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Friday, September 30, 2011

OCCUPY WALL STREET

    I know you all secretly wanted there to be demands from those good folks who are involved in occupying Wall Street. Well, sometimes movements discover what they are about only after they have bumped into one another a few times. And so it appears to be with OWS. Eli Schmidt of n + 1 has complied with the numerous suggestions that this occupation develop demands. These are the ones he has heard so far. The comments following the italicized "demands" are my own.
1. To repeal the Citizens United Supreme Court decision through a constitutional amendment. Personally, I'm not big on Amendments, but the Citizens United decision was a terrible thing, allowing corporations to buy elections, all in the sense of perverting the concept of free speech. Corporations have been developing the same rights as individual people ever since the end of the Civil War and this just makes that development permanent.


2. To remove the bull sculpture from Wall Street (as suggested to us by a man who walked by dressed as a banker but wearing a noose instead of a tie). Any good social movement needs a sense of humor. As an alternative to smash the bull to smithereens, I might suggest bringing in a cow clad in the stars and stripes and placing the bull in a mounting position, the implication being that the Wall Street Bull is screwing the people of the United States.


3. Some form of debt cancellation (either for everyone or just for students). Every social movement also needs to make demands that will never be met. This is a good example of one. If people insist on things that are extraordinary, sometimes the ordinary gets accomplished. That would be refreshing.

4. Pay-as-you-go military intervention (so that wars could not be waged without Congress agreeing to finance them immediately). As an alternative, I would suggest we simply outlaw war. Then there would be no military excursions needing finance.

5. Taxes on small financial transactions (one version of this is known as a Tobin tax). I do not understand this demand, so permit me to make another one of my own. Institute a progressive income tax and abolish the regressive one currently in place. No one earning less than $50,000 should have to pay any federal income tax at all. Lift the FICA tax ceiling from $106,000 to NO LIMIT WHATSOEVER. You want the system to remain solvent? That'll get 'er done.

6. Full employment. There's no excuse for this to not happen. I myself can think of hundreds of projects that need to be done and deserve to be paid for. However, the only way "full" employment can happen in America is for the so-called profit motive to be balanced against strong incentives for industry to hire American workers. You can use tax incentives. Or you can do what every other country on the planet does: threaten to nationalize the specific industry if certain employment targets are not met. That will get industry's attention.

7. A social wage or guaranteed income (also described as a negative income tax). It's easy to forget that people actually want to work. Giving people money does not make them weak. It fills their stomachs, strengthens their muscles, and enables them to get off the sofa and into the workplace. This is America, dammit! Nobody should want for basic essentials such as food, housing, and healthcare.

8. Universal care centers (for children and the elderly). Right. Except, make it for everybody, just like the rest of the world somehow manages to do without going bankrupt.

9. Reinstating the Glass-Steagall act (a banking reform passed in 1933 and partially repealed in 1980). This is extremely important for a couple reasons. Not only does reinstating G-S-A strengthen the checks on corporate abuses, it also serves as a reminder that since the end of World War II, there have been damned few noteworthy differences between the behaviors of the people representing the two major American political parties. After all, who was President in 1999? Under which administration did NAFTA go into effect? The EPA was created in 1970--who was President then? See, the presumed differences are just total bullshit to keep the suckers arguing with one another while the raiders steal from granny's cookie jar, or retirement fund.

10. Paid sick leave for all working Americans. The cost to employers could be offset or even paid for entirely by government rewards for companies who reach a certain performance level in terms of employees who do not smoke, who UA clean, who are not morbidly obese, etc.

11. Greater political transparency in general. This one seems to me to be in the hands of the people already. I think it is interesting that the OWS have not occupied the interior of the Stock Exchange. I do have a keen suggestion which would certainly spread more media coverage their way. Everyone at OWS, at a pre-arranged time, does a flash burn, meaning each person takes out a one dollar bills and torches it. I know, I know, the cops'll go nuts and there's probably some city ordinance against it, but who cares. Think how the greedy bastards inside Wall Street will react to seeing all that money go up in smoke. 

