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Total number of comments: 148 (since 2013-11-28 14:43:02)


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  • Top Ten ways to prove you Love the Earth on Earth Day
    • GrumpyWithoutCoffee 04/22/2015 at 11:34 am

      I would also add:

      11. Grow your own food, whether it's just a couple of tomatoes in pots or a full blown victory garden. To offset one's carbon footprint we should all be growing as much of our stuff at home as possible and have Victory Gardens as we did in WWII. If you don't have a green thumb, plant easy to grow stuff like tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, pumpkins, squash, potatoes, and tomatoes. Use organic fertilizer if possible, and remember, jogging and biking are for those not in good enough shape to garden! (I.e., it's a great calorie burner!)

      12. Shop at your local farmers market - it supports small business and small farmers (many of these are young and the political demographic among small farmers will surprise you!) many of whom are dedicated to sustainable environmental stewardship. Plus, it supports the local economy. Stores such as Safeway are headquartered in California - why send your money there instead of keeping it in Michigan (or, in my case, Oregon)? Also shop locally owned businesses that sell local products - as an added benefit, it is nearly always the case that you will find the tastes and flavors of your own region superior to stuff imported from elsewhere. Also, eat seasonally: strawberries are for May through August (at least in my neck of the woods), not January!

      13. Stop eating out; food waste from restaurants and fast food joints is an environmental disaster. In addition, food eaten out is laden with salt, fat, plus who the hell knows from whence it came! Save restaurants for special occasions or vacations.

      14. You can compost virtually all of your kitchen waste, even paper towels (provided they are clean white ones with no dye), except for meat and oil. It cuts down on landfills and the environmental degradation associated with them.

      15. Keep a couple of hens in your backyard. They are easy to keep, and will produce much more nutritious eggs than those poor birds kept in factory farms. There will be a few more happy chickens in the world, and the demand for factory eggs will be all that much less because you now have your own eggs. Give them the worms from your compost as treats. Three or four Gold Sex Links or Rhody Reds should easily give you well over a dozen eggs weekly; and in addition, they are beautiful remarkable creatures.

      16. Lobby your local government if they won't allow you to keep chickens - as long as you don't have a rooster any such law is ridiculous. Hell, I'd even say we should be keeping goats and sheep.

      17. Get rid of the campus greens that pervade throughout this country and convert them to pasture or garden for students in various related disciplines to work.

      18. Develop a local, sustainable food system in your community that includes community gardens and community pasture to help employ disadvantaged or wayward youth, and whose products can be used to feed the less fortunate.

      The food system has a bigger part to play than just getting rid of beef, as you note. It is not, however, beef per se that is the problem. It is the feeding of the beef, and the quantities in which it is consumed. The reformation of the food system would be a big step in changing the way people think about the planet on Earth Day. Many if not most of us know the difference between a homegrown tomato and one that will fall off a truck in Florida and bounce. But the same holds true for just about everything, from melons to beets. If people knew how pork, eggs, chicken, cucumbers, corn, chard, and strawberries should really taste as opposed to the poor quality stuff found in the stores, I am convinced there would be a revolution.

  • Do GOP Frontrunners have an Iran policy besides Sanctions and Bombs?
    • GrumpyWithoutCoffee 04/08/2015 at 3:00 pm

      I know - as I've posted in comments before, all of these are features not bugs!

    • Shorter commentator response to your post: No. Next question!

      Okay . . . let's have some fun with this now . . .

      Do GOP frontrunners have a solution to human driven Climate Change besides denial?

      No, next question.

      Do GOP frontrunners have a response to childhood hunger in the US apart from cutting public assistance?

      No, next question.

      Do GOP frontrunners have a healthcare policy solution apart from gutting Obamacare?

      No, next question.

      Do GOP frontrunners have a policy solution for depressed wages in our country apart from attempting to gut workers rights under the guise of "right to work" laws?

      No, next question.

      And so on . . .

      I suppose we could have some fun and change this into a multiple choice type quiz, as in,

      Do GOP frontrunners have a policy on anything that is not utterly wrong-headed and not designed to appeal to a popular base that rests squarely on the shoulders of racism, false nostalgia, and rabbid nativism? Please circle the appropriate response:

      A. No, next question!

      B. Freedom!

      C. Thththththppppppttttttt!

      Cruz/Palin '16 - because "This Time, Why Not the Worst?"

  • A Game-Changer in Syrian War? al-Qaeda-led Factions take Idlib
    • I’m with you – all of those fabulous cities, esp. Aleppo, so damaged and ruined, and gods know about Crac de Chevalier, Saladin’s fortress, Palmyra, and on and on and on. I traveled through Syria as a grad student in Classics exactly 20 years ago. It is a history that belongs not to modern Syria, not to any one state entity or people by virtue of its diversity, but to the world – due to its importance and its dynamism. Worst of all are all of the different people I encountered who were so curious about the west and the US, who wanted to engage and discuss. Where are they now? Huddled in rumble digging in for a fire fight? In a refugee camp in Turkey? Dead? Ain’t the legacy of western colonialism and imperial adventurism grand? Of course we should not dismiss local and regional pathologies, but honestly, would we be looking at this map now in grief had not the Supreme Court ruled against the US electorate in 2000? I doubt it.

  • Mideast Apocalypse 2030: Why Obama wants the Palestine Issue Solved. Now.
    • GrumpyWithoutCoffee 03/24/2015 at 3:25 pm

      This was my thought as I read the scenario. The US has had an unhealthy relationship with Israel for my entire life, and the selective historical narrative that dominates in this country concerning Israel’s history, both ancient and modern, does not show any signs of a much-needed (popular) revisionism anywhere on the horizon. I think Professor Cole does an awesome public service (okay, I’m using an adjective my students would use!), but as you say, in his apocalyptic vision the US of A’s absence is a 600 lb. gorilla.

      A more likely scenario would be a humanitarian disaster that would once again fall on the Palestinians with a US president on the phone with an Israeli PM, with said president politely telling him that if he doesn’t stop he’ll get really mad and may even raise his voice, stop saying please, and wag his finger at a camera at the next presser. But pull the plug on aid? Exercise veto power at the UN? A weapons embargo against Israel? UN inspectors for nuclear weapons in Israel? Significant humanitarian assistance from the US for food, housing, and doctors in Gaza? Hey, let’s not get crazy here.

      But one of the commentators in this thread (HT to Kodachrome) is more spot on: there is no problem so big that human-driven climate change will not render it more acute. Time takes care of most problems; we have decided that it will take care of this one.

  • All the Wars and Coups of President Ted Cruz
    • Uh, most of our high elected officials are socio-paths of (unfortunately) reasonably good intelligence (probably in my time Reagan and W excepted), with a nonetheless long litany of crimes under their belts that reach from Chile to Cambodia to Iran to, frankly, our own communities (where Jonny/Jane can't read or write not because his/her school is under-funded but because s/he hasn't been fed). There are plenty of conservatives in academe to the point where in grad school I learned to engage with no one concerning politics in my department (and it was a part of the school of arts and humanities!) Ignorance and callous disregard for human welfare can reign as supreme in an Ivory Tower in the northeast as it can in Kansas (or Oklahoma, or Texas, or wherever the Confederate or Revanchist mindset holds sway).

  • Tom Friedman & funding ISIL: Israel/Iran Derangement Syndrome
    • GrumpyWithoutCoffee 03/21/2015 at 1:26 pm

      At this late date there is no doubt that Thomas Friedman has a breathtakingly immoral view of the use of power. But “Suck. On. This.” and now his “let’s join ISIS” drum beat are in some respects among the least of his outrageous statements. It’s bad enough he’s given a platform to spew his half-baked stream of consciousness venom that helped drive the country to war in 2003. For my money though, nothing will ever top his remark in that now infamous interview with Charlie Rose when he stated with no remorse – in fact with barely restrained triumph – that “We hit Iraq because we could”. That immediately brought to mind something Bill Clinton said during the Lewinsky scandal – that he did it, he confessed, “for the worst possible reason, because I could”.

      I suppose I could go in the backyard this afternoon and hold my dog’s head in a bucket of water until it drowns, because I can. Or trap a few squirrels in my trees and stick them alive on the grill, close the lid, and slowly roast them. Heck, think I’ll head to the pond, catch a mess of fish, cut their fins off and throw them back alive. Because I can. In Tommy Friedman’s bleak Thucydidean universe, the strong do as they wish and the weak suffer what they must. Nor is this immoral in the eyes of Friedman and his ilk; they are just inheriting a law they deem immutable and are simply acting upon it, just like the Athenians.

      It brings to mind David Brooks’ dismissive quip that “the concerns of the mothers of service men don’t matter” on the PBS Newshour during the propaganda campaign that functioned as the pre-game entertainment to The Mother of All US Debacles in 2003. (You may have missed David’s remarks in the ocean of stupid excreta spewed from the orifice of so many other movers and shakers who help funnels your tax dollars away from shit you need like well fed children and cancer research to mercenary legions run by criminals and profiteers like Erik Prince, Supreme Regent of Darkness).

      Creatures like this should not be fired. They should be arrested and tried on charges of aiding and abetting the disturbing of our peace and made to serve long hours of community service in VA hospitals cleaning bed pans and latrines. Period, end of report. As a parting shot, if you are less morally self-aware than Bill Clinton, well, that says it all doesn’t it?

    • GrumpyWithoutCoffee 03/21/2015 at 12:59 pm

      Just a gentle correction. There was a Jewish Diaspora well before the advent of Rome - arguably Judaism itself is in part the product of Diaspora that predates anything "Classical". The Jewish Diaspora in fact dates to the last 3rd (ca 722 BC) of the eighth century BC, with the Assyrain conquest. In the 590s BC Nebuchadnezzar relocated a substantial number of Jews to Babylon, while some fled to Egypt (but for modern politics and war, there might still be an ancient Jewish community in Mesopotamia - hell, even still a Babylon but for its destruction for a US air base [link to link to By the time of the late Roman Republic (the second century BC) and possibly well before, there was a substantial Jewish community in Rome (which exists to this day), and there is even a synagogue, possibly of this date, at Rome's ancient port in Ostia.

  • Top 5 ways Netanyahu sabotaged US and Israel Interests
    • GrumpyWithoutCoffee 03/16/2015 at 10:26 am

      "Why can't non-Republicans ask Americans how much more war can we afford, and how much more do we want?"

      Network ratings, huge corporate profits, and assorted socio-economic-political pathologies that effectively strangle any such complex dialogue and serious questioning and criticism in its cradle. Next question. (Also see my recent post under Juan's take-down of Tom Cotton).

  • Just How dangerous is Sen. Tom Cotton, Iran Letter Crackpot? You'd be Surprised
    • GrumpyWithoutCoffee 03/13/2015 at 7:34 pm

      As an addendum to my previous post. Everyone with me, to the tune of the Adams Family:

      "They're icky and they're gooky, they're really very spooky,
      They're always kinda kooky, the Young Republicans,
      Badabadeep, "snap snap".

    • Yeah, well . . . so much for young people being more “liberal”. But it was inevitable. A full generation has been raised under the shadow of Reaganism and crack-pot-crank-gas-bag-“think”(HA!)-tank punditry, whose fumes now pervade our political discourse like a rotting corpse. What alternative will younger people know?

      Look, for forty years hate radio and conservative organizations have ruined the social infrastructure of our country in a vendetta campaign against – I shit you not – Lincoln, FDR, Kennedy, Clinton, and now Barack Hussein Obama the Black. They are enraged against, well, everyone: Gays, Mexicans, the New Dealers, unions, the Union (for defeat of the Confederacy), intellectuals, the “liberal” media (ha! that’s a real fucking joke!), people of color, Hillary (for being Hillary), and Obama (for which, I suspect, they now hate the entire country – “How dare the unreal America of the cities send this Black Muslim Socialist to take away our guns and give us health care in rural communities plagued by meth and domestic violence!”)

      So many of our children who have grown up in this festering stew are at this late date little more than frogs in a slowly heated pot – and now they are cooked (politically, spiritually, environmentally, and economically): They will debate the merits of war, torture, and destruction of the social safety net, because they have been studiously inculcated by nincompoop parents who have listened themselves to assorted nabobs such as Ann Coulter, Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, or Bill O’Reilly (who in fairness is the veteran of many imaginary wars). So don’t you know McCarthy was scapegoated for being a patriotic commie hunter? Are you aware that Nixon was just the victim of the liberal media? Did you know that Lincoln violated the most cherished laws of the free market by his violation of southern property rights? (That that property was human chattel is no cause for embarrassment). Naturally FDR’s New Deal prolonged, in fact, the Great Depression. And of course the Clintons killed Vince Foster in the Oval office and had George Stephanopolis (aka “the guy shocked by blowjobs”) get rid of the corpse.

      The emergence of young-ish creatures such as Cotton (or Paul, or Cruz, or Rubio, or Walker, or take your pick) is not surprising, although it makes their emergence – like maggots from the corpse of what’s now left of the Republic – no less nauseating or depressing.

  • Giuliani & Obama: Immigrant Families and Really Loving America
    • Giuliani’s assertions are nothing short of infantile, but let’s cut to the chase: define precisely how one shows “love” for one’s country. I take the “country” to be defined as the land and its people. Just how do we show “love” for each?

      By opposing attempts to preserve the land? By allowing oil companies to befoul its waters? By allowing them to ruin its land by fracking? By opposing setting aside more of it that is beautiful and pristine for future generations to enjoy? By extracting as many of its resources as possible? By depriving citizens of the public good of its waters? By depleting its fisheries? By supporting big ag so it can dump chemicals into the soil and create mono-cultural deserts of corn and soy? By cutting down its forests? By destroying the very climate that has helped to create and maintain it? There are plenty of people out there, especially on the right, trying to do just that.

      Is this to “love” the land?

      And just how do we show “love” of its people? By opposing a living wage? By condemning their children to hunger? By depriving the people of access to medical care? By sending the family members of people off to fight in wars of aggression based on lies? By duping the people with boogie-men (Muslims, Commies, etc.) to transfer their hard-earned and increasingly scarce resources to wealthy friends? By ignoring the epidemic that of gun violence that kills so many? By funding weapons programs at the expense of (say) education or cancer research? By constantly traducing a government that consists entirely (at least in theory) of the people’s sovereignty? Again, many on the right will defend any and all of this, all under the utterly specious, selfish, and self-serving pretenses of – take your pick, “security”, “growth”, “opportunity”, “free-dumb” (not a typo!)?

      Is this to “love” the people?

      If this is what it means to “love” one’s country, then you can have it!

      But all of this is a moot point at best, because this very discussion is idiotic: Patriotism, love of country, nationalism – all are indicative of a type of arrested development and infantilism, a product of the R-Complex of the Truine brain dating back to our reptilian ancestors, the part that celebrates hierarchy, territoriality, and aggression (to paraphrase Carl Sagan). It is as much as saying, “Look at us we are great/look at them they are bad” (aka “We’re number One”, aka “USA USA”, aka “Greatest Civilization in History” kai ta alla!). Wouldn’t politics be a lot more fun and interesting in this country if we demanded a type of Socratic give and take, in which journalists actually, gee, I don’t know, did their job, were confrontational, and required that politicians actually defined their terms (just what is a “Family Value”; just what the hell “values” are “Value Voters” espousing – how do we define and understand them?; what is “national security” – will bombing more Muslims in the name of “security” make us more “secure”)? Wouldn’t it be a better place if collectively we could actually be, gosh, self-aware and not be fearful of being self-critical? However, as should be clear in this instance, the assumptions underlying Giuliani’s nonsense are grossly flawed from inception.

      One would have thought, in light of the blood-lettings of the 20th century based on such “love” of country, that this sort of discussion would have gone out of acceptable discourse, right along with the sort of racism or sexism that seems to have attended it. Alas, this is the age of Maher, where bigotry against people based on creed has become acceptable even among so-called liberals – so why not throw “patriotism” into the mix as well? I think humanity needs a new model and paradigm before it’s too late.

  • Jeb Bush on Foreign Policy: Peddling old Iraq Myths Again
    • Hmm, yes, well. All of this rather reminds me of Roman involvement in the East – which ultimately led to its conquest and colonization. Take out Philip V of Macedon in 197/6 BC and you end up with a power vacuum and need to drive out Antiochus the Great, King of Syria, in 189-7 BC. Drive out Antiochus and you end up with Perseus, Philip’s son, filling the vacuum and having to fight him in 169-8. Perseus gone? Not a problem – Andriscus will fill the vacuum in 149-8 BC and you will get a fourth visit by the Romans – only this time they won’t leave (well, not until 1453 AD! But hey, what’s 1600 years of occupation more or less). Plus ca change . . . But FerGawdsSake, I mean, is there no one in the State Department, no one in our political community, who reads Livy or Polybius anymore?

      Worst of all, what should be clear at this late date is that the results of US involvement confer, exclusively, generous donatives of misery, tears, and unintended consequences. We should mandate it that the self-assured ignoramuses who freely bestow the fruits of our toil to their friends in war industries and anyone else remotely enmeshed in their sociopathic fever dreams of a vast pax Americana, first read the simple remarks of King Archidamas, spoken nearly 2500 years ago and related by Thucydides, who, at the outbreak of the Peloponnesian War, noted that military action requires careful and calm consideration (the very antithesis of the U.S.’s collective Monty-Pythonesque, “MUSLIMS!!!!! RUNNNN AWAAAAAAY!!!!!”) and the recollection that in war you control neither events nor outcomes.

      On a less relevant matter: As an academic it has been my privilege to know individuals of deep intelligence and compassion. Do you mean to tell us that in 2016, out of a vast talent pool of 300 million souls in this country, we are having hefted upon us yet another Clinton or Bush? This truly is the death of the Republic!

      There is nothing left for it but to “Let each man go to his own country!” (as Agamemnon says in Homer’s Iliad).

  • GOP's Scott Walker: Pitches possible Syria War to make us Like Him
    • GrumpyWithoutCoffee 02/03/2015 at 10:54 am

      “What is shocking is that the GOP hopefuls think that a ground war in Syria is an attractive campaign promise, the 21st century equivalent of a chicken in every pot. What will you and I gain from a Syria war launched by the leader of Wisconsin? What did we gain from the Iraq War?”

      Um, no, it is not shocking Juan. You are treating war as though it were a bug and not a feature of the GOP platform (and frankly, can we expect much more from the soon-to-be-coronated Hillary?) At this late date, there are some pretty standard operating procedures on this score: Frighten the hell out of them with the imagined “impending invasion of America du jour” (hey, take your pick, use Commies, Sandanistas, Grenada as the latest fortress around poor little besieged America, Saddam “Mushroom Cloud” Hussein), shovel gobs of money to the virtually unaccountable black-holes that are the Pentagon, CIA, The Auchtung Department (euphemistically called the Department of Homeland Security), enrich creatures in the private sector such as the Aryanesque Eric Prince (aka the Dark Prince of Blackwater alias Xe), give a platform to haters left and right (from Bill Maher to Rush Limbaugh), and release “feel good snuff flicks” (for that is what they are) such as American Sniper (ah, the socio-path with a heart of gold – how cuddly!), and fiercely militarize every aspect of American life (it’s one of the key reasons I’ve come to loathe all sporting events in this country).

      As I said, it is a feature not a bug: in the process resources get shifted on just about everything from cancer research to childhood hunger to investment in new energy technologies. It is our 21st century version of the Dance of Death. It’s not about what is to be gained for us, it is about what is to be gained for the ruling elites in this country and frankly elsewhere. We don’t count or matter. Perpetuation of the military machine through interference throughout the world, which in turn enrages some people who might (and only might) attack us, is, in fact, the intent.

      It is not about what “we” gained from the Iraq War part II, it is about the continuation of GOP and elite power and they use war to maintain it. After the lies of Johnson, of Nixon, of Reagan, of Bush I and II, of Clinton, and the disappointing policies of Obama, honestly where is the emotional space for any sort of “shock”. It is the perfect opportunity to argue we have no money for children, health care, or alternative clean energy sources that might protect our environment. What is truly disappointing is how many young people there are who have now come to adulthood in the obscene atmosphere in this country over the last 40 years - it has spawned creatures such as Walker who love torture and war but hate healthcare.

      As I stated above, Feature, not Bug!

  • Top 5 Planks of 2016 GOP Platform? Torture, War, Bank Corruption, Paid-For Elections
    • GrumpyWithoutCoffee 12/12/2014 at 3:06 pm

      “All those planks appeal to relatively narrow interests among the plutocracy.”

      The problem is, Shannon, that while the GOP does run on the planks Juan pointed out (and all too many Dems as well), they don’t actually “run” on them. They hide and obfuscate under the catch phrases of Empire and Capitalism. Hence for torture read “a few bad apples”, “enhanced interrogation”, etc.; for war read “protecting national interests”, etc.; for bank corruption read “deregulation” or “getting government off the backs of the populus Americanus”; for purchased elections read “exercise of First Amendment Freedoms”.

