Stronger than the Mother of All Bombs

vonnegutTo be honest, I never read the Sermon on the Mount until I heard one of my few and unlikely heroes, Kurt Vonnegut, refer to it in an interview.  Vonnegut, in his quirky but solid manner answered the interviewer’s question about the motives behind his social activism and told a story about a wealthy man being brought before a judge to explain his actions as part of a protest by workers in the depression or (earlier).  The judge, clearly disparaging of the workers, chastised the man  that he understood why the uncivilized rabble might act in such a manner but struggled to understand why a man born of privilege and access to all the comforts in the world would rise against the very society that offered him so much privilege.  As I remember it, Vonnegut said the judge demanded of the man, “What could possibly explain your actions?  And the man replied, “The Sermon on the Mount.”  (Please forgive me if this retelling is not as accurate as it might be but my memory lapses these days).

And so I read the Sermon on the Mount, as I have other passages of the Bible thoughout my life.  Religious teachings are so much more powerful when you are not obligated to accept just one set of them. I also remember starting to read the Bible in my late teens after reading another of my heroes, German playwrite and social critic, Bertolt Brecht, that his greatest literary influences were “Karl Marx and the Bible” (*Goethe might have been in there as well).  Don’t you just love the confounding nature of that pairing?

With that as preface, I share the text of the Sermon On The Mount with words that speak with love and compassion and a greater understanding of the world than the actions of any who think they will bomb, shoot, oppress, silence, or degrade the better impulses of human beings.

*Hopefully my friend Avram offer offer a clearer account of this memory with a comment

sermon_optimizedThe Sermon on the Mount

Seeing the crowds, he went up on the mountain, and when he sat down, his disciples came to him.

And he opened his mouth and taught them, saying:

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

“Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.

“Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.

 “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.

 “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.

 “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.

“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.

“Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

“Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

“You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people’s feet.

“You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden.  Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.

“Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished. Therefore whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven.  For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.

“You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.’ But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire. So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift. Come to terms quickly with your accuser while you are going with him to court, lest your accuser hand you over to the judge, and the judge to the guard, and you be put in prison.  Truly, I say to you, you will never get out until you have paid the last penny.

“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart. If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell.  And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body go into hell.

“It was also said, ‘whoever divorces his wife, let him give her a certificate of divorce.’ But I say to you that everyone who divorces his wife, except on the ground of sexual immorality, makes her commit adultery, and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery.

“Again you have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not swear falsely, but shall perform to the Lord what you have sworn.’ But I say to you, Do not take an oath at all, either by heaven, for it is the throne of God, or by the earth, for it is his footstool, or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King. And do not take an oath by your head, for you cannot make one hair white or black.  Let what you say be simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything more than this comes from evil.

“You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say to you, do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also.  And if anyone would sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. Give to the one who begs from you, and do not refuse the one who would borrow from you.

“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

“Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven.

“Thus, when you give to the needy, sound no trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be praised by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.

“And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites. For they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.

“And when you pray, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do, for they think that they will be heard for their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him. Pray then like this:

“Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name.
Your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread,
and forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil.

For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.

“And when you fast, do not look gloomy like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces that their fasting may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, that your fasting may not be seen by others but by your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.

“Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

 “The eye is the lamp of the body. So, if your eye is healthy, your whole body will be full of light, but if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light in you is darkness, how great is the darkness!

“No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.

“Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.  But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?  Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all.  But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.

“Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.

“Judge not, that you be not judged. For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you. Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye?  You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.

“Do not give dogs what is holy, and do not throw your pearls before pigs, lest they trample them underfoot and turn to attack you.

“Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened. Or which one of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!

“So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.

“Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.

 “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves.  You will recognize them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thorn bushes, or figs from thistles? So, every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit. A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus you will recognize them by their fruits.

“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’

“Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock. And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it.”

And when Jesus finished these sayings, the crowds were astonished at his teaching, for he was teaching them as one who had authority, and not as their scribes.

 

Putzie and The Big Fella #1

Ring ring ring goes Vladimir Putin’s phone.

