Wednesday, May 15, 2019

This and That

From the May 14, 2019 Washington Post  -
It was 84 degrees near the Arctic Ocean this weekend as carbon dioxide hit its highest level in human history

From the June 2019 Harper's Index -
Percentage decline in climate-change coverage from 2017 to 2018 on U.S. broadcast television news : 45

From  the October 3, 2018 Alabama Political Reporter -

More children live in poverty in Alabama in 2018 than in 2000. About 30% of children under the age of five live in poverty in Alabama. Even as the total number of births has fallen and the number of teen births has dropped, the state continues to be plagued by high infant mortality rates — the highest in the nation. The rate is at 9.1 per 1,000 live births, compared to the national rate of 5.6 per 1,000 live births. 

From the May 14, 2019 Washington Post Article - Alabama Senate Passes Nations Most Restrictive Abortion Ban -

“This bill is about challenging Roe v. Wade and protecting the lives of the unborn because an unborn baby is a person who deserves love and protection,” Alabama state Rep. Terri Collins (R), the sponsor of the bill, said after the vote Tuesday night. “I have prayed my way through this bill. This is the way we get where we want to get eventually.”

From Wikipedia - Mission Accomplished Speech given by George W. Bush aboard the USS Abraham Lincoln on May 1, 2003

Although Bush stated at the time "Our mission continues" and "We have difficult work to do in Iraq," he also stated that it was the end to major combat operations in Iraq. Bush never uttered the phrase "Mission Accomplished"; a banner stating "Mission Accomplished" was used as a backdrop to the speech. Bush's assertion—and the sign itself—became controversial after guerrilla warfare in Iraq increased during the Iraqi insurgency. The vast majority of casualties, both military and civilian, occurred after the speech.

From the May 14, 2019 Arkansas Times Article - Tough talking Tom Cotton 
Senator Tom Cotton tells Firing Line if it comes to war with Iran, he is confident the United States would win, and would win swiftly. “Two strikes, the first strike and the last strike,” says the Senator.


That's enough to make anyone's head hurt. On a brighter note I've been digging Wendall Barry's thinking lately. There's a good interview with him in Orion magazine titled Caretaking about local economies, local communities and local food. It's a potential future that seems quite promising for future generations who may decide that a liveable world is more valuable than cheap fast food, a gas guzzling car and a McMansion filled with  plastic people and plastic things. Sorry for the really does sound potentially quite beautiful - not easy but satisfying in ways that modern society cannot provide. 

Did you know that one of the earliest pre-communist groups referred to as "a community of goods" are the Hutterites? There were estimated to be about 40,000 Hutterites in Germany in the 1500's. Communism has been an abject failure when it's been enacted by the state but when it's been undertaken by communities of faith it has proven to allow some of the few enduring successful utopian societies.

Just something to think about - horses are cool man. A community based on exchange of products you helped create would be soul satisfying. You'd need other people, unlike our current society where you earn money so you can pay other people to do things. In our capitalist system you don't need anyone and they don't need you - you just need money. How much more meaningless could life be?

Tuesday, May 14, 2019

Bad Boys What Ya Gonna Do?

The first few times I listened to Rush Limbaugh back in the late 80's I thought he was somewhat interesting, humorous and quick witted. It didn't take too long to realize that there were misogynistic and obsessive elements to his spiel. Misogynistic traits seem to be characteristic of some powerful people - now and throughout history. From my vantage point this attitude towards women reminds me of eight year old boys in their clubhouse with the "no girls allowed" sign on the door.

Rush Limbaugh has had four marriages, three divorces and no children.

Rush is a large adult son...speaking of which - the jokes about Mike Huckabee's large adult sons and that whole meme might be funny in a twitterish sort of way - you have to be in the mood. One of the weirdest, saddest and sickest stories about the Huckabee clan is that one of the sons allegedly hung a dog while a counselor at a scout camp (what actually happened is unknown to the public other than the dog was killed and the Huckabee son was fired). I don't have much sympathy for a family where the dad and daughter lie, kowtow to an autocrat and debase Christianity for personal gain. I thought Mike Huckabee was a potential interesting candidate years ago...until I learned more about who he really seems to be. But I digress...

