Concerned Over Comedy (2018Apr08)


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Sunday, April 08, 2018                                            2:34 PM

Concerned Over Comedy   (2018Apr08)

The new logo for HBO’s “Last Week Tonight with John Oliver” is Mr. Oliver slumped over his desk, face down, with one forearm raised—index finger aloft—as if pausing during a collapse to interject, “And just one more thing…” It perfectly symbolizes satirical political commentary in the Trump crisis, wherein comics must first present the actual facts of a premise, wait for the reaction of horror and nervous laughter, and then proceed with putting a punchline on the end—as if the facts weren’t ludicrous enough.

Comics who wish to point out the paradoxes, the hypocrisies, the tomfooleries, and the blatant, outright villainies of political leadership—these comics used to rub their hands in glee when a president stumbled on an airplane ramp or a vice-president fired buckshot into a friend’s physiognomy—any target-rich environment that made their jobs easier for a day or two. Now, they are more and more like John Oliver—exhausted by the firehose of inanity coming from our seats of power—exhausted by its diluvian persistence, but even more so by its frightening instability and provocation.

John Oliver is a funny man and I enjoy his show—one of my top three shows—so, no shade being sent his way by what I’m saying: Last Week Tonight is not a comedy show pretending to be news—it is current-events-in-civics pretending to be a comedy. The reason it works is the political and social conditions of our time are laughably paradoxical, hypocritical, foolish, and blatantly villainous. Our country is so hagridden by ignorance, corruption, and selfishness—in both its individual ‘statespersons’ and its ‘institutions’ (remember the Donald Trump Trust?) that the rest of the globe is embarrassed for our electorate.

How could American voters, possessing the jewel, the most envied government of the entire world—how could these idiots have ever let things come to the present pass? How self-destructive and mule-headed can we be, to throw away the wonder of the world—to obvious crooks and transparent charlatans? How could Ignorance have so fully won the day?

Television bears some responsibility, as do Facebook and Putin—and, frankly, the Democratic Party, which took the best, most popular and historic choice ever presented—and pissed it away. But ultimately enough voters consciously chose to hurt their country this way—and I think many of them did so purposely. They expressed their anger in their vote—much like a rioting mob will burn down its own neighborhood.

We have to remember what voting means. You find someone who will do what you want—and you make sure that person gets your vote. You don’t wait for a bunch of strangers to present you with some ‘lesser of two evils’ contest—you get the person who will do what you want him or her to do. Hint: It has something to do with people—and a lot less to do with economic interests.

I applaud the mobilization of our youngest adults, and demi-adults, demanding more common-sense-based legislation on one particular issue—guns. Of course, having been shot at for quite long enough, we must hold these youngsters blameless for attempting to defend themselves, even politically. Teachers, as well, have mobilized—making the excellent point that one should not have to choose both to teach our children and live in poverty, as a package deal.

The plain fact is that these schools are underfunded—the teachers’ salaries are simply the vocal, visible part—the crowded classrooms, the lack of books and supplies and computers—hell, the lack of desks… You can’t neglect the next generation without nulling the value of everything else you might do. So, when the leaders tell you the answer is to arm these teachers with guns—the question is not ‘Should we elect new leaders?’ so much as ‘How the hell did they get elected?’

I’m sure there’s a laugh in there somewhere—I leave it to the professionals to find.

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Ethical Border Threat (2018Apr04)


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Wednesday, April 04, 2018                                              5:04 PM

Ethical Border Threat   (2018Apr04)

Even after the Mexican-American War (April 1846–February 1848), neither the United States nor Mexico ever felt any need for an armed border. In fact, migrant workers have been a vital part of the USA’s agricultural infrastructure—and prohibiting their border crossings would have left American crops rotting in the fields and orchards. Even today, deporting and excluding Mexicans from our border would have a catastrophic effect on our food production.

Today Trump has called for the National Guard to man our southern border in force. No government masses troops on its border unless it plans to invade, or repel an invading force. Unless Trump plans to invade Mexico, it would seem that he is treating the migration of thousands of frightened, desperate men, women, and children, from what amounts to a warzone, as an invading force.

These people, recently dubbed a ‘caravan’ by media, are facing violence and death in their homes—they are taking a long journey to a strange land, fleeing for their lives. If Trump were a real American, he’d be sending those National Guard troops to the border—with food, water, and medical supplies. He’d be instructing them to welcome these refugees from Central America to the land of the free.

