Who is The Talking Dog?

The Talking Dog

"Sure, the dog can talk…but does it say anything interesting?"

He ain't The Man's best friend

August 16, 2015, Reach out and touch someone


The Grey Lady gives us this exegesis on the now thirty-year collaboration between the National Security Agency and itself AT&T. Short answer: if it was technically feasible for AT&T (and to a lesser extent apparently, Verizon) to hand the government anything transmitted over telecommunications (telephone or internet traffic), it would appear that it was done. Which has been my surmise for some time: the only limits on the government's ability to spy on you are technical, not "legal" let alone "constitutional." And so the powerful-- the government and its corporate partners (and yes, that is the word used), can, and do, eavesdrop on every aspect of your life, for purposes not of "national security," but of social control. This can take the form of the outright thought-control that results from the inevitable self-editing we all engage in knowing that "privacy" has long been something we had to "get over," or perhaps from outright blackmail in the event someone proposes to get out of line (in any meaningful way).

To the extent any of this is talked about in the national dog and pony show election spectacle, it's most likely by Republican Rand Paul (or to a lesser extent, by self-declared-socialist-but-running-as-a-Democrat Bernie Sanders). Most of this, of course, is blown away in the public imagination (such as it is) by the broader bluster of Billionaire Donald Trump, who actually might be the guy to do something about this, as Trump stands for generalized free-floating (White people's) anger about everything, and "everything" might just include the immense sums of money that the government is spending to spy on its own taxpayers (and not, of course, on illegal immigrants, who are probably spied on to a far lesser extent because they are far less likely to devote most of their lives glued to an electronic device on which they are espied.)

Oh well. We are in an intertwined Gordian knot of bad stuff. An example of this that strikes me is the President's scheduled jaunt to the Arctic to highlight the dangers of global warming which is an interesting case study. We have the same President who refuses to have his Administration sign off on a pipeline to transport Canadian tar-sand derived petroleum nonetheless approved Arctic oil drilling, stances that are "inconsistent." Kind of like "the most transparent Presidency in American history" prosecuting more government whistle-blowers than all of its predecessors combined. The first and only time in American history we have the White House and Justice Department overseen by people of color, also happens to be the same government to give hundreds of millions of dollars worth of military equipment intended for use in war zones to American police departments, where it will be, as disproportionately as everything else in law enforcement, deployed against... people... of color.

To try to put what's going on in the world in one long and unpleasant sentence, I am somewhat informed by my recent observations of the New York City subway system, in which virtually every advertisement I saw was either for (1) a financial value-skimming dot com (trying to suck value from everything from food delivery, to taxis, to help-wanted ads) that will now divert value to centralized Wall Street or Silicon Valley v.c.'s that used to go, albeit in a more diffuse, less "efficient" way, to Main Street and mom and pop ventures, or (2) some kind of vocational training, be it by a for-profit operation skimming from the federal student loan machine or occasionally by state-run community colleges. And so, my not particularly helpful take is that "Power that used to be spread out among workers, productive industries, governmental interests and the commonweal has now been ever-more concentrated into ever-more centralized pockets of power tied to money derived either from commons-devastating resource extraction or from the financial trickery facilitated by national policy designed solely to maintain the asset values of those already in possession of substantial assets based not on providing goods and services of real value but based upon the privilege of either issuing unlimited debt or accessing that debt at virtually no cost or risk which permits "them that has to gets" in ever larger quantities, resulting not merely in wealth and income disparity but power disparity to the point that an academic study concludes our nation is an oligarchy and not a democracy, and as a result of a peculiar psychopathology that has infected the powerful, their interests have amounted not to the long-term benefit (or even survival) of themselves or their offspring, but have instead resulted in an insane land-grab of everything in the interests of their personal short-term gain at the expense of the population writ large, resulting in ever more debt-generation (and all that goes with that), resource depletion, environmental degradation and the resulting adverse health consequences that result from that, loss of real living standards for all but those largest rentiers on top of the skimming-game pyramid, and a concomitant increase in the power (financial and otherwise) of those on top of the game at the expense of everyone else, all at the same time that decades of dumbing down education and popular culture seem to have quite literally sapped the very imagination of those not on top of the pyramid to the point where the only "solutions" amount to some variant of extending the status quo that has caused the problems in the first place."

OK then. Remember that you have an infinite capacity for adaptation-- it's what has kept our physically-not-very-formidable species in the dominant position on this planet for a while (and, it is the habituation to the forgetting of this fact that will, if things do not soon change in a big way, kick us out of that position, and possibly, kick us out altogether). What can one do? I will start by leaving that as an exercise for your imagination.

The one place that AT&T, Verizon and the NSA can't reach out and touch, by the way.

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August 2, 2015, Bread and Circuses: Delaware Edition


The Grey Lady treats us to its own version of NY Post style speculation/encouragement on the issue of whether Vice President Joe Biden will be entering the Presidential race against Eva Peron Eva Braun Hillary Clinton.

