Sunday, August 29, 2010

Terrible truth in humor.

From Very Demotivational.

Who do conservatives hate? Mexicans or Muslims? I forgot.

They keep changing. For most of the summer, there was high hysteria about illegal immigrants and immigrants in general. It got to be where any immigrant was equated with illegal immigration. It was one big mass freak out where conservatives were howling about fixing the immigration problem, sealing the borders, building a fence, etc. etc. Mexicans were taking over ranches in Texas. Headless corpses were being found in Arizona. (Neither of which turned out to be true, of course.) Illegal immigrants were going to be the downfall of the United States.

Then came the uproar about the building of a mosque, which is really a community center with a swimming pool and a basketball court, at “ground zero”, which turns out to be two block away, further than a strip club and a couple of other, small mosques. That is now the freak out. People in Missouri, Wisconsin, Tennessee and California are so freaked out that there have been protests and violence against mosques in communities in those states, which are not even close to “ground zero.”

I was not around at the start of WWII. But this seems so much a replay of our fear, paranoia and xenophobia that occurred back in the 40's, after the start of the war. The Japanese Empire, being run essentially by the military, bombed our navel forces at Pearl Harbor. The national trauma and confusion was, no doubt, extremely high. We were hurt and wanted to hurt back. Luckily, there was the Japanese Empire sitting there, smirking at us. Declaring war on them was easy. But what else did we do? On the west coast of the United States, the government rounded up American citizens who just happened to be of Japanese heritage, made them give up all their belongings and forced them into internment camps. Let me repeat that. The U.S. government put American citizens, who had done nothing wrong except share some genetic heritage with our enemy, into camps. They were surrounded by barbed wire and guards with guns. Even small children were put away, all to help sooth our national hurt and suspicion of anyone who didn’t look like us.

Did the U.S. put people of German heritage in camps? No. But American citizens of Japanese heritage were rounded up and deprived of their liberty. What was the difference? The real difference, in my mind, was that people of Japanese heritage DIDN'T LOOK LIKE US. They were strange, they were foreign. We were hurting after Pearl Harbor and these people, these American citizens who owned their own businesses, paid taxes, went to school, had sons in the military, looked like our enemy. Japanese = enemy. It was so easy, especially since it reinforced the thinking of many people anyway. If Germany had bombed our Navy in a sneak attack that killed thousands of people on a Sunday morning who were doing nothing more than just sitting around or going to church, whatever one does in Hawaii on a Sunday morning, would we have rounded up American citizens of German heritage? We will never know, but I very sincerely doubt it. Germans looked like us. Japanese people, even third generation American citizens, didn't.

What is going on now? People are now trying to equate anyone of the Muslim faith with a bunch of evil terrorists. People are being attacked because they are Muslims. Politicians who should know better are saying, in the national press, that there shouldn’t be any mosques built in the U.S., period. And, for the most part, these are the same people who adore the Constitution when it comes to the freedom to own and carry guns. Brown skin, thick accent, "strange" religion (i.e., not Christian or Jewish) is now equated with terrorists. Yes, let's all focus our anger and hatred of anyone who doesn't look like us at another group of innocent people! That's the American spirit! Kill the infidel before he kills us!

If the current crop of Republicans were in total control of the government right now, meaning the presidency and both Houses of Congress, do you think there might be a danger of the government trying to do the same thing to people of the Muslim faith, even though they are American citizens, that the government did to people of Japanese heritage back in the 40’s? Because, based on the rhetoric that I am hearing, that would be a distinct possibility. Once a mob mentality takes hold, it is very difficult to stop it. I find this very reminiscent of an old Twilight Zone episode, "The Monsters Are Due On Maple St." One line from that episode is very relevant in this discussion.

"You're standing out here all set to crucify someone! You're all set to find a scapegoat! You're all desperate to point some kind of a finger at a neighbor! Well, believe me, the only thing that will happen is we're going to eat each other up alive!"

Our country should be better than this.

Photos from here.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Ignorance is patriotic!

