Saturday, December 13, 2014

Torture is a crime

  Torture is exrtremely deviant behavior and must never be used.  The American government, acting at the behest of the President and the Attorney General, approved the use of torture and employed a variety of methods of torture on prisoners.
The Government deliberately made torture legal by calling it "enhanced interrogation techniques."
Unless this policy is officially condemned and unless the principals are prosecuted, or at least, censured, our nation will never be the same.  It will exist but with a cancerous shame deep within the national soul.  We will be saying to the world and to future generations that the "exceptional" country, the "indispensable" country, the "shining city on the hill" is a fraud. 

Lawlessness is now officially approved.   Future Presidents have legal precedent to follow.  Other nations may follow our lead.  Our lectures on human rights will be hollow. 
This is the path to self-destruction.

In 1993 Daniel Patrick Moynihan published an essay titled "Defining Deviancy Down."  In this essay Moynihan deplored the changing social standards of the American people, breaking this into three categories: altruistic, opportunistic, and normalizing.
The normalizing of crime, the acceptance of crime had become a serious problem and Moynihan quotes Judge Edwin Torres of the New York State Supreme Court who said "The numbness, the near narcoleptic state can diminish the human condition to the level of combat infantrymen who, in protracted campaigns, can eat their battlefield rations seated on the bodies of the fallen,  friend and foe alike.  The society that loses its sense of outrage is doomed to extinction."
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Wednesday, December 10, 2014

On The Subject of Torture

I'm recycling this post from May 2009:


When I read the comments by former Vice-President Cheney, Rush Limbaugh, Charles Krauthammer, et al, on torture and its good uses, I like to recall some wisdom from the writings of Simone Weil:

"Evil when we are in its power is not felt as evil but as a necessity, or even a duty."

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Change is needed, but there is no sign it is coming.

"Conservation is getting nowhere because it is incompatible with our Abrahamic concept of land.  We abuse the land because we regard it as a commodity belonging to us.  When we see land as a community to which we belong, we may begin to use it with love and respect.  There is no other way  for land to survive the impact of mechanized man."
-Aldo Leopold
A Sand County Almanac (1949)
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Monday, November 10, 2014

Understanding numbers, or maybe, failing to understand.

For the past several years I have read or heard the statement that the United States has less than 5% of the world's population but consumes 30% of the fossil fuel reserves.
The statement is true but I learned a piece of new information that really surprised me.
I knew that our population numbered around 315,000,000.   I didn't know that we are third in population behind China (1st) and India (2nd).
I was sort of shocked to learn this.  That famous 5% of the world's population fooled me into believing that we were far down the list of the 'most populous countries.'  By the way, it is actually 4.3%, not 5%.
My country's population has more than doubled since I was in high school.

That got me thinking about abortion and its effect on our growth.  I learned there have been 55,772,015 abortions since Roe vs Wade in 1973.
I have no training in statistics but  adding the number of abortions to the current population gives a simplistic and error-fraught result.  Yet  that  would be an impressive number.   Some of those 55,000,000 babies would have made families.
 What would our country look like today if there had been no Roe vs Wade.  What would the housing market look like?  The job market?  The unemployment rate? 
(This post is not an argument either for or against abortion.)

It's possible there wouldn't have been the huge increase in immigration (legal and illegal) because of the market pressures coming from that 55,000,000.
(Also, this post is not an argument for or against immigration.)

 According to the Census Bureau, the estimated population of the U.S. as of November 8, 2014 was 319,049,060.  As of January 1, 2014, the estimated population of the world was 7.1 billion human beings.

Enough already.
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Wednesday, November 5, 2014

One day

One day, for no visible cause,
 an air of zest passed through his mind,
a bacchic breeze  brought memory
of the goat lust of youth.
Gasping at the loss of it,
He groped the air, as if blind.


In the mirror
the immediate Me observes
the despised You.


I could move on forever.
Take my tools: axe, shovel, saw.
Start a life.  Not a new one,
but another.


