Friday, December 2, 2016

FAREWELL TO AN OLD FRIEND --

Today marks the anniversary of a sad day for our household because our beloved dog, Antar (named after the mythical Antar Ibn Shadad, the pre-Islamic desert warrior and poet), went to doggie heaven. It wasn't because of any of those debilitating diseases that dogs inevitably get. You see, Antar passed his fifteenth birthday on Valentine’s Day last. Because of his size—he weighed in at 72 pounds—he fell into that class of large breeds who have a life expectancy of no more than twelve years or so before being called to doggy heaven. But, the old boy defied the actuarial tables as he was 15 years and 4 months old at his passing.

IN BETTER DAYS

We knew the day was coming for the last four years even though we hated to think of it. Antar was with us since he was a puppy. When we moved in to our new house, he was given to us by one of the workmen whose dog had given birth six weeks before. My wife, Lorrie, who always claimed she was afraid of dogs, immediately fell in love with the frightened little fellow. And when she took him into her arms all her fears evaporated. Antar was the first dog we ever had.

As you might guess, we didn’t know anything about raising dogs, so we invested in a personal trainer to come by each week and teach us the basics of dog ownership. The thing we didn’t understand then was that we were truly making an addition to our little family—one that would require not only training, but love, care, and understanding.

Antar is a mixed breed—the trainer said he saw some Lab, Shepherd, and Ridgeback in the little guy. We immediately took our new child to a veterinarian to be checked out. We told Dr. Paul that Bob, who had given us this boy, said Antar wouldn’t grow to much over forty pounds. The vet took one look at Antar’s huge paws and said, “Bob lied.” Sure enough Dr. Paul was right and Antar soon began packing weight on to his expanding frame. By the time he was two, he weighed in at 92 pounds! Bob was off by more than a factor of two! The “big guy” was perpetually hungry. Initially, we went by the feeding program on the back of the dog food bag, and gave him upwards of six cups of chow daily, which he gladly scarfed up. Dr. Paul said we should only feed him once a day and also put him on an exercise program.

Thus began our daily walking routine. I decided it would be nice to take Antar for a walk around the lake—a distance of two miles. After we had gone a little over a mile, I noticed that the leash had gone taught. I turned to see the poor guy lying down, panting at a faster pace and showing no inclination to get up. “What have I done!” I panicked. The poor guy was tuckered out, so I knelt beside him and stroked his head while waiting for him to get his second wind. Well, he stopped three more times before we made it back home. When I told my wife what happened, the berating began and I thought I’d never hear the end of it. I took my companion down to the pool to let him cool off in the shallow end. When he got out he was completely rejuvenated and thus a ritual was born—a walk then the pool. It took only a week of daily walks around the lake for Antar to became completely conditioned to our exercise routine. Six months later when I took him to the vet for a checkup, his weight was down to 72 pounds!

Initially, I didn’t think it was a good idea to have a dog in the house all the time so I rigged up a long wire run to let Antar roam freely in the back yard. He didn’t like this arrangement one little bit, and let us know it by barking and whining incessantly. “He’ll get used to it,” I said. That’s how much I knew. He just wouldn’t stop, and to let me know how displeased he was with this arrangement, he dug a hole in my newly sodded lawn that looked like the beginnings of an escape tunnel to China. He made such a fuss that I had to abandon the experiment of making Antar an outdoor dog. I should have understood from this experience that I was not going to be the master in this relationship, but I continued to delude myself nonetheless.

