She’s Still The One   (2015Oct23)

Friday, October 23, 2015                                         8:14 AM

Yesterday’s Benghazi hearing was a spectacle. Republican congresspersons were indefatigably terse, insensitive, and thick-headed for eleven hours. Their pretense of nonpartisanship would have been better served had even one of them said even one civil word to the former Secretary of State throughout their marathon grilling. And even Hillary Clinton might have wilted under such a barrage of enmity, had she not had the regular interruptions of the Democratic members, who spent their time castigating the hearing itself, rather than its witness—to whom they pretty much offered apologies that she was required to be subject to that circus.

After the preceding seven hearings, it’s hard to see how the Republicans committee members had hoped to appear anything other than incompetent during this eighth, Clinton-only farce. All the GOP members at the dais were former prosecutors—and after witnessing their bullying, all-talk, no-listen tirades, I was ready to despair not just of the Congress, but of our justice system as well. To ‘win a case’, in our dreary reality, often replaces the seeking out of truth among hot-shot lawyers—and these specific lawyers have transferred that worst-of-all-failings of our legal system to our legislative system. Their desire for a partisan victory, rather than clarity, showed through every syllable of their attempted mugging.

With all the talk of ‘transparency’ yesterday, it was the Republicans who were revealed as transparent in their partisanship. I would have been tremendously embarrassed to have been among their number—but then, I’m not trapped in an extremist right-wing bubble of anger and resentment. They showed the sorry enthusiasm of cheerleaders for a team being soundly trounced—lots of noise to little purpose.

Darling Hillary—now, that’s a different story. Eleven hours of unruffled poise and competency—I was blown away by her strength, her endurance, and her intelligence. If her poll numbers don’t reflect a surge of approval for her candidacy, then I give up on this country for good—if hi-jinx and raillery can drown out such astute capability, then democracy has finally failed us. The late Margaret Thatcher has a new rival for the title “Iron Lady”.

I learned two things yesterday—the Benghazi attack was a horrible tragedy, and Hillary Clinton was not the cause of it. If that is what the Republicans wished America to learn yesterday, then—job well done, folks.

I Don’t Flyin’ Give A   (2015Oct17)

Saturday, October 17, 2015                                              1:14 PM

I don’t know—I mean, I know a little, but not enough. I have no confidence—I mean, I have a little, but not enough. I don’t have the strength—well, maybe I could manage one effort, but not over and over. Most importantly, I lack enthusiasm—I can forget the past and enthuse for a moment, but inevitably I remember the past—entropy, illness, betrayal, and indifference—and I feel the enthusiasm melt away, a mist in sunlight.

Was it a wrong turn I took—and if it was, was there any life I could have lived that didn’t come to cynicism, eventually? (Maybe it’s Maybelline—right?) If I could have lived a life that avoided the lessons I’ve learned, would that ignorance have been better? No—I struggled equally hard with a lack of information. People are animals—once I learned not to judge that statement, once I learned just to accept it, I had to stop believing in the ‘but’. “People are animals, but…” But there is no ‘but’. Take away convention and pretense and all that’s left are animals, social animals—but animals just the same.

One divergence we like to point to is the ‘path of least resistance’—a dog will bark and dig from behind a fence, trapped because it cannot move forward; a person will look around and walk away from the fence to take a route around the obstacle. We cite this as a sign of human intelligence. Yet our powerful skills in finding obtuse escape routes seem to fail when we try to deal with society—we bark behind self-imposed fences at things we could easily work around, had we the imagination to walk away from conventions and acceptance.

Such open-mindedness might bring people further away from their animality—but whenever an open-minded person suggests getting away from conventions and acceptance, a close-minded person will jump on the idea and say, “Yes! Let’s start by ejecting morality and inclusion.” The desire to act out among others without consequences is really more animal, not less. A good liberal wants to avoid the strictures of conventions and acceptance, but retain the cooperation and inclusion that are society’s best features—it’s never easy and it’s never simple.

So we see that being a ‘rebel’ is an ambiguous role—breaking the rules encompasses both forward progress and devolution. To be conservative is to consider the whole thing as being too dangerous, too unpredictable—better to just keep things as they are, warts and all. A liberal considers change a necessary risk that it is better to engage with purpose than to strive to avoid. I’ve always considered conservatism as cowardice—but to believe that, I’m implicitly agreeing with conservatives that change is dangerous. It’s really quite a pickle.

