Africa, children, Death, Grandmother, Love, poetry, Women

Purple (A Poem)

My mother lay upon an purple cloth

She was old and sick

The desert winds stole from her the water that sustained her life

She was dying

And yet she continued to sing

She song a story to my daughter

As she wept quietly in her arms

“Fear not little one

I love you little one

Tatah will keep you safe from the wind”

I took my daughter from my mothers’ skeletal arms

I kissed my mother goodbye

She sung her last note

I buried her that night in an purple cloth

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Ancient Greece, art, poetry, rhyme, Sonnet

Epimeliad (A Sonnet)

Your lips votive of the kisses I would plant

On your lips as sweet as mint and sugar

In a hearty cup of tea that, alas, can’t

Sooth the awful lust my heart does auger

 

O charming Epimeliad the longer

You evade my amorous arms

The more you ensure my love grows stronger

The more you will engender my stalwart charm

 

I long for the supple apples ‘tween your arms

The sense of your name and your holy trust

These aromatic treasures must meet no harm

Protect them from the ruin of earthly lust

Your intentions as pure as your hair is sallow

Your blood is worthy, as rich as tallow

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5-4 Ruling, Chief Justice John Roberts, Civil rights, Congress, Constitution, Criticism, Democracy, Federalism, Health Care, Individual Mandate, Justice, News, opinion, Politics, Supreme Court

Roberts Court: Healthcare Reform Constitutional

This is going to be a brief post, with a longer opinion to come from my end.

Chief Justice Roberts and the liberal members of the Supreme Court proved today that he does understand the law and illustrated for the nation the fact that differences in opinion and process should not prevent us as a nation from executing laws and regulations that genuinely support the public good. The individual mandate is upheld, and while I have issues with the Affordable Care Act itself, I see this as a validation of the process of reform and a great starting point for the continual improvement of a common sense and human healthcare service structure for the entire nation. This decision can be used as a justification for a constructive and pragmatic process of health insurance reform. The court has upheld the idea that the government can and indeed should be a instrument of progressive societal improvement and reform. I have included the opinion and the dissents below. I highly suggest you all read it in full. It is worth the read.

http://www.supremecourt.gov/opinions/11pdf/11-393c3a2.pdf

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Ancient Greece, Ancient History, Dionysus, essay, history, Philosophy, Physics, Science, short fiction

The Atoms (A Parody As Philosophical Parable)


[Fragment of the penultimate scene in the play. Characters on stage are Democritus and his friend, colleague and fellow philosopher Leucippus]

Leucippus — Why do you eat so many dates? They stain your teeth and make you fart like a Spartan horse! Those aren’t even good dates. They’re a day old at least.

 

Democritus — Dates that are not good for eating are good for other things

 

Leucippus — Why Democritus, are you experimenting again? We are here to buy our share for the dinner at Darius’ tonight, not to go on about some crack pot thing or another!

 

Democritus — My favorite piece of pottery is cracked. I use to it toss all of my salads in. I find the clay makes for a good medium for vegetable preparation.

 

Leucippus — You know what I meant. Why can’t you ever be serious?

 

Democritus — Because we have our entire professional lives to be serious. Time in the marketplace is time best spent upon frivolities.

 

Leucippus — You say that with earnestness dripping from every syllable but your face is a mask of incredulity. What is it that you know that you are so desirous to keep from me by matter of word games and mockery?

 

Democritus — Oh my dearest friend! Your whole outlook is a patch of solipsism watered with disinterest. If you only knew the joke I had in mind you would understand why I am so evasive and playful in my wording. To know is nothing when one can make another know. This is a joy I will cherish and prolong as much as I can.

 

Leucippus — You are no dear friend. You are the cruelest of all men. You feign stupidity but prance about freely from truth to truth like an oracle drunk on wine. Dispose of this terrible predilection to taunt and joke! Tell me what it is you know!

 

Democritus — I see that my fun has run out along with your usually steadfast patience. I will obey your demand. Remember the dates I purchased?

 

Leucippus — How could I not! Even now I can smell the effluvial fumes leaking from yoru hindquarters. Get on with it then.

