, always provocative, ‘Stand on Zanzibar’, the unbelievably prophetic ‘The Sheep Look Up’ and many more… doesn’t like America very much but his critiques are spot on.

Phillip K. Dick

You already know him from 'Bladerunner', he wrote some great books: ‘Ubik’, ‘A Scanner Darkly’, ‘Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep’, wrote some others that are crap: ‘Clans of the Alphane Moon’, etc. Sad to say he kinda went round the bend at the last ‘Valis’ and ‘The Transmigration of Timothy Archer’ are pretty much paranoid-schizophrenic nightmares.

Ursula LeGuin

The Earthsea Trilogy’, ‘The Left Hand of Darkness’, ‘The Dispossessed’ A woman’s view on SF. She really understands dragons.

Philip Jose Farmer

Riverworld’ and a great many others. Farmer wrote a lot of really out there stuff, alien thought, alien-human sex, underworld/netherworld. Sometimes very erotic, sometimes very disturbing.

R.A. Lafferty

Unique style, off the wall imagination, funny and scary, never what you expected. Mostly short stories, well worth finding/reading.

Harlan Ellison

Insulting, irascible, insanely intelligent. Most famous for ‘Repent, Harlequin, Cried the Tick-Tock Man’

Theodore Sturgeon

Short stories that bite: ‘Occam’s Scalpel’, ‘If All Men Were Brothers, Would You Let One Marry Your Sister?’ Author of Sturgeon’s Law: “90% of Everything is Crap”, his stuff is in the other 10%.

Cordwainer Smith

Brilliant, odd, funny, awful, charming, gut-churning… just the titles tell a tale: ‘The Burning of the Brain’, ‘Scanners Live in Vain’, ‘The Lady Who Sailed The Soul’, ‘The Ballad of Lost C’Mell’, ‘The Game of Rat and Dragon’. All the stories meld into a timeline/evolution of man and near-man over thirty thousand years of change.

Kim Stanley Robinson

Red Mars’ ‘Green Mars’ ‘Blue Mars’ trilogy. How Mars will really be terraformed and the interplanetary politics involved. Very well done, a little dry but essentially a manual for how to do it.


The Lord of the Rings’ Trilogy

IF you haven’t read this, read it right away… no the movie doesn’t even come close, in fact, try to forget the movie completely. This is the oldest, and by far the best, of the fantasy genre. It helps that Tolkien was a gifted writer, it helps that he was a professor of linguistics at Oxford, most of all he is original and creates layer upon layer upon layer to give his created world authenticity and credibility.

Robert Jordan

Wheel of Time’ series

Not the greatest of writers but I got snagged and if you’ve got a week or two to throw away get the series and read it through, he’s still writing the last two but has amyloidosis and may die before it’s done. Strong on magic and the Source, female characters very strong but basically batshit crazy, pretty much a typical ‘guy’s eye’ view. Some good moments.

Update: Robert Jordan died late last year and the last book of the series is being completed from his extensive notes

George R.R. Martin

The Song of Ice and Fire’ series

Blood ‘n Guts sword-and-sorcery epic. You can see the denouement a mile off, but it’s the journey that counts. Pretty good characters, involving and interesting, each in their own revolting way. He has a nasty habit of killing off or gruesomely maiming anyone you might actually get to like. The Dragon Empress is a hottie.

William Gibson

Neuromancer’ etc

He’s here because he got famous for work that a lot of other people actually did before him, nevertheless his stuff is a good read, in a techno-punk, dystopian sorta way.

Neal Stephenson

Snow Crash’, ‘The Diamond Age’, ‘Cryptonomicon’. ‘The Baroque Cycle’

The first three are brilliant, prophetic, warp-speed, up to the nanosecond books chock full of excellent writing, total contemporaneity (wow! what a crappy neologism). What William Gibson wishes he were.

The Baroque Cycle’ is a 3,000 page romp through the 18th century, lots of fun characters, oh and BTW you'll learn about the origins of scientific methodology, modern economics and how to deal with syphilis if you don't have access to penicillin.

There are others out there working in associated fields, such as:

Graphic novels

Neil Gaiman and ‘The Sandman’ series. Neil is a cult figure for many – not my cuppa

Frank Miller and, basically anything he’s involved in: ‘The Dark Knight’ (Batman), ‘Sin City’, ‘Elektra Assassin’ and many others. Frank's also a cult figure, I like him.


The Day the Earth Stood Still’ intelligent SF (see also ‘This Island Earth’ made in the same year for a hilarious comparison

Forbidden Planet’ Monsters from the Id! Aaiieeee!! Still really good SF (although stolen wholesale from ‘The Tempest’) Note the very young Leslie Nielsen in a dramatic role.

Alien’ Ridley Scott’s version of: ‘There’s a Mouse in the House’ it’s seven feet tall, drips slime and wants to eat you, nevertheless… it has the all time greatest role for a woman since ‘Ninotchka’ Sigourney Weaver plays Ripley, the uber-competent second mate of the ‘Nostromo’ (look it up, see Joseph Conrad). Makes you proud to be a human being.

Aliens’ James Cameron cut his teeth on this one, did Jimmy. Not much for story but it’s in the running for the greatest action flick of all time, and we get to see Ripley be even more heroic.

