Tuesday, December 28, 2021

Hidden Aspects Of Corruption

I've been throwing around the word “corruption” here for a while now. It's been on my mind recently, and the word shows up in any post where the subject is related to politics or money. The whole world is going to hell in a hand-basket, and I'm upset about it. Upon reflection, it has occurred to me that all of the things that are driving this hell bound train boil down to corruption in one of its many guises. So it's worth considering corruption as a stand-alone issue, and examining individual facets of the corruption diamond.

We will be better able to spot corruption if we give a bit of thought to the possible ways that it may be recognized among all of the background noise that we must deal with in our new screen-driven wonderland.

Today's facet is hypocrisy.

Elon Musk is a good poster-child for hypocrisy. Every one of his harebrained ideas is presented as something that will greatly change the world for the better. Only coincidentally will they all make billions of dollars for him. Self-driving cars; the hyper-link; hypersonic air travel; and, of course, the colonization of Mars.

All of the smiles and the “advances” mask a dark truth. The rocket engine, and the entire apparatus, that would enable the super-fast travel idea would, not coincidentally, also be used to create hypersonic missiles. The real goal here is a government contract for one or two thousand hypersonic missiles capable of reaching any point on the earth lickety-split. Those will cost a bundle.

See how this works?

I loved Adam McKay's new Netflix movie, “Don't Look Up.” Spoiler alert! The government comes up with a feasible plan to divert the world-ending comet, but that plan is canceled in mid-flight after the slightly mental billionaire's team of scientists discover that the entire comet is made up of rare-earth minerals, gold, and platinum. It's worth 174 trillion dollars! They have a substitute plan to possibly save the earth with a chance of retrieving the comet and extracting its value. The Trump-like president, and her party, are totally on board. They all can smell the money. The residue of this plan is unspeakable.

You know Musk's plan to colonize Mars? All of that technology would be very useful for a massive effort to monetize the asteroid belt that is just beyond Mars. He can smell the money too. I'd bet my tattoo and one of my few remaining real teeth that mining asteroids is the real goal of Musk's Mars song and dance.

The self-driving cars and the hyper-link are just bullshit distractions. They will never amount to much. The cars require a vigilant human back-up driver to override the system's errors. As I have always maintained about automatic transmissions in cars: I have to sit here anyway, and I'll select my own damn gears, thank you. Besides, I predict that they will never work safely on our existing analog roadways. The hyper-link is pure pie in the sky. Both would require vast infrastructure for their support.

I know nothing about Musk's flame-thrower idea, nor do I wish to be informed about it.

What a world we live in! It's like everyone's bullshit-detector has simultaneously failed, and no one has noticed. And no one wants to piss off the billionaires. You might get banned from Facebook! You might get kicked off of Amazon Prime!

Listen to what they say, the billionaire class and the politicians, but take it all with a good grain of salt. Watch what they do, certainly. Real profit, however, lies in carefully considering what their real motives might be. Is there money in this idea somewhere for them? If so, there lies the truth.

Friday, December 24, 2021

My Kind Of Xmas

I am faithless. I am not an agnostic; I never had any faith to give up. I'm not an atheist; I have no feelings on the matter that could support such a position. I am not a Deist; that would require belief. I don't believe in anything beyond the natural world that surrounds and torments me. In a related development, I don't trust anyone or anything either. Notwithstanding these caveats, I do try very hard to enjoy Christmas. 

I embrace Xmas* as an end-of-year holiday when we can all take a break and show some appreciation for making it to the finish line of another year of all of this bullshit. We could not have done it without help, none of us could. So take a moment to generate some more or less genuine happiness, or at least some sense of relief, and thank the people who helped us along the way. 

Thank all of you, dear readers. I enjoy writing this blog, but it is much nicer knowing that there are some people out there who enjoy reading my complaining. What can I tell you? I'm a New Yorker at heart. I lived there for almost thirty years, I was born there. We love to complain. 

