The Saga of Cliven Bundy

April 27, 2014

SlavesThe current saga of Cliven Bundy is instructive. It flips over (again) not only the flat rock of racism in our national character, but exposes it more specifically in the pseudo-patriotism of our political right.

To be fair to Bundy there’s an unedited version of his racial ramblings making internet viral rounds that softens, slightly, the general tone of his remarks, but the underlying ignorance and festering racism of them still glares. Bundy is the latest concentrated dollop of the resentments and attitudes of a faction of white America that has lately preoccupied the media, and which is playing havoc with our politics and making it impossible to function rationally as a people.

What has brought Clive Bundy to notoriety is that Clive doesn’t acknowledge the existence of the federal government which, in his mind, has made it legitimate to graze his cattle on “government” land without paying for those rights —a convenient argument, if nothing else. Other ranchers pay the relatively modest grazing fee ($1.35/acre as opposed to $16.80 on private land) without whining, which makes them automatically “sheeple” in the parlance of some. But his refusal to pay makes Bundy a “freeloader” in the parlance of others. One picks one parlance with care for maximum clout.

Clive Bundy is like an doddering uncle who clings to ignorance as if it were a life preserver and is unapologetic about it because, hey, it’s keeping me alive.

“If I say ‘slave’,Bundy says, “If those people cannot take those kinds of words and not be [offended], then Martin Luther King hasn’t got his job done yet. We need to get over this prejudice stuff.” —a statement that is triply self-serving: hiding behind a word (prejudice) while excusing it and blaming a man who died because of it. As rhetorical moves go it’s almost callisthenic.

What Bundy simply can’t see is that the offence is not in the word “slave” but in the ignorance exposed by his understanding of it:slave 01

“Cliven Bundy’s a-wondering about these people,” said Bundy,  “Now I’m talking about the black community. I’m a-wondering … Are they better off, are they happier than they was in the South in front of their homes with their chickens and their gardens and their children around them, and their man having something to do? Are they better off?”

Wikipedia puts it succinctly: “The treatment of slaves in the United States varied by time and place, but was generally brutal and degrading. Whipping, execution and sexual abuse including rape were common.”

So, the question of being better off is a question either of one’s understanding of “brutality and rape” or ignorance of them. Which of these applies to Bundy is a matter for a shrink.

So forgive me if, while Cliven Bundy’s wondering about the relative better-offness of “black folk” idyllically enjoying their chickens and gardens and children while being the property of white owners who could, by law, rip apart their families, trample their gardens and slaughter their chickens (not to mention their very selves), I’m wondering how Clive has so blithely, so ignorantly, so publically, missed the point of slavery. Or, I’m wondering how something so obvious could bounce around in Bundy’s skull during his sixty-seven years without being snagged once by his prefrontal cortex —his brain’s reasoning center— and wrung dry of its stupidity.

Actually there are studies showing that, “… ‘higher-order’ brain centers, such as the prefrontal cortex, don’t fully develop until young adulthood.” Considering the possibility that Clive and his gun-waving posse may not yet have reached that level of sophistication, we could use a little hurry-up on their part. But the larger, really scary part of the Bundy syndrome is that we now have one of our only two political parties being run by people with higher brain center under-development.


Racism is one of the deeper polluted wells humans drink from —deep, ancient and thoroughly toxic, especially in the global system that has become our world. It’s counter-productive at best and ultimately destructive at worse. Yet so many of us return to it and suck it up without a thought of the harm it brings not just to those we hate, but to ourselves. Though there’s little truth or logic behind malign attitudes of race we go there the instant anyone pumps up fear. What better way to distract a constituency from real perpetrators than to blame “the other”?

Bob Dylan suggested, we’re only a pawn in their game. Roshi Bob, guru, says, If you want to rule the world, pit the poor against the poor,” which is advice the power elite still practice big time. But just swap-out that last part with “… pit race against race”, add it to the first,and you have the complete MO of that same bunch —and they know how to use the Clive Bundys of the world to make life most profitable for themselves and miserable for everyone else.