Bladerunner’ Ridley Scott’s staggering SF opus, still arguably the best SF film ever made. Note the very young Edward James Olmos (since Miles Davis’ death, officially the ‘Coolest Man on the Planet’ see below: Battlestar Galactica)

I won’t go on about the films, you’ve probably seen a lot of the newer ones: long on SFX, short on intelligence. The one good thing about low budget films is that they make you think harder.

You might try comparing versions of ‘Solaris’ Tarkovsky vs Clooney, not as lopsided as you might think although Clooney is merely good while Tarkovsky is (was) a genius.


Oddly enough some pretty good SF has leaked through into the boob tube (no, I’m not talking about 'Blake’s Seven' or 'Red Dwarf')

'Doctor Who' is an acquired taste but has some good moments (I prefer David Tenant in the role).

Obviously, 'Star Trek' is legendary, you should really watch some of the early episodes, hilarious, complete with space-bimbo of the week. There were some very good ones though: ‘City on the Edge of Forever’ (written by Harlan Ellison, see above) and ‘Space Seed’ with Ricardo Montalban as Khan, one of a genetically enhanced breed of ‘supermen’.

Actually ‘Star Trek: The Next Generation’ was pretty good as a series, good actors, good writing. See ‘Inner Light’ and ‘Metaphor’ and the dark ‘Yesterday's Enterprise’.

I liked ‘Babylon 5’ quite a lot but didn’t get excited about ‘Firefly’. I liked ‘Andromeda’ but detested 'Star Trek Voyager'.

This is a little off topic but I’d like to nominate ‘La Femme Nikita’, the TV series as an actual SF show notwithstanding their conceit that it was real-world, it definitely wins as the most paranoid television series ever shown, the tension was palpable in every episode, every relationship, every movement… the relief when each show was over was like serotonin overload.

But pride of place for best TV SF ever must go to 'Battlestar Galactica' (no, not the original series done back in the eighties, although watching that one is absolutely hilarious, I fall off my chair every time they push the “Turbo” button on the Vipers). The new one is fabulous, highly charged, rife with conflict, brilliantly written, superbly acted and confirms that Edward James Olmos (as Commander Adama) is the “Coolest Man on the Planet” (the honor used to belong to Miles Davis but even Miles can’t hold onto this one when he’s dead). To get a feel for this show see the episode “33 Minutes”, after your heartbeat slows down and you stop sweating, give me a call.

That’s about all I can think of for now, I’ll send more if/when I smack myself in the forehead and say ‘Why didn’t I think of that one!”

Once again, you may know all of these, I certainly don’t mean to presume that you don’t and no condescension is either overt or implied.

Have fun,


There definitely will be more added to the list, as I went over this several more candidates appeared iin my memory...

Thursday, August 28, 2008

A Distant Sound of Thunder

In the old, old days before the cities and the highways, before the smokestacks and the chimneys, before we knew the sea and the sun, the sky and the stars for what they truly are - even in those ancient days - we knew what leadership was and we know it still. We feel its presence - the ancient Greeks said "the God is near" when they felt it, we know its absence too...

From the gods and demi-gods of Sumer: Enki and Innana through Gilgamesh with his friend and nemesis Enkidu to the heroes of the Iliad: "god-like" Achilles, Ajax, Hector, Diomedes and Odysseus, there is a common thread. In our ancient dreams we draw forth the leader from among us, we invest them with our trust and our collective honor and we demand one special thing from them...

Those whom the gods choose, we anoint with oil, we clothe with gold and in their honor we burn precious Frankincense from Ubar... Why?

Through the ages we have had many leaders - not all of them good, nor any of them perfect. They have a few attributes in common: some can mesmerize a crowd with thrilling rhetoric, some speak softly and move quietly along their way, some beguile with dreams of wonder or 'cry havoc' on an oppressor, stirring us to do what we had thought we could not do. There are some who revel in chaos or who are possessed by a holy fire; they send their acolytes to oblivion with promises of paradise ringing in their ears - they, too, are leaders. And there are some who have the power but, sadly, have nowhere to put it, no plan or one plan too many...

Most often we find the qualities of true leadership - in the place we would look first: the military. Leadership in the military is not an option, it is a bare, stark necessity. And, like courage, it need not be displayed because it is assumed. Woe to the young JG who fails this test, if he's lucky he may just be shouldered aside by his NCO, if not he may wake in the middle of the night next to a live grenade.

Here's the thing:

Leadership is comprised of many qualities: responsibility, courage, wisdom, experience, judgment, instinct, passion, vision, perseverance, loyalty... among others. But it is founded upon one quality only: sacrifice. All leaders understand this innately but most skew the interpretation to stand it on its ear, they think it must mean your sacrifice. These are always the bad leaders, the narcissists, the warmongers, the tinpot dictators, the power-mad politicians who will sacrifice anyone and everyone to gain their grail. They never seem to achieve it... and because of this fundamental misunderstanding, they never will.

True leadership, is based on self-sacrifice, on the willing gift or, as the Greeks put it, "the sacrifice that goes, consenting". In the elder days this was literal truth, in times of emergency, of war, of drought or famine, plague or pestilence; the king was called by the god to sacrifice himself for the people.