 

Democritus — Would you agree that the date I now hold in my hand is indeed a date, and, metaphysics aside, you would agree that what makes this date a date is the stuff of its composition and our perception and experience of this composition?

 

Leucippus — I would indeed agree to that definition.

 

Democritus — Wonderful! I do enjoy mutual comprehension.

 

Leucippus — Comprehension my ass!

 

Democritus — Anyhow, we agree that this date is indeed a date and that it is its qualities that we recognize that make it a date. Given that, would you hazard to guess how many dates I can make from this one specimen in my hand now?

 

Leucippus — Well I suppose if you were to collect and plant some of the seeds encased within the flesh you would be able to—

 

Democritus — I am terribly sorry, but I must interrupt. That is not at all what I meant. The process you speak of would make many dates out of the seeds of this fruit. And while I am all for the propagation of this particularly delicious species, that is beside the point. How many dates, individual, specific, identifiable as we before explained, can we generate from this one date?

 

Leucippus — Well I should say that you could generate no additional dates from this one if you discount growing the seeds contained within its flesh. A date is a date…It is one date and it shall be consumed as such whenever you have tired of all of this sophistry.

 

Democritus — My question does seem sophistic does it not? I sympathize with your lack of comprehension. Ask the same question of Democritus yesterday and he would have given the same answer you did just now. Luckily I am not the Democritus of yesterday, I am the Democritus of now and now I know a better part of the truth then I did before. Either way I am hungry and will take a bit of this wonderful fruit [bites off half of the date]. There. I have made myself another date!

 

Leucippus — Fool! I call you a fool because your words make no sense to me. You did not answer your own question by eating the date! You have now half a date, no more than before certainly.

 

Democritus — How I long for your astute mind and honest powers of conception! You are of course correct…I have made no more dates, but halved the one I already had. Would you say then that this date meets the requirements met before to make it a date in sense of its composition, if not its quality or entirety of size?

 

Leucippus — I will concede that point. It is still a date, if half of one.

 

Democritus — You are a brave man to make such an honest assertion of your understanding! I am not so brave…I am timid and feel that perhaps what I hold is indeed less a date than before.

 

Leucippus — Well of course it is, we discussed that just now—

 

Democritus — I really am sorry to keep interrupting you like this. I have not tact whatsoever…but I must correct you. It is still a date, and indeed it is lesser in size and content than before, but now it less of a date. Let me illustrate further [bites the half of a date in half and then in half again] See! The date is now even smaller! It is even less of a date than it was before!

 

Leucippus — But that is not so! It is indeed smaller than before, but its essence, its existence as a date is not lessened. There is just less of it for us to taste and recognize easily. I assure if you eat more it will taste ever and ever like a date.

Democritus — I cannot get anything past you. You are indeed a wiser man then I…I am so foolish that I am going to go further [takes as big a bite of the date as is possible while still leaving some flesh aside] Surely now the date is lessened even further! It must be less date now than it ever was.

 

Leucippus — I grow tired of your jest. It is a date and I will be a date until it is no more.

 

Democritus — Oh! Oh! That is a stroke of brilliance! I can certainly eat the rest of this fruit, but there would be no more topic of conversation!

 

Leucippus — Perish the thought.

 

Democritus — Let us then move on to another bit of folly I have conceived…You are surely correct and this is surely a date. I was a fool to doubt you. No matter the size the pieces are there that will always make us recognize this fruit for what it is. But perhaps…

 

Leucippus — Perhaps what? Are you proposing some sort of alchemy to turn what remains of this date into a golden manned horse or something like that?

 

Democritus — Remains! That is the point entirely! What if I were to cut what remains of this date into another smaller piece. And then another. And then another and another and another down to the smallest piece I can cut it? And by the smallest piece I mean the very smallest; the tiniest and least substantial piece of material that I could possible cut it. Down beyond the stuff if the fruit and the seeds and the skin and the juice and even beyond the flesh and the grit and the very perceivable substance of the date, down to the lowest chunk of barely understandable matter that we can conceive of. Would the date then still be a date?