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by Jim Culleny
4/27/14

Gen HaydenHayden’s (General Michael Hayden) take on Senate Intelligence Committee Chair Dianne Feinstein’s (D-CA) report on CIA torture is interesting.

What Hayden’s saying, really, is that you must objectify reality, that is the preferred thing. If you objectify reality and the humans in it, if you turn them into numbers and political ends, that’s the preferred thing. Once reality’s objectified —its humanity removed— you may do anything that’s objectively called for. This is the justification for all sorts of despicable behavior.

Most crimes and ethical lapses require exactly this kind of objectification. You steal because, objectively, it works for you. You kill for the same reason. You collect your huge bonuses, you use the money of millionaires to destroy worker’s unions, you kill universal health care to save your party from dangerous electoral demographics, you do the destructive work of many corporations because, objectively speaking, the people it effects are not people at all, they’re objects. The entire planet is an object only. An emotional, empathetic or sympathetic perspective is out of the question for the Good General, Michael Hayden, CIA operative.

In economics and politics the technique employed by millionaires and billionaires (and those in government who are paid by them) to sleep well at night is to objectify the poor and middle class.

Hayden’s a perfect example of what average Americans are up against.

Jim Culleny
4/5/14

Ham on Nye

February 20, 2014

Evolution-creationismWe’re heading back to square one. Though we’re well into the 21st century we’re at a point where Bill Nye, The Science Guy is reduced to debating Ken Ham, The Non-Science Guy as to whether the earth is 6000 or 4.5 billion years old. As you might expect that recent debate got nowhere because the frames of reference of the two sides are incompatible. We’ve gone back to a moment dangerously close to that when curious men like Galileo were made to bow before popes and recant ideas about phenomena that were observably true, but which threatened the influence of the church. Unfortunately, the power of religion to uphold stubbornness still exists.

Though we’ve  moved from the tyranny of kings and clergy through a relatively enlightened period (at least as far as science is concerned) we seem to be backsliding — caught in an undertow of misunderstanding of what science is.

This misunderstanding reveals itself in the arguments of creationists who fight tooth and nail to equate science with legend, denying science’s findings, while at the same time living in a world transformed (for better and for worse) by the fruits of science. For example, how many creationists refuse medical treatment when needed?  How many own TVs, cars, refrigerators, use the internet, enjoy tropical fruit in January in New England? All of these have been made possible through application of scientific method.

A huge part of the problem is that, in their beef against evolution, creationists smudge the distinction between science and religion. Let’s be clear, scientists are not suggesting their findings have religious value, it’s creationists who claim that ancient literature has scientific value. They insist the Bible’s story of origins, Genesis, is a valid alternative to scientific theory and should be taught in schools as science.

There’s that word, “theory,” —the hook creationists hang their gripe upon, saying evolution is just theory, not fact. But this is the lens of ignorance creationists use to view scientific method. Creationists do not use the term “theory” the way it’s meant by scientists.  Creationists consider theory to be something like a speculation, a groundless conjecture. But that’s not what scientists mean by “theory.” Here’s one explanation of that meaning: “In modern science, the term “theory” refers to scientific theories, a well-confirmed type of explanation of nature, made in a way consistent with scientific method..” —Wikipedea

So then, what is scientific method?

Scientific method goes something like this:

Someone observes something in nature, mulls it over and hypothesizes. They think, “I bet if we do this, that will happen,” and set off  to test their hypothesis —they try to determine if what they’ve seen and been mulling over will happen again under very particular conditions —they experiment. Then, if their experiments produce the same results over and over, they put forth a theory of that phenomena. They say, “This thing is caused by that thing.” The theory is then tested further by others and, if all results concur it’s accepted as fact which we (hopefully) utilize to advance civilization.

