Monday, November 26, 2012

Scott Pelley shills for the Corporations

On the CBS Evening News of November 19, 2012, anchor Scott Pelley interviewed Lloyd Blankenfein, CEO of Goldman Sachs.  The interview was described as "rare."   The subject was economic recovery and the 'fiscal cliff.'
Mr. Blankenfein stated that there is a need for more revenue so the wealthy should pay more in taxes.  There is a need for less spending and the place to do that is 'entitlements', i.e., Social Security, Medicare & Medicaid.
A nice tidy package that, if swallowed, would solve our fiscal problems, or so he would have us believe..  Mr. Pelley swallowed it.  I did not.
The USA is not only lacking investigative reporting at the federal level;  it suffers from a dearth of competent reporting.
Mr. Pelley was subdued by the supposed honor of the invitation to speak to Mr. Blankenfein, one of the most influential men in the world in charge of one of the biggest banks in the world.
Mr. Pelley did not ask one tough question.  He did not provide a differing POV.  I don't believe he ever intended to.  This interview was a set-up, the first shot fired by the corporatacracy and the government to 'educate the American people about the sacrifices they need to make.'
The media in America are owned by the corporations and do their bidding. 
 The worst omission of the interview was the  failure to mention  the billions spent on the Pentagon, the CIA, and the  Superstate of Security behemoth that exceeds the cost and dangers of the military-industrial complex.
Of course, Mr. Blankenfein wouldn't reduce spending there.  He needs those organizations to protect his financial interests around the world. 
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Tuesday, November 20, 2012

God Give Us Men

I posted this poem in February 2010.  Thought I'd bring it to the front of the room again.

God give us men!  A time like this demands
strong minds, great hearts, true faith, and ready hands;
Men whom the lust of office does not kill;
  Men whom the spoils of office cannot buy;
Men who possess opinions and a will;
  Men who have honor - men who will not lie;
Men who can stand before a demagogue,
  And damn his treacherous flatteries without winking!
Tall men, sun-crowned, who live above the fog,
  In public duty and in private thinking;
For while the rabble, with their thumb-worn creeds,
Their large professions, and their little deeds,
Mingle in selfish strife, lo!  Freedom weeps,
Wrong rules the land, and waiting Justice sleeps.

by Josiah Gilbert Holland
American writer  (1819-1881)

This poem is from a popular American literature textbook for high school students, published in 1935 and used through the 1940's. 

It isn't read today, I'm sure.  After all, it is the work of that dreaded historical figure, the Dead White Male. 
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Saturday, November 17, 2012

Matt Ridley: Optimist or Fool?

I have been spending some time in doctor's offices lately which means I am reading a variety of magazines I don't usually see.  One such magazine was the Readers Digest (April 2012) which contained an article by Matt Ridley, a visitor from an alternate universe.
In this article Mr. Ridley posited a number of statements that prove his assertion that life on this planet has never been so good and it's only going to get better.
 One particular paragraph caught my attention and I record it here:

"By 9a.m., I have shaved with an American razor,  eaten bread made with French wheat and spread with New Zealand butter and Spanish marmalade,  brewed tea from Sri Lanka,  dressed in clothes made from Indian cotton and Australian wool,  put on shoes of Chinese leather and Maylasian rubber, and read a newspaper printed on Finnish paper with Chinese ink.  I have consumed miniscule fractions of the productive labor of hundreds of people.  This is the magic of trade and specialization.  Self-sufficiency is poverty."
 
"Self-sufficiency is poverty."   Autonomy, I suppose, is a psychosis.

Mr. Ridley is the ultimate consumer;  a globalist as well.  So thoroughly self-absorbed  in his well-being that his writings fly over troubling anomalies such as persistent famine and war.
He is unaware that the 'productive labor' of people around the world includes the killing in the diamond mines of Africa,  the slave labor in parts of Asia,  the suicide nets installed on the exterior walls  of Foxconn's factories to catch those who throw themselves out the window preferring death to a life of 'productive labor.'
Productive for whom, Mr. Ridley?  Productive for what?
Mr. Ridley lives a life of material comfort and ease.  He also lives a life of complete dependency.
Why he is a favorite of many conservatives escapes me.
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Sunday, October 28, 2012

Pay attention to words

Do we need to be told that "this limited-time offer won't last?"
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Sunday, October 21, 2012

The death of George McGovern is a great loss

Robert Sheer asked a question of George McGovern some time ago.  Sheer noted that Nixon, during the 1972 race for President, played the role of patriot and tough commander in chief without calling attention to his WWII experience in work that kept him from combat.
Sheer said that McGovern  had flown 35 bomber missions over Germany (some were suicide missions),  that once he had crash-landed his plane successfully in order to save his crew,  and that he was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross for his bravery.  Why, asked Sheer, didn't you use your wartime experience in your campaign?  McGovern replied, "Because it would have been unseemly."
What a man!

The link below is a tribute to McGovern by Chris Hedges.  Please read it.

Click
here
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Saturday, October 20, 2012

Please, Bibi, shut up.

Bibi Netanyahu is putting himself directly into the American election scene and that is a violation of protocol, courtesy and common sense. 
An anti-Obama commercial has footage of Netanyahu urging the United States to draw a 'red line' on Iranian nuclear development, also a violation of protocol and sound behavior.
 .It is time to recognize that Israel has become a dependency of the USA,   The United States has  sheltered, financed and protected Israel since its inception in 1948.  Enough already.  If a democratic country can really exist in the mid-East, let's see it happen.
General Petraeus has stated that the Israeli-Palestinian problem is raising anti-American feeling and "presents distinct challenges to our ability to advance our interests." It was reported that he believed that this unresolved issue was endangering the lives of American military personnel but this was never officially confirmed.   Petraeus recommended that the Palestinians be included in CentCom but the Obama administration refused to do so because Israel objected..
The modern nation-state of Israel will be 65 years old next year.  Time  to stop living with Nanny.
This is not about throwing Israel 'under the bus.'   It's time to push Israel from the nest.
The Israeli-Palestinian issue will never be resolved as long as Israel has no reason to change.
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Monday, October 15, 2012

Thank you, George McGovern

George McGovern, 90 years old, is reported to be in Hospice.
While you still live, Senator McGovern, I want to say thank you for your heroism during World War II, for your efforts to end the war in Vietnam, for being a truly decent man. a real patriot.
God Bless and farewell.