I liked taking Antar with me when I had errands to run, and the weather was cool enough, because I observed from trips to the vet that he loved riding in the car. He very quickly learned to dash to the garage door whenever I said, “Want to go for a ride?” I think ride was one of the first words he learned. I’d put my buddy in the back seat and start down the road, giving the usual commands I’d learned from the trainer such as “sit” and “stay.” Inevitably we’d get about a block from the house before Antar decided he liked the front passenger seat better than the perch he’d been assigned in back. Believe me when I say there was no deterring him when he made such a decision. So, there he would sit, next to me, totally unperturbed at whatever discipline I dished out. When I got to my destination, I’d leave the windows open of course, make a dash in and out of the store and return to the car. Inevitably, when I returned, there was Antar sitting in the driver’s seat. “So, you’re going to drive me home, are you?” I’d ask, to an authoritative return stare. When he saw that I was going drive him around some more, he’d hop back over to the passenger side. I think he would have been perfectly happy riding around in a limousine with me dressed as a chauffeur.

Antar became our home guardian as well, and would start barking before we even knew someone was approaching the house. The doorbell sent him into paroxysms of woofing. This was his abode, he was its protector, and everybody within earshot would know it. Often, when I answered the door, the visitor was already half-way down the walk. That's how ferocious his bark was.

There were other things he did that were memorable, of course. I recall the time I had made a sandwich for lunch, got distracted to fetch a beer, and came back to find my culinary creation had disappeared. How he could reach up to the counter and snatch my sandwich without a trace I never knew. But, I had to break out in laughter as Antar cocked his head and presented me with his patented look of innocence.

Antar was loved by everyone who came to visit. Even the two feral cats that we've been feeding, always ran up to nuzzle our boy when we walked him outside. He pretended he didn't like it, but I think he really did.

In the last few years of his life, Antar couldn't bear to be away from his mistress, Lorrie. He would hop up and follow her everywhere. At night, he even came to the bedroom and commanded, with a bark, that she come out to the family room and stay with him. Thus they spent the last weeks of his life together.

ANTAR'S LAST DAY WITH US

So, I hope you can understand, and indulge me this last tribute to my best friend. Life wasn't fun for the big guy any longer. His rear legs had become enfeebled, and it was difficult to get him up to go outside. He would often even growl when I tried to help him, so it obviously wasn't pleasant for him either. Four weeks ago the vet suggested that we consider putting Antar "to sleep." My wife and I were extremely sad and said we'd think about it. I tried all sorts of prostheses to see if they would help. Alas, none of the doggie booties I bought worked. His pads had become so slippery that he could no longer walk on the tile floors without help. Thus the dreaded appointment was made for this morning. I cradled Antar's head in my lap as he took his last breath. I hope he didn't see our tears, for they flowed in unabated abundance.

The house is empty now. Goodbye dear friend we will miss you.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

I'm Bristling--Are You?

My word for today --

bristle, v. to become rigid with anger or irritation.

This is what happens to me whenever I hear that we Americans are defenders of democracy, or that we are sending our heroic youth to fight wars in other countries to defend our freedoms, or that brave men and women died to protect your right to protest or have free speech, etc. ad infinitum. Wake up people, you have continually lost freedoms with the emergence of a police state, perpetual wars and legislation to restrict activities such as protesting and boycotting (both forms of free speech).

Let's be honest, we send our youth to foreign lands to suffer and die in order to line the pockets of military contractors and support a huge defense industry--which has control over a vast majority of our politicians. Don't fall for the nonsense that our military is to be thanked for their service. They need to be awakened to the fact that they are pawns, fodder for a nation hooked on oppression of others for the sake of profits.

The incessant warnings by establishment politicians that we must protect ourselves from unseen threats, be vigilant, and ready to defend the homeland from "radicals," are being broadcast while our foreign policies (see link below) continue to replenish and increase the supply of these very same "radicals" through our incessant bombing and incitement of insurrections in several countries. It's a huge vicious circle whose justification is perpetuated by media propaganda and tolerated by a compliant public.

Are you bristling too? If not, you should be.

http://www.alternet.org/world/americas-coup-machine-destroying-democracy-1953

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

WHO WILL POLICE THE POLICE?


Somewhere along the way to our penchant for patriotic hero worship, the police have become conjoined with our military as objects of pride and admiration. A segment of our population has taken up the mantra, "Blue Lives Matter," largely to counter the "Black Lives Matter" movement. (Neglect the fact that "blue" is a choice but "Black" is not.) No matter how many or how egregious the actions of the police, many accompanied with damning videos, there are people who explain or condone what was done (especially grand juries).

How many times have you heard police apologists say, "Just obey the officer's commands, you'll be ok." Or, "When you encounter a policeman, be respectful and you won't get into trouble." The onus has been put squarely on John Q Public to behave lest he bring down the wrath of those who are sworn to protect and serve. Of course we have seen several examples where even the most compliant behavior results in tragedy.

So, the bottom line is that we must fear that our behavior will cause retribution by those who wear the badge and carry a gun. We see so many videos where an officer becomes enraged when his commands aren't obeyed—even in circumstances where a citizen is stopped for a minor offense. Don't question the police—they don't like it. Don't argue with the officer for he may react violently. It's a stressful job, don't you know?

Even in a routine traffic stop the police will say things like, "You don't mind if I search your car do you?" If you say no, you may be asked, "You aren't hiding anything are you?" Guilty until proven innocent when you insist on your Constitutional rights?
The police tell us they don't like being filmed while accosting "suspects." They have been videoed slapping phones out of people's hands, threatening bystanders not to record, and even assaulting those that do. "It deters them from doing their job," say their superiors. So, is it fair to ask, "What's the problem if YOU have nothing to hide?" Oh, it doesn't go both ways?

In the rush to heap accolades on the police and excuse their blatant disregard of human rights, mostly by white people/groups, the realization that their apologia is motivated by racism may not register with them. After all, it's not the unarmed white man who is getting taken down, beaten, tased and shot. So, the police must have their reasons, right? The offending law enforcers blatantly profile people of color, stopping them for a variety of reasons, including "looking them in the eye." Most of these "violations" would never be used against a white person. And all too many of these stops end horribly--and the officers' defense is that they were in fear for their lives.

Isn't it time that our lawmakers insist that the cops be reigned in and treat all citizens with respect? Let's get over the phony adulation we heap on police departments. And for all our sakes, we should insist that the "protect and serve" mantra must be obeyed.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

AMERICA UNDER SIEGE—IS THIS WHAT WE WANT?



Whenever another of these seemingly inevitable mass shooting occurs, there is a rush, mostly by vested interests, to place or deflect blame. The fault lies, we are told, either with gun proliferation, a deranged person, a security breach or even radical foreign ideologies--whose adherents we've allowed to run loose within our borders. Politicians, law enforcement and security pundits pollute the airways with their hackneyed opinions, trying to explain to us yokels what is really going on—and with no idea on how to stop it—except to make more war and kill more people.

The rush to judgment has narrowed in on one religion and the radicalization of its adherents. It doesn't seem to matter that the alleged shooter was not known to be a devout practitioner of Islam, or that he regularly imbibed alcohol and was most probably gay—both of which are heavily punished by the alleged culprit, ISIS.

What never seems to enter the conversation is why an American Muslim would ever become radicalized, if indeed that was the case. Unless you've been a recipient of long standing discrimination, you probably are incapable of understanding what effect such treatment has on a person's outlook on life and their reaction to such prejudice. 

To illustrate, when O.J. Simpson was on his famous televised car chase, African Americans lined the streets cheering him on. Do you really think they approved of murder, or loved OJ? Hardly. What they enjoyed was one of their own sticking it to the MAN (the police who regularly shot, beat and arrested them). Can you possibly imagine Muslims feeling the same way? Their MAN is bombing, invading, killing and oppressing their kind on a daily basis. Politicians have adopted Islam as their favorite whipping boy, blaming them for everything they choose to label terrorism (including fighting the invader on their own land). So, is it possible that a small fraction of those might harbor ill will and even be enticed to go over the edge and act out their frustration?

