Thursday, June 30, 2016

Neither a Borrower nor a Lender Be

"I'm self-funding my own campaign."
— Donald Trump on Monday, February 1st, 2016 in a campaign rally in Iowa

I would promise to strangle the next person who told me Trump is the most trustworthy of candidates because "he financed his own campaign" but really, at my age I lack the stamina.  So many necks (red and otherwise) and so little time.

Besides the shaky argument that he'd be honest by being beholden to no contributor, it's not entirely true since not only does he have donors, but much of that self-funding consists of loans by him to his campaign. Whether or not he intends to use donations to repay himself is unclear either from his record or his promises.   But of course he's hardly refraining from asking for money and apparently in mockery of his accusations of dishonesty against his opponent, he's mocking the law too by soliciting donations from officials of foreign governments on their official e-mail accounts.  Investigation?  Sure maybe 75 years from now when they're done with investigating Clinton for treason while ignoring a Republican Secretary of State for doing the same thing.

Has any candidate done more for ratings than Dishonest Donald? We'll probably hear little about this scandal. (Yeah, yeah, Bloomberg is the Liberal press.) Don't look for even the most "Liberal" of the Liberal press to inconvenience that goose in the laying of it's golden eggs.

Monday, June 27, 2016

Energizing the Base

Makes me feel like I'm in grade school again and it's supposed to. Sitting there, hand in the air knowing the expected answer and hoping to be the first to yell out "GUNS!"

Like so many of these Facebook posts, it's meant for the converted and not to convince anyone outside the tribe. To the convinced, it will slip by the normal reaction of skeptical analysis and will immediately toggle the "boy, those gun nuts are just plain stupid" program. and the "if he argues he must be one of them" subroutine. Guns!  Just guns and only guns! is the Pavlovian response, There's only one cause, only one solution in this simplest of all possible worlds.

People are simple and want only simple answers. That's why we have demagogues. That's why we make conclusions from inconclusive date.  We have about twice the automobile fatality rate of the UK and Australia, can we assume the same causes?  Do we dare to add other countries to the same question or have we Gerrymandered the short list?  Are we selecting the data points to fit on the theoretical curve? Where do we fit on a universal danger list?

To those outside that bubble the first reaction might be "Those countries have a different health care system and they don't dump the mentally ill on the streets."  It might also be true that there are fewer members of a large impoverished, addicted. angry and hopeless class trapped inextricably by circumstances, prejudices and a lack of social services, housing, education, opportunity for improvement, medical care and adequate diet: so much fodder for the many hate merchants we have. And of course no one is defining mental illness here.   Even the less perceptive from outside the circle might suspect the band is playing another false equivalence Foxtrot.

Does restricting the view to massacres only, that tiny proportion of the firearms assault spectrum give a biased view? Is the apparent trend real, is it a short aberration on a line with a different long term trend?   Is it the same kind of sophistry as letting the deeds of one man be the paradigm, the "typical." It comes right out of the manipulator's playbook.

Of course those countries have had massacres. We're just inclined to think they don't because the teacher is always right. The UK has had a great many of them: Bloody shootings in Northern Ireland, Sinn Féin bombings in London. Spain, France and other countries in Europe have had massacres in train stations and public areas for years. Algerians, Basque Separatists,  Baader-Meinhoff in Germany and the Red Brigade of Italy; ISIS, al Qaeda, etc.  Mentally ill pilots crash planes, crazy people use truck bombs and poison gas and set fires,shoot up newspaper offices, theaters, night clubs and hotels. It doesn't register with us as being the same thing even though the innocent victims are the same type and degree of being dead.

Worst ever! worst ever! is what you hear and you're not supposed to factor in the fact that the previous worst ever and comparable school shooting was 90 years ago and the century's experience seems more sporadic and episodic than progressive. Everything is getting worse, say people like Trump and the Tea Party con men  and manipulators of all kinds and the respective bases have never been more energized. No one will bother to notice that murders and armed assaults have steadily declined for decades despite the stated erosion of gun laws.

If it comes from our crowd we don't question, we just glad hand, high five and fist bump just the way the Trump Chumps do every time some silly giggling camp follower excuses his latest gaffe.  After all, part of being a cult is to alienate the outsider and prevent him from being heard. It works.

So what if you have constructive ideas, will it ever be heard through the untruths and distortions; red herrings and outright lies?  Over the grins and back slapping? I think not. Semi-automatic will always mean machine gun and they always spray super high velocity big-bore bullets that actually aren't.  The number of murders will always be off by a factor of two. The decline in the number of guns per household will always be explained as bad or irrelevant and the lack of correlation between regulations and effects will always be shouted down. It's always getting worse, it's a disaster, a trainwreck and only Donald or Bernie or Hillary of Ted can save us. Hey teacher - pick me!

And then there's the unsupported assumption that only guns are suitable in a world where most massacres are done with bombs, from Haymarket Square to the Anarchist bombs of the early 20th, to Oklahoma City to New York and Washington DC to Boston. The single cause fallacy supporting the single solution fallacy.

I'm tempted to ask whether gun control advocates are just Onanists or are they really interested in winning over an opposition who doesn't trust any of their reassurances because of all the lies?

Just Island universes are we, or non-intersecting circles in some vast Venn diagram. No one to tell us what we don't want to hear that we can't dismiss with a snark and a bark and some fudged figures as the world ends, not with a bang but a giggle.  Call on me teacher!

Saturday, June 25, 2016

Springtime for Trump

Shocking to wake up and find you've lost enough to buy a nice house because some Brit Brats with nose rings and face tattoos want to return to chauvinist nationalism and don't understand or like foreigners or the way the modern world economy works.

Everyone suddenly notices that Herr Drumpf might just defy reason and find himself the American Führer. Drumpf who seemed yesterday, taking time off from campaigning to do some shifty business,  to think running away from the EU means Scottish independence, which it doesn't, or that the
British can now have their own currency, which they always have had, and can protect their borders which they already do. I'm betting that most fifth graders know that.

Everyone has begun to reminisce about how the disaffected Weimar Republic Germans who felt left out and cheated and robbed, turned to the scapegoats offered by the Nazis and decided to Make Germany Great again. I'm starting to be very aware how possible it is that we'll have a president who wants to default on Treasury bonds to "improve" the economy and make American hate again. I see wealthy old men, with their yachts and Ferraris wearing Trump hats and I see tens of millions of less wealthy ones losing their pensions and savings because Trump has the economic expertise of a garden slug, his campaign almost bankrupt like many of his businesses. I see him sitting in the White House screwing the American people as he did with his bogus "university" I see him making America White Again, deporting millions and destroying lives and families and ruining the lives of children while peddling real estate and cheap steaks like the huckster he is.

The UK may get a chance to change their minds.  The US won't if Trump is elected.  Absent a revolution or a military coup we'll have to ride that train straight down to hell. This is a man, we're told by people close to him, reads Hitler's speeches and admires Goebbels' technique of repeating a lie until it becomes true.

Crooked Trump.  Say it loud. Say it again.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Another Brick in the wall.

So what - you expected something different? If it's about guns, you vote no, plain and simple, and no thought required beyond thinking about how badly the NRA will punish you for giving a crap about who wins the war with Islamic State and al Qaeda and the rest of them. You're a Republican, it's what you do.

Sure, a great many proposals have been misguided, ill-informed and even illegal, but keeping guns from suspected enemies of our country is not just a good idea, it's essential and as long as there's due process and an appeal process, the worst it might mean for a prospective firearms purchaser ( or explosives or ammunition ) is a delay. The lives saved may include not only yours and mine, but the miserable ones of the Senators who voted that proposal down yesterday. Hardly anyone voted against shutting down the 4th amendment because we are at war,  why can't we do something that does not challenge the second because of the same war?

The sad thing though, is the way we live in our bubbles, not listening to anything outside of them, not crediting unbiased information coming from the outside, as we would as a member of a cult. I listened to VP Biden last night struggling to remember the formula for kinetic energy you learned in high school and getting it wrong, telling us one infuriatingly more time that Assault rifles use "big bore, high caliber bullets" which are far more deadly, when of course they use smaller, less powerful rounds than other rifles, only more of them. It's part of the definition, but you've heard that too many times from me and if you live in some other bubble than I do, you still won't listen and didn't believe me those times either. If he's in your bubble, you don't question him and anyone knowing more about physics or guns is the devil, not to be believed.