Oedipus, the King of Thebes sent to the Oracle at Delphi to ask Apollo what to do in a time of great drought and famine. He expected to be called to account for the city's sins and, in a way, he was. The Oracle told him to "seek out the unclean thing"; he did, and found himself.

We do not demand that our leaders hurl themselves from high places any more nor immolate themselves in the sacred fire nor battle dragons in their lairs. The nightmares are different now: the mushroom cloud, the ravening packs of corporate wolves, the manic hordes of religious madmen (perhaps not so different after all) but the bedrock principle of self-sacrifice remains the defining characteristic of leadership.

Why is this important?

It is important because the tale of history hangs on simple choices, choices that, in retrospect, look freighted with overt meaning but which looked innocent and simple at the time - simple as a hanging chad.

It is important because we have two exemplars in front of us right now, showing both sides and qualities of leadership. The one who spoke on Tuesday showed us elegance and grace, intelligence and compassion, aspiration and accomplishment. More than that, she exhibited all the qualities of the good leader: she shared with us and invited us to share with her and most of all she spoke of her dedication and continuing commitment to core principles and to the common good. Every idea was based on internal conviction and was applied to an external solution. This is the good leadership model: showing by thought and by action, the path forward and speaking the magic incantation: "Follow me!"

The other exemplar we will hear tonight and, if the past has any instructive value, he will, once again, tell us his story, tell us that he is the one he has been waiting for. He will use the rhetoric that attempts to make the 'other' into himself, subsuming his followers into his own ego, demanding that sacrifice to himself and then speaking of his dreams, his hope, his change. But there will be an emptiness in his words, as there always is, the hollowness of his core deprives his words of value, the emptiness of his principles is revealed as his lofty rhetoric falls flat. Because there is no internal transcendence of self, his speeches are devoid of power and worse, they show us his inner emptiness. This is why we recoil when he speaks.

One can also tell something about a leader by the company s/he keeps, by the actions of his/her followers and by the environment s/he chooses.

Jeremiah Wright, Bill Ayers and Tony Rezco are not role models we want for our children, what they have in common is a willingness to suborn the good will of others in search of power. The actions of Axelrod, Pelosi, Dean and Brazile are wanton in their blatant contempt for democracy and savage in their zealotry.

The strutting, preening, pompous parade that is the Obama presentation will reach its climax tonight with his investiture at Invesco Field where, before 80,000 adoring acolytes, he will emerge from the colonnades of a faux Greek temple to accept their adulation. The histories of mad Roman emperors comes to mind. But that pales beside the modern mirror - an instantaneous comparison will rocket to the mind of anyone old enough to remember "Triumph of the Will". Perhaps there is no one on his staff who can remember those times - or has even seen the movie...

The faux presidential seal, the replacement of the US flag on the tail of his campaign plane with his branded logo, the 'beer and sausages' rock concert in Berlin - not at the Brandenburg Gate, a symbol of hope and freedom, but at the Siegessäule, the "Victory Column" used, among others, by Hitler to celebrate his victories over neighboring states. All these ornate trappings, the egregious excesses, the arrogance and contempt... all bespeak a man who knows his reach has exceeded his grasp, they are all an attempt to create the very thing they lack, to engender the confidence in others that is not manifest in the self.

There are many paths to self-knowledge, they all require hard work on the inner self to achieve that knowledge and they all require us to give up what we love best: ourselves. Musashi - the master swordsman of Japan, tells us in his "Book of Five Rings" that victory is only achieved when we can look into the Void.

The problem in general is that there are different types of people who grow or acquire leadership capabilities - being a leader is not a guarantee of good humor, good judgment or good sense. Certainly there is a quantum of talent involved in leadership, and there are a shelf full of books that will teach you everything you ever wanted to know (and a lot you didn't want to know) about how to practice leadership. A leader can be dedicated, passionate, loyal to his cause... and utterly evil (Pol Pot for instance) or he can have those same qualities and be regarded as a secular saint (Lincoln for instance - unless you're from the South).

The essential quality of the man or woman will always make itself manifest - you are known by the company you keep, by the deeds that you do and by the quality of the relationships that you form. If your relationships are about trust and honor, respect, consultation and mutually beneficial collaboration - the god stays with you and, sometimes, you will hear the distant sound of thunder.

If, on the other hand, your relationships are all about steppingstones to power or about power itself, then you may indeed ascend the rungs of power over the bodies of erstwhile friends and enemies alike - but the only sound you are likely to hear is the echo of your own thoughts...

"Whom the gods would destroy, they first make mad." - Euripides

Saturday, August 16, 2008

A Crack in the StoneWall?

Today Ray McGovern, a boyhood friend of Colin Powell's and a 27-year veteran on the CIA's internecine wars published a challenge to Secretary Powell to, finally, come forward and tell the truth about his infamous UN speech on Iraq go here, for the original article.

In his letter, McGovern charges Powell to speak or be tarred forever as a participant in the Cheney-Bush debacle that is Iraq.

