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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, January 31, 2011

The Action Along the Medit

An incredible lot of interesting and important things are happening these days, beyond the eastern and southern coasts of the Mediterranean Sea, especially in Egypt -- so many, in fact, that I can hardly stop reading about them.   And even better, I have this powerful sensation that all of it is clearer to me than they usually are on many subjects.   In fact, I would go so far as to say that I could be better prepared to take in what's happening there than are a lot of the "talking heads" on this subject or even the heads of various governments, some of them right there on the scene.
I would give the credit for this preparation first to the education I've gotten on the Middle East and nearby, almost as an aside, from many of the courses I took in college -- I minored in Classics and I majored in English, which means British and American Literature, and as you know,  the British, the French, and other Europeans have been trooping in and mucking about in the Middle East and stealing things there through the ages.  Secondly, ever since college I've read numerous histories and other literature that had to do with Southern Europe, Asia, and Africa, including a LOT of stuff on Egypt and its neighbors, both current and all the way back through Antiquity.  But most important of all, when it comes to the current revolts that are sweeping through those Mediterranean areas like brush fires in California, has been the fact that for six or seven years I've been a regular reader of a weblog called "The Angry Arab News Service," written by a man who was born in Lebanon but for half his life has lived in the U.S. and now is a professor at a college in California, circumstances that he says will never allow him to take part in Lebanon politics, not only because he hasn't spent that much time there but also because he thinks he would be killed.  Whether by the Mossad or by agents of King Saud, he didn't say.

 This guy has what I think is a notably cool name: As'ad AbuKhalil, but I wouldn't be surprised if he is better known even to his close friends by the name of his site, because he has always come across as an unforgiving, extremely salty and sarcastic bird, with one or two or even more anger issues.  Israel and the people that he calls "the Zionists" are at the top of his crap list, followed by the leaders of Saudi Arabia, and then by President Obama, though in a somewhat more benign way, and other American figures.  But, as shown by the mention of the Saudi clan,  he is even-handed in those for whom he has no use, and that includes a good many people in the Arab world, including his native Lebanon.   In fact, I am at pains to think of a single Arab country for which he hasn't had a cup or two of scorn to dash in their faces.

In any case I am confident that his eyes are good and reliable telescopes and microscopes through which to look at the Arab and Israeli world that are inferior to no other and are certainly more assiduous in looking at the region than most others, with the exception, as far as I know, only of Juan Cole's "Informed Comment."   Like Cole he is regarded as being an authority on the subject and is sought after for speaking and writing, except by people like a guy from the Nixon Center, who he said appeared to be outraged that he would have a site called "the Angry Arab."

AbuKhalil is extremely conscientious about keeping up his weblog, and you can count on seeing up to 20 or more new news items in there every single day, and even in the middle of every day.   He drops in a few words expressing his own attitude toward the subject in about half of them, and in quite a few he ends the item by thanking somebody, citing them by their first names in a parenthesis, which suggests that a lot of his material is sent to him by others, or that the items are his excerpts from articles and news reports written by others.  Also now and then he will get so worked up that he will pen an article of his own that might go on for pages.

When I started reading 'the Angry Arab" his site had the most disreputable, violent, and yet ultimately highly informative comment section that I've ever seen.   Reading it was like visiting a dark, dank bar deeply floored with offal and where some very outspoken, drunken, sick, and yet ultimately informed types hung out, and where even A.A., the proprietor, spent as little time as possible.   Eventually -- I guess just before the Internet police, whoever they were, closed in on him -- he axed the comment section entirely, and that was a kind of pity in spite of all, because, as a complete outsider, I had still not even begun to fully decipher just what all those jokers were talking about, because they used their own private language, references, and code words, even though most of it was spoken ostensibly in American.

When the uproar in Tunisia started, about six weeks ago, I noticed that A.A. was highly irked because he felt that the Western media was stupidly ignoring those events.  I was puzzled, because I hadn't noticed that till then he had been paying much attention to Tunisia himself.

This causes me to flash back to the summer of 1966, when, as newlyweds of one year,  my wife and I were strolling alongside the walls of the Imperial Palace in Kyoto, touristing during that, my second trip to Japan.  A young Japanese guy, trying out the English he had learned in school, engaged us in conversation, a common occurrence there, and in the midst of it, instead of the usual small stuff, he asked us what we thought of Vietnam.

I was badly taken aback and was reduced to mumbling something unintelligible, because it had only been a year since LBJ had sent American troops into Saigon or thereabouts for some reason that was totally dwarfed in importance by, for instance, the Civil Rights Drive that was then in full swing , and I hadn't paid a bit of attention to anything in Vietnam, a state of blissful ignorance that I believe I shared at that time with 99 percent of my fellow Americans.  I knew that a couple of people were in a snit about something that was happening  there, but that was about it.   And yet, over in Japan, out of the blue--

Till A.A. started pissing and moaning about our inattention to it, I had thought things in Tunisia were okay.   I thought it was, outside of those strange sheikhdoms and such along the Persian Gulf, probably the quietest of the Arab countries and was fairly prosperous.   I knew also that Tunisia was where the Romans thoroughly wasted Carthage, and it was most significantly the place where the greatest military campaign of all time had begun -- Hannibal's taking it to the biggest badasses of the classical world, by crossing the snow-covered Alps on elephants and hitting the Romans right in their own back yard.  In fact, at first I may even have thought that Habib Bourgiba was still in charge in Tunisia, benignly and sagely presiding over things, before I realized that I was badly out of date and that it had been some years since he had even been alive.

So right now A.A. must feel well satisfied, with Tunisia  having by surprise kicked out with relative ease a dictator who seemed genuinely not to know that he had been a brutal despot and who sported for his wife a great-looking woman in the tradition of those awesome Arabian ladies but who is reported as having also been rapacious to her heart and thus was cut from exactly the same cloth as those other unbelievably grasping wives of despots, Michele Duvalier and Ymelda Marcos.   And not only that but also the Tunisians had set off like a string of  firecrackers the present revolt in Egypt that is gradually coming to some kind of head,  and also uprisings in Lebanon, Yemen, Jordan, and hopefully, I am sure A.A. is thinking, in what he has convincingly presented to us over a long time as the pits of the Arab world, Saudi Arabia, for all the oil that it is squatting over and that so much of the world desperately hopes won't get burned up first in that desert before it can be pumped out, shipped over, and hungrily gulped down in their own, more deserving districts.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Colossal Waste

I lifted this video from an Australian site called "The Quiet Magpie."   It's a good talk about environmental importances, and the part farther into the talk, about the Alberta Tar Sands, makes you wonder if the Canadians, normally so sensible, have gone bonkers, by trading off a large section of one of their beautiful western provinces, for some filthy lucre that won't even last that long, like all seemingly good bad bargains. 

This woman, Naomi Klein, is something else.   Do you see how she towers miles above the likes of an S. Palin or an A. Coulter?  That's because she has a program, that is, something worthwhile to do with herself, and they don't, in any sense.  Yet the majority of men would greatly prefer listening to a Palin or a Coulter and eating a mile of their dung.

This makes me wonder how often natural selection can be said to have worked in the case of the human race.  If it was on the job, then it must not have had its head screwed on tight.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

New Chinese Burg

China to create largest mega city in the world with 42 million people 

Wow! A nightmare of the science fiction of old, now a current event!  Time really is moving fast, and running out fast, too, for many things that once were held so near and dear.

