Thursday, September 27, 2012

Wave that flag

US Blues - Grateful Dead (studio version)

done come and gone
My oh my...

Oconee Nuclear Station unsafe

At left: The Oconee Nuclear Station is right around the proverbial corner from me, so now I am damn nervous.

There is also the fact Duke Energy is run by money-grubbing liars and it is therefore impossible to trust anything they say. (This has been true since... well, when HASN'T it been true?)

In a report on Huffington Post, the vulnerability and instability of the Oconee plant has been outlined, thanks to a letter from whistleblower Richard Perkins, an engineer. Perkins was one of the authors of a report to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, detailing the problems at Oconee and similar plants.

Oconee was singled out as particularly vulnerable.

According to the above-linked Huffington Post piece:

[The] vulnerability at one plant in particular -- the three-reactor Oconee Nuclear Station near Seneca, S.C. -- put it at risk of a flood and subsequent systems failure, should an upstream dam completely fail, that would be similar to the tsunami that hobbled the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear facility in Japan last year. That event caused multiple reactor meltdowns.

In the letter, a copy of which was obtained by The Huffington Post, Richard H. Perkins, a reliability and risk engineer with the agency's division of risk analysis, alleged that NRC officials falsely invoked security concerns in redacting large portions of a report detailing the agency's preliminary investigation into the potential for dangerous and damaging flooding at U.S. nuclear power plants due to upstream dam failure.

Perkins, along with at least one other employee inside NRC, also an engineer, suggested that the real motive for redacting certain information was to prevent the public from learning the full extent of these vulnerabilities, and to obscure just how much the NRC has known about the problem, and for how long.

"What I've seen," Perkins said in a phone call, "is that the NRC is really struggling to come up with logic that allows this information to be withheld."

Perkins was the lead author of the report, which was completed in July of 2011 -- roughly four months after an earthquake and subsequent tsunami flooded the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant in Japan, cut off electric power to the facility and disabled all of its backup power systems, eliminating the ability to keep the reactors cool and leading to a meltdown.

In addition to the Oconee facility, the report examined similar vulnerabilities at the Ft. Calhoun station in Nebraska, the Prairie Island facility in Minnesota and the Watts Bar plant in Tennessee, among others.
According to the report, dam-failure occurring upstream from these plants "may result in flood levels at a site that render essential safety systems inoperable." All power sources (including backup batteries, generators and grid power) could be compromised by high floodwaters.
In response to the report, the NRC launched an expanded investigation, which is ongoing. It also folded the dam failure issue into the slate of post-Fukushima improvements recommended by a special task force formed in the aftermath of that disaster. But in a press release dated March 6 of this year, the agency said the report "did not identify any immediate safety concerns."

The NRC made a heavily redacted copy of the report publicly available on the NRC website the same day.

"Nuclear power plant designs include protection against serious but very rare flooding events, including flooding from dam failure scenarios," the agency release noted.
Very rare events! Nothing to worry about!

And where have we heard THAT before?
"The Nuclear Regulatory Commission staff may be motivated to prevent the disclosure of this safety information to the public because it will embarrass the agency," Perkins wrote in his letter. "The redacted information includes discussion of, and excerpts from, NRC official agency records that show the NRC has been in possession of relevant, notable, and derogatory safety information for an extended period but failed to properly act on it. Concurrently, the NRC concealed the information from the public."

In a conversation with The Huffington Post, Perkins elaborated on the redacted material. "My estimation is that if people saw the information that we have, and if they knew for how long we've had it, some might be disappointed at how long it's taken to act, and some might be disappointed that, to date, we haven't really acted at all."
What is darkly humorous is how many rich people live up on Lake Keowee. Maybe THAT will force them to act? They are right in the line of this possible future-disaster.

At the least, their property values have just plummeted.

Will their GREED railroad the NRC into action, if nothing else? Will property-owners and real-estate developers succeed where other mere humans (and concerned engineers) have failed?
Meanwhile, [Perkins] is among several nuclear experts who remain particularly concerned about the Oconee plant in South Carolina, which sits on Lake Keowee, 11 miles downstream from the Jocassee Reservoir. Among the redacted findings in the July 2011 report -- and what has been known at the NRC for years, the engineer said -- is that the Oconee facility, which is operated by Duke Energy, would suffer almost certain core damage if the Jocassee dam were to fail. And the odds of it failing sometime over the next 20 years, the engineer said, are far greater than the odds of a freak tsunami taking out the defenses of a nuclear plant in Japan.

"The probability of Jocassee Dam catastrophically failing is hundreds of times greater than a 51 foot wall of water hitting Fukushima Daiichi," the engineer said. "And, like the tsunami in Japan, the man‐made 'tsunami' resulting from the failure of the Jocassee Dam will –- with absolute certainty –- result in the failure of three reactor plants along with their containment structures.

"Although it is not a given that Jocassee Dam will fail in the next 20 years," the engineer added, "it is a given that if it does fail, the three reactor plants will melt down and release their radionuclides into the environment."

David Lochbaum, a nuclear expert with the Union of Concerned Scientists, said a key concern was that the NRC has failed to appreciate and tackle this risk for so long. "NRC can, or may, resolve the flooding issues," Lochbaum said. "But if it doesn't step back and review when those problems could have been exposed sooner, it won't make the programmatic fixes needed to become a more effective regulator.
I've been sleeping well lately, but tonight? Don't know if I will.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Wordless Wednesday: The Giving Tree

From the West-End Co-op, on display at Art in the Park on Saturday. (You can click to enlarge.)

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

The 10,000-Hour Rule

My first-ever diary entry was about my cat, Smokey. I wrote: "I love my cat."

Some things never change. :)


The upstate's local GLBT pride event was Saturday in Spartanburg. I announced it on my radio show as being on "Saturday"--totally spacing the fact that I was taping the show (on Thursday) and therefore my announcement would be HEARD on Saturday, so I should have said the event was "today"--right? Argh! (Link to the show here)

This is the kind of dumb error that makes me want to scream when I hear the show replayed, and why I sometimes refuse to listen to more than a few minutes.

Obviously, I am still relatively new to the radio biz.

My talented producer and consigliere, Gregg Jocoy, has repeatedly reminded me of Malcolm Gladwell's famous '10,000-hour rule': One can only master a skill after doing it for 10,000 hours.

We have done about 55 radio shows so far, so we only have 9945 hours to go.

