Jingo Jingles

November 12th, 2014

I was offended by the Veterans’ Day observance yesterday at my granddaughter’s school.  Veterans like me don’t consider the holiday an occasion for celebration but rather for reflection on the death and destruction of war.  Instead, my neighborhood school treated us to a canned holiday program, complete with recorded accompaniment, celebrating nationalism with bad music.  

Kids used to sing good music in school. The music teacher would accompany us on the piano.  Now that public education has became a lucrative industry, the old public-domain standards have been replaced by computer-generated programs for mixed elementary school chorus, complete with sheet music, CD, and recommended commentary.  Something for every occasion, no doubt.

The Veterans’ Day program our kids performed (remarkably well, considering how unmusical and unoriginal the tunes were) put melodies to selected words of our constitution and thanked veterans in song for protecting our freedom (neglecting to mention the wanton killing that stopped temporarily with the armistice the holiday is supposed to mark).  I wonder how much the Hartford Public Schools paid for this program and whether there is a single music teacher who thinks it’s really music. I didn’t see a sign of musical enjoyment in any child at any time during the performance, and I was in the front row.

The prayer to the flag (a pledge of allegiance equal to any vow taken at a Hitlerjugend assembly) was invoked twice, and the kids sang the national anthem twice, too, which was excessive.  The singers were so good, and so uninspired at the same time.  Eventually, the veterans were asked to stand up and be recognized.  I was ashamed and embarrassed, but I stood up anyway.

Next year, consider a good rendition of “Tenting on the Old Camp Ground” and “The Marines’ Hymn” and maybe some comments from an actual veteran on the  history of the  holiday and its significance to people who served in uniform.

Race Unspoken

November 5th, 2014

Has anybody else noticed the absence from political discussion of the role of race hatred in this election? Is it not clear that a huge factor in the nation’s apparent turn to the right was the color of Barack Obama’s skin? Republicans across the country made Obama their main issue. They didn’t have to mention his color. They just showed his face in key media markets, and they won the election. Are we really going to roll out the red carpet for rich people and have a war with Iran because our president isn’t white?

This country contains a core of caucasians–probably less than a majority, but still a lot of people–who really wish non-whites would just disappear. The smear campaign that Republicans employed to win the election (against a leader I revile as much as they do) was an ill-disguised lynch mob meant to attract white supremacist voters. Certainly, the deception couldn’t have fooled the mass media, but they’re not talking about it.

I’ve been half-expecting to hear some pundit say (as you might have said to your wife or husband), “That’s the last time Dems are going elect an African. It’s political suicide. Too many white racists casting ballots.” If there’s been such a discussion, I’ve missed it.

It’s like the other topic that can’t take in any discussion of race: disease in West Africa. Reporters are obliged to forget that a solid minority of white Americans wish an epidemic could just kill all the dark-skinned people. This is a truth that most dark-skinned people suspect and virtually all caucasians recognize from day-to-day interactions. But it can’t be discussed. Such discussions are called “playing the race card,” and they’re disfavored in enlightened company.

A big part of the racial gulf that divides us neighbors is this studied silence . Blacks tend to interpret the silence of whites as cover, while whites tend to interpret the silence of blacks as acquiescence. Either way, this is a morbid condition, and you have to wonder whether the election might have had a different outcome if someone had broken the silence.

Green Blues

September 9th, 2014

Notwithstanding my loss four years ago by 400,000 votes to the incumbent Connecticut attorney general George Jepsen, I’m on the ballot again this year as the Green Party candidate. I’d promised my Green friends that I’d run if a younger, better nominee couldn’t be recruited. There wasn’t anybody else.

I start by conceding that Jepsen is a good attorney general. He’s kept a lower profile than his precedessors, and if he’s running for higher office, it’s not evident. Plus, he’s popular with his subordinates, and, on the routine matters that occupy the attorney general most of the time, he’s worthy of my party’s endorsement. Even so, I’ll probably vote for myself, mostly out of loyalty to my party.

