Thursday, October 25, 2007

Hallucinated nonsense....and some reality.

The nonsense:
Given the level of accurate assessment of our "enemies" in the US--and I'm referring specifically to the nearly 41% in late 2005, down from 64% a year earlier, who continued to believe, against all evidence, that Saddam Hussein had a ready arsenal of Weapons of Mass Destruction--one wonders what the man-in-the-street imagines about the size and military capability of Iran.

There has been a lot of exaggerated talk over what Iran may be capable of in three or five years. Note the hysteria that came from President Bush earlier this week as he raised the specter of "World War III" in talking about Iran's hallucinated future capability to produce even one thermonuclear device sometime in the future:
"If you're interested in avoiding World War III, it seems like you ought to be interested in preventing [Iran] from having the knowledge necessary to make a nuclear weapon."

A small dose of reality:
An excerpt from Fareed Zakaria’s latest analytical column in Newsweek. Zakaria knows more about the Middle East than any other major columnist I know of. AND, he's widely acknowledged as a conservative observer:

Here is the reality. Iran has an economy the size of Finland’s and an annual defense budget of around $4.8 billion. It has not invaded a country since the late 18th century. The United States has a GDP that is 68 times larger and defense expenditures that are 110 times greater. Israel and every Arab country (except Syria and Iraq) are quietly or actively allied against Iran. And yet we are to believe that Tehran is about to overturn the international system and replace it with an Islamo-fascist order? What planet are we on?

Monday, October 22, 2007

Almost 60 years later: Still no National Health, and--sad to say--no repeat World Series

The same month my dad bought this pennant for me, Harry Truman was hammering the "Damn do-nothing 80th Congress" for their failure to enact his National Health Plan (among other things).

As a kid, with this on my wall, I recall liking this portrayal of an American Indian--said to be based on Mohawk images-- and there was something authentic about the crude stitching on the baseball in the background. I never liked the switch that introduced the "Chief Wahoo" mascot.

Maybe changing their name and ditching the chief would change our luck.

And--maybe, just maybe--changing presidents (the sooner the better; impeachment can work wonders) will change our luck on National Health.

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Thursday, October 18, 2007

You may just hate The NY Times for their "slant". But this is the simple reportage of FACTS.

Dollar Hits a New Low, Oil Hits a New High...

The New York Times
Published: October 19, 2007

FRANKFURT, Oct. 18 — The dollar sank to a new low against the Euro Thursday as fresh evidence of losses in the mortgage industry stoked fears of a sharper-than-expected economic slowdown in the United States and crude oil rose to another record.

In late afternoon trading in New York, the euro traded at $1.4294, up from $1.4186 on Wednesday. Crude oil for November delivery rose $2.07, or 2.4 percent, to $89.47 a barrel. In after-hours electronic trading, the price rose slightly above $90.

Today I put twenty gallons of unleaded regular in my 1994 Ford pickup (small block V-6, 2wd, stick, no air)-- at the Kwik Trip on Grandview Blvd. in Waukesha, just off I-94.

$2.78 a gallon.

I might get this price a few more times, but by the time the oil--purchased at $90/bbl today--goes through a refinery in late November and appears on the market in Dec., I think the price will be up, WAY UP.

The paired trajectories of fuel prices (up) and the value of the USD (in free fall) are indisputable. Crunch time is upon us. A significant piece of the recent dip in gasoline prices is attributed to a one-time event: Third world countries that had been able to buy fuel when oil was $30/bbl to $60/bbl are simply dropping out of the market. What they do not buy appears as a temporary augmentation of supply.

The world's poor--those whose recent food source has been the energy-intensive Green Revolution--know that the intense energy inputs (fuel, fertilizer, pesticides, irrigation water pumped from ever-deeper wells) will be there no more. Here, we may feel the pinch--and, for some, more than just a pinch. In other parts of the world, people will starve.

Having this truck is pure fortuitous luck. I bought it for what a 12 year old truck would cost a few years ago. I keep it in good, safe condition--brakes, shocks, belts, leaf springs, oil, tune-up and tires (dents and rust matter little). I earn retiree-money by doing tree work, which makes the truck indispensible; but it is my everyday transportation, with a cost-per-mile that is way low.

For someone with a newish car or truck, with big payments and big insurance premiums, the coming uptick (should we call it a leap?) in gas prices is going to pinch.

But, if you are a mother in Honduras or Congo or Bangladesh, prepare to mourn your children.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

A letter to the columnist, Laurel Walker...