Brian Clark Howard writes:

One of the most interesting parts of Malcolm Gladwell’s fantastic book Outliers is his discussion of the “10,000-hour rule,” which posits that it takes about 10,000 hours of dedicated practice to truly master a skill, be it playing the violin, computer programming, or skateboarding.

Gladwell covers several tantalizing examples, from the Beatles to Bill Gates, and argues that the biggest factor in their success is not innate talent or blind luck, but rather dedication to their chosen craft. It’s an empowering message, and one that suggests that almost anyone can succeed if they put in the time (could those saccharine posters be right?).

Of course, privilege and luck can greatly ease the way, but there’s little substitute for 10,000 hours of work.

This infographic, created for the blog Zintro by Nowsourcing, takes a closer look at practice and the 10,000-hour rule.

Of course, as Kurt Cobain said, “Practice makes perfect, but nobody’s perfect, so why practice?”
As usual, Kurt had a point.

However, doing some quick math... I realize this may be good news for me. I first started writing in a diary when I was about six years old (photo of six-year-old self, above) and that means if I wrote approx 204 hours a year (which rounds out to about 17 hours a month), from then until now, I am very close to the 10,000-hour mark. The Promised Land awaits!

Unfortunately, I never kept track of that. I do know that some years I wrote passionately and obsessively for many hours a day, every day... and some years I didn't write at all. (I guess even feverish, teenybopper letter-writing about David Cassidy counts?)

I am not sure if it all evens out, but the hours do add up, after decades.

In any event, I must be getting close! One of those unexpectedly-positive things that comes from aging.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Sam Cooke: Having a Party

I am currently watching the wonderful American Masters documentary titled Sam Cooke: Crossing Over (2010).

So much history is still unrecorded about pioneering black artists who "crossed over" into mainstream, radio pop-hit stardom. Cooke was one of the very first, achieving his first hit on the pop charts in 1957, still a very racially-incendiary time. Black artists on the mainstream charts then sounded like Johnny Mathis and Nat King Cole, not like Cooke's bluesy "You Send Me."

When Cooke performed at the Georgia State Fair, police were called in to maintain order because large integrated gatherings routinely attracted attention from racist groups like the kkk. The film clips of enthusiastic, racially-mixed southern audiences, standing up to scream and greet him, suddenly take on new significance when you keep in mind, they likely had to argue with their families for the right to be there.

The party was an act of affirmation.

Cooke's experiences made an emotional impact on him. In 1963, he joined Aretha Franklin in refusing to play for segregated audiences. When he played the Copacabana, the slicked-up patrons had never heard actual R & B before, and hardly knew what to think; they expected Sammy Davis Jr. Variety magazine wrote that Cooke "wasn't ready" for the Copa, when it's obvious it was the Copa audience that wasn't ready for him.

In late 1964, a woman named Bertha Franklin shot Sam Cooke, and nobody has ever been sure why. There is a great deal of controversy over the 'official' account of his death, which changed several times.

He had just become strongly politicized and was playing a greater role in the Civil Rights movement. Singer Etta James and others, wrote that the circumstances of his death were highly suspicious. An understatement.

When I heard "Having a Party"--I almost started to cry, it's just so beautiful.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Is college worth it?

One of those subjects that interests me a great deal, is whether a college degree is "necessary" or not. Lately, as the price of (even a mediocre) education skyrockets, the question is a getting a new and respectful hearing. Megan McArdle's in-depth Newsweek article on the topic, has prompted extensive discussion.

I am one who has often had my jobs supplanted by college grads. Frequently, these kids couldn't even decently proofread their own ad copy. I have trained college grad after college grad, many as dumb as dirt. It seems they are getting dumber, too... I think this is probably because the actual value of a degree is less than it used to be. I have trained numerous college grads who barely made it through (sometimes taking much longer than four years to do so), but by God, they had that almighty sacred CREDENTIAL that meant they should make more than I do; never mind that they couldn't even answer a customer's simple questions. (One college grad argued with me that there was no such thing as vitamin B-5. Really.) The dimwitted arrogance of "I have a degree and you don't; so I know everything and you know nothing," is worthy of a whole separate post. I collect such stories. Another big problem with college degrees is that the holder of said degree seems to believe that IQ points were magically bestowed when the degree was conferred... which is more proof of stupidity.

I am also one who has lied on occasion (especially in the pre-digital era) and claimed a college degree I don't have. It never seemed to make any real difference in anything an employer expected me to do. Such unnecessary college degrees (say, among video store clerks) are simply about gate-keeping; making sure that People Like Us are the only people in the break-room. The fact that I was easily able to pass as People Like Them, would suggest that it's the (apparent) fact of the degree, nothing tangible that is learned in the actual process of obtaining one.

From McArdle's piece:

Unsurprisingly those 18-year-olds often don’t look quite so hard at the education they’re getting. In Academically Adrift, their recent study of undergraduate learning, Richard Arum and Josipa Roksa find that at least a third of students gain no measurable skills during their four years in college. For the remainder who do, the gains are usually minimal. For many students, college is less about providing an education than a credential—a certificate testifying that they are smart enough to get into college, conformist enough to go, and compliant enough to stay there for four years.

When I was a senior, one of my professors asked wonderingly, “Why is it that you guys spend so much time trying to get as little as possible for your money?” The answer, [writer/economist Bryan] Caplan says, is that they’re mostly there for a credential, not learning. “Why does cheating work?” he points out. If you were really just in college to learn skills, it would be totally counterproductive. “If you don’t learn the material, then you will have less human capital and the market will punish you—there’s no reason for us to do it.” But since they think the credential matters more than the education, they look for ways to get the credential as painlessly as possible.
True. Learning itself often seems to be beside the point.

I have lost count of the number of times I have been reading some 'complicated' (but not really), obscure or arcane book (i.e. Jean Paul Sartre) and have been asked by the resident college grad in my office (accompanied by furrowed brow): "Are you reading that for a class?" The idea that one actually reads something "difficult" for oneself, for pleasure, is utterly foreign to them. Sometimes, when I reply "no"--the puzzlement is evident, and they continue, dumbfounded: "Then why are you reading it?" I hardly know what to say. (Tellingly, it is usually the 'uneducated' redneck in the office who giggles, at this point.) They usually punctuate these questions with, "All of that is behind me now! Whew!" or some other amazing comment, expressing relief that they will never have to READ A REAL BOOK again. (Wow, wasn't that shit HARD?) Some have proudly bragged to me they got through their entire college years without actually finishing a single one. I have never doubted it.

