Thursday, December 25, 2008

Harold Pinter, the British playwright whose gifts for finding the ominous in the everyday and the noise within silence made him the most influential and imitated dramatist of his generation, died on Wednesday. He was 78 and lived in London.

We wrote about Pinter here three years ago when he won the Nobel Prize. Here's a central quote from his speech:

The crimes of the United States have been systematic, constant, vicious, remorseless, but very few people have actually talked about them. You have to hand it to America. It has exercised a quite clinical manipulation of power worldwide while masquerading as a force for universal good. It's a brilliant, even witty, highly successful act of hypnosis.

He'll be missed.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Eppur si muove

The Catholics are at it agin, trying to salvage some shred of intellectual credibility by giving a nod to Galileo.

The Vatican is recasting the most famous victim of its Inquisition as a man of faith, just in time for the 400th anniversary of Galileo's telescope and the U.N.-designated International Year of Astronomy next year.
Pope Benedict XVI paid tribute to the Italian astronomer and physicist Sunday, saying he and other scientists had helped the faithful better understand and "contemplate with gratitude the Lord's works."

Is it just me, or are they missing one tiny point: Galileo's efforts were, in fact, opposed to what the church was doing, because he was trying to understand reality, and being committed to reality is anathema to the superstitious.

You probably remember their last face-saving move, when in 1992, Pope JP2 declared that the ruling against Galileo was an error resulting from "tragic mutual incomprehension."

Of course, there was no incomprehension. The people who run the church understood exactly what Galileo was doing, they just didn't like it. They also knew the effect of Galileo's work. As we see know, surveys repeatedly show that the majority of scientists are atheists. Despite the holdovers (like Newton, who was an avid astrologer), science leads to the rejection of religion.

Which is why the Catholics are trying to pretend they're compatible.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Happy Festivus!

FRANK: "Many Christmases ago, I went to buy a doll for my son. I reached for the last one they had - but so did another man. As I rained blows upon him, I realized there had to be another way!"

Allahu aqbar

Another story documenting how religion works to institutionalize male supremacy and female subjugation.

In this case, we have a Muslim religious court holding that when a father sells his daughter into slavery there is nothing that her mother, or anyone else, can do about it.

Saudi girl, eight, married off to 58-year-old is denied divorce
Ian Black, Middle East editor
The Guardian, Tuesday 23 December 2008
Article history
An eight-year old Saudi Arabian girl who was married off by her father to a 58-year-old man has been told she cannot divorce her husband until she reaches puberty.
Lawyer Abdu Jtili said the divorce petition was filed by the unnamed girl's divorced mother in August after the marriage contract was signed by her father and the groom. "The judge has dismissed the plea because she [the mother] does not have the right to file, and ordered that the plea should be filed by the girl herself when she reaches puberty," lawyer Abdullah Jtili told the AFP news agency.

Or maybe that's not quite right. Let's ask Rick Warren:
And, in response to a question about the Bible verse from 1st Corinthians that says “...women are not allowed to talk in church,” the Saddleback Church web site quotes another verse from 1st Corinthians: “[T]he head of every man is Christ, and the head of the woman is man, and the head of Christ is God.”

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Blago Coup Rejected

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Overpaid American Workers?

That's what we keep hearing, right? That the UAW has pushed wages and benefits up so high that the American manufacturers can't make a profit on the cars they sell. We hear that the labor costs for Ford are $71 and hour, whereas the Japanese companies, even for plants here in the United States, are only paying $49 an hour. And that's supposed to be outragous, right? After all, how many of the people who hear these statements are getting paid $71 an hour? Therefore, the problem must be the UAW.

Yeah, but no.

When you look at the figures, you see a totally different story. It's true, the all-in labor cost of Ford (or "Ford's", if you work in production) is about $71 an hour, $22 an hour more than what the Japanese companies are paying. That's a big gap, and would seem to support the claim that the American companies are overpaying their workers. The components of that difference, though, are significant. Ford pays a little more in hourly wages, benefits, and health care. The big difference is the "legacy costs", benefits, especially health benefits, paid to retired workers.

Why such a difference? Three reasons. First, the retired UAW workers have a union bargaining on their behalf, so they get benefits the Japanese companies aren't paying. Second, the Japanese companies don't have the same number of retired workers in the United States. They haven't been here that long, so if you look at the total number of workers the company has ever employed, the American companies have hundreds of thousands of retired workers, while with the Japanese companies with plants in the United States, almost all the workers they've ever employed are still working for them. The Japanese companies do have retired workers, of course; they're living in Japan.

