The Law Makes The Crime

Sunday, September 30, 2012            3:44 AM

Crime-inciting Laws should be recognized for what they are. The USA went through a violent period of Prohibition and ultimately recognized that a Repeal of Prohibition was the right thing to do. The criminal distribution organizations were defanged by making their products available from a licensed liquor store.

Abortions were illegal for a long time but still happened—malpractice and unwanted children were the result. Rove v. Wade gave us the right to choose abortion, which stopped the horrors of backroom abortions and self-abortion attempts. Couples were able to plan their families—even when the Pill and other contraceptives failed to prevent pregnancies.

In both these cases, everyday citizens who found themselves in desperate straits were forced to go against the law to have a drink or to end an unwanted pregnancy. The fact that people will always seek these things, plus the fact that criminalizing these things did not prevent them from happening, plus the fact that criminals are prone to make money from these situations—all made the decision to legalize them a choice that (when all was said and done) was merely common sense.

How we have gone so many decades ignoring this common sense surrender to human nature with regard to controlled substances is a puzzle to many, myself included. Tons of money, manpower, and international cooperation have gone into the fight to keep society free of drugs—with no effect whatsoever. Anyone can get any drug—they need only ask for them from the criminals who sell them. People even grow or cook up their own drugs without too much difficulty.

Meanwhile, millions in taxes are wasted on the futile War on Drugs; billions in cash flow into the war-chests of the major drug cartels; and millions of otherwise law-abiding citizens are imprisoned on drug charges of a non-violent nature (which wastes more millions in tax money). Plus, there is the health issue—shared needles spreading disease, no help for the addicted, and no quality-control of the drugs being dealt, bought, or used. And, again, we see no change in the status quo. All that wealth, all the blood spilled, all the wasted effort—and drugs are still easily available on any street corner.

Would legalization make the problem better or worse? Well, firstly, how worse can things be? Plenty of people use illegal drugs every day. Will legalization cause an increase in their numbers? I don’t see how—anyone who wants drugs is getting drugs.

I won’t even go into the positive effects legalization could produce—they are not necessary to my argument. The drugs have won every battle in the war on drugs and they have created huge, networked criminal organizations around the world and in all the fifty states. Legalizing drugs would impact the criminal world like a body blow. The war on drugs, oddly enough, can be won by surrender.

The main difficulty is acceptance. No one wants to say, ‘Go ahead, use drugs all you want.’ But legalizing drugs is not an encouragement, but rather a freeing of drug-users from the fear and secrecy that present day drug use entails. And if it turns out that one drug, above all others, is just too dangerous to ignore we will have two advantages: 1) Other drugs can be offered as substitutes, and 2) we can better interdict a single substance than the entire spectrum of controlled substances we are banning at present.

To continue the War On Drugs is just plain stupid. It is a knee-jerk reaction to a situation that requires more thought than reflex.

“Some Of Us, All Of Us, And The Freedom Of Leaches”

What if Wealthy Leaches suppress their own Species,

Rationalizing, saying Leadership denied is Chaos

And Freedom must be Framed in a Breadboard

Of Irrational Lives—Half Fear, Half Toil—with

Circuitry of Specie determining the Paths

Open to ‘Freedom’ and Keeping the Power Supply

To Themselves?




What if Wars are the Leaches, Tilting the Pinball Game

Before our Metal Sphere gets the Lay of the Land;

Before we Finish the Thought of What is Real,

What is a Game, and How to Change Our World

Through Sensible Rules that Banish the Laws

Against Our Human Condition, and Allow Us

The Freedom to be Good?



We can be Good to Each Other—We can Learn How.

We can Rise above Capitalism’s Enslavement

And Arrive at Livelihoods that Keep us From Evil.

You and I May be Frightened. You and I May be Vicious.

You and I may be Greedy. You and I may be Hopeless—

Hungry, Confused, Subjugate, Excluded, or Hated.

We may all of Us have spent so long Under the Whip

That We can’t even Imagine another Way—

We may Fear our own Freedom.



Some will Train, Some will Transport, Some will Arrive

At the Combat Zone—the Zone of Madness,

So familiar with the Gushing of Blood and Screaming of

Townspeople whose Eyes Accuse Some of Us

Of discharging our Firearms, of Murdering Innocents.

Some of Us will Suffer, except for the Fortunate Fallen

Whose War is Over and will Never need to Kill

Again—Some of Us will disperse into a Red Mist

Of Shame and Guilt and Rage and Panic and

Some of Us will feel the Loss of Themselves,

Who used to be People with Freedom.



The Leaches will wear Frowns and Speak Seriously

Of the Need for this Insanity—but will still Find

Time to Repress the rest of Us in the Name of Nationality.

The Leaches will Grow Fatter on the Sale of Arms

And the subsequent Sale of Prosthetic Arms.

Pride and Determination will re-echo from their

Megaphones—Sanity will be explained Away—

All of Us will Work Harder, Work Longer,

And spend Less Time asking Questions of

The Whereabouts of our Freedom.


Some of Us will be Shamed and Persecuted.

Some of Us will be Forced to Prostrate Ourselves

To the Employer—The One who Exchanges Bread

For Pride, Fear for Security, and Obedience for Will.

The Institutional Bully of Middle Management will

Both Give and Receive the Torture of Life spent

As Chattel. They will Ape their Top Management

Masters in the Vain Hope of the Same Power

The Top-Most seemingly Own (Though They, too,

Will have an Owner Holding the Leash

Of their Freedom).

Some of Us will be Driven Mad, finding in our

Delusions the Only

Semblance of


Angel Eyes

Monday, September 24, 2012          1:53 PM


Dear Daniel Mayes:


I’ve just been reading your excellent article  “Are We Heading Towards A Big-Brother World?” regarding the use (or over-use?) of Closed Circuit TV (CCTV) camera systems in modern cities.


By and large I must agree that this is a ‘balancing act’ issue, with security and surveillance on the one side and an invasion of personal privacy on the other. But there is a larger issue being overlooked here. The once-a-decade National Census (an attempt to get an accurate-as-possible head-count of all US citizens) is written into our Constitution. It, along with voting (another data-sampling activity) are both minimal attempts at determining some information of the people’s presence and wishes with regard to ‘self-governing’.


Self-governing is an ideal that cannot be realized—even working towards an exact head-count is an attempt to determine how many people are in which location, so that their congressman can represent them in numbers proportional to the number of people in the state, for example. But no tabulation can count all the people in the United States at one instant of time—even if we had the manpower and resources to physically count every person in the country, people would be born, people would die, in the time it takes to tally the numbers, they will have already changed. So the ideal of self-governing, of a government that responds to every want and need of every single citizen is, like all ideals, something that can only be imagined.


In the voting process, we encounter ‘hanging chads’, voter suppression, voter turnout (especially ‘voter turn-out’–there are only 20% or 30%, at best, of eligible voters participating in any election). So this, too, is an ideal that we should not hold our breath, waiting for its realization in reality. Fortunately, we have mathematics.


Sociology is the study of humans as groups–the smaller the sample, the less accurate the results–and even in large-sample studies, the results cannot be expected to predict the behavior of a single individual. But as a group, humans are incredibly predictable–and whenever huge samples of data-sets are available, they can predict with uncanny certainty the percentage of the group that will go this way, the percent that will go that way, and how many are left undecided and standing pat.


When polls first came into everyday use, in the 1950s, most of the applications were commercial–sales and marketing jumped right on the new miracle science, and have stayed riveted to consumer-testing, market research and back-end analysis ever since. Both politicians and news outlets soon saw the inherent entertainment value of releasing survey results on current trends in the opinions, politics, and tastes of the masses.


