Friday, April 17, 2015

Kings of the road

"Man is least himself when he talks in his own person. Give him a mask and he will tell you the truth"

-Oscar Wilde-

The world we all take to be true isn't the real world and you don't have to be a Taoist to know it.  The real world is what we see in advertising and it's hard to find anything we hear or see that isn't in part or wholly a marketing venture.  The things we least need but spend too much money on are the things we seek to define ourselves with because image is everything, what's under the hood means nothing.

That adventure movie where the action hero drives an Audi and nobody can catch him?  The whole movie is an advertisement produced, directed and  payed for by Audi AG.  Audi (German Engineering, innovation) and BMW (German Engineering, innovation) and Volkswagen (German Engineering, innovation) have their respective images mostly to do with quality and performance, in some ways deserved and in others profoundly not and at least since the late 1970's the first two have shed their economy car image and taken on the robes of holier than thou status symbols, to be parked with pride and hipster panache in front of South Beach clubs or where your neighbors can see it.  They're hardly the only ones to be emblems of arrogance, even now that the BigFuckingTruck era shows signs of fading, but the priesthood of aspirational sales at Audi (German Engineering, innovation) have big ears, as the name suggests. They're as aware as I am of how drivers of aspirational vehicles behave, harassing drivers and assuming their 150 or ohmygod 200 horsepower cars are so much faster than 750 hp racetrack dominating domestic offerings and need to demonstrate it to my amusement and annoyance. As with all problems in the world, the best and cheapest way to fix them is with advertising.  The car kills people?  Advertize the Star Safety System, but don't say what it is.

All those purchases we make, those we aspire to make. Aren't they like masks or costumes, props we use to buttress the walls we hide behind?  It isn't a car riding my bumper until it goes into the ditch at the first corner. It isn't a car trying to jump in front of me at the exit ramp only to slow down, who has to add 2 MPH toe any speed I am driving at no matter the danger.  It's you.

If you don't read German, I'll tell you that the clip above says the most dangerous drivers in Germany are in BMWs (German Engineering, innovation) and that amongst all the colors offered, the black ones are the worst. But you knew that, even if you didn't know that you can use a Nissan 4 door sedan as a snowboard and that notoriously boring Toyotas are as thrilling to drive as a roller coaster. Hide behind the black mask and the real you comes out. You won't push and shove in the check-out line or on the sidewalk, but when we can't see your face? King of the road.

Have you seen the ad Audi (German Engineering, innovation) is running where the Audi (German Engineering, innovation) driver, without the traditional blacked out windows, offers the right of way to others and steers around the puddle so as not to splash the peasants on the sidewalk?  Yeah right. Sure, of course. And coincidentally he's followed by the black BMW (German Engineering, innovation) who overwhelms them with a wall of water.

Sure, it's the BMW, or anything else for that matter, not the AUDI  when it comes to aggressive, selfish, arrogant and obnoxious behavior. Sure. But of course Subaru drivers know how a Subaru means love and Nissan sedan drivers know their cars can easily make it on the NASCAR circuit, just like the Honda drivers feel like incredible hulks with their OMAGAWD 200 horsepower.  That's how you sell cars to the aspiring, striving, suffering servants of  the machine. Not by telling them one single thing about the real world, where Ferraris don't win races, and those "race inspired" vehicles aren't inspired in any way and those safetycars built with love are only as safe as the damned fools who drive them.

Friday, April 10, 2015

Obama makes voting mandatory!

Or not.

I'm waiting in line for a hot dog. To me, it's the best of times.  I'm at an annual event put on by Amateur Radio enthusiasts with seminars and a flea market selling all sorts of things only understood and desired by techno-nerds like me. But it's the worst of times too of course, and you can't go anywhere where people congregate without seeing people with pamphlets and bumper stickers, whispering and nudging about the bad news:  "Obama is going to" do this or that or has already done it.  Some of it is distorted truth, much of it, nearly all of it is unadulterated bullshit.

So this raggedy looking guy wearing a filthy Yaesu hat is chatting up the woman handling the cash box.
 "Did you hear that Obama is going to make voting compulsory? The next step is universal military service and. . ."
"Bullshit" I said.  "He doesn't have the authority or any reason to do either of those and he isn't running for office or starting any wars."
" Executive order!" he replied. Yaesu boy seemed taken aback to have anyone fail to answer, "yeah, that Obama. . ."  Not in these parts, not in rural America.
I seem to remember Rush once telling us that the president had arranged to allow only black people to vote in some town or other, but hey. . .

Last week a flatbed truck passed me on the Interstate and yes, I was doing just under 90.  It had a large plywood sign across the tailgate declaring that THE BIGGEST DANGER TO OUR FREEDOM IS THE WHITE HOUSE. The word 'white' was printed in red. Get it?  Red, 'cause ya see he's a Communist, hahaha. . .

Somehow the building at 1600 Pennsylvania seemed less immediately dangerous than a filthy truck full of angry and deranged rednecks weaving through traffic at nearly a hundred.  The quick eye could see the rear window bearing vinyl letters saying " Muslims killed 4 Americans and he went over there and apologized to them"

Of course he didn't nor did he seriously declare a mission to make us vote or to draft us into the military but facts never matter, do they?

Wednesday's paper had a political cartoon showing something that looks like Daffy Duck declaring that Obama's desire to force us to vote stemmed from the truth that the only people who would vote for him were lazy, shiftless parasites. I know what it would have said had the editor not balked at the n word.  Was he elected twice by a majoity of voters who DID turn out?  Bullshit heaped on bullshit, smeared with racism and served on a steaming bun of self-contradiction. Think Obama would want these people to vote? Get it? 'Cause they're psychotic idiots!

Want some Freedom Fries with that?

All Lives Matter

There was a thing called the Niagara Movement.  Founded over a hundred years ago to make a case for a confrontational approach to the problems of segregation and against the idea of negotiation, accommodation patience and compromise that the movement's leaders associated with Booker T. Washington.

In a way, it's typically American and we can look at the way we sing "Bomb Bomb Iran" on one day and try to negotiate a rational outcome on the other and seem not to be successful either way except to argue about what can be said, and how and by whom.

There is another thing called the Niagara Principle, according to which a single episode implies widespread occurrence. Movements of all sorts use it, to cherry pick examples and make them the paradigm and usually without statistical support. Having become cynical in this age of warring movements, I'm tempted to distrust them all and see a nest full of baby birds, mouths open and competing for attention.

So it is with war, revolution, genocide and the proliferation of nuclear weapons in a world shuffling toward armageddon, the question of which puppets and patsies and spokesmen for which warring movements will be selected to be our next president?  -- we're not going to hear about it for another period of time.  A black man was shot in the back by a South Carolina cop and the national passion play will begin anew. Entropy increases and in America, so does partisanship. When those things increase, so does the power and influence of those who profit by it.

We'll be told the call and response  is a "conversation" but anyone attempting to make it one may well be called a racist and have to tearfully retract such an eminently Humanist statement as "all lives matter" because it does not fit the mandated terminology of some movement dedicated to promote one problem and one view of it over another. Stick to the slogan. That's all, and it's not a subset of a greater, nobler and more enlightened principle.

I'll be blunt. We have a problem with over-armed, under-trained and fearful police. It's compounded by the fact that the police have to deal with a high percentage of poor and minority criminals and that leads to prejudice. We have a problem with indigent populations having inadequate opportunity for advancement or even the will to hope for it.   But it isn't enough to recognize this or to attempt to improve it, we have to use prescribed language, we have to ignore, forgive or explain away crime insurrection, rioting and violence and we have to stress that any picture must have a prescribed frame.  We can't call it prejudice, it has to be racism and we can't call it that unless we dictate who the target is. Shut up  -- we're having a conversation here.

We have a problem with every moral and legal and political principle and the language we use to describe it being hijacked by self-appointed authority. We have a problem with honesty and zeal and distortion and hyperbole and tunnel vision and  partisanship and  most of all, we have a problem separating the cause from the leaders and the institutions. Stating the case isn't making the case and the case we state isn't always more than a small part of a great Niagara washing us all to hell and oblivion and chaos.

If all lives don't matter, then life doesn't matter, yours or mine.

Wednesday, April 01, 2015

To the Flag

Adam Crapser is an American but like John McCain or Ted Cruze, he wasn't born within our borders. But he's had a rough life, unlike those men who consider themselves legal and potential Presidents.  An abandoned child, he was adopted from Korea by American parents who apparently were abusive and neglectful and failed to fill out the citizenship papers.

I pledge allegiance to the flag. . .

The reason I can't force myself to regurgitate that fulsome and illegal oath of allegiance I'm prompted to do at every turn these days isn't just the "God" bit but the Liberty and Justice for All. Today may be April Fools day, but we're a nation of fools all year. 

