Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Reuters photos ...learning from Gandhi?

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spins cotton on a wheel as his wife Sara looks on during their visit to Gandhi Ashram in Ahmedabad, India. REUTERS/Amit Dave
A Palestinian girl looks through a plastic sheet as raindrops are seen, outside her family's house in Al-Shati refugee camp in Gaza City. REUTERS/Mohammed Salem
A crocodile that has had a motorcycle tyre arouund its neck for at least 2 years, sunbaths on a beach in Palu City, Central Sulawesi, Indonesia. Antara Foto/Mohamad Hamzah/ via REUTERS    
A murmuration of migrating starlings is seen across the sky near the village of Beit Kama in southern Israel. REUTERS/Amir Cohen

calling all hackers!

Hacking into and disrupting various internet data bases may give hackers a wonderful buzz, but it makes the rest of us nervous. It's a "privacy" issue, we whine as we proceed to reveal even more about ourselves on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and the like.

But here is a modest proposal to those fleet-fingered hackers:

Pick a day in the future -- sometime in the summer, perhaps -- hack into Twitter and Facebook et al. and shut down every or any reference to U.S. President Donald Trump. For just ONE DAY, block all transmissions as one might block transmissions from Islamic State or other so-called terrorist organizations.

All praise, all criticism, all parsing, all offense and defense, all news and fake news, all senders and receivers, assertions and counter-assertions ... anything that references Trump ... just...



Patriotism is not just for the patriotic.

Yes, I can hear the First-Amendment yowls, but that doesn't mean I can't dream.

Trump mental acuity test

Passed along in email was this -- what I am assuming was the actual mental acuity test that U.S. President Donald Trump passed with flying colors.

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

and, in the fake "fake news" ...

News -- maybe it ought to be dubbed "fake" but it seems to be true... maybe it should be dubbed fake fake news ... hell, I dunno:
-- President Donald Trump asked that a cognitive test be included as part of his first physical exam.
Trump’s physician — Navy doctor Ronny Jackson — says the president achieved a perfect score on the test, which was included in last Friday’s medical checkup....
The doctor says he’s found “no reason whatsoever” to think the president has any issues with his thought process.
Have I misremembered or is Donald Trump Dr. Jackson's boss?

And, in the fuck-the-poor department:
-- WASHINGTON (AP) — The Trump administration on Tuesday cut tens of millions of dollars in money for Palestinian refugees, demanding that the U.N. agency responsible for the programs undertake a “fundamental re-examination,” the State Department said.
In a letter, the State Department notified the U.N. Relief and Works Agency that the U.S. is withholding $65 million of a planned $125 million funding installment. The letter also makes clear that additional U.S. donations will be contingent on major changes by UNRWA, which has been heavily criticized by Israel.
-- NEW YORK (AP) — The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has decided to reconsider a key set of rules enacted last year that would have protected consumers against harmful payday lenders.
The bureau, which came under control of the Trump administration late last year, said in a statement Tuesday that it plans to take a second look at the payday lending rules. While the bureau did not submit a proposal to repeal the rules outright, the statement opens the door for the bureau to start the process of revising or even repealing the regulations. The bureau also said it would grant waivers to companies as the first sets of regulations going into effect later this year.
The cornerstone of the rules enacted last year would have been that lenders must determine, before giving a loan, whether a borrower can afford to repay it in full with interest within 30 days. The rules would have also capped the number of loans a person could take out in a certain period of time.
If allowed to go into effect, the rule would have had a substantial negative impact on the payday lending industry, where annual interest rates on loans can exceed 300 percent.
-- Is Donald Trump the most corrupt president in American history? We may not be able to give him that title quite yet — after all, he’s only been president for a year. But he sure is working hard at it.

another nuclear oops

Japan’s public broadcaster mistakenly sent an alert warning citizens about a North Korean missile launch and urging them to seek immediate shelter, then retracted it minutes later – days after a similar error occurred in Hawaii.
NHK television issued the message on Tuesday on its news websites as well as on Twitter, saying North Korea appeared to have fired a missile at Japan. It said the government was telling people to take shelter.
Wasn't there once a song that included "killing me softly with his song?" Or, more relevant perhaps, another song titled "boom, boom ain't it great to be crazy?"

