Friday, May 30, 2014

Stupid, stupid, STUPID

It's probably true in most states:  leaving your keys in your car is illegal as well as irresponsible.  Ohio statutes, for instance, state that:
  "No person driving or in charge of a motor vehicle shall permit it to stand unattended without first stopping the engine, locking the ignition, removing the key from the ignition, effectively setting the parking brake, and, when the motor vehicle is standing upon any grade, turning the front wheels to the curb or side of the highway." Ohio Revised Code 4511.661(A)
One might think the same logic would apply to leaving a loaded gun lying around and particularly where unauthorized people and children might get to it. One would be right, at least in Homestead, Florida where Juan Manuel Martinez, Jr. described as a hard working truck driver and part time volunteer youth baseball coach handed his father a loaded AK-47 at a party and just to show it off.

For no sane reason, here was a 7.62X39 round in the chamber and the safety was off  when Juan Sr. put it down on a picnic table where his six year old grandson saw it and pulled the trigger. Grandpa Juan Sr. was dead before he got to the hospital.  According to the news, alcohol and perhaps some other drugs were involved as one so often hears when idiotic and ignorant things pertaining to firearms and cars are done.

Yes, this is a huge country and one in a million is a big number,  but one still hears too many stories like this.  It's not superfluous to say that according to the time honored principle of always treating any firearm as loaded even when you know for damn sure it isn't, the thing never should have been anywhere near a minor or displayed where there's a party and people are drinking -- or displayed at all in the opinion of this writer.

Again, Florida law holds Martinez Jr. responsible and he now faces charges of culpable negligence of a firearm with easy access to a minor.  I'm sure he wasn't aware of the law and wasn't thinking about it, if in fact, he was thinking anything beyond "hey look at my cool toy"  Which makes me wonder how effective laws are when practically no one reads or understands or knows about them.  We constantly hear there aren't enough of them and simultaneously that there are too many of them but the most heated proclamations of that sort rarely involve specifics.  Neither side of the great gun divide really likes specifics because those lead to reason and interfere with the zealotry.

Now Martinez didn't need any kind of permit to own that weapon and wasn't required to take any kind of training or pass any kind of test.  If he had, perhaps he might be surprised like so many are, by how difficult the laws are to understand even for lawyers, but he would, even with the meager level of education for a permit in Florida, been aware that to do what he did was illegal even if he didn't realize it was massively stupid.

In fact although I'm licensed to carry a concealed weapon, I'm scared to do it because of laws that can make it illegal to use a gun to frighten an assailant or to display it in anger -- but not to kill him with it.  You'll recall the Florida woman sentenced to 20 years for using a gun to warn off someone against whom she had a restraining order.  Is it so awful to think that requiring someone to learn the relevant laws and rules of safety might not really run afoul of the second amendment? 

But I'm not going to get into the need for more or less in the way of legislation, I'm going to argue against ignorance and for teaching the public about what they can and cannot do, about what they should and shouldn't do with a dangerous thing like a gun.  the people who used to make it a business to teach safety have gone rogue and turned paranoid -- the other side is also often so paranoid that it fears safety education will interfere with their mission and in a nation so well armed and poorly informed there is a need no one is there to fill.

Of course there is far less sturm und drang when it comes to the equally tragic weekly stories of kids left in hot cars to die, strangled by pet snakes, drowned in pools and swimming holes, beaten, neglected, poisoned and starved.  Our concerns about guns are too choreographed and involve so many stereotypes and straw men and political shibboleths to leave us room to consider that child safety has so much to do with informed and responsible adult behavior.  Reducing the stupid factor might just be an effective way to reducing such tragedy whether it's about pools, hot tubs, hot cars and hot lead and it is something we can start to do right now and without having to resolve our passionate differences.  Can't we all agree?

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

I predict. . .

Yeah, sure.  If there's any thing we do that is more likely to be wrong than our political predictions I don't know what it might be.  If we ever get the impression that someone is good at prediction it's usually because we've forgotten or never examined the vast matrix of failure the occasional success is imbedded in. The best we can do is to give odds but somehow that 30% chance of rain never seems to mean much or be of much use when deciding whether to take the boat out today.  That national speed limit was sure to save lives, that drug law was supposed to make life safer and it must be someone's fault someone's failure when it didn't. Just whose fault you say it is, says much about who you are, whether it's Obama, the NRA, women, men, the Liberals or the Tea Party. Our predictions and the predictions we choose to believe give us away.

Of course the purpose of many predictions isn't to predict, but to scare, to inflame, to mislead, to further a cause and of course to generate ratings. The public loves being inflamed, scared and to be the first to know something scary and all to the point where the authority and veracity of the predictor is ignored. Hell, we passionately adhere to predictions that have proved wrong for thousands of years, telling ourselves "any day now" and we find enough to satisfy ourselves in predictions that "there will be a storm, an earthquake, a war" to keep the fantasy going.  If anything sums up the human condition I'm not sure it isn't the story of Chicken Little and when a prediction that a giant asteroid would kill us all on March 35, 2041 appeared on CNN, the cackling started before many dumb cluckers bothered to notice that no such date is currently possible or even questioned the authority of the prophet: Marcus575.  NASA says it's a hoax but of course nobody is going to forgive that buzzkill bunch of liars, and after all they're lying about climate change and that face on Mars. Like most thwarted predictions it will end in a witch hunt by angry and ever more intransigent denialists.  I predict.

I will go to heaven - he will go to hell, my enemies will be defeated, truth will prevail, peace and justice will arrive and Congress will make sensible gun laws that will make the number of  suicidal rampages vanishingly small and "not one more" innocent will be killed by a madman. If only we "raise awareness" there will be no more misogynists, if only we shut down their websites.  If only we can identify the witches, these horrible and horribly eternal animosities will go away in the pure land to come. No our problems are not diverse products of  the large spectrum of human nature, our culture, our unwillingness to identify madness in ourselves, there are specific things; large magazines, specific cartridges, certain materials and there are vague, hazy and slippery legal solutions that sane people must agree upon even without being able to define them.

