Thursday, December 22, 2011

The Simple World-Saving Device

(I published this before, but it's worth putting up again)

Enough hysteria. We can stop Global Warming right now, without giving up all manufacturing, driving cars, raising cattle or exhaling. There is a simple, inexpensive device – available right now – that will pull carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere and provide many side benefits as well.

This device is self-sustaining and will work for years – or decades, or even centuries – with almost no maintenance. It’s completely solar powered, and needs nothing but occasional applications of water and certain inexpensive common minerals. It has almost no waste products, and even those are readily biodegradable; they can be used as mulch, compost materials, or feedstock for making fuel-grade ethanol.

After drawing CO2 out of the air this device then breaks down the CO2 into carbon, which it uses for its own maintenance, and pure oxygen, which it releases into the atmosphere. A single model can take at least a ton of CO2 out of the air every year. Its air-cleaning properties aren’t limited to just CO2, either; it can also take out carbon monoxide, nitrous oxides, and sulfides.

Its useful side effects include preventing soil erosion, providing weather-protection for small plants and animals, and even producing food for livestock and human beings. Far from being an ugly machine, it’s quite ornamental and can add considerably to the value of real estate. You don’t need any government permits to install it. You can place it outdoors or indoors in a container, so long as you give it access to direct sunlight.

And it’s cheap. This amazing device is available in every city and town in America, at prices as low as $7 for a start-up model or $150 for a full-size household model.

So why haven’t you seen this marvelous device announced all over the media? Perhaps just because it’s so cheap, not to mention that it can propagate itself under the right conditions, so no giant corporation could make mega-bucks by selling it. Perhaps because it’s not an exciting new discovery but a very old one – 100 million years old, in fact.

It’s called a tree.

One of the reasons for our planetary crisis is that, in the last 400 years, fully half the world’s forests have been cut down – and not replaced. We need to restore those forests, and not just with single species of pines. We need to plant fruit-trees, nut-trees, hardwoods, redwoods and ironwoods, oaks and chestnuts, ornamental trees and medicinal trees. We need to plant them in every front yard and back yard, along our freeways and boulevards, in our parks and at the borders of our parking lots, around the edges of junkyards and factories, between fields of crops and in the courtyards of office buildings, and everywhere else we can think of.

Planting trees is one thing we can do right now to stop Global Warming, clean our air, and balance the ecosystem. So who’ll be first to buy a seedling and take up a shovel?

Sunday, December 11, 2011

BOOK REVIEW: Seducing the Bosses

“On Combat”, by Col. Dave Grossman, with Loren Christensen, Warrior Science Publications, © 2008

I first ran into Col. Grossman a few years ago, at a large SciFi convention, where he was conducting a panel based on his book, “On Killing”. He was discussing the odd fact that most soldiers in combat don’t aim their weapons at enemy soldiers, but only fire in their general direction; in other words, they shoot not to kill or wound, but only to make the other guy keep his head down. He went on to mention that soldiers who do deliberately fire to hit the enemy tend to be “older brothers” – used to having somebody else to protect. That made me consider sisters, so I stuck my hand up and asked: “What are the kill-ratio figures for women soldiers?” After all, girl-children are raised with the assumption that they’ll have to spend much of their lives taking care of other people – usually children, and husbands. Grossman replied that very few statistics were available, except for Israel – and the Israeli figures showed that, yes, The Female Of The Species Is More Deadly Than The Male. I was twitted about that, by various fans, for the rest of the convention. I suspect that the colonel remembered my question, and guessed the reasoning behind it, because he sent me an autographed copy of his new book, “On Combat”.

This is a fascinating work, on several levels. Primarily, it’s a detailed study of “The psychology and physiology of deadly conflict” with suggestions for improved training of soldiers and police. As such, it’s been praised and enthusiastically taken up by military and police instructors from Washington to Berkeley, and I can see why; his comparison of heart-rates and neuro-muscular performance is alone worth the price of the book.

But as I read it, I noticed a general attitude in the writing; it presents not just the details but the very phenomena as great astounding revelations. For me, this raised the question: why did this book have to be written at all?

Don’t we know all these basic facts already? Don’t we already know that the more you practice – with weapons and tactics, as with anything else – the more competent you get? Surely, after all these ages of humans battling the environment and each other, and having speech and even literacy to pass on our experience, we should know all these things. The understanding that, for example, when dealing with furious effort and deadly combat the body tends to empty its bladder, bowels, stomach and sinuses, should be as much a part of our common culture as the knowledge of how to make fire. And didn’t we all learn about “interpersonal violence” as children, in schoolyard scuffles or Cowboys ‘n’ Indians games in the park?

Then I remembered that, no, there is a large class of Americans who really did grow up thoroughly ignorant of violence and all the implications thereof. They’re the ones who need to read this book. And that, of course, raised the question of just whom Grossman wrote this book for.

America’s dirtiest little secret is that we really do have a class structure, and that it bears a nasty resemblance to the culture of feudalism. At the top, the royalty, are the notorious 1%: the super-rich, the managers of the financial “industry”, the global movers and shakers, who rule 80% of our – and the world’s – economy, and therefore politics. The next rank down, the new aristocracy, is what’s commonly called the upper middle class: the wealthy professionals, the business administrators, the upper-rank politicians and governmental bureaucrats. Below that – and, in our present economy, sliding rapidly into the status of the working class – is the middle-to-lower middle class, what used to be called the bourgeoisie, or villeins: lower professionals, middle-level-on-down bureaucrats, small business owners, and so on. Below that – and often making more money, but still with lower status – is the classic working class, previously called yeomen. Below that, of course, are the poor: working-poor – serfs – at best, and beggars at worst. We all know this, though nobody – except maybe the Occupy movement – talks about it.

What nobody mentions is that each of these classes has its own culture – and the dominant culture in America is promulgated by the aristocracy and practiced, sometimes desperately, by the bourgeoisie. We could fairly call it Middle-Class Liberalism.

There are complex historical reasons why the 21st-century American middle class wound up with the cultural attitudes of the 19th-century British aristocracy, but the most influential of those ideas was that a Proper Person never does for himself any physical labor he can hire someone else to do – except for amusement. One never cleans one’s own toilets, cooks one’s own meals or washes one’s own laundry – and above all, one never commits one’s own violence. No, one hires the Lower Orders to do that. One doesn’t even learn about such nasty low-class stuff. And of course one insulates one’s children against any such experience, or even knowledge.

The next step, of course, is to assume that what’s proper for oneself is proper for everyone else; therefore, to have a peaceful and orderly society, the schools and all other childcare institutions must keep the children from any experience or even knowledge of evil-evil violence. The idea is that what the children aren’t taught they’ll never learn.

It doesn’t work, of course. The first time a kindergarten bully smacks another kid and steals his lunch, the forbidden knowledge sprouts anew. Wiser parents then take their kids to the nearest dojo and teach them how to fight efficiently, but all too many try everything-and-anything else in defense of their precious philosophy. The result is an awful lot of kids who grow up with totally unrealistic and ignorant attitudes toward violence. Then many of these children grow up to take positions of political and economic power.

These are the people that Grossman is trying to teach and persuade.

One proof is in the polite lies that he applies judiciously, just before appeals for better and more thorough training, with never a whisper of how much those improved training systems will cost. A professional grant-writer couldn’t have done it better. For instance, Grossman spends much time claiming that interpersonal violence is “the universal phobia”, an idea which certainly warms the heart of the Middle-Class Liberal. Now surely he knows that there are, and always have been, societies – the Spartans, the Mongols, the Arab terrorists – who not only don’t fear violence but actively lust for it. Yet, when he mentions these societies at all, he attributes their lust for violence to intense training. He sculpts his constant theme -- the importance of training -- to appeal shamelessly to the Middle-Class Liberal philosophy of social determinism, which holds that human minds are blank slates which only react to what they’re taught (except, of course, for a few quirks provided by genetics).

A similar polite lie is his repeated claim that this is a decade of juvenile violence “unprecedented in history”. Now surely Grossman is at least marginally aware of the 30 Years’ War, or the 100 Years’ War, or the condition of Russia after the Mongol invasions. He must have noticed that no less than Julius Caesar, some 2000 years ago, noted that crime, juvenile and adult, and civil violence increase during and immediately after a war. He must also be aware of current conditions in Africa, where children are drafted into adults’ wars and often become bandits thereafter. He carefully avoids mentioning these so as to pander to the arrogant guilt of Middle-Class Liberalism, which covertly boasts that Nobody Is As Wicked As We (except for obvious examples like Hitler).

And never mind the dozen pages that he devotes to zealously riding the current Middle-Class Liberal hobby-horse of The Danger of Violent Video-Games.

In short, Grossman’s writing is aimed at charming and seducing Middle-Class Liberal bosses – upper-level military officers and police chiefs – into accepting the necessity of using his advanced training techniques. This is rather like persuading a UC Berkeley professor into buying a pistol for home protection, not to mention training with it. It can be done, provided you use the right language; I once saw a class offered in a Berkeley community college called “The Zen of Shooting: Firearms Handling for Gentle People”. In “On Combat” Grossman is using that trick, apparently with good effect, to make advanced combat training techniques palatable to bosses who don’t like to even think about violence.

This is one case where the end does justify the means. I wish him luck.

--Leslie <;)))>< )O(

Saturday, November 26, 2011

WITCH CATS

It's that time again!

For more than 20 years I’ve been breeding Oriental Shorthair cats for intelligence, disease-resistance, and psychic ability – and my current collection of cats has them all. For tales of the adventures of some of my cats, see: http://www.kayshapero.net/FishTale.htm.

The Oriental Shorthair breed was derived primarily from the Siamese, so these little imps have the faces, voices, slender body-builds and personalities of Siameses, but they also come in other colors. At present, my cats are either “colorpoint” – Siamese style – or coal black. They have eyes ranging in color from pale blue to chartreuse-green. Yes, they’re beautiful creatures.