      The GOP is hand in glove with the “You Did Not See What You Just Saw Industry” which include powerful corporate and media interests (Dems are the same, just not on crack like the GOP). They are pretty good at convincing people that soda doesn’t make you fat, the earth is in a cooling phase, and having a gun in the house will keep you safe.

      Polls show, unfortunately, that all too many Americans still believe torture is the way to go, and that we should go back into Iraq. The Dems are pretty feckless these days, and the only good thing I have to say about them is at least they’ve managed in a few states to help legalize weed, Gay marriage, and improve access to health care. On a national level? You can have ‘em (with only a few exceptions).

    • GrumpyWithoutCoffee 12/12/2014 at 7:55 am

      I would also add that pretty high on the list is the destruction of the planet. The GOP is drooling over Keystone XL, over gutting the EPA, and continues to deny the existential crisis that is human driven destabilization of the climate. This is a particularly bizarre stance for a party whose constituency is often rural and depends on agriculture for their livelihood (hence a stable climate), or gun owners many of whom are outdoorsmen who one would expect would want to protect the environment. I am hopeful that these constituencies might eventually come around on the need for a stable climate, but will it be in time to prevent a global meltdown of the eco-system and all that will entail? What is more dubious is whether they have enough of a voice within their party, and whether they have a willingness to risk breaking the apparent party orthodoxy that denies this impending crisis.

  • The Trial of Richard Bruce Cheney
    • GrumpyWithoutCoffee 12/11/2014 at 12:54 pm

      But, but Juan! You didn't finish the rest of the story, so please allow me:

      At this point in the trial the gallery, which Cheney had packed with well-wishers, bribed with Haliburton profits, and which included Sean Hannity, Michele Malkin, Rush Limbaugh, and assorted supine subservients from the Washington establishment, started chanting USA USA USA. Thomas Friedman, also in the gallery, hurled a profane “Suck. On This.” at the prosecutor.

      The judge tried to call for order, but just then Clive Bundy & Co. burst into the court room and started to brandish guns while railing incoherently about world domination by the UN, loss of sovereignty, the Feds, and swore by Jesus and Ronald Reagan that Cheney was a God fearing patriot protecting our free dumb [not a typo!]

      The Bundy and Washington crews then banded together and physically assaulted the witnesses and victims present in the court room, screaming that they were terrorists and a threat to the American Way of Life.

      Just when all seemed lost, Robert H. Jackson strode into the courtroom, slapped handcuffs on the unruly mob of wingnuts, including Cheney, and cast them into Spandau for life where they were given just one thing to read (Hegemony or Survival), and one movie to watch, (Manufacturing Consent).

      Not long after his imprisonment Cheney’s heart condition deteriorated, and Sean Hannity volunteered to offer up his own, but when they went to extract it they found he didn’t have one!

  • Why the Founding Fathers thought banning Torture Foundational to the US Constitution
    • GrumpyWithoutCoffee 12/09/2014 at 9:22 pm

      First, good post Juan. If we were a defeated power and the Nuremburg Principles applied, the Bushes, Cheneys, Yoos, etc., would possibly be hung. And the Lindy Englands and various soldiers, doctors, agents, guards, and yes, even members of the media, turned sadists would be sought out by the equivalent of Israeli Nazi hunters, and imprisoned, and rightly so.

      But to answer your question Mary, the GOP has long since lost its way and taken the country with it. The history is too long to rehearse here, but in the past fifty years, in a nutshell, we have morphed from a society able to come together when basic essential facts are presented to us (e.g., torture happened and people must be punished; the environment is in free fall and needs protection; a strong social safety net protects us all and helps our economy), to one where the “you did not really see what you just saw” industry (driven by confusionists in the media, assorted think tanks, and the Tea Party) holds sway. Hence GOP talking points such as “torture kept America safe” (and yes, they actually said this – see Sen. Chambliss of Georgia, etc.)

      I have come to merely loathe the Dems, but, as I’ve posted in comments here before, I see a day where the GOP will simply prove so destructive that it will need to be outlawed. But if Obama protects these creatures then, frankly, we should arrest him too.

  • Chokehold Victim Eric Garner's Mother: "Justice System Failed Us"
  • Why are Berkeley Students Protesting Bill Maher as Commencement Speaker?
    • GrumpyWithoutCoffee 11/03/2014 at 8:51 am

      Part of my thinking on this is that the history and experience of those who practice Islam in the U.S. is not the same as that of, say, African Americans, who have been a historically maltreated minority. I recall a very racist family member once telling me that if my grandma from Norway could make is as an immigrant who first cleaned houses when she came to this country in the early 1900s, there was no reasons African Americans couldn’t pull themselves up by their bootstraps.

      Um, yeah, right. Well, I suppose apart from the fact that Americans of African descent first came here as slaves, that they lived under Jim Crow in the South, were discriminated against by the passing of lots of laws, and feared the noose, that the African and Norwegian American experience were essentially the same. I think, therefore, that the KKK/Aryan analogy is a false equivalence here.

      Now those who practice Islam have certainly not had the easiest time of it in the US – we all know that; but they have also not faced the level of persecution or oppression that other groups have, such as Hispanics and African Americans. Americans are still largely ignorant about Islam and about the peoples who practice it. Having Maher at Berkeley could prove a teachable moment (and Muslim students shouldn’t be the only ones who are offended – Maher is also quite the misogynist).

      That having been said, the habit of universities giving a platform to those who already have one seems to me to be feeding on a larger more dangerous habit in the media of suppressing a greater diversity of voices and opinions – there were much better choices (how about a climate scientist to address our dire environmental situation?), but I stand by that all speech, particularly, perhaps, offensive speech, must be protected, if for no other reason than to expose and refute bigotry and error.

    • Bill Maher maintains an unsophisticated view of religion and its connection to the idiosyncratic nature of a given culture. Is Christianity practiced in the same way with the same attitudes in Italy as it is in the southern U.S.? Or in Ireland as it is in Brazil? Of course not, because its nature is determined by the particulars of historic, cultural, and social dynamics that interacts with that particular religion in various ways.

      So, is Islam the same in Iran as in Tunisia? Is it the same in Turkey as in Iraq? Of course not, and Maher’s generalizations are an example of the intellectual laziness typical of much of the political discourse in our country. As to the polls Maher constantly cites, I would like to see stats concerning Christian countries too – Muslims are not the only one rejecting liberal ideas after all. E.g., Kenya, a predominantly Christian country with only an 11% Muslim population, has a ban on gay bars. The GOP was/is a big supporter of the Ugandan “kill the gays” law, another predominantly Christian country with only a roughly 12% Muslim population. I’m no expert, but I would like to see a comparative survey of attitudes and rights in predominantly Christian countries. Would blanket condemnations of all predominantly Christian countries follow?

      As to the surveys he cites based on “attitudes” or “opinions”, opinion and thoughts are one thing, acting on them quite another. But let’s accept his premise that all the horrible generalizations he makes are true, and even acted upon. One wonders to what extent fundamentalism is a response to external factors: what, e.g., would Iran look like today had we not overthrown its democracy in 1953, an event that led directly to the revolution in 1979, and by extension, what Islam would look like today in Iran? Colonialism and conquest has a way of intensifying the identity of a given people in a given region and making them violent – certainly this was the case wherever Romans (my own field of expertise) went: conquered colonized peoples sometimes either became fiercely Roman (identifying with their conquerors) or fiercely German, Jewish, British, Spanish, or Greek. Roman conquest and hegemony spurred an intensification of local identity (just ask Variathus, or Arminius, or Bar Kochba, or Boudica, or Calgacus). Now that’s a study I’d like to see.

      Most risible of all, though, is someone in the US going off on a riff about the particular violence and close-mindedness of Islam. How many countries, after all, has Tunisia bombed? How many countries has Iran invaded of late? His rhetoric is designed to denigrate and dehumanize, and it serves, it seems to me, as a justification for our use of violence against predominantly Muslim countries. It appears that predominantly Christian countries are justified in their use of force against the Other, appropriating to themselves the right to the use of force based solely on their liberal democratic values (at least that is the collective background noise that one seems to hear, both from Maher and his cheering audience): but what is liberal or democratic about, say, the destruction of Iraq? Or the willy-nilly use of drones in Yemen and elsewhere? Or the continued support for the blockade against Gaza (and the all-too-frequent visitation of violence on it from our proxy, Israel)?

      Sovereign states and peoples need to come to their own decisions, in their own way and in their own time, about how best to live, and if a society is generally viewed as “unhealthy” then yes, the dynamics need to be pointed out; but to me, for a citizen of this country to constantly dwell on the violence and close-mindedness of others is unseemly. Maybe we could get some Muslim comedian to go on a riff about childhood hunger, or school shootings, or income inequality, or voter suppression, or racial disparity, or any number of social ills that plague the US.

      Despite all of this, I think Maher should absolutely have the right to speak at Berkeley; if nothing else, it forces a conversation that can serve ultimately to further our understanding of ourselves and others, and is the first step in a corrective to skewed and virulent modes of thought.

  • Ben Affleck on Bill Maher's Muslim Problem
    • You might be surprised to know that I agree with you in part. But do we really think that but for western interference there would be the sort of situation we are facing today? Or that we would be very concerned about what Muslims think?

      As for the examples you cite, fine. However statistically, just how many places can the US and its allies intervene before we finally stir up a hornets’ nest (in my lifetime its been Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand, Indonesia, Greece, Guatamala, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Chile, Afghanistan, Panama, and that’s just off the top of my head)? So alright, Panama and India didn’t turn terrorist against outside aggressors and have relatively stable societies. Obviously that will not always be the outcome, as the lingering legacy of western colonialism in the Near East shows, and the results of our 2003 misadventure in Iraq depressingly reveal.

    • The commenters defending Maher and Harris in this thread, or at least justifying them, seem to forget that we - and our interests - have been historically the victim of so-called Islamic violence mainly as a result of our support of autocratic regimes in the Muslim world and for our continued unfettered and pathological support for Israel. Were it not for western interests in those countries, I very much doubt we’d be concerned too much about Islam one way or the other.

      War and conflict frequently does not start on the battlefield, but with the word. The rhetoric of Maher serves as an enabler for such organized state violence that has its origins here at home. Then again, democracies are not always the best at risk assessment – as someone who works on hunger issues you will never convince me that childhood hunger in the US is not a much bigger issue and more dangerous for us than, say, civil liberties in Saudi Arabia, or violent Muslims who would like to attack us. But hungry kids remain invisible, have always been around, and don’t get ratings like beheadings or Sabbath Gas Bag pundits.

      Defending Maher to me sounds at this point like special pleading, not to mention willfully ahistorical.

    • The desire to see a policy implemented is one thing, the ability to implement it quite another. We have ideas and opinions that have violent tendencies as well (as you note concerning TR) – and we act on them still to this day, such as the idea that it’s okay to have a massive military-industrial-media complex that has bombed, on dubious pretexts and with dubious results, seven Muslim countries under Obama. To wag fingers at peoples about their views on civil liberties and them to bomb them - there seems to be a real disconnect somewhere here. Of course, the main point to remember is you have looked at a particular poll in a particular country at a particular time. To generalize that this is how all Muslims think would be wrong, which was Affleck’s (and Aslan’s) point – countries such as Turkey and Indonesia (for example) are far more liberal in their policies than (say) Saudi Arabia. But the real heart of the matter is that Maher and Harris present these opinions as an implied justification for our continued use of force in Muslim countries.

    • GrumpyWithoutCoffee 10/07/2014 at 12:13 pm

      Thanks for this post Juan – bigotry like this needs to be called out articulately and knowledgeably, esp. if it comes from someone who has an enormous platform from which to speak and uses it to spout insidious and poisonous misinformation. It is esp. discouraging to such vile hate come from someone many would consider “Left” of “Liberal” – no wonder Maher can remain “friends” with creatures such as Ann Coulter. Folks like myself are thankful for public intellectuals such as yourself and Reza Aslan who can call out this crude sort of thinking when they see it.

  • How Stupid Can CNN Hosts Get about Muslims with Reza Aslan? THIS STUPID.
    • Hello Juan!

      As per the instructions on "contacts" I'm requesting that you weigh in on this - what do you think about the past two weeks of Bill Maher going on a screed against Muslims? And could you please address this in light of your knowledge and in helping, frankly, to push back against this sort of bigotry?

      With appreciation,

  • $22 Billion to Fight ISIL in same Year Congress cut $8.7 bn in Food Stamps
    • This is the problem with the ability of our democracy for collective risk assessment and the costs and value of properly assessing those risks. The costs of not feeding our children and the hungry are enormous. I will repeat myself until I am blue in the face, but as I’ve posted in comments before:

      Children who are hungry and malnourished generally do not develop into normal healthy adults. Many suffer from damaged immune systems, behavioral and mental problems, and lower intelligence. Imagine how lousy you feel if you are an hour or two late for lunch. Well, multiply that by a half-day, or day or two, then imagine that is being imposed on a developing human being. This is how our children, and many children of the world, suffer. Damaged immune systems in turn mean adult illnesses down the road, meaning stress on an already over-burdened health care system as well as lost productivity and wages from work. Behavioral problems can often be aggressive, resulting in violence and ultimately prison.

      In sum: lost productivity over a lifetime, health problems, prison, means expensive outlays by our health care providers, our schools (where many of the behavioral problems play themselves out), our criminal justice system, and at the same time a loss in revenue as we bandage these problems rather than addressing their root causes. This is not my opinion – it’s the hard cold science of pediatrics and statistics.

      Another major threat to which we have given scant collective attention or action is human driven climate change. Just how much is the cost of losing Louisiana going to come to? Or Florida? Or our ability to reliably grow crops in the plain states or California? Or our ability to absorb displaced climate refugees, whether from Bangladesh or the Nile Delta?

      Yet were we to address either problem we would obtain some tangible good – e.g. a healthy productive citizen body, more revenue from more productive citizens, stable climate, etc.

      Just what will we get for this investment of 22B? Nothing – except the status quo where creatures such as Erik Prince and Dick Cheney see war profits, elected representatives reassure defense industries so that their firms won’t leave their districts, and the perpetuation of this whole Danse Macabre as we now can add Syria to Iraq, Somalia, Yemen, Afghanistan, Libya, and Pakistan to the list of predominantly Muslim countries we’ve bombed, thereby alienating still more citizens on the ground. But not to worry – I’m sure the Great Liberal Bill Maher will perform his Friday Sabbath ritual of appeasing pseudo-Lefties about how backward Muslims are and how in the end people who bomb them have much better values than those who live under our bombs anyway. Hey, we might be killers but at least we believe in civil liberties (sort of).

    • GrumpyWithoutCoffee 10/01/2014 at 8:24 am

      As an addendum: I see a new study this morning concludes that global vertebrate populations are down 52% since the 1970s – that is a huge story, and the amount of biomass loss unimaginable. Now THAT'S a big f*****g story!

      And for a good takedown on Maher's bigoted screed last Friday go to:

      link to

      (Scroll down to "It's not a religious problem it's a species problem").

      (Link to link to

      It puts the global environment as we know it at obviously great risk – but don’t look for this story to be covered even on MSNBC; it might get traction on FOX, but only if they can twist it to convince viewers that such environmental catastrophe is beneficial for the economy.

  • 3 Years War? Obama to Bomb Syria in fight against ISIL
    • GrumpyWithoutCoffee 09/10/2014 at 9:37 pm

      Three years? Really? How prescient. I vote for another 100 Years War. But this is at its base an absurdity - how many people have our "smart bombs" inflicted with beheadings and other horrific injuries, all on dubious pretexts? The best argument against this – or any - war is still that made over 2400 years ago – by no less than the king of the bellicose state of Sparta. Once war is entered into, noted Archidamas on the eve of the war between Athens and Sparta, its course is unknown. It is to open a door into a dark room, where no one knows what lurks – though all know that it will entail death, degradation, and destruction (see Cato in Sallust, Bellum Catilinae, 52). Climate change. Humans with nuclear bombs. Wars over religion and resources in the name of “freedom”, “way of life”, “stability”. And how do we all think this will end? I’m sure Victor David Hansen can regal us with tales of “a war like no other” and “western freedom”. I strongly doubt that it will not be an outcome of disaster (VDH and his buddy Bill Kristol can tell us how our next defeat is really a victory depending on what political party is in office). But then again, isn’t disaster standard operating procedure? So glad Americans are can do and competent. But incompetence (oh, and death on my buck by the f*****g bushel) seems to be the central reality of American policy. Iraq. The country we loved SOOOOOO much we f****d up not one, not two, but now, apparently, THREE times.

      So, can we have a global "three strikes and you're out stupid super power" policy?

  • Will the People’s Climate March be this generation’s March on Washington?
    • GrumpyWithoutCoffee 09/09/2014 at 10:39 pm

      Yes, less meat, but not no meat. Vegetables and fruits require animal input (such as blood meal and bone meal). These are essential nutrients for plants. Yes, green manure crops will work for a while, but if you were to do that full scale then vast amounts of land would need to be handed over for the mono-cultural cultivation of certain cover crops – and you still want dead animal matter to feed plants that self-righteous vegans will consume (sorry, but vegans are not ethically superior and have a ridiculously inorganic Weltanschauung). But if we switch to growing such green manure crops en masse we will have a similar problem – degradation of diversity. But you will convince few farmers or botanists or gardeners (and rightly so) that you can rely forever on green manure without animal input. Even worse: the amount of available calories to human populations will diminish. Animals graze and convert grass and cereal crops to high, concentrated calories in the form of meat and milk.

      Try working an organic farm in real life trying to have a low carbon input. You will find at the end of the day that you are so spent that beer and beef become essential food groups. If for 15 hours you can dig raised beds, haul compost, mend water lines, men fences, and maintain infrastructure and equipment, and then happily sit down to a plate of salad at the end of the day then my hat goes off. But oof – what an inorganic and sad way to look at the world.

      Short story long – animals are a lot easier to raise and maintain than fruits and veggies, at least by individuals on a small scale. You get a huge caloric return for a lot less personal caloric input by raising animals instead of veggies. In a world still made up of a much larger number small poor farmers than the west would like to acknowledge, that means something.

  • US Public Worried about ISIL, Putin-- But Climate Change is Real Challenge
    • GrumpyWithoutCoffee 08/31/2014 at 4:51 pm

      Climate change will start to be taken seriously maybe once the stress on agriculture starts to hit Americans in the pocket book in the form of soaring food costs. There is a direct link between climate change and the Arab Spring, and climate change and the Syrian civil war: in the first instance it is more than likely that extreme drought in Russia several years ago led to a rise in wheat prices, fueling inflation and hardship in north Africa and the Near East that depends on Russia in part for wheat supply. Drought hit Syrian farmers very hard, as Professor Cole has noted in several posts, leading in no small part to the current conflict there. Here in the western US drought is playing havoc with California produce and cattle. Maybe it will not be with the current California drought, but eventually as warming does serious damage to agriculture and prices rise, people will start to make the connection. But by then, I suspect, we grey temple prophets of doom will all be dead and the hour will be too late.

  • How America made Martyrs of two Iranian Democrats and overthrew Iran's Liberal Government in 1953
    • GrumpyWithoutCoffee 08/19/2014 at 2:23 pm

      Nice try. Alas, it will simply be dismissed. I recall some years back a neo-con “intellectual” (whatever that is) being interviewed on a call-in show on CSPAN. Reminded of this bit of history and its ensuing results by a caller he perfunctorily snorted, “That was fifty years ago” and had no further response (or desire to engage the caller).

  • Are Israelis and Zionists really talking about a Final Solution of the Palestinian Problem?
    • GrumpyWithoutCoffee 08/03/2014 at 3:42 pm

      Very true - from the Trail of Tears to Southeast Asia we have a singularly gruesome tradition. The open advocation of genocide, however, has not recently been advanced as national policy; and I frankly see little daylight between the Israeli and US government. Blank and Gordon do not speak for the US - but yet, in a sense, they do - or at least certain elements of it.

    • It is not just Gordon Juan - Irwin Blank writing for the same paper made the same argument. To enter the dark universe of Irwin Blank’s Wannsee fantasy go to:

      link to

      Give it a few weeks, and NPR will come on with some smooth commentator’s voice that airs with a charming lead debating the potential merits of genocide and ethnic cleansing. The “liberal” media did it with torture – why not its logical conclusion? Look for members of Congress to defend said genocide. The supine surrender of our sovereignty to the false heresy of Apartheid is now to be followed by the perfidious betrayal of our nation’s principles to a deplorable barbarism. One can only wonder how representative this is of the thinking among the elites, but my guess is that both are representative of what policy makers believe more than we would like.

