Status Update. A Lot of Hot Air.

The only time you'll ever see
my #bedhead
So I'm finally feeling almost normal after our trip to Chicago. The day after we returned home, the sore throat that had been bugging me in Illinois turned into a full-blown sinus infection complete with glaring red pink-eye. This prompted a hasty trip to my immunologist and a series of antibiotics. I finished the ten day course of antibiotics on Wednesday, and had my first physical therapy session in three weeks on Thursday. I was bushed after the PT, but that was only part of the problems that surfaced this week.

Monday morning was the follow-up for the 90 day Betahistine (Serc) test that my ENT and I had been running. The results looked promising, and so I'm going to try upping the dose for a year and see what that gets me in the way of relief from Meniere's symptoms. I've noticed that I seem to start exhibiting symptoms again before the next dose of Betahistine is due, so I'm going to take the same dosage three times a day. If you are a Meniere's sufferer and you have triggers similar to mine, you probably should get your ENT to trial you on Betahistine and see if it helps you or not. I am curious to know if there is a sub-group of Menierians who benefit more from Betahistine than others. This data would clarify whether there is a benefit to Betahistine treatment or not. Comments on this subject are not only welcome but I'll beg for them if I have to.

I'm feeling better, I thought. I should have known this was a prequel to the hell life had in store for me later in the week. On Wednesday the air conditioning dropped dead on us. It had been acting a little squirrely for awhile now and the system is nineteen years old. Several times over the last few years I had noticed that the thermostat didn't seem to control the system like it should. It would sporadically fail to come on when it got too hot in the house, and would fail to turn off when it got cold. Sometimes the interior spaces got chilly enough that I thought seriously about wearing more clothing. On Monday, the system's lackluster cooling performance lead me to do some basic troubleshooting and I noticed that it was well past time for a filter change. Changing the filter did seem to improve cooling and airflow, but Tuesday evening the fan wouldn't start if we set the thermostat to cool, and Wednesday the fan said fuck it, I'm outta here and refused to start in any position. On or auto. Heat, cool or off. No dice and no air conditioning.

myhistoryfix.com
Ah, Texas in the summertime with no air conditioning! Back in the days before that invention every building in the region had ten or twelve foot ceilings and floor to ceiling windows that allowed cool air to enter the building from the lower sash, while simultaneously allowing the heat to escape the building from the upper sash (this is the origin of the term double-hung for the architecturally curious. Windows which can be opened from both top and bottom) and even then you slept outside on what was referred to as a sleeping porch because it was too hot to sleep indoors at all. Air conditioning changed architecture radically and not necessarily for the better. With the ability to alter indoor temperatures builders could ignore long-held rules of thumb that governed Southern construction, putting large glass facades on South-facing walls and lowering ceilings to the now-common eight foot height. Which is all just fine, as long as the air conditioning works.

So we called our handyman, but he was out of town for a week. Deeming it time to bite the bullet, we called a contractor we have dealt with successfully before, and they sent a guy out on Friday. Based on his estimation we had to replace parts just to see if the system could be revived or not. I've been down this road a few times. Replacing one part leads to replacing another part, which leads to replacing a third part until at some point you've rebuilt the entire system. As I mentioned previously, it's a nineteen year old system. I can't even get refrigerant for it anymore, legally. Spending money on this dinosaur is throwing good money after bad.

The heat and the humidity were threatening to send me spiraling back down into vertigo hell, but the salesman (comfort specialist) who showed up to pitch us on a new system came bearing gifts of window units. Consequently we were open to the idea of looking into replacing the ancient HVAC system. This was a theoretical possibility on Friday, a possibility that is rapidly gelling into a reality for Monday. So I'm taking this opportunity to start some renovations of my own that I've been wanting to get done since the first day we toured the place before buying it.

I won't be raising the floor in the former garage yet, that project is a bit too ambitious even if it is desperately needed. The attic fan that has hulked above my head every time I climb the stairs is going away though. I've wanted that thing gone from the time we moved in. I can't use it. It draws outside air into the house unfiltered. Everything outside wants to kill me with allergies. The last thing I need is something that pulls even more allergens into my breathing space. The window units alone are making my symptoms worse, I can feel vertigo perched above my head like an unwelcome avian visitor. Removing the attic fan means the upstairs HVAC will finally be properly balanced without the thing taking up attic real estate and letting attic heat into the living space.

Who knows, maybe other repairs and modification are following fast on the heels of the new HVAC system? Hope springs eternal, even for those cursed with chronic illness.

Then, methought, the air grew denser, perfumed from an unseen censer 
Swung by Seraphim whose foot-falls tinkled on the tufted floor.
“Wretch,” I cried, “thy God hath lent thee—by these angels he hath sent thee
Respite—respite and nepenthe from thy memories of Lenore;
Quaff, oh quaff this kind nepenthe and forget this lost Lenore!”
Quoth the Raven “Nevermore.” - Edgar Allan Poe

The definition of Secure and Insecure

When I walked up to these public terminals  a few minutes ago, the couple next to me helpfully offered the advice "that one is broken". A few quick keystrokes later I discovered that the problem was the touchscreen interface was registering false touches. Probably the result of previous abuse.

While I was amusing myself with the interface, attempting to see if it was hackable in the context of my rudimentary knowledge, the couple next to me got up and left, having completed their search. These are pay terminals. They require a credit card to access. This was the second thing I learned. I also learned that the people who set these terminals up were pretty good at their job. Physical plugs all behind lock and key, drives and ports in another part of the building. Hardware essentially out of reach without damaging the wiring.

The software is a version of Windows 7. Most of the known bypasses from within the OS (known by me) are locked off, and you can only get to the Windows interface by paying in advance or convincing the system you have paid. This knowledge I gained by accessing the broken system that the couple had paid for previously. Paid for and then couldn't use and paid for a second system.

Some people apparently just pay for things without ever even asking why; a willingness to be defrauded that I've never understood. This couple had paid twice for information their phones could have given them for free. They had also walked away from the area leaving their information available on two different public terminals. Accessible to any nefarious person who wandered by. I did them a favor and logged them off both systems. I'm apparently not as big an asshole as I thought.

Stuck in Mobile Interface Hell

Mobile apps are so kludgy. Why is it apparently impossible to make a mobile app that can produce content that can dance and sing like  desktop applications do? The Tumblr app will not let blog posts tap the power of the social web by drawing content from other websites and displaying it as it does on the desktop/browser interface.

At least I can access the code with the Tumblr app. The Blogger app cannot give me access to HTML code at all as far as I can tell. Don't get me started on how the Facebook app can't let go of content, even when you tell it twice to let go.
Yes, view in browser. No, I mean a real browser. No, I mean Chrome!
Why do I have to argue with Facebook programming on my own phone? The Blogger app can't find my photos. Tumblr can't multi-media code unless you can do it all from memory (I can't) and the Facebook app? Zuckerberg isn't getting the blogging part of my soul. He already has too much of the rest of it.

This is hell. I want my desktop back. Now please.

Jean-Luc Picard programming binary code from memory
into Data's severed head in Time's Arrow (Part 2).
I cannot program on this level, but I do know people who can.

How to Calculate the Federal Budget

I've gotten into several arguments over the years about what the US Federal Budget is and how it should be calculated. Planet Money tried to do a humorous take on the budget this week, and frankly, now I want to argue with them about it.