In the highly unlikely event that I get elected, as top priority, I’ll target corrupt authority, especially as it infects Washington, DC. I believe this distinguishes me from the major-party candidates. On the downside, citizens would have to do some work to get me elected. I tend to say what I think, and this is not a way to ingratiate yourself with voters. “Don’t be an idiot!” has serious flaws as a campaign slogan.

And I’m not accepting any money. I’m spurning the elections industry, where all that advertising comes from. I don’t much want the votes of people who respond to glossy cards that come in the mail and slow-motion images of venal politicians on TV, and I’m pretty sure I couldn’t get many of those votes in any case.

Of course, a candidate doesn’t receive much attention from media or political organizations when he refuses to raise money and advertise, but I have a web page anybody can examine. People who want to make an informed choice when they vote can find out all about me and get an idea of what I would do as attorney general. All they have to do is the basic work of citizenship.

The main reason you don’t hear much from or about minor-party candidates is that it’s generally acknowledged that they can’t win. The whole point of an election, most people think, is to populate elective offices. Candidates who can’t get elected don’t count, and, sometimes, neither do their votes.

Minor-party voters think an election should do more than just declare a winner. They see it as a contest of ideas as much as a contest of personalities, and they measure the popularity of their ideas by the number of votes their candidates get. If reporters of events shared these voters’ view of democratic government, minor-party candidates might get more attention in the newspapers and on TV. And we might all have a stronger republic.

If I get one percent of the votes cast, my party will retain its ballot line, making way for a third choice four years from now in the event that the major-party candidates are both crooks and the Greens find somebody really good. If I get fifty percent, I’ll become attorney general. Don’t hold your breath.

World War Three

September 4th, 2014

The alliance formerly known as the North Atlantic Treaty Organization is disturbingly reminiscent of the men who brought on world war in Europe 100 years ago. Each of the national leaders of that time and place enhanced his image in the nation he led with a flag in one hand and a sword in the other. Each marched his soldiers off behind beautifully mounted generals in plumed helmets, to martial music and the applause of adoring crowds. Today, modern equivalents of those venal men have the world at war once again, and, like 100 years ago, it’s impossible to reckon what it’s all about.

Looking back, it’s hard to tell which were the good guys and which the bad–several of the antagonists were part of the same imperial family–and so we conveniently conceded goodness to the winners and disparaged the losers. Also conceded to the winners were vast stretches of land in every corner of the world, causing generations of grief and bloodshed to the various unfortunate peoples who lived there.

The first world war was a unmitigated failure of civilization, without purpose and permanently disabling. Like its predecessor, the third world war, for no good reason, has inflicted death and injury on millions, and its consequences will haunt humanity for generations to come. As for the people who conceived and executed the present atrocities, they are dining royally in Cardiff, Wales, plotting further military adventures in Russia, Syria and Iran.

We don’t refer to the current alliance by the acronym “NATO” these days, but with a conventional proper noun–”Nato”–that rhymes with potato. That may be because the alliance’s involvements with events in the North Atlantic are few and far between. Lately, they’ve meddled in Afghanistan and Ukraine, but in states located on the Atlantic Ocean, not so much. I watched a procession of flag-bearers from various nations at the organization’s convention in Cardiff and it reminded me of the colorful processions of Hussars and Cossacks and Legionnaires, bound for the mud, blood, and slime of the trenches. Fools led by fools.

How, a century later, in the wake of one unsuccessful military adventure after another, seemingly rational people could continue to maintain a military alliance is a mystery our grandchildren, if they survive, will have to unravel. Armed force is an anachronism. If Nato, with its bunker-busting bombs and supersonic jets, couldn’t beat Afghanistan in a war, is a military engagement with Russia a realistic prospect? And if it isn’t, should threats of armed force by this useless, reckless cabal be tolerated?

In this country, the threats come, without exception, from Democrats and Republicans, at a time when elections are just around the corner. Voters who are unwilling to tolerate Nato’s sabre-rattling should make it clear to candidates and office-holders alike that they won’t cast a vote for anybody who supports Nato’s dangerous tactic. If this means spoiling things for Democrats, so much the better. Retribution is due.

