Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Journey to the West: Death and Dying

Many of you, perhaps even most of you, will not remember George Sanders, English actor, songwriter, author and bon vivant, several marriages, one to Zsa Zsa Gabor. I remember him best from the movie The Portrait of Dorian Gray,” although it was not his greatest part during his forty year career. At age 65 he reportedly said, “Life isn’t fun anymore,” imbibed several bottles of the barbiturate Nembutal, and left a brief, signed suicide note:
“Dear World, I am leaving because I am bored. I feel I have lived long enough. I am leaving you with your worries in this sweet cesspool. Good luck.”
I believe Sanders was a bit of a cynic, perhaps an attitude he developed from so often playing villains, perhaps from his several marriages and divorces, perhaps just from life in general. As he grew older his health began to slip away, perhaps even his mental health, and he was concerned because he did not want anyone to have to care for him. I confess that now that I am twenty-five years older than he was at the time of his death I sometimes think of death and dying. I certainly do not think of this on a daily basis. Indeed, sometimes I wonder why it does not occupy my mind much more than it does. But I would be lying if I said I never think of it.
As near as I can tell I seem not to fear death itself. I may, in a perverse way, even look forward to it. Once, in the middle of the night, in a Sydney, Australia Hospital, where I was suffering a kidney stone, I was given a shot of morphine. It was the most marvelous experience of my life, a relaxation so complete and satisfying, so blissful and pleasant, I assumed that must be what death would be like (I hope I am right).
But to say you do not fear death is not to say you do not fear dying. If I knew I would die peacefully in my sleep at a ripe old age I guess I would not fear dying. Unfortunately, that is not the way most people die.
As I do not know how I might die I am concerned about it. Having seen friends slowly die, sometimes over months of suffering, sometimes from cancer, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and such, I’m sure a heart attack would be preferable, but certainly not a stroke, strokes can be fairly quick, but most often they are not and the aftermath is not at all pleasant. These are grim thoughts to be sure, but unavoidable.
During the course of my life I have lost five friends to suicide, two by self inflicted gunshots, one by carbon monoxide, one by hanging, and one (uncle) by slitting his wrists. I believe alcohol played a part in two of these cases but in no case do I really or truly understand why they decided to end their lives as they did. I do know that in every case their survivors suffered dreadfully even though they may well have had nothing to do with it. Survivors always, however erroneously, believe it was somehow partly their fault: they should have known, they should have done something, they just weren’t paying enough attention to the person, and so on. Knowing this, and having witnessed such suffering, makes one who loves others an unlikely candidate for such a deed. At the same time, strange as it may seem, I think I can understand how one might fear both life or dying strongly enough to actually commit suicide in order to avoid either of those experiences. Not death with dignity, of course, more like death from despair.
Although in a way it may be playing with words, I don’t think depression is a sufficient cause or explanation for suicide. One can overcome depression, one still can have hope. It is hopelessness, I believe, that leads to suicide, hopelessness that I suppose can follow depression, but is probably the necessary condition for suicide. I suspect this may even be true even cross-culturally.
 I do not worry about this on a daily basis. In fact I rarely worry about it at all, especially during winter, spring, and summer, as I believe when I die it will be in autumn. Autumn is the proper time to die, along with the flowers and leaves and accompanying sadness. And when it happens my journey to the west will be complete, the sun will set for the last time, and all will be well. Dying is not described as Eternal Rest or Resting in Peace for no reason. No one really knows this, of course, but it makes far more sense than believing in some continual, even eternal, struggle in another “sweet cesspool.” Anyway, as dying is so commonplace and happens so frequently I don’t understand what all the fuss is about.
So Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, Peace and Goodwill for all.
Nothing, they say is more certain than death, and nothing more uncertain than the time of dying” 
Thomas Paine

Friday, December 20, 2013

Aljazeera America

Aljazeera America is a fine, serious, and first-rate news station. It deals with real news, in depth, with fewer commercials, and competes directly with the rest of our MSM. Launched in August of this year it has so far failed to capture a substantial share of the market for news. As it is well financed by Qatar this is not at the moment considered a problem, although it is hoped that eventually it will be successful on its merits. I like it and find that I watch it more and more. I hope it will succeed, but I wonder about it.

Aljazeera is based on the idea that there exists in the U.S. a desire for a more serious and in-depth news station, one that will be able to present news not otherwise available to U.S. viewers, including more world news. I believe there is such a demand. However, I fear this demand will be only on the part of a relatively small number of U.S. viewers, probably not enough to compete effectively with the other outlets. That is, the demand exists, but only on the part of a few.

I suspect Aljazeera overestimates the demand for serious news and underestimates the U.S. demand for infotainment. I am skeptical of how much interest most U.S. viewers have in serious news, especially serious foreign news. I doubt they are really much concerned with what happens in the Sudan, Yemen, Somalia, and other nations they know nothing about and most probably cannot find on a map. I suspect this is true even if what happens there involves the U.S. directly. Most viewers, I believe, have lost interest even in Iraq and Afghanistan and do not want us involved in places like Syria or even Iran. I could be wrong, of course, but I doubt it.

Will a serious news story about someplace like the Amazon, for example, lure readers away from the Huffington Post’s obsessive fascination with “nip slips,” wardrobe malfunctions, dresses that show “lots of skin,” and Kate Hudson “Rocking in Bright Orange Pants?” How about Miley Cyrus wearing a sheer white top with a black bra? Obviously this is not all one finds on the Huffpost and elsewhere on the news. How about “Six year-old boy suspended from school for kissing a girl,” or Donald Trump’s latest birther nonsense?

The fact is, our major news sources do not give us serious, in-depth news about much of anything. Fox is no doubt the worst as it scarcely deals in news at all, mostly propaganda, fairy tales, and the latest inane babblings of Sarah Palin, Bill O’Reilly, Hannity, and others. It seems to me that not only do the current news outlets insist on dealing with infotainment rather than news, they basically have no interest in the news at all, seeking only something that will allow them to feature more commercials. With the exception of Rachel Maddow I have stopped watching MSNBC almost entirely because there are so many commercials. Aside from Aljazeera all the other stations suffer from overcommercialization.

In a sense Aljazeera has no competition, partly because it has so few commercials, but more importantly because it deals in real news rather than infotainment. It has a worldwide network of reporters who actually exist to collect news rather than simply using the same major source all the others use, like AP, for example. Unfortunately it has no competition because it is playing a game no one else is playing, and for a small universe of viewers.

