Denying Reality in the Israel/Gaza Conflict

The left in America has long had a negative attitude about Israel. The support of the underdog that is so important in America, is misapplied in the Middle East to the support of the genocidal murderers of Hamas. It might be simplistic analysis that concludes that poverty excuses everything and that wealth and power is always evil. It certainly has an anti-semitic component. I think there is a reflexive opposition to anyone who is an ally of the American military.

 One of the main news organs of the left is The Nation magazine. I often subscribe to it and generally agree with their strong, leftist philosophy. But, they harangue against Israel during the current conflict with Gaza (especially HERE ) with a viewpoint that, I think, comes down to being propaganda. It overlooks really important, basic issues and focuses on distracting details. It is, essentially (and I know how ironic this is considering the source), a conservative viewpoint. It prioritizes ideals without consideration of the practicality of the real world.

For example, that article's first point is that the right to self defense is subordinate to UN Article 51 and makes assertions about the balance of suffering, etc, but concludes with a literal non-sequitor, that “no country would tolerate rocket fire” is baseless. I read the paragraph six times and that conclusion is not even suggested by the previous context. It exemplifies the problem of this viewpoint. It is based on a pure assertion merely associated, but not supported, by other ideas. Ie, propaganda.

I understand that international law can be construed to judge Israel’s actions illegal. I also know that, regardless of principal, no society would allow rockets to be shot at into its population. Every person involved in writing that article would commit any illegal act necessary to prevent a child from being raped. They would say, “Look. Some things take priority. Some things cannot be allowed.” In fact, “no country would tolerate” is the only part of the argument that matters.

I read article to simply reiterate the conclusion that Israel is evil. Some of the facts contradict my understanding but it doesn’t matter. Israel is a country descended from people who suffered genocide. It is surrounded by enemies sworn to repeat that genocide. When it has attempted civilized interactions they have been universally rebuffed. When they have unilaterally lowered their guard, their position got worse.

Were The Nation not part of the Israel-hating left, it would offer some discussion of what Israel should do instead. It would have a prescription for how Israel could move things forward. What tomorrow might look like. That doesn't happen. It never happens in these articles about how bad Israel is treating the people in Gaza.

When liberals are confronted with anti-choice types, they are irritated by the assertion “because it’s a baby.” They say, “But what about the teenaged girl who has been raped?” Or, talk about a woman’s autonomy. They insist that real-world facts be accommodated by any acceptable viewpoint. Or, when a rightie says, "People should earn their keep." We say, "Absolutely, but, there are many reason why they don't and society can't function with starving people around. You're insistence on allowing children to starve based on your ideal of responsiblity is itself irresponsible."

This viewpoint does not account for the fact that Israel has rockets and tunnels to deal with. Talk about UN Article 47, the human catastrophe, the occasions where Israelis soldiers have behaved badly all hew to an ideal of state behavior, but they miss the real point: rockets are being shot into the population. The only option that anyone seems to suggest is to allow the rockets to continue. It is meaningless practically as just letting people starve because they won't work.

Israel is a democracy with a free press. It is a country whose values and lifestyle generally parallel ours. In fact, many of the leading people in Israel come form America. They are as close to being us as you could want. The suggestion that Israel, that Jews, would specifically abuse a population is silly. It might happen in a lapse but, systematically, they are no more likely to think, “We will kill a whole lot of Palestinians for fun,” than we are – and, in this case, the we I mean is real people, not the CIA.

Israel is a country that is dominated by Judaism. Unlike the assertion that America is a Christian country with laws based on Christian principles, Israel is a Jewish country with laws based on Judaism. Judaism does not allow the behavior the left asserts. Murder and 'collective punishment' are not allowed. It insists on the ethical treatment of people, of telling them to get out of the way of the bombs. It requires building field hospitals to treat injured Palestinians. It requires minimizing harm and, by all accounts, they seem to me to be doing that.

But, if it does happen, their free press will reveal it, just as our did the CIA prisons, etc. So far, no dice.

I conclude, though, by repeating the assertion, no country would tolerate rockets being shot into it’s population. Nor, tunnels being dug into its interior clearly intended to convey armed combatants bent on murder. I will really only consider an opinion to be interesting when it takes these two facts into account and presents a recommendation for what could be done otherwise.


Israel Gaza

The issue with the Palestinians is much like the issue of abortion. It’s a tool being used to achieve a completely unrelated goal. In both cases, there are underlying issues that have some legitimacy. Killing babies can be a bad thing. Subjugating people can, too.

In neither case, though, do the people agitating for those issues actually desire a solution. Their goals are, instead, purely political. In the case of abortion, it’s long been clear that nobody actually wants to reduce abortion. Mere sex education is proven to do that better than any other option yet they oppose that because they want to preserve the controversy.