V: Hello, this is Vladimir. Is that you Big Don?

D:  Big as a loaded Tomahawk. How’s it hanging in Moscow?

V:  Never hanging, Big Fella. We never hang in Russia, too messy, but enough about me, how’s your golf game?

D:  Amazing, shot a seventy-eight yesterday.  Should have played Augusta.

V: And Melania?  Think about where she might be if we took Slovenia?

D: You dog you.  But seriously, Putzie

V:  Oh, same old, same old.  Crushed the protest, jailed some schmuck who wanted an election in St. Petersburg.  Same shit, different day I think is how you say in the US.  A little preoccupied with this French thing. That fucking Macron is stirring things up and those Frenchie’s take their elections so serious, but, no matter, you called me, what’s up?

D: Listen Putzie, we’ve been getting some shit from our Democratic senators over the Supreme Court so we need a little diversion.  Thinking about dropping a few Tomahawks on Syria.  You know, a little muscle flexing, yell at Assad, talk about how much I love babies.  Looks good on the resume’ and it’ll keep eyes off the Suoreme Court.

V:  Nice.  Say, what does a Tomahawk cost?  You know I get a little every time we fire anything.  You?

D: Let’s just say that missiles hit more than one target, Putzie.  That’s what we call a smart bomb!

V:  Oh, Big Fella, you see that’s what I love about you.  So, what can I do to help?

D: We don’t need much but thought you might get your people out ahead of time.  We’ll throw the Tomahawks, show a few pictures and by the time the dust settles no one will be thinking about our Judge.  You could yell a bit, scream at me, maybe have your guy at the UN say something.  You know, make a little show about it and I’ll get Tilly to say a few things nasty about you too.

V: All this just for a judge.  I’m telling you, democracy is such a waste.  Why not serve up a few Perestroika Cocktails?

D: What’s that?

V: It’s what we fondly think of here as a quick way to revoke someone’s passport. A Perestroika Cocktail is a little Russian jab in the ass with a loaded umbrella.  Works like a charm.

D: Hmm, might try if that little Knish eater Ginsburg doesn’t kick off soon.

V: Okay, sounds good, Donny.  Anything else?

D: No, well…there is that little matter about the steel for the Dakota pipeline.

V: Oh, Donnie, you think I forgot.  The checks in the mail.  And you know the great thing about Russian steel?

D: No, what’s that?

V: You buy it once and when it fails, you buy it again.  Two kickbacks for you. Oh Donnie, I just get so excited thinking of what we can do.

D: Same  goes for me big fella.  You take care Putzie, and let me know if there’s anything you need at the hotel in Moscow.

 

 

 

Answering the Call

“Ask not what your country can do for you, but rather, what can you do for your country.”  John Fitzgerald Kennedy.

Well, this is really strange.  OMG!  I just answered the phone and thought I was on the receiving end of a crank call or major troll by some mean-spirited prankster.  The caller identified himself as White House assistant to presidential advisor, Kellyanne Conway.  “Yeah, right.”  I was skeptical of course but the caller persisted and asked that I stay on the line to speak with Mrs. Conway.  He told me that Mrs. Conway had read my blog at the urging of a common friend who is a Federal Judge and after reading my pieces wanted to speak with me.  “Yeah, right.”  No matter, I stayed on the line and after a brief pause, “Mrs. Conway” greeted me with a rather aggressive, “So, Joey, how would you like to turn some of those opinions into meaningful action?”  At this moment any notion of this being a prank flew right out the window.  The presidential advisor’s voice is unmistakable.  It was Kellyanne Conway.  Apparently, President Trump directed Kellyanne to scan the horizon for articulate critics of his policies and bring some them into his advisory circle.  She said there will be a monthly “round-table gathering” aimed at making the President’s actions more responsive to citizen’s feelings.  Kellyanne then invited me to join this process held at the White House beginning in May.  To say I’m stunned is a gross understatement but refusing is unthinkable.  Even though I disagree with almost everything our President has done so far, being part of the process is a duty and responsibility.  As Kellyanne said to me, “Joey, though you may not agree with the President on some things, why not be part of the change rather than be just another low caliber sniper on the sideline?”  I must say that Kellyanne’s persuasive logic is powerful and who can refuse someone using the phrase low caliber sniper so eloquently?  So, stay tuned, I’m off to Washington for the first session in a month and will report back on what gets accomplished.  I’m very curious who else might be there.  I’m hoping Richard Sherman and Meryl Streep might be invited but that might be too much to expect.  I’ve always dreamed of playing a meaningful part in this great experiment called American Democracy, and I, like Kellyanne, do not have a mistress or play golf, so what better way to dedicate my time than by Helping to Make America Great Again.  I hope I get one of those American Flag lapel pins.