 

Leucippus — I can honestly say that I do not know the answer to that question.

 

Democritus — For any save my fevered and obsessive mind that would be an honest and a wise answer. But I am cursed with taking things ever further, past the point where most minds would dare frolic. For I see that if you cut that date down to its barest material essence, then you have something remarkable. Consider we conduct the same experiment but with a piece of goat flesh. We chop it down and down and down again until we are past the sinew and the bone and the flesh and blood and skin. We are down to the barest smallest bit that it is possible to produce. What then is the difference in the composition of this smallest bit of goat flesh and the smallest bit of date?

 

Leucippus — Well. For one…The latter is a piece of flesh—

 

Democritus — But both fruit and flesh have been reduced down beyond all their recognizable traits. They are both cut down to their basic material essence, there smallest point. What then is the difference between the two?

 

Leucippus — Once more you have stumped me Democritus.

 

Democritus — Far from it my friend. You are merely running up against the wall of reasoning that I ran into headlong all last night. I could not name a discernible difference between the two bits of matter. Then I thought of the question in another way. I must now admit that my answer is the same as yours: I am stumped. I know not the difference between the two bits. But, this I do know: At some point if you were to rebuild these bits up back to the material they once were, fruit and flesh respectively, you would start slowly as they were built back up to recognize differences. At what point of substance and size this transformation occurs is unknown to me so far, but I do now that this transformation does occur and that it comes about through building upon this basic bit of matter.

Leucippus — I can find no fault in your logic so far.

 

Democritus — Neither can I. I now believe that the stuff that makes up the stuff of the stuff we know is itself made up of pieces, building stones of matter that can and will act and be acted upon by the forces of nature and creation. Thus acted upon and influenced they will take the form of the various things we know and consume and sell and collect. It is their movement as small pieces of matter around and around through existence and the void that brings these things into being, but of course they are only impermanent things. There is no more force compelling the pieces of matter together into the forms we know then there is pulling them apart back into the substance of basic matter floating about the void.

[Fragment ended]

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Colorado Wildfires, Fire Fighters, Hypocrisy, Michelle Malkin, Politics, Union Rights

Michelle Malkin Is a Terrible Hypocrite

I just saw something interesting tonight…The past few days conservative blogger Michelle Malkin has been tweeting and blogging about how her family has had to be evacuated from their house in Colorado Springs because they are in the middle of the forest fire in the state. She thanks the Firefighters (and the corporations for some reason) for their help and heroism…http://michellemalkin.com/2012/06/26/one-day-at-a-time/

That is well and good and I hope her family is ok…Then I saw the tweet that I have saved in the screenshot bellow. She tweets that “progs” need to stop complaining about union pension rights and about firefighters. FIREFIGHTERS ARE UNION MEMBERS! She is whining about people fighting for the rights of the PEOPLE WHO ARE TRYING TO SAVE HER FUCKING HOUSE FROM BURNING! She STILL goes out of her way to whine about them wanting union rights and for Dems wanting MORE FIREFIGHTERS!!! I could not believe this, and I just had to say something about it. I would suggest everyone tweet her and tell her what you think about this outrageous and cowardly betrayal of the men and woman fighting so hard to save her community and home.

Update: Massive response to this post. Thanks for all the input. Malkin is of course attacking me and everyone else who has started calling her on it. What a horrid woman.

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Ancient Greece, Civil rights, Democracy, essay, Justice, Liberty, opinion, Penn State, Philosophy, Plato, Politics, Prisons, Sandusky, Socialism

The Abuse of Communal Trust: What To Do With Sandusky?

