Feb 19


I have had a crypto-zoological experience, having seen and photographed (see below) the fabled SNOW SHARK. The snow shark, known to Eskimos and a few of us in the Pacific NW, lives much of its life cycle under under icebergs in the Frozen North, but can hunt in snow over land, which it accesses through semi-frozen streams. It leaps up the streams like a salmon heading to spawn, then dives headlong into snow banks adjacent to the streams, and wriggles its way in, to hunt for prey on land. It has evolved the capability of heating pockets of air within it, which it then expels through special nostrils on its snout (regular sharks DO have nostrils on the undersides of their snouts, look it up, which they use for detecting smells, not for breathing); the heated air melts some of the snow ahead of it, which makes a slushy tunnel it gradually works through, and which also creates slushy water which it draws into its gills for breathing.

The Snow Shark noses through the snow relatively slowly, at first, but when it senses prey–it’s very sensitive to the vibrations of movement up to ten yards away–it worms closer then snaps its body in a leaping lunge, and snaps closed its powerful jaws on small dogs, cats, birds, and sometimes drink-sodden hobos. We wouldn’t be aware of it down here in Washington State, at all, except that climate change has melted away much of its habitat and diminished its natural prey, so it wanders southward, looking for extreme-weather systems whereby it can access the mainland. There were rumors of missing children in New York City, this winter…And now, here’s the photograph I took of one that was surfacing to begin its lunge-snap. It was after a squirrel–of which it made short work. The snow shark is rather compact, about the half the size of a grown dolphin, at most, and it quickly disappears with its prey beneath the snow cover. Notice, in the picture, the distinctive metallic sheen in the dorsal fin–that’s an evolutionary adaptation that helps it cut through the surface snow crust: it’s a mixture of iron absorbed from seawater (seawater contains 1-3 ppb of iron, look that up too) and the dentin constituting sharkskin scales.

Feb 19

Am I an atheist?

A man named John Gray has a book out averring that there are  Seven Types of Atheism. Am I a type of atheist?

I myself am an atheist if that denotes a person who does not believe in “God”. BUT–what do you mean by God? I believe the universe is (universes are?) charged with a consciousness that is naturally collected in living creatures and the universal consciousness uses the animal and human (and alien)  minds to observe the universe objectively.

I believe that all of the cosmos is alive in a sense, and that there are particles of consciousness. I hypothesize that there may be an intermediate consciousness, which rather fits in with some mystical theories of Christology and certain Buddhist ideas. It may be a subtle resource for organisms conscious enough to be open to it. This is, again, a maybe. I believe all this is NATURAL, not supernatural. I think religion’s ideas of God  are at worst ridiculous, at best woefully incomplete. Creationism is ludicrous and Intelligent Design isn’t much better, though I do suspect that evolution may actually have a very subtle “arc of direction” inherent to it.

I conjecture that there are beings which have bodies which we are not able to detect; that it may be possible for a human being to create such a body, if it’s cultivated properly–and I theorize it may emerge at death, for such people. And by people I include extraterrestrials. Am I an atheist?

Feb 19

Vampirism Caused by Vanity

The Food and Drug Administration is warning the public not to use young people’s blood to treat a slew of conditions, including aging…The agency’s commissioner said …there are “significant public health concerns” about promoting the use of blood transfusions from young donors. “Today, we’re alerting consumers and health care providers that treatments using plasma from young donors have not gone through the rigorous testing that the FDA normally requires in order to confirm the therapeutic benefit of a product and to ensure its safety…”


Imagine what this could lead to in other ways:

“Son, mommy needs you to give some more blood today”

“But I feel tired and sick.”

“Mommy has to pay for her special medication.”

It’s like some cheesy horror film set up. And later they start kidnapping children and caging them and “milking them” for blood. It’s like a caricature of the Gwyneth Paltrows of the world. But this business of selling blood from children and young folks is real.

Feb 19


[by john Shirley]
The following letter was intercepted through a new breakthrough in metaphysical communications technology:

I have taken over from Azazel as Primary Demon in charge of the destruction of humans on the planet Earth. Azazel seems to be going through a sexual identity crisis and has possessed the body of a preacher named Ted Haggard. He’s been having a great deal of fun, rather too much, and is unavailable to direct the horrors of the world, so I have stepped in as per Standing Order 767686896.

