Sunday, December 23, 2012

12-17-12  BLOG

Many years ago, when young enough not to know better I was impressed by a politician who said something like “The constitution is the most perfect document in the world.” My reaction was in the line of, “Wow!”

Well, the aging process has changed my cynicism quotient from 1:1000 to 1000:1; that naive youngster was happy with such certitudes while the oldster that I have become does a bit of sneering. Let's face it, in spite of its wonderful work, our constitution is getting a bit creaky. I mean, back in the good olde days when King George number three was in charge, he had the habit of quartering British troops in civilian homes. I don't know whether it was in order to remind the locals of the majesty of British rule or because he was too cheap to build barracks for them.

Whatever his purpose, time has put quietus to that idea I don't think American revolutionary troops were ever quartered in civilian homes and the constitution has a clearly stated ban against such practice. Clearly, it is an archaic practice. With a standing army quartered in private homes, you'd have young soldiers roaming the streets causing general mayhem among the citizens. Not only for training reasons, but barracks and camps have to be built to protect society from testosterone laden young men. Clearly, the prohibition had meaning only for that specific time, but now clearly past.

If you haven't yet gotten my drift, the same is true about the second amendment, the one that gives anyone the right to own any weapons in the name of fighting tyranny, self-protection and the sheer fun of shooting animals. Oh yes, there are some limitations having to do with the mental status of purchasers or their past history but those only apply if you try to buy a gun in a shop. At gun shows there are no such impediments to owning as many as you can afford and certainly, private sales are outside the pale. In essence, anyone with perhaps only a bit of hassle can get a weapon … whoops, I mean weapons.

What were those paragons of political wisdom, George, Tom, John, Ben, et al, thinking? How come they stuck the opaquely written second into the law of our land? If we accept they were not maniacs who cheerfully anticipated the proliferation of public slaughter we can try to understand what they were trying.

In the days after the revolution, there was general hostility to having a standing army. Armies served tyrants; we had had too much of that. The colonies, not well protected by the British army developed militias. They did not form, except for desultory practice in drill, until some hostility was upon them; at the call, male citizens were expected to grab their rifles and meet in the town square with the anticipation of fighting off marauding Indians. (You know, the people who were pissed at us for stealing their land.) I don't know if they served the purpose, but that was the best the colonies could provide. During the revolutionary war, the militia was useful for shooting from behind trees but could not stand up to trained British regulars. I mean, we had to have an army trained to stand in line, stand firm in the face of the British volley and fire back.

Pretty soon, states in cooperation with the feds developed the National Guard. They serve as a ready reserve for the feds and to maintain order during public disasters. You know, after a tornado, call out the guard. No one calls out the militia.

In truth, the concept of a militia is as dead as the dodo, the dinosaurs and spats. But, having said that, there is the second amendment, written at a time when muzzleloaders were the best available. If you wanted to kill, say 20 children and 6 adults you'd have to load twenty-eight times. Of course, this was impractical because there would be plenty of time for the potential victims to jump on you and kick your ass . . . many times over. In these days of semi-automatic weapons the killing task, as we have learned over and over is rather simple. Still, after emptying his weapon, the killer would have to reload, that's when he was most vulnerable and could be taken down. If he had a thirty cartridge drum before reloading, that means lots of dead people.

The NRA wants more guns in the population as a method of gun violence control and armed guards in our schools. I wonder how many would be victims of road rage. Well, if you have your own weapon and a vest you could shoot it out with the nut with a gun. And, all a school shooter needs is his bulletproof vest . . .  so much for the capacity to shoot back. The NRA hero is John Wayne, but you'd have to be better at the draw or you get drilled.

We ought to accept that the second is as antiquated as quartering troops in civilian homes, no longer meaningful in modern society. Alas, our constitution has become more a sacred writing than a legal compact and the second will be with us for next fifty years or so. In the meantime, let's ban civilianized assault weapons, magazines that hold more than five bullets and require that all purchasers be vetted to weed out the undesirables.

There are many who think it a hoot.
To whip out their side arm and shoot.
Some foolishly think freedom brings
The need to put up with such things
Number two? Let's just give it the boot.

Sunday, December 16, 2012


I bet you think you know about the origins of the first amendment, you know, the one that tells us that government and religion must not be inter-twined. Well, you are probably wrong! You learned a lot of c r a p in school and the idea seems to permeate our environment. To whit, it says that the Puritans came here from England because of oppressive religious laws and wanted freedom to worship as they pleased.

Well, that isn't exactly it; it isn't even close. The Puritans were a stiff necked people who were disgusted with the English religious services and finally, having had a belly full of what they deemed religious disaster packed up and left for the good old USA to be. Naturally, because they knew the Truth, they oppressed other beliefs and kicked out those who disagreed. Roger Williams, was one. He went on to challenge the notion that government had anything to say about religion and finally set up Rhode Island as a haven for all.

