Monday, December 28, 2015

2015 Draws to a Close

I’ve been struggling lately to figure out how to say goodbye to 2015. I cannot say the year has been without interest. I mean, think Donald Trump, Carly Fiorina and Ben Carson—a guy who started life as a millionaire on daddy’s money and continues to fool folks into thinking he is anything more than a reality show clown; an earnest woman who pretended to be a high-tech executive, failed so badly that she was fired by the board (no mean feat that) and then pretends to a higher calling; and a brain surgeon who has us all thoroughly confused—I mean, how could a brain surgeon be so dumb . . . but my preferred answer is that Doc Ben pulled a one-off by operating on himself, during which he accidentally removed the left side of his own brain.  Not that the rest of the curious crowd is to be preferred. Cruz, a man whose picture makes you want to punch him . . . a man nobody seems to like, except for the pissed-off who hate everyone and everything and imagine maybe he will carpet-bomb some other folks they really don’t like. What a crew.

And then there’s the shootings and blowing people up stuff. Yeah, there’s always a terrorist group of folks who are so pissed at us, or the French, or the Brits that they are willing to shoot up a cartoon shop, or blow up a building, or shoot up a black church, or kill people waiting in a clinic, or just shoot up people, just cuz. Just cuz the NRA says that everyone should be armed, and, if you’re armed, well, eventually someone is going to start shooting.  Yeah, I now have cast the NRA as our very own American-ISIS. So don’t go thinking that terrorists are all Muslim, cuz it just ain’t so.

On the bright side, political leaders from some 150 nations finished meeting in Europe and reached a decision that they would cooperate in at least trying to minimize the future effects of human global warming. That’s significant, because at least they all seem to agree that human global warming seems to be a reality. Now to be fair, the republicans who now rule our Congress plan to repudiate the agreement, and have high hopes that in 2016 one of their own—the Donald perhaps—will act as one of his first duties to kill our agreement, thereby allowing their owners (the Kochs, et al) to continue polluting the globe. Republicans wish to continue pretending that climate change is what happens between June and January each year.   But when I got really enthused about the climate change conference and the resulting agreements, I came across and read an article in the Guardian by James Lovelock, no merry prankster he. Lovelock has been forecasting ecological disaster for a long time now. In the article, he is quoted as saying,

Lovelock believes global warming is now irreversible, and that nothing can prevent large parts of the planet becoming too hot to inhabit, or sinking underwater, resulting in mass migration, famine and epidemics. Britain is going to become a lifeboat for refugees from mainland Europe, so instead of wasting our time on wind turbines we need to start planning how to survive. To Lovelock, the logic is clear. The sustainability brigade are insane to think we can save ourselves by going back to nature; our only chance of survival will come not from less technology, but more.
Interviewers often remark upon the discrepancy between Lovelock's predictions of doom, and his good humour. "Well I'm cheerful!" he says, smiling. "I'm an optimist. It's going to happen."
Humanity is in a period exactly like 1938-9, he explains, when "we all knew something terrible was going to happen, but didn't know what to do about it". But once the second world war was under way, "everyone got excited, they loved the things they could do, it was one long holiday ... so when I think of the impending crisis now, I think in those terms. A sense of purpose - that's what people want."
"There have been seven disasters since humans came on the earth, very similar to the one that's just about to happen. I think these events keep separating the wheat from the chaff. And eventually we'll have a human on the planet that really does understand it and can live with it properly. That's the source of my optimism."
What would Lovelock do now, I ask, if he were me? He smiles and says: "Enjoy life while you can. Because if you're lucky it's going to be 20 years before it hits the fan."

Wow, what a fun time to contemplate. We can, of course, join the republicans and play “Let’s make believe”, or we could at least try to act beginning now to plan for the coming climate changes.  First things first of course . . . 2016 is the Year of The Vote. So, everyone might consider how best to support your very own candidate, preferably someone with more than half a brain (Carson fans kindly take note). If you want politicos to pay attention and do serious stuff to ward off the worst that our planet now has in store for us, then kindly vote for those not on the payroll of the Kochs and others of their ilk.  

And remember, it’s nice to always think positive, but it’s more effective to also act in effective ways.

And then, as the New Year approaches, pop open a nice bottle of bubbly, pour it into some pretty glasses with perhaps your loved one, and bid the New Year a welcome entry.  Look your loved one in the eyes, and say, “To us my love, to us”.

And finally as the day’s curtain is about to fall, imagine yourself as Bogie, walking off into the night . . .  and announcing to the world at large,

World, I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship . . .

Friday, December 11, 2015

Open Letter of Apology

An Open Letter of Apology
To Our Friends Around the World

I am sitting at my desk, reading one awful tale after another describing the Decline and Fall of the American Empire. Tony Scalia, one of our lesser Supreme Court Justices, in open court, declares that our African-American population is largely too stupid to attend the more rigorous colleges and universities and should be content with attending schools of less demanding programs.  Donald Trump, the leading Republican candidate for the presidency, declares that we should ban anyone and everyone of the Muslim religious belief from entering our country. Ted Cruz, Mike Huckabee, and Tony Jindal--three lesser Republican lights— share a platform with a pastor who believes we should kill Gays. Carly Fiorina, who appears not to understand the difference between truth and lies, openly supports a viciously negative and entirely false video about Planned Parenthood, and then becomes upset when people think she should share the blame for the terrorist killer who shot up one of their clinics and killed three people. 

And it goes on and on, with each republican rant worse than the last.

Many believe that the official ISIS strategy includes the carrying out of outrageous acts of terrorism with the explicit aim of outraging their opposition such that their opponents will carry out equally stupid and outrageous acts. They wish to both provoke a war between Islam and the West and to use their outrageous program to attract more young people willing to commit suicide for the imbecilic cause of the pseudo-Caliphate of ISIS.  And, because they seem to be succeeding, our Republican Party seems to have adopted this strategy for their presidential campaign.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, everyone is yelling that the regular Muslim people, and even the normal Muslim preacher/mullahs should openly decry the outrages being committed routinely by ISIS/Daesh, Qaeda, and the Taliban.  And yes, it would be nice if the Mullahs et al would begin publically preaching against these crazed creatures who almost daily despoil the name of Islam—and many do preach against these idiots.