Dear Ms. Walker

From today's Milwaukee Journal Sentinel editorial:
At the same time, the city and the county need to consider transportation options to get workers from other parts of the region to Pabst Farms. To its credit, the county already has started to raise those issues. We supported redevelopment of the I-94 interchange at Sawyer Road, but with a scaled down development, that could be done later. The state should give a higher priority to a western bypass around the city of Waukesha.

Whew! I was afraid that the editorial page would have to take you to the woodshed over some of your skepticism on PF. But, they've apparently decided that one little column from you--with its whiff of Emperor's-new-clothes--now makes big policy sense. During Summer, a big interchange was crucial. Just a few weeks later it can wait. And wait it will--perhaps, until something freezes over.

Now it's time to question their assertion that the Stepford wives and former real estate developers/agents luxuriating in the Pabst Farms experience will not want to--much less need to--work in the check-out lines of Ikea, or waiting on tables at one of the dozen upscale watering holes envisioned by the developers.

The masterminds of PF need to face the looming likelihood that they are about to join Francis Jay Schroedel in the fourth ring of the Developers Inferno.

Fourth Circle. (Canto VII) Those whose concern for material goods deviated from the desired mean are punished in this circle. They include the avaricious or miserly, who hoarded possessions, and the prodigal, who squandered them. Guarded by Plutus, each group pushes a great weight against the heavy weight of the other group. After the weights crash together the process starts over again. (In Gustave Doré's illustrations for this scene, the damned push huge money bags).

Nice work. Why don't you try to do some interviews with the Pabst Farms homesteaders and developers--that would make another good column. Then, maybe the editorial board will have to think about begging Whitney to come back onboard their little foundering ship. Just one withering look from her gimlet eye would likely give Patrick intermittent bouts of palpitations and mysterious itching rashes.

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Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Blogger poses a question. Decider snaps a response.

Kevin Drum, at Political Animal, has a beguiling way of pulling it all together in a few pithy sentences:


Turkey has warned us that if Congress passes a resolution calling the 1915 Armenian genocide a genocide, "military ties with the U.S. will never be the same again." Russia and the other states surrounding the Caspian Sea are cozying up to Iran and warning us not to even think about launching an attack against Iran's nuclear facilities. China is "furious" because President Bush is meeting with the Dalai Lama. India is having "certain difficulties" approving its nuclear deal with the U.S. Britain is pulling out of Iraq. The Iraqis are pissed off at us over Blackwater. Afghan leaders are angry over our poppy spraying program, and Pakistan continues to provide a safe haven for the Taliban.

Other than that, though, how are things going for us?

Because he occasionally stumbles over mere words and gets tripped up on syntactical minutia, George W. Bush reaches into his magician's silk hat and pull out a one-eared wascally wabbit--his version of high speed communication in the digital age.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Felipe Perez Roque, addressing the United Nations General Assembly, representing the Non-aligned Nations

Mr. President:

...Inequality among and within the countries is on the rise.

Drinking water is not accessible to 1.1 billion people; 2.6 billion lack hygienic and bathing facilities; over 800 million are illiterate and 115 million children do not attend primary school; 850 million starve every day. And 1% of the world's richest people own 40% of the wealth, while 50% of the world's population merely has 10%. All this is happening in a world that spends a trillion dollars on weapons and another trillion on advertising.

The nearly 1 billion people living in developed countries consume approximately half of all the energy, while 2 billion poor people are still not acquainted with electricity.

Is that the world that they want us to accept? Is that, by any chance, the future that we should settle for? Are we entitled or not to fight in order to change that state of things? Should we or should we not fight so that a better world can be possible?
Read the entire speech

It is this kind of talk that has induced the US to declare that Cuba is a pariah, a "sponsor of international terrorism".

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Of the biblical allotment of three score and ten I have lived only three of them more than a bicycle ride from one of the Great Lakes. I grew up ten blocks from Lake Erie in the (once Irish/Italian ghetto, now newly-hip) "Near West Side" of Cleveland. I can still cycle to the Milwaukee lakefront in an hour and a half; but, a round-trip has always been more than I would (noror ever did) attempt. -0- I'm a "...somewhat combative pacifist and fairly cooperative anarchist," after the example of Grace Paley (1922-2007). -0- I'm always cheerful when I pay my taxes (having refused--when necessary--to pay that portion of them dedicated to war). -0- And I always, always vote.