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Unpopular Ideas

Ramblings and Digressions from out of left field, and beyond....

Location: Piedmont of Virginia, United States

All human history, and just about everything else as well, consists of a never-ending struggle against ignorance.

Monday, February 08, 2016

To be or Not to be Racist?

A while ago a “white” woman whose blog I used to follow before she stopped writing it became deeply troubled after she found herself fighting the ridiculous concern that she could be a racist. This happened because in her very understandable zeal to defend her gender against all attacks, she posted on Facebook something that she might better have left unrevealed. That item consisted of an extremely ugly diatribe against women supposedly uttered by a Rainbow guy who supposedly was a pastor. 

  By way of explanation here, though the "white" persons I have met who would accept this concept have been few and far between, I guess because so many of them have been so thoroughly conditioned to see so-called "black" people as being invariably unattractive to the eye, I have long regarded “Rainbows” as being by far the best term to use for so-called “black” Americans.  We -- they -- bear all the skin hues of the human spectrum, while I am still waiting for someone to say what it is about gay people that in any way suggests the rainbow -- that many-hued weather wonder that North Africans so poetically call “the bride of the rain” and that gays have wrongheadedly and cruelly misappropriated as their own.  It can't be their super-exclusive sexual preferences -- the only thing that distinguishes them from everyone else. 

 I think that broadside by a surely phony pastor was just a right wing dirty trick designed to stir up animosity by Euro (i.e. European-derived or “white") women toward Rainbows --  two groups that are especially unlikely to give the Republicans a majority of their votes. This lady's post prominently displayed a picture of the "Reverend," as if to make sure that there could be no mistake about certain things.  

Nevertheless ... minutes after this lady hit her "post" button she had dozens of responses. (Obviously she is in a world over there at Facebook that I know nothing about on Blogger and on DKos, and I couldn’t deal with it if I did know.)  This quickly led to a many-pronged brouhaha that left her in a web of confusion and unwarranted doubt about her own leanings, which till then she had thought were quite the opposite of those of the U.S.'s highly bigoted right wing, when she had meant only to expose the Reverend's deadly diatribe to the withering rays of the Sun.

From having, by an odd trick of fate and accidents of geography, lived the first half of my life almost entirely among so-called "black" people and now the second half of it mainly among so-called "white" people, I am certain that the grasp that Euros generally have of racism falls short of the understanding that a Rainbow would have.  I'm not talking here about often oblivious and unconscious younger Rainbows. I'm talking more about older Rainbows, and especially the really old ones, like me, who grew up under the heels of the Jim Crow system when it had the national blessing of this country's legal system.

The problem that "white" people have is precisely the fact that they are in such a majority -- a situation that won't end any time soon, though they would deny that as ferociously as they would deny that their understanding of racism or of any other concept is in any way less than that of “black” people.   Euros don't take into account the fact that the laws of mathematics and probability alone guarantee that in their day-to-day life they mostly see only each other, and historically they have not been defined by having racism exerted against them, which is exactly the opposite of the Rainbow experience.  Most Rainbows may live in mostly Rainbow communities, but they still see a lot more of "white" people in various capacities than in the reverse, and they hear and feel even more, by a long shot.  So what happens is that every once in a great while, as with this lady, Euros -- several of them anyway -- might wonder if they are racists when actually they're not, while -- more often -- others actually are being racist when, again erroneously, they think and they want all others to think that the opposite is really the case.

One of this lady’s commenters accidentally cast a very illuminating light on this when he said that he has come to believe that there are "more black racists than there are white ones." Yet even though he may have meant proportionately, still how could that be, when one also reminds himself of the fact that racism is primarily a matter of strength and force?

Racism is always exerted primarily by the group that controls all the instruments of power in a society -- the laws, the media, the educational institutions, the jobs, the opportunities, and all the rest of that --and they feel that this puts them in a position to exert any kind of bias they please against those for whom they have only contempt, because of differences in melanin count or hair direction, or because of a differing language, different countries of recent origin, things their predecessors have historically done to those opposite groups, and a variety of other reasons, and you will never see this situation existing in the reverse.

 Euros have a large number of vicious epithets that they use to denote Rainbows, while Rainbows, though they have never been found to be lacking in language skills in any arena in which they are pitted against Euros, have yet to come up with even one term that comes anywhere close to matching those epithets in virulence to use against Euros.  This, all by itself, is decisive evidence of where the deepest and widest reservoirs of American race hatred are to be found.

What you will see in Rainbows iis instead the condition of being race-conscious or race-minded.   That is quite different from being racist, and instead it's a totally benign thing, even though some Euros, thinking themselves to be the very picture of cleverness and perceptiveness, will fall all over themselves trying to portray that consciousness as being "racist".

Again, because there are so many of them, Euros don't know what it is to be defined by race, while for badly outnumbered and outgunned Rainbows, that situation has existed from the very beginning of the American Experience, and so, when faced with difficulties, quite often Rainbows try to work things out by starting from their awareness, their consciousness, of what sets them apart from the Euros.

The validity of doing that may vary somewhat from one era to the next, but it has been so reliable in the past that Rainbows of any sharpness and acuity see no reason to abandon race-consciousness just yet, especially when there are political forces working just as hard as they can to make respectable and legal all over again all those evil customs and practices of this country's dark past, as if all the intervening years of striving for better attitudes and behavior by the more enlightened of this country's majority citizens have meant exactly nothing.

The "Existential" Threat of Iran

"A threat is stronger than its execution."

That is a cardinal tenet of chess.

In no other game that I know of are threats such a large element. A player tries to think of threats he can make with each move, while he also tries to remain just as constantly on guard against his opponents’ counter-threats.