I expect Rush is not completely unlike powerful man boys like Jeffrey Epstein, Robert Kraft or Donald Trump in that his attitude towards women (or in Epstein's case girls) stems from his rejection by women. Rush, Jeffrey, Robert and Donald would be incels except for their wealth which allows them to pay women to associate with them - either via marriage, at a tacky strip mall massage parlor or in Jeffrey's case; pay and traffic underage girls for sex and escape justice thanks in part to Donald Trump's Labor Secretary Alex Acosta.

Acceptance and or celebration of misogyny leads to all sorts of weird, cruel and unjust actions in popular culture, right wing and conservative elements in America.

There was a weird aspect in how the show Family Guy treated Hillary Clinton during the last presidential election. It appeared that the writers were saying, we are going to be bad boys and use adolescent misogynistic insults masquerading as humor, towards the female candidate, but mom (Hillary) will save us in the end by becoming president, forgive us for our "boyish humor" and everything will be back to normal. When Trump was elected and the show began to spoof him - his fans decided what was good for the goose was not good for the gander and threw tantrums.

The cruel aspects manifest themselves in attempts to interject personal beliefs into the most personal decision a woman makes regarding her body - whether to carry a baby to term. This violates a woman's right to privacy when making a decision that should be between her, her doctor and in some cases the baby's father. The idea that somehow men, with the support of some women, have supremacy allowing them to dictate what personal choices woman have regarding their bodies is both cruel and frightening in a Handmaids Tale sort of way.

The old (and not so old) man/boys in their no girls allowed clubhouse manipulate our society to further the unjust treatment of women; in the work place, in compensation for their work (either at a workplace or at home) and in valuing the contributions of mothers and home makers.

It's maddening, it's sad, and it's as old as humankind. Outwardly "strong" but inwardly frightened and hollow men looking for self worth by putting some one or some group down.


I've been thinking about that phrase "hollow men" lately.

Dorothy Day wrote in her book The Reckless Way of Love, "You are certainly going through the sorrowful mysteries. But if you don't go through them to the glorious, you will be a hollow man, and considered an opportunist and a fraud."

I think about that idea and I'm pretty sure I'm more towards the opportunist and fraud end of the spectrum than the glorious end. Dorothy Day lived her faith in the real world - I live mine inside my own head.

"The Hollow Men" is also the title of a poem written by T.S. Elliot which ends with -

This is the way the world ends 
This is the way the world ends 
This is the way the world ends 
Not with a bang but with a whimper.

Marlon Brando playing Colonel Kurtz recites the poem in the 1979 movie Apocalypse Now


The world is filled with suffering. We cannot avoid growing old, growing ill and dying (or taxes - unless you're "smart" like the current reality TV personality/POTUS). The Buddha tells us to practice detachment and equanimity. Much easier said than done of course.

I've been reading about Stoicism for awhile now and think that it offers a path to remain courageous, strong and somewhat sane in today's world. One of the possibly counter intuitive but useful practices of Stocism is something The Daily Stoic calls "negative visualization" -
"The premeditatio malorum (“the pre-meditation of evils”) is a Stoic exercise of imagining things that could go wrong or be taken away from us. It helps us prepare for life’s inevitable setbacks. We don’t always get what is rightfully ours, even if we’ve earned it. Not everything is as clean and straightforward as we think they may be. Psychologically, we must prepare ourselves for this to happen. It is one of the most powerful exercise in the Stoics’ toolkit to build resilience and strength."

Monday, May 06, 2019

Democratic Party and the GOP - A Sad and Sadder Legacy

The Civil Rights Act of 1964 was made a law during Lyndon Johnson's administration in part because a high percentage of Republicans in the house and senate supported it. In fact a higher percentage of Republicans supported the law than did Democrats.