The "world," whatever that means, didn't end in 1982 or on any of the countless and continuously predicted dates before or since, but it's nearly always because of some minor miscalculation or some misunderstanding about what world means or what the end means or some conspiracy of  liberals/conservatives/Jews/etc and some prophets go on predicting and making careers out of it, succeeding only when the prediction follows some random event: "that storm hit New Orleans because God doesn't like this or that."  The laws get stricter, more complex, more contradictory and more punishment oriented but mayhem persists. The laws get more liberal and don't dictate whom we marry, yet the end is still nigh and God's wrath increases. We wear more rubber bands, say more prayers, hunt more witches -- and we turn to violence.

So to avoid such depressing thoughts about the difficulty in preventing the horrors that have defined human history since before human history we demonstrate, we make up inspiring slogans, we walk around and run around and wave signs and chant hey-hey ho-ho. We hide in our feeling of community and nostalgia for the good old days of protesting real things we could really do something about and we wear rubber bands and ribbons the way we used to sacrifice goats to Yaweh -- and usually we're wrong when we think we're affecting the random nature of existence.

We go to Church, we pray for peace and for aunt Lucy not to die and for rain or for the rain to stop or for our team to win. We punish the sinners, we expel the unbelievers, because without them we'd have to consider our efforts hopeless and our passions vapid.  So sure, assemble in the stadium and shout and pretend some simple "sensible" move will end the pain and when you can't really define what that move, that law, that policy, that program might actually be, why you can just trot our the witches, the straw men and line them up in the blame gallery. After all there is an ample supply of idiots, liars and idiots out there and we must be so right because they are so wrong.

Monday, May 26, 2014

Mourning the dead.

"Memorial Day is not to be confused with Veterans Day;" says Wikipedia, but who listens?  Our infatuation with the military, highly promoted since George W. Bush invaded Iraq, has made every day cause for "supporting the troops," but as something we all need to do without any financial help whatsoever from the Government. There is precious little said about increases in pay or benefits on either of these days.

Memorial day used to be Decoration day when people could remember and mourn the enormous number of dead in the Civil war, often going out to cemeteries and having picnics "on the ground." It's been extended to include our respect -- and our sorrow for all those we've lost in all our wars, not all of whom, sad to say lost their lives defending our "freedom" or way of life, as one might gather from all the jingoistic hoopla and "warrior" worship that now surrounds the holiday. 

And just for the record, despite all those "thank a soldier" e-mails going round, although there are many reasons to revere many of the things our military has accomplished, from the revolution itself to the liberation of Europe, our "freedom" owes as much and more to our government, our courts, our constitution and most of all the voters. The many Indian wars, the Spanish war, the Mexican war, the Vietnam war, the invasion of Iraq and a handful of other minor interventions and invasions have nothing to do with our being or remaining an independent democratic republic owing it's legitimacy to the will of the governed.  The danger to our freedom is far more internal.  It has been and always will be.the federal troops called in by Eisenhower to integrate the schools were defending the freedom of Americans. Mining Haiphong harbor and the carpet bombing of Hanoi had nothing to do with it.

This is a day for mourning the dead, not for promoting the kind of politics that uses people as pawns, and perhaps a day for lamenting our eagerness to put the living in harms way for less than worthy reasons.  It's hardly a day for glorifying war or warriors.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Careful fangirl, you look like a tweep

What's with this country that we celebrate every scrap of slang we find the way your dog jubilates over some scrap of fish guts it finds on the sidewalk?  The media made a fuss the other day, as it usually does, about some "new words" in the Merriam-Webster dictionary.  No, not the dictionary of slang, if such a thing is to be found these days, but a bona fide dictionary. 

The words are pretty much all bits of transitory slang, used not to be more specific or to describe a new thing, or to be poetic or amusing, but to sound hip -- like you're part of some in-crowd and not the dweeb you are. ( do you need a dictionary for that one?)  If only it were a literary in-crowd and not the kids who hang out around the convenience store dumpster at night inhaling something from a bag. Of course the media itself is a prime source of these elevated words and often simply invents them, like "efforting" or "trending" so as to sound, again, like some kind of in-crowd that knows more than you.

Bits of transitory slang become Cliche of course, when put into the context of a dictionary and though they may have been amusing metaphor, "crowdfunding" now means funding by public subscription as in an IPO, but with a twist, an an edge, an attempt at childlike yet hip wit, which by the fact of its formal inclusion is no longer there. So although a "lexicographer," if I can type that without spitting on my keyboard, thinks "fangirl" is a fitting and suitable replacement for "fan" so it is written and so shall it ever be and thus the mawkish and mouldy line about language having to change becomes the paradigm for fossilization of slang: not a word carved in stone, but the imprint of a formerly living thing impressed into the mud like tire tracks from a Pinto or a stain left by fido on your carpet that you never can quite remove.

Fan of course used to be slang (for fanatic,) as did formerly frowned upon words like phone, but contractions are not what we're seeing so much these days, but rather balbative contortions and portmanteau words, like "glamping" which I heard for the first time today to describe "glamorous camping."  It's use, like so many "new words" is really just a marketing gimmick -- a way to get you to pay big money for a tent at the Indianapolis Speedway infield. The ESPN folks were as giddy as kittens with catnip over that one, but it's not slang and it didn't come from common usage and -- excuse me, it wasn't crowdsourced. (If anyone's looking for a new word for words designed to sell the otherwise unpleasant, what about 'suppository?'

But not only is "selfie" here to stay or carved in stone as it were, we're even still as googly as an adolescent girl with her first corsage and looking to display it as much as possible before it fades.  But it won't, it's "in the dictionary"  and my grandchildren will certainly live to view a "Selfie" by Andy Warhol or Rembrandt at the MOMA or perhaps that Arnolfini Selfie at the National Gallery in London.  I'll bet you've been trying to work "selfie" into conversations for a month now, haven't you?  And I'll bet you think it's still so cute and you sound so 'with it' by using it -- just like you did with that lime green leisure suit you bought back in 1978 to go with your groovy perm.

Certainly they'll live to see a Supreme Court Chief Justice with his baseball cap on backwards and probably long after baseball has disappeared and perhaps a Republican president trailing his shorts behind him like a bride's train just like the kids used to do 140 years ago.  Certainly people will still be chopping up and reassembling words but the more creative will have abandoned them by the time the "lexicographer" adds them to Merriam-Webster, if indeed anyone uses a dictionary instead of searching twitter for "new words" or old words misused and meanings confused.

