mm473: If only it were actually oil they spew in such quantities

August 19, 2008
© Eline Spek | Dreamstime.com

© Eline Spek | Dreamstime.com

MUDGE’s Musings

How can you tell a Rovian Republican is lying?

His lips are moving.

It’s less than three months to election day, and the Rovian machinery of mis- and disinformation has lurched into gear.

Jerome Corsi’s new No. 1 bestseller is beneath contempt; the Obama campaign seems to have learned from the stricken paralysis that was the Kerry campaign’s reaction to Corsi’s Swift Boat slander, and one can only hope that the Corsi’s latest spurious attacks will be swiftly deflected.

But there’s a lot more going on in the Fantasyland that is the Republican commentariat.

Take oil, for example.

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mm468: And the band played on

August 14, 2008
© Catia Amadio | Dreamstime.com

© Catia Amadio | Dreamstime.com

MUDGE’s Musings

In case current events in the nation of Georgia haven’t made the fact crystal clear, yr (justifiably) humble svt is unhappy to inform you that the U.S. military hasn’t exactly covered itself in glory over the past nearly 20 years since the end of the Cold War.

And the diplomatic corps has similarly shown itself to be overstressed and undermanned.

Nicholas Kristof made the point this past weekend: the U.S. has more musicians in its military bands than it has diplomats!

And what Kristof’s story omits, due to rapidly breaking events, is the failure of both U.S. diplomacy and U.S. military strength during the Russian invasion of Georgia this past week.

Military strength? Well, we can’t simultaneously put sufficient boots on the ground to meet our objectives in Iraq and Afghanistan, much less come to the aid of a strategically critical ally, Georgia.

Diplomacy? A strong diplomatic corps might have foreseen (yes, hindsight is always 20:20) that Georgia was simultaneously taking U.S. and NATO support as more than words, while underestimating Vladimir Putin’s urge for regained empire, and warned Mikheil Saakashvili away from his adventuristic invasion of South Ossettia.

Or a diplomatic arm with some heft might have been able to forestall, or at least mitigate, Russia’s response. Putin may now be emboldened to exercise his brand of “diplomacy” over other, West-leaning, former states of the old Soviet empire, and the U.S. will be hard pressed to protect them, diplomatically or militarily, if it even figures out that this would be a useful strategy.

But George III is a happy warrior, as befits a civilian who took giant steps to avoid substantive military service, and diplomacy apparently doesn’t mean much to him, or it appears, to Congress.

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mm466: The Age of Obama … is a problem

August 12, 2008
© Halina Yakushevich | Dreamstime.com

© Halina Yakushevich | Dreamstime.com

MUDGE’s Musings

Grumpy old men. And women. And the grumpitude is a significant challenge to Barack Obama’s candidacy.

Bill Clinton was younger than Obama is now, in 1992, but that was a different generation of over-65 people.

Clinton spoke to that age group about what they cared about most, Social Security, and in so doing secured their votes.

It was prior to the age of the Internet, and it was a different generation of young voting age kids, who, in the main after growing up in the vacant era of Reagan and George II, were apathetic.

Nobody bothered speaking to that age group, because they simply weren’t paying attention anyway.

Now, the new, “millennial” generation of today’s young people are paying attention, and it’s Sen. Obama to whom they are paying all that attention, to an extent that the current generation of post-65 grumpy voters apparently finds off-putting.

After all, how good can anything or anyone be if kids favor it. I hate their music, their movies, their clothing, their refusal to act their age. So I guess I hate their presidential candidate.

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mm464: Shoot back!

August 10, 2008

© Scott Maxwell | Dreamstime.com

MUDGE’s Musings

It may be election year silly season, that interim time before the nominating conventions ignite the run to Election Day, but, as Sara Robinson notes so colorfully below,”McCain’s shooting live rounds; and as usual, the Democrats are refusing to fire back.”