I enjoy the tree idea as well. The evergreen tree. It nicely represents the good friends who stay with you in good times and in bad. Let those other trees abandon you when the going gets rough (cold). The fir tree remains at your side. 

Another thing that I take no position on is the idea that there really was a Yeshua who made a fuss around the year thirty, common era. This holiday is really the Winter Solstice. It's been a holiday for at least 20,000 years. Those ancient tribal people knew very well about the passing of the months, marked by the passage of the moon and other planets. They knew all about the lengthening and shortening of the days in the course of one year. They marked it with log circles; in Siberia then marked it with circles made from the skulls of megafauna. They observed the shadows, tracking the movement of the sun. After the Winter Solstice, the days began to get longer. That was a pretty good  reason to have a festival. Perhaps the best reason. 

So Merry Xmas, Happy Solstice Day, Happy All of the Holidays. I wish for all of my readers, family, friends, for everyone, in fact, a better year in 2022, a happy, healthy year. Hey, it could happen!

*Xmas is not impolite. The "X" is for the Greek letter representing the messiah.   


Thursday, December 23, 2021

Caroline, No

It seems that there is a general love for this song among all of the people who have heard it. I certainly love it, and always have. 

Considering just the idea for a moment, can a love that has been broken be repaired? Oh, Caroline, I think not. Love is a complex interaction of facts and feelings, emotions and needs. Its beginnings are nebulous, but it matures in trust, cooperation, intimacy, admiration, and acceptance of faults. It is made from smoke and mirrors, but its real effect takes place in the world of reality. It is a supernatural house of cards, and if it has collapsed, the odds are that it will not rise again. 

May you be lucky in love, dear readers. That is one of the greatest gifts that can be bestowed on a person. 

Wednesday, December 22, 2021

Monty Python - Always Look on the Bright Side of Life

How about a bit of blasphemy for the holiday! Merry Christmas! Always keep in mind the expert advice that this song so cheerfully delivers. Look for the good! It's down there somewhere. 

And Happy Birthday to Mr. Jesus, and Mr. Mithra, and Mr. Horus, and all of the rest of the one-hundred-plus Gods who are having birthdays this week. 

Wednesday, December 15, 2021

Procol Harum - A Salty Dog

I still read in interviews occasionally someone mentioning Procol Harum, and this song in particular. It must have resonated with a lot of people. Not just fatheads like me, either, people who were worth interviewing. 

Holds up pretty well, doesn't it? 

Monday, December 13, 2021

Stevie Wonder Improv about a broken keyboard...genius!

Stevie is such a pro. Crew dropped the ball on the electric piano? No problem. Stevie Wonder is no Diva. He's got this covered. 

Beautiful recovery, Stevie, and the crowd loved it. 

Naked Lunch Update, December 2021

The Naked Lunch: when that bit of whatever is at the end of every fork becomes fully understood in all of its particulars. When the veil is parted and the truth is made clearly visible. That's what we need around here.

There are events unfolding around America and around the world that require our immediate attention. I mean of the “or else” variety of attention. You could follow what passes for the news media in a lot more detail than I do and still only see passing shadows of useful information on certain no-go subject matter. Things that “they” don't want us to notice. I saw a brief note the other day explaining how the number of oysters in British waters has gone down ninety-five percent in the last, what was it, say forty years. That's a temperature issue, a detail that the small article cleverly left out.

This morning I read about that huge “wind storm” that devastated a wide swath of land on a north-easterly diagonal beginning in Arkansas and ending up in Ontario, Canada. There were something like forty tornadoes involved, and the damage was impressive, to say the least. “Scores” of people were killed. One news aggregation site took the bold step and wondered out loud: could this storm be related to climate change?

That reminded me of a cute creature-feature, black and white, early 1960s. “The Swamp Creatures.” At one point, at about the 70% mark, when all of the human characters who remain alive are quite familiar with the titular monsters, a small group of men must make a dangerous passage over swampy ground to get somewhere. They know that it is what German troops used to call a “Himmelfahrtskommando,” (A “trip to heaven mission.”) Sure enough, they hear the distinctive clicking/ moaning sound that is associated with the creatures. They all look concerned. One man says, “do you think it could be the swamp creatures?” Viewers reacted as one, I'm sure, in thinking, “yes, asshole, I think it could be the swamp creatures.”

