Monday, June 30, 2014

THE MYSTIQUE OF PRACTICALITY

From Richard Hofstadter's Pulitzer Prize winning 1962 book "Anti-Intellectualism in American Life."

The anti-intellectualism of businessmen, interpreted narrowly as hostility to intellectuals, is mainly a political phenomenon. But interpreted more broadly as a suspicion of intellect itself, it is part of the extensive American devotion to practicality and direct experience which ramifies through almost every area of American life. With some variations of details suitable to social classes and historical circumstances, the excessive practical bias so often attributed only to business is found almost everywhere in America. In itself, a certain wholesome regard for the practical needs no defense and deserves no disparagement, so long as it does not aspire to exclusiveness, so long as other aspects of human experience are not denigrated and ridiculed. Practical vigor is a virtue; what has been spiritually crippling in our history is the tendency to make a mystique of practicality.

The "mystique of practicality" is why scholastic arts programs are underfunded and rhetorically denigrated throughout the land. Among other problems. 

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Sunday, June 29, 2014

ABC News Guest Tells Bill Kristol To 'Enlist In The Iraqi Army'

From the Huffington Post:

Vanden Heuvel called out Kristol, editor of "The Weekly Standard," over his strong interventionist beliefs that made him the subject of much criticism around the time of the 2003 Iraq invasion. Kristol, one of the most prominent Iraq War boosters, has been back in the media spotlight recently to give advice on the current crisis in Iraq and push for a renewed intervention. 

Vanden Heuvel called Kristol one of the "architects of catastrophe" in the 2003 invasion and said that he and many other war hawks must be held accountable for their "failed assumptions that have so grievously wounded this nation."

"This country should not go back to war," she said. "And if you feel so strongly, you should, with all due respect, enlist in the Iraqi army."

More here, with video.

The real story here, of course, is that Kristol still gets work as an "expert" on anything, let alone foreign policy, and on television, no less.  Really, just some guy walking down the street is going to give you better advice about Iraq at this point than Bill Kristol and his ilk.  But I already addressed that a couple of weeks ago.  So what's left that's worth talking about with this?  Why, the fact that Nation editor Katrina Vanden Heuvel was allowed to treat Kristol with the utter contempt he deserves in front of a national audience.  Because, really, that's the only way we ought to be treating these people, with heavy doses of disdainful contempt.  

They got a LOT of people killed.  Americans, Iraqis, civilians, women, children.  We've spent over a trillion dollars on their adventure.  And we have NOTHING to show for it, except blood, death, and carnage.  Bill Kristol is a total scum bag who ought to be busting rocks or painting license plates.  No one should show him any respect at all, ever.  Because he is a contemptible and despicable piece of trash. 

Go check the video out.  It's satisfying.

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Saturday, June 28, 2014

FRANK ZAPPA FRIDAY AND 70S POP MONDAY ON SATURDAY

Two of my facebook features exported to Real Art.



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Friday, June 27, 2014

FRIDAY CAT BLOGGING--SPECIAL CANINE EDITION!

Lola





















Be sure to check out Modulator's Friday Ark for more cat (and dog) blogging pics!

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Thursday, June 26, 2014

American War Crimes in America

From CounterPunch:

Custer also played a leading role in the 1864 desolation of the Shenandoah Valley, where I was raised a century later. After failing to decisively vanquish southern armies in the battlefield, Lincoln and his generals decided to win the war by brutalizing civilians. In August  1864, Gen. U.S. Grant  ordered  the destruction of all the barns, crops, and livestock in the Shenandoah Valley.  The etching to the left shows his troops after torching much of the town of Mt. Jackson, Virginia.  The population of Warren County, my home county, fell by 20% during the 1860s. Did anyone who refused to submit to Washington automatically forfeit his right to live?  The desolation from the war and the systemic looting in its aftermath (ironically labeled “Reconstruction”) helped keep the South economically prostrate for generations.

More here.

Apparently, as the essay observes, today is the anniversary of Custer's Last Stand, one of the few big battles Native Americans actually won during America's long crusade to eliminate them.  But remembering one of the few losses in this genocidal war serves as an excellent reminder that the European, and therefore American, historic legacy around the globe has been one of atrocity, and that continues until this very day.  Foreigners, people of color, colonized people, even white Americans and Europeans, all of them have been victims of this atrocity-regime over the centuries.

I would say something to the effect of "we must never forget, etc." but I don't think most Americans even understand this in the first place.  I wonder what this country would be like if every single one of us was fully aware of the blood on our collective hands.  I like to think we'd have a more just and compassionate society.  But maybe not.  White Americans LOVED killing Indians.  Loved it well into the twentieth century, when television and movie Westerns absolutely glorified our genocide--I mean, even when I was a kid we played "cowboys and Indians"; as Noam Chomsky has asked, could you imagine German children playing "Nazis and Jews"?


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Wednesday, June 25, 2014

THE "TRUE MEANING" OF THE CONSTITUTION

From Wikipedia:

Judicial Review is the doctrine under which legislative and/or executive actions are subject to review (and possible invalidation) by the judiciary. A specific court with judicial review power may annul the acts of the state when it finds them incompatible with a higher authority (such as the terms of a written constitution). Judicial review is an example of check and balances in a modern governmental system (where the judiciary checks the other branches of government). This principle is interpreted differently in different jurisdictions, which also have differing views on the different hierarchy of governmental norms. As a result, the procedure and scope of judicial review may differ from country to country and state to state.

More here.

You want to know what the true meaning of the Constitution is? Whatever the hell the Supreme Court says it is. We can criticize their decisions. We can explain why their reasoning is faulty, or out of historical context, whatever. We can get angry about how they rule, as I have many times. But once they've ruled, that's it. That's what the Constitution means. Until, of course, they revisit the issue at some point in the future. But before then, a SCOTUS ruling is the law of the land, the true meaning of the Constitution.

I am sick to death of hearing all these Tea Partiers and "Patriots" going on and on about what the Constitution really means, how we liberals just don't understand the Constitution, how what we really need are leaders who "understand" the "true meaning" of the Constitution. All that's bullshit. We freaking KNOW what the Constitution means. All we have to do is look up these decisions and read them.

There is no secret "true" interpretation of the Constitution. Anybody who tells you there is one automatically shows himself to be totally ignorant about how this country functions and should be dismissed immediately as a stupid hick who has no idea what he's talking about.