But, hold on here, folks.  We can observe daily killings by both “normal” and crazy Christian Americans in our own nation.  I believe the number of folks killed by guns within our fair country exceeds 30,000 per year.  Yet, while the stupid people think it’s just fine and dandy for the Trump to propose banning all Muslims from entering our country, it is apparently not ok to propose new forms of gun control. We have greater controls over folks driving cars, buying drugs, and gaining access to certain forms of medical care than we have on gun sales.

So, I am here to apologize to the people of the world, especially to our friends in Australia, Britain, Canada, Germany and India for our failure as a formerly great nation to adopt civilized standards of international behavior.  We used to be better than this, although we have a chequered past (think Japanese internment camps, think slavery). We attacked Fascist states who were attempting to impose their savage will on the civilized world, and we succeeded in beating back their attack.

But we have grown complacent and sloppy in our approach to the world. Despite being the most heavily armed nation on the globe, we are acting like a bunch of terrified stupid children.  Apparently that old thing about:

Give us your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!

has now vanished from our consciousness.  Now we only want white, Christian bankers and tekkies to join us.  The fact that the republican clown show, headed by the chief clown, The Trump, can openly espouse lies and outrageous demands, and we sit quietly while pastors preach violence is a sign that we are headed downhill and rapidly. We risk becoming a mighty pariah state.

So, I apologize for what we seem to be. But really, we are not all imbecilic fascists, even if the Faux News Network makes us seem that way (thank you Rupert Murdoch). I am hoping that any responsible, intelligent republicans still alive will begin to do what we have been advocating for responsible Muslims—speak out folks. I imagine Lincoln, Eisenhower, et al, spinning madly in their graves. It is up to you, the living republicans, to tell us once again that Trump, Cruz, Fiorina, et al, do not represent what your party stands for. Nor do they represent what America stands for. I thought we were better than this.

Perhaps I am wrong.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Happy Thanksgiving

It's fast approaching, that day in which we give thanks for the bounteous feast we are about to receive. I think sometimes that we all need to pause more and think about that harvest of goodies heaped on the table in front of us, and what that represents in our world. We have talked a lot about the roughly 40 million people who had no regular access to health care, prior to that program --the ACA-- that republicans love to hate. But the other day, I saw the same number being reported, only this time it was people who don't have enough food. When I look at our healthy children grandchildren and yes great grandchildren, I am aware that they are probably exceptional in this world. They are healthy, well fed, and well cared for by parents who care deeply about them.

Whenever I do some minor thing for our local domestic violence shelter program, I become aware of how lucky we are. And when I read about children sold into sexual slavery, I become angry, but I always begin thinking once again about fortune and how we need to think more about the goodness in our lives.

So, when we pause, just prior to diving into the turkey, and the mashed potatoes, and the stuffing, and the cranberries, I plan to take a deep breath, partly to thank our whole family for being who they are, and our children and our grandchildren for being who they are, and our relatives near and far, for being such an important and happy part of our lives. And partly, I just want to say out loud that we are all fortunate creatures, alive and smiling on this globe spinning steadily in this vast, cold universe.  But there are others on this globe who will be denied the happiness we share with our loved ones.  Their lives are as precious as anyone's, but others will dictate their future.

So, eat on folks, but never forget just how fortunate we are to be living in this nation. And never forget the less fortunate among us. And let there be light . . . the light brought by careful thought. A light of essential goodness.

Saturday, November 14, 2015


So, Paris has been struck yet again—Je suis Charlie . . . Let us all yell, or cry, or pray for the Parisians. And then, when it happens here, we can all repeat the process. Apparently, we in the US are no better prepared to resist than are the French, or the Brits, or anybody else. ISIS need not be very clever. They simply need to turn loose the next gang of thugs and tell them where to launch their killing. And somewhere, here in the US of A is my best guess as to where, added cries of anguish will again arise. We are already filled with hate against one another (see Mizzou, see all the other places here wherein we are known to have killed one another with no serious justification).  And we possess adequate armaments to carry out an equivalent attack.

What does ISIS want? Well, they seem to want the same thing the kings in Saudi Arabia want, the same things the Koch brothers want, the same things our hedge fund managers want, the same things our republican clowns want—POWER.  And they have the same sense of morality as, say, the Nazis in 1939 . . . no probably worse, but not much.  ISIS does seem to like killing, but their killings seem to be motivated by an intent to instill fear. If they can kill so brazenly, and with such graphic awfulness, then perhaps they will finally convince us that they are an irresistible force. But, of course, we will never be so convinced—never. And so the killings will continue. 

And as the 12th century fades into oblivion, let the 13th century arise. Will we learn anything? No, we seem incapable of learning as a species. We love killing too much.

Monday, October 12, 2015

The Big Lie

“All this was inspired by the principle—which is quite true within itself—that in the big lie there is always a certain force of credibility; because the broad masses of a nation are always more easily corrupted in the deeper strata of their emotional nature than consciously or voluntarily; and thus in the primitive simplicity of their minds they more readily fall victims to the big lie than the small lie, since they themselves often tell small lies in little matters but would be ashamed to resort to large-scale falsehoods. It would never come into their heads to fabricate colossal untruths, and they would not believe that others could have the impudence to distort the truth so infamously. Even though the facts which prove this to be so may be brought clearly to their minds, they will still doubt and waver and will continue to think that there may be some other explanation. For the grossly impudent lie always leaves traces behind it, even after it has been nailed down, a fact which is known to all expert liars in this world and to all who conspire together in the art of lying.”  Adolf Hitler, Mein Kampf, vol. I, ch. X

I have been trying to figure out how the Republican party morphed into this absurdist organization, led by people who seem no longer to care about the impact of their rhetoric and actions on the health of our republic.  They will shut down the government if needed to make their point.  And, the extreme rhetoric seems to rise in temperature as one moves from the county to state to the Federal level. Perhaps the targets simply become larger and potentially more catastrophic as one moves to higher levels of elevation.  Shutting down the Federal government, for example, has effects that spread throughout the Nation.  One of the effects, for example, involves defaulting on our debt with all the nasty consequences of such a monumentally stupid move, one threatened routinely by the GOP’s extremists, who seem  literally not to care.