 

 

Privacy. Going, going…

Thanks for reading these words.

I understand that we are tired from the onslaught of bad news and information, that information is driving us crazy.  Even if you agree, if not especially because you agree with what I say, you’ll get tired of reading these pieces. For that I apologize. I feel the same way.

It’s just that everyday I am offended by the latest attack on basic human decency coming out of the Trump administration and the Republican controlled Congress. I write these pieces to purge my own contempt and to bear witness to the truth more so than with a belief that my voice will create change.  I do so with a responsibility as a Jeffersonian Citizen, a protector of a tenuous democratic society. I would be ashamed to do anything less.

Onward to the issue of the day.

Goodbye Privacy.

Yesterday, Congress stripped you of the right for your internet browsing to be private.  Rejecting a regulation that said what, where and when you use the Internet is your business and nobody else’s, Congress chose instead that companies who already gouge you at a rate considerably higher than anywhere else in the world for their service, can buy and sell your individual browsing history. And this isn’t so the FBI, CIA or NSA might track you if you are suspected of a crime.  No, this is for strictly commercial reasons.  Your preferences are valuable data that has a market value, and not to be paid to you, but to your Internet Service Provider who may sell YOUR history to anyone willing to pay.  In simple terms, it’s like the Public Library selling the list of books you’ve checked out.  It’s what you thought was a safe place for you to explore  being turned into a treasure trove of your likes and dislikes.

image

The same Congress who think the only reason for YOUR existence is to make them rich, seem to believe the only proper role of government is to advance the wealth of corrupt politicians and corporations rather than to clean the environment, provide health care, education, job safety, family planning, clean air, water, safe food, or celebrate our cultural heritage and anything else that does not advance their bottom line.  This crowd has their head so far up their ideological ass they can’t detect the unctuous we do.

Privacy is not on the radar screen of this Congress.

Think about it! Anything you visit on the Internet will be sold to anyone who wants it. Do you like cats, cars, pornography, politics, cooking, travel, clothing

So what’s the big deal you say? Well, how about the Fourth Amendment of the United States Constitution that states

“The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.”

And to be clear, if the second amendment, “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed” means the government cannot take away your guns, the Fourth does the same for your privacy.

Is this still not getting though? Imagine you bought a car but as one of the conditions of buying the car the auto manufacturer could install a device to monitor every where you go and for how long, and then sell that information to anyone. Imagine that your cell phone carrier can do the same with your calling history.

The bought and paid for Congress is stuffing its pockets with payoffs while claiming the benefits of unfettered trade and better economic competition amongst smaller Internet service providers–A chance for the little guy!  These guys think we’re stupid.

imageThis is a shameful violation of the Constitution, those inconvenient rules that govern our country and protect us from abuses by our government.  Remember why they wrote those rules?  Remember King George? Remember tyranny?

No doubt this will eventually be ruled on by the Supreme Court but I don’t hold out much hope that the same great minds who declared corporations have the same rights as human citizens, will reverse the trend.

