Tuesday, July 31, 2018


People speak of "organized religion" as a way of talking about formalized institutions based on some kind of meaning system.  Most of them are derived from a culture and have an economic basis.  That is, they teach how to survive in the world where they arose by obeying the customs and costumes of the people who find them effective.  God, the inconceivable Ground of Being, was confused with a humanoid avatar, esp. the Father figure.

Sometimes religion is conflated with government, esp. when government is run by sub-categories (parties) that have the fervour and obsessions of religion, partly defined as propositions of faith that must defy common sense and scientific knowledge.  Both religion and government are based on written history, which is largely the history of winners, written by winners, or those who oppose the winners.  Not much comes from genuinely new thought that describes the situation better.  In a square world, no one thinks in circles, much less hearts.

"Axial Age (also Axis Age, from German: Achsenzeit) is a term coined by German philosopher Karl Jaspers  ((1883-1969) in the sense of a "pivotal age" characterizing the period of ancient history from about the 8th to the 3rd century BCE, " (That is, the 3rd to the 8th centuries before the Christian Era and 3,000 years after the invention of writing.  Something like 7,000 years after the development of agriculture.)  Jaspers' time was one that valued history but in cities, in terms of recorded writing, and through the lens of a self-congratulating and self-empowering culture that became the great evil of fascism, which fools the larger culture into empowering a few controlling people.  That is, they took governmental organizing as equivalent to religious institutions. 

"In addition to Jaspers, the philosopher Eric Voegelin (1901 - 1985) referred to this age as The Great Leap of Being, constituting a new spiritual awakening and a shift of perception from societal to individual values."  Voegelin came out of the same German culture but challenged it as a Protestant and individual standing against the idea of a "master race."  "By the time he became an American citizen in 1944, his name respelled to Eric Voegelin, his overarching question had come down to this: What is political reality?

"Anthropologist David Graeber has pointed out that "the core period of Jasper's Axial age [...] corresponds almost exactly to the period in which coinage was invented. What's more, the three parts of the world where coins were first invented were also the very parts of the world where those sages lived;  . . . Graeber argues that an understanding of the rise of markets is necessary to grasp the context in which the religious and philosophical insights of the Axial age arose. The ultimate effect of the introduction of coinage was, he argues, an "ideal division of spheres of human activity that endures to this day: on the one hand the market, on the other, religion."

"David Christian notes that the first "universal religions" appeared in the age of the first universal empires and of the first all-encompassing trading networks."  Put this idea against his shared idea of Big History and it is obvious that "universal" is an empty adjective.  There were always people who never knew anything about these "universals."  Two new inventions undercut the real and material "trading networks" or expanded them beyond human experience, depending on how to you look at it.  One was bookkeeping which reduced things to numbers, and the other was the internet which trades stocks all by itself in the middle of the night and widens the idea of "universal" peoples way beyond what it has been.

Neither one appears in a more truly "universal" history, explained by the ironically named David Christian.  https://www.ted.com/talks/david_christian_big_history   "This is "Big History": an enlightening, wide-angle look at complexity, life and humanity, set against our slim share of the cosmic timeline."  

In short, this sequence of thinkers is a quick way to understand that religious institutions, a form of government, became secular government, but took with them the great concern for wealth and how to acquire and guard it.  This preoccupation led them to use stigmatizing the weak, advocating their murder as a way of improving the economy.  In the end the strong turned the tables and stigmatized their oppressors, which confused those who think aping Nazis will make them powerful -- and rich.  The "Axial" religions were safeguards against this point of view.

This Madeleine Albright quote is from https://www.economist.com/open-future/2018/07/30/on-tyranny-populism-and-how-best-to-respond-today?fsrc=scn/tw/te/bl/ed/  "Finally, and even more seriously, I fear a return to the international climate that prevailed in the 1920s and 30s, when the United States withdrew from the global stage and countries everywhere pursued what they perceived to be their own interests without regard to larger and more enduring goals. When arguing that every age has its own Fascism, the Italian writer and Holocaust survivor Primo Levi added that the critical point can be reached “not just through the terror of police intimidation, but by denying and distorting information, by undermining systems of justice, by paralysing the education system, and by spreading in a myriad subtle ways nostalgia for a world where order reigned.” If he is right (and I think he is), we have reason to be concerned by the gathering array of political and social currents buffeting us today—currents propelled by the dark underside of the technological revolution, the corroding effects of power, the American president’s disrespect for truth and the widening acceptance of dehumanising insults, Islamophobia and anti-Semitism as being within the bounds of normal public debate." 

