Category: Rants (Page 2 of 10)

Cramped | Photo by Gerrie van der Walt on Unsplash

Squeezed to Death

If you have to evacuate an airliner in a hurry, can you get out of your extremely cramped seat and row fast enough? Probably not. And then you have to dodge all the idiots trying to save all their luggage and personal electronic devices at glacial paces.

But it’s the ever-shrinking seat and row size that will probably be the deadliest problem if there’s a problem with the over-stuffed aluminum tube in which you’re squeezed because most of the country is too damn cheap to pay more than $29 to get from Dubuque to Miami. « At least one editorial » (which was probably ignored and forgotten faster than that flight took to get from Dubuque to Miami) sounded an alarm:

“Given how passengers have grown in inverse proportion to the spaciousness of airliner seats, anything like ‘expeditious’ evacuation of an entire airliner seems doubtful. … Under such constraints, can today’s jets be evacuated in the 90 seconds mandated by the F.A.A.? Not according to passenger advocacy groups like Flyers Rights, which has repeatedly and unsuccessfully petitioned the F.A.A. to use its rule-making authority to stop airlines from shrinking seats and passenger space. Not according to Representatives Peter DeFazio, Democrat of Oregon, and Rick Larsen, Democrat of Washington, who have asked the Transportation Department’s inspector general to investigate F.A.A. safety standards that haven’t been updated in decades. Incredibly, it will require an act of Congress to ensure that the F.A.A. does something, because the agency has denied that seat sizes and body mass index are factors in emergencies. The agency has even denied that it has the authority to regulate airliner seat size.”

The New York Times

As always in this country, it will take a massive tragedy and lots of unnecessarily burned/maimed/dead people before we do something about this. Pity.

Photo of HIroshima destruction in 1945

Of Manifestoes and Buildings and Truman and Stuff

[Edited two days later to fix some typos and unclear, stream-of-consciousness-type unclear phrases.]

During the recent effort to rename the Russell Senate Office Building, it would have been nice to remember that both Richard Russell, the building’s current namesake, and John McCain, the proposed replacement namesake, (while useful tools to poke the likes of President Orange Poopy Pants and the Supreme Court), weren’t total paragons of virtue all the time.

Where McCain is concerned, his virtues are many and have been told rather exhaustively this past week. As for his vices, well, two words should be highlighted when his legacy is recounted: “Sarah” and “Palin.”

As for the namesake guy, Richard Brevard Russell Jr., United States Senator from the Peach State of Georgia, well, his legacy needs a few more words than just two (although if you want to stick to just two, how about “white” and “supremacist”?). Let’s just look on the ol’ internettubesweb, shall we and see what we can see about ol’ RBR?

“Russell supported racial segregation and co-authored the Southern Manifesto with Strom Thurmond. Russell and 17 fellow Democratic and one Republican senators blocked the passage of civil rights legislation via the filibuster. After Lyndon Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act of 1964, Russell led a Southern boycott of the 1964 Democratic National Convention.”

Wikipedia (ugh; sorry, lazy reference)

The “Southern Manifesto” was, what, exactly? Stay with me here. The Supreme Court ended “separate but equal” educational facilities and opportunities for different races in Brown v. the Board of Education of Topeka in 1954. This pissed off a lot of people (and they and their grandkids are still pissed off about it in 2018), so, in 1956, a bunch of pissed off Congress critters got together and said they supported the Constitution, just not certain parts of it, like the Supreme Court deciding on the Constitutionality of stuff that the Congress critters decreed.

The pissed-off Congress critters also supported, of course, the Only Amendments Which Count: the Second [genuflect when you say that] and the Tenth [look bewildered and take their word for it; be prepared to genuflect when they tell you to genuflect]. Therefore, they, the pissed off Congress critters, would Just. Not. Have. Any. Of. Brown v. Board.

So, like outraged teenagers who for the first time have learned about stuff like the existence of poverty or CIA assassinations or student loan debt or their university’s investments in repressive regimes such as South Africa or Israel or the U.S., they (stay with me here: “they” means the pissed-off Congress critters) got together and issued forth AN MANIFESTO, in which they laid down the law.

