Saturday, April 21, 2018

Stupid Mail

The Eejit of Eschaton apparently thinks there's something shameful about having a large use vocabulary.   Well, I've figured it's been pretty much an outpost of anti-intellectualism pretending to be high-brow since about 2006.

Update:  Stups, Eschaton is the place where that distinction is erased as you and the Eschatots combine both.   

Saturday Night Radio Drama - Harold Pinter - Family Voices

Michael Kitchen (Voice One)
Peggy Ashcroft (Voice Two)
Mark Dignam (Voice Three)

Thought I'd try something different to start with, today.   This is the description of the play at a site devoted to Pinter.  

Second Feature - Dead Fishes - DCI John Stone

A young man with Down's syndrome admits to killing his mother. Then a woman turns up claiming that he was with her on the day that his mother was killed. Stone must discover who is lying and why.  

Stone : Hugo Speer
Eammon : Tommy Jessop
Jacqueline : Christine Brennan
Tanner : Craig Cheetham
Catriona : Zoe Henry
David : Andrew Grose
Jay : Andrew Whitehead
Weeks : Luke Broughton
Director Stefan Escreet.

Something a bit more conventional.   The DCI John Stone series is kind of uneven but the good ones are pretty good.

Rebecca Solnit's Article Is One Of The Few I'd Say Is A Must Read

It wouldn't be possible to give a high enough recommendation for the article of Rebecca Solnit published the other day,  Whose Story (and Country) Is This?   ON THE MYTH OF A  "REAL"AMERICA, about the huge push in the media and by so many institutions defining a mythical "real American."  Depending on the crudest of stereotypes, largely a result of the chosen models of those who do surveys and conduct polls, never taking into account that the presentation of such so-called science is dependent on the choices of such people and quite frequently a result of the desired results the "researchers" and those who hire them want.   Clearly what a lot of them want is to define a quite small and narrow range of white, lower-middle-class, conservative, rural(ish) men as that default "real American". 

There is so much in the article that an entire post or more could be drawn from that I can't deal with all of it.  Even single lines from the article serve as motivation to think hard on what she says, one of those is her point that more people work in museums than work in coal mines but that no one calls for support for the jobs of museum workers.   I'll start with one thing that touches on several of my interests, the roll of scientific racists with elite educations and how the media aids them in promoting racism and the kind of stereotypical right-wing "real American"

As an exercise I went to the PBS News Hour site to take the "bubble test" Rebecca Solnit mentioned in the article , a test for how much of an (elitist) "bubble" you were in.   The bubble defined would, certainly, include, by far, the large majority of Americans of all income levels.   The test  was designed by the think tank white supremacist Charles Murray. 

The major conclusion I got from taking wasn't the score (I'm rated at being about half-in "the bubble") it was that it was clearly designed to define life outside of "the bubble" as right-wing, White male, not only uneducated but hostile to education or anything outside of a distinctly minority cultural milieu .  I doubt that even many White male blue-collar NASCAR fans would qualify as being "outside the bubble" that Murray and, obviously, the News Hour defines.  It's clearly a test designed to get a specific result that Murray et al desired and that result isn't to find out if you have daily associations with low-income, White People. 

For example, the questions about being on a factory floor in the past year and as a worker would certainly exclude a lot of very low wage working people, most of whom don't work in factories, retail workers, workers in restaurants, people who work in agriculture or even the coal mining jobs that seem to be a particular obsession with the chatter among the News Hour staff and those who control the New York Times and Washington Post.   Virtually every question on the thing was designed in a way that excluded large numbers of working class people who would not fit into the desired stereotype being drawn up.  I suspect that the kind of people who design and present such tests wouldn't realize that because they, themselves, are not familiar with the real lives of such people, depending on the view of them from the media and sociological hacks.

Given the general aims of Murray's test which is to obviously define people outside of "the bubble" as male, the question as to whether or not you'd bought an Avon product was clearly a pathetic attempt to make it seem like he's talking about women.   And it is quite clueless.  Given this article in Fortune magazine, I think it's pretty clear that the assumptions Murray pushed in his test had problems, one which his Avon question highlights.

Avon CEO Sheri McCoy took the helm in 2012, convinced she could turn things around and adamant that the already faltering U.S. business was key to the company’s identity. She still thinks that. “I do believe it’s fixable,” McCoy told Fortune in an interview on Thursday.

But in her nearly four years on the job, Avon’s North American sales have continued to collapse, falling by more than half between 2007 and 2014 (see graphic below), and the number of sales representatives, commonly called “Avon Ladies,” have shrunk each quarter.

McCoy has done everything from try to improve the commission structure, to introducing new computer systems to improve order management and payment for the reps, to a late effort to tap the Hispanic community. And yet results continued to disappoint.

That last point was given as one of the "five reasons Avon's business faltered"

Late to the Hispanic market: Though Hispanics have long made up a sizable part of the U.S. population and are proportionally big spenders on beauty, Avon was late to discover that segment. It was only in 2014 that Avon created marketing materials made specifically for its Hispanic reps, who sold far more products than non-Hispanics on a per capita basis.

wonder how many of Murray's assumptions, if depended on by corporate executives in planning, would also lead to failing the financial test.  Solnit's assessment of the test and PBS's motives is excellent as are her points about just who is in a bubble, who chooses to be in a bubble.

The quiz is essentially about whether you are in touch with working-class small-town white Christian America, as though everyone who’s not Joe the Plumber is Maurice the Elitist. We should know them, the logic goes; they do not need to know us. Less than 20 percent of Americans are white evangelicals, only slightly more than are Latino. Most Americans are urban. The quiz delivers, yet again, the message that the 80 percent of us who live in urban areas are not America, treats non-Protestant (including the quarter of this country that is Catholic) and non-white people as not America, treats many kinds of underpaid working people (salespeople, service workers, farmworkers) who are not male industrial workers as not America. More Americans work in museums than work in coal, but coalminers are treated as sacred beings owed huge subsidies and the sacrifice of the climate, and museum workers—well, no one is talking about their jobs as a totem of our national identity.

PBS added a little note at the end of the bubble quiz, “The introduction has been edited to clarify Charles Murray’s expertise, which focuses on white American culture.” They don’t mention that he’s the author of the notorious Bell Curve or explain why someone widely considered racist was welcomed onto a publicly funded program. Perhaps the actual problem is that white Christian suburban, small-town, and rural America includes too many people who want to live in a bubble and think they’re entitled to, and that all of us who are not like them are menaces and intrusions who needs to be cleared out of the way.

There are so many points in just those two paragraphs that could be expanded into a post, with supporting evidence.   I recommend reading the article, at least twice.  I'll have more to say about it.

Friday, April 20, 2018

Geri Allen Trio - 1, 2, Goodbye

Geri Allen, piano
Ron Carter, bass
Lenny White, drums

Dark Prince 

Geri Allen, piano
Ralph Armstrong, bass
Ralph Penland, drums

So great, so missed. 

What Hecate Said

I might have my disagreements with Hecate on some issues but what she said about James Comey the other day is one of the best takes on it I've seen.

But it’s worse than that.  Comey showed his agents, months before the election, that it was OK to break the rules in order to injure Hillary.  After a long investigation into what were always bullshit issues about her use of a private email server, Comey was unable to recommend that Hillary be prosecuted.  In other words, he couldn’t make a case that she’d broken any laws.  FBI/DOJ procedure in that case calls for a simple announcement that there will be no prosecution.  It’s specifically against practice to do what Comey did — go ahead and scold the subject of the investigation for behavior that isn’t illegal.  But that’s exactly what Comey did to Hillary.  A simple, “There’s no basis for a prosecution; nothing here,” would have been too helpful to her.  So, instead, Comey broke the rules and gave a long lecture about how Clinton’s behavior didn’t break any rules but was still irresponsible.  His speech was designed to hurt her as much as possible, given that he couldn’t find any illegal behavior.

