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Let’s Play “Reverse The Polarities” With Jen Sorensen

27/01/2015

…aw, c’mon — it’ll be FUN!!!

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Losing Our Heads

19/01/2015

So a number of people have been posting links to news reports about the public beheading of a convicted child rapist / murderer in Saudi Arabia.

The woman screamed she was innocent just before being executed.

Many of these people are outraged to one degree or another by this news.

I’m just trying to figure out what their outrage is aimed at.

Are they universally opposed to capital punishment?

Well, then we’re in agreement. I would hope we can convince all people, cultures, and governments to abolish capital punishment.[1]

Are they upset that the woman proclaimed her innocence to the very end?

We execute a lot of people here in the US who proclaim their innocence to the very end. I do not know enough about this case to have an opinion on whether or not the Saudi government adequately proved the woman had indeed sexually abused and murdered her step-daughter. I do know there’s ample precedence of step-parents abusing and murdering step-children here in the US, so barring proof there was a miscarriage of justice, I’m going to assume the Saudis know more about the facts of this case than I do.

Are they upset it was a woman that was executed?

Women are as fully capable of committing heinous acts as men, and we’ve executed women for such acts here in the US.

Does the manner of execution bother them?

Beheading is a pretty gruesome way to go, but it is swift and relatively merciful. Certainly swifter and more merciful than repeatedly jabbing a condemned prisoner for 30 minutes in a futile attempt to find a suitable vein for lethal injection, followed by several minutes gasping for breath, fully aware one is dying.[2]

Does the fact that it was a public execution bother them?

The last public execution[3] in the US was in 1936, the last public guillotining in France was in 1939. Photographic evidence indicates public executions in France and Saudi Arabia are comparatively sparsely attended as opposed to the jam-packed spectacles the US used to conduct. Now, if the argument is that public executions are a shameful thing and shouldn’t be conducted, we need to ask why that is so: Because they are unjust? Because they offend our delicate sensibilities? Or because they force us to face the facts about what we are doing to people in the name of justice?

Does it bother them that the execution was carried out by brown skinned non-Christians who aren’t big fans of the US of A?

Well, we had no problem with the French lopping the heads off people up to 1977, and here in America we had more than one death by hanging turn into death by decapitation. It is their land, their culture, their government; if they feel they are justified in what they are doing, how can we stop them? Put pressure on them to change their behavior?

Okay, fine, let’s say we do that. Exactly what kind of behavior are we attempting to change? Killing people, or killing them in public? Do we want the means of execution shifted to something we feel more comfortable with?[4]

We don’t hear a lot of outrage about Asian nations executing prisoners by hangings or firing squads.[5]

Most of the world has abolished the death penalty for common crimes, and many nations for all crimes. The biggest proponents of the death penalty remain Far East Asia, the Middle East, and the horn of Africa.

capital punishment map

I have to ask, is this what fuels the outrage of some? Not that criminals are being executed, but that they’re being executed by people who are…well, let’s put this delicately by using the phrase coined by the late Peter Bergman…not-us ?

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[1] I think all forms of “punishment” are futile, which, as I have noted elsewhere, is not the same as saying people should not be held responsible and accountable for their actions. By all means, take driving privileges away from drunk and reckless drivers, have people who have committed minor offenses pay some restitution in the form of community service or a fine, imprison dangerous and violent criminals so they will not be able to harm citizens during the time they are behind bars, but never ever “punish” because all punishment amounts to is eye-for-an-eye retribution to try to make the offender feel bad for what they have done. They never feel bad; they feel victimized and refuse to accept responsibility.

[2] And, yes, the vast majority of executed prisoners did far worse to their victims. The state is supposed to be above petty revenge and retribution and more about justice. By all accounts it took at least two blows to sever the head of the woman in Saudi Arabia, but the first blow was fatal and severed her spinal chord, so death was probably as instantaneous as that by guillotine. Not to make light of capital punishment, but if the objective is to kill someone as swiftly and as mercifully as possible, the electric chair is the way to go; it makes an awful mess and stench, but it kills the prisoner pretty much instantaneously. That’s the problem with killing people: The swift and merciful ways are messy, the clean ways are slow and agonizing (either physically and / or psychologically).

