Saturday, August 29, 2015

All Lives Matter

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Jawbone of an Ass

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

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

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

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

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Amaya Guardado died for your sins

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, August 17, 2015

God's House

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

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

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

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

Sunday, August 16, 2015

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, August 02, 2015

Why did Willie Waste his Time?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, August 01, 2015

No Lion is an Island

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

He Who Has Seen All Things

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Friday, July 17, 2015

Dark Money Shines Bright

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Not All Donalds are Ducks

Some are just Schmucks.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, July 05, 2015

What's in the Sausage

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Selling the apocalypse

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

The Fat Man's Protest

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, June 29, 2015

Yer Heathen Laws

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

-1 Macabees 2:63 -

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

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

Bobby Jindal tells his constituents:

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

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

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

Friday, June 26, 2015

Do the Hokey Pokey

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

The power of Myth

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

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

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


Tuesday, June 23, 2015

E pluribus unum

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, June 22, 2015

Alas, We Babble On

"Make haste while the sun shines," it says on the sales brochure.  It goes right in the recycle bin because I don't buy stuff from illiterates.  The weather matters, you see, when you're making hay, not haste, but what sounds similar means the same thing and our English teachers seem to approve.  Language is not just about description,  it's about suggestion, it's about class identification or class aspiration.  It's not about communication but about being cute, being hip, being humble, being haughty.  and these days, when bad is good and badder is better, it's about pretense. Doesn't it sound elite to the ignorant to "embiggen" something rather to enlarge it?  Does it make me sound more masculine to add "ass" as a suffix to most adjectives?  Is it more business schoolish to gift things rather than give them?  Am I being  "hip"or simply sheep-like to think I am by substituting "fail" for failure, or am I just defining myself as one?

"Make haste while the sun shines" is a Malapropism unless it's a conscious parody and I suspect this isn't one.   The same goes for pushing envelopes, towing lines,  proving things with pudding and "impactful" collisions which is an oxymoron as well.  We don't seem to think much about what we're saying and these twisted tropes and mangled metaphors are so ingrained and habitual we don't notice the anachronism when an actor in a drama set in  Regency England says a disease has impacted someone's faculties.  A bullet impacted Lincoln's brain, effectively affecting history. Monkey hear, monkey say, monkey don't think much.

Maybe B.F. Skinner was right and we are better off looking at behavior and not talking about rational cogitation, something that seems a bit uncommon and out of style.  I observe that we can't ever get up close without getting personal. We can't say record without putting "track" in front and in neither case are we making the phrase more accurate, clear or understandable.  Classical conditioning, Operant Conditioning, I don't know.  Maybe I'm getting it all wrong.  I'm not the psychologist after all, I'm the rat in the maze looking for a way out and not finding it, but we learn by listening and more and more, we listen to people who should not be examples instead of reading those who should.  We hardly read literature. We hardly read anything older than the loaf of bread we bought this morning and too often we read and listen to people trying to sell us a product. No one corrects us when we say irregardless, when we say 'complected' instead of complexioned.  Where are the English teachers?  Have they gone away or are they trapped in a doctrine of "anything goes or are they off studying video clips on Youtube?

My dad, a salesman, used to say "everyone's a salesman" and I suppose that's true. Perhaps American English is the last remaining trace of Democracy devolving to mob rule, but perhaps too, it's more of a marketing tool of consumerism.  The politician, the guy with a lot of used cars, a warehouse full of snake oil -- the advocate for a cause, your defense lawyer: everyone. Their object is not to paint an accurate picture but to frame reality, to direct your thought by tailoring the language the way Barnum drew us to go see "the egress" as though it were some sort of bird.  We're allowing people to dictate what we say and how we say it all under the rubric of "language has to change." We're allowing people with causes to tell us what's proper, permissible or not and it seems we've acquired the habit of following along without question even when we're lead into contradiction.  We know we must never refer to the Orient unless it be in a Christmas carol but we don't wonder, we don't ask lest we be labelled -- we accept. We're uncomfortable talking about boys and girls lest we insult someone and someone has taught us to refer to any residence as a "home" in order to give it a warmer image so that we're more likely to buy or rent it, be it trailer, tenement or tent. The language has to change and I'm the one to tell you what to say and not to say, says the activist.

