Sally Ride (May 26, 1951 – July 23, 2012)


An intrepid astronaut, a champion of the little guy during both the shuttle-crash investigations, a natural teacher and role-model for every American—if you heard a talking head start out that way, you might be forgiven for assuming the media-speaker was talking about a man. After all, most of our brave soldiers and daring explorers, so far, have been men. They fit neatly into our delusions about ourselves, and our country, being brave, noble, and caring.

Once you heard ‘Sally Ride’, though, you’d think, ‘aha! That’s the female astronaut! Such a great role-model for girls…’ And again, you’d naturally assume that Ms. Ride did nothing in her life other than be a female astronaut—after all, such a great achievement is enough for anyone to have as their legacy. Oddly enough, however, Ms. Ride didn’t see herself that way at all—she always preferred others to think of her as the youngest astronaut ever-which she was.

Our foolishness, as a group, can’t help but see her as a female first rather than a youngest first. Ms. Ride focused, quite correctly, on the fact that she was the youngest person ever to go to space—man or woman, she had more forward thrust than any other ‘naut. We’ve become used to these kinds of paradoxes, because human nature is very stubbornly biased towards the outer appearance of a man or woman as opposed to their strength of mind or will or soul.

Ms. Ride was a nationally-ranked tennis player and earned a Bachelor’s in both English Lit (Shakespeare) and Physics before she ever saw the newspaper ad calling for astronaut-volunteers (Yes, that’s really how she began her NASA career). Her Stanford Masters and PhD degrees for astrophysics and lasers were just the first stepping stones on her journey into our history.

The two women who preceded the first American female were the Soviet Cosmonauts—Valentina Tereshkova (in 1963—six years before Apollo 11 went to the Moon) and Svetlana Savitskaya (in 1982, the year before Sally’s ride). Again we Americans show a twisted kind of pride in our first female American in space, while pretending to ignore that it took the US decades longer than the supposedly-more-restrictive Soviets to include women in the flight program.

But this is just a sample of the gripes I have about what’s happening in the USA right now—I was moved to write about Sally Ride because she represents many of the mistakes we make as a society. Firstly, she was a great person and an exceptional one, yet media attention went to scandals and scams and the latest little fad—before her unfortunate leave-taking five days ago, no one had mentioned her name in the national media since the day after she disembarked from her second, final flight in 1984.

Ms. Ride’s contributions to the Shuttle Robot Arm’s development in the years just prior to her first flight were rewarded by her being the first person to ever capture a satellite with the Robot Arm. Despite eight months of training towards her third space flight, the shuttle, Challenger ‘s deadly accident (her vehicle for both prior flights) stopped all scheduled flights—and—she was chosen to be part of the Rogers Commission Report and to head that inquiry’s sub-committee on Operations.

Roger Boisjoly, the whistleblower who warned of the O-ring problem before the flight, had been sent to Coventry by both Morton-Thiokol and NASA as a ‘troublemaker’. He experienced first-hand Ms. Ride’s hugeness of spirit when she publicly embraced him during that media firestorm. She easily saw through the short-sightedness of sacrificing safety to financial and political pressure. She also knew how important the man’s honesty was, and how important it was for the USA to get behind that kind of selflessness.

In 2003, Ms. Ride was asked to be part of the Columbia accident investigation—making her the only person to sit on both Shuttle disaster inquiries. In between those two, horrible events, Sally Ride arranged for cameras to be set-up on the ISS—allowing schoolchildren across the nation to take their own pictures of Earth from space (something I’m quite sure was left off my school’s curricula, back in the day). But that was just another good thing of all the good things this tremendous lady tossed to the rest of us on a nearly daily basis. I’m tempted to just cut-and-paste her entire Wikipedia article—just one page, but each line a piece of history and proof of Ms. Ride’s ennobling of our nation’s history, and of the women who live here.

How disappointing her last years must have been—America becoming so low-ranked in Science education, our media more interested in covering some damaged young lady flashing her privates leaving her limo for a night-club’s front door, our politics become a good impression of a Three Stooges act, our economy being destroyed by the people who most benefit from it! Her starry-eyed dedication to a nation that was once less proud, but much more worthy of pride—a place where science would do more than generate revenue, where science would be a factor in our noble search for a more perfect union. It wouldn’t surprise me at all if she cried for this country, at some time, in her last years.

And now we come to the most pitiful part—Sally Ride was a lesbian. She spent that entire, amazing life keeping secret her most private self—because we are too stupid to let it go. People are gay, some of them—can’t we just move on? No, we can’t—just a few days ago a greasy-spoon fast-food franchise announced that their position on gays was that ‘homosexuality was ungodly and wrong’, period. Then, when more sensible people got upset about it, this company leader accused his critics of trampling on his freedom of speech!

Someone I know called this ‘family values’ today. I couldn’t help but point out that ‘family values’ had no definition, and was code for ‘My hate speech is okay, because I read the Bible’. This bothers me no end. First of all, the corporate executive who promotes this public support of bigotry is, by inference, including all his employees and franchisees in that policy. Call me a cock-eyed optimist, but I think that there could well be at least one clear-minded, civilized person in that group that would much prefer to speak for his- or her- self.

