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? https://twitter.com/POTUS/status/621133763385425920 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 Crux.com 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.

Enough!

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

Disconnect

 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.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

The age of Bull


Some of the lab-coat bozos who dream up fake "studies" to convince you to eat or not to eat and to spend a lot of your money on buying books related to fake health and nutrition scams would like you to believe that wheat is your enemy.  Unless you have celiac disease, it isn't, but  if you're like most Americans, you don't know science from Shinola, don't know a study from a Studebaker or glutin from glockenspiels and the same goes for history and biology, but that's not what this is about.


A popular fiction is that "studies show" that the advent of  agricultural civilization (is there any other kind?) made people smaller and so you should avoid agricultural products. Of course it's hokum designed to sell product and is popular with inflated airheads from Hollywood, but it's not a study, a scientific, randomized large double blind study, it's motivated speculation -- like all those e-mails I get telling me that some new scandal is going to get Obama impeached any day now. 

Agriculture allowed cities to form.  Cities allowed greater communication and closer association between more and more people and that fostered diseases and epidemics previously unknown or previously restricted in range. Such things had a strong effect on health and disease can easily explain what the diet "doctors" would like to blame, for their own gain, on grain.   Even in modern times, AIDS, which may have been around for a very long time, was spread around the world by airplanes.  Communication has a dark side, just look at what the spread of Europeans and their diseases did to the Americas.  Still we live longer than ever, ae more disease free, are larger than ever and remain active longer, Pizza and TV dinners notwithstanding

Of course if you like to give names to the "ages" of Man, you'd have to consider the title The Information Age.  Could it be however that pernicious, malicious, malignant and dangerous ideas, memes, lies, stereotypes, maledictions and political doctrines are the deadly side effect of  the electronic media, just as cities, ships and Camel trains spread death along with culture and commerce?

Obama is going to declare martial law, going to take your guns, send you to death camps, murder your grandmother. Apollo 11 never went to the moon, that German plane, that Malaysian plane never crashed, that bomb never went off.  Obama is a Muslim, Clinton tried to have the UN invade the US.  Cell phones will kill you, wheat will damage your brain, cooking your food is bad, The Koch Brothers and Woody Harrelson know what's best for us and Subarus are made with love. Sure, it's the information age, but who can deny, looking at the vast majority of that information, that it's the bullshit age.  Mythology has gone metastatic. It's mass produced for entertainment and profit, for greed and power and even though much of it is benign, much of it is deadly.  It's not only deadly to your health, but to your cognitive, your critical faculties and whether or not it all ends with bangs or whimpers, the cenotaph, the tombstone of our species will be inscribed with these words  STUDIES SHOW.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

His name was NOT Steve

 "When Fascism comes to America, it will be wrapped in a flag and carrying a cross"

I wish I could say that was Sinclair Lewis, and perhaps he does too, but it seems he never did. Perhaps someone needs to say it however, because there is something coming; something already here dressed in red, white and blue, blowing hard about Christian values and lying, slandering, maligning, dripping with hate and evil and blood and grasping for power enough to make the devil blush.

You can't talk to some people about Allen West if you are objective about him.  To many ex-military people, it seems as though he is some sort of a hero or, perhaps it's more about some sad kind of solidarity than about sympathy.  I saw a lot of that during the Vietnam war:  the way people looked at me when I talked about the My Lai 4 massacre or when others suggested that indeed Lt. Cally was a war criminal who disgraced his country as much as anyone ever had. Perhaps you've read accounts of how he ordered a small boy who had just escaped the bullets, running screaming from the pit of murdered women and children to be shot. The order was carried out. It was outrageous that he was held accountable said my war supporting, true American coworkers -- just outrageous.

We don't burn no draft cards down on Main Street;
We like livin' right, and bein' free.

 I never did quite understand the attitude, but as I wanted to keep my job, I just kept quiet.  By the time  Allan West 'retired' from the US Army to avoid a Court Marshal for abusing an Iraqi prisoner, I no longer was a working man and loudly protested his attempt to become my Congressman.  For many here, the attitude was strangely the same.  He ran as a hero and of course we can't criticize anyone who was "fighting for our freedom" as such things are so grotesquely described.  In fact such people who thought differently then he or John Wayne or the people from Muskogee did, said West, should be deported.