Well, as we all know, leaders lead by example.  And the example that Comey gave to the members of the FBI was that they didn’t have to follow procedure when it came to harming Hillary Clinton.

But it’s worse than that.  Comey realized that the NY FBI office would leak the information concerning Huma Abedin’s computer.  He apparently didn’t think he could control his own agents.  So he decided to announce the information himself.  Why?  Certainly not for the reasons he gives.  Comey said that if he hadn’t shared the information, Clinton would have been an “illegitimate” president from day one.  (Not sure what that even means nor how it squares with the DOJ’s policy against releasing damaging information just before an election.)  No real explanation for why the same concern wouldn’t apply to Trump.  And, if Comey’s out-of-control NY office was going to leak it, he didn’t need to.  Further, having the information come from Comey made it MORE damaging to Hillary than if it had simply come from some “unnamed source.”

So Comey’s actions make no sense and, even all this time later, he doesn’t have an explanation that holds water.  Shall I tell you why I think he did it?

He did it for the same reason he went out of his way to hurt Hillary as much as possible when he announced they couldn’t find a reason to prosecute her.  Comey may not consider himself a sexist, but his unconscious sexism really shows.  He may not have liked the idea of Trump as president, but powerful, ambitious women — Hillary, Loretta Lynch — really rub him the wrong way.  If Hillary was going to be president — and he admits that he expected her to win — then she needed to be taken down a peg.  Made to pay.  Taught a lesson.  Kept from getting too uppity.

Listening to him on Rachel's show, she did a good job of getting him past the self-serving sanctimony that has been so revolting,  I'd love to hear Hecate grilling him.  His claimed motive of wanting President Hillary Clinton to not have a cloud hanging over her is Trump-Michael Cohen level bull shit. 

The New York office of the FBI should be under investigation for political interference.  I wonder if we can count on some of them leaking stuff to Rudy Giuliani, that is if he wasn't one of their conduits during the campaign.  Clearly Comey suspected them and he was the director.   I suspect that apart from the large number of FBI personnel who are Republicans and who likely had possible political motives in what Comey suspected them of doing, a lot of the largely male population of the FBI had related reasons of blatant sexism. 

Mary Magdalene: Elizabeth Johnson

I have been reading more of the eminent theologian Elizabeth Johnson, CSJ and am being changed with her deep readings of the Gospels , Acts and Epistles, pointing out the central role of women as leaders, and explicitly named as Apostles that was right there in the texts as those roles have been denied to women from the early centuries of Christianity.   I will note the irony of much of that evidence, really some of the strongest, coming from Paul's Epistles and, especially his repeated praise for women's role in preaching - she goes through the often cited passage in which Paul says women should be silent in, well they weren't churches, noting that he was giving his opinion on what was obviously an ongoing practice in the earliest church.   Considering the role of women in the ambient pagan cities he was writing to, that passage might have shown he was nervous about women being freed causing a reaction.   I can very well imagine that women taking leadership and preaching must have seemed even more outrageous to Roman era pagans and intellectuals than the idea of a risen Messiah.

This lecture is a good introduction to that part of her work that deals with revealing how the evidence of Womens' central role in the beginnings of Christianity has been buried or suppressed, though, aside from one woman's name being changed to a man's name, the evidence has been laying there in the text, in plain sight awaiting a hermeneutical method for seeing that evidence and, in fact, overt testimony. 

The recording is echoy (I turned it way down) but her voice is strong and her articulation is excellent so you can hear what she says.  I don't believe I missed a word.   I think that the signs are that this information has taken root and it will grow fast and really change large parts of Christianity.   The resistance to it has already been mounted, the US Conference of Catholic Bishops have condemned at least one of Elizabeth Johnson's books, though in her response she pointed out that she hadn't said what she was accused of saying and accused of holding positions she rejects.   The boys who don't like girls are nervous.   But they've done such a disastrous job and made such a mess of things that I don't think they have any credibility, certainly no moral credibility and no real arguments except a corrupted tradition that is as bogus as the view of Mary of Magdala that Gregory I gave the Western Church.


I listened to Lawrence O'Donnell's interview with Trump's self declared most trusted lawyer Jay Goldberg, it did nothing to dissuade me that sleazy New York City lawyers have got to be some of the sleaziest in the country.   I don't have a very high opinion of the profession, though I've known some really honest lawyers, not many and few between, but I can't say that I've ever met one who would buck their profession over the generally sleazy professional standards and dishonesty that is rampant among them.   I've known more ex-lawyers who have left the profession like that.  

But that said the utter sleaze of the lawyers who have worked for Trump and his cronies disgusts me.   

Note:  I'm having serious eye problems this spring, sorry for the editing problems.  I'm experimenting with big fresnel lenses, we'll see how that works. 

Thursday, April 19, 2018

it may gain such hegemony that it comes to be regarded as normal and there really is no dissent

After I extolled the radicalism of that recent talk of Walter Brueggemann here the other day I listened to it again and this passage from the first few minutes really jumped out at me.  I've decided to transcribe it from the recording and to go over several points, making one slight disagreement on one thing and pointing out some further applications of what was said.

I take preaching to be a word of life in a world that is bent on death . . . 

The phrase "a world that is bent on death" might seem over the top but look at just about the entire culture of the West and its fascination with death and violence, and if not with that then denying that life, even our minds have any significance over that of inanimate objects.  In my lifetime I've seen the culture of the United States go from the macho-death worshiping culture of the militarized post-war period, the arms buildup, the nuclear sword of Damocles constructed over all of life to the reaction to that in the late 60s and early 70s, feminism, the kind of man personified by the Alan Alda, probably reaching its high point with the attempt at a moral presidency by Jimmy Carter, and the enforced reaction against that, the public relations campaign of derision of its weakness and femininity and more than just implied association of that with latent homosexuality in order to suppress that.  The ever increasing fascism of that reaction is what we are in the middle of right now.  It is so powerful that it not only dominated straight culture but it pretty much dominates gay culture, now, as well.

So, first of all extended comments on context which will be about half of my presentation.  In six points.  First I take the word “totalism” from Robert Lifton who has studied the absolutizing regimes of National Socialism in Germany and the war machine in Japan.  Lifton understands a totalizing regime as one that wants to gain a monopoly of technology and a monopoly of imagination so that nothing is thinkable or sayable or imaginable or doable outside of the totalism, The totalism may be coercive in a way that punishes any dissent or eventually it may gain such hegemony that it comes to be regarded as normal and there really is no dissent.

I would associate this with the rise of scientism, also in reaction to the loosening of that totalism in the culture of the late 60s and early 70s, the aggressive and suppressive organized atheists - they call themselves "skeptics" - and its largely successful campaign to make many things unthinkable, unsayable, or unimaginable or undoable.   Though that campaign worked most effectively on those with a stake in that hegemonic totalism in the media and in academia, its success with the majority of people in the United States is far more mixed.  I think the new atheism of the post 9-11 period is its high point up till now.   It is heavily invested in the same system.

So my judgement is that we now live in the United States in the totalism of market ideology in which nothing is imaginable outside the reach of the market.  Thus the market has morphed from a venue for the exchange of goods to a regulatory principle that governs all social relationships as real social relationships are monetized, persons are cast as commodities and inevitably there are dispensable persons in a monetized system.  So it's easy to see how this relates to the theme of racism because those who run the totalism are ready to make Blacks dispensable because they do not produce enough to qualify for the monetized system.   