Right now I have a bunch of these super-intelligent cats who need homes: four little tom-kittens just one month old, three black and one colorpoint. I’ll give them free, along with their pedigrees, biographies and instruction manuals, to any serious cat-loving Pagan who’s willing to take one. Please get hold of me at lesliefish@cox.net or 602-373-0320, afternoons and evenings.


--Leslie <;)))>< Fish --

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Wedding Follow-Up

Hello everybody! Yes, the wedding went off without a hitch. Mark and Jennifer Horning took pictures -- a good 217 of them -- which can be seen here:

http://s104.photobucket.com/albums/m192/NVGdude/Fish%20Ralston%20Wedding

Search among the musicians; Mark is the guitar-player in the tan kilt, with pockets, Mary Creasey is the guitar-player in the long skirt and glasses and head-scarf, and Tom Tuerff is the one with the woolly hair. The minister/priestess is my old Chicago buddy Christa Landon, one of the founders of the Council of Unitarian Universalist Pagans. If you were there, see if you can spot yourself in the crowd. The lighting looks a bit odd because the wedding was held technically outdoors but under a big semi-translucent cloth pavilion-roof; we didn't know what the weather was going to be like, and this was the best indoor/outdoor compromise we could find.

Rasty's daughters Sheryl and Jolene did the catering for the reception, and I'd say they did a bang-up job. We're still finishing up the leftover food, a week later! I swear, we must have put on ten pounds from the wedding-cake alone, never mind the cheesecake and shrimp-plate and champagne and... well, plenty. BTW, Ron Gluck, who couldn't get to the wedding, made and sent the chocolate-chip cookies that we used for the "cakes" in the Cakes and Wine segment of the ceremony. Mmmm, tasty!

As for the groom, I first met Rasty 20 years ago in Berkeley, at a Pagan celebration hosted by Isaac Bonewits. By that time he'd already been a motorcycle racer, construction contractor, racing-greyhound kennel-master and electronic sound engineer, and was busy on another career as, hm, an underground chemist, so we had plenty to talk about. A couple years ago he retired and moved down to Phoenix to be near his daughter, and we ran into each other again and hit it off. We've been sharing an apartment for the last year, and now we're looking for a cheap house to buy in Arizona's bottom-level real estate market. With luck (improved now that we're technically a married couple), we'll find something in the next six months. Cross fingers!

In short, a good time was had by all -- and I expect a happy future.


--Leslie <;)))>< )O(

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Special Announcement

You are hereby cordially invited to

The wedding of
LESLIE FISH and ROBERT RALSTON

On November 13, 2011, at 4 PM
At the
West Valley Unitarian Universalist Church
5904 W. Cholla Street
Glendale, Arizona

Crista Landon, of CUUPs, officiating

Reception to follow, at
The home of Cheryl Johnson
9331 W. Bonitos Road
Phoenix, Arizona

Food and drink donations are welcome, as is acoustic music.

This will be a Pagan ceremony, so fitting costumes and greenery are welcome.

As for wedding gifts, just send money; we’re trying to buy a house.

Welcome all, and Blessed Be!

For further information, contact:
Leslie Fish
lesliefish@cox.net
602-373-0320
1415 N. Country Club Drive, #2107
Mesa, Arizona 85201

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Left or Right, Who Wrote This?

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As I said in a previous post, the old classic division of political Left and Right is seriously breaking down. Read through the following article and, before you get to the end, try to guess is the author is a Liberal, Conservative, or what.


Let Them Eat Cake: 10 Examples Of How The Elite Are Savagely Mocking The Poor

There is absolutely nothing wrong with working hard and making a lot of money, but there is something wrong with being completely arrogant and smug about it. Today, many among the elite are savagely mocking the poor, and that is a huge mistake. You shouldn’t kick people when they are down. There are tens of millions of Americans that are deeply frustrated about losing their homes, losing their jobs or barely being able to survive in this economy. These frustrations have been one of the primary reasons for the rise of the Tea Party movement and the rise of the Occupy Wall Street movement. What these movements have in common is that people in both movements are sick and tired of the status quo and they want something to be done about our broken system. There are huge numbers of families out there right now that have just about reached the end of their ropes. Instead of showing compassion, many of the ultra-wealthy have decided that it is funny to mock the poor and those that are suffering. So how are all of these protesters going to respond to the “let them eat cake” attitude of the Wall Street elite? The protesters are being told that nothing that they can do will change anything and that they should be grateful for what Wall Street and the ultra-wealthy have done for them. They are essentially being told that they should just shut up and go home. So will we see these protest movements become discouraged and die down, or will the patronizing attitudes of so many among the elite just inflame them even further?

Right now, there really are two different “Americas”. In one America, the stock market is surging, corporate profits are soaring and BMW is operating factories at 110% of capacity just to keep up with demand.

In the other America, unemployment is rampant, millions of families are being kicked out of their homes and more than 45 million Americans are on food stamps.

There is more economic frustration in this country today than there has been at any other time since the Great Depression. We are watching pressure build to very dangerous levels.

It is important to note that I certainly do not agree at all with the solutions being put forward by the organizers of the Occupy Wall Street protests. As I have written about previously, collectivism is one of our biggest problems, and more collectivism is not going to solve anything.

But it is definitely understandable that people are incredibly upset about this economy and that they want to protest. Most Americans realize that something is fundamentally wrong with our economic system.

Unfortunately, most of them do not understand how we have gotten to this point or what it is going to take to fix things. That is one of the reasons why I write about economic issues so much. We desperately need to educate America.

But what is undeniable is that there is a growing rage in this country that protest movements such as the Occupy Wall Street are giving a voice to.

Our system is badly broken. The people out there protesting in the streets may not understand much, but they do understand that something needs to change.

The Wall Street elite should be taking these protests as a signal that they need to get their house in order. The status quo just is not going to cut it. But instead of taking leadership and calling for significant change, many among the elite are openly mocking the protesters.

The incredible arrogance displayed by so many on Wall Street and by so many in Washington D.C. is absolutely appalling.

The following are 10 examples of how the elite are openly mocking the poor in America today….

#1 According to an article in The New York Times, poor families that lost their homes to foreclosure were openly mocked during a Halloween party thrown by the law firm of Steven J. Baum. This particular law firm represents many of the largest mortgage lenders in the United States….

The firm, which is located near Buffalo, is what is commonly referred to as a “foreclosure mill” firm, meaning it represents banks and mortgage servicers as they attempt to foreclose on homeowners and evict them from their homes. Steven J. Baum is, in fact, the largest such firm in New York; it represents virtually all the giant mortgage lenders, including Citigroup, JPMorgan Chase, Bank of America and Wells Fargo.

Photos from this Halloween party are posted on The New York Times website. To say that they are appalling would be a huge understatement. The following is how The New York Times described one of the photos….

In one, two Baum employees are dressed like homeless people. One is holding a bottle of liquor. The other has a sign around her neck that reads: “3rd party squatter. I lost my home and I was never served.” My source said that “I was never served” is meant to mock “the typical excuse” of the homeowner trying to evade a foreclosure proceeding.

#2 To many on Wall Street, the OWS protests are one big joke. In fact, Wall Street executives have been spotted sipping champagne while watching the Occupy Wall Street protests from their balconies.

#3 In response to the Occupy Chicago protests, signs were put up in the windows of the building where the Chicago Board of Trade is located that spelled out this sentence: “We Are The 1%“.

#4 Many columnists for major financial publications have had no fear of mocking the Occupy Wall Street protesters. For example, Doug Hirschhorn recently wrote the following for Forbes….

As your Occupation of Wall Street continues, you may want to grasp a few things. First, it is not going to change anything in the short term and probably not much in the long-term either.

I hate to be the bearer of that news, but money makes the world go round and “Wall Street” is all about money. Second, the top traders, banks and hedge funds are still going to out earn and generate substantial profits from speculating on the disconnects in the prices of things generated from all the moving parts in the global economy and it has nothing to do with why you lost your house or job or can’t find a job. If anything the successful ones are helping you, your pensions funds, retirement savings and the economy in general. If Wall Street stops. The world stops. Period.

#5 Instead of attempting a balanced report on the Occupy Wall Street protests, Erin Burnett of CNN openly made fun of them during a recent broadcast. After being a stalwart on CNBC for so many years, Burnett has very close ties to Wall Street and apparently she does not like anyone criticizing her friends. You can see video of Burnett mocking the Occupy Wall Street movement right here.

#6 Barack Obama continues to mock the poor by telling them to cut back on vacations and little luxuries like going out to eat while at the same time sending his own family out on incredibly expensive vacations. The following is one example I noted in an article earlier this year….

Barack Obama recently made the following statement to American families that are struggling to survive in this economy: “If you’re a family trying to cut back, you might skip going out to dinner, or you might put off a vacation.” A few days after making that statement Obama sent his wife and children off on yet another vacation, this time to a luxury ski hotel in Vail, Colorado.

Later on in that same article I mentioned another outrageously expensive vacation taken by the Obamas that was paid for by our taxes….

Back in August, Michelle Obama took her daughter Sasha and 40 of her friends for a vacation in Spain.

So what was the bill to the taxpayers for that little jaunt across the pond?

It is estimated that vacation alone cost U.S. taxpayers $375,000.

During a time when so many millions of American families are deeply, deeply suffering it is truly appalling that the residents of the White House would be so insensitive.

#7 Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain recently declared that anyone that is unemployed or poor in America should only blame themselves….

“Don’t blame the big banks. If you don’t have a job and you’re not rich, blame yourself.”

#8 Sometimes our politicians are so insensitive that it is almost hard to believe. In an interview with George Stephanopoulos of ABC News while she was still the Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi stated that we need poor people to have less children because it costs the government so much money to take care of them….

PELOSI: Well, the family planning services reduce cost. They reduce cost. The states are in terrible fiscal budget crises now and part of what we do for children’s health, education and some of those elements are to help the states meet their financial needs. One of those – one of the initiatives you mentioned, the contraception, will reduce costs to the states and to the federal government.

STEPHANOPOULOS: So no apologies for that?