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Thursday, October 30, 2014

Citizens United is dis-uniting and destructive

What is it the wealthy say?  Money is speech.  Or is it: speech is money?
 
Some say that 'money is free speech' but it certainly isn't free.  It costs millions of dollars to speak that freely.

The problem I have with this wicked affront to common sense is this:  I don't know who is speaking.  The money spent on free speech comes from unknown sources who don't have to reveal identity.

My speech comes with a face and a name.  The millions spent on political campaign speech come out of darkness: no names, no faces.  We don't even know if they are Americans.
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Saturday, October 25, 2014

Ignorance kills another word

Journalists, TV anchors, and editorial writers are hard at work destroying another valuable word.

They are abetted by the badly educated doctors and scientists in charge of the so-called 'Ebola crisis.'

What word?  Protocol.

Dictionaries define the 1st meaning of protocol to be the forms of ceremony and etiquette observed by diplomats and heads of state.
The 2nd meaning is the first copy of a treaty or other document prior to its ratification.
The 3rd (and final) meaning is any preliminary draft or record of a transaction.

There is nothing in those meanings related to responding to  a dangerous disease or  wearing a hazmat suit.

The better word would be "procedures." 

What caused this post is the front page of today's issue of the Fort Lauderdale Sun Sentinel.  A color photograph is headlined "Airport team flies into action."
The photo shows three men in white hazmat suits surrounded by six firemen in varied stages of assistance with the suits.  The caption for the photgraph reads as follows:

"The Fort Lauderdale Fire Department demonstrates its protocols for handling Ebola patients who might arrive on an airplane."

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Friday, October 17, 2014

Ebola Czar? How about the Surgeon General?

I have been checking all the media reports on ebola on a daily basis and wondering why we don't hear from or about the Surgeon General of the United States.  I admit that I didn't know his (or her) name so I looked it up on Google.
Guess what?  There is no Surgeon General.  The nominee is "tied up in politics."
What a Congress!  What a President!

But, somehow, all will get together to find an Ebola Czar.  Do I laugh or do I cry?
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Monday, October 13, 2014

Weather is dangerous? This is news?

Has anyone noticed a trend in TV news when a weather system is moving from West to East across the United States?
Tonight CBS News reported a storm moving east with 24 million people in its path.
Last week ABC News reported a storm with 52 million people in its path.
Similar reports were heard this past summer and each time we were given the news that millions of people were in their paths.
Each time we were shown the obligarory photographs of destruction: trees blown over, roofs torn off, flooding, etc.
Is this information of population count a new requirement of meteorology?  Does it change anything or make anything clearer?  Does it have any purpose other than the obvious one which is to hype the news and make us afraid?
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Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Music! Music! Music!

In a very good blog called About Last Night I was  reading a reminiscence of childhood and found this line:
I miss waiting impatiently to hear a good song on the radio for the second time."
Oh boy, I thought, do I know what he means.  He writes of that time when music didn't obliterate the barriers of time and space as it does now.  Today we can hear a song over and over and over again.  On demand.  Any hour of the day or night.  We are our own disc jockey.

The enjoyment is not the same.  The magic of a 'new' song is stillborn.  Disappointment comes way too soon.  Boredom is the result of limitless choices.

Irish author James Joyce wrote a famous short story titled The Dead in which a song reveals a devastating secret in the life of Gretta, wife to Gabriel.  The song is "The Lass Of Aughrim" and it is sung at a gathering that includes this husband and wife.  Gretta is greatly affected by the music and this effect is not lost upon her husband.  When they are alone, he questions her and she responds by giving way to her emotions, revealing that the song was sung by a young man in her past whom she loved.  The young man died and Gabriel learns that he has never been and will never be loved like that by this woman.
Today, I fear, "The Lass of Aughrim" could and would be played so many times that Gretta would grow sick of it.
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Monday, September 1, 2014

Late apology

I can't let this month slip by without at least one post.  I apologise to any who have been coming here lately, looking for a post of some kind.
There have been days when an idea came to me and I began a post only to abandon it.  Why and wherefor should I do this, I would ask myself, and got no answer. 
I live with disorientation.  America today is changed so much from the America I knew that I feel like a stranger in my own land.  How do you defend something that no longer exists?  How can you love a vanished world?


