Saturday, November 23, 2013
On this 50th anniversary of JFK's assassination, there are TV documentaries galore -- most of them pooh-poohing the various "conspiracy theories", except that they're finally willing to admit (50 years later) that there were at least three shots fired, not one. The Official Story, though, is still that all the shots came from behind and were fired by Lee Harvey Oswald from the School Book Depository. And, of course, that Oswald acted alone.
You wouldn't believe some of the excuses the Official Story supporters have come up with to try to explain away what witnesses -- and the famous Zapruder film -- showed: that the second (at least) shot hit Kennedy in the head, and his head snapped BACKWARD. Anyone who knows anything about shooting, or basic Physics for that matter, knows that an impact from behind knocks the impacted object forward. Therefore, JFK was shot from in front as well as behind; therefore, there was a second shooter. This implies a conspiracy.
But it ain't necessarily so. Rasty, who (like me!) has a lot of connections in weird places, came up with this one:
The first shot came from high and behind all right; it hit Kennedy high in the back and exited low in the throat, then went through Connally (who was half-turned toward JFK) going through his shoulder, then his wrist, and finally burying itself in his thigh. The Secret Service man who was sitting directly in front of Connally realized what had happened, and grabbed for his rifle -- which was concealed under a rug between the two front seats, loaded, with the muzzle pointing backward. In his haste and excitement, as he lifted the gun and started to pull the rug away, he accidentally hit the trigger -- and that was the shot that hit Kennedy from the front, and killed him.
This would explain the cover-up; the last thing the federal govt. would ever want to admit in public is that the president of the US was killed by the incompetence of the Secret Service.
Ah, but was it just incompetence? Here's my addendum to Rasty's theory. Admittedly, there's only one piece of evidence for it: JFK's route through Dallas wasn't originally supposed to go through Dealey Plaza, but the route was changed -- by the Secret Service -- at the last minute, so how did Oswald (or whoever the first shooter was) know when to be in place? So yes, there was a conspiracy -- and at least part of the Secret Service was in on it. So that killing shot from the front wasn't an accident after all.
As to who could have -- and wanted to -- put such a conspiracy together, more than a few people have come up with that one, based purely on motive and opportunity:
LBJ did it!
Well, why not? He had the ambition, ruthlessness, bigotry (he was originally part of the Texas right-wing crowd), connections (he had lots of rich and powerful friends, including Hunt, in the Texas right-wing crowd) and sheer arrogance to pull it off. There was a rumor (quickly quashed) soon after the assassination, that someone on the plane that took JFK's body back to Washington saw Johnson standing over the body and chuckling -- but that by itself doesn't mean he set up, or helped set up, the actually killing. A clever playwright wrote an underground play (widely seen, and the script widely circulated) called MacBird, which was a rewrite of MacBeth with LBJ as the title character, but again, the writer had nothing to go on but motive and opportunity.
Still, there had to be some reason -- other than presiding over the highly unpopular Dirty Little War which Kennedy hadn't wanted to pursue -- that LBJ decided to quit the presidency after only one term. Guilty conscience, possibly? Or fear that enough digging into both of the Kennedy assassinations might finally come up with the shocking truth?
After 50 years, and most of the involved personnel having died off, it's unlikely that we'll ever get the whole story. Still, even today, less than a quarter of the American populace believe the official version of the JFK assassination. Indeed, despite -- or possibly because of -- the overgrowth of government in the US since then, that incident marked the turning point in America's trust of its governments, from the federals on down. We've become a lot more cynical since then, with no end in sight.
--Leslie <;)))>< )O(
Sunday, November 17, 2013
Last week, the Arizona state Corporation Commission allowed our local electric company, Arizona Power Systems, to charge extra to people who have put up solar generating systems on their own land. Why, you may ask? Well, APS argued that it had been supporting green-clean solar energy by, if you please, "subsidizing" solar users by buying the extra electricity these folks had generated at home and not used up themselves, but couldn't afford to do that anymore because there are so many solar users in the state nowadays. Besides, they insisted, everybody uses the electric grid which APS built, and therefore everybody should share in paying for it. APS originally wanted to charge solar users $100 apiece, per month, for the privilege of dumping their extra electricity into APS' grid. The Corporation Commission, whose idea of the scales of justice is a pair of coat-pockets, and whichever pocket gets filled heavier wins, generously decided that such a fee would be too high; APS can charge solar users no more than $5 per month.
