Saturday, December 16, 2017

UFO investigator moves on

If you had a choice between reading still more about the Republican tax heist wending its way through Congress and a little known-office at the Pentagon that seems to have investigated (when money allowed) unidentified flying objects, which would you choose?

All I can say is that at least the UFO story has a ring of authenticity about it.

The New York Times was apparently first to report on the issue.

White House word ban

Passed along in email:
The Trump administration is prohibiting officials at the nation’s top public health agency from using a list of seven words or phrases — including “fetus” and “transgender” — in any official documents being prepared for next year’s budget.
Policy analysts at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta were told of the list of forbidden words at a meeting Thursday with senior CDC officials who oversee the budget, according to an analyst who took part in the 90-minute briefing. The forbidden words are “vulnerable,” “entitlement,” “diversity,” “transgender,” “fetus,” “evidence-based” and “science-based.”
Gob-smacked barely begins to cover the reaction that might greet such a dictum. Joseph Goebbels is no doubt salivating in his grave. George Orwell has been out-flanked. And George Carlin's once-humorous "shit, piss, fuck, cunt, cocksucker, motherfucker and tits" as the seven dirty words you couldn't say on television is thrust into the shade.

You couldn't make this shit up.

And this is the administration colluding in the creation of a tax plan -- more money for the wealthy -- that is, to my mind, the stalking horse for reductions in Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security.

Relativity comes to mind. There's "fucked." There's "fucked-er." And there's "fucked-est."

Wubba, wubba ... Merry Christmas.

Thursday, December 14, 2017

early-ish Christian art ... photos

A photo array from The Guardian: As one of the first countries to adopt Christianity, Ethiopia has a legacy of churches and monasteries, built on hilltops or hewn out of cliff faces, as well as vibrant traditions of worship. These are celebrated in a lavish book, Ethiopia: The Living Churches of an Ancient Kingdom 

I find myself liking religious art that is not yet slick and perfected, a devotion that is somehow feet-on-the-ground. The picture above, for example, seems to me to be imbued with people who know how to smile in the midst of what I assume is a devoted heart. Only later would people sand and smooth the images, find 'great' artists, and the direct and simple smiles be put aside. The picture reminds me of the shepherd's prayer once admired by The Bal Shem Tov ... something along the lines of "Dear God, though I keep the sheep of others for money, for you I would keep them for free because I love you."

The picture above makes me wonder as ever why the Bible has no statement that reads, "And Jesus laughed." Grown-ups (like Hindus, for example) laugh. I realize there is a cottage industry that has grown up around the role of laughter in Christianity, but it strikes me as so much bilge water. No-laughter-no-balls whispers in the corners of my mind.

Anyway ... I liked the Ethiopian photos. There is something honest .....

dividends of wealth

At the same time that U.S. congress members huddle in an attempt to fashion a tax bill that offers greater rewards to the wealthy indefinitely and pulls the rug out from under the less-well-to-do over ten years (and the bill feels like a win for Donald Trump and his ilk), "The World Inequality Report" helps to sharpen the grotesqueness of it all:
The richest 0.1% of the world’s population have increased their combined wealth by as much as the poorest 50% – or 3.8 billion people – since 1980, according to a report detailing the widening gap between the very rich and poor.
The World Inequality Report, published on Thursday by French economist Thomas Piketty, warned that inequality had ballooned to “extreme levels” in some countries and said the problem would only get worse unless governments took coordinated action to increase taxes and prevent tax avoidance....
The report warns that unless there is globally coordinated political action, the wealth gap will continue to grow. “The global top 1% income share could increase from nearly 20% today to more than 24% by 2050,” the report said. “In which case the global bottom 50% share could fall from 10% to less than 9%.”
However, the economists said increasing inequality was “not inevitable” if countries acted to bring in progressive income tax....
The authors said taxation alone was not enough to tackle the problem as the wealthy were best placed to avoid and evade tax, as shown by the recent Paradise Papers investigation. The report said a tenth of the world’s wealth was held in tax havens. [The Guardian]
What will it take to bitch-slap this ultra-wealthy segment of societies? I don't mean that as a mewling liberal rant. I mean it as a matter of practicality. The people who make the stuff that make rich people rich will only take so much and, in a line I repeatedly fall back on, "If you do not share your wealth with us, we will share our poverty with you."

I honestly cannot see the rich and savvy buttering their own bread with some common sense. They have the capacity, but the lack the sand. I honestly don't see an outcome that is spelled other than "b-l-o-o-d" ... the blood of your children. Yes, the peasants will be even harder hit, but in the end, your sons and daughters will be forfeit. Literally.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

men, women and the 'best' novelists

Novelist John Boyne, a guy I've never heard of, makes a pretty good case:
I think women are better novelists than men.
There, I’ve said it. While it’s obviously an enormous generalisation, it’s no more ludicrous than some half-wit proudly claiming never to read books by women.
It's cheeky, of course, but that's what newspaper essays are paid to be. And there's enough truth in Boyne's observations to make them worth a reprise.

