Friday, October 02, 2015

Nehil Novum Sub Solis

How many times have I said "here we go again"  in the last year?  I suppose everything else said about this latest school shooting will be as predictable, as overused and as useless.  Here we go again.

Will we hear more statistical gymnastics arguing that rampage shooting is on the increase because of this factor or that factor alone and has nothing to do with the successful promotion of the genre as a way to go out in a blaze of "glory?" Is there something about our society that produces a generation of  existentially challenged young males? Is it really all about a fictional increase in gun ownership or a fictional increase in the deadliness of modern guns and ammunition?   Ask at your own risk, you're either a gun-grabbing Communist or  a crazed gun nut to anyone who disagrees.  Here we go again in hopelessly polarized America, demanding that we "have a conversation" where I shout and you shut up.

Will anyone stop to ask why, if violence is exploding, is it so concentrated in the schools? With everyone shouting and yelling has something gone wrong with American culture? Will anyone ask if there are other factors other than that modern guns look more threatening than equally deadly older guns?  Will we look at handguns in general or press the repeat button and replay the "semi-automatic" recording?  Will we do anything different at all?

Why aren't we asking about the apparent increase in drive-by and gang related shootings in certain areas and the apparent decrease in other areas?  Is it that we don't want answers but only a stage on which to act out our our little dramas?  Children are being shot on the streets in West Palm Beach but peace reigns in my nearby community.  Why?

This is horrible, of course but I have to ask whether the response is more about sloganeering, wishful thinking and hysteria than anything helpful.  Everyone wants answers, or so they say, but I suspect they only want answers that support their prejudices and opinions.  I want more questions. I want that conversation many people pretend they want.  I want someone to ask why the flurry of post office shootings started and then stopped rather than continued along the trend line people were drawing.  I want to know why no one is showing us graphic representations which, from what I see argue that over the last century there are many peaks and many troughs in school shootings.  In no case does any extrapolation prove long lived.  Regression to the mean seems to be the law. Can we talk?  Can we look at the numbers?

I'd like to know why we never seem to get past the "something must be done"  and "something must be done by the Federal Government" and rarely ever propose something that's legal and possible and doesn't rest on the fatuous presumption that laws stop lunatics, that bans make a difference? Can we propose that life in Manhattan has different needs than life in Kodiac Station?   Suggest that crime and violence have multiple and complex etiologies demanding  complex and multiple approaches which may take a long time to work and you're a pariah.  "when do we want it - now!"  Some things never change.

Will this story be hijacked by the "War on Christianity?"   Will we have to endure weeks of self-pitying, neo-Babylonian lamentations?, with tired and vague demands?  Of course. There's nothing new.

We continue and we continue with jibber-jabber about types of ammunition and the devices that hold it, we rattle on about "style" and we continue to frame everything in the most extreme, hyperbolic, inflammatory, fear inspiring and inaccurate  terms.  As with so many emotionally driven and emotionally rationalized themes in America today, no one is interested in working with any one else.  Taxation, public debt, Racism, addiction, disease and vaccination, Secularism versus the Christian State.  Laissez faire Vs regulation -- it's all Hobbes' universal war: me against you, my action committee against yours, it's the struggle for primacy, not for a solution.

" I will not name the shooter,”  

said  Douglas County Sheriff John Hanlin and I share his feelings.  We've made folk-anti-heroes of  some deadly and deranged misfits who have problems with schools and students and teachers and can't think of any other way to air their grievances, but to kill themselves and take others with them just like all those sad miscreants around the world who shoot up public places or blow themselves and others up with home-made bombs or fly airplanes into buildings.  Everyone has a straw man to punish - mad bombers, mad shooters, arsonists as well as all those who demand that something be done, but my thing and my way, of course.

Banning booze didn't reduce alcoholism, banning needles and banning drugs made it worse, reducing highway speed limits didn't save lives or slow anyone down nor did the fraudulent "assault weapons" ban have any affect on anything.  I suspect that nothing we'll hear in the coming days about how this or that changes everything will be different.  Ban this, ban that. Take polls with forced choice questions, loaded questions, false dilemmas and  loaded terminology: extrapolate trends and think most magically about gun control.

Thursday, October 01, 2015

Showcase this!

Oh great, it's not enough that privacy in America is dead, here's a chance for an even greater level of exposure.  It's called PEEPLE and it allows you to rate and berate people the way you can post ratings of businesses on Yelp.  Of course you have to sign up for the public laughing stock but to my horror it seems someone can do that for you without your knowledge and consent.  If you've looked at Yelp, you may share my opinion that it attracts cranks and trolls and I've read the most outrageously spurious and unfair ratings of places I have first hand knowledge of.  Will these same creeps be rating someone in your family?  If you're on Facebook, ll they need is your cell phone number and judging from the calls I get, everyone knows mine, including Facebook.

How many suicides, how many murders will ensue?  How many mortified teenagers will take dad's gun to school?  How many adults for that matter, will take the notion to hunt down and kill some drooling dirtbag who spends his afternoons posting spurious libel about people he doesn't know. Imagine waking up one morning to find that 4962 posters insist that your mother does Dallas?

And of course as the lawsuits begin to pile up by the millions, won't there be a cry against the assault on "Freedom of speech?"  The founders of this abomination have raised a mountain of cash and apparently are exited that we can all now "showcase your character” online.  Really?  Well here's a good reason to get the hell off Facebook, if that's even possible, to toss the phone overboard and make sure I have plenty of  5.65 X 39 available.

Showcase this!

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Good Old Days.

"You know, this usta be a hellova good country"  

Said George Hanson (Jack Nicholson) in the movie Easy Rider shortly before he was bludgeoned to death by the good old boys who didn't want no hippies with no respect for the good old ways and traditions in their county.  It's a very common thing to say in the USA of today. That's not to say we haven't done some good things, but I'm curious to know just when that golden age of America the Great and Magnificent was.  The witch hunts, religious restrictions, the deportations and slaughter of Indians, a horrific civil war --  the Slavery, the Race laws, the lynchings, the unjustified invasions and foreign wars based on lies, the support for inhuman monsters abroad, the abuses of freedom while fighting various enemies, real and imagined. Just when the hell were we so great?

I'd like to know because it seems to be the same voices lamenting the lost paradise that decry efforts to move away from or undo all those Hobbsonian horrors.   Advocates for a system of laws based on selected Christian literature, for enforcing selected taboos of selected Christian sects who advocate for the tyranny of clergymen and against the institutions of secular government:  I'd like to know what the hell they're talking about and so far not one of them has given me a cogent, a valid or even an honest explanation.

'Back to the Future' seems to have been a meme since the first versions of the Garden of Eden Story was cooked up and seeing that not only the name "eden" but the concept of an original pure garden of bliss is described in the earliest writings known ages before there was a Bible, it's puzzling to contemplate how the past could always have been better and the future should be a return.  All those horrors, the floods, the plagues, the genocides the divine retributions in the past -- that's because we weren't pleasing God or the gods and so we need to go back to when we did although obviously we never have?

Sounds demented, doesn't it and that's because it is, but it's also been the tool of tyrants and prophets and preachers and Sunday School Teachers, and it works.  Yep they're all going to restore the greatness, Reagan and Trump with their shining cities and high rises towers and every damn Republican chump with their ethnic bias and religious intolerance..  Bring back the Roman Empire, start a thousand year Reich. A New Jerusalem, a new Zion in Utah a new Eden in Woodstock.  Remember that the First Commandment is religious intolerance and we'll all be happy.

I got into it, earlier this week with some blowhard who insisted that the Pledge of Allegiance was fading away because the Liberals were making us embarrassed to say it.  It was the God part, of course, forced on school children since 1954 thanks to the knights of Columbus having bullied the Eisenhower administration.  The straw man Liberals are against "patriotism' and Patriotism means mandatory theological belief just like the old days when everything was wonderful and Christian Soldiers like Jefferson and Madison and Franklin and Washington fought the unbelievers to establish the Kingdom of Christ in the New World.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Something You Don't Like About Capitalism?

"Because we can get away with it."  is essentially the answer given by Turing Pharmaceuticals CEO to the question of why the company raised the price of  Darapram, a drug that's been around for 62 years  by 5000%.  That's not a typo.

Turing acquired the drug by purchasing the company that made it last month, and greed being good, decided to flaunt it.  One pill now costs 750 bucks, up from $13.50. No really, that's not a typo and it's not unique.  It's not, it seems,  that these things didn't make a profit, the development costs having been payed back long ago. It's just that Medical care in America is about making the rich richer, about Turing paying for the company they bought by screwing  the sick and screwing the Insurance companies who pass the cost  on to you and me - because they can and because the Republicans made a deal while calling objectors Communists.