Of course we do get some news from the MSM, but it is almost always domestic, is always featured on every channel, sometimes for days, and usually has to do with murder or rape. “Texas cop shoots a schizophrenic double amputee in his wheelchair,” for example, or “Teen, handcuffed with hands behind his back shoots himself in the head,” or “Teen killer of four escapes jail because he suffers from ‘Afluenza.’” When a shooting occurs the reporting begins immediately, whether anything is known about it or not, and each detail is worked over and repeated endlessly, every interpretation is made with or without foundation, every last person they can find is interviewed, often including such authorities as someone whose brother once attended the school where the shooting occurred, or someone who once knew someone who knew the shooter, and on and on. If and when the ultimate truth comes out it most probably has nothing much to do with all the previous speculation and hullabaloo. As there is no useful definition of “news” we accept whatever we are told as news.

As it is so important to them Eskimos have many words for snow, depending on its quality, usefulness, and so on. We need a similar vocabulary for news, “real news” as opposed to “fake news” doesn’t do justice to the problem.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

On "Fairness"

You don’t have to be very old to discover that things are “not fair.” It’s probably the first thing you learn on the school playground. It may have to do with hitting someone when they are down, two kids picking on one, or something like that, but it is clearly recognizable as not fair. There is obviously some idea of “fairness.” Chris Hayes has a short piece on MSNBC in which he says his parents taught him that things “ought to be fair,” even if they aren’t. Where does this idea of fairness come from? I assume it is a kind of human idea as there would seem to be no idea of fairness in nature. That is, where is the fairness when a newborn fawn is run down by a pack of wolves or a salmon run is destroyed by a dam or an elephant is killed by a poacher?

From a human point of view it does seem that things are unfair, but it is not clear to me what that means. For example, is it fair that some people have billions of dollars while others have virtually none? Is that fair? Leave aside for the moment that in our contemporary culture the idea of fairness seems not to exist at all and think about a more abstract culture. Would it be fair if everyone in any given culture had precisely the same amount of wealth? I think not, it seems clear that some individuals work harder, are smarter and more creative than others, and would inevitably be more successful. That would seem to be fair. But in our culture it is possible to be obscenely wealthy without any effort at all. All you need to do to be rich is to inherit money, win it, or otherwise acquire and possess it, which automatically guarantees you to become even more wealthy. When money itself breeds and produces more money the idea of fairness becomes irrelevant. This seems to me to be obviously not fair.

Leaving aside the question of wealth for the moment, is it fair that some people die young and others live into a ripe old age? This seems to me obviously unfair. Why should my wonderful, talented, and super energetic wife have to die at 60 while I continue on into my 80’?. Why should some individuals die in childhood without a chance to live full and rewarding lives, why should others be stricken with diseases and die painfully while others do not? I do not know where you would find a better example of unfairness. It appears there is no unfairness in nature, it is apparently irrelevant. Would it not be more fair if everyone was scheduled to die at the same age, say 75 or 80, maybe even 90? Everyone born would have the same chance to live their lives as best they could, a fair chance for all. If, during the course of their lives, some were more successful than others (barring inheritance and criminal enterprise) would that not be fair?

On the other hand, if everything was fair, if everyone lived the same amount of time and knew when they would die, would life be worth living? If everyone had the same amount of money, irrespective of their personal incentive, would not life be boring and unrewarding? It seems to me that unfairness is built into life, is in fact a necessary condition of life, is, in a sense, what makes life worth living. If everything was completely fair we would live like robots or ants, existing merely to perform and experience only that for which we were pre-ordained and equipped for, living lives of quiet non-expectations, automatons on the way to nowhere.

I guess we need to accept the unfairness of our lives. But here again, when perplexed, I always turn to my mother’s advice, “do everything in moderation.” That’s exactly what we need, moderation in unfairness. Unhappily, that’s not what we have at the moment.

Be moderate in order to taste the joys of life in abundance.” 


Saturday, December 14, 2013

The SpamaScamaCramajama

I don’t understand it. I have gone for years relatively untouched by spam and scams but somehow in the last two or three months my server has gone berserk and I now find that anytime I turn on my email there are anywhere from seven to twenty seven entries. These are not all spam or scams but many are. While I find this irritating and a nuisance, and I know I will eventually have to have my friend, “The Fixer,” do something about it, it is also a bit of a learning experience.

First, I guess you have to admire the apparently desperate optimism of those who try to sell Viagra and Cialis to dead birds. I wonder if they are in league with the nubile Russian and Asian girls who offer themselves, apparently without reservation, to a broken-down 84 year-old widower. Then there are those who seem to believe that people will rush out and buy stocks because they receive unsolicited tips on the internet. I know, I know, the optimism is limited and the offers are sent out randomly looking for lonely and/or stupid suckers as desperate as the senders themselves must be. While I resent having to take the time to delete all of this hopeless effort, it doesn’t bother me anywhere near as much as the incessant solicitations.
There are at least four things about the apparently endless solicitations that offend me: first, the amount of them, second, the assumption that I must have endless amounts of money to donate, third, the nature of the requests, and, finally, what happens to the money if donated.

I receive requests for money for so many different reasons I find it overwhelming. Save the wolves, save the Grizzly bears, save the whales, save the dolphins, save the sharks, save the pygmy rabbits, save the sage grouse, save the Butterflies, save the Polar bears, save the Puffins, save the Manatees, save the baby seals, save the coral, and even save the oceans and the forests. I firmly believe all these creatures and natural treasures fully deserve to be saved. But I wonder, why is it up to me to save them? Where are the governments and all the governmental entities that exist presumably to monitor and guard them? Where is the Forest Service, Fish and Game, Environmental Protection, and all the other agencies responsible for protecting them?

I can understand how a rare frog or snail may have been overlooked and thus need private help to survive, but then you encounter something like Wounded Warriors. Of course I believe wounded warriors need help, but where is the government that wounded them, where are all those billions of dollars of taxpayer money that is supposed to care for them? I’m sure their needs are real, and I also believe they should get absolutely first-class treatment in every way, but why should they have to depend on private donations for what they need? Perhaps some of the billions being spent on creating more and more wounded warriors could be diverted into caring for those who already exist? No, probably not, the Military needs more useless tanks and planes, and more trillions of dollars they can’t even account for. Our military/industrial/political complex is the most gigantic scam of all time. It exists primarily to siphon taxpayer dollars into the pockets of those who promote it.

This brings me to the subject of political contributions. Apparently most every politician in the United States believes they can get donations from me. I get requests for donations from places like Illinois, New Jersey, New York, Florida, and many more states. Interestingly enough, I don’t get many requests from Idaho Democrats who are, of course, a truly endangered species. Donating money to Idaho Democrats is essentially the same as flushing your donation down the toilet. As I don’t donate much to the rare Democratic candidates who do, from time to time, actually exist, I should have more money to donate to politicians in other states, right? Thinking about where the money goes hurts my aged brain.

