Wednesday, July 17, 2019

the universe cares?

I wonder:

The enormousness of the impact of religion is sometimes blithely attributed to a human fear of death and "what comes next." I don't know what things are like where anyone else lives, but around here there are myriad brick-and-mortar testaments to that sort of religion in one form or another.

What I wonder is this: Is it possible that the fear of death is nothing when compared with the twinkling understanding that the universe simply is unfazed and uninterested in my being and predicaments. A little soft-soaping is in order and religion is that soap. Something, however ineffable, cares as much as I do about me.

Only as time passes, the proofs mount that that hope or assertion is simply not the case. Bruisingly asserted, the world simply does not give a shit and that recognition is so painful and so lonely that a comforting comforter of some sort arises like crab grass. Religion becomes a bulwark beyond the ostensible bulwark that holds death's fears at bay.

I wonder.

If I care, is it possible to arm-wrestle the universe into caring too?

Nope.

PS. "Not giving a shit" is not intended here as a snarky or critical remark. Rather, it is the suggestion that the universe simply isn't built that way any more than a pound of cheese would be expected to ride a unicycle. It isn't built that way.

storm Area 51?

In one of its incarnations, "rat-fuck" is a less-cosseted expression denoting a "practical joke." These days, the line between a practical joke and reality is blurred (Donald Trump, the rat fucker in charge, has nourished it all). What's true? What ain't? A strange and wobbly world we live in.

And no where more so, perhaps, than in the rat fuck of Area 51 and its alleged alien remains that the federal government is withholding from the American public ... for reasons I'm not entirely sure of.
Now comes word of a "joke" in which the storming of Area 51 raises its head.
Urban legend has it that Area 51 is a weird place. Yet even if the conspiracy theories are true and the Nevada air force facility harbors extraterrestrial technology and/or life, it would still barely qualify as being weirder than the internet where, early this month the anonymous users behind a Facebook meme page proposed a jaunty group invasion of the restricted compound.In a Facebook event titled “Storm Area 51, They Can’t Stop All of Us,” the creators explain: “We will all meet up at the Area 51 Alien Center tourist attraction and coordinate our entry. If we naruto run, we can move faster than their bullets. Let’s see them aliens.”...
... 1.4 million people have RSVP’d as “attending” the raid, while 1.1 million more are “interested”.
Will a gazillion people turn up for the rat-fuck rally on Sept. 20? Why not? The alternative (more of the Rat Fuck in Chief) is a real inspiration. What better way to expose a falsehood than with a bigger and better falsehood?

Tuesday, July 16, 2019

artificial intelligence article


AI will bring many wonders. It may also destabilize everything from nuclear détente to human friendships. We need to think much harder about how to adapt.
Henry A. Kissinger Eric Schmidt Daniel Huttenlocher
August 2019 Issue of Atlantic

 Written in English, I thought this article was very good.

Dutch police corruption

Should we then be taking a lesson from the Dutch whose apparent widespread corruption within police circles has led to the sacking of high and low alike? If the police cannot trust the police, how much should the rest of us rely on their integrity?

This question is only half whimsical. A part of me honestly feels that there is a war (civil perhaps) beckoning in the not-so-distant future. As in the 1920's and 1930's, where law enforcement stands today is not necessarily beneficial to the man on the street. Government, in those times and perhaps these, sided with those in power. The blood that was spilled was almost invariably that of the working stiff. And so the Dutch model is not without its reminders.

U.S. President Donald Trump has surmised (correctly it often seems) that America's governmental apparatus is for sale. The Supreme Court Ruling on "Citizens United" allows the purchase and sale of political power and Donald Trump has merely taken advantage of it all. Having refilled the political swamp he once vowed to empty, Trump seems to spend most of each day stirring the cauldron of discontent on the one hand and good, loud-mouthed business practices on the other.

The cops are corrupt. The media is corrupt. The immigrants are corrupt. Blacks and women are corrupt. The church is corrupt. Climate change is corrupt. And it is hard not to think that Trump's business-buddy appointees are likewise affected -- open to a succulent bribe or enticement.

My younger son is currently going through a two-week National Guard training program in New Jersey. From afar, I want to urge him -- "study and learn your weapons. You're gonna need them." There's no reason why the guys with guns need to be the only guys with guns.

No, I am not a conspiracy nut. Yes, I am afraid of what the likes of Donald Trump can visit on a nation for which he has only a pecuniary regard. The Republicans, of course, want Trump's election clout but are not shouldering any of the responsibility. Will they pay for their cowardice? I hope so, but I doubt it.

Monday, July 15, 2019

the world of authenticity

There is no truth of which lying is not an element just as there is no lie of which truth is not an element.

This, I suspect, is the world of grown-ups.

Ain't it enough to piss off the pope?

Luckily or unluckily, there will always be some poor blighter who claws at and clings to the notion that somehow this is not true.

And in this way, the merry-go-round chases its endless, authentic tail.

Sunday, July 14, 2019

western science?

Sent this email to a couple of friends today, but thought I might post it here as well:
Is there any 'western scientific' study of acupuncture/acupressure that you know of. I tried looking it up on Google and everywhere I turned, western approaches all seemed to embrace the unspoken assumption that such eastern approaches were A. "anecdotal" (over 1000 years??????) or B. threatened the medical income of the western medical community.

I am asking because I simply can't find a rigorous scientific approach to something that might, as it has, benefit the patient community. I find it hard to believe someone hasn't taken this bull by the horns.... so I'm asking you because I'm too lazy.
It's so easy to assume something is right/wrong and then not even investigate the mirror image ...

cheating at chess

Gawd!

If everything is crooked, what then is straight?

Priests fucking little boys and girls ... hell, that's old hat. But chess for Christ's sake??!!

In this case, the performance-enhancing drug appears to be a cell phone in the crapper.

Cheating at chess??????? Holy mackerel!

Chess grandmaster admits to cheating with phone on toilet during tournament

  • Igors Rausis, 58, caught cheating during Strasbourg Open
  • Grandmaster says he’s retired after confessing in statement

If someone puts an 'authentic' "purity" on your plate, steer clear!

Saturday, July 13, 2019

behind the political leadership

In specific, I thought this article by the AP's Robert Burns was a compelling story that is largely overshadowed by the chaff president Donald Trump tosses into the air.

No one can be a leader while Donald Trump is leader.

Yo, American public (and me into the bargain), bend over and pick up the soap!

Thursday, July 11, 2019

women's soccer/football champs

Two nights ago, there was an attack of constipation that brought new and more lustrous meaning to "being an asshole." It was not a good night. Things seem to be on the mend today, but I'm still wary.

Megan Rapinoe
Yesterday, the women's soccer team was feted with a ticker-tape parade in New York City after the team won yet another world cup.

Of all the rejoinders to a self-centered and ignorant president of the United States, the team's unwillingness to make a trip to the White House for congratulations strikes me as enormously -- if not most -- telling.

Here is a flag, however inconsequential in the wider picture, around which Americans might rally. And here is a president whose gaffs and guffaws and cruelties are just too goddamned much to rally and unite the country he claims to represent. A political slam-dunk you might have thought.

