Dear Turner Classic Movies: (2019Jan15)

Tuesday, January 15, 2019                                                10:34 PM

Dear Turner Classic Movies:   (2019Jan15)

Being a disabled half-a-shut-in, I’ve spent more of my life watching your channel than is natural or healthy—and I am grateful for it. Like many of your viewers, I’m fascinated with the breadth of cinema, the depth of history, and the complexity of a century-plus of moving-picture artistry.

One of the great charms of movies is the caught-in-amber historicity of the figures-of-speech from distant decades. The Runyonesque dialogs, the gangster patter, the particular speech of Americans during WWII—many different accents and expressions are jewelry-settings of distant times and lost neighborhoods. It is an essential part of each movie.

My hearing is so good that I often (i.e. always) use the closed-captioning while watching TV. And here is where I find the one annoying thing about TCM—the CC’s are typed by a young person with no ear for chronological jargon, without any experienced supervision. On some movies, typos and mis-hearings abound with every other screen of dialogue.

I recognize the expense of closed-captioning subtitles is prohibitive. However, with so much energy directed towards the restoration and preservation of the movies’ images—it seems wrong to attach, eternally, a faulty transcription of what is being said.

And it wouldn’t hurt to add music-titles and foreign-phrase-translations—though I suppose that’s extra. Anyway, in a perfect world, right?

A big fan,

Xper Dunn

Unsupportable   (2018Oct04)

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Thursday, October 04, 2018                                             10:55 PM

Unsupportable   (2018Oct04)

So I heard Dr. Ford’s testimony (and Kavanaugh’s rant) then I heard Trump at a rally. He apparently remembered that Dr. Ford testified her most searing memory was the laughter of the predatory, drunken boys that roughed her up—so Trump thought it would be nice to get an entire stadium full of people to laugh at Dr. Ford’s pain.

This dishonorable, deceitful pile of crap has never had any business in the White House—and he provides daily proof of this fact. The Republican leaders who back him are equally without honor, or any sense of what honor might be.

When I saw the flood of women inundating Washington D.C. today—each and every one, by their presence, announcing, “I have been physically disrespected by a man, or group of men”, many of them arriving from Maine—and Alaska —then I thought back to Trump’s disgraceful strutting the night before—I felt rage.

Do these entitled, precious pigs think that they are invisible? Do they think we don’t see them? It’s easy to fill a stadium with bored knuckleheads—did he have any Nobel scientists there—at his rally? There were a couple of Americans who just won the Chemistry Nobel (along with a Brit). They might have enjoyed a dinner at the White House. Trump is not wise, but he is slick—he would expect, if two people created life in a lab, they probably wouldn’t want to hang with a tasteless ignoramus.

A real president would have given those Nobelists a public nod. Real presidents have always done so in the past—with good reason, as any thinking person would explain. But under Trump we don’t suffer mere incompetence—we suffer a total denial of moral awareness. The only ethics Trump is familiar with are the mouthings he’s learned are required of someone pretending innocence.

We must accept it—that surprisingly large percentage—millions of Americans who cannot be trusted to use a toilet correctly, forget about them using their brains, or their mouths. These people consider themselves the other party—they say there are two sides to things. But nobody else has to hide behind that BS. Why is that? When I go to the store, I pay my money—me and the cashier are on the same side. Someone has to explain to me how Public Service became so nebulous that it can have ethical quandaries over whether or not women shouldn’t get raped on the regular. How did these puss-bags ever get near a position of responsibility?

I know, I know—it’s a democracy. Sure. With no voters—except the nut-bars and the worried parents.

But still—Trump. He disgusts me. —And that army of sexually-traumatized women marching around Washington—it haunts me. There’s a T.S. Eliot line (which he stole from Dante) :

Unreal City,

Under the brown fog of a winter dawn,

A crowd flowed over London Bridge, so many,

I had not thought death had undone so many.

Sighs, short and infrequent, were exhaled,

And each man fixed his eyes before his feet.

Flowed up the hill and down King William Street…

(from “The Waste Land”)

I believe that a woman who is betrayed by a male friend or relative, or stranger—sees her previous life, her previous world, destroyed. She must evermore live in the new world—where men are predators without shame or conscience—where she is never again as safe as she was.

Women have the strength to endure these things—and to fight back—as today’s demonstrations proved. But, why the fuck should they have to? Do we really live in a country where more men are okay with this shit than are sickened by it? This has been a very disappointing and disheartening three years—the bottom ever recedes.

Having these farcically corrupt and hypocritical people be the leaders of our government—is proof that what makes a good campaigner does not make a good states-person. It’s unsupportable.

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We Are Immigrants   (2018Jun19)

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Tuesday, June 19, 2018                                            1:43 AM

We Are Immigrants   (2018Jun19)

This whole country is nothing but immigrants and their descendants. That used to be a given. That used to be seen as the gift it is. People used to flock to where Lady Liberty said, “I lift my lamp beside the golden door.”

If America has become too crowded and too popular to remain a golden door to the world’s asylum-seekers—fine. But we can at least show sympathy and kindness towards those who have crossed a desert, hoping to share the comfort and freedom we enjoy, only to be turned away.

The horror of what the border patrol has been ordered to do—tearing children, even infants, away from their parents—with no reassurance of, or information about, any future re-unifications of those families—makes me wonder what kind of people the patrolers are—that they haven’t rebelled at these asinine and inhumane orders.

But we know who is giving them orders—a corrupt and unconstitutional Administration that ignores the stricture against ‘cruel and unusual punishment’—not just for criminals, but for innocents, for asylum-seekers, for babies, for christ-sake. I am sickened—but somewhat more sickened by the realization that Trump wants us to feel sickened. He thinks he’s baiting the snowflakes—by emulating Hitler as near as makes no never-mind—this is Trump, ‘winning’. Can you imagine?

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And he really thinks that by repeating and repeating that the Democrats made this travesty happen—he’ll actually get people to believe it. The Democrats, that have had no influence for a-year-and-a-half before this celebration of cruelty broke out? Right, them—sure they did.

Again, the insane meanness of this traumatizing policy is overwhelming enough—but that it is a purposeful political ploy by our game-show president makes it exponentially more ghoulish. Can someone please wake the president from his feverish waking-nightmare—smack him across the face or something? And if he’s fully conscious—can we all just look around for that last ounce of dignity left in the United States—and impeach this motherfucker already? It’s not just this one policy I’m sick of.

Cowards—all of you. Afraid the immigrants are gonna get something that should go to you?—losers. Have you seen these immigrants? They kinda look like fucking People to me. You want to see a national security threat? Look to the douchebag in the Oval. There’s your enemy of the state.

But if you’re too dense to understand that—then the state I’m worrying about has already, de facto, ceased to exist—so fuck it all. You know, we really are all, ultimately, from somewhere else. The only thing that makes us E Pluribus Unum (from many, One) is our shared fidelity to the Constitution—and all that implies.

Trump doesn’t know a human right from a nightlight—he’s never seen a letter of the law that he didn’t try to use against its spirit—he’s a clear and present danger to the United States of America we all knew and loved. He represents a last, lost hope for all the bigots that got mad when Obama was president—but those crazy morons will tear the whole place down, if we let them.

And I gotta say—Democrats—I gotta see more fight in you folks! The Republicans are disgracing themselves at historic levels, probably hoping the FoxNews wall-of-lies will keep from tumbling down, until they have a chance to cash out. But you Democrats are missing every trick on the table—these goons are supporting the unsupportable; you should be in their faces, every day—a lot of this is unconstitutional; why aren’t you hammering on the anti-American Administration? Are you really gonna sit on your hands until the bad man goes away? Then don’t expect a blue wave. It’s called politics, dammit.

The Republicans better hope it stays ‘just politics’. With the right guidance, someone could have a couple million bleeding-heart protestors making a Woodstock on the West Texas-Mexico border. Those kids shouldn’t be left alone with just Trump, Sessions, and their goons.

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Presidency As Hate Crime   (2018Jan11)

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Thursday, January 11, 2018                                              9:53 PM

Presidency As Hate Crime   (2018Jan11)

Bigots are resurging today only because they try so hard to forget that their hatreds were shamed into silence by the courts, the legislators, and the media of a few decades ago. Not so long ago, morons such as Joe Arpaio, Roy Moore, Roger Ailes, Bill O’Reilly, Steve Bannon, or Trump would have been derided offstage (never mind being ejected from the political arena).

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While the bigots celebrate their big comeback, they carefully avoid discussion of what sent them scurrying away, years ago—an outbreak of awareness and decency that pushed back against ingrained racism, sexism, homophobia, et. al. That enlightened Americanism embraced inclusion and fairness.

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Yes, that ‘fairness’ is the real enemy of the one-percent. The one-percent want us to dogfight over ‘inclusion’ while we overlook the inescapable unfairness of income-inequality and modern capitalism. The inclusion battle was hard-fought, its victories dearly earned—the Civil Rights Movement, the Women’s Liberation Movement, the LGBT Rights Movement, etc. took decades to bring enlightenment to the citizenry and to the law of the land.

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Now the hate-and-fear-mongers are trying to tell us that none of that happened, that white nationalism has regained a place in America. Not true—a small collection of backwaters have clutched their bitterness to their chests, through thick and thin, beyond sense or reason—they are now attempting to nurse their kindling back into the bonfires of old. They are champions of ignorance and autocracy—enemies of the America most of us believe in.

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How long will the Republicans keep pretending? Is there anyone left who truly doubts Trump’s unfitness, bigotry, criminality, ignorance of his elected position, complete blindness to ethics or compassion, and his inability to speak truthfully—or even coherently?

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His ‘presidency’ is a sham, a hate crime, an act of treason, and a con job.

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The Republicans have lost any semblance of credibility or idealism–becoming a team of poker players, rather than statespersons. I’m beyond sick-and-tired of dead-eyed stonewalling in place of honest admission of the truth. There comes a time when bluffing is over and cards must be shown. It’s alright, Republicans, we know you have a Trump card. Fess up, or destroy yourselves—along with your country.

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No man can serve two masters, Republicans. You either serve the lobbyists or the voters—doing one while pretending to do the other is no longer an option. You’ve all just been too brazen about your corruption—it’s staring us all in the face. I know some of your morons-on-mailing-lists are still being taken in—but the other 85% of people in the USA can see perfectly well what you idiots are trying to do.

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Trump should have been impeached months ago—the longer you put it off, the worse it will be.

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The Lights Ahead   (2018Jan01)

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Monday, January 01, 2018                                                9:24 PM

The Lights Ahead   (2018Jan01)

The original pilgrims ventured to this land in search of a place where they could worship differently—they left behind a continent that spent centuries attacking the infidels, and more centuries attacking each other over the Inquisition and the Reformation. All wars and all crimes had a basis in belief—and differences in belief could be crimes in themselves.

Once the pilgrims got here, they soon found themselves well on the road to duplicating the very religion-based strife and violence which had driven them to their new world. Religious intolerance threatened to shatter the colonies just when they most needed to band together to survive.

The Wordy Shipmates” by Sarah Vowell gives an excellent account of how the idea of religious tolerance was adopted by the earliest colonists. ‘Separation of church and state’ remained important to the character of what would become the United States of America. Long before our nation was born, this land had been a sanctuary of tolerance—until modern times, the only nation that separated law from faith.

Thus freedom of religion became the first great light of America. We can distract ourselves with exceptions—such as the witch-burnings of Puritans and the unspoken anti-Semitism that persecuted Jewish-Americans for much of our history—but freedom to worship as we please is a part of America, exceptions notwithstanding.

The second great light of America was replacing Monarchy with Democracy. Again, we may take exception—and with good reason—to the historical record. At first, ‘all men are created equal’ used the word ‘all’ very loosely—and the word ‘men’ very narrowly—Rich, white, male colonists didn’t want to pay their taxes—and they wanted to keep their slaves.

Still, the spirit was in the words—and that spirit brought us to a great and tragic contest, the Civil War, and to the Suffragists movement, and to the Civil Rights Act, to social activism of many kinds. And all have the same aim—to broaden inclusion and to remove exceptions to the ideal. Democracy and equal rights go hand in hand—or one of them is a sham.

The third great light of America was literacy. We were the first to implement a public school system—and thus the first country to have more literate than illiterate citizens. Since this coincided with the industrial revolution, America found itself exploding with entrepreneurship—all the new ideas and new inventions kept coming—and virtually every citizen was reading about it in newspapers and magazines—and thinking to themselves, “How can I make my fortune in this chaos?”

Early on, lots of Americans chose to learn to read for one simple reason—so they could read Mark Twain’s books. Clemens was more than a great writer—he was the impetus for a young nation to go literate-default. He was as responsible for ‘Yankee know-how’ as Bell or Edison. So perhaps I should change the third great light of America from ‘literacy’ to ‘love of knowledge’. It was both ‘common’ and somewhat scandalous, in the Old World, to be interested in learning for its own sake—America demonstrated its value.

The great American Empire was founded primarily on the strength our nation found within its first three Great Lights: Freedom of Religion, Democracy, and Love of Knowledge. America made a gift of these ideas to the world—and much of the world has adopted one or all of these ideas.

Now, if Trump does his worst, and achieves the decline of the American Empire he so obviously seeks—just remember: the Greeks, the Roman Empire, the British Empire—all have faded, but the ideas they gave the world remain—and America’s ideals, being based on a love of humanity, will also outlive the land from which it sprang. Indeed, America is not the land it was—it has become something else—but those ideas still, having been brought to light, will wend their way into the thoughts of future folk, whomever they may be.

Let’s face it. Euclid gave the Greeks the gift of Geometry—a highly useful insight—yet even today not everyone bothers to learn Geometry. The Romans gave us plumbing, but not everyone in Flint, MI thinks the science of plumbing is very important—and many other towns have similar leadership. America gave the world Freedom of Religion, Democracy, and Love of Knowledge—but the number of citizens, today, with a true understanding of those principles and their importance—is, at most, two-thirds of the total.

We know this because one-third of the voters voted for Trump—who made a great show of either disrespecting those principles or showing his ignorance of them. By the time he was done campaigning, only someone with an imperfect understanding of America could possibly have approved of him.

Having said all that, it is important to recognize the other possibility—that Trump’s oafish trampling of what real Americans treasure will result in a backlash that cynics, hypocrites, Putin, and business-leaders will long regret. There are more lights, further ahead—if only we can stop this retreat into the darkness of the past… We are not done making a more perfect union. Reach for the stars, I always say.

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Oh My Word!   (2017Dec17)

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Sunday, December 17, 2017                                                       2:34 AM

Oh My Word!   (2017Dec17)

Okay, let’s just say there’s nothing left to add—our situation is obvious, even though the cable-news would have us think much is afoot—Mueller will make it impossible for the Republicans to leave Trump unimpeached, or he will fall short, and leave Trump in the White House the entire four years.

That’s the long and short of it—I’m tired and I don’t want to hear any more about it until it’s settled, one way or the other. Stupidity has become the towering mountain range of our mental landscapes, ever since Trump started questioning Obama’s citizenship. For years, every day just gets stupider and stupider—in keeping with our empty-head-of-state and the pack of skeezballs known as Republican legislators.

They’re supposed to be politicians, right? But what group of politicians gets together and decides, “Yeah, let’s back the child-molester”? They want to tax the poor to pay the rich—and they’re not even hiding it. They just took CHIP away, by letting it lapse—but they’re in a big hurry to throw all the DACAs out of the USA. How the hell is this politics? Aren’t you supposed to make people like and trust you?

To think that one of those assholes shouted “Liar!” from the back of the room, during Obama’s first SOTU Address—and no one has even whispered it, during all the times our blowhard-in-chief started spouting his bullshit! I would think at least one Democrat would do the right thing and give these bullies a taste of their own. Someone should be shouting “Liar!” at the top of his or her lungs—every single time Trump opens his fat trap.

And talk about politically-correct snowflakes—have you seen the thirty-word phrase that Trump wants to substitute for ‘science-based’? It goes like this: “CDC bases its recommendations on science in consideration with community standards and wishes.” And that, roughly translated, is: “If your science goes against our religion, keep it.” Who’s the cuck now, tweet-fucker?

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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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Republicans vs. Reality   (2017Dec12)

Tuesday, December 12, 2017                                           3:48 PM

Republicans vs. Reality   (2017Dec12)

There is a limit to objectivity—after the sun rises in the east long enough, you assume it will rise there again, every morning. When, after the airing of Trump’s taped confession of sexually inappropriate behavior, twelve, then sixteen, then eighteen women came forward, they all said, “I can attest to that confession—he treated me in an unwelcome, aggressively misogynistic way—and it made me sick.”—or words to that effect.

The White House’s response to this has been that Trump won the election, and he denied ever knowing any of these women. To the first point, I can only say that an election is not a trial. To the second point—what difference does it make if he knew these women? The whole point of his TV confession was that he accosted strange women willy-nilly—where does ‘not knowing them’ enter into his defense?

And you Trump-supporters are all to blame—not just the voters, but the Republicans in the House and Senate. Did it surprise you?—that electing and supporting a confessed serial mauler of women—made the women in America react more strongly than in any previous age. Or maybe you thought that while dozens of chauvinist pigs are dropping like flies, in entertainment, business, and politics—that everyone would just forget about Trump’s accusers. They were just part of the election, right? Nuh-uh, buddy—these women have serious grievances against our elected president—and there are just so damn many of them.

You can’t just have Senators and Congressmen being ejected left and right (no pun intended) without someone saying, “Hey…. What about Trump?” And even if no one would, once he started backing the accused child-molester Roy Moore, he kinda forced them to do it.

Now, the Republicans have known all this in more depth and accuracy than we civilians who have to sift through the media, as if scrying among chicken guts. Their stalwart support of Trump (who has proven incompetent, unstable, ignorant, divisive, and really, really gross) seems to overlook even the possibility that he might be an agent for Russia. In a way, it’s no great leap for the Republicans to support banned-from-the-mall Moore to join their ranks—after Trump, what can truly be disqualifying to the GOP?

Also, I saw many Republicans trying to get the smear-campaign going on Robert Mueller (who is getting guilty pleas—and getting too close to Trump) in spite of these same people being on tape, from just months ago, lauding Mueller as a great choice—fair, professional, incorruptible.

And today we see the President being virtually obsessive about broadcasting his misogyny—tweeting lurid ravings, insulting Senator Gillibrand, that bear little resemblance to the Gettysburg Address. The fact that Trump prides himself on bearing little resemblance to any other president—is as deeply embarrassing as the pride he takes in tweeting out his twisted, sick mental processes.

No one would claim that the Republicans are stupid enough to swallow their own hogwash—we assume that these are cynical misanthropes who put themselves before country—and knowingly push their alternate-facts reality on the unsuspecting mob. I can’t imagine that most Republicans truly believe that Moore is not a child-molester, that Trump is not a treasonously bad president (and a sexual assaulter), or that their Tax Bill is going to help anyone but themselves and their wealthy donors.

But we can’t totally dismiss the possibility of ignorance. Either way, the entire Republican Party has rode this train all the way—they are all complicit—either in their corruption or their idiocy. Then again, my money is on cowardice.

You see, people without character are weak in many ways—and the most common weakness among them is fear—their fear makes them ambitious, but it also makes them cowards. They only want to succeed because they think they’ll feel safer being a big-shot—they haven’t the slightest interest in good government. My god—look at their platform—they want to destroy this country economically, ethically, and judicially—they are the rot that calls to us from darker times. Resist.

Not Very Worried   (2017Dec02)

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Saturday, December 02, 2017                                           2:05 PM

Not Very Worried   (2017Dec02)

We need to get back to a practical attitude about truth. Yes, truth can be debated—but it can be debated beyond the point of meaning, as well. We can debate whether a dawn with snow on the ground is proof of an overnight snowfall—but when the debate is over, someone still needs to plow the driveway.

Likewise, we don’t really know much about the nature of electromagnetism—nevertheless, an electrician can tell you, with absolute precision, whether a certain circuit-diagram will power your new home—or burn it to the ground. Doubt-mongers can honestly say that humanity knows very little about the full nature of electricity—while they sit in a house with a generous supply of safe, handy three-prong outlets, charging multiple devices while making toast.

I’d prefer not to get sidetracked just now, talking about the dramatic back-and-forths of politics and media. The most important thing about the truth isn’t ‘fake news’—it is in how we perceive our world, ourselves, and our place in it. After all, it is ‘We, the people’. Neither politicians nor talking heads can brainwash any of us, unless we let them, plopping ourselves down in front of a screen and swallowing every word we hear. If nothing else, we should be given pause—and more than pause, by the fact that some news outlets tell different stories.

That creates an environment where some outlet or outlets indeed must be selling psy-prop fake-news BS—and because of Freedom of Speech, the government can’t decide for us which media outlets are at fault. We have to use our personal judgement now—more than ever before. We must be leery—we must be suspicious—we know now that there are groups out there, working at the new profession of cultural corrosion by misinformation.

And when we look for an enemy, we shouldn’t allow Russia alone to fill our binoculars. In many ways, modern Russia is just a subset of the super-wealthy of Capitalism—Putin and all those oligarchs are just the foreign version of our own fat cats, Trump included. America is the Capitalist’s target because its riches only have one drawback—those pesky peasants, still thinking they have freedom—no matter how much they’re overworked in their cubicles or starved in unemployment.

So Trump helps Putin, just like all fat pigs help each other, all around the world—not very worried that the rest of us might wake up some day. He attacks our rights and freedoms, because those are obstacles to commerce and control. He stands for commerce and control because he is jealous of Putin, Duterte, and Assad. He whines, “Why can’t I shoot someone in the middle of 5th Avenue? They can!”

I don’t care about the legalities anymore—I am long past caring who said what to whom. All I know, for an absolute fact, is that Trump is an enemy of the United States of America, as much as an enemy of the Truth—yet it is against the law for me to suggest what I’d like to see happen to him.

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Heedlessness   (2017Nov26)

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Saturday, November 25, 2017                                          11:40 PM

Heedlessness   (2017Nov26)

On the recent PBS documentary, “Rolling Stone At 50”, Hunter S. Thompson says something to the affect that American voters crave a ‘used-car-salesman, lie-cheat-and-steal, win by any means and destroy all others’-type of autocrat. Thompson offered as proof: the reelection of Richard Nixon to his second presidential term—the one Nixon won by an historic landslide—the one he would be forced to resign from, a year-and-a-half later.

If the average for expelling unfit presidents, whose campaign committed felonies, is roughly one-and-a-half years then we should be getting close to ejecting the present Fool-in-chief. Remember, patience is a virtue. In the meantime, I think it important to drill down on our national schism between Red and Blue.

Firstly, it is important not to make this a purely political division. Blue prevails in urban areas and Red in rural—there is an element of culture (or at least environment) at work here, as well. The people in the Red states are not naturally ‘conservative’ any more than those in the Blue are ‘liberal’—there is a healthy mix of both in every state, Red or Blue.

Then again, words like Liberal and Conservative have become the dogs that spin-doctors wag. Yes, they have literal ‘dictionary’ meanings—but in common usage, they are merely flavoring to whatever group is being fed the BS.

Here’s another word whose meaning is oft overlooked:

heed·less         [ˈhēdləs ] -adjective

showing a reckless lack of care or attention.

““Elaine!” she shouted, heedless of attracting unwanted attention”

synonyms:  unmindful, taking no notice, paying no heed, unheeding, disregardful, neglectful, oblivious, inattentive, blind, deaf

Heedlessness is often used to demonstrate power, as in—“I don’t care about your excuses, just get it done.”—a sentence that no one but a blowhard would ever dream of saying to another person. These blowhards that ask for 110% effort and total loyalty—are the same people who never really make one’s acquaintance, or remember one after one’s immediate usefulness has past.

