A Pillar of Salt


“Where wast thou when I laid the foundations of the earth? declare, if thou hast understanding.”
Job 38:4, from the King James Version of the Bible.

Today is the 50th anniversary of the publication of Kurt Vonnegut’s novel Slaughterhouse-Five, or The Children’s Crusade: A Duty-Dance with Death. Many Americans are probably familiar with it because it has been assigned reading in high schools when it hasn’t been banned or burned by the outraged and the self-righteous. Being assigned reading tends to sap some of the enjoyment of reading, and in that case it might be a good idea to read the book again voluntarily, as an adult.

Mr. Vonnegut was most of all a Humanist, as he himself proclaimed, and the last thing any Humanist would claim is to also be a Saint. On looking back at Vonnegut’s work, the one feature that stands out as discordant from our modern perspective is his treatment of female characters, whom he usually portrayed without much depth, and sometimes unsympathetically for no good reason. That again is viewed from our perch 50 years in the future. Mr. Vonnegut was not out of step with his times in regard to men’s views about women, sad and embarrassing as that may seem to us now. 50 years from now, who can say how people will view us for opinions and attitudes we hold in keeping with our own time?

Brand im Dresdner Zwinger D 18Jh
An anonymous painting, possibly by Christian Wilhelm Ernst Dietrich (1712-1774), of a fire at Dresden Castle.

We must remember that until Slaughterhouse-Five came out in 1969, nearly every book and movie in Western culture depicted the Allies in World War II as the good guys, and the Axis as the bad guys, with little shading of gray to add any moral nuance. The Humanist in Mr. Vonnegut could not abide that state of affairs, particularly since he had been present as a prisoner of war at the Allied fire bombing of the German city of Dresden, a target which had virtually no military or political value. The primary reason Allied command ordered the fire bombing was to terrorize the civilian population. In doing so, the Allies sought to deal out righteous retribution for German bombing of English cities earlier in the war. Atrocities, in other words, were perpetrated to one degree or another by both sides, and that is the nature of war and part of human nature and cannot be avoided, no matter how much books and movies gloss it over and glamorize one side over the other. And so it goes – to borrow a phrase from Mr. Vonnegut.

Slaughterhouse-Five was not revisionist history, but a necessary corrective to over two decades of mostly superficial accounts of World War II, at least in the popular media. It joined John Hersey’s 1946 non-fiction book Hiroshima in telling of war’s cost in suffering and the capacity for cruelty, alongside acts of kindness. In 1970, a non-fiction book written by Dee Brown, Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee: An Indian History of the American West, was published and changed the national discourse about relations with Native Americans, a discourse which had been dominated for over a century by white people of European descent demonizing them.

American prisoners caught in the Battle of the Bulge in December 1944 march to their quarters in Dresden, Germany. In February 1945, Allied air forces fire bombed the city, killing as many as 25,000 Germans, mostly women and children. The 1972 film, directed by George Roy Hill, starred Michael Sacks as Billy Pilgrim, the character based on Kurt Vonnegut, and Eugene Roche as his friend Edgar Derby, the ranking soldier among the prisoners.

Important works by great writers and historians come along infrequently and, while nothing and no one is ever perfect, their overall worth to humanity becomes even more apparent over time than at initial publication. Mark Twain’s 1885 novel Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, another great work that has stood the test of time, has also been subjected to periodic bouts of righteous indignation and banishment by different groups for divergent reasons over the years. Certainly we cringe today at some of its language and at the attitudes Mr. Twain portrayed, but many readers, perhaps most, understand that at the heart of the novel is the growing respect and friendship between a white boy and a black man, which in its day was a radical idea that undermined social conventions. We are all prisoners of our time and cannot, like Billy Pilgrim, the central character of Slaughterhouse-Five, become unstuck in time. But we can be charitable and preserve and cherish the greater Humanist vision given us by Kurt Vonnegut and other writers whose works have stood outside of time, imperfect as the writers and their works, like we and our works, will always be.
— Vita