Donald Trump's misogyny is challenged ... and largely by the team's openly-lesbian ace, Megan Rapinoe, who is on my list of heroines. What is a do-nothing president to do in the face of honest accomplishment? How about "Make America Great Again ... for a Change."

Yes, he got the tax relief the Republicans squeezed out of George Bush as well. The rich get richer.

But other than that, he is a loose and ignorant cannon who imagines that if he can't buy it, it ain't worth having ... you want peace in the Middle East? Just buy off the Palestinians. Rip up a nuclear peace treaty with Iran. Fuck global warming. Fire anyone who disagrees with you. Leave top positions vacant. Women can kiss his bloody ass. Separate and sardine-can children along the Mexico border. Hob-nob with dictators and the buyers of American arms and other goods.

And in the face of all this and plenty more like it, the Women's Soccer Team won.

From where I sit, I cannot help but think of the line, "Peace be upon them!"

Honest to goodness, it's damn near enough to make me cry.

And I'm not even much of a sports fan.

Tuesday, July 9, 2019

farewell Volkswagen beetle

FILE - In this April 21, 2017, file photo a collection of VW beetles car toys seen on Volkswagen Beetle displayed during the annual gathering of the "Beetle Club" in Yakum, central Israel. Volkswagen is halting production of the last version of its Beetle model in July 2019 at its plant in Puebla, Mexico, the end of the road for a vehicle that has symbolized many things over a history spanning eight decades since 1938. (AP Photo/Oded Balilty)

religion loses its magic

.... A large majority of Americans make important decisions without calling on religious leaders for advice, according to a new survey released Monday by The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research . The poll finds three-quarters of American adults rarely or never consult a clergy member or religious leader, while only about a quarter do so at least some of the time.
Anyone who has traveled any distance in whatever interest knows there is magic. But with the rise of the internet, the willingness to imbue members of the clergy with the keys to the magic kingdom is draining slowly, slowly away.

And it's not just the Roman Catholic pedophile scandals. I suspect that across the religious board, Google has risen in stature: There are answers, all of which require credulity/idiocy, but the notion that even the best-hearted clergy member could possibly have the answers is ... well ... no longer as credible as once.

The difficulty, among others, is that the magic insists, the idiocy is required and the Bible or Quran or Vedas simply cannot get a handle on it, own it, and spread its good-bad-indifferent word.

If religious texts don't work and Google doesn't really work either ... well, shiiiit! I really would like to be happy and at ease in a changing, ball-juggling world. If I could find the answer -- whether clerical or otherwise -- what need would there be for the question?

I think it's best to become an idiot for something. Anything. Follow the Yellow Brick Road. Applaud. Kow-tow. Kiss the sainted relic. Wave the incense. Learn weird languages. Chant and sing and... and...and ... return to ground zero. In order to get smart, you've got to be willing to get stupid.

My Zen teacher said simply, "Take care of your family."

So I predict the return of magic, because magic is magical. It brooks no ownership. It swallows the universe whole. Here today, gone tomorrow. Call it "alive" and you miss the point. Call it "dead" and you miss the point again.

It's magical....

But you knew that. 

Monday, July 8, 2019

the white world of Wimbledon

Once upon a time in college, a billiard-crazed friend of mine (on a "snow day," we played billiards from 8 a.m. until midnight) pointed out that there was a badminton tournament scheduled at Babson -- an upscale business school near Boston -- and the two of us, as people who enjoyed tennis now and then -- should probably sign up. Which we did.

Badminton may be a backyard summer pastime for some, but of course others (as where the Britannic scepter has waved -- take it far more seriously. What did we know?

Anyway, Keith and I signed on. I found an old pair of slacks and cut them off at the knee for the shorts I didn't have and then scavenged a last-legs T-shirt to fill out my ensemble. And if I was Mutt, Keith was Jeff ... pretty much equally as raggedy. And then we showed up at the designated gymnasium at the designated time.

My first opponent showed up in tennis whites, a bag with three rackets whose handles protruded in gay and well-heeled array. The guy also had three salivating young women for company. I envied him. I think the contest was to win two of three consecutive games. I was beating the absolute crap out of my opponent when he (I believe) feigned an injury and withdrew ... taking his delicious ladies with him. The ragamuffins (that's me) were in the lead! If you can't be rich, be righteous, right? The scores were lopsidedly all in my favor when it came to racquets and shuttlecocks. Frankly, I think I would have preferred the curvaceous company. Oh well.

Mr. Three-White-Sweaters-and-six-breasts withdrew and in his place came my second opponent, a guy whose name I will never forget ... Bon Ke Yap. No shit, that was his name and if I was raggedy, I couldn't hold a candle to this guy. He was all diffidence and politesse entering his end of the court ... where he proceeded to trounce the bloody crap out of me. It seemed that wherever I hit the bird, Bon Ke Yap knew where it was going, knew how to get there seemingly without effort, and knew where I was not going to be for his wrist-flicking return. The only reason I got three points (of a cumulative 30) from the two games he beat me at was his sense that grinding an opponents poor play in his face was ungentlemanly. Jesus, did he beat the shit out of me.

And his clothes were worse than mine.

I subsequently learned (or did I just console myself?) that people from Cambodia and Thailand and similar lands exit their mothers' wombs much as Canadian off-spring do ... Canadians come armed with hockey sticks; Cambodians et al appear with badminton paraphernalia in hand. (How's that for a bias?) Rule Britannia!

All of this came flooding back this morning when I decided to watch a little of the Wimbledon Tennis Championships. There were smatterings in the news about the 15-year-old phenom, Cori Gauff, who had managed to beat one of her heroines, Venus Williams. Imagine -- 15 years old and poise enough to withstand the adulation of Wimbledon ... and the fact that she's a brown young woman and tennis, like it or lump it, is a white man's world, a privileged world, a world of blonds etc.

Not true! the WASPs will whine. Anyone can play. Everyone has the opportunity.

Anyway I tuned in to Wimbledon and enjoyed remembering the enjoyment I had found in playing tennis ... and even badminton. It's lovely to see anyone do something well .... to feel the muscles react in an anticipation once felt. Man oh man! And I marveled at what I saw of Gauff ... 15-fucking-years-old! I hope she won't be too badly scarred.

And then I began to look at the crowds ... at the advertising for brokerage houses, and high-end automobiles and and slick watches and whatever all else held this program aloft. I peered at the crowds. White, white, white and often dressed in white. No doubt the girls who once went to the badminton match were grandmothers among them now.

I have long admired Arthur Ashe, the black tennis player who won Wimbledon and was once ranked as the world's best tennis player. I admired his grit, yes. But I admired him later, after his tennis days, when he would address young blacks and tell them that there were only 6,000 total sports jobs in all of the U.S., population 200 million or whatever it was at the time. The odds of their getting one was thus very difficult and they needed a Plan B -- an education that would sustain them if they found no athletic exit from the unspoken poverty and disillusionment and segregation that could pound a black man or woman down.

Sunday, July 7, 2019

free hugs

By the side of the two-lane road and beneath blue-all-over skies today, a man stood by his car that was parked on the verge. As traffic passed, he hoisted a largish and legible sign that said simply, "Free Hugs."