Here I both agree and disagree with Brueggemann.   I think it had great validity, in par during the period before the rise of the international market system before they sent so many jobs from the United States to oversees.  When Thomas Huxley wrote his putrid response to the Emancipation Proclamation, that now the slave owners and white people in general would, finding no economic utility in black people,  they would feel it was advantageous for them to exterminate the former slaves, which he presented as a scientifically reliable inevitability.  And others certainly followed suit, though the reimposition of de facto slavery in Jim Crow made that idea moot, or it did until the modern Civil Rights movement.  I've come to see the Jim Crow period and system as just an informal, extra-legal reestablishment of slavery and that the aspirations of the present day Republicans is to turn back any progress made fifty years ago. Huxley also underestimated how readily black people would be absorbed in the wage-slave system that that kept white and other workers in conditions of virtual slavery if not actual slavery in such systems as share cropping and company store towns and non-unionized factories by generalizing desperate near destitution and destitution as a threat to hold over workers.

Now, I think the more relevant phenomenon of racism is more a tactic of playing poor white people off of poor black people,  Latinos, etc. in order to use them to gain political and legal control.  That is certainly how Republicans used racism to win in virtually every election they have prevailed in since 1968, its worst forms made even more useful to Republicans after the election of Barack Obama.  In that scenario it's a question of relative value to those who control the totalism.  If black people were of more utility to them than white people, they would have no hesitation to set up that in another way, as, in fact, the dictatorship of Robert Mugabe did and which may be the way that South Africa is going.  Though it's possible that they will opt for economic justice, which I hope for and which was needed in both countries, not to mention here, I'm not hopeful.  In other countries the uses of ethnic rivalry by those who have only a hope of rising in the totalitarian system, will vary as local conditions present them with opportunities.

The ideology of the market touches everything.  It seeks to assure the good life measured in marketable goods.  It depends on a strong military to assure the disproportionate flow of goods and it relies on a doctrine of exceptionalism to legitimate a guaranteed line of endless satiation as a gift to God for God's chosen people.  

In short, the conformity that has been taught to us by TV and the movies and general coercion since the glorification of war in the post-Vietnam period, perhaps a lot of it in reaction to Alan Alda's M.A.S.H. Something which even many formerly anti-war celebrities have participated in and which made the careers of many a second rater.  As George M. Cohen said,  the flag has saved many a bum show.  I can guarantee you that dissent on those was far more possible a half-century ago than it is today.

In order to test the grip of that totalism that is intolerant of dissent one on only need to try to critique the US military or US exceptionalism in any local congregation that I know.  You cannot do it and you must.

That, "you must" points out that the Church is about the only hope we really have for an influential institution to bring up these things, to oppose them.  Only they're going to have to do a lot better job and it isn't going to be easy or safe or fun.   I have pointed out that even the most reactionary of Popes, John Paul II and Bernard XVI, in their economic writings, in their writings on war and peace, in their opposition to things like capital punishment are radicals as opposed to even the most liberal of American politicians, though their appointments to the American hierarchy have belied that line of moral teachings.   Protestants have certainly had a similar record of success and lack of success in following that moral imperative. 

I will point out that the Black Churches, many other congregations and even some in Catholicism and mainline Protestant have lived up to it.  When the Reverend Jeremiah Wright gave his most controversial sermons, what made people the angriest was exactly in those lines.   You're never going to get that in secularism. Certainly not in any politically effective way.  The secular left was tried and failed, abjectly.

People Are Saying: Sean Hannity is a Serial Killer

Essential Employees, Report To Work: It Should Be Illegal For Them To Have Full Frontal In Hiatus During This Emergecy

Nother Footnote

Editing this morning post I remembered seeing the trailer for what was probably the  absolute, ass-end of what Freki would probably consider a Bible epic, the 1963 mash-up of steroid beef-cake hackery with Bible themed movie junk, the Italian sand and sandals crap "Hercules, Samson & Ulysses."  I don't think I've thought of it since then, I had to do a bit of googling to come up with the title.   I'd never have watched it. Certainly not if I had to pay 35 cents to get in.   Don't believe it if you choose but  the young, gay Thought Criminal didn't go in for movie style steroid he-men  who looked all the more luridly repulsive in the contemporary color-lab treatment.   And that was if you could ignore the awful writing, the ridiculous plots, the non-acting.  I do remember wondering what one of the Hebrew Judges was doing in a movie with two Greeks he'd more likely have been smiting with a jaw bone, but not enough to watch it.  I don't know how far the IMDb blurb goes to explain that.

Two strongmen set out to hunt down a murderous sea monster. Their ship is wrecked and they end up in the Holy Land where Hercules is assumed to be Samson who is a wanted man. The two team up to survive.

and don't care enough to look for further plot description.  I assume they meet up with the real Samson and wrestle the shit out of each other.  If they'd had a bigger budget maybe they'd have thrown Beowulf in.  Or Siegfried.  

I think some of the really awful gay porn actors in the 1990s were better at pretending to be actors, and as I recall reading, some of those B-actor Hollywood hunks also appeared in porn.  Don't know about the Italian ones.   So many of them died so young, if the steroids didn't kill them, STDs, alcohol, pills, suicide . . .  Movies suck, audio drama is a writers and actors medium, not a producers and accountants one.   When it's good it's so much better.  Don't even remember what movie I'd gone to see when I saw the trailer.   Whenever I look stuff up at the IMDb and look at the lists of movies even A-list actors made it's sort of jarring to see how many of the movies that cost tens of millions of dollars to make really, really suck.  It's all about business, not  even shows.

Oh, Yes. The Whole World Knows How Much I Trust Hollywood Movies


From the guy who got his knowledge of Ancient Egypt apparently from 60's hollywood bible epics...
When Westerners are presented with a complex issue in a country with a long and complex culture they know little more of than they'll get from watching movies, they aren't likely to really understand enough of it to get the nuances.

Freki must be jealous of me answering Simps and ignoring her, that's only because she's either too chicken or smart enough to know that I'd only kick her ass again if she posted her dumb bunny comments here.   Apparently the dim Brit transplant doesn't bother to read what I've said about "60's Hollywood bible epics," which anyone who does read me would know I think are crap.   As recently as February 21, in a footnote to a bit of snark  about Charlton Heston coming to believe he was  the "hunky Moses" he played in one, I wrote:

The Ten Commandments has to count as one of the most irreligious movies ever made.  In the Bible Moses was 80 years old when he confronted Pharaoh and 120 when he died.   Hollywood almost never gets religion right, and only then when they tangentially touch on it.  Considering what [Billy] Graham's act consisted of, bringing that up is totally relevant.

I could have added that among other things that make Hollywood historical epics dangerous that they never get anthropology right, replacing accurate knowledge and nuance with generally racist stereotypes with racism, stupid and offensive stereotypes for any substantial knowledge of the People, the cultures, the nuances of cultures, etc.

They replace historical fact with make believe that the writers, directors, producers, lawyers, and when they are powerful enough in the Hollywood sense, actors prefer or think will make more money.  They do it just about every time they deal with anything alleged to represent real people and real events.

And that's even before we get to any philosophical or theological-religious or political or anything comes into informed criticism.   Hollywood doesn't much deal with complexity and nuance very well, I knew that as I was watching the brave try in the post-war "idea movies" that I was watching in the 1960s.   By the way, I know enough about the history of movies to know almost all of those "Bible epics" were produced in the 50s, not the 60s.   All of them are junk*, all of them with one goal, to make money. 

