Monday, December 31, 2007

NAFTA & Mexico

The Newspaper Tree, a Web site out in the West Texas town of El Paso, has an interesting article on the effects of North American Free Trade Agreement on Mexican farmers, who have been pummeled by corn imports from heavily subsidized industrial growers in the USA.
As the 14th anniversary of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) fast approaches, rural opponents of the trinational pact are stepping up their mobilizations on both sides of the U.S.-Mexico border.
Mexican farm groups and their supporters are gearing up for border-wide actions on Jan. 1, 2008 to protest the final elimination of tariffs on corn, beans, sugar and powdered milk.

The whole story is here. At least part of the mass illegal immigration to this country has been the rural dislocation caused by NAFTA, a boon mostly for North American corporations but some harder on U.S. workers and Mexican peasants. Another one of Bill Clinton's Republican-style political moves that somehow never got any credit from the Republicans. I'll be watching for news of the protests tomorrow.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Patriotic goo

The estimable Fred Reed writes a spiky post on the blood-and-iron set in American public life.
I have just received the November issue of the magazine of the American Legion, in which I discover an article by one Ralph Peters, reminding me of why, having joined the Legion on impulse, I have never gone to the Post. The piece is entitled “Twelve Myths of 21st Century War.” A better title might be, “A Pedestrian Compendium of Agonizingly Cliched Jingoism.” (I guess he didn’t think of calling it that.) Anyway, Ralph believes that Americans have become too comfortable, have lost their taste for war, no longer want to pay the butcher’s bill. Ralph is for war. Not much for history, though.

This whole lovely thing is here. One might reasonably disagree with his judgment on the exigency of the Civil War, but the rest is pretty much indisputable. I hope that anyone inclined to drool mindlessly the customary inanities will read it and give it at least a minute's thought.

Friday, December 28, 2007

Clop clop clop

I was just watching a movie on TV, a police story set in NYC in the late '40s, early '50. In one scene, a horse pulling a wagon passed down the street. It wasn't to make any point or demonstrate quaintness; it was just part of the ordinary street traffic. I remember when I was a kid in Abilene at about the same time horses drawing wagons were fairly ordinary – they delivered ice [which means people were still using iceboxes instead of refrigerators], people sold garden truck out of wagons, people looking for bounty in alleys had wagons to carry away their salvage. Horse-drawn wagons are still quite common in South America, even in the big cities. Cartoneros gather up the trash left at the curb and sort through it for salvageable materials.

This team was picking stuff up in Montevideo, a city of some million and a half souls. I wonder what price gasoline has to hit before it becomes economically sensible to use some animal traction. The horses all appeared to be well fed and cared for, and I never noticed anyone mistreating an animal. There's something really nice about the sound of a horse coming down the street.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

[Mutter, grumble, curse]

I watch with a certain amount of schaedenfreude the miseries of flying travelers during the holiday travel season. TV treats us to visions of people trying to sleep in airport lounges and to long lists of canceled flights. The misery not shown is the calculated humiliation of the screening procedures that one undergoes to get into that waiting area – the sock-footed moments, the dumping of dimes and pennies into a little basket, the rent-a-moron poking through the shampoo tubes, the pointless patdowns of old women. It's all a sham designed to keep people anxious about a bogus war of terror that asks no sacrifice, financial or personal, from the public. Our sacrifice is to be treated badly and subjected to phony alerts of different colors. A survey by a bunch of hotshot researchers detects no benefit from all the portentous posturing.
Airport security lines can annoy passengers, but there is no evidence that they make flying any safer, U.S. researchers reported on Thursday.
A team at the Harvard School of Public Health could not find any studies showing whether the time-consuming process of X-raying carry-on luggage prevents hijackings or attacks.

Read the whole Reuters story here.

Monday, December 24, 2007

God rest ye merry, gentlemen

and ladies and children and your pups, too ... hell, even your damn ol' cats, not that they care. Merry, all of you. It's been lovely weather for holidays. We're gonna have New York strips and a bottle of red for dinner tomorrow, defying tradition and saving a lot of trouble.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Cool pic

From NASA, a time-lapse photo of the sun's arc on Winter Solstice.

Sunlight may be coming in at a low angle today, but Ol' Sol's working hard to make things warm and bright on the eve of Christmas Eve. Things are better here in **Adrift than most places in the U.S.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Life in paradise-II


We had that little frost scare this week, my neighbor Bill covered his tomatoes, we bid farewell to the hibiscuses, and then it all came to nothing. The flowers just keep on blooming, I have a fig tree that's got quite a bit of ripening fruit, and it may be a month before we get our customary piddling freeze. Until the next front comes on through tomorrow, I can't imagine that there's been a place in the U.S. that's enjoyed more pleasant weather.

Life in paradise-I


This time of year, the sunsets are spectacular. We can walk to the corner about 5:30 and look west and see wondrous things. There's not but one silly millimeter more for the sun to go south before it begins ootching the other direction.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Border crisis brewing

From the World's Worst Newspaper:
Tamales are more expensive this holiday season.
Most El Paso retailers are selling the popular bundles of pork- and-red-chile-filled masa at $10 to $14 a dozen, up from an average of $8 a dozen just a year ago.

Read the whole story here.
More fallout from the stone stupid corn-ethanol boondoggle. Fortunately, a great friend gave us five dozen of the finest tamales yesterday, so we're protected from this for the moment.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

John, what have you done?

There's a red-hot rumor afoot that John Edwards has knocked up some ol gal who's been around his campaign. Story broke in the National Enquirer, which has been known to get things right sometimes. Mickey Kaus has a bunch about it in his Slate blog.
Looking bad for the boy. Only Dem I liked at all, and he can't keep it zipped. Sigh. Maybe there's a perfectly good explanation for all this? The Rs cop the pelf and the Ds boff the babes.

Holiday blessing

It's Dec. 19, less than a week until Christmas, and I still haven't heard 'The Little Drummer Boy,' the Hillary Clinton of seasonal songs, the incomprehensible enthusiasm of some misguided souls, the very worst Christmas song. I only hope the streak holds ...

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Murder? You like murder?

Then take a horrified peek at The LATimes homicide blog. To think, not that long ago, California was the nation's paradise rather than a deadly slum.

Miracle material of the kitchen

I love cast iron. The old black skillets and dutch oven I've had for decades are my favorite tools in the kitchen, the indispensables. I fry in them, I pan-broil steaks in them, I make stews and beans in the dutch oven. You can put a scintilla of flame under it and keep a slow simmer going for hours without scorching, if you pay reasonable attention. Here, from the Cooks Illustrated Web site is a consideration of noble cast-iron cookware.
My wife tells a funny story about a time long ago when she was working in a store that handled cookware. A young woman came in looking for cast iron. When they showed her the new stuff, all gray, the woman said no, no, she wanted black cast-iron pots like her mother had. She learned you have to work for that look.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Watchbird




This raffish-looking bird is called a tero or a tero-tero. He'll come right up, unafraid, and tell you his name, loudly shrilling "Tero ... tero-tero," just so you know who's talking to you here. Walter the Guide told us that Argentines clip the wings of teros and keep them as avian alarm systems since they'll let you know when anybody shows up. This one was near the beach in La Paloma. If you look closely, you can see the little quill that sweeps back from his head like the feather in a fop's hat.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

No-hope department

It is reported in the World's Worst Newspaper that El Paso ISD issued an announcement that the district is paying private tutors to prep students for the TAKS test, this despite high teacher salaries in area school districts. An editorial reads, in part
By having to hire public tutors, at taxpayer expense, it seems school leaders are admitting they're not doing a good job educating our children during school hours.