The picture on the left was taken in winter of 1943-1944 when I was ten years old.  On the back of the photo, my older brother wrote: "Here are the ten little porkies (some on other side) enjoying their meal.  I took this when they were  6 weeks old.  The pen in background is the one I built for her of the lumber from camp.  Notice the 'runt' in the back end after her meal."   This photo and note were for my father who was working on the Al-Can Highway in Yukon territory, Canada.
The photo on the right was taken in early summer of 1944.  My brother Alan and I were feeding the kids.  Notice the patches on the knees of my pants.
The 'camp' that my older brother referred to was built by the government on my grandmother's dairy farm during the Great Depression.  The building lacked insulation, electricity and plumbing.  It served as living quarters for a crew from the Civilian Conservation Corps  sent there to clear brush from Seely Creek and build wooden bridges at each farm to provide access to the Goose Pond mountain range which ran along the north side of the valley.

From 1948 to 1950 (sophmore & junior high school years) I ran a trapline during the winter to catch wild animal pelts to sell for extra money.  Every morning before school, I dressed for winter and walked the trapline regardless of weather.  Trapping is one part of my youth which I would not repeat but these examples show how markedly different life is today.
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Friday, July 4, 2014

On my mind tonight

The so-called "right to own property" is an empty right.   The Hollywood scenario wherein we see the family gather at the fireplace to observe the burning of the mortgage papers is only half the story.  Every property has real estate taxes levied upon it.  If these taxes are not paid annually one's private property is subject to tax sale and ownership is gone.   Real estate taxes are never paid off;  they are only paid currently. and forever.   One's property is owned by the State
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Monday, June 30, 2014

Some remarks on Truth, Fiction and Journalism


About 25 or 30 years ago, I remember a period of reading weekly columns by journalists I admired (or respected) and being very disappointed in the content of this one or that one.  Suddenly a couple of very good columns appeared and my faith in them was restored.  I concluded that the problem was the need, the corporate imperative, to provide one column (in some cases, two columns) per week.  Captured by the relentless advance of time,  many columns were little more than filler.  The content suffered from the power of the clock. 

Researching the situation I learned that many famous columnists had a staff of researchers and checkers.  These people were used by the columnist to check  facts, and sometimes provide quotations from other sources to strengthen or deepen the the premise of that week's work.

This practice sometime led to minor instances of plagiarism or failures of attribution that were more comical than serious.  I remember one column by George Will in 1998.  The column opened as follows:

"Wednesday morning, when the black bat, night, has fled, professional Republicans and Democrats - almost the only people who will care - will pronounce themselves pleased as punch by the election results." 
Immediately I recognized the night metaphor lifted from the poem "Come into the garden, Maud" by Alfred, Lord Tennyson.
 "Come into the garden, Maud/ the black bat, night, has flown /  come into the garden, Maud / I am here at the gate alone."
The typist even put the commas on either side of 'night.'  I had to smile.  Poor George.

About two years ago, a blogger stirred up some anxiety when he charged that John Steinbeck had not traveled to all the places mentioned in the book "Travels With Charlie."  At least, not with Charlie, and maybe not in the same sequence as represented in the book.  He had 'charges' and he had 'allegations' and he had 'proof.'  The book was fiction, he said, and should be sold in the fiction section of book stores.  This was 60 years after the book's publication!  Well, who cared?  Not me.
I recalled William Faulkner's comment that "The best fiction is far more true than any journalism."

