Meanings in memorials

I am not very good at being good, so I think. Good means accepting and forgiving and I find it hard much of the time to be either. Recent memorial services for famous people remind me of what I really do not need much reminding of, those for John McCain and Aretha Franklin. McCain’s was so much about praise for a hero that I had to wonder if some people had forgotten what should not be forgotten, thought and behavior that brings harm to others, to others who should not receive the kind of treatment certain thinking and behavior responsible for pain they suffer in real time of real affect. I heard no weighing of heroic against what I understand to be humane, the message being broadcast that bad is cancelled out by good even if, in a lifetime, the bad hurts more people than the good helps.
Aretha’s memorial today was graced by wonderful people saying wonderful things, a good many of which I understood to be true, truly good and righteous. The religious part bothered me terribly. I could not be accepting of the role of some lord almighty even though it seems true that the person for whom the memorial was being held held beliefs in just such an almighty. That was her life and it did not interfere with her singing like no one else could sing and maybe singing so well because she believed.
But those who came to the stage to give praise to God, who put God center stage not only annoyed me but gave rise to anger for what they were doing to public consciousness, to a public consciousness that has undermined the possibility of a democracy based in the good sense of the citizenry because a good portion of the citizenry believes that forces other than human ones are responsible for what human beings do and determine what humans can and cannot do to make better the quality of the lives they live, non-human forces that justify and, therefore make possible and even probable actions upon others and the world that are not born of rationality and, therefore, understood to be right and righteous even though they are not, this because they are ultimately of the gods’ doing and not of the decisions of human beings capable of thinking for themselves who understand responsibility because the decisions they make are of their own making.
So, I watched and listened, liked some of the speeches–loved some of the remembrances, laughed at the funny moments recalled, appreciated the wit and the eloquence when such were present, but was very much concerned at the larger messages being broadcast and the implications for the future of humanity and the planet.

Glen is crazy smart and crazy but smart


So there is this article on Glen Greenwald in the New Yorker that is worth a read if one is interested in people who get it right sometimes in ways that may you want to scream and get things wrong in ways that it makes you want to scream so that when you encounter them you want to hear what they have to say because they are going to make you scream no matter what they say and scream because even when they are wrong they make a kind of sense that you have to pay attention to because it is such thoughtful getting it wrong, the path to wrong often as brilliant as the paths that get to what is right.

I have been following Greenwald for a while now beginning I think with his reporting on Wikileaks and Snowden, but maybe before when picking up stories in the Guardian that were of interest to me.  Do not like Glen sometimes because he comes at me at angles against which I do not know how to defend.  I agree with him sometimes about things that no one else I know would agree with and he makes points that I know need to be made but that I know will never be considered by those how could expand their understanding of things, in their complexity, by hearing what he has to say.

So, read the article and let me know what you think about the person and what this person has to say.  His take on the Trump-Russia follies has a certain poignancy that may make some want to spit but I do think that the maniacal focus day to day on every little “breaking” detail had without doubt taken peoples eyes of much that probably counts more in terms of how it will effects life, for instance, what Mr. Sessions does on a day to day basis in the Department of Justice.  Nasty shit but given a little bit of not so bad because he refuses to unrecuse himself….


John McCain, with due respect

During the time in my life that I have known of John McCain, my thoughts about him have not always been good ones and I attribute this to my understanding of the real effect some of what he did had on the country and on real people in the United States and elsewhere. I cannot forget my feelings about him or the policies he supported or the things he said that were very much out of line with what I understood to be good and right. I know of a good many people who had similar feelings watch him go about his business, doing what he did, saying what he said. I think it highly disrespectful to begin praising another person because that person is dying or dead. I respected John McCain and tried to understand him as possibly a good man even though his thoughts and actions seemed less than good to me. I thought him sincere and mostly thoughtful but, in a good many situations, on a good many issues, wrong. The end of my respect for John McCain came when he allowed Sarah Palin to become his running mate.
What he did to the country in showing so much respect for her as to offer her up as a legitimate candidate for that office served to prove in a powerful way that idiots were welcomed by those with reputations of being sane to serve in high office, this an affront to whatever respect i still had for the American government after the reign of George W. Bush whose obnoxious and idiotic policies–policies inspired by the sick and criminal minds of Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld — supported far too often by the man always advertised to be among the best, John McCain.
I do respect John McCain as a human being because he was a human being and I understand the sorrow his family and friends feel upon his passing. I, myself, in no way celebrate the end of his life but I will also not celebrate a life that did at least as much harm as good to the country he probably thought he loved.