Of course a little caution is warranted: I'm not sure how many people actually read any more.

beavers to the rescue

Where homo sapiens finds itself outflanked by nature, well, let the wild animals take a crack at things.
A valley in the Forest of Dean will echo to the sound of herbivorous munching next spring when a family of beavers are released into a fenced enclosure to stop a village from flooding, in the first ever such scheme funded by the government....
Chris McFarling, a cabinet member of Forest of Dean district council, said: “Beavers are the most natural water engineers we could ask for. They’re inexpensive, environmentally friendly and contribute to sustainable water and flood management.
“They slow the release of storm water with their semi-porous dams, decreasing the flooding potential downstream. Water quality is improved as a result of their activities. They also allow water to flow during drought conditions. Financially they are so much more cost-effective than traditional flood defence works so it makes sense to use this great value-for-money opportunity.”
And here you thought beavers were just as "pest."

nothing is extra

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Trump sends U.S. scientists to France

It's as if (had we missed it on the first go-round) Donald Trump is inviting us all to "Make America Dumb Again."
PARIS (AP) — It is a dream come true for U.S.-based climate scientists — the offer of all-expenses-paid life in France to advance their research in Europe instead of in the United States under climate skeptic President Donald Trump, two of the winners say.
American scientist Camille Parmesan and British scientist Benjamin Sanderson are among the 18 initial winners, including 13 based in the U.S., of French President Emmanuel Macron’s “Make Our Planet Great Again” climate grants.
Macron congratulated the winners during a brief ceremony in Paris on Monday evening, ahead of a climate summit that gathers more than 50 world leaders in the French capital Tuesday.

Russia & U.S., brothers in arms

It's not just the Americans who employ mercenaries  (example article) to do the fighting in the Mideast that for one reason or another is kept 'off the books' so to speak. Russia and the United States appear to be on the same mercenary page for largely the same reasons:
When [Russian President Vladimir] Putin went to a Russian air base in Syria on Monday and told Russian troops that “you are coming back home with victory,” he did not mention the private contractors. Russian troops are expected to remain in Syria for years while the contractors are likely to stay to guard lucrative oil and gas fields under a contract between the Syrian government and another Russian company allegedly linked to a businessman known as “Putin’s chef” for his close ties to the Kremlin.
Proxy fighters like Slyshkin have played a key role in Syria. In addition to augmenting troops officially sent by Moscow, their secret deployment has helped keep the official Russian death toll low as Putin seeks re-election next year.
Russia and the United States, allies in war. It seems that leadership in both countries does not want to be blamed for sending troops to die -- the pesky electorate is touchy about seeing its sons and daughters killed, especially in an election year that Putin faces and American policy makers can envisage all too clearly. The American military is short-handed and 'contractors' help to fill in the gap where policy makers lack the integrity to declare a shooting war. Those congress men and women sure as hell don't want their kids shanghaied by the blood-and-bullets crowd.

Objectives seems to vary mildly (the U.S. wants bases and oil; Russia wants access to a warm-water entrance and exit to the world) but whatever the longings, mercenaries seem to fill the bill. No need to record the depressing dead-and-wounded statistics in the national military column. It's just... uhhh... "contractors" dontcha know.

Oh well, I am late to this particular party: Here is an article that's a couple of years old and probably much better thought out.

Monday, December 11, 2017

Kansas offers U.S. a tax template

To hear The Guardian tell it, the Republican/Democrat tax plan wending its way through Congress (it currently seems to have the momentum for passage) bears an uncanny resemblance to a blueprint already implemented in Kansas. The thinly-veiled trickle-down economics that have failed analytical examination far and wide didn't work in Kansas and won't work in the broader U.S. Nevertheless, Congress seems kindly disposed towards this Kansas model.

