Tuesday, May 31, 2022

You May

Shout out to Elon Musk! You better hurry up and knew this: just like all the rest of us, your day will come. 

When it Rains it Really Pours-Billy "The Kid" Emerson

Anyone could tell you that this is a cold, cruel world. Troubles everywhere you look! Problems by the score! But if you have a flexible mind, you can shorten the list. 

These Things Are Definitely NOT Problems

Many things that have until recently been considered societal problems have fallen off of the list. Perhaps it was compassion fatigue. I mean, you can't be upset about fifty things forever. Perhaps it was societal adjustment, like we simply got used to it. Whatever mechanism is involved, our judgment regarding the problematic nature of a thing evolves over time. I won't pretend to understand it, although politics does seem to be involved.

What follows is a very unscientific list of things that are somehow no longer problems. Not, as I say, according to any social or natural science, but based only on the bloggers own readings, correspondence, and observations of the masses. Here goes:

One: RACISM. Racism was considered a huge problem for most of my life. Not only in America, but also around the world. All of that has changed, and believe me, I did not see that coming. Most people point to the election of a black American president as the miraculous turning point. We can't be racist anymore! We elected a black president! Twice!

We must be post-racist!

Two: CLIMATE SHINNANIGANS. Most people need only look out of a window to prove that there is no problem with our climate. It's a beautiful day! (Almost always.) The shops are full of fish, and shrimp, and veal, coffee and chocolate, all kinds of exotic fruits. What were we thinking? Obviously, there's no problem with the climate.

Disclaimer: SARCASM ALERT! This is only going to get worse, so read on with a gentle spirit.

Three: ILLEGAL DRUGS. A big part of this problem was solved with the stroke of a pen by making a few of the drugs legal. This is creating a great number of jobs and bringing in huge tax revenues, so the safe bet is that the phenomenon will only expand from here.

It was a wild conundrum for our elected representatives when the problem of addiction to opium based drugs became a huge money maker for American corporations. There were large financial donations to consider! Oxycontin/ Oxycodone was as American as apple pie. The owners of the company, as holders of the copyright on the drug and the trademark on the products, raked in many billions of dollars. This money was expertly shared with other American entrepreneurs, doctors, pharmacists, Walmart, state and Federal legislators, and all of that was part of the calculus that made the problem so hard to deal with.

Heroin came to the rescue when laws were changed to end the Oxy bonanza, but Heroin can be expensive. Laboratories, mostly overseas, now came to the rescue with cheap, plentiful generic Fentanyl. Fentanyl has real advantages as an internationally distributed illegal drug. It is so fantastically powerful, that a vast number of doses can be contained in a small package. This makes the smuggling much easier, and much safer to boot. The profit that can be made on a smallish box is a smuggler's dream come true. Mixing a bit of Fentanyl in with the ever popular Heroin even brought the end-user price down, so everybody was happy!

This, unfortunately, has become one of those problems that has worn out its welcome. People just don't give a shit anymore. YouTube is full of videos of junkies doing the “Fentanyl Shuffle,” which I believe is supposed to be the modern equivalent of a simple Heroin nod. In the case of Heroin, the junkies would slowly lower their heads with their eyes closed, very gradually assuming an “S” shaped posture. When they got to a certain point, and that point was reached quickly, they would jerk themselves back erect and open their eyes, trying to look like nothing had happened. (“How long was I out?”) On Fentanyl laced Heroin, the junkies bend over at the waist until their foreheads are almost touching their shins, and they stay there. They stand still for long periods of time, folded over like a closed pocket knife. These videos are intended to be informative, but serve better as entertainment.

The videos are made on big-city streets that are famous junkie hangouts. I have yet to see any police activity. Junkies are buying and selling, and injecting, in plain view. No one seems to care.

So, no problem here.

And what happened to meth? I suppose that people are still ruining their lives with meth, but you don't see it in the news anymore. No TV coverage, unless you're watching Breaking Bad.

Four: GUNS. Guns don't kill people; mentally ill people kill people! If they had no guns, they'd kill people with knives/bats/machetes, etc. Donny Jr. blames it on crazy teachers, among other things.

The Constitution! The Second Amendment!

