Friday, April 29, 2011

On Human Sacrifice

Human sacrifice was not uncommon historically. There are mentions of it in the Old Testament, recent archaeological research indicates it was quite likely practiced by the Druids, and it is known to have been quite common in Mesoamerica, having been practiced in one form or another by the Inca, Maya, and especially the Aztecs. Usually it involves the sacrifice of one or more victims to a deity, believing that blood was a form of nourishment for the god, sometimes the sun. From the movies or your reading you probably are aware of the procedure supposedly used by the Aztecs. Slaves or other captives would be ritually sacrificed atop a pyramid, the victims being held down by priests, while one would plunge an obsidian danger into the chest, remove the still beating heart, offer it to the deity, and the body would be rolled down the stairs to the crowd below where it might be eaten or decapitated and skinned, depending upon what account you read. Also, depending upon your definition, different procedures might all be considered human sacrifice, the burial of servants with their master, for example, or suttee as practiced in India when a wife would sacrifice herself on her deceased husband’s funeral pyre.

There is no doubt that such sacrifices were offered although there is little agreement about how often or how many victims were sacrificed either at one time or over time. Michael Harner has suggested the Aztecs might have sacrificed 250,000 victims a year, an estimate I believe to be grossly exaggerated. It is known that both women and children could be victims as well as men, and there is archaeological evidence for this. Also unknown is why such practices existed. Some have suggested there was a protein shortage and cannibalism was a motive. Others have suggested it may have been a form of population control. In any case you must be careful to separate motive from function. That is, the function (or result, if you will) of the sacrifices might have been cannibalism or population control, but that does not seem to have been the motive. The motive was probably the offering of the sacrifice to a deity of some kind. It is entirely possible that people are unaware that their ostensible motives were divorced from the functions of their acts. The most important function of rain dances or other ritual performances may well have been to promote and cement the social solidarity of the group, for example, even though that was not the motive for the performance.

How far-fetched is it to suggest that we here in the United States have a form of human sacrifice? What we do may not be very closely identical to human sacrifice as it is “classically” understood or described, but its function may well be similar. While the Aztecs offered their sacrifices to the god Huitzilopochtli, or other gods they believed in, we are motivated to offer our sacrifices to our great god, “Profit.” Unlike the Aztecs we do not literally or physically remove the victim’s beating heart, we do it symbolically by slowly breaking it over time, as the victim becomes aware of his victimhood and suffers more slowly and painfully as his wife and children observe his increasing helplessness and mortification. He loses his job, exhausts his savings, eventually loses his home, and instead of rolling down the stairway, he rolls inevitably into the gutter as his unemployment benefits run out and he has nowhere to turn for further help. This pleases our Supreme Being, “Capitalism,” because he/she/it benefits from the victim’s misfortune, and also gets rid of a surplus population that might otherwise require some form of welfare. It also pretty much guarantees that his children will be relatively uneducated and able to perform only menial tasks for minimum wages, and his surviving wife will also become a menial or worse. Who says things are not “functionally related?”

What used to be the “American Dream” has now slowly morphed into the American Nightmare. Unemployment is rife, foreclosures are commonplace, wages have been stagnant for years. The rich get even more rich and the poor get even more poor. This poses a great problem for Capitalism, or would if corporations were truly persons, because with modern technology and cheap labor overseas no one needs the poor, or even the middle class. But capitalism is heartless, doesn’t care about the poor or the handicapped, even the nation, the environment, or the planet, as it seeks only short-term profits, the more the merrier. And controlling most of the wealth it can buy whatever it wants, and does.

“Hungry and out of work, eat a Republican.”

Oh, yeah, I almost forgot, the wedding. I heard it was “awesome,” “groovy,” and “super.” No doubt the poor and the elderly took time out from their dumpster diving and feasts of cat food and basked happily in the glory of it all. You have to hand it to those “Brits,” they know how (and when) to put on a show.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

So THAT'S the Problem

I’ve been wondering for some time why President Obama hasn’t succeeded in solving all of our many serious problems. I mean, we haven’t withdrawn from Afghanistan and Iraq and are now bogged down in Libya, unemployment is still a terrible problem, the national debt is an absolute disgrace, Guantanamo is still going, DADT is still in operation, there is still no well-defined energy problem, global warming is still real, and the Israel/Palestinian problem still festers on and on. Now, thanks to a legislator in Oklahoma named Sally Kern, I finally understand why so little has happened… Black people just don’t work hard enough like White people. I bet if George W. Bush, or Saint Ronnie were (still) President all of these problems would have been solved long ago. Ms. Kern also gave me a clue as to why we have never had a woman President, as women, too, just don’t work hard enough.

What I find of the most interest about this is not the sheer idiocy of Ms. Kern but the flat-out, in-your-face racism that was expressed. It has become increasingly apparent that the racism that infests the Republicans that up until recently has at least somewhat been kept under wraps, is now out in the open. Part of this is because of Donald Trump’s ridiculously unfounded claims about President Obama. The fact that Obama felt it necessary to produce his long-form birth certificate at all is truly a national disgrace and would not have happened had he been White. His citizenship was never truly in question, the short form was perfectly legal and reasonable proof, and the entire episode was absurd and should never have achieved the attention it received, and, again, would not have happened had he been White. Now Trump has shifted his attention to Obama’s academic performance, demanding to see his grades and how it was he managed to get into Columbia and Harvard. There is no reason for this other than the fact that Obama is Black, it is racism pure and simple. The one thing the Republicans have not as yet come right out with is the claim that Obama is a bad President because he is just not smart enough (he’s Black, you know). While they have not yet been aggressive enough to say this, it is floating around right now in the hints that Blacks don’t work hard enough, probably are not truly academic achievers, Obama didn’t really deserve to be admitted to Harvard, and so on. But so far not even Trump with his unsurpassed vulgarity has had the temerity to say it, at least not in so many words.

Don’t forget the intellectual capacity of Blacks has been denied routinely throughout our history. For a very long time they were considered clearly inferior to Whites in every way, especially intellectually. Even in recent years arguments have continued over their lower IQ scores, poorer school performances, and so on, with some believing these differences are innate and others arguing they are merely the result of cultural conditions and discrimination. For years, not very long ago, it was believed by many, if not most, that Blacks could not be Quarterbacks because they lacked the intelligence, then they could not become coaches for the same reason, and of course management was virtually out of the question. These terrible prejudices have slowly begun to disappear, but have still not entirely disappeared. There is no doubt that racism is alive and well in the United States. Thus it should not be surprising in the least that many people in the U.S. would be both unhappy and threatened with having a (unthinkable until Obama) Black President. Given the fact we slowly added Black Mayors, Black Congresspersons, (a rare) Black Senator, as well as a couple of Black Supreme Court Justices it was perhaps inevitable that eventually there would be a Black President. Personally, I thought it was one of the greatest moments in our history when Barack Hussein Obama was elected President, but I also said it would destroy a long-standing paradigm and would bring about a great deal of resistance. It seems the pride some of us felt in what we had accomplished, along perhaps with the novelty of having a Black President, and also along with the realization that he is not really any different from a White President, has brought about this current reaction and tended to renew questions of ethnic competence. In any case, it is clear now that President Obama is not being judged solely on the basis of his performance or his character, but also on the color of his skin. Just as women have to work twice as hard as men to achieve half as much, so it is that a Black President has to accomplish so much more than our usual White Presidents to receive the same amount of credit. You, like me, might not approve of everything Obama has done, but compare what he has accomplished in two and a half years in office with what George W. Bush accomplished in eight years and then tell me he doesn’t work hard enough. Donald Trump, and those who put him up to this disgusting attack, should be tarred and feathered and run out of town on rails for picking open this scab that should have been left to continue to heal. The Sally Kerns who blurt out their innermost feelings and then try to apologize should be shown the door and escorted into the dustbin of history as soon as possible. Someone today asked, “Where do Republicans even find these people?” Where, indeed?

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Nice Try, Mr. POTUS

“But the brilliance, the versatility of madness is akin to the resourcefulness of water seeping through, over and around a dike.” F. Scott Fitzgerald.

President Obama has now released the long form of his birth certificate in an attempt to quell the obsessive concern over his birth that has been distracting us from far more important business. It’s a nice try, but unfortunately, as Fitzgerald suggests, madness is resourceful when it comes to dealing with facts and information it does not wish to acknowledge; releasing the long form will most probably just open up new horizons for the insanity that has plagued Obama from the very beginning. It has already begun with some criticizing Obama himself for the controversy because he did not offer the long form earlier. Never mind there was no reason for him to do so, as what was released was the perfectly legal proof of his birth and citizenship and should have been all that was required.

The crazies that want to insist Obama is not really who he says he is will persist. They will no doubt ask how we know this version of his birth is truly the correct one, it could, after all, just be a clever forgery. As President Obama is the most powerful person in the world he could easily have arranged to have such a document created. And note that his name is the same as his father’s, and his father’s place of birth is listed as Kenya, so how do we know for certain which Obama was really born in Kenya? I have little doubt they will come up with other more creative, ridiculous, and conspiratorial objections.( I started writing this when I first heard the news about his releasing his long form birth certificate, before I saw Orly Tait on The Last Word with Lawrence O’Donnell, and also before I saw the Rachel Maddow show this afternoon. It is proving to be even worse than I expected. It seems there are at least three distinct groups that are benefitting from this absurd controversy: (1) the truly insane like Orly Tait and some of the other hardcore “birthers,” (2) members of the more traditional Republican Party that benefit from anything that belittles Obama and helps them in their quest to bring him down, and (3) those who stand to benefit materially from the further promotion of this nonsense. Rachel Maddow made this latest point quite clear, pointing out the books being promoted along with all sorts of merchandise having to do with this nefarious business, that would fail to make money if the matter was allowed to rest in peace). This tends to confirm my belief that the Republican party is little more than a criminal conspiracy. Even Grover Norquist’s Americans for Tax Reform, if you think about it, is just a glorified protection racket, “either play ball with us or we’ll ruin your career.”