"Big History" is an excellent corrective to the short-sighted, limited, narcissistic warped people we suffer from today.  It is as powerful as previous religions.  But it is the result of scientific education and a valuing of our real physical world with all its resources and peoples.  Unless governance is consent-based, radically inclusive, future-aware enterprise, it will disperse the real wealth of living into imagined marks hidden in little node-like institutions on theoretically protected islands and refuge jurisdictions.  When we see that such shenanigans are empty, we get rid of their control over us.  Their pretence of legitimacy is based on our unevidenced consent.  If their secret islands are flooded by global warming, there will be only gilded tears.


When the massive glaciers that covered the northern half of landmasses across the planet finally withdrew, they released a lot of water at the southern edges.  I don't know what happened elsewhere, but as the glacier's southern edge and the foothills of the Rockies melted, they sent major cascades of water downhill, to the east, digging out the major coulees we see to day.  A huge "crease" in the middle of the midwest guided the incoming water down the Missouri and out the Mississippi to the Gulf of Mexico.  In the mountains the small gathering streams braided together into the major rivers of the East Slope:  St. Mary River, Two Medicine River, Milk River, Birch Creek and Cut Bank Creek.

Roughly along the 49th parallel between the US and Canada, which is a straight surveyed line, is a line of buttes, which were "refugia" when the glaciers came, places where both plants and animals "took refuge".  Even huge earth worms, three feet long and smelling like lilies, managed to survive there.  When President Jefferson bought the Louisiana Purchase, the northern boundary was the edge of the Mississippi/Missouri watershed.  He sent Lewis and Clark to find where that was.  From Cut Bank Creek they could see those buttes plus the glacial till that divided the flow of water between Hudson's Bay in the north and the Gulf of Mexico in the south, so they knew that the 49th parallel rather than the 50th would be the line.

There was an anomaly, which was the St. Mary's valley, dug out by the glaciers.  The Milk River there ran out of the lakes to the north and became Canadian.  For the sake of keeping the boundary straight, the valley was considered American and even diverted some of the water so it ran in Montana south of the border.

But that was much later.  When the ice drew back enough to allow animals to graze, it left shortgrass prairie fed by the snowpack in the Rockies.  Even after the glaciers were gone, enough winter snowfall replenished the run-off to support short grass.  Humans cannot eat grass, though they relished the berries that grew along the streams.  Grass fuels grazers and the key grazing herds of bison were part of the short grass ecology.  Their hooves cutting the dirt crust, their backs digging dusting bowls, their dung manuring the land, were all part of the fitting-together that defines an ecology.  And the buffalo fed the People.

Anthropologists tend to define things according to the artifacts they find, but probably there were People as soon as there were bison.  At first contact they were described as much bigger and healthier people than those who came from the east coast.  Meat is a primary food for predators.  On the East Slope it was augmented by roots, corms and rhizomes, such as those from camas, which were baked in pits.  Berries were dried and so was meat, both pounded together to form "pemmican" a portable rich food.  It was important that summer was hot and dry, since food that was still damp would mildew and be useless.

In the early days the work of killing and processing bison was a communal effort and as much dependent on place as weapons.  The piskun, or steep place that would kill or cripple running animals, was organized at three levels.  First was the feeder meadow behind the bluff or cliff, where smaller groups of bison tended to linger and graze, perhaps give birth.  Second was a rough V of rock piles and branches so that hazers could hide until they jumped up to get the big animals running.  Third, was a place hopefully by a stream -- maybe the one that helped erode the valley -- so that the dead animals could be processed.  

Together the People killed the cripples with stone mauls, skinned and staked out hides to be scraped and treated, and dug pits to fill with stones for fires to cook the fat and marrow out of the bones.  Athabasca Press publishes the excellent description of how one piskun works.  It's by the aptly named Jack Brink.  "Imagining Head-Smashed-In"http://www.aupress.ca/index.php/books/120137  

When horses and gunpowder finally showed up, quite late in the history of the area, the deepest change was in the practice of hunting bison, because now it could be done by individuals or a small group, breaking up the millennial ties among communities.  Horses became the new commodity while the bison began to diminish.  