 Usually when a threat is spoken of in chess, the term is modified only by an adjective denoting its strength.. Yet, in my nearly seven decades of playing and otherwise following the game, never have I heard or read any chess player or chess writer using B. Netanyahu’s pretentious and by him badly overworked modifier, “existential,” in connection with a threat or anything else.

 Isn’t it interesting that in this world filled with intellectuals, the term “existential” is bandied about as if everyone understands what it means, though I deeply suspect that nothing could be farther from the truth, and that the real reason why no one ever bothers to do the less enlightened of us a service by taking a moment to define it is because they’re actually quite fuzzy on that score themselves, and they’re just blindly following Netanyahu’s lead. He is the one who has popularized it, so they probably assume that  it must denote something highly important or else he would have long since been called out on it. However, it is quite likely that by this time even Mr. Yahu has forgotten that meaning, and he knows only that it has a certain ring and it has something to do with the ram's horn blasts that he regularly sounds out from the mountaintop, warning the world about Iran..

 In that connection I keep waiting, in vain, for experts to give a reasonable explanation of how other countries that have long had nuclear missiles bursting their britches can justify keeping the large, important, sovereign nation of Iran from having any. The 100 or so American embassy hostages that the Iranians held for a year without killing any of them and eventually released, way back in 1981, are just not enough, and after that what else does anyone have?

I have a neighbor up the road who considers himself to be well informed and highly moral, yet he, a true and “typical” American, believes that the Iranians should be prevented from developing a nuclear bomb, on the grounds that they would pass that know-how on to nearby local terrorists with less scruples – as if such a weapon could be jury-rigged in one of those roadside gun smithies that seem to abound in the Middle East.

 Those who are so taken with Netanyahu, like perhaps my neighbor, don’t seem to have noticed that Yahu’s needle is always stuck in the same old groove, and thanks to him the notion has spread that, if millions of their civilians are not summarily murdered first, by sanctions and by bombs, the Iranians will develop a nuclear weapon “this year.” But that awful moment is taking so long to arrive – over two decades now and counting – that now it is understood only in terms of geological time.

Thursday, January 01, 2015

The Farce of Israeli-Palestinian “Negotiations”

The apologists whose only concern is to keep everything flowing in obedience to the dictates of the Israeli hawks, are fond of calling for the Palestinians to come to “the peace table.”  That sounds so moderate and reasonable, and also it is such a safe thing to say.

Years ago someone named Francis Fukuyama made himself famous by claiming that the “End of History” had arrived.   As ridiculous as this idea was, boatloads of supposed thinkers nevertheless readily jumped aboard this contention, without ever giving a clear explanation of how history could possibly end, and in our times to boot.   The idea of the U.S. being able to play any role in negotiating peace between the Palestinians and the Israelis falls right into this area of total nonsense, and yet few people boo such proposals right out of the room.

Negotiators are supposed to have at least a few grains of impartiality.  Yet, do the Samantha Powers of the world really expect the Palestinians not to have noticed whose side the U.S. has consistently taken throughout and that it’s never been their side?  Despite its 450,000 churches and even despite the statue in the New York City harbor celebrating it as being the eternal haven for the downtrodden, throughout this conflict in the Holy Land the U.S. has consistently favored the Israelis, the elephantine side that uses F-16’s and powerful artillery pieces, over against the Palestinians, who are restricted to throwing stones as in Biblical times and to modern equivalents thereof that are used in the U.S. mainly to color the night skies on the 4th of July.

Isn't it strange, how, when it comes to negotiating for “peace,” all of a sudden the Palestinians become equals with the Israelis, and as such, with nothing to concede except to shut up and keep baring their breasts to the IDF bullets, the Palestinians are expected to match the Israelis in concessions, point for point.  Yet when it comes to preparing for war, the Palestinians, recognized by many as being a national state in their own right, are denied all possession of the armaments and munitions that the Netanyahus receive in huge quantities, so that in the recent Gazan massacres we saw how the U.S. could hardly open its legs fast enough to keep the Israelis supplied with all they needed to keep up the killings and the demolitions in Gaza, while sending the Palestinians no anti-aircraft batteries, no anti-tank weapons, and other implements that they could’ve used to defend themselves, and also not much if anything in the way of food, doctors, medicines, or even caskets.

It never seems to occur to those apologists, or to anyone else, who would urge the Palestinians to the peace table, that if peace was really the goal, in negotiations like these, much, much more should be asked from the Israelis than from the Palestinians, simply because the Israelis are bristling with so much more of everything than the Palestinians, by factors of hundreds and thousands, and they have been the aggressors by the same heavily disproportionate amount.  Or maybe these disparities mean nothing to the apologists, because they are fully aware of what has often been pointed out -- the Yahus are quite happy with the way things are, complete with the blood sport afforded by being able to keep in operation their Gaza killing fields.

So how can Hamas, stymied by being unable to accomplish anything else meaningful in the way of resistance except to keep the Israelis scurrying to their bunkers, be faulted for firing rockets that hurt almost no one and as far as I know haven’t yet so much as scratched even one corner of any Israeli hospitals, power plants, synagogues, or schools?

Hamas's purpose seems to be to remind the Israelis that the Palestinians are still there, and to testify that they still have faith that the rest of the world will yet not forsake the Palestinians and let them go down the drain, as it did with a group in Europe that once numbered upwards of six million who were confident that civilized people, including Germans, would not let such a thing happen, only to find themselves being shoveled, along with many others, into gas chambers and execution trenches wholesale and being almost completely obliterated.

But the news services never report anything that indicates that any outcome other than complete expulsion of the Palestinians from their homelands, under threat of complete obliteration a la the European Jews of the 1940’s, is envisioned by most Israeli politicians and the majority of carefully oblivious American politicians, pundits, and journalists.  And everything that the dominant Israeli “leaders” contemplate and set into motion will be in the name of bringing about that outcome.   Everything! -- no matter how much these moves are presented in various guises of being something else.