But West's campaign failed and he promptly pulled up his tent stakes and went somewhere else to live and to prosper as the head of something called the National Center for Policy Analysis.  Of course as another failed far-right politician and criminal, he followed in the footsteps of Oliver North and became a Fox News contributor.  

West's current Bogeyman, as is that of his owners at Newscorp seems to be the alleged emergence of Sharia Law under the Muslim alien Obama.  Sadly people listen to him and because there never is a hint of rational cognitive function supporting the claims of the Far Right and the Fox Right you hear it discussed all the time.  Sharia law is taking over, even though it isn't -- not at all, not in Muskogee, not at Wal-Mart.

It's a strange proposition for people who strive with flapping tongues and logic all curled up like a pig's tail to push Christian Values as a substitute for the body of laws we've had since the beginning.  They want Christian law, even though there is no such thing, and they fear Muslim Religious courts that don't exist.  Hell, they think Wal-mart is part of the legal system and they get rich from this stupidity.  But Allen West has announced "Proof" that even without any courts or any mechanism to impose it, even such all-American importers of  foreign goods as Wal-Mart is trying to impose it on its customers.  Yes, that's right and as he observes with ungrammatical and folksy charm:


There was a young man doing the checkout and another Walmart employee came over and put up a sign, “No alcohol products in this lane.” So being the inquisitive fella I am, I used my additional set of eyes – glasses – to see the young checkout man’s name. Let me just say it was NOT “Steve.”
 
I pointed the sign out to Aubrey and her response was a simple question, how is it that this Muslim employee could refuse service to customers based on his religious beliefs, but Christians are being forced to participate in specific events contrary to their religious beliefs? Boy howdy, that is one astute young lady.
 
Imagine that, this employee at Walmart refused to just scan a bottle or container of an alcoholic beverage – and that is acceptable. A Christian business owner declines to participate or provide service to a specific event – a gay wedding – which contradicts their faith, and the State crushes them.

Seems the nonSteve checkout boy was a minor.  There was a law, an American, Christian Values law forbidding  a minor to serve or sell alcohol.  As usual the devil is in the details and as the devil speaks through Allen West and his Tea Party hooligans, liars, traitors, schemers, thieves, torturers and war criminals are lying about those details.  His screed was titled, Sharia law comes to Walmart? but he later changed it to More ominous signs of Christian persecution. (Did he mean to say persecution of Christians ?) What does it matter?  Lies have their own grammar, it seems and to the people who are looking to put a rational face on their bigotry, racism and hatred West's face will do fine.   See, we're not racists.

In a way, it's liberating to be old and not to have to give a shit about what the tinhorn patriots and liars for God have to say or what they threaten to do, and there's no reason to refrain from saying that the My Lai murderers and the unnamed perpetrators of similar massacres are no better than the Nazi Criminals we executed years ago, and that Allen West is their brother in dishonor.   They dishonor our country, they dishonor all things honest and true and decent, they dishonor our species .

Sunday, May 10, 2015

All against all

I was going to begin this by asking whether you've noticed the sharp increase in shootings of policemen against the background of hysteria about shootings by policemen, but trying to answer that question myself, I had to admit that all we can know is derived from the sensationalist coverage designed to outrage that plays out in the media.  The first news item appearing on my smart phone this morning was about the shooting of two policemen, there was another about the shooting of an FBI agent.  I was going to base this morning's post on the observation that unscrupulous entities may be trying to create a war or the appearance of a war that can only end in the degradation of the justice system and increase tolerance of mob violence and mob justice.  It's a clumsy attempt because when there is a questionable action by police and those policemen are arrested and charged with a crime, it would appear to show that the system has functioned properly but such is the need to demonize that it makes little difference.  The witch hunt proceeds with the public perception that everyone involved with the police and prosecution and defense is corrupt and murderously racist.  Everyone is stretched and trimmed into the Procrustean bed the media provide for us.