“If you were blindsided, well, here’s an opportunity to try to wipe off some of the blot. There is no need for you to end up like Lady Macbeth, wandering around aimlessly muttering, Out damn spot…or blot.“

McGovern goes back to their boyhood friendship to remind Powell of the code of honor they both grew up with:

“On those Bronx streets, rough as they were, there was also a strong sense of what was honorable —honorable even among thieves and liars, you might say. And we had words, which I will not repeat here, for sycophants, pimps, and cowards.”

And he reminds Powell (and us) of the price we have paid for this folly:

“With 4,141 American soldiers — not to mention hundreds of thousands of Iraqi citizens — dead, and over 30,000 GIs badly wounded...”

In withering detail, McGovern recounts the fraud perpetrated on the American public and on the world by Cheney-Bush, and he clearly states “J'Accuse!” directly at both Bush and Cheney for deliberately foisting this fraudulent war upon us:

“But when President Bush was first told of Habbush’s report that there were no WMD in Iraq, Suskind’s sources say the president reacted by saying, “Well, why don’t you tell him to give us something we can use to make our case?” “

McGovern goes on to say that the investigative work of Sydney Blumenthal and Ron Suskind has been instrumental in meticulously laying out the process and progress of lies, step by step. And, apparently, the coverup goes on to this day:

“It was, no doubt, pure coincidence that President Bush made a highly unusual visit to CIA headquarters, also on Thursday, before leaving for Crawford on vacation... [snip] given the record of the past seven years, it is reasonable to suggest that he also wanted to assure malleable Mike Hayden, the CIA director, and his minions that they will be protected if they continue to stiff-arm appropriate congressional committees, denying them the information they need for a successful investigation. “

McGovern winds up his letter by challenging Powell to step up and tell the truth – and thereby repair his deeply tarnished reputation – or remain silent and, by that silence, let us know that he was part of the deception after all.

Your choice Mr Secretary, we're waiting...

Friday, August 01, 2008

Couldn't resist...

BHO claims that he "doesn't look like those other guys on the dollar bills..."

...problem solved.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Red Dirt Talk - Part 1, the Setup

So it looks like Hillary and Bill, kinda, are going to be good Democrats and try to lead the Unity Donkey down the garden path. A lot of folks will sigh "Oh well, we tried." and trudge back into line because they been told (and so they believe) that Obama is the lesser of two evils, that a McCain presidency would be such a catastrophic event that it is simply unthinkable... some of us won't buy that for any price. We're hearing hysterical wailings about the dreadfulness of McCain and blue sky predictions about the coming Obamatopia. Not so fast...

Most of the time, in business, in life and in politics, people throw around “blue sky” predictions. A lot of us do it for the sake of optimism, salesmen and politicians do it for a living. This is not a bad thing, per se, and we learn to counter the ‘blue sky’ talk with a healthy dose of skepticism: “Oh, come on,” we’ll say, “don’t tell me that Mustang GT was only driven on Sundays by a little old lady who never went over twenty miles per hour – I just don’t believe you.” It tends to work out and if it doesn’t, well, experience is a very fine teacher.

Sometimes, however, in life and business… and in politics, we need to get down from the blue sky to what I call the “Red Dirt Talk”. What are the numbers? Who’s on the hook? Who gets what and when do they get it? And the bedrock question: What’s it going to cost me?

I think we’ve reached a Red Dirt Talk point now – there can be as many Red Dirt Talk points as needed –we need to sit down, stare at the wall and really think about where we are, how we got here and what we really want to do next. It’s important, critical in fact, because history will be changed by what we do in the next several months – even if we do nothing at all, the world will change, just a bit, go there when it might have gone here… and a different future unfolds.

Let's review the facts, then look at the options and see if we can form a plan.

Fact: Hillary blew the campaign - why? I don't know, maybe Patti Solis Doyle was a fifth columnist but they should not have lost all those caucuses, especially after they did it right in Nevada. I don't like it but it's true.

Fact: the Democratic Party nomination has been taken from the obviously stronger, better qualified candidate and bestowed upon the weaker and less qualified candidate. There are numerous theories about who did what to whom, all the way from the massive collusion plot in which the Bushies have manipulated this in order to stage a coup before the election to the David Axelrod channeling Karl Rove with the complicity of the radical leftie-Bolsheviks to take over the Democratic Party for nefarious purposes (I actually kinda like that one myself). For the purposes of the Red Dirt Talk, it doesn't really matter. It has happened, barring a major reversal of fortune, BHO will be the Democratic Party candidate this fall.

"A newly released CNN/Opinion Research Corp. poll found that if Obama does not select Clinton as his running mate, 22 percent of her supporters would stay home this fall (almost 4 million voters) -- and another 17 percent (a little over 3 million) would vote for McCain." --CNN (parentheses are mine). So, if we use 2004 as the baseline - GWB won with 62 million voters vs Kerry's 59 million. then take away 4 million Democratic votes, that leaves BHO with 55 million. Now take away another 3 million from that (Clinton supporters who will not stay home but will vote for McCain) and add 3 million to the Republican side. You end up with 65 million for McCain to 52 million for BHO. There is a word for this: landslide.