Nonetheless, I was surprised to read on Brad DeLong's blog (check the comments), that questioning the nature of COLLEGE UBER ALLES is now regarded as a conservative viewpoint. As Tim Gunn would say, this worries me. Back in the 60s/70s, liberals and radicals made this argument first, offering the common-sense observation that working and living in the real world--as well as a variety of interesting 'learning experiences' (this era marked the birth of that now-common expression)--also conferred 'an education.' I wasn't aware that questioning authority is now up to the right wing. (And how depressing is that?) Are liberals-on-the-coasts THAT out of touch with the situation on-the-ground? Do they interact with college grads from schools that never expected them to do math without calculators, or spell without spellcheck? I don't think they have.

More proof of the disconnect between elite liberals and the great working-class unwashed... and that makes me uneasy.


Further, there is the increasing importance of teacher evaluations, and whether they are a good or bad thing for education. What does it mean that students now determine whether a teacher stays employed? Is this an education worth paying big bucks for, one that has been "voted on"?

In the New York Times, former Duke professor Stuart Rojstaczer writes:
Student evaluations are a poor indicator of professor performance. The good news is that college students often reward instructors who teach well. The bad news is that students often conflate good instruction with pleasant ambience and low expectations. As a result they also reward instructors who grade easily, require little work, are glib and chatty, wear nice clothes, and are physically attractive. It’s generally impossible to separate all these factors in an evaluation. Plus, students will penalize demanding professors or professors who have given them a bad grade, regardless of the quality of instruction that a professor provides. In the end, deans and tenure committees are using bad data to evaluate professor performance, while professors feel pressure to grade easier and reduce workloads to receive higher evaluations.
In the mid-90s, I had a short-term temp-job processing teacher evaluations for a technical college. I fed the evaluations with the penciled-in answer-dots into a "reader" (which often spit them right back out at me... just like when you stick your dollar in the vending machine and it spits it back for having a crease in it) ... and then made pie charts on a Model-T-Ford-like-Mac, breaking down the teacher-ratings from the students: Excellent, Good, Fair, Below Average, Sucks. Then I deciphered the written gibberish from the students ("I like Mrs X, she is hot!", "Mrs X needs to stop talking about her cat all the time, some of us HATE CATS!" etc etc) and typed it up separately. Then I stapled the pie charts to the comments. (Yes, it was Model-T level stuff, indeed, but I remember thinking how high-tech the pie charts were!)

And do I need to tell you, how many times the teachers came sneaking in, asking WHO I was working on? ("Have you reached the computer/engineering/CAD department yet?") If I answered that I was working on their department, their eyes would go boinnnngggg (like a Tex Avery cartoon) and they would frenetically rifle through the papers (that I had carefully separated into piles, of course, causing me hours of extra work) looking for their own students' names and replies. My skinny, ADHD-supervisor would attempt to circumvent this extracurricular activity, keeping the door open from her adjacent office (where she liked to listen to Aerosmith) and bust them when they did this... scurrying in and shooing them away like kindergartners, reminding them of rules, rules, rules: YOU ARE BREAKING THEM. They didn't care. They did it virtually every day I had the job. (Some departments, I could see, were far more nervous than others; the nursing department was impervious and never showed up a single time.) The rifling of my careful piles of papers continued, and since my supervisor could SEE that this was not MY fault, I often got paid overtime.

I finally got the message, loud and clear, that their jobs were at stake. One teacher started groaning as he looked at his pie chart, his mortgage payment obviously hanging in the balance. One of them asked me if there was any way to fudge the replies, which I pretended I hadn't heard, just as skinny-supervisor bounded through the door and banished him from the room.

I remember a short, stolen conversation with one such crestfallen teacher, as I whispered (Aerosmith momentarily drowning us out) that his pie chart looked okay to me. He whispered back, shaking his head, that OKAY/FAIR was not good enough, you had to have blah-de-blah percent of GOODS... FAIR does not cut it. (I remember being surprised, since I am the product of a lifetime of FAIR public school teachers, and I still know every single one of my state capitals.)

What does this mean, that the opinions of students now dictate whether college instructors get to keep their jobs? (Even in a field like AUTOMOBILE ENGINE MECHANICS?!?)

Might this lead to getting softer and softer on the students?

And take note, this was at the dawn of the online era. "Rate My Professors" and other such sites that rate instructors publicly (and anonymously) had not even been invented yet.


In today's economy, we now have the sordid spectacle of employers demanding that bartenders and appliance-salesman have college degrees. As a result, we have a class of people who used to self-select out of college and go to work in factories, choosing to trudge through the torture of college, simply to avoid becoming unemployable. Since there are no longer any factory jobs in the USA, such a person is now at loose ends, and preyed upon by all the fake colleges promising a college credential during TV commercials. (Since these particular working-class folks haven't already been hanging out with the college-set, as I have, they are not quite aware that all college degrees are not equal, and some are barely regarded as real degrees at all.)

College is a racket, straight up. The costs are rising, and increasingly staggering. People graduate and can't find work. Worse, due to the magical degree in their hands, they think a job is promised to them. Thus, when they do get work, they expect it to be a certain KIND of work--the exalted occupations promised on the glowing TV commercials. When expected to mop floors with the rest of us, they are unexpectedly indignant: I didn't spend four years in college for this! they fume. As a matter of fact, you did. You did it to get hired, and now you are hired... now, mop.

I know, you didn't read Twelfth Night and go into six-figure debt to push a mop, and do you now see how ridiculous that was?

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Mitt Romney's class contempt exposed

Romney's speech to private donors hits the airwaves and gives us all a fit of the giggles.

Others are simply slack-jawed at the Republican presidential candidate's total and unbridled contempt for ordinary Americans. Here is the video of the speech, leaked by Mother Jones magazine. (Full transcript here.)

The money quote:

There are 47 percent of the people who will vote for the president no matter what. All right, there are 47 percent who are with him, who are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims, who believe that government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you name it. That that's an entitlement. And the government should give it to them. And they will vote for this president no matter what. And I mean, the president starts off with 48, 49, 48—he starts off with a huge number. These are people who pay no income tax. Forty-seven percent of Americans pay no income tax. So our message of low taxes doesn't connect. And he'll be out there talking about tax cuts for the rich. I mean that's what they sell every four years. And so my job is not to worry about those people—I'll never convince them that they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives.
But rest assured, the entire speech is well worth reading. His astounding class-based contempt and overall Richie-Rich comic-book cluelessness is evident throughout.

For instance, I consider this quote almost as incredible as the predictable "forget the 47%" jibber-jabber currently crashing the airwaves and nightly news shows:
[There is] the percent that's, "Oh, you were born with a silver spoon," you know, "You never had to earn anything," and so forth. And, and frankly, I was born with a silver spoon, which is the greatest gift you could have, which is to get born in America. I'll tell ya, there is—95 percent of life is set up for you if you're born in this country. And I remember going to—sorry just to bore you with stories—but I was, when I was back in my private equity days, we went to China to buy a factory there, employed about 20,000 people, and they were almost all young women between the ages of about 18 and 22 or 23. They were saving for potentially becoming married, and they worked in these huge factories, they made various small appliances, and as we were walking through this facility, seeing them work, the number of hours they worked per day, the pittance they earned, living in dormitories with little bathrooms at the end with maybe ten rooms. And the rooms, they had 12 girls per room, three bunk beds on top of each other. You've seen them.

And around this factory was a fence, a huge fence with barbed wire, and guard towers. And we said, "Gosh, I can't believe that you, you know, you keep these girls in." They said, "No, no, no—this is to keep other people from coming in. Because people want so badly to come work in this factory that we have to keep them out, or they'll just come in here and start working and try and get compensated. So, we—this is to keep people out."
Well, gosh... sure it was.

Is this man for real?


The media reactions have been as explosive and amazing as Romney's idiocy.

AlterNet's 10 Desperate and Depressed Conservative Reactions to Romney's 47 Percent Moment (Fun subtitle: Some are standing by Romney; the semi-smart ones are running away like he's carrying Ebola) includes some quotable goodies:
The reality, of course, is that Romney cherry-picked one tax – federal income taxes – which happens to be one of our more progressive taxes. It accounts for 42 percent of federal revenues. A more regressive tax, paid by almost every working person -- but not the super-rich who live off of their investments -- is the payroll tax, which accounts for 40 percent of the government's take. And, of course, the idea that the 47 percent of households that don't pay federal income taxes are Democrats is just silly – they're heavily concentrated in red states and a fifth of that group are elderly, a demographic that tends to skew Republican.
Great talking points; highly recommended for those of us who insist on foolishly arguing with Romneyoids on various blogs and forums.

Romney's '47%' presents challenge for Republican candidates (Los Angeles Times)

Mitt Romney’s ‘47 Percent’ Remarks Have Everything To Do With Race (Colorlines)

By way of Boing Boing, here's the 'story of the story'... how the speech-video eventually surfaced online: The Long Strange Leak Of Mitt Romney's 47% Video (BuzzFeed)

And E.J. Dionne asks the pertinent question, Does Mitt Romney's '47 percent' comment show he hates America?:
What kind of nation are we if nearly half of us are lazy, self-indulgent moochers who will never be persuaded to mend our ways? "I'll never convince them they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives," Romney said, thus writing off a huge share of our citizenry.

From his perch high atop the class structure, Romney offered an analysis of political motivations that even Marxists would regard as excessively materialistic. He speaks as if hardworking parents who seek government help to provide health care for their kids are irresponsible, that students who get government aid to attend community colleges are not trying to "care for their lives." Has he never spoken with busboys and waitresses, hospital workers and janitors who make too little to pay income taxes but work their hearts out to "take personal responsibility"?
Of course he hasn't. I think that is fairly obvious.

Stay tuned, sports fans.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Got funk?

Great Ohio Players documentary, if you have 40 minutes to spare.

If not, just skip on down to the song.


UNSUNG (documentary)- The Ohio Players


My January 2nd post (about the infamous Ohio Players album covers) featured the fabulously-sensuous studio version of this song, which runs closer to 8 minutes... unfortunately it has since been yanked by awful capitalists.

Trying again.

Skin Tight (TV 1974) - Ohio Players

This video, introduced by Wolfman Jack, appears to be from the Midnight Special broadcast, which means it may also get yanked eventually, so LISTEN NOW! I am somewhat shocked to discover that my post of the New York Dolls on the Midnight Special is still intact. Of five songs on that post, only one has been removed since (Carole King), and that is much better odds than most of them.

Unfortunately, YouTube is constantly yanking videos, rendering many of my old posts DEAD as a DOORNAIL... and for those interested in which corporations/individuals are behind this nefarious scheme to deny us our online fun, check out the invaluable YouTomb for details.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Vegetarian intestinal distress leads to insightful thinking

I have discovered an excellent reason to stay vegetarian.

After a decade and a half, if you inadvertently eat anything made with meat, you barf your guts out.

I have been sick for several days... and my husband, who ate the same thing (and is not vegetarian) is just fine. It was not food poisoning... or rather, IT WAS, but not the usual kind.

For ME it was.

I guess there is no going back!

The item was already-prepared "chicken-fried tofu"--which I assumed (and you know what they say about that) was not actually fried in chicken. (After all, as Mr Daisy said, frying it in actual chicken fat kinda defeats the whole purpose of eating tofu in the first place, doesn't it?) It seems I have eaten it before (although hardly ever) and did not have this cataclysmic, days-long reaction... but I did eat a significant amount on this occasion. It has been horrific. I am genuinely surprised at my body's response.

It could also be that the person frying it, in this particular instance, went ahead and actually chicken-fried it and didn't consider trying to make it vegetarian. I have often tasted Chinese and other foods, duly advertised as technically "vegetarian" (as in, no meat in the actual recipe) but tasted suspiciously as if possibly dumped into the same wok as the chicken-fried rice, made earlier in the day... after a long time without meat, it jumps right out at you. But imitation-meat flavors are, admittedly, much harder to gauge... the whole focus of the flavor profile is the imitation-meat flavor.

I am not a purist, and I have eaten imitation-bacon-flavored potato chips and so forth, with no negative reactions. I read labels! (Of course, with prepared hot-bar foods, you can't do that.) A "flavor" is usually a chemical, and real meat is not the same as chemically-enhanced "meat-flavor" and never the twain shall meet. So, I assumed I was eating the equivalent of tofu fried in chicken flavors.

Wrong. My ailing intestines and tummy say otherwise.

As I said, sick for days. I even recorded my radio show while still suffering (the show must go on, and all that), so my pissed-off ranting came much easier than usual. Have a listen!