Finally, the railroad, an avatar of the Industrial Revolution, changed everything by bringing in non-tribal people, materials for building, settlers who wanted the land.  Also, it became practical to ship out natural resources to the cities back East.  

Until the railroad was finished through the Rockies, the best mode of transportation was the waterways, which is how Lewis and Clark got to the area.  Fort Benton was the town that developed as high up the river as the paddle-wheelers could navigate and it became the first Blackfeet Agency.  As land greed increased, the agency was moved north with rivers serving as the boundaries.  Finally the border settled at the Marias River, while the capitol was built on Willow Creek which feeds into Cut Bank Creek, a new eastern boundary of the reservation.  That edge became important and challenged when oil was discovered in the area.

A. B. Guthrie, Jr., always felt that whoever told the location of Marias Pass to the authorities, so they found the only really viable pass through the Rockies, was betraying the old days because it brought in "civilization."  One of his later novels is organized around the finding of the pass.

"Isaac Stevens’ railroad survey attempted to “discover” the pass in 1854, but failed to find it. In 1889, the Great Northern Railway sent engineer John F. Stevens to locate the pass. Stevens plowed through four feet of snow in subzero weather in search of the 5,214-foot pass, finding it on December 10, 1889. The Great Northern built its line over Marias Pass in 1891. It was not until 1930 that a highway was constructed over it. Before then, motorists on U.S. Highway 2 had to load their automobiles onto railroad cars at East or West Glacier to ship them around the southern boundary of Glacier National Park on the Great Northern." 

The Blackfeet, on whose land the pass began, had no concept of its commercial use or how to capitalize on it, but the tourist industry in the rez towns takes advantage of the traffic along Highway 2, which runs east/west just south of the Canadian border.  The early days of Glacier National Park were supported by the tourist towns of East Glacier, St. Marys, and Babb -- heavily advertised by the railroad itself to attract people to the "big hotels" built of timber from the Northwest as was then the epitome of "American Europe" fashion, though the main pictured feature was Blackfeet in parade garb, white buckskin heavily beaded and worn with Sioux eagle-feather headdresses.

Monday, July 30, 2018


The vast Montana landscape seems as though it's always been there, just like this, but we know better.  It's a long story.  The west side of the Rockies, which form one edge of the Flathead Valley, has quite a different tale to tell.  https://flatheadlakers.org/explore/history-geology/  The short version is that when the massive continental glaciers melted ten thousand years ago, the bathtub-shaped valley filled with water held in place by an ice plug at the south end.  When warm weather or the pressure of the rising water broke through, the water went out to eventually join the Snake and then Columbia Rivers on their rampage to the sea.

The East Slope of the Rockies is so different that it might be a different state -- probably ought to be.  it's hard to understand that the volcanic pushing up and sideways of the tectonic plate under all the Pacific Ocean didn't just fuel the Pacific Northwest volcanoes and push up the Rockies, but also created a vast inland sea across the North American continent.  That sea had much to do with what we see now:  the buttes that were once reefs, the long slant of the altitude, the coal deposits, the clever coiled ammonite fossils that became what the Indigenous people called "iniskum," buffalo stones.  Even the oil which was equivalent to a gold strike was created in those times.


"The Seaway was created as the Farallon tectonic plate subducted under the North American Plate during the Cretaceous. As plate convergence proceeded, the younger and more buoyant lithosphere of the Farallon Plate subducted at a shallow angle, in what is known as a "flat slab". This shallowly subducting slab exerted traction on the base of the lithosphere, pulling it down and producing dynamic topography at the surface that caused the opening of the Western Interior Seaway. This depression and the high eustatic sea levels existing during the Cretaceous allowed waters from the Arctic Ocean in the north and the Gulf of Mexico in the south to meet and flood the central lowlands, forming a sea that transgressed (grew) and regressed (receded) over the course of the Cretaceous."

