Things to Remember

493px-James_Madison

James Madison in party mode.

 

Things to remember as 2016 becomes 2017:

First off, everything is going to be alright.  Right up until the moment it isn’t, and since you obviously can’t control that, why concern yourself overly with it. Enjoy the good things. There are many of them.

Secondly realize that in this world we have this thing called entropy, which means that everything goes to hell in some way at some point, and usually in a way that we have not foreseen. Think about it. How much of the shitstorm that was 2016 did you foresee? How much of it was avoidable? And to be honest was it ALL that bad? Somehow I’m thinking there were good things too.

Thirdly, the very concept of shitstorm is invariably in the mind of the beholder. I am sure that there are a great many people who had a really good year in 2016. Just because your candidate didn’t win, there was a higher than normal amount of stress in your world and some of your cultural idols died does not mean it was the worst year ever.

Fourth, there are people out there who had a great year, some for reasons you would find 399px-Jabberwocky appalling. There are millions of people who like the Oompah Loompah for example. Millions. Which is fine. We have this thing called freedom in this country. Don’t denigrate them because of him, or because they think differently than you, or want different things in their lives than you. Find a way to incorporate their lives into yours. They are, by and large good people. Don’t treat them like shit because you think differently from them, that helps no one. They aren’t the problem, you are, especially if you feel the need to be angry at them simply because of their politics. There is more than politics in the lives of most people. And, here’s a hint; you won’t make things turn around for you politically by alienating people you will need to work with later. That isn’t how politics works, not in the real world, regardless of what you think of that. Make friends with your political enemies where possible, hope always exists in places where enemies can become friends.

You will have a very hard time convincing me that 2016 was in some way worse than say the years of WWII, or The years of the great depression or great recession or the civil war years.

Doesn’t mean President-elect Oompah Loompah isn’t an asshole. Doesn’t mean there wasn’t tragedy in 2016. There was. It’s hard to not have tragedy in a world with this many people in it. I’m just saying as 2016 goes the way of the Dodo, have some perspective. You are strong and resilient. This is still America. We are a strong people. Things have gone right in other places. Be thankful for that.

Anger

Bunnies are assholes sometimes.

I for one could say I had a great year. After years of first searching for a new career and then trying to get hired on full time in that career, I finally landed that full time job. Almost shed a tear when I found out I had made it, so long and arduous was the journey.  Let’s see what else. I’m still a runner. Which, for those of you that aren’t, is great for clearing the mind and strengthening the body, and in the long run makes the person who does it tireless. I highly recommend it. If a two hour run ain’t kicking my ass, no way a few extra hours of work will. On top of all that, I’m still married to the most awesome person ever. If you have a happy place to go to, it makes everything easier, and home is a happy place for me, she makes me happy. With that as my sword and shield, I can take on the world and win, without a shred of fear in my heart.

 

So do me a favor America. Don’t dwell on the negative.

I’ll take care of that as I skewer our soon to be asshole-in-chief.

You go find your happiness, I have mine.

I’ll fight the monster. I’m good at it, been doing it for ages, and I enjoy it.

If you want to help as we move ahead, thats great. But pick your fights with the right people. Fight bad policy and bad decision making, not good people who feel and think differently than you. We’re on the road to the future together, let’s travel it as friends.

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But there are some people, nevertheless—and I am one of them—who think that the most practical and important thing about a man is still his view of the universe. We think that for a landlady considering a lodger, it is important to know his income, but still more important to know his philosophy. We think that for a general about to fight an enemy, it is important to know the enemy’s numbers, but still more important to know the enemy’s philosophy. ~ G.K. Chesterton, Heretics (1905)

No Different than Yesterday

445px-Initial_s_Paulus_Frank_1601eems like forever.

I haven’t written here in nearly a year.  Three hundred and forty eight days, if you include today.    I have not been idle in all that time. Some, not all.   I have been writing a great deal, some of my best work I think.  If you want to read it it’s over on writeisland.wordpress.com;  It’s fiction, sci-fi, horror, crime noir, paranoid fiction.  Lots of short stories, serialized.

