“. . . push aside the needy in the gate. . .”

Boy, do I have a Ponzi scheme for you!

Boy, do I have a Ponzi scheme for you!

My dad was 78 years old when Bill Clinton was elected President.

Dad had an interesting take on that election. He was glad the unprincipled socialist Democrats had won. That meant when the Republicans ousted them, the GOP would have a mandate to get the country back on track because people would be tired of the insanity.

He was not surprised Bill Clinton was caught in a sex scandal and all the side-circuses that went along with it. He was, however, dumbfounded at the invasion of Iraq by the Republicans a short six years later. Barack Obama was the only Democrat he voted for in 19 elections. He cast his last vote for President in 2008.

I’m less than two months from my 70th birthday, as anyone who knows me or reads my stuff knows. I’m quite vocal about it. I’m going to have the party to sum up all parties. January 3, 2015. Mark your calendar. I’ve voted for president 11 times. I’ve never (and, if I continue to vote, can’t imagine that I ever will) voted for a Republican. That means I’ve voted for the winner only 5 times. Yes, but for the loser only 6—a much better ratio than my father.

Just as my father was glad the unprincipled socialist Democrats took over the government in 1992, I’m glad the Republicans won both houses of Congress this week. I hope they keep that majority and win the Presidency in 2016.

That will hasten the day when the poor and the lower middle classes and the hand-wringing ineffectual “liberals” or “progressives” or whatever we call them these days actually band together to throw the Kochs and the Waltons and Karl Rove and such people out of power.

“Let them eat cake.”

When the American people (at least those who know that the whole system has been taken over by the snobs—the Lexus-driving, sushi-eating, materialistic rich and wannabees) come to their senses and realize that the myth of the American Dream applies only to those whose parents already dreamed the American Dream, they will rise up. This is not sour grapes or incitement to riot. The rising up probably won’t take place in my lifetime, but David Koch’s disingenuous (well, no, it’s worse than that—it’s hypocritical lying) insistence that we throw out our social contract and let everyone get rich will eventually be seen for what it is: using his enormous INHERITED wealth to move the political system to protect his enormous INHERITED wealth. If I had INHERITED a billion dollars, I’d want you all to keep your grubby hands off of it, too.

Me, for President

Me, for President

I know a brilliant, handsome, talented member of a college football team who—as you have already guessed because it has become a cliché of American life—is an African American who was recruited by the Division I college football programs when he was in high school. The high school from which he graduated was not the same one he had attended his first years in public secondary school.

It was, as he told me, “A white school.” In fact, it was the crème de la crème of the white schools—a private school that gave him a $50,000 scholarship to attend and play on its undefeated football team. He also had to work a total of 420 hours for the school during his senior year mowing lawns, washing windows, and cleaning up after his classmates in the cafeteria. He was one of a half dozen black students in the same situation.

His purpose in submitting to that humiliation was to insure that he received at least one year of education of high enough quality to enable him to enroll in college. The “black high school” he would have attended would not have provided enough background learning no matter how hard he worked.

Washing windows and cleaning up after his peers, he said, he learned that, without a college football scholarship to get him to college, he’d work that way the rest of his life. His forced labor taught him both humility and anger.

“Let them eat cake,” Alice Walton says.

Give them an hourly wage that doesn’t quite pay their bills, and then let those who are a little better off pay taxes to provide the millions working for her with food stamps to buy their cake. But for God’s sake, don’t give them health insurance. Let the middle class folks pay for their health care in expensive emergency rooms, or just let them die.

All in the name of the capitalist American Dream. It’s working for Alice Walton and David Koch, so why shouldn’t it work for those of us who didn’t inherit a billion dollars?

Our elected leaders have bought into the scam, the Ponzi scheme that is our government. Or, rather, Alice and David have spent so much money convincing so many of the people who are eating cake that they, too, can be rich that they have elected men (almost all straight—presumably—white men) who are willing to sell their public trust in order to cash in on a few of the crumbs Alice and David are willing to throw.

My football-playing acquaintance is working harder than you or I or Alice or David ever have or ever will work to succeed both athletically and academically because he knows if his dream of playing in the NFL doesn’t work out, he will need some other way to survive. And he doesn’t want to clean up after you in restaurants all his life. (He is, by the way, one of the tiny, tiny percentage of young men trapped in his situation who probably has the skill for his dream to come to fruition.)