Perhaps you'll believe me when I opine (once again) that all firearms are very dangerous and the danger derives mostly from the person holding one. That's why I support the legislation that recognizes the danger of this amorphous, decentralized, but viciously deadly worldwide enemy. It's not Islamophobia, it's reality and the vast majority of the people they kill, and torture and oppress are Muslims who hate them too.  Background checks are limited in effectiveness, as we've seen from Orlando, and someone may be able to pass all kinds of sanity and competence tests, but harbor a plan to attack Western culture and Western lifestyles.

But if you're in one bubble, belonging to that particular cult, you didn't even read this so I'm not talking to you. If you're in the other bubble, you may want to go on believing in the propaganda thereof and concentrate on one tendentiously defined class of weapons and paying no attention to others quite as deadly or even more so, because any information that comes from any expert of any qualification will be ignored without the same tired old Shibboleth: "Assault weapons! are the worst problem!

Will blocking legal gun sales to would be terrorists stop terrorist attacks? No, it's too easy to have a friend buy one for you like you used to do to buy beer when you were underage, (admit it) but as part of beefing up national security, improving interdepartmental communication, it's a necessary brick in the wall. Not Trumps imaginary Maginot line, but the real wall we need between us and our real enemies.

But don't rant and rave and carry signs - keep calm and call your Senators, your Congressmen. Internet petitions aren't as good as a phone call. If it's true that nearly 90% of us favor blocking sales to terrorists, making an effort to get rid of high capacity magazines - neither of which are forbidden by the 2nd amendment - they need to listen to the one authority higher than the NRA: you and me.

Monday, June 20, 2016

Keep Calm and. . .

No, really, just keep calm. . . please.

"The worst thing about America is GUNS!"  I'm told, and if I disagree, I've been brainwashed by an organization I don't belong to or listen to and have contempt for.  Why? because zealots argue by the numbers the way a salesman is trained: with lists of objections and standard responses but without the yelling and insulting that make it hard to sell insurance or swamp land. When it comes to guns, food, cars, economics, taxation, immigration, religion and a few other subjects dear to the brainwashing trade, it's about avoiding the facts to avoid refutation. "Don't ask questions, just look at the bogeyman!"

 One preempts the calm, rational approach by attacking first. Nebulous and ill defined attacks are best for this purpose.  Sure, guns frighten the hell out of some people and everyone has the right to their fears, but other things may be more dangerous. That's why when I suggest banning the most dangerous feature of any gun, I get "no, only assault weapons, read the script or shut up,"  If you want to see a working definition of "conniption" just say calm and stick to the facts.

Sign here to send a petition to "Help stop the use of bee-toxic pesticides!"  Could we keep a bit more calm because there's no particular evidence that pesticides are causing or contributing to this apparently widespread phenomenon of  hive collapse syndrome, and even if the EPA has the power to ban or eliminate such things if they do exist, it doesn't mean there's any scientific consensus on the etiology of this disease which may not actually be new and appears on more than one continent. There's plenty of activist consensus, but as with the fanatical but unsupportable assertions about Autism spectrum syndrome and vaccines,  it's based on rumor and conjecture and hysteria, just as the previous notion that it was all about cell phones because after all, Post Hoc means Propter Hoc. Certain people prone to see real and imaginary ills to be the product of evil corporations (aren't they all evil?) won't question it though and if you don't, well you're brainwashed. Science?  Just keep banning until the problem goes away.

"I don't need any facts, I just know" said one Solon after I asked him whether a proposed measure had a record of previous successes.  I'm afraid that response is too commonplace when certain, activist-dominated subjects are involved. But what do I know?  I've been brainwashed by the facts and made a fool of by calm reflection. The 'solution' has been an abject failure more than once, but he just knows it will work which is a form of the argument from ignorance.  After all it's a gun control proposal and so it will, ipso facto,  control guns, just as all those "Crime Bills" we were urged to support in the 70's and 80's that made things worse. Or those bills to "untie the hands" of the police that also made things so much worse and the Drug bills that filled our jails with harmless and ordinary people, destroying the lives and families we were supposed to be protecting.  As old Daniel Webster said:
 "the strong conviction that something must be done is the parent of many a bad measure." 
The end may justify the means sometimes, but the urgency and fear don't justify all proposals. None the less, if your plan fails, you can always blame it on the appropriate bogeyman to escape the inevitable "told you so."

I'm looking at a list of statistical rankings of fatality risks in our country.  It's in response to the "worst thing" assertion.  Of course as with all such things you have to define terms and I'm taking the liberty of defining worst as the most dangerous, the most likely to kill you and of course Heart disease, stroke and cancer are by far the leading causes of death. Odds are it's curtains for you and me sooner or later, I'm afraid.  It's full of many  interesting observations including that bicycles are enormously more dangerous than motorcycles in terms of how many people are killed on them.


 Assault by firearm?  It's number ten at 1 in 300 and that's terrible at first glance or at second glance, but then as with motorcycle accidents at 1 in 802  and death by drowning and immersion at 1 in 1073, those are averages for the entire population and if you don't go near the water and don't ride a motorcycle these risks don't apply, just as if you don't live in certain neighborhoods and don't get involved in gangs or drugs, your odds of firearm assault may vary - enormously.

Cause for some thought here about apparent risk and actual risk?  Nah. We just know we're right and reflection is weakness and if the group advocates something but I advocate something stronger, I must be a dupe, a stooge of the standard bogeyman. Pick one from the menu.

The overall likelihood of a fatal drug overdose is almost on a par with fatal shooting, but of course neither you nor I is likely to do them, (although I can't be too sure about you) Averages can be hugely misleading and they certainly are when used to frighten people into grasping at straws or laws.  So if I say that chances are something other than guns is gonna gitcha even if you do watch out, it's not because there's no danger from firearms and killers, but it's not the worst and I can prove it. There may be something worse in other senses than guns - say like injustice or the lack of access to medical care or higher education voting rights or legal council or even safe water, for our suburban Detroit friends.

But there is no anti-motorcycle advocacy group. The Motorcycle Haters are far less organized than the Monsanto Haters and of course since hardly anyone is an organic chemist or geneticist, has a degree in biology or agriculture, it's a perfect windmill for the bee saving Quixotes of America to tilt at. Bike haters?  They're around but not nearly so outspoken.  I think they're afraid of us.

As with all things relative to our fear and anger industry, the Worst Thing, as Orwell told us in 1984 is very personal. The worst thing may just be your own fear. It may be something you haven't thought about while being terrified of something else because what you fear is mostly about partisanship and manipulation. It's about preventing calm and objectivity.  It's all about what group has washed your cerebral cortex. It's less about the principles than about the principals. 

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Recreational Belief

And while I'm on the subject of  dishonest advertising, I saw an article just now claiming that thousands of scientists have proved Einstein wrong - again.  How's that?  Why, although that German immigrant predicted and provided a mathematical basis for gravity waves, he opined that we wouldn't have the technology to detect them directly, which of course we do and we have.  Einstein's theories aren't wrong, the article's title was wrong.

If only this weren't standard procedure in the media. Take the Tesla ascendancy. He invented radio is the trendy thing to say among millennials although others invented it a long time before. In fact James Clerk Maxwell developed the mathematical basis for electromagnetic waves in the late 19th century and Heinrich Hertz demonstrated broadcasting and receiving them in 1885 and Thomas Edison actually received a patent* for a ship to ship radio system, including a quarter wave vertical antenna in that year. He sold it all to Marconi.
Tesla's claim to radio was that Marconi sent a signal across the Atlantic using a Tesla coil which of course he didn't, he used a Ruhmkorff coil which had been used by others, including Hertz to send radio signals.  The courts were simply confused as was the case many times in the history of radio.

Tesla invented AC power distribution including the transformer and alternator and AC motor but actually he didn't. Most of Tesla's "inventions" were thought experiments that never worked because the science was wrong. His dearly held goal was to send electrical power to customers without wires. Didn't work and would have been deadly if tried.

But recreational belief is our national sport.  It's fun to say Edison didn't invent the light bulb because he knew about other efforts that didn't actually work but it's only shifty rhetoric and it all depends on a shifty description of "invent" It just makes you feel so hip to recite such things.  I suppose the Wright brothers could be stripped of their title because they know about Lilienthal or Langley and NASA gets no credit for the moon landing because of Jules Verne. Anyway, if someone invents a working time machine he won't have invented it either, because of  H. G. Wells.

U.S. Patent 465,971 


Wednesday, June 15, 2016

And the Home of the Brave.