It is amazing how much of this “negotiation” trickery continues to be offered up for general consumption, along with notions of “the end of history” and other concepts that are actually nothing but other forms of intellectual horse poop, as if the simple ability to reason accurately really is in very short supply throughout the world, and nowhere is that more true than among so-called “world leaders.”  

The late, great historian, Barbara W. Tuchman, would deeply resent having an elderly Kneegrow of no distinction whatsoever using her book length revelation of the missteps of world leaders from the times of the ancient Greeks right up through Lyndon Baines Johnson and the Vietnam War, as support for my contention here, in her very eye-opening volume "The March of Folly."   But I still think she left herself in a box with one of her earlier books, "Bible and Sword," in which she supported earlier Israeli actions, though one has to wonder what she would think of them all told through today's times.


Saturday, August 30, 2014

Saddam's Revenge

If I can be permitted to set aside, just for this moment, the overpowering grip that temporizing has on B. Obama, never seen more clearly than in his first debate with M. Romney during the 2012 election, I think it likely that, by this time the President is deeply sorry that, nearly a year ago, he didn't take my advice to go with a U.S. strike in Syria, right after he revealed that it was in the wind, in whatever unknown form that his military experts proposed it to him.   And they must've had something out of the ordinary and even brilliant in mind, otherwise what good are all those Pentagon types with all the scrambled egg on the bills of their caps?   Instead in September 2013 he took the easy route in which a large part of the country was sloshing and wallowing, and he decided to bring Congress in on it, with the all too predictable blah results that you always get whenever those 535 drags on the country are brought into anything.

At the time there was a non-stop torrent of blather about all the dreadful things that would happen, should Obama give the order -- outcomes for which not one of these doomsayers had reasonable evidence, whereas Obama could’ve pointed out how, with his assistance, NATO intervention had prevented a Gaddafi bloodbath in Libya.    But that didn’t stop those negators from endlessly belching out fiddle-faddle that amounted to nothing except essentially saying what a bad idea it would be to try to slow down and even stop the wholesale slaughter of Syrians that had already been going on with hardly a pause for the previous two and a half years.  These “wise heads” had no eyes for putting themselves out for some brown people in the Middle East, who, moreover, weren’t sitting on top of as much oil as some of their neighbors.

Bobby Fischer, the late, great Brooklyn-bred chess grandmaster, said, "Timing is everything," and he demonstrated that in game after remarkable game.  One of the things he meant was that a player shouldn't hem and haw, once the idea for a sharp, hard-hitting combination takes shape in his head.  The sacrifice that can't be refused must be made while it's sitting there to be made and even when the ultimate success of that combination isn't quite clear as yet.

That opportunity, like all those lives, was squandered in Syria, with Congress likewise trumpeting and braying, “Nay,” and the wise heads went back to scratching their butts and throwing back a few, while congratulating themselves for having been on the side of something that they were pleased to call “prudence and peace."  It didn’t matter to them that thus, unhindered by the international world and instead feeling themselves being cheered on by Russians, Chinese, and a host of "sometimey" American progressives, Syrians kept on killing other Syrians by a great variety of means, for no more reason than to keep the government in Damascus headed by an Assad.

Having missed the boat on Iraq, everyone was determined to avoid making that blunder again, though only complete dummies could have missed seeing from the start that the GWBush drive into Iraq was a large-scale exercise in penis-wagging and nothing else.  But Syria was more a mess in 2013 than Iraq was in 2003, despite Saddam's constant misfires and the attentions Iraq had been shown by American sanctions and air power.  Iraq’s water, electrical, and health systems were all still working, and for a long time Saddam had been spending most of his days huddled quietly in his palaces and doing much more stewing than brewing, with not one weapon of mass destruction to his name.

Now, in 2014, Saddam is long gone from this life, and until very recently the Americans were also gone -- trying to stitch their minds back together in V.A. hospitals -- and the bubbling in the Iraq pot had been nearly drowned out by other drum beats.   But the mix in that pot never really simmered down, and in the past several weeks things there have started popping and crackling and boiling over again.  A new version of Al Qaeda, called “ISIS” and seemingly arisen from almost out of nowhere, went on the move in Iraq and captured cities and started closing in on oilfields in the Kurdish areas. and this time, Obama hardly hesitated, nor did he talk much in advance about what he was going to do.

 In the interest of doing a “Bobby Fischer” for a change, he didn’t let himself get hung up on the possibility that, after he acted, the U.S. might once again get its brogans mired deeply in the Iraqi mud.   Instead I think he saw this as good timing, and he must’ve been relieved at being given the chance to hit ISIS with some air sorties that, among other things, allowed the Kurds to re-take two of their towns, while at the same time he ordered other American airmen to drop badly needed supplies and later some personnel to aid an Iraqi minority called the Yazidi, who were bottled up in the mountains while having suffered as many as 500 deaths at the hands of the murderous ISIS forces.

 Also these moves were forms of redemption, for, in a notable instance of bad timing, Obama had screwed up on Gaza just a few days earlier, when he and his advisers bought in on the Yahus’ assertion that one of their soldiers, one man, had been kidnapped in Gaza, and -- just as B. Netanyahu had also charged Hamas with kidnapping and murdering three Israeli teenagers, which he used as his excuse for unleashing the pit bulls of war on the whole captive population of Gaza – Obama quickly charged Hamas with grabbing that soldier, only to find out that the man had been killed in combat.   But that didn’t stop an instant Israeli operation that resulted in no less than 50 Palestinian deaths in one day.  Fifty for each one Israeli death!  But oh no, Gaza can never be likened to Lidice!  So say the Yahu apologists.