  • Did Israel go too Far? The Massacre at the UN School/ Refugee Center
    • GrumpyWithoutCoffee 07/27/2014 at 2:34 pm

      Your critique is well taken and I appreciate it . . . until we come up against a situation with existential implications such as war, nuclear proliferation, or climate change – esp. climate change (my own pet issue since as a farmer it impacts me directly). To what extent will we let the “messiness of democracy” degrade and destroy our planet? The forces of denial and obstruction – primarily in the legislative and corporate sectors of this country - are counting on running out the clock on this, and they have just about done it. A political system works . . . until it doesn’t. “Allowed” to influence policy? How about willfully manipulated by copious doses of fear and misinformation until they feel compelled to reject the common good just as a matter of principle and identity politics? Moreover the outline of your nightmare scenario sounds a lot to me like the system we now have.

      I agree that we want to avoid a technocratic dystopia – who doesn’t? However as to becoming a state that is soulless and has no genuine human sensibility I think the past twenty or thirty years or longer indicates we are pretty close to that if not already there, at least as industrialized democratic countries go. Torture, huge percentages of kids in poverty (20-40% in some regions), the devastation of Iraq and Afghanistan, the utter impunity with which war criminals in this country can act, the roll back on some essential civil liberties, the capture by the corporate sector of our government and media, the funding of a vast and destructive armaments industry at public expense, the militarization of the police force, the general contempt for those less fortunate, and of course, the carte blanche backing of an Apartheid ally that is prone to commit war crimes on occasion – I could go on, but why?

      How much further do we want to sink?

    • Fucking A Nel.

      Should academics rule the world? Maybe, maybe not. But let’s cut the crap. To whom are we going to listen to about the Mideast? Someone who has studied it their entire adult life and knows the languages and culture, such as Juan Cole, or should we listen to someone like Sean Hannity? Hmmm. Juan Cole . . . Sean Hannity. Hmm. Hmmmmm. (I am now stroking my fast greying beard thoughtfully). Hmmmm – Juan Cole – knows Arabic, knows the history, is a respected published author with good presses whose work has been vetted and knows the material inside out, or Sean Hannity. Hmmm, yes, hmmm. Let me see, who’s the better qualified? Gee, gosh, not sure on that one.

      Let’s move on . . .

      Who’s the better to discuss climate change? James Hansen, Bill McKibben or (wait for it) . . . Sean Hannity. Hmmm. Let’s see. Hansen and McKibben have studied science and devoted their lives to it, and Hansen sounded the warning bell on this issue a quarter of a century ago and has been right at every turn . . . but then, Sean Hannity is on tv and can shout. Gosh, who has more authority, knowledge, intellectual, and moral clout on this. Hmmm, let me think, hmmm, yes, hmmm. Well gosh I’m agnostic on this one too.

      So let’s move on again . . .

      . . . to matters of economics, education, sociology, other regional conflicts, and so on. This is an absurdity – hey, I have an idea, why don’t we have computer programmers farm and have farmers do computer programming? Then we can have fishermen start to teach Latin and Latin teachers can start to fish. Because we’re a democracy right? And everyone and everything is equal right? RIGHT?!?!?!? So since Juan isn’t on tv as much as Hannity he CAN’T absolutely CAN’T know as much about the Mideast as Mr. [Ins]Hannity. Plus, Mr. [Ins]Hannity can shout louder than Professor Cole (I suspect!)

      I will shout this from the roof tops: Conservatives talk about the value of work, but they do not, absolutely do NOT value academic work. They are hypocrites in the extreme on this score, and the only consolation a thinking being gets is that intellectuals get beaten up simply because we scare the shit out of these creatures.

  • What Has $121,000,000,000 US Aid to Israel Really Bought?
    • GrumpyWithoutCoffee 07/21/2014 at 6:27 pm

      What you have stated is equally misleading though: Israel is by far the largest recipient of foreign aid by the US bar none; it’s an artificial first world country in part as a result. Concerning jobs, I don’t want my economy helped in any way by what is demonstrably an Apartheid state. As for Amnesty International, just go their site and see how much they have in fact had to say against abuses in countries about which you allege they are relatively silent.

      Sorry, but I just don’t think appropriating land and having a US/European outpost in the Near East is bound to have a good outcome in either the long or short run, esp. when that outpost is designed to variously divide, suppress, and appropriate the resources of the less fortunate peoples of the region, be it for our benefit or that of our allies.

  • From Kerry to Selena Gomez & Rihanna, Israel's Claims of Precision, Compassion are Dissed
    • GrumpyWithoutCoffee 07/21/2014 at 10:25 pm

      Oh, I've not been a fan for a long time, though his monologues are still pretty decent at the show's opening. He really lost me a couple of weeks ago when he went on a rant against mixing weed and booze. All I could think of was the words of Ygritte in Game of Thrones: "You know nothing Jon Snow".

    • How deeply the US is ensnared in this ineluctable danse macabre with Israel was perhaps best revealed on Real Time with Bill Maher this past Friday. He and his panel took the opportunity of the events of the past few weeks to go on a bigoted screed against Arabs and Islam. The conversation on this show spear-headed by this alleged bane of the conservative media may as well have been a meeting of AIPAC.

      What was really despicable was the ahistorical nature of the conversation, which was devoted in no small part to dumping the blame on Hamas, with no historical context (Nakba, what Nakba?), and certainly no discussion about the iron grip Israel has imposed on Gaza. I suppose if my land were appropriated, my medical services shut down, my means of livelihood unjustly removed, my entire community effectively reduced to a prison-like existence, and – the last straw - my children periodically killed in cold blood, that I’d be launching a few rockets too. What really made my blood boil was the panegyric to Israel about how industrious and “kick-ass” it was, as though it had achieved that on its own without vast amounts of assistance from the US in terms of money and weapons – not to mention manpower in its army in the form of young people who hold dual citizenship.

      But we don’t get that from Maher – instead he gets to add Islamophobe to his proudly won title of misogynist. And this is what passes for Liberal today. Gosh, I wonder why they hate us so much?

  • The Court Trial of Bibi Netanyahu
    • GrumpyWithoutCoffee 07/14/2014 at 8:05 pm

      We laugh as we cry. So it’s come to this – notions of justice, fairness, and equity are shuffled off into the category of irony and “dark satire” - it is all we apparently have left. Next up, The Trial at the ICC of George W. Bush, to be followed by that of Dick Cheney, John Yoo, Paul Wolfowitz, and a host of politicos and pundits who believe so much in family values that they pushed how many Iraqi women into prostitution in Syria based on . . . their paranoid fever dreams, false intelligence, and deception deception and still more deception. Man that is JACKED UP!

      In this world the Romans, the Nazis, Blackwater and their appropriately blackhearts such as Erik Prince – they win. They may eventually collapse and be defeated, but they are Chaos demons, and the very power we give them and the attendant damage they inflict is the point. Their victory is total – just ask the children of Palestine. As Juvenal observed, the satirist does not create – he observes, scribbles, and the satire writes itself.

  • SCOTUS: Corporate "Persons" have Religions, can Deny You Birth Control Coverage
    • Oooof. Basing modern life on ancient texts. Maybe I should run my life based on the divinely inspired texts of Homer, Hesiod, or Pindar. Jesus spoke Aramaic, but the NT was written in Greek decades later. We don’t know what he said let alone meant. The Hebrew Bible – a problematic series of texts that also acknowledges the existence of many gods, consigns whole nations to genocide and ethnic cleansing, and which was cobbled together over centuries. We are intimate with the life of Cicero, but know comparatively nothing about Abraham, Moses, David (all of whom may be fictions), Jesus, and Mohammed. Get over it people! Humans living their lives based on Mumbo-Jumbo – and they do it on purpose! Nay, they are dogmatic about their ignorance. Hit head on wall . . . head on wall . . . head on wall. Repeat repeat repeat.

      Can we please just wrest society from the hands of Witch Doctors and give it to the rational people now?

      There is nothing left to do but to rail and rant on the street - religion over human health. Yeah, that's a fucking great idea.

  • Iraq: Looming War of Shiite, Kurdish, Extremist-Sunni Militias
    • GrumpyWithoutCoffee 06/12/2014 at 9:26 pm

      Um, hmm. Er, mmm, yes, well, uh, ahem . . . if we hadn’t gone in in 2003 isn’t it true this would likely not be happening? Shouldn’t someone be held, uh, like, responsible? Say Dick “we know where the weapons are” Cheney? Or George “30,000 more or less” Bush? Or Condi “in the form of a mushroom cloud” Rice? Or Colin “here are pics of the porta-potties – oops, I meant weapons labs” Powell? Hello . . . hellooooo – is there anybody out there?

      Look, I hate to sound like a pinko blaming Nixon for every damn thing, but is it not true that this disaster can be laid directly, if not squarely and precisely, at the feet of the SOB who now paints nude pics of himself in the shower?

      Oh, so let me get this straight: I’m a poor shlub who farms and if I do 38 in a 25 and get ticketed my insurance goes up and I get fined. That would present me with some hardship. But a bunch of m***********s who f**k up a country of 20 million get book deals and speaking engagements and editorial space in the most prestigious papers in the country. Gee, maybe I should go into genocide and ethnic cleansing – seems a more profitable and safe line of work, and you don’t get mauled by roosters or roll your tractor.

      One more thing - can we at least deport William Kristol to ISIS that we was so instrumental in creating?

  • Top 3 White Terrorist Attacks in America this Week
    • And the band played on . . . This has been going on for years. Remember Oklahoma City? And all the assassinations of abortion providers? And the beating to death of gay men? And the attempted assassination of congresswoman Gifford? And bringing guns to town halls and rallies to menace and intimidate, esp. during the Obamacare debates? And, and, and . . . ? This is no longer legitimate or legal freedom of expression – it is violence and intimidation pure and simple, and creatures such as Rush and Hannity, leaders of the hate industry who were never elected, have taken us to this point.

      When will we be through trying to defeat these people at the ballot box? I have stated it before in comments on this blog and I will state it again. We have reached a point where the GOP is no longer a legitimate political organization so much as it is a corporate sponsored hate group. Activists need to start to focus their energies on the courts and work to get the GOP and their subsidiaries shut down and outlawed.

      Their hatred of people of lesser means, of minorities, women, intellectuals, their utter disregard for the rights and freedoms of people particularly of the global south, the vast machine of think-tanks and hate radio which do little more at this late date than incite, lie, or practice sheer sophistry, and their complete callousness when it comes to a clean, safe planet make them utterly unfit to govern. At the same time, I would argue that it is essential that the corporate sector undergo a financial divorce from our political process – hell, if it takes going to radical Athenian-style democracy and choosing legislators by lottery . . . well, how could that break the political process more than it now already is? It would at least have the advantage of taking money out of politics.

      The GOP and their anarchist mob will say they are for Freedom – well, not so much. You can have a right to a gun all you want. But if you don’t have economic security, if you don’t have a living wage, and a clean environment and (relatively) stable planet on which to live (and the stable society that follows), well, you don’t really have freedom, and you also aren’t really a conservative (Doh!) (Oh, and by the way, you really can’t have freedom without a right to due process, but the fourth amendment went bye-bye some time ago). And you don’t really have freedom when you have groups of paranoid, fever-dream fanatics in control of half the country, scaring and intimidating the other half, including intimidating, apparently, those in charge of enforcing law and order.

  • How Reagan subverted the meaning of D-Day & the New Deal of the Greatest Generation
    • GrumpyWithoutCoffee 06/08/2014 at 12:51 pm

      RR was a despicable human being, “a deceiver of the public and, one suspects, himself” as one astute observer once put it. Remember this is the man who mocked the hungry of this country as being “on a diet”. Vile. But much worse than that, he and his minions started the slow motion coup of the GOP by the Birchites, Larouchians, Randians, and yes, frankly, the Boothians (who still can’t accept the Union's defeat of the Confederacy and are hell bent on exacting some sort of amorphous revenge). Systematic war against the poor, minorities, intellectuals, and impoverished, weaker countries whose resources we covet will, in the long run, likely prove the least malicious of Reagan’s and the GOP’s legacies. Far greater mischief will dog their legacy as deltas are flooded, storms inundate our cities, and food production suffers as climate becomes less stable: simply put, under Reagan anti-environmentalism became a key aspect of GOP identity. Reaganism is in no small part single-handedly responsible for the environmental disaster that is human driven climate change. How ironic that Reagan spoke at the Normandy Beaches, a historic site that his party is now determined to visit with flood and ruin.

  • Pastor Hagee: It's not Climate Change, It’s The Return Of Christ
    • GrumpyWithoutCoffee 05/31/2014 at 7:50 pm

      God continued, “And where is the elephant in Africa? I sent you someone as affable and well loved as Jimmy Stewart who was actually concerned about this issue! And where are the amphibians? What the hell did you do with my amphib- . . . [God drums fingers irritably on table interrupting himself] Where are the ice caps? Hmm?!?!?! Where are the ICE CAPS? WHERE ARE THE FUCKING ICE CAPS? You ASSHOLES! What the FUCK! What the hell did you do with them!?!?!?! You’re not gonna need an ark this time, because you’ve turned this lovely place into f*****g VENUS and I'm not interested in saving jackoffs who shit in their own house!”

      (Sorry, sometimes copious expletives are the only place to go!)

    • GrumpyWithoutCoffee 05/31/2014 at 8:26 am

      Pontifex Maximus C. Julius Caesar Asserts Climate Change the Result of Un-Propitious Omens on Ewe’s Livers.

      A repeated series of sacrificial victims had to be cut open by Caesar and examined by the haruspices this past week. The normal number of just one would have been sufficient, but the left lobe of each liver was in turn quite fatty and had dark markings, indicating quite clearly that the recent bad weather has been driven by divine forces.

      “We think that there is a nasty spat going on between the goddess Juno and her consort Jupiter ever since Juno promised Aeolus, god of the winds, a bunch of pretty sea-nymphs if he would just release his winds to drive the Trojan fleet to north Africa”, one of Caesar’s attendant priests said.

      “The livers looked terrible”, he added, “but tasted pretty good with some onions”. Greek intellectuals scoffed, and were quick to point out that natural phenomenon was more likely to blame.

      “I thought the question over weather was settled by the Ionic school of philosophy over half a millennium ago”, said a clearly perturbed Democritus. “Honestly, Caesar should stick to his Gallic conquests, but exploiting ignorance over natural phenonmena to make some sort of religious point . . . well, it’s really quite below his dignitas, and, by the way, insulting in general to the populus Romanus.”

      When Titus Labenius, a spokesman for Caesar, was asked about Hagee’s competing claim that it was in preparation for Jesus’ return, Labenius noted, “It’s 62 BC, Jesus won’t be born for another 58 years or so . . . so I couldn’t possibly comment.”

  • "Joe the Plumber": "Your dead kids don’t trump my Constitutional rights."
    • GrumpyWithoutCoffee 05/31/2014 at 8:06 am

      Your response utterly fails to address the issue of access. If one person is put at risk due to the failure to tackle this singular underlying issue then everyone is.

    • GrumpyWithoutCoffee 05/30/2014 at 4:54 pm

      Uhg! It's not just about the weapon but who has access to one. Not everyone should have the right to own a gun, period. And I speak as a farmer in a rural community where they are ubiquitous.

      What a relief to the dead that the gun could only shoot one round at a time.

    • Page: 1
    • This is just asinine. Most polls indicate Americans would like more regulations placed on gun ownership, and in fact the second amendment, as I noted in my initial comment this morning, has the term "well-regulated" in it. Hostility towards regulation is just the anarchist strain of jungle rule the Cretins in the GOP and their reptilian centrist allies (okay, that could also be occasional code for creatures like Clinton and Obama) dress up in under the guise of "free market" fundamentalism.

      But hey Jack, I'm sure you will be willing to pay for the medical care for the wounded and the psychological counseling for the traumatized, because, gosh, we live in a violent society and blaming the poor besieged NRA or fat cat a******s in congress is just out there.

    • Curse you Neal Postman – thou art mighty yet! So this is what the MSM will cover and popularize now? Mean-spirited screeds from so-called “conservatives” who are really just a bunch of cruel bigots who get blanket coverage while any substantive discourse is effectively shut down by the trifecta of the Rush-LaPierre-GOP alliance that will frog march the country to the realm of “Waaaah . . .. my rights . . . . waaaaaah . . . my rights!”

      My rights this, my rights that; I’m f*****g sick of hearing about rights on this issue. What about obligations? You know – to protect our children and families from gun wielding psychopaths. And what about the second amendment’s term about “well regulated”? What about the fact that in this day and age bearing arms will not, in fact, protect you from your paranoid fever dream about government tyranny, which, by the way, has long since slipped in through the back door. (Remember the 4th amendment and due process? I do!)

      The day is coming when we will simply need to outlaw the GOP and their ilk, since it has apparently morphed into a hate group. Because that is what the GOP has in essence become. Hatred of people in other parts of the world is a given on their part; they hate minorities; they clearly hate the poor, intellectuals, women, and now, apparently, victims of their policies.

      But this is no surprise. As the Roman author Tacitus states, one often hates those one wrongs. It is time to have a serious discussion that will get us to the bottom of the deep malaise that has infected our country, resulting in wealth disparity, violence, and environmental degradation. Oh, and let’s not forget a few nasty, unnecessary wars that have depleted our treasury, but far worse, damaged our moral standing and humanity.

  • Neil DeGrasse Tyson and Miles O’Brien slam CNN as the ‘Wal-Mart of journalism’
    • GrumpyWithoutCoffee 05/20/2014 at 12:20 pm

      All it takes is a comparison of the CNN website headlines this morning which is mostly fluff and “human interest” as opposed to, say, Democracy Now’s website which is covering (e.g.) Net Neutrality, the continued persecution of Occupy protesters, and further NSA shenanigans. The time is long past to rely on traditional news sources, including the so-called “serious” one’s such as the PBS Newshour. CNN is simply going to the place Neal Postman long ago said the traditional media were taking us.

      What I really hate is that in my lifetime it has been my great privilege to meet many intelligent people with all manner of perspective about how to approach and resolve various fundamental and important issues that affect all of us. And the scope of opinion given to us on PBS is Brooks and Shields? Excuse me? Where are the voices of the true progressives, of the greens, the socialists, of the occupy movement, of those who favor a more cooperative economic and social model, yes, even the few remaining communists. Instead we are limited to false dichotomies and false equivalencies and a very narrow range of views.

      And for my money, in terms of false “balance”, no one cut to the chase quite as well as John Oliver and his rightfully derisive calling of bullshit on the false equivalency argument concerning human induced global warming a couple of weeks ago. Frankly, as a farmer, the GOP playing games with our food supply (because that what ignoring this threat has been) is not funny or cute – it is going to kill us, period.

  • Rush Limbaugh: Pope Francis using UN to impose Marxism on world
    • GrumpyWithoutCoffee 05/11/2014 at 8:29 pm

      Indeed. Recently I’ve become engrossed in AMC’s Walking Dead. And it occurs to me, that we are as the survivors in the show, in which the walkers reign supreme and others are left scrambling for the leftovers; the walkers consume everything in their wake utterly unaware, walking in darkness, destroying all in their wake (for walkers read media-corporate-military-political-class plus their hordes of supporters walking blindly over the cliff of corporate fascism/climate/environmental degradation). Meanwhile we are left to pick up the pieces and put life back together – somehow . . . eventually . . . maybe. Rush is simply a part of the virus, infecting everything he touches. Jesus’ teaching – yes, they could save us, if we could trust, have faith, feed, house, and shelter the least among us – give them a future. But Jesus’ teachings and those who interpret them as God’s injunction to help his or her fellow man or woman, well, they just don’t speak to socio-paths such as Rush – or Antonin Scalia, or Paul Ryan, or Ted Cruz, or, well, insert any number of self righteous M*****F*****S you care to name who love to cite Jesus but apparently hate his ministry.

  • Alabama’s chief justice: Muhammad didn’t create us so 1st Amendment only protects Christians
    • GrumpyWithoutCoffee 05/03/2014 at 12:36 pm

      Oooof! Thanks Roy Moore (how 'bout no Moore Roy!) for that generous splash of stupid acid in our face on a Saturday morning.

      Of course the Vikings may have predated the Pilgrims, so my money is not protecting the rights of free expression for anyone who doesn't acknowledge the sovereignty of Odin and Thor and who does not believe that the eventual destination of the soul is Valhalla (after, of course, being burned a la Kirk Douglas on a Viking Ship), where everyone enjoys lots of fighting, tankards of Mead and feasts on thick slices of Spam (that is, if you believe in the Monty Python heresy) for all eternity.