President Obama seems unable to overcome what I think is a serious flaw in his personality or basic make-up, he cannot seem to grasp that he is not dealing with people who are all sane and reasonable like himself. Just as he keeps insisting on trying to compromise with his implacable enemies that have announced they have no intention of compromising with him and, indeed, want nothing less than his failure and single-term Presidency, so he now seems to think the loonies and others that question his birth will simply accept his long form (that contains very little information we did not already know). Similarly, if I remember correctly, he has also said in the past he does not think racism has much of anything to do with his critics, or at least has indicated he does not want to acknowledge that as a possible explanation. Here again I believe he is wrong. There are some who simply will not, apparently even cannot, acknowledge that we have, in fact, a Black President. This is not unrelated to the birther controversy, as well as to still more fantastic beliefs about his being a secret Muslim planted here to bring us Shari’a law, or perhaps even someone from outer space. He is clearly, to these people, some kind of “Other,” not really like “us.” One of these people not long ago even went so far as to deny that Obama was really the President, suggesting that it was really the Congress that was in charge. While it was comforting to know that many American citizens were prepared to elect a Black President, it is not at all comforting to realize that even now there are almost as many who were not so prepared (and probably will never be). We can only hope that the younger generations now coming more and more into their own will not cling to racism as tenaciously as their elders did. The blatant racism involved has now been exposed for what it is. Donald Trump, one of the few people, perhaps the only one to successfully expose himself as a racist, scumbag, phony, sleazeball, all rolled into one body, boasting about how he alone has been successful in making Obama reveal his long form birth certificate, has now brought up the question of Obama’s academic record, suggesting not at all slyly that Obama did not deserve being admitted to Columbia and Harvard and was, “he heard,” that Obama was a terrible student (with, as usual no basis in fact whatsoever). The racial element in this accusation is obvious, as is Trump’s demand that Obama produce “his papers (records).” I think it is not surprising that Trump is leading the field for the Republican nomination to be the party’s candidate.

I trust the masses of the poor and unemployed in Britain and around the world will enjoy the marvelous spectacular medieval pageant we are about to witness on our televisions, a royal wedding the likes of which has not been seen for quite a long time. Pomp and ceremony, multi-millions spent on security, diamonds and jewels rarely seen, and souvenirs, no doubt lots of souvenirs the peasants can treasure in their hovels and remember how wonderful it all was. On Friday we can all forget about the rather precarious situation the world is in and just enjoy, enjoy, enjoy. It is nice to know that Prince What’s-his-name and his commoner wife-to-be are basically just normal people like us, they drive their own cars, are nervous about their upcoming nuptials, even to the point of having nightmares about them. Of course the details of the bride’s gown, the guest list, the seating arrangements, the menu, and so on will be much appreciated. I understand that President Obama and his charming wife have not been invited and some Bahrainian billionaire has turned down an invitation, but what do I know about Royal protocol when it comes to the wedding of the century? I intend to celebrate this momentous event on Friday by unplugging all the TV’s in the house and spending the day planting potatoes, weather permitting. I rather doubt the bride and groom will treasure my best wishes, or even want or need them. I don’t know who first penned, “Stop the world, I want to get off,” but they certainly had the right idea.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Groveling for Grover

You probably know who Grover Norquist is, but if not, he is the head of an organization called Americans for Tax Reform, an organization he started (I think) at the request of President Ronald Reagan. Norquist is also a big player in the National Rifle Association as well as a large number of other conservative organizations. He is also the author of the famous quote about wanting to starve government to the point where he could drown it in the bathtub. Although I was aware of his existence I have never until now given him much thought. A comment by Senator Tom Coburn of Oklahoma has piqued my interest. Senator Coburn is a member of the so-called Committee of Six (I think that is what it is called). This committee, appointed by President Obama, is charged with coming up with a plan to somehow reduce the deficit. Some have high hopes it will devise a reasonable plan.

How this affects Senator Coburn is because one of the possibilities the committee is facing is raising taxes. Senator Coburn, however, like virtually all Republican Congresspersons, signed a document devised by Grover Norquist, that promises never, ever, under any circumstances to raise taxes. When asked about this Coburn replied to the effect that this pledge was to a special interest group and was therefore not as important as his constitutional duty (that might oblige him to raise taxes at some point). What I find of the most interest here is, why did Coburn wait until now to decide his constitutional duty was more important than the tax pledge that Grover Norquist requires of all Republicans running for office? Why, that is, did Coburn and all the others agree to sign such a pledge in the first place? Obviously they signed it because they did not want Americans for Tax Reform to campaign against them. This pledge is not a legal document, no one has to sign it. This would indicate to me that either they did not consider the potential conflict of interest that might arise or they were so intimidated by Grover Norquist they signed it with no thought at all about what they were doing.

It is not at all clear to me why anyone would ever sign anything specifying they would never under any circumstances do something, anything at all. This would seem to me to be foolishness of the worst kind, how would anyone know what circumstances might demand of them in the future, especially if they were about to enter government? And who is Grover Norquist to demand their signature, other than being head of an anti-tax group? He holds no elected position, is not appointed by anyone with authority to appoint him to do anything of the sort. It would appear to me that Republicans just dutifully signed this absurd pledge without challenging it or giving it proper thought, sheep being led around by the Judas goat. This seems to me to also be the way Republicans act once they are in office, just following the party line whatever it is with no independent thoughts of their own, no regard for what might be right and proper, or good for the nation, just what it is they are told to do for the party. Grover Norquist says jump and they mindlessly do so. The party says jump and they mindlessly do so. I think this is disgraceful and not at all the way our elected officials ought to behave. It also indicates they have no idea what a Congressperson ought to be, so rather than doing the business of the people they merely do the business of those who keep them in office. I guess they believe that if no one pays taxes the tooth fairy, Easter Bunny, and Santa Claus will take care of the police, firemen, highways, bridges, schools, etc. No one, of course, should have to pay taxes to support our obscene military/industrial/political complex, but that is another matter.

Of course not a whole lot about what goes on in the nation’s capital makes sense anymore. I heard today (although I already knew this) that when the price of gas goes up the President’s poll numbers go down. As it is widely said the President has virtually no control over the price of oil, why should his poll numbers go down? Similarly, the President is being criticized because of his failure to close Guantanamo, but he has been effectively prevented from doing so by Congress, so why should he bear the blame? I do not doubt that President Obama deserves the blame for many things, but these two do not seem entirely fair. But, then, I have long since given up any hope that reason has anything to do with the affairs of government, or even human behavior in general. While I absolutely despise the idea behind the saying, “when you’re going to be raped you might as well lay back and enjoy it,” it somehow does seem appropriate to apply it to our current political situation.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Great Ideas?

Yes sir, Mr. Bubblehead, you are absolutely right, for such an egregious and stupid offense I certainly deserve to be punished. Having been suitably chastised, I will force myself to stand in the corner for 15 minutes (not meant to be a factual statement). And while (not) doing so I will reflect on the kinds of people who would:

Make it illegal for people on Public Assistance to have more than $20 in their pockets at any time (Minnesota). Apparently the original suggestion was for them to have no money at all in their pockets, but someone pointed out this would make it difficult for them even to pay bus fares. I guess they would stop individuals known to be on assistance and search them. Maybe they would just do random searches of anyone who looked poor?

Making it a rule of some kind that Foster children use their state funding clothing allowance only in thrift stores (Michigan). Presumably they would be given gift cards in lieu of cash that could only be used at the Salvation Army or other thrift stores. As the legislator who suggested this said, “My father told me that when you walk down the street no one knows where you bought your clothes.” I guess you would have to have receipts to prove where your clothes originated?

Then there are those who would do away with Roe vs. Wade. It seems there have been 916 measures of various kinds in 49 states that would place severe restrictions on a woman’s right to have an abortion (the law of the land). Some of these also have to do even with the practice of contraception. It is interesting, I think, that all of the above suggestions or attempts have been made by member s of a party that claims to not want the government interfering in their rights.

Of course these people are also members of a party that now features an “Alliance for the Separation of School and State.” That is, they are opposed to public education and want to see it replaced by privatized schools with no state funding (all the better to indoctrinate you, my dears). Free public elementary school education has been a feature of our democracy for a very long time. There are similar ideas about higher education that many think should use a more business-like approach to education (I believe this is actually happening in some Universities and Colleges), so much for academic freedom, the arts and humanities.

There is also a movement in which some religious groups are joining with corporations to fight environmental regulations. I guess they are referred to as “Slayers of the Green Dragon,” the Green Dragon being environmental regulations. I have always found it virtually impossible to believe that anyone could possibly be anti-environmental, but those interested only in short-term profits seem oblivious to the dangers of slowly despoiling our fragile earth.

