Fresh Start   (2017Jul15)

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Saturday, July 15, 2017                                            4:41 PM

Fresh Start   (2017Jul15)

It’s time we stepped back from this obsessive focus on ignorance, obstinacy, and dysfunction—yes, it’s a deadly danger, but if we can’t impeach it, at least let’s stop voting for it, next time. Let’s give our figurehead the pin-drop silence he deserves. My time (and yours) is too valuable to waste on hearing about how the president is incapable of shaking hands like a normal person. (Ironic, though, isn’t it, for a politician?) Our time is much better spent seeing to our own works, our own futures—what are we going to do?

It’s sad to lose a touchstone like the American Presidency—to see it tarnished and trampled under the feet of galoots—but we have business to take care of. Perhaps we could start a different kind of political party—one whose charter is to create a platform full of specifics, and whose candidates would run on the understanding that these specifics be implemented.

The Conservatives don’t really need a platform—they just need a perceived propensity towards the reactionary and the authoritarian—that’s their advantage—that they are more a personality profile than a political platform. And we see this now—with the triumph of the Tea Party revealed as a bunch of puppets who’ve given zero thought to the legislative mechanics of their last decade’s rhetoric—a party so focused on defeating the Democrats that, having done that, they see little reason to do anything other than play golf and tweet.

But we need a platform—nay, a presentation even—a ‘shovel-ready’ prescription by a panel of thoughtful people (who accept modern science). Gone are the days when we could just elect someone idealistic, like Obama, and let him do all the heavy lifting. Democrats need to do the thinking, before the nominating—we need to start thinking, not in terms of a who, but in terms of what, exactly, we want to see happen—and then find someone who’ll agree to enact it, as our candidate.

We need to take the narrative out of the hands of a mass media held hostage by uber-capitalists—and put it back in the hands of career statesmen and legislators who can look ahead and steer our country towards the future. But even more importantly, we need transparency up the wahoo. We need town halls that are about policy, not about personality—not complaining to the acting official, but planning what we want from our next one. Media can’t help but shift the focus to the personal—and that has to stop being our Pavlov’s bell.

With so many idealistic young people wanting to enter the political arena, it is imperative that we reach a consensus on what it means to be progressive and pragmatic in a fast-changing global environment. Planning, in the form of unconscious conspiracies, has been more evident in the GOP than in the Democrats of late—the Democrats seem hung up on beating Donald’s Q-rating, rather than presenting a blinding vision of tomorrow to the voters. Positive action must replace rancor and blame in our public discourse—otherwise, the terrorists win?

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Transparent As A Window   (2017Apr05)

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Wednesday, April 05, 2017                                              6:12 PM

When Trump spent years lying about President Obama’s birth, it was excusable—a private citizen can say whatever they want about the president—even a filthy lie. When Trump spent a year lying about Hillary Clinton in every possible way, it was excusable—he was in a hard-fought election and things get said on both sides. Even when he lied about the dozen or more women who came forward to accuse him of groping, etc.—even that was still within the heat of the campaign.

When he fired Susan Rice because she was honest about the unconstitutional nature of his travel ban, he was as much as saying, “The law is whatever I say it is.” The courts disagreed, thank goodness—but the mindset remains.

Trump is under investigation—has been since before he was elected, it turns out. He and his people are colluding with Russia—and the bad press has spurred him to try to make the investigation focus on how the information was collected—instead of what it found. It still found something—and the sooner the quicker, as far as either removing his administration or absolving them of collusion. Either way, whining about procedures can only divert and delay for so long.

But trying to smear Susan Rice—trying to throw her under his own bus—is cold, even for a POS like our President. There is no excuse for this kind of blind thrashing around, tweeting untruth upon untruth—even if Obama, or Rice, had done wrong (something only a pig like Trump could imagine) it wouldn’t change the fact of the Trump-Russian collusion.

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I’d appreciate the media highlighting an important aspect of these tweets. The reason everyone finds them so shocking is that we know they couldn’t be true—the only reason Trump finds them credible lies to tell is because he and his people would behave improperly under pressure—in a hot minute—and they assume that everyone is as cold-blooded, cynical, and absent of ethics as they are.

But they are the aberrations, not Obama—and certainly not Susan Rice. I feel this aspect of Trump’s tweets has been overlooked—but it is an obvious and important aspect of his disinformation campaign. Only a man lacking any shred of honor could be so quick to assume that behavior in others. The media has already recognized that Trump always uses the word ‘fake’ whenever the news really hurts him—it’s almost a confirmation that they’ve hit it on the nose, at this point.

And during the campaign, he always had a ‘tell’—if you accused him of something true, he always accused you of exactly the same thing, in the same words, even. So, now that the glamor has worn off, Trump is pretty self-damning. We know what he accused HRC of, after she said it of him—Confirmed. We know which news he called ‘fake’—Confirmed. And we know how he views the presidency, by the accusations he makes against Obama—Confirmed.

And now he attacks an unemployed civil servant, Susan Rice—how long will we hear this nonsense, before we simply laugh in his face? I wish I could be in that room with Sean Spicer—I’d tell him what I think of his psychotic boss and his tissue-thin web of lies.

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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….

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.

Negligence   (2015Aug06)

Thursday, August 06, 2015                                               12:34 PM

I take the approach of tonight’s GOP debate show as my cue to break my promise to myself not to upset myself by discussing current events. My love/hate indecision about talking politics is, I suppose, like my feeling about bad drivers on the road. There are a lot of bad drivers out there—if I allow myself to dwell on them, I only upset myself and make it harder to contain my own barely contained road rage—but I can only ignore them at the risk of mortal danger to myself and the others around me. It’s a catch-22.

As I surfed from one noon-time news reports to the next—all slathered with saliva over tonight’s big circus—I found myself yearning for November. I thought to myself, “By November it will only be a year to go before all this mishegas is over.” Think about that. These many months of back-and-forth babbling between the talking heads debating the 2016 presidential election (not the candidates so much, mind you, but the anchors, correspondents, and pundits) have been ubiquitous. And we still have more than a year to go before anyone actually casts a vote.

The idea that this election is that important begs the question—shouldn’t we be talking issues, and legislation? Shouldn’t we be talking about the other elected offices, federal, state, and local—if only to correlate their effects on whoever ends up with the office of president? It is a three-part system of powers in balance, after all—the president, in and of him-or-her-self, can do nothing alone. Even the executive orders that have been in the news lately are subject to review by the judicial branch.

Never has the term ‘weapons of mass distraction’ been so apt. Why does mass media get tunnel-vision over this single event scheduled for the November after next? I’m tempted to say it’s for the same reason that Donald Trump is ahead in the polls—because the media have become champions of ignorance and instant gratification. Election Day 2016 will be an exciting day—why not simulate a bit of it every day, just for the thrill? And why not flood us with examples of this one bully’s idiocy?—He sure is entertaining.

In “Good Night And Good Luck” we saw a reenactment of the moment when adult, responsible analysis of our times first when down in defeat to the public’s ceaseless hunger for distraction. Since then there has been an evolution of further and further focus on titillation in favor of substance on television. And commerce has not been lazy about nailing down its influence over many other aspects of our lives—the people who believe money is everything have managed to insert that belief into our laws, our arts, our culture, and our educational system. It would be quixotic to hope, at this late date, that any maturity could be brought to bear on the mass media’s choice of content.

I feel that Obama’s election to two terms is indicative of the majority’s thirst for enlightened government by sober, intelligent adults. Further, I consider all of the GOP candidates to be ‘far right’ in the historical sense, regardless of how they appear in relation to each other. The entire party seems to have been hijacked by cranks, cronies, and the super-wealthy. Their greatest support comes from those who get all their information from television. Their greatest detractors now come from the ranks of those with a passing knowledge of science, ethics, or the arts.

Therefore I think it’s perfectly safe to miss out on the big debate tonight—the biggest gaffes will be replayed ad infinitum over the following few days; the chances of someone saying something intelligent are vanishingly small; and by this November (still a year from the election) none of what happens tonight will matter.

To me, the only real question is whether Bernie Sanders will become so much more attractive than Hillary Clinton that the Democrats will forget that Bernie can’t possibly draw enough of the middle to win a national election. Not that I wouldn’t vote for him—it’s just that he’s less likely to win the big one.

Pro-Iranians in Congress   (2015Jul25)

Saturday, July 25, 2015                                            9:34 AM

There’s nothing as stupid as a man—or a woman—except for a kid. Kids will walk into traffic without a grown-up to stop them. But there’s no one to stop us grown-ups from doing our stupid stuff.

The Iran nuclear agreement is a good example. Diplomats worked on this deal for years—it represents a consensus among ten or so different countries. After it was finally hammered out, the UN voted unanimously in its favor. Imagine how difficult it is to get that many countries to agree on anything. The fact that it took two years to get there speaks to that a little bit.

The only thing that can screw it up now are the Anti-Obama-ists. I won’t call them Republicans, because the Republicans are a political party—these are just a bunch of idiots who hate anything to do with Obama. They have an ad on TV denouncing the nuclear agreement that ends with the tag line: ‘we deserve a better deal’. No, they deserve to be horsewhipped. Where is their two years of effort, unanimously approved by the UN? Those bastards want a war—some ‘better deal’.

Without this deal, all of Netanyahu’s dire predictions about Iran’s nuclear ambitions could be realized in a matter of months. That’s their ‘better deal’—but they don’t talk about what happens without the deal—they just want to carp about how Obama’s deal isn’t good enough. They are entitled, ignorant, treasonous assholes.

We’d all be better off if Obama was some evil arch-villain. Then there would be some benefit to every idiot in the USA being knee-jerk opposed to every single thing he did. Unfortunately, Obama is good and brave and just, relatively speaking—which makes the Republican party the ‘arch-villain’. The Republicans are somewhat upset about the fact that an egomaniacal billionaire sociopath is their presidential front-runner. Having made their platform a support structure for ignorance and hate, they’re upset now because this monster is what their constituency is most approving of.

Repent, Republicans! You’ve become the party that wants to cancel health insurance for millions, the party that wants to bomb Iran and make a nuclear wasteland of the Middle East, the party that wants to insult the people who, let’s be honest, do all the hard work. You might secretly have a few sensible thoughts—you might secretly even agree with Obama on a few things (God forbid). But the way you’ve worked it up to this point, you’ve created a constituency that approves of a clown in an expensive suit—a self-declared clown, no less. You’ve created a stupidity super-storm.

Now a word for you Democrats in Congress—the GOP has been treasonously anti-presidential, but you guys have done a grand job of pretending you don’t have a president. While the opposition has boldly begun trashing the Iran deal without reading it, you’ve all been quiet as mice, saying that ‘you haven’t finished reading it yet’. Well, it’s been a week—time’s up, cowards—time to start supporting the President’s effort.

And just to remind both parties—you can still bomb the hell out of Iran in a few months, if that’s the way things shake out. All you’re really doing by refusing this deal is saying that your political strategy trumps any potential effort to make the world a safer place, to keep the kids in our military from dying over your pique.

People say that America isn’t a true democracy, what with the party-controlled primaries and the electoral college—and I suppose the fact that our Congress is a collection of the country’s biggest morons is proof of that—how the hell did we ever wind up electing these jerks? Our political parties pretend to offer leadership—but the current leadership reminds me of the ‘cool kid’s leadership of a house-party being given while the parents are out of town—the intended result seems to be to trash the place. Who stops the grown-ups from being stupid? Optimally, shame would do it—but our current politicians have never heard of it.

Obama Put the Good Back in News   (2015Jul14)

Tuesday, July 14, 2015                                             10:04 AM

Granted, I don’t know much about global politics—although I suspect it’s an unpleasant subject full of unlikeable characters and tragic circumstances. Still, when President Obama took office, Iran’s people were suffering from a global economic blockade, Iran’s leaders were pushing ahead with nuclear weapons programs, and we still had no diplomatic relations with Cuba, our nearest non-contiguous neighboring sovereignty. We still had large troop deployments in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Here at home when President Obama took office, gays couldn’t get married—they couldn’t even admit they were gay, if they wanted to serve in the armed forces. Health insurance was a privilege of the well-to-do—and that privilege was limited to those without pre-existing conditions. The economy was in a nose-dive. Unemployment was headed for new lows.

Seven years later, we can get the impression from daily news reports that the world is as full of trouble as ever, and getting worse—but the truth is that a lot of good stuff has happened. After eight years of Bush W, the news got into a rhythm of reporting on an ever-darkening future—and they still adopt that narrative to a great degree. But Obama’s presidency has forced them to intersperse the tragedy with glimmers of good news—and the news shows, ever mindful of how trouble drives viewership, almost seem to trip over their prompters when announcing something as unabashedly good as the recent SCOTUS ruling on gay marriage.

When Obama was first elected, the GOP was nakedly opposed to him, personally—as if to say, ‘the hell with public service—politics first’. They broke with our hallowed tradition of post-election conciliation and support of the people’s ultimate choice. Then, and since, many people felt, as I do, that this is a treasonous abandonment of our political maturity—all we’d need now is a few fist-fights on the floor of congress to match the inanity of some third-world parliament. Of course, they’re paying for it now—currently there are fifteen of these idiots convinced that their eight years of obstructionism against our president has prepared them to take his place—and as a bonus, they’ve got Trump in the mix, holding up a fun-house mirror to their inanity.

I suspect Trump is secretly pro-Democrat. He’s on record as a contributor to both Hillary Clinton and Nancy Pelosi. But more importantly, his GOP candidacy illustrates the conservative paradigm taken to its logical extreme—anger, close-minded-ness, lack of charity, and a willingness to overlook or oversimplify anything complex enough to require a high school education. Trump removes the double-talk from the neo-con position and presents it baldly as the jingoistic, moronic snit it really is. How this can fail to help Hillary get elected is beyond me.

Are the many blessings of these last few years proof of Obama’s greatness or were they ideas whose time had come, and Obama was just in office at the right time? I choose to believe that FDR had the answer—‘the only thing we have to fear is fear itself’. Trying to push through the ACA legislation, giving the green light for Seal Team Six to take out Bin Laden, publicly supporting gay rights—these were all politically dangerous decisions that a pure politician would have wisely deferred. So I’d have to say Obama’s courage was the indispensable factor in many of the good things his presidency has wrought.

And when I look at the many important changes in our lives since 2008, I marvel at how much Obama has accomplished in the face of such stiff opposition—and I can’t help wondering how much more would have been done by our president if his congress had maintained the tradition of working in good faith with whoever was elected.

Currently, the big question is who will take Obama’s place—and if it were up to me, the answer would be a third term for Obama. Hillary Clinton, the favorite, is a competent, professional politician. But even she will be a pale substitute for our ass-kicking, name-taking, fearless leader. If any candidates from the GOP field are elected, it will signal (for me) that Americans will endure any level of abuse and incompetence, as long as they’ve had eight years off to get over the last time.

Failure at CNN and The New York Times   (2015Apr24)

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Friday, April 24, 2015                                              5:59 PM

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What with FOX News, Court TV, Network TV news, and MSNBC all out there working their angles, I use to tell myself not to worry—after all, there was always the ‘Gray Lady’ and CNN. They both have respectable histories and both seemed to display a real dedication to journalism. But I’ve been noticing the mob mentality of mass media inveigling its way into the thinking of even the ‘respectable’ news-editors lately. I’m even starting to wonder about Gwen Ifill!

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Let me give two examples from today that raised my blood-pressure and totaled my peace of mind. The first was the headline of the New York Times issue on the kitchen table: “Obama Apologizes For Drone Strike that Kills American and Italian Hostage” What the hell is that? We didn’t take those people hostage. We don’t use human shields as SOP military strategy. And Obama wasn’t at the controls of the drone that hit the innocent victims. It’s ISIS who should apologize (if those fuckers had consciences, like human beings). These fucking savages terrorize the planet for years, and we focus on the rare mistakes where one or two of the deaths can be laid at our doorstep (if you ignore the source of the exigent circumstances).

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When are we going to cut this poor bastard a break? But Obama is nearing the end of his last term—for my second example, let’s turn to Hillary Clinton. I wouldn’t be Hillary Clinton for all the tea in China—this poor lady is America’s favorite target. I hope she doesn’t get elected—you fuckers don’t deserve her. And she certainly doesn’t deserve the treatment she gets at the hands of all the hacks pretending to be journalists.

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I saw three assholes talking on CNN. The left-wing-view guy makes a simple declarative statement—that ‘no evidence has been produced to support any charges of wrongdoing in the case of the Clinton Foundation vis-à-vis contributors getting special favors’. End of story, right? I mean, they’re journalists, right? Wrong. The moderator asshole responds, “Well, isn’t that just daring people to go and find proof?” In what bizzaro universe is an avowal of innocence the same as a dare to find wrongdoing? Only a total asshole would twist a simple sentence to mean its opposite—and only in the name of high ratings, truth be damned. A professional journalist wouldn’t even be talking about malfeasance without proof in the first place, never mind insisting on speculating on the whispers of her self-professed haters.

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These people are lucky they live in a modern world where they can say these things in print or on a TV screen. If they said this shit in public, I’d fucking attack them—what a bunch of scum. You’ll notice I mentioned glancing at a newspaper headline on the table and seeing three assholes on CNN. I did not read the paper and I didn’t watch CNN—these were just snippets that I noticed in passing—and wished I hadn’t. I’ll pay actual attention to the details of these jerks when journalism comes back in style—and that’ll happen as soon as the major media corporations go bust, not before. So, I’m not holding my breath—or watching the news. Fuck’em all.