But there were other, more sensible, uses to be had. Traffic surveys in high-traffic urban arteries allowed for more efficient design and maintenance of freeways and intersections. Foot-traffic surveys of mall-shoppers changed the designing of malls and parking lots. Supermarkets use their inventory turn-over to determine future shelf-stock purchases. Lawyers use medical-symptom-mapping to prove high-risk ‘cancer cells’ located near places of pollution. The list goes on.


Many are the benefits to business and commerce—but even so, the individual also benefits from some sociological data-sampling. In a world of terrorism, radiation, and bio-safety concerns, a data-set of every pedestrian within a particular ten-block-radius might hold vital clues to emerging threats or illegal activities. But it can also aid in the search for a lost child or pet (if the pet doesn’t already have a sub-dermal LoJack device), or rescue operations during a natural disaster.


Many people seem to think that only ‘bad-guys’ require surveillance—when the truth is that, as we become a faster-moving society using synthetic signposts to organize the flow of us, the provisioning of us, the educating of our children and the protecting of our weakest, we need to keep tabs on what’s happening. Is blanket coverage of CCTV cameras the right method for collecting this data? Perhaps not. But, is there a built-in need for record-keeping in our high-tech, high-speed global village? I’m afraid so.Image

Sea-Spray From The Future-Shock-Wave

In the old days we were sure that, no matter how perfectly we created a ‘virtual experience’, there would always be a lack—an absence that we would naturally notice—because nothing is as real as reality.

It was sickening, in a way, to discover just how easily we can be confused in our senses—that not only was it eminently doable, but that digital electronics could, without any strain, reproduce sounds and sights with far greater precision than was perceptible by the human ear or eye. ‘Sniffer’ technology, too, is being digitized into a sensor that can sample the ‘air’ environment more sensitively than the nose of a hound dog (which, let me tell you, is no small achievement).

Taste—I dunno—or Texture, Motion, Heat, Balance, Time—our bodies’ sensations of the relative values of these environmental data are still enough of a mystery that we aren’t yet capable of reproducing them. Indeed, we are still trying to understand the connection between our sensoria and our brains’ processing of sensorium-input. At present, no technologies can synthesize even a rough approximation of such sensations as Inertia or Uprightness . So we are not quite ready to fool the human brain.

But, I should think that if we can conquer vision, acoustics, and smell, the rest is just a matter of time. How much time could be counted in years or centuries—I’m no expert—but the tempo of Biomedical Research (and Physics Research) is in high gear. Not only do we build on nearly-daily discoveries, but we build on daily improving electronics and miniaturization. Not only have we made a good start on decoding the Human Genome, but we make progress in nanotechnology—an applied science that could make our bodies self-monitoring, self-repairing, and make it possible to tailor antiviral-or-cancer medicines to the individual patient’s DNA.

I saw a TV show yesterday—researchers tailored a goat-ovum with silkworm genes—the grown goats give milk that is 2% silk. The TV program went on to describe the extraction of silk from the goat-milk and its subsequent drawing-out and production of the first man-made silk thread. I don’t know about you, but that blows my mind. For millennia, up until just this year (or maybe last year—mox-nix) the world has depended on silkworms exclusively for the material in silk threads and the woven-silk cloth that is highly valued for items of clothing and for tremendously strong, lightweight fibers such as those used in parachutes. It made a segment on the science channel or learning channel or NatGeo (who knows?). But fifty years ago it would have been front page news.

That is what makes my jaw drop about the present—so many new things, so often—and many of those are innovations that would have been world-changing, front-page news in its own right. A stereo with no moving parts—smaller than a wallet? No big  deal?

While these advances percolate away in the field of medicine, physical therapy, and entertainment, other digital changes occur. We find that robotics is also chugging away. Self-steering, adaptive-pressure gripping, vocal recognition, and exoskeletal-support hardwares/softwares are finding new ways to take over for both the disabled and the automotively challenged. Just think—a few more decades and “DWI” will become an antique term that harkens back to the day when people still drove their own cars. Less frivolously—synthetic limb or organ replacements are proceeding apace. One veteran who had lost both legs was fitted with these new springy synthetics that allow him to run—and it works so well, his eligibility for participation in the London Olympics was seriously debated.

“We can rebuild you—we have the technology!” –well, not quite—the Six-Million Dollar Man is still fiction. But not for much longer—and we know now that prosthetics can be more than replacements—they can be enhancements.

But even beyond these macro-innovations, there are more and more devices that do what electronics do best—they shrink down until they’re miniaturized so small as to fit inside a capsule which a patient can swallow, or into a chip in one’s brain that allows mouse-pointer-control without physical motion. Having gotten proof-of-concept, I seriously doubt that full, brain-only computer interaction will take more than a few more years. How nice it would be for any future ‘Stephen Hawkings’ to have a full Exoskeleton in place of a Wheelchair, to have the ability to type on a Keyboard in his (or hers—let’s not forget the future ‘Stephany Hawkingses’!) Mind. A time will come when healthy people will start to envy some of the prosthetics of the future—then we’ll all be brain-typing, with airbags built into our belts (in case we fall off a building) and cars that read our minds to determine where we want to be driven.

The proximity of our ‘future’ is so close that it has businesses rising and falling as each new thing obsoletes each old thing. And worst of all is always the newest-of-the-old—the i-Phone 5 release is a current news topic and fodder for late-night comics because it made the i-Phone 4 obsolete in less than a year from its own debut. So while bookstores, record stores, gas-only-fueled cars, and ‘landline’ home phones begin their shuffle off to the inevitable, they are being elbowed aside by last year’s cars, last year’s games, last year’s business paradigm—all marching double-time to the scrap heap.

But this is no novel—no Tom Clancy thriller—no Dickens tale of good vs. evil—this is the world, in real life. The wave of the New isn’t a sheet of water so smooth as to reflect our images—it is a thundering crash with all the attendant splashing and spilling.

Let me give an example of one of the little details that we use to cobble together our future-shock-wave. This is a true story—it happened to me just as I describe, and all text has been cut-and-pasted from the original web-page or e-mail. I call it “I’m Going To Jail—But The Internet Made Me Do It!

There are some oddities about online activity that show the unfair choices forced upon the Webbity-Web, now that it’s been ‘mostly’ commercialized. But please don’t think me dense enough to expect any change in the corporate-ization of onlineTown, USA—if any one person could change the nature of the internet, it wouldn’t be the ‘robust defense measure for national communication’ it was originally designed to be during the Cold War. No, these are just little things now—but I foresee some legal activity on this sort of thing, sooner or later.

To begin with, the internet—or, to be clear, a person’s Internet Service Provider (ISP)—is like automotive insurance—even if someone else is behind your keyboard, you’re still liable for any illegal activity. This is also true of one’s ‘social media’-site accounts, especially YouTube. There are concessions YouTube has been forced to make to stay in business. These concessions apparently include ceding all legal oversight to the owners of copyrights—either Collective Copyright Administrators or the Media Corporation itself.

How does this affect me?  Well, the uploads I send to my YouTube account are sometimes titled “Bach Partita No. 1” or “Tchaikovsky’s Waltz of the Flowers”, because these are the piano pieces I had played on my videos.