Now I get requests for money because the Koch brothers or other conservative groups are spending hundreds of millions backing conservative candidates. The idea is, I guess, that donations from me and others like me will somehow match those of the billionaires. This seems to me a questionable goal at best, if not just another scam. Let ‘s say I do make a contribution to the campaign of, say, Ito Pucci. Ito will use that money to buy advertising space mostly on television so he can match the ads of his conservative opponent. The billionaires own the television stations so, in effect, Ito is spending my money by enriching the very people he is opposing. Why should I donate money to Murdoch to help Ito Pucci? Fortunately (or perhaps unfortunately) I have so little money to donate I am not personally affected much by this little scam, but isn’t it beautiful? Limbaugh, and others of his ilk (I love the word ilk as to me it kind of reeks of slime and nepotism), and the media they represent, make their profits no matter who wins or loses. Is it any wonder that campaigns are encouraged to spend more and more each time?

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Kati and Me (10)

Kati, my sweet girl, I find it almost impossible to blog anymore. The truth is I think I have pretty much given up. No, I haven’t given up on life, I still marvel at the mountains, the scenery, the sunrise and sunset, the remarkable diversity of life all around me, the deer and coyotes, the magnificent elk and moose, the birds, and even the weather, although it has been, for me, too cold. Basically I am at peace with the natural world.

It is the human world that has turned me into a rather cynical and unhappy person. Aside from a small number of friends I have become increasingly isolated from society, even American culture itself. Everything has changed during my lifetime, changes that do not seem to me to be in any way either useful or pleasant. It’s true we don’t have as many flat tires as we once did, and refrigerators and technological stuff work better. But of late it seems to me my life has come under attack from the forces of, I guess, capitalism. The profit motive is destroying my everyday life in ways that may strike you as trivial.

Even simple things that once gave me pleasure have changed. For example, I once enjoyed watching MSNBC. I like Rachel Maddow and Chris Hayes. But I rarely watch them anymore because there are too many commercials. There are so many commercials  I no longer  have the patience to sit through them for the programming. I just turn it off. Similarly, the ads for movies are so overwhelmingly violent (and stupid) I no longer care even to see them. Much of the other advertising is so embarrassingly awful I find myself having to avert my eyes rather than watch it. When you realize that MSNBC is perhaps the least offensive of channels you have little choice but to simply abandon TV entirely.

But my experience with TV is merely symptomatic of the problems with contemporary American life that have completely turned me off. Ever since my childhood I have considered myself to be a Democrat, as was my father. I no longer consider myself a Democrat, but, rather, a Socialist, not that it matters to anyone but me. This is not simply a matter of claiming the Democratic Party has moved away from me, it is far more serious than that. The Government of the United States itself has abandoned me and the rest of the 99%. There is no longer any connection between the wishes of the 99% of people and their government. The vast majority of U.S. citizens want sensible gun control, their desires apparently fall on deaf ears in Congress. The vast majority of U.S. citizens were opposed to war with Iraq, they were ignored, a majority want us out of Afghanistan, they are ignored, a majority want diplomatic relations with Iran, they may well be ignored, a majority want the rich to pay more in taxes, and so it goes. What is supposed to be a government of the people, by the people, for the people, has become a government for the wealthy, for the corporations, and for profit over people, in short, a Fascist country pretending to be a democracy.

This would be bad enough if it were not for the unutterably stupid “news” we are being fed on a daily basis. The most trivial matters are blown up entirely out of proportion by the corporate owned newspapers and television stations. Obama’s handshake with Raul Castro proves he is a communist, the Obama’s black dog’s attack on a 3 year-old White girl suggests they are racists, Obamacare is socialism, as are unemployment  insurance, Social Security, Medicare, and anything else that might improve the lives of the 99%. Now even the somewhat covert racism that affected Obama’s election has become overt, blatant, and dysfunctional.

I now believe I have become completely divorced from our supposed government. I wish to live my remaining years without having to concern myself with what I believe to be the absolute idiocy that now constitutes our politics. I believe a majority of our elected officials are either  incompetent, dishonest, hypocritical, and greedy, or perhaps all of those things at once.

The greatest disappointment of my life comes from the realization that my (perhaps na├»ve) faith in our government has been shattered. World War II was our proudest moment, it’s been all downhill ever since.

Remember Kati, “Pride goeth before a fall.”

Friday, December 06, 2013

Communal Spirit

You might think that as Republicans are humans (I hope) that live collectively with other humans, as all humans are wont to do, they would have and participate in what we can call “communal spirit.” Humans live together in organized groups for mutual support and protection. They empathize with each other and help each other when it is necessary for them to do so. As far as I know this is characteristic of all human groups, except, I fear, of contemporary Republicans. Somehow they don’t seem to share this basic human characteristic.

This has become quite evident in recent years as they have consistently opposed virtually all attempts to better the lives of ordinary citizens. They are opposed to welfare in general, food stamps and unemployment insurance in particular, Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, a minimum wage, job creation, fair taxation, and anything else that even hints at communal spirit and help to others. They seem to lack empathy entirely, which is surely one part of communal spirit. I do not believe Republicans in the past were so callous and uncaring about their fellow Americans. Why this change in attitudes has occurred I am not sure. I’m pretty sure that Saint Ronnie the Moron had at least something to do with it. Perhaps they confuse the word communal with communism, assuming they even know the word communal in any other context. It does seem that anything communal is considered by them to be communism, or at least communistic or maybe socialistic. I doubt that most of them have any idea of what communism or socialism were about but they seem to be pathologically frightened by the thought of either of them. When you hear one of them say Obama is a socialist you know, immediately, they have no idea what they are talking about.

In any case our society is now split almost in two, with one faction insisting on sharing and caring and the other focused on a kind of simple-minded social Darwinism, a state of nature where them as has stomp on them that hasn’t. As George Orwell observed in his marvelous book, 1984, “If you want a picture of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face—for ever.” How such a large segment of society came to be this way would be a subject for several dozen PhD dissertations. How they can be so vehemently opposed to even a minimal redistribution of wealth is a mystery to me. But they are as their behavior in recent years makes clear. They are, I believe, a danger to themselves and others.

What makes all of this worse is that they lie: incessantly, flagrantly, willfully, shamelessly, even idiotically. John Boehner has become their Liar-in-Chief. Apparently lying with a straight face has become heroic in their circles. Boehner, for example, consistently insists they (Republicans) are interested in creating jobs. In five years they have passed not one single piece of legislation that would have helped create jobs and have, in fact, resisted any attempt  by President Obama and Democrats to do so, and then hypocritically blamed Obama for the failure. They claim to be interested in health care but criticize Obamacare shamelessly with no alternative of their own. They claim to want to have immigration reform but refuse to even allow a vote on it.