And if you’re of the mind that privacy doesn’t matter–some social theorists have even declared it obsolete and outdated as long as you’re not doing anything wrong–imagine for one minute that everything you say and do, every place you visit on the Internet, every call you make, everything you read, can be known by someone willing to pay for it.  Imagine EVERY WEALTHY CORPORATION WHO WANTS YOUR MONEY KNOWING HOW AND WHAT YOU THINK.  Imagine the government knowing EVERYTHING about you. This is yet one more step in solidifying and evolving a surveillance state where every thought, action and movement of its citizens is monitored, a state with no refuge for your curiosity, creativity or harmless quirks.  In short a state modeled after the very horror we vilified when it was the Soviet KGB and East German Stasi monitoring all thoughts, words and deeds of hundreds of millions of citizens yearning for the refuge of privacy written into the Fourth Amendment of our United States Constitution.

image

And they call themselves patriots. Shame on them.  Don’t be silent.

Call your congressional representative, call your Senators, call your friends!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So Proud…

Making America Great Again: one golf outing at a time paid for by the American People.

      Making America Great Again: one golf outing at a time.

God bless President Trump.  Today, March 26th, marks his 13th golf trip since becoming President nine weeks ago.  I am so proud of him.  So proud to give up my health insurance subsidy or future Medicare benefits so that we can pay and the great man can get some rest.   As befits the great man, he will surpass the costs of other Presidents time off in a record pace.  It’s hard work stripping tens of millions of people of health care, giving trillions of dollars to the neediest billionaires, ruining America’s relations with other countries, destroying the lives of millions of hard working immigrants who make our country great.  Well, somebody has to do it.  So God Bless President Trump.  Class:  Compassion: Integrity.  America’s answer to the Dalai Lama.  Or as the late great Reverend Ike used to say as the collection plates passed to his loyal following of hard working, mostly black women domestics who came to his “church”– “Let us not hear the tinkling of change but only the fluttering of bills.”

 

History’s Trash Heap Populated By Rats and Demagogues

During Obama’s presidency, the old REICH, which is now the new REiCH, opposed him for two reasons.  One:  he was black and two:  because he actually tried to help poor and working people and move the United States into the modern world.  Though I took issue with much of what Obama did, I always respected his intentions.  His vision of the presidency was that of a Public Servant of the people.  By lining up against everything Obama, the Republicans actually boxed themselves into a corner when opposing things  they understood were good for the country, like Obamacare (originally a Republican proposal by Bush 1) and immigration reform that might lead to citizenship for the millions of hard-working undocumented people who contribute to the vitality of the country.  So BIg T comes along and says Whateverthefuckcomesoutofhissorryassednarcissisticentitledandhypocriticalmouth and steals an election and then has to craft a set of laws to back up his SHIT.  And what is that shit but the same old corruption of giving wealthy people and corporations tax breaks while attacking every shred of support for poor and working people.  And to top it off, having lost the election by three million votes, they think they have a mandate for change.  Well, between Big T and his little garbage eating lap rat, Templeton (the rat in Charlotte’s Web) Paul Ryan, we have a nation aggressively charging backwards in time when women, minorities, working people and anything foreign were treated like shit.  Same old shit, same old con, same old men, same old destiny.  All demagogues succeed for a while and sadly they leave a wide swath of misery in their wake, but eventually they hang by ropes, die in bunkers and find themselves where they belong, on history’s trash heap.

Making America Great Again: One Corrupt Act at A Time

Almost a great day for America.  The austere US Congress, a body of wealthy men and women (mostly men) whose health insurance is paid by the American people, came so close to repealing Obamacare.  Maybe tomorrow, (after enough palms have been greased) America can take another step towards greatness.  28 million people (Including me and Nancy) will lose health insurance but the freedom of pharmaceutical and insurance companies to extort huge amounts of money will be preserved.  Freedom to be poor, Freedom to be bankrupt, Freedom to be denied reproductive counsel.  God Bless America.  That’s the kind of greatness only a great leader like Don “the used car salesman” Trump can imagine.  Soon enough we can repeal voting rights act for blacks and women.  Soon enough we can deny senior citizens, who have worked their entire lives to have some peace of mind, the right to affordable health care in their final years.  Greatness is worth it.  A great beginning from the man whose first act as Command and Chief was to botch a military raid and kill civilians and a heroic Navy Seal.  So much greatness ahead, perhaps restoring slavery to antebellum levels.  So many great things sweeping the land.  You can feel it in the air!