The YouTube ‘copyright filter’ only looks at the title of the piece and if it matches by 90% or more, I am told that my upload “violates copyright protection laws”. It assumes that I am pirating Glenn Gould’s, or Peter Serkin’s, or Ruth Laredo’s, virtuoso recording—rather than having played the music myself. I know that the ‘amateur-pianist’-demographic is no huge chunk of internet activity, but this is tantamount to saying that such a thing NEVER happens.

But that’s not all the liberty being taken in this situation. There is a ‘copyright claim disputed’ option in YouTube’s ‘notification’ pages—it is quite a winding way for a newcomer (I have had cause to become familiar) but one is finally given a text box  wherein the ‘reason’ should be typed. I have done this several times—and I have gotten the status changed to OK for most classical pieces.

But what really gets my goat is the final text display  before the text box  in which belongs ‘your full name (as signature)’—and that is over and above the fact that I’m being forced to ‘sign’ a legal agreement online by a faceless corporate app. What it says basically is that ‘I understand that if I’m making a false claim I will lose my YouTube account’.

So, to sum up, I am erroneously accused of piracy. I’m asked to plead guilty by clicking on ‘claim recognized’—or—to send in an explanation why I shouldn’t be prosecuted (but only at the risk of losing my YouTube account, if they disagree with my claim).

My YouTube account is several years old—I’ve uploaded over 900 piano videos and am looking at hitting one thousand recordings uploaded sometime early in 2013. That’s a lot riding on fighting off some underdeveloped ‘copyright-app’ every time I play Beethoven!

Below are a few examples of this practice, including my somewhat irritated responses to them—

Three (3) from “Musicke’s Handmaid” (2012Sep22)


Please verify the following information:

Claims to dispute

“A New Ground in E minor Z 682”, musical composition administered by:

One or more music publishing rights collecting societies 


Reason for dispute

This video contains the material at issue, but the material is in the public domain or is not eligible for copyright protection.


This music is from the Seventeenth Century. If my performance of it violates anyone’s rights, they would be those of Henry Purcell–an Englishman who died before the American Revolutionary War! This business of claiming copyright on ancient pieces of classical music which are clearly in the Public Domain, simply because a single artist’s recording of the piece is uniquely copyrighted by the performer’s representative–is unethical. Please bring this to the attention of whoever is in charge of ethics over there.

I have a good faith belief that the claim(s) described above have been made in error, and that I have the right(s) necessary to use the contents of my video for the reasons I have stated. I have not knowingly made any false statements, nor am I intentionally abusing this dispute process in order to interfere with the rights of others. I understand that filing fraudulent disputes may result in termination of my YouTube account.



Chris Dunn (xperdunn)


YouTube channel Xperdunn             copyright infringement claim:


 Video Title-    Tchaikovsky: “Andante Cantabile” (2011Mar02)


Claims to dispute


 “String Quartet No. 1 in D major Op. 11 (version for cello and string orchestra) String Quartet No. 1 in D major Op. 11: II. Andante cantabile (arr. for orchestra)”, musical composition administered by:

One or more music publishing rights collecting societies 


  “ANDANTE CANTABILE”, musical composition administered by:

One or more music publishing rights collecting societies 

UMPG Publishing

Reason for dispute

This video contains the material at issue, but the material is in the public domain or is not eligible for copyright protection.

Please explain briefly:

“I find this completely unfair! These ‘rights collecting societies’ are perfectly well aware of the fact that classical compositions have a multitude of recorded performances.

The ridiculous claim that my piano performance video includes a performance by string quartet (Oh no, wait, it’s a string quartet piece ARRANGED for Orchestra!) is absurd.

But even the Andante Cantabile, which IS a piece for solo piano, is my original performance of the sheet music, not a bootleg of another performer’s recording.

The idea that these ‘rights-collectors’ can accuse me of video-and-audio-piracy just because they own the rights to One, Specific Artist’s performance of a classical work, is outrageous. Finding a 90% match in the Title-text is completely insufficient.

Can’t they be bothered to compare just a few seconds of the video’s audio to a few seconds of the copyrighted recordings which they oversee? Why is the entire onus dumped on a helpless amateur like myself?

It is completely unjust. And it isn’t as though there are a lot of videos out there where the Titles match and the videos don’t. Even a glance at the Duration of their recordings and mine should be enough to indicate that no piracy has occurred.”

I have a good faith belief that the claim(s) described above have been made in error, and that I have the right(s) necessary to use the contents of my video for the reasons I have stated. I have not knowingly made any false statements, nor am I intentionally abusing this dispute process in order to interfere with the rights of others. I understand that filing fraudulent disputes may result in termination of my YouTube account.


Type your full name to serve as your electronic signature

             Christopher Dunn


Cancel   Continue


Back   Cancel   Submit Dispute


Are you sure you want to dispute this claim?


OK     Cancel

{Notice the unsubtle intimidation implied by the ‘good faith’ check-box.}

{Here’s another, but Kabalevsky, et. al. are modern enough for their compositions to still fall within the composer’s (or the composer’s estate’s) copyright claim.}

Video Title-    More Kabalevsky and Others (2011Mar05)


Claims to dispute


 Musical Composition administered by:

One or more music publishing rights collecting societies 

Reason for dispute

This video uses copyrighted material in a manner that does not require approval of the copyright holder. It is a fair use under copyright law.

Please explain briefly:

“My video is my own, original performance of the works of Kabalevsky and other so-called ‘classical’ composers’ works. It is not a bootleg of an existing, copyrighted recording. Please inform me if I am accused of infringing the copyright of the sheet music or of infringing the copyright of a specific pre-existing, commercially-related recording.”

I don’t see why they publish the sheet music if it’s a crime to play the music in public for free, which is all I have done.”

And on and on:

“my video contains my own, original performance of the sheet music, not a bootleg of another performer’s commercially-available recording!”

And for Satie’s Gnossiennes:

Only copyrighted in France, Spain, and Portugal

So that’s what I consider a good-sized mess that will only grow larger with time. I am by no means an accomplished performer—in fact, I rather suck at it. But I approach these issues from the point of view of some future amateur whose own interpretations will be shut out due to increasingly troublesome corner-cutting by the copyright-collectives and big media corporations.

As regards the ISP, their purview includes monitoring my connection for illegal activity—or, to be more precise, they carry out notifications and penalties due to illegal activity as is policed by these same copyright-collectives and big media corporations.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

RE: OPTIMUM’s “© infringement” email:

I’m not sure what I’m being accused of here. I have allowed my nephew to use this computer recently–maybe he did something. Could you be more specific about the action–did this PC download an mp3, post an mp3, or what? We don’t do that stuff. I don’t know what happened here, but I would not bootleg or pirate mp3s, or anything else for that matter.

Here’s part of the email message I got:


We regret having to send notices like this, and we do not wish to alarm you unnecessarily, but we believe it is important to advise you of any notices concerning your account.



Ti Chas

Cablevision Registered Copyright Agent


Infringement Notice Details:


ID#: 22259478673

Entity: Recording Industry Association of America Inc

Contact:Jeremy Landis

Address: 1025 F Street NW 10th Floor Washington DC 20004

Phone: 1-888-868-2124



Event Time: 2012-08-28 11:28:08.0

IP Address: null

Application: P2P


Number of Files1

Allegedly Infringed Material


Filename: The Black Keys – Brothers [2010-MP3-Cov][Bubanee]

URL: null

—Please let me know more about this, especially how I can fix or undo it.

Thanks in advance for your kind attention.

-Chris Dunn

So there you have it. I am innocent of all charges, yet I am harrassed for copyright-violation  in page-error notices and property theft in ‘(NoReply)E-Mails’. I love it when I’m accused of a crime in an e-mail that specifically prevents a reply. That, in itself, should be worth a look-see by the legal profession–but what do I know?