Trump's health sort of

WASHINGTON (AP) — A fuller readout of President Donald Trump’s health following his first medical check-up is expected later Tuesday.
Trump’s White House physician - Navy doctor Ronny Jackson - declared Trump to be in “excellent health” following last Friday’s exam at the Walter Reed military hospital in Maryland.
While waiting for a report that is unlikely to suggest anything negative, there were the following satirical observations (passed along in email) from the president's sister:
Trump’s older sister is not happy about the behavior of her little brother, the President of the United States.
Maryanne Trump Barry, Donald Trump’s older sister and a United States Circuit Judge, told reporters over the weekend, “Donnie’s not acting right. ”
The 80-year-old also says she believes that President Trump might be forgetting to take his pills.
“I don’t recognize the Donnie who’s in the White House right now,” added Judge Trump Barry, who friends describe as very loyal to her younger brother.
“Donnie was never a smart boy, no matter what he tells you. In fact, the neighborhood kids used to call him ‘Donnie Dimwit.’ But recently he seems to be operating at an even lower IQ, and that’s not good for the country.... He acts like a hooligan, but it’s a cover-up — he’s really insecure and very tender underneath that stern facade. Frankly, I always thought he was gay."
Interesting that so much well-crafted imagination has to substitute for nail-'em-to-the-journalistic-wall reporting. Increasingly, the wet dreams that anti-Trump advocates harbor are the best anyone can seem to muster. Ho-hum, he's a liar -- so what else is new? Line after presidential line is crossed, but, well, the upshot is that there are no lines anyone is willing to or capable of drawing.

Monday, January 15, 2018

preserve the "gormless"

Hangin' around wondering if some connection might be made between a woman who is pregnant-out-to-here and is sometimes said to be "expecting" and the arguably youthful person who "died unexpectedly" the other day. Both have expected for whatever reasons. Both, in most cases, get fooled. So much for "expectations" great and small.

For whatever reasons as well, that thought thread led me to the word "gormless," a word I admire for no particular reason ... except, perhaps, if I were angry at someone and wanted to hurl an epithet, "gormless" has a great, insulting ring to it. A veritable pillar of a sound ... sort of like, "shit!"

But I wanted to check my footing and so offered "gormless" to Google for clarification and clarity purposes: Was it really a good epithet? Ahhhh, yes. It was. How nice to reestablish a friendly link!

But, wait....

There, spliced into Google's offerings was this comment: "According to, "gormless" does indeed mean "lacking in gorm", which was originally the middle-English word "gaum" or "gome", meaning "understanding, or attention". I would have to say that "gorm" as its own word has fallen out of the modern lexicon, though, and is not at all likely to be understood. Dec 30, 2010."(emphasis added)

What?! Not at all likely to be understood? Is everyone out there as gormless as I? This simply will not do and I implore all self-respecting readers to use this word at least ten times a day in the upcoming month.

You think I'm kidding?

Gormless twit!

some journalistic warp and weft

I'm not sure that "consoling" is exactly the right word to apply to the Russian military drills announced Monday. But the rocket exercises seem to "fit" with this morning's and other recent news.
-- MOSCOW (AP) -- The Russian military is conducting massive drills involving truck-mounted intercontinental ballistic missile launchers.
The Defense Ministry said maneuvers involving Topol-M and Yars missile launchers began Monday.... 
The maneuvers are the latest in a steady series of Russian military drills. Russia's armed forces have intensified their combat training amid tensions with NATO over Ukraine.
-- ABOARD THE PAPAL PLANE (Reuters) - Pope Francis said on Monday he was really afraid about the danger of nuclear war and that the world now stood at “the very limit”.
His comment, made as he flew off for a visit to Chile and Peru, came after Hawaii issued a false missile alert that provoked panic in the U.S. state and highlighted the risk of possible unintended nuclear war with North Korea.
Asked if he was worried about the possibility of nuclear war, Pope Francis said: “I think we are at the very limit. I am really afraid of this. One accident is enough to precipitate things."
 -- BELGRADE, Serbia (AP) -- Japan's prime minister says his country is seeking to strengthen relations with Serbia and other Balkan countries....
Abe also said North Korea is "a great danger" and noted that its missiles have the capacity to reach Belgrade. 