Now think about this. People who put up solar generators on their own land (often on their own roofs) at their own expense, who turn sunlight (very abundant here in Arizona) into electricity, make enough electricity to power their own homes/farms/schools/shops/etc. and more, must pay the electric company for the extra power which those folks put into the state grid. Uhuh. This is like saying that anyone who makes his/her own gasoline and can't use it all him/herself must pay Exxon to come haul it away rather than selling it to the oil companies, let alone anyone else. Rrrrright.
This leaves solar-users three choices: 1) pay the minimal fee and forget about it, 2) get off the grid entirely, cut their ties to APS and tell the company to go scr#w itself, or 3) appeal the ruling in federal court. Either of those last two tactics will work.
I doubt if anyone else in Arizona knows this particular piece of history, since it happened more than 40 years ago in New York state, but it certainly applies here. Back in the 1960s, a fairly-famous Anarchist writer named Murray Bookchin lived in a co-op apartment building in New York city. Being very interested in the ecology movement (IIRC, he wrote one of the entries in the original Whole Earth Catalog), and being something of an electrical engineer himself, he persuaded the other members of his co-op to put up a wind-generator on the roof and use it to power the building. Their generator worked so well that not only did the whole building have abundant electricity, but it fed power back into the city's power-lines -- thereby making the meters run backwards. Well, the local electric company wasn't about to take that lying down; it sent the cops after the tenants for the crime of "cheating" the electric meters. The NYC government's courts (which were much more sympathetic to their city electric company -- Con Edison -- than to some bunch of radical weirdos) agreed, and charged the tenants ridiculous money. Murray Bookchin and his buddies didn't give up that easily; they appealed the case -- in the district federal court. There they argued that they had provably created their own electricity and didn't owe Con Ed anything. In fact, by putting the excess electricity into the grid, they had given the city added power -- and if anything, Con Ed owed them for the product. The judge agreed, overturned the lower court ruling, and ordered Con Ed to pay the tenants for the electricity they had generated (plus court costs) and any further electricity the tenants might pump into their lines in the future. Con Ed had no choice but to comply. Of course, the company found ingenious excuses to pay the tenants only pennies, but the point is, they were obliged to pay. Now remember, this ruling was made in federal court -- which means that the ruling applies in all states and territories of the US.
Yes, that includes Arizona. Once the solar users of Arizona discover that little fact, they can appeal the Corporation Commission's ruling -- likewise in federal court -- and get it reversed. APS will then have to pay every solar user in Arizona who generates more electricity than s/he can use and pumps the excess into the grid. It's federal law!
This is going to cost APS some serious money. Possibly this is why APS is sucking up as much money from solar users as possible, before they get wise. Possibly APS is hoping that those solar users will cut themselves off the grid first, so it won't have to pay.
In any case, solar generation is not going to go away. Neither will wind-generators in less sunny states. What will happen when all those green-clean generators get together, form a co-op, and become a power company of their own?
Sunday, November 10, 2013
Veterans' Day was originally Armistice Day, celebrating the end of World War One. Now that the last veterans of that war have died -- as Eric Bogle grimly predicted in his song, "The Band Played Waltzing Matilda" -- Americans no longer remember that war, except as a historical incident with no more connection to our modern lives than the Civil War. This is ironic, since both those wars shaped the nature of warfare ever since.
Both of them were wars of mass slaughter. WWI killed no less than 11 million combatants, at a time when the world's population was less than half of what it is now, which sent the surviving populations of Europe reeling in shock. Americans had a partial immunity to that shock, having seen 500,000 of its combatants killed in the Civil War -- particularly in the prophetic slaughter of Pickett's Charge, in the battle of Gettysburg. As the poet Stephen Vincent Benet put it, "He went out with fifteen thousand; He came back to his lines with five."
That shock and horror made too many governments reluctant to commit to war -- any war, no matter how necessary -- until too late for anything but mass slaughter. If the other European governments had agreed to trounce Hitler when he moved against the first of his neighbors, Czechoslovakia, they could have prevented the immense slaughter -- 42 million -- of World War Two. Thus did the fear of war make big wars inevitable. There are times when a small, fast, decisive war can prevent a far worse one.
Robert Heinlein was once asked by a Politically Correct lady if he didn't agree that "Violence is the last resort of the incompetent". He replied, "Yes. The competent resort to it much sooner, when it will do the most good."
All too few people -- from citizens to presidents -- understand the sense of that, which has led to the long-drawn out, miserable, indecisive wars the US has fought ever since WWII. We, and our allies, seem to have learned all the wrong lessons from WWI.
