Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Polish Solidarity Distances Itself From Romney: He ‘Supported Attacks On Trade Unions And Employees’ Rights’

Polish Solidarity Distances Itself From Romney: He ‘Supported Attacks On Trade Unions And Employees’ Rights’: pBetween annoying the British and alienating the Palestinians, Mitt Romney seems to have found trouble everywhere he went on his overseas campaign trip. Now, the Polish trade union Solidarity, once led by Romney’s host in Poland Lech Wałęsa, disavowed the GOP presidential hopeful because of his anti-union politics. Romney went to Gdańsk, Poland to meet [...]/p

Hardly a day goes by without this guy Willard embarrassing himself and the entire United States of America.

I guess he and his minions failed to figure out in advance what would happen in Poland.  "Gee wiz, this is great, Hero-Worker-Of-The-World Lech Walensa invited us to Poland!  It'll be great!  We can talk about Freedom!"

How'd that work out for you, Willard?  

Monday, July 30, 2012

Roxy Music Nightingale (HQ)

Sure, Brian Ferry's vocals could be a little cloying on occasion.  But in the context of Roxy Music it all worked pretty well. 

This is a great song.  And not a cover version for a change!  Phil Manzanara's guitars, Andy McKay's soprano sax, the band is in great form here.  Eno was gone already and doing great work on his own, but the band played on. 

I hadn't heard this one for a while.  Still works for me though. 

Vote For The Best Man

Sure, vote for the one that you think is a good man, the best man available in the choice as it stands. Easier than it sounds.

Am I a good person? Am I one that can be trusted to judge others? My favorite joke is from a movie, “The Long Kiss Goodnight,” a Geena Davis vehicle featuring Samuel L. Jackson. Ms. Davis’ movie husband, on the occasion of his own birthday, offers a toast to himself: “. . . a toast to me, because I’m a good man, I don’t drink, I don’t smoke, and I don’t curse.” After a pause, he says with mock horror, “oh shit! I do smoke and drink!” What makes a good person, after all?

Me? Good? To begin with, I drink, I smoke, and I curse. Any qualities that you may see as good in me are probably there mostly for purposes of expedience and manipulation. Just give me the lightning, ye gods, for only half an hour and the world will quickly see how good I really am, to its horror. That may be true for all of us though, and I am happy to be judged by the qualities in me that you can see, rather than by the content of my heart.

Americans will be voting for president before too long, and on the surface the choice is a stark one.

Vote For Willard

Go ahead, see if I care. Furthermore, see if I care if you all vote for Willard and put in a Republican congress too. Go ahead! I dare you. At least things will get exciting.

It’s no mystery what an all Republicans, all the time government would do, they’ve made no secret about it. Amazingly, like Hitler in “Mein Kampf,” they are only too happy to tell you. And there are two people on the Supreme Court who could go at any moment, either by retirement or in a pine box. Who would Willard appoint? Who would the new congress ratify? Oh, yes, that would make a seven to two Supreme Court backing the Republican supremacy. What would they do? Think about it for a moment, you already know, I don’t have to tell you. If one or two of the seven suddenly developed an independent streak, one or two of the two would have to be very, very careful crossing the street, and flying in private planes would be out of the question (he said, with meaningful innuendo).

And Willard, do you think he is a good person? Is there one shred of evidence to suggest that he may be? I don’t see it. Plenty of signs though, that he is not.

Vote For The President

Before he took office there were many signs that he was a good person. He is certainly charming and polite, almost to a fault. He graduated from Columbia University and from Harvard Law School, where he was the president of the law review. He had his choice of where to go at that point, the world was his oyster, an almost limitless income was open to him. He chose, though, to spend the next years voluntarily poor, struggling even, with student debts dragging on for a decade or more. He chose service. That’s a good man right there. He’s a good family man too. Not like some of them who seem hardly to remember their children’s names. There’s more evidence of goodness, you either know it already or you can find it.

Whether you are disposed to evaluate him fairly, or not, is a real question for us this year.

After a term in office, there’s more evidence that we need to look at. On balance, he still looks like a good man, but maybe now like a good but imperfect man in a difficult situation. The family thing is still solid. Sure, there’s a lot of what is going on that I don’t like, the whole drone thing, the creeping imperialism, the ascendency of monied interests, the casual threats to the social safety net, and the primacy of financial considerations in every single controversy or societal choice, to name a couple.