This was a time when the GOP still had the historical memory of being the party of Lincoln and the Democratic party included a significant number of white Southern Democrats who were opposed to civil rights.

This was about to change very quickly.

Four weeks after the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was made law the GOP nominated Barry Goldwater as their presidential candidate. Goldwater opposed the Civil Rights Act of 1964. His failed 1964 presidential bid resulted in him carrying his home state of Arizona, and five states in the deep south - thanks to support from white southern Democrats.

The GOP, beginning with Nixon in 1968, took advantage of the disenchantment of southern white racist Democrats with the Democratic party, by using the Southern Strategy. This strategy of appealing to racism resulted in a shift of racist white Democrats from the Democratic Party to the GOP.

Goldwater played another key role in the GOP since his failed presidential campaign served as a springboard for Ronald Reagan to become a national political figure.

John McCain, praised Goldwater as the man who "transformed the Republican Party from an Eastern elitist organization to the breeding ground for the election of Ronald Reagan."

Lee Atwater a member of the Reagan administration had this to say about the Southern Strategy -

"Y'all don't quote me on this. You start out in 1954 by saying, "Nigger, nigger, nigger". By 1968 you can't say "nigger"—that hurts you. Backfires. So you say stuff like forced busing, states' rights and all that stuff. You're getting so abstract now [that] you're talking about cutting taxes, and all these things you're talking about are totally economic things and a byproduct of them is [that] blacks get hurt worse than whites. And subconsciously maybe that is part of it. I'm not saying that. But I'm saying that if it is getting that abstract, and that coded, that we are doing away with the racial problem one way or the other. You follow me—because obviously sitting around saying, "We want to cut this", is much more abstract than even the busing thing, and a hell of a lot more abstract than "Nigger, nigger". So, any way you look at it, race is coming on the backbone."

Lee Atwater was also an advisor to George H.W. Bush and the chairman of the Republican National Committee. Near the end of his life he converted to Catholicism and repented for his wrongdoings. This would be a sad event from history if the GOP would have followed Lee Atwater's lead in recognizing, admitting and asking for forgiveness for these moral failures. Since the GOP of Fox News, Hannity, Limbaugh etal. never could admit these moral failures by the GOP we are left with a frightened and frightening wannabe fascist and racist in the White House who is the "head" (or some other body part) of the Republican Party.

It seems rather silly perhaps, to be digging up the history of the GOP given the existential threats to humanity present today. It would be silly if the failure of the GOP to confront reality hadn't contributed to how we got to where we are today - a democracy teetering and a planet burning.

In the 1980's Ronald Reagan removed the solar panels, installed by Jimmy Carter at the White House, rolled back the CAFE standards for improving vehicle gas mileage and appointed Neil Gorsuch's mother to dismantle the EPA. In more recent memory Donald Trump called climate change a Chinese hoax, rolled back CAFE standards, and appointed a fellow grifter to dismantle the EPA.

You may wonder where those solar panels Jimmy Carter installed are today? According to Scientific American magazine one is in the -
"Solar Science and Technology Museum in Dezhou, China. Huang Ming, chairman of Himin Solar Energy Group Co., the largest manufacturer of such solar hot water heaters in the world, accepted the donation for permanent display there on August 5. After all, companies like his in China now produce some 80 percent of the solar water heaters used in the world today."
Our tweeter in chief would perhaps call that SAD! It's possible the climate change conspiracy he discovered is that China conspired to eat our lunch when it came to developing green energy - e.g. building 80% of solar water heaters used in the world today. I'd say it shows how the GOP (with the help of plenty of Democrats and probably every citizen of the USA to some extent) could help degrade a planet using faith, combined with short sighted greed, to reach certainty - without considering reality.