      Ultimately, therefore, the Constitution only protects those of us who wear long beards, broad swords, chain mail, horned helmets and worship idols. So sorry Roy Moore, your historical analysis is flawed and has been found WANTING.

  • Fox censors ‘Scientific American’ editor on Climate Change because, Future
    • GrumyWithoutCoffee 05/01/2014 at 4:41 pm

      Well Mr. McPhee, welcome to what is known around our house as the “Dred Nexus”, by which we mean the perfect storm of an irresponsible media a political atmosphere that makes it impossible to address an existential threat, a powerful corporate sector that increases the severity of that threat, and a PR industry that confounds the public about its true dimensions. It was bound to happen sooner or later – I had just hoped for later. Incidentally, we see today that Mr. Moyer is the target of a hate mail campaign incited by FOX.

      So, to answer your question: when the powerful have it in their interest to ignore science and can play out the clock until environmental collapse, I would say there is no recovery to be had.

  • Top 5 Signs Cliven Bundy is Wrong about African-Americans
    • GrumpyWithoutCoffee 04/26/2014 at 8:03 am

      You forgot the Top Five Signs Cliven Bundy’s Racism is not an Outlier but the GOP Norm

      1. Five words: 1988, Lee Atwater, Willy Horton.

      2. It’s the GOP that wants to repeal voting rights and use voter identification to suppress minority voters.

      3. GOP budgets, such as that recently proposed by rep. Paul Ryan, invariably contain cuts to social welfare expenditures that hit minorities and minority children very very hard, and, by the way, often contain coded racist phrasing.

      4. Both the verbal and media rhetoric used against the sitting president by the GOP and its supporters is frequently tinged with a racist element or designed to emphasize his “otherness”.

      5. The Tea Party wing of the GOP has not even tried to hide its vile racism, for which there is copious documentation (link to, for example, link to

      And I just have to say it: Really Cliven? “Negro”, at this late date? Ugh! Someday we may need to simply ban this party and its offshoots.

  • This Saudi prince is accused of killing 2,000 endangered birds while on safari in Pakistan
    • GrumpyWithoutCoffee 04/23/2014 at 3:32 pm

      "It's not known whether he'll face any punishment."

      Yes it is - he won't. What - oh darned, now he'll need to find another hunting preserve?

  • The New 1% isn't just the Rich, it is the Spoiled Oligarch Heirs (Krugman)
    • GrumpyWithoutCoffee 04/19/2014 at 9:27 pm

      None of this is too surprising.

      Go to:

      link to

      The link contains the study published by Gilens and Page at Princeton that tells us, wonder of wonders, that the US is no longer a democracy but an oligarchy.

      In a related article, see the NYT on Paul Kingsnorth and the end of the world. The wealthy are in control, they have decided that the death of the planet is in their best interest. Go to:

      link to

      My advice: follow Paul and get a farm. Thank the gods I'm over 50 and won't live to see 2100 - or probably 2050 for that matter.

      The eco-system of the Indian Ocean has now collapsed and the Greenland ice-shelf is slipping away, and . . . hey, look everyone, Chelsea Clinton's pregnant. A conspiracy? We report, you decide . . . ugh!

  • If Jesus had a wife, would it change the GOP War on Women?
    • GrumpyWithoutCoffee 04/15/2014 at 7:31 am

      Brian, Jesus had nothing to say about abortion or homosexuality - anything in the New Testament about this is Pauline. How the hell does one "cite" that angles don't dance on pinheads? Scholars cite evidence that exists, and there is no evidence that Jesus preached on these matters which have become a focal point of the modern GOP.

      And let's just cut the crap - as I've pointed out in comments on this blog before, the NT was written in Greek a generation or two after the Aramaic speaking Jesus died. We can recover almost nothing about him historically and are left with a bare shadow of his teachings - which appear to have been quite radical.

      Moreover what we can recover of his teachings is so fundamentally at odds with the violent, materialist, free market world view of modern conservatism it makes one's head swim. Plan and simple, modern conservatives embrace the fire and brimstone of the OT and utterly reject the message of compassion of the NT.

    • Jesus found to have preached a socially progressive message. Will it change GOP attitudes towards the least among us?

      Jesus discovered to have forgiven criminal on the cross. Will it change GOP attitudes towards crime and punishment?

      Jesus discovered to have preached worldly wealth fundamentally at odds with spiritual fulfillment. Will it change GOP attitudes towards capitalism and the free market?

      Jesus discovered to have said nothing about homosexuality and abortion. Will it change GOP attitudes towards these two social issues?

      Jesus turns out to have shown compassion towards the poor. Will it change GOP attitudes towards poverty?

      Just sayin’.

  • George W. Bush Used Top Google Results For All His Paintings; Is he in Legal Trouble?
    • GrumpyWithoutCoffee 04/10/2014 at 8:54 am

      "Huh, well, I don't know what the artist got for that work but he shoulda got life!" Bush is as bad an "artist" as he was a president. An ex president doing self portraits of himself in the shower? That's not only nuts, it's icky. Fair use is the least of the issues here. Compare former president Carter, who is exemplary in his role as former president. But hey, he wrecked two countries (Iraq and our own), further damaged a third (Afghanistan), and in essence destroyed the Constitution, so what's a few canvasses?

  • "Some say the world will end in fire:" Climate Panel Paints Mad Max World of Famine, Fire, War
    • GrumpyWithoutCoffee 04/01/2014 at 4:24 pm

      Ooof. The moral equivalency – it burns it burns! Because shining a light on hard science that can almost never get an airing in the msm, because addressing concern about the future of the planet and our children on it, because taking a hard cold look at the science and actually relating what it tells us about the future in hopes of avoiding disaster, despite the fact that you and others might not like the truth of that science, is roughly the same methodology used by those fearful of the solutions to the catastrophe and intent on the planet’s death spiral: i.e., the denialists, the GOP, the Koch Brothers, etc. etc. ad infinitem. Right? Right?!

      So much for slouching to Gomorrah – anyone for striding to Apocalypse? I’ll look forward to hearing your interview someday on NPR as you explain that there’s some sort of halfway compromise between those who believe in torture and those who don’t. It’s the same mindset after all.

  • Walmart Admits that its Business Model Requires Employees to Depend on Food Stamps
    • GrumpyWithoutCoffee 03/31/2014 at 1:36 pm

      Again, read the link under the byline of the initial post. While there has been no definitive study on the issue, it is indisputable that Walmart, half of whose earnings now come from groceries, is also one of the largest SNAP (possibly the largest SNAP) beneficiaries in the country. Check out Marion Nestle's discussion at:

      link to

      As for intellectual dishonesty and laziness, again it appears you have yet to go over the report in the link under the byline. The upshot is that there is a pretty hefty body of evidence that indicates that not only do Walmart employees rely inordinately on SNAP, but that Walmart double-dips by actually profiting from the program. That is to say, Walmart is in no small part a tax-payer supported enterprise. Again, I strongly urge people to read Marion Nestle on this issue - she is an outstanding blogger on the politics of food in this country.

    • GrumpyWithoutCoffee 03/31/2014 at 9:17 am

      It appears that Dave either did not read or is willfully misrepresenting the report about Walmart provided in the link under the byline. As one who has worked in food banks I can state that it is unfortunately not uncommon for members of the business community (i.e., the so-called “job creators”) to be utterly clueless about the lives led by their employees.

      Often these people are simply unaware that their businesses do not provide a living wage to their employees. When told that their employees are patrons of the local food bank they are stunned – this is especially inexcusable in small poor communities where they can walk into any of the local stores and see an employee working elsewhere to make ends meet. Two jobs? Food stamps? Of course, because we’ve decided that a harsh existence is somehow “toughening” and that “pulling oneself up by one’s bootstraps” is character building and essential to American identity.

      Of course this is nonsense: lack of a living wage law in this country is nothing less than wage slavery. It impoverishes families, children, and life in general. It is a form of exploitation, and yes Dave, a system of Evil (of which Walmart is a part), especially when it leads, as it often does, to child neglect, malnutrition, and despair.

  • Is Paul Ryan a Racist? Or Just Exponent of the "White Man's Party"?
    • GrumpyWithoutCoffee 03/29/2014 at 2:42 pm

      Obvious indeed, and the debate is a ridiculous one. But the “You Did Not See What You Just Saw/You Did Not Hear What Your Just Heard” industry, led by hypocritical polemicists such as Andrew Sullivan, has led to a crisis of both intellectual and moral dimensions. It reminds me of fifth century Athens, in which sophists served to create something of a crisis in confidence of morality through deliberate moral obfuscation, professionally going about attempting to make the weaker argument the stronger.

      Is Paul Ryan a racist? The question is moot. Is there anthropogenic global warming? The question is moot. Is waterboarding torture? The question is moot.

      What’s not moot is that Paul Ryan has ideas and pushed policies based on creatures such as Ayn Rand that would effectively attack the least among us. That makes him a bad Catholic, a bad politician, and a bad man – but a wonderful and magnificent cretin.

  • Donald Rumsfeld: A "Trained Ape" would be better at U.S. diplomacy than Obama
  • Climate Change is hitting us Now & will only Worsen: When will We Start Acting Like Adults?
    • GrumpyWithoutCoffee 03/25/2014 at 9:11 pm

      As one of your fellow Oregonians my advice to you is, if you have not done so already, buy a farm in the lovely countryside somewhere in our state and stop spitting in the wind. As an adjunct history professor I am sorry to state that the game is over – history is the story of children with matches, of madmen with knives (a perspective some will call realist, others defeatist). Way back in 1988 I lamented to the professor from whom I learned Greek that we had to do something about climate change. I will never forget his prophetic dismissal of my concern: “We aren’t going to do anything about it. We are going to go on until one day we wake up and just can’t go on anymore”. I dismissed him as cynical, but he was right.

      Running a small farm helps me to understand the human dynamics of climate change. Animals will, contrary to their own interest, consume everything in sight that they can eat until there is nothing left; they manure in their own house; they befoul with their excreta the very water they drink. It offers something of a metaphor for human environmental devastation. The Europeans came to our beautiful Pacific Northwest and within a very short space of time polluted its rivers (would anyone eat a sturgeon out of the Columbia or Willamette these days?), ruined much of its temperate rain forest, and seriously degraded its fisheries. As a boy I saw tuna the size of small cars unloaded on the docks of Astoria – where are they now?

      Now we want to run carbon fuels along the rails and highways of the northwest to our ports – carbon that comes back to bite us in our oceans, rivers, and lakes. What a grotesque sick joke that, when we should be fighting climate change, we are instead having to fight the 35% of the rubes who consistently vote for the vast criminal enterprise that is the GOP, and the GOP itself – who are fighting mightily to bring about ecological apocalypse, and, in fact, arguably view this very act as a source of pride if not actually fundamental to their tribal identity (not that the Dems have been as forthcoming about the nature of this crisis as they should be – certainly not!). And they have enormous financial resources on which to draw. What is Green Peace, or the Sierra Club, or compared to the deep pockets of Koch and Exxon? Nothing.

      The politics is screwed up, the public is befuddled if not actively apathetic (nay, hostile), and the sands in the hourglass have about run out to act. No Alexander will show up to cut this Gordion Knot (hell, the senate is set to go back to the party of those set on destroying the planet) – to quote King Agamemnon from Homer’s Iliad, “Let us each man go to his own country”. Or, as Juan Cole wrote of Iraq in 2005: “Sometimes you are just screwed”. This time it just happens to be the minor cosmos that is our biosphere that appears to be in the cross hairs.

  • Creationists to Neil deGrasse Tyson: Evolution isn’t scientific, but the Book of Genesis is
    • Hmm, let’s see. First of all, Christianity is the predominate religion in the US, and drives the base of the wealthiest most powerful political party, (which happens also at this late date to be a criminal enterprise). Islam, Buddhism, etc., are pretty marginalized and simply do not have the political power or clout in our political discourse. Christianism in its present form in the US at times variously poses a clear and present danger as it actively obstructs a number of pressing issues that merit immediate address, including human driven climate change, stem cell research, and other forms of research and development of any other number of technologies one could mention. The modern GOP and their assorted freak show of 700 Club stooges actively obstruct and obfuscate, by pouring millions of dollars to confuse and confound the public on a variety of issues for which scientific understanding is essential, and which they aggressively deride.

      As for free speech - you don’t need to gut the First Amendment to suppress free speech – you just pour millions of dollars into a campaign, say, to convince a supine public that the environmentally criminal organization that is Koch or Exxon are in fact great supporters of Green Energy; or you become a shill like George Stephanopoulis or David Gregory and give a voice to power every Sunday rather than a voice to those who will challenge it. Or you fund conservative think tanks for 30 or 40 years that put out position papers that then get reported as “news”. Hence the powerful talk about and analyze the Occupy Movement on the Sunday shows, but to get a critical mass of actual voices of the Occupy Movement represented on the Sunday shows (as opposed to the Koch funded Tea Party), is literally impossible. Your definition and understanding of how free expression works in this country seems naïve to me in the extreme (sorry if that sounds ad homninem, but I need to call ‘em as I see ‘em).

      When alternative discourse gets driven out from the main stream, a site and service such as Professor Cole provides becomes an important public space for real democracy, where opinions, perspectives, and voices that will never be heard on the MSM get to be aired at the very least. Worked up? The fate of the planet is being decided by a political faction in a single country that has captured our national legislature, and they are actively hostile to the type of science Tyson is presenting to the public. If you haven’t noticed, Greenland is melting, the oceans acidifying, and we are in the midst of a breathtaking mass extinction not seen in tens of millions of years, and it is our doing. Yeah, we’re worked up over nonsense. It is noted though, that you have a most peculiar definition of nonsense.

    • GrumpyWithoutCoffee 03/25/2014 at 9:50 am

      Oooof - The stupid, it burns! It burns! How do people this dumb get on television? Look, if Genesis is a scientific tract, then so too is Hesiod’s Theogony, since it too, describes the origins of the cosmos; the Enuma Elish is as well; so is Ovid’s Metamorphoses, since they tell us their own versions of the origins of the universe. Hell, while we’re at it, why not just throw out Chomsky’s work on linguistics and use Herodotus, who had a thing or two to say about the origins of human language, all of them quite silly of course.

      As to the “word of God”, ugh! So many ancient texts claim to be the word of god that it is literally impossible to privilege one over the other. What about Homer? What about Hesiod? What about Pindar? What about Socrates (via Plato)? (To be Hellenocentric). All claim divine inspiration, so good luck with setting one truth above the other.

      As to the claim for scientific “facts” in the Bible, this reader would like some hard evidence to back up that laughable claim – even the historical “facts” contained in both the Old and New Testament don’t pass a fairly cursory sniff test, and (contra the Israeli tourist board) are usually blown out of the water by modern archaeology (you know, um . . . SCIENCE!) E.g., there is no evidence for habitation of Jericho as a major bronze age community when it was allegedly destroyed by Joshua, so good luck bringing down its non-existent walls.

      The biggest difference between individuals such as Sagan or Tyson and Comfort is that Sagan and Tyson come from a community that recognizes knowledge as dynamic, that today’s truth could be tomorrow’s discarded absurdity; Comfort does not – he is dogmatic. And by the by, it is such dogmatism that the pagan intellectual community found, in part, so offensive about Christianity as it arose to prominence in the second and third centuries CE: how, asked Neoplatonists such as Prophyry and Celsus, can one be so certain about so profound a mystery?

      It is frustrating in the extreme that academics in the field of ancient studies let people like Comfort have a field day and dominate the discussion and do not, in a more public fashion, call bullshit on all this incoherent, and, by the way, essentially primitive babble.

  • Journalists should stop 'balancing' stories with Science Denialists: Cosmos's Neil DeGrasse Tyson
    • GrumpyWithoutCoffee 03/10/2014 at 11:41 am

      I think any academic, be s/he scientist or humanist, appreciates that knowledge is dynamic, that today’s dogma is tomorrow’s discard. The difficulty is that many religions, particularly Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, demand a dogmatic belief about the nature of the universe that is either at odds with such dynamism or which struggles to reconcile dynamism with dogma. This is something that ancient Roman writers found offensive on the part Christians – that there was a single path and solution to the nature of the universe and God that had to be accepted and did not save room for error or dynamic explanations. Celsus and Porphyry were among Neo-Platonists who took the early Christian community to task for ex cathedra certitudes about such profound mysteries. The assertion of absolute knowledge and certainty concerning God and (in general) the nature and origin of the cosmos on the part of certain religions is about as arrogant as it gets.

      Religion might address value, meaning, and purpose, but if it is built on shadows and fictions, what is behind the ultimate validity of value, meaning, and purpose?

      In the end I remain on the side of science - which tangibly treats diabetes, builds computers, sends vehicles to Mars, and produces Ibuprofen for the headaches all this religious mumbo-jumbo creates.

  • What today's GOP gets Wrong about Leadership: Obama & Eisenhower, Russian & Israeli Recklessness
    • GrumpyWithoutCoffee 03/04/2014 at 10:16 pm

      Shorter Mr. Dabney:

      I love Thucydides. I love Victor David Hanson. The strong do what they wish and the weak suffer what they must! Let’s conquer the world because it’s dangerous and we’s gots security interests. Oh . . . conquering the world creates resentment and danger? Let’s do it anyway! Bombing Lebanon in the 80s? Bases in Saudi? Sign me up and damn the lingering resentments! Hey, the Vietnamese and El Salvadorans and Iranians rolled over – EVERYONE will roll over – we’re f****ing Amercia, f**k yeah! Damn the blow back! If C+ history was good enough for W. it’s good enuf for me! Oh sure, the WaPo has been wrong on most everything – so statistically they gotta have this one down! Right?! Right?! Es lebe Frederick Hiatt, es lebe unsere Folk! I have a window on the future and the dark door of war doth not apply to moi.

      Obama? Damned if he does damned if he doesn’t . . . because, well, Muslim? Black? Lefty?

      Congrats, one out of three correct ain’t bad – at least your record of error is better than Bill Kristol’s. Now, back to your imperial keyboard where you can conquer the Earth one character at a time.

  • The GOP, Race and Ted Nugent: If you won't Denounce Nazi Insults, What does that Say about You?
    • GrumpyWithoutCoffee 02/22/2014 at 8:35 am

      Hmmm, let’s see. We had the be-sainted Ronald Reagan coining the racist code word “Welfare Queen” in 1976. We had the toxic Lee Atwater exploit Willy Horton and the fear of black men raping white women in Bush’s 1988 campaign. This has been and continues to be followed by a myriad of efforts on the right to keep people of color from voting. Then there is the general hatred in the GOP of the Other – GBLTs, women, and anyone from the global south – and their sustained efforts to block full civil, economic, and political rights for anyone who doesn’t look or act quite right or in accordance to their extremely narrow interpretation of scripture.

      Ted Nugent is not an aberration; he is, rather, the product of the natural historic trajectory of the modern GOP. Ugly, no?

  • Bill Nye Science Guy to Debate GOP Rep Gohmert on Gravity
    • Yeah I saw that episode with Gomert and Nye. It wasn’t nearly as good though as the debate Gregory hosted the week before between Jesus and Tom Perkins asking the question, “Should we show compassion towards the dispossessed, or hold them down firmly on the ground while billionaires urinate on them?” My favorite part was when Jesus said it was easier for the camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. Perkins accused Jesus of class warfare and Gregory agreed that we would tear the country apart with such inflammatory discourse; Gregory then asked Jesus to tone it down with Perkins barking over him as he demanded a retraction and called Jesus a Stalinist.

      Perkins then regaled Jesus with a lecture over the supreme justice and fairness of the Roman political and social system under which he lived, instructing him that the arrogance of the Roman senatorial class, including their frequent pillaging of provinces, was justified since they were the Empire’s job creators. When Jesus pointed out that many worked under the lash without pay until they suffered a lingering nasty death, Perkins denied this was in any way damaging to the stability of the empire, despite recent major rebellions in Sicily and Italy (led by Spartacus), while Gregory sat complacently by without challenging any of Perkins’ assertions or putting them in their larger contexts.

      “They just need to work harder in those silver mines and quarries and pull themselves up by their sandal straps”, Perkins continued. When Jesus pointed out most were unshod and went barefoot, Gregory accused Jesus of going off point, prostrated himself at the feet of Perkins, and begged forgiveness for his lack of fairness to the multi-billionaire. Perkins made an odd face as Gregory drooled while kissing the crimson stripe of his toga praetexta. The debate ended with Perkins washing his hands in a silver bowl after having his lictors haul Jesus off to an uncertain fate. “There’s no notion of social justice so deep that it can’t be beaten out of a man with a few rods and an ax”, Perkins was caught to say on an open mic.

      Next up, an exclusive interview with anarchist Rand Paul arguing that guvmint telling us which side of the road to drive on is tantamount to tyranny, with Dancing Dave asking the vital question, “Attila the Hun type tyranny or Caligula type tyranny?”