It has become so bad I am beginning to believe that the stress of his office may be making Boehner, shall I say, a bit “dotty.” How else could you explain his recent claim that Republicans are trying to protect Americans from the Affordable Care Act? This is like saying they are trying to protect people from being healthy. No one in their right mind would say such a thing, especially at the very moment that people are signing up for that very thing. Boehner, who used to at least dabble in the communal spirit, has apparently completely surrendered to the Tea Party,  lock, start, and seven iron.

That Republicans lack communal spirit seem obvious. Why and how this developed over recent years is not entirely clear. It is obviously linked to our bizarre ideas about the benefits of “free market capitalism.” In an somewhat ironic way one might argue that capitalism has been a resounding success, it has done what it was meant to do, turned land, labor and money into commodities,  put profits ahead of people, reduced working people to wage slaves, damaged the environment for short term profit, and run rampant over morality and common sense. Old homilies are often the best: “Money is the root of all evil.”

 “And, for an instant, she stared directly into those soft blue eyes and knew, with an instinctive mammalian certainty, that the exceedingly rich were no longer even remotely human.” 

Wednesday, December 04, 2013

Hillary the Bland

I have always assumed that Hillary Clinton would run for President if presented with an opportunity. I still believe she will. If she does run she will almost undoubtedly win. I can see no possible Republican politician that could outmatch her in experience, intelligence, preparation, political savvy, grit and determination. Nor is it likely any particular Republican candidate could substantially raise more money or have a better and more experienced staff. She is virtually guaranteed the Black vote, the Hispanic vote, the Women’s vote, the Jewish vote, the Homosexual vote, and quite likely the Asian vote, Republicans having themselves virtually destroyed their chances with anyone but angry White working class males would surely have a difficult time (there are probably only so many votes they can suppress).

Hillary comes from a fine family background, has done well in the University and Law School, and has engaged in politics all of her adult life. She has no doubt dreamt of a female President for a long time. She is now uniquely qualified to become our first female President. It is virtually impossible to believe she will not go for it.

She would probably make a fine President, having been First Lady of both Arkansas and the United States, having previously run for President, having been a successful Senator and a fine Secretary of State. She will doubtless surround herself with good experienced and loyal people. I am sure she knows she will be ruthlessly and shamelessly attacked by Republicans, Roviated non-stop with their usual sliming, dishonest, and filthy innuendo, and thus will not be surprised or overwhelmed by it. She has already experienced lots of it. As she has long been a Hawk they probably cannot touch her on that score and Benghazi will not make much difference.  We probably know more about the Clintons than any other couple in history so it is unlikely there will be any new and surprising revelations about her or her family.

The potential and perhaps serious problem for Hillary is that by 2016 we are going to need a Teddy or a Franklin rather than a Dwight or a Gerald. Hillary is sooo 2012. As a consummate Washington insider for so long she has been in an important way, part of the problem. With strikes and picketing an increasing problem, along with the demand for higher wages, and the growing awareness of our terrible inequality, to say nothing of the increasing disenchantment with capitalism itself (even now by the Pope), the President of 2016 is going to have to be in the forefront of the coming battles against these injustices. “Too big to fail” will have to be challenged along with the criminal banking practices that have reigned for so long. Huge international corporations will have to be domesticated and Israeli racism and pillage will have to be curbed, as will the fantastically bloated defense budget. I cannot see Hillary at the head of serious populist attempts to change these gross injustices. We are going to need someone like Bernie Sanders (too old and truthful to be a serious candidate), or Elizabeth Warren (who I doubt will run for President), or someone with the will and determination to “lead the charge.” I do not know who that might be but I’m pretty certain we will not need a merely caretaker President. This is not to say Hillary would be a mere caretaker. I have no doubt she will fight for women’s rights, fight poverty, strengthen health care, and defend us from our enemies. She might even create jobs. But all this will not be enough to bring about the substantial changes we need to our basic social and economic problems which, alas, are linked to the seemingly inevitable and monumentally serious problem of global warming.

Hillary, I fear, will fall once again to the vagaries of change. Having had the Presidency snatched from her by the strangely upstart Barack Hussein Obama, she may lose out again through no fault of her own. In spite of her obvious qualifications and talent she may just prove to be the wrong person at the wrong time. I could, of course, be wrong about this, I often am, but one thing might comfort us, if Hillary does get elected, she will be thousands of times better than any of the roster of village idiots we will likely be offered by the Republicans.    

“Unseen in the background, Fate was quietly slipping lead into the boxing-glove.” 

Sunday, December 01, 2013

On "Rights"

We hear almost constantly from all sorts of different people about “rights,” that we presumably have or should have. But what, precisely, are rights? More frequently than not we are told by some that we have “God given” rights, and probably just as frequently by others that there are “Natural” rights. There are also “Human rights.” As an avowed Atheist I cannot bring myself to believe there are God given rights. I certainly cannot believe we have a God given right to own AK 47’s or to starve the poor in order to create billionaires. It has never been clear to me just what actually constitutes God given rights as they are rarely, if ever, precisely defined, and if they are you should beware of them. One of our favorite claims is that “all men are created equal,” and also that we have inalienable rights to “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” With the possible exception of “life” these claims are demonstrably false, however noble they may sound.

Turning to the question of Natural rights it is possible to argue, I think, that yes, we may well have, for unknown reasons, a right to life. It would seem to me that the fact that we are born and exist certainly implies that somehow we must have a right to do so (consult The Great Mystery for confirmation). The fact of births would also seem to confirm a right to heterosexual relations between members of the species. Going one step farther, because we are born so terribly helpless we can presume there is a right to nurturance and protection at least for an initial period. As we arrive as living, breathing creatures you might also say we have a right to breathe air and drink water. Similarly, if we are to continue to survive we also have the right to sustenance, to hunting and gathering. I don’t believe we have Natural rights to Supermarkets where we can choose between some 60 or more kinds of frozen potatoes, or dozens of different breakfast cereals, but this adds a more complicated dimension to the problem.

 This kind of thinking breaks down when you arrive at the rights to hunting and gathering. The fact is, these are not truly rights, merely conditions of human existence. Thus while you can argue at this basic level that humans may have certain rights by virtue of their existence this is of little or no help because these presumed rights can be and typically are abrogated. Your birth, for example, can be denied through abortion, or you brief existence can be ended by infanticide. Nurturance can be denied, along with air, food, and water. Even sexual relations can be and usually are at least minimally controlled. You cannot hunt and gather, or even plant anyplace you want, and while in the abstract it may be in the state of nature permissible even to kill to survive, this does not mean you can kill others of your own species with impunity as this would create chaos and violate the very fact of species survival. If everyone ran around doing only what they wanted to do there would be chaos.