Tea Party Success   (2015Oct09)

Friday, October 09, 2015                                         4:30 PM

I sense a repeated pattern of history—once, when the rich and powerful felt that slavery was too necessary to their continued peace they began to rationalize indecency as convention, even tradition—and it caused a national schism. Now, we have rich and powerful people who feel that climate-warming and arms dealing are too necessary to their continued peace—and they have been busy rationalizing indecency as convention, even tradition—even as ‘constitutionally protected’. Now they have caused a schism in our nation—but we’re too modern for a second civil war—no, we’re just going to shut down the government, ruin its credit rating, and let the whole beautiful dream turn to poo.

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The turmoil in Congress is indicative of this—no one on the Right can agree because the Right has entered the world of rationalization—all of their reasons must support Big Energy, and the NRA—logic be damned. It’s not that they’re wrong for abandoning logic—that can be an effective tactic—it’s just that when you get a whole roomful of people doing it, they’ll all come up with their own rationalizations. And they have. The term ‘Congress’ implies a coming together—and it has operated in that spirit, more or less, for centuries—but not anymore.

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Many people in this country have let themselves be convinced that government is bad—they should grow the hell up. We’re going to have government whether we like it or not—the only things that’s bad is bad government—and that’s what the Tea Party propaganda has led us to. They can’t get rid of government, but they can sure fuck it up so it doesn’t work anymore—good job, boys and girls—and you too, you loyal voters.

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The crisis isn’t who the next speaker will be—that’s so unimportant it’s not funny. The crisis is: How do we get rid of these yahoos that clog our political system like human cholesterol? It’s like the red states are voting to give this country a heart attack—well, congrats, Baggers—the whole place is falling apart. We’re weaker; we’re less secure; our infrastructure is rotting; our economy is stagnating; there aren’t enough jobs—but hey—we can all still carry pistols around. Yippie-kiyay, motherfuckers!20150526XD-Radio_03_1920s

Please note: For illustrations, I was going to download images of some House Republicans and photoshop memes that had the caption “Do You Trust This Man?” but I’m too damn lazy—you’ll have to imagine them for yourselves. Sorry.

GOPeers

Mistakes   (2015Oct03)

Alchemical symbols for Antimony

Alchemical symbols for Antimony

Saturday, October 03, 2015                                              3:18 PM

I’ve made plenty of mistakes in my life. When you reach the end of your rope, when you fail (and trust me none of us gets out alive) just remember that time moves inexorably forward, that memory is selective, and that no one is perfect. Forgive yourself and move on.

Alchemical symbols for Arsenic

Alchemical symbols for Arsenic

However, if you find you have to forgive yourself rather frequently, that’s a bad sign—you should look into that. See—the trouble is I have one set of advice for people like me, compulsively goody-two-shoes whose lives are an unending search for the ineffable—and quite another set of advice for those who feel that getting by, having a good time, is sufficient. In one sense, some of my pearls of wisdom are always a recipe for disaster—since I can only talk to one set of people at a time.

Alchemical symbols for Copper

Alchemical symbols for Copper

Because of this, and because I just naturally write as if I’m talking to people like myself, it would behoove me not to give advice—and everyone knows what free advice is worth, anyhow. But when I think of young people, when I think of all the advice I might have had a good use for when I was young and inexperienced and uneducated, it’s hard not to try to pass on some of the more valuable tricks and devices I’ve uncovered in the passing of years.

Alchemical symbols for Gold

Alchemical symbols for Gold

If the wrong person reads my blog, he or she could end up doing horrible things—and saying, “It’s okay—I’m literally doing what Xper Dunn said to do—and he’s a real smart guy.” So, I’m reluctant to be very definite about anything on a public space like this. That’s part of the reason I get annoyed at the media—those professional voices have such conviction—the same conviction whether they’re announcing another school shooting or trying to sell you a questionable Volkswagen. They use the same smooth sure vocal drippings when reporting on our best leaders and minds—and when they’re re-stating the clap-trap from the indescribably misguided voices on the ‘other side’. They often put even more emphasis on the clap-trap—because that nonsense tends to have a theatrical ring to it—listen to any Trump speech (or any of Hitler’s, for that matter) and you’ll see what I mean.

