Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Ways to Go . . .

Suppose, just suppose:

You are very old, terminally ill. The alternatives are grim: chemotherapy with dim prognosis; surgery, yet again; being farmed out to a nursing home where, as your neurons click one by one from one to zero,  the big television is always on loud, and the nurse's aides are few, far between, chronically underpaid, though nice enough now and again.

Let us present another choice, an heroic, environmentally sound, even green opportunity: get fed to hungry animals, critters you've sympathized with on nature shows, their survival put in doubt by urban sprawl, climate change, etc..

Put in doubt by us, including you.

If you find this notion worth entertaining, let's proceed.

Which would you choose to be devoured by?

a) Lions
b) Polar bears, grizzlies also being an option.
c) Wolves.
d) Salt water crocodiles (Salties)
e) Sharks
f) Termites.

We are not asking for your old car. We are asking for your old you.

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Truth and Power: Democratic debate (12/19/15)

I think Hillary reigned supreme last night. She seemed comfortable in her skin, loose, even on the spot funny. More body language than before, and humor:

Should corporate America like you?
Everybody should like me!

(That was very likable.)

It's like she's digested and  metabolized a bit of Bill.

I prefer Bernie, but think he in effect conceded to her last night, as in conceding too much authority, to her and to the moderators. Bernie corked it when they told him to cork it, as O'Malley, for what it's worth, did not.

Bernie loves truth but it could be to get where he wants to get and to effect the changes he has in mind you also have to find a way to appreciate and exemplify power.

Beyond that, yes of course it makes sense to go after Trump, as all three did, O'Malley even using the f word. But seems to me they should have directed some fire at the other republicans, Trump being something like the exception that proves the rule. The rest of the right-wing pack are hardly better, just less strident.

Friday, December 18, 2015


The big shots who run Wheaton College say they didn't fire Prof Lyrcia Hawkins because she wore a headscarf in order to express her opposition to anti-Muslim bigotry, but because she said Christians and Muslims believe in and pray to the same god.

How dare she, how dare anyone say such a thing.

The big shots who run Wheaton College know different: Allah and the Supreme Being of Christianity (plus, possibly, depending on the denomination, his son and, fuck knows, the holy spirit) are entirely different GAWDS.

They know this how? By virtue of DNA testing? Finger-printing? Sit-downs with the relevant holy spirits?

This makes me fall in love, all over again, with atheism.

I LUV atheism, not that it needs my love or affection or belief to be the case.

Truth is, to paraphrase Daniel Dennett on the subject, I don't think many people believe in God god or gawds. I think most people are sane, and don't believe so much as they try hard as they can to believe or seem like they do.

This doesn't mean I disbelieve in mystery. That would be stupid. We are surrounded by if not embedded in it.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Reading material: John Kerry FDR

Some thoughts on David Remnick's New Yorker profile of John Kerry:

Re Kerry's 2004 run for president:

He was outraged that Bush, who had won a stateside berth in the Texas Air National Guard during the Vietnam War, used campaign surrogates, the so-called Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, to slime his military record. He was furious, too, at Robert Shrum, his chief strategist, and other campaign advisers who had restrained him from hitting back.

My view, as someone who well recalls the Bush v. Kerry campaign, is that it was painfully obvious that Kerry was pulling his punches in the debates with Bush. Kerry can be a powerful speaker, but came across as mild and stumbling, letting Bush seize the stage. For whatever reason, Kerry allowed himself to be gagged by his advisors. The Remnick piece could have been more revealing about why.

On Israel and the Palestinians:

Kerry believes that Israel, along with the occupied territories, is headed toward becoming a “unitary state that is an impossible entity to manage.” He is particularly concerned, he said, that the Palestinian Authority could collapse; that, in the event, the P.A.’s thirty thousand security officers would scatter; and that chaos and increasingly violent clashes with Israel would follow.

“I understand the passions that are behind all of this—I get it,” Kerry told me. “If it were easy, it would have been done a long time ago. I happen to believe there is a way forward. There’s a solution. It would be good for Israel; it’d be great for the Palestinians; it’d be great for the region. People would make so much money. There’d be so many jobs created. There could be peace. And you would be stronger for it. Because nobody that I know or have met in the West Bank is anxious to have jihadis come in.

“The alternative is you sit there and things just get worse,” Kerry went on. “There will be more Hezbollah. There will be more rockets. And they’ll all be pointed in one direction. And there will be more people on the border. And what happens then? You’re going to be one big fortress? I mean, that’s not a way to live. It seems to me it is far more intelligent and far more strategic—which is an important word here—to have a theory of how you are going to preserve the Jewish state and be a democracy and a beacon to the world that everybody envisioned when Israel was created.”

My view is that of a Jew and a Zionist. I use that last word advisedly and deliberately, since I know too many supposedly well-intentioned leftish (not to mention rabid non-leftish) types still equate Zionism —  as they do not, for some utterly mysterious reason, equate other forms of nationalism —  with racism.

I'm tempted to quote Kafka here, who wrote: “I despise Zionism. And I despise anti-Zionism.”

But that was then, when Zionism was nothing but aspiration. Joseph K. can't speak for me on this issue, now that the basic aspiration of Zionism has been fulfilled. A Zionist entity, a Zionist center exists, better known as Israel.

Exists and is laden with the very problems Kerry states well.

Another quote from the Remnick profile:

The dispiriting reality of American foreign policy in the twenty-first century has been neatly summarized in Politico by Philip Gordon, the former N.S.C. official: “In Iraq, the U.S. intervened and occupied, and the result was a costly disaster. In Libya, the U.S. intervened and did not occupy, and the result was a costly disaster. In Syria, the U.S. neither intervened nor occupied, and the result is a costly disaster.”

The Remnick piece does not overlook Kerry's ambitions, geo-political and personal. Still, I'm sorry Bush rather than Kerry became president in 2004.

Kerry reminds me of FDR, in some ways. FDR's patrician background lent him credibility and persuasive power when it came both to urgent domestic issues and then to war.

Kerry had like credentials.

Friday, December 11, 2015

media v. message

I reiterate that the more time in the election cycle, esp. the more time before primaries, the more time for media, new and old, hence the better it is for the likes of Trump, who feast on nothing so much as media possibilities.

As it is the nature of media, new and old, to feast on and magnify the likes of Trump, such being the nature of the electronic beast.

It may sound simplistic but it seems obvious that constricting the election cycle for president from what it is now — 2 long years? — would contain if not eliminate the viral possibilities and necessities of a Trump.

Is the media, then, the message?

Let me put it this way: shortening the cycle would squeeze media out to a significant degree and highlight message.

As it is now, message is underdog.

Kareem v. Trump

I've read and relished Kareem Abdul-Jabbar's recent piece on Donald Trump, not that I agree with every word of it. Kareem writes that Trump's, "irresponsible, inflammatory rhetoric and deliberate propagation of misinformation have created a frightened and hostile atmosphere that could embolden people to violence." For sure.

Kareem adds that: "While Trump is not slaughtering innocent people, he is exploiting such acts of violence to create terror here to coerce support." I agree again.

It's when Kareem writes that Trump's incendiary speeches "could be interpreted as hate crimes" that I draw back. Hateful as they are, I don't think Trump's pronouncements can or should be treated as crimes. But then I note that Kareem said "could be interpreted as hate crimes." He's not so sure either; he's wondering, as many do, how to counter Trump.

I don't think trying to convict him of criminal activity is the right way to go, one reason, among many, being it tries to short-circuit the electoral process and underestimates the ability of voters to see Trump for what he is. Kareem's essay is, aside from that, very  much the right way to go. It's sharp and insightful.

Discussing one devout but lonely Christian woman's conversion to Islamicism, he writes, "Maybe that’s because. . . the brain’s default setting is simply to believe because it takes extra work to analyze information."

And Kareem ends with an allusion to Yeats's great poem, The Second Coming, that gives it topical spin, when he asks, "what rough beast slouches toward Washington to be born?"

The Second Coming  describes a vision Yeats had, more precisely, a nightmare. President Trump would be a nightmare from which it would take the world a long time to recover.

Monday, December 7, 2015


This guy is known in Icelandic lore as a Berzerker, a warrior so fierce, dauntless, kick-ass, he chomps his own shield. Today, there are heavy metal bands named after him. Back then, he could go toe-to-tusk with a walrus, and if you think walruses are quaint or funny think again; their hides were close to impenetrable, and they were known to kill whales.

The Berzerker in his prime was the most powerful piece on the board, a very walrus of a piece.

The queen had been born but was new to the fray and far from claiming all her powers. At first, she looks a bit confused on the battlefield. Soon she becomes the warrior-in-chief, a combo of a rook, a bishop, and a pawn. She assimilates the mad rage of the Berserker, assuaging it with subtle diagonal moves. Pawns, all eight of them, devote their lives to queening, to becoming a queen.

The king, she protects him. He only displays his limited mettle in battle when she is gone. Then he steps out, devoting much of his activity to getting her — a younger version — back, defending a pawn until it reaches that sweet spot where the lowliest piece on the board is transformed into a mighty queen.

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Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Kahane's killer . . .

I find this in equal measures fascinating and disturbing. Though I disagree with Liel Leibovitz and his increasingly, or more increasingly manifest, right-wing Zionist views, I do not therefore reject this account.