This situation in China won't be quite as bad as it sounds, however.   At least not this year.   This won't be quite a city like New York.  At least not this year.  For now, this still unnamed big burg will be more of a district shaped vaguely like the skull of a long dead bull, and it will consist of nine, already existing large cities that are far past sensible walking distance apart.   They will be linked by advanced rail service and many other modern amenities, and the whole thing will spread out over 16,000 square miles.  The closest we have is New Jersey, which is taking up a little less than half that much space.   But then, look at New Jersey.

New Jersey was long ago declared to have lost the last of its officially designated rural districts, which means that though it still might have a couple of trees left, it is just a megacity, too.

It may already be past the time to pick up a stick and run with it.


Spiteing the Face of Egypt

There is a very interesting account that gives the details and the implications of how the ramrods in Egypt, unable to dispel protestors in any other good way, have resorted to try to prevent the protestors from being organized, by cutting off the Internet in the whole country.    This is a case of cutting off the nose to spite the face in a big way, as if that venerable symbol of the country, the Sphinx, didn't already have half its face shot off long ago, and even though only a quarter of the Egyptians have access to the Internet.

  This account also explores the idea of the same  happening in the U.S., though so far the only start toward such a thing is a notion floated by -- who else? -- the Original "Mr. Weasly," J. Lieberman, the disastrous Senator who for years has steadily disgraced Connecticut, which otherwise has beautiful sugar maple trees.   The conclusion is that denying Americans the Internet would be just about impossible, and that's a load off my mind.

So the interesting thing is to see how far Mubarak and his underlings will be able to get away with this.

My guess is just a few days.   After all, before the computer there was pencil and paper in Egypt.   And before that there was parchment, and the papyrus reeds growing in the Nile.   And before that there were inscriptions chiseled into stone walls and on the Rosetta Stone.   And before that, long before, there was still word of mouth, and that is still in use, especially in a place as tightly packed with too many people as Egypt.   Eighty million!  -- in a country that is basically just a couple of riverbanks.

I can hear them shouting back and forth across the Nile right now.

To Buckle Up or Not

Kansas, a state squarely in the midsection of the United States, just recently outlawed riding in cars without the seatbelts fastened.  When Virginia instituted the same law, possibly as many as five years ago, it gave me a big kick, even though it violated one of my cardinal principles, which is that there are far too many laws on the books already, and that for every new one, two more should be repealed.  I mean, can life be so much more complicated now than it was 50 years ago that we should have so many more laws draped over and weighing us down like a gigantic chain mail blanket?

The reason therefore that the Virginia seatbelt law nevertheless gave me a sort of thrill was because it meant that here finally was a law that I could safely ignore, because I've always fastened my seat belt, ever since I got my first car, a black VW Bug fresh off the boat from Germany, back in 1963.   Wearing it made me feel more secure, not at all in the sense that I wouldn't be thrown out of the car during an accident, but instead because it made me feel as if I was more a part of the car, and therefore was in better control of the vehicle.

"Wearing it" is an interesting phrase there, because a man in Kansas is going to court to challenge the law, on the grounds that the law infringes on his right to make such a decision on his own.   It is like the objections to wearing motorcycle helments.   So he fashioned a portable seatbelt that he keeps buckled around his waist all the time, whether in a car or not, and he argues that he is still not breaking the law because it doesn't say that the belt has to be actually bolted to the car.

Clever as that is, it still strikes me as being a cumbersome solution, and I don't believe I will be looking out for the outcome to this case, because it just adds to my years-long contention that everything that happens in a courtroom is an exercise in nastiness.

But I am reminded of my late ex-brother-in-law.   He was a Park Policeman who patrolled on a mothercycle with a sidecar in Washington, D.C., and though an extremely practical man, he, too, opposed his own personal "wearing" of a seatbelt.   His thinking was that should he have an accident in a place like Rock Creek Park, and the vehicle overturned in some water, he would be locked in there by the belt and would be unable to get out and would drown,   Maybe during his work he had seen just such an incident.

This guy in Kansas had the same reservation, though he was thinking more about fire and such..   In case of water or fire, though, I always liked my chances, and opted more for the benefits of  my hands and feet being extensions of the steering wheel and the brakes.

Still ringing in my ears is an admonition that, as a novice driver, I got from my great good friend and fellow chessplayer, a teacher and a  much older man, Mr. Simms.   When I showed him my gleaming brand new '63 Bug, the first thing he did was to get inside and pump the brakes.  "Never mind the rest of it.  Just always make sure that these work," he said.

He didn't say anything about the seat belts.  At that time they were still such a novelty that hardly anybody used them, but they were there, and I was determined that I was going to use them, and I did 

Friday, January 28, 2011

What's in a Name, Lynchburg?

In the 2007 film "Shooter,"  some scenes near the climax are depicted as taking place in Lynchburg, Virginia.  There's no question that the people who made this movie did a great all-around job, and it already has a solid seat in the first row of the Assassination genre of American movies.   But no one can tell me that those filmmakers didn't pick Lynchburg purely because the name suggested a lot of mindless mayhem and for no other reason.   Lynchburg (pop: about 65,000) is the nearest city of any size to here, but aside from a scene that looked as if it was set in a Sam's or a Wal-mart, the film showed nothing whatever that suggested the place so familiar to us.   As cities go Lynchburg is an unusually sedate, unexciting place, with no history of mindless mayhem that I'm aware of, now or in more ancient days..   Like any city it has a lot of buildings and streets and not much else, but the film showed only some very remote countryside where one of the characters could in a short while be taught all the niceties of sniper shooting.

Nevertheless, this film should remind us that, because of the suggestiveness that it carries, Lynchburg should start thinking seriously about changing its name, a move that is way overdue.

Naturally those who live there would immediately start yelling bloody murder should this idea ever get out.    "It's just a name and nothing else!" they will scream with all the righteousness in the world.   (Among other things, Lynchburg is the home of the Jerry Falwell crowd of religious fundamentalists.).

All the same, there must be some good reasons why the U.S. contains no Shitville, Indiana, or a Fuckaduck, Arizona (unless it's in Spanish).

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Duvalier's First and Worse Half (Pt 2)

I know that, not being a Haitian (and endlessly glad of it), I shouldn't feel so confident when it comes to speaking of its former rulers who were chased out 25 years ago, and now the supposedly main actor in that little drama, the hapless Jean-Claude Duvalier, has unaccountably left the balmy clime of the French Riviera and returned to his home country even though it is in the midst of being wracked by a bunch of the catastrophes that it is usually wracked by, in this case a bad earthquake a month ago, and now he is facing charges, a development that I am confident he did not expect.   In fact, now he is doing so badly that after just a few days he isn't even in the news any more, his still unexplained return to the chronic Haitian hellfires having already been heavily eclipsed by the brushfires of revolt that have just now driven out another unpopular ruler, this time in Tunisia, a man named Ben Ali, and now show every sign of spreading to a great deal of the rest of the Arab world and in the process giving the big hotfoot to a number of other emulators not of Jean-Claude but of a very different type, his long deceased father, the notorious Francois Duvalier, who when speaking of brutal dictators (is there any other type?) was very much the real thing.

