Dec. 6th, 2013
01:16 am - When Is Less More?
When is less more? "Greatest living human", now only 2/3 true.
Nov. 27th, 2013
03:30 am - Promote the Meme "Neo-Theo"
I invite you to join in propagating a new meme: "neo-theo".
Despite its obvious resonance with "neo-con", the term "neo-theo" more closely parallels the rebranding that the creationist movement undertook after getting repeatedly slapped down for making its religious motivations too visible. They went back into their burrows and emerged again as defenders of "academic freedom" (religious zealots have a free-speech right to indoctrinate school children about "evilution") and "intelligent design" (a pseudo-scientific label for the laffably named Discovery Institute, which operates no labs, runs no experiments, publishes no papers, and has never discovered a damn thing). The legal, academic, and scientific false fronts they put up are mere sham, of course, but they help to preserve the legal facade of not being religiously motivated.
It's the same deal with the neo-theos. Instead of being repackaged creationists, they're gussied-up dominionists. In their heart of hearts, they believe the United States should be (and probably all along was intended to be) a theocracy, but they've learned from bitter experience that they can't come right out and honestly say so. Instead, they take refuge behind nominally secular legal concepts, such as the idea that corporations are people (which gained legal credibility after the eye-opening Supreme Court decision in Citizens United v. FEC) and thus entitled to "human rights", such as conscientious objection.
There's another case currently headed for the US Supreme Court, in which the newly minted "person" known as Hobby Lobby claims its conscience has been shocked by being required to provide the same kind of health-care coverage for its employees as, say, General Motors or Microsoft. In fact, while the fundamentalist owners of Hobby Lobby may have just such an attitude (the same way that the owners of Chick-fil-A are opposed to gay marriage), the corporation itself, not being a human being, is devoid of opinions on the subject. And the law applies to the corporation.
Just as with the "academic freedom" claims of the creationists, the neo-theos are attempting to put a smiling secular face on their ludicrous claim, wrapping it in shiny colored paper with a ribbon, a bow, and a label reading "religious liberty". Well, "corporate personhood" (either as such or in its guise as "church personhood") is as much an oxymoron as "intelligent design" and deserves to be exposed for what it truly is: dominionist dogma rebranded for secular consumption.
I believe that identifying its proponents as "neo-theos" (which has the added advantage of rhyming) will help to do that.
Nov. 10th, 2013
01:03 pm - Perspective
Remember how breezy it was yesterday in Madison? Steady winds of 12-15 MPH, with gusts up to 20-25? Flags standing straight out from their poles?
In the Philippines the winds were 10 times that speed.
It was like being in a 100-mile-wide tornado that went on for hours.
I wonder if there might be something to that global-warming stuff.
= = = = = =
The answer, my friend, is blowing in the wind.
— Bob Dylan, American singer-songwriter, Blowing in the Wind
Nov. 2nd, 2013
06:57 pm - My Offensive Trash Bins
To: Marsha Rauls
City of Madison
Dear Inspector Rauls:
I am in receipt of your official notice about my trash and recycling bins being stored in the front of my house. Indeed they are, and have been since I received them X years ago. This last summer I went to considerable effort and expense to install a nice patio — colored patriotically in Badger cardinal and white — for them to hang out on. As you can see from the attached photos, the bins are both unobtrusive and conveniently located.
If you look closely, you can also see a trail of elegantly rustic flagstones leading from the front of my house toward my back yard. That is my sole means of access to the rear of the house. At 69 years of age, I am not prepared to go hauling 2 trash bins over that kind of rugged surface, especially thru several feet of snow, 52 times a year, nor to have to make the same trek every time I need to empty a trash can or recycling basket from inside the house. The recycling bins are right exactly where I want them and where they should be for ease of use and brevity of hauling.
I see that you have given me until November 10 to correct this violation or pay a fine of $75. This is your official notice that you don't have to wait until the 10th. I'm not gonna do it, and I think that it's idiotic that anyone would expect me to.
I realize that you are just doing your job and aren't responsible for the stupid ordinance you're being expected to enforce, so I am forwarding a copy of this message to my alder, Shiva Bidar-Sielaff, and to George Dreckmann, the city's recyclilng director, who has always seemed to me like a practical kind of guy who can probably understand why citizens wouldn't want unnecessary obstacles placed in the path of their recycling efforts.
Oct. 9th, 2013
04:56 pm - Vote for Kushism
Huffington Post is running a "Create Your Own Religion" competition. I submitted Kushism and politely solicit your vote for it.
