Trump’s Xmas Party  (2017Dec26)

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Tuesday, December 26, 2017                                           1:12 PM

Trump’s Xmas Party  (2017Dec26)

The present platform of the Republican party is a disavowal of any responsibility towards every citizen. The disabled, the children, the elderly, the sick—these people should pay their own way—or die. The Republicans are equally disinterested in the female gender—except insofar as to tell them what not to do. Men should get a job—or die. And however low their wages are, they should just make do. Students must pay through the nose for education—and no new citizens are welcome (unless they’re white, that is).

This is ‘small government’—brought to you by CEOs who are too cheap to hire American labor or to use American manufacturers—economic traitors, in a word. When we look at low-wage, part-time, no benefits, no security employment, and outright unemployment, in this country we should point our rage at the business leaders, not the measly immigrant influence. Who are they kidding? Immigrants are a proportionally tiny factor compared to job-losses due to labor-exporting and manufactory-exporting.

Not only are the wealthy treasonously eager to send their commerce overseas, but they are too cheap to do a clean job when at home. They want the freedom to just dump their crap in the town that supports them, and downstream of that town—and downwind of that town. Capitalists are despoilers by nature. They bitch and moan that regulations are choking business—but we know that regulations barely restrain them from their worst excesses and greediest manipulations.

These are all simple facts—yet, if you watch the news, people on the news strangely talk about another world—a world in which America is as well-served by Republicans as by any other party. This could only happen if the media were owned by Republicans. I think it’s self-evident now—treating the Republicans as ‘another side’ of the story is nothing more than a polite fiction that helps disguise the naked evil of Trump’s party.

The Republicans’ subtle manipulation of the undereducated and disaffected has become a national Skinner experiment—super-charged spin that has rural Americans cheering for treason and lawlessness. It is the most shameless hypocrisy. From where I stand, right now, the GOP as a whole is not so much a political party as a criminal organization—they’re the mob-run Vegas of government. A greater insult to the intent of the Founders is impossible to imagine.

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The Blowing of the Wind   (2017Dec13)

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Wednesday, December 13, 2017                                               3:16 PM

The Blowing of the Wind   (2017Dec13)

The cable news shows are about to air a presidential comment regarding the Republican Tax Bill. So I turned off the TV and went to find something useful, or at least enjoyable, to do. I know what he’ll say—he’ll tout the bill as a great Xmas present to the ‘middle class’ (he’ll lie, in other words) and I don’t need to hear it.

Graceless—that’s what Trump is—Trump and his kind. Moore is still insisting, for all I know, on a recount—and Trump (who doesn’t really care who won) said, after Jones won for Alabama Senate, that the deck was stacked against his protégé, Moore. These are the same guys that tell you to ‘sit down and shut up’, when they win—they’re not so cocky when they lose. It rather tarnishes their omnipotence act.

I find the whole situation shockingly distracting—this country argues about racial discrimination, while both blacks and whites—and everyone—are being pressed into the new, 21st-century slavery of unregulated capitalism. You may think me a liberal, but I am only one who has trouble ignoring math. Since the 1970’s American workers’ wages have stagnated. Without changing a thing, we all become a little poorer every decade—because the price of everything else goes up.

I have always been disgusted by the way we give ourselves to an employer—they decide the terms, the hours, the wages—even whether you get the job or not—and, as the owners, they get to keep all the profits from everyone’s work. That’s nothing new—early socialism was all about the rights of the workers—why do you think it became a federal crime to be Red? But, even with pressure, how can everyone bring themselves to just accept too little for their time and effort—while the owners get richer and fatter? Is the lesson of Capitalism that only Owners can afford to pretend to human dignity?

Unions became corrupted from within and without—there are still all kinds of laws limiting the power of workers to unionize. And I think this is how the rot gets in. First, socialist ideas were exciting—they started to catch on. The government reacted harshly and promoted Capitalism as the only Godly form of society. The Cold War enshrined Capitalism as a known Good in the minds of Americans.

We emerge from the nightmare of the Blacklist, but now Socialism is a quaint old notion, meant for Europeans and other odd people. Most Americans couldn’t even explain the difference between Socialism and Communism (except perhaps to say that Great Britain is Socialist and China is Communist). Capitalism is a trusted old friend to America—no one can deny its enormous success under past conditions—this is not an attack on commercial growth, per se.

However, as with the ending of the frontier—and the governmental response to the loss of that ‘escape valve’—we Americans today have to face facts: many nuances of ‘frontier’ have been lost in the advent of Cyber. Add to that the inevitable merging into a complex whole of all existing businesses—and the steadily declining number of people who own them—and what results is an ossified plutocracy, mouthing about freedom and equality.

Cyber has nearly wiped out paper, historically ‘overnight’. And for every surviving paper-use you can name, I can name a hundred extinct ones—I can even remember when an army of messengers carried envelopes from one office to another—Manhattan workdays saw sidewalks filled with them—all making a living wage, too.

Amazon has nearly wiped out malls—and all the many products and services that once enjoyed uniqueness—and all the travel and dining and movie-going that went with our late mall culture. It died so young—it seems only yesterday that my daughter was joining her school-friends in the latest thing—hanging out at the mall—and I felt bad because we didn’t have malls when I was growing up.

The list of professions and activities falling prey to the Cyber age, and disappearing from culture and commerce, grows every day. You can talk about the infinite possibilities of Cyber—but meanwhile, for the average joe, it looks like a lot of dwindling—you know? As the population grows, the delights of rural America become harder to come by—we closed the frontier over a century ago and even without immigration, we’ve had a pretty healthy population growth.

That’s another thing we have to face facts about. Throughout history, healthy population growth was a positive good—more manpower more than made up for more mouths to feed. But the world is full of people—in many ways, too many people (though I wouldn’t put it quite like that)—and civilization is quickly ending the concept of human labor. This changes the value of family size, regardless of your religious thoughts or feelings.

So large families become excessive, rather than practical. By the same token, the whole problem of low wages, of zero oversight on wages, is a sub-problem of the looming disaster—what will the Capitalists do with their labor pool when they don’t need the ‘middle class’ anymore?

It troubles me greatly that this subject seems glaringly untrodden—corporate America has been supplied with healthy, well-educated, capable employees since before the Revolution. Owners employ as many workers as they need and leave the rest to their own devices—if some employees are no longer needed, they, too, are then left their own devices. All over the country, almost every American is a vital part of some corporate business or industry.

Corporate America has always relied on the quality of American workers to compete and win against any other country’s businesses. Yet when an American worker is not employed, he or she is left to take care of themselves as best they can. This is a great convenience to business owners—all the benefits of America’s citizenry, without a single responsibility for their care and feeding, as a whole. Three guesses who decided it should work this way. What I can’t understand is why no one questions it?

Is it any different from the recent debates over whether business owners made their fortunes without anyone else, or if the modern infrastructure and civilized environment of American communities (and the capable labor pool) might not have been involved? See, I think ‘Owners’ get a little overzealous in their self-image—they’re much quicker to assume decision-making is their right, when many decisions are as much a matter of law or decency, as of business concerns.

I’m equally tired of the ‘budget trumps every other consideration’ argument—for things like, say, the enormous expense of ripping out and replacing all the plumbing in the town of Flint, MI with pipes that don’t poison the children. That argument is what created the Climate Crisis—money-grubbing owners pushing back on clear-cut science out of sheer greed—they should all have boils for a year—and now it’s fifty years later, these toads are still croaking while Cali burns and Florida sinks.

So, long story short—I think corporate America has strung along the American people as an on-call labor pool for long enough. Now that we can see the beginnings of automated commerce, it’s time for all us to agree that Americans will have to be subsidized in a laborless future—and that if we wait for that evolution to complete itself before securing peoples’ welfare, it will be a nightmare that any sci-fi writer would be proud of. Just think about.

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My Sincerest Condolences   (2017Oct23)

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Monday, October 23, 2017                                               2:13 PM

Condolences   (2017Oct23)

I want to express my heartfelt condolences to the United States of America. Losing so many of your treasured offspring, all at once, must cause unimaginable heartbreak.

Your Separation of Church and State—your eldest—the engine of your supremacy–finally succumbing to the vermin gnawing at her roots.

Your Democracy—between being sold out and being taken for granted—has unbarred the door to ignorance and division, becoming a front for autocracy.

Your Republican Party has devolved into a virtual cesspit—quite openly and publicly–and the fact that they still beat the Democrats proves that the Voters (though less than half of them have earned the right to describe themselves so—except as, perhaps, ‘abstentions’) have forgotten that ‘We the People’ implies some minimal amount of involvement.

Your Freedom of the Press has been imprisoned by media conglomerates—seeking only our attention, not our health—and the news has become a siren song, distracting us from the deadly rocks before us—to focus on an old man’s Twitter-feed.

And that same dirty old man has obliterated your most august Office of the Presidency—coating it with the slime of incompetence, disrespect, oafishness, and treason. His treason is multi-pronged—he attacks the Constitution because it won’t let him be a dictator—he attacks our ideals because he is a misogynist, racist, classist prig—he attacks our education because he doesn’t value knowledge as much as money—and he attacks our self-respect by telling blatant lies, right to our faces, daring us to do anything about it.

O America! You’ve heard bullshit before—it shouldn’t surprise you that the pig who claimed it wasn’t great, by saying he would make it great ‘again’, has leached out every drop of greatness garnered in your two-hundred-plus years of glory. I can’t tell you how sorry I am.

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Policy, Theoretically   (2017Sep27)

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Wednesday, September 27, 2017                                              3:24 PM

Policy, Theoretically   (2017Sep27)

Trump spouts an endless stream of lies, hate-speech, willful obtuseness, and the rhetoric of a school-yard bully (or is it ‘a junk-yard dog’?) yet the media displays these assaults on our society, these insults to our intelligence—then they turn around and talk about the ‘Administration’s policies’, discussing them as if they were ‘thought-out’, or ‘a settled matter’—neither of which is ever the case.

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To talk of a Trump policy is to posit a theoretical—unless we count ‘a pompous attitude and suppressed rage’ as a policy stance. Look at health care (ignoring the GOP for the moment—which, trust me, is the best you can do for them at this point). Trump’s office has never specified a single item of detail on health-care legislation—and Trump has never said anything on the subject that he hasn’t contradicted in some video archive somewhere. He has blamed specific people for his failure. He has attacked his opposition (everybody?) for thinking there is anything good in Obamacare. But positive input? No, Trump doesn’t play that.

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Now everyone is discussing tax reform—referring to Trump on this or that point—but Trump, being pointless, simply functions as a screen for GOP wealthy-donor pandering. He’ll say stuff (My god—as if this overgrown lap-dog could ever stop his yapping!) but it won’t have any bearing on anything besides himself.

The GOP will try to publicly reconcile their overall stinginess with their generosity towards the fat-cat donors, in statements that will push bamboozlement to new heights—but it’ll all be so much bullshit. Nothing new there—except perhaps the new, raw, nakedness of the GOP’s pandering to the wealthy, counter to any public-opinion-poll that shows 98% of citizens wanting the opposite. The wealthy, IMHO, are painting themselves into a corner. When there are only a dozen of them, and ten billion starving outside their mansion walls, what will their money be worth then?

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Alas, we are ruled by people who specialize in winning campaign fights—a mark against them, if anything. Look at HRC—woulda made a great leader—but she lacked Trump’s capacity for hypocrisy and bullshit. It was never about which would make a better president—lucky for Rockhead Man.

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The Ephemeral Nature of Knowledge   (2017Sep09)

GiaquintoWinter

Saturday, September 09, 2017                                          11:14 PM

The Ephemeral Nature of Knowledge   (2017Sep09)

In 1975, the two parts of the Apollo-Soyuz mission took off—Soyuz 19 launched from Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, Apollo from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. That’s how things were in my day—information was free, research was shared, all classes were open to audit. Oddly enough, science had to court interest back then.

Now that information has been commodified, the focus has turned to how the new data or discovery can be cashed in on for the highest price—even if it’s just a nuisance lawsuit against an actual inventor. If you want help with your computer, you have to pay for it. In the past, if something broke, you only payed for parts and labor—in our brave new world, we have to pay for explanations about products and services we bought in good faith. That may be the norm, but no way does that make it right and proper.

We see this info-hoarding effecting education, too, in scam seminar universities, scam online degrees, predatory school loans, and a general consensus among the business world that it is now okay for someone to be charged for information—and as always ‘caveat emptor’. Conversely, as Bill Maher addressed in his ‘New Rules’ last night, people can be charged for what they don’t know:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xP13QTOI9z4&list=PLAF22812129BFCD50&index=1

 

There is another side of the information situation—YouTube, Google, Wikipedia, Gutenberg.org, et. al—the Net-Neutrality crowd, so to speak—which allows anyone with computer access to self-educate, up to and including PhD-level science lectures from Ivy League professors on YouTube. The only catch is that it is all public-access, public-domain. For example, let’s look at http://www.gutenberg.org (The Gutenberg Project)—their mission was to make the text of every book available, online, for free.

When I first found this site, I was blown away. Previously, I had spent childhood in the library and adulthood in the bookstores—and neither could ever offer ‘every’ book, much less without leaving home. Gutenberg allows free text downloads of every classic in English literature—the only catch is, they can only offer what is in the public domain. Amazon started selling the for-profit books, the latest, the bestsellers, anything really—it was a bibliophile’s dream, even before they started in with e-books.

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Today, when you go to Gutenberg’s site, it has been hybridized, offering the same free downloads, but with a Kindle e-book-file download-option—so users can keep their reading material all on one device. The oddest part is that some of Gutenberg’s offerings have been re-issued as e-book classics by the publishers of the hard copy—making it possible to buy a book (say Jane Austen’s Emma) on Amazon, that is available free on Gutenberg. I know because I have done it—and keep both editions on my Kindle out of sheer cussedness.

But my point is that if you read every book they have (I’m joking—an impossible task, in one lifetime) you still would not be acknowledged academically in any way. The same is true for whatever you learn online—even the degree-issuing online institutions are condescended to by the analog schools—as if being on-site really impacts most of today’s workplaces.

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However, you can do things with knowledge—that is its ultimate purpose—so even if education can’t get you a job, it can still help you invent your own. Nevertheless, the sheepskin (as a ticket into a well-paid position) is a commodity now—and must be paid for. But all these conditions are just the extremes of greed brought out by the commodification of knowledge.

The real danger is the stagnation of research and development. Not only are the greed for profits skewing the directions of researching, but the findings themselves are kept confidential.

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The boom days of Thinking are over. In Einstein’s time, German universities were hubs of intercourse between academics and scientists, as were the great schools of Britain and the rest of Europe—and American institutions as well. Traveling to mingle with others in one’s field, holding conventions and seminars on the challenges of the day—it was as free as a bird. Nobody knew what an NDA was—hell, scientists at NASA were challenging the government’s Security strictures (mid-Cold War) because they claimed that science could only exist as a global effort, with shared information. Imagine.

And it is worth mentioning that the guy who ran IBM, who put up signs around the offices with the one word ‘THINK’—was not being cute. After two world wars, people didn’t waste time sitting around thinking—no one had had that kind of leisure in living memory. But it was exactly what IBM needed its employees to do. He had to actually encourage them to remember that thinking was their job now.

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The reason for the change was that academics had entered the everyday—it had started with autos and radios and such—but now people had electrified homes, TVs, rocket ships—and as the IBM staff thunk, it only got more complicated and scientific. Now, I’d have to write several paragraphs to summarize all the modern stuff in our modern lives.

But the dichotomy is still there—we still believe that achievement should make you sweat. We still believe that just sitting and figuring something out is a waste of time—‘things are okay as they are’. We are wrong to believe that.

We have accepted all the gifts of technology, but pretended that it was all for free. We are close to recognizing that technology has a cost on our environment—several decades have been spent on that inconvenient truth—and there are still those who refuse to acknowledge the bill coming due.

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We haven’t even begun to address the cost to our society of technology. If we are going to have our children growing up around wireless electronic devices, we need to start calculating the parameters of how much their development will be influenced, or even damaged, by certain gadgets, apps, and games. We also need to address the asocializing effect which smartphones have on both children and adults.

Beyond that, it would be nice to have a grown-up discussion about the fact that half of society has integrated itself with the Internet, to the point of total dependency on its reliability—while the other half is finding ways to disrupt online systems for political or profitable gain, assuring us that the Internet can never be secure in the way we need it.

Yesterday’s announcement about the Equifax hack, exposing private info on millions of Americans and their finances, leaves all those people vulnerable to ID-theft and bank fraud. And this is the same system that runs our banks, our government, our phones, and damn near everything else—while totally unsecure. I’d like to talk about that—wouldn’t you?

Still, the ‘big boss’ paradigm persists—the idea that a strongman like Trump is America’s best choice for a leader, here in the twenty-first century—should be a joke. A man who can’t even use Twitter without typos is the wrong guy to be in charge of an online, subatomic, robotic world, okay? Bluster is still very effective—a lot can be done with bluster. But like many American workers today, having an old skill-set leaves one obsolete for the challenges of today.

And while all the fat cats are getting rich off of each new boner pill or wireless ear-pod, real forward movement in science is relatively crippled by the secrecy and the patent lawsuits and the proprietary research that’s kept hidden.

It’s time for one of my ‘true stories from history’. In ancient China, the emperor’s court was very exclusive—successive layers of the grounds were off-limits to the public and to lesser officials. One of the innermost places was the workshop of the Emperor’s scientists and engineers. When one emperor’s reign ended, the new emperor would appoint new scientists and engineers. In this way, many inventions and discoveries came and went.

In eighth century China, an artificer created the first escapement clockwork—but the usurping Emperor caused all record of the clock’s design (and the clock) to be destroyed. Clocks would disappear, until they were reinvented in Europe, in the fourteenth century.

People tend to focus on firsts—who gets credit for inventing a new thing—who gets credit for noticing some physical constant for the first time? But this story struck me not as a story of invention, but a cautionary tale about the ephemeral nature of knowledge. If the machines break, if the books get burnt (or locked away), if the kids don’t get educated—all technology, all knowledge—just disappears. And information is a lot easier to keep than it is to find.

The way to preserve information is to disseminate it, print it, teach it, put it online, make a movie about it. The way to lose information is to hoard it, to dole it out for a price—as we have seen, when information becomes a commodity, a lot of cheap knock-offs get sold—fake news, scam universities, corporate climate-change denial. The truth is precious is its own right—putting a price-tag on knowledge only corrupts it.

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A Lover of History   (2017Aug26)

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Saturday, August 26, 2017                                                3:30 PM

A Lover of History   (2017Aug26)

I’m not a believer, but I sing “God Bless America” just as loud as anyone else—I love this country. And I admire its greatness—its ideals, its inventions, its victories, and its opportunities. When Trump says MAGA, he simply reveals his ignorance of America’s true and enduring greatness—something he has continued to do for over 200 days now.

America is a dream dreamt by most of the rest of the world—not the land, but the culture of freedom and inclusion and opportunity—that’s America’s greatness—and ironically, it is threatened by the very con-man who ran on MAGA. Big surprise, right?

But I don’t want to discuss that blimp today. I want to talk about seeing America with open eyes—seeing that, in spite of its many achievements, there is plenty to regret in its bloody and divisive history. We are currently at war with a country that surrendered to us sixteen years ago—and at war with another group borne of the fighting—that’s some sad, stupid shit.

But America’s history is not a pretty picture. Those of us with the luxury to sit around and post online all day, with a fridge full of food and an electrified house and good roads—we tend to forget that it took over four hundred bloody, horrifying years to get here—and if we’re not mindful, it will all go down the drain.

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First, we killed off all the innocent native people, who lived here before we ‘discovered’ it. Then we set to shipping as much of the natural spoils (fur pelts, lumber, new products) as possible back to Europe. Britain and Europe sent criminals and refugees off to our country—just to remove such people from the civilized world.

Okay, that was glib—but let me just say that I still respect Americans who take pride in their pioneer and settler forebears—that process was a grueling one, demanding incredible courage and sacrifice. But it was also a bloody one—and the pioneers were, from the aboriginal viewpoint, merciless invaders.

Even when native Americans surrendered to the ‘civilized’ white people, it was always a lie—the colonists and later, the United States, would always make a binding pledge to their captives—and then turn around and break it—always. If one is proud of one’s heritage, it’s always dangerous to examine that history too closely.

Further, let me point out, the Europeans prized furs and lumber because they had denuded the European landscape of same—even without the benefit of industrial technology, human beings, like goats, can destroy an ecosystem simply by living there.

Also, the vast majority of immigrants (colonists) being criminals and refugees made for a rather anti-establishmentarian culture in the North American part of the ‘New World’. Eventually, we rebelled against the Church, the King, and wrote Founding Documents that specifically direct the citizens to keep firearms and rise up against the government again—whenever we weren’t happy with the people in charge. And people wonder why the United States has ten or twenty times the annual gunshot deaths of the rest of the world combined.

So, that’s just for starters—then we started kidnapping Africans, shipping them to America and making slaves of them. It seemed like a great idea at the time, I’m sure—but, in hindsight, it had a few problems. And slavery was the worst of it—but it was far from all of it.

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The white, English-speaking Protestants (along with the Dutch in New York) have always exuded a pompous, entitled discrimination against anyone from out of town—like Peyton Place people. They persecuted the Asian immigrants, the Irish immigrants, the Scandinavian immigrants, the Italian immigrants, the Polish immigrants, the Jewish immigrants, the Indian immigrants—I know I’m leaving a few out—Americans love their pet peeves.

Nor is this ancient history—as a child, I remember people discussing whether an Irish Catholic (John F. Kennedy—and me) could ever be elected president of the United States. But African-Americans still win—white America has, somehow, made a fetishistic art-form out of hating African-Americans.

We’re the only country with an entire region characterized by a nostalgia for the ‘good old days’ of African-Americans in chains. We’ve had a hundred years of ‘the first Black this’ or ‘the first Black female that’—and you’d think Barack Obama’s two terms would put a period to all that, but no—there’s still some slots open for discriminating white people to take note of.

We even have a white nationalist movement—right now—that sees a leveled playing field as ‘reverse racism’—these are many of the same yahoos that complain that our religious-freedom-laws are an imposition on the freedom of their religion—no one has the heart to explain to these morons that that’s what it’s for.

But all the above is just human nature—we haven’t even started on how greed (aka Capitalism) has transformed our environment, our lives, and our laws—even our elections. But pollution, corruption, neglect, and community apathy are all much too complex, ingrown, and depressing for me to go into here and now.

All I’m saying is that America is neither simple nor easy, neither perfect nor perfectly evil—it is a struggle, a moral experiment, a system that bets on good against bad. It is complicated enough that sloppy-thinking, ignorant people like our president just get in the way of people of good will—the entitlement that makes them ignorant of our true character is the same entitlement that makes them a danger to the character of our nation.

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Media Milquetoasts   (2017Aug24)

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Thursday, August 24, 2017                                               4:29 PM

Media Milquetoasts   (2017Aug24)

As we know, Trump has a fetish for “I know you are, but what am I?” During the campaign, Trump echoed every accusation HRC made against him: unfit, corrupt, collaborator with Russians, using charity for personal gain, etc. Every time Hillary described an aspect of Trump, he found some paper-thin rationale to throw the accusation right back in her face.

The media, instead of reporting on his fetish for “I know you are, but what am I?”, decided to run every statement he made, as if he had as much reason to say it as she did, even though he had never said anything about any of these things, until someone with a sharp mind had thought them up.

Then, after those countless PR ‘gimme’s, they had to report some facts about Trump lying. Then he, of course, called them liars and ‘fake news’—and, instead of filing a slander lawsuit against him, the media reported on his ‘fake news’ statements, as if he had as much reason to say it as they had, even though he had never said anything about any of these things, while the media had been playing for his side.

Today I felt the assholery peaking at maximum—Trump isn’t just mirroring his critics anymore—his latest psycho-reversal: explaining stupid to smart people. He and his cronies are following up his recent word-salad public statements with commentary about how it all makes a sly kind of sense, if you look at it from Trump’s point of view. Sorry, BLOTUS—‘five dimensional chess’ is just a buzzword, meaning: you’ve crawled so far up your own ass that you can’t back out.

Yet, still, the media hops onboard with the agenda-setter-in-chief—never mind the real actions and consequences happening behind the scenes of this apocalyptic presidency—let’s just keep re-tweeting him and his friends. Sure, that sounds about right…yeah, sure. Besides, real journalism has that pesky ‘work’ element to it—eh?

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Crisis of Controversy   (2017Aug07)

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Sunday, August 06, 2017                                         4:22 PM

Crisis of Controversy   (2017Aug07)

I just watched a report on the opioid crisis—our country is being decimated by it. In a way, the opioid crisis is the natural next step, after sixteen years of fear-mongering and internecine bickering in our politics. Politicians rang that “post-9/11 threat level” like a cowbell, keeping the entire country on tenterhooks for years, starting reflex-wars that still haven’t ended. People are fleeing the pain and negativity in many ways—opioids being just one, our present clown-presidency being another, desperate example of wishful thinking.

This country has finally run low on the only thing it always had too much of: Morale. Our chants of “USA! USA!” have a hollow ring to them, as if we were clapping for Tinkerbell’s life. We need another Franklin D., to re-teach us that we have nothing to fear except being afraid. And we certainly need some retro (i.e. fit for the office) president to come in and point this country towards the future again. These wealthy, corrupt elites are like fifth columnist agitators, who start a riot—just to provide cover for their looting and violence.

Our government is not some special reality show being broadcast on special channels—it is, at root, a fairly straightforward affair, that people of good will conducted poorly—but still, it was better than these soulless people now making a rat’s nest of neglect and privilege out of offices they’re not fit to fill. It is unfortunate that journalism has spawned two idiot half-brothers, Click-bait and the 24-hour News-cycle.

These new industries thrive on our disruption, confusing the needful work of a free press with entertaining gossip and hypotheticals—exacerbating problems under the guise of ‘providing information’, mixing the opinion-based editorializing and spin with the hard news. The ‘information’ thus provided uses the term so loosely that it impacts peoples’ faith in the real journalists—who are then vulnerable to accusations of ‘fake news’ from the dick-head-in-chief.

Someone like Trump finds a friend in these outlets—but they provide no assistance to any serious public servant who isn’t prepared to vamp for the ratings. The neo-realisti-cons have even carved out a demographic convinced that their propaganda is an alternative to the reporting in the NY Times or the Washington Post. And while journalists clearly are not famous for their precision, the journalism practiced at those papers is far more rigorous and objective than the Foxified alt-reality.

As always, there’s a dead giveaway, if you know where to look—I’ll give you a hint: it’s in the retractions. A paper like the Times will print a retraction at the drop of a hat—if an error of fact is pointed out to them, they will correct their error without a second thought.

A salient feature of the alt-right ranters, including Fox News, is their instinct to debate a refutation—they grasp their ‘facts’ to themselves much more tightly than an objective journalist. In their very rare instances of being forced into a retraction—it’s always partial, conditional, mealy-mouthed, unapologetic, and dismissive of the whole affair once it goes counter to their wishes. That’s a far cry from even an attempt at objectivity—and a sign of their ignorance, that they haven’t the good grace to be ashamed of such transparent mendacity.

It’s a tricky thing to call them out on—their bad impression of real journalists is an insult to ideal of journalism, and of being a journalist—but it passes muster for the distracted, upset viewers it’s targeted towards, so it works for them—when it really should have made them a disgraced laughingstock.

You know why Bernie is a Socialist? Do you know why we need socialism in America today? It’s because Capitalism has been gamed to such an extent that only some aggressive spread-the-wealth programs have any chance of stopping our slippery slide into a Cash Dictatorship. If we can’t find a way to deke all these lobbyists and campaign-contributors, we’ll never rescue our democracy from the banks and the fat-cats.

Meditations on F**kery   (2017Jul16)

Sunday, July 16, 2017                                              2:41 PM

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Meditations on F**kery   (2017Jul16)

It being Sunday, our thoughts naturally turn to God. What is God? Right now, I’m inclined to believe that God is the Summer—that bounteous blooming that gets Life through the less biddable Seasons, especially dread Winter.

Good, now we’ve gotten our Sabbath meditations out of the way, we can move on. I watched some TV news today (always a mistake) and heard people on the Right trying to call into question whether any laws have been broken. Well, yes, my law has been broken—when your entourage spends every day bending and twisting into unnatural positions, attempting to hair-split their way out of blatant perfidy, something has been broken—call it faith, or ethics, or morality—Trump’s administration has a black-hole where most people have these things—and we can all sense the absence of decency in this gang of apes that abuses authority under the guise of governing.

They like to latch onto a buzzword and throw it about until it loses all meaning—in this instance, ‘collude’ is on the chopping block. Fine, forget ‘collude’—‘collude’ makes it sound like something done in the open, anyway. This was done skulkingly, and still it tries to wrap itself in lies and claims of confidentiality and privilege. This was more ‘conspiracy’ than ‘collusion’ and that’s what they should be charged with: ‘Conspiracy’. They have conspired against the Constitution itself. They have conspired against us, the American people.

They have conspired in secret and withheld the truth from FBI investigators and Congressional hearings alike—their credibility would be zero—should be zero—but I believe, not in the president’s tweet-storms, but in the unbalanced mind they represent. HRC warned people, “When Trump tells you who he is, believe it.” And, while nothing else said by Trump et. al. could be taken on faith, we can say ‘If he tweets like he’s crazy, believe him.’

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I noticed one reporter asked Trump’s lawyer, J. Sekulow, when the president knew about his son’s meeting with Russians—and the lawyer responded vaguely, saying it wasn’t very long ago—and this is emblematic, systematic of their habitual recourse to thumb-twiddling when caught in a scandal. If someone asks me ‘when?’, I’d say a date or a time or both—or I’d ask to get back to them, if I didn’t know. But this lawyer knew, and wouldn’t say—he also avoided perjuring himself by giving any real answer—one assumes because there may be paper-trails that show Trump knew months ago, or even as it happened.

But for Sekulow to pretend that the president just got a quick notice a few days ago, or some such nonsense, that his son, son-in-law, and then-campaign-manager all had a meeting with a Russian posse with close ties to Putin—as if this wouldn’t have come up in discussions about Russia investigations over the last six months—or even before inauguration, when oppo-research on HRC still mattered. Expecting listeners to suspend disbelief enough to make that sound normal or sane—is asking too much of TV—even when you blanket the entire Sunday morning talk-show circuit.

But that is the ultimate Trump-camp hallmark: to strain credulity with shabby pretense of credibility. If it’s important, they’ve forgotten it. If it’s valued, they’ve dismissed it. If it doesn’t fit their narrative, they’ll cut off its feet and make it fit, by gawd. And finger-pointing? OMG—six months in, and Trump is still blaming Obama for problems with the Trump presidency—Thanks, Obama! And it’s always a little bit Bill and Hil’s fault, too—of course.

I can’t wait to see the ass-end of this f**ker—so I can get back to laughing at the inane and enjoying the ridiculous. Finding them among state policy is no joke. Let’s put f**kery back where it belongs—in a Monty Python sketch.

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Don’t You Dare Use the Word ‘Care’   (2017Jun23)

Friday, June 23, 2017                                               2:27 PM

Don’t You Dare Use the Word ‘Care’   (2017Jun23)

The Republicans never wanted those tens of millions of citizens to have health coverage—that would mean “socialized medicine” (that dreaded scourge that keeps the entirety of the-rest-of-the-developed-world healthy). Besides, worried the GOP, how will insurers and pharmacists maximize their profit-potential with the government looking over their shoulders?

And so the Republicans fought tooth-and-nail to prevent passage of the Affordable Care Act—they called it a ‘death panel’, they scare-mongered until scare-mongering became the habit of theirs it is, today. The Democrats passed the Affordable Care Act. Tens of millions of citizens have health coverage today because of it.

Repealing the Affordable Care Act would threaten the lives of tens of millions of citizens. Repairing the Affordable Care Act would be the obvious choice for any sensible person.

But if voters had any sense, these charlatans wouldn’t be elected into the offices they hold. How they can shamelessly wave their billionaires’ tax-cut in our faces like they’re “doing good” is beyond me—is there no limit to their dis-ingenuousness?

A child could see through their blatant posturing—just as a child could see through Trump’s blatant posturing, when he started tweeting about “tapes” of his convos with Comey. These dopey clowns that run our country would be met with gales of laughter, if not for the horror they practice upon the youngest and weakest among us—I think I understand Stephen King’s “It” a lot better now.

