Sunday, September 29, 2013

The sky is falling

Candy Crowley's State of the Union this morning with Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA).  It seems the Republican line is that Congress needs to have a debate on health care because the public is panicked, confused -- because health care is being denied because of it, because hospitals aren't buying new technology because of it -- because they're making it all up as it goes along. The desperation alone gives them away. At what time were they ever so animated at any question affecting the security of the United States? 

Polls seem to show the public does not want this "debate," does not want ACA defunded or delayed.

Congress already had the debate.  It passed, it was signed into law, it survived a challenge in the Supreme court.

Health insurance premiums will soar says Sen. John Barrasso M.D. (R-WY). People ae going to die in the streets, chaos will ensue.

They've gone down 40% in his state says Howard Dean M.D. ,  Doctors won't see patients. You won't be able to find a doctor says the Wyoming dude.  The sky is falling, just like it was going to with Social Security, with Medicare, with female suffrage, with integration. . . .

My prayer for this Sunday morning?

God damn the Republican party.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Deny, Deny, DeMint

If 2012 was the end of an era, I haven't noticed. The era of denialism is still rolling along, thank you very much and the ridiculous Right is getting better with practice.  The 2012 Election you see, didn't accurately reflect public sentiment at least the sentiment as viewed through ruby red glasses. 

Jim DeMint seems to think the Right didn't get a fair hearing, even though the echo of their primal scream still is as detectible as the Cosmic Background Radiation.  And besides it's just not fair.  In a fair and balanced world elections don't count, you know, because the true voice of the people is only communicated in Gnostic fashion by a mystical connection, not by those lying ballots.  In a Fair and Balanced world people wouldn't notice that Jim strongly endorsed Romneycare in 2007: they wouldn't notice that the voters elected someone who promised health care reform and re-elected him over the guy who couldn't stop inventing reasons why it was no longer good now that the Democrats endorsed it. They wouldn't notice that the Supreme Court endorsed the legality.

Of course Jim and all the GOP DeMintos hope you don't remember the era of "the silent majority" whose silence was the result of their not actually being there because he seems to be offering the same pathetic Nixonian explanation for the rejection of his own imaginary majority. But of course we do remember, we do notice and even the Sultan of Slime, Karl Rove himself seems bewildered by the insanity he's nourished into full monsterhood, shuffling toward Fort Sumpter to be born.

No, October first won't be the end of an era either, since some eras go on as if in a parallel universe, close to but separate from ours.  It may be the beginning of one however; an era in which the burden of illness and the cost of healthcare won't be a drag on upward mobility and entrepreneurship, but the old one will continue like some antique and grotesque paganism and people will continue to profit from the hysteria. More appeals to stock up on emergency supplies, special vaults in which to hide your guns and ammunition (stock up now before Obama takes them away) for the coming apocalypse and the horrible hordes of marauding minorities. . .

Friday, September 27, 2013

The Voice of the People

Tom Paine advocating the adoption of an American Constitution, urged cool and deliberate heads to prevail, lest some rabble rouser

". . . may hereafter arise, who laying hold of popular disquietudes, may collect together the desperate and discontented, and by assuming to themselves the powers of government, may sweep away the liberties of the continent like a deluge."

He was thinking of a 17th century uprising in Naples, a populist and tax revolt that ended badly because of the failure to control the mob and left Naples under the control of the Spanish Crown.  It's not a unique story. It's easy to think of more before and after that one. Can I help but to think of the mad remnants of the former Conservative party now spending endless millions on endless lies -- infuriating, frightening and focusing the anger of Americans against our constitutional and duly elected government, for the benefit of it's would-be overlords?  Can I help it when listening to Ted Cruz begging Americans to go back to Industrial Revolution era health care practices now when it costs far more than it did then?  A hundred years ago, if a worker had to miss a few weeks because of an injury incurred on the job, in a job that demanded 12 hour days and 6 day weeks and that demanded the worker live in filthy tenements, he was evicted and his family dumped out on the street, forced into crime or prostitution, disease and untimely death. Today, we have frustrated overlords spending millions and millions to dress that up as "traditional Values"  "Family" Values and telling us we can't afford health unless we have wealth.  It's too expensive. We can't afford to have "takers." 100 years ago when what passed for middle class meant squalor, a time when most people died in poverty and disease, it was enough that a tiny few made a fortune often using business practices that would make us wince -- unless we're Republicans.