For some reason, I find this a sad piece of news.  Probably because I invested so much desire in his candidacy.  After his defeat to the criminal Nixon, I never felt as positive about Presidential politics.
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Saturday, October 13, 2012

Mad as Hell and not taking it anymore


God Bless Joe Biden.  About time for someone to push back on the Far Reich's dimwits.

Even the gentle Bill Nye has had it.  (Hat tip, Macraven)

Click link below:

http://dailycurrant.com/2012/08/30/bill-nye-blasts-todd-akin-challenges-debate/

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Thursday, September 27, 2012

God's will or not?

You won't read this in main stream media.

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Saturday, September 22, 2012

Wake The Dead

A little more than 125 years ago, there was no recorded music.     The only way to hear music was for some living person or group to sing and play.   Music was real, raw, not digitally mastered, not enhanced, or echoed out, or mooged.  It was not only the actual sound of music, it was the only sound of music.   Music was not that common,  not performed that often.  Music must have been, for the most part, a delightful experience.
Then Thomas Edison invented the phonograph in 1877.  A decade later Berliner invented the record disc.  The rest is music forever, eternally, and always.  Non-stop.  Around the clock.  24/7.  Everywhere.  All the time.
One hears it in elevators, in stores, on the beach, in the hall, upstairs, downstairs, on TV and on the radio, in the background, in the foreground, driving, walking, jogging, camping, hiking. 
During the news, during the movies, in greeting cards.  During war, parades and funerals.  Heavy metal bands blare out their anthem for the shiny faced killers in helicopters pursuing their tasks on the streets of Araby.
For those who have a favorite song, or a favorite artist, or a favorite band,  one can have access to it anytime and for as long as one desires.  How familiarity doesn't breed contempt after the three thousandth hearing escapes my poor mind but apparently it doesn't.  Still, it must weaken the impact a little.
Could Jimmy Joyce wake The Dead in today's sound surfeited world?  Poor Gretta!  How painful would her memories of her  lover's death be  after hearing The Lass of Aughrim sung a hundred times?
During a recent interview the Dalai Lama revealed he never listens to music.  But that doesn't mean he can't hear it.
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Thursday, September 20, 2012

Wisdom from Wendell Berry

"It is merely a fact that the land, here and everywhere, is suffering. We have the “dead zone” in the Gulf of Mexico and undrinkable water to attest to the toxicity of our agriculture. We know that we are carelessly and wastefully logging our forests. We know that soil erosion, air and water pollution, urban sprawl, the proliferation of highways and garbage are making our lives always less pleasant, less healthful, less sustainable, and our dwelling places more ugly.


Nearly forty years ago my state of Kentucky, like other coal-producing states, began an effort to regulate strip mining. While that effort has continued, and has imposed certain requirements of “reclamation,” strip mining has become steadily more destructive of the land and the land’s future. We are now permitting the destruction of entire mountains and entire watersheds. No war, so far, has done such extensive or such permanent damage. If we know that coal is an exhaustible resource, whereas the forests over it are with proper use inexhaustible, and that strip mining destroys the forest virtually forever, how can we permit this destruction? If we honor at all that fragile creature the topsoil, so long in the making, so miraculously made, so indispensable to all life, how can we destroy it? If we believe, as so many of us profess to do, that the Earth is God’s property and is full of His glory, how can we do harm to any part of it?

In Kentucky, as in other unfortunate states, and again at great public cost, we have allowed—in fact we have officially encouraged—the establishment of the confined animal-feeding industry, which exploits and abuses everything involved: the land, the people, the animals, and the consumers. If we love our country, as so many of us profess to do, how can we so desecrate it?

But the economic damage is not confined just to our farms and forests. For the sake of “job creation,” in Kentucky, and in other backward states, we have lavished public money on corporations that come in and stay only so long as they can exploit people here more cheaply than elsewhere. The general purpose of the present economy is to exploit, not to foster or conserve.

Look carefully, if you doubt me, at the centers of the larger towns in virtually every part of our country. You will find that they are economically dead or dying. Good buildings that used to house needful, useful, locally owned small businesses of all kinds are now empty or have evolved into junk stores or antique shops. But look at the houses, the churches, the commercial buildings, the courthouse, and you will see that more often than not they are comely and well made. And then go look at the corporate outskirts: the chain stores, the fast-food joints, the food-and-fuel stores that no longer can be called service stations, the motels. Try to find something comely or well made there.

What is the difference? The difference is that the old town centers were built by people who were proud of their place and who realized a particular value in living there. The old buildings look good because they were built by people who respected themselves and wanted the respect of their neighbors. The corporate outskirts, on the contrary, were built by people who manifestly take no pride in the place, see no value in lives lived there, and recognize no neighbors. The only value they see in the place is the money that can be siphoned out of it to more fortunate places—that is, to the wealthier suburbs of the larger cities."

An ugly truth

Cynicism becomes obedience dissolved of guilt.
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Saturday, September 15, 2012

What To Expect

"For human nature is such that grief and pain - even simultaneously suffered - do not add up as a whole in our consiousness, but hide, the lesser behind the greater, according to a definite law of perspective.  It is providential and is our means of surviving in the camp.  And this is the reason why so often in  free life one hears it said that man is never content.  In fact it is not a question of a human incapacity for a state of absolute happiness, but of an ever-insufficient knowledge of the complex nature of the state of unhappiness;  so that the single name of  the major cause is given to all its causes, which are composite and set out in an order of urgency.  And if the most immediate cause of stress comes to an end, you are grievously amazed to see that another lies behind;  and in reality a whole series of others."

