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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.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Crippled in the Weblog

Whirling around in my head and sure to stay there for a long time are a huge number of posts that I think are extremely interesting and even enlightening when it comes to human frailties.

They've been occasioned by my involvement this spring in a community garden and by a later disaster involving one of the members in another matter that on the surface is very different from the garden though actually it is not, and this second matter involves a certain attitude that creates dangers that are rife in today's world, especially on the employment scene.

   Yet I can't post one word of these things because so many of them involve someone who allegedly sometimes reads this weblog but right now can't because his computer has been down since December, and he and his wife are apparenty not concerned enough to bring it back up.   But some day, sure as shooting, they will.

But the stuff is so interesting and so vital and so clear and contained in my head that it doesn't at all want to stay there.
What does a person do in such a case?

I don't know.

Ack Basswards on the Oil Leak

On the BBC News can today be found another article on the oil leak that has still not been contained, in the Gulf of Mexico.   This article, written by someone who is normally from Britain, has an astoundingly narrow and basically bigoted point of view, yet it is surely milder than the stuff that is surely being written by his brethren on the rightward, mentally maimed end of things.

The point of view this author takes is that the job of repairing the pipe and cleaning up the water and the beaches is purely in President Obama's court and not in that of the people who put in the well.   He is described as having the power to bring everything under control, but he is not appearing to be up to the job.

I guess this is thought to be a very effective tactic in today's political battles: to accuse an opponent of being ineffectual at something that he can't possibly do.

I wonder what people who think this way want people to expect of the man ?  Rallying the troops? which are the only things that he has control of, and that's not very substantial.

I don't think that the U.S. special forces or the Marines, or the CIA or the FBI, are equipped or even have a clue as to how to deal with this disaster, because of the very special circumstances in which it has occurred.

My understanding is that the leak was caused not by terrorists and such but instead by the natural and explosive gas called methane that lives on and below the sea floor in such quantities and in so many places that it has the very real potential to turn the whole earth into an uninhabitable hothouse soon enough, and it was put there eons ago and not by President Obama, BP, the Democrats, or any other human agency.   And a bubble of this gas in an especially pure state mingled with the petroleum under the mud and traveled upward the same as the gas in a kitchen stove, and it made an explosion that had enough force to kill 11 workers on the oil rig and to rupture the pipe, I think in several places but especially down close to where the pipe emerges from the mud, almost a mile deep in some very heavy and unaccommodating, for human purposes, salt water, where you can't easily light a match to see what you're doing.

This explanation sounds credible enough.       

So it stands to reason that that is a incredibly heavy and complex technical problem, in which only the people who put in the well in the first place have a fighting chance of stopping the leak sooner than the several months that BP hopes to take to drill a second well that will relieve the pressure of the first, ruptured one.

What do you want to bet that when the leak finally eases and then eventually stops, as it must one way or the other, it will be hailed as a personal victory of B. Obama?

But maybe you can say he asked for it, by having a so-called "black" father and then asking to be chosen President of a nation beset by a heritage riddled with large  doses of "black" slavery, the systematic ravishings of a whole slew of native tribes, and now the same kind of bigotry but in another form, called the battle against "illegal aliens," all which, when taken together, are responsible for a widespread uncharitable state of mind to which even a foreign observer from Great Britain can be vulnerable.

Friday, May 28, 2010

The Ultimate Wise Man -- Google

I love to ask Google questions.   Half the time I just want to see what it will say, because I've found, as have you all, I would think, that no matter what you ask, generally it will find something to say that is even to your point.

This morning was one of those rare times when it didn't quite ring the bell.

After waking I found a large spider skulking near the drainage hole of our bathroom sink -- a common occurrence around here.

   I must not have been in my most merciful mood.   Instead I fauceted water on him till he was gone.   Still, that took longer than usual because this one was unusually adept at regaining his footing and making more attempts to scramble out of there.

Later that got me into a conversation with my wife, E., in which we wondered for the umpteenth time why such entities can never simply walk up out of the kitchen and bathroom sinks.   They can go anywhere else they please, can't they? And I said, "It looks like we still have a lot of things to learn about our fellow creatures around here."

