Thursday, December 20, 2018

Another family values Republican

Thanks to Juanita Jean, RtO has become aware of yet another family values Republican who won re-election from family values Republican voters, this time in Texas.

You need to read the complete report in the Dallas News to get the full flavor of this one. Especially the senator's imaginary friend.

While not as criminous as the ineffable Scott Des Jarlais, Senator Schwertner does bring a certain special Texas looniness to the practice of family values. The evidence adds support to the idea that any Republican who speaks up in favor of family values is some kind of pervert.

Defeat lap

Speaker of the House Paul Ryan give a valedictory dress at the Library of Congress before slinking out of the House of Representatives yesterday. As is typical with Ryan, it was a mixture of cynicism, mendacity and sanctimony.

But I come not to praise or even to condemn Ryan's comments but to point out that he is damn lucky that he is a birthright citizen of the United States, because under the new doctrine of the Republican Party if he were a green card holder aspiring to citizenship, he would be deemed unsuitable.

You cannot make this stuff up.

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Kill-crazy cops

Let's review the bidding in this murder.

A Los Angeles cop thought that a car he saw might have been stolen and that a man who was near the car might have something to do with it. So he killed him.

Your chance of being murdered by a law enforcement officer is more than 100 times worse than your chance of being murdered by an immigrant, illegal or otherwise.

Disarm the police.

Monday, December 10, 2018

Making the most of treason

During the period of my move over the summer I was not able to post to Restating the Obvious very often, but one of the things that struck me forcibly was the treatment of the word and concept of treason, starting with James Clapper's ill-advised use of the term following the Helsinki embarrassment when Trump  traveled thousands of miles to lick Putin's boots.

Clapper knew better. Trump's performance did not in any way meet the constricted definition of treason in our Constitution. Traitorous would've suited as well and been legally accurate.

The right-wingers jumped on Clapper's error, and that sent me down memory lane because the use of the word treason has been habitual with right-wingers and Republicans all my life, and I do believe that the same Constitution was in effect in 1952 as in 2018.

It's been a gift to a person of my sentiments that Republicans have continued since Helsinki to use the treason word.

It is always a question with our right-wingers whether they are pig-ignorant or are as knowledgable about our political history as I am but far more cynical. I can never decide. They are certainly stupid but that is not the same as being ignorant, and they're certainly cynical.

They must believe -- if they're not just  ignorant --  that virtually all of their supporters are completely ignorant, because you do not have to know great deal about American political history to remember the Republican Party's campaign slogan in the 1952 election: 20 years of treason.

Thursday, November 15, 2018

Young intern doing her job

Sometimes the silliest and most trivial incidents reveal the most.

F'rinstance, Sarah Sanders described the woman who tried to take Jim Acosta's microphone as a 'young intern.'

She's young -- graduated from college in 2012 so in her late 20s. But old in experience, having worked on Rauner's campaign in 2014 and then held the top press aide positions with the Republican National Committee before becoming an assistant press secretary at the White House.

A fast rise, one might say and wonder what her qualifications are.

So, query?

Did Sanders expect no one would notice she was not an intern? Didn't care because the Trumpters will swallow whatever crap they're fed?

Or is this a devious plot to get out of her job by wrecking any semblance of credibility with the press men and women?

One thing for certain: Sanders does not care if everyone in Washington is laughing at her. They are and she had to know that was going to be the outcome.

Perhaps the district judge will be the only one who is not amused.

Friday, November 9, 2018

Thank you for your service

In time for Veterans Day.

Just when you thought the Trumpeters couldn't go any lower.

UPDATE Sunday: as usual, getting too close to Trunp -- even if he doesn't know you -- destroys your reputation. Whitaker shouldn't hmve had a reputation it turns out but as long as no one was looking he could get by as another bureaucrat.

Now all world is looking and what they are finding is another racist bigot.

“And while I agree that I want to understand their judicial philosophy and whether they understand natural law and natural rights and then the founding documents and how they fit together...I don’t think that gets us far enough because natural law oftentfimes is used from the eye of the beholder," he continued. "What I’d like to see is things like their worldview.… Are they people of faith? Do they have a biblical view of justice? I think that is very important.”
The moderator interrupted Whitaker and asked “Levitical or New Testament?” which is an indirect way of asking whether people of the Jewish faith should be banned from serving as federal judges.
“I’m a New Testament,” responded Whitaker to laughter. “And what I know is as long as they have that [New Testament] worldview that they’ll be a good judge.”

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

The only really meaningful election result

Scott Des Jarlais was re-elected for the fourth time to Congress from Tennessee's 4th District.  He got close to two-thirds of the votes.

GOP not sending their best to Congress

Scott Des Jarlais is a rapist and a would-be murderer and the Republicans see nothing wrong with that. After all, God has forgiven him. He told Des Jarlais so.

And that, when you get right down to it, is all you need to know about the difference between the two main political parties in the United States.

(See and

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

No left turn

I do not expect much of a turn toward the Democrats in today's voting.

America is always on the verge of fascism. I was born in 1946, the year Truman, under pressure from rightwingers, established the security state and the loyalty oath. On the national level we soon saw McCarthy, Nixon, Reagan and now Trump -- all frightened of and determined to suppress democracy.

There's been no time in my life when the United States pursued a policy favoring the democracies overseas, and it is always undergoing a struggle within our borders to realize the democracy envisioned by the Founders.  The pressure of the rightwingers against participatory government is relentless.

It works because Americans are to great extent looking for a fuhrer. This should not surprise anyone despite the cant about being free and brave and independent.

For at least a third of the American electorate, freedom and independence are the last things they want.

We can start with religion. About two-thirds of Americans belong to authoritarian cults which either deny or discourage any sort of independent thought. This group includes the Roman Catholics, the other Catholics and evangelicals. The preachers are not overwhelmingly successful in stopping their adherents from thinking on their own, but they are always working against it. 

If we then turn to economics, the myth of that sturdy yeoman farmer, the man the Jefferson thought would make America democracy secure by cultivating his own vine and fig tree (probably the most inapt of Jefferson's political statements) has never been a genuine part of our system even when the land taken from the Indians was offered to the whites at rock bottom prices. It took substantial capital to become an independent farmer, so that, for example, when Iowa was settled in the 1830s and '40s about third of the people there were always landless, and this has been the case throughout our history. Economic dependence does not foster political independence.

Socially, you only have to scratch the skin of America to see it bleed racism, xenophobia and fear.

These attitudes have never quite predominated nationally -- America is so big that when one section goes fascist another can remain more or less immune. But authoritarianism is so close to taking over at all times that any time a slick talker blowing a tin horn comes into town millions rush to follow him. There's never been any shortage of cynical rich men willing to fund that parade. (But not only cynical; the rich are perhaps more fearful than even the poor.)

This election has not been about health care or jobs. It has been about fear. It is not hard to terrify an American.

To a degree we confront our racism and classism, but in public discourse never our fear. Not a word about this is ever taught in our schoolbooks -- no one says anything about the mayors of the east coast cities who in 1898 each demanded that the navy send its fleet to his city to protect his harbor from the largely imaginary Spanish navy.

Is not difficult to terrify an American.

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Pence the bigot

It has been obvious since the start that Pence is a Christian Dominionist. But he has outdone himself now, making his outreach to grieving Jews by standing on stage with an anti-Jewish 'rabbi.'

A Pence aide told The Washington Post that Jacobs had been invited by Lena Epstein, a Republican congressional candidate to represent Michigan’s 11th Congressional District, and said Pence did not know who the religious leader was when he brought him on stage “to deliver a message of unity.”

 Epstein, in a statement posted on Twitter, said her Jewish faith was “beyond question” and accused “any media or political competitor who is attacking me or the Vice President” of “religious intolerance.” She said she was a member of Temple Beth El, a Reform synagogue in Bloomfield Hills, yet didn’t explain why she had invited the leader of the Messianic synagogue to the campaign event.

Yeah right.

