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.