Alchemical symbols for Iron

Alchemical symbols for Iron

I would be definite if words could be trusted to mean one simple thing instead of lending themselves so well to differing interpretations. There is so much I would say if words would suffice—but they are worse than worthless, pretending to have meaning when they actually have far too many meanings. This typing is just a game I play to distract myself from the pain of being idle. I try to be positive but it’s hard not to let that lead me into thinking I can actually say what I need to say. Then I watch CSPAN and see those expert word-wranglers mangle common sense with a load of bushwah—and I realize that they (or anyone, really) can take any sequence of words and twist them beyond recognition. It’s completely futile.

Alchemical symbols for Lead

Alchemical symbols for Lead

The only thing that ever made words work properly, or at least a little, was when two like-minded people tried in earnest to understand each other. That is why education is such a dicey business—it requires an earnest, capable teacher in every classroom and it requires every single student to be earnestly engaged in the act of learning. Good luck with that—poor teachers. Just like society, where all the laws and police you can imagine wouldn’t have a chance of enforcing order and peace without the earnest good will of the citizens—the police and the courts are problematic enough dealing with the results of human nature in an unfair social system—imagine if the vast majority of us weren’t trying to get along and go along. That would get ugly.

Alchemical symbols for Magnesium

Alchemical symbols for Magnesium

You hear people belittle ‘good intentions’—nothing would work without them—not society, not schools, not even speech. So value your good intentions—even if they don’t work out they have a value of their own. It’s possible to try too hard—I’m not saying good intentions always bring good results—but good intentions are only the beginning—putting them down is just short-sighted. I think everyone already knows that. Still, ‘being earnest’ is still targeted for ridicule by most people—but I never much cared for the people who’ve adjudged me ‘too serious’. I’d laugh at them for not being serious enough but there’s nothing funny about that—it’s just sad.

Alchemical symbols for Mercury

Alchemical symbols for Mercury

I have a sense of humor—but I don’t care for pranks, or the Three Stooges (I like them better now—but when I was a kid I was mystified that anyone saw humor in a guy hitting his brother on the head with a hammer). I never laugh when I see someone fall down—that doesn’t seem funny to me. This difference was one of the first clues I had that people could be very different from me. I used to skip blithely along assuming that everyone was like me. I’m still not used to the idea that some people are different—and that I’m supposed to be okay with that. If the whole world seems careless and stupid to me, I have to question whether they’re the problem—but I take things too seriously, so I’m sticking with everyone else being careless and stupid. Present company excepted, of course.

Alchemical symbols for Sulfur

Alchemical symbols for Sulfur

Things That Are Wrong (2015Oct02)

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Friday, October 02, 2015                                         6:42 PM

Guns are bombs, okay? They’re sophisticated bombs with a piece of custom-shaped shrapnel that comes out the end. They’re explosives—adding the bells and whistles doesn’t change that. Now think about the difference between our attitudes towards guns and our attitudes towards bombs. Think about the pre-boarding inspections that confiscate water bottles and cuticle scissors. Think about that schoolkid who got busted for bringing a clock to school. Now think about those yahoos that parade about in public spaces with semi-automatic rifles across their shoulders.

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We have got to stop romanticizing guns—we have to amend the constitution to rescind the ‘right of the people to keep and bear arms’. We have to end the NRA’s choke-hold on Washington—and on state and local lawmakers. Or we should just add ‘bombs’ to the Second Amendment—what’s the difference? Most homeowners own guns—and of those who use them, most of them accidentally shoot a family member—now that’s a proud tradition.

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Money has hacked our democracy—and the proof is in the proliferation of commerce and industry, without a commensurate explosion in regulatory agencies. We are constantly told of all the wonderful new advances, new products, new materials, new investment derivatives, new genetically-modified products—where’s the damned regulatory structure to keep all these new enterprises from going rogue? They’re being suppressed by the rich bastards who are making money off all these new things—using society as a vast, cost-free experiment lab. We live on a knife-edge of new technology running in all directions at once—where is the government oversight on all the wonderful new risks and excesses?

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We are unwilling guinea pigs for every new internet site, drug, GMO food or feed, flavor enhancer, investment scheme, and safety feature (or lack thereof) on every vehicle, appliance, or toy. We are told that the unions our grandparents went to jail for, got beat up for, or died for, are the evil influence—not the owners and executives with all the power—and because of our failing educational system, many of us are stupid enough to believe that. But don’t get me started on what the American voters have become stupid enough to believe—common sense has long fled the field of battle against these pidgeon-heads—a mindless victory that is looking fair to elect a clown for president. If you need further proof that our democracy has been hacked by capitalism—explain to me Trump’s poll numbers. I think he would be the first president who never read a history book.