Human beings even in a state of nature do not normally exist in complete isolation from others of their kind, they always exist in social groups, sometimes very small groups and sometimes huge ones. It is this basic fact of human existence where we find the necessity for rules relating to what is right, what rights you have, and what is not considered right, cultural values that determine how one should behave. All human cultures both prescribe and proscribe what is possible and necessary. Sometimes the prescriptions and proscription are not entirely clear, sometimes not everyone wants to obey them, sometimes there are violations, and sometimes they change over time, but this is still the only source for the creation of what we consider human rights. They are considered human rights because they are not rights permitted to animals and because humans created them. God given and Natural rights do not exist although they are often posited by those with vested interests. Neither God nor Nature demands universal health care, only (some) humans are concerned with such rights. God and Nature do not even demand that people marry, let alone who they marry. These are purely human concerns. Does anyone believe that we have a God given or Natural right to oppose global warming? Does anyone believe that either God or Nature give a damn about the right of individuals to own and operate AK 47’s? Are God and Nature responsible for our current level of poverty and inequality? Oh yes, I know, some will say that of course God is concerned about such things but he/she/it is remarkably absent, and if not their presumed concern is based on myths or fairy tales.

 There are no rights and wrongs in nature, there is no good or evil, just life rushing on in all its manifold forms and glory.In an ideal human, healthily functioning culture people should want to do what they have to do. In our current U. S. culture most seem to believe they have a right to do only what they want to do. Alas, that is not a right that is destined to last and be successful for long.

Chief Joseph 

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Venus Bound - book

Venus Bound, The Erotic Voyage of the Olympia Press and Its Writers, John De St Jorre (Random House, New York, 1994)

This is at once a book about the history of dirty books, not so dirty books, the ups and downs of the Olympia Press, pornography, literature, and the life of Maurice Girodias (ne Maurice Kahane). For anyone interested in such things it is a fine and rewarding book.

Maurice’s father, Jack Kahane, said to have been an “Edwardian Dandy,” founded the Obelisk Press in the 1930’s and capped his career by publishing Henry Miller, Lawrence Durrell and Anais Nin. The Obelisk Press eventually became the Olympia Press, owned and operated by his son, Maurice, part Jewish, who changed his name to Girodias, and his nationality to French, to protect himself from the Nazis. He remained Girodias thereafter.  

The Olympia Press made its way and survived primarily by publishing pornography. Girodias had a stable of writers, most using false names, whose works collectively became the Traveller’s Companion Series, and did quite well. This was an important part of the “dirty books” that became internationally well known, bought in and ordered from Paris, often smuggled elsewhere in plain brown covers. It was possible to publish books in Paris that could not be published elsewhere, but even in Paris there were censors. Girodias spent a great deal of his time and money almost constantly fighting legal battles with them in court.

 Because censorship was stronger in most other countries, particularly in England and the United States, serious authors sometimes were forced to turn to the Olympia Press as virtually their only choice to get their work published. Jack Kahane had already established a precedent for publishing such books when he published Henry Miller, Anais Nin, and several books featuring homosexual themes. Girodias carried on his father’s tradition in the 1950’s by publishing both J. P. Donleavy’s, The Ginger Man, and perhaps the even more(in)famous, Lolita, by Vladimir Nabokov. He was also to publish the Story of O, Candy, and The Naked Lunch. You are no doubt aware that all of these works were initially classified as pornography (in some places they probably still are). It took years before they were considered “literature” rather than pornography.

Perhaps the most famous case was Nabokov’s Lolita. Nabokov wanted to demonstrate that it was possible to write a highly erotic (pornographic?) book without using the dirty words usually found in such works, and so Lolita, now widely regarded as a literary masterpiece, was written. It had to be smuggled into the U.S. and it was years before it was accepted as literature. The Ginger Man, The Story of O, and The Naked Lunch also suffered similar fates. The line between pornography and literature (or non pornography) was never well drawn (Donleavy, for example, was outraged when The Ginger Man was mistakenly included on the Traveler’s Companion Series and he never forgave Girodias) but eventually, and maybe grudgingly, courts came to consider such works as legitimate literary endeavors.

The decision to consider a book a literary work rather than porn initially seemed to hinge on whether it was “well written” (was literary) or whether the author was an established writer known as such to the public, whether it contained too many “dirty words, or was composed merely for its prurient interest. But these are somewhat questionable decisions that do not, it seems to me, always work very well. For example, I am willing to accept The Ginger Man, Lolita, and even the Story of O, as they are all exceedingly well written, but what about a book like Candy, professionally written by a couple of well-known writers, but obviously composed for the prurient market. If something is “professionally written” but not motivated by any genuine literary interest is it to be considered “literature.”

You might well say that none of this matters today because the pornographers essentially won (I guess it was just easier to accept it than fight it any longer), and what we routinely see and heard now on TV, in movies, and books goes far beyond anything these pioneers in the genre contemplated. These early battles over pornography were almost exclusively concerned with sex. Violence was, I think, not considered pornographic, nor did it constitute the subject matter of these early works. Nowadays violence, which I think has become terribly important as pornography, especially as sex and violence now seem to go hand in hand. Like sexual themes, violence has also become increasingly acceptable. This does not bode well either for literature or civilization.

The pornography of violence of course far exceeds, in volume and general acceptance, sexual pornography, in this Puritan land of ours. Exploiting the apocalypse, selling the holocaust, is a pornography. For the ultimate selling job on ultimate violence one must read those works of fiction issued by our government as manuals of civil defense, in which you learn that there's nothing to be afraid of if you've stockpiled lots of dried fruit. 

Monday, November 18, 2013

Me and Kati (9)

Well, Kati, we haven’t had a talk for a few days. There are a number of things we need to discuss. That is, I need to discuss while you, as usual, just listen. One thing, I am somewhat put off by your overly aggressive sleeping habits. You used to sleep with me every night, then for a long time you didn’t, and now you do again. I don’t mind you sleeping on the bed with me, but you insist on having to sleep tight against me. Thus when I turn over or move, and you then move closer, we move randomly across the bed all night which I find uncomfortable. Why can’t you sleep like Spencer, who sleeps on the far corner of the bed and you hardly know he is even there until you wake up? You think because you have such a pretty face you can get away with anything…and you can.

But that is not the most important thing on my mind at the moment, it is Walmart, even though it is none of my business. Well, Kati, in a way it is my business as it seems it is my tax dollars that subsidizes this disgusting Dickensian enterprise. First of all, Kati, we already know that because of their terribly low and unfair wages we taxpayers are already subsidizing them by having to cover health care costs, food stamps, and the other necessities they do not provide. Now, however, they seem to have reached an all-time low in expecting even more aid. In at least one Walmart store they are now asking their employees to donate to a fund so that their employees can enjoy a decent Thanksgiving. In other words, they want their employees to subsidize Thanksgiving dinners for other employees (because their employees do not make enough money to enjoy Thanksgiving on their own). I don’t believe the word Chutzpa extends quite this far. It seems that the average Walmart employee makes somewhere around $15,000 to $17,000 a year (although Walmart claims it is $25,000). In any case, with wages that low the only way their employees can survive is through food stamps and other forms of welfare which we, the taxpayers, are paying. This situation is ridiculous enough to begin with, but now when they expect their employees to donate to other employees can celebrate a national holiday, they have reached a new low. I’m not entirely certain even Dickens would have gone so far.