For her to accuse me of mistaking Hollywood movies (or even PBS documentary movies) as history only shows that she's a casually habitual liar.  I certainly didn't when I answered some trash talk from her last August 12 in which I slammed

Birth of a Nation (which rebirthed the KKK after it had pretty much died out), Gone With The Wind,  The Littlest Rebel,  Song of the South, .... Geesh, really, practically the entire history of Hollywood, almost every movie and most TV shows depicting Black people,  The original inhabitants of the Americas, the Islands, Asians, etc.  Right up to this week. 

I can point out that she exposes her own shallow, stereotypical thinking about India, only the second largest nation on Earth, when she made her comment about "60s Hollywood Bible epics" quoting this part of what I wrote yesterday:

When Westerners are presented with a complex issue in a country with a long and complex culture they know little more of than they'll get from watching movies, they aren't likely to really understand enough of it to get the nuances.

She apparently doesn't even get up to the 20th century in thinking about India, probably knowing little more than was shown in the movie epic Gandhi, which could serve as an example of how wrong-headed it is to mistake a Hollywood movie as history, even one made with the greatest of good will and an attempt to get its subject right.  The history of India during the lifetime of Gandhi and that crucial phase of its independence struggle is so complicated and so nuanced that I think that movie has to count as not particularly helpful.  At the time of its release I recall reading Muslims were especially resentful of the presentation of Muhammad Ali Jinnah in the movie.   A two hour movie or even a four hour movie, which might constitute the total of what even a college-credentialed PhD will mistakenly believe they know about a person, an historical event or, Lord help us, even an entire vast and complex nation, is not going to be helpful in reality.  A point which I mentioned in the very article the bigoted Brit cherry picked to lie about.

Considering how many words I spent slamming Broadway's phonied up history lessons this week, for that pretentious Brit to accuse me of getting my knowledge of anything from Hollywood, which I don't think I've ever said a good word about and my criticism of biography and history in the hands of show-biz, . . . well, I did say she was a casually habitual liar.  It's my experience that that's one of the tactics atheists use because they don't much care about the truth.  I would guess that you might look at the Hollywood handling of history, biography, etc. when the writers were atheists and find out something like that.  Not all of them were Marxists, Ayn Rand's presentation of reality would fall into that category. 

I am allergic to all show-biz that deals in real people and real events because they always, inevitably lie about the people and events they allege to present. It was what even bugged me when E. L. Doctorow used real people in his novels.  I don't have time to look up the exact quote but in one of his fine essays, Richard Lewontin pointed out that even, perhaps especially autobiography was an especially suspect form because people have so often fudged the real events of their lives.  That might be unfair in some cases, you can't lump them all together.   But I've never trusted anyone without corroborating evidence.   Movies aren't evidence.

* I think that it was when I watched David and Bathsheba, I think it was sometime in the 70s, that I realized I didn't much like Gregory Peck's wooden, stolid, talking monument acting.  Great looking guy, reportedly a nice guy, block of wood actor.  I still loved the scene in The Big Country where he beats the crap out of Charlton Heston, but only because of Heston's fascist politics, by the time I saw it.   Now I don't think I'd bother to watch.  I always hated Westerns. 

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Footnote On Hinduism As A Religion And As Not A Religion

In the post I did yesterday about the use which atheists have put the murder of Asifa Bano, that she was held and raped in a Hindu shrine by the attendant of his shrine, a member of his family and others, including police, then murdered to slam religion., I noted that Hinduism is possibly the most complex "thing" which we call a religion. 

The Western atheists I criticized for trying to do what was the claimed motive of her rapists and murderers, to foment resentment on the basis of religion, and who whined about my calling them out, might be rather shocked to find that Hinduism is such a large and varied "thing" to include the fact that about the foremost figure that led to the current ultra-Hindu political movement of which the presently ruling Bharatiya Janata Party, the BJP, is a result and part was the creation of Veer Savarkar, an atheist who, nevertheless, was such an ultra-Hinduist that he once advocated Hindus raping  Muslim women and forcibly converting them to Hinduism, which he regarded in ways not that dissimilar to the way that Nazis regarded German identity. 

He was a huge fan of Hitler..  Veer -Vinayak Damodar - Savarkar is such a  part of that that Narendra Modi the present proto-fascist prime minister  has installed a shrine to Savarkar (who is widely suspected as having been behind the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi) in the Indian Parliament, which he publicly venerates.

I haven't been able to find out much about the religious identity of Modi except that people note he uses Hinduism as a political tool, including whipping up resentment against Muslims.  It is notable that Savarkar's adoration of Hitler as a "national purifier" of his country, explicitly didn't prevent him from also being in favor of the establishment of a fastly ambitious Jewish nation in Palestine, his overriding hatred of Muslims led him to think that was a great idea and he blasted the Indian government for opposing it in 1948. 

I would say that a lot of the most ardent Hindu nationalists have been and are atheists whose Hinduism is about as religious as atheists who claim they are Jews, though they despise the Jewish religion and the Hebrew Scriptures. 

I don't know how the man who incited the rape, torture and murder of Asifa Bano would fall on that odd continuum of Hinduism or what the holdings of the particular sect of Hinduism the shrine was associated with but I doubt that the gang rape and murder of an 8-year-old girl is approved of by any religion that deserves to be considered as such.  I know only the slightest amount about the huge and varied phenomenon of Hinduism as it has and continues to exist but nothing like that would seem to belong there.  I'm fairly certain that Savarkar's rival, the very religious Mahatma Gandhi would have condemned it as have hundreds of thousands of people in India who have mounted demonstrations against the wave of child rapes that have swept the country and the BJP's role in encouraging and failing to stop them.   Many of whom, probably most of whom, consider themselves Hindus.  And like "Evangelicals" in the United States, I would imagine that sometimes their Christianity is religious but a lot of the time it is more a matter of cultural identification even when that leads them to things that contradict the Scriptures, as in voting for the pagan Mammonist, self-deifying Donald Trump.

When Westerners are presented with a complex issue in a country with a long and complex culture they know little more of than they'll get from watching movies, they aren't likely to really understand enough of it to get the nuances.   I doubt Savarkar really got what was going on in Germany and Europe, though I doubt he'd really have cared much, considering the violent forces he was willing to provoke in his own country.   The least we can do is try to understand what's going on but to do that you have to take into account that there are hundreds of millions, even billions of people who live lives in places we know little to nothing about.  Relying on stereotypes and images from movies, even high end ones, will probably do more to lead away from that than closer to reality.   Using their lives in our own, domestic ideological warfare is disgusting and irresponsible.

The Golden Bowl of Crap: Just Listened To Colbert's Comey Interview

Couldn't get through it to the end, the longer this book tour goes on the more disdain I have for Comey.  The only words I want to hear from him are under oath in a courtroom questioned by lawyers who want to hear just the facts and not his self-righteous self-exoneration.

For anyone who might wonder, Eric Holder was one of those who thought appointing Comey to head the FBI was a great idea.  Just to show you how unreliable his judgement can be. For anyone who wonders about why Obama appointed him to start with, this is what Zach Carter had to say about that in 2016:

Comey shares two of the Obama administration’s most consistent and unnerving legal leanings: a proclivity for mass surveillance and an aversion to Wall Street accountability. 

After the hospital showdown, Comey co-authored a legal memo modifying the Bush administration’s domestic spying program that authorized the wiretapping of millions of Americans without a search warrant. It was fine for the administration to directly violate a law passed by Congress, the memo reasoned, because as commander in chief after “a foreign attack on the United States,” the president has “inherent constitutional authority” that “Congress cannot curtail.” This inventive rationale not only allowed the program to proceed, it helped protect its architects and implementers from prosecution. Who could blame the intelligence community for doing something the top administration lawyers had assured them was legal?