Coming Round to Baby Jane

This is me with my first guitar in the background.  A 1935 wide neck Rosewood Martin.  We were touring, opening for Dylan in the Village before Dylan was Dylan.  We called him, “Juicy” cause he was always stealing candy.  I had a small hit that got some radio play called, “Coming Round to Baby Jane.”  It was before the smack overwhelmed everybody.  Lost Johnny Hotter and Cindy Lou Frances, my two closest friends, to some sour shit that ate us all alive after a gig in Newark.  Johnny’s mother always said it was revenge by the brotherhood but that shit didn’t matter much.  Dead is dead.  I started drinking Yoohoo after that and never touched the shit again.  Still have that jacket even if the moths have gotten to it.  Back side says, “Take me Alive!”  Funny thing was back then an eight year old kid couldn’t work a lot of the best places so I did a lot of street singing.  Kumbaya was a bad dream so we kept it real as we could but the radio stations said they couldn’t handle anything by kids.  Some say it was a hard life but it was all I knew.  Life is life, road is road and the Martin probably sits in some rich cats vault and never gets played.  I lost it to a hustler took me in tiddly winks after a hard night in a small college gig outside of Fredonia, New York.  Memories, now ain’t that what you try to forget.

Sorry for the grainy photo.

Early Days

Early Days

Journal Dump #1

Artists get to show their sketchbooks, where they practice. These are my sketches, where I practice, not fully formed thoughts, not even what I believe so much as how I arrive at that place.

1} Earth. 7 billion people. 6.9999999999999 billion people I don’t like.

2} Thinking about how target live outside of the system anymore I saw a hitchhiker in Creswell and no kind of a tough looking guy and I didn’t pick them up yellow tang of guilt about that but I didn’t pick him up and I was thinking he just getting harder and harder to live outside of the system that is a factor or may not be any outside of the system anymore and she is becoming this massive

3} Where is silence?

Where is innocence, virgin experience?

Unprogrammed, unrecorded or chronicled?

No legacy handed down in words or images.

4} Some years ago I was driving in the winter rain In the rolling hills near my home through the rain, listening to Miles Davis while passing cows: the invisible parts of where you live, the things that infuse your life with place and purpose. Most are mysterious; they pass with no notice, invisible to the demands a modern world, trees and animals and a month ago, again in the rain, the rain that alternately nurtures and torments us. Then a hitchhiker, a worn down sort, bearded, bedraggled, looking a little tired as I sped by.

There is a guide in my life that reveals the invisible, the homeless, the poor, the sick, the tired, the hopeless, I am they and they are me. The line that separates any human being from any other human being is so thin as to be meaningless. Fortune and misfortune are gifts and denials that hang on a razor’s edge.

In our county there are moss pickers and immigrants and drug users and dealers and nameless angels who go about their work. And who are we not to see them?

5} Darker Forces are Prevailing..

What protection do little people have against big people, if only big people control governments? And by the way, that is what I expect of my government, to work for peace and to protect me from the abuses of the greedy and powerful who without resistance wreak havoc and pain on others. It’s nothing new, been around for a long time.

Or as the Rolling Stones put it…

“Pleased to meet you, hope you guess my name…”

With that cloudy introduction in mind, I  comment on three things. As I’ve said before, I try not to simply join the chorus of reaction that is common in our media driven culture, so I’ll explain each one a bit.

Torture is wrong, clear cuts are wrong, Nuremberg, justice, governments always hide behind security and self defense to rationalize their abusive and illegal actions. The difference between Nuremberg and now is who won. The powerful will seldom prosecute their criminals.