But where do these extremists come from and how do they arrive at their extreme positions? Perhaps The Big Lie is at least partly to blame. And who would resort to such a strategy as The Big Lie? Why Rupert Murdoch and his entirely fake news organization, Fox News.  After having read numerous tales of the effects of repeated exposure to Fox News, it is becoming clear that the daily lies and gross distortions of reality by Fox News has had a clear and highly negative effect on that part of the public—more often Republican than Democratic voters-- that watches the programs.
Here is an excerpt from an AlterNet article on this subject.

Yet another study has been released proving that watching Fox News is detrimental to your intelligence. World Public Opinion, a project managed by the Program on International Policy Attitudes at the University of Maryland, conducted a survey of American voters that shows that Fox News viewers are significantly more misinformed than consumers of news from other sources. What’s more, the study shows that greater exposure to Fox News increases misinformation.
So the more you watch, the less you know. Or to be precise, the more you think you know that is actually false. This study corroborates a previous PIPA study that focused on the Iraq war with similar results. And there was an NBC/Wall Street Journal poll that demonstrated the break with reality on the part of Fox viewers with regard to health care. The body of evidence that Fox News is nothing but a propaganda machine dedicated to lies is growing by the day.
In eight of the nine questions below, Fox News placed first in the percentage of those who were misinformed (they placed second in the question on TARP). That’s a pretty high batting average for journalistic fraud. Here is a list of what Fox News viewers believe that just ain’t so:
  • 91 percent believe the stimulus legislation lost jobs
  • 72 percent believe the health reform law will increase the deficit
  • 72 percent believe the economy is getting worse
  • 60 percent believe climate change is not occurring
  • 49 percent believe income taxes have gone up
  • 63 percent believe the stimulus legislation did not include any tax cuts
  • 56 percent believe Obama initiated the GM/Chrysler bailout
  • 38 percent believe that most Republicans opposed TARP
  • 63 percent believe Obama was not born in the U.S. (or that it is unclear)
The conclusion is inescapable. Fox News is deliberately misinforming its viewers and it is doing so for a reason. Every issue above is one in which the Republican Party had a vested interest. The GOP benefited from the ignorance that Fox News helped to proliferate. The results were apparent in the election last month as voters based their decisions on demonstrably false information fed to them by Fox News.
By the way, the rest of the media was not blameless. CNN and the broadcast network news operations fared only slightly better in many cases. Even MSNBC, which had the best record of accurately informing viewers, has a ways to go before it can brag about it.
The conclusions in this study need to be disseminated as broadly as possible. Fox’s competitors need to report these results and produce ad campaigns featuring them. Newspapers and magazines need to publish the study across the country. This is big news and it is critical that the nation be advised that a major news enterprise is poisoning their minds.
This is not an isolated review of Fox’s performance. It has been corroborated time and time again. The fact that Fox News is so blatantly dishonest, and the effects of that dishonesty have become ingrained in an electorate that has been purposefully deceived, needs to be made known to every American. Our democracy cannot function if voters are making choices based on lies. We have the evidence that Fox is tilting the scales and we must now make certain its corporate owners do not get away with it.”
So, Rupert and his Goebbels-lead, Roger Ailes, seem purposefully to be creating a population that has moved to an extreme position on most of the contentious issues facing our nation—climate change, global financial management, US fiscal management, including especially tax policy, public education,  race relations, health care policy, especially affecting women in particular and low income in general.
The current fights within the House of Representatives over who will be the next Speaker are representative of the debacle that is now our elected government.  A relative minority, some 35-40 odd people—the so-called Freedom Caucus, the Liberty Caucus and the Tea Party all act in ways that seem intent on destroying the essential comity, on which all legislative movement depends.  They seem not to care.
I am reminded in this regard of the Lyceum speech delivered by another Republican, Lincoln by name, Abraham Lincoln. He said:
“Shall we expect some transatlantic military giant to step the ocean and crush us at a blow? Never! All the armies of Europe, Asia, and Africa combined, with all the treasure of the earth (our own excepted) in their military chest, with a Bonaparte for a commander, could not by force take a drink from the Ohio or make a track on the Blue Ridge in a trial of a thousand years. At what point then is the approach of danger to be expected? I answer. If it ever reach us it must spring up amongst us; it cannot come from abroad. If destruction be our lot we must ourselves be its author and finisher. As a nation of freemen we must live through all time or die by suicide.”
Lincoln then warned that a tyrant could overtake the American political system from within.[4] He said:
“It is to deny what the history of the world tells us is true, to suppose that men of ambition and talents will not continue to spring up amongst us. And when they do, they will as naturally seek the gratification of their ruling passion as others have done before them. The question then is, Can that gratification be found in supporting and maintaining an edifice that has been erected by others? Most certainly it cannot. Many great and good men, sufficiently qualified for any task they should undertake, may ever be found whose ambition would aspire to nothing beyond a seat in Congress, a gubernatorial or a presidential chair; but such belong not to the family of the lion or the tribe of the eagle. What! think you these places would satisfy an Alexander, a Caesar, or a Napoleon? Never! Towering genius disdains a beaten path. It seeks regions hitherto unexplored. It sees no distinction in adding story to story upon the monuments of fame erected to the memory of others. It denies that it is glory enough to serve under any chief. It scorns to tread in the footsteps of any predecessor, however illustrious. It thirsts and burns for distinction; and if possible, it will have it, whether at the expense of emancipating slaves or enslaving freemen. Is it unreasonable, then, to expect that some man possessed of the loftiest genius, coupled with ambition sufficient to push it to its utmost stretch, will at some time spring up among us? And when such an one does, it will require the people to be united with each other, attached to the government and laws, and generally intelligent, to successfully frustrate his designs.Distinction will be his paramount object, and although he would as willingly, perhaps more so, acquire it by doing good as harm, yet, that opportunity being past, and nothing left to be done in the way of building up, he would set boldly to the task of pulling down.”