I'm sure the mourning and weeping and candle lighting will go on for a while and I'm sure the finger pointing, panic mongering and political accusations of guilt will continue apace.

I have to look at how France has reacted after their own, much larger attacks in recent years.  It's been very different I think. From over here, it looks like expressions of solidarity and refusal to be afraid typify the nation we like to joke about and accuse of cowardice.  Paris has just lit up the Eiffel Tower as a token of solidarity with the usually supercilious and superior USA.  Thank you and Vive La France.

We on the other hand have been spending our time both trying to stress that Orlando was a Jihadi attack and furiously denying it. Look not to the murderer's hand, say some. It's all about the guns. It's all because Obama won't say Islamic terrorism, say others. It's only because he used an "assault rifle" said one guy before I blocked him on Facebook. He would not admit that the Glock 17 pistol he carried actually was "military grade" but the rifle wasn't. Handguns are irrelevant apparently, if you're rabid about "assault rifles" but don't really know what that means. Many think they are legal machine guns, others thing the same bullet is more deadly because the rifle has a pistol grip, but neither panic nor politics make for truth or support logic. The first thing I saw this morning was an admonishment that we don't have a constitutional right to shoot 100 people at once.  Thanks for reminding me that murder is illegal but I'd like to see a gun that can do that. We don't have a constitutional right to blow up buildings or set fires in nightclubs either. Meaningless non-sequitur designed to argue for the gun control policy that failed so miserably in this case. Be afraid! We're all in danger!

Where is the "let's stand together" rhetoric? No, it's more like "you can't go out any more" cowardice being hyped up by anti-gun panic brokers and when coupled with "they're going to take away our guns" panic on the other side, we're as funny as a Punch and Judy show to people that wish us harm and destruction.  We're simply not the home of the brave we once were and apparently Europeans still are. From a gun-free America to driverless safety cars to the idea of a locked down walled country I feel surrounded by mewling, trembling, pants-pissing cowards.  None of this bodes well for us remaining as the home of the free either.

ACT NOW!

I've got to admit it's getting better (Better)
A little better all the time (It can't get more worse)
-the Beatles-

Panic is big business. Hysteria is a moneymaker and the road to riches for those who can inflame and outrage the public.  So of course the persuaders of every persuasion are here to make you think everything is going to hell. Immigrants are going to ruin us, the debt is out of control, all our jobs are going to Mexico and most of all we're all going to be killed. After all you can't go to nightclubs or movie theaters and it's open season on Black children. Gluten will kill you and disease resistant crops will turn you into a wheat stalk and preservatives and processed food?  Oh my God!  This is the worst ever, we're all going to die and all trends point in the direction of Hell. 

All these arguments seem to be the worst when they're not really true or are oversimplified to the point of distortion. The overall trend in violent crime has been down for decades, employment is at record highs and so many things have improved over the last 8 years you'd think someone would notice the dire prognostications of Obama's failure didn't happen, but it's not to the benefit of power that we notice.  Every downward blip is a trend, and an indicator of impending calamity. So obviously we need to stay inside and buy guns before the Obaminator - oh excuse me - Dishonest Hillary takes them away.  We also need to make them disappear with the magic wand of badly written legislation. After all last time we banned "assault weapons" sales went up and numbers increased in a big way.  Lets do it just as badly again.

And by all means let's stay angry. Lets believe these are the last days as they have been for thousands of years now.  Nothing is random, nothing is cyclical, everything is a trend and a downward one. 

The best way to show a trend in a set of data, is to take a small sample. A large sample of mass shootings in the US looks quite a bit more than a series of irregular occurrences with quiescent  periods in between. The previous "worst mass shooting" was in 1927 when the population was a third of today's and falls behind the latest by about 4 deaths. Perhaps toning down the "if this trend continues" rhetoric just a bit might allow some breathing room, but again, that doesn't serve the interests on any side who like the used car salesman, wants you to ACT NOW! 

Act now before we discuss how we go about reducing these things.  Is it one problem of several? How much can we expect from gun regulations, how much increased surveillance and enforcement will we accept.  Do we deprive people of constitutional rights if they are under suspicion?  Do we accept racial profiling? We've already set aside the 4th amendment and perhaps illegally. Do we set aside the 2nd without due process because we are afraid?  this is more than a rampage shooting, more than an act of terrorism, this is an existential crisis for Democracy in America and certainly we need to handle it by pumping up the volume, hyping up the sloppy rhetoric, fuzzying up the logic and making it personal. The craziness, the evil - it's all on their side, but don't question our assertions, our shibboleths or our logic.  Now all together POINT THOSE FINGERS.

Friday, June 10, 2016

Relativity

Seems like most politics these days ( and everything is politics) involves creating a bubble, a frame of reference that doesn't necessarily have a one to one relationship with the world as an outsider might see it.  Many of those Republicans for whom Obama is a "disaster" and Hillary is a "trainwreck" inhabit a place where the economy is bad and getting worse, where freedom is being eroded and where America is no longer "great."  That makes it easy to support things that drag down economies, erode freedom and make the world hate us. The "tyrant' Obama has taken no guns, created millions of jobs, and all the dire predictions are still dire, but unfulfilled, or they are from outside that bubble anyway.

But that's a cheap shot, or an easy one at least, it's harder to see such things in your own bubble.  I argued with someone not long ago who asserted that life in America is much more dangerous than it was way back in 1971.  Gun crime is everywhere  and out of control you see. You can hardly go outside and of course there are all sorts of charts and graphs that at first glance make it seem that way, often by isolating small sections of a long curve and projecting things into the future. It's the sort of approach that gives us the appearance of an Autism epidemic or a health crisis when in fact there isn't either.

I recall that at the end of the infamous 55 MPH experiment, all sorts of famous people, like the OJ defense lawyer Barry Schenk waxed passionate about the "coming bloodbath on the highway." The bloodbath that not only didn't materialize but the death rate continued to decline and still does. The speed limit had no positive effect on highway safety despite years of repeating the theory as an axiom.

The Bill Maher health analysis that had us getting sicker by the day what with all the evil things put in our food and water by evil scientists and satanic corporations also  has had to contend with the opposite results but somehow, or at least within the belief bubble common to so many Democrats, the conviction that the danger from guns escalates every year has escaped over 40 years of contrary statistics.

There was a quiet and not repeated bit on the local news last week about the latest Florida crime statistics which show another 5% or so decrease in gun crimes, even as Florida continues to grow rapidly.  And here that piece of Godzilla legislation some like to call "stand your ground" was supposed to produce a bloodbath, an open season on Black children. Allowing concealed weapons was supposed to do the same, but here we are with the lowest level of violent (and non-violent crime too, apparently) since they started keeping records in 1971. Perhaps we can ignore the old Occam thing and invent some reasons for it that preserve the core beliefs and our own sense of  superior wisdom?

The FBI confirms the trend for the nation as a whole, but who trusts anything outside the bubble of community wisdom anyway.

Tuesday, June 07, 2016

If I Only Had a Heart

Researchers at the University of California are trying to develop a pig whose organs contain some human DNA which will make it possible to use those organs in humans without rejection. Is this good news for those who will die waiting for a human donor or who don't qualify by reason of age?

I should think so, but of course we can always count on popular superstition, fear of the new and the love of  making money from it.  So as soon as hope emerges, headlines pop up to dash them. "Trading Ethic for Organs" blares the article, because if your 14 year old daughter needs a heart, if you dear mother needs a kidney or a marrow transplant, you're certainly going to have too much sympathy for a pig.

And of course this pig with some human DNA is successful, it will be GENETICALLY MODIFIED, and you all know what that means!  All the other pigs will die, and the bees too and if you eat bacon you'll start to oink and maybe even vote Republican. That's just before the sky falls, of course.

Friday, June 03, 2016

Great

Quite frankly, nobody is going to make America great again, at least not to any universal agreement. Nor is it really possible to define the word. That's why it makes such a catchy campaign slogan. Everyone has his own notions about greatness.  For some it means to make America white again, for others it means to return to a day when this was a manufacturing powerhouse and assembly line jobs allowed workers to be part of a booming middle class, a time when foreign competition was feeble and public tastes preferred domestic goods. It's not going to happen and temporal dysphoria, like entropy, will increase. Short of an apocalypse, the world continues to get smaller.

