Thursday, December 17, 2009

Now the economy is in recovery, we can afford a little military adventurism....

Ashton Carter, Undersecretary of Defense for acquisition, technology and logistics, put the matter this way recently: “[N]ext to Antarctica, Afghanistan is probably the most incommodious place, from a logistics point of view, to be trying to fight a war... It's landlocked and rugged, and the road network is much, much thinner than in Iraq. Fewer airports, different geography.” In other words, we might as well be fighting on the moon.

In translation, this means at least one thing: don’t believe any of the figures coming out of the White House or the Pentagon about what this war is going to cost.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

An Open Letter to The Norwegian Nobel Committee

On December 10, you will award the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize to President Barack Obama, citing "his extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between people." We the undersigned are distressed that President Obama, so close upon his receipt of this honor, has opted to escalate the U.S. war in Afghanistan with the deployment of 30,000 additional troops. We regret that he could not be guided by the example of a previous Nobel Peace Laureate, Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., who identified his peace prize as "profound recognition that nonviolence is the answer to the crucial political and moral question of our time — the need for man to overcome oppression and violence without resorting to violence and oppression."

Read the rest and the list of signers...


Wednesday, December 09, 2009

We are getting very close to the edge...

This from the mainstream business press this week:

Almost half (46%) of 2,148 consumers surveyed recently said they weren't confident they could come up with $2,000 within a month in a crisis--from savings, family, friends, credit cards or other sources.

Even among those earning $100,000 to $149,000 a year. almost 25% doubted they could raise it, according to the survey conducted by research firm TNS with academics from Harvard Business School and Dartmouth College.

"We wanted to know if people could fix a broken car or furnace," says Harvard finance professor Peter Tufano, who adds that most studies he has seen measure "how much cash people have... not how much they can access."

The survey results surprised him. "The ability to cope with emergencies is much less strong than we might have thought."
Business Week, Dec. 18, 2009

And This commentary and analysis by Charles H. Smith:
This survey offers a staggering set of implications. Let's grant that we have no idea if the survey was scientific, but we can assume that the academics from Harvard Business School and Dartmouth College would not besmirch their reputations with wildly inaccurate or fatally less-than-rigorous data collection. Let's follow the idea that 25% of households earning $100,000+ can't lay their hands on a meager $2,000. First off, only about 20% of households earn above $100K. Most households make do on a sum closer to the national median of $46,000.

What does it mean when households not only don't have $2,000 in cash (savings), but they also lack the ability to put their hands on $2,000 from family, friends, or even credit cards?

We can surmise:

1. Their social/family networks are either threadbare or populated by others without savings or credit;

2. Their creditworthiness is near-zero. Either they've maxed out the credit they once had, or their previous credit lines have been cut off in the general reduction of risk/credit, or they are in arrears/default and thus have zero credit.

It's also possible, and perhaps even probable (though we have no data to support this projection) that both are true: most of those in Americans' social networks are in dire straits/hanging by a financial thread and their access to credit either private or institutional is near-zero.

We might even extend our query deeper into social networking, and speculate that many Americans no longer possess a social network populated with people who they could ask for a loan. (A thousand "friends" on Facebook might not replace even one real friend.)

We might also speculate that many citizens are now wary of loaning their dwindling precious reserves of cash to anyone, even friends, who they rightly anticipate will be unable to pay back the loan if the economy continues devolving.

Perhaps the cultural ethics of the nation have been so eroded by the endless (and apparently richly rewarding) scams, fraud, embezzlement, cheating and lying that people no longer trust even their friends to act with fiscal responsibility--a suspicion fueled, perhaps, by the very fact that few were able to save even a paltry $2,000 for a rainy day.

Or it may just be that the majority of Americans are essentially one paycheck or unemployment check away from homelessness and hunger, and thus the social networks of most households are populated by others in the same general economic situation.

If so, we might ask: why have so many households failed to save even a modest sum? Let's grant that many households may well have already consumed their savings as job and pay cuts eroded household income. Medical emergencies alone apparently account for a significant percentage of financial ruination (foreclosures and bankruptcies).

But we would be remiss not to ask if some households have done better than others as the bogus prosperity evaporated, and if so, why. The answer is not difficult but it is terribly painful to those embedded in American culture's permanent adolescence: long-term shared sacrifice.

Those of you who reside in states with large immigrant populations probably know families who bought a home, and by combining three, four or even five incomes, paid off the mortgage in a few years. Was this possible if every household worker spent lavishly on consumer goods and the "luxury lifestyle" propagandized by TV? No. It was only possible if all the earners in the household rejected consumerist appeals to squander money and chose instead to sacrifice desires for the greater good, i.e. reducing the mortgage to zero and assemble a substantial savings (six figures in many cases).

Such thrift was commonplace in the post-Depression decades. People did not trust banks, hence my grandmother has six savings accounts, most with modest sums--she owned more savings accounts than dresses.

I remember my first credit card, which I only applied for after years of accumulating savings. I already owned land before I ever "owned" a credit card. This was common in the so-called "hippie era," which generally distrusted debt and institutions like banks. Hippies paid with cash or barter--at least until they devolved into yuppies.

This is not to suggest every household was financially able to amass substantial savings, but it is an open question to American society: how much credit and cash which could have been saved, with relatively modest applications of sacrifice and restraint, was squandered on "luxury goods," toys and travel?

The zeitgeist (especially television) encouraged rampant consumption and saving has been disincentivised for years by super-low interest rates. Nonetheless we have to ask how many private trillions were squandered, as a sort of cultural match to the trillions in public taxpayer funds squandered to maintain the financial Elites in their positions of power and privilege.

Responsibility for our financial ineptitude and precariousness runs both wide and deep.


Thursday, December 03, 2009

Still blooming on December 3rd.

Planting snapdragons in a sunny south-facing corner sometimes yields a crop of flowers that bring pleasure right up to Christmas.
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Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Granddaughter Aya has gotten to grandpa, once again....

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They tell me that a six-week-old baby cannot smile a real smile. It's a physical reaction to a little baby “fot” or burp. But, you can't tell me this little one isn't --in some unknown way--just plain delighted over something. And, I suspect that what has her so smiley IS NOT the way President Obama is living up to his Peace Prize laurels.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Cuba policy: A blend of futile and stupid....

First was the Cuban revolution on the first day of 1959. Then, the April, 1961 US-sponsored, US-financed and US-botched military assault on Cuba. It was inevitable that the deployment of Soviet missiles--or some other equally provocative move on the island of Cuba in 1962--would be the response.

Nikita Khrushchev and Jack Kennedy stared each other down. Then they both blinked. They both wanted out of the stand-off without nuclear war; and from that flowed the good result. US missiles pointed at the soviets came out of Turkey. Soviet missiles aimed at the US came out of Cuba. The only sensible move out of US policy-makers in the past half-century.

Ever since, it has been all clandestine stuff, mostly mischief carried out by the Miami and New Jersey bunch, with loads of CIA support and black budget cash, including repeated attempts to assassinate the Cuban leadership.

All of our attempts to wage cold war and proxy war on Cuba have amounted to making the 11 million stay-at-home Cubans pay for the sin of a love/hate relationship with the guy who pulled off their revolution, the guy who kicked Uncle Sam in the shins and threw out the mafia and waved goodbye to the fat cats who exploited their fellow Cubans.

So Radio Marti and TV Marti are merely a laughable sideshow. The production values are awful. Believe me, I’ve been there; I’ve seen and heard it. The real underlying purpose of both of those broadcasting efforts is to funnel money to the producers--Miami bitter-enders. The quid pro quo is electoral support--money and votes--every presidential election year. Republicans and Democrats are on the same page; they compete with each other to prove who really hates Castro the most.