It must be, for a huge percentage of the population of the United States to believe what they do. I just do not see how people with any sort of power of rational thought to believe what they do and to be so easily manipulated by ignorant or immoral people. I knew that many people in this country were going to go bonkers when Barak Obama, a Democrat and a black man, was elected president. I actually thought at the time that this would be rather fun to watch. A right wing meltdown! Ha! Boy, do I regret that feeling now. I have never felt less like I am having fun, ever in my entire life. This is like watching the entire country go down Alice’s rabbit hole.

I was watching a number of older Daily Show episodes last night using the “On Demand” feature of my cable television. That’s kind of nice, as you get to fast forward through the commercials. I also don’t really like watching the interviews that he does as the last segment. I usually just watch the first and second segments, as those are the ones that contain the gems. But I was getting more and more depressed as I watched these last night. Yeah, Stewart is as funny and biting as always. But the targets of his derision were getting to me. John Boehner, Glenn Beck, Sarah Palin, tea-partiers, on and on, ad infinitum. That’s really depressing that we have so many seemingly crazy and/or moronic people (and, in Beck’s case, add “messianic”) in positions of power and influence. After watching about four or five shows, I couldn’t take it anymore, I was so depressed.

Democrats may be resigning themselves to losing control of the House in November, and the Senate now appears to be in play as well. This is beyond insane in my rational, logic-based universe. How can anyone possibly vote for Republicans, especially of the tea-party variety, after what happened during the Bush years? I cannot fathom how this can possibly be.

My erstwhile posting partner here at Barking Rabbits and good friend has expressed her opinion, when I have made similar plaintive wails in the past, that my problem is exactly because I am looking for answers in the rational, logic-based universe. The answers are not there.

That’s really what is the problem here and why this feels, to me, to be such a hopeless situation. There are essentially two camps out there, neither one of them understanding the other’s position. To me, many of the statements made and positions taken by the right-wing these days seems to be completely and utterly insane. Yet, they think the exact same thing about me. I had a conversation, and I use the word “conversation” in the context that words were exchanged, but exactly zero understanding was involved, with an old friend recently. He has turned out to be hugely conservative and I am pretty liberal, when measured against the rest of the country, I guess. When we were younger, perhaps our worldviews hadn’t coalesced to this point, or maybe it just didn’t matter, as we were concentrating on other things. We talked, and it got a little heated. Even several weeks after, I still do not understand his position, because many things he said seem to be completely contradictory. Yet, even though he is a very logical person in his engineering career, these contradictions either didn’t bother him or else he didn’t think they were contradictory. We had no understanding of each other’s positions, and never will.

That’s why I feel the current situation is so hopeless. It seems as if the polarization will only continue to grow. I see no way out of this, except for some not very pleasant resolutions. The one that I believe to be most likely is that our arguing, infighting, trying to minimize each other, will continue to grow until physical violence becomes the norm. We are on the brink of that right now. There are many good examples, almost all coming from the anger and hatred of the rightwing. The most recent example of this is the attack of a Muslim cabdriver in New York by a drunk, angry white guy who apparently harbored a deep grudge against Muslims. This is only going to continue to escalate until this country is so involved in our conservative vs. liberal free-for-all that this country will continue its slide toward complete irrelevance on the world stage. Our rich people will continue to get richer, our middle class will continue to disappear and our poor will continue to get poorer. In the absence of a French Revolution-style uprising against the gentry of this country, our society is going to evolve into this stratified, wealth/class based system of haves and have-nots. That it what I see as a likely outcome. That is, unless the looming catastrophe of global climate change doesn’t get us first.

Enough of this maudlin attempt at prophesying a very uncertain future, and back to more current, but still incomprehensible, events. Today, Glenn Beck is holding his “Reclaim Honor” rally at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington D.C. I won’t go over everything that has gone on to this point. I am sure, if you are reading something like this and have made it this far, you are well aware of what I am talking about. I just cannot fathom how Beck and his followers can possibly think that they are “reclaiming” the civil rights movement. A white guy with both national radio and television programs and who makes millions of dollars a year is actually comparing himself to Dr. Martin Luther King. This is the guy who said that our first black president has a “deep seated hatred of white people” and who thinks “social equality” is some sort of socialist plot. My reaction, in my rational, logic-based universe, is “What kind of lunatic is this guy? Does he know nothing of history?” Yet, he has sold this vision to thousands if not millions of his followers.