The damn government wants to send him back after 36 years of living here, marrying and trying to support a family -- to deport him  to a country he doesn't know or belong to or speak the language thereof because he's "illegal."  Because he's "illegal" he's found it very hard to find employment in the land of Freedom and Justice and when they send him back to an alien country, his wife and children will find out the hard way, what a sham American Liberty is.

Small minded, bigoted, petty, afraid -- perhaps. All too willing to hide behind walls and punish people who say a word in some language other than English or Starbucks. The free and brave have no compunctions about tossing anyone on the trash heap because of some paperwork he was too young to fill out.

And it's likely to stay this way because of the mean-spirited bastards who call themselves a political party, call themselves "Christian" and demand protection for morality and decency and humanity because of their "faith" and "family values."  By mean-spirited bastards I mean, for the most part, the Republican Party, but their opposition has to share some blame for the bickering, parochial, short-sighted behavior. We're against this or that, but only after you agree it's only our subset, our group who is the victim of this or that, that our particular problem is the one and only and most important, or that our most dire and pressing issue is this or that or the other thing to the exclusion of all else and we won't support candidates who don't agree, who aren't obsessed with our obsessions.

When someone comes here involuntarily as an infant, is educated here, speaks English as a first or only language and is part of our culture, what does it cost us to treat him better than a dog - to allow him to work, pay taxes, start a business, educate his kids and contribute to our society?  What do we gain by sending an American to Mexico or Korea to perish there?  Nothing at all is the answer and God might as well damn any country that acts this way, for we've damned ourselves.

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Wacko Birds

Ted Cruz is now, by his own admission, a candidate for President. Can we safely say that the right wing of the right-wing party is still Conservative except in it's vague longing for something vaguely related to a mythologized and phantasmagoric past?

As he said in his announcement at Liberty University, which students were compelled to attend or be fined, he wants to restore the constitution that Obama, not the color of man we traditionally select, has "stolen" and restore that "shining city on the hill" our former President-in-dotage liked to dream of.  Whether or not you consider him to be a conservative, or a "Wacko Bird" as John McCain called him, the guiding light behind the delusional wing of the GOP is that old Will O' the Wisp, or Ignus Fatuus common to such diverse cultures as Sumerian Mythology, Judaic Mythology, and the Tea Party: the lost paradise we can only regain by abolishing liberty and the pursuit of happiness in favor of  authority and returning to the past. Freedom is Slavery?  We don't ask, our faith (meaning greed) is all we need. Of course, to the wackobird, the notion that we can abolish the IRS and yet receive tax payments voluntarily and honestly through the altruistic and enlightened grace of the public is never questioned. Faith.  They're people of Faith.

Of course the shining city was founded on a purloined hill rooted in genocide, slavery, corruption, conquest, despoilation and oppression, but none of the traditional Wackobird constituency will tolerate any measure of truth when looking at the past or the present. Evidence and anyone who points at it is the enemy.  The insurgent Bloggers are already shouting "NO - YOU'RE the wacko, McCain!"  Nolo Contendere.

Of course If you're reading this you're probably all too aware of his pandering to the werewolves, zombies, ogres and other things that bump around the crepuscular forests of the night. I see it as pandering because Cruz after all, went to schools I couldn't get into with a battering ram and presumably graduated.  So I have to suspect that he wears his prophet's robes like sheep's clothing ( or Halloween lunatic costume if you prefer.)  But what strikes, and scares and disgusts me for that matter is the crazy credo that  "Little Black Barack" is tyrannically ignoring the constitution, assuming illegal powers, spending and taxing and all that nonsense that so adequately describes his predecessor.  We've had a 6 year bull market, deficit spending has been strongly reduced, energy independence is at record highs and unemployment is at near Clinton levels.  There couldn't be a more striking reversal of Bush's disastrous results.

Religious leaders have never had a problem with telling us that things are worse and worse and only a "return" to the past can save us and neither do Cruze or Rand Paul or other birds of that flightless feather throughout the red end of the political spectrum.  They get away with it because so many Americans are simply oblivious and unwilling to be otherwise. They go on howling about Obama not being eligible for the presidency, but not about how Cruze was born in Canada with only one American parent. Making foreign policy and negotiating with foreign countries is only "tyranny" when Obama does it and only a short time ago the loudly stated position was that "if the president does it, it's ipso facto constitutional and if some of us complained, we "hated America" and were collaborating with the enemy. 

Double standard?  Not so much as a totally ad hoc and shifting standard that can contradict itself without contradiction.  Is this the stuff of  all the tyrants of the past, real and fictional? Of course! A style that enlists the disgruntled, delusional, angry and yes the wacko into the battle against their liberty and prosperity and health.  I don't think you can reach them and our future as a free and influential country depends entirely on our ability to get off our asses, stop squabbling, having national "conversations" and staying away from the polls. 

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Christian Nation in Indiana

It's another token of our "changing" language. I put the word in quotes because it's so strange to see things like the weaponizing of words described in such benign terms, but "religious freedom" simply hasn't meant the right to perform rituals, say prayers or build places of religious exercise without restraint except to a few for a long while. 

In Indiana, or to the Indiana chapter of the Christian Caliphate in America it means the right to do any damned thing you want as long as "Christians" like the Robertsons: Phil and Pat or Reverend Phelps or a majority of the Indiana General Assembly approve. No one really, no one at all is in any doubt that, as it has in other religions, the militant wing of American Christianity is rising in power and rising in the lust for control and domination and the ability to punish people of other beliefs or thoughts or perspectives. No one fails to see how such assaults on liberty tend to thrive in places of ignorance and religious passion (you may find some correlation if you like:) places like Indiana.

No one has any doubt that if the shoe were on the other foot, and there were significant numbers of people who would refuse to service cars with those chrome fish, or religious bumper stickers or serve them at drive-through restaurants,  the Christian Nation  folks would hesitate to stand up for that kind of religious freedom and certainly they would be raising hell if "Muslims only" signs were to appear in Indiana.  No Yarmulkes inside, no cross, no service, no Irish need apply, only church goers in this neighborhood. We do not serve people with tattoos. We've been there before. We've had those tradinal values before.  Perhaps those who keep telling me we've made little progress aren't entirely wrong.  Certainly the spirit of hate and exclusivity thrives, along with talk of beheadings and rape and castration, damnation and brimstone by bearded zealots, to the cheering of the mob.

So yes, freedom of religion now means something close to its opposite and to be evil, nasty and mean --  contemptuous of  truth and justice is to have Christian values, to have "faith."   None of the claims made about life liberty, the pursuit of happiness, about freedom and justice for all are in any way compatible with the goals of the Christian Nation in America people any more than they are with the Islamic State people and yet the damnation is so faint and public discourse so filled with pop culture, celebrity surgery, the latest product from Apple, transportation calamities and the angelic innocence of Michael Brown.  Not only the language has been prostituted, but so have our thoughts and concerns, at least that's the goal. Denialism, lack of definable terms, amorphous logic, conspiracy theories and fear are the means, tyranny is the end.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

It's a conspiracy!

I dreamed I saw Joe Hill last night,
Alive as you or me
Says I, "But Joe, you're ten years dead,"
"I never died," says he.
"I never died," says he.

No sooner does something happen in this world, but that it didn't and in a strange quantum physical way, nothing itself is reason to believe something. The bomb wasn't a bomb, the flight never flew, Saudi terrorists didn't hijack those airplanes and neither Jesus nor Mohammad's nephew nor Elvis nor Joe Hill actually died.  There are many reasons for it, but Humans being creatures for whom faith is always tempting, need something to anchor it, a substrate to mount it upon like a plaque on the wall. Every article of faith, every statement of belief requires a denial.

The anguish of grief, the horror of circumstances, the shock of sudden change; these things cause us to deny, at least for a time that the beloved leader and voice of God has been murdered and his mission has come to nothing. We see them in our dreams, even when we're awake. But as with any human weakness, the inability to accept invites explanations of why reality isn't real for the purposes of exploitation. We want your support so Joe hill lives on in spirit.  Jesus came to Jerusalem to restore the divine dynasty and throw  out Rome, he was about mystical forgiveness of sin. The Hidden Imam is just around the corner and will come back to bring justice, or was that Jesus or was that Tammuz?  Denial is power, but power over us by someone else.