Short and sweet: FUBAR ... fucked up beyond all recognition.
Is Donald Trump about to turn America into Kansas? It’s a question some worried people who live in the state are asking as the Republican party pushes through the biggest tax overhaul in a generation – an overhaul that, they claim, bears an uncanny resemblance to a tax plan that left their midwestern home in disarray.
After a failed economic experiment meant to boost economic growth blew a hole in the Kansas budget as big as a prairie sky (a $350m deficit in the current fiscal year and nearly $600m in the next) state jobs and services have been slashed....
The crisis follows the 2012 passage of a tax plan by Kansas governor Sam Brownback that he dubbed “the march to zero”.
Individual state income tax rates dropped from 6.4% to 4.9% – with the intention of getting rid of them altogether eventually. Taxes were eliminated on so-called pass through entities – businesses where taxes are collected at the rate of the business owner and not at the corporate rate. The plan would provide a “shot of adrenaline” to the Kansas economy, Brownback claimed.... “There never was a shot of adrenaline. If anything, that shot put the state on life support,” she said. “It’s the same thing that Trump is saying: there’s going to be tremendous job growth. Well, that didn’t happen either. It’s going to take an entire generation to undo this damage.”
Yes, the electorate has a short memory and yes, politicians know where their re-election bucks are likely to come from, so the bill will probably pass. But that doesn't mean it can't be seen for what it is -- an obscene flop for the nation.

Sunday, December 10, 2017

same-sex divorce

As if getting married to someone of the same sex weren't difficult enough, consider the difficulties of getting a divorce in the great Down Under:
New same-sex marriage legislation came into effect on the weekend, prompting a rush of couples heading to registry offices around the country to file their intention to marry.
But in Perth, lawyers were lodging documents of a different kind, on behalf of a woman set to become the first in Australia to file for a same-sex divorce.
She married her long-term partner in 2015 at a consulate in Perth under the laws of a European country where same-sex marriage was already legal.

editing turkeys and gods

On occasion, it seems strange to be made aware that whatever my current concerns might be, however serious or solemn or just plain silly, someone, somewhere else is busy on another of life's tangents and their efforts impact my tapestry without notification.

So, for example, at a time when I might be basting a turkey, the Roman Catholic pope is disturbed by the translation of The Lord's Prayer, one of the best known of Christian petitions.
Pope Francis has signalled his approval of moves already under way in the Catholic church to change the line in the English version of the Lord’s Prayer, from “Lead us not into temptation” to “Don’t let me fall into temptation”. Noting that it was a bad translation, Pope Francis said: “It’s Satan who leads us into temptation”, adding, as though studying a health-and-safety leaflet, “that’s his department.”
OK, language is like folk music -- always being retuned and reworded and messed with according to who is appreciating or using it. But when one of my bedrock memorizations (who the hell knows where I learned the Lord's Prayer, but in my Christian society, I know it) gets tweaked, something within rebels.

It was the same when the United States added "under God" to the Pledge of Allegiance in 1954 -- another time (the McCarthy hearings) of alleged heightened morality.
In 1954, at President Dwight D. Eisenhower's urging, the Congress legislated that “under God” be added, making the pledge read: I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America and to the Republic for which it stands, one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.
It was weird, adding "under God." Wasn't "one nation, indivisible" enough of a prayer/hope/aspiration/goal? Even as a teenager filled to the brim with his discovery of yet another adult persuasion that was hypocritical, I didn't object so much to "God" as I did to the ways in which the addition messed with the lilt and rhythm of what I had learned as a child.

And it's somewhat the same with the pope's pointing out that Satan is the bad guy, not God, when he revises the Lord's Prayer. It's a song I know, but I know it my way, even if I seldom if ever make use of it.

But nowadays, I'm tickled at my own insistence. Here I am basting a hypothetical turkey and the pope is messing with one of my small foundational rocks in ways that show off how distant we are from what we consider the important things in life.

I wonder if I could get Satan to baste my turkey, assuming I ever make one ... create a kind of unifying gesture to the universe around me.

Also I wonder why the pope did not go further and explain the invisible demarcation line between God and Satan. Wouldn't that seem logical and kindly to those being asking to partake at the Christian dinner table? Without a little spice, wouldn't God be bored stupid?

Saturday, December 9, 2017

tax bill speculations

A tax bill is being hammered out between House and Senate conferees in Washington. Bit by bit, despite differences and objections, the bill seems destined for presidential signature.

Yet in the midst of all the discussions I see little or nothing about the fact that once the bill is enshrined in law, once the crowing and boo-hooing has ended, the whole kabuki will snap back on entitlement programs like Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security and how much they might be trimmed in order to pay for the tax cuts envisioned.

I see the tax bill as a Trojan Horse which, worse than expected, those in need will be forced to pay for. Millions of people will be adversely affected and it's not the ones who make the millions.

school without students open for business

A New Zealand school that has no students has promised to remain open.

Who knew?

There's something quirky and sad and wonderful about it.