Some places are apparently serious about doing away with child labor laws under the claim they are unconstitutional and should be a matter of “States Rights.” This would of course return child labor regulations back to where they were in the 1920’s, when child labor was shamelessly exploited for being cheap. Who needs healthy, happy children anyway?

Of course these are the same people who are opposed to collective bargaining, unemployment benefits, minimum wages, Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, food stamps, aid to the handicapped, taxes, and anything else that could conceivably benefit the working class and the poor. I reflect on all this and I try to convince myself these people are merely misguided, rather than selfish, greedy, uncaring, hard-hearted, short-sighted, ignorant, and at war with the middle-class, but I always fail.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Him or Me

Weekly goldfish races in Tacoma
replaced with beer pong after
complaints by animal rightists.

Bubblehead: I am so grateful for your eternal vigilance, always keeping the world safe from the terrible excesses of Morialekafa. How about “paying less in taxes than in the history of paying taxes?” Somehow it would seem obvious that you cannot pay less in taxes during a time when there were no taxes. I had forgotten about the brief period of time when there was a 7% rate. No doubt all of my readers were aware of this and had no idea what I was referring to about the relatively low tax rates of, I should have more carefully explained, recent history. In any case, keep up the good work.

Well, it now comes down to either me or Donald Trump. For the last couple of days every time I hear his name mentioned I turn off the TV. This means that either the media drop their ridiculous obsession with this phony baloney or my TV watching news is over. Trump claims to be a genius, among other modest attributes. He has certainly proven his genius when it comes to getting fee publicity, and has also proven the absolute idiocy of the media. I hope he actually gets the nomination, I just don’t want to hear any more about it.

Sarah Palin seems to be slowly slipping away into oblivion where she rightly belongs. I am quite certain that if I had to listen to that shrill fishwife’s voice for more than a day I would quickly go mad. Michelle Bachmann, however loony she may be, at least has a much better voice and seems to be stealing whatever thunder Palin might have had. There is little doubt that so far the Republican candidates that seem to be at least thinking about running are a bunch of losers. If Mitt Romney is the best they can do I don’t think President Obama has much to fear. It seems that the ex-Governor of New Mexico is now thinking of throwing his hat in the ring. How far do you think he’ll get with Republicans with his desire to legalize marijuana? How long do you think it will be before lots of Republicans will start distancing themselves from Ryan’s death wish of a budget?

It is entirely possible, of course, that the media knows exactly what they are doing with the Donald Trump nonsense, and the ongoing rather entertaining situation of the Republicans. It does certainly keep our minds off more important things, like our failure in Iraq, our failure in Afghanistan, our failure in Libya, our failure in the Middle East in general, our failure to actually govern our country, and so on. While we are thrashing about like a nation of incompetent nitwits other countries are forging ahead, already leading us in math and science, life expectancy, health care, technology, and so on. Of course they are not all without their own problems. China, for example, has made a terrible mistake with their one child program which has resulted in a huge surplus of males with virtually no possibility of marriage. I suppose it won’t be long before they will be advertising for “Lovely American Girls,” just as we now see such ads for Philippino, Russian, and other foreign women looking for romance and husbands. As the U.S. (now also known as the land of Obesity, Viagra, and “Low T”) continues to decline, while South America, China, India, Russia, and others continue to do well, things do not bode well for a nation of incompetents. Just wait until one or more of the crazier Tea Party crowd refuses to lift the debt ceiling, then we’ll see some real fun. Such a possibility has never before been taken seriously, but with this current bunch of bumbling know-nothings anything might happen.

I can’t imagine the Founding Fathers ever conceived of a situation in which one of the two political parties would simply refuse to participate in the governing of our nation, in favor of merely doing the bidding of giant international corporations whose only interest was short-term profits. Indeed, I doubt they even contemplated such giant international corporations in the first place. Communism, Socialism, Fascism, were not problems in those simpler times. None of them could have imagined the incredible mess we have made of the nation they created. A nation “Of the people, by the people, for the people,” is now barely a faint echo from the past soon to be heard no more outside of classes in Ancient History.

To predict the behavior of ordinary people in advance, you only have to assume that they will always try to escape a disagreeable situation with the smallest possible expenditure of intelligence.
Friedrich Nietzsche

There are at least two people I know here who are so fed up with things they no longer watch TV at all.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Chasing Our Tails

After argument with girlfriend
South African man walks into
river of crocodiles, suicides.

Things have become so absolutely ridiculous in the United States it makes one wonder if we are experiencing a period of mass insanity. Can you believe, for example, we are actually having a debate (of sorts) over whether or not people in the upper 2% of the population, with far more money than they need, currently paying less in taxes than ever before in history, in the midst of a period of economic misfortune, should pay less or more in taxes, even the relatively modest amount they paid during the Clinton administration when we had a budget surplus? This is a question so obvious of a solution it is not worthy of even being discussed.

And can you believe we are still issuing permits for deep-water oil drilling only months after the worst oil spill disaster in history, the effects of which are still being felt by those unfortunate enough to live and try to make their living in the Gulf of Mexico. These permits are being issued to the very people who caused the disaster in the first place, and in spite of the fact that no legislation improving the safety has been passed, none at all. The drillers have even admitted that in the event of another disaster they would be no better prepared than they were for the last one. This is, in my opinion, madness, pure and simple. So ridiculous a procedure it is, again, not even worthy of further discussion.

Then there is the matter of nuclear energy. In spite of the recent nuclear disaster in Japan, the outcome of which is still not known but could be worse even than Chernobyl, is far worse than Three Mile Island, and threatens people virtually all over the globe, and in spite of the known fact that many of our existing nuclear energy plants are potentially extremely unsafe, President Obama, and his supporters in the nuclear energy business, still plan to build and operate more of these potentially life-ending plants. This is truly insanity writ large and should never be permitted. Germany has recently announced they will allow no more nuclear energy plants, all other nations should immediately do the same and proceed to close those plants that still exist. This is not worthy of further discussion, it is plain and simply absurd.

Don’t forget the so-called “birther” question. Can you believe we still have to put up with endless hours of television discussing a claim that is known to be totally absurd? Virtually no one but a small number of apparently exceptionally stupid people (including apparently some 42% of Iowans) believe there is any question whatsoever about President Obama’s citizenship and right to be President. And yet Donald Trump, an obvious charlatan, liar, braggart, and opportunist, with no serious intention of running for President, obviously in it merely for the millions of dollars of free publicity he is getting, goes on getting it day after day. Lawrence O’Donnell says he is doing much harm when it is obvious that MSNBC is doing even more harm by carrying this nonsense day after day, hour after hour. Donald Trump does not deserve even one minute of airtime and for the MSM to continue giving him attention is simply ridiculous.

Perhaps most ridiculous of all is the continuing belief on the part of many of our citizens that evolution is “only a theory” and enjoys no greater status than the word of the bible. That contemporary people can believe the earth was created only 6000 years ago, in 7 days, and that people lived alongside dinosaurs, is so far-fetched, so ridiculous, so totally ignorant and mindless, it makes one wonder if these people, like the birthers, are even sane. The age of the earth was settled by geographers in about 1865, evolution is the basic foundation of modern biological science and has been for many years. These are not facts that require any further controversy, like the question of Obama’s birth, they are settled, over, finished, known. To take this as something to be further questioned is simply ridiculous.

Congressman Ryan has put forth a budget proposal that is so outrageously absurd that even most Republicans can’t stomach it. It is clear that at least some 80% of the American public is opposed to his proposal to end Medicare, including some 70% of Tea Party people. This is a proposal that should be simply laughed into a quick oblivion, but there is talk of compromise, if you can believe it. How atrociously bad does something have to be before it is simply not taken seriously? The Ryan plan would also cut taxes even further for the wealthiest individuals in the country, would destroy Medicare, and administer the last rites to the New Deal, something the Republicans have desired ever since it was proposed. Even Social Security, one of the greatest and most successful programs ever conceived, is on the chopping block, even though it has nothing to do with the national debt. Congressional thieves have broken into it, used it illegally, and now don’t want to have to pay it back. This is not only ridiculous, it is criminal.

Finally, for the moment at least, is the conspiracy driven by the Koch brothers and other corporate interests to break the remaining unions, thus removing the last bastions of resistance to their fascist takeover of our nation. This is being attempted under the excuse in several states of budget cutting, even though it has little or nothing to do with their budget shortfalls. Happily there is reason to believe that at least this ridiculous maneuver will not only fail but will reinvigorate the surviving unions and ultimately replace the Republican corporate toadies with more thoughtful and patriotic types with the interests of the nation at heart.

Personally, I do not believe that any of the abovementioned proposals (or whatever you might call them) are worthy of further consideration. All of them appear to have no interest in the public welfare and offer nothing in the way of improving the lot of our citizens. I suspect that in many other nations they would not even be considered serious beliefs or possibilities. To consider them as real possibilities worthy of discussion is simply a waste of time. Further tax cuts for the wealthy, no; further deep-water drilling, no; further nuclear energy, no; Obama’s non-citizenship, no; creationism, no; killing Medicare, a thousand times no; union busting, no. We have degenerated into a nation of valueless individuals with no sense of community, no sense of purpose, no idea of where we should be going, and no serious attention as to how to get there, ridiculous creatures endlessly now merely chasing our tails and baying at the moon.