Direct Democracies have usually succumbed to those desperate and discontented elements no matter how well off they may be, often led by cooler heads of the greedy and hungry for power.  Perhaps the kind of tactics now practiced by those who spend massive monies appealing to the public to take direct action against things that will benefit them and harm the aristocracy are simply following an ancient script.  That's why we were supposed to be a Republic, to have educated, enlightened professionals of our choice to make choices for us. Now the men who would be kings encourage Joe the Plumber - a man of the people who like so many men of the people just aren't smart enough, educated enough and are easy to rile up, delude, enrage and control. That's just what Congress was not supposed to be about; spokesmen for self justifying power.

"The Imbecile bourgeoisie of this country make themselves accomplices of the very people whose aim is to drive them out of their houses to starve in ditches" 

Wrote Joseph Conrad, back when we were starting to move toward the modern era, perhaps thinking that would ever change.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Mr. Cruz goes to Washington

My nonagenarian father has been having problems keeping his blood pressure up.  I suggested watching Ted Cruz reading Dr. Suess.  Perhaps I should have titled this Green Eggs and Spam, but all in all, it really isn't funny. No attempt by a bought and paid for, zealot for hire to block the democratic process with endless impassioned idiocy is really funny.  Unfortunately it isn't rare or unique any more.

But if you're feeling calm or tranquil and even happy with life
If the day is fair and sky is blue
And that bothers you
I've just the thing you'll want to view:

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

The sides we take

If I were looking to illustrate the mistake in thinking you know something about someone because of his race, religion or ethnicity, I'd mention Ken Blackwell, a senior fellow for the Family Research Council, who sees cutting the Food Stamp program as the 'Christian' thing to do. Opposing government assistance with health care as well.  Blackwell is of African ancestry and a Christian. In my opinion any Christian message ( or the equally as supported Islamic or Jewish or Buddhist message for that matter) concerning feeding the poor is lost on Blackwell, but that's just me.

Feeding the poor, or at least helping them afford something decent to eat, he explained to the Christian Post, impedes their sense of self worth and other laudable attributes I'm too disgusted to enumerate. So much for the stereotype some people would have applied to race and religion.

Rev. Gary Cook, the Director of Church Relations at Christian anti-hunger advocacy group  seems of European ancestry. He looks a great deal like me, in fact, and like me, he disagrees.  One of the Biblicaly supported provisions for the poor, Cook mentions is ". . . the tithe, which was literally a tax, because the government was the same as the religious order, and allowed widows and orphans to eat."

Tax?  You  want to be barring the door at this point because the Tealoonies will be stampeding, but can't we at this point stop thinking we know something about someone who calls himself a Christian?
 Is it Christian to support taxing the employed to feed and clothe and house the poor and helpless?
Sure, but you don't have to work hard to find something to support anything including infanticide in the "good book"

Which one do I think is right? Well, it's true that finding a man a job that can support him and perhaps a family is better than food stamps, but any Republican would assure that the government can't and shouldn't if it could do that. History shows we always have unemployment and indeed that to avoid inflation we must tolerate some of it, so whose responsibility is it to prevent starvation as a necessary part of Capitalism?  Are we being Christian (of Muslim or Jewish) by teaching a man to fish or are we simply letting him and her and their kids die while telling them to go fish? 

But just as you are liable to find in the Bible, something to support both carnage and neglect and heartlessness as to find something to support compassion and helpfulness, you're going to find everything in everyone no matter what label you put on him and that includes Liberal and Conservative, Christian and Jew and Hindu.

No one owns decency or compassion and all the names we think up to avoid addressing our common problems seem more sinful than any apricot eaten in any garden anywhere.

Monday, September 23, 2013

There'll be a hot time in Stockholm tonight

And wouldst thou think how at each tremulous motion Trembles within a mirror your own image: That which seems hard would mellow seem to thee
 -Dante- Purgatorio

Everyone knows there are two sides to every story and so things generate their own opposites if only to fulfill the expectations, and so light creates dark, even if dark is nothing at all. 

It's a trivial notion, of course, but the practice of using the shadow of a thing to discredit or obliterate that thing has consequences that are far from trivial, because the nothing we give a name to can, at least in the emotional logic the public loves and public passion feeds on, cancel out something. Every assertion that must be blunted or countered or denounced can be reversed in sign, so to speak and used to cancel the assertion. At least it can  in a world, in an inner universe of the mind where people don't think too much or too well and can be convinced that one's image in a mirror can cancel itself out if we don't like what we see.  There must be two sides if we're to reduce a question of fact to a matter of opinion and that's just what the game is.