And so I can't answer my own question.  When one incident or two or three incidents in a vast ocean of possibilities is all that's needed and no statistics are provided or referenced, we just can't know.  We're made to believe that real justice comes from the mob and so when the system works, the system is still somehow at fault and more rioting is needed, more public marching and chanting.  Perhaps it would be productive to inquire after the people who benefit most and it's tempting to see a small group of disruptionists, anger mongers and distortionists making a living and making names for themselves by making sure that nothing changes, making sure that improvements are seen as failures, that progress is seen as lack of progress and that everyone is at war with everyone else.

If we somehow managed to get along, if the policeman's lot became a happy one, if petty crime and serious crime stopped being a cultural norm and violence became a faded dream, who would suffer? That's not hard to answer. What's hard to answer is the question of why we get all our information and opinions from them.


Tuesday, May 05, 2015

Wal-Mart will take your guns


And Obama will whistle at the white girls if we don't act now.

Conspiracies certainly occur.  The assassination of Lincoln involved a conspiracy as did the American Revolution, the Russian Revolution and the Babington Plot amongst countless others.  The selling of something as a conspiracy however has been refined to a formula and indeed the absence of evidence seems to make it all simpler.  An observation out of context, a partially true statement or a totally untrue statement loudly asserted is all one really needs to get the theory rolling and momentum creates enthusiasm which creates more observations and assertions the preposterousness of which are enthusiastically overlooked.  The Internet can produce more than enough "experts" to verify or deny anything and hide facts behind a labyrnth of web links.  I remember a certain white coated "doctor" touting a diet pill that proved not only useless but ineffective and dangerous.  How many people bothered to use the Information Superhighway to discover that the man in the medical costume was a Doctor of Marketing from some college you never heard of?

Of course certain observations can assist the necessary triage.  Might the theory have merit or not? Should we bother to investigate or can we reject it out of hand -- or is it obviously true?  One helpful process is of course, to consider the source.  Karl Rove, Glenn Beck, Fox News, Ted Cruz?  No, that sound isn't a truck backing up, it's the bullshit alarm. So far not one of the dire predictions have come true, from the "death panels" to the "double Dip' recession to the Communist Agenda.  Is doesn't seem to matter. "Change you can step in" read the bumper sticker I saw yesterday.  Never mind the recovery, the market highs, the unemployment lows, Obams is a "disaster." He went over there and apologized to them and if you can't see that, you're part of the conspiracy.

Consider the "Jade Helm 15" conspiracy theory.  Do we need to read all the web posts, the YouTube clips to reject it?  Do we need to follow the "arguments," look at the pictures, examine the witnesses? Do seriously think Obama is going to use the military to invade the South?  Is he conspiring with Wal-Mart to grab our guns, swarming up out of underground tunnels pushing Wal-Mart shopping carts?  Ted Cruz seems to doubt it, but as the government is "untrustworthy," we have to give it some credence. Of course when Bush suspended Posse Comitatus and made it legal to use the Army to invade the US, we didn't hear a peep or a whimper, but that's different.  It's OBAMA who is untrustworthy and we know that because Ted Cruz tells us, because the Texas Governor tells us the invasion is imminent The wolf is coming, never mind those ten thousand mistaken cries and when this passes away and nothing comes of it and when the whole thing is denied, there will be no shame and you will believe the next one.

One might consider that since this latest is so similar to the propaganda that reached a crescendo during the Clinton years and has yet to diminish, it has no more merit than the Vince Foster Murder or Clinton's plan to turn the armed forces over  to the UN and furnish them with nuclear weapons stored in tunnels and bunkers under Philadelphia.  I can't list them all but suffice it to say it was all hokum.  Too bad we don't remember and like an old man with advanced dementia, every morning in America is a new day.  You can be wrong every day for 25 years but we will believe you again and again.  Every Democrat is all about inviting the foreigners to take over, to bankrupt us by supporting the "takers" and grabbing our god given guns.  Have we been wading through the bullshit so long we can't smell it any more or is it just so much fun to suspend disbelief?