Change itself , like the expansion of the universe, seems to be accelerating.  By the time most people develop what feels like an understanding of how things are, it's all changed, the technology, the certainties, the requirements of social intercourse, the goals of citizens, the expectations and even the language change ever more rapidly.  I doubt that even Taoists are comfortable going with this turbulent flow. I'm certainly not and it may explain my love of antiques, art and old technology. Perhaps it explains all those off-the-grid survivalist shows, the back-to-nature attempts that usually aren't very honest and it certainly explains the obsessive use of words like "artisinal," Natural, craft and Organic, one sees in advertising.  Make no mistake, advertising is the soul of our culture and ours is a backwards looking one. At a time when cars are become autonomous robots, jukeboxes, internet cafe's and video game parlors all wrapped in armor, we still see ads telling us how the Lexus isn't produced, it's "crafted."  We see clips of hands sanding a block of wood for the dashboard and we feel soothed even though we know it's all automated and turned out by robots. Deceit is the root of our culture although we may call it by other names, the cars we're told to worship for having 200 horsepower outsell those with 700 horsepower because we see the world through the dark lens of advertising. The way we smell and taste things owes far more to the expectations we've had instilled in us than it does to tongues or noses. Placebos are often perceived as more effective than real medicine and everyone with a cause feels justified in any level of misrepresentation to further it, it doesn't matter that a mushroom with a gene removed that turns it dark when cut simply must be dangerous to all life on Earth without any evidence just as surely as vaccinations don't work and cause Autism. You can save the planet by wearing organic hemp underwear, Reality terrifies us although we have no actual connection to it.

It's not new, the reaction to rapacious modernity, It was the industrial revolution that spawned the Arts and Crafts movement and gave most of us the wealth to purchase it.  It's scientific farming that's allowed us the freedom and time to raise the hysteria and hypochondria that keeps the aisles at Whole Foods crowded and causes people to adopt the "Kale Cleansing" or Carb Counting Gluten-Free life style, or Copper Compression underwear tuned to Natural frequencies. Advances in medicine produce a distrust of medicine as do advances in most everything, including civil rights, justice, equality and freedom -- and we react accordingly. Is racism fading or getting worse? You tell me - and I'm sure you will.

Some of us resent losing the sense of White Anglo-Saxon protestant primacy we could feel 75 years ago and we support Trump. Others insist nothing has improved and nobody seems to like the way things are, the way they think things are going or their part in life. So we have Bullies for Bernie. We've had "leaders" dedicated to keeping things the way they were or we thought they were, no matter how awful it was for some and we have those who passionately hate what is and envision something altogether different and much more pleasant for them without much concern for what's possible or moral or legal. Welcome to the American fugue state.

America was once great we all agree as long as we don't have to be specific about for whom or when or in what sense that was. America's current greatness is still beyond challenge even while we complain so much about the current "disaster" or claim that everything is "broken," something we can do without any reference to a broader picture.   It's enough to cite one talking point and one example real or manufactured, to support either certainty.

Is it any wonder that a candidate can base his campaign on returning to a lost greatness while his advocates insist we're the greatest there ever was?  It's only a wonder in a rational world, and where are you going to find one of those?





Thursday, June 02, 2016

Stupid is as Stupid Does.

Many scholarly articles suggest  a link between the easily disgusted and the chronic Republican voter. Reading that Donald finds windmills disgusting makes me wonder just how extreme this man is, as windmills are not typical gag reaction triggers for the party which abhors Humanism, homosexuality, pornography and most things with a sexual component.  The Laissez Faire Conservative attitude extends only to the regulation of business and finance, not to how one might dress or with whom one forms romantic relationships or in what mythology one chooses to suspend disbelief. Windmills. I hesitate to hear his ideas about hydroelectric power or photoelectric panels, much less the satellites that collect global temperature data.

Indeed I have had about enough of all his ideas about race and gender and medicine and climatology: about his conspiracy theories and immigration fantasies. There's no drought in California, the planet is freezing! Rapist, Mexican drug mules are streaming North across the border and a president can, by fiat, make a major religion illegal and put a faith test on immigration laws.  11 million people in boxcars. It's certainly worth the 600 billion dollar cost to protect our dollars and daughters from people who have lived and worked here for decades and even lifetimes -- even the children raised here who know no Spanish. You know, the ones who pay taxes yet can't collect Social Security.  Good think he's got a good relationship with "the Blacks."  I might have worried otherwise.

Is all this cognitive chaos scarier than the fact that facts have no bearing on his opinions or the opinions of the millions of Denialists that clog the national arteries?  Faith over fact, prejudice over principle: the equations of idiots and the answer is always Trump.

Compulsory cynicism and mean mockery aside, this is a man of no morals or ethics or conscience. It's not as though he is unique in this, but that our United States is unique among Western Industrialized and allegedly enlightened nation in having more than ten people who disagree with that. One thinks of Sodom or Gomorrah and weeps.






Wednesday, June 01, 2016

When You Gotta Go. You Gotta Go!

I'm sure the hope that those "smaller government" patriots will get their minds  and their intrusive policies out of the toilet is entirely vain, but I read this morning that the plight of transgender high school students, banned from their desired washroom is headed to the Supreme Court.  The spectacle of Conservative "thought" battling with ancient demons has lost its amusement factor after all these months of  our grotesque presidential rhetoric and whether or not the SCOTUS will hear the case or what decision they come to the only solution I can see is one I'm told exists in Great Britain, is the ability to have one's birth certificate modified to show the gender one has adopted.

A shorter term solution, although I'm not recommending anyone adopt it, is for protesting students to simply do their bodily functions at the door of the Principal's office and trade one disgusting act for another disgusting attitude.

Monday, May 30, 2016

Let it Rain

There ain't no drought in California
There ain't no flames in Hell
The snow don't fall in North Dakota
His hair is free of gel.

The rain it runs into the sea
Because of Uncle Sam
It's all about some kind of fish
But Trump will build a dam!

"There can't be no climate change"
His beer is always cold
And all his lies are really great
The finest ever told.

The bear it's said, goes to the woods
When he needs to take a dump.
America goes to the polls
To vote for Donald Trump





Greed.

Greed: everyone's talking about it, but as with much of what remains of our uncommon language, everyone has his own definition and of course that's necessary, because everyone in his way, or more comfortably: everyone else in my way is greedy.  In fact, one could say that life itself is greedy by nature and without that lust for more, that innate, inescapable drive to eat and reproduce, thrive and survive this would be a barren planet. Greed is a force of nature, the breath of life.

But greed is bad, and every election cycle gives us reminders that the rich are greedy, the poor are greedy, the "corporations" and "Wall Street;" the bankers, the welfare queens, "Big Pharma" and all the "takers" are greedy. That's another way we have of expressing our greedy grudge, our greedy jealousy of everyone we don't think deserves what they have when we deserve it more.

As I said, everyone has his own dictionary and many words in it are of a double entry book keeping sort. If you support Bernie Sanders for instance, you have to discount his mad lust for the White House as something other than greed. You have to use the other definition. Greed is altruism. That greed is good. The greed that produces a Bill Gates or a Larry Ellison or an Andrew Carnegie? Well I'll leave that to you because all our dictionaries are edited by our own greed and self-importance and narcissism and the words are just things to throw at straw men anyway. It's all about winners and losers and how each hates the other.

I could mention that a fundamental drive for more is the force behind Capitalism, amongst other things, and although in some circumstances, altruism, compassion and a feeling for justice can control that force, at times and in places, we need more in the way of control, just as we need to control, in our greed, the other forces of nature to benefit from them.

But we can't say that out loud, because the greedy Libertarians would say your car would be more efficient without brakes or a throttle or a steering wheel. Regulation and the law itself is the enemy of freedom as every libertarian knows. I would suggest it, but that would make me a greedy taker, a Commie, a bleeding heart eager to hand out "free stuff" at the taxpayer's expense -- or something entirely different depending on the greedy eyes of the observer  It would put me in the pocket of greedy Wall Street too and Big Bad Pharma, unless you use some other dictionary or some other way of disguising your greed for power and control and dressing it up as a "vision" and selling your prejudice and jealousy as principle.

Are you a Gump for Trump?  Do you wan't to pillory Hillary or are you a bully for Bernie?  Does it matter. We're all a bunch of greedy bastards anyway.


Sunday, May 22, 2016

I grow old

What does it feel like to be old?  Of course that's far too complex a question to have a simple answer, but one of the reminders of that thing you try to forget is that so many people around you seem to know so little.  I'm reading a story set in the 1950's, generally realistic until you read about how the driver of the 1955 Chevy pulls over and turns on his emergency flashers. You may be puzzled at my amusement, but they were not furnished in those days, not for another ten years.