Here's the problem with Planet Money's budget. Social Security and Medicare are paid for in advance with premiums like any other insurance program. So, the cost of their outlays should be (and are) on a separate ledger because (and this is the important bit) if the premiums do not cover the cost of outlays that is not the beneficiaries fault. The government must honor the rightful demands of beneficiaries or it will cease to serve any real purpose. The government will fail because the people who paid for benefits they won't receive will make sure it comes crashing down.

The end of government is (again​, important) the real goal of those who call these program's future into question. They want to end government and enjoy the knife & gunfire filled blessings of anarchy. Oh, who am I kidding? The brief period of anarchy involving nuclear physicists building hydrogen bombs for the highest bidder (at the point of a gun if necessary) before whatever form of life succeeds after humans are gone establishes their unquestioned rule of the planet. Here's hoping that form of life is smarter than human life was.

The budget presented by the Planet Money Team is similar to this one,




You should immediately note that most of the budget is already spent, as in mandatory expenditures. These are the services that have already been paid for. The services that the average citizen can be said to expect from their government in this day and age. Access to healthcare. Insurance against disability. Assistance to families with dependent children. The latter being properly seen as investing in the future, something we don't do nearly enough of. Something that the Orange Hate-Monkey's budget wants to do a lot less of.

The discretionary spending, the only part of government outlays that the currently sitting government should have any control over, looks like this;


As this image should make clear, the only thing that can be easily cut from these expenditures is the military. A military that we spend as much on as the next 9 countries combined. Now, we probably need a good portion of that to continue, but I've heard many people say over the years "we need those numbers to continue because they provide jobs for people who need them."

Here's a thought. How about we don't spend money on new and better ways to destroy the world another ten times over? How about we just give the people working for the military the same amount of money but not require them to do any work. The soldiers, I mean. All of the poor, for that matter. I hear you saying "but what will they do to occupy their time?" Let them decide, or give them constructive advice on what kinds of things need done. Forestry and game observation. Construction of infrastructure in other countries as well as infrastructure in our own country.

Spend money on the future and not on the biggest, most glorious explosion ever seen in human history, a history ending nuclear holocaust. Food for thought.

I am a Patriot, and I Love My Country

"The first round of explosions has started."  -  A July first Facebook status post.
I'm hoping the people who try to burn down our neighborhood every 4th of July will finally make friends in the country so they can go out there and frighten the wildlife. Either that or get someone to drive them downtown for the city's fireworks display. My dogs hate the explosions and I haven't celebrated independence day for almost a decade now. Between the dogs and my own disabilities, there is little sense in mucking up the air with burnt offerings to the gods of independence. All of us are dependent on somebody. Some of us are just more cognizant of this fact than others.

The episode of On the Media that was playing in my headphones when I started writing the reply to the above status post was topical for the looming July 4th holiday. A similar holiday also happens on July 1st in Canada. Canada is celebrating 150 years as a nation. Except they really aren't. Celebrating, that is. Not in the way Americans would recognize.



"Canadians kinda don't need [patriotism] we have hospitals" - Stephen Marche
Snark aside, there is something about the July 4th holiday and the near-manic manner in which it is celebrated that leaves the outside observer and likewise the cynic wondering "what do they have to celebrate?" With incomes at all-time lows for the average American, with poverty on the rise and the mega-rich in ownership of the entire US government; with popular denial of science leading to defunding of scientific ventures like the SSC, the international space station and the space program which in turn has led to Europe breaking new ground in science exploration over the last decade, one really wonders what it is about America that we really are celebrating.

I mean, we aren't the free-ist. We aren't the happiest. We aren't the richest. The one thing you can put your finger on that we do better than anybody is build an impressively large military, spending more on our military than the next 8 countries combined. We pay a lot more for healthcare than any other country, and we get some of the shoddiest results from this overspending. We  consume the most. We throw away to most. We throw away so much usable stuff that there are countries whose economies are benefitted by buying our cast-offs and putting them to use.

I set this piece up with the chorus from Jackson Browne's song I am a Patriot several years ago. Before Trump. Before Obama's second term. That is how long I've been stewing on these ideas I'm putting down here, the conflict at the heart of America's need to scream their love of themselves at the world. There is something really, horribly wrong with this picture.
I am a patriot
And I love my country
Because my country is all I know
I want to be with my family
The people who understand me
I've got nowhere else to go
This observation is at once achingly true and laughably simplistic, which is why this song rings true with me. Most people are patriots because, what else would you want them to be? Hate their lives and where they live? Who lives long in that state of mind? Not too many people. Consequently, everyone is a patriot and no one is, simultaneously. This is a truism just as everyone is as free as they want to be is a truism. Absolute freedom is to be released from constraint, to not have to eat or sleep or breath. Not have to feel pain or feel anything at all. Absolute freedom is death, to not know constraint of any kind. Are the enslaved then to blame for their own enslavement? Only if you believe death is a preferable state of being. Of non-being. Embracing freedom as a concept that can unite all people in the third verse is an acknowledgement of the universal appeal of these fuzzy concepts, and yet freedom is as indefinable as patriot in the real world.

So I don't hate my country anymore than the next fellow. I just don't understand why it is we in the US feel compelled to try to burn the whole place down every 4th of July. If I had to pick one thing, just one thing, that I thought was superior about the US, about America, I can give that answer without much thought. The best thing about our country is the first amendment to the constitution. Freedom of speech makes everything else possible, because the ability to form concepts and communicate them to another is possibly the most human thing we do. The most distinctive thing about us as living creatures. It is the first of the four freedoms for a reason.

That is why when the US fails to live up to the promise of the First Amendment, it can be so devastating to those caught in the crossfire. People like Aaron Copland.



"Copland's scores and recordings were banned in hundreds of overseas libraries. Access officially denied." - Sara Fishko Fishko Files
I recognized Fanfare For The Common Man as the inspirational music for Air Force One almost immediately. But then, I'm a movie buff as even a cursory reading of this blog should illustrate.

Every Independance Day for the past decade and more I have sat down and watched movies with The Wife. My go-to film is 1776 on laserdisc. I like this version better than the streamed or bluray offering because it is actually a statement on the divisive nature of American life.  Visible across the length of that film are splices and ink-marks and scissor cuts where Jack Warner at the direction of the Nixon White House cut scenes and whole songs from the film. Nixon didn't approve of the apparent cowardice of the conservatives as portrayed in the play. Their stated willingness to allow others to risk so that they could preserve their wealth and security. The words may be placed in the mouths of the actors on the stage, but the sentiment of the time is beautifully captured in the verse of the songs, the fervor of John Adams, the melancholy of the (real) dispatches from George Washington in the field. Franklin's open pragmatism. The feeling that America must be free to find her own destiny, not ruled over by Europeans intent on subjecting it for the purpose of profit for themselves, no matter the cost. This version speaks to me in my soul, the tension and conflict then and now. The pulls in different directions, to risk for the sake of principle, to recoil at the prospect of loss. This is life in the US and possibly life as it is throughout the world.

The Wife watches either ID4 or Live Free or Die Hard sometimes both of them. Over-the-top explosions, hammy one-liners and the good guys winning in the end. I think she shares more with the sentiment of the average American than I ever could just in her choice of movies. Nothing in life has ever been that simple for me, and maybe that's the point. She seeks escape in her movies. I seek new ways of looking at the world and myself, insights that have never occurred to me before. That I haven't driven her screaming mad in 30 years of life together is more a testament to her strength than it is to my willingness to compromise on what movies I will sit and watch repeatedly.