All human beings should try to learn before they die what they are running from, and to, and why.
James Thurber

Captain James Cook was killed by Hawaiians on his second voyage to their islands, speared, and some say, eaten.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Democratic Anthropomorphism

Teenager sings his song,
“Sorry for the Mess,” in Oregon
coffeehouse, stabs himself to death.

When Howard Dean addressed the crowd in Worley, Idaho, last Saturday, I believe he made essentially the same mistake President Obama did when he said, or at least implied, that Republicans share the same concern for the nation as he does. I pointed out that I could see no evidence whatsoever that indicated any serious concern for our nation on the part of Republicans.

Governor Dean, during the course of his otherwise excellent presentation, said that “all Americans share a belief in fairness.” Unless Governor Dean believes Republicans are not Americans I think that statement is false. I fail to see where there is any indication of fairness on the part of Republicans. They insist on tax breaks for the wealthiest 2% of the population (those with far more money they could possibly need) while not at all adverse to increasing taxes for the remaining 98%. Is that fair? Similarly, they are opposed to collective bargaining, the right of workers to negotiate fairly on their own working conditions and remuneration. Is that fair? They believe huge oil and other corporations should be given huge subsidies, and not have to pay taxes. Surely that is not fair. They are also opposed to unemployment benefits to those who no fault of their own find themselves without a job. Is that fair? Of course they are opposed to universal health care, especially a single-payer system, and believe if someone can’t pay they don’t deserve health care. I don’t believe that is fair. Most Republicans are opposed to abortion, and some even to contraception, thus forcing women (especially poor women) to bear children they are unable to care for. That’s not fair. And if a woman does have a child and cannot work because she needs child care, they oppose that also, not fair. They are basically opposed to welfare in any form, food stamps, Social Security (not really welfare), and such. That, too, is not fair. In short, searching for fairness among Republicans seems to me to be a lost cause. I do not believe Howard Dean is right when he makes the generalization that all Americans value fairness.

I think when Obama or Dean say Republicans are interested, just as they are, in the nation and in fairness, they are simply projecting their own beliefs onto Republicans, kind of a wishful thinking approach. Because they are interested in the welfare of the nation, as well as in fairness, they simply assume Republicans must be also. This is, I believe, a (probably) fatal mistake. The most basic idea of projection has to do with attributing one’s own ideas, feelings, or attitudes to other people (or even objects). In Freudian terms this has to do with the externalization of things like blame, guilt, or responsibility, and is regarded as a defense against anxiety. I do not believe Obama or Dean are using projection in this Freudian way.

Playing with words, is sometimes fun, and also sometimes useful. I might suggest that Obama and
Dean are more guilty of anthropomorphism than merely projection: “an interpretation of what is not human or personal in terms of human or personal characteristics.” I realize this term is usually reserved for attributing human characteristics to animals or even inanimate objects, but it could potentially be used for some humans as well. If, for example, it is true that Republicans are not interested in fairness, that would imply they lack empathy. Empathy is generally believed to be a vital and basic human characteristic. There is good reason to believe that Republicans do, in fact, lack empathy, for the poor, the sick, the handicapped, etc. Thus it would be the case that Dean, at least, is attributing human characteristics to those who do not otherwise have them. I am not saying Republicans are animals, what I am saying is, if they lack both the concepts of fairness and community, that behavior is much more animal-like than not.

Democrats, being “liberals” (nowadays a Republican hate word), and therefore what I would characterize as “decent people,” interested in the welfare of others and in the welfare of the community rather than merely themselves, seem to be incapable of realizing that others are not necessarily like themselves. Thus they project their own values onto others who do not in fact share them, and they expect from those others the same fairness and good fellowship they themselves display. In the case of contemporary Republicans, doing the bidding of their corporate masters, this is a recipe for disaster. Obama and the Democrats must give up their idealistic beliefs in the goodness and perfectability of mankind (especially Republicans) and face the grim reality of the politics of greed and the unremitting lust for power.

The problem of power is how to achieve its responsible use rather than its irresponsible and indulgent use - of how to get men of power to live for the public rather than off the public.
Robert F. Kennedy

The flightless kiwi bird of New Zealand lays the largest egg, relative to its size, of any other bird on earth.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Death of the Liberal Class - book

Death of the Liberal Class, Chris Hedges (Nation Books, N.Y., 2010)

I have been reading another book. Usually I only read one book at a time, but as this book promised to confirm most everything I believe, how could I resist from reading it immediately? Chris Hedges is a Pulitzer Prize winning journalist who spent almost twenty years as a foreign correspondent and fifteen years at the New York Times. A fellow of the Nation Institute, he is currently a columnist for Truthdig and also writes for a number of other publications.

By the liberal class Hedges has in mind such disparate groups as labor unions, universities, (what used to be) the Democratic Party, churches, socialists, communists, feminists, and all those who fought stubbornly and successfully for social reforms that had to do with working conditions in factories, the organization of labor unions, civil and women’s rights, universal education, public health, housing for the poor, and socialism. They were successful in that they did bring about the 40 hour work week, the eight hour work day, collective bargaining, at least token holidays, and they also made inroads on civil and women’s rights. They were vocal and active and had a significant presence in our affairs.

The liberal era flourished during the later years of the nineteenth century and the early years of the twentieth. The four basic tenets of classical liberalism, as written by John Gray (a philosopher):

“…it is individualistic, in that it asserts the moral primacy of the person against any collectivity; egalitarian, in that it confers on all human beings the same basic moral status; universalist, affirming the moral unity of the species; and meliorist, in that it asserts the open-ended improvability, by use of critical reason, of human life.”

It is Hedges argument that liberalism of this sort began its demise following WW I, which shattered the optimism of the liberals about the inevitability of human progress, but more importantly, consolidated state and corporate control over political, economic, social and cultural affairs. According to Hedges it also “…created mass culture, fostered through the consumer society the cult of the self, led the nation into an era of permanent war, and used fear and mass propaganda to cow citizens and silence independent and radical voices within the liberal class.”

Thus was brought about over time the death of the liberal class. Organizations like the Communist Party were quickly forced out of the political scene entirely, the Socialists soon followed. Indeed, socialism has been demonized to the point that many would sooner die than see socialism in America (even though America is importantly socialist already). All other remnants of liberalism were slowly seduced or forced into the new corporate controlled culture or were simply ignored. While unions were still permitted their character changed dramatically as they began to become involved in working with management rather than against it. Liberal churches also succumbed to the demands of the new corporate culture and began to conform. Universities that had once been bastions of academic freedom and sometimes held radical or even semi-radical beliefs were slowly changed into something more akin to business schools, as budgets for the humanities and arts fell more and more by the wayside in favor of professional schools like Business, Medicine, and Nursing. The idea of a university as a place for the pursuit of knowledge for its own sake has by now disappeared entirely as the primary reason for attending a university or college is believed to be to get a job. The university itself has become a kind of trade school. The Democratic Party itself became much more conservative to resemble the Republican Party more and more, so we now often hear complaints that we really have only a one party system. This has been accomplished through propaganda and the creation of a mass culture that places importance on the self and material possessions rather than community.

In this new culture we now have there is little tolerance for radicals of any kind, or for that matter even anyone who offers a serious challenge to the status quo. If you don’t conform you soon find yourself ignored, isolated, mocked, and sometimes vilified. The media, now controlled by a very small number of corporations, can make or break candidates at will. Consider what happened to Al Gore, John Kerry, or Howard Dean, all of whom had their campaigns destroyed mainly by the media. Look at what they do to people like Dennis Kucinich by mostly ignoring him and not taking his candidacy seriously. People like Chomsky continue their criticisms but are painted as merely disgruntled radicals. Bernie Sanders, God bless him, is virtually a one man campaign against corruption, but (horrors) he’s a socialist! Ralph Nader, for example, has received this treatment to the point where he has trouble even getting a hearing anymore.

This business of bringing about conformity through the media began during WWI when President Wilson formed The Committee for Public Information (CPI). This was headed by a man named George Creel and “Its goal was not, as Creel confessed simply to impart pro-war messages but to discredit those who attempted to challenge the nation’s involvement in the conflict.” He was very successful at this so that news that had once reflected local discourses and public discussions came to be dictated from above (sound familiar). And never forget the great communist scare of the 1950’s when dozens of perfectly respectable citizens were blacklisted and lost their jobs, university professors that never recovered, actors and writers, a few of whom did survive.

I cannot tell you as forcefully and completely as Hedges has in this book the forces now aligned against a liberal society. He has made a case for the former liberal class selling out to the powers that be and the obstacles that now stand in the way of a just, sensible, and compassionate society. I would urge all serious people to read this fine book. Of course if you are as cynical as I am at times, you might argue that by suggesting merely rebellion rather than revolution Hedges has himself sold out to the system.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Governor Howard Dean in Idaho

Can you believe it, Howard Dean in Idaho, North Idaho, Worly? Well, it’s true, he was. There was a fund raising luncheon today, along with training for Democratic activists, at the Kootenai Tribal Casino in Worly, Idaho. It was well attended, all the tables were full, and I would say it was a great success.

