Ben Carson, The Simple Scientist (2015Oct25)

Sunday, October 25, 2015                                       9:23 AM

Ben Carson seems unusually ignorant for a respected brain surgeon—how can that be? It is a signal victory of fundamentalism that it has the flexibility to accept technical training and scientific rigor within the confines of the purely mechanical—and yet maintains its insistence on magical thinking within selected contexts. The Amish are the exception, as they eschew even geared wheels and electric current—a mystery, yet more sensible in its absolutism than the pick-and-choose fundamentalism of run-of-the-mill bible-thumpers like Ben.

Modern Christians usually accept that current science replaces the ‘factual’ tautology and cosmology of the Bible without doing any great harm to the spiritual content of that Good Book. Orthodox Christian Scientists are the exception, as they eschew the medical science and practices that Ben is so known for. Oddly, the Christian Scientists will drive a car—and the Amish will take medicine—yet it is accepted that both groups worship the same God as the less stringent, more casual believers of mainstream Protestantism.

Catholics have their specialty too, but it lies in the more ethereal realm of ‘morality’—their focus is often on birth-control and gender-bias (and gender ‘purity’, i.e. LGBT hatred). This is a hangover from the days when the Catholic Church made a business out of selling forgiveness—and business was good, while it lasted. But there is always a boomerang effect—young Amish are most tempted by muscle cars; young Christian Scientists are most tempted by medical relief—but Catholics, being focused on sex and gender, are most tempted by sexuality.

Religious ‘specialty features’ become a window into human nature—whatever is most feared becomes that which is most fascinating. Certain ‘tools’ are used to limit this gravitational attraction to the forbidden. The Amish use the wanderjahr, or Rumspringa, as a way of allowing their young adults to experience the wider world—knowing that some will choose to remain in that world, rather than return to the Amish culture. Of those who choose an Amish life, there is also the practice of ‘shunning’, which cuts all ties to any member of the community who breaks faith with their rules. Being such a backward culture, the Amish community requires these cut-offs to prevent their ranks from swelling with rebellious members willing to allow changes into their way of life. Ignoring two centuries of change across the rest of the globe is no easy task.

The Catholics have absolution, which makes it possible to break their rules and still have a place in the community—but they also have excommunication, which is a paradoxical process by which they exempt the worst offenders from absolution, and of acceptance in their community. Forgiveness is their watchword—unless one goes too far, for which is there is no forgiveness—like I said—paradoxical.

Protestants have only propriety—which in its way is even more insidious. A staunch protestant can invent more rules and strictures than other faiths could imagine—and these inventions can become part of the societal conventions of a community. It is almost an art form—deciding which aspects of our lives make us most uncomfortable and using religious vagaries to mark such aspects as evil—and this changes from place to place, based on the local preferences. In this way, one person’s eccentricities can acquire the solidity of scientific fact. It is, in many ways, the most imaginative way of seeing things—but it operates more upon our imagined fears than our imagined hopes.

The most strident criticisms I hear regarding my atheism are those that claim I have nothing—that only a fool would go through life without a God. That makes perfect sense to a believer—but from my point of view we all have nothing—and some of us simply pretend there is something there. I can’t pretend that they aren’t happier in their beliefs—that my life doesn’t have less glory and joy than theirs. Unfortunately, I require more than convenience as a reason to believe—and I require my beliefs to fit in with what I know to be true.

Knowledge, too, is problematical. What I know to be true is a very small fraction of what there is to know. Atheists, even atheist scientists, live in a world of ignorance—we don’t know how the universe was created, we don’t know why humans exist, we don’t know any sure answers to replace religious beliefs. Atheists don’t offer alternative beliefs, we just don’t accept older beliefs out of convention or convenience. We allow for the fact that such an unknowable universe is probably not revealed in ancient myths, even the most modern, monotheistic versions of those myths.

And here the dichotomy of scripture becomes an issue. The scientific ignorance of ancient times is debunked by the advances of science—the older the ‘facts’, the more likely their inaccuracy. Human nature, on the other hand, is well-served by millennia of observation and contemplation—the spiritual aspects of sacred writings have much to offer in terms of how we treat each other and how we view ourselves. Thus the teachings of Moses, of Christ, of Mohammed or Buddha—these words have value to society—but the conflation of this wisdom with the creation myths and other factual ignorance of ancient times makes these scriptures mixed bags of wisdom and nonsense.

This dichotomy is further confused by our preference for the path of least resistance. Jesus tells us to give freely, to be charitable, merciful, and forgiving—but that’s extremely inconvenient. It is so much more satisfying to use dogma to attack others, or use piety to aggrandize ourselves. Jefferson famously created his own personal cut-and-paste bible in which he selected those passages which he felt had the most meaning to his times, and left out that which harkened back to a more primitive age. Dogmatic insistence on the entirety of the Bible creates a false boundary, requiring that we take the good with the bad—and ignoring the fact that the Bible is an evolved text, which has already been changed many times throughout history.

There is much to doubt, and much to question, in the established religions of our times—and so we see many scientists are also atheists, whether that makes them unhappy or not. And a brain surgeon is very much like a scientist, so we expect someone like Ben Carson to question dogmas that are laughably unscientific. Sadly, we must accept that brain surgery, unlike medical research, is a trained skill—a very complex and intellectually demanding skill, but still ultimately a rote process that, while requiring a sharp mind and a steady hand, nonetheless requires no great curiosity or imagination.

Surprisingly, atheism is not a matter of mere intellect—the fundamentalists have many great thinkers amongst them. But as with idiot savants, intellectuals can accomplish great mental challenges without a commensurate breadth of perception or understanding. Ben Carson is a respected brain surgeon—he could just as easily be a rocket scientist—either way, he still would not be guaranteed wisdom—or leadership.

His recent obtuse comments about school-shootings and gay marriage reveal the superficial character of his thought processes—and prove that specialized skill in one area does not equip anyone to succeed at everything. When Donald Trump extolls his business acumen, we can question how that jibes with two bankruptcies, but when Ben Carson says he’s a good brain surgeon, there’s no reason to doubt him. Nevertheless, it is little indication that he is prepared to lead the free world—it is in fact proof that he knows nothing about it, since brain surgery requires no small amount of concentration.

Ben Carson does, however, fit in with the Tea Party’s attitudes about small government, disrupted government, even no government. How apropos that their candidate has no experience in governing. What it does not explain is why Ben Carson would want to be president. I think of such candidates, Trump or Carson, as ‘suicide bomber’ candidates—they just want to get into the White House so they can blow it all to smithereens.

Back in my youth, the hippies decided to drop out of established society because of all its faults and hypocrisy—but they eventually realized that productive change can only be accomplished from within the establishment. The right-wing partisans of the present are going through the same learning process—the only question is how much damage will their shut-downs and obstructionism do to our country before they realize the same thing.

Tea Party Success (2015Oct09)

Friday, October 09, 2015                                         4:30 PM

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


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


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


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

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


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.

Iran Hawks   (2015Apr03)


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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!


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.


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.


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’.


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.


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.


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.


National Prayer   (2015Apr01)

Wednesday, April 01, 2015                                                12:04 PM

April Fools! The “National Day of Prayer” isn’t until Thursday, May 7th. Americans United has a nifty little site: What’s Wrong With The National Day of Prayer, if anyone isn’t clear on there being a problem with it. To quote Rabbi Merrill Shapiro, President of AU’s National Board of Trustees: “The National Day of Prayer is problematic because it presumes that Americans should take direction on their religious lives from the government. It suggests that they will engage in certain religious activities because the government recommends they do. People do not need government directives to pray or take part in any other form of worship.”

I can’t argue with that. But a case could be made that National Days are not so much directives as they are responses to popular opinion. Americans United is in danger of making the same mistake as the Tea Party’s anti-government nonsense. The government doesn’t create National Days out of thin air—they are proposed by citizens, often due to an existing, less-official celebration tradition—Memorial Day, Veteran’s Day, Fourth of July—these were all popular observances that came from the collective heart of Americans. Their canonization into ‘bank holidays’ came later. And atheist or otherwise, I don’t think anyone can claim that there aren’t a lot of prayer-friendly citizens in this country.

If we were talking about a Mandatory Day of Prayer, then okay, that would be a problem. But a day that celebrates prayer can only be wrong if there’s something wrong with prayer. The fact that I don’t pray may leave me out of the celebration, but that doesn’t make it wrong to celebrate. I don’t have a womb, either—but I have no problem with baby showers.

We’re living in the future, folks. And space-age living requires that we pay attention. There is a distinct difference between what we don’t like and what is wrong. There are lots of things I don’t like—that doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong with those things. There are lots of things that are wrong—the fact that they may appeal greatly to me doesn’t make them less wrong.

People with seniority, people with power, people with money—such people often get to have things their way—their preferences have importance. This is confusing. Their preferences shouldn’t have importance, but reality says otherwise. We have to reconcile this ongoing condition with its temporary equivalent—a hostage stand-off. Yes, a person holding us at gunpoint has the power to inforce their preferences—but we must decide whether to give in to their threats or to try to rush in and disarm the hostage-taker.  It’s called ethics—and the reason most people avoid thinking about ethics is that having them is often similar to rushing an armed attacker—it can be suicidal. Hence the expression, ‘Live Free Or Die’.

It’s ironic that the non-religious would waste time, effort and attention on something that isn’t intrinsically wrong, like a National Day of Prayer, when they should be focusing on actual wrongs, like the recent states’ legislation legitimizing religion-based bigotry—the anti-gay laws and the anti-abortion laws. Gays make up ten percent of our population. Women make up fifty percent of our population. Between the two groups we can figure that a solid majority of American citizens are being persecuted by religion-based laws. This condition may have spurred the anti-prayer sentiment, but opposing a National Day of Prayer is rather missing the point. Better we should all pray they repeal that nonsense—and maybe start voting for politicians instead of fundamentalist zealots.

Welcome to the Madhouse (2015Mar10)

Tuesday, March 10, 2015                                 11:32 PM

It’s like being trapped in a nightmare. I don’t want to steal stuff, but plenty of people in this world do. I don’t want to own a gun, but plenty of people in this world do—and some of them even want to use them. I don’t want to fight, but plenty others do. If I go into business with someone I wouldn’t feel right unless it was fifty-fifty. But there are plenty of people who think it’s okay to hire twenty people at minimum wage and keep all the money for themselves.

I think the unfairness of the world would make a lot less sense if we were less accepting of the way things are—because the way things are is crazy. We don’t want to admit that—we don’t like to confront the fact that society is a madhouse—and by denial, we institutionalize the madness. The media reports on insanity with probity, as if the old men (and occasional woman) in charge gain dignity through wrinkled flesh. But those jerk-offs started out as egotistical little jerks, and they’re just older now, not all that much wiser. When they get on TV, I shudder at their mealy-mouthed evasions and mis-directions. They’re not fooling anyone but themselves, but the well-paid talking heads react as if they’re speaking plain English and using intelligence. What a load.

Someone shoots an unarmed person and we debate whether to throw the killer’s ass in jail, because he gets paid to carry a gun. Shouldn’t those people be held to a higher standard, not a lower one? If I kill someone, you can bet it’s because I was being an asshole—but if a cop kills someone unarmed, they’re being unprofessional. Don’t take the job if you can’t control yourself. End of fricking debate, unless you have some cleverly veiled racism to interject?

We’re going to look a grown woman straight in the eye and tell her that we, not she, are going to decide whether she has a baby or not? What jesus-freak planet does that logic come from? But, wait, since we’re discussing insanity, I’d better steer clear of Christianity—I don’t want to still be typing when the sun comes up.

I’m just sick of money and violence and the stupidity that incites it, excuses it, rationalizes it, and perpetuates it. Did you know that 75% of ISIS’s arms are made in the USA? Well, now you can add that to the insanity you’ve already accepted, like the scientists who are paid by the wealthy industrialists to deny the reality of climate change. You just sat there and took it, didn’t you? Even though we both know that our children’s middle-age will be a sci-fi-apocalypse nightmare—and it’ll be our fault. Just like it was our fault when all the yahoos started burning Dixie Chick CDs—and all us reasonable folk just sat back and watched while hundreds of thousands of young Americans were sent to turn Iraq into an incubator for terrorism, based on lies told to us by our leaders—and thousands of young Americans didn’t come back.

Bertrand Russell once complained to the effect that educated people were never sure they were right, but ignorant, crazy people were always positive. I have an addition to that postulate—ignorant, crazy people are more activist than reasonable people. Paradoxically, if we want the world to be less crazy, or at least slow down the expressway to crazy, we have to get a little crazy ourselves. We have to do the unthinkable—we have to get involved with politics. We have to get so involved that there are just as many reasonable people in politics as there are crazies—and I know that’s asking a lot, but I can’t change the facts of the matter.

When someone like that butt-head senator from Texas opens his yap, he should hear a room full of people laughing in his ignorant face. But he doesn’t—because he’s surrounded by butt-head senators. We’ve had democracy for a long time, but we only recently started voting for people as stupid as ourselves, instead of people we knew were smarter. I think it was Reagan who turned the presidency into a popularity contest–he was certainly the first openly stupid modern-day president we ever had, and the first movie star. (Beiber in 2036, anyone?) Sure, we’ve always resented intelligent people, but it used to include the grudging respect that intelligence deserves. Where did that kind of common sense go? When did we turn into children?

Don’t get me wrong. I don’t think the past was any great shakes either. We had women virtually chained to kitchen stoves, and Jim Crow was not confined to the Deep South—we had corruption, fundamentalism, and elitism like you wouldn’t believe. The changes were good there, for a while. But then we all seemed to decide to get amnesia and re-examine debates that were settled in the 1950s. We started sliding backwards in our social progress, in the quality of our education, and in our perception as voters. Suddenly, only rich people were seeing things get better—the rest of us watched us go to war over a lie, lose our homes to the banks that lost us our jobs, and watched our government turn into a undisciplined kindergarten classroom.

The rich get upset over anything that smacks of humanity. They’ll tell you it’s too expensive. They’ll tell you it infringes on their rights. They’ll tell you it will bring ISIS to our shores. They’ll say anything—and they’ll say it a lot, through every media outlet they own, which is all of them. Those bastards are in charge and they want it all—the only thing they don’t want is change. Informed, self-determining people are so hard to push around. Luckily for the fat-cats, such creatures seem to be an endangered American species. Where have you gone, Kurt Vonnegut?