Primo Levi,  If This Is A Man,  (Abacus, 1987), p79.
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Friday, September 14, 2012

Quotation

"There are many perils, both for our nation and for the world, inherent in this situation - and they do not all come from abroad.  We are exasperated by the ironic incongruities of our position.  Having more power than ever before, America ironically enjoys less security than in the days of her weakness.  Convinced of her virtue, she finds that even her allies accuse her of domestic vices invented by her enemies.  The liberated prove ungrateful for their liberation, the reconstructed for their reconstruction, and the late colonial peoples vent their resentment upon our nation - the most innocent, we believe, of the imperial powers.  Driven by these provocations and frustrations, there is the danger that America may be tempted to exert all the terrible power she possesses to compel history to conform to her own illusions.  The extreme, but by no means the only expression, would be the so-called preventive war.  This would be to commit the worst heresy of the Marxists, with whom it is dogma that they can compel history to conform to the pattern of their dreams by the ruthless use of force."
C. Vann Woodward  (The Irony of Southern History) (1953)
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Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Jobless Recovery or Jobless Economy?

When the candidates and their toadies tell us how many jobs they will 'create',  I want to spit in their stupid lying faces.
The reason the recovery has been slow is because the jobs are gone.
Mort Zuckerman has stated that the  industrial base of the 1950's & 1960's has been reduced by 90% and that those jobs are never coming back.  Is he correct?  If so, why?  The candidates should be talking about that.

Pat Buchanan has stated that 50,000 factories with 5.5 million jobs have been transferred abroad.  The Americans who worked those jobs did not go abroad.  They are still here, and jobless for the most part.  Is he correct?  If so, why?  The candidates should be talking about that.

The American economy has been looted by the multinational corporations.  Traitors couldn't have done more damage to our nation.

“If the Golden Rule were generally observed among us, the economy would not last a week. We have made our false economy a false god, and it has made blasphemy of the truth. So I have met the economy in the road, and am expected to yield it right of way. But I will not get over. My reason is that I am a man, and have a better right to the ground than the economy. The economy is no god for me, for I have had too close a look at its wheels. I have seen it at work in the strip mines and coal camps of Kentucky, and I know it has no moral limits.”
Wendell Berry  (Hat Tip, John Pattison)

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Friday, September 7, 2012

Old Gold plus 50


At the start of 1962 (and for sometime before) I had been living a wasted life.  In February 1962 I met a girl who saved me from self-destruction.  I married her.    Somehow it worked.  Looking back, I see that we were like injured animals who found each other,  licked each other's wounds and brought healing.
On Labor Day weekend, Patti and I celebrated our fiftieth wedding anniversary.  The album shown above was issued that year (1962).  It was one of our favorite albums then, perhaps the first we bought together although I believe the purchase was made early in 1963.  It doesn't seem that long ago.
The song sung here is appropriate for the occasion. 
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Friday, August 24, 2012

Pueblo Indian writes to Carl Jung

Antonio Mirabal (also known as Mountain Lake) writes:

"See how cruel the whites look.  Their lips are thin.  Their noses are sharp.  Their faces furrowed and distorted by folds.  Their eyes have a staring expression.  They are always seeking something.  What are they seeking?  The whites always want something.  They are always uneasy and restless.  We do not know what they want.  We do not understand.  We think that they are mad."

Carl Jung comments on the above:
"For the first time in my life, so it seems to me, someone had drawn for me a picture of the real white man.  This Indian had struck a invulnerable spot, unveiled a truth to which we are blind."
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Monday, August 20, 2012

The day J.F.K. lost my support.

Somewhere in the archives of TV land there is video or kineoscope or film of a few minutes in the life of President John Kennedy.  I saw this piece of TV news film in 1962 and I can still recall the image and what I felt at that moment.
President Kennedy is at a military base somewhere in the southern United States.  A large square platform has been placed on the ground and in the center of this platform is a large wooden chair, very substantial in appearance, throne-like in its immanence.
Kennedy is sitting in the chair.  His arms rest on its arms.
A single military officer in dress uniform stands on the ground on each side of the platform;  they hold a parade rest position, their eyes focused on the ground before them.
Kennedy, too, is looking frontward.  He watches two men, trained in hand-to-hand combat, battle each other for advantage.
Kennedy has the look of a budding warrior-king, young Prince Hal, a man with a dream of power and empire.  He is pleased with what he sees.
The TV narrator is describing Kennedy's satisfaction with the development of a Special Forces Group within the military.  This is the seed bed of Delta Force. 
I remember asking myself "Why does America need this?"  I could find no answer.  Instead I saw, no, I felt a dangerous trend, the beginning of a degenerative influence.
And so it was.  Today America has a small army of highly trained combat warriors, skilled in murder, spying, explosives, torture, assassination, infiltration, disinformation, and more.
Their virtues and their value are touted in the press and by the government.  We are told  they keep us safe, that they are heroes.
Strange, though, is the fact that these heroes cannot be honored in the traditional way.  Their deeds are so dark, so daring, we cannot see their faces, nor know their names.  There IS no Hector, no Ajax, no Achilles, in 21st century America.  There are only black silhouettes doing black deeds
They operate without reward, and without oversight.  A dangerous combination that will slowly corrode our national soul.  If it hasn't already.
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Monday, July 23, 2012

Trickle-down employment

In a recent speech by Michael Tanner of the Cato Institute, it was clear that the corporate oligarchy isn't ready to build a broadbased economy in the United States.
Mr. Tanner maintains that outsourcing is good for America.
"Outsourcing jobs has allowed U.S. companies to penetrate foreign markets, be more competitive and hire more U.S. workers at home," states Mr. Tanner.
Mr. Tanner goes on to say "If we're going to sell cars in China, it makes sense to build a plant in China."
In Mr. Tanner's world, we export jobs, not cars.
Here is Tanner's idea of the bright side of outsourcing:  'Overseas profits are brought back to the United States "and then those new profits enable them to hire new and more skilled jobs in this country."
Mr. Tanner doesn't get very specific about what these jobs will be or where they will be found.   But we can be sure that trickle-down employment, like trickle-down wealth, will never reach the millions of Americans who need work.
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Sunday, July 22, 2012

What is a dissident?

"The notion that a radical is one who hates his country is naive and usually idiotic.  He is, more likely, one who likes his country more than the rest of us, and is thus more disturbed than the rest of us when he sees it debauched.  He is not a bad citizen turning to crime;  he is a good citizen driven to despair."