Hey Google! Blogger Interface Needs a Patch!

For the last few weeks I've been getting spam comments from Blogger. Yes, that's right. Blogger is spamming me with comments, if sources for the spam are to be believed. The problem is a little more involved than that.


Not only is the self-identified user Blogger spamming me, but the landing page for marking comments from blogger as spam still references the old blogger developers blog that hasn't been updated since 2013!


Now, I understand. I rejected Google's G+ comments interface. I post to G+ for blog promotional purposes (as limited as that is, I've seen the metrics) and I got tired of seeing my own posts listed as comments on the blog articles. It makes you feel lonely and pathetic when you are the only one posting comments to your blog. Yes, maybe that is because I am lonely and pathetic, but I don't need reminders from my blog interface to realize this potential fact. So I moved back to the native blogger comments.

If they want me to use G+ as the only commenting form, perhaps they should fix the G+ interface to import old blogger comments properly; as in, not showing the obvious HTML code inline with the comment text. Give me the option of not showing my own posts to G+ as comments on articles. Something. Anything.

But please Google. Please. I'm begging here. Clean up the old Blogger interface? Make links go places that are still in use? Keep clearly proprietary user names reserved for Blogger and Google not to mention Alphabet, the new parent company and all the other companies that Google now Alphabet owns. At the very least, can you kill the spammers account? The fake Blogger? Please? 

Bullshit is Bullshit.

Since January 20th I've been keeping a passing eye and ear on the news. Not really paying attention, just waiting for the talking heads and pundits to start clueing in on the new reality. Waiting for the former gatekeepers and news creators to understand the landscape in front of them. I'm beginning to think I am wasting my time. Every newscast, every podcast, every article I run across with few exceptions falls for the tasty bullshit offered rather than dig into the fabrication that they are being asked to consume and regurgitate for the public's consumption.

The Muslim ban was one of the first things out of the gate 6 months ago, and it's still being discussed. Removed, reissued, struck down again, and now the Supreme Court will be asked to weigh in on this xenophobic floating turd in the public drinking water. They'll couch the destruction of Trump's attempt to institute an unconstitutional ban on a specific religion in flowery rhetoric, or they'll debase themselves before the power of the mob that His Electoral Highness is assembling to inflict his will on the unsuspecting public, but in the end the Muslim ban is bullshit just like everything that has been said about it is bullshit. Six months of bullshit about a policy that never had a chance of being real American law. It is a religious test. A muslim ban imposed by christians and their anti-christ Trump, just more of the christian persecution complex that has been on display since Reagan invited them into politics in 1980.

This is how demagogues rule. This is how democracies and republics dissolve. Listening to His Electoral Highness' bullshit and reporting on it as fact is facilitating the dissolution of the country we have known and, from the perspective of the doddering old fool of the religious right agenda we should know so well by now, ushering in the theocratic government they are convinced will secure god's blessing for America. But that is just one facet on the polished turd of Trump's bullshit.

The border wall he announced after descending the flowing golden escalator to proclaim his candidacy, the border wall that will keep out the brown-skinned menace to the South of the US? That bullshit still isn't a thing, either. It isn't a thing because it can't be done and the people along the border don't even want it done. The Republicans in Texas, ever anxious to keep Tejanos subjected and divided, have embraced the xenophobic fear of the brown-skinned other that Trump embraced as a candidate, only to be stabbed in the back by the rogue force they got elected to the presidency. Texas cities aren't even sanctuaries according to the Trump justice department. So the sanctuary cities fearmongering that the governor and the legislature spent months on and will spend millions defending amounts to exactly bullshit. Meaningless bullshit clogging up the airwaves, obscuring the real news.

For six years, six years, the Republicans have campaigned on repealing Obamacare, the moniker they hung on the ACA that Obama in one of his moments of wisdom embraced. Trump said they'd fix that day one. It didn't happen day one, hasn't happened yet six months later. The Republicans can't agree on just how to hang themselves with their own rhetoric, so they fidget and hesitate and refuse to do much of anything of measureable impact. They passed a bill through the House that they know won't pass the Senate, and the Bullshitter-in-Chief threw them a party on the White House lawn to celebrate their victory in doing absolutely nothing at all. Just the kind of thing a lover of bullshit like Trump would celebrate, of course. It doesn't even matter that the non-plan doesn't do any of the things he's forgotten he promised on the campaign trail. It's the celebration that counts.

Trump promised jobs? How is that lying, cheating scumbag going to create jobs? The only people who stay with him and make money are family and household staff. The only business partners that make money are the criminals who give him money to launder; and they only make money because he knows they'll kill him if they don't. Every single word I've heard him utter since he declared his intention to build casinos in Atlantic City and then shafted every single person who dared believe anything he said about the project has been bullshit. Look at them, the scattered carcases in his wake. The thousands of people he trickled down on as he was being golden showered himself. The people who are afraid to admit they fell for his bullshit all these years. The people who thought they'd get rich as part of the scheme only to be left holding the bag, paying the bill, after all the important people have checked out. Look at them, the wannabes still following him even now just hoping for a droplet of his time so that they too might be as lucky as he is, to be apparently worth billions all while truthfully being in hock to the eyeballs, afraid of his own shadow and spied on by his Russian bride. Risking everything on this one big final scam, running for president, hoping against hope that it just might turn out alright.

Every single media personality who reports on Trump secretly wants to be Trump. That is the thing they only admit to themselves when they are alone with their thoughts at three am wondering what they did wrong in their lives to end up where they are. They want to be famous like Trump. Charismatic like Trump. Able to pull crap out of their asses like Trump and have total strangers eat it up like cake. The lure of fame so commonly mistaken for infamy, especially in the world of reality television. It is a mark of pride for me, never having seen a single episode of the Apprentice. Never listening to Howard Stern or any of his thousands of imitators and so never consequently being trapped listening to Trump talk about himself. Never being a fan of David Letterman and so also missing him there. It was a blessing, when I could tune out the bullshit so easily.





So it goes, round and round and round with no end in sight. This is the goal of the bullshitter. They want to keep people distracted, try to wear out their attention so that when they finally look away in exhaustion the real goals can be pursued. Those goals vary from one bullshitter to the next. Most of them are selling something, and His Electoral Highness was one of those when he was a real estate developer. His bullshit serves a different purpose these days, but bullshit remains bullshit, and anything coming out of that mouth is bullshit, has always been bullshit. The mistake is in listening to what he says in the first place. Listening beyond the necessity to realize he needs to be removed from office and gathering the evidence to achieve that goal. All the reporting and amusement and outrage and even the disaffection and denial all serve the greater purpose that the bullshitter wants achieved so long as the media and his future prosecutors do not realize that ending his bullshit career is the only goal of merit. As long as he remains in play, in office and free to manipulate and profit, his bullshit serves the purpose he creates it for.