Here are the choicest excerpts, with my sarcastic comments in brackets:

“We commend the motives of those States which have declared the intention to resist forced integration by any lawful means.” [I suppose that in the South it was lawful to throw yourself bodily across the entrance to schools and universities when negroes show up, so I give ’em that point.]

“We appeal to the States and people who are not directly affected by these decisions to consider the constitutional principles involved against the time when they too, on issues vital to them may be the victims of judicial encroachment. [Slippery, slippery!! Today: Miscegenation in Miss-ssippi; tomorrow: Legal cocksucking in Boston!]

“Even though we constitute a minority in the present Congress, we have full faith that a majority of the American people believe in the dual system of government which has enabled us to achieve our greatness and will in time demand that the reserved rights of the States and of the people be made secure against judicial usurpation. [We have a tripartite system of guv’mint, not a dual, dumbasses, but let’s not quibble over our greatness being derived from two or three systems. These pissed-off Congress critters are saying that even though a majority rejected their being in the majority in the Congress, they were certain that the majority supported their minority in believing …something something about the Tenth Amendment. As for “Judicial usurpation,” that term has been gradually replaced with the more down-to-earth term “judicial activism,” which now means “any court’s decision we don’t like, especially the ones about equal negroes, women in control of their bodies, brown-skinned immigration, prying guns from our cold dead hands, and … those other ones, like the ones letting queers live and shit, yeah, those.”]

“We pledge ourselves to use all lawful means to bring about a reversal of this decision which is contrary to the Constitution and to prevent the use of force in its implementation. [Now here, the pissed-off Congress critters were on to something. Under the rubric of invoking “Massive Resistance,” they noted that it was lawful for whites to take their children and their money to whites-only private schools in redlined housing developments, meaning Brown v. Board was pretty much dead from the get-go. As for the last clause in the MANIFESTO, the pissed off Congress critters failed to prevent the usage of the National Guard a few times to enforce the decision (damnit John F. Kennedy and, er, um, Dwight Eisenhower!!), then got all friendly with the same National Guard when it executed four dirty hippies at Kent State. [Sarcasm ahead] “Use your guns to kill the hippies, just don’t use them to make my precious pale son sit next to an icky black nappy-headed five-year-old negress in kindergarten show-and-tell.”[/Sarcasm]]

“In this trying period, as we all seek to right this wrong, we appeal to our people not to be provoked by the agitators and troublemakers invading our States and to scrupulously refrain from disorder and lawless acts.” [“Sons and Daughters of the South! This is a “trying” period as we seek to save the White Race from extinction through the diabolical use of court orders to force our chill’run to share their coloring books and colors with the Colored! Be on the lookout for: Agitators! Troublemakers! Fifth Columnists! Carpetbaggers! Miscegenationists! Thugs! MS-13ers! But even as these Yankees sack and pillage our fair Southern lands for the second time in a hundred years and threaten a formal Second War of Northern Aggression, you all should scrupulously refrain from touching a hair on their comma-nist heads in a disorderly and lawless fashion. Mess ’em up while they “resist arrest,” then haul their asses to Parchman and shoot ’em “while trying to escape.” Just do it all in a lawful fashion.]

Declaration of Constitutional Principles, or, “The Southern Manifesto,” the start of “Massive Resistance” to Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, 1956. Bracketed words are my own sarcastic commentary and not in the original document.

So this is fun! Oh, but wait! This just in …

“[Richard Russell] proclaimed his faith in the “family farm” and supported most New Deal programs for parity, rural electrification, and farm loans, and supported promoting agricultural research, providing school lunches and giving surplus commodities to the poor. He was the chief sponsor of the National School Lunch Act of 1946 with the dual goals of providing proper nutrition for all children and of subsidizing agriculture.”