I see us now headed down this path that Lincoln described, fueled by Rupert Murdoch and his merry band of liars. We will see how far we have moved in that direction when we see the results of the 2016 election.  Canada anyone???

Monday, September 28, 2015

Blood Moon

The Bloody Moon

It is said that a Super Blood Moon is a sign of the coming apocalypse, that the “end times” are upon or at least near us.  And the more I pay attention to the republican gong show, the greater is the seeming threat posed by the end times scenarios of the Christian doomsayers.

When I observed the actions of that cretin, Martin Shkreli, who raised the price of a drug called Daraprim, used by some AIDS patients, from $13.50 a pill to $750. I thought of end times. Is this really what we have come down to . . . a nation whose capitalists thrive by punishing the poor and the sick??? Surely that event, not the hapless Blood Moon, is the sign that we are headed to oblivion.  And I’ll bet he, like many of his republican friends, really hates the Pope who keeps preaching almost as though he is an actual Christian.  Francis has some nerve, talking about Climate Change, and income inequality. How long will it be before he begins preaching about tax policy and how we need to begin once again taxing the very wealthy, who now hide their vast income through various legal and barely legal tax dodges? Even the Curia would denounce him then. Well, to be fair, the Curia seem to hate him even without such taxation preaching. I suggested that the Pope consider emptying the Vatican bank accounts and distributing the proceeds to the poor. I even wondered how much he could get for the Vatican itself—I mean the Sistine Chapel should fetch a couple of billion, right?? Think of how many folks could be fed by that wad of cash.

But in the meantime, I guess we will have to console ourselves with hating the likes of the Martin Shkreli’s of the world . . . and he is by no means alone. And we can continue tuning into the Gong Show to see who jumps off the roof next. I’m predicting the next to go will be the clown from South Carolina, Lindsey Graham. I mean, he didn’t even have the flair of that Walker Dude who left the stage to jump off the nearest available tower. Hey, I know, maybe Lindsey could jump off the Eiffel Tower, right after he addresses the French people on the true meaning of Freedom Fries.

Now, Mike Dingleberry (Huckabee to those who don’t know him that well) may take a bit longer, since he, doubtless, was called to run for the republican candidacy by no less than the Dude in the clouds.  So, he won’t acknowledge that everyone hates him for a bit longer. Those rendered stupid by religion learn really, really slowly.

The bigger question is when Dr. Ben plans to leave, and why he is running at all?  Aside from that separating brains thing, he seems to have no talents whatsoever. It’s really quite astonishing how anyone could be so talented in one relatively small (however important) subject, while remaining abjectly ignorant of all the rest of our universe (he actually still thinks the earth is only 6,000 years old).  But really, why would someone with his brain want to cope with all the crap of being President? I mean, Air Force One isn’t that wonderful.  Maybe he just loves the idea of pushing that button, unleashing the fires of hell on the earth. Scary dude is the good doctor.

I think we can all ignore most of the rest of the crowd of clowns, most of whom will quietly disappear, one by one until . . . and then there was one. And who might that be, you ask??? Why The Donald of course. Since the Presidency is the ultimate Reality Show, who better to challenge the Hillary & Bernie Show than The Donald?

Stay tuned folks.

Monday, September 21, 2015

Know Thy Enemy

In The Art of War, Sun Tzu is often quoted: “Know thy self, know thy enemy. A thousand battles, a thousand victories.
During this past year, we have been able to observe both sides of the debate regarding the Confederate flag, flown frequently throughout the South. Mostly, we observe that flag on license plates and bumper stickers. The raging arguments that occurred publically mostly concerned flying the flag on public, often statehouse grounds. Following the racist shootings by Dylann Roof at an Emanuel African Methodist Church in Charleston, the flag arguments became open and vocal, with protests mounted to take down the flags.
The standard southern response to the outrage surrounding the flag has always been . . . oh the flag has nothing to do with racism; it simply is a symbol of southern heritage. But that line of argument has little basis in fact. The Confederate battle flag represented the southern rebellious armies. And what were those armies attempting to achieve? They were after the secession of southern states from the Union that would allow a new federation to be constituted. And in what way would that southern federation differ from its northern cousin? Why slavery, of course, because slavery was at the heart of the Civil War.

So, if the flag symbolizing a protest movement to retain slavery, it then follows that the symbol of the armies so engaged—the Confederate flag—is in fact a symbol concerning racism, the underlying core of slavery.

Having said all that—it has all been said before I realize—I come back to my original thought—“know thy enemy”.  Setting aside the issue of flying such racist symbols over public properties, I have now concluded that folks who display that symbol on their property are in fact announcing to the rest of us that they are openly racists. It is equivalent to someone flying the Swastika over their home, signaling that Nazi’s reside therein.  Recently, I came around a corner in downtown Concord, and saw this image.

At first, I thought, oh you little . . . .. But then I thought, well, this display provides the rest of our community with valuable information—the family living therein is telling all of us that racists reside there and we should act toward them accordingly.  It is all in the best tradition of Sun Tzu’s “know thy enemy”.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Kim Davis

Kim Davis—Yeah That Kim Davis

Kim Davis seems to bring out the stupid in people. Or maybe, just maybe, she brings out their native instincts. Ms. Davis, married four times, with a couple of kids out of wedlock, seems to hold no serious moral standards. That marriage = one man and one woman things seems to have escaped her, as did the no kids out of wedlock thing. But on Gays, she has been told by the great daddy in the sky that Gays cannot be allowed to marry. Three possibilities here. One is that she actually heard voices telling her to deny marriage licenses to Gays and Lesbians. In that case, Ms. Davis clearly needs to be on serious medication, and perhaps even placed under supervision in an asylum for crazy people.

The second possibility is that Ms. Davis read somewhere in that bible thingie that Gays are a no-no. Seems doubtful that the bible specifically mentioned Gays and marriage, but since you can find almost any position on any subject somewhere in the bible—literally the book for everyone—she may well have stumbled on some phrase that could be roughly construed to mean no Gay marriages.

The last possibility is that she has family and friends who are both very religious and strictly homophobic—probably racist too, since they often come as a package.  This last is the one I favor. Using religion to beat up on some group you hate is a common feature of organized religion.

So, Ms. Davis is a seriously flawed individual who should probably be doing some manual labor job that does not involve interaction with other humans. But, that is the least interesting aspect of this screwball issue. The more interesting issues are the ones about how other folks react, and how this case seems to bring out the core belief system of observers.

I note, as the best example, the reaction of Mike Huckabee. Mike, who seems to have few useful standards, says two things in applauding Ms. Davis’ actions (or inactions). One, Mike says that Ms. Davis is correct in following God’s dictates. If God tells her to do something, or not to do something, then she must follow that path.  Second, and even more interesting, Mike says that, if you (anyone) decide that a law is wrong, then that person (you) should ignore that law and follow your own standards of behavior. Now that is a really startling assertion for someone aspiring to be President of these here United States of America. Think of what he said—if you think a law is wrong, ignore it. Wow! In my book, that makes Mike Huckabee a true anarchist.

So, Mike does not believe in the separation of Church and State. He does not believe in the Rule of Law. And he continues to think that he should be President.  Wow, maybe Mike needs some heavy duty medication also.

The other issue raised here is the question concerning what reactions might have been had Ms. Davis worn a Burkha, and professed belief in the Prophet Mohamid. Would Mike Huckabee  have raced to embrace her, in her burkha (arguably a no-no anyway)? Would her lawyers have raced to defend her (well they are lawyers, and anything for a buck I guess)? And would the adoring crowd of evangelists still have arrived at the jail to welcome her back? Seems doubtful. That scenario would have placed the adoring folks in a position of having to decide who they hated the most—Gays, or Muslims. What a choice.

Makes one wonder . . . what would Jesus have said?

Saturday, August 29, 2015



It seems a bit too much after all.  Born into this wasteland in the middle of the Great Depression, and now heading into the twilight with at least some prospect of a Presidency composed of either morons (e.g., Ric Perry, Jeb Bush, Ric Santorum) or extremists to the right of Atilla the Hun (The Donald, Rand Paul), all of whom promise to eliminate the notion that we are a civilized, honorable nation.  Collectively, they really do seem to miss the point of America—

“Give me your tired, your poor,

Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,

The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.

Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed, to me:

I lift my lamp beside the golden door.”

Instead, folks like The Donald wish to build the highest wall on earth on our southern border, and charge the Government of Mexico for its construction.  And as stupid as his ideas seem to ordinary, rational people, his competitors seem altogether too willing to follow him down that dark alley of refuse. It is as though the entire collective of republicans have been experimenting with acid prior to every public appearance.  And why are the theoretically intelligent republican commentators not frothing at the mouth at this intellectual implosion of their party? Oh, I suppose, they’re too busy mouthing off about Hillary’s mailgate scandal, or they continue to froth about Benghazigate.

But this election will reveal what the United States is really all about, and the prospects seem dim.  I keep wondering whether there isn’t a wormhole somewhere I can zip through, regardless of the likely consequences. What do the republicans now seem to stand for:
  • Elimination of the Affordable Care Act . . . apparently it is awful that we should actually be trying to provide health care to the 30 or 40 million Americans who have none;
  • Elimination of Medicare . . . yes, we want to turn Medicare into a voucher, with no guarantees. Seniors should love that, including that GOP lady who was yelling that the Government should keep its hands off her Medicare;
  • Elimination of Social Security . . . privatize it. Yeah, that should do the trick. Give all that trust fund money to the hedge fund traders and let them “manage it”;
  • Voting . . . republicans in office cannot bear the notion that everyone potentially eligible to vote should actually do so, so they will try hard to erect “challenges” to folks who might vote for the other guys;
  • No/low taxes, especially on their owners, the uber-rich . . . turns out it’s ok to tax lower income folks, just not the wealthy owners;
  • Climate change . . . hmmm . . . seems there is no such thing, so no need to be concerned;
  • LGBT communities should emigrate;
  • Women who want to plan their families should get out also . . . abortions under any circumstances will not be permitted;
  • Children born here will no longer be citizens automatically, regardless of the Constitution;
  • We should not concern ourselves overly much about why Mexican and other Latino communities keep trying to come to the USA . . . the fact they are being murdered in their home countries, or have no economic future is irrelevant;
  • We should engage freely in bombing wherever we choose, including especially in Arab, or other sub-Saharan African countries . . . bombing other folks makes us feel mighty and nothing else matters;
  • We are and should remain a Christian nation, under (a Christian) God . . . if the heathens don’t like that, they should also get out;
  • Public schooling is bad in general, so we should/will convert all public schools eventually to for-profit private schools . . . capitalism and the profit motive will automatically produce more “enlightened” citizens;
I could go on, but why . . . I’m sure that The Donald will bring back America’s Greatness, so why would we object? Remember folks, those who choose not to vote will get the government they deserve.

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Science v. Killing

We watched one of the Star Talk episodes last evening, with Neil deGrasse Tyson speaking with another astrophysicist about Tyson’s interview with George Takei, about Star Trek. The interview and ensuing discussion was fascinating at many levels.