PELOSI: No apologies. No. we have to deal with the consequences of the downturn in our economy.

#9 Warren Buffett has some interesting observations on class warfare. He is one of the few wealthy Americans that is willing to say what everyone else is thinking. Back in 2006, Buffett was quoted as saying the following in an article in The New York Times….

“There’s class warfare, all right,” Mr. Buffett said, “but it’s my class, the rich class, that’s making war, and we’re winning.”

Buffett was not taking pride in the fact that the elite have won, but there are many others among the elite that are very proud of what they have done and they are not afraid to look down on the poor.

The level of income inequality that we have in the United States today is absolutely amazing. According to data from a few years ago, the average household income for the top 0.01% of all Americans was $27,342,212. According to that same data, for the bottom 90% of all Americans the average household income was just $31,244.

#10 Every single day, our “representatives” in Washington D.C. are living the high life at our expense. It is amazing that out of the entire population of the United States, we continue to overwhelming elect rich people to Congress. As I noted in a recent article, more than half of all the members of Congress are millionaires, and the median wealth of a U.S. Senator in 2009 was 2.38 million dollars.

Without a doubt, the wealthy rule over us all and they intend to maintain control and perpetuate the system which has rewarded them so handsomely.

When necessary, they are not afraid to call in the police to bust some skulls. Sadly, we are already seeing some brutally violent confrontations between law enforcement authorities and Occupy Wall Street protesters in many areas of the country. The other day, I wrote about the horrific violence that took place in Oakland recently….

Unfortunately, the authorities are not just going to sit by and watch these protests happen. In fact, they are already clamping down hard in many areas of the nation. For example, police in Oakland recently used tear gas and rubber bullets to break up the Occupy protest in that city. When police opened fire, the streets of Oakland literally became a war zone for a few minutes. You can see shocking videos of the violence here, here and here.

Power and wealth have become incredibly concentrated in the United States today. As one scientific study demonstrated recently, the elite control almost the entire global economy. In fact, the University of Zurich study discovered that there are just 147 gigantic corporations at the core of it all.

It is not a good thing that such a very small group of people completely dominates all the rest of us.

Once again, there is absolutely nothing wrong with working hard, making great contributions to society and becoming very wealthy.

However, what we have today is a fundamentally broken system that funnels most of the wealth and most of the power into the hands of the ultra-wealthy and the gigantic corporations that they own.

It would be great if the American people could come together and work to make some positive changes to our system.

But right now, it appears that strife, discord and hatred are going to continue to rapidly grow in this country. We have become a very divided nation and we are watching anger and frustration grow to very dangerous levels.

All of this is a recipe for mass chaos. Our country is marching toward a date with disaster and right now we show no signs of changing course.

Please pray for America.

We definitely need it.

Restore Sound Money, Repeal Legal Tender Laws, and Legalize Constitutional Currency — send free messages to your lawmakers and tell them to support HR 1098!

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

False Flag, With Pirates

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This story is true, and I can't prove it because the friend who told it to me made me swear on a dozen gods and goddesses that I wouldn't give away his identity. You'll just have to take my word for it.

A local friend, whom I'll call Jack for convenience, is an aspiring actor. There aren't many opportunities for such in Phoenix, so he checks in with his agent every day, and also reads the "Entertainment and Arts" ads in all the papers.

A few months ago he saw an ad for "Actors Wanted: Street Theater", with a phone number. He called, of course, and was directed to a particular address early in the morning on a particular date. Of course he showed up, and found several other aspiring actors waiting there too. A secretary came out with a clipboard, passed it around, and collected everybody's names and Social Security numbers.

Then a man in a dapper suit came out and explained that their roles were to be "a satire on Neo-Nazis". He steered them into a large room furnished only with racks of clothes and picket-signs with badly-spelled slogans. As ordered, the actors put on the costumes and picked up the signs. The clothes, of course, were scruffy and ragged but decorated with Nazi symbols. The picket-signs, Jack noticed, said nasty things about Mexicans, rather than Jews.

Once the actors were costumed and ready, the secretary informed them that they'd be paid when they came back to the office after the "street theater". Then she steered the actors into some windowless panel-trucks. Just before she shut the doors, she warned them to come back to these particular trucks at a given time, and to "stay in character" until the show was over. With that, she closed the truck doors. In a moment, the trucks took off. The actors, left literally in the dark, tried practicing lines on each other until they arrived at their destination. The trucks stopped, the doors opened, and the secretary guided them out to their "position" on a sidewalk which, they recognized, was in the center of town near the city hall. As the secretary positioned them along the sidewalk, the actors noticed that another -- larger -- crowd was gathering near the city hall. Jack took care to get a good look at the truck he'd just come out of, and saw that it was painted dark brown with absolutely no markings on it. The secretary trotted away and vanished, and the trucks drove away, leaving the actors to fend for themselves.

Well, they did their best to look and sound like idiot Nazis. Soon enough, they attracted attention. Various people pulled out cameras and photographed them, and a few people with microphones came up and asked them brief questions. The actors, staying in character, replied as stupidly as possible. Jack noted that some of the questioners wore ID tags from local TV and radio stations, and from local newspapers. He also noticed that the larger crowd, only a few strides away from them, was an anti-illegal-immigration rally. At this point he began to worry about how much of this "theater" was really satire.

After a few hours the political rally began breaking up, and some of its members started glowering at the actors. Jack wondered if they'd come over and start a fight, and was edging toward the street when the trucks pulled up again. The actors climbed back aboard in a hurry, the secretary showed up just in time to close the doors, and the trucks drove away. The actors in the trucks didn't say much this time, possibly thinking over just what their "street theater" had accomplished.

Eventually the trucks let them out at the office building, the secretary guided them up the stairs to the storeroom and told them to put the costumes and props back on their racks, then come into the office to collect their pay. The actors hurriedly did so. Jack saw that, this time, behind the desk stood a burly and glowering security guard. One of the actors tried to complain about the nature of the "street theater", and the security guard growled at him to "just take your pay and quit bothering the lady" -- while he fingered his club suggestively. The actors quickly took their pay and left, scattering as they did so. The pay was pretty good -- $300 apiece for just a few hours' work -- but Jack felt that there was something distinctly wrong with the whole scene.

His suspicions were confirmed when he saw in the papers, the next morning, accounts of "Nazi demonstrators" at the anti-illegal-immigration rally. He was particularly incensed when he read the editorials in the paper and saw them denouncing the anti-illegal-immigration crowd as "nativists" and "bigots". Exceedingly annoyed, Jack went back to that office to confront the "director" and ask just what the hell he'd been doing. When he got to the building, he found that the "office" was locked up and empty. A few phonecalls to the building manager revealed that a "theater company" had hired that office for only the one day, and then moved out.

Now seriously worried, Jack studied various local news programs that had covered the rally, and saw how many pictures they'd taken of the line of actors. Yes, the news reporters had taken the "street theater" seriously. He tried calling the news stations to tell them his side of the story, but got nothing but voice-mail recorders. He tried emailing the papers, but didn't see any of his letters printed in the following days. Apparently the media didn't want their "Nazi' story contaminated by contradictory facts. And apparently that "director" had known his media pretty well. He'd wanted to discredit the legitimate protesters' rally, not to mention their whole movement, and he'd hired some gullible actors to do it.

At that point, Jack decided to relocate to Los Angeles and get an agent there. He told me his tale the night before his departure, simply because he had to tell somebody the truth. We spent some time speculating over just who the "director" was working for, and our best guess was the Democratic National Committee. Any other speculations are welcome.

I also wonder how often this trick has been used elsewhere.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

And Another One Bites the Dust

I've seen this before.

Last year I attended a local Tea Party rally, and reported on it here. At that time I noted that the original Tea Party (now called the Tea Party Patriots, or TP Network) was founded by Libertarians, but had caught the interest of Conservatives who were trying to move in on it.

Well, today the move-in is complete; there are no less than three groups calling themselves the Tea Party, all of them distinctly different. The original Libertarian TP Patriots/Network are still primarily concerned with oversized and bloated govt., and are coalescing around the idea of a Ron Paul/Herman Cain GOP ticket for the 2012 elections. Then there's the purely Conservative group, the TP Nation; they're more concerned with "moral" issues, like Gay marriage, abortion, drugs, and so on. Finally there's the TP Express, which is a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Republican party -- particularly the old troglodyte NeoCon wing -- who provide a cheering-section for GOP candidates like Bachmann and Perry. The last one, of course, is what most of the media think of as THE Tea Party -- and despise, loudly.

It would be hard to find a more effective way to discredit and derail a grassroots political movement.

Right now there's another grassroots movement -- Occupy Wall Street -- which is getting the same treatment. The media are currently censoring footage so as to depict the OWS as all-White, brainless, totally unfocussed and probably being steered by "big labor". The OWS members, of course, have no clue how to deal with this.

The problem with grassroots movements is that they tend to be politically naive, and therefore are easily infiltrated, sidetracked and slandered into oblivion.

I wish that every Political Science course in every college (and, hopefully, high school), Masters degree program, and wherever else kids go for political eduation in the country would teach prospective reformers the basics of how to handle infiltrators, provocateurs, takeovers, media slandering, and other tactics of govt., media, and other defenders of the status quo. For one thing, before ever you go out and organize your first public demonstration, write up a clear charter of what your group is about, what it believes and doesn't believe, what its goals are, and just who you'll accept as members -- and who you won't. Then print up some difficult-to-counterfeit membership cards, and keep careful records of whom you give them to. This may slow recruiting, but it does draw a clear division between wannabees and "card-carrying members". It also allows you to sue for slander anybody who calls himself a "movement leader" but whose positions are 'way different from what the charter says.

The way to deal with deliberate provocateurs and discrediters who show up at your public demonstrations is to point at them and yell, loudly, "Imposter! Imposter!" This will draw the attention of the media, who would otherwise gleefully concentrate on the provos.

I learned of an actual case of planned public discrediting from a friend (who shall remain anonymous for obvious reasons) who's a professional actor. I'll tell his whole tale in my next blog entry, since it's a little too long to fit in here.