Cubans just don’t find the Radio and TV Marti stuff appealing. Anyone who wants to see and hear the Miami broadcasts can see them or hear them. They just don't really want to. The jamming is half-hearted…and has declined in the face of this massive Cuban indifference. Some outside evaluators found that the listenership/viewership is in single digits. There is much better stuff on TV coming from Mexico, Chile, Argentina and Spain. The Miami bunch who run the radio/tv operation are equally half-hearted. They don’t care whether anyone listens/watches. They are getting their checks and that’s all that matters.

Fifty years of pushing the same tired policy…fifty years of failure. That cold-war saber-rattling never worked, just hardened the Cuban rejection of it. And the saber-rattling has devolved into piss-into-the-wind cold war rhetoric spewing unheeded out of some very big transmitters, disappearing into the ether above the Florida straits.

Why do we insist on backing it? Cuba is no threat, has never been a threat. Whatever we think of Cuban leadership, it is up to the Cuban people to choose their government. They stick with the basic tenet of the Cuban Revolution of 1959: “We’ve seen what the Yanquis do… Get the damn Yanquis out of here… and keep them out of here". more thing. Here's the latest on international support of our Cuba Embargo and Travel Ban, reported in Trans Africa Forum, Oct. 30, 2009:
United Nations Votes to Condemn U.S. Embargo against Cuba for 18th Consecutive Year

For nearly two decades, the majority of the world has voiced its opposition to one of our most problematic foreign policies – the nearly 50 year U.S. trade embargo on Cuba. On October 28, 2009, the United Nations General Assembly condemned it for the eighteenth consecutive year. 187 countries voted in opposition to the embargo, three countries voted in favor (the U.S. itself, Israel and Palau) and two abstained (Micronesia and Marshall Islands). This is the first time that the General Assembly vote has occurred under the administration of President Barack H. Obama and the first year the vote has occurred where the U.S. is the only country in the Western Hemisphere to not to have diplomatic relations with Cuba.

During a two hour debate, representatives ranging from countries such as China to regions such as the Caribbean (CARICOM) voiced strong opposition to the embargo and called it criminal, illegal and immoral. The Group of 77 (the largest intergovernmental organization of developing states in the UN) and the Non-Aligned Movement (an international organization of states not formally aligned with or against any major power bloc) expressed their disagreement. Even traditional U.S. allies, such as the European Union countries, came out unanimously against the policy and were openly critical.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Andreas Delfs is interested in the music director opening in Seattle

Maestro's new job evaporates:

The 109-year-old Honolulu Symphony, which bills itself as the oldest American orchestra west of the Rockies, said it will cancel all of its November and December concerts and made no guarantees that the rest of its 2009-10 season would go on.

“We cannot spend money we do not have,” said Majken Mechling, the symphony’s executive director. “We cannot continue with business as usual.”

The symphony is just the latest in a string of high-profile bankruptcies to hit ....

Rick Daysog, Honolulu Advertiser

Things are really getting ugly.


Wednesday, November 11, 2009

The old lie....

Bent double, like old beggars under sacks,
Knock-kneed, coughing like hags, we cursed through sludge,
Till on the haunting flares we turned our backs
And towards our distant rest began to trudge.
Men marched asleep. Many had lost their boots
But limped on, blood-shod. All went lame; all blind;
Drunk with fatigue; deaf even to the hoots
Of tired, outstripped Five-Nines that dropped behind.

Gas! Gas! Quick, boys!-An ecstasy of fumbling,
Fitting the clumsy helmets just in time;
But someone still was yelling out and stumbling
And flound'ring like a man in fire or lime...
Dim, through the misty panes and thick green light,
As under a green sea, I saw him drowning.

In all my dreams, before my helpless sight,
He plunges at me, guttering, choking, drowning.

If in some smothering dreams you too could pace
Behind the wagon that we flung him in,
And watch the white eyes writhing in his face,
His hanging face, like a devil's sick of sin;
If you could hear, at every jolt, the blood
Come gargling from the froth-corrupted lungs,
Obscene as cancer, bitter as the cud
Of vile, incurable sores on innocent tongues,-
My friend, you would not tell with such high zest
To children ardent for some desperate glory,
The old Lie: Dulce et decorum est
Pro patria mori.

Wilfred Owen
Killed on the western front, November 9, 1918, two days before the last
futile shot was fired in The Great War. . . the War to end All Wars.

Friday, November 06, 2009

Fill the hall, y'all. Sarah Palin's coming to town...

Tickets still available for tonight’s Palin event

WEST ALLIS – Tickets are still available for Wisconsin Right to Life’s event tonight featuring Sarah Palin.

The building’s doors will open at 5:30 p.m., event doors will open at 6:30 p.m. and the program will run from 7:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. at the Wisconsin Exposition Center at State Fair Park, 8200 W. Greenfield Ave.

Tickets are $30 per person, and children under 2 are free. General seating is not reserved and no tickets will be sold at the door.

Tickets can be purchased at www. Parking is $5.

– Freeman Staff

Maybe I'm reading this all wrong. But, doesn't there seem to be just a whiff of desperation in this Waukesha Freeman story running in this morning's fishwrap?

Sarah's manager's are being generous in stipulating that some of the little nippers still in diapers, may enter at no cost.

"Hey, Buster, you trying to sneak a toddler in here widdout payin' his way? That'll be another thirty bucks."


We gotta have rules to make this work:

No tickets will be sold at the door

# All bags will be searched
# No exit and re-entry allowed
# No cell phones
# No recording devices
# No video or still cameras
# No laptops
# No photos or recording allowed
# No literature distribution
# No posters or banners
# No strollers or car seats
# No carry-in food or beverages

Concession stands will be open inside the Wisconsin Exposition Center hall

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Congress prepares a batch of sausage....

In 1962, the United States Post Office faced the increasingly evident problem--that 2-digit postal zone codes were simply insufficient for the growing volumes of mail.

For example: Any letters I received pre-1964, (perhaps containing a decoder ring or a birthday card from my godmother with a buck in it--quite a generous gift, that buck would buy four packs of Pall Malls or 20 Nestle's Crunch bars) would have been addressed like this:

Jimmy B.
6810 Wakefield Ave.
Cleveland 2, Ohio

Our mailman (back then, all letter carriers were men, so there was nothing else to call them) and about thirty others--all of them working out of the branch PO for Zone 2--couldn't start sorting the mail for their routes until other sorters, located in the branch and working the graveyard shift, sorted them down to the thirty-some piles for the individual routes The only tool available was that two-digit ZONE number. The entire City of Cleveland could have no more than 99 zones. Once the ninety nine piles were sorted by zone number, everything else depended on knowing which street and which block was in which route.

The U.S. Post Office in Washington had bright staff who researched all the possible methods of getting a zone-coding system with greater finesse at locating a building, on a street, in a neighborhood, in a zone in a city in a state, all by looking only at the Postal Code Zone.

They looked and looked. They noted what the Brits had, looked at what the Canadians were considering, and checked out what Cuba had. Cuba did not make the cut, as it had a system that delivered letters addressed like this: "...near the corner of Avenida Zanha and Calle Rayo".

The Post Office recommendation in '63, made by the esteemed Postmaster General, John A. Gronouski--a good Kennedy Democrat from Wisconsin--called for a six-digit indicator, using twin alpha-numeric sets of three, with alternating numbers and letters (A2B 3C4) that would produce a huge range of combinations, allowing an indicia sufficiently versatile that it could sort mail into some very fine categories.

For Example, A piece of mail coded A3X 7P4 could have enough precision to indicate the address was:

o In a specific zone
o On specific mail delivery route
o On an urban block
o In a specific apartment block or commercial building
o On a specific floor

It was being used-- after having been perfected--in at least two places: Great Britain and the Netherlands. And everybody LIKED IT A LOT. And many other countries were studying it.

Enter: The United States Congress.

