Friday, February 05, 2016

It's Always High Noon in Tallahassee

The Florida House has now passed a bill allowing Floridians with concealed carry permits to openly carry firearms, even on college campuses.  Good guys with guns, doncha know. It's what made Deadwood such a peaceful place in the 1870's and Gene Autry rich in the 1950's.  Hey come on, didn't you dream about being a Wild West cowboy when you were a kid?

Many people will of course react in horror and fear and panic and they, like most Americans, don't know that 45 states already allow it and many without any kind of permit needed. 13 states at least require some sort of license and at least Floridians who want to flaunt firearms would  need to be fingerprinted and investigated and to have passed a course of instruction.  Even Hoppalong Cassidy and the Lone Ranger didn't have to do that back when America was great, but  I can't wait for Governor Scott to sign this one.  Hi Ho Silver!

Is it going to cause a bloodbath?  I certainly doubt it, and in my 70 odd years I have only seen anyone carry openly while hunting or walking about their farms or in very remote areas -- except for cops, of course. That still makes me nervous.  It feels a bit odd, I admit, but those who do carry concealed weapons legally can stop worrying that if the wind blows their shirt open and reveals a gun or knife they won't go to jail as the law now provides. It's not all bad.

It certainly provides a further degree of polarization however and reduces the likelihood of the vociferous phobics ever agreeing on anything, and that's not a good thing, but what after all is getting better in our culture of fear and outrage? I'm to the point where I really accept the madness and embrace the horror - or the humor - as an outside observer.

Any mention of the American Gun Problem simply accelerates gun sales. Every rampage shooting lengthens lines at the gun store and every proposal or suggestion or casual mention that something might be done does the same thing. I might do well to sell guns and buy Stock in Smith and Wesson.

No, I don't think much will actually change, except perhaps in the Florida Legislature where another bill passed will allow Florida's Senators and Representatives to bring their guns to work.  As long as we can watch it on TV, I'm all for it.   Legislative showdown?  You ain't seen nothin' yet!

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Sagebrush Rebellion


Every way of a man is right in his own eyes: but YHWH pondereth the hearts.

Proverbs 21:2


It seems a bit pretentious to call it a rebellion or to call the participants patriots for participating in an armed sit-in as we used to call it back in the day.  "Highfalutin' " you might call it: rhapsodizing about sleeping under the stars and saddlin' up your horse, since one is still quite welcome to do that. Indeed I've done that myself although the horse was iron and didn't need saddling. The event that precipitated the Malheur occupation had more to do with arson of Federal Property than a camping trip or the right to enjoy the great outdoors.  It has more to do with the perceived right to exploit common resources for individual profit.

LaVoy Finicum, said by his family to be a gentle and kind man was killed yesterday in an armed confrontation with FBI agents. Although I don't know the details, I'm rather certain he died in vain, defending a nostalgic idea of freedom drawn from romantic fiction but also drawn from a relic of the days of anti-Communist hysteria. Strutting around with firearms on Federal property is more like something extracted from a Zane Fray novel that a political statement. Fiction, romance, free-range nostalgia and maybe a bit of the Bible thrown it to remind us of a time before government and "every man did that which was right in his own eyes."

You might see it as paranoia, the assertion that our government must by nature abridge our freedom continuously if not wantonly, and that there is no process for addressing grievances except in the old way, the frontier way, the fantasy way of the gun and by pretending that the legitimacy of government is an individual choice and not that of  the voting population.  The sovereign citizen is not part of our law and never was.  The idea of continuous revolution that "speaks from the muzzle of a gun"  is an argument found in the little red books the Red Guard used to carry,  not in our Constitution, but I'm used to seeing the words of Marx and Mao supported by people who think they're opposing Communism and seeing it everywhere.

But attaching noble purpose to the banal and even to the ridiculous is the stuff  of religion and politics, from terrorists "protecting' their almighty God to the claim of immunity to the law conveyed by "belief."  That noble purpose behind the Oregon occupation seems to be supported by a strange edition of the US constitution annotated by one W. Cleon Skousen, an anti-Communist crusader supported it seems by Glenn Beck which makes all kinds of  claims about whom the law pertains to and what the constitution allows and doesn't. You may be old enough to remember that Cleon was one of those loonies claiming Dwight Eisenhower was a Communist agent.  It's a book that's been distributed through Mormon sources and printed by the millions. It's a book carried by Cliven Bundy and others of his ilk

This madness lives on, lures people into a Quixotic epic including heroes with tin-pot helmets making suicidal attacks on the entire concept of Government.  That the United states was never intended to be for anyone but Christians who live as they please and do no more than what is right in his own eyes is at the heart of this "rebellion" and I would sooner call it a fugue, a fantasy and a fraud.  At heart though it's also religion and supported by a religion with separatism as it's legacy and hostility toward "gentiles" as it's heritage. 

Perhaps YHWH will weigh some hearts here, perhaps not, but the law will certainly weigh actions

Friday, January 22, 2016

Right Wing and Bitter

You betcha, says a drunk and incoherent Sarah Palin to a sympathetic audience of stupid, America-hating Republican idiots. Clingin' to our guns and our religions - you betcha and Drill Baby Drill as the oil rigs go dark and the economy stumbles on the world wide glut of oil.

Obviously prices have plummeted because Obama didn't want to drill in national parks so's we'd be more dependent on his A-Rab Moooslim brothers and prices rose because of Obama even before he was elected said she and Mr. McCain.

And, y'know that wife beating alcoholic sad sack Track only pointed a rifle at his wife because Obama sent him to war even though he saw no combat.  Vote For Trump - Vote for Palin all you booze hounds and psychos.  Time to take us all straight to hell, you betcha!


Tuesday, January 19, 2016

HEADLINES

In Principio et Nunc. . .

Now as in the beginning, the End has always been nigh. At least for Obama and Hillary.  Ever since .
Nixon slithered out of office, some scandal "bigger than Watergate" has been waiting in the wings to upstage any Democratic President.  Always just about to appear like Jesus and the Hidden Imam or Maitraya, the Buddha yet to come. We're still waiting or at least they are

Obama and Hillary. Those are the names the rebels have chosen for the current and would-be presidents and I'm seeing them treated in their propaganda as an entity of some sorts.  In the deranged minds of the microcephalic right these  are but just two faces of the apocalyptic beast featured in the continuing Republican Revelation played out every day on the web.

New Obama Scandal May Cost Hillary the White House!

That title appears in my mailbox almost every morning and has for months. Similarly dire warnings have been appearing for years under similar titles about some Obama Scandal about to break that just going to run him out of Washington on a rail,
covered with tar and feathers. Somehow this time the long awaited Obama Scandal  "may just" transfer to candidate Clinton by some magic process. From experience I'm assuming that "may just" really means " in our dreams" because there is no scandal of that sort and it's never going to happen and lest you think it's exclusively about Democrats, no, I'm still waiting for Dwight Eisenhower to turn the Army over to the Communists and the Zionist conspiracy and for Kennedy to relinquish power to the Pope as well as to
the Kremlin.  Faith abides and the bullshit never stops.

I'm not going to click on the link of course, as it leads to a long tedious tirade on some web site I'm just not going to visit, but of course these scandals never appear.  They're just tuned up from time to time and the perpetrators know the lust for scandal is so great the intended audience will never dare question the warnings lest they have to return to the grim reality of a Democrat in the White House.

Navy SEAL Ben Smith Drops Massive Bombshell. . . Says Obama is Ready to Impose MARTIAL LAW

This appeared while my morning coffee was warm.  I'm still waiting for any of the  warnings that flooded the Web years ago about Bill Clinton declaring martial law and turning the armed forces and our nuclear arsenal over to UN control, But the psychotic Right has adjustable memory so that it's now Obama who is about to do this. According to America's Freedom Fighters's blog a Navy Seal
has revealed Obama's plan to -- you guessed it -- declare martial law.  It's not going to happen, nor does he have any reason to do so, but paranoids, or Republicans as they're sometimes called will believe anything that feeds the fear and they'll go out and buy more fake military weapons to protect themselves against "jack booted" Obamatroopers. That's what it's really about: gun sales and revolution.

Former Seal Ben Smith appeared in a film a few years ago claiming Obama gave away information that could get Americans killed while taking sole credit for the operation that killed bin Laden, but of course the corroborating film clip was edited into the opposite of what was really said. You can look it up if you like, but I'm not going to provide a link to traitors and that's what they are.

So you can wait for that Obama scandal that will blow up Clinton's candidacy and you can read fiction designed to undermine the democratic process and destabilize a duly elected government, and in the process you'll doubtless uncover a veritable hell of lies, distortions, bogus accusations and predictions made by traitors and haters of  civilization and decency.

Monday, January 18, 2016

Some Conversation on Dr. King's Socialist Vision.