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Iran Hawks   (2015Apr03)

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Friday, April 03, 2015                                                7:38 PM

Does anyone remember the big kerfuffle over the “open letter to Iran” that the GOP released last month? The thrust of the letter was that any agreement between the US and Iran would be subject to veto by the Congress—comments both unhelpful and unnecessary. Now suddenly we hear of an agreement between European and Iranian negotiators—as if the US, and John Kerry, much less Obama, weren’t even involved.

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Isn’t this issue complex enough without the media massaging reality before they open their mouths to report to us? I’m concerned by this—and even more concerned by the seeming enthusiasm among the right-wing to start a shooting war with Iran. It reminds me of Wilson’s Congress destroying his dream of a League of Nations, the failure of which led to World War II.

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I don’t know anything about Iran. This is standard practice for a country being vilified by conservative Americans. We knew nothing of Russia and Russians during the Cold War. The satirical film “The Russians Are Coming! The Russians Are Coming!” was so effective because it surprised American audiences with lost Russian U-Boat sailors who behaved as typical people, rather than the one-dimensional monstrosities as which we’d been encouraged to view their entire populace.

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And it would be almost as dangerous to speak well of the Iranians in public, now, as it would have been to say something nice about the Russians during the McCarthy Era, or to speak against the War in Iraq while Dixie Chicks CDs were being burnt in public squares. For a country that prides itself on Free Speech, we can be real pussies whenever the principle experiences any pressure from the climate of the mob. Real ‘freedom of speech’ continues to elude the American culture as a whole.

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We made modern Iran by propping up our own oil-interests-friendly government there, which was so unbearable to the Iranians that they had a revolt in the seventies. It may have been the Carter Administration’s Hostage Crisis, during that revolution, that caused us to sanction Iran with embargoes, but it is mere pique that has kept those sanctions in place for—wait, let’s count up the decades that the Iranian economy has suffered from US-imposed embargoes—the eighties, the nineties, plus fifteen….hmm. And please note that I say the Iranian economy, not the Iranian government, which seems to have weathered those sanctions far better than the average Iranian family trying to keep food on the table.

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We don’t see any of those poor bastards on the news, do we? That’s because they’re too much like us, normal people being screwed over by the power-players of the globe. We might decide we’re on their side. We might even be right. We can’t have that.

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People talked about Watergate as the ‘end of authority’ in the United States. But it wasn’t the end, it was more of a ‘fair beginning’. A contemporaneous scandal, the New York Times’ publishing of the Ellsberg Papers, revealed that the US government had continued fighting a war they had long determined was unwinnable, out of sheer political embarrassment.

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In the years since we have seen the truth of World War II come to light, first in Pynchon’s “Gravity’s Rainbow”, which outlined the interlocking corporations that armed, supplied and invested in the war, entirely outside of the battling governments of the world—and often at cross-purposes with them. Secondly, we learned of possibly the greatest single hero of World War II, Alan Turing, in a book that wasn’t published until decades after Turing’s death—and wasn’t made a popular film until this very year, over fifty years after the events.

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We learned that Catholic priests had a centuries-old ‘tradition’ of pederasty, kept purposely secret by the heads of the church. We learned that tobacco companies knew they were lying for the several decades of legal battles over the carcinogenic effects of tobacco smoking. We learned that the vast majority of hardline conservatives pushing for anti-gay legislation are themselves gay!

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Then things really start rolling with the establishment of a news service, Fox, which guarantees it will skew the news in a certain direction—an acid-trip of a programming idea if there ever was one. At the same time, we see the emergence of satirical news, with SNL’s “Weekend Update” and Comedy Central’s “The Daily Show with John Stewart” and “The Colbert Report”. These programs were based on the expectation that there will be so much misbehavior and malfeasance that a daily round-up of jokes about them will have ample fuel for continuous operation. HBO’s John Oliver in “Last Week Tonight” reaches a pinnacle of this genre—he picks a particularly pernicious issue and finds enough stupidity, corruption, and inequity in its history and practice to fill an entire 30-minute program with sarcastic pokes at these false idols.

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Then there’s the Tea Party, a blend of racism, ignorance, and reactionary fury that I would compare to the behavior of a spoil brat, if it wasn’t so unfair to the spoiled brats of the world. The Republican Party in general, under the Tea Party’s influence, has become the party that has never heard the Aesop’s Fable in which a person cuts off their own nose to spite their face. They’ve gone so far past common sense that their conservatives have become anti-conservation climate-change-deniers—and they don’t even see the irony in that. But their extremes are simply a symptom of the influence of extreme wealth on the democratic process, which wasn’t so democratic in the first place.

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We see the same thing in the recent ties between South American drug smugglers and violent extremists in Africa—the enormous amounts of cash involved completely overrun any small African government’s attempts at humane governance, buying up their heads of state, their police forces, even their militaries. And while we’re on the subject of the War on Drugs, let’s remember that the effect of all those years of time and billions of dollars has been—nothing. If anything, drug use has escalated, in the USA and around the world—and the corruption by cash of the many would-be fighters in that war has the effect of institutionalizing the drug trade on both sides of the imagined border between the ‘good guys’ and the ‘bad guys’.

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So today we see Authority, that mirage of stability, has always been a con job. We see that they have lied to us about our past, that they are lying to us about our present, and that the future will be a very one-sided fight in which normal people like you and I try to live just and peaceful lives amidst criminals in all but name who have effective control of our government, our businesses, and our lives.

Original Sketch

Will these bastards allow a peaceful, diplomatic solution to the Iran nuclear issue, or will they use it to start a war, sending our young people to the ends of the Earth to fight and die, instead? Call me a crabby, old misanthrope if you must, but these right-wingers have shown their colors time and again and only a fool would expect them to suddenly behave like rational folks.

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Only a very few people get into politics out of idealism—the vast majority are power-hungry egotists with all the fear and loathing of desperate, insecure men. Only the GOP is twisted enough to seek out women to publicly support their misogyny, or African-Americans to publicly support their racism, or Latino-Americans to publicly support their elitism and exclusion. There’s something very sick about all that—especially on top of their insistence that none of us can be financially secure unless the super-wealthy are super-secure, both in their right to hoard their ungodly treasure and their right to treat the rest of us as chattel.

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I’m going bald on top, scratching my head, trying to figure out how they get people to vote for them, when they’d all be far better off not just voting against them, but running against them. After all, both the super-wealthy and the Tea Party represent vanishingly small percentages of our nation’s population—even a dysfunctional democracy ought to be able to do something against these jerks.

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Confederacy of Dunces   (2015Mar10)

Tuesday, March 10, 2015                                 11:36 AM

The GOP’s cavalcade of stupidity marches on—and this time they’ve managed to embarrass us in front of the whole world. By airing their domestic dirty laundry in public with that open letter to Iran, they’ve demonstrated how incredibly provincial their thinking is. It never occurred to them that their obtuseness, without any coverage from their private propaganda outlet, FOXNews, is plain as day to the rest of the world. Foreigners were already nonplussed by their climate-change denials (sheer idiocy outside of our borders) but now they can see that the GOP is anti-American.

It must be heart-warming for America’s enemies to see our wealthiest and most powerful become so averse to the ideals which real Americans cherish. The Chinese must love their downplaying of human rights and their adoration of authority. The Iranians must love their dreams of theocratic rule. The Europeans must love it that the mantle of Enlightenment has returned to its birthplace. And Caribbeans must be overjoyed that our fat-cats are now pampered and waited upon by equally impoverished peons, right here at home!

A lot of us have jobs that we would quit, if it weren’t for our families or our preference for food and shelter—the biggest problem with America’s present failings is that many of them are supplying us with a steady wage. And let’s face it—the popular wisdom is ‘if your job is supporting your family but destroying the country—then fuck the country’. Once we accepted that money trumps ethics, our nation began its shockingly swift descent into the ‘bad joke’ version of America we live in today.

In the sixties, more Republicans than Democrats voted for the Voting Rights Act—but today, the GOP is trying to undo that legislative jewel in our crown—and not one of them showed up to commemorate Bloody Sunday on the bridge. They rant about reverse-racism or claim that racism doesn’t exist—they haven’t decided which is the stupider position yet—and stupidity appears to be their highest criterion for party loyalty.

But I don’t blame the GOP. They may not have the smarts required to tie their own shoes—but what does that make the people who elected them to run the country? And what does that make someone named Koch who spends billions to support them?

Have a Koch and Be Beguiled (2015Feb08)

Sunday, February 08, 2015                              6:37 PM

Koch Industries I could care less about. Considering the enormity of the Koch boys’ fortune, I’m sure there are many important gee-gaws that spill from their factory floors. I’ll bet they have lots of happy, willing workers, too—I wouldn’t be surprised if they even got decent wages. Like all business owners, while relying on their ‘labor pool’ (we might think of it as a population) they have nightmares about ever taking responsibility for the labor pool—they just pick and choose from it, as needed. The rest is not their business, or so they are desperate to believe. But let’s leave that alone, and just agree that we have little to complain about so far as the industrial entities themselves are concerned.

Neither will we explore the question of Capitalism, possession, and whether or not there is any decency in two geezers having so impossibly much while so many have so few. Capitalism is the American way, isn’t it? So let’s just further agree that the Koch boys have every right to lord it over the rest of us. I’m sure the people who meet them socially find them to be lovely folks—almost impossible to imagine spitting in their faces, regardless of how much indication there may be that they deserve such treatment. In person, in a social setting, I imagine they strongly resemble real people.

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No, there’s just one thing to which I take exception, one thing which I can’t overlook, and that is their inability to understand how treasonous their behavior is. They want their pile of money to represent ‘free speech’—fine, as long as they’ve brought enough to share with the whole class. When the Koch boys are ready to sponsor both sides of a debate, great—but money spent on only one side is influence, not speech. And they know this, or they wouldn’t be so clever about circumventing the old rules. They can’t be cunning and dumb at the same time, though they and their ilk make a grand show of just that paradox, and quite often.

There is an ongoing outcry among champions like Liz Warren, bemoaning the intractable nature of such corruption—but there is a simple solution, and it should have occurred to us a long time ago. Do not vote for anyone who takes Koch money—simple. And if the Koch boys manage to buy all the candidates in a particular race, vote for whoever you want—it won’t make a difference. There ought to be a mob of people running for office, local, state, and national, whose only campaign pledge is that they won’t be bought. At this point I don’t care about political platforms—I’d vote for anybody else, if it meant defeating the Koch boys’ attempted purchase of our heritage.

I shouldn’t have to add the following, but in the interests of clarity let me point out that changing to some other big backer is not an option. Politics is dirty enough without the addition of big bankrolls—it’s been a dirty business long before it was acceptable to campaign for office. Did you know that it was once considered so grasping to actively campaign for an office that to do so was considered good reason not to vote for such a candidate? It’s true. We once had sense enough to avoid office-holders who actively sought the power of their office. Ah, the halcyon days of America…

But the Koch boys aren’t running for office—so why am I so angry with them? Can’t I be reasonable? They’re just trying to support the ideas they agree with—just like anyone else with billions of dollars and no clue about democracy. We are Americans—we all admire wealthy people—we all aspire to become wealthy people. But if we had great wealth, how many of us would decide that the best use of it would be to destroy our country? Who among us dreams of becoming rich solely for the purpose of making a mockery of our elections?

But more importantly, why do we vote for these paid mouthpieces? People joke that politicians should wear patches to declare their various sponsors, like NASCAR drivers—but we don’t need the stickers, we know that all these people are bought and paid for. So why do we vote for them? Democrats ran from photo-ops with the President during the last election because being aligned with him was considered bad politics. How then is it possible that endorsement by the Koch boys isn’t the kiss of death for any candidate? What kind of half-assed thinking is that? We’re acting like a bunch of morons, and we’ll end up with the government we deserve—I’m warning you.

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The Great Man (2015Feb05)

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Thursday, February 05, 2015                          9:36 AM

President Obama has endured a great struggle during his time in office. Over the last six years, I have often been disturbed by the bitter acrimony and the seething resentment of his many detractors. But now I see that these attacks have ultimately succeeded in only one thing—serving as a background against which his extraordinary compassion and leadership stands out in stark contrast. Ordinarily, we are taught in school to allocate greatness to this person or that. With our president, we have had the opportunity to witness greatness and recognize it for ourselves.

His humor, his warmth, his coolheaded-ness under fire—I was just watching a YouTube video entitled “Obama’s Coolest Moments” and I was overwhelmed by the preponderance of examples where crazed, reactionary, mindless criticism was belied by his calm, cool, and sensible responses to every difficulty that arises. Like all great Americans, he simply wants America to live up to its promise, to realize its wildest dreams of freedom and justice. He does not oppose his enemies, only what they stand for. During a period when the majority of his defamers have made personal attacks, his responses have always been on message—never descending into the personal squabbling so popular in Washington.

With many politicians, the bloom will eventually fade from the rose—but I find myself admiring President Obama more with every passing year. The President who sings like Al Green, the baby-whisperer President, the President who kicks ass at a game of P-I-G (or P-O-T-U-S, as he plays it)—his personal quirks are endearing—although some try to characterize it as a cult of personality. To me, that aspect of him is far less sinister. He is simply an admirable person, a man whom power (for once) failed to turn into an asshole.

But while I enjoy his humor and grace, I focus more on his leadership. He gets on TV whenever there’s a problem—and he’s usually saying, “Hey, there’s a problem, but we are not going to start immediately bombing people—we’re going to find out what’s really going on, first.” I like that in a ‘Leader of the Free World’—I really do. And it’s such a nice change from the last guy. When it comes to sticky domestic issues, like the unpopular LGBT-rights movement, he plumps for Love over Hate, calm over panic, and humanity over business. It’s really quite strange, rooting for an ‘underdog’ who’s also the President, hoping against hope that the most powerful man in the world won’t be stymied at every turn by the forces of evil.

I’ve learned a lot from Obama, too. The last election was a real eye-opener—I learned that politicians, while they may be problematical, are not the primary problem. We are. Worse than the number of people who didn’t vote Democrat was the number of people who just didn’t vote, period. Obama did some great things—but imagine what he could have done with an engaged constituency.

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O–and, while I’m posting stuff:

Thank Goodness They’re That Bad (2015Jan26)

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Monday, January 26, 2015 10:07 AM

They’ve gone too far this time—and that’s a good thing. In their towering passion to oppose Obama, the Republican all-stars that made their bones sniping at him now find themselves objecting to and opposing everything, even each other. The same convoluted mind-set that found flaws in every action or aspect of our current President has gotten them into the habit of attacking anyone, even themselves, in the same way. After years of oblique responses, left-field criticisms, and denial, they can’t help but turn these awful weapons of unreason against each other.

 
Now that it is within their power to recreate the Dark Ages in the 21st-century, their well-sharpened debate reflexes have them arguing amongst themselves just how Dark the New Dark Ages should be. That’s good news. We have stood aghast as these new tricks learned by the powerful and the ignorant have stymied many of our government’s efforts to improve the lot of its citizens, and to promote peace and understanding throughout the world.

 

They oppose health care, particularly a women’s right to choose her own health-care options. They oppose homosexuality—statistically one in ten people, which seems to me enough people that ostracizing them becomes a threat against all our freedoms. They wish to establish the primacy of Christianity in a nation that prides itself on religious freedom. It seems pretty clear that they wish to retain their racism while debating racism’s existence. In a nation of immigrants they see new immigrants as our greatest threat. And in the wake of our nation’s greatest financial meltdown, their first priority is to undo the regulations that would prevent any future predatory banking and investment.

 

I’ll never understand how they got so many people to vote against their own interests in the last election. I knew that we, as a nation, pay more attention to TV commercials than we do to our teachers, but I never realized that such superficiality went ‘to the bone’, all the way to our decision-making process. The fact that many of their stratagems relied upon the success of bare-faced lying left me with a sense of overwhelming futility—not just that they would tell lies, but that we would be ignorant enough to be taken in by them. The changes wrought by the Citizens United ruling on our democratic process have brought me close to despair.

 

Our democracy, once a marketplace of ideas, has been downgraded to a mere marketplace. Money bought the offices won in the last election, not honest appraisal. It seems the voters have forgotten to look at their own lives as an indicator of whom they should vote for. Today, they are urged, and very convincingly, to vote based on the fictitious bugaboos of the GOP media machine. Dirt-poor voters were persuaded to vote for candidates that oppose financial regulation and government subsidies of the poor. Ignorant voters were persuaded to vote for candidates that prefer funding our military to funding our educational system. The unemployed were persuaded to vote for the super-wealthy’s candidates, who were unanimous in denying the income-inequality gap.

 

It was an election of madness. We chose our own self-destruction, and walked out of the polling booths proud of ourselves. And the only thing saving us now is the Republicans’ inability to switch gears from obstructionism to actual governing. Having opposed our government for so long, they seem at a loss as to how to become our new government—as if it were a crime to do the job they were elected for.

 

I know that people, as a group, are incapable of intelligent decision-making. I wasn’t born yesterday. But I’m so tired of Stupid. Aren’t we all pretty exhausted with Stupid? I’d like to kick those bastards out of congress, but Stupid is so damn popular. It must be all that money—even an ugly idiot is popular, when he’s filthy rich. Is it self-loathing? Why else would we millions with so little money be attracted to those few who have too much? Even that I find incomprehensible—what do we think, that the rich are going to share? Sorry, but Sharing is not in the Rich Guy’s Handbook. Wake up to yourself already.