Hands Down

August 20th, 2014

Many people are saying that Michael Brown, the unarmed teenager shot six times by a police officer in Ferguson, Missouri, was killed because of the color of his skin. That may be, but I suspect it was a perception of fearlessness that ultimately provoked his killer to lethal violence. We are meant to be afraid, and most of us are, but every so often we need a reminder, and that was Michael Brown’s function. He may have failed to show the proper level of respect, and we should all be aware that you can be killed for that. The police let his body lie in the street for hours to make sure that the community–including you and me–got the message.

There’s plenty to be afraid of: muggers, burglars, extreme weather, divine wrath, outbreaks of illness, Russia, odor-causing bacteria, China, Iran, immigrants, terrorists. Black people should be afraid of white people, and white people should be afraid of black people. And we must all tremble before the law. That’s the whole point of the military weaponry and camouflage fatigues.

Authorities of all kinds–religious, political, commercial–know that influencing others is most readily accomplished through fear. You are more likely to buy a gun and bullets if you’re afraid of street crime. You’ll support a permanent state of war if you’re afraid of powerful enemies in foreign lands. You will put more money in the collection plate and come more often to worship if you fear the consequences of irreverence. You will certainly demand less for your labor if you fear for your job.

Makes no difference whether the danger is real or imagined. As the street crime rate declined with the aging of our population, the frequency of TV and movie violence was pushed up accordingly, and our leaders responded to the rash of fictional violence with a panicked rush to longer prison sentences, warrantless searches, new legal prohibitions, and a huge private corrections industry to deal with our unprecedented prison population. After the big scare of 9/11/2001, we all became potential enemies; in the post-9/11 USA, you can’t ride an airplane without exposing your naked body to inspection for fingernail clippers and other dangerous objects that you might use to highjack the flight. So pressing is the fear today that people feel safer for the intrusions.

You may have noticed how easily we switch to a new enemy when an old one is eliminated. No sooner did we lose communists as enemies than we were excoriating radical Islam. Hussein and Bin Laden were quickly replaced by Assad and Putin. That’s because, for some, panic is a profitable condition, and you can’t have panic without enemies. Makers of pharmaceuticals and weapons and proprietors of private prisons thrive on fear. Bankers and other opportunists are adept at turning it to their material and political advantage. Frightened people are distracted, and this makes it easier to separate them from their principles and their property. The only thing our manipulators have to fear is that there might be nothing for us to fear.

Of all the terrorized people, the most pathetic are the civil liberties activists. Most of them seem to be in hiding. People who organize protest demonstrations hardly ever say, when 30 people show up, “This protest is a failure.” They should. As for the absent dissidents, they would never admit it, but they’re scared, many of them, of getting arrested or photographed or seen on TV by their boss. Their trepidation gives other would-be demonstrators an additional thing to dread: being part of a demonstration so miniscule as to be an embarassment, a testament to the weakness of iconoclastic spirit and proof of delusion among the protesters.

Nothing puts a bigger chill on dissent than fear. We know that when the authorities kill, justice is suspended. There is almost always a ready excuse in police brutality episodes and almost never a successful prosecution, and there is no prosecution at all in most cases. The risk of punishment is not a deterrent to official violence. It’s the sort of condition that will get you to say “Yes, Officer,” and “Sure, Officer,” when you’d really like to be saying something else.

In some quarters, the deployment of weapons of war in our neighborhoods is seen as a declaration of war on the people, and some citizens are not putting their hands up, despite the intimidating array of force. They know they can’t prevail by force of arms, but they believe it’s possible to restrain corrupt authority by force of numbers. Their demonstrations of courage and commitment are meant to empower their neighbors and relations, and we have seen them in action this past week. They may not win the battle of Ferguson, but they won’t surrender either.

The founders of our republic anticipated malfeasance in high places, and so they gave us the means to dissolve corrupt authority and replace it. All it takes is a majority, but here in the home of the brave, the majority is paralyzed with fear.