My Protest Is Non-Violent–How About Yours?


I find something strange in the waves of anti-American sentiment in the Middle East. Where were these outraged Muslims when the Soviet Union banned religion throughout Eastern Europe? And what is all this talk of ‘respect’ without respect for life? If we were to ask the Syrians or the Libyans or the Egyptians for ‘respect’ we’d be accused of high-handedness; ‘the Great Satan demands respect, does it?’ We give billions in financial aid to some Mid-East nations, well, most Mid-East nations. Isn’t that respect for our fellow Peoples? Does the money not count, all of a sudden, because we built an Internet that allows the Middle Easterners to forget that we are an ocean apart?

This so-called movie (that is actually a ‘trailer’ (a preview) for an imaginary movie) was made by one person, maybe two. The armies of Islam have no beef with those individuals–if they did, they should have gone after those people in particular. Instead, they thought, what a great excuse for murdering the American closest at hand, the one with the best reputation–just so the whole world would know how ‘angry’ these folks are. Ambassador Christopher Stevens was in Libya to help the newly democratic nation transition to a more settled, less chaotic installation of an elected government. I assume he was also there to oversee the transaction of billions in aid. He wasn’t naïve–he knew he was risking his life to be there and to help.

He was not some puppeteer trying to coerce Libya into becoming a pawn of the United States–the world knows this. In all the fighting our armed forces have ever done, we have never taken permanent possession of any real estate–that is our tradition and it hasn’t changed in over two-hundred years. He was there to help, period. Likewise the three other innocent Americans executed by the mob that stormed our embassy.

Respect? We have a tradition in America, a common cause that many Americans have died to protect–it’s called free speech. The protesters say “We never insult Jehovah or Christ, why must you insult our prophet?” Well, first of all–Go ahead. I can call Christ a Pig. I can call Jehovah a Geezer in the Sky–we don’t CARE. Sticks and stones will break our bones but words will never hurt us. Or our gods, or our government. No. What these protestors are against is Free Speech.

They were nice and quiet all through the Cold War, many of them siding with the Soviets in exchange for arms or funds–working hand-in-hand with an enforced-atheism government. Syria still does it today–well, I shouldn’t say Syria, Syrians are being blown up in the streets by their own government–but that Government is still dealing with Communists, just like the good ol’days–as is Iran.

What do they have in common? Repression. They believe in repression of public dialogue–they prefer to keep political discourse as a blood sport. They want their governments to retain the ability to cow their citizens, instead of serve them. Why? Because Islam (again, perhaps not Islam, but it’s figureheads, the ones with the ability to rustle up some gang violence among the population) has a tradition of repression–they repress their women, they indoctrinate their young, and they punish people for speaking their minds. This is not a healthy format for a major religion. We will come back later to the issue of their longed-for dream of committing genocide in Israel.

There are Muslims in the United States–their lives are no different from us non-Muslims–they understand that Free Speech takes precedent over religious dogma, they don’t attack passers-by on the street every time someone takes a swipe at their religious traditions. There are Jews in America–hell, last I heard, there are more Jews in the New York metro area than there are in Israel. But the Muslims here understand that religious freedom takes precedence over some feud the Imams have been stoking the fires of for a millenia.

In America, we know that freedom is more important than dignity. We know that dignity is an illusion, that the Emperor is buck-naked, and that ‘fervent prayer’ is the limit of how far one citizen’s religion can impose its rules on another. When I was a kid, Catholics couldn’t eat meat on Fridays–but there was no pressure from Catholics to close the butcher shops on Friday by law.

And there is another bit of childishness to this Mid East violence–have they no faith? Can one sick guy’s post on an obscure web-site really touch their prophet? Is their faith truly encumbered by this arbitrary input from one stupid foreigner, half-way round the world? Don’t they see that their magnification of this one guy’s bad attempt at satire makes him a world-renowned figure? If they had an ounce of sense, they would have let this guy and his ‘trailer’ fade away like a billion other tasteless web-posts.

The way I see it, all these embassy protests have been orchestrated by Imams jealous of the power they wield in the Middle East that they enjoy nowhere else. They see repression as a necessary tool for their survival as leaders of their society. They see religious freedom as a death knell to their world order. They think that anyone with the nerve to face up to them, and tell their own truth, ought to be put to death.

Well, the terrorists have become very sophisticated. One can hear and read in the media of a new ‘discussion’ over freedom of expression. There is nothing to discuss. If we adopt any new legislation amending the freedom of the press or freedom of speech–I swear I’ll make a hundred videos ridiculing Islam. I’ll devote my frickin life to it.


A Thread Comment from my Online Poetry Course (re: a Dickinson poem)


Susan Dickinson (Emily's Sister)

Susan Dickinson (Emily’s Sister)

I am, for many of you, stating the obvious. But I’ve noticed many of our ESL classmates of many nations are looking for a deeper understanding not just of poetry, but of the English language as well. So I’ve busied myself with this little exercise–I’ve taken every word in “I dwell in Possibility” in order, and provided what immediately comes to mind as the multiple meanings of each of them–when read by an English-speaking person. I have used ‘etc.’ in every case, because in every case, I could not possibly list all of the meanings for any of the words.

I think it is also important to note that, above and beyond the individual words’ and phrases’ multiple allusions, their combination into ideas and concepts by the poet (and the reader) allows an even greater multiplicity of meanings to the poem as a whole. I begin:

***   ***

“I dwell in”  can mean “I live at” or “this is my mindset” or “this is where I’m stuck being”, etc.

***   ***

“Possibility” can have Many possible meanings (a little joke–yes, very little.)

***   ***

“A fairer House than” can mean “a better place to live” or “a finer home than another’s” or “a more legitimate gamblers den”, etc.

***   ***

 “Prose” can refer to “writing”, “prosaic”, “worldly”, “tired”, etc.

***   ***

“More numerous of Windows –/ Superior – for Doors –” – well, let’s just agree that both ‘windows” and ‘doors’ are ubiquitous metaphors for just about anything, “openings”, “gateways”, “views”, “limits”, ad infinitum

***   ***

“Of Chambers” can mean “ones heart”, ‘ones cell”, “ones bedroom” , “a cave” , “chamber of a gun”, “chamber of a nautilus”, etc.”

***   ***

“as the Cedars –” – as previously addressed by older posts, manifold symbolisms are attached to “Cedar” and “Cedars”

***   ***

“Impregnable” can mean “inviolate”, “unknowable”, “unconquerable”, etc.

***   ***

“of eye”  can be literally anything–I believe ‘Eye” may be the most used and referenced metaphor in the history of civilization–even those ancient Egyptian pictographs show ‘forward facing’ eyes rather than an eye’s actual ‘in profile’-appearance–that’s what makes Egyptian art so instantly recognizable. The feet, the ears, the mouth–all in profile–but the Eye (the Soul) always idealized as front-and-center vision.

***   ***

“And for an everlasting Roof” can mean “and to cap it all off” or “the covering I’ve selected” or “what I see as an upward limit”, etc.

***   ***

“The Gambrels ” can mean a dutch barn, a crucifix, a rounded-shaped roof, a gibbet, a butcher’s tool, etc.

***   ***

“of the Sky ” can mean “of a sky-blue color”, “of Heaven”, “of Infinity”, simply “above”, and a host of other metaphors.

***   ***

“Of Visitors – the fairest –” ‘visitors’ can mean anything from “recalled memories” to “extraterrestrial explorers” -and- ‘fairest’ can mean “most beautiful”, “most pure”, “most equal”, “kindest”, “best”, etc.