Let me say that with Hillary Clinton, all things are possible. She has already been instrumental in giving us our first Black President (no, not her husband). Right now, she is on track to give us, quite possibly, our first Jewish/avowed socialist President, or possibly our first Latino President, or, maybe even our first woman President (Elizabeth Warren or perhaps some Republican... such as Hillary herself). So that said, why not Joe Biden? Sure, he had been a Dan Quayle-style joke for these last six-and-a-half years, but repeat after me: "With Hillary, all things are possible."

With all due respect, Joe Biden is no one's example of a genius. At least he's authentic... but he's prone to "gaffes." Anyway-- until it became clear that Hillary was going to be a more serious enemy of her own candidacy than the entire right-wing press corps and Congressional Republicans combined, The Establishment [tm] was willing to let her have a quiet victory lap before her coronation while we all sat back and watched Bill and Hillary's buddy the Human Bad Hair Day (they attended his [most recent] wedding) savage the Republican side with his own version of a political reality show, slicing and dicing through political sacred cows and tearing off the Emperor's New Clothes faster than his real estate empire went bankrupt without his father to prop it up. But now, as her abysmal campaign "style," her continuous e-mail fiascoes and, well, her just continue to undermine her campaign...

So... here's the thing.

With the clear exception of Bernie Sanders, whose election would signal something rather dramatic (which is why it isn't going to happen), does anyone doubt that the next President, be it Biden or Hillary or Bush or Rubio or Walker or whomever... is going to (1) continue occupying over 150 other countries and active drone wars and shooting wars, (2) reappoint Janet Yellen or some other clone whose mandate is to prop up the asset values of the already rich and super-rich, (3) continue to shove corporate-giveaway abominations like Trans-Pacific Partnership and TTIP and the like down our throats, (4) take no effort to manage the ongoing American and global declines in anything other than the present manner of making sure that the rich and super-rich do not suffer even a little, (5) fill in your own variant of "maintain the status quo" be it "not close Guantanamo," "not rein in deficit spending," "not control health care costs" or whatever you like...?

I didn't think so. Because the President's recent diplomatic breakthrough with Iran should cause us to give a moment's pause, and realize just how similar we are to that nation. Like us, it has a notional democracy for the election of political leaders figures, and like us, it has the actual power-holders not elected by that process. The only difference is that in Iran, this arrangement is "official," whereas here, we delude ourselves into pretending that the few hundred billionaires who control an insanely disproportionate share of financial power do not also control all relevant political power.

What can we do about this? Well, you can consider sending money to Bernie Sanders (I have), and helping his campaign. Obviously, I have no expectations on this one. Otherwise, you can withdraw your unbridled belief in "American democracy." Because it exists only in places like "American Idol," although there, teenage girls will probably outvote you, just as oligarchs will outvote you in "elections." Of course, I'm not averse to absorbing the entertainment value of things. That said, we are being presented with a show... so why not sit back, and enjoy it?

Say what you will about Joe Biden... the man is entertaining.


July 19, 2015, Sunday funnies


A WaPo op ed columnist urges us to "Stop Laughing at Donald Trump," even as he mocks Republican icon John McCain for having been captured in the Vietnam War. Seems like reasonable advice, given that he might well be a false flag candidate.

The slow moving toxic-waste-train-wreck that is the Greek bailout rolls on as the EU approves a seven billion euro loan to pay back the EU bondholdersGermany the IMF and ECB. The Greek referendum of a couple of weeks ago just highlights the adage of "always have a plan B"... the amateur-hour Greek PM clearly wanted to lose the very vote he was campaigning to win... he wanted cover for the wrong thing... and the end result,,, will probably be yet more suffering for his put upon people.

And China, the world's largest second largest economy, has a stock market crash that might (or might not) be over. God knows they're trying everything they can to keep propping it up, including outlawing selling! Say what you will of communist China; they mean business!

And finally, I'm going to do something I'm not sure I've done on this blog before; I'm going to grade my fellow Columbia political science/international politics student (that would be the President, Barack H. Obama), and then given him an "A," on foreign policy, at least for the current quarter. I'm with financial commentator Mike "Mish" Shedlock on lauding the Iran nuclear deal. Coupled with quiet praise for Russian leader Putin on the Iran deal, the new diplomatic relationship with Cuba, and even behind the scenes manipulation of the IMF to be less bitchy toward Greece, the President is living up, to some degree, to the promise of his ascendancy to the office.

In order to give him the A, I have to drop his lowest grades, on things like the ever-festering sore that is Guantanamo Bay, the never-ending drone wars, bear baiting China and the like, but the Cuba and Iran things-- two of the longest-standing American policy fiascoes Obama inherited from his predecessors-- are sufficiently huge to sustain that grade, IMHO (yes, YMMV, but keep in mind, that even many in Israel blame Netanyahu and his "just say no" stance for the Iran deal)... and so, the simple reality is that restoring some level of normality with Iran (and Cuba)... is really big. It gives me hope that there is promise that just maybe in his last year and a half, he can make progress in some of those other areas (without getting the planet blown up in the process.)