The cost of  existing medications that some people need to stay alive has gone up by hundreds and hundreds of percentage points and not because they cost more to make. It's because they can get away with it and if you don't have insurance, your option is to decrease the surplus population.
And the idiots like Sarah Palin insist that Obamacare has death panels while "buy or die" has replaced free market competition.  Republicans are for free markets, right?

Now if you do have insurance that covers prescriptions, the cost is picked up by the premium payers: us, our employers or Medicare thanks to the Idiot Bush who worked out a deal with the drug companies that forbids any bargaining or competition.  It's one of the reasons they can sell drugs in the US at the highest prices in the world. Turing CEO Martin Shkreli said the price increase brings Daraprim more in line with other drugs for rare diseases, not that that stinks of collusion and price fixing, and is a polite way of saying it's OK for Turing to gouge the sick because everyone else is doing it and besides with all that money we could maybe develop some other drugs you might like -- or increase the size of the corporate jet or hand out bonuses, or whatever.  Hey, it's Capitalism. Something you don't like about Capitalism? You're some kind of Commie?

Monday, September 21, 2015

Quacks like a Duck - Affirming the Consequent

We're liberals, aren't we? So we're primed to believe stories that fit a certain mold without question and often with a good deal of desperate enthusiasm.  An "unarmed child" is shot in the back while kneeling and begging for his life,  a kid is arrested for taking a clock to school. We don't bother with the facts, because after all, there is a history of minorities being treated unfairly and therefore we assume that if B follows A, B implies A.  It doesn't and there's a name for the fallacy.

A kid brings an apparatus in a briefcase to school, made out of clock parts and looks to me very much like the bomb timer you see in so many movies that counts down the minutes to the explosion.  If I were a teacher or Principal, I would have called an expert too and I have a background in electronic engineering. It looks very much like something the movies have conditioned us to see as a countdown timer for a bomb. Did he "invent" a clock and put it in a "pencil case" that looks like it came out of a
James Bond movie or did he take apart a clock and stuff it in something chosen to look suspicious?   Your assumptions here mean a lot. The way it's framed means everything.  As many on both sides of the political divide seem to agree:  "It looks like a f*cking bomb!"

But because police have a history of  abusing minorities, any arrest is abuse and because the kid is a Muslim, we, as dependably bigoted and privileged white people are to be presumed to be acting from bigotry.  It must be an act of racism, for are we not white? It must be racism for is he not Muslim?

The thoughts of Liberals seem to be steered by the same sloppy, emotional and instinctive pseudo-reasoning as those of Conservatives, Libertarians, Socialists and for all I know, professors of mathematics.  Go ahead, you blue eyed, blond Norwegian  Lutheran - put some clock parts, a battery and a mess of wires in a briefcase and try to get on a plane so you can claim the TSA is profiling Scandinavians.

Hands up!  Don't Shoot!  It was just a clock! The knife was Military Style!   Devious uses of the Framing Effect litter the ground and every thing we read, see and hear are attempts to manipulate opinion, but  even the huge, gilded Rococo monstrosity of this frame seems to escape our notice. Even our experienced knees jerk when tapped by the professionally wielded little hammer.

Are we, as liberals combing the news for examples and when the supply is low, are we so relieved to find yet another juicy one that we suspend disbelief, squint our eyes a little bit and react a little too passionately?

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Studies Show

We think we're rational, but we're not.  It's too easy to be optimistically or pessimistically  irrational. It's too much fun and we have plenty of help, particularly if we watch or read or listen to the news, if we watch television or read magazines. If we look at cartoons, if we read editorials. If we are immersed in advertising -- and we are.  If we answer our phones when they ring, if we read blogs like this one, someone is always trying to sell you an opinion, an attitude, a bias.  We're so used to it, they're so good at it that we rarely pay attention.  We enjoy having a credible group of like minded people, we hardly bother to apply what analytical ability we've managed to hold onto after years, after a lifetime of being subjected to advertising, preaching and the endless, relentless and largely dishonest manipulations that our ears are heir to.

We've been trained from birth not to question and trained to accept with a fierce tenacity anything someone dressed to inspire credulity tells us. It makes us feel smart, hip, a cut above others.  Perhaps herd animals, schools of fish and flocks of birds feel wonderful giving in to the same biological imperatives we follow in the same mindless way. I don't know.  Maybe there's a study.

Open the Sunday paper, click on a news website: you'll read about the 7 foods you should never eat, the foods, the beans and berries that will melt away belly fat and exercise programs that will make you live forever and we take it to be science; the result of valid research done to rigorous standards.  It's rarely the case.  It's nearly always the case that someone is selling something.  Tell someone that milk doesn't produce phlegm, Gluten is not bad for you, that vaccinations don't cause Autism and Autism isn't on the increase and they will turn ugly before they will bother to look at real rigorously tested and peer reviewed evidence beyond what the diet doctor or politician or propagandist of choice is saying.  I have a friend whose cousin is autistic.  That's enough.  A follows B and therefore  A causes B. Sole cause, partial cause, a vague non-causal link or irrelevant -- it doesn't matter to someone who doesn't know science or statistics and probability, and that's pretty much everyone.

Do they teach critical thinking in school?  Do they show people the difference between anecdotes, conjecture, Gerrymandered evidence and large, scale, randomized, double blind and repeatable studies?  If they do, does anyone listen?  Does it make anyone suspicious when the research, the study, are published in Sunday Supplements or pose as real in paid advertising on  You know the answer. 1 in a million may be enough to prove causation.  One in a million may prove unacceptable danger or a high degree of safety depending on the motivation of the salesman and the pet phobias of the believing public.

People who sell "Paleo" diets, or low "carb" diets love to tell you that they are based on research, because after all, people like the Inuit eat blubber and fish and raw meat and little else and don't get heart disease or diabetes. Your uncle Ralph went on Atkins and lost weight eating cheeseburgers.  If you noticed that the assumption that this would be true of anyone eating the same diet of course is called "confirming the consequent" which assumes that if B follows A, then B is evidence of A.  It's not. It's a fallacy you'll learn in Logic 101, but you didn't take that course did you?

 Convincing evidence that eating the calorie equivalent in lard or Twinkies or donuts produces similar results,  means nothing to the public and won't get published as an advertising campaign and something that has a tiny correlation can be called a "cause"  or a "link" by someone in a rented lab coat and you'll believe the fraud every time because it gives false hope and hope sells.

The peer reviewed journal Science published a study Thursday. Conducted by the University of California, Berkley. It examined genetic differences between Inuit, Europeans, and ethnic Chinese. and yes, pace hipster science, there are genetic differences, easily observed.  The Inuit and some Chinese have a mutation, perhaps cultivated over the millennia, that enable them to tolerate a diet that would make my cardiologist cry,  Some people lose weight on the Atkins diet.  I'm not one of them.  I don't have the genes for it and that's been confirmed by  testing my DNA.  

Should we by a sales pitch because "studies show" when there are no studies but a few anecdotes or biased conjectures?  Of course not, nor should we accept news reports that insist this or that is worse than before or is rising or falling in significant fashion and is not a brief anomaly soon to revert to the mean.  Is this scary incident really the result of this or that or is it a crafted scenario based on a fear, a phobia, a bias. Do we still believe cutting the upper tax bracket will end a recession?   You know the answer. Facts don't matter and studies always show what they're designed to show and we always believe what we want to believe.

For most of us, facts don't matter, And chances are we don't bother to think critically or verify, but chances are also great that proven wrong, belief persists, hardens and becomes militant.  Is that innocent child really a child or innocent?  Was he shot in the back?  No matter, grab the matchces because all cops are bad.  Did some kid's diagnosis illustrate a trend, was it caused by a vaccine or by his genes.  Is proof that there is no increase, the identification of the genetic component, the statistical analysis showing no increase enough to make anyone admit error or accept proof -- hell no.  

When Donald Trump insisted he had damning evidence about Barack Obama and was proved to be a lying asswipe, did that change any minds about Obama?  When some smoker lives to be 110, do we insist that smoking isn't safe?  No.  Studies always show what isn't true is true  and science nor truth really matter to the human ape.  

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Every Way You Look at This

Sitting on a sofa on a Sunday afternoon.
Going to the candidates' debate.
Laugh about it, shout about it
When you've got to choose
Every way you look at this you lose.

I'm fond of reading books on logic and rhetoric, but it's frustrating and annoying in the extreme to recognize the dishonest and deceptive methods of persuasion that make up nearly all American political discussion.  Some 15 years ago I began writing about such things on Usenet, and Compuserve and I've been blogging on the Web for the last ten.  I've lost any belief or hope in  the idea that clear speech and valid reasoning could compete with the self serving belief, the love of snarky zingers and the tribal chanting.  I really don't know why I do it any more and the ritual political exercises the public takes to be debate,  illustrate the futility of hope.

