Monday, October 03, 2011

Battling the Hydra

I really acquired my initial interest in politics when Reagan became President.  In even my callow youth I recognized the fact that the man was full of shit.  "Government is the problem," he'd tell us.  I have an inherent suspicion of anyone who says that while pursuing a job IN government.  If government isn't here to serve the people, why the hell would a right-winger want to be IN government in the first place?  Oh... yeah.  To serve themselves.  And their cronies.

As a progressive, I refer to our enemy as The Hydra.  We've got a thousand different causes attacking the different heads, but most of them tend to forget that the beast behind it all is the same.  When you chop of the sewage spouting head and stop it from polluting in one place, another head is savaging a young immigrant worker trying to support a wife and a baby on less than minimum wage.  While we celebrating the victory of the end of Don't Ask Don't Tell, somewhere there's a professional holding a pink slip because his firm outsourced his job.  And as much as we'd like to pretend these things are unconnected, they're not.

Air pollution, outsourcing, abuse of labor, debit card fees, usurious interest rates, ecosystem and econo-system destroying oil spills.  Bank Bailouts and State appointed "Financial Managers."  Tax breaks and fee hikes.  Attempted plunder of the National Forests.  Endangered wolves with targets on their backs.

All different heads of the same hydra.

Had this broken open twenty years ago, I'd have been there with bells on.  But now I'm relegated in many ways to the role of cheerleader.  Because twenty minutes standing on my feet will send my back into spasms that, because of my fibro, feel a lot like someone punching me in the kidneys.  I have a job that pays my child support, but besides that I do the majority of the cooking and cleaning around the house, and I've got my writing.  My personal physical presence would do nothing to help the movement, but it would sure as hell kick my ass.  I remember the days when I could sleep on the sidewalk... or under a bridge (which I've done more than once) with no ill effects.  Now I have problems sleeping in a bed.  Or anywhere else.  I have a body that feels as though it's in constant revolt.  There is never a moment in which I am not in some measure of pain.  Damp weather and physical discomfort increase that pain considerably.  My days of abusing my body with no repercussions are long over.

So the spirit is willing and the flesh is weak.  But my heart is with these folks because I believe that it's time we tried to wrest our Republican from the hands of the powerful.

As Megadeth put it:  "It's still We the People, right?"

Saw a tee shirt a long time ago... back during the Reagan era as a matter of fact.  It said "If this is no longer the Land of the Free, I sure hope it's the Home of the Brave."

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Mocktivism: A definition.

So... Here's a new word.  Mocktivism.  Sounds a lot like it might be mock activism, and some people would say so out loud.  That's because they believe the old standby of getting out in the streets and marching will do some good.  Right--because the people who control the mass media are prone to being cooperative enough to tell the folks at home the truth.  Or not.

"Use what works, discard the rest."  This quote from Bruce Lee fits here like nowhere else but personal combat.  Tactics must evolve with the battlefield, and I think many fall into the same trap that the military does in constantly trying to fight the last war.
This is a war in the information age.  It is a war of ideas.  A war between stupid, regressive ideas and ideas that will, like all liberal notions throughout history, will require revisions to work as planned.  But that was the case when we replaced feudalism with capitalism and democracy and transformed an agrarian society into an industrial powerhouse.  Don't let the conservatives fool you.  They didn't do that.  Liberals did.  Conservatives, as a group, stick to the old ways.
As government must evolve with the changing times, a task it's performing poorly, we citizens must evolve our methods for dealing with government, our theories of what it is to be "involved."  Right after Obama took office I wrote that this congress would be the first one to really know what it's like to have people looking over their shoulder constantly... something that wasn't really possible until the internet, and now with social media it's a 24/7 proposition.  They can't do or say anything in the open without someone noticing, recording it, and making judgements.
Welcome to the 21st Century.

Mocktivism, as I mean it, is the practice performed by people like Jon Stewart, Stephen Colbert, Bill Maher, and, to a lesser extent, Michael Moore.  It's not your parent's activism.  It's snark and sarcasm and mockery aimed at the sheer absurdities of the "conservative" position.  On anything.
Studies have shown that most people make decisions on politics based not on the facts (something the Democratic leadership seems not to have picked up on, despite Republican victories revealing this very truth) but on emotion.
The Republican machine has cornered the market on fear and hate (not that we wanted those markets anyway) so we're only left with one real weapon.  Mockery.  Which is good, because we're good at it.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Hell in a hand basket

I get aggravated by the hatred of modern society that permeates some sub-sections of the internet culture.  You get it from both the left and the right.  The right thinks it's lack of God that's doing it, the people on the left blame everything other than their own interests or fascinations.  People are fucked up--it's television, or video games, or rock music.

Think again.