The problem is not always climate related. I've seen numerous scholarly articles in the better magazines for twenty years now about the mass disappearance/ extinction of flying insects, songbirds, and amphibians. Related events, by the way. The new neurotoxin insecticides are lighter than air, so wherever you spray them, they just float off willy-nilly. The cloud of those chemicals now coats the entire world, and there go the flying insects. They are very sensitive to the poison involved. Songbirds' and amphibians' diets consist of, you guessed it, flying insects. No one seems to notice, or care. We are in the middle of a mass-extinction event that is being closely observed by scientists, and totally ignored by everyone else.

Many of these massive crises involve political and geopolitical events. The attention that they receive from the American government is generally limited to economic sanctions, the formation of a committee, or vague military threats that are usually implied by a movement of forces. These announcements are most often made by officials from either the State Department or the Pentagon. The rest of the Washington political establishment remains fixated on either making fun of President Biden and promising to oppose everything that he does, trying to undo the election of 2020, or, in the case of the Democrats, trying to appear to be doing something while sabotaging themselves and carefully avoiding anything that might help them to win any future elections. It's enough to make you sick. They act like the rest of the world were comfortably resting with its head on a rock in about 1958.

If geophysical events are involved, committees are formed and discretionary guidelines are set. These guidelines are not intended to be met. They are for show. There are meetings. And nothing is done, because the money people want nothing to be done. Burn coal; wind farms kill birds; solar doesn't work when it rains. Oh, now I'm going to be sick again.

If they are social events, like the random, casual murder of a black man by police somewhere, there may be demonstrations. People of all races will get very angry. Articles will be written, and perhaps legislation will be suggested, although none will be passed. There will be little or no follow up. In time, it will all settle down, in spite of the fact that the incidence of such police murders has really been reaching a crescendo. There is no apparent notice taken by our representatives or public officials; it all gets very little coverage from our media. If the social events do not involve murder, people in general may gloss over the whole thing, or laugh at a topical joke on a late-night talk show, but there is no deeper concern. Most people fail to take any notice at all.

Pop Quiz! Raise your hand if you think that more than fifteen percent of congress could find both Taiwan AND the Ukraine on a map. Fifteen percent is being generous. Fewer than that could speak one coherent sentence about those boiling crises. Both of those countries are recent creations. How many congressmen could explain both origin stories? How did they get to this point? Are there colorable arguments on both sides, or are they both simple land-grabs?

Wake up! Come on! It's all-hands-on-deck time!

The Parties

Are all races, nationalities, and demographics equally clueless regarding these challenges? Why no, they are not.

Prosperous white Americans will overlook anything as long as the government keeps their taxes low and overlooks their off-shore tax havens. They adopt the corporate party line about things like climate change, COVID-19, police behavior (misbehavior), and pretty much everything else. The most desperately poor white Americans do not have any energy left after navigating a moneyless world with little or no government assistance. There were over one hundred thousand opioid overdose deaths last year, so it's safe to say that a great number of the helpless, hopeless poor are self-medicating themselves to death. Include meth in your calculations.

White Americans in the middle somewhere are busy trying to keep their heads above water. Have you seen what's been happening with rents in the last few years?

Black Americans bring their customary hypervigilance to many issues, but most often to issues that affect them personally or brush up against their own issues. They can't be bothered with the shrinking population of flying insects, but on many social justice issues they can be trusted to take the point. I am thankful for them.

My hunch is that Hispanic Americans are very concerned with climate related issues. They, after all, are much more aware of crop related issues than other groups. They are big on the social justice front as well.

Self-described Republicans can be trusted to be on the wrong side of any issue. The only anti-vaccine individuals in my family are avowed Republicans. Climate change is a hoax, etc.