Ironically, there is a movement in that same Congress that opposed Obama’s acting in Syria in 2013 that is attacking him for not intervening in Syria now with much more force than he has exerted so far.

But the trouble is that now the good guys are not so easily distinguished from the bad guys as they seemed to be a year ago.  On the part of the former “good guys,” the insurgents, things went to pot pretty fast while no one was looking, and now those insurgents, acting under the guise of the “Islamic State of Iraq and Syria” (ISIS), are even worse than the original “bad guys,” Assad’s forces.   This suggests that there’s hardly any room left in Syria for good guys.  For, in addition to the slaughters that have remorselessly been carried out by ISIS, Assad can proudly point to a total of over 200,000 Syrians killed so far on his behalf, together with the UN declaration that 3,000,000 people, fully half of Syria's population, are now refugees.

So whose side should a government ostensibly on the side of ordinary human decency take?  Definitely not ISIS.   The choice is clear, then, but that is a very sad state of affairs that just maybe could have been averted or transformed in some way, earlier in the day, before the borders were obliterated and militants in Iraq, taking new heart, joined forces with like-minded extremists next door in Syria.

“Saddam’s revenge,” I think you would call this very sticky development, though it’s far from unprecedented.  Recall how the USSR and the USA stood with each other in 1943 and how that situation was the complete opposite just 10 years later.

What did the man say?   “Timing is everything?”    By now Obama might be also regretting that his game is basketball, not chess.   -- Not that anyone else in his position far into the future would be any better equipped to see a sufficient number of moves ahead.  Real chess players are never seen to be as qualified for high office in the U.S. as are second-rate film performers.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Maybeee Sunday

 When you deeply love someone, it can happen that the pain of their leaving can actually be greater than the enjoyment you feel when they’re around.

If that pain not only persists but also grows stronger, you could start thinking that actually you’re better off when she is not around.

This discomfort increases all the more if it occurs to you, next, that all you were thinking about during the whole time when she was around was that in just one more  hour or two or three at most, she would leave, and there you would be, left with nothing but a fast-dissipating memory.

And that's not all.

The acuteness of this situation inflicts special pain because of your awareness that that loved person gives little if any thought to you in that much larger compartment of her life that exists without your being around, so great is the delight that she is taking meanwhile in a Preferable Other or Preferable Others. 

Yet that's still not all, because then there's the added knowledge of how that Preferred Other or those Preferred Others, who usually have not been acquainted with her for nearly as long and have not thought about her nearly as much as you have, nevertheless, because they have so much more leave to do so, they suddenly get to see your loved one not just for a few hours but throughout the day, and every day.  And a chill sets in which you realize that this means that in one day they will be favored by her presence more in a single day than you will in a whole year.  And they will do so while sharing in the most intimate relations possible, whereas you've always been restricted by forces over which you have no control to only a few hours at a time and then no more often than once every three weeks or a month of that person's presence, and then without personal contact of any sort, except verbally.

This is just one of many forms in which, besides being as beneficial and ecstatic as songs and stories endlessly would have it, and despite being impossible to avoid, love, genuine love, is nevertheless also often one of the cruelest forces that one can experience.

What, then, is the sense of it all?

After all this time, and after all the repetitions, and after the songs without end that are so tiresomely sung about it, the answer to that question has never reared revealed itself.  Not to me anyway.

I just know that it doesn't involve the so-called and fabled "Love of One's Life."  This situation doesn't arise just once, and it's not unique, and it's just as strong and acute on one occasion as it is on all the others.   Instead that chapter in one's experience can make its first appearance as far back as the utmost beginning limits of a child's memory, and periodically it can replay itself, not word for word of course but in its spirit in exact repetition, time after time, regardless of age and everything else as well.

       This is an interesting experience but one apparently never deemed to be worthy of jumping extreme, that is, of ever doing a damn thing about it, and instead it is a matter of just letting it keep coming on, over and over again, without amelioration of any kind.

Thursday, August 07, 2014

Three Sentences, or the Story of My Life

It's a very difficult thing, to see how many times your dreams are realized by others, as if somehow they were spirited out of your head and transferred into more deserving and possibly also more capable entities.

Eventually, however, you find that you can keep going on in spite of that, not comfortably but bearably.

That's why there are so many reasons not  to buy into anything  that is wildly popular.

Wednesday, August 06, 2014

Elderly Walking

         The other day I reached my 83rd birthday, and that means (it must mean) that in addition to being a slow thinker and a slow talker, I am now also a slow walker.

Yesterday, accompanied only by my 6-foot-long walking stick that once had been a tall, straight stem of an Osage Orange tree, I visited a neighbor lady and her husband.   Not counting their driveway, they live exactly one mile from here, downhill on our gravel road to a river and across the bridge over that river and then uphill to H and K’s driveway, when there is still that quarter-mile of their driveway to negotiate even more steeply uphill.

To get there I hitch-hiked a ride to the bottom of H and K's driveway with another friend and his wife, who come here every Tuesday that their schedule allows, she to go on a walk with my wife, often over that same stretch of country road, and he to play chess while we wait for the ladies to return.

But to get back home I vowed to see how it would be to walk the whole way back.

(Meanwhile it’s necessary to mention that I went over to H and K’s to watch, for a moment or two, in absolute silence, while K was attending, online and therefore from afar, the 2014 National Conference on Autistic Children.  She’s been teaching autistic children for many years, and she loves it,  and therefore she probably knows a lot more about it than do a lot of the speakers at that conference, I would think, though she, of course, would never say such a thing.  And I had been helping (I hope I helped) her and H to get their wireless service set up so that she could sit in the comfort of home and take notes and quizzes and stuff instead of having to drive all the way up to Ohio and Pennsylvania or wherever and attend to all the expenses, troubles, and other things that that would have involved, to attend in person.) 