At least Merriam-Webster recognizes that it's possible to include words that will have to be removed, even though inclusion in these days is almost a signal for excision.  Who even knows what 23 skidoo means or what a Gandy dancer is?  But a lot of trouble could be avoided by a little lexicographical forbearance.  Maybe we should keep slang in a separate place, kind of like the apocrypha or your dirty socks and let it season for a while before sanctifying it because Selfie is already taking on new and less savory "meanings" and who knows, it may be too vulgar for dictionaries your kid might read, if kids refer to dictionaries at all any more -- in which case, never mind.

Friday, May 23, 2014

On the couch

Being laid up with some flu-like virus and with eyes too blurred to read gives one the chance to reflect on the real world -- that being the world we see on television.  Normally we're not expected or encouraged to reflect on it at all, but to fall into its clutches by having our minds numbed by throbbing beats, bouncing bodies, empty excitements, stupid scandals and steered toward desire for products and services that we associate with that throbbing, sobbing, semiotics-laden landscape of aspirations.

But when your head isn't quite up to it, when you just don't have the energy or enthusiasm, perhaps you start to make unintended observations, as I did this morning hearing about special services offered to special customers of the major airlines, including expedited check-in at private and secret facilities with disguised entrances: special trips from one gate to another in Porsches and Mercedes SUV's.  Anyone having recently experienced the Kafkaesque hamster habitat and third world refugee center of LaGuardia, (where I caught this damned bug ) must needs reflect on the fact that despite being what most people would call affluent, he's farther from being treated like that than from being on the next flight from Cape Canaveral to Mars.  The stratification of our society is extreme and getting quickly more so, but its not always apparent.  Not always apparent even though, like the downstairs people of  a couple of centuries ago, we spend much time gaping at the aristocracy in awe and dreaming of living like that.  Sorry, if ever we get to climb those stairs, we'll be carrying a tray.

Of course that aristocracy is different: from Kanye and the Kardashian, looking like those silicone love dolls, posing plasticly as the get into their Porsche SUV while cameras flash, to the ten million a year CEO being coddled up front while a 5'6" mere millionaire doesn't quite fit into that center seat (aisle and window extra) and sweats and hungers and feels like a sardine in a can. Even Mister ten million is on the low end of course, the Princes have their own jets.

But it's the advertising you get during the day --  endless ads from personal injury lawyers dedicated to making you rich, to trade schools dedicated to getting even you a job, to insurance companies dedicated to get even your car insured and getting you a 400% APR loan -- to miracle berries and pills and books and videos dedicated to getting rid of that weight you put on sitting around all day on the couch watching this crap and eating all that wonderful slop from McWendy King.

Dating services that use GOD to get you laid  must hope you won't ask how GOD got into the machine or why he needs it. Chances to get in on the latest class-action suit gravy train. Pills to cure diseases you never heard of like non-37, or restless pinky or low Z or other ad agency names you wish you had so you could get some of that new, hip and exclusive $300 a pill medicine with names like Sumerian princes: Adulamadu, Boogalumadab, Ziusudra. Drugs with a list of side effects that ought to scare hell out of you.  And of course nothing cures what actually ails me!

But you've got the whole day ahead of you, lying on the couch and you can watch Jerry and Maury to see people so hopelessly trapped in ignorance, stupidity and lust that their lives serve to make you feel better about your own misery. You have Fox to make you so riled up about TFN Obama you will forget about why things used to be better for people like you.  We have entertainment - we have virtual worlds - we have endless hamster tunnels to explore without leaving our couches, our hovels, our trailers, and unlike previous generations of hopeless troglodytes  we can dream our sad dreams of getting to a better place without having to die.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Never Forget?

It's hard to find a coherent picture of Barack Obama in the roar of inflamed rhetoric.  The rhetoric itself is incoherent, mixing accusations and metaphors with the most bizarre results -- and such is the passion for defamation it's probable that no consistent pattern will emerge for a generation.  He is what he is, somewhere behind the halo of  howling hate that surrounds him. 

Whatever you might think of him, it's tempting to plug other presidents of another party and another color into the equation just to test for mendacity and absurdity: such as perhaps to assume Reagan were president during an embassy bombing ( he was) or W.  ( he was) and it's tempting to reverse it by assuming it were president Obama not showing up at the dedication of the 9/11 Memorial Museum last week instead of the notably absent Bush whose 8 year career was floated on the attack and the subsequent War on Terror. 

George W. Bush deliberately stayed away for reasons, possibly good reasons, of his own and was in Arkansas attending a ceremony for Medal of  Honor recipients, but anyone with an unfoxed memory remembers how the Republicans jeered, howled and hooted about flag pins and the size of the flag on Obama's airplane and posted endless doctored photos and forged documents designed to attack his patriotism -- anyone with a sense of irony would wonder what those dancing devils would have done to Obama and snicker at what they certainly are not doing to Bush for staying away. It would have been a three ring, twin tower circus for weeks and months and years if not cause for impeachment.

And of course, I had to find out about this from the foreign press, the mis-titled Liberal American Media being far too concerned with other trumped-up Obama scandals, racist comments by team owners, Benghazi bullshit and other ridiculous attacks on Hillary Clinton, missing airplanes and the various and ever-changing apocalyptic horsemen wearing Obama masks.

Never-Forget George probably didn't forget and he's probably right not to make the dedication all about him, about his going to war with an uninvolved country and permanently giving up important civil rights in the process instead of being about the dead.  Still, it  makes one wonder at all the "never-forget" passion that was and is as transient as the all the "never-forget" events -- but then, forgetting, like false remembering is part of  the game and it is a game after all.  The only real goal of that game is winning.

Monday, May 19, 2014

The myth of competition.

I don't think I need Thomas Piketty to point out that massive conglomerations of  Capital and the drive toward monopoly are one of the failure modes of Capitalism in which consumers have not only fewer choices but less money to fuel the system.  Perhaps it's a bit like Stellar evolution where using up all the hydrogen causes bloat and eventual implosion.  The traditional anthems sing about competition and opportunity, but in truth any capitalist enterprise wants to stifle competition and give competitors as little opportunity as possible and when the enterprise in question is control of information and opinion and even of desire and ambition in the public -- well the prospect of  media consolidation  in a country that depends on that industry for its information and opinion is simply frightening.   We might as well just hand over the keys to the Capitol along with our proxies when elections here become as much of a one party farce as those we used to laugh at in other countries.

