Tuesday, December 18, 2012

thought experiment

Would you select a small group of people who like ordering other people around, give them all the weapons, take all the weapons from everybody else, make everyone in society pay them no matter how effective or ineffective they were in doing what they were supposed to do and have them answer to the extent that they are answerable, not to you and your fellow members of society but to some other group of individuals who may or, more likely, may not have the same agenda that you do? Or would you do something else? --Gerard Casey

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Recently the constitutionalist writer William Norman Grigg mentioned his opposition to the “narcotics price support program" sometimes called the ‘War on Drugs.’ What a great phrase!

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Even in the more obvious of fraudulent past elections there was at least an attempt by the establishment to present a pageant of conflicting ideologies (George W. Bush vs. John Kerry comes to mind). There has always been the Democrat who pretends to be anti-war, or the Republican who pretends to be small government, or the Democrat who pretends to defend our right to privacy, and the Republican who pretends to be pro-2nd Amendment. But in 2012, even the theater of rhetoric has disappeared. Both primary party candidates seem to be sharing the same intestinal tract and the same teleprompter, and now, the average American is asking a new set of questions. They do not wonder how these men will change things for the better. Not at all. Instead, they wonder which one will do LESS DAMAGE while in office. This is the terrible reality we have come to understand in our society today. It is a sad awakening, but a necessary one.

Friday, November 2, 2012

The government consists of a gang of men exactly like you and me. They have, taking one with another, no special talent for the business of government; they have only a talent for getting and holding office. Their principal device to that end is to search out groups who pant and pine for something they can't get and to promise to give it to them. Nine times out of ten that promise is worth nothing. The tenth time is made good by looting A to satisfy B. In other words, government is a broker in pillage, and every election is sort of an advance auction sale of stolen goods. --H.L. Mencken
Ninety-five years ago tomorrow, on November 2, 1917, British imperialism in Palestine began when Lord Balfour, the then British foreign secretary and former prime minister, sent a letter to Baron Rothschild, one of the leaders of the Zionist movement. This letter became known as the “Balfour Declaration”. In that letter, Balfour promised British support for the Zionist programme of establishing a “national home for the Jewish people” in Palestine. This pledge of support was made without consulting the indigenous Christian and Muslim inhabitants of Palestine, the Palestinian people. And it was made before British troops had even conquered the land. Balfour, on behalf of Britain, promised Palestine – over which Britain had no legal right – to a people who did not even live there (of the very small community of Palestinian Jews in Palestine in 1917, very few were Zionists). And he did so with the worst of intentions: to discourage Jewish immigration to Britain. No wonder Lord Montagu, the only Jewish member of the Cabinet, opposed the declaration. --(London) Telegraph
“The meaning of life is not a solution to a problem, but a matter of living in a certain way. It is not metaphysical, but ethical. It is not something separate from life, but what makes it worth living - which is to say, a certain quality, depth, abundance and intensity of life. In this sense, the meaning of life is life itself, seen in a certain way. Meaning-of-life merchants generally feel let down by such a claim, since it does not seem mysterious and majestic enough… It is just this kind of bathos that Matthew sets up in his gospel, where he presents the Son of Man returning in glory surrounded by angels for the Last Judgement. Despite this off-the-peg cosmic imagery, salvation turns out to be an embarrassingly prosaic affair - a matter of feeding the hungry, giving drink to the thirsty, welcoming the stranger, and visiting the imprisoned. It has no ‘religious’ glamour or aura whatsoever. Anybody can do it… Eternity lies not in a grain of sand but in a glass of water. The cosmos revolves on comforting the sick. When you act in this way, you are sharing in the love which built the stars. To live in this way is not just to have life, but to have it in abundance.” —The Meaning of Life: A Very Short Introduction, Terry Eagleton, 2007)

Monday, October 15, 2012

Sometimes people ask if religion and science are not opposed to one another. They are: in the sense that the thumb and fingers of my hand are opposed to one another. It is an opposition by means of which anything can be grasped. —SIR WILLIAM BRAGG

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Thomas Szasz RIP

Some good quotes from the good doctor: *People dream of making the virtuous powerful, so they can depend on them. Since they cannot do that, people choose to make the powerful virtuous, glorifying in becoming victimized by them. *Clear thinking requires courage rather than intelligence. *The self is not something one finds, it is something one creates. *The greatest analgesic, soporific, stimulant, tranquilizer, narcotic, and to some extent even antibiotic –in short, the closest thing to a genuine panacea –known to medical science is work.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

can't have no scissorhands around here

The high-school Mitt Romney who, it is alleged, helped to forcibly restrain and cut the hair of a classmate must be distinguished from the modern GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney. Had he acted as Delilah towards some hapless teenager while serving as governor of Massachusetts or, worse yet, while campaigning for Maximum Leader, it would have caused voters some discomfort. How unpresidential, after all! However, bomb and torture innocent persons abroad; assassinate and imprison, without trial, Americans; and loot taxpayers' money for the benefit of his corporate cronies: now, that’s the vision we can all embrace.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Friday, May 4, 2012

