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Monday, December 30, 2013

"Conservative" Media Pile On

 Shag Carpet

That is "pile" as in the pile of a carpet.

I do not like carpeting. I like rugs, particularly from the Middle East. I like to see them on hardwood floors. But carpeting is not to my liking. It holds the dirt, grime, dander, and dust mites forever. Carpeting is more like a zone of habitation than it is decor for my domicile.

Your can take rugs out and throw them over the clothes line and beat the dirt out with a rug beater. It will poof! into the air, and then fall to the ground.
With carpeting, you really just push the powdery dust around, creating newly cut deep furrows and harrowing the old. Discing is what you do; we let the carpet set, then turn up the dirt, discing it with vacuum plowshare.

Did you ever see a home where there's is sadness? Did you ever see it when the sun streams in through windows that have not been washed for a while, then through white curtains that look and feel indisposed, and then they hurl what's left of the masticated and undigested sunlight upon a faded carpet?
Does it not look like Harry Hope's bar in The Iceman Cometh, like the bottom of the sea rathskeller?
And are we not very sure that Harry has not cleaned the carpeting in his front room, nor has he washed the windows that front the street in the last 20 years since his wife, Bess, passed away?

Conservative media is like shag carpeting: it holds the dirt forever.
For example, even though the New York Times has published an investigation into Benghazi destroying most conservative points, they will not be expunged from the conservative collective.
That shag carpet, deep, rough, and miserly of the dust and the minute life that lives on it, will hold everything deep within its pile.

There is a point when one is no longer questioning, but is actively spreading despair.

We have passed it.

Watch what happens.


Sunday, December 29, 2013


Today is Childermas, by the way; the Feast of the Holy Innocents murdered by King Herod.

God bless the children.


Turing Tests For Bloggers

reCAPTCHA challenge image

I have just encountered the most difficult "Please prove you're not a robot" test I have ever seen !

One of the many variations I saw was the word  "Geâts"  with a bloody circumflex on the "a"!
Since this was Beowulf's clan, I thought it grossly unfair to be coupled with a undecipherable second word.
(furthermore, I had purchased the cheap computer whose keyboard did not have the European accented vowels! My next laptop will even have a qamets-hey on it.)

I think makes up his own Turing tests. I think I shall start to do my own.


No Country For Old Men

Tommy Lee Jones's Sheriff in the film No Country For Old Men is an observer, not a solver of crimes, not a hero to right wrongs. His sole purpose is to watch silently as the "country" passes from a state that was intelligible to him and made "common sense" into a vast wasteland of destruction.

The inverse rites of passage from the Quick to the Dead are reflected in his weary face, and in his decision to retire. They are reflected in the seemingly endless passage of money from hands to hands, from hiding place to hiding place, and the movement in its wake as it draws all the lives of those it has touched into a whirlpool of death.

I think of the forests that once covered our country from coast to coast. They are all gone.
I look at and dream of the prairie flowers and grasses which carpeted the Great Plains. They are islands and museums now.
The Native Americans passed away from east of the Mississippi to the West, where their fate was no more benign.

Now they say that if America draws down its troops in Afghanistan, the Taliban is back in power by 2017.
I could have told you that back in 2003, when Afghanistan went on the back-burner.

The only thing we did was to pay a trillion simoleons so that the Taliban could vacation in the mountains for five or six years, then come back refreshed.

We shall perish in the wake of a trillion simoleons there, four trillion dollars in Iraq, and a terminal inability to focus on real issues.
Ain't no country for old men no more.


Republican Nightmare Cinema 1


Positive Polarity

If you have read the post on Negative Polarity today,, then .... spoiler alert? Anyway, go read and return after a while.

OK. If you have read post, then it may have dawned on you that there must be Positive Polarity Items, too.

I think "oodles" is one such PPI.
Compare "I think your dog is oodles of fun" versus "I do not think your dog is oodles of fun." Although I may say the first (in some alternative universe), I would never say the second, especially after stepping into oodles of dog feces left in the summer cottage backyard on Fathers' Day, 2013.


The Rise In Health Care Costs

Adam Smith   by Michael Hogue

Some people - myself being one - tend to view the rapid increase in health care costs to be very much akin to a financial bubble.

The problem with that is that it implies that nothing can effectively be done to avert the bursting of the bubble. Since the very fast rise in price is driven by irrational expectations of those in the market, we know that the bubble will grow, all cautions will be thrown to the wind, and when there is trouble, panic may ensue, causing the bursting of the bubble.

There really is no way to stop the crowd of financial lemmings headed for their cliff of choice. Sermons, cautions, tales of wise old men, none of these can hold a candle next to the brilliance of the false promises of Ponzi rewards for every investor.

The only way to control such things are the institution of Regulators, who perform the function of Governors on steam engines, allowing steam pressure to be controlled and preventing the catastrophe of a run-away increase of steam pressure. Or, more to our time, they act as the graphite rods inserted into a nuclear reactor to control the chain reaction.

This day and age does not like Regulators. Our faith is on Free Markets and Invisible Hands.

However, even Adam Smith did not believe in free markets like we do. Read a review of his Theory Of Moral Sentiments at The American Conservative,


Negative Polarity

Scissors Grinder, by Karl Malevich
(I could not find a picture of a Tinker)

Negative Polarity Items on All Things Linguistic:

NPI stands for Negative Polarity Item, and they’re called that because they tend to be found in the scope of negation and serve to emphasize that negation. Classic examples are any, everand even, which sound great in negative sentences like (1-4) but pretty weird in the positive equivalents in (5-8).*
(1) I don’t love anyone.
(2) We are never, ever, getting back together.
(3) I don’t even know myself.
(4) I don’t want to go to sleep either.
(5) *I love anyone.
(6) *We are ever getting back together.
(7) *I even know myself.
(8) *I want to go to sleep either...
 I came up with "a tinker's dam"  (or "damn", if you must)  as in "I don't give a tinker's dam" versus "I do give a tinker's dam." Obviously a negative polarity item.


Friday, December 27, 2013

First Amendment Rights

Having thought about the First Amendment which prohibits the making of any law abridging the right of freedom of speech, I have concluded at this time that if I deprive someone of a TV show on which to state their views, I have not abridged their right of freedom of speech - for they are free to speak whatever they wish - but I have merely abridged their propagation of speech.

There is no amendment that guarantees the right to wide and loud propagation of speech, Citizens' United notwithstanding.

The amendment does not guarantee the right to the wide broadcast of any idea. It guarantees the freedom to express the idea, but not necessarily to spend money to spread it.


The Monster-Woman Reflects

If you recall, Mr. Paul Ryan, the Republican Vice Presidential nominee in 2012, had a favorite philosopher, Ayn Rand.
Libertarians, some conservatives, Sean Hannity, and Paul Ryan extolled her philosophy of Objectivism.

Ms. Rand was very deep, indeed.
From Romancing The Stone-Cold Killer: Ayn Rand And William Hickman

In her journal circa 1928 Rand quoted the statement, "What is good for me is right," a credo attributed to a prominent figure of the day, William Edward Hickman. Her response was enthusiastic. "The best and strongest expression of a real man's psychology I have heard," she exulted. (Quoted in Ryan, citing Journals of Ayn Rand, pp. 21-22.)

