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22
Sep 18

HOW MUCH DO TRUMP’S RALLIES COST AMERICA?

Trump and his endless rallies. How much time does each one take? Who pays for it? How expensive is it? He seems to do them in clusters when he’s under pressure.

My main question is, how much Presidential work time is Trump squandering with the trips to the rallies, the playing out of the rallies themselves–and then the trips from the rallies? I’m sure I’m not the only one who’s asked this. But why isn’t he challenged on this issue by Congressional Democrats? Or the GAO, say? Even if the costs of rally spaces and lighting and bunting and staff and enthusiastic clappers are covered  privately by supporters somehow, his transportation and protection is all on the taxpayer’s dime. And the *time* Trump wastes on these incoherent amplifications of his engorged vanity has monetary value to taxpayers as well.

All Presidents travel about, meet people, give speeches from time to time, but this stadium sized national embarrassment is beyond the pale. I say we send Trump an invoice.


2
Sep 18

The Speed of Time

Older people feel that time passes faster as they age. But time isn’t going faster for them–except subjectively. This unpleasant sense of being rushed through life can be relieved; we can adjust our perceptions so that time “passes slowly” for us again.

In normal day to day states we “come to” from time to time; we come out of the free-association daydreaming state–”Gosh, it’s three o’clock already!”–and time seems to have gone by very rapidly since the last time we emerged. As we get older, or generally sink into a state of inattentiveness, it’s as if you’ve taken a movie film and removed half the individual frames, and then glued it back together. Watch it that way, and that fragmented movie  passes too fast, and too choppily, because we’re missing key perceptual moments from it.  For various reasons–perhaps associations spawned by memories, or a tendency to withdraw attention to save energy– elderly people in particular tend to be caught up in a subjective state that makes time seem to rush along like a film missing half its frames.

But if we adjust our perceptivity we no longer feel dragged along, passing too rapidly through life.  This re-tuning of our perception of time–and of life itself–can be adjusted through certain forms of meditation. Basic Zen meditation, Vipassana meditation, Gurdjieff’s self-remembering methods,  or the mindfulness  methods of Jon Kabat-Zinn, allow us to exist more fully in the now, constantly returning to what is. Through certain meditative techniques we learn to actively return to the present moment, a process that takes us out of identification with the random churning of the ordinary mind. As we make contact with this wider perception, we’ll notice that time will seem to slow in an agreeable way.  It feels miraculous when it happens, but it’s simply the result of an adjustment of attention. And it doesn’t have to be done sitting in a meditation posture–it can be done while doing housework, or taking a walk. “Walking meditation” is common in Zen and in Tibetan Buddhism.

When I am engaging in a form of mindfulness meditation one second seems to take, perhaps, four seconds to play out, or even more, but in a pleasant way. I don’t feel like “time is dragging”.  Time itself, of course, moves at whatever rate it chooses. I’m simply perceiving more of it. The apparent slowdown happens because in the meditative state I’m not caught up in free-association or daydreams. As such times I’m not on the hamster wheel of the mind; I’m not in the usual ruminative state, which sucks up so much attention. Of course, daydreaming has its uses, and the mind’s ability to free-associate is vital–but the problem is its seductiveness. If we let it take us over entirely it becomes a way to be asleep while walking around only nominally awake.

In the meditative state I take in more information; the sounds around me are heard consciously, one after another, in a consistent stream; the sensation of my body is contemplated in an unbroken continuum with  smells, sights, the feeling of a breeze or just the air on my skin.  It’s all one holistic, unified impression. In this state of active consciousness there is a globular encompassing of everything I experience. When that state is achieved it does not allow for daydreams and mindless free association because there’s no room left for any of that. The mental space usually taken up by the vagaries of free-association is occupied by a total perception of the now. Your mind is fully active but only as a receptor for the present moment. And in that state, time “slows down” because I’m perceiving, cognitively taking in, more of the productions of time.

This process is a great relief. In it–whether for thirty seconds or thirty minutes or more–we are no longer caught up in the cycle of worries, fears, and anxious planning. At such times I’m freed up, and a feeling of refreshment flows over me. Equally important, after repeated meditative efforts, the brain gradually “resets” to take in more information, in a painless, objective way. And by degrees we learn to “slow time” so that life doesn’t pass us by.


27
Aug 18

GAIA HAS TEETH

Gaia is armed. We humans have guns, and bullets and flamethrowers and polluting factories and bombs. But the totality of Earth’s natural creative force, which some call Gaia, has other weapons to fight with. Gaia, once named “mother nature”, has hurricanes and tornadoes; Gaia has earthquakes and volcanic explosions and torrents of rain and tsunamis and blistering heat and icy nights and rising seas; she has plants that evolve to resist herbicides and insects that evolve to resist pesticides and bacteria that evolve to resist antibiotics.

Gaia has invasive species and expanding zones of toxic algae and northward traveling tropical mosquitoes and killer bees and every form of extreme weather and hot winds sewn with toxins; she has coyotes and bears and cougars and transplanted anacondas that infiltrate cities. She has sharks increasingly crowding our shores, and she has fire ants and secretly germinating viruses.

She has teeth. Never forget–Gaia has teeth. And we have made her very angry.


23
Aug 18

Can I Change My Spirit Animal?

When I was a young man, very young indeed and a student at the Clarion Writer’s Workshop, a Native American fellow also attending told me my spirit animal was a hummingbird. I was young and wildly overactive and always making a noise as I flitted from thing to thing, so I get it. I didn’t care for the spirit animal–I wanted something cool and powerful, like an eagle or a mountain lion. What’d I get? A trifling little hummingbird.

Oh yes, I’ve come to respect hummingbirds, who migrate great distances with their tiny, gemlike little bodies. But I still want my spirit animal to be an eagle or maybe a red tailed hawk or a vampire bat or something else cool like a Tasmanian Devil. I wonder if one can apply for a change of spirit animal at some bureau. I’m afraid if I locate the spirit animal bureau, on whatever higher plane, they’ll tell me that it’s already been changed: At age 65 my spirit animal is a waddling old goose.


21
Aug 18

Renaming The EPA

I think we should create a really big petition effort to get the name of the EPA changed to reflect its current role in the nation. They won’t want to change the acronym so we can call it the Emissions Protection Agency, or even better, as one of my friends suggested, the Enabling Polluters Agency. .  . Some would suggest, I suppose, “the Evil Protection Agency”, but that would apply more to the Vatican.


21
Aug 18

THE GREAT COMING DILEMMA

The great dilemma coming to us, later in the century, is that the aperture for available food will narrow in the worst of the coming climate crisis. Because–there will be famine. And a relatively few people will control access to food. And if you’re not “right” with them, they won’t sell it to you, or otherwise feed you. You watch.


18
Aug 18

Some Old Traditions Just Suck And Need to GO

Was arguing with people who say the Scottish and Japanese and Inuit have traditional reasons they should be allowed to kill whales–intelligent, endangered species…And there’s that Japanese annual dolphin slaughter that’s so very traditional…

Look, there are just some old traditions that cannot be respected and allowed to continue. Some old traditions are grand. But there are places (and even in pockets of the USA) where people determine who their daughter will marry, they take money for her, marry her off at 13 to some hateful person. Beat her, even kill her if she doesn’t like it etc. . .

In many places female genital mutilation is a grand old tradition–the forcible removal of the clitoris in girls. . .The flat out oppression of women in many countries is a powerful tradition. . .Castes and the persecution of the so-called Untouchables still goes on in India. . .The Blood Festivals in Spain and Portugal involving beating animals to death, throwing them alive out of towers and so on, still happen. The horrid crating for life and then brutal slaughter of dogs for traditional dog meant feasts in China and Vietnam etc. . .

It’s traditional to forbid marriage of mixed race couples in many places. . .Killing albinos for superstitious reasons happens traditionally in some parts of Africa. . .”traditional medicine” in the form of simple witchdoctor hogwash still is to be found in some places and people die from it, or die because they didn’t get conventional medicine. . .

I could go on and on and on. We cannot accept all old traditions. The harmless and healthy old traditions, those are great. But many are just not right for civilized people, for any decent society, and they should not be accepted.


14
Aug 18

IF YOU WANT THE GOVERNMENT TO CHANGE…SHOW UP IN NOVEMBER

Just remember, it’s not only about the Presidential campaign.

If you don’t like Republicans FORCING their Supreme Court nominees on America–

then show up to vote at *congressional races* and vote Republicans OUT. Encourage your friends to register to vote; encourage your friends to put on their coats, encourage your friends to simply note: they must vote the Republicans out.

If you don’t like our enslavement to Big Oil–

then show up to vote at *congressional races* and vote Republicans OUT. Encourage your friends to register to vote; encourage your friends to put on their coats, encourage your friends to simply note: they must vote the Republicans out.

If you don’t like the nightmarish availability of guns–

then show up to vote at *congressional races* and vote Republicans OUT. Encourage your friends to register to vote; encourage your friends to put on their coats, encourage your friends to simply note: they must vote the Republicans out.

If you don’t like the crushing of the middle class and the poor–

then show up to vote at *congressional races* and vote Republicans OUT. Encourage your friends to register to vote; encourage your friends to put on their coats, encourage your friends to simply note: they must vote the Republicans out.

If you don’t like the suppression of science and climate change truth

– then show up to vote at *congressional races* and vote Republicans OUT. Encourage your friends to register to vote; encourage your friends to put on their coats, encourage your friends to simply note: they must vote the Republicans out.

If you don’t like the erosion of women’s rights–

then show up to vote at *congressional races* and vote Republicans OUT Encourage your friends to register to vote; encourage your friends to put on their coats, encourage your friends to simply note: they must vote the Republicans out.


11
Aug 18

Alex Jones: Meet the Exception to Free Speech Protections

Some people–even on the left–are claiming Alex Jones should not be “censored”; that it is a matter of principle to let him spout his lunacy. There’s some truth in it *up to a point*–but Jones has passed that point. Screaming “Fire!” as a joke in a crowded theater is NOT protected free speech. That has been established as legal precedent: it is NOT protected. Much of what Jones claims would be a national emergency if it were true–it gives the impression of a national emergency caused by conspirators. Declaring fake emergency situations endangers people on many levels.

Claiming there’s evidence of a vast conspiracy to fake massacres weakens our ability to prevent massacres. It puts police at risk, when they are simply doing their job, as it makes them look like armed conspirators; it endangers families of victims. The families of the children killed at Sandy Hook are suing Jones for defamation because his spreading the falsehood that the children were not killed, that it was all crisis actors, does direct harm to them: first, it causes extreme emotional anguish; second, it puts them at risk: they’ve been stalked and threatened by gun-fanatics; third it’s forced some of them to move, to hide, to lose homes and livelihoods.

It does huge ethical and moral harm to society to yowp a lie that big, that persistently, and in a venue reaching so many people. It increases the risk of violent right-wing terrorism. It’s undermining efforts to prevent the violently mentally ill from getting guns. The damage goes on and on. He is effectively causing people to get trampled when he repeatedly yells fire in a crowded theater.

Jones spread the story about Clinton and others supposedly hiding a pedophile ring in a pizza parlor. This nearly got some people killed and it’s a component of the Qanon fantasy that is sure to spawn violence in time.

Suppose you call 911 emergency and say “armed men are raping children at Joe Smith’s house, here’s the address…” People do that–it’s called SWATing. Is that protected speech? No. You will be arrested for it. What Jones is doing is the same thing. There are limits to free speech. And these falsehoods from Jones are not ordinary speech. They are in a special category. He has to be stopped before more people get hurt.


5
Aug 18

My Face to Face Encounter with the PATRIOT PRAYER MAGA-HAT PEOPLE

I had a personal encounter with the alt-right this evening, in the aftermath of the Patriot Prayer People vs Antifa demonstration and counter-demonstration on the streets of Portland today. But mine was in a bar in Vancouver WA, just across the river from Portland. I had been thinking I was sorry I didn’t go to the counter demonstration against the neo-Nazis in Portland today and was driving past the bar on the way to the store and I saw a whole bunch of guys in MAGA hats and red white and blue bunting on their bodies and Trump t-shirts, mostly young white guys, getting out of vans and Giant Black Trucks all at once at a local bar called The Ice House. I have written articles for The Raw Story and thought, maybe here’s another article for someone. I intuited, correctly, these guys just came from the Portland demonstration. I gave into my writer’s impulse and pulled in, ordered a beer at the bar.

The place was thronged by MAGA-hat guys–many bearded, all white except one black guy who said to the others, “We showed the liberals peace and they didn’t know how to deal with it.” They patted him on the shoulder and said, “You got that, Seymore.”

There were two guys next to me growling swaggeringly at one another, one saying, “It’s a good thing for the liberals that the cops were there, if they hadn’t have been, it woulda got ugly.” The other guy said, “Yeah they should thank those cops for protecting them. I was ready to kick some fucking ass, the shit they were saying.”

A guy sat down next to me, calling me (and everyone) “buddy” and he mentioned GG Allin to someone and I said I know a guy who was GG Allin’s road manager. This guy was a big fan of Allin, history’s most self-destructive (and now dead) punk rocker…He had something on black cloth furled up with him…It was so loud I couldn’t hear much else and I was an old geezer surrounded by young alt-right thugs, so decided not to get provocative and figured I’d better leave. My wife was waiting for me to go to the store.

I saw, though,a blond woman (or trans man?) about 30, who was draped in red white and blue and had a button on that said LGBT FOR TRUMP. I was startled by this. So when I went outside she was there with her friends and I asked, thinking she, as a woman, might be more calm and reasonable than the others, “Do you really think TRump will support LGBT people? Me, doubt it.I worry he’ll use you guys at best and then–” She got really mad instantly, and started screaming at me, “Liberal faggot!”

I said, “Whuh? ‘Faggot’? That’s kind of odd–you as a lesbian or…anyway a supporter of LGBT–”

She screamed at me, “Conservatives were way more accepting of me! It was liberals that rejected me!”

I said, “That’s surprising, since…” That’s all I got out and then her male friends crowded threateningly
round me–there was eight of these guys–and one of them got in my face, within two inches, and said, “Back off from the lady, don’t harrass the female!”

I said, “I was just asking a question, I am sometimes a journalist, thinking of getting a quote to get her point of view, because of her button. It’s unusual–” I never lost my shit, always kept calm. (It’s now that I’m rattled.)

And he said, “You got all in her face and you were harrassing her–” And he did one of those shove with a shoulder things and said, “Get out of here before you get hurt, we’re not gonna let you get in her face–”

I said, “I’m sometimes a journalist, I’m a writer, I was just curious–”

He said “Sure you are old dude!” and there were suddenly more of them crowding in and trying to back me off. “You better get the fuck out of here now, it’s not safe for you here! Go!” one of them said.

I did not want to be driven away so I got out my phone and started recording and asking questions in a calm voice but I had it out for only a minute when the LGBT Trump girl stepped in and I turned it toward her and she shrieked “Get the fuck out of here faggot” and slapped at me and my phone, hitting me glancingly on the face and knocking my phone across the parking lot. Fifty feet at least.

I went to get it and called the cops, now concerned that getting to my car, out of sight of the street, might be dangerous with this crowd all antagonistic toward me, so I waited there and within two minutes a couple of really nice sheriff’s deputies arrived. The first one sighed and seemed very sympathetic. He agreed that what she’d done was battery. I said, “She didn’t really hurt me. I just wanted to play it safe at that point and–maybe you could talk to her.”

One of the alt-right swaggerers said, “She left, they all left.” I said, “I thought I saw them go in the bar, officer…just talk to her if she’s in there.” I gave them her first name, which I’d heard, and a description.

As I was leaving the GG Allin guy with the furled dark flag was there, telling me that “Real men are like Jack London”…I don’t know what that was about.

“I said, “Can I see your flag?” He said, “What? No. I just found that. It’s not mine. Well, it’s mine but…I don’t…no I don’t show it to…no.”

The cops called over to me, said they’d take care of it, they’d talk to them, and I went, a little shaken, to the grocery store.