Category Archives: Ideas

SPEAK LOCALLY – WITH A GLOBAL VOICE

The problems that we face – such as climate change, inequality, and the resurgence of authoritarianism, nationalism, and militarism – are global in scope and nature. We may feel isolated in our local struggles, but it is a very powerful thing to realize, as I have in the course of my travels, that there are quite literally billions across the planet who are waging similar struggles, feeling similar feelings, and seeking similar solutions. So when you speak locally, use that global voice, knowing that you are not alone.

My To-Do List

  1. Help establish multi-party democracy in the United States.
  2. Encourage the surgical separation of Christianity and Capitalism.
  3. Help facilitate the transition to
    1. The Next American Republic.
    2. A New Values Economy.
  4. Further develop & expound the philosophy & methodology of “Serious Silliness.”
  5. Finish & disseminate creative works (songs, essays, etc.).
  6. Develop a better relationship with/understanding of mortality; find an opportunity for a good & useful death.
  7. Have fun in the meantime.

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TWO NOT TEN

I have never quite understood the emphasis that some American Christians put on the so-called “Ten Commandments,” particularly their insistance that governments should use tax dollars to create displays or monuments of them in courts, schools, and other public places.
Not there is anything wrong with the Ten, mind you… It’s just that one might expect that Christians – especially conservative, fundamentalist Christians – would have a preference for the formulation laid out by Yeshua ben Yosef himself, as quoted in Matthew, chapter 22:

The Greatest Commandment

34 Hearing that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, the Pharisees got together. 35 One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question:36 “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”

37 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’  40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” (NIV; courtesy http://www.biblegateway.com)

I mean, doesn’t that cover the territory pretty effectively? How many more commandments do we need, anyway? Why the Ten, not the Two?

Besides the fact that this formulation is ever so much shorter, I think it is also much more universal. After all, Jesus says “love the Lord your God,” which could just as well be applied to and accepted by Muslims or Hindus as Christians. In fact, to me this says: Whoever (or whatever) your God (or guiding principle, or moral code, or object of worship, or purpose in life) happens to be, in short whatever that Most Important Thing in Life is, you should devote yourself to it fully. I think even atheists and freethinkers could get behind an idea like that, semantics nonwithstanding.

There’s your First Commandment sorted out.

As fot the Second, I really can’t imagine anyone having a problem with “Love your neighbor as yourself” – unless, of course, one is afflicted with self-loathing or suicidal tendencies…

Well, no, on further thought, let me amend that. Your “rugged individualists” might have some trouble getting their heads around that commandment. I remember a conversation I had with a co-worker one day… 

“Skip, what would you do if, after the collapse of civilization, I showed up at your house with my family?”

My response was immediate. “I’d invite you in and share what I could.”

“Right,” he said. “And that is where you and I are different. If our roles were reversed, I’d shoot you immediately – my family’s needs come first.”

He wasn’t being mean about it – indeed, he’s not a mean guy, he’s quite capable of generosity and compassion – but he had obviously thought things through, and made some choices, and those choices didn’t take into account this commandment’s call for community and solidarity.

Well, if these things were easy to do, if they came to us naturally, we wouldn’t need commandments at all, I suppose.

But to get back to the question of why the Ten, and not the Two… I suspect the answer might lie in this: they are two entirely different types of instructions, and those types appeal to different kinds of minds.

Briefly, these two kinds can be called algorithmic and heuristic. Algorithmic instructions are precise, specific, and step-by-step. Recipes calling for exactly two level teaspoons of salt, for example. Follow the algorithm correctly, and you should get the same results every time.

“Add salt to taste,” however, is a heuristic instruction. Heuristics are vaguer, more subjective, and likely to produce different results in different circumstances.

They’re also harder to judge.

If someone violates an algorithm – skips over a step, or doesn’t adhere to the specifications, or eats the wrong food on the wrong day, the error is usually easy to spot – and one can then correct, criticize, punish, or condemn as needed.  But with heuristics, there’s no precise standard, no target to hit or miss – you can only do a better or worse job of trying to follow the guideline.

How can you measure how well someone loves? You can’t – you can only supply feedback, guidance, and encouragement.

So perhaps it’s no surprise that the former, in the form of the Old Testament laws, should appeal to fundamentalists, people who generally show a preference for clear, hierarchical lines of authority and enforcement, unambiguous standards for judgment, and strong sanctions for noncompliance.

Oh, and by the way – that thing about public displays? Unconstitutional on its face, and here’s why. Different religious groups have taken the Old Testament list and broken it up in different ways. Specifically, Catholics and Protestants use different numbering schemes. So any monument that lists the “Ten Commandments” using one scheme or the other would thereby be showing a denominational preference, and that would be in direct violation of the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment.

Using the Two instead would skirt that problem nicely. Imagine seeing this on our schoolhouses, courthouses, and prisons:

1. Love your God
2. Love your neighbor

And the details are up to us.

Epigrams, Slogans, & Bumperstickers

  • The best things in life are messy.
  • A violent revolution is no revolution at all.
    • The real revolution is against violence itself.
  • If you can’t break your chains, use them.
  • Big Brother is watching: KEEP HIM ENTERTAINED.
  • If it’s falling, push it over.
  • When you make a fool of yourself on purpose on a regular basis, it doesn’t matter so much when it happens by accident.
  • Sex:Liberals::Money:Conservatives
  • Every day is a gift – even if it doesn’t fit.
  • Big Brother loves you SO MUCH… he can’t keep his eyes off you.
  • When the dip is gone, the party is over. When the party is over, it’s time to go home.
  • Education should be dangerous.
  • Unity, not uniformity; diversity, not division.
  • We need some new isms.
  • “Mistah Galt, he dead.”
  • Go with the Greatest Common Factor, not the Lowest Common Denominator

Organizations I’ve made up that ought to be more real

You might have noticed: I like to make stuff up. This includes some organizations of which I am pretty much the only member. (Though others are certainly welcome to claim membership in any or all of them – no dues are involved.)

The PLAUSIBLE NEWS SERVICE is the handle under which I write satirical news stories. My goal with PNS is to write pieces that are just plausible enough that they seem accplausibleeptable, while still including sufficient clues that the observant should catch the joke. (Closer to the work of Andy Borowitz than that of The Onion, say… though I am nowhere near the level of either.)

I am the editor and chief correspondent, though sometimes you may see Plausible News material credited to my esteemed colleague, the noted broadcaster and media analyst Otto B. True.  The best compliment I can get is someone asking, “Wait a minute… Is that for real?”

The SIESTsiesta-partyA PARTY USA (Motto: “Chill Out, America!”) supports the rights of all Americans to enjoy a nice afternoon nap… and encourages folks to get a decent night’s sleep. We also repost news articles about the health and productivity benefits of napping. (I have sleep apnea myself, so some of this stuff is serious!)

The LEAGUE OF MORTAL-AMERICANS (Motto: “You’re Already a Member”) would like to remind you of one thing: you’re gonna die.

The League believes that increased awareness – and acceptance – of mortalitmortal-logo-2y is a good thing. Seriously. Studies have shown that folks who manage to reconcile themselves with the idea of their personal mortality are generally happier, less stressed, and more generous.

Also co-sponsors campaigns like “Die Early” (encouraging Baby Boomers to leave planer before drawing Social Security) and “Ducks in a Row? Ready To Go!” (encouraging EVERYONE to get their wills, powers of attorney, health care directives, etc. set up as soon as possible).

The BUSH REGIME MEMORIAL SOCIETY fights against any efforts to whitewash the dismal and disastrous history of the George W. Bush Administration (2001-2009). It sponsors the annual Shoe Day observance on Dec. 14, when all citizens with functional memories are invited to send worn-out footwear to the George W. Bush Library, in commemoration of the day when an Iraqi reporter chucked a couple of shoes (a huge insult) at the visiting Bush.

I am honored to serve as Chief Researcher for THE INSTITUTE FOR RESPONSIBLE HEDONISM, which was established at Harrad College in the late 1960’s.  The IRH engages in extensive studies of things that are fun to do, while (hopefully) avoiding dangerous excesses or unforeseen consequences. (Presenting an IRH business card at a bar or a party might be good for something, but I can make no guarantees.)

The KUMBAYA LIBERATION FRONT seeks to reclaim the song “Kumbaya,” and the sentiments behind it, from folks who think it’s too namby-pakumbayamby to think about people getting along together.

And finally, for now, the ASSORTED SHI(F)TWORKERS OF AMERICA – a superunion of all those folks who are under- or mis-employed, rather than being able to follow their dreams and make a living at the same time. (Our mottos include: “Well, Somebody’s Got To Do It,” and “Actually, I’m Working on My Novel.”) Comments on workplace conditions, the overloading of American workers, and related stuff.

 

 

 

 

VOTE WITH YOUR FEET…?

December 10, 2016…

Does anyone still have any questions or doubts about what is about to happen to us here in the USA? About the kind of historical moment at which we have finally arrived?

After the election, there was a certain amount of hopeful “let’s give him a chance” rhetoric – but Trump’s Cabinet choices and public statements soon made the absurdity of such optimism very clear.

To be sure, there is one small glimmer of hope on the horizon: the idea that the Electoral College may actually fulfill the function for which the Founding Fathers designed it, and deny Trump the Presidency. (The recent news about possible Russian intervention in the election may make this possibility more likely.)

But I’m not betting on that. Nor do I expect the Sweet Meteor of Death to come to our rescue.

[UPDATE (Dec. 20, 2016): Sure enough, by all reports the Electoral College has failed. So far, so has the Sweet Meteor of Death.]

[Further update (January 6, 2017): Congress, despite attempted objections, has certified the Electoral College results. Still no sign of the Sweet Meteor of Death, either.]

So the question becomes: what, exactly, do we intend to do about the situation?

This is a matter of individual conscience, of course, and all sorts of suggestions are being put forward, from passive acceptance to guerrilla resistance. The experience of pre-WWII Germany is being examined and re-examined for clues and guidance, but the differences between the rise of Nazism and the rise of Trumpism are significant enough to render such comparisons less than useful.

Here are some of the options suggested so far:

(There are many more of these kinds of articles out there. As I find more, I’ll add them to the list… or comment below with links to similar articles you have found.)

So one can stay and fight, in whatever way, whatever that means to you – or one can flee. I’m suggesting the latter, and I seriously think that others might want to consider the possibility. As the saying goes: “Vote with your feet.”

vote-feet

Now, for myself, I should say that at this point I’m not planning on moving permanently – but I am going to go on an extended trip abroad, six months to a year, maybe more. (I’m heading to Europe to see if I can help with refugee assistance in some way.) I’m thinking that might be enough time for things to sort themselves out.

It’s a privileged option, I know. Not everyone has this choice. The only reason I can even consider it is because I just became old enough to draw funds from my woefully inadequate “retirement” money.

But more folks might be able to pull off a miniaturized version – namely, a symbolic crossing of the border on Inauguration Day, as a protest against the installation of The Donald. (Or as I like to call it, the “Dysauguration.”) Just find your nearest border crossing, and be there by 11 AM Eastern time on January 20, 2017. crowd-control

We would then cross over just before the Oath of Office is administered, and then stay for the rest of the day (or perhaps longer) before crossing back over to take up the fight.

A large enough crowd showing up at one or more of these sites, even if they cross over for only a few hours, would send a powerful message of non-support to the incoming Administration.

If you’re not near a border but you are near the coast, consider a one-day boat trip into international waters. Or maybe turn the occasion into a brief vacation to the Bahamas. Let’s create a large enough blip in border-crossing statistics to give Donald the clear signal that not everyone is ecstatic about his enthronement.

So, what do you say? See you at the Border?

 

 

 

The 2017 “PICK A FIGHT WITH THE DONALD!” Contest

The recent flap between Trump and that Steelworkers leader shows that Trump takes his politics very personally, and he seems to prefer going mano-a-mano with anyone who disses him.

I therefore propose a contest:

The 2017 “PICK A FIGHT WITH THE DONALD” Contest!!

The goal is to get The Donald’s attention (& ire) directed at you personally. The theory is that the more distracted and flustered he is, the less damage he’s likely to do by actually paying attention to matters of importance.

Prizes will be given for:

  •  Longest Twitter feud (by number of tweets)
  • Pettiest subject of debate
  • Greatest number of RTs generated (by bots or humans)
  • Best meme generated as a result of the feud
  • Most mentions of feud on major “mainstream” media

Special recognition if the feud leads to:

  • Actual mention of the feud by Trump in a public appearance
  • A lawsuit
  • A benefit concert for the poster’s Legal Defense Fund
  • A Supreme Court case
  • Impeachment

So let’s get crackin’ out there!! Winners will be announced in early 2018, if we’re still around that long.