Wikipedia (ugh again I say ugh)

Oh! That puts a better light on him …

But wait again! School lunches for negroes weren’t, er, they were the same but just separately equal, you see. And Russell’s political heirs are trying mightily as we speak to trash what is left of the school lunch program. With Imperial Queen Betsy “If You Don’t Buy Some Amway, My Crazy Creepy Mercenary Brother Will Shoot Your Ass” DeVos in charge of the Dept. of Ed. and Sonny “Negro Slaves Served in the Confederate Armies and Loved It!” Perdue in charge of the Dept. of Ag, that children are learning and anyone is eating is rather a major Jesus-sized miracle at this point. But I digress as always.

Okay, you get the point. Man is always, unlike our system of government, a duality: good/evil, light/dark, well-intentioned/malevolent. Russell was no different. There was some good mixed in with the … wait, what’s this? … “In the 1930s and 1940s, Russell participated in Southern filibusters to block federal bills aimed at suppressing lynchings and poll taxes” [Hartford Courant]. Well hell’s bells! Screw it. Alright, Russell was an asshole and the building should be renamed. Maybe not for John “Sarah Palin” McCain and maybe not as an intentional tweak on the nose of President Orange Tantrum Pants, but for someone of better moral fiber. I propose “The Colin Kaepernick Senate Office Building.”

What brought this tirade on? Actually, I just finished The Accidental President, A.J. Baime’s very good detailing of Harry Truman’s incredibly historic first four months as president in 1945. In the book, it seems the very same pissed-off Senator Richard Russell makes an appearance at the end. While Truman was dealing with everything from the atom bomb to Joseph Stalin to the Japanese to the Chicago Tribune to the very pissed off Reluctant First Lady Bess (a.k.a. The Boss), he had to deal with Richard Russell.

Russell, ever-outraged Southern Belle whose barrel hoops have become hopelessly entangled in several of his seven layers of petticoats, sent a letter to Truman telling Harry S., nay, DEMANDING that Harry S. grab that [sarcasm ahead warning] slanty-eyed Jap bastard Emperor Hirohito and hang him like he was a negro attempting to enter an elementary school, [/sarcasm] er, uh, rather, hang him like a war criminal.

In response, Harry S. delivered a perfect, vintage “Give ’em hell, Harry!” response:

“Truman had received a missive from Senator Richard Russell, Democrat of Georgia, who asked that the United States continue bombing until the Japanese ‘beg us to accept unconditional surrender.’ Russell believed ‘the vast majority of the American people’ thought the emperor ‘should go,’ and that ‘if we do not have available a sufficient number of atomic bombs with which to finish the job immediately, let us carry on with TNT and fire bombs until we can produce them.’

“(To this, Truman responded: ‘I certainly regret the necessity of wiping out whole populations because of the “pigheadedness” of the leaders of a nation and, for your information, I am not going to do it unless it is absolutely necessary . . . My objective is to save as many American lives as possible but I also have a humane feeling for the women and children of Japan.’)”

A. J. Baime. The Accidental President New York: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 2018

And so, we have a major government office building named after a white supremacist/professional outrage machine/snowflake who voted to let small children have lunch but who was on the receiving end of one of Harry’s best “Give ’em Hell” smackdowns. I’ll bet he sure lost his pantaloons over Harry’s 1947 integration of the armed forces. Plus, he was probably a beta cuck.

“America, America, God spread they stupidity on thee!”

————————

[By the way, Russell may or may not have known it, but Truman had two options in August 1945:

1. Use the bomb and then allow the Japanese to accept reality, surrendering unconditionally while keeping their emperor, or

2. Continue the war with an invasion of the Japanese home islands with a planned 766,600 troops, not winning the war until approximately November 15 of 1946 (!), which would have cost an untold number of American casualties (we incurred 3/4 of a million casualties in the war. A doubling of that figure for the invasion of Japan is not unreasonable). For reference, the 1945 fight for Iwo Jima resulted in 20,000 U.S. and 25,000 Japanese casualties. Iwo Jima is approximately 8.1 square miles. The Battle for Okinawa cost over 40,000 U.S. and over 80,000 Japanese casualties.  Okinawa is 466 square miles. The square mileage of Japan is over 145,000. Half-a-million American casualties and another year-and-a-half of war … Russell might have welcomed it.]