ows

Thursday, September 29, 2011

THREE PHASES OF LIFE

    This being issue number 300 of Philropost, I thought we'd put the whining, pissing and moaning away for just a short while and talk about something else that's interesting: Personal Strength. I could have titled this post Personal Strength and would have been guaranteed twice as many hits as it will actually get, but I wanted people to read this for the right reasons rather than because they misinterpreted the headline. 
    Personal Strength is always in short supply. It doesn't matter if we're looking back before human beings roamed the swamps of this planet or if we're looking at relatively recent events of human beings loping around on the moon. At any given time, at any given place, Personal Strength is not in abundance. Being rare, it is valuable.
    I have gone the way of many other former smokers. I have adopted the defense of self-righteousness. It also happens, in this instance, that I am correct. Let me explain.
    Society plays a big role in influencing how we think. No question. If your mother beat you with a shoe and your father dragged you up and down the stairs by your hair, that is going to make you into a mess, at least for a while. It also means that your parents better hope I don't run into them because my temper is running a little short these nicotine-free days. However. . .
    However. . .
    And however. None of us gets a free pass because of the way we were raised or mistreated or bullied or shat on by professional shitters. We probably should get a pass, but we don't. Self-serving control freaks, aka bullies, come in all shapes and sizes and are not restricted to schoolyards. We meet them in the workplace, the church, the restaurant, the convenience store. We clench our fists and pray for tolerance that never quite comes. Well, maybe you do. I haven't had that kind of self-control in a week now and it shows no sign of regaining itself. If we fight back against the bullies we risk going to jail or setting a bad example for our kids or whatever else. We also risk despising ourselves if we don't do something


    So the other night I was in the local inconvenience store. There's a young guy with a funny haircut who works there. Nice guy, always working up a sweat trying to get all the crap accomplished that's a part of his job, going to school, keeping the girlfriend happy, yaw, yaw, yaw, ain't life just tedious. So, I like this guy and I said, "Hey Ricky, you look a little tired." He sighed and said it had been a hard day. The guy behind me in line said that Ricky and I could have our conversation some other time. Now this "conversation" had taken all of three seconds and I have had to wait in this store for far longer than that while some gambling junkie parasite scratched off lottery tickets and tied up the line for fifteen minutes. What with the smoking withdrawal, I was set to explode anyway, so I turned around, ready to tell this idiot to fornicate with his maternal parent, when I noticed that he was somewhere in the neighborhood of seven feet tall. On his head sat a construction helmet. Under one arm he held a four-pack of toilet paper. Multiple messages, one signal: "Big guy needs to take shit, don't get in his way; over."