Among many other things, I am fortunate that my legs and my feet are still the same ones that, unlike my teeth, I had when I was born, and they’re largely intact and fully functioning, and I saw no reason why that walk back home would be much different from all the walking I do here at home because of sheer inefficiency.

And I was right.  It actually wasn’t much of a thing, except that I should’ve worn my trusty straw hat, because what I call the “eye flies” were out in force, and it would’ve also helped if I had drunk something before setting off.   Instead it was quite an experience because it had been many a year since I had last walked that far along our gravel road all in one jump, and in the meantime the trees had gotten much taller and the distances between various points much farther.   Still it was all a matter of taking one step and then another and another and so forth and so on, while stopping as little as possible, for what seemed like an extremely long time that involved taking many more steps than I had thought would be necessary.

My wife and this lady’s husband, H, had been a little concerned, however.   They must think that I’m literally on my last legs.   Therefore, just when I was only 100 feet or so away from the point where our property starts, on the south side of the road, three-quarters of a mile I would say from those folks’ steep driveway, my wife showed up in her Saturn and drove me the short distance of the rest of the way home.  But I wasn’t huffing and puffing, nor was I thirsty or any the worse for the wear in any other way.

Obviously I must look a lot worse than I actually am.   I have no idea whether that’s good or bad.  A little of both, I would guess.   That’s usually the way things are.


Wednesday, July 30, 2014

The Middle East -- the Navel of the World

Among the many ways that Israel apologists use to justify the enduring evil being perpetrated decade after decade upon the far weaker Palestinians, is what happened to the Jewish population of Europe during WW2.  The apologists keep screaming, "Never again!"  when actually the connection of that population with the Israelis has, with constant use, gotten frayed away to almost nothing, and the crowning irony instead is that it is happening all over again, except with the Palestinians instead of the Jews being hammered, and with the hammerers this time being the Israelis instead of the ....  Well -- on the pain of apologist killer bees descending on us from all sides with the most righteous, convoluted, and absurd rationalizations imaginable -- attempts are made to keep us from putting "Germans" and "Israelis" in the same sentence and from saying what is clearly plain for all to see.

Instead the apologists in effect keep suggesting, under the cover of all sorts of weasel words that on the surface sound so rational and temperate, that the Palestinians must go on being slaughtered en masse, noiselessly, invisibly, and without comment or protest.   It's all in the interest of "survival."   But it is completely beyond me how any people with hundreds of modern attack planes, nuclear bombs, tanks, submarines, and the backing of an overseas sponsor that has more military hardware than quite possibly the rest of the world combined, compared to almost nothing, relatively speaking, in the hands of those whom they victimize can be so constantly concerned about their survival.  (Though of course they are not at all concerned.)

I think it can be said that, despite all the deserts and the absence of trees, the Middle East is not just any place.   Instead it can be seen as being the Navel of the World, because of all those religions that through the ages have set up shop in those parts..   But in 1949, a dagger was thrust into it, and ever since there has been a lot of blood spilled, though the steel intruder is still intact and in place, though now the dagger has expanded into being a full-fledged sword.   And not for the first or the 20th time that sword is being twisted in the world's belly yet again and bringing forth copious amounts of new blood and pain.

And it is the great tragedy of today's world that maybe for the first time in human history, there is no moral force anywhere on the planet with the will, an ordinary sense of decency, and the strength to place a restraining hand on the wielders of such a sword.  That is why major attention should be paid to what is happening these days in Gaza and in the West Bank instead of blathering on and on ad infinitum about everything else but.

Many of those weasel words that I spoke of involve calls for the Palestinians to come to the peace table "in good faith."

Isn't it strange, how, when it comes to negotiating for peace, all of sudden the Palestinians become equals with the  Israelis, and as such, with nothing to concede except to shut up and keep baring their breasts to the IDF bullets, the Palestinians are expected to match the Israels in concessions, point for point.  Yet when it comes to preparing for war, the Palestinians are denied all possession of the armaments and munitions that the Israelis receive in huge profusion from the U.S. and others in the West..

It never seems to occur to those who would urge the Palestinians to the peace table, that in negotiations like these, much, much more should be asked from the Israelis than from the Palestinians, simply because the Israelis are so much stronger than the Palestinians, by factors of hundreds and thousands.  Or maybe these disparities mean nothing to the apologists, because, as has often been pointed out by many people, the Israelis are quite happy with the way things are, complete with the sport afforded by their Gaza killing fields.

So how can Hamas, stymied by being unable to accomplish anything else meaningful except to keep the Israelis running to their bunkers, be faulted for firing their rockets that hurt almost no one?

Their purpose seems to be to remind the Israelis that the Palestinians are still there, and that worms and also fortunes have been known to turn, and, in these much faster, modern times,  much more frequently than just once every 2,000 years.

Monday, July 28, 2014

The "New World Outcome" in the Middle East

What is Israel's endgame in the highly one-sided contest of wills and weaponry that is going on in Gaza?   That's one of the main things that I keep wondering, because Israel can forget about any of its neighbors ever forgetting or forgiving its numerous transgressions as the new bully boy on the block.  For example, take the current massacre that the Israeli leadership and the people who voted for them are carrying out in Gaza against their regular whipping boys, the Palestinians, not one of whose forefathers, according to all probabilities, participated in any of the transports to the gas chambers of the 1940's.

Everything points to one and only one answer to that question: the Israelis have long since decided to go for a "New World Outcome."

This Outcome consists of the process wherein a group arrives on the shores of someone else's longtime home with a sky-high sense of their own racial superiority, along with plenty of advanced weaponry and pretensions cloaked in religion, following which they proceed to manipulate, betray, and kill off or drive off the people who were already living there till scarcely a trace of those people or of their culture remains, and to colonize or "settle" those thereby "empty" lands. 