Oct. 4th, 2013
09:34 am - Birth of a Metaphor
Since the publication of my fable about House Republicans as Gollum, I’ve fielded several queries as to where I came up with the idea, so I thot I’d share. It was while composing a response to a comment on a message board accusing the Republicans of hypocrisy, because “the same people” who voted for higher spending (Iraq, Afghanistan, the unfunded mandate of Medicare Part D) and lower revenue (massive tax cuts, mainly for the rich) under George W. Bush were now railing about federal deficits.
But no, I started to say, it’s not “the same people”. Since the Bush years, the GOP has been infiltrated by the Tea Party types, who spent many years as outsiders but were able to massively assert themselves after the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision in 2010 opened the floodgates of corporate money backing them. And the Tea Partiers loathe the fiscal irresponsibility of the Bush Era almost as much as they do the standard practices of the Democrats. This has produced today’s schizophrenic GOP, riven by schisms within its own ranks. However much I may have disagreed with Bush’s neo-cons, they were at least willing to advance reasons for their policies, engage in discussions, and consider alternatives. The new breed wants none of that.
I began to point out that, during their years in the wilderness, the Tea Partiers lived in self-imposed isolation in a large dark cavern, where the only sound was the echo of their own voice, and this produced a destructive feedback loop that drove them deeper and deeper into their own internal world of obsessive paranoid delusions and persecution complexes, leading eventually to a dissociative break with reality, characterized by constant compulsive hand-wringing behaviors and repetition of rote phrases with special meanings only to them.
Then I found myself thinking “Hmmm, this is vaguely familiar. Where have I heard this story before?” And then it dawned on me, and presto! A metaphor was born.
It’s perhaps illuminating to see where Tolkien took his story from this point onward. His little creature, after years of isolation, falls in with a small group of adventurers who are literally trying to save the world. Forced at last to deal with others but not strong enuf to break free or to dominate the group, he relies on craft, guile, stealth, deceit, trickery, and sheer persistence to pursue the object of his obsessive monomania. All the while, his former personality keeps trying to reassert itself, ultimately to no avail. His dark side prevails, and it cares not a whit for the welfare of those around him; indeed, he’s oblivious to his own safety as he skulks over the brink of Mount Doom to his own destruction.
It’s unwise, of course, to push any analogy too far, but it will be interesting in the months and years ahead to see whether it’s the Smeagol wing or the Gollum wing of the Republican Party that comes to the fore. Unfortunately, this isn’t a mere academic exercise or a work of fiction, so “interesting” is perhaps not the right word to describe what’s at stake.
= = = = = =
Frodo: I wish [this evil] need not have happened in my time.
Gandalf: So do I, and so do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.
— J. R. R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings
Oct. 2nd, 2013
12:23 am - Negotiating with Terrorists
[Scene 1, 2009. They meet.]
President Obama: I’d really like the USA to have single-payer health care, the same as every other industrialized democracy. They almost all deliver better health results than we do, but none of them pays anywhere near as much money for it.
House Republicans: No way, José! That would be socialism, and we’ll never go for it!
O: OK, then, what would you support? What’s your plan for covering the nation’s 30,000,000 uninsured and 40,000,000 underinsured?
Rs: Well, how about this idea from the right-wing Heritage Foundation? We’d insist by law that everyone had to buy insurance thru private providers. And, to make sure that none of those lazy leeches could whine that they couldn’t afford it, we’d raid the Treasury to provide big bux to subsidize them, thereby further rewarding our big corporate donors.
O: Would that work?
Rs: Yup. We had a Republican governor (guy name of Romney) enact it in Massachusetts, and they love it there.
O: And you’d actually vote for something like that?
Rs: Sure, like you’d ever propose it or go along with it.
O: Well, that’s it, then. I give up. We’ll do it your way.
Rs: But ... but ... We didn’t think you’d actually do it!
O: It’s more important to ensure the health of the American people than to use this issue as a political football.
Rs: It would balloon the federal deficit.
O: Actually, the CBO ran the numbers, and — while it’s nowhere near as efficient as Medicare, which has administrative costs below 3% — it would actually save hundreds of billions of dollars overall thru competition (your basic Republican business model) and emphasis on prevention.
Rs: It can’t possibly be constitutional to require people to buy insurance.
O: The Supreme Court said it is. Besides, the states do it all the time with auto insurance.
Rs: If you manage to pass this, it’ll be your political ruin. We’ll call it Obamacare, and everybody will tie your name to it as we rail and spew against it and lie about it.
O: Obamacare, eh? I kinda like that. Better than “I don’t care”, for sure.
[Scene 2, 2013. They meet again.]
O: Well, your plan is now the law of the land. Whaddya think?
Rs: We hates it, we does, the Obamacare. We votes against it, my precious. We votes against it again! [Repeat 40 more times.]
O: But now every American will have access to affordable health care. I was certain you’d be pleased.
Rs: Nooooo, we hates it, we does. You must kill it, kill it now. We will kick over all the furniture and take our ball home and puke if you don’t.