Saturday, October 27, 2018

Recruiting tools

So, the Army has been having difficulty reaching its  recruitment quotas. Just tell the boys and girls that they'll have a chance to use all that weaponry against barely literate women and their children.

But Homeland Security fuehrer Kirstjen Nielsen is wasting the opportunity by announcing that the Army has no plans 'right now' to shoot at migrants approaching the border. (This is, of course, a change from past Border Patrol policy.)

But don't worry, Young Americans. Secretary Nielsen indicated to Fox News that there's some hope for sport even so, and the militia have said they're locked and loaded and on the way.

Saturday, October 20, 2018

A loooong way down

The Republican Party has come a loooong way from 'Perdicaris alive or Raisuli dead.'

Thursday, October 18, 2018

The government doesn't lie just to you

We sometimes hear that Americans learned a hard lesson in Vietnam. Don't believe it.

The government lied to us, to the world and -- most consequentially -- to itself all through Vietnam.

So we got our sorry asses whipped.

Same method, different losing war in Afghanistan.

They described the Afghan president as furious at the breach of trust between allies, just months before a presidential vote in which he will seek a second term. In a meeting in Kabul the day after Mr. Khalilzad met the Taliban, according to the officials, Mr. Ghani specifically asked the American delegation about their talks with the Taliban but was not given any details — and the American envoy then changed the subject.

President Ghani should watch his back because Asian leaders of fake governments who displease American presidents tend to end up dead in thestreet: Remember Diem.

Thursday, October 11, 2018

Our fascist First Lady

CNN reports that Melania Trump thinks women alleging sexual crimes need to provide "really hard evidence."

Setting aside the double entendre, a woman of discernment would have avoided that topic. Because we remember that Melania Trump charged that Barack Obama was born in Kenya without hard evidence or any other kind.

Amerikanische gleichschaltung

Several times in Trump's first year as fuehrer RtO warned that his initial move to turn America fascist would be the same as Hitler's first move: gleichschaltung, sometimes translated as "coordination."

Or, as some prosecutors say it,"Harmonization."

The Post has the story. Nut graf:

In a July 2017 Justice Department bulletin to 94 U.S. attorney offices nationwide, Oregon federal prosecutor Gregory R. Nyhus said that federal criminal statutes and civil immigration laws “are reconcilable” and that “courts should be encouraged to harmonize these statutes rather than focusing on [one] to the complete exclusion of the other.”
If you read the story, you'll see that he is arguing for a legal pipeline into konzentrationslager (concentration camps).

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

Condemned out of his own mouth

RtO has often had harsh things to say about Christians (and about other religionists but more about Christians because I know them better) but never anything as bad as this:

Falwell Jr said the Democratic party and its supporters were “no longer liberals – they’ve become fascists, they’re Brownshirts. You believe like them or you’re out.

“Poor Kanye West,” he said, referring to criticism of the star for wearing a Make America Great Again baseball cap. “He dared to have his own opinions and look what they did to him.”

He added: “The most intolerant people in the country are those that preach tolerance.”
As someone who grew up surrounded by evangelicals -- but not an evangelical myself --  this is hilariously obtuse.

I was not at all surprised that Falwell, the evangelical demigod, would describe Trump a a moral man. Trump really does embody almost all of the moral values that evangelicals actually live by: lying, fornicating, stealing, cheating, self-praising.

Roman Catholicism preaches that the greatest, almost unforgivable sin, is pride. That is about the only doctrine of Catholicism I still consider valid. No identifiable group is more prideful than evangelicals.

Tuesday, October 2, 2018

Grassley thinks you are stupid

And if you are a rightwinger, he's right.

Grassley and Kavanaugh kept saying that the FBI 'does not draw conclusions.' That is true only in a jesuitical sense.

But also irrelevant, because United States attorneys do draw conclusons, based on FBI report. That is why Kavanaugh was so panicked every time anyone mentioned 'FBI investigation.'

Hard choice for him: lie to the FBI or give up in his appointment.

As a judge, he of course knows this, which confirms that he was lying. 


Tuesday, September 25, 2018

The stability of fascism

My move to Sykesville is complete, although I do not yet have reliable Internet, so I am planning to get RtO moving again.I hope old readers will check back and resume lurking.

About current Washington dustups, nothing for the moment but just some comments about the background of the events that were newsworthy during the weeks that RTO was mostly silent.

First, there's been a great deal of angst about the rise of movements called populism or strident nationalism in Europe, allegedly as a result of large immigration into the continent. Immigration into Europe is not large by the standards of any other part of the world so that is bogus.

More to the point, this is not populism or strident nationalism, it's fascism. Europe has always been mostly fascist (it has to do with religion). Even before Germany went to war in September 1939 almost all of Europe had gone fascist voluntarily. That included all of Central Europe with no exceptions, the same place where fascism is making its strongest gains again.

Fascism had taken over all of Iberia and there had been an attempted fascisst coup in France in 1934 that was beaten back just barely as well as one in Austria that was beaten back temporarily that same year. In Norway the Netherlands and Belgium there were powerful fascist movements -- not powerful enough to attempt government overthrows but just waiting for the support of a big power to take over.

Fascism is pretty close to the default attitude of the European public, certainly closer than anything that would be called liberal democracy.

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

The Trump Diet

The Trump Diet consists of feeding his followers crap until they gag till they gag, They never do,

We have seen the Republican political establishment from Romney on down consume unlimited quantities of crap and say it tastes good.

Coal miners love to crap eat crap.

The farmers say they don't like the taste of crap but they chow down on it all the same,

And now we have the active military and the retired, We'll see how much crap they want. If they don't respond to Trump's studied insult to McCain, they will have to eat the crap that he's put on the table for them.

I predict they will salute it and eat it,

Tuesday, July 24, 2018


(I have not been posting recently because I am busy pulling up stakes on Maui and moving to Maryland. RTO will continue as usual once I get resettled.)

Because everyone must make it stand, let me say here that everyone involved in the kidnapping, abuse and incarceration of children should be tried for kidnapping, conspiracy and child-abuse and that includes the president,  the head of The Department of Homeland Security, everyone in ICE and the Border Patrol who's been involved in stealing these children, everyone from the janitors up to the presidents of the private corporations running the child jails.

Being near Trump notoriously destroys the reputations of anyone so incautious as to go that close. Now the contagion of his criminal regime has stretched out to include people far from him physically though close to him spiritually. According to polls most Republicans agree with kidnapping and child-abuse.

I am not surprised and I am disgusted.

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

No gag reflex

RtO at the time Gorsuch agreed to become an associate justice of the Supreme Court under the disgusting scheme of Sen. McConnell identified him as a moral failure.

The present open seat doesn't present so clearcut a moral test. Is it possible for an honorable person to accept an appointment from a president like Trump, especially an appointment in the judicial branch which he holds in such contempt?

Not under my personal rules of integrity, although I can see that there's an argument for doing so in the name of keeping government functioning.

The problem is that it is a proto-Nazi government and what person of honor wants to be associated with that?

Kavanaugh failed his moral test by not even getting to it. In his remarks introducing himself to the American public he simultaneously lied and lied and licked Trump's ass.

It is probably true that no one is going to get an appointment from Trump if he doesn't lick Trump's ass, but for the man who is supposed to be such a skilled thinker he ought to have been able to work his way around that.  That he didn't try or didn't recognize the problem demonstrates his lack of courage, integrity, honor, common sense and decency.

The perfect Trump appointee in every respect.

Friday, June 29, 2018

Moral testing time

 Some of the decisions the US Supreme Court have laid the entire strength of te legal argument on sincere religious belief -- a meaningless phrase but let us assume such a unicorn does exist.

Vice President Pence is the leading self-declared evangelical in politics, I was surprised to see that he is visiting Guatemala. Guatemala is the world center of evangelical murder,

These murders were not objected to by American Evangelicals and were assisted and encouraged by the American government.