And pity the poor vegetarian who no longer has the 'choice,' as one always likes to think one does.

Perhaps this is a lesson about all such choices: after a certain point, you can't undo that choice, it is permanent. It is not simply a choice of the mind; the body, the life, is irreparably marked with it.


I have been reading Susan Sontag's diaries... and I am just so jealous of her brilliance. Her one-and-two-sentence observations, just while she is sitting on a beach or whatever, are far more brilliant, incisive, and genius than anyone else's (even as they congratulate themselves for their limited brilliance and clarity). My goodness, how I miss her. I always idolized her, and now I know why: this is the kind of public female intellectual that simply does not exist anymore. She was a pure product of her time.

One thing I did, was trot out to buy a little notebook and resolve to scribble my own (decidedly non-brilliant) observations in it. I can see that she would write lines that later ended up in her other books; ideas that would later direct her thoughts and passions. I can't tell you all how many times I have tried to remember what I was thinking back on Tuesday, only to forget all about it... one thing I have liked about blogging is how it is an accurate, uncensored record of our thoughts and feelings. I have decided keeping a notebook, even of one and two line-passages, is a way to make that even more detailed, more comprehensive, more precise.


Whilst recovering from my epicurean disaster, I watched TLC network, and although its hard to avoid the constant commercials for Honey Boo Boo (saints preserve us), I was very interested in the new show about conjoined twins Abby and Brittany Hensel. The TLC documentaries about their lives were well-received and popular, and I watched them a couple of times; this show is not surprising. They are extremely likable, smart, capable... and they don't seem at all disturbed that other people are disturbed by them.

In a very real sense, their lack of being disturbed is part of their unique condition: they are together. They are not alone. A person defined as "a freak" by our society, left all alone and gawked at unmercifully (i.e. the Elephant Man), tugs at our heartstrings in an almost-excruciating way. That poor soul, we think, nobody will ever understand him. But Abby and Brittany have each other, and they understand what the other is experiencing. Their very difference itself, makes them strong together. They murmur to each other, they make inaudible one-word remarks and grin. They are able to make fun of us right back. Therefore, they plow onward, unperturbed and undaunted. You can't help but be drawn to them.

And you know, the fact is, it is going to be hard for these girls to make a living in the regular ways. It isn't like they are going to get hired for the local Burger King or Dairy Queen. They are very logical and realistic young women, and at some point, I can see them sitting down for the cost-benefit analysis: okay, how are we going to make money? The Salon article I linked above, asks the obvious question, IS THIS A FREAK SHOW?--but forgets an obvious historic reality: people went into freak shows to be able to eat and find a warm place to sleep. Many of the people in the shows took the proverbial bull by the horns and started running their own shows and were able to retire in relative comfort. Others were exploited by ruthless circus-ringmasters. It was not always obvious which was which, simply by looking.

To me, as in the prostitution business, the question is: who is making the money? The fact is the exploitation, not necessarily the "freak show" aspect. After all, people surround these girls everywhere they go. They might as well start charging. How to do that in a civilized fashion? Reality TV seems to be the ticket. After this TV-series, people will surround them as celebrities, not (only) as 'freaks'. Also, people will have heard of them. They will know who they are and not drop their iced tea in the mall, and start following them around to be sure they saw what they thought they saw, as some reporter did some years ago in Minnesota's Mall of America. (And then, writing a really rude, gee-whiz-guess-what-I-saw article about them, that of course, I cannot readily locate now to properly link.)

Instead, they might actually get some respect, since Reality-TV celebrity is one of the few ways physically-different people can get some respect these days.

And may I also say: Its also very nice to see a whole Reality-TV show in which so many young women are portrayed as decent for a change, instead of the usual nasty, mean-girl bitches. It is heartening to see Abby and Brittany's female support network; when the gawkers descend, they close ranks around them and don't allow them to take unauthorized pictures and videos.

Now, that's something to be proud of, too:

[The TLC show] is unrelentingly positive, and at times flatout heartwarming. In the documentary about them at 16, their mother explained just how protective their friends were, closing ranks whenever anyone would stare at them. In college, the twins seem to have duplicated this kind of sheltered social environment. Unlike so many TV shows — reality and otherwise — “Abby & Brittany” is a kind of soothing ode to the niceness of 20-year-olds, and especially of 20-year-old girls. The women who live with Abby and Brittany [in their college dorm] are normal in that explicitly Midwestern way, which is to say, normal to the point of notability, grounded, smiley, well-adjusted, well-behaved, just like Abby and Brittany. The roommates are a sort of Greek chorus, supplying the audience with the information it needs — about the girls’ physiological differences, how much tuition they pay (one and a half) and the differences in their personalities — and also expressing their endless, genuinely heartfelt admiration of the two and their astounding simpatico.
I won't be able to stay away from the show, and ain't ashamed to say so.

Note: In keeping with the disability-rights concept that disability is a social construct, as I believe it is, I am tagging this blog entry with "disability"--although it is pertinent to note that Abby and Brittany are not "disabled"--as dwarves also are not. But their man-made environment (car seats, college desks, etc) DOES disable them, as it does very small people. People are "disabled" by environments and their minority status, even if they are in perfect health. (i.e. Severely scarred individuals are disabled by other people's reactions to them, not usually by the actual scars.) Just wanted to do a quick commercial for this radical perspective, since Abby and Brittany are a perfect example of it.


Other links inspired by my new notebook habit:

The Death of Sun Ming Sheu: A Government Sponsored Assassination? Thanks to Onyx Lynx!

William Gibson on Punk Rock, Internet Memes, and ‘Gangnam Style’ Required reading!

As regular readers know, I am fascinated by the multitude of changes wrought by our relatively new internet culture. And so is Gibson:
WIRED: In your essay in the new book Punk: An Aesthetic, you write that punk was the last pre-digital counterculture. That’s a really interesting thought. Can you expand on that?

GIBSON: It was pre-digital in the sense that in 1977, there were no punk websites [laughs]. There was no web to put them on. It was 1977, pre-digital. None of that stuff was there. So you got your punk music on vinyl, or on cassettes. There were no mp3s. There was no way for this thing to propagate. The kind of verbal element of that counterculture spread on mostly photo-offset fanzines that people pasted up at home and picked up at a print shop. And then they mailed it to people or sold it in those little record shops that sold the vinyl records or the tapes. It was pre-digital; it had no internet to spread on, and consequently it spread quickly but relatively more slowly.