Read it all here. Some of the districts in the El Paso area have starting salaries of more than $40k, and that in a poor border area. The problem is not a want of money. The education cartel, much like the medical cartel, would devour every penny of money in the nation if they could get their hands on it, the whole time piously chanting, "It's all about the children."

Friday, December 14, 2007

Vets v. the ruling class ... ruling class wins again

Writing for McClatchy, our Refugio County neighbor, Joe Galloway, has some pungent commentary on the treatment of military veterans. In part
The same people who don’t blink at spending $3 billion a week on their war of choice in Iraq were the ones who cut the VA budget and privatized maintenance at Walter Reed Army Hospital and opposed every attempt to expand benefits for veterans old and young.
They're the same people who turned a blind eye as their corporate sponsors and private donors looted billions of dollars from the Treasury with no-compete contracts and bloated bills for everything from food for the troops to fuel for their tanks and trucks.

Read all of Galloway's piece here. Even the sorest of heads can't dispute Galloway's devotion to the American soldier. His commentary on the Iraq debacle is spot on and written with the expertise of a guy who's been there. I lifted the link from the bomb-tossers at Truthout.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Fear and trembling at the metal detector

If you've done any traveling lately, you can't but feel contempt for all the bogus fear-mongering that goes on in airports -- exaggerated attention to meaningless matters and endless announcements about purported dangers. “The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed – and thus clamorous to be led to safety -- by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary." -- H.L. Mencken

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

On knowing

Here's a sad little story about a teacher who discovers that an honors student doesn't know that Abraham Lincoln was assassinated. Small wonder, what's with all the time wasted in school on various forms of drool. A faction in modern education maintains that it's not necessary to have a personal store of knowledge given that all information is available on the Internet ... but if you don't know what you don't know, you can hardly know how to learn it on the Net, now can you? My favorite teacher, Miz May Kirkman, was at some time-wasting edu deal when some hotshot said, "We're not going to teach the students facts ... we're going to teach them how to think." Sensible Miz Kirkman asked, "If they don't know any facts, what the hell are they going to think about?"

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

There's an idea ...

The '__ Years Ago' column in the paper is always interesting. Today's had eminent diplomat George Kennan in 1957 calling for the U.S. to wean itself away from Middle Eastern oil. Shoulda listened to the guy ... he was on to something.

Send one to my house

The pore ol Vicad had one of my favorite dumb-butt goofs today. Some lame-o [or is the feminine form lame-a] wrote that a 'wench' truck was sent to the scene of a small catastrophe. Paper's so pathetic now.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Wonder about our health care problems?

Well, maybe blind greed figures prominently in the messed-up health care system we have.
Dec. 7 (Bloomberg) -- UnitedHealth Group Inc.'s former Chief Executive Officer William W. McGuire will keep more than $800 million in stock options after repaying over $600 million because of a backdating scandal.

Read the entire story here. That's four-fifths of a billion dollars the guy is keeping. I had a moment when I paid in Argentina the equivalent of $3.75 for a month's supply of blood-pressure medicine that costs about $60 here. I filched the link from James Kunstler.

Friday, December 7, 2007

Why whales?

Just another of those little things ... I saw whale skeletons in La Paloma [top] and in Colonia. Maybe it's like a Dairy Queen -- you just gotta have one to be a real town.


Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Cool art

Kerri Besio, former Vicad photographer and dear colleague, sends along this link to a really neat site, a pic of a tile mural in a little Canadian town called Cochrane. You can click on individual tiles to see them enlarged. Recommended: the horse's eye.

Monday, December 3, 2007

Homage to Jack


Jack Kerouac has been getting a little attention of late. For years he disappeared from public sight. I think the 50th anniversary of On the Road may have been the resuscitating factor here lately. This is in the alley between the City Lights Bookstore and the bar next door. San Pancho was famously one of Kerouac's cities. Herself shot this while on a hasty weekend trip out thataway to look at some Joseph Cornell art. She noticed some months ago that there was a Cornell exhibition coming out there, carefully shopped flights and accommodations on the Net, and had herself a wonderful whambam trip with the daughter.

Saturday, December 1, 2007

G&D, with some thought

Truthout.org is a left-wing Web site that mails out interesting e-mails two or three times a day. I find myself in agreement with them about 50% of the time but always enjoy reading them. They had three interesting pieces this week in one post. In the first, Rod Dreher, the crunchy con from the Dallas Morning News, observes of the idea of globalization:
A reliable and affordable supply of oil makes globalization possible. Wal-Mart, for example, wouldn't be able to fill its shelves with consumer goods made for less in overseas factories if not for the ability to ship these products inexpensively. Within our own borders, food is cheap and plentiful in large part because oil is. One reason we've built bigger houses - the average house size has doubled since the 1950s - is because we can afford to heat and cool them.
In fact, cheap oil has made development in Dallas and the entire Sunbelt possible.

Then there's an interview in Aspen, Colo., Times with an ecology type, plus an interview in The Telegraph of the UK with Richard Heinberg, an oil-reserves expert, who sees an equally bleak future if something isn’t done soon. Read all here.
The oil's going away. We can't continue to live as we have for the last 60 years. Really.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Colonia del Sacramento pix


A sunset over the river. It takes an hour in a high-speed boat to cross from Argentina to Uruguay. The lower part of Colonia was built by the Portguese.

Something on the beach had the pup's attention.

Fat black-and-white cat was always sitting high up in his observation spot in a derelict building, surveying the world. I think he was trying to figure out how to get the bird in the painting.

This was lying on the waterfront down near the docks. What can it mean?

Monday, November 26, 2007

Coast of Uruguay

From the bottom: The coast at Punta del Diablo is pretty spectacular. Punta del Diablo is a little fishing village nine months of the year and Babylon on the Atlantic in the summer months, when Brazilians and Argentines pour in to party party party. The lighthouse at Cabo Polonio is in a beautiful setting on a rocky point. At its feet are rocks covered with sea lions.


My favorite gloom 'n' doom guy

James Kunstler, this week writes
The great debate among those of us on the Economy Deathwatch seems to be whether the debacle we observe around us will resolve as a crash or a slow-motion financial train wreck. It seems to me that at every layer of the system, we're susceptible to both -- in tradable paper, institutional legitimacy, individual solvency, productive activity, real employment, "consumer" behavior, and energy resources. Some things are crashing as I write.
The dollar is losing about a cent every three weeks against other currencies. A penny doesn't seem like much, but keep that pace up for another year and the world's "reserve currency" becomes the world's reserve toilet paper. Oil prices are poised to enter the triple-digit realm, the psychological effect of which may be jarring to 200 million not-so-happy motorists. The value of chipboard-and-vinyl houses is tanking beyond question. ...