Historians are another category of scholar who have to be aware of attribution and acknowledgement of  the work of others.  Historians require assistance in the preparation of transforming their manuscript into a book.  They have staffs that check for errors and attribution.  Still things can go wrong.
In 2002, the historians Doris Kearns Goodwin  (The Fitzgerald and the Kennedys) and Stephen Ambrose (Band of Brothers) were charged with plagiarism.  A review of that painful time can be read here

Pablo Picasso is reported to have said that "Good artists copy.  Great artists steal."  That quote is not a pass for laziness or dishonesty.  I believe he is referring not to paint, or words, but to ideas.  All thinkers, all artists, all writers read and absorb and use and expand and pass on the ideas from generation to generation.

I'm not sure I have written all I want to say here but I will post it before I forget how to do it.
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Saturday, June 14, 2014

Joe Bageant on fathers

This is from a column that Joe Bageant wrote in May, 1990 for the Idahoan Newspaper.   May he be resting in peace.

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Sunday, June 1, 2014

Quotations from Neil Postman

"Voting...is the next to last refuge of the politically impotent.  The last refuge is, of course, giving your opinion to a pollster, who will get a version of it through a desiccated question, and then will submerge it in a Niagara of similar opinions, and convert them into - what else? - another piece of news.  Thus, we have here a great loop of impotence.  The news elicits from you a variety of opinions about which you can do nothing except to offer them as more news, about which you can do nothing."

"There is no more disturbing consequence of the electronic and graphic revolution than this:  that the world as given to us through television seems natural, not bizarre.  For the loss of the sense of the strange is a sign of adjustment, and the extent to which we have adjusted is a measure of the extent to which we have been changed.  Our culture's adjustment to the epistemology of television is by now all but complete;  we have so thoroughly accepted its definitions of truth, knowledge, and reali ty that irrelevance seems to us to be filled with import, and incoherence seems eminently sane.  And if some of our institutions seem not to fit the template of the times, why it is they, and not the template, that seem to us disordered and strange."

from:

Amusing Ourselves To Death, by Neil Postman. 
Penguin Books edition, 1986
Part 1, Chapter 5
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Sunday, May 11, 2014

Happy Birthday, Mort Sahl




87 years old.
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Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Insane for Ukraine

NATO and Ukraine is the refrain for the insane who prate about war.  What fools govern us.

Message to Messers McCain, Graham, and Obama: 

I summon up the memory of Robert A. Taft, the son of President William Howard Taft, a Senator from Ohio, and a true conservative known as "Mr. Republican."

Senator Taft opposed the creation of NATO.  He did not believe that the US needed the alliance and he did not believe that Russia was an imminent threat to Western Europe.

Senator Taft opposed the internment of American citizens of Japanese descent during World War II.

Senator Taft opposed the Nuremberg trials, calling them "a victor's revenge.'  He believed that an international tribunal of neutral parties was the correct and just way to prosecute.

In 1957, the United States Senate created a special committee to select the five greatest Senators in American history to that point.  The selections were Henry Clay, Daniel Webster, John C. Calhoun, Robert LaFollette, and Robert Taft.

John Kennedy cited the positions of Senator Robert Taft in his book "Profiles of Courage."

For a comprehensive review of Senator Taft's history, please check out this link called The Republican Road Not Taken.  Taft's vision  is describes ad "a way to defend the country without destroying it, a way to be part of the world without running it."

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Isn't this a lovely thought?

"I'm grateful this is still a very beautiful world, and you don't have to pay anything to know it.  The world is still full of decent pleasures that also don't cost anything.  So use up what's free first.  Then go buy something if you have to"

Wendell Berry

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Sunday, April 27, 2014

Love of violence

I feel as if I am living in a story by Flannery O'Connor. 
Children are killing children on our streets and in our schools.  The President of the United States draws up a list of people to kill;  he has become what some call a 'desk murderer.'  Or, perhaps, we should save that term for the moral robots who execute his orders.