***   ***

“For Occupation – This –” can mean “how I make a living”, “how I keep busy”, “what distracts me from other things”, etc.

***   ***

“The spreading wide my narrow Hands

To gather Paradise –”  this phrase of the poem paints a clear visual image–but none of the words in the phrase have one, simple, unambiguous meaning…

***   ***

So, there you have it. A poem can have thousands of meanings–even to just one reader or poet. A Poem may even be described (here in my conceit, at least) as something that has no definitive meaning. Hope I haven’t bored you all….

Two Thread Comments From Today


Late Tuesday (actually early Wednesday, September 12, 2012)

[LinkEds & writers / {LinkedIn} Randy B.  -Randy B. H.

Multilingual, multicultural communications specialist

Greater New York City Area

Dear Randy:

I’m terribly sorry.

I didn’t realize that I’d been unclear–but I do now.

I filled out their questionnaire and went through their

spelling/grammar and ‘three styles’ exams, which was

much more ‘temp’-work-application -ish than I’d expected

(I’ve been a temp–it’s actually worse when one

has to spend the day there). But somehow I still thought

I’d be challenged somewhat by the work. By some miracle,

I was deemed good enough to bid on their jobs.


Then I went to their ‘Available Jobs’ page and saw,

as I described in my vague post, jobs that were specific

about the textbook being used, asking for specific numbers

of reference citations–and the dollar amount offers were


I emailed them to ask if they felt that this work was ethical.

That’s when I got the stuff about ‘helping the students do

for themselves by giving a good example’.


But I thought it over and decided that was a rationalization.

I spent most my life in mail-marketing (junk mail, to you)

and I know a good rationalization for making money when

I hear one.

So all my jumping through their hoops was a waste of time.

I know I wasn’t clear about the details–but I thought it

was obvious I was doing anything BUT promoting them.

Sorry to distract from the thread–I shouldn’t have posted

at all, really–I’ve never been paid for any writing–unless you

count ad copy or copywriting/proofreading.


I may not belong, but I like the group, and your mediation of the thread.



My comment on “The Necklace of Poetry” by  (Joe)/(Kenneth) Massingham (WordPress)

On September twelfth, 2012  2 am

I like the image or concept, a threading together of words, rather than plain speech, but I wonder if we go at this poetry business from the back end–Poetry may be as animalistic an urge as dancing or singing, simply translated as a unique form that occurs within a pack of people who’ve recently adopted a sophisticated form of language, such as Greek and Romans, Persians.and whoever. But those origins are obscured by time and now we see the poem almost less about what the poets are doing and more about what the audience is hearing. It makes much more sense that way, but it may not necessarily be how it began–just a thought. We are a consumerist society, but things weren’t always so.


The fact that bad poetry might not attract an audience may have had no weight in a society in which the leaders and sophisticates saw poetry as something all civilized people did, like getting exercise. You know, clean mind, clean body, but in Latin.

To me it’s become painfully clear–implying that a-n-y-t-h-i-n-g is NOT poetry is just an argument looking for a pal. So I have long ago stopped myself whenever such sentences come to mind–besides, technically, it’s true–that’s where the argument comes from. After that it gets all semantic-al and abstruse.


There are levels of applied poetry and then there’s ‘ideal’ poetry. On one level there is the obvious, published poets (and their nobility, the Nobel-winners and poets laureate). On another level there is academic poetry, which is when serious students of literature sit at the feet of professors and try to satisfy their professors that (a) they’ve understood (and unquestioningly accepted as gospel) the prof’s ideas of good poetry and what makes great poets great and (b) have produced work that the prof accepts as displaying the prof’s teachings, articulated in verse.


On a third level there are jokers like myself, who write poems and share them with their endlessly patient family and acquaintances who are too polite to tell me to get lost. What some may label the ‘failure’ level I think of more as an amateur standing. One of the great advantages of this level is that I’m the best judge of how good my poems are–though I’m not averse to appreciation, when offered, or criticism for that matter (see ‘best judge’ comment).

Theoretically, there is a fourth level wherein a natural-born poet who takes it all very much to heart and whose sensitivity makes the readers’ lips tremble and their eyelids dewy, or stirs the heart of a teenage boy with meter and trochee and ‘on the six-hundred’, or simply suggests the soul of the sight of a bird ascending–that poet goes where destiny takes such people.


Now Ideal poetry is what high-school students write–it has a piquancy all its own, but can seem over-earnest at times. Still, where would love-struck teenagers be without Ideal poetry? And, once one has seen the elephant, they’ll be plenty of time to write more experienced verse.


I try to be honest with my poetry, which makes it deadly dull and often lacking any lyrical quality–in fact, I recently wrote a poem, read it back to myself a couple of times and, on a whim, translated it into an essay, with complete, grammatically-correct sentences. I couldn’t have changed or added more than ten words. I’m usually better than that, but I’m no P.B. Shelley.

I get nervous sometimes, letting a poem become slightly ambiguous, and sometimes end up drawing or painting an illustration as part of the page design or as a ‘companion’ illustration to the poem page. It’s like talking during charades, I know, but I’m not a stickler for poetry rules (of which there ain’t any anyhow).


You know, this is an awfully long ‘comment’ (and I hope I haven’t talked your ear off). And I hope you won’t mind if I cut and paste it onto my blog, seeing as how these are pretty general comments about poetry. Yours is a nice essay, too–thanks for sharing it.

Now to go read your second post….


[NOTE: I pity the fool who invites me into a thread. I’m embarrassed to say that these are only two of three thread comments I posted today. I don’t know who I think I’m talking to–all this unsolicited verbiage…. Be warned!]

Casualties of the September 11 attacks


NIST estimated that approximately 17,400 civilians were in the World Trade Center complex at the time of the September 11, 2001 attacks.

Only 20 people escaped from the impact zone of the South Tower after it was hit and only four people from the floors above it.

19 hijackers and 2,977 victims. 372 foreign nationals (excluding the 19 perpetrators) perished in the attacks, representing just over 12% of the total.

292 people were killed at street level by burning debris and falling bodies of those who had jumped or fallen from the World Trade Center’s windows.

All the deaths in the attacks were civilians except for 55 military personnel killed at the Pentagon.

246 victims were on the four planes (there were no survivors).

There were no survivors from the collapse of the South Tower.

After the collapse of the towers, only 23 survivors who were in or below the towers escaped from the debris, including 15 rescue workers.


In 2007, the New York City medical examiner’s office began to add people to the official death toll who died of illnesses caused by exposure to dust from the site.

The first such victim was a woman who had died in February 2002 from a lung condition. In 2009, a man who died in 2008 was added, and in 2011 a man who died in 2010.