Congress listened, deliberated, blustered, horse-traded, groaned, log-rolled, strained, compromised, eye-gouged, and finally forged an agreement among the august membership.

And Congress Spoke:

The American People will not tolerate, will not accept, will not use six digits, especially with those confusing letters of the alphabet mixed in. The American people will accept only a system of zone codes with no more than five numbers... and no alphabet soup.

Moreover, the American people will happily endorse and adapt to the use of Zipcode. In order to soften the body blow inherent in drastic change, the American people will have the ministrations of Mr. ZIP to help them acclimate to the this new and complex system, which will be--because we have decreed it--the best mail sorting system in the world.

These are the same fools who are designing a health care system, getting right down to the minutia, for the American people. They're doing it in committees and caucuses and eye-gouging, log-rolling, horse-trading confabs from now until the last lobbyist has been shook down.

They know what the American people want. They know what we need. They've undertaken similar delicate, difficult tasks with reasonably good results. And if they do not get it right the first time, they know that a little tweaking cum eye-gouging sometime in the future is always possible.

After twenty years of Mr. ZIP (a backronym for Zone Improvement Program) the US Postal Service tweaked the marginally useful ZIPcodes with ZIP plus 4. Congress no longer has any say in postal affairs, as it is now (since 1972) an Independent Agency of the U.S. Government, not funded by taxes, not run by Congress.

But is still saddled with what the US Congress did in creating the Zone Improvement Program.

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Then and now in beisbol....

In Game 3 of the 1997 American League Championship Series, Baltimore pitcher Mike Mussina struck out 15 Cleveland Indians in seven innings. Indians pitcher Orel Hershiser had seven strikeouts in seven innings. The game started at 4:17 p.m. in Cleveland, and 13 of the first 18 outs were strikeouts.

"I think it’s unfair to have to go out and play a baseball game at 4 o’clock in the afternoon with the sun going down,” Mussina said after the game, which the Indians won, 2-1, in 12 innings. “It’s just not fair because you can’t see."
NY Times, 10-06-09

Further back: the the darkest* moment in Cleveland's benighted baseball history was the '54 World Series. But it had nothing to do with shadows creeping across the playing field. The Tribe having won 111 games on the way to the pennant, were swept by the Giants in a 4-game series, played on 4 consecutive days, in bright sunlight without shadows.

The 1954 World Series began in the early afternoonon of September 29 at the Polo Grounds. Marv Grissom threw the first pitch, hitting Al Smith, with Doby on deck, Avila in the hole and Rosen ready to clean up. Nothing worked for the Tribe that afternoon. And Willie Mays iced the win by making the play of the decade in center. One hundred two (102) hours later, it (the entire World Series) was over, at the end of game four at Lakefront Stadium in Cleveland.

So intent on moving the season to its conclusion, the Commissioner of Baseball didn't even allow a day off for travel. I couldn't find evidence of whether the trip to game three in Cleveland was by air or rail travel; the 20th Century Limited would have been an easy choice.

Baseball in the age of TV has been bent to the desires of revenue-hungry advocates of spectacle, not to mention the endless parade of advertising, necessitating strings of official time-outs.

And since most of the games are played on week-nights, we get scenes of the Boys of Summer shivering their way through games played on the cusp of winter. I liked it better the way they did it in '54...mostly. I refuse--still--to forgive Al Lopez for not going to Rapid Robert in the 4th game.

*In truth, the death by beanball of Ray Chapman, at the plate in the Polo Grounds against the Yankees, was the worst day--Aug. 16, 1920. But, to an 11 year old fan, who hadn't yet read enough baseball history, there was no comparison.

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Herb Kohl: a guy who'll offer you a glass of water on a cold day

I wrote Herb Kohl a cordial and encouraging letter about why I thought he should join the growing numbers of Senators and Representatives backing bills to lift the Cuba travel ban for all Americans. I referenced Senate Bill 428, which already has 32 Senate co-sponsors.

On Mon, Oct 5, 2009 at 8:59 AM, Senator Kohl wrote:
"As you may know, the U.S. has imposed a travel and economic embargo on Cuba since 1958 in response to Cuban President Fidel Castro's refusal to democratize and demonstrate greater appreciation for human rights. In light of President Fidel Castro's decision to step down, there has been some discussion on reviewing U.S. foreign policy toward Cuba.

"I understand your concerns about possible changes to U.S.-Cuba relations included in the recent Omnibus Appropriations Act of 2009. Section 620 of the Omnibus Appropriations Act amended the Trade Sanctions Reform and Export Enhancement Act of 2000. This amendment would authorize changes for travel relating to commercial sales of agricultural and medical goods. However, the Obama administration has stated that they will disregard the amendment pending a further review of the embargo against Cuba.

"I assure you that there have been no significant changes to U.S. foreign policy related to Cuba. In the future, any changes in our relationship with Cuba will be made by the Obama administration with consultation from the U.S. Senate.

"Please know that I will keep your thoughts in mind should the topic be debated during the 111th Congress."


Herb Kohl
United States Senator

I replied:

Senator Kohl:

This response is an insult.

Your first sentence includes: "...the U.S. has imposed a travel and economic embargo on Cuba since 1958 in response to Cuban President Fidel Castro's refusal to democratize and demonstrate greater appreciation for human rights". Ignorant.

Why would you send me this kind of half-baked nonsense? In 1958, Fulgencio Batista was the thug "leader" of Cuba; he didn't give a damn about democratizing. He was a murderous, thieving pal of gangsters and of the American government. The travel ban and embargo were imposed years later, along with a four-decades-long program of CIA interference in Cuban affairs, including many attempts to assassinate Cuban leaders.

I asked you about your view of sponsorship of Senate Bill 428. You wrote back about Section 620 of the Omnibus Appropriations Bill. Unresponsive. Head fakes work under the basket, not in Congress.

We send you to Congress to work. We expect you to hire competent people who are able to read a letter and respond with something other than this uninformed, non-responsive "bedbug" letter. I've received letters like this one over your signature in the past: Vaguely in the same neighborhood of the subject, but non-committal, something for everyone.

Will you please have your staff return to my original letter, read it carefully and get me a responsive reply.

This whole business of sending form letters in response to real questions is--as I said--an insult to those of us who are up-to-date on the issues and ask pointed, well-informed questions.

Please, respond with real information.

A constituent, a voter...

Jim Bouman

Thursday, October 01, 2009

Gazpacho, Pesto, Stuffed (burp) Peppers...

Not the best year for garden produce--lack of heat in June and July gave us tomatoes that look fabulous and taste only so-so (but, still, infinitely more desirable than hothouse and other winter grocery store produce). The plates of beefsteak and plum tomatoes are far outdone by the still-ripening heirloom varieties. The peppers shown are now stuffed and headed for the oven. I harvested half the basil and made two quarts of pesto. What's shown in today's photo is maybe a third of the season's production.

All the beets are long-gone--down the hatch. Thyme is still flourishing, as is parsley. But the big, still-to-come treat is our three dozen leeks. They'll stay put until well into November. Getting kissed by frost makes them even better.

All that from forty sq. ft. of raised beds.

A good year. Glad I didn't take the bait and plant corn so I could make a killing selling it to the ethanol distillers.

One interesting surprise: I planted my quick-and-dirty, dirt/cheap version (a 5-gallon bucket with a hole cut in the bottom) of the "Topsy Turvy" upside-down tomato growing apparatus. They were tiny, a grape variety. Never got to bring even one of them into the house... because I ate every delicious one from that prolific producer right off the vine.
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Sunday, September 27, 2009

Colonel Patrick A. Lang, U.S. Army, Ret.

I listened to the talking heads on Fox News Sunday and was struck by Senator Kit Bond's apparent support of the putative resistance of at least some flag officers to the authority of the president of the United States. Bond spoke strongly in favor of having Generals McChrystal and Petraeus explain to Congress what their opinion is (as opposed to the opinion of the president/commander in chief) as to what the policy and strategy of the United States should be.