The anti-evolution hang-up for creationists is often capsulized in that word: theory —a term infused with the fundamental humility of good science which knows that with new knowledge, theories change, new facts arise. At its best science is flexible, adaptable, fluid, humble, open-minded and open-ended. This is not true of religious beliefs which are absolutely bound to sacred literature and closed.

Religion has a different way of understanding phenomena. Religious “method” goes more like this:

Someone noticed something in nature, mulled it over and, without the availability of deeper knowledge, surmised, “This must have happened because the Wind God was perturbed,” and then created a story to explain what they’d experienced and what they’d thought about it. Having been an engaging story it was repeated over and over until it became ingrained in the basic lore of a culture. Finally, many of these stories have been accepted, by men, as divine revelation, written down and included in a literary collections as set down by God and deemed irrefutable.

The scientific method has produced advanced medicine, HDTV, bullet trains, pain-free dentistry, air travel, nuclear weapons, IEDs, diabolical instruments of torture, global warming, fracking, and Fukushima.

From religion has come great inspirational art and literature, principles of love, charity, sacrifice, guidelines to social behavior, shamanic medicine, the subjugation of women, diabolical rationales for torture, merciless exclusivity, inquisitions, jihads and convenient moralities sanctioned by gods.

But the problem with equating scripture with science goes beyond the truth of Evolution or Genesis. The problem is that when non-fact-based reality is not only accepted in one sphere but allowed to infect politics it nudges out fact-based reality. A statement made to journalist Ron Suskind by an aide in the G.W. Bush administration illustrates this.

The aide said, “(the) ‘reality-based community’ consists of people who believe that solutions emerge from your judicious study of discernible reality. We’re an empire now  (he might as well have said “church”),” he continued, “and when we act, we create our own reality.” With this kind of non-fact-based invention we wind up with a kind of chaos of magical thinking wherein nothing must be examined and validated. We wind up with sound-bite news and party-sanctioned sets of facts, none of which must be proofed.

The famous pamphleteer of the American revolution, Thomas Paine, said that “To argue with a person who has renounced the use of reason is like administering medicine to the dead.”

If you need confirmation of the truth of Paine’s remark check out the Ham on Nye debate. The debater’s answer to the last question put it all in a nutshell:

“What, if anything, would ever change your mind,” the moderator asked?

Ham, The Non-Science Guy said, “Nothing.”

“Just one piece of evidence,” said Bill Nye, The Science Guy.
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by Jim Culleny
2/15/14

Great Vampire Squid“The first thing you need to know about Goldman Sachs is that it’s everywhere. The world’s most powerful investment bank is a great vampire squid wrapped around the face of humanity, relentlessly jamming its blood funnel into anything that smells like money.”

That quote is journalist Matt Taibbi‘s take on one big bank, but what can be said of Goldman Sachs can fairly be said of any mega-bank operating today. Average people of the early 21st century are being sucked dry by “great vampire squids.”

For Big-Bank Management (as distinguished from that of your friendly neighborhood bank) each new year is the dawn of new opportunities to jam their “blood funnel” into any delusion that hard work and “playing by the rules” (as the president often says) will lead to an equitable economy. The new year resolution of Big-Money never changes, it is to begin the year in such a way that by its end it has sucked as many people as dry as possible by legally bribing as many politicians as possible in order to realize as many billions in profit as possible —no matter what. This is what our  campaign finance laws were written for. This is the easily foreseeable outcome of the Supreme Court’s Citizens United Ruling of 2010. 

There’s nothing even vaguely altruistic or socially conscious in Big-Money’s intentions. The planet, its beings —human and non-human— it’s resources, its future are all just fertilizer for its cash crop. Banks like Goldman Sachs and Wall Street in general, with the help of their governmental wings in Washington and state legislatures, perpetrated the great collapse of 1929 and did it again in 2008. These were catastrophes brought about not by “welfare queens” or people on food stamps, but were perpetrated by esteemed financiers with an over-weening sense of privilege and entitlement, without shame, selling things like junk mortgage derivatives to speculators.

There are good guys and bad guys in America’s class system. There really are “makers” and “takers” —as congressman Paul Ryan (R-WI), conservative minion of great vampire squids, points out. But, contrary to Ryan’s scenario, the “makers” are not those jetting from lush hideout to lush hideout dribbling dough. The makers are to be found among laborers who pull stuff from the ground, make stuff from it, or grow stuff in it, while the takers are the ones who wring from that labor their enormous profit and (supposedly) sprinkle crumbs like fairy dust on those who actually sweated to produce it.

The Roman God Janus, from whom we get the name of our first month, is two-faced. Janus is depicted looking in two directions simultaneously, forward and back. Peering into both the past and the future at once he might be thought of as the god who sees history and, at the same time, its effects. In this he’s very unlike us who may occasionally peer into history, but if we do, promptly and stupidly ignore it. Our ruling class especially loves to tune history out because history is not flattering to it. But it’s not flattering to commoners either —we who, by the vote, distraction, or coerced acquiescence, sacrifice our collective power to the promises or threats of neo-noble vampire squids who suck it through blood funnels and run with it to offshore tax havens.

While we see in the news commoners being handcuffed and jailed for minor offenses, or pepper-sprayed away for simply protesting, the government can’t seem to manage to prosecute anyone for the fraud and theft of billions and billions that led to the bursting of the mortgage bubble blown by bankers and financiers in 2008.

For instance, the New York Times recently ran a story about the difficulties the Securities and Exchange Commission (S.E.C.) is having bringing swindlers with titles to justice:

“Wall Street’s top regulator, sifting through the wreckage of the mortgage crisis, was weighing enforcement actions last year against several large financial companies.

“But then the regulator, the Securities and Exchange Commission, decided in some prominent cases to quietly back down.

“After many months of investigating the roles of Goldman SachsWells Fargo and Standard & Poor’s in troubled mortgage securities — and even warning the companies that enforcement actions were possible — the S.E.C. closed or shelved these cases and at least two others.”

As journalist Bill Moyers said (Aug. 23, 2013), ” We are so close to losing our democracy to the mercenary class, it’s as if we are leaning way over the rim of the Grand Canyon and all that’s needed is a swift kick in the pants. The predators in Washington are only this far from monopoly control of our government. They have bought the political system, lock, stock and pork barrel, making change from within impossible.”

This is the status quo. Only massive citizen resistance can hope to overcome it. We have two parties, both corrupt, but one which has wholly and publically laid it’s cards on the table. “We are the party of the rich,” they say, “Government should serve the rich first, if anything’s left over let it trickle down.”  Our oligarchs say this with every policy position, in every speech, with every action. There’s no subterfuge going on either, other that of the “social issue” distractions they’ve been able to pump up and pull off to great advantage. “Here we are,” they say, “our hearts are on our sleeves, and what are you gonna do about it?”

That should be our big 2014 New Year question. What’s more that question should be transformed into a resolution, an implacable determination not to be fooled or confused by red herrings of “socialism” or “communism” or “real Americans vs. the others” or “traditional marriage” or “the war on Christmas” or any of the false flags bought and flown by Wall Street and its political employees red and blue alike.
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by Jim Culleny
12/21/13
for the West County Independent, end-of-year-issue

Defense of Jesus Act

December 7, 2013

I’m not a religious person, but I’ve got to say I’m impressed by one religious man named (at least currently), Francis. Francis is a Pope in a line of Popes with a checkered history. Some were as unsavory as many humans, others no so bad, but this one seems qualitatively different. He seems to take the gospel he preaches seriously. For a Pope to not only get what Jesus taught about poverty and money but to back that up in official pronouncements as head of the Roman Catholic Church… this is big.

Pope FrancisPope Francis, the former Argentinean bar bouncer (that’s what he says) formerly known as Jorge Mario Bergoglio (George Bergoglio) said in a recent 50,000 word “apostolic exhortation” titled Evangelii Gaudium, or The Joy of the Gospel:

“Some people continue to defend trickle-down theories which assume that economic growth, encouraged by a free market, will in itself succeed in bringing about greater justice and inclusiveness in the world. This opinion, which has never been confirmed by the facts, expresses a crude and naive trust in the goodness of those wielding economic power and in the sacra­lized workings of the prevailing economic system.”

Yay! A Pope who disagrees with Ronald Reagan and all the woe his presidency introduced into the lives of poor and average people. Reagan, the decimator of the New Deal. Reagan, national debt builder extraordinaire. Reagan, the trasher of empathetic economic policy. Reagan, the loather of labor. Ronald, the great economic ex-communicator —the dark accolades go on…

Francis … George … whatever your name is, you are a breath of fresh air!

Some would disagree with the new Pope, but most who do have loads of money or work for people who have loads of money in the hope they they will have loads of money too; money to keep it as a hedge against falling into the pit of poverty Francis so emphatically refers to. Most who disdain what I call the Pope’s Defense of Jesus Act  are apologists for greed.

Take Rush Limbaugh who, despite his girth, is one of the smallest men I can think of —a twerp of enormous proportions; an ethical cipher with a grand diameter. Limbaugh doesn’t like what Pope Francis has said —which, considering the history of Limbaugh’s mouth, ought to convince anyone with even a shred of moral sense that Francis is really onto something.

Limbaugh said, “It’s sad because this pope makes it very clear he doesn’t know what he’s talking about when it comes to capitalism and socialism and so forth. But regardless, what this is, somebody has either written this for him or gotten to him. This is just pure Marxism coming out of the mouth of the Pope.”

Which being said, might suggest that Marx (like most people except Limbaugh) may not have been all wrong. It might even suggest that Jesus, in his New Testament teaching about the poor and the rich, the hypocrites, the vipers, the morally degenerate living in whited sepulchers (references that can be found in the gospels) may even have some consonance with Marx.

In fact capitalism as practiced today is potentially (or inevitably) as bad or worse for those not at the top as communism ever was. With Limbaugh as one of “free-market” capitalism’s spokesmen and admirers, this is as certain as the effects of trickle-down economics with no trickle —what we have right now.

That “no trickle” part is the stickler for Pope Francis and is the reason for his pointed use of the term in his exhortation. Maybe if there had actually been some trickle, enough at least for the poor to slosh around in, the Pope may not have exhorted so. But he did. Francis went straight for the jugular of the sacred idea of conservative economic policy since Reagan, the one Republicans ooze about, the notion that “richer rich people” translates: “fewer-poor-people”. But this has not panned out if you believe the stats which show that the top 1% of the rich own 46% of the world’s wealth. This does not prove trickle. It doesn’t even prove drip. The wealthy are sequestering their ill-gotten gains like misers in caskets tufted with thousand dollar bills. This is what former bouncer Bergoglio (a man who remembers his roots more than many popes have) was talking about.

Pope Francis’ exhortation really was quite remarkable and, in case you’re inclined to misunderstand what he said he included this:

“Just as the commandment ‘Thou shalt not kill’ sets a clear limit in order to safeguard the value of human life, today we also have to say ‘thou shalt not’ to an economy of exclusion and inequality,” the pope wrote. “Such an economy kills.”

“Such an economy kills.” This is such a simple, straightforward and true statement (supported by economic statistics) it makes homicidal abettors of many of us.

The question it begs is, what do we do to repent?
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by Jim Culleny
13/7/13
for The West County Independent

Thanksgiving genocideIt’s always a good idea to know what you’re celebrating, for the sake of honesty if nothing else. 

As Jon Stewart, host of the Daily Show said, “I celebrated Thanksgiving in an old-fashioned way. I invited everyone in my neighborhood to my house, we had an enormous feast, and then I killed them and took their land.”  While a statement like that might spoil the celebration it puts things into perspective.

American Thanksgiving (the holiday) as opposed to thanksgiving (the act) has become a tradition of feast, football and family that began with the invasion of the North American continent by Europeans and ended in near genocide. Maybe this is why, of all sports, football is metaphorically most appropriate for Thanksgiving since the invasion of territory is its central goal. In short, there’s some brutality and ruthlessness mixed with Thanksgiving’s traditional tale.

Acknowledging the distinction between Thanksgiving (big T) and thanksgiving (small t) may eventually lead to something good as opposed to something gluttonous, profitable and profane.  Thanksgiving  has devolved for many into an anticipation of mob-inciting sales sometimes ending in a trampling death of a hapless big-box associate by a pack of shoppers chasing the cheapest HD-screen, while thanksgiving (small t) is an act of humility and gratefulness having nothing to do with commerce.

In humility, we might first be thankful for the improbable earth. We are of the earth. We are earth beings. Without the earth we would not be. We could not breath, we could not eat, we could not love, there would be no families, yet the way we treat it and its natural abundance we’re transforming it into a sewer. I would be especially thankful if we would wake to the fact that wealth is not money and profit, that it has to do with sustainability, with an understanding that to demean the earth is to demean ourselves, to damage it is to harm us and all we love.

A second thanksgiving-worthy object would be what Bob Dylan in a song called “the genius of generosity” —the whole line is “They’re sucking the blood out of the genius of generosity”.  I’d be humbly and truly thankful if  “they” (we) would stop doing that. But that would mean turning our politics into something to be thankful for rather than something to loathe. It would mean turning Wall Street and our Congress from blood-sucking franchises of the Hotel Transylvania into habitats of true humanity. Dylan’s genius of generosity is that it broadcasts wealth instead of hoarding it, it sees itself in the other.

And last, but never least (especially on Thanksgiving), would be a profound thankfulness focused upon what  is central to Thanksgiving: the feast. For me this gratefulness would come when, as global citizens, we realize that agriculture as big business is like banking as big business. They’re both about making money. As Big-banking is first in the business of creating millionaires among bankers before serving their customers, Big-agribiz is first in the business of realizing profit before producing healthful food. We’re being poisoned by pesticides, genetically modified organisms, growth hormones in animals, and any chemical required to most profitably produce a product that sells. If by some standards it might not even be strictly classified as food (Twinkies, for instance), has no bearing on its production.

Americans have more to be thankful for than any nation on the planet. I’d be most thankful if we were thankful for the essentials, the genius of generosity that sustains the objects of our thankfulness and distributes rather than hoards them.

How thankful I’d be if Thanksgiving were really thanksgiving, with a deep awareness of our place in the world that sincere thanksgiving requires.
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Jim Culleny
for The West County Independent
11/22/13


Let’s Not Get Metaphysical

November 10, 2013

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MetaphysicsThe ancient Greek philosopher, Aristotle, called metaphysics the “first philosophy”. Metaphysics (literally: what comes after physics), is the branch of philosophy that addresses the constitution of reality and is something most of us are engaged in whether we know it or not.

You are a practical metaphysician if you’ve ever wondered and tried to answer questions about the reality of appearances, about distinctions between mental and physical categories, where the universe came from and why, or (the big one in 21st century American politics) the existence of God. Of course this doesn’t cover all possible metaphysical queries, but you get the gist.

In important ways we might say that the USA is not only in the midst of an economic and political crisis, but also a metaphysical one. Questions of fundamental reality affect political issues and policy in ways they have not for some time. For instance, questions about life and when it begins; whether the earth is gift from God or just property and ownable, and if so, who should own it; where the authority to govern comes from, Man or God; whether certain books are divine; what divinity is; what’s sacred, what profane; right down to how many capitalists can dance on the edge of a moral razor.

All of these are questions that “go beyond physics” and have stumped some of the most brilliant minds since before Aristotle, and are stumping ours to the point of national clog and decline. They are also questions that crafty and glib con artists use to mislead, manipulate and to mire minds that are not so crafty or glib —or minds that may be as potentially astute as Aristotle’s but simply so caught in the accidental circumstances of their lives —in immediate issues of survival— they have little time to deal with whether Ted Cruz is the slipperiest god-endorsed shark-in-a-suit to come swimming up the bay, or if Barack Obama is a secret Allah-worshipping Muslim. Metaphysics in America is the playground of the false and faithful as well as the free.

The nation and the globe face a set of circumstances unlike any we have faced before, the most far-reaching in terms of consequence being global warming. The vast majority of environmental scientists agree that this is so yet, here in the USA, science is often trumped by ancient metaphysics. American policy and action is determine more and more not on the basis of science, but on the basis of a world view originating over 3000 years ago. Sadly, and dangerously, science is often presented as if it were less reliable than Genesis in explaining our origins and what makes the world tick. Yet, the very people who show contempt for science when it comes to climate change would probably not place their injured child’s life in the hands of a priest or minister rather than that of scientists we call doctors.

What this “beyond-physics” (or beyond-science) world view has produced is a type of American politician who spouts personally invented metaphysical statements as if they were writing Bible verses.

Take Joe Barton, for instance. Barton (R-TX) said recently, “Wind is a finite resource and harnessing it would slow the winds down which would cause the temperature to go up.” Written 3000 years ago Barton’s statement might sound something like this (if written by a King-Jamesish, time travelling, 21st century meteorologist):

“Lo, the wind bloweth until it smacketh thee and, therefore; shall not bloweth over the one who follows haply in thy steps, nor anyone else down the line because the Lord diminisheth the wind after it hitteth thee. The Lord rendereth it impotent then, regardless of the continued demands of low pressure areas and His laws of physics.” —The Book of Barton 2:23

Winds may be finite and temperatures may increase when they’re not present, but Barton’s ignorance of their global effect is profound. When it comes to how winds happen, the conditions of their movement, how they are affected by temperature and the earth’s rotation upon them Barton’s limited understanding and statement may have made him at home in 3000 BC, but depressingly, he happens to be the current Chairman of the House-Senate Energy Conference Committee.

And then there’s Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia who recently told New York magazine in an interview that he believes in the devil. “Of course! Yeah, he’s a real person,” the justice said. “In the Gospels, the Devil is doing all sorts of things. He’s making pigs run off cliffs, he’s possessing people and whatnot. And that doesn’t happen very much anymore.”

There are effects to this kind of thinking not unlike the effects of a typhoon: a Satan-believing wind is just fifty miles-per-hour or so away from becoming the wild gale of a witch-hunting one.

I don’t know about you, but having a Satan believer on the Supreme Court citing the devil during a line of questioning by Justice Samuel Alito about whether any conceivable prayer could simultaneously be acceptable to Christians, Jews, Muslims and Hindus, is not comforting to me.

What about devil-worshippers?” Scalia said from the bench.

Indeed, and what about facts? What about reason? What about science?

by Jim Culleny
11/10/13

Barton’s Ill Wind

November 7, 2013

Barton's Wind

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They just make things up as if they’re writing Bible verses.

“Lo, the wind bloweth ’til it smacketh you, but it shall not bowleth over the one who follows haply in your steps, nor anyone else down the line because the Lord sloweth the wind down after it hitteth you. The Lord rendereth it impotent then, regardless of the demands of low pressure areas and His laws of physics.” —The Book of Barton 2:23

Answers on Obamacare

November 2, 2013

Nobody’s Perfect

October 12, 2013

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Greed FlagAfter coming to the brink by way of acrimony and the self-pleasuring of a 21 hour fake filibuster but then, at the last minute not jumping off, the tea-party wing of the Republican party, led by a new senate self-promoter, Ted Cruz (R-TX), now anticipates a January debt-limit re-run. So how and why— and what are the rest of us anyway, chopped liver?

Brilliant as the men who founded the US may have been, no one’s perfect. Having had great distrust in government they went ahead and established one anyway simply because they knew that having hundreds of thousands of free-range individuals running around with muskets and mules, plotting lethal mischief in pursuit of their own best interest— well, (note to libertarians) it’d be a jungle out there.

Putting aside for the moment the fact that even with rules it’s a jungle out here, the founders crafted their system as thoughtfully as they could to counter the natural inclination of creatures to survive by any means possible no matter what harm it might cause to others. But even enlightened as they were the founders refused to deal with, or simply chose to justify, some of the cruel and ruthless practices of god’s most successful predator, Man —practices such as the enslavement of Africans or the attempted extermination of North America’s native people. Forgetting those moral failures (but just for the sake of tackling our present circumstances), they did their best to create a system of self-government that would not be top-down, but bottom up. But the overturning of that endeavor was finally accomplished and ratified a year or so ago by the US Supreme Court in its infamous Citizen’s United ruling that government influence could legally be purchased by the richest and most powerful bidders.

As present conditions prove, nobility of spirit is obviously not necessary in the practice of any government. A politically motivated US government shutdown is within reach of any faction which decides that its idea trumps the majority view. But, to their credit the founders gave it their best shot and actually did better than many before them. Being smart, crafty, and savvy to the fact that crooks and liars will relentlessly try to grab and hold as much political ground as they can, they created a system with as many checks and balances as they could devise: three co-equal branches —the executive, legislative and judicial—  each keeping an ostensible eye out for the general good. Each keeping each other in line. Each watching for the feint, the fib, the over-reach —and further, staggered election cycles for the three branches, varying term lengths, etc.

But nobody’s perfect. Even Thomas Jefferson and James Madison had their visionary shortcomings. Even Alexander Hamilton and John Adams were unable to see far enough into the future to imagine the near complete collapse of individual integrity of officials in the face of staggering corporate bribes; could not imagine their willingness —no, their hope for the opportunity— to be corrupted. They couldn’t foresee the election of statesmen so acquisitive, so greedy, that they would threaten the common good of the nation to feather their own nests. And, finally, they did not imagine a legislature of men and women so willfully ignorant and devoid of common sense that they would allow their personal agendas and superstitions to drive the nation into the ground.

Long story short , the founders did not plan for this demise of statesmanship because they couldn’t imagine such unashamed greed and stupidity in high positions. But, to be fair to those men, this failure took more than two centuries to come to full fruition. It took over two hundred twenty-five years of creeping decadence for public corruption of government officials to become so blatantly obvious and accepted in official, elite circles.

But here were are with a clear view of a dangerous structural flaw built into our so thoughtfully devised governmental system, our so-called Democratic Republic —now we see the fly in the ointment; the bug in the program. Now we know that a small faction of one party in one half of one of our three branches may control the actions of one man (the Speaker of the House) and force him to jam a monkey wrench into the wheels of government to stop it cold for political advantage despite the obvious wishes of the majority. In a parliamentary democracy the Republican party would have lost a vote of confidence by now and be looking for new work extorting somebody else.

So there it is Tom and John and Alexander and James. Your brilliant system is at the mercy of, among others, a crass, narcissistic Texan named Ted Cruz, a spineless crocodile weeper named John Boehner, Speaker of the House, a conclave of Ayn Rand cultists led by men like Paul Ryan, a few callous backbiters such as Michelle Bachmann who blasphemously call themselves Christians and an uncompromising gaggle of anti-democrats who for the moment at least feel the reins of power in their fists. It’s too bad, gentlemen, that you lacked the vision to realize that someday statesmanship would have run its course in the USA and the greed flag would be proudly run up the flagpole of the nation’s capital.

Who woulda thunk?  But it’s ok, it’s not your fault, nobody’s perfect.
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by Jim Culleny
for the West County Independent
10/12/13

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