With the Palestinians, there have been many sincere attempts to come to terms with the problem that have been jettisoned. In particular, during the series of meetings around the Camp David Accords, Yassir Arafat specifically rejected what, I read some years ago, was a real, two-state solution that was, by any logic, acceptable to everyone. Nobody can really know his intentions, he was acting single-handedly, but, it is thought that he was keeping the issue alive for his Arab masters.

Israel, of course, has its politics, too. They are, however, analogous to our liberals here. Just as we are happy to settle for “safe, legal and rare” with restrictions that don’t please everyone but keep abortion from being used as normal birth control, the Israelis would be happy to have a two-state solution with security arrangements that prevent the two areas from being used to launch a war. They would prefer to have the Palestinians be absorbed into Arab countries where they would have more resources, a society to live in and would allow them to treat the territories as security buffer zones, but they are practical.

You probably know that the Middle East, overall, was, like much of the rest of the world, colonized by Britain. Their practice was, like the Roman Empire before them, to move in, use a combination of intimidation and bribery to co-opt the local leadership, and extract resource, influence and wealth from the region. In many places this worked perfectly well until the international community developed sufficiently that atrocities were punished. Then the locals ejected the Brits and became independent.

In the Middle East, it appears to me that things went somewhat differently. As with America, there were native peoples but in those two places, they were nomadic cultures. Over here, the country was simply too big and too far away for Britain to co-opt and exploit the Native Americans so they sent British citizens to exploit the place.

In the Middle East, the region was close enough for them to really exert their influence but, as nomadic cultures tend to be, there was no head of state they could dominate. The tribes were independent and, since they lived in a really hostile environment, were tough as nails. Worse, there wasn’t a lot of wealth to be extracted. Oil wasn’t important (I don’t know if they even knew about it at all) back then. There were no minerals, no crops, nothing. The place was a desert.

Still Britain kept at it for a good long time until the end of the colonial era in the early part of the last century. They realized that the Middle East was not profitable and decided to grant independence. Since this was also not going to be profitable, they did a hack job of it. (I can’t remember exactly but, the countries of the Middle East were drawn up by some guy who’d never been there or something. It was really stupid.) They formed countries with nearly arbitrary boundaries, installed their most bribable strongman as the boss and got out of dodge.

Comes the end of World War II and there were a lot of displaced Jews that nobody wanted hanging around their country. Not only is anti-semitism a completely real, important motivation in history, but they were poor, sad people with a weird religion and no jobs. A guy named Theodore Hertzl had previously come up with the idea of a Jewish homeland and everyone thought, “Oooo, we could, in the name of a ‘principle’ get rid of these Jews. Let’s make a homeland!”

So they did. Since this was near the time that the Middle East was being partitioned by England, it wasn’t very hard to do it. Just as they were doing with the rest of the Middle East, they drew a nearly arbitrary country (inspired by history, but only a little) and, Voila!, Israel was born.

There was one difference with Israel. It was not intended to contain the previous indigenous peoples. It was supposed to be a dumping place for the European Jews. This didn’t sit well with the locals. They were also anti-semitic. They also didn’t want a bunch of foreigners hanging around.

So, shortly after Israel was formed, the Arabs in the region started a war. Turns out the Israeli Jews had learned from their experience with extermination. They kicked Arab ass big time. By the time it was done, they had kicked almost all the Arabs out of the country. This was more reasonable than it seems. The Arabs in their country were, to a substantial extent, the main fighters trying to kill them.

And so, the ‘Palestinians’ were born. This is not an historical cultural group. There are occasional attempts to portray them as such because, of course, they are descendants of indigenous people. However, they are actually just the people who happened to be living in the region that became Israel. There exists, for example, a cultural group called Persians. They were named long, long ago. They have a cultural identity that is distinct from others with cultural practices that are discernible, etc. There never were Palestinians, per se, in history. It became a cultural group purely in opposition to Israel.

Not that they don’t exist. Obviously, the Palestinians have become a distinct cultural group. That they were formed a recently doesn’t make them illegitimate. However, it changes their historical claim. They are not, for example, the descendants of a long, honorable culture that has cherished the land under Israel since time immemorial. Nor are did they have a culture that was brutally disrupted by the arrival of the Jews. When Israel started, they were just people living there. The Jews wanted to live there, too. (And, have a plausibly greater claim to the territory. The Jews actually had a country that was stolen from them in pre-Biblical times.)

The Palestinians are, simply put, the people who had tried to kill the Jews and failed. In the attempt, they were ejected from Israel, ended up living outside the .

In 1967, only twenty years after Israel was formed, the Arabs made a second attempt to destroy Israel. They failed yet again. This time Israel realized two things. One, the Arabs were implacable enemies. Two, the borders drawn by the British were stupid.  They were simple not defensible.

