23 11 2008

Recently I got gently reproached by my favorite cousin for some of the content of “Plagiarism is the Sincerest Form of Flattery.” She’s a Southern Baptist and, apparently, a conservative Republican, so I can see why she would have been offended. She is also a smart cookie, a good citizen, a hard worker at a socially-valuable job, and a kind and caring person.

I’m sure there are millions of Americans like her. How is the bitter liberal or leftist to deal with the existence of such people?

By looking inside himself for the source of his bitterness, maybe?

What I find when I do that is simply fear.

When I reposted the fantasy of Blue States’ seceding from the Union I was very uneasy. The election of President Obama had made me hopeful for the first time since the Reagan days about the future of the USA–but it was a tremulous hope. Something that I value greatly has a better chance now than it did before of being preserved, but it could also be catastrophically lost. The current slide downward of the world economy could unleash extreme rightest forces that could take it all away. Think Germany in the early 1930s.

There has been created in the Blue States over the last 50 years a new order of personal freedom that was unimaginable to me when and where I grew up (Texas, 1950s and 1960s). A young person today is free to be any of a number of things–Republican or Democrat, right-winger or leftist, atheist or devout, gay or straight, business-obsessed workaholic or epicurean layabout, faithfully-married spouse or sexual libertine, etc., etc. No longer is there just one socially-acceptable way to be a man or woman–a single acceptable role defined by stern religious authorities who cite innumerable rules which are all declared to be from God, and therefore unwaivable.

The rule setters were in charge everywhere in the old days, except maybe the biggest cities. Individuals in those days could not stand against all that authority and be themselves, unless they were willing to absorb unbelievable amounts of social pressure and abuse. So they suppressed their deviant thoughts and/or feelings and/or politics and created false selves that lived out the prescribed conventional lives, hidden in plain sight among the truly conventional.

Today the rest of the First World, notably Europe, has been out of that box for a couple of generations at least.

But here in the USA the issue is still in doubt. We liberal Blue Staters fear that folks in the Red States will do what their leaders, at least, seem hell-bent on doing—getting the whole nation back in the box that I grew up in in the ‘50s or ‘60s. I remember it with such sadness that I am terrified of its return.

And that is why we make fun of the folks on the opposite side of the Great Culture War. Humor binds fear.


15 11 2008

Veteran’s Day was a holiday for me, and I added Monday as a leave day, creating a mini-vacation of 4 days. I spent the last three of them doing what I like to do best, staying home and fiddling. In this case that meant ham radio operating and tinkering.

Late Tuesday afternoon I went out and sat on my front porch to enjoy what I had so far ignored—a gorgeous Fall day in the deep South (For you Northerners, that means an October or early November day. During this period our weather is approximately like that of San Francisco.) My porch faces due west, and beyond the high house across the street the sun was making its way slowly toward sunset. As I sat looking into the mild blue sky above that house I became gradually aware of delicate clear sky-shafts raying outward from behind it. Sharp-edged yet softly bright, almost pearlescent, they were as insubstantial as a thought, but, once stared at for a while, seemingly as solid and real as steel beams cantilevered across the sky.

This was sunlight made visible by dust in the air, of course, but, puzzled by their apparent solidity, I turned away from that knowledge and instead diverted myself imagining those great rays as beams of power, signs of some mighty force reaching out into the world from the sky. The Egyptian sun god Ra came to mind then, and in a moment I became able to see those sunbeams as the arms of that Highest God reaching into the world to arrange things as He would have them be.

Then I understood an ancient Egyptian tomb symbol for Ra that I had first seen decades ago:

[Stylized Version]

And I knew that at that moment I was seeing one part of the world exactly an Egyptian would have done in 2000 BC.

“Repetition”, someone once said, “is the only permanence human beings can ever know”. That is apparently as true for the human race as a whole as it is for us individuals. Kudos to Mr. Jung for having noticed this fact first.