 

I’m a fairly well-educated guy—but I don’t know everything there is to know about politics. Maybe, in the end, the Democrats are just as bad as the Republicans. I know that Obama is special—even if the rank and file of the Democratic Party are no better than the their GOP counterparts, Obama is the best they have to offer—and his own party chose, at various times, to support him or not support him, based on the passing whims of the poll-takers. Perhaps Obama’s bare-faced progressivism has given me a false sense that the Democrats can save us from the Republicans. It’s entirely possible that they are just as bad, as a group.

 

But if we look at the two parties’ platforms, we see a decided left-leaning in the Democrats, and a definite right-wing flavor to Republican goals. And the characteristics of progressivism and conservatism, while they may have represented nothing more than a difference in opinion in days past, have real-world consequences in the present. Conservatives are somehow against literal conservation. Progressives are concerned that an individual can make too much progress, to the detriment of others. It’s a hall of mirrors. Just add arguments over syntax, stir, and Voila!—perpetual chaos. I’m too old for this shit.

 

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State Of What Union? (2015Jan21)

Wednesday, January 21, 2015                        5:25 PM

20140205XD-Men__botm_left_detail_(smallversnOf_SK-C-402)Last night President Obama made his annual State of the Union address—I enjoyed it, especially when he talked about us still being the United States of America (i.e. capable of working towards good things for all citizens) and when he described our present-day politics, rife with obstructionist posturings, and pointed out that it doesn’t have to be that way. I also agreed with most of his other talking points—but that’s not what I want to talk about.

After the speech, every Republican supporter had the same thing to say. (When is that not the case?) They all said that ‘Obama’s initiatives’ were impossible pipe-dreams; that he was simply trying to antagonize the GOP by ignoring their agenda. They may be right—I’m not omniscient. But right or wrong, it certainly is convenient for the GOP that Obama made these proposals. It afforded them the ‘out’ of being anti-Obama, without all the fuss of having to explain why they oppose the specifics of Obama’s proposals.

With his accrued layers (visible only to Tea-Party eyes) of demonic filth, Obama makes a handy punching bag—it’s certainly easier to explain opposing Obama than it is to explain their opposition to closing tax loop-holes for the super-wealthy, making community college tuition-free, or guaranteeing women equal pay. The few Republicans with still-functioning consciences squirmed in their seats, knowing they should join the Democrats in applauding Obama’s most humane, populist proposals—but they were all wearing invisible shields made of anti-Obama and all pleas for desirable legislation just bounced right off.

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But Obama isn’t the Second Coming, at least not entirely—he also lowered himself to threats of vetoes and bragging about what his administration has accomplished—O, feet of clay! But I forgave him the boasting because it was, by and large, factual—and we don’t elect our Presidents based on modesty. In fact, I thought it was a shameful display of sour grapes that the GOP couldn’t join in celebration of our resurrection from Recession and War, just because it would in some small way legitimize Obama’s presidency.

Now, about the vetoes. The Tea Party, for all their air-time and extremism, represent a tiny fraction of backward-thinking, fundamentalist-leaning business-leaders, and the hoi polloi who have need of the delusional matrix broadcast through Fox News and other media outlets (i.e., rednecks sober enough to make it to the polls once a year). The vast majority of adult Americans don’t want the XL pipeline, they want overall enhanced infrastructure and carbon-emissions reduction. The vast majority do not want to pay women less than men or ban gay marriage or ban abortion, they want to provide child-care to working families and defend the freedoms of every sex or sexual orientation. The vast majority of us do not care about protecting billionaires from paying their fair share of taxes, we want to narrow the income-inequality gap and protect the poor from living in fear and suffering, especially children being raised in poverty.

How does the GOP get away with championing big businesses to the detriment of working citizens? They call potentially helpful laws “Obama boondoggles” (which is far more personal and effective than the old scarecrow ‘socialism’). They characterize any effort to hold the super-wealthy, and corporations, to the same responsibilities (and taxes) as the middle class as ‘class-warfare’ or as an attack on ‘job creators’.

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Then they describe Obama’s veto threats as antagonistic—as if their agenda, to undo the last fifty years of progressivism, isn’t a direct attack on genuine American values. They focus their ire on Obama’s newest victories, especially the Affordable Care Act—but they are also trying to undo Roe v. Wade (from 1973), the Voting Rights Act (from 1965), and Social Security for seniors (from FDR’s New Deal). At their farthest extreme, they even seek to undo the separation of church and state, as they have succeeded in undoing any financial limits placed on campaign contributions. Shouldn’t the Republicans now more aptly be called the Regressionists? Has what once was a mere political party become a force, like Westernized ISIS, for returning us to the Dark Ages?

One might even make a connection to these threads of ‘Business Uber Alles’, ‘America as Iron Fist’, misogyny, and racism—and the proliferation of global terrorism. Muslims, as a group, are as diverse in their beliefs and lifestyles as Christians, or any other group—it is clear that the truly common denominator of all global terrorism is poverty, ignorance, and bad government.

The main difference is one of enlightenment. The GOP sees global terrorism as a welcome enemy, something on which the world’s most powerful military might sharpen its claws and test its new tech—whereas Obama, and other thinking people, see terrorism as a problem that needs to be solved—even if the solution doesn’t involve a glorious, bloody field of battle. The GOP tell themselves that ISIS just appeared out of thin air—that our focus should be on their extermination. Obama, and others, accept that ISIS was created by the global situation, that it may be impossible to ‘exterminate’ the problem without changing our own behavior.

But why do I waste my time? Those who agree with me already know all this—and those who disagree have long since disappeared up their own asses.

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Political Arrangements! (2014Nov18)

What a day! I wrote a song, “Obama Went A-Courtin”; I played through two challenging piano arrangements, George Shearing’s take on “If I Give My Heart To You” and Bob Zurke’s version of “I’m Thru With Love”; and I threw in a couple of short improvs, just for fun…

 

“If I Give My Heart To You”
by Jimmie Crane, Al Jacobs, Jimmy Brewster
(c) 1953 Miller Music Corp.
Piano Interpretation by George Shearing:

 

“I’m Thru With Love”
words by Gus Kahn
Music by Matt Malneck, Fud Livingston
(c) 1931 MGM Inc.
Piano Solo Arranged by Bob Zurke:

 

Paradox for June 13th, 2014

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Happy Friday the Thirteenth everyone.

What am I going to do about this fungal infection behind my ear? Now that I can afford three meals a day, why does my stomach hurt so much? If my electricity is off how will I take a shower? If I leave my top pants-button unbuttoned behind my belt buckle, I don’t have to spend money on new clothes that fit.

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So there’s no great mystery to my affection for “The Princess Diaries”, or even “The Princess Diaries II: Royal Wedding”—nothing is more comforting than the problems of young, wealthy royalty when trying to escape from the problems of being less-than-young and less-then-wealthy. And I might as well face it—the only person more adorable than the young Anne Hathaway is the grande dame herself, Julie Andrews—and the pair of maids does the cutest step-n-fetchit two white girls ever managed.

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Does this mean my insides are just a big stew of hogs-wallow? Well, I suppose so—I’ve always been soft-centered—there’s nothing but goo in there, really. If I was a tough guy, I would have been built of sterner stuff. But I’m not, never have been, and the world has been going my way on many fronts since my earliest childhood—that was when the pressure against corporal punishment in schools led to arrests and firings of the worst offenders. My older brothers spoke of kids being jacked up against the wall, punched, slapped—but it was all a memory by the time I began to haunt the halls of academia.

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Tolerance grew in northeast America almost side-by-side with me—and my failings (as they would have been seen a few years earlier) became virtues as each year slipped by—my respect for women became acceptable, then somewhat mandatory. My inability to understand prejudice, instead of putting me on the wrong side of my culture, became more and more the public norm. The sixties and the seventies were a unique time when the good-hearted people became activists—ever since, and virtually ever before, the political activists have been the angry fringe. But the inertia of those days still creates a higher ground for those advocating increased inclusion and equality.

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LGBT activism has yielded a whole new world of secularists versus fundamentalists—the legislation and the courts favor inclusion of gays, but the fundamentalists can still be very damning of this segment of our population—one I know of even calls publicly for their execution! But the main effect is to push religion firmly into the camp of conservatives. Secularists get along fine with the more reform-oriented faiths—but even now it is difficult to say, “Well, the religious right will just have to suck it up.” Fundamentalists are a fiery lot, by and large, and they could easily become our own domestic ‘Al-Qaeda’, if they’re not handled delicately.

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Religious freedom suddenly becomes a contentious concept—a fundamentalist sees no problem with advocating that their religious beliefs be made into laws—which is the opposite of traditional religious freedom (and of literal religious freedom). They seem to think that being denied the freedom to remake our laws in the name of the Bible is a denial of their religious freedom—but religious freedom, while guaranteeing our freedom to worship as we please, also guarantees that no one can impose their religious beliefs on the rest of us.

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Outside of the bastions of fundamentalism—or, I should say, pockets of it—there is a large population of nominal Christians who ‘believe in God’ and even believe in the teachings of Christ (in that he taught us to love and forgive each other) but never go to church, or only go to church on Easter and Christmas. They are amenable to the LGBT community, to equality for women, and even to the use of Marijuana as medicine—they take the ‘love’ part seriously, but they don’t care much for millennia-old rules about diet and lovemaking.

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I won’t complicate the issue by trying to prove these people are non-religious, or even anti-religious. But these quasi-Christians are undeniably in favor of expanding our inclusion of all people, all genders—even all religions—and in that sense, they are anti-fundamentalists. Their love for their fellow person is so strong that they cannot deny the religion that legitimizes it—but it also forces them to deny the stringent judgments of fundamentalists.

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And as this social progress makes the world a friendlier place, there is an ironic counter-progress that empowers corporations and constrains individuals more and more each day. We will finally have a free-and-equal-spirited society—and it will arrive on the same day that our government has been manipulated into canceling freedom in the name of capitalism. If there were any hint of the liberality in most American’s hearts evident in the lobby-controlled, fundamentalist-friendly government’s workings, we would have a lot more alternative-energy and infrastructure-repair on the agenda—with its attendant jobs, not to mention a tax on the rich and the big companies—and a lowering of taxes for the less fortunate.

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So many economic clamps placed on the government’s efforts to help its citizens—such furious uproar when we talk about taxing the corporations and the rich—as if to say, “How dare you? We’re in charge here and you’re lucky to have what little you have now.” Democracy sounds like ‘majority rule’, but it has somehow eluded that and transformed into some kind of casino—run by shady owners who kowtow to the whales and bilk the rest. Yet people continue to strive towards their better selves—it’s a paradox, if you ask me.

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Inspired to Hate, Fight, and Kill (2014Jun06)

"Planet Rise" by Xper Dunn

Friday, June 06, 2014                  7:01 PM

photo-shopped image of original scan

D-Day remembrances today, including an unplanned 15-minute talk between Obama and Putin, both being at the same Normandy memorial event and no doubt aware of how ironic a present-day fracas over a part of Eastern Europe must seem on such a day, at such an event. They and others were treated to a unique dance piece involving masses of dancers on a large ‘playing field’ setting overlaid with an idealized map of the world. The most diverting part was played by the ‘Underground’ dancers who wove amongst the belligerent forces dance-groups—Claire loved it, I thought it dragged a bit, but I’m no big dance fan. I couldn’t help imagining the thoughts behind the eyes of all the old soldiers—whom I suspect were struggling to keep their expressions non-judgmental. In other words I thought it may have been the wrong audience and setting for something that artsy—but I’m no judge, what do I know.

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My favorite part of all the military ‘holy’ days is that the movies on TV come out in force—armed forces, that is. I just finished watching that “Band of Brothers” episode, “Why We Fight”—the one where they come upon a death camp—which ends with the German townspeople being forced to bury the remaining piles of corpses to a string quartet playing some mournful Beethoven. The afterword stated that 6,000,000 Jews and 5,000,000 of other ethnic minorities were murdered in the implementation of Hitler’s ‘Final Solution’—that’s eleven million people slaughtered by a fascist government system. Many other millions died innocently in bombings and shellings and shootings, disease and starvation, and there were hundreds of thousands of soldiers, sailors and airmen killed in action—on all sides of the fight. (We often overlook the facts that Russia fielded more fighters and took the lion’s share of the brunt of Nazi Germany’s savagery—and that the Chinese took the worst of it from Japan’s madness for military expansion. In 1945, after the Japanese withdrew, the Chinese government was so threadbare it was forced to stand silent as millions of its citizens died of the great famine that swept central China immediately after the war.

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The USA, very proud of its part in ending both World Wars, deftly ignores how late we were to join both fights—and how little we sacrificed compared to other nations who played the game on their home fields. I’m proud of America’s part in world history—and of our armed forces—the only empire that never takes possession of its conquests. Perspective, however, should not blind us to the records of history or the nature and value of the rest of the world. Proud is good, but selfish is not, and willfully ignorant is unacceptable.

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We are part of the same dark history that includes the ‘bad guys’ of history. First we slaughtered the Native Americans, then we imported and enslaved another minority—one we had created. The Nazis once wanted to exterminate minorities, and the South Africans once wanted to quarantine minorities rather than show them respect. We all now live in a wonderful, modern, global community that has agreed to the axiom that Human Rights must be unconditional, or they are not Human Rights. We all respect each other now, behind all the likes, dislikes, disagreements, and preferences, we recognize that our fellows (and even our enemies) are human beings like ourselves. That is the public face of all developed countries.

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But it is incomplete. Hatred is still very much with us. Some discount the equal rights of women; some discount the humanity of other racial groups; some discount everyone outside of their major faith; and many erroneously equate wealth and power as signs of greatness. Such prejudices still pervade some otherwise-civilized nations: Saudi Arabia still condescends to the female half of their population; Russia still criminalizes homosexuality; etc., etc.

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Outside of these institutional archaisms, there is the thornier problem of the quiet bigot—America is chock-full of such communities and individuals. How can these people know enough to be ashamed to speak their thoughts out loud in public and yet remain ignorant enough to cling to these fantasies of superiority and entitlement? Are their lives so harsh they require a mental whipping boy—something to blame for their lack of happiness? No, if that were true, there would be a demographic pattern to these devolutionary anti-socialists. The stats show that hate is everywhere—rich or poor, north or south, hate for women, hate for non-whites, hate for non-Christians—it persists in families that work hard to keep it alive in the face of so much enlightened pluralism in our media, our government, and our legislation—and in our daily lives. It must confuse the hell out of their kids.

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The truth, as Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein put to music so long ago, is that ‘you have to be carefully taught’. No one is born with the will to hate someone else based on their few differences. It is passed down from mother to daughter, from father to son—as is, unsurprisingly, tolerance. But tolerance itself needs no indoctrination—parents simply inform their children that all of us are people and none of us should be left out or excluded—and the children recognize a simple truth when they hear it. Prejudice must be repeated and reinforced over and over–it has to be carefully taught.

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How do we end this? I like to think that erosion will work against the pockets of willful ignorance until they are all gone—but that is both grindingly slow and terribly uncertain—people are crazy. Who’s to say we won’t see erosion in the wrong direction? So action seems required—but how do we act against parents raising their children in the privacy of their own homes? Plus, it is easy to deflect ones motives—to blame ones judgments against others on some practical detail rather than the hidden hate that truly inspired it. How do we stop that? I wish I knew.

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Can’t We Have Just One Good Thing?

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Monday, June 02, 2014               10:07 PM

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On Sunday, June 1st, five Taliban prisoners from Gitmo were flown to Qatar as part of the agreement to release Army Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl, the only known U.S. prisoner of war in Afghanistan, held captive for five years. His former platoon members consider his leaving the camp as an act of desertion—and after he was captured, some even resented the enormous search effort that followed his disappearance. Some of Obama’s political enemies are calling his unilateral decision to make the exchange a violation of Congress’s right to oversight and mutual decision-making in the matter of POW exchanges. Many Afghanis, including President Karzai, protest the American transfer of the five Taliban prisoners to Qatar, a third nation, as a violation of Afghani sovereignty. They further protest that these prisoners are charged with war crimes and crimes against humanity—and that setting them free virtually guarantees their return to terrorist activities.

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This is how modern America (led by the news-media) reacts to the return of their sole POW from our longest-lasting military engagement. Apparently, PTSD is all well and good once our military return home—but if someone becomes ‘disenchanted’ with the war while still ‘in theater’, that poor bastard is a deserter, maybe even a traitor—and his platoon-mates consider it good riddance to bad rubbish.

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I’d like to meet these fellows—I’ll bet they’re all real, stand-up guys. After five years of imprisonment by the worst terrorists on Earth, their first comment on their old pal, Sargent Bowe, is that he should be court-martialed and sent to prison! They claim he didn’t like the war and that he ‘wandered off’—real eagle-eyes, these guys. Nobody noticed? He disappears and they all just gape at each other and shrug? ‘Armies-of-One’, each and every one of them, I’m sure.

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The GOP who cry foul the loudest are the ones who have made abundantly clear their intention to counter and oppose every initiative, every post-nomination, and every decision President Obama decides to try for. And I’m fed up with their protests of innocence whenever their flagrant racism is pointed out—so let me just point out one other fact these Tea-Pots are guilty of.

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By robbing our President of the minimum respect and cooperation every other preceding president has been accorded, out of our proud tradition of accepting election results and getting on with the business of governing, they are also betraying the majority of the citizens, we the people, who elected Obama (sorry-I meant re-elected Obama) by a decisive margin.

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They have been literally screaming ‘Down with the President!’ for six years now—and aside from myself, I haven’t heard anyone call them traitors. Well, if President Obama felt he had to broker this deal without their sabotage of our government’s every responsibility, they can hardly expect anyone to take them seriously when they complain that they weren’t ‘included in the decision-making’. And as for President Karzai (who will remain President of Afghanistan for only a while longer) he has bought his domestic political capital by his shows of antagonism towards the USA for years—his protests carry as little evidence of objectivity as those of the Republican Party, and for the same reason. They both thrive on degrading the United States by abusing our President.