We have progressed from killing people we can't see to killing people  where they live on land we can't see.  Blow up ten or twenty people 5000 miles away, sign out at five o'clock, go home and watch TV with the family.  Just another day's work.

I watched a highly rated and honored movie called American Hustle.  A depressing experience.  A story of greed, deception, fraud, violence, betrayal, dishonor, and more.  The end was no different from the beginning.  If there was redemption in this movie it came to those who didn't get what they wanted but went on doing what they do anyway.

A good movie is hard to find.

Recently I have  heard or read someone remark that 'We are not in Cleaver country anymore."  This is said approvingly.
 
What can one expect?  After all we have prime time TV shows whose main character is a serial killer, another who is a cannibal, another who is a crooked politician, another who is a gangster.  The level of violence and bloodletting increases with each passing year.

I expect someday to see a cannibal with a show on a cooking channel.  He will show the Desperate Housewife how to cook her husband's liver and enjoy it with a little wine and fava beans.

I live in a culture where exhibitionism is called performance art, where vulgarity is called edgy behavior.

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Friday, April 11, 2014

Truth from a Founding Father

"Of all the enemies of true liberty, war is, perhaps, the most to be dreaded, because it comprises and develops the germ of every other.  War is the parent of armies;  from these proceed debts and taxes;  and armies, and debts, and taxes are the known instruments for bringing the many under the domination of the few.  In war, too, the discretionary power of the Executive is extended;  its influence in dealing out offices,, honors and emoluments is multiplied;  and all the means of seducing the minds,are added to those of subduing the force, of the people.  The same malignant aspect in republicanism may be traced in the inequality of fortunes, and the opportunities of fraud, growing out of a state of war, and in the degeneracy of manner and of morals, engendered in both.  No nation can preserve its freedom in the midst of continual warfare....War is in fact the true nurse of executive aggrandizement.  In war, a physical force is to be created;  and it is the executive will, which is to direct it.  In war, the public treasuries are to be unlocked;  and it is the executive hand which is to dispense them.  In war, the honors and emoluments of office are to be multiplied;  and it is the executive brow they are to encircle.  The strongest passions and most dangerous weaknesses of the human breast; ambition, avarice, vanity, the honorable or venal love of fame, are all in conspiracy against the desire and duty of peace."

By James Madison, from "Political Observations," April 20, 1795.

Many of the Founders wrote in opposition to America having a 'standing army.'  This is one of my favorites.  I bet this isn't taught in our schools any more.
Madison sounds like a prophet.  He has described the United States of today.
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Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Read any Karl Shapiro lately?

"The entire world has become aware of the pervasiveness of American violence.  The Americans were the last to discover it.  This is as it should be.  A betrayed husband is the last to know his situation.  America is shocked at itself;  someone has handed it a mirror.  Instead of the young and handsome heir of all the ages, with his bathing-beauty consort, winners of Olympic games, we see the soft and rotten killer (almost Hemingway style) with his call-girl WASP girlfriend,wearing a tiny crucifix between her scientifically measured bosoms.  Wars are staged and televised on the battlefield;  all sports are openly and avowedly big business;  all books sell according to the amount of money deposited for advertising;  countries are bought and sold in the stock market like cattle.  Not that any of this is particularly new.  What is new is that it is all now public knowledge.  And what is awesome is that nobody cares.  Everyone wants a share of the rot, the faisandage.  Ours is a gamy culture from top to bottom.  Books about the gaminess are best-sellers." (p 14)

"America is the child society par excellence, and possibly the only one ever politically arrived at.  It is the society of all rights and no obligations, the society of deliberate wreckage and waste, the only society that ever raised gangsterism to the status of myth, and murder to the status of tragedy or politics.  The American adulation of the child mentality leads to an industrialized hedonism, on the one hand, and a chauvinistic psychology of greed, on the other.  In advertising, anyone over the age of twenty-one or twenty-five is portrayed as an idiot who has got behind in the science and commerce of rejuvenation." (p 21)

From the book To Abolish Children and Other Essays, by Karl Shapiro.
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Saturday, March 29, 2014

Wendell Berry on faith

Fearnside: You’re a Christian.