As the Organized Religion Program was something you thought of, about 1,800 terrestrial years ago, and as “your baby“ is our most successful program, apart from Halliburton, I thought you might like an update. I realize that your chief preoccupation is torturing souls, and you might not have time to monitor the upper world.

I’m sure, however, you kept up on Azazel’s successful ORP operations, the Crusades and the Inquisition and the burning of the Cathars, pogroms against Jews, Muslim Jihads, Hindu/Muslim conflicts, Sikh/Muslim conflicts, and the other religious wars we implemented, so there’s little need to go into that. You would surely be aware that millions of people died horribly in those successful religious activities, and you would have seen our reports on the multitude of natives who were suborned, enslaved, killed, and made wretched by organized religion, in Australia, Africa, China and the Americas.

My update –statistics attached in code 46474–involves mass misery spread by the Christian churches and by organized Islam in recent times. As for the Muslims, we’ve got them tormenting their women with cocoonlike clothing, no rights, beatings when they look at someone cross eyed, the threats of stoning (yes sir, stonings! These people are thousands of years behind times…thank Hell!); we’ve got them brainwashing their children into hating Jews and Americans, and just 6 terrestrial years ago we had them kill thousands of Americans in an attack on something called The World Trade Center. We’re encouraging them to murder and torture one another in Iraq, and to make plans to kill millions of non-Muslims in their “Jihad“.

We’ve had institutionalized child abuse hidden in the Catholic Church for a couple of centuries, which had long term consequences useful to our cause. Admittedly, the pattern of sexual abuse has recently been exposed, but we did manage to condition the Church hierarchy to suppress the information and protect the molesters for a long, long time. Lately we’ve wormed child-abusers into other religions, including the Jehovah’s Witnesses. More importantly, we’ve been encouraging Protestant Fundamentalist Christians to think “Armageddon, Armageddon, rapture, Armageddon“ and we have been nudging them into the centers of power, such as the White House and the Pentagon. We hope to have a world war inspired by the gibberish we planted in the Bible, the “Book of Revelation“, very soon. That of course, will create billions of deaths, vast despair, and untold psychological consequences that will push any survivors into our clutches. It should be a real feast.
Here’s a particularly juicy use of religion: In the 19th and 20th centuries we encouraged “Christians“ to force young Native Americans into special schools where they were traumatically separated from families and then systematically brainwashed and abused. Here’s a quote from a recent report by a troublesome organization called “Amnesty International“:

“The report says church officials killed children by beating, poisoning, electric shock, starvation, prolonged exposure to sub-zero cold while naked, and medical experimentation, including the removal of organs and radiation exposure. In 1928 Alberta passed legislation allowing school officials to forcibly sterilize Native girls; British Columbia followed suit in 1933. There is no accurate toll of forced sterilizations because hospital staff destroyed records in 1995 after police launched an investigation. But according to the testimony of a nurse in Alberta, doctors sterilized entire groups of Native children when they reached puberty. The report also says that Canadian clergy, police, and business and government officials “rented out” children from residential schools to pedophile rings.

Don’t worry, Great Satan, we’ll think of some way to get rid of Amnesty International. By the way we recently intercepted a communique from the Other Side. Their greatest teachers, Jesus, Buddha, Muhammed, Lao Tzu and the others, have all decided that the Earth is hopeless and are apparently incarnating on the planet Zebar where they are trying to teach creatures which look like eight legged turtles. Jesus is said to be especially disgusted with the “atrocities“ carried out in his name on Earth and refuses to go back, even for a look.

Delightful, is it not?

Yours with the greatest respect,

ps: My best to my great uncle Screwtape

Feb 19


–a short-short by John Shirley–

Jared had been tracking the personal submarine Manifest Destiny for more than a hundred miles south of Hawaii, and all the time the billionaire piloting it seemed unaware of him—there was no mention of the hydrogen-powered cruiser following him, when he spoke by subaquatic radio to his employees ashore.

“The biggest squid any man has ever seen and it’s almost in my grapplers,” the billionaire crowed.

