October 31, 2002

To all persons who are not planning to vote but would vote Democratic if they did

Please change your mind and vote. Perhaps you lived all your life in the United States of America and elections are something you take for granted, no big deal. But I assure you they ARE a big deal. In most countries of the world there are no such things as elections, or if there are they are a sham, sometimes with only one set of candidates getting 99.9% of the vote. Yes, I agree with you: what happened here with the 2000 elections seemed to indicate that the United States is going the way of other countries with a government selected by coup d'�tat. But let us hope that was an aberration due to a most unfortunate but unlikely-to-happen-again combination of circumstances: a relatively tight vote, the presence of a ridiculous and hopeless third-party candidate who drained votes from the Democrats, retarded or malicious vote counters in Florida who took too long to perform their task and a Supreme Court with a Republican-appointed majority that made a political and not legal decision.

If you have the good fortune of being a citizen of the United States PLEASE do not fail to vote.

October 27, 2002

The browser wars revisited

Ten days ago I wrote here that I couldn�t make my blog work on Netscape and Opera. I am happy to say that I�ve had some flashes of inspiration (HA!) and now it does seem to work on those browsers (while, wonder of wonders!, miracle of miracles!, still working on Internet Explorer...). Also, a problem with increased indentation as one scrolled down the page has been corrected. No one is more astonished than I... I may even get it right eventually. Stay tuned. :-)

October 26, 2002

Arts and letters daily

Arts and letters daily is back after a hiatus, for the edification of many of us who missed it grievously. It's a collection of brief comments with links to articles in the press of several countries about not only "arts and letters" but also science, philosophy and many subjects of interest. A web log in one of the best senses of the expression. If I had the time I would read each and every one of the articles referred to there, but even now that I am retired there aren't enough hours in the day, so I have to be selective. Do yourself a favor and visit, but, mind, it's addictive. You've been warned.

October 23, 2002

The "free" press

A reporter for a Columbia, MO newspaper e-mailed my local Mensa group wanting to interview some members in the area for an article, and group members were asked whether they'd be available for this purpose. In declining politely I was reminded of the reasons why I have a horror of reporters. I have a friend who says he not only doesn�t believe in a free press, he doesn�t believe in the press, period, and I see his point. In theory I am, of course, a strong advocate of a free press, but in practice, alas, there are many problems.

Throughout my life I�ve had a few contacts with reporters: in connection with my job, my involvement in the animal rights movement in the seventies and early eighties, and in other capacities. Consistently, without exception, the stories that were published and/or broadcast to which I had contributed were full of errors, some of them factual, and not only not impartial but slanted against the position(s) I was trying to favor. In one case a prominent New York newspaper turned a story about cruelty to animals and some people's efforts to rescue the victims into a "humorous" piece along the lines of "look at these crazy people running around the underground bowels of the UN complex trying to save the stray cats who take refuge there; they go as far as to actually feed the stray cats; can you believe that?". The well-known reporter who asked to interview me about this matter lied to me by misrepresenting his intentions as writing a sympathetic story which would help the cause of stray animals in general and these in particular.

Instead what I had said was quoted out of context and in some cases falsely, I was made to sound insane and the whole article was geared to discrediting the UN even further.

It should be emphasized that before talking to any reporters, UN staff members are required to obtain authorization from the UN Department of Public Information or else get into serious trouble, including dismissal. Getting these authorizations is a time-consuming hassle, and I suspect whoever granted them to me made a mistake for which s/he was severely punished.

Another time, on a different subject, a colleague of mine and I spent a considerable amount of time carefully preparing to answer questions from a well-known television reporter. We wanted to make sure we would have all the facts in hand and the positions carefully explained. The interview came and we thought it had gone quite well. That night we eagerly tuned in to the network, VCRs ready to tape our interview: it was just skipped; as thy say, "left on the editing room floor", so all our efforts to "give" a good interview were wasted.

I'll spare my readers (if any) other examples. The errors and bias I�ve invariably found in press stories of which I have first hand knowledge make me suspect that their other stories may be full of errors too. I'd like to think that there may be SOME reporters who care about their sources and endeavor effectively to get their stories straight; I haven't come across any and am unwilling to widen my experience with reporters. As the saying goes, I already gave at the office, and if I never talk to a reporter again it will be too soon.

Maybe "free" press refers to the liberties some of them take with the truth.

October 22, 2002

Pro Choice Is Not Anti Life

I�ve joined the Pro Choice Is Not Anti Life web ring, and I have a few observations about the subject.