No play? What’s to be gained anyhow, right?

“So, what’s the bottom line here. I would like to see more honesty in business—at both ends of the table. Honesty in the U.S. business appears to be at its lowest ebb in history.

There are a number of reasons for that. When political leaders do not demonstrate honesty, when people lie constantly in the media—everybody gets used to the ‘Big Lie’ as a way of life. At that point, honesty becomes a quaintly outmoded concept—nobody wants to be honest anymore, because if they are, they might finish last.

I would say that today, dishonesty is the rule, and people are honest than dishonest, but the few that really control things are not honest.

I don’t think we have an honest president. I don’t believe that most of the people in Congress or in the Senate are honest. I don’t think that most people who head up businesses are honest. We have let them get away with it because we’re not honest enough to face up to the fact that we are ‘owned and operated’ by a bunch of really bad people.”


Any guesses as to who said this and when? Answer will be posted tonight!


The Real Frank Zappa Book May 15, 1989


Education and susceptibility to manipulation: The real Facebook problem.

According to the news, Facebook has found that there are people trying (and succeeding) to use the platform to manipulate the minds of Americans.  There would be no worry if Americans were not, in substantial enough numbers to matter, susceptible to the manipulation.

Whoever it is who is doing the manipulation believes that the American public is susceptible and so do those who are worried about its effects.

Many of the people, it seems plausible to believe, are of the age to vote in American elections and, as the authorities appear to believe, the manipulation from outside, has the potential to affect the vote.

While the focus is on those perpetrating the manipulation, it is as important to consider why it is that a significant portion of the American public is susceptible to it.  Advertising agencies, their clients–amongst them politicians, amongst these some of the “reputable” ones–and corporations manipulate at will and without much scrutiny or condemnation.  In fact, to manipulate well is to win and a large segment of the public accepts this as a given, a fact of life in our modern society.

Almost all of those affected by those who use manipulation as a tool to provoke action, oftentimes action that is not in the best interests of the actor so manipulated, have an education.  According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 93% of Americans graduate from high school.

In my mind it seems reasonable to believe that those with an adequate education would not be so susceptible to manipulation as to cause concern when a campaign to influence American minds is found to exist.  Campaigns to manipulate Americans minds are a regular feature of the societal landscape.  The worry now being expressed about campaigns to influence is not about concern that Americans are manipulable, but that they are now being mis-influenced by those who are understood to be bad actors.

But bad actors would not have a chance to succeed in their manipulations if the public was one properly prepared to deal with manipulation.  The American public is not so prepared.  In fact the American public, through most of the institutions that play a role in education the public, are intentionally made manipulable because if they were not the economic system would not work very “well.”

The danger of the manipulation of the manipulable by bad actors is a clear and present one, maybe the biggest danger our society and the world in which it exists faces.  It makes sensible governance reflective of the people’s impossible.  To use a currently popular term, it makes it possible to weaponize the will of the people against the bests interests of the people and, in a modern world where decisions made in one place can seriously be of serious consequence to all who live on the planet, the best interests of planet and all who live on it.

A good educational system for a good democracy would educate people in such a way as to make it significantly less likely that anyone would have to worry too much about bad actors or the tools bad actors use to manipulate people to the point that the manipulated people might decide to act in harmful and/or destructive ways.

We do not have such an educational system and those who have the most say in how people are educated do not want such an educational system.  The fact that there is deep concern about people being badly manipulated should be taken to mean that manipulation and manipulators should be studied in depth and critical thinking skills that cause one to recognize when they are being manipulated and for what purposes need to be developed.  That is, IF there is concern for the development of sensible governance by a people truly free to make its own decisions and capable of making decisions that are in the name common good.