 

Pack of Dogs   (2017Mar17)

magrittepipe

Friday, March 17, 2017                                            8:51 AM

I can’t say enough bad things about the Trump administration, or the Republicans who collaborate with him. I could simply describe what they’ve been doing, or, thankfully, what they’ve been trying to do (judges have, so far, held back his most traitorous executive orders). It makes my blood run cold.

And the evil goes so deep—first there’s Trump and his coterie—a ranker bunch of troglodytes is hard to imagine—but then there’s the Republican Congress as well, quietly doing even worse, more long-lasting damage to this country. Then there’s the barrage of hypocritical distractions—like Trump’s ‘Obama tapped me’ claim, or his wishful thinking about the media being unreliable. Then there’s the gutting of the State Department’s career lifers—the institutional memory of government—and the firings of Federal D.A.s—including the one who was investigating Trump. And the rolling-back of Obama’s last six months of legislation—for no reason other than it being Obama’s.

The perfect storm of a popular criminal winning popularity, the media’s lobotomy over HRC’s fitness to serve, and the extreme partisanship of the GOP, making them willing to go along with Trump’s mendacity—all of this puts our country in the hands of the worst bunch of cronies imaginable. One of these assholes actually used the word ‘compassionate’ when talking about cutting the ‘Meals on Wheels’ program.

I don’t think we can wait for grounds for impeachment—we need a national referendum on our confidence in Trump as head of state—followed by a special election. Otherwise, we stand on ceremony while this pack of dogs chews up America’s best furniture.

And that’s the trouble, isn’t it? You and I—we’re capable of feeling shame, capable of feeling a sense of responsibility, unable to see ourselves as better than our neighbor, unable to ignore ethics. What a disadvantage that puts as at! We’re like an old-fashioned guy, who’s too much a gentleman to strike a lady, facing off against a deranged bitch with a razor. We need to climb on our high horse, to strike down this monster with all the justifiable outrage of good Americans.

All that’s needed is a consensus that Trump is beyond the pale, that he is a mistake we made—we don’t need to wait politely for four years—we need to act. I call for a national referendum and a vote of no confidence in this pig masquerading as our leader. Or we can wait until they’ve done all the damage they can—and spend the next twenty years struggling to get back to where we were three months ago.

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Another Break With Ethical Tradition   (2017Mar15)

ShirtwaistFire_01

Wednesday, March 15, 2017                                            3:32 PM

The Ides of March are upon us. And how fitting, when here in the present our would-be empress was character-assassinated, leaving the throne to a pack of criminals. And how paper-thin their pretense at public service—a quick bill to allow coal-waste dumping in local waterways, as an appetizer for removing 24 million from health insurance—and gutting the EPA (something even that old crook, Nixon, saw the point of enacting).

In what way are these shameless epicureans serving the public good? In what world are we not being sold out to the moneyed interests? And does wanting a ‘change’ in Washington mean wanting more protection for the big corporations and less concern for the average citizen—along with a heaping helping of incompetence and malfeasance? How is it that legitimate leadership has never before required so many PR people to be expert liars?

I saw a few minutes of FOX News today—they were clawing at Rachel Maddow’s reputation for revealing some information about Trump’s tax returns—claiming that making a big deal about them was liberal hysteria. No discussion (that I heard) addressed the fact that he is the only modern president to hide that information during the campaign—and continue to hide it, even after taking office. Neither did I hear anyone question why that is. But, boy, did they have fun ragging on Rachel.

Not that we should expect much different from a guy who won’t even put his assets in a blind trust for the duration of his term—another break with ethical tradition. Listen, my dad used to put me in charge when he was on vacation, too—it didn’t mean it wasn’t his business anymore. Ironically, while Trump has become the world’s most famous liar, he gets very emotional about how we should trust him to always do the right thing—I’d like to see him do one right thing.

An objective observer might remark on how ‘bigly’ the Trump camp jumps on any error, real or imagined, from anyone outside their circle—yet they minimize any errors of their own as if the rules don’t really apply when talking about such important poohbahs as Trump. But hypocrisy is a big word—and remember—‘nobody knew how complicated’ it would be to be president. How much more complicated would it become if he were to attempt to be a good president? Please. Let’s be realistic.

Ending the EPA is such a disastrous wish that many people are reassuring themselves by thinking, ‘oh, Trump’s too incompetent to make it happen’. My concern is merely the fact that he wants to. There was a famous fire in NYC’s Triangle Building a century ago—many women were killed due to the fact that the owner chained the exit-doors shut. The outrage over that mass immolation caused a few labor reforms. But here we are, one hundred years later, and Trump wants to chain the safety-doors to the entire country.

In what universe is this pig making a successful pretense of leadership?

ShirtwaistFire_02

Even If Millions Die   (2017Mar14)

SimonLegree

Tuesday, March 14, 2017                                        9:11 AM

Blizzard today—trying to make up for a virtually snow-less winter—everything’s shut down—we cross our fingers that the electricity stays on. They named the storm ‘Stella!’, mostly so everyone could do a bad Marlon Brando imitation, I think.

The SCOTUS nominee is being heard today—the Dems have found a case where he ruled a man was legally fired after he deserted his broke-down truck in sub-zero weather. This sort of warm-blooded-humans-vs.-cold-blooded-cash dichotomy seems to be the real dividing line in politics today.

Bernie Sanders’ socialistic leanings are the one side of it—recognizing the dysfunctional aspects of Capitalism and having a desire to make government more humane and supportive. The Right wants money to remain money, should mountains of corpses pile up or not. Of course, they can’t be that blunt—so they go with ‘small government’—meaning a government that stands by and watches while business owners eat their fill of human misery.

And it isn’t their cruelty that disturbs me—it’s the mindless inefficiency of allowing millions to sink into difficulties—difficulties that will become a public expense, eventually—instead of implementing a significantly smaller ‘preventative’ public expense, up front. That’s the thing with the Right—they bitch about spending money on people, about ‘caretaker’ government—but they never address the costs, going forward, of neglecting those people.

The Right has taken education and health care and made them profit centers—and dysfunctional. College graduates start their careers as indentured servants to the banks—two centuries ago, you had to commit a crime to be treated that way. Still, it pairs nicely with all the for-profit-prisons that are reintroducing African-Americans to slavery. Surgeons and specialists hold out their hands for money, like maître de’s who keep out the riff-raff. To the Right, life, liberty, and learning are commodities to be paid for, or withheld. Inefficient. Short-sighted. And, yes, cold-fucking-blooded.

Trump

No wonder Trump is their idol—the most thoughtless, uncaring, authoritarian pig they could find. And don’t be fooled into gleeful celebration that Putin is now criticizing Trump—Putin wanted him in office because of the disruption he would inevitably create—now that he’s there, Putin is free to pile on with the naysayers—it even makes him look less complicit—so don’t be fooled.

But there is a strange beauty to the Right’s agenda—politicians who convince their voters that government is a bad thing—genius! Rich people who convince the middle class that the poor are the problem—inspired! Children of immigrants, in a nation of immigrants, that want to spend billions on a wall—to keep out the immigrants—incredible!

The Democrats, as uninspiring as they may be, are the only party that makes sense for a non-millionaire, or anyone who works for a living. That the Republicans can still make a pretense of representing the Silent Majority is indicative of our muddled journalism and our lack of education. The CBO estimates that 24 million people will lose health insurance under TrumpCare, but the GOP are rushing it through anyway—yeah, they’re on your side alright.

And with all the stumbling and bumbling in DC, the stock market still thrives—those people know what most voters do not—that the GOP is good for business, and will always be good for business, even if millions die.

MrPotter

Kamps for Kids   (2017Mar04)

Saturday, March 04, 2017                                        7:08 PM

Americans are crazy. We started our country by revolution—and then decided we’d keep our guns, just in case, forever. If you think about it, to this day, if a state threatens to secede everyone takes it very seriously. Imagine—an over-two-century old union of more than fifty sovereignties—and if a single one of those states said, ‘we’re gonna secede’ no one would laugh. Even with the Civil War’s failed secession as an object lesson in how destructive that is—Americans still like to think of our country as a work-in-progress. States still like to think they are stand-alone entities.

It’s a natural mistake—look at Brexit—a union even greater than our own—and one of its strongest members sees no better move on the geopolitical chessboard than petulant isolation. The European Union may outweigh the United States, but they don’t have our experience—guys, you’re only supposed to threaten to do something as stupid as quitting.

I shouldn’t brag, though. With our new ‘alternate reality’ schism, I’m sure the citizens of several states would grab their guns and stand at the barricades, if Bannon told them to. And even without declaring civil war, the gun-related death-toll in America outnumbers the body counts of several military hot-spots around the globe. We love our guns and if you don’t like it, I’ll plug ya.

Which makes it kind of strange that military service is such a rarity in the USA. A very small percentage of our young people go through military service as a rite of passage. Enlistment and training were an assumed stage in any man’s life, in any country, for many centuries—a man who didn’t serve in the military was no man. This tradition stretches back to the coming-of-age rituals of tribal societies. And we have broken that thread.

Don’t get me wrong—I was turning eighteen the same year that draft registration was abolished—I was one of the first people to find out what it was like to live life without any contact with military training. And while the Viet Nam war was winding down, it was not yet over—so being left out was a good thing, as far as I was concerned.

And I’m not advocating military service as part of a healthy upbringing either. But the practical results concern me. With military training confined to the innocent bystanders of drive-by shootings—and that being pretty poor training by any standard—one wonders how well-prepared we are to deal with countries where military service is still the rule.

Not because they have bigger armies or anything—just because their young people have the harder side of life rubbed in their faces as a part of their life—and while that is extremely unpleasant, it is also very eye-opening. I think a lot of young Americans are walking around with droopy eyelids—and they are in danger of becoming caught unawares by others—not just on land or sea, but in science, in business, and in trade. And from what I hear, a few of them could use the exercise, also.

It’s natural for a sixty-one-year-old to go on about how kids today need this or that—and military training may be the worst possible choice. But it seems to me that America doesn’t need a large army—not today, anyway. So, enlisting a bunch of young people in a government program of a less-exclusively-military nature might be a workable idea—it would fit in with a well-planned infrastructure renovation program and have the kids leave with some job skills, too—kind of like FDR’s CCC program.

I don’t know. I do know that coming-of-age rituals are beneficial—they help confront young people with self-discipline and the rigors of adulthood—and prepare them to be serious members of the community. There are too many places for people to gather online—and not enough places where people literally gather—it’s easy for young people to just drift off and get lost. With some sort of civil service program, we could at least reduce those who drift off to those who really want to.

When we make it hard for young people to find jobs, we send a lot of good people down into cellars with bongs, where they wait for the world to come find them. What a waste of all that youthful energy and enthusiasm. This country’s aversion to anything socialist in nature will be its undoing in the end—some things are better achieved through socialist programs—that’s just a fact. But there’s always that handful of people who’ve found a way to make a buck out of the lack of a program—and they shout bloody murder about the reds taking over, as soon as you go for their rice bowls.

Of course, if anyone listened to me, I’d be eternally damned. The reality of such a program would be corrupt, inefficient, possibly even predatory, by the time the ‘serious’ people got hold of it. But if it was done nicely, people would actually benefit from it—and so would the country as a whole. Still, we have the Soviet Union as the ultimate example of a good idea that became a genocidal crime against humanity—so perhaps I should just shut up about camps for kids.

Hurry Spring   (2017Feb21)

Tuesday, February 21, 2017                                             4:06 PM

Well, today settles it—I get maudlin towards the end of Winter. I start writing poems, I start playing piano in a minor key, I write bitter diatribes with far more than my usual cynicism. My taste in music gets a little weepy, a little dirge-y—I read more than watch TV. It’s a whole ‘Spring-better-show-up-soon’ depression-fest.

Also, I tend to write a lot more personal stuff—half of what I write this time of year is either too personal or too depressing to post—and I go on and on about stuff that I’m pretty sure isn’t driving the throngs to my blog—but that’s February for me. I’m fading fast—and I need some sunshine.

Well, things have settled down a bit—I’m used to either rooting for a Democrat administration, or I’m worrying about the one, really-big mistake that a GOP administration is currently making—I’m not used to purely dysfunctional—that’s a new one on me—and, I suspect, on all of you as well. But normalization is inevitable—short of storming Penn Ave, we’re stuck with the Clown until 2020—and the more avidly we stare, waiting for an impeachable offense, the less likely one is—‘a watched pot…’ and all that.

I’m still getting used to an America that is not actively trying to exceed itself—I’ll miss that forever, or until it returns, whichever comes first. Never before has a candidate won an election with a message of despair. “Make America great again”—I’d like to punch that fucker right in the mouth—the only thing that isn’t great about America is your benighted ass, you fucker, and the cowering, feebleminded jerks who voted for your sick agenda.

But let’s not get ourselves all worked up, every damn day, over the same old tragedy. What’s done is done. The odds on Trump sitting his whole term are long—one definite drawback to not knowing what you’re doing: you don’t know the rules. And while Trump may rubber-stamp some of the GOP’s worst legislation, they will find it hard to actually work with him—everyone does.

Fortunately for the Republicans, their platform was already custom-tailored for wealthy bastards with no public conscience—but they will inevitably try to mollify their base with something—and that’s where they and Trump will part ways. Trump’s penchant for blaming the establishment will ring rather hollow in 2020, after four years of being the establishment, so it’s hard to see him pull this off a second time—unless he actually does something.

But like most of his kind, Trump’s greatest ally would be military strife—even Bush-43 looked more dignified with Americans dying all over the place. Thus, it isn’t that I don’t want Trump to do anything—it’s that I’m afraid his ‘anything’ has some dark options waiting. Improving education, creating jobs, fixing our infrastructure—these would all be laudable accomplishments—if Trump can improve anything on such fronts, I’ll be glad to reevaluate—but I’m not going to hold my breath.

As much as I look forward to the coming of Spring, it will be all the more bitter for being a time of rebirth in an new age of tyranny—for 2017, T. S. Eliot will have got it right: “April is the cruelest month….

Today’s poem and videos all contain cannibalized artwork from my one and only book of illustrated poetry, “Bearly Bliss”. It may seem ironic that my hand-tremors make me unable to draw, yet I still try to play the piano with the same hands—this is because I’m used to sucking at the piano, whereas I was once pretty good with a pen.

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To-Do List   (2017Feb15)

godessette

Wednesday, February 15, 2017                                       12:37 PM

We get it—you guys love a good debate—if I had Kelly ConJob as my truth-squirmer, I would too. Spicer, as well, though no Kelly, has been described as “the M. C. Escher of bullshit”. So, let’s say that your delusional reasoning wins every argument—that still leaves the question of what to do. And, on that score, even “He won—shut up and sit down” doesn’t really cut it.

Let’s look at the proposals we’ve heard so far. At the top, there’s ‘build a wall’, which I consider more of a ‘what not to do’—it’s efficacy is questionable, over and above (if you’ll pardon the wall analogy) the question of the cost and logistics of the actual building. We made it through two centuries and two world wars without a wall—the crying need for it, here in 2017, still eludes me. And if America truly requires a wall, why are we stopping at one? Where is the wall for the Canadian border?

Then again, sea-walls on both coasts would actually be of use, in the global warming and ocean-level rises to come—why are we building a wall in the only place we don’t really need one? Never mind.

Moving on—we have the travel ban, the refugee freeze, and the repeal of Obamacare—but these are things being undone, not things we’re going to do. They all represent giant steps backward—and even if you don’t agree with that sentiment, there’s still the question of, outside of what we’ll undo, what (again) are you going to do?

Trump’s excuses for re-upping our carbon-footprint may sound like they are designed to bring back manufacturing and other jobs—but that’s not what they actually do—they simply make profit for Big Oil. The opportunities we are losing by our reluctance to embrace alt-energy industries is the real, long-term effect of his petroleum-friendly policies—and his bent towards commodifying education isn’t going to help the job market either.

It may be a misnomer to label Trump a traitor to his country. I suspect that wealthy people don’t see countries as rallying points in the way most of us do—they look at concentrations of wealth as the sovereignties of their world—and they’re not far wrong, though their patriotism is mere lip-service.

His continuing confusion of his presidency with a more familiar role, that of a commercial executive, is further indication that when Trump commits treason, he is ignorant of that aspect of his actions. He thinks he’s running a business, or worse yet, a TV show. Unfortunately, neither of these roles ever expects responsibility of its holder—except for the bottom line. And we’ve seen Trump’s bottom lines—often in the red—so, there’s little joy there, as well. Yet there are still those who insist they voted to put a businessman in the top slot—I might agree more fully if they’d specified a successful businessman.

Trump might have more readily caught on to the fact that ethics were involved, had he not become a member of the Republican party—but they are the Party of the Rich, so what choice did he have? As Vonnegut said, ‘we are what we pretend to be’. So, even if Trump is not the billionaire he pretends to be, he stills has to act like one.

In the end, I point out the lack of goals not to spur Donald to create some—truly, the less damage that a-hole does while in office, the better for all of us—but to point out its very comfortable absence from Trump’s agenda—he’s a fighter—he loves confrontation—but he ain’t much of a doer. His egotistic impetus to run for the office contained no vision of a better America—he only meant that, if elected, he would consider America great again—because we had elected him. And in this he is very much a Republican.

combwbattle

Trump Is God   (2017Feb11)

inferno25

Saturday, February 11, 2017                                             10:02 AM

Supporters of Trump show similarities to evangelicals—blind faith, blindness to the truth, and an eagerness to pick a fight with non-believers. And I think we can put some of the blame for our political chaos on our collective blind spot—religion. Do you have a religion? I do not. Many Americans have a religion which they are deeply invested in—and many Americans have absolutely no belief in the supernatural—horror-, or Christian- based.

America believes in religious freedom and the separation of church and state—which is good in that it protects Jews, Muslims, Sikhs, Buddhists, Hindus, and atheists. The trouble resides in its protection of orthodox and extreme religious sects—anything short of public terrorist acts is permissible—including science-denial, misogyny, and racial discrimination—all features of certain, otherwise ‘legitimate’ religions.

Just as freedom of speech is sometimes misused—as when a neo-nazi’s public speaking goes unmolested—so, too, is freedom of religion misused to perpetuate ideas like those of Julius Evola (a hero of Steve Bannon’s) who was a little too radical for Mussolini, but is enjoying a resurgence due to Trump’s administration.

America made a great leap forward when it founded itself on the idea that religion was too iffy to form a basis for our laws or our government—where, hitherto, no government was without its state religion—a partner of the secular power structure, enforcing a deeper obedience than can be achieved by mere physical intimidation. Nonetheless, in separating the church from state, we only solved half the problem.

colethomvoygolife3-d3

Atheism’s numbers are growing—now that we have ‘magic’ in flight, in medicine, in digital electronics, etc., we have less interest in the non-responsive magic of angels and deities. Open study of archeology and variant scriptures such as the Dead Sea Scrolls have given us a clearer picture of the human side of religion—offering proof that, even if the original supernatural encounters had happened, the leaders of subsequent sects modified the original faiths to meet the exigencies of change and power.

Over the centuries, changes in society and culture caused changes in religion—and modern findings of this destroy the monolithic, unchanging image that religion likes to project. If God were real, neither he (nor she) nor his rules would ever change—which makes today’s religions either false, or sacrilegious, i.e. false unto themselves.

We also have a much smaller world now—the different religions across the globe are used to being insulated from each other. But now, especially in America, one can have a neighborhood containing members of every religion on earth—and while religious freedom protects each of those faiths, it can’t protect people from noticing that these other faithful are blindly true to something entirely unconnected to that which they are blindly true to. It may seem a small thing—but the old joke is true: everyone is an atheist about all religions except their own. It is only a small step from recognizing that everyone around you believes in hogwash, to recognizing that you are in the same boat.

colethomvoygolife3-d5

Aside from the competing magic of science and technology, and the pitfalls of ‘comparison shopping’ for religion, perhaps the most insidious threat to organized faith is our recognition of the hollowness of authority. Where we once looked to religious leaders and political leaders and respected journalists as authority figures, we rarely get through a month without one of these archetypes being indicted, exposed, or debunked. Today’s surge in atheism is just a symptom of a larger tendency to distrust those in power.

To me, the whole thing is an issue of being wishy-washy or not—you either accept the magical thinking of your faith or you don’t. You can’t have it both ways. If the afterlife exists, if souls exist, if God exists—then a lot of what we are doing is wrong—and we shouldn’t be doing it. I respect the Amish for their refusal to indulge in tech. I respect the Christian Scientists for their refusal to use modern medicine. If you’re going to believe in magic, don’t be half-assed about it. These religions with one foot out the door seem hypocritical to me.

But they are in the majority—and their dilution into something modern people won’t laugh at is a far greater retreat from faith than all the furor over abortion or evolution. Their own embarrassment is a far greater enemy of their faith than any argument we atheists can provide.

pcnto33

I remember when, as a boy, the Catholic Church demoted all the saints that were too close to fairy tales—my own name-saint, Christopher, and other popular saints like St. Valentine, St. Patrick, and St. Nicklaus—were considered too apocryphal to be included in the Church’s saint’s-day calendar. They were not entirely disowned or erased, but their high visibility became an embarrassment to modern Catholics, and they were no longer to be part of our serious rites of worship. That may be where the seeds of my atheism were sown—don’t name me after the guy who supposedly carried the infant Christ across a torrential river (the Christ-bearer) and then turn around and tell me the guy might just be a fanciful legend after all. That’s no way to cement my faith.

Times change—and religions change with them. The fact that times change slowly—and that each generation is presented with a religion as if it were a static foundation—has kept this simple truth from becoming an obvious fact—until now, when change is swift and communication swifter. Religion has become pitifully threadbare in modern times—the idea that a man can have a special connection to the eternal is hard to maintain when that man gets busted for pedophilia, or when that man decides that suicide-bombers are his favorite converts.

We are stuck now between a rock and a hard place—the Muslim extremists would be perfect poster-boys for atheism, if we weren’t so dead-set on pretending that there is a significant difference between one Judeo-Christian-Muslim faith and another. People even go so far as to argue that Christianity has never indulged in murder or terrorism—a patent falsehood that only reveals a deep ignorance of history—and not very ancient history, either.

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To me, the most ugly, yet hilarious, paradox is that we, as a nation, are not ready to contemplate a presidential candidate who is an avowed atheist—yet we are completely unable to take a presidential candidate’s faith seriously. While ‘God will provide’ might make sense at home, it is beyond the pale when speaking of public policy. Reagan, Bush, et. al. were always at their most laughable when they reached back for their fundamentalist rationales to explain their decisions. And that’s overlooking the more basic paradox of one faith’s extremist becoming the leader of a multi-faith nation—or designating one faith as more quintessentially American than all the others.

Then there’s the darker issue—that, for many Americans, money is their God, and hypocritical playing on religious heartstrings is fair play, as long as there’s a profit to be made. Religion has been used as a prop for the powerful since the dawn of civilization—Karl Marx was very clear that he felt religion was used to keep the masses subject to state-determined morality. America is famous for having severed the direct link between power and faith—but such things have the ability to morph into other paradigms. We have recently seen many Americans embrace the return of faith as a political power-base—an ignorance that saddens any educated student of American history.

Religion fills a need. Even I, knowing that faith is an imaginary construct, still feel the lack of its warmth and security. My atheism has not made me feel happy or safe—I have simply had to accept that religion is false, and live with that. I even avoid promoting atheism, since I wouldn’t wish it on a happy believer. But when religion gets on its high horse, as if it were real, I am the first to rise in opposition. This defensive posture is a weak one—and the rise of atheism has spurred a sudden strength in the religious—but religion itself has weakened in its obsolescence.

inferno34

So now we have a new president who got himself elected mostly through demonizing violent extremists of a certain religion—and pretending to support the more popular Christian one. No one is blaming religion itself for any of these problems—most Americans react to Muslim extremism by redoubling their faith in Christianity—even though their differences are minor details. The insistence on blaming Muslims for terrorism is a backhanded way of avoiding religion as the true culprit. Extreme religion of any kind always puts faith above reality, worship above humanity—and there isn’t a one of them that hasn’t descended, in the end, into bloody violence.

So why this blind faith in Trump—why do facts simply bounce off the Trump supporters? My theory is that religion has become too embarrassing, but people still need something to believe in—and Trump fills the bill. Like a god, he offers easy answers, no explanations, and an unbounded self-regard. Further, he sees no obligation to jive with observable reality. If you are an evangelist, or have evangelist leanings, in a world that is slowly waking up from the dream of heaven and hell, Trump is a perfect substitute. Plus, he allows you to attack someone else’s religion without even having to stand up and declare yourself a member of your own.

Xenophobic Nonsense   (2017Feb07)

Tuesday, February 07, 2017                                             6:47 PM

Okay, time to slow things down. Trump’s blitzkrieg of incompetence has the overall effect of forcing us to play his game, on his timetable. He does and says so many inflammatory, imprudent, borderline-illegal things that we simple folk are spurred into instant response—there’s never time for sober discussion—his stupidity is faster than light.

And while it may seem impossible to justify ignoring Trump and his minions for even one second—I sense that pulling back from his shit-storm of non-ideas, and taking the time to laugh at him and them—and to remind ourselves that life goes on, madness in the White House be damned—is the correct course. When caught in an inane conversation with a drunk, we don’t try to win the argument—we try to move away from the drunk—and this seems the sensible course in the case of Trump’s fascist Justice League of Losers and their obsession with media-storms.

Granted, Trump’s Electoral College win is a huge blow—in spite of the majority voting against him, he holds the presidency for the next four years—and that’s a lot of power for a crazy egotist. But the sub-set of Americans identifying as Trump supporters is still, in many ways, a far more ominous threat in the long term. These people are trapped within the echo-chamber of ‘alternative’, resentful, paranoid fantasies about how the world works, outside of their town.

Where their existence was once threatened by the ubiquity of information, the rise of biased information sources has now strengthened their grip on such self-excusing delusions. Bigotry is back in fashion. As long as Trump (and their portion of the Internet) reinforces their balky refusal to open their minds, they’ll feel infinitely justified in maintaining even the craziest notions.

These people have even been convinced to vote against Health Care, for themselves and their families. Think about that. It’s not far different from offering someone a juicy steak dinner—and them punching you in the mouth, like you’d insulted their mother.

You tell them the globe is warming, sea levels are rising, untold disaster awaits—and when their boss at the oil company, or the coal mine, sez, ‘No, it isn’t’, they dutifully jeer at the scientists. Scientists! People who make a career out of sweating the details—and who, more to the point, have no dog in this race—unlike their deniers.

I’ve seen regular people—not rich business owners or anything, just regular folks—who actually oppose the Minimum Wage. The sole purpose of a minimum wage is to make it hard for employers to pay you less than you deserve. Do these people think that the rule will only apply to immigrants—and even if it did, do they hate immigrants that much? How will they feel when their own kids can’t find work that pays their rent? Minimum Wage might start to look a little more attractive then.

So, in my humble opinion, there are some tragically, self-defeatingly, self-destructively stupid people out there—and a lot of them vote. For the most part, they don’t really oppose the changes that the Left promotes—they simply fear change—and that is their only real point of agreement with their leaders, especially Trump. Imagine a 21st-century American putting billions of taxpayer dollars into a wall—a big, stupid wall. Hasn’t he read Clausewitz?

A wall can be swum around, tunneled under, and flown over—if Trump’s idea was to stop immigrants, he’s a failure—if he merely wants to inconvenience them—good work, Donald, spend away. Although it should be noted that immigrants are no strangers to inconvenience. The act of building a big wall can be seen as less of a practical exercise and more of a desire for the world to be so simple. It is a statement more than an achievement—and those familiar with Trump’s pre-presidency resume will recognize this theme.

The sad truth is that rich people raise lazy kids—and rich countries raise lazy citizens—America maintains its preeminence by constantly blending in fresh blood. And if the newcomers are not creamy white, that is beside the point—they are eager—even desperate, for a chance to make something of their lives, and their families’ lives. They work like dogs. They take everything seriously. They listen to what’s going on around them. Basically, all the stuff that you and I are too ‘over’ being Americans to bother with.

These people prevent the rest of us from drowning in our own toxins of apathy and entitlement, selfishness and irresponsibility. They recharge the battery of America and they always have—our own ancestors were part of the process. Deciding to stop now, to shut it all down, to ban travel and build a big honking wall—suicide—sheer suicide for our country and ourselves.

Don’t take my word for it—look at Europe. A lot of those countries are accepting refugees, not simply out of the goodness of their hearts, but also because their populations are becoming too small and too aged to maintain their economies. They need immigrants—and the only reason we don’t is because we’ve always had them. We’ve never known what lack of change, lack of growth is really like—stagnation is foreign to us—but not for long, if we keep up this xenophobic nonsense.

ttfn

To Fight For The Simple Truth (2017Jan31)

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Sunday, January 29, 2017                                        3:11 PM

If people of a different gender, race, religion, or birthplace engender feelings of superiority and of fear—you should own that as your personal weakness, rather than try to legitimize it as public policy. It’s okay, you know—people don’t control their feelings, their feelings control them. Finding kindred spirits who collude in your rationalizations only encourages you to hug them more closely. The fear and ego remain clearly visible to the rest of us—hard as you may work to blind yourself to such ignorance.

Don’t work towards making your weakness into a part of our public discourse—work instead towards understanding yourself and these illogical feelings. And just because your daddy or your priest tells you something’s so, that’s just ignorance become a legacy of tradition—that doesn’t alter its incorrectness.

Stop looking around for enemies to blame—the torture inside you is your own. No one is going to find your happiness and make a gift of it to you—you have to find your own—and the answer is inside your head, not out there. Gripping tightly onto every external excuse, you strengthen your hate, increasing the distance between yourself and any hope of happiness.

The smile on a poor kid’s face isn’t due to he or she having all the things they want—it is there simply for lack of the bitterness and venom that experience is waiting to lay upon them. If we can gain experience without accepting the temptation of blame, we can retain some of that happiness, even into old age. People are not the groups they belong to—it’s pretty simple.

Human nature causes conflict. Individuals often conflict with each other. Trouble has many origins—categorizing people for the purpose of blaming groups only helps to camouflage the true causes of conflict. So when we seek to blame a group for a problem, we not only trumpet our weakness to the world—we actually strengthen the causes of our unhappiness, by masking them with ignorance.

The people who gain power and grow fat off of the status quo watch with glee, as all their neglect, posturing, and corruption get a pass—overlooked by the rest of us, as we foolishly fight amongst ourselves.

Sunday, January 29, 2017                                        5:43 PM

FB Comment:

Surely the humor of your argument doesn’t entirely escape you? We men eschew murder in theory, but will fight for our ‘rights’ or our ‘honor’, thousands opposing thousands, upon battlefields bathed in blood—it is justified. But a woman, about to lose her hopes, dreams, and plans for her future, due to an unplanned, unwanted insemination—oh no, there’s no justification for women to remove those potent cells before they become viable. Her fight for freedom is ‘murder’, simply because those cells have the potential to become a person. But all men’s actual murders—the heaps of corpses produced by war and whatever other nonsense we get up to—each dead body a waste of his mother’s nine months of travail, not even counting her raising to adulthood every one of the corpses—that’s all necessary, honorable, explainable. Men are justified—but not women. Funny, right? Try to be reasonable. I fear the theocracy you appear to dream of would be a little too ‘good’—for men.

Sunday, January 29, 2017                                        7:49 PM

What am I doing? I’m not teaching. Teaching requires a willing student—these people assume they know as much as I do, which may be true in a general sense, but not necessarily true of a specific subject. But that’s a fine point that goes by the boards—and with thinking that sloppy (and that’s the average, give or take) it’s no wonder that these back-and-forths on Facebook are such an exercise in futility.

The key is that word ‘social’, in ‘social media’. People type things onto social media in the same way that they converse—mostly for the pleasure of hearing their own voice. I, as a writer (of sorts) mistake all this typing for writing. I may be thinking very hard about what I’m writing, but nobody else is—they’re socializing, they’re having fun, they’re spending time.

No wonder they think nothing of saying the most horrifically ignorant things, but burst a blood vessel when I allow myself to be, shall we say, brusque. ‘You’re so rude! I don’t allow name-calling on my posts.’ You can be as big a monster as Trump, as long as you remember to be courteous at all times. But calling stupid by its proper name is beyond the pale.