[3] Rather the last legal public execution…

[4] That’s pretty presumptive of us, isn’t it? How would we feel if they tried to tell us how to dress?

[5] Rather, we don’t hear a lot of outrage about our trade partners executing people by hangings and firing squads; we’ll red ass North Korea all day long.

 

 

 

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Senator Hank Sanders On The Subject Of Slavery

2/01/2015

An African-American sportscaster recently dismissed the impact of slavery on contemporary American culture.  Senator Hank Sanders of Alabama wrote and posted an open letter to the sportscaster.  I’ve taken the liberty of redacting the sportscaster’s name and replacing it with America; I think that makes the senator’s message more personal and pertinent to the majority of our citizens.

I write you out of love.  I write you out of profound pain.  I write you out of deep concern.  I hope you accept this letter in the spirit that I write.

America, I understand that you said, in so many words, that slavery was not so bad and that you were tired of people bringing up slavery.  I was shocked by both statements.  Then I was mad.  Then I was terribly disappointed.  Finally, I was just in deep hurt and great pain.  Now, I am trying to help you and all those who may think like you.

America, allow me to tell you why slavery was “not so bad,” but very, very bad.  First, African people were snatched from their families, their villages, their communities, their tribes, their continent, their freedom.   African people were made to walk hundreds of miles in chains.  They were often beaten, poorly fed and abused in many ways. Women and girls were routinely raped.  The whole continent was ravaged and still suffers to this day.  America, this is very, very bad.

Second, African people were placed in “slave dungeons” for weeks and sometimes months until the slave ships came.  They were often underfed, terribly beaten, raped and stuffed together so tightly they could hardly move.  African people were packed in the holds of ships with little space to even move.  They performed bodily functions where they lay and then lived in it.  They were oftentimes beaten, raped and abused mentally, physically and emotionally.  Many died from disease and broken spirits.  Some were so terribly impacted that they jumped overboard and drowned when brought to the deck of the ships. Millions died during the Middle Passage from Africa to the Americas.  America, this is very, very bad.

Third, African people were broken like wild animals.  They were stripped of every element of their identity.  Their names were taken.  Their languages were taken.  Their religions were taken.  Their histories were taken.  They were forbidden to have family.  They had no rights to own anything.  They were considered property.  Their personalities were permanently altered.  Their freedom was taken.  They became chattel sold from “slave blocks.”  This crushing of identity impacts us to this day.  I call it the psychology of the oppressed.  America, this is very, very bad.

Fourth, African Americans were worked from “kin to can’t;” that is from “can see” in the morning to “can’t see” at night.  There was no pay for their long, hard labor.  Many were poorly fed. Most felt the lash of the whip.  All felt the lash of the tongue.  Many were repeatedly raped.  Their children and other loved ones were sold at will.  Some mothers killed their baby girls so they would not have to endure the ravages of slavery.  America, this is very, very bad.

Fifth, African Americans had no right to defend themselves no matter what was done and how wrong it was.  By law, they could not even testify against their abusers.  As U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice Roger B. Toney said in the 1857 Dred Scott case, “A Black man has no rights a White man is bound to respect.”  This became the law of the land and its legacy bedevils us to this day.  America, this is very, very bad.

Sixth, African Americans were perceived and treated as sub human.  The only way enslavers could square this terrible treatment with their Christian beliefs was see us as less than human.  Therefore, they could proudly place such beautiful words in the Declaration of Independence and the U. S. Constitution with impunity: i.e. – “We hold these truths to be self-evident that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their creator with certain inalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”  To them, African Americans were not human so these beautiful words did not apply.  Even the U.S. Constitution designated us as 3/5 of a person.  That’s why White terrorists, in and out of uniforms, can kill us without punishment.  The legacy of being less human lingers with us today.  Black lives are worth much less than White lives.  America, this is very, very bad.

Seventh, it required great violence to implement and maintain the worse form of human slavery known to humankind.  It required unbridled violence by enslavers, slave catchers, local, state, federal governments and the entire society.  Maintaining the institution of slavery created a very violent society that infests us to this day.  That’s why the United States has far more violence than any country in the world.  America, this is very, very bad.