I found Governor Dean to be a bit smaller than I imagined him to be, but a real down-to-earth person and a remarkable speaker. He spoke for a time and then fielded questions from the audience. I thought he was great, I suppose because he said all the things about the current Republican con job that I believe. He proved himself to be extremely well-informed about what was going on in Washington, answered all questions without hesitation and honestly, and was, I thought, inspiring. He renewed his call for grass-roots action, change from the bottom up, and above all, patience, pointing out that the goal might well be not just the next election but the one after that, and after that. He exposed the Republican nonsense for the nonsense it really is, and offered an optimistic assessment of what will probably happen. When asked why the White House appeared to be somewhat confused and disorganized at times during the first two years he politely and rather subtly suggested it was due to the staff Obama had around him during that time, a staff that has now been changed, he believes, for the better. He did not mention anyone by name but obviously had in mind Rahm Emanuel, who everyone believes stood in the way of his getting a position in the Obama administration. He spoke very highly of the new Chief of Staff, William Daley, and also of Ben Bernanke, even though they are not Democrats, saying they are both honest and competent people who can be trusted to keep their word. All in all it was a most worthwhile event.

As we were there an hour early I had an opportunity to look over the casino. I will sound like a genuine hick, I know, but I was absolutely astounded by this huge and, I thought, surreal experience. I have not been in either Reno or Las Vegas for sixty years so I had little idea of the scale of this casino movement. It’s true we have a casino right here in Bonners Ferry, The Kootenai Casino, but it is truly small potatoes compared with this Coeur d’Alene casino. It was amazing, there must be two or three acres covered with all kinds of machines designed to remove a certain portion of your money over time if you continue to play. These machines are now designed to spare you even having to pull a handle, you just sit there gently pushing buttons while being slowly and systematically divested of your money. Each machine has some kind of name, and flashes lights and spins around hypnotically (I guess) while people sit there sometimes by the hour in a vain attempt to get rich. I had been told there was poker and blackjack in addition to the machines but it turns out these games are played on machines as well (although they do offer a large screen with pictures of sexy dealers you can ogle). What impressed me the most was the fact that there are virtually no young people engaging in this foolhardy enterprise. The players are almost universally older people, I could only guess that the average age must be somewhere around sixty, perhaps even older. They come there sometimes from long distances to be fleeced and, indeed, are sometimes delivered there by the bus load, the drivers of which must be enacting the role of a Judas goat. I guess older people in our culture are bored and devoid of other ways to spend their time.

Most of the players I witnessed stopped momentarily for some kind of (expensive) fast food and then returned quickly to their ultimately futile play. There is a restaurant and a bar that I heard serve pretty pedestrian fare (this may be unfair as I did not eat or drink there). One might think that in a place that makes so much money they could afford ultra-gourmet dining, but, alas, that seems not to be the case (it certainly is not the case in our small version of a casino where the food is so pedestrian we refuse even to eat there). Of course there are enormous facilities for meetings and conventions as well as a truly outstanding golf course. The casino offers entertainment, bringing in well-known performers from time to time, and although I’m not certain I think they may also feature boxing matches. There is also a large hotel, and while the complex is already huge it is being expanded even further. I think that as such places go this is probably one of the biggest and best. I found it terribly depressing, smoke-filled, dark, crowded, and in general quite unpleasant. My feelings are obviously not shared by the hundreds of thousands of my peers who seem to enjoy this (to me) complete waste of time and money.

It completely mystifies me how it is that so many of my fellow Americans go out of their way to visit these places and sit for hours mindlessly in front of garish machines designed for no other purpose than to separate them from their money. Many of them actually claim to win, which occasionally they do, but if they keep playing which they all do, they inevitably lose. Personally I think it would be more interesting and entertaining to color the water in your toilet and flush your money down the drain. Don’t misunderstand, I am not opposed to gambling, not at all, but what goes on in these casinos is a far cry from gambling. Thank you Governor Dean, I learned a great deal today.

Friday, April 15, 2011

On American Exceptionalism

Arizona man sues police, claims
Police dog violated his civil rights
and used excessive force.

The basic concept of American Exceptionalism can be traced back to Alexis de Tocqueville in 1835. There were essentially five characteristics of America that seemed to define us: liberty, egalitarianism, individualism, populism, and laissez-faire. I believe one could challenge these as truly characteristic of America at that time, and one could certainly question them as viable characteristics at the present time. The phrase American Exceptionalism was first used by the Communist Party in the 1920’s, as they believed because of these characteristics, especially the lack of distinct classes, America might be the first nation to avoid class warfare and the inevitable destruction that it would theoretically bring about. However interesting this may be, it is not what concerns me here.

There is another interpretation of American Exceptionalism, one that believes there is a qualitative difference between America and all other societies, a difference that results from the fact that we were exempted from the historical forces that affected all others. While the phrase American Exceptionalism does not necessarily imply superiority, those who believe in this qualitative difference seem to believe that it does. I do not understand how one could explain the behavior of the United States if one did not believe in this superiority.

Certainly we are exceptional in that we are regarded as the only remaining superpower, possessing the finest army in the world and a huge nuclear arsenal. Of course the nuclear arsenal is useless as it can never be used, and our army has proven itself unable to defeat even rag-tag civilian patriots in Asia and the Middle East. This does not seem to keep us from the belief in our “superpowerness.” We are also exceptional in that our nation is surrounded on east and west by vast oceans, and north and south by friendly nations. Why the rest of the world allowed a single superpower to emerge at all it not clear to me and was probably a grave mistake.

What this seems to create is an exceptional arrogance that allows us to believe we can dominate the entire world and impose our version of “democracy” on others wherever found. This seems also to include our belief that our basic religion, Christianity, is superior to all others and should be disseminated around the world. And we are quite exceptional in being the only highly industrialized society that still clings to religion, especially fundamentalism, and believe that it still competes with science as an explanation for natural and other events. This is related to the exceptionalism exposed in the suicidal belief that the education of our children is unimportant.

We are also very exceptional in our greed. Although comprising only some 4% of the earth’s population we use up 25% of her resources. This has been accomplished both by military and economic dominance over the past three centuries. We are certainly exceptional as a consumer society where the main focus of life is on the acquisition of material goods, with slogans like “shop til’ you drop,” and “He who has the most toys wins,” and so on. We are also pretty exceptional in our acceptance of built-in obsolescence, accepting merchandise with a relative short life expectancy that can be just discarded rather than repaired, and poorly constructed housing that can be torn down and rebuilt every few years. We are also exceptional in clinging to our belief in our “rugged individualism” even though it is largely just a myth. We are even more exceptional in being the only nation on earth with a morbid fear of socialism even though we practice it on a rather grand scale. We are undoubtedly exceptional in that we seem to be developing into a nation of hoarders, building storage facilities for our used junk much faster than ordinary housing, or so it seems.

While we may not be uniquely exceptional in short-sightedness and stupidity (after all we are members of the human species), we are probably at the top of the list. We have recklessly exploited the finite resources of the planet with little or no regard for the future, overfishing the oceans, destroying forests, fouling the air and the water as we go, destroying one species after another, even changing the climate of the earth. But being blessed with a relative abundance of resources, and safe from the rest of the world, we have developed more and more into a truly militaristic society, engaging in more wars in the past couple of centuries than most anyone else. This has been American Exceptionalism at its best (or worst). We now believe we do not have to even follow the rules of international law, thumbing our nose at whoever we choose, and hypocritically protecting our war criminals while demanding all others be brought to justice. This is imperial hubris at its worst.

Finally (for the moment, at least), we have now become dangerously exceptional in allowing our government and politics to become so dysfunctional as to be virtually useless for the vast majority of our citizens, being controlled by a few giant corporations and their obscenely wealthy cronies. Our much vaunted liberty is disappearing, egalitarianism is losing out to a two class system, individualism is not really permitted, populism, in that it exists, is managed by the powers that be. Laissezfaire has been promoted to such an extreme level it now threatens the collapse of our nation and the establishment of a permanent underclass. American Exceptionalism is not what it’s believed to be, if ever it truly was.

Everyone has a right to a university degree in America, even if it's in Hamburger Technology.
Clive James

Mali has the lowest literacy rate in the world at 26.2%.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Obama's Multibillion Dollar Mistake

I listened carefully to President Obama’s fine speech today, and apparently like most “liberals” or “progressives” I was very pleased by it. He certainly “talked the talk,” and now we will have to wait and see if he truly “walks the walk.” I sincerely hope he does. I fear if he does not he will undoubtedly find himself in big trouble with his “base.” His vow to refuse to renew the ridiculous Bush tax cuts, by itself, was enough to make me jump for joy. His vow to save Medicare and Medicaid virtually made me swoon with delight. His attack on the Ryan budget proposal was right on. All in all I thought it was a great performance. Maddow and others on the left all seem to be pleased. There seems to be very little criticism from Democrats, but of course volumes of it from the Republicans.

I do not say this because I was disappointed in the speech he gave. I must say, however, I was disappointed with the speech he did not give. That is, I thought he was remarkably silent about his three (or more) “wars,” or quasi-wars, or whatever they are. Surely they have something to do with the deficit. Similarly, he was remarkably silent on the billions of dollars given to various corporations every year. I would have thought that, too, might be related to the deficit. Nor did he mention anything about banks or Wall Street, even though they have been robbing us blind for years (remember, Obama received lots of money from Wall Street). And interestingly enough he didn’t really talk much about jobs. Perhaps you could say these are merely the “details” of his program that are left to be discussed.