America courts heedlessness, almost as a virtue. Freedom of Speech means we can all say what we want—and no one can stop anyone else from saying anything. Implicit in that is the need to be able to ignore what some people say—if you disagree with or despise the words of another, the only way to avoid losing your temper is to ignore what someone else says.

Naturally, in a perfect world, we’d all just debate our differences into oblivion—but that will never happen. People will always have differences—the point of politics is to build a consensus towards a compromise, leaving all parties equally unsatisfied. But, even if politics succeeded in doing that, all those differences which people have would remain—we would simply have integrated our differences into a patchwork that was fair for everybody.

Additionally, we believe in Democracy—we believe it is very important for the majority to hold sway. It becomes easy to confuse majority opinion with actual fact—since both hold equal importance in America’s value system. Even requiring a unanimous jury verdict to condemn a man to death is a form of democracy—and that vote holds the power of life and death. Any scientist will tell you that stating an important (proven) scientific fact has no such power over our daily lives.

I have personally witnessed over fifty years of obfuscation by greedy business-people, pushing back against the plain facts as presented by Rachel Carson, Ralph Nader, and a cast of thousands of well-meaning researchers whose only miscalculation was the amount malfeasance, smearing, and even violence they would face from those greedy, cold-blooded, ransom-their-heirs’-planet assholes.

Being willing to indulge in journalism that merely legitimizes their flimsy tissue of pushbacks, we end up looking like we’re actually that stupid—that we can’t see through their greedy defense against plain truth. Yet, at the same time, we wait for each of the fighters to fall—like tobacco did, like coal did, like asbestos did—we wait for the full weight of history to crush their greedy pretense to ‘alternate facts’. We know it will happen—we just don’t know how many lawyers will retire off of each battle before ‘simple fact’ is permitted to turn to some new front.

Thus, media conglomerates stretch the principle of ‘hearing both sides’ to include the most self-serving, misleading, and hypocritical voices on the same screen as knowledgeable folks who are only there to speak the truth as they know it. It’s a very subtle judo, that’s not-so-subtly destroying our confidence in what we know—and thereby, the fabric of our democracy.

While the media faux-nobly upholds this ‘objectivity’ they’ve concocted, while con-men use false majesty to pretend that their egos have real worth, while Free Speech is fast becoming a ‘caveat emptor’-situation with regard to listening, and while autocrats stir up emotional frenzies to distract from the lack of plain justice and decency—I’m still waiting for everyone to remember.

Remember that information has a source—the only way fake news can fool you is if you don’t check your sources. Remember that the world is not your friend—some facts will be other than what you wish they were. Remember that democracy requires an informed electorate—we ignored the reality of our politics and half of us didn’t vote. Now we have the ‘president’ such lazy neglect deserves—a cross between a senile moron and an enemy agent, hell-bent on destroying the federal government from the inside—from the top, no less.

I get it. We thirst for distraction—we want videos and games and VR and concerts and sports events—we want beer and wine and booze and pot and speed and coke and opioids—we want talent contests, hot-dog-eating run-offs, star searches, dancing with stars, and bickering ‘real’ housewives. Nobody wants to face the dreary challenges of practical politics—the nuts and bolts of programs that will truly improve citizens’ lives, make us all safer, give us all more opportunity.

And the politicians certainly don’t want that! They want things as they are—where one’s public persona is all the fitness required to be given enormous authority and responsibility—where even squeaky-clean idealists can be smeared, one way or another—and where you can invent and stand by your own truth, reality be damned. They don’t want practical politics—that’s never been part of the equation—that’s never been what the game was about.

But a grassroots movement could create pressure to address practicality. We could start complaining that we don’t want any candidate who wastes time criticizing an opponent—or makes vague claims about very detailed, technical issues. We want candidates who brag about their support staff’s CVs, who release white-papers with detailed, in-depths plans to alleviate some unfairness, red-tape, or neglect in several issues—not just one (because the world is too big and fast these days).

We want candidates who will go after the big fish—and we shall know them by the amount of money the fat cats spend trying to destroy him or her. This world is on the express train to tomorrow—it’s changing faster than we can keep up with—it’s more complicated than any one person can even grasp—it’s coordinated to keep all the food and fuel and power distributed to all the people on a regular, non-stop basis. The world is a mighty machine that must be kept ticking smoothly—or we all die.

Now, if you’re a religious type, who hears ‘we all die’ and figures that’s ‘just the way (huh) God planned it’—you can pretty-please just go fuck yourself. The rest of us are going to live the hell out of our lives—and plan futures for our children and our grandchildren—and, should the fucking world come to an end, we will be too busy living to notice, until five full minutes after the Apocalypse. So, if you have faith in such bullshit—keep it to your god-damned self.

Getting back to the real world—it has a thin rind of fragile life all over its surface—and we have lain an even thinner, more fragile layer of technology over that—it is ironic that the machinery of humanity’s world is both titanic and flimsy, indestructible yet delicate.

Everyone knows that machines need order to function efficiently—but we avert our eyes from the obvious—that humanity needs organization, too, if it is to enhance society with machines. For one thing, this sovereignty thing, that hangs on—and stymies the intended role of the United Nations—that is a huge waste. And who do these boundary lines profit? Dictators, arms manufacturers, smugglers, and hate-mongers—that’s who. And don’t start whining about the UN—if you don’t like the UN, start another one—just don’t oppose global unity because “the UN’s broken”, you lazy ass.

I’m waiting for us all to get wise to these salesmen-politicians, selling us a story instead of governing (never mind governing well) and start paying heed, instead, to people with credentials, people without a dog in the fight—even when those people say stuff that threatens some fat monopoly’s bottom line. I’m waiting for us all to pay heed to the clock that’s still ticking—that one that the GOP tells you doesn’t exist—environmental impact.

I’ll tell you a little secret—some of the filthiest-richest people on Earth make their money by being the most toxic, the most destructive, and the most unethical. If you ever wondered why we’re still discussing environmental issues fifties years after the first warnings were made—that’s why. And that’s another thing we have to heed—Capitalism was great stuff (as far as it went) in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries—but it has metastasized into something dark, cruel and hungry in this new century—and we have to start punching back at what is now a tiny enclave of people, each with more money than is good for one’s mental health.

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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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Trump Cherry-Picks Our ‘Freedoms’ For Us   (2017Sep25)

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Monday, September 25, 2017                                          4:50 PM

The recent episodes of “Trump’s Tweets” show our hero indulging in his own freedom of speech to condemn others’. He seems to misapprehend the distinction between authority and constitutionality—as if the Constitution’s Bill of Rights were a takeout-menu selection type of thing.

Trump’s so sure in his presentation of his opinions, it’s as if he had reason to be so sure—as if he had carefully pondered all the imponderables, after decades of discussion and experimentation, years of study, etc. But let us not forget that Trump is just blowing opinions out of his ass, strictly top-of-his-head, off-of-his-cuff bullshit that occurs to him, out of the blue—and he rushes to share it with his doting cultists.

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I know that nobody wants to—and I know nobody wants to bother. But let’s take a moment with his ravings-of-the-cycle: We may presume that the president is leaning hard on his own right-to-free-speech when he calls a bunch of people ‘sons-of-bitches’ in public. But he is not—he is using the phrase in a familiar fashion—like a ‘regular joe’, see? He’s so popular.

The more important argument—does this Kaepernik guy have the right to kneel during the singing of the anthem, in protest against civil injustice? Well, let’s see—he started out ‘sitting it out’—and then when people got ‘tudinal about that, he knelt instead—in deference to the flag and the anthem—but still making a protest. This Kaepernik actually had the grace to make concessions in his protest—out of respect for others’ feelings. Trump is more graceless.

But most important, to my thoughts, is that Trump doesn’t see the difference between a deal, a PR stunt, and the hallowed traditions of American ideals. He is of the class that has always gleefully used the USA’s greatness for their own purposes, while giving lip service to its truth—the class that makes it necessary to fight and re-fight these tired old fights about race, gender, religion, and rule of law. Entitled assholes, in other words—but we the people have never before been so well snookered into electing one of these sons-of-bitches.

And now he’s making hay while his son-in-law is shining—while the rest of those worthless GOPs balk at the ever-more-inevitable impeachment. I’d be tweeting random BS, too, I suppose—if I was living in the White House, and had no good goddamned reason to be there.

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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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Fate Steps In   (2017Aug19)

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Saturday, August 19, 2017                                                3:07 PM

Fate Steps In   (2017Aug19)

The media has a bad habit of equalizing two ‘sides’ of an issue, even when it is pretty clearly a matter of right vs. wrong being the two ‘sides’. But fate continues in its old, natural way—as time passes, those on the left tend to rise in our esteem, and increase in dignity—those who most vocally support the far right tend to fall to scandal, or even criminal charges and prison sentences. This is such a common occurrence on the right that there have been cases of Republicans running for office while standing trial, or even serving time.

Thus the media can equalize all it wants, and muddy the waters of public perception, if they must mock true journalism in this way. But fate will ultimately deal with either side as it has always done. Evil never rests—but that is the beauty of it: evil disrupts everyone, including the unethical. As they fight to enrich themselves through the sacrifice of others, the same amorality bedevils their efforts—just as it does our own. Ain’t that a pip?

The champions of love and inclusion and acceptance—these people naturally attract supporters, and are keeping their eyes on a prize other than their bank accounts . The hate-group members live in such a way as to narrow their community and repel sensible people. And we humans are such silly people that it is a lucky thing that the universe works in this way. Look how we totter on the edge of disaster—even with everything in our favor (except the present government, perhaps).

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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New Thoughts (2017Jul13)

Friday, July 14, 2017                                                2:10 AM

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New Thoughts (2017Jul13)

“no Person holding any Office of Profit or Trust under them, shall, without the Consent of the Congress, accept of any present, Emolument, Office, or Title, of any kind whatever, from any King, Prince, or foreign State.”  —The U. S. Constitution, Art. 1, Sec. 9

Technically, the excerpt above would not apply to the Trump campaign, since he was not in office until the inauguration. But it seems likely that, if the founding authors felt this strongly about an elected official’s behavior in office (with respect to foreign influence) they may have simply assumed that no one flouting these important ethics, during the campaign, would have a prayer of being elected—by the people, or the Electoral College (whose sole purpose was to act as a stopgap against charlatans of such sort).

That Trump—and his administration—continue to dismiss the perfidy of attempting collusion with a foreign power to influence a national election—claiming that ‘most people would have taken that meeting’ goes beyond political inexperience, into amorality. This, in the face of precedent— in September of 2000, close adviser to Vice President Al Gore, Rep. Tom Downey of Long Island, N.Y., received an anonymous package of purported info on the Bush Campaign, and turned it over to the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

That only a single precedent exists is no doubt due to the hare-brained nature of such over-the-top aggression—few presidential candidates, never mind an entire coterie of such a culture, so single-mindedly pursue the destruction of their opponent, without bothering to offer anything positive about their own character. That Trump and his goons miss that they miss that—is deeply troubling. I heard someone say the other day that Trump’s administration couldn’t be more generically ‘bad-guy’ if they had been written into a superhero comic-book as the villains.

If, as with the rest of us, any old guy could walk into court and file a criminal complaint against Trump, most judges would probably find probable cause for a grand jury—his son’s emails are more than enough to get the ball rolling. But that is not the case—we have to wait until the Republicans in Congress have decided that Trump has gotten too hot even for their ice-cold, cynical hands. Meanwhile, they can point to ‘congressional hearings on the matter’—but somehow it has neither the urgency of HRC’s Benghazi hearings nor the presumption of guilt we saw at HRC’s ‘server’ hearings. Why is that, we wonder?

But anyway, I wanted to say something about healthcare that everyone seems to have forgotten—we didn’t use to have any. We used to have insurance companies that could do whatever they wanted—in the name of free enterprise—and business was great—for them. For the millions of people who only dreamed of taking their kids to a doctor—or spending another few years with their sick grandparent—or trying to raise a disabled child on a low-middle income—it wasn’t working so good—it wasn’t working at all.

You may remember those days—it was only eight years ago they changed it—and forever, before that, there had been no responsibility taken by our government to care for every citizen’s health. We saw people being admitted to emergency rooms and we told ourselves that anyone, in an emergency, could be treated by a doctor. We didn’t think of all the ways that health issues can impact people and families and businesses, aside from being allowed in the ER when you’re almost dead.

We saw other countries switch to socialized healthcare—and heard the domestic industry pooh-pooh those other countries’ fairness as not being as dynamic as our competitive business-model. Plus, it would wipe out the present health-insurance industry—and—lots of Americans just hate the idea of giving free stuff to poor people. They hate it as much as I hate the idea of making poor peoples’ lives more difficult than they are already.

Michael Moore made a wonderful movie once—I forget which one—where he showed a ‘Canadian slum’, which was a lovely-looking, crime-free neighborhood—with free childcare for working mothers and, of course, free healthcare. See, now, I could live right next door to people like that and not feel bad about having more money than them—because they wouldn’t be suffering from their lack, they would simply have less money. Plus, if I went broke, and became poor, my life would change very little—as a sick old man, my entertainment expenses are minimal.

Anyway, the point is—the Democrats had to scratch and claw their way to passage of Obamacare—because it was a game-changer. Now that Americans have had affordable health care for some years, Republicans will look like total dicks if they just repeal it—not a single voter will be without a relative that suffers from a repeal—and even Machiavellian gerrymandering can’t undo that.

Now they struggle to pass a ‘repeal and replace’ bill—but they can’t do it. They can’t repeal it outright. And they can’t replace it with something that is effectively a repeal-in-other-words—the CBO has called them on that dodge three times in a row already.

They can’t work together with Democrats to make real improvements on Obamacare—because they don’t have the political stones to sink their careers for the sake of the citizenry—like Obama did when he signed it. There are real problems with Obamacare—and it hurts the country to leave them unaddressed—but the Republicans persist in trying to put this egg back in its shell, when they should be cooking.

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Thursday, July 13, 2017                                           5:35 PM

I think it is important to recognize that there is always more to things than the simple explanation. Now that the Trump/Russia Collusion scandal has expanded to include election-tampering in general, we will inevitably reach a point where the insidious disinformation-campaign by the Russians, working with the Alt-Right or not, will be compared to mass media.

In my rants I have frequently ranted the same thing. But the mass media disinformation problem is more like the healthcare problem than the Trump/Russia debacle—because, as with the medical profession, the aim is a pure one: doctors try to help, and do no harm—and media is meant to inform and entertain.

In both cases, the transition to profit-based paradigms has created massive amounts of business: Medicine spawned Big Pharma, the Health Insurance industry, Corporate research, surgical and care devices from stents to remote-control surgical bots. Media has spawned the Networks, Cable, E-books, Computer Graphics, Streaming services, Online researching and metadata massage, movie franchising, social media—and, of course, cable news.

In both cases, profit has proven to be a dehumanizing influence in industries that are based, nominally, on humane goals. Our country’s medical care is the best in the world—for about ten percent of citizens, perhaps less. For the other 90%, care is more expensive and less professional than in socialized-medical-care countries—so when someone tells you that socialized medicine will be a big step backward, they are referring only to the fabulously wealthy.

Likewise, introducing the profit motive into a free press makes a lot of money and endless access to data for that ten percent or less—and distorts the so-called ‘news’. This could be fought against if it weren’t for the further distortion of people’s perceptions wrought by our click-bait culture. By narrowing our focus down to one issue, one headline at a time, cable news does two harms: first, the blindered presentation of individual issues makes them seem even more unsolvable and more numerous than they really are, and by removing the context, they prevent us from seeing the whole, where many of the answers we look for may be found.

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Wednesday, July 05, 2017                                                1:51 PM

It’s sad the way I’ve lost interest in people. Whenever I talk to people now, I find myself waiting for them to get bored and go away—while I hypocritically try to sound interesting so they won’t think I’m boring. I’m not really as selfish as that sounds—I’ve lost interest in myself, too, in a way—that is, I don’t push myself or dream of big goals anymore. I’ve soured, is probably the most concise expression.

For most of my life I was on a manic search for the new—I thought I was in love with learning, but it’s nothing so noble—I just feel stifled when things become overly familiar—I ‘need’ to find something new, all the time. Do you have books you keep telling yourself you’ll read? I don’t—I’ve read them all already. Do you keep telling yourself you’ll try this or that, someday? I don’t—I have already done everything I know of (and, yes, lots of things are fun the first time). But none of that stuff is fun anymore—it’s old.

Then, so am I.

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Trump and Putin need to stop misusing their elected offices to market their brands. Corruption has gone beyond ubiquitous, to in-your-face. Around the globe, we see it—starting with our own GOP, and a president who neither fully divests nor refuses emoluments–who puts his family members on staff as if running a mom and pop store instead of the USA.

But corruption is even more malignant in Mexico, and in both Central and South America. Corruption is more sophisticated in Europe and the UK—as one might expect. But we see the worst of it in Eastern Europe, the Middle East, Southeast Asia, China, and Russia. Russia is the supreme example—their ‘democracy’ was hijacked by the head mob-boss in post-Soviet Russia—and he has been getting reelected for 17 years. And this thug still has veto-power on the UN Security Council. Same as the other two thugs—Trump and Xi Peng.

But I’m not pointing fingers—my point is the opposite—that corruption is an ingredient of society—the only variables are: how deeply ingrained, how inhumane its profit-motive, and whether the ‘townspeople’ can stand up to bad government without being gunned down. It’s certainly more nuanced than that, but you get my concept, I hope.

Health Care Legislation was a very different thing before the Affordable Care Act (what there was of it). The ACA (or ‘Obamacare’, as I like to call it, for short) was the first law to require the health insurance industry to provide coverage that was less profitable, but fairer. Coverage that protected sick people, Obamacare virtually stated, could not be purely for profit—it had to have standards of an ethical nature, since Health Care was a business of life and death.

The health insurance industry felt obliged to resist lowered profits and increased regulation—they thought in terms of profit and loss. Like most industries, insurers can see no middle ground between maximum profit and a threat to their rights to do business. They can talk that way—corporations have many of the rights of a person—but they aren’t ‘person’ enough to have to face their own family after saying some of the cold-blooded, hypocritical press-releases they do—neither must a corporation tell individuals, to their faces, what they intend to do to them—or take away from them—or cheat them out of.

The law may say that a corporation is a person in the eyes of the court—but, outside the court, I think we can all agree that a corporation is the shittiest person anyone has ever met—not that anyone can meet those flat-faced, lobby-laminated excuses for human flesh. If a corporation sues someone, it’s never about the corporation’s integrity, as a person—it always because someone threatened their profits, their cash-flow, their public image. I could loiter around and spit on a corporation all day long—it’s not a person—it won’t even get its feelings hurt.

I’m stumped about what gives these actuarial fictions any Constitutional rights—it’s as if there’s a carney-ride gateway for piles of money, with a sign that says, “You must be this high to have all the rights of a person—without any of the consequences.”  Someone will have to explain it all to me someday. Then explain why such a stupid idea endures, like it was the friggin Emancipation Amendment or something.

statue-liberty-evacuation

Tuesday, July 11, 2017                                             2:25 PM

When will we face our embarrassment that we let Russian disinformation and hacking—and the media hoopla—trick us into letting crooks into the Administration? Trump’s gang have shown themselves without honor, without competence, without honesty, and without any regard for the Constitution—and, in spite of that, the Republicans scruple to impeach him (perhaps because he’s only slightly more cynically unethical than they are). But someday we’re going to have to face it—we’ve been had.

And the Russians go right ahead with their global program of disruption of democracy, attacking unity wherever they find it—especially in the United States. We take for granted that word in our country’s name—but it has been our shield and buckler, without us even really appreciating the power of unity. Our government had the wits to appreciate the strength of unity when FDR said, ‘let there be labor unions’. Business owners fought against it, but not having any moral ground to stand on, they were overruled.

Inclusion is just our modern way of saying ‘Unity’, when unity has become an old-fashioned expression. But old things are best—and there’s nothing like unity—teamwork, looking out for the guy next to you, etc.

And the media go right ahead, making a circus of the most serious aspect of our lives—money, taxes, legislation, infrastructure, consumer protection, et. al.—they talk about it in throbbing tones, dramatizing and stirring the pot of what is really a bunch of vote counting and legalese. I’m not saying journalists shouldn’t cover the news—but stop making it into some Shakespearian comic tragedy full of personalities and gossip. Stop making money broadcasting our political fate as if it were a football game, goddammit.

They usually reply that they’re just giving the public what they want—but that’s bullshit—if that were true, they could just broadcast porn and ESPN, and skip the news altogether—but if they’re going to do it, they should do it as a public service, not as a competitor in the ratings wars. They way they’re doing it now, it’s more like they’re cheerleaders for the devil—at their most thrilled when our country is on the brink of disaster. Cronkite did not announce Kennedy’s assassination breathlessly, like some Shopping Channel shill—he did it with tears in his eyes. Why? Because he was a human being—with a slight taint of decency.

inferno25

Friday, July 07, 2017                                                6:10 PM

I lost my memory and I can’t remember where I left it. I lost a liver and received a stranger’s to replace it. I’ve lost my health and all I have is writing to distract me. I lost my cigarettes when they diagnosed my emphysema—and I lost what little self-respect remained when I found I didn’t have the will to quit smoking, while slowly dying of emphysema. How stupid is that?

Very stupid—but I’m allowed to be. I used to be semi-intelligent—I know what intelligence means—and I no longer have it. If HepC made my brain stupid and I have to live with that, then I’m not going to blame myself for being stupid. I’m not really blaming myself for anything—that’s the beauty of learning to stop blaming other people—you get to stop blaming yourself, because the same excuses apply, no matter whose fault something is.

What excuses do I allow other people, in trying to stop blaming them? Well, there’s the thing about everybody being a product of how they were raised—genetics makes us all unique, but a common upbringing tells in most people. I use this one for parents and teachers—I tell myself that they were raised in an earlier, rougher period of time—by parents that were raised in an earlier, rougher period of time, etc., etc. If kids didn’t swear to raise their kids better than they were raised, we would all still be living in caveman times.

Conversely, a variant of this excuse, for contemporaries, is: I tell myself they were raised by weird, strict parents with weird, narrow-minded ideas. Basically parents are an excuse and a reason to be excused—as a parent myself, this comforts me. This rule is not reflexive however—good outcomes do not imply good parenting—goodness, in fact, often occurs in spite of bad parenting—and some terrible people have very nice parents (or, at least, one of them is, sometimes).

But it doesn’t really matter what excuses we use—the goal is to stop blaming other people. This is our goal, not because these people we blame deserve forgiveness, not because time has passed—not even because it allows us to take the moral high ground—none of these really require forgiveness. We want to stop blaming other people because it simplifies and improves our own head-space.

I am not, however, a forgive-and-forget person. If someone lies to me, I won’t rely on their word any longer. If someone takes from me, I won’t do business with them ever again. I don’t do these things because I hold a grudge—I do them because it would be crazy to ignore someone’s character. I don’t forget information, even if it is negative information. I stop blaming because it is a useless activity, but I don’t forget. Memory is a useful survival skill.

But I am no machine—I’m sure I contradict all these words half the time—when I write, I sometimes talk about me as I wish I was, not as I really am. Some of my thoughts make perfect sense in the moment, and then sound like idiocy deluxe a moment later. Life is a shifting target.

pn010

Respectfully   (2017May31)

Wednesday, May 31, 2017                                               7:07 PM

This whole political snafu is about respect. Our president is supposed to champion our country—and for most people, that means championing what America stands for. It was perfect, in its way—because a lot of bullshit gets sold under the rubric of ‘American Values’—bullshit just as coldblooded a scam as Trump’s administration.