Yes, I am one of those who is loathe to criticize the President. There’s plenty of people singing that song already, they don’t need my voice to help them. Mostly, though, I am deeply afraid of the alternative. So go ahead, if you so choose, vote for the President. There are more reasons to do so than not. Unless you can’t get past that Elephant-In-The-Room, that devilish threshold issue, you know the one, unless there’s just something about the man that sets you against him. Or two things, if you count his name. Search your consciences America, you’re better than you are acting this year.

A Choice Between Bad And Worse

Or maybe between "good/bad" and "bad/bad," or even "bad/worse."  An easy choice, when you look at it like that.  So really, there are more than two possible outcomes, and it’s the choice between the bads and the worses, with maybe a good in there somewhere if you have a generous spirit. Mr. Obama and a Republican congress? Willard and a Democratic congress? Mix and match. Any old way it gets sliced, however, the new politics of obstruction and polarization will remain with us.

I read blogs and news sources outside of my natural sphere, and the comments on the right wing sites are appalling. The divisions that have cynically been engendered over the last twenty or thirty years have calcified into a very dangerous opposition of forces. The unembarrassed racism and eliminationalism are really frightening. “Wookie” jokes about the first lady and claims that Liberals want to kill Conservatives and must be killed first are common. The language of the old John Birch Society sealed its dominance with the addition of “communist” to descriptions of everything that the new right wing extremists are told not to like. Is this what we’ve become?

Gentle reader, my sincerest wish for you and your families is that this impending, new reality does not fall too heavily on you. Falling it is, may the saints preserve us.

The Food-For-Rest Food Court

This is in a mall that I like.  An out of the way place with good prices and lots of great lunch choices. 

This is a very playful name to give a mall's food court.  That the "t" is made into a tree proves that they're playing on the word "forest."  Whether they believed that forest is spelled with two "r's" I cannot tell you.  On most days, I'm not sure myself, although I believe that "Forrest" is a man's name and not a place full of trees. 

But they're having fun with English, that's the main thing.  If you think that something is fun, and interesting, it's much easier to learn.  

Friday, July 27, 2012

Two New Things

On the road last week from Prachinburi back to Bangkok I saw two things worth reporting.  Both were issues of first impression for me, proving that if you live long enough you'll see everything, or at least that if you live in Thailand for a long time you'll continue to see things that are new to you. 

1.  From the van window I saw a guy on a motorcycle.  He was going along at a good clip, albeit slower than the van.  In his left hand he held a good sized branch with a heavy load of leaves on it, and straining in the wind it was too.  He was using it to shield himself from the sun! 

2.  I saw a woman peeing right on the sidewalk.  Her two attempts at delicacy were a) to squat with her back to the traffic; and b) to chose a spot where there was no building and little foot traffic.  I've heard that this kind of thing happens in some other Asian countries, but honestly I never thought I'd see it here.  My suspicion is that alcohol was involved. 

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Commenting Oddities On These Intertubes

I think that a sure sign of quackery in Internet comments is someone who adds a quotation at the end of each of their comments.  You know the ones, they spout some bullshit and then add "Liberty is the residue of Freedom: Thomas Paine" at the end. 

So I just saw a comment that included a quote at the end.  A quote that was unrelated, like most of them, to the comment itself.  Here's the final quote:

"Parachutes are allowed in check-in or carry-on luggage, but may not be worn in flight.

Southwest Airlines." 

Monday, July 23, 2012

Fantastic Plastic Machine - Steppin' Out

Another cover.  It's like a theme, already.

I love this guy, the producer that is, this music is a producer's game.  I found this long ago following up on an interest in Pizzicato 5.  "Club Pop," I think they called it. 

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Friday, July 20, 2012

Quiet Out There

Comments have been awfully quiet for a while now.  But no matter, my readings in bloggery tell me that comments are not important, nor a general indication of readership. 

My hit count is fine, and I appreciate every investment in my efforts.  I love you all!

talking heads - life during wartime

Boy, people are sure angry these days, aren't they?  Angry and a little bit crazy.  Especially the kind of stupid, suggestible ones. 

Strange results, unintended consequences . . . or are they? 