Since they had well and truly beaten the Arabs in ’67, they were able to enforce their will at the treaty table. What they wanted was a secure buffer zone between Syria and Israel and between Egypt and Israel. These became known as the Occupied Territories. You know them better today as the West Bank (of the Jordan River) and the Gaza Strip (adjacent to Egypt).

I’m not expert in the details but, roughly speaking, they stopped being part of any country. Israel established settlements in each region, mainly for the purpose of early warning if the Arabs started building up troops or started to attack Israel. There were, of course, plenty of people living there, mainly the refugees of the earlier war, now called Palestinians. However, it was pretty much live and let live.

As time wore on, the Palestinians noticed that they were poor and that Israel was rich. This made them feel like they wanted stuff. The rest of the Arab world was still pissed that they hadn’t been able to destroy Israel in ’67 and so pushed their strongman into leadership of the Palestinians. His name was Yassir Arafat. Considering how it turned out, it’s pretty clear that his goal as leader was not to secure a good, peaceful life for his people.

The Israelis liked living in Occupied Territories. Just as some people really enjoy the expansive solitude of mid-Iowa or Montana, it was nice to have some land and less traffic, etc. Whatever rules had allowed the creation of the earlier security oriented lookout settlements were used to create settlements to accept excess population from Israel proper. Eventually, I suppose those rules were pushed beyond their intentions to create settlements without a security mission and eventually, there were a lot of Israelis living in the Territories.

There have been many twists and turns but Israel has, as far as I know, never been much opposed to the Palestinians having a decent life. The problem of security would have to be solved but, given that, having a happy peaceful country on the border is better than having a miserable one. Consequently, Israel has been available for attempts to solve the situation. That lead to the Camp David Accords which established the Palestinian Local Authority headed still by Yassir Arafat who sandbagged the negotiations that would have lead to an independent state of Palestine.

Israel has actually tried many strategies to manage relations with the PLA but, much of it has been angry and suspicious. They remember the many wars and that those wars were not fought to gain territory or seek justice but mainly to exterminate them, to “push them into the sea.” After the failure of Camp David, the culture decided that there really was nothing to do with these essentially evil people. Settlements continued apace. Security arrangements were less good-natured. The wall was built. The regular Palestinian people were subjected to endless propaganda by their leaders that concealed Yassir Arafat’s selling them out and inflamed their hatred of the Jews.

In 2005, Israel withdrew from Gaza. It was partly because they were overextended (Lebanon had attacked them and there was war and security problems in the North), partly because they thought it might help to make nice with Hamas, partly because international pressure wanted them to do something. They pulled 8,000 settlers out of Gaza, much to the consternation of the Israeli right wing, and deeded a lot of useful property to the Gaza government.

Among those things were, I think the number is, 3000 agricultural greenhouses. These were functioning, commercially viable industrial farms. A group of American Jews put together funding of, I think, thirty million dollars to help the Gazans keep them going while they got started. Hamas blew them all up.

Some time later, Gaza held elections and put Hamas in charge of their government. Hamas, as required by its charter, declared Israel illegitimate and declared war on the “Zionist entity”. They had been shooting rockets into Israel previously (Israel had hoped that removing themselves from Gaza might reduce this problem) and they continued to do so subsequently.

This is no surprise. Hamas is not some righteous Moslem organization formed to achieve glory and a Palestinian state. Hamas is an offshoot of some political party in Iran. It is supported by Iran for Iran’s purposes. Iran’s purpose is to avenge the various wars it lost against Israel, to kill Jews and to spread it’s special brand of Islam throughout the entire Middle East. Hamas, as their representative in Gaza, does nothing to improve the lives of the people there.

Israel gave it the old college try, though. When they pulled out, they not only gave the Gazans all the stuff they had built there but, they also opened the borders, removed their police and established trade. Both Israel and international Jewry put together substantial foreign aid for Gaza.

I don’t know how long it lasted but the glory days soon ended. Hamas kept shooting rockets at Israel. They did absolutely nothing to develop a viable society. They did import armament and started building the underground fortresses being called tunnels these days. Eventually it became clear to Israel that they were soon going to have a well-supplied army in Gaza and they closed the borders, only letting in materials that could not be used as weapons.

This, of course, enraged everyone. Gaza is certainly the literal worst place on earth. It is the most densely populated place in the world. It has no resources of any sort. Its people cannot leave or go on vacation, even if they had any money. Their schools are run by the UN because they can’t do it themselves. There are 1.26 million people in, I think, 25 square miles with absolutely no hope.

And, their government not only does nothing for them. It cynically puts them in harms way not only as human shields but as sacrificial lambs on the altar of public relations. Many have said, and I completely believe, that Hamas does not expect locating their weapons in civilian areas (apartment buildings, schools, hospitals, etc) to protect the weapons but exposes those locations in way that will maximize the likelihood of civilian deaths. It good PR for their purposes.

