Putin and Murdoch

Hello Friend,

A few days ago I threw out the idea that maybe there was a conspiracy about the Zika virus.  It was all in fun, because the chances of nefarious governments trying to decrease world population seems far-fetched.

Like you, I pay too much attention to the news.  The happenings around Trump’s white house are getting more ridiculous.  I even read where a House committee wants to reopen investigations into Hillary Clinton instead of digging into Trump’s Russian connections.  Of course, this sort of slant is loved by everyone’s favorite hateful news network – Fox.

And that got me thinking.

The Russians have always dealt with the cold war difgerently than Americans.  We spent money on technology and armies.  They spent money on spy networks and prostitutes.  Putin was one of their best.

We now have ample evidence that Russian hacking rings have been responsible for massive influences around the globe.  Facebook has admitted that there were 70,000 fake profiles set up in France in order to both destabilize the Macron campaign and bolster his radical opponent, La Pen (she’s a Trump clone).

Here’s the conspiracy.  The single greatest force that has been effectively destabilizing our democratic process since 1996 is Fox “News.” (Sorry, I can’t say this with a straight face, or without putting it into quotes.  Forgive me, Gentle Reader.)  That date is important, because that’s when Clinton (Bill) won his second term, and the Republicans were already preparing to put another Bush in power.

What if Rupert Murdoch got help from Putin?  What if they helped him in terms of supporting the network, making sure he got ad money, maybe even helping fake how well it was doing in the ratings?  All of these things are done on computers now, and we know how good the Russian hacking rings are.

Just think of the possibilities.  Putin hardly has to raise a finger.  Murdoch is doing the dirty work for him!  Creating whole new categories of “fact” and “alternative reality.”  Putting pretty women in front of lots of old white men, and then groping them behind the scenes.  That is pure Russian mentality.

Need some evidence?, besides this pretty darn good crazy thread of a theory?  Here it is.

If Fox “News” is so dang conservative and old-fashioned, where is the pure outrage against all the Russian influence we’ve uncovered since before the election?  Hacking into voting systems, spreading viruses, and leaking sensitive emails of Hillary and others.  What about the outrage we should be hearing even now?  Don Junior’s meeting with Russian agents?  Don Senior’s business dealing with Russians?  Perhaps that’s the real reason why he refuses to reveal his tax returns.

You can take it from here.  As far as I am now concerned, the conspiracy theory has hit its peak.  Fox “News” is a front for Putin and Russian influence in our society.  I know we’ll prevail, because we are far tougher than they are.  But now knowing there’s a Russian handler sitting behind every pretty Fox face gives the channel a whole new look.

Dasvedanya Tvarisch.

Yes, that’s Russian for goodbye comrade.  If you like Fox “News,” you should start learning the language.

 

 

 

Define Tyrant

The very first step towards understanding ANYTHING is knowing that a THING is a THING.

What????

Whether it’s the colors of the rainbow, or knowing if your leaders are corrupt, you first have to have a way to think about those things: colors, corruption, whatever.

These are definitions.  If my own little brain can’t define colors very well, then I’m never going to have a decent conversation about rainbows; even WITH MYSELF.

If I want to talk about rainbows with you, then I need to share my definition of colors with you as well.  If you agree, then we can have a nice conversation about rainbows.

The same goes for tyrants.  What is a tyrant?  Some people are already calling tRump a tyrant.  Many of his supporters totally disagree.  Who is right?

Let’s take a stab at a simple definition.  Let’s pretend that one way you can identify a tyrant is if they use their position as a public speaker to incite a mob towards violence.

Now, violence in general could include rugby or smashing beer bottles.  But what if the violence is targeted towards certain people?  Like people who wear yellow stars?  Or people who talk funny?  Or people with skin that looks like coffee or chocolate?

Here’s my definition.  A tyrant is someone who uses their public position to incite mob violence towards opposition or a group that is different from themselves.

Guess what?

We have video, much written experience, and even a lawsuit about President drumpf using exactly these tactics during his speeches.  I wish it was only during his campaign that he does this, but it turns out that he continues to use the highest office in the (previously) “land of the free” to do the same thing.

Now, many of his supporters will be quick to point out that this is fake news and have alternative facts.  However, Pres 45 did exactly these things even in his last press conference.  More like a press battle, but if you look carefully, you can see that he is at battle with a free and independent press, and pushing his supporters to punish them appropriately.

Disagree?  Fair enough.

So, what’s your definition?

 

 

President Trump

What goes through your mind when you hear these words?

President Donald Trump.

My brainy and / or more liberal friends shudder.  Then they gag.  Then laugh, hug each other, cry, and finally acknowledge that it could happen.

Quite a few other people are counting on it.  In fact, they plan to vote for him.

And why not?  Who’s to say he won’t make a great president?

The sad news is that our country doesn’t have any standards for what make a president good or bad.  Popularity got George Washington in for two terms and he’s voted our best president ever.  But the second-most successful president was also one of the least popular; Abraham Lincoln.

So Trump may become president, and he may be a great one.  At least, by his standards.

We have a pretty crazy country going on here.  It’s run by millionaires for one thing.  And those millionaires take lots of advice from very rich friends who make lots of money off the rest of us.

Anyone can be president in the USA.  Of course, certain conditions apply.

So, my advice to all of you who may be feeling a political chill, is to put on a sweater and deal with it.

Should you still be afraid?  Sure.  But not because Trump got in.  He’s just the symptom.

The reason someone like Trump gets elected (or any other idiot you’d like to nominate) is because not enough of us ordinary people care.

The reason Trump may be president is because there are too many special interests who are allowed to spend as much money as they want.

The reason our government feels like it’s going to hell in a handbasket is because it mirrors exactly what is happening in our society as a whole.  Yes, our poor government is also a symptom of our disease, not a cause.  What is that cause?

We’re getting older.  We’re getting poorer.  We’re getting dumber.

Perhaps worst of all, we are all of us getting tired of fighting the tide.  We don’t want to stand up in public and debate the issues.  We don’t want to demand better performance out of our candidates, out of our government, and out of our journalists.

I’m also getting older.  And poorer.  But I’m fighting the dumber.  And I haven’t given up fighting, not yet.

This is my weapon; the pen, and education.

So, to all of you who also haven’t given up as yet, get up and get out there.  Fight!

If you don’t, you’ll have to live with the alternative.

 

New Fat Path

We’re driving over the river and through the woods to Grandma’s house for a traditional Christmas Eve gathering.

I’ve already eaten several holiday dinners every day this week.  With all the office parties, birthday parties, and generic holiday parties going on, it’s hard to even pretend to abstain.  And there’s people dropping by the office with the assorted mixed nuts, chocolates, cookies, and popcorn, and even beer! I can’t remember the last time I felt hungry.

As we drive along, I wonder what can I do?

I can say, “no thanks, mom.  I’d like a small portion.  No, no seconds, thank you.  Dessert?  No, none for me, please.”

None of these will work.  Like a game of chess I have to worry about what my words will do to my wife’s mother, my mil (mother in law for short).

I know I’m the only one with this problem, so let me describe it for you.  If I say the wrong thing while we’re at their house it could make my life very stressful for weeks.  If I really screw up I could make everyone upset, including my wife.  Chances are good that they would never let me forget it, either.  Heck, they still remember stupid things I said twenty years ago; things that I’ve long forgotten.

We’re parking the car.  What do I do?

What’s the downside?  So what if I eat too much?  You know, besides getting bloated and fat?

The burden I face is made much heavier because my wife and her mother are incredible cooks.  So it’s not that I’m turning down fast food; this is real gourmet dining.

What’s wrong with me pigging out?

As we gather our goods and start walking up the path, I think about Americans.  We’re a big country.  Not just Alaska and Grand Canyon big, we’re big and fat.  Americans are heavier than any other nation.  I don’t think that includes Canadians.

Americans are BIG.  How did this happen?

Well’ we have lots of money, so we can buy lots of food.

We make our food in factories, for the most part, so it’s inexpensive.

Generally, it’s not high quality, so when we get it served to us in a restaurant we get a lot.

Plus, there’s a good chance the food factories put extra sugar and other “ingredients” into their food encouraging us to eat more.

And let’s not forget the other side of life; the fact that we are constantly bombarded with ads telling us to eat more, and that we are glued to our screens watching those ads instead of walking around our neighborhood.

All of these are known pathways to getting fat.

I know all of these paths, and I realize that what I’m suffering from is a brand new pathway.  I’ve discovered yet another force upon us that makes me eat too much.

Guilt.

Yes, you may nod knowingly.  Guilt is the icing on the holiday cake.

No matter your ethnic background or religious upbringing, there are few young women who can go through an entire holiday event without getting a dollop of guilt from her mother or mil.  Guilt is probably more of a tradition than turkey and mashed potatoes.

Now, here I was, being guilted into eating.  How?

You see, if I say too much or say the wrong thing, I’m screwed for weeks, perhaps years.