Anyone with additional ideas, please feel free to volunteer them.


--Leslie <;)))>< Fish

Thursday, September 29, 2011

My Totally-Weird New Job

Yes, respectability is creeping up on me -- or maybe it's the lousy economy. Anyway, seeing that I needed a reliable source of income, I went out and got a job. Of course, being me, I chose a totally weird job.

I'm now officially a telephone psychic.

No kidding! If you doubt it, Google www.psychicpowernetwork.com between 2:30 and 10:30 PM, go down the list of available psychics, and click on "Leslie Bard, #75096". They'll link you to a phone number, and I suspect you'll recognize the voice of the Psychic Adviser who picks up the phone.

Yes, you have to pay for every minute of the call -- $.99 per minute for newcomers, $1.99 per minute for regular customers -- but that comes to $120 per hour, which is less than you'd pay a broker, lawyer or psychiatrist. Besides, you're not charged by the hour but by the minute: no more minutes than you want to spend. Your broker, lawyer or psychiatrist won't cut you that much slack. Considering what sort of questions I'm usually asked -- about love or money -- that puts me in pretty much the same business, and I daresay my advice is just as good.

Actually, I've done this before. About eight years ago I worked as a telephone psychic on the network of the famous Miss Cleo, but I got out of it before the IRS came after her. Then as now, I used Tarot cards as my psychic amplifier. (Note: I'm only a medium-level psychic -- not one of the great talents like Croiset or Hurkos -- so I need a good reference-point to start with and some sort of amplifier to bring out the subtle impressions I get. Other mid-levels use tea-leaves, runestones or crystal balls for amplifiers, but Tarot cards work best for me.) They worked pretty reliably for the questions I usually got ("Does he really love me?" "How can I get money?"), and sometimes they gave me even more information than I was looking for.

In fact, that's why I quit Miss Cleo's service. I got a woman caller who asked the usual questions, and I spread the cards for her (I use the classic Celtic Cross spread), and suddenly got a strong and undeniable impression: that this woman was going to die within the month. Unfortunately, I got absolutely no impression of how that was going to happen, let alone what could be done to prevent it. I kept her on the line as long as possible, asking questions, trying to get some hint of what was going to kill the woman, and never got a clue. I couldn't find any useful warning to give her, so I didn't mention what I'd seen. The incident left me severely shaken up, so I quit Miss Cleo's service within the week. A few months later Miss Cleo and her network got taken down by the IRS, but I was safely out of it. Of course, I never heard from that clueless woman again.

Well, a few years have passed and I've grown a little tougher. Nowadays, if I got an impression like that again, I'd tell the client outright "You're in serious danger. Tell me who or what might be after you". So I'm back in the saddle again.

Besides, it'll be months before I hear back from the publisher I sent my latest novel to, and I need the income. *Sigh* Thus poverty doth make brave folk of us all.


--Leslie <;)))>< Fish

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

The Wittenberg Door

Several months ago an old friend and his Moslem wife came to visit, and we spent the next few hours talking about modern religion and the precarious state of moderate Moslems in America. She fumed furiously over what she called “the Wahhabi Whack-Jobs” causing all the trouble, and complained bitterly that the media have consistently ignored the moderate Moslems. The moderates, she said, have written endless letters to newspapers, magazines, TV and radio stations, have held public rallies and marched in the streets to denounce the Jihadis, and none of the media have bothered to notice.

“Keep at it,” I said, reminding her of how long it took the Civil Rights movement, or the Peace movement, to get themselves noticed. Persistence – and growing numbers – will eventually get the media’s attention.

The persistence would be there, she promised, and the numbers would grow – but what American moderate Moslems need is a clear statement of what modern Islam needs to be. “What we really need,” she said, “Is the Moslem equivalent of the Reformation.”

That takes some knowledge of history to understand. Islam was invented, officially, in 610 AD. This means that Islam is some six centuries younger than Christianity. Think: what was Christianity like 600 years ago?

It was nothing you’d want to live with today: holy wars, Inquisitions, witch-burnings, wholesale slaughter of heretics, unquestioned racism, sexism and religious bigotry, religious imperialism, and frantic suppression of such dangerous “modern” inventions as telescopes and the printing press. In short, it was very much like modern radical Islam.

There were early hints of revolt, the Diggers, the Ranters and the Albigenses being the better-known examples. All of them were ruthlessly suppressed, though their ideas – and sometimes a few of their adherents – managed to survive. Eventually the revolt against the static church reached open rebellion, in England with Henry VIII and in Germany when Martin Luther nailed his “95 Theses” to the Wittenberg church door. Subsequently, Christianity experienced the Renaissance, the Reformation and the Enlightenment and emerged as we know it today, with only a few reactionaries – like the Westboro Baptist Church – still trying to live in the Middle Ages.

Islam never completed that journey and never went through the Reformation, let alone the Renaissance or the Enlightenment. Following the historical timeline, though, it’s ripe for one.

Already there’s a historical precursor. In 19th century Persia a nobleman named Baha’u’llah founded the Baha’i faith, which includes ideas remarkably similar to those of the Ranters, Diggers and Albigenses. Of course the Bahais were then persecuted by the orthodox Moslems, who still regard them as “apostates” to this day.

Already there are articles on moderate Moslem websites, calling for a Moslem Reformation and sketching out tentative principles.

I sincerely wish them luck, because the moderate Muslims absolutely must separate themselves from the vicious Wahhabis and the whole Jihadist movement. They can do it safely here in America, as Henry VIII did in England and Martin Luther in Germany, without bringing howling armies of Jihadis down on their heads – at least no more than any other Americans.

And it must happen soon, for the Jihadis are pushing hard for a world-wide religious war in which the moderates may well be caught in the crossfire. Seeing how the Jihadis have stepped up their war on all the non-Moslems in the world, I’d say the moderate Moslems have no more than five years to declare the Moslem Reformation and show themselves clearly opposed to the Jihadis.

Either that or all become Bahais.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

WISHY-WASHY WAR

First, let’s admit that war is hell. War has always been hell. We can safely assume that it will always be hell. Unfortunately, it’s also sometimes necessary to prevent something worse. That being so, the best thing to do with a war is to win it – as quickly and thoroughly as possible. But that isn’t what we’ve been doing for the past half-century.

By now the war in Afghanistan and Iraq has dragged on for ten years, with no definite end in sight, and the American populace is growing weary of supporting it. This raises echoes of Vietnam, which likewise dragged on for over a decade, with no victory. The major difference between Vietnam and Afghanistan/Iraq is that, thanks to improved technology, the American casualties are much, much fewer.

Otherwise, the similarities are depressing. Our troops – or CIA agents – successfully booted out the local tyrant, but put in a corrupt and useless government to replace him. The US tried, but totally failed, to change the culture of the enemy country. Despite killing vast numbers of enemies and neutrals, the US did not stop nor even weaken the political direction of the country. When the US eventually gave up and withdrew, it left the political enemy stronger than before.

Obviously we’re doing something wrong here. Our modern methods – not the tactics but the grand strategies – aren’t working. Why, then, do we keep repeating them?

The answer has more to do with faith than sense.

The Great (naïve) Progressive Ideal came to ascendancy among the middle class, both Intelligentsia and Philistines, in the late 19th century – at the same time, not so coincidentally, as Behavioral Determinism (later shortened to Behaviorism). This philosophy held that all people are basically alike and therefore think alike, so whatever appeals to Us will likewise appeal to Them. Since Progressivism was basically pacifistic, and wanted to put an end to all war, it came to assume that if everybody is equally healthy, wealthy and educated, there will be no reason for war – therefore, let’s give away our money and technology so as to make every country in the world as wise and rich as we are, and then nobody will want to make war with anybody.

Naïve? Yes, but Western political policies for the next century were increasingly based on this attitude.

World War Two ended in the first (and last) use of atomic bombs in war, and left the world shocked by the idea that humans could, literally, destroy the world. Obviously, the Western governments concluded, a war as terrible as this must never-ever be fought again. To this end they formed the United Nations and invited into it any government that could mouth the proper Progressive ideals, which explains why the UN today is a largely a cluster of hypocrites. They also quietly agreed that they would never again fight an all-out war. In fact, modern Progressive culture – which I’d label Bourgeois Liberalism – grew into the conclusion that there’s nothing, nothing at all, worse than war.

For that reason, the United States has never since then formally declared war on anybody. Though it has actively fought wars, from Korea to Afghanistan, it has never formally called them wars (only “police actions”, or similar euphemisms) and has never fought them to conclusively win – to destroy the enemy’s government and military, take over the territory and rule it at least until the society is proven thereafter harmless – which is what we did in World War Two. Instead, we’ve fought our “police actions” with so many near-arbitrary restrictions as to keep ourselves from winning and to accomplish nothing. Note the differences: WW2 lasted less than four years, cost the US 440,000 lives, and ended with Germany and Japan profoundly changed and solidly our allies; the Korean, Vietnamese and Afghan wars have dragged on for years, cost fewer American lives, but ended in draws at best. The only thing such wars have accomplished is to make money for military-industrial corporations – who love them for just that reason.

This has to stop. We must make a serious change in attitude, as well as government policy, to put an end to such wasteful wishy-washy wars. If some foreign country is enough of a threat to us that we truly need to fight it, then let’s do it right: formally declare war, then go fight with everything (short of nukes, which must always be held as the ace in the hole) necessary to smash the enemy government, conquer the country, rule it and reform it with a hard enough fist to render it safe thereafter. If that means blowing up mosques that Jihadists shoot from, so be it. If that means shooting through the human shields that the evil rulers surround themselves with, so be it. If that means waging war in the fashion of Genghis Khan, so be it. (Let’s remember that Genghis Khan is the only person in history to actually conquer all of Asia, including the Middle-East.) Let’s fight to win, do the job thoroughly, and then go home. The very countries that would deserve such attention from us have cultures which would respect us for fighting in that fashion.