Candidates lie.  They distort, they embellish, they deny.  They make up statistics, quote dubious authority, they make simplistic generalizations, they manipulate a large deck of fallacy with as much dexterity as any Las Vegas illusionist.  It doesn't matter.  We're not looking for facts, we're looking for confirmation of prejudice, and what's overlooked in our candidate is seen as catastrophic, as egregious, as unforgivable in another.  There's simply no other reason for conducting a campaign or listening to it but to delude or protect our delusion. When I see the same tricks used by proponents I was once sympathetic toward and tricks quite as slippery as the other side uses, I have to question my motivations for continuing.

You simply can't trust the propaganda put out by either side of any serious issue.  Is the problem worse or better or unchanged?  Does the incident or scandal du jour represent anything other than an isolated case?  Is something we are urged to panic about, be angry about, to go out and riot about or even vote in response to only a thing chosen or invented by pressure groups as an example?   We can't trust the statistics or the people who quote them.  "Studies show" too often means there was no study and cited "linkages" have nothing to do with causation, because all that matters in political salesmanship is the Framing Effect.

Our politics are fundamentally dishonest because certain groups take advantage of the technology and the science of dishonesty to manipulate us in ways familiar to Aristotle but invisible to us.  We make no effort to verify despite the technology and instant access to information and we will simply deny facts and elevate fiction as suits our vanity, our pride, our delusion and our affiliation.  Truth doesn't matter, faith does and if we fear vaccinations it doesn't matter that claims and fears are proven utterly false.  We can always come up with a conspiracy, we can always deny, we can always throw dung at the truth and anyone who tells it.

Will this fundamental instability of human nature, our tendency toward hysteria and panic bring down our Republic, or is the question really about how soon?  Will we even notice  with all the howling of all the players?

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Mike Huckabee thinks Black People Can't be Citizens.

Is everyone too busy hunting for racists under the bed and accusing every dust bunny they find of racism to ignore someone who would make Satan blush and George Wallace take exception at a candidate telling us Black Americans are, by law, not human nor eligible for citizenship?  The Dred Scott decision, says  the excremental Mr. Huckabee,  a man with no knowledge of history, logic or law, is still  "the law of the land."   Is there no shame any more?

No it isn't the law and hasn't been since the constitution was amended to outlaw slavery and to make everyone born here a citizen.  A lot of people died to make that happen and a lot of people died to prevent that.  Any child knows this.  Any naturalized immigrant and probably most of the undocumented immigrants know that our government denies any origin in Biblical law or ecclesiastical authority and again many people died to make that happen.

Frankly there are no Republican candidates that are not delusional, that are not offering their delusions as a reason to vote for them,  nor do any seem to have any grasp of reality or history.  Whether it's the myth of  "Anchor Babies" or Mexican rapists or any of the other lies, distortions or frauds that constitute the Republican platform, not one of them is honest, trustworthy or smarter than a garden slug. Pretending otherwise, giving them support by pretending to be fair and respectful borders on treason, borders on collaborating with an enemy that seeks the destruction of our institutions and the rule of law.  Is this what they mean by "making America great again?

It's embarrassing, it's humiliating and it's terrifying to see this going on and to listen to people who don't react when hearing that Obama is like Hitler, That universal access to health care is Communism or like the Nazis - take your pick: people who think Jesus is or government, that the law applies differently to "believers."  The world laughs at us, and as screwed up as the world is, I don't blame them.  I mean, you can laugh or you can hide under the bed or you can try to find some remote corner of the planet to drink yourself to death in, but  the Zombie apocalypse is upon us: a brainless evil running wild in the streets, waving crosses and pounding on bibles and hunting witches like it's 1499.

Wednesday, September 09, 2015

The Voice from the Bunker

In the last election, GOP presidential candidates promised $2.50/gallon gas and an unemployment rate below 6% -- but only if Obama loses,"

says Rachel Maddow.  Yesterday's local newspaper had a cartoon of  Obama standing next to a garbage pile labelled DEBT and saying he'll give it the title of  Prosperity.

Is there any more solid proof that the GOP lives in a world of their own?  A hermetic world, where truth never penetrates, a crumbling tenement of the mind with no fire escapes and no exit.

"Care to guess what happened anyway?"

Deficit spending is way down from the last Republican administration, the corner gas station is selling the cheap stuff at $2.44, unemployment is at 5.1%. She's right, it's hard to guess what they're complaining about, but my guess is that they're talking to a crowd who's cognitive functions and base of knowledge is sclerotic with misdirected anger.  It's sad how big that crowd is. Things have been getting steadily better for 6 years and the 8 years of soaring debt and zero job growth, a credit crunch and market collapse only surpassed by the Great Depression - - all those things have been forgotten while the DJ continues to rap about smaller government and less spending and lower taxes.

Is it a bubble or is it a sealed lead sarcophagus where the corpse of  legitimacy, decency, truth and justice lies rotting in it's own stink?

Yes, I know, she's a lesbian, MSNBC has a scarlet LIBERAL painted on it and Obama is a DISASTER says the voice from the bunker.

Wednesday, September 02, 2015

Fear, Fear Everywhere and Never a Stop to Think

Waiting my turn at the barber shop, looking at the magazines: Field and Stream, Coastal Angler and things like that. Hot Rod, American Iron: all manly things that live in barber shops.   Like half the customers, I'm wearing shorts and a fishing shirt with my boat's name on it -- Sperry Topsiders that have been around the deck a few times.  It's that sort of a town, a small town very close to rural Florida which here is more cattle than citrus -- and fish, of course, whether it's west in Lake Okeechobee, in the middle in the St. Lucie River  or East in the Atlantic and the Intra-coastal waterway -- whether it's off the many bridges or from a boat, people fish and people hunt. People gig frogs in the wetlands.  Wild hog, it's what's for dinner.

Bob's Barber Shop is festooned with Western memorabilia and some very old guns.  You don't see Bob much any more.,  Like me he's mostly retired and I don't see the signs for his homemade Venison jerky on the wall, but time seems to move slowly at Bob's and I like it that way.  It's a country for old men.

I have a wait and so I pick up a copy of American Rifleman  with it's mailing cover still on it, proclaiming the dire need for the reader to buy an NRA raffle ticket to win a variety of guns and so to "protect our freedom in Obama's last desperate years."

Obama and his "rogue agenda to destroy our unique American freedoms."  It may be evocative of old times, but it's not. Those faces, those people I used to think I got along with so well in my love of the outdoors, the land and waters, fields and streams: there's something behind the mask that feels like a door I shouldn't open. Something new in degree if not in content.  " And that Hillary!" I read in another article.  Indeed it is.

Should I be grateful to be informed of this mad desperation, this frenzied and howling  lust to "take our ammo" Hillary represents?  Strange that I never noticed it because ammo is available everywhere, including WalMart and the gun store just across the street from Bob's. Have I been kept in the dark?
"Buy all you can, bury it in the back yard -- the Obamocalypse is upon us and if it's not, there's the Hillary Horror and blood in the streets."

Everyone who reads the NRA publications: American Rifleman, American Hunter, Amrica's First Freedom, Shooting Illustrated, Shooting Sports USA, American Family Insights, Armed Citizen, Standing Guard and others knows it's a desperate struggle, a fight every day to keep the government away from our freedom and yes, freedom means guns. Yes these are Obama's last desperate days and yes that sounds rather ominous, rather threatening coming from people who are promoting imminent and necessary rebellion. There is desperation of course and it's at the NRA and they do a stupendous job of promoting that fear of losing our Freedom (guns) even when there seems to be little, if any motivation on the part of  the Executive branch.  Mass confiscation, like the Second Coming is always imminent and contributions to the NRA always necessary and it sells well to the "south will rise again" crowd and the closet anarchists and paranoids and revolutionaries.  Obama,s gonna lock you up, he's gonna take your guns just like Clinton did and ohmagawd, here comes another Clinton!

Of course it's not just Bobs or at the fish camp bar out on the lake I'm fond of.  It's not just at those parties at the Harley dealer or the biker bars.  You hear it at the Yacht Club. You hear how "Obama has been just a disaster" from people who still have those "2012, the end of an error" stickers on their Bentlys.  If I dare to break the club rules and ask why that is, the answer is always a shrug or something that isn't true.

But things are changing rather quickly today, what with changing demographics and age and the spread of civil rights,  although one side will tell you it's too much and the other denies any change but for the worse.  Maybe we're in may respects at another George Wallace turning point.  No matter how firm he acted, no matter how much rabid support, Segregation was over.  The old ways are on the defensive.