Why are conspiracy theories cropping up like mold stains after a flood -- even with a level of evidence never before possible?  Perhaps simply because of the entertainment factor now that everyone knows everything instantly. It's fun to be the one who knows differently, even though that same thought has caught on with billions of others. Perhaps that's not all.  It's easy to postulate that our refusal to see what we saw and heard and experienced as reality is more than some artifact of our human nature and the result of someone elses will to power. Has there been a cult leader, religious or secular who has not suggested that outside influences and conspiracies are trying to delude them?  Jim Jones, David Koresh, Kim Jong-Un?  But other popular, less dangerous theories, tales of cover-ups from the petty to the gigantic are harder to explain.

That the real cause of Weimar Germany's woes may have been the very patriotism and nationalism and sense of duty that so much pride was taken it rather than some nefarious international conspiracy is an easy explanation for the deadly scapegoating that ensued, but it's hard to see why the US had no sooner landed on the moon but that it never did or why the US got all this interstellar technology from the strangely humanoid aliens but never found a use for it: why the Incas and the Egyptians got help from flying saucers who never left a single artifact behind. yet we believe and passionately.

Is there some vast evolutionary cultural movement toward a neo-Platonic metaphysics wherein reality is unknowable? Is the only reality what we read on the web, on the TV, on the blogs and Twitter?  The incessant roar of advertising hype and misrepresentation? Is there some Über-conspiracy universe in which smaller conspiracies bud off without end?  If so can we write it off to that pesky human love of  being esoteric, hip and just a bit holier than thou or is it a conspiracy by those who benefit greatly from making everything plausibly deniable in their lust for wealth and influence?

George Bush and the Neocons didn't destroy any chance for peace in the middle east. Republican economics didn't cause a worldwide recession, The innocent are to blame, the guilty are not.  And We the Believers?  Step this way.  Work will make us free. Who stands to gain the most from our refusal to consider that what is might actually be what is?  Yes, that's rhetorical. World commerce and politics depend on being able to make us unable to tell real from imaginary, freedom from slavery, war from peace, proof from fallacy, science from fable.

  • Obama didn't reduce deficit spending, didn't kill Osama bin Laden, wasn't actually elected and   wasn't even eligible. 
  •  Americans blew up the WTC -- the kind of Americans we don't like and don't want you to like.  
  • Obama went over there and apologized to them.
  • The Jews screwed Germany with the Treaty of Versailles, not the Germans. 
  • The Americans forced Japan to kill tens of millions of civilians, they're not to blame.  
  • Capitalist Roaders were behind the monstrous failures of Mao's revolution and how better to sell it than to attack the notion of truth and the ability to determine it.

The climate isn't heating up, crime isn't on the increase, vaccinations don't work, cell phones are killing the bees. There's a conspiracy to poison Wheat. A 4 door Nissan sedan is really a race car.

We can't know the truth so anything I propose is as true as anything the evidence shows or doesn't show. Cast doubt on reality and the lie becomes credible.  It's the old argument from ignorance and as the man said: Ignorance is Strength.

Nothing is true and all things are possible, said Hassan, or so they say.  It's the kind of metaphysics in which facts become fungible; wherein is and isn't  and might be are the same thing and the transgressors of the world can wash their hands of any kind of causation or blame and smile -- after all, they ask us:  what is truth?  Listen and Big Brother will tell you.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Big Brother and Targets of Public Outrage

Idiotic and often disgusting stunts by college students and at college fraternities and sororities seem as regular and inevitable as stupid statements by politicians and questionable actions by police officers and if we were so inclined, we might spend our days ranting and raging about it.  Sometimes we do that, but what we choose to obsess about seems chosen for us rather than a spontaneous reaction to circumstances. The American public is an orchestra, a chorus, a marching band and those things have their conductors, their choir leaders and drum majors to produce and direct passion on demand, outrage on cue.

So the University of Houston suspends Sigma Chi for hazing practices so dangerous as to be criminal whether or not the pledges voluntarily submit. The District Attorney may press criminal charges.  You didn't hear about it through the week long din of  gnashing and wailing and rending of clothes over rude comments made on a bus at another university. Boys will be boys and at least they're not racists. We're only accepting racism outrage this month and next month will be reserved for Hillary's e-mail.

So two cops walk into a house in Dallas.  There's a man standing there with a screwdriver.  His mother tells the cops he's mentally ill and wants help getting him to the hospital. "we don't have time for this" says one of them.  They shoot him repeatedly until he's dead.  That's right, CNN is not covering this round the clock, there are no nationwide demonstrations reminding us that bipolar lives matter. Call me a racist, and some have, but the struggle for justice and equality for all isn't well served by ignoring anyone's liberty and civil rights. Human life matters.

So a guy gets a phone call from a neighbor.  His house is surrounded by 40 police cars, SWAT team with rifles and battering rams. There's a remote control bomb disposal robot, there are armored assault vehicles.  Returning home, the parents of the teenager inside are told not to enter "the kill zone."  Later they're told the kid "is deceased."  They could only get details from the TV news the following day.  It was claimed the kid had a long police record.  He didn't.  A neighbor saw the plainclothes officers approaching the young man and thought they were robbers. It's likely the victim did too.  They jumped the fence, tackled him and when he defended himself, they killed him.  Happens in Phoenix all the time: the mentally ill, the poor, the Hispanic, the innocent, the harmless. We tend not to demonstrate round the clock, not to burn cars, rob liquor stores, loot businesses. We tend not to notice. The conductor's baton is pointing elsewhere. This is what it means, all that it means and nothing else is pertinent, anything else is out of line and racist.

 Last year the police story about the homeless New Mexico man who pulled a small knife when ordered to move along and had to be killed, was contradicted by video that shows he was complying, not resisting. His life mattered and his "white privilege" availed him not. 

The U.S. Justice Department issued a report last year documenting that the Albuquerque Police Department  has for years engaged in a pattern of excessive force that violates the U.S. Constitution and federal law. The mentally ill, ethnic minorities, the homeless, the poor, the helpless: 

     officers too frequently use deadly force against people who pose a minimal threat, said the report.

     Albuquerque officers use “less lethal” force, including Tasers, on people who are non-threatening   or unable to comply with orders. 

     Encounters between APD officers and persons with mental illness and in crisis too frequently result in a use of force or a higher level of force than necessary. 

Police brutality, excessive force -- it seems to correlate more with helplessness than with anything else, but that observation departs from the official line, deflects anger from the target we're given. It flirts with racist thoughts. It admits shades and colors into our prescribed, black and white arguments.  In fact we have a problem with the way the police sometimes treat people in general. and for those without such effective advocates and agitators, their plight is worse. Black, Brown, Indigenous and indigent people all suffer from  official brutality as well as from official lack of concern and it's time to step out of line and take a stand against the incompetence, the bias, the anger and increasing militarism of our police. But for the love of justice, let's stop forcing our force-fed examples to monopolize the news while ignoring the real problem.  All lives matter!

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Ye Olde Artisinal Computer Repair Shoppe

Looking through the kitchen cabinets yesterday for that bag of cookies I knew had to be there somewhere, I spied a box of bread mix, the kind one uses with an automatic bread machine.  It's made by Pillsbury, a former rival to General Mills until they were bought out and then spun off. Pillsbury baking products are now sold under license to Smuckers. I point this out to make it clear that we are not talking about some 19th century, brick-oven and portly bakers in white apron bakery, but giant factories processing raw ingredients in giant stainless steel, computer controlled and antiseptic machinery.

I think that 20 years ago or more, the readers' eyes would have tripped over the word "artisinal" and to old times like me, an artisan still seems to be the description of a craftsman of a superior sort, the kind of carpenter, for instance who makes elegant furniture rather than the one who frames out houses or installs windows.  At the behest of our friends in marketing, the world now only exists as ornamentation, to provide something manufactured by soulless machines in vast and shiny metal machines run by computer without human interference or oversight.

Marketing of marketing, all is marketing. We speak no word and have no thought without it being the product of some marketing effort and so a box of bread mix, produced and packaged by machines to be used by another machine becomes artisinal.  Hence we have Pillsbury Artisan Bread Mix sold, one imagines, with a straight face.  The handy home artisan does, after all, have to open the box, add water and push the button on the bread machine. Place the machine on some bricks for added authenticity.

Words today are here mostly to cover, adorn, spruce up and make things from the banal to the shoddy seem appetizing. We so long for the sense of authenticity and reality our world has stripped us of. We hate to think that it's true that we're only here to consume and die and make money for someone else in the process and so we snap at the pathetic and tawdry simulations of the way we wish it still was. I've noticed that in any town of recent vintage here in coastal Florida, the use of  subdivision names containing words like cove, sound, harbor or bay seem to increase with the distance from the coast. There's nothing to spruce up the image of any strip mall like calling them "shoppes" so we can pretend we're in 1740 London down here in the tropics.  Nothing to improve the obviously raw newness of a development built on newly drained alligator swamp like naming it something "upscale:"  Kensington or worse Billingsgate or Dartmoor -- names that would only appear posh to a striving arriviste from the Heartland.