The trouble with an ideal, such as ‘liberty and justice for all’, is that one lone scumbag can screw up the entire thing—by taking advantage of everyone else’s good intentions. Lies are also harmful to a free society, as are graft, corruption, sexual harassment, gay-bashing, evangelical fascism, and Ponzi schemes.

When the far-right tries to defend its position against pluralism by citing ‘freedom of religion’, they know as well as we do that it’s nonsense—keeping one religion from defining our legislative guidelines is not an offense against the ideal of ‘separation of church and state’. It is simply accepting the fact that, even if it were true that our country began as an English colony talking about different Protestant sects, the rules don’t change when you don’t like the other person’s religion. Just as when we accepted ‘all men are created equal’, in spite of a clear inequality by both race and sex in 1776, we continue to refine our society toward following the truth of our words, rather than the truth of our baser traditions.

Much like the embrace of commercial success by televangelists, today’s religious institutions seem to have put aside their scruples over the means to their ends. Violence, propaganda, and obfuscation are good weapons to use against a society under pressure—not that we’ve never seen pressure before, as a nation—but we never expected our ‘spiritual institutions’ to lead the charge against honesty and good will, mercy and compassion.

I could type forever and those who hear me already know and agree, but those against my position will find sloppy connections between my words, here, and something ‘evil’, they will still speak with forked tongue on the subject of social justice. It’s impressive, really, in a way—who woulda thought that talking non-stop bull and shouting slogans, instead of being straightforward, was a good way to convince one’s followers that one has an open mind? It’s insane.

I can only suppose that these people are ignorant or just plain lazy-minded—just tell them what they want to believe and ignore the facts completely, and they’ll support you with such malice and venom that, in the end, the rest of us will be near despair, on the cusp of futility. And if it’s breaking the heart of this foolish typist, I can only imagine how badly it pained one of our great, though mostly ignored, heroes, the superlative Sally Ride.

XperDunn – Music Update for Bastille Day (2012July14)


Saturday, July 14, 2012

Okay, same drill as last time–click on a video title to hear my music.

It is recommended that the window be minimized and the music play in background while you play Snood or do Paperwork or whatever. I have tried to make some of them with interesting video effects and subtitled ‘factoids’, but even then, it is a video of myself at the keyboard–if I could have uploaded the Windows Media Player’s Alchemy visualization, you could see what I like to have on-screen while I listen to my stuff (It’s much better than the piano video, it has more motion and color–and the way it changes in time with the music is great.)

I post less and less of my sheet-music stuff–I can’t seem to sight-read as well as last year, and none of it ever seems worthy of sharing, since it is boring and annoying at the same time. Those few that I have posted recently will give ample evidence of what I’m talking about, unfortunately. On a happier note, my improvs seem to be ‘thickening’, if that’s a thing (?), and getting longer, too. It may be that my bag of tricks is big enough now to support these 10 to 20 minute improvs, without running out of new material. And another benefit of the increased ‘figures’-pallette is I have more things to mash together, rarely allowing me to make new ‘tricks’ even I wasn’t expecting….

 

 

A YouTube-links Update of recent XperDunn Improvs

XperDunn plays Piano (UpDate) for July 14th, 2012

Improv – Banquet Hall (2012July13)

Improv – Fanfare (2012July13)

Improv – Curlique (2012July13)

J.S.Bach “The Well-Tempered Clavier – Book II” – Prelude-Fugue in g Min__Fugue in G (2012Jul09)

Improv – Burnoose (2012Jul09)

Improv – Novella (2012Jul07)

Improv – Independence Day (Fourth of July! – 2012)

Improv – Independence Eve (2012Jul03)

Improv – Bouillabaisse (2012Jul01)

Improv – Long Lonely Wait (2012Jun25)

Improv – The Long Break (2012Jun24)

Improv – Sunny Summer Day (2012Jun19)

Improv – Noblest Of Daughters  (2012Jan26)

“Imagination” (By Van Heusen and Burke) (2012Jun18)

Improv – Morning Bright (2012Jun08)

Improv – Take That, Piano! (2012Jun07)

Improv – Melodious (2012Jun07)

Improv – June Bride (2012Jun07)

Three(3) Jazz Standards (2012Jun07)

J.S. Bach’s the Well-Tempered Clavier Book II – Preludes & Fugues Nos.10,11,12 (2012May30)

Improv – Frying Pan  (2012May18)

Improv – Flee From Fleas (2012May30)

Improv a La Exercise (2012May30)

Five (5) Jazz Standards (2012May24)

Improv* In 2 Parts (2012May16)*(w/apology2HrmansHermits”For Your Love”)

Improv – Rooster (2012May07)

Improv – Dr. Zeus (2012May04)

Improv – May Day! May Day! (2012May01)

SILLY SUPPER (2012Apr29)

A. Vivaldi -Concerto – transcribed for Keyboard by J.S. Bach (2012Apr26)

Improv – Peeps (2012Apr26)

Choosing Courage


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There are a group of talking points that recur in every election which have the dislikable quality of being a complete waste of time. They are the issues that boil down to a personal courage. We can include the ‘War on Drugs’, the Dangers of Socialism, and the Financial Regulation problem on this list, just to name three. In some ways I suppose a case could be made for the entirety of government’s legislation and policies, and every other aspect of a political campaign, being a case of people’s courage (or people’s lack of same).