This is actually an incitement to mutiny.

Monday, September 07, 2009

Lincoln on Labor & Corporate Power

All that serves labor serves the nation, all that harms is treason.If a man tells you he loves America, yet hates labor,he is a liar. If a man tells you he trusts America, yet fears labor, he is a fool. There is no America without labor, and to fleece one is to rob the other....
Labor is prior to, and independent of, capital. Capital is only the fruit of labor, and could never have existed if Labor had not first existed. Labor is superior to capital, and deserves much the higher consideration....
The strongest bond of human sympathy outside the family relation should be one uniting working people of all nations and tongues and kindreds.

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

American Exceptionalism...

Apologies, Anger, and Apathy: My Lai and Lockerbie Reconsidered
by Nick Turse
A week ago, two convicted mass murderers leaped back into public consciousness as news coverage of their stories briefly intersected. One was freed from prison, continuing to proclaim his innocence, and his release was vehemently denounced in the United States as were the well-wishers who welcomed him home. The other expressed his contrition, after almost 35 years living in his country in a state of freedom, and few commented.
When Abdel Baset al-Megrahi, the Libyan sentenced in 2001 to 27 years in prison for the 1988 bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland, was released from incarceration by the Scottish government on "compassionate grounds," a furor erupted. On August 22nd, ABC World News with Charles Gibson featured a segment on outrage over the Libyan's release. It was aired shortly before a report on an apology offered by William Calley, who, in 1971 as a young lieutenant, was sentenced to life in prison for the massacre of civilians in the Vietnamese village of My Lai.
After al-Megrahi, who served eight years in prison, arrived home to a hero's welcome in Libya, officials in Washington expressed their dismay. To White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs, it was "outrageous and disgusting"; to President Barack Obama, "highly objectionable." Calley, who admitted at trial to killing Vietnamese civilians personally, but served only three years of house arrest following an intervention by President Richard Nixon, received a standing ovation from the Kiwanis Club of Greater Columbus, Georgia, the city where he lived for years following the war. (He now resides in Atlanta.) For him, there was no such uproar, and no one, apparently, thought to ask either Gibbs or the president for comment, despite the eerie confluence of the two men and their fates.
Part of the difference in treatment was certainly the passage of time and Calley's contrition, however many decades delayed, regarding the infamous massacre of more than 500 civilians. "There is not a day that goes by that I do not feel remorse for what happened that day in My Lai," the Vietnam veteran told his audience. "I feel remorse for the Vietnamese who were killed, for their families, for the American soldiers involved and their families. I am very sorry." For his part, al-Megrahi, now dying of cancer, accepted that relatives of the 270 victims of the Lockerbie bombing "have hatred for me. It's natural to behave like this... They believe I'm guilty, which in reality I'm not. One day the truth won't be hiding as it is now. We have an Arab saying: 'The truth never dies.'"

Read the rest at


Saturday, August 29, 2009

Getting sick of this? I am.

The daily body counts from Huntley and Brinkley in the mid- and late 60s started the pressure on a couple of obtuse and deluded American presidents to rethink land war in Asia in pursuit of the evanescent goal of preventing falling dominoes.

This time it is the equally delusional but exponentially more costly, risky, wrong-headed and fundamentally immoral than the other one.

21 Iraqis Killed, 53 Wounded

2 U.S. Soldiers, 4 Iraqis Killed, 6 Iraqis Wounded

September 15, 2009, I (we) owe a quarterly income tax payment that is just shy of one thousand dollars.

It will not be paid. We'll mail in the voucher with the words "No War Taxes" written on it, establishing this act as tax refusal rather than tax evasion.


Thursday, August 27, 2009

Thursday: 8 Iraqis Killed, 45 Wounded....

Iraqis are observing a three-day mourning period following the death of Shi’ite Muslim leader Abdul-Aziz al-Hakim, as his body travels through important Shi’ite cities on its way to burial in Najaf. This has not stopped the violence however. At least eight Iraqis were killed and 45 more were injured in the latest attacks.

A string of bombings vexed Baghdad today and in the overnight hours. A pair of sticky bombs wounded 12 civilians in the Adhamiya district. Two policemen and two civilians were wounded during a blast on Beirut Square. Another bomb wounded two policemen and two civilians in New Baghdad. Last night, a bomb in New Baghdad injured three people, including two civilians, while a bomb in Mansour wounded two more. A third bomb, in Ghazaliya, left no casualties but destroyed a U.S. vehicle.

One civilian was killed and six were wounded when a car bomb exploded near a U.S. base in Taji.

In Mosul, three Iraqi soldiers were killed and seven more were wounded during an attack on their checkpoint. A bomb killed a policeman and wounded another. A separate blast killed a civilian and wounded two soldiers. Police detained two men and defused the car bomb they were driving. Two gunmen were arrested as well.

A Kirkuk policeman was killed and another was wounded in a drive-by shooting. A roadside bomb wounded two civilians. MNF forces killed one man and wounded another who were apparently planting a bomb.

The 1920s Revolution Brigades announced they will escalate violence during the Ramadan observance.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Wednesday: 7 Iraqis Killed, 13 Wounded....

In Baghdad, five Iraqis were wounded during a car bombing. Gunmen stormed a jewelry shop on Palestine St. and wounded two people who fought back; one gunman was captured.

In Mosul, a bomb killed two civilians in the Faisaliya neighborhood. Gunmen killed a man on a bus.

Two bodies were found in Balad Ruz.

A bomb killed a farmer in Buhriz.

A Kirkuk policeman was wounded when a bomb planted on his car exploded.


Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Tuesday: 6 Iraquis Killed, 22 Wounded...

To plunder, to slaughter, to steal, these things they misname empire;
and where they make a wilderness, they call it peace.


Monday, August 24, 2009

The stuff you hear on Sunday morning yap shows...

Jim Kunstler puts Krugman on the spot....

Paul Krugman says that we'll soon realize that Gross Domestic Product (GDP) is growing. He actually said that on the Sunday TV chat circuit. Not to put too fine a point on it, but I would really like to know what you mean by that Paul....

Do you mean that the Atlanta homebuilders are going to open up a new suburban frontier down in Twiggs County so that commuters can enjoy driving Chrysler Crossfires a hundred and sixty miles a day to new jobs as flash traders in the Peachtree Plaza?Do you mean that the Home Equity Fairy is going to wade into the sea of foreclosure and save twenty million mortgage holders currently sojourning in the fathomless depths with the anglerfish?Do you mean that all the bales of deliquescing, toxic "assets" hidden in the vaults of Citibank, JP Morgan, Bank of America, et al, (not to mention on the books of every pension fund in the USA, and not a few elsewhere) will magically turn into Little Debbie Snack Cakes on Labor Day weekend? Do you mean that American Express and Master Card are about to declare a Jubilee on accounts in default everywhere? Do you mean that General Motors will produce a car that a.) anyone really wants to buy and b.) that the company can sell at a profit?

What's growing in this country besides unemployment, bankruptcy, repossession, liquidation, gun ownership, and suicidal despair? In short, are you out of your mind, Paul Krugman?

Monday: at least 15 Iraqis were killed and 21 were wounded in bus bombings in southern Iraq.

Also, a U.S. family has learned that their soldier son’s death in Iraq may have been triggered by abuse from fellow soldiers.


Friday, August 21, 2009

Summer interns at the NYT Editorial Pages

How does The New York Times manage to deliver a headline at the top of the op-ed page in 30 pt. Italic that makes a hash of the name of the President of the United States?

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Monday, August 17, 2009

Rethinking my trip to the west of Ireland...