The only other viable alternative is a form of isolationism, up to a point. We would have to call home all our troops presently fighting in Afghanistan and Iraq (and put them to work guarding our borders), which would doubtless encourage the Jihadists. We would have to close all those foreign military bases and bring those troops home. We would have to determinedly expel all the illegal immigrants presently in America, and fortify our borders to keep them from coming back. We would have to end all alliances – and trade – with countries that are not our proven allies. We should also place import tariffs on all goods and services from countries which pay their workers less than the American minimum wage, so as to raise their prices to equal those of American-made products. We would have to make it illegal for anyone but American citizens, or American corporations, to own American land. We would have to withdraw our membership in the United Nations, put an end to the Federal Reserve and base our currency on solid American goods – such as precious metals and government property. All this would make the “global” capitalists howl predictions of doom, which should be ignored.

We would also have to switch our military to the Swiss System, develop ever more precise weaponry, train our citizens to be constantly vigilant for attacks by foreign agents, and keep our own spies carefully watching those foreign countries to see when – not if – they build themselves up to the point of attacking us. At that point we would have to fight all-out war anyway, but at least we would put it off for a few decades more.

Those, alas, are the choices we have. War with those hopelessly hostile foreign cultures is sadly inevitable, and our past half-century of wishy-washy war has made it so.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Stocks, Bonds, and Honesty

The other day I called up my friend Larry and caught him in the middle of some on-line stock trading. “Actually, trading options,” he said, “And I’ve been doing pretty well.”

Seeing what shape the economy has been in, I expressed surprise. He spent the next 40 minutes or so explaining what ‘options’ were, and how they differed from ‘futures’, how both of them related to the stock market and investment companies, and so on. At the end of his explanation I was still mostly in the dark, but one pattern emerged clearly.

“It’s gambling!” I said, amazed. “The stock market is just a legal gambling casino, where people bet on, uh… other people’s perceptions of… the value of… percentages of… ownership of… companies that do real work! You know, that sounds downright sinful.”

“Bingo!” he laughed. “All investment – including banks – is gambling, but very few people realize it. That’s why our economy’s in its present mess.” He then went off into a ten-minute rant about how the government should never have bailed out the ‘stupid’ banks who made the same mistake that caused the 1929 Crash: treating loans, debts and mortgages as if they were real property, which they aren’t. “It should let those fools collapse,” he said, “And let the smaller, smarter banks pick up the pieces. The only problem with that is ‘transparency’: letting people know exactly what their assets are really worth. Anything else loses people’s confidence in their value. Those fool banks’ own secrecy has lowered the value of their assets.”

“…Because,” I realized, “It lowers people’s perceptions of the value of… Wow! Then if those banks had been totally honest, stated publicly everything they were doing, where every penny of their money was going, then everybody would have known what they were worth…”

“And their value couldn’t have gotten inflated, and subsequently deflated,” he finished the thought. “Besides, their investors would have seen when and where they made bad decisions, and would have called them on it. That’s precisely how and why the smaller, smarter banks have survived – to pick up the pieces, as they’re doing now.”

“And as you’re doing with your ‘options’,” I guessed. “So Ben Franklin was right; honesty really is the best policy.”

“Bingo!” he laughed again, and then sailed off into another rant about how, in the 19th century – before the Federal Reserve had even been dreamed of, before there was any FDIC ‘oversight’ or ‘insurance’ for banks, when America’s currency was entirely solid – the value of our money actually increased; what $1.00 would buy in 1800 could be bought for $.80 in 1900. Nobody really trusted banks then, but subjected them to constant scrutiny; the banks with the most obvious ‘transparency’ drew the most investors, and those that were secretive soon failed. “Truth can be a deadly weapon,” he finished.

But I was struck by another thought. During that same 19th century America, with its childlike belief in honesty, became one of the richest countries in the world. But there are plenty of countries – societies, cultures – in the world (I name no names) which hold that truth is a ‘precious jewel’: much too precious to be given away for free; no, it must be sold to the highest bidder, and even then it’s acceptable to cheat the buyer if you can. These same cultures – some of them millennia old – may have some incredibly wealthy individuals, but the majority of their people are dirt poor and always have been. Even the benefits of modern industry – most of it given outright to those societies by countries like America – haven’t made much difference. Could their very attitude toward honesty be the cause?

Why not? When you assume that everyone you deal with will lie and cheat you if he can, you respond by lying and cheating in turn; otherwise, the other guy will take you for a gullible fool, easily robbed, and he really will rob you blind. This makes any kind of transaction as slow and cautious as a hand-off between illegal drug-dealers – which is not the way to create a fast-moving, flexible, elaborate and sturdy economy. Those dishonest cultures have long histories of producing wily merchants and a multitude of thieves, and of playing economic warfare with their trade-partners – which usually ends in ruin. This is why these third-world countries have remained notoriously corrupt and poor, despite America’s and Europe’s best efforts to help them.

This is why I’m suspicious of people who insist that America must become more “global in outlook” and adopt a policy of “realpolitik”. They’re as good as saying that we must adopt an attitude of constant cynicism, lying and cheating: that we should become as corrupt as the nations we’re dealing with, or else let ourselves be robbed blind.

No, that way lies disaster. History and economics show us that we have to stick rigidly to our principles, uphold honesty and simply not deal with cultures that refuse to do the same, regardless of what tempting profits they may offer us in the short run. In the long run, honesty – transparency, as Larry called it – is what will save us.

Franklin, who hobnobbed with the courts of Europe and was quite familiar with “realpolitik”, knew whereof he spoke.


--END--

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

THE GETTING OF FALWELL: How a bunch of Neopagans and psychic experimenters royally messed up the fundamentalists' march on Washington.


This was many years ago, so the statute of limitations – if you can find a law against this – has long since run out. I was living in Chicago at the time, and my roommate and most of my friends were involved in an amateur psychic research group. We'd gotten to the point of understanding that theater and religious ritual were equally good for arousing that part of the mid-brain where psychic talent is lodged, and we'd formed a Neopagan circle for that purpose. Our chief organizer, my old friend Mary Frohman, dug up the ancient Roman/Anatolian god Mithra for us to use as a patron god, on the theory that nobody in the group had any negative emotions connected to him. Besides, we were all involved in social-justice political causes, and decided that a god of integrity and honorable warfare would suit us well.

Then we heard about Jerry Falwell whipping up a proposed “Million Christian” March on Washington, the next April, for the purpose of pressuring Congress to wipe out all those nasty civil rights laws and Supreme Court decisions about freedom of-or-from religion. Well, how were we going to stop him? This, we decided, was a case for psychic work – or Magick.

The next really big Pagan – and particularly Mithraist – holy-day was the Winter Solstice: December 21st. It was the most psychologically/ritually significant date we could think of before April, and also the best time of the year for getting all our friends together. So we sent out invitations to anyone interested, and anyone who took this stuff seriously, and got started creating our ritual for the event.

Mary took care of the religious/ritual aspects, and I was handed the job of planning the magickal “working”, which would be plugged into the ritual between the invocation of the required gods and the thanking of the gods, after which came the dismissal and closing. Anyone who has ever read Isaac Bonewits' book, “Real Magic”, can readily understand this arrangement. It would put the psychic “working” right after we'd chanted and sung everybody into the right mood.

One of our regular members, Jim Mason, was working in a chemistry lab at the time and arranged to borrow some sensitive lab thermometers, which were all the testing equipment we could get at the time.

What I decided to write was a three-part free-verse poem. The first section called upon the goddess Anahita-of-the-waters, mythologically the mother of Mithra, in her aspect as rain-bringer. The second called specifically upon Thor, as the Lord of Storms. The third part was aimed at Jerry Falwell himself, personified by a black man-shaped candle with his photo stuck on its face. Each line of the poem was followed by a choral line: a classic Responsive Reading. In the first two sections the speaker's lines outlined, one by one, Jerry Falwell's insults to the pagan gods and his threats to their worshippers, and then slipped into requests to drop rain on Falwell's planned march. The chorus lines were “Piss on their parade”. In the third section the speaker's lines enumerated Falwell's sins and proclaimed what would happen to him as a result, and the chorus lines were: “Piss on your parade”.

Well, came the big night and a good 25 people showed up. Jim placed his thermometers: one on the altar-table, one on the floor within the “circle” area, one outside the circle several feet away. We all happily took the ritual bath (an ordinary bathtub filled with water mixed with a tea of appropriate ritual herbs), changed into our ritual costumes (whatever the wearer thought would “feel right” for the occasion), and started the service. There was the expected giggling and shuffling as we started drawing the establishing circles (salt for Earth, sprinkled water for Water, a smoking censer for Air, and a burning candle for Fire), but by the time the third circle was drawn everybody had gotten into the spirit of the thing. Mary chanted the Latin part of the Mithraic Mass (basically ordering out every known Bad Guy in the name of every known Good Guy, and declaring the space “dedicated to the uses of the gods”), which I daresay I could quote even today:

“Incipiamus. Adeste fideles.
Descedant omnes profane
Hic locus sanctus est!
Hic locus sanctus est!
Hic locus sanctus est!”

I noticed that the cats gathered respectfully just outside the circle, watching us intently, and the thermometer which Jim had placed on the altar showed a rise of one degree centigrade in temperature. Jim, as the “monitor” (objective observer), stayed outside the circle – and outside the ritual mood – to take notes. As we proceeded into the summoning of the god the temperature rose again, and kept rising, to the point where Jim felt obliged to go open the windows. Now remember, this was the Winter Solstice – in Chicago, and the house where we were holding the ritual was right on the edge of Lake Michigan, and the wind off the lake came pouring in through the open windows – and we were still hot enough that sweat was running down our backs, even under our light robes (and we wore nothing underneath them).