The big difference is that the retired auto workers living in Japan, like the current auto workers living in Japan, are covered by national health. They aren't imposing a financial burden on their auto companies because they are covered by a public system. That component of the cost is just taken right out of the cost of a Japanese car, wherever it was made. In other words, what we learn from this is that decades of our refusal to consider national health are causing a major drag on American industry.

This isn't the whole story, of course. Primarily, this doesn't address the question of how the American companies will get to the point of building cars Americans want to buy, and that is a crucial point. Still, if we take out the legacy costs and focus on the questions of design and marketing, we can see that it's not the UAW that's causing the problem, but management. Therefore, we can't fix the problem by following the Republican prescription of beating up on the unions.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Coup in Illinois

We've been enjoying the farce in Illinois as much as the next guy. You know, the Tony Soprano quiz, the comparisons to the Abscam defendant asking if there was any money sticking out of his pockets, the fishwife of a first lady picked up on tape as she screams in the background. I mean really, even though he's a Democrat, and we want him out, this is right up there with Duke Cunningham or Ted Stevens in entertainment value.

Still, I am concerned about the latest move by the Illinois Attorney General to get the Illinois Supreme Court to remove him from office on the pretext that he has become incapacitated by the criminal charges.

Here's what the Illinois Constitution says:

(b)  If the Governor is unable to serve because of death,
conviction on impeachment, failure to qualify, resignation or
other disability, the office of Governor shall be filled by
the officer next in line of succession for the remainder of
the term or until the disability is removed.

They also have a gubernatorial succession statute: § 1. (a) In the event that the Governor, for any of the reasons specified in Article V, Section 6 of the Constitution of the State of Illinois, is not able to exercise the powers and discharge the duties of his office, such powers and duties of the office shall be exercised by the officer next in line of succession . . .

The constitutional and statutory provisions are the basis for the A.G.'s action in the Supreme Court. Her argument is that "these criminal allegations strike directly at Mr. Blagojevich's decision-making process, and specfically at at his capacity to separate his personal financial and other interests from the exercise of his public, executive authority."

My question is this: how is this different from any other case in which corruption of a public official is alleged? Every time he tries to sell his gubernatorial power, whether for the appointment of a new senator, or approval of a construction permit, isn't it clear that he has failed to separate his personal financial and other interests from the exercise of his public, executive authority? If the A.G. is able to prevail on this basis,, doesn't it swallow up the impeachment process entirely?

It seems to me that it does. There are times, and this is one of them, where the passion to rectify some obvious evil overwhelms our commitment to the rule of law, and to following the established procedures and practices to achieve the public interest. In my view, though, these are exactly the times when we are most in need of adhering to our established laws and practices.

So I want this guy out, and the sooner the better. If he is impeached, great. If he sees the writing on the wall and resigns (although his ability to see the writing on the wall seems to be pretty seriously impaired. What shouldn't happen, though, is that somehow people decide that Governor X or President Y has to go, and they pursue some illegitimate, ad hoc, process to get rid of him.

Even with that haircut.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Three years of Rational Resistance

I don't always write as much as I intend to, but I just thought I'd notice (the first time I've actually noticed the anniversary before it happened) that today marks three years of writing Rational Resistance. After two posts last night I'm not ready to write a long one, but I thought I'd flag a few that you may have missed the first time around, or that may still have some staying power.

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Has Democracy Outlived its Usefulness?

President Bush, and his former lawyer, John Yoo, have taken the position that there are essentially no limits on the power of the president, including his ability to order secret wiretaps and torture, regardless of what the law says.


That's how Byron Calame, the Public Editor of the Times, describes the efforts of Times management to explain their decision to withhold their story about illegal spying on citizens by the National Security Agency for over a year.

Happy birthday

Today is the birthday of two great men, men born on the same day, both of whom have helped lead humankind out of oppression and ignorance. It was 1809, and who could have predicted the revolutionary changes to be wrought by the work of Abraham Lincoln and Charles Darwin?

Almagated scabs, finks, and stooges union

This week I got another e-mail from the Working Families e-Activist Network about the union effort at the FAA. They're calling on people to contact their representatives in Congress to stop the FAA from declaring an impasse and imposing a contract, including pay cuts, on the air traffic controllers.

Professor Spicoli

Who's smarter: stoner Jeff Spicoli from Fast Times at Ridgemont High or Stanford law professor and presidential sycophant John Yoo?

One Nation Under . . .?

Boy, am I so glad that we had Congress cram God into the Pledge of Allegiance half a century ago! It really helps us appreciate the people who were supposedly our Christian, or Judeo-Christian, if you will, forbears, to see how our society has evolved. Is it true, as the religious right claims, that this country has become so hostile to religion that we need some kind of grand realignment?

