The Spirit of '76

Brand-new book from author interviewed on "Fresh Air"

Friday, December 29, 2017

The Importance of Study

As one might guess, study and scholarship were a strong suit of mine in school.  I actually enjoyed learning facts.   My favorite subjects other than music were English and History.  I also managed to get enjoyment out of chemistry and math. 

In recent years, interest in facts has not been particularly popular in many circles.  This is changing.  We are finding out that a disdain for facts can lead to trouble, no matter how much bravado one enters into the habit of truth-denying.  It is, after all, easier to deny truth than to have to think about the facts.  And especially if the facts are inconvenient, it is ever so easy to simply change them in one's mind.

But Truth or whatever we might call it, does object.  And inasmuch as truth is an inherent part of the world, people of the world will notice, later if not sooner. 

The difficulties of the current Administration in Washington points this up.  So it can be predicted credibly that Truth will once again come to be valued.  We can only hope this change will come about with as little pain as possible.  

-- TMP  

Photo: Public Domain Pictures

Saturday, December 23, 2017

Saturday Inspiration

In the Bleak Midwinter

Christina Rosetti

In the bleak midwinter, frosty wind made moan,
   earth stood hard as iron, water like a stone;
   snow had fallen, snow on snow, snow on snow,
   in the bleak midwinter, long ago.

Our God, heaven cannot hold him, nor earth sustain;
   heaven and earth shall flee away when he comes to reign:
   in the bleak midwinter a stable-place sufficed
   the Lord God incarnate, Jesus Christ.

Angels and archangels may have gathered there,
   cherubim and seraphim thronged the air;
   but his mother only, in her maiden bliss,
   worshiped the beloved with a kiss. 

What can I give him, poor as I am?
If I were a shepherd, I would bring a lamb;
   if I were a wise man, I would do my part;
   yet what I can I give him, give my heart.



Monday, December 18, 2017

How Internet Companies are Ruining Our Democracy

I think people should carefully re-read the first part of the Declaration of Independence.  Because I think sometimes we as a society start to get confused and think that we have a right to happiness.  But if you read the Declaration of Independence, it talks about "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness."   Nobody has a right to happiness.   You should have a right to pursue it, and I think the core of that is liberty.   
                                                     -- Jeff Bezos

 This is, in a word, ignorant.   A more complete excerpt, including the complete sentence which contains the phrase quoted above is the following:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.--That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, --That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. 

It is clear from this fuller excerpt that the Declaration of Indepence does assert through implication that citizens have a right to happiness.   If there is no such thing as happiness, why guarantee a right to pursue it?  Thus Bezos' claim is illogical, a non sequitur.  This is easy to see from a careful reading.  More important, can anyone claim that people are happy with the system they now have?   

Jonathan Taplin's 2017 book Move Fast and Break Things. How Facebook, Google, and Amazon Cornered Culture and Undermined Democracy, gives a certain history which I have read nowhere else.  It is an important history, a history which is critical to the understanding of why we are where we are now.  

Although clearly there are antecedents to the ascendant dominance of the Internet over culture and its concomittant victory over democracy, Taplin's book usefully describes how the way the Internet has developed has indeed helped to undermine our democracy.   The book is highly recommended for its readability and credibility.


Wednesday, December 13, 2017

How to Thwart Authoritarianism

At this time of electoral victories for Democrats it is wise to remember who  -- and what kind of President -- sits in the Oval Office.  The article shown below was written by a Pole who has faced an increasingly authoritarian regime in his country.  His warnings are most apropos.

Another writer has said it is shocking that only six Democrats have called for the resignation of Trump.  Who knows?  -- perhaps they are thinking of the theocrat Pence ascending to the Presidency and want to prevent that.

But while OML is still in the White House, the American democracy remains under duress.  While I believe the democracy is going to survive, it is going to take work to bring down the plutocrats.   A good question to ask is:  How did such a sycophantic neophyte ever get himself declared "President" in the first place? 

Guide to Thwarting an Authoritarian Regime

N.B.   "OML" stands for Our Military Leader.  This reminds us that a dangerous incompetent still has putative authority over the USA's massively powerful war-making machinery.  

Monday, December 11, 2017

American Pai?

What should we expect from the illicit current administration but a stealth job from its FCC chairman against net neutrality?  The article referenced below helps show why the illegitimate FCC is poised to destroy net neutrality. 

This is un-American.  This is ugly.  This is -- as I say -- illegitimate. 

Far From Humble Pai

Election Hijinx A-Brewin' in Alabama

This is not just conjectural.  Following the link below will take you to a Greg Palast investigative report on nine methods of vote suppression being used by Republicans in Alabama.  And, yes, this the new Republican party of accused -- well -- you know what.  

Is the Fix In -- In Alabama?

Friday, December 08, 2017

Hundreds Support Net Neutrality in New York

Protest in New York

Other locations also see protests

Hundreds of peaceful protestors gathered at a VER-uh-zon* store in New York City to decry plans to end the Internet super highway as we know it.  The article below is from Huffington Post** and informs us that the new head of the FCC is a former counsel for the telecommunications giant.

Protestors Meet Verizon Customers

* this is my preferred pronunciation for Verizon.   Not having television, I never did see the introductory campaign for the latest name of the former New York Bell Telephone.  Looking at this weird word I decided that if it were spelled with two "o's" it would rhyme with the word "horizon."   therefore I decided it must be VER-ih-zon.   The pronunciation stuck.

** The article also admits that VER-uh-zon owns the parent company of Huffington Post.  I did not know that. 

Photo courtesy Huffington Post

Thursday, December 07, 2017

Senator Franken Announces Coming Resignation

Sen. Al Franken has announced that in coming weeks he will resign from the U. S. Senate.  This is tragic news for America.  Whatever the circumstances (and there has not been any trial), this is a tremendous loss for the country.   Sen. Franken was a tireless advocate for the average citizen and the underprivileged.  He will be missed.

Wednesday, December 06, 2017

Music and the Internet: A Challenging Combination

Quick Link --

The book referenced here is largely about the Internet as we know it and its effect on everyday life.  It also reviews the relationship of the World Wide Web to music and other creative human pursuits.

A very taking perspective. 

See more here:
Music and the Internet 
Reference to

Friday, December 01, 2017

Staying Afloat

I continue to stay abreast of the news at a pace which I believe will help me retain my sanity and still keep me informed adequately as a citizen of this great country.  For those reading from abroad I can assure you we in the United Stares are overwhelmingly the same friendly and open people you have always known.  We are not publicly, or even privately, purposely insulting people of other races and religions.

Of course, there is always a minority who have opposite intentions.  And with Our Military Leader (OML) encouraging them sometimes their actions have become emboldened.  This is very concerning and regrettable.

Having said this, news stories relating to OML's administration continue to come fast and furious.  For me, the problem has to do mostly with the lying which has come out of this White House, and -- saliently -- the Oval Office.  The total rush of events, however, does cause one to lose one's balance, if not indeed, one's stomach.  This, it seems to me, is part of the plan.  Such a method has been described by Naomi Klein for one. 

So -- I will endeavor to keep up with things.  Not everything deserves comment.  And some things require so much research the day is over before I can even begin.  For the immediate future I plan to continue writing about what I regard as the most important and/or interesting matters -- things which surprise and delight, as well as things which are critically important.  Under the current trying circumstances it can be difficult to parse the news and write in a way which is complete yet at the same time fits the timely nature of a web log. 

Still I shall do my best, even if quantity suffers.  If it comes to it, better to have quantity suffer, and quality remain high.  

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Bill Clinton Warns on Rising Nationalism

Rush Link -- Bill Clinton on Rise of Nationalism