Thursday, February 26, 2015

The Coronation of Hillary


The argument that the two parties are the same is so tired and wrong. Be smug and superior and stay home and let the country go to Hell, right? Great. What difference does it make to the poor, the unemployed, the victims of war, those whose civil rights are trampled? Take a look at the records of Bernie SandersJohn Lewis and U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren; then tell me they are no different from Rick Perry! Get real. If you can elect a Green Party candidate or a socialist, fine. If not, please don't turn the country over to the Tea Party.
 (from a FB Thread)





Why on Earth should I support and vote for Hillary Clinton for President if she is the Democratic candidate in 2016? Is she not supported by corporations? Is she not too one-sided for Israel against the Palestinians? Has she not voted for war repeatedly while I am a pacifist? Doesn't she represent everything wrong with American Politics, it's dependency on money and polls, its deception, its continual crafty appeasement of special interests, its desire for power? Isn't Hillary no different from her husband, in the final analysis?

Oh yes, all those criticisms have truth and validity. There are plenty more we could make, too.

Whenever there is a presidential election in my country, I think of Plato's critique of Democracy.  The reason I think of it is because all the blatant flaws in democracy he discusses in his dialog from The Republic. Never was this more obvious than when we elected Ronald Reagan. Even an actor may become the leader in a democracy, Plato wrote. People are swayed by personality, false promises, the candidate's looks, the most absurd and empty traits of popularity. Sound bites trump substance. Watch the debates.

Then there is our economic system: capitalism. How great it would be for the country actively to support socialism, even the limited socialism of Bernie Sanders, or Scandinavia. But the vast majority think democracy means capitalism, that business checked or unchecked is good. The Democratic party is where our few true socialists reside. The Republicans are for unrestricted capitalist greed, especially that of the oil companies. 

Right now, the U.S.  electorate is ready for a woman president. Yes, there will be some who will say-- A woman yes; but not this one. But they are the minority. Hillary Clinton is the one who can win right now; and most of us know this. She will have to posture herself to meet the Platonic requisites of popularity and appearance; but she could win.

Hillary, in my view, is not "the lesser of two evils." She has stood for many positive causes in our society, notably Universal Healthcare. She is on the side of same-sex marriage as opposed to Republicans who are adamantly against it. She fights for voter rights rather than voter suppression. She has a favorable record on dealing with climate change. She would select Justices for the Supreme Court who do not believe corporations are people. Before you say she's the same as the Republican opponent in 2016, check her record  below against any of the likely Republicans:

Jack Miller


OnTheIssues.org

Hillary Clinton- http://www.ontheissues.org/hillary_clinton.htm

Jeb Bush-  http://www.ontheissues.org/Jeb_Bush.htm

All the Others: http://www.ontheissues.org/default.htm




Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Going North

Our Valentine's Stay 2015 at the Dillard House.

Bucolic Dillard Pasture





Welcomed by the horses.

Our stone Fireplace
View from our balcony
















The snow and sleet begin














Room with a view-from our window and porch...





Dining at the Dillard House on a summer stay (photo by Wolfgang)
--Jack 

Thursday, January 08, 2015

Holidays in New Orleans and Savannah 2014-2015

New Orleans and Savannah

The road to the Gulf-- Starr's Prius




Joseph Mydell and Alfred Corn: Georgia Actor; Georgia Poet...


Eight days into January and I feel at last that we are home and the holidays complete. The drive to New Orleans, especially the 8 hour return in the rain, wore us out; but did not diminish the fullness of culinary excess we experienced at Galatoire's Restaurant - New Orleans, the Gumbo Shop, Tujague's Restaurant, and especially Susan Spicer's Mondo. The art we saw, beginning in Atlanta with the Cezanne and post-Impressionists show and the exquisite photographs of Gordon Parks at the High Museum of Art, Atlanta, continuing with the Basquiat show at the Ogden Museum, and art galleries, continued on to Savannah, with the innovative interpretation of Dante's Divine Comedy (click) by several African artists. In New Orleans, Joe purchased a painting at the Antieau Gallery (click). We also visited Longue Vue House and Gardens where we saw and purchased some of the gorgeous jewelry of Mario Villas (click).