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Five terrorists with ‘cred’ from their stays at our national disgrace—Guantanamo Bay Prison—yes, releasing them sounds like a really bad idea—they will be heroes to the enemies of the USA and their potential ability to recruit new terrorists is incalculable. Nevertheless, we went to war against the Taliban and the Taliban is no more. Al-Qaeda has been decimated of its original command-and-control leaders.

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Let Pakistan have them, or Boko Haram, or whoever—their original roles have disappeared and the last place any of them want to be is in Afghanistan, or back with us—if it returns our only POW back to America (and if his ‘buddies’ don’t jail him) it will have been worth it. In fact, if we can come up with any excuses to chuck out the remaining military detainees in Gitmo, I for one am all for it.

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Is Bowe Bergdahl a hero? Probably not. Is he a casualty? Most definitely. My money is on him suffering PTSD while serving in action and not getting a whole lot of support from his comrades. Add to that five years of unthinkable panic, pain, stress, and desperation as a prisoner of terrorists. He still hasn’t been put on a plane to America because the army medics are trying to get him used to trusting another person in the room with him—a description that sounds an awful lot like ‘total breakdown’. Even if he wasn’t emotionally unstable when he went missing, he sure is now. Of all the military that served there, Bowe Bergdahl may be the only one whose nightmarish fears of Afghanistan came completely true. I feel that should be a consideration when discussing his legal liabilities, if any truly exist.

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Sometimes I try to figure out which country will be the next ‘America’—we have gone a long way down the road of decline. Our spirit is weak. Our ambitions are myopic. Our ideals have become stories we tell about the past, not something most of us still strive for in daily life. Our propensity to let money corrupt everything we once stood for has eaten away at our moral foundations to the point where, like the melting ice caps, it seems beyond the point of repair—on a downward slide to a new world where our America will become as trapped in its circumstances as any Old World nation ever was.

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I wish it weren’t true. I wish lobbying and legal bullying hadn’t gotten us so surrounded by the forces of mindless corporate entities, corrupt government officials, the military-industrial complex, and the monolithic communications giants, that grass-roots politics can be shouted down by big-money political smear campaigns and divisive interest groups. Sadly, I sometimes ponder Sweden, Australia, Iceland, Brazil, Great Britain, and Canada—I ask myself if I shouldn’t encourage my kids to emigrate, to abandon the declining empire of our Constitution and start somewhere with less cholesterol in its veins.

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Still, they say that while it is too late to stop the ice caps from melting, we still have a century or so before the truly devastating rise of sea level to ten or twenty feet above where it is now. My generation will be gone, but my kids may live to see the whole world get new coastlines (and the attendant chaos). So, while I think of the decline of America, I still think it will be their best bet until many decades from now—they’ll have to decide on their own best location, after I’m gone.

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I feel so sad to think of how I once saw my country—I was naïve, yes, but some of what I believed in was actually true. Nowadays, not so much. And when something like a returning POW is treated to the scandal-mill process of modern news and political infighting, instead of joy and gratitude—well, perhaps Army Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl’s ‘disenchantment’ with fighting for his country in Afghanistan had some grounds to base it on.

Philadelphia Museum of Art

There are No Free Lunches—Unless You Own the Deli (2014Apr07)

Monday, April 07, 2014              2:28 PM

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It’s so simple. All we have to do is be fair with each other, to care about our community, and to refrain from judging each other. If we did that, we wouldn’t have income inequality—we’d have a generous support system that makes working an option rather than a necessity; we wouldn’t have a powerful group of organizations trying to perpetuate ecological destruction—we’d have a powerful Environmental Protection Agency with the authority to force businesses to curtail their air-and-water-and-ground pollutions, to go bankrupt, if necessary, to protect the global environment; we wouldn’t have underground currents of bigotry in our society—we’d have social norms that insisted on equality for women, non-whites, and the disabled.

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It would mean adding an entirely new level to our evaluation process—once a business was determined to be profitable, it would also have to be seen to be a sensible activity—one which doesn’t turn a blind eye to the ecological or humanitarian downsides that certain businesses might engender. Profit should not be at the top of our decision tree. Human survival should have that spot. And human decency should be in there ahead of profit, too. Damage is not being recognized as part of our evaluation process. Neither ecological nor humanitarian destruction is considered—only the figures on the balance sheets and the laws lobbied into existence to pre-empt any do-gooders that might sue them for such destruction.

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Corporations with no loyalty to humanity should not be given the latitude of legal ‘person-hood’—they are not our friends, they represent a cancer of morality that threatens our continued existence. Because a corporation cannot feel pain, it doesn’t include human suffering into its calculations—it has only one goal—revenue—and only one law—economize. A few decades ago, the people that ran corporations felt a moral compunction against ‘doing evil’—they had not yet separated, in their minds, their responsibility as people from their actions as managers of a corporation. Today, the only question that concerns them is whether their lawyers are good enough to shield them from whatever thoughtless, profit-making scheme they can come up with. They tell themselves that the world works that way—which it didn’t always, and which only works now because so many of the rich and powerful are shameless enough to hide behind it. They tell themselves that if they didn’t do their job, someone else would, and the only difference would be that their children had to go to public schools, and that the only work for an honest man these days pays minimum wage.

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But here’s the thing the rich folks don’t want to think about: people no longer have to work to survive. Let me back up a bit for this one. Ancient nomadic cultures disliked the idea of agriculture—it gave people a surplus of food, and that surplus went right back into feeding a standing army, which protected the grain and livestock from raiders and thieves. As agriculture grew, and civilization matured, these permanent emplacements became small cities—the work required for survival drops even lower, and an upper class appears—people who have the power to command others and excuse themselves from daily labors, even to the owning of slaves.

Thus began the standard equation—special people were in charge, and un-special people were expected to do what work remained obligatory. As time went on, the idea of retiring more people from the full time work force expressed itself as a middle class—those who did less work and had more discretionary time than the un-special in general. Had this continued, the middle-class would have experienced a growth, per capita, of middle-class people, and a decline in the number of ‘un-special’ people until they were no more.

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But the wealthy of our present day insist that only a person who works for the ruling class eight full hours a day should ‘deserve’ a subsistence living wage—and only a few, who are expected to work ten-or-twelve hours a day, should enjoy the relative ease of middle management. This is madness from at least two perspectives.

The first—the idea that our present-day global community requires 99% of us to work all day, every day, is ludicrous. Second—they include themselves in the ‘workforce’—as if deciding where to eat lunch was equivalent to the labors of road-pavers and electrical linemen.

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Factories made it possible to do the work of hundreds of craftspeople in a single day, with a handful of employees running the machinery. Today, factories are becoming roboticized to the point where only one or two people can do the work of thousands—or, to be more precise, one or two people can watch over the machines that do the work of thousands. But more importantly, this is also true of agriculture—huge tracts of farmland are tended by a small number of machine drivers, freeing the hundreds of man-hours farming just a few acres represented, up until a century ago. Armies, too, are doing more killing and destruction with better and better machines, and less and less soldiers.

And now, the latest development—our economy implodes, and when the economy finally climbs back out of the hole, it leaves the American work-force behind. Employment still lags, even while big business has an historic boom. The rich still insist that we peasants are too lazy to get a job—but they don’t have any jobs to offer. The economic straits of the 99% are worthy of at least as much effort as was exerted to alleviate the citizens that starved and froze during the Great Depression—but no, say the rich, you’re all just lazy.

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Having a good job isn’t the be-all it used to be—it is becoming a rarity, a luxury. There are a lot of jobs in one labor-marketplace—the minimum wage, part-time, ‘not enough to live on’, ‘not enough to raise a family on’-type jobs. This is the last straw. The rich suppose we should all work long and hard every day—even if we don’t get paid fairly. Meanwhile, the amount of work required to keep the wheels turning in our present society gets smaller and smaller.

I don’t have a job. I don’t have any prospects for finding a job. Does that make me unworthy of living? Should I just kill myself? Don’t answer that. I believe that our government should address this slow but steady change in our paradigm. Single mothers (and fathers) should be subsidized—whether they work outside of the home, away from their children, should be a choice, not a necessity. Young people should have their education-loan debts forgiven. Corporations should be taxed, and heavily, as should the super-rich citizens. You’d think corporations and the super-wealthy would want all these things, because they promote a healthy business environment.

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Perhaps they’re scared—after all, once you start giving money to poor people, it’s only a matter of time before you start taking money from the wealthy! Well, boo-hoo for them. Income inequality begins with the wealthy getting greedy, not from the poor getting lazy. Work ain’t what it used to be.

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The Finger On The Button (2014Feb20)

Thursday, February 20, 2014               12:52 AM

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The beauty of the world can be so sharp it cuts—the singer’s voice, the crystal etched, the colors of the paintings, the smell of weather outside the front door—it’s really quite painful when one fully opens oneself to it. So, with paradoxes like that, it seems lunatic to expect our society to make the least bit of sense. Michelangelo said that there is no beauty without some strangeness of proportion—and the Japanese craftspeople always add an imperfection to finish their works, as a concession to the Universe. We research scientific minutiae without the slightest regard for all the really big, completely unanswerable questions in life. We speak of differences of opinions and orthodoxies of faiths—we know nothing, we understand nothing—we care only for ourselves, except when love kills our sense of self-preservation.

I was just watching “The Life of Emile Zola” (1937) on the TV—its ending focused on Zola’s championing of Alfred Dreyfus, the French Officer falsely accused of treason and kept imprisoned on Devil’s Island even after the French War Dept. were informed of his innocence—just to save the Army Ministers from the public embarrassment. It is a damning portrayal of corrupt authority and the injustices it forces on all of the people they purportedly serve. Then, before I turned off the TV, CNN showed footage of the Kiev riots, in Ukraine.

Those Ukrainians were protesting their government’s choice to sign a trade agreement with Russia, rather than sign a trade agreement with the EU. Many people were killed and hundreds wounded as Kiev riot police clashed with huge mobs of protestors—I couldn’t say what the truth is, concerning the Trade Deals, but I do know that it is much easier to have a meeting with concerned groups’ leaders than to start a pitched battle in the streets of the capitol city.

There’s been a lot of news stories lately about legislation that is in the interest of banks and corporations, rather than the good of our country’s citizens. These, combined with recent rulings allowing unfettered financial support to political campaigns, are only two of the many unsettling changes we seem to face in 2014. Capitalism has evolved into a modern weapon, and the taking hostage of our government is its most threatening act. We were fine with using it against other countries, subsuming their living culture into our consuming culture, but now that it has turned on us we are at a loss. What can we do against the owners of everything, even those who own the right of self-expression, i.e. the media moguls? How do we fight an enemy that we use as a reference source? How come history is so full of stories about corrupt leadership and self-interest among authority, yet we still act as if our leaders are honorable folk?

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When I see a parade of legislators on TV, each making statements more ignorant than the one before, I always wonder why anyone takes these people seriously. Whenever they lobby to roll back some piece of modern progress I am stunned to hear them advocate racism, sexism, rejection of science, rejection of our social conscience, and the social services it compelled.

These are double-whammies in that a supposedly sane and educated person mouths these foul sentiments and that our media amplifies their ‘legitimacy’ by covering such things in lurid detail, leaving no even-stupider sentiment go unheard in the process. There should be a military base somewhere, with a guy whose finger is on the button, ready to call ‘bull-squat’ on any of these distracting idiots, and cut them off from all media notice with the touch of a red button. Now, that’s national defense. Call it Home-brain Defense—stupidity, psychos, and rank fiction will no longer be tolerated.

Trouble is we’d probably have to impeach every member of both houses, at least 48 governors, and who knows how many mayors.

Beautiful Weather We’re Having…

Three Films just out on VOD (2014Jan14)

Tuesday, January 14, 2014           6:23 PM

Just watched “The Butler”—very inspiring and uplifting. Even Cuba Gooding, Jr. was afraid to make a joke. There’s such a division between me and black people—their last half-century is a history of struggle and strength and dreams and has, for the purposes of this movie, at least, found a happy, even glorious, ending in Obama’s 2008 election as the first African-American President of the United States. My last half-century has been spent resembling the rednecks whose behavior and ignorance have brought shame to all Caucasian-Americans.

But enough about me—every president in the movie is a major star (I can imagine the wrestling agents, maddened by the blood-scent of a good cameo role). As the story of one man going through his life, the only meaty roles went to Oprah Winfrey (Gaine’s wife) and Cuba Gooding, Jr. (White House co-worker). There were many characters in passing, which I didn’t even get a good look at before their brief time on screen ended, but whom I learned watching the ‘Cast’ credits, was over-stuffed with actors and actresses who wouldn’t normally be seen in bit parts.

I also watched “Enough Said”, James Gandolfini’s last film, which also starred Julia Louise-Dreyfus, and in which both are confident, comfortable actors with a great script. Humorous, but not cringe-worthy—and I think that’s a rare compliment among Hollywood’s recent romantic comedies. Granted, the two star-crossed lovers are divorced fifty-year-olds—but as a fifty-something myself I can tell you that it was a much-appreciated crumb thrown in the direction of we ‘old people’.

Last night, I screened the current remake of Stephen King’s “Carrie”, which kept me awake until 3 am, but not because I was scared. Perhaps I was put off by the demonstration of how mean girls of today torture their classmates—worlds away from 1970s practices, but no different in their cruelty. In this case, a reminder that ‘the only constant is change’ was an unwanted one. Modern CGI gave a few interesting moments to the graphics, but they forgot to put anything behind the characters’ faces–which made it very hard to stop seeing them as actors and to get involved in the story.

One-Way Finger-Pointing (2013Nov15)

So, I can’t understand this ‘instant disaster’—or maybe I just don’t want to—a few days ago, everyone was very happy with the President, even though there were problems with the Healthcare.gov website, and then the Insurance industry sends out blanket cancellations, specifically blaming the Affordable Healthcare Act for the cancelling of these policies.

First off, they followed this specious accusation with a sales pitch for a ridiculously overpriced ‘replacement’ policy they offer—and held back any emphasis on the new insurance ‘marketplace’ the AHA laws had created—sometimes failing to even mention that option in their ‘cancellation notices’. And there’s something else they conveniently overlook—that the Insurance moguls were cancelling existing policies because they failed to meet the new minimum requirements for Health Insurance!

So, did Obama really lie about keeping our policy? Or did he just conveniently overlook that Insurance Companies were definitely going to have to cancel those policies, because  the new law made them sub-standard. Now, I heard a lot of cherry-picking: some middle-aged woman made a big deal about not needing maternity coverage, because she was done having children. She didn’t understand, apparently, that the point is no health insurance policy be considered legitimate if it doesn’t cover all medical needs.

Lots of people don’t need every single, itemized bit of coverage in their plan—that’s called a ‘minimum standard’—the Insurance company offers a policy that protects you from unforeseen medical costs—if it doesn’t include maternity, that’s not a ‘savings’ for post-menopausal women, it’s merely a refusal of decent coverage for all the rest of the women capable of bearing children.

In all this ‘Tea Party’ madness, we sometimes lose sight of whose side we are on. Health Care Reform has been a major issue for decades—and for all that time, between our insurers and our employers deciding what our health coverage and cost should be, legislators have tried to curb the excesses and depredation that system was stuck in.

It is the Health Insurance Industry that is our enemy, not the President of the United States—how hard is that to understand? Insurers and Big Pharma have their economic sights set on all of us, just as any employers will. They want to get the most they can out of us, and give us back the least they can get away with. If our government can protect us from that, why are there so many politicians railing against the Affordable Healthcare Act?

I suspect their agendas lean towards other priorities than our well-being. The really sad part is they are tricking us into helping them help the Insurance lobby.

And in the process, they are demonizing our President for trying to curb the excessive rip-offs of these money-grubbers and make things better for the rest of us. They try to defame Obama just to help the Insurance industry maintain their ‘freedom’ to screw us over—and the Talking Heads rush on the air and say, “O No, the world is ending for Obama” – the real headline is: “Insurance Companies Close to Eluding Regulation”.

Take That

Take That (Election Night 2013)

Election Night! November 5th, 2013

Election Night!
November 5th, 2013

Augmentation, but In a Bad Way

Get back to me on that.

Get back to me on that.

 

Augmentation, but In a Bad Way

2nd consecutive rant–I can do this all winter….

Our Dog Is Getting On

Our President can’t reason with unreasonable people.

Our Dog Is Getting On

My most recent rant–enjoy!

Cold Tea (2013Oct07)

Monday, October 07, 2013                  8:59 PM

The ‘Tea Party’ House Representatives were voted in ‘in anger’—and they make things worse by ignoring any rules of logic or civility. Their mandate, as they see it, is to upset government-as-usual—which no one can deny they have now succeeded at. Bravo, Tea Party—you win.

Just one problem—the Tea Party has no off switch. It was sent to D.C. in protest against all the laissez-faire acceptance of the Twenty-First Century’s dynamic paradigm.

The Tea Party won’t accept any religious freedom that infringes on their religion—and their religion (as represented by the squeakiest wheel) is a type of fundamentalist protestant Christianity. The Tea Party prefers to see global culture as the subsuming of the rest of the nations under the USA’s economic sway, if not legislative. And the Tea Party is against the coddling of perfectly exhaustible humans who ‘claim’ to be disabled or otherwise unable to work—not to mention their children.