Nonetheless, my focus at this point is on issues for which a moment’s thought would easily replace hours of speeches, statements, and proposal’s regarding the various sides of the argument. Let us begin with my favorite—more properly, my pet peeve—the criminalization of marijuana and the War on Drugs.

To start, I know that being in favor of marijuana’s legalization marks me as a pot-head—to which charge I plead guilty, if anyone cares—and that anyone agitating in favor of even medical marijuana suffers from the same assumption. By and large it’s most likely true, but my heart bleeds for any poor, straight-arrow person who tries to argue the facts while under such prejudice. Still, this assumption by society has another component, in demonstrating that a huge percentage of everyday Americans are trying to enjoy this weed in spite of its potential criminal consequences. If our society really felt that the law banning pot was a benefit, there would be a lot less successful comics using it as a punch-line—not to mention the birth of a new media genre—the ‘stoner comedy’.

In that sense, what we are really up against is the notion that enjoying the effects of smoking weed is irresponsible behavior. ‘Irresponsible’ has become a dirty word to us lately. The old-fashioned attitude that a person has the right to maunder through life’s experiences, without taking much of it too seriously, has given way to our present attitude—that irresponsibility is a crime against the community, endangering others and showing contempt for one’s own reputation.

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I think I can pinpoint the exact moment this shift began—it was an episode of Dragnet which told the story of a young, newlywed couple becoming forgetful about the baby in the bathtub and letting the little angel drown—while they got high with their stoner friends in the very next room. I was horrified (I was also still too young to be personally familiar with the drug sub-culture of the 1960’s). But even children (as I was back then) would draw the real lesson from this episode—don’t forget the baby. This common understanding of life’s priorities has been keeping young parents from overindulging in anything, including sleep, since the beginning of time. They don’t get drunk at baby’s bath-time. They don’t let their baby drown in the tub because they’re in the middle of a real good story. They don’t do anything, because they’re taking care of the baby.

To begin with, one doesn’t give a baby a bath in the grown-ups’ tub—certainly not one filled entirely up. Neither do parents place their baby in any bathtub and walk into the next room! For ‘Joe Friday’ to sum up this case as ‘baby-slaughter by parental high-ness’ is stupid.

In truth, not every person given responsibility for an infant is a parent—some of them are too beset with personal demons, or poverty, or disability, to be good parents. And those poor souls will occasionally allow a baby to come to harm. However, smoking pot is only one of a thousand ways to neglect and endanger a child.

By suggesting that marijuana is the catalyst in such tragedies, we are not only scapegoating human failings by blaming the herb—we are also coloring society as some picture-perfect landscape of caring and selfless people, marred only occasionally by fiends—rude, violent fiends, driven insane by their pharmaceutical excesses and lack of respect for authority. The truth is something more nuanced, in which fear, greed, rage, and jealousy are far more likely to be the triggers for all violence, most felonies, many accidents—and a lot of so-called ‘white collar’ crimes.

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Also nuanced is the effect of Cannabis on a person’s behavior—it makes one happy, it makes one dopey, and it makes one more sensitive and less responsible. If being an irresponsible dope is a crime, we must immediately begin building more jails than homes. Neither do I see ‘chemical enhancement’ of one’s mood to be an escapist notion. Many people have hard lives—if they can soften it with a nice buzz, how is that a crime? I see the crime as our society being a place where many people’s lives are made so hard to bear.

I won’t spend a lot of time on the hypocrisy of allowing alcohol and not weed, when smoking weed is a safer, healthier and less debilitating experience than drinking. We all know by now that there are no recorded deaths due to smoking weed—a statistic unmatched by even over-the-counter drugs, like aspirin. We know that Prohibition was a bad idea, and that Prohibition was repealed when the troubles of a ‘no-drinking-allowed’ society were clearly seen as far greater than the drinking troubles Prohibition sought to prevent.

And in the end, Repeal was a good thing. Now, instead of outlawing drinking, we have AA, Al-Anon, Rehab Facilities, enforcement of ‘domestic violence’ laws, child services, and therapy. Instead of preventing something that many people enjoy safely, we have a system that assists people in mental or emotional distress, whether their problems stem from alcoholism or not. Plus, ironically, we have these safeguards for people suffering from drug addiction, as well, in spite of those hard drugs remaining illegal (more on them later). But there are no pot rehabs, are there? No, there aren’t, because pot is safe, mild, and non-addictive. Let me assure you that if anyone you know claims to be a ‘pot addict’ what they’re really saying is that they’re unhappy or maybe lazy, possibly even thoughtless, or careless— but not addicted.