If you enjoy that kinda thing by all means head on over.

I thought it was time to come back here and again write about the real world.  The real world is a nice place that has some insanely horrible things happen in it, often because of our own hubris, or stupidity, or insanity, or … something.  Things that the best fiction writers could not come up on their best days.

Let’s get started.

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My last post, almost a year ago, was written about the fun things that occur on the Korean peninsula.  So why not start where I left off, give you some level of continuity with news coverage.

It seems that Kim Jong-un is committing crimes against humanity.  He has between eighty and one hundred and twenty thousand political prisoners held in four locations.  He uses starvation as a form of punishment in these prison camps.  The system of resource allocation that the DPRK uses causes “avoidable” starvation among the population.

Some media outlets are using the word Nazi in reference to the treatment of the people of North Korea.  The head ofUN_building the UN commission has detailed all the crimes in a downloadable document you can get directly from the U.N. here, and I must tell you it is a compelling read about a place that exactly fits every negative aspect of the word orwellian.

The worst part about this?  We know, not just presume they are doing bad things to their people along with Japanese and South Koreans, but know they are doing it.  So what happens next?

Nothing.

Not a god damned thing.

Hua Chunying, spokeswoman for the Chinese foreign ministry has called the report “Unreasonable criticism” and the reporting I have read, from the NYT  and the VOA, China will veto any action by the U.N. in this matter.  According to the NYT, She said “We believe that taking human rights violations to the International Criminal Court is not helpful in improving a country’s human rights situation.”

…Is not helpful…

If that isn’t helpful, if removing the problem by putting the people who are systematically raping and killing it’s own people and starving and torturing those they don’t do that to, what does work?  Asking nicely?  Saying “Pretty please, with sugar on top?”

Note that in nothing that I have quoted, or seen, they never say that North Korea is innocent.  They are saying that, “yes, they are guilty.”  But they are also saying “We don’t care what you think, we condone this behavior.”

They sound like criminals protecting other criminals.  Because they are.  By not helping bring the perpetrators of crimes against humanity to justice, they become guilty of aiding and abetting that criminal activity.

By protecting the North Koreans, the Chinese themselves are guilty of crimes against humanity.

And by being so weak as to not be able to do anything about it, the United Nations proves itself a useless body when it comes to the dispensation of justice on a global level against any real criminal activity.

Crying damn shame.  But at the same time I can say that I am happy that I live in a country where those kinda things don’t happen. Because of the eternal vigilance of it’s people.

At least not yet.  Today things are fine, but the road ahead is murky, as always.

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I don’t know if I’m back to doing this here every day, but I know I won’t be ignoring it for another 348 days.

I’ll write to you again soon, America.  Catch you later.

Campaign Contributions to be Revisitied by the Supreme Court

In January of 2010, in the case of Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission,  the Supreme court ruled that portions of the McCain-Feingold act (BCRA) along with the Michigan Campaign Finance Act and one other court ruling were unconstitutional, in that they restricted political  expenditures by corporations.

In an upcoming case, the Supreme court will decide in the case McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission whether individual caps on contributions are constitutional.  The current caps that exist state that an individual may not give more than $46,200 to  federal candidates over a 2 year period and that individuals may not give more than $70,800 to other political entities , such as national and local political parties and non party committees, such as 501(c)(4) organizations.

The CEO of Coalmont Electrical Development Co., a man named Shaun McCutcheon, wanted to give over a 2 year period according to the Reuters story a total of $55,500 but was not allowed to because of the legal restrictions placed on individuals by federal law.  The story goes on to state that the rationale for the legal challenge, as delineated by Mr. McCutcheon and the RNC’s counsel in this case, James Bopp,is as follows:  Federal limits on individual donations force those that want to give more to go outside the system and give to superpacs rather than to the candidates they wold prefer to give to.

I want you to look closely at that last sentence.  While not Mr. Bopps words (to read them go to the Links page for the link to read them yourself) they accurately speak what Mr. Bopp said.

