My longtime close friend, since the mid-’80s, and bandmate in the late ’80s and early ’90s, Mick Berry — drummer/actor/playwright/stand-up comic extraordinaire — will be at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival performing his masterful one-man play, Keith Moon: The Real Me. In it, he recreates the alternately very funny and tragic life of Who drummer Keith Moon. There are many blurbs praising Micko’s playing and performance, but perhaps the best is from Keith Moon’s daughter Mindy, reflecting on Micko’s faithful recreations of her dad’s drumming: “Now I know what my dad’s drumming sounded like.”

Drummer’s Bible front cover

Micko is also the co-author of what is almost certainly the best-selling drum book of the new millennium, The Drummer’s Bible, a guide to playing every style under the sun from Afro-Cuban to Zydeco, along with our mutual friend and Micko’s co-author Jason Gianni, instructor at the Drummer’s Collective in NYC (which changed its name relatively recently, but I’m too lazy to look up the new name) and winner of a Platinum Record with Trans-Siberian Orchestra, (Micko is a master of Afro-Cuban and New Orleans-style drumming, while Jason is a master of off-time/compound-meter drumming; but they can both play almost any style to perfection — yes, they’re that good.)

Micko is also the co-author of Stage Fright, with Micheal Edelstein, PhD, a book on how to beat stage fright. with interviews from performers including Melissa Etheridge, Robin Williams, David Brenner, Mose Allison, Jason Alexander, and Maya Angelou. An expanded edition under a different, more accurate title, with a different cover, will appear in 2020.

As for the Fringe Fest, ticket max out at about 12 pounds ($16 dollars), so if you’re there and want to pay about what you’d pay for super-hero schlock from Hollywood, check it out. You’ll be glad you did.


Paul Krassner, editor of The Realist and a co-founder of the Yippies, died yesterday at 87. There are undoubtedly many detailed obits on other sites, so I’ll confine myself here to a brief recollection of the single hour I spent interviewing him in 1978. It was at the American Heroes Conference in Sun Valley, Idaho, which was sponsored (I believe) by the producers of the godawful, and deservedly long-forgotten, movie, “A Hero Ain’t Nothin’ But a Sandwich,” a showing of which was the main event at the conference on Saturday night.

There were several famous people at the conference, and my late friend Mike Hughes and I interviewed Krassner, William Kunstler, and Timothy Leary for our college newspaper, the BSU Arbiter, which at the time was a good, independent college paper (prior to being ruined by the journalism department). The interviews have vanished into the mists of time; I stuffed my copies into a drawer about 30 years ago, and when I finally opened it I discovered that the papers had been partially eaten by cockroaches. (It could have been by interdimensional alien visitors, but my money is on the cockroaches.)

All that I remember of the interviewees is that I liked Krassner by far the best. He was gracious, relaxed, and extremely funny.

As a way of saying goodbye, here’s probably the second most famous thing that ever appeared in Krassner’s Realist. (The most famous — which earned him the undying hatred of many — was the satirical piece he ran shortly after the Kennedy assassination in 1963, describing Lyndon Johnson fucking Kennedy’s corpse in the neck wound on the plane ride back to Washington.)

One Nation Under God Graphic from The Realist

Farewell Paul. The world is a poorer place for your passing.

 

 

 


Yes, plural: linings, not lining. Let’s begin with the most obvious:

  • Trump has laid bare the racism that is the foundation of the modern Republican Party. Since the 1960s, with the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the partial demise of the Jim Crow system, the Republican Party has pursued a “Southern Strategy” that appealed to racist whites through both anti-black/anti-Latino actions (e.g., the “war on drugs” and mass incarceration) and scapegoating rhetoric. Until recently, that rhetoric was of the dog-whistle variety, the use of code words (e.g., “illegal aliens,” “food stamps,” “welfare queens,” “tough on crime,” etc.) that GOP leaders could (im)plausibly deny were racist. Now, the GOP’s racial bigotry is overt. With Trump, the festering racism that is the basis of the Republican Party’s strategy has oozed out from under its rock. In a way, it’s refreshing to see racists being racists, rather than hypocritically asserting that they’re not. (Some Republicans still make that pro forma assertion, but you can tell their hearts aren’t in it, and they don’t seem to expect any but the most willfully ignorant to buy it.)
  • One of the primary reasons the GOP got away for so long with its implausible denial that it’s a racist party is that the corporate media allowed it to. For over half a century, corporate outlets virtually always, under the guise of neutrality, balance, allowed Republican politicians and pundits to deny that their code-worded racist terms and rhetoric were in fact racist. (The way “neutrality” works can be exemplified by the following: “Some say the sun rises in the East. Others say it rises in the West. The controversy continues.”) Now, at least some corporate media outfits (e.g., AP, NBC, CNN) are calling the GOP’s racism “racism,” and some are calling Trump’s, and occasionally other GOP leaders’, lies “lies,” rather than “misstatements,” “erroneous statements,” or “untruths.” I don’t expect this to continue past Trump, but it sure is refreshing while it lasts.
  • Trump’s overt racism has laid bare the GOP’s claim to represent all of America, all of the people. By definition, racists do not represent all of the people, but rather one “superior” group. (While Trump claims to “love” his overwhelmingly white supporters, he, and the rest of the GOP. are cynically manipulating his ignorant, gullible, and mean-spirited followers, while systematically screwing them — consider Trump’s tax scam, his opposition to raising the minimum wage, and the GOP’s perpetual campaign to prevent universal healthcare, leaving tens of millions uninsured or under-insured, with tens of thousands resultant unnecessary deaths annually.)
  • Trump’s overt racism has laid bare the GOP claim to be the party of morality. (The same could and should be said about his sewer-rat personal behavior.) What’s moral about racism? What’s moral about supporting racists?
  • Trump’s racism has also exposed the gross hypocrisy of his evangelical base. Evangelicals claim to be the standard bearers of “family values,” yet Trump’s racist immigration policies resulting in deliberate separation of children from parents, children locked in cages, and U.S. Border Patrol and ICE agents literally ripping toddlers from their mothers’ arms, seem not to bother them at all. These theofascists vehemently oppose women controlling their own bodies, and they whine endlessly about abortion killing “babies” (“babies” including clumps of cells no bigger than the head of a pin), yet when Trump inflicts grievous harm upon actual babies and their parents, these hypocrites are silent, and continue to support the bullying, racist thug who deliberately hurts children. If you wanted to put the hypocrisy and amorality of the religious right under a magnifying glass, Trump’s racism has supplied that glass.
  • Trump’s racism has also exposed the sheer gutlessness, the utter lack of principles of virtually all Republican “leaders.” Since Trump took office, they’ve aided and abetted him in covering up his many and serious criminal activities, and now they don’t even have the guts to denounce his overtly racist statements and actions. Trump’s racism has shown the craven and contemptible nature of the GOP and its leaders.

In short, Trump’s racism has shattered the facade of normalcy in America. It’s pulled back the curtain on many ugly truths. Decent people are repelled by the racism and viciousness of Trump and his followers, and that racism and viciousness have shown how necessary it is to oppose Trump’s “very fine people” in the streets and to crush them at the ballot box next year.

 


PM Press just published my latest book, Godless: 150 Years of Disbelief, which I compiled/edited. Here’s their description of the book:
Godless is a compilation of wide-ranging texts, both hilarious and horrifying, on atheism, belief, and religion. The selections in the book appeared in various formats from the late nineteenth century through the early twenty-first, and their authors were often active in the anarchist, Marxist, or radical leftist movements of their day. Derived from printed pamphlets, books by small publishers, and essays that appeared in widely distributed newspapers, these texts serve as freethinking propaganda in a media war against morbid authoritarian doctrines.
With both a sophisticated analysis of inconsistencies in deistic beliefs and a biting satirical edge, Godless gives ammunition to those fighting fundamentalist bigotry—and more than a few reasons to abandon Christianity.
Readers previously familiar with the authors’ political polemics will be rewarded in contemplating another side of their remarkable literary output. Contributors include Emma Goldman, Ambrose Bierce, Chaz Bufe, E. Haldeman-Julius, Earl Lee, Johann Most, Joseph McCabe, Matilda Gage, Pamela Sutter, S.C. Hitchcock, and Sébastien Faure.

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PM is offering a 50% discount on Godless (with the coupon code JULY) until July 31.

And speaking of 50% discounts, See Sharp Press’s 50% off sale on all books (and even greater discounts on our anarchist and atheist pamphlet collections) continues, but will end this coming Sunday, July 31.


The British analytical group, More in Common (“founded in memory of [British MP] Jo Cox [murdered by a neo-Nazi]”), reports that the vast majority of Americans Strongly Dislike PC Culture.

The study has design problems, such as considering no political positions to the left of “progressive activists,” and defining “PC culture” only in terms of language. (Obviously, it goes far beyond this.)

Still, the study has some value. Among other things, it reveals that a full 80% of Americans (including 75% of Afro-Americans and 88% of Native Americans) “dislike” PC language and consider it a problem. As well, the single group most likely to view PC jargon favorably — though only a third do so — is “progressive activists,” 8% of the total population, who are overwhelmingly white, earn over $100K per year, and are most likely to hold advanced degrees.

In other words, “the liberal elite,” those most likely to control “progressive” media outlets (such as, to fairly single them out, Alternet), and to indulge in the use of PC terminology.

And PC terminology is to all appearances not intended to unite the oppressed against the common ultra-rich enemy, but to give its users a warm feeling of self-congratulation on being enlightened, morally superior, above the rest of us. It’s in-group, self-identifying, and self-congratulatory jargon.

Think about it for a moment. How many people do you know who use terms like “woke,” “people of color,” “white privilege,” “privileged”? I’ve lived for nearly 30 years in a barrio where maybe 25% of the people are white, and I have never heard any of my Mexican or black neighbors, or my poor white neighbors, use these or similar terms. Never. Over damn near 30 years. Never.

“Progressive activists” are not speaking the language of the people. They may want to shame people into using their jargon, but they are not speaking the language of the people.

It’s time for the “progressive” left to stop patting themselves on the back. It’s time for them to stop using jargon that alienates people. (Try telling someone who’s making minimum wage, spending 50% of their income on rent, has no health insurance, and can’t come up with $500 cash to cover an emergency, that they’re “privileged” because of the color of their skin — see how far that gets you; see how far that goes in building coalitions to build solidarity, to improve life for all.)

The PC left is a curse, navel-gazers intent on proving to themselves how virtuous they are in comparison to us unenlightened plebes, especially through use of their in-group jargon. They’re an ongoing disaster.

If the left is ever to make real progress in this country, to make concrete policies to benefit all, it won’t be through using bizarre jargon that plays into the hands of Trump’s “very fine people.” It’ll be through talking about economic policies that benefit all of us.


FOURTH OF JULY, n. Independence Day. A day set aside to celebrate the throwing off of foreign tyranny and its replacement by domestic tyranny.

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–from the revised and expanded edition of The American Heretic’s Dictionary, the 21st-century successor to Ambrose Bierce’s Devil’s Dictionary

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Speaking of Bierce, here’s an apropos definition from his Dictionary:

Patriotism, n. Combustible rubbish ready to the torch of any one anxious to illuminate his name. In Dr. Johnson’s famous dictionary patriotism is defined as the last refuge of a scoundrel. With all due respect to an enlightened but inferior lexicographer, I beg to submit that it is the first.

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(And don’t miss The Onion‘s Independence Day salute to America, “U.S. Flag Recalled After Causing 143 Million Deaths.”)

 


A few days ago, an old friend I haven’t seen for some time dropped by for a shoot-the-shit session. We’ve never been especially close, but always enjoyed hanging out and, in the old days, did some home brewing together. He’s a smart guy, an ex-Army officer, and fairly progressive politically.

It was late afternoon, approaching evening, with a deep blue sky overhead, with a jet streaking to the northwest leaving a lengthy contrail behind it, with both of us sitting in the shade around the back-patio table. We were about two beers in, and as the contrail spread out and drifted straight above us, I pointed to it and drawled, “Chem trails!” thinking we’d have some fun talking about conspiracy theories and pseudoscience.

I was wrong.

He proceeded to vigorously expound the chem-trail conspiracy theory, but couldn’t provide anything approaching coherent explanations of why? how? — what’s the purpose? how’s it work? — who’s doing it (the government, of course)? or how could “they” cover up a massive conspiracy over a period of decades?

It was like trying to nail mucilage to a door. He retreated into a cloud of ever-vaguer (hence harder to debunk) claims, and eventually withdrew to the ultimate conspiracy-theorist position: “You can’t prove I’m wrong. Prove it!” Never mind that the burden of proof is on those making claims, especially extraordinary claims.

I then asked him where he was getting his information from. Guess, just guess. It was all on the ‘net of course, and the first site he mentioned was — wait for it — Infowars. I took a deep breath and asked him, “You don’t look at The Guardian, CNN, NBC, New York Times, AP, Al Jazeera, El País [Madrid daily, which has a great online site], or any of the other normal news sites?” Nope. They’re part of the “cover up,” and he only trusts Infowars and other sites that are “consistently accurate.”

At that point, I said something to the effect of “You’re out of your goddamned mind!” “No you are!” etc., etc., until we decide to have another beer and switch topics, to something we could agree on, such as that Trump is a cancerous polyp lodged in the colon of humanity.

My pal’s immersed in an alternate-reality bubble that’s hermetically sealed, and that confirms his faith in the reality of “chem trails.” Oh dear! Sigh.

The chem trails “theory” (a bad misuse of the term “theory”) sounds fairly harmless, but it isn’t. Why? Once you abandon rationality and evidence-based decision making — i.e., the scientific method — in any area, you’re totally adrift, vulnerable to emotional appeals, and with no even remotely reliable means of determining the real from the imaginary.

Thus, medieval clerics believed that witches caused thunderstorms, contemporary religious fanatics insist that a mass of cells smaller than the head of a pin is a human being, others insist that the world is ruled by a cabal of Jewish bankers, and still others insist that a mean-spirited sexual predator and con man who’s never done a day’s work in his life and began receiving a $200,000-a-year allowance at the age of three, is somehow on the side of the working man.

All of these irrational beliefs and conspiracy theories have obvious, real-world consequences.

So, how do we debunk conspiracy theories? Critiquing them and presenting massive contrary evidence seems, by itself, to have no effect. Just look at the Trump personality cult. Trump openly bragged that he could murder someone in the middle of Fifth Avenue and no one would care. It’s probably more extreme than that. As I’ve mentioned previously, Trump could probably strangle a puppy and then sodomize its corpse live on national TV, and his sycophants would excuse his behavior as “Trump being Trump,” “a different kind of president.”

Trump flaunts this immunity by resorting to ever more blatant lies, lies that a third-grader should understand as lies, and that demonstrate his hold over his followers. A recent example is his claim that China will pay the tariffs he imposed on Chinese goods. It would take an absolute moron or a totally subservient, brain-washed cultist to buy this obvious denial of reality. Yet, millions of people apparently do buy it.

So, what to do?

Regarding Trump’s goose-steppers, they’re only 26% of eligible voters (in 2016, Hillary got 28%, minor party candidates 5%, and fully 41% were so disgusted they didn’t even bother to vote), and once economic reality hits them in the face — especially the upcoming recession [my guess, mid to late 2020] and ever-increasing medical bills — some will abandon him. Most won’t, but some will.

In a broader sense, cultists are almost unreachable. Until physical reality smacks ’em in the face, they’re unreachable — and even then most will cling to their Glorious Leader and his scapegoating, turning their hate on the helpless and near-helpless.

We need to reach those who haven’t yet fallen into the clutches of cults and those who are wavering.

How?

One of the most important ways is the teaching of science and critical thinking skills in grade school and high school. Give people these tools early, and they’ll use them to safeguard themselves, their friends, and their families. (It’s no accident that the leading dissidents in the USSR were scientists.)

Another way is through ridicule. Irrational, cultist beliefs are invariably absurd, and often harmful, when held up to the light of day. Ridicule won’t reach brainwashed cultists, but it will reach the young and those with doubts. We need a legion of George Carlins and Christopher Hitchens to tell the scathing truth (honorable present-day shoutouts to Jim Jeffries, The Onion, and The Satanic Temple).

A third and important way is to present factual, well documented information. For decades, this was the only approach used by rationalist and atheist groups, and it’s clearly inadequate. But in combination with these other approaches, it’s invaluable.

There are probably other good ways to combat conspiracy-theory/cult beliefs, but these are the ones that immediately come to mind.

Please add your ideas in the comments section. I’d love to hear them.