The patriarchal attitude that pretends to deny women control over their own bodies puts my usually non-violent nature to a severe test, but calling that position "pro life" is really adding insult to injury. Some of those who hold that position engage in or condone the bombing of women's clinics and the murder of doctors who serve in them; is THAT "pro life"? Some of them are in favor of the death penalty; is THAT "pro life"? Unfettered availability of firearms; is THAT "pro life"? Whatever war the country happens to be engaged at the time; is THAT "pro life"?

What they are in favor of is power over others and control over their lives. If you disapprove of abortion then don�t have one, but don�t try to impose the rules of your religion over others who may follow different religions or no religion.

"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion", says the First Amendment to the US Constitution. Why then are there laws regulating the sexes and numbers of the participants in a marriage, and which day of the week should be a day of rest? And to make matters even more outrageous many of those who flout the First Amendment on those issues are keen on invoking the Second Amendment to thwart any attempt to regulate firearms.

One of the most egregious of those entities is aptly commented upon by Tess.

October 18, 2002

More about bears, brought about by Oso's ordeal.

Words, words, words. 728 of them. I wanted to make them 666 so as to spook any fundamentalists that might read my blog (don�t laugh; I hear I'm quite popular with them...) but, as usual, I wrote too much...

I first found the concept of "totem animal(s)" in Jean Auel's "Children of the Earth" series of books, and it got me thinking about who would be mine, an interesting inquiry as part of the "Who am I?" quest.

I�ve always felt much kinship with bears; I have much in common with them: I am slow, heavy and ponderous, but can be surprisingly agile and fast when necessary (this last applied mainly when I was younger, not so much now); I would if I could spend the entire winter sleeping in a cave, I have no use for snow and ice; I like honey and sweet things in general; I love salmon (and all fish, for that matter, as my last name implies); I am mostly a solitary animal and can get quite grumpy on occasion; I like to play in the water.

A friend and I were once watching a documentary on polar bears; in one of the scenes it showed from behind a polar bear trying to climb out of the water into an iceberg; my friend commented and I had to agree that the bear looked remarkably like me.

I believe if we put aside human arrogance and the patriarchal belief that humans are superior to or better than other animals we can learn much from them. The Goddess Our Mother teaches that we are all sisters and brothers, Her children inhabiting Her body.

There are other animals with whom I feel particular kinship and share some traits: dogs, of course, have a special place in my heart, and teach us what's really important in life: love, friendship, loyalty, play, food and shelter, warmth in winter and coolth in summer, the young (for those who breed). Dolphins and other cetaceans, who spend their entire lives playing, eating, making love, resting and perhaps meditating and conversing about Goddess knows what in their mysterious languages that can carry much more information (and hence shades of meaning) than our human ones. Their low-pitched sounds can travel across oceans, so they can talk with any other whale(s) in the world. In a way they have their own internet...

What's really important in life? What do we need to do to overcome that despair that at some point(s) in our life we have all felt? Not that there are answers that are valid for all; each of us needs to discover the correct answers for her/himself, avoiding in the process any inclination to burn at the stake those who find different answers. Why? Well, according to MY answers any harm we do others causes a chain reaction that affects all involved sometimes for very long times, and has to be neutralized before anyone can find peace.

Not doing harm to anyone seems like a concept on which we could all agree. But of course then interminable discussions would ensue on what precisely constitutes harm. The "Holy" Inquisition maintained it was doing good to witches and Jews by burning them at the stake to cleanse them from their "errors" and save their souls. George W. Bush and his accomplices thought � I guess, though I wonder how anyone can be THAT misguided � they were doing good by stealing the election and enacting the first coup d'�tat in American history.

No, one CAN'T win. But I digress. What could I do now that at the time of my death I could look back upon and rejoice that I did? I submit this is not a bad way to select what we are going to do at each moment. That is if we can choose freely, those who are employed are exempt, but the time will come, Goddess willing, for them too to be happily retired. :-) And I guess some fortunate few even enjoy their jobs...

It helps to think of the times in one's life � if any � when one has been really happy,, preferably through one's own efforts. If one needs a specific other being that could be a problem, because s/he may or may not be available/willing/alive or a number of other necessary conditions.

October 17, 2002

Browsers... :-(

Please use Internet Explorer to view this page. I don�t know how to make it work in Netscape (let alone Opera) and I'm tired of wasting my time trying.