Kunstler has snapped that all hinges on oil, and that oil is going away. We really need a national energy policy and not one that is designed to keep oil companies in the saddle forever. Also, we're not gonna work some magic with corn or switchgrass or anything else ... we just need to figure out how to use less energy.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Oink, oink

Thanksgiving is, by some margin, my favorite holiday, inimical to much commercial exploitation and essentially a celebration of gluttony, my favorite of the Seven Deadlies. We just did away with a formidable amount of turkey and dressing, au gratin potatoes, gravy, various salads, lots of zin, and three excellent desserts. My dear friend Billy Naylor has remarked that a lot of the charm of the day is that all over the country people sit down to pretty much the same meal. Occasions for gratitude today: good food and the wherewithal to digest it; enough endurance to walk five or six miles if necessary; assurance of a roof over the head; people we enjoy being around. All the world should be as well off. Hope all passed as pleasant a day as we did.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

More Bs.As. zoo pix

These little critters, like a cross between real big rabbits and tiny deer, wandered around the grounds of the zoo, some snoozing on the grass. They had lagomorphic faces and feet. They didn't importune for food but were unafraid of people. We learned what they were, but it escapes me now.


Bs.As. Zoo

One of the things we're gonna catch when we're on the road is zoos. Each is an experience of the place besides being a zoo qua zoo. One of the entertaining things about the zoo in Buenos Aires was the little beasts roaming free about the place. We determined what they are, but now I forget & am too sorry to look for it. They look like something rabbity, though larger. Anyway, it is a pretty good zoo. It was full of schoolkids, all wearing smocks with little scarves like ties. Here we have llamas and the famous black swan.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

La Paloma

Now I'm in La Paloma, Uruguay, a fishing town on the Atlantic coast. There's quite a big fish processing plant down by the docks. Near those are a small housing area for Navy personnel. With white-painted concrete walls and red-tile roofs, they have to be the most pleasing military housing I ever saw anywhere. They have a spectacular view out into the ocean. There are breaking waves here and Urusurfers in wet suits waiting about 75 yards offshore to catch the little break. It's not the Pacific by some margin. Rio de la Plata Spanish is hard to understand; they have a slushy zh sound, so something might come out sounding like "Zho me zhamo Guizhermo" instead of "Yo me llamo Guillermo" that you´d hear in most of the Spanish-speaking world. In Argentina particularly the words may be mostly Spanish, but the melodies are Italian. It´s all educational, but the last few weeks have been like living in the language lab at school and almost but not quite getting it all.

Friday, November 9, 2007

More Uruguay

Rode the bus yesterday from Colonia to Montevideo, going through a good bit of countryside along the way. The land is really green, almost Irish green, but not quite. It all looks prosperous in a 50-years-ago kind of prosperity. Houses are small but well tended, little country schools sparkle, people look well fed and content. They´re putting in gardens though I´m damned if I can detect much in the way of vegetables that they eat. I´m feeling a chlorophyll deficiency. Just ate a wonderful meal of lamb at a parrilla, one of the kinda barbecue joints that are the national cuisine here and in Argentina as well. A gorgeous meal, with potatoes fritas (the principal vegetable) and a little jug of the house red.
Wonderful thing about wine in these parts, they don´t jack you up on the stuff, so you can enjoy a drinkable vino with your meal and only pay a couple, three bucks for it. They pour mineral water into their red a lot of the time, blithely not worrying about wine hipness. I suspect that's a result of drinking the stuff all their lives; not much pretense about it. I'm off to the Atlantic coast in the morning, scout some territory. This is kinda like being in language lab all day, every day, and it's amazing how much Spanish you can come up with there´s nothing else for it.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Getting around

Lots of respectable middle-class folks here in Colonia get about on scooters. There were matrons picking up their kids after class yesterday on scoots. They'd go riding off with the kid on the pillion seat. Scooters you never heard of, including a Peugeot. Somebody's missing a market here. Whatever happened to the Cushman scoots that every kid wanted in the 50s? These are also the most polite drivers ever about stopping for pedestrians crossing the street ... reminds me of Californians in their punctilio in this matter. As a matter of PC, we're not supposed to note any differences in national character, but the Uruguayans are much more reserved than the Argentines just across the Rio de la Plata, less flamboyant.

Monday, November 5, 2007

&c, &c

I'm back in the Oriental Republic of Uruguay, old town named Colonia del Sacramento on the Rio de la Plata after a sojourn in BsAs. Seems pleasant but I've not explored yet.
I got a haircut a few days ago in San Rafael that was a throwback experience. Guy took it down a bit with the machine, then shortened it some more with scissors, then finished it off with a straight razor. Demossed my ears and cleaned up the neckline with the razor. Haven´t had a haircut like that in decades and really loved it. I guess you could get one in a high-toned shop, but this one just cost me 15 pesos, less than five bucks.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Vagaries of travel

We´re in San Rafael, Mendoza province of Argentina. It´s high and dry country, reminds me hereabouts of New Mexico on the plains, where you can just about smell the pines from the mountains to the west, but the mountains here are the Andes. It´s a city of about 170,000 souls, most of them good natured. The pace is about half of the Buenos Aires gait. We had a bad experience in the bus station in Buenos Aires, had a carry-on bag stolen. Unfortunately, it contained a three-month supply of my meds, $300EU worth. The only thing that really worried me was the blood-pressure med. I went to a farmacia here and explained the problem to the nice lady behind the counter. She sold me a 20-day supply for $2 and something, less than three bucks. My co-pay on the same is $30 for a 30-day supply, plus whatever the insurance company has to lay out. There´s an eye-opener. First night here we went to a nice restaurant, had salad, home-made raviolis, steak -- filet -- and fried papas, a bottle of excellent local wine, and a bottle of water, per the local custom. It all cost about $17. Amazing. I love it ... I want to stay forever. The area is agricultural, with lots of orchards, vineyards, some tree farms for lumber, and stock raising. We watched a TV program last night on the virtues of the cows raiz Angus ... it rhymes exactly with mongoose. Have many fotos but lack the wherewithal to put them up from the public terminals.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Plaza de Cagancha

Sitting in an Internet locutorio next door to our hotel on a little plaza in Montevideo. Yesterday I bought a 1949 police-issued press pass in a funny little shop on a small row of shops off the main street. Who could resist it? The US dollar is down 5.4 pct against the Uruguayan peso in the last few days. We're gonn end up with a joke currency before our moronic president is through living out his imperial ambitions ... not that his class will ever do anything but prosper. Uruguay is a pleasant little country -- just 3.something souls -- with an educated population and a generally honest government, at least by South American standards. Food is great, thanks to a large enclave of Italians who settled here around the first of the 20th Century. They mash good olive oil, make wonderful cheese, stomp out wonderful wine, all the restaurants serve home-made pastas. It´s pretty neat. Also the table servers are mostly grown men who know their jobs and feel no need to intrude into the world of the diner. So far, no waiter has told me his name. Plus, they´re delighted with a 10 pct. tip. Not bad.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