And I'll leave it at that.


July 8, 2015, Be Afraid


As you know, American national policy is that Paranoia is Patriotic [TM]. Today, and really the last few days, are truly worthy of the old adage, "Be Afraid. Be Very Afraid." Not over the official horsesh*t, like ISIS Islamic State ISIL, but over, well, you know, the world coming apart at the seams.
(I'd personally blame that water-stealer Tom Selleck, but that's just me.)

Item: the Greek PM has, shortly after sacking the only grownup in his government Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis, gone back to the EU finance people begging for a new three year loan, without discussing any specific terms of "reforms" that are supposedly warranted. Evidently, he called the snap "yes/no" referendum on the previous bailout terms hoping that the people he cares about (that would be "the rich") would carry the day and vote to keep the euro, austerity be damned... but, of course, it went the other way, and these things just, you know... sometimes don't work out... Meanwhile his country has an influx-of-refugees crisis brewing as well... oy... or should I say, Oxi...

Item: the Chinese stock market has collapsed, down around a third in just two or three weeks... and the nosedive seems to be continuing despite evasive action by Chinese regulators,

That would seem to be a basis for some concern in American finance. Except... no one could trade, because...

Item: the New York Stock Exchange had a still-unexplained "computer glitch" that suspended all floor trading for over three hours of the trading day today. Naturally, a cyber-attack is absolutely out of the question.
Just as it's out of the question that any kind of cyber-security problem was responsible for extensive outages that grounded all United Airlines flights for a while or shuttered the Wall Street Journal's web operations for a while.

No, of course not. It's not as if this country or its financial institutions have any enemies, now is it? Then again, why is it so hard to imagine that the technical infrastructure even of our most vaunted financial institutions (and a major airline) aren't suffering the same kind of starvation for maintenance and upgrading as the plain old physical infrastructure in the rest of the country, as every ounce of financial lifeblood that can be sucked by the proverbial vampire squid is drained from this economy, even if it means Wall Street is quite literally cannibalizing resources to pay its mandarins their Christmas bonuses, even if said resources would otherwise be necessary to sustain itself as an ongoing venture. Good times.

Then again... maybe it's that cyber-attack thing.

Don't know. Don't care. We got trouble. Right here in New York City.


June 21, 2015, Happy Solstice (Part Deux)



June 21, 2015, Happy Solstice


As Druids dance around Stonehenge, and Americans celebrate Father's Day, Roy Edroso gives us this taste of "heritage" from the American experience, in response to the recent racist horror of the murder of nine people in a church in Charleston, S.C.

Roy's inimitable take pulls no punches. Of course, the premise in which one can pull no punches these days is humor. People of goodwill have now been trapped by their own sense of fair play, which has metastasized as if a cancer into the premise of "everyone is entitled to their opinion," which in turn has morphed into the concept of what was once known as the "fairness doctrine," and in turn is a media that simply "presents both sides" of a given issue, as if each has equal truth value (or if one side has any truth value). Which, of course, is nothing other than an excuse for no one to believe anything they are told, because the one thing we do know is that much (if not virtually everything) of which we are told by politicians and the media and corporate America is complete nonsense.

Maybe, on this, the longest (and hence most sunlight-filled) day of the year, it's time we look at reality in the daylight, for a change. Dylann Roof is a hardened racist; his own web-site says so. And yet, it is necessary that, since Mr. Roof is White, that a hate crime directed at a historic Black Church and Black victims by a White man is anything but a hateful act of racist terrorism. Fine. Just fine. And the Confederate battle flag flying over his state's capital... is just a "symbol of heritage." Fine. Just fine.

Hey, not even someone with the authority of His Holiness Pope Francis, apparently, can
tell us that we are destroying our own planet's ability to sustain us,
without being attacked by the usual suspects. And the result, of course, is more cognitive dissonance, because why should anyone believe anyone?

Meanwhile, in seemingly more mundane news are areas we are not really being told about much, such as the coming financial crisis which will result from a failure to resolve Greek debt issues, next step, a "summit" tomorrow.

Some snapshots.

So many things are fraying at the same time; the only response to this, or to any survival threat, is mental clarity. And yet, as Americans (or indeed, anyone in the industrialized world, or at this point, just about anywhere), the prevailing ethos is the exact opposite: self-delusion, preferably on a profitable-to-someone-else electronic device providing the latest media nonsense. And if too much reality sinks in, we have pharmaceuticals. This has been a good answer for quite a while to getting along in a largely delusional society that, at least, was apparently functioning. It's getting clearer that now even the functioning is more delusion than reality, for more and more people. But the response is simply to double-down on the delusion.