I don’t think I have the patience for this. I got onto the Internet because people had begun to give me a pain in the neck, and interacting with other nerds as disembodied entities was fun. But now, everyone’s on the Internet, with pictures and videos and ‘brief biographies’—I might as well be hanging out in a bar, as far as the social thing goes. It’s worse, really, because in a bar you can walk away from the assholes. I’m one of the few people still doing this at a computer terminal—most people are doing this stuff by phone—so we don’t even have that in common any more.

You can see where the biased-feed problem comes in—I’d be glad to only interact with the people I like—but by creating a way for that to happen, Facebook has also created a dark space, where the ignorant and hateful can find each other, unify, and congratulate each other on how well they all agree. And that peer-reinforcement makes any kind of idiocy into a mighty cause.

FB Comment:

My resolve to confront Trump-supporters whenever and wherever has prompted many of them to decide they can’t stand the heat, and have blocked me. I know this because I see a lot of my friend’s threads, where they are debating someone who isn’t ‘there’. Apparently, these cowards only want to argue with friends who won’t be brutally honest about their ignorance. Well, if they support BLOTUS, I shouldn’t be surprised if they prefer their ‘truths’ censored and managed.

FB Comment:

I love these memes falsely claiming that Obama or Clinton did something equally criminal to Trump’s recent fuckups—the funniest part is, they seem to think that these false equivalences settle the debate. I guess they never heard of that ‘two wrongs’ thing….

Tuesday, January 31, 2017                                                3:38 PM

This whole social media thing is like a National Park that’s been overrun with so many tourists, discarding so much of their trash to the point where the beauty is hidden behind a lot of human garbage. The Religious Right started all this crap with their ‘teach the controversy’ BS—the PR version of covering your ears and shouting “La-la-la-la-la-la….” They, of all people, should know what happens when you start to deal with the devil. And if cutting yourself loose from science and reason is not making a deal with the devil, I don’t know what else could be.

Large numbers of people earnestly latching on to friendly-seeming misinformation being spread by a small group of hypocritical thugs—it’s not really PR anymore—it’s a lot more like Psy-Ops—as the Russians have apparently noticed, and jumped on board with.

Americans are used to fighting for liberty, freedom, and human rights—who knew we’d ever have to fight for the simple truth? And introducing such toxic mind-fucks into the seemingly harmless playground of social media—evil genius! Those of us who’ve spent a lifetime taking honesty for granted had better get our acts together.

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America Foisted   (2017Jan27)

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Friday, January 27, 2017                                          10:07 AM

What Trump doesn’t understand is that “America First” sounds fresh and exciting to him—because no one else has used that phrase since the American Bund, whose motto it was, were exposed as Nazi fifth-columnists in the 1940s. “America First” has been—and to all appearances remains, as Trump uses it—the rallying cry of Fascists, Racists and Anti-Semites. Just because Trump is ignorant of History doesn’t mean it didn’t happen.

He compounded his ignorance by using this motto, mere seconds after taking the oath of office—which he apparently wasn’t listening to himself doing—because the oath clearly states that he is not to preserve and protect our boundaries with big walls—his job is to defend the Constitution.

And this is why it is dangerous to put a dummy in that office—America is not a patch of dirt that we love—it is a collection of principles written down by our founders. America is an idea—if you throw out the ideas, we’re just a patch of dirt, no different from anyplace else. Animals fight over territory—Americans fight to defend their ideas.

That is why ignorance in America always fancies itself as an ‘alternative point of view’—those who hear ‘freedom of speech’ as a simple rule, rather than a complex idea, will naturally use that rule to counter ideas against which they are incapable of arguing cogently. In the same way, the ignorant tell us, “He won. Get over it.” They do not see that having the Electoral College legitimize their mistake, making it official for four years, does not make their choice any less incorrect—or dangerous, sad to say.

I have even heard it said that a man who lies so profusely as BLOTUS may not be lying, so much as deluded enough to believe his own lies—which, to me, only begs the question: which is worse—a congenital liar or a raving lunatic? Well, fear not, America—by all evidence, it would seem that we have elected a man who is very much both.

What is so very striking about BLOTUS is how proud he is—I have always wanted to feel pride in my accomplishments, as any normal person does, but I never realized that it is possible to be proud as a personality tic, devoid of any cause or achievement. His dismissal of the real accomplishments of others, and of the nuances of allegiance to a Constitution, rather than a piece of property, are just the flip side of that empty-souled, dim-witted persona.

Stupid In A Crisis   (2017Jan24)

Tuesday, January 24, 2017                                                7:46 PM

I’m exhausted from responding to alt-right trolls on Facebook. I know that nothing that happens on Facebook matters worth a damn—and I know I’m never going to change the mind of any of these hysterical jingoists. Still, with things as they are, whenever any of that pro-Trump idiocy appears on my feed, I’m going to keep on responding, contradicting and insulting the people who post it.

I didn’t use to. I used to look at their stuff and say to myself that no one could ever be so blind as to be taken in by the charlatan and his creepy minions. But the Electoral College has proven that I was wrong about that. So now, whenever I see a stupid, thoughtless post in support of criminals who just happened to get elected—I post a reply of my own. I don’t want to—I’ve got better things to do—certainly nicer ways to spend my time. But I will no longer let these lies go unchallenged—even in the wasteland of Facebook.

Is it wrong of me to insult these people? Under ordinary circumstances, yes, it certainly would be. And if they are truly so deluded that they believe in Trump, it’s actually cruel of me to torture them with my scorn. But a lot of these people are just feeling the oats of their misogyny, racism, nationalism, and plain old resentment over how shitty their lives turned out. The miserable irony of it is that they have been conned into staunchly supporting the very people that keep their lives so miserable.

Can you imagine it? These rich, powerful people—who can create major changes with the stroke of a pen—accuse the poor, the sick, the displaced, and the immigrant of causing all our troubles. These cynical pigs stand there, with their hands on the switches, their fingers on the buttons—and they expect us to believe that the most powerless, vulnerable people on this earth are causing the problems. It’s beyond tragedy—it’s even beyond farce.

Their eagerness to smear anyone who stands against them is a sure sign that they have no conscience, no real concern for anyone but themselves—they echo the true accusations we make against them, like little children—yet enough people were taken in by this childishness that he won the Electoral College.

So, I apologize to all you people who I may call Stupid (and other things) over the course of the next four years. Please understand that I wouldn’t insult you without reason—you have been stupid, you continue to be blind and ignorant to the real threats, and you show no sign of wanting to become un-stupid in the foreseeable future. If the situation allowed for me to be polite enough to ignore your empty-headedness, I would gladly let it pass—but stupid in a crisis is a real danger, and I don’t have the luxury of etiquette anymore. However meaningless and futile my comments and posts on Facebook may be, they are my only point of push-back against the cretins—besides, evil pisses me off.

 

It’s Getting Hot Out There   (2017Jan19)

Thursday, January 19, 2017                                              8:15 PM

Mid-January and the squirrels were chasing each other up down and around every tree, fence, and power line—as if Spring had come early. It’s hard to enjoy such unseasonably warm weather when it comes the day after the announcement that 2016 was the warmest year ever, which makes it the third year in a row of such record-setting global warming. Worse yet, the Climate-Ostriches are about to take power tomorrow—and they pretend global warming doesn’t exist—so that won’t help us reach any kind of quick conversion to alt-energy.

With four years to not only sit on their hands, climate-wise, but to dismantle whatever progress has already been made in making the USA a leader in global climate response—I’m very troubled. I wonder if Trump will reach 2020 only to find that Mar-El-Lago is submerged, along with half of Florida. We can only lose so much arctic ice before sea levels start to really change—and Florida is especially vulnerable. Not that the entire Caribbean isn’t at risk—but shorted-sighted people need reality to knock on their own front doors.

Here again we see the problem of having too many problems. This climate-change threat is existential, not just for our nation, but globally. Still, we have a hundred other diversions—many of them serious problems also. But the media is not in the business of prioritization. They want to dazzle their audience with variety—not table some dry discussion on which problems need triage before we consider less weighty issues. And the incoming administration—a creature of the media, itself—does not appear to be in the clarification and prioritization business, either.

So we, the citizens, end up watching what amounts to an informational kaleidoscope on our viewing devices, snowed into the inclination that it’s all just too much, rather than getting angry at the lack of leadership—or progress of any kind—from the government. The GOP can’t admit to climate-change because it would make Big Oil unhappy. The GOP can’t admit that Obamacare should be amended, not replaced, because it would make their base realize it was all politics to begin with—not to mention Big Pharma and the Insurance people seeing their profits curtailed. I can’t tell you why they won’t leave women’s health issues to women—that will forever be a not-very-mysterious mystery.

The whole migrant thing—and that ridiculous wall idea—is all pure xenophobia—playing on people’s fears, and their desire to blame the ‘other’ for their problems. Mexicans have been coming and going into America, ever since the places where they cross were still Mexico itself. And there is less traffic across the border now than ever before in modern history. The truth is that immigrants have been and continue to be a part of our economy and culture. The paranoia being pushed by the GOP is leftover panic from 9/11—a cowardly reaction that has already prompted us to two wars and a near-bankruptcy.

It’s about time we got over domestic terrorism. You’re far more likely to be murdered in one of the mass shootings that shame us, as a nation, on a constant basis. What is the point of our security people doing such a bang-up job of screening for terrorists—if the rest of us are still going to walk around looking over our shoulders, ready to panic at the first loud noise? When did we become so damn shy?

So, basically, we have the GOP—who have been sponsored by interests who prize the status quo—telling us we can’t trust the leaders that would work for real change. And now that the GOP’s in power, they’re just going to sit back and tell you that those problems don’t exist—or that privatizing everything will solve all our problems. ‘The money-grubbing is strong with this one’. I think you’d have to be very rich to try to pretend that Capitalism is self-regulating, self-correcting. The market may be self-correcting, in a narrow sense, but to say that Capitalism works better without rules is to confess that you have a scheme to rip people off.

If you were playing Monopoly with someone and they said the game would be better if we threw out a few rules, you’d know they were trying to cheat. Why is the same thing not equally obvious when these fat-cats whine about regulation? They quality-control their products—why should they be so inhumane as to suggest there shouldn’t be quality-control on their employees, their customers’ health, and the good of the community they operate in?

The naked greed and cold-blooded unconcern for collateral consequences was most blatantly displayed with the recent water crisis in Flint, Michigan—and those people still don’t have any clean running water. Anyone trying to deregulate or defund the EPA, or any other watchdog, in these dog-eat-dog times, is not your friend. Too bad our new prez is set to lead the charge to do just that.

Word Search   (2017Jan09)

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Monday, January 09, 2017                                                4:21 PM

Over the past year or more I’ve been in a fruitless search for the perfect word or phrase, le mot juste, that would encapsulate the cesspool of objectionable characteristics that is Trump—but I have failed completely. He is disgusting in so many facets that even a paragraph can’t come close to cataloging the entirety of the reek off of him.

Briefly, I considered ‘Ape’, but I didn’t want to give him the honor of sharing what Abraham Lincoln’s critics called him—and besides, they called Lincoln as ugly as an ape—I would be using it, rather, to describe the character, the mental processes, of Trump. But even then, I would be doing a disservice to apes—who, if we can believe Jane Goodall, have far more humanity than the Trumps do. It is a shame though—his hair-color matches an orangutan’s so perfectly—but why should I hurt the orangutans’ feelings?

I liked Trumpster Fire—very witty, and damned close to perfect, since it suggests an entire dumpster full of various kinds of trash on fire. But still, it doesn’t capture the revulsion Trump inspires. Tiny-hands Trump is nice—because we must never forget that the most important response to Trump is laughter. Now that we know he is bereft of decency, we shouldn’t give him he satisfaction of knowing how horrified we are, whenever he speaks—we should stick to straight laughter—that’s what he started with, and he hasn’t done anything to change that.

Yeah, he won the Electoral College by negative-three-million—which is a lot of support—but you have to put that in perspective. We now have an opioid-addiction crisis in this country, with hundreds of thousands of addicts, and tens of thousands of deaths-by-overdose every year—making opioid-addiction our newest addition to the list of ‘leading causes of death’. So if you want to talk about the judgment of the American people, I think you’re in the wrong decade.

Drumpf is tempting—damn, that’s an ugly Old-Country original-family-name for the Trumps—but it’s a little too silly and playful, and I wouldn’t want anyone to think of Trump as some cute lil Napoleon—he’s a full-on Hitler wannabe and it would behoove all of us to never forget that fact. Pussy-Grabber used to be a front-runner, but now it just makes me sad, remembering that he said that, out loud, on every TV—and people still voted for the cretin—so now it sounds more like the death-knell of sanity—President Pussy-Grabber.

People have had this problem for centuries—someone is such a blot on society that everyday words won’t do—we try cretin, fathead, lamebrain, lightweight, loon, despoiler, hoodlum, looter, defacer, dirty, indictable, iniquitous, nefarious, hustler, culprit, bad actor, charlatan, con artist, crook, hypocrite, swindler, chiseler—there are so many words that might apply, but don’t encompass the full chamber-pot that is the prez-elect.

I think I need a meta-word. Or maybe I’m just rushing things. In the not-so-distant future there will be a perfect cliché for what I’m trying to say—and everyone will know what I mean, whenever I say: “Hey, don’t be so ‘trump’, man.”

Maybe you can help, kind reader—I need a word that suggests the malodorous rot at the center of a lost soul, the icy emptiness of an arctic waste, the chaos of a prison gang-rape, and the precious mincing of a self-loving, entitled brat. Please add your suggestions in the comments below:

delightS

Ceding Power To The Pig (Snort!)   (2017Jan03)

Tuesday, January 03, 2017                                                6:22 PM

20141019XD-StandardsSunday (35)To many people someone like me is going to seem like an alarmist, an inciter, a stirrer-up of trouble—trying to upset the boat when everything is mostly working out just fine. What’s so wrong (I imagine them asking) with the world today—especially with the United States—with the status quo? And truly I have no rebuttal to that—for many millions of people, life is better than it has ever been before, in the history of all mankind. The tremendous lace-work of global civilization, with its titanic industries and giant manufactories, with the endless cycle of tons of material—necessities and luxuries—that circle the globe by sea, by rail, by truck, and by air, the smooth operation of all the stores and shops, restaurants and theaters, schools and hospitals, universities and laboratories—our world is a marvel.

And if the United States of America isn’t the epicenter of that marvel, I don’t know where else it could be. Everything is state-of-the-art: communications, transportation, engineering, entertainment, agriculture, medicine—most of the modern world originated here, if not literally, then in spirit. And I wish us all the best—me, you, whoever—I hope the whole thing outlasts all the neglect and abuse heaped on it by we who have come to take it all for granted.

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But, just as a person may be very good at securing a high post, yet have little ability to do the job once hired—it’s looking like the USA was well-equipped to invent the future, but has given no thought at all to maintaining all its healthy ambition, now that Babel has reached thunderbolt-calling altitude.

An older America, full of empty space and potential, loved rapid growth—we suffered boomtowns and cities choking on their own waste—conditions were such that a modern business or local government could never get away with the health risks, the dangers, and the unfairness inherent in an open town, with more traffic in change than in civilizing influences.

And the laws and ordinances that prohibit such chaos today were enacted only after the rush of development had settled and slowed to the point where people started to care about their homes and communities as much as whatever commerce was going on.

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Plus, new business in the present would not be filling a void. Today’s new business is far more likely to impinge on some other business’s market. The kind of growth that made America a ‘big-shouldered’ country—that’s all over. And the cracks that allowed people to avoid being imprisoned by Capitalism have all been filled.

When the power of Capitalism was more potential than actual, the idea of ‘every man for himself’ made things as fair as such things can be. But now we have a mature Capitalism, fully formed and, more importantly, entirely owned already—by a surprisingly small group of people. They not only own all the old stuff—they are strategically poised to acquire any new stuff from the puny inventors or entrepreneurs that find new ways to break through the status quo.

But it is not simply a stranglehold on the common man or woman, whose chances of making it big from scratch are on par with winning the Lotto—it is a stranglehold on the culture. Our legislators and our courts spend virtually all their time and energy on serving the wealthy—good governance and justice have become antiques, found only rarely, in tiny, out-of-the-way places.

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Our obsession with absolute property is itself a symptom of the stagnation and stultification of mature Capitalism—corporations own people’s likenesses, they own people’s silences—they even pay scientists to do research, insuring that, if they can’t own the truth, they can at least obscure it.

Capitalism, Progress, the American Dream—whatever you want to call it—its job is done. We don’t need to build empires anymore—they are built. We don’t need to access our natural resources anymore—they’ve been accessed. We don’t need to build a Republic anymore—it’s been given infrastructure, industry, wealth, and power—all its citizens can talk to each other, from any place at any time—we are the envy of the world.

Our biggest and only problem is recognizing that the ends our forebears worked towards have been reached—period—full stop. Our job is not to keep hammering our heads against the family wall—it is to take stock of what we have—of where we’ve arrived—and try to find some new way forward. Hopefully it will have something to do with taking responsibility for the deprived victims of our present system. Hopefully it will reverse our present system’s tendency to empower the entitled, elitist pigs, like our fresh-baked president-elect.

Before Sundown, Every Day   (2017Jan02)

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Tuesday, January 03, 2017                                                1:03 PM

Congress voted to do something truly stupid the other day—then they changed their minds in the space of 24 hours, and decided not to do that particular stupid thing. I’m not sure which is worse: the poor judgement that first led to the initiative, or the mercurial, chicken-without-a-head nature of this totally corrupt majority in Congress.

But I do not call them corrupt because they were trying to disintegrate an ethics watchdog (created not so very long ago—because of all their corruption). I refer to the corruption of their wetware—the bad programming in their heads. These people get elected through gerrymandering legerdemain and mass media tap-dancing—they answer to sponsors, not to voters. They have no ethical motivation—and they have no need to make even a pretense of it.

They are misguided, thinking that to succeed in politics is to succeed in government. They are misguided, thinking that winning at Capitalism is winning at survival. But what misleads their thinking most often is this idea that having the world’s most powerful military gives us the most influence over the world.

The best idea is always what has the most influence on the world. Our nation’s preeminence can be directly traced back to the best ideas—even our vaunted military is the product of thinking, done in an open-minded society that valued creativity and vision—and many other freedoms.

Our penchant for ownership of creative and scientific efforts is the latest and most deadly infection of Capitalism—first created to protect inventors and artists, copyright and trademark laws now operate as a means for corporations to ‘own’ the efforts of its best and brightest employees, without any requirement to give them equal value in return. It also acts as a shield of legal secrecy about any shady dealings that can be labeled (however pretentiously) ‘proprietary knowledge’.

Monday, January 02, 2017                                                1:11 PM

The airwaves are supposed to be for the public good, but they have become ‘profit centers’ instead. We can weigh, one supposes, the value of all the people employed by the entertainment industry—who support their families through television, and through advertising—against the total lack of value, for the viewer, in any of the garbage that gets broadcast one way or another to the various screens that fill our lives.

The schools are supposed to be for the public good, but now they either snooker you out of your money with fake classes, a la Trump U., or they give you an ‘actual’ education by handing you over to the loansharks. The loansharks will be a bigger part of your future life than the education, in many cases—so now many people seriously consider whether they really want to bother ransoming their youth for the sake of a sheepskin, or whether they might be happier in a trade. That sort of attitude is bound to keep America at the forefront of innovation—he typed facetiously.

Government is, of course, supposed to be all about the public good, but its rules against bribery and corruption do nothing to protect our legislators from lobbyists whose sole task is to influence in favor of special interests. Add in all the nonsense about fund-raising and campaigning becoming the higher priority than the actual job one was elected to do—all bound up with the perceived primacy of media-spending over fitness for office—and you get the kind of ‘democracy’ that we find ourselves stuck with today.

Capitalism goes beyond money and transactions—even beyond a way of life—it is a way of distorting reality, to make nonsense seem oh-so-sensible. Our public forums, our educational system, and our government are all baldly under the sway of the wealthy—one would laugh at the notion of ‘self-government’ were it not for that terribly sour taste in the back of the mouth.

Our interdependence is intrinsic, it is undeniable. Competition is a nice way to introduce energy into our culture’s interdependence—but Capitalism puts the competition before the interdependence. Wealth is a club—and there is no law against beating people to death with it. As we have seen, there’s not even any law against demolishing our values with it. Money makes monsters of us all—clutching our own to ourselves, more worried for our own skins than whether anything has a right or a wrong to it.

People say money is the root of all evil—I disagree. Surely people found ways to mistreat each other before specie was invented. No, I think of money as more of an enabler of evil, an enzyme for cruelty, if you will. If there are thousands of laws protecting our grasp on our money—and no laws that insist that every person be sheltered and fed before sundown, every day—then we have some messed-up laws.

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What Is It Good For?   (2016Dec28)

Wednesday, December 28, 2016                                               5:04 PM

There are levels of civilization—there are communities that are more comfortable with brutality than others—and brutality can take many forms. When we look backwards in time, to an age when women were denied their full personhood under the law, we can appreciate the brutality of what was, to the people of that time (including the women), normal daily life. If we look at history we see civilizations that were comfortable with slavery, with debtors’ prisons, with stoning, with so-called honor-killing—and even war.

In many cases, we do not need to research the dim past to find these behaviors—they live among us still. Their very intransigence is often used as a rationalization by those who would suggest that society rules don’t apply uniformly—and may thus be ignored when inconvenient. However, here in the soft underbelly of 21st century, middle-income, suburban New York, we have reached a level of awareness that makes it possible to look at something as old and accepted as war—and say to ourselves that humanity is just a bunch of assholes fighting over thrones while the rest of us endure whatever madness and waste that leads to.

But lest you think I’m all het-up about the stupidity of war, settle back, bub. War is just the stupidest example. In every case of conflict or injustice, we can always see an easy solution—being generous. But this path is unfailingly left idle, while we wear grooves in all the very stupidest alternatives. Why? Well, because you can’t go feeding stray kittens—that’s why. If we’re too generous, we may end up with nothing left for ourselves!

And that is certainly a risk faced by overly-generous individuals. However, the global community could easily provide a comfortable life for every single soul on the planet—if it weren’t for one small detail: Modern civilization, as full of potential as it may be, is also predicated on greed and competition.

We search in vain for ways to make a competitive system a humanitarian system as well—we even run into bloated fat-cats who think universal healthcare is overly generous. Point one—if it weren’t for the selfless humanitarian pioneers in the field of medicine, there wouldn’t be these bloodless Big-Pharma and Insurancing entities, sucking their profits out of the veins of the sick and infirm. Point two—it is more efficient to provide universal public healthcare than it is to squeeze maximum profits from the solvent and let the poor slip between the cracks. While individual profit-centers may suffer, the overall public expense is less when using the charitable option.

And let’s face it—most people don’t want programs giving away free stuff to poor people, because they hate their damn jobs and they resent anyone who gets something out of it, besides themselves. They don’t stop to think that their stingy boss is getting most of the profit from their work—and the boss, besides getting out of working hard, even gets to boss them around. But sure, go ahead and resent poor people, if you think that’s your enemy. And don’t forget to kiss ass at work.

The truth is right in front of us—being generous is the best way to lower violence and suffering—and it is far more effective than coercion or scare-tactics, because once you have a community that feels secure and comfortable, you couldn’t break them out of their living rooms with dynamite. Jobs that pay a lot of money create people who spend a lot of money. Paying big bonuses to hot-shots in upper management doesn’t create any commerce—it depresses it by creating a huge group of non-consumers.

The concentration of wealth among 1% of the population creates the same kind of stagnation that keeping all your money in a safe creates—those bloated, confused billionaires don’t have the slightest fraction of the energy for commerce, for buying and selling, for growing and making, that the same money would find in the hands of large numbers of the working classes. Those billions of dollars might just as well not exist to begin with. And that is all beside the point of the unacceptable injustice of Post-Capitalism—where everyone works harder and harder, getting poorer and poorer—except for the greedy pigs and the corrupt legislators.

And that is my point today—we spend a great deal of time bewailing the horrendous injustices of our Capitalist paradigm (as well we should) but we should spare equal time for considering that this unfairness is not merely wrong and cruel—it is also stupid. It is idiotic to base our lives solely on competing for money—but if you ask any Trump voter, they will assure you that that’s the American way. And by Trump voter, I mean to suggest a stupid person.

We are about to get quite a show from the crowd of leeches that constitute the incoming administration—they’re going to slash and burn every vestige of liberalism they can find. The sad thing about these money-grubbing turds is that they will not be replacing anything they tear down—they will not add one note of grace or gleam of bounty to our lives—they may even destroy themselves as they tear at the delicate fabric of so many reasonable men’s and women’s efforts to form a better union. They offer nothing but spite and bile—and it is a great shame that we did not see them coming, before we were stuck with them.

Christmas Retaliation   (2016Dec17)

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Saturday, December 17, 2016                                           2:32 PM

There are only five weeks left—after that the Oval Office will be de facto unoccupied. Sure, there’ll be someone sitting there—and they’ll be causing any number of new problems. Still, there will be no one presiding over the nation, looking out for the public good or concerning himself with our national security.

We’ll miss that—it was frustrating enough having a real president, and have him be stymied wherever and whenever possible by the cowards in Congress—replacing Obama with someone who doesn’t even try… Well, at least we won’t get the agita we would have seen if Hillary had had to take up the fight where Obama left off—all those cowards are still comfortably ensconced.

Congress—ha—just a bunch of pols-who-would-be-trump—I guess that’s what they see in him—he does all the bad things they do, but he has no shame about publicly demonstrating his lack of character. Cowardly Trumps—that’s what Congress is made of—a whole institution full of men who are just as selfish and craven as our president-elect, but with just enough self-awareness to know shame.

But they did alright, really—this whole worm-tongued, alt-reality world of living lies was their idea—they paved the way for the King Clown—and if he steamrollered over a few of them along the way, they still deserve credit, along with the media, for forging this brave new world of Doubt, where nothing is true if you don’t want it to be.

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So, I know what I want for Christmas—President Obama, please follow through on your response to Putin’s hacking (and denial of hacking, as if he were Trump, too). I want you to make that bastard feel it. I want your cyber-warriors to wipe that Russky smirk off his ugly face. President Obama, you’ve been a model of probity and restraint for eight years—you’re the most well-behaved and civil president this country has ever seen—and that’s great.

But there’s only five weeks left until Doofus takes your chair—so, no more mister civilization, Barry—give this guy what for. He’s got it coming, like nobody’s business. That SOB has already gotten away with it—don’t pass up the opportunity to, at least, make him regret he ever fucked with the USA. And so what if you leave a little mess for your replacement to deal with? What’s good for the goose….

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Trump Made You His Chump   (2016Dec13)

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Tuesday, December 13, 2016                                           10:40 AM

Are you happy now? Trump is playing ‘opposites day’ with his cabinet picks; the strong business ties between him and Russia are being revealed along with Russian interference in the election (how does it feel to know you voted just the way Putin hoped you would?); racist incidences rise in celebration of his electoral college win—and misogynist legislation is being drawn up as fast as those bible-thumpers can type.

You’ve been made a fool of, Trump-voter—and you’re celebrating it. Yes, you ruined the nice lady’s plans—and you kept the Democrats out of the White House—but you failed to get a Republican to replace them, and elected a Russian puppet instead. Good work—yeah, throw that party.

I have to live with whatever madness and stupidity goes on for the next four years—but at least I don’t have to feel responsible for making it happen. I voted for the person that knew how to do the job—the person that Putin is afraid of. Sure, I lost—but I won’t be ashamed to say who I voted for, for the rest of my life. When the full story of how you’ve been duped (and so easily—as if you were an idiot or something) is written into history, they’ll be no alt-right alternative-news source to contradict it.

And if you voted for Trump because he was the GOP candidate, you’re among the prize-winning suckers of this past election—Trump is a far greater threat to Republicans than to liberals or socialists. With him at the head of your parade, the Republican party will share in his inevitable disgrace. Having your party’s candidate win the election doesn’t do you much good if he gets impeached before he’s served a full year in office—and I hope you’re not dreaming that he won’t do anything impeachable for the first year—he’d have to be competent to manage avoiding that.

I don’t think he can even spell ‘competent’—but then, you voted for him, so you probably can’t spell it, either. You may resent people who understand what’s going on, but if you’re going to make your own decisions, they really ought to be based on more than resentment.

You’re feeling good right now, because your side won the election—but winning the election doesn’t make your side right—and that is especially true when you consider Trump lost the popular vote. Of course, he lies and says he won the popular vote—but he lies every time he opens that sphincter in his face. Hell, he probably thinks he’s good-looking—that’s how delusional your champion is.

I despise that sack of crap—I truly do—he’s a traitor, an imbecile, a cheat, a con-artist, and a pervert. But he doesn’t bother me half as much as you people who saw him, heard him, and still thought it was safe to put him in charge of your lives. With that many idiots voting, this country is fucked no matter who gets to be president.

President-elect POS   (2016Nov30)

Wednesday, November 30, 2016                                              6:32 PM

One entitled, lecherous, ignorant pig with too much money reaches the age of seventy and decides he’d like to rule the world. I laugh. Our democratic process agrees with him. I weep and curse the heavens.

It isn’t that I’m afraid of his presidency—hell, an asteroid could wipe us all out someday, just as senselessly—it’s just that I mourn the proof that this country is peopled with idiots who mistook an election for a reality game-show. It makes a joke of democracy—and truly, without solemnity, judgement, and good sense, democracy is a farce. And now we have a clown where a leader should be. I never thought we’d have a president that I couldn’t respect—I foolishly thought that Bush-43 had taught us all a lesson.

It can’t be helped. These are the times I’ve lived to witness—and nothing I do or say will change the facts. My problem—my job, if you will—is to learn to live my life, in spite of disaster. I’ve done a fair job of avoiding the subject since Election Day—and that was the right way to go.

I avoid the news—but there are some tidbits that can’t be avoided if I watch TV at all—today’s tidbit was a Trump tweet about hanging flag-burners or some such idiocy. It got it all riled up in my head again—am I going to have four whole years of this crap-fest? So I wrote a ranting post—just like I used to, back before the election rendered discussion moot.

(In fact, I allowed myself crudities that I avoided in the heat of the campaign, back when calling a POS a POS might have been seen as partisan, rather than as simple observation. Now that everyone else has given that jerk a free pass, I’ll give the same to myself.)

I posted my rant—then I walked away—but the next rant had already started writing itself in my head. I realized that I was foolish to let myself be drawn back into arguing with a brick wall—and that it would lead to nothing but stress, anger, and frustration. So, let this suffice for as long as possible. My next blog-post (if there is one) will be about things that matter—or, at least, things that don’t make me ill.

Feces-in-Chief   (2016Nov30)

Wednesday, November 30, 2016                                              2:52 PM

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President-elect Donald J. Trump (wait a sec—I just threw up in my mouth a little bit) is the most disgusting excuse for an American I’ve ever known. He is ignorant to the point of delusional. He is delusional to the point of childishness. He is childish to the point of being a psychopath. Burning a flag is nothing compared to the slap in this country’s face of having voted for this crap-pile impersonating a man.

My health being what it is, I may not see the entire four years of a Trump presidency. But I’m trying to adapt—it’s like situations I’ve been in before—where disaster is whispering at my ear and I have no choice but to laugh at the hysteria of certain doom—it’s a cheap high, in a way. I, personally, will survive this insult to our history, for now—this end of America’s respectability—the end of the assumption that democracy is a safe way to govern. But I feel bad for America—once so proud, so upright—now we’re just a bad joke.

He’s still tweeting. Can you believe that? Fucking asshole. Bad enough he’s going to be making bad decisions about vital issues—the media has decided we need to hear his every tweet, as well. Do you want to know what Trump is tweeting? I don’t.

That idiot tweeted throughout his campaign—and not once did he tweet anything a grown-up would say. But then, we know now that the media helped elect him, by mirroring his abysmal judgement and his unflappable ignorance. The media is the only thing as stupid as Trump. CNN, Fox, MSNBC—you can all go fuck yourselves—I haven’t tuned in since the election, and I have no plans to, in future. I only hope there are a lot of people like me—poor ratings are the very least of what you traitors deserve.

There is a lesson here—both Trump and the Media care for absolutely nothing except making money. They will drag us to the depths of Hell, and beyond—and they won’t even notice—consequences be damned, if the money’s good. Now that I think about it—maybe climate-change is God’s way of telling us that money isn’t everything.