I should know—I’m an addict. I’m addicted to nicotine. If I go for more than an hour without smoking a cigarette, I’ll start climbing the walls—it’s no joke. But if I don’t smoke weed, the only result is my inability to watch TV. Present day television is so clogged with commercials, reality programming, skewed news channels, talk shows, and sit-coms that I can’t stand it—I turn it off. But when I’m high, I really enjoy television. Sometimes being dopey is just the correct choice—something important to remember in a society obsessed with leisure activities.

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One of the darkest reasons behind our present laws on pot is the reactionary attitude most grown-ups feel towards having fun. Whether this is part of a fundamentalist religious screed, or simply the after-taste of this country’s long-standing Calvinism, the automatic dismissal of anything fun is a bad habit we’ve developed.

DEA administrator Michele Leonhart alleged: “[T]here are no adequate and well-controlled studies proving (marijuana’s) efficacy; the drug is not accepted by qualified experts. … At this time, the known risks of marijuana use have not been shown to be outweighed by specific benefits in well-controlled clinical trials that scientifically evaluate safety and efficacy.”

Last month, Ms. Leonhart testified before Congress that she believed that heroin and marijuana posed similar threats to the public’s health because, in her opinion, “all illegal drugs are bad.” This seems like a chapter from “Alice In Wonderland”!

 “Why is marijuana illegal?” “Because it’s bad for you.” “How is it bad?” “Well, all illegal drugs are bad.”

Moving on… our laws against weed remain unchanged, even though no one has suffered any ill effects from it in the sixty years this debate has ground on. We are afraid to legalize pot—the politicians are understandably loath to address legalization—their role as ‘leaders’ is a fantasy (they seem more like ‘grasper’s to me) that will become impossible to maintain if their opponents can describe them as ‘party animals’. And this is in spite of the fact that there is nothing wrong with an occasional party. Somehow, a party is okay, but wanting to go to a party is the sign of the hedonist.

We are afraid to admit that we want to have fun. We are fearful of being laughed at—or worse yet scorned—for unabashedly enjoying ourselves, even on a Saturday night. We cannot accept the notion of an adult who can work hard and still have a little fun at the end of the week. Weren’t we, as children, told that we weren’t old enough to have a drink, to go dancing in clubs, or to smoke cigarettes? Was that our elders’ way of telling us that growing up meant giving up the whole idea of enjoying oneself?

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I believe that a good mix of hard work and fun is a healthy life-style. Most people seem to have a mindset that makes alcohol a threat, not a treat; a mindset that makes going out at night a lapse, not leisure; a mindset that makes ‘recreational’ drug use a mental illness, instead of an innovation in leisure. I believe it is unhealthy, especially for people that have a lot of free time to spend, to focus exclusively on the negatives of most vices.

The trouble with vices is not in their negative effects, it is in the challenge of taking responsibility for ourselves. People who are afraid of their self-control being the only monitor between them and a good time, are people who don’t trust themselves to make their own choices—and this is cowardice of the worst kind. It is a cowardice that declares, “I can’t trust myself to make choices—so let the law state that I’m not, and everyone else isn’t allowed to have those choices!” It’s all very snug and charming, like a baby blanket. Its only drawback is its being the opposite of liberty—something we like to pretend we have.

Another nuance concerning marijuana is its unique-ness. A good part of our criminalization of weed is due to its being classified as a ‘hard drug’, along with Percocet and heroin. But that is just lazy thinking—authorities just selected a category for cannabis from those already extant—when it is quite clear that cannabis is as different from hard drugs as it is from vegetables. Granted, pot does make a person high—and pot is edible and grows in the dirt, but it just isn’t a vegetable or a ‘hard’ drug. People like to forget that the term ‘hard’ drugs was coined just to distinguish drugs with the potential to kill someone outright from drugs that have a more benign character (such as a glass of beer, a cup of coffee, a couple of aspirin, or a joint). The law may confuse pot with heroin, but an ER doctor doesn’t have the luxury of willful blindness to the practical facts.

Heroin can kill you. If you show up in an ER and tell the doctor, “Save me! I just smoked some weed!” the doctor will be furious—and he’ll tell the cops to eject you from the building. That’s what the real world has to say about weed—‘don’t bother me with silly nonsense—we’ve got serious stuff to worry about’. In the meantime, respectable folks risk jail-time whenever they choose to indulge in this victimless felony. Shouldn’t increasing stresses in society be matched with improved ways of relaxing?

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Now, before you dismiss me completely as a self-serving psycho, let’s review: Pot has proven safe to use—even for people who aren’t on chemo. Pot is wrongly categorized as a schedule-one controlled substance—more dangerous than codeine—a schedule-three narcotic. Pot is milder and safer than drinking.