Do any of us still cringe when people say "the reason is because," or "the reason why I did it?"   Does anyone shed tears to hear merit and meretricious confused? I've long given up on telling people there's a difference between "because of " and "due to" although it's a  big one. Go forth and multiply, says the school system.  Say what you will shall be the law, not that we can see or discuss any difference between shall and will, of course. Too fussy to hold the interest of the LCD.

Yes, of course usage changes but to offer that fact as a denial that there is any importance to what you say or how you say it.has become common -- perhaps universal.  Sure Shakespeare did all kinds of things to English but Shakespeare was aware and competent and a poet.  That you don't know torturous from tortuous from tortious doesn't make you Shakespeare or even Charles Bukowski, nor does the addition of adulimubab make up for the loss of so many words.  Our declining vocabularies have made us resort to nudge, wink, body language, inflection and tone: IN-vite for invitation, for instance: Dee-fense as opposed to defense.

Certainly most of us know the word 'beginning.'  We recognize dawn, birth, inception, conception, origination, genesis, emergence, rise, start, commencement, starting point, launch, onset, outset, opening, and several more metaphoric synonyms, but what we usually get is Git-go.  It's not all ignorance, it's pretense too as I've suggested already although it's been a very long time since the folksey affactation produced the desired result.   Have we forgotten the difference between waiting for Godot and waiting on Godot?  Perhaps not.  Whether it's selling something or selling ourselves as country or gangster, upscale or proletarian, smart or smart-ass, American English is possibly the most poorly used, misused and abused language it's ever been. I weep for poor Ophelia incapable of her own distress, floating on the water. . .

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Just the Facts, Ma'am

"Three dead, Several injured during a rampage in Graz," reads the headline in the Austrian newspaper Die Krone. The driver of an SUV drove wildly through a crowd on a busy street in Graz, the hometown of  Former California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger;
skidding wildly back and forth on street and sidewalks.  When the driver finally stopped, he came at the police and bystanders with a knife.  "The exact reason for the rampage is unknown" says the paper.

Is there ever an exact reason?  Is reason a word with any application here at all?  No place, no population is free of such incidents and they only differ in the kinds of things one uses when one runs amok.  It might be a machete, a gun, an explosive vest, a vehicle, a bomb, a cooking implement or a canister of poison gas.  We've seen all of the above and more. How we define, how we describe, how we react says more about our society and says more about us than about the mass killers we produce.

Missing from the Newspaper account is the call for grieving and mourning and outrage, demands for more laws of an unspecified nature and any demand that it be called "terrorism."  No attempts to tie it to history and tradition and ethnicity or to make of it anything not immediately apparent. Neither the vehicle nor the knife were described as "military style"

How unlike America. Indeed the friend who posted this on Facebook asked Americans not to comment, to leave it to the Austrians and just let it be what it was.  I know what he means.

Fight Fire With Fire and Everyone Burns

Blacks are a "hated people" writes Is there no safe place? Our Racist History Isn't Back to Haunt Us. It Never Left Us. Rebecca Traister wrote in the same issue.

 It's to be expected that those who see a senseless murder and respond with such passion about it will be in the headlines for a while and those who try to put it in another perspective will have a hard time avoiding criticism, but is there any safe place for anyone?  We have a history of senseless violence in America and as coverage of it around the world screams at us all day and all night we all know about it, we all fear it no matter how small the odds for any individual.   School children, Muslims, Jews, gay people get attacked, always by disturbed and probably demented and deluded young men -- it's a long list and it grows.  Random samples of the population have been involved in mass shootings in recent memory.  Movie theaters, restaurants, schools, office buildings and the streets.of Boston,  Deadly explosions, aircraft hijackings and shootings.  One might correctly think Americans are a hated people.