Country Total fatalities

Argentina 4
Australia 11
Bangladesh 6
Belarus 1
Belgium 1
Brazil 3
Canada 24
Chile 1
China 3
Ivory Coast 1
Colombia 18
of the Congo 2
Dominican Republic 47
El Salvador 2
Ecuador 13
Ethiopia 3
France 3
Germany 11
Ghana 2
Guyana 3
Haiti 2
Honduras 1
India 41
Indonesia 1
Ireland 6
Israel 5
Italy 10
Jamaica 16
Japan 24
Jordan 2
Lebanon 4
Lithuania 1
Malaysia 3
Mexico 15
Moldova 1
Netherlands 1
New Zealand 2
Nigeria 1
Pakistan 8
Peru 5
Philippines 16
Portugal 5
Poland 6
Romania 4
Russia 1
Serbia 1
South Africa 2
South Korea 28
Spain 1
Sweden 2
Switzerland 2
Republic of China
(Taiwan) 1
Trinidad and Tobago 14
Ukraine 1
Uzbekistan 1
United Kingdom 68
Bermuda 2
Venezuela 1


Nothing Could Top Michelle’s Speech—Except Bill’s

I’m struck by the contrast between last week’s convention and this week’s. While the Republicans seemed to be plotting a national witch hunt (or would it be more honest to call it a lynching party?) the Democrats have spent a lot of time celebrating the American character. Those things that thrill me about living in the USA, the things that are closer to Christ’s teachings than the Evangelists will ever get, the ideal of equal rights, liberty, and cooperation—the Democrats celebrate our greatness and the GOP seem far more negative.

Cooperation? Yes, though we rarely tout it amongst our flashier ideals—human rights, liberty, equal opportunity, democracy, and public education—the root of America is its strength; and its strength comes from being united. Our unity is so much a part of us that we never bother to think about it—but it is there. Fifty-plus different sovereignties, a half-continent full of individual cultures and inter-relationships—all working (by and large) together and united in purpose.

Whether it’s world war, cold war, or cyberwar—no other nation has a chance against us—because we are united in purpose. And I add that ‘purpose’ for a reason. China, the Soviet Union—there are bigger plots of land and greater populations in the world—but none of them are united in purpose. In spite of our antipathy towards pinko commies and socialist hippies, America is the first great collective. The invention of this great socialist government that would serve no king and let no one determine their lives for them was a decision to band together, to share the dangers and the decisions to come—and to try (and we still try) to keep at bay the autocrats, the monopolizers, and the elitists.

Yes, we invented socialism. We collect everyone’s votes to decide our leaders and our laws. We enact laws that forbid division, advantage, and suppression. In many special new ways, Great Britain, France, Canada and other countries may have taken further steps on the road—nationalized health care, subsidizations of the labor force, etc. But we built the road. We differed from the Old World most substantially by having come into being post-Enlightenment. The divisions that tore Western Europe into tiny fiefdoms had no influence on the New World. Well, that’s not entirely correct—but the influence they did have on our continent was to flood it with the independent-thinkers, dissenters, and adventurous dreamers that the Old World had no use for.

So, yes, the USA was the world’s first hippie commune. We threw out the rules and wrote new ones, which included instructions to keep arms and to rise up and destroy the government if the day ever came that it no longer represented its people. For most of our past, we have proudly fought against pernicious influences in other parts of the world (with the notable exception of our civil war—the bloodiest war we ever fought, because we were on both sides!) And what with world wars against fascism and cold wars against soviets, we’ve been kept pretty busy. Ironically, now that the USA has no credible military threat to its security, we have begun to turn on each other.

Patton once said “Americans traditionally love to fight.” And if you see deployed troops on the news, they always display a spirit and an eagerness that seems to confirm Patton’s claim. Hell, you can go to a bar on Saturday night, most anywhere in the country, to see further proof. And I would not be idiotic enough to suggest that we find an excuse for some new, military adventuring outside our country. So how do we keep Americans fighting without them fighting each other? It is a serious problem—and this is not the first time it’s come up.

When there was an interval between the Korean War and the Viet Nam War, Kennedy called for a Peace Corp to conquer not the world, but the world’s poverty and disease. When former-President Jimmy Carter made a plea for involvement in Habitats for Humanity he was offering a fight to restless, good-hearted citizens everywhere. Kennedy and Carter were both leaders who recognized the American lust for challenge—and tried to channel it into positive, constructive efforts. And with job growth too slow to reach everyone without several years of patience and suffering, I hope that one of the things a re-elected Obama administration will work on is a channel for the energy of our young adults. They are the ones who are starting to take over from the grown-ups while also ‘finishing up’ their own maturation—they are easily diverted, particularly when unemployed and unhappy, to troublemaking and disaffection with society—and that is as grave a danger to our future as the unemployed, hungry poverty of today is a danger to our present.

You know, sometimes when I’m typing these ‘things’ (whatever they are) it occurs to me that there are plenty of people, Americans like myself, that would violently disagree with my ideas. And I know that my country protects my right to say what I think. But that doesn’t change the fact that I am just one person—that if I make someone else mad enough, that person could (unlikely as it sounds) decide to end me. And I would die for exercising Free Speech. But we don’t let that bother us in this country. I remember a news item about occupied Iraq telling of a newspaper publisher trying frantically to find an official to approve the paper’s copy before printing it.

The soldiers he spoke to had to reassure him over and over that he could not be punished for printing anything in the paper—facts, opinions, or otherwise. There was a kind of awe evident in the man when they finally convinced him that this was the way the USA did things—and that he (and his countrymen) were free to do likewise, at least as far as the coalition forces were concerned. The fact that many media sources in Iraq suffered later, at the hands of displeased fundamentalists, shows that the freedom of speech we enjoy here in the USA is an unheard of luxury in many other places on Earth. And it shows that even when a government restriction on speech is ended, that culture still retains the belief that words should be carefully measured—and controlled by those in authority. For us, the only worry is the random, enraged psychotic—for other places, free speech may be despised even by one’s friends and neighbors.

So, I guess what I’m saying is—Freedom and Unity are not just awesome aspects of our country—they are rare and precious in much of the rest of our world. And that is the reason I go so far as to accuse the GOP of treason concerning their last-four-year’s agenda—they have tried to make the whole country split up into sides and have at it without compromise. And that is not only an unprecedented shame of any political party, it is counter to everything this country stands for. Even if I didn’t think Obama was a great president, I’d be voting against the GOP in November—because they’ve been taken hostage by the Tea Party—the all-time winner of Party’s Dumbest (and most divisive) Platform.

The Poor : (Cont’d)

The thing everyone overlooks is that Karl Marx was right. The desperation of the revolutions that are thought of as Communism were half-baked, seat-of-the-pants efforts to rectify the evils of Capitalism. There is no better example in human history of good intentions leading to a hell here on earth than the Socialist and Communist regimes that transformed into police states before the dust of overthrown palaces had settled. But that doesn’t make Marx wrong—it simply means that the struggle to recover humane principles from a Capitalist world is a complex and difficult thing.

The apoplexy that erupts whenever ‘Socialism’ is mentioned is part of this misperception. Let’s imagine we did something humane, that we paid for it with tax revenue because it is our responsibility to see to it that our country is a decent, human place to live—and we forgot to label it ‘Socialism’. Would that be so bad? We accept the rightness of keeping kids from going hungry—if our government can bring a more consistent and standardized effort to bear on the problem than local charities and churches, we are all for it. Then, as soon as someone calls it ‘Socialism’, we decide it’s better to let people suffer than to risk our great nation becoming a ‘socialist nightmare’.

I, for one, don’t give a damn about Socialist or non-Socialist—all I know is that we let our country become littered with former human beings who are now something less, something broke (in both senses of the word) and who deserve to be taken care of. This business of criticizing the unemployed for not being employed is total rot. For one thing, these people all had jobs up until the financial crash at the end of Bush’s second term. And our economy may recovery completely—with the one detail—that unemployment will remain.

This makes sense—nobody uses people in factories any more—automation is providing better precision, better quality control, and higher production capacity than sloppy humans who get tired, or sick, or have to sleep at night. Who needs’em? But with great automation comes great responsibility. If we are creating a world of robotic activity then we must deal with the other side of that coin—we have to stop judging people by how tired they get. If an average worker stays home all day because the old job has been automated, that worker has no money to participate in our consumer society.