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Help Me Out Here

I wrote down a movie quote a few months ago, something that I saw in a trailer on a talk show I think.  Now I have the note but I can't remember who it was or from what movie. 

(Grown) son: you never gave me anything!

Father: what do you mean!  I gave you a snake!

Son:  Yeah!  And it died after it ate all of your Qualudes! 

Father: And that's the only time anybody ever saw a King Cobra laugh! 

That's some funny shit.  But what movie is it from? 

The Nature Of Truth And Evidence

To discover the truth of anything requires a careful examination of evidence, information that either confirms or negates the theory under consideration. However compelling or abundant the evidence may be, it is very easy to go wrong.

There are three major reasons for these wrong conclusions.

First, people sometimes resist the evidence and come, with great conviction, to a wrong conclusion. Second, the evidence itself may seem to strongly support a particular conclusion, even though it is wrong. Third, many times there is such a wild overabundance of evidence that it can be used to support any conclusion at all.

Here’s an example of the first error:

I have noticed that women in Bangkok are much less likely to ride motorcycles than women in smaller municipalities. My opinion is based on eight years of observation, and I find the evidence consistent and compelling. In smaller locations, approximately half of motorcycle riders are women; in Bangkok it is closer to ten, or maybe fifteen percent. A huge difference.

But if I were to express this opinion to a new visitor to Thailand, it is likely that they would look around for themselves and seek to challenge the information. They would quickly see a woman or two riding motorcycles, and many more sitting in the passenger position. It is possible that they could thereby conclude that Khun Fred is full of shit, plenty of women ride motorcycles in Bangkok. Not exactly what I was saying, but you know people love to be contrary, and in that mode a little bit of evidence can seem compelling.

The second error is even stronger. An example:

I raised two sons in Los Angeles, in a neighborhood that was, at the time, full of backyard fruit trees. My own backyard had two orange trees, two plum trees, and an apricot tree. Other backyards were similarly decked out. There were lots of boys on the block, so my sons were always running around with groups of from five to eight boys, looking for things to do. Backyard fruit fights were common.

Surely these fruit fights were discouraged by the adults, me included. They made quite a mess. Sometimes the boys would enter a backyard where no children lived and make themselves at home, making mischief and a mess. One day I went into my backyard and discovered several oranges at a great distance from the base, or even the leaf line, of the tree, something like twenty or thirty feet away. I was sure that they got there by being thrown.

Based on this seemingly strong evidence, I confronted my sons. Both denied any involvement. Just as I was explaining to them that oranges just don’t get up and walk around by themselves, encouraging them to come clean, an orange fell out of one of the trees. It landed close to the trunk of the tree, on a root that rose out of the ground, making a little ramp as it were. The orange hit just right, it sailed across the ground with great energy, coming to rest a full twenty five feet from the base of the tree.

Found wrong, I admitted it and apologized. Smoking gun right there! Right up to the end though, I found that the evidence had strongly supported the occurrence of a fruit fight.

The third error is perhaps the most common. Examples abound:

Look at the O.J. Simpson trial, the original murder trial. That thing went on forever and a day, and the jury was subjected to tons of evidence. Too much, as it turned out. They were overwhelmed, they just threw up their hands and said, “reasonable doubt!” The doubt had been engendered by the superabundance of evidence.

Another example would be people’s various reactions to the proposition that Islam is a violent religion. An examination of any culture’s history for over a thousand years will yield lots of instances of peaceful behavior, as well as lots of evidence of violent behavior. There’s plenty of evidence to go around, use it variously to prove any old thing that you want to.

So be reasonable, and be skeptical, and sift the evidence carefully if there’s too much of it.

There is, I suppose, a fourth possibility. One that I alluded to in a recent post about the danger of taking one’s opinions from the directions of others.

Sometimes the evidence of something is explained to people in a strange, counterintuitive way, and they are induced to adopt a wrong conclusion, often one that is not in their best interest. Those politicians again, and those religious leaders, oh! those rascals can make mischief like bees make honey. They remind me of the con man in that W.C. Fields movie, “Never Give a Sucker an Even Break.” “You know,” he says ingratiatingly, wringing his hat in his hands, “I want to prove to you that I’m honest in the worst way.”

