RANGER AGAINST WAR <

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Rebranding

 --Carpetbagger, Thomas Nast  

 As specialists and bureaucrats, human beings become tools,
able to make systems of exploitation and even terror
function efficiently without the slightest sense
of personal responsibility or understanding.
They retreat into the arcane language
of all specialists, to mask what they are doing
and give to their work a sanitized, clinical veneer. 
 --Our Mania for Hope is a Curse, Chris Hedges 

The time will come
When you'll be blue
Your cheatin' heart
Will tell on you 
--Your Cheatin Heart, 
Hank Williams

 They'd call us, gypsies, tramps and thieves
But every night all the men would come around
And lay their money down   
--Gypies, Tramps and Thieves, 
Cher 
 ______________________

Florida is more than the state that brought you Tourist Season, Mickey Mouse and oranges -- it is also the United States' fourth largest cow -calf producing state, so it is with flourish that we mention one of the most lily-livered crimes in our nation's history: the cattle rustle.

In the Old West the branding iron was carried by cattle and horse thieves to alter the brands when rustling livestock. Rustling is a crime, and often, a hanging one. But such will not be the fate of our two Presidential frontrunners, JEB! and Hillary, who have taken the hot iron and re-branded themselves with abandon.

Hillary entered the world as an "XXY", but she has re-branded herself the Double Bar, "XX". Or, for those with a scientific bent, she is now a Double Barr. [RAW considered whether this was too crass, but decided it passed muster. This is not a crumpet-and-clotted cream site, after all.]

Hill presents today as the True Blue wife, mother and grandmother, a veritable Granny Weatherall. Someone who dines at Waffle House and shops at Costco. But who is she, really?

She is a social climber who affixed herself to the bumbling Arkansas boy - Rhodes scholar, Bill Clinton. Her milieu is Old School feminism, lesbians, old hippies, and the plethora of women who have been cheated on or otherwise hard-done-by their mates. On her campaign stops, she is often seen dressing dowdily, like Rosalynn Carter, to appeal to the COSTCO crowd.

During her tenure as Secretary of State she is probably responsible for a multitude of sins, both omitted and committed. Maybe she learned this from Bill, maybe the propensity to untruth is vice versa; perhaps, connubial.

In any event, she has neither the panache nor the aplomb to commit venality with a smile, unlike Bill. Her BRF is as perennially committed as those of Condi Rice or Michele Obama.

Hillary is the Ur-feminist who once told an interviewer that she would not "stand by her man" (if he were proved cheating.) Alas, like all good politicians, she made a deal with the devil and gutted it out. She did stand by her man, and has proceeded  to use him as a stepping stone to the highest office in the land.

BUT, she is a piker up against JEB. As Florida's Governror, JEB stole an entire election for his brother in a grand national tragedy on the par with the best Greek tragedy.

In 2000, Just like the Earps or Clantons in the West of yore, brothers JEB and W marched up to the OK Corral -- the Capital in Tallahassee, FL -- and gunned Democracy into the filthy ground of partisan politics

The Supreme Court stayed the recount of votes in Florida in 2000 (stopped by then Florida Secretary of State Katherine Harris, heiress to a Florida cattle fortune co-chair of George W. Bush's campaign in Florida), which gave the election to Bush. Harris certified GWB as the winner by 537 votes over his Democratic rival, Vice President Al Gore in a highly questionable election resulting from poorly constructed ballots.

Never once did Governor JEB consider any course of action beyond ensuring his brother's theft of Florida's electoral votes in 2000. He never said, "This is an issue of State's rights and the Florida legislature and law, and when contention arises, the U.S. legislative branch should properly address the issue." He failed to support the law of the land.

Supreme Court Justice Stevens wrote in his dissent in the case,

"Time will one day heal the wound to that confidence that will be inflicted by today's decision. One thing, however, is certain. Although we may never know with complete certainty the identity of the winner of this year's Presidential election, the identity of the loser is perfectly clear. It is the Nation's confidence in the judge as an impartial guardian of the rule of law."

JEB!, scion of the wealthy Kennebunkport, Maine, Bush family, is no dummy. He is being branded as an outsider, though he is a consummate insider. (In the same way that Hillary is being branded as a champion for the poor.)

Start with his simple campaign logo: JEB! Many Southern homes feature a photo of J.E.B. Stuart, a Confederate general in the U.S. Civil War [or "War of Northern Aggression" as it is known 'round these parts.] JEB simply HAS to be a good old boy. 

Say it, feel the way it sticks to the roof of your mouth, like divinity on a sweltering humid day. It sounds like "JED", patriarch of t.v.'s Clampett family ("The Beverly Hillbillies"), which derives from the biblical, Jedidiah. So there you have it. An unholy trinity.