 And let’s tie up some loose ends—yes, of course driving-while-high is dangerous and should not be treated more lightly than a DWI offense. I’m not suggesting that we ignore Marijuana’s effects, just that it shouldn’t be a felony to smoke it on your couch while doing a crossword puzzle. Likewise, I am not saying that kids should be allowed to smoke—again, like drinking and tobacco, it should be legal only for twenty-one-year-olds and above.

Marijuana should also have the same restraints placed upon it that alcohol has. It should be taxed up the whazoo, as well—just like cigarettes (another drug that is more dangerous and addictive than weed). Licenses for pot stores should be required, just like alcohol. I wouldn’t be in favor of ‘pot bars’ though—as with alcohol, what’s the thinking behind driving to an establishment that serves liquor? Is there some magic power in ‘bar’ alcohol that makes it safe to drive home? I don’t think so—and by the same reasoning, there’s no point in a place one drives to, to smoke pot and drive away again… ridiculous.

You can see that I’m not proposing we turn the USA into a hippie commune—I’m just proposing that we see Marijuana as it is, not as an alternative to Heroin. Why should you care—wouldn’t it be better to just leave  it be? After all, you don’t smoke. It’s no skin off your nose. I can’t argue that point, really. However, there are a few possible benefits that could come of legalized marijuana—and they would benefit everyone, not just me and my buddies.

Tax revenue. A lot of tax revenue. New businesses—small start-ups in every town with a traffic light at the crossroads. Increased employment required for the new businesses. One or two people in every town and every city block—it’d add up, and it’d be new jobs everywhere, not just in Detroit or Los Angeles.

How about ending the black market for weed? Legalization would almost instantly bring the black market to an end. That would make it more difficult for minors to purchase marijuana. It would bring quality control and an honest marketplace to those of us who would much rather not be committing a crime every time we acquire our favorite past-time. And we would all enjoy TV shows that much more.

So, legalize it—what else can I say? 

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Now that we’ve settled that, I’d like to address the War on Drugs. I have no skin in this game, all my drugs are prescribed by doctors. But I do feel that one could just as easily call it the War on Human Nature. Place as many obstacles in their path as you want—if you can’t get people to stop wanting drugs (and I think that’s QED at this point) you can’t win a war on black-market drugs. Drug laws like ours only serve to create a criminal environment. And a significant number of citizens are not rooting for the police—they can’t, because the law puts them on the other side of the line.

I know it’s part of America to scruple at ‘coddling the weak-willed’. And, in a country founded on the strength of each individual’s will, that makes a lot of sense, at least at first glance. But if we look again… is it possible that we are fighting the image of drugs, rather than drugs’ reality? When taking drugs began, it was part of a ‘counter-culture’—it wasn’t just reckless, it was a characteristic of the hippy, peace-protesting, anti-establishment movement that really came close to churning the whole nation into anarchic chaos.

And from that moment on, drug-abuse became an important criticism upon the counter-culture—something bad that these crazies were guilty of, and responsible for. But even if that was true at the time (which is debatable) it is certainly not the reality of present day drug use. Nor is our society as unyielding towards emotional confusion and mental derangement, addiction and compulsion, as it was in the era of ‘free love’ (ha!-that phrase still makes me laugh).

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No, we recognize the reality of drug abuse—and we respond to it with rehab centers, half-way houses, counselors and new drugs, such as methadone. And employment policies of most corporations provide for addicted or alcoholic employees—seeking to get them back to work, not to throw them in prison. And throwing people who use drugs in prison, in general, is pretty stupid—we swell the prison population, our taxes go to keeping these helpless victims housed, fed, and abused by their fellow inmates, real sociopaths that belong there.

So drugs are real, abusers come from every demographic of society, drugs have no political agenda, and it costs a sackful of money to maintain the DEA and that percentage of the prison population comprised of unfortunate drug-abusers. Keeping drugs illegal keeps black market gangs and terrorist groups in the money. Keeping drugs illegal keeps addicts, especially minors, from seeking help with their addiction—which keeps many of them from dropping their addiction before it kills them.

Again, I’m not in favor of hard drug use as recreation, or life-style, or habit. I am only in favor of decriminalizing drugs for the exact same reasons we repealed Prohibition eighty years ago. It wouldn’t surprise me at all if there were a team of lobbyists fighting to keep drugs illegal—funded by the drug lords who get rich beyond measure on the status quo. But if everyone else thinks that a drug user should be arrested and thrown in jail—because that is the best way of dealing with the issue—then I guess I’m wrong.

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These drugs—meth, H, crack, Percocet, LSD, E… are dangerous. They’ll kill you quick—or leave you wishing you’d died. I don’t want to popularize hard drugs. But I think it would make a lot of sense to offer unconditional relief to addicts, to remove the revenue-stream that floods the coffers of organized, international criminals, and to save the revenue we now spend on the DEA’s hopeless, impossible task.