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Vladimr Putin is a gangster—a short one, because he’s not a whole person—he’s mostly asshole. Now that Russia is run by mobsters, it makes sense that the one with the Napoleon-complex is the big cheese. But the worst part about Putin is that he’s right. America thought it was clever to arm a bunch of religious fanatics and let them do the fighting in Afghanistan—then America turned its back on Afghanistan after the Russians gave up and went home—just when that region needed committed efforts (and funds) to help to transform itself into a developing country. Now we’ve got Taliban, Al Qaeda, Boko Haram, and ISIL—in some ways it would have been better to let the Russians occupy the place.

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So that’s on us—9/11 was a direct response from a bunch of pissed-off fanatics that resented being used by America to fight their Cold War, and then got dumped once they had done what we wanted. And attacking the wrong country in response—well, that was just Dubya’s little cherry on top, destabilizing the entire Middle East for no good reason. Now this oafish Capone-ski, Putin, is annexing countries and bombing Syrian freedom-fighters for Assad—and he’s got the moral high-ground. This is what happens when Conservatives use whatever it is they use, instead of thinking, to lead our nation.

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Obama is understandably reluctant to throw fuel on the fire, having been elected partly on the premise that militarism in the Middle East is not America’s strong suit. And really, how is America supposed to end the conflicts between Shia and Sunni half-a-world away? All we could do is copy Putin—drop bombs on whatever targets present themselves and hope that random bloodshed adds to the discourse—and we’re already doing that. World War III, here we come—Oh, boy!

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Meanwhile, all the reasonable Syrians are on hiking trips, or boating in the Mediterranean—well, if I think about it, I’m sure there are millions of decent Syrians who are too poor or too trapped to leave. Maybe someday, if the fighting ever stops, there’ll be a couple of intelligent people left to rebuild the place.

And of course our National village idiot, Trump, promises to ship all the Syrian refugees back to Syria (that’s after he’s shipped millions of undocumented workers south of the border). He’s really into transportation, this guy. What a tool.

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The presumed-next Speaker, McCarthy, has admitted that the only purpose of the Benghazi hearings was to throw a wrench into Hillary Clinton’s political image and muddy her rep—that’s an unexpected bit of fresh air—not that he shouldn’t be ashamed of himself and his party for putting themselves above the service they purport to render. I watched a little C-SPAN and heard them cawing over Planned Parenthood—until Cecile Richards had to correct one of them on live TV. But even after the tapes were proved edited and it was pointed out that Planned Parenthood provides important women’s health care, with only a small percentage of their efforts involving abortion (which is legal, BTW) the GOP continues to pretend that Cecile Richards is leading a band of bloodthirsty cannibals who eat baby-brains for lunch. (They have it on video.) We hardly need rich people to screw up the world with idiots like this in government, especially now that they’ve gotten into the habit of doubling down on every stupid lie, no matter how many times it’s exposed as a lie.

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And, as I predicted, the moronic Jeb Bush is making the talk-show rounds and looking downright erudite after a whole summer of Trump—and the Democrats, according to polls, are falling for the Hillary E-Mail smear—proof that we Democrats are just as stupid as the GOP—just in our own way. When I look at Hillary Clinton I see someone who’s uncomfortable—she’s not a natural politician, like her husband—she’s less comfortable feeding us bullshit. But I think that’s a good thing. When I look at Hillary Clinton I see someone who’s spent her life in public service—someone who has only entered politics because that’s where the chance for real change is. Perhaps I go too far—but isn’t it about time we had a counter-balance to the GOP’s bullshit against her? Whatever her faults, she’s Socrates with a touch of Einstein—compared to her rivals.

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And whatever happened to our dream of electing the first woman president? Are we too smug now that we’ve had an African-American president—do we think that we’ve been ‘enlightened’ enough for now, let’s get back to the rich white guys that always do such a bang-up job? Yeah, that’s sounds about right. Sorry, Hil—you’re more than qualified, but the GOP says your email server destroyed the free world—and your lady Democrats got hit on the head, I guess, because they’re starting to believe those jerks.

