Archive for the ‘Livin’ in the USA’ Category


Howdy from Tucson, where the final day of Spring came in at (depending  on which forecast you believe) somewhere between 112 and 114 degrees F (45 degrees C for you furriners). (Update: it was actually 115 F.)

It’s supposed to be even warmer tomorrow (make that in a few hours). (Update: It was warmer: 116 (47 C) ; in Phoenix it was 119. As I write, the high today was a mere 115, and we’re in for a major cooling spell this weekend, where the highs won’t get much above 110.)

About three weeks ago, after our first string of 100+ degree days, one of the local weathermen (Kevin Jeanes on KOLD — and sorry for the political incorrectness, that should be “weatherperson” or “person of weather”) with, shall we say a dry sense of humor, commented that the temperature was “all the way down to 99, and it’ll be even cooler tomorrow at 97.” (Again, for those of you who use a rational temperature scale, that translates to 37 C and 36 C.)

For those who haven’t been paying attention to U.S. climate models, they predict that this region, the desert Southwest, will be the hardest hit of the “lower 48.” And indeed it has been. We’ve been in a prolonged drought for nearly 20 years (broken last year by “normal” rainfall), and two of the last three years, 2014 and 2016, were the hottest on record. We just experienced the second warmest Spring ever, with the hottest March (high and mid 90s temperatures starting around March 1).

So, yeah, global warming is a “hoax.” We need to burn more coal. Donald Trump is an intelligent, honest, compassionate human being. And the unfettered greed inherent in capitalism isn’t a death sentence for the planet.

Things seem bleak, but we’re not totally screwed. There are things we can do individually and collectively to adapt and to counter global warming.

One thing damn near everyone can do is to plant trees. If done on a mass scale, this can reverse desertification. Even on an individual scale, it’s one of the best things we can do.

Gardening is another individual approach that makes sense. It involves far less expense than transporting food for thousands of miles, and involves far less waste. It also yields health benefits via relaxation, if nothing else.

Another individual approach, in arid regions, is to use xeriscaping, using native plants and a carpeting of rocks in place of lawns and non-native plants. This saves water — a lot of it, and it looks better than lawns.

Then there’s water harvesting — again, something damn near everyone (at least every property owner) can do at reasonable cost that will be amortized in a relatively few years. Even if you’re just channeling rain water from your roof and patio into wells for your fruit trees (as I am), it helps.

And then there’s passive solar heating (just think big picture windows facing south with an overhang that cuts off the sun in the summer months) and solar hot water heating (ultra easy — I built a solar hot water heater out of two old hot water heaters painted flat black [stripped of their external metal jacket and insulation], plumbing fittings, an old window, and scrap plywood and 2X4s about 20 years ago — a friend is still using it).

Then there’s ultra-insulation. Think straw bale and rammed earth construction. These energy-saving approaches can be used almost anywhere, and will often result in extremely energy-efficient dwellings.

To go even further on the individual scale, basements make a hell of a lot of sense in desert areas. Temperatures in them are a good 25 degrees F below surface temperatures, and there aren’t even seepage problems in deserts. The only reason they haven’t been adopted on a mass scale in the sprawlopalises  of the Southwest is that land, historically, has been so damn cheap that builders have foregone them in place of slab construction, which yields better short-term profits. If you’re having a place built in this area, think about adding a basement.

As for societal approaches, they’re so obvious that I’ll mention them only in passing. First and foremost, a direct tax on carbon emissions — screw carbon “offsets”: they’re a recipe for fraud; massive public investment in clean energy; energy-efficient transport and appliances; mass investment in public transit, including bicycle projects; tree planting on a mass scale; and subsidies for individual clean energy projects, passive-solar retrofits, water harvesting,  and energy-efficient construction.

Why do I think all of this is important? There are a couple of reasons.

One is that if adopted widely all of this would help save the planet (or at least make the lives of our children and their children better). The other is that it would keep people involved, and at least marginally hopeful. People without hope are easy to control and manipulate. Real, positive change is possible only when people have hope.