But, not unlike beliefs everywhere, the colonies were set up for the benefit of an official religion, the Anglican church. They were British subjects and simply followed British law. Alas for them, there is always a fly in the ointment of contentment. The colonies, so far from Britain could not maintain the strict control to guarantee that all would be Anglican. Wandering Baptist preachers, Quakers (very different from the current version) and others told their stories and people often liked what they heard. The official religion was for the elites, the wanderers spoke to the common person.

Of course, and how could it be otherwise, the Anglicans saw their religious monopoly threatened and criminalized the errant preachers, beating them, jailing them and every now and then killing them. Surely, this was one of the precursors to revolution; the people rioted and had mini rebellions setting the stage for separation from England.

With military success, and with one failure, the constitution came into being including with the first amendment. Our founding fathers knew about the disasters of official religion and guess who led the charge. The Baptists. If the framers needed any energy, it was provided by the Baptists. Jefferson enshrined the result in writing about the “wall ofseparation between church and state.” QED, well, not exactly. The religionists started pecking away as they do today and we find the assault on separation quite alive and active.

I suppose you all know about the prohibition of the The Commandments on public ground. Well, duh, it's because it gives the appearance that government has a stake in fostering religion, particularly of Judeo-Christian ideals. (Never mind that Judaism and Christianity each has its own version; when “W” was asked which should be displayed, he said, “the regular one.” How's that for theological sensitivity!) Religionists keep putting them up and the ffrf and the ACLU keep knocking them down.

School vouchers are designed to help religionists send their children to parochial schools and though they also are knocked down new versions appear. Now, in some states, businesses can donate money in support of vouchers and deduct their expenses.

A persistent damned annoyance is that preachers have taken to disregarding the law against electioneering. Religious institutions must not become involved in elections lest they lose their tax-exempt status. That would be a mighty blow except that the federal government, for the past three years has ignored violations. Yes, Obama's Department of Revenue is blind to infractions; and the ffrf is now suing them. Go gettum, you guys.

About government what you may think of religion
Whether in it you want lots or a smidgeon
With moaning and sighs
With salt tears in your eyes
Against the first you are in inevitable collision.

Sunday, December 9, 2012


This is another one of those tricky questions which, upon first glance seem simple of delineation but which turn out to have some facets of interest.
Shall think about transportation from here to there? If I want to knock someone down, I choose to transport my fist to his (never her) chin) via a right cross. That mode provides the requisite amount of power with a high level of accuracy. Parenthetically, a right cross is especially useful if your opponent is left-handed, but don't ask why. If I want to provide some cash to the deserving poor (Never the undeserving, that would be, dare I say it, enabling the undeserving ones to continue their nefarious ways.) I prefer mailing it. That way, I don't have to confront their misery and they don't know who I am. And, that is a non-relationship I prefer not to interrupt.

If it is a matter of getting life saving medicine to my totally deserving child, Of course, I want a motorcycle on which to move swiftly and a road with no cars and especially with no police. Let it pass that I have never driven a motorcycle; I know that given the need I would master the machine. After all, I know how to ride a bike.

I suppose I should include transporting loving looks to my beloved, but that requires special knowledge of what sorts of looks impress her with that meaning. I started out with the movie version, how could I do otherwise, with wide open eyes and lips partially open. I had thought to add licking my lips, but reflection reminded me that women use that in a sexually come hither way. As I think about it, my loving looks are a mixture of slightly narrowed eyes to convey intensity and a slight nod of the head to convey sincerity. Oh, don't forget gazing soulfully into her eyes. I never could figure out the soulfully part, but she doesn't complain so I let sleeping meanings lie. Is there some clever double entendre in that last word? Pshaw!

From here to there also includes the body as in later I will want my body at Natural Foods. Don't expect me to walk, though it surely is possible given time and plenty of benches along the way and, oh yes, water. With plenty of water I suppose I would also need lavatories though further experimentation would help me understand how many. Considering this and that, you can imagine that a bike won't do, and motorcycle, well, it's noisy, so for moving around, so the good old all American, now antiquated Echo is my preference. (Wait, isn't it Japanese?)
There is still the matter from there to here. Now, I am not a demanding person, but I dislike sluggishness of delivery when I anticipate receiving my desire. After all, what gets delivered to me keeps me alive, I mean meds, or what is designed to enchant me. I was on spilkas (this roughly means on pins and needles) awaiting my mini ipad. The days slowly, very slowly if truth be told and it seemed a month, but honesty compels me to admit it took only the promised two weeks. Some fool said that perception is reality a truly stupid thing to assert . . . but in this case, he was right.

