Thursday, May 16, 2013

The Party Who Cried Wolf

I'm sure everyone knows the story of the boy who cried wolf. He did it so often, falsely, in order to get attention, that no one believed him when the wolf really came.

Also apropos is the story of the child who was so incredibly optimistic that nothing ever got her down. No matter what happened, she always found some way to turn it into something good. Her optimism became so obsessive, her parents feared for both her safety and her mental health.

In an effort to straighten her out and make her face reality, they decided to give her a big pile of horse manure for Christmas one year. This was because she kept insisting that she was going to get a pony as a gift, no matter how hard they tried to tell her it would not happen. They weren't trying to be cruel, just to get her to stop living in her own her private fantasy world. A good shock, they thought might clear her head.

But on Christmas morning, when they showed her the big pile of manure in the backyard, she became very excited. She grabbed a shovel and began throwing manure left, right, up, down, and everywhere in between. When they shouted her to stop and told her she was just making a big mess and repeated that she had gotten a big stinking pile of manure for Christmas because she wouldn't face facts, she replied that something had made that big pile, and it was so big that there just had to be a pony inside there somewhere.

Both stories, of course, apply to the Republican Party.

They cry wolf at every opportunity. They will make any accusation, anytime, anywhere, as long as it sounds bad for Obama. What they don't understand is that while it sounds bad for the President in the ears of those who already agree with them and also hate Mr. Obama, it makes them sound bad in the ears of everyone else. They have cried wolf so often about so many silly things that if the president actually did do something really reprehensible, no one would believe it. They'd just assume it was those crazed Republicans at it again.

Naturally, every now and then, the President does make a mistake. And when that happens, Republicans imagine a huge conspiracy to be uncovered. They jump right into the manure pile and start throwing handfuls of it left, right, up, down, and everywhere in between. They never give up hope that there's got to be a pony in there somewhere.

I get so tired of trying to make things clear to the Republican Party. It's the exact equivalent of trying to get through to an alcoholic. Oh, I know they aren't listening to me personally, but I'm not the only one giving them this advice. If you people want to be taken seriously, start acting as serious people act. If you don't want to be regarded as crazy nuts on the far right fringe, stop acting like crazy nuts on the far right fringe.

We need to two sensible parties dividing control of this country and working together to do what's best for America. We don't need one party that's mostly reasonable and another party which keeps going totally insane. I am not the enemy of the GOP. In fact, I'm its best friend. Sometimes a best friend has to look in you in the face and shout, "Stop taking those drugs!" or, "Stop drinking that alcohol!". Sometimes you need to be told get free of addiction and straighten up your life.

So, GOP, your country needs you. Start dealing with reality, dammit!

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

The Five and Dime

Some of you remember them, the five and dimes. They were not simply the economic equivalent of the dollar stores. Today you walk in, get a cart and pace down aisles which aren't that different from the aisles in any other store.

The five and dime. It was different.

It tended to be a little dark inside. Certainly darker than a modern store. And where there were patches of light they were exactly that, patches. There were spots of bright and shade in various places. It was almost like walking through a forest. Not that it was actually dark anywhere. There was plenty of light wherever you were standing. It's just that it wasn't all equally illuminated, some places were not quite as bright as others and it all seemed very much alive.

There were bins. There were wooden shelves. Some were waist high. Some taller. All were different. Einstein would've said five and dimes were very woody, not marble at all.

But maybe best of all, the packaging was minimal. Nothing in bubble wrap. Nothing in plastic. Little bags, cloth bags, net bags, you name it bags. Little cardboard boxes. Little wooden boxes. But no damned blister packs. Some things were just sitting there, you scooped up a handful of whatever, walked up to the counter and they were toted up, one by one.