There must be two sides, even if all the data is on one of them. Each side has it's adherents and even if the question "is it raining" can be answered more reliably by those standing outside, those inside an inner room with no windows have to be given equal credibility if the 'two sides' hypothesis is valid.  So when we look at the question: is the average temperature of the Earth getting higher or the question are human activities contributing substantially, the advantage to the side with the data; the side the atmospheric paleontologists, the geologists, the paleo-climatologists are on, is minimized, if not cancelled out  by the side that has the money and political connections.  We have the side with massive pertinent information and we have the Republicans, the Coal, Oil and Gas cartels who own them and a handful of  people with  dubious scientific credentials  crying hoax.

This is not a scientific problem, there is no scientific controversy it's  class warfare, and the success will depend on things other than data and there's a battle in Stockholm today.  There's a battle here in America too, where there are always two sides and thus equal credibility independent of evidence and where questions of chemistry and physics are questions of which party you belong to, where motivated reasoning passes for objective analysis. The goal of the argument is to minimize risks to the international cartels and to the party they own.  It's not about science, it's about allegiance.

Opponents don't take these things to the laboratory, to the peer reviewed publications, they look only at selected data and cast stones at the rest.  They take it to Joe the Plumber. They take it to the Republicans. They take it to Congress. They purchase opinions. They take it to the huddled masses yearning to sound knowledgeable by crying hoax  at every bit of truth they can find and in a way there are two sides to the climate question.  The one with the trillions and the side with the data.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Sunday Afternoon and Old dogs

Waiting for someday.
The beam moves across the floor.
Look how the time goes.

No one can nap like an old dog, sprawled in the sunshine, dozing as I sip lemonade, reading poetry by the pool or curled up on the Persian rug in the library; me writing at my desk with a black fountain pen, my sanctuary of sorts. Things about me; old books and photographs. Things of science, things of art; mementos, the treasured baggage of a  life slowly fading in the sun

The dog enjoys his life, his snacks, his meals always on time - his naps. Relieving himself by the curb in the morning, sniffing the summer breeze for hours, sitting in the shade of the porch as I sigh and lament with black ink on lined paper.

Who's the happier? Our futures are uncertain in length, mine more uncertain in content, his certainly shorter. It doesn't bother his sleep. Our knowledge is pain, our mortality cuts like a choke collar, pulled too tightly and oh, that leash! We suffer into truth and sometimes into beauty, sometimes into joy but always it passes and we sigh and lament. He sleeps unworried on the soft rug, woven by women's hands, smoothed by long fingers in distant places,  his lost youth unmourned, mine displayed, formulated on the wall, while I listen to the brass clock tick, the gold nib scribbling on paper.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Do not attempt.

I just saw it again in a movie - our protagonists frantically one step ahead of a superhuman pursuer jump on to a motorcycle in desperation, but pause to put on a helmet. I say again because it's certainly not the first time.  Panicked fugitives stop to put on seat belts leaving any of the audience who had been carried along by the plot behind if all the phone numbers beginning with 555 haven't already.

A car rolls slowly down a beautiful leaf strewn autumn road, while the massage crawls across the bottom, admonishing us not to to do this yourself and that there is a trained professional at the wheel and the road is closed. Of course that's less ridiculous when the same warning is presented when the car drives out the back of an airplane, or off a bridge.  But who are we warning and would a warning have any effect on the guy who thinks his Toyota can fly?

Watching a show about asset recovery agents - repo men - who specialize in stealing helicopters and jets and even megayachts from people who have stopped making payments, I of course see the same warning. "Don't do this yourself." Damn, and I had my leather helmet and goggles on already.

Funny thing that we don't see these "trained professionals" things with movies about criminals or people who invade foreign countries - people who land on the moon, but hey.

I've already complained about instruction manuals for everything from q-tips to digital cameras that have 10 pages of warnings for every paragraph explaining how to use it. Don't use a hammer to clean your ears, don't stand on a wet floor and stick your tongue in a light socket while using this camera.

The stuff that's actually dangerous?  Not so much. Yes, I think one of the ceramic knives I bought for my wife said something like "don't cut yourself" but that's mild in today's America and of course it doesn't tell you to hire a chef and leave the cutting to her. No warning that "contents may be fattening" on my fridge or "don't use in the shower" on the toaster but then I didn't read the manuals. My cars' instruction books didn't suggest getting a chauffeur and there's no sign on my lawn relative to not cutting it myself. I'm willing to bet more people are hurt by power mowers than by cameras but none of this is about objective reality, is it?  But I could be wrong.

Maybe  I'm just reckless and irresponsible.  Maybe I should be more cautious about life in general. I'm considering putting up a sign over the front door - facing inwards.  How does "Don't go out  by yourself.  It's a jungle out there, for trained professionals only."

Thursday, September 19, 2013

My enemy, our friend.