Obama has consistently frustrated civil liberties advocates by following his own aggressive surveillance activities, based on an expansive view of executive power. Back in 2013, Attorney General Eric Holder came under fire after the Justice Department secretly seized the phone records of Associated Press reporters who, the administration maintained, had disclosed classified information in a story. 

That scandal raised major First Amendment questions, but it faded after The Guardian and The Washington Post reported that the government was collecting enormous amounts of data on the phone records of millions of Americans, not just journalists. When pressed about the collection effort by Congress, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper publicly lied ― and still kept his job. In 2015, ProPublica and The New York Times reported that Obama had significantly expanded upon the Bush administration’s warrantless surveillance of internet activity and email. 

If Obama wanted to invoke novel legal theories to pursue mass surveillance, then Comey was a pretty solid bet. But another aspect of Comey’s resume may also have comforted the Obama administration. In 2010, he took a job as the top lawyer at Bridgewater Associates, the largest hedge fund in the world, with over $150 billion in assets under management. In early 2013, he briefly accepted a post on the board of scandal-plagued British bank HSBC, which he gave up for the FBI job.

“It is not that surprising that a former hedge fund general counsel is more interested in dedicating the FBI’s scarce resources to scrutinizing Clinton’s emails than investigating whether there were crimes committed during the run up to the financial crisis,” Jeff Hauser, director of the Revolving Door Project at the Center for Economic and Policy Research, told The Huffington Post.

Only part of the reason that I don't want the even more billionaire friendly Holder to even try to get the nomination.   We will be paying for having Obama win over Hillary Clinton in 2008 for decades to come, part of that price was having those he appointed making it possible for Trump to get the presidency from her in 2016, despite her winning the election.   And I blame Comey and Holder's successor, Loretta Lynch in that as well as Bill Clinton who decided to go talk to her as he knew the investigation was going on.  She should have said no to that visit, I can't fathom why she agreed to it.  We're still paying for Clinton having been president, the biggest price being his selfish arrogance and lack of discipline which led to Comey being able to do what he did.

I thought Colbert asking Comey if he were Robert Mueller if he'd want to have James Comey peddling his book right now, it's the best question I've heard anyone put to the jerk on this book tour. Comey's answer was disgustingly self-serving.  I'll bet he ends up doing more damage to the investigation into Trump crimes that he claims to want to see exposed.  His declaration against the idea of impeachment with Stephanopoulos leads me to think he's mostly interested in his bubble reputation, not the country.

Oh, Good Lord No!

Last night on Chris Hays' show, former Attorney General Eric Holder said he's considering running for president in 2020.   I'm sure I'm not the first to say it but Mr Holder should stop dreaming.   Him running would do nothing good except it would remind people of the glaring fact that he refused to go after billionaires and multi-millionaires who stole billions of dollars and destroyed the lives of many Americans, he did so because he is the kind of Democrat who is first and foremost a servant of the oligarchs, no matter what else he might do   

Even when I could agree with what he said on Chris Hays' show his mealy-mouthed, weak articulation of what was wrong with what Trump and his fascist regime is doing should lead any rational Democrat to see that he would be an ineffective candidate.   Even his criticism of James Comey, who sandbagged the most qualified Democratic candidate in the history of American elections on behalf of not only the least qualified, the most obviously disastrous candidate in modern history was weak and conciliatory.   It won't happen but if Eric Holder became President, his conciliation to Republicans and the enemies of Democrats and democracy would make Barack Obama seem like he didn't do the same thing for eight years.   He would leave Democrats more demoralized than Obama managed to do as he squandered the strongest hand a Democrat had been given in more than a generation, he would make the 2010 disaster look like a tap on the ass instead of the catastrophe it is. 

Eric Holder is a very smart man, he wasn't a very good Democratic Attorney General, unless by Democratic you mean the ultra-wealthy connected Democrats of NYC-DC-LA.   He has never done much to discomfort the Republicans of that same class.   When you hear Democrats rail about the billionaire crooks who got away with it, Holder did more than almost anyone to let them get away with it. 

Holder should forget the fantasies that he's presidential material.  He isn't.  No one should encourage him or those who would be stupid enough to support a candidacy, it would do more to divide Democrats than to unite us to defeat fascism.  

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Whine Mail From A Fan of Hemant Mehta

I might mention Hemant's blog once ever other year, if that, it's hardly excessive considering what the one and only theme of his blog is   I never intended to criticize atheism when I started blogging, I resisted it for a number of months, this being the first time I wrote (rather naively) on the topic.  

But in studying how and why American liberalism, the natural political position of those who believe in equality and democracy and economic justice stumbled and fell in the 1960s only to not get up again I had to address it.  In studying that I came to the conclusions that, among a small number of other ballot box poison positions, atheism and its penumbras (and some of them really put the "numb" in "penumbras" especially the different sects of Marxism) had an outsized effect in that.  Considering that even on the "left" that atheism is a rather insignificant percentage of the population, it did so by suckering non-atheist lefties into feeling sorry for them and adopting their angry-12-year-old demands to the detriment of the legitimate liberal agenda.   

Hemant is a hate merchant just about every day of every year.  He's got nothing to whine about if I knock his blog around once in a while. 

Carla Bley - Temporarily - The Nels Cline 4

Nels Cline  Guitar:
Julian Lage guitar
Scott Colley bass
Tom Rainey drums

Nels Cline - Amenette 

This Broke My Heart

For a fuller description

This is why Francis is Francis. 

Tuesday Lecture: Not On Democracy Now! Not On Majority Report Not From Any Secular Figure Have I Heard Something So Radical As This

Walter Brueggemann: The Importance and Future of Preaching in an Age of Social Turmoil

Brueggemann says the unthinkable about the United States and the totalizing ideology that even the radicals buy into, only with a slight difference.   It points out that the market religion which is the real state religion of the United States (and yet people wonder how White Evangelicals voted for trump) which considers people as commodities.   Marxism did that no less than brutal capitalism does, only it calls us "masses" and talks about us in terms of natural resources instead of monetary values.  

Stealing Her Body For Political Purposes By People Who Didn't Know Her And Have Their Own Agendas

The outrage expressed about the murder of Asifa Bano are divisible into two categories of not easily teased out groups. 

There is the justified, non-ideological outrage over a group of men who abducted, drugged, starved and raped an eight-year-old girl as she pastured horses before they raped her one last time and brutally murdered her, in pretty much the same way they would any horrible crime committed against children by a group of adults.  Much of that doesn't try to turn the  murdered little girl, Asifa Bano into a tool for their own agendas, it is a reaction to the crime itself, respecting her identity and the identity of her parents and family, secondary victims of the crime.

Then there are those who appropriate the life and body of Asifa Bano for their own purposes, disregarding the girl and her family and their thinking about what happened.  I had my attention called to that by the use it was being put to by atheists in North America who are using the crime in their eternal campaign to use anything they can get their hands on to slam religion.   In this case,  that Asfia Bano and her family are not atheists but are reported to have been and remain Muslims, in other words, religious people, means nothing to them.  I have seen nowhere where her surviving family members have given approval to that use of their daughter, though I doubt they'd appreciate that use of her.

That the explanation being given of the crime, that the rapist-murderers were trying to terrorize a family, being called a "tribe" of Muslims, into leaving the area the rapist-murders live in is something I can't evaluate.   I've read about ten different articles about the case and I don't have any idea if that's the truth.  The inflamed politics of Hindu-Muslim conflict in India means that the criminals or their lawyers, family or allies, making that claim, it means they are trying to draw up sides in order to influence their prosecution and possible punishment.   And that as a tactic has worked for them to some extent.   I certainly doubt that anyone who isn't familiar with the area it happened in, the fact that for the supporters of those accused of the crime have turned this into something not about the guilt or innocence of those accused of a terrible crime but an ethnic-tribal conflict.  In India often, perhaps most often, Muslim-Hindu conflicts are ethnic as much as they are about religion.