And a moment later I added, "Maybe we should ask Google about that."

And a little later still I did ask Google, "Why Can't Roaches and Spiders Climb Out of the Bathroom Sink?"

This time, however, Google stumbled, and all it could offer was a bunch of selections from various things that referred to various words in my question and not at all to the gist of it.

Still, I think Google is an incredible resource, and we are lucky to have it at our disposal, when we are not too lazy or on too much of a high horse to use it.

Think of how much better off we are than all men and women of previous eras, because here we have what amounts to the Ultimate Wise Man, and he is always at our beck and call with all the information gathered through the ages, and without us having to offer this vast fount of knowledge even so much as a used acorn.

Still there is one question that I would never ask him, her, them, or it, and that is, "What is the meaning of life?"

That question is so monumentally stupid, and the answer is so glaringly obvious, that it's idiotic even to ask it, and I have no interest in seeing anything that Google, in all its machine eagerness to reply (17.6 seconds, 117,672,895 references), might want to slop on us.


Tuesday, May 25, 2010

"The Earth is for Everyone"

I am still trying to get an idea of what people mean when with such scorn and rage they spit out the words, "Illegal immigrants."   It's possible that even they couldn't say what they mean.

But they would say, "Fool!   The answer is self-explanatory in the terms.  It means people indulging in immigration here that's against the law.  It couldn't be clearer."

I could then ask, "What law?   Who made this law?"

And the answer that sounds so convincing to those who are so contemptuous of what they call "illegal immigrants" is: "Those laws have been made by the people who were already living here, of course.   Those who were born here and have made this country what it is -- they're the ones that made these laws, and with every justification in the world, too!"

   "But isn't 'illegal immigration' only what is in the eye of the beholder?' I then could ask.  "What if these laws were made by people whose forerunners, often of only a generation or two ago, were seen as being the undesirable or "illegal immigrants" of their time, which is sure to be the case?   This must mean in your mind, then, that the passage of time alone suffices to change the illegal to the legal, or the reverse."

     "Dissembling and quibbling.   That's all that a view of things like that is.   And it's an idea that's not popular in this day and time at all.   So you'd better get off it, dummy, if you know what's good for you."

     "All I know is that the Earth is for everyone."

     "Exactly.  And so that means that everybody should stay strictly in their own parts of it."

     "No, it means instead that all parts of it should be available to everyone.   You want to bar people from coming here to seek jobs.  But then you turn around and think that you have every right to buy and live in a nice hacienda for as long as you like, deep in the country from where they came, with the people that are still there waiting on you hand and foot.  You see no inconsistency in that?"

      "I don't have to be consistent.   I just have to be right, and my kind of people, who think as I do, rule.  So go back to wherever you came from yourself, while you're at it."

       "I came from everywhere, and so did you."

       "My god!"


Thursday, May 13, 2010

Befuddled in Afghanistan

Juan Cole, in his always dead-on weblog mainly focused on the Middle East, "Informed Comment," has a post today that says that President Obama is losing in Afghanistan, highlighted by his failed attempts to get rid of the Afghan President, Hamid Karzai, whose policies have always seemed to do very little or nothing good for that country that is so severely cursed (my words), and so Obama has now been forced to swing his boat partway around, midriver in the rapids, and support Karzai instead.

Actually there is and always has been only one good thing to do in Afghanistan -- if you are unlucky or idiotic enough to be there -- and that is to kiss the poppies goodbye and get out, posthaste.   And the smart thing is never to bring any troops in there in the first place.   There is nothing for anyone to gain in that crack of the world except endless stretches of rock.  Afghanistan was already forsaken centuries ago by the only two forces that really count in the long run -- geography and climate -- and this barrenness is reflected in the people who insist on holding their services there regardless.  There is simply no way for any sort of a win to be had in that place, even by the native-born.  It's all lose-lose.

