Saturday, November 29, 2014

Ferguson: Stupidity Cubed

(I was going to tell about our bizarre family adventures this past week, but the Grand Jury decision in Ferguson, Missouri, and its aftermath, have pushed that aside for the moment.  So here's my take.)

Yes, the Grand Jury in the Ferguson case decided not to indict the cop, and the inevitable protests followed.  Did any of this seem a little bit planned to you?  Did anybody notice that certain not-exactly-elected politicians seemed to expect -- and plan for, and (dare we say) hope for -- a string of nation-wide Black riots on the scale of the Rodney King explosions?  And didn't they seem the least bit disappointed when that didn't happen?  In fact, doesn't it seem as if those certain political pundits are still trying, despite the slacking energy of outrage with the passage of time, to please-please-please get those Blacks to riot everywhere?

Fat chance.  The continuing protests seem to be guided by a little more common sense than expected.  For example, the Brown family's own insistence that cops everywhere in the US have constantly-running body-worn videocams, as well as car-cams while on duty, would make a real difference.  At the very least, it would put an end to cops trying to stop civilians from filming them;  it's already getting hard for cops to persuade judges that being videotaped somehow "interferes" with their ability to do their jobs.  Already clips have shown up on the Internet refuting claims by crooked cops, and the presence of cameras that the cops cant control or censor would definitely rein in their thuggish tendencies.  This is a reform that would work.

And so far, this is one of the few rays of common sense in the entire miserable business.  Another was the the county prosecutor's televised speech describing, in as much detail as he legally could, the reasons for the Grand Jury's decision.  It's true that Grand Juries are usually little more than rubber-stamps for cops' arrests, but there are exceptions -- and everyone could see the reasons why this would be an exception.  The fact that the jurors were elected months before the Wilson/Brown incident happens means that they weren't chosen specifically for the task of getting the cop off.  Also, three of the jurors were Black, and -- as with any other jury -- it would have taken only one contrary vote to stop the decision.  Finally, the prosecutor made certain that the Grand Jury got to see/hear all the evidence, of which there was plenty, which is why the deliberations took so long.

What the details of the case, particularly the physical evidence, reveal is lying, incompetence and stupidity on all sides: the kid, the cop, the witnesses on both sides, and even the protesters.  From the top:

Brown and his buddy went into a store, and the fool kid swiped some cigars -- surely knowing that the store had security cameras that picked up the incident -- and ran out the door.  Stupid!  Then, instead of ducking into an alley, sticking to the shadows, running and staying out of sight for a few days until the heat died down, what did the punk do?  He swaggered down the middle of the street as if he hadn't a care in the world.  Stupid!

Meanwhile, the robbed store-clerk had called the cops and given them Brown's description.  Wilson was closest, and was driving toward the store when he saw a kid exactly fitting the robber's description strolling down the street toward him.  He could see that Brown wasn't carrying a weapon, so he stopped his patrol car, yelled at the kid to stop, and then started to open his car door.  Brown stopped, but he pushed back on the car door while calling the cop a 'pussy'.  Stupid!  Now Wilson could easily have pulled out his taser -- or even his hand-stunner -- and zapped Brown into safe unconsciousness, but instead he kept wrestling to open the door.  Stupid!   He pulled out his gun instead.  Stupid!  He yelled at Brown -- who had now retreated about 25 feet -- to stop and put his hands up.  Brown definitely did stop and turn around, and at least partially raised his hands, but from that point the witnesses' statements differ wildly.  He either stood still until he was shot down, partly lowered his hands and walked toward the cop, or lowered his hands and charged Wilson -- who shot him several times, missing vital targets, before finally landing a fatal shot.  All this at less than 25 feet.  Incompetent!  Brown then reeled away from the car and collapsed some 20 feet away.

Now the physical evidence includes blood-spray from Brown on the inside of Wilson's patrol car.  How did it get there if Brown was 25 feet away when he was shot?  One of the witnesses (who happened to be Black) claimed he saw Wilson standing over Brown and shooting him in the back;  two autopsies -- one by the county ME's office, one by a private lab at the Brown family's request -- confirm that Brown was never shot in the back, but only from the front.  Worse, a lot of the witnesses (who happened to be Black) made repeated statements that contradicted the physical evidence, other witnesses statements, and themselves.  Stupid!  This, obviously, did not sit well with the Grand Jury.