The roots of progressive candidates’ failure to respond in kind to the lying liars of the right can be found in this nation’s earliest history, if the socio-history referenced in Robinson’s blog post has validity.

campaignforamericasfuture

Why We Don’t Shoot Back

By Sara Robinson | August 5th, 2008 – 6:44pm ET

Drew Westen and Mike Lux both have cogent and persuasive posts up that deftly explain — and raise the alarm about — the timidity that’s recently settled into Sen. Barack Obama’s presidential campaign. Sen. John McCain’s shooting live rounds now; and, as usual, the Democrats are refusing to fire back. If that doesn’t change — this week, before the Olympics starts — this could all too easily turn into Dukakis-all-over-again. …

We’ve all got our short lists of books that changed the way we look at things forever. One of the ones I keep going back to is Albion’s Seed: Four British Folkways in America, published in 1989 by Brandeis historian David Hackett Fischer. Fischer’s basic argument — which he supports with a weighty and richly researched sociological survey that runs to 700 pages plus another 200 pages of footnotes — is that most of America’s most enduring cultural and political conflicts can be traced back to essential differences between the first four groups of English settlers, who brought four very different worldviews with them, and set deep patterns that continue to influence America’s identity and choices to this day.

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mm463: Blast from the Past! No. 40!

August 9, 2008

MUDGE’S Musings

© Carbouval | Dreamstime.com

© Carbouval | Dreamstime.com

So, back into the archives yet again, but hey, recycling is IN, right? We’re all about doing the right thing here at Left-Handed Complement, and in that spirit we’re recycling some of yr (justifiably) humble svt‘s favorite electrons.

I hereby stop apologizing for observing the prime directive of blogging: Thou Shalt Blog Daily!

And, I’m guessing that most of you weren’t here nine months ago. As one of my favorite paper publications used to say as they flogged unsold back issues: “If you haven’t read it yet, it’s new for you!”

lhc76019043_thumb24_thumb2_thumb2_th

Blast from the Past!

A post we really, really loved to write, and read, and re-read…

From last fall, and always in season, originally posted October 19, 2007, and originally titled “mm173: Legalize all drugs!”

MUDGE’S Musings

Earlier this week, the failed U.S. war on drugs was discussed in this space.

Turns out that a high ranking provincial law enforcement officer in Britain believes that the UK’s version is just as pointless as its U.S. cousin’s.

theindependent

By Jonathan Brown and David Langton

Published: 15 October 2007

One of Britain’s most senior police officers is to call for all drugs – including heroin and cocaine – to be legalised and urges the Government to declare an end to the “failed” war on illegal narcotics.

Richard Brunstrom, the Chief Constable of North Wales, advocates an end to UK drug policy based on “prohibition”. His comments come as the Home Office this week ends the process of gathering expert advice looking at the next 10 years of strategy.

In his radical analysis, which he will present to the North Wales Police Authority today, Mr Brunstrom points out that illegal drugs are now cheaper and more plentiful than ever before.

The number of users has soared while drug-related crime is rising with narcotics now supporting a worldwide business empire second only in value to oil. “If policy on drugs is in future to be pragmatic not moralistic, driven by ethics not dogma, then the current prohibitionist stance will have to be swept away as both unworkable and immoral, to be replaced with an evidence-based unified system (specifically including tobacco and alcohol) aimed at minimisation of harms to society,” he will say.

The war on drugs benefits the prison-industrial complex, but not society.

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mm462: Impervious to the Olympics

August 8, 2008

dreamstime_5517370

© Claudio Negri | Dreamstime.com

MUDGE’s Musings

Long ago, yr (justifiably) humble svt was quite the sports fan. Some of this was genetic; my long-deceased father was a baseball fan, first and foremost; during his prime he was pleased to have season’s tickets for both Chicago ball clubs.

His oldest son is more of a fair weather fan. And the weather thus far this season has been quite fair, thank you very much, on both the North and South sides of town, although all such observations are via television or Internet; stadium tickets, parking, refreshments are luxury goods.

Professional and college football I find more compelling; even though I never have been at all athletic, the large size of football players fits my self image better, I think. Those seasons are just about to begin; it’s been a long several months football-free drought. But, interest is vicarious; the past two seasons, courtesy of my Naval Academy children, I have actually attended a couple of live college games, but it’s been 30 years or more since I’ve attended a professional contest.