We Tortured Some Folks?

August 3rd, 2014

When Obama said, “We tortured some folks,”  he didn’t have to add, “and we’re OK with that.”  He did mention that when he took office, he banned the interrogation practices in question, but he didn’t mention that these practices were already prohibited by law and were crimes when they were committed.

You might think an officer charged with seeing that the laws are faithfully executed would make some reference to legal accountability when accusing government officials of heinous crimes, but Obama didn’t.  No mention of justice at all.  People did wrong, he admitted, and it was torture, but these “folks” were under a lot of pressure.   He seems to think we’re all better off not knowing just what these “folks” did.

You were probably surprised to hear that the torture was your fault, but that’s what Obama told the news people.  He said all of us have to take responsibility for it.  Even if we were against it.  Even if we didn’t know about it.   Instead of having the penalties fall on the people who actually committed the felonious acts, we all get to pay for them.  It’s a new kind of justice, and it seems to be catching on.

You have to wonder how Obama’s near-apology is being received in other parts of the world.   Most Americans aren’t aware that large numbers of people get upset about torture and want torturers brought to justice and punished severely.  In some countries, they have laws that punish torture wherever it’s done.  These countries usually withhold prosecution until they’re sure justice won’t be done in the country where the torturers are. Pretty sure they can go ahead with their prosecutions now.

For the Love of Jews

July 22nd, 2014

Every year the Gallup organization polls Americans to measure their opinion of various countries. When Gallup asked this past February, “What is your overall opinion of Israel? Is it very favorable, mostly favorable, mostly unfavorable, or very unfavorable?” seven out of ten Americans answered “very favorable” or “mostly favorable.” It’s a poll result that’s been consistent for many years.

It doesn’t cost anything to express approval of Israel, but it costs plenty to express disapproval. Critics of the Jewish state can expect to be accused of bigotry and hatred of Jews. That’s because it’s the only country on earth and in all history that was created as penance for religious persecution. Holding a positive opinion of the country and the religion it embodies is part of the penance. If you don’t subscribe, you’re not contrite, and you sympathize with Hitler.

I searched the Internet in vain for a survey question that might compensate for this possible bias. “Does Israel reflect your values?” might elicit interesting results. I suspect most people believe, privately, that Israel does not reflect their values.  I’ve heard people say Israel has adopted the value system of its Nazi oppressors. The word “apartheid,” long associated with white supremacy and violent racism in Africa, is now used in some quarters to describe Israel and the territories it occupies. That the Jewish state kills innocents intentionally to evoke terror in its Arab neighbors is established: its leaders intimate as much in their cryptic pronouncements, and its people demand Arab bloodshed without hesitation.

If public opinion of Israel were measured more responsibly, we might detect reservations among Americans about the Jewish state. And if Gallup’s favorability rating expresses a bias, public opinion could diverge quite a bit from what’s measured. It’s possible that pictures of death and devastation in occupied Arab lands are having an effect, as yet unmeasurable, on what people really think of Israel and its people. Another possibility is that the brutality of the Jewish state is contaminating the reputation of the Jewish religion.

I love my Jewish friends and relations, and many of my favorite people–Albert Einstein, Leonard Bernstein and Groucho Marx come first to mind–have been Jews. But Israel is creating a bit of cognitive dissonance for people like me. If the state of Israel is sanctioned by the Jewish religion, then the Jewish religion has to be genocidal, and that has to say something about the worshippers. Is it permissible for us to judge people according to the righteousness of their religion? Maybe not, but we do it anyway. Today we decide that Islam makes people brutal and destructive. Tomorrow it might be Judaism.

I worry that blame for the misconduct of the Jewish state will be placed on all Jews. It wouldn’t be the first time a minority was made a scapegoat. And public opinion can turn on a dime. The Jewish state could present a real threat to the Jewish religion and Jewish worshippers. Current events might soon convince American Jews to repudiate this rogue state.