But Trump is not an American. He is a coward—he is the opposite of a real American. He may even be a traitor—we don’t know yet. But one thing we all surely know: the only thing approaching our Southern Border is an opportunity for American greatness—and the only threat is the one in the Oval Office.

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Votes Not Cast (2018Mar30)


Friday, March 30, 2018                                            7:15 PM

Votes Not Cast   (2018Mar30)

There are many reasons for the ebb in my recent output. Most of all, it’s that I’ve said what I had to say—and I am too old to accept the current corruption and ignorance as a ‘new norm’. The media hypes it because it’s very much akin to a slow-motion building demolition—the USA, a mighty structure built over centuries, and our ‘leaders’ gnawing on it like an old carcass.

But sensible people (many of whom have gotten out of the habit of watching TV) are simply waiting for Mueller, or someone—anyone of character, to put our present administration out of the Oval Office and behind bars where they belong. If only sensible people numbered in the majority.

If only six or seven Republican Senators had the character to stand by whatever sense they have, this administration would already be under impeachment hearings. I want my next sentence to be: ‘Trump is a criminal, a traitor, a hater, an idiot, a chauvinist, a bigot, and a psycho—totally unfit for that, or any other, office.’ Imagine my frustration—realizing that our president has been described this way by so many people, even before his election, that I’m afraid I’ll lose my reader (hi you! …whoever you are) by being so trite and repetitive!

Trump is a paper tiger, set up to draw all attention to himself, while the Republicans grab for all the loose cash they can get—and pretend that they don’t have the power to remove this puppet of Putin’s from his illegally-gained electoral majority.

America is not about hate—so how did we end up with this rabid, racist dog being elected President? We can blame the lying Republicans, and the fucking Russians, and that asshole Assange—but we have to also accept responsibility for the actual votes. I don’t mean just the zombies who fell for Trump—the votes not cast against him trouble me far more deeply. All evil needs to succeed is that good people do nothing.

I’m buoyed by the appearance of these wonderful teen activists, taking on the NRA. I’m saddened as well—you know the adults are screwing up on a grand scale when their own kids can point to clear neglect—and call ‘bullshit’.

 

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Offended By Trump (2018Mar11)


Sunday, March 11, 2018                                          12:53 PM

Offended By Trump   (2018Mar11)

I am offended by Trump, not because he is a criminal, a Russian mole, a nuclear threat, a racist, misogynist, or an Islamophobe, but because he does not respect our country. His patriotism is to himself and his money—period.

There is an order to civilization. In the end, it’s all about compromise—since compromise is the only alternative to strife. Trump, unfortunately, represents the forces of disorder and of strife—of ignorance and bluster.

Worse than Trump is his Congressional train of commodified Republicans—craven legislators with ‘the good of the people’ dead last on their priorities list—these are the weasels who blow with the fattest wind. They serve only themselves and, far from representing the people, serve instead those who place profit above community.

And they will pooh-pooh all of this as liberal whining—but they are either ignorant, or simply liars. Making accommodations for the underserved is simply good business. It costs less money to keep people in decent conditions than it costs to deal with all the aftereffects of extreme poverty. It is better economics to spend money on our children’s health and education than to have a generation of unhealthy, ignorant Americans. That’s not whining—that’s just common sense.

The American government, for a long time, served as a balance against the predatory aims of Capitalism—allowing the break-neck, cut-throat action of big business, without allowing it to enslave our society and rescind our human rights. We stand at a crossroads now—where either we can go on with the Hyper-Capitalistic fever-dream of those who shut their eyes to all but dollar signs, or we can start voting for candidates whose aim is to wrest our government back onto the side of the people.

The stock market is an excellent example of this blindness: when it goes up, it only makes rich people richer—but when it goes down, the poorest feel it the worst. Rich people ought to take into account the fact that they, as a group, keep shrinking down and down—and outside their mansions, the world becomes a less and less pleasant place to take a walk. I would think they’d want to have more friends—and nicer places to take walks. Maybe they live in such abject fear of change that they don’t even consider such things. Go figure.

 

Build and Break (2018Mar01)


Thursday, March 01, 2018                                                8:44 PM

Build and Break   (2018Mar01)

I was just re-watching “Patton”, the scene of the Nazi counter-offensive that began the Battle of the Bulge—Panzers rolling over (and also through) the farmers’ stone walls, crossing their fields. I thought of how many years spent plowing up rocks, pickings those rocks up, carrying them over to be set in the surrounding wall. I pondered the contrast between those years of honest sweat and the brief, casual destruction of that work as an infinitesimal moment in that mad, murderous conflict.