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Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Reminder

From Balloon Juice courtesy of Eschaton:

For all the noise people make to keep blacks and poors away from a voting booth, voter impersonation fraud is an incredibly dumb crime. If the person you impersonated tries to vote in the same election, you’re busted. If they knowingly let you vote for them it seems likely that they would have voted the same way. If you vote in more than one precinct you will get flagged in the first half-assed check of that year’s voting records.

More here.

What continues to be amazing to me about the entire malevolent GOP push for voter ID laws across the nation is that, when confronted with factual evidence that there is virtually no voter fraud of the variety these laws ostensibly prevent, the response is essentially something along the lines of "nuh-uh!"  And they freaking GET AWAY WITH IT.  Supporters never present any evidence at all to the contrary.  Ever.  Very likely because there isn't any, but you'd think they'd at least try.  But no.  They just assert this fiction that people are voting fraudulently and then immediately move on to talking about the dire need to prevent it with voter ID laws, and, yes, it's a shame and all how it disenfranchises so many people of color, but it just can't be helped, gotta get the fraudulent voters.

The bottom line here, as it has been the whole time, is that this kind of fraud is near impossible to pull off in any significant way, which is why it is almost non-existent.  Republicans KNOW this, but it serves as a mantra-justification for enacting laws that keep lots of Democrats from voting, which is, of course, their true function.  That is, passing voter ID laws is, very ironically, voting fraud in and of itself.  They can't win fairly, so the CHEAT.  And then call Democrats cheaters.  It's really sick and twisted kindergarten stuff.  But it seems to be working, which, I guess, tells us a lot about what our political culture has devolved into.


And, oh yeah, as the linked blog post observes, it seems we're catching more and more Republicans doing what they say Democrats are doing but aren't.  As always, conservatives don't do or even understand irony.

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Monday, June 23, 2014

THE RISE AND FALL OF THE GREAT POWERS

From historian Paul Kennedy's 1987 book The Rise and Fall of the Great Powers:

The task facing American statesmen over the next decades, therefore, is to recognize that broad trends are under way, and that there is a need to 'manage' affairs so that the relative erosion of the United States' position takes place slowly and smoothly, and is not accelerated by policies which bring merely short-term advantage but longer-term disadvantage.  This involves, from the president's office downward, an appreciation that technological and therefore socioeconomic change is occurring in the world faster than ever before; that the international community is much more politically and culturally diverse than has been assumed, and is defiant of simplistic remedies offered either by Washington or Moscow to its problems; that the economic and productive power balances are no longer as favorably tilted in the United States' direction as in 1945; and that, even in the military realm, there are signs of a certain redistribution of the balances, away from a bipolar to more of a multipolar system, in which the conglomeration of American economic-cum-military strength is likely to remain larger than that possessed by any one of the others individually, but will not be as disproportionate as in the decades which immediately followed the Second World War.  This, in itself, is not a bad thing if one recalls Kissinger's observations about the disadvantages of carrying out policies in what is always seen to be a bipolar world; and it may seem still less of a bad thing when it is recognized how much more Russia may be affected by the changing dynamics of world power.  In all of the discussions about the erosion of American leadership, it needs to be repeated again and again that the decline referred to is relative not absolute, and is therefore perfectly natural; and that the only serious threat to the real interests of the United States can come from a failure to adjust sensibly to the newer world order.

Back when the Berlin Wall came down in 1989, a good friend of mine told me how he had heard of a historian who not only predicted the USSR's downfall, but who also said that the same thing would happen to the US, as well.  We never really got back to that brief discussion, which meant that I ended up spending the next quarter century or so wondering
from time to time about this historian--who is he, and what else did he have to say about this?  Finally, last year, watching a Bill Moyers episode on PBS, I got what appeared to be a lead when a guest mentioned Kennedy's book.  So I put it on the Christmas list, and, once I got it, started reading slowly over the next few months.  Now I'm done.

It's a great book.  But if it's the same historian my buddy mentioned back in the day, and I think he may very well be, he didn't quite predict the downfall of the US or the Soviet Union.  He did, however, lay out pretty convincingly the long-term problems both nations were facing at the time, and it's fair to say that the USSR fell for precisely the reasons he lists: longstanding and widespread economic weaknesses vis-à-vis unsustainable military commitments.  That he got it so right with Russia makes me think we ought to listen very closely to what he said about the US.
 

Kennedy summarizes very nicely in the excerpt above what he had to say about the problems facing America twenty five years ago.  Sadly, in deep hindsight, it appears we're definitely following the path our former Cold War adversaries took back then.  That is, we're trapped in a mode of thinking which no longer applies to our current circumstances.

Kennedy's book studies the Great Powers from the 1500s through the late twentieth century.  Once you get a ways into it, a dominant theme arises.  Again and again, various nations manage to get themselves on top of the heap for various reasons, which generally revolve around finding ways to use economic resources in ways other nations haven't, and then leveraging that economic strength into military power, which is then leveraged into more economic strength.  Ultimately, however, the circumstances which allow a given nation to dominate will change, usually leaving that nation stuck in a system and way of thinking that make perfect sense when first adopted, but become a massive burden once things change.  Spain, the Netherlands, Great Britain, Austria-Hungary, all of them developed structures and mind sets which served them well for many years.  But they just couldn't change when they had to do so, perhaps prisoners of their own success, perhaps because they just couldn't relinquish their own visions of grandeur.  Either way, it always meant losing the number one spot, sometimes falling into obscurity, like Austria-Hungary, other times falling back into simply being a great, but not the greatest, power, like the UK.

That's exactly where we are as a nation right now.  We are in a long term decline relative to the rest of the world.  There can be no doubt about it.  The only question is what kind of decline we're having.  And it's not looking too bright.

I step back and listen to the overall babble comprising what passes for our national discourse.  I hear a nation, or at least its ruling class, that appears to believe we're still in the immediate post WWII period.  A nation that still wants to fight the Nazis or the Russians.  A nation believing it is "the greatest nation in the world," one that seems to proclaim its greatness to assure itself more than anyone else.  A nation stuck in a crazed laissez-faire approach to economics that doesn't seem to be embraced so much by its economic competitors.  In short, as a nation, we seem to be avoiding our problems as much as we possibly can, instead of facing them head on and trying to do something about them.