Well, everyone has their own choice to make. You can choose to live in the ever smaller box in which our minds have been placed (and the attendant nonsense rules that go with it), or you can stop a moment, realize that some undeniable truths just are, and that those who are paid quite well to deny it because it's in someone's very real pecuniary interest to do so are probably a threat to your very survival, and at a minimum, you should at least recognize that fact.

I have no answers to anything right now. But at least I know the wrong questions.


June 7, 2015, Sunday Sunday


We'll start with the immediate solipsism, and note my finish in the Retro Four-Miler in a faster pace than last week, but still... not... fast. Ran the first mile with my friend E., who finished about eight minutes faster than I... all in all, her (10 min. mile) pace picked up after the first mile, and mine slackened. A tough year running-wise... but, now I have my nine, and hence, have automatic guaranteed entry for the 2016 NYC Marathon, and am already entered in the 2015... if I complete both, that will be fifteen in a row, and life-time guaranteed entry... just saying.

It seems, alas, that Vladimir Putin did not have life-time guaranteed entry to the economic summit recently known as the G-8 but now known as the "G-7" (the eighth, Putin's Russia, having been, in a schoolyard style pique, kicked out for not sitting still after the coup we staged in neighboring Ukraine)... and the remaining leaders of "the seven" (US, UK, Germany, France, Japan, Canada and Italy... but not Russia, let alone China) are meeting at a Bavarian resort.

The agenda will include, presumably, more schoolyard pique directed at Russia, possibly a discussion of how well things are going in the Middle East, and maybe some talk about the looming default by Greece, and its possible "bad" implications for the euro, the EU, and what's left of the global economy. Meanwhile, it seems that Russia and China are upping the business they are doing with each other (Russia's largest bank will now price some instruments in Chinese yuan), and the same report notes possible support for Greece from those sources, possibly as part of the not-yet-formed "BRICS" bank (BRICs standing for Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa, together representing an immense share of the world's land, people, economic might and resources... and conveniently not invited to the G-7).

Good times. I'm going to do what may prove to be one of the most effective political acts I can think of... I'm going to buy some soil, and then mix it with my backyard compost, and plant some vegetables in the backyard, and then plant some more on my roof, and then water them. Change is going to have to originate "bottom up": Bernie Sanders is a nice thought, but he's not going to be elected, and we can expect business as usual. As business as usual is doomed (see above), insofar as the hierarchical complexity and the insanely high transactional costs (financial, environmental, social, etc.) associated there with are bringing down our system in front of us, the best we can do is generate a little resiliency in our lives, even if only at a small and symbolic level.

Again... just saying...


June 6, 2015, Happy D-Day


On this, the 71st anniversary of the invasion of Normandy, the Grey Lady treats us to this account of the newly declassified saga of torture absorbed by so-called "high value [Guantanamo] detainee" Majid Khan. Rather than paraphrase, I'll just give you the gory details from the report:

Soon after his capture, Mr. Khan said, interrogators waterboarded him twice, a contention that contradicts the Central Intelligence Agency’s claim that it had already named all detainees who were subjected to that practice. (The C.I.A. has denied that Mr. Khan was waterboarded.) As he was moved among a series of C.I.A.-operated “black sites” over the following months, Mr. Khan told his lawyers, the torture continued. He was beaten repeatedly. He was hung naked from a wooden beam for three days, shackled and starved. He was taken down once during that time to be submerged in an ice bath. Interrogators pushed his head under the water until he thought he would drown. He received what he called “violent enemas,” and was anally assaulted in a process the interrogators called “rectal feeding.”

Yes, this is what the brave men who risked (and all too often, gave) their lives fighting the Nazis on the beaches of Normandy were fighting for. Comments? I got nothing.


May 30, 2015, Profiles in political courage?


Hot day here in the big city. Not so hot that I didn't manage to eke out a finish (just under a 12 minute mile) in the UAE Healthy Kidney 10K, my eighth finish of the year towards nine needed to qualify for the 2016 NYC-- which would then be my 15th consecutive if I make it to the finish line-- entitling me to guaranteed entry until I drop... since I'm registered for at least three more races here, including the 2015 NYC... I'm optimistic... And on the subject of things I'm optimistic (albeit cautiously) about...

Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky has vowed to thwart his fellow Kentucky Senator, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell in plans to permit the USA Patriot Act to die by its own terms, according to a report from Politico's Manu Raju.

Coupled with Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren's ongoing assault on her own party's President (and my college classmate) Barack Obama over the damned near satanic Trans Pacific Partnership by her outspoken opposition to it (joined by such luminaries as my current favorite Presidential candidate until Warren herself gets in the race, Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont), we are looking at senators who, perhaps in the spirit of Mr. Smith goes to Washington, willing to take a stand. Sure, Paul and Sanders are notionally running for President-- but I will eat the hat I don't wear if either of them is their respective party's national nominee come November 2016... they are nonetheless standing for first principles.