Nonetheless, in honor of those who really thought that WWI would end wars, I dutifully hang out the flag on Veterans' Day. Likewise, I wrote the following song for them -- with a Blues tune, that allows for slightly-sprung scansion, which I don't yet know how to record on my computer. Ask me at the next filksing, and I'll perform it for you.
WAR NO MORE
(c) Leslie Fish, 11/12/01
In the eleventh month,
On the eleventh day,
At the eleventh hour,
I heard the president say:
(CHO) War no more.
Make war no more.
Go home to your families,
War no more.
We've fought and killed and wounded,
Until the ground is rough
With wreckage of the slaughter,
And we've all had enough. CHO.
The enemy is beaten.
He can barely raise a hand
To save his own, let alone
Take anyone else's land.
War no more.
Make war no more.
Go home to your families,
War no more.
--Leslie <;)))>< )O(
Friday, November 1, 2013
Hello, and jolly All Saints' Day -- originally the old Celtic Pagan holiday of Samhain. The early Christian church commandeered the Pagan holiday by calling it All Saints' Day, a.k.a. All Hallows. This made the night before it All Hallows Eve, which morphed into Halloween. Samhain had been the beginning of the Celtic year, so the night before-- the last of the old year -- was the Feast of the Dead, and that convention hung on long after the church took over. Thus, a lot of the old Pagan traditions -- witches (originally priestesses) gallivanting about telling fortunes, ghosts (or children masquerading as the same) going from house to house collecting food and drink, telling scarey stories about the dead, and so on -- got attached to Halloween.
Being a good Pagan myself, I celebrated Halloween by sitting out on my front porch, flanked by jack-o-lanterns, dressed as a witch, giving out candy to the wee scarey creatures who showed up at my door. To make it more interesting, I stuffed the candy into a jack-o-lantern carved with a big scarey mouth and told the kids that if they wanted the candy they had to take it from the goblin's mouth. They did, which shows how brave a little kid can be in the quest for candy. This being a largely-empty block in a farming town, not many kids came by, so Rasty and I have enough leftover candy to last us to New Year's. Happy Halloween!
Now for the scarey story. Surely you've noticed, in the past few years, that Zombies have become the new popular monsters -- and not your classic Haitian Voodoo zombies (originally victims of puffer-fish poisoning), but modern killer-virus-animated zombies, half-rotted but still ambulatory, lusting for raw meat (or brains), spreading their plague to anyone they bite who gets away. Now why has this breed of zombies become so fashionable? They're not so sexy as vampires or werewolves, not so pitiable as the Frankenstein monster, and not so magical/mystical as the Mummy; they're completely loathsome, and usually threatening to wipe out humanity. So what's the appeal?
Well, it's a way of dealing with a scarey future. We all know that unscrupulous governments have experimented with germ-warfare weapons for decades, and it isn't much of a stretch to imagine such a disease getting loose in the world -- not after seeing how AIDs and other viral plagues have taken off in recent years. Watching how fictional heroes survive against seas of plague-spreading monsters gives us some reassurance that we'd survive if the zombie virus existed.
But here's the really scarey part; the zombie virus already exists -- and has existed for ages. A few thousand years ago, it made its way across the Americas into Asia and then Europe, wiping out most of the giant mammals of the Ice Age. Its effect on wolves, dogs and other canines contributed to the werewolf legend. Its effect on bats made the otherwise-harmless animals into icons of evil. Some anthropologists believe it's what wiped out the Anasazi culture of the southwest. Yes, it attacks the brain first, and turns its victims into howling, ravening lunatics who run around attacking anything that moves -- after first paralyzing them so that, for awhile at least, they appear dead. Yes, it's spread by bite. Yes, it makes the victims numb to any other sensation, so that they can take wounds and not notice them. Yes, there's a vaccine for it, but no, there's no cure. Fortunately, it also makes the victims incapable of drinking water, so that they die in a matter of days. It's called rabies, also hydrophobia.
Of course, if some Dr. Frankenstein should succeed in altering the virus so that it left the victims capable of eating and drinking, its zombie victims could survive a good while longer. In that case, like the Bubbas of the Apocalypse, anyone wanting to survive the attack would do best to pack a 12-gauge shotgun and be willing to shoot first (in the head) and ask questions later.
Happy Samhain -- and get your pets vaccinated.
--Leslie <;)))>< )O(