You do understand that we've always been like this, right?  The world isn't going to hell in a hand basket.  It's been there the whole time.  What period of time are you comparing us to where we're coming up short?  When we fought to keep the races separated?  When we kept them as slaves or killed them and stole their land?  When we treated women as chattel, or other races as children we needed to "civilize?"  When we would pack up and go to the town square and have a picnic while they hang someone?  It's so interesting how much we value diversity up until we have diversity of taste.  Maybe it's heavy metal causing the kids to kill each other.  Or rap.  Or television.  Or maybe it's the fact that every time we've built large cities--throughout the whole of history--we've had the same goddamn things going on behind the scenes.  Theft, murder, rape, prostitution (of all varieties).  That's mankind, and that's "civilization."  We've vicious little monkeys at times.  But it's not modern society making us that way.  We're built that way.  As says the Police song: there is no political solution for our troubled evolution.

We do what we can to drag us out of the hand basket.  And fail as often as not.  But every time we're getting a little closer to some sort of enlightenment.  Don't think so?  History disagrees.

Sunday, September 04, 2011

Three sides to every story

Can we stop playing the "Obamabot" and "Firebagger" cards now?  Please?  First of all, if you're reduced to nicknaming your opponent (I refuse to use the word "enemy" here) to reduce his or her stature, you've already lost your way.

Granted... there's a lot of different things we can choose to criticize this administration for.  (Though, in all fairness, Congress is possibly the bigger failure in this regard).  But if you do so while ignoring the things they've done right, you're being a pissface.  Right--you're acting as though someone just pissed in your face.  If you use the term "Obamabot" what you're actually saying is "I can't be bothered to debate with you--I'm late for a trolling date on a conservative page."

But--all you "obamabots" aren't off the hook either.  There are several things not easily set aside, ranging from security policies maintained through the change of administrations to epic failures with regard to medical marijuana and wildlife conservation.  I know you all think some of this is overblown but the fact is that we're fighting a hydra, and nearly every progressive out there is battling a different head.  It's all the same beast... those with money and influence using it to the detriment of the environment, the economy, and the average American.  Medical marijuana, for example, is strongly opposed by liquor companies, agencies that make money through prohibition--including drug testing and law enforcement agencies, among others.  And the wolves?  Well, they're opposed by ranchers, and, frankly, ranching is a far more lucrative profession than being a wolf.  Those who stand up for the wolves have no dog in the fight.  They're just fighting a battle in the name of creatures who have no idea there's even a battle being fought.

Does Obama come off as weak and conciliatory?  Sometimes.  Do his more loyal partisans stretch logic in order to excuse some of this?  Sometimes.  Do more strident progressives sometimes get a little carried away with their criticisms?  Sometimes.  Do we have to accept that we have very little choice right now, that we cannot afford to allow the Republicans to control the dialogue?  Yes, but this also applies to the Democrats.  We must, as a group, refuse to accept Republican framing and terminology--that's the progressive wing and the Democratic loyalists alike.  If we see or hear a frame or term that is designed and floated by the Republicans in order to influence the dialogue, it is our responsibility to reject it and try to work up a way to reframe or refute it.  If a term is likewise prejudicial, it behooves us to attempt to replace it.

We fight with words, with ideas. And with mockery.  Studies have shown that emotion works better than logic or facts when it comes to bringing people around to your way of thinking.  The Republicans have dibs on the emotions of hate and fear.  We are left with mockery and humor.  The most striking thing about mockery is that the right wing really has no defense against it.  They don't understand mockery, since it's a weapon that can be wielded easily by the powerless against the powerful.  This "does not compute."

The French Philosophs were instrumental in reducing respect and admiration for the nobility and the clergy leading up to the French revolution.  I suggest that we become American Philosophs working tiredly to put pinholes in the inflated egos of our own aristocracy.  Maybe with a little wisdom we can avoid making the mistakes the French did.

Well... with a little wisdom all the way around.  Otherwise all bets are off.

Saturday, September 03, 2011

Our Doggly Duty

We created dogs.  We are their Gods.  The hundreds of recognized variations now exist because we've been playing with their genes for generations, designing customized abilities and instincts into them to serve our purposes.  Everything from the Great Dane to the Chihuahua and all the sizes and shapes in between.  They've had our collective backs throughout the whole of recorded history, and likely several eons before that.

Dogs are our responsibility.

I could get on a rant about PETA and the USHS but I think I've already gone there.  Suffice to say they can go frag themselves.  Or each other.  I don't care.  But keep their screwed up philosophy away from me and my dogs.  My cats too, as it happens

Dogs understand humans much, much better than we understand them.  And that's a tragedy, given that we're almost as likely to encounter a dog as encounter another human in any number of different urban and rural environments.  We need a comprehensive program to teach people about them.  And I don't mean the Dog Whisperer crap.  Let me hand over a clue--dogs (and wolves) aren't little soldiers who need a drill sergeant in their lives.  Pack order doesn't work like that.  Not for wolves and not for dogs.

