Saturday, December 29, 2007

The Outlaw Josey Wales: "Doin' Right Ain't Got No End"

When I was in college I lived in an old two-story frame house, built in the 1890s. It was a co-ed house with 13 people in it, and ha ha! I was the only renter who had a room to himself! Because I got there first, before everyone else, that's how! Downstairs was the family room, or living room, or community room, or throw-all-the-beer-cans-in-it room, or whatever you want to call it. It came with a TV, which finally disappeared into some cokehead's car and was never seen again.

The year that we had the TV, it brought in three things: the only broadcast channel in town, which had a newscaster who would change his coat when he went from news to sports; another channel from 35 miles away, and a cable channel from who knows where. I think it might have been Chicago, and don't ask me how we got it. This was a good ten years before everyone else got cable, and I didn't have a clue how it worked. It was just there.

The whole setup was pretty pitiful, which was probably the reason we drank so much. Or maybe it was because we were in college, and that's what college kids do instead of studying, which I didn't do in high school or middle school, and I sure wasn't going to start in college. So while drinking we watched that cable channel, which for a year did nothing except play the same two movies, over and over: The Ultimate Warrior, with Yul Brenner, and The Outlaw Josey Wales, with Clint Eastwood. Brenner, who had no hair at all, was offset by Eastwood, who looked like the inside of a horsehair mattress.

My roommates and I saw those two movies so many times (perhaps 50) we memorized the scenes and the dialog ("Right here is where Josey plugs two guys and spits tobacco juice on one's forehead"). Even though you might think we got bored with just two movies, we never did. It was a ritual, a rather comforting one, to watch and rewatch those movies. Especially, in my case, with Josey Wales, which even at the age of 21, I realized was a great film. It was one of the first movies I bought, when they began to appear on tape. I still have it. I haven't bothered to upgrade to DVD yet.

Certain scenes and dialog are more vivid in my memories than others, although all the scenes are permanently bound in my brain. Someday I might end up being 99 years old and not knowing what I had for breakfast, but I'll still be able to tell you what a Missouri Boat Ride is ("BLAM!"). One scene that is stuck is the speech Wales gives to the Indian, Ten Bears, who's wondering if he should rub out Wales and everyone with him:

Josey: Governments don't live together. People live together. Governments don't give you a fair word or a fair fight. I've come here to give you either one. Or get either one from you... I'm saying that men can live together without butchering one another...

Ten Bears: It's sad that governments are chiefed by the double-tongues.

Governments are chiefed by the double-tongues." A world of truth in seven words. They should be taught in kindergarten, engraved on stone tablets in town squares! They should be added to the Bible, taught in church!

Another scene that has stayed with me is the discussion between Fletcher and the mass-murdering leader of the Kansas Redlegs, Terrill, who is the Union officer who killed Wales' family -- even though neither Josey nor his family ever owned slaves. Both of them are hunting Josey, who, after his tragedy, turned Missouri Confederate (I suspect from the Ozarks, because I hang out in that area and know what it's like):

Fletcher: We get [kill] Josey Wales and it ends.

Terrill: Doin' right ain't got no end.

"Doin' right ain't got no end." That cold-blooded sentence is the motto of every tyrant -- indeed of most rulers -- in the world. That belief is ancient: both Jesus and Aesop noticed that tyrants always call themselves benefactors. As it is with rulers (who are the most prolific killers of all), it is with murderers: all must justify what they do, rationalize it to themselves. Murderers do their crimes for their own selves; rulers always claim it is for the greater good. "I'm from the government," goes the old but scarily true joke, "and I'm here to help you." You may think you are, but, no, you're not!

The story of The Outlaw Josey Wales is a simple but well-known one: a man who wishes to live peaceably with his family sees them slaughtered by agents of the government. So he seeks violent revenge. (By the way, does anyone in the government understand how that eternal truth applies to Iraq? Hello? Hello? Anyone?)

Here I inject an aside into the Josey Wales story. His Celtic last name has the same root as the names "Welsh," "Walsh," and "Wallace": "wealh," originally meaning "foreigner," and later, to the English, signifying "slave" or "serf." You'll soon see what this means.

There are three other movies I admire that tell the same story as The Outlaw Josey Wales: two of Mel Gibson's films, Braveheart and The Patriot, and the Liam Neeson vehicle, Rob Roy. All have the same story: peaceable men who have their families and lands attacked and taken from by those from the government. The result? Murderous revenge, of course. It always is. It's a law written on the human heart.

There is something else all four films have in common: they tell the story of the conflict between the English and the Scots/Irish/Welsh. In Braveheart the attempted English genocide of the Scots is shown; in Rob Roy it's the Irish; and in the case of The Patriot and The Outlaw Josey Wales that conflict has been mapped onto the United States, especially, in the case of Josey, as it showed in the War Between the States. (This same English/Celt conflict transferred onto the U.S. as the North/South conflict is also the basis of what is probably the Great American Novel: Gone With the Wind.

Each film also very clearly zeroes in on the villain: the English. In the United States, these people, roughly speaking, transformed themselves into meddling, murdering East Coast Ivy League WASP Puritan Imperial Yankees Neoconservatives (yeah, I know it's a mouthful, but it's a fun mouthful, ain't it?) They're still around today, and are not only still meddling in the United States, but have, since their invasion of the Philippines in 1898, expanded their meddling throughout the world. Their motto: doin' right ain't got no end. No matter how many people die, no matter how much is destroyed.

That motto is how the world ends up with the hallucinations of someone like Richard Perle, who, while not a WASP, is the Zionist traitor version of it, said of Iraq, "If we just let our vision of the world go forth, and we embrace it entirely, and we don't try to piece together clever diplomacy but just wage a total war, our children will sing great songs about us years from now." Say what?

People like him believe that the Josey Wales of the world would offer a drink to their invaders for "liberating" them, or the women would show them their breasts and throw flowers at them. Uh huh.

Since two of the films have been made by Mel Gibson (which is a Scottish name), I'd say it's pretty clear that Gibson does not have a high opinion of the English, especially since, being Catholic, I'm sure he knows about how Cromwell (who styled himself "Lord Protector") caused the deaths or exile of up to one-third of the Irish population (most of them Catholic), and of the Lowland Clearances in Scotland, when many, many people were burned out of their homes, including mine own ancestors (somebody owes me a lot of money and land, and a great big apology). Such butchery and theft was, of course, lauded as "progress," as it always is.

Cromwell was the first and only military dictator in England, and after his death he was treated as a traitor by his own people! -- his miserable but unfortunately dead body was dug up and drawn and quartered. Boy, that is a lot of dislike ain't it? No that's not right -- it's downright hatred. Even today, he is hated in Ireland, and no wonder -- he bumped off or kicked out one-third of the population.

As Jimmy Cantrell asserts: “...the English Empire began not around the globe but with Anglo-Saxons slaughtering Celts [featuring massacres of civilians that were all but unheard of in European warfare] and stealing all their wealth, the Yankee Empire began with the slaughtering of Southerners and the purloining of almost all Southern wealth.” Wealh, remember?

Propaganda has taught us the English are our allies, and the Germans, who are supposed to be genetically genocidal, are not (here's food for thought: about 90% of English are Anglo-Saxon, i.e. German). Silly me to believe that not only is England not our ally, but that no country is. The English were just as guilty as the Germans in World War I and World War II, probably because both are blood brothers joined bloodily, Siamese-twin-like, at the hip.

Most people don't know it, but it was the English who invented the concentration camp, during the Boer War, a war in which they burned Boer farms (sound familiar?) and murdered more women and children in the camps that Boer soldiers in combat (all of whom were shot instead of being taken prisoner).

The U.S. came in on the side of England in World War I (when the combatants were exhausted and ready to quit) and won the peace, a peace which imposed crushing reparations on Germany. There's no fight like a family fight, huh?

Those reparations led to WW II. We came in on the side of the English, again against the Germans, and this time delivered the whole of Christian Eastern Europe to atheist Communist Russia, for over 50 years. What did we get out of all this? Hundreds of thousands of casualties, and just about nothing else except for some blather about "the Greatest Generation."

I consider movies to be modern-day myths, and like all great myths, they tell us great truths. If a picture is worth a thousand words, a movie is worth ten million. The four movies I've just listed tell us that when governments (which always call themselves protectors) slaughter families and steal land (for the greater good, of course), the outrages are never forgotten, even after several hundred years, and, invariably, bloody revenge is sought, as surely as night follows day. There are no "cakewalks," no showers of flowers, no beckoning naked grateful babes, no bottles of booze offered. Just death and destruction.

Countries don't have friends, just shifting alliances. Anyone who thinks otherwise is as deluded as Richard Perle listening for those non-existent children singing to him.

What's that old saying? "With no justice, there will be no peace"? It's true, no matter how many centuries -- or millenia -- pass.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Broken Windows, Hot Dogs and the Social Order

It was James Q. Wilson who championed what has become known as "the Broken Window theory." He, along with the police and social psychologists, noticed that a broken window in a building, unless repaired, led to the rest of the windows being broken. It's verification of the old saying, "Give them an inch and they'll take a mile." When police began to use the Broken Window theory – taking care of small crimes like begging and drunkenness – the major crimes started dropping.