O: Aww, poor babies! Upset tummies? Follow the Alka-Seltzer advice: “Try it, you’ll like it!”
Rs: Arrrrrhhh! Government health care? No, no, no, no, never ever ever ever ever. We might learn to likes it, we might. Kill it, kill it, kill it.
O: But it’s not government health care, remember? It’s private health care provided by private doctors and hospitals, paid for with insurance provided thru the private sector.
Rs: People hates it, the Obamacare.
O: They only feel that way about the name. If you ask them about each individual piece of what it actually accomplishes, they’re in favor of it, usually by huge margins.
R: No, no, no! We don’t wants to hear this. Kill it. Kill it now!
O: Sorry, it’s the law. We’re going ahead with it.
Rs: Obama is being mean to poor elephantses. He refuses to negotiate with us.
O: Negotiate!? Why should I negotiate? I already capitulated. This is YOUR PLAN!
Rs: Owwww, it burns, it does. It burns! Poor elephantses. Poor, poor elephantses. We don’t want to play this game any more.
O [aside]: Y’know, Dubya warned me not to negotiate with terrorists and blackmailers. I should spend more time listening to those Republicans. Sometimes they really do know what they’re talking about.
Sep. 19th, 2013
11:58 pm - The Pee-Wee League
‘Twas the fall football season, and once again the Pee-Wee League took to the gridiron for some good old-fashioned sport, leading up to the championship game in early November.
This year the Pine Place Pees featured an exciting new player who, it seems, had come into his growth kind of early and really stood out among the other 8-to-10 year olds — fella listed on the roster as Dick Butkus. Well, the Pees got off to a really good start, dominating their first 2 games quite handily. “Yessir,” said the coach, “he’s only one player, same as all the others, and he has to play by the same rules while wearing the same equipment, but some kids have just got natural talent.”
Then their long-time rivals, the Wendigo Way Wees, who’d been having a pretty mediocre season up to that point, introduced their newest player. “Yeah, he just moved to town and wanted to fling the old pigskin around a little,” explained the coach, introducing the new kid on the block, also kind of big for his age. And young Mr. Nitschke proved to be just the tonic the Wees had needed.
Sure enuf, the championship game once again came down to the Pees vs. the Wees, and it was a thrilling affair all right. The pop of the helmets, pads, and knees; the shrieks of what I’m going to call joy; the blood, sweat, blood, tears, and blood; the sportsmanship evident by each coach playing absolutely every kid on the roster; the selfless community service of the volunteer medics; and the dedication to duty of the ambulance drivers, some of whom made 3 and 4 trips back. “And I predict that most of these kids will walk again some day,” one of them observed in passing.
In the end, it was hard to say who had won, since there were only 2 players left standing, the aforementioned Walker and Burke ... ooops, ha ha ha, did I say that out loud? I meant Butkus and Nitschke, of course.
But it was all in the name of good, clean fun, and you can bet all the kids took home a valuable lesson in the virtues of fair play.
Aug. 18th, 2013
11:08 am - I Have a Dream
Not quite half a century ago, on 1963 Aug. 28, Washington DC hosted an event that went down in history as the greatest demonstration for freedom in the history of our nation. And there was no doubt what the centerpiece and highlight of that demonstration was: Martin Luther King Jr.'s magnificent "I Have a Dream" speech. It was a masterpiece of eloquence, nuance, cadence, metaphor, evocation, and most of all effectiveness. It galvanized a nation and led to the adoption of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Voting Rights Act of 1965, and the Fair Housing Act of 1968.
For some unknown reason, this 50th anniversary of the march and Dr. King's speech seems to have crept up on us unnoticed. I've heard of no celebrations or commemorations planned around it. But the absence of public recognition is no bar to each of us individually being able to relive that historic turning point thru the wonders of modern technology: context, text, and video.
As you watch the video, notice that, for the first half of the speech, Dr. King is reading from his prepared text, which concluded with the stirring imagery from the Book of Amos about justice rolling down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream. Then he looks up and realizes that his intended conclusion, while speaking to the aspirations of the people before him, was from the head more than the heart, and he begins to improvise. The second half of the speech, where he looks directly at us, was largely composed on the fly, making it all the more astonishing in its power and coherence.
This speech hangs on the wall of my living room, and I recite it aloud at least once a year. It is a family tradition I commend to all — especially to the families of 5 guys in black robes out there in DC, where they seem to have forgotten it.
Incidentally, the speech's concluding lines — taken directly from the funeral services of so many American slaves — are inscribed on Dr. King's tombstone: "Free at last. Free at last. Thank God Almighty, I’m free at last."
Jul. 7th, 2013
03:39 pm - Evading the CNN.com Nannybot
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