The smallness of it and the clarity and the fact that I am a romantic by nature drew me to him. The world might be going to hell in a hand basket but ... free hugs.

Icky? Yes, a little, but still ... pourquoi non? Why not stand and deliver in a world that may deliver for Amazon tomorrow, but seems to have difficulty meeting small and more important reminders.

After my wife and I stopped further up the road, had a hot dog and headed back home, we pulled over by the man. He said in a mildly-southern-accented voice that he and his daughter were going to all 50 states. He looked to be nosing around 50-year mark and there were stickers on his car to indicate what states he had already touched base with.

"We're all human," he said without bluster or zeal. Thank God he wasn't a Christian. :)

Sure, Donald Trump could get it for you wholesale, but isn't free better?

tribal lore

Yesterday's throttling humidity gave way over night to lighter air and being.

Not that it helped me to remember today the name of the U.S.S. Indianapolis, the heavy cruiser hit by two Japanese submarine torpedoes July 30, 1945. Of the nearly 1,200 sailors and marines on board, some 300 were killed by the torpedo blasts... and then there were the sharks. It was considered the worst shark attack in naval history. Close to 900 men died.

But the air is lighter today ... today we can use the word "hero" in passing from the fogs of the past to the lightness of the present.

The other day, I woke from a nap thinking of the tribes anyone might ally him- or herself with -- the like-minded spirits who wallpaper your past and mine. Join the tribe ... but who was my tribe? Many rub shoulders with the high-profile vendors of tribal lore and imagine they are better off. And maybe they are. Certainly their teeth are straighter and their tits plusher.

I woke from the nap and thought of the famous people who were my tribe. Names floating upward. Carson McCullers ... a friend of my mothers when I was a child. Isaac Asimov, quite by accident. Kurt Vonnegut, again quite by accident. Truman Capote, another of my mother's chums ... and on and on. How is anyone to get a bead on the tribal elders who are layered in fame and neuroses and watching the world go by and trying to cope and helping (?) sustain a tribal presence?

How can you get to know a person of stature when s/he has been at such pains to lay on the layers of tribal stature? You gotta play the game -- the tribal game, the kinship game, the identifying-markers game ... and then, and then ... well, who the hell do you become?

Everyone smart as a peacock.

Is that a tribe? And yet only a fool would believe that this bright-as-a-new-penny braininess was a substitute for the naked one, the one inside, the one aspiring to join a tribe that might accept him or her.

I can sort of see why my younger son wanted to be part of the military. It's a verifiable (sort of) tribe. If enough people say "yes," does that mean the real answer is "yes?"

Beats the socks off me.

Saturday, July 6, 2019

Mad Magazine's demise

Alfred E. Newman: "What, me worry?"
Back then, there were adults.

The adults were separated from the children. The adults had the magic, they had the power and what the adults said was the law. So what was a budding teenager to do? Where could s/he look for someone to be on her or his team? Just about the time that adult hypocrisy came into focus, a kid could get lost in the confusion.
Enter, in 1952, Mad Magazine, salvor of the downtrodden and confused. Mad raised the questions that no adult ever seemed willing to answer. "Whaddyou mean 'take out the garbage?!'"
Mad magazine, the class clown of American publishing, is being shuffled off to the periodical equivalent of an old-folks home at the age of 67. After the next two issues, a publication that specialized in thumbing its nose at authority will no longer include new material, except in year-end specials, according to two people with knowledge of the decision. Instead, the “usual gang of idiots,” as the staff has long called itself on the masthead, will fill the magazine’s pages with old material. A giddy creation of the staid 1950s, Mad hit a circulation peak of 2.8 million in 1973. Since then, it has steadily lost readers and relevance, a victim of its own success, as its skeptical, smart-alecky sensibility became dominant in American popular culture.
Back then, there were adults. Only today, perhaps, can anyone see the need for such a monolith of power and agreement. If you can't point an accusatory finger at the oppressor -- if, in short, "the oppressor is us" -- then what relevance is there in an embattled world of confusion and crankiness? When everyone's a smart aleck, being a smart aleck loses its allure and bite and camaraderie.

Well, it was fun while it lasted.

Friday, July 5, 2019

if I don't see it, it's not there

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — San Francisco will spend up to $600,000 to paint over historical artwork at a public school depicting the life of George Washington, a mural once seen as educational and innovative but now criticized as racist and degrading for its depiction of black and Native American people.
The “Life of Washington” was painted by Victor Arnautoff, one of the foremost muralists in the San Francisco area during the Depression. The San Francisco School Board’s decision to paint over the 83-year-old mural is prompting some to worry that other artwork from the so-called New Deal era could face a similar fate because of changing sensitivities.
At the end of 1933, when Adolf Hitler was appointed as Germany's chancellor, the author William Shirer, then a reporter, noted in his diaries that perhaps 200 people filled the space beneath the balcony from which he received adoring cheers. Was it possible that the crowd was small because there were those still alive who remembered the utter horrors of World War I ... and the fact that Hitler seemed bent on yet another war-like trajectory? No one who remembered could cheer another blood-letting. No, no and again no! Paint it over! Love the motherland, repaint the ugly past!

Changing sensitivities. If you paint it over, does that absolve those whose memories wave some crooked flag? If you paint over slavery, is it thereby dissolved?

Where I live today, there are colleges aplenty. The well-heeled pay $40-and-more-thousand dollars a year for their children to receive an Ivy League education which includes, in my neck of the woods, a willingness to disallow speakers whose hateful language and ideas. Selective editing allows "anti-Semitism" to apply to Jews, but not others, in Semitic lands. If someone is not allowed to fly the Confederate battle flag, is emancipation somehow more true?

Imagine paying $40,000 for an education that excises the mean and nasty ... Gawd what a bunch of intellectual sissies!

In which of his books does Mark Twain put a man with a double-barreled shotgun on a porch, squaring off with a lynch mob determined to hang the black man in the house behind that gun. True, the mob can overwhelm the shot-gunner ... but not before he sends some of them to their maker.

The internet flourishes.

The sissies abound.

Wednesday, July 3, 2019

WMD revisited

JERUSALEM (Reuters) - Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Tuesday that he informed U.S. President Donald Trump in advance of what Israel has described as a spy mission in Tehran last year to capture a secret Iranian nuclear archive.
Netanyahu said in April 2018 that Mossad operatives had spirited thousands of hidden documents out of Tehran that proved Iran had previously pursued a nuclear weapons program. Trump cited the Israeli findings in his decision, a month later, to quit a 2015 deal that had scaled down Iran’s nuclear project.
Iran denies ever seeking nuclear weapons and has accused Israel of faking the Tehran mission and documents trove... .
Netanyahu said that, when he later presented main findings from an Israeli analysis of the documents to Trump at the White House, the president “voiced his appreciation for the boldness”.
“I have no doubt that this helped to validate his decision to withdraw from this dangerous (Iran nuclear) deal,” he said.
Shades of Iraq's "weapons of mass destruction...." you remember, right? -- the weapons that did not exist.