If you haven’t already done so — even on the smallest individual scale — please join those of us trying to create real change, please join those of us creating hope.

 

 

 


No, I’m not kidding. Trump has actually done a few good things.

First, let’s list only the unalloyed positives:

  • Trump has armed the Kurdish YPG (People’s Protection Units) fighting ISIS in northern Syria, much to the annoyance of Turkish Islamist would-be dictator and ISIS enabler Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

The YPG, a major part of the Syrian Democratic Forces, is the most effective military entity fighting ISIS in Syria. It’s also the only secular, democratic, libertarian (with a small “l”) force in the region in which gender equality is actively promoted. (There are all-women YPG units.)

It’s worth noting that to appease Islamist thug Erdogan, Hillary Clinton, had she won, would very probably not have armed the YPG. All of the facts noted above have been obvious for years, yet Obama refused to arm the YPG. It’s a good bet that former Obama Secretary of State Clinton wouldn’t have, either.

(For more info, see “The Anarchists vs. the Islamic State.“)

  • Trump killed the TPP, the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a “free trade” pact and mutant relative of NAFTA. Among other things, it would have a allowed commercial “courts” to overrule U.S. laws, would have made the already atrocious copyright situation even worse, strengthening the hold of the media conglomerates, would have allowed U.S. pharmaceutical firms to force companies in signatory nations to stop producing affordable versions of life-saving drugs, and would have allowed foreign firms to sue the U.S. and U.S. state governments over “loss” of projected profits caused by environmental regulations.

Clinton was in favor of this abomination. Until she wasn’t. If she’d won, there’d likely have been a few cosmetic changes to it which would have made it “acceptable” to her.

Next, a mixed but overall positive move:

  • Trump has been pressuring U.S. allies to increase their military spending to bring it more in line with U.S. spending and thus, in theory, relieve financial pressure on U.S. taxpayers. Thus far he seems to have had some success with Canada, which will increase its military spending by 70% over the coming decade. This would be far more impressive if the U.S. didn’t already account for 43% of world military spending, and if Trump didn’t want to drastically increase that spending.

As for other good things Trump has done deliberately, none come to mind.

But he has also inadvertently done some good:

  • He’s laid bare the hypocrisy of the Republican Party on healthcare. Republicans had seven years in which to prepare a replacement for Obamacare, and, after they unexpectedly won the presidency last November (plus both houses of Congress), they had to scramble to come up with a nightmarish mishmash of cuts and half-measures that would cost 23 million Americans healthcare coverage.
  • He’s laid bare the racism of the Republican Party. For half a century Republicans have catered to racists — restricting voting rights of blacks and latinos, persecuting undocumented immigrants (doing the dirtiest, most necessary work), promoting the war on drugs that has devastated black and latino communities, promoting “tough on crime” (i.e., vicious, tough on poor people) laws, and promoting outright slavery of the incarcerated — while at the same time hypocritically hiding behind code words and insisting that they aren’t racist. Under Trump, Republican racism is out in the open. (Unfortunately, that racism sometimes takes physical form; the assaults and murders it produces are a hideous byproduct of it.)
  • Trump has laid bare the hypocrisy of American foreign policy rhetoric. For decades, American “leaders” have been spewing the same line about “defending democracy,” while they’ve been supporting many of the world’s worst dictators and authoritarian regimes. Trump’s praise for Putin, Erdogan, mass murderer Duterte, and our Islamist Saudi “allies” brings out in the open America’s support for dictators and authoritarianism.
  • He’s interrupted the creeping fascism that has been strangling America since at least the time of Truman, in favor of galloping fascism. The good news is that Trump is so inept — good only at manipulating and swindling the fearful, desperate, and angry — that he likely won’t succeed in destroying what’s left of our freedoms.

Had Clinton won last year, creeping fascism would have continued; nothing would have fundamentally changed; popular discontent and resentment would have continued to fester; even while they controlled both the House and Senate, Republicans would have blamed everything that’s going wrong on the “liberal” (she isn’t) Clinton; and an overt, more competent Republican theofascist would probably have taken power in 2020, which, had Clinton won last year, would likely mean “game over” for American democracy.

  • Trump, through his defeat of Clinton, has partially broken the hold of the corporate Democrats on the Democratic Party — the Republicans’ junior partner in the looting of the American working class — and made it at least possible that the “democratic wing of the Democratic Party” will ascend.

For decades, the corporate Dems have had a stranglehold on the party as they’ve catered to the corporate elite (e.g., Obama’s refusal to prosecute any of the banksters responsible for the financial crash), taken massive amounts of money from the corporate elite, and refused to advance policies (most notably “Medicare for all”) favored by a large majority of Americans, and an even larger majority of Democrats.

At the same time, the corporate Dems have been chasing the chimera of the “center” (the maybe 10% of eligible voters who are so  poorly informed that they can’t make up their minds until the last minute) while ignoring the vastly larger number of those eligible to vote (41% in the last election) who don’t even bother to do it, largely because of disillusionment, largely because they can’t see any real differences between the parties (at least in terms of economics).

The major gains of the Labour Party in the UK in the recent election there, under Jeremy Corbyn (the UK’s Bernie Sanders), which successfully went after nonvoters by offering a starkly progressive platform, will, one hopes, provide a further boost to the “Democratic wing of the Democratic Party.”

  • Without intending to do it, Trump has spurred a wave of political activism in the U.S., the like of which hasn’t been seen in nearly half a century. This is a good thing for American democracy.

Contrary to popular belief, Trump’s victory last fall hasn’t been a total disaster, and in the end might turn out to be a good thing.

(Of course, things could get a whole lot worse under Trump. He and his minions are likely too inept to stage a Reichstag Fire and get away with it, but they almost certainly would take advantage of any of a number of disasters to impose parts of their horrific agenda. Naomi Klein at The Intercept offers a cogent analysis of these possibilities in “The worst of Donald Trump’s toxic agenda lies in wait — a major U.S. crisis will unleash it.”)


Disbelief 101 front coverby Christ Edwards, author of Disbelief 101 (as S.C. Hitchcock) and Spiritual Snake Oil

In most states, you must register hand guns used for self-defense. The government cannot tell you not to have a gun; they just want to know that you have it. If you use a non-registered gun for self-defense, the government gets mad, not because you used a gun, but because you didn’t tell them you had it in the first place. So if the police show up after you’ve shot a man they will ask you more questions about whether or not you told somebody that you had the gun than about the actual shooting. If you told some government body about your gun, it will probably be okay that you shot someone. If you didn’t tell them about it, it probably won’t.

This is too confusing. I’m not going to carry a registered gun. I’m going to carry a registered sex offender instead. If I feel threatened, I’ll say something like “Back off dude, or Dave will molest you.”

If the police show up after Dave molests my hypothetical assailant, I’ll say “It’s okay, he’s registered.”

Because of the way the word “registered” is used in conjunction with guns, some people think it’s synonymous with “licensed.” They must think that registered sex offenders went through some kind of training. When they hear “this man is a registered sex offender,” they must think he passed a test with questions like “What is the best way to lure a child off the playground?” A. By using candy B. By posing as a long lost uncle C. By bringing Transformers D. By using a lasso.

The phrase “sex offender” itself is odd. What it should mean is someone who offends sex. We don’t call people who commit crimes with guns “gun offenders.” And just how can one offend sex or guns?

Shouldn’t people who commit sex and gun crimes be called “victim offenders”?


For the last couple of days we’ve been exploring whether “over the line” humor is acceptable.

Our conclusion is that anything is fair game, and that there is no such thing as “going too far” as long as your joke, cartoon, story, etc. is funny (and, preferably, thought provoking).