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Things Of Mine   (2015Sep30)

Wednesday, September 30, 2015                                              12:49 PM

20150722XD-SherrylFlowers (4)

Mysterium of acts and emotions, my life has no finals or finishes, no borders or separation of any kind—we are all one, and the end of life is no end but a great adventure, sprinkled liberally with fairy dust. Imaginarium of deeds and words, my mind has no limits other than that it cannot see itself without the mirror of the universe—I resemble other lives, I copy other chemistries, yet I am unique only insofar as I am not anything else. Orrery of the pan-dimensional, my mathematics are the unreal ideal of the real—a symbolic blueprint of the breath I take and the light I see. Adventure-world of the fantastic, my imagination is a land of wishes fulfilled only to end in sleep, disasters averted by wishes alone, and love unconquerable.

20150722XD-SherrylFlowers (12)

Words are these. Ideas are powerful only in specificity. Action and reaction create an interlocking cosmos—the past forces the present into the future like white rapids, in patterns of chaos and maelstroms of meaning. Tragedy punctuates. Bliss evaporates. Dreams abide. Love is the mainspring and touch is the grail. Age is gaining wisdom, losing strength—youth is the beginning that cannot see the end. Regret is the dried husk of actions unthought of. Bliss is the bright victory of thoughts acted upon.

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Ancestors are the roots of time—children the buds—my present self is but a bridge from one to the other. If love isn’t the answer, then there is no question. Meanings will serve, but truth is lasting.

20150722XD-SherrylFlowers (35)

Atheist Applauds Pope   (2015Sep24)

Thursday, September 24, 2015                                        3:36 PM

I join in the celebration of light and compassion that the papal visit has become—as an atheist, I can applaud his words and actions without necessarily dropping the ‘lapsed’ from my childhood Catholicism. I enjoy the wild excitement of the people lining the streets to be blessed or touched or kissed by the current occupant of St. Peter’s Chair. It’s not like some other world figure or celebrity—the crowds just want to see him, to be near him—and he returns their affection. It’s a beautiful thing—says Capt. Obvious.

VaticanSeal02

I truly don’t know what to do with my feelings—just as this head of the Church of Rome is almost a Humanist in comparison to his predecessors, this is the first time in my memory that people are in the streets celebrating the truly important things—compassion, forgiveness, charity, acceptance—without looking for something, wanting something or someone. It is very paradoxical for a man who, as a boy, found all the authoritarianism and close-minded-ness that seemed to be the real evil in the world, in the Catholic church. I guess one thing you can say for a vast authoritarian institution—in the hands of a proper leader, the Holy Roman Catholic Church, like some many things, finds its true self and flourishes.

VaticanMusic05

All illustrations are from the Papal Archives

I suggest we make the carrying of toddlers from rope line to papal vehicle (approx. 50 yards) and back again an Olympic event—those guys make it look easy—and some of those toddlers were big enough to walk themselves—did you see it? Amazing. Like they were ‘baby-boys’ at the US Open or something.

VaticanMusic03

The only sour note in this whole celebration is the rogue Republican—you don’t hear the Democrats whining about the many ways in which Catholicism departs from their platform—they just celebrate the commonalities, like good hosts. But GOP pols have become so knee-jerk about climate change and protecting big business that they just have to attack any other opinions—let the whole world disagree (which we mostly do).

VaticanMusic02Top

Francis has no beef with them—he’s just being a Catholic—out loud. Better not let Ben Carson hear him—Catholics are at least as crazy as Muslims—just ask the Irish. Next thing you know we’ll have to put an asterisk beside JFK’s name. Will someone please read the Constitution to Ben Carson—article 6 – “…shall be bound by Oath or Affirmation, to support this Constitution; but no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States.”

VaticanMusic02Bot

So hail Pop Francis! Or as the Italians say—‘Poppa’. Someone needs to say to the fat cats, “You oughta be ashamed of yourselves.”—but who among us has the moral authority? Not me, bub. But he does—and he’s making some people deservedly uncomfortable. Let criticism of Pope Francis be our shibboleth—by their words shall ye know them.

And while we’re about ‘knowing them’, let me say that Volkswagen has recently been caught installing emissions devices that only operate when the sensor tells them they’re hooked-up to a testing device! The rest of the time, all their 8 million customers were driving around in illegal, over-polluting cars. Without their knowledge, they had been duped into being pawns in a fraudulent conspiracy. Why anyone would ever buy a Volkswagen again is beyond me—we forgave them for having been Nazis, but this is just too much.