When Jorge Mario Bergoglio became Pope Francis, I wasn't particularly interested, not being a Catholic and seeing myself, at least ethnically, as a survivor of the exterminations and repressions and expulsions the Church he leads has perpetrated; seeing us all as damaged by it's long war on science and technology, on democracy, liberty, freedom of thought and speech  and even personal hygiene, I wasn't about to see any more than a cosmetic change.  Certainly the Church's attitude toward sexual freedom, the right to terminate a pregnancy, the right to read what we want to,  the right to have intimate relations with a partner of one's choice?  That's not going to change.

Maybe I was wrong. No, do as thou wilt isn't going to become doctrine any time soon, but respect for others, reluctance to condemn and perhaps adopting persuasion over fiery threats of damnation and excommunication may become, at least during his tenure, the order of the day.

Is this more like stoning the sinner with marshmallows or is it a new return to the kind of non-judgementalism, that is attributed to Jesus?  Is the Church really going to make an effort to back away from being all about sex and the iron handed control of sexuality; about making sex a dirty necessity we have to feel guilty about and keep to a minimum?

The church has the right to express its opinions but not to "interfere spiritually" in the lives of gays and lesbians said Pope Francis in an interview just published. in a Jesuit magazine.  For an institution that has seen itself as a gatekeeper for God, that's a welcome surprise, at least to those who think their God doesn't mind answering his own phone; who think God doesn't have to consult his parish priest before allowing himself to judge people.That he feels women must play a key role in church decisions, although the extent of the intent remains to be seen.

None of this, of course, affects me, being a non-believer, and I'm pretty sure the Church isn't going to begin recommending abortions or gay marriages or anything at all like that, but preaching and teaching instead of damning and condemning and blowing sulfur smoke seems like one small step for a pope and one great leap for the Vatican.

Will the Baptists, the Evangelicals and the Pat Robertsons of America join the enlightement?

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Here he is, Mr. America

Racism?  Just like those liberals to think that "American Values" are racist, says Fox jerk Todd Starnes and after all it was only 'politically correct' judges that enabled a dark skinned American woman of East Indian descent to win the Miss America contest over  someone with real American values like blond hair and big tits. American womanhood as traditionally seen by pageant judges always has been typified by tattooed Army Sergeants, hasn't it?  If that isn't true American womanhood, perhaps those judges will choose a man next.

"Americans were backing Miss Kansas -- but the liberal Miss America judges were not interested in a gun-toting, deer-hunting, military veteran." said Tiny Todd on his Facebook page on Sunday.  Americans -- Americans who can't tell the difference between Indians, Arabs and Muslims but are sure that to be an American; to have American values means TBBT: you're tall and blond and have big tits.

"Americans" (that being Todd) were backing Theresa Vail and I'm sure many were, even though most Americans I would venture have as little interest in this cattle call as I do -- even though tattoos make me cringe even on male Army Sergeants, she was a fine candidate and for all I know a fine person. 

If that's what the repulsive troglodyte from the caves of Fox likes, that's his privilege - de gustibus and all that, but for those of us who don't have a problem calling an American citizen, born and raised a 'real' American if they don't have 100% European ancestry; even for those of us who might actually consider an Indian or Chinese or Middle Eastern or, God forbid, African woman attractive and intelligent and talented and worthy to represent 'American Values"  --  for us Nina Davuluri is a fine choice and a real All-American girl.

Smug racist assholes like Starnes and the Network he rode in on don't, needless to say, represent any values, much less American ones I'd respect, or even tolerate -- or even refrain from punishing with extreme prejudice and considerable violence given the chance.  But I've been around long enough to know there isn't anything to be done about convincing these people. No dispassionate analysis, no baseball bat will make these people see non-European people as anything but a threat to their imaginary "values."  As Max Plank once said, the truth does not triumph by making its opponents see the light, but because they eventually die.

So if we're unable to stop hoping for some new America that gives more than lip service to its principles while festering like a cesspool of hate and stupidity and bellicose self-aggrandizement perhaps we should hope and pray that Fox fall into some lake of fire, that the earth opens up and swallows Todd Starnes like the foul and fetid carcass of the loathsome creature he is, so every good and true and righteous person can piss on his grave.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Global Climate Hoax?

Or not.

