Tuesday, July 28, 2015

He Who Has Seen All Things

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Friday, July 17, 2015

Dark Money Shines Bright

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

.@POTUS: how can you be sure this was Pluto's first visitor? https://twitter.com/POTUS/status/621133763385425920 9:45 AM - 15 Jul 2015

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Not All Donalds are Ducks

Some are just Schmucks.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, July 05, 2015

What's in the Sausage

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Selling the apocalypse

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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