The Latest

May 15th, 2014

Have you ever wondered why your local TV weatherman is such a  jackass?  Now we know the reason.  Weather forecasters who are  actual scientists are not allowed on TV.  For over 30 years, the  mass media have pursued a systematic effort to keep people from  knowing the truth about sudden climate change.  The result has  been that your TV weather staff, cleansed of anybody who might  mention a scientific finding about climate, has devolved into a  collection of whores and fools.

It’s not just weather forecasters, but all newsmongers that have kept us ignorant and misinformed.  And they never admit their fault.  Take the last big case of journalistic malpractice, coverage of the hurricane that emptied New Orleans  of most of its African-American residents.  The weathermen were dancing in the streets as the hurricane made landfall east of the city–”Looks like we dodged a bullet, Steve”–even as the levees were giving way.  Thousands died, stranded, taking the reporters’ unanimous word that evacuation wasn’t necessary.  It was reporters who kept rescue boats from flooded neighborhoods, warning of armed looters who were shooting at rescue workers.  Turned out the shots were coming from the rooves of flooded homes, cries for help that were heard but not heeded.  Nobody apologized for any of this that I ever heard.  On the contrary, reporters patted themselves on the back for seeming sympathetic on the air.

Maybe you noticed the transformation that corrupted our media.  If you were a supporter of public TV in the 1970s, you remember the early episodes of Nature, which seldom failed to warn of shrinking habitat and depletion of resources, and Nova, where we were invited to understand scientific inquiry.  They still called it educational television in those days.  Factual coverage ceased in the 1980s, and any substantial discussion of climate science has been suppressed in the interim.  On today’s Nature, the wild animals all have cute names, and Nova invites us to learn why we enjoy riding carousels.

We don’t know exactly why our media have misled us.  They never acknowledge their own failures, much less explain them, and they refuse their critics any and all exposure.  They know that an essential element of censorship and bias is suppression of all mention of censorship and bias.  Still we can guess what’s behind all the disinformation.  News publishing is business, and business has to make money.  For a newspaper to make money, it has to have an audience, it has to have advertisers, and it has to have investors and financiers.  There’s a vast body of important facts that lots of potential audience members would rather not hear and another, overlapping body of knowledge that advertisers and investors would rather not publish.  There’s money to be made by withholding such facts.

If there were an obligatory code of ethics for journalists, it might forbid editors and publishers from allowing the profit motive to interfere with reporting, but there is no such code.  In fact, the only source of accountability for this industry, the one industry explicitly protected by our constitution, is the news-consuming public, which ought to be just about everybody.  There was a time in my city when it was easy to hold your paper accountable.  If you didn’t like the evening paper, you could subscribe to the morning paper, or you could get both (for a dime) and make critical comparisons every day.  Today we have just one newspaper in Hartford, and it runs the same stories in virtually the same words as every other paper in the USA.  It’s a lot more expensive now, too.    Pay more.  Get less.  Not a lot of accountability there.

Because most people can’t or don’t read, a big segment of the public gets its news from TV news-readers.  TV news-readers shouldn’t be mistaken for journalists, even though they play them on television.  Their qualifications seem to center on how they look and sound on the screen.  Their scripts are pretty much what’s printed in the newspaper.  It’s not wise to alienate one of these personalities.  You’ll never appear on TV if you do.  In fact, the worst public relations move a writer can make is to criticize the media.  Ralph Nader won’t do it.  He knows he’ll be silenced if he defies these people.  The exposure Glenn Greenwald has received lately is unprecedented, as critical as he is of the corporate press.  I have a feeling he’ll be shut down soon, never to be seen again by most viewers.

We can put the blame on ourselves for failing to hold our mass media accountable, but the corruption of journalism has to be cited as the principal cause of our trashing of the atmosphere.  We’ve been fed a steady diet of lies about pollution for the better part of two generations.  Any bit of information that could have threatened the status of rich people, like a fact that might prompt a big change in personal consumption habits, has  been banned since at least 1980, when we ceded the White House to the upper class with the election of Ronald Reagan.  The collapse of the natural environment was no secret then, but you would never guess that from a review of the intervening record.  Reporters have gone along with the censorship because reporters who didn’t go along have been purged.