For many years, I was a happy subscriber to Sports Illustrated, and a voracious consumer of televised sports of all kinds, although until the past few years penury deprived me of many years of ESPN.

And, every four years, and lately, since the Winter and Summer games have been split, every two years, I was a consumer of televised Olympics.

A fellow denizen of BlogExplosion.com, michiganrafter, much more into things athletic (and commercial) than am I, had a listing the other day of the Top Ten Olympic Moments, and I could recall and concur with all of his choices.

That was then. It’s no accident, I think, that most of his top 10 occurred at least 20, and some more than 30, years ago.

Sport has changed.

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mm459: Blast from the Past! No. 39

August 5, 2008

MUDGE’S Musings

So, back into the archives yet again, (once again, a picnic summer concert with friends) but this time, you really get a treat, as this is one of my all time favorites, not by any statistical measure, just by my own subjective evaluation.

I console myself by guessing that most of you weren’t here nine months ago. As one of my favorite paper publications used to say: “If you haven’t read it yet, it’s new for you!”

lhc76019043_thumb24_thumb2_thumb2

Blast from the Past!

A post we really, really loved to write, and read, and re-read…

From last fall, and always in season, originally posted October 12, 2007, and originally titled “mm168: We’re fighting more than one pointless war.”

MUDGE‘s Musings

The U.S. has always been this very strange dichotomy: a Puritanical streak a mile wide, uneasily coexisting with gaudy decadence.

We prohibited alcohol consumption by Constitutional amendment in 1920. The result: organized crime in this country became an ingrained institution, and every solid citizen knew a bootlegger. The Great Experiment ended with repeal of prohibition in 1933.

Oddly, organized crime is still with us, having survived to evolve toward other more lucrative (i.e., still illegal) venues. Such as gambling, sex, even tobacco.

And drugs.

Gambling had always been an underground phenomenon, save for a couple of pockets (Nevada and Atlantic City). Then, 35 years ago, state sponsored lotteries began to appear on the scene, leading to the next step, the oddly constrained riverboat and tribal casinos that now populate so many parts of the nation.

Gambling, always a pernicious and destructive habit, is now state sanctioned, making it possible for working stiffs and stiffettes who couldn’t raise busfare to an Indian casino to blow half their weekly pay on a one in 12million shot at obscene wealth at their corner mini-mart.

Commercial sex, fully consummated in the form of legal brothels only in several counties of Nevada, has long been available in teaser form (”look but don’t touch — and would you like to buy a ‘private dance’ in the back?”) in nearly every city, of whatever size.

Many of these strip clubs, “gentlemen’s clubs” and the like are run by, you guessed it, organized crime, also still a force in the pornography field, although the liberating effect of the Internet has democratized both supply and demand of that particular form of entertainment.

Tobacco is a late addition to the list of proscribed vices, as more municipalities and states (who have long since attempted to control tobacco sales to minors with spotty success) have begun to restrict the ability of citizens to indulge in smoking in public spaces, and have often raised taxes on cigarette purchases so outlandishly that organized crime has been pleased to step into tobacco sales, providing low-priced supplies using stolen or imported stock.

So the U.S. goes both ways: Puritanical (sex, tobacco) and decadence (alcohol, gambling).

And then there are drugs. The Puritans have a firm grasp on this issue, and the law and order establishment has made the enforcement of drug prohibition a very big business indeed.

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mm457: From the guys who helped put China in business

August 3, 2008

dreamstime_2236000

© John Leaver | Dreamstime.com

MUDGE’s Musings

Used to be, if you were annoyed by the antics of big business, you’d pick on General Motors, world’s biggest, most arrogant, automobile manufacturer.

Difficult to be anything but sorry for GM these days, as they Hummer their way into business oblivion.

No, these days if you want to vent your spleen regarding unpleasant aspects of big business, Wal-Mart is your most appropriate target.

After all, these are the guys who have rolled back prices so relentlessly that they’ve rolled up entire industries and sent the jobs and our treasure to China, at the expense of zillions of decent paying blue collar jobs in the U.S.