Obama keeps speaking of doing something about Al-Qaeda in Afghanistan, but Cole, who has been keeping a keen eye on that region for years, since Napoleon's time it seems, assures us that that terrorist force is not a factor there. 

If B. Obama doesn't watch out and get a better grip on things, I think he will be in mortal danger of having a dark cloud slowly spreading over his presidency that will at length become noticeable to even his strongest supporters and that no one at Harvard University will be able to help him dissipate.   His Afghanistan notions and other positions that he has taken increasingly suggest that he actually didn't spend much time on the American mainland until about 2001, because he appears to be still stuck headfirst in the frame of reference that prevailed in this country during that dark and benighted year.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010


Some day, after the Obama presidency advances into history, it will be possible for someone to compile a book listing the many thousands of ridiculous and usually comical charges that those who were so outraged over his election leveled against him throughout his time in office.   Hopefully, by then time will have created a detachment that will lessen and even destroy all the pain behind the humor of all the bad-mouthing.

Recently a rupture developed in an oilwell pipe close to the sea bottom nearly a mile down in the Gulf of Mexico, and it's probably only a matter of time before one of these Obama-haters will get around to charging him with having donned a wetsuit and personally diving almost 5,000 feet while armed with an ax, so as to chop a hole in the pipe, which has been allowing 5,000 barrels of oil to escape daily into the sea.   This has been going on for several weeks, with no sure way of stopping that wastage of perfectly good crude in sight as yet.

That accusation hasn't been delivered to their avid true believers and ditto audiences by the Obamaphobes and haters yet, maybe because there's no lack of other absurdities to be scooped out of the cesspools of their minds -- by hand -- and flung against the Chief Executive.

One was to call this oil leak disaster "Obama's Katrina," with reference to the performance of Obama's predecessor in office, after the Bush administration moved too slowly and clumsily in response to the hurricane that so badly wrecked New Orleans and other parts of the Gulf Coast a few years ago.

But for the purposes of the Repubs and others, this oil is escaping too slowly, and so far little if any of the shorelines have been affected.  Some of the fisheries could be damaged by now, but still with not enough human tragedy to keep this from becoming old news before long -- and too late for any charges of foot-dragging to be leveled against the Prez enough to stick, because there's been time enough for a variety of groups and not just the U.S. government to drag combat forces into place.   But most telling was that not long after the attempts to pin something, anything about this, on Obama, the oil company involved, British Petroleum, probably unintentionally but effectively shot the detractors down in no uncertain terms when one of their representatives said that the rupture and the consequent outflow of the oil into the Gulf was entirely their responsibility, and they will be fully responsible for stopping the flow and cleaning things up.

But first BP has to struggle to get people off their backs long enough to allow them to do that, and right now they're fighting with their collaborators in drilling the well, over who was most at fault.

With the fast dispersal of information having gotten to be what it is, whenever there's any disaster, no matter how tragic, it's gotten so that one's first reaction is not sympathy for the victims involved or horror at the damage wrought or even dismay over the costs and effort that will be necessary for the clean-up.  Instead the very first reaction is dismay at the invariable charges of blame that will be flung all over the place, even if the catastrophe were to be caused by things as far beyond human fault as solar flares.

I hope the compensations of being the U.S. President are worth it.

Monday, May 10, 2010

For My Record -- Writing Now

A while ago, in a process much like the formation of a solar system must be, with a number of planets of varying descriptions coalescing into shape, though in this case without a sun for those planets to be constantly orbiting, some of my fantasies started forming into one novel, then two (I guess that's the way it happened; it was a long time ago), until before long I was looking at a series of novels, all having to do, to various extents, with the film world, until eventually I thought that sixteen (16!) of those conceptions would about do it, and that has held for a long while..

Of course these novels are all fated never to cross a publisher's desk, or even to be read by anyone but me.

Nevertheless, all 16 are sketched out, some completely and others not so much but still enough that I don't have to rely on my memory to know what all my intentions were and are,  and two in the series have been finished for a number of years already.   These are the first and the thirteenth.   And two more have been so heavily filled in with complete chapters that finishing just a few more would do it.  They are the third and the tenth.

