Saturday, July 29, 2017

Quote from a 1944 report on marijuana.

"There is no evidence to suggest that the continued use of marihuana is a stepping-stone to the use of opiates. Prolonged use of the drug does not lead to physical, mental, or moral degeneration, nor have we observed any permanent deleterious effects from its continued use. Quite the contrary, marihuana and its derivatives and allied synthetics have potentially valuable therapeutic applications which merit future investigation."

from The Marihuana Problem in the City of New York, by The Mayor's Committee on Marihuana (1944).

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Our Thought-Impaired “Flat-Earth” Fundamentalist finally moved out

We had a roommate who recently moved away, a proud adherent of some literal “Flat Earth Theory” he “researched” on the “Internet,” who a year ago informed me that Trump was Jesus’s candidate, while Hillary was the Devil’s. When the “pussy grab” tape came out, he was totally unruffled, because he said it was just like every other divine figure that left their spotty youth behind when they accepted God’s call. King Solomon was his one example.

He was fond of blaming “The Rothschilds” for all the world's ills, and couldn’t understand why I would oppose Trump when after all, he believes in “States’ Rights” just the same way Hillary does. (?) I simply could not get him to compute that “The Rothschilds” is a NAZI code word for “Jewish Bankers,” while “States’ Rights” is a rallying cry of the pro-slavery faction in the South that remains very active to this day. He’s a 27-year-old Afghanistan war veteran who has not yet learned—may very well never learn—to think critically, or even clearly about religion, science, politics, or anything that makes our society function.

People like him are the lifeblood of Trumpish politics. Believing that he is some kind of divine representative of Jesus Christ himself—a literal antichrist—they can only view the investigations, impeachments, and indictments to come as “persecutions” analogous to the Crucifixion. With any luck it will alienate Trump voters from traditional Republicanism, splitting it into incompatible factions.

The potential it creates for a fresh explosion of fascism in our country, however, scares me. I've seen this guy accept anything, rationalize anything. He bristled with righteous indignation when I described President Obama as a “Christian,” while Trump is unassailably another sort of Christ to him. When the likes of Bannon, the Gorkas, and Stephen Miller have God’s ear, anything could happen.

Rich People Suck

There is serious damage being done to our country by the way the richest among us are shepherding our nation’s wealth. Check this out: https://goo.gl/dbpCq7
 
The federal government costs 3.8 trillion dollars to operate, which to most people is an incomprehensible amount of money. But it comes out to about $12,000 a person. That's about $2,000 less than I get each year from Social Security. I’m not sure how much we have to pay in tax on that, but I’m sure they are not dunning me personally for my entire $12,000 share. Or Aimée and me for $24,000 if it comes to that. Which means we get $24,000 worth of aircraft carriers, and weather balloons, and air traffic control towers, and GPS satellites, and bridges, and—the list of benefits we get for the money would stretch this post way beyond readability—for a relatively modest investment overall.

But how about the rest of our commonweal? The total U.S. GDP is $17 trillion plus, which again sounds as if it might as well be infinite, but again, comes out to about $53,000 apiece. So when the ultra-wealthy hide $361 billion in offshore banks, then each of the other 361 million of us have $52,000 to work with instead. If you feel like you can’t get ahead, consider that there is only so much money in the economy, and decisions made in government, industry, and the families of the ultra-wealthy about what to do with it matters. Just see how far we all get ahead when this bunch is through with us!

Here's another way to think about it. Slot machine operators in Nevada are legally allowed to rig the machines to siphon off up to 27% of the money. So if a great giant floor of slot machines at one of those mega casinos takes in a million dollars, almost exactly $270,000 goes into the coffers, while the other $730,000 circulates among the players. So if you put $100 into a machine and get $73 out, you have statistically broken even. Lots of families that aren't in the top 1% make way more than $53,000 per family member. Just as slot players sometimes win. Everyone else has to share the dregs. 

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Bernie

Some kids on Facebook last fall berated me for posting some pro-Hillary shit by saying that my fellow "Nu-Left"[ists] and I couldn't accept Bernie because he was "too liberal"—and that the world would be a better place when all the old liberals were dead and gone. Aside from the logical absurdity of wishing old liberals dead for not supporting an old liberal, I felt compelled to point out that,
     a) I was a Bernie delegate to our caucuses, and would happily have drunk a bucket of Trump's piss if it would have made Bernie President;

     b) I paid dues to the Socialist Party before they were ever born, and fall so far to the left of Bernie that he seems more like a humane centrist to me than much of a "Leftist" at all; and

     c) he's a United States senator—how much of a "Leftist" did they expect the poor man to be?

Of course, all this was supposed to mean that voting for Hillary was some kind of betrayal. Fair enough. The poor kids didn't seem to have the mental capacity to consider the consequences of abstaining as a sort of protest.

So it wasn't just the stupidity of the Trump voters that got us into this mess. A really shitty public education system clearly is in the best short-term political interests of the Right Wing. They're sick, nihilistic bastards that are willing to demolish everything to extract as much as they can from the commonweal, and go laughing all the way to the [off-shore] bank. And those silly kids played right into their hands.

In an appendix to Wages, Prices, and Profits, Karl Marx said that in the U.S., there was no need for revolution since a democratic constitution was already in place—it only remained to change policies to make it benefit the People. And a hundred years ago much valuable progress was made toward that end. Hence when we finally became discouraged enough that we were willing to demolish American civilization, it was to reform it for the sake of human decency—not suck it dry and leave it for dead.
People tell me I need to "let go"—but of what?—[d]emocracy and the Rule of Law?

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Animal Intelligence

I was just out back [full disclosure, smoking some extremely intense legal! marijuana yay! and] listening to the lovely flock that lives in our hedge; and the extremely fine (as well as large) variations in pitch and rhythm they display in their communication raises a question for me: if those minute, intricate riffs on their deceptively small repertoire of sounds are completely deliberate, someone mathier than I am could start throwing out numbers of separate “words” or “letters” these subtly different strings of “chirps” could theoretically represent. I may well be hearing them pass on ancient oral histories, stories, poems, riddles?

When we were kids in the 60's, I used to hear people say “the one thing that separates humans from the animals is ...” ad nauseam, usually preceding a metaphysical assertion like “... we have ‘souls’ and they don't.” An anthropologist in the 70's told me it's the fact that we make tools. (Oops.) Then I heard it was that we are capable of altruism. (Oops.) Recently someone on TV said that the only human behavior he had never seen in another species is that we cook our food. That may be true, although I wouldn't count volcano-vent extremophiles out quite yet. Just not with frying pans, and perhaps "intention" the way we experience it.

Popularly in those days any animal sound was referred to as a “mating call.” Shit! Forget the whole damned universe. In our unfortunate arrogance we have made ourselves “all alone” right here on Earth.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Repent! The End is Nigh!

I came across a typical explanation of what is about to happen in these here "End Times," as foretold in the Book of Daniel and the Revelation of John. This throws a huge question mark over all the web posts and YouTube videos identifying President Obama or Pope Francis as this Antichrist, considering that according to this—the most authoritative theory on the subject, as it comes directly from Church Fathers Irenaeus and Hippolytus—he has to be a Jew. (Although there is a sect of anti-Semitic Catholic traditionalists that accuses "the Antipope Francis" of  "heresy and apostasy" for "practicing Judaism," so there may be a possibility there yet.)

Here is the text:
"1. Satan will appear as a man in the person of the Antichrist because he seeks to reign as king over mankind and desires to focus the worship of God on himself.

2. The Antichrist will be a Jew, and will achieve his stated objectives by being accepted as the Christ, the messianic king of the Jews, taking his seat in the rebuilt temple in Jerusalem, pretending to be God Himself, and thereby becoming the 'abomination of desolation' spoken of by the prophet Daniel and mentioned also by Jesus (Daniel 12:11, Matthew 24:15).

3. The Antichrist is the 'little horn' of the fourth beast mentioned in Daniel 7. He will slay three of the other horns and reign as an eighth with the remaining seven (Hippolytus explains that those three are the rulers of Egypt, Libya, and Ethiopia).

4. The Antichrist will achieve his objectives in the middle of the final 7-year period of this age. At that time he will be proclaimed the messianic king of the Jews and will take his seat as God in the rebuilt temple in Jerusalem. He will reign for three and one-half years.

5. The Antichrist, during his reign, will deceive the majority of people living on the Earth at the time into believing he is God. However, he will persecute those who refuse to worship him because they are able to see through his delusion.

6. Jesus Christ will return to Earth at the end of the three and one-half year reign of the Antichrist, destroying Satan's kingdom. The resurrection of the just will occur at that time."

(Found HERE. Emphasis mine.)
In other words, after rebuilding the temple, Israeli authorities are going to let this character install himself on a throne there as "God," and that a "majority of people living on Earth"—Hindus, Sufis, Scientists, Secular Humanists, Atheists, Communists, Orthodox Jews, people with master's degrees—are going to fall for all this and "worship him." More likely they would just commit him to a mental hospital and nothing more would come of it.

I'm fascinated trying to imagine what life is like for people who literally believe this kind of stuff. I had a co-worker for many years who quite literally believed that demons and evil spirits were floating around her in the air, trying to make her sin. By "girding her loins with Jesus" she could ward them off, but it required constant vigilance. Real dangers, like car crashes, earthquakes, nuke plant meltdowns, radon, serial killers, muggers, disease, drowning, brain worms, poisoning, domestic violence, black widow bites, falling from a high balcony, falling in the bathtub, obviously existed for her, but it was clear that all these took a back seat in her mind to these more vital, more deadly, supernatural risks. To lose one's life after all is nothing compared to losing one's soul. And all being said, I suppose it was easier to cope with all those natural dangers as well, with the Lord to protect her.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

My Nun and Me ...

Here's a story.

If you ever take a class in music history and wonder if Gregorian Chant will ever be of use to you ...

I was on a plane in 1980, seated directly across from some nuns, some of whom I had overheard in the terminal talking to a priest about the conference they had attended and their return trip to Ireland. The one right across was a lovely, kind-looking woman of around 50, with thick, waist-length, metallic sterling silver hair. It was stunning. And the one next to her was one of those sad, bitter old prunes I was just exactly unfortunate enough to have studied under in college.

So I looked across at her amazing hair and she scowled. And I smiled a smile I thought said "Oh hey, no, I know you're a nun, and..." and she scowled. So how best to proceed? "Say, sister, I overheard some of your colleagues discussing ..." ? Sigh.

Without any further thought, I picked up a magazine and started "idly" whistling the chant version of Ave Maris Stella. After the first three notes she looked across and beamed, though I gave her only a few sidelong glances as I struggled to whistle the rest of it through a smile. The whole rest of the flight we kept looking across, shrugging, smiling, chuckling. It was three hours of the most enjoyable conversation I've ever had, and neither of us spoke a word. When we got to my stop I got up and shook both her hands, both of us laughing happily, and said "Safe journey, Sister!" And I gave a little nod to the other one. When I turned around to get my bag I heard the other one say "Who was that!?" And she replied simply, (the only time I heard her lovely Irish accent), "A friend."

So yeah. If you ever need a medieval hymn to flirt with an Irish Catholic nun on an airplane, an intimate knowledge of Gregorian Chant is just the ticket! I speak from experience.