Thursday, April 21, 2011

Logic, meta-analysis, and the media

It's April 30. On this day in 1789, George Washington took the oath of office and became the first elected President of the United States.

In 1952, Mr Potato Head became the first toy to be advertised on television.

In 1973, President Nixon announced the resignation of several key White House aides, including H.R. Haldeman and John Ehrlichman, in the wake of the Watergate investigation.

We've come a long way.

Strange, but these days no one disputes that our political system is broken. We all agree, and shake our heads in dismay or disgust, and... life just goes on.

As a nation, we are faced with these hugely serious challenges: to our credit and credibility internationally, to our basic infrastructure, not to mention to the social safety net our ancestors built for our elderly and unfortunate, but the only change that occurs is further acceleration toward greater inequality (the very condition that brought us to the two previous Great Depressions: those of 1890's and the 1930's).

This congress now in session, whose majority rode in on a promise of more jobs, has yet to introduce a jobs-related bill. Instead, they've proposed more tax cuts for the very people who sent American jobs overseas, and proposed severe -no, draconian-- cuts to Medicare, Medicaid and other programs to pay for those tax cuts (programs which in fact don't contribute a penny to the 'problem' that Congress is supposedly addressing: the deficit). As if that wasn't enough: a full year has passed since the Deepwater Horizon disaster, and the only policy change in regards to drilling in the Gulf has brought an increase in deepwater drilling permits.

But you've heard little about any of that in the news. And what little you may have heard, has likely been eclipsed by more exciting headlines about celebrities or "new" "doubts" about the President's country of birth, or what Newt Gingrich or Glenn Beck or some other washed-up loser has to say.

What the hell is going on?? You may well ask.

It is indeed a complicated mess. It's the economy, it's Congress, it's the Democrats, it's the Republicans, it's the lobbyists, it's Big Oil/Pharma/Agriculture... you name it, it's probably contributing to the problems we face as a country.

But there is a real elephant in the room, as the saying goes, and it's not the GOP.

Follow me here:
Businesses exist for one reason- to make money for their owners. These owners make decisions about their businesses on the basis of two things alone: profitability and personal preference.

Broadcast media companies are businesses. Their owners make decisions about who to hire as producers, editors, and directors, and often even which stories to run -or kill-- on the basis of two things: profitability, and personal preference. Not to demonize anyone, but for example: Rupert Murdoch started FOX News, and hired Roger Ailes to run it -not only because Murdoch felt that Ailes would run the company profitably, but also because Murdoch liked Ailes, and felt that Ailes would respond to Murdoch's direction.

Ailes in turn commissions shows, accepts or declines proposals for shows, and ultimately hires Producers, whom he trusts with the company brand, name, and reputation, to make those shows. As this brand is regarded as a key to profitability, anything that demeans it or detracts from it significantly is naturally discarded or ignored. This is business. No company will ever do anything (in this case, publish a story) which it feels might somehow ultimately damage, or lead to the demise of, the company.

Everyone has a point of view and an opinion, and all of that comes out -however subtly- every time we express ourselves. If you read it, hear it, or see it, it has a bias. Broadcast media companies are in business to do business. It is not good business to promote one's own faults or misdeeds. For this reason, broadcast media will not report on their own faults or misdeeds, or -excepting especially egregious cases-- the faults or misdeeds of their advertisers.

They are inherently, inevitably, biased.

Broadcast media, what people used to call 'the news,' is the ultimate in trendiness. Publishers and editors view the world as stories waiting to be told, and their job is to get the story first (or failing that, to get a unique-enough lead on the story that 'control' of said story is regained). If FOX runs a great story first, then everyone else has to follow, or be seen as unreliable or out of the loop: a death sentence for the trendy.

Even if it's not true.

That's right: For some people in media, the competitive urge is so great that, if no hot stories are to be found, they'll make one up so as to guarantee that they beat everyone else to the punch. Weapons of Mass Destruction, anyone?

Before 1996, it was not legal for one entity to own more than one 'voice' in any medium, in any market. In other words, if you owned a newspaper in Portland, you could not also own a radio or TV station in the area. Because, obviously, if you own all the media in a market, you are in complete -monopoly-- control of that market, and that is supposed to be fundamentally un-American. Erm, apparently unless you're rich.

Thanks to the Telecommunications Act of 1996 though, there are now no limits to how many media outlets you can own, or where. And so now we have a grand total of six people -six! six Rupert Murdochs-- ultimately controlling everything we read, hear or see in the news.

This is precisely the reason that conservatives so vastly outnumber liberals (or progressives- do you even know there is such a thing?) on news programs and talk shows, and why AirAmerica failed as a network: these media conglomerates are all owned or controlled by wealthy Republicans, without exception, and it is simply bad business to publicize your opponent's views.

Remember that people will always act in their own interests.
Remember that people start businesses to make money.
Remember that all media is business, and that that business is first advertising, and then sales.

Let that sink in a second.

Consider now that it is possible to publish any story you like, about any thing you like.
And that it doesn't have to be true, at all, even if you say it's true, or publish it as news. Remember that Americans have very short attention spans and memories for news.
And that if you're wealthy enough, that you can reach hundreds of millions of people with that .
That means hundreds of millions of eyes seeing your advertisers' products.
That means money for your company, and that's all that counts. It pays your bills.

So you publish what you need to publish, in order to keep your company going. That means, you publish stories that support your point of view.

And in a country such as ours, in which lobbyists daily dine with legislators, you hire lobbyists to influence said legislators to write bills in your favor. And then you decline advertising from your opponents (hey, it's bad business to promote your competition!), while hiring producers, directors, editors and writers who will produce, direct, edit and write the stories you want to see, in the way you want to see them.

My point here is that the media is calling all the shots.

And so ends the American dream of representative democracy. Good morning, America. Now get to work or you don't get your porridge.