Watching Takei (Sulu to the uninitiated) speak of his early WW II experiences made me gasp. Takei’s entire family, including the three young children were basically arrested and shipped to an internment camp for the duration of the war, solely because they were Japanese-Americans. Note, please, that nothing remotely similar occurred to, say, Italian-Americans, or German-Americans. And, perhaps as bad, or maybe even worse, after the war ended, his family was simply released back into the ghettoes of America, with no money, jobs, or places to live.  When they were arrested, their entire assets and sources of income were taken away and not returned.  Thus when they were released, they had no wherewithal to continue life as it had been before the war. I have worked with one of those detainees, a remarkable woman who helped to found the Japanese-American Memorial Foundation ( .
What struck me about the discussion with George Takei, and my own discussions with Cherry Y. Tsutsumida was the calmness surrounding the discussions of this awful period of pure American racist policy. Both had moved on and become strong characters in their own right, and each contributing to our nation’s culture in wonderful ways, Cherry as a public health officer, and Takei as a prominent television actor.  Takei was just a little kid—he was interned between the ages of 5-9. Yet, here he is speaking with astrophysicist Tyson about the science of Star Trek and its impact on American life. Remarkable indeed.

Star Trek contributed not only some pretty fancy notions about future science developments, but its cast provided hope for a multicultural universe in our future.  We had Caucasian-Americans, Asian-Americans, African-Americans, Russians, Scots, aliens of several cultures, and both men and women in key roles. Racism, unlike on planet earth, seemed non-existent.  There were warring cultures, to be sure. Who could forget The Borg? Yet, there was even considerable hope for inter-species cooperation.

The science behind Start Trek ranged from the wholly plausible—personal communicators, doors that sprung open by themselves, fully humanized robots, microwave machines, laser weaponry, talking computer systems—to the not yet plausible – warp drives delivering multiple speed of light velocity, “beaming” people by disassembling and then reassembling their atomic structure in a different place and time. But the science was more fun than serious. It was the interaction among the staff and between that starship staff and other cultures that provided the most entertainment.

And remember, it was only a few years between the beginning of this show and our actual landing of men on the moon. Science was on the march. Could Mars and other planets be far behind? Indeed, could interstellar travel be far behind?

Well, it turns out that we humanoids preferred war to science—think Vietnam, and then our Middle East debacles (it would seem all enterprises in the Middle East are debacles by definition).  We do love our wars. So science has had to take a back seat to killing.

So, watching this program was an exercise in lost opportunities. We could have done so much to advance our knowledge of our universe. But we really do like killing better.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Hate as a Campaign Strategy

Hate seems to be taking hold in this land of ours. Apparently, it is now insufficient to simply disagree politically. We must hate one another. We must describe our competitors in the political arena as enemies of the land.  How has this happened? Has it always been thus?

It may be that my memory has become dimmed over the past 80 years.  I can remember vividly my first election—Eisenhower vs. Adlai Stevenson—the General who brought us victory against the intellectual Stevenson. Eisenhower won of course. How could he not? He had brought the war to a close successfully. And did he decry his opposing forces as the enemy? And did he, having won the office, decide to close down government, or privatize Social Security, or give huge tax breaks to his wealthiest donors? Well, no, instead he took the nation on an investment campaign to build a system of national interstate highways. He ran a civilized government.

And Ike was followed by JFK. Remember him? “Ask not what your country can do for you. Ask what you can do for your country” And then we had the Peace Corps, that wonderful group of activist young people who went out to places around the globe to do good. And, they did good.

Zoom forward to 2015. The GOP candidates most closely resemble a train filled with clowns, but where the clowns are no longer funny, but instead folks who seem to hate everyone who is not inside their little train.
What do they hate?

Anyone who is less white and less radical than they are, which means especially, multiracial folks, Latino immigrants, LGBT folks, trade unionists, LibDems. Oddly, at least to me, they seem also to hate the middle class. They decry the public school system, which is heavily responsible for creating a middle class, and they appear not to understand that the middle class (the 47% who Mitt Romney despises) created the America we know and so love.

We are a nation of immigrants—my grandparents landed at Ellis island and petitioned for admission to this country. Yet, Donald Trump is applauded for saying that the Mexicans here are mostly rapists, murderers, and otherwise evil folks (he allowed as how at least some of them must be normal).  And The Donald was applauded by his minions.

The most amazing thing about all this is that real Americans listen to such hate talk and applaud. Now, The Donald may not get nominated, but he does represent a sizable number of core republicans—mostly white, older Americans who hate folks not like them. The recent "debate" over the confederate flag brought out perhaps the best and the worst of us, and the worst of us seem to represent the folks applauding The Donald.

So, instead of focusing on what we need to do to keep America the great nation it became way back when, the GOP has decided to focus on hating. Mainly, of course, they are focused on ramping up the hate-machine (see Fox News) so as to keep the body faithful in full hate mode. It isn't enough to disagree with Hillary, or Bernie, or Elizabeth. No, it is entirely necessary to hate them for what they represent—all those nasty little, hateful people who are ruining America (folks like you and me).

And it makes me think about republicans madly spinning in their graves for what their party has become.  Poor old Ike. He may never rest in peace again.

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Racial Terrorism

Racial Terrorism
Just when you might have thought it safe to attend a prayer meeting in church, a racial terrorist, walks in, chats for a while with the parishioners, and then shoots everyone he can, including the pastor.
Meanwhile, at the South Carolina Statehouse, the Confederate flag continues to fly at full mast.
Now, the closest analogue I can conceive is this: what if a white male walks into a synagogue during Friday prayers, shoots everyone he can find, and walks out, while the South Carolina Statehouse is flying a Swastika at full mast.  What would everyone say?