That explains why you see so little indignation among the supposedly always moral American people about the obvious and gross mistreatment of the Palestinians by the Israelis for almost 70 years.  A large number of Americans  can identify with this kind of thing, because so much of it is a big part of their own history.  In their minds the Israelis are those exemplary types of human beings called "the winners," case closed.  On the other hand they see the Palestinians as being exactly the same as "nigras" or "redskins" and therefore are not human, case closed.  Let as many Palestinians be killed off as possible and let the hopefully few remaining survivors operate gambling casinos, case closed.   Applaud while Israel expands its territory at gunpoint and at the expense of its nearest neighbors till it is ten, twenty, or thirty times its original size. (Should anyone dispute this, they have only to see the maps that Juan Cole regularly shows on his Informed Comment site.)  Case closed  And if anyone yells in protest, let the Israelis brandish their F-16's and rattle the nukes that they are too dishonest to admit they have, and also let them sic the Americans, like so many junkyard dogs, on any objectors.  CASE CLOSED!

It is an extremely safe bet that just as in the past, without exception everything that the Israeli leaders do in the future will continue to be in full accordance with bringing about this "New World Outcome."  See if they don't!

Not being privileged to be so oblivious to obvious wrongs as many Americans are, I have additional reasons to pay close attention to the Middle East, and they come not at all from concern about the contents of my car's fuel tank, but instead from what builds up in a person who is now well into his ninth decade of close acquaintance with history as well as from paying close attention to many things that are going on now.

Membership in a widely castigated group called "American blacks" allows a person to sense quite easily that an uncomfortably large segment of the dominant "white" group in the U.S. has allowed itself to become so worked up with fear and anger that they would like nothing better than to see us all jammed up together in a narrow strip of land just like Gaza, where we could likewise be shelled and bombed at will and without any means of meaningful retaliation or escape.  The successful Republican courtship of that segment, the hoarding of weapons, the admiration for everything that the Israelis do, and the incredible hatred for President Obama for no detectable reason other than his melanin count strongly suggest that that hidden longing for fait accompli eradication of huge groups of one's fellow humans is actually more alive and well now than at any other time in American history, now that the German example with Israeli modifications shows how it can be done -- and gotten away with, since the quality of conscience seems to have almost completed its mutation right out of the human genome just about everywhere, especially in the U.S. and Israel whenever they join forces, come together, engage in sexual congress. or whatever.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Going for Lidice, in Israel

In  June 1942 British-trained Czecho-Slovak paratroopers in Nazi-occupied Czechoslovakia managed to spot and terminate a high Nazi official named Reinhard Heydrich as, somewhat overconfidently, he was motoring through the city of Prague.

  In reprisal for the killing of that one man, and for some reason choosing to vent their fury on Lidice, a small town 20 miles from Prague, the Germans promply rounded up all the townspeople, summarily executed 173 of all the men and the boys older than 15, packed the 184 women off to concentration camps, sent 88 children to another camp where a few were picked to be "aryanized" while all the rest were gassed as soon as they got there, and the town's infrastructure was completely reduced to nothing more than a bare field.

 Though Lidice was the most famous and perhaps the most extreme example, these mass reprisals were a common practice of the Nazis.  The most popular formula that one heard about was to kill 10 of the invaded citizens to each one death inflicted on the German invaders, and the extra-added ferocity of the Germans in Heydrich's case must have been because he appeared to have been something of a Nazi poster boy.

Just a few months earlier, in January, the German higher-ups had picked Heydrich to ramrod a conference held in a Berlin suburb called Wannsee, wherein the policy was drawn up and soon implemented for what became known as the "Final Solution" to the most efficient method of the mass incarceration  and removal from this life of millions of Jewish people that had fallen into German hands through their numerous invasions all over Europe during World War II.

Today the Palestinians in the Middle East have long run afoul of a set of invaders called "the Israelis," who have adopted many of the tactics of their spiritual ancestors, the Germans of the 1930's and '40's, the most recent of which is the application of something approaching the Lidice ratio in retaliation for rocket attacks by the Palestinians that cause scarcely more damage than the fireworks set off here in peaceful rural Virginia every July 4th.  Thus the current ratio in and around Gaza is 125 Palestinian deaths inflicted by the Israelis with their 800 tons of bombs dropped so far, in retaliation for 0 Israeli deaths (that is, zero, none, zilch) inflicted by the obviously non-lethal Palestinian rockets.   125 to 0!
      --Numbers like that (for instance we have not gone into the highly unbalanced number of Palestinians that have been incarcerated by the Israelis vs the number of Israelis that have been detained by Palestinians, and that's just one of many such situations) make it easy to think that if there were an actual just and merciful God observing this, as it stands now the Israelis are deeply into deserving and some day receiving a Judgment of Nuremberg delivered on them that would rival what the Germans experienced because of their wholesale use of the Lidice Syndrome and other such crimes. The Germans of three-quarters of a century ago, believing that they would be in full possession of the future, never expected to be brought to justice for these acts, and today's Israelis have clearly inherited the same attitude, as shown by their endless mistreatment of the Palestinians.

It makes one wonder what is being taught in the math and ethics departments of all those highly vaunted schools in Tel Aviv and other such places.  Surely there must be wholesale condemnation of practices like this in the Torah, if nowhere else.

"But hey!" as cruel people like to say in the depths of their misdeeds, as if it is the irrefutable justification for everything heinous that they do, "who's counting?"  