  • Camel Bones and Jerusalem: Archeology Shows Bible written Late, Full of Errors
    • GrumpyWithoutCoffee 02/06/2014 at 10:11 am

      A great update on so-called Biblical archaeology – so-called because so much of it turns out to be completely wrong, and it doesn’t take an Israeli archaeologist to tell us that. It has been known for quite some time that the literary and archaeological record of the Bible simply fail, for the most part, to correspond. Robin Lane Fox’s fine book, The Unauthorized Version: Truth and Fiction in the Bible, is an excellent piece of scholarship that explores the difficulties one faces in attempting to connect history with biblical literature.

      As an example: the gospel of Luke implies that Herod the Great was king of Judaea at the same time the Roman governor of Syria was Publius Sulpicius Quirinius. Well, good luck with all that – Herod had been dead for a decade once Quirinius undertook his governorship. Again, Luke states that Caesar Augustus (d. AD 14) ordered all the world to be taxed. Again, good luck with that: the empire was not universally taxed until Caracalla (d. 217) granted (near) universal Roman citizenship.

      As for biblical anachronism, this is a phenomenon familiar to any historian of ancient Rome who deals with early Roman history. The great Roman historian Livy, for example, emphasizes in his early narrative of Roman history the struggle between the nobility and the plebeians, a conflict that that was far more acute in recent Roman history, during the time of Livy and the two or three generations immediately proceeding him, and probably colored his narrative of events two to five centuries before his own day.

      The problems reconstructing the past using even ancient historians, such as Thucydides and Polybius, who are somewhat respected for their relative accuracy, are legion; to try and build a modern nation-state based on an ancient source is the task of a fool who is wedded to what is tantamount to mumbo-jumbo.

      By the way, the attempt to nation build based on ancient texts has been done before. That text was the Germania by the greatest of the Roman historians, Tacitus, and that nation was the modern Germany. The work contrasts at key points Germanic virtue, probity, and freedom, against Roman decadence. The text was read in some circles as proof of German superiority over inferior peoples, and we all know how that turned out (see C. B. Krebs, A Most Dangerous Book, [New York, 2011]).

  • Unbalanced: 85 Super-Wealthy own as Much as Half the World's Population
    • Your whole argument is based on the notion that consumption is desirable, however the ensuing environmental degradation of such consumption is, as usual in such comments, ignored. The consumption patterns of the US alone is unsustainable, let alone that of the west in general; once India and China come online environmental damage will only increase exponentially.

      That apart though, your augment is utter nonsense: consumers - a disparate and disorganized citizenry from a political standpoint - cannot and have not purchased the political process. They may be able to punish (say) Burger King (say it used tomatoes based on slave labor in Florida), but a disparately elected congress with its diverse representatives from different states and districts? HA! Sheer Balderdash!

      Consumers my ass - this is about legislative capture by the corporate/media/politcal elite.

    • Pure piffle. Try being born into great poverty - with all the attendant loss of opportunity, food insecurity, and poor health. Congratulations - you are either a troll from the universe of the 1% or have a serious case of Stockholm Syndrome - either way not pretty.

  • About that Country you Destroyed: A Letter to George W. Bush
    • GrumpyWithoutCoffee 01/08/2014 at 8:06 pm

      Amen - ultimately a populace that likes to indulge collectively in its reptilian side is to blame.

    • GrumpyWithoutCoffee 01/08/2014 at 9:27 am

      It was in the end the Supreme Court that halted further Florida recounts. A number of subsequent studies, by, e.g., UPenn, UFlorida, and the National Opinion Research Center at U/Chicago, all conclude that had the recount been allowed to go forward Gore would have been the likely winner.

      Fairness and Accuracy in the Media has been a critic of media outlets for not reporting sufficiently on these studies and their outcomes. My sense at the time, too, was that, as usual, the Dems fell down on the job in fighting for and protecting their supporters and constituency (surprise surprise!); the Republicans, because they are all about power and nothing but, were of course going to fight tooth and claw to steal this one, right down to stacking the deck with elite operatives posing as Joe Six-Pack protesters, such as John "I Stole Wilford Brimley's Moustach" Bolton.

      Nader might deserve some blame, but it is the feckless nature of the Democratic party, that plays a weak parent to the Republicans' screaming brat, that is largely to blame.

  • The Sixth Mass Extinction: Why Climate Scientists' Hair is on Fire
    • GrumpyWithoutCoffee 12/18/2013 at 9:40 am

      We await the comments on this post that will be quick to tell us of American benevolence and how there are much worse actors than us – say China and India with their explosive “growth”. The truth is no one ever sought to put the brakes on our way of life, to challenge us as to whether our mode of life was desirable, let alone sustainable or physically possible. That we are on a collision course with history and nature is nothing new to people such as myself whose livelihood comes, in part, from working the land.

      And can we doubt how bad of an actor we in the US are in all of this? Forget how little leadership has been show on this issue by all concerned; we have an entire political party and ideology that actively denies there is even a problem and controls the discourse to the point where environmental matters are still considered fringe/lefty/crunchy-granola topics that the media tends to avoid like the toxins our corporate sector seems intent on pumping into the biosphere.

      So the next time comments on Juan’s blog challenge the level of malice the U.S. visits abroad, or take issue with the level of corruption in the U.S. political-corporate-media-military complex, just recall a simple statistic: we have 4% of the world’s population but use 20% of its resources. Fine, we’ve won hearts and minds. But we’re quickly losing the oceans, the artic, the phytoplankton, the arable land, the Boreal forests, the permafrost. Martin Luther King was right: the US remains the greatest destructive force in the world today – and in a far more lethal way than his original remarks had in mind.

      We have collectively become the story of Erysichthon, who violated Demeter’s sacred grove and as punishment for the sacrilege was visited with insatiable hunger until he finally consumed even himself.

  • Top Ten Ominous Signs about Last Month being the Hottest November on Record
    • GrumpyWithoutCoffee 12/18/2013 at 9:07 pm

      I would point out Juan that scientist only recently have consolidated global temps so that they can take global averages. What matters is the average temps of those collected from around the globe, and the average is up - way up.

      Average lows have gone way up in particular, and that is particularly worrying. And as a food producer whose fruit and animals depend on hard freezes which are substantially less dependable than some years ago I am horrified.

      I hate to sound like Jeremiah, but this is not prophecy but hard science and facts on the ground: we are at the end, and I don't care how repetitive it sounds, I will say it again and again.

  • The 1% is Hogging so much of our Income that it's Holding the Economy Back
    • GrumpyWithoutCoffee 12/15/2013 at 10:25 pm

      Uhg! If the rich pay taxes that is because they benefit from the infrastructure to which the rest of us, indeed, all of us, contribute. The top 1% pay 30.8% of their income on taxes. The lowest 20% pay 16% of their income on taxes, not none as you erroneously assert. Moreover, a billionaire who pays 50%, hell, 70, 80, 90% on taxes faces zero hardship; someone who earns 33k a year and pays 16% on taxes will likely face considerable burden.

      Moreover I find your argument vague. What do you mean, huge factors to the economy and upward mobility? Just what are you implying?

      But it really doesn’t matter: anyone who argues for the power structure in this country at this point suffers from a pretty serious case of Stockholm Syndrome – either that, or is a hack who benefits from our disastrous “system”.

    • “Those workers are also consumers”.

      And herein rests the real problem. Arguments and discussions such as the one above are always tied, it seems to me, with growth and consumption; but inherent in that consumption is resource depletion and environmental degradation. Hence we face a truly horrible conundrum: how do we create prosperity, or even, at the very least, meet minimal requirements that support freedom, health, and the pursuit of happiness, and at the same time live in a way that keeps the planet livable and life sustainable?

      Even liberal columnists such as Paul Krugman rarely connect the dots; hence plenty of columns about stimulating growth tied to consumption, even as he rolls his eyes at climate change deniers. But with a couple of billion more humans looming in the population math, coupled with income inequality, environmental free-fall, and a largely tech-addled and entertainment-addicted public, I don’t see an exit strategy for us, and certainly no frank discussions about the paradigm shift required if we are to survive as a species. Income equality may, unfortunately, soon become the least of our troubles.

      Any commenter could respond to this with arguments about the green economy and green energy as a tool for growth – but that assumes the political will to implement it, and folks – near as I can tell we ain’ts gots it!

      As Juan put it succinctly in his post on May 25, 2005: Sometimes you are just screwed.

  • Photo of the Day: Was St. Nicholas "White"?
    • GrumpyWithoutCoffee 12/14/2013 at 6:57 pm

      There were no "English" people AD 0-500 (nor were there "French" or "Italian" or "Spanish" people - yet!). The recently evacuated Roman province of Britannia was a melange of Celts, Romans, and Germanic peoples, with the invasions of the Angles, Saxons and Jutes yet to happen - forget the Danes and the Normans.

      As for Jesus, if he existed he probably looked a helluva lot more like Yasser Arafat than Max von Sydow. Polemics aside, how one depicts Jesus is culturally determinate: the early Christian community depicted him as a beardless youth, sometimes depicted him as an "roans" figure (i.e., one orating), and not infrequently he was depicted variously as a magician, Orpheus, or Hercules (early Christian artists sometimes couldn't make up their minds).

      I don't recall seeing a bearded Jesus until quite late (by my standards - i.e. fifth century AD). Bearded Easter Bunnies of course became fashionable in Renaissance England and have stuck ever since.

  • United States, Israel opposed Mandela, supported Apartheid
    • GrumpyWithoutCoffee 12/06/2013 at 6:47 am

      This is absolutely spot on. It recalls what has happened with Martin Luther King - he's safe as a civil rights leader and pioneer, but in the popular media his championing of economic justice and equality is studiously suppressed, as is his anti-war stance and criticism of US policy abroad.

  • GOP: No Climate Change because, Bible
    • GrumpyWithoutCoffee 12/05/2013 at 11:03 pm

      Ugh! Look, Homer claimed to speak the divine word. Hesiod claimed to speak the divine word. Pindar claimed to speak the divine word. So too did Socrates. Livy claimed divine sanction for the Roman people in his history, in an almost identical way the Hebrews claim a sacred text from Yahweh.

      With so many people claiming divine authority, how the hell do you decide which text, which voice, to privilege?

      Pretty goofy, and pure mumbo-jumbo: and those are not my words. Cicero in the De Divinatione noted that two augurs couldn’t pass one another in the street without smirking.

      It boggles the mind that anyone could see fit to live based on a single text whose origin is so nebulous and whose divine authority is . . . bunk. Perhaps we should live according only to the ancient Roman laws of the Twelve Tables: they were, after all, handed down by the god at Delphi.

      All of this is moot though – the idea that we will set policy according to the words of an ancient Near Eastern text smacks of a society that hasn’t progressed much further than the Neolithic.

  • Top 10 Ways the US is the Most Corrupt Country in the World
    • GrumpyWithoutCoffee 12/06/2013 at 4:11 pm

      Corruption is one thing, destructive power another. When a single country with 4% of the population consumes roughly 20% of the planet's resources on an unsustainable and destructive level with all of the attendant global environmental, political, and demographic pressures that entails, it is, de facto, the most destructive country on the globe. Its utter lack of political will in addressing its excessive consumerism when the environmental consequences are at this late date self-evident, is virtually sui generis, and itself a form of corruption, perhaps the worst.

    • GrumpyWithoutCoffee 12/05/2013 at 11:10 pm

      Sheer special pleading. We're sorry Bill. Okay, we'll ditch masses since it's no longer stylish enough for you. How about "people"? "Popular consciousness"? "People at large"? "The majority"? Just let us know because god forbid we keep on point.

    • GrumpyWithoutCoffee 12/03/2013 at 12:46 pm

      Mr. McPhee’s phrase “And the individuals who have figured out how to profitably sucker and kill the rest of us, wholesale and retail, will live their really Large lives and pass away free from any consequences…” frankly carries more weight than all of your impressive but misguided command of facts and figures regarding foreign policy and modern history combined. Hard science tells us (as succinctly put in the energy graphic posted by Prof. Cole this morning, but much better put in physicist Saul Griffth’s lectures available online) that the U.S. is a bad actor, nay the worst, in terms of its consumption habits.

      “Kill the rest of us wholesale and retail” pretty well hits the nail on the head of where we are going. There is zero wrong with the term “awakening the masses” when it comes to global climate change and environmental catastrophe. A look at any number of studies concerning issues of national importance allows one to see how low on the list of priorities this is for most Americans. It is almost in direct proportion as apathetic to the situation as the scientific community’s alarm is great. And we are running out of time. I take Mr. McPhee’s comment to mean awaken them as to the severity of that crisis.

      I respect people such as yourself and Prof. Cole who have an impressive knowledge of particular areas. But the truth is that all of this nattering – and at this point that is what it is – about foreign policy is simply rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic. Collectively as a nation we are putting enormous pressure on the environment that cannot be sustained and asking others to bear the consequences. That a distracted populace now knows more about Paul Walker’s death than human driven environmental degradation stems in no small part from the system Prof. Cole has outlined this morning.

  • Climate-Changing US Methane Emissions 2.7 Times Higher than Estimates (Chamberlain)
    • GrumpyWithoutCoffee 11/30/2013 at 11:11 am

      If you want still more dire news about the climate and the environment there is plenty. Check out

      and follow the links to the two lecture videos by physicist and engineer Saul Griffith. They are hair-raising. And the US is certainly not a benevolent power in all of this, despite special pleading by some.

  • John F. Kennedy's Thanksgiving Ideals, 1962-- How different they are from Ours
    • This is the "look at the milk Johnny spilled" argument to deflect from one's own defects. The issue is not the policy of other countries but our own. So let's look at the past 50 years. Hmmm, hundreds of thousands of dead in SE Asia at the hands of the US on specious pretexts, goodness knows how many dead in Central America on a baseless fear of a communist beachhead, and lord knows how much devastation and destruction in the Middle and Near East as we attempt to maintain hegemony over the region. Let's not even get into Iraq and Iran.

      Then there's the deal-sealer: wasteful abuse of the human resources in this country on a breath-taking scale, and a political party that is effectively blocking any hope of saving the biosphere from lethal doses of CO2 and methane.

      It is duly noted that Bill has a strange sense of the word "benevolence".

    • GrumpyWithoutCoffee 11/28/2013 at 8:58 am

      An excellent post for Thanksgiving Juan!

      Kennedy’s words were simple and gracious enough. But how is it possible that we have become so willfully neglectful not just of Kennedy’s words, but of the teachings and wisdom of Socrates, of Jesus, of Martin Luther King? Why did we praise, only to dismiss, the warnings of the hero of D-Day about the military industrial complex? How can it be that the Founders are so revered even as the Constitution is so disregarded? How can the intelligence and hard work of our greatest minds in the scientific community come to be so maligned?

      Gott in Himmel! my grandmother used to say.

      The answer is simple: several generations of very hard work by very angry, hateful, and self-serving creatures – a foul stew of Kochs, Bushes, Atwaters, Roves, Ailes, and the like - who decided they did not like opportunity and equality for all and decided that by the time they were done with the country that most of us would not recognize it. And now we do not. That is why the great liberal media outlet NPR holds debates about torture (debate about torture? Really!?!?) That is why audience members at GOP “debates” cheer for people dying for lack of access to health care. That is why we give the 3% of scientists who deny human driven global warming equal weight to the 97% who view it as a virtual certainty. That is why Obama, who rules to the center right of Reagan, is railed at by the right as a Marxist.

      Ultimately, however, I think the best explanation for what has happened in the past 50 years or so is best summed up by our third president:

      "[W]hen the people give way, their deceivers, betrayers, and destroyers press upon them so fast, that there is no resisting afterwards. The nature of the encroachment upon the American Constitution is such as to grow every day more and more encroaching. ... The people grow less steady, spirited, and virtuous, the seekers more numerous and more corrupt, and every day increases the circles of their dependents and expectants, until virtue, integrity, public spirit, simplicity, and frugality become the objects of ridicule and scorn, and vanity, luxury, foppery, selfishness, meanness, and downright venality swallow up the whole society.”

      A malaise has infected the deepest marrow of our people and society, and it is going to be a herculean struggle (if not a Sisyphian one!) to purge away the bad humors.

  • Pope Francis: Why are Deaths of the Homeless not a Headline but a 2-point Dow Jones rise is? (Germanos)
    • GrumpyWithoutCoffee 11/27/2013 at 4:28 pm

      I think the best way for Progressives to treat the issue of social justice is to hammer home again and again that the well-being of all depends on, well, the well-being of all. That is to say, arguing about compassion and the right thing to do is not going to cut it. It must be an argument, unfortunately, that appeals to reptilian del-interest. The sheer expense and economic impacts of a lack of social spending is what will likely best win the argument for the left.

      I've commented on this blog before, for example, about the horrible economic cost of not investing in our children or in alleviating hunger.

      And to clarify my point about materialism: I think material well-being is important, but needs to be achieved without excess materialism - a dicey and problematic slippery slope, I know! But life is a dance - meden agan, "Nothing too much" read the inscription over the temple to the god at Delphi.

      But at base, regardless of what you think of him, Francis is correct: our priorities are indicative of a profound malaise, and in a society flooded with information and obscenely rich in material resources, the very fact of hunger in our country is a grotesque failure of the spirit. Don't look to see Paul Ryan washing the feet of the homeless.

    • The central message of Jesus, which is about a divestiture of the things of this world and concern for those in need, did not come exclusively from the ancient Jewish tradition of concern for social justice. It also came, in part, out of the notion that the kingdom of God was at hand, and only those free of worldly encumbrances would be welcome into it. And so it is for the modern social justice movement: it is not simply out of a concern for the poor, downtrodden, and oppressed that progressives should take their cue. A true social justice (and peace) movement would make the point that it is also concerned, in part, to keep the comfortable comfortable (that is, it would, like Jesus, have an ulterior motive that underlies the ostensible main message).

      A true social justice movement recognizes that at least a sustainable level of material comfort is not an evil, but a good. However to that end it requires a level of social, economic, political, and legal equality (not to mention environmental stewardship) that has now somehow gone missing in our society. We have long since passed the point where the situation is merely wasteful (of human and earth resources both); at some point, if such inequality continues, we will enter a danger zone. Environmental stability, such as it was, has long since slipped our grasp; can economic and political stability be far behind? We know what that looked like in Egypt and Tunisia. What might it one day look like here?

      Progressives need to be adamant that social security, access to health care, food security, and living wages are conservative principles, from the standpoint that they support a stable (not to mention just) society. Modern Libertarians masquerading as the GOP are nothing more than Darwinists and anarchists. I find it incredibly ironic these days that Progressives owe a deep deep debt to Jesus for their political Weltanschauung, but shy away from religion. Meanwhile the Libertarian Right pretends to embrace Judeo-Christian principles, to the point of questioning evolution, yet all the while rushes into the iron wrought arms of Social Darwinism underscored by Survival of the Fittest. (Bang head on wall here!)

      But survival of the fittest on a societal level means that, collectively, we act with some degree of intelligence, compassion, and empathy. This is insurance, not just for others, but for ourselves if we ever fall on a time of need. There simply is no better insurance program or charity than the government, imperfect as it may at times prove, and it acts as both because historically charity could not and does not suffice to provide, say, health care, or ensure that the elderly do not fall into poverty. On an international level it means that we cease to support unjust systems of government in an effort to access resources that often merely serve to perpetuate the materialism Francis seeks to address. Men of stone will invoke “national interest” or “security”; we should invite these catchphrases of empire, if only to deconstruct and redefine what “national interest” and “security” really mean. It has far more, one suspects, to do with feeding the vast numbers of hungry children in this country, and far less to do with, say, our hegemony over the skies of ancient Sogdiana.

  • Top 10 Ways to Really Honor our Veterans
    • GrumpyWithoutCoffee 11/12/2013 at 12:13 pm

      Ahem . . . the Battle of Tannenberg and the Battle of the Masurian Lakes. Russian defeats to be sure, but still hardly your "not one square inch".

  • Dear Press: Stop Enthusing About Habitable Planets until People like Va.'s Cuccinelli Stop Destroying this One
    • GrumpyWithoutCoffee 11/05/2013 at 10:36 pm

      As a former academic turned farmer I consider myself one of the troops at ground zero for climate change. And I can say, we are in peril. The problems agriculture will face are enormous. Given the timeline required for technological advancement to get to other planets and . . . well, it all seems pretty much like science fiction and fantasy to me. Hell, we can’t even figure out the food system on this planet, and we are talking about traveling to others? Excuse me?

      I think people would be pretty shocked if they knew the precarious situation as concerns the relationship of the food system to geo-politics and the environment. Farmers require a relatively stable climate environment; we know that no year is the same, but we require a certain degree of “dependability” with variation within that stability. That stability is rapidly vanishing.