The adventurous life

I´m posting from a locutorio, an Internet shop, in Montevideo, Uruguay. Just spent a week in Buenos Aires. Amazing place ... they seem to have all the necessary for a successful and prosperous country but somehow lurch from catastrophe to catastrophe. I sat on a little plaza here last night, smoking a cigar and watching the passersby. When I was young, I used to have romantic daydreams about scenarios like that, but my fantasies were so fantastic that my bones didn´t ache. How was I to know my bones would ever ache? Even fantasies realized aren´t exactly what we had in mind.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Nepotism, first ladies, &c

The NYTimes columnist Maureen Dowd writes, "Without nepotism, Hillary would be running for president of Vassar." Instead, that grating woman is constantly put forward as the inevitable next president of the U.S. In another place, the First Lady, wife of the president, who hails from a sparsely populated state in the South of the country, is running in front for their presidential contest. Néstor Kirchner has been a popular president of Argentina, and now his wife, Cristina Fernández, is the favorite to win the presidency. I believe the election is October 28. We're taking off for Buenos Aires at 9 this evening from Houston. I've wanted to visit ever since I heard that they had a size of steak called the 'telephone book.' I figured the phone book in a city of eight or nine millions must be pretty good sized. Also looking into Uruguay, the tiny country across the Rio de la Plata and possibly Chile, the skinny country across the Andes. I will report in along the way as I find time and Internet cafés.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Church & state

Tim Rutten in the LA Times writes a long review of the latest Garry Wills book, Head and Heart. Wills is a splendid writer, a Catholic trained by the Jesuits, and an adept observer of the American political and social landscape. I have enjoyed many of his books in the past and own two or three. According to Rutten, Wills in his latest book looks into the idea that this country was founded as an explicitly Christian enterprise. Rutten writes, in part:
Beginning with the Puritans, whose views and turbulence he outlines with great clarity -- and at great length -- Wills moves through the Great Awakening of the early 18th century and the Enlightenment backlash that followed it. Speaking indirectly to the assertion of McCain and others about the Constitution's purportedly Christian origins, Wills points out that at the time of the founding, historians estimate that only about 17% of Americans professed formal religious adherence, a historic low point. The framers were deists, who believed in a divine providence knowable only through reason and experience and not prone to intervene in the affairs of men.

Read the rest of the review here. Apparently that bipedal bucket of pus, Karl Rove, comes in for many deserved lumps for pushing the idea on the First Moron that this presidency should be presented as a manifestation of divine will rather than judicial chicanery from the Supreme Court. I'll be watching for this book in VPL.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Mexican justice

A funny story from the world's worst newspaper about a guy named Wirtz who robbed a bank in New Mexico, drove across the bridge to Cd. Juárez, and had the bad fortune to fall into the hands of the Mexican police.
The next day [after the bank robbery], Wirtz, allegedly drugged up, drove to Juárez, where he got into a car accident and fled the scene. He was caught by Juárez traffic police soon afterward.
...........
He said the officers found the $10,000 in stolen bank money he had stuffed in a white sock and tucked in his waistband. He said they stole it and beat him up, knocking out five front teeth, cracking ribs and fracturing his back.

A vigorous interrogation, you might say. Despite the fact that Wirtz faces a bunch of time on this side for bank robbery, he wants to be allowed to surrender to the FBI and return to the U.S. rather than serve out his term in the Mexican prison. Read the whole thing here.I love it when the Mexican govt complains about the treatment of Mexican citizens in the U.S. justice system. They don't give one tiny damn about how their citizens are treated in Mexico, only here on this side.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Corn ethanol

We Americans seem to have set ourselves on a course for corn-based ethanol, despite ample evidence that corn is not very well suited to conversion to fuel. All this no doubt has a lot to do with the fact that a corn-growing state, Iowa, enjoys an undue influence in American politics and because the big agricultural businesses are powerful. Nature, the very respectable science magazine, proposes alternatives.
The common complaints about biofuels — and they seem to become more common by the day — are that they are expensive and ineffective at reducing fossil-fuel consumption, that they intensify farming needlessly, that they dress up discredited farm subsidies in new green clothes, and that they push up the price of food. All these things are true to some extent of corn-based ethanol, America's biofuel of choice, and many are also true of Europe's favoured biodiesel plans.

Read the entire editorial here.
Rises in corn prices, driven by the ethanol madness, have forced up the price of tortillas in Mexico, where they are the most basic staple of the diet of the poor and important to everyone. Native Mexican corn producers have been wrecked by imported grain under NAFTA, a catastrophe for Mexico in many ways as it has been for the U.S. in many ways, although eminently satisfactory for corporations.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

PC

From a friend:
The following is the winning entry from an annual contest calling for the most
appropriate definition of a contemporary term.
This year's contemporary term is: Political Correctness.
"Political Correctness is a doctrine fostered by a delusional minority and by
the mainstream media which holds forth the proposition that it is entirely
possible to pick up a turd by the clean end."

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

A gentler way

It's a popular ploy with the bloody-minded branch of American capitalism to deride the European economies with their social safety nets. Maybe the Social Darwinism so beloved of hard working, up-from-the-bottom sorts like the Head Frat Boy isn't the only way to approach the organization of an economic world. We here work longer and have poorer health care for more money. You see many fewer of the toothless and tattered on the streets of Europe. Here's a different take from the WaPo.
The European economy was never as bad as the Europessimists made it out to be. From 2000 to 2005, when the much-heralded U.S. economic recovery was being fueled by easy credit and a speculative housing market, the 15 core nations of the European Union had per capita economic growth rates equal to that of the United States. In late 2006, they surpassed us. Europe added jobs at a faster rate, had a much lower budget deficit than the United States and is now posting higher productivity gains and a $3 billion trade surplus.

Read the whole piece here.

Sunday, October 7, 2007

Lawyer joke ... can't resist 'em

Q: What do you get when you cross the Godfather with a lawyer?
A: An offer you can't understand.

Immigration

Georgie Anne Geyer, journalist and patriot, has long followed the course of immigration legislation in the U.S. In her most recent column, she writes, in part
... [Federation for American Immigration Reform] launched a huge call-in campaign to representatives and senators over the bills put forward last spring. They said that anti-illegal immigration calls outnumbered pro-immigration calls in general by 50-to-1; and at least one senator received 10,000 calls in three days, virtually all anti-illegal immigration.

Somehow illegal immigration seems to have a powerful and influential base of support – church, cheap-labor exploiters, ethnocentric pressure organizations – in this country that is relatively small but manages to loom disproportionately large in the debate on the question. To read all the Geyer piece, go here.

