Our Quote of the Day is from Jorge Luis Borges who said, "I have always imagined that paradise will be a kind of library."
Some observations on the news...
Pakistan's president is reportedly expected to resign in the next few days. Pervez Musharraf is said to prefer that route to facing impeachment. Experts had earlier pitched the impeachment move as ridiculously dangerous because Musharraf had the authority to dissolve the legislature before it could pursue his impeachment.
The eurozone economy contracted for the first time ever...by .2% in the last quarter. Here in the U.S., the inflation rate was double what had been predicted, as food and fuel prices soared, pushing prices up at the highest rate in 17 years. Anyone who thinks the planet is going to escape a major and prolonged downturn isn't paying attention, and hasn't been for a significant number of years. The scope of the problems and the depth of the coming fall have been worsening as those in charge have refused to acknowledge the danger signs over the past ten years.
For those who insist that speculators aren't dominating global markets, consider that while the war in Georgia seriously threatens oil and gas distribution from Russia, the price of crude is down, and while domestic inflation rate is the highest since 1991, the Dow is merrily climbing into the clouds. Crude is down not because supplies are expanding but because forecasters see a dramatic decline in demand as the world economy slows. And stocks are up because they have no relation to the economy.
House Democrats are shameless and shameful at the same time. Their flipflip to support offshore oil drilling is pandering in its basest form. Yes, gasoline prices are high, but offshore drilling won't fix that, and the government's own figures make that obscenely clear. Those who let them off the hook by saying they need to boost their membership numbers before they can really get anything done are praising them with faint damns.Lie down with dogs and you'll get up with fleas. John McCain has shown his true colors by surrounding himself with lobbyists. They are trying to win this election with McCain so they can serve their clients with their boy in the White House. Whether he will win or not, the very fact that he might has meant huge fees paid to the public relations consultants who have guided many political campaigns -- think of Mark Penn directing the Clinton effort -- and have virtually taken over the McCain campaign. Oh, sure, the lobbyists say they have taken leaves of absence from their PR business, but if you believe that means anything, you have taken leave of your senses. Check the flow of checks from their clients to their temporarily de-affiliated companies. For instance, clients like the country of Georgia have been plowing huge sums into the corporate coffers of a company, one of whose principals is guiding McCain's bid. Randy Scheunemann's firm has deposited some $800,000 from the Georgian government. Do you think that the fact that Scheunemann has publically separated himself from his firm for the duration of the campaign means a damned thing? Do you think McCain's position on Georgia -- "America is behind you" -- might in any way have been flavored by the, um, past PR deal? It's just not plausible. It's like saying that some yahoo at a Clinton rally would have the same access to the candidate as someone who bundled $250,000 in contributions for her campaign. Read Rose Brooks' column in today's Los Angeles Times for more on the dangerously foolish support Georgia has gotten from McCain and the Bush administration.
McCain's questionable -- that's being generous -- relationships are legion. Ralph Reed is holding a fundraiser for the Arizona senator. A renowned fundamentalist bigot, Reed was a close political advisor to Karl Rove who worked to grease the skids between Jack Abramoff and the White House. Reed and the imprisoned lobbyist made considerable efforts to benefit certain Indian tribes over others in the casinos game. Reed claims not to have a role in the McCain campaign, but staging a money collection isn't antithetical their purpose, for goodness sakes, and he has put his name out ostensibly linking himself with McCain's White House bid. Ironically, it was Reed going to Rove on behalf of Abramoff a few years ago that seems to have blocked a McCain appointment -- the wife of a former POW with McCain -- to an Interior Department job. Reed said in an email to Abramoff, "Talked to Rove about this and I think I killed it. He's on it. Keep this between us, don't want to raise expectations, but I banged on this one hard."Where did all the terrorists from Abu Ghraib -- not the prisoners but the guards -- go when they moved on. Perhaps to the immigration prisons here in our own country. Those hell-holes would underscore Mark Twain's comment that if you want to see the dregs of society, go down to the country jail and watch the changing of the guard. What's going on at the federal level, with would be immigrants awaiting processing and/or deportation, makes Guantanamo look like Club Med, according to some accounts. Okay, if it's not quite that bad, it shouldn't even be in the ball park; ill treatment crossing the line into torture. In yet another excruciating story of mistreatment of immigrants, The New York Times documents a case that should result in imprisonment of not only those who committed the horrors, but also those who knew about the atrocious behavior, and those who should have but maybe looked away.
Take two: If you wondered where those "just a few bad apples" from Abu Ghraib wound up, maybe they're not all in the immigrant detention center. Maybe some are in the U.S. Navy. Six sailors who were functioning as camp guards overseeing prisoners in Iraq have been charge with abusing detainees. Among the allegations were that some prisoners were sealed in a cell with pepper spray and others were beaten. The use of pepper spray is banned by international treaty, which is hardly an issue under the current administration. You might also be surprised to know that the U.S. is holding 21,000 prisoners in Iraq.
The federal overseer of the California prison system has gotten fed up with the failure of the governor and the legislature to settle their budget matters and has asked a federal judge to provide him with $8 billion. Yes, with a "b" and at a time when the budget deficit for The Golden State is already pushing $18 billion. Legislators couldn't agree where to find the big bucks, and maybe thought they could stall the overseer, or maybe just ignore him. Not bloody likely, since the man had been appointed to force the California prison system to provide basic health coverage for all the inmates, especially all those old guys so blithely sentenced to their own eternity behind bars and whose health is failing.
The Boston Catholic Church has paid out another bunch of millions of dollars to people who were molested by priests decades ago. We all certainly rue such behavior, but these pay-outs -- usually a third of which wind up in the pockets of attorneys -- are extravagant and misspent precious resources. First of all, we need to lower the heat on priests molesting their charges. If we did, it would reduce the onus of the crime, both on the victims and the perpetrators. This is not to let the molesters off the hook, but the more we play up the heinousness of the crime, the more the victims suffer and the less likely it is that would-be perpetrators will seek therapy. Our society is very screwed up about sex, pun intended. We need to get a better grip on our sexuality, leave most people alone about it, and provide mental help, rather than prison, to those who would transgress healthy limits. Second, paying out millions to individuals who in most case have been holding onto their suffering far, far too long is a mistake. Society makes such people heroes in their victimhood rather than edging them back toward normalcy. Wouldn't the millions be far better spent on counseling, prevention, and other worthwhile churchly functions?Wendy Orent has an opinion piece in the L-A-Times that points to the vast danger we have created trying to protect ourselves with an often-counterproductive bio-weapons program. As she notes, we now have 14,000 people involved in this game which we are funding to the tune of more than $50 billion a year. The enormity of the operation invites corruption and mistakes where there is no room for error. The irony is that we haven't been attacked with germ warfare, except by one of our own; the investigation of which the FBI managed to muck up wholesale for seven years at a huge cost to taxpayers. We would be much better off applying those resources -- researchers, labs and money -- to the detoxifying of real threats, like drug-resistant superbugs.
A new federal government report found that even people with health insurance are using hospital ERs for basic care, rather than seeing doctors or visiting clinics. This compounds the use by the uninsured, many in serious condition for not having earlier access to alternative basic resources. What makes matters worse is that many hospitals and more emergency rooms are closing. The overload is so great that the average wait time to see a doctor in an ER is now over an hour. So much for the very notion of an emergency.
Some of the news reports about the fact that the producers of the opening extravaganza used one girl's face and another girl's voice have the sound of conspiracy and deceit. They did use two different girls, one with better voice than looks and the other the other way around. So what? How many entertainers haven't been caught lip-synching? For that matter, who feels cheated that Marnie Nixon sang for Audrey Hepburn in "My Fair Lady" and for Natalie Wood in "West Side Story"?
Okay, so this guy goes to Barbados. He's a scientist, specifically an evolutionary biologist, who when he gets back announces that he has identified a new snake, probably the smallest on the planet. He and his team have already discovered the world's tiniest lizard in the Dominican Republic and the smallest frog in Cuba. But when he announced his discovery, including naming the four-inch monster after his wife, some of the island locals got very upset. Hey, they said, we've known about that snake forever. You didn't discover anything. Said the ersatz discoverer, "I think they're carrying it a bit too far. Snakes are really apolitical." Yes, but apropos of nothing, politicians can be real snakes.
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