Because my life is so full of a large array of interesting things to do, I don't work on this series all the time, but every few months I go back to trying to do a little here and there.   Because of the coming of that most miraculous  of inventions (outside the medical field), the word processor, just re-reading something on my computer(s) invariably leads to making numerous revisions and corrections, and then I'm off to the races.

Having once again read through the first finished book, the first in the series, I've gotten fired up finally to try to bite the sour apple and push on with the second, since so much of the third book is already done, and if I could finish the second, followed shortly after by the third, I could at least have a substantial "lump" of the series' outset all done.   But because of its especially personal nature, that second in the series has always figured to be by far the most difficult to write.

Three days ago, on the 8th, I resolved to get serious about this -- I thought it might be time for that -- and to help me along I started my process that has worked so well in writing my large number of unpublished novels.  (I have no other kind of novel to my credit, but maybe at some other time I will explain why that situation leaves me strangely withour remorse and instead often seems to be a stroke of pure luck.) That is, beginning at the beginning and ending at the end, as the characters were enjoined to do in "Alice in Wonderland," I plan to write at least three sentences every day without fail, rain, shine, or terrorist attack.   That works because some days you may only write those three sentences, but other days you might write as many as 10 pages or more.   And like magic, at the end of just a few months you have a complete novel on your hands -- if you never miss a day.   And it also helps to take Hemingway's advice and try to always stop at a point where you can hardly wait to take it up again on the next day.

Of course, in addition to the usual dangers that await writing those minimum three sentences, there's another one that advanced age has brought, and that is forgetfulness, which never seems to want to go somewhere else and leave me be.

But I have to try.   As I've said, this second will be the real toughie, and I don't even have it as fully sketched out as I do most of the others.   But if I can pull this off, all the others should be big pieces of cake.   Not easy pieces but still more on the halfway comfortable side. 


Sunday, May 09, 2010

Define "Illegal Immigtrants"

What makes an immigrant to the U.S. illegal?   Skin Color?

Must be ...along with certain tastes in food and in music, but most important of all -- not being of European stock, preferably Northern Europe.   But as with everything involving the crime of racism, which is more accurately called "groupism," there is always far too much general dishonesty in the U.S. for the great majority of its citizens to bring themselves to say so.

All the same, it should be pointed out that to date all those so-called illegal immigrants of today, all of them hailing from south of the border, usually only have one goal in mind, and that is to get some prospects in employment that are more promising than what is available to them at home.   But not yet has there been one report of any of them banding together and using "low-riders" to fan out over the U.S. countryside to commit acts on the order of shooting the ranchers and farmers and taking over their lands.

This is in huge and marked contrast to all those illegal immigrants of yesteryear, who sailed out from Europe, fanned out over the whole of the western hemisphere, as they did also in Africa,  killed as many of those continents' original inhabitants as they pleased, and took over those domains en masse, in the name of many things but actually just pure avarice, and glorified themselves by giving themselves specious names like "settlers" and "pioneers," when in reality they were little more than numerous hordes of thieves and murderers, who had left their consciences behind in the darknesses of places just a little beyond cities like London, Paris, Madrid, Lisbon, Rome, Berlin, and Dublin..

History should be asked to call that kind of process "illegal immigration" instead.   But it won't just yet, because the same kind of thing, given "legality" only by superior military force instead of by ordinary decency and watched over by powerful and solicitous guardians, is still going on in several places in the world, most notably in and around Tibet, and in and around Jerusalem.


Saturday, May 08, 2010

Shot from the Shadows: A World Record

A British soldier has just set a world record for going to a country that is not his own and while there killing two of the inhabitants from afar by sniper fire.   If there can be any thankfulness here, this entry in the Guiness book will not be for total number of victims.   Instead the record pertains to the distance of his attack. From a mile and a half away, this man's special rifle propelled two bullets aimed well enough to hit and kill two people who could not have heard the shots, much less seen someone firing at them.