Sunday, May 03, 2015

Your day will come

Being of a certain age, I take offense at being called a "senior."  Since I'm a half century away from being enrolled in a school, I find it to be inappropriate, but of course the real offense is the carefully crafted image of anyone over 65 as a doddering, inept, technophobic imbecile.  For years, Mammon, in full knowledge of my age (and everything else about me) has been sending me advertisements for burial insurance, walk in bathtubs, old age homes and most annoyingly, special idiot phones designed for people held to be less able to make phone calls than those "tech savvy" younger people who rarely can tell a NAND gate from a flip-flop, a J-FET from a Unijunction or a beam tetrode from a tea caddy.

In my experience most of those TS people couldn't tell you how any of their prized electronics work, but that's another matter. Yes, of course more people of my age are in poor health and some have passed away, but the 70 and 80 year old folks in my circle of friends hardly fit the image designed to make the young and inept feel as superior as apparently they need to do.  Not only do few of us have problems with our smart phones, many have had careers designing complex equipment. Friend Walter helped design and launch the first communications satellites, Friend Will helped design the Lunar lander and other fellow codgers of my acquaintance are building a private wireless network using old WiFi routers so that we can phone each other outside the apparatus of the phone companies. All of us of course enjoy being talked down to by 15 year olds who assume we're unable to comprehend the miracle of text messaging.  PSK, RTTY, PACTOR?  Huh? Wazzat?

Sometimes I think I'm of the last generation that knows how things work, but wait, there's more.  Yes, I design and build electronic equipment for fun. Yes, I still ride a heavyweight motorcycle, I still navigate a yacht crammed with electronic equipment and I know people in their 90's who do as well: who build and race cars  and fly planes. Of course some don't, but who the newborns choose as a comical stereotype has more to do with ego boosting than reality -- and age being the last socially acceptable characteristic to mock.

So if you will forgive my digression, I have to turn my ire toward those that corporation named so aptly for a fruit, for making "special" iPads for "seniors."    Your day will come. Some kid now stinking up his diapers will in a few years time, joke about you wearing diapers, call you a Senior and ask in a loud voice if you know how to use something you invented.

Saturday, May 02, 2015

To Every Thing, there is a Season

Well maybe not to everything, but to some things there is a season.  The Flu comes around in the Autumn, at least in South Florida when the tourists arrive with their runny noses. Hurricanes come around in the Summer.  For other things, like bigotry and propaganda however, like ignorance and intellectual laziness it's constant.  Other things come and go but the bullshit never stops.

Got an e-mail today with a massive address list.  It began HOORAY and told the recipients that we had narrowly escaped a fatal attack on the sacred second amendment when the Senate voted down a UN treaty that would demand confiscation of guns.  Of course the Evil Black Man was behind it but we should remember all those Democratic Senators who voted against our divine right to run guns to terrorists and vote them out of office. 

Strange to say, that vote was in May of 2013 and unfortunately many of those Senators now have to work for a living.  Did this fabricated charge  help the GOP hijacking of the Senate?  And of course the treaty in question would have no effect on domestic gun laws or rights whatever. It was aimed at restricting international arms trade -- and remember the US is a major player -- to prevent sales to terrorists, insurgents and to countries violating human rights treaties. HOORAY!  Hooray for the liars and Hooray for the damned fools who support them at their own expense because there is nothing too stupid, too dishonest, too ridiculous for the moon motivated morons of America to believe. No conspiracy too unlikely, no slander too foul to attribute to the gun-grabbing, big spending and N**** loving Democrats

You have to wonder who supports arming ISIS or Boko Haram or any such groups, but of course the answer is right in front of us:  the NRA and the GOP and all the ignorant, hate-filled and demented Americans who spread this crap like special sauce on a shitburger in the hope of poisoning Democracy and ousting the Dreaded Black Man in the White House.

Remember when Clinton secretly turned over the command of our armed forces to the UN?  Of course not, because, like all the other lies, slander and libel it wasn't true and so far all the predictions, accusations and "revelations" about Obama have not and likely will not materialize, but when this country finally fails, and the Bible-quoting, weapon-waving big buck barbarians pick over the corpse of American liberty and prosperity who will remember that they supported it?