One feels compelled to make note of the day and of the man himself, but the risk these days is less about the ire of the people who loathe him than the ire of those whose "conversation" demands submission.  Reading this morning that 62 people own half the wealth of the world, I'm prompted to remember some of King's comments and that, like Jesus of Nazareth, he was a bit of a socialist and an economist.

I read this morning that according to an OXFAM report today,  the wealthiest one percent of the world now owns more than the remaining 99% and that 62 individuals own more than the poorest half of the world's population. That number was 388 only five years ago.  Unless you think that's a good thing, you might want to reconsider the blind worship of  laissz faire Capitalism which seems intertwined with the kind of Patriotism we dare not question.

Of course it can be argued that if the poorest half is somehow sufficiently well-off  to free us of concern, there really is no problem in this best of all Pareto efficient Capitalist worlds, but money is power and great wealth is great power. In our kind of Republic, economic power must take political power away from the less wealthy and depart ever more from Democratic principle.  There certainly are those who recognize that great wealth and power confer -- indeed demand great responsibility, but fewer are those who want that responsibility to be legally required, so that great power is so often used primarily to protect itself and the way of life it feels entitled to. Can there be anyone who does not recognize the connection between wealth and political, moral and  military power?  Certainly Jesus did, and as a Christian, so did Doctor King.

“And one day we must ask the question, ‘Why are there forty million poor people in America? And when you begin to ask that question, you are raising questions about the economic system, about a broader distribution of wealth.’ When you ask that question, you begin to question the capitalistic economy. And I’m simply saying that more and more, we’ve got to begin to ask questions about the whole society…”  *

Indeed we do. Do we understand the need of power to terrify and brutalize minorities as racism or do we recognize the need to keep them out of participation and away from political power? Keeping poor whites afraid of poor blacks diverts attention from the rich whites who want to get richer.  I'm just asking.  Is racism just the legacy of slavery or does it serve some purpose in a greater scheme?
Sure Black Lives Matter, but recognizing that or shouting it in the street does not deal with the causes or offer hope for improvement.  In a way, racism makes economic sense if preservation of wealth and power is the goal, and we don't fight it without recognizing that.

Capitalism alone will not create or maintain a society in which political power is not dominated by the rich, nor will more than an enlightened few philanthropic individuals be motivated to want a society where they can allow more than a minimum of political power and control to the 99%. Racism, I think King would agree is not a temporary thing or reserved for one race only, it's an economic requirement needed to limit political/economic power . When it's successful in doing so, it proliferates. Perhaps that's where King and I vary from the scripted conversation. If the need and ability to maintain the weakness of the public is thwarted, so is racism and of course, even if  most of the wealth is at the very top, those many rungs down on the ladder want equally as much to preserve their standing and keep the lower ranks down.

“We must recognize that we can’t solve our problem now until there is a radical redistribution of economic and political power… this means a revolution of values and other things. We must see now that the evils of racism, economic exploitation and militarism are all tied together… you can’t really get rid of one without getting rid of the others… the whole structure of American life must be changed. America is a hypocritical nation and [we] must put [our] own house in order.”**

How we do that is the question.  King was no friend of Communism, but in today's America fear of Marxism is always with us and almost always irrational.  We fear reform of any kind and we fear having to pay for it even if it benefits us and repays our cost with a profit.  To that one percent, it's tempting, if not inevitable to think of the lower orders as the enemy.  I can offer no magic solution and certainly those who have done so have led us into one disaster or another.  I see no solution in the most vocal and demanding zealots today. I'm staying away from that "conversation" as being narrow and naive and divisive.  I'm only trying to call attention to what I think King believed: that racism, tribalism, greed and lust for power are as intertwined and inextricable from each other as Mass and energy and all these things must be considered as part of the equation if we want a better, kinder gentler world.

______________________

*–Speech to Southern Christian Leadership Conference Atlanta, Georgia, August 16, 1967.

**- Report to SCLC Staff, May 1967.

Friday, January 15, 2016

Self driving cars but Piloted space fighters?

Yes, I'm one of those people.  You don't want to watch Science Fiction  or movies set in the 1950's or 60's with me because I'm going to ruin it for you with my comments and criticisms about inaccuracy.  Even TV commercials can set me off.  Take the Geico ad I saw this morning where the lizard is driving along in an MGA 1600 (you can clearly recognize the dashboard and the air scoop on the fender) but when he gets our of the car,  it becomes an MG Midget, bug-eye headlights and all.  How can you buy from a company so careless about details?  It's so typical these days when last week is ancient history and everybody was born yesterday.

Needless to say, I can't watch Sci-Fi movies of the Space Opera type, a type which includes any of the Star Wars Genre based on WWII Sea Battle scenarios or those WWII bomber movies people of my age grew up on. Don't even raise the subject with me. You'll hear me rattle on about how such things are already so obsolete as to be laughable today and how much more would it be in an age where faster-than-light travel is possible.  Manually controlled machine gun blisters are already antique and close-in dog fighting under pilot control with fighters making turns that aren't possible in a vacuum are so stupid as to be beyond laughter.  Did you know the Millennium falcon cockpit is taken from the B29?  Let's not even get into relativity.  A hundred years later, and Hollywood is just discovering it but still getting it wrong, just as it gets Newtonian Physics wrong.

An interstellar craft travelling at unimaginable speeds is not going to have some sea-captain sitting in a chair issuing orders to the engine room or directing weapons control.  Think about it.  Nobody is going to be "plotting courses" as though they were on a planetary surface or two dimensional space. Computers are going to be better in a few thousand years and they're already doing these things for us. Handsome young heroes just aren't going to be going hand to hand with machines in combat when decisions must be made in femtoseconds.

I won't get started on bipedal humanoid aliens or alien civilizations that mimic our own at various historical periods, It's just more of the uninformed, unimaginative extrapolation from the past that  I loathe. Will 25th century spacecraft have human crews at all?  Planets with big, blue women on them?  Really?

Real science is so much weirder and so much more fascinating because it deals with things we never would have imagined in our backwards looking human minds, but if you don't want to hear all about it, don't watch TV, don't go to the movies with me, just stay away.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Safety First

There are so many innocuous-sounding rationalizations for tyranny, and I fear "safety First" is fast becoming another one.  The prevalence of  the "even if one life is saved" hyperbole is a bit of evidence that more freedom is being set up for abridgment and the most tenuous risks are the likely target of the safety above all movement.  Obviously at least one life would be saved if we banned alcohol and cars and kitchen knives and instituted curfews and many would be saved if we simply locked up males between the ages of 15 and 50, but anyone who envisions that is probably paranoid. Anyone like me who has been following the attitudes of  the self-righteous safety nerds since the days of Ralph Nader and the anti-car movement, of movie censorship and the Comics Code, has cause to worry.

The current golden age of American cars has, it seems spurred the development of self driving cars, starting with cars that automatically apply the brakes when the on board computer gets spooked.  For skilled and vigorous drivers the fear is that the Safety Software will decide to jam on the binders just as you hit the apex of a decreasing radius downhill turn and kill you.  We have motorcycles advertised to prevent you from doing a wheelstand or banking over too far or locking up a wheel and besides the fear of some gadget taking over the controls, the elimination of the need to learn (and take pride in) skills is horrifying, but with the ever increasing desire for absolute safety it won't stop there.  It seems obvious that the goal is to eliminate driver-controlled cars.  There's talk of pilotless airplanes.  Safety First.  It's better to have a helpless, dependent population than to risk injury. Lets just assume we're all irredeemably incompetent invalids and confine us to wheelchairs -- self driving wheelchairs of course.

I wonder how much of this fear contributes to the boom in TV shows about surviving in the wilderness or to living off the grid.  How much of the boom in gun sales is related to the sense of forced helplessness from having our safety and welfare the exclusive provenance of the State. Rational fear or not, people are being pushed toward fear of being monitored, restricted and limited to having all life's adventures only in Virtual Reality where you can be charged a fee to pretend you're free.

Perhaps it is irrational to fear that not only will I have to drive a vintage car to be able to have a manual transmission, but to have a car that allows me to drive at all, but humans are not rational creatures and as long as we have to listen to the constant litany of dangers that can be avoided by submitting to shoes that don't let us walk too fast and cars that drive themselves at the posted speed limits and refrigerators that order our food for us based on someone's idea of an ideal diet, we're going to see the Matrix as not just another cheesy Sci-Fi cliche' but as the pit at the end of that slippery slope.

You'll have to pry the steering wheel and the handlebars from my cold dead fingers along with the salt shaker or the bag of French Fries and you can keep your robot hands off my freedom!

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

The tyranny of big numbers

Now they want to grow it on the moon and eat it raw. 
I can see the day coming when even your home garden
 is gonna be against the law.
-Bob Dylan-

______________

The problem with living on a planet with 7 billion other people is that the tiniest of things become consequential.  Something that costs me less money than I would be willing to bend down to pick up translates to obscenely vast amounts of money and resources just because there are so many humans infesting our world who might just reach for that penny too..