So, owners who remove any need for human workers are, whether they realize it or not, saying No to consumerism. And without a consumer society, who’s going to buy any of the stuff that gets made at the factory? We can’t pretend that economic action has no equal, but opposite, reaction. We will only survive the robotic revolution by subsidizing unemployment. I’m sure someone can show me all the facts and figures proving that it’s impossible to subsidize the 1/10th of the human race that we simply don’t need labor from anymore. But we should anyway—billionaires don’t just keep a disproportionate amount of the fruits of prosperity, they also get off on being top dog.

But they shouldn’t think of it as something being done for others—that 1/10th of humanity will someday be ½ of humanity, 2/3rd of humanity, all of humanity! Someday in the not so distant future, even board chairmen will get the boot from our robotic AI overlords. Then won’t they be glad they started a systematic separation between employment and consumption!

We are very subjective about employment—we don’t see it objectively. We tend to discount the jobless as people who are too lazy to find work—unless we’ve been subjected to that massive degradation of ego that losing a job inflicts upon us. I have been on disability for years—but I’d do just about anything to have a job—and the sense of self-worth it bestows. And we tend to assume if the economy is healthy, then jobs are plentiful. This is a baseless assumption. It was true back in FDR’s day—a worker could be made useful digging a trench or paving a highway or building a bridge, a dam, a skyscraper. But masses of laborers are no longer the norm at construction sites. We have huge cranes, trucks bigger than houses, earthmoving vehicles and tunnel-digging machines. We still need workers to keep a hand in, but nothing like the mobs of laborers that built everything in those older times.

And what’s so ‘lazy’ about pounding the pavement every day being rejected from job after job, while the employed sit at PC keyboards, talk on phones, and decide about lunch. There are plenty of lazy people with jobs—they don’t add a whit to their employer’s business success, they do just enough to keep themselves from being fired, and in many cases are actually drags on the company’s bottom line. The owner would do better paying someone else to stay home than to support this viper at the breast of their business. What do we do when there are simply no more jobs and plenty of unemployed? Do we continue to blame them for a situation they are victims of? I think (and it’s surprising how often this is true) that charity is good business. If people are being reduced to desperate criminals or ghastly non-persons because our economy has no place for them, it is better to make a place for them.

In the sixties, Americans became aware that, after centuries of throwing trash over our shoulders, there were simply too many of us doing it now and we have to either stop littering or live in an ugly place, piled high with refuse. I believe that now is the time to stop throwing ‘useless’ people over our shoulder—they are capable, we just have no use for them right now. If we don’t take responsibility for all the people in the country we’ll see a decline of empire, and a well-deserved one, at that. If all those people become disaffected, or criminalized, then the super-wealthy will ultimately be surrounded by hungry wolves—and that’s not a very nice neighborhood.

Capitalism is sacred only because the more powerful a person is, the more that person’s security depends on the status quo. Ask a hungry person how they feel about Capitalism—I’m betting they couldn’t care less, unless Capitalism is code for ‘a hot meal’. Bill & Melinda Gates endowed the largest charity ever with half the personal fortune of the richest man in the world—but the poor abide. We have to make charity a part of business. We have to start moving away from the assumption that money must be earned. Lots of people have tons of money they didn’t earn—I hardly think it would be a crime to legitimize government support of the poor.

However, the implementation of such a change has at least as many pitfalls and risks as old-fashioned communism—we would need new perspectives and new approaches to even begin such a process. So, that won’t happen. Still, I think it is a sensible direction, compared to the alternatives.

The Poor

Two-thousand years ago Christ addressed the problem of the poor. There are no doubt hundreds of institutions in operation today with the sole aim of feeding and caring for the poor. The number of poor has reached such heights that an entire country can be at risk of starvation for years without end.


How has this simple problem continued to grow and thrive in a world with so many people (and lots of them wealthy) trying so earnestly to end famine and homelessness and sickness and misery? Christ proposed that when someone asks for your coat; give him your cloak also. After decades of people giving away free turkeys on Thanksgiving and blankets to the shivering homeless on Xmas Eve, we see no reduction in poverty—but rather expansion, as if our very civilization were a culture for its growth.

So many people are digging wells in drought-ravaged communities. So many people are trying to spread literacy to the third world. So many doctors and nurses, clergy-persons and philanthropists strive to alleviate the preventable diseases and hunger pangs of the needy. What makes the situation an unshakeable constant in our global community?


There is no obvious answer—third world famine is a starker illustration of the problem than the developed worlds’ own citizens—but we can see poverty and homelessness in Appalachia, a not-so-long drive away from the center of commerce, the Big Apple itself. Even on the streets of that city, and most others, we can find deprivation and suffering.


By this we can see that the poor are not from some well-spring deep in the poorest, least-developed nations—the poor come to be everywhere. The sophisticated man-about-town, leaving his Fifth Avenue townhouse, will only walk a few blocks before he must step over someone who is sleeping on the sidewalk.

So the poor are always with us. Despite centuries of well-meaning charitable activism, the poor abide. Why?

They are the price we pay for having the luxury of becoming millionaires. The design of Capitalism is to compete in the marketplace, to outsell, to outdo, to win at all costs and thus become a ‘master of the universe’. That 99% of us are not millionaires (and have no foreseeable prospect of becoming millionaires) yet remain loyal to the idea of dollar-Darwinism is a marvel of misdirection. We are raised to be proud of our nation’s openness to a sharp operator’s victory against the established businesses—the iconic entrepreneur who plows through the marketplace unopposed due to our amazement at an unprecedented operation’s swift encroachment on established culture. A new marketplace to sell a new something that we poor sods didn’t even know we had to have!

But marketing is a side-issue, a symptom rather than a cause. For Capitalism to retain its power to elevate the odd Titan of Industry, it must have an environment of competitive struggle. Ideally, Capitalism would control the elevation of the few through a series of economic levels that never fell below subsistence. In that happy dream-world, the poor would simply be the least rich, the least pampered—the last place finishers in a sporting event, rather than the wasted, diseased, and tortured casualties of all-out, bleeding warfare. But that is an ideal that only the Canadians have manifested in our real world.

For economics to be stable enough to allow such immense disproportions as there are between billionaires and homeless starvlings, it has to be a blood sport. If any legislation were ever enacted that overruled the rules of finance in favor of humane re-distribution of some of that wealth to the ‘inactive players’ of the sport of Capitalism, the rich would simply block the legislation, or shoot the legislator, or (most likely of all) besmirch the bona fides of the proponents of humane reform of Capitalism. We have been victims of lazy thinking—the triumph of the Free World over the Soviet Union is not proof of the unleavened goodness of Capitalism—it only proves that you catch more flies with the honey of personal liberty than with the coercion of a police state.

Das Kapital is just as merciless and bloodthirsty as it was when Karl published his precious treatise. That soviets and red Chinese were perhaps guilty of trying to implement idealism with all-too-human humans does not change the fact that Capitalism is still the foot on the throat of human civilization it has always been, since it replaced monarchies (the only stupider form of society there is for comparison).


The solution, poor, naïve Karl supposed, was to give power back to the people—in the Iron Curtain countries this was ‘collectives’ and non-currency oriented culture; in the United States we thought labor unions had succeeded in stemming the predation of the owners upon the workers that made them rich. In neither case did any real change result. The soviets lost the majority of their internal economy to the black marketers (who had no objection to cash payment for goods). But here in the States, we had the illusion of equity among workers and owners/management—and union workers’ salaries, benefits and working conditions began a steady climb. But there’s more than one way for the Fat Cats to skin the Hoi Polloi.