In the past, late August was preparation time for a trip to the ancestral home and relatives in the west of Ireland: County Mayo--Westport and a nearby glaciated drumlin in Clew Bay. The entire 46 acres of Inishgowla, where my grandmother lived until age 16, was once too poor to support four families. Look at it now. This cottage is presently the only structure on the island. For sale at a mere 365,000 Euros, roughly half a million USD.

Who knows the current details of ownership? It certainly isn't anyone in our family.

If there's a mortgage on it, it might be wise for the debtor lay low and work on getting current. It's hard to believe that mortgage payments are up to date on this improbable "luxury" dwelling. Ireland, you see, is in deeper financial/real estate travail than many places closer to home--places like Las Vegas and the California Inland Empire.

(Quick change of venue to the west coast of USA.)

My son lives in half of a nice-enough duplex in Los Angeles--Redondo/Manhattan/Hermosa Beach area--right on the PCH, four blocks from the surf. His landlord is a Dubliner who came to California to make money in the real estate. Currently he is renting the duplex to three recent grads of Univ. Wisconsin--well below his costs. He'd bought the place with flipping in mind. He's an engaging fellow; I hope he gets out of it without getting too badly skinned. I met him last month and he told me this story.

(Back to Ireland and its real estate travail.)

Developers/builders/contractors in Ireland had special challenges in the real estate boom. The Irish typically didn't go in droves into the fields of masonry, carpentry, roofing and plumbing. Those that could went to the University, yearned for intellectual pursuits--teaching and, in the days of the Celtic Tiger, high tech and computer systems design (not to mention mortgage banking). Those inclined to workaday labor had traditionally emigrated to the States or Australia, where good union jobs eventually got them to the 'burbs.

So, the Irish had a building boom and too few craftsmen. Enter: the Czechs and Poles. Free movement within the EU permitted a steady and growing population of skilled craftsmen from eastern Europe to craft the fine real estate that became the standard for newly prosperous Irish.

Then, the crash. Immigrant laborers out of work, subsisting on the dole or headed back to Katowice or Ostrava. In either case, it was doubly difficult because they were typically owed thousands of Euros when the developer went bust.

Enter: friendly debt collection services offered by helpful people they met when they arrived back home without a zloty to their names. These skilled collectors would "buy the paper" from the guy who got stiffed, typically paying one third of the face value. Then they'd go to Ireland and track down the developer who had stiffed their "client".

Then, they'd shoot him in the foot; next guy in the knee, the third one in the shoulder. Can't go much higher without moving from mayhem to homicide. Those first few didn't even get a chance to pay up. Since nobody wanted to be next, the rest found a way to pay up.

The Russian Mafia.

"Saints preserve us," as mom might have put it.


Thursday, August 13, 2009

The failures of Children's Service Society are the responsibility of Children's Hospital of Wisconsin

Any in-depth reporting would, of necessity, require revealing who really runs this outfit.

Children's Hospital of Wisconsin is prestigious, hugely-funded, much-given-to-self-promotion/
congratulation. It has always been the untouchable part of the health care arrangements in this community.

Nevertheless, when an agency is harpooned, and seems to be quite deserving of that harpooning by outside, objective reviewers, the daily newspaper reporting on the chronic failures ought to be thorough in identifying just exactly who sets the standards for policy, budget, leadership, priorities and accountability.

Children's Service Society is the name of an old line Milwaukee agency that was taken over by Children's Hospital of Wisconsin, though you wouldn't know that from reading what the scribblers of the Journal Sentinel investigative team have to say.


Vaya con dios...

Les Paul, the Wizard of Waukesha 1915-2009

He's gone, but the sound is still with us.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Two cents....

I work at suppressing schadenfreude. It's not healthy; it's undignified; it leads to all kinds of bilious eruptions.

And, just this once, McBride gave me a reason to keep stuffing my instinctive reaction, a reason to think at least neutral thoughts.

Three weeks ago, on the fetid opinion pages of the Waukesha Freeman, Jessica McBride wrote a long opinion titled "Where's the harm in gay marriage?". It was--for her--an uncommonly thoughtful and persuasive piece, certainly not what I would expect on that page, nor from that columnist. From a fire-breathing right winger it made for a mild challenge to the thinking of her claque.

And, it definitely tended to humanize someone whose profile has been decidedly one-dimensional.

Now, back to work. Nobody ever said that resisting schadenfreude is easy.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Time for Open Government in Waukesha...

Filed Thursday, noon, at the Circuit Court of Waukesha County: A complaint and Summons alleging that the Water Utility Commission of Waukesha--naming six individuals--have repeatedly violated the Wisconsin Open Meetings Law.


19.81 Declaration of policy.

(1) In recognition of the fact that a representative government of the American type is dependent upon an informed electorate, it is declared to be the policy of this state that the public is entitled to the fullest and most complete information regarding the affairs of government as is compatible with the conduct of governmental business.
This citizen has twice taken this concern about a series of apparent egregious and long-standing violations of the public's right to the "fullest and most complete information regarding the affairs of government..." to the District Attorney of Waukesha. That official has declined--in both instances--to pursue an investigation.

In such cases, The Open Meetings Law provides for citizens to pursue the matter in Circuit Court EX REL the State of Wisconsin.

Read the Complaint:



1909 Easy Street, Waukesha, WI 53188


Case No.____________________

v. Case Code: CV 30703 Unclassified CV 30607 Administrative Review

WAUKESHA WATER UTILITY COMMISSION,115 Delafield Street, Waukesha, WI 53188


223 Debbie Dr., Waukesha, WI 53189


1215 Seitz Drive, Waukesha, WI 53186


201 N. Prairie Avenue, Waukesha, WI 53186

City Hall - Room 208, 201 Delafield Street, Waukesha, WI 53188


2827 Minot Lane, Waukesha, WI 53188


1259 Lambeth Road, Waukesha, WI 53189


206 Mandan Drive, Waukesha, WI 53188




This Wisconsin Open Meetings complaint, taken on behalf of the State of Wisconsin, is in regard to the closed meetings held by the members of the Waukesha Water Utility Commission and actions taken in those meetings dealing with the City of Waukesha's water supply and affecting the citizens of the City, as well as the State of Wisconsin.

Furthermore, the Waukesha County Circuit Court has jurisdiction over this complaint under Wisconsin Open Meetings Law. According to Wis. Stat. § 19.97(4), a private action can be filed in court after a complaint is first filed with the District Attorney's Office and 20 days has passed. This complaint was previously filed with the Waukesha District Attorney's Office on May 15, 2009. The District Attorney?s Office has yet to respond to the previous complaint.


1. On June 21, 2007, Jerry Couri, Commission Secretary (1215 Seitz Drive, Waukesha, WI 53186); Peggy Bull, Commissioner (223 Debbie Dr., Waukesha, WI 53189); and Greg Zinda, Commissioner (206 Mandan Drive, Waukesha, WI 53188) were members of the Waukesha Water Utility Commission.

2. Likewise, on November 14, 2007, Daniel Warren, Commission President (1259 Lambeth Road, Waukesha, WI 53188); Greg Zinda, Commissioner (206 Mandan Drive, Waukesha, WI 53188); Larry Nelson, Mayor (201 N. Prairie Avenue, Waukesha, WI 53186); and Peggy Bull, Commissioner (223 Debbie Dr., Waukesha, WI 53189) were members of the Waukesha Water Utility Commission.

3. Furthermore, on June 18, 2008, Daniel Warren, Commission President (1259 Lambeth Road, Waukesha, WI 53188); Greg Zinda, Commissioner (206 Mandan Drive, Waukesha, WI 53188); Larry Nelson, Mayor (201 N. Prairie Avenue, Waukesha, WI 53186); and Rick Tortomasi, Commissioner (2827 Minot Lane, Waukesha, WI 53188) were members of the Waukesha Water Utility Commission.