And then we get to the protests.  The Black Community Leaders of Ferguson should have noticed, at their very first march, that a lot of opportunistic punks used the cover of the march to smash windows and loot stores -- which was guaranteed to draw the attention, and action, of the cops.  Those protest leaders should have taken care to police their own ranks, appointed some sturdy local folk to watch for punks and stop them before they could smash, loot, and attract cops.  But they didn't.  Stupid!  In fact, a lot of the stores that those punks smashed, looted, and finally burned were Black-owned and Black-managed.  Not that the punks cared.  Stupid!  There are even scattered reports of Jihadist mullahs going around to local mosques and urging young Blacks there (whom the Jihadists have been targeting for some time) to go to Ferguson, join the protests, and "get your own back" from the "Great Satan" (who, of course, is White) -- and tales of gullible Black punks actually doing it.  Stupid!

Amid this thundering mess of bigotry, lying, incompetence and above all stupidity, it's hard to find anyone to cheer for.

--Leslie <;)))>< Fish      

Saturday, November 22, 2014

My Annual Shameless Plug



You can order my filkmusic albums from my music publisher, Random Factors, at, or get my books from   Or you can order them directly from me, at, or by mail at: Leslie Fish, 1300 S. Watson Road #114-288, Buckeye, AZ 85320, using this form.


_____  "Offensive As Hell: The Joys of Jesus-Freak Bagging", $10  (satire)
_____  "For Love of Glory", $20  (historical fiction)
_____ "Of Elven Blood", $20  (fantasy/scifi fiction)


_____  "Avalon Is Risen", $15 (pagan and fantasy songs)
_____  "Lock and Load",  $15 (1st and 2nd Amendment songs)
_____  "Cold Iron", $15 (Kipling's historical poems as songs)
_____  "Our Fathers of Old", $15 (Kiplng's philosophical poems as songs)
_____  "Skybound", $15 (scifi and Star Trek songs – includes "Hope Eyrie")
_____  "Smoked Fish and Friends", $15 (WorldCon filksing, with others)
_____  "Serious Steel", $15 (SCA songs, with Joe Bethancourt)
_____  "Folksongs for Solar Sailors", $15 (Star Trek songs, from original LPs)

Friday, November 14, 2014

Half-Lies and the Assumption of Stupidity

Pardon my language folks, but I just saw an ad on TV that has me really steamed.  It's a Public Service ad, the sort that's supposed to be For a Good Cause because it's meant to discourage cigarette smoking (ooooh, evil-evil!), but it pushes a common half-lie that I've seen used many times before -- and assumes that nobody will bother to check it out and learn the truth, and that, thank you, is a huge pubic disservice.

First off, I prefer the term "half-lie" to "half-truth", because it's closer to the actual effect.  It's using one sliver of truth and concealing all the rest for the express purpose of deception, which makes it a helluva lot closer to a lie than the truth.  But to continue...

The ad shows a pretty girl screwing a cigarette into her forehead while the narrator solemnly intones: "Every cigarette changes your brain -- permanently."  Then it switches to some computer animation of supposed neurons zapping, and claims that in a few years of smoking, your brain "isn't the same anymore".

Rrrrright.  Years ago, I heard this same argument used to claim that marijuana was a Dangerous Drug.  Before that it was claimed against video games.

The whole truth is that everything "changes your brain -- permanently".  Eating changes your brain, sleeping changes your brain, exercising changes your brain, memorizing anything changes your brain, and -- above all -- learning changes your brain, permanently, because it creates new neural connections.  What's more, it's not true that nerve cells don't regenerate or replace themselves;  all cells in your body replace themselves, so that every seven years you've completely regenerated yourself and have, in effect, a new body -- including brain.  This is because the body is a dynamic construction, and the brain is an especially dynamic organ.  It's supposed to change constantly.  When your brain stops changing, it dies.

What offends me most about this ad isn't just that it promulgates a half-lie in order to scare people For A Good Cause (remember what the road to Hell is paved with), but its arrogant assumption that everybody will automatically be scared so that nobody will bother to check out the story.  Pushers of ads like this seem to have forgotten Abraham Lincoln's warning about fooling all the people all the time, and prefer to live by Barnum's theory that there's a fool born every minute.  They're not in the least worried about the fact that the Internet puts most of the world's knowledge at everyone's fingertips, so scams can be easily uncovered;  they trust in the assumption that most people won't even bother to question what they're told, to see if a story is a scam or not.  That's what really tees me off.

Worse, this attitude seems to be common not just among ad-men, who can be expected to lie and scam as part of their business, but news-media pundits as well, who are supposed to supposed to give us the truth -- and the whole truth.  How else can you explain all the news-anchors chatting about how the election ten days ago was a "Republican sweep"?