-- JERUSALEM (AP) -- Israeli leaders slammed Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas Monday for a fiery, invective-filled speech against President Donald Trump, in which he proclaimed the U.S. role as arbiter of the Mideast conflict over, attacked the administration's envoys and described Israel as a colonial conspiracy.
Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman said Abbas had "lost his senses" and had given up on the prospect of peace negotiations in favor of open confrontation with both Israel and the United States. Israeli Education Minister Naftali Bennett, head of the pro-settler Jewish Home Party, said the speech represented Abbas' swan song.
-- Turkey’s president, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, has accused the US of forming a “terror army”, after Washington announced plans for a 30,000-strong force inside Syria to protect territory held by its mainly Kurdish allies.
On Sunday, the US-led coalition said it was working with its Syrian militia allies, the mainly Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), to set up the new border force.
 -- Ending one of the fiercest jetliner-order competitions in recent memory, British budget carrier easyJet will buy jetliners from Europe's Airbus instead of adding to a fleet that now consists entirely of planes made by U.S.'s Boeing Co. [a military hardware provider]
-- WASHINGTON, January 8  - The Trump administration is nearing completion of a new "Buy American" plan that calls for US military attaches and diplomats to help drum up billions of dollars more in business overseas for the American weapons industry, going beyond the assistance they currently provide, US officials said.
President Donald Trump as early as February is expected to announce a "whole of government" effort to ease export rules on purchases by foreign countries of US-made military equipment, from fighter jets and drones to warships and artillery, according to people familiar with the plan.
If you can't convince 'em, then scare 'em: The "terrorism" is not within: It's out there, waiting to pounce. And Bernie Sanders shouts into the wind ...   yes, I know that at least he's shouting:
If we stand together against powerful special interests we can eliminate poverty, increase life expectancy and tackle climate change.
Right, and if pigs had wings, I'd be able to find my American flag lapel pin. I'm so sick of being sick of stuff. Maybe I've just turned into the arch-typical Trump enthusiast.

newest Trump acquisition?

Am I wrong to imagine that the Ritz-Carlton in Dubai might provide Donald Trump with a perfect addition to his branded properties?
DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — The Ritz Carlton in Saudi Arabia’s capital may be reopening its doors in time for Valentine’s Day, after serving for several months as a prison for the country’s elite caught up in what the government has described as a crackdown on corruption.
The Ritz Carlton’s website on Monday showed bookings available beginning Feb. 14.
The motto "Lock 'em Up in Style" comes to mind. Or "Hooker International?" Or maybe there could be a naming contest.

Sunday, January 14, 2018

joy and perfection

Is there a difference between joy and perfection? I think perhaps there is.

Joy subsumes and includes failure.

Perfection cannot match that success.


Passed along in email:

1. "The word “shithole” was projected onto President Trump’s D.C. hotel Saturday."

(CNN) President Donald Trump is "in excellent health," White House physician, Dr. Ronny Jackson, said following his physical Friday. But it's not clear whether any mental health tests were conducted, despite urging from mental health professionals.
Jackson received an urgent letter from dozens of doctors and health professionals Thursday urging him to perform basic mental health tests on the President.

nuclear tactics

The scare-'em-to-death tactics of those who have no policy for peace was ratcheted up in Hawaii Saturday when, for about 40 minutes, thousands were advised that there was a nuclear missile bound from North Korea to their land of milk and honey and hula skirts.
For nearly 40 minutes people waited. Then came the second mobile alert: someone hit the wrong button, there was no missile.
Some people abandoned cars on the highway and others gathered in the interiors of their homes to wait for what seemed like the inevitable, a blast that would cause widespread death and destruction.
The message sent statewide just after 8 a.m. Saturday read: “BALLISTIC MISSILE THREAT INBOUND TO HAWAII. SEEK IMMEDIATE SHELTER. THIS IS NOT A DRILL.”
The Hawaii Emergency Management Agency’s administrator, Vern Miyagi, said he took responsibility for the mistake. He said officials would study the error to make sure it doesn’t happen again.
Obviously, it was enough to scare the pee down the pope's leg. Panic was understandable: Where could anyone hide and be safe and save the children and save themselves and ... well ... survive? Strangely, as in the past, no one seemed to care about the results awaiting anyone who actually did survive. Is survival actually something someone might wish for? Seriously, is it?

John Hershey's "Hiroshima," which was published in 1946, makes it clear that those who survived the nuclear bomb dropped there in 1945 were consigned to a world of ravaged anguish. Flesh slipped from bones; radiation's fallout was gruesome ... the list of awful consequences made it clear that a quick incineration might have been preferable. But no one mentions that stuff -- the hell of the heaven of survival. Wishing to survive may be a natural human instinct, but that doesn't mean survival is the best possible outcome.