We proceeded with the sharing of the cakes and wine, the anointing and crowning and symbolic sacrifice of the Winter King, and the dedication of his power to the Working. (This was the point where I felt sweat literally running off me.) We identified the candle with Jerry Falwell (carving it with his name, anointing it with oil while visualizing him, finally sticking his picture on it), then lit it and stuck it in a bowl. Then I picked up my script and instructed the worshippers to “join in on the chorus” (as I usually say when singing for a live audience, which most of those present had been at one time or another). Then I started reading the poem, line by line. After every line the rest of the congregation enthusiastically chanted: “Piss on their parade!” By the time we got down to the third part, the chorus of “Piss on your parade!” was shaking the walls. We ended by pouring water over the candle, with a great cheer. Then the priestess led the thanking of the gods, the dismissal, the closing hymn and the opening of the circle.

The temperature dropped immediately, and Jim hurried around closing the windows while the rest of us, remarkably tired considering how little physical work we'd done, went to the buffet table and filled our plates before dropping onto the thoughtfully-prepared chairs, sofa and cushions to eat, drink and discuss the working. We always finished our ceremonies this way, and this was where Jim and his observations came to the fore. He read off his notes, showing exactly when the temperature rose, and where it was concentrated (in the middle of the altar, not actually among the close-packed bodies of the celebrants as one might expect), and exactly when the temperature had dropped. We agreed that we had raised a lot of energy, and hoped it had been discharged in the right direction – both in space and time. The difficult part, we understood, was that we had placed a “rain curse” intended to work some four months in the future. We simply wouldn't know if it had “taken” until next April. Jim wrote into his notebook: “Results inconclusive: wait for April.”

Well, that April, sure enough, Jerry Falwell and company showed up in Washington DC. He hadn't been able to raise his hoped-for million: only about 20,000. But from the hour that his chartered busses arrived and began unloading in DC, all the way through their march through the capitol, all the way to their rally in the stadium nearby, it rained. It wasn't a hard fast rain that ends in an hour; it was a slow, warm, pissy rain that lasted all day – right up until the last of Falwell's troops got back on their busses to ride home. The media duly reported the march, and forgot it the next day. Congress went on about its business, uninterrupted.

Jim wrote in his notebook: “Experiment successful”.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Pity the Poor Palestinians -- Not

Once more, Palestinian fanatics in the Gaza Strip are throwing rockets at Israel. This story is getting old, not to mention obvious.

What can you say about a group of people who shoot thousands of rockets at their neighbor, then cry 'unfair' when that neighbor sends its air force to bomb the sites where those rockets came from – and then howl to the world that the neighbor must be stopped, while they themselves continue to shoot rockets? What should you think about people who shoot at their neighbors from behind human shields of women and children, and then wail 'atrocity' when some of the return fire hits those same women and children? What can you do with people who whine to the United Nations for 'refugee assistance', and then rob the UN staff at gunpoint, take the collected food and supplies and give it to their army?

Although the international media and UN officials have done their best to pity the poor Palestinians, blatant hypocrisy like this has worn their patience thin. Media outlets still go to great lengths to separate 'Palestinians' as a general class from the organization 'Hamas', but they agree that Hamas must be 'leaned on'. Even the government of Egypt agrees, having tightened its border with Gaza and blown up several tunnels by which the Palestinians smuggled weapons into Gaza. Despite the best propaganda that the Islamic fascist organizations can crank out, international opinion is turning, slowly but surely, against the Palestinians.

Right now the media paint Hamas as the only villains, and the opposing Fatah party as the innocent and moderate Palestinian faction, but this isn't entirely accurate. Fatah is, and has been since its founding in 1959, the largest faction of the Palestinian Liberation Organization. It has always supported several militant groups, many of which – such as Black September and the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades – have committed several suicide bombings and are listed as terrorist organizations by the US. Fatah claims that such groups are 'outlaws' and 'rebels', but it has produced a disturbing number of them.

Fatah was also instrumental in persuading the international community, including the United States, to pressure Israel into giving the Gaza Strip to the Palestinians. At the time, nobody mentioned why Israel had taken control of the Gaza Strip, during the Six-Day War, in the first place. Israel seized the Gaza Strip precisely because the Palestinians were using it as a staging-area to attack Israel. It's not surprising that, once the Palestinians regained control of the Strip, they used it to attack Israel again.

Despite Fatah's track record, it apparently wasn't militant enough to satisfy the more dedicated of the Palestinians. Hamas managed to gain political power in Gaza and won the election in 2006, after which it turned on Fatah members and sporadic fighting began. The fighting continued even after Hamas took to firing rockets at Israel, and Israel eventually responded with bombing. It continues even now, with Hamas forces shooting any Fatah members whom they think have 'collaborated' with Israel; such 'collaboration' often consists of simply not fighting the Israeli troops sufficiently. Their own history has shown that the only functional difference between Fatah and Hamas is how soon they want to go to war with Israel, how much they're willing to use their own civilian population to do it, and just how ruthless they want to be.

In the latter two categories, Hamas is the clear winner. Its cynical military use of its civilians as human shields was enough to prompt no less than Hillary Clinton to complain to the UN that Hamas was committing mass child abuse. Perhaps because she called attention to it, the media began investigating her claim. That was when the international community began losing sympathy with the Palestinians.

Possibly one reason for this is the ubiquitous Internet. It's now possible to see, just by searching YouTube, clips of Palestinians using their children as human shields and suicide bombers, propagandizing children as young as five to kill all the 'kufars' – defined as Jews, Christians, Buddhists, Hindus, and even other Muslims not as devoted to jihad as themselves. Many of these video clips were taken from Palestinian television, and others by civilians with videocams and even cell-phones. Thanks to the wonders of modern technology, it's getting harder to keep such activities secret. Also, thanks to an increasingly video-sophisticated audience, it's getting harder to manufacture convincing fakes.

These undeniable video images have managed to do what even the revelations upon Yasser Arafat's death did not. Palestinian sympathizers then were willing to overlook the personal fortune that Arafat collected from 'charitable' organizations around the world, and the way his family and successors fought over the money. They could discount written reports of Palestinian suicide bombers attacking school buses and shopping malls. They could deny eyewitness accounts of Palestinians destroying the buildings and infrastructure the Israelis gave them and then whining to the press about their 'oppression'. They could ignore the fact that under Israeli control the Gaza Strip was economically functional, but under Palestinian control it survives mainly by international charity. Ah, but those video clips of Palestinian terrorists abusing their own children: that was something else again. If a picture is worth a thousand words, then a video clip is worth a million.

It takes truly devoted gullibility to see the Palestinians as innocent victims anymore, and progressively fewer people around the world are willing to make that effort.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

OPEN LETTER TO RON PAUL

(Understand that I really do hope Ron Paul wins the Republican nomination, which is why I’m sending him this.)

Dear Senator Paul:

I notice that you came in second to Michelle Bachmann, in the Iowa Straw Poll, by only 200 votes – despite the fact that she and her backers out-spent your campaign by millions. I think you would have beaten her anyway if it weren’t for one small problem with your proposed foreign policy.

You seem to have swallowed completely the Liberal idea that all those foreigners couldn’t possibly hate us unless we’d done them some great wrong, somehow. It never seems to occur to you that there really are cultures based on spite – I name no names – that hate any other society which is richer, freer, happier, healthier and more powerful than their own, and is nothing like theirs. They see that as an unbearable insult and hate us for it, not for any actual harm we’ve done them.

In fact, a careful study of real history – not just the interpretations of political pundits – will show that we haven’t done that much harm to the Third World countries who are doing the most complaining. Yes, forty years ago, we backed the Shah in his bid for leadership of Iran – but he was, in fact, the legitimate heir to the throne and he promised (besides faithful anti-communism) to modernize his painfully backward country, which in truth he did. Likewise, for twenty years we had dealings with Mubarik – but he was put in power by the Egyptians themselves, and once he was president of Egypt we had no choice but to deal with him. Yes, we give trade and aid to Israel, but we give far more to the Arab countries; and haven’t we made far more demands of Israel than of other countries? Who else have we pressured to give up land to their open enemies?

We must give up the naïve assumption that all other countries, societies and governments think just like us – for there are many that do not. There are all too many governments/countries/societies that want nothing less than to conquer the world and kill everyone they can’t enslave. We can’t give these countries what they want, and we only encourage their hopes by conceding anything to them at all. It’s worse than hypocrisy for them to insist that we harm or wrong them by not giving them everything they demand.

So how are we to deal with countries/governments like these? Our attempts at conciliation, “globalism” and appeasement obviously haven’t worked, so there are only two choices left: outright opposition or isolationism. If we’re going to choose isolationism, then we’ll have to draw boundaries which Libertarian theory won’t approve of. We’ll have to give alliance, aid and trade only to those countries which are proven friends, and refuse it to those who aren’t. At least, we’ll have to slap tariffs on countries that pay their laborers less than the American minimum wage, so as to raise the price of their goods and services to an equal level with those countries which do pay at least minimum wage. Also, we must pass a law insisting that only American citizens or companies can own American land. We’ll have to seriously fortify our borders, and we’ll have to eject all illegal immigrants. We’ll also have to deport or exile everyone acting on behalf of hostile foreign countries – and where better than to Mecca?

In any case, we’ll have to keep intelligence sources in all the other countries of the world, simply to tell when their spite reaches the point where they definitely will attack us – or our allies. Israel, despite the shabby way we’ve treated it, has always been our most reliable ally in the middle-east; what will we do if – or when – Iran drops a nuke on Tel Aviv? What will we do when those spiteful cultures directly attack us? Sooner or later, we will have to declare open and total war on them, simply because they won’t leave us alone otherwise, no matter how carefully we leave them alone. Yes, war with those spiteful countries is, sadly, inevitable – and not through any sins of our own.

Senator, you really have to think hard about this. You have to come up with a realistic foreign policy, and then tell the American public about it. That’s all it will take to bring you in first next time.


--Leslie <;)))>< Fish

Sunday, August 7, 2011

You Call That Torture?

Never mind how I came to be sitting in my friend Karen’s living room, along with her crusty grandfather, taking notes on a TV special about torture of war-prisoners under the Bush administration. Gramps had been a prisoner of war in World War Two, a survivor of the Bataan Death March, and he was keenly interested in anything about the treatment of POWs.