There is no such thing as a good guy. Good guys do charity. They make peoples’ lives better. They are happy and sing songs of beauty. Nobody in the Middle East is a good guy. But, there are bad guys. Hamas is bad. It’s motivations are indefensible. The Gaza people are probably not mostly evil,  just stupid. They are uneducated, primitive people living in difficult circumstances with an active, vile propaganda effort dominating their culture. However, they voted in a free and open election, for Hamas. The Palestinian people have actively chosen strife. Israel did not.

Israel has tried, with greater and lesser enthusiasm, to find a solution. Sometimes they have been nasty and unfair. Sometimes they have been generous. Often they have been muddled. They are, however, surrounded by people who explicitly refuse to accept their right to exist and call for genocide. Their good overtures have been rejected. Nobody in the world except for America helps them at all.

And, they have this implacable enemy shooting rockets into their country. Dozens a day for years. Occasionally, things get out of hand and there is war. Even then, the Israelis hewing both to their religious ethos and the needs of international public relations, try to do the right thing.

Let’s be clear. Israel has it within it’s power to literally exterminate Gaza. Not only do they have nuclear weapons, but they have every other kind, too. They also have what is probably the toughest, most highly motivated military in the world. They also feel their survival is threatened unfairly. I got into an argument with someone who used the phrase, “raining down death”. Rain is universal, indiscriminate and un-targeted. The attacks by Israel are the opposite. Not only are they not indiscriminate, they are scheduled.

They are not pointed at civilians, they could be, there’s a lot of civilians there, they are pointed at specific military targets. Then the people there are warned (and Hamas says, intentionally lying, "it’s propaganda, you should stay”). Then, when the bomb is about to happen, they drop a notification on the roof of the building. They make phone calls to let people know to get out. This is the opposite of a brutal, mean-spirited attack.

And, what else can they do? Nobody can have a country and let someone shoot rockets into it. It’s not reasonable to think Israel could open the Gaza border to allow any armaments into the country to resupply the rockets and add other, more effective weapons. And, in any case, they tried that and it turned out very badly.

The Palestinians have it within their power to throw off the yoke. The problem is that they are too busy hating the Jews. The people they need to fight off are the Arab countries around them, Iran especially, that are keeping them at war. Once they, and I don’t see how it will ever happen, find a way to get rid of Hamas and make peace with Israel, their lives will get better.

But, you can’t expect Israel to allow themselves to be attacked. Nobody would but, even more, these are all descendants of people who did make a peaceful response to genocidal madmen and experienced the Holocaust. They’re not going to allow that. They will never be Gandhi. It’s impossible.


For Tom White, Father's Day 1976

Dear Dad,

Father's Day is upon us again and I send you tidings of respect, gratitude and love. Although every thought of you is accompanied by a warm glow of pride and admiration, I fear that you are taken for granted and do not know the complexity and depth of my feelings for you.

In your kindness, you have supplied me comfort and well being with generosity far surpassing your duty. You have freed me from the sickly pursuit of objects with your perspective on the real value of the material world and freedom. By your example, I have learned to appreciate knowledge and ideas, to love discourse and intellectual exploration and to eschew dogma as the foe of intelligence. My life is enriched with your gift of the love of music and books, mathematics and physics and philosophy. By imitating you, I have learned the humble joy of curiosity. For these riches which you have bestowed upon me, that will be with me forever, I am deeply grateful.

You have taught me virtue. Because of you, I never steal. In pursuit of your ideal, I have experienced the strength of truth and power of integrity. From you, I have received the fundamental tool for success, self-discipline. Working with you showed me dedication to my task and pride in my product. You taught me responsibility and removed my fear of hard work. You let me know that I can never conceal a shabby job from myself.

For you, I will always strive to be kind to others, always to help those in pain and never do another harm. Life with you has shown me how to be tolerant of others and understating of their unjust acts. Because of you and your example, I have based my ethics upon the principle of kindness.

You have taught me and loved me and the benefits of being your son are innumerable. When people note our resemblance in look, manner or thought, I glow happily because I think that, of the men I have known, you are the finest example I could ever follow.

More importantly, I love you and cherish our friendship above any other I have known. I am always pleased to see you. Your conversation cheers and enlightens me. At play, your casual, friendly style encourages camaraderie that surpasses any filial relationship I have ever seen and makes each encounter a delight.

I am proud to be your son and thank you very much for being such an inspiring Father's Day subject because you have given me the opportunity to have a happy and fruitful life. Happy Father's Day!

love & kisses,
TQ II


An Overview of Issues, Spring 2014

This is response to a commentary written by a friend. That's who the "you" is. I don't have the patience right now to edit this into an independent essay but I also feel like I caught a bunch of decently interesting ideas and want them preserved.

