The ramblings of an Eternal Student of Life     
. . . still studying and learning how to live
Wednesday, May 30, 2012
Photo ...

Almost like an MC Escher image, except . . . the stairs actually end, and in a boring, everyday fashion.

Just like life, such as we live it.

◊   posted by Jim G @ 6:51 pm       Read Comment (1) / Leave a Comment
Saturday, May 26, 2012
Politics ... Society ...

There’s an interesting article by political analyst Jay Cost on Real Clear Politics about how Barack Obama and other prominent Democratic leaders have “ruined” the Democratic Party through patronage. In a nutshell, Mr. Cost and his recent book (“Spoiled Rotten”) contend that the Democrats were founded in the 1820s by Andrew Jackson as the “party of the common person”. Over the years, the Democratic Party has wandered far from this mission, especially in the years leading up to the Civil War, when the Democrats allied themselves strongly with the industrial interests, plantation owners and social groups who wanted to preserve and expand the institution of slavery. However, in the 20th Century, Woodrow Wilson started a trend to move the Democrats back towards the interests of the average Jane and Joe. This trend was put on hold in the “Roaring 20’s”, but came into full flower in the 1930s with Franklin D. Roosevelt and his efforts to fight the Great Depression.

Mr. Cost explains that FDR’s successors did a pretty good job of keeping the Dems centered on what we today call “the 99 percent” –all 99 of it, not certain segments. However, after Lyndon Johnson “lost the South” to the GOP by (rightly) pushing rights laws into being, the Democrats had to start specializing. Many of the “average Joe and Janes” that were once its main constituency were won over by Nixon and then Ronald Reagan. This happened for a variety of reasons, including distaste for forced minority integration and protections, and the perception that the Dems were sympathetic to the hippies and draft dodgers from the Vietnam war days. The Democrats could no longer win just by defending the economic interests of the masses; as Thomas Frank pointed out in “What’s The Matter With Kansas“, a lot of common men and women have been voting against their material well-being by supporting conservative GOP candidates.

Thus, in order to keep itself in contention, the Dems increasingly had to pander to (or “serve the needs of”, depending on your viewpoint) certain interests that were not embraced by a majority of Americans. These include gay rights, feminism, environmental activism,  »  continue reading …

◊   posted by Jim G @ 4:35 pm       Read Comment (1) / Leave a Comment
Sunday, May 20, 2012
Current Affairs ... Psychology ...

It’s been about 10 days now since the nation found out that Mitt Romney was a bully in high school. The Washington Post broke the story that in 1965, as an 18 year old senior in a preppie high school, Romney jumped a kid with long bleached hair, pinned him to the ground, and started cutting his locks. The victim was also gay, but I haven’t read anywhere that this entered into Romney’s intentions. Bullies go after anyone who seems different and vulnerable, regardless of sexual preference. Even age wasn’t a barrier for a bully like Mitt; he had also tricked an elderly teacher with poor eyesight into walking into a closed door. Real nice, Mitt.

This made me think about my own bullying experiences in school. I was on the receiving end of a fair amount of bullying from about 4th grade through junior year in high school. Most of it was verbal abuse, being “mocked out” as they called it back then. But there was also some physical abuse, luckily nothing that left any major scars. On my body, anyway. As to my psyche, I still ask myself, did those stupid kids (and the teachers who mostly looked the other way) affect the person that I grew up to be? And if so, how?

There have been various studies on this, and some of them have found that bullying causes increased rates of personality disorders in victims, especially anxiety. Hmmmm, yes,  »  continue reading …

◊   posted by Jim G @ 8:34 pm       Read Comments (2) / Leave a Comment
Wednesday, May 16, 2012
Music ... Personal Reflections ...

I grew up listening to the radio. My father always had the car radio tuned to the standard New York metro top-20 stations such as WABC and WMCA. Eventually I got my own radio and my own car, and WNBC and WWDJ entered the mix (while WABC kept on playing the hits; it then seemed like it would do so forever). The late 60’s and 70’s dawned, and the FM stations were the place to be for the new “psychodelic” sounds (remember In A Gadda Da Vida?). WABC-FM became WPLJ, while WNEW-FM became the standard rock station of the world. They got me through high school and college, along with 8-track tapes and cassettes.

Given that I started searching for a “spiritual life” at a relatively young age, I always hoped that some positive messages about life, the universe and everything would find their way to the pop airwaves. But mostly it was about intoxication, sexuality, and the expectations and disappointments of young love.

Once in a while, some semi-religious, semi-inspiring notes and lyrics would find their way to the play list, stoking my hopes  »  continue reading …

◊   posted by Jim G @ 7:50 pm       Read Comment (1) / Leave a Comment
Sunday, May 13, 2012
Current Affairs ... Society ...