I love these guys!

Just when you thought there was nothing funny about the Global War on Terror, these guys come along.

Family travel idea--Godly Family Edition

Okay, maybe it does seem like we're beating a dead--sorry, make that extinct--horse here, but get a load of this.

Schadenfreude Follies: Republican (and one Democrat) sex scandal edition!

Let those other big-time bloggers cover the serious stories, like Fredo's last stand. Hey, he didn't even have the decency to tell us he was quitting to spend more time with his family, so where's the entertainment value there?

I split my head open playing racquetball. (I was going after the ball, ran into the wall, and, like the song says, "I fought the wall and the wall won.")

Let's beat this son of a bitch like a rented mule

Yeah, McCain.


Terror attack in Dayton--Muslims involved

The conservative manifesto

So it's three years and counting. Stick around for the next three.

Monday, December 08, 2008

Why not Jerry Nadler for Senate?

I don't really see what Caroline Kennedy has to recommend her to replace Hillary Clinton in the Senate, except that her father and two of her uncles used to be in the Senate (one still is). Still, rather than thinking about what's wrong with her, what about considering what's right about some of the alternatives.

Here's a piece by Jerry Nadler about the Maher Arar case that serves as an object lesson for maybe why he should be considered.

Victim of US Rendition to Torture Should Be Allowed to Pursue Justice

On December 9th, the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit in New York City will consider whether Bush Administration officials must answer for actions carried out against Maher Arar, a Canadian citizen. In September 2002, Mr. Arar was stopped by federal agents at JFK Airport, detained for days, and finally sent to Syria, where he was imprisoned in a grave-like cell for nearly a year and tortured. These officials argue that their conduct is not subject to review by the courts, largely because Mr. Arar's case implicates national security concerns.

The Supremes Draw the Line

Almost eight years to the day after the Supreme Court handed the presidency to the worst president ever, the U.S. Supreme Court has rejected a challenge to the election of Barack Obama as president of the United States.

Yes, it was December 11, 2000, a date which will live in infamy, that a Court that was marked by hostility to claims of Equal Protection of the laws decided that as a one-time-only deal it would lean on the Equal Protection Clause to overturn the election results in Florida, stop the counting of the ballots, and install George W. Bush in the White House. Years later, the only defense that the Thug in Chief, Antonin Scalia, will utter in defense of this patently political decision is, "Get over it."

Yet this year, faced with another opportunity to override the will of the people, the claim was apparently too much for them. Was it that the Court, packed even more strongly with doctrinaire Republicans, had decided the rule of law was too important? Was it that they wanted to try to regain some of their badly damaged reputation? Was it that, as palpably absurd as their reasoning had been in 2000, it would have been an even greater stretch to throw out a second Democratic win? Or was it simply that, with Nixon henchman Rehnquist gone, they just didn't have the stomach for another fight?

We'll never know. What we do know, though, is that the tinfoil hat crowd who are claiming that Obama is not a citizen, or not a natural born citizen, are not going away.

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Good News in Louisiana

It isn't often that I'll think it's good news that a Democrat loses an election, especially an incumbent Democrat in Congress, but this time it definitely is:

"Dollar Bill" Jefferson (D-LA) Loses Re-Election
By Eric Kleefeld - December 6, 2008, 11:40PM

Rep. "Dollar Bill" Jefferson (D-LA) has lost his seat in tonight's Louisiana elections to Republican candidate Joseph Cao, giving the Dems their own case of Ted Stevens Syndrome -- that is, a safe and well-entrenched incumbent, who holds a seat that ought to be an easy win for his party, going down to defeat on a corruption scandal.

Yes, that's right, the guy guy who got caught hiding bribe money in his freezer, but still hasn't been tried, in large part because of overreaching by the prosecutors, is out.

I think this is great news for a couple of reasons. The main reason is that we all benefit from the ejection of a corrupt politician. Maybe he was serving his district, but he wasn't doing that nearly so much as he was lining his own pockets.

The other reason is that for years now, as we have talked about the legions of Republicans involved in public corruption, the wingers have gleefully pointed to him, saying "Yeah, but you're sticking with Jefferson."

Now they don't have that argument.

If the case ever goes to trial, despite the Feds' efforts to screw the case up, he will presumably be convicted and sent away, and I say good.

Pardon season is upon us. As Bush pardons some of the criminals on his side, let's see if he hands out a "Get Out Of Jail Free" card to Jefferson.