Is anyone else surprised that there are only 400,000,000 guns in America? Because I know a couple of individuals with at least twenty of them, and that's only in California.

Five: DOMESTIC TERRORISM. See above, re: Second Amendment. See also Constitution for freedom of assembly, and those Confederate Battle flags and Nazi flags are political free speech. The actual killers are not terrorists, they are mentally ill murderers. This is really not that hard to understand.

Six: RICH PEOPLE. If someone starts a business based upon a stolen product, which then goes on to give thousands of people jobs and make hundreds of billions of dollars for the original entrepreneur, they are a maker, not a taker. And if they get to keep almost all of the money, well, it's their money, isn't it? They provide jobs to people, who then also pay taxes. Where could there be a problem here?

Seven: FAILED STATES. Whole giant swaths of the earth are covered with failed states. Nations with no functioning economy and no money, where the citizens try to remain alive by growing their own potatoes. There's no medicine in the hospitals, most of the doctors have left for greener pastures, there's no water in the taps, and most of the children do not go to school. But whose fault is it when an entire country goes tits-up? Why should we care, and more importantly, why should we enable their insane total failure by giving them food-aid or money? You know they just steal the money anyway. Venezuela was always great for a really beautiful Miss Universe contestant, but for most of the others, we never knew anything about them in the first place.

Eight: WARS ALL OVER. Countries all over are getting themselves into wars. Other countries are threatening their neighbors with war. Or threatening their whole neighborhood! Go, have some fun, Google, “victor orban greater hungary.” And he's not kidding. He wants all of that territory back. Putin has at least four or five European countries and several Central Asian countries on his Christmas wish list.

Is this really a problem? First of all, there's a tremendous amount of money in it for us. War is the championship Money-Pit of all time. Half of what we sell them actually blows itself up in normal use, requiring immediate replacement. The other half gets blown up by the opponent, requiring replacement. Think of the destruction of buildings, personal property, and infrastructure. That will all need to be remade or replaced some day, at a huge cost. Countries currently at war, and countries currently being threatened by war, are desperate to buy as many weapons as possible. At the rate the world is going, this will revive the entire rust-belt of the United States! Net positive for us.

Nine: POVERTY. Just ask Ted Cruz: anybody who is poor in America is just not paying attention. They are either lazy, or addicted to drugs. America is the land of opportunity! Start a business and, bingo! You're not poor anymore! Just ask Willard Romney: borrow some money from your parents and start a business! Or you could get elected to some legislature somewhere by mastering the arts of begging for campaign contributions, skimming some off the top, and investing with the help of insider trading information! This so-called poverty problem is simply a failure of individual initiative. Just go make some money.

Besides, nobody goes hungry in America. Those homeless people, that's a choice. Personal freedom. We have the greatest social safety-net in the world. Ask a politician! If you have no money and you get sick, just go to any hospital and there's no charge for anything.

Now there's cheap, legal weed, everybody has a big screen TV, we have Netflix and Disney+. Poverty in America isn't so bad. Eat pizza; drink beer. If you insist on being a lazy asshole, at least you can do it in style.

THIS is the narrative that the Republicans present to their legions of fans every day. A truly amazing number of voters go for it. The Republicans even get the tweekers off of their couches, pausing that John Wick movie, to go out and vote for Mitch McConnel, who has personally saved Kentucky from the evil talons of Satan as far as they are concerned.

It's enough to make you sick.

Monday, May 30, 2022

Wednesday, May 18, 2022

Suffering with the Blues

It's a very strange feeling. You may not know exactly what it was, but it must have been terrible. And you are ghosted, given up on, cut off, by family, friends, wives, neighbors, most of the people that you love, and it's a mystery, because the way that your mind works, you just don't see it coming. 

Somewhere, somehow, sometime, someway, you've done things that were terrible and unforgiveable. And now you suffer, but in darkness, near the end, confused and ashamed. It is my great misfortune to know clearly what the man is singing about. 

Monday, May 16, 2022

What Has Happened To Higher Education?

