Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Foreign Policy Double Standards

Does it bother me that the US does one thing in Libya and something else inconsistent in similar situations in other countries? Not a bit. That's because I realize that the US is a sovereign state answerable to nobody except more powerful states. The US does what it does in Libya for a variety of reasons having everything to do with its perceived interests at the moment and in a particular geopolitical context and nothing at all to do with the stated purpose of protecting civilians from being killed. When it has suited the US to kill civilians, it has done so with gusto. Certainly, the US doesn't stand for the proposition that the murder of noncombatants is always something which warrants international interference. Had any nation sought to interfere with the US when it killed civilians, this would have been met with resistance. It has also stood idly by while millions of civilians were slaughtered on many occasions when it felt that it had nothing to gain from intervening. Perhaps if Libya maufactured teddy bears instead of producing oil, the US would be less inclined to meddle in the Civil War there. The humanitarian rationale for interference is just a rationale for public consumption.


I have encountered many folks who declare themselves libertarians who seem dismayed at my approval of regulation of corporations. How can I call myself a libertarian if I don't support unfettered corporate action? In my view, a corporation is a creature of the state. A collection of businessmen approaches the state and receives from it a license to do business with limited liability and with the ability to concentrate capital and power beyond what any ordinary subject of the state could hope to amass without the help and blessing of the state. Moreover, they seek to do this with almost no transparency. If you go to the state seeking these kinds of concessions and special privileges, I reckon that the state can impose any conditions on this that it pleases. And to the extent that these conditions accidentally protect me and other folks from predation and the abuse of power by the various syndicates, then I'm doubly behind them. Frankly, I'd just as soon have only the state (and its myriad annoying subdivisions) to deal with.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011


Reruns of Firefly can be seen on the Science Channel on Sunday evenings at 10:00. Occasionally, I suppose in an effort to justify the show's airing on an educational channel, Doctor Kaku comes on and makes some comment. Last Sunday, he talked about wormholes and exceeding light speed in "Serenity", Captain Reynold's ship on the show. I don't think "Serenity" has FTL capabilities, but I reckon it doesn't matter as long as more people get to see this outstanding series. Does the History Channel ever have any actual history any more? Every time I tune in, the show is about Nostradamus or space aliens or some such nonsense. I haven't watched enough to know for sure that I'm right, but I can't imagine that you can make a whole series about people with shitty jobs. Ice Road Truckers and Ax Men and Deadliest Catch sound like good premises for documentaries but not entire series. Just sayin'. I still haven't seen any Real Housewives or Kardashians, but I have actually watched an entire episode of Ru Paul's Drag Race. For me, The Biggest Loser is must see TV. Lately, the show has been way less about the interpersonal drama after hours and more about fitness. I've learned a lot about diet and exercise from this show. Also, I just love watching the trainers torture fat people. Tosh.0 and The Soup keep me abreast of popular culture. Since Keith Olbermann quit, I haven't really watched the news (except the occasional Last Word) other than The Daily Show. I listen to NPR and the BBC religiously. I've been watching Deadwood again. I like the Al Swearingen credo: I want to trade to advantage and come once a day. I don't hate the sitcom Modern Family. Otherwise, I've been watching movies and science and nature documentaries when I bother to watch TV.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Core Mission

Lately I've heard some politicians on the TV talk about the "core mission" of the federal government. So far, I've heard its said that some program or other is not part of the core mission but so far I haven't heard anyone expound on what is the core mission of the United States government. Based on what the United States does with its money, I'd have to surmise that the core missions are two: to maintain a bloated military on the one hand and to maintain a population of old people in relative health and comfort on the other. Are these missions connected?

Monday, March 21, 2011


I'm not sure what the military intervention in Libya means. Does it mean that the UN aims to intervene in all civil wars where there is a high risk of civilian casualties? Or just the ones where the member nations would like to see the civil war succeed? Or just the ones where lucrative oil contracts are up for grabs?

Friday, March 18, 2011


It would be a lot easier to evaluate whether state action was appropriate or effective if the state had a known purpose. If you assume that the state's actions are efficient and appropriate and then work back to the purpose, then you get a hodgepodge. Under that analysis, the purpose of the state appears to be (a) to perpetuate its own existence; (b) to provide employment for bureaucrats; (c) to maintain the existing power structure; and (d) a million other seemingly unrelated and conflicting purposes.