Oh, I know, a lot of this is pure nostalgia . Being a child is so different from being an adult. But I assure you, the world has changed. In some ways, I won't deny, for the better. In some ways, however, it has changed for the worst. I go to dollar stores, they're a great place to get Friday prizes for my grandkids. But I have to admit, I wish I could take the kids out to a real five and dime, with shelves of tired old wood that they could see into if they stood on tiptoe. There was a certain magic such stores had about them. The magic that just doesn't exist in a modern store of any kind.

The moderns are all carved out of Einstein marble or injected out of plastic into certain forms and molds. They all look the same no matter what they sell. The organic, individual character is gone. Oh well, just put it down to me being old.

Notes: Friday prizes grew out of the celebration of the weekend between my son and me. They started out as Friday surprises. But when you're dealing with a small one, expressions tend to evolve rather rapidly into new words and phrases. I kept on hand a collection of this and that. Every Friday when we got home from school, it was time for something. He got to choose. Meat sticks were popular, but so was a stop at the ballon store. Eventually, Cory, my grandson joined in on the Friday tradition, and now it has moved on to James' and Cory's kids.

A word about Einstein: He loved a world, no, the universe, made of marble, not of wood. In his mind, marble was a planned and beautiful city built of stone mathematically measured and carved. And by wood he meant a forest, tangled, organic, messy. As models of reality, he liked the marble. He didn't like the wood.

Which is why he hated the random messiness of quantum physics, even though quantum mechanics was a direct consequence of his own work. I wonder if he had lived long enough to have known of the strange structure of fractals, which give a mathematical clarity even to forests, might he have found woodiness to be at least a bit more tolerable?

Tuesday, May 14, 2013


After so many days of things going so well, I suppose was inevitable that things should take a turn to the worse. Sunday was not a very good day. I found I'd lost my cell phone and I took a rather bad fall in the shower. But on Monday things went well with Austin, and, though I wasn't feeling at my best, we had a good day together. Today was not the best day either, but I finished the poem, Solo, and that is very good. The music keeps on playing even though the instrument is in need of much repair.


I am the violin of God
The instrument of happenstance
Of random fluctuations
In a problematic universe

He plays on me
The music that He chooses
But He can only play
That which is within my range

And I can sing along with Him
Or fight and snarl
His stanzaed orchestrations
And mathematical constructions

Solo or duet
I wonder while I play
The music of my life
And of the universe at large

Does it matter?
I think not
The only thing that matters
Is that we play on together

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Guilty -- But of What?

Three suspects have been arrested and charged with obstructing justice and covering up their friend's involvement in the Boston bombing. According to NBC news, the three of them went to his dorm room after some mysterious comments made by him. When they arrived they took the time to watch a movie before looking into his backpack where they found fireworks containers which had been emptied of gunpowder. They then took the backpack and Tsarnaev's computer out of the room. To quote the NBC report, -- After leaving the dorm, the three friends "started to freak out" because they realized Tsarnaev was wanted in the bombing, Phillipos said, according to the feds.
They then "collectively decided to throw the backpack and fireworks into the trash because they did not want Tsarnaev to get in trouble," Kadyrbayev told agents, according to the complaint. --

It's clear enough that the three young men behaved foolishly and self-destructively. Obviously, they should have turned the evidence over to the authorities. That is not an issue. What does concern me is the rush to judgment I have heard both from the left and from the right.

It seems that everyone, at least everyone I have heard so far, is condemning these three young men as being guilty of helping to cover up the bombing out of concern for Tsarnaev's safety. It is important to note that no one is accusing them of having known about the bombing before they actually entered the dorm room and found the evidence. Nevertheless, if they were covering up for their friend they were indeed obstructing injustice and were indeed materially assisting a terrorist who might continue to commit terrorist acts to escape capture.

What I haven't heard in this discussion however, is an alternative scenario. It might be true it might not be true. I don't know. My point is that I don't think anyone really knows what their motives were at this stage. Condemnation should come slowly and cautiously. However disturbed we are, and we are all deeply disturbed, we should not rush to judgment.