Tuesday, April 05, 2011

Ice, ice, baby!

It's a great day for the movies. Oscar-winning actors Spencer Tracy, Bette Davis, and Gregory Peck were all born on this day. And the events immortalized in Sergei Eisenstein's *&@%! awesome film Aleksandr Nevsky happened on this day too. Oh sure, it's a bit propagandistic, maybe a little heavy-handed in favor of the Russians, and certainly a bit cheesy by today's standards, but it's still a good flick. A great underdog/winning against the odds story.

And yes, it's based on a real battle. In 1242, Prince Aleksandr Nevsky actually forced an invading Teuton army onto the ice on Lake Peipus, where the weight of the army caused the ice to give way. FTW!

Saturday, December 04, 2010

Peter Pan moment

Two years. Two years since I last posted here- I just noticed that this morning. What happened?? I asked myself.

I tried to swear off politics after the 2008 elections, for one thing. I used to enjoy listening to news on the radio, and it never failed to give me something to rail about, but over the past ten years, news radio has increasingly morphed into political talk radio, and in spite of the fact that politics is sometimes news, the larger fact remains that not all politics is news, and not all news is politics. Programmers just like it because it is constant conflict, and conflict sells.

I also got a little self-conscious after writing so much about religion. I have a lot of religious friends, and that's sometimes tough for me: I do have strong feelings, and I do express them ...exuberantly sometimes... because I like to think and communicate my thoughts. I don't feel that I should have to apologize, but at the same time I really, honestly, don't want to offend. I have many relatives and friends who walk peacefully and quietly on what they believe is Jesus's path, and I respect them for that. I do not take issue with them. What stopped me was that I let myself worry about whether those people would or would not see the difference I saw, between them and, say, Pope Benedict or Rev. Hypocrite at the stadium 'service' every sunday. I suppose I worry too much. Socrates said 'the unexamined life is not worth living,' and I agree wholeheartedly, but I find that it is possible to be too reflective.

All that aside, it's just been a tremendously busy period for me. I've designed sets for three musicals (Seussical, Bye Bye Birdie, and She Loves Me), three plays (Our Town, You Can't Take It With You, and Antigone), and traveled to Kansas, California, Tokyo, and Disneyland. I've silk-screened t-shirts and paper, cut- and printed four or five different wood- or lino-blocks (I'm not even sure how many) and several mixed-media projects as well. I taught myself Photoshop, and have completed gobs of different original projects for several different clients. And that's to say nothing of all the drawing and calligraphy and carpentry and photography and sewing etc... it's hard to remember all at once. Wow, I rock!

True to form though, I've neglected a part of myself. and the yard, hello? Partially by not writing here, and partially by using work as an excuse to sequester myself away. I don't mind being alone, sometimes I like it, but too much is just bad for me in the long run. Self-expression is healthy.

Tuesday, January 05, 2010


Two very interesting takes on crisis: look on the bright side VS this is not OK. Really, these are great reads. One author details the year after she got laid off and decided to buck the system. The other talks about how positive thinking may have affected the progress of 'her' cancer. Fascinating contrasts.

* * *

Who's in charge here? I mean in America. President Obama invites the heads of the country's six biggest banks to a lunch ...and they blow him off- More Important Things To Do and all that.

Now consider that American-employed mercenaries are apparently immune to prosecution.

Do a little math. Mercenaries work for security companies. Banks like security. They employ huge numbers of security agents. That's right: mercenaries. Now, who's in charge here?

Security should be left to the commons, the people's government.

* * *

Yeah, yeah: I'm a nut. You just go on thinking that.

* * *

This is something I've been trying to say for a long time. Paul Krugman writes about the latest media frenzy: the deficit. He makes some very insightful points, but if you don't read between the lines, you're missing the force of his argument. Ask yourself: who determines what's news? Someone is calling those shots- 'will we report on Republican obstructionism in the Senate, or will we instead call attention to ...something we conveniently ignored under a different administration?' It makes a big difference.

Democracy will not survive an uninformed electorate.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

industrial disease?

This is why using robots on the battlefield is not as good an idea as it might seem.
I think that story pretty much speaks for itself.

* * *

Innocent until proven guilty. Say it with me: 'I am presumed innocent until proven guilty.' That is, unless you're accused of being too smart. Er, I mean, knowing something you're not supposed to know. Erm, I mean, "having information about a potential terror threat."

I have such trouble with torture, because it seems like punishment before the crime. Hell, it's more than that: it's trial, conviction, and punishment, even before any actual crime was committed. Thoughtcrime is still in the future.

Having information...Potential (not actual) ...Threat (not action). Seriously? We're still prosecuting people for this?

Let's say it again: Innocent until proven guilty. You'd want that for yourself, wouldn't you?


We're approaching a tipping point. I think we're approaching a point at which a significant number of Americans will realize -personally and viscerally-- that they (we) just can't go on living in economic conditions like this. Imagine: you and your partner own a house and two cars. You lose your job, and can't find a new one because unemployment is over 10%. You can still make ends meet, thanks to unemployment benefits, but eventually they run out. You still don't have a job, so making ends meet is a bit harder, though not yet impossible. Then, one of your cars breaks down. Clearly, you can't afford to fix it, and this puts serious limits on your ability to not only find work, but take care of daily business like grocery shopping and the various other errands we get in to. Never mind entertainment, or buying new clothes: that will have to wait til you can somehow get a new job. That is, if you can still get a new job in those old clothes.

Fast-forward a month or two. You're not starving yet, but you're hungry: you haven't had a good meal since the car broke down. You're paying more for gas because you're having to drive the spouse to work and pick them up, so you can use the car during the day to look for work, etc. And now the extra wear-and-tear on the second car begins to show. You're both stressed because you can't pay all of your bills at once, every month. Creditors are calling. Your mortgage payment is late. The bank is upset. The tension mounts.