      And with it will vanish economic, social, and political stability. It’s fundamental, it’s basic. Bread riots are coming – or, to use a “GameofThronism”, “Winter Is Coming”. We have already seen instability as a result of inflated food prices in Arab countries dependent on a depleted Russian wheat harvest.

      How will we live when the Nile no longer floods? When Bangladesh is under water? When our heartland is too depleted and drought stricken to produce corn, wheat, and soy? When the Himalayas no longer have water enough for the peoples of Asia? When the oceans collapse? What will it take? I suspect that it will be something asinine – the failure of hops that elevates the price of beer. The vanishing of ancient vines in France, Italy and Spain. Or maybe something extreme – say a pandemic from a mutated virus that thrives in warmer climes and the death of a third of the world a la 1348. Or a minor nuclear war between India and Pakistan over water. Who knows?

      But it will certainly, no certainly not be the displacement of the peoples of the Earth with slightly browner skin and slightly flatter noses and slightly strange gods. No, it will not be that sort of thing that awakens us to the threat.

      L’inverno viene. Hiberna venit. Das Winter kommt.

  • Scrooge Republicans prefer Pentagon White Elephants to Food Stamps for Poor Children
    • I have posted the gist of this before and I will post it again and again in comments, because it needs to be said until it sinks in, and if I sound like a broke record it is because I am addressing a broken system.

      I have worked off and on as a volunteer on hunger issues in recent years, and now spend most of my time running a small family farm. Last year I had a chance to hear a pediatrician from Harvard Medical in Boston speak at a large conference on childhood hunger in our nation. What impressed me the most about her talk was how paradoxically expensive hunger, and especially childhood hunger is for all of us.

      The main take away for me? Children who are hungry and malnourished generally do not develop into normal healthy adults. Many suffer from damaged immune systems, behavioral and mental problems, and lower intelligence. Imagine how lousy you feel if you are a few hours late for your lunch. Well, multiply that by a half-day, or day or two, then imagine that is being imposed on a developing human being. This is how our children, and many children of the world, suffer. Damaged immune systems in turn mean adult illnesses down the road, meaning stress on an already over-burdened health care system as well as lost productivity and wages from work. Behavioral problems can often result in aggression, resulting in violence and ultimately prison.

      In sum: lost productivity over a lifetime, health problems, prison, means expensive outlays by our health care providers, our schools (where many of the behavioral problems play themselves out), our criminal justice system, and at the same time a loss in revenue as we bandage these problems rather than addressing their root causes (at the dinner plate!). It is far cheaper to put give a child three square meals daily at government expense than it is to pay for the results of what certain elements in this country want to do by cutting SNAP or WIC.

      Food pantries, churches, and all private charities combined only make up at any one time 3-6% of the nourishment provided to the hungry in this country. Cut that out of the federal budget and you have effectively undercut all of the efforts of those private charities. What the government can do to address hunger by contrast is enormous.

      One South American country, Brazil, recently had the right idea (see: link to They actually decided, rightly so, that food is a public resource, and access to good nutritious food is a fundamental human right. Nationally 16.7 million children live in homes with poor food security (go to: to see the numbers). My home state of Oregon stands at the bottom (if you exclude DC), with over 29% (!) of our children at some point not having enough to eat, an absolute scandal in a region that is so rich in the production of excellent agricultural goods (particularly those that serve the elite, such as very expensive Pinot Noir).

      There is no weapons system that can address an alleged national security threat that is more serious than the very real damage and waste that we face daily as a result of not feeding our hungry.

  • Pakistani family testifies to empty room on Hill about US Drone that killed Granny
    • In the story of Philoctetes, Philoctetes, while sailing with the Greeks to Troy, is bitten by a snake; the wound from the snake begins to fester and stink. He begins to scream in agony. The stench of his wound and his cries of pain become too much for the Greeks and he is abandoned on the island of Chryse (or Lemnos in other versions).

      The empty room is Chryse, and the Pakistani family Philoctetes. And the absent Greeks? All of us, we are all absent Greeks, who prefer not to see or to simply dismiss the pain of others. Of course, our moral cowardice in not wanting to see such pain is all the worse, for we are also the snake that bites. So fast to inflict pain, but never having the courage to face its consequences.

  • The American Quagmire in Afghanistan by the Numbers (21,565 US Troops Dead or Wounded)
    • Thanks for this post Juan. The whole thing, particularly the annual cost of keeping a soldier in Afghanistan, is especially sickening when you consider the comparative cost of annual tuition at a four year college, the average still at under $9000 a year, not, of course, including living expenses. Still, how many kids could we send to college, how many hungry kids could we feed, with that amount of cash going . . . for what now?

      It reminds me of why I have come to loathe history and politics as a subject and discipline so much these days. The sheer waste is utterly and eternally unforgivable.

  • Rights Groups: Some US Drone Strikes are War Crimes (Oldroyd)
    • This is vague at best, and swallows whole a good deal of the government's line concerning our so-called security. The whole notion of an "unlawful" enemy combatant is vague and dubious at best, one suspects intentionally so.

      Whose legal protocols? Who wrote them, and why? What were there motives, and who were the signatories?

      Equally vague is the term "appropriate measures" - just what are these precisely? Who decides? How are the implemented?

      "Proportionate to the military objective achieved"? Fine, what is that objective? And how do we know if it's proportionate? And to whom? All of this needs a great deal more detailed argument to be in the least bit compelling.

      "Entirely legal" - as though there have been no legal challenges or questions posed. "Entirely" really needs qualification; it is not ex cathedra holy writ.

  • America may Shutter the Gov't, but not the Gov't's Wars (Astore)
    • Your comments are disingenuous at best Bill. It reminds me of the arguments among Classicists that Romanists should focus on the role of women and slaves and the place of cultural diversity in the Roman Empire, and focus less on Caesar, all the while neglecting the central fact of Roman history: Rome’s growth through a series of wars, some defensive, most for the purpose of out and out conquest, with the added benefit of the appropriation of resources from despoiled provinces.

      But you obfuscate and confuse the issue by speaking of checks and balances. The key point made by the writer stands. The central event of American history is its expansion from 13 colonies on the eastern seaboard to the conquest and appropriation of the continent, to the vast hegemony we maintain over large tracts of foreign territory either by force or threat of force.

      And do you really think checks and balances pertinent in a system in which the president has arrogated to himself the supreme authority over the life and death of a citizen? And do you think this Genie will be put back in the bottle by another president? And do you trust it to be used with care by any who might do so? Are you not aware that such restraints were put in place precisely because the founders mistrusted human character? Or will you simply dismiss, as you are wont to do, these concerns as paranoid fantasy?

      “At times it has been directed toward economic recovery after a depression or a recession. At times it has been directed toward advancing civil rights.”

      That is a distortion of the most willful and disingenuous sort. The economic well-being of our people, the complete enfranchisement of our citizenry, the expansion of civil rights, has certainly not, at any time in our history, been pursued or obtained with the same ease with which we have gone to war in so many instances. You make it sound rhetorically as if the three are on an equal political footing (at times . . . at times . . . at times). Yet it was far easier politically to gin up wars and proxy wars – to invade Grenada, to wage a bloody experiment in Central America, to wage two wars in Iraq, than it ever was say, to empower on any level people of color in this country. If it is true in the late 20th and early 21st century, it was more true throughout much of the previous history of our country.

      Moreover you convolute principles with actions. Stated principles are one thing, actions quite another. As for authority: authority - not necessarily legal but certainly political, which can count for a great deal more in reality - rests with where the people think it rests. The military has an enormous command of the public discourse in this country, while voices for peace, particularly in build ups to war, are given little if any space in large media outlets. If you think the voices in our society for social and economic justice are on an equal footing, which your contrary argument against the writer certainly implies, then you will need to argue that one mightily. Organizing principles may be one thing; but the historically reality towards which those organizing principles have been and are directed, ones that too frequently favor militarism at the expense of the social contract, cannot be so easily explained away.

  • Israeli Settlers Chop down more Palestinian Olive Trees (having destroyed 800,000 since 1967)
    • GrumpyWithoutCoffee 10/21/2013 at 2:00 pm

      The action is metaphorical on so many levels, one scarcely knows where to commence. The olive represents, of course, peace to the ancient Hebrews; it represented abundance to the ancient Greeks and Romans. When the Spartans invaded Athenian territory they made a B-line for the olive groves - they knew it was a way to deprive Athens of one of its only natural resources.

      Everything has changed, and yet nothing. Except that perhaps the olive will become a new symbol for modern apartheid.

  • The American Genocide Against Iraq: 4% of Population Dead as result of US sanctions, wars
    • GrumpyWithoutCoffee 10/17/2013 at 11:40 am

      Very true!

      And while we pursue what a certain occasional commentator on this blog would refer to as "our interests", we neglect our truest interests - i.e., universal access to health care, well subsidized day care, universal access to food and education, a living wage, a clean environment, a . . . well, fill in any number of blanks.

      The playing of the Great Game in the media and in our public discourse in general is portrayed as of paramount interest, while the frittering away of our human and planetary resources plays second, nay, fifth string. Yet even Ike, the Republican's Republican, noted that excessive militarism constituted a theft from a vibrant and secure future for our people.

      If anyone wants to argue this, then I suggest you see how many "news" stories you can dig up on the poor and underclass by the major networks and cable outlets as opposed to appearances by current and former brass and their attendant "consultants".

      To me all of this constitutes an intellectual and moral failure of breathtaking proportions - and a damned strange definition of "our interests" and "realist" political thinking.

    • GrumpyWithoutCoffee 10/17/2013 at 11:26 am

      Kathleen on this score you might find John Tirman's The Death of Others (Oxford University Press, 2011) an illuminating albeit unhappy read.

  • Top Ten Ways the US and Iran could avoid a Catastrophic War
    • GrumpyWithoutCoffee 10/16/2013 at 8:28 am

      11. Ted Cruz and the Tea (Tax Exempt Asshole) Party financially sink the ship of state. We can no longer afford any stinkin' wars!

  • Club Dead: EU immigration laws turning Mediterranean into Graveyard- Malta PM
    • Uh, any citations here Bill? Lots of assertion, but not much backing up with any hard evidence. This is the sort of ex cathedra pronouncement sans evidence that you often refer to in others as risible (see, e.g., your comment on Snowden below).

  • Dear Tea Party: The Gov't Shutdown is Hurting White People, Too
    • GrumpyWithoutCoffee 10/10/2013 at 8:32 am

      Ugh! Same old same old. "The Republicans are gonna do this, the Republicans are gonna do that", "The Tea Party is gonna do this, the Tea Party is gonna do that!" until the country is driven to a compromise that is exactly what the hard right wants - and look at the causes for which they fight. Denial of health care. Shredding of the social contract.

      The despise everything that is fundamentally decent, right, and just. They will fight to the last man to deny children food, women access to health care, the poor access to a living wage. And their supporters are so stupid that they don't understand that social programs function as a type of insurance for everyone, themselves included.

      What I want to know is when oh when will the Left get the balls to stand up and threaten default over something that really matters, as in, "You use false 'intelligence' to threaten war and we'll move to default"; "We'll shutdown the government unless you relinquish war criminals such as Dick Cheney and John Yoo to a court of law"; or, more pertinent to this post, "Publicly rebuff the racist hate-mongering of the talk-radio wing of your party, make them pariahs, and purge the GOP of its John-Birch element or we'll repeal all tax cuts from Reagan on" (hey, they hold a gun to Obamacare, why not hold a gun to some of their beloved legislation!)

      But no - the Dems will once again bring a knife to a gun fight, and the "reasonable" will I'm sure prevail. The problem is, the reasonable has a strange definition - it includes the acceptable as children going hungry, students in debt servitude, women as second, nay third class citizens, and people sick or worse for lack of health care. It probably also includes exorbitant military spending. It is truly peculiar what passes for reasonable in our country.

  • Ted Cruz and America's Super-Rich say "Let them eat Cake"
    • GrumpyWithoutCoffee 10/01/2013 at 9:40 am

      As usual a good post Juan, and spot on, particularly your addressing of the implications all of this has for socio-political stability. Conservatism is supposed to be for maintaining the status quo, for incremental change. Sometimes that change is counter-intuitive, by which I mean, sometimes to maintain the status quo requires fairly radical government intervention for the sake of such stability.

      Perhaps if some of the more so-called conservative base could be made to see that what they want is radically and dangerously destabilizing they would think twice about the type of policy for which they are voting. Cutting people off of government roles (let us not forget that government is in general the largest spender and supporter of communities in this country), firing, even temporarily, government employees, or cutting government programs send individuals and families into an economic tail-spin, and less money circulates in the economy. Purchasing goes down, fewer goods are bought, individuals are laid off, tax revenues fall off. Individuals, businesses, and finally, whole communities suffer. I leave off the humanitarian implications because this is clearly of no concern to modern conservatives, who see cruelty as strength and compassion as weakness. And of course, under-funding programs helps to prove GOP talking points that government doesn’t work.

      None of this is in any way “conservative”, any more than is their plan to gut the planet and expend and exhaust its resources. As you noted, such policy can only be pushed so far – it is built on a foundation of liquid sand, and can only be built so high before the entire edifice collapses. But they are clever – they know how to distract and delay. There will be no apocalypse because they know how the deeper structures of power work. That is why Occupy is marginalized, dispersed, and dead, and why the Tea Party has the power, conversely, to close government. The governing structures of this country will try to play out, as long as possible, divisive hot button issues such as guns, the legalization of drugs, gay marriage, women’s reproductive rights, and environmentalism to maintain their base and to string along “reasonable centrists” of the “both sides do it” school. That failing, there is always some country to bomb to rally a flagging country to act against its interest and the interests of another country. Anything to distract from deeper structural issues such as the excessive influence of militarism in our government and economy, legislative capture by inordinately powerful corporate interests, concentrations of wealth among a small elite, and a compliant and complicit media.

      The difficulty with all of this is, of course, our consumer based economy and our global environmental crisis are both deeply interconnected. The values of consumerism and growth have wearied the planet’s eco-system. Is it possible or desirable to continue on this path? With what shall we replace it? Will our discourse ever allow of the complexity to even address such issues on a national scale?

  • Ghoul's Glossary: Shutdown
    • Ok, in light of your above post on the government shutdown I can't resist one more.

      Conservative, n. Someone who has everything who denies anything to someone who has nothing. Once a term to describe those interested in "conserving" now associated with radical mischief and a vulgarism.

    • Oops! Mea culpa! The Tea Party IS the current GOP! WAH!

    • Oh, and let's not forget:

      Wah: an exclamatory particle usually indicative of infantile displeasure. Found most commonly in the phrase wah! Wah! WAH WAH WAH! Also the motto of the current Tea Party masquerading as the GOP.

  • You Can have Obamacare, or You can have Cruzcare (Jamiol Cartoon)
    • GrumpyWithoutCoffee 09/29/2013 at 8:17 am

      Well put!

      Simple question for conservatives:

      Can you give me a single compelling reason why the government of a civil society should not protect people from the vagaries and abuses of the market place by providing universal access to education, healthcare, living wages, food security, and a clean environment?

      Ooops, forgot, you're not really "conservatives" at all, you're just a bunch of anarchists (isn't that the logical conclusion of all of your deregulation?), and you have no interest in preserving social or political stability, which is what conservatives are supposed to want and what social programs are designed to do, so just forget the last question.

      Hopefully these nuts are Cruzing to oblivion!

      Good night and good luck!

  • With a Solar Minimum and La Nina's, Why isn't it Really, Really Cold?
    • You are presenting yourself as a centrist using a balance that is simply false. What seems to you a more compelling scenario? Regional environmental groups and community activists and academics using only very limited budgets, and green energy companies limited profits to spread a false alarm, or big oil and coal using their vast, obscene profits to spread disinformation? The comparison is prima facie absurd. We know that the Koch Brothers and Exxon Mobile fund denialism (as do other well-healed “conservative” “think” tanks) – it is very well documented. It is pretty telling when two of the institutions most despised by the left, the Pentagon and the IMF, themselves issue white papers stating that there is simply no greater threat to security, stability, and economic growth than human driven global warming.

      As a resident of the Pacific Northwest, over my half-century lifetime I have seen our waters dry up and fisheries collapse. I have seen acidification of our waters driven by dumping CO2 into the atmosphere that have caused the oyster and crabbing industries serious loss. Dead zones off the coast have made once rich waters vast deserts. I have seen my neighbors in our farm country forced to shift and change crops and lose income in the process as a result of warming temperatures. As food producers they are scared, and everyone else should be too – damned scared. Farmers are used to disaster, but they also depend on some degree of climate predictability and climate stability, and that has vanished.

      As for history, your critique of Professor Cole is simply incorrect. To cite but one of the most recent examples: If something as relatively “benign” as record heat in Russia several years ago could lead to the decimation of the wheat harvest, hence to higher bread prices in the Middle East, and to all of the attendant political instability, imagine as things get worse. Resources become scarce, people displaced by climate disasters increase, political instability becomes a norm. What other future can we now imagine as sea levels rise and 10% of Egypt’s population (to take just one country) is potentially displaced in the not-too-distant future? (Professor Cole recently had an excellent post on climate change and Egypt.) What happens as warmer temperatures breed new and potentially dangerous pathogens? It is only a matter of time before this results in a human made catastrophe (a large general war, a regional nuclear war, a newly mutated virus, or – well, any number of horrifying scenarios).

      Do we really want to see if the biosphere can tolerate small-scale nuclear exchange (say between India and Pakistan over water when the Himalayas cease to have snows, a disaster in real time now)? Look, time is not on our species’ side: two freight trains loaded with TNT are headed at one another. The first is human driven climate change; the second is human behavior in the face of scarcity, disease, political upheaval, and a ruined environment. The future is here – just ask the Russians, the Tunisians, the farmers of sub-Sahara Africa, the victims of the typhoon earlier this year in the Philippines, our neighbors in Colorado, the residents still recovering after Sandy.

  • Can we have a Military-Green Energy Complex Instead, Please? (Kramer & Pemberton)
    • GrumpyWithoutCoffee 09/20/2013 at 7:40 am

      The second part of this post was summed up succinctly some 60 years ago by Eisenhower:

      "Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed. This world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children. The cost of one modern heavy bomber is this: a modern brick school in more than 30 cities. It is two electric power plants, each serving a town of 60,000 population.
 It is two fine, fully equipped hospitals. It is some 50 miles of concrete highway. We pay for a single fighter plane with a half million bushels of wheat. We pay for a single destroyer with new homes that could have housed more than 8,000 people . . . This is not a way of life at all, in any true sense. Under the cloud of threatening war, it is humanity hanging from a cross of iron.

      “The Chance for Peace”, April 16, 1953

      I wish it weren't, but my money is on the next war, not green energy.

  • President Obama's Doubtful Grounds for Military Action against Syria
    • "The Soviet move, however, had little effect on the Japanese decision to surrender. "

      Two words: Tsuyoshi Hasegawa.

      One sentence (July 30, 1945, written by Naotake Sato, Japan's then ambassador to Moscow on Stalin's talks with the US and UK): "There is no alternative but immediate unconditional surrender if we are to prevent Russia's participation in the war."

      One untried war criminal: Robert McNamara himself admitted that his involvement in what the US did to Japan in terms of planning and execution of the bombing of civilian targets in Japanese cities was a war crime, and that he had simply had the good fortune to be on the winning side.

  • Not Markets but the People are making the Green Energy Revolution
    • Keep posting these Juan. This is not "AN" issue but "THE" issue our country and world face today. Everything else, from the NSA scandal to the political crises in Egypt and Syria, constitutes re-arranging the deck chairs on the Titanic.

      Those growing up in the 70s and coming of age in the early 80s such as myself were warned that there would no longer be elephants in Africa due to human encroachment and poaching, that down the road we would be asking, Who lost the elephants?

      Now we will be asking, it appears, many more and far more serious questions, such as, Who lost the oysters? Who lost the polar bears? Who lost the phytoplankton? Who lost Venice? Who lost the Nile Delta? Who lost Bangladesh?Who lost the polar ice caps? Who lost the snows of the Himalayas and the water sources for millions? Who lost the vegetables of California's central valley? Or, worst of all, who lost the hops of the American Northwest for our beer? Who lost the wines of Spain and Italy? Who lost the apples for hard cider?

      And if you think I exaggerate or am alarmist about the last few of these questions, then you need to read some of the agricultural journals to which your average farmer subscribes. Hops, apples, and wine vines will be gone from their present regions within the next century at current rates. Polar ice caps are one thing, but Italy without wine and Venice is a very different kettle of fish.

      Thank you Exxon-Mobile, and thank you broken US political system, and thank you US public willfully choosing to collectively fail with every ballot you cast, and thank you media for false balance and assistance with a massive disinformation campaign.


