Thursday, November 29, 2012

Life of Pi - book

Life of Pi, Yann Martel,  (Harcourt, Inc., N.Y., 2001).
 This book has been around my house for quite some time but I have only recently discovered it and read it. It was given to my late wife by her best friend but I don’t remember her saying she had read it (she probably did). Anyway, after two different book buyers were here buying books I found it staring up at me every time I passed by this particularly ravished bookcase. And, because of the publicity about the movie I finally decided to read it. I confess that I had been avoiding it because of the title. All my life I have instinctively avoided anything having to do with arithmetic or mathematics above the level of basic addition and subtraction and I assumed that Pi was involved with that mysterious universe. This Pi is not, except in an extremely marginal way.
It turns out this book is quite fascinating, as they say these days “a jolly good read” (I absolutely despise using verbs as nouns), but fascinating for an unusual reason. A clue to this can be seen on a statement on the cover that reads, “A story to make you believe in the soul-sustaining power of fiction.” I don’t know about the “soul-sustaining” bit but it certainly says something about the power of fiction. It is in fact a most outrageous and fantastic work of fiction, but even so you experience it as a real adventure. It is the finest example of verisimilitude I have ever encountered. Realistically, you have to know it is absolutely fictional, but that doesn’t seem to matter as you are completely caught up in the story anyway. It proves to me that fiction merely has to be “realistic” to be somehow “real.”  The critic, W. H. Gass, once wrote: “…The worlds which… the writer creates, are only imaginatively possible ones; they need not be at all like any real one, and the metaphysics which any fiction implies is likely to be meaningless or false if taken as nature’s own.” But of course there always has to be some connection to reality, in this case the ocean is real, lifeboats are real, tigers are real, as are orangutans and zebras, animal training and zoos, but putting all of this together in one small lifeboat for a period of 277 days, and leading the reader to believe and enjoy it is a most remarkable feat.
I am not a great fan of Hemingway, although I was when I was in college, as were most of my peers. But as Hemingway’s reputation rested so heavily on PR his reputation has diminished over the years. Even so he did sometimes offer observations about books that are worthy of thought : “All good books have one thing in common—they are truer than if they had really happened, and after you’ve read one of them you will feel all that happened, happened to you and then it belongs to you forever: the happiness and unhappiness, good and evil, ecstasy and sorrow, the food, wine, beds, people, and the weather.”
Life of Pi seems to me like one of those books that may well be “truer than true.” Having now read it I am sure it will never completely leave me, the story is so compelling, but at the same time so completely far-fetched, so thought provoking and philosophical, and at the same time sometimes so fantastic as to leave you pondering not only the nature of fiction but also the meaning of life and relationships in general. Once you get past the first chapter or two (which I found not obviously connected to the actual story) you find it one of those really well-written books that are hard to put down until you know the ending. The ending of this book is largely left up to the reader.
I do not believe a movie made out of this book can possibly capture the real essence of the story although I can see how the situation can be exploited for that purpose. I rarely watch motion pictures anymore (as they are always far too fictional, being nothing but make-believe), but I suspect I will make an exception for this one if only to prove the point. Books yes, motion pictures not so much. I suspect if you watch the movie but don’t read the book you will encounter two widely different experiences, one rather profoundly different from the other.
Will Rogers                               

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

The Basic Right

I believe there is one right that is absolutely the most basic right there is, the right of all creatures, including humans, to defend themselves. I suspect this is the closest thing to a universal human (or critter) right there is. Certainly this is recognized in the United States as a very basic right, now even enthroned in the famous (or notorious) “Stand  your  ground” legislation that has apparently swept the country. It is only right and proper is it not that everyone should be able to defend themselves from aggressive attacks on their very being?
If this is so, if this is an absolutely fundamental right, how is it that it does not apply equally to all people? The Palestinians would seem to be a remarkable exception. We hear all the time about how it  is the Israelis right to defend themselves, but when it comes to Palestinians this right does not seem to apply. That is, Palestinians are not supposed to have weapons, smuggled in or otherwise obtained. Even though faced with Israeli aggression it is somehow thought to be inappropriate for Palestinians to be armed and able to defend themselves. Apparently it is thought perfectly alright for Israel to illegally settle their lands, destroy their homes and their orchards, herd them into a large outdoor prison, assassinate their leaders, bomb their homes, children and women, control their rations and other necessities, blockade and humiliate them, make their lives so miserable they will hopefully leave and disappear, but it is not alright for them to arm themselves and fight back in any way. They are not, in fact, expected to defend themselves from the Israeli aggressors. I mean, the Palestinians are not  invading  Israeli territory or destroying their orchards and homes, building illegal settlements, and so on, even though they might  wish to do so. They are not doing such things, but Israel has been systematically doing such things to them. Apparently they are just supposed to accept this without any attempt to defend themselves, so much for t he universal right of self defense.
The same thing is true of both Hamass and Hezbollah, considered terrorist organizations by Israel and the U.S. These are in fact both attempts to defend their respective countries from Israeli aggression and are not considered terrorist organizations by themselves or many other countries. And if they are being supported by Iran, which I suppose is probably true, so what? Is Israel not being supported by the U.S., Britain, and others? Here again, the basic universal right to self defense somehow does not seem to apply to these countries. Nowhere is U.S. hypocrisy more obvious than President Obama’s defense of Israel’s right to defend itself from missile attacks when the U.S. itself is busily raining down missiles on several other countries, Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia, and who knows where all else, countries that cannot, in fact, defend themselves. I believe this to be absolutely shameful and, in the long run, probably stupid as it will not be long until many other countries have drones and the “War of the Worlds” will become a reality.
Of course on a larger scale there is the Iran question, are they attempting to build a nuclear bomb or not? Personally I doubt they are, as being intelligent people, they are aware that having such a weapon is basically pointless when surrounded by others who do have such weapons but  cannot , of course, ever use them. But what if they are trying to secretly produce such a weapon? They are surrounded by nations who do have such weapons, and they are constantly threatened by Israel and the U.S. I suppose that in the completely stupid world we live in their having a bomb might somehow make a difference but as they could never use it without their almost instantaneous demise it would seem a terrible waste of money and time. But here again is a case where their basic right of self defense is being violated. Thus it appears that the universal right of self defense is not really universal at all and depends upon the (non-existant) good will of Israel and the United States. After all, “Might makes right.” And of course it is so much easier to herd people into cramped quarters where they can be slowly destroyed when they are denied the right and the means of self defense.
 I do not believe history is going to be kind to either Israel or their partner the United States for the obvious war crimes being committed on a daily basis in that troubled region of the world, and it will certainly not look kindly on the colonialism that brought this unfortunate situation about in the first place. A Jewish homeland might have been a dream realized had the Israelis stayed at home.