I first noticed this when I was a teenager in my hometown, which has about 40,000 people. The police at that time were not hampered by a lot of PC laws. They also did a lot of "informal" policing, like pulling us over and dumping out our beer and wine in front of us. Anything else they found they dumped out of the baggies and scattered to the four winds. That was a lot of money lost when you worked at McDonald's or a bowling alley. Then they told us, "First warning. Next time, we take you home and tell your parents." That did it; we realized there are things you do in public – and things you do in private. All of us grew up to be chemists and lawyers and newspaper editors.

We found consequences were immediate. No arrests, no being taken in, no going to trial three months later. However, the third time always resulted in an arrest. These were very, very rare, and always the dumb kids who usually ended up being criminals anyway. And in high school, didn't everyone know who the bad kids were without anyone telling them?

At that time the streets in my hometown were safe to walk at any time of night. Even today, they still are. And the cops haven't changed, except now most of them (including the police chief) are ones I went to high school with.

Once, several years ago, as I was getting into my car, some gangbanger wannabe, who had obviously wandered in from out of town and had no idea whatsoever what city he was in, tried to strongarm me in a parking lot. I chased him around the lot for 15 to 20 seconds in my Caprice. It was pretty amusing to watch him jump out of the way. Then I got the cops, who couldn't find him.

They did have me look at mugshots. He wasn't among them, which meant he had never been arrested in my town. If I had identified him, he would have been taken in, knocked around, and told, "If we ever catch you in this town again, next time we won't be so nice."

The cop who I found was one I have known since kindergarten. He doesn't remember that I and another kid launched a wooden block across the room and bloodied his forehead. For the best, probably.

When I told him I had chased this guy around the lot with my car, he didn't even blink an eye. He did comment, "If I had been you, I would have beat the fuck out of him." Which was a way of saying, "If you had hurt him, and claimed self-defense, nothing would have happened to you."

He, and the police chief, and all the rest of the cops, were raised in my hometown, and still live there. The citizens know who they are, and they know the citizens. It was the same in high school. The police used to give me rides when they saw me hitchhiking.

Yet, years later, when I moved seven miles away, to a city with half-a-million people, it was as if I had moved to a different world. The police force was ten times bigger, but not even one-quarter as good.

The cops didn't know the citizens. They didn't walk foot-patrols. They were more interested in running speed-traps, conning themselves they were doing real police work, and filling city coffers. And probably worst of all, they ignored minor crimes.

I used to live in an apartment a few years ago. One morning, as I was leaving for work, I heard a screeching sound from across the street. When I looked in the direction of the sound, I saw a car make a U-turn, go up on the curb, and crash headfirst into a tree.

So, of course, I stopped to watch, wondering what was going on. And out of this car pops a 250-pound bronto-sapien of a woman, who starts shrieking in my direction and heading towards me. Hey, lady, what did I do to you?

Then I noticed she was heading toward some guy on the sidewalk, whom I had not noticed at first. He weighed about 125 pounds, and was so skinny I wondered how his pants stayed up because he had no butt. He was into that pants-half-way-down-the-ass thing.

Since she was obviously going to smush this guy, he runs up by my door, with her in hot pursuit. "Hey, look," I tell both of them, "This is private property, so get off or I'm going to call the police."

It was like I wasn't even there. I might as well have been talking to two cats fighting. Then, right in front of me, they start swapping punches! Only they were missing each other by two feet. It reminded me of the scene in the movie, It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World where Terry Thomas and Milton Berle get into a ten-minute fight and can't damage each other. In one scene Berle is swinging mightily at Thomas and missing him by a foot. Step-swing-oof! Step-swing-oof!

I was looking at Antwon and LaShonda imitating Milton Berle and Terry Thomas! That's when I began to get The Twilight Zone feeling.

Since they weren't listening to me, my next thought was to run upstairs, get my bat and smack 'em. It's aluminum, which makes a pleasant melodious bonging sound on the head. Wood makes an unpleasant cracking sound and has a tendency to fracture. I'm sure this would have amused an elderly couple driving by. ("Oh look, Herm, that guy is beating that fat negro lady and that skinny negro man with a baseball bat." "Maybe we should call the police, Mabel." Both look at each other for a second and burst into, "HAHAHAHA!")

Then, before I have a chance to do anything else, this guy runs inside the front door of my apartment building and locks it. He's locked me out of my own apartment building. By this time I'm starting to get a little angry.

What does he do next? Through the glass in the door I see him throw up a bunch of half-digested hotdogs. Who eats hotdogs for breakfast?

That's it; now I'm mad! "I'm calling the police!" I yell at them. I unlock the door, and the hell if she spins this guy around like a cheerleader's baton! I don't care!

He darts out and around the building with Buffalo Girl after him. Apparently he hops the fence into my back yard, because several seconds later here she comes around to the front again, unable to get up enough speed to plow the fence down.

Chug-chug-chug she goes by me and around the other side to where the entrance to my backyard is. Then upstairs I go to dial 911. "Do they live there?" the retard on the other end asks me. "No," I tell her, "she crashed her car into a tree, they're fighting in my frontyard, and he PUKED HOTDOGS ALL OVER MY LANDING!!"

"We'll send somebody there," she tells me. Oh, really, is that so? Thank you so very much. I head out my door and run into my neighbor across the hall. "I called 911," I tell her. "So did I," she tells me.

Then I'm out in the frontyard, and here comes twigboy with his bisonic girlfriend following him across the frontyard again and then into the neighbor's yard, then back into mine, all the while yelling and screaming at each other. I have no idea what they're shrieking. It's all in Ebonics.

"GET OUT OF HERE!!!" I yell again. No response; I've moved from The Twilight Zone straight into Outer Limits. "The Zanti Misfits," that's it! They're aliens sent here to torture me to madness!

Then they're in the frontyard swapping punches again! And still missing each other!

Where's that cop? Back upstairs I go – avoiding the hotdogs – and I dial 911 again. "Please send some cops out here," I beg. "They're on their way," the double-plus retard promises me. Back in the hall I run across my neighbor again. "I called 911 again," I tell her. "So did I," she responds. Four calls!

Out in the frontyard I find both these heinous beasts are gone. But when I look down the street, I see the Blob From Hell sitting in her car around the corner, probably waiting for a chance to mow down her scrawny boyfriend's nonexistent butt.

Then a police car rolls up. No lights, no siren, nothing. Just kind of casually rolls up. And who gets out? Some fat female cop! She blobs her way up to me. By this time my neighbor is in the front yard.

"...and...and then...crash...puke...fight...fat...ugly...stupid," I babble, then point to the car, as does my neighbor. What does the car do? It starts and pulls away! "Go get 'em!" I yell.

The cop looks at the car like a dog watching a yo-yo. "That's a good girl!" I think. "Car! Chase!"

"Well, it looks like it's all over now," this got-in-on-lowered-standards oinker tells us. And people wonder why I hate Political Correctness! I gape at her. I look at my neighbor. She's also gaping at the cop.

Damaging city property, fighting, creating a nuisance, disorderly conduct, leaving the scene of a wreck, trespassing, PUKING UP HOTDOGS...and who knows what else! And what does this brainless cop tell us? "Well, it looks like it's all over now."

Then she gets in her police car and leaves. If someone had taken a picture of me, it would have been a classic: shoulders slumped, mouth hanging open in disbelief, one hand pointing limply at the now-disappeared perp in the car.

Then I think about the hotdogs. "I have to go to work," I tell my neighbor. "I'll clean it up," she tells me.

This is an example of horrible policing. It's not putting a stop to these kinds of crimes that lead to bigger, and worse, crimes. And guess what? In that neighborhood it wasn't particularly safe to walk around at night. Who woulda thunk it?

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

The Empire in Space

Popular culture should never be ignored. Shakespeare during his day was popular culture. Today, he's considered the greatest writer in the English language.

These days, the two biggest media for popular culture are TV and the movies. As all art does, they reflect life. Sometimes, they predict it.

One little-known and underrated movie that fits this pattern is Soldier, starring the also underrated Kurt Russell. What makes this movie, which appear to be little more than Grade B action/adventure in space, so special?

It's about Empire, and the soldiers it uses to advance itself. This time, it's not just on Earth, but in far space. Since we've always had empires on earth, will we have them in space? Perhaps? Certainly?

The movie, which is set in a not-very-far future, portrays Russell as Sergeant Todd, a genetically engineered, nearly mute soldier. He can talk, but has little to say. I doubt he says 20 words in the film, although his learning what feelings are, portrayed through his expressions and body language, is poignant. Once, sitting alone around a fire, tears come to his eyes, probably for the first time in his life. Another time, asked what it's like to be a soldier, he can barely answer, "Fear. . .discipline."

There is a scene early in the movie in which a list of battles are scrolling in the background. One reads, "Tannhauser's Gate." This is an allusion to the movie, Blade Runner, which is about artificially created humans known as replicants. The implication is that Soldier, set even farther in the future than Blade Runner, also breeds artificial humans as soldiers. Sergeant Todd is one of them. Ominously, he is part of the "Adam Project" – creating the new man, one brutal, violent, conscienceless.

Raised from a child to be a merciless killing machine, Russell finds himself made obsolete when a new set of superior genetically-engineered soldiers shows up. After losing a battle to one of them, Caine (played by Jason Lee Scott), Todd is thought dead, and dumped with the garbage on a "waste disposal" planet.

There, he is found by a rag-tag group of marooned humans. At first accepted by them, Todd finds he has feelings buried in him he did not know were there. For the first time in his life, he has a family. The message is that a prerequisite for killing machines is to have no feelings or family.

As Todd heals, he starts to frighten everyone, and they ask him to leave. That is when he ends up around the fire with tears in his eyes. For the first time in his life, he has found a family and community, but terrifies them with his potential for violence. However, guilt forces the community to invite him back.

Meanwhile, the Empire is busy testing new weapons. Where does it decide to test them? On the waste disposal planet. The parallels to large powerful countries that attack smaller, weaker countries, and in doing so tests it new weapons, is clear.

This time, though, Todd has something worth fighting for.

This is not a perfect movie. Indeed, it'a B-movie masquerading as an A one. The special effects are rather cheap; the battle tanks appear to be cars with hollow plywood shells. And without Russell, it wouldn't be worth seeing. But his journey from emotionless killer to a man who discovers family and community, is what makes the movie.

As mentioned, there are other messages hidden in this film. Empire always expands itself though the military; it will always attack the defenseless, trying out new weapons on them; and it wants its soldiers to be emotionless killing machines, without mercy or remorse. And if it can, it will use science to create them. And that is something to keep in mind – how far will the State go in altering humans to create what it wants in soldiers?

One major flaw in the movie's portrayal of Empire is it does not point out it almost always uses as a justification for its depredations the excuse that it is being a benefactor to those attacked.

The film is also about the lust for power, and how it degrades. The soldiers are not bad people; indeed in some ways they are admirable. Gary Busey, as a commander, especially illustrates this. He does care about his men. On the other hand, the political types are portrayed as utterly despicable, people only interested in power, unconcerned with whom they murder.

The movie, being essentially a high-class B-movie, is nothing new. It's derivative of Blade Runner, The Terminator, and First Blood, to mention three. But many of those who have seen it find it stays with them. It is not a great film, but it doesn't pretend to be. But for those who look, there are some very important messages here about the expansion of empire, and the eternal fight between Society and the State, and how the latter will always try to absorb, indeed destroy, the first.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

All You Need is Edgar Rice Burroughs

"The worlds of Edgar Rice Burroughs are never-never lands, dream worlds where virtue and courage win honor and beauty, where evil can be identified and confronted, and despite all odds defeated..." - Richard Lupoff

I never needed any self-help books about men being from Mars and women from Venus, or how I learned everything I needed to know in kindergarten. All I ever needed was Edgar Rice Burroughs, whom I encountered when I was 11. I have never been the same since.

Burroughs, who unfortunately isn't really that well-known anymore, is best-known as the creator of Tarzan (who in the books spoke as if he was quoting Shakespeare, a far cry from the "me Tarzan, you Jane" in the movies). But in his day ERB (as he is commonly known) was as popular as Stephen King is now, and was, and still is, hugely influential. Carl Sagan, for example, credited him with interesting him in space exploration and science.

Writers such as F. Paul Wilson, Philip Jos� Farmer and John Norman have been influenced by Burroughs' novels about Tarzan, Barsoom (Mars), Pellucidar (the inhabited interior of the Earth) and Venus. Probably most writers of science fiction, fantasy and horror have been influenced by him.

Perhaps the first thing I noticed about Burroughs is that, much like Robert Heinlein, none of his women characters are victims. And he was writing in the early 1900's. Were he alive today, I suspect he would hold Stalinist taterheads like Betty Friedan and Andrea Dworkin in contempt. Such whiney, self-pitying women, who think everything would be just fine if society was destroyed (and men's characters, too) and remade according to the crackpot fantasies infesting their heads, can't even begin to compare with a brave, smart, resourceful woman like Tavia in A Fighting Man of Mars, who hacked off the arms of a couple of 15-feet-tall six-armed Martian apes.

Not only were Burroughs' women not victims, they were handy not only with swords but also with pistols, although they were "radium" pistols, a weapon whose workings still puzzle me. Dejah Thoris, the Princess of Mars, once skewered a villain several times, then she kicked his worthless carcass over a cliff. Maybe Barsoomian females did give birth by laying eggs, but they were no chickens.

Yet, Burroughs' women were still feminine. There was no competition with men, and each sex got along just fine with the other. The main reason, I'm sure, is that the Barsoomian State didn't interfere in the relationships between the sexes, and so they fell into the natural, proper ones.

At 11 I was immensely impressed by these saber-wielding, pistol-blasting heroines. I suspect a lot of guys were, and are. A woman I know wrote one article about how she was planning on shooting a pistol for the first time, and got 300 emails from guys willing to instruct her. So, girls, if you want to be popular, become proficient with a firearm. Learning to hurl a dagger is not such a bad idea, either. Men will get on their knees and salaam before you the way Wayne and Garth did before Alice Cooper.

Neither were the women always beautiful, the way they invariably are in the movies. Tavia was described as "boyish," and in the long run the hero, Tan Hadron, preferred her to the beautiful but haughty and shallow Sanoma Tora. Although, to be honest, on the covers of most of the books the physiques of both the men and women look as if they've been inflated with an air hose. But then, the publishers were trying to sell copies to boys in their early teens.

The second thing I learned is that I was being conned in school. The Warlord of Mars was the Earthman John Carter, a southerner from Virginia who had fought in the Civil War (don't ask me how he got on Mars). Hey, wait a minute � I had been taught in school the South was an ignoble, maybe even evil society that fought a long, bloody war to defend slavery. Yet Carter was a noble and honorable man, protector of the oppressed, upholder of justice. Carter was always against slavery and oppression. Who was I supposed to believe? What I was taught in the government-run prison/school I despised, or a writer who bought me fascination and awe?

Burroughs, like Hemingway, was originally from the heavily residential Oak Park, a medium-sized suburb stuck right up against Chicago. I've been there several times. Apparently he found a better area to write about than the one he was from.

The third thing I learned is that maybe kings and queens are better than democracy. Barsoom was ruled � and ruled justly � by John Carter and Dejah Thoris. They barely appeared to rule at all. I really don't remember a list of laws in any of Burroughs' novels, other than the simple ones we all know � you don't murder, you don't steal. Otherwise, you could do as you pleased.

But there's not a word in any of his novels about mob rule. Most of them read as if they could have been partly based on Hans-Hermann Hoppe's Democracy: the God that Failed. In fact, Burroughs doesn't have a good word to say about mobs. In The Gods of Mars he does a hatchet-job on the blind fanatical mobs that fall for that combination of the State, corrupt religion, and Big Business.

What else? There are at least two kinds of villains. The least bad are the sniveling, back-stabbing, lying cowards who are just great at running their mouths but have nothing to back it up. I guess junior high existed during Burroughs' school years, too.

The worst villains, however, are those who want to conquer and rule the world. Burroughs portrayed such people as practically insane with the lust for power. They're the ones who wanted to impose a State on all of Barsoom, and con armies into fighting for them. And in Burroughs' worlds, they always failed, just as in do in our world, although often at a horrendous cost in slaughter and destruction and misery.

Burroughs' worlds are not a libertarian paradise. His novels are basically for boys 11 to 14 years old. They're filled with sword fights and big apes with fangs (and big spiders with fangs, too). But there's not a good word in any of his novels for the State, or for politics, or for politicians, or corrupt religion. There is, however, true love between men and women as one of the highest values, and the desire for justice and freedom.

Burroughs wasn't the most stylish writer in the world. His style was workman-like more than anything else. But he could tell a heck of a story, a far better one than current writers who are far more stylish than he was. If I had my way, I'd close down the government schools, salt the ground (and pepper the teachers), then open up private ones and create a better world by teaching my hero, ERB.

Homer America

There is a part of me that sees the U.S. as "Homer America." As in "Homer Simpson." There is precedence for this name change: Saudi Arabia is named after the tribe which conquered the other local tribes and then named the whole place – originally Arabia – after themselves. This is exactly the same as if I conquered the U.S., called it "Wallace America," then renamed my relatives and myself as "royalty" and gave ourselves titles like "prince" and "princess." Although Homer America is a much better place to live than Saudi Arabia. And Wallace America would be the best place to live of all.

Homer is a particularly American archetype, just as Doug and Bob McKenzie could only be a Canadian one. I don't see anything similar to the Homer in Greek mythology, but he does exist in the Judeo-Christian tradition, as a modern-day Adam (which means "Man").

Homer is good-natured, but stupid, ignorant, loud and obnoxious. He means well, but fouls up everything he does. He blames his problems on others, but every once in a while he has moments of self-awareness in which he realizes he is his worst enemy. His worst sin appears to be that of Intellectual Sloth (eyes rolled up toward cranium: "Brain, I know that you and I don't get along very well..."). If you were to take a million Americans, boil them down, then take the concentrate and morph it into a cartoon character, you'd have Homer. That is why he is such a uniquely American archetype. I think this is why he is so popular: the Homer in all of us resonates with the Homer onscreen.