We present you, below, with a test case, a cartoon which is not only not safe for children, but which is not safe for anyone. (Apologies to South Park for stealing that joke.)

This is easily the most shocking anti-Trump  meme we’ve ever seen, but it’s also one of the funniest.

It’s offensive in the extreme, and if you’re easily offended, please do not look at it. To say that this cartoon is in incredibly poor taste is gross understatement.

Okay, last chance to avert your eyes.

You were warned.

Here ’tis:

(We don’t know who came up with this, but we salute them.)


Comedian Kathy Griffin is back in the news. A few days ago she posed with a mock severed head of Donald Trump covered with fake blood.

From Griffin, this isn’t terribly surprising; on a New Year’s Eve several years ago I channel surfed to CNN’s live Times Square broadcast just in time to see Griffin direct a hoary stand-up putdown to a heckler (this is paraphrased, but close): “Hey! I’m trying to work! I wouldn’t come to your workplace and knock the cocks out of your mouth!”

Once the photo hit the ‘net, the denunciations thundered down from all sides: from CNN (which axed her from their New Years’ Eve broadcast), to 37-year-old spoiled brat Chelsea Clinton, to Trump himself. The reasons for the outrage were what you’d expect: the photo was vulgar, tasteless, “over the line,” disrespectful of the presidency, and disrespectful of Trump as a human being.

My reaction was a bit different: This seems like a stupid thing to post; it seems like she’s doing Trump and his minions a favor. What’s the point? Is there one?

Then I wondered about the context. What was it? Well, it turns out that Griffin was doing a photo shoot, and posed with the mock severed head as a comment on Trump’s disgusting, misogynistic remarks about Fox News host Megyn Kelly: “You could see there was blood coming out of her eyes, blood coming out of her wherever.”

But that’s still not a good enough reason to pose for that photo, even if Griffin had made the context obvious. That, at best, would have made the photo an expression of anger and contempt.

Why isn’t that sufficient justification for shooting and posting it? If Griffin was just an Internet troll, fine, whatever. But Griffin is a well known comedian, and if a comedian is going to use a shocking image it should at least be funny, and ideally be both funny and thought provoking.

Many of the best comedians — in days past, Lenny Bruce, George Carlin, Richard Pryor, Bill Hicks, Sam Kinison, and currently Dave Chappelle, Louis CK, Bill Maher, Jim Jeffries, and Doug Stanhope — routinely “cross the line,” routinely use vulgar, deliberately offensive language and imagery; others, notably Steven Colbert and Jon Stewart, use shocking language and imagery occasionally.

(If you want your comedy to lull you to sleep, comedy that stirs up no disturbing thoughts whatsoever, you’ll always have your Jerry Seinfelds, Jay Lenos, and Bill Cosbys, comics with either nothing to say or who drastically pull their punches.)

What sets the work of Carlin, Hicks, Jeffries, et al. apart from the Griffin photo? Their use of shock and vulgarity is oftentimes funny and almost always thought provoking.

The Griffin-Trump photo is neither.

It isn’t funny, it doesn’t make a point, and it allowed the Whiner in Chief to whine — and this time with some justification. Kathy Griffin did Donald Trump a favor.

In the end, the only funny line (that I’ve seen) about the matter was delivered by an anonymous TMZ headline writer: “Kathy Griffin Beheads President Trump: I Support Gore.”


My pal Al Perry has just put up a much improved version — in terms of both audio mix and background visuals — of “Jukebox Jihad” on Youtube.  If you’re up for some high energy rockabilly and guilty laughs, click on that link right now.

(In accord with our strict adherence to the FCC Fairness Doctrine, we’d urge you to also check out Chuck Maultsby’s “Ballad of the USS Liberty.”)

USS Liberty after Israeli attack

Finally, the track that comes on Youtube after “Jukebox Jihad” is Al’s cover of the old folk rock tune, “The Snake,” which is also worth a listen.

Check it out.