H. L. Mencken

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Does God ruminate?

For example, does He ever say to Himself:  "If I knew then, what I know now...?"
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On Age and Death

Open one more book.
Read one more page.
Find one more man thinking about death.
Learn there are no answers, no reasons.
One's unwanted death is the completion of one's unwanted birth.

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Thursday, July 12, 2012

Penn State Revisited

The Freeh Report on the Penn State-Sandusky scandal confirms what most people already knew.

It also puts the lie to that old axiom spoken by every dumb-ass coach I ever had:  Football builds character.
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Friday, June 15, 2012

Quotation

"The word Fascism has now no meaning except in so far as it signifies "something not desirable."  The words democracy, socialism, freedom, patriotic, realistic, justice have each of them several different meanings which cannot be reconciled with one another.  In the case of a word like democracy, not only is there no agreed definition, but the attempt to make one is resisted from all sides.  It is almost universally felt that when we call a country democratic we are praising it:  consequently the defenders of every kind of regime claim that it is a democracy, and fear that they might have to stop using that word if it were tied down to any one meaning.  Words of this kind are often used in a consciously dishonest way.  That is, the person who uses them has his own private definition, but allows his hearer to think he means something quite different."

"Politics and the English Language" (1945)
George Orwell
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Thursday, June 14, 2012

William James was a wise man.

Once upon a time there was an America where prominent people spoke and wrote of ideas like this:

"Among us English-speaking peoples especially do the praises of poverty need once more to be boldly sung.  We have grown literally afraid to be poor.  We despise anyone who elects to be poor in order to simplify and save his inner life.  If he does not join the general scramble and pant with the money-making street, we deem him spiritless and lacking in ambition.  We have lost the power even of imagining what the ancient idealization of poverty could have meant:  the liberation from material attachments, the unbribed soul, the manlier indifference, the paying our way by what we are or do and not by what we have, the right to fling away our life at any moment irresponsibly, - the more athletic trim, in short, the moral fighting shape.  When we of the so-called better classes are scared as men were never scared in history at material ugliness and hardship;  when we put off marriage until our house can be artistic, and quake at the thought of having a child without a bank-account and doomed to manual labor, it is time for thinking men to protest against so unmanly and irreligious a state of opinion.
It is true that so far as wealth gives time for ideal ends and exercise to ideal energies, wealth is better than poverty and ought to  be chosen.  But wealth does this in only a portion of the actual cases.  Elsewhere the desire to gain wealth and the fear to lose it are our chief breeders of cowardice and propagators of corruption.  There are thousands of conjunctures in which a wealth-bound man must be a slave, whilst a man for whom poverty has no terrors becomes a freeman.  Think of the strength which personal indifference to poverty would give us if we were devoted to unpopular causes.  We need no longer hold our tongues or fear to vote the revolutionary or reformatory ticket.   Our stocks might fall, our hopes of promotion vanish, our salaries stop, our club doors close in our faces;  yet, while we lived, we would imperturbably bear witness to the spirit, and our example would help us to set free our generation.  The cause would need its funds, but we its servants would be potent in proportion as we personally were contented with our poverty.
I recommend this matter to your serious pondering, for it is certain that the prevalent fear of poverty among the educated classes is the worst moral disease from which our civilization suffers."

From The Varieties Of Religious Experience", by the American philosopher William James.
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Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Old Gold


I'm thankful for Whistleblowers

Unauthorized leaks from the White House have the war lovers in a tizzy. The objections to these leaks are that they 'endanger national security' and that they were made intentionally in order to make the President appear to be a tough leader defending the American people.  Heretofore this quality was something that only Republican Presidents had enjoyed, the Democrats being too soft to protect the USA from its enemies.
What were these leaks?
1.  President Obama 'personally' reviews a 'kill list' to 'authorize' drone strikes to kill citizens of another country who have been 'deemed' to be terrorists.
2.  The United States has conducted cyberwar against the nation of Iran.

 These leaks are not news to Pakistanis or Afghans.  They are the ones being killed by our drones.
These leaks are not news to the Iranians.  They know that computer viruses have affected their nuclear program and they have a pretty good idea who is responsible.
So why the big noise?  The American people don't care.  They  only get mad when  foreigners retaliate and cause destruction here, in our country.  When foreigners kill Americans here, in our country.  Very few Americans get upset over the killing that takes place in our name wherever in the world we decide to do it.
Both leaks describe unauthorized Acts of War by the United States.  And (get this) our President is supposed to be a constitutional scholar.
But I find another image even more ludicrous and sad.  I picture President Obama, winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, sitting in the oval office perusing a "kill list" and authorizing drone strikes against individuals deemed (without trial) to be terrorists.  That these strikes often kill innocents and children is unfortunate but won't interrupt his sit-down dinner smiling with the troops.

God bless the whistleblowers, whatever their motives.  They bring us the truth.
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Friday, June 8, 2012

Lord Byron sounds contemporary

I enjoy re-reading the classics.  Lately I have been reading Keats, Wordsworth and Byron.  I found this excerpt in Lord Byron's "English Bards and Scotch Reviewers." It would be at home in almost any current literary publication.

Truth!  rouse some genuine Bard, and guide his hand
To drive this pestilence from the land.
E'en I - least thinking of a thoughtless throng,
Just skilled to know the right and choose the wrong,
Freed at that age when Reason's shield is lost,
To fight my course through Passion's countless host,
Whom every path of Pleasure's flow'ry way
Has lured in turn, and all have led astray -
E'en I must raise my voice, e'en I must feel
Such scenes, such men, destroy the public weal:
Altho' some kind, censorious friend will say
"What art thou better, meddling fool, than they?"
And every Brother Rake will smile to see
That miracle, a Moralist in me.
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Thursday, June 7, 2012

June 7th

The Peace of Wild Things
   by Wendell Berry

When despair for the world grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children's lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water,
and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief.  I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the daytime stars
waiting with their light.  For a time
I rest in the grave of the world, and am free.
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Monday, May 28, 2012