I'm watching one of those programs where "experts" poke around in attics looking for treasures. a mid 60's table radio is discovered and the hunters marvel that it has tubes.
 "Look - tooobs!  That's what they had then before the chips and transmitters came in.  This could be valuable"  
It wasn't worth more than a few bucks at most, even if it worked.  Obviously he has no idea about the history of radio or what a transistor is.
Go ask some thirty something what "Ethyl" is or how you dial a phone, or if he remembers the Sylvania "Halo Light TV."  He won't know.  Chips and transmitters indeed, it brings tears to my aging eyes.

Ever notice all those period dramas where someone turns on the 1930 Motorola "tombstone" radio ind the sound comes on instantly?  Yep, it sometimes seems like everyone was born yesterday. It's because you're old jack and that's a fact.







Donald Trump, Gunslinger

Or Bullslinger: take your pick

He's a long time member and so are his "boys" Donald Trump told the NRA. I have no idea if that's true or whether his girls are duck hunters.  I do know whether I think that's a reprehensible organization -- and I do.

Before you put the "liberaliberaliberal" disc on your Victrola, I'll continue on and say that since 1993 when The NRA began to use the the Oklahoma City bombing and the holocaust in Waco, Texas as fund raising fodder and began to justify terrorism in the name of the second amendment, it lost any credibility as an advocacy for anything but arms manufacturers and insurrectionists.
"In Clinton's administration, if you have a badge, you have the government's go-ahead to harass, intimidate, even murder law-abiding citizens."    — Wayne LaPierre, 1993 NRA fundraising letter. —

As you may recall George H.W. Bush resigned his membership because of statements about "jack booted thugs" deserving to be blown up along with their children and I'm sure you know that Quick Draw LaPierre is still at the helm of that organization. Of course the tired trope about the license to kill is also a battle flag of some allegedly left-leaning organizations, but we do live in a time of  the war of all against all and war justifies all lies, or so it's said.

Picturing the young Donald at high noon on Main Street in Queens, reaching for his matched pair of Colts is worthy of a giggle, but pudgy old Don, the comb-over king isn't so cute at all and I'm not laughing.  He's attempting to rally the well-regulated militia by lying about Hillary Clinton - our new national pastime.
If she's elected, he says, she'll somehow make the second amendment go away and he's "not going to let that happen,"  as though any president any anything like the power to amend the constitution, particularly an amendment with a huge following.

In fact she's never suggested that and has publicly supported it as fundamental, although the notion that a manufacturer of a legal product that is not defective can be sued if that product is used illegally seems like nothing less than an attempt to kick the legs out from under the concept of law itself, but I digress.

Hillary Clinton has a lot of haters on all sides and if  she is to have some hope of defeating the Flushing Kid she's got to sound more moderate about guns. The Democrats, as the public sees that party, have pandered too long to the anti-gun phobics, spent too much time fudging figures and hyping up the danger despite two decades of declining gun violence. It's the main issue today in the minds of a huge number of Americans including many Democrats, and their votes hinge entirely on  a candidate sharing that magic thinking that is the hallmark.  She needs a big image change and she needs it now and the Trump-happy media need to cooperate.

Of course I don't want to see her duck hunting in a camo pants suit, We remember Kerry with a shotgun and Dukakis riding in a tank and it would backfire, but make no mistake this is a gun-loving country and people will vote for a megalomaniac liar with no morals or manners before it will consider Hillary the gun-grabber.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Brown Shirts for Bernie

By now I'm used to the trolls. I've been blogging for a long time but of late the most viciously personal ad hominem has come, not from the Republican Right but from the Bernie Boys. I blocked someone on another venue yesterday after I mentioned to a Bernie Bully that by hoping that a candidate Clinton would fail and thus cause the nation to fail, he was taking words out of Rush Limbaugh's prayer book.

I don't think I've seen such ugly invective since I graduated from Middle school and believe me, I've read some nasty stuff in my years on-line. I am lucky, says he, that he doesn't have my address or he would kill me.

Sanders Supporters Prepared to fight, I read this morning.  Indeed they are. You can almost hear the sound of a Munich Bierstube echoing with the sound of stomping jackboots and Bernie's Brownshirts yelling Seig Heil !

Yes, they're ready to fight, because it's not about convincing the public that Big Brother B has a rational plan to address what ails us or a rational view of a complex world coupled with the ability of any president to do all those revolutionary things without an actual revolution.  It's about the fight, the struggle, the Jihad, the Kampf, the Crusade. It's about how irredeemably evil the other side is.

It's all about the urge to fight, the narcissistic lack of introspection.  Just close your eyes and fly right into the enemy battleship called "Wall Street" because, as Barry Goldwater supporters used to shout: "In your heart you know he's right." "The bankers are destroying our country" and where have we heard that one before? Sieg Heil indeed.

It's not about qualifications or experience or even about the possibility or even the legality of putting all that pie up into the sky, it's about BERNIE! St Bernie of the beer hall, leader of the Sanderistas - a Che Guevara for El Norte, the Donald Trump of the Democrats.

Saturday, May 14, 2016

It ain't me!

So Trumpty Dumpty says it wasn't him on the phone posing as a spokesman. He says his tax returns are nobody's business either.

I hear his campaign is coming out with a song:

It ain't me, it ain't me, no, ain't my voice that's on the phone
It ain't me, it ain't me boys, blowin' on my own horn.

Some folks are born silver spoon in hand,
Lord, don't they help themselves, at all.
But when the taxman comes to the door,
Lord, the house looks like a rummage sale.

It ain't me, it ain't me, I ain't no millionaire's son, no.
It ain't me, it ain't me; I ain't no fortunate one, no.




Friday, May 13, 2016

Humpty Trumpty Built a Great Wall.

"But now the big banks are back in the party, pushing for Hillary Clinton to beat Donald Trump."  

Writes Bill Moyers and if you're like most people, seeking signs and marshaling facts to back up your emotionally derived and factless delusions, you'll read that as evidence  that she will be controlled by that nebulous straw man "wall street."   

Didn't really work all the other times financial interests contributed to other candidates, and of course no matter how much some brokerage house gave her, we don't know how much they gave to others, do we?  And of course the only reason people heavily involved in managing the wealth of nations would contribute is because she's a patsy, right?  It's not that highly informed and educated people don't believe Trumptastic Mister Shortfingers is going to make America Great like it was in 1862 or 1929. It's Wall Street.  It's Capitalism and we all know how crooked that is until anyone mentions Socialism.

That's the news in America -- a farrago of fallacy being served even by those presumably smart enough to tell shit from shoe polish selling it to others who think it's shampoo.

Trump is trustworthy because he's rich and Hillary must be a crook because she's rich.  How do we understand this?  Better ask Beyonce because Prince is dead and all the while we hear them pissing themselves lest God suddenly return to kill us all because some former dude walks into the lady's room. I mean that's never happened before without at least a plague of toads ensuing.

Look, Democracy in America doesn't have a chance. It's failing fast because America is the last stronghold of stupid. We've used miraculous information technology to create and maintain ignorance, feed delusion, dress up fake arguments as news and make everyone incoherently outraged on demand.  Hot and cold running Fox and that old slime religion every Sunday.  What a great country and soon to be greater, or whiter if you prefer when we round up and deport 11 million people, establish a State religion and close other houses of worship.  Great again, like when the Conquistadors were here and the Indian hunters and slave drivers and we all had good solid Anglo names like Drumph.

Saturday, April 30, 2016

Can I Get a Witness?

One of the contributing factors in the difficulty (I almost wrote impossibility) of  that "discussion" about race in America we're constantly told we need to have is that victims in America have tended to set themselves above advice or criticism  and thereby gain the right to direct any conversation in it's course or conclusions. "for are we not victims and are not our critics all evil?"  I'm sure that by this sentence the gavel is already descending on the verdict that I'm a racist,  But enough of that, lets talk specifics.

I read in the Daily Kos just now that African American poet Crystal Valentine was deeply offended by Megyn Kelly's assertion that Jesus was a white man. Now any statements about Jesus  need to be qualified as to whether we're talking about Jesus of Nazareth, the failed Jewish revolutionary or Jesus Christ of myth.  Obviously Megyn and Crystal are engaged in equivocation, or more specifically, the fallacy of equivocation.  Those are two different characters.  Those who come to Jesus through Sunday school or through Christian education are talking about  someone either half god or entirely god or even, like Gilgamesh of Uruk, one third divine. He was a man of peace come to mysteriously erase inherited sin that without him could never otherwise be erased.  He died and was resurrected, although the family of myths diverges in the details.