The U.S. capitalized on the Cold War fears of nuclear attack:
Beginning in 1954, the entire nation took part in an annual defense drill called “Operation Alert.” For the first exercise, on June 14, 1954, the FCDA pretended that nuclear bombs had hit about 100 American cities....
During the drill, everyone was supposed to get off the street and find shelter while government officials and volunteers practiced what their duties would be in an actual attack scenario.
I remember participating in one such defense drill (late 1950's or early 1960's?) in New York. While everyone headed for his or her designated shelter during the drill, I sat outside on the steps at Columbia University and considered what it might be like if a bomb actually hit New York, if it decimated the skyscrapers that were everywhere, if the resulting rubble might not entomb those who had fled to safety in subway tunnels or other below-ground shelters. And if they did survive and did manage to dig themselves out, what world might await them? Instant incineration, however frightening, struck me as the only sane alternative. But no one seemed or seems to want to consider the fallout from the fallout... no food, no water, no medicine, no help that could possibly help enough. Which is worse, dying or waiting to die?

The flashback takes on a new rainbow of color with the likes of Donald Trump as president. Bellicosity is one of his trademarks. Bad-mouthing the North Koreans and setting up other straw men to replace an earlier day's Cold War villains ... it's all a wonderful diversion from the needed jobs, improved health care, infrastructure repair and other peaceful pursuits that take time and patience and tenacity and responsibility. If we're at war -- and Kim Jong Un seems a less deranged adversary than some -- then thinking things through can be set aside: We need a bigger and better military establishment; we need a better-heeled bevy of industrial giants bellying up to the federal trough; we need to wave the flag and rattle the sabre and ... what better way to accomplish all that than to scare the pants off the people who pay the bills?


Where does the light go when it meets the shadow?
Where does the shadow go when it meets the light?
Gautama ('the Buddha') suggested that it is wiser to steer clear of "imponderables" (what happens after death, etc.) but he was in the teaching business, the business of pointing. Teachers nudge, students do the walking.
After a bit, the imponderables are what make the most sense.
Ponderables only produce answers -- the stuff that C+ students might attain in a world where no one gets an A.
So, yes, steer clear of imponderables, the only questions worth answering... the scrumptious stuff, juicy and mysterious as a kumquat.
OK, so you find the answer ... only to discover the question had fled ... sort of. How convincing is that?
Stick with the imponderables. They make better sense.

Saturday, January 13, 2018


Like a painter whose works over time may begin as representational and then slowly segue back and back and back in future works until nothing is left but a single brush stroke, I wonder if all those interested in the arts or life don't do much the same ... back and back and back until a single ball on green baize is all that there is to indicate the symphonies and intricacies of a billiards match.

The word "samovar" crept into my head today and lingered like a peppermint lozenge. Even as the implications and associations of the word rose up dancing in my mind, still I did not want to give them force or favor. "Samovar" -- that was enough, if not too much.

The wolves, the tundra, the tall hats, the cold, the warmth of friendship, the romance, the tall actions and embroidered gowns ... no, none of that. Just "samovar."

The singularity may be annoying -- art, after all, is said to 'communicate' -- but still, the travel back and back and back seems inevitable. Back to a place where all things communicate by nature and defy the blather of "communication."

Anyway... for the moment ... samovar.

the loneliness of Facebook

It has been the better part of a month (12/18/17 submission) since I sent in the following to the local paper. The article makes no mention of local links (name of a town or region) so I suspect whatever consideration it is being given as a "guest column" is in the rear-view mirror. Anyway, I'm tired of waiting for the editorial stamp of approval. It ain't great, but it ain't that bad either. I'll put it here:

In an age of loneliness and gilded gadgets, no enabler of that loneliness stands out more sharply than Facebook, the lucrative internet format that allows people to imagine they have friends and enemies.

But now a shadow has crept across the sunshine of this internet platform. As a Guardian article suggested recently, "Facebook has acknowledged that social media use can be bad for users’ mental health, a sign the company is feeling pressure from a growing chorus of critics raising alarms about the platform’s effect on society....
The company’s CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, has asked for forgiveness and claimed his new mission was to “bring the world closer together.'"

Zuckerberg's mea culpa is leavened of course with the knowledge that the man has made billions of dollars promoting the notion that somehow Facebook already brings its users closer together instead of driving them further into the quicksand of loneliness and separation. "Bring the world closer together?" Don't make me laugh.

When it comes to addictions, I really am not sure which is more pernicious, opiods or Facebook. Some may see this statement as overreach: Facebook, they may argue, never killed anyone. My reply is two-fold: 1. Are you really sure of that and 2. Facebook nibbles at the human spirit. It does not gulp. But where there is enough nibbling, the result is likewise corpses. Is Facebook addictive? My guess is a resounding "yes," which is why I have done what I could to stay away from it and opiods. Both opiods and Facebook have some legitimate and informative uses, but there is no denying the addictive potential.