You’re out of a job? You’re having trouble paying for your kids’ college? You’re worried that America isn’t safe? Okay fine—now explain to me how having elected a jack-ass is going to fix any of that?

It’ll be a job, just bringing the jack-ass indoors—if Trump’s transition team needs anything, it’s plenty of newspaper to put down in all the indoor areas of the White House. This will help, not just with the piles of shit he’ll be dropping all over, but with the vomiting of those poor benighted people who can’t avoid being there and have to hear him speak. His voice makes me vomitus, even for the instant it takes me to reach for the remote and change the channel.

There used to be two schools of thought on humanity—people would say we were basically good, with a few bad apples—and other people believed that people were basically animals, with a few kind souls to leaven the mix. But now we have an accurate count: decent people number a little over half of all people, and the wastes-of-spaces number just under 50%. I’m approximating, of course—a case could be made that all non-voters are just as deplorable as the Trump-voters (which would lower the decent people to only 25%)—but we can’t know that, so I split them 50-50.

But the important point is: the mix of good and bad in the human race is pretty close to even. We’ve never noticed this before—because all prior elections had two fairly decent people to choose from. This is the first time anyone (1) lied more than he spoke truth, (2) admitted he didn’t know anything about government (by saying things only an ignoramus would say), (3) admitted to misogyny and sexual misbehavior, (4) called for an end to religious freedom, (5) felt that America would benefit from a big wall around the Statue of Liberty, and (6) was endorsed by the Klan and the Russkys. You can’t even really call him a man—he’s more like a slime-outline of where a man should be.

Yet rather than slink about in shame, half this country is celebrating their victory over decency and common sense. Their beast is slouching towards Pennsylvania Avenue like a giant snail—yet they glory in his ascendance to power. Like it or not, democracy is dangerous—this has been proved. “We, the People” have been exposed as an unreliable, unfaithful pack of cowards.

I used to hug my patriotism close, warmed by the pride and the power of America—and now my arms are empty—encircling a wisp of smoke, where security and sanity once resided. Now, nothing but a bitter memory chills my bones.

I will hate this fucking asshole until the day I die—and it can’t be too soon, now that our entire country has sworn him allegiance, betraying everything America stood for. I have lived too long. Was this clown really so hard to see through? As the Monkees once sang, “Disappointment haunted all my dreams….”

If It Ain’t Broke   (2016Nov23)

Wednesday, November 23, 2016                                              5:06 PM

20161115xd-nancyhd_s_pottery-2Like me, you may have wondered at times how to fix people, how to make society better—that sort of thing. The answer is that you don’t—or rather, you can’t. Imagine a world where everybody is kind and caring and generous. Now forget that—because people are kind and caring and generous, at certain times (if at all—some of them) but that is not our constant state. That’s not how humans work. Being kind and caring and generous is part of what we are, but it is only a part, and it is not permanent—it is an intermittent thing that we do when we are not being something else, something less angelic.

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Think of all the time we spend without eating—most of our time, right? But it would be silly to say, “Why can’t people ‘not eat’ all the time?” We don’t spend most of our time eating, but we still must eat. The same with sleeping—eventually, we need to sleep. There are a bunch of other things we have to fit into our time—less basic things, but still important—pay bills, gas the car, go to the bathroom, even. Many parts of our lives have little or nothing to do with our character—they’re just included in the deal, the ‘parts and maintenance’ of living our lives.

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Whatever list of things you collect as basic parts of living your life, if that list becomes too big and life becomes too precarious, the opportunities to find gaps in that life which allow you to display your character will dwindle. Living in poverty can create a treadmill so exhausting that poor people can find no time at all to look up from their grind and ponder the good and bad of things. Conversely, the wealthy often contrive to make themselves very ‘busy’ to create the pretense that they’re in the same situation. Either way, you end up with a lot of people who either can’t care or won’t care about all the causes and charities and politics and ethics.

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So I say—don’t put the cart before the horse. Don’t try to turn people into angels right off—start out by trying to make a world where people don’t go hungry or naked, where their education is easily available—a world that isn’t just crouching there, ready to eat us alive. Then, maybe, start worrying about people being good. You can’t throw someone’s ass into a wood-chipper, and then lecture them on ethics.

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And another thing—stop worrying about how intelligent people are. If everyone around you seems to be acting like an idiot—enjoy it—you’re of above-average intelligence. If you weren’t, someone else would be watching you act like an idiot—and maybe they are. How can you know? Human intelligence is a range of values—that’s just the way it is. Being on the high end may be frustrating, but it beats the alternative.

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I’m grateful for all the education I’ve received in my lifetime—but I don’t assume that those without it are uneducated by choice. Education is something your community and your family provide—without that infrastructure, some people never get a good education—and that isn’t up to them. Also, if a whole area is weak on public education, even the best intentions have a hard time ‘injecting’ education into a neighborhood where it’s never properly existed before.

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Thus, while I am always eager to badger some poor bastard for being willfully blind or proudly ignorant, I accept that people will be quick or slow, learned or not—and shouldn’t be judged on that, either way. It’s no different from judging people by their physique or coordination—we all have our places on the various scales of ability, mental or physical. These are not the measure of a person’s character.

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I take all of the above as contextual—a given. Even so, when I complain that someone is being ‘stupid’, and I’m assuming that you, dear reader, understand all that—I’m really only saying they’re being mentally stubborn or arrogant—but I still worry that someone might think that I despise people who aren’t real smart. And that would go against what I really believe. So I try to avoid it—but I get angry enough to use the word sometimes—I should find a better word.

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The difficulty lies in the difference between political correctness and the hard truth—yes there are people who lack intelligence or education through no failing of their own—but then, there are people who could and should know better than they pretend. These people hide within that ‘range of values’—they dare you to prove that they’re knowingly embracing an ignorance. They glory in their willful blindness, as if having the right to our own opinions gives them the right to ignore truth, and to go on hating something out of pure spitefulness—these people need a good kick in the ass.

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Regardless, there are limits to how broad a range of understanding we can allow for—clever people are busy day and night, trying to think up new stuff to make life better. They invent cars and computers, medicines and space stations—but as they proceed, life becomes more complicated. Now that we have enough industry and energy-use to threaten the atmospheric environment, for instance, we have to be smart enough to see the threat coming before it’s too late. If we create complicated problems, we can’t rely on a handful of clever people to keep a lid on all the trouble.

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The recent election of a simpleton is a perfect example—being the head of the United States puts him at the center of a web of complex interactions. Someone as ignorant as Trump could cause a variety of disasters, just by virtue of what he doesn’t know or doesn’t understand. And he was elected by mostly uneducated people—most of whom chose him out of desperation, without thinking through how dangerous he is.

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So we are living a demonstration of my point—this country’s development by clever people has built up a house of cards—and if the majority of us are careless enough, the whole thing will collapse at the first bump of the table. It doesn’t matter what we invent, achieve, or figure out a plan for—once it is in the hands of people who don’t understand it, they will misuse it, or break it, or let it go to waste.

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American democracy can survive a range of values of intelligence—but there has to be a minimum average of intelligence commensurate with the complexity of our nation’s functioning. You can’t build a nuclear arsenal—and then hand it to a baby. That’s trouble waiting to happen. Maybe it’s time for the clever people to ask themselves, “If I am clever enough to use this, will it be safe to assume that everyone else will use this, and not abuse it?” Maybe it’s time we design society to fit the least-common-denominator of carelessness and obliviousness—I bet those same class-clown types would quickly start to complain that they’re not as stupid as we seem to think they are.

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It’s human nature—expect people to be on-the-ball, and they’ll act like they’ve just been hit on the head—but if we expect people to be dull, they’ll bust a gut to prove how on-the-ball they really are. The electorate just recently so much as insisted that they be allowed to roll in the mud of ignorance—I say, let’em. Once they sampled the leadership of someone who isn’t just pretending he’s a moron, they’ll wise up surprisingly.

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It is far past the time when we can continue to conflate humanity with reason. Reason is unnatural—humanity is far more influenced by feelings than by reason—our judgements are emotional, not rational. Democracy sounds like a good idea—but it tends to give us what we want, not what we need. The biggest failing of democracy, it seems, is that there are no wrong answers in an election, just a consensus. It’s like taking an opinion poll of reality—it tells us what we feel, but it doesn’t tell us if we’re right to feel that way.

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Still, I support the supremacy of feeling over reason—I support the will of the majority—not because I admire these ideas, but because they are the only fair way to go about organizing ourselves. Even within that paradigm, we find ourselves surrounded by unfairness and violence—but without those principles, it just gets worse. Government by fiat and firepower—a proven cancer on any hope of economic development, or personal security.

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So, here I am, at the far side of a long life of reading and learning, having found that people (including myself) are both far more and far less than we believe ourselves to be. Cynicism and nihilism plague me—I’ve gathered enough knowledge to learn that knowledge is itself a relative term, without the rock-sure permanence the word implies. And when I consider the dysfunction in the world around me, and feel that urge to ‘change the world’—or even merely ‘improve my neighborhood’—I must ask myself if I’m really the proper person to do that? Would I want everyone else to end up like me? I don’t think so.

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Changing society is little different from raising kids. When two kids are arguing, my impulse is to break it up and bring peace to the situation—but kids grow up better if they learn to work things out—so my impulse may be the worst thing I could do. Or it may be the correct choice. I’m not the sort of nurturing person who could easily discern which is which. And if I’m unsure of myself while supervising two children at play, I should perhaps think twice before I decide I’m going to change society. Is society perfect? No. Is it useful for me to think in terms of changing the system? Maybe it would be better if I confined myself to helping out a single person, in a single moment, as I go along—of thinking as much about the people around me as I do of myself.

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But then, I might get tired of helping person after person with the same problem—I might decide that they are all being victimized by the same flaw in the system. At that point, I might consider becoming an activist for change, because I would have a specific issue that I knew about and understood. That makes plenty of sense. But for me to just speculate on broad changes to our whole society, based on whatever tweaked my beard that day, would be the height of arrogance—especially if I’m doing so from the remove of my office, basing my opinions on what the TV says, rather than mixing with actual people.

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And this is something that goes for TV and media, in a broader sense. We watch these programs and reports—and we absorb the idea that the universe being presented is the complete reality. The globe is reduced to a chessboard, the players become whatever labels the media puts on certain groups—and it is presented to us as a contest, where enjoying the contest is as much the point as who wins or loses. You don’t see kids in Aleppo watching CNN—and if they did, they’d be horrified by their commodification as info-tainment, their lives and the lives (and deaths) of everyone they know concentrated down to a brief segment-subject.

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You want to know the World? You can’t. Okay? The world is too big. So you can watch the world news, if you enjoy it, but don’t kid yourself—you’re watching a show. You don’t know nothing. (Hey, I didn’t mean that the way it sounded—I mean, I don’t know nothing, either—I’m just making a point.) When I think about it—my neighborhood is never on the news. Does that mean nothing happens here? Does that mean we aren’t important? No, it just means that we don’t bleed enough to make it onto the show.

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Investing In Space   (2016Nov18)

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Friday, November 18, 2016                                              1:46 PM

Analyze the situation mathematically—one planet, seven billion people. That’s not good—and there’s only one real solution. Before you get all contrary about that statement let me clarify that I am not suggesting moving ourselves and all our stuff up, out of the gravity well we all live at the bottom of. That’s impractical—and it’s not the argument I’m making.

The energy resources and the natural resources available to us at the bottom of our gravity well have been bounteous and convenient. They are far more convenient than the mechanics of humans in space—and we perceive that as a dividing line—but it is not. With robotics, we have explored much of the solar system—and robotic space exploration is still in its infancy, long-term—and robotic asteroid mining is still only in its planning stages.

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Robotic asteroid mining is therefore a volatile investment, to say the least. If we look at the beginnings of the electronic revolution, we see that many companies came and went—picking the right company would have been the wildest of crap-shoots. But investing in all of them would have meant having a stake in the beginnings of firms like Intel, Sun, IBM, Microsoft and Apple. And robotic asteroid mining will have the same volatility—but it will also end the same way—with a handful of those companies making the earlier investments in the old digital boom seem like small potatoes.

So nobody is getting rich on robotic asteroid mining today—but if you are looking for something that will allow your grandchildren to retire in luxury, one hundred years from now—that is where you put your money. There’s no question about it.

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Think of the vastness of space, of our solar system alone—instead of one planet, you have several. And you have those asteroid belts—basically planets’ worth of resources, pre-chewed for your convenience. They come in three popular flavors—mostly ice (meaning water), mostly metal, and the assortment-pack asteroids, which have a little bit of everything in them.

Transportation is the problem. It’s hard to bring anything up there—and it’s hard to bring anything back down. The mechanics of accessing things outside of our gravity well have been considered and summarized many times. It is often referred to as ‘bootstrapping’ humanity’s escape from Earth. It is a zero-sum game—if humanity establishes access to the resources of space, it will survive—if we use up the planet’s resources past the point where we can attempt this, we will be trapped on Earth forever.

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Less visionary people will counter that we cannot waste so much of our resources on such an outlandish scheme. They ignore the fact that seven billion people will quickly become fourteen billion, and soon thereafter, twenty-eight billion. The math doesn’t work. The false economy of turning our backs on space merely extends humanity’s expiration by a few years—whereas access to the solar system extends it for the foreseeable far-future.

Notice that I’m not saying ‘the people of Earth’, I’m saying humanity. The people of Earth will over-populate it, they will make a desert of it, and they will die in droves, maybe even die out completely—that’s just math.

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I imagine you’re thinking of birth-control—why not have population control? Well, you can’t control population growth—ask the Chinese. Any void created by one group is filled by another—you may suppress foreign workers, or deny them human rights—but they are still mouths to feed and capable of breeding more of themselves. Only a global government could do the job—but an overcrowded planet with dwindling resources is not fertile ground for a global government, is it? Checkmate.

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I mean—you could destroy civilization, I guess. That would slaughter most of the people—especially in the developed countries. But people, like weeds, would just grow back—the harder those post-apocalyptic survivors worked to re-build society, the faster we would get right back to where we started. If it seems cold-blooded to destroy civilization, murdering billions—think how psychotic it would be to do all that, just for a ‘delay of game’.

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No, people can use tools and think critically—but in our biology we are still no different from fungus—if we run out of room to expand, we fill up the available space until we choke on our own waste. Yet, while the people of Earth face a dire future, humanity itself has an out.

First of all, we don’t need to send everything out of our gravity well—if we can establish a working asteroid-mining system, we can begin to process raw materials in space as well, and manufacture our needs without Earth. Bootstrapping would require a massive amount of Earth’s resources—but once a foot-hold has been established, space-dwellers will eventually free themselves from any needs formerly required from the surface-dwellers.

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The automation of factories and the use of robots create problems on Earth—they take jobs away from people. But in space, it is very convenient that we are just now beginning to produce robots with impressive ability. Anyone who goes to space will never do more than supervise the activities of the robots and automated facilities—and they don’t even need to be in space, necessarily, to do the supervising.

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The hardest thing about space is growing food there—but while that is difficult, it is not impossible. That too will have to be bootstrapped—biomes will have to be created using soil samples and such from Earth—but once begun, such biomes will be self-sustaining. And, while we could never send all the people into space—we don’t really need to. Just send a few—they’ll take it from there . (Just make sure you have a diverse genetic sampling.)

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So, to re-cap, we can do little in space until we’ve developed a foothold, using robotics—and while we can’t send all the people to space, we can send their genome. Humanity saved. But we were speaking of investments in the future. What, you may ask, do I get out of saving humanity?

Here’s the part where luck has something to do with how this all plays out. I don’t know if you’ve heard—but scientists came up with a plan for free energy a long time ago. All you have to do is create solar panels in Earth orbit and transmit the energy to the surface as microwaves. No fuel required, no pollution emitted—unlimited free power. Why don’t we do that? We don’t do that because nobody wants a microwave-cannon with the power of the sun pointed at whatever part of Earth’s surface it happens to be pointed at.

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There are many things that science won’t do, or can’t do. If you remember, the space-shuttles always landed dead-stick (in the words of one of the pilots, ‘it flew like a brick’). If asteroid mining developed sufficiently, it could send raw materials back to earth—instead of mining for metal, we could have steel gliders in from space. Sounds crazy, I know—but it can be done.

One of the things science can’t do (right now, at least) is create a material strong enough to support Clarke’s space-elevator. But if we are lucky enough to find such materials and building techniques in the near future, we could create a conveyor belt capable of both sending things to space, and getting stuff back from space, without any great need for energy, or rockets, or rocket fuel.

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If we got lucky in that way, then the development of the solar system’s resources wouldn’t just save humanity, it would save the people of Earth as well. It would provide more resources than we could imagine, it would provide a cheap and easy way for people to leave Earth—or return. It would mean that the benefits of going to space would not be confined only to the people in space.

That would be great—a lucky break for everyone. But there is no guarantee that any of this will happen—there isn’t even any guarantee that we will begin to try to do any of this. The only guarantee is that, if we do it, it won’t be easy. My only purpose in writing this is to set the facts in evidence before you.

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Establishing a self-sustaining foothold in space is the big issue—everything else is a side-issue: wars, governments, even money are trivial things by comparison. It is human nature to expand—we can’t help ourselves. But we are trapped in a bottle right now, running out of room to grow—running out of materials, destroying environments. You may think of space exploration as childish—but I think of the short-sightedness of failing to go to space as even more childish. It is little different from hiding under the covers, hoping the boogeyman will go away.

In short, investing in space is a long shot, not to mention a really long-term investment that will require decades to make a return. But I believe that if we don’t develop space, no investment in anything has much of a future. So, in balance, it’s where the smart money will go. And remember—it’s not always necessary to be smart—sometimes you can simply listen to what the smart people say. And this is what they are saying, as far as I understand it.

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Queen of the Nerds   (2016Nov13)

 

Sunday, November 13, 2016                                            12:20 PM

The election is over and people still want to talk about it, even protest about it. I don’t think they understand what the word ‘election’ really means. I was happy to argue over the choices, while the election was still to come—indeed, I did little else. But we are no longer arguing about what Trump might do—he’s president-elect now, and he’s gonna do pretty much whatever comes into that fool head of his.

The time to stop him has passed. You lose. Or, rather, we lose—I lose—and I don’t feel much like talking about it anymore. It’s painful enough to know that half the voters didn’t even show up, that Hillary got the most votes of those who did show up, and that Trump won the race anyway.

What else is there to talk about? Are we going to torture ourselves, watching every stupid move this clown makes, every mistake that sets the world a-shudder? Not me—if the country is this stupid, I’m not watching it self-destruct on TV—I’ll wait until it shows up at my front door.

In the meantime, I’ll try to stay busy and stay positive. I try to remind myself that, underneath it all, Hillary probably feels great—she’s free as a bird, she did her best—it was the country that lost out in not getting her for our president. What did she lose? Four, maybe eight years of the most grueling job on earth—she’s well out of it.

From a personal point of view, Hillary won big. She got a million more votes than Trump, but she doesn’t have to be imprisoned on Pennsylvania Avenue for the next few years—she can take it easy, take some time for herself.

An eighteen-month presidential campaign is no picnic (and she had to bull through pneumonia along the way) so I’m sure she could use a little downtime. Truly, I’m almost as happy for her as I am heartbroken for myself. Hillary, you win Nerd-dom hands down—this is the supreme example of the cool kids not listening to the head-down, hard-working, smart girl—you are the Queen of the Nerds for life.

It’s done wonders for us here—after the initial shock of disappointment, Claire threw out her TV and got intensely busy with her various projects; Spencer seemed galvanized to start doing all kinds of projects (I think this election has convinced him that there is a threatening world out there—something I was loathe to teach him myself, but that may have some good come of it); and I am emerging, too, into a fresh, new world that doesn’t revolve around watching news channels and writing my election blog-posts.

I enjoyed the last eight years of politics, particularly after the preceding eight years of frustration (and war and economic crisis). I felt the arrow of time bending towards progressivism—which only makes sense in a world growing ever more closely-bound together. But the future must wait. The next four years will be an epic hiccup in our social progress—and excuse me if I choose to ignore it entirely until 2020.

I am impatient with any waste of time—and following politics, for the present, will be nothing but an exercise in masochism. I’ll just keep my head down and hope for something better, next time around. You younger, healthier people should spend the next four years getting your ducks in a row, preparing to take the government back from the dickheads. I’m not saying everyone should be old and sick like me, unable to bounce back from this debacle—in fact, you should be working on getting some Dems elected in the 2018 races—you’ll want a plurality in both Houses, when and if you get another Dem for Prez.

But I am done. I’ve watched Cronkite report on JFK’s assassination, LBJ’s war protesters, Nixon’s tapes, Ford’s fumbles, Carter’s hostages, and Reagan’s Cold War victory. I’ve watched CNN’s Wolf report on Bush Sr.’s Iraq War, Clinton’s peccadilloes, Bush Jr.’s Iraq War, and Obama’s Health Care. I’ve seen enough—and the turd that just rolled up has no place among these past leaders.

Yes, somehow the world manages to become a better place, year by year, but not without a lot of problems lingering, or even getting worse. President-elect Aberration is a perfect example of that. But Trump’s election is no reason for total despair—his incompetence is still preferable to the polished evil of his VP. And four years of practice will prove to his supporters what they refused to face during the election. The Republicans have finally ousted all their favorite excuses—what will they say when they have no Obama to blame, no Hillary to scapegoat?

Oh, they’ll still lie—they’ll still make excuses—getting elected doesn’t change anything. But they’ll have a lot less cover. And the truth will out—no matter how many biased news-reports try to hide it. Congress will still suck—and now they’ll be working with a president who doesn’t know what he’s doing—should be great fun, eh?

But I don’t watch reality TV—and now that politics has commingled with that genre, I’m going to watch something else for the foreseeable future. Please let me know if journalism makes a comeback, or if voters become engaged, or if a competent person replaces our new president-elect. And don’t worry, I’m not gonna hold my breath.

But I will not torture myself by following every dick move this guy pulls, day after day. I gave up two years being mesmerized by TV, watching them play this media game, where the truth is hidden under one of the shifting teacups—‘that’s right, viewer, just keep your eyes on the swirling teacups….’  I’m done, I tell you.

Now that I’m much older than 99% of the talking heads, I see them more clearly than they see themselves—and the kernels of truth squeezed in amongst all their sensationalism get rarer and rarer, like gems in the mud. I’m like one of those old master-butchers—you give me a carcass of story and I’ll trim away all the fat with a few expert slices of the knife, leaving only the lonely fillets of factual info—but present media reporting is a conveyor-belt of animal parts fit only for dog-or-cat-food. Presenting such a fact-free wasteland to an old butcher like me is an insult, and I won’t take it anymore.

 

Sunday, November 13, 2016                                            5:24 PM

Even If Flames Surround Them

 

As the veil of anti-depressants falls away

The mind doesn’t clear so much as catch fire,

The clarity cluttered by the rawness.

The first thought is ‘Retreat!’—losing a grip on the cotton

Clouds, peering over my shoulder at the long fall

Back down to the ground.

And between that downfall of an election

And the constant shouting of the still, small voice

That says, ‘Quit smoking!’ this may seem a bad time

To stop softening the edges of the world in my head.

Yet down we must come. Down we must be,

Here on the ground where we can touch the

Things that matter, even if flames surround them.

 

As the grumbling gremlins become visible,

And all-too-well heard, shoulders hunch in revulsion.

Words jumble; memories tumble, stumble, and fumble.

Why do I need to be here? What’s my job?

I stand on that lone promontory, confused.

How do emotions get broken—and how do we

Clear them from the road ahead while they remain

Too heavy to shift? If I can climb over, if I

Can get through, if I can keep moving,

I think I can. I think I can. I think I can.

And descend to the valley of the real, down

On the ground where I can touch the

People that matter, even if flames surround them.

 

Monday, November 14, 2016                                           12:08 PM

Something Everybody Does   (2016Nov14)

You know that feeling when you’re just starting to wake up? It’s comfortable and fluffy, but you don’t know anything—where you are, who you are, what day it is—that sort of thing. It’s a beautiful moment—I remember enjoying that immensely. But now I never get passed that feeling. I can’t get a firm purchase on the surface of my thoughts—they slide around me like wisps of smoke. I miss having a working brain—they are handy.

So many things can be accomplished with good wetware—I’ve been exiled from their kingdom, but I refuse to join the people who hug their ignorance to themselves like a fur coat in a strong breeze. Maybe I can’t think anymore, but I can still tell the difference between what is and what I wish would be. All this pretending is so childish.

We pretend that we are not animals. We make excuses for our impulses, pretending there are reasons behind them. It makes me laugh—the more ignorant we are, the more proud we are of our opinions—intelligent people are never sure of themselves. The world is a complicated thing—thinking you’ve figured it out is a sure sign of idiocy.

There is nothing as hilarious to me as someone with the confidence of his or her convictions—I remember when I was that young. I was so sure I was right and everybody who thought otherwise was wrong. But I was a little kid, then—there’s no excuse for that kind of childishness when you’re a grown person.

People can be very demanding—they want what’s theirs; they want their rights; they want their fair share; they want free speech for themselves—and a little peace and quiet from everybody else. And they don’t even see the paradox in their hypocrisy. We want our kids to behave—and we want them to think for themselves. We want our parents to give us everything we want—and protect us from the things we shouldn’t have. We want to make a killing in business, but we want businesses to be fair to us. We don’t understand why we have to wait, when we are so busy. We try to get past the rules we don’t like, but we want to punish those who dare to break the rules.

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William Blake once drew a picture symbolizing childhood—it was a child at the foot of a ladder that goes up to the moon, the child reaching up and crying, “I want! I want!” I think he was going easy on the human race, implying that all that sort of thing ends in childhood. I certainly have little more to offer the world than my urges, my needs, and my desires—and I can’t think of anyone else who could honestly claim differently. I suppose his point is that children don’t climb the ladder—they wait for someone else to fetch them the moon. But while an adult may climb the ladder, it’s still in thoughtless pursuit of the bright object—little different from a myna bird seeking tin-foil for its nest.

We still seek food and shelter—but we do it in this deferred-reward capitalist square-dance that trades time and effort for money, then money for food and shelter. The stress of this requires escapism, so some of the money goes to our leisure pursuits—though the fact of ‘leisure’ being necessary to the system tells you something’s off about the whole thing. Then there’re the layers of pretending—the wealthy get to pretend there’s a reason why they have it easy, the poor get to pretend that the system that keeps them poor is a good one.

We’re just a bunch of animals who’ve learned how to play pretend on a grand scale. But for me, the pretense takes something out of the grandeur. A culture based on facts and common sense would undoubtedly be less imaginative, perhaps even less fun—and that is probably why Progressives have such a job getting people to change the way they think. Their mistake is in assuming that thinking is something everybody does.

 

 

ttfn.

 

Now, Finally   (2016Oct14)

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Thursday, October 13, 2016                                             7:45 PM

With all the problems in this world, we nevertheless have one clown ready and eager to burn it all down to satisfy his ego—Donald Trump, and three people who won’t let their inevitable failure keep them from their ‘right to run for president’: Evan McMullin, Gary Johnson, and Jill Stein. If Trump wins (God forbid) he will have done it with their help. And people say Hillary is ambitious.

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Friday, October 14, 2016                                                  12:04 PM

It is a season of extremes. If Trump wins, I will feel a greater despair than when Bush-43 was re-elected. If Hillary wins, I will feel an even greater elation than when Barack was elected. And that’s not hyperbole—those moments of deep disappointment and sky-high celebration are both burned in my memory.

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Though I resented Bush and felt happy for Obama, my deep disappointment was in my fellow American voters—my celebration was, too. Democracy means self-government—we rarely contemplate that such a system depends entirely on the knife-edge of people’s judgement. It’s terrifying. An uninformed, or misinformed, electorate will have the judgement of a drunkard—which is to say, no judgement at all. And as we become more and more a culture with various ‘genres’ of truth, judgement becomes something of a commodity.

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The complexity of modern life requires not only that we reveal the truth, but that we also beat back the misinformation. Children are educated in schools, where there is some quality-control on the information being taught—but the rest of us get our information from the media. Some media-combines have a political agenda. They promote this agenda by cherry-picking their info—but they also have to cast doubt on the rest of the media, which contradicts many of their premises—and even their ‘facts’.

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It is a very fancy, very cyber-age form of lying. It’s lying. The whole point of Journalism (with a capital ‘J’) is to be impartial, to report the facts, without any filter. But we live in a complex world—reporting all the facts is virtually impossible—no one can read that fast. So today’s reporting is, by necessity, an abstract of the research—rather than printing 2,000 pages of a report, reporters try to convey the sense of the report. Objectivity is an ideal—and such reporting almost begs to be interpreted subjectively—so a journalist has no easy task trying to give us nothing-but-the-facts. If media outlets go into that process with an agenda, their results can’t be truly labeled ‘journalism’.

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The differences in our politics used to be philosophical differences—this ‘genre-fication’ of our news-media twists our politics into a battle of air-time, spin, and financial backing. This is, no doubt, what convinced the SCOTUS to find that ‘money is speech’ in the Citizens United ruling. Personally, I think they can only truly find so if, and only if, speech is also money—which it ain’t.

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The beautiful thing about the truth is that it has a ring to it. When propagandists go too far, we can tell. When the entertainment value of Trump’s rallies wears off and we revisit what he has said, we find nothing but the vacuous nonsense and bitter resentment of a spoiled child. When Fox News fails to air Obama’s speech this morning, we can still watch it on all the other news channels. There may be millions of bitter, frustrated Americans who eagerly latch on to Trump’s ‘hate train’, but the rest of us can easily see through his machinations.

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I put it to you that Hillary Clinton has been investigated in courts, Congressional hearings, and by the friggin FBI—if she belonged in jail, don’t you think she’d be there? The Republicans have been stalking her for thirty years—if there was even a hint of real criminality, wouldn’t they have convicted her by now? And, since that hasn’t happened, can we now, finally, begin to question the motives of those who stalk her? Can a lady who has done so much good, also manage to do so much bad—and do it so secretly that no one can find any hard evidence of wrongdoing? Please.

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If the Wiki-leaks hack of Podesta’s emails shows anything, it shows an engaged career politician hacking her way through the undergrowth of others’ mendacity. Granted, politics is nothing if not manipulative—but it is manipulation for a cause—private and public policies are a reality. Only a history-illiterate newbie like Trump would deny that Lincoln was a politician as much as a leader. Trump is not a candidate so much as an insult to our intelligence—to even begin to compare him to a real leader like Hillary, we would have to first find, in his seventy years of existence, one instance where he thought of someone else’s welfare, ever. ‘Nuf said.

Vote for Hillary!

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History   (2016Oct13)

Thursday, October 13, 2016                                             1:44 PM

We all have history. I have incidents in my past of which I am not proud, things that make me wince to remember. But I tell myself that I learned from those mistakes, that I’ve become a better person by feeling the shame of past sins—I’ve come to realize how thoughtless behavior can feel to the person on the wrong end of it, and now I am more careful in my words and deeds.

I’ve also learned that mistakes can’t be undone. If confronted with my past, I tell myself, “Don’t deny that you hurt someone—that would just make it worse—like hurting them all over again.” It’s easy for me—I don’t have any dark secret to confess—I’ve simply been rude or thoughtless in my youth at certain points—and felt bad enough about it afterward that the memories haunt me.

Donald Trump didn’t coalesce into existence behind a podium one year ago—he has a history, too. Now, he prefers to label it a ‘media conspiracy’, but it used to be a reputation he was proud of—the wealthy Manhattanite man-about-town, with an eye for the ladies. His boasting, aboard Billy Bush’s bus, is an example of him propagating that rep—and his bragging about being the owner of a pageant, thus being able to pop into dressing rooms, jibes neatly with the accusations of then-fourteen-year-old girls who describe the same experience from their point of view.

Of all the blatantly transparent lies that Trump has told throughout the campaign, his denial of his own personal history is the biggest whopper so far. It must be dizzying, even for him, to go from bragging about this aspect of himself, to denying it as a filthy lie. I’m starting to think that Trump’s emphatic untruths are a subconscious compulsion—when he says, ‘Lock her up’, he’s really shouting to the world, “I should be locked up!” Perhaps that explains why he mirrors everything Secretary Clinton says, in reverse—he’s actually agreeing with her in the only way his ego will allow him to say it?