At least 200,000 people, primarily Indians living in the upcountry, were murdered in the name of evangelical Christianity in Guatemala.

So this visit would be a chance for Vice President Pence to say something about his sincere religious belief, either to endorse the murders or -- as the Congregationalists have done -- to regret and apologize for past misdeeds.

I doubt he'll do this since is in addition to being a sex pervert a moral coward. so I'm not holding my breath,

Thursday, June 21, 2018

The United States should pay for immigrants

I don't approve of the proposed policy of preferring highly educated people for immigration to the United States. That is not how we have done it traditionally. Our past practice of taking people who wanted to work resulted in huge advantages: if you don't know the story of Sol Bloom, look him up.

But if we are going to lure people with the most expensive skills, we should have the honesty to pay for it. Let's take the example of my mothers GP in Florida. He's from Africa, I don't know what country.

But I have no doubt that his education was paid for from public funds in his home country as that is how physicians' training is paid for almost everywhere. In much of Africa the public funding available for healthcare averages about $5 per capita per year, so if we take a number and say that it takes $100,000 to train a physician in Africa, the cost in human terms is that 20,000 people go without any healthcare.

Everything that Trump and his nazi minions have to say about immigration is false. Probably most Americans don't recognize how false, because how many Americans know anything about the history of immigration to this country?

Let's list a few bugaboos. Chain migration for example.

This has been a traditional method. Whether in the Pale of Settlement or in south Italy, families would scrape together money to send one member -- often an older son -- to America. Once he got established, if he ever did, he would send resources back home to bring over the rest of family one at a time.

In the earlier days of the country in places like the Palatinate in Germany whole villages would hold meetings to debate whether to sell up and move altogether to America.

Most of the people who come have not done especially well. The Irish joke was, "Sure and they told me if I came to America I would find the streets paved with gold.  When I got here I discovered the streets were not paved with gold. They were not paved at all and I was expected to pave them."

A few emigrants like Bloom or Carl Schurz have had an outsize impact on America, but the big gain this country has gotten has been from the second generation. For the most part the first generation scrambled to get a foothold; it was the second generation that provided the inventors, the big businessmen, the scholars.

Events are moving fast concerning separation of families. Thousands of unaccompanied children have arrived alone going back for a decade now and while this too has been a form of government separation context is everything.

It will be interesting to see whether the evangelicals who have expressed their dismay about separating families at the border can manage to keep up this statement of principle. I suspect they will not. Within a week or two if it comes down to a question of ripping children away from their parents or suffering the horror of living under centrist judges, I suspect that they will makes their peace with Trump's nazis.

The irony is that the driver of the migration, especially as regards Honduras and Guatemala, is evangelical Christianity which has been waging a remorseless genocide against the Indians. I would be a lot more impressed with the morality of the Southern Baptists if they would condemn that rather than Trump's separation policies.

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

The spirit of Drancy

RtO has been inveighing against the spirit of gleichschaltung since very early in the Trump administration. Although at first some responses indicated that readers thought this was over-the-top, I don't suppose that now anyone will deny that the top of the American government is being completely nazified.

Today NPR interviewed Brandon Judd, a Trump-loving Border Patrol union leader who is feeling mighty aggrieved that people are comparing his agents to Nazis or the Gestapo. Judd's level of self-awareness is very low and I expect his level of historical awareness is even lower, but the more accurate comparison would be to the Milice, the Vichy militia who rounded of Jewish children on behalf of the Germans.

They were, as Jeff Sessions would put it, serving the cause order and law and authority. And once they loaded the children onto the trains to the east it was none of their business what happened.

I could go on and on about gleichschaltung but nothing that I could say makes the point as eloquently as fervently and as evilly Brandon Judd makes it:

BRANDON JUDD: What we're doing is we're prosecuting these individuals. And we do separate them for a very, very short amount of time. It's not this separation that people are thinking weeks, months, even years. That's just not...
KELLY: To be clear, this is when people just cross the border, Border Patrol...
JUDD: Correct.
KELLY: ...You're talking about a period of a few hours.
JUDD: Correct.
KELLY: They might then go into the custody of other federal agencies, which are longer-term detention.
JUDD: Yes, if they go into the custody of other federal agencies, there could be a separation that's a little bit longer, but that percentage is small because we just don't have the facilities to hold very many people. So the zero tolerance, when people hear the zero tolerance, you would think that we're prosecuting 100 percent of the people that are crossing the border.
And that's not true. In fact, we're prosecuting between 10 and 20 percent of the people that cross border. So technically...
KELLY: But hang on, that's the whole point of the zero-tolerance crackdown is that everybody crossing the border illegally is supposed to be getting prosecuted. You're saying that's not happening?
JUDD: That's not even close to happening. With that small number of prosecutions, you're hoping to drive the numbers back down. And if you drive the numbers back down, then we'll have the resources to prosecute 100 percent.
KELLY: But help me square two facts. Attorney General Jeff Sessions, Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen have said U.S. policy going forward is anyone who crosses the border illegally will be prosecuted. You're telling me that's not happening, that's a tiny fraction that's actually being prosecuted.
JUDD: It is a tiny fraction. They're hoping...
KELLY: Why? What's...
JUDD: We just don't have the resources. Just in one station, one station alone, we're arresting about 200 people that cross the border illegally per day. We've got over 150 stations in the United States. We just don't have the resources.
KELLY: Let me ask you about the direct consequence of this Trump administration policy, which is families being separated at the border. Have you heard from any members who are uncomfortable with that policy?
JUDD: No, because again, the Border Patrol agents, we're not separating families. We've been called the Gestapo. We've been called Nazis. I mean, we've been called everything in the media. The fact of the matter is as Border Patrol agents, we are not separating families, except for a few hours for them to go see a magistrate or in extreme cases

, , ,

JUDD: OK. I can't speak to what ICE does. The Border Patrol agents are not separating families from children. When we do, it's for a couple hours. What happens with ICE after that, I don't know.

Friday, June 15, 2018

WWJD? Separate the families?

I think not. Please note, rightwing thugs, the part of the Bible that Jeff Sessions referred to is not what Jesus said. Even the people who believe the Christian cult is based on the sayings of Jesus don't purport to think that the Epistle to the Romans had anything to do with him.

The Jesus Seminar, which attempted to determine which parts of the Gospels really did refer to Jesus, did not look at the epistles but there's little doubt that the standards that they applied to the Gospels would have excluded Romans 13 or anything like it from the authentic message of the Messiah.

Let me be clear. I disagree with the majority of American theologians who think that there was a Jesus in Palestine two millennia ago. Certainly the one described in the Gospels who raised people from the dead never existed.

I'm sure that many many schizophrenics were wandering around Palestine at that time telling people that the voices they heard in their heads were messages from God, but that's not the same thing as believing in an historical Jesus

If you're going to believe in Jesus, those of us do not wish you would believe in the kinder gentler Jesus -- who as a matter of historical record I never heard about growing up in the South in the '50s. I heard a hell of a lot about Jesus then but he wasn't kind or gentle, and as for his Father, fugeddaboutit.

Well, religion is gotten wimpy and the 21st-century and even the Southern Baptist Convention believes that their version of Jesus wouldn't have broken up families, and they're on record saying so. Good for them and for all of the other Christians who are speaking out against the fascists running our supposedly secular government.

The mask drops

For a decade now rightwing Republicans have assured us that they need to defend our most sacred  right to vote by imposing strange regulations justified by absolutely nothing.

Yesterday the Supreme Court agreed with one of the stranger regulations.

Rightwing Republicans fell all over themselves in praising the decision and promised to extend it as many as possible of the other states.

It is worth pausing to contemplate the underlying fact that was presented to the court.

Who was prevented from voting? A foreigner? A doubledipper trying to vote twice in two different precincts? A person using a false identity to vote in someone else's place?

Well, no, none of those.

The person whose sacred right to vote was eliminated was a citizen would had lived in the same house for 16 years, who did not present himself as anyone else. He did not present himself at the wrong precinct, was not a felon and was in every way eligible to vote.

