Archive for April, 2010

don’t do arizona paranoia

April 27, 2010

Where would I be today if all my honky ancestors had been repelled from American borders  by the native peoples?
What if Sitting Bull had  successfully mobilized the indigenous tribes to deport all us freckled interlopers?
What if those Sioux, Cheyenne, Mohican, Ojibway, Chippewa, Cherokee, Seminole, Navajo, Hopi et al  had driven my paleface people back  into the Atlantic where they came from?
What if the native dwellers had demanded that my greatgreatgreatgreatgreat grandparents produce evidence of American citizenship?
What then?
Then America would have been deprived of a great melting-pot heritage of diverse excellence.
Then our dynamic history of diverse productivity never would have happened.

Don’t go paranoid on us, America.
Don’t pull a Berlin wall trip on our next crop of opportunity-hungry, hard-working, innovating huddled masses yearning to be free.
Don’t shut them out. Let them in. We need energetic people now.
If this present Arizona xenophobia takes root and finds oppressive legal support among the rest of our states, we will sever ourselves from the very roots of multicultural fortitude that makes America great among the peoples of the earth.
Let me see your papers just doesn’t have the ring of inspiration like welcome to the land of the free and home of the brave.

1938

April 24, 2010

‘Tis a ruthless world we live in.
Not so long ago Hitler and Stalin
cast their murderous hurly-burly upon the unsuspecting world.
Where are the malware-brewing bearers of their foul legacy
now? What new Mao
or Pol Pot
lurks to ride roughshod upon the grace of our good intentions?

Did we drive them into the depths, never to wield their bloody piles
again?
What denizens of destructive ire
wait now upon the shadows of some universal discontent?
What advocates of mayhem
weave their tangled web among the limbs of our atrocity?
I will wait
and hear what beast
doth lie beneath this deathly calm–
what scurrilous law of state
doth wait to nail our liberty of lies
upon a cross of hate.
I will wait
to slay him–this beast of old.
Or
Maybe it won’t happen again.
Oh, God help us

Porn is a malaise

April 23, 2010

My name is Carey, and I am a recovered pornoholic.
I can tell you from experience, porn is an addictive bondage, and women are not the only victims of it. A nation of men is devolving into a country of wimps. I’m serious.

And the contagion is no laughing matter. Recent outing of government employees who were caught, as it were, with their pants down, is no occasion for coarse jesting. This is no time for bored bloggers to congregate online smugly ridiculing others who are enslaved by the porn plague.

This smut infection– this marriage-crippling STD–started in the ’50s with Hugh Hefner’s dirty bomb of counterfeit desire. The invasive fallout spread epidemically like errant spermatazoa  until sometime in the 90s, when its electronic mutant version expanded virally–not viriley–on the internet.
It’s a noxious disease that robs men and women of natural love.
For me, the cure is Jesus, who blessed me with a wife of thirty years, but I know you don’t want to hear that religious stuff, so I’ll get to the matter at hand.

Do I still struggle to ignore porn? Oh yes. How could I not? The infection is everywhere you look, everywhere you go.
However, according to my worldview, a man is given but one life to live.  Therefore life itself needs to be productive. Whatever powers are resident within a man should be directed toward fruitful ends, not cast aimlessly on the ground. Whatever powers of perception–seeing–that are given to a man should be used for cultivating excellence and proficiency, not languishing in gluttonous sexual dysfunction.
.
Sharing love with a woman is a most productive state of being. Even if children do not result, the bounty of coital union strengthens all aspects of faithful love, and mellows with age like fine wine.
But to your cast pearls into an idolotrous counterfeit is to agree with death’s destructive pull on your brief life. It’s a dead end.
Men, find something better to do with your time and your assets than looking at fake women and making jest of others’ perversion.
If you don’t have a good woman but you want one, then sharpen your life skills until you can attract one, and when you do find her, take the time to faithfully love her, and don’t throw her away like and old magazine.

Who are the true patriots among us?