Saturday, October 6, 2007

Columbus Day

About 40 years ago, I saw a guy punch another in the jaw in a discussion about the true discoverer of America. It was in Fred's joint in Juarez, the smaller bar in front, not the Rainbow. As I recall, the puncher was espousing the Vikings. The punchee was half Italian and half Swedish, so could have gone either way on the argument, but was holding out for the conventional claim for Columbus. So the other guy slugged him. Things like that would happen from time to time in Fred's joint. The bartender in the Rainbow was a short, chunky green-eyed guy named Julio. When trouble broke out, Julio could vault the bar, which was about chest high on him, with a heavy pair of ice tongs in his non-vaulting hand. Besides using them as a tool of negotiation, he used the tongs to move the big blocks of ice down the skids behind the bar. It tended to restore peace quickly. Julio got papers and moved to San Antonio, where I heard he had become a house painter. I hope he's had a good life ... he was a nice guy and nimble for a fat boy.

Friday, October 5, 2007

Bosky dell in back



There are three principal sitting-out places here on the lands & castles -- east porch, north porch, and around back in the bosky dell in this picture. It has the advantage of being all-but-invisible to any passers-by.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Birdy moment

We had one of those nice moments this morning. I looked out the window by the computer and saw a nifty little yellow jobbie with a black head and yellow mask. We did a get-the-book bit of birding and discovered it was a male Hooded Warbler, no doubt another passer-through headed for the South. I despaired of catching it with the camera but found this photo on-line. He was grazing on the tallow tree out back. Did you know there's a group dedicated to getting rid of all the introduced tallows? They're called the Tallow Whackers.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Catfish

Our neighbor – may the giving hand never falter – stopped his truck out front this evening and hollered at my wife to send me over to his place to get some fish. He had a big Igloo just full of catfish he'd caught in the upper end of the bay. There's that much fresh water in the bay still. They were all of a size, maybe 16 inches, and perfect for the skillet. We had one apiece, dipped in cornmeal and fried crisp, along with cole slaw and a baked potato and a bottle of Argentine chardonnay, maybe not quite the right thing to drink – sweet tea or a bottle of beer would have been more appropriate – but wonderful, nonetheless. What a great place we live.

Monday, October 1, 2007

Movin' on through


Well, the birds are moving through southbound in bigger numbers every day. From here, they jump off for the trip across the Gulf. It's amazing to think of some of the frail-looking little creatures having that much endurance, especially given how hard their wings beat. I stand on the east porch, where all the flowers are blooming, and the hummingbirds zip around like magnum wasps or stray rifle rounds as they stock up on calories, fuel for the trip. There's a long branch on a rosebush where there's almost always one sitting. Fall's a great season in **Adrift. My wife just bought a pound of beautiful white shrimp fresh out of the water for $3.50. What good fortune to live in a real working fishing port.

Sunday, September 30, 2007

California madness

I love Craig's List, seeing what people argue over and what people have to sell in places far away. Cali real estate ads are astonishing. I was just looking at a $400k house on the Bay Area real estate listing. It's 1100 feet, no covered parking, two bedrooms-one bath, 2,500-ft lot. Look at it here. Those people are unhinged. That's a little working-class house for almost half a million dollars. No wonder those damn people show up here with pockets overflowing with money and laugh at how cheap houses are in Texas.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Green tea hibiscus is blooming

Fred Reed hiatus ... more shame on us

Premier curmudgeon Fred Reed, a blog hero of mine, is taking a break from his 'Fred on Everything' blog, citing burnout, disgust, and poverty. The thing about him is that he was serious when he said outrageous things and, more often than not, was correct in his assessments of things and the hell with PC & CW. Writes, in part,
The fascinating thing is that the flow of events seems beyond influence, as if someone or something intended it. I could write five columns a week about the absurdity of dragging second-graders from school in handcuffs for having threatened to shoot a classmate with a loaded finger. The draggings-out would continue. We no longer have the sense of shame that once made exposure of misdeeds effective. The spying will not stop. There is no will to stop it, and the technology improves. Nor will we see a return to the semi-constitutional government of old. It means nothing to most people, yet, and by the time it does mean something, it will be too late.

Read his temporary [I hope} farewell here. The world needs his clear-eyed honesty. Say it ain't so, Fred.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Shame on us

Joe Galloway, journalist, patriot, and our Refugio County neighbor, has some rough things to say about the American people, pols, and press in a McClatchy column. In part:
The Bush White House may have gotten most everything it's touched wrong, but it's raised fear mongering to a fine art. It's wrapped itself in a cloak of invisibility named National Security that quashes all questions, stifles all debate and conceals a multitude of sins.
The equal branches of government, meant to keep a chief executive greedy for power under control, have failed the American people for nearly seven years of the Bush administration. Shame on Congress and shame on the judiciary for their dereliction of duty and failure to protect the inalienable rights of the American people under the Constitution.

Read the entire thing here and concede the truth of it all.

Karen ... Lorenzo ... Who's next?

The NYTimes has a hurricane blog about the rest of the '07 season.
Meteorologists are abuzz over the activity in the tropics. In fact, despite the relative dearth of landfalls in the US, the 2007 hurricane season is running ahead of historical norms and is on track to meet its pre-season billing as an above-average year for tropical activity. If the pattern of elevated activity with no major landfall persists, insurers and policyholders are likely to draw two different conclusions about the risk of hurricanes and the cost of insurance in coastal areas going forward. Insurers will point to elevated activity in three of the past four years (2004, 2005 and 2007) and predictions of more of the same for many years to come, while policyholders and some regulators will cite the passage of two years without a major hurricane landfall in the United States as a reason to lower rates. The annual ritual of insurer and regulator squabbling about the appropriate rates for the 2008 hurricane season, believe it or not, is just around the corner!

Look at the whole neat thing here. Apparently we're not in the clear yet. It was summer-hot today, but there are fronts a-coming that offer a little cooling off and a bit more rain. Hotdamn, rain! There's a treat.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

RR on W

Darrell sends me this and how can I not post it?

an interesting Reagan quote from the Reagan Diaries

"A moment I've been dreading. George brought his ne'er-do-well son around
this morning and asked me to find the kid a job. Not the political one who
lives in Florida . The one who hangs around here all the time looking shiftless.
This so-called kid is already almost 40 and has never had a real job. Maybe I'll
call Kinsley over at The New Republic and see if they'll hire him as a
contributing editor or something. That looks like easy work."

From the REAGAN DIARIES. The entry is dated May 17, 1986.

I didn't check this out. My wife tells me that Mike Austin also has this posted. He said someone sent him a Snopes link on this story. Too bad. It's like the story going around five or six years back that Bill Clinton's IQ was precisely twice W's. Turned out to be a hoax, but it sounded so plausible. Mike takes a couple other pokes at W. We're both on Darrell's mailing list. Redundancy won't hurt.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

More Mormons in Mexico

Mormons settled extensively in Mexico after 1885 at invitation of dictator Porfirio Diaz, but many were crowded out during the 1910 Revolution [the family of George Romney, Mitt's father, among the deportees, as I recall]. The wonderful historian Leon Metz has in the world's worst newspaper a column on the pressures on the aliens:
[R]esentments arose. Mexican Revolutionary leaders Jose Ines Salazar and Pascual Orozco insisted upon a Mexico for Mexicans, ordering out the Mormons, and daring the U.S. to intervene. (On Sept. 11, 1912, in a somewhat hysterical speech, Sala zar referred to President William Howard Taft as a "vile dog.")