AT&T plans to buy out DirecTV in a 67 Billion dollar deal and while current DirecTV customers like me will probably start to worry that my current $170 a month bill will escalate further and my service will decline to U-verse levels of not giving a damn, our real worry should be, as Professor Picketty would doubtless agree that it's beginning to look a lot like Orwell.

Isn't it time to suggest that all this blather about Obama the Socialist is a smokescreen put up by interests with no other interest than to monopolize the country and reduce us all to penury inescapable debt and serfdom? struggling to pay for what they want to sell us?  I think it is and I think our biggest danger as a free and prosperous country is to protect what they, the media, the voice of monopoly tell us is our freedom. 

Saturday, May 17, 2014


Seems as though I'm alone in worrying more about Russian aggression in Europe than about rooting out and punishing obnoxious racial opinions expressed in private.  But in fact I'm starting to worry about freedom of speech and it's de facto abuse even though that abuse isn't coming from the government.

Wolfeboro, New Hampshire Police Commissioner Robert Copeland was overheard  sounding off in a restaurant last March, complaining that he hated watching television, because every time he turns it on, he sees “that f-cking n-gger.”  TFN, of course, being the president of the United States Barack Obama.   There has been, as you might expect, a call to have him resign or be fired, but the town just isn't having any part of that and a fellow commissioner claims he's a "very nice person." No doubt he is on matters other than insulting our country and its president, our citizens of African ancestry and basically everyone else who finds such public speech to be unacceptable and particularly by an elected official entrusted with public safety.

Am I the only one who finds that far more egregious than a private phone conversation, taken out of context and without permission and involving a businessman acting jealous with his would-be girlfriend?  It won't get the publicity of course, because it doesn't involve one of the sacred games our nation cares about more than anything else, but whether or not Copeland decides to step down with or without the support of his peers, perhaps the people's right to censure, if not censor such speech will be exercised at the polls and TFR that f-cking racist will have to find an honest job somewhere else.  I strongly defend the right to hold an opinion as well as I defend my right to use any legal means to make sure the holder thereof  isn't on the public payroll.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

I'm a racist, you're a racist

 The truth is, everyone has racism in his or her heart.
-Kareem Abdul-Jabbar -

 Abdul-Jabbar asks in an article in Time how we can tell if we are racists like Donald Sterling. One of the ways you probably are, it seems he's telling us, is that you think you are not. That may be humor, in which case disregard all that follows here, but if he is serious, I have to take issue and starting with the assertion above.

 Racism? Really?  Misperception? yes, inappropriate reactions based on past experience? yes, Discomfort with the unfamiliar? sure because we are animals and descended from animals for whom personal survival was the prime mover of evolution and survival demanded suspicion.

I strongly prefer Harleys to Hondas, for reasons that may be as specious and spurious as the reason Don Sterling doesn't want minorities in his apartment building, but the consequences of the former are quite different than of the latter, aren't they?  Let's stop flagellating ourselves because we can't eliminate sin, because not all sin is alike, or equal, or even sinful and we all of us sure as hell can become better, kinder more respectful and better informed people. Maybe let's be more circumspect about the words we use too.  Racism is a high caliber word. Maybe something smaller and more accurate is more appropriate to shoot at roaches.

But really are we all racists? Is it wrong as he says to be"situational"  If someone really thinks Asians can't drive is that just like being part of the Aryan Nation?  If someone calls me a "Hymie" should we raise holy hell and smear his name on the television 24/7 and interview everyone that ever pretended to know him and research everything he's ever done looking for more "sin?"  We know the answer,we certainly do.

Some racism is worse than other racism and like everything it has a lot to do with frame of reference, thank you Doctor Einstein. Is tentative and situational mistrust based on perceived race he same thing as an unshakable belief in the inferiority of another group?  I think Kareem is telling me it's an inappropriate question, that racism is racism is racism and there are no degrees or dimensions. I'm answering that racism isn't that simple - one size does not fit all.

 I'm not sure I remember the technical name for the gambit, but  a popular political move consists of making a statement and then supporting it with an irrelevant argument. As an example I might insist, as the writer does, that we are all racists because after all, we are most comfortable with "our own kind" which of course is an assumption that ignores more evidence than it depends on. Is the assumption that we are all racists based on the assumption that we are all racists while the definition of racist depends on what we mean by "our own kind?"  Does the appearance of racism depend on the appearance of racism because any closer examination of racism is evidence of racism?  Does "my own kind" have more to do with interests and personality than with skin color or hair texture or accent?  More circles than Ringling's circus or the Olympic logo.  Much hinges on that question and on how we all differ individually.  Yet most of us dare not ask for fear of being racist.

If  I agree with him, for the sake of argument,  that since everyone is a racist, I am a racist too and I must necessarily be, he implies, of the opinion that racism is no longer a problem in the United States, but then of course I would have to assume he is also a racist (by his own implication) which absolutely denies the objectivity of his observations.  How can we have racists arguing against racism!  You'll doubtless ask how we got into this loop, since if I am aware -- and I am -- of a great deal of racism I ipso facto cannot, he claims, fit into the category of racist -- which is a contradiction of the contrary assertion.  If  on the other hand I assert that I am a racist and one of a growing number, I cannot be one!  I tend to think that arguments that end in contradictions are not really arguments, but I'm getting ahead of myself.

 True, he can correctly say that Donald Sterling thinks  or at least argues he is not a racist. He can say that Paula Deen, Cliven Bundy, Don Imus and Bill O'Reilly argue that they are not racists in broad terms but only are responding to unfortunate individual situations.  He can call them hypocrites and liars and I will certainly agree they have said and done racist things. I just think it's certainly possible, despite the digression about "situational" racism to expose a racist opinion even though there are gradations and excuses of various value - and there certainly are. But as with pornography and rednecks, we pretty much know if you might be a redneck and we've pretty much seen it all. We've even laughed together about it.  But it's not about situational ethics or absolute ethics, it's about honesty. If we're going to insist everyone is dishonest and untrustworthy, we are going to end this in another contradiction, aren't we?  If I think I'm not, I am just may not work in reverse.  It's a poor kind of logic that only works forward, to paraphrase Alice.  Maybe I should just assume an attempt at humor and give the benefit of the doubt, but still.