Tuesday, July 2, 2019

sensitivities

-- The pale.
-- The victimized.
-- The traumatized.
-- An era of wounds....
-- Of past wounds made present
The shoes were not designed to offend.
Red, white and blue with the image of a historical American flag stitched on the heel and a July 4 release week, they seemed like an innocuous attempt by Nike to capitalize on the hot dogs and fireworks and patriotism that mark the holiday.
Instead, the company found itself at the center of a political firestorm. Former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick reportedly complained about the shoes, and Nike canceled the sneakers’ production.
Kaepernick, who is a face of the company, told Nike that he found the flag — designed in 1777 with a circle of thirteen stars for each American colony — offensive because of its connection to the era of slavery, according to the Wall Street Journal.
-- Various articles within the last month have suggested reparations should be paid to black people whose American ancestors had been slaves. None of the stories tells what sort of reparations might be paid or the per capita payment. Like the Israelis whose parents faced the Nazi "endloesung" or "final solution" of the concentration camp fires, it seems to be tacitly understood that to mention an actual payment ... well, who has the nerve or will for that?

-- I saw an article/column recentlty that asked where all the men had disappeared to in latter-day TV dramas. No doubt they all snuck away on flag-tagged sneakers... priests and other oppressors tip-toeing into the shadows where their unfix-able sins of the past can be viewed (sort of) and castigated and never adequately measured or monetized.

-- Ah, wait a few days and perhaps there will be another grade-school shooting rampage and another bid for gun-control and horror and grief and ... callouses.

Monday, July 1, 2019

AMA takes position on abortion

Passed along in email:
The American Medical Association is suing North Dakota to block two abortion-related laws, the latest signal the doctors’ group is shifting to a more aggressive stance as the Donald Trump administration and state conservatives ratchet up efforts to eliminate legal abortion.
The group, which represents all types of physicians in the U.S., has tended to stay on the sidelines of many controversial social issues, which, until recently, included abortion and contraception. Instead, it has focused on legislation affecting the practice and finances of large swaths of its membership.
But, says AMA President Patrice Harris, the organization feels that, in light of new state laws in the U.S. that would force doctors who perform abortions to lie to patients—put “physicians in a place where we are required by law to commit an ethical violation”—it has no choice but to take a stand. One of these laws, set to take effect Aug. 1, requires physicians in North Dakota to tell patients that medication abortions—a procedure involving two drugs taken at different times—can be reversed. The AMA said that is “a patently false and unproven claim unsupported by scientific evidence.” North Dakota is one of several states to pass such a measure.
Amen!

the end of the world

What do you mean, "the end of the world is not coming?"

Flies began carpet bombing parts of the Urals in the middle of last month. Gazillions, apparently. In Guadalajara, Mexico, a 'freak' hailstorm left kids to skitter and skid through up to five feet of ice Saturday/Sunday(?) after recent temperatures in the upper eighties-Fahrenheit. And, north of Mexico, Donald Trump is still president of the United States ... sorry Virginia, it was not just a bad dream.

Break out the placards!

The end of the world is nigh... a punishment for past sins, dontcha know.

Saturday, June 29, 2019

people I admire and am sick of

Is anyone else out there sick to death of the litany of people who have cast their lot and screw whom they please, when they please and the world can just piss up a rope?

My latest heroine, so to speak, is Meghan Rapinoe, an out-of-the-closet lesbian who also happens to be a class-act soccer player on the United States' soccer team. She has said of late that if the U.S. wins the title and is invited to the White House, she won't go. Donald Trump is anti-gay ... fuck him (or not, as the case may be). Does anyone give a damn what she does in the bedroom and is it their business?

Rapinoe joins, in my latter-day pantheon, with former football quarterback Colin Kaepernick who, while not known as being gay, took a knee during the singing of the National Anthem to protest treatment of blacks in the United States. He probably deep-sixed his career by kneeling, but what he kneeled for was a blessing on us all.

Let's get straight what is important and what is frivolous in a given situation. Rapinoe plays kick-ass soccer; Kaepernick was a pretty good quarterback and Trump, although he is president of the most powerful nation on earth, is frivolous. Should people like Rapinoe and Kaepernick be ground down by the likes of Donald Trump and his disciples? They are Americans. Trump is a Republican.

And simultaneously, I wish we could just get by all the ooooh and ahhh of sex and race and whatever other whipping boy is handy.

Rapinoe and Kaepernick bless us, but I surely do wish they could be consigned to the rear view mirror and everyone would just move along to the important stuff that has to do with important stuff -- human dignity rather than moguls and money-makers.

Friday, June 28, 2019

fiddle-faddle du jour

If you do't have the balls to be wrong
You'll never have a chance to be right.

Wednesday, June 26, 2019

to laugh in delight; to weep in despair

One of the UK’s largest police forces apparently arrested a 93-year-old woman who had committed no crime because it was her “dying wish”....
Smith [a granddaughter] said that Greater Manchester police had “made an old lady very happy” by arresting her grandmother, adding: “She is quite poorly and wanted to do something like this while she still has the strength to enjoy it. She’s been good all her life (she says....) and wanted to have an experience to remember! She’s a star.”
************************
The grim reality of the migration crisis unfolding on America’s southern border has been captured in photographs showing the lifeless bodies of a
Salvadoran father and his daughter who drowned as they attempted to cross the Rio Grande into Texas.
The images, taken on Monday, show Óscar Alberto Martínez Ramírez, 26, and his daughter Valeria, lying face down in shallow water. The 23-month-old toddler’s arm is draped around her father’s neck, suggesting that she was clinging to him in her final moments.

Tuesday, June 25, 2019

Washington Post editorial -- migrant kids





CHILDREN WEARING clothes filthy with snot and tears and food. Children locked in cells nearly all day long, sleeping on cold concrete floors. No windows. Always hungry. No toothbrushes, toothpaste or soap. Children alone, even the littlest among them.
These are the conditions in which hundreds of immigrant children are being held at Customs and Border Protection facilities along the U.S. border. Most pets get better treatment. The United States should be horrified and demand that the president and Congress take action, immediately, to provide humane care for these vulnerable young people.
Concern about the conditions in which migrant children are held intensified after the Associated Press reported on the findings of a group of lawyers who visited a detention facility in Clint, Tex., in which 250 infants, children and teenagers were being held. “It’s the worst conditions I have ever witnessed in several years of doing these inspections,” said W. Warren Binford, one of the lawyers, recounting the lack of adequate access to food, water and medicine; the minimal adult supervision, and the presence of lice and flu. News reports Monday evening indicated hundreds of children had been moved out of that facility, but the administration’s responses inspired little confidence that they would be treated better elsewhere.
“We’re doing a fantastic job under the circumstances,” President Trump had the temerity to say on NBC’s “Meet the Press” on Sunday. He and Vice President Pence, appearing on CBS’s “Face the Nation,” sought to put the blame on congressional Democrats for any problems. “If the Democrats would change the asylum laws and the loopholes, which they refuse to do because they think it’s good politics, everything would be solved immediately. But they refuse to do it,” Mr. Trump said.
Congress shares in the blame for its failure to address some of the issues that have led to an increase in illegal border crossings. It also has failed to act, after appropriating $400 million in February, on a larger supplemental spending bill to cope with the surge in migrants. A Senate version of the bill is headed to the floor with bipartisan support, but its future in the House is unclear. Some House Democrats, using the hashtags #NotOneDollar and #CloseTheCamps, have come out against additional funding because they think it will help advance the administration’s immigration and detention policies. Such thinking is irresponsible; children are hurting. Congress should provide the needed resources and then closely monitor how the money is spent.
But if congressional action is irresponsible, it is also understandable, given the contemptuous way Mr. Trump speaks of migrants; his loathsome policy of family separation last year; his current lies about that policy; and his constant use of fear, threats and ultimatums in place of an effort to work toward immigration reform. First and foremost, he is responsible for how these children are being treated. The U.S. government should be capable of providing toothbrushes, soap, showers and safe and humane shelter for these most vulnerable human beings.