To rewrite Beatle John Lennon's observation about life, "Friends go begging while you were busy making Facebook "friends."

Facebook is very much like the widely-available pornography on the internet. Yes, it looks like sex. Yes, it is graphic. Yes, it reminds users of a potential reality. But what is that reality? Sex on the internet can hardly be called sex in all its actual-factual wonder and giggling and epiphany and despair. Similarly, Facebook "friends" or "enemies," with some rare exceptions, can hardly be equated with the wondrous complexity of having a real friend or enemy.

Turn off the phone and users of Facebook and porn are likely to find themselves every bit as lonely as before they turned it on and got so engulfed that they walked into light poles or ran over pedestrians. Friends and enemies require time and patience, stops and starts, surprises and doldrums. They are not based in the ability to type some long-distance witticism or lie or quick-hit observation.

There is nothing inherently wrong with Facebook or porn. What is wrong is the belief that this medium represents an honest and soothing human reality. No one has as many real friends as they can cobble together on Facebook. No one has as much sex -- even the no-giggles, one-dimensional sort -- as porn sites offer. But, to mix the metaphors, if you believe that Facebook actually brings people closer together, you're screwed... and left wondering why the loneliness of our time and gadgetry remains unassuaged. No one can have a beer or a cup of coffee with a pair of agile thumbs.

I grant that there is/are the occasional Facebook romances that turn into marriage. I grant that there are the shared interests in worm farms and astrophysics. I grant that there are connections that crop up and blossom. But into this mix I would add the deep suspicion that in the midst of it all, as reliance on Facebook grows, real friendship goes begging. I'm sorry, but the people I count as real friends have halitosis I have smelled as they have smelled mine. Building a friendship is subtle and not always as deliciously complete as a quickie message. And finding an enemy is much the same.

In the midst of Facebook's mea-culpa soul-searching, the answer proposed to the potential for a depressed user was every bit as gob-smacking as the notion that the institution might weigh its flaws at all. A study found that using Facebook "passively" (just reading it) could inspire depression, but that the cure was to be found ... wait for it ... by becoming more actively involved with Facebook. Join the fray. Add your comments. Dispel the loneliness.

It has been suggested that the definition of insanity is "doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result." Drug addicts have a similar psalm: "If one's good, two's better."

Wouldn't it be better to expend the energy to make a real friend than to wallow in a fragile belief system whose warmth dissipates at the push of a button?

Loneliness, after all, is no joke.

Friends are not a dime a dozen.

Friday, January 12, 2018

old news, new day

Everyone else may have known, but ...:

-- Julian Assange, that spiller of Wikileaks wire-tapping beans, has been made a citizen of Ecuador, the country in whose London embassy he has lived for five and a half years. The Brits are not impressed -- "go fuck yourself" might easily have summed up their reaction to a request to recognize Assange as a diplomat. The Brits have and continue to play handmaiden to the United States which hasn't got the balls to admit Assange won and if "treason" is the word chosen to describe Assange, then perhaps the same word might be tried on an American president.

-- Bill Cosby, the American comedian whose past predations retrial is scheduled April 2 even as reruns of his sitcom "The Cosby Show" seem to be enjoying healthy reruns on TV, quipped recently that he would prefer not to be added to Twitter's #MeToo laundry list that has swamped and dashed other politicians and similar entertainment personalities.

-- I did know that Oprah Winfrey's name has been bandied about as a potential presidential candidate, but the sense of suicide-by-Democrats lingers and waxes in my mind.

-- And through it all, the entertainer-in-chief manages to shine as Donald Trump is called out for referring to Haiti and various African nations as "shithole countries." A majority of the news media seemed unwilling to NOT QUOTE the president verbatim. There were a few lackluster stories about Trump's denial that he ever used such language. His batting average for telling the truth is below average.

On the radio yesterday, I heard an AP report that federal aid to Puerto Rico -- a commonwealth/unincorporated territory still reeling (spotty electricity at best) from a Sept. 20 hurricane -- has yet to be ironed out in any tangible form. A cluster-fuck at best. A cluster-fuck in a shithole, perhaps? The aid spigots are on in Houston and environs that were likewise hurricane-ravaged. And well-heeled, non-shithole Montecito, Ca., and Santa Barbara County will get help for the mudslides the followed in the wake of devastating and denuding forest fires.