Fact: the Democratic Party won the 2006 congressional elections and now has a majority in both houses (233 v 202 in the House and 51 v 49 in the Senate) - granted the Senate majority rests on two independents and Lieberman is a Republican in all but name. This is certainly not veto-proof territory but it is also certainly enough to stop inimical legislation and prevent more damage by the GWB crowd... you would think. Curiously enough, there has been no action to counter GWBs excesses and people in leadership roles have averred that any health care reform is DOA. Impeachment is, famously, off the table sez Ms Pelosi (in one of the greatest acts of political stupidity in the history of American politics). Our several wars go merrily on their way, dispensing billions in government contracts (the cost of the Iraq war is now $5,000 per second) to titular American companies who have shifted their HQs to Dubai to avoid paying American taxes. GWBs tax cuts for the rich go on and on with no end in sight.

Remind me: what is it that makes Democrats so different from Republicans?

Estimates are that Democrats will pick up 15 more House seats in the Fall and as many as 6 more Senate seats. That would give an incoming Democratic president a 248 to 187 advantage in the house an 57 to 43 in the Senate well within arm-twisting range of a filibuster-proof majority (AKA rubber stamp Congress).

In the technology world there's a thing called "FUD", it stands for Fear, Uncertainty and Dismay. It's a propaganda strategy that Microsoft used effectively for years to destroy its rivals. Keep overhyping your (usually mediocre) accomplishments, trumpeting the crushing inevitability of your overwhelming (potential) victory, demeaning the quality and value of your competition with innuendo and implications of questionable moral lapses. Your target audience may not like you very much but they become afraid to stand against you... and your success is assured. If this feels familiar it is because the Obamabot/bolsheviks are waging a FUD campaign against you right now. To recognize this is to resist it, be aware.

I cite specifics of BHO's programs from his website but they seem to change depending on the audience he's speaking to at the moment. I've also included John McCain's positions on the same subjects. We can all run around with our hair on fire screaming and yelling about our issues and concerns but, at some point, we need to put on our critical thinking caps and look at the choices we have to make.

Red Dirt Talk - Part 2, the Positions (1)

Note: All text in blue is taken directly from the candidates' websites.

Foreign Policy


Ending the War in Iraq

Renewing American Diplomacy
Nuclear Weapons
Building a 21st Century Military
Bipartisanship and Openness

Foreign policy is not BHO's strong suit. He has trouble remembering how many states there are in the US, not to speak of confusing Arabs, with Iranians with Afghans (they all look alike, don't they?). He's developed the novel idea of sitting down around a big table and sorting out this mess with all those Arab folks. I'm sure that'll work. Apparently, even the Libyan President-for-Life Muammar Gadafy gets it: "The statements of our Kenyan brother of American nationality Obama on Jerusalem ... show that he either ignores international politics and did not study the Middle East conflict or that it is a campaign lie." and he goes on to say: "We fear that Obama will feel that, because he is black with an inferiority complex, this will make him behave worse than the whites … This will be a tragedy."

You know you're in trouble when even the people who should be happy to take advantage of him feel that he's a disaster-in-waiting.

I've written about this previously: Go here for a longer discussion, I'll just bring in the last three paragraphs here:

Here's the point: it isn't enough to rope in some old guard cold warriors, hysterical firebrands, high powered, guns-for-hire lawyers and radical ideologues. Mushing them together doesn't get you a viable worldview, a coherent strategy or a workable foreign policy. You, the leader, must have a deep and strong understanding of how the world works, who has a bone in which fight, what they might be willing to give up to get what they can live with. This doesn't come from pre-digested think tank scenarios, cooked up by a random gathering of advisors.

Rather it comes from doing the cold dreary work of diplomacy, day after day, year after year. That way you gain -dare I say it? - the experience to understand both what you're hearing ...and not hearing; to be able to read between the lines; to detect and respond to a nuanced exchange of views. Working with community organizers on South Side Chicago just doesn't cut it.

America needs to be able to talk to its adversaries and its friends, we need to be able to tell the difference. We have suffered a drastic drop in global esteem not because we are powerful - we are, not because we are arrogant - and we are that, too - but because we have been stupid for the last seven years and everyone in the world knows it. We cannot afford to be stupid anymore, we cannot afford child-like naiveté, we cannot afford to abandon old allies or to credulously acquire new ones. The Obama Foreign Policy offers all these flaws and more: Obama's Foreign Policy offers up America to shame and humiliation, to retribution and retaliation. Obama offers to make America the chamberpot for all the ills, real or imagined, of every injured party, past or present, anywhere in the world. Simply put, Obama's Foreign Policy can be summed up in two words: America Last.


Importance of Succeeding

Support the Successful Counterinsurgency Strategy
Push for Political Reconciliation and Good Government
Get Iraq's Economy Back on its Feet
Call for International Pressure on Syria and Iran
Level with the American People
Border Security and Immigration Reform

This is standard McCain/Republican boilerplate: Foreign Policy = Iraq All the Time. Yes, they're obsessed with Iraq and, no, it still doesn't make any sense whatever. At least McCain is honest about his intentions and open about his fantasies. On immigration he's way out front of Obama and everyone else. Hispanic voters have already seen this and with their naturally conservative voting history, one would expect them to move to the (R) side of the ballot for this reason alone.