April 19, 2010

They were not even qualified to be there; many of them were bringing up the rear.
But on Monday, one thousand three hundred and fifty marathon runners in Boston set the pace, and a champion example of true patriotism, for the rest of us Americans. They ran their butts off for 26.2 miles so that others of lesser means can receive medical treatment for dire conditions.
Those runners  are leading the pack in our marathon effort for health care reform.
Everybody’s biggest problem in health care reform these days is that there’s not enough money to go around to pay all the bills. But today, $14 million was raised for patients who need special care.
That, my friends, is community service; that is true patriotism; that is getting off your couch potato ass to make a difference in the world.
That is a stellar–as in stars and stripes–example for the rest of us.

And that was my thought when I heard Robin Young, hostess of Here and Now, as she interviewed one of those Boston Marathon charity runners, Tom Kansas. He said,

“I just wanted to run the marathon; I needed a number somehow…I’m not fast enough to qualify, God knows. I’m a long way from that…so I’ll just raise some money for charity…with the American Liver  Foundation.”

So here’s a guy who, like me, perhaps like you, couldn’t quite qualify for the Big Dance, and yet he shows up for the main event with a mission.  But it happens that the mission in his mind–to just run the dam race–morphs to something far greater. He hangs around, hoping for a chance to run with the big dogs. Then, through willingness to take a lesser role, through persistence and perseverance and dedication to his craft–running–he gets his number in the most legendary race of all, and, as it turns out, make a positive contribution to the improvement of our human condition in the world.
Not bad for a day’s run.

That’s one marathon run for a man, one giant act of service for mankind.
–and an inspiration for the rest of us to strive for more than being couch potatoes in a nation that desperately needs help.

Getting back to ironically Aaronic roots

April 18, 2010

Meat-eating is falling out of political correctness these days for several reasons.
One reason is: it has been determined that raising and consuming animals for food makes a bigger carbon footprint than producing  veggies and fruits for consumption.

Then there are the myriad issues like cruelty to animals, and confining them to small, unnaturally cramped spaces during their brief lifespans, thus depriving them of any decent quality of life. There’s also the shitpile of problems we humans accumulate when we gather so many beasts into small confines for purposes of fattening and killing them. It’s a stinking mess while we’re raising them,  and an offal mess when we slaughter them.

That’s after we inject them with all kinds of human synthetic materials like hormones, enzymes, inoculations, engineered genes and God only knows what else.

Nevertheless, most of us still line up, like sheep led to the slaughter, at restaurants to wolf down our hamburgers, steaks, sausage biscuits, pastramis, gyros, and foie gras.
I like meat too, although the older I get I see the viands as something to be added, sparingly, to vegetable creations, thus providing some flavorful protein, instead cooking a big hunk of some kind of roast with some potatoes thrown in and a few token carrots, like my Irish ancestors did.

Speaking of ancestors, I was reading the book of Exodus this morning, because I believe that ancient texts provide some helpful time-traveling perspective and therefore anthropological relevance, along with cultural profundity,  to our angst-ridden, post-existential, rudderless existence. Plus, those scriptures are, like, wholly holy.
And so here’s one that I came across:

“You shall also take the one ram, and Aaron and his sons shall lay their hands on the head of the ram; and you shall slaughter the ram and shall take its blood and sprinkle it around on the altar.”
“Then you shall cut the ram into pieces and wash its entrails and its legs, and put them with its pieces and its head. You shall offer up in smoke the whole ram on the altar; it is a burnt offering to the Lord.”

And I’m like, wazzup wi this?  This is so irrelevant for evolved modern sensibilities and world view.  It’s totally gross.
On the other hand, if we highly-evolved homo sapiens were to humaneize our system of meat production a la the reforms implied in Food, Inc., and bring meat production back to some level of natural stewardship and local oversight, and assign some spiritual significance to the sacrifice of innocent life that feeds our carnal appetite, and even thank God for the sacrifice while treating the whole ritual as holy provision for our sustenance rather than grossly hyper-productive animalicide, we might find ourselves better-adjusted as children of the universe, and perhaps eat healthier food.
And I thought we should, like, try a few reforms along these lines. Is that kosher with you?

Capital Apples and Kapital oranges

April 12, 2010

Michael Moore has made a thought-provoking movie about capitalism. We watched it last night on dvd, since Pat and I don’t do theaters. For this ole boy (me) whose career as a house-builder spanned thirty years in a non-union southern state, it was quite an education.
I’m thinking pretty seriously about what this Capitalism thing really is.