Homer has his moments, but overall he is not likeable. He's not evil, just stupid (which reminds me of the comment by Spider Robinson and Robert A. Heinlein: "Never attribute to malice what can be explained by stupidity"). Homer is funny in fantasy, but like a lot of things which are funny while unreal, he'd be a horror in real life. Laughing at him allows us to defuse the fact he is a catastrophic symbol of ourselves.

Homer fits the archetype of Adam because he unconsciously blames his problems on other people. This is what Adam did when he blamed Eve for his transgressions. Homer, however, in his brief periods of self-awareness (always heralded by the now-classic "Doh!"), realizes he is at fault. He goes from an unconscious scapegoating to a conscious acceptance of self-responsibility, however transient.

This moving from unconscious scapegoating to conscious acceptance of self-responsibility is why I believe the story of the Garden of Eden to be the most powerful of all. The psychiatrist M. Scott Peck quite correctly called scapegoating "the genesis of human evil." And Homer, proving him right, has an almost irresistible impulse to blame his problems on everyone but himself.

I've often wondered if Adam had only gone, "Doh!" and accepted responsibility instead of blaming Eve (and had Eve not blamed the Serpent), then God might have said, "Well, okay, you can stay." In some versions of the story, Adam and Eve's scapegoating, and their denial of their responsibility, is what gets them kicked out of the Garden.

Since each of us has an Inner Homer, we are imperfect. In traditional religious terms, we are "fallen." Since everyone in The Simpsons is imperfect, the program can be considered in some ways to be a "true" conservative show, since true conservatives know that no one is perfect. This, of course, includes everyone in the government, which is why Chief Wiggins made the classic comment: "I didn't say the government couldn't hurt you. I said it couldn't protect you."

Since the program is very tolerant of everyone (and their foibles), it's also quite libertarian. Libertarian conservative, you could say. Except for Lisa, who in her youth and foolishness is a liberal. She's probably an example of that old saying, "He who is not a liberal at 20 has no heart, and if not a conservative at 40, no head."

Did the creators of Homer know what they were doing when they projected an aspect of the national psyche into this character? I have no idea. Like many artists, they tend to be, as Ezra Pound commented, "the antenna of the race." They can often see how things are (and are going to be) more clearly than most people, even if they can't explain how they know it.

Since Homer is a projection of our selves, he is Mass Man. The mean average IQ is 100, which is about what Homer's appears to be. And the more Americans you gather into a group, the closer the IQ drops to 100. This is one of the reasons I think the Essence of One Million Americans is Homer. Whenever you see some fat, yelling, shirtless, body-painted drunk at a sports event, you're seeing the Doh! made Flesh.

One problem for America is that this concentrated Homer archetype is what votes. Hence, Homer America. This is why democracy doesn't work, and why we get the politicians we do. Homer is definitely not part of Albert Jay Nock's aristocratic and educated Remnant. For that matter, neither are politicians.

Unfortunately, the bigger the group of politicians, the more they become Homerized, just like the average citizens. This is a great example of why government should be as small as possible. The bigger it gets, the more Homeresque it gets.

The rest of the world, sadly, tends to see the U.S. as Homer: big, good-natured, somewhat stupid and ignorant, loud and obnoxious, meaning well, but screwing up everything it gets involved in. And every once in a while, the U.S. has its moments of lucidity in which it realizes what it's doing.

The U.S. and the average American weren't like this in the recent past. TV fathers like Homer didn't exist until the '90s. In the '50s and '60s they were Ward Cleaver and Andy Taylor. And the US was a lot more respected by foreigners than it is now.

If The Simpsons had been on the air in the '50s and '60s, would it have survived? I doubt it. It's too insulting to most people. The closest to The Simpsons was The Flintstones, and Fred wasn't a couch-potato quasi-drunk like Homer.

As funny as The Simpsons is, it certainly is quite a drop for the U.S. and fathers to go from Andy Taylor to Homer.

What Homer may show is that the greatest sin of Americans is Intellectual Sloth. This makes a great deal of sense, they are consisting stumbling into all kinds of world catastrophes. A lot of Americans are afflicted with Intellectual Sloth of Homerian proportions.

What has caused this change? I'm not exactly sure, but I suspect the precipitous decline in education has something to do with it. This is why it is significant that Homer is ignorant and his worst sin is that of Intellectual Sloth.

Homer shows us at least four things: people are imperfect; they no longer understand (if they ever did) the death and destruction that unconscious scapegoating can lead to; that democracy is an awful form of government; and that the public schools should be closed down. The idea of Homer's hometown of Springfield growing like the Blob until it encompasses the U.S. is not a pleasant thought, no more than the idea of public schooling engulfing the country is pleasant.

Homer can be considered a warning to America: this is what we have become. And while he's been defanged by being turned into a cartoon, when he moves into reality, catastrophes happen. I shudder to think of the US being run by Homer.

Oh, no, wait...

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Poor, Stupid and Oppressed

Ben Franklin probably should have been called "the father of the country" because of all the kids he had, but he was also the father of some pretty nifty sayings. One of the best ones is so short even I have memorized it: "They that give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty or safety." Rolls right off of the tongue, doesn't it?

The novelist Somerset Maugham (among many other people) noticed the same thing Franklin did: "If a nation values anything more than freedom, it will lose that freedom, and the irony of it is that if it is comfort or money that it values more, it will lose those too." (I can't memorize that one, as it's too long.)

What they said is true, but why is it true? One reason, the main one and the best-known one, is that when people, who are unfortunately mostly nit-witted, give up their freedom for in exchange for security, that security is most definitely a fake one, a real con job, based on the unnecessary, indeed extraordinarily dangerous, expansion of government and its most-often-false laws. Said nit-witted people, much to their perplexed surprise, then end up without much freedom, shocked speechless that they are oppressed by a bunch of silly Twilight Zone laws that do no good whatsoever. One needs to look no further than the goofy nonsense going on at the airports, nonsense that requires people to give up nail clippers and Bic lighters, and march around without their shoes, like retarded children whose parents are afraid they might walk through mud and lose them. This stupidity in no way makes the passengers safer, and everyone knows it.

As R.J. Rushdoony put it: "So, the question is being asked, 'what is the balance between liberty and security?' I have an answer: there is no balance. There will be NO balance. In fact, once you trade your liberty, you'll never see that security. You're going to receive tyranny, in spades!. . .You're being searched at airports. You'll soon be searched on buses, trains, and subways. Eventually, you'll be searched on the streets."

There is another problem with giving up liberty for this fake security. Under the free market (which admittedly has never existed in its pure form in the world, but the U.S. has been the closest), there is a very small minority of the extremely wealthy, a very large middle-class, and not many poor. When the liberty of the free market is given up, what that society ends up with is a very small minority of extremely weathly, almost no middle-class, and everyone else poor and oppressed. Think of the Philippines and Mexico as examples of the latter -- examples which, in some form, just might be our future.

Some people -- perhaps the majority -- will not only voluntarily but eagerly give up their liberty for "security" because they think the government is going to take care of them. Are they adults or babies with wet diapers? This is what's happening in the U.S. right now: "Take care of me when I get old, through Social Security. . .give me free health care, through Medicaid and Medicare. . .gimme, gimme, gimme. . .take care of all my wants and needs."

When people look to the government to take care of them, that means the government ends up running the economy. That means, ultimately, ten percent of the people are gonna up end with two-thirds of the wealth, and the other 90% will share the remaining one-third. That's just human nature, and those who think otherwise have their hands glued over their eyeballs.

Or, we might end up with what is called Pareto's 20/80 law: 20% of the people will use the power of the State to acquire 80% of the wealth, and the remaining 80% will have 20% of the wealth. Either way, a very small minority will have most of the wealth, and the overwhelming majority won't have much at all, the ninnies.

Pareto, by the way, is one of the essential political economists to read. He noticed rulers tend to be either Foxes who use fraud, or Lions who use force. The mass of men he called "sheep." And everyone knows what foxes and lions do to sheep.

The other essential political writer to read is the notorious Machiavelli.

When people allow the government to take away their liberty to order to "take care" of them, the people invariably end up with no liberty, no security, and no wealth. Instead they end up poor, stupid, and oppressed. They voluntarily turn themselves into slaves. This will always happen, just as surely as night follows day.

This problem has been going on for a long, long time. It has in fact been the history of the world. The theologian Marcus Borg points out that during Jesus' time, the "elites" -- guess what? -- were the ten percent that owned two-thirds of the wealth. . .and the other 90% looked around and asked, "Is this all we get?" This disparity is why Jesus referred to the wealthy political elites of his time as "vipers" who would steal the last pennies of widows and orphans. Read his words, and you'll find viciousness in his description of the world's eternal enemies. Viciousness, but truth. And what he said was just as true now as then.

Speaking of Jesus' time (actually a millenia or so before), the reason Moses wandered in the desert for 40 years is so that all the slaves would die off, and with them, the slave mentality. That's how long it takes to get rid of that mentality -- at least a generation.