6 11 2008

Lovingly Lifted from David Trom on Digg:

“Dear McCain and Caribou Mom:

If you manage to steal this election too we’ve decided we’re leaving.
We intend to form our own country, and we’re taking the other Blue
States with us. In case you aren’t aware, that includes California,
Hawaii, Oregon, Washington, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan, Illinois
and all the Northeast. We believe this split will be beneficial to the
nation, and especially to the people of the new country of New

To sum up briefly: You get Texas, Oklahoma and all the slave states.
We get stem cell research and the best beaches. We get the Statue of
Liberty. You get Dollywood. We get Intel and Microsoft. You get
WorldCom. We get Harvard. You get Ole’ Miss. We get 85% of America’s
venture capital and entrepreneurs. You get Alabama. We get two-thirds
of the tax revenue, you get to make the red states pay their fair

Since our aggregate divorce rate is 22% lower than the Christian
Coalition’s, we get a bunch of happy families. You get a bunch of
single moms.

Please be aware that Nuevo California will be pro-choice and anti-war,
and we’re going to want all our citizens back from Iraq at once. If
you need people to fight, ask your evangelicals. They have kids
they’re apparently willing to send to their deaths for no purpose, and
they don’t care if you don’t show pictures of their children’s caskets
coming home. We do wish you success in Iraq, and hope that the WMDs
turn up, but we’re not willing to spend our resources in Bush’s

With the Blue States in hand, we will have firm control of 80% of the
country’s fresh water, more than 90% of the pineapple and lettuce, 92%
of the nation’s fresh fruit, 95% of America’s quality wines, 90% of
all cheese, 90% of the high tech industry, 95% of the corn and
soybeans (thanks Iowa!), most of the U.S. low-sulfur coal, all living
redwoods, sequoias and condors, all the Ivy and Seven Sister schools
plus Stanford, Cal Tech and MIT.

With the Red States, on the other hand, you will have to cope with 88%
of all obese Americans (and their projected health care costs), 92% of
all U.S. mosquitoes, nearly 100% of the tornadoes, 90% of the
hurricanes, 99% of all Southern Baptists, virtually 100% of all
televangelists, Rush Limbaugh, Bob Jones University, Clemson and the
University of Georgia. We get Hollywood and Yosemite, thank you.

Additionally, 38% of those in the Red states believe Jonah was
actually swallowed by a whale, 62% believe life is sacred unless we’re
discussing the war, the death penalty or gun laws, 44% say that
evolution is only a theory, 53% that Saddam was involved in 9/11 and
61% of you crazy bastards believe you are people with higher morals
then we lefties.

Finally, we’re taking the good pot, too. You can have that dirt weed
they grow in Mexico.”


5 11 2008

For a striking illustration of how divided the USA remains despite Obama’s wonderful victory, click on some of the red states on the map centerpiece of the MSNBC main page and note how lopsided McCain’s victory was in many Southern and Midwestern states:

MSNBC Election Aftermath Map

Those of you who live in the North and on the coasts will now have some idea of what we liberals and progressives who live in the red regions have to put up with in the way of ambient right-wing ideology.

Why are these places this way?

First, for the South, we have Lyndon Johnson’s statement that his signing the Voting Rights Act in 1968 would lose the Democratic Party the South permanently.

Second, we have the expansion of evangelical religion in recent years, which probably explains the expansion of the region of intransigence upward into the Midwest, morphing its foundation in the process from racism to fundamentalism.

Third, back to the South, the center of the unpleasantness: For deeper understanding of this tiresome but inescapable place, I highly recommend this very fine and scholarly book:

Cracker Culture: Celtic Ways in the Old South
by Grady McWhiney (1st 1988)
University of Alabama Press

and this absolute classic on Southern sociology, culture, and politics:

The Mind of the South
by W. J. Cash (1941)

The part of the USA that contains people who would like to live in a modern, social-democratic, secular, and politically-benign country must never forget that the South and Midwest would have it otherwise.

And they are not going away or mellowing.


4 11 2008

I constantly hear online posters say this about Republican v. Democrat. True, today they are both servants of the corporations. On the other hand, when you’re just a field hand, the nature of the overseer can make a huge difference in your life, despite his being THE consummate do-er of the Master’s will.

Friend, you’re a field hand, modern version. You may think you’re an “entrepreneur”, free American, independent person and voter, boss rather than underling, hard worker rather than welfare cheat, strong rather than weak, etc., etc. But the fact is, in the USA unless you’re wealthy–with enough actual capital to live out the rest of your life in comfort on–then you’re just a worker. A worker might have any of a vast number of lifestyles, ranging all the way up to highly affluent—but unfortunately “have” in this context normally means no more than,”Keep it ’til my Master decides to take it away.”