There's absolutely no historical evidence for this Jesus so perhaps one can call him Chinese or a Swede or African with equal authority.  If I were part of that "conversation" I might have pointed out that the Jesus that might actually have been wasn't Celtic or blond, he was a Jew without any physical feature we know of to distinguish him from other Jewish men at the time.

It is this mythological Jesus Ms. Valentine refers to when she says:
“How can she says Jesus was a white man when he died the blackest way possible? With his hands up, with his mother watching."
The answer is easy and history gives weight to her statement, all the poetry and passion, all the sound and fury notwithstanding. It's just as valid and more so to say he died in the most Jewish way possible. In fact the notion that only descendants of American slaves have ever been persecuted and oppressed and no one elses experience can be referenced or compared  is a bit obnoxious. Jewish lives matter.

So I'm sorry, all poetic references to the child saint of Ferguson notwithstanding, Jesus was a Jew from the Northern Kingdom and likely from a tiny hamlet called Nazareth and came to Jerusalem to oust the Romans and their collaborators with divine help.but we really can't be sure.  He may be fictional, he may be a composite of the many rebels seeking God's help by purifying the people.  His ethnic background is not irrelevant, it's essential and the image of him as a persecuted ex American slave is poetic license with no power to influence objective views of history.  Jesus the man belongs to the Jews, Jesus the Savior is anyone's because we make him up as we go along, whether or not you call myth as a witness, and by doing so se forfeit the right to claim that he was or was not anything at all.   

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Common Sense

" No nation ought to be without a debt."

-From Common Sense by Thomas Paine-

But everyone today is an Economist and everyone knows debt is bad and the secret to good government is parsimony.  After all, a government is just like a business, isn't it?

"The world needs more U.S. Government debt" 

wrote Narayana Kocherlakota in Bloomberg View yesterday.  He is the Lionel W. McKenzie professor of economics at the University of Rochester who served as president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis from 2009 through 2015.

He feels the immense earning power of the United States allows us to produce the extremely safe bonds the world wants and which are in  short supply. No business would act like this, he says. A corporation with such a safe cash flow and such low borrowing costs would issue debt to pay shareholders and fund expansion.  Analogously, the US government could cut taxes and build infrastructure. Instead market forces steer capital into risky investments like sub-prime mortgages and businesses and households are reluctant to spend, keeping short term rates low.

Every nation should have a debt and yet, because of political pressure from a party teaching the voters that personal debt and government debt are the same thing, artificial  constraints are imposed on debt, contrary to market demand:

" constraints that punish savers, choke off economic growth and could sow the seeds of the next financial crisis."
But of course the ultimate test of policy is not whether it works: whether it increases prosperity  and stability, the test is whether it sells to a public kept on the edge of panic and outrage by political interests.  Platitudes, and attitudes and outright deception rule and apparently we like it that way. We look for leaders with no experience, we look to those with no experience for advice on world markets, fiscal and monetary policy and sleazy, vulgar and misogynistic  real estate developers for advice on social and ethical problems and we develop a debt that can't be repaid and that  keeps us like a ship taking on water with a captain who doesn't believe in bilge pumps. No nation ought to be like this.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Fear and Loathing in Target

Are these the best or worst of times?  Probably the answer is yes, but I have to argue that they are the craziest of times.  Is it a symptom of this  national insanity that any organization with the word Liberty or Freedom or Patriot in the title is mostly about extremist politics?  Of course I have an example:  it's the Liberty Counsel * which of course has nothing to do with Liberty and  advocates for special powers and legal exemptions for evangelical Christians.  Now, when you really think about it, it really isn't about Christianity as that family of religions usually likes to be defined, but about restricting personal liberty when it comes to matters of sex or gender or whatever language is approved by other organizations that aren't about what they're calling themselves.  No, the Liberty Counsel is about restricting personal liberty and substituting a rigid code of behavior derived from. . . well from them actually.

So it's no surprise to read that the president of this august body, one Anita Staver is raving about bringing a gun into the public restrooms at Target.  Target, guns, ha ha ha.   And although in just about any State there's no law against doing that if you have a carry permit, Target has a 'no guns' policy in their stores, so Mrs. Liberty here is openly ignoring the Liberty of Target and private property rights in general and possibly engaging in Armed Trespass in particular.   Of course the Target Crapper Patrol would have to see that gun as well as they would have to see the gonads of  an alleged gender bender and neither is likely to happen as things stand in toilets everywhere.  There's never been a problem except in the evil minds of  the New Inquisition.

But the question isn't the legality but the alleged necessity of doing so, now that Target has made it their policy to allow transgendered people to use the loo of choice.  Yes, I know, there has never been a problem with that. Department store washrooms during business hours are not a dangerous place and  transgendered  or androgynous or even scary people with tattoos  have always used them and you never noticed. I'd worry more about Christ-Crazy gonad obsessed old women with guns and a heart full of hate.

No this grandstand play is about nothing other than a power play by Christo-Nazis who oppose equal rights under the law for people they choose to hate for religious reasons. They have gone to court to protect the right of pubic employees to get paid for a job they refuse to do because of their  twisted religion.  No, It's a threat of armed violence designed to create an atmosphere of fear and face it, Target has as much right to say who uses their toilets as they do to call the cops on old quick draw Staver, and Rupaul has the same right to keep and bear arms as anybody else.

So let me say this about that as Nixon used to say:  I just may begin to frequent the liberty Council and the other organizations it controls: **
  • Luke 18:27 Foundation, Inc.
  • Liberty Counsel Action, Inc.
  • Liberty Counsel Action
  • Freedom Federation, Inc.
  • Liberty Action PAC, Inc.
  • Salt and Light Council

And when I do, I'm going to carry a concealed weapon or two.  And why not?  You're all about Liberty aren't you? That's right Anita, I'm coming soon to a crapper near you and  no telling what I might be wearing or bearing.


* Listed by the Southern Poverty Law Center as a hate group.

** Also affiliated with Liberty University Law School, which was founded by the Rev. Jerry Falwell and Liberty Counsel.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Study This!

Seek, and ye shall find, it says in the Gospels, much to the cynical amusement of those looking for things they never seem to attain, or acquire. If it's freedom you're seeking, your not going to find it if the Gospel Growlers can help it. Freedom is dangerous and so is Democracy and we have studies to show it.

I'm sure Utah Governor Gary Herbert is going to find what  he's seeking in the studies he's using taxpayer money to fund: studies to prove that pornography is a public health hazard which creates a "toxic environment." Of course it's all an attempt to preach religion from the Governor's office and nothing more.  But it's good to know that there is, at last, some notice of toxic environments in Utah, even if  he's not actually talking about the environment we call air or water or land or even  a toxin that actually poisons anything or any one.  No, those nebulous but harmful effects need to be created, hence the study.  We need to start studying  pornography keeping in mind that it's bad, very bad: it's

"a public health hazard leading to a broad spectrum of individual and public health impacts and societal harms."
It reminds me of Richard Nixon's studies of Marijuana intended to back up the bogus claims used to criminalize it.  When the studies showed no harm to the stuff, he fired the researchers.  But this isn't a medical or scientific study and it assumes the conclusion that grows out of the toxic environment we call religion.  Truth by assertion is unassailable. Support by evidence produced by fake studies is simply window dressing. When it comes to research; those "studies" we always hear about find  only what he who pays for them is seeking.  These studies tend to be the building blocks of marketing if not also the bricks paving the road to hell. You pays yer money and you gets your study, complete with an actor in a lab coat and a clipboard. If it's freedom you're seeking, your not going to find it if the Gospel Growlers can help it.

I have to wonder if the public health "impacts"  they most assuredly will find will be restricted to Utah, since they don't seem to appear in places where pornography is everywhere and I wonder if the "impact" of  rampant abuse of women and young girls that is ignored or tolerated or swept under the rug in Utah will come under review here.  I suppose it won't yet we can be sure there will be "links" to all sorts of  health risks even if we have to invent consequences to be linked to. Something will be needed if the study bothers to examine countries whe

After all we can start with the premise that "pornography is rape" thanks to extremists of another stripe and after that the only hard part is not to talk about old Mormon men with harems of little girls and other forms of Latter Day female slavery in Utah and elsewhere.

