Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Face to Face

Tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow.  How to come to grips with facing an urn that contains the ashes of what once was my wonderful brother. He is gone, I know. And the urn and its contents do not contain him. But they contain the suggestion of him, a trace. The urn, I suppose, is like one of those mnemonics we sometimes use to jog imperfect memories, telling us that we need to do something. A close friend tells us that she keeps just such an urn for her beloved, now gone. She talks to him, with the urn as a channeling device, whenever she feels the urge.
I prefer my memory traces for that purpose, although I must confess that I have never really felt the urge to literally speak with a loved one, gone from this place we call Earth. But we all use whatever means we have for recalling, and therefore keeping alive our memories. Pictures are useful, but they capture a moment in time, and the memory fragments associated with that moment.
When I wrote my little memoire, I noted that I had for several years noted down what I called snippets—little memory fragments that remained in my brain fairly vividly and that came to the surface with some frequency, triggered by odd things that passed across my path. Someone sent me a cute E-mail set of pictures with the common theme of, “Why Boys Need Parents.” The pictures, of course illustrated boys being boys, putting themselves stupidly at risk.  Immediately my mind leaped to my brother and me, playing “War” in our Second Avenue flat. We dueled with steak knives, turning it into a real blood sport. We also made a flame thrower out of a water pistol filled with lighter fluid. If you aimed it at a lighted match, a large flame shot out several feet—Wheeeeee!  See, that’s how my weird memory bank operates.
But I digress.
Meeting up with the remains of my dear brother I do not expect to be easy. But it must be done. It is a necessary step to moving on, with my memories intact, but with the full knowledge that we have reached this crossroads, with him on one path and me on another.  It is satisfying to me that, despite our harsh early childhood, we both survived with our basic personalities intact, partly because of my brother’s will to be “normal.” Our relationship continued throughout our lives, despite great distances between us. It remained a highly satisfying relationship.  Seeing the urn will bring all that back with an immediacy. Another chance to say, “thank you William, for being who you are.”

Monday, April 19, 2010

Political Engineering

A recent Pew research poll of Americans found that only 22 percent of Americans say they trust the government "just about always" or "most of the time."  Forty-three percent of Republicans, 50 percent of independents who lean Republican, and 57 percent of those who agree with the Tea Party movement said the government presents a major threat to their personal freedom.  That compares with 18 percent of Democrats, 21 percent of independents who lean Democratic and 9 percent of those who disagree with the Tea Party movement.
This opinion represents a new low, with trust on a steady decline since the days of Eisenhower.
Now, is this surprising? Your answer probably depends on your view of the intellectual capacity of the American people. Remember that old saw, “you’ll never go broke underestimating the intelligence of the American people”?
But in some respects, it is, at the least dismaying. Americans are understandably fearful of their future.  The American economy is in a shambles, thanks to Act Two of the Great Depression, brought to you by the Republican Party and the Free Market capitalists who run our financial system. So, what is a bit surprising is that Americans fear Government, whereas they might well fear the Free Market Capitalists who are mostly responsible for the current mess. Government, after all, did not produce this second depression. Government did not create the derivatives market, or bring down the housing market by creating inflated investment instruments, based on bogus mortgages.  Government can be faulted, surely. Its primary fault was its failure to rein in the savage investment banking community.  So, how come the distrust of Government?
Well, my favorite theory is Rupert Murdoch, that wily old Aussie, and his Faux News Network, which created both the Tea Party Commune, and the largely racist campaign against anything President Obama has tried to accomplish.  The Republican Party has apparently been taken over in a pseudo-coup d’etat by the Faux News Network, and its ever growing bank of actors playing  mostly crazed political pundits. Oh, and we should not leave out the role played by Barracuda Barbie, our gal from Alaska, seemingly intent on  becoming a billionaire over the next few years.  Sarah has only one principle—pay me.

Oklahoma City--the results of anti-government anger

This network has succeeded in shifting the righteous anger at the current mess called America from the Republicans and American financial geniuses to Obama and the Democrats. Now, isn’t that convenient, with a by-election coming up.
And because the Democrats are normally shooting themselves in the foot, or mouth (sort of like Michael Steele) and the Dems have nothing equivalent to the Faux News Network of relentless attacks, they are slipping away into the ooze of slime created by Mr. Murdoch.
One can only marvel at this political engineering feat. As Mr. Colbert might say, a “tip of the hat to Mr. Murdoch” for leading Americans into the wilderness.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

The Mad Hatter & Christian Militias

We are reading increasing reports about the growth of Christian militias in the country. We have the story of the Hutaree group, intending to kill policemen and spark a general uprising against . . . against what is not clear.  The groups seem to be against the United States broadly, the government more specifically. I guess Christian militias are vaguely anarchic, favoring only Christian forms of government, much as the Taliban in Afghanistan favor Islamic governments. We might properly refer to the Christian militias, therefore, as the military wings of the Christian Taliban.
It is worrisome that the United States, in the midst of The Great Depression: Act Two, brought to you by your friendly neighborhood Republican Party, would now be facing groups that desire either a schism, or a revolutionary takeover by religious fundamentalists. Like it’s not enough to have to worry about  the collapse of the global financial system, we now have to worry about crazed religious groups armed to the teeth.
Apparently, nobody told these groups about the wars we have been fighting for the last nine years, wars that continue to kill American soldiers almost daily, and that are being fought to contain, if not eliminate, precisely the same groups of religious fundamentalists from taking power in places like Iraq, Pakistan, Afghanistan and Yemen.  One can only look on in awe at the gradual deterioration of the overall sanity of the American body politic.For a close look at the most likely results of armed and dangerous extremists, one might listen to Rachel Maddow's tape recordings of the extremely crazy Timothy McVeigh--remember old Tim who killed innocent kids and adults in Oklahoma City??
Meanwhile on another front, the Mad Hatter and his teabag express continues to roar around the nation in its quest to eliminate all federal taxes, while meanwhile yelling about the growing federal deficits and the mountainous national debt.
One can only wonder . . .