————————

[I should also highlight what I was told in a 1989 interview by John Smith of Marlow, Oklahoma, a survivor of the Japanese invasion of Wake Island, Dec. 1941-Feb. 1942: “Thank God for Harry Truman and thank god for the atomic bomb.” The other nine Wake Island vets who were gathered in his home for one of their periodic reunions agreed with John unanimously.

Harry’s use of two bombs did indeed greatly reduce Japanese casualties and more of the destruction Richard Russell wanted. And it saved 3/4 of a million American men another year-and-a-half of hell and possible injury and death, as well as releasing P.O.W.s like John Smith from almost four years of hell, mistreatment and starvation. Some of those P.O.W.s weighed less than 100 pounds when they were finally were freed—their freedom thanks to God, Harry S. and the atomic bomb.

Richard Russell’s preference would almost certainly have consigned them and countless others to death, if not by American bomb hits on prison compounds or by the complete incendiary destruction of Japan, then by the long, slow agony of starvation, a situation that was getting worse the longer Japan hung on.

Richard Russell, like Robert E. Lee, was a fool. Get his name off the Senate Office Building and put it in the history books under “Pompous racist ass who maybe did one or maybe two decent things his whole life.” And since I brought him up, the traitor Robert E. Lee should have met Joseph Goebbels’ end: his body dug up, cremated, and the ashes thrown into the nearest river. What? Too much?]

Small flame on black background

Atomic Poetry

On 1-Jun-1945, six weeks after the death of Franklin Roosevelt, new U.S. President Harry Truman convened a meeting to update the status on and debate the use of the soon-to-be-born atomic bomb. But first, at the Pentagon, a group consisting of James Byrnes (soon to be Secretary of State), generals George C. Marshall and Leslie Groves, Robert Oppenheimer and Enrico Fermi, among others, convened to make a decision on how to advise the new president on the bomb.

Secretary of War Henry Stimson was also present … and well prepared:

“Stimson was now focused exclusively on the atomic bomb. He had become transfixed by its potential historical impact. He had prepared handwritten notes for these meetings, which curiously read like modernist poetry. The verse was a window into the secretary of war’s state of mind.”

His notes:

Its size and character
We don’t think it mere new weapon
Revolutionary Discovery of Relation of man to universe
Great History Landmark like
Gravitation
Copernican Theory
But, Bids fair infinitely greater, in respect to its
Effect
—on the ordinary affairs of man’s life.
May destroy or perfect International
Civilization
May[be] Frankenstein or means for World Peace

—Secretary of War Henry Stimson | 1-Jun-45
As quoted by A. J. Baime, The Accidental President. New York: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2018.

The Accidental President is fascinating reading, while the jury is still out on Stimson’s poetic questions.

100 dollar bills stacked.

The Conscience Stirs

A gem I wrote on FB on 28-Feb-2010:

“My Facebook account is being deleted (allegedly) as of this morning. It takes 14 days for the deletion to go through, during which time they beg and plead for you to come back (mainly by trying to guilt trip you: “Your friend, John X, will miss you!”) and sending you spam begging for your presence on their totally messed up, nonsensical, aggravating, unsafe, unsecure, grossly indecent to privacy site, with its hideous navigation, crippled by the company’s inability to comprehend basic navigability and usability and its stuffed-up with San Francisco-centric IT/corporate culture snobbery permanently sticking its cube dwellers behind an impregnable wall which protects them from actually having to communicate with their users.

“Yeah, all that: gone. And I feel good. So very much better. Didn’t need the aggravation. Didn’t need to deal with the kind of things I dealt with working in San Francisco in that environment myself. Didn’t need to justify my life to distant people with political agendas.

“It was nice to hear from and reconnect (briefly) with high school friends/acquaintances. I’m looking forward to seeing more of them in real life, away from that god-awful FB interface. But the rest of it … no, don’t need it.

“Relief. Sweet.”
________________

28-Feb-10, Author

Fast forward to eight-and-a-half years later: I still stand behind my rant from 2010. And am half tempted to repeat the experience.

I originally joined Facebook in 2004, when only college students in certain schools could do so. It was really supposed to just hook up various combinations of random, mostly romantic, relationships for college students. It was a hook up site, plain and simple. It was designed to get you a returned phone call, a date, and hopefully, ultimately get you laid. Sorry, but that’s what it was.

I was in grad school at Michigan, an approved school, and had an .edu email address, which was required, so I could sign up. Seemed like a good idea, although I was not interested in hook up apps or college culture, just cutting edge tech and if it could be used in the classroom.

But. The way this thing has developed since 2004 from a hookup site/innovative curiousity into a force of nature which does only one good thing (makes it somewhat easy for you to keep up with far-flung friends and family) and many, many, many, very many, very bad things.

It rips into your brain, vacuums up any and every thing about you and then commodifies and monetizes the pieces that make up “you” billions of times over. This makes a few people incredibly wealthy. It leaves the rest of us stripped naked of our identities and essences, our food/clothing/shelter choices, our deepest thoughts and most superficial desires.

Worst, it is a force combined with others like it that has this century turned the country from a publicly accountable democracy into a privatized unimpeachable corporate kleptocracy. And what that new sociopolitical system does best is steal us from us and fence us on a black market, allow lying demagogues to assume power and distort the meaning of truth in our universe.

I pretty much wish I had remained disconnected from FB while also being innovative enough to stay connected to the real people in my life without Facebook’s corrupting middle man kleptocracy. I sense that there is another housecleaning coming; my involvement will need to be further curtailed. I’m thinking of what we can do next … there are far better possibilities, surely, than this unholy mess of greed and venality.

Now don’t even get me started about Twitter …

Beautiful Guy of the Month — Sexy September

Guy Pic of the Month for September 2018

‘Splaining Things to the Kids

A Democratic Socialist explains «what Democratic Socialism actually is»: Not just a return to the halcyon days of the New Deal.

“I’m a staff writer at the socialist magazine Jacobin and a member of DSA, and here’s the truth: In the long run, democratic socialists want to end capitalism. And we want to do that by pursuing a reform agenda today in an effort to revive a politics focused on class hierarchy and inequality in the United States. The eventual goal is to transform the world to promote everyone’s needs rather than to produce massive profits for a small handful of citizens.

“Democratic socialists share goals with New Deal liberals. But they want to go further.

“Pooling society’s resources to meet people’s basic needs is a tenet of social democracy, one that’s been advocated domestically by much of the labor movement and many of its political supporters among New Deal and post-New Deal liberals. This is a vision we share. But we also want more than FDR did. A robust welfare state in an economy that’s still organized around capitalists’ profits can mitigate the worst inequalities for a while, but it’s at best a temporary truce between bosses and workers — and one that the former will look to scrap as soon as they can.”

Vox

Yup.

Eggheads

There is brilliance «here» by Matthew Stewart:

“Here’s another fact of life in West Egg: Someone is always above you. In Gatsby’s case, it was the old-money people of East Egg. In the Colonel’s case, it was John D. Rockefeller Jr. You’re always trying to please them, and they’re always ready to pull the plug.
“The source of the trouble, considered more deeply, is that we have traded rights for privileges. We’re willing to strip everyone, including ourselves, of the universal right to a good education, adequate health care, adequate representation in the workplace, genuinely equal opportunities, because we think we can win the game. But who, really, in the end, is going to win this slippery game of escalating privileges?”
The Atlantic

And this:

“In Trump, the age of unreason has at last found its hero. The ‘self-made man’ is always the idol of those who aren’t quite making it. He is the sacred embodiment of the American dream, the guy who answers to nobody, the poor man’s idea of a rich man. It’s the educated phonies this group can’t stand. With his utter lack of policy knowledge and belligerent commitment to maintaining his ignorance, Trump is the perfect representative for a population whose idea of good governance is just to scramble the eggheads. When reason becomes the enemy of the common man, the common man becomes the enemy of reason.
Did I mention that the common man is white? That brings us to the other side of American-style resentment. You kick down, and then you close ranks around an imaginary tribe. The problem, you say, is the moochers, the snakes, the handout queens; the solution is the flag and the religion of your (white) ancestors. According to a survey by the political scientist Brian Schaffner, Trump crushed it among voters who ‘strongly disagree’ that ‘white people have advantages because of the color of their skin,’ as well as among those who ‘strongly agree’ that ‘women seek to gain power over men.’ It’s worth adding that these responses measure not racism or sexism directly, but rather resentment. They’re good for picking out the kind of people who will vehemently insist that they are the least racist or sexist person you have ever met, even as they vote for a flagrant racist and an accused sexual predator.”
Ibid

And then he brings it home:

“No one is born resentful. As mass phenomena, racism, xenophobia, anti-intellectualism, narcissism, irrationalism, and all other variants of resentment are as expensive to produce as they are deadly to democratic politics. Only long hours of television programming, intelligently manipulated social-media feeds, and expensively sustained information bubbles can actualize the unhappy dispositions of humanity to the point where they may be fruitfully manipulated for political gain. Racism in particular is not just a legacy of the past, as many Americans would like to believe; it also must be constantly reinvented for the present. Mass incarceration, fearmongering, and segregation are not just the results of prejudice, but also the means of reproducing it.”
Ibid

Where then shall we go thither?

“The United States, to be clear, is hardly the most egregious offender in the annals of human inequality. The European nations from which the colonists of North America emigrated had known a degree of inequality and instability that Americans would take more than a century to replicate. Whether in ancient Rome or the Near East, Asia or South America, the plot remains the same. In The Great Leveler, the historian Walter Scheidel makes a disturbingly good case that inequality has reliably ended only in catastrophic violence: wars, revolutions, the collapse of states, or plagues and other disasters. It’s a depressing theory. Now that a third wave of American inequality appears to be cresting, how much do we want to bet that it’s not true?”
Ibid

If I have quoted rather liberally, it is to be sure because the piece deserves to be quoted liberally across the land. Read the whole thing.

Cuba Slogans on a Wall

Treading a Careful Path in Post-Castro Cuba

«Here’s a fascinating, albeit rather eye-crossing, analysis» of what is happening in Cuba from a Communist perspective. Whatever happens, the way forward is difficult regardless of where one sits on the left-right political spectrum. Will it be a longer-drawn-out 1989 followed by a Franco-Batista-Bolsanaro triumph and bloodbath? Will it become Venezuela? Or will a Scandinavian socialism settle in? Whichever, it’s going to be an interesting new era.

“… we should not resort to useless and ultimately pedantic whining particularly virulent among many left-communist sects. We should organize our thoughts in helpful and productive ways, not just stating the facts, but analyzing them. There is a discrete left-opportunist trend that seeks to throw all developments in Cuba post-1959 into the dustbin and forget about it. This does as little for us as the right-opportunist line; both fail to grasp the full reality of revisionist corrosion and capitalist restoration in Cuba, although one cloaks itself in stultified theory. We should not stop at holding out hope for the legitimate Communists in Cuba, but should actively unite with them and learn from them.”

AntiImperialism.org

Warm Summer Night

Terrible quality, but is there anything better than a warm summer night playing in – er, rather sitting near the lawn sprinkler under a street light while watching the 21:00 evening arrivals at KBNA? Well, maybe if I was still 10 …

Posted by Steve Pollock on Monday, June 25, 2018

Photo of Bill Schock

A Final “Hangin’ Out the Warsh”

«This is Bill’s final column» out of countless ones he wrote over 71 years for the Falls City Journal.

With this column, he said farewell; the Journal has been sold and moved to a much smaller space in downtown Falls City which it had occupied until 1950.

It’s all extremely symbolic of the state of small-town journalism in the wayward America of the 21st century.

He wrote about one memory that I can personally relate to very much from my time at the Duncan Banner:

“A man came into the office and was pondering over the counter. Finally, he said, ‘I guess I’ll keep on another year. It ain’t the best paper in the world, but it is something to read.’ Another time a man brought an ad in for placement in the Journal and when he was told the price he said, ‘The old man gave me a better price.’ The clerk said, ‘Who’s the old man?’ He said ‘Bill Schock.'”

Falls City Journal

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