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