More than 20% of Einstein’s original papers contain mistakes of some sort, says Mario Livio in Brilliant Blunders: From Darwin to Einstein.  Indeed, Darwin’s  Origin of Species contains far more of them, owing in no small part to the total ignorance of the mechanisms of heredity at the time or writing.  It was thought that the mysterious elements we now call genes simply mixed in the offspring like different colors of paint rather than like the shuffling of cards.  Yellow and blue paint may give green  until diluted by combining with one or the other color,  but Genes, Jacks and Queens are always one or the other and undiluted and a joker introduced into a deck will always turn up again sooner or later.  Darwin’s blunder was in not noticing that an advantageous mutation would under the blending model of his day eventually disappear, making  the passing on of small traits almost impossible with successive generations. 

Mountains of new data both from fossils, in the laboratory and from the comprehensive understanding of genetics proved that the blunder was only apparent when viewed in a glass darkly.  Inheritance didn’t work the way his detractors insisted  (and some still do.) As to one of Einstein’s apparent blunders, first in adding and then removing Lambda, the Cosmological Constant, the  truth seems when viewed through more modern glasses that  adding it was not a blunder but understanding it is so far an unachieved goal. 
Yet when we examine the kind of Denialism modern communications have  facilitated, we will find much commentary using the early pre-Mendelian uncertainties in the theory of Evolution to attack what may now be the most documented and supported theory of anything and further, a theory that gains more supporting data with every new discovery and finds wider and wider application.  We find, at least in my opinion, far less outrage about any of the proposed  explanations  of the apparently accelerating inflation of  empty space in our universe .  Astronomy was not yet advanced enough  for Einstein’s early cosmology to include an expanding cosmos, much less an accelerating expansion and he famously removed the constant, which he called ugly, from his equations as being no longer necessary. 

Still, deniers and opponents  of all sorts  exist and passionately marshal outdated observations, invalid arguments and fallacies against the science.  I don’t think I’m being venturesome by seeing patterns amongst denialists. I think there is a constellation of beliefs that seem to accompany passionate attacks on well documented  scientific and historical consensuses and they differ from the truly valid observations that consensus changes when new data appears.  There certainly is no new data refuting evolution, nor are geneticists and paleontologists moving in all seriousness away from accepting it. The same is true of  the currently accepted ages of the Earth or of the Universe.  There is no new data showing that millions were not rounded up and gassed by the Nazis and I’m convinced that there is no new data and only an assemblage of fragments of old data to argue that not only is the idea that the worldwide climate is changing but that the deforestation and   artificial introduction of  carbon and sulfur compounds  into the air are not a significant factor.  Arguments that examine only fragments of data, chosen for ambiguity are often cited without reference to other firm data that clarifies the matter. Insinuations are made of suppression for political reasons as if everyone from Communist to Libertarian would agree to delude the world for no particular gain.  Assertions are made that radiocarbon dating “is a joke” and  “is no longer trusted.” Assertions that  global warming is part of a natural cycle, contrary to observed data.  Assertions that one data set invalidates all other data with no mention of peer reviews of that set.  It’s almost monotonous.  

People, or at least a large proportion of the people who angrily deny theories and the data that support them also possess, as I mentioned, a constellation of other traits and particularly a personal attachment to belief systems political and religious.  Most people for instance, who argue in the total absence of empirical observation  and contrary to huge and growing masses of data, from physics, mathematics and geology  are certainly  religious.  Likewise, the people who write books and articles about the “hoax” of climate change tend also to have not only an affiliation with ‘Conservative’ politics and religious traditions but a propensity to assemble the same sort of arguments.  Concocted evidence of human footprints next to dinosaur tracks,  fictitious articles about oil forming magically in the deep strata,  dishonest testimony that evolutionary science is giving way to other interpretations,  books asserting  evidence against the existence of Nazi extermination camps almost always written either by heretofore unknown “experts”  often unconnected or only tangentially connected to the science in question or to science in general all grasped at  like floating straws to Denialists:  Books by Engineering professors about the Holocaust Hoax,  Articles and talks about  anthropogenic factors in climate change by aeronautical engineers,  and TV meteorologists.  Paleontologists, Paleoclimatologists, Geologists?  Not so much,  unless they work for the petroleum industry.

Certainly the history of science is the history of how theories are modified as technology allows new data; how theories are replaced by theories that explain observed phenomena, certainly -- but  giant worldwide hoaxes involving  nearly every scientist in a field including  suppression and falsification of data? I can’t think of one, nor can I think of a motivation that would affect such a widely diverse set of individuals and make them act in such unlikely  harmony.

No, as I said, not only Einstein’s work but the work of all the most brilliant pioneers of science and mathematics have contained errors, oversights and blunders.  We don’t have shoe salesmen writing anti-Newtonian diatribes. We don’t hear about Galileo’s Hoax, the mendacity of Kepler, do we and that's because they don't endanger the dearly held fictions of today's religious people or wealthy corporations.