Hell, providing simulated authenticity is an artisinal industry in itself, from amusement parks to trailer parks full of "estate homes."  Soulless economy cars and ponderous trucks are sold as racers, pudgy middle-aged men sport backwards hats and wear sneakers with suits to their cubicle jobs and patronize fake European cafes where they pretend to be speaking some foreign language ( and paying a hefty price for the privilege. )  Are we immune to the pathos of modern pretense?  Apparently, and Ye Olde Renaissance Faire awaits you and the less you know about the real artisinal past, the better.

Monday, March 09, 2015

Smile, you're on Candid Camera

(and nobody's laughing)

"Frat Boy" isn't a term used in praise or admiration or affection very often and if you went to college where fraternities flourished, you'll know why.  Perhaps you have embarrassing memories. Fortunately for us old folks, none of it is likely to have been recorded for posterity in the days when nobody had a video camera in their pocket.  Boys will be boys you know, and by "boy" I mean drunken irresponsible idiot.

I have no way of knowing whether the SAE brothers at the University of Oklahoma will look back 40 years hence with embarrassment or anger at the day when their fraternity was shut down following the surfacing of a video showing some of them on a bus chanting: “There will never be a n***** in SAE.”  Perhaps that's a self fulfilling prophecy as the University immediately closed the fraternity despite the formal apology by the fraternity.

I never pledged a fraternity although I investigated a number of them, preferring the increased freedom, or license if you prefer, in finding my own housing off campus.  I do clearly remember visiting one frat and hearing the song "There'll never be a Jew in Sigma Nu" which, as you might expect, disappointed me a bit, even though I still suspect the implied anti-semitism wasn't all that deep.  But there were no consequences back then, in the tumultuous early 60's.  There were only short term consequences when some black students ran into similar and worse attitudes in other places, but the repercussions were short lived and involved deep snow drifts and frat boys in their underwear, but I won't elaborate.  The school took no actions I'm aware of.  Of course there were plenty of  fraternities free of such retrograde nonsense and with diverse memberships as I'm sure there are at Oklahoma.

But things are not the same, despite the bizarre assertions by some that Selma changed nothing with regard to racism, our tolerance for it and the consequences of  racially motivated actions. Of course today, conversations about race and many other issues across the political spectrum are dominated by institutions, which seem to demand that we use only certain terminology, accept certain axioms and discuss things only within a certain framework before beginning.  I'm sure someone reading this will already be writing something about how I'm just an old white man and don't understand my privileges -- or copying it from some pamphlet or tract. I'm too old to care, but old enough to remember well when the consequences of  racist epithets and actions were few to none and denigrating jokes were many and frat houses mostly Caucasian.  

Face it, it's better now.  It's a lot better and if progress threatens those who prosper by protesting the lack thereof, perhaps it's time to shut down other fraternities on and off campus.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

So what does it mean

Not to "love" America?  The question is unanswerable without asking what is meant by love, because in the era of accepted error, of laissez faire definitions, it can mean anything. So why ask? Certainly the intended audience of the assertion that Mr. Obama does not "love" the country that elected him aren't asking because their reasoning is circular, or perhaps because their ability to question things has been eroded by the linguistic dumbing down of our speech. In the mouth of Rudy Guiliani, I'm deducing that love means something rather nebulous and involves jingoistic nationalism, selective memory, denialism, a dash of megalomania and a psychopathic lack of conscience.

During the Vietnam years, the trope: 'loving America,' became a euphemism for blindly supporting the war, its conduct, it's stated goals, it's dishonest reasons against any and all criticism. It included defamation of all those who did not blindly follow. It included death threats, sometimes implemented against those who had doubts.  According to a large number, you either "loved" America or you were advised to leave the country. Some of us did.

Many of us who were raised in the post war atmosphere of America as the savior of freedom and the leaders of the "free world" began to smell something as the flag marched by and the bombs fell and a generation was decimated and thought of Orwell.  Love is hate, war is peace and freedom is slavery.  Indeed, when people fling loaded words around like irritated apes fling dung, that famous quote from 1984 seems less cynical than it once did and more of a sad acceptance of hopelessness. Language has to change as the needs and wants of the oppressors and exploiters require it.  Freedom fries, pre-owned cars, processed foods, assault weapons: define and conquer.

Indeed anything can mean anything and so language no longer guides our thoughts or acts as a structure or armature upon which to build and with which to communicate the truth. Perhaps it never has been otherwise.  Arbeit macht frei, after all and it's our manifest destiny to take whatever we can get away with taking.

"Obama doesn't love America" is a statement without reference to evidence, dependent on idiosyncratic and plastic definitions and without any hint of supporting evidence.  It's so much like statements insisting he's a Muslim, or that he's just like a king or that he hates white people.  Such things depend on what the meaning of is is and nobody is asking.  Is is as likely to mean isn't as bad is to mean good.

Of course Rudy and many of his compatriots simply have so little in the way of valid criticism that they must keep their maledictions on the level of the subliminal. The half-unconscious associations that words are surrounded by become definitions. Just ask your kids' English teacher. Ask the people who tell you pornography is rape, who call a trailer an "estate Home" who call that package of bread mix artisinal.

Murdering two million civilians becomes a noble cause and we do it out of love. We love America, the greatest country that ever was, is or will be! We kill, exploit, deport and impoverish under the rubric of love and freedom.   Freedom?  Well it's what we support in any military activity. Hence  anything done to make our country safer, healthier more decent or anything else we associate with a loving attitude is by accepted definition: Not Loving America. No real explanations are needed, because love means anything the abuser intends it to mean. Language just has to change and if you question that?  Why, like that colored fella in the White House, you just don't love America!

Friday, February 20, 2015

So what does it mean

Not to "love" America?  The question is unanswerable without asking what is meant by love, because in the era of accepted error, of laissez faire definitions, it can mean anything. So why ask? Certainly the intended audience of the assertion that Mr. Obama does not "love" the country that elected him aren't asking because their reasoning is circular, or perhaps because their ability to question things has been eroded by the linguistic dumbing down of our speech. In the mouth of Rudy Guiliani, I'm deducing that love means something rather nebulous and involves jingoistic nationalism, selective memory, denialism, a dash of megalomania and a psychopathic lack of conscience. 

During the Vietnam years, the trope: 'loving America,' became a euphemism for blindly supporting the war, its conduct, it's stated goals, it's dishonest reasons against any and all criticism. It included defamation of all those who did not blindly follow. It included death threats, sometimes implemented against those who had doubts.  According to a large number, you either "loved" America or you were advised to leave the country. Some of us did. 

Many of us who were raised in the post war atmosphere of America as the savior of freedom and the leaders of the "free world" began to smell something as the flag marched by and the bombs fell and a generation was decimated and thought of Orwell.  Love is hate, war is peace and freedom is slavery.  Indeed, when people fling loaded words around like irritated apes fling dung, that famous quote from 1984 seems less cynical than it once did and more of a sad acceptance of hopelessness. Language has to change as the needs and wants of the oppressors and exploiters require it.  Freedom fries, pre-owned cars, processed foods, assault weapons: define and conquer.

Indeed anything can mean anything and so language no longer guides our thoughts or acts as a structure or armature upon which to build and with which to communicate the truth. Perhaps it never has been otherwise.  Arbeit macht frei, after all and it's our manifest destiny to take whatever we can get away with taking.

"Obama doesn't love America" is a statement without reference to evidence, dependent on idiosyncratic and plastic definitions and without any hint of supporting evidence.  It's so much like statements insisting he's a Muslim, or that he's just like a king or that he hates white people.  Such things depend on what the meaning of is is and nobody is asking.  Is is as likely to mean isn't as bad is to mean good.

Of course Rudy and many of his compatriots simply have so little in the way of valid criticism that they must keep their maledictions on the level of the subliminal. The half-unconscious associations that words are surrounded by become definitions. Just ask your kids' English teacher. Ask the people who tell you pornography is rape, who call a trailer an "estate Home" who call that package of bread mix artisinal.

Murdering two million civilians becomes a noble cause and we do it out of love. We love America, the greatest country that ever was, is or will be! We kill, exploit, deport and impoverish under the rubric of love and freedom.   Freedom?  Well it's what we support in any military activity. Hence  anything done to make our country safer, healthier more decent or anything else we associate with a loving attitude is by accepted definition: Not Loving America. No real explanations are needed, because love means anything the abuser intends it to mean. Language just has to change and if you question that?  Why, like that colored fella in the White House, you just don't love America!