Saddam Hussein, the former dictator of Iraq and a man excoriated by the United States, was said to have fed (or was it his sons?) his enemies into a wood chipper and listened to the screams. Might the same be done -- slowly and purposefully -- the Donald Trump? The trouble with a bloody price to pay is that it exacts more and more blood to pay and thus turns to a vicious circle. I would be willing to swallow the onus of all this violence if it would extinguish the current cause.

Blood is coming....as a U.N. report suggests.

Monday, June 24, 2019

taking the Arab world's temperature

The Arab world is turning its back on religion and on US relations, according to the largest public opinion survey ever carried out in the region.
A survey of more than 25,000 people across 10 countries and the Palestinian territories found that trust in religious leaders has plummeted in recent years.
For those as dumb as I am, this story is a helpful antidote to the sense of a monolithic Islam and a monolithic Arab mind-set.

Boy, is my ignorance pervasive!

Sunday, June 23, 2019

howdja like to live forever?

Some sleep on electromagnetic mats, others pop up to 150 pills a day. But are ‘life extensionists’ any closer to finding the key to longevity? Alex Moshakis meets some of the people determined to become immortal
To presume an importance greater than that of a daisy strikes me as arrogant in the end. Yes, it's scary, but the daisy doesn't seem to be the worse for wear.

Saturday, June 22, 2019

a town without time

The 350 residents of Sommarøy in the land of the midnight sun are hoping to free themselves from the tyranny of the clock by declaring the small Norwegian island the world’s first time-free zone.
“All over the world, people are characterised by stress and depression,” Kjell Ove Hveding, the leader of the campaign on the island, west of Tromsø and inside the Arctic circle, told the Norwegian public broadcaster NRK.
“In many cases this can be linked to the feeling of being trapped by the clock. We will be a time-free zone where everyone can live their lives to the fullest … Our goal is to provide full flexibility, 24/7. If you want to cut the lawn at 4am, then you can do it.”
The islanders, whose main sources of income are tourism and fishing, are calling for formal opening hours to be abolished and people to be allowed to “do what we want, when we want” – although children will still have to go to school, Hveding said.
A time without time. It may or may not work for a town, but I wonder if it isn't a worthwhile pursuit for individuals who love losing track of things in such pursuits as laughter or music or sneezing or orgasm.

A time without time.

on whom is old age wasted?

If, as George Bernard Shaw is said to have whined wittily, "Youth is wasted on the young," does that raise the question, as I think it does, "On whom is old age wasted?"

The question re-raised its head yesterday with the pass-along of an Atlantic article about the declining years anyone might actually face. I found it interesting, if long.

Friday, June 21, 2019

this is my country?



[Sorry it's not better edited]


Just about the time I think nothing worse or more egregious can happen, well, of course it does.

Tonight's PBS NewsHour retailed two segments that, alone and more so when linked, made me want to weep or vomit. I am sorry I haven't got the computer skills to suss out the particular segments for easy access, but I can describe them:

First, the tale from Texas of some 250 migrant children, from toddlers to teens, shut in a single room with older children asked to watch after the younger. Many had been separated from their parents and then segregated in ways that might have done the Boers or the Nazis proud. This was my country as it exists today.

Second was an analysis of why, after Iran shot down an American military drone this week, a strike force was launched by the commander in chief of the military, Donald Trump, and only canceled when, in flight to Iranian targets, the president said he could not countenance the collateral death estimate of 150 people ... and so he aborted the mission. This is my country as it exists today.

Spliced into the latter segment was commentary of former vice-president and presidential candidate Joe Biden's refusal to back away from remarks in which he said that as a member of ongress, of course he had worked with those whose segregationist views he disagreed with. Congress is a body that tries to do things for the country it represents. To expect everyone to agree is egregiously stupid. The idea is to either arm-wrestle opponents to your point of view or convince them, no matter what their other leanings.

Why hadn't the president's sensitivities been more clearly in mind when the launching of the strike was ordered? Partly it's because he has no Secretary of Defense. He seems given to getting rid of advisers who simply do not agree with him. He is the sole arbiter ... the sole arbiter ... the sole arbiter.
Allies, if the U.S. has them any more, are in mental disarray. America is in mental disarray. There are no policies...

But 250 kids who are ill clothed, ill-nourished, and ill-medically-attended... this is my country as it exists today ... I am left with nothing but wubba-wubba on my tongue and lips. Will someone please take this man out behind the barn, shoot him in the kneecaps, and throw him into a sty where the pigs can shit all over him?

There is the minor "apostasy" that the Vatican can cite from time to time. But major apostasies spread a wider net ... a human one. It's time to stop.

Colleges and universities and other gatherings where people with good hearts and capped teeth agree with each other can learn from Biden, I think.

Thursday, June 20, 2019

grumbling in the scullery

Sixty-nine years old and a scullery maid.

Such is my lot, this morning and else-times ... washing dishes, cooking a slumgullion, putting crockery and utensils away. I don't care for it much.

If there be reincarnation cards in the offing and if I turn out to be a man, I believe I will find a woman who both knows how to cook and otherwise knows how to share the lob lolly chores.

Wednesday, June 19, 2019

something for Japanese women

Sort of.... 
Women outperform men after Japan medical school stops rigging exam scores. Juntendo University says abolishing unfair treatment of women is behind rise in entrance exam scores.
 And speaking of 'rigging,' in my neck of the woods, the local Roman Catholic Bishop is headlined across the top of page 1 in my hard-copy newspaper: "We know we can do better."

The Japanese plan to level the playing field for women ... well, sort of.
The Roman Catholics are going to tighten the screws .....

Of the two, I believe I would bet on the Japanese reconfiguring their attitude towards women before I would believe the Vatican would clean house. The Catholics have the unenviable task of relinquishing their hold on power -- a synergistic love of power among the Roman Catholic power brokers and a lay constituency that loves their leadership.

The Vatican may hem and haw, but there will never be reform until they rebuild the house from the ground up. Power brokers simply will not give up the current structured settlement in which the clergy stands between Man (and did I mention his wallet?) and God. Yes, a little tugging at the hems, at little investigative tuck here or there, but not the central power, the position, the grandeur that pleases both the aggrandizer and the aggrandizee.

Yes, we can all do better.

Yes. pigs will fly.

