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.


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?

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.


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.