Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Response to a list of questions...

A brief response to friend 
Theresa Ann Aleshire Williams

1. What do you absolutely love in life?

My husband, friends, travel, philosophy, writing, reading, art, music, good film, and nature.

2. What are your greatest accomplishments in life so far?

My teaching and whatever influence I've had on others, my writing, published or not, my Doctorate in philosophy as indication of my love of philosophy, the love I've shared with others, and my photography. 

(College days) 

3. What would you stand for if you knew no one would judge you?

What I stand for now, equality of opportunity and civil liberties, a fairer economy for all, pacifism, universal education and healthcare. Polyamory. Protection of the environment. 

4. If your life had absolutely no limits and you could have it all and do whatever you wanted, what would you choose to have and what would you choose to do?

I'd provide a commune of sorts for friends and kindred spirits, a Garden of Epicurus for thinkers, writers, artists and others who prefer a life different from the norm. I'd love to have shared homes in several countries, but starting with Big Sur and the Big Island of Hawaii, and possibly Seattle. I would travel with others as long as possible.

(Painting by Larry Connatser) 

5. What would you do if you had one billion dollars? 

Establish the above goals. Give to good causes.

6. Who do you admire most in the world? 

Living or dead? Or does that matter? I admire the Dalai Lama, I admire good writers, living and dead. I admire Simone de Beauvoir and her lover Jean-Paul. I admire great acting and therefore many good actors including one who is a life-long friend. I admire many poets. I admire most those who have made the earth, society, culture, and life better than they found it.

Joseph Mydell as Casca
in the RSC production of Julius Caesar



Thursday, July 28, 2016

Thoughts on viewing the Democratic Convention

Ask me. Ask me if I am glad I watched every major speech tonight. Has there ever been a greater contrast between the hate and doom of last week and the sheer inspiration and vision of those who spoke tonight? With this sort of inspiration, intelligence, and compassion, Hillary will win as she deserves to win-- by a landslide. Of course the media are already busy with their idiotic narrative about how close the polls are. They focus on dissension just as Sanders claimed. When MSNBC singled out a disappointed Bernie supporter to show that some Bernie delegates remain Bernie or Bust, contrary to everything he said tonight, it became obvious how all the news networks want disharmony and fighting rather than unity. I'd go so far as to say one reason the two major parties are so at each other's throats is because of media exaggeration. I switched off the T.V. We need sane, honest news reporting that isn't based on ratings and profits. Accolades to Michelle Obama, Elizabeth Warren, and Bernie Sanders, all of whom gave such beautiful, honest, moving speeches. Read them. Listen to them. They are among the best the country has produced.

Of course, it is easy and noble-sounding to support the positions of  Cornel West and Jill Stein. It reminds me of Ted Cruz: Vote your conscience. Those who have the luxury of being unaffected directly by a Trump presidency can fill themselves with self-congratulation and pride for holding to their high-minded principles. If they once liked Bernie Sanders, they now ignore his wisdom and his warnings. 

People who vote for candidates they know have no chance of winning are nihilists. Ecological destruction, no health care, the erasure of any minimum wage, tax breaks and no regulation for the oil companies, what do those things matter to people who already have well-funded incomes, paid healthcare, and a big following because they are so good at attacking what they call the status quo? Voting for the better candidate would not force them to cease criticism, or in any way diminish their message. They could work for Green Party candidates for the House or Senate, for Green officials at the state level. But that doesn't seem to move them. They would rather get on news programs and attack. Damn the consequences. Theirs is not about improving the country; their attacks are about bringing on the most horrible outcome imaginable. They share with the far right a hunger for the apocalypse. They share a kind of religious fervor that ignores the plight of millions and refuses to heed the intelligent reasons Sanders and Elizabeth Warren gave so eloquently for voting for Hillary Clinton. If they are not convinced now, they will never be. Stop lauding these stubborn nihilists and their willful attempt to take us back to the Bush years and worse. In my view, such people are far worse than the Trump fanatics who don't know better. Rip off their masks of progressive ideals and reveal the ideologues and self-righteous egos underneath.


Sunday, July 24, 2016

What a Mask tells Us

(from Wikipedia)

"Man is least himself when he talks in his own person. Give him a mask, and he will tell you the truth."