No, conservatives, I'm not talking about the deficit or social spending.  The budget is manageable, if we don't keep resorting to psychotic political brinksmanship, and we should be increasing social spending, if anything.  Instead, I'm talking about a bloated military we don't need, to fight an enemy that doesn't exist.  I'm talking about how we think we ought to run the world, and our willingness to enforce our views, instead of a healthier and sustainable willingness to participate and lead by example.  I'm talking about creating an economy where prosperity is shared by all instead of by the very few, you know, what we have now, which will make us much more like Haiti over the long term than what we imagine when we contemplate the "American Dream."

In short, we're just not having the right conversation.  We're stuck in the conversation started by our great grandparents, which has very little to do with today's circumstances.  We are not in the middle of the twentieth century, and we need to start acting like it.  We need to let go of the slogans and start reacting to the world as it is, not to the world that we have invented in our imaginations. 

If we really are "the greatest nation in the world," then we will sit down and have a mature and intelligent discussion about what we should do and where we should go as a people.  That we are not doing so tells me it's very likely we are NOT the greatest nation in the world.  And that makes me sad.

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Sunday, June 22, 2014

Is the Violent ISIS Campaign in Iraq -- Funded By Our Allies -- Really An Attack on Iran?

From AlterNet:

What’s important as far as Obama is concerned, is that the strategic objectives of Isis and those of the United States coincide. Both entities seek greater political representation for Sunnis, both want to minimize Iranian influence in Iraq, and both support a soft partition plan that former president of the Council on Foreign Relations, Leslie H. Gelb, called "The only viable strategy to correct (Iraq ‘s) historical defect and move in stages toward a three-state solution: Kurds in the north, Sunnis in the center and Shiites in the south." This is why Obama hasn’t attacked the militia even though it has marched to within 50 miles of Baghdad. It’s because the US benefits from these developments.
More here.

Generally, it's a very good idea to question heavily the official establishment line on foreign policy, especially when concerning the Middle East, which is usually incoherent. I don't know that this is what's actually happening, but it's not incoherent, and makes a LOT more sense than what we're getting from US pundits and politicians.


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Saturday, June 21, 2014

FRANK ZAPPA FRIDAY AND 70S POP MONDAY ON SATURDAY

Two of my facebook features exported to Real Art.



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Friday, June 20, 2014

FRIDAY CAT BLOGGING

Stella





















Be sure to check out Modulator's Friday Ark for more cat blogging pics!

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Thursday, June 19, 2014

Even Business Leaders Now Realize Widening Inequality is a Terrible Problem

The latest Robert Reich column, via AlterNet:

A few weeks ago I was visited in my office by the chairman of one of the country’s biggest high-tech firms who wanted to talk about the causes and consequences of widening inequality and the shrinking middle class, and what to do about it. 

I asked him why he was concerned. “Because the American middle class is the core of our customer base,” he said. “If they can’t afford our products in the years ahead, we’re in deep trouble.” 

I’m hearing the same refrain from a growing number of business leaders. 

More here.

As Nobel Prize winning economist Paul Krugman has asserted repeatedly for years, your spending is my income, and my spending is your income.  And that's pretty much the basis for consumer capitalism.  We've got to spend.  If we don't spend, consumer capitalism is deeply diminished.  Actually, capitalism more generally becomes deeply diminished because consumption is the biggest part of it, and not just fifty one percent, either.  Consumption accounts for, by some estimates, seventy percent of GDP.  Kill consumption, you kill the economy.

This is one of the big reasons, among several other big reasons, why economic inequality is such an awful thing.  When you tilt the scales in favor of the very wealthy in the way it's been happening incrementally for the last thirty or so years, you're essentially dismantling domestic consumer markets.  Obviously, when you've got no market, you've got no business.  Prosperity fails for all.  I mean, except, of course, for the very wealthy, who may or may not care one way or the other.

But if you care about economic growth, if you care about equal opportunity, if you own or operate a business, then you must necessarily be gravely concerned about people not being able to afford to buy things anymore.  That is, whether you think so or not, economic inequality is messing with your life.  And all the right-wing folk tales about bootstraps, welfare queens, and "job creators" won't do a damned thing to change that.

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Wednesday, June 18, 2014

JUNETEENTH

From Wikipedia:

Juneteenth, also known as Juneteenth Independence Day, Freedom Day, or Emancipation Day, is a holiday in the United States that commemorates the announcement of the abolition of slavery in the U.S. state of Texas in 1865, and more generally the emancipation of African-American citizens throughout the United States. Celebrated on June 19, the term is a portmanteau of June and nineteenth, and is recognized as a state holiday or special day of observance in most states.

More here.

White Americans really ought to celebrate Juneteenth, too.

Of course, it makes complete sense that African Americans, who created the observance, would be the principle group celebrating the day because, along with emancipation more generally, Juneteenth commemorates the day black Texans were informed that they were free. (Man, I totally love that this started as a Texas thing!) But abolishing slavery is something of which ALL Americans should be proud. We became a bit more civilized as a people when our nation finally outlawed this barbaric practice. And even though it took another century of enduring the horrific brand of oppression known as Jim Crow, as well as other regional, non-Southern varieties of white supremacist oppression, to get us to where we are today, the end of enslavement was an extraordinarily important milestone.

There continues to be, of course, a great deal of progress we need to make as a people when it comes to equality and race. But we have made progress! And we should celebrate it.

So happy Juneteenth everybody! Do something fun and meaningful tomorrow on this most American of holidays. Especially if you're a Texan. But, like I said, Juneteenth is for all Americans.


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Tuesday, June 17, 2014

The Missing Clause in Scalia’s First Amendment

From Lawyers, Guns, and Money, courtesy of Eschaton:

Which brings us to the related fallacy in Scalia’s argument — the assertion that the First Amendment simply “favors” religion while it is “agnostic” about music. The problem, needless to say, is that while the First Amendment protects the religious beliefs of individuals, in the previous clause it disfavors religious endorsements by the state. The distinction between expressions of religious belief by individuals in public and the endorsement of religion by the state and its officials mirrors the distinction in the First Amendment. Reasonable people can disagree about whether the Establishment Clause forbids holding public school graduation ceremonies in a church (although the arguments on behalf of the state strike me as very weak), but the idea that the case presents an issue no different than a private individual saying a prayer on a municipal bus is remarkably silly.