Berry: I’m a subscriber to the Gospels; you could put it that way.

Fearnside: You strike me as being both devout and skeptical; firm in your faith, yet willing to question it. Do you see skepticism as something that nurtures your faith?

Berry: Faith implies skepticism. It implies doubt. Faith is not knowledge. It’s not the result of an empirical study. So I would think that people of faith would always be involved in some kind of maintenance to shore it up. Sometimes it’s easy to have faith, and sometimes it isn’t. Maybe if you’re in a monastery it’s easier, because everything there is established for the purpose of preserving your faith. The world, as it operates today, isn’t made to preserve it.

From Sun magazine interview.
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Friday, March 28, 2014

Something to think about

  • Blowback: The Costs and Consequences of American Empire
  • Chalmers Johnson summarized the intent of Blowback in the final chapter of Nemesis.
    "In Blowback, I set out to explain why we are hated around the world. The concept "blowback" does not just mean retaliation for things our government has done to and in foreign countries. It refers to retaliation for the numerous illegal operations we have carried out abroad that were kept totally secret from the American public. This means that when the retaliation comes – as it did so spectacularly on September 11, 2001 – the American public is unable to put the events in context. So they tend to support acts intended to lash out against the perpetrators, thereby most commonly preparing the ground for yet another cycle of blowback. In the first book in this trilogy, I tried to provide some of the historical background for understanding the dilemmas we as a nation confront today, although I focused more on Asia – the area of my academic training – than on the Middle East."[10]
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    Obama meets the Pope

    After the meeting between President Obama and the pope, there was a press conference where the President made a distinction between his work as a political leader and the pope's as a moral authority.  "His job is a little more elevated.  We're down on the ground dealing with the often profane, and he's dealing with higher powers."
    Such cheap patronizing.  Such a shallow superficial speaker.  This President, like his predecessor, is an embarassment.
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    On my mind today






    Why can't I buy a car that doesn't have a computer in it?
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    Thursday, March 27, 2014

    A pilgrim's regress

    What little he may have accomplished in life was largely a failure to avoid it.
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    Thursday, March 20, 2014

    Silence

    I love silence.
    I hear so much.
    No need to talk.
    Eyes speak and listen.
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    Tuesday, March 18, 2014

    Haiku Shadows

    Shadows crawl over
    the lawn searching the grass
    for fugitive light.
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    Must see TV?

    In the Entertainment section of the newspaper I have been reading about the "wonderful new Cable TV shows" and the "great writing" to be found there and how we are now in "a golden age of television."
    Really? Sorry but for me this gold is dreck.
    We dropped cable TV a few months ago.  We purchased an antenna which is mounted in the attic.  It provides very clear images of the four networks plus PBS and some miscellaneous local stations.  We find it useful to get weather news, the government news as reported on ABC, NBC. and CBS, and the local news as required by the Chamber of Commerce.
    The entertainment shows in prime time are of scant use to us. Murder, assault, rape, robbery, torture, serial killers, criminal minds, special victims, molestation, crime scene investigaions, trials, stalking, cannibalism, and torture chambers are what passes for entertainment in present-day America.  That, or simpering political correctness and adolescent fantasies.

     Reading about these 'great new shows' on HBO, Netflix, etc around my wife's curiosity.  She discovered that she could download these shows from the internet at no cost.  So she downloaded the complete series of House of Cards and we began to watch them as the last thing before bedtime, not serially in time but on those days when it felt like we needed diversion.
    I remember that in the fourth or fifth show I commented that there  were no good people, no honest unselfish people in this story.  It makes Congress look evil.  Can they be happy about that?
    Zut alors!  On February 18, Peggy Noonan wrote about the House of Cards and the Congressional response to it.  They love it.  They are proud of it.  They enjoy quoting the famous lines.  Her opinion?  "To have judgements is to be an elitist.  To have doubts is to be yesterday.  To have standards is to be a hypocrite...so why have them?"  She concludes that the response is decadent.

