Monday, March 26, 2018

I come to destroy religions!

Almost done watching the six part Netflix documentary “Wild, Wild Country”, about Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh and the commune/city, Rajneeshpuram, he and his followers founded in Oregon in the 1980s, right next to, surrounding, and enveloping, Antelope, Oregon, population 46 (2010).

My conclusion: in a sense, every cult is the same; only the accents and longevity matter, and, crucially, the attitude toward apocalypse — as in show-down or patience about ultimate confrontation between astounding cult truth and  dominant culture.

Cults that survive a long time get upgraded into religions, as maybe they deserve to, if, in religious history, survival approximates or expresses some higher, more patient and therefore more durable truth value.
. . .

The best line Bhagwan speaks comes when he denounces the religion that has been made of him by a follower. He demands that all the many books of his sayings be burned, along with the red robes that had been declared the only official garments.

Bhagwan says: I come to destroy religions! This is the first time in history a religion destroys itself!

Wow. My kind of guru.

On the other hand, Bhagwan, when he spoke those words, owned a world record 93 Rolls Royces.

Saturday, March 24, 2018


Steven Pinker
author linguist evolutionist


a curly haired
jewish philosophical 

would-be King Kong

but even after his

"Enlightenment Now: The Case for Reason, Science, Humanism, and Progress"

wonders and is perturbed
by why music evolved

WTF What the hell? Huh?

Everything seemed settled.

But music:

What good does it do?



Whereas I, having felt the force of
his arguments must needs nevertheless ask:

Why has such a thing as Pinker



with what purpose?

if he can't imagine it

can't dance to it

How much, that is,

can he tell us?

Friday, March 23, 2018


john bolton
off the charts right-winger
new national security advisor

mike pompeo
same same
new secretary of state

not meaningless
corporate shuffles
who's in who's out

getting down to it
streamlining for what trump's always been about
beneath real and seeming madness

because he can't be about anything else
has nothing else to be about

save wealth
which comes included


for repression and war
war and repression

forget the iran deal
forget iran
forget mueller
if he can

who says militarism is cancer?
some guys sure it's the only answer

Thursday, March 15, 2018


Like Andrew Sullivan, Steven Pinker's "The Blank Slate" was a game changer for me. It took genetics out of the dog house SJ Gould had sentenced it to, and brought it back into its share of the spotlight. It wasn't only Pinker who was doing this, but also Daniel Dennett, Richard Dawkins, and the great E.O. Wilson. It's true that Gould, in his anti-geneticism was equating genetics with the Nazis ill use of it, but he fought genetics to the point of denying and surprising scientific truth. We are indebted to Pinker for pointing this out.

I loved and have been forever influenced by Pinker's take down of the Tabula Rosa, the idea that nothing comes with us, nothing biological, and that we are a blackboard that can be infinity rewritten.

So much for utopias, then, whether right to left. No, we couldn't be rewritten to serve either a Mao or a Hitler. There are certain constraints, and a rebound to them, no matter how much torture might have been applied to overcoming them.

I interviewed Steven Pinker, at least once, and tussled with him. The points he made in The Blank Slate were necessary and undeniable. And yet, there was something else, a reductionism, as in his notion that the only difference between a preference for Shakespeare over Buffy The Vampire Killer was the need for status.

Forgive me, but LOL. Pinker had overstepped, which he tends to do in proclaiming he has the new philosopher's stone.

I'm not going to go for a detailed critique of,  "Enlightenment Now: The Case for Reason, Science, Humanism, and Progress."

Not now.

I will say that Pinker's often trumpeted confusion about the purpose of music — What it for? For what purpose did it evolve? — is arrogant and, may I go full blast? — stupefying.

The problem isn't about music but refers back to and is about Pinkerism

Tuesday, March 13, 2018


• This thought deserves fuller treatment than I'm giving it here, and I mean to expand on it, but still: Just as Weatherman helped incapacitate the campus based movement against the War in Vietnam — no one has better documented this than Mark Rudd, who recounts it in his pained and rueful description of how proto-Weathermen gleefully and fanatically tore up mailing lists of anti-war students — who needed mailing lists since the revolution was coming? —  so JVP is helping to hinder or incapacitate a consensus among Jewish students that Israeli policy towards Palestinians is simply unconscionable.