And that means that what those who transmit the Masters’ rules to you do “on the margins” while performing their essential duty of keeping you slaving away can make your life hell, merely unpleasant, or even in some cases relatively pleasant.

So now take a look at what the more strict party of overseers is doing on its ignominious way out:

So Much Damage


1 11 2008

I live in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Back in August a hurricane came through here and knocked out most of the city’s power–-mine was off for a week. This left me desperate for diversion, and I found it one night in the radio meanderings of the spouse and son of Jimmy Swaggert.

Yes…THAT Jimmy Swaggert. Remember him? He had built a “ministry” largely on charisma, and then pooped away his and its bright future back in the 1980s by consorting with a hooker.

A crippled remnant of the Swaggert empire still exists in Baton Rouge, minus most of the cash flow of the good old days. Broadcasting daily from the Swaggert “campus” are a round robin of monologues by Jimmy himself, his wife, and Donny, their son.

That night after the hurricane I listened to Donny and Mom hold forth:

First was the perversity of eco-freaks in trying to keep oil drilling out of the Arctic National Wildlife Reserve (ANWAR). Mom opined how wasteful this was, when all that nice oil was there, and Donny chimed in with the money shot: “I’ve seen pictures of that place and it’s A DESOLATION!”

You be the judge. Please compare Donny’s opinion with the information on ANWAR to be found here:

US Fish and Wildlife Service ANWAR site

Next, Mrs. Swaggert touched upon the subject of Muslims. Of course, they were very, very bad. Further, she explained, “It’s not like Christianity. “Of course, ‘The poor you have always with you.’ But still we’re always giving to the poor. These churches in town have outreach all the time. I don’t believe the Muslims do that. Maybe they give to terrorists.”

Oh yeah, Mrs. Swaggert? Take this!

The Five Pillars of Islam

To add my own little mite, I remember reading about how upset some American Muslims were when they couldn’t fulfill their duty to give alms back in the early 2000s because the government was paralyzing their charities. Apparently they really want to give! The details of their obligation from Wikipedia will suggest as much:

“Zakaat, or alms-giving, is the practice of charitable giving by Muslims based on accumulated wealth, and is obligatory for all who are able to do so. It is considered to be a personal responsibility for Muslims to ease economic hardship for others and eliminate inequality.[6] Zakaat consists of spending a fixed portion of one’s wealth for the benefit of the poor or needy, including slaves, debtors and travelers. A Muslim may also donate more as an act of voluntary charity (sadaqah), in order to achieve additional divine reward

There are two main types of Zakaat. First, there is the kajj, which is a fixed amount based on the cost of food that is paid during the month of Ramadan by the head of a family for himself and his dependents. Second, there is the zakaat on wealth, which covers money made in business, savings, income, and so on.[8] In current usage zakaat is treated as a 2.5% levy on most valuables and savings held for a full lunar year, as long as the total value is more than a basic minimum known as nisab (three ounces or 87.48g of gold). As of 20 September 2008, nisab is approximately US$2,640 or an equivalent amount in any other currency.[9] Many Shi’ites are expected to pay an additional amount in the form of a khums tax, which they consider to be a separate ritual practice.[10]“

Mother Swaggert and Donny then proceeded to offer their uninformed opinions on several other subjects. Did they have a right to hold forth on those subjects? Yep! Are their opinions on those subjects to be given any weight? What do you think, given the fact that Donny and Mom apparently know nothing whatever about them?

Mrs. Swaggert and Donny probably know their Bible cold. I doubt that I know any subject so well. But the unfortunate thing is that, in Southern society, their Bible knowledge is taken by many as giving them the right to speak authoritatively on pretty much everything under the sun. And given the vast river of anti-intellectualism that sweeps through the US, there’s no one with ACTUAL KNOWLEDGE on the subjects in question who is likely to be given as much authority as our often self-appointed religious leaders.

Presumptuous, I think. Even the Pope, with all the Church’s history and knowledge behind him, only speaks ex cathedra on matters of faith.