Economic Policy


Obama has had little to say about the US economy besides the same old tired bromides we've heard all too often. Currently - don't hold me to this, these could change in minutes depending on what's politically advantageous - they are:

--WARNING: Bromide Alert, the information below may cause you to lose brain cells --

From BHOs website:

Provide Middle Class Americans Tax Relief - BHO wants to give you $1K back on your taxes

Trade - Breaking News: BHO thinks NAFTA may have been a bad deal for Americans

...and the rest are just pure political quackery

Technology, Innovation and Creating Jobs

Support Labor
Protect Homeownership and Crack Down on Mortgage Fraud
Address Predatory Credit Card Practices
Reform Bankruptcy Laws
Work/Family Balance

*Sigh*, well that was pretty useless. Let's look at who his advisors are to see what that might tell us:

Austan Goolsbee: U. of Chicago neoclassicist who, for example, objects to single-payer health care on the grounds that it's not good for the 'free' market

David Cutler: Harvard economist who believes that high health costs are good for the economy

Jeffrey Liebman: a Harvard economist who want to privatize social security

Remember these names, you'll see them again under Healthcare advisors, BTW did anyone notice a pattern here? OK, hands down - it did seem kinda familiar, didn't it? Oh wait, this sounds just like GWBs economics... hmmm...


Will Help Americans Hurting From High Gasoline And Food Costs by Instituting A Summer Gas Tax Holiday

Will Stop Filling The Strategic Petroleum Reserve (SPR) To Reduce Demand
Will End Policies That Contribute To Higher Transportation And Food Costs
New "HOME Plan" To Provide Robust, Timely And Targeted Help To Those Hurt By The Housing Crisis
Student Loan Continuity Plan
Will Cut Taxes For Middle Class Families and Maintain The Current Income And Investment Tax Rates
Will Make It Harder To Raise Taxes Will Reward Saving, Investment And Risk-Taking
Will Reduce The Federal Corporate Tax Rate To 25 Percent From 35 Percent
Will Ban Internet Taxes and Will Ban New Cell Phone Taxes
Will Act To Lower Medicare Premiums
Will Propose An Alternative New And Simpler Tax System
Will Reform Social Security

This is a grab bag of the usual Republican shibboleths favoring business over citizens. The interesting points are the HOME plan, which lays out a rescue plan for homeowners victimized by the last crop of scam artists, er, mortgage brokers. This plan would provide a pathway from sky-high ARM mortgages to FHA fixed rate deals. It might actually help. Beware the Reform Social Security plan, this is yet another attempt to privatize, i.e., 'gut', a public program.

Educational Policy


Again from BHO's website:

Zero to Five Plan:

Expand Early Head Start and Head Start:
Reform No Child Left Behind:
Make Math and Science Education a National Priority:
Address the Dropout Crisis:
Expand High-Quality Afterschool Opportunities:
Expand Summer Learning Opportunities:
Support College Outreach Programs:
Support English Language Learners:
Recruit, Prepare, Retain, and Reward America's Teachers
Recruit Teachers:
Prepare Teachers:
Retain Teachers:
Reward Teachers:
Higher Education
Create the American Opportunity Tax Credit:
Simplify the Application Process for Financial Aid:

From the drivel above you wouldn't get the idea that BHO had given any thought whatsoever to education (and you'd be right) but his old pal Bill Ayers has thought about it a lot. Bill Ayers, BHO's chief education advisor, is better known as the ex-SDS founder of the infamous 'Weather Underground' a stalinist organization which used terrorist tactics to fight against US foreign policy - a lot of us fought US foreign policy in those days but only Bill Ayers' gang of thugs thought they needed to blow up power stations, rob banks and kill people to make their point. Unrepentant, Bill Ayers now runs an educational foundation and under the rubric of teaching 'social justice' he plans to propagandize the younguns (as the Catholics say: get 'em when they're young and you've got 'em for life) into his ideology. I won't go into a critique of his precepts here except to say that misdirection of the young is despicable and inculcation of any ideology is reprehensible.

Personal rant alert: We don't know what educational techniques will work, remember New Math?, but there are practical things we can try first and then sort out what else needs to be fixed: first, limit class sizes to 15 kids or less. Try that simple solution for a couple of years, then when the dust settles, fix whatever is left. Hint: there won't be much.

We don't need BHO, Bill Ayers and marxist schooling for our kids.


One word: Vouchers

The Republican obsession with stealing every public dollar possible goes on. This one's insidious as well, it purports to be about ensuring that every child (and parent) gets to make a choice about the best way to spend their education dollars but it is actually a cover for transferring public money away from public schools and into private, especially religious, schools.