Understanding cause and effect does not equate to justification or approval of terrorism. We gladly prohibit drunk driving because of its potentially horrifying results. We have no problem discouraging smoking because of its established lung cancer link. And the list goes on. We don't, however, blame making war on Muslim countries for the creation of "insurgent" factions who resort to the only tools they have to fight the MAN. It never seems politically correct in America to say, "Stop killing Muslims and we might stop all this blowback."

How did we get to this point where American foreign policy dictates the bombing, invasion and toppling of all Middle Eastern regimes? It all began near the end of WWI with the Sykes-Picot Agreement and the Balfour Declaration. The betrayal, subdivision and control of the Arab nation was very significant in the first round of empire building, led by England and France. The second round, lead by the US, has now reached a climax—with the destruction and dismemberment of Afghanistan, Iran, Syria, Yemen and Libya (with Lebanon on the horizon). In the process we've created enough enemies to sustain, into the foreseeable future, funding for the military/industrial complex and the homeland security apparatus. It is inescapable that US policy has close congruence with that of Israel, making one believe that the tail is indeed wagging the dog. It is no secret that Israel wishes to see all its neighbors in turmoil so they can never be a credible threat to them.

The America in our future is already adopting the siege mentality of Israel. In that country, non-Jewish travelers (especially Palestinians and peace activists) coming into the country are subjected to onerous questioning about their relatives, beliefs and purpose of their visit. They are regularly placed in detention, passwords to electronic devices demanded and snooped into, and in many cases they are denied entrance and deported. If Donald Trump has his way, Muslims will get the same treatment they now receive in Israel. Is this the American freedom that terrorists so despise? I doubt it.

So, what must America do to prevent the radicalization of its Muslim citizens? Here's a novel idea—STOP KILLING THEM!

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

DON'T FALL FOR PUNDITS' TACTICS



Most people don't take note of the trickery used by media "experts" when expounding on their latest political prognostications. What these so-called experts do could be classified as sleight of hand as they try to recover from their latest erroneous pontifications. In the cool light of day, these seers do a great job of predicting the past. They are so often wrong that fulfill the requirement for the logical fallacy of appealing to misplaced authority.

But the tactics these "pundits" use are mostly overlooked as they get listeners to accept a host of "facts," as if they are uncontested facts. These axioms usually buttress their latest prognostications. Take as an example the run-up to the ill-advised Iraq war. Just about every assertion of its merits was preceded by a discussion of the possession of WMDs—until it was universally accepted by the listener that just having such instruments of annihilation was ample cause for preemptive war. And, even though most "experts" have been duly castigated for leading us into an unjust and now protracted conflict, the notion remains that if Iraq had WMDs the invasion would have been totally justified. The outcome, unfortunately, would be just the same. We'd still be mired in an intractable never-ending conflict, WMDs or not. Also, no one seems to want to discuss the fact that many countries (especially the US) possess such weapons and we have no interest, stated or implied, to invade them. In other words, that justification is so totally subjective as to be entirely false.

Another example of this hewing to a false narrative occurred when John McCain was running for president in 2012. At one of his campaign stops, a lady said she didn't like Obama because he was an "Arab." McCain got huge plaudits for taking the mic and announcing that Obama wasn't an Arab but a decent family man. What was left hanging in the air was the notion that being "Arab" would be a legitimate disqualifying factor. McCain should have pointed out that in our country the election of any candidate for any office does not require an ethnicity litmus test. His response was hardly deserving of the accolades he received.

In the current presidential campaign we are continually reminded that Hillary Clinton is the most experienced candidate in the running. She has this fantastic resume that includes first lady, senator and secretary of state. Implicit in this largely uncontested statement is that the mere holding of high positions qualifies one as having great experience. Compare this with George W Bush's resume, a man who widely ranks among America's worst presidents. He was elected Governor of Texas, and president, twice. I doubt the same people who tout Hillary's "experience" would cede that W is more qualified simply by virtue of positions held.