Under rightwing Republican control however he was prevented from voting.

As leftwingers -- and believers in democracy generally -- have said all along the Republican voter rights suppression drive has nothing to do with democracy or voting or anything admirable. The people pushing it do not believe in democracy, have never believed in democracy and before the Voting Rights Act there was no democracy where people like them were in charge. They're nothing but fascists in white shirts

Monday, June 4, 2018

Don't tell the truth, commissioner

From the Times report on the bigot cake maker:

One commissioner in particular, Justice Kennedy wrote, had crossed the line in saying that “freedom of religion and religion has been used to justify all kinds of discrimination throughout history, whether it be slavery, whether it be the Holocaust.”

Justice Kennedy wrote that “this sentiment is inappropriate for a commission charged with the solemn responsibility of fair and neutral enforcement of Colorado’s anti-discrimination law.”
That is just silly. 

Sunday, May 27, 2018

The art of 2 deals

Last week I was buying some used furniture for our new house.

ME: Your prices are $175, $125 and $100. I make that $400. Will you take $350?

YOUNG MAN: I'll get my mother. She's the expert with the credit card. You said $300?

ME: Sure.

WBD and Kim Jung Un also were negotiating.

WBD: I insist on complete and verifiable denuclearization with inspections.


WBD: And a meeting between us as equals.


WBD: And the sanctions, they're history.

KIM: If you say so.

WBD: Those 11,000 artillery pieces aimed at Seoul, I don't want to hear a word about them.


WBD: And you will completely integrate with the family of nations.The DPRK, too, whoever they are.

KIM: All right.

WBD:And I will guarantee your regime.

KIM (murmuring): If you insist.

WBD: That was a tough negotiation but you hung in there like a champ. Done?

KIM: OK, everything but the denuclearization.

WBD: We had these coins made because I knew you'd have to come to terms. Isn't it pretty?

 KIM: Very elegant.

WBD: I hear those Swedish babes at the Nobel ceremonies are hot.

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Book Review 410: Rice and Slaves

RICE AND SLAVES: Ethnicity and the Slave Trade in Colonial South Carolina, by Daniel C. Littlefield. 199 pages, illustrated. Illinois paperback, $26

Daniel Littlefield’s “Rice and Slaves” is nearly half a century old now, an early entrant in the attempt to make history more scientific— or at lest, more sciency — by replacing narrative with pages and pages of statistics.

One problem is that while the questions are often of great interest, the numbers are often inadequate to answer them.

So with the question of whether traders and buyers of slaves 1) knew or thought they knew that some Africans were knowledgeable about rice; and 2) if so, did they act on that belief  economically by preferring those slaves over others?

This is important because if the answer is no, all they wanted was muscle power, that reinforces the view of white Southern historians that black slaves contributed little or nothing to the development of American culture; while if it is yes, then Africans can claim agency in how the country came to be.

This is akin to the question of who built the transcontinental railroads — Irish and Chinese laborers or something beyond that. In California public schools, children are taught that the Chinese immigrants built the railroads, which misleads the pupils in two ways. First, there is more to building a railroad than laying track —like surveying, metallurgy, financing, accounting etc. — and second, by eliding the obvious follow-up question: if the Chinese were capable of building railroads, why didn’t they build any in China?

The question about agency in the Low Country rice districts of South Carolina, Georgia and part of North Carolina is less fraught. Yes, West Africans did impart a great deal of the skill that made rice America’s most profitable crop; and, yes, the planters did recognize their experience.

But, nevertheless, the planters did not buy only West Africans. In fact, Littlefield finds that slaves imported into Carolina from Congo and Angola (where rice was not grown) outnumbered slaves from West Africa.

But the numbers remaining to us do not say whether that was because the desire for rice experts was modest or whether it was strong but could to be met for various reasons (a very big one being that West Africa was not known as the White Man’s Grave for nothing).

In the end, Littlefield’s conclusions are not very different from, and no more persuasive than, the conclusions arrived at by old-fashioned narrative historians, and less pleasurable to read.

The special takeaway from this volume is not so much the question asked in the subtitle but the revelation of the fluidity of racial and power relations in a frontier colony short of skilled labor of all kinds. This, too, was known to the narrative historians, but Littlefield’s close reading of advertisements for runaway slaves throws new light on how that worked in practice, and how the condition of the slaves, bad to begin with, deteriorated as the economy of the colony, then the state ramified and grew.

Book Review 409: Black Rice

BLACK RICE:The African Origins of Rice Cultivation in the Americas, by Judith A. Carney. 240 pages, illustrated. Harvard paperback, $29.50

When I first encountered Judith Carney’s argument about African origins of rice in the Americas in a magazine article in 2000 I was unpersuaded. Her book, “Black Rice,” is more persuasive but carries more than a whiff of special pleading.

The difficulty is her contention that Europeans (in this case, the Portuguese, French and English) did not cultivate rice and therefore could not have done it. However, European travelers in the Age of Discovery were deeply interested in what they found — that’s why they were out to make discoveries, not to mention money. The English had close contacts with Italy and the Levant, rice-growing areas.

Carney’s interest is in South Carolina and West Africa, with tangential attention to rice in Brazil, Mexico, Peru and Nicaragua. Carolina was settled by Europeans in 1670 and by Africans at the same time.

The Africans, many of them, were from areas of West Africa where three distinct agronomies for rice had existed for centuries. Carney makes excellent evidence for their profound influence on the wet rice cultivation along the coasts of Georgia, South Carolina and part of North Carolina. But she elides the certain fact that English colonists were trying to grow rice in Virginia from their earliest settlement.

They were successful, too, although with dry or upland rice. They apparently had some method of “whitening” (hulling) the grain, a problem Carney makes much of. The Virginia rice was probably Asian, less difficult to process than African rice, but still, it had to be milled.

I think she makes her case that the white post-Reconstructionist historians who attributed the skill in Carolina rice cultivation entirely to Europeans were fantasizing, but I do not think she quite proves  her case that the skills were entirely African.

Her case has many threads. One is cooking styles. Asian rice is sticky (except when it isn’t) while African rice properly cooked stays in distinct, long grains. As you find in gumbo. Gumbo is African in inspiration but Southerners also eat a lot of rice and gravy, which is not African-inspired.

She is also concerned to discern the gendered division of rice labor in Africa and in Carolina, privileging women’s role. Let’s just say that her descriptions tending to show that women were dominant in African rice cultivation— based on her fieldwork — are contradicted by other observers.

There are surprising controversies regarding agriculture in what became the United States and not just about whether slave labor was or was not more efficient (in the peculiar sense that economists use that word) than free labor. If you read Northern-oriented historians you learn that Lancaster County, Pa., had the highest farm receipts of  any county for hundreds of years, while Southern-oriented historians say Georgetown County, S.C., the hub of Low Country rice, was the richest county in the country.

Some authorities say most slaves in the US were imported from the Caribbean, others say the majority were imported direct from Africa.

Carney had a good case but overplayed it. She also lengthened it by about twice by endless repetitions.

Gone but not forgotten

I have been retired from reporting at The Maui News for over 5 years now, but the blog that started in 2008 goes on.

(For those reading at Blogger, this is a mirror site to the original at

It is hard for me to know how many readers the blog has but this morning something surprising happened:

According to a chart on the opening page of The Maui News digital site, which lists the most read stories, Restating the Obvious's last 3 posts were the most read on the site.

Dunno what's up with that.

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Can free will exist?

I have always considered that arguments that free will is a myth to be incorrect. But I was reasoning backward, whereas the anti-free willers were reasoning forward:

 Many scientists say that the American physiologist Benjamin Libet demonstrated in the 1980s that we have no free will. It was already known that electrical activity builds up in a person’s brain before she, for example, moves her hand; Libet showed that this buildup occurs before the person consciously makes a decision to move. The conscious experience of deciding to act, which we usually associate with free will, appears to be an add-on, a post hoc reconstruction of events that occurs after the brain has already set the act in motion.
Now it appears that I was right and there is a reasoning-forward way to explain why:

Based on these results, the researchers pieced together a biography of the boy’s brain.