And please don't argue mental illness. See, Mr. Root is not a mentally ill loner. His act grew out of a whole support system that enabled, and even encouraged him to act the way he did. He was coldly rational, as he opened fire on the innocents in church. He even announced that he had to do it (kill Blacks) because they were taking over, raping our women, destroying everything.  He has the mindset of a Nazi during WW II. He has the mindset of an ISIS terrorist who cuts people’s heads off.  His acts were enabled, arguably by growing up within a community of racists, perhaps within a family of racists, and living in a state, South Carolina, that proudly announces to the world, “WE ARE OFFICIALLY A RACIST STATE”.

Note, it should be clear that, to me, the Confederate flag has only one meaning—“I am a racist”. Whether it is displayed on a bumper sticker or flying over the state capitol, it announces that its owner is a racist.
So, we have a young man who is raised within this environment, and then, because he needs a simple mechanism of destruction, he is provided with destructive means via the NRA insistence that everyone should own a gun to “defend” himself. So, his act, explicitly racial terrorism, is enabled by his family, his community, his state, and the NRA.  He acted the way he was driven to act.

We cannot and must not argue that this person is mentally ill. He is and was coldly rational, again, much like Nazi’s when they opened the gas valves to destroy Jewish lives.

And we probably should not allow ourselves to be distracted by an argument about gun control.  Yes, racial terrorists need guns. Rocks, or even knives, don’t work too well to kill many people at one time.  And yes, the NRA facilitates that transaction, wherein terrorists can obtain easily the means of mass destruction.  But, much as we do not spend our time arguing about the need to control ISIS’ access to weaponry, we should not be distracted here. The central issue is racism, and racial terrorism.  

We need desperately to confront that issue in our Nation.  That is the issue if we are ever again to be treated seriously as a civilized society.  Because, frankly, now, we are not such a society. We behave as a fourth world territory—welcome to Somalia-USA (apologies to Somalians everywhere).
Perhaps one short term answer is for people of color and for whites who have a social conscience to boycott South Carolina. Of course, I think the same about Florida with its stand your ground law that allowed an idiot to kill Trayvon Martin.

Friday, May 22, 2015

The "Race Card" Card

Ever since our President became President, one segment of the American public has gone ballistic—the racist element. Practically before he took office, the right wing billionaire set decided to form a “Tea Party” to oppose him. And the GOP leadership decided that he was not to be treated seriously as a President, but instead, they would do everything within their power to oppose anything and everything he might say or propose.  Their goal—Make Obama a one term President.
In part, I guess, one might think that the far right rhetoric could be construed as simply the “other party” wishing to marginalize a Democrat, so that they could regain the power they had exercised under their right wing GOP leaders—you know, those paragons of American virtue—St. Ronald of Reagan, Bush I and Shrub. But the nearly hysterical quality to the opposition, especially from such as the “Tea Party”, seemed to go way beyond the normal right wing politics.  I finally decided that the only explanation that made sense was racism. And then the “Birther” movement began and it became very clear that racism was not only the preferred explanation, it was really the only plausible explanation, especially since he had not even proposed anything yet.
And then, Fox News (aka the Faux News Network), the PR wing of the far right GOP, began its campaign of hammering the President at every turn, amplifying every statement made by the most right wing of our GOP political establishment.
Finally, other real news commentators began saying the obvious—racism had taken over the GOP and its commentator wing.  And then came the response—“ahhh, they’re playing the “Race Card”.
And so, the “Race Card” card was born.  What, you ask, is the “Race Card” Card? Well, it is the standard reply to a charge of racism, averting the need to actually respond with facts. When someone calls out an obvious racist remark, the standard response now is, “oh, you’re playing the “Race Card.” And what that means is, “ I don’t have to explain myself, because you have adopted the standard ad hominem attack by calling me a racist. Whether I am a racist, or whether I am acting like a racist is irrelevant. If I say you are playing the “Race Card”, I no longer have to explain anything. And so, the “Race Card” Card became the standard rhetorical response by the right wing establishment, and the game continues today, six years later.
When I read articles in various papers and journals about some issue vaguely affecting our foreign policy, I often get distressed at the inevitable comments by the right wing folks in the land.  Think of the right wing  politicians writing to the leaders in Iran, telling them to ignore the President's efforts to rein in any possible Iranian nuclear arms efforts. Or think of the GOP's Ron Johnson, saying, "when it comes to a nuclear deal with Iran, he’s “not so sure” he trusts President Obama over the Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei." What might the right wing have said, had any Democrat said something similar about St. Ronald of Reagan?
The level of vitriol against anything the President or his Administration does, or says is amazing. I keep thinking, where were you all, and what were you saying when St. Ronald of Reagan was selling arms to the Iranian terrorist regime, so he could arm the Nicaraguan terrorist thugs? Were you as hysterical then as you seem to be now?  And how about, when Shrub declared victory in Iraq, standing on the deck of an aircraft carrier? Did you huff and puff and threaten to blow the house down? And have any of you begun screaming about Ted Cruz, born in Canada to a Cuban father and American mother? Is there a Ted Cruz “birther” movement? No??? How come? Oh, yeah, he isn’t black is he?
When I read some of the commentary, including especially from people I actually know well, and they yell (writing in caps) that “every action taken by this President had made this Nation less safe—yes, every action,” I have to ask whether they have taken leave of their senses, or is their commentary just a racist rant?  “Do you mean that when the President arranged to kill Osama Bin Laden, and, unlike Shrub,  followed through with an actual kill, he made us less safe?”  
“And were you thinking that, when he signed into law the Affordable Care Act, making health insurance available to millions formerly uninsured, he was making us less safe?”
“Or were you just finding a way to label him as awful without actually calling him a Nigger”?
Is that what we have come to in this nation? We have governors threatening to secede from the country (think Texas), and even considering calling out their National Guard because of some military exercises in their state? Would they do that had John McCain (born in Panama by the way) won the Presidency? Oh, I thought not.
The right wing in this country seems no longer to care about what ordinary Americans think of them. Reminds me a bit actually of Russia and their view of Emperor Vlad. The Russians no longer seem to care what he says, how outrageously and obviously he is lying, so long as he continues to sing the song of the Russia of old (i.e., the old Soviet Empire days).  So, perhaps, the right wing here feels the same way. They hate having a Black man as President, and long for the days of old (when St. Ronald of Reagan was ruling as emperor here). And they don’t care how much they have to lie about that Black man President. They want a return to the days of olde (although in some respects they seem to want to return to, say, 1850, rather than 1980).
I no longer think this schism within this country will heal during my lifetime (increasingly short). In fact, I believe it is getting worse, mainly because the right wing seems to believe that it is ok again to be a racist—after all, that was one of St. Ronald of Reagan’s great accomplishments during his term.