If that is what this has turned into  where it happened it's not something that we should be shocked at.   Turning the victim into tool of warfare between ideological sides is exactly what is done at places like  the most ironically and dishonestly named The Friendly Atheist, in essence they are making the same use of her reported to be the motive of the men who murdered her, they wanted to use her to incite conflict in order for the side they want to win prevail.   I would like someone to explain to me how that isn't true.  I would also like to know what her family would have to say about that use of their daughter.

India has an enormous population, of well over 1.3 billion people.  It's my belief that in a population that big you are going to find pretty much every way that people can devise for being evil represented among them as well as its opposite.   It is an enormously diverse and complex country with huge differences in different regions and among different peoples.   Hinduism has often been noted to be an enormously diverse phenomenon, perhaps the most complex thing called "a religion" in the human population.   I can't imagine that there are not large numbers of Hindus who are horrified and disgusted at the crime against Asifa Bano and her family, certainly among Hindu feminists there must be many who want to see her killers punished.

And, it being India, there are lots of other issues involved, class, caste, corruption of local officials, officials who want to do their job and produce justice.   Yes, I believe there are Indian officials, police officials, prosecutors who would like that.  And being India - most anywhere in the world, really - there is how such a terrible crime becomes a cause among those who will use it for their own motives.

I have to mention another brutal rape and murder of an 8-year-old girl which hasn't become any kind of cause celebre on any ideological blog I've seen.  Four years ago at a Walmart in Jacksonville, Florida,   Cherish Perrywinkle was abducted, raped and brutally murdered, her body stuffed in a log in a swamp a 61 year old man who posed as a benefactor for the family.   It took them four years to bring him to trial, convict him and give him the death penalty.  While I'm opposed to the death penalty, I doubt I'd be too upset if they carried it out - he'll probably die in prison.  There are certainly thousands of other such cases every year that don't become news items because there is no ideological or political hook to get the attention of those unrelated to the victim or family or the accused. 

I bring this up to point something out that has not as people slam Hindus, Muslims, religion in general, ALL OF THOSE ACCUSED OF THE RAPE AND MURDER IN BOTH CASES, IN ALMOST ALL THESE CASES ARE MEN.   That is the most obvious thing they have in common and they are men who feel entitled to do that to girls and women on the basis of their genders.   Making that point isn't an ideological abduction of the identity and body of the victim and their family, it's just almost never brought up when it is the most universal character of the people who commit such crimes.  You have to ask why that is. There is a world-wide lynching campaign against girls and women, it is so common, so typical that it is a rare exception for them to even make the news past a headline of a body found.   That's as true in the United States, North America, Western Europe and rich countries around the world.  I can't believe that what happened in this case which will soon be forgotten by those who are using it to generate outrage isn't related to that campaign.

I have decided I'm going back to concentrate on the identity of the victims of such crimes, not those who attacked or raped or killed them.

Monday, April 16, 2018

Hate Mail - ©!

Don't know Kendrick Lamar,* don't know his music, haven't had a chance to try it.   Why do any of the idiots of Eschaton think I would be upset at him winning the Pulitzer Prize for Music?

Considering how their resident music expert has slammed several former winners, not that long ago both Gunther Schuller (who he never heard a note of, I'm sure) and Ned Rorem  he's the one who slams Pulitzer Prize winners.

Like the prizes in other categories,  the people who select the winners are a pretty hit or miss.  If Stupy knew more about the issue, he might know that it was the man he derided not long ago, Gunther Schuller (a long time member of the selection committee) was one of the prime movers for opening up the category to non-classical musics.

"This is a long overdue sea change in the whole attitude as to what can be considered for the prize."

But Stups doesn't know all that much about anything but commercial pop (old, straight, white men concentration).   Make that "very old, straight, . . .

*  I did just read that he's a dedicated Christian convert who has credited God for the prime creative force for his music.  I would imagine if he was presented with some of his statements and Lamar hadn't won the Pulitzer that Stups and his fellow idiots at Eschaton would be deriding him as much as he has Rorem or Schuller or other winners. 

Here's a bit of that from a Buzz Feed piece:

In a recent Billboard interview, Lamar credited favoritism from God for his deliverance from the gravitational pull of crime in his neighborhood, and then casually declared his belief that the apocalypse is near. "We're in the last days, man — I truly in my heart believe that," he said. "It's written."

Speaking to Complex last year, he revealed his conviction that his career is divinely inspired. "I got a greater purpose," Lamar said. "God put something in my heart to get across and that's what I'm going to focus on, using my voice as an instrument and doing what needs to be done."

In a later interview with Houston's 93.7 The Beat, Lamar extended that sense of purpose to all of humankind: "We're all put on this earth to walk in His image, the Master," he argued.

So, apparently they gave it to a religious composer.  Let's see, how to put it,  Oh, yea,  is that going to piss off That Idiot From Eschaton©!

Response To Hate Mail By Means Of A Thank You Note

I have to thank Michael Avenatti for making me smile with delight so many times over the past several weeks.   A rare ray of intermittent sunshine in the Trumpian gloom.   I don't think I've ever wished I were in a courtroom for the kind of hearing that will probably happen today, but I kind of wish I could be there this afternoon.  Great management. 

OK, Simps, steal that.  You know you will and I know you will. 

Update:  As predicted, I'm told Simps used this at Duncan's daycare for the dense and and dim and dotty.  And he got one of the dottier denizens to comment densely. 

Geesh, how did I predict that?  

“The founders really didn’t want to create the country we actually live in today.” Especially NOT Hamilton or Madison

  1. Do you have any clue how expensive and hard to get tickets to HAMILTON are? The idea that said show has had any impact on how Americans understand history is beyond lunatic.

Since he has claimed that no one mistakes the Lynn Manuel Miranda broadway travesty "Hamilton" as accurate history, here's this from one of New York Cities' more prestigious cultural foundations.

The Hamilton Education Program is expanding nationwide for the 2017-2018 school year, as the musical Hamilton goes on tour.

The Gilder Lehrman Institute is proud to partner with Hamilton and The Rockefeller Foundation on the Hamilton Education Program. Title I high schools are being invited to see the musical and to integrate Alexander Hamilton and the Founding Era into classroom studies. The Hamilton Education Program is part of the Gilder Lehrman Institute’s broader mission to improve the teaching and learning of American history. Made possible through a grant by The Rockefeller Foundation to the Gilder Lehrman Institute, high school students in Title I schools in New York City, Chicago, Seattle, Denver, St. Louis, Houston, Salt Lake City, and selected cities will each pay just a “Hamilton” ($10) to see the performance.

The Institute has more than twenty years of experience developing educational programming in American history. In addition, the Gilder Lehrman Collection is a unique archive of 65,000 primary sources, including a love letter from Alexander Hamilton to his fiancée, Elizabeth Schuyler.

To learn more about the program and to explore documents, essays, and videos relating to Alexander Hamilton and the Founding Era, visit the links below and go to “Alexander Hamilton in the American Imagination,” a special issue of our online journal History Now. For additional information on New York, and other tour cities, please contact For additional information on Chicago, please contact

Thus introducing even more of a new generation into complete bull shit about the "Founding Fathers," as heroes.  In fact one of the sleazier ones who is presented as an opponent of slavery when he not only explicitly supported its continuation in the United States, as I pointed out, he argued for the adoption of the slavery-enabling, slavery-enhancing and anti-democratic features of the Constitution on the basis of its profitability for northern financial interests.    The whole thing is a crock of shit encouraging the federalist fascism that is engulfing the progress made against the Constitution in the 19th and 20th centuries.