Who knows? I’m no psychiatrist. Yet, as a layman, I still feel confident in saying he has a screw loose. Millions of Americans find it appealing—that’s the real problem. I can see that he’s crazy—but how in the world do I get someone else to see it? I can’t put my eyes in someone else’s head.

I saw a Facebook comment this morning where someone said everything I have said, that Trump still won’t show his taxes, he’s horrible and unfit, etc., but ended with the conclusion that our country needs to be ‘disrupted’ by someone like him, because it is too ingrown and self-defeating. I don’t dismiss those points but, as I’ve said before, you don’t fix a computer by taking a hammer to it. And governing fifty states at once, plus being the world police, makes the USA as complicated as any computer. In many ways, it is more complex—people always make everything more complicated. Setting off a bomb, as a president, seems more an expression of frustration than a thoughtful judgement call.

Plus, Trump and the Republicans habitually downplay all the good news coming out of the latest stats. (Isn’t it funny how we value stats based partly on how well they agree with our opinions?) If you look at the stats, the idea of ‘four more years of Obama’ is hardly the threat they wish it sounded like. If a Democrat President with the entire Congress standing in his way could have this much success, imagine what Hillary could accomplish with a willing Senate, maybe even a House of Representatives.

This women’s-equality thing and inclusion-of-gays thing is working out just fine—to the outrage of the far right. Their only chance was to bring us backwards before the new attitudes could settle in. Trump was their shot at that. But it looks as though we may have dodged the bullet.

Trump’s campaign boils down to: ‘Who ya gonna believe?’ He does this because, in business, the answer is always ‘the bloated billionaire’. Unfortunately, this is politics, where the answer to ‘Who ya gonna believe?’ is never ‘the bloated billionaire’, it’s ‘the lifelong public servant’. Vote for Hillary.

Playing Grown-Up   (2016Oct08)

Saturday, October 08, 2016                                              2:00 PM

What a roller-coaster of emotions. Initially, of course, disgust and mind-boggle-ment. Then an unattractive glee over this ethical implosion (but we were so frightened he might become our president—you really can’t blame us). Then back to disgust—but this time, over the fact that our politics have come to this. Then an overwhelming sense of relief—as in ‘he can’t win now.’ Then a chill of worry—after all, his cult following isn’t going to care—their support has no relation to judgement. Then ‘self-reassurance’, because he can’t win with just his existing base of zealots.

I’m positively dizzy with disorientation. But, as Rachel Maddow says, “You are awake. You are not dreaming. This is really happening.” I’ve long since stopped thinking about Trump at all—it became painfully clear that the problem is in the vast numbers of voters who see him as presidential material. People like Trump (and Trump himself) have always been there—but they’ve never had a shot at the presidency before. People have never been accepting of such a filthy, perverted creep before. Sure, there was Nixon—but he had the presence of mind to hide his lack of character as well as he could, not to revel in it.

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But let’s not overlook Julian Assange completely—he has waited for the perfect moment to drop his ‘bomb’ on the Clinton campaign. Well, the Billy Bush video kinda messed up that timing—but even without it, we are hard-pressed to understand how he could have thought Hillary’s speeches to businesses would destroy her. I’ve read what he leaked—it’s all pretty reasonable stuff, assuming your life is not dedicated to despising Hillary Clinton.

We are mature enough to watch Trump’s damning video—surely then, we’re mature enough to grapple with the paradox of democracy. An elected official needs to present themselves so as to be elected—if the right thing to do is unpopular, you only talk about it in private. That’s the crux of what is revealed about Hillary in this latest leak—small potatoes compared to the revelations about Trump’s character (or total absence thereof).

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The truth is—I don’t really know enough about international trade agreements to gainsay the people whose job it is to formulate such things. I do know that Europe has seen borderless-ness as a goal for generations—a sign that civilized people can live side by side without armed guards and walls. In examining their history, we may find ourselves embarrassed to be fixated on so bad an idea as a Big Wall. It’s a really stupid idea—and in so many ways.

I’m so desperately hoping this election comes out right—democracy has shat the bed twice, recently—first with Brexit, then again with the Columbians voting ‘No’ to peace with the FARC. It would be nice if the cradle of democracy could score one for the good guys. My nerves have had it.

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Catchphrases work well as political tools, but they are worthless as policy. If NAFTA is unfair, we should modify it until it is fair. Killing it is a simple idea—but rather simple-minded, if we remember that there were reasons why NAFTA was created. TPP is neither good or bad, either—it is an agreement, which can be changed if it is unfair. And, our experience with NAFTA will tell us what problems to look out for.

In the same way, the Affordable Care Act was a vital bill—that has been revealed to be flawed. Now, we can throw it in the trash—bumping 20,000,000 people off of health insurance—or we can modify the bill to be fair and economically feasible. Legislation and Trade Agreements are complex works which can be modified when faulty—but in using them as political footballs, we reduce the question to ‘live or die?’ We don’t want to trash these things—we want to tweak them until they work. You don’t fix a computer by taking a hammer to it.

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The Republicans are slippery on this—sometimes their objections are that the bill doesn’t work, sometimes their objections are that ‘socialized medicine’ is bad. In the end, they conflate both arguments, and say that we have to repeal Obamacare. Not that we have to fix it. And honestly, everyone knows that the Insurance Lobby blocked the single-payer-option because it makes the industry more competitive—and everyone knew that blocking the single-payer-option would make the bill a nonsensical mish-mash. They don’t want to fix the bill, now, for the same reason they fought the bill’s passing.

Tomorrow night’s debate should be fascinating. I hope Hillary knows that she’s already won—she should take it easy, not for his sake, but just because she’s gracious in victory. Then again—let’em have it—he’s earned it. Making us all look bad—grumble, grumble…..

Thirty Years   (2016Sep27)

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Tuesday, September 27, 2016                                                    11:27 AM

Of all Trump’s bombastic BS, the ‘thirty years’ attack is the most exasperating. Trying to turn Hillary Clinton’s preparedness into a negative is as convoluted an argument as his claim that an unprepared ‘outsider’ is what this country needs in a leader.

Let’s take a page from Seth Myers and take ‘a closer look’ at this ‘thirty years’ nonsense. Hillary Clinton earned her law degree and was active in public service long before she became the First Lady of Arkansas, never mind First Lady of the United States (FLOTUS). Beyond that, of all the people who ‘serve at the pleasure of the President’, I think we can place FLOTUS at the head of that list.

In other words, while First Lady, Hillary Clinton tried to help her husband’s work, succeeding in creating (and passing) the Children’s Health Care bill and other notable good works. She met with elected officials from around the country, with foreign dignitaries, and with charitable efforts leaders, learned about the workings of the White House and the challenges of governing—but she did not govern.

After the White House, she won election to a Senate seat from New York—and was an able partner to the senior Senator from her state and worked diligently with both sides of the aisle—but she did not govern—she wasn’t even the minority whip.

Then she became Obama’s Secretary of State. Again, serving at the pleasure of the President—not governing.

So, all this experience is excellent preparation for becoming the President—but never gave her any opportunity to make her own decisions. I won’t deny that those were positions of influence—but influence is not power. Any decisions made by her husband, by Congress, or by Barack Obama, were theirs, not hers. And she couldn’t even publicly talk about any disagreements she might have had with the two presidents she worked beside—people don’t do that.

So the last thirty years of Hillary’s life have been an historically excellent preparation for the job of President—but they haven’t been thirty years of governing, as Trump would have us believe. He is simply trying to turn one of her greatest strengths into a negative.

Well, two can play at that game—Trump, you’ve had seventy years to engage in public service and you have never once bothered to care about other people—what’s makes you think you can convince us that you suddenly do care? Seventy years of self-serving, sometimes fraudulent, piracy have prepared you to do nothing other than lose to a qualified candidate. No amount of bombast can change that.

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Questions, anyone?

 

Trump’s Cult Constituency   (2016Sep17)

Saturday, September 17, 2016                                          4:34 PM

We’ve all been mystified—how has a self-confessed fraud and egomaniac managed to collect and hang on to so many voters? The first clue is that Trump has made slim inroads into the educated-people demographic. The second clue is that none of his lies—even when proven untrue—see him losing any followers.

A narcissist with no experience in government who, when Hillary says he’s unfit, says, ‘no, she’s unfit’; when Hillary points out his racist behavior, says, ‘no, she’s the racist’—like an idiot child, he doesn’t even deny he’s unfit, or a racist—he just says, ‘I know you are but what am I?’ And now—the most flagrant lie in history—after spreading birther bigotry for five years, he says, ‘Hillary started it.’—a provably-false lie—and reverses his own position, without explanation or apology.

We wonder if we’re still sane—any other candidate would have been laughed out of countenance twenty slip-ups ago. Any other candidate would have plummeted in the polls by now. But Trump’s supporters hang tough—it’s a mystery. But I’ve figured it out—it’s a cult.

Think it through—this is a group of people who have been indoctrinated against science and facts. They’ve been told they can’t believe the newspapers or the TV or the radio—that reality is something different from what everyone else says it is. They have little or no education—many are emotionally fraught from all the change in this country—a change they see as working against them. And here’s a celebrity who speaks like Moses come down from the mountain, bringing the revealed word of Trump—graven on plastic tablets (that dissolve in water each news-cycle).

He tells them who the infidel is—he jokes about someone shooting her. He tells them that only he can save us all. The rest of us can tell he’s making it all up as he goes along—but his followers take his every word as gospel.

Their rage insists on a target—someone has to be punished, or at the very least damned—and everyone knows women make the easiest targets. Their fear is comforted by his insane confidence—like a prophet of old, he spouts nonsense—nonsense that God will make good on, in the end, right? These peoples’ faith is their strong suit—and it’s been under attack by progressives. Trump welcomes their non-judgmental faith, their non-questioning faith—in him (God is a bit player on Trump’s stage). It’s not a constituency—it’s a cult.

So, don’t go looking for Trump’s numbers to drop—no matter what happens. This election will decide whether there are enough sane people in this country to keep this jackass out of public office—or whether his zombie army will outnumber us at the polls. It’s the stuff of nightmares. This election should be quite exciting—we won’t be simply casting a vote, we’ll be trying to save the world. Vote for Hillary. Or live in the hell-scape of the alternative.

Finger-Pointing   (2016Sep10)

Saturday, September 10, 2016                                          3:01 PM

I am a bitter, angry old man. Have you ever wondered what an angry old man does with his time? Well, here’s how my day usually goes:

I get angry at the media for forcing a fifth-grade reading-level on public debate—and for lunging at any wisp of sensation. But then I tell myself that the media aren’t the problem, Trump is.

So then I get angry at Trump for trashing our global image, for sowing ignorance and fear, and shredding any solemnity we still felt towards our quadrennial ritual of choosing the Leader of the Free World. The gravitas of holding the fate of the globe, of humanity, in the palm of a single hand—is totally lost on this grubby con-man. But then I tell myself that Trump isn’t the problem, the Republicans are.

So then I get furious with the Republicans for choking the breath out of our government. Their obligation to lead their constituency is forfeited, for craven pandering to the most vocal, extreme, ignorant minority, for fear of being criticized by a mob of besotted malcontents, who hate the USA as it is, and yearn for a ‘return’ to some fantasy, fascist past.

Blocking appointees to vital offices and judgeships, strangling our economy with a sequester that punishes Democrats for the crash the Republicans made—and keeps that crash lingering, well… I could go on, ad infinitum, about the neglect and cynical sabotage the Republicans call ‘service’, but we all have things to do. So, anyway, I get mad. But then I tell myself that the Republicans aren’t the problem, the voters are.

And then I realize that calling half of American voters gullible, clueless, and deluded is not going to make me any friends—neither will it change anyone’s mind. Then I get mad at humanity in general, for its propensity towards destructive and lazy ideas—ideas that contain more inertial persistence than our rare insights into love, and all the work it entails. I get mad at the super-rich for toying with the whole of humanity, absent of any ethics and overcome with selfishness. I get made at the NRA, the arms-makers, and the arms-dealers for profiting on death. I am enraged at the injustice of seven billion mostly good people, used and misled by a mere handful of greedy, hateful pigs.

Then I go lie down and try to get my pulse back to normal. So what’s your day like?

Media Backs New Hitler   (2016Sep10)

Saturday, September 10, 2016                                          11:26 AM

Is there anything Trump can do or say that will deter people from voting for him? Is there anything he can say that will finally push the media to report it as a lie, instead of just reporting his quote, and having a debate over it? Will this toxic confluence of media sensationalism, nationalism, and misogyny actually propel a border-line-psycho ignoramus into the Oval Office, edging out the best potential leader our country has ever seen?

They say the best way to win a fight is to act like a madman—it unnerves the opponent. This is the first time that strategy has been employed in an election campaign—because, prior to now, people who act crazy have been disqualified by the voters. Apparently, we now have voters for whom ‘crazy’ is acceptable. When fact-checkers report that 95% of what a person says is False, that usually disqualifies as well. But in this election, it actually helps Trump, because one of his lies is that ‘we can’t trust Hillary Clinton’.

I admire the way Trump obscures his total lack of experience by accusing Hillary of not fixing anything for thirty years—yes, she has done the hard work of public service, for thirty years, and more. But she hasn’t been President for thirty years—blaming her for all the (supposed) mistakes of her husband or Obama or Democrats generally—that only works on Survivor or The Apprentice. It shouldn’t be working in an election—it should be disqualifying in an election.

If a seventy-year-old visits one black church for the first time in his life, does that erase his racism? If his close friend, the alleged sex-assaulter, isn’t an ‘official’ member of his team, does that erase his chauvinism? If the one unchanging feature of his ‘supporter-commentators’ is that they never answer a direct question, does that make him a man we can rely on?

One thing that Hillary has done for thirty years is study policy—most of Trump’s policies (if you can call ‘secrets’ policies) are thirty days old, if that. When are we going to stop harassing Hillary about non-issues, like her emails, or Benghazi, or the CGI—and start asking questions about the millions of dollars wasted on investigating, interrogating, and always, eventually, vindicating her?

And, speaking of, why is Hillary the only person in America who can be accused, investigated, cleared—and still be guilty? That’s not a conviction, that’s a wish. And the media, apparently, is in the wish-fulfillment business—always talking about Hillary’s unfavorables as if she had earned then, when they’ve been dishonestly smeared on her, and embraced by people who ‘just don’t like her’. Hillary’s unfavorables say nothing about the woman herself, they are a verdict of ‘ignorant’ against the public. Why do we never hear discussion about why people are gullible enough to fall for dirty-tricks politics?

Media people, enjoy those high ratings—much good may they do you when our new Hitler takes the oath (with his fingers crossed, no doubt).

Dumber or Smarter   (2016Sep08)

Thursday, September 08, 2016                                         2:14 PM

Has Trump’s candidacy made the whole country dumber or smarter? For the most part, he has suppressed our intelligence, particularly where news pundits are concerned. The title-chiron ‘Trump Supporter’ has come to represent a talking-head as cornered animal. Because media ‘requirements’ give equal time to opposing views, these people make up half of what we watch—a daily symposium on obstinate rancor and half-truths. What do we learn from this? We learn ‘never answer a question directly’. Actually, make that ‘never answer a question’. And we learn ‘when in doubt, shout about the opposition’.

We are smarter in one specific way—Trump’s easy victory over the crowded GOP primary field points up the weakness of having a party that relies more on talking points than public service, or common sense. And we learn that, no matter how modern we consider ourselves, we are eternally under threat from demagoguery.

Trump’s similarities to infamous fascists and other strongman despots have not stopped the angriest and most frustrated citizens from taking his populist bait. Governmental and political professionals, take note: if you neglect the common welfare in favor of the wealthiest, and do it long enough to turn discomfort into resentment and anger, any old bully with a smooth line can capture the electorate. Democracy, a system that relies on judgment, will always be vulnerable to strong emotional tides in the masses.

The dysfunction, frustration and anger can all be traced back to Republican obstructionism of the most flagrant, over-the-top quality. While the media drones on, echoing the rock-throwing harpies who haunt Hillary, and legitimizing the GOP’s novelty candidate, I’ve been driven to watching CSPAN2.

I’ve been watching Democrat senators beg the Senate to unjam the appointments back-log. Garland is just one of the appointees being ignored—hundreds of empty benches are causing a crisis for the few judges struggling to handle caseloads. The GOP’s refusal to confirm nominations prolongs massive vacancies in both federal judgeships, and agency and department heads. The vacancies in leadership can make it as though certain agencies don’t exist—effectively shutting them down, and makes a travesty of our institutional systems. This is government by forced unemployment.

Democrat senator after Democrat senator rose on the floor yesterday to declaim this political, cynical affront to public service and the most minimal bipartisan action, only to be answered with the word, ‘Objection’. That’s the response from the GOP.

Today, Senate Democrats gathered to honor Joe Biden (whose speech was cut off after mere seconds by GOP-controlled cameras). They also took the occasion to put it to the American public that the Senate managed to work out a bipartisan Zika-defense bill, sent it to the House, and the House Republicans added rider after rider, attacking Planned Parenthood, endorsing the Confederate flag, and other political BS that had no place in an national emergency funding bill. Then they doubled-down on this amorality by claiming the Democrats ‘voted down a Zika bill’. What kind of a dick does that? They all seem shockingly comfortable with this kind of childish evil.

It’s a sliding scale—GOP Senators seem to feel an occasional pinch of conscience, just enough to be embarrassed, not enough to act; GOP Representatives feel no shame at any of the bullying nonsense they pull; and the GOP candidate for President has lifted ‘bullying nonsense’ to an art form. But they’re all guilty of obstructionism and gamesmanship for its own sake, while the people they swore to serve languish in extreme distress.

The Democrats may blunder. The Democrats may get confused. But the Democrats never base their agenda on the opposition, they base it on getting shit done. Even a dyed-in-the-wool Conservative must recognize that a nation’s government must maintain what it already has. Even if you don’t want anything new, you still want to keep our roads, our schools, our military and VA, our justice system—you want to keep the nuts and bolts working. You don’t shut down, sequester, and obstruct any attempt to maintain the nation’s needs—that’s as good as treason—that’s an enemy within, more than any kind of public servant.

When Obama was elected, he doubtless felt a great weight on his shoulders—not just the weight that all presidents feel, but the additional weight of knowing that many would consider his presidency as a test of his race. Well, Barack Obama passed his test with flying colors—but we, the rest of the nation, have failed it miserably. Insidious bigotry and divisiveness in an effort to somehow deny President Obama the full honor of the office to which he was twice elected, especially birtherism, has made a sorry display of American politics these last eight years—and I am ashamed to be one of you.

Now, this orange clown, seeing the racism and nationalism ramping upward throughout Obama’s two terms, thinks he can win by running on the Nazi ticket. I mean GOP ticket. A debased and doddering tycoon hopes to bamboozle us all into ignoring the most able candidate—and the first woman candidate—that America has ever had. So says Barack—and so says her husband, Bill. And for what—a wall? Cracker please.

So, does Trump make us all Dumber or Smarter? I suppose that remains to be seen. November will tell the tale.

Damn Good Woman   (2016Aug28)

Sunday, August 28, 2016                                         6:52 PM

Lately a lot of people are saying the election has gotten very ugly, that the rancorous back-and-forth is getting out of hand. To me, this is just more unconscious misogyny. Trump has said some very ugly and thoughtless things—it’s most of his platform, really—and lots of ugly things are being said about Hillary, the Clinton family, and their Foundation. But Hillary herself has done nothing but point to Trump’s record, and quote his own words—is that really Hillary being ugly, or just holding up a mirror to her opponent? I know people like to say that politics is a rough business—having one ugly candidate in the race is enough to tar them both—but that seems pretty facile to me.

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There has been nothing underhanded or resentful in Hillary Clinton’s attacks on her opponent and his positions. She was very careful, recently, to outline the facts that reflect racism in Trump’s history, without ever calling him a name. Trump did that—and he’s the only one, Dem or GOP, that has had the foul grace to do so. News-chyrons trumpet his sensationalism, feeling no need to add that it’s a childish and baseless claim. But again, Trump is being ugly, so the news-folk are being ugly—still no ugliness from Hillary.

When are Americans going to give this woman a fucking break? When was the last time enemy-agents destroyed this country by donating hundreds of thousands of dollars to get a luncheon invitation? Umm, never. What office-holder doesn’t have a network of contacts that help them serve their constituency? Umm, none of them—not if they’re doing their jobs. Who the hell, in or out of government, can guarantee us that all their cyber-comms are completely un-hackable? Nobody. Since when does an FBI head criticize the State Department for being sloppy, without it being taken with a grain of salt for the political elbow-in-the-ribs it most likely is? When it’s Hillary, that’s when. Why has every single, silly, stupid charge the far-right can raise against her made headline news? I’ll tell you why—because it’s two stories. First they can dazzle us with the exotic claims, then, they can report on the dull facts that belie the stupid claims—that’s why they do it. Two for one—and fuck the poor lady’s feelings.

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She does have them, you know. Yes, even you, with the sore throat and the spittle on your lip from screaming her damnation—you have to admit that she has feelings. Successful strong women have just as many feelings as any of us. Imagine what it’s like to be a political football, having to take time out from the very hard, very complicated work of serving the nation at the highest levels, to answer a bunch of rabid barking from the most thoughtless group of people ever known. You couldn’t pay me.

And speaking of pay—Secretary Clinton never twisted anyone’s arm for her speaking fees. If I may quote “Moneyball”: ‘High salary says the same thing about you that it says about other top players—that you’re worth it.’  I suspect Trump’s camp picked the speaking fees as a target because it gives them an extra free hit—suggesting that Hillary isn’t really worth what she was payed, therefore it had to be ‘influence money’. Please—just because no one ever has, or ever will, pay Trump the same amount—try again, losers.

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Yet Trump gets a pass. Every day, we get to hear foolish back-and-forth over immigration and inner cities. Let’s go back to the original problem. Trump has no experience and no empathy. Trump hasn’t the preparation or the knowledge for the office he seeks. Trump hasn’t the temperament or the self-control to be fit for the office he seeks. He’s a narcissist who wouldn’t be running for president, if he really knew what the job was all about. His daily feed of BS may divert us from this core problem, but it will never make it go away.

So, we can go on picking apart the fifty-year career of a political master, and continue to ignore the wreck that is supposed to oppose her, but it’s all just misogyny at this point. I’d appreciate anyone who can convince me otherwise—this is all very disheartening. Even a gay guy wouldn’t have to take this shit. And, speaking of taking shit, it’s a good thing both Donald and Bill are old farts, or Trump wouldn’t be talking so fast and loose about a damn good woman—he’d be swallowing teeth.

I Can’t Look   (2016Aug25)

Thursday, August 25, 2016                                               12:08 PM

Slowly we turn, step by step…. Please, God, let this fuckin election be over. The Congress decided to sleep for eight years and the media have decided the people should sleep through these last two years (in solidarity?), mesmerized by the incessant drumbeat, ‘Clinton or Trump? Clinton or Trump?’

Completely outside the issue of that question being similar to ‘Gourmet Meal or Shit Sandwich?’, surely there are other things, other issues, other people in this world that we could spare a few seconds of attention on. I am constantly frustrated by so-called journalists reporting on the squeaky wheels of the world—has Research become completely forbidden? Is it impossible for newspeople to report anything other than the voices of spin-doctors, to find a story that doesn’t already have armed camps facing each other with oppositional memes? You know—actual news (as in new information).

The TV News has a tradition of arriving at the scene of an event, finding the stupidest person on the sidewalk nearby and asking their ‘opinion’ about what just happened. Nobody likes it, nobody gets any smarter because of it, but no one can seem to stop them from this exercise in inanity.

But today, they have a new thing—they don’t have to go looking for the stupidest person anymore—they just quote Trump’s blather-of-the-day, and call it news reporting. That’s beyond lazy—especially as they inject no hint of judgment or fact-checking—they simply parrot his words—as if they had meaning. News Fail. Get it together, cable news.

The thing that really gets me is when the media harps on Hillary Clinton’s ‘untruthfulness’—they can’t say her name without repeating this popular theme. And don’t get me wrong—I’m not saying she’s a paragon of honesty. But if they must add that ‘popular opinion’ to every mention of her, can’t they also always add that studies find her exceptionally honest compared to other politicians? Can’t they add mention of the fact that while it’s popular to call Clinton a liar—it is also incorrect? Why is that so hard? Are they afraid that confronting their listeners with the facts might turn them away?

This bothers me because I empathize. If the world thought me a liar, and I wasn’t, and all I heard from the news was repetition of the opinion that I lie, without any mention of the fact that I didn’t lie—well, I’d be pretty unhappy about that. Wouldn’t you? And what ever happened to being wrong? If Hillary Clinton says anything that turns out to be incorrect, she’s never wrong—she’s always ‘a liar’. If we follow that logic, we must elect Hillary Clinton—we could use a president who is never wrong.

I wouldn’t even be writing this rant right now—I was trying to relax and watch the news on TV. But rumor, fallacy, and claptrap are not my idea of news reporting. I can’t watch it. But I keep going back, vainly hoping for some common sense. What a fool I am. Journalism as a popularity contest just doesn’t work—telling people what they want to hear instead of what they need to hear may be profitable, but it hurts us, where it used to help us. It distracts us where it used to inform us. Like reality TV, it shows a semblance of reality that has been curated for entertainment value.

The death of print journalism has gutted the research departments of all the great journalism sources—the news today practically feeds on itself, working as hard, now, to share from other sources as they used to work on out-researching other sources. Reporters are flying blind, with virtually no back-up troops to dig into records, archives, interviews, analysis, or do good old shoe-leather research.

Yet the media has more news-channels and more hours of the day needing to fill those channels. It’s not a good situation. The public is no longer being informed—we are being curated by different media-moguls, fighting each other to indoctrinate their audience in their private agendas—journalism as a public service is nothing more than a legend from our glorious past. I miss Huntley & Brinkley. I miss Cronkite. I miss the news.

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Pay For What Now?   (2016Aug24)

Wednesday, August 24, 2016                                           4:46 PM

Trump calls the Clinton Foundation a ‘pay for play’ scam. While overlooking the nature of the presidency, Trump has apparently also failed to grasp the concept of a charity. This is where his business background trips him up—he’s never been involved in charity, except for the access his donations brought him—which is no doubt why he contributed $100,000 of his own money to the Clinton Foundation, not too long ago. Perhaps it is just wishful thinking on Donald’s part—he’s hoping the Clinton Foundation is a charity in the same way that Trump University was a school.

The AP reported a very specious bit of data: ‘Half the non-governmental meetings Secretary of State Clinton held were with Foundation donors’. That may sound like half of her meetings, but as you may expect, the vast majority of the Secretary of State’s meetings were with government officials—I believe the Clinton camp has estimated 1,700 of those meetings—leaving the non-governmental meetings a rather smaller part of it—and half of those meetings an even smaller part.

Trump has gleefully damaged the United States’ image globally, he has off-handedly thrown doubt on our election process domestically, and has, of course, even less scruple to trash the Clinton family’s possibly greatest achievement—their li’l ol’global charity to fight AIDs, provide health services to the underserved around the world, and promote the struggle of women and girls worldwide. People who donate to such a charity (for the most part) are deeply involved in these causes—giving them ample reason to seek the advice of our Secretary of our State Department—to consult on best practices, to coordinate efforts with other governments, etc. The thing Donald conveniently overlooks is that neither the Clintons nor their donors are getting fat off the struggle against the AIDS epidemic or other global health crises.

The Donald gleefully shreds our traditions and values, disrespects our most sacred cows, and shows a frightening lack of empathy—what’s the destruction of one little force-for-good amongst all that? All he knows is that the place has her name on the letterhead—ergo: target. He likes to win—remember? He never said he wanted to do good—he wants to win. Perfect presidential material—we’ve always fallen for reasonable people before—time for something new—as he says, “What the hell do we have to lose?” Uh, America!? God, can’t someone please make him stop?

The millions of people whose lives are better because of the Clinton Foundation’s efforts will find their lives that much bleaker for the pressure that seems will inevitably force the Clintons to close up shop. Does Donald care? No. And the shame of it is, he still won’t win the election—he’ll just cause as much damage as possible while losing. This jerk, who never lifted a finger to help another human being in his seventy-year long life, is actually destroying people’s lives during the campaign—just imagine what he would do in office. Jeez—the horror, the horror….

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Avoiding the Void   (2016Aug21)

 

Sunday, August 21, 2016                                         11:20 AM

Only 80 or so days until our national mental-health referendum. I expect we’ll pass it with flying colors (knock wood) and then we can turn to Europe and the rest of the world and say, “Sorry if we scared you. That’s free speech—waddaya gonna do?” There are several countries with dictators who strut about and make stupid decisions—and don’t even bother to make up believable propaganda to excuse their neglect, their excesses, and their violence. But I think the citizens of those countries, though used to such blatant bullshit, would have been crestfallen to witness proof that the United States of America was no different from any other tin-pot dictatorship.

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The USA has been a symbolic haven for many people of the world who never reach our shores—it is a dream they have. Those of us who live the American Dream may well envy them their perfect dream of a land of liberty. Would that the reality met their bar—but America is still an experiment in living—a work in progress. Our growth, our reaching for perfection, is less obvious—after 200+ years, we’ve gotten sedentary in some of our ways—and the lure of conservatism grows with every new blessing we stand to lose through the gamble of progressivism.

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But the struggle goes on. America is a work in progress. If you think about it, irresistible change over time makes that a truism for all nations—whether they countenance the fact or not, the world’s sovereignties should all have some mechanism by which they can deal with the permutations of time, nature, and civilization. Resignation to the impossibility of Perfection should never prevent us from the pursuit of perfection—it is the pursuit that refines our lives, not the perfection.

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A paradox arises from our core strengths—free speech, freedom of religion, democracy, justice, and tolerance. We aspire to those things, not just for ourselves but for everyone in the world. Hence UN, NATO, and our many other treaties and pacts with the nations of the world—we want to hold common cause with any governments that embrace, as we do, democracy, human rights, and equal justice. Thus, while nothing is ‘nailed down’ about America, there is an infrastructure to it. At times confidence men will contort freedom of speech to threaten our ethical infrastructure itself. Because it goes beyond the bounds of freedom, into the realm of nihilism, we call it ‘hate speech’. The con-men counter with a sneer at ‘political correctness’.

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They have an answer for everything—their debate skills are phenomenal. It is in the absence of understanding that they reveal themselves. Their statements chivvy us towards frustration, anger, even violence—but they will always say something that gives them away. They don’t understand or appreciate the grandeur of America’s dream. To them, it is a game to be won—and in their exertion to win the prize, they reveal their cold emptiness of spirit. They carry the seeds of their own downfall within them.

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It is an easy mistake to make. Capitalism is America’s guilty pleasure. Within the bounds of commerce we permit ourselves to seek power and wealth, to be selfish, rude, even cruel. And money is power of a kind. But in embracing Capitalism we conveniently overlook the fact that, in terms of our ideals, America should be one big hippie commune—Capitalism opposes freedom and equality—it rewards the cold-blooded and preys on the careless.

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That is the true focus of the two-party system in America, as I suspect it is in most places, though with less rules to the dance. The Democrats represent the people and the Republicans represent the money and the power. In effect, the Republicans are the bad guys, unless you’re one of them. To hide their shame, their political rhetoric has evolved a series of memes that ‘invert the argument’.

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For instance, their ‘voter-ID’ legislative efforts are a transparent attempt to keep minorities from exercising their right to vote. Their ‘Pro-life’ anti-abortion agenda is likewise transparent pandering to the evangelical right-wing, AKA Christians With a Bad Attitude. Their denial of Climate Change is really just their stupefying genuflection to the big pockets of Big Oil. Their vaunted ‘patriotism’ is just craven sucking-up to the military-industrial complex—the Republicans don’t care if we have a good military, just so long as it’s an expensive and profitable one.

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The Democrats try to enact benefits for vets, and get shut down by the Republicans. The GOP doesn’t want to know that, after they make money off of war, some kids make the final payment in blood—and we owe them for that, at least. But they see that as an unnecessary expense. Some patriots.

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The Republicans fought against the Affordable Care Act—and still fight it, after it’s already been made law—and shown economic benefits. They want ‘smaller government’ because their friends in Big Pharma and the Insurance Industry own these ‘representatives’ of the people. Millions of sick and dying are not their priority—but what is? If Americans have to live in agony or die uncared for, I’m gonna need something more than word-salad as an excuse.