But he's right, of course, there are people who hate anyone with any African ancestors, like our current president -- and his election and re-election has released some hate gas from the muck, but the unspoken implication is that everyone hates black people:  The White People hate Black people, that is. That's not only untrue as election results prove, but it's a statement that is needlessly divisive and inflammatory.  It serves to heighten hatred and fear as well as it serves to sell magazines. It's a racist sentiment.

I do not doubt the sincerity of either writer and I do share the anger and a disgust with racism of all sorts, but it's very very hard in the atmosphere we have been given to breathe even to discuss the possibility that outrage is just another form of the same thing we're angry at -- that fighting bad doesn't make everything you do good or true or helpful. This isn't the old South, the murderer has zero chance of getting away with it.

Is this latest tragedy really the result of intransigent racism or the story of  another young man slipping into madness and choosing a "cause" that's a relic of the Old South?    I have heard people say you can't go to the movie theater any more, you can't send your kid to school any more and even that our laws provide an open season on black children.  Irrational and untrue and hyperbolically out of proportion Black people are still more likely to be shot by a black person. Domestic acts of terrorism have been quite random when it comes to the race of the victims.   Every time something happens we're told this changes everything, but the truth, the sad truth is that it doesn't.

Again did Dylann Roof  shoot up a church because we have a tradition of racism or because we have a tradition of letting the insane go unconfined?  Would one cause have been as good as another?  Was it really all about suicide?  He did claim he was going to kill himself after all.  We don't know and perhaps some don't want even to talk about it because they're on a mission of their own and don't want the passion play watered down or its passionate elements soothed. 

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Rachael Dolezal, Racism and Denialism

So someone working to advance the interests of people of 'color' doesn't seem actually to have any African or otherwise dark skinned ancestry. If that offends you, if you think someone with say 10% African ancestry would be better at the job, are you a racist?  Just asking because I don't know what a racist is any more and I'm afraid to ask,  Everyone has a different opinion and often a self-contradictory one.

It's not actually something I'm very concerned with, I care about what people do, and not who their great, great, great grandparents were, but for those people, like Bill Nye who insists there is "no such thing" as race it must cause some dissonance. If race is non-existent, how does one select which one to belong to except at random?  As far as I know, there is no legal standard and if there, as some say, no scientific standard, how can there be a problem? If Rachel Dolezal "identifies with Black?"  why complain?

After all as I heard the Bow Tie Science Guy say, all of us humans can cross breed and the offspring will be human so there's no such thing as race, which argument of course depends on a false definition of race closer to Species.  If you're reading this, we're certainly all the same species, The official catechism is that we can't tell a man from a Manatee by looking at the genomes which again is a falsehood.  Looking at my own genome it's apparent where my ancestors came from over the last thousand years or so without looking at my face or hair or eyes. Some from the British Isles, others from what is now Germany, France, Italy, etc, etc.  Many of us have had our genomes mapped for various reasons.  The results can be what you expected or otherwise, but if you're blessed with sub-Saharan ancestors, the percentage thereof is apparent as is the location within Africa.

If your ancestry is Northern, Southern, Eastern, Western European -- Japanese, Korean, Mongolian, it's as apparent. as your gender is, with or without the "operation"  Just to poke Nye in the eye, I've found that almost three percent of my forefathers were Neanderthalers who were not actually the same species as modern humans. Lions and tigers can produce offspring with characteristics of both parents.  They are not the same species as any science guy should admit.

Is it that some academics need so much for things to fit the dogma they make a living from or that they think we just can't handle the truth?  Because if one controls the definition of race, one controls the definition of racism and if one gets to say who is or isn't a racist one has a lot of power in today's world. It's the "you can't handle the truth" approach to science that smells so much like religion to me however.  Like most religious rhetoric I find it an insult.  I'm insulted by those who demand I accept that there is no difference between male and female, Indian and Italian and it's all the product of culture and so all distinctions are null and void and usually bad.

Or varied genome is our history and each of us is a grand travelogue of our long and various journeys that separated us and then brought us back together. To deny it is to deny our mothers and fathers and to deny them is to deny our common humanity.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015


 Listening to Bill Clinton on Bloomberg this afternoon and marveling at the rally in the US markets today, I reflected about all the dire predictions the Republicans made when he was elected and again after they had to face the fact that he was not the one-term wonder they worked hard to make him.  None of them came true of course, just like the professional prognosticators' (that's a euphemism for liars) record for Obama predictions.  Reading the 'crawl'  I saw that  tax revenue has increased at twice the rate of government spending and the deficit is at 7 year lows.  Think the torrent of wisecracks about "tax and spend" will slow down?  Of course not.

Will I bother to confront all those "drill baby drill" nitwits who told us Obama the "Moooslim" was against oil production and was gonna weaken the country?  Same crawl tells me we're now the world's biggest energy producer, not just the biggest user.  Yeah, sure, all those oil resources Obama wasn't going to let the oil company's exploit are now in full production, like it or not, from the Bakken deposits to the Arctic.

He's a socialist, Commie spreader of wealth and is gonna take our guns and  raise our taxes -- yada yada as Lennie Bruce used to say. Unemployment has recovered Job creation is way, way up.

It's hard no to see that everything promised by the supply side shell game economics of the GOP was a total failure, a tragic failure and not one damned thing we were warned against, from another 9/11 to another 1929 (remember the double dip warnings?)  never came true.

Hey, it's not just climate change, the Republicans live in a dream world and nothing will pry those lies from their cold, dead lips.

Graham Crackers

I have to wonder about people who spend their days thinking about other people's sex lives and denouncing them for what usually is consensual and often loving behavior between consenting adults.  It not as though people like Franklin Graham are hormone-addled adolescents after all and it's not as though the world doesn't have other, more serious problems, like all those folks at present killing each other to please some god or other,  but like his father Billy, this extraordinarily rich man seems to have appointed himself, by virtue of some declared holiness,  as God's scourge and protector of mankind's morality. By morality, I mean the neo-Christian concept of it which has little to do with anything other than sex.   Excuse me, but that holiness is far more lacking in evidence than anything that ever spoke from a burning bush or whirlwind.  Rich men, camels and sewing implements, etc. You've heard it all before.

Unless money, scriptural inconsistencies notwithstanding,  is proof of God's approval, which would say something rather odd about God if true. Maybe he doesn't care if he, like Don Corleone, gets a 'taste.'  At any rate, at my last reckoning Frank made about a million a year working for "charity" and whether or not he is tax exempt by virtue of holiness, that's a good deal of money.  Having a barn with a large cross on his property might serve to make real estate taxes nugatory as well and cause God to let him off the eye of the needle thing, but I'm speculating and this isn't about money earned, but money that earns us all a good laugh at his expense.

Frank, you see, was terribly offended by a Wells Fargo commercial featuring a gay couple, so he moved his "ministry's" massive accounts to  BB&T, No word about his private accounts of course, lest God notice how rich he is.  

Can't fool God though, he knows and as with all good humor, the truth or the proof if you prefer is in the punch line. 
BB&T, you see, and unbeknownst to our Bad Samaritan is the sponsor of the Miami Beach Gay Pride Parade, along with the chief sponsor of Miami Beach Gay Pride’s “Legacy Couples” program, which celebrates same-sex couples in “committed relationships of 10 years or longer.

The company hopes to “support the individuals and organizations that broaden our perspectives and strengthen the diverse fabric of our communities. That’s why BB&T is proud to be a part of this day of pride and celebration of the 2015 Legacy Couples.” 
As MSNBC tells us.  Is God having a laugh?  I certainly am. Is God's word somehow in teh punch line? Camels, needles and rich men, but maybe self-righteousness, rage and the grease of slick piety can let him squeeze through, even though he hasn't shown inclination to sell his clothes and give the money to the poor. And besides God was really only joking about rich men.  I mean it's really all about sex, isn't it?