Religion is slip-sliding towards a different animal. Not soon, perhaps, but a real re-visioning of man and his god(s). Clear the lot! Start anew. Set aside the moral and intellectual brocade.

PS. From here on out, I do hope those reading this blog will greet my words with doubt, if not outright scorn: I simply do not have the intellectual coherence/energy to make things fit. I associate and lack the coherence tools. It's not gonzo ... it's just my taste ... all of it.

Tuesday, June 18, 2019

spider eats pygmy possum

Pygmy possums usually aren’t on the menu for huntsman spiders.
But an Australian man from Tasmania has captured the rare moment a huntsman attempted to devour a tiny possum at a lodge in the Mount Field national park, 64 km north-west of Hobart.
If true, who knew?
If untrue, who knew?

Facebook's cryptocurrency

Facebook has announced a digital currency called Libra that will allow its billions of users to make financial transactions across the globe, in a move that could potentially shake up the world’s banking system.
Libra is being touted as a means to connect people who do not have access to traditional banking platforms. With close to 2.4 billion people using Facebook each month, Libra could be a financial game changer, but will face close scrutiny as Facebook continues to reel from a series of privacy scandals.
It could also be a welcome lift to Facebook’s profits: analysts are suggesting Libra could be a huge moneymaker for Facebook, arriving as its growth slows.
This sounds important in the world of the wannabe-dictatorship/rich-getting-richer, but it is beyond my capacity to connect the dots and sweep away the altruistic dross.

Sunday, June 16, 2019

serenity ... not?

Awoke this morning accompanied by what I guess might be a stand-alone antonym for "serenity:"

... A LARGE CAT IN GALOSHES.

Saturday, June 15, 2019

U.S. purges Chinese cancer researchers

This is important, I sense, and some more brighter and more energetic soul than I will read the whole thing (passed along in email today), I hope.

The U.S. Is Purging Chinese Cancer Researchers From Top Institutions

The NIH and the FBI are targeting ethnic Chinese scientists, including U.S. citizens, searching for a cancer cure. Here’s the first account of what happened to Xifeng Wu.
By Peter Waldman

Friday, June 14, 2019

an accidental murder



I'm not entirely sure why, but I found this first-person tale of accidentally killing a classmate with a javelin on sportsday ... moving.

There's enough tragedy already; is there any need to manufacture more?

Thursday, June 13, 2019

imponder-babble

Idly, I wonder:

If I had done things differently, things would be different, right?

But since I didn't do things differently, did I do them, ipso facto, "the same?"

And if I did them "the same," then "the same" as what?

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

behold the lowly hedgehog!

The next time you twist your knickers as your favorite, loathsome politician goes on a rant, at least take some solace in this member of British parliament who was passed along this morning:


No, it is not a joke. Yes, it is Parliament. Yes, Monty Python is dead and gone.

Gotta say it made my day!

Tuesday, June 11, 2019

frequently bandied, rarely examined

Natural.
Authentic.
Democracy.
Freedom.
Enlightenment.
Compassion.
Morality.
Terrorism.
Heaven.
Hell.
Hero.


et al.

How frequently bandied. How rarely examined.

Monday, June 10, 2019

"I want, therefore I am"

"I think, therefore I am"?

How about, rather,

"I want, therefore I am?"

Sunday, June 9, 2019

Four Seasons to Close in New York City

[C]ritic Jason Farago rhapsodized for the Guardian: “The restaurant’s heyday was the 1970s. Outside, the city came within days of bankruptcy, and the streets were choked with crime. Inside, tycoons and socialites conducted a choreographed spectacle of dining and table-hopping worthy of France’s ancien régime. “New York’s world of publishing gravitated to the Grill Room, as did magazine editors with expense accounts larger than the entire budgets of today’s viral content abattoirs.
And now the place will close after lunch on Tuesday.

I ate there three or four times, but as with other four-star eating venues allowed to me while I worked  in publicity for a book publisher in New York, there was too much about the setting that made my gorge rise.

First of all, the idea of discussing business over a meal is off-the-charts ("blasphemy" occurs to me but I'm not sure where to apply it). I'd use the line "Stupid! Stupid! Stupid!" but it has already been taken. You want to talk business. Talk business. You want to eat? Eat. The principle is one that seems to be pile-driver insistent in my DNA.

Second, minuscule portions do not necessarily make good eating. Artful decorations delivered by men whose accents are French and whose jackets are oh-so-body-hugging ... get bent! Eating is a deep gusto -- no simpering sissies need apply. This is LIFE and a blessing at that, asshole!

And most important: Eating is not a pretense, however pretentious it may be.

Why I get so cranky about a place I do not for a moment miss is nudging me. I guess it may just be my sub-rosa WASP background.

Maybe I'm just in the mood to jack myself up.

PS. In Iran, 547 restaurants and cafes were closed down Saturday for not adhering to "Islamic principles."

Friday, June 7, 2019

fake news vs. terrorism

[H]alf of Americans view fake news as a bigger threat to the country than terrorism, illegal immigration, violent crime or racism, according to a new study. ... The result, according to the study by the Pew Research Center, is that almost 70% of Americans feel fake news and misinformation have greatly affected their confidence in government institutions, and experts warn of a deepening crisis if the status quo is left unchecked.

moving right along

Somehow, there is a curious aptness to it, though I haven't got a clue why that might be ... suddenly the distinction between "apples and oranges" becomes, rather, its similarity. I guess the only thing to do is chalk it up to an old fart's vapors ... and move on:

1. Yesterday, my younger son got a motorcycle ... a used Suzuki .750.
2. A week ago yesterday, I had a toe amputated.

Something insists that these events are somehow "apposite" or "relevant" or "fit together." It reminds me of the short-lived humor wave a number of years ago ... which all rested on ridiculous questions like, "what's the difference between a bike."

Moving right along....

Thursday, June 6, 2019

previously unknown human group

Ancient Siberia was home to previously unknown humans, say scientists.... 
The results reveal these individuals were part of a previously unknown yet widespread group, dubbed the Ancient North Siberians by the team, who were genetically distinct from both Western Eurasians and East Asians...But, crucially, this population does not appear to be the direct ancestor of Native Americans.

Not quite sure who's on first here, but it sounds interesting.

a day without victims

Imagine it -- a Day Without Victims. Would that be something to practice/enjoy?

Or maybe not just one day, but five minutes.

Or even just one.

A Day Without Victims -- imagine it.

No improvements or protections or defensive maneuvers. Things, for a small moment, just are what they are. Additions are not necessary.

Don't worry -- you can have the victims back later; improve; uplift; excoriate ... but just not now. Now is a time without victims,.

Can't you hear the yowling?

I can.

Somehow this story about a history teacher's adventures on YouTube as he tried to portray Hitler and friends seems to belong here.

Tuesday, June 4, 2019

scab laborer

Since memory is what I've got and since memory seems to knock on the door of late ... oh well, what the hell, I might as well go with the flow. So here's one:

Even the sub-rosa recognition that I was acting as a "scab" -- an anathema word to someone suckled at labor's breast -- did not stop me. A scab is someone who fills in a job that belongs to a union member on strike.