It’s like terrorism, in a way—the USA has fantastic armed forces—in conventional warfare, we kick ass. But terrorists don’t attack on a battle field. More complex and sophisticated responses have to be implemented—sheer force is useless. So now we fight a different way. In like fashion, it was once considered reasonable to try to prevent drug-abuse with the threat of criminal prosecution—all law-abiding citizens would surely stop. Today, we know that is too simplistic. Drug addicts are far more victims than criminals—and it’s time we saw the truth in that.

But, bottom line, the greatest loss here is ‘the bottom line’—all the money wasted, all the potential tax-revenue ignored, all the productive citizens sidelined by their moment’s lapse in judgment or control. We are talking huge amounts of money—and drug use continues to grow, in spite of decades of trying to hold back the tide—it’s a tragedy from several points of view. And our present policies, also, are stupid and ineffectual in more than just one sense.

So I guess my main message is—think about our drug laws, think about them rather than reacting emotionally to the issue. Try to look past “Drugs are Bad” and see that the problem is more one of human nature than of outlawry, and its solutions should focus more on the humans, and less on the outrage. Let’s all choose to face facts. Let’s all choose to have the courage to face the truth, and face the challenges of the human condition. Choose courage.

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The Politics Of Stupid


Saturday, June 30, 2012

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The Politics Of Stupid

I never get over my surprise at how stupid people can be about politics—the media ‘ostinato’ giving equal weight to religion and reality, truth and spin, and lying and talking. Can’t folks see they’re being manipulated by some very cold-blooded psychopaths? The tremendous wealth and power these people possess is only an enabler, camouflaging their sociopathy under a veneer of dignity and worth. And this country (and the world at large) assents to this bull. I’ve accepted this as fact many years ago—but it is always in the back of my mind, coloring my vision of the future with inherent dishonesty and greed.

As a US citizen, I have endured a plethora of cognitive dissonance. As a child, I would see race riots in the southern states and be ashamed to be white. In school I would learn about the genocide of the Native Americans and the purposeful destruction of their culture being passed down from the survivors to their children. This would muddy my pride in being American. As a young, fire-in-the-belly Madison Ave. man, I learned about advertising vs. truth, financial might over ethical right, and propaganda/indoctrination/spin and the media-neglect concerning coverage of injustice in ‘attractive-resources nations’ vs. the total lack of coverage in nations suffering mere injustice (without any impact on the US economy). No amount of speechifying can change the fact that we care more about some countries than others. And it is crystal clear to me, personally, that these are short-sighted paradigms that ignore the long-term effects on the globe, and thus the USA’s own interests over time.

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It is no picnic being an American, as far as morality goes. We get enough threats from foreign countries to make grousing about our foreign policy a tricky business, especially for media-figures like the Dixie Chicks girl band–who’s CDs were the subject of CD-burning protests in some cities, in reaction to the Dixie Chick’s public protests against the second invasion of Iraq. For such a free-speechy kinda country, it is surprisingly easy to become a pariah. Some of our greatest intellects (Noam Chomsky comes to mind) are marginalized into media blackout by the minimal-IQ-audience entertainers who spout conservative, fundamentalist, small-minded garbage into the ears of the electorate. And we, the electorate, have seen our education stats fall so low that we despair of any realization by the majority of us that we are being led like sheep.

I define the Republican party as ‘overt rule by the rich and powerful’ and I define the Democratic party as ‘covert rule by the less rich and less powerful’. I think this explains very neatly the back-and-forth of these two parties being elected for presidents, senators and congress-persons over the latest decades. When one side has power, they abuse it until the cracks in their façade start to show. The opposite party offers itself as the solution—and repeat, ad infinitum.

A specific node of cognitive dissonance in our government is this: we know that both parties have long since given us the dirty end of the stick –and- we know that a third party can’t be elected because of the tactics of the two big parties. This leaves us being forced to vote for the lesser-of-two-evils candidates, when in fact, long term, they are equally evil in their eschewing of good government and their eternal battle over which party machine lies the best.

Because of this fault in our democracy, many people do not vote—the years have proven that a different President, a different Senator, will make virtually no difference in their quality of life. These people will never vote unless a third-party candidate shows some chance of beating both parties. But those of us who still vote will avoid a third-party candidate in our urgency to vote for the lesser of the two conventional evils. In addition, the third-party candidate may be a wolf in sheep’s clothing, ushering in something even worse than our present status quo.

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Our distorted and distorting media have taught us never to trust anyone. This is an improvement over the old-fashion concept of trusting whoever is in power, but it goes too far. I blame mass media for this—their new, commercial-based ‘journalism’ always quotes both sides, even when one of those sides is evil, stupid, or simply obnoxious. If we could hear an honest politician (Oxymoron, that.) without his or her message being juxtaposed against sheer, full-throated dishonesty, we might begin to cull from those elected offices individuals that are unquestionably more in favor of advancement of their personal careers over any wish to be a civil servant acting for the benefit of their voters.

But, as with all things that generate revenue (i.e. make money) the news media will never change except to improve their ratings or protect the large corporations that own them. So, now we need a third-party candidate and a whole new news service that conforms to the old-fashioned, public-service-oriented journalism that was once such an important part of our political process.