Pompous peacocks have gotten a lot of mileage out of ever-so-solemn reference to our founding principles—and while I disagree with Trump that political correctness is clogging the works—it’s not nearly as bad as the political bullshitting—I agree with the premise: We need to get our government back. So while the country’s middle became unhappy with the neglect and corruption, they sought a champion that would shovel the bullshit out of Washington and get the pipes working again. Unfortunately, all they got was a new layer of fresher manure.

Individuality and new perspectives have always had value—but they are not absolute goods, just an ingredient in a healthy whole. For the individualists and free-thinkers that support Trump, he represents someone who will bypass all the red tape and get stuff done. They applaud when he upsets the bureaucratic apple-carts and garners gasps from the liberal media at all the false gods he throws to the ground. They love the Tweets signaling them late at night that, behind that sober guy at the desk, there’s a fool with no concept of probity—just like themselves.

But in giving respect, finally, to these overlooked groups of people—people who say they want less government—when what they need is good government—Trump has, through ignorance or otherwise, signaled disrespect for things that made our government better. It is no better to blame American values for being in the mouths of corrupt politicians than to blame Islam for being in the mouths of mindless animals.

When Americans support Freedom of Religion, we do not support religious freedom—we do not support religion at all—not in our government. And we do this for the very good reason that people have different religions. Our government has consciously, purposely kept its distance from religion since the Pilgrims settled—they came from Europe—where people killed each other over religion for centuries—and they had no intention of just bringing in the old problems.

There is an unhealthy Fundamentalist Christian group in this country that promotes the ignorance to misunderstand this important principle—and tries to twist it into an excuse for their overweening influence on legislation. These people are dangerous extremists—using our legal system to subvert our way of life—and they can pray ‘til doomsday and it won’t make them any righter. These are some of the people who are finally getting the respect they pine for, from Trump.

Money influences (or simply bypasses) government in much more direct ways than lobbying—often the only way to stop corrupting influences is to arrest the people who break the rules—very rich, very connected people. That can only happen in a country where the law cannot be bought, not in broad daylight.

Many people work for rich people who use their wealth to influence their employees, enlisting them in getting around regulations put in place to protect those employees—and whistleblowers, especially undocumented ones, are a rare breed that usually gets crushed, no matter how the big picture works out. Business owners like it that way—and they don’t like inspectors—and they are finally getting respect from a guy who does business the same way, Trump.

Rich people have a sad habit of starting to look down on others—as if their money put them in a higher level. Money madness—poor people know who they are—they don’t look to possessions to define themselves. I’m not saying we should hunt down all the rich folks, or anything, I’m just saying it doesn’t hurt to put them in their place sometimes. But they too see a kindred spirit in Trump.

I think it’s the American Dream idea—lots of people dream of making it big, having it all, and giving back. Some people leave off the last part, making their American Dream into a lonely, rapacious video game, where you never win enough money and possessions. America used to whine less about helping others—we were eager to do what we could to lift up the less fortunate, to let them and their children have a shot at living a nice life. Now all we do is bitch about our taxes being used for ‘no-accounts’—like, who died and made you the fucking king of the hill?

Let some of those rich bastards fall on hard times—suddenly, they’re filled with wisdom—from living on the street, from feeling like they need help and it’s not there. Like you couldn’t empathize with this back when you could have done something to help? You had to have your face rubbed in it? Eau de humanite.

Anyway—getting off topic there. So: respect. Middle America wanted it—and they got it. They did not get better government (my money is on worse, much worse) but they did get respect, for now, and they’ll keep supporting him until something changes their minds. What that is I couldn’t say. A lot of them will be dead by the time their kids and grandkids have to deal with the damage from the Trump presidency—so I guess they did the right thing, as they saw it.

But I can’t help pointing out that Coolidge tried to create the League of Nations after the first World War—and failed. Truman tried to create a United Nations after the second World War—and when that failed to fully form, NATO was created to act as a bulwark against any future rogue alliances bent on war.

If you will consider their times, you can see that they not only wanted peace—they were sick of the horror of war. Millions of corpses littered the world’s largest land mass—twice—and sensible people felt that war had no profit for anyone—and led to much death and destruction—no brain-teaser there. But we have had half-a-century to develop amnesia, or extreme myopia, call it whatever you like—and we don’t have the least idea of the suffering that a third global conflict would visit upon us.

And that specter demands some respect, too.

The Russians aided the Trump campaign—and characterizing that as an ‘excuse for losing’ misses the point. Being infiltrated by Russians is a bad thing—and the worst thing about it would be not to recognize that the Russians have fed you lies. The next worst thing would be the reasons why we were so easily played—how could this work on us?

The bad guys have found a way to weaponize Free Speech—and that makes it important for all of us to become smart-asses—people who look things up and study original sources and work on checking the math. We need to become too smart to fall for their bullshit—and it starts with recognizing that it happened.

Public education was one of America’s great advantages against the rest of the world—and we have fallen behind, forgetting the tremendous value of educated, highly skilled, even innovative young people. And we are blind to the great expense of being negligent of citizens in need, especially the young. A productive citizen is an asset—a neglected citizen becomes a liability. It’s simple logic—there’s no bleeding heart here—it just makes sense to do the right thing. Anyone who says different has a touch of the sociopath.

So, Trump has taught us a valuable lesson—the road paved with bullshit leads to madness. We can no longer rely solely on the United States to function automatically—we have to build new voting blocs of people who want to do the right thing, who feel better with a real leader at the head of our state, and will not condemn their own children in their eagerness to deprive the children of strangers. Which is harder, getting the voters or finding the candidates amongst honest Americans? It’s an impossibly huge job—but that’s what happens when you put democracy on two-party cruise-control for a full century.

Or we could just wave Democracy bye-bye, as the fat cats work their mindfuck magic on the unsuspecting pod-people, and we all just watch TV.

Double Standard Much?   (2017May08)

Sally_Yates_Cropped

Monday, May 08, 2017                                            6:48 PM

This afternoon, Sally Q. Yates, the former acting attorney general, and James R. Clapper Jr., former director of national intelligence, testified before a Senate subcommittee on Crime and Terrorism – Russian interference in the 2016 United States Election. I enjoy these hearings when, as a by-blow, they point up our new president’s habit of discrediting all authority: Courts, House, Senate, scientists, journalists, or recognized authorities of any kind—leaving us to wonder what his ‘special sources’ are, that so compellingly contradict all known information from every normal source?

I also enjoy watching professional, ethical people being questioned by pols—as both sides of the committee try to ‘message’ with pointed, weighted questions—questions that tell a goddam story before they end as questions. It’s fun because good folks like Ms. Yates simply answer yes, or no, or they give a specific date or number or name—and the occasional ‘I don’t know’. When she is invited to give her opinion, she demurs.

At one point I was distinctly annoyed by one GOP Senator making a point of Ms. Yates having ‘determined for herself’ that Trump’s original Muslim ban was unconstitutional—he even asked very snidely when she had been appointed to the Supreme Court. However, Senator Franken promptly re-directed, allowing Yates to point out that “any first-year law student could determine that a Muslim ban is unconstitutional”.

Sally_Q._Yates

That first senator’s smug assertion that the former AG had a lotta nerve, thinking for herself, is a compounding of the annoyance that the Senator himself did not see the point as glaringly obvious—which seems ignorant. Perhaps I’m being too harsh—or listening too closely—the Republicans hate it when anyone else tries to split hairs or stickle over details.

One detail from today’s spectacle stands out—the several weeks between Trump being apprised that his NSA pick was disqualified as a security risk—and Flynn’s eventual firing ‘for lying to the Veep’. If I remember the Benghazi hearings correctly, Secretary Clinton was often questioned about how many days it took her to act on intelligence—at some points she was asked about hours and minutes—at no point was she ever asked why she lolled about for weeks before doing her job. I’m just saying—double standard much? Flynn attended weeks of high-level security briefings, after he was revealed as compromised by the Russians—were they feeding him disinformation to pass on to Putin? Or we’re they just flailing around like incompetents? Hmmm.

Stephen_Colbert_November_2016

But my favorite scandal this week is that Stephen Colbert said Trump was “Putin’s c**k-holster” during his recent monologue and suddenly, he’s a walking hate-crime who should be drummed out of the media. First of all (and it seems this never gets through from the last big huff) it was a joke. Secondly, Colbert has done a pretty good job of scaling back the scathingly raw humor that made him such a hit on cable TV, first on John Stewart’s Daily Show, and even more popular as host of his own satiric talk-show, Colbert Report.

Trying to domesticate Colbert to the ‘family-standards’ of CBS would be hard enough—without this maddeningly stupid president providing a daily dissolving of all that made us civil in years past. To jump all over him because he got a little racy on late-night—please. Talk about McCarthyist tactics—they’re actually calling for hearings—on that one joke! I think it might have been a funnier joke, but it certainly isn’t a crime to let one’s frustration with corrupt politics creep into your nightly monologue about same. Long live Colbert—and comedy—and freedom of speech.

Operation Iraqi Stephen

Stephen Colbert greets troops and civilians at Al Faw Palace at Camp Victory in Baghdad, Iraq, June 5, as part of his “Operation Iraqi Stephen: Going Commando” tour.

 

Friday, May 05, 2017                                               1:24 PM

Saying Goodbye to Health Insurance   (2017May05)

DrEvil

I’m not interested anymore. The politicians can’t be a source of constant controversy—having proven their disability to govern properly, their unashamed bias towards the moneyed interests—these folks can’t be reported on as if they were inherently interesting.

The tragedy of their being elected to public service is old news—all we get now, daily, is a progress report on the rot that accompanies corrupt governance. Meanwhile, stories that lay low for a while simply disappear—it doesn’t matter how big the stories seem—if there’s no movement on a story, it disappears. In a way, it’s evidence that the news-media isn’t practicing real journalism.

It’s all very exciting and entertaining—sure—in its own small-minded way—the hustle-bustle of tweets and rants and bombs and back-walking and self-contradiction—whoopee! But no one talks about the new paradigm: voters can be misled to the point of voting against their own best interests—so, how badly can the GOP overtax them, and screw them over, before the con stops working? And will it ever stop working? Is it an iron-clad mind-fuck—or can people awaken from it? These are the real issues of today—and inquiring minds want to know.

A blow-by-blow of what these public servants (that lied their way into office) are destroying, daily, isn’t so much news, as a death knell.

Think about it—this new healthcare legislation is supposed to scrape 24,000,000 people off the health insurance rosters—and put the onus of paying for serious illness only on those who are seriously ill. And the question isn’t whether people want that—the only question is whether people can be convinced by this, that Obamacare was worse.

Now, the people have been told to hate Obamacare—but they have also gotten used to having health insurance. When it disappears, will they blame the Republicans? Will people have the presence of mind to see they’ve been betrayed? And, with supposedly the free-est press on earth, how did they get conned in the first place?

The truth is that hate and fear have won this round—simple as that—the forces of good got their asses kicked and we have to wait ‘til next time. I can’t help wondering how the bad guys got so much better at getting elected—that’s just not right, is it?

Now, don’t listen to me—I’m an old man, and sick to boot. I can’t get out there and run for office or help someone campaign or protest or any of that good stuff. Maybe you can. Odds are you’re younger and healthier (my sympathies, if you’re not). Maybe you can make a difference—people can, you know. They do it all the time. I used to, in my small way—it felt good. All that is necessary for evil to thrive is for good people to do nothing. Be good.

Eternal Argument   (2017Apr19)

Wednesday, April 19, 2017                                              1:51 PM

A good person, we are told, avoids fighting unless it’s absolutely necessary—but the one who throws the first punch has the best chance of winning a fight. A good person, we are told, cares about others—but then again, one is supposed to look out for number one. Honesty is the best policy—but a little white lie can sometimes be the difference between life and death.

If these sound familiar, it may be because they are often the crux of a drama: to fight or not to fight, to give or to take, to be honest or not. So, one might assume that ethics adds drama to life—ethics tell us to find a way around our animal impulses—and that’s where the drama comes in. But, if we are successful, we feel that we’ve risen above our animal nature—ethics is our way of proving to ourselves that we are above dogs.

No offense to dogs—some of them are far nicer than people—but if you try to reason with a dog, you won’t get far. Then again, trying to reason with some people is no different. They use the pretense of reason to rationalize the behavior of an animal. Even math can be warped into the service of bullshit—4 out of 5 dentists agree.

Some claim that ethics are pretentious luxuries, a thin veneer that falls away at the first sign of deprivation or hunger. But the same could be said of friendship—and while that may be true of many friendships, or ethics, it is not true of all of them. Some people are kamikazes about their friendships, or their ethics—are these people mad? Or are the rest of us missing out on some key factor?

I think it depends on how much you value yourself—if you consider yourself a part of something, you’re less likely to see yourself as irreplaceable—you’re more likely to see sacrifice, on your part, as benefitting the whole. If you think of yourself as a ‘lone-wolf’ individual, you’re more likely to see your own survival as the bottom line.

So, it seems our choices are: 1. suicidally sacrificial or 2. selfishly self-centered—at this point, we realize that everything has two sides and there is no simple, rote answer to any question. A-little-of-each presents itself as the obvious answer—but is it really that simple? Sorry—no, nothing is simple—then again, it can be, if you shut your mind to the endless variety of existence. This accounts for the effectiveness of some douchebag giving out with a derisive ‘whatever’ as a rebuttal to common sense. Apparently, ‘I don’t give a shit’ is an acceptable substitute for ‘I know what I’m doing’.

I don’t respect people that walk away from a losing argument—to me, losing an argument is the most educational experience there is—to find out that there is a better answer, a better way of seeing things. What could be of greater value? When I argue, it’s not to win the fight, it’s to communicate a different point of view—and if I lose the argument, I’m obligated to recognize that the other person had a better grasp of the issue than I did—and that I’ve learned something.

Even if someone hears me out and insists on disagreeing with me, because of their ‘faith’ or some such non-rational bullshit—even that I can respect more than someone who enters into an argument just to be belligerent—and walks away with a ‘whatever’ when they can’t bully me with their rhetoric. That’s just being a jerk, in my book.

The glut of such jerks online is similar to the increased hate and xenophobia that we see today—and it has the same source. Trump is a bully-arguer, and a racist fear-monger—and he won the election (or, at least, the Electoral College)—so, other bully-arguers, and racist fear-mongers, feel emboldened, having such a prominent role-model. And in the end, the bad example of our head of state may do more lasting damage than his bad governance. Bad laws can be rescinded, but encouraging people to hate is a poor lesson that can have a life-long impact on our society.

That is my strongest reason for wanting Trump impeached—conduct unbecoming an American. A leader should be an example—and his incompetent, unethical leadership isn’t nearly as damaging as his bad example. Trump isn’t just a bad president—he’s a bad person. #Sad!

Improv – Late in the Day

 

Thursday, April 20, 2017                                        3:29 PM

The Job of Jazz   (2017Apr19)

The R&B brass section, the vocal back-up trio, the echo effect—and then the electric guitar comes in. It’s got smooth power—and makes you feel like you’re madly in love. But the drums seal the deal—you fall into another world—a world that was hiding behind the silence. At that point, anything the front man sings will sound like sexy poetry—he could be reading from a phone book. And that’s the artifice in art—to the audience it is transporting—to the creator it is hard work, made to seem effortless.

Poetry is much the same—Eliot called it ‘a mug’s game’. Writing in general is a matter of pacing and rhythm—even the graphic arts have a sweep to them that is the visual equivalent of rhythm and pacing—composition and contrast, highlights and empty space.

The paradox is pure—self-expression is not for the creative worker—it is for everyone else. It is an expression—which presumes a listener, a viewer, a reader. Yes, it is your unique and personal self-expression—but it is still an expression—a message sent—and why send a message if not to connect to a recipient?

That is the nakedness of it—to be honestly self-expressive is to reveal who we are—and who we are is the sum of our lifetimes. Thus honest self-expression becomes one’s life story—who we are and how we live. Its revelatory nature is the thing that frightens many people away—and they are all quite sensible people. Apparently, strong feelings and conflict drive some people to creative self-expression—contented people can enjoy art (I’m in that group) but they aren’t as driven as those who live and breathe their art as an almost exclusive preoccupation.

Some people insist on being the audience. They’ll call out to a celebrity actor by their TV character’s name—ignoring both reality and the hard work of the actor in an unconscious effort to merge entertainment with reality. To the actor, I imagine, that’s a double-edged compliment—the high regard of the delusional—but with their numbers so high, ratings are guaranteed—in some way, he or she is making their living by feeding that delusion.

And am I any saner, just because I know to turn off my willing suspension of disbelief as the credits roll? We all crave seeing our lives as something other than the reality—we love to connect to feelings we share, to experience vicariously and empathize with the challenges and exertions of heroes and heroines. Reading a good book isn’t much different from living in another time and place as another person. Coming to the end of a great movie is like waking from an incredible dream. Sex, drugs, and liquor have their place—but there is no escapism like the arts.

Hadyn – Sonata in C (Excerpt)

Friday, April 21, 2017                                              12:42 AM

These new videos I’ve posted today include one that is a sight-reading of the 2nd and 3rd movements from a Haydn Sonata in C (I forget the number). First of all, I misspelled Haydn’s name in the video, which is always embarrassing, yet I always do it. Secondly, I don’t keep any kind of rhythm and everyone knows that you have to keep a steady rhythm. Try to think of it as conversational sight-reading. Talented musicians sometimes take exception to my posts—they are the antithesis of good technique—and I get tired, sometimes, of explaining that I can’t play the piano as well as I would wish—but I like to do it, and I like to share it with people who aren’t so picky. I had a run-in just the other day and I wrote it up, but then I decided not to share it with you. Now, however, as a preemptive disclaimer to my poorly-played Haydn, I share it herewith:

 

Friday, April 14, 2017                                              6:28 PM

YouTube Scuffle   (2017Apr14)

“Every Time We Say Goodbye” by Cole Porter (2013Jun06)

https://youtu.be/4BMa7HEE1Uo

This is a video I posted four years ago. Three years go by—nobody watches, nobody cares—then, a year ago:

plica06 (1 year ago) This is so bad. You could have at least practised a bit before uploading.

xperdunn (1 year ago)  plica06: What a perfect opportunity for you to show us all how it’s done with your own video performance. Or are you all talk and no go?

US GameRat (4 months ago) xperdunn: good thing you know how to handel this and im not being sarcastic at all, im being serious. dont worry about what he or she said, because even if you did or didnt practice that is one beautiful song and you deserve the love because i know what music is. i know why this was so good and it still is, so thank you for making this video become true because without this video i woulndt have any other help, and this is the only video i found because i have the same music, and i found it online and so youre basically helping me learn this song. but this video was better that what i thought than what i would find. you impressed me thank you! i dont care if this plica06 guy calls me some random 13 year-old-piano-player-wanna be, i dont give a shit. i love music, and no one can make me stop. i really have an extreme, basically addiction, or really really deep love over music. but yea. thanl you. at least you made this come true than someone judjing you by who you are because i know truly youre an amazing person. really. and im talking to xperdunn 🙂

xperdunn  (4 months ago) US GameRat: thanks for the support, guy! We music-lovers must fight the forces of musical snobbery, encouraging everyone to enjoy music, no matter the trolls. Be well.

US GameRat (4 months ago)  xperdunn yeah! thank you 🙂

pianoplaylist (2 hours ago) plica06 was extremely lacking in tact.  I disagree though that he or she is a mere troll or a just a musical snob.  You, sir, should fight the forces of mediocrity and make a version that is worthy of your years of investment of time and worthy of the genius work of art that this song is.  It’s a free country and you can upload whatever half-baked, sight reading practice session you desire, but you obviously have the talent and the knowledge to refine your rendition and make it more pleasing to the ear.  That would be more encouraging to the learners.  Sorry for being harsh.  I wish you the best in all things.

xperdunn:

So, you can see that plica06 is critical of my poor piano playing—and because I post my videos to encourage other non-talented music-lovers to go ahead and share what they love, I don’t take crap from nobody—that’s part of it, showing people that a troll is nothing but a guy wasting his time at the keyboard.

But pianoplaylist is critical because he thinks I can do better. That’s the trouble with the internet—everyone has an agenda and nobody knows the whole story. I can barely hold a cup of coffee in my left hand—intentional tremors are just one of the symptoms of nerve damage—poor short-term memory is another. My decades-long struggle with HepC and liver cancer and a liver transplant—and all the permanent damage that was done to my body and my mind—make my poor attempts something of a triumph, even though they suck by the usual standards.

And that is the reason I post my videos—anyone else out there who has been told that they weren’t meant to play music—ignore the critics. Anyone out there that is embarrassed to post their music—post it anyway—be brave. If you have even a pinch of ability, you will soon be much better than I am, or will ever be. As long as you love music—play it—share it—don’t stop to listen to anyone else—they should be playing their own music, not stopping your bliss.

I was extremely gratified that my sight-reading was able to help US GameRat to learn to play this beautiful tune by Cole Porter, an American legend. If he is the only person that takes heart from my posts, so be it—good enough. But who knows, maybe there are more young beginners out there….

Improv – First Star

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

Abortion   (2017Mar11)

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Saturday, March 11, 2017                                                 12:06 PM

Abortion has existed since ancient times. Earlier civilizations used certain herbs to terminate pregnancy, even before surgical methods were known. And abortion is still practiced today, even in countries where it is illegal. Like so many things, abortion happens whether the law allows it or not.

To imagine that making abortion illegal or unavailable will end abortion is the kind of simplistic thinking that causes more trouble than the issue itself. Shuttering Planned Parenthood, or even legally banning abortion, won’t stop abortions—it will only make them more dangerous and increase criminality.

Please note that I’m not advocating abortion—as a man, it’s really not something I’m prepared to have an opinion about. I’m advocating that we recognize human nature. Outlawing abortion won’t stop abortion. Defunding Planned Parenthood won’t stop abortion. Such things will only make it more dangerous and less controlled.

Don’t get me wrong—defunding Planned Parenthood will do something—it will take important health care away from women. If that’s what you want to do, then close it down—but it won’t stop abortion.

The history of our Prohibition era could teach us a lot, if we were willing to learn from history. Things like drugs, sex, and rock n’ roll happen, with or without legality—the only difference is that illegality creates an underworld, a criminal subculture that undermines local and federal government and increases violence.

Look at our DEA—initially an army against drug-abuse, now nothing more than a central focus of corruption and payoffs. Meanwhile drug abuse grows by leaps and bounds.

The thing these outlaw-crazy people miss is the fact that regulation is far more effective than a ban—it provides quality control, commercial control, age limits—hell, you can even collect taxes off it. And people don’t fight as hard against regulation as they do against deprivation. We have accepted this truth regarding alcohol, but for some reason we try to pretend that it doesn’t scale-up to everything else.

So you think abortion is a crime, an offense against God—whatever—I’m not going to try to change your opinion. I’m simply pointing out that abortion isn’t going anywhere—driving it underground actually ingrains it more deeply into our society, making it a cause instead of a mere service.

The stronger your sense of personal morality, the less sense it makes, to me, that you would want to take that personal choice away from someone else. If you think you have the right to decide what’s right and what’s wrong, how can you possibly believe that other people don’t have the same right?

If you want to disapprove of people who choose to get an abortion—that’s fine—you have your own morality—now you only have to learn to let them have theirs. Take that away from them and it’s only a matter of time before someone decides to take yours. This stuff works both ways, Einstein.

thought

POEM:    Belonging   (2017Mar09)

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Thursday, March 09, 2017                                                1:49 PM

 

Belonging

The piano growls at me from the corner

The wind blows memories against the window-glass

The ache circles within me, an adversary in waiting

The air stings my skin with the numbness

The time flails my thoughts, world encompassed

Within my tiny brain of electrified glop

The computer invites me to crawl inside

The speakers hug my ears—the monitor titillates

Then the music ends.