Consider that 99% of those races were close, if not very close -- in fact, several of them are still being recounted.  Also consider that only 37% of the registered voters bothered to vote in that election, which means that 63% were too disgusted to cast a ballot.  Likewise consider the number of ballots that were cast for anything but Republican or Democrat candidates;  here in Arizona, Barry Hess -- the Libertarian candidate for governor, who got no media-advertising time at all -- got nearly 10% of the vote, which is more than any major Libertarian candidate has ever gotten before in this state.  The AmericaVotes candidate, whom likewise nobody had ever heard of, got 2%.  All of this strongly indicates a deep dissatisfaction with both of the Big Two parties, rather than any great support for the GOP.  Yet the media pundits mention only the Republican wins.  Half-lie!  Do they really think nobody will bother to hunt up the truth, or do they really believe the half-lies themselves?

What all this shows me is an arrogant assumption that the majority of the population is too stupid to look for the truth, ever.  History has proven that that assumption can prove disastrous to those who hold it.  Pride doth indeed go before a fall.  I just hope that, in falling, the Masters of Manipulation won't crush too many innocent people under them.

--Leslie <;)))><


Tuesday, November 4, 2014

The Changing Image of the Witch -- or What I Did for Halloween

It's interesting how common ideas of witches have changed over the years.  Until well into the late middle ages, most people -- and the church -- thought of witches as people, usually women, who looked just like everyone else.  In fact they were considered people like everyone else, except that they'd switched allegiances to Satan instead of Jesus and were therefore in the same category as heretics and secular traitors.  'Twas around the 1500s, when mere heresy was branching out into the Reformation, that witches were seen as something different; almost always women, either ugly hags or at least branded with some tell-tale mark -- likewise different from the "mark" of Jews and Moslems (the men, at least), who were circumcised.  Professional witch-hunters had great fun stripping women naked and poking them, looking for the marks.  Witch-hunting ebbed and flowed with the progress of the Reformation, reaching a high point in the Salem witch-trials of 1692, after which religious wars became unpopular and witch-hunting died away to an embarrassed memory, then a fairy-tale.  At least by 1939, and the movie "The Wizard of Oz", there was the image of Glinda the Good Witch as well as the green-skinned and eagle-nosed Wicked Witch of the West   By 1983, when Raould Dahl published his children's book "The Witches", the image of the witch was more of a joke than anything really scary.  Finally, the play "Wicked" even did a good job of rehabilitating the Wicked Witch of the West, green skin and all.

Real witches, of course, said nothing -- in public -- about any of this until the mid-1970s, and then told their tales only in books or magazines found in "occult" bookstores, or in scholarly papers seen only by university Anthropology departments.  Of course the occasional heavy-rock band would do an album or a whole shtick about "witchcraft" or "the devil" -- having no relation whatsoever to the real thing, but good for scaring the grown-ups.  It wasn't until the 1980s that the Neo-Pagan movement in general grew big enough to start going public: hosting Pagan Pride Day in various large cities, holding "open" rituals to which the public was invited, complaining about the portrayal of pagans in general and witches specifically in movies and TV shows.  Good witches started showing up in lighthearted TV shows and the occasional movie -- much to the annoyance of super-conservative fundamentalist Christians, who kept trying to whip up Satanism scares, which always fizzled out for lack of evidence.  Pagans finally gained legal respectability in 2007, when the pentagram was accepted as a symbol on tombstones at Arlington National Cemetery.

Nowadays witch costumes are usually seen around Halloween, either as cute little robes and hats on young children, or sexy outfits on teenaged-or-older girls.  The green skin, warts and eagle-beak noses have vanished with the last decade's fashions.  Nowadays witches are at least cute, if not glamorous.

So I've had no problem spending my last few Halloweens wearing a witch costume (long skirt, long-sleeved lace blouse, pointy hat -- all in black), sitting out by the front door flanked by jack-o-lanterns and a black cat or two, playing solemn pagan tunes on an eerie-sounding bowed psaltery, offering candy to any little kid (or enthusiastically costumed adult) who'd be brave enough to take it from the mouth of a scary-looking carved pumpkin.  Only a few kids came down my street this year (possibly because, Halloween being on Friday, it was overshadowed by the town high school's nighttime football game), but all of them liked the costume, and the idea of braving the "goblin" to get the candy.  It seems that witches are getting downright respectable these days.

Cotton Mather should be spinning in his grave, at several thousand RPMs.  No doubt the few religious bigots who are left (like those fools in La Mesa, California, who tried to get Raould Dahl's book banned from the public library because it stated that witches look just like other people) are squirming a good bit above the ground -- primarily because their political power has drained away so that they can't hang or burn witches any more.  Boo-hoo, and BOOOOOO!

--Leslie <;)))><   )O(