At the time, she was planning a novel that was to be titled The Little Street, the projected hero of which was named Danny Renahan.According to Rand scholar Chris Matthew Sciabarra, she deliberately modeled Renahan - intended to be her first sketch of her ideal man - after this same William Edward Hickman. Renahan, she enthuses in another journal entry, "is born with a wonderful, free, light consciousness -- [resulting from] the absolute lack of social instinct or herd feeling. He does not understand, because he has no organ for understanding, the necessity, meaning, or importance of other people ... Other people do not exist for him and he does not understand why they should." (Journals, pp. 27, 21-22; emphasis hers.)

"A wonderful, free, light consciousness" born of the utter absence of any understanding of "the necessity, meaning, or importance of other people." Obviously, Ayn Rand was most favorably impressed with Mr. Hickman. He was, at least at that stage of Rand's life, her kind of man.

So the question is, who exactly was he?

William Edward Hickman was one of the most famous men in America in 1928. But he came by his fame in a way that perhaps should have given pause to Ayn Rand before she decided that he was a "real man" worthy of enshrinement in her pantheon of fictional heroes.

You see, Hickman was a forger, an armed robber, a child kidnapper, and a multiple murderer.

Other than that, he was probably a swell guy.

In December of 1927, Hickman, nineteen years old, showed up at a Los Angeles public school and managed to get custody of a twelve-year-old girl, Marian (sometimes Marion) Parker.
Marian Parker's dead and dismembered body was found soon after.

Further on,

Now here are some of Rand's notes on the fictional hero she was developing, with Hickman (or what he "suggested") as a model:

"Other people have no right, no hold, no interest or influence on him. And this is not affected or chosen -- it's inborn, absolute, it can't be changed, he has 'no organ' to be otherwise. In this respect, he has the true, innate psychology of a Superman. He can never realize and feel 'other people.' "

"He shows how impossible it is for a genuinely beautiful soul to succeed at present, for in all [aspects of] modern life, one has to be a hypocrite, to bend and tolerate. This boy wanted to command and smash away things and people he didn't approve of."

Apparently what Hickman suggested to Ayn Rand was "a genuinely beautiful soul." The soul of Marian Parker, the murdered girl, evidently did not suggest any comparably romantic notions to her.

As I mentioned in my previous post, there is a term for a person who has "no organ" by which to understand other human beings -- a person who "can never realize and feel 'other people.'" That word is sociopath. I mean this quite literally and not as a rhetorical flourish. A sociopath, by definition, is someone who lacks empathy and cannot conceive of other people as fully real. It is precisely because the sociopath objectifies and depersonalizes other human beings that he is able to inflict pain and death without remorse...
Leopold and Loeb come to mind immediately.
The story is ghastly, and we almost had a new national philosopher who reveled in such horrors.
Some have put it down to youthful infatuation with Nietzsche in European philosophy. There was a good deal of interest in the Nietzschean Superman in Europe at the time, just as there was in genetic purity in America under the aegis of the Euthanasia Society of America (which itself is a history worth reading).

Read it and vomit at how close we came to a new low.

(Note:  I do not for one minute think Paul Ryan ever got further than watching the movie with Gary Cooper. Hannity probably did not get that far.)

you may also read a post in The Daily Kos,


Post Meditationem Omne Animal...

A note on the post Meditation 1/27/2013

The second but last paragraph:
That is why there are always mountains to climb and rivers to cross: intelligent life is myriad in its detail. In its desire for expression, it goes through every possibility, including those we call evil, bad, ugly.
This seems to imply something in moral philosophy. It seems to say that if evil is always with mankind, it is because evil is a choice that has a certain probability of occurring, even though it is not part of the nature of mankind.
Evil comes from having too many choices and millenia of time to choose in.
Just as there are benign periods of beauty, so also are there times of ugliness; there are times of peace, and times for war.

There is a time for everything under the sun, and everything possible under the sun.
Therefore, be firm in virtue, for the probability of Misery Comin' Around is greater than zero.


A Duck In The Crowd

Huck, the Duckster

Mike Huckabee seems to have found his calling with the Duck-troversy over the TV show Duck Dynasty.
I even read an article from Newsmax (It was a first-time reader experience for me.) about him:
"We're willing to say live and let live until someone says, 'but we want all of you who hold these views to just shut up and go away,'" said Huckabee, who is also a Baptist minister. "And I think a lot of people said, 'no, we're not going away, and we're not going to shut up. We're going to stand with Phil.'"
I will not ask about which of his descriptions of stuff you are really tight with him, Hucka-Duck. I will not ask.
It's good to have a role model, or a totem, or a hero figure to look up to. That's part of growing up.

I used to watch A&E; it used to mean Arts and Entertainment. The "Arts" have disappeared lately. Ditto with Bravo. Even Mozart would find it hard going against the likes of  The Real Housewives and Ducks.

I personally do not see the Duck-troversy as a self-defining moment, nor a movement defining moment, mainly because the manner in which the ideas were brought forth was overly graphic, and made me think more of ancient rituals of procreation as filmed by Cecil B. DeMille than Christianity. Sermons should avoid language which may enflame the spirit of concupiscence. Everything has it own time and place.

However, I did have a distinct Andy Griffith moment over the whole business.

Not Matlock. Not Sheriff Andy Taylor. (Come on! Get real, here!)

A Face In The Crowd, where he played Larry "Lonesome" Rhodes.
Patricia Neal was also in it, Elia Kazan produced it, and Budd Schulberg wrote the screenplay. If you flash on it, you are saying "Ah, ha!".
If not , Google it.

 Lonesome Rhodes

Keep in mind I am not saying that Phil Robertson (or Roberts, or whatever the name be) is "like" Lonesome Rhodes morally or in any other way.
I am saying that the process of creating fame and celebrity by the media is the same, and such machinations are fraught with dangers.

As the good Baron Frankenstein eventually said, after a long tutorial in terror, "There are some things Man is not supposed to know !"


Meditation 12/27/2013

Quantum Needlepoint

All expressions of intelligence are related, since they come from the same place: the mind of mankind.

Over time, they grow and they differ between themselves.

Rites and rituals were actions that tended to be enacted habitually over time. There was no dogma nor idea behind them. Rather, there was intelligent activity and there was repetition of actions that served the intelligent beings as they felt or judged there to be a need.

The genius of architecture perhaps bloomed within the caves of Lascaux, when intelligence descended within a form structure into darkness, eventually finding enough space to stand, to light a torch, and to see with awe that the vault above suddenly went into a lofty vastness; they stood in a place truly ineffable.

From architecture we can derive cozy cottages or sprawling McMansions that seem to go on forever, ever seeking volume to consume, seeking the elusive beauty of space humanly defined.

Just as religions of warcraft, violence, and eternally recurring death may come from the experience of God, so also comes the religions of help and succour and resurrection.

Nothing remains constant and still within life, and even less so in intelligent life.
That is why there are always mountains to climb and rivers to cross: intelligent life is myriad in its detail. In its desire for expression, it goes through every possibility, including those we call evil, bad, ugly.

It is the nature of intelligent life. That is the moral dimension that beautiful quanta do not have: the ability to jump into existence from the vacuum in a clumsy or nasty way. Only mankind and the animals can do that.


Health Insurance On St. Stephen's Day

Face Painting, More and More Used to Keep Away Evil
Spirits when Health Insurance is Unaffordable.  It Also is
a Practice that Some Use to Replace Child Vaccination.