Anyway, I read today that one in 4 adults are anti-Semitic.  Yes it was done by the ADL and so you have to consider the source, just as you have to consider the source when you read Abdul-Jabbar's assertion that we are all racists.  But still, should that be 4 in 4 if he's right? Should I examine myself to be sure I avoid hating Jews or saying something "insensitive" even in jest?  Does that apply to Chris Rock when he uses that word? And if he were to assert that Jews are not disadvantaged by bigotry ( and don't I hear that a lot?) would that make him a racist?  Not that he's denying it and of course if he is what he says he is, why should I listen to him?  Why should I not demonstrate in the street against him and hope to ruin him financially?  Ask Mr. Sterling.

In fact that store owner may be plagued with Mexican shoplifters and if he's suspicious, that's prejudice not Racism, just as if he's more suspicious of teenage girls or elderly women for that matter. Prejudice is natural, it's the way we protect ourselves.  Trust is dangerous. What are we doing to foster trust when we start from the premise that we are all racists and inescapably so? Yet, just because someone can argue honestly or dishonestly that he is not a racist,  it does not follow that all prejudice is racism even if most racism is prejudice.

Is racism even a useful term or does it carry so much baggage that we need to try something more maneuverable?  Is it racism if you love or admire or respect or only if you hate? Is it prejudice instead and is it objectionable?  Can we make our struggle for blind justice so full of casuistry and sophistry it reverts to warring tribes?  Maybe he's right, maybe we aren't going anywhere.

Here's a hint: If you've ever said, “I don’t care if you’re white, black, yellow, or purple," you might be a racist. 

Yes, you might be,  and if you have wheels on your house you might be a redneck -- but you might not. You also might be anything at all including a good, decent, respectful and altruistic person.  You might be a redneck, You might be a saint. You might be both.  You cannot honestly insinuate that one is a racist or a saint for denying it.  This is not a religious argument about original sin, but I have a hard time thinking that's not exactly what I'm reading.

Look, I would argue against his assertion that not only is racism more widespread than ever but more insidious simply because racists with publicists and press secretaries can weasel out of  illegal discrimination by using stereotypes posing as statistics. I think we're seeing it more, because hardly anything can be hidden today and because you're less likely to wind up dead for talking about it.

Dishonesty is not new.  I think George Wallace's racism or Byron DeLaBeckwith's racism is the same  as racism is today but was far more entrenched at one time, far more immune from consequences -- and some anecdote about what some jerk or ten jerks have said on the air is not the basis for sweeping generalizations which serve no one in any way but to breed misunderstanding and animosity.

The best thing we can do about racism he says

"is to seek it out every minute of every day and expose every instance we find. And not just racism, but also sexism, homophobia and every other kind of injustice that lessens the principles of inclusion that define this country."
OK sure, but every minute?  Maybe we can take a short break now and then and watch the basketball game, and maybe just get along and risk a little trust -- but yes indeed I agree and the more so because he's being specific: every kind of injustice -- every kind that's the issue and including the injustices we perpetrate in fighting injustices. But in a way, Kareem is right, even at the beginning -- when you're fighting injustice, you're fighting us, you're fighting our past and our ignorance and our traditions and inherited values and I'd like to think we can move away from it without dragging it behind us.

Ok, you know I'm being more than a bit facetious here but does the imperative to "root out" have a limit?  What do we do to racists particularly if all of us are racists?  We can hardly argue for human values or against racism on principle if we see it everywhere including in ourselves?  Can we say it's never "situational" when some poor drunk soul is goaded into saying something and secretly recorded?  Do we feel bad about that, can we say we're so pure that it's OK for us to throw the first and last stone?  The media obsession with some socially unacceptable words seems to remind me of some Bible story.  The obsession with rooting out counterrevolutionary thought sure as hell reminds me of  how it was to live under the Red Guard and Mao.  No, I don't like this road, paved with good intentions as it may be.  I think I know where it goes and that's just where my mother told me it went.
Maybe that wise and experienced man, Rodney King asked the right question:  "Can we just get along?"  Can we stop the witch hunt, accept that perfection is unattainable and just get along?  If we're all racists, all prejudiced can't we take that as an argument for forgiveness as well as introspection? Can't we just get along?

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Honey, we never had kids!

Someone told me that the Church of the Latter Day Saints is the fastest growing religion in the world, but it isn't -- not if one can call a family of beliefs that share the philosophy that nothing you hear is true a religion.  Of course when it comes to Sunday Supplement health and nutrition articles and the books that make diet Doctors rich, little of it may actually be true, but there is no end of things that are really beyond reasonable doubt and should largely be beyond unreasonable doubt too.  I wasted some time last week for instance with a fool who insisted no airplane could have hit the Pentagon because of the "ground effect"  although I certainly know better than to do that.

But no, the winner, the fastest growing most universal faith is Denialism and I think it's time to stop looking at it as anything but a Religion.  It has a canon and a catechism, albeit simple:  Whatever happened didn't happen and I have a conspiracy to explain it.  I have proof that nobody ever went to the moon because the pictures they took would have been ruined by the Van Allen belts.  The pyramids were built by aliens because how else?  The World Trade Center must have been sabotaged because steel doesn't melt at the temperature of burning jet fuel. . .  No, don't go away, I'm not going to explain why this is the purest of bull, I'm more interested at how nothing true is exempt from Denialist interpretation  any more.

Sure, it's a big country and you can find a few people who think anything and deny anything.  It makes them feel important, but like most religions in today's America, they have their preachers and politicians and lobbyists spreading the faith like it was Ebola.  Think nothing is true and they're coming for your shotgun?  Who ya gonna call?   Rand Paul!  

Imagine someone calling you up and insisting that not only did your daughter not die in the school shooting at Sandy Hook, but she never existed!  Birth certificate?  Hey we know about birth certificates, don't we?  And we know about Photoshop too - you can't fool me with your pictures!  Hey, it was all a scam to allow the government to take our guns and you know they have no other purpose than to take your guns!