Read all the fascinating column here. The whole episode is an interesting corner of history.
Chinese storekeepers were also targets of revolutionary actions. Pancho Villa threatened to hang a Chinese from every telegraph pole in Chihuahua. Blackjack Pershing brought a group of Chinese to San Antonio after his Punitive Expedition in 1916 following the Columbus Raid.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Does this compute?

Paper today had a little map with the proposed site for a new nuke plant, down south in Matagorda County. It also had a story about how much the oceans were due to rise in this century. Maybe I'm missing something, but it seems like maybe low-lying places are not where you want to put your nuke plants if you have very good reason to expect the water levels to rise.

Weirdness

This is a really weird blog. No doubt the product of one of those cultural crosscurrents that I've somehow missed.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Run, Ron, run

My wife points out to me a link on the Marginal Revolution blog to one of those betting sites that has Ron Paul ahead of John McCain in probability of getting the R presidential nomination. Paul gets little touts on blogs and forums around the ether. His biggest attraction, I suspect, is that he is so unequivocally opposed to the Iraq adventure and proposes an immediate departure from that blighted place. Wife has a couple of interesting observations about Paul, first being that he has apparently attracted people starved for a pol who doesn't trim and weasel, people who might formerly have liked McCain for his blunt honesty, the honesty that McCain has since sacrificed to political expediency. The second is that there is a Forrest-Gumpish quality to Paul. I agree, with the proviso that Paul's how Gump would be were Gump intelligent. It's fun to see Paul on the late-night shows, all guileless and earnest. The hosts resist the temptation to rough him up, maybe sensing the puppy-kicking cruelty of it. A vote for Paul in the primary would be a perfect protest vote, but Texas doesn't allow registration as an Independent, and no matter how unhappy I might be with the Dems -- and damn am I unhappy with the Dems -- I just can't bring myself to walk around with a voter-registration card that says I'm a Republican.

Friday, September 21, 2007

President Petraeus

If you had the impression that General Petraeus maybe was reading for a bigger part when he spoke to Congress, you might have been right. According toThe Independent of the UK
The US commander in Iraq, General David Petraeus, expressed long-term interest in running for the US presidency when he was stationed in Baghdad, according to a senior Iraqi official who knew him at that time.

Read the whole thing here. It could be true. I saw Wesley Clark on some TV show this week, and you can tell he's thinking the same thing.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Thoughts from Colorado

Darrell, a guy up in Denver who used to blog for the paper and who stays in touch, sent me this little piece from his state senator. It's got some nice points.


Hessians: The public hasn't focused on it, but many of the Americans fighting in Iraq are private contractors, not US armed forces. The other day mercenaries working for a company called Blackwater killed civilians causing the Iraqi government to revoke their license.

These private security forces are necessary because not enough qualified people volunteer for the US armed forces. They put me in mind of the Hessians.

Hessians were German mercenaries, from the principality of Hesse, hired by the British to help fight against American patriots during the Revolutionary War. George Washington famously defeated the Hessians on the day after Christmas 1776. He crossed the Delaware River to engage the sleeping Germans at Trenton, New Jersey. The Hessians were somewhat the worse for wear after having celebrated Christ's birth a little too enthusiastically the previous night. Britain at that time was a wealthy world power and had more money than it had citizens who wanted to risk their lives in the wilds of America. I think it would be fair to say that as world powers go, the British were on the enlightened side, but they clearly were motivated, in their imperialistic wars, by self-interest.

One of the Administration's falsehoods about the war that particularly galls is the allegation that we are engaged in self-defense. If the Administration actually believed this they would propose a draft and engage America in this war as we engaged in the Second World War when we were actually acting in self-defense. We wouldn't have to hire Hessians.

Conservatives use World War II as an example of a war that Americans fought to the end. Wistfully they wonder why we have lost our nerve, or courage, or guts. But World War II was a real threat to our country's continued freedom. The Axis--Germany, Japan, and Italy--were three major modern powers. At the time we were attacked, Germany alone had already overcome Austria, Czechoslavakia, Norway, Denmark, Poland, France, Belgium, the Netherlands, Yugoslavia, Greece, Hungary, Bulgaria, Romania, the European half of the USSR and parts of Africa. Iraq has failed to defeat Iran or occupy Kuwait. Iraq is a war of choice. World War II was not.

The Administration never uses its best argument for fighting in Iraq because it would entail admitting that all the other arguments they have made are wrong. If the Administration said, "We now get that we were hopelessly out of touch with reality when we thought that the words 'freedom and democracy' would automatically command the same respect that they do in the United States and result in a stable democratic Iraq. And we admit that our incompetence in disbanding the Iraqi army, not preventing looting, engaging in Debaathification and not admitting that an insurgency had begun exponentially increased the violence and instability in the region resulting in thousands of deaths that may have been preventable. So we have completely screwed up, but now because of this war, al Qaeda really does have a presence, and the people of Iraq are being murdered every day, so we have a moral obligation to leave the country at least no worse than when we got there. And we have learned something about fighting an insurgency, so we think that we might actually be able to help. So this is why we need to stay."

I just made a decision box on whether to leave Iraq now or stay. The box has four squares.

On the top of the box are two choices, stay and leave. On the side of the box are two methods of doing this, competent and incompetent. So we can stay in either a competent or incompetent manner or we can leave. It is obvious, I assume, that if we can't handle the war in a competent manner we should leave.

What is the evidence on the issue of whether we can act in a competent manner? The record that we have established thus far is pretty much an unbroken string of incompetence. Most of this was caused by the ideological, non-reality based, approach of the Bush administration. Has the administration learned a lesson?

On September 13th President Bush spoke to the country about Iraq. Here is an excerpt from that speech: "...a free Iraq is critical to the security of the United States. A free Iraq will deny al Quaeda a safe haven. A free Iraq will counter the destructive ambition of Iran. A free Iraq will marginalize extremists...A free Iraq will set an example...A free Iraq will be our partner..." I honestly don't know what he means by "free." I think it is just rhetoric. It is hard for me to think of a country as "free" when four million people are refugees, basic services are unavailable, and many people are afraid to go outside for fear of being killed in rampant violence.

President Bush is about my age. For most of our lives we talked of the "free world" as opposed to communist dictatorships. So by "free" he probably means a country that holds elections rather than having a dictatorship. I agree that this is a huge step in the right direction. But if the government that is elected is a Muslim fundamentalist theocracy that believe in the subjugation of women and the death penalty for numerous religious crimes, then the concept of "freedom" becomes a little blurred. And if the President feels that a country is "free" because of an election, and he ignores the violence and destruction that our "liberation" has caused, then we need to work on our definitions. It is not clear that the President has come to a sufficiently sophisticated understanding of the war to believe that he can conduct it in a competent manner. Or if he has a more nuanced concept, he has decided to talk to us as if we can't understand anything complex.