“You going after it now, boss?” came the response from the crew on the radio.

“I’ve got it trapped against the walls of this big canyon down here!”

An activist, Jared listened raptly. He had hoped to find some way to stop the hunt. But how?

And up ahead was the nearer edge of the great “plastic vortex” where trash from scores of countries and ships had accumulated, whirlpooled by currents. It glittered like the membrane over an animal’s eyes, there in the water, yet it was dead—and it was death. Millions of fish, oceanic mammals and birds had died in it, starved to death or choked.

“He’s running from me to the surface!” came the billionaire’s excited transmission. Moments later Jared watched in awe as the gigantic cephalopod surfaced, gushing water, flailing its enormous tentacles, its huge round eye gazing right at him…

“Got him, got him!” the billionaire shouted, as his submarine surfaced, its mechanical grapplers reaching to force the giant squid into the capture bag he trailed so it could become another trapped, living trophy in the big aquarium on his seaside estate. But the giant squid was manipulating the floating plastic trash, jamming the grapplers, winding debris around the sub’s rudders, blocking its jets, piling on more and more, so that at last the submarine sank with the weight of the trash. The giant squid worked its way outward, past Jared’s boat, to the open sea…and then it dove, gone from sight. Deep under the sea.

And so was the billionaire—forever.

Feb 19


Key members of the new Democratic House have made a grave miscalculation. They have forgotten to be politicians. They have fatally embraced the term “socialism”.

A very right-wing Libertarian guy I knew, thinking he was engaging in clever rhetorical tactics, once asked me what proportion of progressive-Democrat policies are Communist. “Are their policies ten percent Communist? Fifteen per cent? Forty?”

I told him that I didn’t view simple non-radical methods for helping the working poor–like food stamps and Medicaid and inner city housing subsidies–to be Communism at all. Decency is not “communism”, it’s simply responsible behavior. And how is environmental protection legislation communist? As to that, he said that environmental regulations “choke” the free market. I replied that we’ve had substantial environmental regulations since the 1970s, and they did nothing to restrain markets at all. Industry has been quite profitable. And new industries and jobs prompted by the regulations have flourished too.

There is such a thing as intelligent, restrained socialism, as in certain European countries which implement universal free health care but remain careful not to put too much burden on the state. And they’re careful to allow capitalistic elements to succeed–within clear-cut rules of fairness.

But American culture was shaped, generation after generation, with propaganda emphasizing the failures of communism and socialism (the former is  strictly Marxist, the latter more flexible). The propaganda was not wrong, at least with respect to the USSR, to Mao’s regime, to Pol Pot, to the dark side of Castro. And now we have Maduro in Venezuela, a fresh example of the misuse, the abuse, of socialism. The words communism and socialism are hopelessly entangled with the legacies of brutal dictators.

Bernie Sanders’ idea was to  blot out the negative associations by attaching Democratic to Socialism. It worked for some people. But for too many Americans, the term is still a reeking albatross around the neck of his progressivism. to those folks, it looks funny and smells bad. That’s not fair–but that is the political reality.

FDR, you notice, was too smart to use the term socialism with respect to his ideas, though he did institute some mildly “socialistic” safety nets. The New Deal was smarter, and was also more accurate. “Deal” implies a business relationship. Rather than a charitable giveaway, it’s was a new deal; a new business relationship with the working person.

That’s the way Rep. Ocasio-Cortez and friends should go. First, don’t even think of it as socialism. What they’re advocating isn’t pure socialism anyway. Second, Simply Never Call It Socialism. Because the word socialism equates with Dangerous Radicalism, in the minds of many Americans. Trump and the GOP know that and they’re going to use it.

Congresswoman Ocasio-Cortez is to some degree taking that cautious path with her New Green Deal label. But it’s not far enough. Drop the term socialism entirely! Don’t even say it’s  Democratic Socialism–don’t refer to socialism at all, and instead define it as it really is: A healthy set of strong regulations, a fairer tax plan (significantly taxing the very wealthy), a few safety nets like Medicare For All, and stronger ecological regulations. If you need a handy label, call it the Newer Deal, or perhaps Regulated Capitalism. Because that’s what it is! What Rep. Ocasio-Cortez and colleagues want is in fact capitalism–it’s just capitalism grown in a well-tended garden. It’s like a conscientiously cultivated, carefully pruned garden, where beautiful blossoms flourish in variety and abundance. Just because you’re pruning and weeding doesn’t mean it’s not an excellent, verdant garden. And just because you’re regulating capitalism–more strictly than we are now–doesn’t mean it’s not going to be thriving capitalism. The free market will thrive with strong regulations–despite glib claims to the contrary, regulations have never harmed the marketplace. Some degree of greed will be curtailed, but the country will be more economically healthy, since the middle class will have more money to spend.

Remember the politics of terminology–because Trump is remembering it.  So don’t call it socialism and you won’t raise the hackles of the average voter…

Feb 19

Plummeting insect numbers ‘threaten collapse of nature’

Undoubted statistics show that there is a plummeting of the numbers of insects. Does this sound appealing to you? Are you, “Bugs–good riddance”? Get over it. Insects, as The Guardian reminds us, “…are essential for the proper functioning of all ecosystems, the researchers say, as food for other creatures, pollinators and recyclers of nutrients.” Without them we’re at risk of a catastrophic failure of nature. You know where you get your food from? Nature.

So how did this happen? Runaway agriculture and development. Industrial agriculture has razed the natural habitat of the world’s insects. And of course insecticides kills them off in enormous masses. Those that survive have no one to mate with.

What can we do about it? Much. But the real question is, what will we do about it? Little, if humanity’s persistent short-sightedness is any indication.

If we had the social will, we could radically cut down on the construction of housing projects, big box malls, parking lots, everything that squanders land. America’s vast belts of of strip malls and toxic fast-food franchises; the more unnecessary factories–even big amusement parks…It’s all garbage. We could throw it out. We could work harder on reducing landfills too.

And most importantly, we could go to smaller scale sustainable agriculture. We don’t really need pesticides or herbicides to raise food. If we just outlaw pesticides–that’ll start to make a difference right away.

We don’t need all that beef and pork either–it takes up an inordinate amount of land, leaving little room for ecological complexity.

We can organize a better world without all the sheer greed-based crap we surround ourselves with, and we’ll save not only insects but the remaining wild animal life out there. Insects and the surviving animal species will bounce back.

We could do it. But we probably won’t. Because we have the attention spans of insects–namely, gnats.


Jan 19


First, let’s quickly review the scale of the thing: In excess of a billion people are active on Facebook. Every month a hundred million use Instagram. There are three hundred twenty eight million plus monthly users of Twitter. More than half the world’s population is online in some way. Eighty percent of Americans go online. For years now, public school classes have given homework requiring online activity to complete it (indifferent to the fact that some of the poor don’t have steady access to a browser.)

There are more than a billion websites.

That’s not a system, it’s a series of randomly interlocked systems; it’s not a grand network of self expression. Envisioned in cyberspace, it may look like an endless stochastic city, like a megalopolis of data. But it’s really a kind of wilderness. In any wilderness is beauty and fruitfulness and vicious predators and wandering madmen and disease and flooding and fires and regeneration… Chaos is beautiful, chaos is necessary, chaos also destroys if it’s not modulated.

The American experiment in democracy is compromised by Citizens United, lobbyists, the Koch Brothers, congressionally-connected Big Oil interests, gerrymandering, voter suppression, the recent congressional blockading of the Supreme Court, and the electoral college — yet our representative democracy still manages to sputter along. Every so often the creaking, smoke-streaming car of this democracy sputters to a halt, and people get out and push to get it started again. People like Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders, Cory Booker, Al Franken, Barack Obama, Maxine Waters, even a rare few decent Republicans — all fallible people, not omniscient gods. When the car stalls they push the thing a bit and jump back in. They hope to get to the repair shop. If we want to extend this admittedly creaky metaphor just a little more, the oil that keeps the engine running is media, news coverage, literacy, access to facts.

That particular lubricant for democracy is burning up, leaking away — the news media was always imperfect, biased, but on the whole fairly sound. But now it’s hugely overshadowed. We can’t see for the glare of information, false or irrelevant. In March, Huffington Post and other reputable sources reported, “1,000 Paid Russian Trolls Spread Fake News On Hillary Clinton, Senate Intelligence Heads Told… A former FBI agent testified that President Donald Trump helped spread fake news by embracing the stories against his opponents.”

It’s well established that, last year, Russia used thousands of operatives and bots to spread disinformation about Hillary Clinton and her campaign, often targeting Sanders-supporting social media pages, to drive a wedge that couldn’t be overcome if Clinton got the nomination. It seems to have worked.

splatters disinfo on supposed “voter fraud”; convinces astounding numbers of people that Michelle Obama is secretly male (the numbers of youtube videos for that one is mindbending);

We don’t need the Russians, however, to fuck up our democracy. We have “astroturfing” websites working for coal and oil companies to cover up the cause of climate change. right-wing, alt-right, “Sovereign Citizen” cranks, and outright neo-nazis slandered Barack Obama over and over again, during his administration — and even now. The same motley crew spreads lies and grotesque exaggerations about black-on-white violence; deliberately misinterprets Black Lives Matter; splatters disinfo on supposed “voter fraud”; convinces astounding numbers of people that Michelle Obama is secretly male (the numbers of youtube videos for that one is mindbending); claims that a shadow government is planning to take away their guns and herd them into a concentration camp; argues that the Constitution itself is Unconstitutional; and so on. Voices once marginalized by their obvious paranoia and crankery to a tiny squeak at the sidelines — the John Birch Society, for example — have been given gigantic megaphones that boom out over the Great Plains and the Rocky Mountains. Alex Jones and friends have surprising numbers of people still claiming, even now, that the Clintons and friends were running a child sex ring out of a pizza shop in DC. The alt-reich marchers in Charlottesville are motivated by waves of fake stories spread by internet sources including some elaborate youtube videos. There are an amazing number of flagrantly pro-Nazi videos and “channels” on youtube.

Per the BBC News August 13: “As a predominantly online movement, the alt-right does not officially have membership, therefore exact numbers are hard to come by… The presence of this ‘amorphous’ movement is online and its popularity is said to be increasing nationwide.” The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) is currently tracking more than 1,600 extremist groups in the country.

From The Atlantic, a few days ago: “Today, each of us is freer than ever to custom-make reality, to believe whatever and pretend to be whoever we wish. Which makes all the lines between actual and fictional blur and disappear more easily. Truth in general becomes flexible, personal, subjective. And we like this new ultra-freedom, insist on it, even as we fear and loathe the ways so many of our wrongheaded fellow Americans use it.” It is a dilemma. The good of free, gloriously uncontrolled expression, turned by our passivity to a bad.

We cannot continue with a society where lies have as much currency as facts. It’s like a gigantic extreme-weather flood, carrying wilderness settlements away, sweeping buildings and cars and people before it…

Fictional news spread on sufficiently realistic-looking yet utterly scurrilous “news sites” — with hundreds of thousands of shares before anyone sharing realizes it’s false — can install the far-right into power; can see that the alt-right nationalists keep that power for good. Alternate facts, fabricated “news”; sheer disinformation on a vast scale, promulgated by a mindless, kneejerk use of Twitter and other social media… it’s overwhelming to people. We cannot reasonably expect them to research all this, to separate it all out. Most of them haven’t worked in media and haven’t got the skills to engage in needed research. Additionally, we’ve noticed Trump, and conspiracy theorists and birthers and “sovereign citizens” and climate-change deniers and alt-right types using the term “fake news”. So the consumers of right-wing, or conspiracy-fixated false news will assume our facts are not their facts; our identification of fake news is instantly to be regarded as suspect, since it contradicts their comfortably xenophobic views of the world.

There are websites that offer to sort out real from unreal news, but you have to know about them, then be willing to give them a shot, and most people won’t trouble themselves. They are going to passively take in what’s given them through social media and click-bait links.

Worse, we now have something called “DEEPFAKE”. Programs which make photoshop look primitive; which can create a totally realistic video of a person doing something they never did. Practical everyman CGI has reached a new plateau, from which it can make anything appear real. It’s only going to get more realistic. It’s already being used to create fake porn to extort people with. The internet will be used to spread and perpetuate the lies perpetrated by Deepfake.

Suggesting some kind of intelligent, widely-based moderation of the internet, where we have systems to weed out most disinformation, click-bait news, is subject to the criticism that such a moderation might be based on purely subjective standards. But is science subjective? Are verifiable facts subjective? Is overwhelming probability subjective?

Worried about threats to Net Neutrality? You should be. Gigantic corporations, and their corporatist cronies will use all this disinformation — even they don’t take Alex Jones seriously — as a cover, a smokescreen, to “edit” the internet their way. Let them decide all this, and they’ll control access and information opportunistically, with only self-interest in mind.

Yet those of us who want a free media don’t want lunatics shouting “Fire!” in a crowded theater, either; don’t want shady operatives controlling the electorate.

It should be remembered that many disinformation sites exist purely to service greed. They’re about clicks, views, which they translate into cash via advertising, subscribers, and selling paraphernalia and videos and so on. Sometimes they’re simply paid by political and espionage operatives to spread disinformation. Some of the sites known to have been making up stories about Hillary Clinton were paid to do it by people they knew nothing about except that they wired real money through PayPal. Some of the writers were located, confronted, and admitted as much. But hey, first amendment — right? Not in this case. These people are not working to express themselves. They’re purely in the business of lying for money.

Some will react in sheer revulsion to the suggestion of specialized filters, expert systems say, for filtering the real from the fake, because they assume it risks a loss of net neutrality — but they probably don’t object to blocking, say, child porn, or websites for pedophiles. There are limits to everyone’s tolerance. Is the promulgation of identifiable Big Lies something we should tolerate? I don’t think it is. We could allow full-on net neutrality within certain fairly generous strictures.

But who can we trust to construct reasonable strictures? Comcast? Viacom? Congress? Certainly not.

Two alternative means of filtering the internet come to mind. One would a system whereby a consensus is reached on a daily basis — sort of like Wikipedia, but more universal, more active — arising from internet users as a whole. They’ll have points, call them reality points, they can attach to their votes as to sources excluded. This method could be enforced via negotiation with major independent browsers, to start with. When it’s shown to work, it would grow enough to attract other browsers and systems.

Another could be concerted attacks by volunteers on disinformation sources. Hacking and related methods would be employed. It would be something like Anonymous, but much larger, and would be undergirded by a new study of internet connectivity and access.
Something has to be done and maybe these rather spare thoughts will at least spark a discussion on some acceptable means of protecting the internet from these viciously corrosive surges of disinformation.

Re “DEEPFAKE”: https://www.engadget.com/2018/09/14/lawmakers-concerned-deepfake-technology/


Dec 18

Why Trump wants to spend 21 Billion Dollars For Something that Cannot Work

Trump now claims his border wall might cost as much as 12 billion dollars (he initially said 4 billion).  Bernstein Research puts it at  15 to 25 billion. Estimates from Democrats go as high as 70 billion. The Department of Homeland Security puts it at 21 Billion. Let’s go with 21 Billion for now.

Even some Republicans in Congress are reluctant to fund the wall because it may end up costing far more than estimated and likely would not actually prevent illegal entry. There’s always a way around a wall. Think of the seagoing refugees in Europe. Think of tunnels. Think of the fact that he’s not actually going to build wall along every last inch of border. Intact existing fences will be retained, and he plans to continue to use rivers, alone, as barriers in some places. The wall would perhaps reduce illegal immigration somewhat but it wouldn’t stop it, which means not only a big cost–but also a wasted cost.

Trump may well use executive authority to move money around in the budget and pay for the wall–or at least part of the wall, if it turns out it costs far more than estimated. So look for it to be at least partly built. Even if funded the wall may not  be completed, given historical variances–political changes,  or emergency circumstances–or simply a more mature sense of priorities.

While he’s doubtless xenophobic and some variety of racist, Trump’s real reason for this gigantic boondoggle is simply political. It’s the calculation of a demagogue. Yes, 62% of Americans are opposed to the border wall project–but those people aren’t Trump’s base. He’s gambling that his base, both the MAGA hat wearing supporters and the anti-regulatory far-right, can be turned out in sufficient numbers to keep him in office in 2020–if he gives them his symbolic wall. Their own racist xenophobia will recharge their enthusiasm for him. His symbolic construction project, gerrymandering, and just plain voter suppression, would together give him a chance of re-election despite the fact that most Americans now despise him. Remember, too, the vagaries of the Electoral College.

Trump doesn’t care about protecting the American people–he doesn’t care about anything but himself. He’s demonstrated that fact again and again. He is a pathological narcissist who can’t think beyond his own small-fingered grasp. The only thing he does care about is his own safety and comfort. He’s afraid that his money-laundering and the true extent of his Russia connections will come out. He’s afraid of going to jail. If he’s re-elected President, he’s unlikely to be indicted and he’ll have four more years to work on a cover up.

He’s only insisting on the wall for political purposes. Only that, nothing else. And the curious thing is, we all know that. I’m just saying what you already suspect. What really matters here, is that we as a people seem to be okay with a multibillion dollar boondoggle taking place simply for the sake of an election–for barenaked political reasons alone. No one seems to be pointing this out.  There should be millions of us standing up and shouting, “This is just wasting at least 21 billion dollars of US taxpayer money purely for one man’s vote-getting!”

Dec 18

Hate is Intoxicating

Hate is intoxicating. You may say, “no it’s just toxic”. But that isn’t all there is to hatred. People genuinely get a powerful tension release from outbursts of hatred. They ride a gush of hormones and other stimulating neurological chemicals, and they feel good for awhile. As with being very drunk or very stoned, the IQ drops for a time. Cognition becomes truncated, it becomes constricted by the tunnel vision of a desire to perpetuate the release, the excitement.

It’s a kind of structured rage; the structure requires fuel, which is provided by rhetoric, cherry-picked factoids, outright fabrications, a Rube Goldberg machine of rationales that requires the hater to narrow focus, to filter out what doesn’t feed the fire of bigotry and conspiracy-theory induced rage. That requirement includes not just the exclusion of facts, but also the exclusion of certain feelings. How else do people–who love their own children–feel empowered to say, over and over, “Those children were separated from their parents because their parents broke the law.” Within the framework of structured rage, they’re able to filter out empathy for those particular children; they can block away the obvious realization that these children are being punished for a crime they themselves did not commit.

We’ve always known this, just not quite consciously. It’s the theme of endless movies and plays and tv episodes. “I was blinded by my feelings,” Roger says. …”You, Helen, can’t see what your anger has done to you–to you and to your family…”… “Jim, put down that rope, this town won’t be ruled by mob mentality…” The warnings are there, all through our culture. We do know, on some level. We need to see it on a more conscious level. If we could look at our basest feelings squarely we could get some kind of leverage to control them. We could push back against that inner sumo wrestler that keeps shoving us out of the ring. That pushback starts with philosophy’s most ancient maxim: Know thyself. And that requires a level of self honesty that has to be worked at.

It’s tough to see your own emotional intoxication, especially considering the feedback loop. If you’re seething inside and need a release, need a scapegoat to target–immigrants, for example, or just “liberals”–and you go to a rally, or simply talk to other people with the same addiction to this intoxication, perhaps in a bar or at a football game,  you and they will unconsciously conspire to sustain the flow of intoxication provided by structured rage. You bounce it off one another, faster and faster, more and more narrowly, each confirming the other, in an intoxicating feedback loop. The more people who surround you, repeating the same biases, the more firmly self-serving lies take root inside you.

Demagogues like our current President and the new, neo-fascist leader of Brazil, instinctively know how to foment this feedback loop of bias and rage. So do schoolyard bullies. They all know instinctively how to feed the fire. Why is that? Trump isn’t smart enough to have analyzed the process. It seems to be in his nature to know. The word instinct might be more than just an expression, when it comes back to stoking structured rage. Ancient proto-humans might have had to work up their own feedback loop of anger to survive predation from other tribes. Some obsolete primeval wiring could have gotten Trump elected president; it might be making Alex Jones and his ilk wealthy. Some of our ugliest impulses might well be instinctive.

The core meaning of civilization could the imperative to separate from “lizard-brain” guidance; to recenter ourselves in something higher: in  conscious wisdom, restraint, empathy, and a drive to real justice…