Monday, November 26, 2012

It's all too Ridiculous

I have been having trouble blogging of late, partly because of the holiday, but mostly because I find the current situation too ridiculous to even be worthy of comment. We (they, somebody) are still arguing about whether the filthy rich should be taxed another four percent or something like that. I regard this as an argument so ridiculous as to not even be worthy of consideration. Of course the obscenely wealthy should be taxed more, lots more, far more than another measly four percent. It is ridiculous they are allowed to even have so much money in the first place.
Then we (they, somebody) are still arguing about the defense budget and how it simply cannot be cut without dire consequences for our security. This, too, I find completely ridiculous. The defense budget is so grossly outrageous it could easily be cut in half and we would never notice the difference. It isn’t really a defense budget in reality anyway, merely another way the corporations can rip off the taxpayers. The Pentagon sometimes loses a billion or so and do not even know how they did it. And we certainly do not need to prepare for another huge ground war against Russia, China, or anyone else.
We (they, somebody) are still arguing about abortion and even contraception, both already accepted as the law of the land for many years. And while we are arguing about already settled issues we are ignoring the most serious problem facing humanity ever…global warming. It is becoming increasingly obvious this is not something to be arguing about, it’s real, and it’s going to destroy us unless some action is taken immediately. That we should still be arguing about abortion, contraception, and who can marry who is completely ridiculous in the face of the much greater problems we face.
Similarly, with one election barely over we (they, somebody) are already talking about the 2016 election! Talk about  ridiculous, this is about as ridiculous as anything could ever be. Will Hillary run, it appears that New Jersey Fats has already indicated he may run, so may Bobby Jindal, and who know how many others. Who in the hell cares at this point in time, there are important matters to be settled NOW, not the least of which are unemployment and health care, along with the deficit. But it seems to be more important to some to make up a complete non-problem about Benghazi and UN Secretary Rice.
We (they, someone) are still arguing about Social Security which has nothing whatsoever to do with the deficit but represents the long-standing desire of Republicans to do away with it, the most successful and popular program in our history. There is no argument here, to persist there is, is ridiculous. And yes, there are problems with Medicare and Medicaid that need to be solved. They can be, or at least could be, if all parties had a genuine interest in solving them, but most of the arguments are, of course, ridiculous.
Of course the utterly ridiculous Grover Norquist tax pledge has now emerged as a problem, at least for some. The Grover Norquist tax pledge has to be one of the most stupid, short-sighted, ridiculous ideas ever conceived by the mind of a baboon. That anyone elected to public office would sign a pledge to never, under any circumstances, raise taxes, is so outrageously stupid as to be virtually unbelievable. An absolutely fundamental fact of governing in the modern world is raising and spending money on public projects, defense, and so on. To take the position one is not going to participate in this part of governing is ridiculous. Grover Norquist  is actually trying to interfere with the normal act of governing and, although this is perhaps not basically treasonous, he should be tarred, feathered, and shown out of the country. The pledge to never raise taxes is so fundamentally absurd as to be not even worthy of thought but somehow many of our elected officials apparently do not bother to think (I guess a few of them are now waking up having finally realized just how absurd their loyalty to Norquist is when compared to their supposed loyalty to their country). Better late than never I guess.
According to Rachel Maddow, John McCain has been featured on 21 Sunday talk shows this year. He has apparently emerged as the major foreign policy wonk for the Republicans. This is, of course, completely ridiculous as he was been so consistently wrong about every aspect of our foreign policy he should never be heard from again. He obviously has a personal grudge against President Obama and attacks him at every opportunity, never fairly or sensibly, apparently still angry over having lost an election to him. His recent outrageous attack on Secretary Rice is itself merely a poorly conceived attack on Obama. McCain should be a poster boy for putting limits on how long one can serve in Congress (or the Supreme Court or any other important office). He has become little more than a cranky old man, bitter and revengeful, and basically harmful to the process of governing. I would suggest that 70 years of age should be the required retirement age for important public servants (I don’t care if they live longer or even if they are still functioning, 70 years is enough. Yes, I know I am writing this at 83. I should have quit long ago).
All living things contain a measure of madness that moves them in strange sometimes inexplicable ways.
Yann Martel 