What really bothered me greatly was when he said he believed Republicans were sincere in their desires for our country, just as he was. He was speaking of the country “he knows,” the America he knows, a vision he has of America, and he seems to believe that Republicans are sincere in their desire to maintain that same vision of America even though we might differ on some things. This was, first of all, a bit inconsistent with his earlier remarks that the Republicans had one vision for our country and he had another. But part of Obama’s image of the America he knows is the belief that everyone can come together and work to solve our common problems, that is, he believes strongly in bipartisanship and seems unable or unwilling to accept the reality that in contemporary America that no longer exists.

It may be true that Republicans are sincere in their beliefs. But their sincerity has nothing to do with the welfare of our nation. They are doubtless sincere in their desire to rid us of Medicare, Social Security, Medicaid, Planned Parenthood, the EPA, taxes, unemployment insurance, Roe vs Wade, and so forth, but they are not interested in the welfare of our nation and our citizens. For the past thirty years they have demonstrated this clearly and repeatedly both in word and deed. When they mounted an unprecedented and unprincipled personal attack on Clinton, thereby interrupting and complicating the affairs of our government, they were not acting in the best interest of the nation, but only of themselves (this is true regardless of how you might feel about Clinton and his Presidency). When they sent their “Brown Shirts” to Florida to interrupt the counting of ballots they were not acting in the best interest of our nation. When they announced they would vote “no” on everything the Obama administration wanted, they were not acting in the best interest of our nation. When John McCain picked the Housewife from Hell, a completely unqualified person to be his running mate, he was not acting in the best interest of our nation. When they are opposed to anything and everything that might benefit the working class of our country they are not acting in the best interest of our nation. When they announced their number one priority was to insure President Obama would be a one-term President they were not acting in the best interest of the nation. Certainly from the Clinton Presidency (if not before) Republicans have, in my opinion, been operating very near the treasonous level. When their concept of “roviating” anyone who opposed them, like John Kerry and others, by attempting to slime them by any means possible, they abandoned any pretense of being a legitimate political party and became little more than a criminal conspiracy dedicated to the take-over of our government to continue to transfer wealth from the poor to the wealthy. When they allowed Bush to mount an unprecedented military attack against a nation that was no threat to us, a so-called “preventative war,” a war crime of the first order, they were not acting in the best interest of the nation. I can see no reason, none at all, why Obama clings to his belief that Republicans somehow share the same visions for our nation or even its well-being. Their interest is in serving the Corporations that have been busily taking over the world. These corporations are no longer merely national, they are international, and they have annual budgets that far exceed that of most of the nations of the world. Republicans (and unfortunately some others as well) are well bribed do their bidding, if the nation itself has to be sacrificed for their profits, so be it, nations are no longer very important. Obama’s multibillion dollar mistake lies in his failure to understand that Republicans are not going to cooperate with him no matter what he does, and the more he gives in to them the more they will demand. His continued stubborn attempt at bipartisanship with these criminals, to compromise with them, has already cost us billions. As he is himself supported in large part by Wall Street, I wonder if he will really say “no” to the outrageous demands they are currently making. I believe he has to do so as otherwise I fear it is going to be too late. Obama even now has a unique opportunity to become a truly great President, if he says no to corporatism as did both Teddy and Franklin Roosevelt. If he now takes a stand against these giant corporations and the creeping fascism that is underway in our country I have no doubt the majority of the American people will not only support him but will think him a hero. He must say no to further tax cuts for the obscenely wealthy, subsidies for corporations that don’t need them, and to those who would undermine what have always been the best features of our nation, liberalism and support for the middle class and for those less fortunate. If he fails our future will be bleak indeed.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011


Iceland Phallological Museum
finally gets first human penis,
to join 275 other specimens.

Why are the MSM endlessly showing us Donald Trump’s absurd attack on President Obama’s citizenship and birthplace? Now Sarah Palin has joined in the chorus, as have others. Apparently anyone who is willing to say anything about this (completely false and nonsensical) birth certificate farce seems to have no trouble getting on TV, which is, of course their intention. I do not believe any of the people who are promoting this nonsense actually believe Obama is not a legitimate citizen. The evidence is quite clear. Those who continue to espouse this ridiculous claim are obviously just using it for the publicity and I am quite sure that neither Trump nor Palin have any intention of running for President. So I guess one might not like it, but at least it is understandable why they are doing what they are doing. I suppose there really are a few of their “base” that might actually believe their BS, but if so, they are too stupid to worry about.

The problem I have with this is not basically with what Trump and Palin are doing, it’s with what the MSM are doing. The issue of Obama’s birth and citizenship is a closed issue in the sense that there is no doubt about the facts. If the MSM were in the least bit responsible they would simply quit mentioning it at all and let the matter die. But they don’t, they are worse than the (supposed) candidates and allow this lying claim to occupy a great deal of air time. This is, from my point of view, completely irresponsible. Of course I know they are irresponsible, having long since abandoned any serious news, and basically just parrot back what they are told to say, but it seems to me they are carrying this particular issue far too far. Part of this has to do with their having to fill in 24 hours with something, being too cheap to afford real reporters and settling for infotainment instead. Whatever happened to Charlie Sheen, Lindsay Lohan, Paris Hilton, Britney Spears, and all the other bimbos that constitute real news? We haven’t even had a good LA car chase for ages. That’s probably it, there have just been a few slow news days lately. I’m sure nothing much is happening in Libya, Syria, Egypt, Pakistan, Gaza, Afghanistan, or Iran in the past two or three days. And the fact that Fukushima is now as bad (perhaps even worse) than Chernobyl isn’t newsworthy as it has been going on for too long to be news any longer. Global warming, too, seems no longer newsworthy. It doesn’t matter much if we hear anything or not as you can’t really learn anything from sound bites (and who has time to read anymore?).

I can hardly wait until tomorrow to hear President Obama’s speech on the economy. I’m sure the usual protocol will be followed. Leading up to the speech we will be told what he is going to say, then we will listen to him, and then we will be told what he said. I love this format, especially as sometimes there is little relationship to what they said he would say, what he did say, and what they then tell us he said. The beauty of this procedure for the MSM is that it takes up three times as much air space as necessary and cuts down on their overhead. If you really want to try to understand anything, get a newspaper. Oh, I forgot, there aren’t any real newspapers anymore. Well, you might be able to find a magazine that might try to tell you the truth (but might not). Better yet, watch the BBC, the CBC, or al Jazeera.

Whatever happened to jobs, jobs, jobs? Concern with them seems to have almost entirely disappeared. All we hear about now is abortion, tax cuts, cutting spending, cutting spending, and cutting spending. I dread the next few days, or weeks, and I live in fear that Obama is going to cave once again and go along with what Republicans seem to think are the only priorities. I find it impossible to believe that anyone, Republicans included, will fail to raise the debt ceiling, but with so many crazies in Congress now it is hard to predict anything. As some of the Republican demands are so outrageous I don’t understand why Obama and the Democrats don’t just say “no,” even no, no, a thousand times no, and then see what happens. They seem to be constitutionally unable to say no to much of anything so our nation just drifts closer and closer to complete corporate control.

It is only the ignorant who despise education.
Publilius Syrus

Small magnets are often inserted into dairy cows to protect them from bits of metal that can cause “hardware disease.”

Monday, April 11, 2011

Lesson From Bolivia

“The growth of religious ideas is environed with such intrinsic difficulties that it may never receive a perfectly satisfactory exposition. Religion deals so largely with the imaginative and emotional nature, and consequently with such uncertain elements of knowledge, that all primitive religions are grotesque and to some extent unintelligible.” (Lewis Henry Morgan, 1877)

Bolivia is about to pass a bill, “The Law of Mother Earth,” that will establish new rights for nature: “the right to life and to exist; the right to continue vital cycles and processes free from human alteration; the right to pure water and clean air; the right to balance; the right not to be polluted; and the right to not have cellular structure modified or genetically altered.” If you read either the Guardian or Truthdig today you may have seen this reported. Ecuador is said to have recently passed somewhat similar legislation. It is not completely clear just how rigorously such rights will be protected, but it surely is a major step in the right direction (if, that is, you have any respect for or interest in the environment, global warming, and survival).

I submit that a “Law of Mother Earth” could never have even been conceived in the United States, let alone passed. Bolivians can do it because they still have vestiges of their “primitive” religious beliefs. Bolivians believe in the Pachamama, which in their view is a living being: “She is sacred, fertile and the source of life that feeds and cares for all living beings in her womb. She is in permanent balance, harmony and communication with the cosmos. She is comprised of all ecosystems and living beings, and their self-organisation.” It is fair to say, I think, that the Pachamama (a kind of earth deity) is some form of a supernatural being in the Bolivian belief system, and as supernatural beings are the essence of religious beliefs, she is a religious figure. Certainly in Morgan’s view (that is still held by many today I am sure), she would be regarded as, if not grotesque, at least unintelligible. What this legislation does is make Mother Earth’s rights equal to what we think of as other rights, including human ones. As Bolivia has suffered from environmental degradation for many years, mostly from mining and the extraction of other raw materials, and as Bolivians are eminently sensible and seriously interested in the environment (Mother Earth), and now that Evo Morales is President, with his clearly stated “Movement Towards Socialism,” and they have for the first time the power to do something about the years of naked exploitation, they are doing so. I think this is a truly important development in the current concern with Global Warming and environmental degradation. I think it would be great if it would be taken as a model by other countries. Morgan’s statement about primitive religions was made at the time Europeans believed themselves and their institutions (including religion) were at the very apex of “civilization” with all others far below that (arbitrary) standard. His view was, of course, narrowly ethnocentric as well as completely simplistic and na├»ve, as very little was known about non-Western/European religions. In my view (being an atheist) all religions are pretty grotesque and unintelligible, and equally “primitive.”