What else do we need to rescue Democracy? Well, I wouldn’t mind seeing the body-politic grow a pair. Who are these crazies that want to use Brown-Shirt tactics during electoral campaigns? Can the Tea party fail to see how un-American their behavior is? They seem blind to the contradiction between their beliefs and their actions—I suppose a majority of the Tea Partiers are using their politics to self-administer primal therapy—their lives have come to a place where nothing is left for them to do but scream at the tops of their lungs. And, in that sense, they are identical to the Left (but less restrained) in that they want big changes and more honesty and some government that makes even one iota of sense.

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We have just endured the biggest robbery ever perpetrated against the entire country—and it was committed by the richest people in the world, our own financiers. Billions of dollars were just crossed off the people’s bank accounts and investments—and added to the ledgers of Fat Cats who just happen to be their own industry’s policemen. Shouldn’t the Tea Party be concerned with that? Do they ignore it simply to avoid agreeing with those ‘damned socialists’ in the Democrat party?

Then there are the rest of us—how did we rationalize this draining of the coffers of nearly every individual in this country? Why isn’t Washington, DC still the urban uprising it would have become in any other country (and has become in many Arab states’ capitols) with the people demanding at least the pretense of fair dealing from their government?

”…But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.”

 United States Declaration of Independence

Which reminds me of another notable wit who pointed out that all governments are democratic in that, if a big enough majority is desperate enough, even a dictatorship will be removed from office—the only difference being that they won’t technically ‘vote’ him out of office. It would be more in the style of a bloodbath—which we’ve seen in recent news in several countries where people are tired of not having any say in their own governing.

Also, the above quote, from one of our three Founding Documents, makes clear that real Americans should not sit still for ‘absolute Despotism’. Also made clear is the fact that those early revolutionists were dissolving bonds with a government that was, in terms of today’s transportation, on the Moon—We have to deal with a government intertwined with our lives, our lands, and our way of life. To revolt from this is not nearly so easy as to rebel against George III. But our founders foresaw this difficulty and made allowance for it—democratically elected leaders. Our country has withstood the bombardments of the world and the chaotic growth of itself for over two centuries.

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But the power-hungry and money-coveting of this era have finally broken the code. They have boxed us in with our own democracy. And now they are in charge. They control the media, the government, and the jobs. They have an army, police, and private security. Employees are paid subsistence wages while their hard work makes the Boss wealthy—the majority of jobs in our country today are simply slavery 2.0—the modern style of oppression, mislabeled as the ‘middle class’. I would think ‘working class’ more appropriate—and what do we call the super-wealthy? Royalty? Demigods? Or should we go more ‘honest’ and call them a pack of .… [insert expletives here]

Blossoming


Wednesday, June 06, 2012

1:36 PM

galaxies appearing to collide

Galaxy ARP274

 

Blossoming

The 1960s were an era of blooming. Flower Power was the order of the day. When those first protestors stuck daisies into the barrels of the National Guard’s rifles—rifles that were pointed straight at the protestors and close enough for them to jam a flower stem into it—they began the revolt that was later assimilated into our culture. This was the dawning of the concept ‘think outside the box’, though no one would see the shift clearly enough to put into those words for another two decades. The 1950s had been a high-water mark for stultification in America. But that homogeneity was so pervasive that it became a weakness—a stiffness that almost dared you to deviate by so much as an inch.

In the 1960s, clever young college students (and even high school students) were taking that dare. The adult legions in their housing developments, automobiles, telephones, air conditioners and refrigerators, were enjoying a luxurious lifestyle compared to the three previous decades—a ‘middle class’—all of whom came from a prior poverty where such opulence as their present had been considered great wealth. They liked it—especially after getting back alive from a world war—and nothing their kids could say was gonna change that.

Blanket conformity like ours of the 1950s can be made to look ridiculous by something as simple as pretending to be unaware of the restrictions. If you have ever seen episodes of an old TV show, “Laugh-In”, you will note that the humor is pretty moronic. That such antics were enough to ‘scandalize’ audiences into ‘aren’t we naughty?’-tittering is both an example of how strait-laced our diversions had become, and an indication of how such boldness has gone from bravery, then –to commonplace, now.

Some young people saw ‘flower power’ primarily as a political statement insofar as forcing the issue into the basic ‘peace vs. war’, ‘hawks vs. doves’ arena—this made the geopolitical implications of the war in Viet Nam a moot point. Much was made of the great distance between our two nations, the lack of any immediate threat to US soil, and the youth of the soldiers being led to the slaughter. This damaged the premises which our government used to defend its policies, i.e. the ‘domino effect’ (the idea that, if Nam fell to the Commies, the Reds would just press on to the next victim-nation, and the next, ad infinitum.) This ‘controversy judo’, if you will, left Hippies free to brand themselves as “peace protestors” and the Establishment as “war-hawks. This was very powerful PR.