So in 2016, if I vote, I will probably vote for Ted Cruz for President. Because I think that may be the only way to hasten the day when justice will roll down.

I hate it when someone quotes the Bible to tell me I’m filthy and going to hell because I have sex with men instead of women. So I really do wish there were another way to say this. But since most people in this country believe that the God of Israel inspired the life that Alice and David want us to provide them with, I will remind you that one of the prophets who most closely (apparently) predicted what would happen to the people of ancient Judea said some pretty scary things about the American
Dream. From the fifth chapter of Amos:

Therefore, because you trample on the poor
and take from them levies of grain,
you have built houses of hewn stone,
but you shall not live in them;
you have planted pleasant vineyards,
but you shall not drink their wine.
For I know how many are your transgressions,
and how great are your sins—
you who afflict the righteous, who take a bribe,
and push aside the needy in the gate. . .
Therefore thus says the Lord, the God of hosts, the Lord:
In all the squares there shall be wailing;
and in all the streets they shall say, ‘Alas! alas!’
They shall call the farmers to mourning,
and those skilled in lamentation, to wailing;
in all the vineyards there shall be wailing,
for I will pass through the midst of you,

says the Lord.

Take away from me the noise of your songs;
I will not listen to the melody of your harps.
But let justice roll down like waters,
and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.

Let them earn a real living. Forget the cake (or the wonderful art museum in Arkansas, or the Cancer research center at MIT).

In the white high school

In the white high school

“O Brother Man, fold to thy heart thy brother. . .” (John Greenleaf Whittier)

The Quaker Abolitionist Whittier

The Quaker Abolitionist Whittier

Well, Phooey!

I can’t put my hands on my copy of the hymnal Christian Worship published jointly by the Northern Baptist Convention and the Disciples of Christ in 1941.

It’s the hymnal I first played hymn tunes from. Somewhere in the mess of books in my apartment is my mother’s copy of the hymnal from the ‘50s.

By the time I used it, the Northern Baptists had changed their name to the American Baptists, thinking that 90 or so years was long enough for Christians to carry on the polarization of the Civil War.

Christian Worship was (is) a fine hymnal. Very few “gospel hymns,” and many tunes and hymns that don’t immediately come to mind as part of the Baptist tradition. For example, I remember when I was in junior high school discovering and immediately learning to play “O Sacred Head now Wounded” to the Lutheran tune O Haupt voll Blut und Wunden with a harmony by J. S. Bach. I don’t remember if we sang the tune in church services, but it was a favorite of mine long before I realized the importance of the Bach harmony.

I learned other hymns and tunes from that hymnal that are perhaps unfamiliar to Baptists today. Perhaps unfamiliar to any churchgoers today.

A random example, apropos of nothing except that I was humming it today for some reason, one of my favorites was one of my father’s favorites. The tune is a stirring, visceral Welsh traditional tune, Blaenhafren. An unusual tune for Baptists to be singing—and not widely used in other hymnals. Even more unusual is the hymn itself—“We are living, we are dwelling,” by the second Episcopal Bishop of Western New York, Arthur Cleveland Coxe (1840).

We are living, we are dwelling, in a grand and awful time,
In an age on ages telling; to be living is sublime.
Hark! the waking up of nations, Gog and Magog to the fray;
Hark! what soundeth is creation’s groaning for the latter day.

The words have been altered in Christian Worship to omit Gog and Magog, an obscure Biblical reference to the “end times.” My father was not a “dispensationalist” (neither pre- nor post-millennial) and would not, I think, have been nearly so fond of the hymn with those references. He thought of the hymn, rather, as a call to Christian faithfulness, which is undoubtedly its meaning.

Another of my favorite tunes was Acadia, composed by W.T.C. Morson and sung with the hymn “O Brother Man, hold to thy heart thy brother,” by John Greenleaf Whittier, the second most important 19th-century American poet (after Longfellow, of course).

I loved Acadia because about the time my voice changed and I could sing bass, the church choir sang an anthem setting of the tune. The tune is obscure. It’s not in any of my collection of hymnals from the ‘50s, and neither the Cyber Hymnal nor hymnary.org has it in midi format. The hymnary.org has one record of it—as hymn number 515 in the Christian Worship hymnal.

On June 11, 2014, the Pew Research Center published the results of the largest political survey it has ever undertaken, interviewing over 10,000 Americans. The title is

Political Polarization in the American Public: How Increasing Ideological Uniformity and Partisan Antipathy Affect Politics, Compromise and Everyday Life.

I heard the discussion of the survey on PBS Evening News on June 12.

Frankly, I was shocked. I’m one of those polarized Americans. In fact I do believe Republicans in the form of Ted Cruz, Antonin Scalia, and the Koch Brothers are dangerous—are in the process of destroying the “American way of life.” With the cooperation of the NSA, of course.

My political views are, I fear, polarized from nearly everyone either conservative or liberal. They are even farther left than most of my friends, all the way to (shall I say it in public?) socialist. Where is Eugene V. Debs when we need him?

Most Americans, when they hear the word “socialist,” immediately jump in their minds—without any logical progression of ideas—to “godless communism.” The concept of the European “Christian Socialist” parties is impossible for Americans to comprehend, I think.



In every way I’ve been able to discover, I am an old style European “Christian Socialist,” except that it’s a little strange for someone whose belief in God is as tenuous as mine these days to self-identify as a “Christian” anything.

For reasons I don’t understand—but for which I am enormously grateful—after listening to the PBS report of the Pew Trust survey, what came to my mind was the hymn “O brother man, fold to thy heart thy brother.” In my mind I was singing it to Acadia.

Because I’ve been unable to find a copy of Acadia and can’t quite play it out of my head by ear, I researched the text and found it as a hymn in the Southern Baptist Hymnal of 1951, The Baptist Hymnal. The tune is Ilona by Joseph W. Lerman (1865-1935).

So here is a tune by a 19th-century American organist, immigrated from England, and a text by one of America’s great Quaker Universalist Abolitionist writers, played by a sort-of Christian Socialist Texan on an organ built by a California organ builder. Several missed opportunities for polarization.

Many Americans will have a problem with the text from the very beginning because we don’t use the quaint masculine to mean both brothers and sisters. Perhaps being willing to take Whittier’s language for what he meant it to be would be a first step in trying to “fold to our hearts our brothers” and work on ending our personal participation in polarization. The Pew Trust survey was true yesterday, but I, for one, hope the time comes soon when it is no longer true.

O brother man, fold to thy heart thy brother;
Where mercy dwells, the peace of God is there;
To worship rightly is to love each other,
Each smile a hymn, each kindly deed a prayer.

For he whom Jesus loved has truly spoken:
The holier worship which He deigns to bless
Restores the lost, and binds the spirit broken,
And feeds the widow and the fatherless.

Follow with reverent steps the great example
Of Him Whose holy work was doing good;
So shall the wide earth seem our Father’s temple,
Each loving life a psalm of gratitude.

Then shall all shackles fall; the stormy clangor
Of wild war music o’er the earth shall cease;
Love shall tread out the baleful fire of anger,
And in its ashes plant the tree of peace.

GRB 140419A – “My heart leaps up when I behold” (William Wordsworth)

GRB 140419A - reality circled in blue.

GRB 140419A – reality circled in blue.



The headline on SMU’s website reads, “Huge 12 billion-year-old explosion in space spotted from Earth.”

One of the biggest and hottest explosions in the universe –a rare event known as a gamma-ray burst (GRB) –has been spotted on camera. [The] event . . . occurred shortly after the Big Bang about 12.1 billion years ago (1).

SMU owns the telescope that took the first picture of the explosion, the Rotse-IIIB at the McDonald Observatory in the Davis Mountains of West Texas.

I want to know about GRB 140419A. How do the astronomers know it “occurred shortly after the Big Bang about 12.1 billion years ago?”

I ask, not as a science-denier. I don’t doubt astronomers know GRB 140419A happened shortly after the Big Bang. I don’t doubt the Big Bang happened. It’s not a matter of belief. It’s a matter of accepting the unfathomable body of research and practice of scientists over the last five hundred years. The correctness of the science does not depend on me

I’m not the brightest bulb on the Christmas tree, but I have some sense. My lack of knowledge does not carry me off into disbelief—the arrogant disbelief of climate-change and evolution, for example. Arrogant because that disbelief assumes either that one knows more than all scientists since Galileo, or that god has given one special insight into the workings of the universe. I’d be terrified of claiming a special understanding directly from god about the physical laws of the universe. Or anything else, for that matter.

But then, I’m neither a Southern Baptist nor a member of the Taliban.

Being in my 70th year with little time left on this planet (and somewhat diminished brain capacity), I can’t make up for the studying I haven’t done. I’ll never know how astronomers know when GRB 140419A happened. “. . . gamma-ray bursts are the most powerful explosions in the universe since the Big Bang,” Farley Ferrante, a graduate student in Southern Methodist University’s Department of Physics, who monitored the observations, said. “These bursts release more energy in 10 seconds than our Earth’s sun during its entire expected lifespan of 10 billion years. . .” (1).

I have no idea why many things are the way they are. Why, for example, after decades of selling blueberries in plastic boxes with slots in them so the berries could be washed by running water through the box, has Kroger suddenly begun selling blueberries in solid boxes so they have to be taken out of the box for washing?

Trivial, you say? Well, then back to the cosmic. Since the Big Bang started everything, what caused the Big Bang? What banged? One molecule of something banged? Well, where was it when it banged if there was no there there? What made it bang? Had anything ever banged before? Do scientists think about these things and have answers for them?

Probably, but I don’t know.

Some of the stuff of my reality?

Some of the stuff of my reality?

. . . [In certain patients] . . . psycho-sensory symptoms of epileptogenic nature occur . . . These symptoms, likely closely related to dissociative tendency and experienced traumatic events, normally belong to characteristic manifestations of temporal lobe epilepsy . . . Characteristic symptoms are very similar to certain dissociative symptoms. . . memory gaps, confusion spells, staring spells, episodic irritability . . . (2)

I’ve concluded my temporal lobe epilepsy is a fortunate preview of the impossibility of apprehending the nature of reality. When I was a child and went into dissociative states for which I had no explanation, I concluded that I didn’t really exist and neither did you. I concluded we are all a figment of the imagination of someone or something that we can’t possibly know.

What is real?

Do you know for sure? Is Wall Street real? Are HD “smart” TV’s real? Is the war in Syria real? Are the dresses movie stars wear on the red carpet real? Are the dresses you wear real? Is Ted Cruz any more real now that he has renounced his Canadian citizenship? Is your religion real? Is SMU’s physics department real? Is my computer real?

I know, I’m being sophomoric again. I need to study Nietzsche, or Heidegger, or Kant, or Foucault, or Baudrillard, or Dick Cheney, and I will have plenty of answers to my silly questions. The silly questions I’ve been asking all my life.

The stuff of my life has nothing to do with reality. I’m not saying the cup of morning coffee, the Wi-Fi router, the four or five thumb-drives, the magnifying glass I use to read the writing on most packages of stuff I buy these days, the 1,000 books on the shelves behind me, Groucho the cat sitting beside me—all of that stuff I can see and touch right now—is not “real.”

But at the moment of my death will any of it matter? Will the billions in my bank account matter? Will my latest tattoo matter? Will Eric Cantor matter? Will the surplices and reserve sacrament at my church matter? Will clothes for sale at Traffic LA downtown or Walmart in the suburbs matter? Will the gender of my spouse matter? Will my right to own a gun matter? Will saving the whales matter?

Is there a First Cause? an Unmoved Mover? a God, if you will?

I have no idea what William Wordsworth meant by “natural piety.”

My heart leaps up when I behold
A rainbow in the sky:
So was it when my life began;
So is it now I am a man;
So be it when I shall grow old,
Or let me die!
The Child is father of the Man;
I could wish my days to be
Bound each to each by natural piety.

However, I know this. The question of “when my life began,” my personal Big Bang or the universal Big Bang, is the same question as “when I shall grow old or let me die.”

Anyone my age or older who isn’t absorbed in thinking about these things is perhaps substituting “stuff” for reality.
(1) Quoted from: O’Callaghan, Jonathan. “Huge 12 billion-year-old explosion in space spotted from Earth.” The London Daily Mail. June 5, 2014.
(2) Bob, Petr, et. al. “Dissociation and Neurobiological Consequences of Traumatic Stress.” Activitas Nervosa Superior 50 (2008): 9-14.

If this be reality, make the most of it

If this be reality, make the most of it

Special post for those who love and contribute to PBS

Be more, or capitulate more?

Be more, or capitulate more?

In case you haven’t heard, your contributions to PBS are overshadowed by the Koch Brothers. And David Koch is a member of the Board of Directors of WGBH in Boston, one of the “flagship” stations of Public Broadcasting. It is no longer “Public” Broadcasting, as is evidenced by the cancellation of a film about the Koch Brothers’ influence in Republican politics.

Yes, one person determined what would be shown on PBS.

You might as well stop giving to KERA, WGBH, or any other station. Your contribution is meaningless.