  Yet, when it comes to the Duvaliers, I feel myself to be on more solid footing than ever, and it must be because, as I've mentioned, I've been thinking about that royal couple and painting  pictures of them in words since even before J-C fled Haiti one night in 1986, accompanied by his sultry, salty, and some might say beautiful wife, and by a bunch of others, and also with a large amount of money that somehow he and that wife had managed to drain out of a country that you would think never has enough in resources to keep alive even as much as  two mangy dogs tied to a tree.

(If you click here with great good luck you will see what strikes me as being a truly weird though highly interesting picture of J-C, the big, round-cheeked guy over to the right, and next to him his wife, in attendance at some event during their heyday in Haiti.   Along with a bunch of their leading cohorts, they have momentarily risen from their thrones, and they are all standing frozen in attitudes of attention., with Madam Michele wearing what appears to be a set of granny glasses and primly holding what appears to be a book a purse, a plaque, or something of that sort, and without the best set of ankles I've ever seen.)

Well, I've been painting in my head not a picture of J-C, though, but instead of his wife, nee Michele Bennett, for it had always been perfectly obvious to me that she and not he was always the villain in the piece, though for a time she had to share that role with J-C's hard-bitten mother, the widow of "Papa Doc," Simone, and J-C was just going along for the ride.   He was only the unconscious inheritor of the results of his father's brutal ways, and of a bunch of unofficial thugs called the "Ton-Ton Macoutes," who went around terrorizing everybody in sight in the name of the Duvaliers and were in some ways even more powerful than the Haitian Army or the Police.  

I am dumbfounded that in the articles I have read on the matter since Duvalier's mysterious reappearance in Haiti, even though the authorities there had been trying for years to get their hands on him, and, more urgently, on the several mil that that he is said to still have in his name though not in his hands, because most of it is tied up in those infamous Swiss bank accounts in such a way that he can't get at it, not one has mentioned  that wife, Michele, though to my mind it was always  perfectly obvious that she was the real main villain of the piece.    As far as I know they not yet even called her name, though they have mentioned the divorce that stripped him of so much of what he and those acting with him had extracted from Haiti, a place that so often seems to be totally forgotten by God and in which destitute people living in the mountains now totally stripped of trees have, among other huge indignities, been reduced to eating biscuits made with mud.

If there is any doubt of this, J-C and his bride dispelled it right at the start, when they were married, in 1980.   That cost somebody, most likely the ever luckless Haitian people, a cool three million dollars!   At that time it was said to be the most expensive wedding ever, and it might still hold that record.   And this in damn Haiti, the place where all the hurricanes that come through head for first, to see what the Haitians have put up since the last runthrough, that they, the storms, can have fun knocking down again and thereby adding fresh Haitian tears and blood to the warm, blue waters of the Caribbean Sea.

And now J-C has returned.

People scratch their heads and wonder why he did this, when many in Haiti have been crying for his scalp, though probably much more for the several million that is said to be in existence and still in his name, despite the fact that most of it is sitting in those  bank accounts that are accessible only to the Swiss, and then I guess only as curiosities.    So one theory is that he came back just to stay in Haiti for a few days to fulfil a legal technicality that will allow him to get his hands on more of what was left after his former spouse soaked him for all the rest.

In my mind always is the well-known picture of this man when he was 19, when he became the youngest sovereign in the world, or even the photo of him in the military togs for which I just gave a link, and I have too much trouble seeing him as having been the vicious dictator that he is so widely spoken of as having been.

His appearance at 19 was of a pudgy, round-cheeked, biright-eyed bird without a semblance of cruelty in him, and nowadays, when he is 60, I still don't see it there..   In fact, I am not even sure that the picture you can see here is of the same man.   The man shown there looks benign to a fault.   It is a photo instead of a college professor, perhaps of classics, and close to retirement.

To me Duvalier's story is one that has occurred many times, so that in fact it is a classic -- of a happy-go-lucky scion of a royal roughneck, who has no disposition or the ability to follow in his father's bloody footsteps but instead is forever looking for just one thing, and that is where his next good times are coming from.  And seeing this, a much more tough-minded female relative takes over, though usually things end up going to pot anyway.

So here we find him falling into the clutches of all sorts of rowdies with guns, and also in that of a halfway attractive and ruthless young woman, and it is recorded that he often dozed during the deliberations of his cabinet and was much more interested in racing cars and  in sailing his yacht, and that eventually that wife became so fed up with his inattention to the details of running Haiti into the ground that she would call the shots instead, while shoving her similarly rapacious mother-in-law far into the background.

So I know why J-C returned to Haiti.   It was because he has no sense that he ever did anything wrong.   And after all, hadn't it turned out that his far guiltier and seductive  ex-spouse,  that money-grubber par excellence, had already ventured out of France for not one but a couple of short runs to Haiti, to see about the remains of a brother who had had the bad luck to share the catastrophes with his countrymen, in his case dying in the collapse of a hotel?   If she could get away with her millions, her liberty, and her life scott-free, why not he, and with just a few mil?

The poor guy claims to be living on the generosity of friends.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

FDR's Famous Admonition -- Updated

Franklin Delano Roosevelt, a Democrat, and the only four-term U.S, President thus far, and all of those occurring during my childhood, is famous for saying, among many other entirely apt things: "The only thing we have to fear is fear itself."

Today that admonition rings as loudly and as validly as during the Great Depression and World War 2, and it only needs to be updated and made truer than ever, to read:  "The only thing we have to fear is the fear of a large segment of the so-called 'white' part of our populace."

And because they together with the others in their group control everything in the U.S., save for certain spectator sports in which balls of various sizes are batted back and forth, and also portions of the popular music industry,  the rest of us must endure being dragged along willynilly in the wake of their numerous unfounded fears and suffer the fates of tin cans, people, partially disconnected mufflers, and anything else that has the colossal bad fortune to be dragged over roads by cars with devils, drunks, and fools at the wheel. 

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Duvalier's First and Worse Half (Pt 1)

When I heard the surprising news a few days ago that Jean-Claude Duvalier, the former leader of Haiti, who had left the country in very ignominious circumstances 35 years ago, had returned unannounced in the middle of yet another of Haiti's long series of deeply troubled times, I didn't ask the questions that immediately occurred to almost everyone else and today are still preoccupying them.   I didn't ask, "Why now, and why at all?"   Instead my immediate question was, "Where is that wife of his?"   The answers to all these questions, as with any inquiries involving Haiti, have not been quick to arrive.

I had not kept up with the Duvalier duo after the American cargo plane that took them out of Haiti in 1986, in the face of overwhelming popular protests over their many misdeeds, including exreme profligacy, dropped them off in France.   That probably caused still another generation of Frenchmen to rue the day that their ancestors took over the left half of Hispanola not long after the Spanish found the island, and used it as a colony worked by numerous slaves shipped in from Africa.   Before the Duvalier arrival the French  had already been highly put out by being driven out of Haiti themselves by those slaves at close to the same time as the American Revolution, and that heritage, tightened by the Haitians hanging on to the things of their former oppressors, especially keeping a form of French as their language, had caused the Haitians to be troublesome clients of the French throughout  all the times of additional turmoil that have characterized Haitian history almost without a break.

The forced flight of J-C and Michele Duvalier from Haiti in 1986 grabbed my imagination, and that led to the kind of situation that I would guess has afflicted many a writer when they use their creative tastes to shape an actual event into an entirely different form that so appeals to them that eventually in their minds the truth of the latter takes over from the facts of the former, and that was why the subsequent fates of the Duvaliers fell off my radarscope through all the years  that they spent in France -- till now.