    We watched the first two shows of "Empire Boardwalk."  A story of crime, mobs, deceit, cruelty, gratuitous sex, dishonest cops, and no good people.

    We watched only the first show of "The Wire."  A story of crime, racism, cruelty, dishonest and corrupt police, and no good people (well maybe one.  We didn't give the show another chance.)

    We watched only the first show of "Game of Thrones."   A story of getting head, giving head, cutting off heads, mindless cruelty and the most cliched writing.  It was like seeing American life today transported back in time to an era somewhere between that of the Druids and the Age of Chivalry.

    I am not dis-inclined to believe that today's police departments aren't portrayed accurately in these wretched shows but I don't understand why I haven't read one instance of unbrage taken thereto.

    Bertolt Brecht wrote "Art is not a mirror held up to reality but a hammer with which to shape it."

    Some hammer.  Some shape.
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    Saturday, March 15, 2014

    Pertinent quotation

    XI. We now have a clear, inescapable choice that we must make. We can continue to promote a global economic system of unlimited "free trade" among corporations, held together by long and highly vulnerable lines of communication and supply, but now recognizing that such a system will have to be protected by a hugely expensive police force that will be worldwide, whether maintained by one nation or several or all, and that such a police force will be effective precisely to the extent that it oversways the freedom and privacy of the citizens of every nation.
    XII. Or we can promote a decentralized world economy which would have the aim of assuring to every nation and region a local self-sufficiency in life-supporting goods. This would not eliminate international trade, but it would tend toward a trade in surpluses after local needs had been met.

    Author: Wendell Berry
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    Tuesday, March 11, 2014

    Observation

    I have good days and bad days.  On the good days I am ready for Death.  On the bad days I want to live forever.
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    Thursday, March 6, 2014

    Oh, you're a Luddite.

    An acquaintance said to me once after listening to one of my rants.  "Oh, you're a Luddite."

    What is a Luddite?  Well, it isn't too difficult to find out but the history of the word has some discrepancies and there is an element of the apocryphal too.
    The OED reports the following:

    (Said, but without confirmation, to be f. Ned Lud, a lunatic living about 1779 who in a fit of rage smashed up two frames belonging to a Leicestershire stockinger.)  A member of an organized band of mechanics and their friends, who (1811-16) went about destroying machinery in the midlands and north of England. 
    Webster's New World Dictionary (college edition 1957) says:
    (said to be after Ned Lud, feeble-minded man who smashed two frames belonging to a Leicestershire employer (c. 1779), any of a group of workers in England between 1811 and 1816 who smashed new labor-saving textile machinery in protest against reduced wages and unemployment attributed to its introduction.
    The American Heritage Dictionary (New College Edition, 1980):
    Any of a group of British workmen who, between 1811 and 1816, rioted and destroyed textile machinery in the belief that it would diminish employment.  (Probably after Ned Lud(d), a late 18th-century worker who destroyed stocking frames in England.)
    Then there is this from a history of economic thinkers  titled "The Worldly Philosophers" written by Robert L. Heilbroner:
     "..the horrors of working conditions were not the only cause for unrest.  Machinery was now the rage, and machinery meant the  displacement of laboring hands by uncomplaining steel.  As early as 1779 a mob of eight thousand workers had attacked a mill and burned it to the ground in unreasoning defiance of its cold implacable mechanical efficiency, and by 1811 such protests against technology were sweeping England.  Wrecked mills dotted the countryside, and in their wake the word went about that "Ned Ludd had passed."  The rumor was that a King Ludd or a General Ludd  was directing the activities of the mob.  It was not true, of course.  The Luddites, as they were called, were fired by a purely spontaneous hatred of the factories that they saw as prisons and the wage-work that they still despised."