More here.

Still more evidence that, in this day and age, there really can be no such thing as a conservative intellectual.  I mean, Scalia's just got to be considered the top conservative intellect in the country, and he gets wrong one of the more simple ramifications of our first amendment freedoms.

Religious expression is protected by the Constitution in multiple ways.  Obviously, the amendment's "establishment clause" serves as the strongest guarantee for religious expression, but the freedoms of speech and assembly protect it twice again.  You have the right to go around talking about your religion, or God, or Jesus, or the Buddha, or Allah, Odin, whatever.  You have the right to pray in public.  You have the right to get together with others in public and worship, or proselytize, or whatever.  These rights are non-negotiable, and only limited when the circumstances are such that religious expression interferes with the rights of others.  So you can't, say, get up in the middle of class at school and start chanting while the teacher is lecturing or during a test.  All very reasonable.

Indeed, when I was teaching I often encouraged my students to pray, if they wanted to do so, just to point out how the whole prayer-in-school thing is so totally misunderstood by conservatives.  It's that the teacher, as a representative of the government, cannot lead the class in prayer, not that prayer has been banned from school.  All I asked from them was that they not disrupt class with their religious expression.  No big deal.  Not rocket science.  Easy stuff.

Scalia, our nation's foremost right-wing "intellectual," however, seems to be utterly CLUELESS about how this works.  Again, this is easy stuff: all individual citizens have near absolute freedom of religious expression; the government, however, cannot favor any religion in any way because numerous precedents have found that doing so is tantamount to establishing an official religion, a clear violation of the first amendment.  Got it?  Individuals, yes.  Government, no.  So easy a four year old child could understand it.

I mean, sure, Scalia could have gone after the precedent cases, made an argument that the establishment clause doesn't mean what we think it means, etc., but as far as I can tell, he didn't do that.  Instead, he just seems confused, conflating freedom of speech and freedom of worship into a weird hybrid thingy which somehow disses God.  Or something.  Somebody run out and get this guy a four year old child.  He obviously can't make heads or tails out of this.

Is he stupid?  Well, in the strictest sense, no, of course not.  I mean, he's got a law degree and all.  Gotta read a lot of dense tomes to get one of those.  But he certainly is acting like a total bucktoothed flibgibberty hayseed idiot here.  On the other hand, this isn't his first time.


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Monday, June 16, 2014

Sunday Shows Turn To Discredited Iraq War Architects For Iraq Analysis

From Media Matters courtesy of Eschaton:

NBC and ABC's Sunday news shows turned to discredited architects of the Iraq War to opine on the appropriate U.S. response to growing violence in Iraq, without acknowledging their history of deceit and faulty predictions.

This week a Sunni Iraqi militant group (Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, or ISIS) seized control of several Iraqi cities and is focusing their sights on taking control of Baghdad and the rest of the country. The United States is still debating a response to the escalating violence, and has reportedly moved an aircraft carrier to the Persian Gulf.

More here.

God.  I don't even know where to start with how lame this is.  

If anything, this is a reminder of how amazingly stupid television journalists are, as a class of people.  And this isn't even a Fox thing.  We're talking mainstream "liberal" media stuff, NBC and ABC in the linked article, but the same shit goes on throughout all the corporate media.  That is, the news media stick to their constructed narratives, regardless of whether it reflects changing events in the real world or not.  So, from the media perspective, guys like Wolfowitz, Kristol, Cheney, etc., the brilliant foreign policy "experts" during the Bush era, continue to be "experts" in spite of the fact that, not only were they COMPLETELY wrong about going to war with Iraq, but also that their own pathetic brand of "expertise" got a lot of innocent people, including thousands of US service personnel, killed, and drained our wealth to the tune of trillions.

These "experts" weren't simply wrong.  They were SPECTACULARLY wrong, and fucked us up something bad.  That is, they're no experts.  They're losers, and the guy who mows your lawn or empties your trash cans very likely has something more intelligent to say about Iraq than these malevolent idiots ever did.  But the media just goes on and on, partying like it's 2003.  I'm not sure who disgusts me more, American corporate journalists, or the snake oil salesmen who hoodwinked us into a war that has done nothing but diminish us as a nation.

But that's just the media, who are stupid.  What must be going on inside the heads of the people in power who sucked us into Iraq?  What must Condi Rice be thinking these days?  Or George Tenet, who knew he was lying?  GW Bush doesn't talk so much these days himself, which is just as well, because what could he possibly say?  Cheney talks, and we see how he's psychologically coping: obviously, the man is in deep, deep denial about his crimes against humanity and our nation.  I guess that's one way to be able to look at yourself in the mirror.  But must he talk out loud, where we can hear his foul bullshit?  Can he, in his wildest dreams, ever possibly imagine that anybody, short of the continually brain-damaged news media, would take him seriously?  Does Rumsfeld think we should respect him?

How do war criminals sleep at night?


There is one key figure out of all those events who I have forgiven, and for whom I have respect: former Secretary of State Colin Powell.  I forgive and respect him because he came clean.  He admitted to his wrongdoing, and offered a compelling explanation for why he failed so badly.  Out of that entire cadre of Bush people, Powell is the ONLY one of them who is honest, both with himself, and with the nation.  Needless to say, honesty is something an expert desperately needs, and that's why I still listen to what the man has to say.  But he's the only one. 

All these people need to be flipping burgers or digging ditches.  Or serving twenty to life in prison.  I mean, not Powell, of course.  But all the rest of them, definitely.  We should not be hearing and seeing them on television.  They should all be persona non grata.  Because they're among the worst Americans ever.

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Sunday, June 15, 2014

A PLAGUE ON THE ARTS

From a local shitty theater "criticism" blog:

There was a play that was played on the stage tonight and there was a play that wasn’t there. There were five beautiful women players playing and there was a Play called “Five Women Wearing The Same Dress”. The players were wearing similar dresses, but I’m not certain that they were the same dress. There was a woman playing ‘simple’ but not in an Amish way. I must wonder if we saw Agit-prop theater which was making a statement about Christianity and Christians by directing this actor to be simple and Christian. There was a woman in the play that wasn’t there who makes the audience and other players be shocked that she is as old as she is but still is a virgin. I can’t imagine that the woman player played simple because that’s how SHE wanted to play a virgin who might not surprise her friends or the audience announcing that she was a virgin because many times simple people’s virginity is protected by the unsimple.