"The Bearpaw Formation, also called the Bearpaw Shale, is a geologic formation of Late Cretaceous (Campanian) age. It outcrops in the U.S. state of Montana, as well as the Canadian provinces of Alberta and Saskatchewan, and was named for the Bear Paw Mountains in Montana. It includes a wide range of marine fossils, as well as the remains of a few dinosaurs. It is known for its fossil ammonites, some of which are mined in Alberta to produce the organic gemstone ammolite."

(Maps of the sea, which was really a succession of seas.)

Remarkably, all these phenomena and processes have names as though they existed now.  They have real impacts on our lives.  We can see what they left behind.  But we have real impact on them as well.  Only recently we've realized the impact when Europeans brought their diseases to America, the same diseases that had halved their own European populations in the past.  When infectious invaders came from Africa and Asia through Europe to the Americas, they wiped out the human indigenous agriculturalist population so severely that the cessation of agriculture across the continents actually changed the weather by changing the proportion of plant-produced oxygen.  Microscopic viruses and microbes changed the land masses from sea to sea, and restored the tropical jungles we are now cutting down and burning, changing the atmosphere once more.

This is echoed today when we look at the industrial revolution and the excess of greenhouse gases it has produced, warming the whole planet in only few hundred years.

"Anthropogenic climate change leads to melting glaciers and rising sea level. Between 1902 and 2009, melting glaciers contributed 11 cm to sea level rise. They were therefore the most important cause of sea level rise. Scientists have numerically modeled the changes of each of the world's 300,000 glaciers. Until 2100, glaciers could lead to an additional 22 cm of sea level rise."

We're already imagining Manhattan submerged.  Florida is already flooding.

Sunday, July 29, 2018


If you google for the psychology of televangelism, you'll find the Gospel of Wealth.  Of if you're into "do it yourself" thinking, you could just watch the news anytime Trump is mentioned.

http://www.larryhollon.com/blog/2008/12/01/televangelists-culture-and-authority/  This article is a good line of thought if you wish to stay within the institutional and historical Christian category.  I do not.  One of the reasons for me stepping away from Christianity (not just the narrow interpretations) is that four narratives about a man with no documented trace plus the ambitions of one former Christ-hater (formerly named Saul) are not enough.  Not even relevant.

What Larry Hollon suggests is that people who want to become wealthy must turn off the television, the pretend life, and simply explore structure and access.  Keeping secret practical matters -- what contacts to make, how to get organized, and how to translate big goals by taking small steps -- is one way televangelists try to keep their status as the only door to success.

But there is another aspect of Christian theology, which is the metaphor of God as a kingpin in the sky and his son as a human embodiment of the best and most definitive features of that God.  This avatar for the forces of Fate and Circumstance emphasizes "discipleship and servanthood,"  "the graciousness of a loving god," the abiding of parenthood authority and protection one so loved as a child, if your childhood was lucky.  

This is where Trump shows himself as a non-Christian.  If this were a different era, he would be bowing down to the Devil and his avatar of the Golden Calf.  But too many in our times have used "science" to erase evil, to make bad people simply the victims of stigmatized societies, and to excuse the deaths of millions as simply a nasty but necessary convenience.  One wonders whether Trump and the others are capable seeing themselves through other eyes than the mirrors of their own impressiveness.  (That's a rhetorical question.)

Larry Hollon is a Methodist minister and leader though he doesn't make a big deal out of it. http://www.umcom.org/news/a-conversation-with-larry-hollon  He talks about "technological IQ's" and restructuring the denomination to attract more young people.  He does NOT talk about the emptiness of most Christian chatter.  But he DOES talk about going to the people:  "We will have to lean on our Wesleyan understanding. Wesley got outside the pulpit of the Anglican churches and went to the street corner because that's where people were."  He suggests that young people are interested in hunger, so that's what the denomination should talk about, but he sees it in an old-fashioned way.  He says Methodists can attract young people by doing something about hunger, but what?  And does he know young people are starving?  I mean, literally?

He says, "We are a node on a global network that is interactive, connected and sometimes disconnected. We participate in that global network, and it will move with or without us. We have to stay ahead of the curve and be as interactive as we can in order to be of value to the church and to ensure the church has a presence and a voice in that interactivity."