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So America tries to keep the struggle between rich and poor off the streets—we consign them to political teams and watch them play against each other, with democracy as the referee. When some guy waltzes in and says he’s gonna turn everything on its head—he’s not talking about ending political gridlock—he’s talking about trashing our most sacred beliefs and creating a void where the Constitution used to be. That’s already a problem for us—the last thing we need is someone rushing headlong into the void—and taking us with him.

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So Capitalism is as much America as our Constitution is—Democrats prioritize the people, and Republicans will say, ‘The business of America is business’. The debate between the two parties is serious business—but our media have learned to mine treasure from its drama, so it can be made to look like a circus, especially this latest show. And with Journalism also falling victim to Capitalism, we were in mortal danger of falling for a snake-oil salesman—thank goodness his own words revealed his true nature before the election.

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Journal Entry   (2016Aug14)

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Saturday, August 13, 2016                                                8:04 PM

Okay, I give up. Yes, the computer room needs an air conditioner. In this heat I waver from wanting to stay in the cool bedroom, or coming out here to the hot-box and typing on my PC. I can be comfortable and bored, or engaged and sweating like a pig. Neither one is working right this minute—and I always decide I need A/C on the weekend, when I have to wait until Monday to order one. What a schmo.

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I just got back from the supermarket. Chef-Boy-Ar-Dee pastas and Progresso hearty soups—it’s a can festival. Also some hot dogs. Now that I know I can make it into next week without shopping for a while, I feel better—plus, call me picky, but I like to eat dinner almost every day. I bought dill pickles and pickled sausage bites and some Laughing Cow and those round cheeses in the net-bag.

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I found the world’s best microwavable breakfast—Eggo’s bacon-egg-and-cheese waffle-meals. And I grabbed some Polar Bears (Heath bar flavored). I was worried about getting those two things home and in our freezer before they were ruined—I think I made it.

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Sunday, August 14, 2016                                         12:48 PM

“98.6” by Keith—what a great tune. It lifts my spirits. I collect one-hit wonders—the Ripley’s Believe It Or Not of the music world—strange artifacts that belong to no movement or genre but their own personal musical ‘ear’. There are a surprising number of them—and it’s sad in a certain way. Think about it—you can try for a musical career, spend a few years touring local bars and clubs, then peter out from lack of determination or lack of audience interest—or you can get lucky and hit it big, get signed to a label, tour big venues, the whole nine. But with a one-hit wonder, the artists are served the success-banquet and then have the whole thing snatched from their mouths after the first course. The same amount of grueling giggery, PR, lawyers, fans, and yet more giggery—then the promise of fame and fortune—then the almost instant fading of it all—how hard that must be. I love one-hit wonders—but I truly feel for the artists that make them.

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And it begs a question that often haunts a sixty-year-old would-be artist like myself: Is there a finite amount of creativity in each of us, to one extent or another? Would Beethoven’s Tenth have been anti-climactic? Did Van Gogh kill himself because he had used all the colors in every way he could imagine—and was loathe to repeat himself? Was Dickens’ last novel just ‘more of the same’? In olden times an artists could be satisfied with just one single ‘masterwork’. Of course, if one is capable of that, there was probably a bunch of stuff one could do—Michelangelo did sculpture, painting, architecture, and poetry, but he did some things better than others.

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But today, with the ‘industrialized’ arts, if you can have a hit record, contracts are drawn up by the money-people, as if to say, “Well, anyone who can please the public can continue to do so forever”. There is no recognition of the possibility that what makes someone creative may be the same thing that bridles at being expected to play those songs every day for years, or come up with another whole album of ‘more’. What the hell is ‘more’ when dealing with inspiration? And how can we expect inspiration to stick to a release deadline?

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We think of art as a job. It was never a job. The musicians that played at weddings and dances were just the folks who had a knack for music—they had day jobs. The artists of old weren’t working on canvas—they were carving sculptures into the furniture they made, painting landscapes with glazes on the pots they were throwing. The ‘career’ thing started with court appointments—Michelangelo was part of his Pope’s court, Bach worked for his church choir until his fame made him a member of the household of the Duke of Brandenburg.

These early artists didn’t do anything but their art—but they were servants to royalty, at their beck and call—even with regard to subject matter and style. No artists made a living from their art except the travelling troupes of entertainers—and they were mostly fugitives, working sub-rosa in a culture that forbade merriment in general—criminals of art, in effect. No individual musicians made a living concertizing until the nineteenth century. The monetization of art has a fascinating history—but it is a history of the deformation of the original impulse to art.

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Sunday, August 14, 2016                                         6:48 PM

I’ve made a nice video that contains our granddaughter’s latest pictures and, in between the two improvs, a piano cover of Cole Porter’s “Tomorrow”—so I tried to throw in some entertainment. It’s difficult to create a video under these rolling thunderstorms—I’m a computer hack since back in the ‘80s—lightning is my mortal enemy. I always rush to power down the PC when the lightning gets too proximate.

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Usually a storm comes and I call it a day, computer-wise. But with this kind of late summer weather, I can either play the margins or wait for Fall—intermittent thundershowers are forecast for the foreseeable future.

So, I’m going to upload my video and get off until tomorrow—it’s hot and muggy even when the sun breaks through. Only a fool gets stressed on Sunday. Bear returns next Thursday, thank goodness.

 

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Not So Good   (2016Aug05)

Friday, August 05, 2016                                           2:21 PM

Okay, so call me a starry-eyed optimist. I always reach for the moon—yesterday I was day-dreaming about a Clinton presidency with a Democratic-controlled legislature—with bill after bill, just sailing through—and changing the face of our future. But I just saw Hillary Clinton give a press conference in DC that was co-hosted by the National Association of Black Journalists and the National Association of Hispanic Journalists —and Hillary said that even if she wins, and even if Dems take the Senate, there will still be a GOP majority in the House.

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For at least two more years, she would have to contend with Paul Ryan’s Mad-Hatters Tea-Party. She recommends that supporters write their congresspersons to let them know we’re watching, let them know how we feel about obstruction of important bills—and of course to vote for Democrats in 2018 (though she didn’t say that last part—she has to stay on message about this election—she only alluded to the low voter turn-out in off-year elections, which allows the GOP to keep sneaking in).

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Thus it won’t be all peaches and cream—even if there’s a Democrat blow-out in this election. The GOP will be able to continue their policy of obstructing the Dems and claiming the Dems can’t do anything. I don’t know why people keep falling for this. Massive misinformation campaigns in targeted demographics—that’s my take on it—the GOP can evert any issue—they can take the simplest cause and turn it on its head. Their reasoning never survives close scrutiny, but if they hammer half-truths into their base, over and over—their nonsense starts to sound like sense.

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People are suffering. People are angry. Why people blame Hillary for this is beyond me. Hillary doesn’t control the government—legislation goes through the GOP—or never makes it past the GOP, more like—so why do people still believe them when they blame Obama? They’ll try the same thing if Hillary wins—but maybe people will catch on. Maybe people will see that an adversarial two-party system is deadly—only a truly bi-partisan system that does its work, and leaves the differences on the sidelines, has enabled our government to function throughout its first two centuries. We cannot continue with the GOP mind-set of winner-take-all. It’s bad for everybody.

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Still, I remain optimistic. Our government will inevitably embrace the 21st century and all the digital magic that comes with—and streamlining data-collection, analysis, communications, and policy-making will do for bureaucracy what it has already done for our military—state-of-the-art tools for finding trouble-spots, creating solutions, and implementing those solutions, with digital monitoring that allows real-time feedback on its efficiency, will allow our government to change as quickly as the times—all we need to do is make sure the right people are deciding on our heading. Will America be run to please the wealthy and big businesses—or will we be governed in terms of what’s best for everyone—rich or poor, big or small? We decide—one way or another, we will not enter into our future without having anything to say about it—we just have to believe—and act appropriately.

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The GOP and the lobbyists rely on political inertia and public indifference—the USA has run so smoothly for so long that many people feel our elections are just going through the motions. Let’s prove them wrong—let’s all vote—in every election—and get involved in politics more, locally as well as nationally. It’s a government by the people—but if the people lay down on the job, other influences take advantage. We have to fight back—no matter how boring or tedious the process may be. Vote for Hillary—and if you don’t like her, vote anyway—vote for somebody. Get off the sidelines. This isn’t a football game that we watch at home—this is reality—get involved.

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***

Better   (Same Day)

Enough. I’ve been hanging out here with Spencer—just us guys. Claire has found the way to San Jose and is holding her granddaughter as we speak. Lil Seneca is happy and healthy and Jessy is well also—Big Sen had to return to work. Lately Claire has taken some art classes including life studies sessions, pencil technique, pastels, charcoals, and even watercolor. I get a free art show every time she comes home—in one of today’s videos I share two of my favorite Life Studies with you.

 

I remember my teens—I was a pretty needy kid. I wanted to make friends in the worst way. One way I tried was to make my parents’ house a sort of Grand Central terminal for all the kids in my class who wanted to hang out somewhere, without their parents, and with other kids to hang with. Sometimes, when my parents weren’t around for awhile, we’d get some really heavy traffic going through the living room. After some time it became annoyingly clear that I had started something that I couldn’t stop.

Well, we never get that kind of traffic in our living room today. But since it is the room I record in, I often catch Claire or Spencer walking past the piano during a video—I think it adds character to the show. I have one today that shows the merest glimpse of Spencer, so I’ve called it Dunn & Son, Ltd.

 

Lastly, my piece de resistance, Granddaughter, is frustrating to post—I have all these beautiful pictures of our new baby, but I’m not sure I’m happy with my piano-playing on this video. The pictures make up for it, but I wish I liked the music better.

 

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He Couldn’t Do It Without You   (2016Aug04)

Thursday, August 04, 2016                                               3:00 AM

Trump uses the word ‘sacrifice’ very loosely—he doesn’t get that the military uses that word to mean spilled blood—shot, bombed, wounded, maimed, killed, brain-damaged. That’s sacrifice. That’s why we thank vets for their service and thank disabled vets and gold-star families for their sacrifice.

Trump is very glib—he says whatever comes out of his mouth; if you call him on it, he says he didn’t mean it the way you heard it. You’re not listening. He’s speaking very well—everything is going to be perfect, no matter what words he uses—believe him. It doesn’t matter what he says—he knows how to do things—he’s very successful. He had beautiful bankruptcies—you wouldn’t believe how much money he has. But his tax returns are none of your business. And don’t criticize—you don’t have the right to criticize him. It’s gonna be great, folks.

But Trump himself is just an annoyance—a major annoyance, but someone to laugh at, not to fear. It is his supporters that keep me up at night. It’s the bell-curve thing—a certain percentage of American voters are, unavoidably, of below-average intelligence and/or lacking in education. They understand our government and our constitution no better than he does—therefore his wild, ignorant statements make no difference to them—they cheer him for it. They see no great risk in putting this old fart in office—he can run a business (they believe) so he can run the country too (they believe). The rest is details that eggheads like to cry about—temperament, civil liberties, international diplomacy, financial stability—all just complicated bullshit that no real ‘Murican gives a shit about. They’re gonna take back their country and make America great again.

After all, Obama did nothing for eight years—and the Congress did all the actual, hard work of keeping him from doing anything. We’ve got to get rid of him. And Hillary—imagine what she might try to get done—jeez, what a nightmare. We all hate Hillary, right? She’s a bad, bad lady who ruined the whole world—without being president. Just imagine if she got the job—we’d have to spend another four years, at least, calling her a liar and making sure she doesn’t ruin the country by getting anything done, too.

Trump supporters are a bunch of yahoos that want permission to be bigots, to be ignorant and fearful, and to blame the government. None of them have a dime in the bank, but they’ll fight to the death to defend the wealthy from higher taxes. None of them would dream of doing manual labor—but they resent industrious immigrants for ‘taking their jobs’—I think they really just hate those immigrants making them feel lazy. Hell, immigrants make me feel lazy—but I don’t blame them for that—I’m lazy.

Trump’s trump card is, of course, that he makes it okay to be an idiot—when his supporters hear him speak, they hear themselves. Trump never accepts criticism—and they don’t like criticism either. Trump believes that being rich and entitled makes him a potential president—and isn’t that the American dream? Anyone can be president—without law school, without experience, without listening to anyone else’s opinion. What’s the big deal? If you’re the president, you get a bunch of people to tell you stuff—you don’t have to know anything—you just give orders. And being rich makes him an expert at giving orders. Right? Only he can save us all—ask him, he’ll tell you.

Trump is good at running a con—if he wins, that will mean that the majority of voters are dumb enough to fall for his scam—which will mean that Trump won’t have to ruin the country—it will have already failed.

The Usual Business   (2016Aug03)

Wednesday, August 03, 2016                                           6:42 PM

In our outrage over Trump as a presidential candidate, we are overlooking a special case of injustice—understandably, given the stakes—though this injustice provides both insight and explanation. Those of us who have been in business, whether high-stakes tycoon-ing or low-end advertising, know how business works. It is a cold-blooded thing wherein the one with all the money and all the lawyers makes the rules—he or she doesn’t just win the game—one rules. You tell your employees what the rules are and what the pay is. You tell your suppliers what you’re willing to pay, take it or leave it. And the customers—well, you know what happens to customers, I think.

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In most cases, this environment is leavened by the fact that virtually everyone has a boss—managers have top managers, top managers have board members, board members have chairpersons. Even business owners have either a major client or a bank that owns them—someone they answer to. But some people don’t really answer to anyone else—they’re very rich, they never share control, and they stick to one-shot stuff like real estate and construction—or scams like overpriced, insubstantial business seminars. They specialize in stiffing debtors and using bankruptcy as an ejection button—leaving with a ‘parachute’ that protects only themselves—leaving the rest in mid-air.

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These people operate in a closed system—surrounded by the infrastructure, using the society, but always seeking profit, never offering something for less than the market will bear. In business law, there are many protections for ownership—no one has to approve of your behavior, no one has to agree with you—as long as you’re the boss, you are in charge. And everyone around you has to do what you say, pretend to like you, even socialize with you outside of the workplace—no matter what your true opinion of your employer may be. No one ever says no to these people—except perhaps lawyers—and even then, not always.

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As a boss, the more belligerent you are, the more mule-headed—the more successful you’ll be. There are no penalties for being selfish, cruel, or willfully stupid—it all comes along with the unimpeachable power of being a boss. The only thing that you can possibly do wrong is to lose money—that’s the only sin for the bosses.

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So, if we now reexamine Trump’s behavior, his statements, during his presidential campaign, we can easily see how it all makes perfect sense to him. This is how you win in business. He does, unfortunately, seem blind to the difference between being a boss and being president. He thinks the rules of “The Apprentice” still apply to his television audience. He doesn’t recognize the nature of public service—even corrupt politicians know enough to tell the right lies, to suppress the selfishness inside them and say the politic thing.

FYI:

pol·i·tic – /ˈpäləˌtik/ – adjective

  1. (of an action) seeming sensible and judicious under the circumstances.

 

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But I don’t feel the need to add my small voice to the cacophony of backlash against the orange fool who raped the GOP. I’m here to discuss the fact that, outside of politics, all of us are, or have been, on the wrong side of the business environment described above. Hyper-Capitalism gives the wealthy far more than mere ownership—it gives them the power of life and death over their workers and suppliers, it allows them to rob their employees of dignity—and then underpay them for the privilege. It gives the wealthy overpowering influence over our government, our courts, our media, and our health and safety.

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But most of all it gives them authority that they haven’t earned. We tell ourselves we are governed by a democracy—but that government is all too often circumvented and distorted by the power of wealth. The fact that they make the lion’s share of profit and still bamboozle us into refusing to raise their taxes tells you all you need to know about them—and us.

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Stress   (2016Aug03)

Wednesday, August 03, 2016                                           12:58 PM

Myself, my family, my neighbors, and my friends are all suffering from stress. This is a modern-day condition that is nothing new. However, I accuse the media of doing everything they can to increase stress in their viewers. Getting people worried and upset has become their bread-and-butter. When I was younger, we looked to the media to keep us informed—and when something bad happened, like the Cuban Missile Crisis or the Kent State Shooting, it was covered with grave seriousness and sad dignity. It was not virtually celebrated as a new ‘Breaking News’-banner to follow yesterday’s, which followed the day before’s, etc.

The media has become much like the pet cat that graces you every morning with a dead bird on the front stoop. The cat is very proud and pleased, but we are disgusted. When I was younger, the media would sometimes augment their reporting by having a sober, thoughtful expert give us details about the issue. Today’s media has a panel of six ‘commentators’, one of whom may be a sober, thoughtful expert, with the other five being mouthpieces forwarding some spin agenda—changing the subject, roiling the debate, or just out-and-out lying. This is ‘balanced’ reporting? More like unbalanced. And by making every news-segment a shouting contest, the media raises the stress level—and the confusion—surrounding every issue.

Granted, the world is more complex and faster-paced today—and an endless string of sober, thoughtful experts would make for a rather grueling show—ratings would certainly suffer. But, at the end of watching such a show, viewers would come away with some actual information—possibly even facts—instead of confusion and increased blood pressure. Today’s media is more like a roller-coaster ride—viewers feel terrorized and helpless in the face of a kaleidoscope of fears, suspicions, accusations, and uncertainty.

The media refuse to say that anything is simply ‘true’—and there are many philosophical arguments which could support that stance—in the absolute sense. However, on a practical level, there are lots of things that are true, spin-doctors notwithstanding. For instance, lots of people die from being shot with a gun. Lots of women are unfairly paid less than men doing the same work. Lots of veterans are committing suicide. Russia is trying to expand into Ukraine. North Korea is a rogue state. There are facts out there—and they are frightening enough without enhancing our helplessness and fear.

The ‘commentators’ have become so blindly partisan that we can even see the futility in the faces of the anchor-persons forced to give them the dignity and privilege of air-time. That’s not even addressing the partisan news channels that inject their own bias into the news-editing itself.

My neighbor had a panic attack yesterday—and I suspect that she, like me and many others, has her stress-levels exacerbated by the steady drumbeat of fear issuing from our TVs, our PCs, and our I-phones. Modern news reporting should come with a Surgeon General’s warning. They’re making money off of making us worry.

Unconventional   (2016Jul19)

Tuesday, July 19, 2016                                             5:59 PM

There’s something very ‘high-school’ about this Republican convention in Cleveland. In a way, Trump’s entire race has had the childish aspect of someone who can’t be tried as an adult—and knows it. And this freedom isn’t due to his own youth, but to the uncritical thinking of his supporters, and of RNC boosters generally. Just before the convention began, Trump excused his running mate, Pence, for his vote on the Iraq War, with rationalizing that belied his claim that Hillary Clinton’s vote on the same was criminal incompetence. He can’t see his own random snap-judgments as anything but strength of personality—the childish clinging to one’s preconceptions regardless of any evidence of alternate interpretations. Stubbornness is a strength—but it helps if you’re right to begin with.

The convention itself incites us to compare it to one of Mickey and Judy’s attempts to ‘put on a show in the old barn’. But that would insult the memory of those fine performers—what the RNC is putting on in Cleveland is closer to the Little Rascals’ put-on-a-show episode—or a high school dance. Queen disclaimed any authorization for Trump’s use of “We Are the Champions” in a complaint-tweet—and Stephen Colbert remarked on the oddity of Trump choosing the song of a bi-sexual foreigner.

Melania ‘borrowed’ some of her more personal remarks from Michelle Obama’s speech of eight years earlier—but they were, in her defense, excellent phraseology. And it’s nice to hear Republicans applauding Michelle’s thinking, even if they were tricked into it.

The most high-school aspect of this unconventional convention, though, is the level of discourse. Various speakers laud the goodness of Trump—where we who have witnessed earlier conventions are used to hearing about important geopolitics, economic policies, social justice concerns, et. al. When the speakers run out of adjectives in praise of Trump, they damn Hillary Clinton as if the woman were in the dockets at Salem, lo these centuries past.

The feistier ones will take the occasional poke at Obama, too—but it’s hard to hack through both his positive stats and his immense approval rating to find cause for blame and shame. I heard Scott Baio actually question Obama’s Christianity, pointing out that he had a foreign-sounding name—“Does that sound Christian to you?” he asked. Oh-Em-Gee, Chochi—that was last election—and absurd, if you remember that one of the first things they tried to tag Obama with was his lifelong relation with his ‘activist’ Christian minister.

Giuliani shouted out that we had to “protect our police”. Several officers have been killed by madmen in recent days—but Giuliani’s tone left me wondering if he wanted to protect them from armed madmen—or from criticism of their tendency to shoot unarmed minorities. I think our police forces will survive the criticism. The unarmed madmen—well, they’ve been to schools and movie theaters and nightclubs from coast-to-coast—police are just their latest fixation. Black Lives Matter has not been arming anyone, so far as I know—that’s all on the NRA and the second amendment.

I could never understand the Conservative agenda—but the fact that significant numbers of the far right are Stop-Trump-ers indicates that this is not a left vs. right election. This is something else—something that defies description—and sometimes beggars belief. I imagine it’s similar to what people felt in other countries, when they saw their countrymen falling for a demagogue’s over-heated rhetoric and quailed at the thought of the destruction to come. But, in this convention, we are seeing a consensus—an alliance of bullies backing the head bully. High school bullies are bad enough, in situ—make one the President of the United States and –watch out!

Think Fast—Too Slow! (2016Jun25)

Saturday, June 25, 2016                                           5:40 PM

Think Fast—Too Slow!   (2016Jun25)

Politics is so complicated! We’re seeing two kinds of Trump spokesperson making the news-talk rounds. The first type of Trump- spokesperson, as you’d expect, is the flaming yahoo, wielding a sword of misinformation and a shield of denial—a true-believer whose gonna win that argument because God told them so (or whatever voice is in their heads). The second type of Trump- spokesperson is the slick old PR veteran who debates with their wits, their ethics (if any) firmly under lock-down.

I’d like to see one of each get accidentally booked for the same panel—It’d be a hoot to see them get confused and start contradicting each other. Contradiction is a mainstay of any campaign—but when I look closely I seem to see a difference in those who defend their stance based on well-thought-out arguments discovered in the course of looking for real answers—and those who have ‘picked’ a side and are just trying to win the argument. Now, winning the argument is the bottom line—and there are many arguments won by the simple expedient of out-shouting the opposition—so we see both sides trying to win however they can.

The difference is in what you don’t hear. The side that’s thought through their position will grudgingly admit to things that can’t be denied. The side that’s all about winning will never admit to anything, no matter how obviously true it might be. That seems to be the easiest way to tell where someone is coming from. If you’ll admit to something damaging and then try to move on, you’ve got your eyes on some future prize—if you never give an inch, even when it’s ridiculous not to, you’re just trying to win—and, of course, you’re relying on the voters being too slow to see through you.

But No Cigar   (2016Jun07)

Tuesday, June 07, 2016                                            12:10 PM

Poor Bernie! He’s done a great job of dragging the Democrats back to the socialist agenda that made FDR’s New Deal and LBJ’s War On Poverty. If the Democrats aren’t all about social justice and social services, then they don’t really stand for anything. The centrist agenda that helped Hillary’s husband get elected may have been politically expedient, but it also hollowed out the core of what we’ve come to expect from the Democratic Party.

But Bernie’s done it—he’s forced Hillary to publicly advocate for a war on income inequality—leaving her with baggage she will find difficult to misplace, once elected. Still, I think it’s a mistake to assume that she’s done so unwillingly—anyone familiar with her early work, co-founding Arkansas Advocates for Children and Families, and other initiatives, will recognize that she is happy for the opening that Sanders’ campaign afforded her. It wasn’t Hillary who spent the last two decades backing away from social programs and banking regulations—it was her entire party, going for the easy vote.

Had Hillary attempted to run on her present platform, without Sanders’ competition as a foil, she would have been branded a wild extremist. So, well done, Bernie. Though, to be fair, it is these last decades of centrist, business-friendly politics that have created a situation where people are ready for socialism’s resurgence, whether from Bernie or Hillary.

Now, the big problem is simply this: Bernie is a human being—and not just that, he’s an old man. He’s spent the last two years being cheered by throngs of adoring young people, championing justice for the little guy, fighting the good fight. It’s going to be very hard for him to just turn around and go home. He was so close. But be of good cheer, Bern-feelers—Hillary hasn’t promised as much, but I believe she will deliver on more of her promises than Bernie ever could. In the end, that will give you more of what you’re looking for, just not everything. The rest we can talk about in four years.

The Weather—and Joseph Henry (2016May27)

Friday, May 27, 2016                                               9:21 AM

Yesterday was very warm—up in the eighties—and last night everyone turned on their air conditioning to go to bed (at least that’s how I figure it) and the power went out. Whatever the actual cause, though, we did have candles and cell phones from 9:30 PM until just before midnight. Once I got over being upset about it, I had a lovely time lying in the dark with the cross-breeze coming through the window—quiet, until the neighbors revved up their generators (I keep meaning to get us one).

There’s so little quiet in modern life—I miss it. That’s one of the great things about parks and trails and such—they don’t just preserve the wildlife, they preserve the quiet, too. Here on the Eastern Seaboard it’s become impossible to find total silence. My older brother moved to upstate New York for some years, back in the eighties—way out in the woods, far from any town—and a good ways from his nearest neighbors. But all he heard all summer long was chain-saws—and he was building a house himself, which was hardly silent. Even completely undeveloped places still have planes flying overhead or highways heard in the distance.

What is sometimes referred to as the Bos-Wash Megalopolis may not be the center of civilization, but it’s certainly in the top three concentrations of civilized development—and silence is not the only thing it has lost. It’s lost its darkness as well—New Yorkers who travel to the high desert out west, or down south to the Caribbean, will find themselves dazzled by the star-crowded sky enjoyed when the ambient city street-light isn’t washing out all but the brightest heavenly bodies.

Our water disappeared too—well, the clean water. It’s hard to imagine all the factory waste and sewage needed to make the Ohio River flammable—and even the mighty Hudson, despite Herculean efforts to clean it up, is hardly a crystal stream. Even the Great Lakes (and they don’t call them ‘great’ for nothing)—can you imagine how much crap we had to dump to pollute all five? It strains the imagination.

Diversity is another victim of civilization—this part of New York State once boasted bears, wolves, wildcats—and carrier pigeons so numerous as to block out the sun when a flock flew overhead. Not that I’d want to meet a bear or a pack of wolves in my front yard—but that’s what’s supposed to be here—that and so much more.

On the occasion of Joseph Henry’s death, he was memorialized at Princeton, where he had held a professorship prior to heading up the Smithsonian Institution in DC. I provide a link to the full article, but I wanted to show you some of my favorite quotes from this eulogy for my favorite historical figure:

https://books.google.com/books?id=Dk4tAAAAIAAJ&pg=RA1-PA139&num=19&source=gbs_toc_r&cad=4#v=onepage&q&f=false

Smithsonian Miscellaneous Collections, Volume 21

‘Memorial Discourse by Rev. Samuel B. Dod–delivered in the College Chapel, Princeton’

‘As a student of science he was ardent and enthusiastic in his love for the chosen pursuit of his life. He did not dally with it as a pastime, nor prosecute it with the greed of gain, nor pursue it with the ambition of making himself famous among men.’

‘He was characterized by great reverence in the pursuit of truth. Singularly modest as to his own powers and attainments, he never suffered the advancement of his own opinions to warp his judgment or govern his investigations; he held the progress of truth dearer than the success of a theory. And nothing moved his gentle nature to greater indignation than the pretensions of the charlatan or bigot in science.’

‘He says, when put on trial for his character as a man of science and a man of honor, “My life has been principally devoted to science and my investigations in different branches of physics have given me some reputation in the line of original discovery. I have sought however no patent for inventions and solicited no remuneration for my labors, but have freely given their results to the world; expecting only in return to enjoy the consciousness of having added by my investigations to the sum of human knowledge. The only reward I ever expected was the consciousness of advancing science, the pleasure of discovering new truths, and the scientfic reputation to which these labors would entitle me.” And verily I say unto you, he hath his reward.’

‘As an investigator, Professor Henry was characterized by great patience and thoroughness in his work of observation, and by broad, well-considered, and far-reaching generalizations. He distrusted the so-called “brilliant generalizations” with which those favor us who love speculation rather than study. He never took anything for granted, never despised the details of his work, but carefully established, step by step, those data on which he based his conclusions. In 1849 he says, “Since my removal to Princeton I have made several thousand original investigations on electricity, magnetism, and electro-magnetism, bearing on practical applications of electricity, brief minutes of which fill several hundred folio pages. They have cost me years of labor and much expense.”

A letter from Joseph Henry is appended by the Rev. Dod to this memorial discourse, in which Henry describes the outline of his work inventing the telegraph many years before Morse. Robert Morse, using tech developed for him by an associate of Henry’s, filed a patent for his ‘invention’, the telegraph—without having ever studied electricity. This is, to me, doubly devilish due to the prior instance, in which Michael Faraday and Henry discovered the principle of electro-magnetic induction almost simultaneously, with Henry, if anything, getting there first, but never given any share of credit.

Henry describes his legal fracas with Morse, explaining that he never wished to profit from his invention, and thus never applied for a patent, preferring to maintain the dignity of science. As he writes, “In this perhaps I was too fastidious.”—talk about an understatement. To end the discussion, he says, “To Mr. Morse however great credit is due for his alphabet, and for his great perseverance in bringing the telegraph into practical use.” To which we modern readers of this note may insert the implied ‘asshole’.

It is interesting to note in the story of early industrial-era science the concomitant birth of legal scrambles for credit which evolved into today’s battles over ownership of intellectual property. The Constitution mentions intellectual property in Article I, Section 8: “The Congress shall have Power … To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries.”

Then there was the Patent Act of 1790, followed by the Patent Act of 1793 (between which only 55 patents were granted). But by the Patent Act of 1836, 10,000 patents had been granted. The Patent Act of 1836 was remarkable in creating the first Patent Office. It is no accident that all this legal and legislative activity coincided with the development of steam power and electro-magnetic technology. New inventions have always been looked back upon fondly for their elevation of the human condition—but there wasn’t a one of them that wasn’t also an immediate cash cow—and thus a bone of contention as well.

That Henry failed to perceive this is an example of the old dichotomy—a man with exceptional scientific insight rarely displays the same insight into human nature. There can be little doubt that Henry was a good man—but he was at a loss in dealing with lesser men.

It always seemed to me that the human brain confronts each of its child owners at some point, asking them if they want to observe what’s really happen in the universe, or if they want to observe the ritualized dance of what society perceives as happening—you can’t have both. But maybe that’s just me.

Monopoly   (2016May23)

Monday, May 23, 2016                                            11:32 AM

What is improvement? If we get too extreme in bodybuilding, we become muscle-bound, unable to move about as easily as someone who doesn’t exercise. We often comment that there is a thin line between genius and madness—and the competition to be the ‘smartest’ puts college students at risk of nervous breakdowns and suicides, as well as brilliant careers. Business executives who perform at their peak can easily succumb to ‘burn-out’ in the same way.

Success and wealth for a parent rarely translates into success for their children—being raised wealthy robs them of the struggles that tempered their parents’ steel. More lottery winners go broke or have life crises than the rare few who survive being made instantly rich.

Extremes are dangerous—even little extremes can be unsettling. If I have a pile of books I’m looking forward to reading, I get confused about which book to read first. I think they call that ‘rich people’s problems’. Not that I’m in the one-percent—but I am, like most Americans, fabulously wealthy compared to any third-world citizen. And the existence of ‘rich people’s problems’ itself is proof that ‘improving’ one’s lot in life can be more accurately described as acquiring different problems.

But I don’t wish to oversimplify—one of ‘rich people’s problems’ is that other people are poor. This makes Charity an exercise in which rich people, with ‘rich people’s problems’, try to help people with poverty problems. Notice how charity never consists of simply handing poor people money. It’s an ‘if you teach a man to fish’ thing—rich people don’t see redistribution as a solution. They want to enable the poor to join them in a competition the rich have already won—it’s like lending money to the loser when you’re winning in Monopoly—you want to keep the game going.

And Monopoly is a good illustration of modern capitalism—most Monopoly games reach that point where all the potential plans have been played out and purchased, where one player has almost everything and the rest are a dice-throw away from bankruptcy. That’s why many Monopoly games don’t reach the finish—the end becomes a foregone conclusion long before. Monopoly, at the start, is full of possibilities—end-game Monopoly is more an on-rushing train. Likewise, American Capitalism started out as a world of possibilities and is now in a straight-jacket of previous purchases. Just as the second amendment made sense for muskets, but became madness for automatic assault weapons—success is a one-time thing.