Wednesday, May 27, 2015

From Rome to Rubio, the Last Crusade

Lets be clear, when politicians like Marco Rubio talk about a danger to the survival of Christianity, they're not talking about survival or about Christianity, they're talking about a danger to the power and authority of a certain definition of Christianity that many Christians would call by a different name. Whether or not he seriously thinks Christianity will die out, that nobody will or could be a Christian if the US allows people of the same sex to be party to a civil marriage contract, Rubio, as most politicians do, is using words in a consciously deceptive way.

How do we define, or more importantly how does the government define Christianity?  In fact the constitution forbids it to do so . There are and have been many such claimants to the robe and sandals and the reins of government, so Marco is surely being less than honest to refer to Christianity when he means his Church and its rules. He's being a damned liar by offering us fables about the origins of our laws or arguing from tradition.

Some people simply don't define Christianity as a secular authority primarily established to restrict the private sexual thought and behavior of all people. Certainly not since they never legitimately had such power, nor does the American Constitution state or imply that any legitimate power be given such authority, nor is or government empowered or obliged to "save" any religion, tradition or religious practice.

There is no unified, undisputed definition of  Christianity or of any religion or the doctrines thereof and to say anything else is prevarication. If the legalization of an inherent right of Man is a blow to Christianity I would suggest that a weakening of Christian authority must have preceded it as is the case in Ireland where years of censorship, control of education, marriage rights, reproductive rights and lastly the widespread abuse of women and children, turned Christian power into a thing of public loathing and anger. Indeed Democracy and the right to elect a government only succeeded after the Church lost the power to prevent it.

Rubio, like many of his Evangelical allies are consciously taking the risky position of posing what people approve or see as a right to be protected, as being the enemy of their tribal authority.  He needs to remember how all the other shibboleths have fallen, interracial marriage, blue laws, censorship, the inferiority of women and indeed slavery -- and fallen despite claims that Christianity was in jeopardy and God would punish us all for allowing it.  Sooner or later the prophet has to deliver or be swept away. It's not a good thing to be in power when the argument from tradition, the argument from authority is stretched so far that it snaps.

No, Christianity in some form or another will survive. Perhaps a kinder, gentler more respectful form. It's Marco Rubio and the various crusaders against the right of the people to decide their own rights who are at risk.  I truly doubt that Rubio isn't aware of the truth of that, or that he is unaware of  the kind of  State toward which the manifest destiny of free people inexorably  trends.  It's a shortsighted lust for power and with all his dishonest nonsense about Christian tradition, that tradition has never been about freedom of conscience or any kind of liberty.

As with his mumblings about how our Cuba policies have not failed after 50 years, it's a defense of blind, intransigent, self justifying power and authority and an attack on objectivity and the liberty of the citizen. Make no mistake, Rubio is against the idea that the government is of the people, by the people and for the people and legitimized only by the people and not by gods or politicians who pretend to speak for them.

One gets the idea that Pope Benedict is well aware of all this and is concerned that Rubio's way of thinking is making the Church not only irrelevant, but unsustainable in the modern world, but as the Chinese were wont to say from ancient times, "Heaven is high and the Emperor is far away.". The Vatican has one policy, the parish priest and the pandering politician have another. Down at the level where the rhetoric hits the road it's still the old beast.

Christianity has survived a great deal  as it always has -- and it will change a great deal as it always has.  If anything is in danger, it's the guy staking everything on holding back the tide.

Signs and portents

I see them everywhere and if the inmates haven't taken over the asylum, no one has told them yet. Picking up some dog food at the Winn Dixie last night, I spied a tabloid proclaiming that "Hillary" murdered Vince foster with whom she'd been having an affair.  The evidence?  Who needs evidence, who needs even to assess the probability. There wasn't any when it was her husband they were calling his murderer, why ask for it now enough people will believe anything to accomplish the objective and the objective is to smear anyone Republicans fear.

Saw a pickup truck just a little while ago.  It had a bumper sticker telling me that somewhere in Kenya a village is missing an idiot.  Ha ha ha. Ya see Obama was born, despite proof to the contrary in Kenya and don't all those idiots have doctorates from Harvard? Power to the people! With the internet anything can be true, including your sick dreams and septic fantasies. You can even claim to be smart. Born in Kenya, ha ha ha.