Friday, November 23, 2012

Cooking Thanksgiving Dinner

I will not review the strange, complicated, and unusual circumstances that left me, at 83 years of age, responsible for cooking a Thanksgiving dinner, a task I had never before undertaken. It was an interesting, rewarding, and even educational experience. I would do it again although I would prefer not to have to do so. You should understand that my wife, who recently died unexpectedly, was a true gourmet chef and had for thirty years produced one spectacular Thanksgiving dinner after another. Although I felt I was a passable cook the thought of being compared with her was rather nerve-wracking, and I confess I was already a bit nervous.
First, there was the question of just what was wanted, turkey or ham. After a couple of days of argument and politicking it was finally decided we would have ham. I was confident I would be able to bake a ham and finding one was not difficult, although I soon learned the price of hams, even hams from the exact same Company, vary greatly in price depending upon where you buy them. I finally found the exact same ham a dollar a pound cheaper than elsewhere. I was proud of my comparison shopping and ignored the fortune I had spent on gasoline during this quest.
Although the decision to have ham had been a clear majority decision there was a great deal of confusion over what else to serve. It turned out that although ham was the choice it would be necessary to also have stuffing and cranberry sauce. While this struck me as odd I knew that stuffing could be served with many meals other than turkey and cranberry sauce was easy. Of course I had never made stuffing so I looked up stuffing recipes on the internet. I learned that you cannot always trust recipes you find on the internet. I picked one that sounded reasonable but when I tried it in advance (I told you I was nervous) it produced something I could only feed my dog, if I had a dog. It was dry as the Gobi desert and certainly unsuitable. So I wasted time and ingredients but it paid off because my final stuffing, made after spending another fortune on gasoline trying to find turkey sausage, and also from a recipe from the internet, was virtually perfect and everyone loved it.
Then my ambition got the better of me. I decided to bake pies, one apple and one pumpkin. I am partial to apple crumb pies and I created a beautiful example except that it was so loaded with apples that as I put it in the oven a couple of apple slices fell off onto the floor of the oven where they could not be rescued, thus somewhat dirtying the oven even more than it already was. I had been intending to do the self-cleaning oven for several days but of course had procrastinated. Thus I was fascinated to learn that my wife’s overly expensive stove apparently has a mind of its own. Apparently outraged at my lack of compassion and attention for it, on the afternoon before the big day it decided completely on its own to clean itself. I was on the one hand pleased but also somewhat frightened by this (I am by nature frightened by machinery of any kind). The apple pie turned out well enough, it was the pumpkin pie that barely averted disaster. Having never before cooked a pumpkin pie I was unaware that when it is ready for the oven it is liquid rather than solid. So having filled the pie crust up to the very edge with liquid I had to maneuver it from one side of the kitchen to the other to place it in the oven. This proved to be a nightmare for me as I am not too steady on my feet and my hands sometimes shake a bit, so there I was slowly, one step at a time, precariously balancing this liquid time bomb before it covered the entire kitchen floor with pumpkin. It was rather like being on a narrow path three thousand feet above a deep gorge with no hand rails for support (one of my recurring nightmares). I am proud to say I managed without spilling a drop, but the pie didn’t turn out very well although it was edible enough.
The green beans were easy enough and the mashed potatoes (with parsnips, I never make mashed potatoes without parsnips ) were delicious. The problem was with the gravy. I confess I had never heard of ham gravy before and was a bit skeptical. But according to the internet there are ham gravies of various kinds. I selected an easy version, and although I did not like the look of it, I duly served it in gravy boats and learned another important lesson. You may well be aware there are two different kinds of gravy boats. One kind has the top part independent of the bottom part and the other type is fused so it is all in one piece. You may feel this is unimportant but I assure you it is very important. If you have ever seen anyone pick up a gravy boat expecting it to in one piece when it is not you will find a very surprised guest quite likely having spilled hot gravy on your fine tablecloth and perhaps him or herself or someone else. Gravy boats are dangerous, one of those items that should be carefully regulated by whoever is in charge of regulating such things. I suggest they only be allowed to manufacture one type, I don’t care which one it is.
Anyway, my ham, also done from an internet recipe, was absolutely delicious as was the stuffing and cranberry sauce. Everything thing else was quite satisfactory as well. However, as no one ate any desert I find myself alone with two pies, not a very good situation. Ah, well, Thanksgiving only comes once a year. By the end of the evening I was exhausted but content. But I am not going to repeat my success any time soon. I shall merely rest on my laurels and retire from a competition I know I cannot possibly win.

Monday, November 19, 2012


I have finally, after many years of hoping for a decent settlement to the Israeli/Palestinian question, have regretfully decided it is a hopeless quest and no solution is possible, nor will a solution ever be possible. John McCain has suggested that Bill Clinton who enjoys great international prestige should be sent there to act as an independent broker for a solution. First of all I have no idea why John McCain thinks he has any credibility or relevance at all when it comes to foreign relations, and second, there is no way any American can now claim to be a neutral observer. The U.S. has been so overwhelmingly supportive of Israel no matter what criminal acts they have committed it is ludicrous to believe we could act as an objective broker in this unfortunate on-going disaster. It would be wonderfully magical if Clinton agreed to take on such an impossible task and something might come of it, but it cannot happen.

It cannot happen because the Israelis don’t want anything. That is, usually when there is a dispute over something, both sides have something in mind they wish to achieve or gain and they also usually consider what is offered to them and what they would have to give up. In this unfortunate situation the Israelis have nothing to gain as they don’t want anything other than the status quo. They have made this quite clear in recent years. And, as they don’t want anything except what already exists they have nothing to gain. Indeed, whatever solution would be proposed means they would lose something rather than gain anything. This renders diplomacy or compromise totally irrelevant. It may be the case that Israel claims to want peace but that is just nonsense as they have made it quite clear they want nothing except the present situation to continue, a situation that leaves them entirely in control and makes any other solution impossible.

The Israelis have slowly and systematically been encroaching on Palestinian land and water, expanding their illegal settlements, destroying Palestinian orchards and farmlands, allowing the settlers to murder and plunder at will, making It impossible for a genuine or viable Palestinian state to come into existence. At the same time they have targeted and killed Palestinian leaders, murdered Palestinian civilians, including children almost at will, cut Gaza off from the rest of the world and reduced their rations to a barely livable level. They have also imprisoned and tortured Palestinians whenever they desired. They have repeatedly violated international law, ignored the United Nations, thumbed t heir nose at everyone, and done exactly as they pleased. When challenged they usually claim they have a right to defend themselves. But they make no attempt to do anything that would actually lead to a peaceful settlement of the Palestinian question. They have done all of this in full view of the entire world that has just stood by apparently helpless to intervene. The United States, much to our everlasting shame, has not only done nothing for the plight of the Palestinians and, in fact, has aided and abetted these terrible Israeli war crimes.

If nothing else the history of Israel from the beginning to the current situation is testimony to the utter and complete stupidity of the human species. It is obvious, and has been for a long time, that no military solution is possible, but this does not stop the same response to violence every time a problem presents itself. You might think the participants would have learned by now that more killing is not going to achieve anything, but, then, when your ultimate goal is mainly to rid yourself of Palestinians, who cares how many get killed. What is being played out in the West Bank and Gaza is little different than what happened in the U.S. when American Indians were displaced from their lands, or what happened in Australia, or, indeed, in any other colonial situation. We like to say colonialism is dead but it lives on in Palestine and no one seems to care. It is disgraceful and a sad commentary on the human race. Despair and depression are bad enough but the sense of hopelessness is far worse. It is much to the credit of the Palestinians they have not yet succumbed to it.

The difference of race is one of the reasons why I fear war may always exist; because race implies difference, difference implies superiority, and superiority leads to predominance.

Benjamin Disraeli

Saturday, November 17, 2012


Tragedy usually refers to the fall of a great man, or at least a situation that ends in a sad and perhaps undeserved end beyond the control of those involved, sometimes an undeserved fate not always predictable. But sometimes one meets his or her tragic end with courage and nobility, sometimes without either grace or nobility, perhaps even with little more than a dishonest, even pathetic resistance. As far as I know there are no terms to distinguish between these two different ways of meeting a tragic end. Thus I am suggesting a term like tragathic to designate a pathetic path to a tragic end. There are, I believe, some current examples of tragathic ends.