There was a time when an Ivy League education conveyed certain characteristics to its recipients. Not only the Ivies, but any of the more respected research universities, any of the elite schools. They were like America's Cambridge and Oxford. The education was first class, certainly, but they were also in the business of turning out ladies and gentlemen. They turned out refined individuals who could carry on sensible, knowledgeable conversations on subjects like literature, sociology, art, politics, and current events. They kept the point-of-view neutral, and they could express mild disagreements without resorting to tribal rage. They could competently speak a foreign language, and they understood the value of that ability.

The lucky young people who attended those universities in bygone eras learned how to get drunk quietly and politely.

They learned not to announce, and then defend, propositions that were obviously, foolishly wrong. They learned how to accept, without arousing suspicion, benefits, financial or otherwise, in return for support or assistance that could be either political, business-related, or social. They learned how to keep those transactions well hidden, and always maintained a surface of impeccable decorum.

They learned to make decisions that were based on evidence and reason. They learned about history and philosophy, which are great sources of common sense and feelings of human dignity. They learned to honor properly established scientific and legal precedent, which only makes sense, when you think about it.

They may have been on the conservative side or rather liberal in their politics, but in those days almost all politics took place in the center anyway.

It's not like that anymore.

Ron DeSantis got his undergraduate degree from Yale, magna cum laude, followed by a JD from Harvard, cum laude. Does it show? You can decide for yourself.

Governor Ron DeSantis of Florida looks and acts like a working member of the Three Stooges. I have never heard him say an intelligent thing. He starts hostile, tribal arguments at the drop of a hat. Recall that uncomfortable video of him bothering those two or three hapless high school students for wearing medical masks at some event that he was speaking at. “We have abolished that liberal mask mandate!” says Ron DeSantis. “You have your freedom back!”

Ron DeSantis has set off on a massive crusade against the Disney corporation, a legal crusade that will encompass property rights, contract rights, tax responsibilities, the provision of police protection, and insurance requirements, and that is only the short list. Being of the brotherhood myself, I can tell you that which any lawyer with an ounce of brains could tell you: NEVER FUCK WITH DISNEY. A friend of mine once represented a defendant being sued by Disney. At his client's deposition by Disney, Disney sent nine (9) lawyers to question the defendant.

What motivated Ron DeSantis to initiate this great battle? What was so important that it was worth this fabulously expensive, multi-year struggle? Just this: DisneyWorld gave a few mild signals to reassure their customers that the Disney Corporation welcomes its gay friends.

Laura Ingram of Fox Entertainment is another furious tribal warrior. She graduated from Dartmouth and then collected a JD from the law school of the University of Virginia, which is a top school. She sounds rather clever, while adhering very closely to the block-headed right wing talking points of the day. It all seems like a waste of a good education. Sean Hannity manages it with no education at all.

Kayleigh McEnany is a sleeper. She does not openly display any intellectual talents of any kind, yet she is a graduate of Georgetown University, including a year abroad studying at Oxford. Yes, that Oxford. She then went on to obtain a JD from the Harvard Law School. She reminds me of that movie, Legally Blond, except that there is no happy ending where the audience discovers that the protagonist is actually a highly talented lawyer.

Tom Cotton never lets on that he is an intelligent person, but the paper trail suggests that he is. He graduated from Harvard, magna cum laude, and he did it in only three years. He also graduated from the Harvard Law School. He also joined the Army and served as an infantry officer. That was attention to detail right there. This man actually is highly intelligent. I suppose, therefore, that we can believe that he means the things that he says. Tom Cotton frightens me. He probably frightens Harvard as well. They'll have to own him when he installs himself as The Leader someday.

Josh Hawley is an interesting case. He is best known as a person who sticks close to his base in his public utterances. He is also prone to the occasional faux pas (that raised fist during the January 6th insurrection). He graduated from Stanford University “with highest honors,” a member of Phi Betta Kapa. He went on to graduate from the Yale Law School. Even if he is a smart man, I doubt if he could find the bathroom in the dark. Fine education notwithstanding.

With academic credentials like those, you would expect these people to carry themselves with much more dignity than they display. You would expect them to say or do something intelligent once in a while. You would be disappointed.

