Thich Quang Duc and Wynn Alan Bruce

Most people my age and older have some knowledge of, and may have the image (above) seared into their mind of when Thich Quang Duc, a Buddhist monk, set himself on fire to protest the police and Vietnamese army’s massacre of Vietnamese people during a celebration that turned into a protest. At the time Vietnam was 90% Buddhist but the current ruler, Ngo Dinh Diem, was Catholic and wanted to “westernize” the nation and so banned the display of religious flags. On May 8, 1963, they celebrated Phat Dan, or the day of the birth of the Buddha, religious flags were displayed, and the massacre ensued. A month later, on June 11, Thich Quang Duc, a Buddhist monk who was not at the massacre, sat down in the middle of the same street, began meditating, set himself on fire (doused in gasoline) and sat motionless as he burned to death.

An American photographer happened to be on the scent and got the iconic, jaw-dropping photos that exploded across the globe. Thich Nhat Hanh, another Vietnamese buddhist monk, prolific author and teacher, often brought him up in his writings, and while I never committed the man’s name to memory, I never forgot that image since I saw it as a teenager in the 1970s.

Recently, a blip in my online, 24-hour news feed, filled with stories of mass shootings, war in Ukraine, awful American (and worldwide) politicians and people, and the ongoing, ever-expanding destruction of the planet thanks in large part to human-induced burning of fossil fuels, was something about an American who did something similar in Washington DC. I’m appalled and embarrassed how little attention I paid.

Reading the obituaries in the local paper this morning I stopped cold when I saw: “on the steps of the Supreme Courthouse…”

“Bruce, Wynn Alan
Born in Green Bay WI Aug 25, 1971 and died on Earth Day April 22, 2022 on the steps of the Supreme Courthouse in Washington DC. His father, Douglas Bruce (Holly), mother Martha, stepbrother Eric (Jamie), extended family and friends in Minnesota and Boulder, CO and around the country are greatly saddened by his death but respect and honor his commitment to the issues of climate change and the environment.”

Unless you’ve got your head jammed straight up your ass and/or have been fooled by extremely effective but idiotic right wing media, you understand what is happening right now to our climate due to humankind. I’m human and not at all pretending I’ve been doing much myself. In fact, my passion for doing something about this has been washed away, shall we say, having watched the world (and more importantly, individuals like you and me) do absolutely nothing about it.

Scientists have been warning us for decades, and year after year, the climate has been proving them almost exactly right, but to pretty much no avail. So I’m now at this point hopeless we’ll do much about it and wondering what we’ll do about the consequences. How will we handle the flooding of coastal and inland low lying areas? What will we do about the incredible heat waves that will make many places currently filled with humans uninhabitable? How about the massive fires that will only get worse and worse? Who’s going to pay to rebuild after the super storms keep coming and damaging property, farmland, and infrastructure? And in the current pandemic of xenophobia what will we do with the mass migrations due to heat, flooding, fires, storms and water shortages?

Of course, we’re already paying for increasing storm damage, controlling and putting out growing fires, cleaning up and relocating people after massive flooding, but it’s that last one that I really worry about. Here in the U.S. people are filling their pants because there are 60,000 people at the southern border trying to get into our nation of 330 million people. What about when there are 10, 50 or 100 million people clamoring to get in? What big beautiful wall is going to stop them? How about when the entire population of Southwest U.S. starts running north and east? What happens then?

We’ll see. Then, by the way, is only a few decades out, maybe sooner. But here we sit, doing nothing and not even noticing, when Green Bay’s own, Wynn Alan Bruce, sits down in plain view and burns himself to death in an incredibly brave warning to all of us of what’s coming. Blip.

A Little Help?

“When the alien resides with you in your land, you shall not oppress the alien.  The alien who resides with you shall be to you as the citizen among you; you shall love the alien as yourself, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt:  I am the Lord your God.”
Leviticus 19:33-34 and 24:22

Help Wanted

Not sure about you, but everywhere I look I see Help Wanted signs. They are in windows, on restaurant tables, billboards, huge banners draped on buildings, in urban, suburban, exurban and rural areas – everywhere – Help Wanted signs. Some of these are for better paying jobs but most are for line cooks, dishwashers, service industry, construction, fast food, hotel staff and the like. These are jobs traditionally held by new immigrants and people low on the socio-economic ladder. Businesses are desperate for workers at a time when our jobless rate is at an historic low of 3.6%.