Security Policy


Here is BHO's Senior Working Group on National Security:

Secretary of State Madeleine Albright
Senator David Boren, former Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence
Secretary of State Warren Christopher
Greg Craig, former director of the State Department Office of Policy Planning
Secretary of the Navy Richard Danzig
Representative Lee Hamilton, former Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee
Deputy Attorney General Eric Holder
Dr. Tony Lake, former National Security Adviser
Senator Sam Nunn, former Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee.
Secretary of Defense William Perry
Dr. Susan Rice, former Assistant Secretary of State
Representative Tim Roemer, 9/11 Commissioner
Jim Steinberg, former Deputy National Security Adviser

These are essentially the same players as his Foreign Policy team except for the Albright and Christopher, brought in as 'ringers' to soothe troubled brows of HRC supporters no doubt - you can be sure that Zbigniew Brezinski isn't more than a "soo-eee" call away. So we needn't expect there to be any surprises, or creativity, here.

and from the BHO website, his homeland security plans:

Protecting Our Chemical Plants

Keeping Track of Spent Nuclear Fuel
Evacuating Special Needs Population in Emergencies
Reuniting Families After Emergencies
Keeping Our Drinking Water Safe
Protecting the Public from Radioactive Releases

Nothing new here - all the plans have been drawn up at the Rand Corporation for twenty years now. Still, I've got to wonder where all the "ChangeHopeBelieve" creative thinking is? Just following the GWB path leads to more surveillance, more ID papers (are your papers in order?), more control. Hmmm....


Strong Military in a Dangerous World

Fighting Against Violent Islamic Extremists and Terrorist Tactics
Effective Missile Defense
Increasing the Size of the American Military
Modernizing the Armed Services
Smarter Defense Spending

Security - Foreign Policy - Immigration - it's all sort of a moshpit for Republicans. There's a huge sandbox with great
gobs of money to throw around and since they've successfully castrated the Democrats there's no one holding a "STOP" sign anymore. McCain will have a field day here, what with BHOs inexperience and cupidity on display every day.

Red Dirt Talk - Part 3, the Positions (2)

Health Policy


Quality, Affordable and Portable Coverage for All
Lower Costs by Modernizing The U.S. Health Care System

See Economic policy and advisors, above.

This one's been gone over so many times that everyone on the planet probably knows it by heart. Fact is, in May of 2007, HRC put out her plan, complete with all the lessons learned from the 1994 debacle (which I must remind everyone again - was torpedoed by Democrats). HRC's plan very cleverly included a roadmap to single-payer, the ultimate goal. Exactly one week later, just enough time to plagiarize and re-brand, BHO came out with his copycat plan. Except BHO's plan dispensed with the single-payer option and places the mandatory membership subscriptions firmly in the hands of the private insurance companies - who is this guy working for again?


Will Reform Health Care Making It Easier For Individuals And Families To Obtain Insurance
Will Reform The Tax Code To Offer More Choices Beyond Employer-Based Health Insurance Coverage
Making Insurance More Portable
Will Encourage And Expand The Benefits Of Health Savings Accounts (HSAs) For Families
Cares For The Traditionally Uninsurable
Will Work With States To Establish A Guaranteed Access Plan

Bromides from the (R) side of the aisle. It's glaringly obvious that McCain doesn't give a rat's ass about health care except in the context of preventing any public poaching of private party property (alliteration anyone?).

Energy Policy


Next in the examination chamber is Energy Policy, below are the BHO talking points

Reduce Carbon Emissions 80 Percent by 2050
Invest in a Clean Energy Future
Support Next Generation Biofuels
Set America on Path to Oil Independence
Improve Energy Efficiency 50 Percent by 2030
Restore U.S. Leadership on Climate Change

More valueless drivel on a large scale. First, the chances of us reducing carbon emissions 80% by 2050 are vanishingly small (except for the small possibility mentioned below). Even if we did, by 2050 China and India will be producing 2 to 3 times our present CEs. This is not a US problem it is a global problem and must be addressed in that context. BHO utterly fails to address this.

Second, biofuels is a counter-productive deadend as is already becoming painfully apparent: fill your tank, starve a neighbor. BHOs reliance on pop solutions to real problems is emblematic of his incompetence.

Another personal rant: We need to bite the bullet - it's time to dump petroleum. Take the $150 billion BHO proposes to enable the unsupportable biofuels economy and put it into nailing down hydrogen fuel cell technology. Find better, cheaper ways to crack seawater into its constituent parts. Hydrogen for clean burning fuel, oxygen gets liberated into the atmosphere and BTW we stop pumping thousands of tons of carbon into the sky. I could go on...


From his Lexington Project:
Expanding Domestic Oil Exploration and Use Domestic Supplies
Clean Car Challenge
Full Commercial Development Of Plug-In Hybrid And Fully Electric Automobiles Supports Flex fuel and Ethanol
Goes Green, Will Commit $2 Billion Annually To Advancing Clean Coal Technologies
Construct 45 New Nuclear Power Plants By 2030 With The Ultimate Goal Of Eventually Constructing 100 New Plants
Permanent Tax Credit Equal To 10 Percent Of Wages Spent On R&D
Will Encourage The Market For Alternative, Low Carbon Fuels Such As Wind, Hydro And Solar Power
Cap-And-Trade System That Would Set Limits On Greenhouse Gas Emissions

Surprisingly, this looks to be a well thought out program combining accepted concepts such as Cap and Trade and Clean Coal initiatives. I like the tax credit idea and the emphasis on low carbon power. Not so much the expanded domestic oil stuff (can you say ANWAR?) but I want to talk for a moment about nuclear power.

It seems to be an article of faith in the leftie community that nuclear=bad. We need to stop engaging in knee-jerk responses to this. Yes, older nuclear designs were primitive and overly complex, some were even inherently dangerous, Chernobyl is the poster child for that. Yes, there is a problem with disposing of nuclear waste - but not an insoluble one. Yes, fission reactors are really only a way-station on the road to fusion. All stipulated. But. Let's look at nuclear power with our critical thinking caps on, this is the Red Dirt Talk after all...

Nuclear Myth #1: All those nuclear power plants are creating more and more radioactivity all the time.

No, Johnny, only a very few nuclear reactors actually create new fissile material - fast breeder reactors, and even then they create the plutonium from uranium as it transforms to lead (this transforming takes a very, very long time). Mostly what reactors do is just transfer radioactivity from one place to another (see Nuclear Myth # 2 for more on this) Bad point here, fast breeder reactors are what you want to build when you want to make weapons-grade radioactives. Extended point: there is radioactive material all over the planet with a high concentration in Africa (remember the Niger Yellowcake?). There is even some speculation that high radioactivity levels in Africa are responsible for mutations that led to the development of Homo Sapiens.

Nuclear Myth # 2: That nasty nuclear waste will just sit around forever making everything glow in the dark.

Well, yes and no... if you pick a remote place that is geologically stable (say Yucca Mountain) and sequester the waste in sealed glass containers and then store them several thousand feet underground in salt formations, you will get the glow in the dark scenario, but if you think critically about it there is a handy solution - take a deep breath here, assumptions are about to be challenged: go out into the middle of the ocean and build a floating launch facility, put your nuclear waste in a rocket and shoot it into the Sun. The Sun will know what to do with it. Yes, we've actually been sending nuclear materials into space for years. No, it's not inherently more dangerous than burying it in salt mines. Yes, rockets used to be famously unreliable and would blow up at the drop of a hat. No, that's no longer the case... did I mention that the launch takes place in the middle of the ocean?

Nuclear Myth # 3: All nuclear plants are unsafe.

They used to be exactly that, especially idiot designs like the open graphite reactors the USSR dotted all over the landscape. The fact is that many countries have relied on nuclear power for a substantial portion of their energy needs for decades (see France). They have developed new, simpler, inherently safe-by-design nuclear reactors, Pebble Bed reactors for instance. We in the US get about 14 percent of our energy from nuclear reactors. They're here, they're staying, they're getting safer all the time - get over it.

Nonetheless, there is a salient point here: fission is inherently dangerous by virtue of the fact that you have to gather relatively large amounts of radioactive material together in order to make it work at all.

So what's the solution? Glad you asked: fusion. This holy grail of energy production has been pursued by every capable agency on the planet for over fifty years. Why doesn't it work? Actually it does, the latest Tokamak reactor produces about 102% energy output from energy input - not very impressive. What is even more unimpressive (more unimpressive?) is the paucity of R+D spending on fusion research. In the decade of the '90s the total R+D investment by all the IEA members (the US, EU and Japan) totaled US $8.9 billion - total - for, essentially, all the countries of the world - combined - for ten years. Plainly we're not serious yet about energy independence, when we are, we'll know it because we'll be putting in about $100 billion per year into R+D and pilot production and ramping up to bringing fusion online to the grid.

Why should you be happy about this? Here's the interesting thing about fusion: if it breaks, it turns off; if you make a mistake, it turns off; if the bad guys get in and blow something up, it turns off. No muss, no fuss, no lingering evil cloud, no China Syndrome, no cancer down the line - no radioactivity.

It. Just. Turns. Off.

Did I mention that Exxon made US $40 Billion in profits... this year?



Create Secure Borders
Improve Our Immigration System
Remove Incentives to Enter Illegally
Bring People Out of the Shadows
Work with Mexico

Once again, BHO doesn't have strong positions on this, though I must say that cracking down on employers who hire illegals would go a long way to solving the problem outright.


Secure borders
Welcomes immigrants and guest workers

This is a McCain signature issue, he's been highly visible out front on this and has garnered the respect of Hispanics in Mexico as well as the US.

Space Program


Zero, zip, nada on his website, however his previous position (stated multiple times) was idiotic Go here for a deeper look at this)

Essentially BHO's opinion is that the Constellation program (our next generation space vehicle system) should take a break for, oh, say about 5 years so that he can funnel NASA funding into - education (paging Bill Ayers). Seriously, he's gonna bring the US$240 billion/year space industry to a grinding halt for 5 years... and then just flip the switch on 'em and crank it up again!?!


Strong supporter of NASA, the space industry, exploration, science, truth, justice and the American way - on this one anyway.

Supreme Court


Nothing on website, vaguely supports Roe v Wade and claims that: “We need somebody who’s got the heart, the empathy, to recognize what it’s like to be a young teenage mom. The empathy to understand what it’s like to be poor, or African-American, or gay, or disabled, or old. And that’s the criteria by which I’m going to be selecting my judges.”

Apparently, BHO - the constitutional scholar, is off eating waffles somewhere.


Strict Constructionist
Supported Alito and Roberts

Well, he's a Republican. What you see is what you get here.