Rand Paul thinks so too, or at least he wants the nutjobs, nitwits and whackadoodles to think he does because after all, lunatics, idiots and devout Denialists need representation too.  Nope, nobody died, it never happened and if you know somebody who died, you're a liar, because they never existed. 

Stunning, isn't it, but that's the world of Denialists, or "truthers" as they often like to be known.  Who says they're immune to irony?  They're good at it, even if they can't see it. 

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

With Limbaugh and Coulter, who needs Satan?

Think the insanity in America isn't getting worse: angrier, more obtuse, more vicious and increasingly bought and paid for by people who admire Vladimir Putin and wish, like Fox News has so often said, we could have a leader like him?  Think again.  There is no bottom.  There is no fact so irrefutable, no cause so decent that the Republicans can't defame it or deny it.  I'm not going to waste any more time pointing out the lies about science and history and law that drown out the very processes of justice and government -- that inflame unstable people to violence, that argue for obedience to non-existent gods and anarchy over Democracy.

I'm going to talk about behavior that is so unforgivable and horrible as to be Sadistically pathological and  which provides proof that justice and compassion and any traces of  our founding ideals is no longer possible.  Behavior that is hardly noticed and rarely opposed in the festering ruins of America, where the poor, the suffering, the starving, the hopeless and bereaved are fair game for the millionaires who spend their lives shitting on morality itself.  I'm going to talk about the Republicans.

Think there's no one low enough to mock Michelle Obama for expressing solidarity with kidnapped girls to be sold into sexual slavery?  Sorry, there's Rush Limbaugh with his long history of siding with genocidal African terrorists like Joseph Kony and calling Obama "anti-Christian" for not supporting him in the rape and slaughter of women and children.

Think Ann Coulter isn't trying to outdo Limbaugh in the mockery?  Of course not and after all, these girls are African and Michelle Obama is African American and like her husband who "went over there and apologized to them" and isn't the legal president anyway so he's fair game and they're not important.

No, there's no bottom. There's only American mud and the slimy things that squirm out, vermicular, batrachian, reptilian, festering and pustulent and septic, out of the corrupted body of right wing politics to shit on everything decent and to drag what's left of my country straight down to hell.

Friday, May 09, 2014

Reality Bites Reality Show.

I think we have to hold this truth self-evident: bigotry doesn't pay. Bible-Based or not, and even expressed in private, Racism, Homophobia, and Bigotry can cost you almost everything. Nobody will hire you other than Fox News and other GOP franchises.

David and Jason Benham were about to get their own HGTV 'reality TV series until it came out on Right Wing Watch that David, one of the twin Biblievers had been ranting outside the Democratic National Convention at Charlotte, NC in 2012 about "homosexuality and its agenda that is attacking the nation" and "demonic ideologies" taking hold in colleges and public schools.  Hot Potato time again at HGTV.  Gay people and people who are tired of people who rant about what their toothless old threadbare god hates watch HGTV and in sufficient numbers that bigotry doesn't pay.  Hey who said the market doesn't sometimes correct itself? Who says Capitalism can't force bad products off the market?

Hey -- that reality real enough for ya?

Thursday, May 08, 2014

America F.I.R.S.T. Science last

So you think the aggressive stance of  American Christianists against equal rights for non-Christians and for the ability of  Christian Chauvinists to use the power of government to advance their cause and sabotage all others' is not so important?  Maybe that I'm making much ado about almost nothing?

Perhaps you're not linking the assault on Humanism and on non-Christians it to the assault on women's rights and the assault on science, both of which are "traditional" targets of traditional Christian values.  Yes, we know about the wholesale rejection of  paleontology, geology and climate science both the data and interpretation, but many of us may brush it aside as the insignificant nattering of  nitwits,  and it isn't -- isn't insignificant, that is.  Because while we're wrapped up in the game and other trivial pursuits, our Congressional Christians are plotting to cut off all scientific funding that doesn't mesh with superstition and the official delusions of apocalyptic Evangelism.

They call it the FIRST act but it's hardly the first attempt to silence science.  The Churches of Europe gave it up hundreds of years ago, but of course the Republicans haven't forgiven them for giving up on tyranny so easily.  Enter the “Frontiers in Innovation, Research, Science, and Technology Act of 2014," which would give the nattering nitwits, the Biblical blowhards and the people who fund them, the right to deny funding to anything that they think might challenge the lies they hold to be "gospel" truth. It would put US science on a level with Botswana and it's already far behind Europe. Again it's not first. We already have successful efforts to stuff science textbooks full of Bible Based lies.

Of course Federal funding for research has recently been cut dramatically in an effort to accelerate the way we've been left behind by the modern world.  Remember the "I hope he fails" slogan from Obama's first term?  They really hope America fails of course because it would be fun for the few hundred people who own everything and a whole lot of fun for the kind of  draconian and tyrannical religious rule that's far more attractive to a downtrodden, miserable, frustrated and bone ignorant people -- the Americans of tomorrow: White Anglo-Saxon Protestant Fundamentalists.

Wednesday, May 07, 2014

Only for Christians

You can laugh a bit and console yourself that it doesn't matter all that much if an Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice tells us the first Amendment only applies to Christians -- maybe even if you are like me, not a Christian. It's only Alabama, right?

They didn't bring the Koran over on the pilgrim ship, the Mayflower,

Justice Roy Moore announced to the mob at the Pastor for Life Luncheon. Maybe you'll remember that Jefferson owned one however and that he wasn't shy about warning us of religious tyranny. Maybe you'll remember Moore as the former justice who was removed from office for fighting to erect the Ten Commandments in the courthouse, but like that tumor you thought the chemo got rid of he came back two years later singing the same tune:

Let's get real. Let's learn our history. Let's stop playing games.

I would agree with that, but as we know, to the religious right, history is baked fresh every morning. The English colonists brought slaves, white and black, and Moore's ideological ancestors fought like hell to keep them, Bibles in hand.

Buddha didn't create us. Mohammad didn't create us. It's the god of the Holy Scriptures,

said Moore with the authority not granted him by anyone in particular, and grossly misrepresenting Jefferson and Madison and the U.S. Supreme Court with a stream of non sequitur he insisted that freedom of religion is only for Christians.

A newly-released video shows him expounding all this and worse in Jackson, Mississippi last January to a group called Pro-Life Mississippi. Of course it's hardly a game he's asking us to end, it's secular democracy, the pride of the age of Reason and Humanism, and like a stag at bay it's destined to be torn to ribbons and its head displayed on some courthouse wall. For nothing in our Constitution is as important, as hallowed by the blood of patriots, as the cracks, the loopholes, the weak spots that may just allow traitors and secessionist sons of the Confederacy to eviscerate it, hang it from its heels, bleed it and gut it like an animal to be sacrificed to his tyrannical, bloody-handed God.

Tuesday, May 06, 2014

Liberal Nazis dont want you to know this!

Lots of things are happening in the world that Cable News disciples don't seem to notice or know about.  Lots of crazy stuff is swept under the racist team owner, missing airplane, sunken ferry rug every day.  It's a revelation.

I read today about another one of those wonderful preachers who seem to have a handle on our real problems -- the kind of stuff we need to read more of.  I'm talking about Brother Dean Samuel who showed up a a screening of  a film about 1998 Miss World Pageant winner and rape survivor Linor Abargil last month, wearing a T-shirt saying "You Whore."  It's her fault for being raped, he says, she should have stayed home.

He's right.  That neighbor across the street who leaves his garage door open is just inviting me to steal his Ferrari  and it's his own damned fault if I do. Don't you just love Christianity?  Do what thou wilt is the law - for men of course.  Hey, don't argue, God's a man, or two men and a bird, but don't ask.  The answer gets kind of weird.

And then there's that moral and righteous Newt Gingrich who got all Puritan on us when Bill Clinton got caught with his pants down, cheating on his wife while Newt was doing the same thing?  I'm glad I didn't get distracted by the Missing Plane and got to read how "Liberal Nazis" forced Condoleeza to cancel her commencement speech at Rutgers. He blamed an "elite Media" for this horror:  "an elite media that would have been screaming if right-wing groups had done this to a Somali woman and an African-American woman."  'This' meaning calling her to task for helping to falsify information about Iraq,  ignore information about al Qaeda and justify a war that killed hundreds of thousands, helped punish critics, destroyed a country that had nothing whatever to do with 9/11 and bankrupted our economy.   Thanks Newt, you're a real piece of Patriot.  Who else could conflate opposites and accuse others of your own sins with a straight face?

There's so much going on with those damned Liberal Nazis elsewhere we need to know about.  Take the outrage perpetrated on a California school district superintendent, Mohammad Z. Islam who wanted 8th graders to research the Holocaust to see it if ever happened or the Jews actually made the whole thing up for money.  Those Liberals didn't want us to know about this so we couldn't offer Mr. Islam our support for his freedom of speech!

If you only watched commercial, for-profit news (other than Fox) you'd probably never know that the people of Oklahoma have no blood on their hands for the grizzly execution that took 43 minutes to kill Clayton Lockett, bound to a table and zapped with a cattle prod so they could continue to pump agonizing chemicals into his groin. It's true - he didn't bleed.  Damn bleeding heart liberals anyway -- too busy telling us we're not a Christian Nation to help hold the guy down.

And again, are the Liberals trying to keep you from hearing Chief Justice Roy Moore of the Alabama Supreme Court tell us we need a new constitution to protect us from "gays and Ruth Bader-Ginsberg?"  The same judge who bravely asserted that "Buddha didn't create us so the first amendment only applies to Christians?"  Liberals don't want you to know the truth.  Not like Fox News who aren't afraid to tell you that people who want to take prayer out of state supported schools are like Hitler.

No all this stuff that makes me proud to be an American and I had to find it on the web because the liberals don't want us to know!

Monday, May 05, 2014

Walk like an Egyptian

All the kids in the marketplace say
Ay oh whey oh, ay oh whey oh
Walk like an Egyptian

Remember that song from 1885? Like old soldiers and all hits, it's faded slowly away.  The Bangles however are still around despite some split-ups and re-unifications. You never know what's going to last. You never know what's going to persist ad nauseam either, but things that started out nauseating tend to go on nauseating us for a long time.

Take that new song from Fox and the Fabricators for instance:  Benghazi! Benghazi!  It doesn't matter really, whether or not Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama or the Democratic party can be blamed for the debacle any more than it matters that the Republicans withheld requested funds to beef up security beforehand.  Facts rarely matter in affairs of the heart or politics and although the Macarena may be long gone, the Republican chorus line at Fox will be doing the Benghazi Boogie until the remains of the US are divided up between Mexico and Canada.  Benghazi! Benghazi!

Fox turned their back on a recent press conference about what's arguably the big story and the big worry of  the day, the Russian attempt to invade and annex Ukraine, tanks, bombers, fighter jets and helicopters and more boots on the ground every day, but they weren't doing the Benghazi! which according to Fox is BREAKING NEWS!  Even CNN cut away from the really important 24 hour coverage of the absence of anything new about the missing airplane, because really, anything that might lead to World War Three should at least get passing notice before we get back to interpret the total lack of anything new in an old case. But not Fox

As TBogg says on Raw Story: When all you've got is #Benghazi, everything looks like #Benghazi.  Also #BENGHAZI!  No matter how many 'select committees' convene and adjourn with less to show for the time and effort and money than they came up with during the Whitewater debacle, the need for another bogus scandal requires yet another committee and there's a call for one from yet another "conservative" sabotage group saying that there are now e-mails suggesting that the administration was concerned with its image.  After all, defending against dishonest and relentless attacks by the culpable party is admission of something isn't it?  And besides, anything said often enough becomes true no matter how ridiculous or dishonest.  Ask Vladimir Putin, the Russian dictator Fox news constantly praises as the leader Obama should emulate.  Even if Putin has brought on a nuclear apocalypse by 2016, we can expect to be doing the Benghazi! Boogie, because, as the man says -- it's all they've got at this point since none of their dire and hysterical predictions has proved out.

You know it's bad when even a partisan like Lindsay Graham is worried it will all backfire at the midterms. “If we’re playing politics with Benghazi, we’ll get burned,” Said Graham on   “Face the Nation.” yesterday, but he may have more faith in the American People or at least fear of their honesty and intelligence than I do.  My vision is apocalyptic:  the  world engulfed in war and chaos while the Right wing does the Benghazi boogie -- and a poor, dirty, ignorant and superstitious populace?

Ay oh whey oh, ay oh whey oh
Walks like a Republican

Thursday, May 01, 2014

Respect your elders -- we vote.

One of the things that annoys me the most about living in the most crimson county in a red state is the presumption by the inmates that you couldn't possibly be anything else but one of them.  The lack of inhibition allowing them to launch into some vicious right-wing verbal assault, packed like a fat kid's lunchbox with unhealthy swill gives me no end of grief, but of course there are times when it backfires on them.

Republican Governor Rick Scott had one of those precious moments the other day, naturally assuming that a group of retired folks in nearby Boca Raton would, like a juke box, play his song when he pushed the right buttons. Wrong. The expression on his face tells it all. 

Scott, who is filling my TV screen every evening with scurrilous lies and sleazy half truths about his Democratic opponent, blaming him for the recession, but worse, blaming him for not hating Obama and everything he's done enough -- Scott who oversaw what was at the time the largest medicare fraud in history, expected the doddering old folks to respond Republican-style to his questions about just how much they hated Medicare and The Affordable Health Care Act.

What he found was a satisfied group with few complaints, says the Sun Sentinel.  Some actually praised "Obamacare."  One woman, some years younger than I responded that if young people don't have insurance the rest of us will have to pay their bills and if there really were cuts necessary under the ACA to provide equal care for others, as Scott claims it would, ( he lies) then people like her weren't going to fight to keep every last benefit because "it isn't the United States of senior citizens."

Another older fellow said if there really were cuts to Medicare, he hadn't seen them and that's of course because the cuts aren't to the beneficiaries but to service providers.  Perhaps people with some time to read noticed that the "cuts" were actually Medicare cost-savings passed by a Republican Congress.

Other people confirmed that they had seen no cuts, that they were satisfied.  Others affirmed that contrary to Scott's claims no doctors were quitting.  We get used to the image of everybody over 65 as feeble, barely rational and uninformed.  That's as wrong as Scott's (did I mention that he ripped off Medicare for billions?) similar presumption that they aren't only drooling morons but Republican stooges?  Is that redundant?

Did' Scott's condescension and presumptions irritate his audience as much as his corruption and apparent dishonesty?  Who knows?  Stealing so much money from Medicare that he can become a governor through paid TV lies about Medicare, makes me glad I wasn't there at the Volen Center in Boca Raton to comment.  I'm old enough, of course, but sorry to bust the stereotype, I'm more likely found in other venues like gun ranges, waterfront dives and Biker bars where we've seen too damned many liars and con men like Rick Scott and remember him all too well to be fooled again.

You can get anything you want

You hear a lot about "enlightened self-interest" and mostly from people who think Ayn Rand's fiction illustrates a paved path to a better world. Of course I can't argue against enlightenment in principle or against the fact that as living beings we must put self-interest on a high plane. My problem though, is with the slipperiness of the term.  In general it resembles self-interest wearing a nice Sunday suit, but everyone has his own ideas, from the ascetic practicing Ahimsa, to the libertine, to the employer or Investor amassing wealth.  It's hard to pin down, but your idea and your degree of enlightenment is in the eye of the beholder.

In an age where religion as a moral teacher and ethical authority has exceeded the credulousness of many Westerners -- and in an America where the most audible religion has receded into vicious threats and angry condemnation of most things other schools of enlightenment might accept or even applaud there are too many tempting choices on the menu.   This Alice's Restaurant style religion  really doesn't serve to direct us away from the authoritarian self-interests of  its merchants if it has a direction at all. You can get anything you want, but will the waitress let you eat it?

Take Arizona Pastor Steven Anderson, for instance, whose obsession with regulating sexual thought and behavior and the consequences of defying preachers isn't much different than other sticky things left in the bottom of the religion barrel like sludge as the lighter substances in the crude evaporate off.  For his ilk, birth control is just an evil thing, because it introduces an element of freedom, an element of personal choice.  It allows that God's plan for unrestrained procreation be tinkered with by other concerns like health, economics or that Humanist blasphemy: the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

He's not content to give us his malediction without condiment however. He has to spice up the Crazy Christian Chalupa by insisting that women who don't feel like getting pregnant are whores and that women were meant to suffer in childbirth and probably suffer with the commandment to ignore her own needs and desires as well.  He has to point out to an audience  that needs, none the less, to give a false nod to science and pragmatism and public health, that birth control is somehow harmful to their bodies, unlike cigarettes and alcohol and punishment from the husbands to whom they are commanded to submit. After all, the woman not burdened and suffering as the Biblegod requires, is likely to "sin" which in general means to pursue life, liberty and all that happy evil  -- and that specifically means she's likely to have not only sexual thoughts, but act on them despite authority.

In general Steve, like the rest of the Oldest Profession, wants to tell us the freedom of not having to choose between love and suffering is  "ruining the country" which is really the admission that he and the other voices of ancient evil are losing control. It's also an unnoticed admission that the idea of Democracy is essentially and unavoidably sinful. 

Few of us would contest that enlightenment in the vague way most of us would define it, is the enemy of self-justified moral authority and divine but ambiguous wisdom, but who do we have to teach us just when altruism is required and how much and for how long?  Who will set guidelines with regard to how we treat others who compete with us or work for us -- or for whom we work?  Face it, the Bible leans both ways if we can discern any concern for human well being in it at all. The Bible in fact does not approve of democracy nor did Jesus and without democracy all we have left is -- well you know: people like Pastor Steven Anderson. He's no help.

So can we stop talking about enlightenment and begin to talk about our right to choose -- everything? Nobody is going to enlighten us without a self-interest of his own design and that means we have to settle for consensus and when 70% of America wants not only to have a minimum wage but to raise it, that's enlightenment enough and warring theories about what is good or bad or what Pastor Steve, Rand Paul, great yelping Yahweh or St. Loonie up the cream bun thinks are irrelevant.  Democracy is the best we can do and the only way we have to give everyone's enlightenment a voice. And what does that say about those who argue for limiting it to those with a specific interest?