The things we hear from environmentalists may make them seem like out of control Luddites and haters of technology, but in the kind of crazy way the flap of a butterfly wing may cause hurricanes, plugging your cell phone into a charger in your car is the equivalent of burning almost a billion pounds of coal. Or so we're told by credible sources. How then can we justify having hot water in our homes or eating toast for breakfast or refrigerating our food?  How soon before we live in the dark and cold and eat raw potatoes just to keep life from going extinct?

The need to save energy seems like it's going to choke the life out of us and bring civilization to the point of collapse if you read the warnings, and a Kategorischer Imperativ hangs over our heads like a sword. Costs a penny to make a slice of toast? What ef everyone did it -- the world would go dark and trillions and trillions of Watts would be used and mountains of coal would burn and the sky would turn black as night.  Light a candle against the dark and you destroy the world by adding umpteen gazillions of pounds of Carbon Dioxide to the air. Don't ring the doorbell which uses a microwatt second -- just knock.  Make a pot of coffee and some island sinks beneath the waves. Stand away from that car, the dome light alone would use megawatts per second if everyone did it.

7 billion people!  If we all face West and fart, the planet will stop turning.  We need to ban beans but how soon before it's 10 billion -- 20 billion people?  Kind of suggests that the "lets produce food like we did 200 years ago"  people may become food for the starving billions and all the "save the planet" schemes and products will fade away with the power mower when we start to eat our lawns because there's no more agriculture.

But of course you're environmentally conscious and so you didn't read this because it would take enough power to move Everest to Idaho if you all did and so you'll just go ahead and act like you're not the planet-killing consumer you are and you will just go on making phone calls and flushing the toilet and eating a hot breakfast until it all blows up.  Me?  I don't give a damn so batten your hatches and stock up on bottled water. My phone needs charging and I'm gonna plug it into my great big V8 automobile and do it right now!

Monday, January 04, 2016

7 minutes in Shanghai

Yikes, a seven minute tumble in the Chinese markets sends out gravity waves that shake the world.with the worst opening to a new year in at least 30 years. The Dow is down over 400 points as I write this. The complexities of our time and our interconnected world seem impossible to unravel and the immediate future impossible to predict with any kind of confidence.

So who does America look to for guidance in a world full of insoluble turmoil, inescapable change, and irresistible forces?

My God!  Obama's modest proposals to extend background checks are making gun sales explode., making Trump's fortunes rise.  Armed militias are occupying government buildings. We may be looking at another war in the Middle East involving an ally with whom we have treaties.  Russia is beefing up it's nuclear defenses. Another recession looms.

Who ya gonna call?  Donald Trump?  Ted Cruz?  Ben "dumber than a first grader" Carson?  Shut down the government, defund everything, throw out he Mexicans, ban the Muslims and buy more guns -- that'll fix everything. Never mind what the foreigners do.

Once again, America looks to the dumb brute, the ignorant blowhard, while the rational few cry
America - why has thou forsaken me?

Sunday, January 03, 2016

Terrorism?

One of the results of the degradation of language and of journalistic laziness in America is the inability to find words that accurately describe things, and consequently conversation tends to become trapped in the struggle to describe what's going on with a limited choice of words rather than to discuss what to do about it.

"What do we call this" asks the Press.  Is the armed occupation of a Federal building by a group attempting to force the Federal Government to give in to their wishes and to stop due process at gunpoint "terrorism?"  It's hard to answer the question -- as hard as it is to find it relevant.  The question of whether anyone in the isolated and vacant building, or indeed in Washington feels a sense of terror is moot.  The question of whether it's armed insurrection cries out for an answer even if all the journalists lack the vocabulary to give one.

Are these "good guys with guns" "protesting"  unfair actions and policies of the Government or are they an ad hoc and illegitimate militia staging an armed attack on the United States?  The story may be too complex for simple minds, but it includes misappropriation of public resources, arson and destruction of evidence,  and although no shots have as yet been  fired: Rebellion.  We've seen it before: the Whisky Rebellion, Shay's rebellion, the Wilmington Rebellion of 1898 and others are blemishes on the face of democracy and constitutional government, some of which were factors in the drafting of the Second Amendment. Was the attack on Fort Sumter an act of domestic terrorism or an act of war?  Did it suggest the use of policemen or of the Military?

All the rifle rattling of recent years, promoted and praised by various right-wing movements and their lackeys in Congress and the Press has allowed enemies of  civilization to hide behind a screen of misleading rhetoric as the Klansmen hide behind sheets while bypassing law and order for personal gain.  The idea has been promoted that continual rebellion is progress and that revolution, as Mao Zedong told us, speaks from the muzzle of a gun.  "We don't like the results of that election, so warm up the Winchester Bubba, we're gonna take over the courthouse." That's just the kind of patriotism the Founding Fathers had in mind, say the guys in camouflage while the ghosts of the Bolsheviks smile down in Hell.

There's a word for this when the guns are in the hands of a foreign entity:  War.  There are words for it when "sovereign" citizens confront our government with force of arms: Rebellion, Treason, Insurrection, revolution. Choose one, choose them all, but none of them are patriotic. All are enemies of the basic premises of  our government. All of it assumes that the laws that ensure our freedom are the enemies of freedom and that only the armed are free.  It's time to face facts, to stop whimpering, to identify the enemy and deal with him harshly.

Saturday, January 02, 2016

So is the new Like

So I've been trying to get attention with my observation that younger Americans are beginning their sentences with the word "So" ad nauseam.  So no one wants to hear it.  So we have a new year now and so perhaps with the release of the annual  "List of Words Banished from the Queen's English for Mis-Use,Over-Use or General Uselessness" by Lake Superior State University in Michigan, my readers will stop ignoring me.   "So" is at the top of the list.

LSSU has been issuing the list since 1976 and although it usually makes me smile in agreement and makes me feel validated as a curmudgeon of worth, nothing really changes.  Americans are so infatuated with baby-talk and with sounding like the other illiterates trying to seem hip or educated or even oneness with the masses  they're not easily persuaded that working "selfie" or cray-cray into every line is just plain stupid or that it's time to stop demanding that we "have a conversation" as a euphemism for "shut up and listen."

Of course these little infatuations do fade eventually.  Starting a sentence with so will go the way of starting a sentence with "say" and fewer sentences will be larded with "like" as they were in the 1990's. But you cant be sure. Both affect and effect are gone forever it seems, and no one sends invitations any more.  It's nearly certain however, that words that sound similar will continue to undergo a kind of syncretism. Our grandchildren will tell us to "annunciate" our words and to assault our ears with other false congnates while English Teachers nod approvingly and the American vocabulary will continue to swell like cheap sausage with inert ingredients and other stuffing. It's just Cray-Cray.



But not all of us will go gently into that confused darkness. LSSU and I, like Quixote and Panza will go on as America hashtags and twerks itself into an epic fail.

Friday, December 25, 2015

It's a Wonderful Lie

Christmas seems to bring out the worst in Americans, particularly the ones who still think "hippies" are burning flags to protest a war that most Americans don't remember.  You know, those Bully Boys who walk around with a chip on their shoulders daring you to say anything that allows them to pick a fight with the "politically correct" or those who have read history.

This thing has been making the rounds today and judging by the comments, not too many people realize that the "founding Fathers" version of that propaganda aimed at school children was written in 1892, not 1776.  When Eisenhower was pressured by godmongers to change it in 1954, during the height of the cold war, it wasn't mentioned that it had been written by a Socialist -- surprising in an era where that other relic, inseparable from the holiday, It's a Wonderful Life was seen as containing secret Communist messages to corrupt the young mind and was investigated by HUAC. After all it does criticize the Sacred Banks and other institutions of Capitalist  greed.  The original pledge called it "My" flag after all, suggesting that it belongs to all of us, not just to some Armed Patriot's Sovereign Citizen Christian Militia of God, Guns and Guts.

Am I suggesting that these penis-waving patriots are possessed of disordered personalities as well as a fair amount of ignorance and dishonesty? Well yes I am, thank you very much and thanks to them for another Fuck You Christmas.

I suppose the dark days of the late 1940's and the 1950's are that
great golden age these Trumpish idiots would return to: forgetting all the while about those 90% marginal tax brackets and dramatically higher poverty levels.  The middle class was doing pretty well after all with all that commie stuff like a 5 day work week -- and Socialist Security didn't bankrupt the wealthy after all. With all the bitching and moaning at the time, we still remember it as a wonderful life with the same hubris we talk about Christmas as a time of peace while making it into a Jesus Jihad against Liberals, atheists and Mooslims who once had the audacity to see the sacred flag and this sacred soil as theirs.