Wednesday, July 09, 2014

Curse of the Unspoken -- Part 2

       A film that I saw a few years ago (in fact, close to the time when I wrote the first draft of these two posts – these things take time, you know!), "Barney's Version," starred Paul Giametti as one such inarticulate hero, though I suppose that that bothered absolutely no one except me, especially because Giametti has such a big cult following that everything he does is greatly admired, though I couldn't see anything in this film that could have boosted his rep.  Giametti’s title character here, Barney, was a nasty, spiteful, and thoughtless slob through and through, and it was just not at all believable to me that nevertheless he had a succession of three dazzling women who saw enough in him that they consented to share his life in marriage.
       I guess we are supposed to think that Barney was somehow above the first two wives because they were unfaithful to him while overlooking the fact that he was no model of devotion to either woman, while, after pursuing the third woman relentlessly till she said "Yes," he nevertheless didn't make things too peachy keen for her either as time went on, which she testifies to when she isn't on the other hand unaccountably saying how great their years together were.
      Giametti’s character indulged in a lot of uglinesses that made no sense and that he didn't try to excuse, though there were plenty of occasions when he badly needed to explain himself – and audibly -- to his wives, to the viewers, and also to himself.  But the moviemakers saved a lot of work on the part of the writers who would’ve had to write more dialog, to say nothing of having also to be much more careful about the always sticky business of motivations, while the director and the actors had far fewer lines to have to deal with.  And so Giametti’s character had free rein to just keep slopping right along while saying nothing to justify himself or to enlighten others.
       One scene that illustrates this especially stuck in my mind.   In the beginning of the period when his marriage to that third wife that he continues to love so much is starting to go wrong, Barney is in the kitchen doing that favorite kitchen business of all film directors: using a very sharp knife to chop up an onion into expertly thin and uniform slices with lightning fast strokes while all the while the character is talking to someone, (at considerable peril, I would think, to the actor's fingers).   That beloved third wife tells Barney that he should freeze the onion first, because then cutting it wouldn't bring the well-known onion tears.   Barney says nothing, as if he hasn’t heard a word.
       Later, when the marriage is on the rocks, he comes home to find the house empty, and while he is looking in the freezer compartment of his refrigerator, he sees a lone onion sitting there unaccompanied by anything else in there that looks like food.
      He takes in that sight for some time before carefully closing the freezer door, still without saying a word or having touched the onion.
      What did he think that meant?   He must've thought something.
      That complete silence struck me as being very strange.   Did his character have no inner voice that was constantly speaking to him, loud and clear?   I have always had such a thing, and it talks to me throughout the day and in the nights, too.   I thought it was like that with everybody, and I have trouble believing that it's not.
       I can only think that it's taught at film schools that to leave things unsaid is the most effective way to go.   Let the viewers furnish their own words.   But I don't agree.   I think it would be a better world if people in all situations would explain themselves clearly and truthfully at certain, applicable moments, even in something as make-believe as a movie, and the fact that so many movie plots turn on things going wrong because so much was left unsaid that could easily have been said aloud backs up that contention.
       I guess that's why fate or my own inclinations never placed me even remotely in a position to be a screenwriter.  And even if I had been lucky enough to realize that dream, all the extra lines that I would’ve taken the time to write to convey a character's inner thoughts, even if I did that only occasionally, would still have been lopped off relentlessly by the arbitrary, hidebound committees that I am told make most movies.   In movies, as in real life, people just do things, and there is never any need to say why they did such and such, even if they knew why -- or were articulate enough to say why.
      In real life people often may not get the chance or the inclination to say why, or they don’t take the trouble to do it, but in movies the characters do get the chance, given a few extra seconds or minutes of running time, and I can’t see why it wouldn’t be helpful if they availed themselves of that chance a time or two, or at least more often than in just one “House of Cards.”

Monday, July 07, 2014

Curse of the Unspoken -- Part 1

There are numerous times in movies when I wish the makers could've moved themselves to have a character say out loud exactly what he's thinking.   In the original. 1990 British "House of Cards" film,  the main character, played by Ian Richardson, did so in profusion, and I thought it added greatly to the film's effect.   But that was a big exception.   Otherwise, what used to be called "dramatic asides" are heard so rarely nowadays that it must mean that there's a hard and fast rule of movie-making to avoid them at all costs.  At some unknown point it must have been decided that the inarticulate hero or heroine is superbly chic or cool or awesome, while the moviegoer cannot be expected to tolerate anything even remotely approaching audible self-revelation.  A reflection of modern life?

Oh well.   I guess that does save the writing and the speaking of hundreds of extra lines, even it it does mean populating the average movie with animated lumps who seem to be indulging in endless sleepwalking and little else.

A few years ago I struggled through a Russian film that exhibited this glaring defect in painful profusion.   Titled "How I Ended My Summer," it could much more aptly have been called, "How I Spent My Summer Looking Stupid and Acting Accordingly by Saying Not a Word."

It tells of two men maintaining a cold, bleak existence at a weather station somewhere on an island in the arctic wastes.    One day the older and more serious of the pair is out fishing, when  the younger man gets a radio message saying that his co-worker's beloved wife and child have just been killed in an auto accident.   The younger worker is told to pass this along to his co-worker, along with assurance that a ship is being sent to bring the man back to the mainland in his bereavement.

Because this is a movie made by one of your "most clever people," when the older worker returns from his fishing trip, the younger man tells him absolutely nothing and instead keeps all that strictly to himself, for reasons that naturally we are left to figure out for ourselves -- necessarily unsatisfactorily, because that young guy's vocabulary doesn't extend past occasionally uttered four-letter expletives.  Of course it all eventually comes out anyway, but with consequences that are far, far worse than they would have been if the news had been conveyed as was requested.

But this is how by far most of your bad and even worse movie plots go.   Things are carefully kept concealed till it's too late, when real life keeps telling us that everything and even the very worse news is always best revealed RIGHT NOW, and in language a little past the grunts of a bored polar bear.

Saturday, July 05, 2014

Nights of Unnecessary Noise

It is now a little after midnight following another July 4th, and the night is no longer being disrupted by the incessant detonations of fireworks in the nearby countryside -- sounds surpassed in toxicity to the sacred peace of rural nights only by the endless barking of a neighbor's dog.

The next official Night of Unnecessary Noise will come soon after the next solstice, just as this one has done after the solstice just passed.

On the last day of December in this year the Noise-Lovers of America will again get out into the dark and mainly fire their guns, using as their excuse the coming of the New Year, just as tonight those who were capable of any thinking at all wanted to be seen as observing the Birth of the Nation, when what they really celebrate both times is merely the invention by the Chinese, centuries ago, of gunpowder.

Friday, May 30, 2014

The Wise Old Skink

I found the first draft of the following post in one of my writings folders where it wasn’t supposed to be.  I wonder if I already posted it here a year ago, which was probably when I wrote it.  Doesn’t matter.  I will just post it again, not least because the changes since then are no more significant than a finger’s single whirl of the hands of a clock.

It's always great to see in the Spring, after the vegetation is almost finished with turning green, to see that all the moving little animals and insects have come back from wherever they go and whatever they do in the long, cold Winters, when nothing is seen or heard of them.   In the cold weather their absences are so total that it seems that that situation will be permanent.   Though maybe those absences are not at all total.  Maybe, every once in a while, my senses -- challenged these days in several ways -- do nevertheless catch little things but they're not loud or vivid enough to cause me to take special notice -- a slight trill in the wind, a small scurrying under the dead leaves, a quick darting of something small and dark just beyond my fields of  vision.

But now here in the Spring the little moving things are at it again, in the same numbers as always, as if the cold and the darkness didn't diminish them in any way, here, there, and everywhere, in increasingly full color, sound, and definition with the passage of each successive day.

For the last several years an old five-lined skink has been living on the front deck of my workshop, under a big slatted box where I store firewood, and yesterday I was glad to see him for the first time this year.   And I know I will see him again and again, not always but often when I climb the three steps onto the deck.   He likes to scurry into sight from the edge of the deck, stop suddenly, and stay motionless for quite a long time, staring at me, and it's as if he's waiting to hear what I have to say for myself.   After a minute of that, he decides that I quite idiotically can't speak five-lined skink, and he scuttles on under the wood box, disappearing.

I call him "the wise, old skink," or "George," and I'm sure, though I can't really know, that he's the same one that reappears there, year after year.   I know he's old because he's a dark grayish brown all over.   Those who haven't looked it up always call his species just "lizards," though the likes of those who are graduates of MIT and who are therefore responsible for such things have classified them as being "five-lined skinks."  That's because when they're young their bodies are marked by a series of stripes that extend from the tips of their tails to their necks.   These lines, which must have most to do with the usual reproductive purposes, are a yellowish brown that alternates with same-sized stripes of blue that are so bright that these younger skinks  are among the most beautiful things to be seen in the animal kingdom around here.  

This year the wise old skink looked slightly different.   He stood higher off the deck than I remembered, and his body looked larger but shorter and more rounded.   Maybe his legs have grown longer, and maybe he's gotten a paunch.

I wonder if he saw comparable changes in me.   I'm sure he did.   But as always he kept his observations to himself and eventually stopped waiting for me and hustled on off about whatever his business might be.  

It's sobering to think how little we humans fit into the equations of the wild life around here.  They stop and wait for us to follow whatever whim comes into our minds or otherwise get out of their way.   Meanwhile they always do the same stuff that they always have done and always will do, give or take an eon or two, and they don't spend a lot of time showing up for examinations or applause.  I doubt that the same will ever be said of us, on the cosmic scale of things.

"My" Creek

Wow!  Can it really be that I have made no new posts in all of 2014 so far?

Yes, it actually looks to be that way!   Yet it can't be that in all that time I had nothing to say.  Nearly every morning I awoke to the ringing of lots of things in my head that I might have wanted to say and to post.  The Republicans and other Nasties of the world are still as toxic and repulsive and destructive and imbecilic and inexcusable as ever, with no signs whatsoever of lowering their voices or of raising their standards.  Nor did I stop writing things.  I just did those in other areas -- emails and some of my past stories.

I feel that I can't take credit or discredit for this seeming negligence on my part, and instead it would be convenient to blame it all on the passage of time and its ever increasing rate of speed wherever I might be involved.   Or it could all be summed up by one of the greatest glories of this property where I am so lucky to be spending most of these days building a new bridge, across "my" creek.

Time has definitely taken on the identity of my creek -- a masquerade of sorts.

Most days, like now, my creek -- our creek --  just ambles along, averaging about 10 feet across and about eight inches deep, clear, quietly eloquent.   But every once in a while, and not even every year, but definitely more frequently than in past periods, enough rain will fall all at one time that the water will have no time for all of it to soak into the ground, so instead it runs off to my creek and then to the river a mile away and then to another, larger river maybe 10 miles away and then to the ocean 200 miles away.    And when that happens, back here at home, it's never smart to get too close to my normally ambling, casual, absolutely safe little creek, because then it becomes nothing less than a raging monster, almost the same width as ever, but now ten times as deep and with the water pounding through with unbelievable speed and ferocity and carrying along rocks, logs, and any other projectiles it can get its hands on.

We are the only property owners who live full time on this creek, and it doesn't even become a full-fledged creek until the outlets from four springs much farther upstream unite just before coming onto our land.    So, as we have the lion's share of it, we get to see more of what it's doing all the time than anyone else, including when the heavens above turn it into a whole army of raging lions.

We are really lucky to have this creek, just a stone's throw down the slope from our house, and we know it.

What else can I say?