Our society is this situation, writ large. Right now, it's like a pot of water waiting to boil. The water is getting hot- individuals have been reacting to this socio-economic 'heat' for years (in the form of post-office shootings, road rage, Columbine, Waco, 911, Ted Kaszinski, John Allen Muhammad, the Anthrax incidents, ), but at this point, most of us -individually- are OK. But the water is getting hotter all the time, and at some point a tipping point will be reached: the pot will boil. What happens when we start to realize -collectively- that it's not all OK? I wish I knew.

The election of President Obama seems to have been the equivalent of dropping an ice cube into the pot: it cooled part of society down considerably, allowing them to believe that the pot might actually be cooling again. But like adding cold water to a near-boiling pot, it also served to exacerbate the situation just a little. Now, many of those who looked to Obama to lead us out of the wilderness, are doubly angry because they feel duped.

What's a guy to do, when he thinks he's out of options? Apparently, make a mess on his way out.

In possibly unrelated news: this very morning, as I was walking through a nearby park, I saw a man dressed in a leopard-spotted teddy, playing disc golf. I kid you not. I was returning from the bank. It was just around dawn, very foggy. It was 30 degrees. And he was in a teddy. Full-figured guy, too. Not surprisingly, he tried to hide from me. Don't worry man, I wanted to say, I understand: We all deal with pressure differently.

I was just happy he wasn't using explosives or a gun.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

goin crazy over here!

I'm goin crazy over here! So much to do. It's times like these that really make me feel like I have Multiple Personality Disorder, and that my personalities don't share information very well: I am working my way through several different 'To-Do' lists, each with different tasks, but all on the same deadlines. And here's the rub: when I'm thinking about something on one of these lists, I can't even think about -or remember- what's on the others. Ugh! Ack!

I'm goin crazy over here! Everybody's talking about Afghanistan, and the consensus seems to be that we invaded Afghanistan "to capture Osama Bin Laden." This could not be further from the truth.

Our invasion of Afghanistan was announced in June of 2001. Read that again: June. Not October. Three months before 911, not a month after. Tempting as it might be, I won't here try to pretend to know why we invaded Afghanistan, and why we continue to bomb the poop out of them, but the fact remains: we were staging our invasion three months before 911. It is sufficiently safe to say that our invasion of Afghanistan was not a reaction to the events of 911. Stop it already. Just- stop.

Originally, I wrote this:
Our invasion of Afghanistan had nothing to do with Bin Laden, our argument was with the Taliban. Our argument, in fact, was that we wanted one of 'our' oil companies to put a pipeline through their country, and they were becoming reluctant. We said, essentially, "This will make you rich! Let us do it, or we'll do it by force. We'll give you a carpet of gold, or a carpet of bombs." Being the fundamentalists that they are, they chose their fundamentals over our money. We said, "your religious beliefs are more important than money?!?! That's unacceptable!" And we bombed them to pieces. Because, of course, our religious beliefs are not more important than money.
but then, while I was vetting the 'carpet' quote, I found good evidence that no one actually ever said that. And further, basically, that our relations with Afghanistan and the Taliban are very very murky (meaning, we're doing things there that we don't even want to admit to ourselves), and have been for a while. While we do seem to be very interested in Central Asian fossil fuel resources, I keep thinking about all the other world powers who have tried to capture and hold Afghanistan.

Was Alexander the Great interested in natural gas? Were the British (in the age of cheap, abundant whale oil)? If Afghanistan is just the cheapest way for us to put a pipeline through the region without having to go through Russia, then why would the Soviets have been so interested? There's something I'm missing, here. (yes, the spoils -or in more contemporary terms, the profits).

But anyway- we were already invading Afghanistan when the two towers came down on 911. It takes months to stage an invasion. I just think it's important that we remember the correct order of events. It's important. It's important because it shows the 'war on terror' to be the lie that it always was: it was not a response to anything but the defense industry clamoring for more money. Of course Tony Blair was lying. I just hope Dick and George get brought up in trial, too. And Condi, and Alberto, and John, and Don, and Paul, and...

Oh yes, the truth will out. The truth will out.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

You wouldn't believe me if I told you

I have a new motto: "You wouldn't believe me if I told you."

This is the last week before production week of Our Town. I'm working on the program: editing photos, setting 'type,' writing ...stuff. And waiting til the cash flow turns around so I can get some work done again. I'm on the 'volunteer plan' on this planet, apparently: I get to work as much as I want! I just don't get paid for it. Or maybe I should call it the Soviet plan, coz so many Soviets worked without paychecks so frequently, and for so long. Yeah, I hear you: you don't believe me. Ok. I know already.

So while you're disbelieving, enjoy a little story:

On this day in 1943, the Philadelphia experiment may or may not have happened. Seems the U.S.S. Eldridge was fitted with equipment that was believed to confer invisibility. Reports from the Naval Yard in Philadelphia suggest that the hypothesis was found to be generally correct, but with unexpected consequences: some sailors did not reappear, some others reappeared partially embedded in the ship. All reported severe nausea and later, psychological disturbance. At the same time as the disappearance from Philadelphia, the Eldridge was seen for a few minutes offshore of the Naval Yards at Norfolk, VA, over 600km away. More here and here ...if you're inclined to believe things you read on the internet, anyway.

Friday, October 23, 2009

What a difference etsy makes

OK, geez. After an embarrassingly long time of trying to have a website of my own, not-doing-so-well, trying again, still not doing so well, trying yet again but this time a different approach, and still not doing so well... I think I have found It. The Way. The Way that I can A) maintain an online shop, B) keep new goods coming, and C) have a life, all at the same time, and without having to 1) learn HTML and keep up on all of its constant revisions and updates and new doohickeys, 2) rent and keep a domain name, 3) rent web-hosting, 4) rent and maintain a checkout/payment system, or 5) develop a brand and independent marketing strategy (!). The answer? Although I guess I still have to do #5.