And the most successful one was Lobbying. When WWII ended, the nation strode towards what we hoped would be a new age, with Fascism vanquished and the Communists content to regroup from the War’s devastation—and with civil liberties growing to include Social Security, Medicare, the right to form unions and to strike, the right to travel the country from coast–to-coast—and the shiny, new means to travel it.


Our country’s laws reflected a sense of fairness and protection from abusers of personal rights. But now the money began to roll in—and not all the hundreds of federal legislators in both houses were sterling saints of their offices. Eisenhower’s valediction to the people, as he left his presidency, was a warning against the ‘military-industrial complex’—a cadre of business moguls who saw huge riches in keeping our country on a war footing, just to create the demand for the arms manufacturers, and every army base, and all the boats, jets, and bombers we would need to ‘make the world safe for democracy’.


So, cutting military funding is the most unpopular idea for a politician to mention aloud. Second to that is speaking in favor of regulation of Capitalism. Those two ideas together will get a politician zero votes—in any state or county in the nation. I am suggesting that our rabid, knee-jerk response to either of those concepts is an attitude that has been carefully cultivated by our Capitalist media-moguls. Hitler, famously, invented Kindergarten as a way to reach his citizens with propaganda at their earliest possible age. And in our schools we have traditionally indoctrinated our American children with the ideals of the United States of America. But now we live in a time where policy-makers and tycoons have discovered that Skinner’s behavior-modification techniques continue to work on people of all ages, not just the innocent tykes of Kindergarten.


Competition is so much a part of who we are that the idea of turning our backs on it seems outright psychotic. But my thought is that competition exists all by itself—and we will always have to struggle to have the lives we work towards. If we placed some regulatory boundaries—not on a cap for fortune-makers, but a minimum for Capitalist-last-placers—then the players could all knock each other around all they liked. But the ones who have lost, the ones who are unable to function in that rough-and-tumble, could be assured that their society would not make them starve to death because they failed at the American Dream. Is the American Dream any less a dream if we admit that it doesn’t always come true?


Why should we? I hear ya. Who says we have to build decent housing and give free food and clothes and furniture and plumbing to a bunch of lazy, no-good goldbrickers? Who says we need to educate their children and give everyone free medical care? Well, the answer is—you do. Think about this—when you go out for a walk, is it nice and clean and peaceful and decent? If you had a choice between giving that up to live in a commercial ‘war zone’, or paying extra to keep everybody’s suffering to a dull roar, which would you pick?

If we want this country to be a nice neighborhood, we have to spend some money on maintenance. The rules of Capitalism insist that winners win at the expense of the losers—so, do we want our society to operate like a casino and try to take everyone’s last dollar before they leave? Or can we adjust Capitalism, as we did, after much violence and struggle, when we realized that it is only fair to let workers unite to protect their interests against the owners?


We should take that concept a bit further and resolve that Capitalism is only suitable for a decent society when it draws a line beyond which we will not sink, a line that guarantees no one will die from being poor—that losing in the marketplace doesn’t condemn a person, or an entire family, to slow, miserable death. We like to look back in horror on the old practice of keeping a Debtor’s Prison—but are we any better for letting our poor starve in broad daylight?

Traditionally, We Don’t

There are a great many traditions. Some are fun—like costumes and trick-or-treating; some are bitter—like tearing clothes and covering mirrors; and a few are surprisingly important—like standing when hearing the National Anthem—and singing along. I was reminded of this recently, at the end of “The Comedy Central Roast of Roseanne Barr”, when the Roastee, Roseanne, sang the last few bars of the anthem: “…o’er the laa-a-a-nd of the frre-e-e-e-e, and the hooome of the bra-a-a-a-ave!” with the voice of an angel—the complete opposite of her ‘comedic character’ performance at the start of baseball game, way back when, wherein she screeched and scratched herself and spit—just like some old baseball player before the days of the tight-shot on the players at the sidelines and bullpens.

Some people got it. But the ones who didn’t get it, as always, ended up fodder for the media-made scandal over ‘Roseanne’s insulting of the whole country’. Roseanne issued a statement afterwards, when told of the witless people who didn’t get, or like, her comedy, saying “I was doing a routine, it was all in fun.” But the media always ignores anything that actually settles a ruckus—they work too hard to create them to let any common-sense-spouter come along and ruin their fun. So, fin de siècle, Roseanne closed what may have been her final appearance on a stand-up comedy program by singing the song with perfect pitch and a surprisingly sweet tone. Back when the whole thing was a media firestorm (Roseanne, back when she was big, was BIG!) I remember sympathizing with her—she was obviously mugging her way through the stadium routine—and only the stupidest, most myopic cretin could have honestly seen it as an affront to the only nation that could have given rise to a ‘Roseanne’-type celebrity.

People seem to like accusing their enemies of lack of patriotism or loyalty—or, better yet, of immorality and blasphemy. But that’s just on the TV. In real life, if I don’t get along with someone all that well, I can recognize it as personal outlooks clashing, or mismatched personalities. No one in my neighborhood ever gets accused of treason or evil—and you never hear about anyone famous being accused of it either—until they get famous enough to become targets of all the embittered activists and scandalized ‘Mothers Against [enter cause here]’.

I can feel the pull of its gravity myself. When someone like Paul Ryan gets me all riled up, I get that urge. I wanna go get this guy! I wanna shout to the rooftops, “Can’t you see he’s an evil, lying, classist?!” Or when someone really gets under my skin, like Adele, I want to send her fan-mail. I’ve never talked to the woman in my life, but suddenly I want to communicate with her. Thankfully, I don’t follow through on those urges because I remind myself that I’m just drawn to the flame of attention. No one who ever gets a good dose of it fails to regret it, yet it lives on in all of us—we wanna be paid attention to. We have no reason, no great message to share—we just want everyone to look, look at me, look over here.

In our celebrity-oriented society, there are some new traditions. There’s the tradition of winning a talent show on TV, most notably American Idol, then getting a recording contract and then touring to promote the new CD—then going on the talk shows (morning and evening) to plug the new CD and to debut before the TV audience as a fully-vetted mini-celebrity. After that, there are forks in the road—movies, reality shows, big-time touring—these ‘winners’ have as many opportunities as they have the stamina and the talent for. But the first part, the enthronement process, if you will, is a familiar process by now—almost a tradition.

The talk-show circuit is its own tradition—no longer the plugging-directly-into-the-pulse-of-the-nation, as with the old, network-TV era of Johnny Carson’s “Tonight Show”,—but a more standardized program format there never was. Traditionally, Letterman, Leno, Conan, Ellen, Stewart, Colbert, Kimmel, Fallon, or Craig will do five-to-ten minutes of stand-up monologue based on the day’s news and the latest gossip and politics. Then we see the host do a bit: audience interaction, pre-taped clips of ‘funny’, Top Ten, Today’s Word, Back in Black, whatever. Then the lead celebrity is brought on. Film-pluggers and new TV-series stars always have a ‘clip’ to watch, and then host and guest discuss the film, or book, or Gold Medal—whatever. And that is the traditional way for an American to go to sleep at night, to dream of expensive products and exciting shows they will acquire and attend tomorrow.

There’s another new tradition. But it will wait. I plan to come back to this topic—not only to examine other, newer traditions but also to examine the changing nature of what is a ‘tradition’. Later….

Tempest by Erte

Tempest by Erte