For those of you who think I’m easily swayed—well, that’s true—but my point is that I celebrate the effect that Pope Francis’ visit is having on the country, particularly on Washington. That doesn’t mean that I support Catholicism—Pope Francis is wisely focused on the best his faith has to offer—it has other aspects whose details I take exception to. But leadership counts for almost as much as dogma—what Francis emphasizes will become the emphasis of his followers, regardless of the fine print. And that should be celebrated.

Here are some papal tiaras:

Napoleons-papal-tiara

papaltiara1

papaltiara2

PiusVIITiara_thumb

pope0000

TiaraPiusIX

triregno

Thinking In Time   (2015Sep16)

Wednesday, September 16, 2015                                              1:51 PM

It’s very rude to say things about people we care for—but it is impossible not to think things about people, no matter how much we love them. The analytical part of our minds has no filter—that comes after. This leads most men to believe that lying, frequently and profusely, is a vital part of a happy marriage. Still, I’ve found that any thoughts that may occur to me will be skewed by my emotional inertia—if I’m feeling critical, I’ll find criticisms; if I’m feeling good, I’ll notice goodness.

Emotional inertia is a very important thing—if I keep an eye out for it, I can sometimes stop myself before I really get ‘on a roll’. And that’s not to say I stifle my feelings—when we’re ‘on a roll’, conversationally or interactively, we start to look for the next rung on the ladder we’re building—it leads us on, but it can also lead us away from our intentions. Sometimes it leads us to a place we don’t want to get to—so I find being ‘on a roll’ to be vastly over-rated.

Further, I don’t really like to be definite about anything immediately—the more important a decision is, the better it is to give it time to work itself out in my head. ‘Sleeping on it’ is folk wisdom in this vein—to go to sleep and wake up the next day, on its surface, doesn’t appear to have any value—yet I can’t count the number of times that doing so has allowed insights to present themselves, insights that took their time coming to the forefront of my consciousness.

Conversely, “time and the tide wait for no man”—taking one’s time isn’t always an option. While I can be pretty clever at a slow pace, I’m terrible at snap decisions—I’m slow-smart but fast-stupid. It amazes me sometimes how stupid someone can be—and still beat me in an argument. Part of that is due to the old saw: “The fundamental cause of the trouble is that in the modern world the stupid are cocksure while the intelligent are full of doubt.” – Bertrand Russell, “The Triumph of Stupidity” (1933). But in truth, there is also the simple fact that my education doesn’t recall itself to my mind instantaneously—another person with less than a tenth of my knowledge can nonetheless easily out-talk me.

Thus I am forced to disagree with another famous quote of his: “To realise the unimportance of time is the gate of wisdom.” – Bertrand Russell, “Our Knowledge of the External World” (1914). No doubt, in context, his use of “Time” and of “unimportance” refer to aspects other than those I am addressing—especially as he is speaking philosophically, while I’m talking about a sort of ‘applied mechanics’. He speaks of understanding—I’m going on about missed opportunities and un-ducked punches.

One last Bertrand Russell quote: “Is there any knowledge in the world which is so certain that no reasonable man could doubt it?”

I saw Jimmy Fallon doing a comedic interview with Donald Trump—who didn’t seem to find any cognitive dissonance in being laughed at by the entire audience for his policies and positions—as if he knew he would get in the last laugh. His platform seems to be: “I’m ridiculous—trust me.” We do, Donald, we do—we trust you to be ridiculous. Trust you with the presidency?—not so much. Survey question: What scares you more—Trump, or the people who would vote for him?

The GOP isn’t the only institution being put through the wringer of self-regard by Mr. Trump—the Media, as well, is finding it difficult to air anything other than Trump coverage—he’s such a ratings-magnet that they completely abandon all pretense of keeping us informed. We will be entertained by the news—and nothing more—until their new clown-god drops out of the race. Should the Donald actually become our Chief Executive, we will never see another straight news story ever again.

He will be ‘proof of concept’ that we will watch the news no matter how skewed or devoid of substance it becomes—the last barrier to infotainment, the audience’s expectation of maturity and analysis, will have fallen.

But none of this is the media’s fault, or Donald’s fault, or even the GOP’s fault—this is about human nature. We are all being given the option of either thinking seriously about difficult issues, or being distracted by the funny clown. I confess, the funny clown calls out to me—he says, “Why worry? Why be all serious about things? Let’s just wing it!”—and who can resist him?

