Sep 16

Sanctification from the Soiled

Canonization is an absurdity atop an absurdity. First of all, making someone a saint is a marketing scheme. It seems necessary to keep people interested in the church. So they have to come up with someone. Then they have to pretend they believe that person somehow effected a miracle. It’s Mother Teresa now…This poor old deluded woman–who has, I think, been much slandered for what is simple obedience to those who brainwashed her and for her undoubted incompetence at running a clinic–is now to be a “saint”. Even Jesus didn’t want to be sanctified. Do not call me good, he said, only God is good. Another absurdity is that people accept the church as a decider for who is saintly, who is exaltedly good.

The church–which burned and hung many thousands of heretics, which bullied and enslaved Central and South American and North American aboriginals, which grievously mistreated pregnant unwed mothers and their babies in Ireland; which engaged in greed, at the level of the priesthood and the church itself; which played footsie with Nazis and which tolerated and concealed child-raping priests..

We’re supposed to let that institution tell us who is saintly?

Sep 16

The Thinking We Think Without Thinking

We keep secrets from ourselves; we hide them in the back of our minds. That’s where we rationalize wrongdoing. Some of our thinking happens well underneath of our usual, narrow focus of awareness. It isn’t exactly “the subconscious”. That’s deeper… We rationalize, make excuses for what what we do out in the world, in these secret places of the mind. Rarely do we think the words in the forefront of our minds: “I can be selfish here because…”. We don’t think it out in any conscious way. We don’t hear those words in our minds–unless someone challenges us. Then perhaps we have to dig for it, and we might spew it out aloud. “Because…because of what they said that time…” We don’t usually rationalize our selfishness consciously, but the rationalization goes on, worked out in a gibbering inner dialectic, an inner dialogue somewhere in the murkiest associative-linkage of our minds.

Selfishness, greed, malice, predation, neglect of children or neglect of parents…we do “think” the rationalization through without realizing we’ve thought it through. But our “thinking” is carried out in the bent definitions making up our own little fallacies. “I deserve this despite what my conscience is trying to tell me because he said…” …”I haven’t gotten what I wanted so many times, I may as well just…” And it goes on and on, a mumbling rationalizer hidden inside us, endlessly muttering, hunched back there in the shadows.

We don’t know we’re doing it. But we do. It can be seen–the whole mechanism of the mind can be seen. If we follow the associations, the linkage of mechanical self-justifying thinking back, link by link, , and keep looking, the linkage enters dark rooms suddenly lit by the painful bravery of honest seeing, and we’re surprised at what we find there. “So THAT is why I did it?” It takes time to learn, to effect. Persistence.

… In Eastern meditation it’s sometimes called “seeing your mind”. Normally it seems as impossible as seeing one’s own face without a mirror. But we can see the hidden parts of our own minds. There are ways. Some call it self-observation. The method is ancient, is found in esoteric schools of many traditions. It can be learned through deep cognitive therapy, too, I suspect. It’s what Socrates spoke of in Phaedrus…

Aug 16

Open Carry and Meth–Welcome to Washington State

Having just moved to Washington State, I was surprised to see a young guy with a big Glock semi-auto pistol in a holster on his hip in the convenience store where we stopped for gas. Kid was no cop or soldier.

I asked my guitar player about it, as he filled the tank; he said, “Yup, this is Washington. We got open carry here.” I looked it up: “Open carry is lawful in Washington without any permit.” This is a bit unsettling–but what was more unsettling was the guy who was carrying. He was a muscular young man in paramilitary cammie trousers, his buzzcut head in one of those pillbox-with-a-bill type green military caps, Young Militia Billy was twitching, walking back and forth in front of a case displaying readymade burritos. “What’s in those?” he asked the counterman, pointing at the burritos with a trembling finger. His voice was flat, taut, the words coming out doublefast. “I don’t think I should eat those. They probably have something in them I shouldn’t eat.I’ve got food at home. Yeah I’ve got food at home.” Then he and his Glock quick-marched to the door and rushed out to his truck. He backed that pickup out fast and it roared away.

There was no doubt in my mind the kid was on amphetamines. Just the guy, I thought, we want with a big loaded pistol on his hip.

Just before we left, a lady pointed out a large praying mantis, on a the curb by a fuel pump. Said someone should take it home and put it in their garden. I caught the lime-green mantis and carried it over to some bushes and put him in there…That was my first Washington praying mantis, too…

Aug 16

Stuff that social-conservative Christians apparently believe is in the Bible

“Ye shall not enter into a legal contract relating to the act of marrying a person of thine own gender, for to do that does annoy the Lord, and He fumes upon ye.” – Imaginarians 5: 33

“Do not stray from interpreting Holy Writ literally, even as ye perceive contradictions, and are commanded to kill with stones those who labor upon the Sabbath,and even as ye are condemned for eating shellfish, verily shall you shut up and just read it literally, or the Darkness will consume thee.” Imaginarians 888:442

“Neither shall ye ask for birth control from Planned Parenthood, for the use of pills to evade the slavery of parenthood displeases the Lord, who prefers you to stay busy watching thy offspring, even should thou despiseth the father; even shall ye be condemned for the use of condoms, see thou above.” Imaginarians 7999:834

“Whosoever says, we should follow the ways of Christ and not impose hardship on the poor, nor should we raise up the wealthy, shall be cast out, and called bloodsucking Communist, and reviled.” Imaginarians 8,934,772:9894

“For truly, though parable is extant throughout the Word of God, thou must upon pain of Hellfire assume that Genesis happened Just Like That, even unto the apple eating and the snake and the surprisingly few generations since then, and so it is written. Neither shall ye question the necessary volume of Noah’s Ark.” Imaginarians 77:88 and 1/2

“For the lord sayeth evolution is not a thing, nor raise thou the possibility.” Imaginarians 1:22

“For truly the Founding Fathers, of that Blessed Land America, were Christians all, and submitteth they to the Writ of the Bible, unto all eternity.” Imaginarians 7:999299.3

“Verily I say unto you, if you are a dude who dresses like a lady at work, or any place else, except secretly in thy home, the Lord is displeased.” — Imaginarians 1:1

Aug 16

Video Exams in Medicine: The Latest Medical Corner-Cutting

Another relatively new aspect of our sickly medical establishment here–video “exams”. Kaiser Permanente (in some ways not bad as these big American medical organizations go) has been pushing patients into five-minute follow up “exams” that are done purely through video on your phone or computer. The doctor presumably asks a few questions and confirms you’re still breathing because he can see you talking to him, and that’s the exam. Do they bill the patient a co pay for this? “Not this year” I was told. The person I asked implied they planned to start doing that. You could have to pay a co-pay for a “video exam”.

By the way, suppose you have something that may be hemorrhoids or a tumor, do you drop trou and spread cheeks to the video cam for the doc’s opinion? Will gynecologists look for yeast infection this way? Will you put a string on your phone and lower it down your gullet for a throat exam?

*Why not simply speak on the phone*? You can’t make a determination about anything except maybe a broken arm where the bone is sticking out, on a webcam. The problem is they’ll call it an exam but it isn’t really one. It’s just a way to save them money and still bill. Video exams could be useful for special situations–a friend just told me about one–but as a general all-around replacement for follow up in person exams, I think they’re just a device the company uses to cut corners.

Aug 16

Those Pretty Girls Who Want Your Friendship on Facebook

Nothing better demonstrates the male tendency to noticeably lose IQ points when even slightly sexually aroused than the prevalence of fake Facebook accounts displaying pictures of pretty, sexy girls; accounts which invariably have many “friendings” and post-likes from some very sad males. As a person with a common male first name, I get several of these “friend requests” a week. The latest one is from “Christine Malcolm”. It’s typical of the majority: the pretty girl, with exposed shoulders, cleavage, lots of lipstick, doe-like melting gaze, appears as the profile picture, and same or similar pic accompanying first the only post. This latest one’s statement with the post is “Uhhhh….” Not kidding. This statement got several likes from men who remarked on her sylphic beauty, called her baby, and so on. Other such accounts have names like “Melody Johnson” or “Meredith Christismith”. Sometimes the girls in the photos are taking off their tops but haven’t quite got them off.

Occasionally the false-account composers toss in a more appealing line with the post like, “So lonely”. Sometimes the poster, who is a spammer or con artist fishing for suckers, will remember to put a few memes in, like, “I Love The World But Does It Love Me?” Or “I Just Like to Go For It, And See How Far It Goes” with a picture of a leaping leopard on it…

Pressed for time–the spammers have to send out an enormous number of these every day–they’ll screw up the name. It’ll say “Betty John” or “Susan Eric” or “Eric Susan” or “Stein Emily”. If they’re in certain foreign places they really are not certain which name should go where. Salivating men, of all ages, blindly accept the invitation and, if they’re really slick, the guys send smiling pics and say clever things like, “Where do you live?”

Aug 16

The Man Who Slowly Bled to Death on the Busy Street

I keep thinking about a BBCnews radio report I heard about a man in an Indian city sideswiped by a van. He was knocked down, injured badly, bleeding. The van driver got out, looked at him, then got in the van and went his way. Crowds of people passed the injured man for the next hour–it’s on some surveillance camera in a nearby window–and many looked at him but no one stopped to help, or called the authorities. Blood spread in a pool out from the man. Eventually he bled to death.

The report indicated that these incidents happen fairly often there–they happen here too, at times. In Oakland after the earthquake here were people looting cars in which injured people were crying for help. A documentary about enslaved sex workers in America described an abducted girl screaming for help as her brand new pimp beat her for resisting her first “customer”–and this happened in a busy truck stop parking lot. But apparently ignoring the injured is not unusual in India. (It’s also a place where people perennially ignore the enormous number of children who die of dysentery from quite preventable causes, preventable if local politicians spent a relatively small amount of money.)

The government in India, appalled by this especially egregious incident, decided to start offering cash rewards to people who help others injured on the street. Asked why they need to motivate Good Samaritans financially–the govt official explained the underlying truth. These people might’ve helped, except they’re afraid of the local police. The police in India have a long history of harassing those who call in to help the injured. The person reporting the problem would be harshly questioned and might be detained for days. A law was passed to prevent the police from doing this, but people either don’t know about the law or doubt the police will change.

But that doesn’t mean people bypassing the man who bled to death should not to be held accountable. We understand them better, having heard the history. Yet they are still in the wrong. And this whole syndrome, this spreading attitude of “we’ll help only up to a point, unless there is risk to us” is widespread through the world. Judgment calls about how much we can help are made regarding Syrian refugees. The risks to us are substantial–but we should help anyway. Because a man is bleeding to death on the street.

Aug 16

As I Chased Them Down The Sidewalk

Last night walking my dogs I had to stop and clean up after one of them, and doing this, because of the awkward circs, I let go of their leashes a moment because NORMALLY they’re good dogs and stay close by me and it’s no problem. But it was a dark street on a dark night, and the dogs do startle, and suddenly a guy came looming up out of the darkness, clop clop clop clop running straight at us–just a jogger, shirtless, booking along pretty fast. The startled dogs launched after the guy, barking, dragging their leashes as they chased him, our small dogs loudly shouting in growf-rowf protest at him. He was quite visibly speeding up. I was soon running after them, yelling “Iggy, Daisy, get back here, stop that!” Waving my bag of dog poop as I went. I also yelled at the jogger: “They don’t really bite! They’re just startled! Sorry!”

At last they obeyed and the guy vanished into the night. I lectured the dogs. They were like, “But we were startled and…and…he was…dangerous or…or something…”

I sometimes forget they’re little animals, descended from wild creatures, never going to be perfectly tame. I look around at the world and I remember that we’re animals too, and we’re never going to be perfectly tame. And we startle, and react and launch ourselves barking and growfing and snapping, dragging our leashes…

Jul 16

The Big Lie of Our Time May Elect Trump

One of the great problems of our time is a particular big lie. The lie is that there is “a liberal media”. Of course there are some outlets that are more liberal than others, just as Fox News and many online sites are hyper conservative. But on the whole, the media is reactive; on the whole it simply presents national discourse. It’s not liberal, it’s not conservative. Occasionally something is suppressed, but not much. Mostly it’s just the media. American media *on the whole* is too chaotic, too protean, to be liberal or conservative. But tonight…it may not matter.

In the last few days, at the Democratic convention, there was much that was moving. A Muslim father whose Muslim son gave his life to protect other American soldiers. Michelle Obama’s outpouring of sincerity. People again and again pointing out how Trump has hurt the small businesses he subcontracted, how he has shown that nothing is important to Trump but Trump. Obama’s great speech, Hillary Clinton’s strong, rational speech–but the problem is, the speeches won’t be heard by the general populace, not as they might have been in an earlier era. They won’t be heard, because someone–Karl Rove, and others–convinced many blue collar struggling voters, that there is a “liberal media” that lies.

They don’t listen because they don’t hear–they have trained themselves not to hear. They do not step outside the anti-liberal echo chamber. They do not listen to the other side. And *you cannot argue with a person who refuses to listen to your argument.* They don’t hear about the times Trump demeaned women–and bragged about seducing married women–and wrecked businesses for the sake of his own. They do not receive the information. They are told that “the liberal media” is spreading it, so they stop up their ears. And that big lie might be enough to elect a neo-fascist demagogue to be President of the United States in 2017.

The only way out is to register more voters. To get the vote out. That’s our real hope.

Jul 16

Trump Loves Terrorism

Major Jihadist/Isis-inspired/Sharia-fueled/al Qaeda directed terrorist attacks are fodder for Donald Trump’s Presidential campaign. He’s simply had good luck with timing, in that regard. I’m sure he’s delighted when the attacks happen, as much as he cries crocodile tears in the media. “So tragic. Huge, huge tragedy. Tremendous, tremendous tragic-ness. I’m going to change all this, I’m going to get tough on these guys, it’ll be spectacular…” As the attacks increase, often carried out by people who were naturalized citizens of the country in which the attacks happened–the USA, Turkey, Spain, France–there will be calls for more and more preventative measures, which can only be achieved through draconian pro-active “assumption of guilt” moves on the part of military, police, and intelligence services. These moves, carried out against whole communities of Muslims–first constrictions of their rights, then massive across-the-board loss of all their rights–will lead to anger and subsequent radicalization of young, previously moderate Muslims. Round and round we go…
All this will please Isis and its compatriots on two levels. They want to radicalize the young–and they want polarization with western civilization. It is an acknowledged part of their plan to encourage an apocalyptic confrontation. They want a caliphate, but not a peaceful one. The caliphate is only a step to what they suppose will be fulfillment of a bogus prophecy.
As we have more attacks, some of them with great loss of life, here in the USA, and in Europe, we’ll see a state of fear induced in formerly tolerant, liberal people; the tolerant will become intolerant. They will solemnly express regret at the necessity of martial law. They will hope that liberality can someday be restored. But “for now, round up the Muslims.” I approve of none of this; I simply predict that it is coming. Fear–and in some ways it is a not unjustified fear–is like a red-hot furnace that can turn the previously hardened metal of character into something soft and pliable. People like Trump can then manipulate its shape. Traditional, right-wing Christian politicians, too, will use the growing heat of fear opportunistically. I am not sure how to avoid what now seems inexorable to me–but I am sure that if Trump is elected we’ll surrender to the worst in our ourselves, all the sooner. We’ll plunge headlong into some form of theocratic martial law…