Abortion

As far as I can tell, the two sides of this issue are 1) the government decides what sort of surgery a woman can have or, 2) they don't. You say that you like the first trimester compromise and, in the spirit of compromise, I'm ok with that, too, as are all liberals I've ever known about. However, that's not the conservative position. The conservative position includes a constitutional amendment to dictate what a woman can allow a doctor to do to her body. I know, they will say that it's all about the baby. That's an obvious lie. Remember, they cut Head Start.

Affirmative Action

This has nothing to do with "hard working people." You have been dup'd by the righties' propaganda. Affirmative action refers to laws that allow universities to consider race in admissions without violating racial equality laws. Some people (students, not workers) claim to have been harmed when a minority person got a slot they they think they should have gotten. Strangely enough, nobody on the conservative side feels that this is a problem when some (usually rich) kid gets in ahead of a better qualified minority because his or her parents are alumni. Affirmative action laws exist to level the playing field and to allow universities to create a learning environment that they think will help students and that includes having minorities present.

Death Penalty

If we could shoot them and get it over with and eliminate false positives, we would be implementing the death penalty in heaven, not America. False positives are part of the reality that humans are fallible. In your best possible outcome in reality, someone would get killed wrongly. In our real world, the amount of people that have been convicted wrongly is horrifying. Oddly enough, we have excellent affirmative action here. Black people get much more than their fair share of executions. But even if we could do it perfectly, the existence of the death penalty makes *you* a killer. Me, too.

Economy

You are right that regulation is necessary (speed limits are annoying, but nice; water quality standards, too). There is no other option for how regulations should be managed. It's got to be government. I assume that by "benevolent" you mean fair, uncorrupt, or something that adds up to the idea that regulations are necessary but badly implemented. The thing is, that's not true. As with all flawed human enterprises, there are mistakes and problems and villains but, we live in an extremely complicated society with regulations that help us in, literally, millions of ways. If you could do research and find hundreds of examples of terrible regulatory malfeasance, that would still leave hundreds of thousands of regulations that are working just fine. The idea that regulation is some terrible burden is a conservative lie pushed by corporations who want to run roughshod over your life.

Education

Of course charter schools do a better job! They get to kick out kids who are stupid. Imagine a classroom filled with kids who are interested in learning, smart, with involved parents. That's what charter schools have. The public schools you incorrectly excoriate include mentally ill children, stupid children, children who don't speak english, children whose mothers' are crack whores. But, it's false to say that the schools are screwed. What's screwed are the people who insist on high stakes testing. Ot, those who fund the schools so that teachers have to buy supplies out of meager salaries. Or, the fact that children in inner cities have to move their desks out of the way of leaking roofs or hide from gang bangers.

There are, in fact, substantial arguments made that say that the common view of failed education is completely wrong. That it's based on measurements that have nothing to do with reality. (If you care, you can find the information. I'll be happy to discuss.) You probably think your kid's schools have sucked. Most people do. However, how badly does your kid suck as a result of being there? Can she read? Is she bright and motivated and wonderful ?(She seemed to be so when I met her.)  I have that experience, too. It's hard to figure out why you think the schools should be defunded or otherwise dismantled considering that.

Stem Cells

This is a place, as with abortion, where conservatives reveal themselves to be the American Taliban, a retrograde force of anti-intellectual, anti-science movement to prevent peoples' lives from being improved by modernity. The suggestion that stem cell research has a moral component is the most fantastical of fabrications.

Energy

And here is where conservatism shows it's true nature as the philosophy of profit for the already empowered. In any sane world, a view associated with conservatism would be very, very excited about supporting the development of new technology and markets. In that world, they would be criticized for fabricating crazy new reasons to coerce the markets to buy alternative energy and energy conservation equipment. But, modern conservatism does not want companies to develop that would compete with the current, powerful energy companies because conservatism is a corrupt philosophy in the pockets of the corporations.

Assisted Suicide

I do not know of a conservative position or a liberal one relating to assisted suicide. Personally, I'm in favor of the status quo where people quietly make it happen with benign neglect on the part of the law unless something weird happens. I don't know whether the conservative priority is killing people or forcing people to die in pain. I'm guessing the latter. Maybe they just want to make sure that people cannot control their own lives if they are not rich.

Climate Change

The dishonest corruption of the conservative position on climate change is proof that I am 100% right when I say that anyone who isn't fighting these bastards is either a coward or a traitor. If you are not actively working to oppose the destruction of our culture that will result from their viewpoint preventing us from changing our environmental trajecory, you are saying to your children, "Fuck you. I don't care what happens to you."

Gun Control

32,000 people die each year from guns. Half of those people are suicides. Turns out that guns are really good at suicide. Without guns, many of those people would survive and almost no one tries a second time. Almost 75,000 more people are hurt by guns.

You probably are in favor of drunk driving laws. What on earth would make you opposed to regulating guns? Both restrict your freedom to do stupid crap and save lives.

Healthcare

I don't know what you think the 'sides' are but there are not two sides. Conservatism does not have a side. They just hate Barack Obama who implemented an annoyingly pro-corporate, conservative inspired compromise. Fifty votes to repeal. Not one to replace or improve it. Their talking points include lies like death panels.

Obamacare, on the other hand, is simply insurance reform. I am intensely interested in this topic and read everything. I have *never* read anything that presents a single idea of why insurance companies should be allowed to screw people as they always have. To say that you disagree with this side is to say, "I want to allow insurance corporations to continue the practice of canceling your insurance when you are sick."

Homeland Security

This phrase is so broad that I don't understand the point. Liberals want to avoid terrorism and so do conservatives. Personally, I do not believe there is a meaningful threat from terrorists but that's not a political view. I think it's simple reality.

Immigration

Throw out eleven million people. Call them criminals. Deny them and their children vital services. Make it so that they can't get jobs or feed their families. Denigrate them and "illegitimate". Tell the police to hound them. Deny them medical care. Deny them drivers licenses.

That's the conservative position. That's the conservative position in a nation of immigrants. The conservative position is not only impractical, counterproductive and foolish. It is immoral.

Private property

Conservatives only want corporations to have the ability to do things in our society. Liberals believe that we can and should work together to do things that are not driven by profit. Eminent domain inherently includes the ideas of 1) necessity and 2) just compensation. The conservative position says that no matter how important the need, ownership is the most important thing. The fact that it prevents people from working together is gravy.

Conservatives are not so troubled by taking away someone's house based on a contract signed twenty years ago under completely different circumstances, say, a time when jobs existed. Property ownership in the conservative world is only important when it serves corporate interests or inhibits the ability of people to work together.

Religion and Government

You may not have a strong religious affiliation. I do and I feel pain when I see Christian symbology everywhere. When I see my tax dollars being spent maintaining religious sculptures, I feel robbed. When my kids had to put up with a 'moment of silence' that we all know is required by right-wing Christians, I feel like I am being forced to kiss the Pope's ring.

You might not want to go ballistic about the matter but, if the world continues its current trend, there will be Moslem icons everywhere for your grandchildren. In the name of being reasonable, of compromise, we will be asking girls to cover their arms. Allowing religion to be involved with government functions is the most dangerous kind of slippery slope. Religion should be private and never, ever expressed in a public context. If it is, my God says that I have to kill you for being a heretic. Most other peoples' Gods do, too.

Same Sex Marriage

The hypocrisy of the right on this is stunning.

Social Security

Social Security is a good thing. Conservatives most emphatically demonstrate their dishonesty with their view on this topic. They don't want to 'save' it. It doesn't need saving. They want to change it so that we are less secure. That way we will argue less with mistreatment at work. We will also work longer, increasing the number of people in the workforce and keeping wages low.

Taxes

The conservative view on taxes was coined by Ronald Reagan. He equated taxation with theft. Of course, it's actually the way that we work together to accomplish things. Though the conservative viewpoint is greedy, even more, it's a way of making it so that we are all left on our own, so that the only way that money can be grouped into useful piles is under the control of a corporation. The anti-tax policies of conservatism are anti-America and anti-community and anti-worker.

United Nations

The United Nations provides a place where nations can come together and talk. I do not understand how that can be a bad thing. Opposition to the UN is incomprehensible.

War on Terrorism

This is the conservative excuse for implementing a police state and spending giant amounts on armament.

Welfare

As long as there is unemployment, we must have welfare. Corporations have conquered the country. If they don't give you a job, you still need to eat. If we don't have welfare, you have no choice but to steal.


"Conscious uncoupling"

For those trying to understand why I hate *everyone*, look no farther than the reaction to Gwyneth Paltrow's characterizing her divorce as 'conscious uncoupling'. Filled with ridicule and sarcasm, the internet is ablaze with people insisting this is all kinds of stupid.

I am angry because I think 'unconscious uncoupling' is a nice phrase and an nicer idea. I think it's a really, really good idea. We live in a world where marriages end. That is reality. Devising new ways to refer to it that don't carry a ton of negative baggage is a good thing. News ways to 'do' it is even better.

'Divorce' is almost a cliche for unreasonable anger and destructive behavior. To use the term is to denigrate your soon-to-be ex. Saying you are doing it invites sympathy and suggestions for how to hurt your partner. Worse, it is an accurately negative characterization of the process for most people. People (and the commentators about Paltrow's situation confirm this egregiously) think they are supposed to be hateful if the get a divorce.

But, what if it's just time to stop being married? Why do people who don't want to hate have to share that nasty, loaded word? More importantly, why do they have to participate in that nasty, loaded activity.

To hear Paltrow explain it, she and her husband do not want to engage in the hatred game and, to emphasize that for themselves and their children, they don't want to use that word. Because they don't want to feel badly, injure their children and otherwise behave unethically, they want to *do* something other than 'divorce.'