The disinformation dispensed by the mass media has led us to a state of permanent warfare, a failed economy, a government of thugs, constant bombardment with advertising, the utter alienation of each and every one of us from each and every other one of us, the abandonment of values, and, now, a future of hardship and hopelessness for our grandchildren that will be without precedent in modern history.   I don’t suppose I’m the only person who wants retribution for the injury the mass media, especially the news media, have done to his family.  I would certainly keep my eyes open if I were one of those attractive celebrity news-readers I keep seeing on TV. I want to say to the weatherman, “There’s probably somebody out there who wants to lock you in the trunk of your car.  You maybe want to look both ways before you pop it open.”

No Rant

May 5th, 2014

I wrote a work of fiction for young people that might not be suitable for young people, so I thought I’d take a poll.  Below is a chapter of my book.  The poll question is “Would you get in trouble with your brother/sister/in-law if you gave this book to your teenaged niece or nephew.”  Takes about five minutes to read the chapter, which will give you an idea of the content.  I’d be grateful for any answer (email guy2k at guy2k dot com) to my poll question.   So far, the book, Ciao, Verdi!, is available only in digital form, from Amazon, with a print edition coming soon.     Steve

Chapter 10: Little Sister

She’s short, the sister.  Darker than Angela, but they have the same face.  The eyes are a little intense, and she looks like somebody who’s used to getting her own way.  As girls do.   My mother says all human relations can be summed up in two sentences:  Boys tease.  Girls are bossy.

Slash seems to take an immediate dislike to this one, name of Tina.  ”Do you know anything about Guy Touquet?” he inquires.

“Cheez, you do get right down to business, don’tcha?”   She’s sitting at the  kitchen table with a little brown dog in her lap.   It’s a dachshund, a hot dog with four legs and a pretty face.

“Sorry, but this whole thing has been driving me nuts.  This person or machine or whatever.   Says it’s taking over everything.  It’s ridiculous, I know, but . . . ”  Slash sits opposite Tina at the table, salt and pepper shakers and a napkin holder between them.

“Yes.  Well.  You want to know if it’s possible,” Angela says.  ”Could a computer own assets?  Buy and sell them?  Run a business?”  Tina shrugs.

“Could one?”

“Could an eleven-year-old?”

“You’re telling me you run a business?”

“Not exactly, but I own property, and I buy and sell.  On-line auctions.  Programmed trading.  I’m a hacker, didn’t you hear?”

“So that’s how my . . .  my . . ”  He stammers for a second.  ”. . . my Guy.  That’s how my computer guy knows you?  As a hacker?”

“That would be funny.”

“Funny how?”

“Hackers are not meant to be known.”

“You’re a hacker, then.”

“Right.  Picked it up in Rome.  From my cousin.  She’s an MBA and a genius, and she helped me get started when we went back there last year.  It’s addictive, programming.  You get instant feedback.  I can hardly get up from the computer.  My big sister thinks I should get a life.”

“What’s this programmed trading?  Sounds like online gambling.  You’re into that?”

“All you need is a credit card.  Once you get plastic you can do pretty much anything.  I put together some birthday money, started  a bank account with an ATM card, signed up for online banking, and it got easy after that.”

“How much are you worth?”

“More than any amount of money.  None of your business. ” She points her thumb at me. “What’s the deal with him?  Does he talk?”  I haven’t taken a seat, and I’m backing away from the table.   A white cat is rubbing against my leg.

Tina strikes me as a tough customer.  Sometimes you run across a little kid who scares you.  Not that this one is all that little.  She’s small enough, all right, but she’s also smart-talking and smart-seeming, and she thinks she’s grown up.  You get the feeling she’ll take you in any sort of mental contest.  So I have to close my mouth to answer her.

“I might talk when I’m not listening.  I was listening.  You’re saying a computer can do what this computer guy claims to be doing.”