            I do not often pay headline hogging trials and criminal cases much mind. The case of Jerry Sandusky was something of an exception to that rule for me. I was fascinated seeing yet another influential and beloved man of authority, and the community he represented, drawn into the maw of sexual torture and narcissism. Sandusky victimized perhaps dozens of young men and boys, and his subordinates and employers did nothing to stop him, even when they had eye witness testimony to back up the whispered accusations and suspicions. This does not surprise me: powerful organizations, like the Catholic Church, Baptist preachers, and in this case Penn State University will always cover up the evil actions of their members in order to maintain what power they have. These institutions are the first to try and whitewash the actions of their acolytes and associates with pleas to “remember the good that this man has done”. The fact remains, though, that there is no weighted scale of ethical value. If Martin Luther King or Jimmy Carter had abused a child I would not for an instant consider the good they had done as a mitigating factor in deciding their punishment. Good deeds or thoughts are not a license to do evil. We must be judged by our actions towards every man, woman, and child, not just our general actions towards the rest of humanity. A human is only as kind or as evil as he as treated the last human being she interacted with. We can only go by the standard because we live in a world where our moral and ethical acts and thoughts are not recorded in some sort of cosmic registry. There is not last accounting. There is only an immediate and just reckoning at best, and a log slog towards justice at worst.

Jerry Sandusky is no more an intrinsically evil man then I am.  He was made evil in the eyes of human morality and human dignity by his actions against the individuals in his care. There is nothing to redeem in him, just as there is equally nothing that can erase the good that he has done for others. Morality is not a simple thing. One is not colored blood red by his actions, he is not permanently marked by some altruistic force of law. If he had not been caught and brought to justice Sandusky would have continued to do good and evil, but the evil he did and would have continued to commit cannot be justified by any good he would have done. Society is a line in the sand. Stray over the line and there is no way to completely come back over. There is atonement in word and deed, but there is no undoing what has been done. That is not to say that one who does evil cannot do any good. Oh what a much simpler world it would be if that were the case.

But, there are some acts that must forever separate a human from the bosom of full civilization and society. These acts vary from society to society but there are a few acts that are equally condemned by all contemporary civilizations: malice or revenge or madness driven murder, knowingly aiding and abetting the same, violent rape and the sexual abuse of a child. The last is, rightfully or not, most often considered the most grave of all insults against human dignity. This may have to do with our projection of innocence, sexual, moral and intellectual, onto children, and our common memory of what it felt like to be a child. Everyone was once a child, and thus everyone could have once been the most pitiful of victims. Plato, writing on sacrilege and treason (the most abominable crimes in his day and location) in his Laws calls upon the man who does evil to depart from the evils committed, morally, and physically if need be. If moving beyond the acts committed and learning to forgive oneself, or at least to reflect upon ones evil acts, is enough to justify a continuation of existence then that is “well and good”.

These words must be understood within as the thoughts and opinions of a man who upheld the good of the community, indeed the society, above that of the individual and his concerns. Harm wrought upon society by the depraved acts of the individual are acts that cannot be tolerated. Even today, in our liberal societies with their liberal ideas of individualism and liberty, a wall of common concern is erected against those who most grossly offend the public trust. Some evil deeds forever alienate the individual from the community. The predatory abuse of children is one of those deeds, along with the continual abuse of multiple children under his care as an authority figure, and as we learned to our horror, as a father. Such violations of human trust and dignity cannot be forgiven. He can no longer function as a member of civilized society, first and foremost because of his actions and secondly because his peers in society will not stand for it at all. People are revolted by abuses of this sort, and that revulsion often takes the form of violence and other irrational actions taken in retaliation, done extra-judicially, that undermine the foundations of law and order.

Prison is the obvious option for a man such as this. But there is another ethical complication to this seeming catch all response. It is a well-known fact rising to a cultural meme and pop-culture trope that sexual offenders imprisoned in general population do not often live out their natural lives. Many do not survive the first week. Now some may see this as some sort of divine or karmic justice, and it very well may be, but that is not for the law authorities and the justice they uphold to decide. All humans are worthy of at least basic dignity, even if they have outraged the dignity of others. They have the right to live in safety and relative comfort. Men as varied as Mumia Abu Jamal and Jeremy Bentham and Michel Foucault, not to mention thousands of former prisoners themselves, have testified to the brutality and inhumanity of prison conditions in the Western world in general and the USA in particular.