Good for them. "Uncoupling" sounds like a correct word for changing from being a couple to being a couple no more. It works for trains. It's not like it's a stupid made-up word. And, being conscious about what you do is a good thing in, basically, all situations.

I like it. I think that it should be a phrase that comes fully into the lexicon and, much more importantly, I think people that don't want to be married any more should forego the negative process and emotion associated with the D-world and choose to be kind to each other as they unwind their marriage. I think that conscious uncoupling sounds like a really good idea.


More on Intellectual Property

I believe that intellectual property is a fiction and that the legal obligation to pay royalties is a bad thing.

My view is based to three things. First, I believe that compensation should come from work. Payment for work that is done on spec, as in the case of a photo library, is not mandatory. I do not believe that Paul McCartney should be sitting on his ass and getting money for something he did in an afternoon forty years ago.

Payment for work that is done on spec, as in the case of a photo library, is not (and should not be) mandatory.  I believe that asserting that the law should force people to pay for this category of 'spec work' is a bad idea because intellectual property is a nouvelle fabrication to enrich a certain category of workers.

However, I'm ok with helping workers if it won't make the world worse and, in the case of royalties (and most other forms of intellectual property) it does. I believe that the motivation of being able to get rich off of royalties has encouraged a gigantic amount of awful 'art'. Our culture would be infinitely better off if only people so crazed and determined that they would do it without royalties were producing our cultural products.

(Since Napster, there has been a huge flourishing in the world of music. There are now a billion bands. The variety is amazing and there is a ton of awesome stuff out there. I can't bear to think about the hideous conformity and superficiality of music before.)

I believe that the traditional word 'property' is stretched to the point of insanity to get to the 'intellectual' kind.Property is something that can be taken away. When I publish your picture, you still have it, ergo, not property. Stealing is when I deprive you of something. I possess it. You don't. Not true with a photo.

The so-called value of the pictures in question comes entirely from the people who look at an enjoy a picture or other work of art. It is bizarre to realize, but true. If no one had ever listened to a Beatles hit, nobody would think it was important in any way if you played it to a friend today. I do not believe that the artist is entitled to that money in any way.

(I do think it's a good idea to give him or her money though and often do for artists that I want to keep producing, an inducement, if you will. That's how I like to spend my culture money.)

Which is to say, as a legal/political philosophy issue, I do not think that royalties (etc) are 'legitimate'. I believe that royalties induce bad art and a bad culture. I don't think there's any justice in the claim that the value in a cultural artifact derives from the artist. I believe it derives from the audience.

But there's more!!

Just about every aspect of the modern intellectual property regime stifles progress. Software is the most egregious example. Since this intellectual property era, there are tales of many startups either not getting off the ground or being killed by intellectual property lawsuits. It's true also of every other medium.

Every artistic representation is a consequence of one's experience. These days, a person has to not only be creative but able to do so in a way that doesn't too closely refer to the artistic context of his or her life. That, imho, represents a huge, unfair reduction in the ability of people to do art. Many people that can't hit that high bar could be doing lots of entertaining and interesting things if they didn't have to worry about being sued for using too much of the things that are around us.

Remember, it is illegal to play your favorite song at your wedding unless you pay royalties. And no, there's not some sort of "it's just one song" exception. If it's in a public place, you owe. Even though the song has no value beyond the fact that they played it at an important moment in your life. If you hadn't done that important moment, it would be completely uninteresting and without value.

ps, Your furniture guy comparison falls apart because the person is taking the guy's property away from him. After that, the bad guys will have it and the good guy will not. Real property is a real thing and we had to develop rules to deal with reality. Intellectual property is, even if one really supports the idea, a fabrication. It has to serve a goal to exist. I believe it doesn't.




The Second Album

In 2010, I discovered a new singer named Caro Emerald. Her album, Deleted Scenes from the Cutting Room Floor, is a serious candidate for the best album I've ever heard. The lyrics were poignant, music fascinating, performance superb. It was rich, powerful, intense. I can't praise it enough.

2014 arrived and brought with it a reminder of the saddest thing about music, the second  album.

Long ago, I found another album by an artist named Lizzie West. It was also, imho, a tour de force. She's a folk singer and song after song, the poetry was powerful, her performance touching. There are songs that made me verklempt every time I listened to them.

Her second album came along and there was none of the magic. Everything about it was competent. None of it thrilling.

SInce then, I've concluded that many artists spent their entire young life, sequestered in their teenage bedroom, writing stuff, thinking stuff, experiencing the frustrations of growing up and recording their perceptions of the world around them in their art. Their first record, to a substantial extent, took ten years to write.

When, finally, the music is produced, it has richness representing the extensive, layered thought behind it.

The second album is done over the course of a year or two and, it's a busy one. Based on an excellent album, they are much busier than before. The amount of thought and inspiration that contribute to the album is microscopic by comparison to the first.

And it shows.