So said Oscar Wilde.

On the other hand, James Baldwin wrote,  "Love takes off the masks we fear we cannot live without and know we cannot live within."

Masks  conjure up Mardi Gras for me. The mask gives one anonymity, a sense of escaping from habit, routine and normal identity. We are free to be our Wilder selves, even if temporarily.

Detail, Picasso Lithograph

What Baldwin is recognizing is that normalcy and the routine self are themselves masks, invisible masks, perhaps, that hide our deeper selves, our true identity that society would reject or condemn. The great danger is that the mask may become fixed.

Both men were bisexual. Even more than those who identify as gay, bisexuals feel pressure to pretend to lean this way or that, and cover up half of themselves, especially if they marry. 

Wilde and Baldwin knew that in many situations bisexuals must live in pretense. For Baldwin, love required taking off the masks of social identity, of being naked, physically and spiritually with another. 

Wilde, being a man of the theater, realized how role playing might actually reveal real character. He knew the power of masks, the danger of masks. In a way his wit was his undoing. The trial court and opportunistic low-life witnesses ripped off his mask of respectability. We get not only the truth of the anonymous power of wearing a mask, but also the irony that the mask reveals the hidden identity underneath, an exposure that, in Victorian England, could be fatal.

Jack, July 2016

Friday, July 01, 2016

Journey to the Northwest

“Of all the fire mountains which like beacons, once blazed along the Pacific Coast, Mount Rainier is the noblest.”  --John Muir  

Mt. Rainier
(Photo I made from the trail)

Flight: Thanks to Lyft, we were able to get a ride to ATL for only $6. With a TSA pre-check we were able to go through security in less than 5 minutes. We had breakfast and our flight was on time. We arrived 5 hours later and  a young man with crystals on his dashboard drove us to the Foxglove for less than $20.

The view of Mt. Rainier from our flight.

Foxglove: The Foxglove Guest house was our comfortable, fragrant home while we were in Seattle--Perched on Capitol Hill in a neighborhood filled with lovely homes and gardens in abundance. Nearby 15th Ave offered us restaurants and grocery stores. Our host, John, welcomed us and showed us around the house, filled with Stickley-like furniture. Our room at the top had open skylights and open windows to let in the clean, cool Seattle breeze. The morning breakfast spread of fruit, cheeses, pastries, and granola; the classical music; the fire taking away the morning chill; the newspaper; the art of the Northwest; and the flowers were all a delight. It was a great room for sleep and for reading, Darryl reading aloud to me of some of the travel observations of Mark Twain.


Smith: Recommended by our host, John, Smith provided Darryl and me our first restaurant meal. I had the beet salad and Dar had carrot risotto. Naturally, we heard a song or two by The Smiths (listen). The sound system, the choice of music, and the open cafe to the Seattle breezes were refreshing.

    SMITH (click)

Wolfgang and Sebastian enjoy their Guinness

We also had our final meal there with Wolfgang and Sebastian. In fact, we had almost every dinner together, the four of us...

Bainbridge Is. Among the things we did in Seattle were a visit to the Pike Place Market and a boat ride to Bainbridge Island on a gorgeous sunny day.

We also hiked through the downtown area with its fine art and architecture.

Adam by Botero. Article (click)

For dinner, Darryl discovered Café Presse, a French Restaurant. We had Croque Monsieur of course, wine, and sirloin. From the corner of Madison and 12th we walked up Broadway, ready for Gay Pride with rainbow streets, music, and plans for a parade. 
I bought a rainbow bow tie. 

Wolfgang wore it to the Coffee Shop we stopped at for espresso.

Undoubtedly, the highlight of the journey to the Northwest was

Mount  Rainier.

The Paradise Lodge was built in 1916. The craftsmanship from 100 years ago is evident in the architecture and the furnishings, including the lamps and fireplaces.

Trails lead from the lodge up to Mt. Rainier itself. We hiked a few. Others, in gear, headed farther up, possibly to the summit.

Trails also provided us with the trials of walking on snow. There is nothing like finding your footing on wet snow in 80 degree sunshine. Weather in both the National Park and in Seattle was ever-changing and a refreshing relief from the stagnant, humid heat of Atlanta.