Many thanks to my friend Steph for pushing me in that direction for so long, and thanks also to my old buddy Tracy for the final push. Here I am: ...check it out!

So let's get up to speed. I like to work in a variety of media- I'm an artist, after all, not some single-minded specialist. Some Muse or other will tug at my ear or knock on my head with an idea, and pretty soon something is taking shape, it just can't be helped. Just two weeks ago, an old (old!) 1x12 that had been half-buried in the yard when we bought this place, told me it was actually a shaker-style bench (no screws, nails, or glue) waiting to happen. It just needed a little help, it said, so I grabbed my saws and chisels, and now it's serving as a prop on stage for Skyview High School's production of Our Town. It'll be back on our front porch again after that. I must say, I'm a real novice at woodworking, but my first mortise-and-tenon joints work just fine. Aya.

Right now, I'm doing a lot of sketching and drawing- card designs, t-shirt designs, set design ideas (for Bye Bye, Birdie), and ruminating on a couple of design problems, one in terms of shoemaking, the other in terms of block printing: how can I evoke [this particular texture]. Among other things. I juggle design problems while I drive, ride my bike, hike, garden, clean, wait in line at the grocery store, ...whatever, and the pieces eventually fall into place. Oh sure, sometimes I have to apply a little force, or spend some time concentrating on a particular problem, but usually, I'm juggling. Not everything I try, works, but that's why I juggle.

Today is the 25th of October, St Crispin's Day (patron saint of shoemakers). Thanks for reading.

On this day in 1415, sorely outnumbered English troops defeated the French at Agincourt.
In 1825, Johann Strauss ("Blue Danube Waltz," etc) was born.
In 1838, Georges Bizet (Carmen, etc) was born.
In 1881, Pablo Picasso was born.
In 1917, Vladimir Lenin and Leon Trotsky seized power in Moscow, from the provisional government of Alexander Kerensky, who had assumed power in July, indirectly following the abdication of Nicholas II in March. Yes, it was a mess. Nicholas had turned power over to his brother Michael, but all hope was already lost for the Romanovs, even by the earlier 1905 uprising. Michael hoped to hold an election, with “universal suffrage,” in which of course he would be elected leader of Russia, of course, but the dice had been rolled long ago. Historians differ as to whether Michael was ever actually Tsar. If he was, it would have been for only a day.
In 1972, Eddie Merckx rides 30 miles in an hour on his bike.
In 2002, Senator Paul Wellstone (D) was killed in a light-aircraft accident under mysterious circumstances in the midst of a hotly contested election.

And of course, in 2005, then-Vice President Dick Cheney was revealed to have been the leak of Top Secret information regarding the identity of a deep-cover CIA operative.

Thursday, August 06, 2009

How American

Let's talk about cell phones.

I'll start: I hate them. They are bad for us, and I'm not talking about ear cancer.

They make us increasingly insensitive to the needs of those around us, as you can see here in a particularly egregious and disgusting example. She is not only oblivious to her child, she is oblivious to everyone else in the store: no one else matters. Other examples are everywhere, and hardly newsworthy anymore- people text while driving (!!!), talk on the phone in movies, libraries, and restaurants, as well as intentionally social situations like at the mall or in line at the grocery store, where we could more easily be connecting with the other humans around us. We are social animals: we need multi-dimensional (verbal and visual at the same time, maybe even to include tactile) social contact in order to maintain our internal balance. Hermits and recluses have never been known for their likability. Cell phones are -at best- one dimensional social contact.

This flat one-dimensionality contributes to, and encourages, our feelings of alienation and rejection, while feeding our own egos with the notion that 'I am the center of the universe!' Those feelings are what led this guy to do what he did, and I assure you, he wasn't alone in feeling that way. Those feelings are also squarely to blame for most high school massacres, "post-office" shoot-ups (though they're not in post offices so much anymore), and road rage. When you don't think of the people around you as 'real' people, they're that much easier to dispense with. Life becomes a video game. Shoot 'em up.

Frankly, I think that heightened insensitivity has also led us to this:

5 facts about the anti-reform mobs

1. These disruptions are being funded and organized by out-of-district special-interest groups and insurance companies who fear that health insurance reform could help Americans, but hurt their bottom line. A group run by the same folks who made the "Swiftboat" ads against John Kerry is compiling a list of congressional events in August to disrupt. An insurance company coalition has stationed employees in 30 states to track where local lawmakers hold town-hall meetings.

2. People are scared because they are being fed frightening lies. These crowds are being riled up by anti-reform lies being spread by industry front groups that invent smears to tarnish the President's plan and scare voters. But as the President has repeatedly said, health insurance reform will create more health care choices for the American people, not reduce them. If you like your insurance or your doctor, you can keep them, and there is no "government takeover" in any part of any plan supported by the President or Congress.

3. Their actions are getting more extreme.Texas protesters brought signs displaying a tombstone for Rep. Lloyd Doggett and using the "SS" symbol to compare President Obama's policies to Nazism. Maryland Rep. Frank Kratovil was hanged in effigy outside his district office.Rep. Tim Bishop of New York had to be escorted to his car by police after an angry few disrupted his town hall meeting -- and more examples like this come in every day. And they have gone beyond just trying to derail the President's health insurance reform plans, they are trying to "break" the President himself and ruin his Presidency.

4. Their goal is to disrupt and shut down legitimate conversation. Protesters have routinely shouted down representatives trying to engage in constructive dialogue with voters, and done everything they can to intimidate and silence regular people who just want more information. One attack group has even published a manual instructing protesters to "stand up and shout" and try to "rattle" lawmakers to prevent them from talking peacefully with their constituents.

5. Republican leadership is irresponsibly cheering on the thuggish crowds. Republican House Minority Leader John Boehner issued a statement applauding and promoting a video of the disruptions and looking forward to "a long, hot August for Democrats in Congress."