    I said, "Take it easy, man. You'll get through."
    I would not have been surprised to have awakened in the parking lot sometime the next morning, sprawled out across a box of rotten vegetables. Instead, the big guy grinned and said, "You're right. Sorry. Been a hard day for me too."
    Righteous.
    I had every opportunity in that situation to be a weak-kneed little nambie pambie sissy boy. There was a time when that is pretty much what I would have done. But not these days. These days I juggle a roommate who is--to be generous--an emotional quagmire. I have animals living in the house who have been trained by the roommate to make as much noise as possible as early in the morning as the law allows and they have to be contained. I have students I tutor, many of whom are not necessarily 100 percent clear on what exactly they need. I write this blog. I paint. I get occasional paying writing assignments. I scrape out a modest--very modest--living. I get by and I am happy, or at least I am not miserable, which is good enough. I do not suffer bullies and I do not suffer fools, gladly or otherwise. 
    The thing that takes up most of my time--and it's the thing that ties all this together, so those of you waiting for the payoff are about to collect--is I combat personal weakness. Being a human being, I have my share of these things, but the list is getting smaller every day. It's kind of a suicide mission, in a way, because, as you know, no one is perfect, so when we get rid of all our weaknesses I guess we dis-corporate into the cosmic mist or something, but I'm still a long way from that eventuality. 
    I am convinced that--all sociology to the contrary--bad behavior is weakness. Period. Now, some of what constitutes bad versus good is a matter for conjecture, no doubt about it. But I think we can at least come to an agreement that personal habits which shorten one's time on this madly spinning orb--addictions, if you will--are bad things. As such, I interpret them as weaknesses. And pain, as the Semper Fi guys like to say, is just weakness leaving the body.
    I used to drink a lot. I was never an alcoholic, but only because I lacked the ambition. I drank only after three in the afternoon and never after two in the morning, but during those hours I could stink up a room, I'll tell you. Then one day I woke up and said, aw, to hell with this. I was lucky, because I can have an occasional beer and be just fine. But I NEVER get drunk any more and never will because--and you can all hate me for saying this but it doesn't make me wrong--with me, personally--not you, just me--it is a weakness and I can no longer tolerate weaknesses, thank you very much. 
    Avoiding conflict is another weakness--again, in me only; in others I'm sure it is a virtue! I used to just hate to get in conflicting situations with other people because after all somebody might get their feelings hurt or I might say something I'd later regret or some big bastard in a convenience store might throw me across the parking lot and I might get hurt wah wah, cry baby come on home. Well, too bloody bad. I quit smoking a week ago and right now I don't give a good goddamn if the biggest guy in America wants to wrestle me over my spare change. 
    I realize that soon enough the edginess I am experiencing will subside. I realize that things are better than they could be because I am taking some pills that alleviate many of the more harsh withdrawal symptoms. On the other hand, things are sufficiently taxing because I am frequently around people who smoke the way the rest of us breathe and so the temptation is in my face much of the time. Cry baby, run on home. The edginess will pass.
    What I hope does not pass is this sense of certainty I have been experiencing. I don't mean the delusional variety where some guy swears the UFOs are landing and the aliens have chosen him to be their new star ship commander. But I do mean the type of certainty that knows the difference between the things we actually KNOW and the things we SUSPECT. And one thing I KNOW is that addiction is weakness and that weakness will get you killed. 
    You don't have to be Bruce Lee, Tom Laughlin or Chuck Norris to get through life. Unfortunately, you do have to be willing to risk getting an ass whupping. You have to have guts, courage, fortitude, whatever you want to call it, just don't call it "balls" because men have no monopoly on it, as some of the bravest people I know are women. 
    I admire the Ghandis and Martin Luther Kings of this world. I also admire the people who make it possible for the pacifists to survive. You see, that's the side they don't teach you in nonviolent communications school. Without somebody putting his or her ass on the line to take that beating, the pacifists wouldn't stand a chance. The most mysterious part of the New Testament, for me anyway, is Jesus flipping out and chasing the money lenders out of the temple. The story goes that He was so personally affronted by this disrespectful behavior that He got mad and ran the shylocks out of town on a rail. Good for Him. When a man of peace stands up and says, okay, this is where I draw the line, it's like the Indians finally getting a belly full and shooting back at the cowboys. The guys in the white hats scratch themselves and say, "Hey, that wasn't supposed to happen."
    Well, by God, get ready fellas, 'cause it's gonna be an everyday thing from here on out. 
    There are three phases to existence. First is the horrible. That's when you're born and you have no control over anything including your own bodily functions. It continues right on through high school, even though in some cases we think we have moved beyond it, we haven't. Then somewhere around the time we are eighteen or nineteen, we enter the not horrible phase. This occurs when we empower ourselves enough to make our own decisions, stand the consequences of our actions, and--most importantly--evolve to the point where we can love one another. Until we can look other people in the eye and genuinely love them for all their multitudinous faults--and love ourselves for doing it--we are still clinging to the horrible phase. Loving others makes us not only better humans; it makes us stronger (less weak) humans. Loving one another--as a dude with dark skin, of a different nationality and who endorsed universal healthcare and who was not named Barack Obama once said--is the new commandment.  Me? I'm agnostic. But I try to keep my eyes open. And I am convinced that loving one another means we are willing to get our asses kicked from here to Hiroshima and back in the name of standing up for our friends. That same dark-skinned man is reported to have said, "No greater love hath a man than that he give up his life for a friend." This guy was quite the wordsmith. He also said, "What you do to the least of them, so you do unto me." 
    I am committed to this. Oh, I'm still going to rail against all the stuff I always bitch about, take comfort and rest assured. I am, however and at the same time, going to resume my not horrible life of staring evil in the eye and refusing to flinch.
    What's that? I never said what the third phase of life is? Well, pardon me all to hell. The third part, which I think you already understand, is what we agnostics call the Unknown. It's the phase that happens after we die, or after we start pooping the bed and drooling our food or can't remember our own middle names. But mostly it's after we die. We imagine that it will be a happy time and that would be nice. No one, not even Lazarus, ever talks about being dead because--with rare exceptions--once dead, your vocabulary dries up. So we don't know what it's like. And because we do not know, we have triple motivation to make the most of our Not Horrible phase. We have a responsibility to ourselves and to the rest of humanity, dammit, to be the best human beings we can be. Not pains in the ass who wouldn't say shit if they had a mouthful. Just decent, respectful, brave earthlings who honor one another and defy anyone who gets in the way of that. The Not Horrible phase is tough, but it sure beats the hell out of pooping in your own diaper. 