Do we really want to do that to ourselves? Apparently so, at least for some people. In the famous "Grand Inquisitor" scene in The Brothers Karamazov, Dostoevsky has the Inquisitor say, "For centuries...we have been wrestling with...freedom, but now it is ended and over for good." Dostoevsky was commenting on the fact that many people want to give up their freedom to "authority." The Inquisitor goes so far as to claim, "they have brought their freedom to us and laid it humbly at our feet."

Dostoevsky also wrote, in The House of the Dead: "Tyranny...finally develops into a disease. The habit can...coarsen the very best man to the level of a beast. Blood and power intoxicate...the return to human dignity, to repentance, to regeneration, becomes almost impossible."

Or, as I put it: "Power intoxicates, and immunity corrupts."

People think that giving up their freedom to authority, in exchange for "security," will not invariably lead to tyranny but it will. It's why I don't think "people and their leaders," but instead "sheep and their wolves."

As for us, today, the writer Fredo Arias-King notes: "Madison, Jefferson, Alexander Hamilton, John Jay and others devised a system and embedded the Constitution with mechanisms to thwart the 'natural' tendency of the political class to usurp power -- to become a permanent elite lording over pauperized subjects, as was the norm in Europe at the time." Ancient Palestine, Europe, the Philippines, Mexico. . .why, ultimately should the U.S. be any different, especially since the Constitution means nothing except what the government says it means? Try defending yourself with it in a court sometime. You won't be allowed.

"Capitalism now seems to me," writes Edgar J. Steele, "always destined to morph into the dictatorial-collectivist sort of monopolistic, fascistic greed, oppression and exploitation of the common man that is all too prevalent in the world today, as the line between business and government increasingly blurs." Uh huh.

People will claim, "Oh, no, I want my freedom," and then turn around and vote for some sleazy-but-articulate politician promising them all kinds of goodies -- goodies taken by force from others, although it's called "fairness" and "taxes" instead of "envy" and "theft." People (and politicians) say one thing, then do the exact opposite. Actions, as always, speak louder than words.

You can have liberty, and all the insecurity inherent in it (which really ain't that much, anyway), or ultimately you can be poor and enslaved. I don't see any other options. So, what can I say? If you don't listen to people like Franklin and Maughan you're going to be really sorry? I'd say that's about right.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

A Pride of Nitwits

I don't believe in Satan as some guy out there with horns and goat legs. That version is based on the mythological Greek god, Pan, and he doesn't exist, either. But if I did believe in him, I'd likely think of him as a mediocrity, a goofus who can't stand to be mocked and ridiculed.

If he's a human, he's likely to be some bumbler that no one takes seriously until he gains political power and starts World War III. He'd be a self-deluded, incompetent, self-proclaimed (but false) messiah, out to remake the world in his image. He'd think he was one of the Good Guys, and, most probably, a lot of the public would, too.

But whatever version he takes, whether Satan Version 1.0 or 1.1, I agree with John Milton, when he wrote in Paradise Lost, that Satan's main sin is Pride. And when you have a bunch of people afflicted with that kind of pride, who have enormous political power, then you have, instead of a pride of lions, is a pride of nitwits. Dangerous nitwits, to be sure, but nitwits nonetheless.

Let's take, as an example, George Bush in one of his press conferences, in which he expressed no remorse for the dreadful mishandling of the unnecessary war in Iraq by him and those in his administration. He offered no regrets, admitted no mistakes, acknowledged no flaws.

Dubya sure looks to be a stubborn and narrow-minded man, one who thinks he is appointed by God to do the Right Thing in bringing the dangerous leftist dream of democracy to be benighted wogs of the world. Apparently he's forgotten the saying, "The road to Hell is paved with good intentions." If he hasn't forgotten it, it's obvious he believes it doesn't apply to him. Of course he wouldn't, if he think God talks to him.

I seriously doubt that Incurious George is familiar with the writings of Thomas Aquinas. I suppose he's heard of Aquinas, unless Yale is even more hopeless than I thought, but I'm sure George has never read a word by him. And that's too bad, because Aquinas had some interesting thoughts. He's the one who defined Pride as "inordinate self-love [as] the cause of every sin...the root of pride is found to consist in man not being, in some way, subject to God and His rule."

I also seriously doubt our non-reading, intellectually slothful president is familiar with an amusing little book by Dana Facaros and Michael Pauls called The Traveller's Guide to Hell: Don't Leave This World Without It. It defines pride as "the mother of all sins... the thin line between righteousness and self-righteousness." And that line, which our President was wobbling upon, he has now toppled of off, onto, oh, the left (which means "sinister") side. Although I'm convinced that he, in his own mind, believes he is a rightist. Like the people of Nineveh, he cannot tell his right from his left. Neither does the right hand know what the left one is doing.

I wonder if he surfs the Internet? I just can't imagine George Bush in a chatroom. Or does he have someone else do surf for him, the way his daddy had people shop for him, which is why he looked so befuddled when he encountered a supermarket check-out scanner. I also can't imagine George running across the website "Seven Deadly Sins", which defines pride as "excessive belief in one's own abilities, that interferes with the individual's recognition of the grace of God. It has been called the sin from which all others arise. Pride is also known as Vanity."

The sin "from which all others arise," the site says. I believe that's true. Here's another way of putting it: hubris is the only true crime that exists, because it is the basis for all other sins, all other crimes.

And the other sins, of which pride is supposed to be the basis? Envy, gluttony, lust, anger (wraith), greed (avarice or covetousness), sloth. These faults are not only inherent in every human being, they appear to be the main traits of the State. If that's true, political power is one of the worst powers there is, the one that is most easily abused.

Charles Panati, in his book, Sacred Origin of Profound Things, claimed the Greek theologian Evagrius of Pontus was the first to draw up a list of the eight worst offenses. From least to worst they were: gluttony, lust, avarice, sadness, anger, sloth, vainglory, and pride. He considered all these sins to be fixations on the self, with pride the worst.

My own self, my own ego, as the center of the world! Russell Kirk, not only an influential conservative thinker but also a fine horror writer, in one of those horror stories, "The Peculiar Demesne," correctly described this "monstrous ego," with its blind, false pride, as the "source of all evil."

Late in the Sixth Century, Pope Gregory reduced the list to seven, combining vainglory with pride, sadness with sloth, and adding envy (Aquinas later denied that sins could be ranked this way). Like Evagrius, Pope Gregory ranked the sins from least to worst: lust, gluttony, avarice, sadness, anger, envy, pride. Again, pride was the worst. In the 17 Century the church replaced "sadness" with sloth.

At one time nearly all people knew the list of the Seven Deadly Sins, along with the Heavenly Virtues: faith, hope, charity, fortitude, justice, temperance, prudence. I suspect more laypeople today are familiar with these lists than our leaders, who appear to unwittingly be crypto-pagans who believe in Might Makes Right.

There are also the Seven Contrary Virtues, first listed by Prudentius in his poem "Psychomachia" ("Battle for the Soul") in 410. These virtues are: humility, kindness, abstinence, chastity, patience, liberality, and diligence.

The Seven Contrary Virtues stand opposed to the Seven Deadly Sins: humility against pride, kindness against envy, abstinence against gluttony, chastity against lust, patience against anger, liberality against greed, and diligence against sloth.

The Greeks called pride by the wprd "hubris," which the dictionary defines as "excessive pride, wanton violence." Are excessive pride and wanton violence related? Surely. History confirms it almost without exception. They certainly are related today. You need look no further than the current U.S. administration., with its bumbling "stay the course" rhetoric in Iraq (that is, until they change their minds). When the blind are leading the blind, "staying the course" leads straight into a ditch.

If Bush and his crew want to put an end to evil, the first thing they have to do is put an end to imperfect human nature, to pride, to hubris. This isn't possible. They'd also have to eradicate that with which they are afflicted. There is "no end to evil." When David Frum and Richard Perle wrote a book with that name, the only thing they showed was they are Dwellers in the Mirage, appallingly ignorant of reality.

The Greeks personified hubris as a god, one who lacked restraint and dwelled among mortal men. Imagine that. Right here among all of us. The Greeks saw hubris as followed by nemesis: destruction, retribution and vengeance.

The story of pride, of hubris, is clear: it's always followed by some sort of nemesis. What kind? Who knows, specifically. But hubris is always followed by nemesis, as pride is always followed by a fall. One only needs to have one eye half-opened to see this.

I wonder if George Bush, or Donald Rumsfeld, or Dick Cheney, could list the Seven Deadly Sins? I wonder if they could give a definition of pride, or hubris? Would they believe it applies to them, or that they are so intellectually and morally superior they are immune to it? Judging by their actions, I'm pretty darn sure it's the latter.

Fight Club: Biff! Baff! Pow! We're All Fascists Now!

Ever since I got a DVD player my VCR has lain idle. I should give it away. I sure can't sell it, since new ones are going for about $50. The difference in quality between the first and second machine is a quantum leap. And the DVDs! Ten dollars, and they last for decades! A far cry from when VCRs cost $600 and tapes, $60.

I've actually started buying movies again. It's no longer worth renting them. I recently picked up a movie people have recommended, but which I missed when it came out in '99 -- Fight Club.

It was a lot better than I thought it would be. It dealt with alienation, the desperate and instinctive desire to belong to a group (which is the basis for fascism), and emotionally dead people who can only feel alive through violence.

