Friday, December 21, 2012

Paid For: Lock, Stock, and Barrel

When repeatedly asked by PBS-TV correspondent Ray Suarez, of the Newshour, to state her position on allowing the continued availability of assault weapons and large magazines of high-powered ammunition to civilians in the wake of the Newtown Massacre, the newly elected Senator from North Dakota, Democrat Heidi Heitkamp, avoided answering, because she was not sure she yet understands what caused the slaughter at the Connecticut elementary school. Basically, she stated that she isn't a fan of mental illness, and intends to find out what can be done about eliminating it.

We have a Congress that has been bought and paid for by lobbying interests, such as the NRA, that have little in common with the average American citizen, or their common good.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

For Whomsoever

No man is an Iland, intire of it selfe; every man is
a peece of the Continent, a part of the maine; if a
Clod bee washed away by the Sea, Europe is the lesse,
as well as if a Promontorie were, as well as if a Mannor
of thy friends or of thine owne were; any mans
death diminishes me, because I am in-
volved in Mankinde; And therefore
never send to know for
whom the bell tolls; It
tolls for thee.


Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Leonard* of Arabia

From the days of the Barbary Pirates (can anybody remember why Thomas Jefferson decided to send the U.S. marines to the shores of Tripoli?) to the days of the Somali Pirates, America has been shaken down by terrorists who are frustrated and disappointed with their numinously orchestrated hopelessness. Shaking the American money tree and watching golden shekels rain down upon their various promised lands has become an international sport for these highly self-regarded jihadists. America has been driving headlong into the sandtraps that these "Mice that Roar" have been laying out for it for more than 200 years now. Finally, it seems, that in Obama we might have a President that doesn't want to continue playing this idiotic cat and mouse game.
Perhaps if we just ignore these poor, helpless, democratically-challenged Warriors of God they will attempt to shakedown their 'god-fearing' neighbors in China or Russia? Good luck with that.
And regarding Myth Romney's worry about the world being four years closer to Iran having a nuke, may someone remind this self-adoring Olympian that the U.S. is always four minutes closer to having, inshallah, 2,000 nukes stockpiled.
*Leonard Wibberley, The Mouse that Roared. 1955.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Out of the Bush: Myth Romney, The Lyin' King

In a display of a deeply imbedded atavism, not to mention a palpable fear of losing all that they have not worked hard for, the Republican Party's stale offering for President of these United States, from out of the bush, the former bane of the workingman, his high and his mighty, to himself twice-endeared, Myth Romney is a cruel joke being played on an embattled and embittered middle-class. To the consternation of his Party's tea-swilling base this choice of the lesser of a dozen evils was grudgingly granted his candidacy with a reactionary stiff-upper-lip formerly suitable only for senescent, if not fossilized, British lions.

However, now that this crimson-colored, flick-tongued lyin' king has demonstrated his latest moves (somewhat reminiscent, actually, of the Soweto Shuffle) to at least 47% of the 99% that had already feared his bite more than his bark, any remaining Myth Romney acolytes may be switching to coffee come November. To merely call him out as a duplicitous charlatan capable of a callous casuistry not seen or heard since Marx (both Groucho and Karl) is not strong enough hortatory. This louche bean counter must not be allowed in a place where 2 plus 2 does not equal 4.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

De Omnibus Disputandum

After bearing witness to the shambolic main event on the Denver card last evening wherein the red-eyed challenger from (tba) had the effrontery to land several stinging jabs at the seemingly diffident gentleman in blue from (tba) in whose hands many have entrusted their prosperity, if not their posterity, I exited the arena myself reeling with a disoriented feeling, a sense of being, in the words of the late Christopher Hitchens, (or was it Winston Churchill?) "bruised, battered, and buggered." (Or in my own poor choice of words, as battered as a filet-o-fish being lowered into a cauldron of roiling oil). Fortunately, however, being a modern man (for my age) I have an attention span that can be measured in bites of sound, and a memory that can be measured solely by its relative paucity of kilobytes, so I awoke this morning only able to recall the following salient blows landed during the first round of these so-called "debates."

Firstly, I was struck by the tenacity with which the Republican who somehow, heuristically, perhaps, made the best of his innate talent for imposture and dealt short, swift, shots to the insouciant southpaw; and dumped a tautology [flurry] of baleful ignominy upon the Democrat.

Secondly, the crowd which had gathered to attend this long-awaited conflagration were foresworn to silence, thus disabling their deliverance of the appropriate amount of opprobrium due to the hard-punching outlier. The entropy of the incumbent, though, was palpable.

Finally, not being one to repine, I must confess that the referee of the contest (who I like as much as his doppelganger, Walter Cronkite) was rebarbative, to the nth degree. The whole affair hung upon me throughout the day like the redolent circumambience of another long-gone, widely-touted battle,  one that took place in a distant ring when the sonorous Max Baer plucked the crown from the swollen head of another gentle giant, Primo Carnera.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Advice for Contrarians Young and Old

In the cogently presented advice offered in his esteemed collection of "Letters to a Young Contrarian" Christopher Hitchens has compiled a treasure trove of useful reminders to all thinking people that it's not simply what one thinks, but precisely how one thinks that's important for any and all developing humanists out there. Following, an example:

"If you want to stay in it for the long haul, and lead a life that is free from illusions either propagated by you or embraced by you, then I suggest you learn to recognise and avoid the symptoms of the zealot and the person who knows that he is right. For the dissenter, the skeptical mentality is at least as important as any armor of principle."

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

The 99% Don't Really Ask For That Much, And Yes We Have No Bananas!

"We need not be complicated about this question of human good. Aristotle has put it in terms of what is useful, and we will be on the right track if we think first of simple matters, such as food, housing, health, and education. We will have trouble getting beyond a concern for just these elements. These things, however, are in turn useful only insofar as they support lives which are fundamentally human and good, releasing heirs to the tradition of slavery and conquest from such indignities into a domain of human autonomy and freedom. The economics we will be looking for, our good housekeeping, is a rational art whose purpose is to pave the way for what we may speak of as authentic human freedom. We need hardly add that it is not on behalf of the few, but for those whom Aristotle calls the democratic "many," that we apply this criterion of implemented human freedom."

--Thomas K. Simpson, "Good Housekeeping: The Real Economics of the Caribbean"

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Elephants Fumble in Final Quarter: Donkeys King

Whether it's the supreme Badger with the final budget solution to terminate the poor and middle-class in America, or any other rightwing hack, Obama just needs the oxymoronic GOP braintrust to keep doing what they're doing: keep on truckin' to the fiscal cliff while they continue to obstruct government, truth, justice and the American Way.

If the Republican traveling comedy roadshow primaries of 2012 proved anything at all, it's that DC should absolutely not have been Approved by the Comics Code.

Come November it's time to do some Good Housekeeping.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Just Beachy Keen, Thank You!

During the past 6 weeks my wife and I have visited beaches and beachside towns at Santa Monica and San Diego in California, Seaside Heights at the New Jersey Shore, Ocean Beach on Fire Island off the coast of New York, as well as Race Point Beach at the tip of Cape Cod, and Oak Bluffs on Martha's Vineyard, both in Massachusetts. What we have learned from these surfside jaunts is that, on the coasts at least, the economy of the United States appears to be floating and sailing along just fine.

Ring...ring...ring. Our kids just called to ask if we could feed their cats while they're at Ocean Beach, Maryland for a couple of days of fun in the sun.

Of course we can feed the cats (we won't be heading out for the shore at Atlantic City, New Jersey for another four days yet).

A lot of people, we've noticed, have some bucks to spend and are enjoying themselves this summer. That's disposable income being disposed of in a good way, because it stimulates local economies. Those who say that only the rich can create jobs are deluding themselves. The middle class, as always, is helping mightily to keep the ship of state from going under.

Saturday, June 30, 2012

All 'Things' Considered

Peter Watts, hard SF writer, in his short story, "The Things", has his alien protagonist try its level best to annihilate the biped biomasses (human scientists) that have freed it from its icy grave.

The creature finally realizes that the answer to the age-old question "Who Goes There?" are beings that simply aren't worth killing. More to be pitied actually, as "The Thing" sadly concludes the following about Earth's beastly kings:

"A whole planet of worlds, and not one of them--not one--has a soul. They wander through their lives separate and alone, unable even to communicate except through grunts and tokens: as if the essence of a sunset or a supernova could ever be contained in some string of phonemes, a few linear scratches of black on white. They've never known communion, can aspire to nothing but dissolution. The paradox of their biology is astonishing, yes; but the scale of their loneliness, the futility of these lives, overwhelms me."

Of course, one would have to suspend belief in God and/or Apple to concur with this monstrous assertion.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

The Buck Stops Here. There. Everywhere.

To be honest, haven't we been getting exactly the kind of leadership out of Washington's Executive, Legislative, and Judicial branches that we deserve? We voters have a track record of not seeking our best people to represent us, and an even worse record of showing up to vote when the time comes to exercise that most important of our rights and privileges. We incessantly complain about our leaders' failures to cooperate with each other, solve our major problems, and plan for a better future for all of us, but what have we, as individuals, really done to rectify the abominable political situation?

In short, the biggest feeling of entitlement that we citizens have is not for Social Security, Medicare, or the other social contracts that both Democrats and Republicans have gifted us with, or, if you prefer, bribed us with, over the succeeding generations, but rather, the feeling of entitlement that we have come to expect for strong and competent leadership.

Here is a piece of late breaking news for us Americans: Before the next election, it is high time that all of us, whether in government, or not, stop playing in the mud, come inside, roll up our sleeves, and do some critical thinking about why things have gotten so mucked up and what we can, realistically, do to fix them.

Monday, May 28, 2012

A Clockwork Greenery?

Kevin Barry (the namesake of an Irish lad who was and is revered by many who have a sense of history) is the author of The City of Bohane, a novel which has been compared to the classic, A Clockwork Orange. While there are macrosimilarities: the futuristic language changes, the wanton violence, the overall dystopian feel to the books, the geographical proximity and nexus of the lands and cultures, I would prefer to compare Barry's writing more to Coleridge than Burgess. It is all that poetical, and about as meaningful as "Kubla Khan". That is, the writing is a work of art whose beauty and meaning will have to be found in and behind the eyes of the book's beholders. I, for one, was not disappointed.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

April Is Poetry Month

In circumspect of Poetry Month I offer up the following:

I dream of a life I've yet to live,
In some far spring or fall,
Pray who is Honda, Cap'n Crunch,
And what is Underall?

If the stanza above (once credited to J. Keats) should at all intrigue you, then check out a copy of Neal Barrett, Jr.'s cult classic, The Hereafter Gang. Pay particular attention to the beginning, middle, and end of the fable and you'll no doubt be rewarded in the "Thereafter."

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Pete and Petula: Downtown

from Downtown sung by Petula Clark:

"The lights are much brighter there
You can forget all your troubles, forget all your cares"

 from Downtown written by Pete Hamill:

"There I was, at the crossroads of the world, with the breaking news moving around the face of the Times Tower and the waterfall flowing between the giant nude statues of the spectacular Bond Clothes display and smoke rings floating perfectly out of the mouth of the guy on the Camels sign. The sidewalks were jammed with sailors, pimps, cops, streetwalkers, dancers, actors, musicians, and tourists. Where Broadway crossed Seventh Avenue, traffic was a raucous, noisy show, big yellow taxis honking their horns like staccato punctuation from Gershwin, trucks and buses bullying their way downtown, and big New York voices coming out of the din: Whyncha watch where ya goin', ya dope! Dis ain't Joisey!"

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Fiscal Fingers of Fate

On the left hand, banks have the homeowner's interest (mortgage interest, that is) at heart, and you can take that to the, well, the bank. The continuous acts of creative dishonesty being perpetrated by the algorithmic financial wizards and their minions, together with their stable of cronies and lobbyists corrupting the government clearly are doing the best job that they are capable of doing.

On the right hand, there is no free lunch, and that includes, ironically, even in a free marketplace. The U.S. has the best capitalists in the world and we should be thankful that our Schools of Business keep turning out top notch wealth creators.

All hands now: Take with your left, Pocket with your right.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

In the Name of God, Man...

"Millions of men were out of work. Those fortunate enough to have jobs were dared to form unions. Courts enjoined them, police busted their heads, their leaders were jailed and new men took their jobs. A union was an affront to God. The laboring man would be protected and cared for not by the labor agitators, said one wealthy man, but by the Christian men to whom God in His infinite wisdom had given the control of the property interests of this country. If all else failed the troops were called out. Armories rose in every city of the country."
--E. L. Doctorow, Ragtime

Wednesday, February 29, 2012


A last leap like no other, this.
Heartstopped. Always never ready.

A last leap like no other, this.
Heartwrenching. Into the muddy.

A last leap like no other, this.
Heartbroken. Hardby yet softly.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Words from the Wise...

"It is a salutary discipline to consider the vast number of books that are written, the fair hopes with which their authors see them published, and the fate which awaits them. What chance is there that any book will make its way among that multitude? And the successful books are but the success of a season. Heaven knows what pains the author has been at, what bitter experiences he has endured and what heartache suffered, to give some chance reader a few hours' relaxation or to while away the tedium of a journey. And if I may judge from the reviews, many of these books are well and carefully written; much thought has gone to their composition; to some even has been given the anxious labor of a lifetime. The moral I draw is that the writer should seek his reward in the pleasure of his work and in release from the burden of his thought; and, indifferent to aught else, care nothing for praise or censure, failure or success."     --W. Somerset Maugham, The Moon and Sixpence

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Nobodaddy's Business but His, Right?

Are there not many secrets to be kept and many questions asked that are best left unanswered?

Clever people do, with certainty, disagree with that, but are they correct?

When we discover the truth about anything are we its master or its slave?

Those who have reasoned God out of life's equation have exercised their imaginative powers to the nth degree, but, really, to what end?

Once He has been expedited off-stage, are the waiting understudies qualified to assume His role?

Does one's DNA (read Do Not Awaken?) give geneticists the right to pass judgment upon our physical being? And what revelations lie therein of one's Muse? Spirit? Potential? Nature?

Should Hamlet have asked "To let it be, or not to let it be?" That is the only question, after all, isn't it?

Have the histories of men and their gods not slammed shut as many doors as they ever have propped open?

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Nobody Said it Was Going to be Easy

Dostoevsky in Notes from the Underground might have had a point when he suggested that for the living, suffering was the point.

Then again, Tolstoy might also have had a point when he suggested in The Death of Ivan Ilych that we are all Ivan Ilych.

What, one wonders, did Nathaniel Hawthorne mean when he wrote in his classic, The House of the Seven Gables, "In this republican country, amid the fluctuating waves of our social life, somebody is always at the drowning point."?

Who would venture to say that using his Yankee ingenuity he was subtly hinting that it might not be a bad idea to manufacture more life-rafts to keep the sharks at bay?

If You See Something, Say Something

In his magnum opus, World of Our Fathers, Irving Howe wrote:

"The inevitable law of sectarianism--that in the absence of mass participation and social power it is ideology that becomes the substance of politics."

While that might be true, the word 'substance' seems to have relatively little meaning today, because, sadly, both the issues that politicians choose to discuss, and tragically, the politicians themselves, are found spectacularly lacking in the stuff.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Monkey Sees, Monkey Tells

In his splendidly original and lyrical novel of Magical Realism, "Red Earth and Pouring Rain", Vikram Chandra leads the willing reader on a journey to places usually discovered only in dreams. Good dreams.

When asked the following important questions, Hanuman, the Hindu monkey god, answers wisely:

Q: Why are there hypocrites in the world?
A: Because it is hard to bear the happiness of others.

Q: When are we happy?
A: When we desire nothing and realize that possession is only momentary...

Q: What is regret?
A: To realize that one has spent one's life worrying about the future.

Q: What is sorrow?
A: To long for the past.

Q: What is the highest pleasure?
A: To hear a good story.

In Chandra's sweeping novel one hears many a good story.