4. On these dates, the Commission was a governmental body within the meaning of

Wis. Stat. § 19.82(1). Likewise, on these dates, there was a majority of the Commission members present at the June 21, 2007, November 14, 2007, and June 18, 2008 meetings with the purpose of conducting governmental business. Therefore, the members of the Commission were in a meeting within the meaning of Wis. Stat. § 19.82(2).

5. On June 21, 2007 and November 14, 2007, the members of the Commission held closed meetings. For each of these closed meetings, the Commission cited that they were closed pursuant to § 19.85(1)(e) & (g), "to discuss strategy relative to our long term water options, as well as radium compliance, with legal counsel." Waukesha Water Utility Commission Meeting Minutes, 1-2 (June 21, 2007), available at; Waukesha Water Utility Commission Meeting Minutes, 2 (Nov. 14, 2007), available at

6. Additionally, at the November 14, 2007 meeting, the Commission approved the 2008 Budget. The 2008 Budget contained a $300,000 expenditure for consulting services to assist in achieving a Great Lakes diversion. This expenditure was not discussed in public by the Commission.

7. The members of the Commission held another closed meeting on June 18, 2008 stating it was pursuant to § 19.85(1)(e), [for a] discussion of several potential municipal sources of Great Lakes water supplies, along with return flow options, and the potential costs associated with the supply and return flow options.? Waukesha Water Utility Commission Meeting Minutes, 1-2 (June 18, 2008), available at


The members of the Waukesha Water Utility Commission have consistently acted in violation of Wis. Stats. § 19.96, § 19.85(1)(e), and § 19.84(2) of the Wisconsin Open Meetings Law and their responsibilities to the public by frequently holding close meetings where they have discussed and made decisions on water supply policy, particularly regarding a potential Great Lakes diversion. The closed meetings on June 21, 2007, November 14, 2007, and June 18, 2008 were held with the purpose to prevent public debate and knowledge regarding the Commission's water supply discussions despite the tremendous public interest in the environmental, public health, and fiscal aspects of these water supply issues. Under Wis. Stat. § 19.81(1), the public would be entitled to the " fullest and most complete information" regarding these water supply concerns.

The Commission and its members violated Wisconsin Open Meetings Law in the following ways:

COUNT I ? Misuse of Wis. Stat. §19.85(1)(e) Open Meetings Exception

The Commission members have repeatedly misused the limited Open Meetings exemption Wis. Stat. § 19.85(1)(e) to justify their closed meetings. For the June 21, 2007, November 14, 2007, and June 18, 2008 closed meetings, the Commission members used broad language that does not cite, as required by § 19.85(1)(e) and case law, how "competitive or bargaining" interests are implicated and therefore give the Commission no other option than to move to a closed session. See State ex rel. Citizens for Responsible Development v. City of Milton, 731 N.W. 2d 640, 644 (Wis. App. 2007) and Wisconsin Department of Justice Wisconsin Open Meetings Law: A Compliance Guide 18 (2007).

COUNT II Insufficient Public Notice

The members of the Commission violated Wis. Stat. § 19.84(2) by giving insufficient notice to the public regarding the Commission's closed meetings. In particular, the notices for the June 21, 2007, November 14, 2007, and June 18, 2008 closed meetings fail to reasonably apprise the public on the subject matter of the closed session. § 19.84(2). These notices do not meet the reasonableness standard as set forth in Wisconsin Supreme Court decision, Buswell v. Tomah Area School District, 2007 WI 71, 732 N.W.2d 804 (2007). To determine whether a notice was reasonable, there must be a "balancing of factors that consider the burden of providing more detailed notice, whether the subject is of particular public interest, and whether it involves non-routine action that the public would be unlikely to anticipate." Id. at 814.

In the facts and circumstances of this case, the Commission's notices to the public did not meet this reasonableness standard because it would have only been a negligible burden on the Commission to give more specific notice detailing the matters that were to be discussed in the closed meetings. Additionally, there is strong public interest in water supply policy and its environmental, health, and fiscal ramifications. Furthermore, these long term water policy decisions are novel issues of which the public would be unaware.


Plaintiff demands the following relief:

1. Declaratory Relief Stating that Commission Violated Wisconsin Open Meetings Law.

Plaintiff requests that the Court enters a declaratory judgment, in accordance with Wis. Stat. § 19.97(2), stating that the Commission and its members violated the Wisconsin Open Meetings Law.

2. Public Disclosure of Discussions and Decisions Made in Closed Meetings.

Plaintiff also requests that the Court awards equitable relief, pursuant to Wis. Stat. §19.97(2), by ordering that the discussions and decisions made in June 21, 2007, November 14, 2007, and June 18, 2008 closed meetings that violated the Wisconsin Open Meetings Law be disclosed to the public. Such a disclosure would best fulfill the Open Meetings Law's purpose of fostering an "informed electorate" where the "public is entitled to the fullest and most complete information regarding the affairs of government." Wis. Stat. § 19.81(1). In the present case, the public should have access to the Commission's discussions and decisions made in these meetings since it would have otherwise been entitled to hear them if the Commission properly followed Wisconsin Open Meetings Law.

3. Void Any Actions Taken by the Commission in the Closed Meetings.

Furthermore, any action taken by the Commission made in the closed meetings held on June 21, 2007, November 14, 2007, and June 18, 2008 should be void. Under Wis. Stat.

§ 19.97(3), the actions of the Commission can be voided by the Court if it finds that the public interest in voiding the actions taken in an improper closed meeting outweighs the public interest in sustaining the actions. Here, there is significant public interest regarding the environmental, health, and cost consequences that relate to Waukesha's long term water supply issues. This public interest regarding these important issues outweighs the interest in sustaining the Commission's actions that were made on behalf of the public in improper closed meetings.

4. Forfeitures from each Commission Member to be paid to the State.

Also pursuit to Wis. Stat. § 19.96, the plaintiff is seeking a forfeiture of $300 from each member for each violation to be paid to the state under Wis. Stat. § 19.97(4). This amount of forfeiture is justified due to the Commission's repeated misuse of closed meetings and the sensitive nature of these closed meetings given the environmental, health, and fiscal implications of the Commission's water supply discussions which the public should have been part of under the Wisconsin Open Meetings Law.

5. Award Actual and Necessary Costs of Prosecution.

Plaintiff requests that the Court reimburses him for the "actual and necessary costs of prosecution," including "reasonable attorney fees." Wis. Stat. § 19.97(4).

Dated: June 19 , 2009


Andrew R. Garman

Attorney for Plaintiff, James Bouman

State Bar No. 1070840

2914 Cone View Lane

Waukesha, WI 53188


Thursday, June 18, 2009

Chronically neglected red, red rose makes spectacular display

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This grandiflora rose* has always been well-behaved. The ones on either side get leggy every year. But this is a first: nine perfect blooms on one day in the middle of June.

If only it were a happier day.

We have to put the pup down this week. The rose and the furball (coincidentally, named Rose--Pixie Rose, named by a girl who got the puppy for her 11th birthday) shared our yard for the past 13 years.

I think we'll keep the two together, side-by-side, in the garden.

Update: Hey, wait a minute! That was yesterday; things are different today.

The rose got clobbered by the thunderstorms.

But, The pup's pain and travail has shown a surprising, nay, amazing remission. Her problem is a bunch of metastatic tumors that have been blocking all the gastric and other plumbing for days.

While mostly ignoring food and straining a bit (some results), she was uncommonly frisky today--even chased a rabbit out of the yard and worried a chipmunk hiding under the steps.
Tail wags almost full time.

If the weather is OK, we'll walk the long trail with her at Lapham Peak tomorrow. She's not likely to recover; but, for now, she looks to be enjoying a dog's life w/o discomfort.