“You think a computer can talk to you like a person?”  She obviously thinks I’m an idiot.

“OK, so it’s not possible.  Slash should forget about the whole thing.  It’s a fraud.”

“Boys are idiots.  Does it have to be one or the other?  You’re the dude that wants to debate human extinction, right?”

“How did you know that?”  I’m wearing a foolish look, I’m sure.

“My sister’s in the club with you, remember?  Suppose you’re right.  Suppose human beings are a cancer on the earth.  Where does that leave me?  Where’s it leave you?”  She waits for me to say something.  I don’t.

“Suppose it’s true that around the time I turn 60, a big chunk of Greenland ice is going to slide into the Atlantic Ocean.” She’s glaring at me and petting the dog at the same time.  ”That’s gonna make a #&*# of a splash.  Some people are saying there won’t be drinking water within 50 miles of here after the river backs up.  This room will be under water.

“Did you know Southern California is turning into a desert?  Where your food comes from?  Over 200 different kinds of frogs and toads will be extinct in our lifetime.  Two degrees climate change and they’re dead.  Forever.”

My slack jaw reforms itself to a grimace.  She starts pointing her finger.

“You,  you’re worried whether you’ll reach five feet before age 21.  Well, here’s something to worry about.”  She brings her little fist down on the table, hard.

I speak.  ”There’s going to be a lot of praying, is what you’re saying.”  It’s a tentative suggestion, an effort at wit.

“Might as well pray to the Tooth Fairy.  This boy’s Guy” she points at Slash, “claims he’s going to solve all that.  How is this a bad thing?”

“Don’t get so worked up about it.” I caution her.

“You should be worked up about it.  Our parents and grandparents are planning to stick us with a huge mess and no solutions.  Their so-called democracy is a joke, and the people who run it are crooks.   They demolished two skyscrapers with people in them in front of our parents’ eyes, and they pretended to pretend it didn’t happen.  You know what an albatross is?”

I shrug.  ”Some sort of bird”

“It’s a big white sea bird, lives on some of the most deserted coasts on the planet.  They find their skeletons in the sand a thousand miles from the closest town and where their stomach ought to be there’s a pile of disposable cigarette lighters, bottle caps and tiny bits of plastic bag.  They fill their bellies with our trash until there’s no room for fish and they die of hunger.  There’s an island of plastic trash the size of Iowa in the South Pacific, where the ocean currents come together, and it’s getting bigger.  You can read about all this and see pictures if you have the stomach.  You hear the grown-ups talk about global-this and postmodern-that as if it’s nothing.  It is cancer.” She’s so hot, she has to catch her breath.

She lowers her voice and slows down.  ”They have a lot to be ashamed of, the grown-ups.    In the meantime, while they’re popping pills to try to keep back the tears, you people, the smart kids, so-called, are trying to decide whether to go to film school or take up #&*# basket-weaving.”

“Look,” Slash cuts in, “I didn’t come here for a lecture.”

“Yeah, well, you get one anyway.  Free of charge.  You want to know whether a computer can control the world  by acquiring assets on its own account.  I doubt it.  Guy Touquet is a braggart of a computer.

“But I’m sure you both know that a computer can buy and sell property, run businesses, direct human beings, and make lots of money.  They already do it all the time.  Could a computer arrange to have somebody killed?  Can’t imagine why it would want to, but yeah, I guess so.”

Pray for us Sinners

April 28th, 2014

I haven’t heard anyone ask, but is this really a time to be proclaiming sainthood?  The two newest saints, recognized by about one out of every six people worldwide, failed to restrain a generation of worshipers from warfare and corruption.  With altogether political motives, they tolerated a wholesale abandonment of values that may already have destroyed the planet.  Under their pastoral guidance, Christians, including Catholics, trashed the Earth and systematically laid waste nations and peoples, and their vandalism is getting worse.  The scene in the Vatican was a demonstration of mass narcissism not seen since the rallies in Nuremberg.  The media don’t seem to have noticed this.