Take, for example, the case of Senator John McCain, once a war hero, respected and honored even to the point of once running for President of the United States. That attempt seems to have set the stage for his tragathic end. First there was his disastrous and opportunistic pick of the obviously unqualified Sarah Palin as his running mate. So determined was he to become President he was willing to put this pathetically unprepared woman a heartbeat away from the Presidency, an act so irresponsible and self-serving as to be almost unbelievable. Then, as he lost the election to President Obama, he seems to have become little more than a cranky, vindictive old man determined to destroy the man who defeated him. There seems to be nothing Obama can do that McCain does not criticize and try to belittle him, the latest being his obviously politically motivated criticism of the Benghazi case. Where once he was honored and respected he is now tragically and pathetically trying to hang on to whatever relevance he has left, a classic example of the tragathic, and it is not going well for him.

Yet another example of the same phenomenon might well be seen in the case of Mitt Romney. An apparently successful businessman, handsome and Presidential in bearing, an upstanding family man, religious and clearly a member of the “upper crust .” He spent the greater part of six or seven years running for the Presidency, a position he wanted so badly he was willing to lie and cheat in any way he could to obtain it. In so doing he began his pathetic descent into his tragathic end, lying and making false excuses for the fact that he lost something he felt he was entitled to have. So pathetic was his ambition he refused from the very beginning to acknowledge that virtually no one wanted him to be the Republican candidate, and when he finally won the nomination against a field of equally pathetic contenders he apparently believed he was so chosen to become President he felt he could systematically insult the bulk of the electorate. When this led inevitably to his tragathic finish he cannot cope with the finality of his attempt.

Although it has not happened yet I strongly suspect there will eventually be a tragathic end to the state of Israel. Here was a large group of Jewish people who finally were given an opportunity to have what they wanted, a Jewish nation carved out of lands previously held by others (however wise or unwise this was) and supported by both Britain and the United States. Their territory was defined and within it they proceeded to build a nation to their liking, and a successful enterprise it was. But then, over time, their greed and racism led them to more and more encroach on land that was not designated for them, they slowly destroyed the homes and farms of Palestinians, illegally built settlements and displaced the rightful owners, and now find themselves despised and hated by many, and in a state of constant hostility with their neighbors who at the moment are attacking them with rockets launched from Gaza, a place recently described as the largest outdoor prison in the world. Their response to these attacks is, as always, military action. They always claim they have a right to defend themselves which, rather perversely they do. They always claim they want to live in peace but they staunchly refuse to take any serious steps that might lead to peace. If they truly wanted peace (instead of Palestinian land and water) they would observe the original designated boundaries, make a serious attempt to solve their problems with the Palestinians, stop their discrimination and prejudice, and observe international law. They will never live in peace as long as they continue to colonize Palestinian land, assassinate Palestinian leaders, kill innocent Palestinian children, destroy Palestinian orchards and farmlands, and continue making illegal settlements. Apparently their greed for more and more territory, coupled with their inherent racism, does not allow them to act otherwise. The power to make and have peace lies completely with the Israelis (and their U.S. lackies), not with the Palestinians. But as they continue their pathetic and outdated colonial exploitation with no end in sight they will, I suspect, eventually end up as all colonial powers have ended, with a defeat and a whimper, another example of the tragathetic. I wish it were not so, but so it will inevitably be.

People are the common denominator of progress. So... no improvement is possible with unimproved people, and advance is certain when people are liberated and educated. It would be wrong to dismiss the importance of roads, railroads, power plants, mills, and the other familiar furniture of economic development.... But we are coming to realize... that there is a certain sterility in economic monuments that stand alone in a sea of illiteracy. Conquest of illiteracy comes first.

John Kenneth Galbraith

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Stuff, Gifts, and Things

Well, it seems that Mitt Romney has surfaced after his defeat at the hands of President Obama. His story, along with that of others on the losing side, is that Obama won because he gave gifts to certain elements of the electorate, namely Black people and women. Bill O’Reilly chipped in with this explanation as well, as, I believe, did Rush Limbaugh and others. That is, voters were offered “stuff,” “gifts,” and “things,” you know, a sort of bribe your way to victory kind of thing. In a perverse sort of way this is true.

But consider for a moment the nature of these things, this stuff, these gifts. According to Romney, for example, the health care they were offered is probably worth about $10,000 per family, Latinos were offered the dream act , women, contraception and abortion, young people educational expenses, and so on. To consider these benefits to be “gifts” betrays such a basic lack of understanding of the nature of society and culture as to make one wonder where and how these people were themselves socialized and enculturated. This is perfectly consistent with their ideas about how success comes about, if one is successful it is because he/she did it all themselves with no help from the community at large, the basic social Darwinian position that everyone is entirely on their own and at liberty to cheat, steal, rape, and pillage, to become successful, that is, to become wealthy even beyond belief.

These people seem to cling to the idea there is no God given or natural right for such gifts as health care, unemployment insurance, minimum wages, and so on. And indeed, there is not. Such gifts are granted people by the simple fact that they live in organized groups that are fundamentally dedicated to helping each other rather than just living by the law of the jungle where it is every animal for itself, a condition that has never prevailed in any human group I know that ever existed. This is exactly why humans, like other such group, are described as social animals, they have to be social creatures in order to survive. This is so profoundly true of humans in particular as to be self-evident. Of course it is the case that some human societies provide better for their members than others, as in fact in the case of health care all other industrialized societies provide it much better than the United States. But this does not negate the underlying principle of the benefits of living in social groups. Decent societies provide perquisites for their citizens and, in fact, can probably be measured on a scale of decency by how well they provide them. Even in the most “primitive” groups you can find the members provide for each other. It apparently takes unfettered capitalism to undermine this basic fact of human life, the introduction of a profit motive, the institutionalization of human greed, the idea that no one individual can possibly have too much of what ought to be the community resources, in short, the underlying principle of contemporary Republicanism, exemplified by the life of Mitt Romney himself. For Romney and his ilk the rich are entitled to their obscene wealth, entitlements of any kind for others are undeserved gifts for the unworthy, the lazy, shiftless, “takers,” who irrationally desire food, shelter, and a minimum of care. Such is life in what is claimed to be “the greatest country on earth.”

Yes, there is class warfare. My class is winning.

Warren Buffett

Monday, November 12, 2012

A "Poopie Head?"