Yes, Christmas, that Holiday Christians have denounced and promoted in equal measure since the Romans invented it is nothing but a billboard, a soap box on which meanness, anger, aggression and greed are proclaimed throughout the land. To say Merry Christmas has become too much like that debauched and sordid "pledge" wherein the oppressed abused, exploited and downtrodden are forced to acknowledged the gods of greed and to pretend that the USA is a place of "liberty and justice for all."  It's a wonderful lie, once again.



Thursday, December 17, 2015

Alan 1948 - 1988



We both shipped our paddles
Without a word,
Leaning forward
As the rain burdened our backs,
Turning the river white,
Closing the world around us,
And hissing
Like all the stars raining down.
It's small: the step
From there to nothing.

Sunday, December 13, 2015

For Bart. 1944 - 1995

CafĂ© de Flore, and reading Kerouac for the first time ever and lingering over coffee and the heat is building because it's late morning and it’s August -- and because we're young and reading Kerouac, it's time to leave like everyone else. Flogging the Fiat down to Juan-les-Pins, and we do it non-stop except for coffee and gasoline in stations where you're invited to Mettez un Tigre dans votre Moteur as though it would help.  Cars and dust and white cups at metal tables.

Arid August hills and distant ruins,
winding roads descend
in complicated turns
Driving too fast for the car,
we skitter,
revving a bit too high
and suddenly
in the V of the hills 
a blue-white glimpse of sea
and the road screamed YES
as we came down.

And all those mornings. My sandals and my woven mat; coffee in a bathing suit and all those Paris girls down for the summer.


Thursday, December 10, 2015

Night of the Living Jesus.

It's been interesting to observe the progress of  Zombies in popular culture in America, from the brain damaged product of some Voodoo poisoner to the brain eating corpse from Night of the Living Dead to the complex creatures with many characteristics and features we see in The Walking Dead.  There are versions of course, but  the Zombie of Hollywood fame has evolved.  We know you have to shoot one in the head, that Zombies don't climb, that they transmit the condition by biting their victims, that they don't die even if they don't eat and if they rot away to almost nothing. Those beliefs have been added in the last half century, but like the things that stick to folk heroes and mythological creatures over the centuries, we see them as always having been the way they are now.

It's sort of the same with Jesus.  History tells us nothing about him, Nobody who ever saw him wrote a word about it.  What we get from the selected texts is contradictory and loaded with bits of earlier myths, but the Jesus today: the personal investment adviser/Lord of the Universe has become very complex and diverse, with every generation, each age adding or removing features and characteristics.  We even know just what he looks like.  He looks a lot like Albrecht Duerer in fact and that's a lot different from images found in early churches.  But human creations, passed from generation to generation evolve much as Darwin suggested that living things evolve.


So why not a Zombie Jesus?  Nothing is more mutable than that which never existed outside of fiction and myth, yet nothing is subject to more Denialism, rage and aggression when change is proposed.  Just ask the Dixons of Cincinati, Ohio who set up a Zombie Nativity scene on their front lawn, thereby raising Holy Hell.

But where's the beef?  Isn't Jesus risen from the dead?  Isn't he still around?  Well one thing never evolves and that's eternal self -righteousness and humorless zealotry.  The idea that religious tolerance means protection from insult adds a bit of  sweetness to this confection, coming as it does from a religion famous for defaming and persecuting any and all other religions and even variations of the same one.  All beliefs, all religions deserve equal protection under the law -- and praise be: a tax exemption.


The Dixons are getting resistance from Zoning boards and neighbors who know just how and where Jesus was born and to whom and what he looked like.  They know all about his parents and their sex life and everything they know is the accretion of thousands of years of speculation and unwarranted assertion - and of course invention.  Look, it's a free country and no matter how much you hate the idea,  Zombie Jesus is risen. He lives forever. He gives eternal life and destroys sinners when he brings the apocalypse, and like religion in general he eats your brain.  It's been foretold and the Church of Jesus Christ, Zombie is here to take your donations.




Monday, December 07, 2015

Ultra high Power Weapons of the Apocalypse!

So all you impassioned millions know all about "assault Rifles" right?  We just want some sensible legislation to make them go away before more people are killed.  Those Gun nuts only want them for killing people and that's what they're designed for -- Military use, right.  And of course we all recognize them  -- right?

These of course are identical weapons, except for the plastic stock and the pistol grip. Neither is a machine gun nor can be converted into one.  The only important difference is that the lower "tactical" version has a larger magazine, but suggest -- and I often do -- that we restrict magazines and forget about the stock and I'm dismissed as a gun nut patsy for the NRA. Meanwhile Smith and Wesson stock is through the roof and they can't make them fast enough.  Gun makers love anti-gun activists.

This is why there will never be a solution to our gun problem and why there will never be a rational discussion or even a compromise.  No one wants one. No one will question any of their beliefs or examine the real risks or even consider how well previous bans have done to reduce those risks.  It's a religion, not a cause. No one wants a description of the previous AW ban because it actually didn't ban them or their magazines and had no effect except to raise prices and raise demand.  Of course you don't believe me and won't even listen. You wouldn't be holier than me if you did.

There's a real fear of facts in the loudest ranks of the chorus.  Tell them that printable receivers for your AK are ridiculous since you can make one out of sheet metal for free using a hand drill,  and can buy one already made for $29.95. Any small machine shop can make guns and the process is so automated all you do is load the software.  Tell them that no, you're not going to shoot down an airliner with a .50 caliber single shot rifle and you'll be called a liar.   Minds must not be changed or the zealot will have to admit error and can no longer be a zealot and wear the cape and tights.

So Mr. know-it-all, what would I do to reduce the number of weapons you can use to clear a room? Well you can try to ban those 100 round drum magazines that in fact do exist to kill people.  That actually doesn't run afoul of the Second Amendment or require Farmer Brown to trade his ranch rifle for a fly swatter.  But who's going to listen?  Minds have long since been made up.  Actually handguns do a very fine job in close quarters and the constitution doesn't protect your right to own one. But no, we're not gonna back down on our words - dad's hunting rifle is a weapon of war that "sprays bullets"  and we don't care who laughs at us because we're not trying to convince anyone who's not already convinced.

Fact is, many hunters in the frigid north who feed their families with modern, plastic stock firearms use these "assault rifles' because they are light and very durable -- but a 5 or ten round magazine would work quite well, but as I said, we can't have this discussion because the game is played from the fringes, the margins and after all it's not whether you win or lose it's how righteous you are.

Wednesday, December 02, 2015

Through a Glass Darkly

Almost eerie this afternoon, reading American Rifleman magazine at Bob's barber shop: decorated to look like an old west sort of a place with old nostalgic gun and ammunition posters and antique guns displayed on hooks.  I had been attracted by a picture of a beautifully engraved Benelli shotgun on the cover.  I have little interest in owning one at twenty five hundred bucks, but it would be nice to hold and maybe shoot a few clays with such a piece of fine Italian craftsmanship, but I don't have the time or the venue these days.

But then there were the editorials by people such as Wayne LaPierre: mad dog drooling rage about gun grabbers and how gun control is there just to penalize good people for the sins of others.  I don't know what that means, but it's Wayne LaPierre. He and the Magazine of the NRA have no other purpose than to outrage, infuriate, inflame and incite and everything seen through the filter of his insanity has the same purpose and one unifying creed:  Life is better with guns and owning guns is the one and only measure of freedom. Anything and everything he writes contains the same carefully arranged sequences of inflammatory code words, honed and perfected to manipulate his flock as skillfully as any Preacher on Sunday morning TV, to achieve a transcendental ecstasy of anti-government, anti-Liberal, Anti-Obama paranoia.

Coming home on this stiflingly hot and humid December afternoon, I felt the need of a shower but not because of the weather.  I turned on the news and of course there was our latest shooting -- our uninterrupted, obsessive flood of words searching for relevance, desperate to package and reissue those code words to express and stimulate the sentiments of  their constituency:  high power, high caliber, military style, assault weapon, semi-automatic yada, yada and all the rest.  That real modern assault weapons are small caliber and lower power than hunting rifles doesn't matter since the words are not there to inform but to frighten, to enlist and to frame reality to further the mission of each and every disparate group of activists.  We'll hear all about checks and shows and magazine size and even "style"  before we know who did what to whom why and with which.  It can wait until we're done preaching.

Who are the shooters and how many are there and why did they do it?  Is there really an increase in gun violence or is there a concentration of focus?  What kind of gun control would have helped if these are Jihadis?  is a group of three likely to have the same modus and motives as the disturbed and suicidal teenager?  We don't know anything as of the time I'm writing it, but we know what to say: gun grabber, gun nut, high caliber, high velocity, armed citizen, gun control, military style, armor piercing waiting period gun show background check registration full metal jacket.  It doesn't matter except to Pavlov..