In Paul's case, the principle is that the national security state should be reined in, even if only rhetorically ("legal authority" has never been an issue in a country where the security establishment enjoys elite immunity in any case). In Warren's/Sanders', that a deal designed to bayonet the bodies of American workers amidst the debris field known as our economy so that a few multi-nationals who lavish immense sums upon political "leaders" like the President, House Speaker and Majority Leader get to pass a "trade deal" that supercedes worker safety, wages, environmental rules and anything else designed to protect human beings in the interest of profit maximization for the connected (and a deal so obviously bad that it has to be kept ultimate-top-secret-even-from-Congress, lest the public learn anything about it), is one that has to be stopped.

In both cases, they are standing up to the President, who, insofar as he has seamlessly continued whatever it was Bush/Cheney were up to, can not be distinguished from them in almost every meaningful area, and in a few areas, has out-done Bush/Cheney in awfulness,

But at least there's some opposition-- somewhere. Even if only for a brief shining moment.

Update: 21:45 EDT on 31 May, 2015: The Senate adjourned without either extending the USA Patriot Act or passing the USA Freedom Act... in other words, advantage Sen. Rand Paul, friend to freedom and enemy to, well, the bipartisan Establishment (who just want you to know that paranoia is patriotic.)


May 25, 2015, Set your watches back... to the future?


The old joke was "Welcome to Ireland; please set your watches back 200 years." Times they would appear to be changing as Ireland appears to be at the forefront of one of the big human rights developments in the world; the Grey Lady treats us to this discussion of the future of the Catholic Church in Ireland, in light of the impressive (62% to 38%) referendum win for a constitutional amendment permitting same sex marriage in Ireland.

While a huge (and well-deserved) rebuke for one of the most abusive and corrupt religious institutions in the Western world the Church, the Grey Lady's piece looks, a bit, at the never-ending child abuse scandals that the Church covered up for a long time, I see the Times article failed to mention "Magdalene Laundries," which persisted for "fallen women" until recently. It does, however, mention the virtual theocratic hold the Church had from rendering homosexual relations a crime to airtight bans on divorce and abortion. But... times, they are a changing.

What I'm trying to figure out, of course, is why a place like Ireland-- albeit a small country-- is first in the world with something like this. Similar referenda have failed in most American states in which they were posed (the most prominent example being California in 2008, where the vote was largely voted down by millions of people who voted for Barack Obama, himself a staunch opponent of gay marriage at the time), only to have the United States Supreme Court deliberately frustrate the popular will on made-up technical grounds, specifically that the political elites (in the form of California governors Arnold Schwarzenegger and Jerry Brown-- note the bipartisan nature of elite thought here), didn't want to defend the referendum result in federal court. And as far as I know, my own State of New York is the largest jurisdiction where gay marriage actually passed the way we are told laws come into being, by a bill passed by both houses of the legislature and then signed by the governor; in most cases gay marriage became law by judicial decision, though the scorecard of 37 states with same-sex marriage shows that 26 were by court decision, eight by legislation (though some of these were as a result of court decision) and three by popular vote.

In some sense, this is what makes Ireland's referendum all the more startling: this wasn't one of the perceived uber-liberal places, like Scandinavia or the Netherlands, but somewhere supposedly conservative... and yet, the measure passed by a wide margin.

And that's kind of where I'm going here. I've been blogging now for 13 1/2 years. When I started (days after 9-11), gay marriage was legal nowhere in this country; Hawaii's Supreme Court had permitted it for a short time in the 1990's, but the decision was ultimately thwarted by legislation. Then, out of nowhere, the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts found that the laws of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts that banned same-sex marriage violated that state's constitution, just in time to create wedge issue to be used against already flawed presidential candidate Senator John Kerry.

But somewhere along the line, elites changed their view on this. Who knows how much of this had to be with former George W. Bush campaign chief (in 2004 no less!) and Republican National Committee Chairman, the now out-as-gay Ken Mehlman, who seems to have spearheaded Republican support of gay marriage? The Grey Lady herself reported on the heavy hitters in finance who were behind the ultimate passage of gay marriage in New York, including my college classmate (the one who isn't Barack) Dan Loeb, vulture capitalist Paul Singer (whose son is gay) and Cliff Asness.

Thing is, boys and girls, my point is that while same-sex marriage (which has only recently crossed 50% in popularity, and is now around 54% in this country) has its own merits as a matter of, say, "equal protection jurisprudence" (that is to say, it is well-nigh indefensible to assert that a couple consisting of two people of opposite genders can receive a large package of governmentally dictated rights, privileges and benefits from their status as "married" while another couple of two people of the same gender cannot), the grudging and quite recent "popularity" is not what's driving this issue. What's driving this issue is that elites-- specifically, moneyed White men, usually because someone in their lives happens to be gay-- want it to go the way it is. I have noted that this country is no longer even remotely a democracy, but an oligarchy (according to a Princeton study), it makes sense that public policy as such will reflect what elites want-- not what non-elites want (or don't want).

So, it should come as no surprise at all that elites in Ireland got behind the gay marriage referendum, as that's who supports it here.

I find myself in an interesting position: I agree with the substance of the decision-- defenders of "traditional" marriage don't seem to understand that "tradition" is subjective-- other "traditions" include child marriage, arranged marriage, bride price and polygamy-- and so, the "tradition of one man and one woman" (note the order!) doesn't win the day. And issues of institutions devoted to child-rearing, cries of "don't go there" might be in order in a country where the majority of women under thirty seem to have at least one child out of wedlock. So... the issue itself has, in my view, only one reasonable outcome; there are age differences to be sure in its popularity, but little besides nostalgia for the Ozzie and Harriet era or outright bigotry supports the other side of this issue. Sorry, that's how I see it. But I have a rather pressing discomfort level...

Gay marriage, which now has the support of the powerful (and hence, is the new status quo, and will presumably become the law of the land in a month or so when the U.S. Supreme Court endorses it by a presumed 5-4 vote), costs the powerful nothing. Indeed, they benefit from it, by being able to show their support for "civil rights." But, of course, it's the civil rights of affluent (usually White) people-- "those people" aren't getting married as much. And so, isn't that interesting? An institution that is becoming the province of the elite as it is-- is now opened up to a group that the elites want?

Notice that things that might cost the elites, such as living wages for the working class, single-payer health insurance, or banks paying interest on savings, or public schools that aren't simply post-industrial baby-sitting services, meaningful food and drug safety testing, and I could go on for days... aren't happening, by referendum or otherwise.

We can wave a cautionary rainbow flag on this one and celebrate the people of Ireland and their apparent open mindedness; but we have to think about a future where the only things we will be getting are things that the elites want us to have...


May 17, 2015, The Meaning of Life


The Grey Lady treats us to this simultaneous hagiography/hit-piece/elegy called "Poor Little Rich Women", discussing an alleged sociologist's case-study of around 100 pampered glam-SAHM's (glamorous stay at home moms) of the Upper East Side, which, as this Gothamist observation notes, ,correctly, , is the Grey Lady's core demographic, to wit, the aging rich White folk of the Upper East Side of Manhattan-- specifically, the parts between 63rd and 94th between Lex and 5th... roughly a square mile or so, at most, which houses an insanely high portion of the Masters of the Universe.

The big takeaway from the piece seems to be the "Wife Bonuses"-- that is, apparently, some kind of cash incentives/rewards for "good service" or "hitting numbers" or whatever (be they as ordained by pre-nuptial or post-nuptial agreements, or perhaps simply in the discretion, whim, or pattern and practice of the various male Masters of the Universe who dispense said bonuses to their, ahem, beloved). But yes -- annual, cash payments from husband to wife are an integral part of some number of these relationships (the only thing we can say for sure is that the number is at least two, as the author-- with the uber-cool name of Wednesday Martin-- noted that the bonuses were "plural.")

"The rich are different from you and I," famously said Fitzgerald, to have Hemingway archly add, "Yes, they have more money." The fact is, this "lifestyles of the rich and famous" paradigm: fabulously beautiful and fit moms toting around the fabulously bright and beautiful tots to the first-rate schools and social engagements and keeping the Master's houses (always houses plural) in order... is not only the American Dream, it is, in fact, the epitome of the American imagination. These are the lives we desire most of all (and certainly what we are constantly told we desire from every television and computer screen, billboard and passing transit ad imaginable)... Indeed, so many of us feel we are but a lottery ticket away from them! Yes-- the most intimate of relationships-- hearth and home-- are just another basis for monetized transactions-- another monetary bonus to be doled out for services well-rendered, whether the "the Mrs.," or to a brilliantly performing personal assistant or division chief... cash is life's sweetest reward-- whether on the giving or the receiving end.

The funny thing is, Ms. Martin the author's upcoming book has the title "Primates of Park Avenue." She has stumbled into the relevant observation, which, perhaps, she will make in her book (hint: it's actually not about mocking the Stepford Wives lifestyle of her subjects... though I do wish someone else would have made that observation). Actually, I was going for the observation that human beings-- even the rarefied ones of the Upper East Side-- are actually primates at all, to wit, products of biological evolution. Sure, social Darwinism has put them (and especially their masters powerful husbands on top of the social heap... but all they really are is the product of the logical omega point of American life... to wit, nothing is merely about "love" (let alone "honor" or "social obligation" or even "biological imperative" or "just because.") Every transaction must be monetized. Not merely the employment of (presumably a vast army) of household servants, but the family members themselves... "wife bonuses" are discussed, but doubtless, children have various financial incentives in their allowance structures for good grades, athletic performances, perhaps even for landing the right life-partner (corporate mergers and acquisitions are handsomely rewarded, and since all-is-money, it is inconceivable that Junior or Juniorette wouldn't be either for making a smart catch). This is, on the one hand, simply a throw-back to Victorian costume drama type novels of the Jane Austen variety-- the English Upper Class revisited.