Friday, December 8, 2017

sense of irate dis-ease

As the flames approached the elite San Luis Rey Downs training facility for thoroughbreds, many of the more than 450 horses were cut loose to prevent them from being trapped in their stables if barns caught fire, said Mac McBride of the Del Mar Thoroughbred Club.
Herds of horses galloped past flaming palm trees in their chaotic escape of a normally idyllic place. Not all survived.
Horse trainer Scott Hansen said he knows that some of his 30 horses at the facility died.
“I don’t know how many are living and how many are dead,” he said. “I guess I’ll have to figure that out in the morning.”
Sometimes I really do wish my logical serenities could convince my visceral outrages. But I fail and must concede it, as this morning when reading the story of the blast furnace wildfires savaging California and the pedigree horses cut loose against the encroaching flames. Like lightning, my mind pounced and yowled and wanted to blame-blame-blame. Dumb animals taken cavalierly into the care of well-coiffed owners are left to fend for themselves ... responsibility set aside because, hey, what the hell, you can't fight Mother Nature. Somehow, I am sick of it and angry. Furious as a California ember.

Everything seems to be a mess and getting messier and the horses, which, left to their own devices, would naturally have fled, are constrained by a tony set who 'love' their animals but fail to demonstrate a substantive and responsible love.

Fire, like food and air and water, is serious. It burns the well-heeled and the impoverished alike. Isn't it enough to cope with what cannot be escaped and stop manufacturing situations that are awarded a focal concern? Hurricanes strike in the Gulf of Mexico ... the devastation is terrific. Police shootings of unarmed black men waxes. Some blacks plan to skip the opening of an African-American museum in Mississippi after the nation's highest office-holder says he will attend the opening. Donald Trump declares Jerusalem the capital of Israel. Artworks by some of Guantanamo Bay's 41 prisoners, some held without trial for over 10 years by the 'democratic' United States, are under threat of confiscation and/or destruction because of a display at New York's John Jay College. Minnesota Sen Al Franken becomes a recent casualty in the endless line of flabby, aging men in power stepping down in the wake of sexually-inappropriate activity years ago. The sex tsunami has political operatives on edge ... but neither Republicans nor Democrats have any functional plan for addressing it outside figuring that they'd best stick with the donors who will pay for them to be re-elected. Donald Trump promised to "drain the [Washington] swamp." He, as a man who has never conceived a policy or appointee he couldn't back away from, is refilling it.

As hoped by the pre-election Trump constituency, their knight in shining armor is shaking the trees. Their anger and frustration is being addressed (though not with the jobs or Mexico wall or dismantling and replacement of health care as promised during his campaign) ... and in the process has managed to encourage the rest of us to shut away a capacity for decency and caring and more-or-less truthfulness ... and concern with the country as a whole. I am sick of feeling on edge and held in thrall, via a largely compliant press, to an idiot and coward and bully. I'm sick of it and simultaneously sick of my own sissy righteousness that can do little better than point and whine and sneer.

When was the last time some action addressed the things that cannot be escaped and stopped creating stuff that then needs to be escaped? I am sorry that people are hurt ... in California, in Puerto Rico, in wherever. I am sorry that horses had to die. But within it all, I am sick of feeling sorry and on edge.

And somehow, the horses of California rose up in my throat this morning. Perhaps those horses could be put to good use, Donald ...

What a frustrated little twerp I am.

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Senator Al Franken to quit

[Minnesota Democrat] Senator Al Franken announced his resignation on Thursday, becoming the highest-ranking US politician yet to step down in the wake of widening allegations of sexual misconduct against powerful men in Hollywood, Silicon Valley, the media and politics.
Speaking on the Senate floor, Franken, who said he would quit in the coming weeks, said: “All women deserve to be heard and their experiences taken seriously.”...
In the last several weeks, Franken, 66, has been accused by more than half a dozen women of groping or trying to forcibly kiss them. The senator has apologized for his behavior and asked the Senate ethics committee to investigate him.....
“I, of all people, am aware that there is some irony in the fact that I am leaving while a man who has bragged on tape about his history of sexual assault sits in the Oval Office and a man who has repeatedly preyed on young girls campaigns for the Senate with the full support of his party,” he said.
Of late, they've been toppling like nine pins, the powerful and glitzy. The most and least credible of accusations are given credibility ... and the paunchy men exit stage left ... I wonder if the women are really requited after so many (often) decades. God knows these guys could probably use a good horse-whipping.

But I don't understand the unwillingness/inability/cowardice to apply the widely-applied yardstick to Donald Trump. He eludes the lash ... why? Never mind that I dislike the guy, if you're going to have a sexual feeding frenzy, isn't everything bait? At the moment, Donald Trump leaves the mafia's John Gotti, "The Teflon Don," in the shade.