Back stated that he is not going to have a long prepared speech, but only going in with a few notes, so that if “He” wants to speak through Beck, “He will have the opportunity.” That is what Glenn Beck said on his radio program. I am presuming that Beck is saying that he is going to channel God during this rally, so that Beck will be the instrument of God’s will, or something like that. Again, my reaction is, “This guy is a messianic megalomaniac.” But hardly anyone except for people like Keith Olbermann points this out. Everyone else apparently either agrees with Beck or else prefers to just let him skate on this point. In my universe, Beck would be nothing more than one of those crazy people in need of a bath, shouting about the end of the world on a downtown street corner and a few passersby throw a few coins in the bowl in front of him. Yet, thousands of people are traveling a long way to here this guy speak.

I really thought I was overwhelmed with this insanity of this situation during the Bush administration. I didn’t realize that all these crazy people were being relatively well behaved, as “their people” were in power. I didn’t realize how much they could dial up “the crazy” when a black Democrat was elected to the presidency. I just didn’t realize how insane this situation could become.

This is why I haven’t been blogging recently. I feel overwhelmed, and cannot even begin to wrap my head around what is going on in this country. It is beyond my comprehension and therefore, I find it very difficult, as well as futile, to try to write anything about it. I am about to the point where all I am doing is hunkering down in my foxhole and keeping my head down. I am to the age where I can now see retirement from my job as a very real concern in a few years. Not for a while, but it is no longer a nebulous concept. I hope our society holds together for the next 20 years or so. After that, I suppose I can say that I had a good run and I was relatively lucky not to experience the huge upheavals that human culture goes through with more regularity than we would like to admit. I missed the Vietnam War. I was not in Europe during the first half of the 20th Century. I didn’t live during in the Middle East during the Crusades. I was not a Native American during the time that European settlers were taking their land and isolating and killing their population. No, I have had a relatively easy life. I never have had to worry about where my next meal was coming from and whether I was going to have a warm, dry place to sleep that night. I guess I shouldn’t complain too much.

But I am very concerned about what kind of world my daughter is going to find herself in when she becomes an adult and has to face these issues for herself.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Random thought for Saturday morning.

The U.S. government seems to be really good at indicting famous people, such as Martha Stewart and most recently Roger Clemens. But it seems to really kind of suck at actually going after big time lawbreakers in the government. Torture became standard operating procedure when it broke all sort of treaties the U.S. had signed onto. Politicizing the Dept. of Justice under the Bush administration? No big deal. Illegal wiretaps? Yep, that's O.K. too.

Yeah, there have been a few elected officials that eventually serve time for their misdeeds. Randy "Duke" Cunningham is still in the clink, I believe.

I agree that lying to Congress isn't really a wise thing to do. But really, doesn't the government have anything better to do than go after Roger Clemens?

Friday, August 20, 2010

Whatever happened to.....?

I am introducing a new featurette here at Barking Rabbits, which may or may not go past this first entry. It's called "Whatever happened to...?" and you might be able to guess from the lead-in what it might be about.

Whatever happened to the time when public figures were caught, by indisputable evidence, contradicting themselves in public, and then that figure at least felt guilty enough or embarrassed enough to try to apologize, or explain, or maybe just go away for a while? Now, all that happens is that the contradiction is ignored by most everyone and it is quickly forgotten. If the guilty discusses it at all, it seems to always be in the form of blaming someone else for not understanding or being too sensitive.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

An illustrative example of how the Republican Attack Machine works.

As everyone who is alive in America today, the “Ground Zero mosque”, which is neither at Ground Zero nor a mosque, is a big issue. Just why it is a big issue is beyond the intellectual capacity for most of us to understand, but then, that’s probably our fault. We have tried to understand things that are going on in this country from a logical perspective. And that just ain’t happenin’.

So, here’s how this works. Some tiny little person with a loud voice (in this case, Pam Atlas of Atlas Shrugs, look up the link youself) generates some outrage over something ridiculous and even something that conservatives themselves had no problems with a few months ago. Keep at it until it seeps into more prominent conservative channels, and then, by definition, the so-called “main stream media” that everyone just KNOWS is quite liberal because conservatives keep saying so, must pick the “story” up and run with it. It becomes a snowball set rolling down a hill. In very short order, it has become an avalanche that no one, including the President of the United States and the Majority Leader in the Senate, can avoid.