Alone in a room with the atmosphere battering

At the house as the only sound—eerie and lonesome

I can’t type you away.

 

By Xper Dunn

 

ttfn.

Flippy

 

Obama – The Final President   (2017Mar08)

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Wednesday, March 08, 2017                                            12:06 PM

In 1941, when our country was attacked, FDR told us the only thing we had to fear was fear itself. After the war, Truman assured us that the buck stopped with him. Eisenhower, a former general who knew about such things, warned us, in his farewell address, that a military-industrial complex was commodifying violence and leaching our strength during peace-time. JFK inspired us to reach for the stars. Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act. Nixon, while a crook, at least ended our military involvement in Viet Nam. Ford pardoned Nixon, but in his defense, he always pointed out that accepting a pardon was an admission of guilt. Carter helped us begin to accept responsibility for our effects on the environment and the planet. Reagan won the Cold War. Bush-41 freed Kuwait. Clinton defended abortion, saying it should be kept ‘safe, legal, and rare’, and signed the Family Medical Leave Act, and Don’t Ask-Don’t Tell—the first acceptance of gays in the military. Bush-43 enacted No Child Left Behind—an attempt to democratize our educational system. Obama recovered from Bush’s ‘great recession’, passed the ACA, and killed Bin Laden.

George_H._W._Bush,_President_of_the_United_States,_1989_official_portrait

As you can see, every modern president has made a significant contribution to our nation and to the world. By being responsible, semi-woke leaders of the free world, they all used judgement, insight, and patience to achieve things that few people have the character and determination to achieve. And those presidents had educated, responsible legislators to work with.

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So join me in having a good cry—those days are gone. America has been broken into tiny pieces by a bunch of selfish, ignorant hacks and poohbahs. The world laughs at us, as their ‘Igors’ go on TV and parse ‘alternate truths’ and unfounded libel against the former president. They hand us to the Russians for thirty pieces of silver. They rush to pass laws that allow coal waste to be dumped in our drinking water—but dither over ongoing lead-poisoning in Flint that is destroying the nervous systems of a whole generation of kids.

George-W-Bush

Photo by Eric Draper, White House.

These evil cynics and hypocritical truth-twisters don’t need to be resisted—they need to be lined up against a wall. They call themselves conservatives—but they only conserve their bank accounts. They call themselves people of faith—but the only faith they have is yours (if you’re fool enough to give it to them). They confuse governing with poker—where lying with a straight face is an integral part of the game. They have no ethics. They have no honesty. They have no shame.

President_Barack_Obama

(Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

And me? I was proud to be an American. There was a lot to be proud of. And we were just about to go on to even greater things. My dreams are shattered. My heart is broken. I see only darkness ahead. Where did this sudden lobotomy come from? Can we really blame the Russians for voting in this clown? And, if so, can we really expect his cronies to uncover the truth in these investigations? And even if we nuked Russia tomorrow, would that rid us of the yahoos that shouted ‘Trump that bitch’? I don’t think so. The explosion of racism in this country of late is all on us—election notwithstanding, we have people being violently xenophobic at every opportunity.

Stupid people have decided that they have a voice. And they do—it’s the voice of stupidity—and I have a message for them in return—shut your fucking mouth you stupid fucking asshole. I want America to go back to when stupid people had at least enough sense to respect intelligence, even when they didn’t understand it. And for all those of you who’ve gone all the way past crazy, to science-denial—here’s a special message for ya: Go eat a bag of dicks. I want my fucking country back.

When Crazy Gets Too One-Sided   (2017Mar05)

Sunday, March 05, 2017                                          11:36 AM

20160826XD-NativeAmericansProtestPipeline_02Trump supporters are too foolish to realize they’re being lied to. Trump himself is an ignoramus, a fool, and a crazy person—and not in a cute way, but as in a raving lunatic with a gun. The Republicans are hypocrites who, in their own quiet way, are just as toxic—more so, when we consider that Trump just flails about, while these jackasses are serious and considered about their demonic agenda. Lies are being told. Laws are being broken—or repealed, if they’re really good ones. Hate is being touted as national security. And the media is reporting on the tweets of a madman, just because he lives in the White House.

The majority of this country didn’t vote. Of those who did, the majority voted for someone else. Some people see this as chaos, but I see it as a kind of pressure cooker—somethings gonna blow, sooner or later. It’s just too crazy an environment not to pop out a few maniacs—and who knows what they’ll do in their hysteria? Who knows what I’ll do? Thank god I’m disabled—I can’t be tempted to anything ambitious, like insurrection.

But there are plenty of healthy, sane people out there—and they’re about to call your ‘crazy’, and raise you a ‘furious’—in the end, Trump won’t be impeached—he’ll be torn apart on Penn Ave by a howling mob. You can’t treat people this way for very long without getting a reaction out of them. They were too lazy to vote for HRC, but that was when Obama was in office and all was right with the world. Now they’re about to lose their schools, their doctors, and their trade partners—and an amoral scumbag tweets at them in the night. Hey Trump, I got bad news for you—the only constant is change.

I’ve got a new fad for the nation—every election, we vote for anyone or anything that isn’t a Republican. From now on, we think of Republican as a synonym for Russian. It doesn’t matter how much you hate the other guy or gal—if they’re not Republican, they get our vote. How’s that for matching your crazy with our own? Evil, greedy traitors don’t get a free ride anymore, not now that we’ve seen your true colors.

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.

More Bitchin And Moanin   (2017Jan31)

inferno32

Tuesday, January 31, 2017                                                10:18 PM

Okay. It’s Tuesday. All’s well here at home. Nothing to worry about. Remain calm. That’s what’s important here. Getting all worked up about what might happen or what tomorrow may bring—that’s all wasted effort—energy wasted that you may need, should tomorrow’s fears come to pass.

I can’t bring myself to watch the news anymore—a combination of not wanting to hear what’s really happening—and not believing half of what I see on TV, anyhow. And I can’t enjoy most movies anymore—I’m overexposed to cinema from a lifetime of movie fandom—and now, the new stuff is so facile, so puerile that I can’t sit still for it. So I’m left with books (not without its problems and limits), piano (ditto), and the computer.

And what of the computer? Here I am, typing away again. Talking to nobody—how is this different from having voices in my head—from being crazy? Well, it keeps me indoors, anyhow, instead of running through the streets screaming and pulling my hair out.

And who am I to complain anyway? My life is a bed of roses—if you leave out the crazy and the stress—and the world is full of people who would literally kill to take my place, here in a cozy, peaceful enclave of Upper Westchester, with all the trimmings—good food, dry and warm, soft bed, cable TV and WyFy—what’s to complain about? I live like a king—and I’m not even one of what you might call the wealthy. Still, to 90% of the people walking this earth, my life is cloud nine and only a crazy person would bitch about it, sick or otherwise.

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Still, I think I deserve a few points for being sick. I used to be Mr. Happy Funtime—look at my face now. That’s the face of a sixty-year-old who’s had to fight to stay alive, to stay mentally there and physically upright, every minute of every damn day—and while it may look easier than holding down a full-time job, it isn’t. I’ve tried both—I’d gladly go back to 50-hour weeks as a systems manager if I could have my health and my intellect back—but that’s a dream.

What used to be that life, my life, ended decades ago. I’ve spent the time since about 1988 trying to survive cancer, chemicals, memory loss, and depression—all while having chronic fatigue and atrophied muscles—some muscles, in my abs, were even cut during the liver transplant—they just hang off my bones, unemployed but with nowhere else to go.

Thus, in spite of all the assholes who like to pretend that disability is a free ride for lazy people, the truth is that disability is a shit-show—those smug bastards wouldn’t last a single day of it, without crying for their mommas. ‘I work for a living’, they say—and you can just hear the smug. Big fucking deal—I’ve done work—it’s easy-peasy, compared to what I’ve been through—what a lot of disabled people have been through.

Imagine how bad off you have to be for the government to decide ‘Yeah, let’s just pay that guy money so he can stay alive.’ If you walked into Social Security with a splinter in your finger, they’d laugh in your face—and if you lost the whole hand, they’d still find you work. Me they just stamped ‘paid’—imagine the shape I’m in.

Not that I’m complaining. The rule is: if you go through a meat grinder and come out the other side still breathing, you’re supposed to be grateful that you’re still alive. So I’m grateful—get off my back. You go ahead and flit around—with your steady hands and clear memory and sharp eyesight and strong muscles and your sense of balance and your whole life to do with whatever you please—I’ll be sitting here, being grateful.

Don’t mind my bitter resentment if your mind is too lazy to crack a book, when my reading has gone from ten hours a day to three, tops, on a good day. Excuse my sharp criticism if my barely-held consciousness still has enough light in it to identify your confused, mealy-mouthed excuses for political acumen as the trash they are worthy of being called. And don’t be surprised when someone who spends his every waking moment experiencing the fragility of life finds your childish, locker-room jock bravado (masquerading as political ideology) so far beneath adult consideration that I lose my patience and call you an asshole. That’s just the way it is, bub.

No, there is no teacher at the head of the room—we are no longer schoolchildren. But when you’re wrong, you’re still wrong—and you know it—deep down in the bottom of that empty head, you know damn well that hate and fear and selfishness are negative forces that corrupt and destroy—and even the people on top, for now, will eventually suffer from poor judgement and bad leadership. And if you think you can just screw up the world and die, leaving others to suffer, think again. None of us gets out alive—but none of us escapes our fate, either. Karma’s a stone cold bitch.

Even you, Trump—when you stroke out, trying to do a job you aren’t fit for, think of all the criticism you’ll never be able to tweet back at—it’ll all just hang out there, unanswered by you or anyone else. And your tremendous ego, under the distraction of President Pence’s ascension, will dry up and blow away, never to bother anyone ever again. Well, I can dream, can’t I?

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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Our Fallen In Yemen   (2017Jan29)

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Sunday, January 29, 2017                                        10:51 AM

Well, it’s become real—or is it ‘realer’? The first Trump administration counter-terrorism operation in Yemen has ended with the loss of a US serviceperson. Blood has been shed. We can all hope that Trump’s phone call to the grieving family will prod him into taking this job slightly more seriously, now. All this time, all this campaigning, and Trump is finally confronted with the fact that America is the arsenal of freedom—and freedom ain’t free.

Not that Trump is much worse than the rest of us. Will that fallen soldier be headline news all week? Or will he have sacrificed his life for his country while his country neglects to so much as notice, beyond a column in the New York Times? Will our armed services personnel retain their sense of duty and honor, while 99.9% of their countrymen obsess over inaugural crowd sizes, or repealing health care coverage for twenty million people?

Who would have thought that an elitist egomaniac who slaps his name onto any building he can find, in pursuit of brand-recognition, would discover that his name on a building (now that he’s the leader of a nation which ISIS is sworn to attack) makes that building a somewhat uncomfortable stopping place for most people? It’s ironic that his family’s businesses are now in a position of hoping that ISIS, Boko Haram, and others will repeal their fatwas against the USA and ‘replace it with something better’.

Then again, America’s pride in being ‘the land of the free’ is going to take a hit, what with Muslim bans, 2,000-mile walls, repealing women’s right to choose, and attacks on the fourth estate (if not facts themselves). Perhaps our armed services will lose their loyalty, not because they fall unnoticed, but because the country they defend no longer exists. Up until now, they operated on the premise that the tree of liberty must be watered with the blood of patriots (and tyrants—but let’s not get the Secret Service all het up). But without the tree, why bother with the watering?

If America becomes no different from any third-world dirt-hole, why would we even bother getting excited by the thought of invasion? Here comes the new boss, same as the old boss, right? According to Trump, our elections are a farce, anyhow—anyone who didn’t vote for him voted illegally—or whatever conundrum that fevered head came up with. So, we’re not really a democracy. Add in the voiding of the Constitution, and the trashing of our tradition of welcoming immigrants and refugees—and it’s not really America anymore, is it?

Just add a new SCOTUS appointee who hails from 17th-century Puritan Salem, as a cherry on top, and you’ve got a whole new country. All we need now are people willing to die for it, and people willing to live in it.

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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.

 

Hardasses   (2017Jan21)

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Saturday, January 21, 2017                                               9:48 AM

Hardasses like to rag on the Arts as if one-tenth-of-a-cent on every tax dollar is going to kill them—meanwhile, they wouldn’t give up their Sunday football games if it were they that were getting concussed, instead of their ‘heroes’. These are the same bozos who want to institutionalize Islamophobia, driving hordes into the arms of ISIS just so they can hug their hate ever so close. I think we should relocate all the anti-watchdog advocates to Flint, so they can see what they’re pushing for.

George Washington did not lead a rebellion so that we could each sit back and say, “What about me?”—he was thinking more along the lines of “What about We?” Selfishness may be natural, but when overindulged, it becomes downright un-American—or should I say Trumpian? Listen to me, hardasses—you think you’re being tough? Maybe in a barfight—but in the world of ideas and understanding, you’re all a bunch of whiny little sissies.

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You all think you’re so tough, being against the Other. But guess what happens when it’s your own kid—or anyone you really care about? All of a sudden, being gay, or poor, or sick, isn’t the crime you thought it was—suddenly, it’s just a human problem. We’ve seen it a million times—so don’t pretend you’re tough on the issues—you’re just unconnected to them, ignorant of the full spectrum of the human condition. You’re trying to make a virtue of being unable to put yourself in someone else’s shoes.

This clown you just elected president is going to embarrass you, just as all your weak-minded judgements ultimately leave you walking around in the emperor’s new duds. His first act as President?—Putting his wife’s jewelry e-store on the White House web page. Signs of things to come. I would have been shocked, if he hadn’t spent the last year showing us how stupid he is.

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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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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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Losing The Argument   (2016Dec10)

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Saturday, December 10, 2016                                           9:56 PM

Have you ever argued with someone who is wrong? Have you noticed that they are just as sure of being right as you are, even though they are wrong? And here’s the funniest thing of all—when we realize that we’ve been arguing for the wrong side, when we suddenly see the other side of the argument as correct—oh, what a symphony of confusion, embarrassment, and frustration we go through, how we choke on the gall of it. Some people get so upset that they just stalk off, pissed. I always make a point of swallowing that mistake and facing up to being the idiot that lost the argument.

We all are the idiot, eventually, at one time or another. There’s little use in pretending we are the one person who’s always right—that person doesn’t exist. And I firmly believe the most important part of an argument is not letting the argument itself become the point of conflict. In truth, when I lose an argument to someone, I eventually come to accept that I have learned something I didn’t know. I may never have the grace to be grateful for that, but I concede to myself that I should be.

Don’t get me wrong—I love to win an argument. But my motives are based on my belief that I’m thinking clearly about a problem, avoiding the temptation to ‘bend’ things in favor of my personal preferences—or my desire to be the ‘winner’ of the argument. I force myself to concede the other’s point, when a point is valid—sportsmanship is as important in argument as it is in sports—perhaps more so.

When arguing, it is good to cite reliable sources for one’s information. And that becomes a problem in the modern world—when something like ‘Fox News’ becomes a source for false information, the argument quickly devolves into a sub-argument about the validity of one’s sources. The reverse is also true—when an asshole like Trump tries to invalidate actual sources, such as The New York Times.

Trump is the champion of the dull and the easily-swayed—and he has spawned a whole counter-culture of people who imagine their own truth, outside of the popular, ‘observable’ variety. They believe in argument shorn of either sportsmanship or sources—argument where denying facts need only be shouted louder and longer than the opponent’s words to become ‘fact’, where talking about something else is the answer to uncomfortable, undeniable facts. Kelly Conway has made a career of this kind of argument, if you can call her rantings argument.

I’m sorry, KellyAnne, but if your mind is incapable of conceding anything said by your opponent, you’re not really arguing—you’re cheerleading. That’s all well and good at a ballgame, but it gets rather threadbare and feeble when it comes up against real life. Every time you ‘win’ an argument on TV, you’re making the whole country that much stupider—and for what? Let me tell you—I wasn’t always this way—I had a penchant for willful contrariness myself, once upon a time—but you can only juggle logic for so long before it bites you in the ass. I found that out—and you will too. Time is the great teacher.

Afterword: I nearly forgot my main point—which is this: You can have arguments all day long, but unless someone wins, it’s all a big waste of time. And if you haven’t changed a person’s mind, you haven’t won the argument. Even if you did succeed in making them feel hurt or sad or angry, you’ve still wasted your time. Miracles do happen—a person might change your mind, instead—and even that—even losing the argument (and maybe learning something) is time better spent than simply arguing with no end.

The Fog Clears   (2016Dec10)

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Saturday, December 10, 2016                                           1:34 PM

I think I’m starting to see it now. The typical Trump supporter thinks he’s won an argument with the world—proving once and for all that being smart, being open-minded, and being inclusive—that’s all for weak sissies who don’t understand how the world really works. There are a lot of Facebook comments that start out, “You liberals can all just sit down, now, and let the real men take over….”

And conviction is a wonderful thing—I can be pretty mule-headed myself. But I like to be sure I’m in the right, before I draw a line in the sand, or before I stop listening to the opposition. Simply being convinced that you’re right, without any foundation—that’s more like being crazy on purpose. Rationalizing frustration, confusing anger with a solution—these things can appear to be cogent choices, if we don’t look too far inside ourselves.

Emotion speaks louder than intellect—that’s why there’s that expression, ‘the still, small voice of reason’. You have to listen to your innermost self to know what you really think, apart from how you feel. But introspection is not a very popular pastime.

The question now becomes: when this inexperienced, ignorant poser starts to screw up everything he touches (and his cabinet choices, even before the inauguration, are just the appetizer) will those who voted for him realize their mistake, or will they rationalize again, finding yet more excuses for their poor choice?

A friend called me a conservative the other day—I never thought I’d see that. But after consideration, perhaps the pro-Trump people are the true liberal air-heads—allowing their imaginations to so strongly influence their perception of reality. The only difference is that real liberals want to empower the disenfranchised—Trump-libs are only out to empower themselves. But even if they ‘woke up’ tomorrow, and truly saw what they had done—it’s too late now—the votes have been counted. Is self-disenfranchisement even a word?

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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Beaux Artes, in Passing   (2016Nov19)

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Saturday, November 19, 2016                                          12:44 PM

“Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore—send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed, to me. I lift my lamp beside the golden door.”

—Emma Lazarus (from “The New Colossus”)

I can’t vouch for perfect accuracy of the above quotation—I typed it from memory. Sometimes it feels good to type something out, instead of just remembering to myself.

I suppose if I lived in a city, I’d spend part of my day on a soapbox. Once this journal-writing/blog-posting/daily-commentary thing gets under your skin, you become a wild-eyed prophet of sorts—whether you’re smart, stupid, or just plain crazy (or all three, as in my case). And it is odd that an activity so clearly aimed at others’ ears (or eyes) should reveal itself to be pure self-involvement. I start out expressing what I think others should know—and, without fail, I end up telling them what I want to say.

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I was just playing some Haydn on the piano. Haydn is the guy—he always puts me in a good mood. Whether you favor Beethoven or Brahms or Stravinsky or Tchaikovsky, you’ve got to give it up for Haydn—he has the best sense of humor of any composer in history. I always loved the drama and the towering emotions of the other great composers—but as I get older, it occurs to me that Haydn was the only composer who regularly laughed at himself. And it takes a certain genius to write music that makes people laugh—I have a hard time telling a joke, with words—it’s kind of awesome that Haydn can do it with sheet music.

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I have always loved art and music and poetry. When I experience the great peoples’ masterpieces, I am always a little bit tempted to envy them their seemingly superhuman talents. But I always yank my focus away from that, so that I can just enjoy the wonder of their works. Envy is always just under the surface with me—but I try to rise above it. When you spend your life trying to do something worthwhile, envying the greats is hard to avoid—especially if, like me, you’re a little defensive. But because it pollutes my enjoyment of their stuff, I always try to turn away from envy.

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In fact, it kind of bugs me, as an atheist, that I respect the Seven Deadly Sins—but, like the Ten Commandments, there’s a lot of good advice under all the mumbo-jumbo. Religions have that going for them—between the mythological parts, there’s a whole lot of experience-based, how-to ‘life-hacks’ included. It is the codified version of advice from old people—and now that I’m old, and know something about human nature, I find myself in agreement with many religious principles, in spite of my rejection of religion as an institution.

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Once you’ve gotten five or six decades under your belt, you witness how people can self-destruct through Envy or Lust or Pride, et. al.—religions label them sins, but even un-washed savages, once they reach a certain age, come to recognize these things as dangers—and that younger people don’t usually see that clearly. Religion includes a lot of old-people-advice. Perhaps that’s why a lot of people get ‘Saved’ or ‘embrace Islam’ in prison—it may be the first time in their lives when they’ve received advice from an experienced source.

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Another reason even we atheists have to give it up to religion is the inspiration it has provided to artists and musicians over the years. Bach seemed to feel that his compositions were prayers of a sort—when his fugues invoke a sense of grandeur, they are his way of glorifying God in music. Now that’s religion I can get behind.

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And it’s funny that a section of Germany that became so progressive about musical religious strictures (and music was bound by many limitations, back then) would produce, in rapid succession, Bach, Haydn, Mozart, and Beethoven. One might speculate that any portion of Europe that enjoyed a sudden freedom in the creative arts would have produced similar giants—talent equal to our historic composers may have resided in many people, living in many places where such expression was illegal or sacrilegious. We’ll never know—this is the way it worked out. So, that’s a point against religion, as well.

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You can tell I’m a lapsed Catholic—we are the only atheists who obsess over religion more, as unbelievers, than we ever did as members of the church. But I’ll tell you why that is. Catholicism is very strict, very powerful—Catholics would make good Jihadists (just kidding—although, in the past, that was actually true in a way). My point is that they make this world seem like a temporary inconvenience—as if the important stuff is outside of reality. That was my home. And now I live in reality—dusty, achy, pointless, bothersome reality. I miss my home—recognizing that Catholicism is a delusion doesn’t change the fact that I was happier under that delusion.

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Recent archeological studies have raised doubts about the biblical account of the Jews who left Egypt for Canaan—scripture would have us believe that Joshua led the Israelites in the conquest of Canaan, and renamed it Israel, or ‘the promised land’. But it appears that the writers of Exodus may have indulged in a bit of revision of history, for appearance’s sake. Digs in the area now indicate that the Canaanites held sway long after the appearance of the tribes of Abraham, and that rather than conquer the land, the Hebrew culture insinuated itself into the area over generations. It seems the children of Abraham were not conquerors, but simply a more productive and stable society than the one it lived among.

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That struck me, when I heard of it, as an odd sort of propaganda—after all, conquest isn’t very godly—and the fact that the Hebrews changed the lands, and the people, of the area they settled in, non-violently and almost purely out of living in a better, more civilized way than the natives, says something better, to modern ears, than that they ‘kicked ass’. But it also proves that the Old Testament is as much an exercise in creative writing as it is a historical document, or the ‘revealed word of the Lord’.

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But there are other, more recent, records that serve as a source of controversy as much as they serve as a source of information. The Bayeux Tapestry, for example, is as much a collection of mysteries as it is a treasure trove of historical information. To begin with—it is not a tapestry—technically it is an embroidery. It is over two-hundred feet long and twenty inches high. And although it commemorates William the Conqueror’s Norman invasion of Anglo-Saxon Britain, the tapestry was worked in the Anglo-Saxon style over several generations. And it is worth noting that French historians are only recently admitting that it was not done in the Norman style.