Monday, February 16, 2015


Back in the 1930's, it seems to have been common to start one's sentences with "say," sometimes drawn out for emphasis as we do with words and tropes we use to emphasize our own connectedness with the segment of popular culture we have chosen, consciously or unconsciously. Picture Jimmy Cagney as a gangster: "saaay, you  dirty rat. . ."  Hey, don't laugh. Do you drop the R in gangster or whore and think it makes you hip?  Tell the truth, white boy.

Perhaps you've observed the phenomenon in the way we use the word "selfie" with  gleeful ostentation -- the way my dog runs up and down the hall with a stolen sock. "I'm using it!  I'm saying Selfie!" It's the word, not the picture. The very first pictures taken were self portraits. But try to find a home page in the last year or so that doesn't display the word and a list of the week's best selfies.  Haven't you been trying to work it into your conversations so that people will know you're no outsider to the hip world, the hip-hop world, the world of constant contact, constant entertainment and  Cell Phones -- the real world, that is?

The real world, not that stuffy world where the discomfiture of Napoleon at Waterloo sounds like his boots were pinching his toes and  not that he was routed. We don't want you reading that slop anyway when the interests of this or that special interest group are what matters. We will tell you how to think about the very, very rich by proclamation, by definition, by calling them either plutocrats or "job creators."  We'll tell you whether you're a racist, an antisemite, a Communist, misogynist or a fascist by fiddling with the terms. And they do tell me.  I've been chastised recently for calling one of those conical straw hats a 'coolie' hat. Perhaps in India, Hindi speakers are racists for calling day laborers coolies, the Hindi word for it or perhaps not. Perhaps Joe Biden is a racist for using the word Orient  to describe Singapore, perhaps not. It all depends on what and to whom we're selling and to what purpose and not on the feelings or intentions of the user. After all, we're the police and we'll tell you what you are, punk.

I digress.  My intention was to point out that there is a fairly sudden and fairly recent tendency to start sentences with  "so." So I'm just pointing it out, and perhaps you'll notice it too.  So perhaps your grandchildren will, if it persists, giggle about the dated idiom:  "so I'm like" instead of  "I said" So have you noticed? So I'm just sayin'. Language gotta change and so everything you say will mean something else by Thursday next and everything you write down will be laughed at or called communist or fascist or something else depending on what the language police are yelling about.

So there he goes again, old Fogg, harping on the way language changes and spitting in the eye of the "language gotta change" school of English that encourages you to ignore and accept in the same way as one might encourage another not to get out of bed in the morning -- because after all, "people gotta die."

People like me: people who love language and the freedom available to those who master it are not appreciated by the "lets let the dog choose what we have for dinner" school of rhetoric and perhaps it's because such arguments feed the dogs of  commerce, propaganda and mind control.  Those who control definitions control minds.  So isn't it strange that the people who sneer at "language police" will beat you as  senseless as Rodney King if  you question the definitions of words like sex and gender?  So isn't it strange that we can sternly be told that making a joke about Chinese speakers not being able to pronounce the letter R is racist  as though speaking Chinese made one Chinese?  The language actually uses a harder R than American English, but that's beside the point.   Not strange when you consider the goal of defining nearly everything as racism in order to bully the populace into supporting your fight against racism.

So is it that precise language, as Orwell told us, is the enemy of  verbal manipulation? 

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Hell NO!

Brian Williams -- seriously?  6 months suspension with no pay for "misremembering" an incident from the early days of the Iraq war.  Bush's war, the one based on blatant and documented lies.  Did they actually fire at Williams' helicopter 12 years ago or not?  That's what matters. Sure, it was a bit of braggadocio on Williams' part, he should be ashamed to be no better than most politicians with padded resume's and he will be punished. 

Fox News will not be punished for reportage that according to those who supply facts to back it up, supply us with an estimate of  40% outright lies about substantive matters  Another 38% are partly false. Less than 25% of their reportage is really true and the electorate makes their decisions based on damned lies.  They're still on the air.  Is this a double standard?   Is this a country where any use of the term ethics is ironic enough to make the Devil giggle with delight?

Is Brian Williams to be compared with an entire network of burning pants sociopaths?

Steven Emerson:  "There are actual cities" like Birmingham, England, "that are totally Muslim where non-Muslims just simply don’t go in."


Lyin' Bill O'Reilly:  "The 'Denver Post' has actually hired an editor to promote pot." (Oh really?  No, O'Reilly)  

Sean 'Insanity' Hannity is in a league of his own.

Are there any standards at all when it comes to promoting the interests of the bigots, plutocrats, and the deranged?   Hell no!

Thursday, February 05, 2015

Typhoid Mary's Revenge

Reductio ad absurdum.  Its a common tool used in informal debate both properly or improperly, but although I won't say it's more common with the arguments we hear from the self styled Right, arguments such as this one seem to need no assistance from any opposition to reduce themselves to the ridiculous.  Sen. Thom Tillis (R-N.C.) told us this week that the government has no business demanding that the people who handle our food should wash their hands after using the toilet. If you don't see this as ridiculous, you probably shouldn't read further because I'm going to insult you. In fact I mean to insult everyone who considers himself rational but, like all of us, is not. 

Putting principle above survival and practical necessity seems to be a widespread form of  communicable idiocy, for when I mentioned this bit of crepuscular wisdom in jest to some friends last night I got no laughs but rather some grim recitations of the formula "we have too much regulation."  It's the same reaction although from different people, that I got when mentioning that the disastrous BP oil spill would not have resulted if regulations had been followed.  "We have too much regulation."  If you've been listening to the yapping from the Republican kennel for as long as I have, you'll see it as new bullshit in old crocks -- or from old crocks if you prefer. We want law and order but without the law. That absurdum enough for you?

If we assume that in fact we do suffer under excessive regulatory burden, I should think it would be obvious that the gap between that debatable observation and a valid attack on any specific regulation isn't easily leaped with anything but blind faith or the kind of stupidity that removes all obstacles. "All laws reduce freedom -- this is a law -- this reduces my freedom."  Do we really need to ask Aristotle to explain such sophistical refutations? CAn you honestly proceed from a false statement to a valid one? Do laws facilitate freedom? Without law, how do we protect life and liberty?  Who decides what is excessive without laws providing us with the power to do so?  Principle!  it's the defense against having to answer such impertinences.

 Sometimes freedom needs to be reduced, else I could show Mr. Tillis, inter alia, just how much the laws restricting my freedom might be useful to his health.  Getting from the proposition in question to eliminating any particular regulation requires dismissal of the specific need, benefit and effectiveness thereof.  Since I'm sure that regulations against poisoning him wouldn't be on his list of excessive regulation, we can assume that he does give regard to his own safety if not to yours and mine.  Is that dishonest?  Does that reveal some unmentioned contradiction in his logic?  Does it matter when people, all of us, steadfastly believe what suits us to believe irrespective of any native intelligence?

I won't waste much time waiting for Tillis to explain his temerity however.  His audience isn't asking for one, a false syllogism being satisfying enough and as is so common and in line with our ancestry and ancient habit, we put principle above survival, follow it up with brandy and a cigar and call it an evening.  Things will turn out in the end, the invisible hand of the market spreading pestilence more effectively than it spreads wealth and opportunity and justice.  "Restaurants that kill customers will eventually go out of business," is the fallacious foundation of the Tea Party argument -- unless they remain unaccountable in the absence of all regulatory agencies. I wonder too, how much he worries about FAA regulations when he gets on an airplane, or whether his doctor or his cook washes his hands but sure -- consistency and hobgoblins and little minds and besides when it's his ass on the line it's different.

48 million Americans get sick from food born illnesses and 3000 die every year, yet the government has a very hard time doing anything to stop it:  principle, you see and the inviolate rights of corporations.  But Tillis at least is standing up for the little guy, the right of individual free and sovereign citizens to wipe their asses with your lunch.  Principles matter, you know and it's good we have him standing up for freedom.

Tuesday, February 03, 2015

Doctors and scientists don't want you to know.

You can see them, in fact you can't avoid seeing them in places like Whole Foods acting whole foodier than thou and wearing ill advised lycra and sweat shop shoes. Pushing carts full of  "Organic" foods and spoiled unvaccinated children and heads full of superstition and self-importance they're everywhere you find the upwardly mobile. There's a massive industry out there to support them, make them feel like insiders, to fill their lives with homeopathic remedies, crystals, magic beans, gluten-free, fructose-free food and evidence-free ideas.