I heard a young woman on TV the other night yelling about the police.  "They've got sniper guns! They're using sniper guns.!"  They were tear gas launchers, in fact but it doesn't matter, Neither side is talking to anyone but themselves and in a language of their own and no substantive dialog is possible, nor is there even a common language.

And meantime people are dead and bleeding and we don't know who or why or how many..  Meantime the salesmen on all sides are offering their packaged wares.  Want facts? have suggestions?  Want to know what's happening?  Hell no, you gun nut, gun grabber, freedom hater, murderer!

Saturday, November 28, 2015

My Way or the Highway - Both Roads Lead Nowhere.

Guns are dangerous.  I think we can agree on that, but the danger is relative and the danger is situational and site specific.  Ask anyone who lives 40 miles outside of Talkeetna, Alaska what you take with you when you walk out to the outhouse on a Spring morning and the answer will probably include a caution as to the minimum caliber of the weapon. Things are different in Brooklyn, of course. The plumbing is mostly indoors.

Who what and where always factor in the equation and no matter how we like to scoff at the idea that people kill people, it's true.  As long as there are people, there will be murder, criminal recklessness and crimes involving weapons and as long as people die at other people's hands the fear will persist and not in proportion to the actual danger but more to the needs of  activists.  Reality is no more apparent or objective now then it ever was and our time is a time of  propaganda, commercially cultivated outrage and hysteria.

It's de regeur to talk about or demand sensible gun control but specifics too often ignore the lessons of experience.  The most carefully vetted people sometimes do horrible things: take the Chicago cop who shot a man 16 times, apparently for reasons more to do with his failure to comply with demands than to the threat level.  What simple and sensible precautionary measures, what checks and registries will prevent such abuse of public trust?  Are the things we're urged to do effective in solving problems or are they more about elevating anger and the fortunes of certain activists?  Time will tell, but we're not likely to notice.

What about a march for justice that punishes and alienates and infuriates the innocent but can have no effect on justice, the mechanism of which has already charged the offending officer with Murder One?   Is it that it's not a riot or a lynch mob if we do it? Does interfering with justice serve  justice? Who is encouraging us even to ask, and who is called a racist for not following some group with all the answers?  What horrible crimes do we ignore every day because no organization's agenda is served?

And then there's the guy who shoots up a Planned Parenthood office?  Is the Evangelical Crusade, so effective in convincing people that all abortion is murder and the killing of  doctors and nurses a moral obligation part of the equation, or is it just guns and the lack of sensible controls?  Will background checks or gun registration have any effect on screening out some Good, God fearing Christian on a Crusade he passionately believes to be moral?  The cop he murdered - should we fry that pig's bacon?  Is there some grotesque contradiction between our dogmas and civilization's needs?
Is there some grave sickness in our culture or rather the cluster of conflicting cultures we call America?  We can't talk about that easily lest someone accuse us of "blaming the victim" even when we're all victims.

The passion for justice is as powerful as it is relative and that passion is as likely to advocate murder, to bypass a functioning Justice System as it is to favor emotional justice or revenge.  With all the quasi-demonic howling that dominates the American dialog, who is actually seeking a better world and who is merely pushing a vain dogma?  Who is singling out a single factor as the only important one?  Who is trying to limit possibilities, to shout down reasoned debate in the dominance game of  narrow causes and powerful organizations?

Guns are dangerous.  Passions are dangerous, marching mobs are dangerous, simplistic rhetoric and moral conviction are dangerous -- people are dangerous because we recognize no community of interest.  When it comes to a better Country, it's always my way or the highway you Communist, Racist, Fascist, Muslim -- you White, Black, Hispanic, Christian Atheist Liberal bastard!

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Baby on Board, Part 2

Sensitivity, it's the latest thing, hipper than Selfie sticks and Yoga pants -- but wait, can a truly sensitive, aware and totally hip person wear them?  I wouldn't bet on it, at least not on a University campus where everyone's skin is more sensitive than a Canadian after a long day on a Florida beach.

A yoga class at the University of Ottawa has run into trouble, even though you'd think otherwise, it being a class designed to benefit disabled students.  Yoga you see belongs to a victimized culture, one that has  like countless others

"experienced oppression, cultural genocide and diasporas due to colonialism and western supremacy,"   

Now I know better than to predict by extrapolation, but this isn't an isolated thing.  Everyone on campus at least is searching for protection from something,  Everyone assumes the right never to feel uncomfortable, a right never to feel a lack of warm, cuddly and maternal protection from the slings and arrows of  freedom of the press, freedom of speech and apparently freedom of religion -- and yes, Yoga is a religion and as such no one should espouse any teachings from it if they're not victims of British colonialism.  No, don't ask me to explain because then I'd have to explain a lot of  Liberal Shibboleths that make just as little sense. Just accept that the copyright on truth belongs to the victims  and aren't we all?

Now if I can't practice yoga because India was a British colony over 60 years ago, I certainly can't espouse anything I like about Christianity because Christians have been persecuted victims, at least to hear them tell it. So sorry, I can no longer celebrate Christmas.  I can't even be a thug because Thugee is an Indian religion. I can't be a Pundit for the same reason.  I can't carry a 20 dollar bill because Andrew Jackson was a racist and I can't tolerate a building at Princeton named for Woodrow Wilson because he was also a racist and I'd just feel uncomfortable, you know, attending that racist school.  If anything makes me uncomfortable, I have the right to be protected from it, don't I? In this safest and most comfortable world?

I have a right to demand the press doesn't cover my protests. I have a right to demand satisfaction if I hear lyrics that make me uncomfortable on a jukebox or radio. No that isn't hyperbole, it's a true story nor am I indulging in unfair reductio.  This thing started out absurd -- as absurd as the presumed right to be protected from the unpleasantness of the truth, of history or other people's version of the truth. It's kind of the the ugly stepchild of  Stand Your Ground laws because if your interpretation, your methodology, your opinion varies from mine, I have the right to attack you with all the authority victimhood confers.

Ridiculous?  Of course but, the momentum is large and we have a whole lot of pretend Liberals who will support such claims to inviolable protective custody -- so, as the saying goes, if you can't lick 'em, join 'em.   Here's my manifesto:   I don't want to see any Churches or Crosses or hear any talk of "Christ."  Too many people have been victims of Christian aggression and persecution.  I have the right to be protected from words like "old" and "Senior" for obvious reasons. That goes for many other epithets as well,  It makes me feel marginalized.  What about the names of States and Cities taken, like the land itself, from indigenous peoples?  Indiana?  That's racist!  Washington?  He was a RACIST!

I demand racist signatures  be deleted from any and all US documents and laws including the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution..  I demand that the US flag be removed and banned since it's flown over so many atrocious acts and conditions.  I demand that the Ten Commandments and any references to Hebrew prophets and practices be removed from all churches and writings and from Sunday schools:  cultural genocide, actual genocide, oppression and diasporas, don't you know.  The racist teachings of Martin Luther must be banned and Catholic Churches of all sorts make me feel uncomfortable and have to go.  You might want to get a snack or something, This is going to be a very long list.

But really, you have to agree on my inherent right to suppress, to expunge, to ban, to inhibit and deny any and all things, all records, all personages, all artifacts, all opinions and certainly all of  history if it in any way lowers my self esteem and makes me feel uncomfortable, don't I?  I have a right to be protected!

Saturday, November 21, 2015

For the Times They're NOT a Changin'

Hey, ever notice that we voluntarily get all of our information from sources with a means and motive to frame it to their advantage and often at your cost?  Just sayin' because I was thinking this morning about all the terrorist attacks is Europe and elsewhere of late.  It's been  much safer in the US than elsewhere and if anyone else had been president, we'd be saying "he kept us safe" instead of blaming him for every bomb and bullet from Bombay to Boston..

Frame of reference -- and the picture looks different when the frame is gilt and ornate just as the latest fashions look much better in the store window on the dummy then they do on you.  But we don't see those fashions presented by critics do we?  Nobody has any financial interest in telling you what you really look like in those yoga pants. The people who write articles and who put stories in front of you, packaged and wrapped in hyperbole, framed and matted and lit with a spotlight on the gallery wall -- they have a strong interest in getting your attention and your credit card number.  None of them more so than those who don't want  you to think one thing or another is getting better ore even staying the same.  Think about how much of what you see and hear and read supports the idea that everything is going to hell and this, that or the other group is the primary victim or the primary culprit.

Take racism: real problem, real victims, but "we need to have a conversation," we're told. Just as in any political debate, the questions are limited and the organizations handing us that conversation want to make sure the vocabulary is just as limited lest the wrong conclusions arise.  Think Clarence Thomas is an underqualified judge?  It was a "lynching" roared the headlines. Think that's a slap to the dead faces of martyrs?  Yep, but don't say it, you're not authorized by the activists to use facts without approval.