And, as an employer, they are infamous for poor pay, are niggardly with benefits, and have fought an equally relentless battle against unionization, lest their workers have any real means of changing their working conditions.

Those friendly greeters? Just minimum wage retirees who are really posted at the door not to smile weakly at you, but rather to make sure that shoplifters exiting the store are caught.

Just to be certain that their own underpaid and cowed staff stays that way, they have begun a campaign, documented by the Wall Street Journal, no less, to warn their managers and supervisors that a prospective Democratic presidential administration endangers Wal-Mart’s non-union status.

wallstreetjournal

Wal-Mart Warns of Democratic Win

By ANN ZIMMERMAN and KRIS MAHER | August 1, 2008; Page A1

Wal-Mart Stores Inc. is mobilizing its store managers and department supervisors around the country to warn that if Democrats win power in November, they’ll likely change federal law to make it easier for workers to unionize companies — including Wal-Mart.

In recent weeks, thousands of Wal-Mart store managers and department heads have been summoned to mandatory meetings at which the retailer stresses the downside for workers if stores were to be unionized.

According to about a dozen Wal-Mart employees who attended such meetings in seven states, Wal-Mart executives claim that employees at unionized stores would have to pay hefty union dues while getting nothing in return, and may have to go on strike without compensation. Also, unionization could mean fewer jobs as labor costs rise.

Wal-Mart is far from the only employer that opposes the Employee Free Choice Act (co-sponsored, by the way, by a certain junior senator from Illinois), but as the largest private employer in the U.S. they certainly have the most to lose, and that largest body of private employees in the U.S. has the most to gain.

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mm454: It’s going to take a liberal quantity of BOLD

July 31, 2008

dreamstime_4341351_thumb[1]

© Michaeljung | Dreamstime.com

MUDGE’s Musings

We observe the first anniversary of the tragic collapse of the I-35W bridge in Minneapolis (August 1, 2007) with some sadness, and furious anger.

Sadness due to the thirteen lives lost, and 100+ injured.

Anger because the danger embodied in this country’s aging and dilapidated bridges, highways, levees and schools is criminally no closer to alleviation than 366 days ago.

Meanwhile, the economy is faltering: banks are failing, foreclosures are at record highs (three million empty houses!), the ranks of under- and unemployed growing apace.

What is it going to take to repair this country’s infrastructure osteoporosis?

What is it going to take to kick start the economy, to get people working and once again able to meet their mortgage obligations, perhaps even afford that $4.299/gallon gasoline?

It’s going to take a liberal quantity of bold.

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mm451: Goodbye, old blue, you’re worth more to me dead than alive

July 28, 2008

dreamstime_3143346

© Mel Gama | Dreamstime.com

MUDGE’s Musings

Old cars. If they’re old enough (in most states, more than 25 years old), they’re vintage, even antique, and perhaps worth the extra effort it takes to keep them running.

If they are 15-25 years old, they are usually just basic transportation, and a basic pain.

The body parts not rusted are crumpled. The driver’s window no longer winds down (maybe the entire door is rusted shut), so paying a toll, or dining at a drive-through fast food establishment, is yet another hassle.

You prefer to drive at night, because the black exhaust cloud isn’t as obvious.

And then the usual litany:

Will it start?

Will it stop??

What’s it going to cost me to fix it for the third time this year???

And the planet shares your pain.

How sensitive of the planet!

Princeton University economist Alan Blinder, whom I fondly remember as a columnist for Business Week years ago, a side job while vice-chairing the Federal Reserve and holding down the Princeton gig, would like to take that beast off of your hands.

Because that black cloud trailing behind you isn’t unique. The state of California estimates that cars 13 years and older account for 25% of miles driven overall, but an astonishing 75% of all passenger automobile generated pollution.

nytimes

A Modest Proposal: Eco-Friendly Stimulus

Economic View | By ALAN S. BLINDER | Published: July 27, 2008

ECONOMISTS and members of Congress are now on the prowl for new ways to stimulate spending in our dreary economy. Here’s my humble suggestion: “Cash for Clunkers,” the best stimulus idea you’ve never heard of.

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