JEB is as profligate a character as was his brother, former President GWB -- the man who single-handedly birthed the Clash of Civilizations we have been exposed to daily in the news (in between stories of Jared the Subway huckster and Ms. Jenner.) JEB has the added political bonus of being as sneaky as his father, former President and former head of the Central Intelligence Agency GHW Bush.

There's more, of course. JEB later worked for a New York banking firm which screwed Florida's teachers and other State employees through mismanagement of their retirement investments.

But that's another Florida story.  One more in a time-honored miasma of skulduggery and venality which, like so much other muck, sinks to the bottom of a gator hole, never to be seen again.

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Monday, August 10, 2015

Drifting Right

  The transition from democracy to tyranny
is most easily brought about by a popular leader
who knows how to exploit the class antagonism
between the rich and the poor
within the democratic state,
and who succeeds in building up a bodyguard
of a private army of his own.
The people who have hailed him first
as the champion of freedom are soon enslaved 
--Plato

After such knowledge, what forgiveness?
--Gerontion, T. S. Eliot

The way you wear your hat
The way you sip your tea
The memory of all that
No no they can't take that away from me
--They Can't Take That Away from Me,

Ira Gershwin
____________________

Rifles have either a left or a right rifling, and oddly, most are right twist. This may be a linguistic legacy from Latin which affiliates "evil" with being leftward turning. (As an aside, this is why children especially in parochial schools used to be trained not to be a "lefty".)

This affinity for twist can be seen throughout quantum world, as well. Subatomic particles each have a signature spin. In a most curious analogy to modern man from contemporary physics witness the Majorana fermion, a particle so conflicted that it spins both right and left, ultimately self-destructing. They are their own antiparticles. Madness, no?

But unlike those ruminants among us who are Left-leaning, the Right seems to suffer no qualms about the rightness of its mission, even in the face of its abject and patent absurdity vis-a-vis modernity. We in Florida suffer a surfeit of absurdity in the Presidential candidates which our state fronts.

Florida, the land of underwater mermaids, Marco Rubio and Elian Gonzales, the land which brought the "Latino" out of Hispanic. JEB!, nee "Bush", follows Rubio's lead. [Learning Spanish was the best thing this profligate young Bush scion ever did.] Florida delivers as it ever does on bringing the nation full-on oddities in the name of JEB! and Rubio.

Per the failure of today's Right-thinking: Elections are about the future, yet the field of Republican candidates is staunchly reactionary. Why is that? Because the people of the Republican Party feel themselves to be hard-done-by, and their media stations of choice pummel them with that idea daily.


What are they angry at? What do you got?


They are whipped into a lather by the likes of FOX news and Rush Limbaugh, and the one emotion they have is aggression. Aggression against anyone who does not look or think like they do. They feel this way because they take the prosperous post-Cold War years to be the set-point of how the United States ought to be. But it is not.

They feel that Someone Else is taking the jobs that are rightly theirs, and their ire is directed at any number of indigenous threats to their imagined lost glory. We heard in a store recently a stout woman proclaim, with feeling, "Damn if they'll take my Confederate flag from me."

Echoes of Charlton Heston's "cold, dead hands" speech at a past Republican convention, a pathetic cri-de-cour from a woman not operating at the upper echelons of her nation, yet fully subservient to them, all the while thinking herself to be a player in her world.

She and her cohort know only "No -- you can' take that from me." It is the plaintive cry of the five-year-old who doesn't want to share his toys, yet does not notice that the other kids have niftier toys, anyway.


Lady-- your tattered flag is the least of your beloved nation's concerns.


The mentality is so Hatfield and McCoy. We do it well, and the politicos set us up for it every time.

The problem is, the U.S. no longer controls 50% of the world's manufacturing, and the country is beginning to resemble the America of the turn of the 20th century. We can no longer be the World's Policeman. We never should have been, and that power mindset is a folly which is leading our country to deficit madness.

Both Bush and Rubio exhibit a Cold War mindset of anti-Communism that keeps us pathetically entrenched in an idea which has long passed on. The Domino Theory is dead.

Yet the Cubans in Florida are devoutly anti-Commmunist, and their thinking is front and center in American Right thought. What's on the nightly news? Watch Mother Russia make its power grab in the Crimea and the Georgia province of South Ossetia. But please don't look at China over there, our Most Excellent Favored Trading partner.

The Cold War is dead -- or it should be -- so why doesn't someone pass the word to Rubio, et. al.?