But I don't want to blame it all on Mormons.  The GOP has been straightjacket-worthy for decades, ignoring the real problems threatening our health and well-being, our freedom and survival, in favor of ranting about dirty pictures.  The Tampa GOP convention in 2012 was quite obsessive on getting "tough" about pornography and I'm sure we can remember Ken Starr from previous campaigns attempting to criminalize even medical terminology concerned with sex on the internet.  It's the Republican disease as much as a Christian disease but of course today there isn't enough difference to make it seem constitutional.

I might suggest that Evangelicals, religious fanatics of all sorts and the Republican Party are the real public health hazards: obfuscating public health programs, opposing individual liberty, thwarting science and supporting the oppression of  "gentiles."

Isn't it funny - and by funny I mean tragic - that as a free country we encourage things that have no place in a free country?

Friday, April 22, 2016

Boris the Mayor

It's good to be reminded in these trying times, that American politicians don't have a monopoly or a patent on bigotry, ignorance and plain old stupidity,  much less the diplomatic incompetence to make an enemy of your best ally.

Take Boris Johnson, mayor of London, who tells the world that Barack Obama has an "ancestral dislike of the British Empire."  because his father was born in Kenya.  Now it may be true that there is some animosity in Kenya as there is in so many places where the British Empire viciously suppressed liberty and opportunity in a flamboyantly racist fashion, but Obama could have easily, if such a thing as "ancestral animosity" is a real phenomenon, come to dislike the British Empire from his mother's complex, but partially Irish ancestry.  But do we -- and by we I mean the world -- have to remind  Boris that EVERYBODY HATES THE GODDAMN BRITISH EMPIRE?   The Chinese still hate your guts nor is there any lack of memory in  Southeast Asia, the Indian subcontinent or Africa of the British scourge.

Of all the stupid excuses to insult someone trying to talk sense into the British.

Boris the Mayor

It's good to be reminded in these trying times, that American politicians don't have a monopoly or a patent on bigotry, ignorance and plain old stupidity,  much less the diplomatic incompetence to make an enemy of your best ally.

Take Boris Johnson, mayor of London, who tells the world that Barack Obama has an "ancestral dislike of the British Empire."  because his father was born in Kenya.  Now it may be true that there is some animosity in Kenya as there is in so many places where the British Empire viciously suppressed liberty and opportunity in a flamboyantly racist fashion, but Obama could have easily, if such a thing as "ancestral animosity" is a real phenomenon, come to dislike the British Empire from his mother's complex, but partially Irish ancestry.  But do we -- and by we I mean the world -- have to remind  Boris that EVERYBODY HATES THE GODDAMN BRITISH EMPIRE?   The Chinese still hate your guts nor is there any lack of memory in China, Southeast Asia, the Indian subcontinent or Africa of the British scourge.

Of all the stupid excuses to insult someone trying to talk sense into the British.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

On the Money

Sure it's time for a change.  I've been commenting for years that other countries have artists, authors, poets and scholars on their money while we have government officials, symbols of authority.  I've long suggested that Andrew Jackson be the first to go: a miserable racist who deported thousands of people in brutal fashion to miserable concentration camps because he simply didn't want them East of the Mississippi.  Many American Indians have compared him to a certain German leader it's impolitic to name here.

I wish however that there could have been a calm, scholarly but public discussion of  just who most merits becoming the face of the twenty dollar bill, that denomination that dominates the wallets of America.  I know, that's naive. This is America and discussion in America sounds much like the wilds of Montana at night during a full moon.

Harriet Tubman won't be the first female on our currency, that distinction has been had by mythological figures for a long time and of course Sacagawea ( and a baby boy) had a run on a now defunct  dollar coin even though we have no idea what she actually looked like.

So it's mousy, plain and un-heroic looking  Harriet Tubman. we have photographs to prove it.  Of course real heroes hardly ever look the part and for her efforts to save people from slavery at great personal risk, she certainly is as much of one as men like Oskar Schindler and probably greater since she took so many terrible risks with her life.   Good for her. She stood for something, just like George Washington even if she didn't have a white horse to ride on. She not only stood for something truly moral, she broke laws to do it and essentially went to war, which come to think of it was what our founding fathers did even though those were British laws..  I just wish it didn't feel so much like pandering because I know full well every time someone pulls out a twenty in America, there's going to be some comment, some grimace and I'm going to have to distance myself from people even further.  I just don't want to listen to it - idiots demanding that we boycott the twenty. I can see the stickers on all the ATMs.  I just wish it didn't absolutely have to be a woman and a black women, even though  it does, doesn't it?


Friday, April 15, 2016

Firearm Derangement Syndrome

I was watching Samantha Bee gyrating on my TV the other night, dressed an a homemade Eagle costume festooned with plastic guns and made to resemble an NRA mascot. It was one of those Bones and Tambo moments.

She had just finished telling us you could now buy guns on TV and not telling us you still had to go through a Federally licensed gun dealer and complete the transaction including any waiting periods and background checks just as though you'd bought it from his stock.  Guns on TV!  Oh so shocking and when the demo includes using a watermelon as a target, you just know people who own or buy guns are all dreaming of mass murder.  You just know and because you just know, most anything you say that furthers the cause of angry prejudice is just fine. Empty mockery, slander, malicious stereotyping -- no less revolting than a minstrel show done in blackface used to provide.

One of those moments. Do I call it an epiphany? Do I trot out the fable about straws and camels or is it just one of those cases where the weight of facts finally prompts you to admit that your sense of belonging to a group or movement  has been making you lie to yourself?  These people are as crazy as a Trump, I said to myself as I made the decision. These people are no more honest than Fox News.

I'm joining the NRA.

I wonder if the gun control extremists aren't becoming their best recruiters. Yes, I've been laughing at them for years for their constant twisting of every proposed morsel of regulation into a rabid attack on our God given right to own and wave any kind of firearms, but I've been long troubled by their opposition's growing use of false figures, deliberately misleading terminology and refusal to acknowledge existing law and precedent.  All of a sudden, I'm beginning to see that as more than just enthusiasm.  I see it as part of the escalating zealotry and extremism that is prompting what I used to call the Left to cut a swath through the law, the truth and reason to get to the demons they alone see and justify it by the sanctity of the cause. It's become so universal to identify any skepticism about the details and particulars and assumptions of anti-gun crusades with the NRA, one might just as well join them and get the magazines.  They have interesting articles.

A Connecticut judged ruled Yesterday that a lawsuit directed at Bushmaster Firearms International seeking damages for the rampage shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School 5 years ago could proceed.  Much has been made of the 2005 Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act that protects arms makers from liability in such cases as this, where the legal product was sold legally but subsequently stolen and used to commit murder by a third party. Much will be made of it because Bernie Sanders voted for the PLCAA  and Hillary Clinton did not. This alone may be enough to shift my support to Bernie because I'm angry as hell and I'm just not going to sit still for any more furious and fatuous crusades.

Since Bushmaster broke no law or regulation culpability or "wrongfulness" in this case can only refer to some offense that has nothing to do with the law. It can only be based on some kind of moral offense involved in selling guns and that's going to be very hard to sell to a jury.

“The Superior Court has subject matter jurisdiction over a wrongful death action where the injury arose out of conduct by the defendants,” 
The magic is in the word "conduct."  it puts all conduct into the same box thereby enabling opportunists to sue anyone for anything they had nothing to do with, much less liability for. It's new. No one sued Bruno Magli for selling OJ his shoes, much less the company who made the knife.  It's a precedent not only dangerous to law and justice, but to civilization,  and in this specific case it shifts blame from the adult who allowed a deranged child access to a weapon and trained him to use it.

Is this organized campaign based on passing the very real blame to someone with deep pockets but no legal culpability in order to inhibit the importation, manufacture and sales of firearms in the US?  I think so.  I think, as do most Americans, that this is wrong and who else agrees that has any influence?  Bernie Sanders perhaps, the NRA for sure, crazy as they are about so many other things.

The lies about selling "weapons of war" are all the more poignant when one realizes that the 2nd amendment specifically references the idea that we need to keep weapons of war available to the public. The plaintiff's lawyers are going to have a hard time propping up the idea that it's immoral to sell the Bushmaster AR-15 because it''s "military" in light of the fact that it isn't. Morality is in the eye of the plaintiff in this case and the plaintiff alone if I read public sentiment accurately.  One of the pitfalls of moral outrage is to think, since you tend to associate only with other zealots, that most people agree with you.  We shall see.