The book Fiasco by Thomas Ricks, which is extremely critical of our war effort, praises General Petraeus as a person who gets that fighting an insurgency requires addressing the basic needs of the population. Is this enough?

Can we get to the box that poses the "stay-competent" question?

...

Please forward this to people who you think would like to read it or make a comment. Anyone who would like to use this as an op/ed, column or blog, you have my permission. Hope you are well.

Ken Gordon
Majority Leader
Colorado Senate

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Fire ants good for something

See what Googling around for Argentina stuff will get you:
Biologists at the University of California, San Diego have discovered that the proliferation in California of the introduced Argentine ant, a major pest that has invaded homes and displaced native species of ants in much of the coastal regions of the state, is due to the lack of genetic diversity among individuals up and down the coast.

A new imported misery to anticipate. From the distribution map, these suckers are close to us, too, but the story says that fire ants compete. So, fire ants are good for something. If you want a new entomological worry, look here.

Say Arrrrrrrgh

It's Talk Like a Pirate Day, one the funnier and least abrasive of made-up occasions, so all you lubbers avast yer prissy pronunciations and talk like pirates. Read about it here.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Fishing cabin fantasy

We all have that Platonic retreat in our minds. I used to joke that I wanted a 40-acre farm in downtown San Francisco, but that was a long time ago. My current bolthole fantasy has no traffic that's not coming to my house and no traffic coming to my house that I don't expect. Lots of quiet and solitude, some ocean or some mountain, cheap cost of living, decent food. I have now found the fodder for that in rural beachfront Uruguay. Check out this for solitude and economy.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Sorry, Charlotte

I apologized to a spider this afternoon, actually said 'Sorry.' She's built a web in a corner of the garage door, and if you don't remember, you're likely to run into it. Out in the yard, one of those big orange-and-black jobbies has constructed a large and lovely web between a mesquite and some flowers, but it's not in a place to run into. I stood out there day before yesterday and for ten or fifteen minutes watched her building. She makes the radial anchor strands running out from the center and then lays down concentric bands from the center out, exuding silk from her abdomen and guiding it into place with a hind leg. It's really neat to watch her working. The center of the web has the tiny, swaddled corpses of the careless and unlucky.

Small gifts

Wasn't that little front that blew through Tuesday a delight? It knocked the hard edge off the heat and cleared the sky so you could even see the Milky Way, sorta. It would be self-deception to style it the first norther -- it didn't knock that much summer off -- but it restored hope that summer will end. As summers go, this hasn't been the worst ... started late and had very few of those days that make you believe you might die from the heat, just melt into a puddle of tallow there on the porch.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Old Hickory stick

'M reading a biography of Andrew Jackson. My favorite story so far: Jackson was serving as a prosecuting attorney in Tennessee and his vigor had irritated some locals. One of those citizens deliberately stepped on Jackson's foot, and Jackson reached over and picked up a stick of stovewood and knocked the offender cold on the spot. Ended that stepping-on-feet thing then and there.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

OBL, 9/11, GWB

You have no doubt noticed that it's the anniversary of the big attack. Remember how you felt when you found out that Al Quaeda had instigated the attack and trained the perpetrators? I remember what I thought: I want to see Osama's head stuck on a stick with flies crawling on the bastard's eyeballs. Junior and the bloodthirsty neocons managed to distract the eminently distractable American public with the idea that somehow Saddam Hussein and the Iraqis were responsible. That band of morons then dragged us into a really ugly, stinking swamp that is costing hundreds of billions of dollars [not to mention thousands of American lives and hundreds of thousands of Iraqi lives] and offers no realistic promise of resolution anytime soon. Needless to say, Osama's still got his head, and he's making amateur videos citing Noam Chomsky -- Noam Chomsky! -- and going on about the bad-mortgage crisis here. The 2Blowhards have a fascinating two-part interview with Gregory Cochran, an often-insightful polymath who regards national leaders with the contempt they so richly deserve.
2B: How important is it that we track down Bin Laden? Why haven't we been able to do so?

Cochran:
We should certainly kill him. It sets an important precedent. As to why we haven't, I think finding someone in the Northwest Provinces of Pakistan is probably hard, and we're worried about upsetting the applecart there -- and I think we didn't want to, not much. Look at the resources committed. Judge them by their fruits.


The whole thing is worth a read. Look here.

Bullying e-mails

I just got a note from an old friend reading, in part, 'Of all the friends I ever met / You're the one I'll never forget.' Me and the 40 other people she mailed it to. It had that kinda threatening tone, like if you don't do what I want with this we're not really friends. Whyever do people send notes like that? Another correspondent sends notes with little made-up inspirational stories, again with an added tone of 'Well, what are you gonna do with this?' Delete it, as I did the 'friends' note. Friends don't coerce friends.

Monday, September 10, 2007

A fair question

According to the NYTimes, Warren Jeffs, leader of a schismatic Mormon cult that adheres to the doctrine of polygamy, is to be tried in St. George, Utah, on charges of accomplice to rape for his role in arranging marriages between older men and underage girls. Seating a jury will pose interesting problems, as St. George is full of orthodox Mormons, who long ago delegitimized multiple marriage as a dodge to get statehood.
Article reads, in part, “Amber Clark, 28, an Army veteran who moved here from California about two months ago and who described herself as an active Mormon, said she thought polygamists should be left alone, so long as no one was under age or coerced into marriage.
“’I’m liberal in that respect,’ Ms. Clark said. ‘If it’s legal in some states for people of the same sex to get married, why is it not legal to marry more than one wife?’"
So, how do you think advocates of gay marriage would come down on the question of polygamy? My gut feeling that they would oppose it, but I'm not sure why I suspect that. Perhaps an equitable solution would be to institute some sort of civil-attachment registration for any bond that doesn't include animals, children, or coercion -- quantities and gender of no weight. Let 'em call it what they want, no religious sanction express or implied, and, please, don't tell me about it, cuz I'm really not interested.

Exotics

Some time back, I was talking with a friend about a common acquaintance and my friend said, 'I think he's got money. He raises longhorns.' It came to me in a flash, an epiphanic moment: Longhorns are bovine koi carp -- strangely marked, expensive, redolent of a devotion to some kind of cultural conservatism, edible but unlikely to be eaten, meeting Veblen's evidences of conspicuous consumption. An amazing world, innit?

Saturday, September 8, 2007

Green pet?

My primo reports that he has a new dog, a blue heeler-yellow lab cross. Someone asked him if that means it's a green dog, being a blue-yellow mix like that.

Friday, September 7, 2007

A Kunstler rant of some merit

James Kunstler, my favorite Cassandra, is off on his customary tear this week. "As US manufacturing decamped to low-labor-cost nations, we turned increasingly to the manufacture of abstruse investment schemes designed to create 'value' ingeniously out of thin air rather than productive activity. These succeeded largely because of the momentum of legitimacy American institutions accumulated in the years after the Second World War. The rest of the world believed our ingenuity was backed by credibility. That momentum has about run out." Read his entire eloquent rant here. I got an e-mail from one of my senators today telling me just how great things are, but I look at the news -- DJIA dropped 250 points today -- and wonder whether to believe my senator or my lying eyes.

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Socialism for me, good healthy competition for you

A lot of noise about the hypocrisy around the Larry Craig dust-up. Hypocrisy is a much bigger sin for the young that for the older of us; we realize that failure to measure up in some ways doesn't negate the need to at least pretend to esteem virtuous behavior. A more malign hypocrisy is pointed out by Mark Schmitt writing in the Guardian of the UK, the hypocrisy of people who purport to be conservative but avidly seek after government money for themselves from subsidized water to government contracts. - “...This hypocrisy consists not in a failure to reconcile public and private life, but in two public positions that are in absolute contradiction to one another: The belief that people must make it on their own, with no 'whining' and no help from government, coexisting with a staggering, slavish dependence on government - and the federal government, and thus taxpayers of the rest of America, in particular.” Read it all here.

Monday, September 3, 2007

Labor Day

... the day that the big media pay some passing and scant attention to the American working class. We once had a prosperous and wonderfully competent proletariat, people who were able to do nearly anything and do it with consummate craftsmanship and pride. Now the media Labor-Day reports are about stagnation or even loss in wages, medical coverage lost, and good jobs long gone to global wage arbitrage -- shipped away or undercut here. The Rs have always hated to see good money wasted on workers, feeling it was much better used by going to the corps and the rich. Their war on workers since the 70s has been remarkably effective. The Ds have basically treated our native working class with sneering contempt ever since the 60s, preferring to attend to various oppressed groups, some quite well off, many self-selected by their sense of grievance. Shame there's no real third-party movement out there that might offer some alternative for working-class America.

Friday, August 31, 2007

&c, &c about the Advocate

The poor Vicad is having a kind of identity crisis, and I guess I ran up against it. When I left the newsroom two years ago, the then-editor offered me a deal to do a blog and write one feature story a week, said they didn't want to lose my work completely. I didn't ask for it; I was happy to shake the dust of the place off my feet, but it was convenient, I had scope to write pretty much anything I wanted, and they didn't mess with my copy too much.
Since that time, the paper is kinda trying to figure out who they are. They lurch between being Weekly World News and My Weekly Reader, chupacabras and maudlin mush. They have been insisting on stories no longer than 15 inches, which isn't too bad for news but is terribly restrictive for features stuff, the stories I write. Idea was you could plead for exception to go over 15 inches on an ad hoc basis. It was simply too unattractive a way to work. Those people didn't like the way I wrote and I couldn't abide the way they edited. I think the paper looks like an 8th-grade social-science text book, with the short, short stories all tarted up with doctored photo art and lots of tiny little boxes with factoids and Web addresses. We'll all be happier with me gone. We can hope the paper will find its way back to some kind of coherent way of being.
At least I won't have to listen to people complain about the stock tables being gone.

Chimichurri, travel, &c

The Argentines serve an olive-oil, vinegar, garlic, parsley sauce with their beef. It's called chimichurri and the recipe for it is at this click. Make it; it's good. I made it when I had flat-leaf parsley in profusion.
We made reservations yesterday for tix to South America, which may be a little loony for someone who just threw his rice bowl through the window, but it's something we've had on the burner for a long time, and we feel we should spend down the travel fund while we're still fit for travel.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

A little hope to nurse

Sunday we went on an adventure, to see La Boheme in San Antonio. Friends who went with us are big fans of Rent, which was based on the opera. Beautiful opera, with a knock-out crowd scene and a death-bed scene that left the girls sniffling. I, myself, was merely troubled by mold that makes my eyes water. The female half of the couple said that her father maintains that he's been seeing migrating hawks moving through already, a good sign for an early fall. This has been a relatively easy summer -- just the one good hurricane scare -- and it would be pleasant to hang the fear back up on the hatrack until next year. Up north on the Plains, the hawks start gathering into big bands along the river bottoms in August, ready to beat it down to South America. It's always fun here in migration season when you're likely to see anything in the feeder or in the trees. A blessing to live in **Adrift. We just had a quick shower. It rains in Denver most summer afternoons around 5 or so, or it seemed like most afternoons. Last time I left Denver was spring of '68, but I will assume not everything has changed. Shower here cools us off a little and steams us up a lot. My goodness how I do meander.

PSA for PC people

If you get notice that you've received a post card from a family member, you might want to approach it with caution. Just got a note from a friend, warning against this, and there's a click-through to Snopes , which says it's true. Unless the whole thing's species of even more complicated hoaxes. I'm amazed at the trouble people will go to put something over on Internet users.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Leaps into the dark

Nothing quite like quitting a job without any fall-back position. Used to make that sort of leap into the abyss all the time when I was younger, but those were different times, and I was another guy then. I scuffled doing freelance magazine pieces along through the 80s, so I suppose that's the logical next move. Mag's more my style anyhow ... a little time to luxuriate over the writing and think about it, find that felicitous word. First friend I told I'd quit the paper looked at me and said, "Good for you. That's a bad paper." That is pretty much the consensus of everyone I've heard from since. Doesn't buy any porkchops but confirms my decision, anyhow. Or maybe they're just too polite to call me an idiot.
Friend writes me that the Albuquerque Tribune is on the block with little prospect of a buyer and opines the paper will simply be killed off. He remarks that that's a sorry fate for the paper of Ernie Pyle and Bill Mauldin; he's right.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Schädenfreude

Ah, those randy Rs. They caught a senator from Idaho playing footsie between the bathroom stalls at the Mpls-St. Paul airport. Apparently there had been complaints about footsieing there and the senator incautiously elected to play footsie with an undercover cop. Said senator pled out to some kind of reduced charge, but later said he didn't really mean it, just kidding about that guilty plea, and besides it was all in some way the fault of an Idaho newspaper. This follows the whorehopping senator from Louisiana -- & I'm not sure his constituents would hold a little whorehopping against him -- and Foley, the guy in the HofR who was sending off billets douxs [is that right? I don't want to look it up] to the cute page boys there at work in the nation's Capitol. The Idaho guy has voted in the past for anti-gay laws, so this could be seen either as almost Greek tragedy or perhaps farce or maybe just a grotesque justice. Just think of all that fuss about Wm Jefferson fooling around with a willing, grown female person and no money changing hands. Makes him look almost admirable.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Loonar New Year

I've just parted ways with the Vicad but wasn't quite sure I wanted to give up blogging, so I've set up this blog. I suspect I'll post less often but at greater length than I have in the past. I hope y'all will stay with me. I'm kinda used to you. In a couple days, I'll explain about the Advocate.