Then I related that to Trump. How easy it is for the battering-ram of his blunt ignorance to smash through what it took centuries of thought and feeling to build. Our federal government is one of the great wonders of the world—our strength as a nation, as a people, has a potential that we, as modern Americans, stubbornly refuse to commit to—but it abides.

Unfortunately, cooperation and capitalism don’t go together very well. That’s a bad thing because democracy is cooperation—and capitalism is compulsory competition, wherein cooperation becomes a ploy used against the ‘weak’.

This is also why, though we’ve often flirted with a tycoon candidate (like Ross Perot) we’ve never actually done it before. Dare I say: Now we know why? Business is important, yes—but ‘governing’ and ‘doing business’ are so different as to be, in many ways, opposing activities—and a businessman like Trump has all the wrong instincts. He’s trying to win—he’s not trying to do good.

He’s not even doing a very good job of masking his struggles against the emergence of the truth. I’ve seen people so full of guilt that they start shouting rebuttals before anyone accuses them—but their age is usually still in the single digits when they behave this way. The White House’s group effort to back up the President’s ravings sometimes goes so far as to claim that a certain comment was a ‘joke’—that’s quite a show, though we’re in no position to enjoy it, as entertainment.

But I am most bemused by the duality of, on one hand, Mueller’s very official and technical case being made concerning the administration and the president—and, on the other hand, the ongoing mountain of public knowledge that accrues to us normal folk, just reading the papers every day. Whatever Mueller finally wraps up with, the investigation’s longevity is itself an opening for this firehose of bad laws, bad relations, bad oversight, and quasi-criminal ‘presidenting’. Trump is an historically bad apple—he cannot be removed quickly enough.

Last but not least—those of you who don’t like the strategic outlook following a Trump impeachment, when Pence would take over and do God knows what—you must accept that. Trump must not be allowed to finish his term as if he were just another president—our nation’s disgrace would be that much deeper and more lingering. And I wouldn’t worry too much about a President Pence after he’s appointed via impeachment—that doesn’t sound like political capital to me.

Let’s get rid of the Putin-puppet first—we’ll worry about the weirdness of Pence later. Every day Trump stays in office adds another layer of slime to our national pride.

 

Friday, March 09, 2018                                                     9:09 PM

We just got resettled back into our house, after a week without power, staying at the Danbury Hilton Garden Inn. The hotel was great, especially considering the alternative—Claire, Jessy, Baby Sen, and I (Spence stayed with Nana, who’d had a great fall earlier in the week).

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A Short History of Guns in America (2018Mar01)


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Thursday, February 22, 2018                                           11:38 PM

A Short History of Guns in America   (2018Mar01)

If you want to get historical about it—in colonial America, firearms were a survival tool—used for hunting, and even protection from large predators, sure, but just as often required to settle differences between the colonials and the native Americans. Without discussing the ethics of the situation, the bloodshed and friction between the natives and the European colonists went on for centuries. The idea that Americans were at threat only from each other didn’t arrive until the late 1800s.

Also, the colonies weren’t all British at the time, and clashes between colonies (often sea-battles, mostly, between the Nations’ navies, over their harbors and resources) also gave reason for having a weapon close at hand. The French and Indian War (or ‘La guerre de la Conquête’) (1754-1763) was so recently over that George Washington had served in it, prior to the Revolution.

Once the United States had run off their British tyrant, there was concern that the British might return. There was concern that the French, too, might decide to abrogate our self-rule. Worst of all, new-born Americans were most concerned with their own new government becoming a monarchy, or even a tyranny, of its own. After all of their struggles, they were determined to avoid any return of the mistreatments they had suffered under British rule.

Thus the Second Amendment was an insurance policy against losing all that the war had been fought for—the colonial (now state) militias had beaten the British—and they would stay, ‘well-regulated’, as proof against anything that would again threaten Americans’ rights.

There was no question of an early American being ‘allowed’ a firearm—survival required one. It was only in the extremity of growing rebellion that the colonists were forbidden by law to stockpile powder or shot—or manufacture their own. Remember that this was a time in which it was still normal for one guy to ‘run through’ another guy over an argument—just jab a giant pin in his chest—nobody worried about flintlocks or pistols, except as military concerns.

The Second Amendment is about the militia, not the firearms. The arms were simply the equipment required by militiamen. There are other ways of looking at it—and the NRA will be happy to send you a brochure, I’m sure—but that’s the long and short of it, really.