  • Obama wants all the info in your Smart Phone without a Warrant (Lazare)
    • Answer to your question from a professional Roman historian and a correction Mr. McPhee. The republican form of government arose in Rome over a series of centuries, between the 6th and 5th, and by tradition was established in 509 BCE after (by tradition) a monarchy that was established in 753 BCE.

      It functioned pretty well until the wheels started coming off in the late second century BCE. There are a good many causes for this, but the corruption of public virtue and the overwhelming power of money in Roman politics, along with many other reasons, both fascinating and complex, led to the military dictatorship of the emperors. Public offices were simply purchased, or obtained through violence, and the introduction of the military into the civic sphere was catastrophic for republican government. Warlords such as Caesar or Pomepy could dimly purchase the loyalty of their men and create huge blocks of political power for themselves - whether their veterans voted for them, fought for them, or used the threat of violence to enforce their political will. It upset the traditional balance of power within the Roman Senate and led in part to the collapse of republican government.

      So, does the power of money and the excessive influence of a few sound frightening and familiar? Good, it should. You can read all about this in Sallust, Cicero, Plutarch, Appian, and Cassius Dio, to mention just a few of the most prominent ancient sources. As a long time student and teacher of ancient history I am always amazed of how it boils down to "follow the money", from the brief but brutal Athenian Empire, to the fall of Rome's republic, to the rise of Christianity (which would have stalled out, in my opinion, but for the imperial patronage of Constantine and his family in the fourth century AD). Chrema, chrema t'aner, saith Pindar, "Money, money's the man!"

      It is a more sordid aspect of the human condition. However many modern historians in my view are too quick to discount moral causality in historical analysis, perhaps because the ancients relied on it to excess, and of course with modern sociology and demographics, it should not be the be all and end all. That having been said, I think there has been a gross destruction of public virtue in our culture. That is why in the past 35 years or so there have been no or almost penalties for those involved (say) in Iran-Contra, the Iraq debacle, or torture, and why, in fact, torture is tolerated. The NSA is small potatoes now, in the public mind, in the wake of Patriot Acts and Abu Ghraib.

      It is not so much a case, for us, of Vae victis, but Vae victoribus.

  • Bradley Manning in a World of Cheneys, Hadithas, and NSA Domestic Surveillance
    • Still a form of total surveillance (hardly its "opposite"!) implying the use of fear, coercion, and intimidation. A rose by any other name . . .

  • Greenwald Partner falsely detained as Terrorist: How to Create a Dictatorship
    • Shorter Bill: dunata de hoi prouchontes prassousi kai hoi astheneis xunchorousin,(Thucydides 5.89).

      Translation: The year 416 BCE was a very good year unless you were a Melian.

      Billy bud, I just gotta break my silence here for your sake and just tell ya'll to take 'er easy - yer all as fussed up as the rooster in my pasture, but you're so "can't see the silvas for the arbores" that you fail even to 'ppreciate that your side has won. Pathetic. You've won and you're still angry and defensive and spend hours responding to comments on this blog that will make about as much a dent in the power structures of this former res publica as my shoveling straw 'crost my barnyard. 'Cuz we all know Washington 'll do what it wants with whomever it wants, whenever it wants. You sound like a bureaucrat or conservative academic or lawyer, defending power mightily - if you are so be it, but if so, ya'll could use a good dose of Tacitus in my books. Power to be trusted? At this late date?

      Some friendly advice, bud - the world hates a bad winner. Maybe that's why people around the world view the US so . . . oh, heck with it.

      O hominem ad servitutem paratum!

  • Before he Was President, Obama Championed Extensive Surveillance Reforms (Brandeisky)
    • Shorter Bill: Let's use terms like responsibility and leadership as code for justifying the gutting of the fourth amendment and making further constitutional encroachments. I promise to make it all sound really quite reasonable. Raison d'etat anyone?

  • Top Ten Things that don't Make Sense about NSA Surveillance, Drones and al-Qaeda
  • Putin as America's Frenemy: The Snowden Paradox
    • Well, we are the ones with the vast security apparatus that somehow missed that the USSR was on the verge of collapse in the Eastern Bloc and pretty much on the verge of collapse. Doh!

      Why the US intelligence community would have any credibility (let alone funding) after missing that little tidbit is a mystery to me. Or not.

  • Dear Royal Baby: We Americans apologize for our Revolution; please be our Absolute Monarch
    • A Very Serious Person 07/23/2013 at 8:47 am

      Oh Juan, Juan. Don't be such a post 9/11 buzz kill. Don't you know that the tea-partiers are at the helm to protect us from all of this? Defenders of the Second Amendment are on the job to ensure our precious liberties are in place so we can continue to rearrange the deck chairs on this Titanic of a planet that awaits either a deluge of environmental catastrophe or a general nuclear exchange over something really really stupid, all the while barraging us with infotainment and cliched half-baked solutions. Ugh!

  • Evo Morales of Bolivia joins in Offering Leaker Snowden Asylum
    • Herennius Senecio 07/07/2013 at 4:53 pm

      And what of the 4th amendment to the Constitution in all of this? Why is Snowden the fugitive? Why are we even discussing this and not why the head of the NSA is not under indictment for lying to Congress? How has application of the law and equality under it gotten to be a lost tree in this forest? How has it come to the point where those who want the application of such laws are labelled shrill, or told to grow up? All this intensive discussion and scrutiny about Snowden and where he will go is a distraction, and feeds a tabloid mentality that has come to degrade our political life with no serious discussion of the implications of what has been revealed. It is reminiscent in the extreme of the treatment given to Bradley Manning in which it becomes all about the messenger, not about the revelation.

  • Stateless! The Core of the Palestinian Crisis (Juan Cole Video)
    • What has puzzled me most about the situation most of my adult life is how a people who endured so much in WWII (and historically in general) turn around and visit some of the treatment similar (certainly not all, but some) to that they suffered at the hands of their oppressors: ethnic cleansing, ghettos, violent expulsion, gross discrimination, deprivation of basic rights and necessities.

      It truly leaves one scratching one's head. Instead of learning empathy and trying to come to a reasonable accommodation that will restore to the dispossessed in the region their rights and property, the Israeli government simply doubles down on a policy that at times resembles what they experienced for centuries under European governments.

      How could a Jewish state have ended up so blind to their own history as to do this to others? How does the Israeli government think this will end for them not ten, but 50 or 100 years down the road? What has been done to Palestine and the Palestinians is utterly reprehensible, deeply ignorant, and completely un-self-aware.

  • Stephen Fry decries the Grammar Nazis (Video with Kinetic Typography)
    • A professor with presumably an in-depth knowledge of other languages posting this? Really?

      Would the author of the video have
      ?Boustrophedon in write us

      Or maybe we just as most European languages do, simply like Yoda talking start could and all of our verbs at the end of our sentences put. Hell, like the Germans all of our verbs at the end of the sentence on we could start to pile, and also the preposition could go an odd place in. Lets not just eliminate apostrophes but definite article too.

      Or maybe we Roman as and verbs the poets could do and sentences our words jumble in because syntax our decided we have it allows do.

      Yeah, I like that idea for effective communication, because goodness no's their’s not enough miss communication in the whirled. Let's just have spell check correct everything because it's so good at grammar and spelling, as the previous sentence illustrates.

      Look, I’m no language Ludite or Grammar Nazi. I know Shakespeare invented plenty of neologisms, hate all the “that/which” pedantry, love how dynamic language can be, and violate plenty of its rules.

      But the man sounds like a linguistic version of the modern GOP: a stark linguistic libertarian who doesn’t want guvmint telling him which side of the road on which to drive. Both are Anarchists.

      This wouldn’t be an attempt on your part Juan, would it, to justify an abdication of the need to take your red pen to undergraduate essays? If so it would be fully understandable: the Goddess grammar has been driven from the Earth by the usurping demon Text and its diabolical twin Twitter! Correcting undergrad papers has become a task worthy of Sisyphus.

      But there is a more serious reality here: for all the humor and cleverness of the video, for better or worse, people need to learn to communicate effectively – it gives one a leg up both socially and economically. Recall how much derision in which Bush was held for not having mastered some basic rules; of course, there were and are some elements that hold such misuse as a badge of honor.

      Do we want them ruling our planet?


      Humorless without Coffee

  • A Forever War that Dares not Speak its Name (Bacevich)
    • ThomasFriedmansMoustache 05/30/2013 at 9:43 pm

      The "endless war ended"? Oh really? Maybe for us, but not for the people of Iraq. Read some of today's headlines. This is typical American navel gazing.

      As for drones' inability to do all of what you site, I would add the qualifying adverb "yet". Perhaps drones can't win wars. But they can turn foreign opinion against us in strategically vital areas and work against our interest (and I count peace and respect in our interest - you don't get that by terrorizing, say, farmers in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Yemen with drones).

      It's not counter-terror if it is productive of terrorists. And if counter terror includes extra-judicial assassination of US citizens and we are comfortable with that, then good luck with all that.

  • Should Memorial Day include Commemoration of Thoreau?
    • Thank you for a reminder that one of our greatest writers and thinkers was also one of our first anti-war activists. One could argue, however, that he has an even deeper connection to some of the recent conflicts in which the U.S. has become ensnared: he was arguably the first American environmentalist, who wrote and celebrated the natural world around us. On Walden Pond has gone on to inspire numerous American writers to the present day, including numerous environmentalists, naturalists, assorted activists, and (now) even organic farmers. Concern for the environment can, in part, be traced back to him; what he would say today as we seek to control certain areas of the globe rich in fossil fuel (that drives global warming and environmental degradation) by the use of military force (hence Rumsfeld’s protection of the Iraq Oil Ministry but not its national museum with its precious archaeological collection), one can only guess. Civil disobedience, war, the appreciation and protection of the environment, all, in a sense, first came together in this remarkable writer, we sought “to live deliberately . . . to suck out all the marrow of life”.

  • When Politicians promise 'Lower Taxes' they are promising Collapsed Bridges
    • People go to get basic social services or basic social services are delivered by means of such infrastructure. That would make them an essential part of basic social services. In the DC area we saw the results of privatized roads in a fiasco that was the Dulles toll road. Too expensive and little use.

      Infrastructure benefits the economy by easing the transport of goods and services through the maintenance of good roads. It results in less wear on vehicles, safer transport, etc. It further benefits those who produce goods for the economy by allowing for a distribution network that is paid for collectively.

      When corporations and others complain about excess taxation, part of that taxation is the cost they shoulder for the privilege of the use of public roads to deliver their goods to the public through that distribution network. So yes, good roads are an essential part of the social and economic infrastructure of our republic.

      sententiae malae delendae sunt!

  • President Obama and Counter-Terrorism: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly
    • “The frog pool wanted a king. Jove gave them old king log. I have been as deaf and blind as a log. My chief fault? I have been too benevolent . . . I reconciled Rome and world to monarchy again. By dulling the blade of tyranny I fell into great error.”

      I, Claudius, by Robert Graves

      Long since has the US become a tyranny – it’s been quite a trip from Truman’s establishment of the national security state to Obama’s drones, with stops in Cambodia with Nixon, through the steamy jungles of Iran-Contra, to the supreme war crimes and usurpation of constitutional power under Bush, with the end of the rainbow concluding with a final deathblow against the Republic under Obama.

      For Obama has arrogated to himself the supreme power of the consuls, nay, the emperor, without any interdiction or check by the tribune of the plebs – munia senatus magistratuum legum in se trahere, nullo adversante! He is the final period in which everything for which Nixon was impeached is now legal. Dismiss extra-judicial assassinations and drone wars? Then you potentially dismiss the causa proxima et ultima of the next 9/11, if and when it happens. You also dismiss a host of laws and legislation, both domestic and international, designed to put a check and balance on the abuse of executive power (stretch, yawn).

      Alfred Hitchcock was right: Evil in the modern period comes at us with a smile, not a grimace. As though Obama has had no role in the continuing shame of Guantanamo (see al Hasan Moqbel’s April 15 op ed in the NYT), has not threatened Iraq with force, has not, as promised, continued the folly of Afghanistan, has assassinated American citizens extra-judicially, has not indefinitely detained Bradley Manning for exposing wrong-doing in the military (and, by the way, whose treatment IS tantamount to torture). But hey, for Joe from Lowell and his ilk, Bush is now the measure. At least Obama hasn’t (insert something Bush did here), and at last he’s not part of a global ideological war (though the peoples of Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia, etc. probably see things a bit differently).

      How will all the Obama supporters feel when they wake up the first Wednesday of November in 2016 and realize that President Ryan and Vice President Rubio now have legal claim to the absolute power of life and death over every citizen in the land without trial?

      Obama governs in many respects to the right of Reagan (how the hell can one support that?), and our political discourse has taken us all to the place where we are frogs in a hot pot, slowly boiled to death without realizing it. So drone attacks that are nothing less than disgusting and worthy of a prison sentence are dismissed (“Yeah, I’m a little disturbed by that, but . . . [insert rational here]“). The attack on whistle-blowers goes unnoticed. Bradley Manning stands trial even as the criminals of the past administration rake in millions in speaking fees and on book deals, or get prominent press in major papers. So implementation of the law and Constitution I guess makes me shrill, a “purist” and a “perfectionist”, as does the desire not to have the blood of the children of poor countries on my hands. This is what we have come to and the Democratic Left has become in many respects as tone deaf as the Right, the same nihilistic tribalists that defend their man. Mehercule!

      But I say, let us get this charade over with and have an end: “Let all the poisons that lurk in the mud hatch out”. Let us have a Palin for president, or another Bush. And when your feet first touch the floor in the morning simply recite quietly the words of Marcus Aurelius: “Today I will be met by ignorance, arrogance, greed, and folly”.

  • The Conservative Logic of Ferguson's Smears of Gays, Muslims, Obama and Krugman
    • And herein, Juan, rests our problems. As a former academic, that a fellow academic would disregard the empirical evidence before him or her is appalling; this is what anti-Keynesians (and the Conservative movement as a whole) do, on the whole behaving like Michael Palin in Monty Python’s Dead Parrot sketch. Put the evidence under their nose and they ironically follow Bill Clinton’s playbook: they deny deny deny.

      Honestly, it is time to reframe the debate on many issues. If progressives do that, more headway might (but only might) be made towards a more just society. Perhaps we need to decide that there simply is no such thing as politics, and to cease to have political discussions.

      There are, however, such things as history, economics, sociology, psychology, legal and constitutional history, life science, physics, medical science, etc. on which policy depends. If you want to talk about these subjects, fine – provided you show some respect for those most expert and respected in these fields (and, in the case of economists, climate scientists, etc., those with some record of success in predicting and analyzing outcomes). That is why I read this blog for news about the Middle East – because what the hell does Wolf Blitzer or Sean Hannity or George Will know about it compared to yourself?

      If Conservatives are not interested in respecting these disciplines, then best to walk away from any discussion. But not before pointing out to them how much they love and depend on the academic community when it comes to development of military or medical technology, but instantly loathe it when it concerns economics or climate science.

      However by admission, such an approach will be an uphill climb, given the deep tradition of anti-intellectualism in this country, even, apparently, amongst academics at some of our most respected institutions.

  • The Failure of Gun Legislation in the Senate Tells us we Need to fight for our Democracy (Graeber)
    • I think you are right on here. We have been "amused to death" and overwhelmed to the point that all most people can do is type rather than mobilize and take it to the street. The elites won't get the point until the Bastille is stormed again, and perhaps again, but by then the streets may be underwater and the Bastille in a gated drone-patrolled community. But hey, at least we'll have equal rights for gays and abortion (and some out west will be fortunate enough to have some dope!) . . .

      As to Pathman who writes above you about hope . . . well, see what the Athenians have to say to the Melians about hope in Thucydides.

    • Well actually the situation is much much worse than depicted here. The U.S. has become a “too-big-to-fail” country; consequently the political class’ inattention to our most pressing problems drags the rest of the world down with it. Hence the virtually complete ignoring of the existential threat to the species of human induced climate change, and the willful disinformation campaign spearheaded by the marketing and media elites that you cite designed to confuse the issue.

      It seems to me sometimes that there has almost been a scorched Earth strategy these past forty years or so that has led establishment discourse so far to the right as to make the country irreparable, and that that was the intent. The right was rabid for revenge after Nixon’s resignation, vowed not to allow this to happen again, and very generously funded a number of “think tanks” to help them win domination: The Hoover Institute, Cato, The American Enterprise Institute, and on and on it went. The financial power of the Right (and I include both Republicans and Democrats in that moniker) has been far more effective than any popular movement of the Left in these past forty years.

      Hence no movement on global warming after massive drought in the Midwest or hurricane Sandy. No movement on guns after Newtown. Reelection of Bush after Abu Grahib. No prosecution for war crimes after torture. So-called liberals disregarding Obama’s illegal kill-lists and defending his use of drones; in fact, disregarding the fact that he governs to the right of Nixon, arguably to the right of Reagan. Remuneration and newspaper space rather than prison for the likes of Henry Kissinger, John Yoo, and Dick Cheney. Liberal kudos to Clinton after the travesty of welfare reform, the continuing of a terrible sanctions regime in Iraq, and his deregulation of the financial industry. Then there is the general slow burn of the easing of the tax “burden” on the wealthiest in this country and its shift to those who can less and least afford it. One could go on and on and on – so please excuse the ranting tone of my comment.

      And all the while this past quarter century we have been regaled with “news” in the media of the trial of O.J. Simpson, of Barbara Bush’s dog Millie, of the latest white girl gone missing on vacation, of the death of Princess Diana, of the latest sensational crime or cause celeb. Did you know that in 1998 an eco-system on the floor of the Indian Ocean collapsed? That it consisted of the loss in sea vegetation equal to that of the defoliation of all the trees in Europe and Canada combined (go to: Brave New Ocean by Jeremy Jackson at: link to Of course not, because that was when we were being treated to the existentially important Lewinsky scandal. Yes, heaven forbid we engage in the heavy lifting of understanding and addressing the nearly 29% of our children who live in poverty, the root causes of violence in the Middle East, or, perhaps most importantly, teasing out the reasons for legislative capture and eliminating them. However our broken system is no longer about democracy. It is about existence.

  • Is LindJohn's notion of an Enemy Combatant Racist? How about attempted Assassination of the Commander in Chief?
    • As usual Juan you are on point. In addition, New York state senator Greg Ball, to his shame, called for the suspect to be tortured. It behooves us to ask how we have become so flippant over our attitudes towards being a country of laws and being so fast to rush towards things such as torture and military tribunals. I think John Adams put it best:

      “[W]hen the people give way, their deceivers, betrayers, and destroyers press upon them so fast, that there is no resisting afterwards. The nature of the encroachment upon the American Constitution is such as to grow every day more and more encroaching. ... The people grow less steady, spirited, and virtuous, the seekers more numerous and more corrupt, and every day increases the circles of their dependents and expectants, until virtue, integrity, public spirit, simplicity, and frugality become the objects of ridicule and scorn, and vanity, luxury, foppery, selfishness, meanness, and downright venality swallow up the whole society.”

      I would further add that I have had an unsettled feeling all week: a 19 year old shuts down an entire large city in the eastern U.S. for several days. Oh really? I can’t quite put my finger on it, but there is something not quite right here. In DC when the sniper terrorized the area in 2002 we carried on somehow. If I am missing something, someone please let me know, but I can’t help but think that there has been an over-reaction here, and that this is feeding the likes of McCain, Graham, and King . . . and that this in turn is feeding a collective loss of public virtue that refuses to end the political careers and cast into outer darkness those who call for the most extreme degradation of the law and justice.

      I believe this is what FDR meant when he stated that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself: there is nothing that compromises a country’s collective values more swiftly, leading to tyranny.

      What happened to “Be Calm and Carry On”?

  • Can the Boston Bombings increase our Sympathy for Iraq and Syria, for all such Victims?
    • While your last point seems vague at best, I would agree that there is indeed something in the human character that makes people extremely callous to the suffering of the other.

      My concern is simply that, as Martin Luther King observed, we are among the greatest purveyors of violence in the world today - and have been for decades with little thought to the consequences of the peoples of the world (which, by the way, does not excuse in any way the same behavior of those others you cite). Enough is enough.

    • A thoughtful post about this horrible event; but I must say I immediately went to a place of depressed disgust when I consider our reckless actions were responsible in no small part, indeed arguably in toto, for the deaths in Iraq yesterday. And of course there was little or no coverage.

      But your next point leaves me a bit skeptical:

      “It is not the American people’s fault that they have a capitalist news model, where news is often carried on television to sell advertising. The corporations have decided that for the most part, Iraq and Syria aren’t what will attract Nielsen viewers and therefore advertising dollars. Given the global dominance by US news corporations, this decision has an impact on coverage in much of the world.”