"There’s a battle outside and it is ragin’
It’ll soon shake your windows and rattle your walls
For the times they are a-changin’"

Let's hope.

But will it be for the better?  Will we have to fight the civil war all over again?  I'm seeing Confederate flags everywhere now and people are taking idiotic pride in pretending to be rebels, renegades and sovereign citizens and their symbol is a rifle.  Nothing matters in the new Utopia  as much or more than guns, more guns, unlimited guns so we'll never have to worry about being rounded up by 'librals' and sold as slaves and the South shall rise again. So says Fox, so say the NRA.

Are the many people outside the paranoid, conspiracy theorist, anarchist, White Christian Nation circle helping it die?  Hell no, of course the anti-NRA fear-of-guns crowd doesn't help spread truth and objectivity by all the ill-informed and equally obsessive hyperbole.  Nobody seems to speak for the middle, for the people who are not afraid of Swiss Army knives and Gluten, Cell Phones and mysterious toxins and can't understand why a Montana rancher or resident of Alakanuk, Alaska needs guns.  If this is to be a turning point rather than a breaking point we're going to have to hear from and to listen to these people, normal people, rational and informed people.  They are out there aren't they?


Saturday, August 29, 2015

All Lives Matter

24 Law Enforcement officers killed so far this year and it doesn't look better at all for the rest of 2015 or for the rest of us. Innocent people who were not racist were shot down in cold blood because white people are irredeemably racists, or so the rhetoric has been flapping in the breeze like a rebel flag.

Maybe the ugly dream people like Dylann Roof have of starting a race war isn't as hopeless as you might think. Maybe it just takes enough wild-eyed activists and sensationalists in the media to to boil the kettle over. Maybe the people like Julius Jones insisting that only racists say "all lives matter" should think twice, because racism isn't a black or white problem, it's a human problem and has existed everywhere humans have existed. If white people are murdered because some nut job thinks "he's in the field" is a racist comment, shot by a  black man who thinks "swinging by" is a reference to lynching and if people of all kinds are murdered for wearing a uniform, then the narrow and narrow minded rhetoric about race and racism needs to be rethought.
"And if you wrong us, shall we not revenge?" 

Asks Shylock and perhaps that's just what the intention is.  No one who hopes to benefit by a race war, hot or cold or guerilla style is the friend of justice, liberty, equality or the brotherhood of man. To take the phrase from people who don't want to talk but to preach: we need to have a conversation and it's not about guns, "military style" or otherwise.  I don't care about the agenda of any activist group or about the terminology they'd like to force on all of us. I care about stopping the hate, the vendettas, the violence the hate speech and calls for violence.  There will be no conversation without shutting them up, drowning them out or ignoring them -- without dignifying vicious angry people, praising them, elevating them with damnation so faint I can't hear it at all.  There's no conversation if one side dictates what you can say and with which words. There's no conversation when one party can demand revenge.

No man is an island, nor any race or religion or characteristic. People who make up stories about ir being open season on black children don't get to hunt policemen or anyone else because of some equally insane premise about universal white racism.

We can make this about guns, but doing so isn't going to counter the urge to go out and get one this race war engenders -- and it's not about guns, it's about hate.  We need to have a conversation. We need to make it a real one.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Jawbone of an Ass

Sampson was supposed to have killed a thousand men with the jawbone of an ass.  I'm not sure that's enough to qualify one as a Republican candidate.  Candidate Jeb may have been trying to outdo Candidate Donald with reference to "Anchor Babies"  a pejorative slur intended to make you believe illegal immigrants could anchor themselves in the White Man's Land by taking advantage of the 14th amendment.  Sneak across the border, have a baby in an American hospital and not only will the overtaxed millions have to foot the bill, but you get to stay here because your baby anchors you.

Sorry, it doesn't work that way, not for those scary, disease infested, drug carrying rapists Trump talks about and not for the Chinese women who booked hotel rooms in California so their babies would be born here as Jeb insists he's talking about.  It's true that any children would automatically be eligible for citizenship, but hey can't petition for residency on their parent's behalf until they are 21 years old.  So while you may be giving him a nice coming of age present, you'll have to go home, all of you.

And when you do decide in 2036 or so to claim your citizenship, you may run afoul of the FATCA act which could make you liable for back taxes on anything you earned back in Guadalajara or Shanghai plus penalties for not filing and filing late and of course if  it says "born in the USA" on your passport, you can't open a bank account at home, even if you're a dual citizen. Personally I would keep it quiet and stay home.

But you didn't actually think you'd get the facts from a Republican, did you -- jawbone of an ass and all that?

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Amaya Guardado died for your sins

There have been times of late that I've gone as far as to write a farewell letter, but so far I'm still here, and so long as I'm being called a racist for insisting that all lives matter, I may remain.

All lives do matter and although Julius Jones sort of agreed on Larry Wilmore's Nightly Show the other day that in fact they might, it gets in the way of their campaign and he tells us never hears from anyone that all lives matter unless the source is a racist.

Kiss my racist ass and I guess you can add me to the racist list along with  Jesus, the Buddha, Mohandas Ghandi and Martin Luther King.  The secular credos of the Enlightenment and of our founding American documents must be racist as well.

"What president has ever done anything for Black People?" 

asks Jones.  Jesus weeps and sure as hell, so do I.

Call me racist and  I'm proud to be one because I think the life of a young Guatemalan boy matters -- or mattered that is -- because some other teenagers, whose lives mattered more because of their color, murdered him and then went off to have sex. Being shy and foreign, and guilty of being the wrong race, it seemed appropriate to cut him to ribbons with a machete, bash his face in and bury him alive in a shallow grave they made him dig in some remote place near Miami.

I just can't tell you how much the lives of these innocent, unarmed "children" matter to me. "Hands up - don't shoot!"  Will we see pictures of these honor students in mortarboards and gowns?  Will we hear "leaders" insist that now it's open season on Guatemalan children too?  Hell no, Al Sharpton is nowhere to be seen and Black Lives Matter.

Who will march in Miami for Amaya Guardado?  Who will carry signs in St Louis, New York, Baltimore?  Who will insist his life matters?  Who will confront politicians and candidates and demand they recite the formula or be called racists? Who will demand we suspend the rules of evidence, that we try people in the street?  Who will start fires and stop traffic?

Is it time to point out once again, that being against wrong doesn't make you right?  Shall I suggest the tendency of movements toward arrogance, self-importance and absolutism is independent of  the validity of the cause?

 Of course as cowardly Liberals we rush to confirm any claim to being against racism. We rarely stop to verify facts, to think about what we're doing when we undermine the justice system to get at people we just know are guilty.  We Liberals -- of course we're not racists and we'll prove it every time by following the noise in the street. "Black lives matter," is the chant and who the hell said anything about Hispanics, Native Americans, Chinese, Pakistani and of course we're not racists when we march.

Monday, August 17, 2015

God's House

"It's God's House, says the newspaper serving Florida's Treasure Coast with its varied population of retired billionaires and the working poor, with 15,000 square foot mansions, private water parks and private golf courses in spitting distance of trailer parks and people living in the woods in tents and boxes. As with everything here, location, location, location. God must have his reasons, but then God always does what he's told and the Folks at Christ Fellowship told him to build in Port Saint Lucie and they told him to build it big and to make sure it didn't play second fiddle to Orlando even if the land here is a whole lot cheaper.

It's God's house and like Wal Mart, the place where God shops, it has a greeter. He's dressed like Captain America and as it is in Disney World, so shall it be at Christ Fellowship with anatomically inaccurate featherless dinosaurs growling from cages as though to take a slap at the real world -- that place where God could hardly be expected to dwell and people can't be enthusiastic about, in our entertainment culture, to show up. Who the hell wants to hear about hell, much less have to put on shoes and a shirt and shed the camouflage hat?
“Most people in our culture today have very little church experience and, if they do, they’ve seen church to be something that doesn’t really connect to their everyday life,”
Says Pastor Todd Mullins and so starting soon, after the 8 million dollar renovations on God's house, the Former Digital Domain building in a recent development on reclaimed swamp land ironically called "Tradition" are complete -- starting soon it will be God's house. Watch out Disney! Watch out McDonalds, watch out Wal Mart. Here comes Captain America and here comes McJesus and it's a fake world after all!

Of course so much of what they've turned this natural wonder called Florida into is just plain phony. The Digital Domain building was built with taxpayer subsidies and tax breaks and on false projections. The company soon went broke and Port St. Lucie was left holding the bag, so they had to be happy to sell it at a loss even though it still won't pay any taxes. The taxpayers will have to be satisfied with plastic dinosaurs, Captain America and an amusement park having nothing whatever to do with Christianity, its history or anything else that's occurred on this planet in the last 4 1/2 billion years. Amen.