The evolutionary story of the Christian faith was completed at the turn of the last century. It was most noticeably finalized by “The Golden Bough” by James George Frazer, first published in1890. I will pause here and quote Wikipedia.com, to save us both some time:

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia:

[“The Golden Bough: A Study in Comparative Religion”

(retitled “The Golden Bough: A Study in Magic and Religion” in its second edition)

is a wide-ranging, comparative study of mythology and religion, written by the Scottish anthropologist Sir James George Frazer (1854–1941).

 

It was first published in two volumes in 1890;

in three volumes in 1900;

the third edition, published 1906–15, comprised twelve volumes.

The work was aimed at a wide literate audience raised on tales as told in such publications as Thomas Bulfinch’s “The Age of Fable”, or his “Stories of Gods and Heroes” (1855).

Sir Frazer offered a modernist approach to discussing religion, treating it dispassionately as a cultural phenomenon rather than from a theological perspective. The influence of The Golden Bough on contemporary European literature and thought was substantial.”]

And this was a crushing blow to organized, modern religions—at this point (as of my writing this) all have been discredited for over a century. T.S. Eliot’s “The Wasteland” is considered by many to be the pre-eminent poem of the entire 20th century. It’s subject, in large part, is the devastation felt by these good people when the very bedrock of their reality was de-bunked. Nor did this deathblow to the legitimacy of churches come out of the blue.

In 1888, Friedrich Nietzsche, in “The Gay Science”, Section 125, ( translated by Walter Kaufmann):

“God is dead. God remains dead. And we have killed him. Yet his shadow still looms. How shall we comfort ourselves, the murderers of all murderers? What was holiest and mightiest of all that the world has yet owned has bled to death under our knives: who will wipe this blood off us? What water is there for us to clean ourselves? What festivals of atonement, what sacred games shall we have to invent? Is not the greatness of this deed too great for us? Must we ourselves not become gods simply to appear worthy of it?”

For more than a century, scholars have grappled with historical evidence, with proof that religion is a tradition, not a reality. Because the understanding only comes after an education that involves science, archeology, history, and philosophy, those left with no choice but to turn away from our ancient traditions, or risk hypocrisy, are few—and we tend to be those irritating college-boys and girls. Thus the news that god is dead has come and gone, unless you are well educated enough to understand what research has revealed.

In the interval, we post-modern sophisticates have come to avoid the issue in public out of sympathy for whosoever may still believe in their religion. Thus the major changes were academic rather than public. We see a great reduction in those who once used to prescribe learning (Ancient) Greek, Latin, and Sanskrit so that any truly serious scholar would be able to read the earliest records of the sacred scriptures.

Nowadays, students of Science and Mathematics can ‘show off’ by memorizing all the Latin names of special flora and fauna. Beyond that, the language and alphabet of the ancient Greeks, Romans, or Hindus has become a purely archeological and scholarly interest in the halls of higher learning (pre-supposing I exempt all such institutes that may still be run on the precepts of some such dogma that forbids that point-of-view). An advanced degree in Religion or Religious Studies was once considered a powerful tool for a leader, or a teacher—presently those degrees are viewed by many as no different from a degree in Philosophy or Ethics.

Throughout the Twentieth Century a polite détente was observed with regard to those who considered Christian religions exposed as historical amalgams, rather than ‘revealed scripture’—and those who clung to their faith in spite of what research and learning had unearthed about our distant past. The Old-Timers (if you’ll excuse my calling them that) were not confronted on the sidewalk every day by impatient atheists who wanted them to get over their ‘delusion’. That’s how we got to the point of Charismatic Cults in the 1970s, and hypocritical TV evangelists who were begging for money—and getting it in handfuls from lonely old folks who had nothing to do but watch TV all day.

But this new ‘respectability’ is beyond all sense. Our Christian fundamentalists funded the Muslim fundamentalists’ war against the Soviet Union (godless heathens, that is). Now we have debates on what is extremist, what is terrorist, what is harmless fundamentalist doctrine?

The truth is that it’s all a sham. But religion is a part of society. The Catholics, and the Salvation Army do the most to support the impoverished, but Protestants, Muslims, lots of ‘church-groups’ of whatever stripe are also out there, trying to make a difference. To date, no fund-raising organization for helping the poor has ever replaced our churches and temples.

And that has never been addressed as a public issue. Neither has the basis of ethical behavior, outside of an organized faith’s doctrine. Declaring ones atheism isn’t going to make one a lot of friends. The atheist’s peace of mind is also scant. But the freedom from the ludicrous, the letting go of the incredible… there are some upsides to being without a church.

But I have allowed myself to meander—back to the point. The full quote from Karl Marx is: “Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, and the soul of soulless conditions. It is the opium of the people”.

He makes no mention of our addiction being used by the establishment to coerce us into cooperation with the very-far-from-fair Capitalist system. For some reason, I always implied that meaning in my own mind. Regardless, when religion becomes part of the politics of a government, it invariably signals some group of hypocrites trying to manipulate the simpler folk. To be fair, I think there are plenty of politicians out there who are privately agnostic—but if they hadn’t the sense to keep it to themselves, they wouldn’t be politicians now, would they?

So the Tea Party can boast members with a very prickly attitude about church-going. And the Tea Party is very picky about freedom. I, for instance, enjoy the freedom of walking down the street and feeling perfectly safe in my own little American neighborhood. But I can only enjoy that freedom because others have lost the freedom to let their dogs roam unleashed, have lost the freedom to hold dangerous drag races down the street I’m walking on, and have lost the freedom to DWI their automobile right up my—shutcho-mouth.

The Tea Party wants to keep their freedom to say no to mandatory healthcare. Where were these people when we got saddled with mandatory auto insurance to register a car—or mandatory home insurance to get a mortgage? I’ll tell you where they were—they were being properly ignored by sensible people who were looking at the bigger picture. We got so used to having responsible representation in the federal government that we got tired of voting—and after a while; the excitable nut-jobs were the only ones voting.

I’m as guilty as the next person—I didn’t bother to vote until Clinton. The aftermath, that terrible eight years of ‘W’, was much harder to take now that I was a voter. But Obama’s election, and re-election, restored my faith in my fellow citizens. I’m supremely happy with his steering of the ship of state. The only thing that went wrong was the Tea Party. The implicit racism of the Tea Party is borne out by its creation after Obama took office, it’s persistent disrespect and rumor-mongering towards our head of state—regardless of the harm done to our nation’s perception by the rest of the world, and its current pretense of fighting to ‘preserve their freedoms’ while the country, perhaps even the globe, begins to smolder.

They are a shame and blight on our body politic. I have to hope that even the idiots who elected them will see their mistake, and vote for someone else to take their office, someone with some common sense and respect for our governing system.

Obama has turned our economy back upwards from the ditch the GOP drove it into—he has passed and (now) implemented the affordable care legislation that the GOP are screaming about—it is very popular. Apparently, health care is something poor people, even middle class people, want and need.

To turn this country upside-down in protest is worse than childish—it is criminal. If it were up to me, I’d charge a heavy fine on the Tea Party reps for every day they thumb their noses at our country’s well-being and reputation abroad.

Bachmann’s Reich

I saw Michelle Bachmann interviewed by Wolf Blitzer on CNN this morning. She didn’t answer any of his questions. He pressed and pressed for a simple yes or no on any of his several reasonable questions. She talked around him, over him, under him, throwing out Tea-Party talking points as she evaded the subject Wolf was trying to talk about. She contradicted him with a bunch of spurious poll numbers and misinformation to which Wolf could only respond, “Where are you getting this information?” (Which she claimed she had ‘back at her office’).

We have seen Bachmann and other Tea-Party stalwarts take their cues from Palin’s VP-run playbook whenever they are faced with serious disagreement. It is transparently the behavior of someone trying to evade the plain truth by becoming hysterical over left-field distractions and quoting patently imaginary facts and figures—they even rewrite history to push their ignorant (and obviously paid-for) agenda.

In the old days we described this behavior as ‘squirming’ and ‘bold-faced lying’. But today it is viewed by many people as ‘Tea-Party politics’—as if, when red-necks get up on their haunches and shout their frustration at a complicated and pluralist world, they are permitted to be completely nonsensical and wildly untruthful. I think it has something to do with their response to this, which is to charge that everyone else is lying. They even pose as martyrs to ‘gotcha’-journalism (translation: any reasonable questions posed in front of a camera).

But I’m not mad at these poor souls—they are deluded, misguided, and given far more attention and legitimacy than is healthy for the uneducated. I’m mad at us—how did we allow stupidity to become a valid political platform? When did we drop any minimum intelligence limit for people who have a national microphone before them?

President Obama made an address later on this afternoon, in which he pointed out that the House of Representatives has a solemn duty—political kamikaze tactics may be all the House GOP members are interested in, but they have actual responsibilities as well. That they ignore those responsibilities is just another maddening symptom of this new class of politician, the ‘stubborn simpleton’ (Yes, I’m referring to Ted Cruz). The fact that experienced, older GOP members are nearly as dismayed as the Democrats at the irrational and irresponsible behavior of the Tea-Partyers says a great deal about just how far from sanity these people have gone (and taken the rest of us with them).

I’m glad Obama has put his foot down—negotiating with such cretins does nothing to appease them—and nothing anyone else can say can convince them that they are in the wrong—about anything. That’s the surest sign of their mental imbalance—their refusal to face reality.

The only thing worse? That these troublemakers are expected to be re-elected by their constituencies! When seniors don’t get their Social Security allowance, when soldiers in the field don’t get a paycheck to send to their families, when no one can get a loan for the foreseeable future—will those people really re-affirm their faith in this group?  I would do more than merely vote for a Democrat—I’d have them charged with high treason.

They are threatening to break the world, to destroy the United States of America, to ruin everyone’s day for years to come—how can anyone see them as responsible office-holders and elected officials?

…And the Competition Is Over!

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The great engine behind capitalism and the free market is supposed to be competition. But I wonder what competition is still happening just now as we head towards the winter of 2013-2014. Small towns from coast to coast have lost their competitions with Wal-Mart and its ilk—towns where people once supported each other saw themselves put out of business as they put their neighbor out of business, both of them saving money by shopping at a big store chain, and both eventually left bankrupt, homeless, and worse.

Perhaps there is some friendly competition going on between the CEOs of those few giant corporations—not as interesting as a game of golf, perhaps, but something that keeps their egos pumping. But outside that, all the competing is over. Multi-billion-dollar, multi-national corporations—petroleum giants, pharmaceutical giants, entertainment media giants, etc.—may see themselves in competition with each other, at least in the minds of the top management and board-members. But today’s major players in our global marketplace are so beribboned with both vertical and horizontal diversification, so invested in the overall stability of the global economy, and required to have such cold-blooded, implacable ambition—those people expend their energies on office politics, influence peddling, and investment poaching to an extent that leaves most of the ‘competition’ in their own heads—and, more importantly, without any effect on the regular people.

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The regular people, the lower-income-to-high-middle-class income, the hoi polloi, the little people—call them what you will—they be us. We no longer compete in meaningful ways. Our children can study until they’re blue in the brain—there’s still a chance we won’t be able to foot the bill for Harvard or Princeton—and that our children may not be among the select few who win the scholarships that may or may not make an ivy-league degree affordable. So we no longer have any significant competition in scholarship—excepting those rare scholarships and grants. The vast majority, however, see college costs recede further and further from reality—and that’s only to get a bachelor’s degree—the post-graduate world is a maze of student loans, part-time jobs, and constant struggle to achieve what comes to the families-of-wealth’s kids as a gift.

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Want to start a coffee shop? Starbucks has you beat. A book store? Amazon’s already there. A hardware store? –Home Depot is already there. A restaurant? Well, they were never great investments to begin with—and all but the hoity-toity-est can’t compete with the prices at Outback, Red Lobster, or Appleby’s. Drug store chains make the town pharmacists redundant. And at this point, if any kind of small business isn’t doing business inside a mall or some other high-foot-traffic area, they will shrivel on the vine.

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Can boutique, community-conscious shops get by? Yes, but there had better be at least one necessity being sold there, or their solvency will fade with the novelty of their existence. And this is all beside the point that, if you were to come up with some tremendous new thing that drew crowds of shoppers, it would be imitated, mass-produced, and available at the mall within a single fiscal period.

When Europeans first began emigrating to the New World, competition was everywhere, businesses were fighting right and left in a world of disparate, mom-and-pop farms, shops, transport, communication and services. This rising of the dough of Capitalism had plenty of yeast, and the chaos of the free market made commerce an almost Brownian-motion pattern of new, starting, growing, dying, and expanding ventures. The passage of centuries has brought all that to a stagnant precipitate of big corporations and huge personal fortunes—the reaction has reached equilibrium.

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Obama says there are not enough ladders to prosperity anymore—and I agree with that—but I see it as the obvious end result of free-for-all capitalism, as it went from land invasion (or pioneering, as some call it) to industrial revolution, to urban-centric economies and the world of modern business. The land has been parceled out, competition in industry ended in one or two giants controlling the field or product, and chain stores and the internet have destroyed entrepreneurship as we once understood it.

Now that those currents of history and development and growth and consolidation have slowed to a molasses-like oozing that allows new business only sparingly—and with few of those making the grade. Even the once famously individualistic business of digital software has become a two-sided struggle between two giants which become less distinct from each other the longer they compete for the bigger half of the pie.

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Even businesses that have just been created, such as private space-based technology companies and genome-research firms are so complex and expensive that they hardly lend themselves to small business start-ups—they all come as off-shoots of one or more already-large-and-successful multinational corporations.

In short, ‘competition’ is disappearing just as quickly as our environmental stability. Even pro sports—the very embodiment of competition—have become as much businesses as teams-in-competition. And with the loss of that beating heart, the tension of competition, the thrill of the contest, Capitalism becomes just another word for Oligarchy—a set-in-stone society of the super-wealthy and their seven billion servants.

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America’s growth into the greatest super-power in history was possible partly due to the fact that we could start from a tabula-rasa continent. Our government wasn’t an amalgam of centuries of war and despotism—it was something we could design with an 18th century understanding of ourselves. Our societies didn’t have millennia of embedded classes, castes, lordship and slavery—we could invent a new society that had a more modern populism as its defining characteristic. And with the industrial revolution coming fast on the heels of our wars for independence and unity, we found it much easier to embrace the quickening tempo of a civilization on the cusp of modernity.

But now America’s arcane, baroque-filigreed legislation, our corporate culture become more a thing of inertia than healthy growth, and our fairly complete distribution over every square inch of habitable real estate—have all brought us to a situation wherein we see ourselves as we used to be, while the truth eludes us. America’s culture is still younger than Europe’s, but it is no longer ‘young’.

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Our best years may still lie ahead, as a nation, but our easy-going, whimsical days are over—from here on out, we must (like all the other nations) approach change slowly and with more forethought than Americans are generally comfortable with. And most importantly, we must reexamine Capitalism in the era of Corporate Consolidation, a Capitalism without significant Competition as its driving force.

We do have stress, of course. There is plenty of stress, everywhere you go. But stress is just fear of being fired, it isn’t true competition. Instead of struggling and working harder, we hunch into our cubicles and try not to think about being downsized, or being rendered obsolete by technology. Indeed, the worst symptom of our present culture’s dysfunction is the fact that working harder, working faster, making an effort of any kind, no longer has any relevance to our incomes, or to our success in the business world.

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Fifth Columnists

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The disloyalty to our president was just embarrassing through his first term. But now it is actually impinging on our national security. Past presidents could always rely on the people recognizing the importance of supporting the elected president, even when they voted against him. And it is just suicidal where international policy is involved—making our head of state look weak isn’t in any American’s best interest.

But now we have a rabid media, carrying the ammo for all the tea-party, red-neck, fundamentalist, closeted-bigot misanthropes who have assigned themselves as ‘Obama blockers’—people who study the art of oblique response and ‘teaching the controversy’ for the sole purpose of holding us back from the twenty-first century’s avalanche of cancellations of status—men aren’t in charge anymore; Christianity doesn’t get a free pass anymore; priests and gym coaches are not nearly as respectable as they were once thought to be; ‘weirdos’ aren’t safe to bully anymore; being gay is no longer a ‘mental illness’; and nerdy ‘thinkers’ are more dangerous, more powerful, and more wealthy than anyone else—even football players.

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There’s no denying that it’s a lot to take in. The world has become scarier on many different levels—how could it not when, suddenly, nearly every person in the world can text-message anyone else in the world. The decline of the United States Postal Service is the least of it—the Arab Spring saw social media become a Command and Control network for any group of like-minded people. Politicians who embraced the new digital environment were miles ahead of any doubting laggards. People are becoming so involved with each other that the major TV networks are failing to capture prime-time audiences that once were captive—and their best breadwinners are now reality shows and talent shows that display humanity’s interactions and dreams of success and validation.

With our contemporary enlightenment comes a loss of steadiness and security—now that we’ve questioned everything, we have to live with an infinite string of questions—will the bank fail?, will the stocks crash?, will a small town become a ghost town?, will our food give us cancer?, will our food help prevent cancer?, are cars safe?, is burning petroleum a crime?, will my air conditioner break the atmosphere? All things have a 50-50 chance now—we may have been stupid to rely on false assumptions or a corrupt system, but in some ways we had a lot more peace of mind. Would life be better if we were stupider?

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Well, I think you can guess what a stupid person’s answer to that question would be. But let’s say you’re smart—like President Obama. Let’s say you have to play international ‘poker’ with every other nation on Earth, all at the same time. Would he maybe threaten the use of missiles, when it helps put pressure on intransigent dictators and pouting braggarts? Is that tricky? You bet it’s tricky. Is it harder when the media-swarms and naysayers nit-pick everything he does and says? You bet it’s harder. Did you ever think you’d see the day when Republicans would holler bloody murder over proposed US military actions? Me neither.

The Republicans, by hating everything Obama on principal, have truly contorted themselves into a human pretzel—they tried to stop Health Care Reform for years (they’re still trying) but they can’t be against health care, or schools, or lots of things people generally want and need. They tie themselves in knots trying to say two opposing ideas at the same time. But now they’re against firing missiles at somebody—come on! We know you guys love that stuff—you’re not fooling anybody.

I take that back—some are fooled. Putin, for one. He thinks all you reactionary maniacs represent the majority of Americans—why wouldn’t he—the tea-party gets more TV air-time than car commercials. Why? Because the news loves a car wreck. The Media wants conflict, they stopped being about ‘informing the public’ a long time ago. Still, Putin, Assad—all those charmers—should take note of who won our election, twice.

The majority of Americans voted for the man they trust and respect—and if that makes us exceptional, well, ya got me there…

 

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You Want To Know What It Is?

I’ll tell you what the f***k it is—it’s the goddam Obama-haters. The one thing we, as Americans, have always done is to accept the elected president and treat him with the respect deserved by the office, regardless of our feelings for the person elected. I’ll grant you, we had a lot of fun sniping at Bush 2.0 because he didn’t have the greatest command of grammar, English, arithmetic, or public speaking—but we never expressed the violence implied by the vitriol of the ‘I hate Obama’ party.

Even when it became crystal clear a few months into the occupation of Iraq that there were never any WMDs and that the whole war was a ‘pet project’ of Dubya’s and his cronies’, when he committed our troops to an unnecessary invasion, did we ever question his citizenship, or his faith, or his intentions. Even when there were a lot of outstanding questions about his win over Gore in 2000, once the FL supreme court ruled and Bush was inaugurated—no one ever trashed his character or swore to fight his every single piece of legislation in Congress, or block his every single Presidential appointee, or call for outright violence against his person.

Only the Obama-haters have ever so ruthlessly disgraced this country with their obviously racist fury. I would give them the benefit of the doubt if their objections and allegations remained respectful of this country and the office of the Presidency. But they made history with their disrespect.

No one, before Obama, had ever been called ‘Liar!’ in the middle of his state of the union address—and by a member of congress, no less. This congress is set to make history over the next few months as the most useless, do-nothing, back-biting bunch of bulls**t-artists this country has ever seen.

A record low in the number of bills passed. And the Republican party, i.e. the people who brought you the worst fiscal crisis since the Great Depression, just days before Obama would become president-elect, could hardly wait for him to take the oath, so they could start blaming him for their greed and corruption—and the millions of Americans who lost their jobs under Bush’s watch.

Legislation that was copied word for word from earlier, Republican conceptions was nevertheless voted down by that party’s office-holders, especially the health care bill they so loudly declaim is unconstitutional.

All of this unprecedented rage and stubborn, irresponsible behavior in elected officials is proof, to me, that we are not talking politics here—we are talking racism, pure and simple, and I think the whole conservative camp in this country should be ashamed of their childish and ignorant behavior. That’s what the f**k it is. Prove me wrong, you tea-party clowns and closeted sex criminals and corrupt, fat, toxic bunch of fools.

I mean, Jeez! You people took what was potentially the proudest moment in our nation’s history—proof that the American ideal of equality was real, Not just a bunch of bulls**t, and you ruined it by publicly and strenuously screaming your heads off about our President being this, not being that, putting obstacles in front of every single move he tried to make.

And let’s get this straight—this was not tit-for-tat. President Obama has done his damnedest to try and get this country out of the ditch the Republicans abandoned it in, to end the useless wars the Republicans got us into, to get services for the troops who were wounded, or the families of the dead, to improve our infrastructure, our educational system, and a whole lot more. Every day that man gets up, rubs his eyes and says, ‘Well, let’s keep trying, let’s get to work.’ And every damned day the Republicans greet him with catcalls and obfuscation and dithering over nits.

The Republicans have spent nearly eight years straight now, working their hardest to ruin this nation. They call it politics—I call it treason.

Irreducible Lag Time

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Thursday, June 20, 2013             11:31 PM                    –I was just watching Brokaw being interviewed by Stewart’s summer stand-in, John Oliver, and they touched on the subject of ‘speed’. Speed has always been an important economic factor, used in business projections, rates of manufacture, etc. When I first saw an office, speed was measured in words-typed-per-minute on an IBM Selectric. The Selectric and the even more fantastic Selectric II, were thrumming Omphalos  in the city’s flow of memos, contracts, orders, invoices, et alia that were carried to and fro, up and down the town by an army of delivery-messengers.

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There is a period of time that must pass, as the spoken words of an executive, taken down by a secretary as dictation (using Gregg shorthand, mostly) to be typed (with carbon copy) and handed to a receptionist—where it was picked up by the afore-summoned messenger, walked across town, delivered to another’s receptionist, who then opens it and brings it in to the opposite executive of this trans-communication, whatever it may be. This period of time is often called lag time.

And life, back then, had plenty of lag time—at least, as compared with today. Take phone calls, for example—if I were expecting an important phone call (and this may seem counter-intuitive to our young ‘text’-zombies) I had to stay off of the phone. If someone else called during that time I had to say, “I’m waiting for an important call—I have to hang up—I’ll call you back later!” Plus, I had to remain in or near the room with ‘the phone’ in it. Two phones? Don’t be ridiculous—that would be like owning three TV sets!

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Anyhow, so there I’d be, stuck in that one room or area, hoping no one else called me while the ‘important caller’ was trying to reach me. But when it rang, I had to answer the phone to find out who was calling. And if I forgot to ask for the callback number, I would never again be able to reach that person—unless they called me again, later on. The other alternative was to look up the person in a gigantic book that listed everybody, alphabetically by last name! That was the world of telephones in the 1950s, -60s, & -70s.

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Star-six-nine finally allowed people to return missed phone calls, and now there are only blocked-numbers that can’t be gotten back to. But many people don’t pick up ‘blocked’ numbers—such callers are usually telemarketers and survey-takers, or worse yet, bill collectors—so, to a certain degree, the ball has been put in even their courts, when it comes to ‘reaching out’ to people.

But the telephone is just an example—messengers would be replaced by fax machines, which would be replaced (by and large) by the mighty email. The adding machine would become an antique practically overnight, as would pads of light green ‘ledger paper’, No.2 pencils, and even the poor, little newcomer, White-Out—a truly remarkable invention that allowed an IBM Selectric to be correctable—just a few years before the mighty Selectrics  themselves were consigned to history.

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Even in the 1980s & -90s there was lag-time in the minicomputers—they took their sweet time sorting files, displaying words on screen, and printing took forever. I could start a program running on one terminal and start a printing program on another, and I could sit back while they did these jobs at an unbelievably slow pace. I would wander into other people’s offices and see if anyone else was having a problem with the computer—which they frequently were. And I felt like I really had a handle on that whole ‘sys-admin’ thing. Then the PCs came, and by the late eighties, the screen displays were screamingly scrolling, faster than the eye could follow; the ink-jet printers were changing the printing game from characters-per-second to pages-per-minute; and the Intel Processors were sorting and querying in moments rather than hours.

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Suddenly, I had no free time, no lag-time, and no wait-time. The problem with that is people need to have a rhythm in their labors. They need to cycle through effort and relaxation, effort and relaxation. We didn’t need to be aware of it before because life was once a slower, more hands-on process. Optical cable makes business capable of being a literally light-speed process—and corporations, which have displayed an almost Cruella-DeVille-like, over-the-top misanthropy lately, seem to think that its employees should try to keep pace with the digital comms. This is patently madness.

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We share the blame—we have welcomed digital speed into our lifestyles in the areas of DVRs, VODs, sports broadcasting, news reporting, music downloads, weather and traffic updates, catalog-shopping (under its new name, e-commerce) and filing tax returns. We ask the car-voice what our GPS coordinates are every few minutes—imagine the hours spent in woods or the open sea, back when latitude and longitude were calculated by hand. And let us not overlook the Massively Multi-Player Online Gaming industry, and its many satellites.

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We talk about a ‘paperless’ office—but most of the paper has already been done away with. Before the Internet, a book was always required. If you knew nothing about a subject, you looked it up in the encyclopedia, or the dictionary. If you needed to navigate, you needed a chart and an almanac, a tide chart, trigonometry tables—you needed paper to do the things we do inside our PCs, I-phones, and GPS-es today. The aforementioned phone books were massive—and only updated once a year—but that was tons of paper every year, tons thrown out, and new tons printed—just like newspapers (remember newspapers?) If you worked in architecture or construction, you needed Moody’s Guide to materials and market prices to calculate a building bid. If you needed auto parts, you had to look them up in the auto parts handbook, which printed the part number of every part, for every year model, of every vehicle. No trade was without its own unique reference works—and the Reference section of a library was not-for-borrowing, because these histories and guides and tables and listings were vital to everyone—but only to look up something—which is why it was OK not to lend them out.

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So we feel the pull of the light-speed undertow (if you will) just as strongly as the corporations’ top-management—but only as far as the technology promotes obsessive-compulsive behavior. Corporations must begin to consider the necessity of humane treatment of employees, highest to lowest, one and all.

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Back in the day, the issue of coffee in the office was debatable—until someone publicized a study that showed an increase in productivity in office-workers who were allowed to drink coffee while they worked. From that day on, there were no limits to coffee, as far as top management was concerned. Years later, another study showed that the cost of providing free coffee to employees was much higher than any increase in productivity could ever pay for—and the party was over. Coffee remained permissible, but strictly BYOC. This period also saw the birth of a new industry—gourmet coffee-terias such as Starbucks, etc. This was where the top execs had their coffee fetched from—and such ‘coffee-havens’ eventually gathered a huge following of neurotic laptop-users, as their online access went from onboard-modem to bluetooth hot-spots, thus making any shop into an Internet-café.

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There have been a lot of very drastic, very sudden changes in the developed world—and the rest of the world. We’ve seen things change so completely that many people are feeling overwhelmed by it. The ability to remain consistently solvent requires a greater and greater struggle. The ability to fight back against the tides of corporate lobbying, fundamentalism, and economically-based social hierarchies is hard to summon up—particularly after a hard day of being screwed over by the Man, on unpaid overtime, no less.

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Suicides are way up in the armed services, I’m sad to say. Most Americans are raised to be civil, caring people in a modern-day world that encourages self-awareness and morality. You take that teenager, stick a rifle in his hands, and ship him (or her) halfway round the world to shoot at enemies who stand in the midst of their innocent civilians—which gets pretty darn tricky, as if old school War wasn’t bad enough—and you’re going to see a lot of mental upset. By making our world a better society, we make war that much more offensive to the human consciences of our children. We set them up for Trauma—but what alternative is there, other than ending war?

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Suicides among teens are way up, too. But I know why this is. It’s because they see the same world that you and I see, but from the perspective of someone trapped in a low-income region, with low-income region-type schools and low-income region-type economic and artistic opportunities, i.e. none to speak of.

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So it seems we have paradoxical results—our modern world is trying to discover medical techniques that may make us eternal—while an increasing number of our children and young adults are choosing to shorten their time in this life. Business is ongoing in its quest for non-stop commerce—while their employees are being ground down by their miserly fear of spreading the wealth, even a little, itty, bit. And, under these conditions, they have the gall to ask for more speed, more intensity.

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You can’t ask a math student to solve a trigonometry problem when you haven’t bothered to make time for that student to be taught the six or seven years of preparatory math leading up to ‘trig’. Likewise, you can’t stress the hell out of a grown-up person, and expect that person to always be moving forward. If you don’t already know, let me inform you that an employee who sees him or her-self as moving forward is the best employee to have. They make a connection between their job and their career, perhaps even their dreams—they enjoy it more and they do the job with incredible focus.

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Resentful, bitter, anxious—these more common types of employee create faster turnover, they drag down the company’s goodwill, they can even be so sloppy as to cause the business a severe financial blow. And, yes, of course, you can fire them—but it’s really too late by then. These are the kinds of employees who make it their ‘job’ to do as little work as possible. These employees will not get along with each other—and gossip and office politics will consume 95% percent of their attention, eventually.

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So corporations might want to consider something they’ve never had to do before—treat their employees to some break-time, or an occasional activity (nothing too pricey, of course—these are corporations we’re talking about). But consider—when talking about job-creation, our leaders of government and industry are always talking about the need to transition to newer, hi-tech-ier jobs, so that people can fill the jobs that aren’t being filled because of lack of qualified applicants. Well, how about some education requirements for modern-day businesses? Oughtn’t they expand their HR departments to include ergonomics, daycare sourcing, and help with health-insurance paperwork? There are plenty of studies showing the cost of these ‘details’, in days of work missed and in decreased productivity, far exceed the cost of helping employees with these ‘tar-pits’ of the single-parent household, and of traditional families as well.

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Does America intend to continue on this way? We are ranked lowest in number of paid holidays of any nation, highest in average hours per week, and stingiest in terms of company benefits. The land of the free is now the land of the wage-slave. And, while I can’t help laughing at Groucho Marx’s line, in the Marx Brothers’ first feature, “The Cocoanuts” (1929), when his hotel staff are demanding their wages and he says, “You don’t want to be wage-slaves, do you?—Well, you know what makes a wage-slave, don’tcha—Wages!”, I nonetheless feel that it is a perfect term of description for the average American worker’s job. For 99% of us, ‘freedom is just a dream some of us had’—the conditions of a low-pay, no-benefit, full-time job, never mind more than one job, make impossible any chance to work on something on one’s own time. And that ensures an inability for self-improvement, whether career-wise, scholastic, artistic or what-have-you.

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My dad used to have a tool-bench in our cellar—in his leisure time he would make things, like the camping trailer he made for our annual summer camping trips. He had lots of free time—and he worked in an ad agency on Madison Avenue! Check out his modern-day counterpart ad exec—bet the guy or gal hasn’t even the time to answer any of their three cell phones. No one has time for that sort of thing anymore—and it is leaching the culture out of this country like bleach on a tie-dyed T.

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Liberal Arts programs are being erased from schools’ budgets like they were insubstantial frills, rather than the heart of our society. We are moving faster, we are de-funding anything that isn’t part of an engineering degree, or law school, or med school, we are working ourselves harder and longer, we are being paid less (if adjusted for COL index) and our bosses decided we weren’t worth the health insurance sometime a decade or two ago. It’s a harder, faster, money-centric, zero-sum game. Not only are we wasting our own lives with all this rushing around, but we are using the frantic pace to excuse the now total disconnect between humanity and capitalism.

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We have lost the sense of nonsense that should present when we say things like, “We can’t afford to make industries stop their polluting of the air and water.” And now we are expected to swallow this whopper: “Sometimes, even with both parents holding multiple jobs, they still can’t make ends meet.” Say what now? When will this madness end?

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New Dole

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Nice little stormlet—nothing that carries a mortality rate—just school closings and slips on the ice (Nana’s still in a wrist-cast from a week or so ago). It keeps Claire home, though she’s still working in her office all day. I just feel better when she’s around—especially in dicey weather. I’m one of those unfortunate souls for whom the thought of the offspring strikes more bells of alarm than happiness. I love them both so much—but my love is constituted of more than a small percentage of worry and dread, plus all the more kindly affections. So my first thought is always, “Gee, I miss the boy—I hope those Binghamton winters haven’t put him in jeopardy”—so you see, before I even get to the thought of, “I should call him and say hello.”—I’m already worried that he’s in danger. He’s the worst example, because it includes the knowledge that he’s far too far away for me to come immediately to his aid. But daughter has her own special ‘dreading’s, i.e. life in the Big Apple, nighttime streets—her fiancé is always nearby, and she is no slouch when it comes to standing up for herself, either—but she’s so dainty—even in my reduced fitness I can easily lift her up.

So, I appreciate these storms especially—the TV is full of “Don’t leave home today if you can possibly avoid travel.” And the snow just sits because everyone knows it’ll be 50 degrees F for the next few days afterward. It’s a cozy storm. I thank the wheel for being protected from the cold and wind. (It just blew open the door I leave cracked to disperse my smoke—and made me do one of those cartoon-leaning-into-the-wind moves before I could get it closed!) I’m all too aware of how many people are without proper shelter or warm food and drink.

I had a thought while watching CSPAN. What if we created a New Dole, a stipend that worked out to the same net amount as someone making $30,000 per annum. Now, that’s a lot more comfortable than many of the livings being earned by people who are working three jobs and struggling to buy their kids’ school supplies—but it isn’t the life of Riley, either—it still demands a financial scrupling that most upper-middle-class would think of as being ‘poverty’. So it isn’t quite madness, but it is a great deal more generous than what we have now. What actions would follow?

Firstly, a lot of workers would walk quietly away from the slave-labor conditions of their present lifestyle. A large increase in families claiming relief would occur. The amount spent by the Fed to relieve these families would increase drastically. And so, for the moment, it would appear that it hurts, rather than helps us with reducing the Deficit. But what would follow almost immediately?

There would be a dearth of labor on the market—a lot of hard work will have been left deserted. The companies that paid them a slave wage (or part-time, no-benefits minimum wage, if you prefer) would still need their work to be done—but now they will be forced to pay someone a decent wage to do a respectable, full-time job. Outsourcing has its limits—just ask the new Dragon Lady in charge of Google about how much can and can’t be done ‘remotely’. Plus, manufacturing in America is enjoying a resurgence—so we merely have to ‘out-quality’ third-world-slave-labor’s production parameters, and we see an immense potential for employment.

Roosevelt was right about the ‘Fear itself’. Everyone in this economy who is enjoying a comfortable life-style (and that is a surprising majority of us) is scared to death of falling off their own perches. I know, because it is my great fear, too. But we have good reason to fear poverty so much—we treat poor people just a little better than we treat shelter pets. And we appear to have the same rubric in place, as well: ‘We try to save as many as we can, but we only have so much money’. That’s not good enough. That’s a Hell on Earth, and no wonder everyone is permanently panicked about being thrown onto that same trash-heap!

Our unemployment should be a negative value. It should indicate how much we would appreciate having a few more workers than are already busy as bees and happily employed. One thing we should not be doing is borrowing efficiency tips from regimes that put a lower value on human life, and dignity, than we do. We should continue the American tradition of surprising the world demonstrating how much more powerful humane principals are than the so-called ‘hard-nosed business’ perspective. We must take a step back from Fiscal Fascism and distribute our resources in ways that best serve the people. We fought for two decades over the question of foreign involvement—and we still stick ourselves in the middle of things, only citing a ‘War on Terror, rather than ‘Soviet Expansionism’.

Either way, we should recognize the similar threat presented by corporate lobbyists. We try to avoid ‘foreign entanglements’ with little success, but at least we recognize that as a problem. Industrial and financial lobbyists represent ‘foreign value-systems’ that attempt, piece by piece, to slide into place a ‘near enough’, removing the actual ethic for one more conducive to Business than Humanity. And they should be even more urgently avoided.

I hear proponents of Business shouting about how ‘money is the bottom line and you can’t operate in the real world without winning at the money contest’! I hear them, I do. Can’t argue the point, but it doesn’t work that simply. There is the question of how you aim your money-guns. Do we aim them at our competitors, play their game? Our do we try to be ‘American’ (as I’ve always thought it) and point the weapon at the ills of our society? We should beat our opponents by making them slobber with envy at what our nation’s quality of life has become while they were still Mesmerized by the money-changers. Just like we did to the Soviets.

Being rich would become passé. (How do you say ‘thank you’ to MS Word for automatically sticking that accent over the ‘e’ in passé? There, it just did it again! Sorry, what were we talking about?, O yeah…)

The new cool would become living without stress. A nice job, pleasant workplace environment, challenging work (but not overmuch, unless that was how you liked it.) and a nice place, with two bathrooms. We could replace ‘supply and demand’ with ‘don’t call us, we’ll call you’. I suggest that we reverse ‘planned obsolescence’ and ‘go green’ by making as many products as possible last a lifetime or more. Now, the sales department isn’t going to see much good in that—but I don’t see too much good in sales, so we’re even.

We could measure the value of these products as a function of point-of-purchase profit, but with added valuation for the lack of resources required to make new ones every year or two and the reduction in waste products that need composting or recycling. Eternally-rising corporate profits sound good to the owners and managers of the single company, but as a part of the entire economy—maybe not so much.

A great deal of our hi-tech civilization’s energy and resources are spent on inertial running-in-place—every single company has to keep growing or die. We should look at new business models that minimize idle-time costs and look towards products that are manufactured and maintained only occasionally. Tomorrow’s factories will not be predicated on maximum output, but on minimum down-time expense and custom-quality products.

Now, I’m sure this all sounds very Socialist. I am only reacting to the reality I think I’ve gleaned from the media and books and the people around me. I’m no researcher with a huge bibliography to back up my ideas. I’m not even a college graduate (but that didn’t prevent my kids from getting their degrees). I’m just saying—what we’re doing isn’t working. It is causing pain, fear, and stress—it is filthifying our ecosystem—it is using up resources that cannot be replaced once they’re gone—and it keeps even those of us who are snug and satisfied in our cozy, comfy houses living in a state of terror that has nothing to do with Al Qaeda. I don’t know about the rest of you, but I personally also feel guilty about all the people that are already in a place I’m petrified about being damned to.

Fear and guilt do not fit into my idea of the ‘pursuit of happiness’. People argue that government is too big or too small—that’s nothing—what are our goals? And how is the government helping us to reach our goals? It isn’t all about money. Well, it is—but only because of the way it’s set up. We can beat Money, we can tame it, and make it ‘user-transparent’ for all practical purposes.

Just as guns are great tools when used properly, but deadly when misused—money has the capacity to moderate our march towards happiness at the double-step, smoothing the knots of trading one thing for another. We must bend it to our will—not let it continue to make some people dictators and others starved and suffering—that is only what we have foolishly allowed it to become. Just as we try to moderate national arguments with the UN, we should implement a UM that seeks to keep everyone on earth reasonably housed, well-fed and educated (and, if its not too much trouble of course, free internet).

Just as the Hague has a World Court judging international or humanitarian crimes, we need a World Accountant that finds people with just way too much money, and takes half of it—with the promise to return some of it if the person can actually spend the remaining half in their own lifetime. Then the WA would contribute to the UM in its quest to end poverty everywhere on Earth.

And it all starts with our New Dole, a latter-day Emancipation Proclamation that allows everyone to live in relative security and comfort, thus forcing business owners to revalue the salary paid to a working soul. The business advocates don’t want Obama’s new minimum-wage-increase because it will hurt business? Well then, do my idea—it won’t hurt business at all—unless you call forcing them to treat their employees like human beings ‘hurting’ them. A new paradigm beckons us towards a new American Dream—our we could just stick with the seven-billion-man rat-knot that we’re already squirming in.

Absence of Justice

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I find it so difficult to accomplish goals nowadays—the fatigue, the distraction, the swiss-cheese of my memory…It’s kinda like Mississippi having only last month completed their official State ratification of the Thirteenth Amendment abolishing slavery—only I’m in their league in neither lag time nor significance of mission. I guess you have to be a government to screw up to that high a degree.

How sad the waste time passed. It has finally come to me (these mills grind slowly…) that the entitled, the wealthy, and the powerful see their cardinal mission as the maintenance of status quo. What all the rest of us want (and our numbers grow, as the aforementioned 0.1% of ‘Dynasts’ shrinks to an even more measly few) is change, substantial change. The Dynasts are careful to couch these things in general terms such as ‘the economy will collapse’ or ‘our military defense will lose its primacy’ or ‘chronic mass unemployment’—but in truth that is only the background to the personal nightmare currently premiering in brains near them, nationwide—the loss of personal power, wealth, security, shelter, food, health, ending ultimately with themselves and their families being at the mercy of the same winds of capitalism, desperation, and pain that storm across the landscape of the rest of us ‘regular people’.

We want big change—they want no change—or, if absolutely necessary, a little, tiny change. They set the odds because they run the table—many of our problems are worsened by misguided argument in the media, which only moves the issue further away from its substance.

We talk about the unlimited sexual assaults by our fighting men and boys, against our fighting women and girls. And they want to talk about ‘under-reporting’, ‘counseling’, and ‘prosecutions’—when what should be the prime issue—why are these men being trained in boot camps and in exercises about how to fight, without covering the important topic of “Don’t rape anyone, but for god’s sake, if you have to, at least don’t rape your own!” Is this something the military is too bashful to talk about in public? Is it so very hard to include, along with say field-drills or gun-cleaning, a few words about how sick and disgusting and sad it is that women who dare to put their lives in the hands of their military leaders—to serve their country—end up being targeted for sexual assault by their own fellow soldiers?

What the hell?

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We want to know what the big deal is with increased taxes on people that make more than a million dollars a year—are you kidding me? We got tens of millions without jobs, homes, or even food—and these fat cats want to discuss how ‘business will be hurt’ if our heavy players have to part with more cash flow! I call BS on that one—total BS. It’s time to stop worrying about what would hurt business, and start worrying about what we can do to stop business from hurting people.

It’s time we saw some limits placed on industrial and financial lobbyists—it’s time we created more jobs by increasing the number of regulators watching over every bank, investment house, and trading market. If the derivatives are too complicated for anyone to understand them, then make them against the law—is that some big intuitive leap?

If the NRA lobby pushed through legislation to stop the CDC from recording or reporting any data on gun-related death and injury stats, then let’s take away their permission to be lobbyists—and overturn that bill and any other law that specifically suppresses significant research collection and publication—how is such a law not deemed unconstitutional in the first place? Doesn’t our freedom of speech include the right for our government institutions to freely collect and share health-related data?

Who are these bums on Capitol Hill? Someone please explain how the correct answer could be, “Let’em burn; we’ll start over from the ashes.” Not even in session, lazy bastards, and blaming the ‘advent of sequestration’ on the President. Five years now I’ve been waiting for these closet-red-necked pussies to give our president the respect he deserves—but they’re still trying suck the life out of our country, while pointing at Obama. As if it maybe might work, eventually. Not according to the polls, not for a while now—is it only the Republicans themselves who are convinced of something the whole danged rest of the country has seen through—and been wise to for some time?

Big movie coming out “A Place At The Table” about hunger in America—the tens of millions, largely children, of the greatest food-producing nation in the world that go without enough food to keep them alive. I give up. Starvation? For crying out loud—why isn’t starvation included in any of these political debates over the National Budget—are the Hungry a frickin’ side-issue? What are we?

Okay, enough out of me. The media will continue to emphasize the sensational, diverting attention from the actual substances of our problems—that way, we get to enjoy our empire’s decline on TV, instead of actually pushing back at the darkness that weighs so heavily on us all.

Just think, if we employed one person, and told them their job was to make sure this little girl got three squares a day—then we’d have one more unemployed with a new job, and one less starving child. There, that’s a recovery plan. It’d work great—so much to do, so many people busy, so many kids overeating for the first time in their lives—but you know those suits and talking-head-pundits and power-grabbers would tear it to shreds, and make the tearing to shreds of it last as long as possible. That way, they get us all busy arguing over what a stupid idea it is—you know, distracted—the way they like us.

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Thoughts on President B.H. Obama’s 2nd Inaugural

Google chose to celebrate the MLK Day aspect of today, rather than the 2nd Inaugural Ceremony

Google chose to celebrate the MLK Day aspect of today, rather than the 2nd Inaugural Ceremony

What a beautiful and galvanizing celebration of the most idealistic aspect of our nation’s character, the peaceful appointment to power, either for the first time, or, as today, for another four years. For all the acrimony and rabble-rousing of politicos and their viewers, we all nevertheless accept, on both sides, that we are one nation and that we all accept our chosen leader (whether—as individuals—we chose him or not).

The musicians, James Taylor, Kelly Clarkson, and Beyoncé, all made our hearts swell and our eyes tear up. The poet laureate’s Inaugural Poem was layered with iconic imagery of small points and grand visions, candid moments and desperate struggles—a beautifully, evocative work that could not have been more apt to the occasion. Even the meteorology cooperated, with a brisk breeze that furled our Stars and Bars to picture-perfection!

The first daughters, fortunate in being so close, obviously comfortable with their side-roles—where single children, or crowds of sibs in large families, have no such intimate and mutually supportive partners for this, the most public of childhoods. The absence of many Republicans was politely overlooked by the celebratory crowd—and I, too, was very forgiving and sympathetic towards the GOP—their recent repudiation by the majority of Americans has left them stunned and confused.

But most of all I enjoyed the shots of the Clintons, arm in arm, especially Hillary. Her grin was ear-to-ear and one could easily imagine her lightness of spirit as she attended what for her was, in some degree, the last day of school. She had gone from NY Senator to Democratic Candidate for President to Secretary of State. And as Secretary of State, she had spent the last four years circling the globe, arbitrating world crises both major and minor, and bringing herself to exhausted collapse right up to the last days of her appointment. Nor has her work gone unnoticed—her efforts have been roundly applauded by all but the most dyed-in-the-wool Neo-Cons. Most important of all, she helped President Obama to ‘grow down’ our existing wars, without getting us into another one out of sheer jingoist bombast.

She almost died doing the work of ten men (and I use the term ‘men’ advisedly) and spent a week in hospital in her last appointed month of service. That joyous glow showing in her face as the 2nd Inaugural Public Ceremony rolled along was, I assume, the face of someone who was about to have a real ‘day off’ for the first time in a decade. For someone of Hillary Clinton’s character, we should not be surprised if she becomes restless after just a few days or weeks of this pause in the juggernaut of her career. But, as I heard Rachel Maddow say so well while commentating on today’s ceremony, even if the stress of her ceaseless toil makes it impossible for her to do anything else in future public service (much less run in 2016) she has already left her indelible mark on American history, as first lady, senator, and secretary of state.

I have had some personal experience with what we usually call ‘burn-out’, whether from business, government service, politics, or life itself, and I would not lay any criticism upon Ms. Clinton if she did allow herself to say ‘enough’. In our present society, there isn’t nearly enough attention paid to the idea of diminishing returns in life. We live our lives ferociously, obsessively, often too narrowly—the benediction to ‘stop and smell the roses’ has become as much of a joke as ‘trust me’ or ‘why can’t we all get along’. But as we ceaselessly compete against our relations, our neighbors, our co-workers, and the rest of the world—as we dig deeper and deeper for those goals that any self-respecting person could set themselves—we give up the most important part of our founding Declaration, the ‘pursuit of happiness’.

If our goals in life require unending struggle and toil, absence from our loved ones, and even acceptance of the ‘every one for themselves’ ethics (or, I should say, lack of ethics) of our business world—what, then, is the purpose of our lives? Shouldn’t our lives be balanced between hard work and rest, sadness and joy? The United States of America has led the world from far ahead of most other countries for a very long time and there is one reason—we sincerely believe in the dignity of every person. That freedom and equality have shaped our country and given the world a good example. And I think it is time we embraced the cardinal issue of our times—quality of life.

In recent times we have seen the richest people in the world get richer off the defrauding of everyone else—and then get ‘bailed out’ corporately while the selfish business leaders hand out golden parachutes to each other. Having destroyed our economy with their eyes wide open, they then take advantage of the high unemployment to enforce a renewed despotism over those ‘lucky’ enough to have a job.

The working man, once the bedrock of our middle class, has been reduced to a new birth of slavery wherein the corporation takes all one can give, and tries mightily to reduce compensation to its lowest possible limit. That’s not even taking into account the millions of ‘part-timers’, who are part-timers only in the sense that they are denied the legal rights of an ‘employee’!

Our children are never seen playing in their yards—their homework and extra-curricular activities have taken up every moment of what used to be called ‘after school’—a period of life that I remember fondly, full of chatter and games and just hanging out.

Corporate culture has seeped into every aspect of our lives—and corporations are given more rights by denying what we formerly thought of as our rights, back in the legendary times of consumer protection, OSHA, and financial regulation. The twenty-four-hour news and media place our minds firmly in the morass of global crises we can do little to change, and distracts us from the less sensational, but more meaningful, issue of what’s going on in our own state, county, or neighborhood.

We end up imagining ourselves in direct competition with hordes of cheap labor in newly developing countries like China or India—but it is our corporations that have created these sweatshops, then used their existence in a bald-faced attempt to force our own workers to bow to this neo-slavery. It isn’t as obvious a controversy as Civil Rights or Education, but it is nevertheless one we are required to address if we want our lives to have meaning to ourselves and not just to the accountants in corporate headquarters.

So I have spent these past years on disability, a disability due as much to the stress of the business environment and the ossification of a super-wealthy-upper-class into an irresistible power, as it was to nerve damage and brain entropy. How can it be that many of today’s businesspersons suffer from symptoms similar to some returning war veterans, a PTSD born not of battle, but of greed and carelessness? Why do we feel tempted to use the phone while we drive, if not from a deep insecurity with the seconds that fly by without being used to compete, to earn a living, to get an education? We are voluntarily torturing ourselves!

I wish people would just start acting like they did in the seventies—back then, ‘all work and no play’ was considered a recipe for ill health, both physical and mental. I wish people would start taking 35 minutes for lunch, instead of the obligatory 30. I wish people would drive more slowly each morning—honestly, why are we in such a rush to get to our slave-cubicles? So what if there are millions out of work? There is still an inconvenience, and added cost, when firing employees—and any manager knows darn well that a good person for a specific job isn’t easy to find. Workers of the World, throw off your self-imposed chains…

Thus I say if Hilary Clinton has done her all (and I think that’s beyond argument) we should respect the toll such sacrifice takes—not badger her about running for President. Even if she does stand for the office in four years, the job will be plenty stressful as is, without Ms. Clinton being hounded about it starting today.

Getting back to the inauguration, I love the magic of a second term—Obama’s speech was an affirmation of all the issues that we’ve tip-toed around during the overextended campaigning—he will fight for LGBT rights, he will fight for equal pay for women, and he will continue to lead America without feeling obligated to deploy troops at the drop of a cowboy hat—and, more importantly, to fight for the benefits and gratitude our nation owes to all its defenders-at-arms.

Well, a TV show like that is bound to make the rest of the day anti-climactic—but I’m still feeling the heat of so much togetherness and patriotism in my chest.

Hooray for us!

I’ve Looked At Greed From Both Sides Now – (Cont’d)

Friday, December 07, 2012                1:55 PM

 

 

I’ve Looked At Greed From Both Sides Now – (Cont’d)

(Or —  “Hey, There Are More Than Two Sides To This Stuff”)

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But I meant to go on—producing these vanity, xmas-card music-CDs is so distracting I keep losing my train of thought.

 

I wanted also to explore the ‘in the mood’ aspect of society. To be cheery and charitable during the yule season is the video-image ideal, nearly from the week of Thanksgiving to New Years. A friend and I spoke of it recently, we both had the ‘tall corn’ gene, apparently, and neither of us ever got tired of ‘wishes come true’, miracles, reconciliations, homecomings—all the happiest of happy endings. Hey—I say, “If other people can enjoy horror movies, action flics, ‘war-of-the-worlds’es , and other apocalyptic explosions of use in soothing the suppressed rage of the human animal forced to live in a cultural strait-jacket—the viewer, that is—then we more-sappy sapiens have just as much license to rot our brains in our own way, even if it includes Christmas movies.

To match Special Report MORMONCHURCH/

But I sidetracked myself. Yes, Christmas Time, the most ethereal aspect of the season, is not a fixed thing, it isn’t a specific day, a specific agenda, or any special gathering of folks together in celebration of anything specific—other than the shared understanding that for about three weeks, we will obligate ourselves to look strangers at the mall right in the eye, with a bit of potential smiling, remaining uncommitted until the waters have been tested. Will the stranger be in the head-space of Christmas Time? Or will the stranger have annoying relatives on the mind and very little time left on the parking meter while turning back for the one thing they came for, forgotten amongst the shopping?

 

And these are modern, sophisticated times—nobody disses someone who hasn’t the time to smile—we’ve all been there ourselves, and you have to roll with the punches. So, you cancel the burgeoning-smile status and allow yourself, for a minute, the luxury of downcast eyes. When and if your spirit picks back up again, you raise your eyes and try again….

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Thus we see that gladsomeness comes and goes, and none of us can be our best selves on a permanent basis. There are indications that having some small amount of personal privacy, at least once in a while, is necessary to avoid mental illness. Our moods are fragile—they find rest in a shared mood, and they are quickly cancelled with the appearance of someone in emotional distress. Whatever happy mood one is in, such an appearance will blow it away like a puff of smoke. It is odd that such a wrenching-away from one’s own state of mind is considered not an attack but a responsibility innocently imposed by someone else’s upset—that is to say, ‘you can’t yell at them for it, no matter how bummed out you are.’

 

So emotional distress is considered a trump card—society demands that we pay attention to people who cry or scream or yell in anger. Telling them to ‘shut the hell up’ is unacceptably cold-hearted behavior, or so we would think.

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But this puts us in the wrong when dealing with businesspeople. They represent a mindless, for-profit corporation, but they can use their appearance of humanity to chivvy us into acting as if we believe they have integrity, ethical motives, and feelings—just as a real human does.

 

Such foolishness belongs in the same category with ‘raising taxes on the wealthy’ or ‘keeping abortion legal’. Everyone knows that we 99% (and yes, the majority of that 99%–for all of you pro-democracy nuts out there) want it to happen, but we are not surprised that it’s eternally portrayed by mass media as a noble struggle between differing opinions, never to be enacted or reconciled. We are not surprised when something that makes billionaires sad just never seems to pass into law.

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When I see Speaker Boehner at the podium, blatantly supporting some stupid delay or obstacle, while our national credit-rating gets worse, instead of better, I could just spit. Just the thought of taxing the biggest of the fat cats would seem to be his worst nightmare, yet we have historically had tremendous taxes on the wealthiest. They were taxed as high as 70%–because they were rightly expected to pay the most out of their huge profits and revenues.

 

And this “I’m a Corporation! / I’m a person!” comes back into it. Serious, old, wrinkled, white faces mumble into the microphone about stability, or global economic forces, or economic collapse due to the Dems airy-fairy socialism. I don’t hear them say much along the lines of “Let’s just get back to those values we supported during the Bush administration.” You don’t hear that. You only hear a lot of blame thrown the Dems’ way for not fixing Bush’s car-wreck fast enough—surely those who believed in Bush’s policies could do a better job of fixing his mistakes. Or does that sound crazy? Maybe.

 

We give them credit for being experienced, thoughtful legislators—they dress the part, they talk real edjicated, most on’em, and they become very grave (indeed!) when they link their own probity and dignity to the continued existence of our great ‘God bless all of you, and God bless the United States.’—well, you know. You’ve heard it. You’ve seen it. You can tell these people are living in some kind of bubble that reality will never intrude upon—at least, not until they’re out of office.

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Meanwhile, I am often awe-struck in the middle of my day, thinking of millions of jobless trying to survive, for years it’s been now, right? And I am so happy that my family and I are among the lucky ones who get by very comfortably, if not luxuriously. I try not to imagine what could be, if a thunderbolt happened to strike our happy lives. I try to relish life, to taste every moment of time, to always be aware of how wonderful my life is.

 

But sometimes I’m just not in the mood. Battle, struggle, controversy, opposition—all these aspects of life demand a different and less sensitive frame of mind. There have been times of my life when weeks went by, even months, without a happy thought or greeting—there are difficulties in life that occupy more of our lives than the rare gladness of goodwill. We must turn one off to turn on the other—but we must always be ready to change. It’s unstable—a moving target, if you will.

 

And so I believe that the federal government is in the best position to see to it an uninterrupted stream of aid goes to the under-served. Making the program a national one insures the best spread of the total resources, without regard for State or Local budget concerns. These fragmented attempts at aid have the same vulnerability to changing moods and changing times that we individuals have—but the Federal Education, Welfare, support-whatevers will remain stable for the much longer term. Sometimes the fact that governments are slow to change can be used as a positive thing.

 

Taxing the wealthy? That’s what we’ve argued over for two years now, to the extreme neglect of other, more serious issues? And we are expected to believe that the lobbyists pulling the GOP’s strings are not the sole reason for all this debate. Walk down the street. Ask each person you meet if they think we should raise taxes on the wealthy.

I dare you to keep walking until someone says ‘No’.

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Someone Explain This—I Think I’m Crazy


Okay, when did Romney start running? Two years ago, maybe? And, at that time, his being a Mormon and a Republican and a Wall Street playah, etc. –was nothing compared to his fellow GOP hopefuls’ bags of bananas. So all this time the Media is focused on who is ahead in the GOP primary race: Cain, Perry, Gingrich, Jindal, et. al.—their party’s race started out with about ten of them, whittled it down to two or three, and finally, as if forced to swallow cod liver oil, they settle on the only candidate NOT provably crazy, stupid, or scandalous—Mitt.

Republicans were a little embarrassed about Mitt’s Massachusetts gubernatorial health care legislation—purportedly the model for what would become ‘Obama-Care’. And the hyper-evangelicals were not too crazy about his new-fangled Christianity (in spite of the LDS being the only major faith engendered by our great nation, rather than being imported from the Old World).

The Republican party was even more embarrassed by their last president, who left our armed forces mired overseas in multiple theaters of battle; who left our economy going into toxic shock—thus proving right the Democrats whose dire warnings about de-regulation and overdone tax-cuts for the First Estate had, ‘til then, been laughed off; and who left behind ‘No Child Left Behind” Policies that had managed to leave all our kids ‘behind’ (‘except for the rich’—that eternal GOP refrain).

So then, after the primaries, Obama and Mitt go head-to-head in a series of debates. I’m skipping over all the lies and misdirection employed by Mitt’s campaign—it’ll suffice to say that while being accused of being a ‘softy’, Obama had brought down Bin Laden and successfully surged into Afghanistan; while being accused of destroying the economy, Obama had made good headway (better than any of us had a right to expect) on lowering unemployment, preserving and creating jobs, and putting our national commerce back onto an upward incline, out of its free-fall begun under Bush; and while being accused of idleness, Obama had ended DADT, signed the Ledbetter Act, the Dream Act, and restored our reputation and our image in the big world outside of Washington DC. And he sings!—not a politician’s groan (see YouTube videos of Mitt attempting to match this—hilarious) but an actually fine singing voice.

So, having disproved all of Mitt’s and the GOP’s charges against him, Obama went to the first debate. Wasn’t he surprised to hear Mitt try to say that Obama’s policies were ruinous—while simultaneously avowing an administration almost identical to Obama’s (just without Obama—apparently the only thing that is really wrong about our present administration). The fact-checking added by the Media indicated that Mitt hadn’t said a word that wasn’t perpendicular to every word he had said publicly up until the debate. The Media also pointed out that while Mitt definitely ‘won’ the debate—he did it by mostly telling lies.

I understand that ‘massaging’ the truth is part and parcel of modern campaigning—I’m not even saying that the Democratic ticket is above giving back as good as they get. But the President’s party is different from the GOP in one very important way—it is the ‘intellectual’ party. The Democrats scruple at telling bald-faced lies because they know their constituency won’t put up with the kind of ignorance the GOP inspires—so they are far more limited in the amount of bull-puckey they can get away with slinging. A Democratic voter is the kind of person who would still vote for a candidate who admitted to atheism, or polio, or having an African father.

The GOP never falters at embracing the zealously Christian, the greedy Rich, the misogynistic, and the bullies, commercial or ethical. Their campaign doesn’t even deserve the name—it has been a treasonous rally, begun on the day of Obama’s inauguration and continued for the full length of Obama’s first term. It has been a flood of scandal-mongering, legislative stonewalling, and thinly veiled bigotry.

So the question I’m troubled by, what totally stumps me, is—why would Mitt Romney be so eager to take the presidency away from a man who has performed so valiantly, so effectively, and so in the spirit of what America means to the vast majority of us? Why would he take on the daunting task of a presidential campaign, when he clearly has no better ideas to offer us than Obama’s ideas? How could he imagine that the Presidency of the United States would be something he’d be comfortable with? He hasn’t the smarts. He hasn’t the charisma. He doesn’t have the ability to truly relate with average Americans. In spite of his claims to the contrary, I think this country could not be in greater danger than it is in right now.

I believe that because Mitt says he ‘knows business’. He says he knows how to help his country with its financial woes in a business-like way, rather than in the way of the former community organizer with no business experience. Well, I have two comments on that score—first, our country has given Obama a four-year intensive course in governmental finance—and, so far, he has aced his tests in nearly every category.

Second, the United States is not a business—it is a great experiment, a 200-year-old dream of humanity’s fulfillment—and the last thing it (or We) need right now is a Gordon Gecko having a fire sale on our social services—in the name of ‘small government’, no less—and a wheeler-dealer trying to lead us into a prosperous future (well, maybe not ALL of us).

And let me just say this about ‘small government’. Are you stupid, or just ignorant?! The USA is the richest, most powerful nation on Earth. The USA is home to over 300-million people. The USA is comprised of fifty sovereign states and a few territories. The USA leads the world in invention, research, space exploration, higher educational systems, and lots of other stuff. It’s huge, it’s important, it’s constantly under threat from terrorists and megalomaniacs, and let’s not forget—it is the year 2012—you know, the 21st century? Any idiot that suggests we run it all using town hall meetings and flyers and sunbeams of goodness—well, they will be disappointed, that’s all I’m saying.

What drives the Republican party? Well, my parents voted Democratic until they made their first million—then they started voting Republican. Its reputation for protecting the wealthy from taxes is its biggest draw in metropolitan areas. Its cozening up to evangelicals is its biggest draw in the rural areas. So, basically, it’s about greed and religious extremism—a strange choice for a Mormon—the LDS has a history of being driven away from our entire Eastern Seaboard, all the way to Utah, by God-fearing Christians.

And how can my fellow voters think a businessman is going to improve their country, or their living conditions? Corporate deregulation and runaway spending made the financial swamp we’ve been mired in this last decade-and-a-half. Raising our kids the best we can—that is bad business. After all, it’s all expense, with no revenue—of course we want to cut education during the lean years! But wait—maybe it’s bad for business, but we still want a good education for our kids. Hmmm. I wonder if that may also be true of medicine? –of law-enforcement?

Maybe running this country like a business is a bad idea. Maybe a president that understands the importance of both business and social services would be a better pick. Who knows, right? Being President is a big job—you know, I’m almost as scared for Mitt, should he win the election, as I am for myself and everybody else.

My Baby’s Sick –And That Debate Just Now Isn’t Helping

Tuesday, October 23, 2012              2:18 AM

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Our sweet petunia, Jessy, came up on the Harlem North train tonight with her dog, Tuesday (the Wonder Dog). She came and asked for heartburn remedies, of which I have several. But she was in intense abdominal pain and she wanted a hug. So I gave her my best daddy-hug, but it didn’t work. Claire just called from Northern Westchester Hospital in Mt. Kisco. They say ‘appendicitis’ and she’ll call me back when she knows whether the surgery will be tonight or later this morning.

 I know I’m not supposed to be worried about a little appendicitis operation, but it is surgery, minor or otherwise, plus I’ve been getting pessimistic lately and I could really use one in my win column—if only to convince me that there are two sides to luck, and not just the s**t end of it, which is all I’ve been getting lately. And our baby is so fragile. I couldn’t stand it if anything went wrong.

 Just to give you an example of how things have been going lately: Jessy’s emergency surgery in the next few hours will require us to cancel the surgery scheduled for Tuesday later today—the reason Jessy came up to our house in the first place! I should be grateful—if she had stayed in the city, who knows what might have happened. Now she’s with Claire, up here in Westchester—and I’m watching Tuesday until they get back. And Tuesday’s surgery can wait—she’s just getting something removed, in case it’s cancerous. Maybe I should talk to my doctor about adding a third anti-depressant prescription….

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And that debate tonight—I nearly gag every time that nut-job tries to criticize Obama while saying that his policies won’t be any different. It’s times like these that I really wish the USA had a higher standard of education—if Obama doesn’t get his ‘four more’, I’m just going to stop talking to people. If the people in this country have already forgotten what eight years of GOP admin has done to us, we have nothing to talk about.

Besides, it seems like the stupid people are always winning elections these days—those tea-party whack jobs got voted in in 2010, pretending they were a new, improved conservative agenda—they’re new, alright—we haven’t had such narrow-minded, fear-based elected officials since the Salem Witch Trials—who woulda thunk any group could out-stupid Geo. W. Bush!

 But it will all happen the way it happens. I’ll be thrilled if we voters get the better man—but, if it’s Romney, that will only indicate that our days as an ‘empire’ are fading. And that’s something I’ve been hoping isn’t true for decades now, while suspecting that it already was. Making sense and having patience—stuff like that has never been the American way—hell, it’s never been the way of the world at large. Nor can I claim any great sense or patience in the way I lived my own life, so how can I complain?

If civilization doesn’t simply collapse under its own weight, it will only be due to a sea-change in the global paradigm. Unless the entrenched powers-that-be are overrun by angry mobs, nothing of significance will change quickly enough to stop our totally uncontrolled explosion of digital tech, the widening gap between rich and poor, and the abuse of natural resources that threaten the world’s ability to sustain life of any kind.

 And that angry mob will have to be a global one—so, imagine Syria, then multiply that times the whole world. Not a pretty picture—yet, still the only alternative to allowing the stuffed shirts to guard their own precious quality-of-life until it is too late to reverse the damage. Am I advocating violence? No, I am not. But I would appreciate it if someone else can tell me what the hell else can change civilization’s inertia from self-destruction to self-awareness? And in just a few decades—because, while our ecological policies remain as is, the damage they cause accelerates constantly—and now we have all of China (and other just-now developing nations) well on their way to matching, even exceeding the pollution that we Americans produce.

I’m just saying.

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Pre-Town-Hall Jitters

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( or “How Stupid Are We?”)

 

My wife and I just had an argument. I think we were arguing over her being disappointed with Obama’s loss in the first debate and my being understanding of that loss. Her point was that Obama should have called Romney out for lying throughout the debate, for reversing what few commitments he had made during the primary race, and while stumping afterwards, right up to the day of the first debate. My feeling was that Obama may have given us too much credit as an audience.

 

If I were to debate to an opponent who lied straight through the event, start to finish, would I choose to speak about the reality of the subject or would I spend the whole time accusing my opponent of being a liar? Should I assume that the audience knew better than to fall for a bunch of what Biden calls ‘malarkey’, or would I waste the entire evening ripping up every lie my opponent uttered? That’s not an easy call to make–especially in the USA, where the audience may shock you with its depth of ignorance and weakness of reasoning power.

 

Even the so-called ‘pundits’ and talking heads described the debate as a Romney ‘win’, with the caveat that he lied over and over, reversing his public views on everything. Is this a fair statement? Do I actual live in a country where liars are considered the winners of a debate, simply because they took some Ritalin® before the curtain went up? Is the president a loser simply because he overlooked all the lies of his opponent, opting instead to address the issues in an honest, substantive way?

 

According to the polls, yes, indeed! That’s exactly the type of country I live in. The USA has jumped the shark of free speech and gone for assessing ignorance as a respectable argument–merely another point of view, rather than a poor joke as compared to knowledgeable speakers’ statements. And this strategy may win the election for Mitt because, according to all those deep-thinking ‘undecided’s out there, Mitt CAN have it both ways.

 

He has warned the public for years now (as has his entire party) that Obama’s policies are destroying our country, our economy, and our way of life–and that our President must be replaced with a Republican before America goes completely to wrack and ruin. Then, at the first debate, he claimed that his policies were indistinguishable from Obama’s–with just a tweak here and there!

 

Can he have it both ways? Is impudence a debate ‘win’? Should we remove the President that turned around our economic landslide, and replace him with a Republican (the people that started the landslide)? Should Obama’s pro-active hunting down of global terrorism and piracy be replaced by a businessman who knows how to convert those evils into cold cash for the corporations, without unduly restricting said ‘evils’?

 

Tonight’s Town Hall debate should provide the answer–but I won’t be watching the two debaters–I’ll be watching the ‘towns-folk’. If the audience echoes the false memes of the GOP, accusing the President of false faults and lacks, and accepts Mitt Romney’s character as suitable for supreme leadership, then we live in a Wonderland as ludicrous as Alice’s. If they press Romney for substantive, specific answers, and accept some basic truths about the President (for example, that he has done a Herculean job of reversing our economic woes), then I shall watch the debate with great interest. But I’ll still remain more concerned over my fellow Americans’ powers of reason than the, to my eye, obvious differences between our two choices.

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