One of the most vital things people overlook is this basic fact:  Dogs must be socialized.  The higher potential danger the dog represents, the more s/he should be socialized.  The excuse "I don't want the dog to be too comfortable around my friends" (just in case said friends are likely to steal all your stuff, I guess) doesn't really fly.  I know you bought the pitbull to keep them in line, but dogs understand the concept of property just fine.  They don't care if the guy scratches them in that special spot behind the ears if he's in the house without permission.

Exceptions might be found, but that's true of just about anything.  The presence of the dog is a serious deterrent for strangers.  If you're worried about your friends stealing from you, you don't need a dog.  You need better friends. Dogs can read human expression rather well, which means they generally have some idea whether you trust someone or not and will act accordingly. 

In my latest novella, I imagined a world where they'd bred dogs for intelligence and ability to communicate.  It's interesting to consider what they might become if we did that. But then we'd have to confront our history--if dogs became as intelligent as, say, your average 7th grader, what would we do with them?  Could we own them?  Or would we simply become their guardians?

I believe that if we were really smart, we'd be breeding dogs for intelligence and ability to communicate, on top of more specialized talents like bomb-sniffing and the like.  That, however, doesn't seem to be the goal.  Too bad.  We're instead breeding dogs for trivial cosmetic traits and the apparent purpose of passing along genetic damage.  Tragic.  We actually have some idea of what we're doing.  We no longer have an excuse.  We now understand why dogs are so easy to modify.  They're built that way.  Convenient for us... less convenient for them.

Dogs deserve better.  There are anthropologists who believe that civilization might not have been possible if not for the assistance we received from dogs in the early days of our conversion from hunter-gatherers to herders.

Yes, it's vital we protect people from dangerous dogs.  But we're also obligated to protect dogs from dangerous ignorance.  It's entirely possible to do both at the same time.  If we have the sense and the will.  Maybe it's time we rethought what dogs should represent to us--and treated them with the honor and respect I believe they've earned.

Friday, September 02, 2011

Keeping our eye on the ball

Make no mistake.  Gawd only knows there's enough reason to be disappointed in the Obama administration.  I think I've put enough energy into outlining what I think they've done wrong.  And I'm hardly the only person doing so.  But I draw the line at the whole "what difference does it make?" argument.  As I've said plenty of times, it's the difference between rappelling into the mouth of a volcano and just walking up and jumping off the edge.

It's not hard to imagine which would be preferable.  At least if you start rappelling into the crater, you have a chance to change your mind.  Much as we have the chance, however slight, to turn this whole thing around as well.

I honestly don't know what to expect from Obama at this point.  It scares me that so many things we hated about the last administration have remained in effect and ongoing.  Only some of this is the war... I'm more concerned about the security apparatus that remained in place after Bush left office.

And I could go on about the failures of supply-side "voodoo" economics for days.  We all know them.  Or those of us with the ability to wrap our brains around the obvious.  Employers don't hire people they don't need if they can, instead, push the current staff to handle the load coming in.  Less expenditure, more profit.  But, unfortunately, this behavior sends out ripples, affecting all other businesses in the area.  Fewer people making money means less money spent, which means lower profits for everyone.  A downward spiral.  Every person who loses a job, or loses welfare, is one more person unable to make purchases to help drive the economic engine.

So, yeah... we all know this.  So what?

Michele Bachman is what.  Rick Perry is what.  Mitt Romney is what.  I'd add Ron Paul to that list, but the media won't take him seriously.  The best thing for all of us would be if the old loon ran as a Libertarian.  For the first time the Libertarian Party would have a decent showing and that would draw off votes from the Republicans.  It's about time we had the chance to see them repaid for 2000.

As upset as we are by what we may (rightfully or otherwise) view as the failures of this administration and many of the Dems in Congress, we cannot allow the Republicans to win in 2012.  Cannot.  I don't care if you have to drag yourself to the polls by the scruff of your neck.  Vote.  And vote Democrat.

I don't want to hear "They'll never learn if we keep voting the lesser of two evils."  Right now too much is at stake to be thinking like that.  There's a good chance that the next four years will see the retirement of at least two, if not three, Supreme Court Justices.  And anyone with any thoughts whatsoever about the Citizens United decision, to name only one, should be considering this very closely.  Do we really want to allow a Christian Dominionist Republican to choose those Justices?

Not only no, but hell no.  Not only hell no, but fuck no.

No excuses.  I don't want to fucking hear them.  I'd vote for a mewling lamb before I would stand by and let those freaks take control of my home. 

Monday, July 04, 2011

Happy (Not Quite) Independence Day

I heard recently that certain retail stores that have traditionally closed for Christmas may be canceling that tradition soon.  So… you think the people who are required to work that day don’t have families to spend Christmas with?  Is it perhaps that the American sense of entitlement has gotten that out of hand?