This absurd, if not completely obscene business model (like most), wants to insist they cannot pay higher wages and make a profit, a claim that is in this case (and virtually all other cases), patently untrue. When you understand that the five (or maybe six) Walmart heirs have together more money than some 40% of the population at large, they could easily share some of their billions with their workers that make it possible. I guess this might mean they might individually get a few billions less but what the hell, why should they (I mean, after all, they “work hard” for their money, they really “earn it,” and they “deserve it”). And so, Kati, that’s the way it is here in the America of unrestrained capitalism. It just doesn’t get any more absurd or obscene than that, but it’s the “best economic system” in the world, and why should workers get any more money anyway, they’d just piss it away buying Picassos, yachts, and unborn lamb.

 I think, Kati, that no decent country would allow the massive imbalance in wealth that now exists here in the U.S. It may be there aren’t so many decent countries in the world but it would be nice if we could claim to be one. But we have become shameless in our exploitation of labor, the environment, the neglect of our children and education, our infrastructure, and our attitude towards the less fortunate. We will doubtless pay the price of this cavalier attitude towards our lives and especially those of our children. But as the thoughtful George W. the Dim said, “ha ha, we’ll all be dead by then.”

If I think too much about all of those Chinese factories where all the stuff in a Wal-Mart is made, I get that woozy feeling you get when you see ducks covered in crude oil.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Capitalism and Greed

I think I have had an epiphany, maybe just a lesser insight, perhaps I just woke up to reality, maybe my aging (and I fear dimming) grey cells suddenly had a burst of energy; whatever, I may have (sort of) solved something that has been puzzling me for a long time, namely, the problem of greed.

During my relatively long lifetime I have had the privilege of living with many different kinds of people, from some truly “primitive” in the New Guinea Highlands, to the more sophisticated in Fiji and Hawaii, to American Indians on the Northwest Coast and the American Midwest, to the French, Germans, and, of course Americans. I have also lived with many different groups of people, from Hippies to the Poor, to the Middle Class. Never, during any of these times, did I have reason to believe that greed played a major role in their behavior. In fact, I would say that it was far more characteristic of all people to share and care for each other than to take advantage of others. Indeed, in most cultures, greed, if it exists at all in rare cases, is punished by sanctions, in extreme cases even by death. Thus I do not believe that greed is a universal characteristic of humans.

Because of my lifetime experiences I have had much trouble in recent years trying to understand why it is that we have seen the growth of so many millionaires, multi-millionaires, billionaires, and multi-billionaires. These individuals have amassed fortunes so huge, and so far beyond any reasonable use, even beyond the imagination of most people to comprehend them, that it makes no sense whatsoever. I have attributed this to greed. It has always seemed to me that for someone to have fortunes so huge as to make them relatively useless for any personal benefits beyond those of everyday life to be sort of purposeless. I mean, really, how many million dollar baseballs, Marilyn Monroe dresses, multi-million dollar paintings, rare postage stamps, thousand dollar shower curtains, gold faucets, and antique vases, does one need? More importantly, when 99% of the population is living in poverty, unable in some cases even to feed their children, why do these obscenely wealthy individuals feel no shame, or guilt, or even express any empathy for the less fortunate? How, that is, do you explain their greed?

The explanation for this came to me today as I was cooking a great pot of chili. Or at least I think this may be the answer. In a capitalistic society like the one we currently live in there is no concept of greed. Think about it, greed just does not exist. The goal of capitalism is to make a profit, or, in a somewhat different description, to accumulate capital. And so, if the goal is to accumulate capital and make profit, accomplishing this does not constitute greed, but, rather, success. This is why you can find people claiming that greed is good, greed represents success. If you are a billionaire, with wealth far beyond anything you can do with it (other than use it to make even more capital) you are not greedy, you are a success, a role model, someone to be admired.

And so it is that the sin of avarice (greed) is no longer relevant in the world of capitalism. There is no greed in Mudville, merely the earmark of success. Never mind the exploitation of labor and the environment that allowed the success, never mind the human misery and environmental damage you caused because of your greed (sorry, success), greed is good, greed is what makes capitalism work, at least it will for a time. Greed is no longer greed, it’s what makes our world go round. Wheee! Let’s hear it for greed!
  “Thus did a handful of rapacious citizens come to control all that was worth controlling in America. Thus was the savage and stupid and entirely inappropriate and unnecessary and humorless American class system created. Honest, industrious, peaceful citizens were classed as bloodsuckers, if they asked to be paid a living wage. And they saw that praise was reserved henceforth for those who devised means of getting paid enormously for committing crimes against which no laws had been passed. Thus the American dream turned belly up, turned green, bobbed to the scummy surface of cupidity unlimited, filled with gas, went bang in the noonday sun.” 

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Two Parties

This is a tale of two (ostensibly “political”) parties, the Hopeless Party and the Helpless Party. Both of these were once ordinary political parties that more or less functioned as such, but for a variety of reasons they have become something other than what they once were.

The Hopeless Party became hopeless primarily because they became hopelessly out of touch with the citizens of their country, but also somewhat out of touch with reality. The Hopeless Party is hopeless at governing and each turn they have “in the barrel” they run up huge budget deficits that must later be corrected by the Helpless Party (one of the reasons the Helpless Party remains helpless). It is not surprising that the Hopeless Party is hopeless at governing, following the strictures of their culture hero, Saint Ronnie the Moron, they do not believe in government, for them government “is the problem.” They would like to drown it in a bathtub and have tried desperately to do just that. In their latest turn in the barrel, their “man in charge,” George Dubya the Dim (along with his criminal cutthroats), managed to turn a respectable budget surplus into a disastrous deficit in the space of only a couple of years. They no longer mention George the Dim anymore if they can possibly help it. George the Dim is currently helping to convert Jews into Christians in order to speed up “the end of times.”

The hopelessness of the Hopeless Party also came about when they discovered they could not politically defeat Billy the Comeback Kid in fair elections and so turned to Mafia-like strategies, thus morphing into something resembling a criminal conspiracy rather than a political party. Desperately they attempted to impeach Billy the Kid for a private, consenting sexual act, thus breaking with a long-standing precedent that such matters were usually off limits. Since then, using a hopelessly outdated philosophy of White male superiority, they have managed to alienate Blacks, Hispanics, women, Gays and Lesbians, and most everyone else other than White working class males, leaving them hopelessly hoping they can somehow take back the Presidency from the half Black, socialist, communist, fascist, anti-Christ, Kenyan, Muslim, “Other” that was mistakenly and illegitimately ensconced in the White House not once, but twice. As they know they have no legitimate way to win the coming elections they continue their criminal attempts to prevent certain people from voting and to stop the current President from having even a modest success of any kind. They seem to believe that by opposing everything the 99% desire they can win (in other words, “money can buy them love”).