I suppose my granddaddy was wont to observe that it was a life-skill worth learning -- separating the chaff from the wheat. I wonder what he might have said when so much is chaff and so little is wheat.

Thursday, January 11, 2018

the road to peace

As the United States and 'friends' pursue a 17-year-old, easier-than-peace, Afghan war effort, a single man in India seems to be demonstrating the inescapable observation that peace and honest sweat are intimately linked.
A man in a remote eastern Indian village has single-handedly carved a five-mile (8km) road through hilly terrain to help his children attend school.
It had been taking Jalandhar Nayak’s three sons about three hours each way to navigate the narrow, rocky route to class. So two years ago the vegetable seller from Odisha state picked up a chisel, a garden hoe and pickaxe and began building a shorter route....
“My children found it hard to walk on the narrow and stony path while going to their school. I often saw them stumbling against the rocks and decided to carve a road through the mountain so that they can walk more easily,” he told News World Odisha.

if you've got it, don't flaunt it

A retired Japanese crime boss has been arrested in Thailand, ending more than 14 years on the run, after photos of his yakuza tattoos and a missing little finger went viral.
Shigeharu Shirai, 72, was apprehended while he was shopping on Wednesday in the central market town of Lopburi.
Japanese authorities had sought his arrest over an alleged role in the shooting of a rival in 2003, after which he fled to Thailand, married a local woman and drifted into a seemingly peaceful retirement.
That was until a resident posted photos of the diminutive retiree playing a streetside checkers game with his intricate gang tattoos on full show and a missing little finger – yakuza members often slice off a fingertip to atone for an offence. [Agence France-Presse]
Modesty. Omerta ... what ever happened to the good ol' days? When even the crooks are as dumb as Donald Trump, what is the world coming to?

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

starving from the inside out

I guess everyone starves from the inside out. That's just the nature of starvation from crackle-dried fields in Africa to the old age homes. What was gathered and utilized and brought to fruiting use is now nibbled-nibbled-nibbled. What was muscle is now mere sustenance ... rolling back, rolling back, rolling back. It is all beyond up-beat discussion. It is beyond loneliness. It is alone and it is sure.

The same gravity that compelled the rise and acquisition is thrown into reverse like some skillful skateboarder rolling up one side of his or her miraculous curve begs for a return and re-rise up the other side ... back and forth until gravity claims its due in the stillness of the middle, the bottom, the end.

I have eaten my fill. To eat more makes dwindling sense. I do sometimes wish things wouldn't dawdle so much. Obviously more gravity is required.

Trump advocates return to bribes

 U.S. President Donald Trump has suggested that refilling the Congressional "swamp" he once sought to drain may be the answer to a fractious, do-nothing atmosphere in the legislative arm of government. In essence, his passing remark advocated re-installing the bribe.


WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Donald Trump unexpectedly suggested on Tuesday that bringing back congressional “earmarks,” spending habits that were banished six years ago from the federal budget process, might help an often deadlocked U.S. Congress get things done
Known by their supporters as the “grease” that made Washington’s wheels turn, earmarks were funds allocated for lawmakers’ pet projects that helped secure votes needed to get broader legislation passed.
 “Maybe all of you should start thinking about going back to a form of earmarks,” Trump told lawmakers who were gathered at the White House for a meeting about immigration reform.
Of course, as usual, there is plenty of latitude in the remark: If it works, he can take credit; if it doesn't, he can blame someone else. Will anyone suggest a good reason to gainsay actor Robert DeNiro's characterization of this man as "the jerkoff-in-chief?"

As usual, vituperation and $2 will get you a bus ride.

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

another author reaps Trump manna

And you thought people who read books might be smarter than a box of rocks?!
When it was released 10 years ago, Randall Hansen’s book performed as expected, racking up strong sales that gradually tapered off. But this week the Canadian professor’s unexpectedly leapt back on to bestseller lists.
2008 book
The reason lies in the book’s name – Fire and Fury: The Allied Bombing of Germany, 1942-1945 – just a subtitle away from the Michael Wolff’s explosive exposé of the Trump White House....“It amused me and part of me thought, can people really be that dumb to be confusing these books?” [Hansen asked]
In a few cases, it appeared that this was exactly what had happened.

Monday, January 8, 2018

the louder the voice....

