Thursday, June 28, 2012

Why we call them gun nuts

Fortune publishes a must-read history of Fast and Furious. The only eroblem with it is that it fails to provide an adequate indication of what the Sipsey Street Irregulars, who are feeding the House Republicans their talking points, are.

Remember when the Republicans were accusing Obama of promoting "class warfare"? Well, the Irregulars are promoting civil war. Not since the days of McCarthy and Red Channels have Republican congressmen sponsored such dangerous and crazy extremists.

Not the least of the ironies in the case is that CBS is carrying the water for these rightwing nuts. CBS has moved Rather far in the past seven years.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Son of a gun

Did you know that the son of Jesse James the outlaw was a lawyer? Jesse Jr. specialized in criminal defense,

Friday, June 22, 2012

If the rich aren't rich enough . . .

. . . then what? Joseph Stiglitz, my second-favorite economist, lays out the dire effects of Reaganomics in the Washington Post piece. I only wish he'd added that we need to raise taxes.

The massive public disinvestment that helped get us in this hole will only get worse if the Republicans get their way. But in a short opinion piece, I suppose, even a master like Stiglitz cannot hit every point.

When Senator McConnell weeps bitter tears about the pitiful state of the rich, refer to Stiglitz's piece, which points out that since Reagan came in, the rich have gotten two and a half times richer than they used to be, while the unrich have, at best, stayed where they were. Many did not do that well.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Book Review 239: Akenfield

AKENFIELD: Portrait of an English Village, by Ronald Blythe.287 pages. Pantheon

The fens are the West Virginia of England, a place of cousin marriage and quaint customs that died out in the 19th century elsewhere. Thus, the satirical comic Viz could count on a cheap laugh by portraying a band of identical dwarves as the “Much-Incest-in-the-Marsh Morris Dancers.” And that in the 21st century.

The thing is, the stereotype has truth in it. Less now than when Ronald Blythe wrote his well-regarded, and very frank, oral history of “Akenfield” half a century ago. But some authenticity, nevertheless.

That part of Suffolk is watered by the River Blythe, and the author's surname gives away that he is a fenlander himself. It is unlikely he could have gotten the villagers to talk so openly to an outsider.

His theme is nothing so crass as the English version of West Virginia hillbillies. “Akenfield” is about everything but about class above all.

You will not find many ill words about the Anti-Corn Law League, but the repeal of protection and, later, the gold standard devastated rural England. Nowhere more so than in Suffolk. The farmers started losing money, probably, by the 1870s, if not earlier, and they continued to lose money for nearly a century. As is always the case with property holders, they passed as much of the pain to labor as they could.

And in Akenfield, they passed most of it down. Leonard Thompson, a farm laborer born about 1896, told Blythe: "I want to say this simply as a fact, that village people in Suffolk in my day were worked to death. It literally happened. It is not a figure of speech. I was worked mercilessly. I am not complaining about it. It is what happened to me."

Following a short revival during World War I, the interwar period was a starving time for Akenfield cottagers. It broke their spirit, Blythe says.

The men became fearful. Losing a job meant, usually, losing the roof over your head, because of the “tied-cottage” system. The women were more self-confident, but the men were utterly demoralized. David Collyer, a young forester and Labor Party organizer, told Blythe, “The women never lost their independence during the bad days as the men did.” (His statement resonates with me, a Southerner, who observed a like distinction among oppressed blacks.)

The men did, to some extent, pass down the rural crafts, a vast body of knowledge that Blythe emphasizes is undervalued – when recognized at all – by city folk. As late as 1969, there was a wheelwright in Akenfield making farm carts.

By the mid-1960s, when Blythe conducted his investigations, the younger men were beginning to believe they did not have to do what the landlords told them. But they did not want to stay in Akenfield.

Before then, the cottagers were virtually serfs. The combination of landlord, parson and JP ordered the young people where to work and whom to work for.

One of the frankest statements of conditions comes from Marjorie Jope, a district nurse from the '20s. An outsider, she nevertheless entered the cottages, at births, deaths and sicknesses, and saw things that the landlord, the parson and the JP might have suspected but never knew about for sure.

Americans who have been trained to despise the National Health should read her statement. They will have to change their minds, if they have any humanity at all.

The idyllic English village was not where she worked. Her clients were starved, dirty and sick: “Children have never been as beautiful as they are now. The old people were not taken care of.”

In fact, they were sometimes just left to die.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

An erosion of confidence?

Longtime readers know that RtO considers anthropogenic global warming an unproven idea, and the notion that 'there was no Medieval Warm Period' a proven error. They may idly wonder why I haven't had a global warming post in a while.

It's because the evidence is in. You either get it or you don't. However, a few days ago I visited Real Climate, just out of curiosity, and was surprised to find this from 'eric':

"In the Northern Hemisphere, the late 20th / early 21st century has been the hottest time period in the last 400 years at very high confidence, and likely in the last 1000 – 2000 years (or more). It has been unclear whether this is also true in the Southern Hemisphere."

What follows is more alarmism, but read that introduction carefully, recalling that RC is the high shrine of the-science-is-settled propaganda. It is where we have been assured that there couldn't have been a Medieval Warm Period.

This has been presented as such solid knowledge that anyone who doubts it is a 'denialist,' an intellectual nihilist akin to people who don't believe the Nazis murdered the Jews. Yet 'eric' has high confidence that it has been warm only for the last 400 years. He thinks it very likely that it was warming straight through from 1,000 years ago (the MWP), but that must mean he thinks it is at least somewhat likely that it wasn't.

Also, it has been 'unclear' whether the Southern Hemisphere has been warming. How's that again? It's global warming, 'eric.' If it wasn't warming in the South, then it wasn't global.

Anyhow, the era of 'high confidence' turns out to mean less than nothing as well. We denialists, who think that there has been a cycling of warm-cool-warm over fairly consistent periods of around 500 years, for at least the past 2,000 years, agree that it has gotten warmer over the past 300-400 years of so.

The Little Ice Age ended, the alpine glaciers retreated tens of miles or more, all without any assist from emissions of internal combustion engines. So it follows that, until the next cool period starts, which probably isn't far off, the trend has been for more warmth.

Consider what it would imply if the globe hadn't trended warmer since the end of the Little Ice Age: It would probably signal the renewal of the Big Ice Age, which is due about now.


Saturday, June 9, 2012

Book Review 238: Wide Ruins

WIDE RUINS: Memories from a Navajo Trading Post, by Sallie Wagner. 150 pages, illustrated. New Mexico.

Wide Ruins” is among the most interesting memoirs of American rural life, gaining piquancy by its exotic locale: the Navajo Reservation in 1938-50, a time when most Navajos had little contact with the outside world.

Sallie and Bill Lippincott were newlywed anthropologists when they took over the derelict general store – called a trading post in Indian Country. Their academic training in getting to know outside cultures may have helped them adapt. Wagner – as Sallie Lippincott was when she wrote this book nearly 50 years later – does not say.

In any event, according to her version they got on well. When they moved to Oregon, one of their Navajo friends sent them $5 – a lot of money for a Navajo, even in 1950 – toward their expenses for moving back. Nevertheless, there remained many things that the Lippincotts were not told.

For example, one day a mysterious child showed up. He was described as “a mifflin,” but what that was or who he was was never revealed.

Wagner reveals just a little of her personal life, enough to sketch a personality, but she and Bill are in the background in these stories. And there are plenty of them. Wagner does not waste words. In about 140 pages, there must be about 140 anecdotes, about wild rides through storms and into quicksand, humorous encounters with tourists who didn't understand Indians and Indians who didn't understand tourists, family feuds, touching gestures, violent episodes, including a triple murder.

Life may have been restricted at Wide Ruins but it seems never to have been quiet for long.

A theme running through the tale is Wagner's effort to get the Wide Ruins women to improve their weaving – both the technique, the quality and the designs. Wagner patiently induced them to switch from purchased to local vegetable dyes and to switch from gaudy to quieter designs.

She was unsuccessful, though, in getting the mothers to adopt Gerber baby food, which Wagner thought would be better for the babies than the fry-bread, coffee and sugar they were weaned to.

RtO has moved!

Restating the Obvious was begun in 2008 at the request of my employer, The Maui News. I have since retired from newspapering, but RtO will continue as long as it has readers.

I hope the old ones can find me here.

Otherwise, the plan is to continue the blog as it always has been. Commenting should be easier.