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Damage to the Bayeux Tapestry is to be expected—Sylvette Lemagnen, conservator of the tapestry, has said “Its survival almost intact over nine centuries is little short of miraculous…” And while that is true, the beginning panels and ending panels are either missing or beyond repair. Historians speculate that the tapestry was always stored rolled up—and, depending on how it was rolled, either the end panel or the beginning panel was exposed to air and moisture far more than the rest of it. Thus the story told on those missing or damaged panels remains a mystery—over the centuries, many enthusiasts have attempted to recreate possible replacements. The missing panel at the end, in particular, has inspired several artists to re-imagine the tapestry’s continuation, telling the history of England far beyond its original story of the Battle of Hastings.

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The story the tapestry was intended to tell is obscured by the damage and by the various interpretations of certain scenes and Latin phrases (the exact truth of which has been lost or forgotten over the centuries). But the tapestry still illustrates for us a host of facts about the Norman invasion—and tells another, unintended, story—about how those 11th century Britons lived, worked, and fought. Above and below the main scenes in the tapestry are borders that depict a variety of subjects. People are shown fighting, hunting, weaving, farming, building, and in other activities. Animals, both real and fantastical, are also used as border decorations. Many tools, weapons, and techniques of the times are clearly illustrated. And the story told by the major scenes is augmented by Latin labels, comments and explanations (which are referred to as tituli—which I guess is Latin for ‘sub-titles’, or something).

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All in all, it is an awesome thing—a piece of embroidery, showing what amounts to an historian’s paradise—and it outlasted a multitude of castles, fortifications, and whole nations—a roll of fabric that only becomes more priceless as it disintegrates. And the most capricious aspect of all is that this ‘Britain’s first comic-strip’ tells us more about that time than all the source documents or written accounts that survive from that age.

Sunday, November 20, 2016                                            5:24 PM

I’ve been pondering the beginnings of formal music in Western Civilization. There has always been folk music—or so I assume, since even children will hum or whistle or stomp to a rhythm—but since folk music was ephemeral, passed from parent to child, never notated, never recorded, that is the only assumption we can make about early folk music.

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Some records have survived—the Bulgarian Women’s Choir famously performs songs that reach back to the work songs, love songs, and laments of the peasants of Tsarist Russia. Musicology researchers in 1920s USA found folk music among the hill-people that may be near-perfect preservations of that of the Elizabethans who first settled there—and British, Irish, and other musicologists have found similar hand-me-down relics of the folk music of the British Isles, closer to their origin. Many sources from many places give us remnants of the music that existed before music became the formalized fine art we practice today.

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But when I speak of our ignorance of folk music, I mean that we don’t know where the surviving fragments evolved from, what came before that, and what came even earlier. We can never know—because music has its own pre-history, which dates to far more recently than pre-history in general. I assume that people made music for millennia, but the ‘civilizing’ of music in the formal notation and harmonies that we loosely call ‘Classical Music’ is the first time that any records of music were made. There is some notation stuff from the Roman Empire—but nobody knows what scale it’s based on, and other important contextual stuff that would allow us to translate it into a performance—that isn’t an exception, so much as an example of my point.

So, aside from whatever we might guess, or imagine, or assume about music’s history, the very beginning of its recorded history was Gregorian Chant. Original manuscripts of Gregorian Chant still exist today—and they are still often sung as written, today, by groups that specialize in archaic music. I believe there is an ensemble of monks who are famous for their recordings and performances. The Vatican preserves some beautifully illuminated neumes on original parchment.

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In the late 800s, something called the Metz project developed a system called ‘neumes’, which would develop into today’s standard staff notation. The Gregorian chants from all the surrounding areas were collected and recorded using neumes—and thus the church standardized its musical portion of the liturgy. These chants were very simple by today’s standards—to our ears they sound quite monotonous, but there is a rough grandeur to them—and their main purpose was in singing the words from scripture—or, really, chanting them.

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As with anything, formal music then developed through a combination of new ideas butting up against established norms, popularity overcoming prurience, and tradition often stifling innovation. And there was a lot of ground to cover, if we were to get from Gregorian chant all the way to Ariana Grande, so it isn’t too surprising that it took centuries for music to reach the variety and sophistication we enjoy today.

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The church would remain the sole source of formal music for centuries—until the advent of court musicians, members of a royal household whose sole function was to create musical entertainment. After that, further centuries would see formal music confined to the church and the nobility. Don’t worry—the regular folks still had their folk music—and if I had to choose, I might have preferred their entertainments over the renaissance and early baroque composers’ refinements.

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Classical music would not see verve equal to Folk music until the advent of Ragtime and Jazz. Even when a composer like Brahms would adapt a Hungarian folk tune, say, its wildness would be contained by an over-civility inherent in composed works of the age. So don’t feel too bad for the poor riff-raff excluded from the fancy music chambers of royalty—they knew pleasures far more vital than those heard by the stuffed shirts at their concerts.

In those pre-industrial times, a commoner’s life was hard work—the chance to gain a post as a church musician or a court musician was no small advantage—and the internecine rivalries and petty squabbles of the musicians vying for these posts was a constant. The film “Amadeus” shows us something of this, but in a rarefied form, since its ‘villain’, Salieri, is tortured by envy over Mozart’s heavenly talent more than his professional position.

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We also note the high number of composers who come from musical families—Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, Brahms, and others had musician parents, even musician grandparents. A sure sign that competition for these sinecures was fierce: once someone got their foot in the door, they did their best to secure the same for their children. Though in fairness, every trade and career in those times was primarily handed down from father to son. Women, with rare exceptions, were excluded from the music profession.

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I used to think of composers as wise men who sat writing down notation all day—but I’ve come to realize that many of these great composers led lives of constant busyness. You can read it in their records—complaints about the amount of work expected of them, their students needing training, their ensembles and choirs needing rehearsing, problems with money, instruments, venues, and preparations for big events—and in their few, free, hurried moments they would jot down the actual music we love them for, even today.

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I doubt most people consider the effort involved—writing down every note sounded by every instrument and choir-voice, in separate manuscripts for each performer’s music-stand (and this was back using a quill pen and rough paper)—the notation alone must have been incredibly tedious, notwithstanding the need for the finished product to create beautiful music. Thus I have come a long way from seeing my books of piano music as ancient, alien diagrams from the forgotten past.

Today, when I play, I think of that person—the life they led, the place and time they lived in, and the shared humanity between myself and this or that guy who lived in 15th century England or 16th century Germany. If you listen closely, you can almost hear them saying ‘hello’. It’s a little miracle.

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Big Numbers   (2016Nov15)

Tuesday, November 15, 2016                                           3:24 PM

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It’s a large-number day! Jessica forwarded 50 new pictures of the family, mostly of princess-baby-granddaughter—and I am working as fast as I can to process them into a new video slide-show with piano music—my hands are stiff and numb from sitting here in the front room typing all day on this rainy, chilly November Tuesday.

Claire received her case of professional pastels—a big wooden chest containing three wooden removable drawers, each with rows of different-colored pastels. I assume it is meant for the studio—schlepping this thing around would give someone a hernia. I used to dream of getting such a set, back in my artsy days—but such panoply of choices would paralyze me—that’s probably why I mostly stayed with ink and paper. Claire will put them to good use, I’m sure—she’s not afraid of color. She’s even dipped a toe into oil-painting recently.

I was not left out—I received several pieces of pottery from Nancy Holmes-Doyle in the post today. One of them—a heartbreakingly gorgeous pinch-pot bowl—was shattered in transit. Just another reason to feel bad about missing the ceramics party, from which I could have carried them home unharmed—and gotten to visit with the Holmes-Doyles. It’s been too long—but every day it gets harder for me to get around. Still, we have two beautiful new mugs, two beautiful new candle-houses, a decorative platter, and a little spoon-rest in the shape of a hand—incredible stuff. I’ll try to photograph them all for this post—you really oughta see them.

 

 

Wednesday, November 16, 2016                                              9:52 AM

Can We Be Rude To God?   (2016Nov16)

Believing in God is not a neutral act—it is an offense against reason and a surrender of sanity. I don’t say that to be cruel—it is simply a fact. It’s even part of the rules—ask your preacher—if there were any practical proof of God, then there wouldn’t be any faith—or any need for faith. God says, “Believe in Me.”—He doesn’t say, “Look over here.

Recent ‘Questions’ posted on The Humanist website seem to be subtly asking, ‘How do Humanists make allowances for our group psychosis?’ In a way, they seem to be asking how far we’re willing to go with this Rational Thinking business—and whether or not we non-believers reach a point where we are willing to be rude about the differences.

And that is a valid question in a country founded on religious freedom. After all, it was our religious freedom that allowed us to eschew religion without being burned at the stake—it stands to reason that Christians would wonder if we’ve been given too much freedom—if perhaps it is they, or at least their faith, that will be victimized.

It is a thorny question. Obviously, I am an American, and Americans believe in freedom of religion—but freedom of religion doesn’t address an important issue: How much respect is shown for another’s beliefs? People who believe in something that no one else respects usually get put into mental institutions—it is only natural for believers to be concerned with the amount of respect they are given.

Yet how much respect can a non-believer have for the fanciful tales and notions of theists? Shorn of their ‘given’ legitimacy, the arcana of the major faiths become ludicrous—heaven, hell, angels, an old bearded guy in the sky, transubstantiation—these fantasies are no more acceptable than Greek or Norse mythological tales. As a rational man, I can’t possibly respect these ideas—yet, as a man, I can respect other people having other ideas.

If someone says to me, “I’ll pray for you.” I am capable of holding my tongue—there is little to be gained by insulting someone who has just expressed concern for my welfare. If, at a funeral, a child is being reassured that grandma will be happy in heaven—I’m not going to be the cretin who decides Grandma’s funeral is the place for discussing atheism. But I behave this way because of my respect for other people’s feelings, not my respect for their beliefs.

So please, Humanist-question-contributors, stop asking questions that are sneaky attempts to force us to show respect for your faiths. We don’t respect your faiths—we are unable to. It’s nothing personal—we are simply practicing freedom of religion by answering ‘no’ to all of the above. What we can and do respect are your feelings—if you want to believe in God, we will try not to laugh about it or argue against it.

But if you insist on believing in something that isn’t there, there are going to be conflicts of perception—women and gays are two good examples. The whole point of freedom of religion is to avoid the kind of bloodthirsty nonsense that’s playing out in the Middle East right now. Yet Religious Freedom can only do so much—there will always be disagreements between people of different faiths—and people without faith—the point is to try to live side-by-side, in spite of the disagreements. That’s the reason for separation of church and state—so that no one can make rules to enforce their beliefs, or to criminalize another’s.

But you are probably asking yourself—wouldn’t I, as an atheist, try to criminalize theism, given the chance? I would be tempted—there are many aspects of faith that seem little more than child-abuse or bigotry—indoctrination from infancy, or bias against women and gays—these things are wrong from my point of view. But then again, they were deeply religious people who came up with freedom of religion, and separation of church and state—and those principles kept us atheists from being declare outlaws, back when our lives could have been forfeit. Turning your own good ideas against you would be the height of ingratitude and incivility. I like to think I’m better than that.

So please, Humanist question-submitters, try to stick with questions asked out of curiosity and avoid questions that are little more than subtle digs at ‘the other’.

 

I keep hearing all this BS about how we have to come together now. Yes, he won the election—that doesn’t mean he stopped being a monster. Yes, your candidate won—that doesn’t make you right. I’d love to ‘come together’—but not with Nazis. You people come back to America—we’re waiting right here. Meantime, try not to turn this place into too much of a friggin nightmare.

I’m starting to think the only reason for Republicans is to turn out the Democrat vote, every other election.

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I’ve seen a lot of Trump-supporter memes, crowing over their victory all over the internet. Let me remind you of something. The Nazis attacked Britain—and the British invented a thinking machine—a computer—and Germany ended up as smoking rubble. The Japanese Empire attacked America—and Americans invented the ultimate killing machine—the nuclear bomb—which destroyed Japan to its very atoms. My point being that intelligent, imaginative, open-minded, decent people don’t like to waste time on belligerence and rancor—but it’s still a really bad idea to piss them off.

Happiness Is Music   (2016Oct25)

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Tuesday, October 25, 2016                                               11:55 PM

On the one hand, I could hate myself for becoming too old to have any ambition in music any longer; but on the other hand, I’m not so sure the intensity of my grasping for music was entirely helpful. There are certain aspects of my piano playing today that I believe are enhanced by my lack of fixation on exactly what I’m doing. I’ve always known that certain activities are done best when least thought of—and music is certainly a great example of that, but I’ve only recently seen certain aspects of that which have ‘held me back’ to a degree.

I always knew my physical limitations would hold me back in piano-playing. So it wasn’t until I accepted that, at sixty, I had probably reached wherever my physical abilities would take me, that I became aware of some mental limitations I had placed on myself—at least in the way I thought of my playing as it related to making sounds. Music is such a wonderful gift—it changes with maturity, always morphing into something more richly-layered, like one’s self, but never degenerating, like one’s body does.

So I accept that the music I play today is as good as it will get. It’s not as much as I hoped for, but it’s far more than I ever dreamed of, back when I started. It has been both a challenging and comforting companion—the best kind of friend.

Today I played a nice long improv. I’m not sure what it sounded like, so, we’ll see.

 

Then I played a bunch of classical arrangements for piano. Three of them were decent enough to post.

 

Then I played a little ‘trailer’ at the end.

 

So much for the musical portion of my day.

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Wednesday, October 26, 2016                                         6:29 PM

The Enemy of My Enemy   (2016Oct26)

It’s funny—here we are with two weeks left—everyone’s pretty sure of the outcome of the election—more than that, everyone’s pretty clear that Trump was an evil anomaly—a thing that we narrowly avoided mistaking for a fit candidate. Yet one can still hear conservative pundits talking about his policies—as if he ever had any firm, practical, thought-out policies in the first place—and as if it still matters now, with early voting heavily in Hillary’s favor. Trump is fortunate to find the Republicans so in denial, and so blindly partisan, that nothing he says or does prevents most of them from pushing for the defeat of their arch-enemy, Hillary Clinton.

And this seems indicative to me. The Republicans have adopted an unhealthy habit of using any old rationale, provided it is anti-Democrat, and calling it a policy. The fact that these policies are impractical (like building a wall and deporting millions) or unconstitutional (like banning a religious group) or just plain crazy (like “bomb the hell out of them”) doesn’t seem to matter as much as whether  a policy can be used to beat Democrats over the head. The blind partisanship, and nearly overt bigotry and sexism that lies at the heart of conservatism, have shed the restrictions of logic, science, and sense.

The influence of money hangs over both parties, but the Republicans seem to favor the plutocrats philosophically, as well—as if they approve of a classist view of the citizenry. This hit-or-miss business of the American Dream was like winning the lottery, even back when it had more frequent examples. To think that we can go along as we have been, with people being helpless in the face of big businesses, just so we retain the illusion of economic mobility—is to ignore the oncoming waves of change that will make employment a very different, and much less common thing than we are used to.

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Republicans and Capitalists see the system as set in stone. Their focus is entirely on the status quo and the quarterly forecasts. They fear the true future—the reality behind their pushy forecasts—because time is no respecter of wealth or property or law. The Democrats (the good ones, at least) are more willing to face the future, and to say that people have rights that transcend profit.

When Democrats attempt to enact social safety nets, business regulation, or consumer protection, the Republicans always claim that the government does these things badly—and that the free market would do all this naturally, given free rein. This is false. It reminds me of a time when I was a young man working for my father’s company. I went to him and asked for a raise—I told him I couldn’t afford to live on my current salary. He replied that the company doesn’t pay people what they need—it pays people what they’re worth. (He could be a real hard-ass sometimes.)

Now, in a business paradigm, that makes perfect sense. But as a person on disability now—a person, in other words, who is worth nothing to a company—I can tell you that the free market doesn’t care if you are happy or sad, alive or dead—all it knows is mathematics. The Republicans get partial credit for their claim, however, because it is indeed rare that a government program runs any better than a square-wheeled bicycle.

Still, politics makes everything into a win/lose proposition. If a program isn’t perfect, it’s worthless. If a program is working, you shouldn’t criticize it. This is all very ineffectual and immature nonsense. Outside of political speeches, it is obvious to all of us that if something important doesn’t work, you don’t throw it out—you fix it. And one thing the Republicans don’t make a lot of noise about is this: government programs are complicated as much by wealthy influences and corporate lobbyists as they are by their inherent complexities.

And the whole ‘small government’ argument—please. You don’t hear Russia or China talking about ‘small government’. Our beloved Constitution is the rule-book for our government, such as it is, so we have to have government. And if we have a government, shouldn’t we have a good one, rather than a small one? What is the virtue of small, in the context of the 21st century? It would be nice to pretend we all live on our own farms, and don’t need no G-men snooping around—but that was two centuries ago. These fifty modern states, plus assorted territories, need an up-to-date, fully-functioning government—and anyone who wants it otherwise is a fool or a traitor.

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When you don’t know if you’re being hacked by the Chinese, the Russians, or the North Koreans—do you want small government? When hurricane surges flood New York City—do you want small government? When the Republicans extol the virtues of small government, they are cheering for the idea that businesses can make a profit from abusing people’s trust—but only if the government turns a blind eye. That’s what ‘small government’ means to big business—and that’s why Republicans campaign on it. I’ll believe them when they start to advocate for ‘small military’. You don’t hear that one much, do you? ‘Small government’, my ass—the freedom to rip us off, more like.

What I really can’t understand is why people are so willing to believe the worst of Hillary Clinton. Have you seen The West Wing, or Madame Secretary, or Scandal? To be a politician, even a well-meaning one, you have to play the game—and it’s a rough game. When the Alt-Righters try to blow up her every machination into a demonic conspiracy, it works much better on Hillary than it ever did on anyone else. Why is that? I can never see the point.

Is it the old female catch-22—that if they’re tough, they’re crazy bitches, and if they’re not tough, they can’t handle a man’s world—is it that bullshit? Maybe partly—but I’ll tell you my theory: you remember how we went for good ol’ boys for our last four presidents? Bush Sr., Bill, and Bush, Jr. were none of’em geniuses—and Obama got away with being smart by being so darned charismatic no one noticed. But in all those elections, there were smart, capable, but non-charismatic eggheads that would have made decent presidents—and we practically thumped our chests in defiance, as if to say, “We don’t need any pencil-necked geeks running this place.”

And now we are stuck with Hillary—smarter than us, more reliable than us, harder-working than us—of course everyone hates Hillary. We’re all looking around for a president we can ‘have a beer with’—the most important credential America knows of, in a president. The candidate we want is missing—and boy are we ticked off that we have to vote for the candidate we need. We’ve never made a practical choice for president before—and wouldn’t you know it—it’s a woman this time. Ooh, my aching back.

That’s my theory. The presidency gives one person too much power—we can live with that, but we’re sure not going to vote for someone who’s smarter than us—that’s a step too far. Fortunately, most voters will (as they say on the news constantly) ‘hold their noses’ and vote for her. As if…—Hey, we’re lucky to have Hillary—take a look at the guts of your I-phone and tell me it’s okay for America to have a moron for president.

I have to laugh when the Republicans bow to the inevitable, and tell people to vote for Hillary for president, but to make sure they vote Republican on the down-ballots—to keep a ‘check’ on her power. Yes, sure—the woman whose life has been all about helping children and families—be afraid of what she might do—be very afraid. Meanwhile, we’re supposed to re-elect the bunch that thought stymying every initiative of President Obama’s, just because he’s black, was a great idea—oh, yes—let’s put them back in Congress, by all means. Although, personally, I think they should all be lined up and shot. Effing traitors.

The Republicans are just Trump-Lite—they both advocate the same things—testing us to see how self-destructively stupid a lie can be, and still work on the electorate. The Republicans never win an election because they are right, they win because we are stupid enough to believe their lies.

What no one talks about is the Russian interference in our election. Why are they doing this? Well, let’s see—they’re only attacking Clinton—not one email from the Trump camp. Can we deduce anything from this? It seems to me that they want Hillary to lose. Why would the Russians want Hillary to lose? Maybe they’re afraid of her. If they were afraid of Trump, they’d be trying to sabotage Trump’s campaign. But they don’t care about any other candidate—just Hillary. Am I the only one who sees some significance in that?

I think they’re afraid of her. If I were Russia, I would be afraid of Hillary. She’s gonna shut down their little expansion party—she’s gonna stare them down and, if need be, shove a cruise missile up their asses. You don’t mess with Hillary. Trump hasn’t gotten any endorsements to speak of in this campaign—it’s a shame that Putin is the only one who wants him to win. Thus, the Wikileaks are something of an endorsement for Hillary, if you think about it. The enemy of my enemy is my friend.

Moving Along   (2016Oct23)

Sunday, October 23, 2016                                       4:45 PM

I’ve been trying to plan what to write about in future—after the election. If there’s an upset, I’ll be too upset to write for quite some time. But if Hillary Clinton wins as expected, I’ll be needing a new topic—I’ve spent over a year raging against the threat of Trump. When I felt that I was seeing something dangerous in him, that seemed to be invisible to others, I was desperate to express my misgivings. I saw our great nation tottering on a precipice.

Now, though, the truth has come to light—Trump is unqualified and unfit for most everything, but most especially unlimited power. The charges made against Secretary Clinton are the sorts of things we’d cheer if they were done on behalf of our own ‘side’—mostly it amounts to her being a juggernaut who gets things done. This is only a problem for people who don’t want the things she’s going to do—I’m more than ready, myself, to see some changes being made to the near-plutocracy the one percent have managed to make of our system.

So, case closed (But don’t forget to vote!) and new topic wanted. The trouble is, these last two years I’ve been consumed with resistance to an approaching disaster. How am I going to find a topic that is equally pressing? In a sense, Hillary’s election will be a ‘happy ever after’. I’m confident she will proceed from victory to victory in making our government better, and hopefully our lives better.

Not that doing so will be quick or easy. Nothing good ever is. But I will have little to say about it. I need to begin a new crusade—I’ve gotten used to trying to convince people of something important that I believe. I’d like to keep doing it—but nothing has ever been so obvious and so dangerous as the threat posed by Trump. And the focus on a single individual made the whole issue a very simple one. If I tried to do the same with, say, the Environment, there are issues upon issues, piles of data, commercial pressures, international pressures, and the whole ‘do no harm’ problem that always arises when we press for change without being too sure of exactly what change we want.

The world is very interconnected. Trade, communication, and transportation have all gone global—making any kind of change a complicated piece of business. What works on the plains doesn’t work in the mountains—what works in the desert doesn’t work in the jungle. Whenever we try to plan for a sensible change, we have to figure out how to insert it into the organic goat-tracks of the existing culture—and no two cultures are the same. Plus, there is a clock on anything environmental—saving biomes and habitats is only feasible if we succeed before they are destroyed.

Many potential environmental fights have already been rendered moot by the disappearance of a species, or a forest, or by rising sea levels. The environmental fight is therefore a heartbreaking commitment—I don’t know if my heart could stand it. If I had the strength, I’d go get myself arrested at that pipeline protest—my god, haven’t we taken advantage of the natives long enough? Not to mention, they have a point—water is life, and no amount of money can change that.

No, life is rarely as simple a question as whether Trump could be trusted with the leadership of our country. Nothing else has ever appeared so blatantly, simply unwise. It will be hard to find something new that fires me up like that. But the problem is not in any dearth of issues—the problem is finding something I know enough about, that I could debate intelligently over.

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I was paying a great deal of attention to politics, long before Trump showed up—and I’ve studied American history extensively—I know which people protested and fought and died for the national ideals that Trump is so willing to trash. And I know enough about it to know that Trump doesn’t know any of the important ideas behind the job he’s asked for. I don’t know of any other subject I’m so comfortable with. So I may have to retreat to poetry or some such writing.