In my opinion, the state should devote itself to the overarching human project of taking control of all matter and energy in the entire universe and turning it to the benefit of mankind. Citizens should demand notning less than individual immortality, total leisure, and unlimited resources at their disposal. A primary sub-goal on the way to achieving these aims should be to get us off this planet before we destroy it or some cataclysm befalls it. Anything that doesn't promote the primary goal is a waste of time and energy and resources.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

What Have I Been Up To?

When the first Mrs Vache Folle left me, I had to start working a lot more hours to make up for losing her income. I ended up with the house payments. That cut into my blogging time and my time for keeping abreast of events. Then I began a frenzy of skirt chasing, and that took most of the rest of my time. Also, I needed time and space to get used to my new situation.

Last August, I met a lovely woman on line and began an intense correspondence. I fell head over heels in love. She is perfect for me in every way except one: she happens to live 7 time zones away in Ukraine. I flew to Ukraine and spent some pleasant weeks with the woman of my dreams in Yalta on the Black Sea. I ended up asking her to marry me and applying for a fiancee visa for her and her daughter. Since then we have corresponded or spoken daily, and we met again last month in Prague. We are now waiting for some federal bureaucrat to look at the visa application (it has been 13 weeks since I filed it). If we are lucky and our application is processed in the average time, we will be united in August and will get married. I will also have a teenaged stepchild.

That's what I've been up to. Work and travel and courtship.

I have opinions about stuff

What with all that's gone wrong in Japan, I keep expecting Godzilla to make an appearance. Maybe he could help with that atomic power plant, but he'd probably just destroy more stuff.

The romantic in me would love to see America help the Libyan revolt succeed, but I am otherwise glad to see that America now has a government that is cautious and thoughtful about the use of military power. It is perhaps ironic that the foolhardy use of military power by an administration devoted to its unfettered use has effectively fettered the government for years to come and endangered national security far more than the threats which the Bush administration imagined.

Remember in 1992 when the presidential candidates of the Democratic Party were described as the Seven Dwarves? The crop of GOP contenders for 2012 makes the '92 Democratic hopefuls seem like titans in comparison. I predict that the GOP will nominate a former governor who is not obviously insane but that he will have to pander to the Tea Party crazies so much to get the nomination that he will scare the s**t out of the general electorate. Maybe the GOP should take a pass on 2012 and go ahead and nominate a total bats**t teabagger and get it out of their system. That way, none of their legitimate, non-crazy candidates will be tainted by the Tea Bag craze of the moment and will still be in good shape for 2016. Between now and then the GOP could work either to get the Tea Bag nuts under control or at least distance itself from their more loony elements.

Wouldn't it be nice if we Americans could follow in the footsteps of Czechoslovakia and break up amicably? I'm tired of having my government influenced by people in Oklahoma and Wyoming and Texas and those other backward places that would just as soon be ruled by the Christianist equivalent of the Taliban. I think I'd be better off if I lived in a smaller country comprised of the states of the Northeast from the Potomac up. That way, we could pursue our dream of being more European (a lot of us have actually been to Europe and like a lot of what we have seen) while the slack jawed yahoos in the other states could do whatever idiotic thing they wanted. We'd also get to keep more of our money instead of having it redistributed to the red states.

I hate reality TV, except for the Biggest Loser, the show where some sadistic personal trainers torture morbidly obese contestants. That's entertainment! I watch it while I'm on the elliptical at the gym. If I had nothing else to do but diet and exercise like the contestants on The Biggest Loser, I'd be thin. I used to like the nanny shows, but I got tired of the endless parade of stupid, lazy parents and became frightened for civilization.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Lamar Alexander

On The Last Word the other day, I saw a clip of Lamar Alexander comparing concerns about nuclear power plant safety in the wake of the problems in Japan with concerns about automobiles in the wake of a car crash. The analogy might have been apt if a car crash could potentially kill hundreds of thousands of people and wreck the economy. I conclude that (a) Lamar Alexander is a moron; (b) Lamar Alexander's remarks were directed at morons; or (c) both of the foregoing.

Master of the Obvious

I'm pretty sure that everyone with any sense at all has already said this a few times, but let me add my voice to the chorus of those who reckon that anyone who really cared about the deficit would have opposed extending the Bush tax cuts, at least with respect to the wealthiest taxpayers. Eliminating that part of the tax cuts would not have had a significant impact on the economy, and it would have helped to close the budget gap. If you pushed to extend the tax cuts for the wealthy, then you should just shut up now about the deficit. You are not credible. You are simply pandering to your imbecilic, misinformed base.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Bonds Between Teachers and Students

Occasionally, I find myself agreeing with David Brooks. The other day on NPR, he was talking about his most recent book in which, apparently, he has discovered that emotions and our nature as a social animal matter. He talked about the need to apply this fact to policymaking. For example, he seemed to suggest that the emotional bonds among teachers and students are important considerations. I spoke aloud to my car radio, alternating between "hear, hear" and "d'uh".