Everybody likes to feel special and capitalism is thriving on making us into pop-culture dependent hipsters so proud to have our special exclusive knowledge of hip things, we can hardly fit  our chakras into our yoga pants. Of course the hipsterism isn't only about food: the pure and artisinal assembly lines churn out ant-technological, pseudoscientific bullshit by the megaton and the paranoid neo-Luddites suck it all up along with their raw food and Japanese (because Subaru means love) cars. Guess what, the wheat growers who don't want you to know about the fictitious dangers of gluten, are making a fortune from gluten-free hipster food!  "Studies show" shout the diet doctors.  No they don't, whisper the real scientists. They're not even studies.

Can we go on laughing at the Low Information Right for denying climate change, when people who vote Democratic are equally terrified of telephones and vaccinations and electric meters  -- who tell you "organic food" tastes better or makes you healthier or is free of the terrible toxins we just know are everywhere because Doctor Oz tells us so? Because people who make toxic pesticides from "natural sources" tell us so? 

We are a faith-based nation and whether Evangelist or Atheist or pagan, we cling to our beliefs ever harder as contrary evidence piles up and supporting evidence remains absent. Are we less deranged than the religious extremists who pray while their kids die from preventible illnesses?  We're hipsters and like our tea-sipping opposite numbers we cling to our beliefs because they define who we want so much to be.  We listen only to movie actors and con men in white coats who tell us to eat it raw because science can't be trusted. We drink water imported from Indianapolis or Atlanta and it makes us feel superior and healthier than the philistines from Indianapolis or Atlanta who aren't part of our cult and drink it from the tap.

 Sure, absolutely. The world is full of scientists who live only to fool you about climate change and the dangers of  "processed" foods and "chemical" fertilizers and mysterious toxic energies that can only be warded off with amulets  made of copper or magnets or discarded electronic components. Eat "paleo."  "Eat Raw."  How many people die every year from undercooked food?  Thousands and thousands and millions get sick and die.  A vaccine may soon be found, but never fear, it may save a hundred million lives, but it won't pass the hipster barrier. All it takes is one person to have a toothache afterwards and the hipsters and irate mothers and charlatans will flock like vultures.  No, our lives are toxic and never mind we've doubled our longevity, our disease free productive years and even our size since scientific medicine took hold.

Vaccinations don't cause autism any more than does improper nursing technique or potty training, which used to be blamed for the same reason:  it appears in youngsters. Large, properly conducted, statistically valid studies by real scientists prove it. What? but my niece, nephew, son, daughter were diagnosed after getting vaccinated. That's close enough to a "study" isn't it?  Measles kills. People go deaf and blind and suffer brain damage from it. People exposed to dead viruses aren't more likely to be autistic than people exposed to the live one, but we might as well show a Muslim he should see the truth in Christianity.

Pyramids don't sharpen your razor either.  Gluten doesn't harm or inflame you if you don't have Celiac disease. Sugar doesn't cause hyperactivity, cane sugar isn't less fattening than fruit sugar and neither gives you diabetes, dairy products don't cause excess mucus and hell yes -- calories do count.  Raw food isn't better for you or lessen nutritive value, in fact it can be deadly.  Fluoride in drinking water won't harm you, Iodine in salt won't either. There is no such thing as "grain brain." Soybeans don't 'feminize' you. Remember all that blather about coffee being a killer back in the 80's?  Fake research bought and paid for just like the bogus study. A whole generation still believes it.

Homeopathic medicine is a hoax, mysterious toxins aren't building up in your blood, you don't need regular enemas and no, Obama isn't listening to your thoughts through your Smart Meter. A store I do business with has a sign on the door telling you not to enter with a cell phone. Guns are OK. Which is more dangerous?   Think the fluorescent lights don't put out more RF than a phone?  Think is the key word here. We don't want to, we don't know how to and it's better to be hip, to belong, to feel superior than to be honest or right. 

All those things being advertised as things "doctors don't want you to know" can be pretty safely ignored as scams but the idea that anything new is dangerous.  The idea that science is about hiding evidence may be dangerous to your finances, but when it gets to the point where we experience and tolerate a recrudescence of deadly diseases long since eradicated, it's time for some sort of showdown.  When the man in the white coat selling books and cults tells you there are things "doctors don't want you to know;" that scientists are trying to delude you and pollute your precious bodily fluids, it's time to stand up and slap these idiots down. Enterprise is poisoning our health and our children's just like it's poisoning our politics. Measles, Pertussis, even Polio are returning and these things kill people. Vaccinations don't cause Autism, don't contain Mercury and sorry if I'm offending you again, it's a deadly hoax, a bought and payed for fraud and I don't care what your hipster friend says or what some website says:  it's bullshit.

Bullshit kills

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Facts matter

Black lives matter because lives matter.  It seems self evident, yet the dignity of life is always under attack and probably always has been as long as social animals such as we are have been able to exclude, ostracize, demonize and otherwise put others into categories that exclude that basic dignity, that basic respect and minimum level of equality the nobler of us call basic and even God given.

When it comes to remedies, when it comes to deciding who is being unfairly treated, oppressed, transgressed against, scorned and swept aside by those able to do so -- when it comes to deciding what to do and whether to do it, we seem somewhat unable to find that nobility or even decency, or so I think.  Just look at the results of polls showing how willing Americans are to tolerate torture and cruel punishment. That such things are unpleasant and morally difficult may be the major reason we won't deal with them commensurate with the ideas we pretend are central to our enlightened life. That we don't think much at all until we're provoked or until we're lead around by the people who lead people around may be another. If that weren't so we would long since have gone from "black lives matter" to Life matters.  We haven't. That's a fact.  Facts matter. Facts often damage or even nullify our most passionate arguments. Facts often make fools of us and our foolishness often causes suffering to others.

It's a fact that Black people suffer less from police violence than Native American people do and perhaps more from government policy and historical precedent. It's not all black and white and it's not all about black and white.  Minorities have had it hard -- always.  Concentration camps for American citizens of Japanese decent, forced deportations and exclusion laws for citizens of Chinese descent, burning down of communities, violence and riots and exploitation. Reservations for those who have been here longest; dispossession, deportation, wanton slaughter of innocents. Children deported to countries where they don't know the language, families broken up.  Lives matter.
None of the fury in the street is about facts. None of it is about equality of access to the benefits of mainstream culture: opportunity, safety, health care, education -- and one is tempted to see the turmoil and pain as an end in itself that benefits only a small selection of smug hypocrites, who can make nasty racist jokes and comments about any ethnicity and get away with calling detractors racists. 

 Facts matter and the fact is that those who feel marginalized now feel more so, those who like to loot, pillage, rob, steal and murder minority policemen feel more justified. Lives matter and those who don't give a fleeting damn if a man is shot simply for holding a BB gun in Walmart and his wife grilled for hours because he wasn't the right race to care about don't deserve a following. He wasn't holding up stores and didn't grab a policeman's pistol.  He just wasn't black. A Chinese cop, a Hispanic cop, shot in cold blood in the name of fighting racism - who cares? Mah-hi-vist Goodblanket was far more innocent than the "unarmed child" Michael Brown and no one rioted anywhere and no news network obsessed about it for weeks and no mobs called for killing policemen. We didn't get pictures of him in gown and mortarboard or any pictures at all because it's all about black and white and facts mean nothing.


Monday, December 29, 2014

Everything is going to Hell

Says the Devil.

A plane crashes in a storm on the other side of the world. For days afterward it's "breaking News!" on CNN and their website asks us if flying is getting more dangerous. Yes, of course it's a pattern. It's twice in one year out of only 36 million flights!  Someone gets shot by a psychotic in a theater and we're told, or rather CNN arranges for us to hear someone ask if it's safe to go to the movies any more.

As humans we're famously deficient when it comes to comparing relative risk and of course a very well funded industry is based on exploiting our irrational nature and steadfast unwillingness to do the math. How many of us will switch off the round the clock babble and endless pictures of airplanes and people looking out the window to make a graph of fatalities per passenger mile?  Basically none.

We don't know if police brutality is on the increase, whether it centers on a certain minority, on several minorities or whether it's random or whether factors not being discussed enter into the picture. Why should there be, the people upon whom we depend to inform us are as much a part of the entertainment industry as Disney or Sony Pictures. What we do is select opinions and fears and things to gloat about from the buffet and all according to our personalities and chosen affiliations -- and today's technology makes it possible for manipulators and exploiters to target us with things that we will buy into without question and that much of it is designed to scare and to outrage is no coincidence.

It doesn't have to be about politics or law or current events. It doesn't have to be real  They can scare you with fructose or gluten or lactose or fluoride or electric meters or preservatives and imaginary toxins and they can cash in as easily as collecting maple syrup from a tree.

Obviously X is rampant and getting worse and of course we won't stand for it any more and here are two or three incidents to prove it if we don't stop to think or look too close or ask too many questions.
And here's what we need to do and never mind the cost because there's no time to waste and no time for the niceties of due process. What do we want? ZEAL.  When do we want it?  Before you cool off.