Self-described Democrats are, as usual, a mixed bag. They may be NIMBY* liberals, or they may follow the money, or they may only have the feeling that the Republicans are pushing this hard right wing thing a bit too quickly. More likely they are just decent people who love justice and diversity, but who will not do anything to risk one iota of their own personal money or freedom.

Regarding education levels, it is enough to note that both the scientific community and the majority of academics are firmly on the liberal side of the scale. Highly educated conservatives are either hypocritical, corrupt, or evil.

The Government

How about our esteemed public officials? Our tireless representatives in various legislatures? Our precious democracy! What are they doing to help us in these perilous times?

Old Joe Biden still has his get-out-of-jail-free card from me, so I won't be complaining about him. The LOSER, no, I won't be complaining about him either. There is plenty of complaining in the air about both of those guys already, so really, what's the point? No, my major complaint today is that almost all of them, damn near everybody involved in government as an administrator or as an elected official, are a bunch of selfish, self-interested, immoral, totally corrupt assholes. The waste of so many good educations is a crying shame.

None of them give one smooth shit about anything but keeping the money stream flowing, maintaining their status as prosperous members of the investment class, avoiding taxes, and finding new ways to invisibly launder money.

It is most unfortunate that this money-disease has spread to the flag officers in our vaunted military. The hurricane of money that swirls around the heads of top Pentagon officials creates a steady rain of money that falls on the shoulders bearing stars. This is why we have been cursed with bottomless money pits like the F-35 and littoral combat ships, and it is why we see the endless, fruitless pursuit of future-weapons like the rail-gun, and laser weapons.

America's security establishment has certainly mastered the art of collecting every single phone call and e-mail in the world, but what good does it do anyone? They collect it at fabulous cost, and then comb through it for key words, names, and phrases. The effort is colossal and expensive. They claim to be the masters of modern cyber-warfare, so why is it that China can remotely influence American warships into believing that they are occupying GPS coordinates that are false? Remember these stories? Strange ship handling mishaps that should never happen on U.S. Navy ships? That got hushed up PDQ. And why is it that lesser players like North Korea, and Iran, can make it seem easy to hack into sensitive, heavily fire-walled American computer networks?

That's the next war in a nutshell: someone, Russia, let's say, takes over and re-purposes all of our military satellites. Then they shut down our electrical grid. All of it. Goodbye Internet, banking, mass communications. And then the old-fashioned phone rings. That'll be an interesting phone call. This is while every single one of our politicians is ignoring the danger, instead devoting 100% of their efforts to pushing agendas of personal power and self-enrichment.

Statesmen? In name only. Diplomats? Sorry, Trump fired all of the diplomats.

Money prevents anyone in power from even briefly considering things like the supernatural levels of poverty and misery in places like Suriname, or Malawi, or the bereft conditions prevailing in failed states like Venezuela, Afghanistan, or Syria. (Those unfortunate countries were chosen for the sake of brevity from rather long lists.) Average temperatures are certain to continue rising. That includes surface temperatures, shallow water temperatures, and deep water temperatures. I'm no meteorologist, but even I know that oceanic water temperatures are where the weather comes from. Droughts, floods, crop failures, these are our new normal, and certain to get worse.

Hey! Space station! How're those ice sheets looking?

Many of these potential calamities will not happen. The volcanic activity, for example, is very difficult to predict. But the strange, hyperactive weather has become a sure thing, and many more horrific events could happen very quickly. Suddenly, even. As I have mentioned previously, all of this does take the sting out of imminent death from old age. I would hate to see my grandchildren go hungry.

I would suggest that younger people take a hint from that Greta Thunberg. Get busy finding ways to bend the power elite to your will. It could all be taken care of. Be creative. Think outside the box. Be fierce.

It's up to you.

*NIMBY: Not In My Back Yard.

Friday, December 10, 2021

Outkast - Hey Ya! (Official HD Video)

This is just a wonderful, genre-bending, timeless piece of music. Outkast, I hope that you fellows are doing fine, and thanks for everything. 