If anything could make a Hell of this Heaven, recall Sartre who said "Hell is other people." There were too may spoiled brat children, too many cars, too many thoughtless adults from all over the world. The reactions they had on one trail upon seeing, then photographing,  a poor marmot,  reminded me of the news story I read of people taking selfies of themselves and a young dolphin somewhere. They killed it by holding it and keeping it out of the water, no doubt terrifying it. The noise from a crying baby next to our room drove me to ask for a room across the hall on our third night.

Fortunately, there were less people around on Monday when we hiked the Grove of the Patriarchs. Darryl and I had taken Mom there in the 1990s and she loved the forest and hugged the trees. The Douglas Firs, Hemlocks, and Red Cedars tower almost as high as Redwoods and are up to 1000 years old.

The food in the dining hall where we had a breakfast buffet with waffles made to order, and where we dined on Pacific Salmon at night, was expensive but worth it.

As I said above, we moved rooms which gave us spectacular views first, of Mt. Rainier and then, the Tatoosh Range 

Dawn, from my bed.

At night I was able to see from our window in our first room Mt. Rainier lit by the moonlight of a waning late night Moon. The Big Dipper hung to the left of the Mountain. At dawn, the sunlight on Rainier was dazzling. In the second room on the third night, I saw the Scorpion. The brilliant constellation of Scorpio floated over the Tatoosh Range, and the shimmering Milky-Way stretched all the way from Sagittarius  to Cassiopeia.


Chief Seattle
Pioneer Square

We returned to Seattle, a 3 hour drive, to our familiar Foxglove. John had allowed us to take our keys and we simply let ourselves back into our rooms around 1 P.M. Wolfgang and Sebastian went to the Space Needle and its glorious views on a fine, clear day. I walked to Volunteer Park with its stunning Noguchi sculpture through which I saw the Space Needle where my friends were. I took my time strolling the neighborhood with its elegant homes, each with a garden in full bloom.

Then I joined Darryl at Smith for a Negroni. We made reservations for our final dinner for four.

Our Flight Home was as easy as the flight to Seattle. Lyft took us effortlessly to the airport in no time for a low fare. Our TSA pre-check got us through security in under 5 minutes. We shared lunch and boarded the sold-out flight. To pass the four hours, we watched the entertaining film,  Deadpool, on the seat monitors, simultaneously. Lyft brought us home.

An Album of our Photographs Here. (click)

Music for viewing our photographs of Mt. Rainier:

Concluding thought:

So, what does a sojourn in the Pacific Northwest do for the psyche? Hiking the trails of Mt. Rainier, an overwhelming magnificence, made me aware that even a mountain, so monolithic, is alive, that it could erupt into an explosion of lava and ash that would devastate millions of lives. The progressive, accepting diversity of Seattle made me feel at home in it's garden neighborhoods, rainbow streets, and lush parks. The Mountain and the forests gave me a calm hard to imagine in crowded, bustling, road-rage prone Atlanta. It will take me a while to participate in many of the current events FB threads, and the tedious news stories that go on and on like a CNN loop of horror. The Northwest has given me serenity, ataraxia, to use a term from Epicurus, essential to my existence. Even as I return to the routines of life in Georgia, Mt. Rainier grounds me. The perspective from the city of Seattle and from the national park provides aesthetic distance, a vision that is nourishing. Our stay in the Northwest also made me appreciate the love and friendship I have. We all shared a sacred time of harmony and camaraderie.

Jack, Summer of '16

(Photo by Wolfgang)

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Party Time

Wouldn't it be great if the U.S.-- like countries around the world -- had multiple parties rather than just two? Multiple parties can bring focus to otherwise ignored causes and ideas. Today, for instance, the Libertarian Party is calling for the legalization of marijuana and an end to the absurd  "War on Drugs." The Libertarians are also anti-war and against U.S. over-involvement in world conflicts. They are not, alas, for gun control.

Yet political parties in the U.S. never have a chance against the major two parties; and all attempts to win at the national level have failed. Only by building a new party from the ground up, electing local representatives, building a party from local supporters, will any new party succeed. 