Don't we love to tell stories about how the other guys are idiots, neurotics, liars and infinitely malevolent?  Of course we do and the result is to strengthen our commitment to "our side" and lessen the possibility of questioning ourselves and what we believe -- whether our nebulous remedies will work or make things worse. If we're against demons and monsters, what are the odds we're wrong?   If some court finds differently from our convictions, why they must be corrupt and we need to attack.  If there's the appearance of a cluster or a pattern in random events, of course it's a trend and we need to make noise and search for someone to punish, even if the apparent trend is the opposite to the statistical one. I mean how many kids have to die before we replace fruit sugar with cane sugar?  How may kids have to get "grain brain?"  How many kids will get fat if we don't ban slurpees and never mind the double bacon cheese chiliburgers with extra fries and special sauce?  Our solutions will work because the other guys are evil.

 Why bother to look it up?  Our side is right because the other side is wrong. If we make a mistake and lives are lost or ruined we shouldn't be worried unnecessarily, we're the good guys after all and it's better that all crimes are punished and all danger eliminated than that a few innocents are punished.  Just look at how bad the other side is! Just look at how dangerous life is these days.

Everything is going to hell because it needs to be for certain influences to do what they want to us. A building is blown up in New York, so we have to assume it's a trend and before long Caspar Wyoming will be in flames.  There goes our 4th amendment protection.  Drugs are killing our youth so oops there goes any protection from searches and seizures without probable cause or due process. Welcome swat teams with or without warrants crashing through your front door. Crime is on the increase so let's equip and train our police as Storm Troopers and let's stop "coddling" criminals and allowing judges some discretion and start trying 14 year olds as adults. Our schools are danger zones so let's make our kids criminals if they have a nail clipper or an aspirin. Our "rape culture" is on the rise so let's suspend any benefit of the doubt and of course racism is so rampant no white people should be trusted. And worst of all, the Devil is out there with his facts and figures and quoting scripture so we can't trust anyone.

And of course we wouldn't dare challenge any of it because that would just prove we're agents for the other side -- and did I mention just how bad they are?

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Newer is truer

The "true meaning" of Christmas.  That's something the news reader on CBS evening news knows and "those Atheists" who like to bother and annoy people like her don't know -- probably because they lack the good influences of  that religion history so thoroughly affirms as the source of peace and good will. Affirms  as the only bulwark between the undead and the damnation they all deserve.

It's about Festivus and it's bare pole tree replacement around which, whether in tongue in cheek mode or in deliberate mockery, some people  were celebrating that sarcastic alternative to Christmas with origins in the Seinfeld sitcom.  Yes, it's the annual war on Christmas, all wrapped up in colored paper. Christmas divisiveness, Christmas aggression, and Christmas fictions with which to assert Christian ascendancy and Christian victimhood at the same time.

But pay no mind, the young woman knows the True Meaning.

So which true meaning are we talking about?  Is it better to ask which  fictitious gods it's all about this time?  Certainly we know that the origins of  Winter Solstice holidays go back to our lower brow ancestors, their relief that days in the northern hemisphere were lengthening -- particularly those in higher latitudes than the tropic of Cancer, whence many of our customs and gods originated. The traces of the Norsemen are unmistakable as are the legacies of Roman Saturn and Greco-Persian deities like Mithras concerned with season change. It was celebrated on December 25 in the later Roman Empire as the Dies Natalis of Sol Invictus, the "Birthday of the Unconquerable Sun," of whom Constantine, the Romanizer of Christianity, was pontifex maximus.   Christmas has had more layers of accretion than an old piling covered with shells, worm casings and pelican shit. Let's not forget The Truth that as the major prop of consumerism in America, it's irreplaceable. Of all the saints in all the world, only St Nicholas is worth praying to.

I like to call it the Dondi effect: in which a story persists for eons while the names change to suit circumstances or objectives. 

For those who remember the  picaresque comic strip that started soon after WWII and was about a war-orphan boy named Dondi, adopted by GIs and brought home from Italy.  As memory faded and a new war emerged to produce a new crop of  orphans to sympathize with, Dondi quietly metamorphosed into a Korean.  He became Vietnamese with little fanfare some time later to keep up with our wars. Christmas, like any comic strip has been altered to fit, new patches sewn on to cover the holes left by obsolete gods and  deleted bits of history, as we tell new lies to cover the last lies as they become threadbare.

Thus the Sumerian flood hero Ziusudra, became the Accadian Utnapishtim, who became the Hebrew Noah and the details changed to fit the new characters and the new message from the new gods.  Holidays evolve and the day of Saturn becomes the day of  a failed Galilean revolutionary.  Is newer truer?  Must be if the CBS newsreader thinks so.  So no worries, we can always invent reasons to bring northern trees inside, to give presents, to hang mistletoe and make fires. We can always explain away the eggs and rabbits and the buns we used to eat for Mithras at Easter as well, as we fiddle with the calender to separate it from the holiday it used to be back before it got it's true meaning.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Why go on?

There's really no point, is there?  I  mean I've been protesting and griping and occasionally exulting about things for over 50 years and although it sometimes seems I've been on the right side, sometimes on the winning side, the wins have been so slow to grow into anything and the losers so able to readjust their stories to define the losses as wins that perhaps it doesn't matter. Even angels have to fear the sticky epithets falling on the guilty and the innocent, fear to tread on the right and the wrong because right and wrong can't be discerned through the fog of politics of any denomination. Descriptions mean nothing when our language, our history, our morals are written in water and change with the tide. We are not saved by works, but damned at random.

I don't believe in protests any more. I don't believe in elections. I don't believe in the public's ability to pay attention, to be objective, rational or enlightened enough to do anything but make noise and make it all worse.  If  we actually feel we've been allowed anything like good government,  it's often really that we've been thrown a bone to distract us from seeing that the chuck wagon has rolled off  with dinner.  Take the amazing fact that Congress passed a budget rather than shutting down the country they pretend to love. Reading it you may feel like the patient who learns his illness is gone, but there's a disturbing spot on his lungs. The spot, the shadow, the tumor, the poison pills, are riders you won't hear about, unless the Fox decides they can blame them on Obama.

And of course the President will have to support it else we hear more of the chorus of  "he's a tyrant, an emperor ignoring the will of the people" even though there can't be a whole lot of "the people" who approve of allowing a huge increase in the amount of money one can contribute to the Republican Party ( up to 3 million for a married couple) and of allowing a return to the reckless bank chicanery with exotic derivatives that caused the recent recession. After all that protest and demonstration and passion! Should we just admit there's no way to control the course of events that involves democracy? 

And of course I've always been told that I hated America, because I opposed a whole shooting gallery of things, like the war in Viet Nam or segregation or torture or the end of probable cause or forfeitures without due process. I hated America, it's said,  for warning that paying  for our most expensive and lengthy war with tax cuts for the wealthy wouldn't work.  I hated America for making a fuss about My Lai 4, for the abomination of HUAC.  I hated it for not hating enough.

Perhaps now, with the voice of  evil, Fox News host Andrea Tantaros claiming that the only reason we finally admit to illegal and immoral practices like torture, is that Obama wants you to think America isn't 'awesome' ,  with the ability of  war criminals to define their crimes away,  perhaps now I can decide that yes, I really do hate this evil empire. This abomination of a country that dares screech about FREEDOM but won't let you leave, won't let you live abroad and wants to make you pay US taxes even if you're a foreign national and don't live in the US - unless you're a corporation of course.  I have to oppose it.  I can't do otherwise.

No, the center isn't holding. 

Yes, I'm a fool for protesting, for blogging, for hoping.  I can't change minds or anything else and even if I did, our country is a runaway train anyway because people do not vote, corporations do. It's a runaway train because no one can do anything without the permission of  the ruling party.  Even old John McCain who lost an election because he had to pretend his masters weren't evil, because he had to run with that Alaskan millstone around his neck must hate America for trying so eloquently  to hold it to a moral standard higher than the Spanish Inquisition. It brought tears to my eyes. Misery makes strange bedfellows indeed.

Are there enough of us to rebel, to force the money grabbers, the tyrants  out of the government?  Of course not and not only because only the worst of us vote. We can't unite because we truly are a small minded, self absorbed, uncompromising and gullible group of fractious fools and because it's too late anyway and it's all our own fault. The enemy is us. It always has been.

Tuesday, December 09, 2014

Long strange trip

I remember Huey Newton, standing on a platform at Clark and Jackson, speaking to a Chicago crowd by the courthouse where The Chicago 7 trial was going on. A chant of "free Bobby Seale" had just ended. Mother Fuck, he began.