There is no obvious explanation for why the Helpless Party is so helpless. With the Presidency and a majority in the Senate they should have the power to overcome the resistance of the Hopeless ones, but for whatever reason they don’t, preferring to just stand idly by while the minority runs roughshod over them. I suspect this is probably because they secretly share the goals of the Hopeless Party, namely whatever it is their corporate and business master’s desire. While they make a pretense of defending the Poor and the Middle Class they actually do little or nothing to do so. This is so because the members of both parties have long since abandoned the interests of anyone other than the business and corporate interests that finance them, they have become mercenaries rather than public servants. Even though one party appears hopeless and the other helpless they remain very similar in their ultimate goals, facilitating a fascist takeover of the world. It is what they are being paid to do.

Although the two parties, as parties, appear very different, in terms of their individual memberships they are much the same. This can be seen very clearly in the case of Israel and the Middle East, both parties approach the Iranian situation in the same way, however Bibi “Mad dog” Netanyahu, the apparent Czar of the region tells them to. It could not be more obvious that Bibi the Great does not want a Palestinian state or peace with the Palestinians. If such a terrible thing should happen he could no longer shamelessly steal Palestinian land and water, thus eventually making a Palestinian state an impossibility. The so-called negotiations are nothing but a farce, no one (I doubt even Kerry) believes for even one moment there will be a significant agreement. The U.S. is a willing partner in this farce, this deception, this fantastic lie. All men are born equal and are entitled to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness – unless they are Palestinians.
So if one party is hopeless and the other is helpless the net effect will probably be hopelessness. Welcome to the real world of U.S. politics. And don’t worry Bibi, we’ll support your genocidal desires to the bitter end, after all, what are friends for?

  You cannot criticize Israel in this country (USA) and survive” 
Helen Thomas


Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Stop Whining!

Stop whining Democrats. Do something. Republicans have now continued their unprecedented use of the filibuster to block President Obama’s nominees for Judgeships and most anything else. There is nothing wrong with the nominees, they are all well qualified, facts that are admitted even by the Republicans that are blocking them. They simply do not want Obama to appoint anyone at all to anything at all, partly because they hate Obama and want him to fail and partly because they want to preserve the conservative majority on the courts. Obama has a constitutional duty to fill these vacancies. Congress has a constitutional obligation to advise and consent. But instead of doing their duty Republicans use the filibuster to block any and all appointments. This is, putting it in the simplest terms possible, unconscionable, to say nothing of absurd, indecent, harmful, and disgusting.

During Obama’s tenure Republicans have used the filibuster some 432 times (I think that is the right figure). Everyone knows this is more filibusters than all other filibusters in history, and they also know this was not what the filibuster was intended to do. Indeed, they don’t really even bother to filibuster, they merely indicate they want to do it, and Democrats meekly surrender. And so it is the minority has managed to essentially overcome the majority, making a mockery of democracy, and harming our country immeasurably.
But what is especially galling about this ongoing travesty is that throughout the entire history of it the Democrats have had the power to stop it. Harry Reid could have invoked the so-called “nuclear option” at any time that would have changed the rules to allow a simply 51% majority to rule (which is what it is supposed to be in the first place) instead of the arbitrary and unnecessary 60 vote rule the Senate now requires. But rather than doing so he and his colleagues have preferred to simply whine consistently, helplessly, piteously, even cowardly, about what the Republicans have been doing.   

I do not know exactly why democrats have been so resistant to changing the rules to what they ought to be. The only argument I can remember hearing is to the effect that they do not want to give up this strategy themselves when Republicans return again to power. So, in order to preserve what is blatantly unconscionable now they want to preserve it to be blatantly unconscionable in the hypothetical future. First of all, the way things seem to be going, it is unlikely the Republicans will ever return to power for a very long time (at least they certainly should not), and second, if the Senate can change the rules now they can also change them again in the future. As far as I can see there is no cogent reason the rules should not be changed to prevent Republicans to continue their assault on our democracy, timidity and cowardice seem to be the order of the day. So Democrats, either use your power to end this ridiculous situation or stop whining about it. God hates cowards, losers, and gutless whiners.

On a somewhat different but even more absurd development I think our so-called “news” networks may have finally reached an even more “low” than I would have thought possible. Even MSNBC did a segment tonight on Sarah Palin versus the Pope. Why should this absolute babbling idiot be featured as somehow worthy of equality with the Pope? In fact, why should she be appearing on television at all? She holds no office, almost certainly never will, is about as intelligent as a cedar post, is now totally irrelevant in any meaningful way, and most certainly is not a worthy opponent of the Pope. If she continues to have any followers at all they are few and must be even moronic than she is, so why does she command any time at all in the media? The answer, I fear, is that the media is not really interested in news, merely infotainment, and this seems to be just as true of MSNBC as all the rest. They might as well interview Mickey Rooney’s opinion of the Pope, in fact it would probably more interesting.

“The more wonderful the means of communication, the more trivial, tawdry, or depressing its contents seemed to be.” 

 Arthur C. Clarke

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Greed is Their Argument

I am beginning to believe that for many people greed must be their most basic motivator. I find it virtually impossible to understand what is going on without assuming that greed is virtually the most basic element. Take, for example, the situation with Iran. The relationship between the U.S. and Iran has festered for at least forty years. The U.S., with apparently no Middle East policy apart from that of Israel, has been threatening to attack Iran for years, an attack that would set off yet another war in the Middle East, perhaps worse than ever before. Now it seems there is a reasonable chance that war might be averted, that diplomacy might actually win out. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if this long standing animosity could be overcome and an agreement reached without going to war? At least I think it would be great. But there are those,, Israel especially, but also the Saudis, who are doing everything they can to prevent a diplomatic solution. The alternative of course will be a war. What is their motive for preferring war to peace in this particular case? It does have a religious element, with the Saudis being predominately Sunni while Iran and its ally Syria are Shiite. But Sunnis and Shiites have managed to live together for a long time. So it’s basically about who will control the Middle East, the oil markets, and so on. In short, it’s about greed. And of course there is no end to the greed of the Israelis, intent upon stealing as much land and water from the Palestinians as possible, resisting all international calls to stop, thumbing their noses at International Law as well as common decency. 