This is a dog who has never shown a lazy, cantankerous, obstinate, aggressive, challenging, supercilious. smelly, growling, smart-ass or bored attitude since day one. Anybody in this family who ever felt funky, depressed, alienated, really down, excessively up, high/low, bored/wired, defeated, fired, under-appreciated, overly-confident, etc., has been on the receiving end of a firm tongue-lashing administered by the Pixie critter. This dog has a Class A licker-license and has never hesitated to use it.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Easy Street fishing trip to Woodfield Pond

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The guy with the Zebco nabbed the biggest--a fat Punkinseed. The short guy with the long bamboo pole (fifty years old, never needs oiling or a tune-up) got seven of the nine total.

Still in the pond at 7:00 am. In the frying pan by 9:00 am. All in all, a very satisfying day.

Sunday, May 03, 2009

Happy Birthday, Pete Seeger.

Ninety years old today.

Always kept a U.S. Budget pie-chart in his banjo case, up-dated as needed, hauled out for a community-organizing moment in so many of his concerts. The slice of the budget that went for war today, war yesterday and more war tomorrow, like Topsy, "... just growed and growed".

Henry Kissinger has the Nobel Peace Prize. Pete has a pie chart.

Two old men, with their respective places on the world stage.

I don't know whether there's an afterlife. I'm not counting on it, but open to being surprised.

If there is, I'd hope I could be on the sidelines to see the encounters with the gatekeeper when these two present their credentials.

o A guy with a grin and a banjo case.

o A guy with a proclamation and a medal and evidence of a cash award plus a wee bit of other baggage*.

* From the Nix
on tapes, five days after thug/murderer Pinochet took over in Chile:
Nixon: Nothing new of any importance or is there?
Kissinger: Nothing of very great consequence. The Chilean thing is getting consolidated and of course the newspapers are bleeding because a pro-Communist government has been overthrown.
Nixon: Isn't that something. Isn't that something.
Kissinger: I mean instead of celebrating – in the Eisenhower period we would be heroes.
Nixon: Well we didn't – as you know – our hand doesn't show on this one though.
Kissinger: We didn't do it. I mean we helped them. [garbled] created the conditions as great as possible.
Nixon: That is right. And that is the way it is going to be played
^ The Kissinger Telcons: Kissinger Telcons on Chile, National Security Archive Electronic Briefing Book No. 123, edited by Peter Kornbluh, posted May 26, 2004. This particular dialogue can be found at TELCON: September 16, 1973, 11:50 a.m. Kissinger Talking to Nixon. Accessed online November 26, 2006.

h/t Ed Werstein

Monday, April 27, 2009

David Broder. Who will rid us of this unprincipled minion of the beltway elites?

Glen Greenwald in Salon today. (G.G., perhaps the only reason to look at Salon)

"...To justify the absolute immunity he wants for government lawbreakers, Broder describes the Bush era as

One of the darkest chapters of American history, when certain terrorist suspects were whisked off to secret prisons and subjected to waterboarding and other forms of painful coercion in hopes of extracting information about threats to the United States."
"But that's easy to say now that the Bush presidency is over and the evidence of its criminality so undeniable. But Broder never said any such thing while it was all taking place, when it mattered. In fact, he did the opposite: he mocked those who tried to sound the alarm about how radical and "dark" the Bush presidency was and repeatedly defended what Bush officials were doing as perfectly normal, unalarming and well within the bounds of mainstream and legitimate policy.


"More than anything else, Broder's column illustrates the Central Creed of Beltway Culture, which should be memorialized on plaques throughout that city:

When poor and ordinary Americans who commit crimes are prosecuted and imprisoned, that is Justice.

When the same thing is done to Washington elites, that is Ugly Retribution."

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Sweet....Sooooo sweet.

Go Tribe!

It is hard to shake off something as deeply ingrained as a HATRED baked into one's marrow at an early age. Even the nuns at St Colman's Parish school taught us that a healthy Yankee hatred was good for the soul.

I think I've given up pretty much all those old hatreds as I age. Except this one essential hatred. I have maintained, even deepened, my abiding hatred for the Yankees. They deserve nothing less and nothing more.

So, today's 14-run top-of-the-2nd-inning performance by the Tribe, in Yankee Stadium--the new in-your-face Yankee Stadium, that has them so deep in hock they'll never get out of the hole--is too sweet for words.

Go Tribe.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Sheesh. Front Page of NYT

Disney Expert Uses Science to Draw Boy Viewers
by Brooks Barnes

Kelly Peña, “the kid whisperer,” is helping the Walt Disney Company to reassert itself as a cultural force among boys.

ENCINO, Calif. — Kelly Peña, or “the kid whisperer,” as some Hollywood producers call her, was digging through a 12-year-old boy’s dresser drawer here on a recent afternoon. Her undercover mission: to unearth what makes him tick and use the findings to help the Walt Disney Company reassert itself as a cultural force among boys.

Ms. Peña, a Disney researcher with a background in the casino industry, zeroed in on a ratty rock ’n’ roll T-shirt. Black Sabbath?

“Wearing it makes me feel like I’m going to an R-rated movie,” said Dean, a shy redhead whose parents asked that he be identified only by first name.


Ms. Peña and her team of anthropologists have spent 18 months peering inside the heads of incommunicative boys in search of just that kind of psychological nugget. Disney is relying on her insights to create new entertainment for boys 6 to 14, a group that Disney used to own way back in the days of “Davy Crockett” but that has wandered in the age of more girl-friendly Disney fare like “Hannah Montana.”

Click the link to read the rest of this report on anthropology...if you have the stomach for it.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

This subdivision is toast...

Nice sunny Spring day in Pabst Farms...

...a place that advertised itself early on with the arrogantly dismissive boast:
Everything else is just a subdivision

Something new: two houses, side-by-side, sporting "for sale" signs. And there are at least six others among the few that have been built and occupied, in the past three years that are being offered for sale. One of them is a F.S.B.O.

This one is "For Sale"...
...Or, you could rent it, if you like.
Agents always tell those who come to look at a vacant property that the previous owner was transferred suddenly to a new job in Charleston or some other unlikely place.
But this is a story I heard first-hand last fall. A guy in a white pickup came to install my new DSL service, here in Waukesha. He said that he was losing his P.F. house to foreclosure, that he and his wife had moved to Pabst Farms in 2006, thinking that they could make out pretty well--as flippers--in the hot market. He went on that his business had gone flat, and that his wife's income had been likewise halved.

They were in default, trying to sell, looking at the inevitability of foreclosure. Now, it is probably bank-owned and "for rent"--that's what it says on the little white part of the sign.
(click tho photo to enlarge)

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Monday, April 06, 2009

I don't think high speed intercity rail makes sense at this moment in time....

...Not that it never did make sense. And not that it never will...

Listen to Jim Kunstler make a strong case in a conversation with Jebediah Reed of The Infrastructurist, for the need to start with the abandoned/deteriorated rail roadbeds we have, and add to them, to create a great deal more stimulus bang for the stimulus buck.... And for building new rolling stock that isn't necessarily the state-of-the-art level of high tech. Just good intercity rail that will move both people and goods....

JR: So we’re starting a major new round of investment in our national infrastructure. Can we agree that’s a good thing?
JHK: Well, for instance, I think it would be a catastrophic mistake to devote a trillion dollars to fixing up the highways. I mean the days of “happy motoring” in this country truly are behind us. We should be planning for a period when energy resources are much more scarce. Throwing that kind of money at roads is not the way to go about doing this.

How would you be doing it?
I don’t know that I would undertake a spending program like this at all. That said, I’m a pretty strong advocate of repairing the national rail system. It’s obviously not the answer to everything. But it would certainly put a lot of people to work doing something that’s meaningful for society. The infrastructure is out there, waiting to be fixed. I’m pretty adamant that we shouldn’t be going the path of high-tech, maglev, high speed rail at this moment, because we need to prove that we can do this at the Hungarian level before we try to proceed past that.