When I roll that thought around my head, I am greatly dismayed by what I see.  In large part because it would give wealthy people a more direct route to the halls of power than they already have. And they already have a huge advantage over the poor in this nation.

If the court agrees with McCutcheon here what will happen to the electoral process?  I am not sure.  The man, McCutcheon says he only wanted to give a few thousand dollars more than the legal limit.  But the court is not restricted by the wants or needs of that one individual. The worst case scenario, and the one I think both parties, Democratic and Republican alike are rooting for is to completely do away with individual limits.

The legal challenge to the law does NOT seek to amend the number of dollars that individuals may give. What it seeks to do is completely wipe the law off of the books and make the specific portion of law that limits individuals contributions unconstitutional.

The rub here is simple.  If McCutcheon wins this case what is bad now about campaign finance will become worse.  If he wins, then millionaires and billionaires will, until new legislation is passed, be able to buy elections lock, stock and barrel.

And will we be able to fix this should the system break this way and take power from the people?  Let me put it this way; Have we been able to fix the damage done by Citizens United in the courts and Congress?

About that much.

So the answer is simple.

Nope.

And who gets pinched out of the scene there?  The little guy.  This would be yet another blow to freedom for the poor and disenfranchised in this nation. We will become even more than we are now a nation where money is speech.

And if money is speech, does that not make poverty silence? How can people like us, the millions who live paycheck to paycheck, keep up?

We won’t be able to.

And there isn’t a damn thing we can do about it.

Hope they don’t do it, we can only wait until the Supreme Court decides this in the next session, which begins in October.

Have a nice day.

Who Needs Privacy?

Pic of the day: The Garden of Eden, by Thomas Cole

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A mind not to be changed by place or time.
The mind is its own place, and in itself
Can make a heav’n of hell, a hell of heav’n.

John Milton, Paradise Lost

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“If you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to worry about.” 

These are words that are thrown about by a number of people.

Apologists for the homeland security apparatus.

People who don’t care overmuch about privacy.

People who think security is more important than freedom or just think security is important.

People who honestly think that only people with something to hide has anything to worry about.

Silly people all.

The problem with being surveilled, studied like some rat in a maze has nothing to do with the people who are being surveilled.  It has more to do with the people who are doing the surveillance, and the moral implication of their actions.

Why are they looking at me? How are they going to use the information they glean from watching me?  What inferences are they making about my actions from what they see?  Just because they can see what I think of as me doing perfectly legal things, does not mean they see that. Their eyes watching me does not guarantee that they will see the things I am doing in the same light that I see them in.  Who gave them permission to surveil me, to watch me when I am doing nothing wrong? Where does my dignity go when my most private movements are up for viewing by faceless, nameless strangers?

Privacy is a basic human need and anyone who uses that argument about having nothing to worry about if you’ve done no wrong forget that basic human need.  No one has the right to steal my privacy from me.  No one.  Those who don’t mind losing their privacy also don’t mind losing their dignity.  Anyone who believes in that argument believes that the steely eyes of unseen strangers are acceptable ornaments in our lives, ornaments that are in truth nothing more than chains around our hands and feet.

I do not trust those who surveil me, not because I have something to hide, but because they are hidden in every way imaginable while they watch me.

This isn’t really about security, it’s about control, control of my life and my world.  I won’t give that up meekly or weakly.  I will fight for my right to live as a free man.  Anyone supporting the nothing to worry about if you’ve got nothing to hide thought process supports giving up control of their personal lives.

Which is frankly stupid and Un-American.

Just saying…

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That’s it from here, America.  G’night.

Cat’s Freedom

Pic of the day:  Sleeping Jeppe, by Bruno Liljefors

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Man is the only Patriot. He sets himself apart in his own country, under his own flag, and sneers at the other nations, and keeps multitudinous uniformed assassins on hand at heavy expense to grab slices of other people’s countries, and keep them from grabbing slices of his. And in the intervals between campaigns he washes the blood off his hands and works for “the universal brotherhood of man” — with his mouth.