Funny… starting out a post about Independence Day with a statement about Christmas.  Well, I was thinking about holidays and time with family.  That’s what the “family values” crowd is supposed to be about, right?  So why is it that they invariably support the right of employers to do whatever the hell they want and fuck the family’s time together?  “Hey, you sleep in the same house… that’s family time.”

Another annoyance today is the damn automatic checkouts at grocery stores.  I won’t use the things because they’re taking human jobs with no recourse—again, just to serve Americans’ sense of entitlement.  “Oh, I’m in a hurry.”  Yeah, well, maybe that’s the problem—everyone’s in a fucking hurry.

I hate waiting in lines.  But I hate the thought of stripping away a person’s job because I hate waiting in lines.  One of the things I believe goes with the rights we enjoy is the responsibility to give a shit about our fellow Americans.

Seriously, people… we’re getting damned inconsiderate.  Our politics even reflect this.  Republicanism is institutionalized selfishness and lack of consideration for others.  They’ll happily trash the economy further and throw more families into despair for the chance to make Obama a one-term president.  More notable, however, is the fact that they’re managing this feat not by following liberal principles, but by following their own.  Isn’t that somewhat contradictory?

Go figure.

I’m constantly amazed by the odd double vision of the average conservative.  They fear enslavement by government yet run into the embrace of the corporations.  The government, as a general rule, is apathetic to your situation.  Corporations, however, spend billion dollars a year to acquire your money, using the most advanced psychological tricks available to modern science.  When was the last time you saw a commercial telling you that government was good for you?

Despite the fantasies of the Libertarians and Anarchists, government is a necessary evil… with emphasis on ‘necessary.’  Government, however flawed it’s become, is the only thing that stands between us and the rule of the powerful.  Of course, the powerful have corrupted what government we had… but at least the damage can be mitigated.

Assuming the Republicans don’t get their way.  The government small enough to “drown in the bathtub” is also small enough to fit in your doctor’s office, or even in your uterus.  The Right Wing definition of “Freedom” is the “Freedom to think as we do.”

We don’t expect them to think like we do.  We understand it’s impossible.  But, damn it all, we do expect them to afford us some respect, and acceptance that there are other ways to be a patriot than be a knuckle-dragging would-be thug.

If we could only actually have our independence from these new age Tories, these folks who cling to the Constitution, yet spit all over it.  That use the tools of technology to disclaim the Enlightenment.  Now that would be worth celebration indeed.

As I have said before, quoting Captain Malcolm Reynolds of the good ship Serenity.  “I aim to misbehave.”

Friday, July 01, 2011

Dogs and other critters

I watched a few documentaries on dogs and animal intelligence in general last night, presented, respectively, by Nova and National Geographic.

Anyone who has shared his or her house with a dog, or multiple dogs, has seen, again and again, the animal's remarkable ability to communicate with you.  Not only can you pick up on the meaning of your pet's barks, but you will swear that its language skills almost rival your own.  At least where it comes to comprehension.

I know I'm continually awed by the behaviors of the individual dogs with whom I'm privileged to spend my life.

The above picture is of my "old man," my 11 y.o. Shiba Inu, Kitsune.  He's epileptic, but it's not a particularly bad case.  Unfortunately it seems to have taken a toll, in that he's aging far faster than most Shibas do.  He also shows the signs of arthritis now.

Kitsune's the "mechanic" in the pack.  (If one can say he's in the pack at all).  He's the one who figures out how to open things, how to get around human safeguards.  He also knows what "tomorrow" means.  And has for some years.  If you tell Kits he gets to go somewhere "tomorrow," he will be at the door waiting when it's time to leave.  We've never tested this any farther, but it's impressive.  It suggests some understanding of time.

Of course, I have to regularly remind them that they can't tell time.  Kharma, our Pomeranian Devil (30 lbs of fiercely protective, astonishingly loving fuzzball) can tell time.  Digitally, anyway.  Dinner is at 7:30... regardless of time changes.  And he's not fooled by the switch from DST or PST.  It's the digital clock on the DVR he seems to rely upon.

He also has a huge vocabulary.  (If you think Poms aren't smart, you haven't been around them much).  It's clear he also understands context.  He knows the difference between "Should we go out to dinner?" and "It's time for an out."  It's not the word "out," he jumps on so much as the way we might use it.

We had some city water guys digging in our yard yesterday attaching us to a new hub (good thing, because the water from the other line SUCKED).  Anyhow, the dogs were locked in, something we haven't been doing this year.  If it's warm enough the back door is open and both our dogs and cats are allowed to hang out in the yard.

Anyway--I opened the back door once the men had completed their job and left. Kitsune was waiting, so he went out and laid down.  Five minutes later the others hadn't noticed and were napping in the living room.  So I called out "You've got your back yard back."  Within 10 seconds they were all outside.

These, of course, are simply my observations of these particular dogs.  The little one, our  "walnut brained" miniature pincer "Bella," has a lap dog's sensibilities.  If it comes to her comfort--or food--she's little miss on-the-spot.  She's mom's little girl.  Alert, agile, and greedy.  But sweet.  Her most unique command is "be flat."  She dens in my wife's lap beneath a blanket and and her lap desk and lap top.

Our largest dog is Bejjing.  She's a Jindo, and a rescue.  She was abused badly by some male wearing a uniform, so she really doesn't like anyone who wears a uniform much.  And she particularly doesn't like men.  She loves and trusts me, but doesn't like me carrying anything in my hands

She's the guard dog and my wife's partially-trained service dog.  It's Bejjing who helps my wife when her legs aren't working right and she needs something to steady her.  Where Kharma is the loudmouth, the watch dog who sounds the alarm, Bejjing is the silent pain in the darkness.

She's also a dog-wrestler.  Seriously.  She dominates other dogs by rolling them and pinning them not with her jaws, but with her legs in a kind of hold.  I've never seen anything like it.

Bejjing is also the most dangerous dog in the house when it comes to our cats.  And the worst thing about it is it's not maliciousness, but a never realized mothering instinct.  Cats are for grooming, even over their objections.  If we're not there, the cats simply aren't safe around her.  Kitsune is a hunting dog and Kharma is a dominant vermin killer.  Excitement with the cats results in the activation of prey drive.

Let's just say we learned the hard way to keep her separate from the cats when we're gone when we lost my cat Bastion... who clearly died defending the other cats.  Based on the evidence, anyway.  Never heard of a male cat doing this, but that's what the scene suggested.

That's Bastion.  Damn good cat.  Listened almost like a dog.  And went out of his way to communicate.  We miss him.

But we still have Monster.  His given name is Sterling, but my wife nick-named him Monster because of his size and he decided he liked that better.

Monster acts like one of the dogs.  He goes in and out with them during the day, lies around the backyard on sunny days, gets cookies when the dogs do...  He comes when he's called, answers when talked to, and accompanies my wife to work in the basement just like Boo and 'Jjing.

I'd probably be remiss if I didn't mention my wife's cat.  He's the only critter we have with serious behaviorial issues.  He's a sweetie, but either not very bright or far more of a smartass than a cat should be.  I'm going for dumber than a box of pudding, myself.  But sweet.  He's a black longhair so I don't have any really good pictures of him.  He's hard to get a good shot of.

So if you ask me whether I think animals are a hell of a lot smarter than we give them credit for, I have to say yes.  All my life I've been  around amazing animals, and I presume to continue to do so until my dying day.  I pity those who can't, or won't, share their lives with these amazing creatures.  And this is the reason I support the ASPCA and individual animal rescue groups even while decrying PETA and the USHS.  Because I love animals--not just the idea of animals.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Voodoo... that thing they do.

So... I've been thinking.  (A dangerous pastime, I know).  We're supposed to believe that tax cuts to millionaires will create jobs.  Except they clearly have enough employees to serve their current needs.  If they didn't, demand would force them to hire more people whether they kept their tax cuts or not.  Ergo, they don't need to hire people.

This prompts a question.  Why should they hire more people if they don't need them?  For the sake of the country?  Don't make me laugh to the point I choke and nearly die.  Answer --they wouldn't.  Thus, the holdup isn't really their unwillingness to hire, but the fact that that, from their point of view, it's unnecessary.  And why is it unnecessary?  Because the people who would ordinarily be buying the goods and services they provide can no longer afford them.

I can only come to the conclusion that not only are the Republicans and other supply-siders fiendishly short-sighted, but they've managed to cloud the issue to the point that few of your average Americans have the faintest idea what's going on.  And that's to everyone's detriment.

When they talk about "cutting the deficit" at this point what they actually mean is firing government employees.  In reality... it's just more downsizing.  Cutting more American jobs.  Putting more Americans on unemployment and putting them out there on the street in competition with everyone else currently looking for work.  They're talking about modifying the child labor laws.  Won't that do the same thing?  Put more people in the job market?  How will this help the country?  Raising the retirement age?  Keeping more people in the labor market?  To what end?  Increasing unemployment?  That's the obvious effect, even if it isn't the plan.  Not sure what the plan is.

If people don't retire, new openings don't appear.

All these people, but for a lucky few, are then fighting for jobs that don't exist.  And won't exist.  Because they're not needed.  The more people out of work, the more people there are who can't afford to purchase the aforementioned goods and services.  The fewer people the companies need to hire.  This is simple logic.  People spending money drives the economic engine.  Or are we supposed to believe that the top two percent are going to be buying enough to make up for the bottom fifty to sixty percent who can no longer do so?

If people like thee and me don't have the money to spend, people who sell goods and services have less work.  With less work, they need less people.  It's a downward spiral.  And that's all conservatives are selling.  A downward spiral.

Hard to say if they know that's what they're doing.  Some do.  The very rich, perhaps... they might not even live here.  Or only live here part time.  The tax cuts we're giving them to create jobs they can't and don't  create because they don't have the demand.  Without demand, there are no jobs and no reason to create them.  Not here, anyway.

So what what that about the supply side again?  What was that, Papa Bush?  Yes.  You called it "Voodoo Economics."  And you were right.

Time we put this filthy, stinking zombie in the ground, don't you think?

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Everybody Matters

Everybody Matters

From the tiny child laying in its crib, burbling in happiness, or wailing with hunger, to the arthritic fellow making his way to his mailbox to look for a letter from his grandchildren--from the young woman on the bus taking her from her childhood home to a dream of greatness in the city to the old woman sitting on her porch, cat in her lap, calling cheerfully to the neighbors tending their garden.  From the homeless child sleeping on the school steps to the woman walking down the university steps, diploma in her hand.

From the guy standing in the unemployment line, trying to find another job after his was eliminated or outsourced, to the CEO who gave the order. From the long haired, bearded busker playing guitar at the market, voice raised in a song of hope or despair, to the slick haired concert promoter hob-knobbing with the stars.

Everybody matters.

We are all participants in what was once considered a grand experiment, a society in which we, the people, were all considered equal before the law, that insisted that each of our voices could be heard by those we elected to represent us.

It wasn't always true, of course, but it was a work in progress. One by one, the barriers were torn down and each segment of society became yet another to join their voices in the song of freedom. We believed that by working hard we could make a better world and a better life for our children.

When we stood and opposed the robber barons, fighting for the right to workplace safety, and the right to see our children to go to school rather than being forced to work alongside us, we did it for everyone. We did it for our children, and the children of our neighbors, and the children that would be born to them as well.

When we went off to fight the tyrant who tried to consume Europe, we did it for those who were dying, and those who were not yet born, because the hope of the future deserved it.

When we stood up against the war in southeast Asia, it wasn't just for ourselves, but for the children of all Americans, and the people there who also deserved to live in peace, to try to determine their own fate. We didn't do it because we don't believe in America, and what it's supposed to represent, but because we do.

When we protested the dumping of toxic wastes into the earth, the rivers, and the sea, it wasn't just to protect ourselves, or our own children, but to protect ALL of us, and all our children. When we fought for clean air, it wasn't to ensure our own breaths, but to ensure that all of us could continue to breathe air that didn't make us sick. When we stood up against the decimation of forest land, it was so all our children could enjoy the wonders of nature as we had. As our ancestors had.

America is more than a land mass, more than a nation of people. America is an idea. The idea that everybody matters, from the lowest to the highest, that everyone has a right to a decent life, and has a right to watch their children grow up in a world better yet than the one that they themselves remember.

Isn't that what everyone wants? That their children inherit a world in which more things are possible, in which they have every chance to succeed no matter where they were born and into which walk of life?

That's the one thing we liberals have been trying to say all along. That the farmer's daughter in Ohio, or Kentucky, is just as deserving of a chance to succeed in life as the CEO's son in New York or Chicago or Los Angeles. That's why we stand and fight against those practices and policies that make it that much harder for them. Because if we didn't, who would?

We believe everybody matters.

Don't you?

A radical suggestion for our foundering education system

Much of our gamesmanship, as a culture, is antagonistic.  You have winners and you have losers.  As we’ve often seen, this can occasionally explode into an orgy of manic catharsis, resulting in loss of property and, not uncommonly, loss of life after high drama sporting events.

Can competition be carried too far?  Can we become too invested in “our” team that we go a little nuts when something doesn’t go according to plan?  Why do we do this?

My theory is that it’s similar to the reason people play video games.  For the feeling of accomplishment—real or fabricated—that comes with succeeding at something, or being otherwise associated with success.  Accomplishment, real or imagined, has a desirable affect on our psyche.  We like it.  It allows us to minimize the existence of imagined flaws, and pump up one’s confidence in the presence of potential romantic partners.  Real or imagined.

But what about cooperation?  Oh, we learn to cooperate in a team, but the ultimate goal is, then, to beat the other team.  More winners and losers.

Now I’d like to stress that I think all competition is bad.  It isn’t.  It’s part of what got us this far… but in tandem, as if it and cooperation two horses hitched to the same coach.  If one is stronger than the other, imbalance results.

Either way, isn’t it time we began to stress the power of cooperation at least as much as we stress competition?  The world into which we’re being dragged—often kicking and screaming, but that’s another matter—is different than the one we thought we understood.