U.S. farmers commit suicide

Farmers in India are not the only farmers committing suicide due to the stresses of an agricultural lifestyle. The ones committed to feeding and clothing much of the rest of the United States are under enormous pressures, many of which (nature, greed to name two) no one has the power to ameliorate.
The suicide rate for [American] farmers is more than double that of veterans. Former farmer Debbie Weingarten gives an insider’s perspective on farm life – and how to help [The Guardian]

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Finland, where kids count and dads pitch in

To Americans and Britons, the Nordic countries have come to represent a near-mythical paradise of gender equality and family harmony, where legions of happy fathers push prams through the streets, relaxed mothers enjoy lengthy paid maternity leaves, and well-nourished children in chunky sweaters glow from their free healthcare.
But even against that backdrop, one statistic about Finland, a nation of 5.5 million, stands out: according to a recent OECD report, it’s the only country in the developed world where fathers spend more time with school-aged children than mothers, to the tune of eight minutes a day.
The Global Gender Gap report rated Finland the second most equal country in the world in 2016, and the Economist recently rated it the third best country to be a working mom.

passing a tax bill

Despite owning majorities in both houses of Congress and the executive, Donald Trump has failed to produce a single piece of legislation during his year in office. Health care -- the framework he promised to "repeal and replace" -- fell flat on its ass. A wall across the Mexican border (another promise that the Mexicans would pay for according to Trump) is nowhere. And there are other initiatives that likewise have failed and Trump has invariably blamed on someone else's incompetence.

Currently, a revision of the tax laws is in House-Senate conference, with the two houses allegedly trying to hammer out a compromise to send for the president's signature. Each body managed to come up with a bill without letting the rest of the nation in on the forging of their measures. Given Trump's other failures, I predict it will pass. Aside from anything else, legislators know who buys their jobs and the tax bills both favor the wealthy and, over ten years, screw the middle and lesser classes. A trillion dollars added to the deficit the Republicans claim to be concerned with. Entitlements like Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid in the sights of those who need them least and have made it clear that the cash reserves of big corporations will NOT be spent on more hiring or fatter pay packets. But these are the tax-write-off guys who buy our legislators and it's an odd-on bet that for all the corruption, voters will forget when given the opportunity... and the coffers will remain open to those in need of a new legislative term.

Today, the top news items focus on Donald Trump's considering naming Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. Israel would be delighted. Others -- Palestinians and other Middle Eastern countries -- see it as a spanner in the works of what is sometimes unsmilingly referred to as "the peace process."

Israel and Jerusalem ... in a kerfuffle that puts Trump in the spotlight (where he needs to be) and, coincidentally, deflects too much interest in the tax bill Republicans and Democrats are going to vote for because they want the money that will pave the way to re-election. Yes, there will be endless news stories, dutifully delivered, but in the end, the tax bill will pass, Trump will claim victory, and legislators will spin it all to their best advantage... and those with less will have less still after a few years.

Israel is a good diversion. The chaff effect stings my eyes as well and pumps up my shame at being unwilling to look up the relevant links that would support my conclusions. I'm tired lately, which I'm sure will delight those angling for a meal ticket or relying on voter forgetfulness.
Congressional estimates show that taxpayers in every income group would initially see tax cuts, with the biggest cuts going to the wealthiest Americans. However, after several years, many low- and middle-income families would see tax increases, according to the analyses by the Joint Committee on Taxation, the official scorekeeper for Congress.

I can only pray that those younger than I and more full of sauce and sass will do a better job.

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

follow the [Trump] money

I'm not sure which noose special counsel Robert Mueller is tightening in his investigation of alleged Russian meddling in the 2016 U.S. presidential election, but a Reuters story -- piggy-backed on a story by the German Handelsblatt -- smells like potential red meat to me.
FRANKFURT/WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A U.S. federal investigator probing alleged Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election asked Deutsche Bank for data on accounts held by President Donald Trump and his family, a person close to the matter said on Tuesday, but Trump’s lawyer denied any such subpoena had been issued.
Germany’s largest bank received a subpoena from Special Counsel Robert Mueller several weeks ago to provide information on certain money and credit transactions, the person said, without giving details, adding that key documents had been handed over in the meantime.
Deutsche Bank has lent the Trump Organization hundreds of millions of dollars for real estate ventures and is one of the few major lenders that has given large amounts of credit to Trump in the past decade. A string of bankruptcies at his hotel and casino businesses during the 1990s made most of Wall Street wary of extending him credit
According to the story, Reuters had at least eight reporters on it. That ain't chopped liver.

Monday, December 4, 2017

missing an old friend

Today I miss my old friend Bill McKechnie, a guy with whom I was in the army and the kind of man who could see the whimsical title, "The Complete Book of Dwarf Tossing" as an opening to a long and fruitful conversation about ... about ... about whatever came next. The topic might be washed down with a beer or two or three, but it would be ranging and unafraid and imaginative. Worm farms and other solemnities would not be out of bounds -- a silliness whose seriousness would be acknowledged sotto voce ... lord, the world was a miraculous place! Nuclear war and the girl with three tits might make an appearance ... anything, everything was open to a meandering pouncing on one topic or the next or the next or the next.