But if I keep stuffing my face and mumble things like “thish is deelishus” or “paff vu graffee” then it’s like getting a pass out of making conversation.

Even if I’m asked a tough question I have a way out.  For instance, my mil may ask if I like her new hair style.  I’ll just stuff more rib roast into my mouth and nod agreeably.

If I hadn’t been eating I probably would have said something really stupid like “I hadn’t even noticed” or “I thought it was a wig.”

We walk up the steps and into the room.  I’m greeted by incredible aromas and a glass of wine offered by my fil.

Guess which path I choose tonight?

Happy New Year!

 

Dancing?

I think I’ve finally figured this one out. Why do humans dance?

I’m pretty sure that it’s only humans. At least, after all the hours I’ve seen of wild animals doing their thing, none of them have ever gotten up and boogied. Of course, who knows what happens late on Saturday nights when all the cameras are gone, right? Maybe there are rabbit raves? After all, where do all those rabbits come from?

I’ve never been a good dancer, and I’ve never understood why people dance. As a nerd I can blame my computerish tendencies. I can also blame my lack of skill, balance, and coordination. As you can tell, I’m pretty good at rationalization. I can also blame the fact that I learned to dance in the 80s, when disco was big. That alone may have traumatized me.

But why do others like to dance? I could never figure this one out. Every now and then I’d ask someone, usually a dancing partner. At which point they would promptly dump me. I never did get a good answer.

Anyway, after all these years, I think I got it.

People dance as a way to show that they are in touch with nature, deep nature. That’s it.

What is deep nature? It’s the rhythms permeating our lives; rhythms that are so old and so deeply entwined in our being that words are inadequate. Deep nature is life itself, and death; deep nature is breath itself, and the beating heart. Deep nature is hunger, sleep, love, and fear.

You probably already knew this, most people do. Some of us don’t, and we stand at the wall wondering what all the undulating is about.

Dancing occurs in all cultures, to many different beats, in many different forms. It changes slowly between generations, because the beat of nature for your generation is slightly different than it was for mine. Your dancing reflects that.

More women dance than men in our culture; not surprising because women are more closely tied to nature. Do we need music? No, but it certainly helps, as music reminds us of the beating of natural rhythms, like our heart, the tides, seasons, or the sun and moon. Do we need a partner? Again, not really, but if dancing is about communicating our ability to feel nature, then a partner is required, for who else are we talking to? The more people the more the need to dance. The greater the celebration, such as a wedding or even funeral, the more need to dance.

So the next time I see the group get up and sway, I’ll do my best to join in. I may not feel the forces that they do, but at least I can try undulating a bit. I just wish my relatives wouldn’t laugh so much!

Dancing the night away

Do you dance?

Sadly, I can’t.  Never could.  Even the most extreme embarrassing moves of the 1960s and 1980 weren’t weird enough to save me.  Most people I know dance wonderfully.  I even took some classes, and found them mentally exhausting!

So, as someone who can’t dance, I’ve applied the sour grapes rationale to my shortcoming.  That means I ask myself this question; what is dancing good for?

For me, nothing!  Therefore I don’t need to dance.

But those grapes are still hanging there, looking mighty delicious.  And I’m willing to bet that you can dance – certainly better than me.  That means YOU can reach those grapes and taste them.  So please, tell me,

Why do YOU dance?

 

Impact of an 8 year old

Saturday, yesterday, at noon, here in my peaceful little village in the middle of Ohio, a little boy was killed by a car.  We don’t know the details, yet, but they don’t matter.

We do know is his family was crossing the street.  A car driven by a sixty-something hit the entire family; all of them went to hospital.  As of this writing his is the only death.

The 12th of July should have been a memorable day for him because he probably got ice cream, saw the water falls, and probably enjoyed seeing many of the dogs and people walking about.  The village was different from his home in Virginia, and perhaps he would remember us as he grew into a young man, a man with a family, a career, and the possibility of helping humanity into the future.

The title of this essay is deliberately harsh, because the impact of that car has caused this little boy to impact my life, and through me, perhaps, some of you.  It’s my fervent hope that his life does not end with a short obituary and a few tears.  It’s my dream that events like this create a greater impact within ourselves, and our society.

I dream of a day when every tragedy causes us to pause, appreciate each other, and be thankful for the simple things in life.  I dream of a day when every tragedy becomes a new incentive to learn, and improve ourselves and our society.  And I dream of a day when tragedies like this are only known through ancient history.

We must be careful not to over-react.  Was the family paying attention and following the rules of the road?  Was the driver competent and was the car in proper working order.  If something did fail, what was it and how can we prevent such events like these in the future?

