Sunday, November 23, 2008

Layer 91 Living With Jazz, and the Bigger Picture.

It’s the end of Week 2 of the dog’s residence chez moi, and it’s been interesting to be around a dog for long periods of time, for the first time in my life.

Not that I ever wanted the dog, my son’s dog, at my house. That wasn’t supposed to be part of the deal when he moved back in. My daughter, the dog’s original owner, seemed happy to have her back again and to look after her for a while when the Prodigal returned. But a short while has dragged out into a very long while, and she’s become desperate to say goodbye again to an energetic and active animal that needs plenty of exercise or else goes semi-loopy when confined to a small house.

When said daughter offered to swap said dog for the one-eared Cancer Cat that’s lived in and around my place for the past 17 years - I jumped at the suggestion. My calculation is that both son and dog will be moving out to a flat of their own before very long. Her calculation is that a) the cat will be a lot easier to look after, and b) it will soon be stone dead.

Unfortunately for daughter, Cancer Cat has already shown her propensity to piss at random on kitchen floor, and indeed on worktops, when she forgets that she’s supposed to piss in the litter tray. Cancer Cat has only three brain cells left - one that says Eat, one that says Sleep, and one that says defecate & micturate.

Unfortunately for me, my son had to go off to Holland in the middle of last week for several days, leaving me to take care of dog. Which meant that when I headed down to Devon for a few days last Sunday I had to choose between offloading dog back on to daughter or taking dog with me. I decided to take her. I’m still feeling grateful to daughter for taking one-eared Cancer Cat away from me, and feeling guilty that she’s been sold a pup in this deal. Although, to be fair to me, I hadn’t foreseen that the pissing situation would turn out to be so bad. Or that she’d still scratch quite so many blackened cancer lumps off her once-pretty pink ear, and splattering so much blood around the place.

In fact the dog has been amazing, confirming all the positive things my son said about her. She’s loving, companionable, calm, undemanding, protective, attentive and obedient. If only more humans could be so endearing.

For the most part she’s been easy to look after, though I’m not happy about having to scoop up her smelly poop. And she had me fooled on Day 2, when I took her out for a toilet walk and she decided to do a Double Drop. No sooner had I deposited the first plastic bag full of shit in a bin than she decided to do a second poop. Which meant that I needed to go back home to collect a second shitbag.

Fortunately I have a massive stash of supermarket plastic bags, which I had a feeling would come in handy one day.

So since then I’ve been going out on toilet walks carrying two plastic bags. But this morning, down by the river, she decided to do a Triple. Damn the dawg! From now on I’m going to carry four shitbags at all times.


The Bigger Picture

There’s lots of talk these days about the relevance of traditional printed newspapers, and how much longer they’ll last. As far as I’m concerned they can mostly disappear and good riddance, but I’ll always be a Guardian addict, as long as its current editorial policies persist.

Yesterday the paper published a special section, consisting of three long articles from the New York Review of Books. The scope of these articles is amazing. This is real Big Picture stuff.

The first, written by George Soros, was headed “The Crisis and What to Do About It”, and it provided exactly what it said on the label - a succinct overview of what caused the financial crisis and a set of proposals for dealing with it. Soros is clearly a man who knows what he’s talking about. There’s no point in quoting from it. Just read it.

The thing that amazes me is that back in the late sixties when I was at college and spent some time studying economics it was clear that the work of John Maynard Keynes made the utmost sense, and defeated hands down the right-wing ‘monetarist’ views of the so-called Chicago school of economics, most notably a certain Milton Friedman. But from around 1980 Thatcher and Reagan and their pals in government started to put into practice the theories of monetarism, with appalling consequences for industry and employment. Then came the ‘Big Bang’ and the deregulation of finance in 1986, and the rest, as they say, is history.

In other words, anyone with any sense has known for about the last 40 years that allowing financiers to do whatever they like has terrible consequences for industry, it wreaks havoc with employment, and promotes the growth of unsustainable bubbles, which then causes companies and individuals to go bust when the bubble bursts. And yet successive right-wing governments have been allowed to get away with their ‘monetarist’ ideologies, running economies for the benefit of fat cats, in the vague hope that some crumbs will trickle down to the mass of people, whose standard of living and quality of life over the long term in actual fact declines.

Now that we can all see that the emperor and his acolytes have no clothes, we must make sure that lessons have been properly learnt and that fat cat economics will endure no more. Tomorrow’s financial statement in Parliament will be the first big test of what the government now intends to do.


The Co-President at Work by Professor David Bromwich

This is a brilliant account of how Dick Cheney came to have such massive influence on American politics over the past couple of decades, and has literally been Co-President rather than Vice-President.

The whole Project for the New American Century is the craziest, nastiest and scariest thing ever, and has been highly effective in promoting laissez-faire economics, militarizing foreign policy and dismantling the welfare state.

Professor Bromwich describes what’s been happening at great length in this brilliant article, and concludes,

“About none of [his] actions has Cheney ever been called, by a subpoena from Congress or an urgent demand from the press, to answer questions regarding the extent and legality of his innovations. It is as if people do not think of asking him. Why not? The reluctance shows a tremendous failure of nerve, from the point of view of democracy and public life. But there is a logic to the sense of futility that inhibits so many citizens who have been turned into spectators. It comes from the dynamic of the co-presidency itself, to which the press has grown acclimatized. Bush is the front man, and is known as such. He takes questions. If he answers them badly, still he is there for us to see. To address Cheney separately would be to challenge the supremacy of the President—a breach of etiquette that itself supposes a lack of the evidence that would justify the challenge.

The fact that Bush's answers are so inadequate, from a defect of mental sharpness and retentiveness as well as dissimulation, kills the appetite for further questions. But the fact that the questions have, in a formal sense, been asked and answered lets the vice- president off the hook. Thus the completeness of his silence and seclusion, for long intervals ever since September 11, 2001, is an aberration that has never been rebuked and has often gone unnoticed. "There is a cloud over the vice-president," said the prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald in his summation at the trial of Lewis Libby. "That cloud is something you just can't pretend isn't there."

But for much of the second term of the Bush-Cheney administration, we have been pretending. The man who held decisive authority in the White House during the Bush years has so far remained unaccountable for the aggrandizement and abuse of executive power; for the imposition of repressive laws whose contents were barely known by the legislature that passed them; for the instigation of domestic spying without disclosure or oversight; for the dissemination of false evidence to take the country into war; for the design and conduct of what the constitutional framers would have called an imperium in imperio, a government within the government."


The third article, by Professor Mark Danner, is from an essay written by him for the programme for David Hare's new play, Gethsemane. It's called Frozen Scandal, and begins,

I thought, "My God, she's not going to get away with this." But you have got away with it....

Scandal is our growth industry. Revelation of wrongdoing leads not to definitive investigation, punishment, and expiation but to more scandal. Permanent scandal. Frozen scandal. The weapons of mass destruction that turned out not to exist. The torture of detainees who remain forever detained. The firing of prosecutors which is forever investigated. These and other frozen scandals metastasize, ramify, self-replicate, clogging the cable news shows and the blogosphere and the bookstores. The titillating story that never ends, the pundit gabfest that never ceases, the gift that never stops giving: what is indestructible, irresolvable, unexpiatable is too valuable not to be made into a source of profit. Scandal, unpurged and unresolved . . .

Looking back on all that governments and individuals in this country and in the USA have got away with over several decades is enough to make anyone despair, because it is scandalous. How did Bush manage to do the things he's done? Ditto Cheney. Ditto Blair.

Obama is truly the world's best hope for ensuring that lessons have been learnt and things will be done differently according to different values from now on.

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