Vastly more important than one's resume is a their performance in those jobs. And a closer look finds Hillary Clinton's accomplishments to be quite lacking. Even while first lady, Hillary insinuated herself in her husband's decision making, and she often got it wrong. Thus it is fair to hold her accountable for the crime bill that her husband signed, which caused a 60% upswing in incarcerations, mostly of the nation's non-white minorities. Add to that the debacle on Wall Street following repeal of Glass Stegal—which led to the nation's worst economic meltdown in history

As we well know, Senator Clinton voted for the Iraq War—something she now admits was a mistake. However, when she was running in 2008—nearly seven years later—she defended that decision. As secretary of state, Clinton seemed to revel in her globe-hopping as if the number of frequent flyer miles and capitals visited qualified as "great experience." In fact, she had no positive effect on the situation in Iraq or Afghanistan, despite the chilling experience of "running for cover" from a mythical attack after landing in Bosnia. She vigorously supported the deposing of Syria's Assad and for providing military aid to questionable rebel groups. Her emails clearly reveal that she was more intent on following Israeli policy and having the country become fragmented. This strategy resulted in thousands killed and created millions of refugees who are now inundating Europe.

Clinton's adventures in Libya reveal a woeful misunderstanding of the dynamics of that country's uprising, and her meddling has left yet another failed state in her wake—with the concomitant number of fatalities and emergence of terrorist groups.

So, should we accept the prima facie notion that this candidate has great experience—as the media would have us do? After all, the pundits know what they're talking about—don't they?

Thursday, April 7, 2016

BOTH POITICAL PARTIES PROMOTE THE STATUS QUO



In gearing up to halt any late surge by presidential candidate Bernie Sanders, traditional Democrats supporting Hillary Clinton are resorting to tactics that mimic the Republican attempt to stop Trump.

As an example, many Republicans have stated that Trump is not really a Republican but a Johnny-come-lately who is masquerading as a conservative. This contention is supported by photos of 
him cozying up to Democrats such as Hillary herself. On the other side, Clinton has claimed that Sanders isn't really a Democrat, pointing to his Independent status as proof. She, however, claims to have been a Democrat all her adult life—meaning that her campaigning for Barry Goldwater was a childhood infatuation. Reporters should have asked Hillary to define "adult" because she was an active Republican until after she turned twenty-one. Perhaps she matured late because anyone who has turned eighteen is legally considered an adult.

Another example of this tactic is how Donald Trump is roundly castigated for being out of the "mainstream," i.e. bucking the establishment." He will destroy the Republican Party many partisans complain. His ideas, such as making our allies pay for their own defense, is "pie in the sky." On the Democratic side, Bernie Sanders is roundly booed for being a "Socialist," whatever that means. And the media, which exhibits a biased view in the matter, continues to mention this "flaw" at every opportunity—even going so far as to predict that a "Socialist" has no chance of being elected president in these United States.

Clinton, for her part, often mentions Sanders' policies as being un-implementable while pointing out that there is a vast difference between promises and actually getting things done. In particular "free college" and breaking up the large banks are not going to happen. Her supporters took up this clarion call and derided the notion that anything worth anything was free. Once Sanders' idea took root, Clinton softened her stance and began talking about "free" Community Colleges. In fact, free education existed for nearly a century after federal land-grant colleges were first established in 1862. The radical rise in education costs is a relatively modern, post WWII phenomenon.

Finally, Trump's opponents mention the lack of higher education as an identifier of his supporters (alluding to a low IQ). Opinion polls soon began emphasizing the education levels and ages of the electorate to emphasize this point. Clinton supporters similarly pointed out that Sanders' supporters were mostly young people who were naive and "uninformed" about the political process. They were being taken in by a lack of understanding of "how politics works." So, given that you can't really change things, don't bother trying, it's a fool's errand. Both sides refuse to acknowledge that these candidates are capitalizing on a general disaffection with politics as usual—e.g., the STATUS QUO.

Establishment Republicans and Democrats are deathly afraid that their ability to manipulate the system that has served them so well might be destroyed if these types of candidates are permitted to be taken seriously. Perhaps it is time to destroy the old system and begin anew.