      It is easy to scapegoat the media – they have long since morphed into Neil Postman’s prophetically dystopian fourth estate. But isn’t it something deeper in the collective American character? I think of John Tirman’s recent study, The Deaths of Others: The Fate of Civilians in America’s Wars. As he documents, there has always been little concern about the fate of non-Americans in the violence we visit abroad – unpopular wars are framed in terms of the need to “bring our boys home”, not “end the suffering of innocent ‘other’ civilian nationals”.

      We need to learn about empathy. Until we relinquish our infantile grip on exceptionalism and become a nation that embraces the true values of the equality of human life we espouse, such violence will continue. As of now we don’t know the identity of the perpetrators (foreign or domestic?); nonetheless, set against a backdrop of civilian deaths abroad as a result of American actions that go largely unreported (in e.g., Iraq, Yemen, Afghanistan, and Pakistan), the violence in Boston yesterday and its wall to wall coverage merely serves to underscore our almost willful lack of empathy towards the rest of the world.

  • Egypt's War on Satire: Prosecutor Summons Cairo's Jon Stewart
    • It is not the fault, in a sense, of the fundamentalists in this instance Juan. It is in part the nature of Judaism, Christianity, and I suspect Islam itself. The god of the Old Testament is a humorless sort – the only instance of laughter (apart from laughing enemies to scorn), is Sarah, who laughs when told she’ll conceive at an old age. The New Testament is not much better – only rather wry puns by Jesus about Peter, but again, no one even cracks a smile let alone laughs. It’s been a while since I read the Quran, and it is a text with which I am less familiar, but does anyone smile there? My bet is no. And please, if anyone has an instance of humor in these texts that I am missing, post a reply.

      It is very worth noting how different from the world of these three “modern” religions is from that of the Greeks and Romans, whose gods, while often vicious, vindictive, and petty, nonetheless appear to smile frequently (references to smiling gods are common in the Homeric corpus), are the butt of comic jokes eliciting belly laughs (as when Hephaistos catches Ares and Aphrodite in adultery in Homer), and can even preside over comedy and be honored with humor (e.g., Dionysus and the great festivals in which comedy was presented in ancient Athens). These gods can be grim and terrible, but they at least also have some comic sensibilities.

      I could never prove it and may be wrong, but my sense is that the lingering animus that exists between Judaism, Christianity, and Islam - apart from the fact that it is in a sense a family fight and that those are the worst kinds – is driven in part by the simple fact that the three share a humorless heritage.

  • Why Wasn't the Higgs Boson Discovered in the US? Neal DeGrasse Tyson explains congressional stupidity
    • Very true, but the anti-intellectual, anti-science mindset that gave $20 billion to Iraq (and of course the real figure goes into the trillions) is also bolstered mightily by a hefty dose of racism and aggressive, reptilian, and ultimately cowardly war mongering. Three trillion for Iraq and Afghanistan? Here war department, take all you f*****g want. You want how much more for cancer research NIH? Talk to the hand!


  • Paranoia Strikes Deep: A Cowering America still Haunted by Bin Laden's Ghost (Engelhardt)
    • It doesn't take the inauguration to appreciate the depths of paranoia to which we have sunk. Some years ago (2007 to be precise) when driving across country I stopped to fill up my car in the middle of nowhere, and I mean nowhere, in rural Idaho. As I walked into the convenience store at the station there was an illuminated sign with red lights, "Terror Level Today: Code Orange". This kept being repeatedly flashed. (Maybe they were concerned about their Idaho spuds and keeping our supply of freedom fries safe from the mullahs, but I rather doubt it!)

      Home of the brave? Don't make me laugh.

      It bears remembering that Roosevelt's simple wisdom was right - we had nothing to fear but fear itself. We forgot that . . . oh well, it was a nice little republic while it lasted.

  • Dear GOP: Please don't Cut Children's Food Stamps: Our Rich aren't Overtaxed
    • Dear Juan:

      Your post gets to the heart of the matter, but the problem is in fact much much more dire than even you suggest. I have worked off and on as a volunteer on hunger issues in my state of Oregon. Last year I had a chance to hear a pediatrician from Harvard Medical in Boston speak at a large conference on childhood hunger in our nation. What impressed me the most about her talk was how paradoxically expensive hunger, and especially childhood hunger is for all of us.

      Children who are hungry and malnourished generally do not develop into normal healthy adults. Many suffer from damaged immune systems, behavioral and mental problems, and lower intelligence. Imagine how lousy you feel if you are a few hours late for your lunch. Well, multiply that by a half-day, or day or two, then imagine that is being imposed on a developing human being. This is how our children, and many children of the world, suffer. Damaged immune systems in turn mean adult illnesses down the road, meaning stress on an already over-burdened health care system as well as lost productivity and wages from work. Behavioral problems can often be aggressive, resulting in violence and ultimately prison.

      In sum: lost productivity over a lifetime, health problems, prison, means expensive outlays by our health care providers, our schools (where many of the behavioral problems play themselves out), our criminal justice system, and at the same time a loss in revenue as we bandage these problems rather than addressing their root causes.

      I am no champion of either party, but it infuriates me that throughout my adult life Republicans have been depicted by the MSM as reasonable grown-ups who are somehow financially more responsible than spendthrift lefties. They are not. It is far cheaper to put give a child three square meals daily at government expense than it is to pay for the results of what the GOP wants to do by cutting SNAP or WIC. The GOP in fiscal terms has the planning ability of the Keystone Cops – funny, were it not for the end results of ruined lives.

      Food pantries, churches, and all private charities combined only make up at any one time 3-6% of the nourishment provided to the hungry in this country. Cut that out of the federal budget and you have effectively undercut all of the efforts of those private charities. What the government can do to address hunger by contrast is enormous.

      One South American country, Brazil, recently had the right idea (see: link to They actually decided, rightly so, that food is a public resource, and access to good nutritious food is a fundamental human right. Nationally in the US 16.7 million children live in homes with poor food security (go to: to see the numbers). My home state of Oregon stands at the bottom (if you exclude DC), with over 29% (!) of our children at some point not having enough to eat, an absolute scandal in a region that is so rich in the production of excellent agricultural goods.

      As I said, I am no fan of the Dems. But between the Republicans’ drumming up of wars on false pretense, their transference of wealth from the poor and middle-class to the super rich, their embracing of torture, their opening salvos against the rule of law and the Constitution, their obstruction about resolving the gun epidemic, their continued denial of global warming and obstruction on that score, and their open warfare against the poor and our children . . . well, someday some school kid might just ask a teacher: Why wasn’t the party outlawed sooner?

  • Why our Hair is not on Fire about Cutting Emissions, and what to do about it (Giesen)
    • Art thou shitting me? "Exceptional leadership?" Does that include, um, the XLpipeline? Fracking, well, um, everywhere. Attempting to shove coal up the Columbia to China for the love of a lousy buck? Dissing small countries that beg for help when they start, literally, to sink? Destroying West Virginia Mountain Momma by masectomotizing her mountains?

      They might be at a 20 year low, but that does not mean that we still do not leave a disproportionate footprint per capita. And by the way, please read the article you cite - there are damned good reasons they are down this year, in part due to a RECORD WARM WINTER due, gosh, to excess carbon emission maybe?

      Good grief!

    • Thanks for this informative piece!

      On Anti-Intellectualism: Yes, a major major problem. And there is nothing to be done about it. I’m a university professor. When I confront my wingnut sister (who has only books by equally wingnut pundits in her house) with basic facts concerning history or science or economics that contradict her views she literally refuses to absorb them and shakes her head saying “no, no”, usually followed with an attack on the fact that I’m well-read while she is not, and usually ending with a feeble “well you can read all you want, but I just believe . . .” She doesn’t need information; she just knows (it is presented in terms of those who have “common sense” as opposed to others who have “book learning” [yes, in this day and age she still uses this term]).

      This mindset, I suspect, is fairly common amongst the GOP, since we see it particularly with the deniers of global warming in congress.

      It is what I have come to term “Dead Parrot Politics”, after the Monty Python skit in which John Cleese (qua customer) confronts Michael Palin (qua clerk in a pet shop), with the fact that he just sold him a parrot which is as dead as a door-nail. Even after Cleese bangs the parrot on the sales counter and continually shouts “Polly!” in its ears, Palin refuses to accept the parrot as dead.

      This is the politics the GOP practices. Prove Keynesian economics works and they will deny it. Prove torture took place and they will deny it. Show them melting glaciers and ice caps and they will deny it. Show them all the medical and sociological studies that indicate proliferation of guns is a problem and they will deny it. Show them ill advised foreign adventures will diminish our standing, cost trillions of dollars, thousands of lives, and result in possible blowback for our country and they will deny it (and I promise most will not care about the lives). Show them their candidate for president is about to go down big time and they will deny it.

      It was not always this way. I can actually remember a time when the GOP embraced many things that were shown to be for the common good (just read their 1956 presidential platform). I remember a time when the nefarious Nixon even embraced health care reform and environmental protection, when parties came together in the 1970s to protect the ozone from aerosols. Growing up in Oregon we had a Republican governor, Tom McCall, who was eager to maintain the states natural beauty and environment.

      But back in the 1970s the two parties worked from a common set of facts and could come to consensus on them in general. No one, I think, foresaw then the complete dismissal of scientific, economic, or historical fact that would make governing the country intelligently, efficiently, and humanely impossible. By the 1980s it was evident though, what was happening. Throw on to that massive funding of conservative “think tanks” which willfully sow disinformation and put out position papers that receive legitimacy through mainstream press coverage and you have, well, Gotterdamerung.

      The usurpation of the GOP by the Birchers and the corrupt corporatized proto-facist granny-starving zombie-eyed Randians is now pretty complete. Dead Parrot Politics has taken over the Republican party – it must in order to hold the party line and the identity politics it practices. But it should no longer be known as the GOP, but the DPP (Dead Parrot Party).

  • How America is Filling up itself and the World With Guns
    • An addendum to what I posted above Juan.

      There are a number of people such as myself who deeply resent the pervasive celebration of militarism in this country. It seems the one institution that gets a free pass is the military. I have seen what they do to young people – how the military can often (not always, but all too frequently), desensitize young people to violence. These young men and women are put in horrific situations and then, without the benefit of psychological counseling are sent to live in society again, with all of the attendant consequences: high rates of suicide, spousal abuse, drug abuse, etc. Get them the hell out of the military and send them to school or to learn a trade.

      And yet try, try to find any MSM outlet that dares to criticize or critique our military – it’s all too often a story of triumphalism, and heaven forbid when scandal does come to light that it is more than a few bad apples and not a deeper institutional crisis. Or worse, the one who brings institutional rot to light is put in solitaire, such as Bradley Manning.

      “Support Our Troops” has become a finger poked in our chest that I interpret to really mean, “Do not under any circumstances criticize the military and let it run the show”. Well I have some news for the ignoramuses in the press and for those with yellow ribbons: this country was founded in no small part on the basis that the military would not run the show, that there would be a separation of powers. They had actually read and absorbed about how Rome had devolved from a republican form of government into a military dictatorship and wanted no part of it.

      As noted in my earlier post, this has got to end; but I don’t see that happening soon, since even our police are becoming increasingly militarized, with their use of drones, or their heavy armaments and pepper spray used against students peacefully protesting against income inequality, or any other number of strong arm methods.

    • Hello Juan, and thank you for this. It seems apt to add to your fine observations that in April of 1967 Martin Luther King Jr. made the following observation about the United States when he came out openly against the war in Vietnam:

      “As I have walked among the desperate, rejected and angry young men I have told them that Molotov cocktails and rifles would not solve their problems. I have tried to offer them my deepest compassion while maintaining my conviction that social change comes most meaningfully through nonviolent action. But they asked -- and rightly so -- what about Vietnam? They asked if our own nation wasn't using massive doses of violence to solve its problems, to bring about the changes it wanted. Their questions hit home, and I knew that I could never again raise my voice against the violence of the oppressed in the ghettos without having first spoken clearly to the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today -- my own government. For the sake of those boys, for the sake of this government, for the sake of hundreds of thousands trembling under our violence, I cannot be silent.”

      Later in his speech he prophetically predicted the following:

      “The war in Vietnam is but a symptom of a far deeper malady within the American spirit, and if we ignore this sobering reality we will find ourselves organizing clergy- and laymen-concerned committees for the next generation. They will be concerned about Guatemala and Peru. They will be concerned about Thailand and Cambodia. They will be concerned about Mozambique and South Africa. We will be marching for these and a dozen other names and attending rallies without end unless there is a significant and profound change in American life and policy. Such thoughts take us beyond Vietnam, but not beyond our calling as sons of the living God.”

      He recognized that our foreign policy and the violence we see in our own country are inherently connected, and he was spot on. We have had to take to the streets over U.S. brutality in I don’t know how many countries as we continually visit violence on the global south. The U.S. is stuck in a primordial ooze spinning the wheels of its collectively reptilian brain which, as Carl Sagan observed, celebrates values of hierarchy, of authoritarianism, of territoriality, of force and violence, of the strong man.

      Perhaps if we could collectively imagine a complete deconstruction of our armaments industry and its morphing into green industry, of the morphing of the Department of War (I won’t call it Defense, that is a B******T Orwellian term) into the Department of Peace, perhaps if our neighbors could be laid off from factories that build arms and rehired at ones that build solar panels (and yes, our friends and neighbors need to be called out for their contributions to violence), perhaps if we decided to have a Department of Planetary Repair and Reparation, which we desperately need as we heat up the planet, we could start to heal this country and our species as a whole. The people and the children of this planet need it.

      Before taking up farming I taught Classics for many years at a major university. It said it all to me that when I taught the Iliad with its graphic violence I did not need to worry about anyone taking offense; but talk about ancient sexuality or Classical literature with lots of obscenity in it? That had to be taught with great sensitivity with even warnings in the syllabus about risqué material. That was not the students’ fault, that is just how our culture works: as Colonel Kurtz put it in the movie Apocolypse Now, “We train our young men to drop fire on people, but we won’t allow them to write f**k on their airplanes because it’s obscene”.

      Sorry for the long post, but in the wake of Connecticut on top of what we read about drones I feel this needs not to be said but proclaimed from the hilltops. And what more apt time for King’s words than in the season of peace?

  • Questions I ask myself about Connecticut School Shooting
    • Give it up Juan.

      I’m a farmer and live in western Oregon. I will use a gun as a tool – it’s in my barn and is unloaded. It is a working tool to put injured animals out of their misery and to protect from predators and nothing more. Aside from licensed hunters, police and park rangers, there is no need for anyone else to have a gun period.

      When I brought the issue of guns up a few years ago with my progressive Democratic representative he just laughed at me and said the Dems have to drop the issue if they want to win elections.

      So, the gun lobby has won. And Newton is what their victory looks like. So let me ask anyone who wants to defend the NRA and gun ownership, How do you like how your victory looks? How do you like the empty rooms the parents now must pass? How do you like the empty chair at the holiday table? How do you like the presents bought for Christmas whose recipients bled for your weekend shoot fests – can you possibly imagine the grief of the parent or grandparent returning such presents?

      Question: Screw gun control and lets cut to the quick. When is the NRA going to be listed by the State Department as a terrorist organization and tried for aiding and abetting crimes against humanity? And a further question for this self-absorbed navel gazing, Narcissistic nation: Could you in any way find it in you to empathize with those whose children you’ve killed in Palestine, Iraq, Afghanistan, Yemen, and a host of other countries in the past few years in the wake of this disaster? No, I didn’t f******g think so.

      Happy F*****g Holidays.

  • Romney and the Gish Gallop or How Fact Checking doesn't Work (Young Turks)
    • I've posted this in comments before and I will post it again. The GOP strategy is to carpet bomb any opposition with such a shit storm of crazy, cruel, stupid policies and statements that one doesn't know where to start and any intelligent and compassionate discussion of issues is rendered impossible.

      CO2 is good for the plants; Star Wars will work; we know where the WMDs are; bomb bomb bomb bomb bomb Iran; health care is not a fundamental right. And since the media has decided that the truth lies somewhere in the middle, lets give plenty of air time to climate deniers, war mongers, etc.

      Remind me, what is the half way compromise on torture? On gross wealth inequality? On childhood malnutrition? On environmental degradation? On Justice?

      Good f*****g grief!

      Not in my life time, but some day this country will come to its senses, and then we will see the likes not just of Dick Cheney and the Koch brothers in the docket, but plenty of their media toadies from their propaganda ministry too.

      Good night, and good luck.

  • Top Ten Clint Eastwood Empty-Chair Falsehoods
    • Actually anyone who could suffer through that entire embarrassment, including you yourself Prof. Cole, deserves a medal. And I thought Curb Your Enthusiasm was cringe-worthy.

      But I wish people would let go of the Democrats/Republican paradigm and all of this seems a horrible distraction, Neal Postman's worst nightmare come true.

      Look, any party that does not fight for a living wage, clean environment, strong social safety net, universal access to education, healthcare, and yes, even food, is not a party that can lay claim to the name civilized, let alone Christian. And neither party seems willing to fight for any of this, but to live on deceptions, lies, and false promises. You can vote for this repeatedly, but as I recall the definition of insanity is to do something again and again that doesn't work.

      In the process of all of this we get fed a diet of values straight from the reptilian brain: values of aggression; of hierarchy, of territoriality. The only thing left to do after a while is to tend your vegetables and raise your chickens and hope the goddamn idiots who run this godforsaken country don't blow it entirely the hell up.

  • The Age of Mass Killing Comes to Syria & France Pushes Gov't in Exile
    • Hello Juan –

      I am a former Classics prof whose privilege it was as a graduate student to travel throughout Syria. It was only for nine days in mid December of 1994. But wow, what a magnificent place. Damascus is a fabulous, beautiful and unique city. My two days spent in Aleppo I will never forget, particularly the souks. Crac de Chevalier, Phillopolis, Latakia, Dura Europas, Ebla, Palmyra (Roman jewel of the desert), Halibya, Saladin’s fortress, and I could go on and on. In Aleppo I was struck by the similarity between Italian and Arabic architecture and designs from the same period, and wondered who was imitating whom. These events are all the more tragic given the great history of this country and its significance for humankind. My heart goes out to the Syrians who are in my prayers. I hope that in a future post you will discuss the urgency of preserving Syria’s cultural treasures and her people’s patrimony (and didn’t we learn an awful lesson by the destruction of Iraq’s history?) Please post pics of these historic sites and Syria’s wonderful peoples.

  • Top Five Worst Planks in GOP Platform
    • The "crazy, stupid, and cruel" in their platform is not a mistake, hell, maybe even not an ideology. I would argue that it is a strategy to be so perverse, so wrong and evil in their Weltanschauung, that the opposition (the real one, what little of it exists, NOT the Democrats), don't even know where to begin.

      It is designed to make compromise look like the Nixon or Reagan administration on a bad day. Hence we get Barak "Ronald Wilson Reagan" Obama for president, because folks, we have been moved so far to the right that that is what centrism now looks like.

      This country is like an alcoholic, and it will not come to its senses and sober up until it has reached rock bottom. It won't be pretty, esp. when you consider we are nowhere near there yet.

  • How Long will We let the National Rifle Association and Corrupt Politicians Kill our Children?
    • Gosh I'm sick of this whole thing. American society proves over and over again that it is violent and irresponsible with guns. The gun lobbyists and gun freaks are to gun control what Grover Norquist is to taxes. There is to be absolutely no gun control whatsoever period and no compromise and consequences be damned.

      Well we've seen what havoc unfettered gun access visits on our society, and it is horrible. You folks against gun control or any sort of regulation have had your way on this issue forever and it is not working - not even the argument that guns will protect us from a tyrannical government, which, if you've been paying the least bit of attention, we have become over the past forty years (or better).

      And most - likely not all but most - of you folks on the wrong side of this issue are clueless to the suffering gun violence visits, both physical and emotional, on the survivors of gun violence and their families. My cousin was the victim of random gun violence and spent 25 years in a wheel chair before dying of pneumonia (and his death was considered, in the end, a homicide). His - and the suffering of his parents - was horrific.

      So a modest proposal. You can have your guns, any damn gun you want, but it will go on a national and local register and there will be a national fund for victims of gun violence and their families (including such things as full compensation for lost lifetime earnings) and you will pay a special tax for your decision to own a fire arm that will go towards that fund.

      Oh, and by the way, I am a farmer in western Oregon and need a rifle for a variety of reasons (to deal with predators and to quickly kill severely wounded animals). It is a tool of my trade and I have no problem with registering my gun with the local authorities any more than I do registering my truck with the Department of Motor Vehicles.

      Enough was enough after the MacDonalds shooting in 1984; it is more than enough today.

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