It takes more than remembrance

A movement has been started to design and build another wall for Vietnam veterans.  Not for those who died during the war.  No, this memorial would be for those who killed themselves after the war. 
Even the Government agrees that at least 20,000 Vietnam vets have committed suicide since the end of the War.  We know that every statistic the Government gave us over the years the War was active was a  lie, so I suspect this number is too low. 
Most of the organizations looking at this problem deal in higher numbers, figures that range from 50,000 to 200,000 suicides. 
I can accept the Government figures.  20,000 suicides is enough for me to recognize that the American people and the American government have not, do not and will not treat the veterans with the care and respect they deserve.
Veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are killing themselves at disturbingly high rates and still there is no truly serious and comprehensive program to serve these vets.  Oh, there are concerns, there is talk, but only a smidgen of commitment.
Now, we have this report:
"America's newest veterans are filing for disability benefits at a historic rate...A staggering 45 percent of the 1.6 million veterans from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are seeking compensation for injuries they say are service related.  That is more than double the estimated 21 per cent who filed such claims after the Gulf War in the early 1990s, top government officials said.
"These new veterans are claiming eight or nine ailments on average, and the most recent over the last year are claiming 11 to 14....
"These new veterans are seeking a level of help the government did not anticipate, and for which there is no special fund available."
Imagine that!
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Saturday, May 26, 2012

Death of a Legend

The Pillsbury Doughboy died yesterday of a yeast infection and trauma complications from being repeatedly poked in the belly.  He was 71.
Doughboy was buried in a lightly greased coffin.  Dozens of celebrities turned out to pay their respects, including Mrs. Butterworth, Hungry Jack, the California Raisins, Betty Crocker, the Hostess Twinkie, and Captain Crunch.  The grave site was piled high with flours.
Aunt Jemima delivered the euology and lovingly described Doughboy as a man who never knew how much he was kneaded.  Born and bread in Minnesota, Doughboy rose quickly in show business, but his later life was filled with turnovers.  He was not considered a very smart cookie, wasting much of his dough on half-baked schemes.  Despite being a little flaky at times,  he lived to be a crusty old man and was considered a roll model for millions.
Doughboy is survived by his wife Play Dough, three children: John Dough, Jane Dough, and Dosey Dough, plus they had one in the oven.  He is also survived by his elderly father, Pop Tart.
The funeral was held at 3:50 for about 20 minutes.

I suppose everyone in the world has read this before but it was new to me and I laughed till I cried.  Apparently I have a broad sense of humor.
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Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Counterterrorism stinks from moral rot.


"White House counterterrorism adviser John Brennan defended the administration's campaign of drone missile attacks against militants while acknowledging Sunday that the airstrikes have sometimes killed noncombatants.
"Unfortunately, in war, there are casualties, including among the civilian population,"  Brennan said on ABC's This Week, answering a question about the covert drone program...."Sometimes you have to take lives to save lives and that's what we've been able to do to prevent these individual terrorists from carrying out their murderous attacks."
This is NOT collateral damage.  Collateral damage is defined as an inadvertent and unintentional loss of life or physical destruction as a result of a military action.  What Mr. Brennan describes is the intentional and knowing murder of innocents as part of a program to kill individuals deemed as terrorists.  Who does the 'deeming' is unknown.
American willingness to cause the murder of innocents for policy reasons is not new.  Read an example here.
I am outraged and sickened by this.  I am not surprised that there are people in the world who want to do us harm.  How could it be otherwise?
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Friday, May 11, 2012

J P Morgan Chase is my bank.

J P Morgan Chase announces that it has lost $2 billion dollars in the past few weeks and it expects to lose $1 billion more.
Well, so much for "Lessons learned."

So much for the belief that "We don't need more regulation."
It should be obvious that bankers are not only greedy;  they are stupid too.

But how can that be?  Banks are a cornerstone of 'the private sector' which never gets it wrong.
Oh, yeah.
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Wednesday, May 9, 2012

The Big Hurt

There were 12,000,000 prescriptions for oxycontin in the United States last year (2011).

It seems that Americans are in a lot of pain.
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Saturday, May 5, 2012

I like the Post Office

Many statements and invoices which I receive contain the following message boldly printed on their envelopes:   "No stamps to buy.  No mail to send.  Just easy online payments."

So?  What's wrong or difficult about buying stamps?  What is wrong or difficult about sending mail?  I believe they are pretending a problem exists when there is no problem.

 The United States Post Office is a very useful institution.  I appreciate it.  I even revere it and its long history from the time of the Founding Fathers  who started the enterprise.  I also know, that if even a great many individuals don't need it, there are many who do.  I side with them because I still believe (unlike so many moderns) that we are in this together.
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Saturday, April 28, 2012

On My Mind Tonight - Chemicals

When I consider the chemicals that now reside in our bodies, chemicals acquired through ingestion, breathing and touch, I wonder what changes they have made and I wonder if their work is done.
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Thursday, March 29, 2012

On My Mind Tonight

I watched Paul Ryan discuss the Republican budget on C-Span tonight.  Taking questions from the audience, Mr. Ryan was asked how he justified not raising taxes on millionaires while cutting programs that serve the poor.
Mr. Ryan replied that the questioner's formulation was incorrect for this reason:  the tax on millionaires proposed by the Obama administration would raise the taxes on small businesses that make over one million dollars a year.  Since these businesses are the main source of job creation, the effect from the tax increase on millionaires would retard economic growth.

Here is my problem.  According to Forbes, there are over 400 billionaires and over 12,000,000 millionaires in the United States.  (It is projected that, by 2020, there will be over 20,000,000 millionaires in the US.)  These are individuals, or people.  These are not corporations.
It has been my understanding, and I'm quite sure that of the American populace, that talk of taxing millionaires applies to people, or households, that have income larger than $1,000,000 per year.
Mr. Ryan is saying that the tax applies to any entity that makes over 1,000,000 dollars per year, whether an individual or a corporation.
Obviously, one side or the other is confused about (or distorting) the context in which the tax debate is taking place.  Or am I missing something here?  I would dearly love to recieve an honest and informed answer.
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Wednesday, March 21, 2012

When buying gas didn't hurt.

Around 50 or so years ago, it was not a disagreeable experience to pull into a gas station for a fill-up.  You may think I am referring to the price of gasoline then but no.  After all, everything was less expensive than today.