More here

And it just goes on like that.  On and on and on.

The Houston Critic, a blogger who has apparently appointed himself a local theater reviewer and self-publishes to the blogosphere, writes what is very likely the most offensive, annoying, incoherent, straight-up garbage I've ever read.

No, seriously. Check him out. This guy has no business writing about ANYTHING, let alone theater, about which he seemingly has no knowledge. What the hell is wrong with theater criticism in this town? And why do people without any qualification at all think they ought to get comp tickets in order to write their crappy trash? And why do local theater companies enable such moron-madmen to make us all look like fools?  My fourteen year old theater arts one students turned in better essays back in the day.

Screw this guy.


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Saturday, June 14, 2014

Friday, June 13, 2014

FRIDAY CAT BLOGGING

Winkie





















Be sure to check out Modulator's Friday Ark for more cat blogging pics!

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Thursday, June 12, 2014

Why Does the Right Embrace Ignorance as a Virtue?

From AlterNet:

The thing is, shameless lying and ignorance works surprisingly well as a debate tactic. It’s hard to argue with someone who not only has signaled that he doesn’t care what the truth is but is downright proud of how little he actually knows. Such a person is not amenable to being educated. Once the pretense of really caring one way or another about what is right and what is wrong has been abandoned, all avenue of discourse is shut down.

More here.

One of my favorite writers, Chris Hedges, is all over this in his book Empire of Illusion: American culture has moved, he asserts, from a print based culture into an image based culture.  That is, since the rise of mass media, nobody reads anymore.  Instead, they watch television.  And this spells doom for democracy because reading is necessarily a reflective and thought oriented exercise, while watching images affects primarily the emotions.  Consequently, as a people, we are now confusing knowledge with belief.

We see this throughout our entire culture, but nowhere is it more frustrating than in the realm of politics.  I mean, just ask the thousands of disillusioned liberals who really did believe what amounted to a sophisticated advertising campaign about "hope" and "change" pushed by Obama's people--of course, if all these liberals had simply gone to his website where they could read what he actually said he was going to do, they wouldn't be so disillusioned.

The conservatives, however, have taken this dynamic to a high art form.  I mean, of course, there's creationism, global warming, "pray-away-the-gay," and all that.  But it goes even deeper.  Remember how Obama was trounced by Romney in the first presidential debate?  The President was pressing his opponent on some of the kooky shit he had to say to get past the nut-dominated GOP primaries, and Romney's response was essentially "I didn't say any of that."  Obama was just astonished.  You could see it on his face.  He wasn't expecting Romney to just straight up LIE on national television.  But lie he did, and the President was apparently too freaked out to call him on it.

Actually, it appears that some very savvy Republican consultants have figured out how easy it is to simply abandon reality with your rhetoric.  You just lie.  And then it's treated not as a lie, but as a conflict of opinion.  And people's sincere BELIEFS shouldn't be questioned, regardless of whether those BELIEFS are demonstrably wrong.

Thus, creationism has validity because it's a BELIEF.  Global warming denial is credible because it's a BELIEF.  And so on.  As Hedges has observed, abandoning reality in this way, on such a massive scale, can only result in the collapse of American civilization.  And the conservatives are leading the way.


But really, the only way to respond to this is to do what Obama DIDN'T do: call the liars what they are, "liars."  To their faces.  I mean, when people say bullshit and expect you to believe it, they're being total assholes.  One really must respond in kind.

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Wednesday, June 11, 2014

WHAT LIBERAL MEDIA?

From FAIR via AlterNet:

USA Today Calls Walmart Protesters "Party Poopers"

You see, the company's events are usually star-studded sessions, "like the Oscars with a little bit of business," as a company rep explains. Last year superstar Tom Cruise showed up.

And this year? USA Today says there are some things planned, and they don't sound so fun:
 

Ahead of this year's shareholders' meeting, a working-mothers group seeking higher pay protested in 20 cities this week, and dozens are expected to picket at the shareholders meeting.

Wow, way to spoil a good time.


More here.

Liberal media, liberal media, liberal media.  I've heard that refrain nearly my entire life, and I used to believe it, by and large, because that's what everybody said, all the time.  Actually, people continue to say it, especially conservatives.  As far as I can tell, the foundation of this assertion is twofold: first, most reporters tend to vote Democratic, and, second, the news media often reports things that conservatives don't like.  The second one we can just dismiss because it's stupid.  When reality doesn't fit your ideology, you change your ideology rather than bitch about reality.  The first one is only slightly more complicated.

I think that reporters probably do vote Democratic, but the Dems haven't been terribly liberal for a very long time.  Actually, when you throw out the so-called social issues, gay marriage, birth control, abortion, diversity, etc., the Democrats are over-the-top conservative, having bought into the Reagan economic consensus when Clinton and his New Democrats came to power in the early 90s.  So being a Democrat does not make you a liberal.  Actually, being a Democrat generally means that you embrace Reaganomics, neoliberalism, whatever you want to call it, conservative economics.  And that's why I'm not a Democrat.  Because they're not liberal.  They're a corporate capitalist party.

So it means nothing that so many reporters vote for Democrats.  Actually, it means they have a pro-business bias, which is conservative, not liberal.  And that ties very nicely into another observation generally ignored by the "liberal media" pushers: the news media are all big businesses, which consequently means that, in spite of reporters who vote Democrat, or, more likely, in perfect harmony with reporters who vote Democrat, the news media are composed of conservative organizations--this is assuming that you agree with me that capitalist corporations are, by definition, conservative.

And you see this pro-big business bias all over the place, all the time.  I mean, really.  Labor activists are "party poopers"?  Such a characterization could ONLY be formulated by a news organization that doesn't take labor seriously at all, which is basically all corporate news media businesses.  We used to see some big time labor reporting in this country decades ago, but that was before the news became big business.  Now all we have is business reporting, and screw the labor movement.  That's conservative.  Not liberal.

Because there is no "liberal media."*

(Okay, we do have the Nation magazine, and Mother Jones and the like, and MSNBC sometimes pushes against specific corporations, but never GE, and never the corporate system itself.  So there is a "liberal media," it's just describing a distinct minority, rather than the whole shebang.)