Eighth, even after slavery formerly ended, we still had Jim Crow.  These same imbedded attitudes generated state-sanctioned terrorism for nearly another 100 years.  The Ku Klux Klan and other terrorist groups hanged, mutilated, maimed and murdered without any punishment.  It was state sanctioned terrorism because the “state” did not do anything to prevent it.  That’s why even during the Civil Rights Movement murders took many years before even a modicum of justice was forged.  Just look at the deaths of Medgar Evers, James Chaney, the three little girls murdered by the bombing of a Birmingham Church and so many others.  That is why today Trayvon Martin could not walk the streets of his neighborhood and Jordan Davis could not play loud music in his car and Eric Garner was choked to death and Michael Brown was gunned down.  America this is very, very bad.

America, if you knew your history, you would not say slavery is not so bad and you are tired of people bringing up slavery.  The legacy of slavery is everywhere.  However, you are not totally to blame because you were deliberately denied the opportunity to learn your history.  That is one more legacy of slavery.  I hope you will seek the full history for yourself so that you will not ever say such things again.

In deep concern,

Hank Sanders

 

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Asbestos

28/12/2014

The people who originally built the house my parents ended up buying put asbestos insulation in the walls and ceiling.

It seemed like a good idea at the time.

Luckily, the asbestos was imbedded in plaster or other material so it didn’t get loose and into the air.

However, it led to one very big problem…

Once people understood just how dangerous asbestos was, you couldn’t make any significant changes to my parents’ house.

Oh, you could slap on a fresh coat of pain and change the faceplates on the electrical switch and sockets and even lay down new carpeting or linoleum…

But swap out the bathtub?  Knock down a wall to enlarge a room?  Even something as simple as adding shelving?

Un-unh.  Forget it.  That would require deploying a haz-mat team literally dressed in spacesuits to enter a tented out that filtered the air to keep any asbestos particles from entering the atmosphere.

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The house was built as a starter home for a young family, or a retirement home for an older couple:  Awkward layout, two small bedrooms, huge basement area.

Without exaggeration the upstairs was not much bigger than a large trailer home, while the downstairs offered little in the way of amenities (though the furnace and the washer and dryer were down there, freeing up some room upstairs).

The house was not built with cable in mind.  Heck, it wasn’t even built with a plethora of rechargeable devices in mind, either.  Socket space that was adequate back in the day now requires power strips to offer enough plug-in space for phones, tablets, TVs, etc.  And while the original wiring could handle the load, it’s getting old and the insulation is getting brittle and sooner or later it will have to be replaced.

Just as sooner or later the plumbing will need to be replaced.

Or the various support beams will need to be treated for termites or mold or any of a thousand other problems.

And when that time comes,
it’s gonna be expensive.

It’s a game of hot potato: 
Sooner or later somebody is going to have to address the problem of the asbestos laced walls and ceiling.

There are three strategies one can employ:

Bite The Bullet – hire a team, pay the money, tear out the old asbestos and replace it with modern, safer fireproofing and insulation; upgrade the plumbing and wiring; make whatever structural changes one desires because the framework and the foundation are still good enough to last.

Play Catch As Catch Can – wait until disaster strikes, then hire a team and pay the money to tear out and replace the old asbestos only in those areas immediately affected by whatever problem has struck; somewhat cheaper in the short run, much more expensive in the long run, but less of an inconvenience to those in the house.

Apres Moi, Le Deluge – don’t do anything until the house finally deteriorates to the point where it starts to collapse; at that point, walk away and let the neighbors and the local community take care of it; it’ll cost them money and quite possibly the framework and foundation will be too compromised to be saved so they might as well tear it down and start again; they won’t remember the house or its inhabitants too fondly.

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Why, yes, this is a post about
racism in American culture.

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Thinkage

17/12/2014

“A majority of nearly every group — non-whites, women, young adults, the elderly, Midwesterners, suburbanites, Catholics, moderates, the wealthy — said that torture of suspected terrorists can be often or sometimes justified.

“A majority of only one other group beyond liberals and Democrats disagreed: people with no religion.” — Emily Badger, Washington Post article “From moderate Democrats to white Evangelicals, nearly every demographic group believes torture can be justified”

Christian Please Jesus-Facepalm

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Thinkage

12/12/2014

“Friends, I want to submit that our society suffers from a collective Borderline Personality Disorder writ large on a massive, macro, scale. We’re overly-rigid, hyper-vigilant, unduly wary, and reticent to see and embrace the messy merits of others. We all too readily dehumanize vast groups of people and consider them dogs or monsters. Arguing this case doesn’t involve a PhD thesis. One need only to watch the news – and look in a mirror.

Until we can see God in everyone, until we can see the face of God in “the other,” until we can flip the script and see God in those who we tend to write-off and not expect to see Godliness in — we have work to do.” — Rev. Roger Wolsey, The Holy Kiss

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Tatsuya Ishida’s Sinfest

11/12/2014

If you aren’t reading Tatsuya Ishinda’s Sinfest web comic, you should.  Here’s a recent continuity not featuring any of his main characters, but nonetheless very moving and important.

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Here’s What I Think re The CIA Torture Report

10/12/2014

least of my brothers cap

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Governor: “Slain Black Male ‘A Common Thug’”

9/12/2014

Governor Thomas Hutchinson of Massachusetts has described the black man killed Monday by soldiers in Boston as “a common thug” and “a fugitive from the law” who brought about his death by attacking lawful authorities, refusing to disperse, and resisting arrest.

Attorney John Adams, representing the soldiers and officers who have been accused of manslaughter, said the slain man had precipitated the conflict by his “mad behavior” at the head of a crowd of “motley rabble.”

William O’Reilly, a well known town crier, observed that the soldiers were assaulted by “saucy boys, negros and molattoes, Irish teagues and outlandish jack tarrs” and thus forced to defend themselves.

Sean Hannity, another well known town crier who works the same side of the street as Mr. O’Reilly but at a different hour, claimed the dead man had “undertaken to be the hero of the night” and had paid the price for his arrogance while Ann Coulter, a notorious scold, said the soldiers were the true victims in this case as they were accosted in performance of their legal duties.  Spinster Coulter also noted that the man was a fugitive with a price on his head having fled his lawful owner.

(William Cosby, the noted educator, was also scheduled to speak at the press conference on the matter of how the victim’s fashion choices had led to the behavior that resulted in his death, but the appearance of a large crowd of angry women carrying pruning shears prompted Mr. Cosby to hastily leave the stage.)

Governor Hutchinson promised Bostonian citizens that the government and military would maintain order in the face of such lawlessness as exhibited Monday, and prevent any further rioting or looting.  He also decried members of the so-called “patriot” movement for attempting to capitalize on Crispus Attucks’ death, saying by definition anyone who refuses to pay his royal taxes unless he is allowed representation in Parliament is no patriot but merely a rebel.

crispus attucks lawt_what_ill_tell_my_kids_about_america_on_independence_day_580x290

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I Luvz Me Some RADIO FREE ALBEMUTH

5/12/2014

PKDRadio_free_albemuth

It’s widely accepted that (a) Philip K. Dick was the greatest novelist to work in the science fiction genre[1] (b) wrote five of the best sci-fi novels ever but (c) nobody can agree which five of his 40+ books those are and (d) was a bugfuck crazy paranoiac and (e) a doper and (f) experienced profound religious visions of a degree that would leave Billy Graham weeping with envy.

Are ya with me so far?

None of which is to say any of that is true or for that matter than any of it is false — or rather, any of that is factual or any of that is fantasy — because the mind and/or universe that PKD inhabited does not seem constrained by simply binary yes/no true/false constructs.

It’s entirely possible they’re all true or none of them are true or they are true and un-true simultaneously or even that they are all true and un-true simultaneously but in a manner we can not comprehend.

Still with me?

PKD may have been crazy but he sure wasn’t stupid and he realized telling too many people outside the circle of sci-fi fandom that he was experiencing intense religious revelations from an entity he sometimes referred to as God but more often as VALIS (Vast Active Living Intelligence System) was a surefire way to get himself even more good & ignored that he already was in his lowly status as sci-fi writer to he turned his experiences into an autobiographical sci-fi trilogy in which he was no the recipient of these visions but rather just a supporting character in another protagonist’s story.

Are ya still with me?

Dick’s work always touches in some form or another on the quest for ultimate Truth, to know what really is is, to tear away the veils & masks around us and truly know our place in the universe.

It is, by its very nature, a religious quest as well as a psychological and philosophical one.  Dick and his characters are seeking operating instructions from on high, something that will give them sense in what appears to be a senseless universe, something that makes the pain and suffering of everyday existence meaningful and worthwhile.

Radio Free Albemuth is a tangential part of Dick’s unfinished VALIS trilogy (the trilogy consisting of VALIS, The Divine Invasion, and the unfinished book The Owl In Daylight).  Essentially a first draft of VALIS, it also differs considerably from the latter book although remaining a fragmentary part of that “universe”.

You see what I’m getting at re not being able to easily categorize PDK’s work?

The variant of Radio Free Albemuth / VALIS that I’d like to draw your attention to, however, is the long-in-production / finally-released feature film, Radio Free Albemuth, currently available on Netflix.

PKDRadio_Free_Albemuth_FilmPoster

Radio Free Albemuth is everything I look for, everything I hope for in not just a sci-fi film but any sort of movie.  It’s actually about something as opposed to senseless / pointless chasing / fighting over a macguffin.

Radio Free Albemuth follows music mogul Nick Brady (Jonathan Scarfe) as he becomes aware of VALIS attempt to communicate with him through an alien[2] satellite orbiting Earth.[3]

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The problem — or perhaps it would be better to say the reason – is that Radio Free Albemuth doesn’t take place in this reality but in an alternate one, where President Ferris F. Fremont[4] rules the US of A with an iron fist, sweeping aside Constitutional limitations and fighting a never ending war against a terrorist organization known as Cobra Aramchek, which apparently exists only in his mind.

Fremont and his Gestapo-like thugs, the Friends of the American People (derisively referred to as FAP in a delicious piece of unintentional irony), fear the message coming from VALIS via the satellite, a message that basically pulls back the curtain and reveals that Fremont’s power and authority comes from a false fear, that all people are capable of living in peace with one another, and that wars and hatred are foisted on us by those seeking power for their own ends.

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Brady and his muse / co-conspirator Sylvia (Alanis Morissette) are tracked down and killed by FAP, and Brady’s friend Philip K. Dick (Shea Whigham) is imprisoned as an enemy of the people.  In prison he learns from a fellow inmate, a former pastor now held for subversive ideas, that the ideas Brady and Sylvia received and tried to spread were identical with those of Jesus and the early Christian church, and that while VALIS and the Truth may have suffered a set back, other followers have gotten the message out and the seeds of a rebellion against the authoritarians is starting to grow.

If this sounds like a too-spot-on transliteration of contemporary US politics, guess again; Radio Free Albemuth was written in 1976 and only published posthumously in 1985.  Dick was long gone from the scene before the country was stampeded off in a panic for a war on terror.

The film is well made; inexpensive, but wisely focusing its attention less on spectacle and more on the attempts of human beings to come to terms with an idea that will transform their world…if they can live long enough to implement it.  It’s well cast, and while production and post-production were strung out for nearly a decade, it looks and feels the right scale for the story.

Highly recommended,
no matter what your
level of reality.

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[1]  Acknowledging that greatest novelist doesn’t mean wrote the best science fiction novel or best writer of science fiction or even best writer of science fiction novels but rather was the best master at the specific art & craft of writing 50-80,000 word stories that we refer to as novel-length format.  Because there’s a lot of truly exception writers vying in this field and although PKD was among the very best, we can’t put him at the absolute pinnacle, so instead we give him a slot near the apex and a qualifier that honors his skill & talent without painting us into a corner quality wise.  ‘Cuz Bradbury and Ellison are duking it out on the short story side and Bester has a lock on the best sci-fi novel ever although his output pales in comparison with Dick’s.

[2]  Implied angelic beings tho never clearly identified as such in the film.

[3]  Dick, in the novel, shifted much of his own experiences away from his character and onto Brady.

[4]  “Let him who has understanding calculate the number of the beast.” — Revelation 13:18 (MEV)

 

 

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