We met some friends for lunch yesterday, St. Stephen;s Day, or Boxing Day, which is just another day in the Twelve Days of Christmas, all friendly and warm and...perhaps nice, perhaps; we all get a bit wacky as we age, or we become less adept at hiding it.

I won't go into detail until after the Twelve Days. Really should not complain right in media res, as it were.

So we met for lunch, and my friend and I start nibbling around the Affordable Care Act. He gives me his phone with an email from some guy who is a consulting engineer, who tells us how much he makes, tells us how hard he works, and tells us he really buys into the whole symbolic thing of "nose to the grindstone" and "penny saved is a penny earned".
He lives with a doll - remember, he is a "guy", so she is a "doll"; that's how it works in Nathan Detroit's system - and she doesn't make as much as him.
So they need some of that high priced health insurance under ObamaCare.

Quite an email, I said. Then I said "Fan email from some flounder?" I said, Bullwinklishly.

He told me blah-blah-ObamaCare-blah...

So I told the story about how our cost of health insurance under Michigan Blue Cross/Blue Shield skyrocketed in the years before we jumped onto the Medicare lifeboat.
One year our premiums jumped from around $600+ to around$900 per month.

That was some years ago.

I told my friend that I do not care if this engineer finds insurance expensive. It has always been expensive. My family found it expensive, but the Republican Party did not ask me for a testimonial that they could email out to the country at large.
FOX News did not cover the 35% increase to holders of private health insurance in Michigan.

No one cared then. Why should I care now?

Why should I care, when the real problem is the exponential rise in the Cost of Health Care? Insurance will continue to rise under any insurance scheme as long as the costs of providing health care rise out of control.

The Media and Ourselves has once again conspired to argue about the items of lesser importance, and once again our attention is diverted by the 24/7 merry-go-round of trivia posing as news.


Thursday, December 26, 2013

Christmas Poem 2013 #1

Jump, Christmas!

I am drawing Christmas lights with colored chalks
upon the sidewalk recording hop-scotch dreams:
won't never get to heaven ,
won't never see paradise,
oil, wine, bread, and salt; oil, wine, salt, and bread,
let me jump past Herod, Lord,
and I'll fly my way to Bethlehem,
next to thee to lay my head.

I am spinning Christmas gifts upon my loom,
with the yarn of barberry and holly plants:
will get to heaven soon,
I will sit in paradise,
pass over, red rover, pass over!
let me jump past Pilate, Lord!
I'll serve the Magi three and wise,
their gifts to Thee discover!

Christmas ornaments I sew from a piece of felt,
and sturdy snowmen make for a fine, straight tree!
pines trees grow by heaven!
we climb them up to paradise!
Small limbo, great limbo, and Great Rest!
let me hop-scotch today, Lord!
It is sunny Christmas day... or not!
Carolyn and me... we were best!


picture above:

many of he expressions are mentioned in the old hop-scotch diagrams


Film Titles

From writing about  "Boxing Day" , this popped into head:

The Bachelor

And The Sobbing-Boxer


The Boxer

Christmas Box on Ye!

Thus did my wife's relatives greet each other the day after, upon St. Stephen's Day, the daybreak after Christmas.
For it was Boxing Day.

There are many explanations of the term "Boxing Day", ranging from the servants downstairs giving and getting Christmas boxes upon this day as they rested from the chores of the 25th, all the way to imaginings about the Marquis of Queensbury.

I prefer to think of it as they day when, having received largish blocks of fun as gifts, the children begin to explore the many and varied playful uses of the immense packing boxes in which the gifts came.
Boxing Day is Irony. I am obsessed by irony, especially the ironic reversal from the gaudium of gifts to the castles of cardboard.

At any rate, Boxing Day is well named, for there are boxes, and there also is a goodly sized element of sparring back and forth.

I have some posts to make, but She-who-must-be-obeyed has an entire Jumanji safari of places, which I usually avoid, to go to today. Maybe that's what the season is all about, going places and doing things out of the ordinary in your life. I mean, I actually bought my younger brother a present.
Of course, he was immediately suspicious. Probably still is.

How was Christmas Dinner at my mother's?

My elder brother called at two in the afternoon to tell me they were starting their trip, and that a niece and her salad were not going to show up, appearance-at-the-festive-table-wise, due to an untimely onset of flu.
We would be an entire salad short for 15 people.

By that time, I knew how the wind blew, so I said that it was already a disaster, and a missing salad would not be noticed, really... perhaps we could create a "faux salad"  (or is that "fausse salade"?) out of bric-a-brac, and trompe-l'oeil the heck out of everybody!

And a nephew (not one of the trinity of nephews whose names begin with the letter "A") had become engaged, and was there with his fiancee. However, he confided in my mother, expecting her to share the news, but she told no one.
So there we were with hearty "Merry Christmas" on the tip of the tongue, but scant a "Congratulations!" or a "Huzzah!" or "It's about time!"
No celebratory champagne, or anything like that.

Had I known, I might have paid closer attention and actually have bought potato chips to go with the dip.
I did have a heart-to-heart with some nieces who were wondering why grandma always says picky things about their fingernail designs. I think I handled it well.

Merry Boxing!


Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Christmas Morning Lite

On Christmas Day, On Christmas Day
handsome young men, young women were we!

O, that we are! O, that we are! Beee-you'-tiful!
You just look at us, and see!

Now Jesus born, in Bethlehem...
even better we shall be!


accent on second syllable in "beee-you-ti-ul"

Our first Christmas with no kids about. Everyone is at their own homes across the country.
It is a wonderful day, but the sense of anticipation is somewhat less. (That's why the morning is "lite".) No matter how stressful it may be, the hustle and bustle of the whirlpool of family often seems better than the silence which prevails when children are not present.

I feel a slow and sleepy temblor of change, like I feel I am looking at the small Christmas tree we put up, and I am traveling, and have just turned the corner where the road to the West comes out of the forest, and suddenly you know you are walking towards Avalon, the island of orchards and apples, the Alma Ata of new discovery, Hesperides and the golden, golden West.

What a wonderful thing are Mankind and their Creator!

thx to Plutarch and Lykurgos for help in the poem.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

A Feeling Of Inadequacy On Christmas

That is no country for old men. The young
In one another's arms, birds in the trees
- Those dying generations - at their song,
The salmon-falls, the mackerel-crowded seas,
Fish, flesh, or fowl, commend all summer long
Whatever is begotten, born, and dies.
Caught in that sensual music all neglect
Monuments of unageing intellect.

I know a young person who is worried whether they will measure up to the demands of their job.

In fact, I know a lot of people who are worried about such hypotheticals: will I measure up to the demands of my job? will I measure up to the demands of my family?
A lot us us wake up in the night watches and face stark fear in the face, perhaps because sleep lets down our defense mechanisms, and as we sail to Byzantium of dreams, we find it is No Country For Old Men (and Women), or for that matter, perhaps for young men and women, too.

We often read of celebrities who we think have got life by the tail, and have a wonderful life. Yet we find in interviews that they are beset by fears and self-doubts.
Just like we are.

The emotional state of feeling inadequate leads to our marginalization; it is a natural selection of the cards we deal in a game where we always fold, because we think the game is "too rich for our blood".

It is illogical.
Recognize it as such.