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Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Police: Teen gunman in Oregon likely killed self

From the AP via the Houston Chronicle:

A teen gunman armed with a rifle shot and killed a student Tuesday and injured a teacher at a high school in a quiet Columbia River town in Oregon then likely killed himself, authorities said.

Troutdale police said they spotted the suspect slumped on a toilet in a bathroom but couldn't see what was happening with him.

Officers used a robot with a camera to investigate and discovered the suspect was dead and that he likely killed himself at Reynolds High School in Troutdale, police spokesman Sgt. Carey Kaer said.

More here.

Sam Stein tweets: "There have been now 74 school shootings since Sandy Hook, roughly 9.5 a month."

Almost every three days now. I don't even know what to say anymore, other than that this is horrible and surely there must be something we can do to slow the bleeding. And surely gun rights advocates must be concerned, as well. I mean, how can this not be acknowledged as a problem?


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George Will: Sexual Assault Victim Is Now A "Coveted Status"

From Media Matters, courtesy of Eschaton:

In a June 7 syndicated op-ed which appeared in The Washington Post and the New York Post, Will dismissed "the supposed campus epidemic of rape, aka 'sexual assault,'" arguing that the definition of sexual assault was too broad because it could include "nonconsensual touching" and disputing the evidence that shows 1 in 5 women experience sexual assault on campuses in the U.S., implying that individuals were pretending to be victims because colleges have made victimhood a "coveted status."

More here.

I'm not really sure who decides such things, but I think it's safe to say that George Will is a fairly representative example of what constitutes a "conservative intellectual." You know, a smart guy in glasses who wears a bow tie and uses fifty dollar words instead of Rush Limbaugh or Bill O'Reilly's five dollar words. Well, okay. But I'm really starting to think that there's actually no such thing as a "conservative intellectual."

No, seriously. Here's a decent definition of "intellectual" from Wikipedia:

"The intellectual is a specific variety of the intelligent, which unlike the general property, is strictly associated with reason and thinking. Many everyday roles require the application of intelligence to skills that may have a psychomotor component, for example, in the fields of medicine, sport or the arts, but these do not necessarily involve the practitioner in the 'world of ideas'. The distinctive quality of the intellectual person is that the mental skills, which he or she demonstrates, are not simply intelligent, but even more, they focus on thinking about the abstract, philosophical and esoteric aspects of human inquiry and the value of their thinking."
I don't see "conservative intellectuals" doing that so much these days.

As various conservative positions have become increasingly absurd over the last fifteen to twenty years, we've seen the accompanying absurd spectacle of various conservative writers and essayists contorting themselves into ever more complicated knots of irrationality in their attempts to provide some brain-backing to that which cannot be rationally supported. I mean, the New York Times' Ross Douthat is almost fun to read, what with his high school sophomore debate team musings and all, but the Times' other conservative guy, David Brooks, is the funnest of all: Brooks is actually smart, and when you read between the lines of his work, you can almost feel his squirming discomfort as he tries, almost always unsuccessfully, to make stupid bullshit look like solid thinking. Poor guy. He should just quit the movement. He's not really a part of it anymore.

George Will, however, is just a buffoon. He's always been a buffoon, a monkey dressed like a nerd. And, as his latest offering clearly demonstrates, he's a woman hating sexist, asserting that rape is actually just drunken college hijinks, and that men are the real victims. I mean, the guy tries to get us to believe that survey data and reported incidents are the same thing, and then bases much of his argument on the notion that the extremely high number of sexual assaults women endure is just some sort of liberal propaganda plot.

There's nothing "intellectual" about that at all. And nerd glasses and bow ties won't do a damned thing to change that.























Monkey in a nerd suit.

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Sunday, June 08, 2014

Texas GOP advances 'reparative therapy' for gays

From the Houston Chronicle:

Gay Republicans in Texas said Friday they may stop fighting their party's proposed endorsement of "reparative therapy" over worries that even tougher anti-gay language could be added to the party platform.

The Texas Republican Party is poised to adopt a new platform this weekend that would support psychological treatments that seek to turn gay people straight. Such therapies were banned for minors last year by New Jersey Republican Gov. Chris Christie, and California has a similar law.

But a fight to remove the therapy language during the Texas GOP convention on Saturday could backfire, said Jeff Davis, chairman of gay conservative group Texas Log Cabin Republicans. A final platform vote would include nearly 10,000 delegates at the biennial convention, which has long been unfriendly territory for gays.

More here

The Log Cabin Republicans have got to be the loneliest political coalition in human history.

Anyway, in addition to the traditional homophobia driving this, we can also shove a copy of what will probably be the Texas GOP platform into the anti-science file, along with creationism and global warming denial. It's pretty well established in the psychiatric world that: one, being gay is not a pathology, and, two, "gay conversion therapy" doesn't work, and very likely CAUSES pathology.

Don't like reality? Believe whatever the hell you want. That's where the Conservative Movement has ended up. Bunch of fools.


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Saturday, June 07, 2014

FRANK ZAPPA FRIDAY AND 70S POP MONDAY ON SATURDAY

Two of my facebook features exported to Real Art.



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Friday, June 06, 2014

FRIDAY CAT BLOGGING

Frankie in the Tub





















Be sure to check out Modulator's Friday Ark for more cat blogging pics.

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Thursday, June 05, 2014

Is Marriage Becoming a Luxury of the Rich?

A book excerpt from AlterNet:

For those whose incomes place them in the bottom third of the population, increasing disparities between men and women have made both more likely to give up on each other. International and interstate comparisons demonstrate that higher rates of inequality tend to be associated with chronic unemployment, high rates of imprisonment, and substance abuse—factors that disproportionately affect men. Women in these communities view commitment to a man who runs up the credit card bill, cycles in and out of jobs, or deals drugs on the side as more of a threat than an asset to the ability to care for children.

Men view women who take their money when they have it but do not stand by them when they flounder with distrust. These patterns encourage women to invest in their own resources rather than in the men in their lives and men to move on to new relationships when their current ones hit rough patches.

Family stability is an inevitable casualty.

More here.

I've been fascinated by economics from the moment I understood the term.  I mean, I didn't major in economics, but I did take an undergrad macro course, taught by an unashamed neoliberal Friedmanite, no less, and I've read, just for kicks, more than a few economists over the years, from mainstream guys like Krugman and Stiglitz to Marxists and other radicals like Richard D. Wolffe and Edward Hermann.  And I still love it.  Probably the main reason for this is that economics is the flip side of politics: you just can't understand what's happening politically in the world if you don't have a handle on the money.  But a secondary reason is just as motivating.

Economics profoundly affects how we live our lives.  

And I'm not simply talking about whether you have a good job or not.  I mean that economics affects our personal decisions in countless ways that we do not attribute to economics.  For me, the big one is how the US hardly funds the arts, relative to more civilized nations like France or Germany.  I'm an actor, a theater artist, and, even though a select few are able to make a living doing this kind of work, most of us have to have day jobs in order to pay the bills while we pursue our life's calling.  If we funded the arts in the way other nations do, this wouldn't be so much of an issue.  But we don't, so I wait tables by day, and do theater at night.

But that's just my own personal life.  There's MUCH more to how economics directs and shapes our lives in a seemingly invisible way.  The linked book excerpt presents still more evidence that the rise of the single mother in this country has nothing to do with the traditional morals-oriented explanations, and EVERYTHING to do with the continuing erosion of the American middle class.  That is, when the pool of available men is dried up by corporate America's decision to shift workers into the shitty service sector, or worse, out of the work force entirely, a husband, for many women, then becomes an economic liability, not the solution to poverty, as head-in-assed Republicans have been asserting for years.  Indeed, a husband who cannot, due to economic circumstances, add to his family's financial prospects, simply makes his family's poverty worse.

And this is why I study economics.  It helps me understand that a lot of public discourse on various topics is totally full of shit, people asserting things they can't possibly know, and being really self-righteous about it.  Of course, we see the same thing in the public discourse on economics itself, too, but that's another story.

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Wednesday, June 04, 2014

Actor Fired After Escorting Homophobic Heckler from CAT ON A HOT TIN ROOF Performance

From Broadway World:

During a performance of CAT ON A HOT TIN ROOF at Repertory East Playhouse in Santa Clara, Calif., actor John Lacy, who was playing 'Big Daddy' in the production of the Tennessee Williams' play, jumped down from the stage and physically removed a heckler who had been yelling anti-gay slurs from the audience.

Lacy was fired on Saturday, May 31, following the incident; fellow lead actor Anton Troy resigned in solidarity with his co-star.

"I will not support homophobia or an establishment that doesn't support its talent," Troy wrote on Facebook.

"Hate in any form is not something I choose to subscribe to. John is a seasoned professional and an honorable man. It should never escalate to a point where the talent has to handle an unruly drunk in the audience themselves regardless of the outcome. Producers dropped the ball, the fish stinks from the head on down."


More here


According to comments on the facebook page of the actor who quit in solidarity, the heckling was going on for three or four scenes, which means that right away you know we're dealing with a totally incompetent house manager--any and all heckling is NOT to be tolerated; this shit's totally disruptive, messing with the actors, the audience, technicians, playwright, pretty much every single artist involved with mounting a show.  That is, the theater producing the show itself FAILED UTTERLY, and, in its inaction, actually aggravated the problem caused by the heckler in the first place.  And then the theater fired the wrong guy.  Actually, they fired a hero.

Sure, the guy is a hero, one of many, to the gay rights movement, but he's also a hero to the theater as an institution.  The Broadway World article gets quotes from a couple of dissenting cast members.  One of them was worried about the potential for this heckler being armed, and straight up accused Lacy of putting everybody in danger.  Well, that's a potential issue for dealing with any heckler.  What are you supposed to do, just let him disrupt the show?  Apparently, that's the call house management made, but whatever; it was bullshit.  I'd want my money back if I had to watch Cat on a Hot Tin Roof while a homophobe was allowed to spew his vile dog vomit.  It no doubt undermined the entire experience--that is, the show was ruined, and something needed to be done.  Another cast member criticized Lacy's lack of professionalism, offering bland platitudes about taking audience criticism gracefully.  Another whatever.  When you buy a ticket, you're implicitly agreeing that you won't criticize the show DURING THE SHOW, loudly enough for everybody else to hear.  And, oh yeah, anti-gay slurs aren't criticism.  It's just hate speech, plain and simple.  John Lacy, like Alexander the Great, cut through this Gordian knot of high bullshit, and did what nobody else was willing to do.

That is, this actor showed more respect toward this production than pretty much anybody else in the room.  Cat on a Hot Tin Roof is very much a play about struggling with gay identity and the mendacity often associated with that struggle.  And here we ended up with those two central themes being played out in real life, completely upstaging the performance itself.  Only Big Daddy, or rather, the actor playing him, seemed to understand that this jerk was rendering the entire work meaningless.  So he did the right thing.  And he was the only one willing to do so.

The "fourth wall" only exists as a convention enabling us to create great theater.  When it stops serving that purpose, indeed, when it serves to RUIN theater, you throw the damned thing out.  Needless to say, firing this man was a great injustice.  I only hope that if I ever find myself in similar circumstances, I have the balls to do what he did.

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Tuesday, June 03, 2014

Gun Activists Cut Up NRA Member Cards Over Criticism Of AR-15s In Restaurants

From Talking Points Memo:

In response to the NRA's statement on Friday criticizing Texas activists' recent tactics, members of the pro-gun group Open Carry Texas have been cutting up their NRA membership cards, and the group has issued a statement demanding a retraction of the NRA's "disgusting and disrespectful comments." Or else.

"The more the NRA continues to divide its members by attacking some aspects of gun rights instead of supporting all gun rights, the more support it will lose," Open Carry Texas said in a statement published Monday on its Facebook page.

More here.

From the Wikipedia article on President Andrew Jackson:
"Jackson was the first President to invite the public to attend the White House ball honoring his first inauguration. Many poor people came to the inaugural ball in their homemade clothes. The crowd became so large that Jackson's guards could not keep them out of the White House, which became so crowded with people that dishes and decorative pieces inside were eventually broken. Some people stood on good chairs in muddied boots just to get a look at the President. The crowd had become so wild that the attendants poured punch in tubs and put it on the White House lawn to lure people outside. Jackson's raucous populism earned him the nickname 'King Mob'."
Not exactly the same, but it is appearing more and more that the modern Conservative Movement is in great danger of being ruled by a new King Mob, or rather, and more simply, the mob.  I mean, when you have gun nuts going after the freaking NRA because they think the extremist gun lobbying organization is soft on gun rights, well, Houston, we have a problem.  Actually, I don't think it's much of a problem, I mean, not to me.  I'm totally loving this: conservatives are going cannibal on their own kind.