No, I recall for your consideration that, as a rule, the following took place with every sale at the pump.  You did not have to leave your car.  You had already driven over an air hose which activated a bell inside to alert workers that a customer was at the pumps.  You were greeted at your car door and asked how much and what kind of gas you required.  While the gas was being pumped into your car's tank, the employee cleaned your front and rear windshields, and raised your hood to check the oil, water, and battery.  For FREE.  At sale conclusion you paid the employee money for the gas.  If you were due change from your payment, he walked it out to you and thanked you for your business.
Another curtesy available to any driver was to have the air in the tires checked.  For FREE, although a tip was usually proffered unless the driver decided to check tire pressure himself.
If a motorist was planning a trip, one could walk inside the station and find a display of road maps for a dozen or so states as well as a national highway map.  All maps were FREE.

Once upon a time (as they say in fairy tales) such courtesies described above were considered good business.  Retailers sought customers by being agreeable and offering advantages designed to cause customers to return.  This attitude was spread out through many business enterprises at that time.

In the 1970's things began to change.  Business people decided that America wasn't a society anymore.   We were an empire, a global mover and shaker.  All type of markets were available and huge profits could be had without the close attention to detail and customer satisfaction previously seen as important to the bottom line.  Accounting and marketing replaced the social and moral values of community enterprise.  The stockholder replaced the customer as the focus of attention.

Another feature that was lost in this change, albeit inadvertently, was the disappearance of jobs.  Many teenage boys found part-time work at gas stations where they earned money and learned responsibility.
Finally, please don't call this nostalgia.  We still have cars that need gas.  We still have stations to provide the gas.  There is no reason why the same curtesies and amenities we once enjoyed could not be reinstated today.
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Saturday, March 3, 2012

On My Mind Today

Iran asserts it is not working to build a nuclear weapon.
Israel asserts it does not possess nuclear weapons.

Of these two, which is the bigger lie?
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Sunday, February 26, 2012

Anniversary at Buffalo Creek, West Virginia

Today is the 40th anniversary of the Buffalo Creek mining disaster in West Virginia.
The destruction occurred when an earthen dam holding mining waste gave way and flooded the hollows through which the creek ran.  130 million gallons of coal sludge destroyed the towns of Saunders, Lundle, Pardee, Lorado, Crites, and others.  125 West Virginians were killed.  4000 were left homeless.  Lakes, ponds, and creeks were polluted; aquatic life destroyed.
The mine owners called it an Act of God.  Today, in this more secular age, they might say "Yeah, like, shit happens, you know?"
Everyone who lived there knew the dam would collapse one day.  But that made no difference then.  No difference now either.  The same regulations in effect then are in effect today.
But this happened in a place no one cares about and to a people no one cares about.  This is life in Appalachia.
When George W. Bush made the statement that Americans are "addicted to oil" I was shocked.  I couldn't tell if it meant that even an oil-rich Texan sees a problem or if it meant that there was no need to pretend anymore.
Our lust for energy sources is rapacious.  Our profligate use of energy is depressing.  The Power People tell us that we must drill, strip and frack for "Energy Security."   Ah, that word 'security'.  It has covered so many sins over the years.
What they don't mention is that a half dozen refineries are planned (permitting underway) to process natural gas into a state feasible to transport and sell abroad. 
Right now oil companies are exporting American oil abroad even as they tell us we need to find more here for our uses.
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Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Quotation

"Yet such is the control of semantics over the mind that when words (above all, abstract labels) are learned early in life, the associations acquired with them at the time seem almost permanently "imprinted," except for the small number of people who in each generation try to enlarge or correct them."

W. Jackson Bate
"Samuel Johnson"
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Goldfish - A Short Story

     Four goldfish swam in a sunken bowl pond fringed with water grass in the small walled garden.  The garden adjoined the dormitory where the whores lived in an off-limits part of town.  There were four of us lounging on the gravel surface surrounding the pond, young soldiers who were a few weeks away from finishing a two-year tour of duty in Japan, and just a few months more from being discharged into civilian life.  We were having morning tea  in the garden which was reached by an open side door of the dormitory.  Well, all except Mike - he was drinking beer.
     "How do we get out of this part of town where we're not supposed to be without being seen?," I asked.
     Don was acknowledged as our group leader.  He said "We ask mama-san to call us a cab.  We can't get in trouble if we are seen riding through."
     "The hell we can't," I said.
     "We'll blame it on the driver," said Don.
     "What'll we do today?" said Mike.
     Virgil said "Why don't we catch a matinee?  The new Cinemascope is over in Fukuoka."  Virgil liked movies.
     "Maybe," Don said.
     "After the movie, what?" I said.
     "Let's go to the turkey farm," said Don.
     "Gobble, gobble, gobble," said Mike.
     "The turkey farm," I said, "Where's that?"
     "Gobble, gobble," said Mike again.
     "In Fukuoka," said Don.  "Hey, mama-san," he called.
     An old woman in a robe came to the door.  Coming up from her bow, she smiled.  She had a face like a marbled gourd.
     "Mama-san, dozo," said Don, "Please get a rickshaw for us."
     "Hai," she said, bowing again and disappearing inside.
     "Gobble, gobble," said Mike, rubbing his crotch.
     "I didn't know they had turkeys in Japan," I said.
     "Geez, Tom," said Don, laughing with the others, "We're not talking about turkeys.  It's girls who gobble your meat.  They call the place the turkey farm."
     "I know," I said lamely.
     "Sure you do," said Mike.
     "We'll take the train to Fukuoka and talk about what to do on the way," said Don.
      All agreed that was a good idea and fell silent, staring at the goldfish until Virgil spoke.  "What are you guys going to do when you get out?"
     "Geez," said Mike, "Who wants to talk about that now?"
     "Well, I've been thinking  about it lately.  Thinking alot about it."
     "Hell, Virgil," said Don, "there must be something you like to do.  Pick something and try it."
     "That's just it.  I can't.  I don't have a choice.  Something's already happened and that's what I'll do, that's what I'll be."  Virgil was more morose than usual.
     "That's crazy.  You can choose."
     "I don't know, Don."  Virgil pointed to the dormitory.  "Last night I'm watching a Japanese girl get the bed ready.  I don't know her name.  She doesn't know mine.  She's naked and so am I.  We're gonna screw each other, and sleep together.  She's in there now if I want more, and it comes to me.  She didn't want to be a whore and I didn't want to be in Japan.  But some old guys started a war fifteen or twenty years ago and here we are.  We had no choice."
     "Well, Virgil," said Mike, "did you screw her or just think about it?"
     "That girl and I ought to be doing something else in some other place, but here we are with nothing to say about it.  Do you see what I mean?  Don't you think there's stuff we can't explain?"
     "You mean," said Don, "like why don't girls whistle?"
     "Or why don't birds fly upside down?" said Mike.
     We were all smiling, good-natured in the tease.
     "Come on, Virgil." said Don, "you sound like a kid."
     Virgil swatted the air with his hand.  "I know that.  I just don't wanna...I don't know... I don't wanna live with nothin' to say...oh, Hell."
     "You will, Virgil," I said.
     "Maybe," Virgil said, but I'm telling you Life has secrets that we don't know anything about."
     "Worse than that," said Mike, "is to know what the secrets are but you don't understand them."
     "No, worse than that," said Don, "is to know what they are and understand them but not know how to use them."
     Don and Mike were laughing.  They looked at me to see what I had to say.  I was looking at the goldfish in the pond.  They were motionless in the water save for the flutter of their gills.  I knew what Virgil meant.  Things happen to people that they just can't seem to do anything about.  My father tried one thing, then another, and nothing went the way he expected.  So he gave up and drank and left the family alone.  My mother grew bitter, silent.  My sisters drifted away.  But I knew what I was going to do.   I was going to re-enlist.  It had come to me one night in barracks when I couldn't sleep and I lay there listening to the sounds one hears in a facility open every hour of every day.  Even when you were asleep, I thought, you knew that out there on the base life was continous, lights were on, work was getting done, a friend was smiling and talking.  And, on waking, it was all there waiting for you to step in and take your place and do your job and keep things whole while others slept. Life had mutuality.  You felt important.  And there were no big life secrets to worry about.  How about that, I got ready to say as I came back from my reverie to hear Mike finish saying "...damn sure won't find me re-upping in this goddamn army."
     "That's for sure," said Don.  Virgil agreed.
     "Hey," I said, "let's go to Fukuoka and find those turkeys."
     Laughing, we rose quickly, stumbling into each other to get inside.  The goldfish fled to the shadowy water grass.
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Monday, February 20, 2012

Anthropomorphism? Don't think so.

At first light I went outside to sit on the patio and enjoy my morning coffee.   A group of tiny ants  were moving among some leftover crumbs on the table near my chair. Absent-mindedly I reached out with a finger to crush one ant, and then a second.  Instantly the ants scattered, running in various directions.  I had not moved the table during my attack.  Nor did I speak or even breathe upon them.  Yet the escaping ants knew that their lives were in danger.  It seemed to me that they were able to communicate with each other.  They were capable of making sounds which I could not hear.  They understood danger and they knew fear.  Not instinctively, but from a warning.
Naturalists have known for sometime that elephants are capable of feeling grief and anger and loyalty.  They know that the elephant's trunk is used, not only to bring food to the mouth, but to identify other animals.
Recently scientists released a study about the lives of elephants under observation in an African preserve protected by the State.  The new knowledge reveals that elephants communicate using sounds far below the frequency range of humans.  They can speak without our hearing and knowledge, and these sounds can be heard by other elephants up to a mile away.
I find this discovery exciting, even uplifting.  I have long believed that the flora and fauna of the world have a purpose other than to be foils for man's ego, or to be exploited for man's greedy uses.  Despite teachings in the Old Testament I believe that God has a purpose for everything He put on this Earth.  Who knows how patiently He waits to see if we will ever know what those purposes are?

The renowned anthropologist Loren Eiseley relates an incident he observed which he calls :The Judgement of the Birds."
"...I had slogged through fern and pine needles for half a long day, and on the edge of a little glade with one long, crooked branch extending across it, I had sat down to rest with my back against a stump.  Through accident I was concealed from the glade, although I could see into it perfectly.
     "The sun was warm there, and the murmurs of forest life blurred softly away into my sleep.  When I awoke, dimly aware of some commotion and outcry in the clearing, the light was slanting down through the pines in such a way that the glade was lit like some vast cathedral.  I could see the dust motes of wood pollen in the long shaft of light, and there on the extended branch sat an enormous raven with a red and squirming nestling in his beak.
    " The sound that awoke me was the outraged cries of the nestling's parents, who flew helplessly in circles about the clearing.  The sleek black monster was indifferent to them.  He gulped, whetted his beak on the dead branch a moment, and sat still.  Up to that point the little tragedy had followed the usual pattern.  But suddenly, out of all that area of woodland, a soft sound of complaint began to rise. Into the glade fluttered small birds of half a dozen varieties drawn by the anguished outcries of the tiny parents.
    " No one dare to attack the raven.  But they cried there in some instinctive common misery, the bereaved and the unbereaved.  The glade filled with their soft rustling and their cries.  They fluttered as though to point their wings at the murderer.  There was a dim intangible ethic he had violated, that they knew.  He was a bird of death.
     "And he, the murderer, the black bird at the heart of life, sat on there, glistening in the common light, formidable, unmoving, unperturbed, untouchable.
     "The sighing died.  It was then I saw the judgement.  It was the judgement of life against death. I will never see it again so forcefully presented.  I will never hear it again in notes so tragically prolonged.  For in the midst of protest, they forgot the violence.  There, in that clearing, the crystal note of a song sparrow lifted hesitantly in the hush.  And finally, after painful fluttering, another took the song, and then another, the song passing from one bird to another, doubtfully at first, as though some evil thing were being slowly forgotten.  Till suddenly they took heart and sang from many throats joyously together as birds are known to sing.  They sang because life is sweet and sunlight beautiful.  They sang under the brooding shadow of the raven.  In simple truth they had forgotten the raven, for they were the singers of life, and not of death."