A Law of Mother Earth could not have occurred in the United States because most of our religious views derive from the Christian Bible rather than beliefs about earth deities or what have you. Such a law would be in direct opposition to the basic Christian belief that mankind should have dominion over the earth, and thus, by implication at least, ought to be able to do anything they wish (which, alas, we have shamelessly done). Genesis 1 is clear on this point:

Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.”

There are slight variations on this translation but this one is from the standard English Bible. It certainly cannot be said that Western-Europeans have been good stewards of the earth or any of the creatures that exist on it. This is so obvious I need not mention things like the Endangered Species Act, the Passenger Pigeon, or the hundreds of other species that have disappeared while under our dominion. Not being a religious person I don’t believe in any religion I have any knowledge of, but I would be sorely tempted to believe more in an earth deity that looked after nature than in an old, bearded man, living in the sky surrounded by angels. As far as grotesque and unintelligible goes, what about the belief that a man was swallowed by a whale, lived in its belly for three days and then emerged, or that the sea parted to allow people to pass, or someone built an ark large enough to contain two or more of every creature on earth. How grotesque and unintelligibly medieval (to me at least) is it that old men, almost all White until fairly recently, dress up in expensive gowns with funny hats and parade around holding elaborate staffs and keep women from being able to do the same, or even manage their own bodies. How about still others that handle serpents or speak in tongues, or believe the earth was created in seven days, six thousand years ago. How unintelligible to believe that God(?) created a species too stupid to even manage their own affairs, let alone nature? And how ironic to think we may have the best chance for survival by following the tenets of some surviving “primitive” religion.

Do not disrespect that which
gives you sustenance.
Move gently across the land
and the blue oceans,
like dancing with a lover.


Sunday, April 10, 2011

Still One More Milestone

Someone might remember my blog of 4-21-07, “Milestones in Growing Old” (but probably not). In any case, in that particular blog I didn’t consider the whole range of a person’s career. You know, first as infant, then child, adolescent, and adult. I was concerned with how it goes after the first time you were called “mister,” then” sir,” then “Grandpa,” and expressed my dismay of unexpectedly (and I thought rudely) being referred to by some young man as “Pops.” I have until now naively believed that would be the end of it, surely there couldn’t be anything after Pops. I was wrong. I have recently learned from my vast network of spies and informants that I am now sometimes commonly referred to by some as “Old Mr. Langness.” This is, I believe, worse than Pops, and also indicates someone even older than a Pops. I am not aware of just when I crossed this rubicon, but apparently I have. Now I am wondering what will come next, if anything.

There is a phrase in Melanesian Pidgin that fortunately (maybe unfortunately) does not occur here (as far as I know), “Lapun Pinis.” This refers to an old person who has become so feeble and useless he or she cannot garden, fight, raise pigs, contribute to bride prices, funerals, or anything else. In other words you are, for all purposes, even though still alive, “finished.” Often there is a special ceremony for such a person, a kind of pre-funeral feast, put on by the entire community, ostensibly to honor the person and show him/her how much they are respected and admired. Pigs are killed and cooked, gifts of pork are given to relatives and others, some of whom have come from fairly long distances, a special meal is prepared for the “oldster,” and everyone says an early goodbye to the “Lapun tru” (the truly old). These can be quite emotional events as the person being so honored usually breaks down in tears, becomes unable to speak, sometimes collapses, and so on.

There is, however, another motive for such a ceremony as well. It is not a secret, but no one suggests it is the primary reason for the event, even though it probably is. The people believe in and fear ghosts. They think the ghosts of the recently dead can hang around the village and cause trouble for the living. A special piece of pork is carried around and rubbed on the ankles of everyone in attendance (including the anthropologist) and is then the subject of a speech by one of the community leaders, directed at the old person being honored, but everyone else also. This assures everyone that the person’s ghost is now placated and is not going to bother the living (they hope). We have no special term for such a person in our culture. But sometimes such a person might be described as “the living dead,” or “at death’s door,” “completely out of it,” “hanging on by a thread,” “a step away from the grave,” or some other such description. Of course no one aspires to this status but it is not uncommon. Usually when someone reaches this point they are conveniently placed in some special facility that exists precisely to deal with the problem. I have heard this described as “The Penultimate Arms.” Of course as bad as this may be, sometimes people say (only half jokingly I think), “Well, it’s better than the alternative.” I rather doubt it and I hope to move more easily into the final status of all, “The late Mr. Langness.” I wouldn’t worry a great deal about my ghost bothering you.

When I wrote “Milestones…” I recall I was commenting also on the idiocy surrounding our politics and in particular reading something claiming, “The Democrats will cave…” Sigh! Things change but just seem to stay the same year after year. I know that some think the Democrats “cave” too easily and don’t put up the fight they should. I suspect this is because most people don’t want to consider the fact that the two parties are now not that far apart on most things. They are both controlled by the same masters who buy Congresspersons without much regard for what their politics are said to be. And with respect to the current budgetary “battle,” it would be hard indeed, even impossible, to deny that budgetary reform is vitally needed. The negotiators are not so far apart about the budget as they are about what specific things should be cut. Republicans profess to be concerned about the national debt and the size of government, but they aren’t really. Democrats profess to stand up for the working class, education, infrastructure, health care, and such things, but don’t do much of anything about it. Both parties claim to be against “wars” but both continue to support them almost overwhelmingly. Some things are virtually sacred to both sides, Israel and the Pentagon are perhaps the best examples. There are a few on both sides, a very few I believe, that probably truly do support the traditions of their parties when it comes to management versus labor, government versus little government, quasi-socialism versus free-market capitalism, and other important differences, but over the past thirty or so years their numbers have shrunk and the voices of the survivors are mostly ignored. We do have, unfortunately, a basic one party system that will quite likely morph into a full-blown Fascist state, controlled by all-powerful corporate masters through political figureheads, that when asked to jump will simply ask only “how high?”

Friday, April 08, 2011

Where are They?

Where are they? Where are all the Republican women on the issue of Planned Parenthood? You know, all those well-groomed, well coiffed, mostly blond women in their 20’s, 30’s, and 40’s who appear often on TV as Republican spokespersons, analysts, or other Republican activists? As far as I know we have heard nothing from them about women’s health or Planned Parenthood. There was apparently some kind of gathering of some of them today but they ducked questions on the subject and stuck to the party line about it just being about spending. And where are they with respect to the negotiations? I have not seen a single Republican woman involved (there could be some, of course, but I certainly haven’t seen any evidence of it). Nor have I seen any of the Republican women who control talk shows speak out about this travesty. Where, for example, is Coulter or that blond talk show host in Nevada who is always speaking out on behalf of Republican nonsense? And even more importantly, where were Sarah Palin and Michelle Bachmann, I didn’t see either of them speaking out on the issue. Do they believe women should not have adequate health care? What do they think about contraception, breast exams, pap smears, and other procedures dealing with women’s health? Are they prepared to throw their sisters “under the bus” for some minor spending cuts? Or should we, perhaps, just go along with Mencken when he defined a Misogynist as , “A man who hates women as much as women hate one another.” I naively believed that the time when a bunch of middle-aged or older White men decided health care for women was long gone.

One obvious factor comes easily to mind, these women are relatively if not absolutely wealthy, and would not have to visit Planned Parenthood under any circumstances. But wouldn’t you think that as women they might have some empathy or understanding about the problems of women who are not wealthy, and who must depend on Planned Parenthood? You might think that, but you would apparently be wrong. They, like their male Republican counterparts, seem to be incapable of empathy or understanding. This seems to be a Republican character trait that is shared by both genders. I do not understand it but it seems to me to be unfortunately true. How else can one explain that Republicans are opposed to virtually everything and anything that might make the lives of the middle class and the poor easier or more comfortable. They are, as you know, opposed to unions and collective bargaining, unemployment insurance, universal health care, minimum wages, any control over giant corporations, insurance companies, and banks that are basically robbing us blind. They do not want Public Radio or Television, and even wish to deny the masses the enjoyment of the arts and humanities, and also favor ravishing public lands. They insist on tax breaks for the obscenely wealthy and huge corporations making unprecedented profits, but do not hesitate to suggest more taxes on the middle class. They favor permanent wars because they are good for business and do not touch them in any way, the “volunteer” military consisting mostly of the poor who enlist because they have few other options, and nowadays of paid mercenaries, many of whom are not even citizens. They would like to see everything privatized with no controls of business whatsoever. They are, in short, sworn enemies of the majority of American citizens and are devoted to the single-minded pursuit of profit. I do not believe this description is either inaccurate or exaggerated. I am at a loss to explain it in terms other than just plain selfishness and greed. Although I hesitate to say it, as I have no way to demonstrate it, I sometimes suspect there may be an element of sadism involved, a kind of sadism that may accompany the possession of power, especially unlimited power, over others.