I was in my thirties, then, and hip-deep in my 'Marine Corps phase' of Zen Buddhist practice. GO! Go! Go!... that sort of shit. I was supporting myself with a budding-but-not-yet-flowering business painting apartments in New York City and at the time I was woefully short of work. A fellow Zen student pointed out that with actors on strike, advertising agencies were pulling in people off the streets to fill advertising slots. He suggested I give it a whirl. I thought I would.

I filled out papers and waited about an hour before my turn before the camera came.

No one had told those of us in the waiting room what product we would be touting so it came as an utter surprise (I knew I was not fit to the task) when it turned out to be Ford pick-up trucks. I read the script on the story boards in front of me. I knew it was all wrong, but I was in the klieg lights, in the soup and there was nothing to do but swim .... see the try-out to its conclusion.

Which I did. I was a Zen student, after all, and all of life was a lesson ... blah, blah, blah. Not all of life's lessons are likeable or tasty or gratifying and this one, in the midst of the tryout, sucked.

I was mentally out the door and on the way home before I even left the set. No way in hell was anyone going to buy a Ford pick-up from someone who looked like me.

But the story had not ended, however much I wanted it to end.

A small, cocaine-anorexic producer approached me briskly after my tryout. "I'm sorry," she said in business-like, moving-right-along tones, "you're more the priest, cop or young daddy if you'd smile more."

And by God, she had nailed my life's hide to the barn door -- a priest, cop, or young daddy if I'd smile more!" She had me by the balls. Why was I wasting time seeing a shrink or diving into spiritual life when this cranked-up widget of a woman could nail it all so concisely? All my floundering and searching and tears and ... what the fuck! she had me in a trice.

Naturally, as in other instances, it took me years to absorb and find nourishment in the truth.

Even a scab can learn something.

flowery lingo, perhaps, but interesting photos

Every once in a while it's nice to see people without capped-teeth-ersatz-serene smiles, forced tears or other regalia. A book of pictures parsed.

Monday, June 3, 2019

homelessness declines ... in Helsinki

Finland is the only EU country where homelessness is falling. Its secret? Giving people homes as soon as they need them – unconditionally.

Saturday, June 1, 2019

London's mayor assails Trump

When the mayor of a foreign city reads off the president of the United States (where I live), there is something galling in it. How come London's mayor, Sadiq Khan, can retail point after point about the president due to visit London Monday, but the politicians and other wannabe sages on Trump's home sod scuff and toe the sand beneath their feet? They are clapped in confused and confusing double-talk cuffs. They are cowards that would be praised for 'principle' and 'care.'

Yes, I can retail the knee-jerk responses, but it is nonetheless galling ... and little wonder that Americans are left angrier than they were a few moments ago.
Donald Trump is just one of the most egregious examples of a growing global threat. The far right is on the rise around the world, threatening our hard-won rights and freedoms and the values that have defined our liberal, democratic societies for more than seventy years. Viktor Orbán in Hungary, Matteo Salvini in Italy, Marine Le Pen in France and Nigel Farage here in the UK are using the same divisive tropes of the fascists of the 20th century to garner support, but are using new sinister methods to deliver their message. And they are gaining ground and winning power and influence in places that would have been unthinkable just a few years ago.

something touching

Friends:
The following link leads to something you may be familiar with but I had not been: "Stories from the Stage." There's a little dross to endure, but there are two (of three, I believe) individually told stories here that wowed my heart and may yours: a S. Korean woman's family adventures in the wake of a store robbery (it has to do with her father's creating a room out of bullet-proof glass); and the tale of a woman who wanted to give a kidney to a friend from the past. Both left me emptied out and glad to be part of the human race.

FWIW: https://schedule.wttw.com/episodes/427014/Stories-from-the-Stage/Chance/?tp=e4ba5381-ff3f-487c-9060-bc351e857271

Wednesday, May 29, 2019

Ben Higgins photo

Ben Higgins (1894-1981)
The confusions in my mind, sown in part by the Memorial Day holiday weekend, loll and linger. For unclear reasons, a photo of basket maker Ben Higgins (1894-1981) awaits attention in the photo scanner.

Why is it that this man continues to grab my attention and hold it firm? Ben Higgins built baskets from youth to death. I don't believe I ever met the man, though he lived a couple of towns away in the hills around here. In Chesterfield. Was he as assured as I credit him with being? Probably not. People are so much more interesting than the pictures others paint of them. Did Higgins have a handle where I frequently feel that I lack purchase or support? I don't know. Did his simplicities exclude complications? Doubtful at best.

Anyway, I seem to be fixated and grateful for ... for ... for something or other.

The black-and-white photo, passed along by antiques dealer Bill Samaha was taken by someone Bill described as a hotshot west-coast photographer ... what seems to be/looks like "Marco Julin (?????? ... cannot read the signature)" Bill knew I admired Higgins from afar and so passed along the photo ... who else would remember, Bill asked. Strange, Bill added, that Higgins was little celebrated in his own bailiwick and yet "everyone" (in the antiques world, perhaps) knew who he was in New Hampshire.

A man who did what he did and kept on doing it ... and ... so it goes.

r-e-s-p-e-c-t

Is it possible to be respected by others if you do not respect them?

I suppose it's possible, but it's a messy business I suspect.

Italian village for sale .... NOT

Last month a mountain village in northern Italy put all its assets up for sale. A website advertised that everything must go.
Street signs started at €1,250. A pilgrimage site cost around €600,000, with a 15% discount applied. The town hall was a bit cheaper – €200,000. Benches came at €280 each, but with an enticing three-for-two promotion....
The initiative attracted widespread national media coverage and scores of potential buyers. But on the day sales supposedly began online, something about the website looked off. Prospective customers were unable to purchase anything – instead, they were redirected to a page asking them to share pictures of the items on social media. The sale was “fake news”.

Tuesday, May 28, 2019

Mueller indictments of Trump

From The Guardian:
A new book from Fire and Fury author Michael Wolff says special counsel Robert Mueller drew up a three-count obstruction of justice indictment against Donald Trump before deciding to shelve it – an explosive claim which a spokesman for Mueller flatly denied.
The Guardian obtained a copy of Siege and viewed the documents concerned.
In an author’s note, Wolff states that his findings on the Mueller investigation are “based on internal documents given to me by sources close to the Office of the Special Counsel”.
Unless I am mistaken, this article is the chum in the waters that will allow the media sharks to pump up the book....

Ah, feeding frenzy! Let's see how many different outlets can say the same thing over and over again.

liberal arts sissies

Liberal arts receives a drubbing, now and then, from the uneasy and impecunious and yet an article in the Washington Post takes on the issue of liberal arts vs. a college degree that is little more than a stamp of approval for the obscenely wealthy and examines it. Basket-weaving 101 -- check it out. A liberal arts education doesn't provide the voke-school certificate sought by the power-and-prestige-prone bourgeoisie.

No one who is rich ever got that way by being nice. Liberal arts appears nice and kind of lessens the sting somehow. The rich and powerful are not sissies after all.

And yet the well-heeled are anxious that their spawn should be 'rounded' ... or at least appear that way.

The article provides some thinking points.