Thinking of Donald Trump, I wonder if it's true and half-suspect it is:
The louder the voice, the greater the cowardice.

instructing-the-monkeys photo

white hats and black

Idling through the alpha waves of the television yesterday, it seemed to be true -- there is an uptick in westerns and black-and-white dramas of yore. What caught my attention was "Shane," a 1953 good-guy-bad-guy western in which the guys with the white hats squared off against the guys in the black hats and the guys in the white hats -- what else? -- carried the day.

Westerns and war movies and Three Stooges ... all of them throwbacks to simpler times at the same moment that real life is fraught with complexities abetted by the internet -- complexities that are woven with "fake news" and a U.S. president who lies as a matter of routine. Simultaneously, the Department of Defense (once more aptly tagged as the "War Department") is looking for/getting support for a patriotic, blood-shedding financial boost.

And who is likely to pay for the military uptick? Medicare, Medicaid, and various other social safety nets is a good guess, I think.

War is so much easier than peace. Just press the patriotism button. Just press the fear button. Just ladle out the laundry list of guys in black hats and ....

Watch a latter-day rerun of 1949's "Sands of Iwo Jima," a John Wayne flag-waver. No one ever accused John Wayne's movies of being complex. Things were simpler then and therefore (of all damned things) true-r. They were heroic and right and un-fake and the top-gun didn't lie.

Hunger and poverty and climate and racism be damned.

OK ... let's have another war. Boeing and kin could use a financial infusion. Seventeen years of U.S. involvement in Afghanistan barely scratches the financial surface.
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The Trump administration is nearing completion of a new “Buy American” plan that calls for U.S. military attaches and diplomats to help drum up billions of dollars more in business overseas for the American weapons industry, going beyond the assistance they currently provide, U.S. officials said.
Fuck diplomacy! Get out there and sell, sell, sell!

Sunday, January 7, 2018

lofty stuff gets its chain yanked

Lord, I do love a little down-to-earthness, a little pointed humor, when it comes to the lofty realm of things.
...[A] case coming before the U.S. Supreme Court on Wednesday explores whether some states are aggressively purging voter rolls in a way that disenfranchises thousands of voters....
One Ohio man, a Trumbull County truck driver and Army veteran, said in an affidavit supporting the plaintiffs in the lawsuit he was “completely blindsided” after learning he was no longer registered to vote for the 2016 election. The last time he voted, he said, was in 2008. He told a county election board official by email that he is a U.S. citizen born in Ohio and should be reinstated to the rolls.
If not, he suggested also purging his name as a taxpayer.
“We’ll call us square!” the man wrote.
Well, tickle me pink and sign me up!

kids! smoke 'em if you've got 'em

VALE DE SALGUEIRO, Portugal (AP) — The Epiphany celebrations in the Portuguese village of Vale de Salgueiro feature a tradition that each year causes an outcry among outsiders: Parents encouraging their children, some as young as 5, to smoke cigarettes.
Locals say the practice has been passed down for centuries as part of a celebration of life tied to the Christian Epiphany and the winter solstice — but nobody is sure what it symbolizes or exactly why parents buy the packs of cigarettes for their children and encourage them to take part.
Kinda makes me wonder about other revered traditions that Christians and others of other persuasions DO claim certainty about. Is crucifixion or enlightenment really good for you? Who says so and why? It's a funny old world.

Saturday, January 6, 2018

the unassailable Ingmar Bergman

Liv Ullmann and and Ingmar Bergman during a break in filming on Hour of the Wolf in 1968. Photograph: Bettmann Archive
In an era when politicians and glitterati are dropping like flies in the face of sexual-predator accusations that are often 20 or more years old, an upcoming movie takes a look at Swedish director Ingmar Bergman. "Today the Swedish director would be called a predator, but he also created great roles in which women excelled."
A new Swedish documentary commissioned for this year’s centenary of the birth of Ingmar Bergman is to examine the sexual relationships in which the Swedish film director engaged with almost all of his actresses, and detail his shortcomings as a husband and father....
The two-hour documentary is in post-production and, if accepted, will premiere in May at the Cannes film festival, before launching in cinemas in Sweden later in the summer.
[Jane] Magnusson said she hoped Bergman admirers would be more willing to acknowledge the great director’s flaws after last year’s revelations about the systematic sexual exploitation of actresses by Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein, which sparked the #MeToo social media campaign.