I miss Bill, who died a number of years ago.

We had a few laughs. It was Bill who rewrote Benjamin Franklin with the doggerel
Early to bed
And early to rise
And you never see any of your friends.
We lived in a time (1960's) when graffiti in men's rooms were literate and included
A kiss that lasts forever
Is a strange gift.
And also, in one handwriting,
Niger (sic), go back to Africai (sic)
Followed by, in a second hand-writing,
I'm taking your mother and sister with me.

encouragements maybe

Posted elsewhere, but it seems to want a wider footprint:
If others are like me, there is a collection of nudges that accumulates on the mental book shelf as time in spiritual practice advances.... second-hand stuff that rings your bell. Two that popped up in my mind this morning were these:
  1. Once upon a time, at an introductory forum with the Korean Zen teacher Seung Sahn in New York, an audience member said approximately, "Sometimes during [meditation] practice, I feel like such a liar and a phony and a schmuck. What can I do?" And Seung Sahn replied, "You're either a Buddha or a schmuck. There is no in-between."
  2. The Zen teacher Ta Hui [1089–1163] once said approximately, "I have always taken a great vow that I would rather suffer the fires of hell for all eternity than to portray Zen as a human emotion."

Sunday, December 3, 2017

"happiness" cartoon

Passed along in email ... this take on happiness

colonial throwbacks

What I want to know is, if, as India suggested, the Sri Lankan cricket team was made up of a bunch of sissies who faked their reactions to Delhi's toxic smog, did this mean that the Sri Lankans had practiced up on vomiting prior to the game?
A cricket Test match between India and Sri Lanka was repeatedly interrupted on Sunday with claims players were “continuously vomiting” due to hazardous pollution levels in the Indian capital....
Airborne pollution levels 15 times the World Health Organisation limits confronted players on the second day of the third Test at the Feroz Shah Kotla Stadium in Delhi on Sunday....
The interruptions drew boos from the crowd for Sri Lanka’s opening batsmen as they made their way to the crease, where they played without masks.
The acting president of India’s cricket board was also unimpressed and said he would write to his Sri Lankan counterpart about the incident.
“If 20,000 people in the stands did not have problem and the Indian team did not face any issue, I wonder why the Sri Lankan team made a big fuss?” CK Khanna said....
The extremely poor air in the city is the result of a combination of road dust, open fires, vehicle exhaust fumes, industrial emissions and the burning of crop residues in neighbouring states. Indian weather agencies also blame dust storms that originate in the Gulf....

a world of mimicry

Back in a time when a million dollars was not chump change, there was a joke about two black guys sitting in the sunshine on a back porch. "John," said one to the other, "if you had a million dollars, what would you do with it?" John cocked his chair back and closed his eyes. "If I had a million bucks," he crooned, "I'd get me a white Cadillac convertible with white leather interior. I'd get a white suit and a white shirt and a white tie and a white hat and I'd cruise down some Main Street down south slow and easy and give the white folks something to look at. What would you do with a million bucks, Pete?" "Well," Pete replied in the same dreamy world his friend had adopted, "if I had a million dollars, I'd get me a black Cadillac convertible with a black leather interior. I'd get a black suit and a black shirt and a black tie and a black hat and I'd cruise down your Main Street and watch the white folks hang your black ass."

I once asked my mother for some tip about writing. Since she knew how to do it, her words were worth listening to. When it came to writing, she offered a one-word response: "Read." All art, writing included, is based on thievery and to be a good thief, it makes sense to bone up on what the good thieves before you have practiced.

Mimicry is a wondrous human tool. How is anyone to learn without in some manner mimicking the behavior of others? Sports, arts, die-casting, safe-cracking, money-making, speaking, walking, spiritual adventure ... the list is endless: Mimic what seems to work or what is admired.

For example, there is love in the world. If you want to be loving, mimic those who appear to love. There is decency and kindness. Mimic them as well if the goal seems attractive. Mimic those who appear to have succeeded. Be prepared to fall off the bike if you want to learn how to ride it. Mimicry.

Of course, the other edge of the mimicry sword is to base a practice in cruelty and unkindness -- strong-arming the world to accord with your desires. Same tactic, different ends. Mimicry.

Mimicry exercises the muscles within in ways that may at first be foreign and clumsy. Over and over again ... over and over again ... mimic. You want to be holy (by whatever definition)? Then act holy (by whatever definition). Over and over until one day ... one day ... what was only mimicry shifts gears and becomes second nature. What was "theirs" is now "yours." This is no longer a copy.