Friday, April 9, 2010

Mad Hatters of the Right

Our friends in the “Loyal Opposition” are at it again. All the candidate-wannabe’s are out on the stump, making themselves ugly by attacking the President. It’s the latest version of the Chutzpah Express, roaring through the countryside, to whistle stops near you.
The Newtster and his favorite gal Friday, Liz Cheney, were tea partying and yelling about Obama being a radical—amazing. This from the guy who took out a contract on America, and then shut down the Government, just because he could. If you thought that Newt as Speaker of the House wasn’t dangerous enough to the Nation, imagine Newt as our Prez.  Newt seems to be following in the footsteps of their beloved Saint Ronald, who famously declared that Government wasn’t the solution to any of our problems, but rather Government was the problem. Why do these bozos who seem really to despise our Government, continue to want to head that despicable thing? And then, when they do, they appoint total incompetents to run the place so as to make their fantasies about government come true.
And Lizzie, the Gal Friday, who now sits in for Darth Vader, when he isn’t himself available, is weighing in. I guess she’s decided that daddy was playing too nice, so she’s going to show us what nasty is really all about. And she has such amazing credentials to talk about Government policies.
I keep wondering where the republicans find all these people. I mean, is there some set of special republican criteria you need to possess to become a member of the Mad Hatter’s Tea Party? Let’s see, you must be:
Totally self-absorbed
Lacking any concept of community
Lacking any sense of humor
Congenital Liar
Obsessed with becoming rich
Unwilling in the extreme to pay for those few government services you like (e.g., making war just because you can).
I probably left out some, such as mental stability, but we all know about those things. Is this disgusting spectacle what our political process has degraded to? What ever happened to the lofty rhetoric of the founding fathers? Whatever happened to the sanctity of this Grand Union? Why do republican tea partiers insist on reigniting a 21st century Civil War?
Have they at last, no shame?

Sunday, April 4, 2010


I have begun thinking a lot about bankruptcy--no, not mine, but others. I read today about the Archbishop of Canterbury making, um, disparaging remarks about the Catholic Church of Ireland--something about it being broken.

So that set me to thinking about bankruptcy. A corporation declares bankruptcy when its assets can no longer support its liabilities. Sometimes, the company figures that out for itself, and sometimes it is forced upon the company by an outside party.  And then the main issue to be decided is which kind--Chapter 11, or Chapter 7. As we know, under Chapter 11, the company is allowed to continue as a legal business entity, until it (often with some outside "help") "reorganizes" its assets and its liabilities--maybe sells off some assets, gets someone to devalue some its liabilities, until it comes back into some rough alignment. Often, the chief culprits--the CEO, the officers and the board are shown the door.  New management comes in and the company attempts to regain its footing.
Under Chapter 7, we have essentially a fire sale of the company's assets, and everyone is canned (generally without any bonuses).
So, I'm trying to decide whether the Holy Roman Catholic Church, a morally bankrupt institution, ought to declare Chapter 11, or give it all up and go for Chapter 7--wonder what you could get for the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel??

Friday, April 2, 2010

Are Republicans Sociopaths?

Some characteristics of Sociopaths

• Glibness and Superficial Charm

• Manipulative and Conning  -- They never recognize the rights of others and see their self-serving behaviors as permissible. They appear to be charming, yet are covertly hostile and domineering, seeing their victim as merely an instrument to be used. 

• Grandiose Sense of Self -- Feels entitled to certain things as "their right."

• Pathological Lying --Has no problem lying coolly and easily and it is almost impossible for them to be truthful on a consistent basis. Can create, and get caught up in, a complex belief about their own powers and abilities. Extremely convincing and even able to pass lie detector tests.

• Lack of Remorse, Shame or Guilt -- A deep seated rage, which is split off and repressed, is at their core. Does not see others around them as people, but only as targets and opportunities.
• Shallow Emotions -- When they show what seems to be warmth, joy, love and compassion it is more feigned than experienced and serves an ulterior motive. Outraged by insignificant matters, yet remaining unmoved and cold by what would upset a normal person.

• Need for Stimulation -- Verbal outbursts are common. 
• Poor Behavioral Controls/Impulsive Nature

• Irresponsibility/Unreliability -- Not concerned about wrecking others' lives and dreams.
• Contemptuous of those who seek to understand them

• Does not perceive that anything is wrong with them

• Authoritarian
• Paranoid
• Incapable of real human attachment to another

• Unable to feel remorse or guilt

• Extreme narcissism and grandiose

• May state readily that their goal is to rule the world