The only counter-weight is the Presidency itself—it stubbornly insists that running the most powerful nation on earth involves life-or-death decisions about complex issues. It refuses the premise that running our government is like running a business—it refuses to place profit above human rights, faith above freedom, or wealth and power above the people. It fairly screams that Donald Trump’s election, rather than investing him with dignity, will strip any vestige of dignity from the office itself.

And someone will have to explain to me how a majority of us would have the wisdom to elect an Obama, twice, and then become brain-damaged enough to replace him with a joke in a suit.

The answer is probably that we are all willing to take a suggestion for a fact—Hillary Clinton, it has been suggested, did something wrong with her e-mails. It’s not a fact. There are no specifics. There’s no evidence of any harm done by her admittedly unwise combining of personal and professional e-mails. Still, between the GOP spin doctors and the media’s lust for scandal, it has become a meme—Hillary is dishonest. Who can say? Perhaps she is. She’s a politician, after all—their profession is as notoriously vulnerable to unpopular, bare facts as it is to popular, but false, rumors.

I’d like to ask all the people who say they won’t vote for Hillary because they think she’s dishonest—do you trust Trump? Do you truly trust any of the other 16 candidates? Or is this just another example of the double standard for women, i.e. a dishonest man is just a politician, but a dishonest women is a criminal?

And just how dishonest do we think Hillary is? I think she’s defensive—the GOP began to attack her when she was only the First Lady, without any actual standing in government other than a symbolic one. But she has been cleared of any substantial wrongdoing in every one of their manufactured scandals, from Whitewater to Benghazi. I don’t understand how so many failed attacks by the GOP has left their reputations untouched, yet managed to taint her image through sheer persistence—how stupid are we, the voters?

We are like the high school class that witnesses a bully pick on the weak kid every day—and decides to join in the ridicule rather than doing the right thing and defending their classmate from the bully. We have the opportunity to elect a great American, and our first woman, as President—and we’re seriously considering, instead, a spoiled billionaire with no experience. Again I ask—how stupid are we?

Trump Is Too Smart For Me    (2015Sep02)

Tuesday, September 01, 2015                                          10:35 AM

Some people are smarter than others. Some people are really stupid. In a classroom, we get an obvious display of differences in intelligence—some kids get it right away, other kids struggle. If you stay in the classroom, you get smarter—not intrinsically smarter, just smarter because you have more information to work with—you’re better able to analyze, contrast, and compare. Thus the second graders think the first graders are stupid because they haven’t learned their times-tables yet.

The grade-level thing works itself out, in time, but varying levels of education and insight will continue to make some people smarter than others. Ordinarily it doesn’t matter—when me and my neighbors are mowing our lawns, we’re all smart enough for the task at hand. Someone’s lawn may turn out greener than the rest of us—but that’s not intelligence so much as interest—having an abiding interest in any subject will make one more knowledgeable. Not by magic, of course, but because one will pay attention to that subject and seek out new information related to it—it’ll catch your eye.

Back when I was a programmer, I was above average—not because I was smarter, but because I had affection for algebra, algorithm, and the trickiness of programming-language syntax—things that leave most people cold. Interest parallels intelligence in this way—we are all pretty expert in the things we love. Those who love reading, who love discussion, who love learning and research—these people will naturally stick out as smarter-than-average. But their smarts are as much a matter of their preferences as of their innate intelligence.

Some of us will be lucky—we will be inspired to read by our librarian, or be inspired to learn by that special teacher—and some of us will learn to love those things through loneliness, boredom, or privation. Either way, we will learn something not consciously taught in schools—we learn to enjoy our own company—this is where the ‘nerd’ factor comes in. Playing with the other kids can be a challenge—it becomes less so when one has the alternative of being by oneself. When solitude is the norm, however, important social skills are left unlearned.

Meanwhile, our childhoods will contain variations in parenting, income, educators, and environment—we can never know what would happen if all the kids in a community had mature, responsible parents, or went to a school with all great teachers. But even in a world of nerds, we can still assume that differing levels of smart would present themselves. I imagine that given optimal educational stimuli, we might experience the paradox of intuitive, non-scholastic intelligence becoming the most admired type of smarts. In an environment where everyone studies like mad, those who can juggle, or always have a ready quip, or have a knack for persuading people—might stand out as the ‘smart’ kids. (Indeed, this is true in reality—but mostly because scholastics are less exciting, not because they’re pervasively uniform.)