Still, it’s better this way. If I can see the whole country about to jump with both feet into the worst mess imaginable—well’s, that’s a pretty sorry state of affairs, regardless of my writing ambitions. I wouldn’t want to become like the media—eager for trouble so that people will pay attention to me. That’s not who I want to be.

And perhaps I will even reach some new understanding through all of this stress and angst—maybe I’ll turn to something completely new, something hopeful—an idea of a new renaissance, even. Who knows? Perhaps all of this pent-up urge to write will come out in fiction, and I will finally write a story that entertains while I bore people with my opinions. It could happen—even if I am sixty already. I’m not too old to try something new—just limited in what I have to choose from.

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The election will soon be over. The news channels will soon be seeing a nose-dive in viewership—which is a good thing, as I mentioned above. But they will take a hit, still. The news rarely involves something that touches everyone so closely as their vote—the one time we get involved in government, every couple of years. International news is pretty bloodthirsty stuff: drowning refugees, sex-trafficked girls, besieged cities under heavy bombardment—it’s a shitstorm out there in the big world. And domestic shootings hardly draw viewers as much as outrage. It’s bad news for the news, alright, the end of this election season.

But I will approach it as a positive—a new beginning for my writing efforts—something more about myself than ‘the worst person ever’ running for president. Hmmm… I’ll have to give it some thought.

bye now.

 

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.

It’s No Fun If You Can’t Share   (2016Sep16)

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Friday, September 16, 2016                                              10:04 PM

When one group fights against another, someone wins and someone loses. We see this in the trouble-spots of the world—two sides which will fight until one or the other of them wins—beyond reason, beyond humanity, the absolutism of one group against another seems basic enough to overcome civility.

I’ve been thinking today of our strength as a nation—the melting pot that makes any one group a part of the larger whole—whether they like it or not. Immigrants to the United States know that the rules are different here—feuds from the old country don’t count here; authoritarian prerogatives once enjoyed by men over women, or one class over another—in their homeland—are forever null and void, here in the land of the free.

America has never fought for conquest or territory—only for the Right as we saw it (and a few mistakes, undeniably). And indeed, who could we attack? Where is there a country that isn’t already a part of ourselves? Reel off the role of the United Nations’ 193 countries—not a one of them fails to be represented by a segment of our population. Even those whose governments are seen as ‘bad actors’—their people, too, are a part of who we are—the Russians, the Chinese, the North Koreans, the Iranians, the Libyans, the Syrians—you name the place, and chances are high that the United States contains the largest number of any country’s population, outside of that country.

So, as we recognize that inclusion must be part of our domestic social policies, we also recognize that all nations are siblings—and that our nation is the glaring proof of that truth. We attract immigrants for many reasons—but I believe that most come here because, in the USA, you own yourself. Nobody tells us what to do. Nobody says we have to ask permission to try a new idea. We say whatever we want, and if you don’t like it, you say whatever you want back.

We take personal freedom very seriously here in America—sometimes, some of us even get a little crazy, pushing the bounds of propriety and safety merely to demonstrate the fullness of our liberty. In its own way, it’s pretty rough and tumble. But the acme of the ideal is not merely to have freedom—it is to accord it to everyone else, even when you don’t like it—even when it gets in your way.

And we certainly see abuse of the concept—many people are only too glad to take freedom, and less enthusiastic about giving it to others. Liberty isn’t always obvious—it doesn’t shout, it waits for you to notice it. Some people willfully turn away, and use ‘Liberty’ cynically, hypocritically, as a cudgel attempting to carve out their freedoms at the expense of others’ rights. But they will run out of hot air before America runs out of people who treasure its ideals.

In the end, our immigrant heritage not only strengthens us as a nation, it bonds us to all nations—not as a competitor, not as a threat—but as a family of humanity, all collected together in the great experiment of America. While our capitalists and generals may sometimes lose their perspective, and get lost in the struggle for power, remember this—all most of us want is to share our freedom with the rest of the world. We don’t want other countries to belong to us, we just don’t want to hog all the good stuff for ourselves—it’s no fun to be happy if you can’t share it with everyone else.

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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.

Exam   (2016Aug30)

Tuesday, August 30, 2016                                                 12:24 PM

A list of key-words, a chart of interconnections, a graph of differences—the idea of Algebra tries to worm its way into life. I used to make myself to-do lists, back when I did things—I’d have Top Priorities (things that needed doing right away), Regular things (a sort of ‘daily chores and maintenance’ list), Non-Work things (commitments I had made to people), Long-Term Projects (often becoming a list of things I never got to), and so on. Late at night, I’d still be scribbling away like John Nash from “A Beautiful Mind”—the list became its own project, keeping me from doing the things on the list.

Analysis can become a rabbit-hole from which there is no escape. Philosophical discussions that devolve into semantics—finding, at the end, that language is more personal than universal—can only be enjoyed so many times before we realize that life is to be lived. There is just as much value to experiential data-gathering as there is to mental wool-gathering, perhaps more—and certainly more stimulation.

Yet ‘the unexamined life is not worth living’—or so philosophers would have us think (no pun intended). So we think about what we’re doing while we do it. Occasionally we’ll find that we need to sit and think, to put down what we’re doing and ponder a question—maybe even draw a diagram or blueprint. My least favorite thing is to realize, in the middle of doing something, that I’m doing it wrong—or, worse yet, that I don’t need to do it.

Life is like a deep wood—we follow the trail without too much care, but where the trail ends, or forks, we have to stop and consider our options. Sometimes we have to trail-blaze where there is no path; sometimes we have to gamble on which fork leads in the best direction. Sometimes we have to micro-manage, such as making camp before the sun goes down; sometimes we have to macro-manage, such as planning where to get provisions over the next month’s travel. All activity involves thought, planning, decision, and judgment—we humans are rarely wholly physical—our actions are the physical complement to our calculations.

Examination, though, is a special case—it has no boundaries. We can examine something forever, if we wish. We can opt not to examine something at all—taking for granted that it is a known quantity or a known object. To walk the ‘tightrope of examination’, to do it well, being aware of the world around us without losing the context of our lives—that’s the trick. Too much or too little are both dangerous ground.

I’ve been speaking, so far, of learned debate—where people try to agree on terms and their usage, where both sides are actively engaged in a search for truth or meaning. Most of our public examinations, unfortunately, are not like that.

When I see a news-show’s panel of commentators about to debate the presidential election, I know I’m in for a heaping helping of snake-oil and tap-dancing. The pretense of fairness and balance becomes a shambles of illogical carping and condemnation—insisting on their opponent’s evil while excusing the same evil in their champion. It’s a virtual ballet of slippery memes, with a dash of shouting and derision. Both sides hold up their ‘true facts’ while we, the voters, recognize neither’s claims as either true or factual—we call them ‘talking’ points, not ‘thinking’ points.

One of the candidates has latched onto the new Media-philosophy and has based his platform on the idea that what he says is more important than whether there is any earthly reason to say it. His constituents are no better—a recent poll reveals that, of those who will vote for Trump, 4% think he can’t be trusted with nuclear weapons. As Rachel Maddow pointed out last night—that means that a certain number of Trump supporters don’t trust him with nuclear weapons, but want to give them to him anyway.

A hilarious recent article in the New York Times made the point that Trump supporters are loyal to a fault. In it, a supposed Trump advocate scolds the rest of us for pointing out Trump’s faults, assuring us that nothing anyone says will change the minds of his base. Funny as hell, except for the part about it being true–nothing can destroy democracy quite so thoroughly as an evidence-proof electorate.

The hypocrites in the GOP, the ones who, for years, have been shoving reason through a black hole, so that it always comes out backwards and upside-down, are caught flat-footed. They like Trump’s hypocrisy a lot, but they’re nervous about how unabashedly he exposes it, without a whisper of the usual serpentine reasoning they usually like to use, to confuse the issues.

He just says the stupidest things—and liberals are confused. They’re used to having a debate with someone who injects a lot of false data and emotional blackmail into their policy, requiring an exhaustive review of what’s actually true, to rebut. Trump’s bald-faced “Build a Wall” or “Ban the Muslims” leaves them with their jaws hanging, unable to process such public abandonment of adult responsibility. It’s an unexpected gear-change. Trump no doubt mistakes it for awe, or something.

Trump supporters and far-right wackos of all kinds worry about an invasion of ‘foreigners’ in the USA. But people like me see past the surface of a person’s skin color or faith—we worry about an invasion from within, by the ignorant. America believes in equality—so the ignorant have as much of a say as any high-school graduate or PhD. Even the willfully ignorant, proud of their dismissal of science and logic, proud of their bigotry and chauvinism, eager to kick over the sand-castles of the liberal progressives—even these troglodytes have an equal say in the making of America. They are the cup of sugar in the gas tank of democracy.

Nothing I say will change them. Nothing I write will even propel them towards thought or questioning. So I’m not writing for them—I’m writing for you. You can grade my examination now.

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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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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Why Hillary?   (2016Aug09)

Tuesday, August 09, 2016                                       8:07 PM

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Several people, mostly Bernie supporters and Republicans, have put forward the thesis that ‘the lesser of two evils’ is a false choice and that evil is evil. This is prompted by their firmly-held belief that Hillary Clinton is some kind of monster. They all agree that they won’t vote for Trump—and who can blame them?—but they stick at turning to Hillary. I respect ethical staunchness—I’m a big fan. And I won’t wade into the morass of a politician’s long lifetime to parse her sins, venal or cardinal—though I would point out that truly villainous politicians often get caught and convicted—and seldom accomplish any meaningful governance.

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Plus, no matter what you accuse Hillary Clinton of doing or saying—she has in her off-time, as Family Advocate, First Lady, and Senator, done some planning, some consensus building, and helped pass several pieces of notable legislation—and, as Secretary of State, she obviously pleased her boss, the President—and didn’t let the world fall into anarchy or let anyone invade the USA. So she has experience, ability, and a firm grasp of the realities of the U.S. government—she has been, to some extent, mentored by two presidents.

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Compare that to the Independent party or Libertarian party candidates. Those two may have more experience than Trump, who decided at the age of seventy to give presidenting a try, but they are still pigs-in-a-poke compared to the most qualified candidate in history. Neither have endured one percent of the scrutiny of the candidate they challenge—and I don’t vote for somebody just because I don’t know anything bad about them—not if it’s because I don’t know anything about them.

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So that leaves ‘not voting’. Don’t choose that, please—it’s un-American. Because ethics are ethics, chess games are chess games, and annoying chores are annoying chores—but politics is part ethics, part chess game, and partly an annoying chore. There are thousands of people out there, screaming at the top of their lungs—and since long before the primaries began—that Hillary Clinton must not be elected. Why are they so desperately trying to keep her from the presidency? Well, because they thought that Jeb Bush would oppose her in the general—or some other GOP with even less chance of beating her—it’s all political messaging.

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If Hillary was as bad as critics paint her, serious, thoughtful people would be criticizing her—or charging her with some actual crime—or at least saying that they don’t think she would make a very good president. But no serious, thoughtful person is saying that—only her political opponents are saying that. And this may be extra confusing, right now, because serious, thoughtful are saying bad things about Trump. If it helps, try to remember that only one group disses Hillary—everybody disses the Donald. There is a difference between political mud-slinging and objective criticism. Media-savvy Donald knows this—and tries his best to turn all criticism into politics—accusing his accusers.

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America is a big complicated place—there are a lot of people out there with a vested interest in their own agenda. I accept that politics is a rough business and—bottom line—Hillary Clinton is no angel (or if she is, it’s that one with the big flaming sword). But we don’t want an angel as commander-in-chief. We don’t want an angel across the negotiating table from Putin. We want a smart, serious, no-fucking-around grandma whose been there and done that. What we don’t want is a little imp with a big mouth. Or one of two strangers that wandered in late. And we certainly don’t want a bunch of goddamned Americans whining that their conscience is telling them not to vote.

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If your ethics are that disturbed by the present race, then you started late—you should have been out there the last four years getting ready, finding a good candidate and helping them towards the presidency. Don’t show up in the summer before the election and say you’re not pleased with your choices. You Berners—he announced his candidacy on May 26, 2015—and all of you high-and-mighty reformers were sitting around doing nothing until your friends dragged you to his rallies. Hillary started ‘stealing’ the nomination in 2008. So get over it—if you really got inspired—good. Do something with that going forward—if you really believed what he was saying, there’s no reason to turn your back on politics now.

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And you can start by voting for the candidate that didn’t come from a millionaire’s family—try Hillary—how do you know you won’t like it, if you won’t taste it?

 

O–and BTW, there are new baby-pictures in my latest video. Please enjoy:

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The Revolting Day   (2016Jul02)

Saturday, July 02, 2016                                            12:22 PM

Considering the time of year, I guess we can’t really criticize the UK for Brexit—there were a lot of naysayers back on that first Independence Day. In fact, we rarely talk about the Tories—early Americans who took exception to the colonists’ decision to flip George III the bird. Back in the day, their lives weren’t worth a plugged nickel—especially once the Revolutionary War really got started. It must have been strange to move so far while standing still—one day they are patriots—good citizens of His Majesty—and the next day, traitors—dirty turncoats who sided with the lousy Redcoats.

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We can never tell how history will paint our portraits. Benedict Arnold, a much maligned figure in our history, was one of our greatest military officers—a fierce fighter and brilliant tactician—he found the Continental Congress of his day just as useless and frustrating as we do ours today. He saw them being negligent and inept, more concerned with their own well-being than with the fate of the young country. The rebels were suing the French government for military aid and financial backing—and Arnold felt that we were better off sticking with the British, bad as they were, than turning our country over to the French. So he turned spy—but with the best intentions. History, however, was definitely not on his side.

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And ever since, we have had historical figures who, at first blush, were labelled traitors, troublemakers, and insurgents—anyone who tried to see things from the Native Americans’ point of view, anyone who condemned slavery, anyone who worked towards votes for women—were all roundly booed, sometimes until long after the injustices were irreversible. There are even people today, over two hundred years later, whose parents have raised them still to belittle Native Americans, African Americans, and women of any type. More recently, the late Muhammad Ali was branded a traitor for refusing the draft, as were many anti-war protestors. Good isn’t ‘good’ until it wins the PR war and gets the imprimatur of history. It is not so much that history is written by the winners as that history is written by the winning.

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Like religion—source of humanity’s greatest comfort and engine of its worst atrocities—America has a wonderful, idealistic side which we use to block out the memory of all the horrendous reality that we’ve chalked up since we first gave out those poxy blankets, long before we decided to write declarations about human rights. We like to get on our high horse about the great American Experiment—but the nation that invented Public Education celebrates its big day by having the ill-educated go out and blow off their extremities with explosives—if they survived the car trip to the picnic area, that is.

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It’s lucky I’m gonna be a grandpa soon—here I am grumbling about firecrackers on Fourth of July Weekend—what kind of American am I, anyway? I still approve of barbequed hamburgers and hot dogs—even though I can’t decide which has more carcinogens—lighter fluid or maple wood chips. And I still like the flag—even though I can’t fly ours because a tree branch grew across the flagpole and the powerlines are too close (I think it’s a really old flag pole, so it would probably fall down with a flag on it anyway).

Plus, I’m retired—holidays suck once you’re retired—what good’s a day off if you don’t have any days on? The biggest change for me during holidays is the theme that Turner Classic Movies uses to mark the occasion in their day’s programming.

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Laughing At Logic   (2016Jun12)

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Saturday, June 11, 2016                                           11:05 AM

Just because you may be ignorant and misinformed doesn’t mean that you don’t have the courage of your convictions—which is sad. It is unfortunate that the burning fervor we feel towards our beliefs has no connection to their veracity. Who knows how much of what I wholeheartedly support and staunchly defend is utter bullshit? Wouldn’t it be nice if we only felt right about something when it actually was right? I wish truth had the ring of truth to it.

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By the same token, it would be nice if the people who were right about one thing were right about everything—or even if people who lie could be counted on to always lie. Any kind of standard would be good—but we are people, not machines—and proud of the fact that we have no standard—to each his or her own, as we like to say. Which means: “I have my truth, you have yours—and even if they are opposites, they are both still valid.”

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The fact that such a statement is bullshit on its face doesn’t keep us from enshrining that belief as ‘freedom of speech’. In America, you have the right to be stupid, or pretend to be stupid (i.e. lie) in public statements—and even if you’re proven wrong, you don’t have to shut up. If you are right and I am wrong, I still get to spend a lifetime, if I wish, spreading my wrong to as many people as I can convince—that’s the American way.

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This is particularly troubling when we remember that psychological experiment proving that those rooting for one side see every play in a game differently than observers rooting for the other side. Wrong ideas can spread but, worse, wrong thinking can color our interpretation of events—our every perception of what is happening. Here in ‘free-speech’ land, it has become a war of perceptions—and mass media becomes a powerful weapon in that struggle.

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Logic is omitted from this equation—just as it is excluded from democracy itself—when the majority rules, the minority never get what they want. Satisfying the majority is referred to as the ‘greatest good for the greatest number’—but it also assumes that some people are not going to get their way—and that’s okay. It’s not a good system—but it’s the best we can do. The fact that American democracy isn’t entirely democratic—that our votes are only counted after the elite have picked the candidates we have to choose from—complicates the question even further—but even pure democracy, as an ideal, is a guarantee that people in the minority will not get what they want.

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But don’t get me wrong—if there are faults inherent in free speech or democracy, that doesn’t mean we have it as bad as people who live in Libya, Syria, China, Mexico, Colombia, or Bangladesh. Those people live amid chaos and violence that make my squawks about American ideals pretty nit-picky. Sometimes, when I take a walk, I decide to sing and dance a little bit while I walk—and there are countries where that will get you jailed, shot, or stoned to death. So, yeah, democracy is okay by me. I think Churchill said something about democracy being a terrible form of government—but it’s better than all the others.

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Free speech and democracy are wildly imperfect—but we defend them with our lives because they allow for a very important fact—nobody can be counted on to be right all the time. We need to be able to criticize our society and its leaders—to speak freely, even if that means we have to give the same privilege to an asshole. No law or law-maker is perfect, so we need to ask for everybody’s opinion and go with the one which (or whom) most people approve of—and that’s where democracy comes in. We allow for the minority being disappointed because we figure the odds are better that the solution most people desire is the correct one.

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However, because of free speech, we allow for a misinformed electorate—which creates the possibility of the majority being misled. And that’s where this year’s election gets dicey. With significant portions of the electorate convinced that they are being lied to by their leaders, their media, and even their textbooks—one has to wonder what’s left to them as sources of information. And so now America has to deal with the phenomenon of people who ‘know’ what they want to know, and deny any knowledge that they don’t want to accept. That’s not the way I was raised, but freedom of speech says it’s all okay.

It’s all very complicated. It can make a person feel old, sometimes.

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Memorial Day   (2016May30)

Monday, May 30, 2016                                            11:50 AM

Last night PBS aired the Memorial Day Concert from Washington DC—and all weekend long there have been war movies on TV—I just watched one of my favorites on TCM—“Sergeant York” (1941). An uncredited portion of the soundtrack contains “When the Roll Is Called Up Yonder” (by James Milton Black, 1892) sung in church at the beginning of the picture. Afterwards at the piano, I guess I mixed it up in my mind with (“Give Me That”) “Old-Time Religion”, another traditional gospel song from 1873.

ELD 064My dad is in this picture somewhere–he served in Korea after boot camp, and made it home safe.

Anyhow, I decided to improvise on that, since the soundtrack of the movie had those themes woven into the music. I began by trying to pick out the tune, but if you can get past that, I think it turned out alright in the end. I’m remembering the fallen today—have a safe and happy Memorial Day, everybody.

End Times   (2016May14)

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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….

 

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.

Mommy, Where Do Republicans Come From?   (2016Apr29)

Friday, April 29, 2016                                              9:50 AM

Republicans are stupid. Republicans politicians are just smart enough to get paid by the rich and by corporations for advocating stupid legislature, but the Republican voter is unabashedly stupid, voting against his or her best interests, voting against science, voting against common sense. Republicans politicians cultivated stupidity in the party’s ranks for many years—‘teaching the controversy’ on many issues that sensible people considered settled, using ‘dog-whistles’ to attract certain ‘patriotic’-seeming hates, and persistently reassuring white Christian males that they were the apex of humanity (all that ‘equality’ nonsense aside).

So when twelve or so Republican presidential candidates took the field, way back when, they were all different flavors of stupid—you had conventional stupid (a la Bush Dubya, or rather, brother Jeb), religion-crazed stupid (a la Cruz), overtly corrupt stupid (a la Chris Christie), and just plain bat-shit crazy stupid, which appears to be the shoe-in for nomination. The Republicans wanted their voters good and stupid—but then were shocked to find that they supported the stupidest candidate that ever ran for the office. That’s pretty stupid.

 

Then they all got behind Ted Cruz, whom Boehner recently described as ‘the most miserable son-of-a-bitch I’ve ever worked with’—a man reviled by virtually all of his colleagues—merely because he was the only viable alternative to their front-runner, who they hate even more for his being an outsider, with his own brand of stupid. Any reasonable, intelligent group of people would have thrown up their hands at this point—but not the Republicans. Now that Trump has forced himself upon them, you can be sure that they will back his candidacy with the same wooden-headed stubbornness that they use to deny racism, climate change, or the nature of homosexuality.

 

The front page of the Times today has a story about how Trump is attacking Clinton with veiled sexism—and that the Democrats are ‘scrambling’ to find a way to counter this attack. I find that obtuse. And I’m upset that Republican stupidity has found legitimacy in the media, purely on the basis of its having become their political platform. I’m sorry, Republicans (and the NY Times) but stupid is stupid—it doesn’t need to be defended against, except when talking to Republicans. Trump’s appeal is confined to people angry enough to want conflict instead of compromise—even with the evidence of how conflict within the legislature paralyzes our government staring them in the face. These voters don’t want things done right, they want things done fast—thinking about whether it’s right or not is just more of that ‘political correctness’ that they blame for all their problems.

In fact, a vote for Trump is a way of quoting that old John Candy flic, “Canadian Bacon”, where a guy at the bar says, “There’s a time for thinking and a time for action—and this is no time for thinking.”  In the movie, it’s meant as a joke, a witty one-liner—but for Trump, it’s a campaign slogan that his adherents would unthinkingly agree with.

We have a two-party system, so naturally we think of them as equals—but there is no equivalence between Trump and Clinton. Clinton is a lifelong public servant with knowledge and experience far beyond the average citizen—Trump is an average citizen with a lot of money and a big mouth. And I think I’m being kind with the use of ‘average’—‘below average’ might be more correct.

Americans, by and large, are not fans of big thoughts or deep thinking—that’s nothing new. But we used to elect people to office who were smarter than us, just so they could do the thinking for us. This idea of electing someone just as stupid as the least of us, because he ‘represents’ us, is a new low. Apparently, even once every four years is too often to ask American voters to think.

Most people could have told you a year ago that Trump would be the Republican, and Clinton the Democratic nominee, and that Clinton would crush him in the general. We’ve all known this for some time. But the media persist in scaring us, creating dramatic tension (and ratings) by constantly asking the question, “Will America be stupid enough to vote in Trump?” Everyone knows the answer is a resounding ‘no’. But the media can’t accept that—there’s no excitement in a foregone conclusion—so they take a page from the Republicans, and ‘teach the controversy’.

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.

Daylight Is Their Greatest Enemy   (2016Mar12)

20160312XD-WomenPants_modesty_in_1911-50

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.

20160312XD-DisabledRights_LivesWorthLiving_t614

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.

20160312XD-LennyBruce

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.

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.