In my own experience, whenever I felt that my teacher genuinely cared about me, even loved me, it made all the difference in the world. Like my peers, I was sensitive to indifference and hostility, and the benefit that I derived from school was vastly greater when I had teachers with whom I felt an emotional bond. These were the sort of teachers who continued to manifest an interest in me long after I had left their grade assignment.

If we accept the premise that these emotional bonds between teachers and students matter, I wonder why we insist for the most part in having teachers assigned to a single grade where they are limited (except for failures) to having students for a single academic year. Wouldn't it make more sense to have teachers follow their students for several years through three or four grade levels? That way, deeper bonds could develop, and teachers could really get to know their students and their families. In the current system, teachers barely get to know the children (and vice versa) before they lose them and start over with a batch of strangers. And children are confronted with the unknown every September. We're squandering the hugely important emotional factor.

Of course, it would be hellish to be stuck with a hostile or indifferent teacher for 3 or 4 years at a stretch or for a teacher to be saddled with a class of dolts. Presumably, a school district which adopted an approach which promoted bonding would also arrange to weed out teachers who didn't develop bonds with the kids. And maybe longitudinal exposure to a group of children would help indifferent teachers to form attachments with their pupils.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Radicalization of Muslims

If the hearings hadn't been called by hypocritical douchebag Peter King, I might have accepted the premise that Congress ought to look into radicalization of American Muslims as a potential threat. But the hearings do not appear to have on the agenda the creation of an operational definition of "radicalization". How "radical" do you have to be before you are deemed to have been "radicalized"? What if you become radically committed to love and community service? Does that count? How meaningful is any of the testimony if the very topic has been left undefined?

Moreover, the hearings, despite their title, do not appear to be concerned with measuring the "extent" of the problem. A couple of anecdotes about nutty young Muslims does nothing to help us understand the extent of the problem, if it is one, or the potential for radicalization, whatever that might be.

Finally, if it is determined that some American Muslims are vulnerable to radicalization, what might a committee chaired by the likes of Peter King propose? Yellow armbands with crescents? Segregation of Muslims into camps or ghettos where we can keep an eye on them? Surely, a man who blatantly aims to smear and isolate an entire category of Americans by the way he conducts these hearings would be disinterested in efforts to fight memes with memes, the only way consistent with our values to confront the alleged threat. These hearings are about pandering to xenophobes.

Thursday, March 10, 2011


I've been trying to figure out how Medicare makes any sense for the state. Why maintain a program to keep old people alive and healthy after they are no longer of any use to the state? As far as I can tell, the costs of doing this likely outweigh the taxes that old people contribute. Maybe having their parents and grandparents dependent upon the state in this manner makes younger people beholden to the state. Maybe this program is valuable for maintaining the illusion that the state exists for the benefit of its subjects instead of the other way around. These are all good reasons, up to a point, for such a program, but the potential skyrocketing costs associated with demographic changes should make us revisit it.

Perhaps the state should invest in a propaganda campaign designed to remind old people that they, too, are expected to sacrifice for the good of their country. It is their patriotic duty to die if they become ill and require expensive treatment.

Wednesday, March 09, 2011

Fat, Lazy Kids and Parents Who Hate America

I have heard that the military is finding new recruits fatter and in worse shape than ever in history and that this has entailed expensive modifications to training. Parents of fat kids, why do you hate America? Why have you failed in your patriotic duty to produce young adults who are physically ready for combat? Shame on you.

It's too expensive to take your fat lazy kids away from you and raise them in government camps, so we should probably just have DoD take over scholastic physical education and school lunch programs. Then we can target those families which do not support the training regimen with increased surveillance and removal of the children as a last resort.

And another thing, parents. Why have so many of you failed to indoctrinate your children as to the desirability of military service? It is appalling that so many inducements must be offered to get your children to volunteer. We need for kids to see service as an honor and something that they would gladly do for free. We would be turning away volunteers if parents were doing their patriotic duty in promoting service.

Maybe we need to evaluate the tax deductions granted to parents and reserve these for parents who fulfill their patriotic obligations.