That doesn’t sound very ambitious.
I perceive one our biggest problems being techno-grandiosity. We are so full of ourselves and so sure that technology is going to rescue us and that we’re so good at it that we can defeat every problem that faces us. It’s a fatal hubris, and it’s subscribed to by an awful lot people who have something to say about the course we take in this country.

In the past, you’ve been critical of Amory Lovins of the Rocky Mountain Institute on similar grounds.
Don’t get me started on Amory Lovins. His basic program for hypercars promotes car dependency. Why do that unless you think we’re going to continue as a car dependent society? That’s why the highway infrastructure thing is so bad, because we’re not going to be able to continue the way we’ve been going. The car is not going to vanish overnight, of course. But it’s certainly going to become a problem as people develop resentments because they can no longer afford to participate in it [as oil prices rise over time].

But you think the answer with rail is to keep it very simple.
Absolutely. The infrastructure is already out there! The track beds are there! And you need an entirely new track corridor for high speed rail, because the high speed trains can’t deal with the curves in the existing tracks. The idea that we would have to create a whole new set of right-of-ways is nuts when we’re not even utilizing what we have. Another thing to keep in mind is that we’re going to be facing a lot of adversity in the years ahead, and we are a culture that will require psychological reassurance. We should have a project that’s achievable. We need to demonstrate to ourselves that we’re still competent.

And the simple version of the national rail buildout would do that.
This rail project is ideal for that purpose. As I’ve said, we’ve got the tracks, and the rolling stock is pretty easy to get. You could argue that GM should be making this stuff. But it’s terribly important that we fortify ourselves psychologically so we have some faith in our ability to face all the other really important challenges that lie in front of us.

A lot of smart people are warning that if we’re going make this kind of enormous national investment, it would be a political disaster for Obama not to have some very tangible things to show for it.
Well, 2009 could turn out to be a politically rocky year. It’s really not clear how things are going play out in terms of the energy picture, the oil picture, and the picture for finance and capital. I’m afraid what’s really going on here is that a huge amount of capital is gone and is never, ever coming back again in any form.

If that’s true it would have been nice to have converted more of it into real and useful things while it was around — like, say, a good national rail network and a better electrical grid.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

I read a real estate soothsayer today: "Housing Market has bottomed; good time to buy, because interest rates are low..."

It is a good time to buy,
  • IF you have a 20% downpayment
  • IF your credit score is above 740
  • IF you can sell the house you're in now
  • If your income/employment is secure
MarketWatch has an article looking at the fact that many Americans are one or two paychecks away from financial ruin:

A MetLife study released last week found that 50% of Americans said they have only a one-month cushion — roughly two paychecks — or less before they would be unable to fully meet their financial obligations if they were to lose their jobs. More disturbing is that 28% said they could not make ends meet for longer than two weeks without their jobs.

And it’s not just low-income earners who would find themselves financially challenged. Twenty-nine percent of those making $100,000 or more a year said they would have trouble paying the bills after more than a month of unemployment.

Meanwhile, more than four in 10 respondents told pollsters in a recent Pew Research Center study that job-related issues were the nation’s most important economic problem.

“Since October, mentions of other major economic issues have declined, as the public is increasingly focused on the job situation,” according to the Pew study.

Since July, the study noted, there was been a striking spike in the numbers of families making $100,000 or more who said it was difficult to find local jobs — 73% compared with 40% eight months ago.”

Read the above carefully. 1 in 2 Americans are 2 paychecks away from massive financial trouble. 1 in 4 would be on the financial edge after 2 weeks only. These are fully employed people.
Read the rest

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Strange stuff from Wis DOT....

A few weeks ago, one of the principals of Pabst Farms Development participated in an open forum on the progress of the development, particularly the "upscale" regional shopping mall proposed as whipped topping for the dead-in-the-water Pabst Farms Subdivision.

Daniel Warren (in addition to being one of the big dogs at Pabst Farms Development is President of the Waukesha Water Utility Commission AND President of the Waukesha School Board) was quoted twice in the Waukesha Freeman saying to the group that WisDOT had spent "five to six million dollars already" on the new diamond interchange to be added to Oconomowoc to accommodate all the shoppers and upscale residents who would soon be flocking there.

The audience included lots of skeptical Oconomowoc citizens, grown weary and cynical over empty promises and hallucinated "hopeful signs" that the upscale mall was actually going to happen. They were looking for news about who was signing up to open stores--some reality to balance the baloney about Bonwit-Teller, Lord & Taylor, Ikea (that's upscale?) pipe dreams that had been floated early in the game.

"Five to Six Million Dollars," already spent on the interchange, this was big news, considering that the project has been put on hold, delayed, assigned a low priority, and--in most observers' realistic estimation--abandoned. I called the local DOT Communications pro, located in Waukesha. Who should answer but Dennis Shook, former Waukesha Freeman scribe, cut loose from that superb daily fishwrap several years back, in one of their regular purges.

Shook is a garrulous guy (and I'm not shy). So, there was a bit of small talk We reminisced briefly about some of the Freeman glory days. Then, I asked him where Warren got his information, whether he could confirm it. Shook said that his information was that "four to six million" had already been spent on the interchange; he mentioned something about the high cost of "grubbing". We shot the breeze a bit more, then I hung up.

A few hours later I sent him this e-mail.

"I talked with you earlier this morning. And, now I have a request. Will you please do some digging and provide more precise figures than the ones you offered this morning.
"As I recall it, I asked you whether Daniel Warren, quoted twice in the Waukesha Freeman, was correct in saying that "five or six million" had already been spent on the Pabst Farms interchange. Your response was that "four to six million had already been spent.
"I'd like to be able to quote you on a precise figure. More precise numbers, broken down by category, distinguishing among dollars spent, allocated, contracted, disbursed or any other useful category that DOT uses.
Thank you in advance."
To which Shook replied:

Dear Sir: I was unaware that you were quoting me at all. As you did not identify yourself, you should not use my comments.

Dennis A. Shook
WisDOT, SE Regional Office
Regional Communications Manager
141 NW Barstow St.
Waukesha, WI 53188
(cell) 1-414-750-2395

To which I replied:
The only thing I'm interested in is the figures on what has been, to date, "spent, allocated, contracted, disbursed" on the work defined and identified as Sawyer Road/Hwy P diamond interchange upgrade.

Everything else we discussed was just small talk. Mr. Warren, one of the Pabst Farms principals, appeared to have an official source for his statements. I am interested only in getting the same information that Mr. Warren has.

I would appreciate your getting those figures for me, as I am aware it is public information and available to the public.

Jim Bouman
I let this sit for a week and a half, thinking that Shook was working on it. When nothing arrived, I called his supervisor in Madison. The supervisor lit a fire under him. Seemingly, he had persuaded himself that I didn't mean it; or, that his retroactive declaration of "Off the record" held water.

Today I got this:

Dear Mr. Bouman:
Thank you for your inquiries on the Highwa P/Interstate 94 interchange. Here are the answers I was able to collect:
*To date, WisDOT has spent $8.8 million, broken down as : $1.4 million for design, $5 million for real estate acquisition, and $2.4 million for clearing and grubbing (including the crossover).
*WisDOT does not have a final project cost because the project size has yet to be determined.
*No other funds have been spent on the project or allocated to it.
Hope this helps. Thank you.
Dennis A. Shook
At long last, it is revealed: The reason Dennis Shook got canned from the Waukesha Freeman.

In most circumstances, a pink slip from Freeman editor, Bill Yorth, could be spun as advantageous to a job-seeker: too objective, insufficiently devoted to right wing causes, inclined to analytical thinking, determined to use the Wisconsin Open Meetings Law to get the facts, literate...lotsa stuff in short supply among journalists these days.

He's Civil Service, now. He's got Marty Beil backing him up. Dennis has settled in for the long haul. He'll retire as a WisDOT bullshit artist.
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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.