In fact, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there are currently at least 11.3 million job openings in the United States. The actual number will be higher due to very small businesses that often go uncounted.

“The Horror at the Border”

The reports are true: There was a record number of encounters with migrants at the Southwest border of 1.6 million in 2021, just over 1 million of those involved single adults. About a quarter of those were repeat crossers, so the number of new people trying to get into the U.S. was about 1.2 million. The number of people traveling in families was 451,087, also a record.

Sixty-three percent of these people were from countries other than Mexico, most from Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador, another record. Some of these were the migrants we read about or saw on television who walked in caravans hundreds and even over a thousand miles to get to our border.

Republicans among us gnash their teeth, wring their hands, and bellow about the catastrophe at our border. It’s good politics as they can dumb it down, blame it on President Biden and do nothing. Of course, the real reasons these folks are coming in such huge numbers is that there are no jobs in their own countries, they are in mortal danger and/or they want their children to have a better life than they had. The very same reasons every American’s family came to our shores.

I’m sure you’ve already done the math, but here we go: Had we welcomed every single one of those one million single adults at the border and got them each one of the 11.3 million jobs, we’d have filled less than 10% and still have 10.3 million job openings, we’d not even notice the number of Help Wanted signs having gone down, and business owners would still be desperate for workers.

I’m not advocating for that, of course, as it’s all much more complicated, but in general, the average American’s idea of immigration and our borders is shockingly skewed. This is mostly due to misinformation and mostly from right wing media and politicians. They understand that instilling fear into voters, in this case, with “illegal immigrants at the borders,” is extremely effective and distracts voters from the actual issues our elected officials should be focused on – the best education, affordable healthcare, climate change and others that truly affect American individuals and families.

Humanity is the Story of Migration

All Americans are from immigrant families. No matter where you are on this planet at some point your family immigrated to where you currently live. They did not spring from the ground like tulips. Life on earth is defined by migration – constant, ever-flowing migration. Keep an open mind, listen to your heart and don’t buy into the fear-mongering. There are often solutions smack dab in the middle of problems.

A speech I need to hear and now

Dear Fellow Americans,

Today I call upon Russian President Vladimir Putin to stop this massacre of innocent Ukranian people. We fully respect Russia as a sovereign nation and so will do nothing within their borders, but if we don’t see a complete withdrawal beginning within 48 hours, we will begin a military bombardment of all of their assets within Ukraine’s borders. We recognize Ukraine as a sovereign nation as we do Russia.

We call upon the oligarchs, the richest and most powerful citizens in Russia, to demand the withdrawal and do everything in your power to diminish Putin’s.

And we call upon Russian generals and other military leaders around Vladimir Putin to make absolutely certain that Mr. Putin doesn’t think for one second about using any weapons of mass destruction including nuclear weapons. That would immediately negate our respect for Russia as a sovereign nation.

Who among you wants to destroy the lives of your children, grandchildren and all of the generations to follow? None of you do and none of us do either. You all must band together to make certain that Mr. Putin does not have the power over you to continue or escalate this situation. You must exercise your power against the one man who can make that decision. There are many of you and just one of him.

We call upon the brave Russian soldiers to not wait for the order to retreat, but to immediately lay down your weapons and go home to your friends and families. We call upon the Ukranian soldiers to allow them to leave peacefully.

We call upon all peace loving Russians to get into the streets immediately and demand that they begin withdrawal and not let another Russian soldier die in this illegal war.

In fact, we call upon every peace-loving human being on the planet to show their support for this withdrawal in any way they feel – hang flags, bang pans, sing songs, play trumpets. As a world, we need to create a cacophony that Mr. Putin will surely see and hear.

I’ve already said that Mr. Putin is a war criminal and many in the rest of the world recognize that. I will look at the situation with very different eyes if Mr. Putin complies and peace is restored to Ukraine and the senseless murder and destruction stops.

Sanctions take time. Rape, destruction and murder do not. As a world, we need to stand up and say no more and right now!

Lovers of peace and freedom, in every nation in this world, shout it from the rooftops. We’ve got 48 hours to change the world.

Thank you.

Readers, please share this far and wide if you agree.

The people are woke and global, sorry fatheads

Hearing about Vladimir Putin’s attempts to keep his citizens in the dark about what he was planning and now, what he is doing, in Ukraine is laughable. How is it that these angry old guys really think they can keep information away from people in the age of the Internet? Russia is a modern country, their people are logged in and connected to everyone else logged in. Yes, the state media controlled their message and was telling them one thing but just how many modern educated Russians believe their official state television? Probably about as many Americans who watch Fox News and believe that. (Fox has about 1.5 million daily viewers or about .003 percent of the American population.)

Russians get their news from many sources as do educated and curious people all around the world. They get Russian news, BBC, German news, and on and on – the new perspective is global, which many powerful men and women disdain as it sucks life out of the power to which they cling like deer ticks. Unless Putin could somehow corral the entire world of media into playing along with his lies, or build a dome across his 11 time zones, he is absolutely screwed when it comes to controlling what his people see, hear and know. And we see now how badly he has failed. Brave Russians are protesting in the streets, which to us in America might not sound so amazing, but protesting in Russia is not, shall we say, encouraged by the State. Protesters put themselves and their families in real, sometimes mortal danger.

Even North Korea, a veritable desert of outside news, can’t stop it all. Defectors have reported various ways their citizens still find a way to get western information, usually entertainment, into the country. If the Kim’s can’t do it, no one can.

Here in our own nation, fatheads around the country are banning or trying to ban books, like it’s 1952. This is the absolute dumbest (and dumbing) move the said fatheads can attempt. First, tell a young person with even a modicum of smarts and self-respect not to read a book and they will find a way to read the book. Duh. Second, ban them where? Books are everywhere. You could work to ban it in a school but another school with have it, so will the library, and so will, ahem, Amazon. And third, kids have printers. Got it, fatheads? We know that what you’re doing is merely to make others like you happy to further your political careers, but you look so dumb doing it, that it can only backfire. It seems that you also should read those books, and many more, until you get it.

Young people are woke and global (as are many old people). Your attempts to turn back the clock, jam the toothpaste back in the tube, close the barn door after the cows all left reminds me of the old guy on the 70s television show “Soap” who would snap his fingers and think that he’d become invisible when all the people around him just kind of groaned and went on with their business. You’re ridiculous. You have zero respect for the modern world and for the intelligence of young people. They don’t need you telling them what they can and cannot read. They need you to get the hell out of the way so they can build a new world that recognizes reality, not the wishes of a washed up generation who is handing those same young people a planet that we continue to fuck up on a daily basis.

This is not to mention all of the misinformation perpetrated by these same people around COVID. That led to dead Americans and lots of them. For that, if Christianity is correct, you will all land in hell. Sorry. Well, not really.

Saving Face in Ukraine

I think that Biden and his team are smart enough to understand that Vladimir Putin needs a war like he needs a hole in his head. But Putin’s saber rattling works with some of his supporters. So they will, I believe, find a way for Putin to pull back but save face. Putin needs to look tough with his people and we know that. Give him an out. Let this slowly dissolve and the attention span of the modern internet world will quickly forget.

Update February 27, boy howdy was I wrong. I honestly believed he’d never attack and yet he did. Biggest mistake of that man’s life. What a fool.

The “O” is for Oligarchy

They are the voice of the few, the proud, the billionaires.

The whole thing is fuckin’ brilliant. Rupert Murdoch emigrates to America from Australia, has a look around and realizes that there are a bunch of disaffected people who feel left out, have watched the great jobs they or their parents once had evaporate all around them, who are angry and looking for something to direct that anger, who are what he even refers to as “low information voters,” and who are ripe for the picking, and so Rupert picks away. Murdoch is at one level a genius and another P.T. Barnum.

Murdoch knew these things to be true:

  • If people want to be angry, it’s very easy to make them angrier.
  • Angry people are very easy to weaponize.
  • Enemies are necessary.
  • If you distract people, you can pick their pockets and those of their children and their children’s children.
  • Repetition, repetition, repetition is what many people will come to believe, truth or no truth.
  • Accuse the opposition of what you’re doing. It creates a dissonance that affects both sides. Think: “Fake News”.

Oh, and wrap it in a flag, keep underfunding education, and voila! The Oligarchs get richer and richer at the expense of regular American individuals and families, even those who’ve been weaponized (otherwise regular Americans) in their war against regular Americans. That’s the genius part.

FOX began with that “no bullshit,” “we tell it like it is” attitude right out of the gate. People liked that. And FOX dumbed everything down, simplified, spoke only in terms of black and white, and repeated beliefs, ideas, slogans, taglines, nicknames over and over.  And FOX had the incredible audacity to refer to itself as “fair and balanced.” Who knew a mostly biased news source could refer to itself as fair and balanced and people would buy into that? The genius, and the one-born-every-minute guy.

So instead of people watching the news to learn why we have new healthcare programs, how they work, who they help, how they are paid for and all the rest, they watch news that tells them that the new healthcare programs are made up by crazy liberals who are out to hurt them and give them worse care for more money, take away their choices, freedoms, guns, whatever. “Death Panels” was all they had to say, and like a flash of lightening, the viewership all turned and never turned back. Why not? That is so much easier to understand than the intricacies of the Affordable Care Act, and so the “low information voter” keeps it simple and remains low on information, but even better for FOX and the Oligarchs, now has “fake” information to replace it and a bucketload of anger and hate around the issue to hurl at their supposed enemies.

Vladimir Putin’s main aim in his work online here in the U.S. is to drive wedges between Americans, to create more anger, strife and misunderstanding, because a divided country is a weak country, and Russia wants nothing more than a weak America.

At FOX, everyone (other than themselves and their viewers) is the enemy – liberals, immigrants, black people, Chinese people, the media, scientists, teachers, George Soros, Hillary Clinton, queers, kneeling football players, gun law advocates and on and on. This keeps the FOX news watchers back on their heels. There is always another outrage to get pissed off about – an outrage that strikes to their very livelihood. These people are trying to take this away from you! FOX knows well enough to frame everything as an us versus them issue. People love having enemies.

Who’s the enemy du jour? Think of the recent Chloroquine issue as it relates to COVID 19.  FOX talks about this as if liberals and scientists want to keep it from FOX News viewers, whereas the real people who don’t want everyone taking this are, yes, scientists (they understand the dangers – this thing has not been tested) and the people who actually do need the drug for other reasons. They don’t need a run on a drug they truly depend on by a bunch of people fooled by FOX.

What the FOX viewer is expected to think is that, for some unfathomably vile reason, liberals and scientists want people to die unnecessarily – those people being the FOX viewers who want the Chloroquine. Liberals want to keep it from them so they die.

If this wasn’t something that happens on FOX every day, it would cause real outrage. Imagine, in a more rational world, one group of people in a nation (with a giant media corporation behind them) claiming another group would rather they die than allow them access to a drug that would save their lives, with fake and stupidly wrong information as proof. We would all be calling for, and receiving, a huge apology from the network. Editors would be fired.

Yeah, not here in the 21st Century with FOX News. They made that shit up, and they know it doesn’t matter if they did.

FOX is powerful stuff. Their viewers are in deep with their emotions; they are angry, appalled and righteous because FOX tells them over and over that they are right. That righteous anger is a huge buzz. The brain goes nuts, fight or flight is on high alert, the sense of entitlement ramps up and a good zinger against any of the many enemies releases a flood of serotonin that makes the FOX viewer feel even more righteous and satisfied and downright stoned. And so they come back for more and more and more. Like my twelfth trip to the liquor cabinet back in the day.

This is what toying with people’s emotions really means, plain manipulation. FOX tells the viewers what to think, but more importantly, they tell them what to feel.

I don’t have any answers. My discussions with FOX News watchers quickly devolve into FOX talking points, ergo, often bald-faced lies. When I point that out and show them absolute proof that they are wrong, they devolve further to: “Fake News,” “I don’t believe it,” “That’s not what I heard,” etc. Faced with being actually factually wrong, they punch their heads into the ground and basically just yell, “La La La La La!”

The left has some of this also with MSNBC, but if this is an arms race, MSNBC is firing a BB gun at FOX’s aircraft carrier.

There was a Simpson’s episode years back in which for some reason the televisions stopped working in the town and so there’s a scene where all the pale and weakly kids come out on their front stoops, shielding their eyes and are looking around as if they just landed on a different planet. Of course, they are soon having a blast together out in the street.

This could happen here if FOX news would just be kind enough to go off the air for a couple of weeks. Probably not. The Australians need to keep sucking money out of the United States and the FOX viewers, as does the Republican Party (who I’ve not mentioned so much but is the true beneficiary of FOX News) and also the Oligarchs (a lot of overlap there).

I’ve argued that the Australian multi-billionaire and owner of FOX News, Rupert Murdoch, is the most powerful man in American politics and I honestly still believe that is true. What FOX News has done through misinformation, manipulation, repetition, fake news, fake patriotism and all the rest has been a thousand times more detrimental to this Democracy than anything little Vladimir Putin can do from over there.

But they use the same game plan and want the same outcomes so does it really even matter? The billionaires, the oligarchs, the powerful republicans will ultimately make a shitload of money off the coronavirus and move more of the nation’s wealth to the very few.

More for them. Less for you. Think outside the FOX.

US_Wealth_Inequality_-_v2

CBO Chart, U.S. Holdings of Family Wealth 1989 to 2013. The top 10% of families held 76% of the wealth in 2013, while the bottom 50% of families held 1%. Inequality worsened from 1989 to 2013. Fox News started in 1996 and while we can’t claim a straight causation, the incredible redistribution of America’s wealth from the rest of us to the top 10% grows right along with FOX News viewership.

 

 

 

 

Nice Windows

So there’s quite the kerfuffle about Pope Francis bagging a bit on the childless couples who act like their dogs and/or cats are even remotely decent substitutes. And I get that that is maybe a bit old school Catholic style. But I’m right there with him! I’m so tired of my childless friends talking about this new restaurant or that great band they saw. Screw that! How about you procreate – as we were all meant to do! That’s the only reason why you’re on this earth – the only real reason! Everything else is window dressing! That pottery you do? Whatever. The music you make? Fun, but ultimately pointless. All those great art shows? You wouldn’t miss them if you never saw them.

And yet the rest of us – the beaten and down-trodden who carry the future of the world on our shoulders and our credit cards – double-down, the women go through the amazing sacrifice of giving birth and the two of us (hopefully) feel the tectonic shift beneath our feet and realize that one now true truth: It’s no longer about me any more, it’s all about you. I live for someone else.

And you with your hip concerts and surprise trips to Costa Rica! You with your spotless houses and planned dinners! You with your facebook posts about all the kidless fun you’re having! You!

Have you ever cupped your hands to catch the puke of a little girl? Realized long after changing a diaper that you had poop beneath your fingernail? Have you ever listened to the banal goings on of a six-year-old orator on a car trip for 2.75 hours? NO, YOU HAVE NOT! And even if you have you could leave the little pains in the ass behind when you head home to your great new awesome HBO series binge-a-thon!

Yeah, I’m jealous. Really jealous. You got it made. I’m screwed. But you got to admit I got it right with the whole evolution thing. Crap out kids – the genetic coupling, halving yourself. Passing on the genes. Only the strong survive. That’s the only real reason we’re here. The rest is window dressing.

But I got to admit that your windows look awesome, god damn it.

blows my mind

So my buddy was telling me about somebody he knows who somehow knows one of the really, really big Hollywood producers, like, just hugely big, like, you know, worth bajillions of dollars and produces movies and tv and whatever, whatever it is they do, and in that sick Hollywood culture people would literally just drop down on their knees and suck his dick to just to get him to read or to look at their, you know, script or to get it produced or whatever so and the guy is you know and he, and he lives it and acts it and he’s so absolutely full of himself to the point he’s just this bizarre Hollywood sick shit, you know, like, this guy, you know, I mean, he just absolutely believes he is as big and as amazing as these people treat him and they do. And what’s so interesting about that is he knows this person who knows this producer more closely and in fact has spent time with him at his home once a year for like thanksgiving or something and the guy this producer guy is the same at home and the people around him at home treat him the same way as the Hollywood sycophants all do so this guy’s life is like it’s as sick at home as it is elsewhere he’s so absolutely full of himself that, that, that, that no matter where he is he has to be sort of treated this way, and acts this way, this sense of, you know, this sense of, deserving, that he deserves all of this, I can’t think of the word there, but … and so, and so, and so I’m thinking about this and thinking god, how do you get like this? How can you possibly be that way? And so I’m thinking about it and I was struck by a really weird thought that so if you took this guy and everything he’s created, like everything he’s created – all the tv shows and all the movies and everything he’s done and everything he’s created and you just could somehow just erase it from history or just pluck it out and throw it away as if it never existed, and what struck me about that is that the world would not be any worse off – at all – like not at all, like nothing would be affected in the world some other movies or tv shows or whatever would fill in there and if we did not know what we’d seen, even if we enjoyed one of his movies or whatever greatly, even if we knew that, but if we didn’t know and it wasn’t created, it would have zero effect on the world. Like none whatsoever! But if you think about this if you took one teacher out, or one nurse out, and what they’ve done in the world, you know, it would have a very profound effect on the people who, who learned from them – or they cared for or whatever, you know, it would be a hugely profound effect, and it’s the same like with our sports stars, I mean, we pay these guys like millions of dollars to like run down the field, or like slap a puck really hard , or kick a ball or do whatever it is, you know, but if you take anyone of these billionaire, millionaire, I guess, sports stars out and the world would be none the worse at all – like, not at all. Nothing would be affected. Zero. Zilch. It’s like we pay the most money, in a lot of cases, it’s now always true, but in a lot of cases, to the people whose effects, true effects on the world and our lives is the least, I mean, think about that, we pay the most money to the people whose effects on the world, truly profound and meaningful effects on the world, are the least, that blows my mind. That just blows my mind.

06.24

So I’m thinking more about this and realizing there are really two types of jobs. Those that on some light level affect the world and those that affect it immediately and profoundly and forever. I’m of the former. I work in marketing and while it’s important for me and my clients, if everything I’ve ever done was suddenly erased, not a whole lot would change. But if my brother would similarly disappear, all of the work he’s done to help people’s vision would also disappear. The Target CEO, not much. The Target employee who helped me find the very important gift I was looking for, yep. Entertainers, absolutely not. Plumbers, yes.

This isn’t very well thought out, but am I serious about it? Yes, I am.

seems rather obvious, and then not at all

Back in 2003, as our elected officials were all cheerleading our invasion of Iraq, it seemed so blatantly obvious to all of us that if we did, eventually the civil war that is happening right now would certainly come to pass and it blew our minds that they didn’t see that. Not a one of the regular folks I talked with believed Iraq had “weapons of mass destruction” and lo and behold we were right. Not one of us believed we could bomb the country of Sunnis, Shiites and Kurds into some sort of submission without creating a huge power vacuum that would be filled with the same terrorists and radicals we purported to be fighting against, and lo and behold we were right again.

None of us liked Saddam Hussein, and Saddam Hussein, no doubt, ran the place with a hot iron fist, but he was also obviously in no position post-Kuwait to be any real threat to the region, let alone the United States. In addition, he hated Al Qaeda, or religious zealots of any kind (he seemed to believe that there should be no god before him), and would not tolerate anyone who would threaten the stability of his country, for that matter. Remove him and they will move in, we said, which they did.

One passing glance at the history of the entire Middle East and one should have been able to suss out that our bombs and “nation building” would not lead to some sort of shiny democracy a la the United States. It staggers the imagination to believe that they believed it themselves. These were not stupid people so the real question is why did we really invade Iraq? The oil? Payback for W’s dad’s war? Anger that we didn’t take him out then and there? Or maybe this Sunnis kill Shiites and vice versa over and over is exactly what they wanted. Who knows? They know, but no one is about to tell us.