When he was just an embryonic ball in the womb, five lineages of cells had emerged, each with a distinct set of mutations. Cells from those lineages migrated in different directions, eventually helping to produce different organs — including the brain.

The cells that became the brain turned into neurons, but they did not all belong to the same family. Different lineages merged together. In essence, the boy’s brain was made of millions of mosaic clusters, each composed of tiny cellular cousins.

It’s hard to say what these mosaic neurons mean to our lives — what it means for each of us to have witches’ broom growing in our skulls. “We don’t know yet whether they have any effect on shaping our abilities or challenges,” said Dr. Walsh.

However, the author of this report is Carl Zimmer who I do not entirely trust. But I don't see any suspicious claims in this report in The New York Times.

(There is another reasoning-forward way to get to a similar result, arguing from uncertainty but it is a weaker argument based on subatomic events which may not really affect out atomic brains.)

Monday, May 21, 2018

Crap from China

Electric buses in this case.

BYD has won passionate support from some of the region's most powerful politicians.

Thousands of pages of public records and interviews with those dealing directly with the company show BYD to be a skilled political operator. The company's business model involves hiring lobbyists and grant writers to secure no-bid purchases by public agencies, and it has invited public officials on foreign junkets and employed their close associates. Those officials then repeatedly came to the company's defense as concerns about the buses heightened.

BYD's backers hail electric buses as a clean-burning answer to the belching municipal rigs of the past and the natural gas models that followed. In the onset of this conversion, BYD — and, to an extent, the rest of the electric bus industry — has struggled to make buses that run as reliably and cheaply as the fleets they seek to replace.
To be fair, they probably aren't worse than Teslas or the all-but-invisible Bolts, both the result of good old Murrican no-how.

I'm sticking with gasoline engines.

Book Review 408: Our Native Bees

OUR NATIVE BEES: North America’s Endangered Pollinators and the Fight to Save Them, by Paige Embry. 224 pages, illustrated. Timber, $25.95

I like to watch the bumblebees lolling in the giant blossoms of the night-blooming cereus that decorates my mailbox. They wallow on the stamens and pistils as if in an opium dream.

This is not normal for native bees, who have Stakhanovite work habits: 400 blue orchard bees can pollinate almonds as effectively as 10,000 honeybees.

I had not realized — nor had author Paige Embry before she started on “Our Native Bees” — that honeybees (imported from Europe) cannot pollinate tomatoes. Those North American plants require native “buzz” pollinators.

In this chatty little book — too chatty for my taste — we enjoy a brief sampling of a few of the 4,000 species of native bees.

Most of what you think you know about bees in general will have to be thrown out.

For example, for most species there are no overwintering queens, nor any worker attendants. For most bees most of the time, there are no adults.

Th adults work furiously for a few weeks (sometimes only as long as a certain species of plant is flowering), then they die, worn out, leaving eggs hidden on beds of nutritious pollen, in stems, holes in the ground or other secluded places.

Most native bees are solitary, but different species vary through degrees of sociality up to almost (but not quite) the megalopolises built by honeybees.

Honeybees turn out not to be such efficient pollinators but they serve humans by making large quantities of honey and wax, by being tractable and by being easily transportable.

Forcing native bees to do farmers’ jobs is difficult. The bees are willing enough but their working conditions are not easily modified.

Nevertheless, with the killer diseases and parasites attacking honeybees, as well as problems with pesticides, native bees are beginning to get more respect.

Home owners will learn from “Our Native Bees” strategies to make your yard (or golf course) safer for the natives.

As a bonus, you will spend less time mowing the grass.

One reason “Our Native Bees” is short is that not a lot is known about native bees. It is suspected the not nearly all have even been identified, much less studied for their lifestyles.

But there are lots of color pictures.

Saturday, May 19, 2018

A post-lunacy evangelicalism?

Not really, but The Guardian has a piece about a "new generation" of evangelicals who were not thrilled at opening our embassy in Jerusalem. They are dubious that Jesus really is coming soon.

That does not mean they are not stuffed full of ridiculous ideas, but the reason I point to this story is this sentence:

To outsiders, these pieces of doomsday pop culture seem like far-fetched lunacy. For millions of Christians, they are a roadmap to the end of the world.
 I cannot imagine, under any circumstances, an American newspaper printing such a sentence. Our papers assume -- against all the evidence -- that religious people are decent and respectable.

The American preachers chosen by that religious exemplar WBD --  Jeffress and Hagee -- would be denounced for the virulent racist, murderous, slimy creeps they are if they were not "reverend."

If you have not experienced evangelicalism up close you cannot imagine how depraved it is. I like to listen to "To Every Man an Answer," a call-in radio show for what purports to be the fastest-growing cult in the country, Calvary Chapel.

You cannot listen long before hearing a caller say she -- more often a she -- cannot wait for Armageddon, or, as they pronounce it, Omageddon. It is not easy for my readers, all of whom are more or less sane, to imagine anyone's lusting after a thousand years of violence and misery for all of humanity, but such people exist.

Then there was this:

The Bible Code definitively proves Obama will bring Armageddon, it said

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Political pre-nups

Dunno what WBD and Melania had, but in Malaysia the prime minister and his second wife did this:

Fazley Yaakob, the husband of Mr. Najib’s stepdaughter, offered another story, which he recounted on Instagram after Mr. Najib lost the election. Before the two were married, Mr. Fazley wrote, Ms. Rosmah hired a witch doctor to assess the suitability of the union. The witch doctor warned against the marriage because Mr. Fazley, unlike others, would be able to resist Ms. Rosmah’s supernatural powers.
We haven't had a first lady like that since Nancy Reagan.

Monday, May 14, 2018

Another good man with a gun

He was licensed.

The unbuilt wall

No, not the one Trump is not building on our southern border. There's another one.
Note the ridiculously small number of stars

At the headquarters of the Central Intelligence Agency there is a wall of stars dedicated to agents who were killed while doing their dirty work. No names are attached. But there is no wall dedicated to the tens of millions of people who were killed by the CIA.

If there were,  it would have few names on it because most of the victims of the CIA died anonymously.

It would be a very big wall. The wall to the Americans killed in Vietnam lists about 60,000 names but the unbuilt wall to the Indochinese killed because of CIA conduct would be 100 times bigger.

Most of the people who were murdered because of the CIA we're not murdered by CIA agents, although some were. An incomplete list includes between 500,000 and 1 million Indonesians, at least 200,000 Guatemalans, several thousand Chileans, some tens of thousands of Uruguayans, hundreds of thousands of Iraqis, and worst of all somewhere between 5 million and 10 million Congolese.

But who's counting?

The CIA aspired to even worse, for example attempting to ignite a civil war in Ukraine. Only a few dozen people were killed in that operation but only because the CIA cannot maintain security. Had the agency got what it wanted, millions would have died.

It is clear that Gina Haspel was not telling the truth to Congress and it is easy to see why.

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Pot goes to pot

Oregon is growing too much ganja and the sellers are complaining.

They have forgotten the adage of Freewheelin' Franklin:

Dope will get you through times no money better than money will get you through times of no dope.

I am not a user myself but my using friends say that's correct.

And thanks to Gilbert Shelton, greatest of the underground cartoonists.

Thursday, May 3, 2018

Dangerous liaisons

What's really going on:

Rudy Giuliani, who was turned down 4 times by Trump for plum jobs, took his revenge by becoming Trump's lawyer and throwing him under the bus.

Choderlos de Laclos got nuttin' on us, baby.

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

The law and order party

Worth reading.

UPDATE Wednesday

And, as if on cue to confirm the premise of the original story, Mike Pence praises that champion of law and order Joe Arpaio.