Don’t shoot and recipe for Lamb Shanks blog pieces

It’s not about the police, and it is. Mainly it’s about systemic and pervasive racism and how it jeopardizes the well being of black people. Instead of getting derailed into whether or not we, meaning the collective we, appreciate police, we need to stay focused on the issue. The issue is about how people perceive each other and how racist beliefs can alter a person’s reality to the extent that he sees a threat where there is none or heightens his response to a perceived or real threat. We are always fighting the embedded and pervasive racism that is part of the legacy of a country built on slavery. Rather Than point a accusing finger at Black athletes who show their solidarity with the issue, in no small part because once they leave their arenas they might he subject to the same racism, we should embrace this dialogue and set to fixing the problem. And it is fixable, and perhaps the single strongest way to fix it is have police forces that have the same racial make up as the populations they police. That alone would heighten compassion, awareness and sensitivity by the force, and it might just move the entire force to a greater sensitivity to the people they serve. Ferguson is a particularly unbalanced force, largely white member while policing a largely black population.   Beyond making police forces reflect the populations they serve, there is the deeper challenge of treating racism for what it is, a dangerous and damaging force that it is. These are hard but not impossible tasks, cultural sensitivity education is just one of the ways society deals with racism. There are others, and they all need to be embraced. Mostly, black people need to be made safe from the arbitrary and malevolent use of deadly force that places their lives in great risk. In this matter, we are all responsible, not just police, not just the communities where an incident happens, but everywhere, because the problem exists in every community in this country. We must be better than this, so I stand with my arms up and say, “Don’t shoot!” And I support anyone who does likewise.

I told ruby I was making lamb shanks for dinner. She said, “I don’t like shanks, they have too much of the stuff I don’t like to eat.”

As I prepared the meal, I thought about that, about why people like meat that has no connection to the animal from which it came. I have raised and killed many animals, and part of any squeamishness about meat that I had departed when I did so. When you raise an animal and tend to its needs, then kill it to eat, the blood, the guts, the connective tissue, all are part of the experience, and the essence of the animal transfers to you. It gets said a lot that most cultures don’t waste anything from the animals they eat, and for me it goes a step further. Eating meat is a ritual that embraces both death and slaughter and forces you to integrate all of the brutal or “icky” parts into your being. If you can embrace the killer in you, you can live a much more peaceful life, and one that will hold animals that you consume in much higher regard. Or, perhaps you can’t, and choose to be a vegetarian. That’s a reasonable choice too, but either way, you have to look at slaughter for what it is, and it needn’t be brutal, even if it is always a powerful experience of the meaning of life. A vegan relative if mine once asked me why I have a leather guitar strap (I also have synthetic ones, made from oil, by the way) and I said that I love that some cow that gave its life to become meat, lives on when wrapped around my shoulder, and in some small way is not forgotten. I’d rather have the cellular soul of an animal on and around me than a fabricated piece of petroleum with the human misery that is connected to it. But even that logic fails if you consider that oil was once alive too, in the form of trillions and trillions of plant cells.   I’m too old to respond to any challenge about meat or not meat, it’s not about that, it is about the most human engagement in life, slaughter, and death. So, bring on the shanks.

Einstein is dead

His brain sits in a bucket of formaldehyde.

Preserved by science

I saw it sliced into sections like a salami and put on display like the Elephant Man

“Ladies and gentlemen, step right up. For a mere twelve dollars you may witness the secrets of humanities greatest thinker. A man so powerful he could unravel the secrets of the world of physics while shaving without a lubricant. Step right up, step right up. Is he a man like you? Or is he a preternatural freak? Decide for yourself, step inside and be your own judge. Let your eyes answer your questions.”

Henry Kissinger was the architect of carpet-bombing a tiny but fierce Buddhist nation, North Vietnam, who had confounded the greatest military power on the planet’s attempts to defeat it. Kissinger believed that unleashing the destructive might and wanton killing from above would bring the Vietnamese to the peace table. He was right, the peace was declared, Nixon preserved American face, the South collapsed, the North prevailed, a million lives were lost and Kissinger and his Vietnamese counterpart were given the Nobel Prize for Peace. What the fuck!

Bill Clinton gets a blowjob outside the oval office

Leaves his genetics on a blue dress.

We don’t get health care.

Serbia gets bombed into rubble.