Leslie Odom Jr. - I'll Be Home For Christmas (Audio Only)

"Home is where the heart is." 

"Wherever I hang my hat, is home." 

I wonder these days if I have a home at all, and I wonder where that would be, if it existed. The saving grace of it is that I've never really felt at home anywhere. Least of all my boyhood home. I was more of an outsider there than I am living here in Thailand. 

"You Can't Go Home Again." That's a novel by Thomas Wolfe. I haven't read it, but I think that I know what he meant. You can't go home because IT'S GONE. None of those cheerful times from the flood tide of life can be replicated, because all of the settings, and all of the people, and all of the sentiments, and all of the emotions, are simply gone. It's sad to long for home, or even a feeling remotely like being "at home." You might as well long for the fucking Roman Empire. 

Long time readers will recall that I hate the holidays like the Jews hate Hitler. My boyhood Christmases were nightmarish. I wouldn't wish them on anybody. There was a time, when my boys were young, when we all had a wonderful Christmas, with lots of company, and a big dinner, and nice phone calls to relatives. But it's been a long time since I could enjoy anything like that. 

My new wife rather likes Christmas, even though she is a confirmed Buddhist with no connection to Christianity. Thank God! Christianity never made anyone happy. The Christmas tree is nice though, and the fellowship can be wonderful. 

So we'll be fine, here in our tropical wonderland. Thankful for another good year. My Christmas wish is that all of my family and friends, everywhere, can have a great 2022, happy, healthy, and prosperous. All of you readers, too! I love you all. Weird as it  seems, I have no outwardly directed negative thoughts. 

glitter S.P.C

This is definitely one of my favorite music videos, and also definitely one of my favorite covers. It's the Meices, generously offering their massive talents with a shockingly good version of the Sonics song, "He's Waiting." (I don't know when the video of the cars was made, but the song was recorded in the late 1990s.)

Thanks, Gearhead magazine; thanks, the Meices; thanks, Glitter car club from Sapporo, Japan; and thanks, Sonics, wherever you are. What an amazing coincidence of talent! 

Sunday, December 5, 2021

A New Map For The New Civil War

We've been reading a lot about a “new civil war,” and the proposed alignment for such an event has generally been based on states that voted Red vs. states that voted Blue. I have trouble believing that any such event could be organized in the first place, and the vast economic imbalance in favor of the Blue states would insure that it didn't last long anyway.

There is a new “us vs. them” map coming that will be much more interesting. When the Supreme Court weakens Roe v. Wade beyond utility, which it is about to do (don't say I haven't been warning you for twelve years), they will lack the power to declare abortion illegal outright. Courts can only make findings on issues that are properly before them. Roe was never about abortion, per se. Roe is a Due Process case. The Supreme Court has the authority to find that the stupid Texas law now before it follows the Constitutional requirements for due process. That they have the power to do. So the Texas law will stand. Having that Supreme Court sanction (approval), other states, many of them, will pass similar laws.

Voila! The Supreme Court need not overturn Roe, nor ever reach the issue of the nature and legality of abortion. The Texas law says “detection of a heartbeat,” which is usually about six weeks, and if the Supreme Court says that law is Constitutional, it's Constitutional. Roe over, case closed.

All American states are sovereigns. They have the Constitutional authority to make and enforce laws that will apply to all local matters. That is why the laws of the fifty states can seem so different from each other. The laws of every state must follow Federal constitutional guidelines, and every state must allow its citizens all of the freedoms described in the United States Constitution. But states have the power to grant their citizens additional rights.

Take the death penalty, please. The death penalty is Constitutional because the Constitution only forbids “cruel and unusual punishment,” and the Supreme Court has consistently found that the death penalty is not inherently “cruel (or) unusual.” States therefore are allowed to make up their own minds. No, they couldn't get away with beheading people, or even hanging them. Those would key the “cruel and unusual” proscription. As long as the state comes up with a relatively kindhearted way to kill the offender, it's fine.