But there's a sticky wicket with the wonderment of mimicry. Where some may mimic to the point where mimicry falls away, others may become trapped in a world where being a good mimic is the sole result. Having the right clothes or the right car or the right religion or the right status becomes a satisfactory result. Everything continues to rely on endless comparisons with or connections to someone or something else. How many people have you met -- worst of all, the one in the mirror -- who can mimic the spiritual teacher or the loving soul or the professional manager, but are lost in the quicksand of their training and mimicking? A Cadillac remains their touchstone. There is no fluidity, no ownership, no real understanding, no balls and no peace. Everyone becomes Kim Kardashian.

And it is at this point in the mimicry world that reality comes calling ... proposing the possibilities that will hang your black ass. The shoes, the tummy tuck, the car, the slick lingo, the gun, the labels on the T-shirts, the holy texts, the right parties ... it may look like the real McCoy, but it lacks the last daring step....

Just because the mimicking student is doing the same thing as the adored master does not mean s/he is mimicking anything. Nor does it guarantee they are not mimicking ... except for the sense of tinny reality it can exude... you know, the folks who can beat you to death with a 'compassion' stick.

Ah mimicry....

No more living in the shadows ... except when the shadows are too comforting to relinquish.

Saturday, December 2, 2017

just a little button whining

Perhaps Donald Trump has taken a fake-news page from Mohandas Ghandi's works and will don a button that reads:
Other buttons that seem to be all I am good for:

Friday, December 1, 2017

U.N. probes effects of poverty in U.S.

The United Nations monitor on extreme poverty and human rights has embarked on a coast-to-coast tour of the US to hold the world’s richest nation – and its president – to account for the hardships endured by America’s most vulnerable citizens.
The tour, which kicked off on Friday morning, will make stops in four states as well as Washington DC and the US territory of Puerto Rico. It will focus on several of the social and economic barriers that render the American dream merely a pipe dream to millions – from homelessness in California to racial discrimination in the Deep South, cumulative neglect in Puerto Rico and the decline of industrial jobs in West Virginia.
With 41 million Americans officially in poverty according to the US Census Bureau (other estimates put that figure much higher), one aim of the UN mission will be to demonstrate that no country, however wealthy, is immune from human suffering induced by growing inequality. Nor is any nation, however powerful, beyond the reach of human rights law – a message that the US government and Donald Trump might find hard to stomach given their tendency to regard internal affairs as sacrosanct.
The U.N. point man is Philip Alston, an Aussie known for skinning those who have done such a good job of skinning others. I'm not sure why, but Aussies reassure me: They speak English, laugh and are not above punching your lights out.

homosexual blowback

Every now and then something will yank my ingrained chain and I will marvel at the ignorance I had consumed and digested and to some extent remained wedded to. And so it was this morning when I read the local paper and saw that the state's Senate president was in hot water because his "husband" had used the relationship to hit on various political staff members.
BOSTON — The Democratic leader of the Massachusetts Senate said Thursday he supports an independent investigation into allegations that his husband sexually assaulted and harassed several men, including some with business before the Legislature. 
Senate President Stan Rosenberg, in a statement, also promised to recuse himself from any matters related to the investigation or the allegations reported by The Boston Globe.
The newspaper said it spoke with four men who said Rosenberg’s husband, Bryon Hefner, sexually assaulted and harassed them over the past few years. Three of the men told the Globe that Hefner grabbed their genitals and one said Hefner kissed him against his will.
[Daily Hampshire Gazette]
"Husband?" I had been unaware that Stanley Rosenberg was gay -- let alone openly gay. So much for my keeping up with the news. So much for being any closer to figuring out how homosexual couples determine who is "husband" and who is "wife," a small matter I have always wondered about.

And reading the story took me back in time to a bar in Berlin where a band played Dixieland and I had a stammtisch or regular table. I was sitting there some 50-plus years ago when a guy I knew vaguely from the top-secret army unit we both worked for pulled up a chair. He was a nice-looking guy whose name I've forgotten. I assumed was letting off army steam, as I was, by consuming beer.  As we chatted aimlessly about this and that, it came home to me that he was drunker than I was, an assessment I had confirmed when suddenly he blurted out that he was homosexual and scared shitless about it. I was aware that the admission might in fact might be an invitation (I had grown up in Greenwich Village in New York where homosexuality was part of the tableau), but the anguish on his face was compelling. Homosexuality, in our unit, was a distinct no-no: There was too much potential for being outed and giving away the secrets our unit strove to keep secret. Anyone admitting he was gay risked being sent to a punishment post ... counting snowflakes in Alaska or some such. Not ratting out a homosexual likewise risked some punishment, so I was immediately on guard.