Time for all decent Republicans -- if there are any -- to stand up and complain.

Monday, April 30, 2018

How stupid can Netanyahu be?

Awful damn stupid. The NYTimes has a piece about his presentation to show (to an audience of one, WBD) how Iran really does too have a sekrit bomb factory for making the atom bombs.

And they have evidence -- sketches!

 They took twenty-seven eight-by-ten color glossy photographs with circles
And arrows and a paragraph on the back of each one explaining what each
One was, to be used as evidence against us. Took pictures of the approach
The getaway, the northwest corner the southwest corner and that's not to
Mention the aerial photography

No, not that evidence. Real gummint evidence:

A decade ago, in early 2008, the chief inspector of the International Atomic Energy Agency gathered diplomats from around the world to a meeting at the agency’s Vienna headquarters and showed them images from a similar trove, including sketches of bomb designs and memos and budget documents from Mr. Fakhrizadeh’s project. That presentation included sketches of a “spherical device” that could be detonated using high explosives, similar to plans Mr. Netanyahu showed on Monday.

The I.A.E.A. presentation included documents showing the arc of a missile that detonates a warhead at an altitude of about 600 meters, roughly that at which the Hiroshima bomb was detonated.

Mr. Netanyahu went beyond that on Monday, and brandished what he described as Iranian plans to build up to five nuclear weapons.
A spherical device, eh? Like this?

Everybody who ever took a physics class is ROTFL. Me too who never took a physics class.

Netanyahu no doubt used his sekrit decoder ring to translate the Iranian documents:

Sunday, April 29, 2018

Can you steal a free newspaper?

Free if you can find it
Possibly not but it is well-established that if you take a lot of them you may be guilty of some crime or other -- perhaps malicious mischief.

The thought arises from a report in the Los Angeles Times (which I have not seen anywhere else even though it happened weeks ago) about a longish sentence (15 months) for a computer geek who made and gave away (or sold) restore disks that Microsoft gives away.

I'd like to know more; it sure sounds like entrapment, with a hint that MS inspired the sting.

The judges appear to have acted like idiots; the idea that people take free stuff and sell it is long established; and as long as people are willing to pay for what they can get for free, ain't that capitalism? (If you want an example, this is morel season and you'll pay a stiff price for them even though the seller got them for nothing.)

I tend to think the defendant is right when he says: "I don't think anybody in that courtroom understood what a restore disc was."

Sunday, April 15, 2018

Reverence for $$$

In a really terrible story, the New York Times calls Hank Greenberg a revered Wall Street titan.

Considering the complete lack of morality and realism on Wall Street, this characterization is no doubt accurate enough but for newspaper readers it calls for some context.

Greenberg was head of A much larger fraud then Bernie Madoff ever dreamed of running. It was called American Insurance Group and it was the world's largest Insurance company. It also ran a bunch of other businesses -- a giant combination that was a festival of fraud.

It also was one of the handful of American corporations that started 2008 with a AAA credit rating:entirely undeserved as is Greenberg's venerated status on Wall Street.

Greenberg is a classic example of what RtO calls the Fireproof Hotel Syndrome: an incompetent and a fool who had a longish run because capitalism, despite its founding myth about how ruthless it is, in fact does not punish incompetence -- at least not always and not immediately.

Let us recall what the AIG business actually consisted of just before the Bush crash in October 2008. There was a division called Financial Products which was insuring derivatives to the tune of trillions of dollars and had set aside $0.00 as a loss reserve. Let that sink in for a moment: Greenberg, the most respected insurance man in the country in September 2008, had a division that was exposing his company to hundreds of billions of dollars in losses and he set aside $0.00 as a loss reserve.

It might have been supportable if AIG had crashed over that -- as it would have if the government had not given it $180 billion dollars to tide it over. What is not well understood is that AiG also had total control over the commercial paper market in the United States.

It was the realization by federal regulators that if AIG went down it would take down the commercial paper market the caused panic among the regulators and led to the bailouts.

Commercial paper is a sonkish sort of a subject. It is a huge market and the most liquid in the world, even more so than US Treasury securities. Corporations that need cash borrow overnight from corporations that have cash in hand because their incoming and outgoing are not perfectly synchronized

American businesses cannot operate for two days without a functioning market for commercial paper.

Greenberg was an incompetent as he demonstrated or was demonstrated for him in 2008, but his interview with the New York Times proves that he is a fool because he learned nothing.

So, sure, Wall Street reveres him: he walked away from the wreck with a huge personal fortune. There's nothing Wall Street reveres more.

Thursday, April 12, 2018

It's like God is giving NRA a wedgie

Ha ha ha!

I especially like the part where the passer-by who found the gun that the Glocksucker left behind wanted to see if it was loaded so he just pulled the trigger. Here is where that happened. Notice any targets?

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Goosing the VIX

Whatever Whiny Baby Donald thinks he's doing with respect to trade especially trade with China, all he's actually done so far is goose the VIX.

That's the Volatility Index which some market analysts think is important although everyone seemed just fine with a quiet VIX while the market was bowling its way up to 27,000 on the Dow. Some people like to gamble by betting on the VIX or its inverse he XIV, and they like to see an active VIX.

For the kind of investing that I do the VIX is more or less irrelevant -- buy-and-hold or, in the current state of affairs, sit on cash doesn't require attention to the VIX.

However for you VIX fans Trump's meandering and flailing about with tariffs has been a benefit. VIX has gone nuts. It isn't easy to see what other effect Trump's wacko trade policies have had so far.

Thursday, April 5, 2018

Not just for white doofuses any more

So, the murderer who stalked YouTube was not a white man who couldn't get a date but a bloodthirsty and female vegan.

This will make life harder for the profilers who will no longer be able to say glibly that the suspect  was probably a young white man the next time some screwball with a firearm decides to shoot up a preschool.

Furthermore, the latest celebrity murderer was not stopped by a good man with a gun or good woman with a gun -- she shot herself.

Every day in America there are more guns and then more guns and more guns after that but somehow the number of shootings does not go down. Someone should tell the National Child Murder Association that its strategy is not working  -- unless, in fact, the strategy is to create more killers.

Sunday, April 1, 2018

Big mystery

Today is the day the Christians celebrate the central mystery and dogma of their cult.  And a very mysterious mystery it is, too, if you think about it.

Christians never do. They study it, they argue about it, they kill each other when they disagree about it; but they never think about it. If you do think about it, some obvious problems present themselves and by the end of this post I will have cleared up one of them: Who wrote the gospels?

First, though, we have to set up some parameters concerning the nature of the Hebrew Messiah and the historicity of Jesus.

Bart Ehrman, a professor at the University of North Carolina, is one of the best-known popularizers of biblical interpretation in America today, and according to him almost no scholars doubt that Jesus was an individual who lived about 2,000 years ago.

He does not. however, describe this individual in any identifiable way. If we think of him as the man who wandered around Palestine bringing people back from the dead, then obviously no such person existed.  If, however, we think of him as a schizophrenic who attributed the voices in his head to his deity and wandered around Palestine telling people what he heard, then obviously not just one but probably dozens or even hundreds of such people existed.

We can be sure of that because tens of thousands of such people exist in the United States right now. I have met several of them myself.

It is unclear whether the Jesus figure -- whether he really existed or was just concocted by clever editors from urban legends of the time -- claimed to be the Hebrew Messiah, and this is not surprising because the Hebrew Bible is no clearer about the identifiable characteristics of the Messiah than Professor Ehrman is about the identifiable characteristics of Jesus.

All we have to go on comes from the five gospels. I say five because that is how the Jesus Seminar characterized the four gospels and the Acts of the Apostles. Twenty-five years ago the Jesus Seminar, which was comprised of about 150 academic New Testament scholars in America, attempted to discern which parts of the five gospels could be confidently attributed to the historical Jesus that they accepted, rather uncritically. I believe it is generally agreed that the Jesus Seminar failed, and I found their methods and conclusions unpersuasive. (They were democratic; they voted on which parts were authentic. Not intellectually rigorous, which is a theme that will come up again several times in this post.)