We can’t emulate the Chinese way… not and maintain our identity as Americans.  It doesn’t suit us.  As with competition and cooperation, individualism and community must also find a balance.  RPGs can teach teamwork as well as any sport, as well as good sportsmanship and a certain amount of respect for rules.  Even though it turns some people into lawyers.  (Take my word for it--serious gamers are laughing at that).  But, in allowing the player to immerse him or her self in the character, the provides both a means of stepping out of the “real” world, yet also teaches some valuable real world skills at the same time.

For example—use of resources.  I’ve long said that they should put experienced gamers in charge of disaster relief teams.  Why?  Because one of the skills a gamer learns is how to use the resources available to him or her to their best effect.  Resources and the skills and abilities of your fellow PCs.  Which can also help a player pick up on similar things in the real world.  It teaches you to think of others as more than mere extensions of oneself.  Sounds strange, doesn’t it?  But in a completely make-believe scenario, you have to be able to consider the skills and talents of everyone in the party and how they might be put to the best use.

That’s the kind of gamer I am, and the kind of gaming I’d stress.

“But what about physical exercise? some might ask.  Funny you should mention that, because I myself came up with a way to drag pasty-faced D&Ders into the light of day.  They did not burst into flames, much to my surprise.

Simple enough.  I told them that the next game we played were going to feature ourselves as characters—as if we were pulled into a fantasy realm.  Then I devised training regimens to add levels to our starting position.  Everyone got some sun that Summer.

I’m not saying that any one of these things would hold true in every kid you introduced to the program.  But all it might take is to pique their interest just a little bit.  And if they happen to want to add a new element to the game, make them write the rules and turn that into a project.  And, yes, spelling and grammar count.

Now this is all quite apart from my vision of video games that can be both educational AND entertaining.  Right now you have two very distinct mediums within the whole gaming industry to, I believe, the detriment of both.

The Assassin’s Creed series is a great example of how real historical detail can be injected into what is, essentially, a fantasy story.

I invite my friends and other readers to consider the possibilities.

Historical/Time Travel RPGs

Near Future Science RPGs

Literature-based RPGs

Civics/Current Events RPGs

And consider that an RPG is an excellent way to teach the following skills in a holistic way.







Creative Writing

Record keeping

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Faith based governing

The other day Bill Maher riffed on Texas governor Rick Perry for his comments that there were apparently some problems we couldn't solve and should leave in the hands of God.  Perry called a state-wide day of prayer...for rain. 

That's just fucking stupid.

As Maher suggested--one of the problems here is that we humans are fighting to abandon responsibility for our actions--and this new breed of so-called "Christian" is on the front lines of this battle.  We're not responsible for pollution, or climate change, or driving multiple species on both land and sea to extinction.  And even if we are, it has to be part of "God's Plan."

Let me make something perfectly clear.  A religion based on the notion of a supreme monarch has no business dominating the political dialogue in what is ostensibly a democratic society.  Those that advocate governance by religious principles are innately hostile to democracy and should be treated as the enemies of democracy they are.  You cannot serve the King of Kings and the citizens of America at the same time.  Pick your loyalties.

This goes along with something else that has occurred to me.  If the purpose of government isn't to serve the people then what is it?  To serve itself?  Well, judging by the actions of some Republicans, this must be the case.  Didn't the governor of Florida sign a law that would drug test prospective welfare recipients--thus enhancing the income of drug testing clinics that he himself has a financial stake in?  Gee--nothing self serving about that.

The GOP calls itself "The Party of Personal Responsibility."  Except, well, it doesn't take responsibility for anything.  The massive deficit?  Initially created by Republicans via Bush's tax cuts.  They, in turn, blame Obama for the increased deficit, forgetting (or ignoring) that one must buy a ladder to climb out of the vast trench they dug for us.

Seriously... if tax cuts for millionaires create jobs--where are the jobs?  They've had 10 years and what do we see now?  We're still bleeding jobs, a circumstance not helped by fiscally decimating the public sector and sending all those folks into the streets looking for jobs.  Along with retirees being asked to stay in the job market even longer.  In some places they want to change the child labor laws to increase the hours that children can work.

Here's a clue, assholes.  What we want to do is decrease the number of people looking for jobs, not increase it.  And that's precisely what this will do.  And something tells me they know it.  Because the people are more worried about jobs than the deficit.  By taking this tack, the Republicans are ensuring that the job market will continue to deteriorate.  Deliberately, since they hope that it'll cause the voters to revolt and forget that they're the morons behind it all.

Let's hope it doesn't work out the way they want it to.  It all depends on the average American's bullshit detector.  And so far I've not been too impressed.

Okay, let's make another thing perfectly clear.  Everything the Republicans want is the opposite of what we should be doing.  This means that the neo-liberals in the Obama administration still attached to the supply side philosophy need to be kicked to the curb.  It's a failure.  We have ample evidence of this.  What the right might call "Obama's" failure is, indeed, their failure--since he's following the recipe they initially devised and cling to with the desperation of a drowning man.