The great mass of people are very gullible, this is a famous fact. People want to be led. Why take a chance on being wrong? Let someone else tell you how to think. Let someone else explain it all to you. Most people just want to look around and see which way the wind is blowing, which side is likely to come out on top, and then jump on the bandwagon. Human nature, yeech.

So the next time someone holds up a green thing, and tells you that it is red, trust your own eyes and your judgment too. Especially if the someone is courting your vote. Mischief is in the air this year, Alas Babylon! Don’t let that flag fool you, and pay attention to the man behind the curtain, yes, pay attention. And good luck.

Shrines In A Prachinburi Museum

The shrines in this museum almost overpower the historical displays.  This large shrine to the current King is a beauty.  

This is a shrine to that important person from long ago, the local big shot.  To me it is a little odd that it seems to overshadow the King's shrine in grandiosity.  Shrines and statuary to this guy are all over town, he really must have been something. 

A shrine to a monk.  This temple is attached to a big monastery, and this fellow must be a founder or something.  The gold mottling on the bust is gold leaf applied by devotees.  On the right of the picture, above the flowers, is a new monk garment, probably so that the guy will have something to wear in the afterlife, where he has lived for some time.  

Nice Museum In Prachinburi, Thailand

Out in Prachinburi on a teaching trip I visited this temple.  Nice city, like no tourists, smallish place.  

This is a small museum on the grounds of the above temple.  This city was politically important in the late Nineteenth Century, ruled by a bureaucrat with strong connections to the royal family.  These "European style" buildings were a status symbol at the time.  

The museum features the usual old stuff, in no particular order.  This corner includes four typewriters.  The one at the right, the blue one, is probably a 1950's model, that's old enough for a Thai museum.  The one in the middle really was old, maybe 1910. 

I love this thing.  It totally fails as a manikin, but it's kind of sweet in its clunky way and its real meaning is quite mysterious.  Why the scales hanging from the "arms?" 

Bangkok Motorcycle Mania

I see these from time to time, and often they are pink.  It does suit the bike though.  It's an old Honda 50, and you've got to admit that the lines of every single aspect of the bike are thoughtful and beautiful.  The pillion seat, the fenders, the showy spokes.  Love the "007" on the chainguard!  Hell, I love the chainguard!

You can find bigger, more exotic bikes than this in Thailand, but very, very rarely.  This is a Honda 400, yes, a 400 cc engine, that's a huge bike here, where "big" bikes start at 250 cc.  Water cooled, because, let's face it, it's fucking hot here.  I love these bikes, they look good, they sound good, and they've got plenty of go in them.  

This bike is semi-affordable too, because it's partly assembled in Thailand.  That's important for tax purposes.  I found out recently that a Ducati will set you back a million over here, Baht that is, about thirty-thousand dollars, which includes a lot of tax. 

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

John Cale - Paris 1919

Original, to the max, cover to follow, or precede, below, as it were. 

Great song.  1973!  It was true then, and it's true now:  there's great, great stuff around, but you'd never know it to listen to the bullshit they play on the radio.  (Or the modern equivalent of mass circulation, whatever it is, I don't care to know.) 

It's always a good sign when the comments to the YouTube video are in multiple languages. 

John Cale "Paris 1919" cover by Jamie Drake

Some covers are much, much more ambitious than others. 

I have no idea who this woman is, with 344 views of this video in a year or so probably almost nobody knows who she is.  But I respect her courage to even attempt this song, and she does a pretty damn good job of it too.

Feeding Fish At A Thai Temple

It is important in these technologically musclebound yet handicapped times to revel in every little success with our numerous devices.  I'm reveling now in this one. 

Hello, I'm Back

I was away for a few days, a teaching trip.  I got some nice pix too, and I'd love to share some of them, but there are problems, evidently. 

I took the pictures with my phone, from which I can upload only to the laptop, not the IMac.  But Blogspot on the laptop is experiencing some sudden difficulties loading photos. 

More, of something, soon. 

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Lowell George - What Do You Want the Girl To Do

This is a great cover right here, as in "cover version."  I suppose that Boz Scaggs character had already released it, but for me this is the version that really kills.

Lowell was really a pistol.  A great, great slide player; a genuinely funky White man; and the Speedball King of Rock and Roll.  RIP, Lowell, and thanks for everything.

Allen Toussaint - "What Do You Want The Girl To Do" Live at KPLU

This is the original.  Done later by Boz Scaggs (the attraction of whom I never really got); Bonny Raitt (who I will admit is mildly entertaining); and Lowell George (who's head should be up on Mount Rushmore, no lie). 

I'll have put the Lowell George version on top of this one by the time you read this. 

Some Republicans Still Insist That Obamacare Is ‘Unconstitutional’

Some Republicans Still Insist That Obamacare Is ‘Unconstitutional’: pThe Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act last month, but that isn’t stopping Republicans from claiming that the law is unconstitutional. During debate over a GOP bill to repeal the measure on Tuesday evening, Rep. Steve King (R-IA) insisted, “we have the vigor of the American people here and it’s totally [...]/p

Last week already that (Ayn) Rand Paul character was saying, to paraphrase, that just because a few people on the Supreme Court say that something is constitutional doesn't make it constitutional. 

Oh, yes it does!  That's the very definition of "constitutional," for over two hundred years now.    

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Takraw: Thai Soccer - Thailand

"A combination of soccer, volleyball and kung fu," that about sums it up. 

I've seen kids playing this game after school, and I can tell you that Thailand is full to overflow with kids who can really, really play this game. 

Olympics, anyone? 

Saturday, July 7, 2012

The Vaselines-Son Of a Gun

So here's the original; the Nirvana cover is two posts down. 

I love the comments to these YouTube videos, people get so emotional.  There's a big argument in the string for this vid about who was covering whom, like it was a mystery.  The comments on the 'Tube are also big on who is the best, what is better, and who is a poseur.  One big echo chamber of judgmental valuism, where calling Mr. Cobain "Kunt" Cobain passes as humor.  Pretty funny stuff, often accomplished in less than perfect English, which is always funny.

Pardon my voyeuristic hilarity, I know that it's not cool.  (I never said I was cool though, and I wouldn't even let it be said in my presence, if the situation arose.)  

American Exceptionalism For Dummies

Here’s some news that you can use, so don’t snooze, ‘cause you might lose. Beware of exceptionalism in all of its forms, because nothing good can come of it.

If one group is exceptional, it makes it too easy to define down the rights of members of other groups, and then to deprive them of those rights. We can see some of this going on already, if we are in the mood to be honest.

There’s a lot of talk these days about how America is a very special place, and it is too, in its way. America has a lot to recommend it, that much is true. For one thing, it’s one of the few countries in the world where being a citizen fails to inform the listener in the slightest regarding the racial and ethnic information of the citizen. That’s a wonderful thing. It allows anyone in the whole, wide world to come to America and become a citizen within five or eight years, and once they get that paperwork in hand they are as much a citizen of America as Thomas Jefferson’s descendants (Black or White). Remember though, there comes a time to draw the line.

Some people are insisting that America was ordained by God for some unique, higher purpose, usually a purpose that is connected somehow to their own agenda. The idea is that America has a special relationship with the mysterious supernatural entity. Some of these people are politicians, some are religious leaders. I don’t know about you, but I don’t put much stock in either group. This beloved-of-God thing is where I would suggest drawing the line.

Mostly it just smacks of elitism, the idea that one particular country is better than the others. I say country, but you could just as easily say race, nationality, religion, culture, or language group, or you could separate out by height, hair color, fashion sense, or musical ability. There are all kinds of groups that get this oh! so special feeling about themselves. They have in common that they are all wrong.

It’s okay to feel this feeling in your own heart, but it’s never a good idea to go shooting your mouth off about how different you are from other people, or how much better you are. “In your heart,” that’s the ticket! Keep it to yourself.

It is possible that the Irish have a secret hunch that they are the people, of all of the earth’s people, that are the most beloved of God, but they are not demonstrative about it, generally. There’s a fine joke that I believe illustrates the Irish character regarding their particular take on exceptionalism. It’s a Pat and Mike joke from the days of the great ethnic Vaudeville comedians:

Pat was walking down the street and he ran into his friend Mike. “So Mike,” says Pat, “I hear you were at Flanagan’s wedding.” Mike says, “sure and I was.” “And,” says Pat, “I heard that you were the Best Man!” Mike stiffens up and says, “that’s a lie!” Relaxing a little bit he adds, “but I was as good as any man there.”