I suspect — and I don’t think this is nostalgia — but it may have been able to become kind of a richer sauce, initially. It wasn’t able to instantly go from London to Toronto at the speed of light. Somebody had to carry it back to Toronto or wherever, in their backpack and show it, physically show it to another human. Which is what happened. And compared to the way that news of something new spreads today, it was totally stone age. Totally stone age! There’s something remarkable about it that’s probably not going to be that evident to people looking at it in the future. That the 1977 experience was qualitatively different, in a way, than the 2007 experience, say.

WIRED: What if punk emerged today, instead of in 1977? How do you think it would be different?

GIBSON: You’d pull it up on YouTube, as soon as it was played. It would go up on YouTube among the kazillion other things that went up on YouTube that day. And then how would you find it? How would it become a thing, as we used to say? I think that’s one of the ways in which things are really different today. How can you distinguish your communal new thing — how can that happen? Bohemia used to be self-imposed backwaters of a sort. They were other countries within the landscape of Western industrial civilization. They were countries that most people would never see — mysterious places. You’d pay a price, potentially, for going there. That’s always cool and exciting. Now, where are they? Where can you do that? How are people transacting that today? I am pretty sure that they are, but I don’t have that much firsthand experience of it. But they have to do it in a different way.
He's totally nailed it... and I think this explains why I am so startled by the lack of "loyalty"--the lack of "investment"--that young people have in the ideas and lifestyles they adopt today.

That's because they ran across it on the internet, exactly as if they were leafing through a catalog.

I realize now, this is what is behind my constant requests for "cred" in young internet-denizens who challenge me... their challenges are just another fun thing to do, whereas I take them very seriously as challenges to my self. That's because I take such aspects of MY SELF seriously; I sweat for my ideas and experience. I didn't just thumb through some catalog and decide, "I believe/like this; its cool, so its me."

This may also be the reason they rarely ACT on their political ideas, since no ACT was required to gain the knowledge, other than sitting and clicking. Back in the day, you had to work hard for your counter-cultural knowledge, and thus, for some inexplicable reason, you therefore felt obligated to act.

Yes, I know, this whole post is "tl/dr"--as the kids say. (stands for "too long/didn't read"--you didn't expect them to read anything LONG, did you? Is it longer than a soundbite? Fuhgeddaboudit!)

The protracted length is precisely because: I didn't really write it for them. ;)

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

White Horse Prophecy revisited

By popular demand, here is the video I played on my radio show (Saturday). It concerns the fabled White Horse Prophecy, which is not official Mormon doctrine, but part of LDS religious-folklore.

On my show, I compared the prophecy to Catholic stuff like the Secrets of Fatima, and fundamentalist stuff like The Rapture. These are not, technically-speaking, "doctrine" either, but are frequently employed as "dog whistles" to alert the people who do believe them. (Actually, I think some Christian sects DO consider the Rapture a matter of doctrine, but I couldn't readily name which ones.) Many devout Mormons do not believe in this prophecy, and they are not required to believe it; ditto the Fatima Secrets and the Rapture.

Nonetheless, these stories do have an appreciable influence on religious adherents.

Examples: If I say "Three Secrets of Fatima"--and you are Catholic, then you have some idea of what I refer to, and might further understand that I am discussing Russia and/or the future of communism and the Catholic Church. If I say "Rapture" --and you have a fundamentalist background or are familiar with these ideas, then you know I mean the endtimes and the emergence of a dangerous world leader who will be called Antichrist. Etc.

If you use the phrase "Hanging by a Thread"--many pious Mormons will know what you refer to, and react accordingly. This phrase contains specific wording in the "White Horse Prophecy"--which I discussed on this blog a couple of years ago. (At that time, I was writing about Glenn Beck's apparent adherence to the prophecy.) Therefore, using such a loaded phrase is a way to communicate something important to those who catch the inside-reference; the chosen media-method of "dog whistling" to citizens attuned to the appropriate frequency.

The following is a video by a Protestant fundamentalist preacher named Carl Gallups, warning the faithful about Mitt Romney and the White Horse Prophecy. (warning: fundie fulminating at the link!) It was first aired on WEBY-AM, "Gulf Coast Talk Radio" in Florida.

I find this very entertaining ... and fascinating.

Whether we believe any of this stuff or not, plenty of people do, and they act on this belief. Even if their beliefs are not "real"--their actions are. And that includes those who oppose them, as the preacher who made this video, certainly does.

As I hope I don't have to say: I do not believe the Christian fundamentalist assertions (and prejudices) stated in this video. FOR INFORMATION PURPOSES ONLY.

ALERT! - THE ROMNEY RISING - The White Horse Prophecy of MORMONISM Being Fulfilled?


The following video comes via conservative CleanTV. Issued by wacky, hyperkinetic televangelist Bill Keller, it includes fervent anti-Romney warnings, referencing the White Horse Prophecy as proof.

Love the Rod Serling picture that suddenly pops up... as well as the swirling, apocalyptic music that puts one in mind of the movie soundtrack of THE OMEN.



This one comes from Shawn McCraney, "Born Again Mormon":

The White Horse Prophecy


And finally, the more-or-less straight media version from MSNBC. This is reporter Tamron Hall interviewing Politico's Edward-Isaac Dovere:

Stay tuned, sports fans...and WATCH THE SKIES!

Monday, September 10, 2012

Five of Wands

Five of Wands: Conflict, competition, discord

The Boy Scouts of America were selling some sugared-up substances outside my local grocery store this weekend... and I really really really wanted to walk right up to them and ask, do you let the transgender scouts in? The Girl Scouts do! But I lacked the nerve; the scout-leaders on duty had that hyper-masculine, super-patriotic Toby Keith vibe going on. I could easily see it all escalating into a heated argument, and possibly culminating in a call to Greenville's finest.

Those guys love cops. Some of them ARE cops.

I used to relish that sort of thing, but now I get weary and tired just thinking about it. (sigh) Do we get less radical as we age, or just more sensible? I mean, it would all be a huge waste of time, and could get me locked up besides.

Then again, IS it a waste of time? Could one of those unassuming, plucky little boy scouts be gay or transgender and therefore: silently cheering me on? Could I make a good impression by accident? (I know I have in the past, but I usually only find that out years later.)