Learning facts, understanding relationships between facts, and scholastic pursuits in general are all categories of intelligence—but there are many others: empathy, charisma, intuition, salesmanship, social skills, communication, team-building, entrepreneurial activity, sensitivity—there are many important mental strivings beyond the simple ‘smartness’ of a straight-A student. That’s why top colleges care more about essays and ‘extracurricular’s than they do about SAT scores. That’s why ten different programmers can write a program for a certain job without any of them writing the same code—because there are as many ways to use intelligence as there are types of intelligence.

We use tests to ascertain certain intelligences—if you can pass a road test you are smart enough to be a licensed driver; if you pass the bar exam you are smart enough to practice law. But we have no tests for parenting, for managing, or for voting—intellectually demanding activities that can be attempted by people of any education or intellect—no matter how small. But then, there’s no test for being born, either. On the other hand, testing itself is a questionable method for determining skills—it’s just the best we can do with existing systems, and we have to use something to ascertain minimal competency in licensed activities like driving or practicing law.

But the most difficult aspect of intelligence is that having certain knowledge doesn’t protect the informed from disagreement by the uninformed. In my experience the most drastic example of this is when religiosity is used in place of information—I can know some facts for certain and still be unable to convince another person, because they perceive that information to run counter to their religious teachings. From my point of view it is legalized insanity—from their point of view it’s freedom of religion—but either way, it’s incorrect—and I know that, whether others remain unconvinced or not. And they say they pity me, but no more than I pity them. But they pity me for not sharing their delusion, while I pity them for being willfully blind to information that’s there for all to see, if they’d only let themselves see it.

Religiosity also bothers me because differing levels of intelligence will always be there to confuse an issue—and the religious delusions just add a whole ‘nother layer to that confusion. If you want to tell me there’s a heaven, a hell, a white-haired old guy, or a pearly gate—I’m all for it. None of that stuff bothers me. But if you want to make direct connections between what’s actually happening in life and those crazy fairy tales, there’s where I run into trouble. When religion is all good news and good vibes, it’s wonderful—but when it steps over the line into judgement, division, and hate, that’s a problem. And it’s never the religion itself that does that—it’s always some clown who’s taking an ego-trip or running a scam who decides we should all live within the confines of his personal dream of purity.

One type of intelligence is persuasion. People can be good at persuading other people, without having much of the more traditional forms of intelligence. We see this today in the Republican Party members—they persuade their followers of many things, but they’re not very concerned about the veracity of what they’re persuading their constituents to learn. They ‘educate’ to persuade, not to inform, and their believers mistake it for real education—they’re even taught to doubt the people who speak in earnest for the public good, like scientists. If the GOP can vilify scientists, who’s next—teachers?—literacy itself? This is why right-wingers always wear business suits—they think that if they resemble dignified people, it will dignify their propaganda. It probably helps them take themselves seriously, too—as long as they don’t look in a mirror.

Politics creates its own reality. When a politician faces an unpopular issue he or she will have two choices—please the crowd, or lose the election. We used to have a more authoritarian mind-set in this country—a politician had a shot at convincing us that their leadership was true, that we all had to bite the bullet for the common good—like when Johnson sent the National Guard to the Deep South. Now we’ve reached the point where an educated politician (who knows better) is forced to publicly cast doubt on evolution, or global warming, or the need for women’s health care. How those poor bastards get any sleep at night is a mystery to me.

And now they’re stuck with this guy, Trump, who has a PhD in persuasion—and almost no intellectual property outside of persuasion—and he has made their private sins into a public celebration, and they’re uncomfortable with that. They know that a lot of their hot-button issues are ‘naked emperors’ that won’t bear honest inspection—they know that the key to fighting progressives is to spread fear and confusion—not to bring these things out into the sunlight, as Trump is doing. He recognizes that many people are bigoted against Latinos—what he doesn’t recognize is that it’s a leader’s job to tell the haters that they are wrong. The rest of the GOP have at least that much understanding of public service—that one must use ‘dog-whistles’ to attract the haters without joining their ranks, where one is forced to defend the ethics of hatred—an impossible task.

Trump crystallizes the difference between ‘being correct’ and ‘winning the argument’—he can win almost any argument, but I have yet to hear him say anything that is true. I heard one talking-head on TV yesterday say, ”Well, it’s August…” I guess that means we’re all supposed to revel in stupidity while the sun is shining, and we’ll all get back down to earth when the leaves start to fall. Personally, I think we’re all being stupid enough, all the time, without taking a summer brain-break.