The supposed fear of an Iranian nuclear bomb is nothing but a red herring dragged across the real problem of maintaining Israeli and Western European hegemony in the Middle East. They don’t care how many Iranians and others may suffer and die to get their way. Greed, as usual, wins out.

Similarly, how do you explain the Republican efforts to kill the Affordable Care Act, otherwise known as Obamacare? It is true that some of their resistance is a result of their outright hatred of President Obama (he’s Black, you know), but it also has to do with wanting to protect the profits of Insurance Companies that make their ill-gotten gains from preying on the sick and dying. There is no reason Insurance Companies should have anything whatsoever to do with health care. The motive here is just plain greed.

And why do International Corporations demand and receive massive tax breaks they do not need? They employ legions of lobbyists to make sure they receive this largess, stash their money overseas without paying any taxes, contributing basically nothing to our economy. Greed is their only argument. And really, why should CEO’s be making millions of dollars while those who work for them are lucky to make a pittance and live in or near poverty. There is no explanation for this other than Greed, Greed that seems to know no bounds.

Why do Republicans oppose anything and everything that might possibly benefit the Poor and the Middle Class: Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, unions, food stamps, minimum wages, child care, any form of welfare? Obviously they oppose such things because they might cut into the profits of billionaires and corporations. In other words, they oppose them for just plain greed.

Curiously, greed does not seem to characterize all people, perhaps even most people. Not everyone seeks to make as much money as possible, living lives more modestly on their salaries, content to just make a decent living, own a home, send their children to college. They do not become nurses, teachers, mechanics, professors, poets, or candlestick makers because they want to become as rich as possible. But for some, even many, greed apparently becomes infectious. They want and seek more and more and seemingly are never satisfied. Some years back a man won 300 million dollars or so on the lottery. When asked what he wanted to do with his money he replied he wanted to become a billionaire! And so it goes. I wonder if all children are born greedy and have to be enculturated out of it, or if they are born without greed and have to be taught to be greedy? As not all people are greedy I suspect the latter may be closer to the truth than the former. But perhaps greed is similar to a bad seed that just occasionally occurs. Probably not, I think there may be a secret Republican school that teaches Greed 101. Their credo is probably something like “I got mine, you get yours.” Or maybe “Them as has, gets.” I have many faults, but happily, naked greed is not one of them.

 “The point is, there is no feasible excuse for what are, for what we have made of ourselves. We have chosen to put profits before people, money before morality, dividends before decency, fanaticism before fairness, and our own trivial comforts before the unspeakable agonies of others” 

 Iain Banks

Thursday, November 07, 2013

Me and Kati (7)

Well Kati, it’s just you and me again. I talk and you listen, a splendid way to carry on a conversation. And as you can’t talk I can say things to you that might not bear repeating. The off-year elections are finally over, producing results that have been pretty much predictable. That Virginia guy, Kookinelli, or whatever his name is, lost. But he didn’t lose by so much as to affect the true Tea Party believers. They think he was a martyr, or perhaps a hero, rather than a loser. And of course, magically, it was not because his positions were so extreme or vile, but because the Party didn’t support him enough. It is clear that many voted against him rather than for his opponent who could have easily been defeated by a more reasonable candidate. Terry McAuliffe was not exactly what you might describe as an ideal candidate. But he won, nowadays that’s what counts. It’s a far cry from when “how you play the game” mattered to anyone.

Anyway, paradoxically, Kookinelli lost and is regarded positively, whereas New Jersey Fats won and is now under attack for not being conservative enough, actually touching President Obama, and other mortal sins against insanity. It is obvious that Fats is going to run for President in 2016, but not at all obvious he will be able to get the nomination. He hasn’t “made his bones” by calling Obama a liar, a socialist, communist, Kenyan, or any of the other more vile insults the Republicans banter about behind closed doors. Although many believe he would be a great candidate to run against Hillary, I, for one, doubt it. He is clever enough to make some believe he is a moderate even though he is just about as conservative as the rest of the ultra-conservatives now regarded as merely conservative. He’s not going to have it both ways. That is, he can’t be regarded as conservative enough for the Tea Party Loons unless he moves extremely to the right, and if he does that he won’t have a chance against the fair Hillary.

Anyway Kati, I don’t know why it matters much one way or the other. I would never have believed, had I been forewarned or not, that in the 21st century I would be living in a country increasingly like the London of the 18th or 19th centuries. Can you believe, Kati, that we live in a nation where a small minority of the population is allowed to have fortunes so massive they cannot even be imagined by most “Others.” And the Others have been pretty much reduced to a new kind of serfdom or peasantry through wage slavery and interest payments, including the best of our young people who have become so crippled with educational debts they will perhaps never be able to realize any of their dreams. Even more shocking Kati, is that millions of our people are living in poverty because of their low wages, or criticized for not working at all even though there are not enough jobs to go around and attempts to create them are repeatedly blocked by those who enjoy the punishing and shameful status quo. Millions of citizens, even hard-working, honest people who play by the rules, have no health care, and cannot adequately feed or educate their children, are at the mercy of powerful interests  working nonstop to keep it that way. This horrid situation does not exist because of some early primitive notion of “The Divine Right of Kings,” but, rather, because of “The Devilish Might of Unrestrained Monopoly Capitalism.”

I have sometimes described our contemporary mode of life here in the U.S. as a “Culture of the Absurd,” and absurd it is when you think about it Kati. There are basically simple solutions to our current problems (or non problems, depending upon who you believe). Unemployment, for example, could be easily overcome by fairly taxing the obscenely wealthy and corporations and using those funds to create much needed jobs in superstructure, education, and so on. Our expensive, inefficient health care system could be replaced by an efficient, less expensive, single payer system that would send the greedy and completely unnecessary insurance companies where they belong, that is, out of the health care business where, parasitically, they absolutely should not be. Virtually all of our problems could be solved by seriously taxing the obscenely wealthy and cutting back drastically on our military spending. If we gave up our obvious desire to be in a state of constant war the military/industrial/political complex would have to change dramatically, thus allowing meaningful jobs to be created rather than those that exist mainly to keep our militarized culture functioning and interfering worldwide with the lives of others. Of course, Kati, none of this is about to happen. I fear we are already too far in the clutches of the Fascists to overcome “the best government money can buy.”

"Still another danger is represented by those who, paying lip service to democracy and the common welfare, in their insatiable greed for money and the power which money gives, do not hesitate surreptitiously to evade the laws designed to safeguard the public from monopolistic extortion.

Their final objective toward which all their deceit is directed is to capture political power so that, using the power of the state and the power of the market simultaneously, they may keep the common man in eternal subjection.

They claim to be super-patriots, but they would destroy every liberty guaranteed by the Constitution.

They are patriotic in time of war because it is to their interest to be so, but in time of peace they follow power and the dollar wherever they may lead.”