That would be a good attitude for Americans to adopt towards the world. It would be a great attitude for each of the racial groups in America to adopt towards the other groups, that would be a cool breeze right there. We’re not better than anyone else, but we’re as good as anyone. I could subscribe to that.

The Twentieth Century was full of countries that thought that they were so far superior to other countries that they felt thereby entitled to subject the other countries to their will, permanently was the goal, and they actually tried it and it got a lot of people killed, sometimes just to be rid of them and make room for more of the superior group. Exceptionalism led quickly to eliminationalism. That was some of the wrongest shit in the long history of the world, and that’s a tough list to top.

So maybe that’s not a good road to start down.

Last Word

Many of the people who are telling America these days that Americans are somehow exceptional and that we have a God ordained duty to spread our philosophy all over the world are big-time, evangelical Christians. While you Americans are being flattered by them in this way, you should recall that these are the same people who think that only a small number of people who are totally devoted to their particular narrow stripe of the religious spectrum are going to ever get to that Heaven that they aspire to. They believe that almost everybody that ever lived, and damn near every single person now alive, will go to hell for being insufficiently like themselves.

So while they’re flattering you with all of this exceptionalist talk, bear in mind that they are much more exceptional than you, and that you’re going to hell. You’ll be lucky if they say thanks after they have what they want from you, probably your vote.

Nirvana - Son of a gun

A cover version, I never heard the original.

Nirvana, love them or hate them, made art, musical art, and very musical at that.  My favorite definition of art is "the creation and resolution of tension."  These guys created musical landscapes, and then manipulated them very professionally. 

Maybe it's not Mozart, but it's music, and it's art, and I'm pretty sure that Mozart would have liked it. 

Wimbledon Roll Models

Roger Federer beat Novak Djokavic in four sets to advance to the final against Andy Murray at Wimbledon.  It was a pleasure to watch.

It was a pleasure because these two guys are among the most sportsmanlike individuals working in any sport today.  I mean in the manner of good, old-fashioned good-sportsmanship.  There was no exulting at every point won, no cursing line calls that went against them, and certainly no bumping each other on the turnarounds.  These guys are gentlemen, pure and simple.  I love these guys. 

Andy Murray has learned slightly better manners in the last year or so, but he has a long, long way to go.  I hope that it's not too much of a contrast in the final, although I wouldn't be above taking some guilty pleasure in watching the English get embarrassed, at their own game, so to speak.  (How the English got a reputation for gentlemanliness is beyond me, I just don't see it.) 

Congratulations Roger, and don't worry Novak.  You've got a future in this tennis business. 

Cognitive Dissonance And The Damage Done

I write in a serious mood. I am distressed about the state of my country, and my society, less so but still distressed about the state of the entire world as we know it. The major reason for all of the interlocking directorate of problems that plague us is that people are believing what they are told, and not thinking for themselves.

No less of a great man than Dung Chow Ping once advised the Chinese people to “discover truth from facts.” It was good advice then, and it served the Chinese people well, as they were waking up from the hypnotic phantasm that was Maoism. It’s still good advice.

Modern American Politics

In our benighted epoch of history, otherwise intelligent Americans are drinking the Kool-Aid of their choice and turning themselves into credulous robots. Any meme that enters the political discourse, from whatever side of the battle, becomes tomorrows firmly held belief among great masses of people. Many of these beliefs are deeply antagonistic to the best interests of the people who hold them.

I love the Internet, and I love to read people’s comments on matters great and small. I do not only frequent sites that mirror my own point of view, I take great pleasure in reading a great variety of the opinions of ordinary Americans. I regularly read progressive news sites and blogs, but I also read, semi-regularly lets say, the Breitbart sites and Weasel Zippers, among others.

The Leftie sites have their own Kool-Aid of course, knee-jerk Liberalism is alive and well. So is the phony Liberalism, the “Not-In-My-Back-Yard” Liberalism that was so prevalent in my youth. Phony anti-racism, don’t even get me started. The Rightie sites take the cake though, in matters of the monolithic adoption of weird, counterintuitive, destructive ideas, hook, line and sinker, by people whose real interests lie elsewhere. The new Conservative media, and its adherents, represents the full flowering of cognitive dissonance in American politics.