Science progresses haltingly but the ultimate test is the agreement of theory with data even as data emerges and refines theory. Theories have been overthrown, discredited and abandoned but the level of passion involved has nothing to do with the soundness or unsoundness of a theory as history asserts in a loud voice.  If Einstein, Newton Kepler, Kelvin, Darwin, Hoyle and in fact all of them  spent their lives revising and reviewing, blundering and going back to the drawing board, none of them have been perpetrating hoaxes.  Hoaxes involving multitudes only seem apparent to certain kinds of people who share certain characteristics. Not understanding how science works is one of those characteristics. Being Republican is another.

There is no new data arguing against accepted cosmological and paleontological or anthropological theories. There is no emerging data arguing for a climate hoax, Intelligent design, a  worldwide flood  – only cranks seeking attention and the people with personal, financial and psychological reasons to become their disciples.  Yet they go on and on. Fox goes on reporting and deciding for us.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Remember the Raisin!

The people who like to manipulate us by creating and preserving anger like to give us slogans.  Remember the Maine, Remember the Alamo, Remember Pearl Harbor, remember the raisin! Never Forget!! 
All these things are inevitably forgotten despite the slogan advertising campaigns and sooner or later we'll get tired of remembering 9/11. Sloganeers will get tired of milking the faded fear and self-pity and choreographed mourning. The people who were born too late to remember it will eventually need to be told to remember something else that some party needs to cultivate anger about, so as to pass some kind of horror like the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1952 or the Patriot Act.  9/11 will be forgotten by most everyone but historians and those who remember will remember it in context of the things we did and the laws we passed and the freedom we gave up while we were whipped into a passion.

Think calls to 'always remember'  are genuine and untainted by politics?  Wonder why we shouted Remember Hoover! in 1936 but nobody remembers to Remember Bush?  Remember Katrina and at least 1800 fatalities?  Why not?   We spent billions and billions on a the Largest government agency in history and abridged the Bill of Rights in 2001, but we didn't do a damned thing to improve reactions to natural disasters which you can be sure will occur more often than a repeat of 9/11.

I suspect that calls to remember are  calls to preserve a mental state in which we can be manipulated, tricked and sold some unsavory product. Stay angry, stay afraid and obey.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Fox News - Bow to My God or get out.

"No, I don't know that atheists should be considered as citizens, nor should they be considered patriots. This is one nation under God."

-George H.W. Bush-

Perhaps you're old enough to remember, as I certainly am, to remember when Dwight Eisenhower had his arm twisted by the Knights of Columbus into adding a mandatory affirmation of  individual and collective subordination of  national allegiance and legal obligation to religious belief.  It may have had something to do with the need to give the rabble some reason they could understand to make us seem like the good guys in the struggle against the Communists for world domination of the 1950's but it's really the same struggle for domination our founders participated in against tyranny over the human mind and spirit by Established Christianity in Europe and it goes back millennia - or longer.

Perhaps you're old enough to remember the days of the Vietnam war, the conflict that like the Civil War was never really won, never really resolved and which still divides the nation our kids are forced to call indivisible every morning. Anyone my age either cringes or puffs up in self-righteous idiocy when he hears "America - love it or leave it." 

That fulsome piece of carrion of course deconstructs to "this country is only for those who agree with the lowest and angriest common denominator" and that, at the time, being the John Wayne/Martha Ray duo shouting that if you don't support the war and all it's horrors, lies and sinister motivations, you're not a "real" American. And of course real Americans believe in the correct god and them commies don't and there's the whole story. Napalm - God wills it!

Isn't it odd, by the way how we still make a hero out of that bloated, talentless fart-bag despite his support for the oppression and slaughter of two million people in order to preserve a system of government that had enslaved them?

Does anyone doubt that Fox, had it existed 50 years ago would have supported that national embarrassment, the stench of which still is detectable like some cosmic background radiation?  Fox, in fact has always supported the dichotomies the Right uses to foment anger, promote dictatorial colonialism and criminal exploitation and set us one against the other. Men against women, rich against poor, white against black, corporate against individual -- those contrived dichotomies have always set up the most ignorant, deluded, misinformed and stupidly self-righteous to be the good guys, the sensible, clear thinking guys who oppose science, empiricism, mathematics and indeed honesty in favor of myth and legend, whether corporate, political, religious or any mixture of them. Those clear thinking, God fearing deniers of evolution, geology, cosmology, nuclear physics, climatology and history.