A substantial majority of the states have done away with the practice. That's fine too. That mechanism will be applied to abortion now. Many states will adopt laws that effectively eliminate the possibility of any of their citizens obtaining an abortion IN THAT STATE. Many other states will adopt laws that probably will follow guidelines similar to Roe v. Wade, the trimester model, and offer their citizens, OR VISITORS, the right to choose to abort a pregnancy on that basis. That will make our new map.

Due Process

No person shall “. . . be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law.” Please spare me a trip all the way down the rabbit hole on that one. Most essentially, references to due process in the U.S. Constitution were intended to incorporate Common Law principles of fairness and respect for the law.

It breaks down into two branches: procedural due process, and substantive due process. Procedural due process is the easy one. What fair and transparent procedures must the government follow in any particular situation? This branch alone has generated a vast catalog of Supreme Court cases, because there are so many situations that must be adjudicated. Due process to kick Johnny out of school; due process to kick Mr. Jones off welfare. The cases are legion, but the purpose and the logic of them are fairly easy to see.

The second branch is substantive due process, and this is where mourning becomes Electra, intellectually speaking. Here we are addressing rights that are nowhere mentioned in the Constitution; rights that have never been recognized as traditional rights; rights to things that the writers of the Constitution did not know existed; rights that had never been considered until very recently. The last half of the Twentieth Century was full of exciting cases about substantive due process.

Rights were awarded in areas that no one had ever expected to find rights. The right to marry outside of your race (Loving v. Virginia, 1967), the right for married couples to use contraceptives (Griswold v. Connecticut, 1965), and yes, the right to an abortion within certain guidelines (Roe v. Wade, 1973).

The right for two consenting adults to engage in homosexual behavior was a hard-fought battle. The first time it came before the Court, it lost (Bowers v. Hardwick, 1986). That law criminalizing homosexual behavior stayed on the books in Georgia. Seventeen years later, a similar anti-sodomy law in Texas was struck down. This is a perfect illustration about how the Supreme Court allows the Constitution to remain up-to-date over the centuries. In Lawrence v. Texas, 2003, Justice Kennedy, writing for the Court, decided the case not on some lofty intellectual theory, but simply on the basis of liberty! He wrote that, “liberty presumes an autonomy of self that includes freedom of thought, belief, expression, and certain intimate conduct.” Bingo!

All of these, and many other rights, are now up in the air. The support of a long line of cases has been knocked out from under them. I think it's safe to say that many states will soon go after gay marriage and all homosexual behavior in any context. I'm sure that many states will get creative, going after all sex outside of marriage. I've been hearing rumblings about eliminating contraceptives for twenty years. It became part of the anti-abortion movement's goals at some point. It'll be exciting to see what they come up with.

The New Cold Civil War

Everybody can just hold their horses about a “second Civil War.” There will be plenty of shooting, this is America that we're talking about, but there will never again be two clearly defined physical areas, each represented on the battlefield by an organized armed force. No, this time around it'll be more of a Cold War. Lot's of jockeying for position and lots of empty threats. As usual, the soldiers on both sides will wear belt buckles that say, “Gott Mit Uns,” and each side will claim moral superiority over the other.

I can tell you that in the 1980s it was no party driving across Texas on Route 10 in a car with California plates. You could cut the hatred with a knife. I wouldn't expect that to get any better. In fact, once this whole thing gets rolling, I think that it will probably become harder to drive across the country by any route. Any “abortion state” car that is driving through a “no abortion state” may be transporting a fugitive to or from an abortion that was totally illegal in that old rag of a jurisdiction!

It makes me sick. While I've been bitching at the air, and preaching to the trees, too many people have been voting for the wrong people who have been appointing the wrong people, and now we're stuck with this dramatically sub-optimal Supreme Court for the foreseeable future. There's no way out at this point. They ARE our circus, and those six evil justices ARE our monkeys.

And our rights and freedoms continue to sail out the window like children's dreams, gone before Junior is finished rubbing his eyes.