I decided to use not Duvalier but his wife, the attractive yet manipulative and spendthrift woman that I thought of as being the Original Dragon Lady, after a cartoon character from my childhood, as the inspiration for a novel in a long series that today, like that novel, is fully sketched out but seems fated never to be finished.   As its working title suggests, I focused entirely on the character suggested by Duvalier's wife and on her son, while changing her husband into an entirely different sort and then summarily dropping him from the story, by having her arranging for a fatal car accident.   At the same time, though,  I kept softening his wife,  to the point of giving her a worthwhile love interest and even some noble principles, which she shows most of all by being the one instead who returns, unbidden, to the island suggested by Haiti, which I called "Caribe," during one of its troubled times, and she rises from being truly  despised to becoming Caribe's new ruler in her own right, and leads the country into better times.

Meanwhile what actually happened to the Duvaliers in real life while I was busy cooking up stuff for my transmuting of the lead of their story into the gold of my story was that, from the day of their arrival the French tried to get rid of them, but no other country would take them, and eventually they were allowed to settle down in comfortable circumstances in a villa in or near the Riviera.   It probably helped that the Duvaliers had gotten out of Haiti with a stash rumored to total as much as 120 million dollars, which they spent lavishly on French things, especially on jewelry, and on such surefire items of lust as a 68 thousand dollar clock..

But time and their dispositions and all the temptations of La Belle France did its work, and all that loot slowly kept getting whittled down, especially when the inevitable happened and in 1990,  ten years after they were married and, if my math is right, just four after they were removed to France, the pair divorced, in the course of which, with all the predictability in the world, the former M. Bennett took poor J-C for a bunch, while she was said to be living with another man in Cannes, and after that she went off the radar.

  But given this new notoriety and an actual air of mystery that J-C has managed to drape over himself without her along, for how much longer will she stay out of sight, I can't help asking..   This situation is even more interesting because Duvalier, now 60,  turned up in Haiti with another woman who is variously described as being either his wife or his companion, and most likely is a very different cup of tea, though, aside from what time and his habits have done to his physical being,  he himself could not have changed at all.    In all this time I have never witnessed anyone who has.   If there is any shift, it is only an intensification of what they already were..

Friday, January 21, 2011

Slurping in Vietnam

A visitor to Vietnam speaks of how you can find a place there where you will see more high-end Harley-Davidson motorcycles than anywhere else in the world, and of how condos are being sold there that cost 2 million dollars, and how customized Rolls-Royces and 4 by 4 Porsches are also being bought, though millions in that country are still making do with bicycles or traveling on foot -- and of how, though most Vietnamese start off their days with a 1-dollar bowl of noodle soup, the rich amongst their citizenry can treat themselves to a bowl that costs 35 times as much.

So what was the point of the Vietnam War?  Couldn't the same result have been ultimately achieved without all that contention, suffering, and death?
We already knew that on the American side, from the outset so many years ago, there was no real point, and all those lives were simply thrown away.  Now, after having suffered losses that were far greater,  now it looks as if the Vietnamese are fast falling in danger of having to admit the same.

But the universal hunger to be wealthier than the next guy and to be able to show it quite often prevails over all in the end.

Meanwhile there is still the badly outstanding question of the $35 bowl of noodles, coming from a man who starts off his days in the U.S. with a slice of pound cake and a little later a 25-cents bowl of what my wife maintains is not real Ramen noodle soup at all but just a few pinches of colored salt.  What goes into a 35-bucks-a-throw bowl of noodle soup that makes it that much better than a 1-dollar bowl or even a 25-cents bowl?.   But the writer either didn't try the noodles or neglected to ask.

Clearly he had no taste for the real essentials of a story.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Expectations on the Middle East

Suppose we are certain about the eventual outcomes in the two worst hot spots of the conflagration-prone Middle East -- Afghanistan and Palestine, with the latter including the jurisdiction that is now called "Israel."   Suppose that we are, in fact, so dead certain of this that we see the principals involved, right there on the fields of action -- and inaction -- as really having no more power to change those outcomes than we do sitting in our computer chairs in other places where the smoke and the hot air are not so thick.

If so, our course is clear, and therefore we can see an article like the one that the BBC published yesterday, titled "Afghanstan's Make or Break Year Ahead" and written in very authorititive language as nevertheless expressing total nonsense.

The article says that the U.S. and those perennial dummies when it comes to Afghanistan, the British, have choices to make in that accursed place, such as negotiation, when there is really no choice at all but to pack up and get out quick.   History has never shown any good reason for big powers to stick their sticky pinkies into that place, with the most striking case being the recent one of the Russians, who had far more advantages in making the incursion than the Americans and friends, because they were right next door.  Yet the Russians ended up finding it highly expeditious to pick up all the marbles that they still had and leave in a huff, though only after the passage of the same length of  10 fruitless years that is now at hand for the U.S. and the U.K.

=This is, unless the negotiations that the article speaks of are to allow the West to find ways to say, "We give up," without appearing to do so.   But the Taliban are some truly hard customers, and at any bargaining table they will have only inflicting humiliation in mind.

After the Americans and the British do eventually scurry out of Afghanistan, the Taliban will not have it all to themselves.  After all, this is Afghanistan.  Instead they will be left to contest the spoils with other warlords, on and on into the indefinite future, as long as they can find places to bury all the wreckage -- or until fast food,  spectator sports, and tourists of some kind manage to infiltrate more decisively than any armed men or aerial drones from far overseas can do.

In Palestine the Israelis also think they are winning, and to that end they see it to their advantage to emulate  the Taliban by having no interest of any kind in reaching peace agreements with the Palestinians, however much they are urged to do so, and everything they do shows that, no matter what they might say.

Yet they can't do anything about the factors that will turn the decision against them in the long run.   These factors are  the attrition caused by severe differences in birth rates, the tough neighborhood, and the fact that the Palestinians are at home there, while the Israelis, for all their clenched-teeth claims of Biblical rights, are not at all at home, as the reluctance of their brothers and sisters in the U.S. and other places to relocate to Israel in any great numbers shows quite vividly.

Those factors, then, will eventually cause Israel to deflate like a slowly pierced balloon to a small, lazy, limpid colony of someone or something, with Bedouins charging for guided tours of the abandoned Dimona nuclear works and a couple of very curious, high walls, one erected a few thousand years ago and bound to the side of a plateau topped by a mosque, and the other built just yesterday, freestanding and snaking crazily over the West Bank countryside in all directions for no readily understood reason.   

With those things in mind, and amid the awareness that all those news items about negotiations in those two parts of the Middle East are still,  after six decades already of such noise in Palestine, just salutes being regularly run up empty flagpoles and nothing else,  we have only to sit back and note with confidence how developments -- and the lack of them -- each day will bear out those expectations.   They will be what comes of operating in that region where all those bigtime religions meet, yet good faith, in all the meanings of that term, has long since ceased to exist.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Telling Alzheimers

Each passing day finds me dropping deeper and deeper into the age range that is hardest hit by  the insidious condition called "Alzheimer's Disease."    And meanwhile, for a few hours nearly every week my wife and I  are visited by a lady who, much as Ronald Reagan had to be so constantly supported by his wife Nancy,  has to be accompanied nearly every minute of her life by her ever-dutiful husband because not long ago  at an unusually early age, 59, she fell victim to an especially virulent (if that's correct to say) form of Alzheimer's. called "Pick's Disease," though so far she is the picture of joy and cheerfulness, and seems to be unaware that she is afflicted with anything.