As I consider the merits and demerits of the infamous Capitalism: a love affair, it seems to me that Michael’s masterpiece of proletarian indictment is deficient in one critical omission.
He neglects to mention that there are two capitalisms, and they are very different from each other. Let’s call them Capitalism 1.0 and Kapitalism 2.0.
Capitalism 1.0 is:
a) a natural development in human progress
b) a time-tested, fair system for efficiently exchanging goods and services among free people
c) a means of gathering resources and wealth  for individual persons and groups of persons
d) a set of conventional practices by which diligent investors can share ownership with innovators in new business ventures
e) a dynamic, responsive source for accumulating and perfecting tools for human progress.

Kapitalism 2.0 is:
a) a bastard mutant that has metastasized in the last two decades
b) an elaborate house of greed-breeding ponzi cards constructed on an unsound foundation of unqualified debt
c) an exponential multiplier of systemic, predatory profiteering by greedy market manipulators
d) the biggest “bank job” in human history
e) a huge bubble of unprecedented size, inflated by unregulated delirious derivatives, enabled by irresponsible crap-shooting credit default swaps. Together, they comprise the nuclear option of financial debauchery, and although we have survived a Chernobyl disaster of incalculable economic fallout, there is, yes, still a very long, arduous cleanup that needs to be undertaken.

But I ask you, Michael, are these two capitalisms the same thing?
No, they are two different entities. So let’s not, as we say down south,  throw out the baby with the bath water.  The capitalism 1.0 that evolved among our forefathers and foremothers must be, for the sake of our species’ continued progress, retained and reconstructed. It’s back-to-basics time for us.

Back to basics, like they used to do in schools.

Your brilliant movie has taken a blunderbuss aim at this thing called Capitalism. But we need to get our target right here. You don’t want to kill capitalism, not really; What we want to kill is the possibility of criminals commandeering the system for their own aggrandizement.
We don’t really want to kill Capitalism. What we, the people must do is correct it, like
Sister Mary Ignatius did with your papers in school.
That’s what this whole debacle is coming down to–a, as they say in the business, correction.

Now, as to the question of how to accomplish a retention of productive Capitalism while dismantling predatory Kapitalism–I’ll leave that to the experts. I hope there are still some out there who  have their ethical compasses correctly orientated. So I’ll leave that delicate  work to the experts, because I am, like Michael Moore, just another citizen with an opinion.

And I’ll not attempt a citizen’s arrest, as Michael  so melodramatically did in his movie. We, the People have hired help–Congress, the President, and the Justices– to perform those regulatory and enforcement tasks. As a civilized citizenry, we need to make our system work. We need to demand that democratic republicanism function as it was designed to do.  Here’s why: if the system falls apart, the wingnuts on both ends will take matters into their own hands and we’ll have a bloody mess on our hands.

The Wealth of Our Nation

April 5, 2010
What is the basis for our wealth?
In ancient times it was, let’s say, agricultural surplus, which included crops and livestock beyond immediate need.
Then a new technology was forged from the hand of man–metallurgy. This fiery artisanry developed as a means for making tools, the use of which increased productivity in agriculture, thus increasing wealth and redefining it. Metals–iron, copper, bronze, silver, gold–became a larger component in what was considered to be wealth.
As the productivity of mankind increased through use of tools, our exchanges of metals became more refined. The basic metals such as iron and copper remained mostly utilitarian in their applications. Gold and silver emerged as king and queen of wealth exchanges.
Eventually, gold was brought into the spotlight as master of exchange media. Platinum came along as a sort of  eccentric cousin. Silver was a helpful tagalong.  But gold was king of commerce for millenia, and remained steadfastly on that regal pedestal until the twentieth century.
I don’t why this refinement of our metallic preferences happened. Call it, what, vanity? Gold is beautiful. Or aesthetics–call it a gilty pleasure. Who isn’t awed by its brilliance?
Then guess what, in the twentieth century we exchanged gold for paper. Go figure.
Well, the paper is  easier to carry in your wallet, for one thing, and easier to manipulate, for another.
So what is, now, the basis for wealth? Now that we’ve traded our gold for paper?
Excuse me, now we’re trading our paper for electrons.
So what, now, is the basis of wealth?
It is the productivity of our people. Trust me in this.
In case you haven’t noticed, we left the gold standard in post-industrial dust long ago. We do see that gold, with its presently rising price, is making a valiant effort among contrarians to reestablish itself as the basis for wealth. But you know what? You can’t have it for breakfast, and I know you’re not going to pay bills with gold.
As a basis for wealth, gold is gone, paper is too common, electronic transfers are convenient, but they have to be backed up with something–some assurance of value.
So truly, it is the productivity of our people which is the basis of our wealth.
And what, you may ask, is the basis for our productivity?
Ultimately, it is the earth itself. How many thousands of years have we infantile humans been sucking on the teat of mother earth? She’s made us fat and happy–most of us, anyway.
But she is getting old, and worn-out.
That is why “green” technologies need to be so much more than just political correctness. We need to get busy in maintaining and  conserving (there’s a misunderstood word!) ole mother earth’s bounteous-but-depleting basis for our wealth.
We haven’t quite figured out how to negotiate that “green” transition yet; it is an intuitive kind of change now, for most of us anyway, who are not savvy on optimizing sustainability. We’ll figure out eventually though. That’s why education is so important.
Here’s the fundamental question of our era: How do we extract from the earth what we need for productivity and wealth without destroying it?
I suggest that this transition toward better productivity is the purpose of this great recession through which we now persevere. It is, as they say in stock market lingo, a correction.
We need to work smarter, get more value for less resources and, yes, less work ’cause everybody needs a job. We might need to cut back hours, and yes, wages, a bit to get everyone busy again.
We need greater productivity.
That will be the basis of our wealth in the 21st century.
Now is the time for all good men and women to come to the improvement of their country.  Let’s make this nation, by working smarter and more appropriately, a better place to live.
What will you do to contribute to the renewal of our United States of America?

Any revolution can go one of two different ways

April 3, 2010

About a year ago the local school library gave away a bunch of old books. I toted a goodly collection of them home. Of course there was not a glamourous or impressive title in the bunch–no best sellers, and only one dog-eared classic, the Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. I hastily set them on a bookshelf in our home.

For a year or more, Khruschev Remembers (1970, Little, Brown &Co, and Bantam) sat humbly on my shelf without comment or protest, even though Nikita was quite a colorful guy who had a quite insistent attitude, back in his day.  He’s the one who took off his shoe and began pounding the podium with it while making a speech somewhere (was it the UN?) in which he proclaimed to America that “we will bury you.”

This Saturday afternoon, I picked the old yellowed paperback up and started reading it.

You have to remember that when someone writes an autobiography, especially if that person is an insider witness to historic events, the cover of that little ole worn-out book is certainly not , as the saying goes, any basis whatsoever for judging the book, or its contents.

Earth-shaking testimonies can lie dormant between tattered covers for years and years.  Here’s one example:

“In essence the New Economic Policy ( Lenin’s revisionist reform of the early 1920s) meant the restoration of private property and the revival of the middle class…The commercial element in our society was put firmly back on its feet. Naturally this was, to some extent, a retreat on the ideological front, but it helped us to recover from the effects of the Civil War. As soon as the NEP was instituted, the confusion and famine began to subside. The cities came back to life. Produce started to reappear in the market stalls, and prices fell.”

This policy, Lenin’s pragmatic response to dire economic circumstances soon after the Bolsheviks assumed power, was controversial among the party faithful. It was essentially an early revision of communist ideology–a reform, displaying resemblance to that  of…Deng Xiaoping?

How different might history have been if Lenin had not died in 1924, only seven years after the revolution? How different might history have been if Stalin had not supplanted Lenin’s pragmatic leadership with his own murderous regime?

In Khruschev’s many critical assessments of Stalin’s legacy, he offers this comparison with another ruthless revolutionary:

“There was unquestionably something sick about Stalin. I think there’s a similar case of this sickness in the present day (Khruschev was writing this in 1970) which should be mentioned. People of my generation remember how the glorification of Stalin grew and grew, and everyone knows where it led. I often see films about China on television, and it seems to me that Mao Tse-tung is copying Stalin’s personality cult.”

So we notice that Nikita Khruschev includes this observation: …”every one knows where it (cultification of Stalin’s leadership) led.”

Yes, most everyone knows it led to harsh, murderous imprisonment of good Russian citizens, and millions of deaths. Read Solzhenitsyn on this.

So anyway I’m reading this today about Russia; but it’s China I’ve been thinking about ever since last summer when I visited there.

A brief look at recent Chinese history reveals a similar situation in the passing of the mantle from one regime (from Mao to Deng in the late 70s) to the next. But the Chinese outcome was, thank God, quite different from the Russian.  Perhaps the Chinese had learned a lesson or two from the brutal mistakes of their Soviet predecessors.

One might almost say that it was a miracle that Deng Xiaoping, the reformist of Maoist China, was able to assume the reins of power after Mao’s death, and lead China into more reasonable directions than those that imposed barbarous punishments in Stalinist Russian.  Deng’s careful transition delivered China’s emerging Marxist society from a tyranny that had been uncannily similar, until it was interrupted, to the abuses that had been forcefully thrust upon the USSR by Stalin’s thuggish legions.

Meanwhile, here in the good ole USA, and back in the day…before Letterman, Leno and those other jokers came crackin’ along, I remember that Johnny Carson occasionally would quip:

“Leon Trotsky lives!”

In my youth, I didn’t understand the comedian’s nuance, but now that I am old, I understand.

Maybe if Trotsky or some other Lenin protege had maneuvered into power after Lenin’s death (as Deng did after Mao’s death), Russia’s history might have been decidedly less bloody.

And actually, Johnny Carson was right, loosely speaking. Trotsky does live. He lives, one might say, in China, and anywhere in the world where planned economies favor progressive reform instead of repressive violence.

That’s something to think about on a Saturday evening as we move inextricably closer to a planned economy, and possibly some hard times ahead.

Penetrating the Great Firewall of China

April 2, 2010

Over two millennia ago, an emperor of China, Qin Shi Huang, began building a wall. It was a huge project. As centuries rolled by, other Chinese emperors extended it; eventually it became the longest manmade structure on earth. We know it as the Great Wall of China.

Last July, Pat and I, along with our young ones Micah, Kim, and Katie, visited this wall. Having taken a bus from Beijing about 70 km to the popular Badaling section, we hiked up to the ancient stone assemblage and walked along the top of it. This is what it looked like:

This part of the wall, according to the lonely planet guide, had been constructed originally during the Ming dynasty, some time between 1368-1644, c.e.

You can surmise here that some serious reconstruction had been recently done to it, enabling us American sightseers to safely traipse across its 6-meter spine and do the tourist thing.

You can also notice in this picture several watchtowers. We walked through a few of them, and bought refreshing drinks and snacks from an enterprising local vendor who had carted his goodies up there on the back of a donkey.

In one of these lookout structures, my son Micah discovered a scuttle-hole in the roof:

Iwas looking at this picture this morning, and wondering what the young man might be thinking as he peered up at that bright opening. Of course I don’t know what was running through his overactive neurons, but I had this sudden wildly imaginative speculation that he might be encountering a just-discovered aperture in a wall of a different sort, the Great Firewall of China.

Maybe my mental liberties while viewing this picture were some kind of deep-seated resentment from having been unable to monitor my own website while in China. Or perhaps my subconscious gymnastics were some sympathetic vibration with Google’s recent attempts to do no evil there.

More likely, though, I was just processing an empathy that was floating in my mind, having read about it in the New York Times just last night. The March 31,2010 online edition included an op-ed by Nicholas Kristof,   in which he wrote:

“When the Chinese government jostled with Google, young Chinese didn’t leave flowers at Zhongnanhai to show support. Rather, they left flowers and supportive notes at Google’s headquarters in Beijing.”

We had previously seen in Beijing both of these locations that Mr. Kristof mentions: the Google headquarters and the exterior of the Zhongnanhai compound. Only a day before my daughter snapped the above pic at the Great Wall, we had been walking beneath:

This long wall runs along Fuyou Jie, the avenue in Beijing on the western boundary of Zhongnanhai, which is the epicenter of CCP oligarchy and micromanagement. I just lifted this photo from Wikipedia Wikipedia. You can see the length of our trek there, which took us southward along the wall until we turned left onto Chang’an boulevard and headed for Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City.

While doing the tourist thing at Tiananmen, we had of course seen many interesting sights including:


Thanks for joining me in our little online tour of Chinese walls. If you’re in China and viewing this, congratulations! You’ve climbed high enough atop the Great Firewall of China to have found an opening.