When a kid, report card time was pretty bad for me. Many of you know I was an indifferent scholar. I prayed the school administration would be slow and the PO even slower but the damned thing arrived in two days and received by my mother with a heavy sigh. And, you won't be surprised to know that from there to here includes a right cross to the chin, the slower the better and much slower is generally preferred.

There once was a fellow so needy
That what he wanted he wanted to come speedy.
He begged and he pleaded
To get fast what he needed
But his plans were most often superseded.

Sunday, December 2, 2012


Of course, God created everything, or so goes the story but about its nature he remains opaque. He didn’t tell us much about how the universe works, and the bits he did tell, well, he got a lot wrong. We humans have a passion to understand reality and at least as far as we can understand it comes in two sorts, which we can call real and not so real. The former is somewhat easy; whatever can hurt you or make your body feel good is the first sort. If we call it physical reality, we understand that such things exist and we better pay attention or it will do us in. Believing you can fly is not a justification for jumping out of the hundredth floor of a tall building. Here, a bit of a caveat will help. This is not about an ephemeral sort of reality that comes down to a matter of opinion. It is not a matter of opinion that banging your thumb with a hammer will hurt like hell. Science is not a matter of opinion; we invented it because understanding reality requires considerable patience and observational rigor. Experimentation is nothing more a matter of observing reality, often with devices such as microscopes, telescopes, particle colliders, etc. and developing a way of understanding what we observe.

Living, staying alive and enjoying it requires the ability to figure out which reality is which avoiding the harmful and establishing the enjoyable. That’s the hedonic formula and it becomes tricky when it comes to giving up an available pleasure for a future gain. It is tricky to understand that while pleasure is good, not all pleasure is good for you. And, sorting those out is complicated by how our bodies manipulate us into doing that which is not so good for us. The last thing the alcoholic remembers is, “Oh, just one drink won’t hurt me,” in the face of all contrary evidence.

Sigmund Freud, the preeminent psychiatrist and inventor of psychoanalysis told us that it we have a mental construct, the ego, which works like the devil to keeps us alive by guiding us between the Scylla of desire and the Carybdis of restraint. But, he realized that more was necessary, hence he formulated the super-ego, the mental mechanism which provides templates for the good me and the bad me. Simple observation tells us that the ego is insufficient because it lacks standards of behavior. If a goal can be achieved by stealing, the ego only needs to determine if the deed can safely be done. You want money, be careful about leaving clues and avoid observation and you can have what you want. Society cannot thrive without internal rules of conduct; the function of morality, generally another invention of the human animal
serves that purpose.

Freud called the mental construct, which monitors desirable and undesirable behavior the super ego, one part of which is desirable goals for behavior, the other self-punishment when the standards are violated. We learn good me and bad me from our family, i.e. parents, sibs and relatives and we learn from them how to find a proper role in society. 

Freud hoped the super ego would do the trick but it became obvious that it does not, and considering our human nature, it could not. We are perfectly willing to put up with guilt, always self-induced, or failure to reach an internalized goal in order to satisfy our passions. (These are sometimes called “base” motives, but they are only ourselves seeking some gratification.) And, good old rationalization is always
available to establish plausibility for our wildest excesses.

What to do? Civilization seemed a train-wreck in the making, but a solution fell into hand. Humans found a much-admired leader who told us how to act properly and who punished us when we deviated from his laws. Like our parents, he wanted to embed his laws in our brains so that we would not need him in the future but he forgot our humanity. Adam and Eve ate the apple and the whole moral edifice toppled. Yes, God was both enraged and disappointed and kicked us into the real world of pain and suffering. God is our ultimate super ego given supernatural powers and depending on your version of that phantasied being, can raise cruelty to incredible levels. Just read the bible and you’ll see what I mean. The Ten Commandments express what God demands of us; breaking any one of them leads (presumably) to ugly consequences.
The holocaust occurred because found flaws in the European Jews worship of him. Hey, Hitler was God’s right hand man.

The problem with God as our solution is that the idea distracts from the problem: How can we act in ways which foster our well-being and which help us avoid disaster? Those are our real problems, but the more we turn to our super super ego the less we will accomplish. Try learning to change your behavior when you suffer from wracking guilt; guilt is an attempt both to gain forgiveness for past misdeeds and to keep us from repeating the crime. Forgiveness simply perpetuates the behavior; it is far better to figure out the source of the bad behavior so it can be changed. And, for sure, it is ugly to examine the truth about ourselves, but accepting it means accepting yourself . . . and you know what to work on. Super egos almost always cause us trouble and having to struggle with a supernatural super ego is quite a task. Of course, you can always say, “It ain’t my fault, the devil made me do it.” Hell, you can always find a sucker to fall for that line.