Watch out, because if God's job description no longer suits what people see as the real world, science and technology can supply the robots, the cartoon characters, the booming musical entertainment to create a new heaven and Earth on the former wetlands of the old ones, a world where the vision no longer clashes so ludicrously with reality, where those pet Velociraptors and dancing blond Sonsagods and jivin' Jehovas get their batteries recharged every night after Pastor Mullins goes home and that 4 billion year old moon shines bright on the ravaged landscape as it did before anything walked or crawled or grew on it and tired children sleep the peaceful sleep of the ignorant.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Julian Bond (January 14, 1940 – August 15, 2015)

I've been a fan of Julian Bond for a great many years. I remember applauding when it was suggested at the 1968 Democratic Convention that he run for President.  Neither of us was old enough.

There are and have been many practitioners of Civil Rights leadership but he was different in so many ways from the rest. I admired his unassailable dignity, his rhetorical ability and it never hurt that he could have been the twin brother of  my best friend.

I joined and started contributing to the NAACP when George W. went to war with him even though I have no African heritage other than what comes through American culture to all of us in music, art, letters and popular culture.

I will miss him and that leadership has passed to many lesser men is doubly sad.  Listening to what passes for moral direction these days: hearing that my life doesn't matter, the equal justice for all isn't the goal, that justice comes from the mob and evidence doesn't count -- that no one can be trusted as an ally, and worst of all that nothing has been accomplished and everyone is a racist at heart, I despair.

Julian Bond and I are of an age, of a generation that is passing, our advice ignored or ridiculed or even called ugly names.  I fear it's giving way to a generation of jihadists, opportunists and professional zealots and as it is with so many such, it's all about power. the dream we shared is gone.

Sunday, August 02, 2015

Why did Willie Waste his Time?

I've probably said it too many times: in our brave new world of  instant information, no sooner does something happen but that it didn't. It's almost as though there were some Newtonian law about information producing equal and opposite information and another linking lack of information producing baseless certainty in inverse proportion,  I'm not 100% sure about how the pyramids were built, so it must be Martians.

It's not new.  In the century since the Titanic went down, lives have been spent proving that it wasn't a collision with an iceberg, if indeed the great ship ever sank. It was a different ship, it was a coal bunker fire covered up by the White Star company, etc.

Of course anything to do with the demise of Osama bin Laden inspires beliefs related more to one's personal politics and propensities toward recreational paranoia than to evidence. Who shot him? At the order of whom?  Is he actually dead or still hiding?  Had he been dead for years and any other permutation you can dream up:  assumption based on hypothesis derived from irrelevant observations litter the landscape. Finding the wreck and its obvious iceberg damage may have quieted some of the speculative certainty about the Titanic, but the principle survives.  Lack of evidence or surfeit of evidence - if it happened, the fun of denying it, the thrill of denial is too strong to resist.

So when I read about the plane crash in England which killed three members of Osama bin Laden's family  on Friday I started my stopwatch.  It didn't take long for it not to have happened and for old William of Ockham to take another somersault in his grave.  The conclusion demanding the fewest inventions or which leans on the least speculation has the best chance of being true.  OJ Simpson with the blood on his socks or Colombian drug lords for whom there is no evidence taking vengeance for a drug deal for which there is no evidence?  Why did Willie waste his time?  The crash in which the plane overshot the runway and went into a car auction happened in full view of hundreds and in front of  cameras - or did it?

Although the crash in Hampshire was witnessed, recorded, bodies recovered and all facts beyond dispute, " It just doesn't add up" says someone who wasn't there and why?  because it was a safe airplane that shouldn't have crashed.  Too many safety functions and because the airport had too long a runway for the pilot to have overshot it.

 ‘Why, if [the pilot] thought his angle was completely wrong – which is what happened in this case – didn’t he power up the engines to simply go round and try again?’

Said a pilot who had landed there before. Certainly no pilot ever did such a thing, no pilot ever made a gross error.  It's much more fun to see it as a conspiracy.   No driver ever stepped on the wrong pedal, no driver ever failed to see what was in front of him -- no astronaut ever pulled the wrong lever.  No mountain of evidence is so massive that it can't be ignored by an appeal to ignorance.

So you ask, your Honor, why I deny running that light despite the eye witness and the photograph? Well why would I do that as a safe driver and in a car with good brakes?  "I've never done that before so why now and how do you know it wasn't the twin brother I can't produce. . . . ?  Besides I would have been justified because of the Colombian drug lord was chasing me!

Saturday, August 01, 2015

No Lion is an Island

Says David Macdonald, director of the Wildlife Conservation Research Unit at the University of Oxford, in an interview in Nature whose team has been tracking Cecil and hundreds of other lions since 2008. No lion is an island.

Trophy hunting of Lions in Zimbabwe didn't begin nor will it end with Doctor Palmer.  Hunting of lions is legal in Zimbabwe and elsewhere in Africa and lions are not considered endangered at this time although their numbers have declined along with that of their prey.  Yes, like all creatures great and small they are part of  an ever-changing ecosystem and Africa is steadily moving in the same direction as the rest of the world and allowing less and less room for wildlife.

Carefully avoiding any political statements, Macdonald opines that hunting of lions is sustainable if strictly regulated and actually might be the best way of attributing value to lions that could accrue to the benefit of those who live alongside them amd perhaps to promote toleration of  these creatures among the local population who see them as dangerous to life and property.  Wildlife parks bring in tourist dollars after all.

Macdonald goes so far as to suggest that the death of  this lion may have a beneficial effect if it promotes "enthusiasm for the value of nature."

"That’s the sort of enthusiasm that I hope will influence the way that policy is formulated as human enterprise strives to live alongside biodiversity. That would be a suitable memorial for the apparently illegal death of this particular, charismatic and unusually fascinating individual lion."

Unfortunately some of this "enthusiasm" results from misinformation, oversimplification and hyperbole in the sensationalist press and such enthusiasm tends to be short lived, producing less than helpful action if any at all.

The overall goal of conservation is the maintenance of sustainable populations rather than sentimental attachments to Bambi or even Cecil and that sometimes involves direct intervention.  Hunting is sometimes necessary if sometimes sad and upsetting to squeamish people like me.  Poaching is of course the enemy of regulation and population control and  it's a far, far larger problem than the occasional  rogue trying to relive the 18th century White Hunter experience can be.  It would be good if he can be made and example of, but will the public then forget while hordes of poachers continue to hunt with machine guns, flaunting a death penalty because of huge rewards for selling animal parts in Asia?

Madonald shares my hope that the current furor will bring some further attention to what's really going on; to the bigger and long term problems of conservation and to helping African nations to see the value of wildlife and its preservation despite the cost.  Much has been done with the help of wealthier European nations. Much more needs to be done.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

He Who Has Seen All Things

You must know that the gods have decreed that the lot of the living is to grieve. *

"23 schoolchildren -- now that's a tragedy." She says.

Yes it is, but the question is whether it's a singular tragedy, one to be distinguished from the endless daily tragedies of the endless days since life awoke, 9 American lives in South Carolina matter. Other lives elsewhere may not as much. The loss of a million may not count as much and regardless of their ancestry if it doesn't serve a purpose to point it out.  Time on our tiny scale is measured in grief and longing and remorse and loss irrecoverable: agony beyond memory, beyond endurance.

The very presence of life that knows of death is a cruel tragedy, since not only does it all end in death and extinction and oblivion, in grief and horror and anguish and misery and pain, but all the more tragic for brevity: so short, so fleeting like the separation and annihilation of virtual particles in an empty place, so short as to rob the word fleeting of any meaning and yes, even infinity, yes, even oblivion shall die, Long gone, never was and just now - to whom does it matter?  In the end, even infinity is a point without dimension where beginning and end are the same. And we talk of tragedy, of some cosmic purpose, some cosmic good some cosmic accounting. We see meaning and there is none. We see meaning to ourselves and to what we do and think - and there is none. We see meaning to hide the truth. Do we matter, do our lives matter, do they matter to the dead and in the long run, the short run, the infinitesimal run: to the cosmic viewer, we all are.

What props, what fragments of madness do we shore against the silence and infinite meaninglessness: unimaginably endless, indescribably violent, hostile, mindlessly indifferent -- and with what false dawn to we shelter our eyes from the endless abyss, provide ourselves with meaning in the bottomless foreverness of nothing?

What transitory and fungible  gods did we imagine to say "let there be no more tragedy" when life is tragedy; by its nature tragedy, by it's limitation tragedy. Nothing is promised or given that isn't taken away along with the rememberer and the memory?  Who of all the countless generations is remembered and which of us will be remembered in a trillion, trillion years in a cold and empty universe, still expanding into itself  in its emptiness. What life is not tragedy when every tragically ineluctable finality seems like a possibility in the beginning? What will mourn or remember, what ghost, what God when all hearts are dead and forgotten. There is no "I" in the land of the dead.  Oh lost and by the wind grieved and no ghost shall return home again -- nor ever will be there a time or place to grieve.

And we talk of justice as though it meant something other than vanity and egotism.  We waste our moment being angry at what someone else thinks his moment requires -- the thousands and tens of thousands, the billions dead today and tomorrow and already forgotten or disregarded, but these 9, these 23 and all the generations long turned to dust and rubbish?  It's a tragedy we will not endure without blaming this and that and whom and we mourn and we assume significance and seek healing as we approach the teeth and maw of the blind remorseless grinder. The luckiest are those with an instant to ask "what the hell was that?" before time is done, before time has jumped to forever and the universe then as though it never were. Lucky or unlucky, blessed or wronged: what is there in the hot gas and cold stone to care or remember?

Justice! We look for it, we treasure it, we squeeze the nectar out of it in our vanity. NINE people shot dead in a Church!  And a thousand in a Mosque and a thousand in the street and a thousand blown to bits sleeping in their beds. In principio et nunc et semper et in saecula saeculorum and even that world has but a short time to live and will soon be gone forever. Can we mourn our ancestors, a million years dead?

Where was justice in our brutal history and brutal pre-history and where was there a love not lost, not eaten by death, not mourned, not debauched. Where the heart unbroken?  Where is the injustice in Ebola or the Pox or the hipster parents who won't vaccinate?  Where is the tragedy in the Diabetes, the heart disease, the cancer? Where is the outrage?  Where is the demand that something be done?  is it that we fear on command, grieve on demand, rage on request -- and then go out and make a purchase, say a prayer, slaughter a lamb?  Our birthright is death and the thief and the murderer, the conqueror and the slave, the ugly and the adorable all come to the same end.  How then do we think of justice, do we demand justice, do we define justice?  I define it as vanity.

We pretend we're above it, that our lives mean something and something more than other lives. We pretend things are different here, that "normal" is outside of  the universal suffering and death of all things living.  Our lives matter and matter more than others' and that's justice. We kill children, but kill them elsewhere where it doesn't matter and there's always a purpose that has to do with justice and freedom and all the ugly words meaning vanity.  Who will say, sitting in the ashes when we are gone "ah but they were righteous, they sought justice and closure and healing!"  "They lived in perfect safety and equality and no one of them was ever allowed to be insulted."  And even the ashes will die and the dust spread out forever in the darkness until it's gone.


*The South Babylonian version of the second book of the epic Sa Nagba Imuru, "He who has seen all things,"  Commonly referred to as the Epic of Gilgamesh.

Friday, July 17, 2015

Dark Money Shines Bright

I do remember saying just the other day that the first pictures of Pluto would  immediately be followed by "proof" of  space aliens having been there.  We've only had one closeup so far and although there are tongue and cheek observations of the eponymous Walt Disney character we haven't had claims of flying saucers or pyramids or humanoid faces looking down on us from 3 billion miles away.  The Aliens Under The Bed boys haven't faded away of course. Unimaginably huge odds against interstellar travel notwithstanding, the passion for believing in cover ups persists at all levels as we see in the reaction of former senior White House advisor John Podesta, who now runs Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign to the President's comment about Pluto having its first visitor:

.@POTUS: how can you be sure this was Pluto's first visitor? 9:45 AM - 15 Jul 2015

Of course the word "sure" is the fulcrum of his argument.  One has to ask what it means to Podesta since the odds against interstellar travel must be added to the unlikelihood of anyone from the Great Beyond being interested in Pluto in the first place while being careful not to leave anything behind but rumors, but the question of ancient aliens leaving little clues but no evidence doesn't seem to arise in the willful believer.  I only bring it up as an example of the inevitable reaction of that predictable species the Human Ape.  Odds of a trillion times a trillion to one seem like a real possibility while certainties are uncertain. The argument from ignorance is a powerful one on this planet of the apes.

The first thing I saw upon turning on the TV this morning was a long, image laden scare commercial by "Citizens for a Nuclear Free Iran."  We aren't told just how many "citizens" corporate or otherwise are behind it, but we can assume there were a great many dollars. How many of those dollars used to belong to the Israeli Lobby, how many to GOP funded groups we don't know, but inevitable though it might be, it's still a bit shocking to see such direct appeals from anonymous sources to defame and misrepresent a presidential proposal.  It shouldn't be and after all the Republican campaign against the ACA and Planned Parenthood and Civil Rights have been unremitting. Googling Iran, nuclear, deal gives you a page full of diatribes against it, none of which address the fact that Iran has nuclear capabilities and has had all through the embargoes.  It's just another reminder of the corruption of  reason, the corruption of Democracy in the name of Democracy and the undercutting of the institutions of government of our Republic.

The stakes are perhaps higher here though. The safety of the world is at stake and the customary lying, fear mongering and appeals to the ignorant aren't as easily ignored.  Face it, the public isn't going to read the proposed agreement, the public will respond according to unexamined but passionate prejudices and a big one of those is the fondness for belligerent stances against satanic enemies. Witness the intransigent attitude toward our pathetic Cuba policies.  I am certain that this treaty will be voted upon not in terms of whether it's workable or beneficial but under the influence of the bullheaded, xenophobic blowhards and Theocrats.

You just can't trust the heathens to act in their own interests is the call.  You can't expect Congress to do that either, is my response.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Not All Donalds are Ducks

Some are just Schmucks.

The antics of Donald Trump make for good TV. That has been true for much longer than we've had to see him posing as a presidential candidate. It's hard for the tired and cynical public to get away from him but of course it's hard for the GOP to get away from him too.  It's amusing to watch the Machine try to put a gilt frame around him, because while stirring up the muck and the creatures that live in it is what they excel at, those creatures can none the less be quite offensive to some of the people the GOP would like to court:  Like Mexicans and voters who don't fear immigrants quite enough.

One of the memes that seem to bear the SKU of  Rove and Co. is that "the Left" is overly concerned and perhaps running scared of Donald.  It seems to be popping up on blogs all over the place as planted memes, buzzwords and Tea Party tropes do.  I find it puzzling since I don't know anyone who thinks Trump is a serious contender. I admit watching the coverage the Chump gets, produces a certain existential angst, a concern that such a character from a cheap, sophomoric farce could be happening in the real world,

The only thing I fear is that by distracting us from the real problems here on Planet Earth that need to be addressed, the entire campaign can continue to be a cheap, sophomoric farce concerned only with the fears of Xenophobes, Homophobes, Crusaders for God , Guns and extremists of all sorts. To be sure, I sense a sort of Newtonian opposite force as well, but it's harder to find a single Democratic clown who embodies all the neurotic and extremist views of the always embattled Left. Please pardon me Mr. Shakespeare for saying this again, but methinks the Republican Lady doth protest too much. Trump is only worrisome in as much as he distracts from the horrible recent history of the Republicans, their "leaders" and the damnation they dearly deserve.

The facts alone provide damnation enough for GOP economic policies,  They gave us massive unemployment and negative job growth for 8 years, exploding debt and deficit spending and of course their deceitful propaganda campaign, their gross lies and appeals to Chauvinism gave us the longest and most expensive war in American history and a war we quite dramatically lost and all with no attempt to pay for it.  They allowed the profiteers for the most part to avoid taxation while providing the madmen who rushed into the power vacuum sufficient cash, weapons and equipment to destabilize a sizable part of the world and continue the gruesome slaughter of innocents.

Donald Trump is there to prevent such thoughts from getting in the way of  the attempt to begin act two of Armageddon, but making him seem like a hero to those who hate Liberals isn't enough.  He needs to be his own opposite so that all bases can be covered and pay no heed to the contradiction. Republicans as it appears,  are totally blind to contradiction when it provides them with the rage-fix they crave; when it provides them the juice that makes them feel smart, superior and powerful -- when it feeds the Denialism and love of conspiracy theories.

Donald Trump, you see, is a  Democratic plant.   Perhaps it's true that he creates such loathing in non-Republicans that it would draw the notoriously non-voting single purpose Democrats to the polls, but once he fades away, and he most assuredly will, he will pass and be forgotten like the rest.  Someone like Jeb will be waiting, made more credible and trustworthy in comparison to the circus clown in the ratty wig -- someone ready to give us a more economically divided America, another economic collapse and another opportunity to revel in contempt for science, objectivity, and prosperity for those whose names don't end in INC.  Perhaps yet another opportunity to support our troops in yet another hopeless military enterprise?

Sunday, July 05, 2015

What's in the Sausage

We've just had a weekend of waving flags and telling ourselves what it stands for as though it were something you could say simply and be honest about it. Does it "stand" for freedom, or independence or Genocide and the slaughter of innocents. The stars and Stripes flew over slavery for more years than any of the various Confederate flags did but it's not politic to mention it nor to question the absurdity of honoring the flag that waged war on the lag you also honor to the point of religious fervor.

The word is not the thing itself, nor is a symbol a symbol without the cooperation of the viewer, but nonetheless, we do make a terrible fuss about them.  Justice Anton Scalia recently told us that words don't have a meaning any more, and although he was making a rather pathetic argument and although his intention was to disparage a rather reasonable argument by setting himself up as a dictionary and encyclopedia of terms, he's right.  Words have a history, words are self-reproducing entities and so evolve, but words are not absolute, particularly in the vernacular.  The same applies to symbols.  The Confederate Battle flag, used as a Naval 'Jack' after 1963 and on some battlefields a bit earlier isn't subject to copyright. It "means" what you want it to mean.  To some it's the symbol of  a valiant effort to form a new country, to others it's toilet paper.  Symbols also mean what someone says they mean and authority is such things is hard to come by. It's very hard to make an argument that a symbol should mean something I tell you it should mean or that it doesn't mean what you say it does. Sometimes, said Freud, a cigar is just a cigar and perhaps he would agree that a flag is just a flag,

Nearly everyone has an opinion of what the Confederate Battle Flag means.  To people who sell them, and who use it as a symbol of  "Southern Pride" tend to tell you it has nothing to do with slavery and everything to do with respect for the Confederate effort and it's all about "States Rights."  Am I a cynic for adding that the States Right most in question was the right to own slaves?  It's a matter of opinion. Some maintain a firm belief in some property of  "Southern" culture that is easy to feel but very hard to explain. What better way to pretend there's something to be proud of than waving a flag? What better way to hide the contents of a dubious burrito than to wrap it in a flag?   Who wants to see how their favorite sausage is made or what goes into it? Pride, Heritage, Liberty Are these fancy words for dog meat?  Do we think about Upton Sinclair and ask how many workers fell in the meat grinder to make it?

Perhaps the Union missed an opportunity to ban the symbols of the Rebellion in 1865. the way we forced Germany and Austria to do in 1945. They missed the opportunity to launch a long term and rigorous re-education effort that's so very impossible to do today  It would have had little to do with how it's seen by modern sympathizers to "the Cause" but it might have prevented the 150 year old custom of flying that flag publicly and plastering it all over license plates, truck bumpers and '69 Dodge Charger roofs to make it a symbol of something more noble.  Permission once granted is hard to revoke and people who have been wrong are too adept at redefining what happened, what they were really about and so show that they weren't really wrong and they didn't really lose.  Would we be better off shedding light on the true nature of the "noble cause" than arguing about semiotics and making declarations of faith? 

Somehow no one is questioning the sudden obsession with that flag or its sudden identification with a hate crime no more or less egregious than the thousands of  other hate crimes, but it wasn't spontaneous in my opinion.  The notion that all politics is local is hard to maintain when one sees the work of choreography by well coordinated political entities ready to pounce on an event, defining it, decrying it and using it to steer the public to act in a certain way.  Issues like police brutality, racist law and racist people have been issues for many more years than you or I have been around, but we address such things suddenly and with extreme emotion when only days before we would have shrugged and yawned and asked what else was new.   I have to ask why a flag suddenly become the cause of 9 murders in South Carolina?  Why did our way of dealing with murder become our way of dealing with symbols and when did a passionate movement suffer by repressing its semiotics? It's not that there is no correlation, no connection, but are we substituting a symbol for something much bigger, more pernicious and vastly harder to eliminate?  By making it about a flag are we avoiding more rigorous and objective thought? 

Will the hate culture, the Racist, politically and religiously extremist and anti-Federal Government, quasi-anarchist culture be adversely affected if the flag is taken down from any public property?  Experience suggests otherwise to me.  Some movements, like some vermin, proliferate better in the dark.  Perhaps it's time to make up some cardboard signs saying "It's about the hate, dummy."  Maybe it's time to stress that this symbol is the symbol of defeat, not of the hope for the South to "rise again."

Will repainting the roof of the General Lee make any racist think twice or impede the KKK's ability to recruit or will it help make them more romantic to paranoids?  Do the myriad atrocities and the deaths of millions of innocents stain the flag we paid respect to yesterday?  What I'm asking is whether the good is best served by playing Chess with symbols, by "raising awareness" and other possibly useless or counterproductive gestures.  What I'm suggesting is paying more attention to more subtle and more consistent efforts to re-educate, to fight false history, to promote respect.  Should we be focusing our efforts at reeducation on the young before they are captured by legends and reinterpretations and Chauvinism?  Should we insist on more objective teaching of history and ethics and critical thinking?

Ah, but that costs money and takes time and isn't as much of a social event as cutting down flags and having parties while ignorant armies recruit by night.

Selling the apocalypse

Dire warnings and prognostications are the currency of politics and have been since long before those prophets told us what God was going to do if we didn't start or stop doing something the prophet didn't like. The willing gullibility of  some of in believing it without question is astonishing. Prophets sell obedience. Politicians sell all kinds of things, most of them will cost you.

Much of it speaks of ignorance, of course.  Highly informed people may be more rigorous in asking questions and of course being highly informed, can pick up on the glaring contradictions in what we hear from propagandists, politicians and liars, if I may be allowed some redundancy here.  How many can listen to Chris Christie ranting about how weak the economy is under "Obama's weak, indecisive leadership" without noticing that all evidence contradicts it?  Quite a number, it seems, but for prophecy and politics (I know, I'm being redundant again) evidence is self created and seeing a weak economy, high unemployment, low job growth and increasing deficit spending are necessary to support the bogus premise:  Obama is a weak ( although tyrannical) president. We do what's necessary to keep the faith.

I got an e-mail this morning, masquerading as "a developing story" by The wherein Dr. Ron Paul reveals #1 Step to Prepare for America’s Next Big Crisis.  There's an image of a badly corroded pre-2008 penny and it's titled:

The new 2015 U.S. Penny – The warning signs are obvious if you know where to look.

The weakness of the dollar, we're told, makes the penny worth less than the cost of minting it, which suggests that seeing the record strength of the dollar, someone is lying here.

Could it be Stansberry Research, who publishes this advertisement posing as an objective blog?  It seems they're advising you to dump everything and buy gold  "with no risk"  just as the gold brokers were telling us right before it collapsed.

They quote Ron Paul extensively as predicting a great and imminent financial crisis, but I don't recall that at any time during the Obama administration there was a lack of  massive and apocalyptic predictions which of course have not only failed to materialize, but things have developed in quite the opposite way.  That "irresponsible" stimulus has made a large profit for the government, unemployment is at 5.3% and deficit spending has steadily declined while revenues have risen.  There has been no "double dip" recession as predicted daily - but you know that or you would have stopped reading this already. 

I find it odd, which is my way of saying that I don't find it odd that during the Bush years, we weren't prophesying disaster and were actively libelling anyone who advised caution.  I find it necessary to ask just when Paul made these predictions and whether the picture of the Bush era penny indicates that this is recycled hokum. Had he warned us in 2006 or 2007, he would have been right, but now?

Or I could just be like the tea soaked victims of such advertising, sell my entire holdings and give the cash to Stansberry to "invest" for me.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

The Fat Man's Protest

So did you hear Mike Huckabee's opinion on laws requiring one to have a birth certificate to confirm one's gender at birth before using public toilets?  Did you cringe, like I did?  With recent advances in upholding the civil rights of gay people, the "Christians" seem to be running scared and that usually means trotting out the hyperbole, the ridiculous analogies and the bogus scenarios.

"I’m pretty sure that I would have found my feminine side and said, ‘Coach, I think I’d rather shower with the girls today'"

Said the chubby man who would be President.  That's not a pretty picture and not a picture I enjoy holding in my mind, but the point is that the rabble rousing that involves scenarios of some guy dressed as a woman raping your daughter in the Lady's Room is fiction. If some dude wanted to dress up and explore the fabulous world of toilets, there would be no law likely to stop him, no DNA test or passport control at the door.  Indecent exposure laws, where they apply, are still in place.

Transgendered people have been using washrooms of choice  for decades and so far, I don't know of a problem, nor (and I've asked) do women normally walk around naked in public toilets.  Sorry, Mike, the athlete formerly known as Bruce Jenner isn't going to molest your wife or your darling daughter nor will anything be exposed outside of a toilet stall.  You'll never know. 

Frankly, remembering the alarming record of Republican politicians who rant about sex and gender and protecting the world from homosexuality being caught doing naughty things to boys in cloakrooms or sitting with "wide stances" in airport mens' rooms and sleazy motels, I'd rather not share a bathroom with Mike at all.  Methinks the fat man doth protest too much.

Monday, June 29, 2015

Yer Heathen Laws

Today he shall be lifted up and tomorrow he shall not be found, because he is returned into his dust, and his thought is come to nothing.

-1 Macabees 2:63 -

It's no surprise that the nattering nabobs of nullification and true haters of the secular Constitution  are resisting the Supreme Court's latest ruling forbidding the Confederacy to ban some marriages on Christian grounds. I'm talking about Texas, but the Lone Star State is hardly alone.  It's a "lawless ruling" says Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton and if clerks are fined for refusing to issue marriage licences, he will defend them in court.  Like many a snake of fable, he doesn't have a leg to stand on.

"God don't want me to obey yer heathen laws!"  I can't wait for that defense to show up in Federal Court, and just try to wrap your mind around that convoluted logic,  Not that it would be the first time we've heard it and who could be surprised if we don't start to hear that toothless old Rebel Yell again.
Mississippi, Attorney General Jim Hood says gay marriage won't be legal in the state until the US 5th Circuit Court of Appeals gives the go-ahead. A court of Appeals? And here we thought the Supreme Court had the final say.

Bobby Jindal tells his constituents:

"I think it is wrong for the federal government to force Christian individuals, businesses, pastors, churches to participate in wedding ceremonies that violate our sincerely held religious beliefs, We have to stand up and fight for religious liberty. That's where this fight is going,"

That "fight" is going precisely nowhere of course since the government isn't forcing any church or Pastor or Priest or anyone else to do anything, and a county clerk is free to resign if he doesn't like his job, just as any Muslim, Jew or Hindu can decide not to work for McDonalds if he won't serve pork or beef.   Anyway I suspect "Fightin' Bobby" would look real good in his Rebel grey uniform fightin' for the Ol' South. I think the irony could be measured on the Richter Scale.

Those of us of a certain vintage will remember when these God forsaken blowhards made the same arguments about interracial marriage and racial integration as well, and George Wallace based a presidential candidacy on undoing integration, " 'cause God don't want the races to mix."  Then as now, their miserable religious rage and sexual obsession  has come to nothing, leaving them to thrash around like a catfish on a sandbank . That pleases me no end and when they complain that it's a violation of  our "Freedom"  for the state not to be controlled by some state-sanctioned religious doctrine, I'm more than amused to watch these stinking turds of history slowly swirling down the porcelain bowl of justice.

Friday, June 26, 2015

Do the Hokey Pokey

"Words no longer have meaning" says Justice Scalia and he should know, being a major contributor to the vocabulary of Right Wing babble.

Chief Justice Roberts' reasoning in yesterday's decision on the Affordible Care Act was "Argle-bargle. The decision against the Defense of Marriage Act was "Jiggery-pokery."  That's the power of words to hide the embarrassing truth and in Scalia's case,  the truth is he's arguing the reverse of last years' Bargerly Argle.

"Three years ago, when the Affordable Care Act’s constitutionality was challenged, Scalia, Clarence Thomas, and Sam Alito read the law in such a way as to see all eligible consumers receiving subsidies, regardless of state or federal exchanges. In today’s dissent, these three had to read the law in the polar opposite way" writes Steve Benin

Contradictions like these say a lot. They say that the Court's most "conservative" spokesmen see the law in a rather situational way, That is to say it's right or wrong depending on who's doctrinal ox is being gored.  In this case maybe we can call it argumentum ad Obama, or "whatever he does is wrong."  If words have lost their meaning, which in a sense is true, perhaps it has much to do with the kind of rhetorical  wriggle-wragle or humpity-bumpidy defenders of  antiquated hoogely-boogely use to justify their dishonest HokeyPokey

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

The power of Myth

Combine it with the hipster love of supercilious snark and what's old is new again. The driving force behind it is ignorance, or at least one of the driving forces. The other one is the same force that makes us love conspiracies to the point where our brains blow a fuse.

 There are far too many new examples almost every day to be able to comment on them all but one that's been annoying me for some time is the one about Edison "stealing" the light bulb by infringing on someone's patent -- someone by the name of Henry (formerly Heinrich) Goebel, formerly a gardener and chocolate salesman.  Goebel made that claim some years after Edison patented the carbon filament, high resistance light bulb.  There had been attempts to make a practical device from the known phenomenon of electric current heating things up to the point of glowing, but those mostly used a low resistance, carbon rod instead of a filament, making them unusable and enormously inefficient.Many suits were filed as often happens after a breakthrough invention.  All eventually failed when none of them could be shown to work. 

What Goebel really did accomplish is to invent some improvements, as he claimed, to the manufacturing process. When Edison didn't want to buy them, Goebel then began to claim that he had produced a carbon filament bulb way back in the 1850's but was never able to come up with any examples or other evidence. Although some patent attorneys, seeing a windfall, visited Goebel, he was unable to present evidence for his claims.  All lawsuits were eventually settled in Edison's favor by the 1890's and no evidence was every produced showing any prior work in electricity at all much less in light bulbs prior to Edison's patent.


Tuesday, June 23, 2015

E pluribus unum

It's hard to believe that a small group of misfits titling themselves the Council of Conservative Citizens has a fraction of a percent of the influence and followers old Father Coughlin once had.  I think his eventual discomfiture had much to do with the rise of the Nazi threat when Germany declared war on us in 1941 and made Fascism and anti-Semitism temporarily unfashionable, long after their program of extermination had begun.  Nothing on that scale has happened here to make our masses of uneducated, unenlightened yet firmly convinced Americans turn completely against the preachers of hate and intolerance and smug self-righteousness. Indeed such groups and individuals do prosper. It would be hard to believe however that such hate groups as the Council of Conservative Citizens represents any significant number of Americans. I was not aware of Kyle Rogers or his hate group until yesterday following all the reportage about the Charleston shooting. I'm aware however -- very aware of others fond of blaming all of our ills, real and imagined on some scapegoat.

Is Dylann Roof a scapegoat, a "self-radicalized lone wolf" or is he a disciple?  If not why do his words seem so familiar? and if not, why do we ignore the instigators?

We're not the same country as we were 75 years ago.  Not by a long shot, even though the meme is being spread by certain folks that nothing has changed, that we need to have a one sided "discussion," that the Civil Rights movement was a failure and worst of all that "white people" are telling themselves that there is no more racism. What better way to oppose positive change, to alienate needed allies - to engage in hate speech-lite!  A pretty damn good way to increase the animosity and bellicosity as well of course, and of course it's just not true.  But remember, organizations of all sorts, good and bad have less interest in solving the problems they are all about than we do,  No sir or madam, I do not believe racism has ended, but I do believe that government sanction and support of racist policies is far less and that justice and opportunity has improved. Agreement is hardly universal.  Activists and the media need to earn a living after all.

Still, those of us who leave the process of getting involved and informed to the news media are hardly aware of the hate groups out there, from Jew Watch to the Klan to the Aryan Nation to the Westboro Baptist Church to the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. There are countless groups and media blowhards trying to make us afraid of and hate almost everyone, and they're not all composed of tattooed sociopaths with Swastikas and Confederate battle flags. Just listen to Donald Trump accuse Mexicans of being diseased criminals smuggling drugs,  Some are preachers and priests, others are members of respected political parties.  Organizations like the Southern Poverty Law Center have lists and descriptions of many of them.

The SCLC of course has it's vehement detractors and attractors as much hate as anyone, Most of its opposition are "conservative" Republicans, usually so quiet when tragedies like the Charleston Massacre occur and usually so able to inject their pet obsessions into any discussion and so end it: obsessions like claiming that people need to bring guns to church and that hate speech should have no limits in the name of freedom.

Look, we're never going to reform mankind.  We're never going to be a utopia and we're never going to make everyone happy, but one of the obstacles to making the American promise reality is ourselves; our hysteria, our insistence on protecting often misinformed opinion, on dehumanizing disagreement and upon not voting for less than perfect candidates.  We have to unite against hate speech and the people who do it. Shout them down not shout at each other. We need to recognize who our enemies aren't, we need to examine our most angry and passionate thoughts and we need to recognize that: be we Mexican, Jewish, African American, Apache, Lakota, Atheist, Muslim -- be we gay or Greek or German or anything else, we're all in it together as Americans. Most of us, nearly all of us are not bigots, not haters and not shooters of the innocent. Those people are in retreat and we need to admit it.  Most of us aren't even Republicans, yet we let them get away with murder while we throw fits in the street. United We Stand. Seems simple, almost banal but it's on such things the future depends.