A Poopie Head? Really? That is a phrase I would not even expect to hear in Elementary School, but maybe in kindergarten. It reminds me of the time when a very small boy was so angry with me he finally blurted out, “you, you, tootsie roll.” I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that such a phrase would emerge from the lips of Grover Norquist as that is, I believe, quite consistent with his Intelligence Quotient. But he is a clever fellow, I grant you (most kindergarteners are as they are not as yet completely socialized or enculturated). Norquist not only managed to come up with the most idiotic political pledge ever conceived, he even somehow convinced hundreds of (presumably) adults to sign it. One of the important functions of government is to raise and spend revenue. Thus to sign a pledge that one would never, under any circumstances, raise taxes, is an act worthy only of kindergarten. It is basically signing a promise that even though you were elected to a governmental office you intend to not participate in governing. I am not sure whether Grover thinks Romney really is a Poopie Head or whether he thinks President Obama unfairly described him as such. In any case his belief that Romney lost because Obama was able to so label him is only one of the many pathetic excuses Republicans are offering as to why they lost the election. Somehow they seem unable to understand that if you insult and alienate virtually every voting block In the country they are not going to vote for you. It should seem obvious even to the mind of a kindergartener that if Blacks, Latinos, Women, Young people, Jews, Muslims, and other minorities are going to vote against you, you are not likely to win. But such is the unfathomable mind of the Republican.

This infantile behavior can also be seen in the requests that I gather have been pouring in to Washington that many, if not most of the losers would like to secede from the union. That is, take their ball and go home. Personally I would be pleased if they did secede as they actually cost the government more than they contribute and probably wouldn’t last longer than six months if they had to govern themselves.

We would have two nations, separate and unequal, one with an average I.Q. above the average and one with an average I.Q. below the average (I suspect this is quite likely factually correct). Try to imagine living in a nation in the 21st century run by people who do not believe in science, evolution, global warming, waiting around for “the Lord to provide,” and basing their organization on biblical grounds. It might be amusing, especially when the arguments began about who the really “true believers” are and who are merely cultists of one kind or another. Trees would once again bear “Strange Fruit” and they could have contests as to who could violate the most civil rights. Paradise could be regained, women could be kept barefoot and pregnant, moonshine would flow like water, and perhaps they could re-establish a market for cannon balls and harness making. I bet in no time at all they could easily rival the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

I find the Petraeus scandal to be (1) not very surprising, and (2) not in and of itself very interesting. But like all such rather minor affairs it will probably prove to be both fascinating and criminal. Why, for example, did an FBI agent who was merely a friend of the women who complained about her emails begin an apparently serious investigation of such a mundane complaint? And why was Eric Cantor informed of it two weeks before the President? Why were the appropriate members of Congress not informed of what was going on? Oh, boy, this is going to prove exciting, certainly exciting enough to take our minds off less important matters like the economy, global warming, and stuff like that. Conspiracy theories are multiplying faster than rabbits. Do you think the Republicans actually framed Petraeus in order to take our minds off their dismal showing in the election? No? Well, neither do I, but one nonsensical theory is as good as another.

Where justice is denied, where poverty is enforced, where ignorance prevails, and where any one class is made to feel that society is in an organized conspiracy to oppress, rob, and degrade them, neither persons nor property will be safe.

Frederick Douglass

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Will They or Won't They?

Will Republicans having lost the election rather soundly now choose to cooperate with President Obama or won’t they? This seems to be the burning question for the media at the moment. I guess it would be too much to expect anyone to just wait and see? Will she or won’t she? Hillary, that is, will she run for President in 2016 or won’t she? I guess that, too, will occupy the media from now until then. There will apparently be no respite from the insanity of U.S. politics. I knew it would be like this. Politics has become no more than professional football, merely an excuse for companies to run their ads. It is also similar in that neither one of these ongoing franchises is worthy of such attention or even very important although we certainly like to pretend they are. They both give people an excuse to dress up in funny costumes and wave flags and banners and root for the team of their choice, an activity having little or nothing to do with the reality of everyday life.

Why should it not be so, our lives in the “modern world” are increasingly detached from reality. We all live in fantasy worlds where hucksters in the form of talking cars, talking insects, talking cookies, talking vegetables, lizards, and other non-human creatures sell us things that we mostly don’t need. Not only that, the shows we watch on television and in the movies are equally divorced from reality even though they pretend to be real. It is so easy to forget or ignore that it is all really just make believe. When the hero or heroine speaks passionately of love or hate or whatever, and the camera zooms in for their romantic or dramatic moments, they are simply pretending to be moved, and we viewers follow it with rapt attention for reasons that have never been apparent to me. This is the main reason I rarely watch television programs and virtually never watch motion pictures. There is also the strange Hollywood idea that everything has to be converted into a love story of some kind, so we have “Pearl Harbor ( a Love Story)”, or The Holocaust (a Love story), or World War II (a Love story), and so on. I’m afraid to even watch the new movie about Lincoln for fear it, too, will be a love story. I could be quite wrong, I suppose, but it seems to me we have become so alienated from nature and so dependent upon the media we no longer actually exist in the real world. When children no longer know even where their food comes from (other than the supermarket), and expect doors to open automatically for them, and depend upon calculators to do their arithmetic, and sometimes have never even seen domesticated animals, we have taken a serious step into an alternative world, certainly a world I did not grow up in. I am not suggesting this is necessarily bad, although I tend to think it is, but it is a development that should at least take some thought. Even our language no longer represents reality when we speak of “hold your horses,” or “washboard roads,” or “clockwise,” “pitching hay,” and other such outdated phrases that still exist but mean nothing to most young people.

And so it will be with the next four years with respect to the elections. It will all be speculation, will she or won’t she, if yes, who will help her, if no, why not, what factors will determine what she may or may not do, what role will Bill play, and on and on, all busy work having no real connection with what will be going on the corridors of power behind the closed doors of the power brokers. And, of course, it will not all be just about Hillary, it will also be about Ryan, Jeb Bush, probably even (horrors) Palin, and no doubt others as well, sound and fury signifying nothing but keeping us occupied in our fantasy worlds while the real world moves on independently of us most probably to our serious detriment (to say the least). Can we escape from Disneyland long enough to get serious?

Along these lines, why should we be arguing about a measly 4% increase in taxes on the wealthy when we should probably be demanding 50% or even more, why should we stick with insurance companies for health insurance when it is obvious we should have a single payer system, why should we continue to compromise with the greedy and avaricious who prefer to see us suffering in poverty and sickness, and why, above all, should we have to put up with those who believe the sounds of the piano are caused by little angels dancing on the strings? The world we exist in now is not only unreal and artificial , it is absolutely surreal.

Men live in a fantasy world. I know this because I am one, and I actually receive my mail there.