I read this one this morning "They said they're not racists but racists always say that."  So how may we respond but with Mea Culpa because the implication is that if you deny racism, you're a racist. An elementary fallacy of course , but this is America the stupid and we're all trained to feel like it's a falling and fallen world  I strongly  hate racism, but hey, that doesn't matter because racists always say that.  Best to be quiet and listen to the lecture conversation.

So when we read that a black kid is run down and killed, it has to be framed as a lynching and stressed that the mob action that by the time I was born had killed perhaps 4000 pretty much innocent people lest anyone think  anything is getting better:

"The lynching of Craig Anderson echoed a brutal and violent form of racism that many locals had thought long gone. Yet here it was manifested in a group of teenagers born more than two decades after the civil rights era."
Hyperbolic?  I think so.  Horrible, but hyperbolic and presented to illustrate that things are just as bad as they were in the Jim Crow era, which they are not.  So what would we hear about a far more brutal, racially motivated murder of a child?  Practically nothing as this case illustrates and it's because our news is generated and presented by groups, organizations of activists, drowning out the big picture with marching bands, TV extravaganzas and media Blitzkrieg. 

So how long will it be before this post  is denounced as racism?  I think I'm telling people to consider the source when forming opinions about events, but then racists always say that and so I' must be one.  After all if A then B it must be that if B then A, right?  You can't trust white people anyway.

So sure, about that "conversation"  You may not discuss laws passed through Congress by the Democrats with much support by the voters. You must maintain that nothing has changed for the good, you racist you -- and you will not discuss the sanctity of human life, you will not talk about lynchings when the Murdered are Hispanic or Native American or Chinese.  News is not news you dummy, it's propaganda and you will not stand in the way you hear?




Thursday, November 19, 2015

I give up

I know the election is still a long way off, but maybe it's not too soon to give up on the idea of Democracy in America.  The ISIL assault on Paris seems to have benefited the Idiot Trump, as though we needed to be reminded that a simple-minded barrage of simple minded bravado is always popular whenever we're reminded that we're not the undisputed masters of the Universe.  Keep 'em out, Throw them out, build a wall and bomb them to dust 'cause we're all about "freedom."

In fact just when I was beginning to think this hair-Club horror was about to make the country snap out of it's boozy delirium and come to it's alleged senses, a new Bloomberg Poll seems to remind us that Republican dementia  progresses apace. Trump is seen as the one best able to deal with the kind of terrorists the French efficiently rounded up and killed in a couple of days, Trump with his total lack of experience or knowledge in any distantly related matter.  Perhaps the public subscribes to the Maoist notion that one learns from doing and education is meaningless. Perhaps the public doesn't like to be reminded that things are never simple and easy to deal with and it takes more than a massively ignorant blowhard to blow away our problems. Perhaps stupid people are just more confident in stupid people, I don't know.

Anyway the wimpy, effeminate, quiche eating,  French, Nancy Boy  we mocked not long ago for telling us Saddam didn't have nukes or the ability to make or deliver them, doesn't seem so cowardly now, does he  -  or as inept as we are.


But it's not all Trump, apparently the idiots think Carson has a better personality for the job although most of us have still to discern  one  at all behind the deadpan and the weird emotionless tone of voice he uses to tell us lies and complain it's our fault when he's shown to be more ignorant that anyone who has ever run for public office.

No, I think it's time to give up. We're not a viable nation, forever snatching disaster from the jaws of success, ever unable to tell a charlatan, a phony, an incompetent from a leader.  This guy lacks the experience because he was only a Senator and a Harvard Law graduate - but these guys who have never held office?  Mavericks!  The guy who tells an assailant not to shoot him but shoot the other guy?  How brave under fire!  The guy who inherited a real estate business and couldn't pass a citizenship test?  Presidential!  He will just fire our enemies!

Forgetabout it. There's only so long you can support a family member who keeps screwing up.  If the world were a family, America would be living in the attic and fed through a slot in the door.  I'm tired of  it.. I want to go live in one of those hollow pyramids before  we start putting people in boxcars and behind walls and nuking Canada. There's nothing left to save here.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Baby on Board

“A university is not a ‘safe space.'  If you need a safe space, leave, go home, hug your teddy & suck your thumb until ready for university.”


-Richard Dawkins-
__________________
"The only way to be "safe" from having one's core beliefs disparaged or dismissed is to abolish diversity and disagreement altogether — to mandate the one right way of life and of thinking."
Writes Joseph Reisert in The Kennebunk Journal of all places.  The subject is important and unfortunately I've only seen it addressed by far right extremists who like to accuse Liberals in general of Fascism and totalitarianism and all sorts of things including "hating Jesus."  Comical as their efforts are, there are movements particularly on college campuses that challenge the foundations of Liberal philosophy.  I like to compare it to those "baby on board" signs we used to see on car windows: a pretentious and narcissistic effort to coerce people to give them special consideration.  

Perhaps I'm a Liberal, perhaps not, but I think that demanding protection from disturbing opinions and sights and even annoying truths is an enemy of Liberal thought as codified in our Constitution, yet that's the way it is in some places, from ivory towers to shabby tenements. I resent being told I can't say that all lives matter because it doesn't provide a safe space for someone's publicity campaign.  Neither apparently, can I insinuate that racism isn't the exclusive property of white Americans.  because the intended ends justify the self-contradictory means. But that's only a small part of the inherent tyranny of the self-righteous safety seekers: of their leadership and by the people who want to own the road in armored cars with Baby on Board signs in the window

Is the effort to provide a Utopian safe space compatible with Liberal Thought?  Not if it mandates belief or any other form of uniformity and conformity.

"The problem is inherent in the demand for a subjective feeling of perfect safety." 

says the writer and indeed perfect safety in a physical and emotional sense is part of many people's vision of what our society ought to provide. There are those who feel justified in demanding that they be protected from seeing anything questioning their faith, whether that be an opinion or an artifact or a lack of faith in others. No one may insinuate in speech or Halloween costume that I am in any way different or humorous.  

A university certainly needs to protect the physical safety of all students, minority or otherwise, but does that extend to protect them from words and opinions - even those words they imagine to be disagreeable?  Safe Space apparently implies something much more than a safe place to study and learn and achieve for all students.  Space is safer when you congregate in distinct segregated groups of course. Do we ask where this is going?  NO!

A journalist wants to exercise his and our rights by covering your protest?  NO! it might make someone  feel "Unsafe."  And demands are made to physically eject him from the University of Missouri Campus where freedom of speech is for people who won't question you.  

It's often said that the safest state is a police state and I have to question whether our college campuses are voluntarily becoming illiberal safe havens for the timid and self righteous -- a place where no possible offense, deserved or otherwise, is permitted., where diversity is in danger, A safe space where nothing that challenges belief, opinion, self promotion or self image is possible.  Even the language is becoming Gerrymandered to prevent unsuitable expressions or thoughts and rather than becoming safe places for controversy, debate, demonstration and disagreement, Universities are becoming rigid protectors of timid children who seem to like it that way.  It's supposed to be a place where you grow up and learn to fend for yourself and to face the world armed with some knowledge and skill and a world full of people who don't agree with you or feel the need to respect your authority or agree with what you think you are.

Friday, November 13, 2015

End Times: Signs and Portents

The end is nigh and these are the last days.

Last days for what?  you might ask.  Well for everything of course. Nothing lasts forever, maybe not even forever itself.

I don't remember what Sutra it came from or maybe it was from a college professor but "all that which is an arising thing, that too is a ceasing thing" comes to mind.  Perhaps it comes to any mind that's been observing long enough.  I mean I've seen so many brand new public infatuations come and go like flashes of light at a disco dance. Things picked up, fallen in love with then despised and dropped.  Hey, Disco is one of them, come to think of it.   Rock and Roll is here to stay?  not really.

Somehow still we're told it's very necessary to the way people think about you to know everything about all the new fashions and passions of the pre-teens, about the pop culture churned out by the pop culture machine  lest anyone suspect you're over 21.  Something else you might ask -- when the hell is this going to end?  Sorry Jack, change is here to stay. It's a cornerstone of Capitalism. It will never die.

Perhaps it's apocryphal, but J.P. Morgan is said to have sold out of the market because he saw an elevator operator reading the Wall Street Journal and he knew the end was neigh.  Before my time, but I do remember all the hype about how to get rich investing in Art, right before the Art market crashed in 1989 and more hype about buying and flipping houses right before the Real Estate bubble blew up.  It leads me to speculate about all the signs and portents we are surrounded by.  We do seem to live in a land of  alternating cycles of hipness and fad and passionate commitments to "lifestyles."   You'd think it was easy to spot a lifestyle bubble about to burst.