It was rare in those days, and possibly still rare to hear someone saying mother fuck in public, rolling the phrase around his mouth, savoring it like a piece of candy. Mother Fuck!

"The revolution has always been in the hands of the young. The young always inherit the revolution."
He was holding up a little boy, speaking about the brave new world he would grow up in, a world of justice, equality, opportunity and most certainly legal Marijuana. Are we there yet?  It's hard to say.  that boy would be the age of our president, Who would have believed that?

 The thing I recall most clearly about that day was saying to one of my fellow office workers, in our suits and ties and wingtip shoes, that these kids, the age of my own kids, would be so heavily propagandized by the time they were adults that they would hate and ridicule us more than the "hard hats" as we used to call them did. Nixon's "silent majority" -- lambasting us as unwashed slackers looking for handouts, dreading work and responsibility enemies of "law and order."  Indeed, an the last year of the 1960's even a modest, trimmed mustache and slightly longer than military hair could elicit shouts of "get a job." 

Indeed the generation following became young Republicans, carried briefcases around college campuses, talking about LBO's, made the word 'hippie' a vicious pejorative and forgot about Kent State and the obscenity of the '68 Chicago convention. By the time Forrest Gump came out, the vision of the hippie with red armband beating up on women was an easy sell.

Newton, by then Dr. Newton, was murdered on the street by a rival  Black Guerilla Family activist in 1983, when it seemed that everything had been lost: movement discredited, leaders gone, history rewritten and America  in love with a clueless cornball buffoon. The young seemed to have inherited the Reagan Revolution and trampled on the ruin of our hopes.  The movement was killing itself off, discrediting itself.  Michael J. Fox became a role model for conservative youth.

Bobby Seale and the rest of the group on trial for having incited the police riot directly attributed to the police and Chicago Mayor Richard J. Daley.were eventually acquitted of  the obscene and absurd 
charges, but Fred Hampton, co-founder of the Black Panthers was murdered in his bed, shot three times in the head at point blank range by the Cook County State's Attorney Edward V. Hanrahan and the FBI 45 years ago last week.

"We expected about twenty Panthers to be in the apartment when the police raided the place. Only two of those black niggers were killed, Fred Hampton and Mark Clark."
—FBI Special Agent Gregg York--
That they claimed self defense and got away with it, that the State's Attorney was billed as a hero inspired the Weather Underground, some of whom the young Barack Obama was idiotically accused of "palling around with"  by people of the same age as that child held hopefully up before the crowd on a sunny noon in Chicago.  Welcome to his world.    

Sunday, December 07, 2014

The Numbers

I hate to add to the obsessive concern with police shootings, but reading Frida Ghitis' Police Shootings in US out of hand on CNN.COM I'm a bit confused when she says:

"The first step in this process should be to start keeping proper and comparable statistics, which would allow us see where the problem is most severe, how the numbers are trending, and where police departments are doing a particularly good job, so that they might share best practice. "
Not that this doesn't make perfect sense, it's just puzzling to note how little numerical perspective is available or given out in the relentless coverage about obviously unacceptable levels of violence.  But informing the public isn't the motivator, enraging the public is, and that public is hungry for outrage and not too discriminating about its validity either.  We'll take it where we can get it and we will resist having it taken away once we've made our minds up -- and once we have, facts become the enemy.

While events around the world seem to be increasingly frightening, with ignorant armies clashing day and night and loose cannons rolling about the Kremlin, it feels like major events are increasingly ignored when we find some local outrage to obsess about.  I have to wonder why this case and why now?  Is there a crisis in police shootings, an increase in questionable use of force?  Is police racism and judicial system racism on the rise or are we being mislead?

It's hard to say and why that might be is hard to understand. Back in the 60's when I would enumerate the atrocities of law enforcement, the retort was "if you're a crime victim, who are you going to call, a hippie?" Neither our national sanity level or sense of humor has progressed much since, in my estimation. Perhaps we ought to replace e pluribus unum with non sequitur on the coinage.

 I've been arguing that the police in the US are trigger happy and overly aggressive for longer than half the country has been alive, but is it getting worse or getting better?  If I can believe the Officer Down Memorial Page shooting deaths of policemen is up 65% for 2014.  That's astonishing.  Has there been a corresponding change in civilians killed by police?  You would think that if there had been, that data would be readily available.  But it's not and that lack would be suitable for street demonstration, if statisticians did that sort of thing. What do we want?  INFORMATION.  When do we want it?  NOW. 

Nobody seems to know  although some FBI figures would suggest the number is essentially static at about 400 per year. That's the last thing a newcomer to the US might suspect from looking around. How many of those are unavoidable?  It depends entirely on whom you ask: his politics, age, ethnic identification, experience, occupation and what newspaper he reads.

Wouldn't you like to know why the US seems to have such a high level of police shootings instead of attributing it to one motivation?  Of course there are more weapons here,  but we have far more mentally ill people on the street and I'm guessing a large proportion of them are unable to find or afford medical care. You would think there would be an ocean of numbers readily available, but there aren't  and that serves the interests of anyone selling solutions for their own reasons. I'm going to stick my neck out and suggest that there are people and corporations who make a living explaining and exploiting our social ills.

Without knowing the numbers, I remain puzzled and while of course I recognize that although mistakes happen and I recognize that restraint and caution are devoutly to be wished for, today's atmosphere of fear isn't helping. If  the police have a legitimate and increased expectation of being shot or stabbed or run over (and yes, a large number are killed by cars) we've identified a factor in the equation. It would indeed be interesting to identify factors other than the difficult to illustrate presumption of universal racism. Interesting since I don't think there's any denying that certain minorities are more often on the wrong end of police weapons than the average. Of course that data isn't too meaningful unless we could get unbiased numbers about crime in different segments of the population and no, I wouldn't want to be part of conducting that survey!

And there's the rub. Looking for data and the ability to understand that comes from having it, is a bit like looking for the writings of Marx and Engels was back in the '50s - an indelible mark.  Now as it was then, we will have witch hunts and character assassinations, slogans and suspicions until some other obsession takes its place and we can resume not giving a damn.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

In hoc signo vinces

Singing songs and carrying signs
Mostly say, hooray for our side
 It's time we stop. . .

What did anyone expect?  In America the signs say justice but they mean blood.  We counter prejudice with prejudice, hate with hate, lies with lies while the truth lies trampled and bleeding.

A detailed, meticulous, scientific and lengthy investigation is a "travesty" and the prosecutor "passed the buck" and  "shirked his responsibility" which we are told is to simply indict the cop on hearsay, prejudice and rumor -- without due process or examination, to inquire like Pilatus of the mob instead of letting a jury decide on the basis of  the evidence. Why a jury after all, of one's peers when we can have men in masks, costumed dancers in the street, professional heralds of hyperbole, sellers of  certainties, posters on blogs and walls and Facebook pages and all those who "just know" out of prejudice, just know that accusations that feel good, fictions that validate our mission are true. 

Or so say the people who a short while ago seemed like rational human beings, who considered themselves reasonable: people who go to work in the morning and come home at night, who call themselves informed, able to see things as they are.  Last night I watched them, strutting in silly mustache masks, standing in front of the police with hands up saying "don't shoot." Kangaroos, holding court on the streets of St Louis.  And to those champions of justice, the accused, being white,  must be guilty, otherwise we would be as foolish as the people who went through the same performance as they did when Tawana Brawly was not-raped. Accusation and race are evidence enow. Otherwise our doctrines would not be pure!

Who is able to admit, after all this theater and passion and tears, that at heart they are simply self-righteous racists out dancing with long-since made-up minds, with blood lust and hooded faces in the streets at night?  With so much invested in protest, who can accept that they've been lied to and made fools and have been lying to themselves.  Hands up! Don't shoot!

 Michael Brown was not a "child."  Michael Brown, according to black witnesses and all the physical evidence did assault a police officer in his police car and was wounded in the process and ran away.  He was shot according to black witnesses while "charging" the officer.  He was not shot in the back according to three independent autopsies.  He was not on his knees with his hands up or on the ground with the cop standing over him.  He was not shot from the car window.  The witnesses who testified otherwise recanted or admitted they were either not there or didn't see what they claimed they saw. 

But no, he'll always be the "child" in scholar's robes and mortarboard, like a carved and gilded figure with a halo and fist full of cigars in a church representing some ancient martyrdom in wood, and of course we, out there in the cold and dark are fighting for justice.  We will make a symbol of  raised hands, we will bind it on our foreheads and hang it from our necks. We will chant hands up as we go into battle and as we persecute the heretics and burn the witches -- and in this sign we shall burn and plunder the innocent. In this sign we shall conquer.