Rwanda exterminates close to a million of its people on Bill’s watch. As Billy fiddles, America burns itself in a fire of free market economics that plunges the nation into economic collapse at the hands of a tribe of financial hoodlums and the remaining vestiges of social reform on behalf of normal people goes up in smoke.

So persecuted is Bill by sociopath adversaries riding elephants, that he is able to charm the venomous snake of his misdeeds and retain the support of the very people he has betrayed.

Good man, Billy, able to rally the troops and send men to their execution. Good man, Billy.

6} Years ago, my daughter received a letter from a general in Washington DC, inviting her, then in high school, to a “gathering” in Washington DC/ After a few minutes of head scratching I Figured out that this was a recruitment letter from the CIA scanning promising young thinkers for the agency. Naturally, even the CIA has to scout for talent. Now, on the surface, I would not be the most supportive parent about the possibility of my child working for the CIA, but respecting my daughters’ judgment and independence said to her, “I wouldn’t want this, but you should think about it and make your own decision. The CIA needs good thinkers too.” And then a bit later, as an afterthought, I followed up on our conversation with some other thoughts. “Look,” I said, “I am committed to being a critic of our country. It is not just my right, but also my responsibility. It is what makes you a responsible citizen, if you are willing to point out when the country moves in the wrong direction, or does not honor its creed. But, let me say one more thing, never betray your country” and I explained, “Even when the country is misguided you must work to fix it. No other country is any different than ours and if you betrayed your own to another, you would lose your standing at home and the other would consider you a fool.”

And so, it begs the question of where does Edward Snowden fit in. I think you know I admire Snowden a great deal. I do not believe that Snowden betrayed the country. I consider Snowden a patriot in the best sense of the word, not in the lesser sense of a scoundrel draping himself in the flag. No, Snowden did not hand over missile telemetry and names of spies to our enemies. Snowden reminded us that we are a nation founded and constituted on principles and respect for privacy and that privacy is under attack by the very people sworn to uphold it. And, perhaps transcendent to that in the way only a few people ever can be, Snowden’s revelations asked us as a nation and as a world to come from the dark shadows of fear and surveillance, to look honestly at how we defend ourselves, and to stop destroying the very core of our being hiding behind the same false rationale that all tyrants invoke to defend their dark secrets, “We’re doing it to defend you.”

Shouting in the darkness

“Change the world”

“Save the world”

One hundred forty characters at a time

The global gossip rolls on

As barrel after barrel the syringe extracts ancient blood

Shouting in the darkness

“Look at me, I matter”

While meditating in the silence we fools prefer

The taste of an apple says winter is coming

7} Some years ago at a dinner party with friends in Spain, I mentioned that I wanted to see a bullfight and had been fascinated by it since reading Or I’ll Dress You In Mourning, the story of famed bullfighter, El Cordobés, when I was twelve. Within seconds, a friend of my hosts, a woman in her thirties who clearly did not share my feeling about bullfighting derided my comment by saying, “You probably think that women deserve to be raped also.”   Quite a leap I thought, and realizing there was little to be gained explaining my thoughts on the matter (not my normal response to an attack) took a few more lumps from her in silence before the storm passed and we all went back to eating a tasty beef stew.

All past is prologue, and here we are in the middle of a cultural shit storm involving football players in the National Football League, two convicted of domestic violence and one for child abuse. As I have listened to the opinions of countless this week, I was saddened that the responses to the acts more often than not were uttered in black and white terms. By this I mean absolutes vs. non-absolute positions, not racial black and white, though lurking beneath the surface sits the unavoidable racial component that charges all things in our country. More on that later. Fir now, the black and white i refer are comments vilifying Ray Rice and Adrian Peterson as if these acts make them less than human, barbaric, animals. To be clear, In my opinion Ray Rice got off too light for what he did and should have been punished more than he was. No violence is excusable or can be tolerated. I squirm as I write but, the but being that unlike even President Obama who used a time worn and ridiculous statement that “real men don’t hit women,” I have sad but not shocking news, real men do hit women, real men do hit their kids and in high and alarming numbers, and likely, so too have a few of the outraged college educated reporters (piranhas) that weighed on this weeks revelations. While the same piranhas calling for the dismissal of Goodell, the suspension of Rice and Peterson, were waving the moral flag, few words were said to address the underlying issue that generates violence by men in our society.