This Inadequacy Emotion  is the modern day remnant of the Flight Instinct.
When faced with a situation of potential danger, an entity may fight, and perhaps die, or it may flee, and live to fight some other day. The Flight Instinct preserves the entity by causing it to flee, maintains its existence and gene pool, and indeed live on to another day.

We may construct a hypothetical scenario like the above which illustrates why the Flight Instinct may indeed be naturally selected over the Instinct to Fight (or to Approach, or to indulge in Uncautious Curiousity).

The Instinct of Flight may lead to a preponderance of cautious individuals.
The Instinct to Fight may become predominant in other situations, particularly situations where the probability of our surviving a fight are rather good. For example, if we have tools and weapons, our chances of fighting and winning are quite a bit better than if we had to fight with hands and teeth.
Or if we have money;
Or if we have power to compel.

Our feeling of Inadequacy is nothing but the instinct to flee, surviving into the modern world, putting on the new clothes of our modern age, transforming itself into a new form of the very same emotion of old-time fear of the unknown.

Inadequacy can always be quantified. It can be measured.
If I cannot run more than 2 miles this morning at a rate of 6.25 mph, there is no hazy area in my sweaty awareness of it: it is very clear with every gasp.

If we are inadequate, there is no doubt: we are in the midst of battle and we fully and clearly know what's going on.

Very many scripts and many images are available in our society to assist people to marginalize themselves, to give themselves over to vices and weaknesses which tend to destroy, rather than to enrich.
How many cities were able to say no to casinos?
Not many.
Opening the door to weakness and vice has become the new "rational" and "normal" in our lives. By officially cutting the symbolic ribbon and opening the new way into new palaces of vice, whether they be casinos, or pornography, or viciousness and violence, or even the unthinking slaughter of innocent lives by improperly used guns...
If we officially do such, it is clear that as a society we are officially are giving our stamp of approval to marginalizing great numbers of people, that we are giving our OK to establishing a great divide between those who have and those who have-not....

Do not let ourselves be marginalized by old fear in new dress.
Be strong, be honorable, and be virtuous.


Monday, December 23, 2013

Seriously, Now. Health Care

If the health care reform covered in the Affordable Health Care Act does not work out, what will inevitably happen is something that is not present in the ACA:  we shall end up with a single payer.

It might take a while, but it is inevitable. The ACA is actually very conservative in its set-up. Conservatives should be backing it, because they will not be able to turn back the clock forever.


Abe Simpson On Health Care

My major source of news on the Affordable Care Act is my mother, who watches FOX. They must be having a good deal of coverage, because she is always tangentially dropping tidbits into the conversation. She usually prefaces what she says by the word "but", pretending to be finding another aspect of the topic we were discussing, both which has actually nothing at all to do with it.

We were talking about the vegetables for the Christmas dinner vegetable dip, things like how turgid were those tiny vesicles which hold water and keep the snap peas at attention.
"But," she said, "I don't know how people are going to afford that health care."
I usually interject a pause here, to try to convey the notion that I am perplexed.
"What health care is that?"
"Obama Care. "
"I thought we were talking about the vegetables."
"It's just that Mike Huckabee says that his insurance even has maternity coverage," she said.

I point out that Mike Huckabee is a randy lecher, and it is a bloody good thing that he has maternity coverage for all those Arkansas gals.
Now she thinks there is a misunderstanding, and she goes into an explanation that maternity coverage is an expensive superfluity for Mike Huckabee. I decide to act like Huck is James Bond... at least, from what I hear he is. I tell her to ask her friend who works for the Waltons.
The reason Huck lost weight in the first place was to increase his animal magnetism.

I think here in Michigan the Republican legislature has passed a law that requires women - or even Mike Huckabee - to purchase separate insurance to cover any abortion, including pregnancy resulting from rape.
That sounds like an increase in the cost of coverage, but it is due to Republican shenanigans.

I do hear some costs are going up.

That is not at all like the days before I was covered by Medicare.
Back then, the Blue Cross/Blue Shield coverage was going up an average of 20% per year.
Yep, things were mighty cheap in them old days. You could buy health insurance 'n' have enough left over to buy a six-pack for the old lady.

Gimme five bees for a quarter, you'd say.
Ahh, yep.


Nuke and Note

I had a post entitled Nuke Mandela?

As soon as I wrote it, it reminded me of Note Makote  (mah-KO-tay),  the trumpet player.

Without using Wikipedia nor Google, tell me who Note Makote is, and to whom was he married.


'Tis The Season To Be Marley !

Scrooge and Marley's Ghost

My wife thinks I portrayed her as some sort of elitist snob - or, perhaps, a Scrooge asking whether the Poor Laws and the Workhouses were still in vigor -  in my postscript to the post Childermastide:

My wife just suggested we go to Chicago for Christmas next year, 2014. She thought a moment, then added,"That is, if you don't mind having people begging all over the place... people with their families and kids on the street, right in front of the Drake Hotel... "

She let the thought trail off.

I can not believe this. Is this our country? )

I was shocked, because I thought I was merely having her speak the truth.
Of course, plain speaking is prone to all kinds of retorts, remarks, and controversy in these times.

She filled out some detail for me of the whole affair of her trip to Chicago two years ago in even more ghastly detail:
"I mean, Montag, you could look through the windows and see white people with their little girls all dressed up for Christmas tea, and right next to you outside there was a young black mother with three kids sitting on the sidewalk, holding a sign saying 'Help me feed my family.' "
She did not think I could take the Real Dickensian, the horrible irony of Wealth against Grinding Poverty. She thought I would start dreaming of the arrogance of the masters of the world who built the Tower of Babel. I might act up rough, and go all prophet, denouncing Dives taking tea while Lazarus starves.

Maybe I would act like that. On the other hand, I might just flip on the TV and catch me an episode of Duck Dynasty.


Ice Storm In Toronto... And Other Stuff

An Icy Stare

The power is out in Toronto.
My sister-in-law was visiting her daughter, who lives over at Ring Around The Don (I can't recall the name of the place... it's the Stonehenge-type circular road around the intersection of Don Mills and Lawrence). What was to be a short visit may turn into 72 hours of panic. There are no subways running, restaurants are shuttered, the only food they have is what providentially they had in the fridge when the lights went out all over Ontario...

... whether they shall be lit again in our time, no one knows.

This is a good experimental set-up for a Donner Party type of inquiry, like how long does it take for social mores to break down, and people then begin to resort to cannibalism? Just wondering.

I think this would make a much better movie than The Walking Dead nonsense, for in this case the enemy is a fatal dose of infrastructure neglect and weakness.

Speaking of The Walking Dead, I hear that Matthew has been killed off in Downton Abbey.
I always used to think of things being TheWind In The Willows sort of dolce far niente among the rural gentry and dulci domo (in their home sweet home), but bad things happen in Downton at an appalling rate. I suppose it is all for the good, since they are adding a black character, although I would not give you a nickel for his chances at longevity.
Julian Fellowes is more like The Writing Dead, although he does seem intent on spinning out his explorations into the heart of a decidedly tedious darkness by letting Thomas shamble along, trying to find the formula for an Imitation of villainy. (There absolutely must be a flash-back scene where Thomas discovers that he is not like the other children, and at least one of his parents was a Villain - or at least Half Villain, or even Quadroon or Octoroon Villain - and he can no longer "pass" as a goody two-shoes in the village school.)

If Mr. Fellowes were in charge of the Toronto ice storm, he would have dropped the story line already after 24 hours, and the temp would be a balmy 20 degrees Celsius.


End Of Times And Duck-ageddon

 Two Mallards Of The Apocalypse

In re A & E show Duck Dynasty, why has no one in the media called it Duck-Gate yet?

John Stewart has trashed FOX about something on the duck-troversy. I do not know exactly what, because I did not take the time to read the story. I can pretty much imagine it:  large blonde FOX female presence, blah-blah-blah, John Stewart, blah-blah-ha!-ha!-blah... and so on.

I feel as if this duck-troversy is the kind of issue that FOX's people are well equipped to discuss, so lay off, Mr. Stewart. Mr. Hannity seems to have found a treasure trove of good causes all hidden in this singular duck-troversy wrapped in a tragicomedy.
These are educated propagandists, and this duck-troversy is what they were trained for: Phil Robertson's personal opinions.

The Opinionator

Dr. David Suzuki has an excellent example of exponential growth and the implications for us and our planet at YouTube
The logic of exponential growth is akin to the logic of a run-away freight train. The normal, non-exponential, common-sense way of looking at things looks like Lac Megantic the morning after !

We have real issues of the quick and the dead.

Both sides, however, spend their time with ducks.

The welfare of us and our families is forgotten in the rush to Duck-ageddon !


Sunday, December 22, 2013

Further Notes On Holy Innocents Day

In speaking of cruelty to children, we note the following in J. Brand's Popular Antiquities:
The learned Gregory, in his '' Treatise on the Boy Bishop,'' preserved in his posthumous works, observes that " It hath been a custom, and yet is elsewhere, to whip up the children upon Innocents Day morning, that the memorie of Herod's murder of the Innocents might stick the closer, and in a moderate proportion to act over the crueltie again in kinde."
So the lesson to be learned is all to the young while the adults ply their trades of various cruelties. Truly a good example of a people unable to confront their weaknesses.

Touching on the Boy Bishop, we may read in  The Cathedral Church of Salisbury: A Description of Its Fabric and a Brief History of the See of Sarum (Google eBook)
... there are so many records of the function with which popular credence has associated it, that a short digression is almost unavoidable. The pamphlet by John Gregory is elaborately minute and much too long to be quoted fully, yet some of the facts he brought together may be briefly noted. It seems that on the feast of St. Nicholas, the patron saint of children, the choir-boys elected one of their number, who from that day to the feast of the Holy Innocents, December 28th, bore the rank and exercised the functions of a bishop, the other choristers being his prebendaries.

During his term of office he wore episcopal vestments. On the eve of the Holy Innocents he performed the entire office, excepting the mass, as a real bishop would have done. At Salisbury on that day the boy-bishop and his boy-prebendaries went in procession to the altar of the Holy Trinity, taking precedence of the dean and resident canons.

At the first chapter afterwards the boy bishop attended in person and was permitted to receive the entire Oblation made at the altar during the day of his procession. The names of many of the choristers and the amounts of the oblations offered for the boy-bishops are the subject of many entries in the capitular registers of both English and continental churches.

Bishop Mortival in his statutes, still preserved among the cathedral muniments, orders that the bishop of the choristers " shall make no visit (some commentators consider this has been misinterpreted, to infer that elsewhere he held visitations), nor keep any feast, but shall remain in the Common Hall, unless he be invited to the table of a Canon for recreation." The order of service in use in this diocese has been preserved (MS. No. 153 of the Cathedral Library); in it we find as a special collect, "O, almighty God, who out of the mouths of babes and sucklings, " etc., not, however, quite in the form it appears in the Prayer Book of Ed. VI.
 Another instance of a ironic reversal of roles, which may contain within it a germ of repentance for a societal tyrrany.



I just finished a post on Childermastide, which is an exercise in Anglo-Saxon, being comprised of childer- plus -mæsse plus -tiid, meaning "children", "feast", "time or season".

So I had recourse to my Sweet's Anglo-Saxon Grammar and Dictionary, but it dawned upon me that maybe they were not mine; perhaps I had taken them out on extended loan from my friend, Gil.
Maybe, after I had hung onto them for 20 years or so, he had bowed to necessity and told me to think of them as a gift.
Maybe not.

Oh, well... wæs hǽl, everyone!



I am in the middle of my preparations and my exercise of the festal time of Childermastide.
(pronounced CHIL-der-mas-tide, like Christmastide is pronounced.)

I am going to reprint two posts from last year as Childermas 1 and Childermas 2 to give you the thinking behind Childermastide.
Childermas 1 was the first written, December 8, 2012, and preceded Newtown by about a week.
Childermas 2 was the second, written the day after Newtown.
This is the third. I hope my idea here is clear.

The order of posting is:
This post will be on top, Childermastide, and is an introduction as well as a summary.
Childermas 1 will follow below, and then Childermas 2.
A diagram and links:

1) this post Childermas
2) Childermas 1
3) Childermas 2

The word itself, Childermastide, comes from Anglo-Saxon, and it "Childer" + "-mas" + "-tide",
a) childer meaning children, which reminds us of "child" plus the "r" in "children", which itself has the plural ending "-en" as does "oxen"
b) -mas meaning feast, from mæsse,
c) -tide meaning time or period of the year, from tid or tiid.

"Childermas" itself is the Feast of the Holy Innocents, the children slaughtered by King Herod upon his discovery that the Wise Men had given him the slip, and did not report back on the newly born king.
Childermas or the Feast of the Holy Innocents is celebrated on December 28, in the Western Rite Church in the Gregorian calendar, and on December 29 in the Eastern Rite Church using the Gregorian calendar. If the Julian calendar is used, Christmas itself is pushed back from the time of the Gregorian Christmas, and the Holy Innocents is January 11.

So Childermastide is the time of the feast of the (Holy) Children, just as Christmastide is the time of the feast of the (birth of the) Christ (child).

I started thinking about it last year, since the Newtown massacre occurred on December 14. The time - or tide - from December 14 through December 25 and on until December 28-29 struck me as a time most uniquely filled with the martyrdom of children at the start and the finish, yet redeemed with the hope of the birth of the Christ Child between the two memorials for the slaughtered:
it was a scenario which (1) brought us to tears, then (2) filled us with joy and hope, but as we and this time of year parted, it reminded us (3) of the terrible abuse and slaughter of the innocents in the world.

I observe it. I cannot say my family does, for they do not. I do not wish to impose anything upon others. If this is a good idea let others be inspired thereby.
Otherwise, it remains nothing more than Festivus, and one of my idiosyncracies.

However, if we do not like living in a weaponized society which is the outcome of unbridled and unprincipled aggression and competition, a society which marginalizes, and then destroys the poor and helpless and innocent, then let our example shame the others.


My wife just suggested we go to Chicago for Christmas next year, 2014. She thought a moment, then added,"That is, if you don't mind having people begging all over the place... people with their families and kids on the street, right in front of the Drake Hotel... "

She let the thought trail off.

I can not believe this. Is this our country? )


Childermas 1

 Tiny Tim and Bob Cratchit

Since researching Saint Nicholas Day on the sixth of December, I have been drawn to the role Nicholas played in our civilization's conceptual understanding of children and society. In particular, the fact that this season we are in begins on Saint Nicholas Day and finds an ending near Childermas, or the Feast of the Holy Innocents, the children who were slaughtered by the order of King Herod.

So we have something I had never noticed before: a season that starts with the Saint who restored life to two brothers who had been murdered for their belongings, and extends through the birth of the Christ Child, and then celebrates the Holy Innocents, a feast which is a climax of gore as well as a celebration of martyrdom.

I begin to suspect that there was a distinct awareness of the abuse of children in the past, and that this season was instituted and modified over time with that awareness very much in the intuitive and the active minds of the peoples of the time: they created a sequence of holy days to celebrate children - to illustrate the horror of crimes against the young and to contrast that with their innocence and sinless natures - all of which makes them counterpoints against the sordidness and evil of the World.

I feel as if I had been blind, and now I see.

This is a time to remember the children now orphans in Bangladesh whose parents and relatives made clothes and childrens' toys made in the factory where 120 people were killed in a fire. This is the season when we must keep the sight of the children slaves in India recently freed from their evil masters who forced them to make Christmas toys and ornaments..., for us.

Scrooge Sees the Boy, Ignorance, and the Girl, Want

As we fight, claw, and gibber madly in the spiritual wasteland of Black Fridays, we fail to realize how black we really are; we are the inhumane processes of Dickensian London portrayed in A Christmas Carol that condemns its own children to poverty, disease, and despair:

"Oh, Man, look here! Look, look, down here!" exclaimed the Ghost.
They were a boy and a girl. Yellow, meagre, ragged, scowling, wolfish; but prostrate, too, in their humility. Where graceful youth should have filled their features out, and touched them with its freshest tints, a stale and shrivelled hand, like that of age, had pinched, and twisted them, and pulled them into shreds. Where angels might have sat enthroned, devils lurked, and glared out menacing. No change, no degradation, no perversion of humanity, in any grade, through all the mysteries of wonderful creation, has monsters half so horrible and dread.
Scrooge started back, appalled. Having them shown to him in this way, he tried to say they were fine children, but the words choked themselves, rather than be parties to a lie of such enormous magnitude.
"Spirit, are they yours?" Scrooge could say no more.
"They are Man's," said the Spirit, looking down upon them. "And they cling to me, appealing from their fathers. This boy is Ignorance. This girl is Want. Beware them both, and all of their degree, but most of all beware this boy, for on his brow I see that written which is Doom, unless the writing be erased. Deny it!" cried the Spirit, stretching out its hand towards the city. "Slander those who tell it ye. Admit it for your factious purposes, and make it worse. And abide the end.
"Have they no refuge or resource?" cried Scrooge.
"Are there no prisons?" said the Spirit, turning on him for the last time with his own words. "Are there no workhouses?"
The bell struck twelve.

Scrooge looked about him for the Ghost, and saw it not. As the last stroke ceased to vibrate, he remembered the prediction of old Jacob Marley, and lifting up his eyes, beheld a solemn Phantom, draped and hooded, coming, like a mist along the ground, towards him.

And this realization of mine that our past generations have tried to build walls of inspiration and holiness and faith to protect the innocent, and we ourselves have not received this gift without debasing it and making it a wretchedness of material excess, leads me to a deep distaste for our ways and times.

Childermas 2

Brueghel's Slaughter of the Innocents

In the post The Feasts of All Children  (or Childermas 1 above),

I spoke of how this season may have developed, beginning with the miracles of St. Nicholas of Myra, who discovered the crime of the young students being murdered for their wealth, urged the criminal responsible to confess his crime, and then restored the students to life.
All in all, a fine inspiration for a Saint of innocent children.

With St. Nicholas on December 6 we have a narrative about Children being abused, Children being innocent victims, and Good triumphing over Evil.

Then with the Christ Child on December 25 we have a narrative of Good triumphing over evil and a Child of unsurpassed innocence and purity. This Child, however, has his own history inextricably linked with liturgies and holidays soon to come of Abuse and Violence, as this Christ Child will grow into an adult who will be violently killed - not by marauders and thieves - but in a social setting and by socially approved ways of justice.

Lastly we had The Holy Innocents, or Childermas, on December 28, and we have the narrative of those children killed by King Herod's order to slaughter new  borns, lest they be the King born to supplant his rule. Here again we have Innocence, Abuse and killing, and the fact that these children are martyrs or witnesses to the faith: Good triumphs over Evil.

What we have construed as some mad dash to the mall, it seems that our ancestors wove together with statements, hints, nuances, suggestions, story and fable to create a quilt-like story of the cycle of the miracle of renewed life as children are born into the world, the harsh environment into which they are born, and the moral responsibilities of all society to ensure one thing above all other things! Above ideologies, above politics, above retail shopping, above fiscal cliffs and other self-created stumbling blocks!!!...........
One thing the hearers and viewers of the stories are supposed to do is to ensure that Good triumphs over Evil.

We have turned away from the story of the Feasts of Children and created a diorama of our diseased souls.
The trampling of shoppers at the mall and the fights and shooting over toys reflects our endless wars and threats of wars.

So we add to the season of Children, not by a triumph of Good over Evil, not by actions which our progeny will remember for centuries as great feats portrayed in icons, but by a new Childermas, a new slaughter of the Innocents:  December 14.


Friday, December 20, 2013

Duck Dynasty Duck-troversy


Several Fox Commentators have defended Phil Robertson...

It is so thrilling I might actually watch a show; might watch... I think maybe I need a little more controversy, though. Perhaps this Mr. Robertson could attack the Pope, then I would definitely tune in to get the skinny on what's up with duck.

I mean, I think it is a good idea to have a show about nothing in particular, interview the participants and have them spout off their "belief systems". I have a feeling we will have a lot more of this "show outside the show", where the show on the TV is nothing much, but the going on in the so-called Real World are where the action is.

(I cannot in good conscience say that Fox is "real world". It isn't.)


Hostage's Dilemma

Some people asked me to explain some stuff about my post Security?  ( ), in which there is:
Director of the National Security Agency Gen. Keith Alexander doesn't believe amnesty is the answer to ending Edward Snowden's leaks of classified documents.
In an interview that aired on CBS' "60 Minutes" on Sunday, Alexander likened the scenario to a hostage situation: If an individual was to shoot 10 of 50 hostages, Alexander explained, he shouldn't be set free in exchange for the 40 remaining hostages.
"I think people have to be held accountable for their actions," Alexander said. "Because what we don't want is the next person to do the same thing, race off to Hong Kong and to Moscow with another set of data knowing they can strike the same deal." ...
My first comment on this was:
 1) There is absolutely no parallel between a hostage situation, in which people are killed, and a leaking of secrets one or two at a time. Go back to whatever thing you call an office and re-think this.
and the question was why I said this. It seemed that the seriatim commission of crimes was sort of a parallel, and as such General Alexander was "more correct" than was I.

Logically, I thought of it as:

There is an entity, X, who gathers together a number of other entities. This gathering contravenes some law or statute of the land, and this is crime 1.

Subsequently, X does the illegal action Y  - crime 2 - on the group of objects he has gathered, and he does it to the objects one at a time, leaving a gap between occasions of doing Y.
So fill in the blanks with "forcibly takes hostages" or "surreptitiously steals secrets", "kills a hostage" or "releases a secret", and you have two situations that do not resemble each other in the least:
(a) a man forcibly takes a group on hostages, then he kills them one at a time until his demands are met;
(b) a man steals secrets, then he releases transcripts of secret data.

The only thing they have in common is a criminal act involving the gathering of discrete items, and then subsequently committing another crime involving members of that group. The criminal acts themselves are far from being commensurate. It seems to me that General Alexander uses a moral logic that is capable of seeing a parallel between stealing some Girl Scout cookies, then willingly eating them one at a time, with something like a slow motion genocide in Ruanda.

Of course, General Alexander was not at the point of saying that accountability should be the same for each action... at least, I do not think that's where his head was at.
But then what was he saying, other than each of us bears responsibility for one's actions? Hardly great news requiring the Sunday morning talk-a-thon.
And if someone who has been sinned against chooses to forgive his oppressor, who are we to say no? Who are we to maintain our draconian judgement superior?

We may as well force the Amish of Nickel Mines to reconsider, and to learn to hate the gunman who killed their children.


Thursday, December 19, 2013


Mathematics is not the language of Nature.
Three days ago, Sabine Hossenfelder wrote a text about the role of mathematics in the society:

Mathematics, the language of nature.
That is not even a hypothesis. It is an nice poetic metaphor.

Then we read:
Edward Measure's answer is Yes, Darwin has been debunked:

I think [Sabine] is a bit delusional on this point. Math, unlike language, is an unnatural activity in the sense that our remote ancestors almost never needed it.
and this is not even metaphor, but just purely wrong.


Monday, December 16, 2013

Nuke Mandela?

Signatures:  Shimon Peres and P. W. Botha

We may have forgotten this:

The Guardian
May 2010
Secret South African documents reveal that Israel offered to sell nuclear warheads to the apartheid regime, providing the first official documentary evidence of the state's possession of nuclear weapons.

The "top secret" minutes of meetings between senior officials from the two countries in 1975 show that South Africa's defence minister, PW Botha, asked for the warheads and Shimon Peres, then Israel's defence minister and now its president, responded by offering them "in three sizes". The two men also signed a broad-ranging agreement governing military ties between the two countries that included a clause declaring that "the very existence of this agreement" was to remain secret.

The documents, uncovered by an American academic, Sasha Polakow-Suransky, in research for a book on the close relationship between the two countries, provide evidence that Israel has nuclear weapons despite its policy of "ambiguity" in neither confirming nor denying their existence.

The Israeli authorities tried to stop South Africa's post-apartheid government declassifying the documents at Polakow-Suransky's request and the revelations will be an embarrassment, particularly as this week's nuclear non-proliferation talks in New York focus on the Middle East. ...


Color In Cinema

 Bruegel's Wedding Dance

I was watching The Deer Hunter, directed by Michael Cimino, and I watched the wedding and wedding reception parts. I could think of nothing but Bruegel's paintings of Dutch feasts and dancing, and I was a bit surprised at my reaction... for I was surprised that in all this time I had never seen this part of the film  -  I had seen only parts here and there  -  and I was even more surprised to think of Bruegel, yet never, never having heard anything about such a display before in any review or conversation.

Painting and Photography have composition, and they have color, and they have color composition, but cinema makes the colors move in a complex swarm across the screen. Cinema makes manifest that which painting and photography only promise and hint at.

There is an endless composing of colors on the screen, just as the billions of reflections upon the surface of a evening lake slightly disturbed by autumn winds: colors ever changing their locations, their contrast, their brightness... and that approaches chaos.
There are numerous examples of rich, splendid color, but to maintain them intelligibly as a swarm, as a flight, as an example of color on the wing, why, that is art!

But the maelstrom of color in The Deer Hunter approached a unity of vision: the charm, the spin, the quanta of art.

I suppose now I shall have to watch Heaven's Gate by Mr. Cimino.

I think M. Night Shayamalan has a similar control of his palette and movement. I watched The Village again just to see, and it was the wind that colored the blue sky red with the passion of Van Gogh as it blew through the vermillion hair of the character Ivy Walker (Bryce Dallas Howard).



Huffington Post today:
Director of the National Security Agency Gen. Keith Alexander doesn't believe amnesty is the answer to ending Edward Snowden's leaks of classified documents.
In an interview that aired on CBS' "60 Minutes" on Sunday, Alexander likened the scenario to a hostage situation: If an individual was to shoot 10 of 50 hostages, Alexander explained, he shouldn't be set free in exchange for the 40 remaining hostages.
"I think people have to be held accountable for their actions," Alexander said. "Because what we don't want is the next person to do the same thing, race off to Hong Kong and to Moscow with another set of data knowing they can strike the same deal." ...

How can anyone have a National Security Agency run by this clown?

1) There is absolutely no parallel between a hostage situation, in which people are killed, and a leaking of secrets one or two at a time. Go back to whatever thing you call an office and re-think this.

2) You are the idiot in charge of the system that hired Mr. Snowden, that gave him clearance to do what he did, and gave him unrestricted access to your secrets; why are not you held accountable for your actions?
Why in heaven's name would anyone in their right mind talk to you about how to put a reasonable end on this affair? 

Not a mention that Mr. Snowden struck a blow against an intolerable abuse of power by General Alexander.

The secrets would not have been stolen had they not been representative of the worst possible type of illegal and immoral surveillance, the fruit of a government within a government gone wild.


Sunday, December 15, 2013

The Stereotypes Behind Political Belief Systems

 Old Tom Corbett

We have already heard from Andrew Napolitano, who infamously has written:
Timothy Cardinal Dolan, the archbishop of New York, recently discovered serious structural problems with St. Patrick’s Cathedral that will cost $200 million to repair. He will soon have that bill paid. Where did that money come from? It came from the disposable income of rich Catholic capitalists. Who will benefit from this? The blue-collar workers whom the restoration project is employing now have jobs, and everyone – rich and poor – who attends Mass at the refurbished St. Patrick’s will do so in comfort and beauty.
which implies that the wealthy give money to the church, and this is used for church repairs (in this case) and give employment to the "blue-collar" shlubs, who seem not to give money to the church: a blessed "trickle-down" that settles like a gentle dew upon the denim-colored collars...

As I mentioned elsewhere, this is a total distortion of the middle class and working class Roman Catholics in the parishes in the areas where I grew up. So-called "blue collar" families regularly gave money to the church, and they did not expect some rich Catholic guy to fund "their" church for them.

It is not the world, but wealthy Manhattan, New York, which is too much with Mr. Napolitano.

Then there is the Republican governor of Pennsylvania, Tom Corbett.
In The Los Angeles Times:,0,51848.story#axzz2nYTYyHuA
... Corbett's "Healthy Pennsylvania" plan, which was released for public comment this week, is a sham. It would reduce health benefits for many of his neediest citizens and impose punitive conditions on their coverage. It requires waiver approval from the federal government that's almost certain to be refused, because some of its provisions are in flagrant violation of federal law. And even if it were approved, Corbett waited so long to put his plan together that it probably couldn't be implemented until 2015. In the meantime, 500,000 of his citizens will be medically uncovered.

"He's being very disingenuous," says Joan Alker, executive director of the Center for Children and Families at Georgetown University. "He knows a lot of this proposal is not approvable" under federal law.

The plan requires premiums to be paid by Medicaid enrollees with monthly incomes as low as $479, at which level the premiums would be $13 a month. Think that's not too bad? Try living on that monthly income and scraping together a single extra dollar. What's worse is that Corbett's plan would throw people off the coverage rolls for three months if they miss a single premium payment. The second miss gets them barred for six months and the third for nine months.

This punitive provision belongs in the dictionary next to the term "counterproductive." If your goal is to enroll people in a health program, the idea is to lower barriers to entry, not raise them. The Medicaid population, by definition, is one with spotty income at best. The likelihood that they might miss a premium payment is high. The last thing they need is for their government to stack the deck against their continuing access to healthcare.

Corbett's administration describes this provision in its waiver application designed "to instill a sense of personal responsibility into the program and reinforce incentives for healthier behaviors." If there's a depiction of the poor that drips more with contempt and arrogance than that, I'm not sure I want to hear it.
 Instill a sense of personal responsibility into those people who have none... who spend their time drinking, smoking, caressing their guns possibly, and hanging out in bars that are known hot spots for contagious diseases.

These are the stereotypes that guide the souls of people like Tom Corbett.


The Crutch Of Belief

Rabbi Hillel the Elder
That which is hateful to you, do not do to your fellow. 
That is the whole Torah; the rest is the explanation; go and learn it.

A very interesting article about the Boston Bomber Tsarnaev brothers:
Family Terror: The Tsarnaevs and the Boston Bombing
A decade ago, a Wall Street Journal reporter happened to befriend the Tsarnaevs. The story of his surprise—and the family's—when the sons emerged as suspects in the attack.

When I first met Tamerlan Tsarnaev, now familiar as the elder of the two alleged Boston Marathon bombers, he gripped my hand like he was wringing out a rag. It was 2004, and Tamerlan had been in the U.S. for about a year, but he already had an outsize American dream. He planned to box for the U.S. Olympic Team one day, and he wanted to earn a degree, perhaps at Harvard or MIT, and to hold a full-time job at the same time, so he could buy a house and a car. I suggested he forget the house and the car during college, as most American students do. He didn't see why he should.


 Tamerlan's options dwindled, he started to take an interest in conspiracy theories, according to neighbors and his former brother-in-law. He saw silent, unseen forces working against him. When the family's landlord allowed me into their old apartment over the summer, I was able to examine Tamerlan's books and a ring-binder full of articles that he had copied and marked up: material from a course on how to seduce women quickly, a manual on how to hypnotize people, some collected biographies of famous Jewish actors, and pages filled with racial theories purporting to explain why Jews were so successful.

Tamerlan's former brother-in-law told me that, in 2008, Tamerlan was fascinated by the cult film "Zeitgeist," which suggested that the Sept. 11 attacks were organized by shadowy financial elites. Around the same time, Tamerlan began searching for a copy of "The Protocols of the Elders of Zion," the notorious czarist forgery positing that the world is controlled by a Jewish cabal. The landlady let me look at Tamerlan's copy, which he had marked up heavily, filling the back cover page with 22 words that he had translated from English to Russian, beginning with "gentile" and ending with "Mason." 


Psychologists suggest that conspiracy theories often serve as a crutch for emotionally needy people, allowing them to feel good about themselves for seeing truth where others don't. They believe the world is being taken over by hidden forces, that an apocalyptic battle is at hand and now is the time for heroes to act.
 The last paragraph is important.

It is my opinion that beliefs which are not susceptible to some sort of empirical method of validation by all people serve as similar crutches.

I have said that I do not believe in God.
Any belief holds within itself the germ of its possible refutation: it was an invalid hypothesis.

I learned to expect God.
There is nothing left of a belief system in my experience of religion, and I think that is the way it should be. If every one were the same way, nothing would change, except we would not constantly badger each other with our own religious blather.
There would still be good people and bad. The millenium would not have arrived.
We would, however, recognize that spreading the good word would no longer be anything but "Love God, then love your neighbor.", and all the pretenses of entertainment religion and its massive meetings would die away.

Beliefs which:

(1) cannot be proven, or

(2) which we refuse to prove or disprove,

are crutches to let us continue in our halting way, and leg casts to prevent us from walking unaided. The second group may be more obvious than the first, for our refusal demonstrates how critical such belief is for our way of life.

The Expectation of  the Divine is the end of a process; it is not a make-shift and jerry-rigged dogma against growth.

That said by Reb Hillel does not mention belief, rather how to act.

Before Action is the Expectation, or the Edge, of Action. That's where we should be, on the edge of creative action, acting good, expecting good.


Detroit's Bankruptcy And Racoon City

I just saw the opening of Resident Evil: Extinction again, and it most definitely locates Raccoon City as Detroit, Michigan,... in case you are interested.

I suppose the zombies are the poor and underprivileged, who form the faceless masses that conservatives fear.
"They are animals, essentially," says the head of the Umbrella Corporation.
Vampires are - and always have been - limited in number, and thus form the rich 1% ( even though vampires do not figure into Resident Evil, we must include them in this discussion of metaphors).

That leaves us with crazed, cannibalistic hillbillies, whose roots in our imagination are obvious: the fear of the cities against the rural areas. So also mad scientists; it is clear where that image comes from.

The psycho, serial killers are ourselves, the urban populace, and we kill only as individuals. I think the shooters fit in here: they are serial killers with a vanishingly small period of time between kills. One death does not usually satiate them. (Psychologically they are different, but in our dreams of a weaponized society, they are the same.)

Even the forces of good are compromised now. The soldiers and cops are oppressed by a nameless government, which plays with them like soulless pawns, telling them lies, misinforming them of their missions, making every Good Soldier Schweik - or Sergeant Schultz, if you prefer - expendable to a faceless future.

So what does this have to do with Detroit's bankruptcy?

Watch the movie, and shut up !


Saturday, December 14, 2013

More On The Minimum Wage

Business (Fortune Section)
In all the sound and fury over the minimum wage, and the current boom in low-paying, dead-end jobs, nobody is questioning a crucial assumption: More investment in labor would have to come out of consumers' and shareholders' pockets.

Make that almost nobody. Zeynep Ton, who teaches business operations at MIT's Sloan School of Management, spent 10 years traveling the U.S. talking with workers and their supervisors in retail. She scrutinized the day-to-day details of how things get done (or don't) in the trenches at retailers like Wal-Mart (WMT), Costco (COST), Trader Joe's, and QuikTrip, and inside other employers including UPS (UPS), Toyota (TM), and Southwest Airlines (LUV).

The result is a forthcoming book, The Good Jobs Strategy: How the Smartest Companies Invest in Employees to Lower Costs and Boost Profits, that stands the conventional wisdom on its head. Ton makes a convincing case that better pay and benefits -- and giving workers a clear shot at career advancement -- yield higher customer satisfaction (including competitive prices and stellar service) and fatter shareholder returns.

This argument would be far less persuasive if it were built on mere theory, but the four-part strategy laid out in the book is drawn straight from what a few companies have quietly been doing for years.

Consider Costco. Ton writes that average pay for workers at the company is $20.89 an hour, more than 40% higher than pay at its closest competitor, Sam's Club (owned by Wal-Mart). Costco offers benefits to all employees who work more than 20 hours a week. Workers also see the chance to move up, since 98% of store managers, and many Costco executives, started out as stock clerks or cashiers. ...