If food and art were themes of the holidays, so too was camaraderie. Despite Darryl's ducking into and hibernating in our luxurious suite at the Place D'Armes, there was much walking the Quarter, hearing music, and good conversation among Joe, Starr, KT, and me. Starr, Joe, and I took the St. Charles Streetcar uptown for a look at Tulane, Audubon Park, and the grand houses from the Garden District to the Camellia Grill, where we stopped for a late lunch or a piece of Coconut Cream Pie.
 
Starr and Joe on the
St. Charles Streetcar

In Savannah, Alfred Corn joined Joe, Effie, Darryl and me for walks downtown, a sort of VIP visit to the Flannery O'Connor Childhood Home, provided by Jane Fishman, and a stroll on the wind-swept beach by Dar, Alfred, and me-- before joining John for the traditional fresh shrimp at CoCo's Sunset Grille. Conversation was always lively, whether over a game of Scrabble or sitting on the Jasper House balcony having breakfast. On our walks, I pointed out Savannah's key houses and gave a few stories of clandestine trysts therein. On our final evening in Savannah, John, Joe, and I attended the classical performance at the Unitarian church featuring Effie and others. We followed the music with our own reception; then dinner at Vic's on the River.
[  Unitarian Universalist Church of Savannah ]

The concert this past Sunday was glorious, featuring pianists Sanford Jones & Marvin Keenze, soprano Stacey Stephens, & violinist Effie Mydell. What a warm and welcoming crowd we had, too - even with a tornado warning outside!


Unitarian Universalist Church of Savannah









Dad and Dar can Dance


John and Dar also joined me for a riverside get-together with Dad, now a doting 93.

 Darryl accompanied me to a celebration of Albion's Voice, where I spoke along with Bill Strong and former Mayor and activist Otis Johnson.

Connect Savannah published an account of the reunion:  http://www.connectsavannah.com/savannah/shouts-from-the-underground/Content?oid=2517150

For New Year's Eve, John, Alfred, and I walked to the river where, just as we set foot on the plaza near the Waving Girl, the fireworks show burst into action. 2015 has arrived.

Enjoy our  Photographs of our Holidays (click):
https://picasaweb.google.com/106057231025325213398/Holidays20142015
Christmas Day: Jackson Square and St. Louis Basilica



Saturday, December 06, 2014

After Rereading Herbert Marcuse

 
Meher Baba

Looking at the brown leaves yet dangling from near bare limbs against a dismal, foggy sky, cold mist clinging to everything, it is so clear that all our so-called holidays are but the perpetuation of consumerism, of putting ever more wealth in the hands of the rich, the controlling Oligarchy. What were long ago pagan celebrations of Nature, the equinox, the solstice, the changing of seasons, has been conveniently turned into the need to buy things. Thanksgiving-- we are the real turkeys, convinced we should say thanks for what little we have, our low pay, our debt, our need for cars and televisions, the fine feast we get a few times a year. Thankful for jobs working 40 or more hours a week, usually at meaningless drudgery that has no connection to the rest of our lives. We should say we are thankful to all those CEOs making billions and insisting that we work harder, thankful that in a month, we shall have just enough money to go out and buy stuff to give to everyone we care about, as if giving stuff were an expression of love. Look at what is happening in this country, the abusive police, the expanding military involvement, the strip mining and rape of the environment, the rejection of a decent minimum wage, the voter suppression... as we are distracted with sports on television. Amazing how prescient Marcuse was in 1964, just as LBJ was elected and offering us the Great Society-- half a century ago. And like a good, dazed, numbed, drugged citizen of the Oligarchy, I'll do my part, for irony, driving to the Big Easy for meals and friendship; then to Savannah for more. Or in the words of Meher Baba, "Don't worry; be happy!"

--Jack


Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Messiah President (Re-posted from August)


If only the rest of Congress consisted of representatives like mine, what a wonderful country this would be.
John Lewis

Every day intelligent people on the Left despair of war, poverty, and the destruction of our environment. Like me they see the waste and greed of capitalism unchecked and its keeping power through corrupt banking, a bad tax system, and the spending of the military-industrial complex. Because big money is needed to obtain office for most politicians, we end up with a puppet Congress, beholden to the corporations and a President who can only enact a bare minimum of legislation that benefits anyone but the already rich and powerful. Few liberals would disagree with this assessment. The question is what to do about it. Too many liberals are following the pied piper dreams of socialism and pacifism. They want a Messiah President to come and make everything good and righteous once more. Most forget that the closest we've ever had to such a leader is Jimmy Carter, who really did care about the poor and about humanity and the environment. But he dared to tell people to turn down their thermostats in the winter of their discontent. He dared to put solar panels on the White House. He was just too idealistic. We shall not see his like again. Presidents must be practical and that is the way it will stay. 2016 will offer us a so-called moderate Democrat, and a Republican who would give even more to the corporations, the oil companies, the war machine. meanwhile, this year, as liberals despair that Hillary is not one of them, the Republicans will overthrow what sanity is left in Congress by seizing control of the Senate. They will give us the absurdity of impeaching Obama two years before his term ends. That will allow them to increase "defense" spending, lay more polluting pipe lines, and fuck over the poor and the needy. The cruelest irony is that those on the Left who rant the most about inequality and war are, by their idealism and refusal to support the greater good that is electable, thereby bringing about the most destructive outcome imaginable. Perhaps Epicurus was right to see that the world is doomed, that the best we can do is to wall ourselves in with friends who are poets, artists, musicians, and philosophers as the Evil Empire burns.

Jack Miller
Posted by Jack Miller at Friday, August 29, 2014







Friday, November 07, 2014

American DNA


A new study reveals that Americans have the DNA of Neanderthals. 


In a stunning new examination of the brain makeup of Americans, scientists have discovered that the DNA of generations of immigrants who settled in America in the 18th and 19th centuries, as well as their descendants,  have taken on the characteristics and makeup of Neanderthal Man.


In research involving millions of test subjects, doctors were unable to explain how the DNA evolved more virulently in white males, seeming to alter their brain functions as they aged.

"It is as if the the DNA has become a virus," senior scientist Skinner Jung said when the results of the study were presented at Georgetown University. "Why the brains of white men are most affected is still a mystery."


Among other evolving traits of those stricken with what is now called the DNA virus is a restructuring of the skull and brain. "When the men acquire this alteration of their genes, they sometimes pass the viral DNA on to their spouses. This explains why unmarried women and lesbians have not become Neanderthals," Jung told an enthusiastic gathering at the presentation.

Sadly, no cure or way to prevent the Neanderthal Strain is possible at this time.

One particular white male who participated in the study brought some levity to the presentation by asking how Obama was still President when he and so many others like him voted Republican in the 2014 election.


Copyright:  Jack Off-center News Service. All content is unprotected.


Wednesday, November 05, 2014

Tsunami of Sludge


As Democrats who distanced themselves from Obama all lost, while a few who embraced Obama won, as in Hawaii, billionaires, banks,  bigots, fat cats, Big Oil, corporations, and the Pentagon took firm control of the nation. It would be easy to dismiss the election as unimportant and make jokes-- as Jon Stewart and others will, about the dreadful statements of Republicans. But the devastating result will soon be felt globally and will be undeniable. Man-made climate change will continue unabated. There will be more oil spills and pipe lines through pristine wilderness. There is a lesson here for progressives. Stop thinking there is a revolution at hand-- it's far more likely that the country will become even more radical right wing reactionary! 
God help us if the Republicans take the presidency in two years. I don't think most people have any idea how bad the election is for the country. As a white male I am appalled at white males. They have been essential to the win of legislators who oppose social security, oppose a living wage for the middle class and the poor, who want no national health care, who will not ratify any federal judges not firmly in the pockets of greed driven corporations. We have in power an ecstatic oligarchy, now more entrenched than ever. It won't end in 2016. It probably won't ever end as long as narrow-minded, greedy, and yes, stupid people form the majority. Remember, exit polls showed Americans support legalizing marijuana, support same sex marriage, are against war and involvement in the Middle-East, support a higher minimum wage, believe we should have higher Social Security payments, and disapprove of the Citizens United ruling. Then they voted Republican! 
As I've said all along, no Messiah President will save us and bring power to the people in 2016. Get real. Wake up. Smell the gas fumes! Hillary is the best hope to slow the descent into war and destruction of the planet and the dwindling middle class. And, sure, she too is among the Oligarchs. For the time being, give me a garden with a high wall to keep out the mindless zombies called the electorate.

Americans have spoken; they want the unholy trinity above to control the government. (BTW, This is close to what I was expecting to happen, but I had the fantasy that I was being too pessimistic.)

Jack, 11-4-14


Sunday, October 26, 2014

Religion


We mortals are composed of two great schools--
Enlightened knaves or else religious fools. 
--Abul 'Ala al Ma'arri 

It is very important to live in harmony and analyse where the opinion of the other lies. The best way to do this is to engage in dialogue, dialogue and dialogue.
--The 14th Dalai Lama

Photograph I made on our visit to
Istanbul

What is religion? The Oxford Dictionary offers us little help: "The belief in and worship of a superhuman controlling power, especially a personal God or gods." In order to begin a discussion of religion, the distinction has to be made between established and organized religion and personal religion which may or may not adhere to the tenets of a church, synagogue, mosque, temple, or shrine. There must also be some discussion of the relationship of a religion to its scriptures, its acknowledged sacred writings, and the body of work created by the revered leaders of the religion. The greatest problem in discussing religion exists in the equivocation of going from personal religion, to generally practiced religion, to shared beliefs of the majority of those practicing a religion, to the pronouncements of the officials and leaders of an established religion. The Bible, for instance, forbids eating shrimp. It would be ridiculous now to say that Christians, generally, condemn the eating of shrimp and find doing so to be abominable. 

There are, as I see it, two starting points for any essay on religion:   first, the views of skeptics, agnostics and atheists such as Abul ʿAla Al-Maʿarri, Karl Marx, Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchins, etc.; and second, the exploration of the meaning of what is sacred, in the vein of Mircea Eliade, Paul Tillich, Thomas Merton, Joseph Campbell, Ernst Cassirer, Susanne Langer, and one of my favorite novelists and philosophers,  Iris Murdoch. (click for an essay on her views on religion). I shall take up the meaning of the sacred.


         The Parthenon, Athens

If I were to ask what people hold sacred, I imagine I would receive a wealth of answers. There are sacred spaces or places many of us hold dear. For me they are many, the Parthenon in Athens, the Pantheon in Rome, Delphi, Tōdai-ji in Nara, the Blue Ridge Parkway, Kalani on the Big Island of Hawaii, homes I have inhabited, Big Sur, Mt. Rainier, to name a few. There are things I consider sacred; there are people I consider sacred. Does that mean I consider what I hold sacred to be holy or have some ultimate value beyond the value for me? When I find something to be sacred, I do not expect everyone else to appreciate it as such. The sacred is subjective, not objective, as I see it; even though thousands may share in holding a specific site holy.

              Dervish

Carl Jung, like Eliade, found the experience of the sacred to be universal in human kind. He wrote of and illustrated mandalas as an example. There are patterns of experience of the numinous we all share. For Jung, the experience of god as well as the sacred took form in his idea of the Collective Unconscious. Alfred North Whitehead, among others, attempted to comprehend god as a collective process. For most modern philosophers the idea of a personal god who acts like an individual is inconceivable. Jean Paul Sartre and his companion, Simone De Beauvoir, gave convincing arguments that traditional views of god as an individual who acts and influences world events are self-contradictory. 
That is not to say that holiness is meaningless. Art especially has the ability to embody the sacred. From the poetry of Rumi, the biblical Psalms, and the Hindu Mahabharata, to the paintings of DaVinci and the sculpture of Michelangelo, to the poetry of Keats and Yeats, from the paintings of Schiele to the music of Bach, the arts are for many of us sacred. There is a spiritual reality in the world, quality and value not definable by science alone.

       Huichol Jaguar

That being said, there is also the profane. By the profane, I do not mean the merely neutral, valueless entity or being, but rather that which negates the good and the sacred. It is impossible to discuss religion without discussing evil. Most religions have presented us with a path, a Tao, a means to a holy life, a way to enlightenment, or a code of conduct that will lead to some reward, whether in this life or in an afterlife. The path is always toward the good and away from evil, a path to avoid the temptations and pitfalls of life that might lead us astray. Evil need not be so blunt as Satan or host of devils, it can be something as seemingly innocuous as ignorance. In the Bhagavad Gita, a prince resists the call to war, not wanting to kill friends or relatives on the other side. Yet a deity, talking of immortality, convinces him to accept his caste, to become a warrior. How, we must ask, are we to know good from evil, right from wrong, correct action, noble endeavor, in the modern world.

"There is nothing either good or badbut thinking makes it so." --Hamlet 

My view is in accord with the existentialists that each of us must determine what is right or wrong subjectively. I am responsible for my acts. There is no one else to blame. When it comes to religion and society, however, how can we find consistency and guidance? My answer is to affirm what Eleanor Roosevelt, our first United States Ambassador to the United Nations, advocated and persuaded the U.N. to pass--
    (click)

    Rights override rites; that is, Human rights as outlined above must, in the eyes of justice and the law, outweigh acts in the name of religion or tradition that take away those rights. For it is in this arena that the most egregious evils take place. In the name of faith and God, the Inquisition burned so-called heretics and witches alive. The practice of burning witches continued for centuries. Christianity can never free itself from the shame of this atrocity, nor can it forget the mistreatment of Galileo and other scientists who spoke the truth against the absurdities of religion. The Crusades were no better. War in the name of religion is the true abomination. No theocracy should have the power to punish those who do not adhere to its religious mandates.



    Rose Window, Notre Dame

    Similarly, belief in a god or gods often leads those in power to assume that they know what god wants. Since many holy writings, like the Bible, the Koran, the Sutras, allow for interpretation, whether literal or allegorical, who has the authority to apply sacred texts? What if religious and cultural traditions lead to harm of others, or to destruction of the Earth and its animal inhabitants? Killing elephants and rhinoceroses come to mind. More devastating, climate change arises as a problem. Those who believe in an afterlife and in all-powerful gods may take destruction of the planet as unimportant. Religion has become in some cases adjusted to capitalism. The ethical problems go on and on.

    Today, there is a heated debate between those who support human rights, who are agnostic or atheists, and those who defend the basic traditions of religion. The former have singled out (always a questionable tactic) Islam as especially hostile to rights of women and minorities. Rather than cite both sides and whether this or that practice falls under the banner of Islam or not, the point I want to make is that there is no reasonable defense, religious or otherwise for the mistreatment of any class of people, whether women, children, gays and lesbians, or an ethnic minority. Nobel Prize winner, Malala Yousafzai, we consider a hero because she resisted mistreatment by a religious sect, and risked her life for the good of girls wanting an education.The Caste system is a violation of human rights, as Gandhi eloquently argued. Female genital mutilation cannot be defended in the name of religion or for any other tradition. Male circumcision, though far less serious, has nonetheless been called into question. All religions need reform and it does not matter at all which religion needs more reform than another. In the words of the 14th Dalai Lama, “If scientific analysis were conclusively to demonstrate certain claims in Buddhism to be false, then we must accept the findings of science and abandon those claims.” The same enlightened response must attend ethical analysis based on human rights. 




  1. Church in winter, Santa Fe
  2. One other criticism of religion is that established religions have become tools for those in power to stay in power, to lull the masses into behavior that benefits the state and its leaders, and give them false hope for an afterlife. Marx's perceptive analysis of how capitalism in particular does this is devastating. That religion is co-opted and misused for power rather than love or whatever other good motives initiated the religion, does not negate the religion; but it gives us all good reason to ask who speaks for the religion and to what end.


    To conclude on an uplifting note, look at a few more artistic achievements directly resulting from religion. All the photographs on this page are by Darryl or by me:







  3. Tōdai-ji
  4. Search Results

      Triton

      The Alhambra


      Notre Dame

      Stonehenge
      The Pantheon

      Mosaic, Hagia Sophia

      Sitting Ramesses II Colossus inside Luxor Temple

      Delphi



      Kasuga-taisha Shrine

      Daibutsu, Tōdai-ji





  5. --Jack, October 2014