However, in this case, it appears that things really are getting out of control. A pipe bomb was set off in a mosque in Florida, and it was just luck or bad planning by the bomber that people were not killed. Republican leaders who worry about how this might play out in the elections (I am pretty certain it isn’t because they have a conscience or a sense of right and wrong), have decided that this might be getting out of hand and are trying to pull this monster, which was entirely of their own making, back.

From HuffPo:

As the discussion over the so-called "Ground Zero mosque" has moved from a debate over religious freedom to one about the place of Muslims in American society, a question left largely unanswered is what role the issue will play in the 2010 elections.

In recent days, top GOP strategists have begun expressing a sense of caution about candidates for office pushing the issue too forcefully. On Monday, for instance, Ed Gillespie, the former chair of the Republican National Committee and current point man on a host of election efforts, told the Huffington Post that he expects the "mosque" debate to ebb as an a electoral issue.

"I suspect it does recede," said Gillespie. "But the long-term impact is that it is one more example of how President Obama views most Americans...

I love this. Fabricate a totally ridiculous outrage, get the entire country in a lather about it, and then blame the President of the United States for it. Yeah, this is ALL ABOUT how President Obama views “most Americans.”

What a goddam stupid country we live in right now.

Monday, August 09, 2010

Native American Paper Sculptures

Sculptures Designed and Made by Allen & Patty Eckman. Please visit their home page here.

These stunningly detailed sculptures may only be made from paper – but they are being snapped up by art fans for tens of thousands of pounds. The intricate creations depict Native American scenes and took up to 11 months to make using a specially formulated paper.

Husband and wife team Allen and Patty Eckman put paper pulp into clay moulds and pressurize it to remove the water. The hard, lightweight pieces are then removed and the couple painstakingly add detailed finishing’s with a wide range of tools.

Allen said: "We create Indians partly because my great, great grandmother was a Cherokee and my family on both sides admire the native Americans... I work on the men and animals and Patty does the women and children" explains Allen. "I enjoy most doing the detail. The paper really lends itself to unlimited detail. I'm really interested in the Indians' material, physical and spiritual culture and that whole period of our nation's history I find fascinating. From the western expansion, through the Civil War and beyond is of great interest to me."

Allen explained their technique: "It should not be confused with papier mache. The two mediums are completely different. I call what we do 'cast paper sculpture. Some of them we create are life-size and some we scale down to 1/6 life-size. These sculptures are posed as standing nude figures and limited detailed animals with no ears, tails or hair. We transform them by sculpting on top of them - creating detail with soft and hard paper we make in various thicknesses and textures. We have really enjoyed the development of our fine art techniques over the years and have created a process that is worth sharing. There are
many artists and sculptors who we believe will enjoy this medium as much as we have."

Sunday, August 01, 2010

Facts, data, opinions, yelling really loudly and multiple alternative versions of reality.

I'm sorry, but I seem incapable of writing anything. "Not being able to write" and "blogging" don't really seem to fit all that well together. Sort of like "wanting to be an actor" and "being overcome with stage fright." It doesn't really work.

I suppose part of this is due to the fact that my job mostly entails reading and writing stuff, all day long. It's rather difficult to work up the enthusiasm anymore to come home after work or get up in the mornings on the weekend and think, "Hey, I really want to write more stuff!" After eating spaghetti three meals a day for six weeks straight, you really don't want to have any more fu*king spaghetti.

But my big problem, as I have said before, is I am just overcome with the vapid stupidity (is there another kind?) of our society, and the devisions within in it that don't even seem to dwell in the same reality as each other, much less talk coherently and be able to find common ground. Facts are not facts anymore.... Facts are subject to whether or not they fit in with your current philosophy. Facts are now just heartfelt opinions. There is data out there on the internet that supports any damn position that you would like to take. Earth is warming up? Sure, there's lots of data to support that. Earth is cooling down? Yep, there's data for that. Unless someone takes the time to go track any piece of data (which I guess would be a datum) that they are using back to its original source, then you just stop looking when you find something that works for you. We have gone way past that old joke about lies, damn lies and statistics. You can no longer try to use data and facts to try to convince someone of the validity of your argument, because the person you are arguing with is probably armed with more "facts and data" than you are that are in complete opposition.

Is there even any such thing as "truth" anymore? Was there ever such a thing? I always believed there was. However, I am coming to believe that I was wrong. I have degrees in engineering and physics. There is a certain kind of thinking that is required to get a degree in engineering, one that starts with a set of facts or data that everyone can agree on in order to come up with a solution to any particular problem. But now, all that's out the window. It's like you got every single answer to your final exam wrong, just because your professor disagreed with your starting data points. "The Laffer Curve tells you everything you need to know about taxation!" "No, the Laffer Curve is widely discredited!" What is it? It depends on what you go read and want to believe in the first place.

The consequences of these dueling sets of realities is that the two sides, or however many there are, will never, ever be able to agree on anything. Never. We are all now obligated to view whatever facts and data might pop up in front of our faces through the filter of our already preconceived notions. It is fits, then great. We can absorb that new one for future use. If it doesn't fit, then you toss it out without thinking anything further about it, or else maybe chalk it up to the partisanship of the "other side," who are obviously a bunch of malicious liars and/or complete morons.

In my universe, Sarah Palin and Glenn Beck are morons, Beck is more unhinged than Palin, but morons all the same. Others, however, think that both of them are saviors and conveyors of the absolute and unvarnished truth. How can this be that people can have this big of a difference of opinion about something that I think is so cut and dried? How could ANYONE with an education over about the fifth grade thing that Sarah Palin is anything other than a lazy attention whore who usually has no idea what they hell she is talking about? It's beyond me, other than to go back to my original assertion that there are no absolute truths anymore. There is no such thing as unbiased, rational thought. Every single thing must be seen through the filter of preconceived ideas before any sort of judgment is passed. If your particular reality requires that Sarah Palin is some sort of Goddess for Truth, Justice and the American Way, then that is what she is.

This is not how I think a civilized, thoughtful society should function, but that's how it goes these days, even for most of our mass media. And without a responsible mass media that doesn't use those same filters as their target audience, I must admit, there is very little chance of this country ever having a knowledgeable population that elects intelligent and knowledgeable people to political office in order to solve the huge problems facing this country if our society that does not have an active, truthful media that will accept the notion that they are there to help uncover the truth and not just to report that every story has two sides. No, partially because of our incompetent media that loves conflict, juicy scandal and playing to the audience in order to make as much advertising dollars as they possible can for their corporate masters, we can't even agree on whether things are even problems anymore, much less come up with ways to fix them.

To get back to my original starting point for this point, it is a very long way of saying, of course, that it is extremely difficult for me to blog about much of anything anymore when I have completely given up hope for our society. I have absolutely no idea where it might be headed. It could be headed for some 1984-esque world where facts are things to be manipulated and no dissent or even appearance of non-conformity is tolerated. We could be headed for some complete meltdown of orderly society when global climate change disrupts our food and energy supply and distribution to the point that we have no functional government at the national or even state level, a la The Road Warrior or the myriad of other post-apocalyptic films of the past 40 years. We could keep stumbling around just like we are, slowly sinking into the morass of our own stupidity and inability to see past the ends of our collective noses in order to maintain the purity of whatever vision of reality to which we subscribe. It could be a combination of little bits of all of those, or it could be something completely different. Probably the one thing that won't happen is what everyone was worried about in the 50's and 60's, there won't be a global thermonuclear exchange by two or more superpowers that wipes civilization off the face of the planet. That's probably not going to happen anymore. But, whatever happens, I firmly believe 1) it isn't going to be pretty, and 2) nothing we can do now can change it and only part of that is due to the fact that we don't want to change it.

So, that's why my blogging has fallen off to a whisper these days. It's pretty difficult to write something snarky or insightful or hopeful or full of passion if I have given up hope. What's the point? The last few weeks, I have engaged in active isolationism, and I have found myself being a lot less unhappy, frustrated and angry than I have been. If our society wants to commit suicide by mass stupidity, then who am I to complain about it?

I am just going to go bury my head in the sand over here for a while. Poke me in the butt if something happens that you think I might need to know about.