I read an interesting piece regarding Communism, Occupy Wall Street and Dave Graeber recently on the American Enterprise Institute web site (of all things). You probably know that the AEI is a think-tank with a right-wing political and philosophical bias. So, you would guess that this article, written by political writer Lee Harris, would not be not very positive and enthusiastic about its subject matter. And you would be correct, more or less.

But on the “lesser” side of your correctness (the politically correct side?), Mr. Harris gives Professor Graeber credit for his concept of “natural communism” (the phrase taken from Mr. Harris’s statement that “communism in short was natural to us”) . To back up for just a moment, David Graeber is an academian and writer who was involved in the formation of the Occupy movement and is credited for giving it a catchy motto: “we are the 99 percent”. As to natural communism, Graeber’s writings assert that in all human societies, even the highly greed-driven American landscape of the 21st Century, there is a natural tendency for people to act communally (or “communist”). In other words, not everything in our collective live is about barter and payment; not everything is subject to the market economy. (Although a recent article in the Atlantic laments that too many things today are considered “for sale” these days and available only to those who can pay the price. Things such as the right to talk to your doctor when you need to, and the duty of grammar school students to do their reading, were once thought of as an unspoken right or obligation. They were not put up for auction — but now they are).

Even in today’s America, though, people still help strangers in need without  »  continue reading …

◊   posted by Jim G @ 4:33 pm       Read Comment (1) / Leave a Comment
Friday, May 11, 2012
Politics ...

This article from today’s L.A. Times sums up the situation regarding Barack Obama as the President of the United States. In a nutshell, Mr. Obama is too smart, too intellectual to be President.

So how did he get there? In 2008 he was pitted against a military officer, who might have inspired public confidence in ordinary times. In fact, former Navy Captain John McCain was pulling ahead of Obama in the polls in early September, when the economy suddenly went over a scary precipice as several major financial companies failed (Lehman Brothers being the biggest of the big fish coming to the proverbial water’s surface upside down). The ‘average Americans’, the people who swing Presidential elections, got scared for their future and decided that an Ivy League professor would have a better shot at untangling the growing economic mess than someone who would place Sarah Palin a heartbeat away from the Oval Office. (The latter being an example, in the cynical sense, of ‘military intelligence’.)

This time, this year, it could be very different. Professor Obama, much to his credit,  »  continue reading …

◊   posted by Jim G @ 10:22 pm       Read Comments (2) / Leave a Comment
Sunday, May 6, 2012
Politics ...

Now that it’s all over but the shouting in the GOP presidential primaries, a number of articles are appearing in the political press about “Romney’s Path to 270” (i.e., the number of electoral college votes needed to win the presidency). These articles (e.g. Washington Post and Pajamas Media site) usually talk about the “solid blue” and “solid red” states, the states that will almost surely go Democrat (e.g. Connecticut) or Republican (e.g. Texas) in the upcoming presidential election. Then they identify the toss-ups and lay out various scenarios using hunches and educated guesses about what the swing voters in the swing states will be thinking, come Nov. 6.

I have done this myself, using one of the various on-line electoral college scenario tallies (the feds offer a good one, plain and simple, easy to use; your tax dollars at work!). And my favorite scenario — both from the perspective of being interesting, but also from the perspective of being possible and probable — is a tie!! (Admittedly, I’m not the first to ponder this possibility).

It’s a big maybe, and in my opinion comes down to what happens in Iowa. With Chris Christie as his running mate,  »  continue reading …

◊   posted by Jim G @ 4:08 pm       Read Comment (1) / Leave a Comment
Friday, May 4, 2012
Society ... Spirituality ...

I heard a news story on NPR the other day about the war in Afghanistan, and how many Afghan Army recruits aren’t literate; a lot of them don’t even know how to count. Wow, no numbers in their life! And yet, somehow life does goes on in the mountains of Afghanistan, despite the inability to formally distinguish between a pasture holding 9 sheep versus one holding 10.

It just goes to remind us that there are still a lot of places in the world where things are thought of and dealt with quite differently than here in the USA. Obviously, this should relate to the wisdom, or lack thereof, of continuing US military investment and “nation building” in a foreign land like Afghanistan.

But it also reminds me of the Zen tradition, which took root in lands not far from Afghanistan in ancient times, and somehow transplanted itself  »  continue reading …

◊   posted by Jim G @ 8:57 am       Read Comment (1) / Leave a Comment
Wednesday, May 2, 2012
Photo ...

Here’s a recent addition to my “kitchen forest”, a “hen and chick” plant, also known as sempervivum. That must be a Latin word of some sort; “semper” as in the Marine Corp motto, and vivum relates to life (I think). Always alive? Well, we shall see. I haven’t had much luck with “succulents” (given their preference for dry deserts over humid forests), but hope springs eternal. Maybe this will be the one that finds itself a place in the little potted houseplant forest near my kitchen windows.

◊   posted by Jim G @ 6:39 pm       Read Comment (1) / Leave a Comment
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