--Jim and Lisa

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Friday, July 10, 2015

Whitewashed, Part Deux

As specialists of apparent life,
stars serve as superficial objects
that people can identify with in order to
compensate for the
fragmented productive specializations
that they actually live 
--Society of the Spectacle,
Guy Debord 

Well now home entertainment was my baby's wish
So I hopped into town for a satellite dish
I tied it to the top of my Japanese car
I came home and I pointed it out into the stars 
--57 Channels (And Nuthin' On),  
Bruce Springsteen 

Too much information
running through my brain
Too much information
driving me insane
--Too Much Information,
The Police
 ___________________

While Ms. Dolezal's choice to be black might make for an interesting study in Post Modern Culture or perhaps some journal on psychopathology, it is not national news. No moreso than if a woman with black genetics passed as white. Ditto the former Bruce Jenner's gender reassignment surgery and all of the other bosh which fills out the so-called news programming, the pseudo-news.

It fills someone's agenda of anger and outrage keeping the issues of blackness and transgenderedness on the front of the tabloids and news, which are indistinguishable today.

The television news always leads with a shocking event, the tragic or the sensational. On a dog day that might have to be a tornado in Kansas which does not affect the other 49 states (it is called "Tornado Alley" for a reason.) And while these sorts of things might credibly open a local news program, they have no place being featured on the national news 

Yet that is where they now perch, front and center.

All programs could be called "Entertainment Tonight" today, all created to gain your rapt gaze, to fix you and satisfy you as a mute voyeur. There is no need for you to cogitate or communicate what you have viewed as it is all masticated and predigested for you. Fast food for your brain.

One might wonder if there is anything beyond bread and circuses which motivates programing today. Rather than being motivated by exaltation at the inspiring, we are daily dragged through the muck in the media -- the ugliest places that policemen, doctors and social workers are paid to navigate.

In its early days t.v. featured playhouse events and straight news. Commentary was labeled as such. Broadcasting was not 24/7, and it's goal was not to lull the viewer into an insouciant dullness but to provide something provocative and substantive.

But it was not long before game shows and soap operas found their niche, and the hopes for a high-minded educational medium soon faded.

Today we have so much more connectivity than that provided by a few network stations, but our skills at living a good life alongside our media  masters have not increased. The majority of our days are spent in feverish communications via our electronic devices, but what exactly are we accomplishing?

With the new threat of death-by-lifestyle (=sitting while glued to our devices), so much for "better living through science".

As Science magazine reported, in causes of death, "infectious disease has been eclipsed by long-term chronic disease, closely followed by humans themselves." While man's ability to develop technology continues apace, his ability to digest it is limited. As Martin Luther King, Jr. said of our military capabilities, we have guided missiles but misguided men.


e
--Dodd Hall frieze

A frieze over the entrance to the first library at FSU (Dodd Hall) states,"The half of knowledge is knowing where to find knowledge". Until the last couple of decades that was true. One would scour the card catalogs and microfiche and conduct one's own "meta studies" to verify a thesis which one wished to investigate. Finding knowledge was a skill.

However, the "half" which was NOT knowing where to find it was taken care of. People thought about things. Without having to escape to an ashram, they somehow found the time to think and to determine meet concerns and what constituted rightness for themselves.

Now knowledge is a blitz. We have immediate access to a torrent of info from any place, but we do not know how to ask the questions. We lack for the "What" or the "Why"? The implications of this in our media-saturated world is, we don't know how to live.

We have continual media feeds from every source to which we subscribe, but it seems that the rate of flow of data has taken precedence over our ability to enlist our own discretion. There is no time for careful mulling over of the fitness of the question or of the answers. What has taken its place is a mute miasma of data scrolling through our lives on an unceasing dumb feed. Like lava erupting from a volcano, there is no way stop it.


In the meantime, while we are amusing ourselves to death, actual issues are marching across the nation's stage:

-- The UN reports the world faces a 40 percent shortfall in freshwater in as soon as 15 years (World Water Development Report)
-- salmon and trout are facing a die off in Oregon due to unprecedented drought.

-- accessible solar technology is ignored (Power to the People)

-- children are not learning to socialize (Screen Addiction Has taken a Toll on Children)

-- a superpower like the United States cannot rebuild parts of its rail line taken out several years after the last hurricane in the Southeast

In central Florida, Lake Apopka and its Chain of Lakes --what was once a renowned bass fishing resort -- now has transgendered fish and frogs, by no choice of their own (unlike former decathelete Ms. Jenner.) Their plight is due to decades of toxic runoff from the muck farming in the rich soil surrounding the lake.

That's the merest beginning of actual issues which might occupy our thought ... were the Marching Morons to halt and do an about face before their next video game session.

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Saturday, July 04, 2015

A Good Show from the Bully Pulpit: Charleston II


The news slows, people forget
The shares crash, hopes are dashed
People forget, forget they're hiding 
--Eminence Front,
Pete Townshend   

Come fly with me, let's float down to Peru
In llama-land there's a one-man band
And he'll toot his flute for you 
--Come Fly with Me,
Frank Sinatra

 The mind of this country,
 taught to aim at low objects,
eats upon itself
--Ralph Waldo Emerson
______________________

More on President Obama's Charleston performance:


Certainly, it was good for animating the black vote if not a little disingenuous, summoning as it did his beloved-but-thrown-under-the-bus Reverend Wright's call-and-response cadence.

Why did the President show up at a church service for the nine victims of the shooting at Emanuel AME church? Surely there have been other more spectacular spree killings during his term, yet he was not a presence at those locations. As with the Democratic contingent present at Michael Brown's funeral, this event is being used to advance a racial agenda.

Such preferential attention shows favoritism not befitting a United State's President. While all murders are lamentable, they should not be exploited to further an agenda. One expects Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton and the crew of regulars to take the photo op while mouthing their incendiary rhetoric, but the President should front a rational and non-partisan position.

If the President will not sing Amazing Grace at a soldier's funeral, then why at a civilian's? Four thousand + soldiers have been killed in our Phony War on Terror (PWOT ©), so if the loss of good people for no forseeable reason so destabilizes him that he must sing a public spiritual, surely he could have made one token appearance for his fallen soldiers as Commmander-in Chief.


So when did Presidency-as-performance art begin?

One could say a (perhaps) intentional pandering to the masses began with President Lyndon Johnson's showing of his gall bladder surgery scars and infamous bathroom phone dispatches, or his lifting of his beagle, Him, by its ears. Though somewhat vulgar, Johnson was a cunning man, and what is the Latin root of "vulgar" but the common man.

For that section of America which he was brought on the Kennedy presidential ticket to woo, the non-Nantucket contingent, Johnson was the common man and scored points on the "realness" scale with these actions.

Next. President Nixon always groomed his underdog image ("You won't have Nixon to kick around anymore"), though this was probably more a statement of fact than of cultivation.

President Reagan was in fact an actor. Fantasy collided with reality in his very facticity, and there is little more to say. But his election was a watershed moment in manifesting Guy Debord's Society of the Spectacle. 

It was then but a small jump to candidate Clinton's saxophone playing on the Arsenio Hall Show, and Obama's MySpace, Facebook and Twitter accounts and attempts to be Old School (EWF, Bob Dylan), New School (Jay-Z; Ludacris) by telling the nation what he has on his iPod, to be both black, white and everything in between.

As President Lincoln once said, you can't please all of the people all of the time. Though a politician is always mindful of pulling in as many special interests as possible, Mr. Obama's crooning pandering at the Emanuel AME church was a spectacular new low.

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Wednesday, July 01, 2015

Charleston

This is politics at its finest
--Wag the Dog (1997)

And that's what it is,
the Alice's Restaurant Anti-Massacre Movement,
and all you got to do to join is sing it
the next time it come's around
--Alice's Restaurant Massacree,
Arlo Guthrie


 Hatred is the most accessible and comprehensive 
of all unifying agents 
--The True Believer, Eric Hoffer
_______________________

In another Wag the Dog moment not to be unexploited, President Obama plied his pipes last Friday at the Emanuel AME church in Charleston, SC, the site of the killings of nine black parishioners.

While the killing was surely a hate crime, against which we have legislation, it was not a massacre as the hyperbolic press is wont to label it. Massacres involve groups acting in symbolic ways. Instead, this was the deranged act of a pathetic, rootless individual.

The President performed a call and response near the end of his oratory: “Clementa Pinckney found that grace,” repeating the phrase after each victim's name. No, they did not find grace but were rather murdered in a deluded individual's vulgar and tawdry attempt at self-glorification. In a self-contradiction, Obama later said, "In the Christian tradition, grace is not earned."

Perhaps more horrifying than the actual killing is the fact that twelve years into the war on terror, none of our military or intelligence was able to predict or deter this event. This was neither an act of terrorism nor of home-grown or sleeper cells of terrorists. This was simply an act of good old-fashioned American hatred. It is a hate crime -- nothing but.

Mr. Obama may fly down in Air Force 1 and interpose himself in a show of force, but he was and is powerless to predict or stop such acts. He may order drone strikes world wide, but they do not make us any safer from terrorists, criminals, or crazy, crusading idiots.

People like the shooter give off little of a predictive nature. When they do, it is often within the confines of their little crazy worlds, often lived in the bubble of innumerable virtual chat rooms, and thought crime is not yet prosecutable. 

Hatred is the glue that holds the world together. Even for those who claim fealty to a religion, it is a hard row to hoe to "love thy neighbor" (= The Other) when your religion -- any religion -- gains its legitimacy by virtue of cleaving from every other. This is by definition, and a built-in failure of most dogma.

You are you, by virtue of not being THEM, and the "them" is an excoriated unknown, condemned by your creator to a life of everlasting torment in the hereafter, at best.

Meanwhile, when the Charleston story was claiming the spotlight, heinous and murderous violence continued apace throughout the world. Hatred and opposable thumbs (to create and carry weapons) may be the defining feature of the hominids -- not a great legacy.

To refashion the lyrics of songwriter George Gershwin, "In time the Rockies may crumble / Gibralter may tumble / There're only made of clay / But ..." hatred is here to stay. Our biracial President trying to get his groove on singing a negro spiritual will not alter the fact. 

We are a nation of hatred and violence protected by a government that holds hatred and violence near and dear. Oh, if you kill the right ones, that is. Someone else's mammas and pappas.

Then the leaders of that same government cry crocodile tears when the violence is visited on the home team. 
It is a predictable and sad story, and the "sad" is a double entendre.

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Thursday, June 18, 2015

Whitewashed

 

 I feel pretty
Oh so pretty
I feel pretty and witty and gay
And I pity
Any girl who isn't me today 
--Westside Story 

The Ku Klux Klan, who saw Zelig as a Jew,
that could turn himself into a Negro and an Indian,
saw him as a triple threat
--Zelig (1983)

He married me up at the First Church of Harlem.
He told me he was the brother of Duke Ellington.
--Zelig (1983)

~I'm colored, Mr. Townsend. I'm a Negro.
~Gerber, what the hell have you been doing - 
sitting under a sunlamp? 
--Watermelon Man (1970)

Who in this world is what they seem to be? 
--The Spanish Prisoner (1997)
______________________


So Rachel Dolezal, a white woman, wants to be black -- our latest tempest in a teacup. How is this relevant to RangerAgainstWar?  Just wait.

First, the obvious: another example of not telling the whole truth. Some are bemused by Dolezal's fabulation ("girl got the hair"); others, outraged at the dissimulation.

But why does it make print that a white woman chose to present as black? If former Olympian Bruce Jenner wants to now be "Caitlyn" because he identifies that way, we are meanies if we do not accept her as a woman. But we mayn't cross the color bar (white-to-black). Why is that?

The first subtext is, who could imagine a desire to be black? Whereas blacks have been "passing" for generations in order to be better situated socially, it seems untenable to them that a "privileged" white woman (all white people are privileged, right?) would want to turn the other way. (This is not to defend Dolezal, per se, who seems like a troubled individual created by a chaotic family.)

New York Times Op-Ed writer Charles Blow wrote a tortuous column opposing Ms. Dolezal because hers was "a form of one-directional privilege that simply isn’t available to a black person." This is illogical EOE thinking, in extremis. Blow even admits "[race] is a societal construct" while trying to deny this participation to Dolezal. He accuses her of linguistic somersaults, yet his piece is full of them.

A female New York Times Op-Ed writer presented a similar non-sequitur argument against Dolezal that historically one has been labeled "black" if only 1/64th black. She seemed angry that this "one drop" rule was imposed upon the black race, but she did not address why she found it unacceptable for a zero-dropped individual to choose for negritude.


--Zelig (Woody Allen) turning black at Jazz club

Why be upset? Blacks do not mind that light-complexioned blacks have "passed" as white, nor do they mind whites co-opting blackness when following rap gansta culture, even adopting the patois and the dress.  What made Dolezal's emulation so unpalatable?

White women may co-opt pieces of blackness, like Bo Derek's cornrows, but they may not fake being black, unlike blacks who may fake being white.

The second subtext is that there are only so many good EOE-type positions available to blacks, and perhaps only a limited pool of qualified applicants for them. Therefore, Dolezal the white woman is cheating a black out of his or her rightful EOE slot. It is a not-so-subtle denigration of blacks by blacks that a white person could do black better than a "real" black person.

As a black woman of power and position, Dolezal would also have entree to a rarefied pool of desirable black males for possible relationship, another thing which many black women are protective of. With one in five black males incarcerated at any given time and a matriarchal culture, relationship-worthy high level black males are at a premium, and Dolezal through her dissimulation would have access to the pick of the litter. Especially in a black culture which favors light-skinned blacks.

Dolezal's "tan and black" costume rendered all of the prizes of the Equal Opportunity system at her fingertips.

There is also the unfortunate overlay of minstrelsy, which threatened Dolezal's project as a possible grand mime. She could simply be some striving academic trying to make a name for herself in a future study by going undercover for years, unlike John Howard Griffin (Black Like Me) who could only carry on his charade for a limited time.

But by all accounts, Dolezal has been a genuine and effective advocate for black rights, and her job as President of the Seattle NAACP was not race-dependent. Dolezal's earlier claim against Howard University for reverse racism against her then-identification as a white woman opens up space for a sincere dialog, as did Edward Bakke's reverse discrimination lawsuit in 1977.

Humans tribe up, and it is that exclusionary and insular impulse which we must fight if we are to become an inclusionary world, a world in which we are all part of the human race. While the media is forcing various agendas in the name of removing exclusions -- such as affording the rights of marriage to gay couples and the inclusion of various gendered individual in the Armed forces  -- it is interesting that the racial line is being so vigorously protected.

If a person may go through religious conversions, naturalization ceremonies and gender reassignment, why is one not allowed to choose the race with which one will affiliate?

Probably, it has mostly to do with a scarcity mentality and economics. As in the film Soul Man (1986) where a white student claims for being black in order to gain college entree and tuition subsidies, blacks do not want to share this EOE windfall. It is similar to the Veterans Administration ratings system for medical treatment. Those prioritized in the upper echelons are just grateful that they are not at the bottom of the heap, and do not often fight for an equality in the treatment system for those lower down.

This is what preferential treatment hath wrought -- a mean and petty protectiveness of the succored individual's standing. Divide and conquer.

Whenever a system can get its members to participate in competitive and exclusionary behavior, there will not be the peace of a fully-functioning system.

The tie-in to RAW?:

This attitude of exclusive ownership without an honest discussion of what being black means is why racism persists in the U.S., for surely the black censure of Dolezal is racism, and racism is a form of war.

In the Middle East we see this harsh affiliation/disaffiliation playing out daily in a deadly game. If the warring members could rise above and see they are all one, with an agenda of a better life for them and their families, there would be a new day.

If divisions like race were not so contested and protected, perhaps the racial crimes we continue to witness would disappear. The guarding of race by the black community via harsh criticism of others reveals an exclusivity guaranteeing their isolation and resentment.

Unfortunately, the human animal cleaves from just as strongly as it cleaves to


NEXT: A wrap up on our general blindsightedness.

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Saturday, June 13, 2015

Confabulatory Amnesia in America


In particular, it should be possible
to have a highly meaningful life
that is not necessarily a happy one
(e.g., as religious missionary,
political activist, or terrorist.) 
--Some Key Differences Between
a Happy Life and a Meaingful Life,
Roy F. Baumeister, et, al.  

 The less justified a man is in claiming excellence
for his own self,
the more ready is he to claim excellence
for his nation, his religion, his race or his holy cause  
--The True Believer, Eric Hoffer 

A land which … had given itself up to dreaming,
to fabulating, to tale-telling
--Lawrence Durrell 
____________________

Review: Morris Berman’s New Book on Japan, “Neurotic Beauty”

June 13, 2015 // 2 Comments
neurotic beauty

Neurotic Beauty: An Outsider Looks At Japan is a fine addition to a long list of books that attempt to explain Japan, what one observer has called the “most foreign of foreign countries.” Berman succeeds in his explanation mostly by avoiding the polarized industry of such explainers. To put Neurotic Beauty in context, let me explain.


The Explainer Industry
Almost all books “about Japan” (I’m leaving out the 600 page volumes on the geisha or the photo essays on whatever new trend is coming out of Harajuku) fall into one of two categories.
The predominant narrative declares Japan a near-perfect place, an epicenter of pure Zen that has whatever the author thinks his home country lacks. The minority opinion is that Japan has come over the hill and because of its poor treatment of women workers, warlike past or economic hollowness or whatever, is doomed to be a footnote when the history of modern civilization is written. Perhaps some sort of Switzerland with much better food.
Berman asks: Why can’t both be true? Why can’t Japan be a place with a once beautiful, encompassing culture of craftsmanship, that lost its way in the modern world and, if it can find again what it really is about at its core, become the first post-capitalist country?


A Cultural History of Japan, with an Angle
The book’s argument begins with a look at what Berman sees as Japan’s cultural soul, craftsmanship. He details the relationship early potters, sword makers and others had with their work, a desire to do more than simply make something — a desire to create themselves as human beings through a quest for perfection in their work.
Inklings of this tradition still exist in modern Japan, as anyone who has seen the documentary Jiro Dreams of Sushi can attest to. The sushi master requires his apprentices to practice for years before they can prepare food for customers, and the very few who stay on through the process get great joy from the process, more so than the results.


Japan Went Insane
As the Tokugawa (for simplicity’s sake, the samurai) era was coming to a close, Japan went insane, and abandoned all that, according to Berman. Fearful of being turned into a colony of the west, as was happening in China, the Japanese embarked on the Meiji Restoration. Science and engineering became the sole point of education, aimed in large part at building up a powerful military. Those forces, in imitation of the colonial west, would be turned on Japan’s Asian neighbors. Japan made itself almost literally overnight into as rapacious an imperialist nation as it possibly could.
And at that point, Berman draws a straight line through Nanjing, Pearl Harbor, Hiroshima and Nagasaki, leading right to the surrender that ended WWII. But instead of finding its way back to something of itself, Japan simply dropped capitalism in its imperial guise and picked it up in its hyper-consumerism guise. The so-called economic miracle of the 1960’s put appliances into homes and money into the hands of a booming middle class, but did nothing to fill the soul. The lost decades, and the current spiritual malaise in Japan as exemplified by the hikikomori and otaku cultures, were as inevitable as the spring rains which tear the cherry blossoms from the trees.


A Post-Capitalist Society
If you are at this point seeing some parallels to modern America, that is clearly intentional on Berman’s part (one of his earlier works is titled Dark Ages America: The Final Phase of Empire). Japan has been trying to “fill the hole” in its spiritual center for nearly a thousand years, first with Chinese learning (including Chinese Buddhism), then with a martial culture, then with imperialism, and, most lately, with consumerism. None stick; they are all too unfulfilling and incomplete.
The key difference between Japan and the U.S., however, is that because it has a legitimate soul to potentially return to (from the day the first Native American was murdered, America has been all about appetite), Japan holds on to a chance that it may become the first post-capitalist society, one where living becomes more important than owning. This is a theme which will be not unfamiliar to readers of Berman’s last book, Spinning Straw Into Gold: Straight Talk for Troubled Times. In Japan, there is something to fall back on.
It is a tall order, and Berman remains unsure what path Japan will take. Should it make the correct choice, however, the trope “only in Japan” could come to represent something more than Hello Kitty junk, bullet trains and cosplay.
Agree or disagree, Neurotic Beauty is a compelling, scholarly, narrative well-worth the time of readers seeking a better understanding of Japan.

I make no secret of my respect for Morris Berman’s body of work; read more here.
- See more at: http://wemeantwell.com/#sthash.Se3YOzNe.dpuf

Review: Morris Berman’s New Book on Japan, “Neurotic Beauty”

June 13, 2015 // 2 Comments
neurotic beauty

Neurotic Beauty: An Outsider Looks At Japan is a fine addition to a long list of books that attempt to explain Japan, what one observer has called the “most foreign of foreign countries.” Berman succeeds in his explanation mostly by avoiding the polarized industry of such explainers. To put Neurotic Beauty in context, let me explain.


The Explainer Industry
Almost all books “about Japan” (I’m leaving out the 600 page volumes on the geisha or the photo essays on whatever new trend is coming out of Harajuku) fall into one of two categories.
The predominant narrative declares Japan a near-perfect place, an epicenter of pure Zen that has whatever the author thinks his home country lacks. The minority opinion is that Japan has come over the hill and because of its poor treatment of women workers, warlike past or economic hollowness or whatever, is doomed to be a footnote when the history of modern civilization is written. Perhaps some sort of Switzerland with much better food.
Berman asks: Why can’t both be true? Why can’t Japan be a place with a once beautiful, encompassing culture of craftsmanship, that lost its way in the modern world and, if it can find again what it really is about at its core, become the first post-capitalist country?


A Cultural History of Japan, with an Angle
The book’s argument begins with a look at what Berman sees as Japan’s cultural soul, craftsmanship. He details the relationship early potters, sword makers and others had with their work, a desire to do more than simply make something — a desire to create themselves as human beings through a quest for perfection in their work.
Inklings of this tradition still exist in modern Japan, as anyone who has seen the documentary Jiro Dreams of Sushi can attest to. The sushi master requires his apprentices to practice for years before they can prepare food for customers, and the very few who stay on through the process get great joy from the process, more so than the results.


Japan Went Insane
As the Tokugawa (for simplicity’s sake, the samurai) era was coming to a close, Japan went insane, and abandoned all that, according to Berman. Fearful of being turned into a colony of the west, as was happening in China, the Japanese embarked on the Meiji Restoration. Science and engineering became the sole point of education, aimed in large part at building up a powerful military. Those forces, in imitation of the colonial west, would be turned on Japan’s Asian neighbors. Japan made itself almost literally overnight into as rapacious an imperialist nation as it possibly could.
And at that point, Berman draws a straight line through Nanjing, Pearl Harbor, Hiroshima and Nagasaki, leading right to the surrender that ended WWII. But instead of finding its way back to something of itself, Japan simply dropped capitalism in its imperial guise and picked it up in its hyper-consumerism guise. The so-called economic miracle of the 1960’s put appliances into homes and money into the hands of a booming middle class, but did nothing to fill the soul. The lost decades, and the current spiritual malaise in Japan as exemplified by the hikikomori and otaku cultures, were as inevitable as the spring rains which tear the cherry blossoms from the trees.


A Post-Capitalist Society
If you are at this point seeing some parallels to modern America, that is clearly intentional on Berman’s part (one of his earlier works is titled Dark Ages America: The Final Phase of Empire). Japan has been trying to “fill the hole” in its spiritual center for nearly a thousand years, first with Chinese learning (including Chinese Buddhism), then with a martial culture, then with imperialism, and, most lately, with consumerism. None stick; they are all too unfulfilling and incomplete.
The key difference between Japan and the U.S., however, is that because it has a legitimate soul to potentially return to (from the day the first Native American was murdered, America has been all about appetite), Japan holds on to a chance that it may become the first post-capitalist society, one where living becomes more important than owning. This is a theme which will be not unfamiliar to readers of Berman’s last book, Spinning Straw Into Gold: Straight Talk for Troubled Times. In Japan, there is something to fall back on.
It is a tall order, and Berman remains unsure what path Japan will take. Should it make the correct choice, however, the trope “only in Japan” could come to represent something more than Hello Kitty junk, bullet trains and cosplay.
Agree or disagree, Neurotic Beauty is a compelling, scholarly, narrative well-worth the time of readers seeking a better understanding of Japan.

I make no secret of my respect for Morris Berman’s body of work; read more here.
- See more at: http://wemeantwell.com/#sthash.Se3YOzNe.dpuf
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Further thoughts on the government's mythologizing of the Osama bin Laden raid.

It has been Ranger's consistent position that the age of terror was a sham which served no useful purpose to the citizens of the United States. The profiteers of the fabulation are many, however -- everyone from the contractors feeding off the military feeding off the government, to Hollywood.  A somewhat moribund film industry has found a new way with the pyrotechnics of the much-too-many films exploiting the easy meme of all against Terrorists.

Media has taken the Western out of the mothballs, and Destry Rides Again. The template is an easy one, and computers create vivid canvasses across which our eyes move and our brains are re-wired.

RangerAgainstWar has analyzed many of the Medal of Honor actions in Iraq and Afghanistan, and concluded that, while based upon actual battles, the facts have been massaged, misrepresented and sometimes created and/or omitted as serves the meta-story (= This is a great battle against misshapen, craven malcontents, and the U.S. is there to save them -- an undefined quantity -- and us.)

However, since the Dakota Myers MOH it was clear the USMC and Navy were willing to stretch the truth. The same is true with Lieutenant Murphy's MOH, sanctified by Marcus Luttrell's hagiographic and ass-covering tale, The Lone Survivor. May as well kill two birds with one stone.

Ditto the book and subsequent movie, "American Sniper", based upon the life of the truest, bluest fightinist man since John Wayne. If you can get the people stomping mad and teary at once over one of the best if not brightest of theirs, you have won them. There are no more questions. Dismissed. Go to Chilis and watch a game (any will do) on t.v. and feel good (if not great) about being American.

Ranger's questioning is called unpatriotic blasphemy by some. But questioning the stories upon which a grave and lengthy military operation is based is the highest expression of freedom and love of country, and kicking ass in foreign lands is not the only way to be a hero.

So what does a people do when they learn the coveted truth upon which their democracy is based has been conflated with a fiction? When, contrary to the story of the brave troop of national leaders who sat riveted, watching the live feed of the OBL operation, they were in fact they were just watching another home invasion murder, as tawdry and meaningless as as a cop shooting down a man in Ferguson, Mo.?

The Middle East continues to flounder after untold loss of life and money. The (hoped for) redemptive OBL action was in fact a simple assassination, costly, but of no worth to anyone. Now we know the fix was in and it was scripted, a wrap before the helicopter lowered the troops into OBL's courtyard.

The is No Easy Day to be an American.

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