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

DAMNED BIRDS

    I'm a bit beneath the weather today, so I will hope that I make at least a little sense, despite the dozen or so medicines and pills with which I have dosed myself. Toothache, sinus congestion, nasty cough, warmed-over death camp blues, you get the idea. You know what they say, "Whatever doesn't kill me makes me wish I was dead."
    Okay, today's subject is that I really hate birds that talk. What I mean is the kind that mimic human speech. I have two such birds in two cages in my house and I loathe them above and beyond all other forms of life on this planet, past or present. Mouth-foaming boa constrictors have nothing on these two abominable creatures. Godzilla stomping the guts out of Tokyo is like spit in the ocean compared to the immeasurable evil of these two demon seeds. I would rather have my testicles tasered daily than wake up to the pterodactyl screechings of these two ear-splitting parasites. Oh, sure, they are nice to look at. They have keen color combinations and they light up any otherwise dingy home. But try living with them! 


    For one thing--and I don't know if you're aware of this--they shit standing up. Dogs and cats at least crouch. But these two bastard birds defecate while perched and squawking, never finding anything unusual about their own disgusting behavior.
    But that is quite mild compared to the hideous racket they make for fun and profit. 


    The two birds are Gilligan (f), an African Gray, and Baby Blue (m), a blue-crested Amazon. Gilligan is the smarter of the two and if you tell her that you will boil her in a pot with screaming lobsters, she will stop her incessant chatter, at least for a minute or two. But no threats, innuendos, promises or cage shaking fits will deter Blue from his daily appointed rounds of terrorizing the neighborhood. 
    I ask him nicely and he screeches louder. I yell back at him and he backs away only to gather more wind-power for the next squawk. I bribe him with food. He puts it in his beak and spits it back at me. I coo to calm him down. He imitates the cooing the way Spike Jones imitated the classics. (Gilligan can even do a dead-on version of "Surfin' Bird," which is funny until you hear it at 4AM). I ring a bell against the side of his cage. He laughs. I spray him with a water pistol. He shrieks. I cover his cage with a sheet. He eats through the material. The little bugger has convinced himself that he is an atomic rooster whose job it is to announce the rising of the sun, the setting of the sun, the absence of the sun, and the general presence of the sun. He is, long and short, not the kind of creature that you want in your house when you have a combination cold and toothache. You don't want him period, but especially not when you are sick.
    So this morning I had a little talk with him. I said, "Hey, you with the feathers. It's time we got something straight. I feel terrible. It's a cold. It'll pass, but I need rest. To get rest, you need to shut up."
    His response? "Raaaa ha ha haw hack hack hack caw yakka yakka!"
    I am pretty slow to anger, but this morning I was just not in the mood for wise guy talk from a damned bird. I said, "Oh yeah? Well, how about this? Ree-aww! Ree-yakka-dakka ree-aw cooba coo dick chick!"
    He just stared at me in total silence. I knew I was onto something. I grabbed my pristine version of Huey Piano Smith and the Clowns song "Don't You Just Know It" and blared it at top volume. Normally any music or TV sound just encourages the little shits. But this song, with its chants of "Gooba gooba gooba goo-baw!" did the trick. Both  birds were paralyzed with--well, I'll call it curiosity. 
    I have been living with these useless winged worm-eaters for fourteen months and only today, with a toothache the size of Milwaukee throbbing through my head, do I finally put good old rock and roll to its heretofore unknown utilitarian value: shutting the fuck up two bastard birds.

Monday, September 26, 2011

WHEREVER WEAKNESS HIDES

    Scams are fun to hear about, although they bite nasty when they happen to you. The reason they happen to anybody ever is because most people have some kind of common weakness--greed, loneliness, fear, stupidity--that yearns for satiation. A few people are aware of these weaknesses in others and dedicate their lives to their proper exploitation. It makes me sick. But here they are, the list of scams currently in vogue. Have a nice day.
So stupid she's almost a genius.

1. The Nigerian Fuck-You Scam. You get an email from some meathook in Nigeria offering in all presumed naivete to put millions of dollars into your bank account (for reasons that never quite make sense, but which in reality play on the American stereotype of Africans being doltish). The mark, being a greedy bastard, says heck yeah, let's do it, Bantu, right on. The hook is set.
    Something goes wrong and a Nigerian official demands a bribe or else he will go to the U.S. State Department and rat out the American for circumnavigating United States and/or Nigerian banking statutes, the penalty for which is a swift and certain death. The bribe gets paid, the bank deposit bounces, and the American does not press charges because his own vanity precludes opening himself up to real and deserved embarrassment.


2. Here's an example of chronic fraud that plays on the stupidity of society at large. Frank Abagnale travelled around the world free by masquerading as a Pan Am pilot. He was able to abuse the professional courtesy of other airlines to provide free transport for competing airline pilots if they had to move to another city at short notice. When he was nearly caught leaving a plane, he changed his masquerade to that of a Doctor. He worked as a medical supervisor for 11 months without detection. At other times he worked as a lawyer and a teacher.


3. Here is an example of fear serving as the hook. Robert Hendy-Freegard was a British conman and impostor who masqueraded as an MI5 agent and fooled several people into going underground for fear of IRA assassination. He met his victims on social occasions or as customers in the pub or car dealership where he was working. He would reveal his “role” as an undercover agent for MI5 or Scotland Yard working against the IRA. He would win them over, ask for money and make them do his bidding. He demanded that they cut off contact with family and friends, go through “loyalty tests” and live alone in poor conditions. He seduced five women, claiming that he wanted to marry them. Initially some of the victims refused to co-operate with the police because he had warned them that police would be double agents or MI5agents performing another “loyalty test”.


4. Here's how the Change-Raising scam works, one that again relies on stupidity, but also upon a desire on the part of the victim to be helpful.
    The conman goes into a convenience store, and buys a low-priced item, usually under a dollar. He gives the cashier a ten dollar bill. When the cashier gives back the change, the conman says, "I don't really want all that change. You probably need it more than I do." He then offers the cashier ten one-dollar bills in exchange for the ten-dollar bill he originally paid with.
    The conman now needs to get the cashier to give him the ten-dollar bill, while he simultaneously hands over the expected exchange bills. Instead of ten one dollar bills, the con artist hands over nine one dollar bills and a ten dollar bill, for a total of nineteen dollars.
    When the cashier notices that the customer has made a mistake, the con will act surprised and thank the cashier for catching the error. As soon as the cashier is aware that he is holding $19 instead of $10, the conman immediately says, "Here, I'll add another dollar to the $19 I gave you, and you can give me back a twenty-dollar bill." The grifter hands over a dollar, the cashier hands over a twenty, and the grifter walks away with a $9 profit.

5. She wants to do you.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

WORLD GUNS

AUSTRALIA
    Gun ownership is strictly prohibited unless there are "genuine reasons" such as licensed sport, animal control or employment requirements. Firearm Deaths per 100,000: 2.94.

BRAZIL
    Brazilians over the age of 25 are allowed to own guns as long as they are registered and kept indoors. The country has the second-highest gun-related death rate after the U.S. Deaths per 100,000: 14.15

CANADA
    Canada's gun laws are significantly stricter than the neighboring U.S. To acquire a license, applicants must take a safety course, pass a criminal records check and be certified by a firearms officer. Deaths per 100,000: 4.78.

CHINA
    Chinese civilians are not allowed to own guns, except for hunting and protection from wildlife. Citizens can face the death penalty if caught illegally selling arms. Deaths per 100,000: Unknown.

CZECH REPUBLIC
    Czech guns laws are considerably more liberal than the rest of Europe. Applicants must pass a questionnaire on firearms, have no criminal record and show ID proving they are over 21 years old. Deaths per 100,000: 1.77.

GERMANY
    Germany's Federal Weapons Act, enacted in 1972, restricts everything apart from replica guns to adults at least 18 years old, who must pass checks for "trustworthiness, knowledge and adequacy." A firearms ownership license, orWaffenbesitzkarte, must be obtained before a weapon can be purchased. Deaths per 100,000: 1.57.

ITALY
    Italians can have up to three common handguns in their home, but if they want to hunt or carry a concealed weapon they must apply for a license. Deaths per 100,000: 2.95.

JAPAN
    Japanese licensing requirements are considered a formality -- there is little enforcement of the strict laws. Despite this, gun deaths are among the lowest in the world. Deaths per 100,000: 0.07.

MEXICO
    Strict laws, including criminal record checks, apply for Mexican ownership. However, there are growing concerns that smuggling from the US is undermining these regulations. Deaths per 100,000: 12.07.

RUSSIA
    Self defense is not a viable excuse for carrying firearms outside the home in Russia. Hand guns and fully automatics are prohibited, but adults with no criminal record can apply for a license for shotguns and air rifles. Deaths per 100,000: Unknown.

GREAT BRITAIN
    Brits convicted of a criminal offense cannot handle, possess or shoot a gun. A license is needed for any firearm except low-powered air rifles/pistols. Self-defense is not a valid reason for ownership. Deaths per 100,000: 0.46.

    Four countries are known to have a higher death by firearm rate than the United States. There's Guatemala, Thailand, Columbia, and South Africa.


Thursday, September 22, 2011

FAKE ENTITLEMENTS

    Some entitlements help us when we need assistance. In those instances, they are things we should have, or should expect to have, merely by virtue of being alive on this planet. Everyone should have a home. Everyone should have food. Everyone should have access to healthcare. Beyond these basic human rights, we can add real security, meaning freedom from fear. When people are unwillingly unemployed or unable to work, they are entitled to assistance. Security from ignorance is likewise essential, which is why everyone on earth is entitled to an education. 
     No one should have to fight for these things just because the profit motive gets in the way. 
    Other presumed entitlements pop up from time to time. And not all of them are as virtuous as the ones just mentioned. None of us are entitled, for instance, to execute another human being. We are not entitled to be cruel to animals. And we are not entitled to get wasted whenever we want. 
    That last item is not intended to trivialize the other two. Rather, I am suggesting that the same psychological impulse links all three. In the first two cases, the people who execute other people and those who beat, starve, torture or otherwise abuse animals do so because they can. Actually, anyone with the motivation and inclination is capable of either murder or animal cruelty. Yet most people do not do either of these things. But among those who do, the fact that they can do it is all it takes.
    I used the word "impulse" advisedly. When a few people come to believe they have the natural right to do some particular thing, then by damn, they are sure as hell going to do it, even if their judgment or conscience tells them otherwise. 
    I know a very large number of people who drink ferocious amounts of alcohol on any given weekend only to bemoan that very fact come Monday morning. "Man, I partied too hard, but it was the weekend, y'know?" I used to interpret that type of blithering stupidity as meaning the person felt obligated, but I was in error. The real reason some people get outrageously schnockered beyond recognition is because they are experiencing a sense of entitlement. You see, drinking a little alcohol actually feels good, so it's no mystery why lots of people have a couple beers or glass of wine after work. But the presumably youthful exuberance which leads a person to snort ten thick lines, chug half a pint of Scotch, manhandle women and puke on their own feet is a grotesque feature of entitlement. Plus it's a huge waste of resources.
    I'm starting to sound like a combination of self-righteousness and naivete, huh? You probably don't deserve this type of harangue. But I'll bet someone does. Just think about how much good use all the money could do--money spent, for instance, on illegal drugs, just in one small town. Probably yours.
    In the interests of full disclosure, I will confess that in my younger days I often got so loaded that people who even liked me told me to slow down. I was lucky. Just how lucky is a secret I will take to my ceramic urn. These days I often spend time with people who smoke a lot of dope and people who can drink even more now than I could have then. Maybe once or twice a month I'll pop a beer. That's about it.
    Why did I make that kind of drastic change? Because I could
    This issue of choice is the farthest thing from trivial, as we shall see. This week two men were executed. One was killed by Georgia, the other by Texas. One was the victim of a hideous endemic racism and the other was a white supremacist, meaning he was a victim of his own hatred. No tears were shed for Lawrence Brewer. Lots of tears were cried for Troy Davis. Both men died because some people in their respective states made the choice to kill them, just as in the one case, many people gathered to urge that a stay or even clemency be granted.
    One question that death penalty advocates advance is that if your son or daughter was murdered, wouldn't you want the murderer killed? I concede that point. If I was the father of either of the two men recently executed, I would want some type of retribution. Knowing myself, I would probably moan at the larger society while beating myself up in silence. 
    After the fact, however, does no good. If I had a son on death row, I would assert that he was required to be punished for his crime and yet that he was entitled to live out his natural life. I might even choose to do more than make assertions. I might call forth some of my baser instincts and help him to escape. 
    All that was required for Davis and Brewer to stay alive was for the people who opposed the action to step in and prevent it. Do not think that this possibility failed to occur to the officials in Georgia. The state police were on the ground and in the air, ready to perform riot control. If executing Troy Davis was anything more than the savage act of entitlement on the part of a few, there would have been no protests, no thousands of people from all over the world that the state felt the need to control.
    Both men are now dead. The world gained a little more cruelty and a lot more sorrow. What it also gained, I trust, is the awareness of the power of inherent freedom of choice within each of us, especially in those of us who lack the superior sense of false entitlement necessary to carry out such barbaric actions, as well as the power to choose to stop them.
    One other fake entitlement presents itself with a regularity reminiscent of rain in Indiana in the summertime. That falsity is the one that says humans are allowed to do whatever is necessary to enrich themselves. There is tremendous reinforcement for this delusion. Unchecked globalization leads the pack of enablers in the lupine lechery to snatch up every last crumb and morsel while narcotizing the public into believing this to be right and proper. They use the bullshit of religion--If God hadn't wanted me to own slaves, He wouldn't have created Africa. They use the bullshit of the media--There's only two political parties, but fortunately they are vastly different from one another, even though nobody quite knows in what way. They use the bullshit of schools, the bullshit of the justice system, the bullshit of our so-called social system to convince the majority that their choices are more limited than they actually are.
    Two hundred years ago, in America, if a group of a thousand people believed an innocent man was about to be executed, that group would have stormed the gallows. But we have come so far that we accept limitations which do not exist. Or we have another drink.

SEX AND HAPPINESS

    One of the huge advantages to being me is that I am now solidly middle aged. I used to be young, some day I will be old, but for now I am middle aged. I am precisely fifty-three. For this I crave neither medals nor ribbons. Being fifty-three is reward enough unto itself for the most bizarre reason imaginable. I will not keep you waiting. 
    For the first time since adolescence, my brain is in charge and my glands are not. 


    This is such a monumental relief that I want to be sure I am expressing this condition exactly the right way. For forty long and often frustrating years, I was following one localized portion of my anatomy around the way a brain-damaged puppy toddles along after its master. The incessant craving for endless sex controlled every aspect of my life, albeit, on a sometimes unconscious level. If I received straight A's on my report card, that was a combination of sublimating my ferocious urges into something useful along with a somewhat pathetic attempt at impressing the girls in my class. If I ran around the track in record time with my head high and my knees bent, it was, again, sublimation at its finest and a shallow desire to present myself as a peacock with gorgeous feathers rather than any innate desire to excel at some stupid sport. Behind every precocious joke or riotous ejaculation of humor there was, rest assured, a hidden agenda--even hidden from myself, at times--to get laid on a nonstop basis until the walls of eternity crashed down on my skull. 
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    What I am describing here, by the way, is something that is true for every man and any man who denies this has either suffered some traumatic injury or is lying both to others and to himself. I will not presume here to talk about the compulsions of women because, simply put, it would be presumptuous of me to hazard an understanding of universally beautiful humans who will always, to some degree, remain a mystery.


    From about the age of thirteen on, I wanted, needed, desired, craved, yearned for and was passionately in search of sex twenty-four hours a day and who needs food and who needs sleep? There is a reason why boys start combing their hair and staring in the mirror checking themselves out. Narcissism? Maybe a little. But mostly it's about making sure we look good for Thelma, Susan, Natalia, and Renee. Even when we find that one and only one with whom we can get that much needed relief, we are still wondering if it would be possible to somehow do this thing just a little more often or in some other way which would result in even more relief because the build-up, as it were, seems unending and in need of constant monitoring.
    So, a while back, sometime during last year, I noticed that from time to time my flag was often waving at half mast. For about fifteen seconds I was alarmed, but then it hit me: This is a good thing, son! If this lasts, your brain will have a chance to tell you what to do instead of the other way around. Imagine the ideas you'll get. Imagine the conversations you will be able to enjoy on their own merits without that nagging issue always rearing its head, so to speak. 
    That has been exactly right. While I have hardly become a celibate, the biggest difference is that I get to decide when and where and with whom I'm going to engage in naked playfulness, rather than having that activity decided for me by such a demanding taskmaster. I still get to do all the things that I used to do, but now I get to do them because I actually want to rather than because they help me get my mind off a certain other thing. The relief is indescribable. 
    This is why I find it mildly amusing and heavily confusing to witness erectile dysfunction commercials on television. I have a news flash: it's not a dysfunction if it is merely a consequence of age. We don't call that dysfunctional. My organs do not exist as mechanical tools--at least not any more. We call that--not dysfunctional--but natural. Personally, I don't want to get a mental image of men and women in their nineties going at it like teenagers. Even typing those words is making me a little uncomfortable. I want to see people in their nineties slowly walking down a leaf-blown sidewalk, hand in hand, deaf as doorknobs, content and peaceful. 


    Old habits do die hard so I feel it is incumbent upon me to reveal that when the situation arises (are you getting as tired of these unintentional puns as I am?) I am more than capable of living up to high expectations. The main difference is that I won't be so selfish, I won't be in such a damned hurry, I won't leave right away, and I won't be wondering when we're going to do it again. 
    Middle age, friends and neighbors, has made me a better person--even without chemistry.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

THE HEADLINES WHISPERED

    We reach a point, somewhere in our youth, when a cynicism slides into our consciousness and something that people mistake for apathy takes over. We are taught that freedom is this and democracy is that, that all white horses carry noble riders. And when we begin to doubt this nonsense, the weight of reality bends us, our shoulders droop and we find, years later, that we have engaged our lives in distractions to avoid the disturbing realism that surrounds us.
    I woke up this morning to find a headline shouting at me: ASSASSINATION HURTS AFGHAN PEACE HOPES. The subheading read: Slain ex-president was key negotiator. The ex-president in question was Burhanuddin Rabbani. He had been attempting to "keep in check the regional and ethnic rivalries that help feed the insurgency." 
    If we are wise enough to pay attention to our collective recent history, we may observe just how many people actively striving to end the conflicts which feed the hungry war machines end up just this way. In the case of Rabbani, a man entered the victim's home, posing as a peace envoy, and detonated a bomb secured in his turban. 
    It's exhausting, isn't it? Just trying to keep track of the men and women who have been murdered so that peace does not stand as good of a chance. The first instance of this in my lifetime was on November 22, 1963. 
    The above headline is from the New York Times. The headline they might have lead with was PEACE IN VIETNAM DEALT SETBACK AS JOHNSON ASSUMES OFFICE. 


    The above headline regarding events of April 4, 1968, is similarly useless. When something of this unconscionable magnitude occurs, we may grant society a period of grief. However, the real question secured deep in the minds of many thoughtful people is: What does this mean? Well, what did it mean? Among other things it meant that one or more people in the land of the free and the home of the sharpshooters did not much care for the idea of black militancy and nonviolent advocacy. It meant that some person or persons hated MLK and wished to deprive America of its foremost civil rights leader. It meant that conflicts of unknown duration would resume. The same thing applies to the murder of Robert Kennedy, a man who asserted that he would make it a hallmark of his presidency to end the Vietnam War and to shrink the gaps between the poor and the more affluent. 
    The result of these three well-known assassinations in America was to increase conflict. There is money to be made in battle. 
    But the list goes on. 
Anwar Sadat of Egypt in 1981. 


Mahatma Gandi in 1948.


Ngo Dinh Diem in Vietnam in 1963.


Malcolm X in 1965.


Luis Carrero Blanco in Spain in 1973. 


Orlando Letelier of Chile of 1976. 


Louis Mountbatten of Burma in 1979. 


Ziaur Rahman of Bangladesh in 1981. 


Juvenal Habyarimana and Cyprien Ntaryamira in 1994. 


Yitzhak Rabin of Israel in 1995. 


Benazir Bhutto of Pakistan in 2007. 
    It must be admitted that not all of these people were always on the side of peace. The important thing for this discussion, however, is that at the time of their murders, they were very much of the side of deescalation, nonviolence, and--yes--peace. And their opponents were on a different side, as were the people who killed them.
    Or perhaps we could go back in time, simply to illustrate that killing one person to insight the death of others is not a contemporary phenomenon. In 1914 Archduke Ferdinand of Austria was murdered, leading to the start of what later became known as World War I, a profit-making adventure if one ever existed. In 1812 John Bellingham murdered United Kingdom Prime Minister Spencer Percival, leading to a change of command that introduced the War of 1812. On and on it goes, back even beyond Julius Caesar in 44 B.C. And the unreported or unacknowledged consequence is always the same: conflict, war, military action, whatever euphemism you want to inject. It never seems to change and one of the reasons for that unending continuum of bloodshed is, I am suggesting, that the people never quite seem to get the essential long-term short-term connection. That connection would be something like the following: When someone engaged in fomenting peace is killed, the historical context suggests that genocide, riots, mass destruction, war, strife, and other horrible things that make money for a few suppliers may result--and may have even been the motivation. Recognizing this, it is crucial, I would argue, that we constantly be on guard as to how we are possibly being manipulated. 
    The article which prompted this little sermon of mine is alarming in its dispassionate tone. While i am not recommending rabid hysteria on the part of the Corporate Media--we can always turn to the psychos for that stuff--I am urging that we demand of our media that they at a minimum consider the historical context in which major events such as these take place and further that the same media not report these incidences as if they occurred in some type of social vacuum. When Rabbini is killed, who served to benefit and who will be most harmed? The way the article reads, one gets the impression that the writer figures this is all just a bunch of stuff that them there foreigners are always up to, it's a crazy world over there anyhow, so I guess we can all expect that this situation will prolong the U.S. involvement in that peculiar little war. That kind of tone is the sort of thing that prompts otherwise peaceful and calm thinking folks such as myself to pick up a television set and smash it through a plate glass window while wiping my ass with that fucking newspaper, a tricky exercise, I'll admit, but one that makes a kind of statement.