But it's a little bit more than that. Oh yes. Back to the primate thing. You see, back in the Victorian era, social relations of all kind were governed by all sorts of things. Some of which, were social constructs, like money for things like dowery/bride price, to be sure. But some of which were broader senses of family honor, some sense of class noblesse oblige, and some sense of only-recently broken off dynastic and feudal ties. Most of these things were actually not easily convertible into pounds and shillings. But I'm still going far afield.

This is really a "communism/capitalism" thing. Most families the world over-- including, I bet, yours and mine-- are organized communistically-- that is, the entire resources of the family are, for the most part, available to every member of the family, and in any event, are not doled out in accordance with some measure of "economic value." Apparently, that is not how we should be living, of course, as Ms. Martin's article tells us: real men bring capitalism into the bosom of the family, and money and family resources are dispensed on the basis of economic value, as it should be. This, in an American society where so many functions-- attending to children (including educating them), preparing food (and at one time growing it), cleaning the house, personal grooming-- have now all been "monetized," reduced to monetary payments, often to unrelated people or institutions. Obviously the truly advanced above us have set about making sure that we have a paradigm before us of monetizing
everything... the last great frontier of still-not-monetized American existence is a Man's (always a man's) "relationship" to his wife and children... now, it seems, a few truly enlightened individuals have figured out a way to monetize even that. Kudos are clearly in order.

The irony is that, in order to be a Master of the Universe in finance (what most of the UES Masters described by Ms. Martin presumably are), one probably works for institutions that were the beneficiaries of psychotically large amounts of government largesse after the last financial crisis (the one caused by the very same Masters of the Universe in Finance). So... we'll overlook that, because they earned their places fair and square by being the right place in order to bribe convince the government to hand them (immense amounts of) the taxpayers' money, which they then benefit humanity by allocating to the efficient employment of capital themselves.

Got all that? If it seems a tad grim to you... perhaps we should question your bona fides as an American.



May 14, 2015, Consistency


What to say about the President's (rather quiet) approval of a permit for the Shell Oil Company to start drilling for oil in the Arctic? The business of America is business, particularly multi-national global corporations not based in the United States (among the major beneficiaries of the proposed uber-top-secret "free trade agreements" he is trying to thrust on us).

So, while he screws around on approval of the Keystone XL Pipeline, the delay of which does not really or necessarily keep the tar-sands "oil" in the ground... his government approves a practice that is pretty much a consensus environmental disaster. The only big surprise to me is that Shell got the permits, rather than BP.

There are a number of other permits required before the environmental holocaust drilling for oil can begin... but this was pretty big.

The moral of the story: at least notional Republicans might face actual opposition to their devastation; notional Democrats still get a pass. And we get crap like this.


May 13, 2015, All in all, maybe I'd rather not be in Philadelphia


The City of Brotherly Love is the site of a disastrous Amtrak train crash, in which at least six people have been confirmed dead with dozens injured.

It's been a bad period for trains in our area , what with an earlier incident in Valhalla, NY where a commuter Metro-North struck an SUV, killing several people, and 2013's disastrous derailment in the Bronx killing four.

I'll make the obvious point: American infrastructure is not being maintained-- and that's physical infrastructure like track and rolling stock, and human beings, who, if you look carefully, are probably working longer hours than ever for the same or lesser pay than they received a long time ago. With the occasional deadly consequence. And for what? So a few sociopaths in the financial sector can continue to drive up real estate prices and pay outrageous prices for Picassos?

Given our blase national reaction to everything that the powerful don't want us to react to, I expect... a big yawn after this.

But it's falling apart, boys and girls. Rome was neither built nor brought apart in a day. We won't be either. But it's under way. Apparently, well under way.


May 11, 2015, Glorious Misleader


Who are you going to believe-- Seymour Hersh-- a journalist who has broken amazing stories time after time, from the My Lai Massacre to Mafia-style hit his present piece documenting the blatant falsehoods surrounding the Mafia-style hit murder daring raid of the compound in Pakistan where Osama bin Laden was hiding out and then murdered taken out by Navy Seal Team Six, and has proven a reliable source for decades... or my lying sack of sh*t college classmate the President of the United States, who might, you know, exaggerate from time to time.