If you can substitute "America" for "church", you'll see how to escape from the charlatans that substitute bellowing and hand-waving for reality.

I quote a wise Cheyenne "Indian" writer, Adrian L. Jawort, who is nothing like the stereotype Tonto many believe in.  "Ppl become so emotionally invested in politics they can't be neutral.  With less spirituality/people going to church etc, politics becomes a filler & sense of belonging. Ergo it becomes a dogma unto itself & political leaders are deemed infallible & must be defended at all costs."  

Jawort knows about both evil and politics, which are perfectly capable of working in cahoots.

Long ago, as an undergrad just leaving the Christian context ('57 to '61), I attended a performance of "J.B." by Archibald Macleish in Chicago.  When I saw it, the Devil was Christopher Plummer and God was John Carradine, whose sons became proponents of Asian martial arts.  (Later, in Hollywood at a supermarket, I witnessed one of the sons kick-box a pyramid of canned tomatoes.  No grasshoppers were involved.)

This play, "J.B." was an attempt to address the evils of WWII, like the Holocaust of Jews, Gypsies handicapped, and Gays -- all the hatred of the German right wing fascists that so fascinate some now.  WHY? the play asks.  HOW? did people get this way?  (Notice that nepotism -- father/son -- is built into Christianity.)  In some ways it was effective because the language was so beautiful and so powerfully performed.  The other way was by pointing out human loving relationships and the natural world -- nothing grandiose, just a forsythia in bloom at the end of the bridge where Mrs. J.B. goes to commit suicide, but can't, thus redeeming J.B. himself.

Some say that Methodism is a bridge between dogmatic Christian faith and golf.  That is, it leads nowhere.  Ask Trump.  Is a golf course anything more than poisoned cut grass with a little hole in the middle?  In my case, I acted as the Blackfeet Methodist Mission clergyperson in 1988-89, not for pay but because by taking my compensation by living in the Methodist parsonage, thus sparing it from taxation.  On the books I was simply a lay leader, because my ordination was Unitarian Universalist, where it is possible to be atheistic but still religious.  

(I have never played golf.  When I lived in East Glacier, I used to walk every morning on the golf course but quit when a moose started doing the same thing.  I respect a moose.  They are not sacred but they can be dangerous.)

The problem was what I should preach.  My approach was twofold:  first was using the Christian lectionary which is a calendar version of the Bible that fits together on every Sunday a psalm, an Old Testament quote, one of the New Testament letters, and a gospel quote.  Because this writing, all of it, is for an agriculture and small-town audience, a stigmatized group in a world dominated by Rome, I followed the themes by talking about the rez itself: the weather, the animals, the seasons, the ripening and reaping, the families.  The congregation was hardly Methodist -- just generic Christian -- except that it is a Methodist "mission" originally meant to convert "Natives."  But everyone lived in the same place and recognized what both the Bible and I said.

Are these things, basic to Christian thought, what the televangelists talk about?  No.  Those bigshots talk about money, mystical but sexual ecstasy, and dominance.  Evil.  Even Satan has more honor and subtlety than that.  The Devil doesn't depend upon his father.

Saturday, July 28, 2018


"Starting 16.5 million years ago, they say, vents in southeast Washington and northeast Oregon put out a series of flows that reached nearly to Canada and all the way to the Pacific Ocean. The flows created the Wapshilla Ridge Member of the Grande Ronde Basalt, a kilometer-thick block familiar to travelers in the Columbia Gorge and most of Eastern Washington. The researchers say it is “the largest mapped flood basalt unit on Earth.”


Volcanic peaks in the Northwest are scenic features but occasionally they become geological nightmares, as when Mt. St. Helens erupted.  "On May 18, 1980, the Mount St. Helens became the largest and most destructive volcanic eruption in U.S. history. By the end of its cycle of fire and fury, 57 people had died."  In Montana the main result was fine dust raining from the sky.  Then it became clear that the ancient floods of basalt had not reached inland as far as the east slope of the Rockies, but the air borne dust had created the gumbo so characteristic of the area.

"Gumbo" is a popular term for any soil that is largely clay, so that when it is wet it is sticky, slick, and impossible for wheels to travel through.  When it is dry, it is like concrete.  In Valier, when expanded, it swells a dozen times bigger under the houses; but when it dries out, it contracts and bends everything the other way.  Doorways in this town are likely to be rhomboids, but doors themselves stay square-cornered and thus can stick badly.  

A form of gumbo is bentonite, dropped by volcanoes millions of years ago, but not on land.  At that primal time the whole inland of the North American continent was a shallow sea and dropping the dust into water caused chemical changes.  Partly the gumbo is structured as tiny sheets or plates that slide against each other, and partly the particles carry an electrical charge that attracts them to the earth.  The advantage of gumbo is that it can hold water in drought.

In some places dinosaurs left their footprints in the gumbo mud, but in others the entire animal was mired until it died and was fossilized.  They say that gumbo was the lubricant that made it possible for slaves to push huge blocks of stone up inclined planes in order to build the pyramids.  They say that when Brother Van first exited the river steamboat in Fort Benton, by the time he crossed the riverfront road to the saloons aligned there, each foot weighed fifty pounds because of the mud sticking to them.   Until the gumbo roads on the rez were paved, whenever it rained Heart Butte, a hamlet of old folks was isolated.  And gumbo explains why Plains Indians never used wheels, but always used travois that slid behind the horses.  

Once I was driving in a dirt road when a passing shower slicked the surface.  My van slid uncontrollably into the ditch.  Luckily, I had a book to read.  When the grass dried out, I drove back onto the road and proceeded with no problem.

Besides creating soils, volcanoes throw up aerosols that are so full of dust that they shade the sun and drop temperatures so that winter freezes the rivers enough to drive vehicles on the ice and no crops get enough sun to grow.  These are world-wide events that are noted in the records of the survivors.  Eruptions are so effective that some have suggested it is a way to cool a warming planet, but who controls a volcano?

Bentonite is useful stuff for drilling for oil, which is a feature of the east slope.  It's slick to cool drills and can "set up" to plug old abandoned wells.  Today's drilling depends on frakking, which is the injection of water into wells to take the pressure high enough to drive up oil so it's accessible.  The water is mixed with chemicals and useless for any other purpose.  Sometimes it de-stabilizes the foundation rock enough to cause earthquakes.

Every change that yields enough profit for a boom is doomed to bust, sooner or later, but people don't necessarily plan what they will do afterwards, not just for income but also how to give up a home, material culture, a way of life.  There are basic lessons here:  one is that everything is connected to everything else even when there is a separation of a zillion years and a zillion miles; another is that all is process constantly changing and a human being is lucky if their place stays the same for lifetimes; and the third is that whatever humans do is controlled by the land, the air, and the water.  It's not the gods who control what we do, but rather the place. 

Friday, July 27, 2018


Until this last election -- which was NOT an election since it was controlled by Putin for his own ends which included destroying America -- I thought that the world was going along, bumping and groaning, into a progressive future.  I respected Obama, though he seemed irrelevant to my life except for the Chicago years.  It seemed reasonable to step apart from the heaving mass of the world by going back to Valier, next to the Blackfeet Reservation but unrelated to it.  I would write a book, make a little money, claim old friends and places, and quietly grow old.

Everything I expected has reversed itself: publishing as a business; writing being skill-based; old friends dying young; lasting achievement in art; and so on.  But at the top of the list is a shambling old man with dangling arms, his suit coat flapping, his bottom sticking out, his hair glued down, his face distorted -- a man whose coloring changes day by day, depending on his cosmetics.  This man is determined to reverse everything Obama did, even if he agrees with it, because like a criminal alcoholic on an Indian reservation at least he is white.  And his big security secret is mafia backing.

Fortunately for him, crime movies have shifted so that we turn up our noses at the straight-laced FBI and fall in love with mafia chiefs with psychological problems.  After all, Marlon Brando never played a cop.  And he felt entitled to be a fat old man with more money than he could spend, even after buying family.  Because he had "talent", whatever that is.  It might be just good luck.  Anyway, acting is not so mysterious these days.  It's in the camera.  And a good screenwriter, predictable enough to please the masses.

I never expected to read the following about an article in VICE, which specializes in cruising the verboten edge of society in the name of truth and revelation:  "The whole drinking-is-awesome ethos is tired, the nudity is boring unless you're a horny 14-year-old, and so many of the movies 'Animal House' inspired are terrible."  . . . "Drunken frat boys don't seem so charming anymore, and the film's gender politics are fucked beyond repair."  It was on my Twitter feed this morning.

Consider the strange mix here, the profanity mixed with a pitch for propriety.  Or is that what they're talking about?  Do they mean there are worse and more shocking things?  Yeah, how about kids in cages, farmers going broke, presidents who stay up all night to be in the only reality they believe -- old black-and-white movies.

Like many others, I had thought that if there were a law against something, that there were consequences.  If a president were told not to do something, he would naturally not do it.  But this one pays no attention at all.  He just does disruptive, damaging things with no second thought -- no first thought either.  Judge's rulings means nothing to him.  Instead of no clothes (thank goodness) he believes in no restrictions -- though his life has been severely restrained to the artificial world of real estate.

At first I believed that the Republicans who cover and augment graft and corruption were invincible and taking care of their own.  After being astounded at first that nothing happened to stop Trump, I gradually developed the theory that those who had the power to monitor and correct, were leaving the miscreants to their bad practices in order to accumulate evidence against them.  The bad guys, many of them old white guys with only a few years to live, are betting that they have a couple more months to hide their loot and scurry to safety.  But they are old and greedy.  You know the story of the monkey-trap that is only a vase full of cookies that has a narrow neck so that once the monkey grips a big fistful of cookies and refuses to give them up in order to escape, it's caught?  The sheer number and international scope of what enforcers are finding and noting is staggering.  Some of it isn't even hidden -- maybe unrecognized.

This wickedness is not new and some would say that the abiding and deep source is war, esp. the ambiguous sand wars that feed spectacular explosions into our news stories.  War defines everything as conflict, power struggle, and then sells snake oil meant to convince both sides they can win.  When someone says to Trump, "you haven't got the truth" and he retorts -- without knowing anything about it -- "You're wrong," he's moving the argument from factual/actual to Powerland, where belligerence wins.

In this country sex has been defined as middle-Eurasia blondes with breast implants, hanging hair bleached, wrinkles erased, eyes painted, mostly trophies.  There's no name for this, but it isn't sex.  A kind of "drag."  I doubt whether coitus is even involved, at least not without chemicals.  So much has been revealed, even the degeneration of Hugh Heffner and other icons of supposed "freedom" that even fourteen-year-old boys know that it's boring.  The immature want a mother they can own the way they did as toddlers.  (Some of these guys are middle-aged.)  Both genders treat "sex" as tokens to be exchanged freely, no cost except . . .  I think you know.

Money has been replaced by credit.  Now and then an enterprising journalist will add up the amounts that people owe in credit card debt or school loans or new cars and stagger us all with the size of the amount.  The government promises rewards for achieving populations, and then cancels them; promises safety nets to the increasing number of people who can't cope and then cancels them.  It's all bait and switch.  We can't go on like this.  We only got this far because all money is merely bookkeeping and a phone call or computer program can change the numbers.  There are statistics, fudged numbers, and damned lies.

In the meantime hundreds and eventually thousands will die of heat, bad food, and mysterious maladies from toxic chemicals; eventually expected pandemics as disruptors develop.  We've been protected by our divisions but that's not true anymore.

We don't know who the next president will be or how we will choose that man or woman.  We don't know what will replace the Electoral College, gerrymandering, current voter registration, and all the other problems.  But it will have to happen or we simply won't be here anymore.  And Putin?  It's only a matter of time before he's gone, one way or another

Thursday, July 26, 2018


The world has changed so much that we need whole new words and that's happening, though it's hard to keep up.  Much trickier is the slide of meanings of words, which has always happened, but not always consciously and not so significantly.  At focus here is Trump and his use of lies.

They aren't quite lies, since a lie is something you know about but refuse to acknowledge honestly.  Trump has said frankly that when he was in an argument with someone, that person quoted a fact and Trump had no idea whether it was "true" so he just said, "You're wrong."  He's on tape saying, "I didn't know, but I just said, You're wrong."  Probably he didn't even know what the person was talking about.  His life experience is limited, he doesn't read, and he doesn't listen to his advisors, though they are not stellar at understanding either.

The media, with their own definition of lying, is keeping track of things Trump has said that could not be proven accurate or even relevant.  The list is hundreds long.  At one brief time between yellow journalism and the whistleblower culture, the newspaper was how you figured out the truth.  Now you have to go to Snopes.com and hope they're keeping up.

There are a number of dimensions to what Truth is supposed to mean.

1.  The actual/factual in the concrete sensory world at a knowable time.
2.  Scientific hypotheses which have been proven or nearly so, but are vulnerable to change if better actual/factuals come along.
3.  Legal hypotheses which are convincing enough for a jury to believe them.
4,  Literary statements that are relevant and believable in the context of the invented story, but maybe not actual/factual -- not even the identity of the author.
5.  Things you told your mother to avoid punishment.
6.  Things you exaggerated to sound more important and informed.
7.  Being drunk and not remembering what you claimed, but realizing it might not be strictly true.

Lately, philosophers and neuro-researchers have been telling us that our brains would never be able to take in everything that is actual/factual outside our skins.  There are detailed accounts of how the coded sensations of the vibrating and thumping world get into us and are winnowed to sense by various elements of the gray goo we call "brain."  It expects whatever it already knows, and can reject anything too different.  It has a tendency to see what it wants and hopes for, rather than the brutal "truth."  These phenomena are meant to enhance our chance for survival and in most cases, they do.

But now science tells us that there is far more to the actual/factual than we can ever grasp.  Sometimes with machines we can see wave-lengths that won't translate, colors that have no name, music unperceived, temperatures that would kill us anyway.  Likewise, if your language has no word for something, no way to say how it works, it's as good as nonexistent.  We are limited and temporary.

Institutionalized religion discovered that it could impose words and theories on raw experience and that one of those experiences is holiness, sacredness, which are inexpressible.  We can only experience them or point to them.  But in the process of forming profit-demanding institutions with big shots and hierarchies and ceremonies of belonging and patternmaking transitions through life, they began to insist on what they called Truth.  Not the factual/actual, but the mysterious and miraculous -- virgin birth, surviving fire, three-in-one people -- things to make your jaw drop, and then to defend as absolutely true.  For a while it was all so powerful that the Pope was the ultimate Emperor of the Western World and ordered the kings around.

When science became powerful and persuasive in itself, religion was pushed aside.  First as a privileged category, and then as just old-fashioned.  By the time of the various Enlightenments -- which were conversions to scientific views -- God and the other fanciful ideas about what floats in the sky were all gone, like balloons that had broken their strings and floated off.  So now we are left in an enormous space where it's hard to know what to do.

Just beyond the demand to believe in the impossible that religion can impose, is the world of hallucinations.  People claim that Martians sucked them into flying saucers, did unbelievable things to them and set them back on earth to tell others.  In general, few believe anything they say, even with rolling eyes and frothing mouths, maybe mysterious burns or other afflictions.  

But move back to the "real" world where people form groups that share theories about the world that are very different from the world the rest of us know.  Some make a "flight to fantasy" that gives them the world they want, not the one they know.  We are told that Trump doesn't drink or smoke, but we don't know what pills he takes and he has had some pretty zany doctors.  Probably those are not so much about the fantasy world he  inhabits as are the late night movies from decades ago, very patterned and very focused on macho bravado.  He watches them late at night, all alone in his bathrobe, scarfing fast food.  It's impossible to guess how much he has made the dictators from those times into the contents of his own ego.

When we hate something as much as we had to in order to build up a go-for-broke hatred of the WWII Nazis, they become a symbol of evil power -- Lucifer in the face of Jesus.  Hannah Arendt and her idea about the banality of small minded people who somehow get hold of the levers of oppression are entirely invisible to some stigma-driven white boy who can't get "laid" because he has no friendly relationship with anyone at all, but fancies it's because of some stigmatized Other who pushes him aside.  High school bad boys love rousing the teacher with swastikas on their notebooks.

The biggest lie concerning Trump is that he won the election.  He didn't even "game" the system.  Trump is a sucker being played by people far smarter and more delusion-free than him or any of his family.  To our great regret.  We are not under any illusions about this tragedy.  We just failed to cry out , LIAR!!!