The bottom line on all this I guess is that I simply do not understand Republicans. Try as I may I always get hung up on believing they must be either incredibly stupid, incredibly ignorant, incredibly selfish, incredibly short-sighted, incredibly greedy, remarkably insensitive, or perhaps all of those things. But then I come up against the fact that large numbers of people actually vote for them. This I truly do not understand. They do not have the Black vote, the Hispanic vote, most of the urban vote, the union vote, and now they have deliberately mounted an attack on women and the elderly. To me this seems unbelievably stupid if they want to win elections, but we still hear talk of the next election being a 50-50 toss-up. How can this be? Further along these lines, how can anyone take seriously a political party that offers potential candidates like Donald Trump, Sarah Palin, Michelle Bachmann, or Newt Gingrich? It’s not that any of these people might actually become President, but one would think (at least I would think) the Party itself would be more serious about this (after all, it is for the most powerful position on earth). Donald Trump for President? Sarah Palin for President? This is little more than insulting and we should not even have to hear about it. Similarly, when they suggest things like doing away with Planned Parenthood, the EPA, or Medicare, and so on, they should be indulged, patted on the head, and sent directly to play in the sand box where they so obviously belong.

If you want to see what children can do, you must stop giving them things.
Norman Douglas

Thursday, April 07, 2011

Two Separate Worlds

Grandma sentenced for inaction while
daughter pours rum over daughters head,
sets her on fire to “cast out demons.”

We live in two completely separate words, conservatives and I. This became obvious to me (although I have actually realized it for a very long time) when I went this morning for a haircut. There aren’t many barbers here where I live. As far as I can determine they are all basically “right-wingers.” In fact, as far as I can remember, all barbers tend to be rather extreme conservatives (this might not be fair to some barbers who are liberal but I personally have never encountered one). In any case, when I went for my occasionally haircut there were two others in front of me. I had to wait. While waiting I had to endure listening to none other than Rush Limbaugh himself (he has two hours every day on our local radio station). I do not ordinarily listen to talk radio. But here where I now live it is virtually impossible not to hear this loudmouth know-nothing bloviating druggy wherever you are, the barber shop, the county courthouse, even the health food store. As he went on with one outrageous lie after another, blubbering and pontificating, it became obvious to me that I live in a completely different world from conservatives.

I have to give Rush credit for one thing, he did try to explain to one woman who called in that President Obama probably really was an American, born in Hawaii. She obviously did not believe this and was determined to claim that no one, not even Rush himself, was paying enough attention to this outrageous falsehood. Of course while Rush was defending Obama’s birth, at the very same time he was repeating over and over again that he wished someone would prove something or other about Obama that would destroy him, and boasting about having been the first to publicly hope he would fail. It was really quite amazing as the others waiting for haircuts were obviously enjoying this unbelievably ridiculous tirade. I began to wonder if Limbaugh actually had a functioning brain.

Having successfully achieved my goal of a haircut I returned home to learn that Donald Trump was now considered the favorite candidate for President for the Tea Party crowd. Donald Trump for President of the U.S., can you believe it? I can’t, I can’t even believe that the MSM pays any attention to this obvious miserable braggart with no intention of running for President. Sarah Palin is still also in the running, according to the poll numbers I saw reported, as is Newt Gingrich. Huckabee seems to be slowly losing ground as a prospective candidate, while Bachmann is still considered a possible candidate. I find this so unbelievably strange I can only assume the Republican Party has gone completely bonkers. That anyone in their right mind would vote for any of the above is an idea so bizarre to me I can only assume they do not inhabit the same world I do. But so far there has emerged no candidate I can believe is even credible. I don’t understand what Republicans are thinking, and I wonder if, indeed, they think.

I also heard that the Tea Party, that now apparently controls the Republican Party, will not vote for a budget unless they get riders that will abolish the EPA and funding for Planned Parenthood. Why they think anyone would agree to this, or even consider it at all, indicates to me they are quite likely insane. Of course, as they have already managed to get Democrats to agree to other cuts equally damaging to national affairs, why not try? Not content to demand impossibly damaging cuts to this year’s budget, they are now touting Ryan’s ten year plan that is so far-fetched, so absurd, so patently designed to transfer even more money from the pockets of the middle class to the obscenely wealthy, I, again, wonder about their sanity. I cannot take seriously anything Republicans now propose. Their behavior over the past twenty years (at least) has been so obviously designed for no other purpose than to destroy democracy as we (think) we have known it, as to indicate to me they (1) are deliberately trying to establish a Fascist state, or (2) have no idea what the hell they are doing. I cannot understand it. They do not have the Black vote. They do not have the Hispanic vote. They are now mounting an all-out attack on women and the elderly, as well as unions and collective bargaining. They seem also to be determined to continue endless “wars” to no obvious purpose. Just who do they think is going to vote for them in the next election? Will a minority of White, racist, ignorant fundamentalist “Christians” be enough to bring them the Presidency? I can’t see it, but that is where I begin to doubt I inhabit the same world they do, because it appears that Obama may have trouble getting re-elected. Polls (however strange) seem to indicate that Obama has no more than a 50-50 chance of being re-elected. However much one might not be enthusiastic about Obama, how could it possibly be the case that some Republican candidate (any Republican candidate) could possibly be considered more desirable? Where in the world does any support at all, other than a small minority of Tea Party fools, exist for a Republican candidate, and if it does exist, why? I find it impossible to believe that virtually anyone at all could now possibly vote Republican, especially after their current attacks on virtually everything that would benefit ordinary voters. But if there is somehow still enough support for Republicans as to make the coming elections a contest I clearly inhabit another world entirely.

Elections are won by men and women chiefly because most people vote against somebody rather than for somebody.
Franklin P. Adams

One Asian species of earthworm is known to climb trees.

Tuesday, April 05, 2011

Fascists and Philistines

Definition of FASCISM
often capitalized : a political philosophy, movement, or regime (as that of the Fascisti) that exalts nation and often race above the individual and that stands for a centralized autocratic government headed by a dictatorial leader, severe economic and social regimentation, and forcible suppression of opposition
: a tendency toward or actual exercise of strong autocratic or dictatorial control

The above definition was obviously taken from an online dictionary. While it exposes the basic meaning of the term it does not include Mussolini’s famous definition that needs to also be considered. For Mussolini, perhaps in some sense the father of fascism, that form of government was the result of a marriage between corporations and government. Is this not precisely what is being attempted by the current Republican Party, having been bought by the Koch brothers and other corporations that have managed to control our MSM, most of our “think tanks,” and also the majority of our Congressmen (and quite likely at least a portion of our Supreme Court)? What else can one conclude when you learn that at least 62 of the recent freshmen in Congress received money from the Koch brothers, or that Governor Walker and other Tea Party Governors also owe their elections to corporate money? I try to be careful with terms and avoid wild claims of Hitlerism, socialism, communism, and so on, but I do not believe using fascism to describe what is currently being attempted by corporations and Republicans is either inaccurate or sensational. It seems to me perfectly clear that Republicans, particularly those identified with the Tea Party (funded by the Koch brothers), are, acting on behalf of their corporate sponsors, trying to do away with Labor and the Middle Class and thus make it possible for corporations and the wealthy to rule over the rest of us, the ordinary citizens and laborers that work for a living rather than just clip coupons. If they have their way there will soon be a two class society, the obscenely wealthy and the peasants, serfs, or wage slaves (subject to” severe economic and social regimentation”). I do not believe this is an inaccurate description of what is being attempted. An actual dictator is not important in this attempt at complete control because whoever is elected will have no recourse but to do as he/she is instructed. The Fascists are about to succeed unless something drastically occurs to stop them. I understand why the MSM does not use the term fascism, they are part of the program. You can call a spade a shovel if you wish, but it’s still a spade.

Definition of PHILISTINE
1: a native or inhabitant of ancient Philistia
2 often not capitalized a : a person who is guided by materialism and is usually disdainful of intellectual or artistic values b : one uninformed in a special area of knowledge

In addition to being fascists theose trying to take over also tend to be philistines, although this is not as simple as it might appear. That is, they want “us” to be philistines in that common laborers, serfs, peasants, slaves or whatever, should not and would not enjoy the “fine” arts as they do. While they wish to do away with all public funding of the arts, they themselves, I am pretty sure have no intention of giving up their multi-million dollar art collections, their Van Goghs, Rembrandts, Picassos, or even their outrageously expensive pieces of junk labeled “modern art.” Besides, once they have reduced the minimum wage and created enough unemployed who will have to beg for jobs, we “hoi poloi” won’t have enough money to enjoy anything but potatoes now and then.

This is not exactly true in the case of the United States where it is somewhat more complicated. This is because often those who have the obscene wealth also are “guided by materialism and…disdainful of intellectual or artistic values.” But once they have enough money they can at least pretend, and they do. I do not know why the inhabitants of Philistia came to give their name to what we now consider philistines. I do know that it has taken corporations and the wealthy powers that be a fairly long time to systematically dumb us all down far enough to accept the blatant anti-intellectualism that infects our culture, along with the absolute garbage that now passes for infotainment on the wasteland of television. We are, I fear, already a nation of philistines. The humanities and arts in general have already been starved in our Universities and Colleges, having to give up their more and more of their budgets to Business Schools and other professional schools (that probably shouldn’t even be part of Universities). If Republicans succeed in their current attempt to no longer fund the arts at all we will have literally given up any pretense of true “civilization.”

The world is too much with us; late and soon,
Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers:
Little we see in Nature that is ours;
We have given our hearts away, a sordid boon!
William Wordsworth