But others, including myself, saw ‘flower power’ as a philosophical quantum-leap—the idea that everything can be made light of (or, conversely, be made a looming tragedy) by ones approach, or point-of-view. This gives us the powerfully robust intellects of the digital age. Today’s budding scientists are not made de facto ‘monks in a cloister’ by those old assumptions (i.e. ‘geeks’ are inconsequential, space-flight is nonsensical, and racism, sexism, and anti-Semitism are all perfectly acceptable in our society.) Science is king (in business, finance and the military, anyway) even if the new, ‘indoctrinated from birth in closed communities’ Evangelicals (and other cultists) are making a brave stand against Reason.

We today are much more aware of the duality of things, the plurality of the open-mind, and the origins of the observable universe. We more easily accept the concept of 11-dimensional space (the other seven of which can only be inferred by theoretical physics), our new map of the Human Genome (the blueprints for making a healthy baby), the practicality of a permanent space outpost such as the International Space Station, and an understanding of the human brain that allows us to legislate against ‘cellphones while driving’ because we can clearly state that those two brain functions interfere with each other to a dangerous, often catastrophic, extent.

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Such open-minded-ness is not without its costs. We see bullying and exclusion of students leading, next semester, to armed murder sprees. We see people spouting the most self-serving nonsense become popular, respected Christians in our communities. We see finely honed pro athletes accidentally shooting themselves in the tuchas in nightclubs (cause they gotta be carryin’ if they want any street cred, yo!)—and celebrities exiting limousines pausing to flash their privates for the paparazzi. We see a lot of ‘crazy’ along with pluralism—it is more a balancing act than a philosophy. But in our technology-driven culture, most of us need a lot of knowledge—and those of us who can’t absorb enough become walking examples of the adage: ‘a little knowledge is a dangerous thing’.

Ending of Saturday, June 09, 2012           1:26 AM

[Wednesday, June 13, 2012         7:50 PM    New additions: ]

V                        V                            V

Where does that leave us? O, right, cyber-space! We have launched our civilization into cyber-space. Banks, Stock Exchanges, Military, Industry, Factories, record keeping of every kind, each and every transaction’s paperwork or contracts—and let’s not forget the fairly new ‘e-book’ push. The Times today announced that Thomas Pynchon, considered by most our greatest living novelist, has given his publisher permission to offer his works in ‘e-book’-form.

So, we are on the verge of replacing our school books, texts, references, and encyclopedias with electronic ‘books’. We’ve already (mostly) replaced paper checks, paper invoices & bills, paper receipts, typewriters…. Heck, we’ve even switched from ballpoints to felt-tips (felt-tips were unacceptable, pre-digital, because they didn’t leave an impression for the carbon copies on the sales receipts) because a data-file of a .doc ‘don’t need no steenkin’ carbons’ (if I may paraphrase Generalissimo Zapata).

Gone are the days of the gruff ol’grampaw who ‘just isn’t interested in those newfangled laptop-thingies’. If you want to talk to your friends, withdraw money from a bank, keep your photographs where you can share them with the rest of the family, or use the navigational system in the car to get anyplace at all—you’ve got to get in the pool and get wet. You must accept that you will have a life-time of hunting and pecking before you—a mouse is very useful, but there’s always gonna be some text input, i.e. typing. You must accept that every little blip on the screen display, even the different colors of the text-words (when it’s also a hyperlink) all of these tiny details are important. You must accept help from your grandchildren when you get stuck.

But mostly we just have to accept that we are now the most ignorant segment of society. All of our hard-earned knowledge is now garbage, all of our hard-won experience is more likely to mislead us, than guide us, through cyber-space. We must remember that the ethics of our youth are considered quite naïve—weaknesses that others will only exploit, never share.

Still, this discomfort, coming so late in life, is very exciting—and we know we won’t be here long enough to see even today’s perspective become quaint and dated—as it must, as every age has. The real victims are the low-IQ folks—even if they get full-on support at home, at school, for medical or therapy requirements—even the best case scenario—will still leave the learning-disabled unarmed in a world of speed and complexity and competition.

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Speaking of IQ—it wouldn’t surprise me if the test has to be recalibrated in future to account for the rise in over-all IQ-strength needed to hold even a minimum-wage service-industry job. If legislation hadn’t passed so promptly, the texting-while-driving error would have swiftly winnowed out, in hyper-Darwinian fashion, the less sensible drivers among us. Then again, they may have taken out plenty of smarter, innocent car-full’s in the process!

Yes, perhaps I will have to reconsider this issue of increasing complexity in everyday life, and the bad position duller-minded people may find themselves in—it’s equally likely that their lack of comprehension will result in more oppressive government. If we can’t trust citizens to understand what they’re doing—well, of course, we’re gonna need to put some slight restraints on peoples’ activities, right? Yes, the intelligentsia will chafe at the bridle—but who listens to a bunch of eggheads anyway….

Ah, Flower-Power, where are you now? Have we gone beyond our blossoming, into the mulch of history?