Caro's second album is completely good. I have played it several times and like it. She had medical trouble with her voice before making this record and the damage shows but, she's a spirited singer with a lot of style and a good voice.

What she has in common with Lizzie and other second album writers is that she is aware of what was awesome about her previous record and that influences her work in a profoundly negative way. Again in the context of a fine record, it lacks new ideas. The things that were amazing and charming about the first record return here in a way that reminds me that her pinnacle was on the last record.

I could see this Johnny Depp's performance as Jack Sparrow in his second movie. You could easily imagine him sitting in his trailor watching clips of his brilliant, inventive performance in the first movie, practicing the fey gestures, etc. When he got to the camera, what was magical before was now practiced and artificial. For Caro Emerald, it's nowhere near as bad as that performance became, but it is diminished.

It breaks my heart. In my sixties, I am aware of the passing of youth and the loss of capabilities. It is weird and sad to realize this whole new class of ephemera. Unless she runs into some huge inspiration or bit of luck, this woman has passed her musical prime and she's not yet thirty.

Of course, she might have other opportunities for excellence. New capabilities that come to the fore in her thirties and ones after that in her forties. Etc. I feel that's happened to me in some ways.

Or she might have a change of heart and turn into Madonna. People whined about her constant reinvention but one thing you never, ever heard was the echo of the previous album's good bits on the next one. Consequently, she was consistently inventive, usually excellent and changed the face of music for twenty years.

In any case, it supports my current intention never to stick with something because I'm good at it. That is, I think, the real lesson of the second album.


A WOMAN IS RAPED IN AMERICA EVERY SIX MINUTES!!!

There are people who seriously discuss the meaning of the word 'no' when uttered by a woman in a sexual situation People sincerely discuss the importance of a woman's attire in deciding whether a rape is 'legitimate'. Many young men think it is perfectly acceptable to try to trick a woman into getting drunk in the hope that she can be raped without consequences. Many others seriously consider her level of inebriation in trying to judge whether she 'deserved' what she got.

Men are shown on tv leering at women in a way that suggests that this is a good thing. Jokes are made about the insignificance of actually pleasing a woman. Women who won't 'put out' are considered to be unreasonable, narrow-minded and somehow subnormal in many male conversations and nobody condemns this attitude.

Women cannot safely walk the streets of most cities at night. Parents need to be concerned about their daughter's socializing without supervision. Rapists almost never (only 3%) go to jail. One out of six women are raped.

A WOMAN IS RAPED IN AMERICA EVERY SIX MINUTES!!!

And, by the way, America ranks #6 in the world (out of nearly two hundred countries) in the number of rapes per capita.

The number six keeps coming up. Six minutes. One out of six women. Sixth worst in the world.

The mere fact that anyone ever doubts that we are a culture that practically encourages rape in the face of this reality is proof positive that our culture is sick. One might choose a different phrase but, considering that 16% of our sisters, mothers and wives will be raped, that it happens ten times an hour, how else would you characterize a place where such things happen other than a Rape Culture.


Having to convence Russi that we will not abuse Snowden

I think it's ok to prosecute Snowden, even if he should have revealed the breadth of the NSA program. I accept the need to have state secrets and, virtuous or not, that has to be protected.

Where I veer into strict, horrified agreement is that I am completely certain that he would be brutalized by our government if apprehended. While Guantanamo is a completely bad thing, it's a side-issue. What's real is the three years before charges for Jose Padilla or the grotesque torment of Bradley Manning.

In these cases, the government imprisoned the person in harsh, torturous circumstances for years before even granting a trial.

And, of course, it's telling that the correct phrase is "granting a trial". Neither got one until the government bloody well felt like it.

As you know, I am not as concerned as you about the NSA's (possible) abuse of our data. Instead, I am worried as hell about the rest of the government's abuse of people's real, live bodies.

I recently posted an article about the increasingly widespread use of SWAT teams to serve search warrants, destroying property, terrorizing families, and otherwise acting in the way of the jackboot, often toward completely innocent people.

As a result, I completely understand Snowden's unwillingness to accept the consequences of his, as I'd call it, civil disobedience, because it won't be a legal punishment. It will be torture and 'enhanced' interrogation and years of wondering if he will ever get a trial.

Holder didn't say he wouldn't be abused. He said they would not seek the death penalty and he would not be tortured. While Obama has significantly revised the idea of torture by our government, Bradley Manning's example makes clear that Snowden can expect to be severely punished well before a trial is convened.

It is an embarrassment and it is the biggest threat. We think of the fact that we have more people in jail than any other country except, what is it?, Iran is a awful but, the more important clue is that we have become a real, live police state.

Cops do stop and frisk. They use battering rams to serve search warrants. They put people in jail for years without trial. They set up roadblocks to see if your ok to drive. They check your papers at the airport. It goes on and on.

This is big stuff and we need to fix it.