This wasn't a GOP-only show though. Bill Clinton did nothing to improve CAFE standards and performed a speech / photo-op at Stone Mountain Georgia correctional facility in 1990 that was as cynical and covertly racist as Reagan's 1980 performance in Neshoba County Mississippi.


The Civil Rights Act of 1964 was enacted into law on July 2, 1964. 

One month prior to the law being enacted, in June of 1964 three civil rights activists, Michael Schwerner, age 24; James Chaney, age 22; and Andrew Goodman, age 20 were murdered in Neshoba County Mississippi.

From the Wikipedia description -
"The three men had traveled from Meridian, Mississippi, to the community of Longdale to talk with congregation members at a church that had been burned. The trio was thereafter arrested following a traffic stop outside Philadelphia, Mississippi for speeding, escorted to the local jail and held for a number of hours. As the three left town in their car, they were followed by law enforcement and others. Before leaving Neshoba County their car was pulled over and all three were abducted, driven to another location, and shot at close range. The three men's bodies were then transported to an earthen dam where they were buried."
On August 3, 1980 Ronald Reagan showed up at the Neshoba County Mississippi fairgrounds to give a speech in which he invoked among other things "states rights". What he meant by this is debatable - but given his adviser Lee Atwater's comments on "states rights" it doesn't take a great deal of imagination to see that he was making an appeal to racists to support his election.

Shortly before his death Lee Atwater apologized to Michael Dukakis for instrumenting the infamous Willie Horton smear campaign against Dukakis, during George H.W. Bush's presidential run in 1988.

In a February 1991 Life Magazine interview Lee Atwater said this -

"My illness helped me to see that what was missing in society is what was missing in me: a little heart, a lot of brotherhood. The 1980s were about acquiring – acquiring wealth, power, prestige. I know. I acquired more wealth, power, and prestige than most. But you can acquire all you want and still feel empty. What power wouldn't I trade for a little more time with my family? What price wouldn't I pay for an evening with friends? It took a deadly illness to put me eye to eye with that truth, but it is a truth that the country, caught up in its ruthless ambitions and moral decay, can learn on my dime. I don't know who will lead us through the '90s, but they must be made to speak to this spiritual vacuum at the heart of American society, this tumor of the soul."

Rather than listening to what Lee Atwater said, the GOP mythologized Ronald Reagan and instituted a few more decades of using race, guns, religion, gender rights, sexual orientation and a woman's right to choose - to divide the population to further the economic and radical ideological goals of the .1% who own that party.

This absolute and absolutely corrupt power is what is so frightening about the GOP of today - they know if their "base" ever figures out what they did to them...their party will go the way of the Whigs and the No-Nothings. I imagine many former Republican's who have left the party would be happy to see the current iteration of that party consigned to the dustbin of history.

The .1% who control the GOP built a propaganda machine as effective as anything Leni Riefenstahl created - they may not compare to her in style, but they make up for it in repetition and reach. The problem they have now is how to control or shut down that machine to ensure a safe landing. No one knows (even Republican's in Congress) how far they will go in undermining our democracy and rule of law to maintain their power.

According to Victor Davis Hanson, who shows up on various Fox programs, writes for the National Review and gives talks on college campuses, Lee Atwater was "a great Republican scrapper". If you can stand it, you can watch Fox News any night, or go to their web page, and see pictures of scary brown people. How many times can they show the video of all those brown people on top of a train? Apparently not enough.

So where does this leave the citizens of the USA?

Who knows? We certainly have a host of issues to work on together and hopefully a side effect of Trumpism is that a majority of U.S. citizens are waking up to the deliberate division of citizens to further the economic goals of the .1% that has been happening for decades. Those citizens must surely realize that opting out of the political process is not an option - for those of us who prefer to not live in a fascist state.


Fascism is a hard term to come to grips with since there have been various fascist states throughout history with differing social, economic and political underpinnings. Three core features of fascism are outlined in Timothy Snyder's book The Road to Unfreedom - Russia, Europe, America -
"The fascism of the 1920's and 1930's, Ilyin's era, had three core features: it celebrated will and violence over reason and law, it proposed a leader with a mystical connection to his people, and it characterized globalization as a conspiracy rather than a set of problems."