Well, I'll never know now. I passed them by and pretended not to hear them when they politely addressed me as ma'am and asked me to buy their sugar-treats. If I had stopped, even for a second, the argumentative questions WOULD have tumbled right out of my mouth. I am old enough now, to Know Thyself well.

Therefore, I know when to keep on walking... unless I have the strength and wherewithal to deal with the various Toby-Keithesque-characters of upstate South Carolina. And at that time and place, I just didn't.

I hope some brave young person, with energy and time to burn, does.

One of those little scouts needs to hear you speak up.


We watched the whole first season of HOMELAND on DVDs, which was terribly enjoyable but politically disturbing.

Is the CIA really this much of a mess? I shudder to think.

And do we accept this fact without question, just to have some mind-twisting entertainment? Are government-sanctioned, covered-up drone attacks on masses of children now just another plot development?

Saints preserve us.

As when I watched Standard Operating Procedure, I had nightmares after one of the episodes, the one about the drone attacks.

Observations: Nobody plays crazy as well as Claire Danes. Her stream-of-consciousness mania/complaining about not being able to find a green pen (Not blue!) was fantastic. I highly recommend the show for sheer class and talent on display, and yet... I resent the fact of the war, the tortures, the devastation they are dramatizing. But of course, that is all some genuinely high-stakes stuff, isn't it? This makes for some honestly gut-wrenching drama and challenges to the moral sensibility. One's conscience is suddenly thrown into high gear, and how many TV shows can manage to do that?

On the other hand, the danger is that horrifying, harrowing military realities are reduced to the status of a Tom Clancy thriller. I find this disorienting. It leaves a decidedly-unpleasant taste in the mouth. More psychologically sophisticated than John Wayne in Sands of Iwo Jima, to be sure... but still presented as entertainment. And is there any way the CIA does NOT come off as a glamorous occupation, with Claire Danes madly running around risking her life to save the unsuspecting populace? Or, as Peter O'Toole noted in that obscure cult movie, The Stunt Man: "I know a man who made an anti-war movie; a good one. When it was shown in his home town, army enlistment went up six hundred percent."

Is it possible to portray something, anything, in movies and TV without somehow making it interesting and cool?

On the political flip-side, conservatives have often asked this same question about drug abuse. How can one properly dramatize drug abuse and its accompanying devastation, without inadvertently glamorizing drug use as dangerous and edgy?

Because it if weren't, on some level, we wouldn't bother watching.

We don't get the Showtime network, so I will probably not see the second season of HOMELAND in its entirety until it comes out on DVD. (I hope I can resist Googling the spoilers, as I have been known to do.) If the second season can keep up the dramatic tension, it should be excellent. The second season will debut on Showtime at the end of this month.

The nasty snipes at Dick Cheney are obvious, at least. And well-deserved.


Saturday's radio show podcast is online. Hope you will give us a listen.

Speaking of radio... Bob Jones University has sold their radio station, which had the cutesy call letters of WMUU: World's Most Unusual University. (Nobody ever argued with that.) It will now be converted into still another conservative talk-radio station here in town. Certainly, we know that is a DIRE NEED here in the upstate! (snark)

Swimming upstream, but we are still afloat. One slim hour of lefty-radio in a sea of constant and endless right-wing blather.

It's a dirty job, but somebody has to do it.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Democratic Convention update

At left: Ten undocumented immigrants arrested at demonstrations outside the Democratic National Convention. This protest was the end-point of the UNDOCUBUS journey across the USA. Photo from the Village Voice.

The Democratic Convention continues, with few arrests--although there have been some. As I said previously, I was worried. There have been demonstrations, but nothing too disruptive.

Former President Bill Clinton wowed the audience last night, making folks nostalgic for Clintonian America; Democratic delegates openly confessed that they wish they could vote for him instead of Obama. (Transcript of Clinton's speech)

Mr Daisy dislikes the conventions and opted to watch DVDs of "The Office" instead. I think he prefers the old-style conventions, wherein the major networks actually broadcasted endless rules-discussions and other such wonky, procedural, political in-group activities. It somehow made you feel like you really were being represented and that your state's delegates, of both parties, were there to choose what was best for you. Now, it's mostly just razzle-dazzle and teleprompter-speeches, already market-tested for the masses. No surprises, and consequently, no fun.

Michelle Obama's speech was judged by the mass media as a big hit. The notable exception would be (big shocker) Fox News viewers. Daily Kos reported on the nasty racism in the comments on the Fox News website. No exaggeration either, I went over there and looked, and there are many more, and far worse. What particularly surprised me (but not really) is the fact that Fox webmasters did not close the thread down, and didn't seem at all worried by how bad this makes their viewers look. As I wrote in comments here, racism IS profitable, despite what some conservatives claim, i.e. a return to Jim Crow is somehow not possible in our (cough) racially-enlightened times. Of course it is. (And therefore, when anyone talks seriously about repealing the 1964 Civil Rights Act? They are either stone-cold racists, incurably naïve or simply NOT PAYING ATTENTION.)

As Ezra Klein noticed, the huge change in Democratic Party strategy has been: the Democrats are reclaiming Obamacare. YES, universal medical care IS a winning policy, and it is about time somebody said so. Several convention speakers have openly used the term "Obamacare"--which ironically started out as a Republican put-down. The new theme is, OBAMA CARES about you, as Mitt Romney only cares about the rich, like himself.

I guess we'll find out how well this works?

As for me, as my readers know, I love me some class warfare. When conservatives accusingly howl, "CLASS WARFARE!" as if its an insult, I never get it. When *I* am accused of it, I always say "Thank you!"--since of course, it's totally necessary and we certainly can't have enough of it. What is the intended insult, exactly? FAIRNESS IS GOOD. ROBIN HOOD WAS RIGHT. If you don't like that, move to Switzerland with the rest of the tax exiles, and take Mitt with you.

I hear he already has a bank account set up over there, so he and the misses will be just fine.

They can sublet their expensive houses. Most of us could support our whole families on the rents from the sublets, alone.


Yesterday, I enjoyed my 82nd viewing (give or take) of Suddenly, Last Summer. Just so amazing... and my previous post about the movie is here.

Speaking of which, its way past time to link myself! I often forget to do it.

[] I neglected to mention my own blogular accounts of protesting at the Democratic and Republican Conventions in 1980, one of which was linked on Wikipedia (((preen))), so here they are: Republican Convention in Detroit, Democratic Convention in New York.

[] And here is my official BACK TO SCHOOL POST, for all of you exhausted parents out there.

I continue to get positive and affirming feedback about this story, years after I first wrote it. I have received emails as well, lamenting similar GIANT SCHOOL PROJECTS on similar-sized ping-pong tables, sometimes offering detailed descriptions: One mom described a Confederate battlefield, complete with miniature Rebel-battle-flags and toy cannons; another teacher on a forum I visit, relating the same about a detailed Napoleonic display.

All of the (historically-accurate) uniforms carefully sewed onto the teeny-tiny soldiers, some with itsy-bitsy brass buttons.

The mind boggles.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

West Virginia map

My mother's home state. Too true! (You can click to enlarge)

Democrats, Republicans and links

And the 2012 Democratic Convention commences! It should be interesting. Protests are planned in 32 cities nationwide, on September 6th.

I decided to sit this protest out, even though it's in Charlotte, which is only a stone's throw away.

Whenever I asked The Fates if I should go, I kept getting this card. Yow! Three times is the charm. I got it three times in a row, and that settles it. Staying home.

Besides, I am way too old to sleep on floors, which never bothered me when I was young. (sigh) I will leave that hardy activity to the youngsters. Thanks to the marvel of Facebook and Twitter, I have a ringside seat, with great photos being provided by my many droogs. I will try to include a few here, throughout the week.

Thanks, peeps, and I LOVE YOU!


Speaking of aging, here is a good one:

Harry's Law canceled because viewers are too old:

On paper, the cancellation looked a bit surprising, because "Harry's Law" is NBC's second most-watched drama behind "Smash." "Harry's Law" averaged 8.8 million total viewers this season, compared with 9 million for "Smash," according to Nielsen. And it drew more viewers than "Law & Order: SVU" (7.6 million), which just got renewed for next fall.

The problem? Those "Harry's Law" viewers are older than Madison Avenue wants. The show ranked very low among viewers ages 18 to 49, the demographic most advertisers care about.

And speaking of arrests, the undocumented immigrant riders of the "Undocubus" are being arrested, literally as I type this.

Outside the Democratic Convention: Labor Rallies, Protests, and the "Undocubus" (Village Voice)

Not Much Evidence That Romney Got a Post-Convention Bounce—and That Should Worry Him (The New Republic)

Mitt Romney's Bain Capital Bailout: GOP Candidate's Firm Profited From Company That Required $44 Million Federal Bailout. (Huffington Post) -- Daisy's subtitle "Government spending for ME, but not for THEE!"

Mitt and Me -- Mitt Romney doll comes to life.

Occupy Greenville celebrates Labor Day in the pouring rain! -- Yes, we are still at it!


Time for Tuesday tuneage! I played this one on my radio show some months ago. (And here is the link to Saturday's fabulous show.)

It just seems fitting.

I Wanna Grow Up To Be A Politician - Roger McGuinn (Live) 1986

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Dead Air Church: How we've changed, continued

Blast from the past: Counter-demonstrators at the Democratic Convention in New York in 1980, were given this handy-dandy "non-delegates handbook"--which looked a lot like the official delegate-guide issued to Democratic delegates. (Us scroungy types didn't have to pay the $5; that was for the press, tourists, curious-onlookers and other nosy people who looked like they could afford it.)


I have been arguing with somebody online about Ayn Rand. Why? Good question. I like banging my head against the wall, obviously.

But as one who has spent most of his life reading about politics and not actually DOING, he hasn't actually met too many Objectivists (Ayn Rand followers) in person. A lot of what I know about them, I realize, has been from arguing with them, up close and personal. For example, I remembered an argument with such a person outside the aforementioned Democratic convention. (It is remarkable how their arguments have NOT changed.)

Thus, when my online-opponent accusingly demands CITATIONS!!!???? --I don't have them. I am reporting what "I have heard Randians say" since it IS what I have heard them SAY. In person. Not write. And not online, since (like Ayn Rand herself) these conversations predate the internet. (Thus, to a great many people of ALL political persuasions, this means my account is disqualified from consideration. Pre-internet history is UNRELIABLE!)

And I heard the Randians say all manner of things, including endorsing euthanasia for old and disabled people. They didn't back down from this position or display any shame. Why should they? They would proudly tally up the savings on their pocket calculators and show you the figures. The more horrified you were, the more GLEE they would take in shocking you. Your shock at their selfishness was just more proof of what a bleeding-heart girlie-girl and/or brainwashed sheep you were. (Slight interruption for amusing link: I Was a Teenage Objectivist.)

In remembering this period of history, I sadly realized, its over. The internet has put an end to it. People just don't blurt out world-class wacko things as often as they used to. It's dangerous; they might get quoted and Tweeted on the spot, or find their rants surreptitiously recorded and saved to YouTube for posterity. This is doubly true for writing: A blog post or forum comment can be copied and circulated by the time you visit the restroom and come back and decide to delete it. Google cache strikes again! Screen shots uber alles!

And so, you just don't get that kind of extreme insanity any more, except from the internet trolls, and they don't count. They don't MEAN IT. (Or maybe they DO, but there is simply no way to know for sure.)

I have been perusing Steven Pinker's recent book, The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined. I haven't exactly been READING it, since I tend to doze off during heavy-science discussions, peppered with data, footnotes and suchlike. But I do perk up when he talks about how animal torture is no longer acceptable (for example), relating a harrowing anecdote about how he once tortured a poor rat to death by accident during a lab experiment. And how that situation simply would not happen now, in the same circumstances.

Pinker's overall concept is that violence is declining. I am skeptical. However, my recent inability to find wacko quotes from Randians (that I KNOW existed back in the day), is a telling testament to his thesis. Hmm. It seems he has a point, and I now have a real-life example of my own: there is less verbal violence and extremism than there used to be. Why? People are held accountable now. You will end up on YouTube! You will end up on Facebook and Twitter and Google Plus; your name will be mud. Your boss and your mom and your boyfriend will SEE IT and you will be HELD ACCOUNTABLE in ways your wacko self could never be held accountable back in the day, before the internet, when you could easily dismiss and deny it all.

That's a real, measurable change in our discourse.

Even the existence of anonymous troll-comments means something: it demarcates the limits of what is acceptable, what people WILL take responsibility for saying and signing their names to.

As the Old Testament, well-known for not messing around, warned us: Be sure your sins will find you out!

That verse now seems oddly prophetic, not merely descriptive.