Take Willard Romney, Please

The truth about American politics is out there, you don’t need to be an ivy league PhD to discover it. Most people ignore it though, most sign up for voluntary ignorance, preferring to stick with the talking points issued by their echo-chamber of choice.

I’m not here to explain it all to you, but let’s look at a prime example in the person of one Willard “Mitt” Romney. Willard is an obnoxious rich-kid with a weird sense of entitlement, a man who accumulated a king’s ransom in the private sector through dubious financial chicanery. He tells colossal lies on a daily basis. (Don’t believe me? Google “Romney” “lies.”) He runs away from any of the political successes that he can point too, there are a few, because they do not align properly with the new Conservative orthodoxy. He provides no descriptions of his plans for the country or the economy, sticking instead to generalities like “lowering regulation of business,” “cutting taxes,” and “restoring America.” He offers nothing but a more mean spirited version of the policies of the Bush years, now famously understood to have been profoundly destructive. He does this down to the last details, like school vouchers and the privatization of this and that. Oh, and “on my first day as president, I will take steps to repeal Obamacare.” Which of course the president has virtually no power to do, there is no mechanism for him to use to accomplish the banishment of a law that was passed by both houses of congress, signed by the acting president, and then validated by the Supreme Court. Maybe he plans to immediately declare a state of emergency? You couldn’t tell by him, he’s not talking. Oh, and flip-flopping, etc. And no one likes the guy. And his wife says crazy shit like “Obama wants to kill my husband.” She also keeps million dollar horses as an investment. It’s quite a list of what-not-to-like.

But, somehow, he’s running close to the current president in “the polls,” which themselves are a challenge for any thinking person to take seriously. And people repeat these silly things as good ideas. As might a parrot, after careful training.

Going To Canada

Does anyone believe that people are thinking for themselves? What is your evidence? Certainly not the rash of “I’m going to Canada!” comments that followed the recent Supreme Court decision in the ACA case.

Some misguidedly admired pseudo-conservative or other must have Tweeted that as a result of the decision he couldn’t stand it anymore, he was moving to Canada. This idea caught on like those Colorado wildfires, and suddenly the old Intertubes were full of comments and Tweets parroting the sentiment.

Think about it for just a moment: America (read: the Black President) is taking away my freedom! I can’t live in this new Socialist America! I’m going to Canada! Which of course is a genuinely Socialist country, with fully realized socialized healthcare. Which works, by the way.

“I hate Socialism!/I’m going to a Socialist Country!” “I hate Mitt Romney/I’m voting for Mitt Romney.” Or, if you ask me, “I hate losing my freedoms!/I’m voting for someone who will limit my freedoms!” Cognitive dissonance.

The Various Myths Of Jesus

This willful ignorance, this credulous preference for received truth, is not some new thing under the sun. It is nowhere more apparent than in the modern Christian religion, in its thousands of conflicting versions.

There is no doubt that Jesus was an interesting guy, and worth remembering fondly. If you focus on the things that he is credited with actually having said, as Thomas Jefferson suggested, the record is full of good ideas. He was a good teacher at the very least, and rates as a genuine prophet of social progress and tolerance. In this, he was in the mainstream of Jewish prophets, continuing an expansion of social consciousness that had been going on already for a thousand years.

Then he died, a very conventional human death due to blood loss, asphyxiation and shock, a typical crucifixion death. A wealth of literature grew up around him in the period that followed. The big question initially was whether Jesus was a Jew or was he some new thing, some other thing. Jewish officialdom lost interest, the Romans were tearing up the place, and the “some other thing” argument carried the day.

The divinity question arose later, and took on increasing significance. Within three hundred years, Christianity had become the official religion of the Roman Empire and Jesus had been declared divine, probably following the long standing tradition of Rome in the honoring of its great men. Of the early Christian writings, examples that were useful to this mythologizing were declared to be official; marginal or inconvenient texts became anathema and were forbidden, and where possible, destroyed.

Jesus then spent one thousand plus years mostly as a sword of power for the controlling elite. Since the Reformation, Jesus has become all things to all people, depending upon whom you ask. The good works and progressive ideas of a decent, straightforward, intelligent man were thusly co-opted and corrupted, mostly by men who’s prosperity depended on telling the masses of people what to believe, and then enforcing that belief.