Would that people could do as well.
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Saturday, February 11, 2012

Longevity means outliving your value

An article (or column) from the Baltimore Sun was syndicated into the Palm Beach Post, a newspaper I read each day.  The author of this article is Susan Reimer.  The title of her piece is "Longevity happier in theory than in practice."
Ms Reimer relates crosscountry conversations with close friends whose mothers are very old and no longer functioning normally.  The conversation drifts into other personal talk but Reimer brings them back to discussing the end of life.
"We shouldn't be planning vacations," she says.  "We should be working on exit strategies.  The one of us who still has it together needs to promise to mix the pills in the applesauce for the ones who don't."
Serious stuff.  But then Reimer presents some facts.  In her own words:

"More of us are living longer and dying slower.  Estimates are that 70 percent of us will need some kind of residential care in the final years of life, and few of us have the savings or the insurance to pay for it - about $75,000 a year in a nursing home and about $20,000 a year for home care.  (It is not either/or.  And almost all of us who have home care will eventually need nursing home care.)
"The CLASS Act, part of the health care reform legislation of 2010, would have provided long-term care insurance for anyone who wanted to buy it, regardless of age or health.  But it was withdrawn last month when the Obama administration realized that it was wildly unaffordable.
"Private insurers appear to have made the same actuarial mistakes and are asking for permission to increase premiuns on policies they have already sold by 40 percent.  Some companies are getting out of the long-term care insurance business altogether.
The assumption that many of us have - that Medicare will pay for our care when we are both old and sick - is wrong.  Medicare only pays for short nursing home stays or short-term at-home care, under certain medical conditions.
"It is Medicaid that is bankrupting itself to pay these costs - and most of us are only eligible after we have drained our savings.  None of us wants to face up to end-of-life issues, let alone pay up thousands of dollars a year in premiums for long-term care insurance.
"And we can't seem to talk about any alternatives to prolonging even the most painful or undiginified life." 

Tough stuff, that.  In just a few paragraphs we have an outline of a serious national problem that will only worsen as more people continue to 'live longer and die slower.'
Please note that I write "national problem" because it can't be solved in any piecemeal helter-skelter way.  The favorite comeback of those who won't face  reality is to speak of extended care in the family.  Oh if it were only so. But the extended family of old is as rare as the two-parent, one-salary family of old.
Matters are made worse by new medical discoveries and technologies which extend the life of a terminal patient years past the natural time of death that was more common in the long ago. 
Today's politicians are full of talk about costs and how health care expenses are out of control.
I wonder, is "health care' the right phrase to use when discussing the cost of servicing terminally ill patients?
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Saturday, February 4, 2012

Bad Timing

Last week, CBS Newsman Scott Pelley interviewed Tomas Regalado, the mayor of Miami, Florida.  During the interview, the Mayor said "Miami is what the United States will be 25 years from now."

This week, Forbes magazine issued its annual list of the ten Most Miserable Cities in the U.S.  Number one is the city of Miami, Florida.

I hope one of them is wrong.
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Monday, January 23, 2012

Albert Jay Nock - A prophet?

Eighty years ago (1931) the conservative philosopher Albert Nock made an observation.  He believed that America was trying to force the current of its being through the narrow channel of one instinct only:  the instinct of acquisition and expansion, resulting in a society that

"must inevitably be characterized by a low type of  intellect, a grotesque type of religion, a facticious type of morals, an imperfect type of beauty, and an imperfect type of social life and manners.  In a word, it is uncivilized."

Reading that again, I was reminded of this injunction from Wendell Berry:
"We must achieve the character,  and acquire the skills, to live much poorer than we do."
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Thursday, January 19, 2012

Ivan Illich - Wisdom

"The machine-like behavior of people chained to electronics constitutes a degradation of their well-being and of their dignity which, for most people in the long run, becomes intolerable.  Observations of the sickening effect of programmed environments shows that people in them become indolent, impotent, narcissistic and apolitical.  The political process breaks down because people cease to be able to govern themselves;  they demand to be managed."
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Thursday, January 5, 2012

Conspiracy Not Required

The slow steady erosion of personal freedoms, the increased acceptance of 'security measures', the diminishing life of our Republic:  these changes do not have to be a result of some huge conspiracy by the power brokers of the world.  They can happen gradually, a social evolution that simply makes it seem necessary, advisable, probably a good idea.
In 1977, Jerry Mander wrote a brave and good book called "Four Arguments For The Elimination Of Television".  Of course, the hoped-for elimination never occurred, nor will it.  Still, it is a useful book to read if you are one who senses and regrets the losses our nation has suffered in the past six or seven decades.

Mander cites the movie Solaris as an example of what may be the future.  He speaks about the Soviet version directed by Andre Tarkovski, not the 2002 version directed by Steven Soderbergh.
In Solaris, technology is used "to produce autocracy not so much deliberate and conscious as it is evolutionary.
"As technology has evolved, step by step, it has placed boundaries between human beings and their connections with larger, nonhuman realities.  As life acquired ever more technological wrapping, human experience and understanding were confined and altered.  In Solaris these changes happen in a nonspecific order over time, until people's minds and living patterns are so disconnected that there is no way of knowing reality from fantasy.  At such a point, there is no choice but to accept leadership, however arbitrary. 
"Such leadership may very well not plan its own success.  It emerges organically at the moment when human experience has been sufficiently channeled and confined.  In this cultural analogue of mass sensory deprivation, simple, clear statements assume a greater authority and profundity than they deserve.
"Whoever recognizes that such a crucial moment has arrived, that people's minds are appropriately confused and receptive, can speak directly into them without interference.  The people who are spoken to are preconditioned to accept what they hear, like the Solaris astronauts...."
Mander goes on to say "Technology plays a critical role in this process because it creates standardized arbitrary forms of physical and mental confinement.  Television is the ideal tool for such purposes because it both confines experience and implants simple, clear ideas.

"Seen in this way, a new fact emerges.  Autocracy needn't come in the form of a person at all, or even as an articulated ideology or conscious conspiracy.  (italics mine)  The autocracy can exist in the technology itself.  The technology can produce its own subordinated society, as though it were alive, like Solaris"
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