The deceased men were called members of the Taliban in one place and Al-Qaeda in another, though I don't think the two groups are considered to be one and the same.   They could've been just regular Afghan Pashtun farm boys, doing what they have been doing for centuries, fighting to expel invaders, especially the British.  But the British, having already been knifed out of there several times through the years, never seem to learn, and now they are helping lead the U.S. down the same bloody and seemingly hypnotic but easily futile track.

So it goes in what passes for today's warfare.

I'll always remember a moment when I was in the ROTC at predominantly Rainbow (.i.e. "black") Howard University, while we were standing around one day waiting to be given an order of some kind.  Someone in the formation remarked wryly that the wars of the future -- this was in the early 1950's -- would be pushbutton wars -- "The white boys will push 'em, and the niggers will polish em."  Those of us standing there would, of course, be the niggers.

Missiles, sniper fire, drones -- the main idea these days is to use technology to inflict sudden death on the enemy from afar and by stealth, and the farther off the better.  This is thought to be good, because it leaves the enemy wondering, as he cannot immediately find a target to fire upon in return -- though he will in time.

Why is there no recognition of the essential cowardice involved here, and instead the killing of a human being is treated merely in terms of setting records, as if someone had swum across the English Channel in ten minutes flat, or if someone had wolfed down a truckload of hotdogs in just one short session of frantic gorging?  Where are the days of using warfare's legal sanction to murder not by stealth but by the use of one-to-one combat, in which the fighters had a chance to size up their opponents, look into each other's eyes, assess their weaponry, and engage in a lot of pre-battle invective, before finally going to it?

It seems to me that I have read that that is what warriors used to do in various places in the golden ages of organized mayhem.  The two armies would line up in opposing formations, and then presumably the best fighter in each force would advance to meet each other in single combat while everyone else looked on.   Then, after they had had a suitable duel to the death, the armies would then turn and troop back to their camps and the serious drinking, with an enjoyable day having been had by all, and with the bonus of one or hopefully both the main troublemakers on the two sides having properly disposed of themselves.

Not too many centuries ago, the Japanese had a large and well-developed firearms industry, before the samurai warriors finally realized that it was drastically wrong and disgraceful to allow the firing of bullets through metal tubes in waging war.   Where was the grace and the ethos in that?   It meant that with a bare minimum of instruction and no knowledge of the achievements of their ancestors, peasants of no social standing at all could stand back and pick off charging noblemen before the samurai, with centuries of tradition and years of practice behind them, including on peasants who so much as looked cross-eyed at them, could get within sword range and dispatch the farm boys with one short swing of a gorgeously appointed blade. 

Thereupon the samurai induced the shogun to order the confiscation of all the guns in Japan, with no more ever to be manufactured, and all the firearms were melted down and used to cast gigantic statues of Buddha.

Thus the power of the farm boys was short-lived, and "honor" was restored, though admittedly it also meant that the same old S.O.B.'s could then return to doing the same injustices and the other S.O.B.

The only small saving grace was that it did make for better samurai movies later.

Every once in a great while you will see a samurai film in which guns are being wielded, and it creates a very jarring note that would be best left out completely.   There is nothing more beautiful in the whole field of armed combat than the sword affrays in Japanese movies, especially the prolonged posturing with the blades before the actual damage starts -- though we are told that in real life these duels never lasted more than a few seconds before someone was down and out of it for good.  All samurai were supposedly that lethal.  But at least all the participants had been clearly visible to each other beforehand, for various amounts of time.

Thursday, May 06, 2010


If I have a central credo in life, it is that I try always not to be a bother to anyone, while hoping that no one will bother me.

I think that there can be no principle higher than the one involved there.   Not even helping others can be as lofty, because, after all, how often can one be certain of knowing that he is actually helping?    Quite often there's a chance that the help might turn out instead to be damaging in some way.

The benefits of that help could be beyond all doubt.   But even in that case,  there's the especially strong chance that the recipient, out of the many kinds of pride, could still see things in an entirely different way and be not at all grateful.  He or she might resent the mere act of helping someone, or they could resent being seen as needing help,  or they could be suspicious of the motives, or they could regard the helper as being merely a fool, to be avoided, ignored, or to be noted for later use as just another easy mark.