It's appropriate to look at how a legal precedent will affect future court decisions and if it transpires that Bushmaster is held liable for wrongful death without doing anything wrong, then  the manufacturer of anything can be held liable through no actual fault of commission or omission of his own.  Is it appropriate to think about how giving the finger to the constitution and centuries of law might be a bad precedent when that constitution is already under assault by Christian supremacists?

It's not the only about this jihad, there are so many other crusades billing themselves as "liberal" having to do with ignoring evidence, accepting some evidence without question and  ignoring other evidence based on prejudice alone, there are efforts to presume guilt when it involves certain categories of people and  other complaints sufficient to cause me not to  follow the noise and revel in the rage of the mob, but I'm taking it step by step.  Today it's the NRA tomorrow it may be the people who want to tell me what I think because of my skin color or what I can say because of my ancestry. Small steps on a long, long ladder.

Monday, April 11, 2016

Say Hello to the New Boss. . .

I hate revolutions.  They almost always make things worse because they rely on zealotry and anger and revenge. The angriest, the craziest and those with serious problems always wind up as the leaders because the truly furious can't trust the pragmatic and reasonable who might just try to regulate the power they feel is needed to overthrow, to punish, to abolish and yes, even to exterminate.

There's usually fuel and fear enough to consume a culture or a civilization and of course we're constantly improving our fuel production and distribution even though our memories aren't any better than they ever were. We still hear people demanding more oil drilling as the world staggers under a glut of cheap oil. We still hear that Obama is against oil production even after he's expanded it enormously.

The world  staggers under a glut of misinformation and ignorance as well.  We're still howling about government "bailouts" that have been paid back with interest, saving countless jobs and strengthening the economy.. We're howling about things that are getting better as though they were getting worse, as though we feared a loss of purpose, of the self righteous glory of our anger if crime declines, economies improve, criminals are caught and justice prevails. As economies recover we have to hide it, we have to pad crime statistics, use misleading rhetoric, inflated numbers or anything else the end justifies -- even though we won't ever let it end.

Who was so angry at "wall street" when things were expanding like a soap bubble?  Who was so angry at people and entities sheltering capital in tax havens until they were busted and rounded up?  And again, who is paying attention to the serious problems that particular crusade is causing to law abiding "little" people.  In fact I wonder who enthusiastically voted to make all those things banks and finance companies and other entities legal again and why now are they looking for scapegoats when they should be looking in the mirror?

You see, I may hate patriotism and righteousness as much as I hate revolution and for the same reason. It's the passions of people, the passions of the mob and of their leaders I'm disgusted by.  It's hard to think of a good cause that isn't co-opted by zealots and turned into narrow channels that alienate rather than enlist altruism and good will toward man or beast.  The agenda and the power structure of some organization is always more important and always must be protected against, for instance someone who really opposes all racism, all injustice, all discrimination, all greed and all oppression.

We just become what we hate the more we hate it, and we didn't need Nietzsche to tell us, or Orwell to remind us that the rebels become the new oppressors.  So it's not enough to look for effective reform in banking and finance, we have to stuff a straw man full of everyone from the bank janitor to the bank resident. We can't just try to vote responsibly, we have to elect clowns and idiots to "punish" the government.  We can't think of more rational laws, so we have to denounce all of them just because they're laws and whatever we do we have to make everything seem far, far worse than it is even when we lose support from rational people for doing so.

If GM is building and selling cars in China, we have to complain they're "exporting jobs"  If a government bailout proves to have been a good investment, we still have to keep calling it bad names as long as possible.  If a retired school teacher in Mexico gets her nest egg confiscated, we have to ignore it because "wall street" may be hiding money even though the massive crackdown began a decade ago and we ignored it.  If innocent people have their assets confiscated without due process, we don't care because there's a chance they only have money because they're drug dealers.

I hate revolutions because they hardly ever address the real problems, they hardly produce productive change and because they always become self perpetuating: become all about the revolution itself , and because there's no fool like an angry fool.

Wednesday, April 06, 2016

That Berning Sensation

I think Bernie Sanders has a lot to be embarrassed about, despite another primary won, but I'm not sure that revealing his apparent lack of  knowledge about just how he would retrieve all that pie from the stratosphere  worries me.  Just how a president makes state college tuition free I don't know nor does he, and when pressed by Bloomberg TV as to just who on "wall Street" should or would be punished for what crimes, he had no answer and  when interviewed by the New York Daily News about how, among other things, he would break up big banks, he sounded very much like a schoolboy explaining why he hadn't done his homework.  It's being called a disaster, but is it?
Donald Trump joked that he could shoot someone and not lose a supporter.  Whether or not it's strictly true, we Americans support candidates without much reliance on objective and dispassionate arguments.  We like slogans, platitudes and promises and the feeling that some buffoon loves and respects us uncritically and will attack our bogeymen and scapegoats in dramatic fashion. I don't think Sanders'  lack of  knowledge about economics, banking and finance hurts him one bit, sad to say, nor his equal unfamiliarity with foreign policy and current world events.  Perhaps his supporters don't want to be informed about those subjects lest they lose the confidence that innocence (and anger) bring.  If your concerns are mostly about tuition and loans why ask the man about a nuclear North Korea or Iran shipping weapons to Yemen and the rise of Neo-Fascism in Europe?  Why care if he answers "I don't know?"
When he rails about the "bailouts" the dogs prick up their ears, because it sounds like somebody got something for free, the scenario that enrages both camps, but  as I see it, the return on that "bailout" has netted a gain - a profit for the nation of nearly 70 billion dollars.  No, that's not a big piece of such a huge pie, but then, remember that an economic collapse as big as the Great Depression was avoided and countless jobs and industries were kept in the United States. A once endangered General Motors is selling cars in China as fast as they can make them.  What else do we sell there?  Mr. Sanders has no interest in telling us that Obama's policies may have saved the country and in that he mirrors the  disloyal opposition on the Right.  What does that say about him?  
I will of course vote for him - or nearly anyone if his opponent is one of the GOP circus clowns, but without thinking of Mrs. Clinton as being the best of all possible candidates, I worry about a 75 year old dog having to learn a whole world of new tricks in a world and a country being torn apart by wild and ignorant armies, day and night, here and abroad.

Saturday, April 02, 2016

Safety first

Everything in America is getting so scary - not more dangerous, but more scary.  Parents who back in the 80's managed to fend for themselves are now hovering over their offspring now that things are substantially safer, and municipalities have tried to prosecute parents for allowing a ten year old to walk a mile unescorted. Safety.  Safety above all or über alles as the song goes.

A week or month doesn't go by without some official raising of "awareness" and I believe than April is Autism Awareness month.  Of course the danger in raising awareness is that it raises fear without a corresponding  increase in risk and it seems that people 20 or 30 years younger than me are awfully nervous about -- well about almost everything from food to firearms and so often about things that are no longer nearly as risky as they once were.

Even children can communicate with nearly anyone in an instant should they need help, but how many had the freedom I had growing up in the 50's?  Damned few I should think.  It was back when the world, just out of a nightmare war felt very safe but most things were far more dangerous than they are now.  But if some kid was kidnapped, someone shot by a maniac or his drivers license stolen or was run over by a drunk driver in Sandusky, Ohio, neither I nor my parents would know about it.  There was no Autism awareness at all, not even by doctors, but there was epidemic Polio and childhood diseases killed far more children, as did cars and household poisons. It's much safer to be a kid and an adult for that matter.

I'm not saying, by any means, that life is worse now, but the fear factor is greater and the technology that once gave us freedom and safety is now looked at with fear; telephones, WiFi, bicycles and above all CARS!  Remember that freedom you used to feel in a car?  All alone on some lonely highway even if you were only commuting?  You might have to learn how to change a tire, you might have to walk, you might have to exercise some initiative but the taste of freedom!  Now, of course you just call the motor club and your location can be tracked if you call 911 but that's not enough.  It's still possible that you make a mistake, misjudge speed and distance or misread the road surface and you'll get hurt.  Too risk, we need self-driving cars and many if not all automobile makers are putting all their resources in cars that drive themselves BECAUSE IT'S SAFER.

I've lived too long.  I haven't had an accident since the 1960's and it was a minor scrape, but how can you trust me now that awareness has been raised?   Fortunately I have a motorcycle and a self driving bike probably isn't in the 5 year plan for Harley Davidson., but  the "American Road" will soon be as safely dead as Kerouac and Dean Moriarty, and I might as well be too, because even though it gets safer every year, it's too dangerous.  Will by grandchildren inherit a world without cash, with curfews and where all social interaction is on the Internet?  I don't want to find out.