Mr. Abrams Goes to Venezuela


“Lenin was sent into Russia by the Germans in the same way that you might send a phial containing a culture of typhoid or cholera to be poured into the water supply of a great city, and it worked with amazing accuracy.”
— Winston Churchill (1874-1965)

At a February 13 House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing to question newly appointed Special Representative for Venezuela, Elliott Abrams, on United States policy toward that country, Representative Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) impugned Mr. Abrams’s veracity since he is a known liar who narrowly escaped felony perjury charges in 1991 by cooperating with Iran-Contra Affair Independent Counsel Lawrence Walsh. Mr. Abrams took exception to Ms. Omar’s statement. She went on to outline his participation in war crimes and meddling in the internal affairs of several Latin American countries, all while serving as the Reagan administration’s Assistant Secretary of State for Human Rights and Humanitarian Affairs, an Orwellian title for someone who demonstrated contempt for human rights if they got in the way of his neo-conservative anti communist dogma.

None of the activities and attitudes Representative Omar outlined as pertaining to Mr. Abrams are in dispute, yet in the February 13 public hearing he didn’t want to own up to them. Elliott Abrams has been the point man for dirty work abroad for Republican administrations for nearly 40 years, and yet he expects American citizens and the people of the world to believe he has performed his services only for democracy and for human rights. When someone points out publicly how his record has demonstrated the exact opposite, Mr. Abrams gets testy, even nasty. Apparently his narcissism doesn’t allow for anyone calling him out as the nasty person he truly is, though it’s interesting that in his reaction he confirms it.

Memorial of December 1981 massacre site at El Mozote, Morazán, El Salvador. Photo by Efrojas.

Everyone around the world must know, and the Venezuelans in particular must realize, that since the current presidential administration has assigned Elliott Abrams to the case in Venezuela that country is now in for a nasty, horrific time at the hands of the new envoy. It is as if a hockey team has sent in its most egregious enforcer off the bench. With Mr. Abrams on the job, Venezuelan oil will soon be back within the control of big American and European fossil fuel companies and the international banks will be able to squeeze indebted Venezuela dry, and that’s the endgame of the whole regime change charade and manufactured humanitarian crisis of aid supplies rotting at the Venezuelan border. The only ones who don’t know this, or pretend not know, are corporate media outlets and the consumers who uncritically suck at the corporate media teats of CNN, MSNBC, Fox News, and major newspaper and radio outlets. Slap a patina of democracy and humanitarianism on it, no matter how flimsy, and the American public will largely stand up and salute it, no questions asked, lest they be branded unpatriotic. It worked in 2003 for the Iraq invasion and has worked innumerable times before.

And it’s a tactic which has always worked wonders for Elliott Abrams in his career of promoting democracy and humanitarianism, while only incidentally serving corporate and government interests, which are the same thing. What a great guy! Anyone who believes otherwise is unpatriotic, and possibly a communist. A reasonable person might question why the despicable Mr. Abrams is representing the United States abroad in any capacity at all rather than lying low in shame, if not in jail, but then to stay sane a reasonable person had best give up such honest questions in today’s America.

A scene from the 1984 film Dune, directed by David Lynch, with José Ferrer as the Emperor, Siân Phillips as the Reverend Mother Gaius, Kenneth McMiIlan as the Baron, and Alicia Witt as Alia. Warning: gruesome images.


It wouldn’t be surprising news if the current administration resurrected for its damnable purposes Mr. Abrams’s fellow war criminals Dick Cheney and Henry Kissinger. Now that’s a triumvirate of inglorious foreign policy pros to sicken the world! In their world it’s bad enough up is down, 2+2=5, and evil has the upper hand, but everyone is also expected by the current administration, its leaders and its followers, and even by the press, the so-called Fourth Estate for its purported independence from power, to not only swallow their hypocritical bilge, but attest to its toothsome flavor and heartily endorse it for others to swill in large doses. Here’s to you, Mr. Abrams!
— Ed.


It Wasn’t Funny Even Then


So thou, O son of man, I have set thee a watchman unto the house of Israel; therefore thou shalt hear the word at my mouth, and warn them from me.”
— Ezekiel 33:7, from the King James Version of the Bible.

