Saturday, October 2, 2010

Passive Aggressive... I Thought I Was The Only One!

I knew Facebook was a bad idea.  I just knew it, but I got sucked in.  Friends, actual and virtual, all conveniently placed on a single page where I could keep an eye on them.  Cute little games that start out fun but endlessly pepper you with updates and attempted monetization.

Stupidly, I guess it didn't occur to me that my friends were keeping an eye on me too.  Every utterance, every like, every dislike, every opinion is right out there where any-damn-body can feel free to comment, can twitch to whatever nerve I might tickle.  Not only that, but I am subject to every snide, crude remark anybody feels like making.  I am forced to listen to someone that *gag* "likes" Sarah Palin.  I do not thrive in that kind of environment.

Feeling all comfortable and easy-like, I comment on someone, a virtual friend's, post.  That comment gets broadcast to all of my real friends.  Some nerve gets tugged and now I'm in the middle of a ridiculous passive-aggressive dance-by-proxy.

The question is whether I abandon Facebook completely, with all the questions and potential recriminations that would entail, or just ignore what's going on, acting blissfully unaware of the ludicrous undercurrents around me.  I actually was blissfully unaware for about a week... I could stay on that road, but I don't think the parties involved are going to buy it.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009


I saw myself reflected in the bottom of my coffee cup this morning, and I got… nothing. No inspiration, no spiritual ding, not a thing. Except these sentences, I guess.

I know I’m not supposed to obsess about spirituality – I know I’m shooting myself in the foot when I do, but it’s hard not to. I want, so badly, to see a sign around every corner. I also know that wanting, so badly, is what’s holding me back. I suffer from spiritual greed I guess.

But that’s okay. I forgive myself for that and, at least today, I will try to continually release that guilt and keep my eyes open. Not every trail leads to water – not every insight leads to awakening.

That being said, I have been thinking about free will lately, and how it relates to fate. If I accept that all the people I see are real and exist just like I do, I have to accept that they have their own free will, just like I do.

The problem is that if they have free will, how can they be karma-puppets in my own little fate play? I mean, if that guy in front of me is going five miles per hour under the limit and I toss off my annoyance as “Oh well, he’s keeping me from getting into that accident up there,” where’s his free will? What is directing him to slow me down? And if nothing is directing him to slow me down, is it really my fate to be behind him, or just bad luck? And how is luck different than fate?

Now I’m pretty sure that if there is a PLAN, it doesn’t care if I’m 30 seconds late for work next Tuesday. It’s a plan for humans after all, and… wait a minute… I was about to give fate a break because I was assuming that humans have free will. Heck, I can’t even say ‘humans’, because if there are intelligent beings in the universe then at some point we will meet them and our fates (or wills) will become intertwined.

My head hurts.

So you tell me. Fate or free will? Or both? Or neither? Have fun.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Okay, Now I'm Mad

This is old news. Very old news. I'm a little annoyed that I am just learning about this now. The rest of you may laugh and point as you wish, but I have to talk about this.

So, let's get in the wayback machine and go back to 1990. Iraq has invaded Kuwait. That's a bad thing, but the people of the United States are split on whether we should declare war and kick the invaders out.

Enter Hill & Knowlton, the world's largest PR firm at the time. Congressman Jimmy Hayes (D-LA) estimated that Kuwait had hired at least 20 PR firms to whip up US opinion and lobby congress in support of war. Hill & Knowlton was the mastermind of this effort (the man that ran the Washington office of H&K was Bush Sr.'s chief of staff when he was Vice-President).

On October 10th, 1990, the Congressional Human Rights Caucus held a hearing on Capitol Hill to present to the American people the atrocities committed by Iraq. A note on the Congressional Human Rights Caucus: though to all appearances this was an actual Congressional committee, it was actually just an association of politicians. It was chaired by Tom Lantos (D-CA) and John Porter (R-IL). These two also co-chaired the Congressional Human Rights Foundation. Guess where the foundation's office space was located... in Hill & Knowlton's Washington, DC office.

So, this congressional front for a PR firm is presenting a list of human rights violations. John McArthur, in his book The Second Front, points out that "The Human Rights Caucus is not a committee of Congress, and therefore it is unencumbered by the legal accouterments that would make a witness hesitate before he or she lied... Lying under oath in front of a Congressional committee is a crime; lying from under the cover of anonymity to a caucus is merely public relations."

The emotional high point of the hearing was the testimony of a 15 year-old Kuwaiti girl known only as "Nayirah". Her full name was kept confidential, according to the caucus, to prevent reprisals against her family in occupied Kuwait. Nayirah stated, with properly spaced sobs, that she volunteered at a Kuwaiti hospital. She said that she witnessed Iraqi soldiers entering the hospital with guns. According to her statement, they "... went into the room where the babies were kept in incubators. They took the babies out of the incubators, took the incubators, and left the babies on the cold floor to die."

Horrible. In the three months between Nayirah's testimony and the start of the war the story travelled far and wide. President Bush told the story. It was recited as fact in Congressional testimony and in front of the UN Security Council.

Here's the rub. What the Human Rights Caucus and Hill & Knowlton failed to reveal was that "Nayirah" was actually a member of the Kuwaiti royal family and the daughter of the Kuwaiti Ambassador to the United States, Saud Nasir al-Sabah, who sat in the hearing room listening to her testimony. It was later confirmed by Kuwaiti investigators that Nayirah had been coached by H&K vice-president Lauri Fitz-Pegado and that the story was false. After the war, even Amnesty International was unable to verify the story and was forced to issue a retraction.

In the end, the vote to go to war succeeded by a five vote margin. Did this outrageous lie turn the tide in war's favor? Almost certainly.

Some of you will say that I'm naive to think it's foul, or even unusual, for politicians to lie to us. Most people will lie to further their cause or gain or retain power, especially when they are convinced that they are acting for the good of all. I guess this all goes back to whether honor is cultural, or whether there are some things that are inherently right or wrong.

I get angry when I feel manipulated. It just seems to me that if the truth wasn't enough to go to war, why should we go to war? I'm also appalled that there are companies out there that make their living on lies. I know, I know. Naive.

But if you really stop and think about the lies that you are told every day, how does it make you feel?


The source of this information is

Update: See this website for more discussion on Lauri Fitz-Pegado:

Friday, May 29, 2009

Letigious Idiocy in Texas

I think this sort of thing is going to bring about the collapse of civilization. I think I want to take this opportunity to talk to you, Mary Helen Lachuga.

Mary Helen (may I call you Mary Helen?), I find it difficult to believe that you "... felt pain and didn't know what he [Superintendant Lorenzo Garcia] was going to do next." He was high-fiving all the principals. Did you think he had suddenly decided to give you a beat down right there in front of everybody? No, Mary Helen, what's happening here is obvious. You are angry at him and you decided not to high-five him. Good enough, and maybe you would have some principals on your side (I don't know why you were demoted. I'm giving you the shadow of the doubt here). So Mr. Garcia, left awkwardly hanging, "taps" (I'm quoting the news story, I assume it came from your complaint) you on the forehead and moves on. Undignified, yeah. A bad idea? I suppose.

But you saw your opportunity, didn't you Mary Helen? You could make up for all the embarassment, all the humiliation. Assault! How dare he! A personal attack! I'll make him pay!

But Mary Helen, it backfired. Google your name. Go ahead. See those first forty or fifty results? They are all blogs, headlines and radio shows ridiculing you.

I can't really blame you though, Mary Helen. Our society sees your behavior as normal, as expected. I'm sure you thought this was a very good idea. I'm sure your lawyer told you that EPISD had deep pockets, and you'd be set for life. That's hard to resist, I know. It's like a guaranteed lottery win.

Greed, Mary Helen. It got you, just like it's digging it's claws into the hearts of most Americans. And who is feeding that monster on your chest, that demon with a plasma-screen, lemon-scented, high MPG face? That's right, Mary Helen, it's the corporations that own this country.

Mary Helen, I am going to ask you to do something brave. I'm asking you to call your lawyer and tell him that this thing is over. Then I want you to call the local news station and say "Man, that was a crazy idea. I don't know what I was thinking. Sorry everybody."

If you do that, people will start to respect you again. You can start to respect yourself. I know you must be suffering under some image issues, otherwise why would you start this whole thing?