There are forces at work in building and destroying everything and you can see them as plainly as any devotee of Shiva the  destroyer can.  I knew the end of really being a hippie was at hand when the mass produced uniforms and accoutrements of rebellion showed up in the Sears catalog and people by the millions started saying "Groovy."  The coolness of the Beat generation filled countless identical coffee houses with identically dressed people showing off their rejection of conformity.  But today?  Well there's enough handwriting on the wall to make it look like a Subway platform in the 70s, but really, it's not an easy job to be a prophet of doom.  Doom has a mind of its own.

Backwards hats worn 24/7 after all  have been with us forever along with other tokens of "I won't grow up" culture. Would-be bad boys from Suberbia are still trying to look like gang members.  Yoga pants matrons dressed identically  still cruise the aisles like royalty selecting holy foods fertilized only with shit and avoiding those 7 foods you should never eat in favor of things grown under Tuscan sunlight which is extra pure, you know.  Everyone is buying SUVs - still.  For safety of course even though you're more likely to be killed in one than in a car. The very most hip of the hipsters are still fenging and shui-ing and taking detoxicating enemas and cleansing their auras with quartz crystals. Doesn't this speak of end times?  Please?

Maybe change is changing?  Maybe cycles are slowing down or becoming smaller  and harder to notice so as to make hipness more exclusive.  I mean yesterday's curved visor and adjustment strap backward baseball cap is being replaced by the flat visor, one size is too big for most people black cap that makes you look more idiotic than previously thought possible. How long has it been, 40 years?   People put great store in commercialized  "outsider" fashion and this stuff is important even if, like your thousand dollar sweat shop shoes that go out of style in  a thousand hours, it has taken over your life and your paycheck.  How can I keep up, or worse keep ahead of this?

I wasn't meant to, of course, nor were you if you're old enough to write cursive in standard English and take your hat off in a posh restaurant. The system doesn't want us.  We're redundant, surplus population and I suspect that the more some things change the less others do. We either join the exploiters or step aside.  So anyone want to sing along?   Exploitation is here to stay - it will never die. . .

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Back to the Past

"No arts; no letters; no society; and which is worst of all, continual fear, and danger of violent death: and the life of man, solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short."

Hobbes' horror, Reagan's utopia.

One mythopoeic tendency in American political rhetoric is to long for a better time in the past that America needs to return to -- and will,  if only we elect the illiterate who flunked Middle School history and knows nothing about economics, law or foreign affairs.   Things always used to be better and there was always a golden age, from Eden to Jerusalem, to Rome, to La Belle Epoch. Nearly every period in the past is caused to have some redeeming factor that makes us long for it nostalgically.  In our imagined past, we were  or would be heroes with opportunities, not peasants with none.


I'd love to confront the political blowhards promising to make us a "great Nation" again because I seem to have missed that period of greatness and it may be that times we look wistfully back to as "simpler" seemed pretty damned horrific at the time.  I even sometimes doubt the premise that I had more freedom back when where you could eat, where you could sleep and with whom were tightly controlled.  Gender and race meant an awful lot to the government and your neighbors in our great nation.  I must have had my eyes closed to that period of peace and tranquility when the certainty of nuclear annihilation hung over us like a patient etherized upon a table,  Hung like some lynched teenager in a land where you can't pass anti-lynching laws because of the Klan's influence in Congress and thousands of us died every week, killing millions for "our freedoms." --. but oddly, even though at any moment we are the greatest and best and most powerful and glorious nation that ever was or will be, it always used to be better.  The best of times is so tightly bound to the worst of times, they are one and the same.

Maintaining this fiction must be important to the people who teach us history and ethics and government policy, because much if not most of what they say depends on framing and distorting, editing redacting and inventing a past where there were no taxes or regulations and thus all businesses succeeded, everyone was free and prosperous and Christian and often at night, when the old folks were at home, the "darkies" were gay.

It's not to say that Americans and America haven't done great things, it's to say that they had nothing to do with that parallel myth: the ever more restrictive and regulatory government with ever increasing taxes hindering growth, individual success and that ubiquitous aspiration we call, in our narcissism,  the American Dream.  Gee, I'd like things to be better.  How exclusively American.  Golden age?  It musta been before my time, and my Father's and his.

But of course we have Trump, we have Carson, we have Bush as pretenders to power (and pretenders to being qualified) and they're all going to repaint and re-gild that shining city on the hill by building a moat around it. A shining mansion maintained by serfs, barefoot and pregnant and like the survivors of Bush's shock and awe, thanking God for their freedom as they starve in the dust.

There were times though.  the times of our desultory flirtations with confidence and a view to great things.  We've had our per astera ad aspera days that led to feats the world had never been able to do and isn't it interesting how the good old days shamans want to prevent that happening again?  Back to the the past, to the golden age. It hangs in the air at our "debates"  but the meaning is 'abandon hope,' Arbeit macht Frei, God's in his heaven and the future is in the past.


Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Gimme Shelter

 The quote "Patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel" is attributed to Samuel Johnson and I have no reason to doubt that or its truth. These days we have to examine a number of things that now inhabit that foul habitat of 21st century Patriotism, like extreme politics and extreme religion and extreme dishonesty -- and in a year like this, at the beginning of another election cycle and the Christmas season, the Star Spangled Blather begins to stink the place up.

Take Donald Trump, always struggling to be first in line, he's thrown the first pitch of the annual War on Christmas season this year by preaching against the Starbucks Christmas coffee cup,  which is now simply red and without the type of commercial Northern Winter and Sears Roebuck iconography some religious Christians despise. I'm surprised actually to find Starbucks turning out something that close to tasteful and without a pseudo-European name, but the Donald assumes he can take that simple red cup and work you into a lather of religious outrage by explaining it all the Fox way. It's War on Christmas time once again and pretending that anyone ever told you not to say Merry Christmas is the lie behind the tyrannical  agenda  of legally requiring you to be not only a Christian but an ignorant, paranoid and militant one.

It takes a certain kind of malignant mendacity to insist that Starbucks Hates Jesus and a certain kind of unbalanced mind to believe it, but believers gotta believe, don't they -- and we're a nation of outrage addicts, not too particular about veracity. But Christmas in America wouldn't be Christmas at all without the imaginary war on it and Donald Trump wouldn't be the ruthless sociopath without the contorted, contradictory lies that make up his campaign. I won't give him credit for inventing it. Actually pious Christians invented antipathy to Christmas a long ago and Christmas has been banned periodically by Christian leadership, both here and abroad. There's nothing new under the sun or under the comically bad hairdo for that matter.

Americans and American business have been in love with the holiday for a century or more and in fact much of our Christmas iconography and tradition has been authored by big corporations to sell product. That bothers the "put Christ Back in Christmas" crowd no end. But drink your $20 Frappomachiadohalfcaffventi in a plain cup or a Merry Christmas Santa cup and you'll piss someone off, whether they think Jesus the Barrista or Jesus the Christ is being disrespected. Trump is playing both sides and playing against anything that resembles freedom of anything. Hardly anyone is buying his Crappuchino of course, red cup or otherwise, but Trump is not afraid to work the bottom of the barrel or any other deep, dark and fetid place, and the media are not hesitant to give it all the publicity it can.

In our America, religion and patriotism are one and the same refuge of more than one scoundrel and no Republican Patriot would dare give himself that flag-kissing title without bufoonicating about Jesus the conservative billionaire and his ever present "liberal" enemies. It's expected. Patriotism entails positing a mythical past greatness that needs to be returned to. A past which entails a return to military swagger, Religious authority, isolationism, xenophobia, repression, racism and a forced ethnic "purity" which means a Christians First Nation and Christian rule and Biblical Law and above all, a Snowman on your paper coffee cup. That, in fact seems to be the only consistent theme among any likely GOP candidate in recent years. A foolish consistency you might say, as it requires you to hate the commercialism of Christmas and the non-commercialism of Christmas equally. It's a sacred holiday, but don't call it a holiday, and if you go through a minute without saying Merry Christmas from September through New Years eve, you hate Jesus.

Trump threatens not to renew Starbucks' Trump Tower lease  - (just now after how many years?) He suggests we boycott them and promises that if he's elected we'll all be saying Merry Christmas. That's a sure thing of course because we are doing that already and have been for as long as I can remember. Christmas is the most celebrated holiday in the US and a large part of our economy depends on us continuing to do so.  How can we not notice that the Donald has no commitment to  freedom of worship or of speech?  In what bizarre world is this patriotic?  The USA of course.

Atheists say Merry Christmas, Jews and Muslims say Merry Christmas and I say Merry Christmas in full knowledge of it's pagan origins, all external to the Christian canon. I think that peace and compassion and good will are better symbols, even in a hypocritical world than animals with light-up noses and trees from the Boreal forests. Acknowledging the dignity of the poor, showing affection toward children - these make it worthwhile to me. They have nothing to do with Trump or the politics of hate, fear and arrogance he preaches.
Yes, you greedy old grinch, I'll be saying Merry Christmas on December 25th,  but not to you or because of you,  pissing on the people who follow other religions and those who really love Christmas for their own reasons and acknowledge it in their own way:  the kids, the grandparents and the people who like pretentious coffee in plain cups. Pissing on those who preach year round goodness for goodness' sake.  If there's anything good about the religion you pretend to, you're stepping on it. If there were laws against hate speech, you'd be spending the holiday in jail and if there really is a hell with punishment for sin, we'll all be drinking eggnog while you lie howling.