Sometimes, when the country is at a major crossroad, those on the far Left as well as on the Right decide against supporting one of the two parties. This happened in 2000 when supporters on the Left of Ralph Nader refused to compromise. Their voting for Nader, especially in NH and FL, made Bush's rise to power possible. Furthermore, the Nader attacks on Al Gore himself undermined his support and convinced potential Democrats to abandon him or stay at home during the election. Nader directly contributed to Gore's unjust defeat and this was tragic. 

One major reason ISIS exists is because self-righteous Leftists, like some Bernie fanatics now, voted for Nader and attacked Al Gore. Had Bush not been President there would have been no Iraq Invasion, no ISIS, no refugee crisis, and a far better, healthier planet environmentally. But Leftist extremists are so much Holier than the rest of us. Fuck the planet if it means compromising those high and mighty principles. There will be only 2 candidates in November and choosing to stand on the sidelines as bigots and fools vote for Trump is more immoral for the educated and intelligent than for those who do not see what horrors would await us under a Trump presidency.

Let me repeat this point: Those who stand on the sidelines or vote for a party other than the major two, when so much is at stake, allowing bigots and fools to choose for them, is more immoral for those with education and intelligence than those who don't even see the horrors that someone like Trump would bring.


God, Guns, Gays and the Need for Compassion

The Eiffel Tower glowing in solidarity with the murdered victims of Orlando

This new century puts us all in touch with global reality as never before. Today, it is impossible to develop a sense of self, a sense of morality, a sense of reality, without taking into account the world around us. We are, so to speak, trapped in a web of mindsets, attitudes, points of view, catastrophic happenings, and world philosophies. 

A Muslim man enters a gay bar in Florida and mercilessly murders fifty people, wounding fifty-three more. Around the world within hours come reactions of every sort from horror to empathy, to sorrow, to celebration and approval. All of us who take in this act are confronted with thoughts about God, thoughts about guns, thoughts about being gay. There is a more powerful mindfulness engulfing us than there has ever been. We are unable to retreat into our own private spaces any longer. With mass killing machine-guns virtually handed out to every moron and maniac, encouraging violence and hatred, it is no wonder that terrorists of all kinds are filling us with fear. Evil has invaded the Garden of the Finzi-Continis.  Much as I wish it were otherwise, my own dream of a Garden of Epicurus is shattered. 

Is it possible that so many different cultures are able to live in peace with one another? Is it possible when religions clash with individual values to reconcile them? For thousands of years the answer has been a resounding NO. Religious fanaticism and dogma have been mixed with greed and power to oppose, to bend, to insist on conformity of minorities and groups of people who live outside the established norms and rules. "Love conquers Hate," is the motto of so many hopeful, kind, tolerant people. So far, there is insufficient evidence of this essential truth.

Nelson Mandela said: 
"No one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin, or his background, or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite."

Therein lies the need to foster compassion. Bring forth, nurture, instill, cultivate Compassion for others in children. Oppose greed, selfishness, and dogma which belittle any group or minority. Do away with religious laws that call acts of love, or actions that hurt no one else, abominations. Cease promoting guns that are weapons of mass destruction. Peace, kindness, equality, and diversity are virtues we need to praise early and often. 

This is what I want to believe, that compassion is more fundamental to our nature than selfishness, greed, and hatred. What a mountain we must climb to prove it.