I grew up in a world where homosexuality was aberrant. Men went with women. Women went with men. That was the social norm. I couldn't imagine choosing a male partner over a female one, but that was just my enduring bias. Anyway, the information I was being given was ... off the social rails. But it was the look on his face .... It was as if he had been carrying a painful tumor and simply had to get it off his chest. I determined then and there never to mention what he had told me, whether it was a camouflaged pass or not. The pain on his face was too great ... like being forever an outsider because you had five fingers on one hand. The judgment was horrific and cruel and intrusive and totally fubar ... fucked-up-beyond-all-recognition. Why would I want to do that to anyone? I was jolted.

And yet I was jolted today as well to feel the old up-bringing floating to the surface. "Husband?" How wonderful that I have been left behind, left in the dust. Having passed through a time when homosexuality was out of bounds both legally and morally -- and not my taste in any event -- I had come into an era where gay and straight simply flowed into society and was subject to the same manipulations and wonderment that any relationship might evince.

Time passes and things change -- sometimes actually for the better. But it is hard to think that I might ever have bought into something less than equality ... in love or anything else.

Oh well, live and (possibly) learn.

sexual feeding frenzy

Portuguese man o' war
The feeding frenzy engulfing an increasingly milquetoast news media is focused on the past advances made by men in power on younger and less-powerful women. Grab-ass, rape, groping, grabbing, manipulation, demeaning sobriquets ... every day a new allegation is lodged; every day some pooh-bah is fired or urged to resign; every day a new story bubbles to the surface and someone's ox is gored. Women who have carried a burden for a long time step forward ... and the mighty are brought (sort of) low. Am I wrong or are these men all millionaires in one way or another?

Irrespective of financial status, they are getting what they probably deserve. Getting such matters out in the open is some relief, I imagine, to the powerless who suffered at the hands of the powerful.

But I also sense that the media ink and glee is facile. No journalist who wants to keep his or her cred suggests that the bird-dance of sexual attraction is more faceted. Isn't sex both capable of manipulation and incredibly delicious? Can't it be a vortex of wonder and a tsunami of cruelty? Men may be horndogs and assholes, but women are not beyond cozying up to the dizzying deliciousness of that precipice. No, I am not blaming the victim: I am saying that sex is a wowsers world in which joy and enjoyment can lie cheek-by-jowl with withering selfishness ... shall I be fired for saying I think a woman has an attractive ass? or trying to pick up someone in the same bar I went to in order to pick someone up who may herself have hoped to be picked up and ... well, you know the routine.

I can hear the yowls even as I type: This is not the same; this is blackmail and disrespectful and manipulative and unkind and ... yup, it's all true. All true and yet with a soup├žon of something less maleficent, perhaps. Everyone wants to be adored, for example... or accepted, or enfolded... and perhaps there is an admixture of "I deserve it" which may be arrogant ....

The tendrils of sexual attraction dangle like the tentacles of a Portuguese man o' war jellyfish ... sometimes stinging, sometimes nourishing, sometimes wondrous, sometimes demeaning....

But woe betide the journalist who suggests in a money-making feeding frenzy that sex, while capable of generating great harm, is also capable a myriad other rocketing delights and dismal results.

In the midst of these endless stories, is there no room for the confounding and contradictory and painful and scrumptious potential underlying the matter? If right and wrong were the true yardstick of sex and all its magic and potential ugliness ... well, how would that work? Do I get penalized for liking a woman's ass?

I favor listening to those who were manipulated. I dislike manipulators. But I also favor some nod to human beings and their capacities, good and bad, sane and insane, stupid and smart. Without injecting some element of life into their stories, I think the media are both mistaken and far from helpful.

Thursday, November 30, 2017

gift-wrapped shame

From the department of agitation and propaganda: Which is it?
Or is this just one of those oh-so-cute non-dichotomies?

From my point of view, the psychobabble railings against shame are too extensive by half. These are times when shame is a sadly-lacking and much-needed tool.

But maybe I'm wrong ... hold on a sec while I dust off my American flag/Confederate battle flag lapel pin and promise one more thing I won't deliver.

Remember when the 'naughty' kids could expect a lump of coal in their Christmas stockings? Well there are plenty of lumps -- and the jobs that go with them -- scattered about.

And then, yesterday, there was....
Bosnian Croat war criminal dies after taking poison in UN courtroom
Former commander Slobodan Praljak drank from bottle moments after judges upheld 20-year sentence in The Hague

Shame or defiance -- who knows ... though his defense lawyer was quoted as describing him as "an honorable man who could not live with the war crimes conviction and leave that courtroom handcuffed."