You need to do some self-discovery, Mary Helen. Maybe yoga or meditation. Let this thing go, Mary Helen. For the good of the country.

Thursday, May 7, 2009


I don't like blogs that do nothing but link to other blogs, but Bernard Chazelle over at A Tiny Revolution so well covered my own feelings on torture that I just had to post a link.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Another Ficton

This is something that has been on the back burner for quite some time... maybe posting it here will bring it back to a boil. It is cleverly titled "A Storm is Coming".


The day was hot; “stormin’ hot” the older folks called it. Not a breath of wind stirred the hazy white dust that hung over the parking lot. The sun punished the white canvas of the blue and white striped revival tent like lazy hellfire. Clouds to the northwest promised relief, but carried their own dangerous potential.

The people filed into the tent, ushers in white gloves holding back the flaps. Inside there was a sort of atrium where they had set up a card table carrying pamphlets like “Are You a Sinner?” and “The Rocky Path to Salvation”. The larger pamphlets went first; they made excellent fans.

Only about half the seats were taken when our local minister, Reverend Baker, began his welcome. He said a prayer of thanksgiving for our opportunity to see this up and coming evangelistic star, the Reverend Alvan Keye. As he spoke, my mind settled into a relaxed state, that state between waking and sleep, where thoughts tumble of their own accord. I thought of my mother at home, her gout too painful to allow her to attend the revival. I thought about how long the grass was getting, about my old blue-tick hound Hadley sleeping fitfully on the front porch.

A sudden gust of wind caused the tent to shift, the center pole creaking as it accepted its new burden. I snapped back to wakefulness. There was a slight murmur from the crowd, a shifting of weight and shuffling of feet that indicated I wasn’t the only one drowsing.

I realized with a flush of embarrassment that the Reverend Keye was standing center stage, his hands crossed in front of him, a microphone in his left hand, his head bowed as if in prayer. He stood silently, unmoving, the tension in the crowd increasing. When I started thinking that perhaps he was dozing like the congregation had been, he raised the microphone slowly; so slowly that I could see a bead of sweat run down the side of his hand, reverse itself, then run down his wrist to soak into the sleeve of his cream colored jacket. He held the microphone in front of his thin lips for a further silent moment, then spoke.

“There’s a storm comin’.” He said it quietly, so quietly that only the first couple of rows could have heard it. He waited another moment, and then spoke again, a little louder. “There’s a storm comin’.” The whole congregation heard him this time, and chairs creaked as their occupants settled in for the feature presentation.

“There is a STORM comin’!” He finally raised his eyes and scanned the crowd. His forehead was furrowed. His face was set in a severe scowl. His bushy white eyebrows gathered around the deep vertical line separating them like the frothing waters surrounded Moses’ Red Sea path. He looked like a real Old Testament holy-roller.

“There is a storm COMIN’!” He shouted it this time, the tiny speaker set into the podium distorting the final word.

He raised his right hand, fingers splayed, closing his eyes. “THERE IS A STORM COMIN’!” he yelled. A strong gust of wind suddenly blew the exit flap next to the stage open. Before an usher rushed over to tie it shut I caught a glimpse of the trees across the parking lot. They had a yellowish cast, as if the sun were shining through pale amber. That color, in June, in Kansas, meant only one thing: tornado.

Reverend Keye was now striding back and forth on the stage. He switched the microphone to his right hand and gestured broadly with his left, slashing the humid air with it.

“An’ this ain’t no storm of wind,” he continued. The congregation was now getting into the swing of things, a couple of amens popping up from the back of the tent. The tent darkened as clouds crossed in front of the sun.

“An’ this ain’t no storm of rain.” The first fat drops of rain plopped on the roof of the tent, making a sound like a toad dropped onto a sidewalk.

”An’ this ain’t no storm of hail. This ain’t no storm of thunder an’ lightnin’! No sir!” He strode back and forth on the ramshackle stage like it could barely contain him. “No ma’am!” He stopped and center stage and stared directly into my eyes. I heard an amen, only afterward realizing that I had said it.

“This is a storm of retribution!” He took a step forward. “This is a storm of judgment!” He took another step forward. “This is a storm of holy vengeance!” He stepped forward again, his toes now overhanging the edge of the stage. “This! Is! A! Storm! Of! Divine! Justice!” He raised his hands in the air, a look of sheer exultation on his face. The congregation rose to its feet shouting amens and hallelujahs.

“The Lord God has looked into each of your hearts and found you WANTING!” He backed up, cradling the microphone in both hands. He strode to the side of the stage and placed his hand against the fluttering side of the tent. “There ain’t no bed you can crawl under.”

He pointed at someone in the congregation. “Sinner! There ain’t no basement to hide in.”

He pointed at someone else. “Sinner! There ain’t no storm cellar to close up behind you.”

He pointed again. “Sinner! There ain’t but one shelter from this storm. Stand before the holy Lamb of God, and you will be safe from the wind.”

The storm outside was building. The tent quivered and shook, like an animal pulling at a leash.

“Sinner! There ain’t but one shelter from this storm. Kneel before the Son of God and you will be safe from the rain.”

The wind outside began to howl, thunder rolling across the plain.

“Sinner! There ain’t but one shelter from this storm. Prostrate yourself before your Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and he will shelter you from the stinging hail.”
A deluge of rain struck the tent. The weight of it strained the side ropes, the walls puckering at the attachments.

“Sinner! There ain’t but one shelter from this storm. Allow Jesus Christ into your heart, and he will armor you against the storm, though the very fires of Hell assault you!” The back wall of the tent was suddenly torn away in a blinding flash. A sound too loud for sound pressed against my ears, eyes and chest. The congregation fell away from the stage like wheat before a scythe, smoldering scraps of the lightning-blasted tent blowing over us.

I looked up and the Reverend Keye was standing triumphantly, hands raised over his head, a beatific smile on his face. Sinuous traces of St Elmo’s fire crawled over his body.

At that moment I had a vision. I saw my mother start awake, staring dumbfounded at her legs. She stood and walked, tentatively at first, around the bedroom. As she realized the pain was gone, she smiled and danced around the room.

I knew that the Reverend had healed her, and I have followed him to this day.


That last line is just kind of tacked on, but it gives an idea of where I was going with this: the whole apocalypse thing, which has always fascinated me in all of its incarnations.

Thanks for reading!

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Practice, Practice, Practice

I read somewhere that the first line of a book is what really sells it. I believe "Call me Ishmael" was the classic example. While I've decided that novelling is strictly out of the question for me, I still enjoy the occasional short story.

I try to keep the above advice in mind when I write, and very often it's exercising that first-line muscle that generates a story for me.

So, let's practice.

Here's one: Though Harold was tan and lean, he had the eyes of a fat man.

Hmmm. Okay, let's try another: Basic laws of physics predicted Jimmy's imminent demise, but Jimmy had never studied law.

Ugh. Cliché. Sounds like Roadrunner and the Coyote.

One more: The calculator tape was too short to fall backwards under it's own weight and curled directly in front of the display. I hated that.

Ummm, okay. The adventures of your local neighborhood CPA, I guess.

So, no Hugo Award winners tonight. Maybe tomorrow.

Speaking of writing, it may come as a surprise to the thousands of readers I have that I have done some deep research into Norse runes, as well as Norse heathenry. Now the heathen crowd is a proud group, as a matter of fact their lifestyle demands it, and there are many that claim to be legitimate runesters. There are dozens of websites extolling the magical properties of this or that rune set; the Elder Futhark, the Younger Futhark, Anglo-Saxon Runes, Germanic Runes, blah blah blah.

They all have one thing in common. They claim that the runes carry intrinsic magic; that they are in and of themselves magical things. I find this thinking ridiculous. Runes are representations of vocalized sound, nothing more. They are no more special than any other alphabet, including our own.

Consider the archeological evidence of "rune magic", consisting primarily of brief phrases etched into physical objects, intended to endow these objects with kick-ass power. Most of them say something like "Frank made this sword therefore it will rip you a new one". Now, I do happen to believe that stating something as an absolute truth can help to make it true, as all good propagandists know.

The magic is not in the letters - it's in the claim. Runes have captured the imagination of the world, jump-started primarily by Tolkein. I understand the need of the Norse heathen to feel special, but what they really need to concentrate on is the idea (built directly into the faith via the Havamal) that no religion is more special than any other.

Now get off my lawn.