Scott Adams

Friday, November 09, 2012

Blind Faith

Mitt Romney is said to have been shell-shocked by his defeat. Paul Ryan was shocked. A member of Romney’s team said that no one on that team expected Romney to lose the election. Many Republicans expected not only a victory by Romney but even a landslide victory. For Romney and his team it seems to have been a foregone conclusion they would win. Romney apparently had an acceptance speech prepared but not a speech in case he lost. Romney and his supporters were universally stunned by the loss. Karl Rove and others were in denial even at the very last moment as if they just could not believe what was happening. If ever there was a case of blind faith overcoming reality this would seem to be it.

How could they possibly have not been prepared to lose? Even I knew they would almost certainly lose. I said repeatedly that as they would not get the Black vote, the Latino vote, the women’s vote, the youth vote, the Jewish vote, and the elderly vote I did not see how they could possibly win. It was hard to see who would vote for them other than less educated White men who could not have been enough for them to win. I guess I might have been wrong about the elderly, but it was obvious the polls could not be reflecting reality, certainly their own polls seem to have been influenced by their own biases. So even I, an absolute nobody, living in a remote region of the country, with no access to anything but the daily news, knew they would probably lose. It is like, as some have suggested, they were living in an alternative reality, a fantasy world completely divorced from reality. This goes far beyond their just being wrong, they were so wrong it can only be ascribed to their blind faith, their living in their own little wonderland, a bubble of irrationality so profound as to blind them to the facts on the ground. Being so used to the privileges of wealth, with the sense of entitlement that accompanies that condition, it simply never occurred to them they would not get their way as they always had. Thus it was a comeuppance much deserved. I think their smug belief that Obama, being Black, would prove to be incompetent (to say nothing of being lazy, foreign, un-American, and etc.) also had something to do with it.

The Republican cave-man attitude towards women also doomed them to defeat. Their medieval beliefs about abortion, contraception, and women’s health should have been recognized as obvious handicaps. It was well known women would importantly favor Obama. I am surprised they got as many female votes as they did. As women make up more than 50% of voters, it is difficult to understand how they could not have anticipated what was about to happen to them. Similarly, they apparently also did not realize that young people would favor Obama by such a large margin. They simply do not understand that the younger generation does not share their racist, homophobic, misogynistic world view.

It is also not at all clear to me how they could have believed they could so blatantly lie their way to the Presidency. Romney was exposed as a liar from the very beginning, and even after his most obvious lies were exposed he just went on telling and broadcasting the same lies over and over. This demonstrated a genuine contempt for the voters, just as their false claims about Obama revealed their racist contempt for him as a candidate. Their culturally prescribed beliefs about the inferiority of Blacks (and Latinos and Asians as well) led them to grossly underestimate Obama and to believe he would be easy to overcome. I believe they really thought that just being White would be enough to carry them to the Presidency. It is impossible not to note that most of Romney’s support came from the Southern states that seem to have never recovered from their defeat in the Civil War.

Hypocrisy, too, had much to do with their resounding defeat. They kept repeating over and over how Obama had failed to create jobs when it was common knowledge it was they, themselves, who had blocked his every attempt to create jobs. This was the most hypocritical performance by a political party I have ever seen and they almost got away with it. It was, of course, part of their plan from the beginning when McConnell announced it was their number one goal to make Obama a one term President.

Their hilarious attempts now to explain their loss reveal the fact they are still as divorced from reality as ever, none of their explanations speak to any of the above problems. It was, they say, the hurricane’s fault, it was Chris Christie’s fault, it was because Romney was not conservative enough, it was because he was too conservative, it was because Obama suppressed the vote, because he made too many gaffes, it was because of the biases of the fact-checkers, and blah, blah, blah. Now they realize they should have tried to capture more of the Latino vote, become a more appealing party to everyone, and so on. This will be impossible probably for a very long time if not forever, and certainly not until the current generation of older White voters are replaced by their far more liberal children and their ultra conservative platform becomes more reasonable.

The mistakes are all there waiting to be made.

Chessmaster Savielly Grigorievitcyh Tartakower

Wednesday, November 07, 2012

Further Comments on the Absolutely Disgrceful

Well, it’s over, “it” being the election, but of course it will probably never truly be over if “it” refers to the divide between the current Republican Party and our newly re-elected President. Apparently the color of one’s skin is more important to a large segment of the American population than the reality of performance. Obama has not, objectively viewed, been a bad President. He managed to accomplish a great deal in spite of being blackballed by the Republicans who opposed virtually everything he tried to do. If they had cooperated the unemployment rate would be far less than it currently is. The Republican scheme to make sure Obama would be a one term President has failed, and it failed in spite of the millions of Pac money that was employed against him. It also failed in spite of all their attempts to suppress the vote. Their strategy seems to have backfired. Some optimistic souls seem to believe that Obama now has a mandate that Republicans will have to honor and thus begin to cooperate. I’m not so sure this will happen, their hatred of Obama runs too deep. You will have noticed, of course, that the greatest opposition to his re-election came from the former slave states where civil war memories apparently still linger. I would like to believe Republicans will have learned a lesson, begin to cooperate, and that our country can move forward toward solving the many problems that beset us, but I am doubtful.

But back to the absolutely disgraceful; I failed to mention previously the problem of the electoral votes as opposed to the popular vote. If, like me, you live in a non-swing state, your vote is basically meaningless while those of voters in swing states are all important. This is, of course, rather disgraceful as for all intents and purposes it means that the majority of voters are disenfranchised. A Democratic vote in a place like Idaho means nothing at all, you might as well not even bother to vote. The electoral vote should be abolished in favor of the popular vote. But of course that may not be a very good solution when you consider the reasons that many people vote, things like who you might want to have a beer with, how handsome the candidate is, how your family has always voted in the past, and, unfortunately, the candidate’s race or ethnicity. A viable democracy depends upon an informed public and nowadays, unhappily, you cannot depend upon how informed the average voter may be because of the media that features such loudmouth hate-mongers like Rush Limbaugh, Hannity, and Beck, and that also feature others like Palin, Coulter, and others who either know very little or speak only for the shock value of their remarks. The American public has been systematically “dumbed down” to the point where the value of their opinions is highly questionable. The continued presence of some members of Congress who are themselves so incredibly ill-informed and even downright stupid seems to prove the point. When they refuse to even believe in science and prefer to trust in the bible you know we are in real trouble, global warming and evolution are real, not just make believe, race is not a measure of intelligence, nor is gender. The earth was not created in six days, 6000 years ago, people did not ride on dinosaurs. The warfare between science and theology should have been settled long ago, the fact that it seems to still linger on in the United States makes us little more than a laughingstock among industrialized nations and certainly contributes to our idiotic inability to deal with reality.