Gay Pride Month

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

The Power of Propaganda

This is the most damning 20 minute attack on Hillary Clinton that I have seen. Is it propaganda? Of course; look at how the brief clips jump the decades and select out-of-context quotes. That is not to say there is no truth here; rather that there are truth and lies cleverly blended and slanted for Bernie against Hillary. Had it widely appeared in January, HRC would have had to deal with it and do some serious explanation or refutation of the charges. There is much left out about Bernie's own support for regime change, as well. But I see clearly from this short video just where the hate comes from, how Bernie supporters are so angry and on the point of violence as the convention nears. The message on this video is not one I buy, as well made and clever as it is. It shows the brilliance of Jon Stewart. It also makes more possible the Trump takeover of the country. Someone with the know-how should take on this damnation of Hillary with a video that is just as good a rebuttal. It has not convinced me of much of anything other than that it is volatile and dangerous. It shows how damaging and powerful propaganda can be. Nader appears, arrogant as always, taking no blame for anything but eager to cast it on Democrats. We should all hope Bernie does not put on Nader's hollow crown.
demopocalypse jon stewart comes out of retirement - watch this video, or you can download it here.
Jack Miller It is astounding how well propaganda can work with distortion. I watched the debate from which the long clip from Bernie was taken where he makes the case against regime change. Hillary Clinton's reply should be shown as well; but of course it isn't, as if she is unaware of his simplistic and oft repeated recitation. Bernie actually did vote for regime change and for other bills he attacks her for supporting. The charges against the Clinton Foundation are also skewed and leave out way more than they include. If anything the video makes me more inclined to vote for her, not less; but it does reveal to me the virulent source of all the Hillary hate out there. This is journalism gone awry, used not to give an honest view, but to put one candidate on a pedestal while smearing his opponent. I watched it carefully twice and I find it shameful in its slander, not unlike that of videos produced in totalitarian states.
LikeReply4 hrsEdited
Jack Miller If you want no involvement with the Middle-East, no interference with the struggles of other countries, the Libertarian Party is what you are looking for, perhaps. Of course the sad truth is that a huuuge percentage of the electorate is indifferent, gullible, easy to manipulate and persuade with the sophisticated advertising methods now in use. Think how quickly Trump has gone from being a joke to having the support of almost half of those being polled. Extremists of all stripes and spots latch onto slogans they want to hear; just push their buttons. Plato saw it all 2500 years ago and warned us what comes next.

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Trust Hillary

Mirror, Mirror, on the wall,
Who's most honest of them all?

Do you realize how many articles have been written about who is most corrupt and who is most trustworthy of the 2016 candidates? The very liberal and trustworthy The Guardian has a long, well-documented article on the fact that Hillary is less a liar than any other candidate (see below). Bernie makes great points; but he is not exempt from the same sorts of charges made against Hillary. I'm not thrilled about our system; but I do know it could be far worse. The power of the Republicans in Congress and the tie on the Supreme court should be part of any consideration we make. Most voters really don't care that much and just shrug when you mention corruption or the influence of oil companies, corporations, and Wall Street. I am glad Bernie has attacked the system; but making it much worse is not the change we need. Look at the history of the presidency and you see plenty of corruption and the rule by special interests. Change has to come from the bottom up. Didn't Bernie himself say that? We need to support Green and progressive candidates at the local level; create a less corrupt alternative in Congress and state politics. Despite all the attacks on Hillary, despite her seeming acceptance of much of the unsavory aspects of U.S. politics, she has also done much good, especially in domestic policy. If we keep focusing only on the negative, we are going to end up with a president who would make Bush look like a liberal hero. Have we already forgotten what Trump said about torture? The nasty put downs of women? the Cruz religious fanatics he would choose for the courts? We need to focus on him now, instead of bashing Hillary Clinton

It’s impossible to miss the “Hillary for Prison” signs at Trump rallies. At one of the Democratic debates, the moderator asked Hillary Clinton whether she would drop out of the race if she were indicted over her private email server. “Oh for goodness – that is not going to happen,” she said. “I’m not even going to answer that question.”
Based on what I know about the emails, the idea of her being indicted or going to prison is nonsensical. Nonetheless, the belief that Clinton is dishonest and untrustworthy is pervasive. A recent New York Times-CBS poll found that 40% of Democrats say she cannot be trusted.
For decades she’s been portrayed as a Lady Macbeth involved in nefarious plots, branded as “a congenital liar” and accused of covering up her husband’s misconduct, from Arkansas to Monica Lewinsky. Some of this is sexist caricature. Some is stoked by the “Hillary is a liar” videos that flood Facebook feeds. Some of it she brings on herself by insisting on a perimeter or “zone of privacy” that she protects too fiercely. It’s a natural impulse, given the level of scrutiny she’s attracted, more than any male politician I can think of.

I would be “dead rich”, to adapt an infamous Clinton phrase, if I could bill for all the hours I’ve spent covering just about every “scandal” that has enveloped the Clintons. As an editor I’ve launched investigations into her business dealings, her fundraising, her foundation and her marriage. As a reporter my stories stretch back to Whitewater. I’m not a favorite in Hillaryland. That makes what I want to say next surprising.
Hillary Clinton is fundamentally honest and trustworthy.
The yardsticks I use for measuring a politician’s honesty are pretty simple. Ever since I was an investigative reporter covering the nexus of money and politics, I’ve looked for connections between money (including campaign donations, loans, Super Pac funds, speaking fees, foundation ties) and official actions. I’m on the lookout for lies, scrutinizing statements candidates make in the heat of an election.
The connection between money and action is often fuzzy. Many investigative articles about Clinton end up “raising serious questions” about “potential” conflicts of interest or lapses in her judgment. Of course, she should be held accountable. It was bad judgment, as she has said, to use a private email server. It was colossally stupid to take those hefty speaking fees, but not corrupt. There are no instances I know of where Clinton was doing the bidding of a donor or benefactor.
As for her statements on issues, Politifact, a Pulitzer prize-winning fact-checking organization, gives Clinton the best truth-telling record of any of the 2016 presidential candidates. She beats Sanders and Kasich and crushes Cruz and Trump, who has the biggest “pants on fire” rating and has told whoppers about basic economics that are embarrassing for anyone aiming to be president. (He falsely claimed GDP has dropped the last two quarters and claimed the national unemployment rate was as high as 35%).
I can see why so many voters believe Clinton is hiding something because her instinct is to withhold. As first lady, she refused to turn over Whitewater documents that might have tamped down the controversy. Instead, by not disclosing information, she fueled speculation that she was hiding grave wrongdoing. In his book about his time working in the Clinton White House, All Too Human, ABC’s George Stephanopoulos wrote that failing to convince the first lady to turn over the records of the Arkansas land deal to the Washington Post was his biggest regret.

The same pattern of concealment repeats itself through the current campaign in her refusal to release the transcripts of her highly paid speeches. So the public is left wondering if she made secret promises to Wall Street or is hiding something else. The speeches are probably anodyne (politicians always praise their hosts), so why not release them?
Colin Diersing, a former student of mine who is a leader of Harvard’s Institute of Politics, thinks a gender-related double standard gets applied to Clinton. “We expect purity from women candidates,” he said. When she behaves like other politicians or changes positions, “it’s seen as dishonest”, he adds. CBS anchor Scott Pelley seemed to prove Diersing’s point when he asked Clinton: “Have you always told the truth?” She gave an honest response, “I’ve always tried to, always. Always.” Pelley said she was leaving “wiggle room”. What politician wouldn’t?
Clinton distrusts the press more than any politician I have covered. In her view, journalists breach the perimeter and echo scurrilous claims about her circulated by unreliable rightwing foes. I attended a private gathering in South Carolina a month after Bill Clinton was elected in 1992. Only a few reporters were invited and we sat together at a luncheon where Hillary Clinton spoke. She glared down at us, launching into a diatribe about how the press had invaded the Clintons’ private life. The distrust continues.
These are not new thoughts, but they are fundamental to understanding her. Tough as she can seem, she doesn’t have rhino hide, and during her husband’s first term in the White House, according to Her Way, a critical (and excellent) investigative biography of Clinton by Jeff Gerth and Don Van Natta, she became very depressed during the Whitewater imbroglio. A few friends and aides have told me that the email controversy has upset her as badly.

Like most politicians, she’s switched some of her positions and sometimes shades the truth. In debates with Sanders, she cites her tough record on Wall Street, but her Senate bills, like one curbing executive pay, went nowhere. She favors ending the carried interest loophole cherished by hedge funds and private equity executives because it taxes their incomes at a lower rate than ordinary income. But, according to an article by Gerth, she did not sign on to bipartisan legislation in 2007 that would have closed it. She voted for a bankruptcy bill favored by big banks that she initially opposed, drawing criticism from Elizabeth Warren. Clinton says she improved the bill before voting for passage. Her earlier opposition to gay marriage, which she later endorsed, has hurt her with young people. Labor worries about her different statements on trade deals.
Still, Clinton has mainly been constant on issues and changing positions over time is not dishonest.
It’s fair to expect more transparency. But it’s a double standard to insist on her purity.