Monday, November 09, 2015

One Giant Step.

Like most adolescent boys I had a strong interest in tropical Geography, but National Geographic has always been one of those magazines too beautiful and informative to throw  out.  Basements and attics around the world are still packed with moldering stacks of these magazines.  It's hard even to give them away, but that may change.  Rupert Murdoch has bought the place, it's no longer a not-for-profit corporation and thus the information it contains will no longer be above suspicion.  Of course it hasn't been the best place to see bare breasted women for a long time, but it's wonderful ability to present science to the masses without the taint of sales hype and politics is now gone as well. Murdoch has apparently already done a Trump and fired the award winning staff.

Will the famous yellow cover take on a new meaning?  Can we expect more stories about Atlantis, UFOs and alien abductions?  Will the next article about ancient Egypt be authored by Ben Carson of the hollow pyramids theory or Mike Huckabee of the 6000 year old Earth? I'm sue we'll hear no more about climate change or the decline of  bio-diversity and pollution.  I'm sure we will be treated to spectacular photography of the village in Kenya where Barack Obama was born and the women will be wearing shirts.

Again one of the icons of journalism has fallen to the scoundrels who own Fox News and soon will be sharing the same corporate motto Pontius Pilate made famous:  What is Truth?  It's one small step for the end times and one giant leap for ignorance.

Saturday, November 07, 2015

The Longer You Stare - The Enigma of Uncertainty



"Wenn du lange in einen Abgrund blickst, blickt der Abgrund auch in dich hinein"
-Friedrich Nietzsche-


If you stare long into the abyss, the abyss will also stare into you.

_____________________________

The longer you stare into this image, the more zombies will appear.  Try it.  It's true.


Or is it?  Do we see shadowy figures or do we see zombies -- particularly the kind of Zombies invented by Hollywood and the Walking Dead comic books? The kind that doesn't exist. The power of suggestion is slippery and can be as hard to perceive clearly as those blurry phenomena we find things of our own making in -- of our own imaginations, prejudices and fears.

So when we have those little epiphanies, those spiritual moments that hint at unseen noumena; how genuine is our perception and how much of what we're prompted by our culture and experience to see appears to our eyes?  Krishna, Christ or Chuckwu look back at us, whispering like Enki from behind the wall.

In fact no matter how you blow the image up, you can't say from what you see that they are zombies any more than you can know just what zombies look like outside of  fictional representations.  We see the same phenomenon when we see the face of God in the window, the face of Jesus in a rust stain or pattern of mildew on old wallpaper. We have no idea what those people looked like, but we swear to it, it was Mary and she was a virgin and wore a shawl.  It's the power of suggestion and our culture is at heart an encyclopedia of suggestion and meme.

How much do we bring to what we see? Two crossed lines will mean something different to a Hindu than to a Christian.  That applies to what we see in others' faces, to what we taste when we're told what we're tasting, whether it's true or not.  One person in a room gets sick.  how many others feel bad and how soon?  How much better will that wine taste when the "expert" raves over it?   How fast will that placebo cure your headache?  Often faster than the Aspirin.

Eating breakfast, I stare into the granite counter top.  A thousand faces stare back.

Tuesday, November 03, 2015

Quack, Quack

The ad calls it the DR. PUHARICH EMF PROTECTION - NATURAL FREQUENCY TESLA WAVE CHIP FOR YOUR WATCH,  What's a Tesla wave?  I've never seen a description that didn't sound like double talk intended for very, very non technical people and full of denunciations of "Orthodox" science. It's one of the claims having to do with free energy or perpetual motion or the like that got Tesla scorned by serious science, or at least until the Internet and it's faith-based hipsters came around and made him sort of an offbeat hero again.  Anyway the ad tells us it's also an "EMF/ ELF stress shield" which is basically gibberish and a bit pretentious since it's a small square of copper you put into your watch to shield you from things that don't exist. True, a large grounded copper box would shield you from EMF at any frequency if you were inside it, but putting a piece of copper in your watch gives you a watch with a piece of copper inside and nothing else.

In a way it's similar to the "Translator Amulet" which consists of a few randomly selected electronic components: I see some small carbon film resistors,
a ceramic capacitor, a couple of molded Mylar caps, a Germanium 1N34 diode in a DO-1 package all soldered together in a fashion that might make a 4 year old -- or an American new-age doofus think it's a radio.  It isn't. "Natural frequencies" means nothing other than to evoke the modern longing for nature and things natural and the fear of the new. It doesn't do anything  and it doesn't have to, in order to do what the seller claims it does.

"The Translator helps to understand angelic messages, communications from the higher self, your guides, and it helps in channeling. This is the vertical aspect - between the higher and lower vibrational realms. It also works horizontally - around you, on this level and this reality. It helps you to understand what is being said, what is being communicated in this realm, person to person, animal or plant - through words, images, music, sound or otherwise. This Quantum device helps you to understand what is being communicated, with trust, openness and keen intuition".

Ordinarily one wouldn't have to explain to people that this bit of ad captandum vulgus escapes being outright fraud only because the description is gibberish and claims of helping you understand or avoid or rid yourself from what doesn't exist are hard to refute.  At least it's "artisinal"  I can't refute that.

It's called quackery and it's an ancient practice as old as religion and probably older than what we sometimes call the oldest profession. It's also called Shamanism and it's alive and growing faster and faster with the power of the Internet and the decline in scientific literacy and critical thought.  I used to collect late 19th and early 20th century technology which included a few quack-medical items, like "violet ray" and high voltage shock coils.  The  former was sold to cure almost anything and had attachments which would, when turned on, glow in the dark. It regrew hair, cured skin conditions and a certain one could be inserted in various orifices for purposes I don't want to know about. Needless to say it didn't work. Needless to say they sold millions of these things. Needless to say lack of evidence was not an impediment.


 The Electro-Medical Shocking Coil or a "Faradic Battery" was a very popular item a hundred years ago when electricity was still mysterious and frightening (perhaps it still is) and it was sold to cure things like Neurasthenia, a disease of mostly "sensitive" and intelligent people -  or so the health  hipsters of yore titled themselves.  Working stiffs were said to be immune to it. Of course the disorder doesn't exist any more than do Tesla waves or ELF stress fields, so it's hard to accuse the sellers of quackery with fraud and besides all these quack devices had countless customers who swore by them and mocked the "orthodox" and closed minded detractors. There was never a lack of "experts" and studies and anecdotes to reassure them of their elite status.  Some call it the Barnum Effect, others the Whole Foods business plan. Nonetheless, the cultic aspects of consumerism are quite powerful.  Flatter the masses and the masses will follow you with open wallets.

eBay abounds with "detox" machines you put your feet in which remove unspecified toxins you don't have in some pseudo-scientific way.  foot pads, foot baths and pieces of duct tape to remove those "toxins' we love to believe in and rid ourselves of,  as the ancients once performed rituals of purification. Enemas, "cleanses,"  magic bracelets and rituals have evolved to take on the white coats of science while rejecting scientific method with prejudice, fable  and anger.  

Impurity, impiety and sin are made-up things that have plagued us for eons and power and riches have accrued to those who told us we were tainted and sold us stuff to make it go away.  Those who told us the world was in decline from some golden past have shaped the course of history and proof to the contrary be damned.  Nothing has changed.  People are easily frightened in this world of randomness and easily sold quackery in both verbal and mechanical and chemical form and he who can sell the cure will have customers and fanatical followers.  The fear doesn't have to be real the cure doesn't have to be real, such is the power of suggestion and the power of belief.

True scientific tests of medicine and medical devices include a control group given placebos and of course the results invariably show much support for the empty pill and non-functioning device.  Harvard Medical School has a program for placebo studies and so do their hospital affiliates.  The placebo, the suggestion prove that the power of the mind is strong.  People leave faith healers and places of miracles like Lourdes convinced they're cured - at least for a while -  and they will defend such things assiduously.

Billions believe that prayer can effect changes in nature contrary to evidence, People will go to war to defend their tribal name and description of deities who don't exist.  Parents let their children die because scientific medical practices aren't "natural" and don't fit the beliefs the power of suggestion cemented in their minds.  They turn to quack medicine because doctors are bogeymen and Big Pharma is out to poison us.  They vote for policies that have failed to work and repeatedly.

Are we still no more than the upright apes that evolved on the savannas of Africa?  Do we still believe in magic and shamans and mysterious forces even if we've dressed them differently?  I think the ape answers that question every day.