Stonekettle Station
Yesterday Robert Reich posted yet another in a series of posts detailing how the president is clearly unhinged and needs to be removed. Today Jim Wright over at Stonekettle Station brilliantly detailed how Trump's Twitter bullshit remains without substance. I understand that it's important to convince the people who support him to stop, but I really don't think that his supporters are vulnerable to reasoned arguments from any quarter. It is far, far too late for that to be effective. We have white power being motivated to violence in the streets across the country, and no one is prosecuting them as we did the Black Panthers and Malcolm X in the 60's . White supremacists are more powerful and more visible than they've ever been in my lifetime and I've been paying attention to politics from the inside and the outside since the mid-seventies. We are in a crisis point and I doubt there are very many people reading this that don't already know this.

When His Electoral Highness intoned "The Media is the Enemy of the People" anyone with an understanding of history and the manipulation of society should have perked up and taken notice. This is a well-known tactic of demagogues and dictators. Discredit the press, make people uncertain of the truthfulness of what they read and hear,
"Part of his purpose there (attacking the press) is to make sure the news source they (his base) accept about Trump is Trump. If the press can't find a way into that circle, then it really doesn't matter what a ball they are having as they report on this playground of a White House." - Jay Rosen, On The Media, Shiny Objects, May 11, 2017  (press think blog)
He is still speaking directly to his supporters, what the media calls his base and what I would refer to as preaching to the choir. He doesn't care what anyone else thinks as long as his alt-right people stay loyal to him, his brownshirts in waiting. The equivalent to the Reichstag fire hasn't occurred yet, but His Electoral Highness, the demagogue who serves as a stand-in for Hitler, Stalin, Pol Pot, Mussolini, etc, etc, etc, ad nauseum has been inducted into a leadership position he isn't capable of executing in a legal fashion. His troops are marshalling now and it only remains for the catalyst to be introduced for the violence in his name and defense to start.

None of this comes as a surprise to me. I recognized the patterns if not the person quite some time ago. Wanting to avoid a Trump presidency is why I voted for Hillary Clinton, not that it did much good since everyone else appears to have stayed home.  Avoiding a Trump presidency is also why I warned everyone who read my blog at the end of last October about Trump and his backer's true threat level. Apparently I wasn't clear enough about the kind of violent, uninformed malcontents backing the con artist that was running against Hillary and the system itself, so I explained it more succinctly in a post and with a moniker I gave to Trump when he didn't burn out as I (and he also) expected to - The Orange Hate-Monkey. Following that I explained the job of the electoral college, to the electoral college and then compared the GOP to their historical predecessors and then, when all else had failed, I explained why we as the owners of this entire mess should act to clean it up as quickly as possible, summed up in the archaic phrase Caveat Emptor. Caveat Emptor, a phrase everyone should be required to understand in this day and age.

I haven't written much since then because, frankly, I'm waiting for everyone else to catch up. I'm beginning to get tired of waiting. The media still report on every bit of bullshit that passes his lips. They follow his Twitter feed slavishly. Parse his every utterance as if they contain pearls of wisdom. Why do they report these things as news? Surely after years of having to correct what he says, then he says differently, and then changes again, a journalist trained to verify facts would realize that the source is not reliable and find another source. But they don't. They can't stop themselves.
Economist: "Beyond that, it’s OK if the tax plan increases the deficit?"
Trump: "It is OK, because it won’t increase it for long. You may have two years where you’ll . . . you understand the expression ‘‘prime the pump”?"
Economist: "Yes."
Trump: "We have to prime the pump."
Economist: "It’s very Keynesian."
Trump: "Have you heard that expression before, for this type of an event?"
Economist: "Priming the pump?"
Trump: "Yeah, have you heard it?"
Economist: "Yes."
Trump: "Have you heard that expression used before? Because I haven’t heard it. I mean, I just . . . I came up with it a couple of days ago and I thought it was good. It’s what you have to do."
Earth to Trump: The expression "priming the pump" has been used to refer to government spending that stimulates the economy since at least 1933. If you never heard it before your grasp of economics is below that of most Americans. If you think you made it up, your narcissism is fabulous. "Fabulous" is a word that has been used since 1658. You didn't make that up, either.
Robert Reich, Facebook, May 12 at 3:41am
Stonekettle Station
He knows these things didn't come from him. If he doesn't then he really is as unhinged as most people think these days. It is bullshit; and all of the reporting on what he says simply promotes it. Dr. Reich is flabbergasted that Trump would admit he fired FBI Director Comey because he refused to end the Russia probes. Of course he fired Comey because of Russia. I didn't believe he'd admit it himself initially, but why shouldn't he? His base doesn't believe the Russian conspiracy is real (and it may not be) but why should he care what he admits or what anyone reports? He knows he isn't going to be hindered by what the media says or doesn't say. He rules with the support of the mob at his back. The ever more violent white supremacists and malcontents, what we would call terrorists if we were being honest with ourselves. They put him in office and they intend to keep him there.



With Timothy Snyder and his book On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century
"Life is political, not because the world cares about how you feel, but because the world reacts to what you do" 
This is why the media needs to go cold turkey on their Trump addiction. This binge they've been on since almost two years ago now. They need to report facts instead of the touchy-feely bullshit that Trump spews every morning. Facts like his demonstrable theft of service business practices, just waiting to be revealed to the researcher willing to dig deep enough. Where are his tax returns? Now he's going to release them after he leaves office? Who believes this bullshit? Show of hands? Nobody. He's never going to release them, they will incriminate him and he knows this. Someone please produce them, so we can get on with the prosecution.

Facts like his complete allegiance to Putin and Russia. He dropped missiles on a Syrian airbase? Where is the outrage? Where are the official state protests? Where is Russia and Syria holding us to account for his act of war? What you hear instead is the sound of crickets chirping. Has the media grown so fatigued they don't even notice the echoing chasm of a lack of quid pro quo, tit for tat, the kind of behavior that has historically always followed a strike like that? You won't see it, because it was bullshit executed by the military at Trump's request. No real effect, planes took off the next day from that base to strike the same targets they'd been striking the day before. In the end, the missile strike simply proved that even the things he does are bullshit, which is quite a feat in and of itself. To be ineffectual even when blowing things up and killing people. You have to be a world-class bullshitter to be able to pull off that level of bullshit.

On June twentieth we'll have officially hit the six month mark in the Trump presidency. He has already gone on more vacations in 6 months than Obama did in 6 years. He's produced less work than any other president at this point in his presidency, and his only successful acts have been to undo most of the progress made by President Obama in his last 6 months in office. His congress is on the path to produce less legislation than the last congress, which was the least productive congress in the history of the nation. This is what a constant stream of bullshit earns you. Lots of effort simply to lose ground. He's made a lot of money over this past six months, though. That I can guarantee you without having to look at his ledger sheets, all of it at the expense of US citizenry and US international standing. Forfeiture of the American hegemony, the end of US international leadership.

I'm going back to Netflix now. I have House of Cards to catch up on. Yes, it's tame by comparison to His Electoral Highness' court intrigues, possibly even more believable, but I prefer distraction to watching the slow torture of the American spirit into something that I'd rather not be associated with. Someone wake me when the impeachment hearings start.

"Not even being president could give you any class." - Spoken by the character Elizabeth Hale in House of Cards Season 4 Ep. "Chapter 40"

A Toast to My Alcoholic Father

"You would never know if I relapsed," he said to me. "I was very good at being an addict." 
No, honey, you weren't. None of us are. We think we are cleverly hiding it. We think we have it under control. We think we are getting benefit from it. We think we are the exception to the rule. We think we will be able to prevent it from consuming us. 
A Facebook Status Post
I have taken out the garbage in my home (eldest son always gets that job, ditto with husbands)  for my entire life. Consequently I know what people throw away in the house. I know who recycles and who doesn't. I know who is doing what based on what garbage appears in their waste cans. It is extraordinarily hard to disguise behaviors that create garbage, behaviors that leave behind evidence which must be destroyed if you want that behavior to be secret.