Bottom line: I obviously believe Hersh. The only credible part of the OBL story is that he was actually killed (or was he?) by Navy Seals... that's about it. The rest-- hogwash. OBL was a prisoner of the Pakistani military and intelligence apparatuses, for God's sake. Was it inconceivable to believe that the world's most wanted terrorist would be hiding out on Pakistan's equivalent of the campus of West Point without those apparatuses knowing about it? Yes... yes it was. OBL was their prisoner. Bottom line is that someone with knowledge handed over OBL's whereabouts for the reward money., No "following the courier" bullsh*t. Then the CIA stalked him for a good long time to ascertain it was him-- but then, when the raid was ordered, it was with the acquiescence of two key Pakistani generals... not by slipping through Pakistani defenses. The generals opened the door; helicopters could easily have been shot down otherwise-- and would have been.

But since everything is about Barack, and in 2011, he was still facing reelection the following year, so he needed to make it about him, and then made it... all about him, thereby burning his Pakistani General cooperators (and the Navy Seals, btw, who he silenced). Yes... he made the heroes into chumps. And let's not forget the campaign line, "GM is alive and OBL is dead." And Zero Dark Thirty. All. Bull. Sh*t.

But the American people want the bullsh*t. Dear Lord. As so many other bloggers say... read the whole thing.

This has been, "Glorious Misleader."


May 10, 2015, I'm not quite dead


Given my posting frequencies of late, one would never know if I were live or if I were Memorex some kind of net-bot, or if i were just an aging malcontent watching his nation decline (environmentally, financially, morally, in health terms, you name it...) so quickly (under the "management" of his own college classmate the President) that not even the self-indulgence of blogging is worth the trouble very often.

Oh well. It's a lovely proto-summer day here in the Big City; I managed to eke out race 7 of 9 toward qualification toward NYC Marathon #15 which will take place in 2016 (thanks to the missed year caused by Hurricane Sandy, my streak-- now at 13 consecutive-- no longer conforms to the calendar year)... to wit, the Japan Day 4-miler.

And so, a Happy Mothers Day to all so celebrating (starting with Mrs. TD, her mom, my mom, TD sister, TD sister-in-law, etc. and all.) And a happy birthday to TD Dad (actually yesterday, a birthday he shares with Billy Joel among others). Even now-- with an NYC high in the low 80's-- I'm still hesitant to fully install my roof vegetable garden yet... last year went into June before I did-- this year's winter was relentless, and I remain convinced it still has something to say. Even, of course, if I don't seem to have much to say myself.

For no reason, here's the Grey Lady's Frank Bruni with "How Hillary is Winning." The answer (Bruni doesn't want to give) is "by being the only candidate." Hey Frank: no one else is running as a Democrat (the only announced candidate for the Dem nomination, Bernie Sanders, is an independent, not a Democrat).

Meanwhile, in non-candidate news, progressive love-child Elizabeth Warren is the subject of a Barack-Obama-rant on how "she is dead wrong" about the biggest corporate give-aways and sell-outs of American sovereignty, jobs, and health, safety and the environment in human history ultra-secret "free trade deal" known as the "Trans-Pacific Partnership," a deal so bad that it is being kept at the highest level of top-secret even though it will be "law of the land" if it passes Congress... because the public would be vehemently opposed to it if they knew what it was.

What it is... is a giveaway of the ability of American federal, state and local governments to protect worker safety, worker rights, environmental safety, public health, indeed, anything that would threaten the profit of the selected corporate behemoths who benefit from TPP, whether in the United States or in its "trading partners." Lookit boys and girls: when it comes to a question of a "balance" between profits of the people who gave enough money to put him in office and the health, safety and welfare of the American people, Barack has shown that, 100% of the time, he will go with the former, and with TPP, he does it again, this time, evidently, swinging at Elizabeth Warren... then again...

Did I say that out loud?


The Story of
the talking dog:

Two race horses have just been worked out on the practice track, and are being led back into the stable.

After the stable boy leads them into their stalls, the first race horse tells the second, "Hey, did you notice something odd about that guy?  I don't know, he just doesn't seem right to me".

The second race horse responds, "No, he's just like all the other stable boys, and the grooms, and the trainers, and the jockeys – just another short, smelly guy with a bad attitude, 'Push, push, push, run harder…We don't care if you break down, just move it, eat this crap, and get back to your stall".

The first race horse says, "Yeah, I know what you mean!  This game is just a big rat race, and I'm really tired of it."
A stable dog has been watching the two of them talk, and he can't contain himself.

"Fellas", he says.  "I don't believe this!  You guys are RACEHORSES.  I don't care what they say about lions, YOU GUYS are the kings of the animal world!  You get the best digs, you get the best food, you get the best health care, and when you run and win, you get roses and universal adulation.  Even when you lose, people still think you're great and give you sugar cubes.  And if you have a great career, you get put out to stud, and have an unimaginable blast better than anything Hugh Hefner ever imagined.  Even if you're not in demand as a stud, you still get put out to pasture, which is a mighty fine way to spend your life, if you ask me.  I mean, you guys just don't appreciate how good you have it!"

To which, the first race horse turns to the second race horse and says, "Would you look at this!   A talking dog!"

Your comments are welcome at:  thetalkingdog@thetalkingdog.com

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