Why Trump Is Winning   (2016Mar04)

Friday, March 04, 2016                                            9:07 AM

Did you ever wonder how a psychotic Hitler came to be the leader of all Germany? It’s not as if he went crazy after he rose to power—he wrote “Mein Kampf” long before his brown-shirts started bullying the populace, or before he framed the communists for burning down the Reichstag. And in “Mein Kampf”, he even spelled out how he’d like to slaughter virtually every Jew in Europe—he just left out the other ten million people that would ultimately die in his quest for absolute power—and the ruin that Europe would become by the time he was stopped.

A lot of people saw that coming—but people in power couldn’t help having great respect for him—so he remained legitimized in the public eye until it was far too late to stop him without violence. When Charlie Chaplin made “The Great Dictator” in 1940, there were still many Americans who thought it unwise to criticize a ‘respected world leader’. America had many people who thought we should be on Germany’s side, against England. How were we lucky enough to come out on the right side of history?

America was going through the Great Depression—times were tough. But they weren’t utterly hopeless, like they were in Germany. Germany was suffering under the draconian financial burden imposed by the Treaty of Versailles—the government was as broke as the people. American people were broke, but our government still had the wherewithal to institute the New Deal—so we did not have runaway inflation, making what money they did have worthless, like the Germans.

Germany was literally starving. Extreme conditions breed extreme attitudes—‘kill’em all’ sounds like a sensible solution when you are yourself on death’s doorway. Apart from the sociopathic anti-Semitism that permeated Europe (and America) Germans also blamed the rest of Europe for their financial straits (and not without reason). Oddly enough, they saw genocide and world conquest as a survival strategy—and Hitler gave them a blueprint for it. So they all ‘heiled’ Hitler.

Growing income inequality today has made Americans hungry for change—and we’re getting hungry enough to start flailing about for answers, no matter how crazy or cold-blooded. “Build a wall”; “Ban the Muslims”; “Mexicans are rapists”—would Americans have stood for such naked violence in any previous decade? No. But the GOP has been crippling our government, hence our economy, for years now—they lie about the president, they lie about global warming, they lie about Planned Parenthood, they shut down the government. They’ve done all this to protect the wealthy and the evangelicals and the racists—and now they’re upset because someone is using the same tactics to satisfy his own ego—and he’s doing it better than they ever did.

It’s tempting to savor the GOP’s dismay, but they’ve set the stage for something even worse than themselves—so we must perforce join them in condemning their presidential frontrunner. However, the idea that Cruz or Rubio would fix the problem is hilarious—Hillary was right—they’re all ‘Trump’, just not as good at it as he is. Trump has adopted their methods of lying, obstructionism, and willful ignorance—and made it his personal art form.

Trump has an animal slyness that can easily be mistaken for intelligence—especially among the uneducated—his demographic sweet-spot. The uneducated aren’t upset by Trump’s lack of policy details—they’re relieved. They don’t want to discuss the thorny problems of national government—they want someone to fix it—and Trump confidently says he’ll ‘fix it’. That’s all they need to hear. But all I hear is someone promising to cut the Gordian Knot that was tied by Washington, Lincoln, Roosevelt, Kennedy, King, and Obama—being the ‘lamp beside the golden door’ to the rest of the world is just too complicated—let’s be bullies instead.

The rest of the world is getting ready to refuse Trump entry into their countries—how’s that for an endorsement? His own party is anti-endorsing him (if that’s even a word) but we can’t take them seriously until they break down and tell their constituents to vote for Hillary. The one person endorsing Trump publicly is Chris Christie—and the terrified look on his face every time he appears standing next to Trump makes me think he’s envisioning future history—when his name will be tied to Trump’s in the story of how America died.

Super Leap Week   (2016Mar01)

20121002XD-WIKI-Bernini-LaocoonNSons

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.

20121002XD-Rodin-TheKiss(Detail)

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.

MadonnaInCloudsNegtv

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.

bacchus2

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.

caravaggio6

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.

botticelli3

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.

botticelli5

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:

No Black President   (2016Feb14)

Sunday, February 14, 2016                                               10:05 AM

Excuse me? Obama shouldn’t appoint Scalia’s successor? Oh I’m sorry—I was under the foolish impression that the President appoints SCOTUS nominees and the senate confirms them. Is this like the Executive Order thing—where it has always been a prerogative of Presidents—until we got a black one? Republicans, we know you guys are all closeted-bigots—why do you have to expose your racism so blatantly?—I thought politicians liked to be cagey about their failings as human beings.

Trump put it on the table: “Delay. Delay. Delay.” That’s been the GOP response to all government activity since Obama was sworn in—they told us that’s what they’d do—and they’ve kept their word with a vengeance. It is ironic that, in electing our first black president, we have not proved that racism is over—but the opposite. The senate has the power to delay any Obama appointee—yet they immediately start a conversation about how Obama shouldn’t even make an appointment—that it wouldn’t be ‘right’ for him to take advantage of being the President.

Now, I really shouldn’t put all the blame on the racist fuckheads known as the Republican congress—it took whole communities of racist fuckheads to elect these haters to their seats. This country is crawling with idiots—look at Trump’s poll numbers—look at our international standings in education ranking. America is the land of the free—and in the twenty-first century we see Americans have embraced the freedom to abandon reason.

But freedom is a responsibility, not an amusement park ride—if it is divorced from sober common sense, as in the case of many Americans, it becomes mere licentiousness—permission to indulge our darkest failings, rather than enable our highest aspirations. When people say freedom isn’t free, they suggest that it must be won with blood and sacrifice—but there is something else mandated by freedom—live and let live. And it is the ‘let live’ part that a lot of Americans have thrown out with the bath-water.

Conservatives have only recently presented us with their twisted ‘religious freedom’ argument to make America a Christian theocracy—but they have been doing the same ass-backward reasoning about Freedom for decades without anyone calling them on it—raising the issue of ‘police safety’ in response to the police habitually slaughtering young black men—raising the issue of ‘teachers unions’ in response to the shameful dysfunction of inner-city schools—favoring tax breaks for the powerful while insisting that we can’t afford to feed the homeless children. They make me ashamed to be American.

Now the real question—why are the Republicans afraid of an Obama-appointed justice? Will that appointee be too concerned with people, not concerned enough with the fat cats? Will that appointee see women as the equals of men? Will that person (god forbid) accept the reality of climate change? Oh, no! The world is going to end. I’m so mad I could spit. Racist assholes….

Lachrymosa Regina   (2016Feb06)

Saturday, February 06, 2016                          9:43 AM

Struggle, Weep, And sacrifice

Snuggle, Sleep, And love a wife

Burgle, Beat, And stab a knife

Gurgle, Bleat, And laugh at strife

Wiggle, Crawl, Behind the lies

Giggle, Beam, As sun will rise

In the olden times, a man could spend all day chopping wood—and he’d have been a hard-working, responsible adult with profitable employment; a woman could spend a week sewing a single fancy dress—and she’d have been considered quite clever and industrious. Today, either person would be considered to be wasting their time. The Bayeux Tapestry took an army of ladies-in-waiting, through three separate reigns, over many years, to complete—today it could be scanned into a digital loom’s memory and printed out in a few days’ time—possibly a few hours.

Travel was simpler in olden times—it simply wasn’t done. Those few times when anyone left their home for somewhere more than a mile off was called a Pilgrimage—and it was the event of a lifetime. Even in the beginning of the nineteenth century a trip up the Rhine from say, Bonn to Vienna, was a week-long excursion that took the form of a traveling celebration—I learned this today from reading a biography of Beethoven which describes just such a journey. Before trains (and then cars) travel was, and had always been, at a walking pace—nobody ran, and a team of trotting horses was considered positively speedy.

Communications were only possible within shouting distance—anything further off, and you had to write a note and have someone carry it to the person you wished to speak to. Medicine was as famous for its frauds and failures as for its rare successes. In short, life was simpler. The question that harries me is this: is life required to be simple? Are people who evolved to chop wood and sew their clothes capable of being happy in a world of traffic-jams, I-phones, and 3D-printers?

The popularity of Zumba classes speaks to our need to go out of our way to find some semblance of the exertion that our bodies have evolved to expect—exertion that our bodies, to some extent, need to remain healthy. The popularity of Zen, Yoga, and meditation speaks to our need for quietude—and to how difficult it is to find in our modern lives. Our interest in gourmet cuisine shows that even when food can be prepared in seconds, we are happier when we can make a production of its preparation, and a ritual out of its serving and its consumption.

The entire human race is, to some extent, being hauled forward through time, like a child being marched down the sidewalk by an impatient parent. We are given no time to appreciate our surroundings, no time to contemplate our simple existence, and no escape from the arcane complexities that our lives have come to contain. When we began to rebel against the childish despotism and the simple-minded morality of past centuries, we also began to distance ourselves from our childish nature. Today’s pre-pubescent middle-schooler has more sophistry than the most jaded courtesan of a few hundred years ago—and while that includes the blessing of women’s liberation, it also requires a maturity that may exceed our natural limits.

Complexity and self-control are assumed by the heralds of Progress—it’s taken for granted that, if man can create automobiles, for instance, then man is capable of using automobiles correctly. Highway safety statistics put the lie to that assumption—even after we’ve created protocols for testing, licensing, and registering drivers—and created highway patrols to enforce safety regulations. Weapons offer another example of technology being embraced without any thought for its dangers—as do drugs, banks, and computers. All of these ‘wonders’ present us with as many risks as benefits. Hence the growing complexity.

Only a student of history can envision how completely modern civilization has severed itself from its roots. Humans used to be fairly fancy animals—we had risen above bestiality, but we still bustled about with simple tools—we were animals that had found a few handy shortcuts. Today’s human can go for years without leaving a paved surface, a home, or an office—they never have to plant anything, dig anything, or exert themselves in any way—yet their food will be cooked, their clothes washed, and their homes kept warm (or cool, if needed). Money is involved of course—which means a job is probably involved—but in these times, a job doesn’t mean real work—it means something quite different from chopping wood or making clothes by hand.

This is a philosophical discussion, of course—we are well past the global population size that could have been supported in olden times, using man-power-based agriculture and transportation—so it goes without saying that we can’t go back. There’s no need to point out that I would be uncomfortable without the luxury of running water or flush toilets—I’m not unconscious of the blessings of modern life—nor is there any need to point out that democracy and free speech are an improvement over absolute monarchies or theocracies—I’m actually a big fan of human rights. But it would be jejune to imply that Progress comes without cost—many an immigrant to America has testified to the subtle panic at suddenly realizing total personal freedom—the right to make our own decisions is also a heavy obligation.

The strangest part of modern life is that things that once seemed acceptable—natural human impulses—become either impossible or criminal. Whittling was once a popular pastime—someone would pick up a piece of wood and starting carving it with a knife. Nowadays, carrying a knife is considered somewhat belligerent—and finding wood on the ground is a rare thing—and the pile of shavings might even get you a ticket for littering. Spitting used to be a common affectation—spittoons were once profligate, attempting to keep the mess of indoor spitting to a dull roar. People used to be more careless—and far less mature. It was 1920 before anyone even recognized that excessive drinking was a problem—and then, of course, we overreacted—childishly.

Are people still childish at times? Of course they are. My question is should we expect humanity to be as adult as a modern civilization requires them to be? I suspect we have over-reached ourselves. If we consider the sophistication of global issues in modern times—and contrast them with the regressive attitudes of the Republican party—we see a picture of hosts of immature, thoughtless people railing against the constraints of modernity—they want a return to conformity, bigotry, and dogma—and while we may all agree that they are wrong, we must still ask the question: are we asking too much of the human race as a whole?

When Einstein first published his Relativity work, it was famously incomprehensible. When Turing first published his work on automated computing, it too was beyond the understanding of people. Both Einstein and Turing had insights so profound that even the best and brightest of their peers had trouble comprehending them—and the public at large was left with buzz-words and jokes about relativity being gobbledy-gook. And Turing wasn’t helped by having his work kept secret for fifty years—Einstein was fortunate to have achieved his fame before the atom bomb made his work a state secret. And even before the bomb, public opinion was encapsulated in “As Time Goes By”, written by Herman Hupfeld in 1931, which includes the lyric “Yet we get a trifle weary with Mr. Einstein’s theory. So we must get down to earth at times, relax, relieve the tension…”

And let’s face it—while far simpler, Edison’s electric dynamo, the combustion engine, and even Watt’s primitive steam engine, while familiar to us in concept—are also beyond the ability of most people, myself included, to explain in any detail. We are surrounded by mystery—reassured only by the assumption that if we studied engineering, we could probably understand these things. But that doesn’t change the fact that only one in a million people truly understands how most of our technology really works. It works—is the most we know about most things.

Our Constitution, while not technological, is also a complex invention that most people do not fully understand. And I’m not talking about internecine debates in the Supreme Court over fine legal points—I’m saying that too many of the people who live by, or at least under, our Constitution don’t have a firm grasp of its basic points. The fact that the world’s greatest democracy also enjoys the lowest voter turnout per capita for its elections is just one of the failings I could place in evidence. The evangelicals’ lobbying for theocratic legislation is another. These people obviously have no understanding of the system. Conservatives used to do their best to suppress free speech—reaching a high-water-mark during the red scare of the McCarthy Era—now, neo-cons have flipped the script, embracing ‘free speech’ as a license to ignore the rules—the so-called ‘teaching of the controversy’. But dumb is still dumb.

People are dumb. We are children—I’m sixty years old and I still have to remind myself to act like an adult. While I would never advocate giving in to the regressives, I think we need to ask ourselves—how far can we push ourselves in certain avenues while merely maintaining the status quo with others—or more to the point, pretending that there are no other avenues? We can push ahead with technology and social change—but if we don’t match that with some progress in pluralism and income equality—if we don’t delve as deeply into the quality of human nature as we do into changing the ways we live—we court chaos—and disaster. The hell with courting it—we live in chaos, on the edge of global disaster. And it seems to me we don’t have the sense to even ask ourselves why.

It’s the proverbial modern dilemma—how do you fix a car while you’re driving it down the freeway? Stopping, much less going backwards, is not an option. I believe we need to broaden our understanding—to go beyond economic absolutism, beyond political demagoguery—to seek working compromises between personal liberty and social support programs—between ownership and responsibility for others. We need to envision a world without starvation and war and slavery—and ask ourselves: how do we get there from here without dropping a stitch? And most importantly—how much do we need to ask of ourselves to get there—and do we have that much to give?

I’m Getting Stoned   (2016Jan29)

Friday, January 29, 2016                                          10:35 AM

I’m gonna get stoned. Don’t call me. I’m gonna get stoned and watch TV—I won’t be available for public appearances. I won’t be able to legally drive my car—hell, I’m not the safest driver when I’m straight—you don’t want the stoned me coming at you.

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This is my problem with modern living—life has a texture, a quality—and that’s its only purpose—the ‘economy’ doesn’t mean shit—it’s double-talk for how secure the fat cats are—the ‘economy’ for people like you and me is ‘I don’t have enough of it’. People argue, for instance, over childcare and maternity leave—as if those activities are secondary to a schmoe like you or me sitting in a cubicle making money for the man—what a truckload of utter bullshit.

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We should be taking care of our children (AKA our future) and debating whether or not we have the time and money to waste on sitting in cubicles making money—not the other way around. We should be spending our money on drug programs to help drug abusers—not programs to hunt them down and shoot them. Why do we have Prohibition for drugs when we know from history that prohibition doesn’t work? All we’ve accomplished is to create an international black market whose economy rivals many small nations—and some big ones. Fear-reaction politics has led us all down a very self-destructive path.

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Now we have clowns vying to be president—that should tell you just how far off track we’ve gotten. When did mature, educated people become such a small part of the electorate? Are we really this stupid? I don’t think so—people can be surprisingly clever—I think what’s happened is that we’re being purposely led astray by conservatives.

We know damn well that Religion is bullshit—but conservatives insist they want to carry that delusional baggage into the twenty-first century. We know that Capitalism is just organized greed—but the wealthy perpetuate it because the more common-sense future of socialism threatens their wealth and power of influence. If technology has already freed us from grubbing in the dirt individually, why can’t we see that digital technology is well on the way to freeing the entire human race from grubbing for a living? Independents try to frighten us with a loss of freedom that living under a caretaker government suggests—but having the government distribute wealth is no less dangerous than letting the fat cats run their employment free-for-alls which leave the least of us with the greatest challenges.

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The business-owners want to pick and choose from the pool of employable people—and let the rest of us shift for ourselves. With technology taking over people’s jobs, that ‘rest of them’ group grows ever larger—a mounting segment of the population grows impoverished while the overall productivity rises—and all that profit goes to the owners. What kind of bullshit is that? I’m getting stoned—fuck this bullshit.

20100807XD-NASA-SolarEvent

The Sanders Surge   (2016Jan17)

Sunday, January 17, 2016                                        6:47 PM

Well, don’t expect much, because it’s been a rough few days and it is Sunday after all. I’ve been thinking about Bernie Sanders and his surge in the early states’s polls—and while that doesn’t mean a change in the overall Democratic nomination process—it does feed into my worry that I’ve been so set on Hillary Clinton for so long that I might be overlooking something in her number one rival for the Democratic nomination. However, now that I’ve taken some time to think on it—this is why I’m ‘still for Hil’:

A couple of things—first, Sanders supporters might not be taking into account that Bernie’s message, while attractive to the Democrats themselves, may fall on deaf ears in the nationwide election. Secondly, while I applaud all of Bernie’s most thrilling reforms, I question whether any person could deliver on any big, sudden financial reform—there’s a lot of headwind in that process—and while Hillary may be promising to do less, she has more chance of getting it done.

Hillary Clinton, because of Bernie’s rhetoric, is becoming the ‘bird in the hand’ candidate. You can take what she offers and be fairly certain she’ll win the election (and, as importantly, work better with a probable GOP-majority congress) or you can reach for what Bernie is offering, even though the realpolitik of his succeeding in both the election, and in working with a GOP-led congress, are less than promising.

I kind of think of Bernie Sanders as an Elizabeth Warren without the wisdom to see that such reforms will require a longer game—and greater influence—than a presidential term or two. In fact, Liz Warren, continuing her struggle in the Senate, has more chance of getting these kinds of reforms passed than a President Sanders ever would.

The chaos of the Republican campaign has caused the Democratic race to be shrunk down into a cartoon of itself, with little room in the meager coverage—between Trump sound-bites—to get the subtle nuances of why Hillary Clinton is still far and away our best bet, in spite of Bernie’s pyrotechnics in live performance (who’d a thunk it, huh?) And I admit that my fear that one of those Republican clowns could possibly ‘slip through’ is another factor in my favoring Hillary Clinton. Bernie supporters should recognize that his appeal stems from the very things that will make him beatable by a Republican—‘Socialist’ isn’t a dirty word to Democrats—but to the rest of the country? Please. Not that I have any objection to Bernie Sanders—wonderful guy—great ideas—total champion of the little people—but as presidential candidate in lieu of Hillary? No.

So, that’s my two cents on the Sanders surge.

I played some music the other day, right after several days of practicing nothing but my book of Chopin’s Mazurkas—so I’ve entitled it ‘Mazurkoid’—not because it sounds like Chopin, but because it has harmonies and rhythms I’ve never have thought of, had I not immersed myself in his genius—and I like to give credit where credit is due. All my improvising, honestly, is informed by constant practice, sight-reading through the great composers, the great song-writers, and any sheet music I can find, really—so while I don’t know where my fingers will go next, I know that their paths have been shaped by others—and all I’m adding is my personality.

 

Today I played from my Jazz Standards book—these are songs that I may have posted previously but if so I guarantee that these are better versions than I’ve ever recorded before, so I want to post my progress, if nothing else. They’re even kind of listenable, if not professional grade, renditions—so please feel free to give them a listen. I also ended with a tiny improv that I call ‘Moving On’, because it sounded so bright and sunny—like a fresh start. Wish it was longer, but I was pretty tired from all that jazz. I had just failed to play a decent rendition of Gerry Mulligan’s “Five Brothers” which was so bad it’s not on the recording—and you can hear me mumble, “I ain’t no Gerry Mulligan.” as I begin to play the improv….

 

 

 

Xper Dunn plays Piano – January 17th, 2016

Nine Jazz Standards:

Wrap Your Troubles In Dreams
Cute – by Neal Hefti
Don’t Get Around Much Anymore
Moonlight In Vermont
Imagination
Bernie’s Tune – by Bernie Miller
Let’s Get Away From It All
Fly Me To The Moon
Moonglow

Topsy-Turvy Turnabout   (2016Jan09)

Saturday, January 09, 2016                                               10:47 AM

How has the world changed? Maybe it’s just me, but I think we’ve lost shock value and fashion. All those years of movie-makers trying to top Hitchcock at fear and horror, to top DeMille at sin and sensuality—we have no limits in film any longer—only tightening demographics and a rating system that affects ticket sales projections. Censorship has only taught us to hear dirty words as ‘bleep’, where even suggesting profanity was once forbidden.

Over those same years we’ve had so many career comebacks, period fads, ‘I Love the [decade]s’ TV shows, and retro fashions that no haircut, no pair of shoes, no ensemble is truly out of fashion—that monolith doesn’t exist anymore. We only see shadows of it in boardroom meetings and comic-cons—where participation requires a costume. But I remember a time when you weren’t allowed in a restaurant without a tie—when girls couldn’t wear jeans to school—when you could actually be judged by the clothes you wore or the length of your hair—nobody cares anymore. Are there exceptions? Sure. But where a man with long hair was once the exception, now the exception is those few people who still think such things important.

And good riddance, I say—both shocking our morals and dictating our appearances were based on a rigidity of mind that we are well rid of. It was the main target of the sixties counter-culture—a generation that saw JFK put an end to men’s obligation to wear a hat when outdoors was made afraid of authority. And authority gave them plenty to fear—a pointless war, destruction of our ecosystem by industry, persecution of women and minorities—protest and rebellion were the order of the day. Conformity for its own sake finally became visible as an enemy of our collective pursuit of happiness.

But conformity goes hand in hand with authority—accepting authority is conformity. The emperor’s-new-clothes of politicians and business leaders has been revealed as naked power and corruption—Nixon wasn’t our first bad president, he was just the first bad president to be publicly shamed—the tobacco industry wasn’t the first bad industry—they were just the first industry to be proven, in court, to be liars and their products killers.

Back then the good guys, the champions of justice, were the grass-roots, behind-the-scenes influence, fighting against publicly recognized authority. After the truth had won one too many battles, we now have the rich and powerful generating non-truths through grass-roots, whisper campaigns—fighting against publicly recognized humane ideals—like clean air or abortion rights. They have developed tricks of public debate, ways to twist the truth around, which we refer to as ‘teaching the controversy’, but are simply the latest methods of bullshitting the disaffected.

The fat cats love that crap—until ISIL does it—then we call it radicalization. But ISIL is just another organization funded by rich people, selling their bullshit through modern methods—they may be more bloodthirsty than the climate-denying industrialists or the profiteers of arms manufacture, drugs, or GMO crops—but in the long run, they are far less dangerous—ISIL only kills people the old-fashioned way, by hand, one at a time. Not that I’m a fan of those dickwads.

It’s a topsy-turvy place in time, the present—the tough-guy bullies whose favorite phrase used to be ‘Be a Man’ are now urging all of us to run and hide under the bed—from everything and everyone—cowardice is the new American way. Cops aren’t ashamed to panic at the sight of tween minorities—they proudly declare they emptied their service piece into a pre-pubescent because they were afraid of a little boy. People aren’t ashamed to be terrorized by the sight of a turban on an airplane. Politicians are stealing material from Hitler, advertising their fear of a religious group that has been around since before they were born—since before America was born. Then there’s my favorite—immigrants—this nation of immigrants has decided to be afraid of immigrants—what the actual fuck?

What’s my problem with being afraid—I’ll tell you—it’s unproductive. Being prepared is productive—I’m not saying I don’t protect myself. But I don’t own a gun. I live in a place where guns are bad news—and I want that—I want to be surprised when someone shows a gun—I want to say ‘what the hell, man—where’s the invasion?’ I know there are places, like Syria and downtown Chicago, where that is not the case—and I feel for the people that live there—but the answer is not for all of us to start living as if Syria has come to our town. We pay a shitload of money for the United States Military—if they need my help, they’ll let me frickin know. I wasn’t afraid last year or the year before—I ain’t going to be afraid today. The News is messed up—it’s their business to get us excited about stuff—and we have to kick that monkey off our backs.

The worst of fear is that scared people aren’t nice—it takes courage to be nice. That’s why the fat cats like fear-mongering—it keeps us from caring about each other, from coming together as a community. I’ll wait until I meet some Syrian refugees before I decide whether to be afraid of them or not—that’s just common sense.

I’d like to take this moment to thank my foreign readers—I just checked my stats for this blog—and today, so far, this is xperdunn.com’s international reach:

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I don’t want to brag, but I’m being read around the world (in droves of one, mostly, but still). It’s exciting. Even my online poetry book, bearlybliss.com, six years on, is still getting traffic:

Now for a special treat—Pete has returned. Fighting off a holiday shoulder injury (he fell out of his attic getting Christmas ornaments) he joined me yesterday to re-form the Buds Up Restoration Project. We had a special guest star drop in—the fabulous Sherryl Marshall—and join us for a cover of “Norwegian Wood” that was lots of fun. I can’t post that until I ask Sherryl about permission—but afterwards, Pete and I had an exceptional improv jam that I’m happy to present herewith:

 

Breaking News: The Day After Christmas   (2015Dec26)

Saturday, December 26, 2015                                           12:33 PM

The affectionate whip has snapped and lies still—all its uncoiled energy came to a head with the crack of Christmas—and it is now hung coiled and still on a hook on the wall. We wake to the absence of holiday and the unnatural warmth of winter in a world out of balance—as if petrol prices weren’t low enough, the eastern seaboard is sporting shorts to New Year’s Eve parties.

The Stock Exchange reminds me of the Republican party—good news for humankind (the unexpectedly speedy, easy progress of conversion to alternative energy) is bad news for Wall Street—which is the same as saying it’s bad news for the fat cats. The petroleum industry, combined with the military-industrial arms-makers, make humanity’s doom the largest global profit center—what’s good for us is bad for business. You can’t pull down that kind of profit selling food or clothes or books.

The whole idea of making civilization a competition is stupid. Cooperation is the only smart thing to do—but there’s no profit in that; there’s no excitement in that; and there are no sinecures in true cooperation—nobody gets ahead. Yet if we insist on a society that allows us to get ahead, we are insisting that someone be left behind. Individual freedom is sacred to Americans—but a person without civic responsibility or a willingness to cooperate with the community is not exercising freedom—just willfulness.

We tend to include amongst our freedoms the right to be impatient—if argument goes too long or reason becomes too complex, we feel justified in cutting the Gordian Knot, throwing up our hands and saying, ‘Nuke the bastards’ or ‘Build a wall’. Being willfully stupid has become Americans’ favorite way of exercising our freedoms. I watched a beautiful program yesterday—it was a movie of new citizens being sworn in—a ceremony in each of the fifty states of the union—with interviews of newly-minted Americans extolling what they most loved about their new country. A common thread was voiced by one of them—‘Americans take their freedoms for granted—they don’t appreciate the miracle that is the United States’.

But that is only true of the loudest and sloppiest Americans—many of us are deeply appreciative, every day, to live here—and to keep vigil over our history and our ideals—and feel real pain at the words of demagogues—especially the ones who become media darlings through their outrageous subversion of our American way. Does CNN really think that the constituency that elected Obama to two terms is going to vote for John Wilkes Trump or Benedict Cruz? No, they just want ratings—and the hell with public service. We lost an important sinew of American cooperation when the news media went ‘for profit’.

We used to have champions of the public good acting as journalists and editors—now we have paparazzi and businessmen in their place—people who give a megaphone to any nitwit with a sensational way of spouting their ignorance. People like Trump and Cruz have always been with us—but the media used to keep its lenses trained on the sober, rational leaders who focused on the public good—and trusted that their honest efforts would gain them votes, without millionaires backing expensive hucksters to pump out propaganda. Sensation now substitutes for substance in the media—but the substantial challenges abide, and the sensations only distract us from the work of real change. The fourth estate used to help—now it just gets in the way, another tool of those in power.

People ask how America became so sharply divided—simple—the media made politics into a sporting event, encouraging people to pick a side and root for their team, rather than think about issues or answers. ‘Playing the devil’s advocate’ can be a useful exercise, in moderation—but when it’s the only thing you do, you’re just a rabble-rouser—a trouble-maker who profits from a fight and doesn’t care what the fight’s about.

Trump’s Fascist Hate-Speech   (2051Dec07)

Monday, December 07, 2015                                           5:48 PM

Here I was earlier—quite proud to be an American as I watched all the Pearl-Harbor-themed movies on TV this morning. The America of the 1940s, a unified gargantuan force, dead-set on vengeance against would-be tyrants—ah, in amongst all that desolation and blood, it was a magnificent sight—the greatest generation, etc. Then I hear that Donald Trump has called for the banning of Muslims from entering the United States. And all that pride melts away, replaced by shame.

I’m unsure what embarrasses me most–it could be the childishly ignorant hate-speech itself; it could be the TV reporters calling it ‘politics’ instead of plain villainy; or it could be the string of Republican presidential candidates who echo his sentiments—proving that stupidity is now a sellable brand within that party. When I think of how Muslim-Americans must feel when they hear this—as if America and all it stands for can be chucked out whenever these overfed oafs get a little nervous—I want to rush door-to-door, upstairs and down, all through the town, yelling, “Don’t worry—America is not represented by these idiots—they just get too much air time!”

I’m sick and tired of these people giving a pass to all the Christian nut-jobs without pausing for breath—and then conflating 1.6 billion Muslims with a pack of nut-jobs that live in another country. Excluding 22% percent of the world’s population might be problematical, especially since ‘being Muslim’ doesn’t show—did Trump forget the part where they all have to wear little cloth crescent-moons on their lapels? What about Muslim-Americans who’ve left the country on business or on vacation—can they come back in? Can their relatives ever see them again—or will Muslim-Americans have to leave our shores to be allowed to see their native families from now on? I feel that the 74th anniversary of Pearl Harbor is a bad day for a presidential candidate to do his Hitler impression for the cameras. Donald, you’re not funny anymore.

 

I’m loathe to include my latest piano music with this post about an evil clown with delusions of awareness, but here they are (I’m damned if I’m going to do two posts just because Trump’s a galactic-class asshole):

Now The News   (2015Nov21)

Saturday, November 21, 2015                                          10:28 AM

Here we are—all together for the holidays. America, Syria, France, Iraq, Iran, Russia, Israel, Jordan, Mali, Greece, Ukraine, UK, Italy, Turkey, Afghanistan, Mexico, China, Myanmar—well, ‘countries recently in the news’ is a list too long for me to type here. And in some senses, it doesn’t matter—the places unmentioned in the news are experiencing their own difficulties—there’s just no sensational story there—or it’s too hot to report from—but you can find troubles everywhere. Trouble for the holidays—just what everybody put on their Christmas lists!

I’m tempted to stop watching the news on TV—it’s not that I don’t care—I care a lot—it’s just that I don’t approve of the way they’re telling the story. The media leaves out too much of importance and focuses too much (and for too long) on the unimportant. It’s a stupid way to tell a story—and when the story is of civilization’s progress through time, I judge it worthy of some care in the telling.

I see journalists—and whole news networks—filtering their output through self-interest and sensationalism. When the whole point of journalism is to give us ‘just the facts’, these reporters insult our intelligence and abuse our trust by reporting on a bias. News stories often focus on how the people ‘felt’—“What did it feel like to be there?”—“What are your feelings now that’s it’s over?”—that sort of thing—it’s called ‘human interest’. Human interest stories used to be what the newspapers used for filler on a slow news day, when they had no actual facts to report. But now, we’re lucky if any facts get through at all.

Do I care about how people feel? Yes, I do. In a democracy, the ‘feelings’ of the majority determine who is elected and what laws are passed (theoretically). Plus, we all want to know where we stand in relation to the views of the majority. Everyone’s feelings about everything, however, should oughta be based on what we know—and we rely on the news to inform us, not to consolidate our ‘feelings’ about our ignorance.

We have specialty news outlets that lean left or right—catering to our existing emotional biases—or confine themselves to business (the rich people channel, I call it) or confine themselves to sports (adults getting paid to play games). Here are the specialties by which I think the news should be diversified. There should be a Statistics news channel that shows graphs of data, changes over time, projections of future trends, and comparisons of one set of indices against another. There should be a Global news channel that gives the status of every country in the world, whether it’s currently a hot news spot or not—who’s in charge of each country, how their economy is doing, what their human rights status is, and what their least-represented citizens are having to endure. It should also give us a sense of which countries are cooperating with each other, which countries are opposed to each other, and whether that conflict is one of arms, jihad, genocide, economic pressure, or environmental threat.

And there should be a Political news channel—but not for a bunch of speeches and photo-ops—it should report on new legislation being passed on the federal level, the state level, and locally. The overall effect of the legislation should be examined, of good or bad potential—and it should report on which lobby pushed for the legislation and what the motives behind it are—and there should be some notice taken of the effects of any new legislation on the people who had no desire for it, but had it imposed on them. They could even have a ‘fun’ segment that listed all the lies told that day by politicians of either party—and maybe even a ‘heroes’ segment once a week that touts a politician who speaks an unpopular truth (though that may have to be just once a month, or even once a year).

I wouldn’t mind a Disenfranchised news channel, reporting on how things look from the bottom of the heap—the ad revenue for such a channel would be abysmal, but the viewership would be enormous. Science-based news would be good too—but not to report on new gadgets and spacecraft launches—it should report on the connections between scientist and funding, corporations and universities connecting, government and research being influenced by lobbyists—and all that sort of thing. You could throw in some stuff about education too—new educational methods and their implementation, or the barriers against education raised by fundamentalists, prudes, and special interests.

I could go on about all the important content that is presently ignored by the ‘news’, but you get my drift. People have been talking about the monopolization of media by the wealthy; about the surrender of journalism to capitalism, for decades—but now it’s really coming home to roost. Democracy can’t function without free speech and an informed constituency—and while free speech abides, we are no longer being properly informed. The popularity of presidential candidates with no experience in governing and no knowledge of American history gives some small indication of that.

Paul Ryan – What A Jackass   (2015Nov17)

Tuesday, November 17, 2015                       10:50 AM

I’m so mad I could spit. Obama spoke at the G20 yesterday, making several sensible points about dealing with Daesh. Among those points was his conviction that humanitarian concern for the refugees was not only a responsibility of the world’s governments, including the USA—but that caring for these helpless victims, without questions about their faiths, is what separates us from Daesh.

In response, a crowd of jackass GOP governors have announced that they will not accept refugees from Syria in their states. That they have no authority to do that is something they choose to ignore—apparently, the political effect of announcing their cowardice and prejudice is enough to satisfy their ostrich-like followers.

Then this morning Paul Ryan was on CNN talking about being ‘prudent’—about how, in the case of Syrian refugees, it is “better to be safe than sorry”. What a cowardly, un-American, xenophobic jackass. He spoke about halting the flow of refugees until we can verify that they are safe to accept into our homeland—ignoring the fact that America’s vetting of refugees is lightyears more involved than any other country’s—that it could not possibly be any more thorough. He just wants to halt the flow—and the rest is all BS excuses.

Is he really afraid of a bunch of dazed, victimized, mostly women and children refugees—or is he simply another GOP knee-jerk, anti-whatever-Obama-wants idiot? Either way, he’s no American. Not the kind of American who leaps, unarmed, to defend a train-full of people from a gun-toting terrorist. Not the kind of American that says, “Give me…the wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me…”. Paul Ryan is an elitist, anti-American coward.

And if he and his band of mouse-panicked elephants weren’t bad enough, we have CNN and all the other news outlets making hay out of terror, digging their heels in on the terror aspect of all this and blocking out all the defiance that real men and women feel, far more than any intimidation these thugs wish to engender. I’d rather deal with a suicide bomber than these mealy-mouthed, chicken-hearted, entitled scaredy-cats—they make me sick. And Paul Ryan—you should be ashamed of yourself, you dick.

Ben Carson is No Democrat   (2015Nov12)

Thursday, November 12, 2015                                         4:10 PM

Missouri State University has had some controversy lately, with widely publicized student protests resulting in the resignation of the University’s president. Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson gave his thoughts to Megyn Kelly in a FoxNews interview on Nov. 11, 2015:

“We need to recognize that this is a very dangerous trend. When we get to a point where a majority can say, ‘I don’t like what you’re doing—that’s offensive and therefore I have a right to be violent towards you or to deprive you of rights because I don’t like what you’re doing’, you know, that really goes against the grain of our constitutional rights—and if we don’t see that, we’re in really big trouble right now.”

I’d like to spend a moment unpacking this strange pronouncement because it hurt my ears just to hear someone say it—and I think it deserves to be taken out of the assembly-line of stupid quotes that pass us by each day—and really looked at for the thinking it represents.

Firstly, I want to back-track a bit—when I refer to Carson’s ‘thoughts’ or his ‘thinking’—I’m not entirely sure those are the correct terms—I suspect that Dr. Ben is somewhat delusional. But, beyond that, let’s begin with “We need to recognize that this is a very dangerous trend. When we get to a point where a majority can say, ‘I don’t like what you’re doing’“ –well, that’s called Democracy—and, as our constitutional rights are predicated on an elected body of leaders and representatives, I’d say democracy is kinda constitutional.

When a political party represents the minority, especially as in the case of the GOP, which represents the power elite, they are often put to great pains in finding ways to tell the masses how we should behave—without denying our democratic principles—which they know will upset our feelings. We rarely hear them tell us so baldly how they really feel about majority rule—even when they advocate the new reversals on voting-rights down south.

Carson attempting to dull the pain of his paean against democracy by saying that their decision amounts to “a right to be violent towards you or to deprive you of rights” is a bit of hyperbole, it seems, since asking a college president to resign after he’s offended the entire community is hardly ‘violence’ against him. The whole statement is a masterful example of Republican mirroring-strategy, where the oppressor is called the victim, and the victims are a majority being led astray by shadowy ‘agents of subversion’ that exist only in the conspiracy-nut minds of right-wingers.

Carson concludes with “you know, that really goes against the grain of our constitutional rights—and if we don’t see that, we’re in really big trouble right now.” Now, the decision of the majority sometimes gives us the right to be violent towards someone—as in the case of our many states that still practice executions. Outside of our penal system, it is wrong to be violent—but it is ‘against the law’, not ‘unconstitutional’—as Ben would have it. And that final sentence is pure GOP—i.e., ‘but if you don’t see it my way, you should be very afraid.’

Brain surgeon or not, whenever this man opens his mouth it makes my head hurt—he’s such a dolt. I won’t go into the crowds of mouth-breathers who reverently look up to him as their choice to lead this country—thankfully, I don’t think we’ve gotten ‘to a point where a majority can say’ that—and as long as we remain a democracy, that should keep them from realizing their nightmarish dream.

I played my electric piano for a little while today:

I took some pictures of Fall outside my window today:

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SAM_1937

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And I wrote a bit of poetry the other day:

Tuesday, November 10, 2015        1:43 PM

The Don Quixote Fan Club Theme Song

(Unfinished)

Lovers and heroes and shiny things

Whatever the treasure adventure brings

Lions with faces and ladies with wings

All tales are told when the fall wind sings

You take a sword—I’ve got my bow and arrow

Though the passes be high and the straits be narrow

We’ll battle and tussle and fight our way through—

Whatever adventures adventurers do.

You hop on a charger—I’ll find me a steed

Along the rough road we’ll find else we may need

For nothing can stop us—we ride and we charge

Though troubles be many and monsters be large.

So here’s to our quest

May we all be the best of fellows

Put us to the test

We’ll puff out our chests and bellow

Four Political Thoughts (2015Nov06)

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Thursday, November 05, 2015                                         3:41 PM

Can You Feel The Warming Now?   (2015Nov05)

Oil and Coal interests have been denying climate change for so long that they are now being investigated by the New York attorney general Eric T. Schneiderman. Since the world outside our borders has accepted climate change as real, there are a mounting number of international agreements on limiting carbon emissions. As the writing on the wall becomes more legible, a new legal strategy presents itself—by obfuscating the unstoppable tide of repression that fossil fuels face in the near future, Schneiderman posits, energy companies have been misleading their investors as to the value of energy stocks—in other words, financial fraud.20151106XD-Rijk_Lectern-Felix_Meritis_Society

Big Energy has been questioning scientists’ concerns over greenhouse gasses since the 1970s—and has been successful, domestically, in carrying the day, partly due to confusion raised by conflicting research—which they paid for. This was a successful strategy insofar as it focused on doubting the details and expanding the questions—difficulties with ‘absolute proof’ are inherent in scientific research, especially in a field as new as climate science. That is the whole point of ‘doubt factory’ lawyering.

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But we have reached a point where doubting climate science only works now in a court of law—finer points aside, only an idiot would question climate change as visible, and worsening. Plus, even if climate change is unprovable, in a legal sense, there is no question that people and businesses are now behaving as if it is true—and this changes the future potential value of energy stocks. In short, economic pressures pushed the energy companies to fight the inevitable—and now economic pressures are going to oppose their interests.

There is sometimes a subtle poetry to politics—if efforts like this new lawsuit can enhance America’s too-slow response to this issue, we may yet have a hope of retaining the polar ice-caps and avoiding sending most of the globe’s coastal real estate where Atlantis went. Of course, there’s still overfishing and rising acidity in the oceans, habitat-loss and species-loss on land, and plenty of other disasters-in-waiting to worry about—but clean-energy conversion would still be something we could all be proud of.

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Some Kind Of Crazy

What is the difference between Trump crazy and Ben Carson crazy? Trump’s brand of crazy comes from ego and avarice—a businessman who feels that defeating the competition is as valuable as succeeding, a boardroom warrior who would rather burn down the building than lose his standing, a financier who would gladly bankrupt his company to protect his personal fortune, regardless of the losses suffered by others. He respects strength and strategy—which is understandably attractive to Republicans, yet Trump doesn’t discard practical knowledge, math, or science because they are too useful—and far more common in business than they ever are in politics.

Ben Carson’s crazy is a whole other animal—Rachel Maddow recently described it as a war on epistemology, or the ‘theory of knowledge’. According to recent quotes, it appears that Carson’s ‘American History’ (as well as his personal history) are simply stories he makes up as he goes along. His fundamentalism makes for some outlandishly screwy quotes that would place most people firmly in the ‘crank’ category—but he is a GOP presidential candidate, so at least during the primary he gets a pass on that particular line of nutcake.

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Ben Carson is an iconoclast, i.e. ‘a person who attacks cherished beliefs or institutions’—but where traditional usage refers to those who attack religion and the establishment, Carson is an iconoclast who attacks the cherished ideas of humanism and science. More than that, he attacks many ideals that most of us consider core principles of the American spirit. His statements about barring Muslims from elected office are a direct contradiction of our Constitution. Moreover, I find any kind of fundamentalism or evangelical zealotry to be vaguely un-American—to accept pluralism requires us to be hard-headed about which of our faiths’ finer points should be debated as public policy.

On the surface, it would appear that anyone can believe anything—our thoughts don’t show, our religion doesn’t imprint on our foreheads. Our freedom of religion recognizes that fact—but it also implies that we have to be circumspect in any real-world manifestations of our chosen faith, particularly in public—especially in politics. There is a world of difference between believing that the Earth is only 6,000 years old—and deciding policy based on that belief. If your faith tells you that women have less status than men, you still have to recognize that, in the real world, the rest of us—and the law—don’t agree.

Today’s far-right has embraced the evangelical, ignoring the fact that theocracy by any other name is still anti-American. There are many faiths in this country—and there always will be. To pick just one, and incorporate it into a political platform, should by all rights be political suicide—that this is not true for the GOP is just one of its many dysfunctions. And it is also what makes a delusional nut-job like Ben Carson a viable candidate for their party.

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Why We (Choose To) Fight

I was shocked the other night watching “The Brain with David Eagleman” on PBS—it was the episode about how we make choices. Towards the end, he shows an experiment that measures a person’s ‘disgust’ threshold—that is, how easily they are grossed out. Then he follows that up with another experiment that measures a person’s political bent—conservative or liberal. What was shocking about this was his statement that the tests showed a virtually unanimous correlation between a low ‘disgust’ threshold and a preference for conservatism. Neuroscientist David Eagleman said that he could look at the results of just the first test—and tell a person’s political leanings without giving them the second test.

If you think about it, it makes a lot of sense. What are the things conservatives often deride about liberals?—Gooey things, like long hair, quiche, yogurt, or tofu—just the kinds of things that, at first glance, are somewhat repulsive. There is a ‘disgust’ barrier around these things—and only certain kinds of people will push back long enough to give these things a try. Not all liberals enjoy yogurt, you understand—but liberals are more likely to give it a try.

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Being hawkish is a conservative trait—perhaps the male ego feels disgust for the idea of not fighting—even when fighting may be a bad idea. Poor people can be kind of gross—and women’s health certainly makes men squeamish—health issues in general can get pretty slimy, repulsing both men and women. Wouldn’t it be funny if conservatism turned out to be regressive—a sign of emotional childishness? Like kids who won’t even try their broccoli. Xenophobia is a form of disgust—perhaps that is what makes liberals more inclusive—they more easily look past the surface strangeness to the human being underneath.

I say we stop considering conservatism as merely another point of view—I say we start calling liberalism what it really is—intellectual maturity. Then again, I don’t need a scientist to convince me that conservatives are often childish—and being childish, nothing anyone says will convince them to change their minds. Only voting them out of office will do that.

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Suggestion Box

I have a couple of suggestions. First, we should consider the millions of Syrian refugees as a potential resource. European countries are already seeing the potential benefit of an influx of younger, more energetic citizens. But what about giving Syrians a chance to do something about their own country?

What say the UN offers all young adult Syrian refugees the opportunity for military training—we gear up a few divisions of native sons and daughters, give them the arms and equipment and support they’d need to retake their country, and point them at Assad and ISIL? That way, outsiders like the US don’t have to send troops into a foreign country. Young displaced Syrians have an opportunity to do something other than depend on the charity of the world—and they wouldn’t go anywhere after the fighting is over—they’ll set up a responsive government—maybe they’ll even send for their relatives, old and young, to rejoin them in their native land— a Syria finally free of endless fighting. It’s just a thought.

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My second suggestion is for Hillary Clinton’s campaign—hey, why don’t you guys rise above the media’s narrative and focus your platform entirely on infrastructure? You could come up with specific projects for most of the fifty states—smart highways, clean energy, bullet trains, wilderness bridges, dam tunnel, bridge and highway refurbishing, underground fiber-optic networks,–hell, I could go on and on—and I’m just one person. I’m sure a room full of people could produce quite a list.

And every one of those projects would make jobs, stimulate our economy, and put America’s infrastructure back to its former place as leader of the world. One of the most telling aspects of a developed country is its ease of transportation and communication—and these are the greatest lacks of underdeveloped countries. Lack of roads and barriers to communication contribute to poverty, hunger, and despotism in all the most bedeviled parts of the world—and those with a plethora of such resources are too busy doing business to have uprisings, insurgents, or to invite the chaos we find in the world’s worst trouble-spots.