Prisons have become merely holding pens for human beings who are viewed as the animal remains of who they were before their crimes. Common thieves are housed with violent robbers, rapists, murderers, and sexual predators, and all are subject to the arbitrary and fantastically violent “justice” of gangs and brotherhoods that make our festering correctional system their home. There is only ever an illusion of control, a managing of the violent chaos inherent to a system where, according Stanley Williams (author, prisoner, murderer and founder of the street gang The Crips), “violence is like an active volcano — it can erupt at any time. Violence can come from someone you hardly know, or even from someone who is very close to you. You can have a friend today, and tomorrow he can become your No. 1 enemy.” Is this justice? Is this what a democracy truly represents?

Williams is an example of a man who changed himself and his own personal ethics in spite of the hell he was condemned to. He authored many books on gang violence and dissuading children from taking part in the vicious cycle that claimed his life as well as those of his victims. The fact remains, even murderers are tolerated by society, if even only up to a point. The same cannot be said of men who commit the crimes Sandusky was convicted of. I personally have no pity for this man, nor would I ever wish to live near him or have him anywhere near my siblings or friends children. But that is precisely the point. My fears, and those of my fellow citizens, rational and otherwise, should not form the basis of a rational society’s response to the most heinous of crimes. Justice should not be slave to hate and revenge. Even the worst of us are worth at least basic dignity. Nelson Mandela, himself a victim of the horrors of prison culture, had this to say on the subject: “It is said that no one truly knows a nation until one has been inside its jails. A nation should not be judged by how it treats its highest citizens, but its lowest ones.” That then is the standard we must uphold, and the goal we must strive for. But we are not there yet, and we have not made the reforms that are needed to make the sentence imposed upon Sandusky truly just. Justice is not revenge. It is meant to be a statement of values made fact by action. ”.

It has been reported that Sandusky has fallen into abject depression and has been placed on “suicide watch”, stripped naked save for a smock and devoid of any distraction or comfort save for a concrete slab. This may seem fitting punishment for a man who raped children, but once again justice is not meant to be “fitting”: it is meant to be reasoned and just. We cannot impose sentence as a form of torture. It does not erase the wrongs done to the victims by in turn making the victimizer into a victim. It further degrades those victims, making them the excuse for wanton and useless cruelty and inhumanity. How are we any different from Sandusky if we torture or abuse him under the aegis of justice? Are we not then guilty of predatory behavior? Certainly not as gravely predatory and cruel as Sandusky was, but is justice really a matter of degrees of cruelty?  Are civilization and humanity really so fickle and mendacious? Is there truely no medium between unwarranted absolution and unbefitting revenge?

And so we once more return to Plato and his Laws. If the stain of that evil committed by a member of society does not fade in his own mind, and the contemplation of a life lived in such a state of horrors as life in a prison system all but designed to torture and annihilate those such as himself is too odious to endure, then he can “think on the better way of death, and take leave of [his] life”. I do not believe that the state has the right to take the life of its citizens and residents. I do not believe it has the right to torture and maim those who it, however rightfully, abjures. But I do believe in justice. So we are met with a dilemma. If we are not capable yet as a society to adequately, justly, handle an offender, and we as a society do not have the right to take the life of a citizen or resident, then we must demure towards individual agency. If we cannot make a reasoned and just choice, leave it to the man himself. Let him take his fate into his hands. I posit three choices for the condemned:

1. He chooses conventional imprisonment in the general population, fully understanding the risks and potential outcome of such a choice.

2. He chooses the physical safety of custodial imprisonment, which amounts to perpetual solitary confinement and removal from all other human beings into a life of full contemplation of the deeds he has committed.

Or

3. He is allowed to sacrifice his life in the name of society, his personal conception of eternal justice and of any shred of dignity remains to him.

These options may not please us, they may even disgust and enrage us, but reasoned justice is not meant to entertain our personal notions of vengeance: it is meant to hold a society to a better standard then its members display therein. There are worse things than death, and there are better things than salacious and childish notions of revenge. Judicially sanctioned suicide as one option among the two others listed is the best of the bad options we now have as a society that has not yet reached is promise of full and reasonable enlightenment and ethical democracy. Let Sandusky be the end of Sandusky. Let us not stain ourselves with his ignominy and shame.

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