How do we reshape men into compassionate human beings, and how do we help the men who commit these acts to become better people, because by most accounts about both Rice and Peterson, they are genuinely decent human beings though Rice has a huge demon to exorcise and Peterson will likely face a huge rethinking about the role of violence in building his children’s character.

8} Technology has us by the balls!

Every day I hear someone talking about his or her inability to keep up with technology. In 1984 I was teaching teachers how to use desktop computers, both Apple and IBM had released the revolutionary desktops and the paradigm shift was underway.

Old-schoolers, my father included, he a PhD chemist at IBM’s prestigious Yorktown lab, did not know how to use a computer, though his semiconductor work was directly related to them.

Other old-schoolers, like the groups of teachers we were instructing, we’re doubtful of the new technology. I had one near-to-retirement teacher came to class with a magnificent hand written journal she kept to record four decades of rhododendron cultivation. She defiantly stated at the start of the class, “they tell me i need to put this on a computer, but I don’t see why I need a computer.” I responded that if I could keep a journal as she did I wouldn’t use a computer, adding, “you don’t need a computer, it’s just a tool to serve you, and if it doesn’t serve your needs, don’t use one.” I also made a point of bringing a baseball bat to the classes and would hold it in my hands without saying anything as to why, until someone asked about it and I would say, “Always keep one of these by your computer so that if it upsets you, you can remind it who’s in charge.” Which is all background to the point of this writing that technology is making us crazy and it’s okay, even healthy, to reject it.

At dinner tonight, we met a woman in her early sixties who told us about the problems she’s having with using her I-pad. The pad was only her most recent acquisition, having gotten an I-Touch, and I Mac previously. She said that she just scheduled two appointments at the Apple Store to learn how to get her address book on to her devices. Then she said, that she recently learned that there was an on off button on the device that she didn’t know about, always thinking the front facing button that awakens it from sleep was the on off. She had no idea how to use these things, though still wanted to. I told her two stories, the first about another senior friend of mine who struggles with the same technology that told me his father used a handwritten address book hi entire life, which served him well, and by the way, one which he inherited from his mother, thereby meaning the handwritten address book worked fine for over one hundred years! No upgrades, no incompatibility issues, no built in obsolescence to force you to by a new one: just a pencil and paper. Works fine. Story two that I told this woman, that when my father retired from IBM, he thought he should do some writing about his life, and he asked me what computer he should get to do so. I told him that a pencil and a yellow legal pad was the best way to start, but perhaps realizing that the computer ship was leaving port without him aboard, he impulsively ran out and bought a $2000 desktop Mac, plopped it on his desk, and then left it there ostensibly unused, as he struggled to figure out what the new dangled thing was all about. During one of my visits I taught him the basic operations if the machine, but it was abundantly clear, that he was not comfortable with this new way of doing things, and further, he no longer had an interest in adapting to the basic demands of the computer world (see baseball bat above). Well, touché for that. My stepmother, she a bit more tenacious did eventually learn to play solitaire on the Mac, making it one of the most expensive decks of cards in the history of the world.

My point? Despite its utility and joys, Technology has become too dominant in our lives and it is making us crazy. And, the incessant rapidly changing capabilities overwhelm and discomfort us. And, no different than Thomas Edison, who understood that he would never make money by producing light bulbs that don’t burn out, strategic obsolescence drives the business model of hardware and software companies alike. Minute by minute, day by day, week by week, “innovation” makes today’s must have gadget, tomorrow’s old piece of worthless crap, kind of like what are brains will be if we don’t take the baseball bats out and remind the little electronic sons of bitches who’s in charge.

(Full disclosure-I wrote this piece on my iPhone, will edit it using spell check, post it on my blog, then tweet it to my Twitter account.)

9} You can’t know anyone until you know his or her story. And you can’t know their story until you’ve heard it told more than one time.