Wednesday, June 08, 2011

Oscar Mayer Winner

We don't choose our kinks any more than we choose our sexuality.  Whatever might turn us on is something that acts upon us without our consent.  We may choose to act upon it or not, but it's there.  We're supposed to be standing to condemn Anthony Weiner for his actions, and I suppose he does deserve some censure there.  But treating him as anything but a man who let his libido get the better of him in perhaps one of the most innocuous ways it might do so would be, from my perspective, a serious mistake.

Oh, the right (wrong) wing will treat him like trash, ignoring the behavior of so many of their own that went far beyond anything Weiner did.  Let's not ignore a basic fact here. Weiner isn't a "family values" politician.  He didn't get where he was by attacking others for their sexuality.  He wasn't like many conservative Republicans, who claim moral superiority yet never actually exhibit it.

He is flawed.  He is male.  And he made a mistake.  Oh, I know what some people are saying--it's tantamount to cheating.  I say there's a lot of different ways to cheat, but the accepted method is by physically being intimate with another person.  That, according to Weiner, has never happened.

But he's spent a lot of time fighting for the most vulnerable amongst us, standing up to the powerful because someone had to do it.  This is not a man without compassion, without heart.  Let's not turn our backs on him because now he's the one who's vulnerable.

People are going to react according to their nature.  Myself, I'm going to shrug it off and barely bother to shake my finger at him.  I will, however, make jokes.  He deserves that much.

Let he who is without kink throw the first dildo.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Upon Rocky Shores

I'm not sure I can add anything to the conversation surrounding the tragedy in Tucson this weekend.  That our current environment could become so caustic that such a thing is even conceivable leaves me nearly without words.  Nearly.

I strongly support the 2nd Amendment, as I do the rest of the Bill of Rights.  I consider it the numeration of the "right of self-defense," and therefore confers with it the right to ownership and use of any weapon necessary for the pursuit of that right.  I believe that a law-abiding citizen should have the right to arm him or herself according to his or her conscience, and the strictures of legitimate possible necessity.  We do no one a service but the worst among us to disarm honest citizens and thus create a class of easy prey for the predators to feed upon.

But I have no issue with background checks and other efforts to keep deadly weapons out of the hands of those who would wreak havoc because of their stupidity, insanity, or callousness.  It's unfortunate that this young man, having long been showing the signs of being a potential danger to himself and others, hadn't lived in a place a little more... self aware than Arizona.

It says a lot that when news of the shooting went out, some of those who knew him immediately suspected that he might be the shooter.  This wasn't the "quiet kid" who "no one could have imagined" would do such a thing.  Quite the opposite.  He was, instead, voted--at least in the minds of many who knew him--as the one 'most likely to...'

Problem is that mental health--and health in general, when you get right down to it--isn't a personal problem, nor a matter of 'personal responsibility.'  To safeguard our communities, we need to know where risks might exist, and have the means with which to do something to allay those risks to the best of our ability.

I will not blame the tool, for a tool has no say in the manner in which it is used.  A human does not require a gun to kill, but a gun does require a human hand, and a mind capable of conceiving of the action.

Many are also using this tragedy to highlight the dangerous and now deadly rhetoric of violence that has become all too common in today's political landscape.  The "2nd Amendment Remedies" and "Don't Retreat, Reload" statements by people who should damn well know better.  Like the death of Dr. George Tiller (called "Tiller the Killer") at the hands of a radical anti-abortionist, this may be another one of those "will someone not rid me of this troublesome priest" moment, where those who instigate certain actions through their amplified voice, manage to skate away unblemished by virtue of their option of "plausible deniability."

But the fact is that this drum is already being beaten hard and fast, and I need not add my voice to it.

Instead I believe it's an argument for comprehensive health care, not an environment in which we're simply 'on our own' until we fall on our face, or "lose it" in a big way and do something horrific because there is no system in place to catch us as we stumble.  We are not alone in this, and one of the greatest moral crimes of the right wing is to suggest we are.  The health of our neighbors--be it physical or mental--does effect each and every one of us.

Jared Loughner was sent away from college with the suggestion to seek counseling before he might return.  He did not, but who knows if that's because he refused, or could not possibly hope to pay for it.  We should not live in a society in which disturbed individuals drift alone on a sea of distress until they come crashing upon rocky shores.  We should be better than this.

I'm all for individual liberty.  I'm all for individual civil rights.  But to suggest that somehow offering healthcare to all without forcing us into debt somehow restricts our rights is simply insane.  And even in the atmosphere of hate and division spread so casually through the media, perhaps this tragedy would never have happened had Loughner received timely intervention with regards to his mental health issues.  This is something we'll never know.

But we can speculate.

Actions have consequences.  So, it seems, does inaction.

And I'd like to finish this up by submitting to you all the words of two other fine writers sharing their own personal perspective on the tragedy.

The Greatest Tragedy

The Wrath of Fools