For some years I have been haunted by a story of [writer William Dean]Howells and that most civilized of all our presidents, James A. Garfield. In the early 1870s Howells and his father paid a visit to Garfield. As they sat on Garfield’s veranda, young Howells began to talk about poetry and about the poets that he had met in Boston and New York. Suddenly, Garfield told him to stop. Then Garfield went to the edge of the veranda and shouted to his Ohio neighbors, ‘Come over here! He’s telling about Holmes, and Longfellow, and Lowell, and Whittier!’ So the neighbors gathered around in the dusk; then Garfield said to Howells, ‘Now go on.’ Today we take it for granted that no living president will ever have heard the name of any living poet. This is not, necessarily, an unbearable loss. But it is unbearable to have lost those Ohio neighbors who actually read books of poetry and wanted to know about the poets. --Bill Kauffman
Economist Joan Robinson (1903–1983) wrote, “The purpose of studying economics is not to acquire a set of readymade answers to economic questions, but to learn how to avoid being deceived by economists.”

sins of the mothers

Anecdote about Tennessee Williams, courtesy of Gore Vidal
Of a dinner with Williams and his magnificently termagant mother: Tennessee clears his throat again. ‘Mother, eat your shrimp.’ ‘Why,’ counters Miss Edwina, ‘do you keep making that funny sound in your throat?’ ‘Because, Mother, when you destroy someone’s life you must expect certain nervous disabilities.’

Monday, April 30, 2012

You cannot know a politician's heart

[Let us not forget] that deceit is the basis of all politics. I remember before the Gulf War, I was talking to a Baptist seminarian who couldn't believe that Bush of Arabia had anything but the best interests of the United States at heart in preparing to make war. "I think he's a decent man," he said. On what basis? What we see or hear on television? I'd sooner trust Lynda Carter's endorsements of contact lenses. Yet any vote cast in an election presupposes that the voter has some idea of what kind of person the candidate is. Even when local officials are elected from fairly large communities, voters sometimes think of them as neighbors, and think they know them and can trust them. How often it's just wishful thinking, indeed vanity. How nice it would be to personally know someone important. Not to try to get a job from him. Not to get a favor from him. But merely for the self-deluding frisson of being able to say, "Yeah, I know him. He went to my church. He's a good guy." The desire to believe good of someone is not the Christian virtue of charity. Charity is desiring someone's good. It is never in conflict with truth. Not so the desire to believe good of someone, which normally functions as a reverse filter, letting only muddy thoughts pass through and blocking clear ones. And when the desire becomes the positive act of belief itself — as it so easily does — then have we subverted our rational faculties. It's a vanity to believe something without evidence — as though one's faculties are more penetrating than, in the nature of things, they can be. A little like the vanity of name-dropping. [I]n 1932 the free-market candidate was Franklin Roosevelt. In 1964, the anti-war candidate was Lyndon Johnson. On what basis could people who didn't know [a candidate] claim to know what he would do? What we could be sure of was that issues would emerge, complicated incidents would occur, that the next president would have to address — questions that, in early 1992, we could not imagine. To vote for anyone was nevertheless to claim to have reason to believe that he would do the right thing. And that kind of evidence hardly anyone could ever have, for hardly anyone in the country would ever know any candidate well enough to have that kind of confidence. To imagine that you can know anything about a man from his speeches, the purpose of which is to win your trust, is just cognitive vanity. In real life, we never trust someone on the basis of what he says or does explicitly to win our trust. Only in politics are we expected to be such fools. To believe more than evidence gives us is a temptation like many others. But truth is more important than our vanity. Bad enough that the eternal beatitude of our souls is jeopardized when we corrupt our cognitive faculties in favor of the passing pleasure of vanity. But the temporal, political consequences of our self-deceptions are no small potatoes, either. --Ronn Neff
One of the most famous social science experiments is Stanley Milgram's Obedience to Authority studies at Yale. Subjects were asked to administer ascending quantities of electrical shock to people each time they answered a question incorrectly. Those receiving the shock were hired actors, not really being shocked, but the subjects didn't know that. The intensity of shock began at 15 volts and rose in 15-volt increments up to 300 volts. The subjects heard screams, pleas to stop, complaints of heart pains and then silence – yet many of them continued to the end. How many? Two-thirds of participants administered the full range of shock, simply because the person in authority – a man with a white coat – would say, "The experiment requires that you continue." This is very scary, of course, but there's more to the story: In a little known but vitally important detail in these experiments, those who witnessed another person refuse to comply with the authority were dramatically more likely to refuse to comply themselves. In this case only 10% obeyed the orders of the authority. The power of a positive example represents a huge potential for good.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

For many years I worked in palliative care. My patients were those who had gone home to die. Some incredibly special times were shared. I was with them for the last three to twelve weeks of their lives.

People grow a lot when they are faced with their own mortality. I learnt never to underestimate someone's capacity for growth. Some changes were phenomenal. Each experienced a variety of emotions, as expected, denial, fear, anger, remorse, more denial and eventually acceptance. Every single patient found their peace before they departed though, every one of them.

When questioned about any regrets they had or anything they would do differently, common themes surfaced again and again. Here are the most common five:

1. I wish I'd had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.

This was the most common regret of all. When people realise that their life is almost over and look back clearly on it, it is easy to see how many dreams have gone unfulfilled. Most people had not honoured even a half of their dreams and had to die knowing that it was due to choices they had made, or not made.

It is very important to try and honour at least some of your dreams along the way. From the moment that you lose your health, it is too late. Health brings a freedom very few realise, until they no longer have it.

2. I wish I didn't work so hard.

This came from every male patient that I nursed. They missed their children's youth and their partner's companionship. Women also spoke of this regret. But as most were from an older generation, many of the female patients had not been breadwinners. All of the men I nursed deeply regretted spending so much of their lives on the treadmill of a work existence.

By simplifying your lifestyle and making conscious choices along the way, it is possible to not need the income that you think you do. And by creating more space in your life, you become happier and more open to new opportunities, ones more suited to your new lifestyle.

3. I wish I'd had the courage to express my feelings.

Many people suppressed their feelings in order to keep peace with others. As a result, they settled for a mediocre existence and never became who they were truly capable of becoming. Many developed illnesses relating to the bitterness and resentment they carried as a result.

We cannot control the reactions of others. However, although people may initially react when you change the way you are by speaking honestly, in the end it raises the relationship to a whole new and healthier level. Either that or it releases the unhealthy relationship from your life. Either way, you win.

4. I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.

Often they would not truly realise the full benefits of old friends until their dying weeks and it was not always possible to track them down. Many had become so caught up in their own lives that they had let golden friendships slip by over the years. There were many deep regrets about not giving friendships the time and effort that they deserved. Everyone misses their friends when they are dying.

It is common for anyone in a busy lifestyle to let friendships slip. But when you are faced with your approaching death, the physical details of life fall away. People do want to get their financial affairs in order if possible. But it is not money or status that holds the true importance for them. They want to get things in order more for the benefit of those they love. Usually though, they are too ill and weary to ever manage this task. It is all comes down to love and relationships in the end. That is all that remains in the final weeks, love and relationships.

5. I wish that I had let myself be happier.

This is a surprisingly common one. Many did not realise until the end that happiness is a choice. They had stayed stuck in old patterns and habits. The so-called 'comfort' of familiarity overflowed into their emotions, as well as their physical lives. Fear of change had them pretending to others, and to their selves, that they were content. When deep within, they longed to laugh properly and have silliness in their life again.

When you are on your deathbed, what others think of you is a long way from your mind. How wonderful to be able to let go and smile again, long before you are dying.
--Bronnie Ware

Friday, February 3, 2012

To field a ground ball must be considered a generous act and an act of comprehension. One moves not against the ball but with it. Bad fielders stab at the ball like an enemy. This is antagonism. The true fielder lets the path of the ball become his own path, thereby comprehending the ball and dissipating the self, which is the source of all suffering and poor defense.
--Aparicio Rodriguez, The Art of Fielding

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

I am trying to restrain my contempt for people claiming to be religious who are perfectly prepared to turn the country over to another warmongering, corrupt, influence-peddling, spend-us-into-oblivion, Wall Street stooge — who, on top of it all, holds them in contempt.

I am not always successful in this, however. So I admit I liked this:

--Tom Woods

Friday, January 13, 2012

We recently saw the impressive movie, Of Gods and Men, about a small group of monks in Algeria during the civil war. The movies closes with a portion of a letter from one of them:

Should it ever befall me, and it could happen today, to be a victim of the terrorism swallowing up all foreigners here, I would like my community, my church, my family, to remember that my life was given to God and to this country.

The Unique Master of all life was no stranger to this brutal departure. And that my death is the same as so many other violent ones, consigned to the apathy of oblivion.

I’ve lived enough to know that I am complicit in the evil that, alas, prevails over the world and the evil that will smite me blindly. I could never desire such a death. I could never feel gladdened that these people I love be accused randomly of my murder.

I know the contempt felt for the people here, indiscriminately. And I know how Islam is distorted by a certain Islamism. This country, and Islam, for me are something different. They’re a body and a soul.

My death, of course, will quickly vindicate those who called me naive, or idealistic, but they must know that I will be freed of a burning curiosity and, God willing, will immerse my gaze in the Father’s and contemplate with him his children of Islam as he sees them.

This thank-you which encompasses my entire life includes you, of course, friends of yesterday and today, and you too, friend of the last minute, who knew not what you were doing.

Yes, to you as well I address this thank-you and this farewell which you envisaged. May we meet again, happy thieves in Paradise, if it pleases God, the Father of us both. Amen.