After the Civil War, southern states enacted laws, “Black Codes”, prohibiting African-Americans from owning firearms. In the Roaring Twenties, Thompson Machine guns were outlawed. Gun rights waver in the face of fear—and little wonder—guns create a false sense of security and safety, while in reality making things more dangerous. The only person who is safe, in an armed society, is the person most willing and eager to use it.

We must treasure our traditions—nothing should impede a rural citizen’s right to go out and shoot his family’s meal—and I don’t see anything wrong with shooting ranges either. Statistics show that guns do not protect a home—on the contrary, they cause more trouble than intruders—and more often. But if we really have to, I suppose home security can stay, too—that can become a Darwin Award category, in the fullness of time. Get a Taser, some pepper-spray, and a honking big walking-stick and you can defend yourself against most people—without being convicted of manslaughter.

But beyond those special circumstances, and the normal police and official uses, the average person walks down the street with little cause to expect to be shot at. There are neighborhoods, of course—that’s society—there will always be insular communities—but going to such places is dangerous, armed or otherwise. My point is, I really don’t see the need for a gun. I’m sixty-two—it’s never occurred to me to run out and get a gun. What would I use it for?

Arming teachers is an idiotic notion—for proof, I point to the Florida State Legislature which recently enacted a law to do just that. Don’t be like Florida. Come on.

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Rock in the River (2018Feb21)


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Tuesday, February 20, 2018                                            11:55 AM

Rock in the River   (2018Feb21)

Well, I don’t know. I mean, sure, it’s a serious concern—we Americans must take more care in discerning truth from agit-prop. But, overall, I’d still rather live in a democracy, which can be disrupted by lies, than an autocracy like Putin’s, which could be destroyed overnight by the truth. It’s funny—both Putin and Trump consider lying to be an important tool in their ‘work’.

I’ve always been an honest man—not due to any excess of virtue, but simply because lying well is not easy and I am terrible at it. Also, I don’t see much sense in it—lies are so temporary—they are self-inflicted land-mines that we give to the future. Every lie sets a clock ticking, a mystery-clock that decides when the truth will come back to bite us.

 

Wednesday, February 21, 2018                                                7:52 PM

Some complain that the Parkland student survivors aren’t gun experts. O yes they are—the only ones who know more are their fallen classmates. I’m glad I’ve never been in a crowded classroom, hearing gunfire and screaming, seeing the blood and the panic—and the bodies of my friends on the floor. And if those complainers were referring to experts on what happens, on the other side of the barrel—I mean, really—who gives a fat fuck? Are you serious?

I’m fed up with the contrived sanctity of the Second Amendment. The Constitution has been amended before. (Did you know that the original version prohibited any kind of income tax? Why is it okay to throw that one out, just for bookkeeping purposes—but we have to keep the 2nd, weekly massacres notwithstanding?)

Are we not in the twenty-first century? Is it just me, who blithely walks down the street, from country lane to midtown sidewalk, unarmed and unafraid? Who the hell in this country so desperately needs to be armed? And why aren’t we doing anything to protect these people from whatever it is they are afraid of?

Canadians own nearly as many guns as we do— Americans are simply violent. Americans are violent because there is a paucity of love in America. The frenetic grasping at dollars has made it impossible for Americans to be good people. Lobbyists have slowly but surely created a legal landscape that fines one person for feeding the homeless, and rewards another for using public-education funding to segregate rich kids into private schools.

Even American charities have a hard time letting any of the donations slip through their own hands to the actual charitable works. I think it is a slow rot that has been going on since the Cold War—America’s rich assholes have always outdone the sincere idealists in messaging.

Look at the stupid things Americans have ‘debated’ for decades—whether women and minorities deserve equal rights and opportunities—whether a decent man keeps his hands to himself, or not—whether one sect of a two-thousand-year-old religion takes precedence over scientific observation. It’s hard to imagine that people will still argue these self-evident choices, even today, and that the rest of us don’t break out laughing.

This is no coincidence. Rich people perpetuate this garbage ‘uncertainty’ over clear ethical choices—and not because they really care—no—they do it because they glory in the feel of authority, the sense that they influence the world. Of course, they have to overlook the way they fuck with everyone else—never accomplishing anything positive. It’s a problem—being compulsively drawn to exerting authority—it happens a lot, but it is not a healthy situation.

At rare, random times, a person with authority may have the patience and goodwill to use power to build something good, or to help ease people’s lives. Far more often, sadly, authority boils down to making someone else miserable to prove that one can. Even sadder, such people are often without close friends whom may point this out.

You guys—you gotta start voting.

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