Hence when a President like George Bush the Elder says he can't understand how someone who doesn't believe in some god or another can be considered a citizen and thus demonstrate his contempt for the letter and spirit of Our Constitution and indeed the Enlightenment and Humanist movement that produced it, you won't hear a peep of protest from the gaggle of birdbrain gigglers at Fox.

Yes, I'm tired of listening to the things Fox News is tired of and particularly since one of those things is my freedom. Every time some parent somewhere gets tired of his kid being cajoled, coerced, forced and even bullied into not only acknowledging some category of deity, we're affirming that our freedom itself is subordinate to what its shamans say that deity demands.

Dana Perino "is tired" of "atheist's demands" for freedom from religion and says "they don't have to live here."  I wonder if her  distaste for individual freedom of conscience includes the suggestion that the bones of Madison and Jefferson and Franklin and Washington be disinterred and dumped elsewhere in some free country, but of course even that obvious extension of her idiotic ire implies an intelligence far too great to exist in such an empty skull.

Dana Perino and the bastards who pay her are the enemies of freedom, truth, justice and what I used to think of as our great nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.Yes, I'm tired of you Dana and of the miserable, evil, corporate bastards who pay you to undermine everything special and praiseworthy about our country - or should I say my country, because not only are you not part of it, you're not worthy of being part.

The part of it you hate is the heart of  Democracy, the soul of freedom and if you won't tolerate the humanity, the humanism at the heart of America - you don't have to live here.

Friday, September 06, 2013

Datashock and Awe

I've had a lot of datashock recently. Datashock?  Why that's what you fell when you're hit with data that contradicts everything you took for granted about yourself.  I recently had a DNA test for instance, expecting that it would reflect the generations of genealogical data I'd been putting together for years and going back centuries.  Imagine the surprise to find that I'm half Scandinavian.

But that's nothing compared to what I found out.  You know that mysterious database used by every hardware and ladies' underwear marketer to send you catalogs and interrupt your most private moments with phone calls?  An article in CNN Money this morning had me laughing about the errors in her publicly disseminated information the reporter found when she went to . I stopped laughing when I checked my own information.

I've been running a long and angry battle with companies like Experian to remove erroneous data from my credit report: 'aliases' that originated in clumsy data entry and became irrevocably enshrined, addresses I've never heard of, addresses that never existed, household members long dead and other items likely to follow me to the grave before Experian ever takes the time or makes the effort to look into revising the Gospel. It's the same story with various web sites that claim to have data about me and my house and other things. The stock answer to my assertions is that "Sir, we get our data from public records and they cannot be changed." Thus spake Zarathustra.

But that's nothing. AboutTheData  asserts, despite evidence to the contrary, that I'm 93 years old, have no children and my DNA and birth certificate be damned, I'm German.  Of course they know my credit cards and everything I have ever purchased with them.  they know the size of my house and what it's worth and what I payed for it and when it was built, but they also insist that I have a large mortgage on it which I don't.

This is the kind of data that affects one's life, one's well being, one's credibility and for the most part it's immutable, unchangeable, ineradicable. Now unlike the other people search sites like, AboutTheData does allow one to edit this farcical farrago of  data, although I'm tempted to let them think I'm 93. I'm tempted to tell them I'm dead actually, although I now understand why my mailbox is full every morning with prepaid funeral fliers, ads for nursing homes, walk-in bathtubs, home nursing services, motorized wheelchairs and crematoriums. (It would be nice if the IRS thought so, but I'm sure they have their own databases. )

But it's still a shock to think about how we assume, living in an "information age,"  that the information about your age is true, but it seems more and more that no one has any interest in correcting mistakes or even hearing about the ocean of ludicrous errors they spend so much money and bandwidth maintaining against the unheard protests of a baffled, astounded and rightly pissed-off public.

Thursday, September 05, 2013

Purple haze

 I like to read books by theoretical physicists who are good at presenting mind-bending material to the general public. I should say that I like reading about these things in English because I can't, quite frankly, even imagine being able to follow the math involved in portraying multidimensional universes, Calabi-Yau manifolds, P-branes and loop quantum physics, just to scratch the surface.

The idea of other universes, possibly an infinite number of them with every point therein stretched out on holographic membranes only a tiny distance apart yet forever isolated, fascinates me far more than any science fiction written these days. There was one school of thought not long ago.  I'm not sure it gets any credit or ever did, but it attempts to explain the relative weakness of the gravitational force by postulating that force particles, or gravitons are able to leak into neighboring planes where they perhaps show up as 'dark' matter, but I'm so far from being able to talk about such things intelligently that I might as well be in another universe. Another universe perhaps identical but perhaps subtly different. I have sometimes nonetheless to wonder if somehow, by some random quantum fluctuation, we don't on occasion just take that tiny jump to the left, that little step to the right, and do the time-warp again.