This little boy’s memories of our village have been erased.  But his memory becomes part of ours.  Even as I write this, I’m also reading about children whose memory is being erased in Syria, Gaza, Irag, Afghanistan, and other places.  Will our society ever grow to the point where those lives are also mourned?

Or will their impact be lost?

 

 

50 shades of self-loathing

There’s a popular book and movie running around at the moment that features a young woman being sexually manipulated.  The fact that he’s a older man is not important for now, because the subject of today’s observation is the fictional young woman. [1]

Many cultures have ways of keeping themselves organized.  The British have always been good about tracking their families; what schools they go to, what lands they own, what titles their ancestors have carried.  In Britain, you can be part of the nobility and upper class, or an ordinary person without status.  How they indicate this is both obvious and secret.  Obvious signs of status might be your title, or your school tie, or the fact that you live on an estate.  Secret signs might be the very way you pronounce “heredity” or “worcestershire.”

Signs of status are more numerous in India, where the caste system has been in effect for thousands of years, well before England even spoke English.  And in Japan, there is a very well engineered caste system embodied in the language itself!  Women speak to each other differently than men speak to each other, speaking to elders is different, and speaking within your social rank is different from speaking up or down in rank.

Now we have a popular fictional character submitting to acts of sexual stimulation for another person, and as a culture we find this acceptable.  What does it say about us?

It says that a new form of status expectation is forming.  It reinforces the stereotypes of young versus old and woman versus man.  It re-emphasizes the importance of sex as part of that relationship, and sends an unambiguous signal to everyone that these are considered acceptable behaviors.

As an indifferent observer, I’m not going to label these developments “good” or “bad.”  They simply exist, and whether or not society is a better place because of them will be for others to decide.

But as a parent and husband, I choose to teach and reinforce self-respect and confidence in my daughter and wife.  They never need to bow or pretend for anyone.  They stand equal with anyone on this planet, including the queen.

And in this there is no grey – only black and white.

 

 

[1]  Spoiler alert: I know nothing about this story, and don’t have enough popular culture curiosity to find out.  I do know it makes older women giggle and whisper among themselves.  And I’ve read the first few paragraphs on wikipedia.

 

Unleash your child

Don’t you hate it when you see parents toting their children through a park while tethering them to a leash?  At least I do.

Did you know there’s a good chance that you are doing the same thing?  Yes, the same thing.  Except the leash is inside you, and that child is your inner child.

Yesterday I wrote about how kids can ask the funniest questions about our world.  Why this, and how come that.  You were once that same child.

There’s a good chance that you were also treated like other children, told to wait, told to never mind, and told that it was just the way it was.  There’s another good chance that you hid your inner optimism, curiosity, and enthusiasm from your parts all the way till you went away to college.  There you allowed it to express itself again in new ways.

You probably took courses like English, or Psychology, or even Philosophy, in an attempt to get a better understanding about our world; your world; yourself.

It didn’t work, did it?

Faced with the pressures of family, reality, economy, and survival, you have grown the way almost everyone else has grown – into a common sense individual who no longer asks silly questions.

But that child is still a part of you.  Look inside.  Don’t you still wonder where sneezes come from?  Why we sleep?  Why baby bunnies are so cute?  Why their tails are white and round?  Or why their poop is so tiny, round, and black?

Let your child out.  Ask questions.  It’s the only way we’re going to get out of this mess.

 

 

Listen to the Children

Don’t kids say the darndest things?  Sometimes it makes us laugh so much.

Funny thing about laughing.  It usually wipes our minds clean of what other meaning there may have been underlying their innocent statements.

The questions that children ask about the world usually come about after they have thought deeply about a subject.  The entire universe is new to them, and like all young, they want to understand it to survive and succeed.  So they ask us, their mentoring adults, for advice.

When they ask a question it usually reveals what their underlying thinking is about that subject.  We can tease out how the world works inside their heads.  We can figure out where their logic is going wrong, or if they are getting the wrong impression about an object or subject.

We can also use those questions as an opportunity to lead them, guide them, entice them into a greater world of learning and wonder.  We can use it as an opportunity to help them grow and improve.

Sadly, I overhear many parents doing exactly the opposite to their children.  “Don’t ask me that,” they say.  “Just because,” they say.  Or worse yet, “because I say so” they say.  The child knows they were wrong, but is no wiser.  And the worst part is that whatever curiosity and energy they may have had to delve into the subject more deeply has been thwarted.  The children turn away from their parts and the world around them and instead play with their video games.

Know any children?  Try encouraging them – by listening.  They might surprise you.