Amid all the furiously backpedaling confusion promulgated by Virginia Governor Ralph Northam over whether he was in the 1984 Eastern Virginia Medical School yearbook picture of two male party goers, one in blackface and the other in a Ku Klux Klan (KKK) outfit, there appears to be no acknowledgment from the governor or his staff of why they seem to think blackface is less racist than wearing KKK garb. They appear to assume that it is racism lite, and therefore perhaps excusable, choosing to ignore that even in 1984 such behavior was not acceptable in general society, and certainly not seen as good clean fun. The governor professes confusion over whether he was one of the two men in the photo, but nowhere does he allow the possibility he could have been the one in the KKK outfit. He claims he was either the one in blackface or he was not in the picture at all.

This song and dance is understandable given the feelings of the greater society about the KKK. Apparently Northam feels if he needs to equivocate about his participation in racist costuming, he is safer with blackface than with the utterly out of the fold KKK. But why? Besides the ludicrous assertion that he somehow doesn’t remember participating in the activity depicted in the photo, why does he hide behind blackface as the lesser of two evils? Is ridiculing, mocking, and denigrating black people any less evil than intimidating and threatening them? They are two sides of the same coin. And no, taking the good ol’ frat boy defense that he personally meant no harm doesn’t fly.

Ralph Northam "Coonman"
Ralph Northam’s 1981 VMI yearbook photo showing his nicknames “Goose” and “Coonman”.

Lost in the national coverage of Northam’s foolish, insensitive, and casually hateful youthful behavior is reporting about his less foolish, equally insensitive, and more consciously hateful behavior regarding the Dominion Energy natural gas Atlantic Coast Pipeline. As always with things like pipelines, the planned route took it through less populous countryside, avoiding the estates of rich folks, of which there are many in Virginia’s horse country surrounding Charlottesville in central Virginia. Instead the route is planned to take it well south of Charlottesville and Albemarle County, through far poorer and far blacker Buckingham County, with a compressor station near Union Hill, a community noted historically for its population of freed black slaves.


2016-05-27 10 18 23 View east along Virginia State Route 56 (South James River Road) just after crossing the Wingina Bridge over the James River from Wingina in Nelson County, Virginia to rural Buckingham County, Virginia
View east along Virginia State Route 56 (South James River Road) just after crossing the Wingina Bridge over the James River from Wingina in Nelson County, Virginia, into rural Buckingham County. Photo by Famartin. The Atlantic Coast Pipeline would roughly parallel Route 56, intersecting several miles down the road at Union Hill for the compressor station.

Late last year, Governor Northam dismissed two members of the Air Pollution Control Board who disagreed about the pipeline route and placement of the compressor station, thereby assuring a yea vote from the Board. In Virginia, it should be noted, the biggest utility player, Dominion Energy, is also the largest single donor from the energy sector to political campaigns, regardless of party affiliation. Dominion Energy is pushing the pipeline through Buckingham County and its compressor station in Union Hill. Just north of Buckingham County is Albemarle County and its plethora of country estates owned by wealthy white people. South of Buckingham County would apparently be too far out of the way, making the pipeline more expensive.

In lightly populated Buckingham County, Dominion Energy could expect easily overpowered opposition to its pipeline and compressor station from poor, mostly black communities. The only remaining obstacle was two obstinate members of the state Air Pollution Control Board, and with the help of their man in the Governor’s office, they were removed. Like the 1984 yearbook photo, Governor Northam and his friends thought they could dismiss the racism implicit in it all by taking the position that he didn’t mean it that way. How insulting! It matters not at all how these people intend their actions, as if that somehow magically exonerates them, but how their actions ultimately affect the people on the receiving end, and professed ignorance of the effects on those on the receiving end is no excuse, any more than it was for the German people when their leaders packed Jews into cattle cars and sent them to concentration camps.
— Ed.


Everyone Knows it’s Windy


The Trump Baby balloon that floated over London, England, last Friday was the culmination of efforts on the part of graphic designer Matt Bonner and a team of political activists and balloon fabricators who wanted to make a statement about the petulant and childish temperament of the current American president. As a mocking indictment of his destructive behavior, it is an effective piece of work. The activists plan to have the balloon shadow it’s real-life angry baby model as much as possible wherever he travels around the world.

Trump Awakens (43381966091)
The Trump Baby balloon rises over London’s Parliament Square. Photo by Michael Reeve.

Large balloon caricatures came about with the work of Tony Sarg on the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade in the 1920s. Mr. Sarg was a German-American puppeteer who took the concept of marionettes and simply turned them upward and inflated them, though the comparison ends there because the guide ropes for a balloon caricature do no more than tether and control them, as opposed to the thin wires that puppeteers use to manipulate the movements of small marionettes.

The technology for creating large balloons with discretely modeled characteristics like arms and legs has changed over the years, of course, with the biggest difference coming in the planning stage when designers can now model the character with 3D animation on a computer, eliminating some of the trial and error involved in the design and fabricating of earlier balloons. Experienced engineers at the fabricating plant can then examine those computer designs and make or suggest alterations that will improve the balloon’s stability when floating overhead and streamline its manufacturing, all without greatly changing if possible the designer’s intent.

Churchill statue Westminster
The statue of Winston Churchill in London’s Parliament Square. Photo by Braveheart.

These protest balloon caricatures appear to be gaining popularity, and it’s easy to see why since they fit the criteria of making an impact over a wider area than a hand-held placard and they can show up around the world as needed with a relatively small support team. An excellent graphic design can also generate revenue for the protest movement through merchandising. The main difficulty in deploying the balloons is in securing permission from government officials, which ought not be that much different from acquiring the usual permits for a protest other than stipulating a maximum height for the balloon when it is in the air.

Since the balloons are not intended to float higher than about 50 feet, conflicts with aviation should be minimal. The main obstacles aloft to safe deployment, besides high winds, are things arising from the ground such as power and light poles and electrical and communications cables. Let’s hope these symbols of protest continue floating freely wherever there’s enough helium a need for them, as a reminder to everyone that many powerful public figures need to have the air let out of them, not necessarily for their benefit since it can be all but impossible to deflate their often massive egos, but for ours as citizens in a still relatively free society.
— Techly


The Tenor of Our Times


Schadenfreude, a German term for taking joy in the misfortunes of others, has unfortunately become a predominant emotion in the public spheres of politics and media. After the 2016 election, some Republicans took more joy in the losses experienced by Democrats than in their own victories. There’s a difference there of feeling something based in negative views or in positive views. The experience of Schadenfreude also has shades of feeling, depending on whether the person laughing at someone else slipping on a banana peel is also the one who threw the peel to the ground.


In the first instance, the person is merely an observer, though that person’s laughter at another person slipping on a banana peel may be tinged with additional shades of meaning based on whether the two had any kind of relationship or whether the laugher’s joy comes from a pathetic affirmation of scorn for the unfortunate and a consequent boost to the laugher’s own low self-esteem. It is laughing at someone else’s expense in order to feel better about oneself. Throwing down the banana peel of course adds agency to the scenario, and more if it was done with the intention of victimizing another. The nasty twist comes when the person throwing down the banana peel manages to feel justified by claiming victimization from the person who will slip on it, and therefore in their eyes the person who slips gets just desserts. That is the scenario playing out in public discourse every day now.

HK Sheung Wan mall interior Wet Floor sign n mirror Oct 2017 IX1
A “Wet Floor” sign shaped like a banana peel at a shopping mall in Hong Kong in October 2017. Photo by Zhungwinsumtz.

It’s not hard to find examples, from the fallout of mass killings to the investigation into Russian election meddling; from hateful rhetoric about immigrants to hate crimes against brown-skinned people; from disparagement of liberal attitudes to intimidation of groups and individuals associated with those attitudes, such as Black Lives Matter or Gay Pride; and all of this done with the justification of being the victim. Not everyone who claims to be a victim seeks to redress the wrong they feel through negativity, an example being the civil rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s, in which positive attitudes prevailed despite horrifying provocations. Many of the people claiming victim status now as justification for their Schadenfreude, for their trolling of others by tossing banana peels, do so with spurious reasoning springing from self pity over the degradation of their imagined superiority. Claiming their superiority came from God or some other vaunted source and that its erosion by societal forces is evidence of evil at work is magical thinking, and it is damaging everyone.
— Ed.


Talking a Good Game

The Jerusalem Hackathon (99)
Players at a game of Catan during the April 2016 Wikimedia Hackathon in Jerusalem, Israel. Photo by Ariel Elinson.

The German board game Settlers of Catan, now known simply as Catan, first published by Klaus Teuber in 1995, changed ideas around the world about what board games could be and led the renaissance in the form that has seen huge growth over the last 20 years, primarily among young adults. Catan is competitive, just like many board games of the past like Monopoly and Risk, but unlike those games it does not eliminate some players before the game is over, and therefore everyone who starts the game holds on to a chance at winning until the end. It is competitive, but not reductive.

That game dynamic, which has come to define most of the board games coming from Europe, and particularly Germany, in the last 20 years has become known by the shorthand Eurogames. The games are overall competitive in nature while incorporating elements of cooperation and degrees of engagement with, or isolation from, one player to the other players as suits an individual’s personality or strategy. The character of the games can be seen as socialist rather than capitalist, as in Monopoly. Warring and confrontation are similarly sidelined in favor of building or collecting. A player still strives to outdo the others, though not entirely at their expense. The games are not zero sum games, where one player ends up with everything and the others are left in ruins.

Uncle penny
A balloon of the Monopoly mascot, Mr. Monopoly, also known as Rich Uncle Pennybags, at a Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade in the early 2000s. Photo by Fluffybuns.

The genius of these games coming out of Europe is how they tap into the better parts of our nature without resorting to banality, which of course would ensure they got played exactly once before finding a place on a closet shelf, there to be ignored ever after. The game designers understand the duality of human nature, and they give play to both sides, and in the best games, such as Catan, they appear to have achieved a balance, a yin and yang duality, if you like.

A scene from Stanley Kubrick’s 1987 film Full Metal Jacket, with Matthew Modine as Pvt. J.T. “Joker” Davis being upbraided for not going along with the program. Warning: foul language.
Many of the older games, like Monopoly, much loved as they were, gave vent primarily to the aggressive, greedy side of our nature, and people mistakenly thought that was who we were, and all we were. Pillaging and destruction of competitors may be all fun and games for a certain limited part of our psyches, and honesty demands we acknowledge that is part of who we are. But it is only a part, and the rest of our spirit seems to demand we fulfill our need to build and create, urged on still by that core desire to do it as well as we possibly can, and if that results in greater and grander returns than everyone else can achieve, then so much the better. All in good fun, of course.
― Vita


Letting Go


There’s a movie out recently starring Hugh Jackman as the 19th century impresario P.T. Barnum, and it’s called The Greatest Showman. The script appears to play fast and loose with history, for one thing imposing a modern sensibility about sideshow freaks on people like Barnum perhaps, and on many in Barnum’s audiences certainly, who would have found modern ideas about respect for diversity bizarre and laughable. We, of course, have come around to feeling the sensibilities of people in the past regarding respect for diversity and individual rights were bizarre and cruel. It’s not clear from a review alone if the movie takes the same anachronistic approach to respect for animal rights.


In the last year, after many years of criticism of it’s inclusion of animal entertainment acts in its circus, the Ringling Brothers and Barnum and Bailey Circus folded its tents for good and went out of business. The criticism led to steadily declining ticket sales as well as loss of revenue from being shut out entirely from some localities where legislation had been enacted to ban the kind of animal entertainment acts that had long been part of circuses, even before P.T. Barnum came along with his great showmanship.

Jacko и Bess, мандрилы на представлении в Olympia Circus в Лондоне. 31st December 1931
Jacko and Bess, two mandrill monkeys with the Olympia Circus in December 1931. Some people find this sort of thing entertaining. Note the leashes.

African elephant 0550 02
An African elephant at the Milwaukee County Zoo. Photo by Ronincmc.

Zoos may start closing in large numbers soon, after several of them around the world closed in the past decade, citing the hypocrisy of pretending zoos provided means for animal conservation and public education, when really they represent a more staid form of the entertainment seen in circus animal acts. Zoos have always dressed themselves up in a veneer of respectable science, often with little evidence to back it up. Zoos have played Dr. Jekyll to the Mr. Hyde played by the rest of humankind in its voracious appetite for resources and habitats, displacing and killing wildlife at will. It’s past time to go beyond trying to conserve wildlife from the rapaciousness of Mr. Hyde and to stand up to him and then relegate him to irrelevancy. Meanwhile, no one asked the animals what they wanted, but it’s clear from the more expressive of them that they are miserable in their zoo enclosures, however well disguised those are from steel cages.

These are steps in the right direction, and naturally it will take some time to redress the other wrongs against animals that people have perpetrated through malevolence, neglect, and a misguided sense of divinely bestowed dominion. At the same time that many people treat their pets, mostly dogs or cats, very well indeed, there is a whole revolting system of inhumane factory farming of animals for meat and other animal products that goes on largely ignored by the general public. Out of sight, out of mind. People will sometimes wonder how the Germans and the Poles could have turned blind eyes to the shipment by trains through their villages of millions of Jews bound for the gas chambers during the Holocaust. Surely they had to have noticed, and the claims by some of them that didn’t are self-serving lies. Maybe so; but then look what goes on across the United States and, increasingly, other parts of the world every day in order to feed the rising demand for meat with every meal. Or don’t look.

Lion Milwaukee County Zoo II
A lion at the Milwaukee County Zoo in June 2010. Photo by Antigrandiose.

Companionship with a pet is a fine thing, beneficial to human and animal alike when the animal is welcomed as part of the family. From that point on there is a sliding scale measuring the relationship of animals to humans, continuing past domesticated animal likes cows and pigs to partnerships like that with honey bees, and on to the last type of relationship, that with wildlife, which in its ideal state would be one of mutual respect and staying out of each others’ way. There used to be a television program sponsored by an insurance company called Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom, in which the host and his trusty assistant were forever tranquilizing wild animals and then affixing a radio collar to them before letting them go. The people troubling the animals in this manner meant well, and they were doing it all in the interests of science and of the animals themselves, but another concept  seems to have never come up, namely leaving the animals be. There have been many other nature shows since, and thankfully some of them have grasped that concept: How about if we just back off, let these animals have the space any of us have a right to, and leave them the hell alone?
― Izzy


All the Time in the World


It was a little over 100 years ago when the Germans enacted the first daylight saving time as a measure to conserve energy, and the practice has been part of most of the western world in one form or another ever since. Besides the dubious argument that extending daylight at the end of the day through spring, summer, and early autumn saves energy, it’s hard to rationalize continuing the practice. Continue it will, however, for the time being, as daylight saving time ends on November 5th with the return to standard time over the winter in the United States and much of Europe.

George Pal’s The Time Machine, from 1960, explored questions of altering time and circumstance within a gripping adventure yarn.

Contrary to myth, daylight saving time was never instituted on behalf of farmers. Farmers are generally opposed to the practice. They would rather take back that hour of daylight from the end of the day in summer, when the heat of the day has built up, and return it to the beginning of the day, when the cool of the night lingers. It was office workers and the mercantile concerns that catered to them who had an interest in extending daylight past office hours, thereby opening up more time for shopping and other money-spending activities.

The energy conservation argument for daylight saving time was more valid a century ago, when inefficient electric lighting was a big consumer of power. Air conditioning did not become a factor until the 1930s, and then only for public buildings like theaters, department stores, and office buildings. Home air conditioning did not come into widespread use until the 1960s or 1970s. The situation then by the 1980s was that in the summer people were returning home from work at five, six, or seven o’clock in the late afternoon and early evening, when evening cooling had not begun to overtake the built-up heat of the day. If standard time had been in effect in the summer, those hours would have been closer to sunset by one hour, and therefore cooler.

Big ben closeup
Big Ben in London, England, the most famous public clock in the western world, displays the time on a sunny day in September 2005. Photo by Robin Heymans.

By the late twentieth century, people no longer had to resort to public buildings to enjoy air conditioning. The argument then that people would take advantage of some extra daylight after working hours to circulate among shops and spend money was not as valid as it had been a half century earlier. The energy conservation argument similarly went out the window. People could and did go directly to their own air conditioned homes, where they cranked up the air conditioning to compensate for the day still being hot at five, six, or seven o’clock.

The original three singers of the vocal group Bananarama reunited recently, and in this performance of their 1980s hit “Cruel Summer”, they show great timing 30 years later.

What’s the rationale then for daylight saving time in the new climate, when an hour of summer sunlight at the end of the day is hotter than it used to be? Because we’ve gotten used to extended twilight in the mid-latitudes in summer? Using the extra daylight time at the end of the day can be nice for cutting grass after work, or coaching a children’s soccer game, or socializing with neighbors. People did all those things and more (substitute baseball for soccer) in the past, and life went on. Like farmers, office workers may find it more pleasant to arise a bit earlier to do some chores in the morning. Leaving daylight saving time behind will cost only a little in convenience and schedule readjustment, but the saving in energy will put dollars back in the pockets of everyone but the fossil fuel companies, and may help bring back the cool of the evening.
― Techly


Charlie Don’t Surf


“Charlie, that’s beneath you,” Steve Bannon told interviewer Charlie Rose on the 60 Minutes television program this past Sunday, referring to Rose’s remark that we are a nation of immigrants except for the Native Americans. Bannon’s statement was bizarre and nonsensical, and seemed to come from his own peculiarly politicized vision of American history in which admitting that European immigrants largely stole the Western Hemisphere from Native Americans in a shameless display of cupidity and genocide is somehow nothing more than shameful leftist propaganda. So much for honestly facing the truth.

Charlie Brown parade balloon
Charlie Brown parade balloon at the 2016 Thanksgiving Day parade in New York City. Photo by Midtownguy2012. Maybe Steve Bannon was referring to all the immigrants in the streets of New York City below the floating Charlie Brown balloon.

Even though Mr. Bannon is out of the White House now, his legacy lives on in the administration’s immigration policy, specifically the recent announcement about ending the Obama era DREAMer policy of granting a path to citizenship for children of illegal immigrants. Mr. Bannon does not appear to care for immigrants, legal or otherwise, no matter what sort of intellectual gloss he slops onto his elitism. He is an unsavory man who sees nothing wrong with declaring war on the brown-skinned peoples of the earth, as long as people other than him and his kind are doing the fighting. The short termed White House Communications Director Anthony Scaramucci, in his own succinct way, characterized Bannon absolutely correctly. Mr. Bannon is someone who takes himself too seriously, and is accustomed to overawed admirers reinforcing his own high opinion of himself.

A clip from the 1979 film Apocalypse Now, directed by Francis Ford Coppola, and here featuring Robert Duvall as the gung ho Colonel Kilgore.

For all that, what do Mr. Bannon’s ideas amount to? Not much other than what can be found in the writings of Rudyard Kipling – the White Man’s Burden and all that – but without Kipling’s compassion. Steve Bannon is a man out of his time, which rightly should be about 150 years ago. Perhaps that was when America was great for him and his kind, or at least it was if he ignored the multitude of recent German and Irish immigrants, the millions of African slaves recently freed after the bloody Civil War, and all the Mexicans still at large in the new territories and states of the American southwest as a result of the giant land grab known as the Mexican-American War.

“Charlie Don’t Surf” from the outstanding 1980 triple album Sandanista! by the English band The Clash.

In that world, Mr. Bannon would no doubt have felt at home because his cognitive dissonance about American history would not have been noted by his contemporaries. He would instead have been part of the mainstream of Old Boy elites riding high on the backs of immigrant and poor persons’ labor, while snootily ignoring that fact and looking down on them, the source of his wealth, and of his leisure to engage in what amounts to little more than mental masturbation. Maybe that’s what he meant when he said “Charlie, that’s beneath you.”
― Ed.

The First Thanksgiving cph.3g04961
The First Thanksgiving, 1621, an early twentieth century painting by Jean Leon Gerome Ferris (1863-1930). The painting portrays Native Americans as guests partaking of the bounty provided by The Pilgrims, while by all honest accounts of the period the Native Americans generously saved the newcomers from privation in their early years of struggling to survive in the unfamiliar surroundings of the New World. Steve Bannon would no doubt find comfort and confirmation in the relationship of the two groups as portrayed in this painting.

Please Leave It at the Door

Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!

― Excerpt from The New Colossus, by Emma Lazarus (1849-1887). This is the poem inscribed on a plaque at the base of the Statue of Liberty.


Summertime is here in the United States, regardless of the timing astronomers would like to impose on it with their solstices and equinoxes. For many of us, summer starts with Memorial Day and ends on Labor Day. And for many of us, hot summer weather has us searching for a cooling alcoholic refresher that is light and may even have some beneficial vitamin C floating in it. Sangria!


Sangria is not a kind of wine, though one may get that impression from some bottled varieties at the grocery store. Sangria is in fact a wine punch, and that is what is packaged in the bottles. Most people prefer to make up their own Sangria by combining ingredients from the wine aisle at the grocery store, the produce section (especially citrus), and possibly the soda aisle. Some will make a side trip to the liquor store for brandy, cognac, or other spirits to add depth and punch to their Sangria. The possibilities with Sangria are enormous, and in summertime it seems the rules relax for a lot of things in life. Make a batch that suits you and keep it chilling in a pitcher in the refrigerator.
Ambersweet oranges
‘Ambersweet’ oranges, Citrus sinensis, a new cold-resistant variety; photo by the Agricultural Research Service of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA).
There are some problems here that you should be aware of in our times of racial purity, and you would do well to take note of them. Let’s take the last item first – refrigeration. You are probably okay there because while no single person can be acclaimed as the inventor of refrigeration, the numerous contributors all appear to have either Anglo-Saxon or Germanic heritage. So far, so good.

Looking at the liquor store offerings, we get into murkier territory. To begin with, alcohol as a word originates from Arabic, which is strange considering the Islamic prohibition of alcohol. Next, brandy and cognac come from France, so no good there considering the Frenchies reluctance to back us in our military adventures. Unlike the British, the snooty French ask too many uppity questions. If you want to spike your Sangria, stick with Kentucky Bourbon or Tennessee Mash, or maybe some backwoods Moonshine.

You ought to be okay with soda, but be careful of things like Canada Dry ginger ale and some of the Mexican sodas which are produced with Caribbean sugar cane instead of good old American high fructose corn syrup squeezed from – what else- corn, also known as maize. The Indians introduced us to maize, but let’s not get into all that. We have done them one better at least by introducing Roundup-ready corn into the food supply.

The citrus fruits you may want to include in your Sangria, well now there’s a puzzler. Oranges, while they are currently grown in Florida or California, originated in southern China or southeastern Asia. That’s a thorny problem. The same goes for lemons and limes, which also originated in the same area of the world populated by little yellow and brown people speaking gibberish, possibly anti-American.

If you are to remain racially pure then, there’s not much you can do with Sangria, regardless of the multitude of recipes available. Now we come to the base of the Sangria, which is by definition some sort of Spanish or Portuguese wine. Using anything else, like German wine, would not really be Sangria, at least not in spirit (so to speak). But while the Spanish are pure bred, unlike the Mexicans who are mostly an unholy mix of Spanish and Indian known as Mestizo, with their short stature, brown skin, and Otherness, the Spanish are still not entirely with us. They used to be better, when Generalissimo Francisco Franco was in charge. But since then, not so much. Their wines for Sangria are therefore suspect. Take that under advisement.

The amount of varieties out there serves no other purpose than to test your mettle. It’s hot. You’re sweaty after a long day outdoors. Sangria in its multitude of varieties generously contributed from around the world is not for you. If you were to enjoy it all, you would have to ask that the little brown and yellow skinned peoples leave it at your door, and then scuttle away quietly before the neighbors noticed. Maybe cold lager beer from central Europe is the answer to your summer sweats, if only it weren’t for the fact it’s history can be traced back to beginnings in the Middle East. Those devilish Wogs, at it again!
― Izzy


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