On a side note - I think Timothy Snyder's book is an excellent source for understanding what drives Russia's worldview, why they are intent on undermining democracies around the world and how inaccurate much of the coverage of events related to Russia is - in both left and right leaning media.

If we want to understand where we are and how we got here, we need to look at historical events and thinkers who helped shape various world views. An important precursor to today's radical right, and fascism of the Nazi variety, can be found in the thoughts of the 18th century Catholic philosopher Joseph De Maistre. You can find lots of high falutin discussions about Joseph De Maistre in the National Review or various "conservative" - Catholic or otherwise publications.

From my knothole having been raised in the Catholic church I'd say Joseph De Maistre and the monarchical, patriarchal, hierarchical view he espoused lead us both to the sexual abuse scandals of the church, degradation of women, blind obedience to authority and a form of fascism that has been attempting to subvert our democracy for many years...but only now is reaching a tipping point.

This lecture describes how Isaiah Berlin saw De Maistre's worldview being incorporated by fascists in the 20th century, in particular the Nazis, a hundred years after De Maistre articulated it.

From the lecture we learn that De Maistre counted as "subversives" a laundry list of people including: Protestants, deists, atheists, Freemasons, Jews, scientists, democrats, Jacobins, liberals, utilitarians, anti-clericals, egalitarians, perfectiblians, idealists, lawyers, journalists, secular reformers, intellectuals..

We see a similarity in those "enemies" of a 19th century conservative (of some sort) and the "enemies" of the 20th and 21st century conservatives (of some sort).

That lecture is 20 minutes. It's quite enlightening and frightening (to me at least). De Maistre had some ideas that contain some truth but when taken to the extreme or without critical thinking lead to a society ruthlessly controlled by a powerful elite combining the power of church and state in a pursuit of absolutely corrupted power.

I think the lesson here is that radical ideologies from the right or the left have led to human catastrophe throughout history. As we move farther to the right we eventually end up with fascism and as we move farther to the left we end up with some from of dictatorial socialist or communist regime. The problem we have today in the USA is that we have gradually (imperceptibly at times) arrived at or near the fascist end of the spectrum of right wing the answer is to Swing Left.

We can aim at reinstating the government and taxation policies that led to America's success from the post WWII era until the advent of neo-liberalism free-market radical ideologies in the 1980's, or we can aim at incorporating some of those social democratic policies enacted successfully in Scandinavian countries, or takeover the means of production (I prefer a bit more order so I'll vote for one of the first two).

When some people talk about a "centrist" candidate what they mean is they want a candidate that will support the status quo. The status quo for the last few decades has been the failure of the Democratic party to represent the interests of working class people - the traditional base of the Democratic party since FDR. The status quo is a government captured by special interests. The status quo is a dysfunctional government unable (by design) to effectively govern or make policy unless that policy disproportionately benefits the 1% The status quo is spending trillions of dollars on "defense" which in too many cases means paying defense contractors to build systems that are often over budget, late or lacking functionality - and are either not wanted or not needed by the military. The list could go on...and on.

Any attempt to disturb the status quo will be fought tooth and nail with the finest propaganda dark money can buy, or hostile foreign entities are willing to donate. The fight will be more than worth it.


Now for something completely different...addressing the question of what would be a good job for someone who can't write, can't read, but likes to watch TV?

Sunday, May 05, 2019

Let's Drink a Toast

Fighters without a cause

We forget but we don't forgive

Ourselves others

So we blame

Rather than admit

The cause of our suffering


Lacking love

Connection conversation care

Retreat retreat



How could we

Have been

So foolish

World without end


We said

As it was

In the beginning

Is now

and ever shall be

World without end


Now we just

and can only


We are sorry


***The Cure to Loneliness***