Cell phones aside, I see two realistic ways to interpret these events:
1) Lobbyists for the insurance industry and Big Pharma have ginned up the propaganda machine in order to instill fear and agitate low-information voters and conservative conspiracy theorists (you know the ones- John Birch society members, Glenn Beck/Michael Savage/Sean Hannity/FOX 'news' fans, people who see "black" helicopters and attribute them to an armed UN presence, etc), or

2) the people involved are really scared- of African Americans, of low-cost easy access to health care, of losing Whitey's place at the top of the socio-economic ladder.

It may be a little of both.

It seems that our opponents -the Old Guard-- now know that their time has come; that they're now outnumbered; that they're boxed in to a corner. Force your opponent into a corner, and he will come out fighting, and that's what we're seeing. It is a last-ditch effort, and as such will almost certainly fail. But, then again, it's their last gasp, so they're going to try their hardest to make us feel it. American politics are about to get uglier than they have ever been. And I mean ever. I'm not looking forward to it. Violence will ensue; 'conservative' talking heads are already advocating for it in their broadcasts.

This is not a revolution. This is not grassroots organizing. This is top-down, centrally-planned (Soviet-style) demonstration. The exact opposite of grassroots. The exact opposite of Democracy.

They are the organized ones, but their side is a weak coalition of unethical moneyed interests, and moralistic evangelicals and church-goers. We simply need to pit the inherent religious/moral objections to wealth and greed, against the wealthy, greedy insurance industry.

Almost no one disputes that the American health-care delivery system is broken. Almost no one disputes that it is not the hospitals, or doctors, or nurses that are broken- no, we all agree that the problem is insurance: affordability, coverage, dependability, timeliness, and yes, bureaucrats putting profit margins before quality of life.

So why are we talking about 'fixing health care' and not 'fixing insurance'? Because the same people who own the news sources, also own the insurance companies. In other words, insurance reform is about as likely as media reform: ain't gonna happen.

Our only recourse against the insurance industry appears to be, to ignore it. Starve the beast. But, can you afford to drop your coverage and depend on the charity of hospitals? I don't know about you, but I can't afford not to: I simply can't pay what they're asking.

Are you aware that we've been trying to get public health care in the U.S. for a hundred years? A hundred f*cking years! Teddy Roosevelt first proposed this. A Republican! What is so wrong with trying to make sure that your neighbor, or your grandma's neighbor, can go to the doctor to see about that nasty cough (which might actually be communicable tuberculosis)?

Why are we being so resolutely, selfishly cruel to each other? Someone is going to come between you and your doctor- would you prefer a greedy insurance rep, eager for that christmas bonus based on how many claims he turns down, or a salaried civil servant who won't profit from your pain? Your choice.

Finally, how "American" is it, to try to make the country fail? Is that really patriotic? Is that really what you want, Republicans? Really?? Just because you didn't win an election?

Monday, August 03, 2009

If one of us is sick, none of us are well.

Kansas, you are embarrassing your country. Seriously: do you care so little for your neighbors? Stop being heartless. This is inhumane.

Did Jesus sell insurance during his 'lost years,' or something? I must be missing something. I just can't understand why any Christian would support the current 'pay or die' system. Didn't He say 'care for the least among you as you care for me' or something like that?

In an age in which a single disease-carrying agent can potentially infect a new person on every continent in a day (diseases including Bird Flu (H1N1), communicable TB, Ebola, West Nile, etc, ad nauseum, no pun intended), if one of us is sick, none of us are well.

Get the facts about the issue already. Inform yourself. And call your congresspeople, Senators included. Now is the time.

If we hadn't implemented the Marshall Plan after WWII, we would never have experienced the phenomenal growth spurt of the 1950s and '60s. We prospered, because our neighbors prospered with our help. Think of affordable health care as a Marshall Plan for America. Without it, we -collectively, as a nation-- will suffer a slow death from a billion cuts.
Mark my words. Unless we all have guaranteed basic health care, I give us twenty years, at best, before the slow death begins.

And in the meantime, we'll have a war in our hemisphere to worry about. With no health care for civilians caught in the crossfire.

Just for fun, imagine a nation of Kansas, in which only the employed or wealthy could receive health care. Small businesses not large enough to afford health care plans for their owners' families would simply have to shut their doors. No entrepreneurship would be possible; no new businesses could be started by individuals, unless they were wealthy to begin with. Citizens not fortunate enough to get a good job would simply be out of luck, when their health went sour. In all my years in Kansas, only one employer ever offered me health care coverage.

First, I suspect we'd see life expectancy drop a decade or so, on the average. Infant mortality would almost certainly rise as well. But things would really get ugly in an epidemic. Those homeless people on the corner? They'd be disease vectors, on every major corner, as would every job-seeker, at every lively business. How long before children are exposed? And retirees, and other elderly people?

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Pardon my French, but

Don't give me this "health care rationing" bullshit. That's right: it's bullshit.

Health care is already rationed in the United States. We call it "billing." It works like this: If you can't afford to pay for the care, you don't get your ration.

It's rationing by virtue of wealth, as opposed to rationing by virtue of need. In other words, the system says "if you can pay for it, then you deserve it. If you can't pay; suffer."

Is that humane? Is that Christian? Is that American? Is that what Jesus would do??

And then there's this. It's not really news, but do you really come here for news?
Unidentified flying objects photographed from the Apollo capsule in orbit and from the surface of the Moon.
and this:
140 years of UFOs in photographs. Thought-provoking stuff!

Monday, July 13, 2009

Manipulation Monday

Watch this. Note how the "scientist" insists that, while he can't identify the object, it is not a "UFO," or in other words, NOT an UNIDENTIFIED flying object.

Wow. The stupidity of that statement just blows me away: do you have no capacity for reflection, sir?