During the segment on Bush & Co.’s legal maneuvering to justify torture, Gramps simmered like a kettle on the fire, occasionally bursting loose with comments like: “Hogwash!”, “Unconstitutional!”, and “No way in hell!” When the program moved on to the military’s means of hiring local informants to obtain supposed Al-Qaeda prisoners, he boiled outright. “Idiots!” he roared at the screen. “Offer an Arab money, and he’ll sell you his grandmother! You don’t get real enemy prisoners that way!”

Karen did some seething herself, and I understood her problem; she was a pacifist, a humanitarian to the nth degree, a vegetarian – one of the Gentle People. I often wondered how she managed to live in the same house with crabby old Gramps. She finally came up with: “How do you get real enemy prisoners, then?”

“You show yourself to the enemy,” said Gramps, his eyes narrowing. “Anybody who shoots at you, you shoot or take prisoner. That’s how you know for sure. Simple.”

Karen had no comeback to that, and I had better sense than to inject myself into the family quarrel, so we watched in silence as the program went on. Finally Karen could stand no more. “Look!” she shouted, pointing to the screen. “Look at what they’ve done! That’s torture, and no mistake!”

“You call that torture?” Gramps shot back. “Cuffing the prisoners’ hands behind their backs? Hell, cops all over America do that with anybody they arrest. Putting hoods over their heads? When you’ve got enemy prisoners at a military base, there’s plenty you don’t want them to see: your numbers and weapons, for instance. Keeping them hooded and tied up while they’re flown to the POW camp? Baby girl, you don’t want enemy prisoners getting loose on a plane in the air! Dressing them in orange jumpsuits? That’s what American prisoners wear. Putting them in a barren, lightless cell for the first few days? That’s exactly what’s done to American prisoners for their first days in the penitentiary. Keeping them in solitary cells? That’s better than the nasty overcrowding you get in American prisons; at least they’ve got some privacy, and no big ugly cellmates trying to rape them. So far, I don’t see these POWs being treated worse than American prisoners here at home. They sure aren’t being starved, beaten and worked to death, like we were.”

Just then the program shifted to a scene of prisoners with their wrists cuffed to bars above their heads, and a narrator solemnly intoning: “…eventually dislocates the shoulders.” Karen pointed. “What do you call that?” she yelled.

“Nonsense!” Gramps shot back. “Yes, that’s over the line – by about an inch. That’s the least of what the Japs did to us. You soon learn that you can stand on tiptoe or hang by your wrists, so you alternate: up and down, up and down. The Japs had us doing that from sunup to sundown, and the worst we suffered was cramps afterward.”

The scene shifted to a segment on waterboarding, and Karen pointed triumphantly.

“Yeah, that’s bad,” Gramps admitted, “Until you learn the trick to it. You take a deep breath first and hold it, and you curl your tongue up in the back of your mouth to block your sinuses. When they stop pouring, you swallow the water and breathe. By the time we were liberated, we could hold our breaths like pearl-divers. It’s no problem, as long as you keep your head and don’t panic. If that’s the worst these guys are getting, they’re lucky.”

“What about the mental tortures? Keeping them awake, the noises, the flashing lights, the humiliations—“

“Honey,” Gramps sounded weary, “In combat, nobody gets enough sleep – and plenty of civilian jobs keep you short on sleep too. Loud music and flashing lights? That’s Disco! Americans dance to it! Getting paraded around naked? American college boys do that for fun; they call it “mooning” or “streaking”. Getting dressed in women’s clothes? That’s called “drag” here. It’s only humiliating if you let yourself believe it is! The ‘torture’ is all in your own mind.”

On screen, the scene displayed SERE training: teaching American troops how to resist the sort of ‘intense interrogation’ we’d just seen. “I helped with that,” Gramps commented, smiling grimly. “After liberation, we told the Army investigators everything the Japs did to us, and everything we did to resist. They learned well from us.”

“So somebody who knows what to expect,” I couldn’t help poking in, “Wouldn’t suffer much – but innocent civilians would.”

“Precisely,” said Gramps, leaning back in his chair. “And the sort of ‘torture’ that Americans are willing to do wouldn’t work on the real Bad Guys. That’s why we shouldn’t do it.

“But Bush and his idiots okayed it, so we get a bad name for it – and nothing useful out of it. That bunch of damn fools! I'm delighted that they’re all out of office.”

And Karen had nothing to say.

--END--

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Waste, the Budget, and the Debt Ceiling

I've posted parts of this before, but given Obama's ultimatum to Congress yesterday, I think the expanded version should be shown again. I happily encourage everyone to copy this and mail it on to your congresscritters. If they get bombarded with enough repetitions, they might even listen.

There’s a simple way to deal with Obama’s ultimatum about the Debt Ceiling. Yes, vote to raise the Debt Ceiling right now, but make it clear that this raise is temporary; it will end within a year. Then pay our various debts to other countries, particularly China. Then, call in all our war-debts from World War Two, particularly from China. World Opinion can’t complain if we claim: “Fair is fair. We’ve paid our debts, now you pay yours.” As I recall, the only country which has ever completely paid us back for all the money, arms and supplies we loaned them in WWII is Estonia – which paid up in 1975. All the rest seem to have conveniently forgotten that they owe us anything. Best remind them.

Then we can get down to seriously trimming our federal budget, and that will be quite a show. It’s grimly amusing to watch the Republicans and Democrats fight over how to reduce the budget by goring each other’s oxen. Which program, they argue, shall we cut? Social Security or the military? Planned Parenthood or tax cuts for the rich?

And it’s all pointless!

The single biggest expense of government is waste. I’ve worked for government in two states and I’ve seen this for myself. It was Senator McCain who noted, in public, that the Bureau of Indian Affairs spends 90% of its budget on its own bureaucracy and only 10% on the Indians. I can tell you from observation that the Welfare departments of the states spend 50% of their income on their own bureaucracies and the remainder on the poor. If we could just eliminate government bureaucratic waste we could save at least 40% of the budget, right there. And that’s saying nothing about waste caused by deliberate corruption.

Bureaucratic waste begins with the very language in which bills are written. The impenetrable legalese by itself creates excessive regulations. The excessive regulations create excessive paperwork to keep track of them. The excessive paperwork creates excessive numbers of clerks to deal with the paperwork. The excessive numbers of clerks create excessive numbers of managers to keep track of the clerks. That’s how bureaucracies are created, and grow, and gobble up our tax money.

Corruptive waste is caused by legislators and bureaucratic managers who create unnecessary departments and projects for the express purpose of spending money on their cronies. Who was it that made the Bradley Fighting Vehicle into a 17-year and multimillion-dollar boondoggle? Who votes for construction of unnecessary bridges while our existing bridges degrade? Whose idea was it to bail out the very same CEOs of banks and mortgage companies who created the current Depression? Who was it that looted the Social Security system, which was paying for itself before then, so that Social Security is running bankrupt now? This is how politicians themselves waste our money.

Yes, there’s much that can be done to prevent this.

1) Let every government – municipal, state and federal – in the United States go out and hire a lean, mean, clean and completely private forensic accounting company, complete with canny lawyers who can translate Legalese and tell what enabling bills really say. Let them give those companies complete authority to go anywhere, question anyone and look at everything, with no complaints about “national security” to stop them. Order those companies to look specifically for both bureaucratic and corruptive waste, and bring reports and recommendations for reducing that waste back to the local, state or federal legislature – and then make the legislatures act on those recommendations.

2) Pass a simple law stating that no government agency, department, bureau, etc. shall print, use, maintain, etc. more than ten (10) separate and distinct bureaucratic forms. I’ve seen for myself that all the services performed by, say, the Welfare system could be performed for no more than ten forms, rather than the hundreds it currently employs. Less paperwork means fewer clerks, and therefore fewer managers. If we don’t want to fire those clerks and managers outright, let’s transfer them to more necessary and productive work – say, the Border Patrol – with reduced salaries.

3) Cut the salaries of all elected and appointed officials by 15%. It’s rather unfair to cut the numbers and incomes of the government’s foot-soldiers without asking the generals to share the sacrifice.

4) Pass a simple law which restricts government departments to no more than three levels of management. With the exception of the military, which has seven levels of officers, there is no organization which needs more than three levels of management to function efficiently. To eliminate waste we must stop having too many chiefs per Indian.

5) Do not allow legislators to pass regulations regarding any industry until those proposed regulations have been examined and approved by relevant civilian engineers. Most legislators know nothing about, for example, nuclear reactors; they should not write safety regulations for such reactors based on the glib claims of power-company managers rather than nuclear engineers.

6) Eliminate an old injustice by abolishing all laws restricting the possession of marijuana, or any other products of the hemp plant, and then tax all such products 5% at the point of sale. Also, “influence” all those “financial institutions” which are “friends” of government to “assist and encourage” start-up businesses processing and selling all the products of the hemp plant. Marijuana was made illegal in the first place precisely to stop hemp-industry development which otherwise would have created serious rivals to existing chemical, timber and pharmaceutical companies. We need those rivals now to restart our floundering economy.

7) Overhaul our tax system so that the poor are not taxed more than the rich. End the tax exemptions which allow the richest 1% of our population – including corporations – to pay no taxes at all, and raise the minimum-income level which obliges to poor to pay 15% of their income in taxes. Don’t raise taxes; just close the loopholes.

8) Close those 80+ overseas military bases that we no longer need, bring the troops home and put them to guarding our borders against illegal immigrants from anywhere.

9) Abolish the Federal Reserve and base our currency on federal government property – of which the government has plenty – as well as precious metals.

10) End all subsidies, to everybody. Period.

Following these policies would cut at least 40% out of the governments’ budget, create new industries and new sources of income, without destroying any necessary programs.

Now, will any of our squabbling legislators support them?

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Encounter With A Demon -- I Think

I once met a psychic entity which could, I think, be called a demon. It was purely psychic, it dropped into my mind uninvited, and it didn't leave when politely asked to. More, it nattered constantly, making a pest of itself, and would have driven me to distraction if I hadn't found a way to get rid of it. In short, it attempted psychic possession and was not benign. What else could I call it?

I was twelve years old at the time, and my parents were going through some marital troubles which eventually led to their divorce. I kept away from their squabbling by hiding in my own room, with the radio on loud, under the excuse of doing homework. Of course, this meant that I had to actually do the homework – constantly – lest one or the other parent come peering into my room and catch me doing anything else.

This was no fun whatever. I could get through my English assignments quickly, even though the required books were painfully boring, because I could speed-read. History wasn't much more of a challenge, for the same reasons. Science was difficult, not because of the facts and relationships but because of the required mathematics, and Math was worst; I had no talent for mathematics, no intuitive grasp of it, and could get through it only by laboriously applying memorized theorems, formulas and multiplication tables.

I was sweating through the Math homework one evening when I felt another presence – in fact heard it in my mind. It was a nattering, whining, inflectionless voice demanding: “Give me data, set me a task.”

I'd been having psychic experiences since I was six, so I realized at once that this was a psychic presence rather than a physical one, and I was surprised but not frightened. I was also grateful for the distraction from my Math homework. I set down my pencil, closed my eyes and turned my attention to the intruder. “Who are you,” I thought at it, “And what do you want?”

The intruder hesitated over the first question, and I got the impression that it didn't know the answer itself. While it hesitated I mentally looked it over and saw that, as minds go, it was really very small. It had awareness and intelligence – a smoothly efficient rational facility and an enormous memory – but no emotions other than its eagerness to process data and an insatiable hunger for more. It wasn't a whole mind but only a fragment of a personality.
I dubbed it “The Driver” because of its driving demand for facts to ingest. “Set me a task,” it nagged, “Give me data to process.” I got the impression that if it weren't busy processing data, its awareness would shut down completely. If a computer could have a soul, that soul would be like this.

“Oh, this is neat,” I thought, seeing that The Driver could be useful. I opened my eyes, looked at the page of Math problems, and ordered it: “Do my homework.”

The Driver fell to the task with a will, and I could feel its purring contentment as it worked. Through my eyes it looked at the figures of each problem, and came up with the answer in a second. I had only to write down the numbers The Driver gave me, and then move on to the next problem. I was partly amused, partly annoyed, that I myself wasn't aware of The Driver's calculations; the process of actually solving each problem didn't go through my mind at all. This, I considered as I duly wrote down each answer, was proof that The Driver was something alien, from completely outside myself.

It got through the whole page of Math exercises in less than five minutes, something I'd never been able to do, and then nagged for more. I turned to the page of Science problems and turned The Driver loose on them, this time feeling a touch of regret that I was getting only the answers and not really understanding the questions at all. It felt something like cheating on a test; I knew that I'd get a good grade for having the right answers, but I wasn't really learning anything myself. History, next, was a little different; The Driver had to mine my memory for the chapter I'd just read in order to dig up the facts it needed to process for the answers, and the sensation wasn't pleasant.

On the English homework The Driver faltered, because the questions didn't just require digging up and connecting facts; they demanded interpretation, and that was something The Driver didn't know how to do. It could correlate all the data I'd read about the history and personality of Silas Marner, but it couldn't add the understanding of his motivations. I had to contribute that myself, and The Driver responded with a blank sense of bewilderment. For all its calculating power, there were limits to its understanding. Worse, The Driver nattered impatiently for more data, distracting me while I was writing my answers in the workbook.

But at last the homework was done, and at this hour the parents weren't likely to peep into my room to see what I was doing, so I had a good hour to myself before bathtime and bedtime. I tried to spend it reading something I liked, such as Albert Payson Terhune's dog stories. But now The Driver's whining for more data, more data, was becoming a distinct annoyance. I tried ignoring it, but the nattering voice still intruded. I deliberately told it: “Shut up, will you?”

It didn't. Its yakking spoiled my hour of personal time. The Driver was still yattering as I took my bath and got ready for bed, and by now I seriously wanted to be rid of it. But how?

As I was getting into bed for the night, the obvious solution occurred to me. The Driver was only a partial personality, and it had no understanding of human motivations. In fact, it did not even have a human sense of self-preservation. So I turned my attention directly toward it and asked: “How do I disentangle you from my mind?”

Sure enough, it answered. “Overload,” it said. “Overload.”

That was all I needed to know. “I have a task for you,” I said. “Calculate the nature and purpose of the entire universe. Correlate all data. Start now.”

I could feel The Driver revving like an engine gearing up to speed, felt it rifling through its own memory, and mine in passing. It began to hum with effort as it processed data, faster and faster, trying to correlate all that information. As the hum rose to a whine, I realized I didn't want to be awake when the thing reached its top speed – so I lay down, turned out the light, and deliberately blanked my mind as if falling asleep. And in a few minutes I really did fall asleep, hearing that whine in the back of my mind rising in pitch.

Sometime in my sleep The Driver overloaded and wrenched loose from me, and spun off to wherever overloaded psychic fragments go. Being preoccupied as it was with its impossible task, I doubt if it ever managed to attach itself to another mind again.

From this experience I concluded that what we commonly call “demons” are no more than fragments of a personality, somehow wrenched loose from their original minds and cast adrift, but bonded to enough psychic ability to maintain themselves until they can attach to another whole mind. I would venture to guess that if a “demon” can't attach to another mind within a limited amount of time, it will eventually wither to extinction. Just how much time that is, I don't know. What I do know is that I've never again encountered another parasitic psychic fragment like that.

I also wonder, at times, what would have happened if that “demon” had attached itself to a mind less centered or more easily frightened than mine.

--Leslie

Saturday, June 25, 2011

SUMMER OF SMOKE: an Economic War on (Bad) Drugs

by Leslie Fish


Yes, there really is – or was – such an organization as the Midwestern Dope Dealers’ Association. I knew a few of its members back when I was in college, in Michigan. They were a mixture of students and ex-students who made their money by selling marijuana, hash, LSD and occasionally psilocybin – in other words, hallucinogens and “soft” drugs, all. They had nothing but contempt for the “hard” drugs – heroin, cocaine, PCP – and the people who pushed them.

Late in the spring semester of a certain year, they noticed that some of the Grass in town had nasty after-effects. Since the MDDA included some quite good chemists, they tested the Grass, and found that it had been laced with heroin. A few discreet questions revealed that this particular batch of Grass had been sold down at the town high school rather than the college campus.

From this information, the MDDA deduced that the Mafia was trying to move into the town’s drug business, which was very bad news. Organized crime, they knew, doesn’t like marijuana; the stuff is too cheap to make big profits, too bulky for safe transport, and not addictive enough to guarantee repeat business. However, it’s the most popular illegal drug in the country, and most kids have better sense than to have anything to do with heroin. Therefore the Mafia sells Grass laced with heroin to secretly get the kids addicted. From that point on, it’s easy to get the kids taking straight heroin – and the pushers have a permanent clientele.

Knowing this, the MDDA sat down and figured out a workable strategy to keep Mafia pushers out of their town. The only problem would be getting the police to cooperate, since whichever side got police protection would win. The Mafia’s usual trick is to find an ambitious young cop, become his informer and sic him on rival drug dealers. After the cop has made a name for himself, the Mafia agents get the cop to take money from them by some trick or other, and secretly film/photo the transaction. Then they reveal themselves, show him the pictures, and promise to ruin him if he doesn’t do as they say. And what they say is simple: arrest any and all rivals while leaving their dealers alone, and warn them if any special investigation comes up. That’s how the Mafia gets local police protection.

What the MDDA did was put together their strategy and make an appointment with the local police captain, who was known to be a reasonable man. They showed him their evidence, and their strategy, and promised to keep the Mafia out of town if the captain would do just one thing for them: order all his officers not to arrest anyone for drug-dealing or drug-possession, all through summer semester. By the time the fall semester started, the MDDA promised, they should have the problem licked. The captain looked over their evidence, and reluctantly agreed.

The first thing the MDDA did was post, and gossip, notices all around the town high school, warning the kids that the local Grass was poisoned, and to come buy clean stuff up in “campus town”. Next thing they did was to sell their products for a dollar less than the standard price, while keeping a close eye on the prices of tainted Grass down near the high school. The Mafia tried dropping their prices, so the MDDA dropped theirs lower.

In the absence of police drug-busts, they took to dealing in the campus student-union grill. I saw, once, a cop who was clearly annoyed with the no-bust policy come marching through the grill, glowering menacingly at the students – through Grass smoke as thick as fog. By the time he’d made one circuit of the tables, he’d breathed enough of the smoke that his steps were slower and his glower had turned into a silly grin. Finally he sat down at one of the tables and ordered a triple cheeseburger, with fries, and a super-size milkshake. So much for that.

And it wasn’t just Grass. On discovering that the Mafia was also trying to push LSD, one dealer, commonly called Big M, bought the base chemicals and made a good thousand hits. He sold the first 100 for a dollar less than the Mafia pushers. The Mafia tracked him down and sent some goons to beat him up. When he got out of the hospital, Big M sold the next 100 hits for two dollars less than the Mafia price, and fortified his house. The Mafia thugs threw a firebomb through his front window, but the firemen arrived in time to keep more than the front room from burning. Big M then gave away the remaining 800 hits for free – and left town and went into hiding.

Something similar happened with the hashish and psilocybin markets.

By the end of the summer, the Mafia gave up. Even with their cash reserves, they couldn’t keep up with these dedicated amateurs. They pulled back to Detroit and Ypsilanti, and quit trying to sell to the student crowd – thus concluding the one successful War On (Bad) Drugs ever fought in the US.

The MDDA, as promised, reported back to the police captain, who allowed his troops to start arresting for drugs again – but the MDDA had already passed the word, so students bought and consumed cautiously again.

The police captain, alas, didn’t fare so well. His superiors frowned upon his orders not to make any drug arrests for a whole summer, and demoted him. Never mind that he’d helped save his town from Mafia infiltration; he hadn’t arrested any Hippies! So he never rose to any higher rank, but retired with a full pension and benefits – and with at least the knowledge that he’d done the right thing.