I continue to hope that my grandchildren will work to overcome this racist element within our nation. But I am not any longer certain. One of my worries is that the worst elements in this nation actually take over the government in 2016 (think the British elections), and they encounter that Emperor Vlad Soviet Empire place, and that really bad things happen. But that’s for the kids to sort out. 

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Growing Up Poor

I grew up somewhere between poor and lower middle class. Raised in a largely single parent household, by a working mom who had a high school education (maybe).  Pops was there occasionally, mainly when he had finished his drinking spree and wanted the comfort of a home and good woman. Sometimes, my mom would let him in, sometimes not. Mainly, though, he was missing in action.
So, we had a tenuous grasp on an apartment in midtown Manhattan, once having to change apartment buildings quickly, to stay one step ahead of the collection agency.  There were three kids, me being the youngest.  My sister tired of the education game, dropped out of Julia Richman high school and went to work in the same company employing my mom—it was the War, and worker bees were much in demand, even undereducated ones.  
Note that education was not a large issue, at least not a spoken one.  My mom’s folks, Scottish immigrants to the US during the late 1890's, were not educated beyond the 8th grade, and that could be a stretch. Similarly, on my dad’s side, education did not figure prominently.
But, there were no pulls away from continuing our education either. My brother was extraordinarily bright and was granted access to Stuyvesant High School in New York. My sister, through luck, charm, and good looks, hooked up with a med student attending Columbia. They were married and began their life together, a life very different from my sister’s early days.  Because Bill was so bright, he propelled himself towards college, graduating fairly young.  With him as my male role model, I went off to college, with nary a thought about how to pay for it. Happily, with loans from my sister, and working a job or two, I also managed to make it through my days at my small college in what is now Silicon Valley.
Our lives growing up poor in Manhattan provided little trauma, aside from the occasional broken arm, or other assorted street accidents—we played on the streets, and wandered all over the city, did my bro’ and me.  Will even was mugged once in Central Park, but it never stopped us from walking there with great frequency to play.
During this growing up absurd phase of our lives, never once were we hassled by the police; there were no gangs harassing us, and nobody got shot on the streets, aside from our cops and robbers games.  It was not that we were never “armed”. We made "brass knuckles" out of garbage can handles. My brother and I used to play War, and we would sometimes duel with real steak knives—I have a V scar on my hand to prove it. And we learned to make a flame thrower—turns out, if you load a water pistol with a flammable fluid (lighter fluid??) and then shoot that liquid through a lit match, you get a magnificent flame thrower—of course, we almost burned down the bathroom door, but what the hell . . . we were armed and ready.
But throughout this period, when we were forming our personalities, no one harassed us, no one told us we were thugs, or stupid. Our apartment, though modest, was not rat-infested (lots of cockroaches, though) and our plumbing worked.  My mom earned enough as a bookkeeper to pay the rent and keep us fed. We attended school every day and then played in the streets after.

We knew nobody who got shot, or otherwise assaulted/killed.  We were just modestly poor, like a lot of people during the War in New York City.

And then we went off and got educated, married, had kids and the kids got an education, and then they married and educated their kids. That’s the way it is in Middle Class White America, at least for most of us. We didn't know any Blacks growing up in New York City, and later in Rockland County. Black residents mostly lived above 125th Street and largely stayed there. If police were hassling folks north of 125th Street, we didn't know about it.

But I’m fairly sure, had we been Black and living in Harlem, our lives would have been different.  I don’t know how different, but different they would have been.  And I’m pretty sure that the people of color growing up now in the segregated sections of Baltimore live very different lives than we did as poor White folks growing up in 1930-40's Manhattan.  And I’m equally sure that those people of color have a different view of American privilege than we do.  And that many of them do know someone who has been shot and killed. And they do know about police harassment—DWB, and even Walking While Black (WWB) are real things, even if not to me.

So, as I read about the riots in Baltimore, my mind goes in two directions simultaneously. One side says, “God, why burn down your own neighborhood? How will that solve anything?”  But then my other side says, “I no longer care what you think. I’m fed up with the whole shitload called America. My life is always going to be in the toilet, so if I feel like burning something down, I will.”  That’s what can happen to folks when they feel as though they have nothing left to lose. When you lose all hope, then anarchy reigns, and anything can happen.

So, as much as I want to see rational behavior, including even peaceful protests, I need to understand that many people are beyond that point. And I am reminded of another conflict, the one that has been raging in that benighted place called the Middle East. I ask the same questions there of that conflict raging now since, at least 1947.  Why do you keep shooting rockets at Israel, when you know they will return the compliment tenfold? And the answer is, “because we no longer care.”  And Israel, why do you keep up the Settlements, and why do you level apartment buildings with all those innocents inside?  And the answer is, “because we can.”

Maybe we’re dealing with basic human nature in these awful conflicts, whether here in Baltimore, or around the world. Maybe people will continue killing one another. But I keep wondering, isn't there anyway to call a halt? Can’t we find some way to treat other people as humans, capable of hurt and love? Can’t we for God’s sake just stop what we’re doing and quit pretending that we’re better than “those other folks” just because it makes us feel bigger?  Can’t we try people???