Every now and then, one of their golf buddies will be quoted describing how these over-educated phonies really feel about the fascist Q conspiracies that they talk about ad nauseum on their shows or at their current job, like member of congress. In public we are only accustomed to the mask that they wear to fool the rubes into thinking that they believe all of that harebrained stuff in the talking points. We have become accustomed to hearing them offer opinions that elicit nausea in individuals more in tune with modern academia and mainstream American society.

All of the “own the libs” people really need to wake up. They are being milked for their votes. They have been drafted into the army of right wing hysterics by people who only want to relieve them of their money, their property, and their rights. It is a problem for all of us, because they are using the Rubes to come for all of our stuff as well.

For any Rubes who may be reading along, listen closely: Yes, masks help; yes, Fauci and Biden are doing good jobs; yes, Biden won the election fair and square; yes, you should keep your vaccinations up to date; and no, definitely no, the Democrats are not cannibalistic pedophiles. Read my lips: Putin bad.

The above mentioned individuals must realize that they are embarrassments to their alma maters, their families, and themselves. Forgive me for asking the obvious: why would they say such lurid, obnoxious things out loud? (Clue: “it makes a joyful sound! It makes the world go round!” Not there yet? Think Cabaret, think Joel Grey and Liza.)

The interesting issue for me is that we must now question the value of educations such as those described above. How was it possible for them to earn those honors? Are those elite universities still offering the same top-drawer educations that made them famous? Or are they now only catering to children of privilege, and even then, only trying to keep them happy? The things that some of these famous graduates say now make them seem dull-normal at best, often with a bit of crazy on the side. (A legal war with Disney? That is the biggest strategic error since the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.)

What are we to believe now about our elite schools? It wasn't long ago that I was favorably impressed when I was introduced to someone who had a BA from Princeton, or Cornell, or other schools in that strata. And I was almost never disappointed when I had gotten to know them a little. They were a cut above; they were very intelligent ladies and gentlemen. Now I'm not so sure.

Have we gotten to the point where the schools themselves are just going for the money? Someone shows up who is arguably qualified academically, and does not need to borrow any money or get a scholarship to pay the huge tuition, so of course you let them in? Let them pay! Mischief be damned, baby needs a new pair of shoes! Somebody has to pay the bills around here.

I have seen a lot of that myself, and gotten a whiff of it in the recruiting materials that I have seen from universities around the world. Universities in countries with reputations for scholastic rigor. I hear echoes of, “foreign students paying cash for advanced degrees? Open wide the doors! Put on your best smiles! We welcome them!” (And we will make sure that all of the professors have been warned that they need to pass every subject, and get the degree, or else.)

Disclaimer: I am on the Law Faculty of a large, government university in an ASEAN country. I've been teaching there for fourteen years. We are a good group, and we take the job seriously.

When someone with the academic credentials of Ron DeSantis, or Tom Cotton, appears to lower his IQ by fifty points to appeal to a certain uneducated group of voters, you know that something is happening here. It may be the individuals, or it may be the institutions, but some damn thing is happening here.

What do you think is happening?

Blogger's Note: Why leave out Trumpski? He's an Ivy, right? I'm not buying it. That whole Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania thing was bought and paid for. Trump never opened a book. Trump is lucky if his IQ cracks 120, and he is a lazy-minded oaf besides. Big Mr. Businessman? He lost money IN THE CASINO BUSINESS. His book should have been called, “The Art of the Skim.” Trump should be on the Putin's Friends Sanctions List. If you showed him a simple mate-in-two chess puzzle he'd say, “it can't be done.”

Saturday, May 7, 2022

Marianne Rosenberg - Er gehoert zu mir (ZDF Disco 05.07.1975) (VOD)

I like this video a lot. Marianne is singing the tune live over the recorded music track. And she's killing it, too. This is the prime example of what they used to call "Schlager" in Germany (Hit Music, more generally pop music). 

I was a big fan of the German electronica at the time, Can, Kraftwerk, Tangerine Dream, and Kraut-Rock in general, Amun Duul, Guru Guru. Der Schlager meistens gefaelt mir nicht (The pop music, not so much). I think this was a Eurosong winner. I'm pretty sure that's how it came to my attention. Whatever, it's been a favorite of mine since the late 1970s.