America has trouble with success—our early financial success was based on the use of slaves—our early wealth of natural resources trained us to become despoilers of nature—our early adoption of public education made us think we were smarter than everybody else—and our invention of the atom bomb made us think we were in charge of the whole world. Every time Americans win we learn a false lesson from it.

Basing everything on money rather than birth seemed like a freeing sort of approach—you could, through personal effort, rise. Your future had potential that went undreamed-of in a class-based society. That image persists, even now, when all the years of effort by others has gelled into a rigged game. Wealth once again comes almost entirely through inheritance—and opportunities for the common man have become as rare as in the time of kings and serfs. Capitalism is no longer the handmaiden of Freedom—and it has become something darker.

A fragile web of distribution keeps food on supermarket shelves, gas in the stove, oil in the heater, water from the tap, sewage down the toilet, and electricity to the phone-chargers. Disruption of the system is dangerous to us all—destroying the establishment would mean a return to primitivism. The infrastructure of capitalism holds us hostage—it makes us need it. And the need to earn a wage holds us prisoner—which makes us need employers. The rich have more power over the rest of us than kings or pharaohs could ever imagine—yet we call this society a free one. Like children of an abusive father, we have no place else to go.

Changing capitalism won’t be easy—we can’t rebel against it—if we attack it we only hurt ourselves. A subtle, drawn-out political process is the only possible escape. Yet see how easily we are diverted and entertained by our politics—that’s not an accident. If people took politics seriously, we’d be talking about change in a pragmatic way, instead of shouting buzzwords at each other—we might enact some changes—and that is the only real threat the one-percent are facing. I wish we knew that as well as they do.

Welcome to Paradise   (2016May20)

Friday, May 20, 2016                                                         2:00 PM

Hillary Clinton offers us our best chance at maintaining respect abroad and keeping us safe and economically healthy at home. Plain and simple. And that is partly due to her lifelong commitment to progressive but pragmatic government—an area in which Bernie Sanders certainly out-talks her, but doesn’t come close to out-performing her. And no one who cares a fig for social justice would ever consider her GOP opponent. Case closed.

But there is a mountain-range of BS to get yourself lost in. I recommend avoiding the cable news shows—at this point they’re trying so hard to drum up a contest between the most-fit candidate and history’s least-fit presidential candidate, that they stir up the mud between Hillary and Bernie, just to hug the shores of rational thought a little while longer. For any self-respecting journalist to suggest that there is a contest between Hillary and the orange clown is going to take several deep breaths, considering what a deep dive into the ridiculous that represents.

Certainly it is ethically allowable to report on the wave of mouth-breathers whose Orangutanal champion has emboldened them to crawl out of the woodwork in the name of political incorrectness, dog-whistle bigotry, and fear-mongering. But to report on his every smirk as if it stood up to Hillary’s lifetime of experience and service—please.

Politics is boring—if it wasn’t dry as dust, slow as molasses, and frustrating as hell, we’d have less voters and more candidates. Thus it’s understandable that journalists yearn for some point of interest, a scandal or a feud—anything to raise the pall from this deathly boring subject. But to abet a rising tide of demagoguery simply for the sake of ratings—that’s beyond the pale. If it weren’t the Media itself, the media would be all over this stupidity.

If they want human interest, they could easily delve into the depths of humiliation the GOP must be feeling right now—after cultivating idiocy in its base for decades, the chickens have come home to roost with a vengeance. I hear the late-night comics joking about it, but I don’t hear any serious journalists discussing it. Why should that be?

The party with a permanent nose-bleed from getting on its high horse has suddenly decided that rules were made to be broken, that platforms can conform to changing times, that the stupid have spoken—and they’re okay with that. Policies that they used to hate so much they shut down the government can now be easily overlooked, if only their candidate says so. That must be a bitter pill to swallow.

Not to mention the cognitive dissonance in realizing that supporting their nominee could destroy their platform—Trump is no Republican. And that is the miracle of him—who’d have ever imagined that American politics could find something worse than the Republicans? It boggles the mind. I urge everyone to vote for Hillary—if for no other reason than to get that horror-show off the airwaves. Just imagine it—a whole news cycle without Trump in it. Ah, paradise!

End Times   (2016May14)

takanawa

Saturday, May 14, 2016                                           12:29 AM

If the end times come and the orange excrescence is voted president by a majority of Americans, we will have become victims of our own success, just like every empire before the American. When this country started out, we kicked out a king by force of arms—that’s commitment. Then we quelled a few rebellions and fought the War of 1812, after carefully designing a brand-new, unheard-of form of government.

great-wave_s01

Then we got stuck on some of the finer points and fought a Civil War over them. People attended their local town halls as religiously as they went to church. People sued each other as a hobby—the source of the term ‘litigious’—and not to rip someone off, like they do today—these people sued over the principle of the thing. Yes, it was stupid, in excess—but it was excessive involvement in self-government.

Ravi001

Women’s Liberation tried unsuccessfully to get an Equal Rights Amendment passed in the 1970s—but the real fight, the one women fought until they won, was for the right to vote, back at the turn of the previous century—they knew, as the Civil Rights movement knew later on, that all power, and change, comes from the power to vote.

20120910XD-MarcChagall-Solitude(1933)

Today we have even forgotten that it is self-government. Things have run fairly smoothly, if you’re in the mainstream (i.e. white, male, Christian, rich, etc.) and the idea that we all attend town hall on a regular basis is just a bit of quaint whimsy in “Gilmore Girls”—to lend it that old-timey New England flavor. Today’s ‘town halls’ are just a cable-news-show format for politicians. And today’s litigious aren’t political cranks—they’re rich people hiring lawyers to rip off poor people. Lobbyists, political patrons, and commercially-biased journalists have more influence on present politics than the voters do.

DavidBonAlps

As the world, and our country, became more crowded, more hurried, and more complex, our politics devolved into the simplicity of a sporting event, which the voters watch on TV and then vote for their ‘team’—no one expects our government to react decisively on behalf of the people, as Roosevelt did with the New Deal, or as Johnson did with the Civil Rights Act. Today’s politicians are only required to react to the 24-hour-news-cycle’s latest story, knowing that tomorrow’s story will gloss over any cracks in their reasoning.

20110412XD-WllmBlake0x

It reminds me of when I was a young, first-time car owner—I knew that maintaining a car was a thing—but I’d never done anything with my car except get in and drive around—I thought putting the gas in was all the maintenance that mattered. One day, I ran out of oil and my engine block seized up—ever since then, owning a car has been much more hassle and less fun—but I use a car now without destroying it.

rackham9

We’ve been driving America for quite a while now, arguing over which turns to take—but nobody is worrying about whether the oil needs changing, or if the tires are bald. We’re too busy driving the car to take care of it. And it’s going to end up smoking by the side of the road—I know. America is in danger of falling victim to its own success—we take it all as given, like it can’t ever go away. The truth is that our wonderful lives are the product of a lot of effort that we no longer see—or see the need for.

Nizami-Khamsa-HaftPaikar c1430

America invented Public Education because we recognized that people can’t govern themselves if they are ignorant—it has become a world standard, that we are now falling behind on. That’s not a good sign. Education and journalism—real journalism—are two things that helped make America great—losing both of them is going to hurt us more with every passing day. We may not see it right now, but we’re losing important pillars of democracy—and without democracy in the mix, capitalism becomes fascism by paycheck.

pom12

I’d say we could use another World War—they always seem to perk us up—but we went and made nuclear bombs and screwed that whole thing up. I guess it’s time for some other country to advance humanity’s cause. That’s the only good news in all this—the American Empire may be headed the way of all empires—but there’s always another empire just around the corner. And let’s face it—if your elected leader is Donald Trump, it’s time to call it a day.

 

GoddessS0

 

ttfn….

 

Stupid   (2016May11)

Wednesday, May 11, 2016                                               8:43 PM

Some are illiterate, some are ignorant, some are just willfully wrong-headed based on family tradition or religious zaniness. The stupid are among us, both candidates and voters. In everyday life we have to deal with the stupid—they cause the majority of traffic jams, on the road or on line at the market—anywhere that rules are required to keep things running smoothly, the stupid are there to jam up the works.

We look up to the monumentally stupid because their grandiose idiocy causes flood-victims to languish, lead-poisoning in the water, underpaid workers—even wars that have no end, because their foundations are stupidity—and once they’ve started the violence, their stupid brethren refuse to let anything be dropped and forgotten. Great (but stupid) things are done by greatly stupid people—there are even stupidity hoops you have to jump through to be accepted amongst these morons. Fraternal hazing, unpaid internships, playing along with the head stupid in charge—there are many steps before someone reaches the point where they will be trusted with the reins of stupidity in leadership.

Or you can simply be raised ‘entitled’—that’s got the stupid baked right in, and the confidence to use your stupid to its fullest potential. God, it makes me sick just writing about these stains. Never mind.

What a crock of shit life can be. And it could be so different—god, people suck! You know, people being nice, being generous, open-minded, people caring and helping—that shit isn’t supposed to be the rare nugget in a sea of shit—it’s supposed to be most of society, with just a few poor, broken souls causing some trouble now and then. But we get the opposite—every leader, every rich person, every boss—a total shitbag that deserves an eternity in hell—and 90% of people just walking around—just as bad. Ask’em why—they’ll tell you that you’ve got to “look out for number one”—fucking idiots—as if they would exist if people hadn’t shown them kindness along the way. It’s like misogyny—show me a misogynist who wasn’t raised by a caring mother—then (when you can’t) explain that bullshit to me—I’d love to understand this assholery. People are so fucking stupid.

Don’t get me wrong—I’m not dissing the mentally-challenged—those are some of the finest people you’ll ever meet. No—stupid is something altogether different—stupid is being unwilling to pay attention, to absent oneself from responsibility, to make one’s own interests a priority over being a part of society. You can always hear stupid people saying things like, “You’ve got your opinion, I’ve got mine.” Opinions are private things, preferences, if you will—you don’t make the rules, or set public policy, or treat people differently—because of your opinion—you do it because you’ve given the matter some thought and considered the needs of everyone involved. Having an opinion about public policy is no different from the classic ‘because I said so’—acceptable in the extremes of parenting, perhaps, but never when dealing with your fellow grown-ups.

It’s stupid that we have rich people and starving people—and it’s not just stupid for the rich one and the starving one—it’s stupid of all of us to allow that kind of chicanery to be ‘the ways things are’. And don’t tell me it’s always been that way—the longer it’s been that way, the stupider it is to allow it to continue. Ditto war. Ditto bigotry. I could go on, but I’m tired of listing the many ways of stupidity—I’m a goddamned connoisseur of stupid—we have so many flavors.

Sure, there are scientists in laboratories all over the place, making up extremely intelligent new shit—that’s great. But when are we going to stop confining intelligence to the laboratory? When are we going to apply humanity’s vaunted intelligence to our fucking lives? Our Constitution is over two hundred years old and it’s been more than fifty years since the Civil Rights Act—when are we going to do some more good work like that? I know it’s tiring to think about stuff, but how long is this ‘break’ supposed to last?

Stupid.

Money and Time (2016May07)

Money

Friday, May 06, 2016                                               11:33 AM

America was relatively young and full of beans after the second World War—the middle class exploded, salaries climbed to the sky, and poverty reached a record low of 11% in 1974—a figure we haven’t seen since. My whole adult life has been witness to our economic decline—so I can easily understand people wanting to ‘go back’ to better times. But grow up, already—hey, I’d like to be twenty-one again, too—but that ain’t gonna happen. We call it the ‘past’ for a reason.

And America, having reached those historic highs by being America, is never going to recover that prosperity by undoing the social progress that is America’s defining feature. That’s a bill of goods being sold to us by the finger-pointers, who blame various groups for something that is systemic—the changes in global and domestic economy that have brought us to where we are now are not going to be fixed by targeting some ethnic or religious faction—and certainly not by blaming the poor.

Business used to be a social contract that included stockholder profits in the equation—it has been whittled down to where it now concerns itself solely with that one objective—and as always happens when greedy people oversimplify a situation, we are seeing a lot of dysfunction in business—especially in the area of employment. For one thing, nobody has had a raise since 1980. People don’t make money in America anymore—a few people own money, and the rest of us have to scramble for the scraps. You’re not gonna fix that by blaming the Mexicans—or the Chinese. You’re only going to fix that problem by returning to a world where employees matter to their employers.

And if America has let itself become too accepting of child-slave-labor products from overseas, we’re not going to fix that by importing that cold-blooded attitude back here to America. Businesses have been very eager to cancel their interests in North Carolina due to gender-rules in bathrooms—when are we going to stop importing goods from countries that treat their workers like serfs? It doesn’t help that our politicians spend more time and energy on rationalizing our dysfunctions than on finding solutions—but the real problem is that too few people have too much say, and those rich bastards have hearts of stone. The easy answer is just to kill all the rich people. Maybe after they spend a few days ducking bullets, they’d re-acquire some respect for the people that actually create their fortunes.

It’s a puzzle, alright—how can we keep getting new gadgets, new discoveries, new insights—and the result always turns out to be a bigger mess than we’ve ever had to deal with before? How can we have unheard-of productivity and at the same time suffer under unemployment and low wages? What the hell? Someone has rigged the table and we’re all getting taken.

Time

Thursday, May 05, 2016                                          11:37 AM

Our kids were born in the 1980s. I was born in 1956, my parents in the 1930s, my grandparents were born in the 1910s—we’ve been a very 20th century family for quite a while. Here we are, 16 years into the next millennium, and I’m about to become grandfather to our first 21st-century kid. To him or her, my entire century will be a vague notion in a schoolbook; I will be a strange, wrinkled old man; his or her world will be something I never fully understand.

You can see why people are so fascinated by stories of time-travel—time-travel isn’t that much different from a genie granting wishes—you can have whatever you want, but the genie will put a fatal twist on it that you didn’t see coming. Time is such a troublemaker that even if we could jump around in it, we would still have problems with it.

My biggest problem with time is that time only goes quickly by when I’m happy. What’s with that? What evolutionary advantage is there in losing track of time when you’re happy? Maybe it’s our bodies saying to us, “Well, there’s no danger here—don’t pay any attention.” If danger can heighten our awareness, then perhaps happiness does the opposite. Maybe that’s why orgasms are so brief—it’s Mother Nature getting us back in the game, so we don’t get eaten in the afterglow. Happiness is a blank space to our instincts, and they just shut down until we return to the drudgery of survival. And perhaps that’s why an old codger like myself is mistrustful of happiness—we are at our most vulnerable when happiness turns off our alarm system. Perhaps that’s why the Puritans were so dead set against being happy—it has similarities to intoxication.

Then again, I have to wonder why I’m so afraid of being vulnerable—I made it sixty whole years without ever having to use a gun or a knife—or even my fists. It reminds me of how bad my fear of dogs once was, without ever being bitten—there was a mean dog on our street, but it never bit me—it just strained against its chain, making the most angry barks and growls. I think I was frightened by its display of viciousness—it obviously wanted to confront something. Also, I think people treated their dogs worse back then—mean dogs don’t come out of a vacuum—they are a reflection of their owners. I was no less afraid of people—they had more bark to them, back then, as well.

Nowadays, fear grows and grows—and it has less cause than ever. I go through night-terrors and anxiety attacks without any reason—I’d be more comfortable with actual dangers—at least those can be faced down. This vague, unfocused terror is a thing unto itself—it just is—what do you do with that shit?

Lesley Stahl has come out with a new book, “Becoming Grandma”, about the wonders of being a grandmother—she claims there is an actual biochemical change in a person who is granted a grandchild—I hope she’s right. Claire and I are fairly dancing with anticipation. And time bustles on.

Manufacture This   (2016Apr27)

Wednesday, April 27, 2016                                              9:28 AM

A recent NY Times article points out that Manufacturing, the former giant of economic growth, is shrinking in the manpower it requires to meet demand. This means that manufacturing jobs aren’t disappearing to other countries—they are simply disappearing. And the increase in service industry jobs, with their meager pay, is only contributing to the income-inequality gap. The article suggests “health care, education and clean energy” as an alternative growth strategy—but I see this as an avoidance of the central issue.

The algorithm of capitalism is unraveling. It was once a given that creating a manufacturing base in a developing country would lift its citizens into a first-world economy—but a chart in the article shows how the return on manufacturing development, over time, has lost its ability to raise a given nation’s populace in either income or education. Eduardo Porter, the author of the article, uses this data to prove that the presidential campaigners’ promises to return manufacturing to the USA, even if fulfilled, would not create the wished-for boom in either employment or income, any more than it currently does in India or China.

It makes me impatient to see the issue parsed so precisely—to my mind, the overall concepts of capitalism—ownership, employment, demand—are as outdated as the specific case of manufacturing jobs. But I realize that changing an accepted paradigm is like turning a cruise ship—slow and full of inertia. And it doesn’t help that capitalism has become America’s political brand-identity, as well as a way to organize society—which adds a ‘loyalty’ factor to conservative thinking on the matter. But it is past time for America to return to its original brand-identity—that of Yankee ingenuity—because a post-capitalist global economy will certainly require a great deal of innovative thinking.

This is a link to the NY Times article mention above: http://www.nytimes.com/2016/04/27/business/economy/the-mirage-of-a-return-to-manufacturing-greatness.html

To invent something that makes a person’s life easier is called convenience. To invent something to make manufacturing and farming easier is called automation. We see them as two different things—this is what makes the decline of jobs a problem, to the point where legislation is passed in California trying to prevent further development of automation tech in agriculture—because it’s taking jobs away from the state. Not that it will do them any good—the Luddites never win—it’s like King Canute commanding the tide to back off.

More importantly, it misses the point—automation should be a good thing. The idea that civilization could produce enough to meet demand without a single employee should be a good thing. The only reason it isn’t is because capitalism is based on presuming that to be an impossibility. Capitalism says, ‘go out, get a job, and earn a salary—that’s how modern people make a living’. But if the living is being made without human participation, we need to find a new way to disburse our production to a globe of unemployed. The answer will sound a lot like socialism—although it will go even further, if faced squarely.

The real trouble is power—the answer to ‘the end of jobs’ will have to involve a lot of reasoning based on fairness, not on demand or need. Business owners, corporate board members, bosses of every kind will lose not just their petty tyranny over employees, but lose their power entirely—that power is based on capitalism and it will disappear along with it. It would be impossible to convince the one percent that they should surrender their power willingly—but ultimately they face a choice just as much as the rest of us. Workers are also customers—unemployed or underpaid workers can’t produce the revenue the one percent’s system is based on. So, while the worker faces the more immediate threat, the end-game involves us all.

We see the one-percenters tentatively embracing Ludditism—in the pushback against renewable energy and in the aforementioned union efforts to stop or slow automation in the workplace. We also see it in their transformation of our once wide-open avenues to higher education into overpriced preserves for the training of young one-percenters—and a source of mortgages paid on knowledge and accreditation by the rest of our children. But holding back technology and education will have no long-term effect on the coming changes—competition is also built into capitalism, so one way or the other, the whole paradigm is going to fail—has to fail, eventually. The only question is will we be enlightened about it, or we will make it into a fist-fight? Three guesses. And here’s a hint: Star Trek was fiction.

It’s Getting Serious   (2016Apr08)

Friday, April 08, 2016                                              3:32 PM

We’ve reached an awkward point in the political process now—things are narrowing down. People begin speaking of candidates they formerly criticized as the solution to the problem of ‘the lesser of two evils’. Conversely, Bernie Sanders can no longer be unaggressive towards Hillary Clinton, and answered Charlie Rose’s question “Would you support her, if chosen?” by prefacing his ‘yes’ with “I’d consider a Trump or Cruz presidency an unmitigated disaster, so yes, I would support Hillary Clinton is she wins the nomination.” He couldn’t just say ‘yes’, like he would have a few months back—he’s got his gloves off and he’s got to keep them off.

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The funniest part of this process is the simple truth that the very best possible next President of the United States would have to be dragged kicking and screaming into the Oval Office and be locked inside—sentenced, in his or her mind, to the jury duty from hell—and a hell of a way to reward years of selfless public service. Any sensible person can just look at the before and after hair-color of the last few presidents and be able to tell that the job redefines the word ‘difficult’. Only a spark of ambition would drive someone to the madness of seeking the post—and now that we’re getting down to it, that flaw is being brought to the forefront.

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It’s attack time—and, hey, does anyone else get the impression that both Bernie and Hillary were more comfortable when it was still ‘gloves on’? I get the sense they are both sane enough to be uncomfortable with the egotistical sniping that the final days of a head-to-head must inevitably become. This is in marked contrast to the GOP—they’ve long since disqualified themselves from the list of respectable candidates. They are far too happy in their playpen, holding dick-measuring contests when they had an opportunity to discuss the issues for months—hell, years now. Their ambitions are front and center, completely overshadowing any sense of service or responsibility to the public—and while you may think it an old-fashioned attitude, in my view it disqualifies them from serious office, be their platforms whatever they may.

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We forget sometimes that the election is not wholly a popularity contest—no matter how much we treat it as such, it remains a serious decision with mortal consequences. Sanders’ young supporters flock to him because young people don’t need convincing, they just need inspiring—and it is a good thing that they are being inspired to play a part in their own democracy—I hope it lasts beyond Hillary’s nomination. Because the problems Sanders talks about need more than a populist president to fix—those problems require a quantum-level rise in political engagement from coast-to-coast, over several election cycles, if we’re ever going to have a chance at taming the super-wealthy’s de facto march back to monarchism.

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It’s daunting to think of—a quantum-level rise in political engagement, obtaining objective news sources, growing neighborhood bonds while our youth are ever more deeply seduced into the twitter-verse or VR-gaming helmets—the list of impossible things we need to do to fix the future goes on from there. We could just let the powers that be continue doing what they do—it might not be pretty, but who’s to say they won’t avoid destroying us all in the end, right? They know what they’re doing, don’t they? After all, they are in charge—even if they did grow up in an age when phones had busy-signals and cords—even if some of them don’t even understand how the world has changed—even if most of them see change as dangerous. They want the power? Let’em have it. At least, if it all goes to hell, we’ll have someone to blame. Why be so serious all the time?

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Friday, April 08, 2016                                              4:15 PM

The Bird Hearing   (2016Apr08)

I went for a walk yesterday—the birds were so noisy, I went back inside and got my camera. I shot three minutes and change of bird cacophony—the video is pretty unwatchable—I was focusing on the sounds—but that didn’t stop me from making two improv videos with the same bird footage. The music is different in each, but the bird songs are the same. I suggest just listening to the audio—the video, in spite of all I did to stabilize it in post, is nauseating.

It’s kind of a shame I got so wrapped up in the birds singing—the music is pretty good on both of these—they would have been nice all by themselves, I think.

 

Oh, and here’s one more from the day before yesterday:

 

bu-bye now.

Cruel Spring   (2016Apr04)

Monday, April 04, 2016                                                    11:40 AM

April cruel? Well, yeah—in the midst of summer we feast among bountiful greenery—but in early spring, we wrest new life from the dank, chill mud—it’s a challenge. And life is challenge—without resistance to entropy, it is a meaningless Mandelbrot pattern—without struggle, there is no need to keep pumping that blood through the veins, that sap through the roots. Anger can be a lifesaver. Want creates wealth.

That’s the basic, natural principle. But we live in what we are pleased to call a civilization—dare I claim a society?—and in such, we give nothing a free pass simply because it is natural. We legislate against certain natural urges, we pressure our peers to respect civility over instinct. And civilization seeks to minimize struggle. If strength were our only criteria, we’d elect a chimp to be emperor of the world.

Hopper15

But what if we look at it differently? Perhaps we have merely traded physical struggles for mental struggles. Our mental struggles have given us strength undreamed of by our cave-dwelling forebears—but our society is plagued by stress. We invent competitions to simulate natural selection—and those competitions are as much, if not more, about mental strength as physical ability. We begin with school grades, then advanced degrees, then job interviews—these are all competitions entirely of our own invention. And they all lead into the main event—the acquisition of money. That too is an invented competition that we choose to maintain—it is an agreed-upon, imaginary method of gauging strength and gaining power.

What we call Capitalism is just the collected agreements governing the sport of money-getting—whenever we wish to call a time-out on the game, and give something to someone for free, out of simple humanity, this is called Charity. Now, charity is cheating—why play the game if you’re going to break the rules whenever your feelings tell you to? But that is a valid question even without conditions—why play the game? Well, as with every game, the ones who are winning want to keep playing—the ones who don’t stand a chance are tired of the game. The odd thing about Capitalism is that it is a game that only a few thousand people are really enjoying—while literally billions of people would rather play something more enjoyable.

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Socialism began as an attempt to make Charity the prevailing game and restrict Capitalism to a few places, under tight controls, wherever it made sense to use it. This was thought up out of a desire for fairness—like the abolition of monarchial government, it was meant to prevent rich people from supplanting monarchy with wealth, and to give all people a fair say and a fair chance. Socialism is an attempt to make life, as well as government—of the people, by the people, and for the people. Money is power—but like the monarchy, that is only so because we choose to agree that it’s so. And Humanity isn’t power—it’s just a feeling. It’s a powerful feeling, as Christ, Gandhi, Dr. King, and others have demonstrated—but its power only manifests in unity—a single person’s humanity is just a feeling.

Still, an innate feeling has more staying power than any imaginary social construct—no matter how long Capitalism remains, the feeling of its wrongness will persist in the hearts of people. We allow for the least of ourselves—the weakest, the slowest, the least able—because they are one of us. We don’t compete with them—we cooperate with them, we include them. Capitalism is unfair because it puts competition ahead of humanity—naming the winners and losers, by law, is more important than what happens to the competitors—it enforces mandatory inhumanity—it makes us bad people.

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Socialism for fairness’s sake has gotten more traction in Europe than here in America—here we think of Capitalism as the supreme ideology, the giant that slew the Communist menace, the bulwark that upholds the champions of democracy and freedom. But it has never been that. Communism was an ideal—and attempts to practice it ignored human nature. The Soviet Union was a paranoid, corrupt regime that had no resemblance to Communism the idea—and the dysfunction of that regime destroyed itself, while we out-competed them on the global stage. I concede that Capitalism was more efficient than the Soviet nightmare—but that doesn’t make it good, just better than the worst idea ever.

Capitalism is straightforward—Socialism is more complex a system. But Socialism’s time has come—we are approaching a productivity ‘singularity’, a day when we have the production capacity of billions, yet only require the employment of thousands to do it. When there are no more jobs that need doing, the cracks in Capitalism’s façade will start to peek through—how can we call it competition when the field of play has evaporated? How can we say that only workers deserve rewards when there is no work to be done?

Ironically, this future conundrum doesn’t work for Capitalism’s winners, either—in a world of 99% unemployment, where are your customers? The rise of smart systems, robotics, and automation will require us to abandon Capitalism—it’s not an if, it’s a when. On the way there, while the super-wealthy cling to their unimaginable power and the rest of us become more displaced, chaos looms. I don’t advocate Socialism out of a hatred of Capitalism, but for safety’s sake—we see the future coming and I’d prefer, for my children’s and grandchildren’s sake, that we don’t freeze up like a deer in the headlights.

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As a child I watched Star Trek TOS, where, like much of science fiction, I saw a world without money—we always assume that humanity will one day achieve that Peaceable Kingdom, but we’ve never really thought about the transition phase from where we are now to that far-off, dream-like future. I think we leave that part blank because it’s a tough nut to crack—how can we ever switch gears from a roaring global economy to a thriving global village? One thing it will certainly involve is the confiscation of great power from those who presently hold it. That has always meant war in the past, and there’s little reason to suppose we could avoid it in this instance. So, how do the rest of us declare war on the only people with any power? Good luck with that one.

I suppose we could take a page from their book—the wealthy and their lobbyists have been slowly transforming our democracy, decade after decade, infusing it with special privileges and protections for the wealthy and the big corporations. Perhaps we could initiate a similar ‘frog in a sauce-pan’ strategy, where we legislate higher and higher taxes, greater public-services commitments, tighter regulations, and mandatory transparency. With a little luck we could bring them back down to our level without them ever noticing the water has begun to boil. But that would require a grass-roots political awakening that would make Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaign look like a disaffected chess club meeting. Plus, there’s the problem of legislation being limited by jurisdiction, where cash is unhindered by borders or flags—it wouldn’t do us much good to socialize America by alienating all the wealth and power to foreign lands.

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And now that I think about it—Nationalism is as spurious and divisive an influence on humanity as Capitalism. The European Union illustrates, as did the United States, that divisions between regions and cultures should find their own levels and not be closed borders separating neighbors at the point of a gun. The more advanced a society becomes, the more obvious this fact appears—that’s probably why we all dream of ‘world peace’ someday, in spite of all evidence that this will never happen—we know that it should happen.

So, easy-peasy—we end Capitalism and Nationalism and we all live happily ever after. What a relief. Enjoy the sleet on this chilly April afternoon.

Grandma Clinton   (2016Apr02)

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Saturday, April 02, 2016                                          1:41 PM

Trump and Cruz announced today they will unite their tickets under a platform of increased police patrols of female neighborhoods.

Well, I can’t speak for everyone here—oh wait, I’m here all alone—yes, I can! So let me just say—we all have a lot to be grateful for. First off, we’re not Trump-supporters—so we know our brains are still functioning. More importantly, we know we aren’t Trump himself—oh my god—what a nightmare to wake up in that guy’s skin, huh? Best of all, we know that even if hundreds of thousands of the zombie-electorate show up at his rallies, there are still millions of sensible adults who will vote for virtually anybody else (I call it the Cruz effect). I like to think that principle applies to the GOP in general, too—meaning there are far more voters who want an educated, experienced adult to be the leader of the free world—so it doesn’t matter—Trump or Cruz, there’s no way we end up with a GOP caveman in office come November. And—bonus—first lady president! Or is that first ex-first-lady lady president?

What do we call Ms. Clinton anyway? She was the first lady, she was a New York State senator, she was the secretary of state—pick one, or mix-and-match for a zesty new title, i.e., First Lady Senator Secretary Clinton—I like that one—that’s almost better than President Clinton (after all, we’ve already had one of those). But I don’t know—after all the years she’s served, all the attacks she endured, all the campaigns she’s run to become our political queen-of-the-hill—maybe we should just take a page from the Brits and call her, “Your Highness”. What the hell, she’s earned it.

Bernie, you say? Okay, let’s take a hard look at Senator Sanders. He’s run a one-issue campaign—and, yes, that issue is central to most American families—it strikes home like nobody’s business. And it’s long past time we looked for politicians who would stand up to the wealthy and the corporations—I can only applaud his dogged opposition to the status quo—everyone knows things are broken and the income gap is transforming our democracy into a shadow-puppet government. Personally, I would go even further and attack Capitalism itself—it has metastasized into a suicidal paradigm that threatens the very ideals that supported its growth.

But I can agree with Bernie Sanders without assuming he’d make a better president than Hillary Clinton. By running a one-issue campaign, he avoids being scanned for weaknesses on other issues. Let’s take the most obvious—the President, whoever he or she may be, will have to work in concert with the Congress. As a lifelong renegade, Bernie Sanders has always stuck to his guns—and, as a senator, that’s a good thing—we want senators who stick by their principles. But a president has to compromise, form a consensus, and mitigate adverse influences—a knee-jerk idealist may not be the best person for that position.

Then there’s ‘international affairs’—things are fluid, globally—change is the only constant—and the changes become consistently more sudden. We don’t want a newbie going through training days while the world falls apart—not when we have an old salt like Hillary waiting in the wings.

Mostly, though, it’s the breadth of the challenge that makes Hillary the stand-out choice. Yes, we have to reform our financial regulations and enact laws that promote economic fairness. But we need to do other things too. We have to keep our present economy from collapsing while we make those adjustments—and that means working with the very financiers that Sanders so persistently villainizes. Yes, we need to make college more affordable—but we also need to keep our colleges and universities the pre-eminent centers of global learning they have been. And we need to keep our colleges from becoming de facto trade schools for the big donor corporations. We need to maintain national security and we need to continue, however unwillingly, being the world police. We need to protect our environment and ourselves from pollution, toxins, and complete extinction. The list of things a president has to do, and the things a president has to deal with, is a list too long for me to write here.

