Monday, November 24, 2014

Why They Play

I happened to be watching this game for a while last night, before I turned in. This was the first play of the 2nd quarter. As both announcers said, it was the greatest catch in the history of football. Well, I'm sure there were contenders, but I've sure never seen anything more amazing, and I've been watching the game since the late '50s, when Unitas and Tittle were battling.

There's been a lot of sensible things said in the past year or two about how football is just too dangerous. It's true. This head-injury problem is apparently unsolvable, so these amazing athletes are risking long term disability (to be sort of antiseptic about it--we're talking about senility and depression and in a number of cases, suicide). But this catch! That is nothing short of artistry. It's the same problem you see with Ali's great fights, or Tyson's, or the bravery of Gene Fullmer. How much of the story do you want to read?

Art is possibly instantaneous. Mr. Beckham, Junior, wrote a poem for the ages. I hope he plays on for a good while, and gets paid handsomely for doing what no one can do, and doesn't fall into the many pitfalls that he must dance through, and keeps his knees, and his brains intact, and gets the hell out after we've seen a little more, to a nice life. Fact is, the brutal, cruel medium is necessary for the message. The defense will hit him until he can't get up again, that's the sad part. It doesn't diminish such a catch.


More on President Obama's immigration policy, from David Alan Skansky: From that standpoint, there are two things about the immigration enforcement policies that are profoundly unremarkable. The first is that the Executive Branch is prioritizing which undocumented immigrants it will seek to deport. It has to do that, since there are about 11 million undocumented immigrants in the country and Congress has provided funding that will allow somewhere around only 400,000 removal actions each year. The whole post is instructive. Skansky is a professor of law at Stanford, and a former prosecutor.

The whole article makes a number of factual points which are being utterly ignored in the Republican and right wing hysteria over Mr. Obama's announcement. The facts are so clear that what is obvious is that the Republican response is utter hogwash--just more sturm und drang aimed only at generating hysteria amongst the usual generally upset part of the electorate which is now driving politics in this country nationally and state by state. Here in NC, our genius governor, who is at present suing his own legislature, which is controlled by his own party, asserted immediately after the speech that Mr. Obama was behaving unconstitutionally. No doubt there was much "ahem"ing at the early morning BoJangles coffee klatches around North Carolina. Newspapers were snapped. Coffee was sloshed. Nothing was delivered.

When Chris Hayes asked a Republican spokesman the other night, just after the speech, just who the Republicans would deport, the spokesman got all huffy and sputtery and refused to answer. Unfortunately Mr. Hayes didn't have at his fingertips the pertinent facts, stated in Mr. Skansky's quote above. 11,000,000/400,000. That's the goddam math. The Republicans own the math right now. They shut down the goverment over it just last year, and have been winning elections over zero tax increases since 1980. That is Republican policy.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

"Go Slow"

When Mr. Obama decided to do something about a large body of Americans who are living in oppression day in day out, he told us in advance why he made the decision. He said, early this week, that he loved being President, because it was a place where you could do great good every day. So Thursday night he gave his fine presentation to America, making it clear that he wasn't doing what he can't do--no magic citizenship certification for example--but that he was doing what he could, as President.

The response from the Right was tragically predictable. Go watch Steve Schmidt on the MSNBC post speech coverage. At least spit isn't flecking the camera lens. That is, he presents something that remains in the world of language and actual thought. But what's very strange is all the "go slows." Schmidt even admits Obama is exactly right on the substance. It is morally wrong (Schmidt used the term "moral", though he meant it with a certain derision) to just go on and on and on in this morass about millions of Hispanic people--people who live here, work here, go to school here, drive here, get sick here, pay taxes here, and social security (even when they can't collect), people who are parents of children and young adults who are fully American citizens and yet live in fear of deportation, and young adults who arrived as toddlers and went to school here and now have lives, hopes, plans--who all of them are Americans except for the damn paperwork.

The fainting couch fraud that is the Republican response is just amazing. And 50 years after Nina Simone, it's also ignorant and laughable and dishonest. Schmidt and many others have said, "well, now the bill will never pass." As though Mr. Obama was at fault. Even the phony aghast has a racist stain attached: the implication is that Mr. Obama is being "uppity" to do anything, when what he should do is just do what everyone's been doing, and for twenty years. Waiting. Go slow.

We are drifting in this country into the land of dreams and fantasies. What Mr. Obama told us the other night was simple. The house is on fire. If you (Congress) won't act, then I (the President) must. There are millions of real lives at stake, not just some endless kabuki dance played out over and over again, for yet another Congressional session and yet another Presidential election, on and on, while real people that are trying to live fruitful, constructive lives are left forever on tenderhooks.

The Republican response--the response which is part and parcel of the response they started out with the moment Mr. Obama was elected in 2008--is the response of a petulant, spoiled, privileged baby. And that's because it reflects the white privilege that the Republicans live in, a cocoon of wealth and phony moral authority that keeps them all from seeing anything real. Even a man like Steve Schmidt, who now lives and works in a fairly realistic part of the world at MSNBC, and actually is personal friends with the likes of Ms Maddow (who remarked in amazement after his tirade that it was shockingly real--his face was red, his forehead sweating, Schmidt was really upset, that part was no kabuki).

I have heard all this before. Long ago. People used to say, during the Civil Rights struggles of the early sixties, "well, yes, we agree with you, but we have to go slow, be careful, wait." And the response now is just as it was then. We cannot waste another generation. It is an existential question. The house is burning down.

As with our wretched war in Iraq, apparently half of America--the Republican half--has learned absolutely nothing, nothing at all. It wasn't that hard. Just listen to Nina Simone. She could see the truth. It's right there. But have you noticed that advertising frequently uses the image of a person missing a leg or other appendage while selling whatever it is? Now it's just part of the scenery, that mechanical prosthesis. I'll bet if you went back to 1999 you'd never find such an image. You'd have to go back to, say, "The Men," circa 1947. There is water at the bottom of the ocean. Same as it ever was, same as it ever was.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Occam's Razor

After a childhood nurtured by the Methodist Church as it was incarnated in Raleigh, NC during the era of racial segregation, I went off to UNC-Chapel Hill. My first year I started handing out pamphlets for the Student Peace Union, a tiny group of students who wanted to "ban the bomb." This group eventually became local leaders in the civil rights movement in Chapel Hill, which reached a kind of climax when a sit-in was held in the Chapel Hill Chamber of Commerce.

I dropped out of school in the fall of '63, and happened to be riding between Durham and Chapel Hill when the radio gave out the news that Kennedy had been killed in Dallas. In December I was sitting on a park bench at the old Capitol Building in Raleigh watching a Klan Rally in full regalia march past, something I didn't know was going to happen. I'd just gone down there to look at the monuments to the Civil War and toss peanuts at the squirrels. When I went back to Chapel Hill for the Spring Term, I started my study of philosophy. Mostly, philosophers tend to deride religious thinkers as a muddled lot. And indeed, it is hard to see why God is required for the practice of a moral life. What does God add? And what does the carrot/stick approach of heaven or hell add to the moral choice. Isn't "doing good" because otherwise you'll "go to hell" a way of coercion rather than of encouraging moral action and principle. And if an action is coerced, isn't its morality thereby diminished, if not destroyed.

This is Occam's Razor in action. And as a matter of personal fact, I do believe Occam's Razor is the best touchstone. However, the other day, when I used a picture of Ganesh to head my post about the Affordable Care Act, the picture itself spurred me to find out a bit about Ganesh, the Hindu deity which was omnipresent as Libby strolled around Bangalore recovering from her eye surgery.

I found out a few things. A tiny few admittedly. If you want to go follow the way of Ganesh after reading this, you will have a long path. But here are the few things.

Ganesh is the deity who overcomes obstacles. In order to do this, Ganesh rides a mouse. Why? Because a mouse can go anywhere. Thus, Ganesh's mount makes his power pervasive. I ask you, I dare you. Apply Occam's Razor to this! And this wonderful fact is but the tiny first step. The best is next.

Where, you may ask, does Ganesh originate? The answer is most wonderful. Ganesh originated in Shiva's laughter.

Here is Ganesh dancing (one of Shiva's favorite activities). His mouse is at the bottom if you look carefully:

There is the poetic way of thought, and the mathematical. There is the appollonian and the dionysian. As Wittgenstein said, the world is all that is the case. Herr Ludwig said much more, but I'll stop there.