These two factors have  caused me to  pay extra attention to nearly every mention of Alzheimer's that I see, not at all because I'm afraid of it happening to me, but instead because it is such a curious thing for people to have to endure, no matter how they had conducted their earlier lives.   I see the disease as being like death, in that once a person is in that state, they have no idea that it has happened, so why worry in one case or the other?  They are just two more indignities of the universe that have to be borne.

The latest Alzheimer's item of interest is that a son of the late Ronald Reagan, a fellow popularly known as "Ron" and I believe is best known for having been a ballet dancer, seems to have written a book in which he claims that Alzheimer's was kicking Reagan, and thus by extension the U.S. and the world, in the butt as early as his first term in office, which began in 1981.

This contention, of course, will be bitterly and at once denied by Reagan's worshippers, and just a cursory look at the comments section to that article shows that process in action, though you have to wonder how people can so staunchly deny that that happened when, in the best of situations, it's not easy to say exactly when Alzheimer's starts   Nor how could they have been more observant of anything about Reagan than his own son?

I've been here through a number of administrations now, and I remember thinking that as a President and as a person, Reagan was definitely on the fuzzy side, in his thinking, in his speaking, and even in his facial expressions, which were even more restricted than those of the lady with "Picks" that we see so often.   At least she alternates her cheerful expression with one suggesting that she might be listening carefully, but the only one I remember Reagan using was of eternal good cheer, often with his head cocked to one side in a patented stance that he could only have perfected through years of work in mirrors.

"Ron's" contentions make me wonder now whether GWBush's many misdeeds could be chalked up not so much as before to his being a quite ordinary clunk  who was put into office by gross chichanery in high places, as it was because he may also have been a victim of Alzheimer's, at an earlier age than Reagan but comparable with that of our friend.   Bush always projected a similar fuzziness, which was usually chalked up to things he shouldn't have intaken, and with consequences as dire as Reagan's, Reagan by running up huge debts that nearly bankrupted the country while getting ready for nuclear war, and Bush because of his disastrous reactions to 9/11,  especially his illogical invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq instead of Saudi Arabia, from which most of those perpetrators had hailed.

This makes me think that with such a lack of figures of genuine intellect, human decency, and real stature among their number, the Republicans would not hesitate to put up for election even chimpanzees with names like "Bonzo," just so long as the candidate was adept at mouthing their ideology.   The ideology, that's all that matters, and they can win elections because too many of the voters can identify with those attitudes, personally.

So, in the most recent Presidential elections, the Republicans could do nothing better than to follow up Reagan and Bush by offering the country not one but a pair, of whom both could be called -- well, we don't want to call them a name as uncharitable as "knuckleheads,"  and so instead we will satisfy ourselves with saying that it was so obvious that neither person was able to distinguish a hole in the ground from one of their bodily regions that is south of and so near and dear to theii hearts.

(I offer my sincere apology to Alzheimer's for what became the main thrust of this post.)

Monday, January 17, 2011

Passing Thought for This Morning

A lot of things are nice but not totally necessary.   Like applause, for instance.

What else?

. . . Give me time to think.

A Woman Named "Marine"

Up to now I have paid no attention to the far right party in France called the "National Front."   It was founded a good while ago and has been run ever since by a man who is now a crusty old bird just a few years older than I am, named Jean-Marie Le Pen, and I guess it is the equivalent of the U.S.'s Teapublican party, though, by doing good to be getting as much as 15 percent of the vote in French elections, the Front is not nearly as popular as the Teapubs are in the U.S.   That fact alone backs up what an American expatriate told my wife when she visited Paris a few years ago.   "You know," he said, "the French are more evolved than Americans are."
Ol' Le Pen's political plaything, the National Front, is known mostly for bitterly opposing the influx of immigrants into France, thus lightening the melanin count in that ancient and over-proud country considerably.   But this is only proper.   The French barged into their territories years ago, uninvited, mainly in Africa but also in Asia and even South America, dcclared those places part of France, and made themselves at home there.   So now the immigrants see no problem with seeping into France and making themselves at home there.   Such is one of the fruits of colonization, the Monroe Doctrine, "Manifest Destiny," and "the White Man's Burden."

But I can see right now that I will begin following the fortunes of the National Front much more closely, because a day or two ago, ol' Jean-Marie Le Pen conceded that he had finally burnt out, and he stepped aside, in favor of the third and youngest of his three daughters, born in that same highly fateful year as my son,  1968.

First of all, a woman named "Marine" can't be all bad, and because she is a woman the name looks much better on her than it does on all those bad-ass tough guys with the crewcuts who infest the U.S. Marine Corps.   And the "Le Pen" sirname is good, too.   It seems to mean the same thing in French that it does in English, though I hope that doesn't mean a place where pigs wallow but instead refers to that great and noble tool, the fountain, ball-point, quill, felt tip, or whatever writing instrument.  

Secondly, mere glances at her picture and her bio  immediately show that in so many ways Ms Marine Le Pen trumps the woman whom many might immediately take to be her American counterpart, the Palin woman.   Though she is a blonde, Le Pen is no vacuous beauty like Palin, and instead she looks strong, business-like, and highly intelligent, as befits the head of a functioning political party.   I am sure that you would never catch her saying that you can see Tunis from Marseille, or lusting after unicorns to shoot either.   While leading the Front in its usual main thrust, Ms Le Pen intends to file off some of its hard edge, and for instance she is in favor of women's rights, including their right to decide for themselves whether or not they should get abortions, instead of having such decisions being made for them entirely  by crusty old males like her father, who never bore a child in their lives.

And she has paid her dues, showing that nepotism was only partly at work here, and then only a small part.  She has done a lot of work for the party in various positions, and participated in elections and various protests, over a period of years.

The cause that most caught my eye was when she took part in a campaign against the blocking of public streets in France, for the purpose of Muslim prayers.

At first I took this to mean that the streets were very accommodatingly blocked off by the gendarmes.

What? I thought.  You don't mean that in France they close off the streets so as to allow Muslim men to run out, set down their prayer rugs, and kneel and pray five times a day, do you?  But that didn't sound very likely, so then I thought it might mean instead that the Muslim faithful run out with their rugs five times a day and block off the streets themselves.

 Either way, I might look askance at that kind of thing myself.  You never know what might suddenly need to come rushing through the streets in matters of great urgency.   Maybe even one of those scissors-sharpeners that ol' Le Pen and I came along just in time to see when we were small kids, in the very early 1930's. with their carts drawn by a horse or maybe a mule, and shaking bells that loudly proclaimed that they were in the neighborhood.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Standing by Principles

In the remarkable TV series "The Good Wife," the female partner of the featured law firm becomes enamored of a rugged outdoors type while she is in the process of hiring him to be an expert firearms witness.   She does this even while, after coming from three generations of Democrats, she is half taken aback and half intrigued when she finds that he is reading S. Palin's book.  When she asks what he sees in the woman, he answers that he admires the way that Palin stands up for her principles.

  It would have been interesting if they had taken this discussion a few lines farther, but the creators of the show left it there.

This man's answer wasn't saying much.   In fact he was saying less than nothing, because while in certain circumstances it may be admirable to stand up for one's principles regardless, the thing that matters most by a long shot is what the principles are.   The mass murderers from Caligula straight on through the Germans, the Soviets, and the Japanese in the midsection of the 20th century, and down to  GW Bush, Saddam Hussein, Bin Laden, Ariel Sharon, and many other similar monsters in the Middle East in modern times all had principles that they stuck to, down to the last drop of the oceans of blood that they caused to be shed..

It has been reported that after Representative G. Giffords was shot through the head in Tucson a few days ago, S. Palin and other witches of the right wing world wasted no time in cleansing their websites of graphics and words that carried any suggestion of disposing of Ms. Giffords, other Democrats, liberals, and the like  by violence (the "Who?  Me? Syndrome).and that till then they had been displaying for all the world to see, while at the same time screaming that they could in no way be connected with the mowing operation in Tucson.

So much for standing by principles, because if they had really had the courage of their convictions, they would have left those things up.   But the act of instantly taking them down had the effect of showing them in their true colors, much as the offending material had done.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Democrats in the Teapublicans' Gunsights

In playing skittles chess when I was young, we had a taunt that we loved to use whenever we got our opponents up against the ropes..  It went, "You can wriggle and you can twist, but you will never get out of this."

Now we can see the Teapublicans struggling for all they're worth to wrench themselves as far  as they can from a like situation, now that they have inspired one of their own to go out and fire a bullet straight through the brain of Gabrielle Giffords, a Democratic Congresswoman from Arizona, while killing six others at the outset, including a third grade little girl, a federal judge, and several women up in their 70's.    That "collateral damage" resulted when these people were unlucky enough to be present while Giffords was making a public appearance at a Safeway in Tucson.   At this writing she is somehow still alive and responding, despite her severe cranial penetration by that assassin's bullet.

The Teapublicans' main defence is that the shooting is entirely the responsibility of the 22-year-old shooter and not anyone else, period, end of story, which they hope and pray will end quickly, after the failure of their side to end the Congresswoman's life at once.  But where Giffords and the Teapubs are concerned, this will not be a short story at all,  though with the mainstream media being as tightly blinkered as it is these days, I can see how the Teapubs can hope to be completely absolved.of all responsibility in obscenely short order..

After all, we have the recent case of the Israeli commandos who boarded an aid ship that didn't belong to Israel and that was bringing assistance to the Palestinians on Gaza, which also does not belong to Israel, except through armed force.   And when the people on the aid ship resisted the commandos with non-lethal tools like boathooks, these brave Israeli boys used their high tech firepower not merely to injure but also to shoot dead no less than ten of the aid-bringers, while suffering no deaths themselves.   Yet instead of being instantly brought up on charges of blatant murder, these mass murderers were  hailed as heroes in Israel and most likely in parts of the U.S., too, and to date have gotten away with this unforgivable act completely, just as former President GWBush is getting away with a huge number of similar war crimes that he inflicted on Iraq. 

With the state's governor, Jan Brewer, running a close second (and appearing to be keeping a very low profile through all this), aside from the shooter, so far the main person on whose feet these Arizona killings can be laid, because she owns the ear of a large number of perpetually angry Americans of the paler countenances, is Sarah Palin, that refugee from the frigid wastes of otherwise beautiful Alaska.   It seems that during the run-up to the just concluded midterm elections, among many other railings against the Democrats and especially against President Obama, she published a graphic on her website, in which Democratic opponents of Tea Party candidates in a number of states were shown as targets in the crosshairs of gunsights, and one was Gabrielle Giffords.

The Palinites probably saw Giffords as being an especially important and vulnerable target, because she was running in Arizona, the newest No. 1, hate state, a dishonor previously monopolized for decades and even centuries by the various members of the Cotton States..   And she had made herself especially despised by the Teapubs because, among things, she had been strongly opposed to the draconian anti-immigrant measures that Governor Brewer and her people had made the law in Arizona.   But despite the many victories that the Teapubs got in the elections and that enabled the Repubs to regain control in the U.S. House and to sharply narrow the Democrats' lead in the Senate to nearly nothing, Giffords had still won in Arizona, which must have really made her Target No. 1 for the Arizona Teapubs and had earned her the assassin's bullet, since the elections had failed to take her out.

But the gods -- and a young intern named Hernandez -- were again on Gifford's side, and she has a chance of surviving all this, while for a long time the Teapubs will be beating themselves ragged, blaming everything in sight for the shooting except the real offenders -- themselves, and the climate of violence and hatred that they have been stirring up so relentlessly in the country that Palin and her ilk constantly speak of taking back -- to somewhere -- and with the chief part of their symbology being the very non-feminine implement of the gun.

Sunday, January 09, 2011

Wow! Four Comments!

Wow!   It has only been two days since I published the post called "The N-Word -- Nigger," yet it has already attracted four (4) comments!   And all before I could get around to make several changes in the post that had been stirring in my mind.  What gives?

This is a huge number for me, for any one post, and even for any one week.   Have the N-Word police already spotted my transgression and are instantly on the job of getting on my case so as to make me see the error of my ways?  And is it really proper for newborn 20- and 30- and 40- and 50- and even 60-year-olds to presume to try to make nearly 80-year-olds see the errors of their ways?   Those elderlies have had much more time than all those others to see those errors for themselves.

It's going to take a while for me to get myself together enough to read those comments.   It is usually so.

 I don't believe that I am particularly thin-skinned.   I have known all my life that the great majority of people almost never see things the way that I do.   After all, that was the whole point of the title that I gave to this weblog from the start, "Unpopular Ideas."   But, though I read the comment threads on other people's weblogs as closely and as enthusiastically as I do the posts themselves, I am slow to read those here on my own, which I know is bad, but there it is.

The only defence I can offer is to say that I must have built deep into my marrow the habit of trying to avoid all adversarial confrontations by trying to see them coming far in advance. 

But still, curiosity is sure to get the better of me soon enough  -- that is, if the whole thing doesn't slip my mind first.   Ha-ha.

K.'s Poetry Reading

Yesterday evening, with Esther, I took a big chance and made a rare foray off my property  -- across the road to our closest neighbors,  the highly personable K.,, who is  now a renowned potter, and his illustrious wife, L.   The occasion was a party to celebrate K.s latest birthday, the 62nd, and K. and L. have made it tradition that all who attend the party are invited to bring along and to read aloud to the company any poetry that strikes his or her fancy.

  This has been an annual event for close to 10 years now, and it was only wrecked one time, and by K. himself, when, finding himself in a theater building with a stage, an audience, and all the members of his Thursday night music group, he could not resist dumping the whole poetry thing  overboard, in favor instead of a night-long session of playing all their regular pieces, complete with the ear-splitting sound that is a threat to any music concert nowadays, what with all the modern advances in speakers and what-not,, and thus ensuring that every word of every lyric that K. belted out so fondly would be totally drowned out in that sea of excess decibels .

But that was several years ago, and that lapse has not been repeated since.   I know it was K.s birthday and he had a total right to enjoy himself in whatever manner he wanted, but the impromptu concert somehow did not have the same inclusive virtues as poetry readings, and a bunch of us had come fully armed to take part in just that and so had been shut out..

Last night I waited till midway through the readings of mostly short, pithy, and often humorous poems from a very wide range of poets, including some written by the readers, to get myself together, as is my custom, and then I read a poem by Stephen Vincent Benet, called "Nightmare, with Angels."   This poem dates from about the 1930's.   Probably almost forgotten now, Benet was well-known in that era, especially for a book-length poem about the Civil War called "John Brown's Body," and I tended to rate his stuff a touch above the more esteemed poets who  were so much more likely to be taught in university courses.   The "giants" like Ezra Pound, T.S. Eliot, e.e. cummings (striving to be different, he liked it typed that way), and William Carlos Williams were okay, but they often made for some very tough sledding, and that was never a problem with Benet.

The poem was much longer than most that were read, and I was worried about that, but afterward, I received a lot of congratulations that bowled me over, because it seemed to add up to saying that my reading that poem had been the high point of the session, and I was even also praised for having usually read one of the best poems of the night.

But that should be no surprise.   I have read one of my own poems once or twice,  but I don't like reciting my own stuff,  and instead I almost always draw from my store of great though usually uncelebrated poems written by others all over the world and the eras,  and I wlll never run out of those, because I have infallible taste in poetry and I happen to have amassed a long shelf packed with those wonders of human creativity.

Saturday, January 08, 2011

"Arsh Twins" and the Idiocracy

Recently a lady of the Catholic faith acquainted me with an interesting term that I hadn't heard before -- "Irish twins."  The subject was a young man in his late 20's and in a very parlous financial situation but who has nevertheless collaborated with his girl friend to produce what I am told is a beautiful baby girl, and then right on the heels of that birth they collaborated again and instantly set a second child into beginning to take shape, thus the latter part of a set of "Irish twins."

 This lady is of Polish extraction.   I'm guessing that people with Irish blood call such quick back-to-back births "Polish twins," and the Israelis call them "Palestinian twins," and the Arizonans call them "Mexican twins,"   and so forth and so on, all over the globe.

 These births are. of course not the responsibility of any one group and instead have been common everywhere ever since births began, I would think.   I exclude my own parents from having produced such a set of "rainbow twins," on the grounds that they had tried for 15 painful years to have a child before I finally came along, followed just 14 months later by the arrival of my sister and then no more.

These "twins" seem to result as much from a strong desire to keep up the good work as they do from bad guesses and poor information about how long a woman is likely to be able to conceive again after giving birth, with an overpowering urge to see that interim period being as short as possible, and I am certain that one string of no less than eight siblings that I can especially think of  must have come from at least four but probably more such occasions.   

The problem is that nowadays such rapidfire births raise questions at a time when, though the world's birth rates are supposedly slowing down,  the number of humans eating and eliminating on the planet is still mounting and soon will top 7 billion, which has to be far, far more of any one animal than has ever been around at any one time.  And such large, noisy, greedy animals, using up everything that they can reach.

This lady who commented to me on the situation also has settled on an incredibly handy icon for it all: the satirical 2006 Mike Judge  movie called "Idiocracy."

She thinks that by not watching what we re doing while engaged in the joys of having children, the world has long since slid into the state of being an idiocracy, filled with light-headed people who subsist on a diet largely of substances akin to sodar pop.

Friday, January 07, 2011

The So-Called "N-Word" -- Nigger

It used to be that everytime I used the word "nigger" here on my weblog, the next day I would see a comment chastising me and accusing me of something or another, I forget what.  It would be signed by somebody that I didn't know, though I did know that he, she, or it definitely were not otherwise reading my weblog, or for that matter had read it even in that instance.

That shot at censoring me would happen so invariably and so mechanically that I thought someone had a means of scouring the entire internet looking for every use of "nigger" in weblogs while keeping the steel-edged ruler at the ready.   I haven't used the word lately, so I don't know if that scanner is still active, or whether that guy or guys has gotten tired and gone on to other righteous flipdoodle.   Maybe I will now find out.

It's always interesting to see how the free use of that word can so easily bend so many so-called "white" minds out of shape even quicker than it does some so-called "black" minds, with both sets being entirely ignorant of the fact that in their mutual repugnance, they are caught in exactly the same trap.

I can't tell you how overjoyed I am that my origins, my education, and I guess my nature have kept me completely immune from that nonsense from the very beginning, to what may be the inexplicable point that I find being called "black" by anyone actually  more offensive than I think I would be by being called a "nigger" by a "white" person.    I am tentative about the last part of that statement since through all these years in many settings I have had no experience along those lines, except one time while I was a kid walking down a road, a kid of the lighter persuasion for some sort of strange reason took the opportunity to yell  "nigger" at me while he was standing behind a far off fence.  Other than that, the many references to me as "nigger," always by rainbows ("black" people), were always benign and even said with fondness, as those who have no other opportunity to witness or to experience what looks to them to be an inexplicable phenomenon can readily see in those movies containing rainbow characters where there was no attempt made to scrub all racial references.

The easy use of the supposedly defamatory word "nigger" by its intended targets is easy to understand, and little more about that needs to be said, except that it is a great example of how rainbows have always manipulated the language, by turning words and their meanings upside down, back upon themselves, reversing them, or however you want to put it.. 

The more interesting part of all this involves the European Derives and their attitudes toward the use of "nigger," and quite often their objections make me suspicious, and I begin to think that the attitudes of at least some of them come from the desire to keep the use of that word  as it exists in their minds, as  active and as virulent as possible.   They use their false repugnance of it as a way of tryiing to keep rainbows thinking that it is a truly ugly term, so that rainbows should always be ready to bare their fangs and start snarling at every use of it, in true kneejerk fashion.   In other words, no weapon of use against rainbows should ever  be allowed to go dull and lose its bite.   If "nigger" ever became a respectable or even slightly less lethal word,  the targets of that term would likewise become respectable, and then the world would really begin to come to an end.

I suppose that the responsibility for taking the main step toward this Happy Apocalypse  is more the responsibility of rainbows than it is of the euros.  If fewer of them could avoid breathing fire at hearing the word coming from the "wrong" mouths, they would have taken an important step toward taking this so far intractable weapon out of the enemy's hands.

This subject came to my mind this morning because of a BBC article about how there is a new edition of Mark Twain's "Huckleberry Finn, " and a small furore is at hand because Twain's language has been badly adulterated in this version, mainly by changing every use of the word "Nigger."  This applies notably to the first part of the name of one of the book's two main characters, Nigger Jim, which here becomes "Slave" or something else, while, as long as they're at it, "Injun" also becomes "Indian."  That,  if I remember correctly, is mainly in the case of another character called "Injun Joe."

In college in the 1950's at Howard University in D.C., I was privileged to take a bunch of English and writing courses from Sterling S. Brown, a very well-known figure in rainbow-centered teaching and writing and one of the foremost exponents of rainbow  aspirations, literary and otherwise, in his time.   And if anyone had been able to find Twain's naming one of his characters "Nigger Jim" unacceptable,  it would've been Dr. Brown.   But instead he devoted quite a lot of time to explaining to us exactly what Twain was up to there, and showing us that in fact the truth was quite the reverse of what the book's detractors thought. 

I strongly doubt that any of my classmates in that largely rainbow college  had been put off by Nigger Jim's name anymore than I had, and I remember being a little puzzled at why Brown had felt it necessary to tell us all that regardless.  But after hearing about the unenlightened howling about Twain's masterpiece and other like matters that still goes on,  to the point that in these later and supposedly more informed times, many of the book's detractors are still mistakenly trying to prevent "Huckleberry Finn" from being taught in schools, now more than ever I see why.

The radioactivity of ignorance has a very long half-life, doesn't it?

Tuesday, January 04, 2011

Destruction of the Tea

Once I belonged to an artists group here in rural Virginia that was dominated by women, and after we were allowed access to a house to use for a gallery on the main street of the county seat in one of the two counties in which the group was based, one of these ladies became enamored of the idea of using this house to hold afternoon tea/lawn parties, I think during the openings of shows.  So I can say I have been to at least one genuine, Virginia-genteel, tea party, though quite naturally I did not dress in the least for it, though the ladies showed up in all their finery, complete with the big, lacy hats.   And it was the real thing and not the events for which the term has been so sadly hijacked.

A BBC article that I found out about through a second New Year's article in the BBC that also makes interesting reading because it is about things that came to be known during 2010, such as that swans, supposedly lifetime mates, occasionally engage in divorces, and that every year that are an average of 87,000 glass assaults in supposedly sedate British pubs,  tells us that tea parties only came into being in the 1830's, 60 years after the well-known event at the Boston Harbor

I've never understood what was so inspiring about the so-called "Boston Tea Party," and why people should use it as a basis for the founding of a political movement, much less of a nation supposedly conceived in virtue and dedicated to the notion that all citizens should behave decently and should even be (gulp!) free. 

One day in 1773 a group of British colonists -- they could not have been American patriots because the U.S. was still several years away from being founded -- stormed onboard a merchant ship that didn't belong to them and where they weren't crewmen, most likely after they had first juiced themselves up good in a tavern, and after having first cowardly assumed the trappings of Indians so that the blame for their acts would be placed on a minority.  Claiming to be outraged over some tax matters that were so involved that these worthies could not have  known exactly what they were screaming about, they grabbed a bunch of barrels of tea that also didn't belong to them and tossed these into the Boston Harbor.

This strikes me as having been a clearly criminal and also highly wasteful act, and for the next 60 years or so it was only called  "the Destruction of the Tea." But then tea parties were invented in Britain, and that gave the U.S. patriots of that day the chance to put a better spin on what was essentially just the work of a bunch of some thugs, pure and simple.

When, a few decades later, after group tortures and murders of Rainbows by large numbers of so-called "whites" became so fashionable that they amounted to nighttime entertainments for all but the victims, these events were called "lynching parties" from the start.    As such these were undoubtedly even truer precursors of the modern political movement, whose center philosophy has to do with toppling the current U.S. President, who "just happens" to be the hated color, and so these moderns whose elected representatives are about to defile the halls of Congress even worse than those corridors and chambers already were have the same evil intentions as those tea thieves and lynch mobs of old.

Monday, January 03, 2011

The 2012 Solar Flare

The other day one of my neighbors in a very serious tone informed me that next year a solar flare will erupt from the Sun with such unusual intensity that it will end up wiping out the generation of electricity all over the world, with consequences that will be dire for everyone.   Therefore he sees it as absolutely necessary that, this road being a close-knit community anyway, and with one foot already in the survival mode solely by dint of living in such a remote location, we all have to start thinking right now of pitching in together to have any chance of weathering this coming catastrophe. 

He didn't tell me where he got this information, though he referred me to a NASA website, which surprised me, as I thought that he, having been a computer-phobe for a long time, got most of his news from his car radio instead.

I went online and did a google search on "NASA solar flare."

As soon as I saw the Fox News symbol come up in one corner of the screen, you would've thought that my monitor had suddenly spat red-hot hyena poop in my face, so fast did I switch to something else.   Whenever you see Fox News' emblem on anything, you know that this leading Nasty of the World is again up to its main business of trying to mislead the ignoramuses of America and hopefully everyone else down the proverbial garden path.

Later on, though, I did dare to come back long enough to look at some of the video, which showed one of the Fox dodobirds almost breathlessly reporting this solar flare "disaster-to-come"  as if he had just returned from a two-year time travel trip into the future.  And under the video were a lot of comments mostly from people who had had the same reaction that I had had after spotting the Fox logo,

I saw that huge mess of a movie, "2012," whose makers strove to scoop out of the cinematic gutters every disaster movie convention they could find and use those to brew up their dreadful concoction.   And I knew about the Mayan prediction of the end of the world coming in 2012.   And I knew about solar flares and the fact that every 11 years they get extra active,  and that 2012 will be 11 years since their last outbreak in 2001, which was indeed the worst year of my life because of two personal tragedies, as well as being the year of 9/11 and of GWBush's coming to power, towering twin disasters whose effects have still been barely ameliorated.   But those things didn't quite result in the end of the world, and I don't see how any of it could be blamed on the Sun, the source of all life on the planet.

  While I have paid no attention to religious pronouncements of the imminent end of the world, I have seen some scientific Discovery Channel programs that detail for us the various catastrophes that could result in our total obliteration.   But, putting aside the supervolcano that is bubbling as we speak under Yellowstone Park and is long overdue to erupt again in what appear to be its 600,000 year cycles. it seems to me that if we haven't been wiped out by a supernova burst, an asteroid hit, or something like that at any point in the past million years  -- and we seemingly weren't -- then the chances are highly acceptable that we won't in these next million either.   And a million years is a L-O-N-G time.

I think this just shows once again the general arrogance of humans that they would think that such spectacular, drastic, once-in-an-eon events would occur during their very brief heyday.   On the cosmological scale of things, we and our achievements are of no importance whatsoever, and we have so much bad company of our own kind on this spaceship that we are certain to be long gone anyway, before the Earth gets its next big nudge from without or from within that will turn it into a state that will indeed be very bad for business, most likely by becoming a gigantic iceball.

Saturday, January 01, 2011

A Home in Texas

The above very informative video, which I copied from Juan Cole's site, Informed Comment, tells us, among other things, that at the end of this new year, there will be 7 billion humans running around on this planet.

In 1930, a year before I was born, there were only 2,000.000.000 of us around, so that just in my time the world's population has not doubled, as it did from 1800 to 1930.   Instead it more than tripled, and in a much shorter length of time.

You would think that by now some seriousness would have set in about this situation, but it hasn't yet, as shown by the numerous opposing viewpoints that are always offered whenever overpopulation is mentioned.   One especially ludicrous one that I read a few years ago sticks in my mind, the notion that there is still so much unused room that, for instance, everyone in the U.S. could still live comfortably in Texas, in a home with a yard, a pecan tree, and all the other amenities.

I have the feeling that the critical number when some drastic action will finally have to be taken regardless is 9 billion, which is only a relatively few unused condoms from now.

I wish I could be around when what is sure to be the decisive prophylactic measure is put into force with a will, and that will be the necessity to get a license costing a hefty fee before one could have a child, and the anti-abortionists will be deserving of getting their mouths washed out with some of that oldtime, strong, brown laundry soap.   That would bend more than a few profligate heads badly out of shape, and it would be fun to watch.

As it is, the present generation, and some of those before us, have already set themselves up to be cursed by the generations to come because of their failure to emulate the Sioux, the Cherokees, and others by keeping their numbers severely in check, 

Meanwhile it's eye-opening to realize how many of the world's problems can be directly laid at the feet of overpopulation.   It's even worse than racism.   Racism does its dirty work mainly on a wide range of human relations and doesn't usually affect the Amur tigers, for instance.   But overpopulation ultimately crushes just about everything else.