"Buddhism" meandering

Note to a Buddhist bulletin board moderator who expressed concern in the new year about wandering away from the topic of "Buddhism." Not sure it makes sense or is even apposite, but I thought I would save it:
I have a hunch that no matter how wondrous or rarified or specific, everything gets plain, ordinary and generalized. Put another way, if you visit a place often enough, it is bound to encourage a sense of "been there, done that." If "Buddhism" is roughly an effort to settle and stop fretting about the matter of "self," still there is only the "self" to work with. And if this is the case, personalized incidents -- with a side order of "Buddhism" -- is understandable.
In the send-up movie "Zen Noir" (, there is a half-remembered scene in which a woman monk tries to explain what a "lay monk" might be. It is, she explains as best I recall, "a monk who can still get laid." Getting laid, to stick with that example, is a very personal experience that is rife with what is beyond the personal, a self-no-self situation. No one thinks about "Buddhism" when getting laid and yet getting laid pertains to or touches on or is redolent with Buddhism. It's a mash-up....
How can anyone remain "on topic" when it comes to Buddhism? Yes, there are disciplinary pointers and yet what, in the end, is NOT Buddhism? And yet this question is simultaneously offensive and vague. Meandering away from the discipline and into a realm in which the dog pisses on the kitchen linoleum is too damned un-Buddhist in one sense. Let's stick to Buddhism, right? Your offending cuticle or mine is too self-absorbed ... and yet who can help but be self-absorbed when studying the self or an offending cuticle?
If there is a desire to "remain on topic," well that feels too tight. If there is a tendency to meander away from the topic, well, that feels too loose. I think the best you can do -- and you do it pretty well -- is to make sure no one gets unduly offensive to another. Otherwise the best you can do is to let the water flow downhill. If the task becomes too onerous, then stop. All of us have been through phases of interest and commitment. There is no over-arching imperative to defend and promulgate The Dharma: The Dharma will take care of itself. Or, as I like to say, "Just because you are indispensable to the universe does not mean the universe needs your help." :)
Does any of this make any sense? I can't tell, but I hope I will be forgiven for posting it. Meandering is my middle name. :)

Friday, January 5, 2018

thanking Donald Trump

Joe Biden
I am just one person in 2018. That's barely piss in a snowbank when it comes to the American electorate. And yet I suspect I am not alone ... don't know, just suspect....

Watching former vice-president Joe Biden on public television last night, I felt a loosening of some almost indefinable set of knots. Biden was beautifully made-up. He spoke quietly. He ducked questions as the need arose. And yet through it all, I had a sense of terra somewhat more firma. Dignity and decency and leadership and thoughtfulness and, who knows, maybe even honor, were woven into his words.  Of course I was just an arrogant faggot elitist who had helped create the "swamp" of Washington, D.C., but, listening to Biden, I was willing to shoulder those taunts.

And who had made all of this possible? Donald Trump -- that's who.

His illiterate, illogical, bullying idiocies and cruelties -- his unwillingness to read and reflect and consider and shape policy -- left former bits of Biden-era flag-waving bombast in the shade... or, put another way, elevated them to new and newly-burnished heights. To corrupt the old saying, "There are lies, damned lies and there is Donald Trump."

I was willing last night to be suspicious of Biden: He's a politician after all. But in the midst of his politician-ness, his words struck me as having a chance to succeed, perhaps despite him if nothing else. America might not be the greatest, it might have its hypocrisies up the wazoo, but how did it happen, as it has, that I am more likely to listen to the words of an alleged enemy -- Iran -- than I am to listen to the words of my own president? Sifting Iran's words strikes me as providing pebbles of substantive meaning; sifting Trump's bombast produces few or no pebbles.

Trump has forced me, for one, back to a time when bullshit treacle is positively bracing. Decency, clarity, diplomacy, leadership, democracy, and, sure, duplicity .... but duplicity in search of an honest or more-or-less honest outcome. I am exhausted as I nod my head in agreement with those who opine -- out loud and in the public square -- that the U.S. president is a "fucking moron."

Yes, he has paid off his benefactors with a tax bill that will screw vast swaths of the American public in years to come. OK, he accomplished that. But what policy initiative has become law on his watch -- the kind that benefits the country he is said to represent?

But I do have to say an exhausted thank you to Trump. His lies and bombast have forced me to realize that decency is important to me, even when it's flawed; that country is important to me, even when it's flawed; that thoughtfulness is important to me, even when it's flawed ... that there is a role for honor, even when it's flawed.

I hate thanking Trump, but I guess I need to do it.

PS And tack on this snippet of John Oliver's thrashing of the president...

Thursday, January 4, 2018

'queen of the forklifts"

To mark her hands-on learning of forklifts and their licenses, I sent my daughter a mug: