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They All Laughed

meadows_0701117

Mountain Meadows Massacre Monument*

When I said that we need to watch out for Christian religious extremists and anti-guvmit types with guns, I’m pretty sure I lost readers. Oh, ho-ho, there goes RD again, gettin’ all paranoid. She’s been eating too much tin-foil.

Turns out, not so much. The DHS was concerned about that possibility too but decided to defund the office that was looking into it anyway:

Daryl Johnson once worked in the branch of the Department of Homeland Security that studied the threats posed by antigovernment groups. His former office was shut down more than five years ago.

But when members of an armed group took over a federal wildlife refuge in Oregon last week, Mr. Johnson was not surprised.

In 2009, the former analyst wrote a report that warned of a growing antigovernment movement and the possible recruitment of returning military veterans that could “lead to the potential emergence of terrorist groups or lone-wolf extremists.”

His words drew fierce criticism from Republican lawmakers and conservative news media, labeling the report an unfair assessment of legitimate criticisms of the government. The document was retracted after Janet Napolitano, who was then the Homeland Security secretary, apologized to veterans, and the Extremism and Radicalization Branch was quietly dismantled.

Ah-fa-la-la! Isn’t that funny?

Know what’s even funnier? It was the openly Muslim Congressman, Keith Ellison, who thought that shutting down this office was a bad idea.

Oh wait, totally forgot to remind everyone that the first act of religious extremist terrorism on September 11 was by a bunch of Mormons who thought the government was going to come to Utah to…

…wait for it…

… take away their guns.

Or some such nonsense. Yep, turns out they were waiting for the US of A to send soldiers into Utah and make them start behaving or not polygamating or something. If you want a complete breakdown of how the whole ugly religious extremism-anti-government Mountain Meadows Massacre happened, check out this collaborative podcast effort between Lindsay Hanson Park and Mormon Expressions. You won’t be sorry. It’s an amazing story and cautionary tale for all of us.

  Granted, the Mormons had had a checkered past with the authorities in several states with massacre-ing happening on both sides. But with the Mountain Meadows Massacre, Mormons took it to a new level and butchered over 100 men, women and children who were just passing through. Maybe they wanted the cattle. Maybe they suspected them of collaborating with the people who killed one of their apostles. Maybe they just wanted to set an example for anyone else who thought they could traipse through the west without even a “by your leave”.

Who knows?

One thing for sure though. Those crazy Mormons had been fed a steady diet of anti-government propaganda, were chased from place to place because they were trying to rig the voting system in their favor and followed some new messianic religion, and they were waiting for the end of days.

So, you know, we have all been here before.

The violent, anti-government rhetoric in the west has been around for more than a century. We probably shouldn’t be surprised that Glenn Beck has been using the survivalist shtick to sell everything from gold to desert bunkers.

There is a cost to all of this. The religious extremism and anti-government paranoia has gone mainstream now. These people have their own “political correctness”. That is, in order to be a good American, you’ve got to believe in the most reactionary forms of patriarchal Christianity and the second amendment is THE most important amendment in the Constitution. It trumps the first, fourth and fifth amendment. Oh and the 14th amendment is optional.

Challenge them on any of this and see what happens.

*You may wonder why there’s a wall and fencing around the massacre monument. Turns out that the monument kept getting torn down. If I’m not mistaken, it was Brigham Young himself who ordered it torn down the first time. Then the relatives of the slain would rebuild it annnnnd the Mormons would tear it down again. So, who knows how long this one will be around. I think it’s a government historic landmark now.

Even more reason to tear it down.

For more on the most recent Malheur occupation by the YeeHawdist, Ammon Bundy and pals, see these background articles from The Conversation.

 

 

My problem with Hillary in 2016

istock_000017338712xsmallThis is a bit of a followup post from yesterday. The NYTimes article on how difficult women over 50 have it in the job market these days really hit home with many people. There are over 1000 comments on that article now.

This one from A. Davey  in Portland sums up why I have been utterly unmoved by Hillary’s campaign this year:

A. Davey

Portland 19 hours ago

There but for the grace of God goes Janet Yellen.

You would think that the plight of women over 50 would be a natural issue for Hillary.

Apparently not. She’s the champion of the Ted Talkers, the winners in our so-called meritocracy, the brilliant young executives who spread their pearls of wisdom from cushy corporate jobs that come with employment contracts and golden parachutes. They’re the ones telling displaced older workers to become self employed. That’s rich.

Exactly.

The week after I was laid off in 2011 from my job, I went to a seminar series by the American Chemical Society where the crusty old dudes that ran the local chapter tried to sell us on throwing whatever severance money we had into a start up company that was 80% likely to fail. If there was even a smidgeon of hope that the new drug entities we found were likely to succeed, we could look forward to vulture capitalists showing up on our doorsteps, offering to pay our debts in return for giving them 99% of any profit we made on the patent they wanted to license.

Swear to god, you can’t make this stuff up. Start ups for divorced parents are not an option. That’s a shame for the start ups who have to train younger people to reinvent the wheel and for the rest of us with valuable research experience and no labs.

IT is different than pharma or just about any other industry where you can just start a company. You can literally do it out your garage and all you need is a good idea. In pharma, good ideas need to be tested, repeatedly. But it seems like Hillary is only interested in looking out for these independent guys. Yes, they are almost all guys. Who else could afford to live on the edge, jumping from start up to start up, thriving on the adrenalin that comes with whether or not you’ll get funding or go public? People with responsibilities can’t do that. Young guys with an average age of 28 can.

I can’t figure out why Hillary would choose to abandon her natural constituency. They’re not all laid off and poor. If I manage to hang on to my job this year, I’ll pitch in my share. Oh, sure, you have to appeal to younger voters but women over 50 are a HUGE group of people and they vote. In fact, I don’t think Hillary can win without at least trying to appeal to them.

But she hasn’t.

This once stalwart champion of women’s rights, treats them like they were invisible too.

So, I am definitely non-plussed this year. And more than a bit angry. I stuck my neck out repeatedly and still think she was the best candidate in 2008. But she really shouldn’t take my generation of women for granted. The danger is not that they will vote Republican, it’s that the situation for some of them is so bleak they might not show up at all.

Is that what Hillary wants? To have a shortage of voters on election day? Maybe she should rethink whoever the hell is doing her data models. If I were her, I would make a specific appeal to these women even at the risk of pissing off some gawd awful sexist Silicon Valley asshole who will flirt with Rand Paul in 2016.

The problem is not lack of profit sharing or the barriers to self employment.

It’s income instability, stupid. 

Put that sign in your war room, Hillary.

If the NYTimes wanted to drive a stake through Hillary’s campaign, they couldn’t have picked a better pain point.

NYTimes is shocked, SHOCKED!

The NYTimes is shocked that women over 50 have THE highest unemployment rate after people who are about to retire than any other demographic group in the country since the Great Recession started.

I know, shocking.

Unless you have had to live through it.

I wondered many times what exactly the country expects you to live on when you have submitted hundreds of cover letters and resumes without a nibble, gone through all of your savings, can’t get any more unemployment, etc. I mean, what is it you’re supposed to do when you’re way too young for social security, can’t get your pension, pay a fricking *surtax* on 401K withdrawals that you need to take in order to pay bills and buy basic necessities. Honestly, if that’s not immoral and wrong, I don’t know what is. What is it the right wing crazies want you to do when you can’t get an interview for that dishwasher’s job and you’re too old to sell your body?*

Take your time, I’ll wait.

Then again, I have to wonder if the NYTimes has considered its own culpability in the plight of unemployed women in their 50’s trying to, you know, maintain their caloric intake and shelter requirements (damn them, why won’t they just stay on their ice floes??).

When the Great Recession was in full swing, it was the NYTimes that ran a series of articles about unemployed people who had exhausted their benefits. Usually, the women they featured in pictures in these articles were in their 50s, were obese and sometimes asleep at their monitors. Never mind that none of the highly skilled, physically fit, unemployed people in NJ that I knew looked or behaved like that. This is the image that the NYTimes sent out to the world. Women in their 50s are morbidly overweight, unkempt, have brassy blonde hair and dark roots, they spend money foolishly on vacations, and lounge at their desks. That is the mental image that employers all have in their minds now.

Thank you, NYTimes.

Please stop trying to help.

By the way, it would be really nice if the world stopped assuming that people in their 50s can’t keep up with technology. The internet has been publicly available for about 25 years. That would have made women in their 50s young whippersnappers back then. They wrote the first web pages, learned the first versions of MS Office and did a bajillion other things with early smart phones, laptops and other gadgets. We’re as competent as our male counterparts. A penis does not make you more technologically savvy.

*I finally got a job but it was through a backdoor. If you’re over 50, just forget trying to get past the “Talent Acquisition Specialists”. They seem determined to keep you out and they use every trick in the book to figure out how old you are. Not that age really matters. Because it don’t.

Happy New Year!

FINALLY, things might be turning around. Oh, sure, I’m going to have to watch my wallet for a long time but January 1, 2016 is a billion times better than 365 days earlier.

Don’t get me wrong, the economy still sucks. Don’t let anyone fool you. And now people are a lot less able to absorb the shock of more blows to their personal finances. I think historians are going to have a field day when they look back on this era after the bubble burst in 2008 and find that neither party was in control. Nope, we’ve been in the hands of the grasshoppers for the last eight years. It remains to be seen whether our current crop of candidates can turn it around.

By the way, if you haven’t seen it, check out The Big Short this weekend, then come back and look me straight in the eye and tell me the bankers didn’t buy the 2008 election in order to save their asses. There are still a lot of people in denial about how Barack Obama became president. It’s time to face up to that. They didn’t support Hillary back 2008. Time to think about that really hard without all the Bro’s vs Ho’s memes getting in the way.02

Hillary nagged me relentlessly in the last few days for money.  I don’t think she really has a shortage of donors but some of us have been disengaged and I have had to dig myself out of a hole. So, I didn’t make a contribution in 2015. But I will this year.

Yes, I think she’s got to shake things up. THAT’s what Trump enthusiasts are responding to, whether or not he is a repulsive, destructive, disrespectful blow hard or not.

And I really wish she’d drop the stupid profit sharing idea. It’s a market tested gimmick. The wealthy would love for us to fall for that. They’re probably thinking they can toss us a gnarled bone like profit sharing and we’ll be happy with it instead of real income stability. They think we’re stupid. It smells like Lily Ledbetter. And I’ve seen how profit sharing works. The MBAs will write the rules and share most of the profits amongst themselves while rank and file and research people get the dregs that will not adequately compensate them for all their hard work. Please, Hillary, just stop.

Anyway, I’ll make that donation when I get around to it. Right now, I have a teensy bit of money that I can use to buy a new coat. I’ve been wearing my 20 year old peacoat and it’s time for something fresher.

Yesterday, I went to an impromptu tea party at my aunt’s house and it was the best New Year’s in a long time.

I finally slept with the lights off.

Happy New Year.

 

Damn you, Swan Lake

Nutcracker season is wrapping up, on to {{ugh}} Swan Lake.

As many of you know, I am not a fan of story ballets. The music is nice and familiar, I get that. And if you’re into tutu’s, there’s no shortage in a story ballet. But I think the reason why I really don’t like them is because many of them, especially the Petipa choreographed ballets, were show pieces for specific ballerinas or male dancers who already had a gimmick. In other words, some of the story ballets come off as thinly disguised variety show acts. Sleeping Beauty, Swan Lake and Nutcracker are the worst offenders.

There’s absolutely nothing wrong with this if you see each dance separately. I like a good Nutcracker Waltz of the Flowers, Mirlitons and Arabians as much as the next person. But please, please, PLEASE, do not try to oversell them. Swan Lake is supposed to be a Russian classic and now I can appreciate some of the pas de deux for the hard work that they are but sometimes, it takes a ballet historian to move you past all the melodrama to the dark, erotic world of… swan women.

Tamara Rojo, artistic director of the English National Ballet, and former principal dancer of The Royal Ballet, pulls this off brilliantly. In this documentary, Good Swan, Bad Swan, she breaks down Swan Lake from the inside out and explains what was going on in Europe’s intellectual circles when Swan Lake was created. Rojo does her best to redeem Petipa as a musical choreographer and I think her argument works in a 19th century context. But her breakdown of the black swan pas de deux will give you a new appreciation for evil swan girls. Here’s part three of the documentary, picking it up when the Prince throws his ball and Odile crashes the party at the 6 minute mark:

 

If you’re not into traditional Swan Lake, don’t despair, there are more modern versions. The Royal Danish Ballet re-envisioned Swan Lake earlier this year. This one features a fantastic set, moody blues, golden centerpieces and a very dark ending. The eroticism is revealed in all it’s triumphant glory. It’s like Swan Lake meets Rosemary’s Baby. Now, this is a Swan Lake I’d pay money to see.

Here is part 1:

And here is part 2:

 

 

Christmas Break

I’m relaxing. Do not point me to any horrific videos of violence.

Let’s talk about less weighty matters.

Screen Shot 2014-12-15 at 10.29.11 AMMusic: The Third Annual “Lick My Love Pump” Award is upon us. Each year, this award goes to the catchiest single with the raunchiest lyrics. Previous winners have been Bruno Mars for Gorilla and Beyonce for Blow. I’ve been listening to Hozier and Florence and the Machine since Brook went off to seek her fortune at an institution of higher learning. So, I don’t really know who the contenders are this year. Any suggestions?

Games: I’m looking for a game that’s as beautiful as Monument Valley for my iPhone. Also, does anyone have any experience with Eurogames like Settlers of Catan? I see Eurogame groups popping up all over Pittsburgh but it usually involves hanging out at a Crazy Mocha with strangers. So, I need a gateway game in this genre that I can sink my teeth into.

Books: My newest favorite author is Kate Atkinson whose Jackson Brodie detective novels are hilarious but are also deeply human. I’m looking for more good books. Preferably historical fiction, political intrigue, light on the bodice ripping. Bernard Cornwell’s Saxon series comes pretty close but can be a tad too raping and pillaging. Suggestions welcome.

What are you up to?

 

Christmas Mish Mash

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Christmas in Oakmont, PA

Mish Mash being an Algonquin word meaning a calorie laden mixture of dried fruits, cured meat strips and animal fat.

Yeah, I’m playing Balderdash. I have no idea what the etymology of Mish Mash is. But I do know that Monongahela is a Lenape word that means “the banks cave in” or “it has a loose bank”. So, all you cousins up on the hill, be careful up there.

This is just a collection of stuff, thoughts, etc.

First up: there are two things I will never put in my breakfast smoothie- Spinach and beets. These are an abomination.

Second: Joy Womack, the American ballerina who dances for Moscow’s Kremlin Ballet, is now touring China with her company. You can follow Joy’s adventures in China here. I like Joy’s tour videos. I didn’t post all of the ones she did a couple of weeks ago but they are worth watching, especially the one where she does the impression of the Russian flight attendant. Too funny. In addition to her tour videos, Joy vlogs her daily struggles in the company, getting her custom made pointe shoes into a country that has been sanctioned, what happens when one of her partners goes on a binge, learning Swan Lake with her other partner Misha Martinyuk and general ups and downs of being on one day and off the next through no fault of her own.  She supports herself in Russia (because dancers all over the world get paid crap) by selling the Prima Bar. They’re little snack bars for people on the go who have to maintain an optimal weight.

Third: I found this reponse from Adrian Marshall on Quora under the question “Do some movie villains have a point?” It’s about Darth Vader’s motivations. I have to say I am convinced now. The prequels might have sucked been suboptimal but I think this summary shows what George Lucas was trying to do. In other words, the Jedi and the Republic are not entirely innocent. For instance, what do Qui Gon and Obi Wan Kenobi do when they meet Anakin Skywalker?

Let’s see, he was born a slave to a single mother on the desert planet Tatooine.  One day, as for[ce]tune would have it, two Jedi land on his planet.  And not because they abhor slavery or possess some sense of righteousness, but because they think he fulfills THEIR prophecy, they seek to free him.  What do they do with his mother? Well, they left her in a state of forced servitude.

They take him in despite trepidation by the Jedi Council, letting the boy know that he was unwanted from the start.  They forbade him to see his mom and gave him mixed messages of no attachments, but total loyalty to the order.  They feared that he missed and worried about his mother too much.  So what did they do?  Did, at any point in the 10 years between PM and AOC, anyone go and purchase her freedom to I don’t know, set the boy’s mind at ease?  Nope, they left her on a desolate, crime-ridden world, as an effin’ slave!

Sometimes, I get the feeling that the American political parties are playing out this plot…

Lastly, a couple of Jews, one of which is a biblical scholar, tell us all about Christmas. By the way, GoT Academy has some of the best, insightful analysis of the historical background for the Game of Thrones and related topics that you’re going to find on YouTube. Plus, they are irreverent, funny, and BOLD. Check them out.

So, there you go. Christmas *is* pagan.

Origin (From the Oxford English Dictionary)

Late Middle English: from Latin paganus ‘villager, rustic’, from pagus ‘country district’. Latin paganus also meant ‘civilian’, becoming, in Christian Latin, ‘heathen’ (i.e., one not enrolled in the army of Christ).

It sounds so innocuous when you put it that way.

It all started with the Winter Solstice, which, IMHO, is the only reason to celebrate the season. And people who are protesting too loudly that there’s a war on Christmas (which they stole from the pagans anyway) or abstaining from in order to make a religious point that is lost on the rest of us, are missing out on the light, smells, sounds, tastes and other sensory pleasures of the season. The first humans to recognize this time of year were celebrating nature. A natural god is totally cool with saying Happy Solstice.

By the way, jumping on the War on Christmas bandwagon because you think it makes you cool can not mask a mean spirited, Grinchy heart. Just sayin’. Some of us can see right through that to the cold hearted, manipulative narcissist inside.

Chill out, O’Reilly.

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