Critics have claimed it pro-fascist, anti-capitalist, pro-violence, Marxist, anarchist, libertarian, and who knows what else. Political labels are pretty much irrelevent. What it's about, ultimately, is alienation.

The unnamed protagionist is an emotionally dead man who cannot find any meaning through materialism. In fact, the movie cleary states materialism leads to this emotional deadness -- all the SUVs, DVD players, big houses and money will never bring happiness.

Our "hero," such that he is, is, quite literally, a "split" man. He's alienated from everything -- his job, the society, the government, life, and most of all, himself. He is, for all practical purposes, a walking dead man.

He ends up starting a Fight Club, which other emotionally dead men join. Unfortunately, for such zombies, the easiest way to feel anything is through violence. You can see that in any society which cheers for war.

Chris Hedges wrote about it in his book, War is a Force That Gives Us Meaning.

"The enduring attraction of war is this: Even with its destruction and carnage it can give us what we long for in life," he wrote. "It can give us purpose, meaning, a reason for living. Only when we are in the midst of conflict does the shallowness and vapidness of much of our lives become apparent."

That quote is what Fight Club is about. It's about alienated men, with meaningless lives, who finally find themselves part of a group. And groups based on violence, the movie tells us, easily degenerate into fascism. They find themselves "spiritually cleansed" through violence. Or so they think.

The men involved thought they were ridding themselves of the "oppression" of society and capitalism. They ended up even more oppressed (although they did not know it) by becoming fascists, and by worshipping one of the false gods who started Fight Club (and he really was a false, indeed nonexistent, god).

There is a religious aspect to the movie. Even though it is a violent, bloody film (only because of the fisticuffs, though) there is exactly one death, when one member of Fight Club takes a bullet in the back of the head.

Our unnamed protagionist tries to remind his followers he was a real person. One of the group replies, "I get it. His name was. . ." (I can't tell the name without spoiling some of the movie). The rest of the group starts chanting his name.

The message? A charismatic leader can be deified with relative ease and how true believers think they find salvation only in sacrifice or death. Only then do they cease to be cogs and become human, the same way the unthinking speak of soldiers "making the ultimate sacrifice."

Americans are not immune to this disease. I was astonished to find Americans referring to Bush as "my President." What exactly is the difference between someone like that and someone who 60 years ago said, "Mein Fuhrer"? For all practical purposes, there isn't any.

For the thinking, this movie is anti-fascism, anti-religion, anti-consumerism, anti-anything we do just because others are doing it. Because the group is doing it. What it praises, more than anything else, is love.

The members of Fight Club thought they were returning to the Garden of Eden. Instead, they were heading straight to Hell.

Monday, December 10, 2007

They're Everywhere! They're Everywhere!

Threats, that is. Always with the threats. Supposedly we're always under attack by a mortal threat. Yet they never quite seem to be as horrible as we're always told.

I was a little kid during Vietnam. Communism was supposed to take over the world. Turns out Communism never existed. Socialism, yes, but it creaked and groaned and only "worked" because it had to allow a certain amount of the free market to support it.

Vietnam was supposed to be an example of "the domino theory." The country was supposed to fall to Communism, then the rest of Southeast Asia. Then the world! So the US had to kill one million to two million Vietnamese to save Vietnam. Fifty-eight thousand American soldiers died. Then we left, and now, the Vietnamese are semi-capitalist, and the U.S. is negoiating with them to use their harbors for our Navy. We might as well not even have had a war.

Vietnam was the main reason I no longer believe anything the government says. But there are others.

I was a teenager during the '70s. Now let's see...what were the mortal threats back then? Oh, yes, here's one (and I kid you not) – global cooling. I swear, that's what we were told. We were all going to freeze to death from global cooling. Paul Newman was in a now-forgotten movie called Quintet, about how the Earth had frozen as solid as a Popsicle on the North Pole.

Now the threat is supposed to be global warming. I don't believe that in the slightest, either. And I believe in the shrinking ozone layer about as much as I believe in aliens kidnapping people and performing "those" probes that are so annoying.

During the '70's we were all supposed to starve to death. Paul Ehrlich predicted it. He was wrong, yet today some people still take this knucklehead seriously, even though he's never been right in his life! There was a famous movie about starvation, called Soylent Green, which was people recycled into not-so-yummy vittles.

Ehrlich also predicted massive die-offs from overpopulation, in a famous but goofy book called The Population Bomb. That didn't happen either, but Ehrlich was so self-deluded he had his own nuts cut (thank you! thank you!). The Earth isn't overpopulated -- we just waste a lot of stuff. P.J. O'Rourke has pointed out you could take everyone in the world and stick them into an area the size of the former Yugoslavia. It'd be pretty crowded, but no worse than a big city.

We were also supposed to run out of oil during the '70's. Jimmuh Cartuh told us to turn down our thermostats. Maybe we were supposed to wear nightcaps to bed, like in a Charles Dickens novel. I don't exactly remember.

We were also supposed to poison ourselves from pesticides and suchlike stuff. There was a hilarious movie called Prophecy in which chemically-mutated monsters came out of a lake and bit peoples' heads off like lollipops. It was pretty funny, especially because of the cheesy special effects which included a trout the size of a dolphin.

Yep, that was the '70's. Chemicals, ice ages, starvation and overpopulation. Oh, yeah, and disco.

And what was the threat during the '80's? Har har! Japan! Japan was supposed to take over the world because of its powerhouse economy! BWHAHAHA! I can barely type this I'm laughing so hard!

Nowadays Japan has been in a recession for the last ten years, with no sign of it ending soon. Its government is even more stupid than ours. The evil ghost of Keynes lives on, haunting not only the governments of Japan and the US, but also American economics departments.

Oops – I forgot nuclear power plants. They were supposed to melt down and come out in China. There was even a movie called The China Syndrome, with Michael Douglas and Jane Fonda. Neither seems to talk much about that movie these days.

And that was the '80's.

There weren't really too many threats during the '90s because it was so go-go, what with Alan Greenspan pumping a couple of gazillion dollars into the economy.

Nope, I'm wrong. There was one threat – Iraq. Iraq invaded Kuwait (which has always been part of Iraq back when it was called Mesopotamia). Saddam Hussein was the new Hitler; Iraq was the new Nazi Germany! It was going to take over Saudi Arabia. The world would go up in flames, just like World War II.

Never mind the fact Iraq has an economy about the size of South Carolina -- one percent of the U.S.'s. Never mind the fact that Kuwait was slanting its drilling into Iraq. Never mind the fact that Hussein basically asked permission from the US to invade. We still had to stop him. No, sir, we had to put a stop to the New Hitler.

And why is every "threat" supposed to be Hitler? Stalin and Mao Tse-Tung – not to mention Pol Pot – were lots worse. Always with the Hitler.

What threats do we have today? Exactly one day after 9/11 we decided Islam was going to conquer the world. Here we have people who can't even manufacture their own toilet paper, and now they're going to conquer the world. On 9/10 we barely give Muslims a thought; on 9/12 they suddenly became – you guessed it – the new Hitler.

And not just them, either. Iraq is also the new Nazi Germany (again), evilly attempting to A-bomb us, or poison us, or whatever. But if Islam is the new Hitler, how can Hussein be the new Hitler also? He's an atheist who believes only in himself, one who runs a secular regime. Which is the new Hitler? The new mortal threat to us? Is it a foreign religion, or a foreign secular dictator?

And what about North Korea? Is it the new Nazi Germany, too? I guess it is. After all, as soon as it can, it's going to lob nukes across the Pacific at us. No, wait, that's China that's going to nuke us! Damn, I can barely keep all these new Hitlers and Nazi Germanys straight!

Could it be the people in the US administration don't know what they're talking about, just like always?

Don't think I believe we don't have problems. We do. We always have, and we always will. We even have threats. Always have and always will. But we should assess them accurately, which the US government is not doing.

But do we have mortal threats that are going to wipe us out unless we get hysterical and give up our freedoms for a fake security?

I've been down that road too many times before to believe that.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Oodles of Wasted Taxpayer Money

So here I was in college, about 12 year ago, when a friend on mine says, "You have to take a look at this job!" So I did. It turned out to be driving a taxi for the local school desegregation program ("deseg," as we called it), which consisted of taking Child A and transporting him/her to School B, with School B being 12 miles from where the child lived, even though School C was right across the street from where the kid's home was. Sometimes -- almost always, actually -- School C was on the corner or maybe a block away.

For transporting A to B I was paid $25. Even better, I picked up another child maybe three blocks away from Kid A, and took him/her to another school 12 miles away, maybe a mile or so from my first drop-off. For that I was paid another $25. I was doubling-up on rides, and since they were paid from separate government accounts, the left hand did not know what the right hand was doing. That, I am convinced, is a perfect description of how all government works.

These two rides took the grand total of one-and-one-half-hour's worth of my time, for which I was paid $50. Then, in the afternoon, I would pick up a five-year-old in kindergarten, and take him/her home for another $25, even though this kid had a school A) across the street, or B) on the corner.

Then, in the afternoon, I would repeat the morning run for another $50. I worked four hours a day and made $125. Each week I was written a check for $525 for a 20-hour week. And this was 12 years ago.

If I wanted to take extra rides in the evening, or during the day for kids who were late getting to school, I could make $600 a week for hardly any extra work at all. Some drivers, who actually worked the whole day, were making $1000 a week.

The owner of the cab company, who was a crook but still a friend of mine who actually seemed to like me, had been a big-time bookie arrested by the FBI and convicted by the feds. He served no time because he ratted out his partner, who as far I know is still doing time in the joint.

This crook/owner/friend of mine was taking about half of each ride, which meant my $25 ride was really $50. So you see how much the taxpayer was being ripped off to transport thousands of kids every year to schools many miles from where they lived. We're talking hundreds of millions of dollars.

This crook/owner, who I will call Harry, was a multi-millionaire, all on taxpayer money. This confirms my theory that anyone who becomes rich from the government is a crook. All of them. Harry came in every day in his brand-new Mustang, with his mistress in the front seat. Her name was Joanne and boy, could she screech. Fortunately, she liked me, so I got away with a lot. Harry "worked" about four hours a day, which consisted of his sitting at his desk with Joanne next to him, while he smoked cigarettes, shot the bull with everyone, and basically did nothing else except write checks on Friday.

Harry did not care about anything except stuffing taxpayer money into his pocket. His friends said he had a trunk of money buried in his backyard so the IRS couldn't find it.

Since Harry did not care about anything except stuffing oodles of money into his pockets, the drivers could get away with anything short of killing the kids. The deseg bureaucrats didn't care, either. Being bureaucrats, they gave up their brains and gonads a long, long time ago.

One example of a driver who could get away with anything is one low-life who I will call Vladimir. He would drive while stoned. Not a little stoned, but a lot. I once saw him in the office with his eyelids halfway down his eyeballs, and as I looked at him, one of his knees collapsed and he almost fell down.

He and I did not like each other, so I was always looking for a chance to catch him alone and poke him in the solar plexus, but I never got it. I did once drive by him on the highway, where his car (with two kids in the back seat) had rear-ended another and spun both of them high up onto the embankment. Both cars were totaled, although fortunately the kids were okay. Vladimir was high, as usual. He told us he had turned around to yell at the unruly kids, and, pow, crashed into the back of a car while doing maybe 70 mph.

Of course, he kept his job, since Harry didn't care.

No one ever got fired. The closest was one guy who got 30 years in prison for exposing himself in front of a little girl. And he wasn't exactly "fired." It's just that you can't drive a taxi while in the pen. The reason he got 30 years is because it was his second conviction. Harry, I'm sure, knew about the first. If the deseg bureaucrats knew about it, they didn't care. They probably didn't know, since they never investigated the drivers. Wasn't one of the rules, I guess.

One guy even set the cab company on fire because Harry spelled his name wrong on his check. Fired? Ha! Harry, being a criminal, had a fondness for criminals. That always made me wonder what he saw in me, since he genuinely seemed to like me.

Of all the dozens of kids I transported thousands of miles, only a handful were ever helped by the deseg program. Maybe three, I will estimate. It would have been cheaper just to move the entire families to the county.

One, a girl who was about 12, was sort of nerdish. Her glasses were always sitting crooked on her face, and she never knew it. She told me she reminded herself of Doogie Howser because she was almost a genius. She was, too, and sometimes cracked me up so hard I almost had to pull over.

I can think of two others who were helped by the deseg program, both girls. Was there anyone else? Nope.

I did this job for something like five years. It was really, really hard to quit a part-time job that paid full-time money.

When I asked around as to how long the deseg program had been in effect, I was told, "Oh, I dunno...since the early '70s, maybe." Yikes! This was hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars for all practical purposes thrown out the window! It made several multi-millionaires out of the owners of the cab companies involved, and was good money for the drivers even though they were independent contractors and had no benefits whatsoever, but every cent of it was money unwillingly extracted from the taxpayers.

Not only were taxis involved, but regular school buses. These buses would bus kids from one neighborhood to a school several miles away, in order to achieve racial parity.

Since many parents did not like the deseg program, and did not want their kids going to school with kids bused in from neighborhoods several miles away, those who could afford it pulled their kids out of the local school and put them in neighborhood church schools. This included both black and white.

People will always find a way around the stupid rules of government bureaucrats. This truth is something those in the government will never learn.

These church schools existed on almost every corner. Where I used to live, there was one across the street, and on the corner. As a result, the local public schools were populated almost exclusively by poor kids, no matter what their race or ethnic group. So while the public schools were integrated racially, they became segregated economically.

Just about anyone with a few working brain cells could have predicted this. In fact, they did. Of course the government and liberal do-gooders and other boneheads did not believe.

They do now, though, since the deseg program is being phased out, and will soon be completely gone.

And what good did all of it accomplish? For all practical purposes, not a darn thing. It did make several crooks into multi-millionaires, though.

Saturday, December 8, 2007

See Dick. See Jane. See -- Argh! Clang! Clang! Clang!

I was considered a not-normal kid. My head was shaped like a light-bulb, for one thing. A Filipina I know once gasped when she saw a picture of me at nine weeks old. "American babies have big heads!" she told me, the implication being she hoped to never squeeze out such a deformed thing. I think she half-believed me when I told her my parents bought me a little toy wagon so I could roll my head around in it, and that there was a well-known American fairy-tale about a village idiot who had a huge potato for a head, which caused him to keep falling out of his father's cart.
Then there were the problems with the robot and submarine and rocket launcher. Parents used to ban me from their yards. The rocket launcher was what did it. If I had just launched rockets from a pad on the ground, straight up into the air, perhaps that would have been acceptable, even if it was in my backyard. Launching them from a cardboard bazooka on my shoulder was not, especially since I figured out the fins on the rocket were supposed to be angled, which caused the projectile to spin, thereby increasing the distance and sending it across several yards. They're lucky I never figured out how to put an M-80 fire-cracker grenade in the nose. These days, the cops probably would Taser me, followed by the courts sending me to some sort of Brave New World "therapy" that would involve the modern-day Soma that goes by the name "Ritalin."
It's pretty obvious I wasn't a good fit in school. This occurred to me in the first grade, when I was introduced to Dick and Jane and Spot and Pony. "See Dick. See Jane. See Spot. Run Spot run!" I daydreamed about sticking firecrackers up Spot and Pony's noses, which I thought would make huge gouts of smoke blow out of their nostrils, like dragons. That would have made them run, by golly. In some ways I was an awful kid, even if I didn't look like one.
I spent most of my time in school daydreaming, and as a result, my report cards were full of comments from the teachers. I still have those reports, even today. One consistent comment was, "Bobby is not paying attention in class. . .and he has such potential!"
Naw, I wasn't paying attention. Instead, at six years old, I was dreaming I was Commando Cody, who was a pre-Rocketeer with a helmet, a way-cool black leather jacket with controls on his chest, and a jetpack on his back. If I remember correctly, he even flew to the Moon once in that getup. And he had a pistol, a .45, I believe.
To this day, I believe those Dick and Jane readers are mostly what did me in. I did not like to read back then, and I think it was because of them. They were not only boring, they were excruciatingly boring, and so was nearly everything else throughout my years in school. Not liking to read is a little odd, because I started to teach myself to read when I was four.
Fortunately, when I was 11 years old, I found a tattered, falling-apart ACE 1963 copy of Edgar Rice Burroughs' A Fighting Man of Mars ("Hidden Menace on the Red Planet"), and boom!, just like that, I was changed forever. I immediately understood the importance of imagination, and how the purpose of school is to, however unwittingly, destroy it.
I remember thinking, whoa, what is this book? Gigantic Martian-eating apes, with six arms?! Cackling Mad Scientists? Huge spiders, with fangs? Heroes, villains, damsels in distress? Sword fights, disintegrator rays, invisibility cloaks? Battles galore, in warships floating in the sky? Wow! I was in a tizzy. I had never experienced anything like this. I was in awe, a condition I describe as a combination of love and wonder and fear. And I liked it.
Why, I wondered, wasn't I given stuff like this to read when I was six, instead of Dick and Jane? I don't care if they went on adventures with Spot and found a toad in the bushes, that was nothing compared to Tan Hadron of Hastor using his sword to defend the woman he loved from the insane cannibals of U-Gor!
Years later, when I started reading fairy tales, I was surprised to find the ones that aren't bowdlerized (which are the ones most people are familiar with) are blood-thirsty horror stories. In the unexpurgated "Cinderella," for example, her sisters cut off parts of their feet to try to make them fit into the slipper (which points out what greedy people will do for money and power and fame). You'll never see that in a Walt Disney film -- and Walt admitted he knew he was altering the original tales. Cinderella was, of all things, a very feisty girl, one who would never give up. How's that for some "Grrl Power"?
I was puzzled about these old children's stories; I really was. These are what adults in the past read to kids? And I got Dick and Jane and their boring white-bread lives in the suburbs, with their parents dressed like Ward and June Cleaver in a suit and tie, and pearls? But weren't kids supposed to be kept innocent as long as possible? Weren't they supposed to not know about awful things like violence and battles and swords and guns and death and destruction and romance and even--yuck--kissing? Wouldn't these terrible stories give them nightmares and permanently damage their tender six-year-old psyches?
Well, it seems to me that Dick and Jane and all the rest of those innocent boring stories are what damaged me. Those blood-thirsty stories with the swordfights and all the killings not only didn't damage me, they introduced me to a world of wonder I didn't know existed, one so amazing I actually felt grateful about my luck. And if there is one (actually three) thing(s) I am absolutely convinced is an inherent component of happiness, it's gratitude and appreciation, and the humility that comes from those two qualities.
What's worse -- being bored all the time as a kid in school, or having an occasional nightmare, if that nightmare is the price of being introduced to wonder and amazement and awe? Personally, I'll take the nightmare. I'm an adult, and I still have nightmares. Only now, the only regular one I have is about being stuck in high school on the last day and not being allowed to graduate. They're so bad they wake me up. I've never woken up from the Mad Scientist Phor Tak chasing me with a disintegrator pistol, or a huge spider gnashing its fangs and running after me down a valley. Not yet, at least.
If stories for kids are boring, kids certainly aren't going to want to read. And if they don't read, then they can't take much advantage of all the knowledge available in literature. That's saying bye-bye to all the accumulated wisdom of the human race. So, in order for children's stories to be interesting and exciting, they have to contain all that "awful" stuff. On top of that, kids like the stuff.
As an experiment, read some dumbed-down stories to young children, and then read some of the real fairy tales, and watch how they react. I've done this many times. They quickly get bored with the first, but always remain fascinated by the second. And they want more, even if they don't fully understand everything.
I remember the first time I read "The Little Match Girl" to some kids who were less than five. I've never seen such looks on their faces before. They learned about pity and mercy and horror from that story, about how lucky they were to have parents and a home and warmth and enough to eat, unlike the Little Match Girl. And such things are why those stories are so important, because kids learn to deal with all sides of life in the safety of their imaginations.
Bruno Bettelheim, in The Uses of Enchantment, claimed fairy tales and similar stories were necessary for children because they allowed them to work through various feelings they all had. I won't go so far as to agree with his Freudian intrepretation, but I understand his point. I am reminded of that modern-day mythic movie, A Christmas Story, in which Raphie has to deal with bullies, boring school, a nutcase for a little brother, a harried mother, a goodhearted but somewhat dense father, and the various problems all kids have to deal with.
Eric Rabkin agrees with Bettelheim, commenting upon the importance of the storytelling function in his book, The Fantastic in Literature. He explains that the cruelty in fairy tales indeed can be beneficial to children because "they can see danger handled safely and symbolically and thus, their own fears can be mastered."
We are never going to see truly interesting and educating stories for kids in the schools. If kids came home and told their parents about about those great stories they were being told -- the old fairy tales -- some of them would throw fits and call the schools right then. To which I say: bah. You have no idea what you're doing.
I see no solution to any of these problems except to get rid of the government schools. Unfortunately, private schools aren't going to be any better if they imitate the government schools. But at least they'll stand a chance, something that's never going to happen in do-gooder-feel-good bureacracy-crushed schools run by the gooberment.
It has now become a truism that every time the government gets involved in something, it doesn't make it better; it makes things worse. These days, nearly everyone complains about the schools, and what all these schools have in common is that they are "public" -- read "government run" -- schools. Most of these schools seem to have become masters at making kids hate them. Most kids see their time in them as a prison sentence to be served. I sure did, which is why about the only thing I learned in high school was how to make a bong out of a coffee pot. What kids learn is to dislike school, and, quite often, reading and learning.
As for me, if I could go back and do it over again, I'd take the wonder and awe and fear and cruelty instead of Dick and Jane and Spot chasing that stupid toad. I think most kids would, too.

Didn't Know it, Don't Believe It, Agree with It.

When I was a little kid I made friends with an elderly German man. Actually we started out as enemies, since his German Shepherd was barking at me from behind his fence, and I was so annoyed I was throwing gravel at him and trying to beat him with a branch. This man came out and yelled at me in a guttural German accent, which scared the daylights out of me. I thought he was some kind of escaped Nazi, and might make me stand with a live grenade on top of my head if he ever got his hands on me. While sporting a shaved head and a monocle, stroking the dueling scar on his cheek, smoking a gold-filtered cigarette, and evilly chuckling "Heh, heh, heh," of course. That's what movies had done to me.

Later, he forgave me for acting like Eric Cartman in South Park, and I forgave him for looking like Gert Froebe in Goldfinger. He turned out to be a pretty nice guy. When I told him he looked like "that Goldfinger guy," the next time I was eating a peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwich in his house he looked at me and said, "Ach, Mr. Vallace, for wunce you are eggactly vhere I vish you to be," which vas vhat -- I mean which was what Auric Goldfinger said to Bond once he got his mitts on him. He also told me the last kid who tormented his dog was rewarded with a trip to his basement, wherein was contained a table with straps and a laser (again, ala Goldfinger. I asked him he minded if I took my younger sister down there, since I saw an opportunity to put a permanent end to her hitting me with everything she could lay her hands on, including her steel-wheeled outdoor rollerskates. He responded it wouldn't be wise, since Mad German Scientists could make my lasered-in-half sister grow a new half, therely giving me twin sisters. I decided this was not such a good idea.

Years later, when I screwed up my courage, I asked him how in the world the Holocaust happened in Germany. This is what he told me, "Most of us did not know anything about it, because everything was censored and we could not travel freely. Some of us heard rumors, but did not believe them. A few said, even if the rumors were true, it was regrettable but necessary, because those people were enemies of Germany and would destroy us. Most Americans don't know it, but Hitler was barely elected, and it was due to what you call leftists." Gee, he wasn't anything like the subhuman, mass-murdering monsters that the contemptible Steven Spielberg tried to portray the Germans as in the dishonest piece of propaganda known as Saving Private Ryan.

When I supposedly grew up, I decided this attitude among people was a law of human nature. I call it the "Didn't Know It, Don't Believe It, Agree With It" law. It's a variation of the Three Monkey's Law: See No Evil, Hear No Evil, Speak No Evil (someone should make a copy of that statute with Dubya's, Bill Bennett's, and Rush Limbaugh's heads on it).

Example: when I tell people the longest war the US was involved in was in the Philippines, and that we killed 200,000 innocent men, women and children, when all they were trying to do is free themselves from foreign domination, the response I get is, "I didn't know that." Sometimes it's "I don't believe that." Rarely, it's "Well, I'm sure it was regrettable, but maybe it was necessary" (which is just a way of saying, "I agree with it").

Now if I turn it around and say, "How would you feel if foreigners came here and slaughtered 200,000 of us because we wouldn't submit to their conquering and ruling us?" then I can sometimes see the little lightbulb clicking on above their heads. I've decided that's another law of human nature: it's hard to put yourself in the other guy's shoes. Although you should always do it. Anyone who dismisses the importance of understanding your enemy's mind is a complete fool.

When I tell people that our sanctions in Iraq may have killed a million or so people, mostly elderly people and, children and infants, I get the "Didn't Don't Agree" response a lot of the time. When I point out the US military specifically bombed water and sewer treatment plants in Iraq and Serbia, which are war crimes in violation of the Geneva Contention, again it's "DDA."

I have decided this attitude is one of the Seven Deadly Sins. Specifically it's Sloth. Mental Sloth. Physical Sloth is Little League compared to Mental Sloth. People tell me I'm physically lazy because one of my purposes in life is to acheive a sublime state of physical slothdom, in which I rarely have to leave the couch and can use remote controls to have robots do all the work (ala' Ray Bradbury's The Martian Chronicles), but that kind of laziness is nothing compared to those who look at pictures of deformed Iraqi babies (caused by our depleted-uranium weapons) and say, "Hey, our weapons didn't cause that," or, "It's regrettable but necessary."

Again, to turn it around, how would they feel if it was done to us? Is it any wonder so many people in the world absolutely hate the US government? My experience with a lot of foreigners is that they like Americans personally (we're so lovable, you know) but despise and fear the US government. Hmm...now that I think about it they sound like the average American!

Some people seem to think we should never, ever let the Germans forget what the Nazis did, even though the average German was innocent and most of the guilty are dead. Yes, we should punish the innocent all through the ages.

I sometimes wonder what was happen if America fell in the future and all the countries the US government tortured through the years could write our history books and be responsible for our education. They would attempt to make Americans never, ever forget what the USG did, just the way American liberals today pretend those alive today were somewhere responsible for slavery and should never forget it (let's conveniently forget there were black slave-ship captains and that freed American blacks owned other blacks as slaves). There is a lot of pleasure and self-righteousness, I guess, in always feeling sorry for yourself and thinking you are permanently a victim. Apparently this is another law of human nature.

I always look to the Roman Empire as a example of Republic to Empire to Hey, What the Hell Happened? I'm sure the average Roman citizen in those days was just like the average American citizen today. They went about their everyday business, mostly ignoring or trusting in their govenments (another law of human nature), then the next thing they know things have collapsed and the Vandals are carting off their women and their gold.

This kind of destruction always follows from being Slothful. And that, too, is a law of human nature. My Gert Froebeish friend found that our the hard way, no matter how nice of a guy he was. We, too, may find it out the same hard way.