There are basically two kinds of people in the world.   There are the people who try to make their way through life as entirely on their own as  they can manage, with the only exceptions, if any, where they would gladly go for help being institutions, especially those that furnish education and medical care..   These people would be the Anti-Socials.   Then there are the Socials, who lean toward expecting and getting help every step of the way from any source at hand.

The Anti-Socials are in the minority by far.   But that must be why you have society.

In the tame world of the Virginia countyside, the various wild animals give a clear picture of  all this.

First you have the Anti-Socials, who have long ago been rewarded for their qualities by being airborne under their own power, such as the hawks and the eagles, who are able to make it almost entirely on their own, except when it comes to stuff like mating and being reared.

In contrast you have the ants and the bees, where everybody depends on everyone else all the time and there's no individuality, but there are certainly lots more of them, by far and then some.

Midway between those must be the crows, who seem to live in groups, judging by all the distant, concerted noise they make and the groups that you see, but also they do a lot of solo prospecting.

There's one that I've found walking around in my garden by the creekside nearly every evening lately.  One solitary and almost fearless bird.   I think it's the same one every day, but how would I know?

I call him Charley Crow.

He seems to know who he is.

All this must mean that essentially I'm a crow, too, but a quiet one, as Charley also is, when he's on his own..

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

Building a Time Machine

Stephen Hawking, the famed physicist, says that it is, in fact, quite possible to build a time machine, and he tells us how == except that it's not exactly something that we can easily cobble together from spare parts in our workshops.   Instead we need a wormhole through the fourth dimension, which is time, or we could use one of those massive machines called hadron colliders, or we could somehow stumble across what he calls a really, really fast spaceship.

Hawking is interesting in and of himself, not least because of the way that bodily -- because of a grievous illness that struck just as he was starting to go good in his early life -- he is now little more than an almost completely dried-out vegetable.   He has to stay under constant medical care, and he can only talk to us by means of a computer.

   So the odd but somehow appropriate thing -- if this is not too cruel to say -- is that whereas the use of his physical being is so constricted that it is capable of only a very tiny fraction of the actions of any ordinary human, inside his head he has at his disposal all the tools that it would seem the human mind can possibly have, and he is able to use them free of all the hangups that make only a tiny proportion of the capabilities of the human brain available to the rest of us, and that's why he can come up with concepts about things like wormholes, black holes, and time machines that are way beyond almost everyone else.

  In keeping with the use of mathematics in the work of physics, a gigantic employment of inverse proportion must be at work there, so that it's possible to see that early and almost totally crippling illness as having been some sort of blessing in disguise, because it has seemed to allow him to get on with his life's work almost absolutely unhindered, compared to what might have happened had he been able to hold on to the health of a normal human being.

  Would Hawking want, then, to trade his physical state today with the one he used to have?

In his instructions about building the time machine, he sounds as if, if he could get one delivered to his front door, one of the first things he would do would be to have a full and frank discussion with Marilyn Monroe. 
What does that say about sex being, like so many things, all in the mind?

I know exactly where I would go first, if time machines became something you could wheel, freshly manufactured, out of a store, or, preferably, order online.  I've been thinking for many years that the greatest thing would be to go back into one of the ages of the dinosaurs and spy on those rascals from behind a rock.

Meanwhile I would not be at all surprised if time machines don't become commonly available, though they would make a gigantic mess of everything, with people fooling around everywhere all the time.   It wasn't so long ago, after all, when it was universally thought that such commonplace articles today as telephones, computers, and cars were complete impossibilities.

Therefore I have not yet finished reading Hawking's article.  Something about the way he was talking made me think that he was mainly interested in convincing the non-believers that he's not a complete crackpot, and I started fearing that disappointment might be waiting just ahead.  

He should just let the jive non-believers mill about in their own, dead-end wormholes, and get on with it, in ten short, easy lessons, or whatever building the machine takes.