Just as Weatherman did, JVP  inserts division ahead of unity, disfiguring debate.

Just as Weatherman did, JVP massages itself about utopian solutions far more than urgent possibilities.

I was in Weatherman and hate seeing some of its blind and stupefying fervor recapitulated into debates about the Middle East.

• Letter to Mark Rudd, who had adopted a JVP position, and thinks I oppose JVP as I would any thing to the left of my position.

First of all, I don't think of JVP as to the "left" of my position. I'm not sure those terms apply. I think of JVP as mischievous and dishonest.

In brief, there's the mass line: apply BDS to products from the settlements — cool. Behind it, there's the cadre line: Israel is the first and foremost of illegal settlements; Israel is a colonial settler state — Leninist lingo lives on, don't it — and the oppression of Palestinians can only be resolved by annulling Israel and replacing it with a binational state, Jews and Palestinians, one person one vote.

The mass line — BDS as applied to the settlements is appealing, to me and others, and draws people to JVP. But the cadre line — abolish the Jewish state — is the driving and guiding force, the leadership. If you like I can establish that this is so with ease, as you can too, simply by going to Omar Barghouti's site.

What did it for me about JVP — as perhaps tearing up the mailing lists on reflection did it for you — was learning that Barghouti flipped out when the Pope, on his visit to Israel, paid respects to Herzl’s grave. The Pope visited with Abbas to show clear Vatican support for a Palestinian state. That didn't satisfy Barghouti, who saw the Pope honoring Herzl as a hideous violation of Palestinian rights; for him, for JVP, the Pope had no business honoring Herzl, because, after all, ZIONISM = RACISM.

Some of problem with JVP stems from this dishonesty. If JVP could be clear about its support for a "one-state" solution that would be to its credit, and allow for honest debate. (We can discuss: I'm against but understand why many at this point are for). But JVP is not honest; it fudges. At least we were honest about our admittedly meshugenah belief in world revolution guided by marxist-leninist-maoist parties.

That's not all of it: I do think Israel is pushing Jews, except for the religious right, to a consensus sharply critical of Israel. That would be more obvious on campus were it not for the way debate is being distorted and hijacked by whether or not you are for JVP. It's nice to think JVP/BDS is at last a practical way to push Israel to change its policy. (Ah, another parallel with W'man, for would not armed struggle compel the United States to disengage from Vietnam the way mass protests on their own would not?) But the truth is JVP drains energy more than lends it to critique of Israel. Were it not for the exhausting and dumbfounding debate about JVP I think liberal Jews would be finding all sorts of ways to press their point, ways more integral than West Bank goods, maybe, who knows, pertaining to United States military/financial aid.

(As an aside: of course there is such a thing as liberal Zionism. Take me: As a liberal, both vis a vis the United States and Israel, I oppose much of Israeli policy, and have for decades. But do I believe Israel has a right to exist? Yep. Must be the Zionist in me, the elemental Zionism I do not disown. Could be how impressed I was by "Exodus" when I read it as a kid. Could be my memory of how my maternal grandmother, with personal memory of pogroms, speaking Yiddish, her first language, would mutter that Israel [my transliteration] hut gerativit — had saved menschen.)

Could be how badly the left now as ever contends with anti-Semitism.

I think you [Mark] came through the Weather experience uniquely — self-critically and sanely, with enough political grey matter remaining to make you worth hearing.

But I think with regard to JVP you are — out of frustration with Israel, violent impatience for it to change — going through the same thing twice.

I am often asked in these discussions how I propose to stop Israel on its awful course. I answer something to the effect that, I write, arthritis permitting I demonstrate, I read, I talk. I support J St because it educates and works so far as it can toward a 2-state solution, which is still the only solution, assuming there is any solution short of war.

And there's the thing, this thing about solution. Why do I have to know the solution? There are many dire situations on earth that hurt to think about it. I don't feel in each case I have to know the answer. I've shrugged off that kind of arrogant global responsibility long ago.

But about the Middle East, I don't think JVP is anything like a solution, being neither left or right, being just mostly wrong.

There'd be more, and more effective, criticism of Israel, and more channels for expressing it if JVP had not deranged the debate — yes, much the way W'man did, when it substituted a debate about armed struggle and global revolution for a debate about the Vietnam war and civil rights.

Don't tear up sthe mailing lists, Mark. Not again.