Suffice it to say that becoming president solely to regulate Wall Street and to make college tuition-free—is like becoming a mother so you can breast-feed. Yes, breast-feeding will be involved—but there’s a whole lot more to it than that. Besides, how often do you get to call the President of the United States grandma? Vote for Grandma Clinton—who knows? There might be some fresh-baked cookies in it for all of us.

You’ve Got To Pay For The Lawyers   (2016Mar20)

Sunday, March 20, 2016                                          2:41 PM

Happy Vernal Equinox (1st day of Spring) everyone! It’s colder today than it was on Xmas, so of course they’ve forecast a little snow for the area.

I’ve been asked about copyright issues. First, let me disclaim any education, pre-law or otherwise—I don’t really know anything—I can only give what is my present understanding of how these things go. Firstly, aside from my downloadable e-CD, “Opus Eleven by XperDunn”, I don’t have anything profit-based online—my YouTube videos are downloadable and are all part of their Community-Usage pool of material, my blog is not subscription-based, and I have nothing for sale on E-Bay—I’m a non-profit user.

As I understand it, that doesn’t exempt me from copyright law, it just makes me a low-value target for the litigious—unlike successful artists, who it seems must spend a great deal of time and money fending off pretenders to their work, valid or spurious. Were anything of mine to go viral, or to show any revenue-earning potential, then I would have rich people’s problems—but don’t hold your breath.

As far as what you can post to YouTube, there aren’t any hard and fast rules—you can even post a favorite album of yours, if you go to the trouble of making a video out of it. But if you do that, and the band you posted doesn’t like it, YouTube’ll take it down. What I do is slightly different. I post covers of music—meaning I perform a piece of piano music on video and post that.

A lot of my stuff is classical or folk—and that stuff is in the Public Domain—which means it’s at least a hundred years old and no one can ‘own’ it. But I do a fair number of jazz and pop covers from songbooks—and in these cases both the original music belongs to someone else—and the piano arrangement rights belong to the publisher of whatever book I’m sight-reading. Here’s the weird part—I own the video of my own performance.

In the case of covers, YouTube will send you an email asking you to agree that the song doesn’t belong to you—but they leave the video posted online. I always include a ‘cover’ tag with any such post of mine, just so nobody can claim I was trying to pull something. When I’m not feeling lazy, I try to include the credits and copyright info for each cover-song in my description text as well. It may subsequently have a suggestion-link that uses your video to sell the original artists’ e-tracks—but even if they don’t use it as advertising, the cover post itself is free publicity. Unpopular YouTube channels like mine don’t get a lot of views—and if I post a really bad cover, even my channel subscribers don’t watch it—so it isn’t as if it hurts the composer—unless he or she listens to it.

Perhaps I hadn’t made it clear in my previous posts about copyright claim disputes—in my case, it’s all about the principle of the thing. My sole downloadable CD for sale hasn’t sold even once in two years, that I know of—and that’s pretty much what I expected. Only when an artist generates revenue does the issue of copyright become a serious legal matter—after all, you’ve got to pay for the lawyers. If you are a piano player, like me (or play any instrument, or if you sing) then you should feel free to post whatever you record—nobody is going to sue you. No one’s going to pay you either, but no one’ll sue you.

 

Enjoy your Sunday.

YouTube and CD Baby are Ripping Me Off – Part II (2016Mar13)

Friday, March 18, 2016                                            1:53 PM

Here is the text from my latest YouTube copyright dispute:

CD Baby is a service through which I uploaded a CD’s worth of digital tracks [now available for sale on CD Baby, Amazon, and I-Tunes: “Opus Eleven” by Xper Dunn]. Today I’ve received multiple Copyright Notices from YouTube telling me that CD Baby is claiming the rights to all my videos of the same mp3 tracks on the album.

Today, I’ve been notified of two specific tracks:

Video title: Improv – I’m Thru (2014Nov18) – Copyrighted song: I’m Thru – Claimed by: CD Baby

Video title: Improv – Book To Movie (2014Nov11) – Copyrighted song: Book to Movie – Claimed by: CD Baby

I may have naively clicked on some EULA approval box designed to steal my rights—but even if the law allows CD Baby to rip me off for the audio rights, that still doesn’t give them any claim on the videos—or so it seems to me.

Four previous attacks have been ended by emails stating: “Your dispute wasn’t reviewed within 30 days, so the copyright claim on your YouTube video has now been released.” And, while I’m glad that is so—it doesn’t address the overall issue—as is shown by these two new claims being made.

I would appreciate it if YouTube would respond to these reprehensible attacks on my ownership of original content created, performed, and recorded by no one but myself. Please advise.

[End of Dispute text]

So, there’s the YouTube mess continuing on—me vs. the robots that run the site, to all appearances. But that’s not all. Yesterday I had some fun with my CITI card:

Thursday, March 17, 2016                                      3:53 PM

Bunch of Billionaire Crooks   (2016Mar17)

I was paying my Citi credit card bill online when I downloaded the activity on the account and saw these charges:

3/17/2015 $7.07         Payment Safeguard 1-877-242-5987

4/16/2015 $1.22         Payment Safeguard 1-877-242-5987

6/16/2015 $0.93         Payment Safeguard 1-877-242-5987

7/16/2015 $1.52         Payment Safeguard 1-877-242-5987

8/18/2015 $1.60         Payment Safeguard 1-877-242-5987

9/16/2015 $0.30         Payment Safeguard 1-877-242-5987

10/16/2015        $0.41         Payment Safeguard 1-877-242-5987

11/17/2015        $3.04         Payment Safeguard 1-877-242-5987

Now, I’d heard of this sort of thing—a bunch of little charges on banking statements that you’re supposed to overlook—after all, it’s only little tiny charges, right?

So I called the number—it’s some kind of credit service company that covers outstanding debt payments when you lose your job or go broke generally. I think to myself—‘hell—I’m on disability—why would I buy insurance on my credit card debt?’ I figure they must have snagged me disguised as some ‘free service’ or as a banking option offered by Citi themselves—got me to check some box—or maybe allow a pre-checked box to go by without un-checking it—either way, these people did not get my name in any straightforward manner.

So I call Citi—they want my name, account#, account# of the checking account I use to pay their bills—then they wanted my pet’s name—I don’t have a pet. I was put on hold for a supervisor—by the time she got on the line, I’d remembered my daughter’s late dog’s name was probably what they had on file. But since she was a supervisor, she asked a few more ‘security questions’—she wanted to send me a verification code on my cellphone—and could she have that number? Finally she asked me what the problem was.

I told her. She had a devil of a time finding these seven charges on my account activity (even though my last year’s worth of account activity on that card comes to no more than fifty lines of charges and payments). Then she put me back on hold for the fourth time—gets back on the line—tells me she’s connected me to a Payment Safeguard representative—and hangs up.

Now I’m on the line with these people—“What can I do for you.” “Cancel my account please.” –another long hold— “Is there anything else I can help you with, today?” “If you can assure me that I won’t see any more charges on my bill, then I’m satisfied.” “Well, Mr. Dunn, depending on your billing cycle for your card, there might be one more charge—but that will be the last one.”

Yeah, right. I’ll believe it when I see it. I hate banks—bunch a crooks. I hate customer service—soulless bastards. Bunch of billionaires nickel-and-diming the rest of us into endless debt. This whole cold-blooded, mindless, inhumane system will burn to the ground some day—and they’ll be getting off easy, at that. Bastards.

One Step Progress, Two Steps Capitalism   (2016Mar16)

Wednesday, March 16, 2016                                            4:35 PM

As the number of people who need to support themselves becomes more and more disconnected from the needs of employers because of robotics, automation, digital innovations, and smart systems, we approach a point where the economy won’t need humans—with the single discrepancy that they’ll still need customers. Scholastic failings that were once only a limitation to avenues of employment now close off any possibility of an above-board job. The number of jobs falls while the skill-set requirements climb. This is a self-imposed evolutionary winnowing effect—except that, unlike natural selection, the losers are not prevented from multiplying—they are simply excluded from the paradise at the top of the pyramid, consigned to endless deprivation and insecurity, someplace where the rich don’t have to look at them.

I’ve often advocated experimenting in a government minimum allowance policy that would be paid for by business taxes—a way of forcing business to take responsibility for the whole worker pool, instead of cherry-picking the best and leaving the rest to rot. But after consideration, it’s occurred to me that such a program would only shift the problem onto government—that the only way to equally balance the riches of productivity with the needs of all the people is to replace Capitalism and the monetary system itself with something less cold-blooded. And, obviously, this would require global cooperation—something far more complex than a national legislative reform—which makes it even farther from the realm of possibility than socializing the USA—which was pretty far out there to begin with. Still, I figure if you want to fix something, fix it right—even if it’s only in your own head.

We once had neither the sophistication nor the organization to consider a socialized society—although socialized communities have had some notable successes—and failures. We all recognize the togetherness of an extended family—but for some reason, we don’t try to widen the circle—perhaps because families can be stifling sometimes, and we don’t want to have even more people in our business all the time—that’s understandable. But we naturally accept the strength and security of that group unity—unity makes people into super-people—the bigger the group, the more united, the more unstoppable they are. One reason people don’t consider a socialized global village is, maybe, because it blows your mind.

Imagine a world where job creation was focused on offering people satisfying lives—where the arms industry and the military-industrial complex died of starvation—where space exploration wasn’t a race, or a business, but a true frontier—where we made just the slightest effort to extend our social progress to meet our technological strides. We’re talking about another planet—another species—no wonder it seems so far-fetched. That’s not a place where real humans live—sad, but true.

We know that global productivity can handle feeding everybody—if feeding everybody was our goal. And the same is true for all the practical and medical needs of every person—we are able to support them—if supporting them were our goal. But this thought—a ‘better world for everybody’—was at the back of the minds of all the people who researched and experimented and crusaded, fought and died for our modern world of freedom and equality. In a perfect world, yes—but in a Capitalist world, ‘everyone’ becomes ‘everyone with money’—and that’s a problem. Our eyes are on one horizon, but the tracks our train is riding on head the other way.

YouTube and CD Baby are Ripping Me Off   (2016Mar13)

Sunday, March 13, 2016                                                    1:20 PM

I’ve complained previously about how YouTube will try to snatch my videos’ copyrights away just because my classical-piano-music posts have the same title as some label-signed virtuoso, even though the recordings are my own performance of a centuries-old piece of music, long passed into public domain.

Now I’m confronted by a new wrinkle—CD Baby is a service through which I uploaded a CD’s worth of digital tracks [now available for sale on CD Baby, Amazon, and I-Tunes: “Opus Eleven” by Xper Dunn]. Suddenly, today I’ve received multiple Copyright Notices from YouTube telling me that CD Baby is claiming the rights to all my videos of the same mp3 tracks on the album.

So far, I’ve been notified of four specific tracks:

Video title: Improv – On The ‘A’ Line (2014Oct28) – Copyrighted song: On the ‘A’ Line – Claimed by: CD Baby

Video title: Piano Cover: “When I Fall In Love” (plus “Improv- When In Love With Shakespeare”) (2014Oct21) – Copyrighted song: When in Love With Shakespeare – Claimed by: CD Baby

Video title: Improv – The Starfish-Annointed (2014Oct15) – Copyrighted song: The Starfish-Annointed – Claimed by: CD Baby

Video title: Improv – Noble Gaseous (2014Nov03) – Copyrighted song: Noble Gaseous – Claimed by: CD Baby

I assume that CD Baby will eventually make claims on all the tracks from the CD I so naively clicked on the EULA approval box for. Now, even if the law allows CD Baby to rip me off for the audio rights, that still doesn’t give them any claim on the videos—or so it seems to me.

I would appreciate it if YouTube would respond to this reprehensible attack on my ownership of original content created, performed, and recorded by no one but myself. Please advise.

[This is the text of my claim dispute submitted to YouTube.]

Daylight Is Their Greatest Enemy   (2016Mar12)

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Saturday, March 12, 2016                                        12:42 PM

In the present political climate I often wonder how the world I grew up in became so surreally chaotic. But then I realize that the staid and stuffy aspects of society that bothered me as a youngster have all been, to varying degrees, knocked into rubble—silence is no longer the answer to an ugly problem. And we have found many ugly problems had been caused by the suppression of beautiful people—real people, not just the idealized Dicks and Janes of the 1950s. That people, in all their variety, can no longer be publicly shamed for being different, in whatever way, is a great step forward—but institutionalized biases persist—and individual families’ lore makes bigotry an eternal legacy—so true equality and acceptance continue to elude America.

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We have today a clash that was impossible in the 1950s—Plurality has won many Supreme Court battles, from Thurgood Marshall’s historic vindications to the recent acceptance of gay marriage—thus the laws that made equality a joke have all been deemed unconstitutional—but the personal hatred and fear still persists. The cancer of Capitalism confuses the issue enormously—especially because lots of old, bigoted, homophobic, evangelical white men have most of the money. The opium of Religion confuses the issue, too, by supporting ancient codes of morality that predate both science and medicine, i.e. they were written by ignorant people—and by making up ‘teams’, each religion vying for supremacy, as god intended—their god, anyway.

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In the 1960s, the growing liberal population was relegated to the ‘sub-culture’—equality and free speech used to be something of an underground movement, vulnerable to police brutality and legislative bans. Criminalizing drugs, particularly weed, was targeted at the subculture. Lenny Bruce, the stand-up comic, when he wasn’t being arrested for talking openly about sex or using profane language, was being arrested for possession. Schools banned long hair on boys and pants on girls. Looking back we are tempted to say, how trivial, how silly—but this was the level of blind conformism that those in power presumed upon themselves.

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Thus ‘the establishment’ made themselves easy targets for lampoon and ridicule—and liberality became more mainstream—there was a backlash of ‘what’s the big deal with long hair and dirty words—especially while our kids are being sent into a meat-grinder in South East Asia?’ And ever since, it has been more and more the case that the establishment is now the underground movement –and the trouble is that evil thrives in secrecy—especially wealthy evil. The worst disaster to befall the Republican party in the last election was when some journalist smuggled out a tape of a meeting where they spoke plainly among themselves. When we heard Romney’s ‘47%’ comment, he lost the race. Daylight is their greatest enemy.

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The sixties were an era of great conflict—even riots in the streets—and that was when truth and justice were ‘the underground’. Now that greed and evil are the new ‘underground’ movement, we can just sit back and wait for the end of civilization as we know it—the bastards. Like all poorly-shaped minds, they search the new liberality, cherry-picking those freedoms that allow for dirtier tricks than ever before, while ignoring the ideals behind those freedoms.

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Their idea of ‘fighting fire with fire’ is to lie and twist the truth and engender fear and loathing of one group for another, while pretending to be good businesspeople, good family people, and good Americans. I hate a bald-faced, shameless liar—and so I don’t much care for Republican politicians. At least the Democrats accept Science—I mean, really.

In a way, Trump, by presenting the GOP as the naked fascism it is, is a breath of fresh air—finally, a blatantly stupid, hateful pig who doesn’t try to pretend he’s just as intelligent and sensitive as a Democrat.

Now We All Know How Casandra Felt   (2016Mar09)

Tuesday, March 08, 2016                                        12:18 PM

Let’s face it—there are good and bad people in the world—some of us are manipulative blackguards, selfish misanthropes, or just plain miserable human beings. That’s okay—no biggy—any Buddha will tell you that you need the bad for the good to exist—or for it to be visible—whatever—I’m not sure—but you can’t have everything your own way. There are people I’d be tempted to describe as ‘bad’ people—though of course we’re all (theoretically) a combination of good and bad. Let’s just say they’re bad politically—their influence is backwards—against the tide of humanity’s enlightenment and good fellowship. They are backwards people.

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The backwards people aren’t sure it was right to let women have an equal footing—to let them vote, or choose, or have equal dignity to men. Some of them think that skin color really makes an important difference. Some are old-fashioned anti-Semites—a perennial favorite amongst the backwards—and some are new-fangled Islamophobes (so much technical jargon to legitimize the hate). They look down their noses at the disabled, the self-gendered, the self-sexualized, the non-English-speaking, and, of course, the poor—as if being different from themselves made a difference to anyone but themselves. The Backwards’ minds have the depth of puddles.

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I’ve heard we average one-in-ten people who are gay—or LGBTQ—I’m not certain which—but anyway, I figure the Backwards come out to about the same stats. At least one-in-ten people are Backwards—either closet Backwards, with enough awareness to know that the other 9/10ths see things differently—or just straight-out bigoted, ignorant bullies. No, I don’t have stats to back that estimate—but I assume I’m low-balling the real figure—don’t you? The Backwards have always been with us—they’ve fucked things up for their communities since the first community began.

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Have you ever wondered why it takes centuries of struggle to fix even one little thing—like slavery or date-rape? It’s because of these backwards people—they’re more concerned with maintaining their personal status quo than with stretching their minds to accommodate outsiders. And they love pride—the thing that makes it okay to be a jackass. And they have no shame—they scream their bullying bullshit far louder than any genius ever crowed over a great discovery—and this gives them influence over their communities far greater than their numbers ever warranted—they are the squeaky wheels on the devolution express-train. And humanity has a tendency to listen to them whenever things get scary—fear always trumps rational thought, even in normally decent people.

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I did a little math in my head—I figure the two-party system allowed for an equal division of the Backwards between Democrat and Republican—but then the Republicans started dog-whistling to them, until now most of the Backward have found a home in the GOP. That brings them up to 20% of the group—and their zealousness brings them to the mid-30s—about Trump’s average polling target. Certain states have an ingrained culture that is friendly to the Backward (states that still fly the racist banner, for instance) while other, bluer states seem to suppress their Backwards demographic to the point where they’d actually vote for one of the other GOP candidates, just to stop him. The simplemindedness of Cruz or Rubio is excused under threat of the far more confident ignorance of our new would-be Hitler, ‘Drumpf’—even Republicans have enough sense to be afraid of this man

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Unfortunately, presidential contests aside, Trump’s capitalist neo-fascism is just the visible part of an iceberg of such inhumanity—the wealthy think they can go on milking the rest of us without giving us any food or water—they’ve convinced themselves that society is a one-way spigot without responsibility or consequence. That this is greedy and selfish is far less important than that it is incredibly stupid. And this stupidity has also led them down the ‘dog-whistle’ path.

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The wealthy court the backward because the backward are most likely to mistake authority for rectitude—or to mistake wealth as something deserved by those who have it, making the wealthy worthy of respect. To me, one glance at how the wealthy raise their feral children (like Drumpf) is enough to put the lie to such foolishness—but then, I’m not backward.

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Climate change goes unaddressed, non-renewable resources are treated as if infinite, and habitat loss threatens the very food chain that supports all life—even our fancy-assed civilized human lives. Income inequality is just the icing on the cake—the final handcuff that keeps the species from modifying its behavior sensibly. They buy off the legislators, the regulators, and the justice system—how else would something like the 2008 crash end up with millions of people losing everything, while rich Wall Street crooks got reimbursed for being too greedy?

An Eruption of Mount Vesuvius 1839 by Clarkson Frederick Stanfield 1793-1867

No, Trump’s attack on social justice and social progress is just the next step—now that the rich have covered all their angles, they have to prepare to be pretty draconian in their suppression of discontent among the 99.9%. Things are going to get ugly in the next twenty years—sea levels rising—water sources drying up—high-energy seasonal storm-systems worsening—and geopolitical tensions aren’t likely to ease with everything else going to hell—so things like Syria and Crimea are just going to escalate and spread. To maintain their cozy lifestyles while millions suffer a dwindling quality-of-life and the ranks of the impoverished grows as a percentage of the whole population—well, all I can say is, they’re gonna be finding all kinds of uses for military-grade surplus in the local police departments. Americans like to fight their wars over ideals—they’ve never had to fight over food or water—that’s about to change.

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Now the rich, if they weren’t so stupid, could change much of that forecast and point things in a more positive direction—it would not only be the right thing to do for everybody, it would undoubtedly make even their lives better. We wouldn’t all hate their guts, for one thing. And a rising tide lifts all boats. Instead the rich hustle about, picking up free fish off the suddenly dry seabed, while the rest of us wait for the tsunami that always follows such a windfall. Whether we successfully rebuff Trump is a minor detail in the big picture.

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Children Please   (2016Mar04)

Friday, March 04, 2016                                            10:30 PM

It’s a frightening world. The older I get, the thinner gets the veneer of ‘grown-ups having things under control’. As a young man, I made allowances—I told myself that people in their thirties or forties were surely dependable, sensible people—and, if not all of them, then at least the ones in charge. With each successive decade of age, I pushed the imaginary grown-ups further and further into seniority—but now I am sixty and there’s no place left to hide. We are all of us children—grasping, whining, and playing games.

And I realize that the ‘grown-ups’ I imagined were just that—imaginary. They were what I hoped grown-ups would be—but human beings only become more experienced, not more mature. We adapt to the ‘independence’ and ‘responsibility’ of adulthood—some of us better than others—some faster than others—but we never lose the urges, the impatience, or the selfishness—we are either goaded or peer-pressured or legally forced into subliming our inner children. Still, they eagerly await any opportunity to indulge themselves once more.

Knowing that the world is run by overgrown children—that dependable, sensible people are like unicorns—isn’t nearly as upsetting as the realization that I will never be a ‘grown-up’—I will never have that easy grasp of wisdom and self-control that I always imagined was the reward for growing older. This isn’t a recent realization—it’s just come to the forefront of my thoughts due to the threatening specter of millions of Americans possibly voting for a puss-bag in an orange hair-piece.

I knew this country was in trouble when they debuted that show, “Are You Smarter Than A Fourth-Grader?” and nobody could beat the fourth-graders. I died a little inside when stats started to show that American education was falling behind the rest of the developed world—hell, we invented public education. I suppose future historians will mark the day that more Americans voted for “American Idol” contestants than voted in the prior election. Grown-ups would have maintained this country’s greatness and moved it forward—but we are doing what all empires have always done—we’re pissing it all away—and now I know why—people are children.

Super Leap Week   (2016Mar01)

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Tuesday, March 01, 2016                                                  5:18 PM

I know what would fix our economy—raises. Nobody’s been given a raise since the 1980s. You could double the salary of any working person today, and they’d still be underpaid if calculated by the same increases the wealthy have enjoyed these last few decades. But no—the wealthy fret about how the world would end if we had a $15/hour minimum wage. Are you kidding me? Who could live on $15/hour? And if you can’t run your business without paying a living wage—then you can’t run your business—you’re incompetent. Since when does a business plan include victimizing your employees? Well, I take that back—literally all business plans do that, and always have.

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It seems strange to me that employers make half their money short-changing their customers—and the other half from short-changing their employees. Shouldn’t we just shoo these people away? We haven’t converted to an ‘office-free’ economy—we’ve converted to a ‘security-free’ economy—at least to employees.

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And a business is not a person. Until a business can feel pain, it will never be a person—and it will never deserve the rights and considerations of a person. That’s just legal mumbo-jumbo being promulgated by the rich. Let’s shoo all them off too.

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I’m serious—terrorists at least have the decency to chop your head off and make a clean end to it—American employers want to enslave us and abuse us until the end of time—who’s really worse? Capitalism has gotten out of hand—and the only way to restore the balance is to make the streets our workplace, dismissing all CEOs, lawyers, entrepreneurs, and HR personnel. Shoo’em off, that’s what I say. Their mismanagement is going to let our infrastructure rot away and be buried beneath the waves of global warming, anyway—dismissing these entitled fops wouldn’t cause any less disruption than their continued oversight will produce. We’ll just feed them the same line they feed everyone else—‘Hey, it’s not personal—it’s just business’. It is unfortunate that wealth confers power, without conferring one whit of good judgement. It that sense, it greatly resembles violence.

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Harumph! Anyway—let’s talk about something important—how’s Hillary doing? It is Super Tuesday, and the sun’s getting low in the sky—though, if you ask me, Leap Day is pretty special—making ‘super’ Tuesday something of an anticlimax. It’s just a bunch of primaries. Still, if I imagine myself in Hillary’s shoes (and yes that does feel uncomfortable) it must be a thrilling day.

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I’ve gone from sight-reading through Chopin’s book of mazurkas to his book of nocturnes—I have hours of recordings I’ve spared my listeners—I enjoy sight-reading through good music like that—but I don’t keep to tempo—and I go back and correct myself when I flub a passage—it’s a lot more like actual reading than it is performance—it’s quite unlistenable. I just do it for myself—it’s really fun. And after I find favorites, and do them over and over, I eventually get to play them better. I used to post some of the work—nowadays I only post the finished product—when I’ve gotten it as far as I’m going to get it. But that’s a tough call—take today’s nocturnes—they’re not great, but they’re a lot better than the other four that I’m not posting.

The improvs are a poser as well. I try to make them all different and, technically speaking, they are all different. But inasmuch as they’re all ‘me’, they’re pretty much all the same, too. So I post them all, even knowing that some judicious editing would make my YouTube channel far more attractive. But when you post nearly every day, it gets to be like writing a journal—you’re too busy writing it to ever read it back to yourself. Same with this blog—sometimes I go look at a post from a year or two ago, and I think to myself, ‘Huh! Did I write that?’

Okay then.

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Drunks Tussling   (2016Feb27)

Saturday, February 27, 2016                                             4:33 PM

In a reasonable world, Hillary Clinton would win the presidential race in a walk—and if I’m living in an unreasonable world, I’d just as soon not have my face rubbed in it. If, god forbid, a Republican did win, that would be a tragic-enough disaster, without making me listen to these people—as I have already for more than a year—for the rest of this year. I’ve listened to them ad nauseam—and in their case, that’s about three minutes in—do I really have to bear the sound of Trump’s voice until November? Hasn’t he said enough idiotic things?

I remember our last Republican president—do you? He was an idiot—he got us in a war by mistake—he destroyed our economy—he didn’t speak in complete sentences—and what sentences he managed to get out had made-up words in them. Cruz or Rubio would be just as bad—maybe worse—and the nightmare scenario of a Trump presidency conjures up the movie-title-to-be: “The Return Of Fascism” or maybe “The Rise Of American Fascism”.

We are all aware that there is a contest between these three Republicans—it’s all the news, all the time—but to me it resembles a bunch of drunks tussling on the sidewalk just outside a bar-room—my concern for who wins is nothing compared to my concern that a cop will come along and get them off the street before a passer-by gets hurt. But there are no cops on CNN, or in journalism generally. News shows can keep airing this stuff—but I’ve got better ways to spend my time than watching a stupidest-man contest.

Likewise, while I appreciate Bernie forcing Hillary to add a focus on income inequality to her platform—I don’t want to hear any more about how he’s going to make college, health-care, and whatever else, free for everyone—yes that’s the way it should be—there are a lot of things that aren’t the way they should be in this country—but nothing happens on inauguration day—and Hillary is better prepared for the day after inauguration—both domestically and internationally. I don’t think Bernie supporters understand what a president actually does—I think they think he or she’s a wizard who makes a decree, and changes things all by himself or herself.

So that’s it between me and the news—I’ll wait to hear from other people about anything important. Hillary should win—and even if she doesn’t—that’s just more reason not to spend until November listening to all of this back-and-forth BS. Seeing as how our government is already broken, I think it’s a pretty sweet gig—getting a free pass on all the work our government should be doing while we all have a two-year long conversation about the Donald. I’m sure the folks in Flint, MI or Hoosick Falls, NY are glued to their sets. If I ran CNN, I’m pretty sure I could find more interesting stuff to report on—but fans of ‘The Apprentice’ might tune out the news—and that’s a huge demographic. I can hear it now: “Mr. Dunn, you’re fired.”

Ah, America—I hardly knew ye.

Enough. Here’s today’s improv:

Conflict In The News   (2016Feb24)

Wednesday, February 24, 2016                                       2:19 PM

I often bemoan the lack of a filter on today’s media—but the filters media once had were based on avoiding criticism of the establishment, silencing cries of injustice, and a priggish abhorrence of prurience. I should be more precise in criticizing media—first of all, I should take the trouble to specify mass media, since by definition, my own blog—and that of many other individuals without malice or agenda—is part of modern media as a whole.

Neither is mass media truly without filter—there are all kinds of filters on mass media, Money being one—and Conflict (actual or goosed-up by obsessive coverage) being another. During the recent Oscars ‘white-out’ controversy, several filmmakers pointed the finger at backers who won’t take risks on their investments—and while that may display a lack of enterprise and independence among filmmakers, they still have a point—all mass media gets financed up front, so none of it gets through without a green light from some financier. And, if I understand correctly, the money-peoples’ influence doesn’t end with the initial approval—far from it.

News-reporting has an even more evil monkey on its back—the need for constant attention—but instead of throwing tantrums, the media manufactures tantrums for us to throw. It is hard to hear what any interviewee is actually saying when they’re constantly being cross-examined by reporters who echo the lies and suspicions of the ‘other side’ of the story. And here’s where there is a filter missing—there is no filter on how jack-assed the ‘other side’ can be—no matter how asinine, any controversial opinion is welcome. And often as not, in their desperation to find a counter-point, the media’s talking heads often overlook the actual forces in conflict—particularly when those differences are nuanced, or require some thought.

Trump, for instance, is just a bully—that’s plain to see. But the media flock to conflict, shining a spotlight of respectability on this wanna-be prater. On the comedic news-parody programs, they ridicule Trump mercilessly—it’s like shooting fish in a barrel—but if the real news did that, they’d have to admit that a real-estate hustler doesn’t deserve our respect—or our attention, whenever he says whatever crazy shit comes flying out of his mouth. Those golden pronouncements make lots of money for the news divisions in ad revenue—but they are still the mouthings of a monkey.

This ‘nobody is wrong’ attitude seems like pluralism—but it is simple lack of judgment—some things are open to question in a real sense, but other ideas and alternatives are either willful blindness or simple delusion. And this is where I feel obligated to debunk religion—the original alternative to what’s clearly right in front of our noses. I think of freedom of religion as being limited to faith itself—you can believe whatever you want—religion, in the stricter sense, is the aspect of faith that you insert into reality—even try to impose on the reality of others—and there’s nothing free about that. But I could spend all day trying to explain why it’s okay for us to believe differently, as long as your religion doesn’t impose any limits on my understanding—if you don’t understand the spirit of ‘freedom of religion’, it’s probably because you have one. The unfortunate fact is that the idea of ‘freedom of religion’ is really an ass-backwards way of admitting it’s all bullshit, without actually saying so—but I don’t want to get bogged down in that morass, either.

We should be avoiding conflict—not whipping it up at every opportunity. In truth, the solution to most of civilization’s problems could be solved if we threw money at it. We don’t want to make life fair or easy or comfortable for the least of us—we want them to suffer. Instead of figuring out the minimum amount of money that local governments have to spend to keep corpses from rotting in the street, we should be investing lavishly in public services, throwing money at every aspect of inequality. It seems counterintuitive, but everywhere it’s done, the effects are always remarkable, always hailed as a ‘miracle’ of success—when it’s only the right way to do things. Americans love conflict—but there are aspects of civilization that patently should not be competitive—that’s a simple fact. That may be why we’ve recently let Socialism out of the dirty-word closet.

The trouble with Socialism, at this point in time, is that it’s become Bernie Sanders’ brand-name, when the entire Democratic party have been ‘socialist’-leaning all along, Hillary included—but chose to couch it as intelligent governance, due to the unpopularity of words like Socialism in recent decades. America is inherently socialist—justice and equality are very much the people’s values—which is why the conservatives go to such pains to convince us that ‘the business of America is business’—it helps them justify their greed and subversion. But I can promise you that voting for Trump is the hardest way for us to learn that lesson. Voting for Bernie will only teach you the futility of electing a socialist to lead a GOP legislature and a polarized nation. I’m still voting for Hillary—she’s not perfect, she’s not superwoman—but she is better than all the alternatives by a long shot.

The trouble with Socialism is that it was initially offered as an alternative to monarchies and other autocracies—and Capitalism managed to present itself as an alternative to Socialism, when it was really just a burgeoning new form of autocracy, infesting the democratic process with special exemptions and entitlements for the rich and powerful. And Socialism, when described, can often sound suspiciously like Christianity, in its means, if not its motives—not the faux Christianity of Capitalists, with its Xmas shopping, judgmentalism and sexism—but the hard, pure Christianity of Christ, with charity, mercy, and love one’s neighbor as oneself. Hey—I’m an atheist, but I know a good idea when I hear one.