"Hamilton" is crap, two of the best short articles I've read pointing out some of the most glaring problems with it are by the estimable Ishmael Reed.

The best argument that I know for the advocacy of such schools came from a Jewish professor who attended Hebrew School before public schools. When a public school teacher praised the Crusades, she was able to point out that the Crusaders set up pogroms.

In the heady times during the slave revolt of the 1960s, the rebels boasted about how they were using the enemy’s language and how they were “stealing his language.” Now things have been turned upside down. Now the masters, the producers of this profit hungry production, which has already made 30 million dollars, are using the slave’s language: Rock and Roll, Rap and Hip Hop to romanticize the careers of kidnappers, and murderers. People, who, like Jefferson, beat and fucked his slaves and spied on their fucking.

The very clever salesman for this project is Lin-Manuel Miranda. He compares Hamilton, a man who engaged in cruel practices against those who had been kidnapped from their ancestral homes, with that of a slave, Tupac Shakur. He is making profits for his investors with glib appeals such as this one. The first week’s box office take was $1,153,386.

Your show biz liberals won't mention such stuff in polite company, I'm not one of them.

And Reed followed up, two years ago yesterday in which he noted the criticism of a number of historians:

Professor Michelle Duross, of the University at Albany, State University of New York, is much more direct  and shows what happens when someone from a class, whose voice has been neglected, invades the all-white male country club of historians. Unlike Chernow, her treatment of Hamilton as a slave trader is not couched in equivocating qualifiers that are favorable to this founding father, I wrote. She takes to task the Hamilton biographies written by his awe-struck groupies:

“Alexander Hamilton’s biographers praise Hamilton for being an abolitionist, but they have overstated Hamilton’s stance on slavery.

“Historian John C. Miller insisted, ‘He [Hamilton] advocated one of the most daring invasions of property rights that was ever made– the abolition of Negro slavery.’

“Biographer Forrest McDonald maintained, ‘Hamilton was an abolitionist, and on that subject he never wavered.’”

She writes, “Hamilton’s position on slavery is more complex than his biographers’ suggest.” Some historians maintain that Hamilton’s birth on the island of Nevis and his subsequent upbringing in St. Croix instilled in him a hatred for the brutalities of slavery. Historian James Oliver Horton suggests that Hamilton’s childhood surrounded by the slave system of the West Indies “would shape Alexander’s attitudes about race and slavery for the rest of his life.’”

She writes,

“No existing documents of Hamilton’s support this claim. Hamilton never mentioned anything in his correspondence about the horrors of plantation slavery in the West Indies.

“Hamilton’s involvement in the selling of slaves suggests that his position against slavery was not absolute. Besides marrying into a slaveholding family, Hamilton conducted transactions for the purchase and transfer of slaves on behalf of his in-laws and as part of his assignment in the Continental Army.”

I cited another historian, Allan McLane Hamilton, who writes to counter the claim that Hamilton never owned slaves: “[Hamilton] never owned a negro slave… is untrue. In his books, we find that there are entries showing that he purchased them for himself and for others.” Why isn’t this entry regarded as a smoking gun? After creating the Hamilton mania, which the Times began in 2012, and which one letter writer termed the Times coverage as “Daily Worship,” the newspaper acknowledged that there was dissent. Finally. It came in Jennifer Schuesslera’s April 10, 2016 article entitled “Hamilton’ and History: Are They in Sync? ” She described the dissent. Critics, according to her, claim that “Hamilton”:

“over-glorifies the man, inflating his opposition to slavery while glossing over less attractive aspects of his politics, which were not necessarily as in tune with contemporary progressive values as audiences leaving the theater might assume.”

In a note to me she acknowledges that she read my August 21st CounterPunch piece but traced the beginning of “Hamilton” dissent to a September response by David Waldstreicher’s to remarks made by historian Joseph Adelman, who claimed that Miranda “got the history right.”

She wrote that Waldstreicher, a historian at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York, “sounded an early note of skepticism on The Junto, a group blog about early American history.” (Apparently CounterPunch is a name that dare not be mentioned at the Times.) Waldstreicher wrote, “Nobody’s pointing out the pattern of exaggerating Hamilton’s (and other Federalists’) antislavery….” Exaggeration is to put it mildly; nowhere in his comments does Waldstreicher say that Hamilton actually owned slaves. Nobody pointed out that Hamilton’s antislavery has been exaggerated? (Hamilton’s mother also owned slaves and in her will, left the slaves to Hamilton and his brother.) Professors Michelle Duross and Alan McLane among others have pointed it out. Maybe he, like Miranda reads only the Good Old Boys and Girls of the American Historical Establishment.

Professor Lyra D. Monteiro’s article in the journal The Public Historian was also cited. She wrote,

“the show’s multiethnic casting obscures the almost complete lack of identifiable African-American characters, making the country’s founding seem like an all-white affair.

“It’s an amazing piece of theater, but it concerns me that people are seeing it as a piece of history.”

“The founders,” she added, “really didn’t want to create the country we actually live in today.”

Yesterday I noted that the scholar Yascha Mounk, in his book and his speaking about it bemoaned the unwillingness of We The People to deal with complex ideas, something I acknowledge but reject any elitist view of that as limiting the legitimacy of the only legitimate form of government, egalitarian democracy.   Most of the ideas necessary for government of, by and for THE PEOPLE, do not depend on any such complex articulation.   And for those ideas the maintenance of an honest, principled, competent staff at the permanent institutions of government can go a long way to dealing with those things on our behalf, with checks on the influence of corruption from the rich and powerful and ideologically motivated.   Many instances of that in our history might be brought up as well as instances that indicate that it isn't fail safe.  NOTHING about any governance is. 

But one of the biggest dangers, as it turns out is that in the absence of a knowledge of our history in all its frequent squalor and infrequent glory, movies, TV shows and to a lesser extent fiction can put a false narrative in the empty space in which an accurate knowledge of history belongs.   I have pointed out that we know, from the testimony of the man who recreated the Klu Klux Klan, that his great inspiration was the movie Birth of a Nation, we know that many of even PhD level college degree holders, even history, know little to no more about the Scopes Trial and its aftermath than what they've seen in the fictitious movie and blatant misrepresentation of Inherit The Wind.  And we have the testimony from the past, such as Mark Twain's assertion that if so many people in the slave holding states hadn't read the drivel written by Sir Walter Scott that the Civil War might never have happened.   The entire phenomeon of resurgent fascism in the United States is a product of Hollywood movies and TV shows that lie about the Civil War (Gone With The Wind, probably the worst offender) race, the phonied-up, lily white racist genre of Westerns and the fascist chic movies of the Reagan years.   That Donald Trump, the quintessential American fascist as president is entirely a product of American TV and pop culture, his candidacy originating in a publicity stunt to further his show-biz career, pushed by cabloid and entertainment TV that gave him billions of dollars of free air time during his campaign (Joe and Mika hardly the least guilty of that) and now trying to be revived through the efforts of his fellow walking. tweeting mental case Roseanne Barr provides all the evidence an honest rational person would need to prove that American show biz is not only not innocent and innocuous, it is one of the foremost tools of oligarchic fascism. 

That the American left has been led by the nose in denying that by pseudo-lefties who publish magazines, who produce, direct, write and act in the very medium and the legal and academic hacks who work for show biz and the porn industry is conclusive evidence that even when they are credentialed by colleges, they're as big a bunch of suckers for crappy movies and other entertainment as the Trump voters.   More so, they've been the biggest bunch of chumps for that whole thing, supporting the freedom of the tools of oligarchy and denying its obvious potency in damaging egalitarian democracy.

It turns out the most effective means of destroying American democracy wasn't subversion through ideologies or by terrorist or military attack, it was in getting a bunch of college educated suckers to buy phony history and phony ideas created of, by and for the oligarchs, the billionaires foreign and domestic.  That bunch, especially on the play-left, are no wiser for the experience of the last eighteen years than they were when so many of them helped put Bush II in office.  They are too stupid to allow them to run the left, we need one that's smart and not wowed by production values, satin costumes and glitz and sentimentally told lies.  They haven't even caught up with the ones they bought in about 1962.

Sunday, April 15, 2018

Irish Guy Responds

WeCroak is a smartphone app based on the Bhutanese principle that to live a happy life, one must meditate on one's own death five times a day. 

Only five times a day? 

Yascha Mounk's Ideas About The Dangers To Democracy Are Worth Reading And Thinking About But I Don't Buy It All

Anyone who reads much of my blog knows that one of my foremost concerns is how to protect, extend and enhance egalitarian democracy.   By egalitarian democracy I mean allowing the exercise of rights in a framework of mutual respect and the sustenance of the biological and physical basis of life, the equal and liberal provision of not only what is needed to sustain the body but for everyone to live a decent, peaceful life in as much security and with as much respect as it is socially possible to provide.

I am not only an opponent of all non-democratic systems, I am opposed to the anti-egalitarian system which goes by the name "liberal democracy" which enables the strong and powerful and merely fortunate in their attempt to hoard wealth, to manipulate factions against each other to enhance their power and their ability to steal more.   I have come to the conclusion that such "liberal democracy" the 18th century "enlightenment" idea is part of a continuum with anti-democratic systems and that egalitarian democracy is not a part of that continuum but a genuine alternative.   I have also come to the conclusion that, certainly in the West, but likely everywhere, that alternative is going to be supported by a religious view of people, of animals and living beings as having a definitively different status than non-living objects, in terms of the human species and human societies and human institutions, including government, will be found in the holding of monotheism that people are created in the image of God.*

The conversation that Michael Enright had with Yascha Mounk over the real peril democracy is in is something I'm going to be going over more this week, a lot of what he says I can agree with completely, some of his other ideas, I'll have to be convinced of.  I think there is a lot he leaves out and I don't think he has addressed in anything I've so far found which I think gets to the real basis of the problem, which will violate some of the most sacred of scared cows in polite society, I think polite society is the source of a disproportionate amount of the problem.

I found a lot of the conversation and the excerpt of Mounk's book that I've read were seriously deficient - I don't know if he addresses the problems with such things as amorality, especially the permission of serious lying which is the real source of the attack on democracy and rights.  Given the fact that American democracy is being murdered by the judicial permission of lying, as much as allowing billionaire oligarchs to ratfuck our elections THROUGH SELLING LIES ON FACEBOOK AND FOX AND SINCLAIR, no academic discussion of it which doesn't acknowledge that the amorality of free speech - free press absolutism IS THE MEANS OF THE OLIGARCHS PUTTING FASCISTS IN POWER.

A population dominated by people who don't know the truth, who believe lies designed for easy sale, who are manipulated through fear and resentment will not be a  People who can sustain democracy.   The foremost fact of almost all of the Western countries in which fascism either has defeated or endangers democracy is the fact that the media is controlled by those who hope to benefit from people believing lies.  The United States has been led to that disaster by 18th century "liberalism" in all of its scientistic, materialist amorality.  It uses the words of slave owners and wealthy merchants first put into documents such as the U.S. Constitution for the purpose of enhancing their own wealth and control.  As Mounk points out in a really troubling excerpt from the book he's touring around, Madison and Hamilton never intended the United States to be a democracy.   It is something I can't resist pointing out that I've been saying over and over again here.

America’s political system is by design. The United States was founded as a republic, not a democracy. As Alexander Hamilton and James Madison made clear in the Federalist Papers, the essence of this republic would consist—their emphasis—“IN THE TOTAL EXCLUSION OF THE PEOPLE, IN THEIR COLLECTIVE CAPACITY, from any share” in the government. Instead, popular views would be translated into public policy through the election of representatives “whose wisdom may,” in Madison’s words, “best discern the true interest of their country.” That this radically curtailed the degree to which the people could directly influence the government was no accident.

Only over the course of the 19th century did a set of entrepreneurial thinkers begin to dress an ideologically self-conscious republic up in the unaccustomed robes of a democracy. Throughout America, the old social hierarchies were being upended by rapid industrialization, mass immigration, westward expansion, and civil war. Egalitarian sentiment was rising. The idea that the people should rule came to seem appealing and even natural. The same institutions that had once been designed to exclude the people from government were now commended for facilitating government “of the people, by the people, for the people.”

As the idiots eat up the "Hamilton" crap as seen on Broadway, no one who is troubled by the devolution of American democracy into fascism should ignore the role that 19th century abolitionists, suffragists, economic reformers, etc really played IN OVERRIDING THE UNITED STATES CONSTITUTION TO PRODUCE A MORE DEMOCRATIC COUNTRY, and how they have been thwarted by the Judiciary and for most of its history the Senate, and the "free press" in that struggle.  American democracy, the only thing that has made the government of the United States tolerable in any way is a creation of those who struggled against the Constitution, not originalists and the fascists of federalism. 

In his discussion with Michael Enright he and Mounk discuss the problem of people not liking to be addressed with complex ideas, something which I commented on here as recently as last Wednesday.**  I do rather bristle at a Harvard guy using that problem to try to limit the possibilities of democracy, I don't think that The People are any less equipped to deal with complex issues than interested elites who are so notably ready to act from corrupt motives.  I think we have no choice but to try to limit the effects of those problems through the staffing of institutions of governments and by radically rewriting the most basic Constitutional provisions to take that into account, but only on the basis of egalitarian democracy, not on the ease with which elites, economic, legal, intellectuals, in underestimating both the capacity of The People and their own classes' history of corruption.  The elitist and often corrupt Benjamin Franklin, in the discussion of what kind of government the new United States would have, noted the foolishness that a government of the wisest would be.  The wise are so often able to convince themselves that what they want is what is good.

* In the commentary on the opening of Genesis in the excellent Christian Community Bible (often slammed for it being too much a manifestation of Latin American social justice and liberation theology) it says:

Creation and Modern Humankind

When the Scriptures say that God creates everything and is before all things, it exalts man who comes from God and is no longer a product of chance.

The Scriptures free people from anguish.  Primitive people thought they were dependent on the caprice of their gods; even the Greeks, so proud of freedom, accepted the weight of a destiny from which no one could escape.  Their aim to dominate nature was blocked by fear of offending these gods, their masters.

The Scriptures, on the other hand, present believers not afraid of the hidden power of the stars (they are “lamps” at God's service), nor of any cures in their destiny when they look for the secrets of the universe; it is no accident that the great thrust of civilization originated in the Christianized West.

I wouldn't put it exactly that way,  I think it's possible for other, perhaps even "primitive" people to have a similar view of people that would produce that kind of freedom.  I do, though, doubt it will happen under polytheism and that atheism is fatal to any aspiration of it.  It is certainly true that any assertion of universal rights is not sustainable under materialism. 

** I don't know if the general public has the ability to appreciate these matters on a basis more subtle than they learned to think of them from Hollywood westerns where you're either good or bad, sometimes that being based on no substantial moral difference but just because you're manipulated into rooting for the guy in the white hat.   I don't know if Steve Almond is demanding a level of sophistication that Americans have been stupefied out of being able to navigate by entertainment media.  I look at our history and wonder if Americans have been able to regularly think more subtly than in those terms.   If that's a human limitation, it is a dangerous one for self-government and any means of avoiding the dangers of it have to be taken.