As a p.s. of my own, I vote with the Christians: it is not money that is the root of all evil. It is the love of money that nourishes a love of ignorance.

Saturday, May 25, 2019

heroes in a age of victims

Hedy Lamarr -- actress and inventor
In an age when everyone wants a bite of the victimization apple, I awoke this morning thinking of those I consider vaguely as my heroes -- men and women who stood tall in the winds that blew against them.

They were people of 'sand' as my father used to say ... a character that was willing to step out of the crowd mentality of its time. No, I have little or no evidence outside a documentary, perhaps, but still they flutter on the edges of consciousness.

Sharpshooter Annie Oakley who shot straight and had a firm backbone.
Actress phenom Hedy Lamarr, whose technological brain power of the 1930's was not in step with a Hollywood vision of her as a beautiful woman. It was not until the 1960's that the Navy adopted her ideas to its torpedoes.
Marine Corps General Smedley Butler.
U.S. President Lyndon Johnson, who spoke for and acted for equality when others only spoke about equality.
Tennis great Billie Jean King, whose homosexuality was widely and derisively whispered. She absorbed the bruising without any overt reaction. (Male joke of the time, for example: "Q. Who eats pussy? A. You, me, and Billie Jean King.")
Black-listed screen writer Dalton Trumbo, whose colleagues saw their lives shattered by the communist witch hunting of U.S. Sen. Joseph McCarthy.
The Dalai Lama whom I once saw from a distance of under eight feet help an elderly Tibetan woman to her feet after she bowed her forehead to his feet in homage ... and then could not get up.
Charles Monroe, mail clerk in New Marlborough, Mass.
Ben Higgins (1894-1981) who wove his first basket at five (if you believe Google) in nearby Chesterfield, Mass., and kept at it for a lifetime... praise and blame were waters for others to ply.

All and more like them stepped outside their herd-driven roles as victims or heroes. Not least among them, my wife, Elizabeth, who managed to survive three children -- and me -- while I worked nights. Jeee-sus!

Through it all, one way and another, I guess some things hold water: Everyone, irrespective of color or sex or religious affiliation or feeling victimized is entirely capable of being an asshole. Likewise, everyone is capable of reflecting a little, looking a little bit in the bathroom mirror and finding shades of courage and kindness. Is any of it true? Is any of it isn't? I don't know, but I do know I wish I had done things a bit better ... a bit more in line with my heroes and guideposts and a little less with my own herd-instinct reflexes.

Friday, May 24, 2019

price fixing in the bond markets... and Asian carp

FILE - In this June 13, 2012, file photo, Asian carp, jolted by an electric current from a research boat, jump from the Illinois River near Havana, Ill. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' commanding officer has endorsed a $778 million plan for upgrading a lock-and-dam complex near Chicago to prevent Asian carp from invading the Great Lakes. Lt. Gen. Todd Semonite signed the final report Thursday, May 23, 2019. It now goes to Congress, which would need to give authorization and funding for the project to proceed. (AP Photo/John Flesher, File)
If you wondered exactly how you were getting fucked in an economy that sports such well-dressed and well-heeled and well-chauffeured traders, just take a look at the price fixing being alleged against some of the banking and bond-trading big boys. It's worse than the Asian carp stalking the Great Lakes.
HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) — Pennsylvania’s treasury department is accusing about a dozen large financial firms of working together to illegally inflate the price of bonds issued by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac over seven years.
A federal court filing by Pennsylvania Treasurer Joe Torsella cites what his office says is evidence from a “cooperating co-conspirator” in a U.S. Department of Justice investigation into price-fixing in the secondary market for bonds issued by government-controlled companies.
Evidence cited in the filing late Thursday includes brief transcripts of what it says are electronic chats between traders from various financial institutions that are the largest dealers of the bonds.
In the discussions, the traders allegedly agree to fix bond prices at artificially inflated prices, cheating Pennsylvania and other buyers of the bonds. The price-fixing began in 2009 and lasted through 2015, and violates federal anti-trust law, Torsella’s filing said.
The whole thing is beyond my pay grade in terms of understanding, but it smells about right and the names ring familiar bells among those benefiting from tax breaks and other emoluments.

Of course the caring children of a caring generation may be more content to raise Cain about the potential for an Asian carp invasion of the Great Lakes ... it's so much easier to be pissed off at a fish than some slimy Wall Street eel, right?

Maybe someone will figure out how to put a little electricity under the college-educated thieves. No, you do not want to hold your breath.

toe amputation

"Slicker'n whale shit," comes to mind as I think back to yesterday (5/23/19), a trip to the hospital and the amputation of the second toe on my left foot. A wound on the toe had exposed the 'knuckle' bone and there was not enough skin to heal it over. The best guess was to amputate and delay any potential for gangrene that might endanger the nearby environment of the foot.

The day began inauspiciously with the bumping of my surgical appointment from 8 a.m. to 10 a.m. Nothing to eat or drink after midnight. I fretted a bit that I might not be fretting enough, that I was too concerned for the discombobulation the whole affair might inflict on my wife and family. But in the event ... poof! One minute I was chatting with the surgeon and the next I was waking up in the recovery room. Talk about a magical mystery tour.

There's some stinging and there is a clunky foot-brace shoe, but .... voilà!

At a "wound clinic" I visited during the lead-up to the 'procedure,' a doctor readied me for what sounded like the inevitable: "You don't need that toe much anyway." Still, it was a good toe and I am thankful for whatever hard work it did over the years.

Sic transit gloria mundi.

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

up with cranky Christians!

Being the good Christian he is ( (: ), my neighbor across the street, Joe, got pissed as a hornet this morning after a parking enforcement vehicle parked across the street from his house and prepared to take pictures of Joe's car in front of Joe's house ... with, be it said, a lawn sign touting a tour by evangelist Billy Graham's son.

I've known Joe for a number of years. He's not some lock-step asshole Christian who won't give anyone permission to do anything other than come to Jesus. Joe never mentions Christianity. He goes to church. He helps to build schools in Africa. He gets to the senior center to buck the bereaved up.

And now the parking enforcement woman was about to ticket him because, technically, his advertising for the younger Graham was too close to his driveway ... or anyway, that's what Joe believed .... and was pissed about. "It's one-way tolerance" he fumed. Anything that says "Christian" is immediately suspect.

And he's right in one sense: My town is so goodie-two-shoes-left-leaning that it risks flying up its own asshole and disappearing. Lesbian, transgender, homosexual, black, brown, 'Native American,' women and other victims, blah blah blah.

It's all OK with me ... except when Joe's lawn sign appears to be the focus of a wrath attack. For my money, Joe gets to be a Christian if that's what he chooses. My own appreciation of Christianity is not the issue, though I do think slightly more of it since seeing Joe in action.

Everyone gets to be the asshole (s)he chooses, and as long as it doesn't harm others ... well, have a ball.

Joe was furious.

I don't blame him. The person who called the parking enforcement folks (we live on the relative outskirts of a sometimes impossible-to-park-in downtown) obviously didn't want to take responsibility for his or her disagreement. And when you don't want to take responsibility, one of the easiest ways is to cite the rule book, call the law ....

Tolerance.

Yeah ... right.