Beware of the man whose God is in the skies.

George Bernard Shaw

Monday, November 05, 2012

Absolutely Disgraceful

No matter who wins the election tomorrow I would like to go on record proclaiming that our so-called “”Democratic” political system is a complete and total disgrace in virtually every way. It violates every notion of common sense to say nothing of ordinary reason. It is inefficient, too slow, too expensive, too nonsensical, too unserious, and little more than a charade.

The Presidency of the United States, almost certainly the most important position in the entire world, is also the only office for which one needs virtually no previous experience or training. We pride ourselves by saying “anyone can become President,” perhaps the most stupid idea in existence. Thus in recent years we have had a peanut farmer, a haberdasher, a “B” motion picture star, a failed businessman, and so on. If we actually get a really worthwhile President it is largely an accident.

The two party system itself is basically nonsensical, it arbitrarily shuts off the Presidency to anyone who is not a participant in one or the other party. This seems to assume and assure that many potentially worthwhile candidates, with potentially great ideas, have no chance whatsoever of even competing. This is even worse when both parties are not really very different to begin with so that, in effect, it becomes in reality little more than a one party system. Not only that, the two candidates are not really selected democratically but, rather, by those shadowy and not so shadowy powers that be that can make or break a candidate at will. By withholding money and air time, or both, or even by negative media comments they control who will be allowed to compete and who will not. Consider what happened to Al Gore, John Kerry, and Howard Dean, for example. When the major media is owned and controlled by only a few gigantic corporations there are no limits to their power over the elections.

This unfortunate situation has been greatly exacerbated recently by the absurd Supreme Court ruling on Citizens United, almost certainly the worst decision by the Court ever. Now we have no knowledge of who is contributing huge sums of money to influence our elections, whether it comes from American donors or foreign ones, or whatever. Our elections that were already subject to bribes and corruption are now even more susceptible.

Then there is the absurd idea that each state should be in charge of elections in their state. This might be fine for purely local elections but makes little sense when voting for President and Vice-President of the United States. Furthermore it means that all citizens of the U.S. do not have the same chance to vote and have their vote counted. When the location of the polls, the nature of the ballot, the times allowed for voting, and so on are different from one state to another, voters are not, in fact, completely equal. The idea that elections should be held only on Tuesdays is intrinsically stupid as most voters are also employed and cannot necessarily vote on Tuesday. And when voting hours are also shortened, week-end voting is restricted, and so on the result can be disastrous (as we are currently witnessing). There is no reason voting day should not be declared a national holiday to insure that everyone has an equal chance to vote. Not only that, voting should be mandatory for all eligible voters. The fact that only about half of the potential voting population actually votes is disgraceful in and of itself, and indicative of a kind of contempt for the democratic process. It is absolutely unconscionable that voters should have to wait in line for hours in order to vote. Voting is supposed to be the backbone of our democratic process, it should be standardized and financed in such a way that long lines should never be necessary. Again, this is a result of having states manage their voting rules for federal elections.

The money involved is still another rather ridiculous part of the system. If money is so important you might think the candidate that raises the most money should just be declared the winner. If It doesn’t work that way, what’s the point of all the begging for money? In this current election I find it rather amazing that even though it was acknowledged in the beginning that Democrats would not be able to compete with the Republicans they nevertheless kept trying to do so. If Obama wins all those millions of dollars poured in by the secret Republican donors would presumably be wasted. But that is not really the case because the donors also are the same people who own the media where all the money ends up, taking money from one pocket and putting it in another. It’s all part of a system so absurd as to be laughable.

We do not have a Democracy, we have a kind of pretend Democracy, controlled by those who have the most to gain and the resources to have things their way. It may be true there are differences between the two parties, but they are relatively slight and do not significantly impact the overall system. If they did we would not still have a situation where the rich get richer and the poor get poorer no matter which party is in power. It may be slightly better from time to time but not enough to upset the underlying status quo. The citizens of the United States are basically neither interested or serious about governing themselves. It’s the American Way.

At times one remains faithful to a cause only because its opponents do not cease to be insipid.

Friedrich Nietzsche

Sunday, November 04, 2012

Character Doesn't Matter

Anyone who still believes character matters in elections has apparently not been paying attention. You may recall Oscar Levant’s opening line in the famous Gene Kelly movie, An American in Paris (at least I think that’s where the line comes from), “Underneath this ugly countenance lies a genuine lack of character.”

It is true that most people do not regard Mitt Romney as having an ugly countenance, and, indeed, generally describe him as handsome or, perhaps more pertinent here, as “Presidential.” But it has become absolutely clear during the campaigns that underneath that countenance lies a genuine lack of character. Romney has been exposed as a chronic flip-flopper, willing to say anything to get elected, and more importantly as a chronic, perhaps even pathological liar. This is not merely my opinion, it is by now a matter of fact. Romney seems to have only one conviction, namely, to become President. Other than that he apparently has the courage of no convictions whatever. He changes his tune and his claims to suit the audience he is addressing at the moment and will and does change them entirely to a different audience the very next day, sometimes even in the same day. This indicates to me a complete absence of character, a wishy-washy empty suit, a phony.

If this is so, and I certainly believe it is, how can one explain the fact that the polls indicate the race is going to be a dead heat, a nail-biter, too close to call. If the polls are correct this would indicate that fully half of the voting public could care less about the lack of character of at least one of the candidates for the Presidency of the United States. I find this incredible, virtually impossible to believe, but how else can one explain or understand it? Republicans do not seem to care that there candidate for President is a liar, a vulture capitalist, a candidate unwilling you share his tax returns or even elucidate in any clear form what he truly plans for our country if elected. I guess they are willing to accept this phony either because they don’t care about character, or they are so determined to defeat Obama they would even run a poisonous viper. This suggests something about Republican character in general as well as about Romney’s character in particular. And, if Romney were somehow to win it would suggest some not very flattering things about American character as well.

I do not believe Romney will win, unless somehow Rove and his gang of political gangsters have actually figured out some way of stealing the election. I do not believe the polls are as close as they claim to be. We will soon know. We, the voting public are probably going learn some lessons about the dismal state of politics in the U.S. If Obama wins by a substantial margin we will know the polls have been rigged all along by those in charge of such things. If Obama wins by a very small margin we will know that character, lies and deceit, really don’t matter to American voters. If Romney wins we will know the election has been “fixed” all along. What we should learn is to change our ways and begin to take much more seriously the question of governing our country. Remember what has happened before, both to Al Gore and John Kerry, and be alert.

“For he who sins a second time wakes a dead soul to pain…”

Oscar Wilde

Friday, November 02, 2012

Are There No Laws?

There appears to be still another terrible shortcoming having to do with the operation of what we fondly keep insisting is American Democracy, namely the absence of laws governing our elections. I am not a lawyer, or a constitutional scholar, or even a very astute observer, but there seems something very wrong with what is going on in this election cycle. I find it impossible to believe that what is going on with respect to voter suppression in so many of our states could actually be considered legal, but nothing much seems to be done about it. Well, that is not strictly true as some state courts have put a stop to some of the more egregious attempts to suppress the vote, but in some cases Governors and others persist in their attempts to keep people from exercising their right to vote. Take Florida, for example, where voting involves standing in lines for up to five hours in order to vote. First of all, this in itself should not be allowed. There is no reason why anyone should have to stand in line for hours to vote. Nor is there any excuse for a ten page complicated ballot. These conditions are obviously designed to discourage people, especially ordinary citizens, from voting. In the past, when voters were confronted with such problems, the then Governors went out of their way to extend voting hours to encourage everyone who wanted to vote the ability to do so. But not the current Governor of Florida who has refused to allow extended voting. This is an obvious and blatant attempt to interfere with the right to vote, and equally obvious to help swing the vote toward Republicans. This is so obvious and so blatant it should clearly be illegal. But apparently it is not. Either there is no law preventing the Governor from doing this or if there might be it is not being enforced.

Similar things are going on all over the country. Letters are being sent to people telling them felons cannot vote, not true in some cases, telling them false voting dates, false voting places, false information about the candidates, and more. Nothing much seems to be done about this, it is mostly just dismissed as “politics as usual.” But it surely should not be so considered. If it is not illegal it certainly ought to be. But where is the authority to stop such things from happening? As in the case of prosecuting war criminals there is no independent authority with clear jurisdiction over such things. That is, for example, the locus of authority for the prosecution of war criminals like George W. Bush and Dick Cheney should lie in the hands of the Justice Department and the Attorney General’s office. In principle it does, but that is practically unworkable. Can you imagine what would have happened in the U.S. if the Obama Administration had actually attempted to prosecute Bush/Cheney? The nation would have split in two, there would have been chaos if not a civil war. So even though they should have been prosecuted, according to the constitution and our laws, that was practically impossible. I suggest this is true, perhaps to a lesser extent, in cases of attempted voter suppression. In some cases the violations were so obvious and so blatant the courts could and did rule against them, but in many other cases the violations were not so easy to deal with. Does the Governor of Florida, for example, have the legal authority to refuse to extend voting hours? Is this, strictly speaking, even a legal issue, or basically a moral one? As previous Governors found no problem with extending voting hours should that not have established a precedent for this one? It is possible this problem might eventually be handled somehow, but like other such issues, by the time it is settled the damage will have already been done and cannot be undone. Such is the democratic process, too slow, too cumbersome, too confused, and completely lacking in an overriding authority capable of deciding and overseeing such conflicts. This is, in my opinion, a serious indictment of a two party system. The party in power, for practical purposes, does not truly have the unchallenged authority to enforce the laws without risking serious political consequences. Even a multiple party system would be a great improvement. Our current two party system is becoming increasingly unworkable, largely because one of the parties has developed previously unthinkable criminal tendencies, placing their personal and party objectives above that of their country.

I will be away for a couple of days to meet and welcome Graeson.

Thursday, November 01, 2012

Joy in Mudville!

The journey to the west is not all downhill and unpleasant. There are moments of great joy. Last night, Halloween night, my daughter-in-law gave birth to a fine six pound, twelve ounce son, a mere two days overdue. Both mother and son are apparently doing very well. Thus I have become a grandfather for the first time at 83 years of age. Somehow my life has never been very steady, predictable, or properly chronological. To say that I am pleased and happy has to be the understatement of the year. I am ecstatic!

Even politically things seem to be picking up and heading for the best. You probably know that billionaire Governor of New York, Bloomberg, unexpectedly announced he was endorsing President Obama. Even the Economist, a prestigious conservative business publication has now endorsed Obama. Those endorsements, along with the Colin Powell endorsement, and the flattering things Governors Christie and Cuomo have said about Obama should, I would think, pretty much sink Romney. I guess Romney’s deceitful, dishonest, lying, unprincipled campaign is too much even for many Republicans and Independents. It couldn’t happen to a nicer, more disgusting guy. And this whole disgusting, ridiculous pretense of an election will be over in just another five days. Hooray! Of course the 2016 campaign will start on the 7th and we will have to endure it all over again, curses! I would like to think that all those multi-millionaires and billionaires have wasted all their money, but as they merely moved it from one of their pockets to another I guess it didn’t much matter to them.

It appears that the horrible storm in the Northeast may have at least one positive effect, both Cuomo and Bloomberg have been forced to acknowledge there actually is global warming and something must be done about it. There is no guarantee that anything much will be done but at least there is some hope now that has not been present previously. I wonder if even perhaps the oil and coal industries will be forced to give up their suicidal race for profits long enough to help, doubtful, I fear.

And so the Great Mystery continues here at Sandhill (aka Sandpile). That life and death will continue on as always with little predictability other than the end will come for all of us eventually. Some, like my wonderful wife, will be taken unfairly and far too soon, some others, like myself, will mysteriously continue on for longer than most, new ones will be born and begin their own inevitable journey to the west, even while looking eagerly every morning to the east for the new beginnings. The cycle continues in spite of human short-sightedness and stupidity. But will it continue forever? Will we, perhaps, drown in our own filth before we blow ourselves up? Have we become so estranged from nature and mother earth there can be no turning back? Has the die been cast? Are we, as some believe, doomed? Or, as others more optimistically believe, it is just a question of human ingenuity? Obviously I do not have the answer to these questions. I am no longer sure I even want an answer. I think I am prepared now to just Let it all remain the Great Mystery.

But welcome my new little man, at least you will learn how much your grandfather loved you.

Because I could not stop for Death,

He kindly stopped for me;

The carriage held but just ourselves

And Immortality.

- Emily Dickinson (extract, The Chariot)