Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Haslam Joins Ranks of The Frightened

Compassion leaves you vulnerable.

Civil War leaves you vulnerable.

Freedom leaves you vulnerable.

Terror leaves you vulnerable.

Trust leaves you vulnerable.

Fear leaves you vulnerable

When I read how poor billionaire Governor Bill Haslam joined ranks with terrified Republican Governors, politicians, and other frightened Americans  to slam the door on refugees,I mourned a little for the loss of courage and the rise of cowardice. 

Had these Governor's sincerely wanted to insure the security of our nation and our states, they could and should have engaged in detailed discussions with the federal officials involved. But they sought first the news cameras. Fanning fear, claiming prudence, it was a carefully staged PR attack on the Obama administration, a political attack in an election cycle. 

Worse, they announced to everyone around the world one clear fact - They are very scared.

They did not all stand up to cry Never Again or Don't Tread On Me. They've slammed shut the windows and will hide inside. Unified in their stand that opposing the Obama administration is more important than life or liberty or the pursuit of happiness.

Cowardice is a loaded word for these folks,I know. But the abandonment of the values of courage leaves only cowardice.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Confederates Fail Again in Greene County.

The previous post has a follow-up, and it's actually good news.

20 of 21 Greene County Commissioners rejected completely a proposal from one commissioner, Jame Randolph, to install a Confederate flag on the county's courthouse. Just like the way residents rejected secession during the Civil War 150 years ago.

Previously, as I said, this is idiotic on many levels, especially Randolph's ludicrous claim he was motivated by some fealty to history. But we all know what history that flag represents.

Randolph says he knew the resolution would fail and that he won't try to introduce it again - so the question remains: What was the point of his effort? Was it merely to attract and agitate a specific part of the population, to organize them and alert them to .... what?

The Greene County press should ask that question but they won't.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Confederate Ignorance in Greene County

It's pretty clear the Greene County Commissioners who think flying a Confederate flag is historically vital have zero knowledge of the history of their own county and of East Tennessee.

Since History proves these officials utterly wrong - then what is the real reason behind their desire to fly a flag of the county's enemies?

Mega-Insta-Political Analysis

Let's do a little political talking about all the political talking.

And the talking is being done by notably unqualified candidates here in the ol' U.S. of A, the sort of talking that cliched tin-pot dictators might spew from tiny podiums and dressed in over-decorated, ill-fitting military uniforms.Such candidates as Trump, Cruz, Carson, Fiorina, Rubio, Bush, and even whole rosters of state GOP candidates are the folks doing such talking today. It's pretty awful to hear and see.

I recently watched the Burns Civil War documentary and the talk is mighty similar to the fairly unhinged generals and officers delirious with battlefield fever. The talk is most notable for it's hostility, whatever issue is laid before them, or indifference. It is anti-everything that reeks of the 21st century.

On the Left, Hilary Clinton, even if elected will instantly be tarred with the 'unconstitutional presidency', as these talkers have labeled President Obama. And that would extend the current Insta-Rage crowd's fervor to even more unacceptable and unsustainable behaviors.

And there's Bernie Sanders, who has, for his career, been neither a Republican or a Democrat ...a pretty good indication he's probably the smartest guy in this particular political room of Potentials.

Sanders is perhaps the reason  why Trump is standing out as the Top Potential - to frame what is the real battle in 2016: wages and wealth. They're easy to cast in opposing views on wages and wealth to hit the gut-punch level most voters require.

Friday, August 28, 2015

A Decade of Writing on the Web

I've been so busy I missed my own blog birthday - 10 years are done and I'm now on Year 11. Yay me.

Obviously The Regular Reader knows the posts here have been intermittent in the last year or so, but that's changing as a few new adventures are compelling me to become more prolific here. Details on that will follow very soon.

When I began this page, the Web was exploding with blogs, and many of those are now kaput. I am not kaput. That noisy proliferation has now turned into a far more vast cacophony of voices and images which get Tweeted and Pinterested and Instagrammed and Facebooked and far more names of platforms being created. I'm a long-form writer who abhors brevity. Except when I don't.

And still, our world is only just inside the doorway of what is possible with the Internet. If the Internet is the New Alphabet then we've only gotten 3 or 4 letters figured out. More is to be discovered and the new combinations possible are far too large to even imagine ... so far.

When I was a wee boy, knowing down in my bones that I wanted to be a writer, I think I saw a Writer as a process that ended with being a Good Writer Who Writes. Now these many years later, I see it's a process of creation that never ends.

What's been the best writing here? The most popular? 

The Google stats say "Dr. Evil Running Congress?" has been the most viewed post, with over 22,000 views is Most Popular, but that's likely because the image I used of Dr. Evil became a hot listing via image searches using Google. Also popular, pretty much all posts about Frightmare Manor, the haunted attraction located just down the street, have been huge hits on the Web. And they are getting ready to open up again for 2015.

I have various favorites, but here are two posts that I rank as my own best.

First, "Martian", a rumination on the planet Mars and the robots we've placed there. It's from the very first weeks of publishing, and I really like it. In fact, other than movies, I've probably written the most about my fascination with our universe, our solar system and how we do and do not explore it.

My next favorite is also from the early days, "Would You Like To Hear Some Stories?", a post prompted by my sister-in-law and the very real and astonishing experiences of her family during World War 2 and how the posting of those events led to the discovery after many decades of what happened to Katherine's mother's cousin, revealed in the comments of that post.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Should Federal Election Day Be A Holiday?

Presidential candidate and senator Bernie Sanders says "Yes" and has prepped some legislation for it --

"[That] would indicate a national commitment to create a vibrant democracy."

Would it increase voter turnout?

Should elections be held on weekends?

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

The Last Neighbor - Pluto

If you have more than 3 moons you're a planet in my book, but Pluto is what it is - a wee dwarf planet. It looks huge in the pictures now coming in from NASA's New Horizons spacecraft. (Great links to the mission via KnoxViews, where Randy notes "It will take 16 months to download all the data and images collected by the probe... At 3 billion miles away, it takes 4.5 hours for signals to reach Earth.)

Here's the man who first sighted Pluto in 1930, Clyde Tombaugh, who is actually on-board the New Horizons probe ... well, a portion of Clyde's ashes are on-board. An 11-year old English school girl suggested the name Pluto.

There is a human fondness for the wee world.

It's also essentially our last neighbor here in this Solar neighborhood, and beyond it we see an infinity of galaxies and neighborhoods - and our little neighborhood appears very small.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Beyond A Battle Flag

It has been startling to see how quickly politicians in Southern states, including Tennessee, have stepped forward to announce that now is the time to finally remove a symbol of the failed Confederate states from government buildings. Quickly, that is, if you jump past the events of the last 150 years since the Civil War ended.

Growing up here in Tennessee, the battle flag was everywhere you looked. It perplexed me that is was so popular - especially when I'd see the image to the right, which was on beach towels, license plates, dinner plates, and on just about anything for sale. That creepy, angry old man defiantly refusing to move past the days of slavery and war and instead holding on to ideas steeped in horror was beyond my understanding. As I got older, I realized that racial hatreds were something a person had to learn from someone - and like many others, I hoped such vile teachers were disappearing. But still they hang on.

Tragically, too many Southerners carry today a wounded pride - and confused a pride in being Southern with a grim notion we should revere a society built on slavery. We should not erase the history of the cause and affects of the Civil War nor should we dismiss the reality that our nation endured beyond that war because we accepted a vital truth - no one has the right to own another human being, and that yes, we strive to create equality for each and every person. This struggle continues around the globe.

Removing governmentally endorsed symbols is a beginning point – but what is urgently needed is a long-overdue re-evaluation of beliefs. Increasing education, decreasing poverty, reforming prison and sentencing policies are just a few of the areas our society must address. 

For Southerners especially, we do have a rich and varied heritage worth celebration, but the legacy we offer needs to be much, much more than a history steeped in slavery.

Us versus Them is no legacy worth leaving future generations

Thursday, May 21, 2015

My First Appearance (Almost) on the David Letterman Show

In July and August of 1991 I was relentlessly scouring as much of the island of Manhattan as I possibly could.

It was an epic two weeks - I met legendary talk show pioneer Joe Franklin outside of Nathan's hot dogs in Times Square, I met (and bought a drink for) the actor Michael Anderson, aka the midget from "Twin Peaks", and I was almost featured in an episode of David Letterman's talk show on NBC.

You should know that I knew of so many landmarks and unique Manhattan locations, mostly from decades of movie and television viewing. Obsessive viewing one might say - which allowed me to locate the streets and buildings from "Taxi Driver", the steps in  Riverside Park where Charles Bronson turned into a killer in "Deathwish", the bench used in by Woody Allen and Diane Keaton in "Manhattan" ... you get the idea.

So one day I set my attention to the area around 30 Rockefeller Plaza - too many iconic images and locations to list. I puzzled over ways to get into Letterman's show, but none seemed to work. I circled around attempting to locate the building which Letterman had recently been using as he called up a woman named Meg he could see in a high rise window across from his studio. He'd call her up, she would do something wacky for him during the show.

Turns out I was right on time for something special because as I was looking up, I see a window in the building being raised and a woman poked out her head. My heart stopped when I realized I had hit the mother lode.

She withdrew her head and a large bag appeared, overflowing with multi-colored Nerf balls. I looked down and across the street and there was Biff Henderson, David's longtime stage manager, wearing his ubiquitous headset, darting back and forth with a laundry basket. Nerf balls began to rain down as Biff scampered about trying to catch them.

I was thunderstruck of course. They were taping a segment for that night's show. I then noticed a small camera crew to my left, and my mind seized on an idea - I'm going to just cross the street and walk past Biff. I'm going to be on the show.

As if in a dream, I eased forward - one step, two, and I'm on the street, eyes glued to Biff's antics ... and then I noticed the policeman, the barricades at either end of the street, and then the policeman noticed me and he gave me a look, a look that said "Don't even think about it, buddy."

I froze in place and did not move.

The scene continued to play out. I became aware of a lot of folks around, laughing and clapping. In seconds, Biff and crew were gone, the window was shut and the policeman smiled at me. I wandered off, pondering on what Letterman himself might call "a brush with greatness".

Anyway, I continued my sightseeing and adventures for the day and late that evening I was back in Brooklyn where I was staying with my brother-in-law Fred. I was tired - a good kind of tired - and I realized the time, realized the Letterman show was about to air.

Did I make it into the show? Possibly??

I tuned in and watched and there's Letterman, setting up the bit with Meg and Biff and the Nerf balls ... At several points, there was this shot from high above the street as Biff ran about and I can see ... I can see ... that if I had just taken one more step, just one move a couple of inches forward, I would have been in the shot and been on the show.

But I was not. 

Monday, May 18, 2015

Former East TN Congressional Candidate Turns Terrorist

The ever-watchful and wily Southern Beale today points to reports (and the lack of them) of a 2014 4th Congressional District candidate, Robert Doggett who was busted by the FBI for plotting a mass murder.

"And if it gets down to the machete, we will cut them to shreds" he told the FBI.

Like Beale, I have to wonder - why didn't this hit the news? 

From one of the links in her post:

"Doggart, 62, has more than 40 years in the electric generation business, working as an engineer, manager, superintendent and other titles, including 17 years at TVA.

He is an ordained minister in the Christian National Church (Congregational). He is a past president, chairman, and director at large of the American Society for Nondestructive Testing. He is a 17-plus gallon blood donor with Blood Assurance and has received two presidential awards for lifetime public service."

Thursday, May 07, 2015

Science Shows Why Stupid Folks Praise Stupid Folks

Pamela Geller
I'm somewhat happy to report there appears to be a theory to explain why deeply uninformed folks suffer from "illusory superiority".

Such a theory helps explain the idiocy of, for instance, folks in Texas who firmly believe the U.S. Military is prepping an attack on Texas and even why rabid hate-speakers like Pamela Geller considers herself a defender of Free Speech. This theory likely explains why some consider FOX News a source of "fair and balanced" journalism.

The theory is known as the Dunning-Kruger effect.

A 1999 study at Cornell University by psychologists David Dunning and Justin Krueger concluded that this effect is:

"... a cognitive bias wherein unskilled individuals suffer from illusory superiority, mistakenly assessing their ability to be much higher than is accurate. This bias is attributed to a metacognitive inability of the unskilled to recognize their ineptitude.
Pretend News on FOX

"The study was inspired by the case of McArthur Wheeler, a man who robbed two banks after covering his face with lemon juice in the mistaken belief that, because lemon juice is usable as invisible ink, it would prevent his face from being recorded on surveillance cameras."

Hoo boy, does that explain a lot of wacky thinking and talking from certain people and groups.

The summation here also notes such people:

fail to recognize their own lack of skill
fail to recognize genuine skill in others
fail to recognize the extremity of their inadequacy

recognize and acknowledge their own previous lack of skill, if they are exposed to training for that skill

There is a very real threat and danger to the rest of us from the folks who suffer from their delusions of wisdom -- incompetence grows quickly and, when voiced by someone in a position of authority their madness gets legitimized as having some value or truth.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Baltimore Boils Over After Years of Corruption

image via

The grim reality on the streets and in the neighborhoods of Baltimore currently stem from not simply one incident about police conduct and tactics. The Baltimore Sun last fall provided a lengthy investigation into years of brutality and civil rights violations by law enforcement:

"Over the past four years, more than 100 people have won court judgments or settlements related to allegations of brutality and civil rights violations. Victims include a 15-year-old boy riding a dirt bike, a 26-year-old pregnant accountant who had witnessed a beating, a 50-year-old woman selling church raffle tickets, a 65-year-old church deacon rolling a cigarette and an 87-year-old grandmother aiding her wounded grandson.

"Those cases detail a frightful human toll. Officers have battered dozens of residents who suffered broken bones — jaws, noses, arms, legs, ankles — head trauma, organ failure, and even death, coming during questionable arrests. Some residents were beaten while handcuffed; others were thrown to the pavement.

"And in almost every case, prosecutors or judges dismissed the charges against the victims — if charges were filed at all. In an incident that drew headlines recently, charges against a South Baltimore man were dropped after a video showed an officer repeatedly punching him — a beating that led the police commissioner to say he was “shocked.”

"Such beatings, in which the victims are most often African-Americans, carry a hefty cost. They can poison relationships between police and the community, limiting cooperation in the fight against crime, the mayor and police officials say."

Also worth reading, an overflowing crowd attends a meeting, prior to Freddie Gray's death, held by the city and the Department of Justice:

" ... hundreds of Baltimore residents gathered to air grievances over years of harassment, beatings and other mistreatment they say they have endured from city police.

"They turned out for a meeting convened by the U.S. Department of Justice to investigate, at the city's request, complaints about Baltimore's Police Department. When a former San Jose, Calif., police chief hired to lead the meeting told the crowd he wanted to know whether they "trust" the city's police, a woman shouted "No."

"From that point on, dozens of residents — most of them black — inundated federal officials with their assertions that city police have been brutalizing residents with impunity."

More on the years of corruption in law enforcement:

"What's crucial to understand, as Baltimore residents take to the streets in long-simmering frustration, is that their general grievances are valid regardless of how this case plays out. For as in Ferguson, where residents suffered through years of misconduct so egregious that most Americans could scarcely conceive of what was going on, the people of Baltimore are policed by an entity that perpetrates stunning abuses. The difference is that this time we needn't wait for a DOJ report to tell us so. Harrowing evidence has been presented. Yet America hasn't looked."