My dad went through an astronomical amount of Canadian Club, Black Velvet, etc. At least a fifth every, single, day, without fail. I must have hauled several tons of discarded glassware to the ashcan over the course of the years I lived at home with my parents. We kids knew the drill. Ice (this much) bourbon (that much) water (a much smaller amount) He always drank, all the time. It wasn't until the drunk driving laws started appearing that he knew he was heading for trouble, because he couldn't be without his glass of bourbon and a cigarette (Pall Mall's) at any point in any day. Couldn't do without it (them) until the cancer started.

When the cancer started it became imperative that he stop smoking and drinking, and he still couldn't do it. He just didn't know how to stop. He switched to low-tar cigarettes first. No more filterless Pall Mall's, it was Carlton's or whatever else he was trying that week. He insisted the low-tars were filled with cabbage leaves, but he had to have a smoke. The bourbon took longer for him to give up. He switched to cheap beer when it finally became clear he was going to have to stop his addictions, not understanding that he was going to have to actually stop the behaviors entirely. He smoked and drank until they stopped allowing him to eat because of throat cancer. In the end the addictions killed him by causing the cancer, and that is what I remind myself of mentally every time someone offers me a cigar or I pour myself a drink.

I stopped smoking cigarettes ages ago because I could feel the drag they were putting on my lung capacity, and that process took years. One of my sisters now runs a cigar shop and I have to decline offers of cigars every time she comes to town or we meet with relatives who have seen her recently. I can feel the itch of a lifetime nicotine addiction in the corner of my mind just thinking about picking up a coffin nail. The air in the Steele household was blue with tobacco smoke for my entire childhood. Nicotine was in the air I breathed every day until I left home and had to infuse the drug by smoking it myself. Kicking that habit was one of the hardest things I've ever done, and it took years of mentally associating the desire to smoke with the smell of a the bars I worked in as a young adult, reminding myself of the stale smell of smoke, sweat, alcohol and vomit that permeates the air of a bar before all the people show up and renew the smells with life.

My dad loved to tell a story about me when I would drink with him. One thing my dad was really good at was spinning yarns, and he could talk all day and night if you let him. He was a certified master of bullshit and I could sit and listen to him talk for as long as anyone would let him talk. I was fascinated by his ability to just make stuff up on the fly. The bare bones of the story went like this; The first time my parents took me along for a fine dining experience, one that included courses of meals and an after-dinner drink, I cried for the glass of cognac they sat in front of my father. My father, being the indulgent person that he really was, wanted to see what I would think of the cognac. Would I hate it? Would I reject it because of the alcohol taste? He didn't know. So he handed me the snifter and as he told it "You drank it right down. Sat there for a few seconds. Then you cried for more!" It always got a laugh and I laughed right along with him.

I am reminded of that story every time I crack open a new bottle of brandy or cognac, which is about the only thing I will drink these days; and I will drink a quiet toast to my father on those days. It is because of him that I am not an alcoholic, and that is probably the best lesson I learned from him. I have often wondered what he would have made of the efforts to end addiction these days? Would any of them have helped him? Would he have wanted help?

Drafter, Drawer, Moron

An artist friend was lamenting being called a drawer recently. Tongue-in-cheek he informed the fan of his artwork that he was not a drawer, a single container in a dresser or chest of drawers, but was rather a draughtsman, thank you very much.

This witty rebuttal sent me scurrying to check word meanings at my favorite quick-reference of choice, Wikipedia. When I got there I discovered that I couldn't use Wikipedia as a reference for this subject, as I have discovered with previous subjects on this blog. Wikipedia defaults to popular word usage and doesn't reference the word draftsman, or draftsperson if you insist on neutralizing the word. It doesn't even reference the proper English Draughtsman that my friend used. No, wikipedia gathers all discussion of the field of technical illustration under the term...

Drafter.

The sound that you are hearing is the spinning of a million proofreaders in their graves. It's quite a rumble, isn't it? A drafter is a racing driver following a pack leader close enough to get a speed boost from the lead car's wake in the air. In no way, shape or form is a draftsman a drafter. That just isn't English.

An artist creates art. A draughtsman or draftsman produces technical drawings (which is where the slang drawer comes from) I was a draftsman for many years, I know what I'm talking about. Applying art techniques to technical drawings produces a "rendering," something I have hired artists to do. I would never refer to an artist as a draftsman. That is an insult worthy of a good cuffing in my book. What artists and draftsmen do look similar on the surface but are in actuality two completely different fields of work.

The insistence on sounding like a moron when speaking has driven me crazy for years, drafter/drawer is just the latest insult that I've stumbled across, and that one has bugged me since I started drawing. As far back as I can remember I have tried to correct other's poor word usage only to be rewarded with the label of smartass from most of the people I've tried to educate. I was either born a proofreader or a pedant and I've never worked out which group I'd rather be affiliated with, but it does remind me of one of the few times that I managed to get the last laugh on the subject.

In the Wrath of the Lich King expansion, Blizzard added the inscription profession to World of Warcraft. I thought a scribe would be an interesting profession to get the Loremaster achievement with (Scribe. Lore. Get it?) so I spent a lot of time on the two 'toons that I leveled as scribes. In World of Warcraft, like most MMO's, you can spend a lot of time making things for other players. There are chat channels in the game where you can request needed items from or advertise your profession; and none of the players that I ran across in 6 years could figure out that someone who inscribes is referred to as a scribe. Inscriptors? Scripties? You name it. Never a request for a Scribe. In a moment of frustration I hit upon the right way to deal with this annoyance. I started explaining to the poor illiterate souls that a practitioner of inscription was referred to in a variation that reflected the sex of the practitioner. Like draftsman or draftswoman and many words found in romance languages. There was a sexual differentiation in the names and you needed to be sure to use the right one. Females were to be referred to as inscriptionatrixes. Males were only to be called inscriptionators. In six years of playing World of Warcraft, that never got old.

Atheist Hymnal

This popped up on Facebook as part of that sometimes annoying sometimes revealing On This Day function they've incorporated.


I had forgotten about this song having run across it so long ago. Not to argue with the joke involved in the song and title, but atheists have lots of songs if you mean an atheist wrote them. In actuality it is religion that has no songs; or at least no music,
I want to quote one humorous example that puts this idea to rest. I have had the good fortune of knowing a magnificent musician named Michael May, who was a virtuoso pianist, harpsichordist and organist. He did I don’t know how many “Messiahs” with me in Carnegie Hall with The Masterwork Chorus and Orchestra. To make a living he became a church organist. At one point during the communion, there were a lot of parishioners and he needed a lot of music. He ran out of music, so what he did was to take the score of “Carmina Burana”—how many of you are familiar with that? It’s a piece of music whose text has to do with lovemaking, debauchery, gambling and drinking. He played it slowly and softly, without the chorus, and nobody knew the difference. So without the words, you cannot tell whether or not a piece of music is intended to be religious. - David Randolph, No Such Thing as Religious Music
There are thousands of atheists writing music and singing songs, even songs about atheists and atheism. I've talked about Tim Minchin in the past. Nearly every episode of Freethought Radio that I posted about back when I discovered podcasting features songs by atheists about atheists or at least music written by atheist composers.

If there ever is an atheist hymnal, it won't be complete without a few songs from Shelley Segal. Dan Barker introduced me to her music on yet another episode of Freethought Radio, one that occurred after I had given up trying to illustrate the kinds of good information that was available in the podcast arena.

I wonder when you will start questioning all the bullshit everyone around you buys.

Words to live by. Turn to page 265 in the hymnals you can find on the backs of the pews in front of you and please sing along with me...

The Pop-Tart Conundrum

I have a burning question I want an answer to, but I doubt I can get the answer myself.

I love Kellogg's Unfrosted Brown Sugar Cinnamon Pop-Tarts. I have been buying them by the case from Amazon.com until recently. The price was about what twelve boxes should be from the local retailer, two dollars a box or twenty-four dollars. We get free shipping from Amazon.com because we are Prime members, so having them delivered every third month made sure that we had Pop-Tarts in the house when I wanted some without having to make a trip to the store. Last month Amazon doubled the price of these Pop-Tarts to over $40 a case which prompted us to cancel the scheduled next shipment of them.

I started to get curious about this price hike, so I went to Walmart.com and saw that they were still offering Pop-Tarts for $2 a box. I was able to get them shipped for $2 a box by ordering a case and a half (free shipping on orders of more than $35) the extra half-case I made up of unfrosted strawberry and blueberry just on a whim. I like them but they aren't the guilty pleasure that the brown sugar cinnamon ones are. They aren't the ones I loved as a child.

This is the question. Why the price difference? Both Walmart and Amazon try to be the lowest price available in a given market. If you think about it, Amazon should be offering a discount on the items because we were buying in bulk (factory labeled cases) and Walmart actually had to take the time to box and ship 18 individual boxes of Pop-Tarts to my home in their own shipping containers, a perfectly valid reason to tack on a processing fee which they didn't do.

Why are Amazon and several other online vendors acting like there is a shortage of Kellogg's Unfrosted Brown Sugar Cinnamon Pop-Tarts when Walmart is not? Why that specific flavor and not the other flavors? Why isn't there a bulk discount when shipped in bulk? Doesn't this fly in the face of economics 101? I would love to have an answer to this question.

(sent as a online query)

If It Bleeds, It Leads. Same as It Ever Was

For the last year and a half the media have fawned all over His Electoral Highness Donald J. Trump. They can't stop talking about him. They can't be kept from giving him airtime to talk about himself. Aside from Trump himself, his biggest fans are the media who think that what this lame duck of a leader says means anything at all. Because of the media's fawning, I have been forced to spend the last two years ignoring everything Donald Trump says with their generous gift of free airtime. I ignore everything he says because listening to him is what he wants us to do. I ignore him because attempting to make sense of what he says makes me feel ill. I ignore him because listening to him demonstrably makes you dumber; the media being a prime example of people made stupid by the sound of Donald Trump's voice.

The media's free gift of airtime helped give him the momentum to take the electoral college if not the popular vote; and now they ask, why is America so divided? If anyone should know the answer to this question it should be the media, but I wouldn't look to them to give you a truthful answer. Division is what they want. It sells. Conflict and violence always lead the news. The division they are trying to illustrate here is largely a matter of perception. The division is almost entirely of the media's making, their policy of going with taglines that hype the separation, the division, the conflict,



There’s nothing new about simmering hostility between a President and the press. As Richard Nixon once stated, “The President should treat the press just as fairly as the press treats him.” 
In March of 1974, the Nixon presidency was lurching toward destruction by Watergate, and there was an ongoing tension between the President and the CBS White House correspondent:
President Nixon: “Are you running for something?”Dan Rather: “No, sir, Mr. President, are you?”
Norm Ornstein, a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, was then, and remains now, a student of our political system and our media:
“We would watch network news shows and we would sit there and we would have basically a common set of facts that would emerge from them,” he said. “As we’ve moved to the new media world, the more you’ve got this cacophony of voices, the more you cut through it by, basically, shock value. And that’s why people now are driven not by their own attachment to their own parties; they’re driven by a hatred for those on the other side.” 
CBS News, The great divide: Politics in the Age of Trump

Much like Nixon ushered in the end of the Republican party that elected him, Trump signals the ultimate end of Reaganism and Reaganomics. There will be no possibility of doubt remaining as to the bankruptcy of Reagan's policies by the time Trump is drummed out of office; policies which have held sway since Reagan was president. The question the media should be asking is, will the Democrats find themselves and their new direction, or will they waste their resurgence as they did with the Carter years? Let me unpack these observations for you.

The eight years of Clinton were not liberal years. The most damning thing to be said about Clinton is that he was and is Republican lite, conservative-ish. He ended welfare in the US because the conservatives demanded that he do it. Because it was something that Reagan promised and compromising with Reagan Democrats was how Bill Clinton got into office. Over and over again he proved that he wasn't liberal in any real sense of the word. He was a conservative from the old Southern wing of Democratic conservatives who just happened to have married well. Without Hillary's influence I am convinced he would have been even harder on the poor, even more militaristic than he was. Weirdly, I doubt that would have kept Republicans from manufacturing a scandal in their attempts to remove him.

Barack Obama was pretty close to liberal but still enacted conservative policies because conservative policies were the only ones that the conservatives in the congress he was saddled with would vaguely go for. Obamacare was and is Romneycare. That is why Romney had such a hard time dissing the ACA, because it was his idea offered by a Democratic president and he knew it. Obama was the deporter-in-Chief because, again, that is what conservatives wanted him to do. He was tough on immigration because he hoped it would win points with the other side of the aisle. Only in his last two years did he realize that Republicans would never work with him and so he spent those years ruling by executive order. The Republicans didn't refuse to work for him because he was black if we are to take them at their word. they didn't refuse because he was liberal because his policies prove otherwise. They refused to work with him because he was a Democrat.

The sin that Bill Clinton, Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama are all guilty of is the sin of being members of the Democratic party. If they had been Republicans they would have been deemed typical centrists willing to make deals in order to get the government's work done. It is deal making that the new conservatives hate. They are convinced that there is a true conservative ideology and all they have to do is adhere to it. Never mind that no two conservatives can agree on what conservatism is aside from prosperity gospel Jesus, a completely different kind of Jesus than that socialist hippy Jesus of the seventies. That is religion masquerading as ideology which is all conservatism has left to appeal to, the shadow of religion that Reagan rode to power on.

None of this has anything to do with real ideology beyond the ghost of Reagan that even Reaganite priests can't quote because Reagan was more liberal than the country is now. The ghost of Reagan and his trickle-down Reaganomics is why the tax rates on the wealthiest people in the US remain low. Anyone making more than a million dollars a year should be taxed at the confiscatory rate of 99% just as the progressive tax rates did during the post-war era. During the times when the middle class grew and the poor were not quite so desperate. Back when Jesus was a socialist hippy. They should be taxed at this extreme rate because they don't spend more when they have more, so it benefits society not one bit to allow them to keep their incredible wealth.

The subject of monetary policy is too lengthy to get into here, but in the end upper income tax rates were lowered because the increased wealth was supposed to generate more benefits for the rest of us, and the reality we live in has demonstrably proven that the opposite is true. Ergo, some form of income cap has to be reinstituted. Either a scale requiring all boats be raised when the wealthy get paid more, or confiscatory taxes on pay greater than the scale would dictate.

So here we are at the tail-end of the Reagan era, just waiting for the Reagan Democrats to bleep their last heartbeat on the heart monitor they are strapped to before we can get on with progress. It has to be those people because they are the only ones left watching TV, getting their news from TV and from radio. Those are the people who went out and voted for Trump. Those are the people who in their political ignorance voted Republican not realizing that Republicans and conservatives ran everything in the country aside from the presidency already. Politically ignorant people who don't understand that the president's job isn't to fix the country, that is the job of the congress. A job the congress is supposed to achieve through legislation and funding and programs to keep the myriad systems this country depends on running.

Unfortunately for the rest of us, conservatives have swallowed the anarchist notion that government doesn't work. Republicans have echoed this falsehood because their base believes it, never questioning why they want to elect people to do jobs that they believe don't need to be done. So it falls to the Democrats to make proposals for government that will work. It falls to them to prove that the poor can get a fair shake in this new America, that the wealthy don't always get their way. Falls to the Democrats to propose the kinds of changes that populists on both sides of the aisle wanted and would get behind, because the Republicans and conservatives are too scared of socialism to even go someplace where government just might work. If the Democrats can do this, it will be the end of the Republicans for at least a generation.

What I don't understand is how the media can't see this happening? Why do they see fractiousness and faction rather than seeing what is really going on? The politically informed vs. the politically ignorant that gave us the current administration? Why can't they see that they are Donald Trump's biggest fans? Perhaps they can't see it because they too are caught in a previous age. The age of the gate keeper and the top-down adminstrator. The feudal society of corporate America, what is fast becoming a corporate globalism. The history of dictators and their five year plans that never worked out. They are soon to be as irrelevant as the Reagan Democrats who will be cashing their last Social Security checks soon. Checking out as movers and shakers and left behind as the world starts dancing to a different beat.

The media and Reagan Democrats will be as baffled by the next election as they were by the last one, because they think the narrative is one they set, and not one that we the people decide.

I am the 99%

I know this photo is from 2011, part of the Occupy demonstrations that year. There were quite a few of these images released with the title "I am the 99 percent" about that time.

I reposted it today because of the events in Washington DC, where the congress and His Electoral Highness Donald J. Trump are trying to undo all the work done by President Obama. They are trying to repel the ACA which they nicknamed Obamacare specifically trying to denigrate his accomplishments and tar him with the failures of the policy they helped to shape. The ACA, deemed to be not going far enough by most Americans especially the ninety-nine percenters, and condemned as going too far by the most vocal minority segment (self-identified conservatives) of the electorate.

In what should have been an obvious if counter-intuitive turn, the same people who protested that Obama did not go far enough voted for what was popularly seen as the opposition party, the Republicans. However, what the Republicans are is the party that confined Obama to the minimum that he was able to do. What is now transpiring in Washington DC is what happens when fiscal conservatives who think they have a mandate propose doing exactly what the people who voted for them don't want done. To the utter consternation of the public who doesn't follow politics as maniacally as I do, the hardliners in the party think that this barbaric proposal they've dubbed the AHCA is not punishing enough. The hardliners want it to be more punishing on the poor, the sick and the disabled, the complete opposite of what the popular mandate was.

Candidate Trump in one of his only sane moments said he would protect Medicare and make sure that everyone had healthcare better than they did under Obamacare, the ACA. However, His Electoral Highness has also forgotten his own promises on the subject of healthcare in his efforts to rally the party that saw his stances of protecting Medicare and Social Security as being too liberal.

We now find ourselves caught in an example of the argumentum ad absurdum brought to life. The people who voted for one kind of change, people like the one in the image, discovering their representatives apparently do want to see them die in the streets after all. That the reason conservatives knew there were death panels in Obamacare was because they were planning on creating death panels themselves. Death panels staffed by health insurance insiders who want to protect their profits. I'd laugh at the absurdity of it, if only I weren't so busy focusing on not giving in to vertigo.

When I stumbled across that image in my Facebook timeline for 2011, I was immediately struck by the notion that I could craft a similar statement. Mine would have to be computer printed like his because dysgraphia would make it take two days to write by hand. It would go something like this,
I worked for 30 years until my health failed me. Unable to sit or stand without pain or dizziness, move without assistance, constantly medicated, I faced a future where the only hope of seeing my family fed or for them to continue to have shelter was to apply for disability. The federal government refused to honor my claim for almost five years. They said I wasn't really sick. They said I wasn't an American. I had to proved that I was both before they would pay me anything even though I had faithfully paid my taxes for my entire life.

Now I must stay unemployed in order to keep my family fed and sheltered and keep my insurance, the only thing that allows me to live an almost normal life. In the meantime my wife and children do not qualify for aide because my disability payments amount to more income than is allowed for the poor to make and still qualify for benefits. I have better care with Medicare than any of them receive even though they live in my house and must subsist off of the meager payments the government provides for my disability.

I am the 99%
 If you voted for Republicans in the last election what happens next to people like me, people like him, will be entirely your fault. Think about that the next time you are tempted to complain about your taxes, or to vote for people who promise to save you money by taking a lifeline away from other people. You could well be me one day. Probably will be.

While the current word is that the AHCA is dead, we should never forget that the hardest of the hardliners, the most conservative of the conservatives, the ludicrously named Freedom Caucus, refused to vote for it because it didn't strip enough benefits from the poor, the sick and the disabled. Think about that the next time you go to vote.



As of this writing, the Senate has postponed their version of the AHCA (which finally did pass the House, a meaningless achievement that they still celebrated on the White House lawn) it won't come up for a vote until after the July 4th holiday. If there is any justice in this world, it will never be voted upon at all. It is a waste of time, a waste of lives and a waste of fortunes. What needs to happen now is Medicare for all, a basic level of coverage that every American chips in for, so that everyone pays into the system that we need when we get sick, and all of us will be sick at some point in our lives.



I am currently on Medicare and having the least trouble I've ever had getting my health problems tended to. Sadly, becoming chronically ill appears to have improved my overall health. That is what making your health a non-commodity will do for you. Make you healthier. 

Rites of Spring

A few years ago on Facebook, I posted the image at right to The Wife's wall.  Silly me, I was thinking I could entice the woman I love into engaging in some Rites of Spring when I posted it. Easter is the traditional holiday that most closely corresponds with the Vernal Equinox, the celestial demarcation for the beginning of spring.  Easter is promoted as the original spring festival, unlike the Hallmark created holiday of Valentine's day which is as like a real celebration of spring as porn is a representation of sex.

I say silly me because I spent the better part of that Sunday fending off attacks from friends affronted by the notion that Easter is in any way sexual or that the fertility goddesses alluded to in the image have anything at all to do with the resurrection of their savior or the holiday that Catholics created specifically to counter the carnal celebration rituals which had predominated societies of all kinds prior to christianity's rise.

This year Easter will arrive almost comically late to the spring scene, April 16th. The trees have been budding for about a month here in Austin as I write this. The birds will already be on their way further North from here by the time we get to Easter, so the sexually repressed will breath a sigh of relief knowing there will be little confusion between their sacred holiday and the equinox. It is a testament to the sexual repression present in the US that there isn't even a wiki page on the subject of Rites of Spring that isn't about music. Another testament is the fact that I can't even say exactly when I posted the image to The Wife's Facebook wall, because the image is consistently removed as offensive every time it is posted there.

I am sorry that the fact that spring is the time of rebirth, of fertility and sex, gets in the way of a deathcult-like obsession with afterlives and resurrection that is found within the various flavors of the christian religion when it comes to their spring celebration. The sexual repression that Paul introduced into the church from it's earliest days has seized hold of the majority of the religion's followers in the US, causing them to reject all things sexual as anti-christian. Jesus was not a sexist, he saw no need to place women in an inferior role in the world.

There is also a hemispherical bias at play here. I've often wondered what an Australian would think of the hubbub common in the Northern hemisphere surrounding this issue. Easter is in the fall in the Southern hemisphere; consequently the death-cultish air that bothers me about Easter probably is a nice foreshadowing of the oncoming winter when viewed from South of the equator; a preparation for the dying off of plant life, the hibernation of animal life, with a spring resurrection waiting at the other end of winter.

I originally entitled this piece Easter-Ishtar-Astarte. How about Tammuz? Because I wanted to push back at the near-hysterical responses I got from offended christians on Facebook. The offense has since spread all across the internet, with rebuttals on nearly any christian site you care to look at (no I won't link any of them) most of them rather petty in tone.  Also, most of them cherry-pick history to prove their points, largely relying on Bede and Herodotus who give the preferred twist to the pagan spring rituals that pre-date christianity.

© Marie-Lan Nguyen
One would think there was no basis for the worshipping of the feminine, a common theme in the pre-monotheistic times, if you listen to modern christian apologists. That there was no goddess Asherah mentioned in some versions of the Old Testament, that she wasn't worshipped as an equal right alongside the shrines to Yahweh in ancient Israel, before the cult of men, the cult of the penis asserted itself and made itself the lone holiness to be worshipped.

The truth is that the facts are much harder to tease out than those people who simply want to prove their worldview try make them. For example. The article at Scientific American on the subject of this meme cites the Germanic deity Eostre as the basis of the word Easter, as many of the christian apologists do.  However, the sole source of this proposition remains Bede. In the end, the need to prove that Easter is or isn't some phonetic variation on Ishtar is pointless and petty, a hallmark of the vast majority of Facebook content. As one of the commenters to the SA article pointed out;
Actually, there is a connection between Oestre and Ishtar. Ishtar is associated with Venus, which is often referred to as the morning star, or light-bringer with its association with Lucifer (lucis = light). Venus is the planet of love and marriage traditionally. 
There are Babylonian egg myths too featuring Ishtar being hatched, and the mystic egg falling from heaven to the Euphrates. These same myths are recycled from their Egyptian/Babylonian origins and do seem to be connected to the old pagan rites. 
The mythology of Astarte (Greek) and Ashtoreth (Jewish) seems very similar too. Everything seems to have a common origin. (emphasis added)
The rest of the meme is even more questionable than the assertion that Easter and Ishtar are one and the same. Further down in the SA article is the observation;
The cosmic egg, according to the Vedic writings, has a spirit living within it which will be born, die, and be born yet again. Certain versions of the complicated Hindu mythology describe Prajapati as forming the egg and then appearing out of it himself. Brahma does likewise, and we find parallels in the ancient legends of Thoth and Ra. Egyptian pictures of Osiris, the resurrected corn god, show him returning to life once again rising up from the shell of a broken egg. The ancient legend of the Phoenix is similar. This beautiful mythical bird was said to live for hundreds of years. When its full span of life was completed it died in flames, rising again in a new form from the egg it had laid.
Eggs appear to be central to almost all of the spring rites and creation stories.  They lend themselves quite handily to the theme of new life arising from an apparently inanimate object. There is no specific linkage between Ishtar and eggs that I could lay hands on; but then there doesn't need to be, since the egg is all over the various mythologies of the day as being the beginning of life.

The hardest facet of current Easter practices to track down is the Easter Bunny. Theories abound, and I even have some thoughts of my own on the subject as relating to the Wolpertinger and the Jackalope, both icons of Germanic influence in the US. The rabbit's springtime mating antics do bring me back to the point I started with. Like so many things human, the trappings of tradition cloud the purpose of the celebration.

The Rites of Spring from a human standpoint are necessarily sexual. That is how we renew the species, creating children who go on to make the future of the human animal a reality. Nearly all of the celebrations of spring outside of the deviancy of of the christian religion are sexual in nature, as they should be. If you want an example of this, wander through the galleries of ancient temples dedicated to the subject.  Read about the fertility rites that are still practiced in Asia. These are not perversions any more than christianity's sexless renewal celebration is a perversion of nature as well.


Betony Vernon The Boudoir Bible

Adam and Eve 
Albrecht Dürer
The US is demonstrably repressive when it comes to the subject of sex.  Demonstrably repressive, and at the same time unhealthily obsessed with meaningless sex like pornography, which can be found all over the place in spite of the almost reflexive repression present everywhere in the US that isn't the internet. Or San Francisco. Naked bodies being used to sell every single product you can imagine, whether that sales strategy makes sense or not.

Pornography is not really sex in the same way that film is not real life. The proverbial money shot, a hallmark of pornography, defeats the entire purpose of the sex act. If the male's bodily fluids aren't left inside the female's body, what is occurring is no more meaningful than a daily walk in the park. A session of weight lifting. Swimming a few laps. It is exercise; and in the case of pornography, exercise engaged in for the purpose of display only. As Robin Williams once famously quipped pornography is "an industrial film covered in fur".

Sex is a joyous celebration of life. It is central to the human experience. No adult life is complete that doesn't include some form of sexual interaction with a willing partner on a regular basis. Good health requires this and I consider it a travesty in the US that we cannot come to grips with the existence of sex all around us all the time, much less be unable to declare that the Rites of Spring should be founded around sex.

I have a solution to this frustrating issue from a non-believing perspective. I'm simply going to stop acknowledging Easter as a Spring holiday. The Vernal Equinox is the holiday now.  I'm done with the vagaries of Easter, aside from the chocolate of course. Dopamine rewards being what they are I'll take them where I can get them. I'll just wait til Monday April 17th to go chocolate and Blackbird egg shopping this year. I can wait a month. We've got these dice to play with. Should keep us busy for at least that long.

(What you have just read is the second 2017 version of my Vernal Equinox post. The "ctrl-z while editing" Blogger glitch claimed the first version scant days before its publish date. I have no idea how that version differs from this one.  C'est la vie. This post was based on one that was originally publshed here)




Every day should be a learning experience. I do my best to follow this wisdom day-in and day-out. It amazes me how often things I think should be transparently obvious are not, and how the mundane day to day events in human cultures sometimes never get communicated to people from outside that culture.

The Vernal Equinox, for example, is also the first day of the Persian New Year. I discovered this while listening to Code Switch the other day,


Lacking the ability to just move the New Year around willy-nilly myself, and also lacking a desire to mix one celebration with another, I'll have to simply wish celebrants of Nowruz a Happy New Year! and leave it at that. However, a two-week festival leaves plenty of time to celebrate beyond simply observing the Rites of Spring, so I may have to explore this festival idea some more.