 I'll bet that you've occasionally asked yourself if you've just woken up in another universe, almost exactly like the one you were in yesterday -- almost.  Silly sci-fi scenarios involving worm holes and time warps are just that: silly -- and we've all read or watched the cheesy movies. The pilot loses contact briefly only to reappear in another time and place. The guy wakes up on groundhog day every day.  You've seen that movie I'm sure.

And yet.

Over the weekend I was motoring south down the Indian River Lagoon as a thunderstorm engulfed us.  The radar reflecting off the rain made the radar screen a sea of purple superimposed over the GPS chart.  I couldn't see ten feet in any direction, reflections  from my nav lights in red and green made an eerie glow in the downpour..

It passed in time for me to be able to find my intended port and eventually to arrive safely home -- but still -- did I return to the same place I set out from? I was gone only a couple of days, but how and when and why, if  this is still the same reality, did all the yogurt in all the supermarkets and groceries in the world suddenly become Greek?  A small thing, but small things add up. And when did the hipsters stop calling each other "bro" and unanimously begin saying "brah?"  Just what did happen in that purple downpour just at the edge of the Bermuda Triangle?

Before that mysterious, disorienting moment,  president Obama should have been impeached for any involvement in Libya and now his delay in  bombing Syria is "shameful" according to one Krauthammer I won't mention by name.  No, I don't believe in space aliens flying around at night with their lights on or in ancient aliens, prophecies and apocalypses, but something is happening here and I don't know what it is. There's a purple haze all in my brain. Lately things just don't seem the same.

Wednesday, September 04, 2013


Police confiscating cash and property without due process, stopping-and frisking suspiciously 'different' citizens for any damned reason.  Police SWAT teams invading private homes, terrorizing law abiding civilians, screaming obscenities for hours and waving automatic weapons; police harassing people trying to open their own doors; shooting a man over a dozen times for getting a pack of cigarettes out of his own car in his own driveway -- I could go on, and of course I have ranted endlessly and probably all too often -- and more than probably to no effect.

We're a nation of scared-shitless cowards and kept that way by endless fear mongering, endless promotion of anger by a 24 hour propaganda machine interested only in boosting ratings and profits by hiding the fact that violent crime is lower than in a hundred years and getting lower.  Most people you ask will tell you that things are getting more dangerous every day. A few of them may have a valid case for that.

One can't go for an hour without hearing some dimwitted diatribe about Obama's tyrannical government trying in Communist fashion to promote industrial safety or safe food and water and air -- and to reform our unfair and inadequate health system -- just like a fascist, but egregious infractions of Constitutional protections?  Hey, that's different, unless of course it's the second amendment so vital to that apocalyptic war against authority we dream about.

I read this morning about three Bronx kids, two girls and their brother, all siblings, who were verbally abused, handcuffed, beaten, choked, pepper sprayed and thrown to the ground by a swarm of police apparently for no better reason than for playing handball in a park while wearing Muslim hedjabs.  The girls had their scarves pulled off for the crime of not producing identification quickly enough while being black and/or Muslim, or so the police say.  Within moments dozens of police swarmed the area intimidating and tackling  bystanders and arresting one who tried to record a video of this obscenity.

"Come here, you little motherfucker, you like recording?" said one cop, mashing the 18 year old bystander's  face into the pavement;  punching  and pepper spraying him.

"Where's the phone? I'll break your arm." He screamed at the college student.

Of course the police have a cover story. Pulling one's 12 year old sister from a raging policeman who was "escorting" the children out of the park is criminal assault of course and the police were injured and had to be hospitalized -- of course and although Internal Affairs is "investigating" my bet, based on experience is that not a damned thing will happen to them. My guess is that this, like so many of the disgusting offenses that happen constantly all over the nation; like so many of the abuses of  civil rights and constitutional protection, whether it be the right to assembly, protection from searches, seizures without warrant, probable cause or any pretense of due process it will just fade away leaving only the stench of hate, racism, injustice, fear and smug hypocrisy. And all the while we will be concerned about what the leaders tell us to be concerned about; get angry on cue, ignore this fact and believe that fiction.  All the while we'll belabor the same talking points pursue the same bogeymen and we'll cringe in fear of  our neighbor's shotgun while Policemen carry machine guns, batter down our doors, blind us with gas, beat us with clubs, sodomize us with broomsticks and shoot down unarmed citizens and get way with it.

Imagine if you will, a boot stamping on a human face forever. Imagine a voice screaming "Freeze Motherfucker!"  forever.  Imagine.