    Americans have been taught that a Luddite is a perjorative word, such people being backward and against progress.  Differing opinions are not acceptable, I guess.  Such as Wendell Berry's observation that "labor saving means people replacement."

    Today we live in a technological and mechanical world.  We have bet our future on cyberspace, robots, machinery, and artificial intelligence.

    I leave it to a better mind than mine to complain:

    We see that great masses of people, left to themselves and allowed to pursue their private pleasures and interests as the spirit of the day moves them, will spoil themselves if the requisite facilities for doing so are available to them.  And the commercial interests - the advertisers and the others - will eagerly provide those facilities, because this involves consumer spending and they make money out of it.  
    He continues:
    The politicians, left to themselves, and anxious to say only what they think people and the special interests that support them want to hear, will be the last to try to halt this process.  Their main concern will be not to oppose it but to exploit it.
    ...One can contemplate only with sadness and apprehension the prospect of the American federal government intervening in problems of the habits of daily life among the citizenry.  Certainly, it would be better if this could be avoided.  Yet whenever public authority, here as elsewhere, has stood passively by and permitted technological innovations to be thus recklessly and uncritically appropriated into people's lives with out concern for their social effects, it has assumed, whether or not it meant to, a measure of responsibility (and who else to do it?), it will draw a cloud - is already drawing such a cloud - over its own adequacy as a form of government for a great people in the modern age."

    from:  Around The Cragged Hill  by George F Kennan, 1993.

    Philosophically I am a Luddite.  I would not destroy another person's machines but I would be willing to prevent their use in my workplace, and my life.
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    Wednesday, March 5, 2014

    Free Range Thoughts

    Contradictions of capitalism or  revolution by the privileged?
    I'm referring to millionaires (ballplayers) who strike for more money and their bosses (team owners) who seek wage controls (or, as they like to call them, salary caps).
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    Sunday, March 2, 2014

    Novels versus TV

    On Frank Wilson's blog. Books, Inq,  there is a link to an article in the New York Times wherein two literary types comment on whether modern TV series like "The Wire," "True Detective," "House of Cards," etc. are the equivalent great novels and may replace them.  Two famous novelists are mentioned as a move to support their contention:  Henry James and Charles Dickens.
    I have the feeling these days that my mind doesn't work properly.  It doesn't seem to fit or adapt to most of the observations and information so I may be wrong but I think that such assertions are absurd.
    Consider:  TV shows are VISUAL and that element is mentally received before the text is taken in.  Novels do not have visual content from beginning to end.

    Consider: TV series have music playing in background for effect and manipulation of emotions.  This element is mentally received concurrently with the visuals and the text.  Novels do not have the accompaniment of music.

    Consider: Numerous attempts have been made to make successful and faithful movies out of famous novels.  Largely they have failed or been only partially successful because the novel's elements cannot be expressed in visual dramatic filmed modes.

    These shows are closer to TV soap operas than any other form.  If these series ever replace novels it mean that the barbarians have broken through the gates and own the town.
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    Saturday, February 15, 2014

    Requited love

    A lovely moment quietly lived in the African forest:



    “We patronize the animals for their incompleteness, for their tragic fate of having taken form so far below ourselves. And therein we err, and greatly err. For the animal shall not be measured by man. In a world older and more complete than ours, they are more finished and complete, gifted with extensions of the senses we have lost or never attained, living by voices we shall never hear. They are not brethren, they are not underlings; they are other Nations, caught with ourselves in the net of life and time.”
    Henry Beston
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    Thursday, January 9, 2014

    Honor & Edward Snowden

    When Al Goldtein, the porn publisher, died last month, my son made an astute observation.
      He noted that Goldstein and fellow porn publisher Larry Flynt were praised by the American media as fighters for free speech while Edward Snowden is described as a traitor and one who has damaged 'National Security."  He could only shake his head at this absurd dichotomy. 
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