I could go on, but you see the same crap I see and to what can we attribute it but motivated dementia: a country living in a dream world of its own invention, a world that has no connection to reality.  Isn't it time we listed this right wing virtual reality as an illness, a disorder, a cognitive disability?  It's a world where stupid is smart, where one can by guilty and innocent at the same time where one born abroad can run for office claiming the one born here wasn't -- and get away with it.  A world where proof means nothing and lies are believed without question. Oh yes and then there's the bumper sticker claiming that "Liberalism" is a mental illness.

So it's memorial day, we used to call it decoration day and perhaps we should bring that back because memorial requires memory and we don't remember the past or see the present. We don't remember decades of dire predictions that never came true. We don't remember how the Iraqis would welcome us, the war would cost nothing, that peace would break out and democracy prosper and there would be no more hard times if we cut taxes and  all the other fairy tales and maledictions.  We don't remember because we can wash it all away with a bumper sticker and a speech. We don't remember people who died defending a country with no regard for truth and decency, a country that lies and laughs and makes up stories, A country that brags and babbles and brags some more.

That's right, Obama is an IDIOT and you Billy Bob and you Senator and you in the big house with the yacht parked out back and a Bible up your butt?  Welcome to Dumfuckistan.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

De Brevitate Vitae -- A Sermon

Whether or not John Nash's mind was beautiful, it is too far beyond my mathematical  ability to judge, but I'll take Hollywood's  word for it -- and the Nobel committee's as well.

Nash and his wife were killed yesterday when the taxi they were riding in hit a guard rail on the Jersey Turnpike.  They weren't wearing seat belts and were thrown from the car.  Even the best and the most beautiful minds can be as foolish as anyone else and particularly when it comes to the assessment of risk.

I always wear them.  I was in a multiple roll-over 50 years ago.  I wasn't hurt.  Who's the wisest of us all?  But of course he was 16 years older than I and there will be time I tell myself. Time before I have to think of such things.
And time for all the works and days of hands.
That lift and drop a question on your plate.

One event happeneth to us all, as the Bible says.  As it happeneth to the fool, so it happeneth to me; and why then was I then more wise?

I raced home yesterday afternoon, fleeing a thunderstorm on my motorcycle, passing cars like they were standing still, relishing the blast of wind on a 90 degree day.  I'll shortly be driving my car south on the Turnpike where the traffic moves at 90.  Fear isn't a factor.  I love driving and on such a beautiful morning as this in my shiny automobile I feel  like a kid on Christmas morning, but as the amazing J.L Gates said: Death may be your Santa Claus.

But there's time, I tell myself.

And time for all the works and days of hands
That lift and drop a question on your plate;
Time for you and time for me,
And time yet for a hundred indecisions,
And for a hundred visions and revisions,
Before the taking of a toast and tea.

And how dieth the wise man?
As the fool.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Sacred or Senseless

Religion, does it do more harm than good?  Is that even a question that anyone can address without letting their biases overwhelm objectivity?

Watching a program titled The Third Rail on Aljazeera America this morning did little to dispel my suspicions.  Larry Taunton, an Evangelical spokesman, asserted that not all religions are equal in that respect, but Christianity "brings benevolence to the table." Perhaps it does, but it's hard for me to accept that it brings much benevolence to the world,  as the influence, at least in the US on public life is to restrict the rights and political power of certain people while putting a holy gloss on the supercilious condemnations and malevolence.  Democracy and human rights are usually only apparent relative to the rights of the faithful but even then, the rights of women, of unbelievers and the members of antagonistic religions would be rigorously suppressed given their ability to do so. Their god does not compromise or relent and neither do they.  His evidence of course is that Evangelicals give more, or so he says, although again, that they certainly don't give more than Muslims and Jews, but with faith, with arrogance and with dishonesty all things are possible.