By now the concept of “Christianity” is so malleable that the name of Jesus can be used to justify anything from helping the poor to demonizing the poor; from mere intolerance to murder and torture; from Brotherhood to Ethnic Cleansing. Those who accept these far ranging positions almost all do so on the word of someone else, without independent consideration. “Jesus hates Fags!” In a pig’s eye. “Jesus wept,” indeed.

Thus Endeth The Lesson

So my advice, whether you are choosing a religion or deciding whom to vote for, is to think for yourself. As that Chinese fellow said, “discover truth from facts.” You can do it! If you are in the guilty majority, please stop taking directions from unscrupulous, self-serving people who probably have their hands in your pockets as we speak.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Adrian Belew I Am What I Am

Here's more Adrian Belew for you, the boy can play.  Great narative, but I wish the guy would make up his mind.  Are you what you are, or are you what you think you are? 

Cold War Nostalgia And "The Bedford Incident"

There is these days a murmur among the pundit class regarding the passing of the Soviet Union from the world scene. There is a wondering whether this passing was in truth a bad thing, rather than being a good thing as had been previously supposed. I was way ahead of the curve on this attitude. To me, from the first, the demise of the Soviets was a thing to be mourned, not celebrated.

The Cold War was, on balance, a good thing, its tensions created stability and clarity. Any perceived threat to world peace was very abstract at best, and was a small price to pay for the benefit conferred. I trusted the Soviet leadership to remain cool-headed and cost-benefit minded, much more so than I trust many current world leaders with their fingers on buttons, nuclear and otherwise.

In those days, the two great powers faced each other solemnly across the chess table, and all of the pieces obeyed the directions of their masters’ hands, and the pawns quietly awaited their fates, as it should be. This beautiful order of things had been disturbed in the years leading up to the final dissolution, but for several decades the hypnotic specter of Mutually Assured Destruction had kept the entire world frozen in a peaceful, not unpleasant embrace.

The Bedford Incident

“The Bedford Incident” is a lovely movie made in 1965, the height of the Cold War. The movie was directed by James B. Harris. The screenplay was adopted from a novel by James Bascowich. That book was one of many written during the period which exploited the exquisite fear that some unfortunate human error would break the spell of peace with a substantial, unanticipated explosion.

It is the story of an American destroyer and a Russian submarine that engage in a game of cat and mouse in the frozen ocean between Greenland and Iceland. The destroyer’s captain (Richard Widmark) has an Ahab like obsession with Russian submarines. The only one who seems to be made anxious by this is a Kriegsmarine Commodore on board as a NATO technical advisor. This former U-boat captain serves as the voice of reason here, a prudent advocate of caution in a sea of monomania.

James MacArthur plays a junior officer who is eager to please and wants to get ahead. He tries very hard to please the captain, but can’t seem to make it work. The captain is very hard on him, disliking his “quarterback most likely to succeed” profile. That the captain rides him hard enough to make him erratic when exhausted becomes abundantly clear at the end of the movie, when his equilibrium is upset and the inevitable disaster is precipitated.

There are many nice touches:

One scene features the six or seven Filipino commissarymen. This is accurate. During the mid-Sixties, naval officers were served by dedicated Filipino servants in nice, white jackets, as presented here. Regular commissarymen, cooks for the general crew, were still mostly Black at the time. Perhaps it is more accurate to say that most Blacks in the Navy at the time were commissarymen. This was just beginning to change in the mid-Sixties. (Yes, I was an enlisted sailor at the time.)

Sidney Poitier plays a photographer for a magazine on assignment to do a story about the ship. (Probably “Life” magazine.) This is an admirable bit of casting, because there is nothing Black-specific about the role, and the screenplay never makes reference to the photographer’s race. Top marks to somebody for that.

Yes, nuclear drama ensues. “If he fires one, I’ll fire one.” The young officer hears this and says, “fire one!” And he does too, he fires one, and the sub does too, and the sub is destroyed while the destroyer is left to listen to the ping of the sub’s torpedo getting louder and closer. Cue the mushroom cloud.

We were luckier in real life. Lucky that the bad luck in real life, and I assume that it happened, was not as serious as the bad luck in the movie. Lucky, too, to live in the peace of that wonderful era.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Adrian Belew Gunman

Bet you've never heard this one.  And it stomps ass too, LAMF.  Cool video, even.  You can say thank you now.