And it's not just any conservatives.  These guys, the activists turning their backs on the most hardcore lobbying group in the history of humanity, are cut from the same cloth as the hillbillies and mountain men who trashed Jackson's White House.  I mean, they bring their assault rifles into fast food restaurants and think that's fine and dandy.  And, like the proverbial backwoods yokel who gets pissed off when the proprietor tells him he has to leave his pig Mabel outside the saloon, these Texan gun aficionados are apparently dead set on causing a ruckus about it now that it appears the NRA no longer has their back.  In short, these men constitute the down home foundation of American conservative populism, the folks who have worked their asses off over the last three decades to bring conservatism back from the political wilderness in which it found itself in the middle of the twentieth century.  They feel like the conservative establishment should f'ing kiss their ass, not tell them what to do.

And you know what?  I'd bet anything I own that the NRA's going to back down.  I mean, these days, conservative establishment institutions ALWAYS back down.  That's because conservatives are now ruled by King Mob.  God, I'm loving this.  The only possible conclusion here is a total right-wing collapse.  What the hell else can happen when you put the morons in charge?

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Monday, June 02, 2014

FRANK ZAPPA FRIDAY AND 70S POP MONDAY ON SATURDAY

Two of my facebook features exported to Real Art.  Yes, I know it's actually Monday, but for some reason I've forgotten to do this the last two weekends, and I wanted to get it in.





 
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Sunday, June 01, 2014

How We All Miss the Point on School Shootings

(Or, if you prefer, how the guy who wrote this essay misses the point on school shootings.)

Written by author, thinker, and life enthusiast Mark Manson, "How We All Miss the Point on School Shootings" has been passed around a few times on facebook since the UC Santa Barbara shooting last weekend, and it strikes me as being a really good example of how somebody can write something that sounds like it has a point, but which actually has no point at all.  Seriously, you walk away from this knowing less than you did in the first place.

I mean, just consider this passage from the first part of the essay:

"But this 'witch hunt' we go through every time a school shooting happens is a total ruse. Elliot Rodger didn’t become a killer because he was a misogynist; he became a misogynist because he was a killer. Just like Eric Harris didn’t become a killer because he loved violent video games; he loved violent video games because he was a killer. Just like Adam Lanza didn’t become a killer because he loved guns; he loved guns because he was a killer."

Massive leaps in reasoning.  Manson can't POSSIBLY know any of this is true.  C'mon.  Rodger became a misogynist because he was a killer?  What the hell is that?  Psychology?  No, it's bullshit.  This guy has no idea what he's talking about.

Manson goes on:

"And each time, as a culture, we work ourselves into a frenzy debating the angry exterior message, while ignoring the interior life and context of each killer. We miss the point entirely."

What's amazing with this little paragraph is that it comes right after a section where Manson goes into how "the interior life and context of each killer" is, in fact, parsed to death!  The guy is contradicting himself out the wazoo and encroaching on incoherency.

And now Manson starts just making shit up:

"According to the FBI, mass shootings (defined as shooting events that kill at least four people) occur on average every two weeks in the United States. Yes, every two weeks. Yet we rarely, if ever, hear about most of them."

Okay, we DO, in fact, hear about them.  Indeed, these average ordinary mass shootings are essentially one of the main motivations for gun control advocates.  Sure yeah, the school shootings get wall-to-wall press saturation coverage, which means there's necessarily going to be a lot more chatter about them, but it isn't as though people are ignoring all the rest.  I mean, all the rest is why this shit is an epidemic instead of a bunch of isolated incidents.

Continuing, Manson now pretends to be a psychologist, calling the actions of school shooters "all very conscious and deliberate," which must mean these shooters aren't crazy.  Of course, as actual psychologists tell us, deliberate action doesn't make ANYBODY less crazy!  And he even admits this a bit later in the essay:

"Most shooters do have serious mental health or emotional issues, but they all plan their attacks months or even years in advance."

WTF?  He's saying that these shooters, in spite of their serious mental health problems, aren't crazy.  Okay.  This entire essay is just a total mess in terms of its logical through line and assumptions. 

Manson then goes into an interesting analogy between school shooters and terrorism.  But it doesn't really go anywhere, sort of musing without any teeth or payoff.  So it's a dead end.  I mean, so what if school shooters are like terrorists?  Manson doesn't say.

Then he starts getting into bland platitudes:

"Here’s what doesn’t get the headlines: Empathy. Listening to those around you. Even if you don’t like them very much."

Well, it's hard to argue with that, I mean, in the abstract, but, in its simplicity, and its inadequacy as a real plan of action, or even as analysis of the context and situation, it just underscores the fact that there is no magic solution for this problem.  As he observes, it's a wildly complex issue.  But there is no single "point" we're missing about this.  There are MANY points, and that makes this whole essay a useless exercise in mental masturbation.

But wait, it gets better!  And by "better," I mean "worse":

"Despite being relevant and important discussions, the glamorous headlines are ultimately distractions — they just feed into the carnage and the attention and the fame the killer desired. They are distractions from what is right in front of you and me and the victims of tomorrow’s shooting: people who need help."

Oh.  My.  God.  Manson ends his essay with something ripped off from a freaking Hallmark card.  I'm almost insulted.

This entire essay is utterly devoid of meaning, and worse, it's an attack on the overall discussion itself which always reemerges whenever these events make the headlines.  This discourse, while frustrating in its seeming inability to get answers, is real and necessary, especially in a democracy such as ours.  Manson's essay, in stark contrast, is totally fake, providing a seeming "solution" which does nothing.  I mean, sure yeah, help people who are hurting, for God's sake.  But really, that's just a slogan, one without any real world significance.

So, while I urge everyone to inform themselves as much as they can on this issue, to engage in public discussion on it with as many people as are willing to participate, do yourself and all of America a favor and don't share this stupid f'ing essay.  Like I said, you know less after reading it than you did before you read it.

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