"For we have been saved by grace through faith and this is not your own doing it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast."(Ephesians 2:8-9)
Yet boast of it they do and most fulsomely. Wars, slavery, tyranny, executions and torture: that some justify them and others do not seems to have little to do with religiosity and more to do with some independent viewpoint that often runs afoul of doctrine and dogma and ecclesiastical authority. One has to ask what their is in Christian benevolence that is absent in Humanist benevolence, Muslim benevolence, Marxist benevolence and most of all, benevolence itself. The answer of course is that religion, at least Western religion, offers exceptions to everything but obedience.

Yes, some people benefit from Christianity says Atheist Dan Dennett, but what bothers him is what bothers me:  the "systematic hypocrisy that almost obliges them to lie."  Indeed it does as we see when Taunton claims that Evangelicals give more to charity that atheists.  The problem is that atheists are not a group and have nothing in common but the lack of credulity to a certain myth. Any statement that puts Karl Marx, Ayn Rand and John Lennon in the same envelope can't be taken to be honest.  And of course that "statistic" confuses donations to institutions that spend the contribution on airplanes for ministers and invest in African gold mines using slave labor with "charity."  Faith requires dishonesty, demands fallacy and ultimately is vanity.   The only one in this conversation acknowledging legitimacy to anyone else is the atheist. If God can't compromise, how can his followers?

 Did Christianity motivate Abolition and has Christianity been at the root of  civil rights reform? Well it certainly allows Christian booster Taunton to claim so and not to be embarrassed when forced to admit that he didn't consider gay marriage to be a civil right because of his Christianity.  Many Christians of course didn't and still don't consider slaves to have civil rights and there is much in the "scriptures" to back them up. His statement is only tautological: Christians support only the rights we support as Christians and no others.  And here's where the argument fails. Christian benevolence is offered to Christians as long as they don't offend Christian authority.  A poor sort of benevolence in my mind and of Daniel Dennett's.who points out the centuries of vicious persecution of those people who see benevolence as innately human and not god given.  We want to be your sole source of morality, say the religion vendors and damn you if you roll your own or buy another brand.

Since the religiously motivated horrors of history are hard to deny (not that people don't try) I have to ask whether religion isn't like nuclear power, gunpowder and sharp objects in general, things that can help us but contain no internal protection against misuse?  Is blind faith of any kind inherently dangerous and does that danger too often outweigh any benefit that is just as inherent in safer things?  One can believe in any god you can imagine, good or ugly, merciful or monstrous, and we always have, but gods are never dangerous.  They have no power, no characteristics not assigned by their believers and being human we create gods in our image, according to our own needs for self justification.  By faith we are oppressed. It's belief that creates gods and only doubt, only disbelief, only reason and honesty can save us from ourselves.


Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Freedom Fries?

Rand Paul, would I vote for him?  Probably not, but I can't help supporting him this time and enthusiastically.  Sen. Rand Paul, R-Kentucky, said he will do "everything humanly possible" to keep the Senate from reauthorizing the Patriot Act.  "Anything" includes a filibuster. 

Is the rest of Congress simply afraid to bring up that notoriously unpatriotic act, which in most cases nullifies the 4th amendment and other civil liberties once bragged about as our birthright.
Perhaps they are, and indeed they should be ashamed of the way it passed through both houses like Montezuma's revenge.   Train wrecks and Texas gun play get far more public attention. Are we being deliberately distracted?  Have we forgotten the words of our forgotten president telling us we now have to give up some of our civil liberties?  Now that the hourly "terror" reports and the force fed panic have subsided, now after 14 years of dong nothing to prevent attacks on our country, 14 years of undermining our former right to be secure in our homes and papers and communications, isn't it time to re-examine the need to allow searches and seizures, confiscations without court order or probable cause? Shouldn't we pay attention to how the PA has allowed the FBI to cover up illegal acts with impunity?  Is it that we always approve of anything with "freedom" or "patriot" stenciled on it? 

The passage of  the "Freedom Act" last week by the House doesn't really address the whole problem and I will support any effort to block the renewal of this truly shameful and cowardly act and no congressman or Senator who gets in the way will have my support.