If we start from the position that Jesus did think he was the Messiah, we must ask what sort of Messiah he was, and that is where the big mystery arises.

The Old Testament does not really define a messiah, but we can use information in it to make a firm prediction of what the Messiah was not going to be.

It is obvious that no Jew living 2,000 years ago and relying on the teachings of his tribal cult would have imagined that the Messiah was going to be the (or a) child of his tribal deity, still less that his tribal deity would have copulated with a human to produce a demigod.

There is simply no purchase in the Hebrew Bible for that sort of idea. We may ask then where the editors who put together the New Testament stories could have found such an idea, and the answer is  obvious: anywhere but in the Jewish tradition.

The notion that there were gods who gave birth to other gods was fundamental in the cults of all the people surrounding the Hebrews, and the notion that male gods copulated with human women to produce demigods was especially common in the Greek cults.

It is a notable fact that although it is assumed that Jesus and his disciples spoke Aramaic, and it is usually thought that they did not have the education that would have given them other languages as well, all the New Testament writings are in Greek.

What a surprise! The conclusion that stares us in the face but that biblical scholars are unwilling to think is that the authors or editors of the Christian sacred texts were not Jews. They must have been Greeks.

That there were more than one of them is commonly agreed by scholars, who have noticed that some of the editors were greatly concerned with Jewish rituals and others were indifferent.

We still do not know who these men were, whether they were hellenized Jews, Greeks who had been exposed to Jewish teachings or something else.

It is the fashion nowadays among biblical scholars to emphasize the Jewishness of Jesus and of the earliest Christians. When I was younger and Christians were more self-confident and it was still fashionable to disdain Jews, the novelty and separateness of Christianity were emphasized.

Well, from a Jewish perspective Christianity was certainly novel. No Jew ever, 2,000 years ago or now, would have imagined a Messiah who was another god who had a human mother and Adonai for a father.

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Straight outta Compton

Where do we find those responsible gun owners about whom we hear so much from the gun nuts?

Do you want a heater? Perhaps a nice little Beretta owned by a code enforcement officer who only took it out on weekdays.

Hardly any zoning violators were shot with this baby. Who'll be shot by the subsequent owners remains to be seen.

Nuts! Nuts! Nuts!

Eventually the Second Amendment to the Constitution will be repealed. Gun nuts cannot imagine such a thing, but that is because they don't know anything about their own history.

The slaveocracy could not imagine that slavery could ever be ended in the United States, and when William Lloyd Garrison founded The Liberator to achieve that, it seemed to most, whatever their views about slavery, that the slave power was unbeatable. Yet it was beaten

Similarly, it seemed impossible that the Constitution could be amended to outlaw the manufacture and sale of alcoholic liquors when that drive began. Yet it was accomplished.

The Second Amendment will not be abolished soon but perhaps it would be possible to mitigate somewhat the slaughter being fomented by the National Child Murder Association and its allies.

For example, so-called responsible gun nuts -- they think of themselves as responsible, I do not -- like to point to the rigorous training in firearms that peace officers are alleged to undergo.

Like everything else the gun nuts say, this is ridiculous. The recent shooting of man armed with a cellular phone in Sacramento provides a good example of how ridiculous it is.

Police officers are trained in elaborate protocols about how to react when confronting a man armed  with a cellular telephone. The training involves an alarm to other officers nearby when an officer perceives the miscreant has a gun. This is exactly like what birds do when one spots a hawk. And the police demonstrate just as much brainpower as the birds.

When an officer sees a man armed with a cellular telephone that he believes to be a firearm, he is instructed to yell: Gun! Gun! Gun! This amounts to an instruction to all the other officers to commit murder.

Imagine the situation. It is dark, no one is certain who is about or what they're up to. According to the protocol, the most suggestible, frightened, racist, or stupid cop in the neighborhood can be depended upon to identify the cellular telephone as a gun gun gun. And if any of the other officers present are less suggestible, frightened, racist or stupid, they will still immediately lower themselves to level of the worst of the police present and start shooting.

So as a modest proposal, I suggest that all of the tens of thousands I'm so-called firearms instructors in America stop teaching their pupils to yell Gun! Gun! Gun! when their imaginations run wild.

Monday, March 19, 2018

Our last trade war

Trade war!
I have been thinking over the commentaries I'm seeing about Trump's coming trade war and I am not impressed.

Trade wars are a bad thing, usually, but some of the predictions I have been reading do not match very well with our trade war with Japan.

Trump, for example, thinks that once we get the barriers up and the factories restarted foreigners will rush to buy American products. And some of the anti-Trumps think that a weaker dollar will increase our exports by making them cheaper to foreigners.

That isn't what happened between America and Japan. The yen went in a fairly short period from 360 to 120 to the dollar, and over a somewhat longer period to about 90. That is, the dollar weakened by a factor of 3 to 1 and eventually 4 to 1.
Did the Japanese start buying Fords? No. Why would a savvy Japanese consumer buy a crappy Ford when he could buy a reliable Toyota?

The trade war with Japan was fought with blunt instruments. Oranges, for example. The Japanese raised a tariff wall against American oranges in order to protect their growers of mandarins. This despite the fact that a navel orange and a mandarin orange are not really equivalent products.

The American orange growers thought that their troubles would be solved if they could just unload their oranges on the Japanese. Meanwhile they forgot to look after business and American groves are now in a bad way from citrus greening, disinvestment, anti-immigrant policies and the usual bad management that we associate with virtually all American businesses.

The United States can no longer supply our own demand, much less export, and we are now dependent on Brazil for our juice.

Back in the previous trade war,  the one with Germany, West Germany at that time, we thought  we could solve our chicken problem by selling cheap chickens to the Germans. The Germans did not particularly want cheap chickens, and we retaliated with a big tariff against German vans. American consumers did not then buy American vans. What savvy American consumer would by a crappy Chevy van when he could buy a good Volkswagen van?

I speak from experience. i bought my first Volkswagen van in 1970 at the height of the trade war and later on three more Volkswagen vans. It never crossed my mind to buy an American one. You would've had to pay me to take Detroit iron.

As I write this as I write this the rumor mill says Trump is going to impose $60 billion in tariffs on Chinese goods. That is a trivial amount compared to overall US-China exchanges. I do not know what is going to happen but I expect it will be bad for everyone, or just about everyone.

As Texas Guinan used to say to the big  butter and egg men, "Hiya, suckers!"

The summit that ain't

I have bet one amero with a friend the Trump and Kim never meet.

There is no document from the North Korean government requesting a meeting. Nothing oral either. Just a comment from a South Korean.

Trump got rolled. Again. That's what happens when you don't do staff work.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Allianz catches up

What took it so long?

“In our view, its intrinsic value must be zero,” Stefan Hofrichter, the company’s head of global economics and strategy, wrote in a recent web post. “A bitcoin is a claim on nobody – in contrast to, for instance, sovereign bonds, equities or paper money – and it does not generate any income stream.”

Sunday, March 11, 2018

Keeping up

So, in the course of one 8-hour day, Trump got rolled by North Korea, Canada & Mexico. I bet the Iranians are so envious they could just spit.

So, Bannon goes to France and smooches the neo-nazis. How long before the people who castigated RtO for calling Bannon a racist admit I was right. (The best thing about restating obviousnesses is the very high hit rate.)

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Pinhead's pinpricks

Before we get all bent out of shape about tariffs on foreign steel and aluminum, let us note that imports of steel and aluminum amount to about 1/500th of the U.S. economy.

Yes, the tariffs are a bad idea; and yes, Trump is an economic nitwit living in a mercantilist mindset that was abandoned by everybody else over 200 years ago. And yes, we are not going to win any trade wars with anybody.

Still, everybody get a grip.