Also interesting is how the Vacant Smiles demean the witnesses ...until they mention that a cop saw it too.

Don't you just love how you're being manipulated?

Thursday, July 09, 2009

It's in his kiss (that's where it is!)

Today is the Fourteenth of July. True story: on this day in 1990 the small uninhabited island of Eynhallow off Rousay in the Orkneys played host to 88 tourists. According to the ferry crew, only 86 returned. A thorough search by police, coastguards and helicopter failed to find the missing people. The island was long regarded as a spooky 'vanishing isle', a sort of marine Brigadoon. Alternatively, superstitious locals speculated the couple were actually mermen or mermaids, returning to their ancestral home; it was easy to mistake the Fin Folk for ordinary humans.

Happy Bastille Day, France!

Some recent UFO activity has really caught my attention: Watch this video. It gets pretty eye-popping at about 4:30 or so. I went from mildly-interested to riveted in the blink of an eye. Pretty damn weird.

Link Scroll down just a little, to read the report from the Indiana witness. Multiple, unrelated witnesses report a close encounter.

And this short video from the archives is pretty interesting, too.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

No one is above the law

I'm sensing a really fundamental problem here, in the way President Obama is handling the Bush administration's admission of having tortured prisoners.

"Looking forward" is not justice.

Are we to just "look forward" every time a crime is committed? If not, why not? Is this some new kind of "American exceptionalism"?

Crimes were committed. War crimes. Crimes against humanity. Crimes for which others before had been hanged to death (by us! not even 50 years ago) because of their severity.

A clear admission has been issued: "We did it," it said. Torture was committed by American personnel under orders from Americans. In legal circles, this is called a Confession.

And now... we're looking forward?? Looking forward to what? A world in which the likes of Karl Rove and Harriet Miers can simply ignore Congressional subpoenas; a world in which crimes against humanity -if committed by the right people, apparently-- can be just overlooked?

Is this the world you want your children to inherit?

Write or call your congressperson, Senators, and the President, now please: Torture is illegal and unAmerican, and no one is above the law.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Serfs up!

Because things haven't been quite weird enough lately...
One weirdness!
Two weirdnesses! Ah, hahaha!
Three weirdnesses! Ahahahahaha!
And more to come tomorrow, too. Hang on to your hat.

Now the news.
Oh, wait- that's not news, that's Dick Cheney, the EX-vice president. And he's not dead! In other words, he's not news. Also not news: Tom DeLay, Lynn Cheney, and Newt Gingrich. Gingrich hasn't been news in ten years; DeLay in five, and Lynn Cheney has never been newsworthy! Why are they still on TV?

I'll tell you: because their buddies run the networks.

And those buddies decide what you see, and therefore what you end up believing to be newsworthy and entertainment-worthy. And not only that- they decide how you should spend your money (on their subsidiaries of course, which advertise profusely on their networks, of course, so all the money spent on advertising is actually recirculated through the networks' vast system of accounts until it makes its way to the top and gets spent overseas or on stock options. None for you!).

We're headed for a cultural landscape that would look more familiar to Catherine the Great than Catherine Zeta Jones: severe, extreme disparities of wealth, crowned by an upper-class with all the power. None for you!

These may be the darkest hours America has ever faced, and there may be no democratic dawn to follow. If we lose independent newspapers, and thus independent reporting, we will have lost all hope of reform in government, short of armed revolt. And since we all know that the USGovt's firing power is significantly greater than that of any individual, or any other group for that matter, things are looking a little bleak.

Yes, newspapers are so old-fashioned. Embarrassing to even be seen reading one, I know.

But get this: Democracy is engagement. Democracy is simply The People Being Their Own Government: the people being engaged with each other, and with the issues.

What we have, on the other hand, is Mediacracy (say "mee-dee-AH-cruh-see"). Media outlets shape and inform our opinions by running certain stories, and ignoring certain others. What's that you say? You don't have strong feelings about the unrest in Urumqi? That would be because your news producers and editors don't want you to think that 150 or so people killed in riots is newsworthy. They would rather you think about something else. Like, their products! Or yourself. Or better still: how their products! might enhance your life. Just- don't think about rioting. Or organizing, for that matter. Just spend your way to happiness. It's at the bottom of your bank account- just keep looking, spend that money out of the way and you'll see it!

We have become everything we've ever despised. As in Mussolini's Italy, industry rules the roost. Just like King George's Britain, we colonize and pillage. And now we're headed the way of Stalin's USSR, in which all the 'news' came directly from the State.

'Coz we're not calling the shots anymore. Notice how responsive the Senate has been, to recent polls indicating >70% support of a public health care option in the reform bill? Oh, you didn't notice? Ahh, that would be for two reasons: 1) primarily because the Senate is beholden to Big Pharma and the industrial Medical-Insurance-complex, and 2) because the Media doesn't want you to know. They don't want you to know, because their insurance-exec buddies reap huge profits, and then spend lavishly on advertising to support friendly senators' campaigns (to ensure that their companies can still reap those huge profits).

That's right: over 70% of Americans polled believe that some sort of public option should be included in any health care reform bill. And yet, we have nothing, because public health care would be bad for the economy. No wait, I mean it would be bad for The Industry. Erm, wait- I mean, it would be bad for Management. Oh, no, hang on-- I meant, it would be bad for The Wealthy.

And we can't have that. Oh no.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Saint Bernard's Day

Expanding Consciousness... is this consciousness? In a sense, I'd have to say: yeah. Looks like a bad day to be a vegetarian -for moral reasons, anyway.

News from the Southern Front: the Global War on the Poor (no, 'class warfare isn't just a domestic thing anymore).

Saint Bernard? Yeah, you're going to think I'm crazy for saying this, but listen: Bernard Madoff is being martyred, as a sort of metonym or symbol of our collective greed. He will be forever sainted as a result, and this is part of the plan. Yes, The Establishment -specifically, the future existence of The Establishment As We Know It-- requires and demands a sacrifice, in order that the greater whole may continue. If Madoff was not sacrificed, the whole system -The Establishment- would have to take the blame instead. And of course, as anyone in charge will be happy to tell you, we simply can't have that.

It seems that all complex systems evolve to protect themselves.

Friday the 13th begins the martyrdom of St. Bernard. Is this supposed to be funny? Is this irony?

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Why? Why now?

You've probably heard by now that some guys locked up in Gitmo have claimed credit for 9/11. From the very instant I heard the 'news,' I smelled a rat. "Why now?" I wondered at first, and that remained the most solid question I could muster for a while, because my head was just spinning with all the unlikelihoods and impossibilities of the situation: unlikely, because we've been giving credit to so many others for The Deed -and persecuting them for the past seven years with a fervor unmatched since the Inquisition; unlikely because they've been in custody for years already and had apparently said nothing of the sort, before; impossible because they're in Gitmo, so they wouldn't have been allowed to confer with each other; impossible because they were not allowed to communicate with the press.

Larisa Alexandrovna offers a very well-informed analysis, far better than mine. As she writes, the real question here is not of their guilt or innocence, but: why are we being fed this story?

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

I want to know

Today is the Third of March. On this day in 1972, police officer Ray Schoke was on his way to Loveland, Ohio, when he spotted a three-foot-tall upright creature with leathery skin like a lizard and the face of a frog near the Little Miami River. It was later spotted by fellow officer Mark Matthews and a local farmer. Both officers have since changed their names because of the ridicule, and Matthews moved to Florida. Then in July 1985 two boys saw a 'frog' in the river. 'I thought it was a boulder at first', said an 11-year-old who didn't wish to be identified. He described it as being about the size of a big dog. Ohio is weird.

I'm not about to say that frog critter was an alien, but Phil said something about 'all the UFOs and abductions in the news' the other day, and it made me think. The way he asked the question implied a direct connection between the two phenomena (naturally, you might think). But no such connection appears to exist, outside of the popular media.

Reliable statistics are hard to come by in the field of UFO- and abduction research. This is for a lot of reasons of course, not least of which is the number of what I affectionately call kooks collecting the data, but another very significant reason is that so few of the reports agree in enough details to be reliably linked or grouped together. In the same way that we can't compare apples and oranges in order to speculate about the Nature of Fruit, we just don't have enough case reports which are similar enough, in enough ways, to make comparison study -well, fruitful. That being said, the abduction reports I've read only occasionally include descriptions of the insides of rooms (which may or may not be aboard a 'spaceship' or 'UFO'), and even more rarely were either preceded or followed by a sighting of a Unidentified Flying Object.

In other words, people see UFOs, and people report being abducted by non-human-appearing creatures, but few if any report both as part of the same event.

It's a subtle distinction, I'll admit, but I think it's very significant. For one thing, it suggests that the two phenomena may not be related after all. We see things in the air that we can't identify (UFOs), and we see what we call 'aliens' (in many different forms, but incidentally never -not once in the literature- 'little green men'), but we only see them together perhaps 1% of the time. Linking them inextricably is akin to defending spontaneous generation.

It seems that we link them together in our heads, only because we heard it that way from someone else. I've gone looking for that person, some original source, for years now with no good answers. "Little green men" seems to have appeared out of nowhere in the late 19th/early 20th centuries, in a farcical newspaper story. UFOs have been reported since we started writing. Abductions seem to have started in the 1960s (unless you count the apocryphal reports of villagers disappearing under 'fairie mounds,' which go back almost as long as UFO reports).

The more I read, the more questions I have. Something is happening, whether it's happening in conventional (shared) reality or not. People are seeing UFOs: hoax-detecting technology is improving, the reports are remaining unexplained, and the frequency of multiple unrelated witnesses of single events is increasing. At the same time, other people seem to be honestly debilitated by encounters with intelligent non-human entities in a startling variety of forms, so varied as to suggest that we are under surveillance by at least a dozen different cultures and/or species, but sometimes similar enough to suggest that those reporting the encounters simply focused on different aspects of the creatures, or were confused by their surroundings.

I'm not ready to offer any theories or hypotheses, yet. For the record, I'm more interested in UFO reports than abduction studies, but if you feel you've been abducted and you'd like to talk about it, I'd love to hear about it and I'm a good listener. I won't pass judgment; I won't try to tell you it didn't happen, or didn't happen the way you say it did. I'm really, genuinely curious.

Even if it's not happening in our conventional, shared reality, then something interesting is happening in those abductees' and witnesses' heads. I want to know.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Happy Quirinalia!

Today is the Seventeenth of February. Happy Quirinalia! In ancient Rome, a celebration of Quirinus, the deified form of Romulus, one of the founders of Rome. The name derives from co-viri, meaning “men together.” We don't know how they celebrated it, no records survive, but hey, they were Romans; use your imagination. Go ahead, get carried away. They did.

In 1598, Boris Godunov was chosen to be Tsar, following the death of Ivan Grozny’s invalid son Fyodor. He would ascend to the position a few days hence. Is that a verb tense problem?

In 1600, Giordano Bruno was burned at the stake for having the gall to suggest, among other things, that God might have also created life on other planets.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Rings and roses

In 1923, Howard Carter unsealed the burial chamber of Tutankhamun.

In 1943, students belonging to the White Rose Society posted a sign in Munich reading “Out with Hitler! Long Live Freedom!” (They were caught two days later in the midst of another subversive act, and beheaded on the 22nd).

So... I was digging around this morning, looking up some Pope Gregory or other, because I had it in my notes that today was the anniversary of his commandment that his people say "God bless you," after a sneeze, to protect themselves and each other from the oncoming Black Plague.

Not so. We've apparently been blessing each other after sneezing, for longer than that.

But I found something more interesting as I read along. Apparently, everyone's favorite Plague-inspired nursery-rhyme, "Ring Around The Rosey," is not so, either. The Wikipedia entry I've linked to there is fascinating. Amaze your friends! Bore your co-workers!

In the news:
International law was undermined? Hell, if you ask me, the very Rule Of Law was raped, beaten, and left for dead like a -well, like nothing I can say politely. Many authorities believe that crimes were committed on a global scale by governments and private operators alike. It's time for investigation and prosecution.

In fact, we know crimes were committed, because they broadcast them on the news, bragged about them in press conferences, blabbed about them in OpEd columns and from the podiums in our halls of Congress.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

The wheel turns

Last day of Lupercalia (ancient Rome).

In 1564, Galileo Galilei was born.

In 1571, Michael Praetorius was born.

In 1764, the city of St. Louis was established as a trading post where Pierre LaClede and his stepson Auguste Chouteau had notched a couple of trees to mark their landing on the bank of the Mississippi.

In 1898, the U.S.S. Maine was blown up in Havana Harbor, now widely believed to have been a false-flag operation intended to start a war with Spain.

In 1905, composer/songwriter Harold Arlen was born (“Paper Moon,” “Somewhere Over the Rainbow,” “Stormy Weather,” among some 400 others).

In 1954, Matt Groening was born.

In 2002, over 300 corpses were found in buildings and woods on the property of Tri-State Crematory, in Georgia. Only four years later, Tri-State was implicated in the mis-handling of bodies recovered from Hurricane Katrina by Service Corporation International. The lawsuit accused SCI-owned funeral homes of sending bodies to the unlicensed, unregulated crematorium. Ahh, gotta love that unregulated capitalism, eh?

Friday, February 13, 2009

Happy Sts Cyril and Methodius day!

Today is the Fourteenth of February. Why do we spell 14 "fourteen," but 40 "forty"? It's not a joke, it's a legitimate question. Anyone want to offer an answer?

The number 4o is different from the number 4 in Russian, too, but even more so than in English: for 4, they say "ch-tir'-ee," while for 40 the word is simply "sor'-ok." No apparent semantic relationship: no roots in common, not even any letters in common. I don't speak any other languages- if you speak any aside from English, I'm interested in how they deal with 4 and 40. Ask your friends! Is this just a European thing? Is it just a Romance thing, which happened to somehow also get reflected in a Slavic language? I'm genuinely curious! Also, if you speak Russian and happen to have some insight into the 4/40 thing, I'd love to hear about it.

Support Senator Leahey's Bush Truth Commission! We need to at least air that dirty laundry.

I Hate Banks news: Microbusiness on the rise! This in particular is very exciting news for anyone who's ever disliked banks. Go, Zopa!

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Bang the drum

Today is the Eleventh of February. On this day in 1355, the St. Scholastica’s Day Riot continued in Oxford, England, after a dispute between students and locals over a beer escalated into armed conflict. The riot raged for two days in all, leaving 63 scholars and as many as 30 locals dead. The dispute was settled in favour of the university with a special charter, according to which, on February 10, the town mayor and councillors had to march bareheaded through the streets and pay to the university a fine of one penny for every scholar killed. The penance ended in 1825 when the mayor refused to take part.

In 1858, Bernadette Soubirous saw the figure of a woman in white, whom she later identified as the virgin Mary, near Lourdes, France. The two girls who were with her, saw nothing.

Bang the drum-make some noise! It's good for you! ...I wonder if it matters if the rhythm isn't musical? I mean, does it count if you're just drumming your fingers on the steering wheel? Would it help as much if you were using a wooden spoon on a frying pan? How about a metal spoon on a cymbal? Don't laugh- this is someone's doctoral thesis waiting to happen! Alas, I'm only curious enough to generate the questions; nowhere near motivated enough to go through with the research. Music therapy isn't exactly my field.

Instead, I'm thinking about picking up my work on -yes, you guessed it-- Moche nose ornaments again. Actually, new findings re: the Nazca have given my old theory new life. Remember, Ted: don't get it right; get it written.

Monday, February 09, 2009

Feast of St. Carmen

Today is the Ninth of February. On this day in 1825, John Quincy Adams was elected President, in the first election to be decided by the U.S. House of Representatives.

In 1895, Wm. G. Morgan invented a game called Mintonette, for those who thought basketball would be too strenuous. This game involved hitting the basketball over a rope; it would later be known as Volleyball.

In 1909, Carmen Miranda was born.

In 1913, a group of three or four luminous bodies with tails moved across the sky with a 'peculiar majestic deliberation', according to the Journal of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada. Another one followed, and another. There were 30 or 32 in all, according to one observer, in strict formation. Some compared them to a fleet of battleships in the air. They were seen in Canada, USA, Bermuda and from the sea. There was another procession over Toronto the next day, only this time there were seven or eight dark non-luminous bodies, which moved across the sky and back.

Friday, February 06, 2009


Waitangi Day (New Zealand- marking the 1840 signing of a Maori-Britain treaty).

In 1564, Christopher Marlowe was (probably) born.

In 1895, George Herman “Babe” Ruth was born.

In 1945, Bob Marley was born.

In 1989, thousands of tiny dead sardines came down in a heavy rainstorm about lunchtime in Rosewood, near Ipswich in Queensland. 'It was quite frightening. We didn't know what was happening. All I heard was a noise I though was hail,' said Debra Degen. When her husband Harold called her to go out onto the veranda, she saw the fishy carpet stretching for 50 yards between the house and their mailbox. There were more coming down, some bouncing off Harold's head. They gathered a bowlful for their cat and to keep as a souvenir; the rest were 'gobbled by kookaburras.'

Sage advice from Paul Krugman.

The world of tomorrow