Monday, November 12, 2007

unconnected ideas

I ranted some time ago about how hard it has become to find the things we (Mom and I) want. Trying to find an uncomplicated face soap become an extended education in reading labels. The one we once liked is no longer made--Thanks a lot, Ponds!!! Everything else has additives and features we don't want. The same for laundry products. Try finding something that doesn't have bleach, fabric softener, or scents. We usually go for the cheapest because we don't need heavy cleaning power since nothing we wash has grease, heavy grime, or stubborn stains.

Yesterday we got another kind of education, or perhaps I should say reinforcement of earlier educational experiences. We decided over the weekend that we wanted pot pies for dinner yesterday. Many years ago we would have considered Banquet or Swanson. However some time ago we found that those were fairly cheap, you definitely got what what you paid for. There was very little between the crusts. So we switched to Marie Callender or Boston Market when we could find them. Often we couldn't find them at all or only in the turkey variety which neither of us likes much.

Well, there were no Boston Market pies at all. Marie Callender was only available in chicken and turkey, so we took the chicken. To say those pies were disappointing would be a gross understatement. They were smaller than the last ones we bought and calling them skimpy would have been a compliment. The carrot slices could have come from the same baby carrot. There were no peas at all. We each found two small pieces of green stuff which we tentatively identified as broccoli. The only veggie in the pies were slivers of red pepper. The chicken we found was supposedly grilled and since there were scoring marks that looked like they were from a grill I guess we will give the makers that. However the chicken was as tasty as cardboard and just about as moist and tender. We have decided we will make our own from now on.

Several of the bloggers I usually read have written about the Bush Administration's continued attack on civil liberties in the name of security. Ronnie at Time Goes By has posted twice in the last week concerning the proposed Violent Radicalization and Homegrown Terrorism Prevention Act of 2007. It evidently has passed the house (sponsered by an alleged Democrat). I am deeply suspicious of it for several reasons. First, why is it needed? Acts of violence and terrorism are illegal under numerous laws and can be prosecuted. And this doesn't really add any teeth to existing laws because it calls for a committee to study the 'problem' for 18 months and report to congress on its findings. This is simply another waste of money and the taxpayers who will be funding this will only be given a 'public version' of the report. Second, the preamble claims it is needed to prevent radicalization and for 'other purposes.' What purposes? I don't like such nebulous catch phrases. It basically means anything anyone wants it to mean. Third, why does author mention the internet so prominently? Is this merely a backdoor means to controling the internet?

A commentator on one of the blogs, and I regret that I can't remember which one, noted that we often compare the current situation in the U.S. to the fall of Rome but he thought that a better comparison may be Japan in the 1920s and 1930s. Actually both are good spotlights and for the same reason. Most people think of the fall of Rome as the end of the Empire. However, Rome 'fell' three times. The Eastern Roman, or Byzantine, Empire fell to Turkish forces in 1453. The Western Roman Empire fell to Gothic invaders in 476. However, the Roman Republic fell in 37 BCE but not to a foreign invader. Instead, Augustus ended the Republic and and became its first emperor in all but name. He called himself priceps not emperor or king, but he was an autocrat all the same. Though the senate remained as did the elected offices of the republic they were essentially powerless. The forms were there but not the substance. Most Romans probably cheered Augustus and his 'reforms' because for the first time in at least three generations they had peace and stability and safety.

I wasn't so sure about Japan but have been reading Toland's Rising Sun, a history of Japan from the late 1920s through WWII. A series of military insurrections culminated in expansion in Manchuria and China and unrest at home. Most of these rebellions were not delt with harshly because the rebels themselves claimed to be acting for the good of the nation and in the interests (though not with orders from or consent of) the Emperor. Neither the political nor the military leadership had any clear idea of how to handle the situation. In the end the Army gained a preimmenince in the government and the ability to stymie the prime minister simpy by refusing to serve with any civilian minister in the cabinet they found unsympathetic to their goals. When the diet passed legislation which removed any military policy and funding from its consideration all civilian control of the military ended. Again the forms remained but the substance disappeared.

For the last almost two decades the increasing polarization in our legislative branches has led many of our legislators to value party above all else. Bush's administration has been able to push the notion of a 'unitary executive' to unheard of lengths thanks to Republicans (and a few odd conservative Democrats) who don't mind castrating themselves so long as ideological ends are advanced. In the end we may wind up with the forms of our Republic but without the substance.

No comments: