Jul 17


Bill Maher said Trump voters aren’t upset by his public misbehavior, his vulgarity, but instead “they bond with him over it”. They remind me of the sort of entourage that follows a school bully around, the ones who laugh and encourage him as he bullies someone.

Many people have probably noted the phenomenon of Trump Trolls turning up in swarms now–first time I noted it was on the Washington Post’s subscription page. They were there in large numbers, a Trump Troll Swarm using many of the same links and “fake news” phrases, condemning the WAPO; I decided to subscribe to the Washington Post online because they said not to (and because it’s good). But their numbers and consistency made me feel that they had been directed there by someone else, an organization; then, when I posted a particularly pungent Washington Post article about Trump and his Russian connections, on Facebook, they swarmed in on my thread. I counted forty of them, arriving in short order–people I’d never heard from before.

The bully’s entourage apparently had been directed by some low-level, perhaps unofficial, Trump propaganda group or bot to ridicule the post, and what they called “the big Russia Hoax” being pulled off by the “mainstream media”. I predict we’ll see this more and more–in wider numbers. Beware The Swarm.

Jul 17

A Voice from My Pants

I heard a voice coming from my pants pocket. “I’m sorry,” said my pocket. “I didn’t understand your question.” A nice lady, it sounded like, was calling out to me from my pants pocket as I pulled weeds in the yard. “What the hell?” I said. “Could you repeat that?” she said. My phone, yes, had bumped something and –it was my front pocket so I won’t say I butt dialed Siri.

I find the phenomenon of over anxious, too-easily-activated Apple phones irritating. About a week later, I was doing some recording in my little studio, and of semi dancing a bit to the guitar solo. I’d forgotten and left my phone on. During a lull in the song I heard voice in my pants say “Hello? Hello? Hazel Dell framing? I can’t hear you.” Somehow a business call had been re-called. In my pants.

Then today, I took my youngest son and wife out for a July 4 weekend brunch. I heard music from under the table at the restaurant. First I heard the Pixies, then the Toadies, then, amazingly, the band Television. “Wow,” I thought, “this restaurant has a *really hip mix* playing! But why did they put the speaker under the table? Then I heard a song from Lou Reed’s first solo album. “What wonderfully good taste!” I said, looking under the table for the speaker. “Lou Reed’s singing from under the table.” My son said, “It’s your cell phone.” The MP3s I have on my cell phone had been activated. My wife, the waiter– a young guy–and my son were all laughing at me.

I blame Apple.

Jun 17

Do Conservatives Fear Complexity?

One of the problems with Democrats and progressives standing up to conservatives (and “conservatives” as in Trump, who actually believes in nothing but Trump), is that progressive people recognize truth in *complexity*. The other side usually rejects complexity as if it were a kind of amoral smokescreen. It’s much easier to say, “a fifteen dollar national minimum wage is a giveaway to people who don’t want to work harder for more money” than to explain that 1) it’s not that much money, it’s an expensive society to live in 2) the money stimulates the economy overall because the average person will have more money to spend, and they’ll spend it 3) the evidence is that low-wage laborers work as hard as anyone else does, often harder. There are also four and five and six in the ever-more-complex but convincing list of considerations.

Same goes for food stamps/SNAP programs, and other safety nets–most people who get them *are* working already, and under tough circumstances, but it’s easier to say they’re loafers. It’s simply easier to say that single-payer healthcare, medicaid, and so on, are “only needed by people who haven’t worked hard enough” than it is to explain that medical problems can come out of nowhere and be overwhelming even for hard working, wage-earning people, and many working people have become homeless because of medical bills, and it actually helps the economy when we don’t have to rescue them with emergency rooms and special housing and we’ve allowed medical costs to get out of control in this country…and more.

It’s easier to say, “the free market will eventually end pollution” than to explain how the history of regulations and how they are not harmful to the marketplace.

It’s not that Republicans are (ironically) intellectually lazy, in particular, it’s just that they feel safer with simpler explanations, with echoing some parental homily, than with the uneven, challenging ground of complexity…Simplification offers simple emotional satisfaction.


Jun 17


A young mind inundated by lies, swept away by them, reshaped so that he can bury his conscience–so he can learn to “beat and kill prisoners”. Decent people twisted by religion–and the most twisted form of religion, or perhaps pseudo-religion–into blind indecency. Spirituality–that is nourishment, to me.

Organized Religion, say Christian or Muslim, is at best a relatively harmless analgesic; at worst it turns good people into monsters. Fundamentalist religion is a “brain-hack.”

Read it and weep:


Jun 17

Proof of God!

Proof of God! This afternoon my wife Micky and I were in the park walking our two dogs, one leashed dog each, and realized we (meaning I) had forgotten to bring poop bags. And the dogs had that restless, searching stiff-legged appearance. Then–one of them pooped hugely. We don’t believe in leaving dog poop about so I looked desperately around for large leaves, which make poor substitutes for poop bags. A tiny elderly Asian lady in dark glasses and a sunshade hat walked up to us, blessed us, and offered me a leaflet. The leaflet called for us to SUBMIT TO GOD before it’s too late. It suggested that Jesus would soon return and we would do well to consult certain apocalyptic Bible verses. Additionally, it was quite specific that when we were offered a bar code to be imprinted on the arm or forehead, or the mark 666–an offer soon to happen–we were to spurn these marks of surrender to the AntiChrist.

I gladly accepted a leaflet and Micky instantly said, “I’d like one too!” The lady was pleased to give her one, said “Have a blessed day!” then she hustled onward, passing out leaflets. My wife and I exchanged a look, then waited till the lady had passed out of sight. As if also waiting for this, the second dog pooped as well…Yes: once the Jesus lady had gone we used the leaflets, which were the perfect size, to enfold and pick up the droppings of each dog–and we took them triumphantly to the trash can. God, or perhaps Jesus, had sent us those leaflets for cleaning up after our dogs. Proof of dog, certainly…

Jun 17

My review of WONDER WOMAN

We saw WONDER WOMAN today. Gal Gadot is charismatic and fierce, as they use the term now, and when she plays Diana Prince aka Wonder Woman in her first exposure to the larger (early 20th century) world, she’s very charming, manages to make you believe in her innocence. One of the things I liked about the film is its firm skepticism about war, especially the horror of harming of non-combatants, and the Wonder Woman character is very definite and clear about it.

The movie was directed by a woman, Patty Jenkins, director of the very good true-crime drama MONSTER about a woman serial killer. Jenkins was Emmy nominated for her directing of the tv series pilot for The Killing. Patty Jenkins comes through with WONDER WOMAN.

Perhaps the first part of the WONDER WOMAN is a little top-heavy, I mean the first part of the script, smart alec; some might think it’s too long, but what a great thing to explore this myth about Amazonians and Wonder Woman’s origins. But it does make a statement: women as warriors *who do not need men*. Who live in an orderly civilization without men…The movie is two hours and 21 minutes and I personally found it to be well paced. It wasn’t dragged out.

Chris Pine is a likable presence in the film, and he has real chemistry with Gal Gadot. We see some Wonder Woman action fairly early but it’s not till she’s in WW1 and stepping out onto a No Man’s Land battlefield that she *explodes* into action. We can FOLLOW all the action in this, which to me is important–action movies fail at that a surprising amount. The screenplay is by ONE PERSON (Snyder and a couple other guys contributed story) and that is one of the reasons it actually makes sense, it has good internal logic. The whole story works because there was ONE SCREENWRITER instead of a host of screenwriters. And fortunately, it’s a good writer.

This is a much better superhero film than the last few from DC. . .Oh and there’s a cool steampunk vibe, even, about it, when she emerges into the world…

And yes, Gal Gadot is gorgeous and shown to best advantage without seeming over-posed. She looks great from every angle, in this movie, and when you see her profile–what a beautiful nose. Seriously. YES I MEAN HER NOSE you animals! It really is a beautiful Mediterranean/Semitic nose. “Best Nose in a movie goes to…”

I do think the film makes a feminist statement, even if it doesn’t follow the exact outline of every feminist doctrine. Women are powerful! Just look at Wonder Woman…



May 17

The Glib Dismissers Who Helped Trump, Probably Without Meaning To

Glibness. People who make glib, hollow remarks like “both leading political parties are the same” or “voting in this country is a waste of time” or “social progress doesn’t happen in this society” are both intellectually dishonest and intellectually lazy; they’re engaging in a tactic of unconscious self-aggrandizement, casting about for a chance to sound important without doing the work (and perhaps without having the mental means) to justify their outrageous, easily disproven claims. They repeat logical fallacies with a dismissive smugness that they suppose disarms argument. Their claims are so broad and all inclusive they momentarily mask vagueness behind the appearance of cleaving the Gordian Knot; they mask hollowness behind the appearance of incisiveness.

They are either unable to follow up after being challenged with facts, or they do it only with an internet link to an opinion piece–it may happen that, in their patronizing way, before vanishing, they toss off an observation that, for example, “both Democrats and Republicans voted for the Iraq war”, as if that proved that the parties always have the same policies. If we respond by demonstrating that, again and again, Democrats and Republicans have overwhelmingly different policies with different results, that voting for Obama resulted in our taking our troops out of Iraq, that Civil Rights laws represent progress, that the word progress is not a synonym for perfection…well, they quickly bail out.

Really, these people are engaging in a cocktail-party-social, interpersonal gambit, not a political one; they’re trying to make a striking statement without having to defend it, and they’re hoping to harvest a gratifying attention for it. It’s flailing for one-upmanship. The tendency has replicated in social media, spread like a contagious skin disease on the internet…

May 17


I sometimes think that there’s been a coup in the USA but it’s not a military coup or a “right wing coup” (per se). It’s a fossil fuels industry take over, first in congress, and now complete with Trump’s election. “It’s been like that for years,” some glib person is going to claim, probably citing too much Obama/Clinton etc friendliness to fracking. The thought was, fracking was associated with more natural gas, natural gas was associated with “clean” energy, as it burnt fairly clean, so more natural gas instead of coal, say, would reduce greenhouse gases; hence, despite some problems, it seemed a net win. But actually it’s heavily polluting and may well cause earthquakes.

So supporting fracking was an error. But on the whole, Obama kept the oil companies in check. It is Trump who’s initiated their true coup.

May 17

Stand up for Wonder Woman! And Use the term Zionist Correctly!

WONDER WOMAN’S GAL GADOT as well as MAYIM BIALIK are getting anti-semitic tweets and comments because they support Israel as a Jewish Homeland; Gadot, an Israeli, gets abuse because she served in the Israel Defense Forces as a combat trainer. The dictionary defines Zionism as “a movement for (originally) the re-establishment and (now) the development and protection of a Jewish nation in what is now Israel.” Zionism should be kept in context with the natural and rightful determination of Jewish people to *remember the Holocaust*. The Jewish homeland, Israel, is a place that militates, literally, against a new Holocaust. This doesn’t mean that Israel doesn’t currently have bad leadership, that it doesn’t harbor some prejudicial people–some of the settlers in disputed territories and the ultra-Orthodox for example are excessive, perhaps racist, and disrespectful of human rights. So is the current Israeli Prime Minister. So challenge those people. Do you dispute America’s right to exist, to be defended, just because we happen to have an idiot for a President right now? No. Extend the same courtesy to Israel.

I believe there should be a freeze on territorial expansion of Israel, and a broad recognition of Palestine as a nation. But Israelis being slow to get to that point does not mean they are wrong to serve in the IDF; it does not mean they’re wrong to want to protect Israel. Same goes for American Jews who are pro-Israel–if they’re Zionist, it’s in the original meaning of the word, not in some code usage spread by anti-semites and intolerant people on the left who have unreasonably equated the concept of Zionism with the right-wing.

Mayim Bialik is too intelligent to be prejudiced against Arabic peoples. “Zionism is the belief in the right of the Jewish people to have an autonomous state in Israel,” Bialik — a star in the CBS comedy series “The Big Bang Theory” and a distant relative of the late famous Hebrew poet Hayim Nahman Bialik — wrote on her GrokNation website. “I am a Zionist. Feminism is the belief that a woman-driven movement can bring about race, class and gender equality and that women deserve all of the rights and privileges afforded to men. I am a feminist.”

We need to stand up to those who blurt anti-semitism in social media and elsewhere. I stand with Mayim–and with Wonder Woman!

May 17

Cussing Dude and Staring Robin

Three encounters with wildlife in my neighborhood. I was walking the dogs yesterday morn, blustery but pleasant day, and saw a chubby robin tugging a truly enormous wriggling earthworm clamped in its beak, dragging it along the sidewalk like a fireman pulling a hose. The robin spotted me, about ten feet away; it froze, then, and–looking as bereft and resigned as a bird can look–dropped the worm and fluttered over into a lawn. There it alit and froze again, staring at me, its head cocked. I said, “Robin dude, you can have your worm, it’s cool.” (I did say that. My neighbors often witness me talking to animals like this and stare at me almost like the bird did.) Then I drew the dogs off the walk into the street, way over to one side, circling around the writhing worm and the watching bird. The bird’s head turned to watch me–then when I’d gone far enough away, it hopped over to the worm, and took it up again in just the same way. It had thought this out, it seems. And we were cool.

I was washing dishes and heard a thump on a nearby window–and it was a particular soft but emphatic thump that I know too well. The sound of a bird accidentally flying headlong into glass. As many as 900 million birds a year are thought to die that way. But they don’t always perish. I went out to see, and saw a lark half flopped on the ground, one wing extended–and this bird too was staring at me, in fear. I went to it and gathered it up in my two hands as gently as possible, and took it to a gardening shed out back, set it on a shelf on an old folded up rug. Then I left the shed, the door cracked open, but not too much, so it could recover, if it did, in the dark. I went back a little later–it was in the same spot, but when it saw me it fluttered into a corner. Did not seem to have a broken wing. I left the door open wider. Came back an hour later, it was gone, and I saw no signs of it, no feathers from a cat attack, nothing, and I think it recovered from, perhaps, a concussion of sorts, and flew off.

Walking the dogs that night, I saw a car pull up rather abruptly in front of a small house, a guy with silky looking athletic shorts and a sleeveless shirt and a short beard, his head shaved close, got out of the driver’s side, cussing, and a young woman who, I felt, was likely his wife, got out on the other side. The guy snarled at her, “You fucking dog cunt!” and threw the keys in his hand furiously at the lawn. He stomped up to the front door, as behind his back she grabbed the keys from the lawn, yelled something at him, got in the car as he turned back to her from the porch. “You’re fucking leaving? Good!” She drove off, he turned and tried the door. Then yelled. “Fuck!” The door was locked. Ah, wildlife.