Mark Twain, Letters from the Earth

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I am sitting here around 11:30 at night on a Sunday, the night before I go on another interview for another job that I hope will finally bring me the thing that I want most, a permanent full time job.  My wife is holding one of our cats, and he does not look all that happy.  Every time I turn around to look in his direction, it seems that he is looking at me begging to be set free.  And every time I look at him he mews at me.  Meaning that is exactly what he is saying.

So I decide to get up and save the boy.  He looked at me almost expectantly. He knew freedom or his conception of it, which by his lights is simply not being held by a human, was imminent.  He started to squirm in my wife’s arms and as I walked over he started to mew more plaintively.  She looked at him and said “Do you want your freedom, Roddod?”  She can read him as well as I can, even though she is less wrapped up in what he wants than I am.  He mewed again, an obvious yes.  The furry little bastard knows English better than I do some days.

I used the gesture I use when I normally pick up either of our two cats.  Both hands palms up and open, close them quickly twice, and repeat the process.  They both know that means I am picking them up.  Roddy did not look pleased at this.  He thought he was getting his freedom, but here I am signalling that I am going to continue oppressing him.

My wife did not want to give him up, but I looked at her and asked her for the cat.  I said “Gimmeh teh Roddod, so I can givez him teh freedums.”  I am a silly human sometimes, as I will at times when speaking in front of the cats break into lolspeak.  After I sat down next to my wife on the couch, she looked at me as plaintively as the cat had mere moments before.  She said “Noes!  Do Not Want!” But smiled and handed over the cat.  More properly put she poured the cat into my hands.  And anyone who does not know what that means has never had a cat, and cannot understand.

And there I am holding a cat who does not want to be held.  An animal who simply wants freedom.   So I looked him in the eye and said to him “Go.”  He looked at me expressing something that was not even close to being akin to gratefulness.  On the contrary, he was if anything unhappy at being held at all.  By his lights, I offered him freedom and now here I am keeping him from it.  So as I said go I let him go, and he poured himself out onto the floor.

And instantly showed his complete displeasure with being held in the first place in the way he always does.  He quickly shook his head and then looked back at me as if I had done something to him.  I leaned over from my perch on the couch and gave him a scritch on his left ear.

All was instantly forgiven.  The cat had what he wanted and was getting attention that he liked.  That was the exact opposite of what he had a moment before.  He was free and life was good.

Cats don’t care about anything but being free it seems.

Freedom is fickle when you are fickle, and happiness is the key to feeling free, and cat’s freedom is freedom of movement.

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That’s it from here, America.  G’night.

Something to Think About

Pic of the day, part i:  Vetheuil in Winter, by  Claude Monet

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Malo periculosam libertatem quam quietum servitium. 

I prefer liberty with danger to slavery with security.

Rafal Leszczynski (1749)

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I walked through the ferry terminal, just trying to get to work.

The security guy who gets paid not nearly enough to rob my freedom asks me to stop so his dog can sniff my bag.

I don’t blame him.  He’s just doing his job.

I put the bag down and went along.  The alternative is not being allowed to get to work.

I’d protest but I have bills to pay.

The dog sniffed my bag.

Like I’m a terrorist.

Like I’m the one with the problem.

Like I’m a threat to them.

Like I’m a threat to liberty.

I’m not.  They are, even if they’re just doing they’re job.

Sure, I have nothing to hide.  I’ve heard the argument put forth that if you have nothing to hide you have nothing to worry about.

Bullshit.  That’s only true if you have no worries about losing your freedom because there is a security industry that needs to be fed.

Fed on our freedom.  It eats it, spits it out, and gives us back false security from invisible terrorists.

If that is what you mean by not having anything to sweat, anything to worry about, then by all means don’t worry.

You just won’t have any freedom while you aren’t worrying.

Good luck with that.

I have to live with this bullshit because people who made bad decisions with our freedom have been allowed to have their way.

Something to think about while you enjoy the fireworks and barbequing tomorrow to celebrate your freedom.

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Pic of the day, part ii: Das Dreschen, das Holzfällen und die Jagd im Winter.   (Threshing, Felling and Hunting in Winter)  by, Daniel Chodowiecki

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Of course, there are dangers in religious freedom and freedom of opinion. But to deny these rights is worse than dangerous, it is absolutely fatal to liberty. The external threat to liberty should not drive us into suppressing liberty at home. Those who want the Government to regulate matters of the mind and spirit are like men who are so afraid of being murdered that they commit suicide to avoid assassination.

President Harry S. Truman

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That’s it from here, America.  G’night.

Hard To Fathom

Pic of the day:  L’embarquement d’Ulysee by Claude Gellèe

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The people cannot be all, and always, well informed. The part which is wrong will be discontented, in proportion to the importance of the facts they misconceive. If they remain quiet under such misconceptions, it is lethargy, the forerunner of death to the public liberty. … What country before ever existed a century and half without a rebellion? And what country can preserve its liberties if their rulers are not warned from time to time that their people preserve the spirit of resistance? Let them take arms. The remedy is to set them right as to facts, pardon and pacify them.

Thomas Jefferson

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In light of the above quote, does that mean that the entire nation is simply wrong?

I cannot fathom it.  Mr. Jefferson was simply wrong here.

I think he, founding father though he was, grossly underestimated how much the people, on both sides of any political argument could be misinformed by people with agendas of their own. I don’t think he knew that media would so completely divide the people as to make two warring factions out of one nation.  I don’t think he saw the overwhelming influence that business would have over the actual legislative process.   ALEC is not something that Mr. Jefferson would have even begun to understand at the time he wrote that.

I think he simply did not foresee the power of corporations over the populace and government, or that the toxic mix of money and power could go unfought.  But that is the truth of the matter, too much money runs through the halls of congress, lobbyists are poisoning the water, turning freedom and liberty in pale shadows of their former selves.

The documents that define our freedom are still in full force.  I used to think that those documents power was eroding, but I am now not so sure.  That they are there unchanged tells the story that we love the truths and freedoms that those documents represent and defend.  What has happened is that the law, the legalese surrounding those documents have been thoroughly poisoned by monied interests.

Corporations run America, but government is yet powerful enough to protect us from them.  Which is why some members of the richest classes, and their paid lackeys want government small enough to drown in a bathtub. Some people want government small for the same reason that criminals like less cops around.  Makes it easier to get away with all the crimes they want to commit.

At least that is what I can see.  My vision is not perfect, but no ones is.

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Pic of the day, part ii:  Landing of Cleopatra at Tarsus, by Claude Gellèe

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At the Democratic Convention, Barack Obama said, ‘only in this country, only in America, could someone like me appear here.’ Well, in some other countries, people much poorer than him would not only talk at the convention – they’d be elected president. Take Lula. The president of Brazil is a guy with a peasant background, a union organizer, never went to school, he’s the president of the second-biggest country in the hemisphere. Only in America? I mean, there they actually have elections where you can choose somebody from your own ranks. With different policies. That’s inconceivable in the United States.

Noam Chomsky, 2004

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On the other hand, too strong a government is just as destructive of freedom as too strong a corporate infrastructure.  It is a delicate balance at the best of times, judging who one can trust with power.  But the simplest answer is no is trustable.  But someone must have it. We should, but it seems to have been taken from us.  Makes one wonder what to do.

Police have shown that they are above the law, especially in light of what has happened in the occupy protests and the quadrennial protests at the Republican convention.  They can be unnecessarily violent and amazingly oppressive, and in the name of the protection of freedom.  Which is an abomination.  The view is that is because they are there to protect the rich men and their money.  The police, who are here to serve and protect all, have been turned into slaves, willing slaves to mammon, and enemies of real freedom.

And yet we live in America, land of the free and home of the brave.

Seems that the brave are the ones that stand against the powers that be, and that only we who fight them, in word and deed are fighting for our freedom.  And those freedoms feel like they are falling away, despite the fact that our founding documents are still in force for all to see.

Hard to fathom.

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That’s it from here, America.  G’night.