Once again, let me make sure that I am not misinterpreted. No matter what the motivation of these three young man, their actions were foolish and self-destructive. Clearly they cannot be ignored. But the question of motivation is terribly important. Everyone is assuming that they did this for the single and sole purpose of helping a friend to escape justice. That is certainly one valid and entirely possible reason for their actions. But it is not the only one.

I suggest an alternative scenario. I do not suggest that this is what happened. I did not suggest that this is likely what happened. I suggest only that this might be what happened and, if it is what happened, then the young men's actions were foolish and self-destructive, but not intended to cause harm to anyone else, or even to protect their friend from justice.

I suggest that what might have happened is that these three young men, shocked at the strange attitude their friend had adopted upon their pointing out his resemblance to the bomber, went over to his dorm to investigate. If they actually believed he was guilty, it seems unlikely would've sat around watching a movie before taking other actions. But they did watch that movie, which makes me think that they just thought their friend was acting strangely and that they did not suspect at that time that he had, in fact, committed this vile act.

When they did discover the evidence, I think it is at least possible that their reaction was not how can we protect our friend but rather how can we keep them being blamed for what are crazy friend has done?

Again I repeat, I am not suggesting that this is what actually happened, only that it is an alternative possibility. Tsarnaev's buddies may have acted not out of a despicable concern for protecting their friend from the consequences of his actions but rather out of a more understandable fear that they would be falsely regarded as his accessories. If so, it does not eliminate the criminal nature of their actions. However, if they were acting out of a fear that they themselves would be falsely accused of being his accomplices then at least their actions become more explicable, even understandable.

I am posting this on my blog because I'm concerned by the universal assumption that I have heard repeated today that these three men acted entirely out of the desire to protect their friend, that they displayed nothing but contempt for those who were harmed in the bombing, and that in general their behavior was so extreme that it cannot be comprehended and that the rage and even hatred directed at them is justified. All of these statements I have heard repeatedly on a variety of news channels today. They may be correct. All I'm saying is that it's a bit early to be condemning these young man as willful accomplices in the attempted escape of this terrorist. It seems to me entirely possible that three young men in college may simply have overreacted as young men in college often do, and that they were attempting not to protect their friend from justice, but to protect themselves from being unjustly accused.

And I will say once again, even if this was their motive, it would still not eliminate the criminal nature of their actions. However, it would put their actions in a very different light. Far from being willing accomplices after the fact, they suddenly morph into young men so frightened that they behaved foolishly and irresponsibly in a misguided attempt protect themselves. In other words, they freaked out.

We will have a better idea of which scenario is correct in about a week. I suggest we withhold our condemnation until we have that more accurate picture of what actually took place.

Freidman and Vouchers

I have been down and out for a long time. I'm slowly cycling back up, as evidenced by my making a blog post. Not much of one, but nonetheless interesting.

As you read the following excerpt, please recall that Friedman, one of the founders of the voucher movement, wanted to end all public education in America because he regarded the system as socialist.


-- “The diversion of existing public school resources to voucher schools will result in taxpayer support for religi­ous instruction at religious schools, with little to no oversight by the State, let alone the public,” asserts the brief. The brief cites specific examples, noting that some religious schools taking part in the program use textbooks that reject evolution and teach that humans coexisted with dino­saurs, that dinosaurs may still be living today and even that Scotland’s Loch Ness Monster exists.

Other texts assert that environmentalists seek to destroy the economy, that God used the mistreatment of Native Americans to convert them to Christianity and that many people in Africa are illiterate because they are not Christians. --

Nice curriculum. What's next? Maybe the dinosaurs died out because they weren't Christians? A pean to witch burning during the Protestsnt Discipline? All funded by the taxpayers of Louisiana.

The definition of pean, the meaning of the word Pean :Is pean a scrabble word? Yes!
n. - (ancient Greece) a hymn of praise (especially one sung in ancient Greece to invoke or thank a deity). From: