Friday, October 12, 2018

Guess Who's Coming to Be Shot?

Trying to pick up his dry cleaning, the 16-year-old black teenager was stranded in a white Miami neighborhood when the buses stopped running.
He was hoping to hitchhike when an unmarked police car pulled up. “See that alley over there, boy?” one of the cops said. “Get your ass up in there. Now.”
He obeyed, and the unmarked police car followed him in.
Alone in an alley with no witnesses, the young man saw a revolver protruding through the car window, pointed at his head. He heard the two police officers talking inside the car.
“What should we do with this boy?”
“Find out what he’s doing here.”
“Should we shoot him here?”
Frightened and furious, the boy explained how he’d ended up where he was. The cop behind the wheel asked him if he could walk all the way back home — the 50 blocks to “colored town” — without looking behind him. The boy said he could.
“Think about it now,” the cop said. “Cause if you look back, just once, we gonna shoot you. Think you can do that?”
He said he could. So the long trek began, with the young man glancing at the reflections in store windows to see that the unmarked car was, in fact, slowly following him all the way. For 50 long blocks. When he reached the corner where he lived with relatives, the police car pulled out and sped away.
“Fifty blocks is a long time to think about what’s happening to you, to stew in the insane injustice of it all,” the boy said later. “But it’s also a good long time to internalize messages such as discipline, independence, the value of character and toughness of mind.”
The year was 1943. The boy’s name was Sidney Poitier, and 21 years later he would win the Academy Award for best actor.

The Cognitive Dissonance of Propaganda

Rule of thumb: Whenever anyone on a comment thread begins their statement with "I'm a lifelong Democrat," they are, in fact, a corporate right-wing digital sock puppet.

Friday, October 5, 2018

Does Meditation Make You Immune?

Are people highly advanced in meditation serenely immune to anxiety, cravings, depression, fear and irritation? No — but they gain an edge on existence.
In their 1995 report on yogis in the advanced stages of meditative practice, The Stages of Mindfulness Meditation: A Validation Study, Jack Engler and Daniel P. Brown found: “What changes is not so much the nature of conflict, but awareness of and reactivity to it … (With practice) there is greater awareness of and openness to conflict, but paradoxically less reaction at the same time in an impulsive, identificatory and therefore painful way … (The practitioner) may note the intense desire until it passes, like every other transient mental state, or he/she may act on it, but with full awareness … Mindfulness is said to automatically intervene between impulse or thought and action in such cases. This mechanism of reality, combined with clear and impartial observation, allows a new freedom from drive and a new freedom for well-considered and appropriate action.”

Friday, September 21, 2018

Friday, September 14, 2018

In the Faculty Dining Room

In the Faculty Dining Room: “Christ, it is sad, sad to see on quite a few of these faces — young ones particularly — a glum, defeated look. Why do they feel this way about their lives? Sure, they are underpaid. Sure, they have no great prospects, in the commercial sense. Sure, they can’t enjoy the bliss of mingling with corporate executives. But isn’t it any consolation to be with students who are still three-quarters alive? Isn’t it some satisfaction to be of use, instead of helping to turn out useless consumer goods? Isn’t it something to know that you belong to one of the few professions in this country which isn’t hopelessly corrupt?
“For these glum ones, apparently not. They should like out, if they dared try. But they have prepared themselves for this job, and now they have got to go through with it. They have wasted the time in which they should have been learning to cheat and grab and lie. They have cut themselves off from the majority — the middlemen, the hucksters, the promoters —by laboriously acquiring all this dry, discredited knowledge — discredited, that is to say, by the middleman, because he can get along without it. All the middleman wants are its products, its practical applications. These professors are suckers, he says. What’s the use of knowing something if you don’t make money out of it? And the glum ones more than half agree with him and feel privately ashamed of not being smart and crooked.”
— Christopher Isherwood, A Single Man

Thursday, September 13, 2018

Looking Up to a Dog

Every day about dawn, a woman walks a large, black-and-white, boxer-type dog past our house into the park. It doesn’t seem to notice that it has no left hind leg.
The dog moves briskly, sniffing plants and hopping along ahead of its companion.
My ambition in life will always be to carry my burdens that lightly.

Thursday, September 6, 2018

VERE are your PAPERS!!!

So after working at Eastern Illinois University for a total of 17 years — and having ATTENDED and GRADUATED from EIU — I now have to fill out a form proving I’m an American citizen.
How utterly idiotic.
I took in my driver’s license, my birth certificate, my U.S. passport and the remarks I made that were read into the United States Congressional Record, hoping that would prove sufficient to mollify the American Gestapo.
And when I mentioned the word “Gestapo,” the clerk said, “Everybody has to do it.”
“That’s no excuse,” I replied.
“It’s a federal law.”
“That’s no excuse either.”
“We like to follow the laws.”
“That’s funny,” I replied. “I don’t notice the federal government following many laws, do you?”

Sunday, September 2, 2018

A meme made for me by my lifelong friend Jim Hampton. Thanks, Jim! The point is not to let our reactions to our failures to achieve emotional equanimity push us still further away from it.

The Tragic Truth About 21st Century Republicans

The sad truth is beyond their rhetoric, a lot of Americans have never been comfortable with real constitutional liberty. They find the winds of freedom frightening, not bracing. So they’d really prefer to suck some strongman dictator dick and just CALL it “liberty.”

Friday, August 31, 2018

The Sardonic Adventures of William Scott

Bunker Hill illustration by Lora Innes

In A People’s History of the United States, Howard Zinn wrote, “A wounded American lieutenant at Bunker Hill, interviewed by Peter Oliver, a Tory, … told how he had joined the rebel forces:

“I was a shoemaker and got my living by my labor. When this rebellion came on, I saw some of my neighbors got into commission who were no better than myself. I was very ambitious, and did not like to see those men above me. I was asked to enlist as a private soldier …  I offered to enlist upon having a lieutenant’s commission, which was granted. I imagined myself now in a way of promotion: if I was killed in battle, there would be an end of me, but if my captain was killed, I should rise in rank and should still have a chance to rise higher. These, sir, were the only motives of my entering into the service, for as to the dispute between Great Britain and the Colonies, I know nothing of it…”

“John Shy investigated the subsequent experience of that Bunker Hill lieutenant. He was William Scott, of Peterborough, New Hampshire, and after a year as prisoner of the British he escaped, made his way back to the American army, fought in battles in New York, was captured again by the British and escaped again by swimming the Hudson River one night with his sword tied around his neck and his watch pinned to his hat.
“He returned to New Hampshire, recruited a company of his own, including his two eldest sons, and fought in various battles until his health gave way. He watched his eldest son die of camp fever (epidemic typhus) after six years of service. He had sold his farm in Peterborough for a note that, with inflation, became worthless.
“After the war, he came to public attention when he rescued eight people from drowning after their boat turned over in New York harbor, He then got a job surveying western lands with the army, but caught a fever and died in 1796.”
When Scott’s adventures ended, he was 54.
“Scott was one of many Revolutionary fighters, usually of lower military ranks, from poor and obscure backgrounds,” Zinn noted. “Shy’s study of the Peterborough contingent shows that the prominent and substantial citizens of the town had served only briefly in the war. Other American towns show the same pattern. As Shy puts it: ‘Revolutionary America may have been a middle-class society, happier and more prosperous than any other in its time, but it contained a large and growing number of fairly poor people, an many of them did much of the actual fighting and suffering between 1775 and 1783: A very old story.”
Zinn noted ironically, “Here, in the war for liberty, was conscription, as usual, cognizant of wealth.”
“The military conflict itself, by dominating everything in its time, diminished other issues, made people choose sides in the one contest that was publicly important, forced people onto the side of the Revolution whose interest in Independence was not at all obvious. Ruling elites seem to have learned through the generations — consciously or not — that war makes them more secure against internal trouble.”

Thursday, August 30, 2018

An Indisputable Truth in Eleven Words

Power-obsessed people don't think they have to know anything. They think they can smash the world into the shape they want.

Friday, August 24, 2018

The Vectors of Virtue

Equanimity without apathy. Joyfulness without elation. Compassion without sentimentality. Love without attachment.
Aristotle said that a virtue stands between two vices, between deficiency and excess. So courage, for example, is the midpoint between cowardice and foolhardiness. Therefore a virtue is a personal quality held in the right degree, and created and maintained by habit.

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

The Lottery Losers

The back of the “1,000 Frenzy” lottery ticket noted that your odds of winning $20 are one in 7.5. But the ticket costs $20, so by spending a mere $160, you may well win 20 bucks.
However, the seven two-digit numbers on this particular “Frenzy” matched none of the 25 two-digit “winning” numbers. So the disgusted buyer tossed it down on the road in the park, where the dog and I found it today.
Odd how quickly, in America, things “Stuffed With $1,000 Prizes” become litter.
All of which suggests a new advertising slogan for the Illinois Lottery. Something along the lines of “You Hope and Pray; We Prey on Hope.”

Sunday, August 12, 2018

Trump Empowered American Nazis

Gee, you'd think picking a serially bankrupt con artist and lying "reality show" goon to run the country would turn out better, wouldn't you?

Saturday, August 11, 2018

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Another Attack by the Antifascists

For almost 20 years now, I have identified my politics as “antifascist.” Given the enormity of historic evil that has resulted from fascism, that ought to be a noncontroversial position. Any sane, decent human being should be antifascist.
But the Republicans have decided to do to the term “antifascist” what they previously did to the terms “liberal,” “entitlement,” “social justice warrior” and “politically correct.” Republican propagandists like Frank Luntz and Karl Rove successfully demonized those terms through their minions at Fox News and elsewhere. Their intent was to discredit the very concepts of compassionate politics, earned government benefits, people who fight for the rights of others and politeness.
The GOP is on a constant propaganda mission to redefine language and make the better appear the worse. As Jeffrey Martini observed, science and education are now described as “liberal scams.”
The Republican Party has decided to demonize the term “antifascist” for the obvious reason. The GOP is the American fascist party, thriving in a dung heap of its own propaganda, screaming in fury whenever it’s scalded by the cleansing touch of factual truth.

Sunday, August 5, 2018

Better Check Your Own Balance

I just can’t swallow any more of this hogwash about American “checks and balances.” The checks have all bounced, and the United States is unbalanced — journalistically, politically and mentally.

No, Trump Cannot Be Ignored

Enough with this “the news media should just ignore Trump” crap. These kinds of statements are silly and pointless. The news media is obviously going to cover the president of the United States.
So you’re saying the honest news media should simply refuse to cover Trump's Nazi rallies and fascist tweets, leaving them to Fox News to report? And then Fox will carefully edit out his most damning statements and lies and avoid any coverage of his rabid crowds, making Trump into a glorious leader — just the way Leni Riefenstahl did it.
The people who are saying the news media shouldn’t cover Trump’s rallies are dead wrong. We need to see the face of naked, screaming, racist evil up close and personal, just as the world needed to see it in Hitler’s rallies.
I know Trump’s corporate allies and Republican fluffers would love to hide what he really is and who his supporters really are. Reporters shouldn’t help them do it.
Donald Trump is no longer some mere con artist celebrity. He's a would-be fascist dictator who controls a massive nuclear arsenal. He cannot and should not be ignored, and the news media is not going to ignore him.
I understand how much people want Trump to just go away, but ignoring him won’t make that happen. Quite the reverse.

The Face of Republican America

Sunday, July 29, 2018

To Hell With Your GDP

Yeah, be sure and enjoy your “GDP.” I look around and what I see are empty storefronts, rusty old cars (including my own), payday loan sharks and tattoo parlors staffed by people who have part-time jobs without benefits.

Saturday, July 28, 2018

Poor, Poor Pitiful Trump

Yes, Trump voters are the salt of the earth, in the "Blazing Saddles" sense of the term.

Friday, July 27, 2018

I Know Just How He Feels

A  New Yorker cartoon by Joe Dator

Why the Republican Party Will Fall

This is the reason why Trump and the GOP must finally crash and burn. The only remaining question that matters is whether they'll take all of us with them.

Uninterested in Trump

You know, Donald Trump is finally just a pitifully damaged human being, nothing more. The fact that so much of his damage is self-inflicted merely makes his situation —and now, by extension, ours — that much more tragic and stupid.
Trump has never interested me, and he still doesn’t. What interests me very much is finding out exactly how a purportedly democratic political system erodes to the point of putting something like Trump in charge.

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Donald Trump Is a Bald-faced Liar

The Bible and the Bamboozled

“Too unreflective ever to know himself, too incapable of thought ever to be really a hypocrite, Elmer is honored and beloved of those with whom he comes in contact because he is made of the same coarse clay as they, because no learning, no integrity and no spirituality sets him apart from those to whom he is paid to minister. He is the type most fit to occupy the pulpits supported by materialists like himself to whom the church is half the defender of petty privileges against subversive forces and half the instrument through which a nominal respect may be paid to virtues inconvenient to practice; and to Elmer himself the pulpit is quite as useful as he is to it since … he is enabled not only to taste the intoxication of an orator’s power but to enjoy an income and a position which the mediocrity of his will, the fundamental meanness of his character and the shallowness of his brain could not have earned him by any other means.”
Joseph Wood Krutch, describing Sinclair Lewis’s Elmer Gantry.
And if you ever wondered where in hell the Christians who support Trump came from, here you go. This is the location in hell where they feel right at home.

Thursday, July 19, 2018

Fox News: A Vesuvius of Lies

Fifty Shades of Trump

Portrait by Tommervik

Donald Trump is a living index of American society’s most obnoxious qualities: narcissism, racism, sexism, willful ignorance, pervasive dishonesty and self-righteous cruelty.
America likes to think of itself as young and beautiful, like Dorian Gray, but Trump is the picture we had hidden in the attic — now out on display for all the world to see.