I recall in the early 1970s when I was first starting out to report on American business and reading the Wall Street Journal wall-to-wall, there was a plaintive advertisement that ran every day for months: a Pennsylvania foundry was soliciting to make gray iron castings at a capacity of 250,000 tons per year.

The reason that it didn't have any work was China – still a pariah in international trade in those days – was dumping gray iron castings at ridiculously low prices and driving foundries around the world out of business. But it turned out the Chinese castings were worthless crap just like everything else China makes. The Chinese foundries didn't even wash the greensand before reusing it. The forgings were pitted and full of voids and quickly rusted away.

China still dominates by tonnage in gray iron castings, but nobody who needs really high-quality ones goes there. Mexico also exports a lot of gray iron into the United States. But there are several foundries still operating here.

One of them, I noticed, in Alabama even announces on its Internet page that it was founded in 1970 – in the middle of the Chinese invasion -- with the intention of proudly serving American companies with good old-fashioned American cast iron.

So China is left with the international market for things like cast iron park benches, but when  it counts it counts, companies that need high-quality forgings take their trade elsewhere. A quick search found a 2010 survey which commented that Chinese quality control was "weak but improving." That's very slow progress.

China at that time held 36% of the world market (for iron forgings generally, not just gray iron) and workers in Chinese foundries were making 50 cents to a dollar an hour.

American, Japanese and European founders primarily serving the automotive industry pay more, and get more.

Trump's ridiculous policy will not save any American jobs, net, but his claque won't ever know that, just as they don't know that his promises about Carrier jobs were a heaping pile of crap.

Thursday, March 1, 2018

Shut up, Monica

Monica Lewinsky shows up in Vanity Fair looking for attention, again, this time claiming that her fling with Bill Clinton represented a gross abuse of power by him.

No it didn't. Many gross abuses of power have been revealed to the public lately, but we recall that before setting out for Washington Lewinsky told her friends that she was out of earn her presidential kneepads.

Lewinsky miscalculates, again.

Thursday, February 22, 2018

Dirty water

The Department of Health has identified a moderate nitrate contamination problem in the groundwater Upcountry.

Most of us Upcountry get our water from the county, and most of the county's water comes from surface streams or from wells outside the zone of suspected nitrates contamination, so the issue is not about drinking water but about real estate.

I attended the Kula Community Association chalk talk last night, and the presentation was clear, precise and useful. I was on the Mainland during the original presentation which was criticized for not being any of those things.

The questions were also useful for the first five or six questioners until the obnoxious hotheads took over and I left. (When I was paid to go to this sort of meeting I had to stay for all the jerks; it is kind of pleasant to be able to walk off when they spout off.)

So here's the deal and what it means to you:

If you look at a map, the habitations Upcountry run from Kula San almost directly north and all downhill. There are about 10,000 sources of sewage and about 7,400 are cesspools, with the rest septic tanks or better.

Nitrates do not degrade in groundwater in the presence of oxygen. (In anoxic conditions, they do, which is why the pineapple cannery had to install pipes to vent the methane that was the end product of the slightly sugary wash water that it used to inject into the ground.) Health concerns for nitrates in drinking water start at 12 mL per liter, and no well tested Upcountry comes close to that.

However the health department takes notice when tests top 5 mL, which indicates some sources above natural conditions. Two wells, one at Pukalani Golf Course and one at the long-gestating Baldwin Estates project just below Haliimaile, have been tested fairly thoroughly.

They show nitrates at nearly 9 mL. Modeling  and spotty data from around the area suggest that there's a nitrate buildup in groundwater gradually as more and more units are feeding into it as you drop in elevation.

Although the department says it is not prescribing anything and is open to other approaches, it is clear that it has concluded that it would be simple and effective to skim off about a quarter of the excess nitrates by way of universal septic systems Upcountry.

Cesspools discharge their liquids about 15 feet down, too low for vegetation to take them up. Septic tanks discharge their liquids around 3 feet below the surface where a fairly large portion of the nitrates become fertilizer. That's the source of Erma Bombeck's book title,"The Grass is Always Greener over the Septic Tank."

Converting 7,400 cesspools to septic systems at around $20,000 dollars and up per system is going to cost a great deal of money, although not as a percentage of the value of most of that real estate.

The problem is space. Although the department says it is not mandating changes, not yet anyway, about 25 years ago it mandated a huge change Upcountry when it designated most of the island is a Critical Wastewater Disposal Area. That meant new construction could not use cesspools. It did not require retrofitting. It effectively established the minimum lot size Upcountry at one-quarter acre, regardless of the county zoning which is not nearly as restrictive.

This hasn't created much indignation because virtually all the housing built over the past 25 years was luxury housing and none of that was on quarter-acre acre lots. It did affect a few older lots for people wanted to subdivide for their families but were prevented from doing so.

Septic tanks are easy if you have a quarter acre or better, but if you don't there is another alternative and that is waterless treatment of household sewage. There are numerous manufacturers.

It would take some getting used to for Americans to go back to waterless waste treatment but after all we didn't start having indoor plumbing until our great-grandparents' time for the most part. It could be done.

I have a long proposed that the county spend a couple hundred thousand dollars, buy four or five of these units from different manufacturers and install them in households in West Maui, Upcountry, Hana, Molokai and Lanai and see what happens.

The crucial area is not Upcountry but Wahikuli which is the real source of the degradation of water due to biosolids in West Maui and not the fabled injection wells which are not a problem. That's a myth flogged by the know-nothing environmentalists, and we are spending tens of millions of dollars to fix this nonexistent problem and $0 to fix the existing problem.

I've blamed Sen. Dan who spent a million federal dollars trying to get Wendy Wiltsie Ph.D. to convict injection wells back in the '90s. She couldn't do it because it wasn't happening and she was an honest enough scientist to put that in her report, although her public statements tried to obscure the facts.

The Upcountry nitrate situation seems genuine enough, and I was impressed by the solidity of the scientific study that was presented last night.

I happen to think that waterless systems will be easy, cheaper and hard to sell. I spoke briefly to Council Member Kelly King and it appears that there is a small, very small effort originating at the state level to perhaps do a demonstration.

She is attempting to get at the state money. I say pish. The county's operating budget is $900 million. We lose $200,000 in change in the sofa cushions in the County Council breakroom. Forget the state  demonstration.  We should just go.

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Dirty secrets

There are 20 million pigs in Iowa, but you can drive through the state for hours without ever seeing one. Most live in big sheds called confinement units, bland, windowless metal warehouses that sometimes hold 2,000 or 3,000 hogs

Each shed is built over a pit with a slatted floor so that the waste falls down into what is called a manure lagoon. These are extremely dangerous places. Every year a few farmers fall into the pits. It may be considered fortunate that almost all of these die from suffocation from methane, hydrogen sulfide, carbon dioxide and ammonia before they have a chance to drown in the sewage.

What Sherlock Holmes called the smiling face of the countryside

You could live in Iowa for a long time without being aware of these houses of horror, although every now and then an infectious disease that farmers call the scours rages through a barn; and then you might notice truckloads of putrefying hogs being transported to the National Byproducts Company’s rendering factory just outside the capital of Des Moines.

Just so, you could live surrounded by Republicans for a long time without noticing what goes on behind their bland exteriors. But then along comes an event that is the social equivalent of the scours, and then we see that what appeared to be humans were really just human-shaped sacks of putrid filth.

Such an excoriating event happened last week, and CNN provided a coast to coast roundup of disgusting Republicans. Even the Washington Times, which seldom finds anything that happens among the rightwing to be objectionable, noticed.

Just as the Tea Party convicted itself of racism when its leaders sent out email blasts of racist cartoons, the reaction to the Parkland massacre convicted the Republicans.

You don't send out an email blast unless you expect all the recipients to get the joke. It doesn't just happen that Republicans from coast-to-coast accused high school students of being paid actors, fake victims, and stooges unless that was an idea that was already festering under the MAGA caps.


Margaret Sullivan of The Washington Post  calls out the rightwingers.