October 14, 2002

My dog Oso recovered

Some upstanding citizen exercising his (no, I'm not using my usual "her/his" here; I'm 99.9% sure it was a male) constitutionally-protected right to bear arms shot my dog Oso last Saturday morning. Oso was � thank Goddess � able to drag himself home (otherwise we might never have found him); we rushed him to the veterinarian (Dr. Jennifer Boatright) who immediately shot him with pain medication and steroids and took a number of X-rays. The bullet had entered his rear left thigh and traveled through his body in a trajectory parallel to his spine and was lodged between one of his lungs and the spine. Miraculously � thank Goddess a million times � the bullet didn�t seem to have permanently affected any vital organ. Note that the bullet's point of entry and trajectory indicate that he was shot from behind, probably while he was running away.

The doctor sent Oso home with pain medication and anti-biotics and told us to watch him, that he would probably get better on his own, in which case it was best to leave the bullet where it was ("You'd be surprised how many Missouri dogs are walking around with bullets inside them", she said). If Oso didn�t get better then it would be necessary to open him up to remove the bullet and attempt to repair whatever damage was found.

Poor Oso looked utterly and heartbreakingly in shock, with his head down, his tail between his legs, his legs trembling and whimpering in agony whenever he tried to move or sit or lie down.

Fortunately the veterinarian must have given him a massive dose of pain-killer, and when we got home Oso collapsed and slept for several hours. Thank Goddess when he woke up he seemed considerably better and he's been steadily improving since, and less than 48 hours after being shot he was from all appearances his usual self.

Oso is a sweet and loving dog who usually sleeps on our bed between Ellen and me (our other dogs Goldman and Cosita usually sleep elsewhere on the bed or on the rug nearby) and has an inexhaustible inclination to being petted, rubbed and scratched; I�ve never known a more affectionate dog.

His name is the Spanish word for "bear" and comes from a vaguely ursine look on his face and from the fact that someone said that he was an "Australian shepherd" dog ("Aussie", hence Osi, Osito). But he isn�t, he is actually a pure-bred specimen of that most distinguished, rare, refined and sought-after of dog breeds: the aristocratic MMMM (Much-Mixed 'Merican Mutt). They are known for their resilience, which may partly account for Oso's recovery.

As I'm writing this he's lying on the rug next to my chair. He always tries to place himself as close to us as he can.

Why would anyone hurl a piece of metal propelled at high-speed by an explosion against another living being? Self-defense would be the only reasonable explanation, and it does not apply in this case because (a) Oso was shot from behind, probably while trying to run away, and (b) Oso would not attack anyone unprovoked, and perhaps not even provoked.

The right to bear arms cannot be infringed without a constitutional amendment, but it can and should be regulated by law. A constitutional amendment to change the second amendment would be a hopeless undertaking, since even attempts to regulate firearms are usually unsuccessful. I do not dispute that without private ownership of firearms the American Revolution would have failed, but that was around 212 years ago, and the second amendment clearly refers to "A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state", not to some bozo shooting dogs in the vicinity of residences (Ellen said that she heard the shots from the house).

I am astonished that purchasing Valium requires a doctor's prescription in triplicate written in government-supplied forms printed, like currency, with all kinds of anti-counterfeiting devices, while anyone can purchase guns, even automatic machine-guns (or surplus military tanks, for that matter). The worst thing that anyone can do with Valium is become relaxed and calm, while I don�t even want to go into what can be done with an automatic machine-gun.

The gun lobby has a saying: "If guns are outlawed only outlaws will have guns" which is disingenuous: for one thing nobody is trying to "outlaw" guns, since � alas � that is clearly prohibited by the Constitution, and for another it is obvious that "outlaws" will always have and do anything they please.

I submit that buying a gun should at least be as difficult and require some proof of real "need" (HA!) as buying a Valium.

This country had at one time a Prohibition under which only outlaws had and were able to supply liquor; this Prohibition had to be revoked because it was realized that promoting crime was the only thing it did. Proving yet again that human beings do not learn from history there is currently a prohibition of a number of substances which has the same effect as the old liquor prohibition: consumption of those substances is higher than ever (probably even higher than if they were legal, I submit, because of the enticement of illegality) and supports and promotes an immense criminal establishment and concomitant "law-enforcement" (HA!) establishment.

There is no gun in our house and we intend to keep it that way because I believe there is abundant evidence that keeping a gun is counterproductive to one's safety.

But I do cast a mean protection spell. Why, then, was my sweet Oso shot? Well, for one thing spells provide much protection, like helmets, but not a 100% guarantee, and for another I never anticipated the possibility of someone being shot... We're all in the hands of the Goddess Our Mother, and I know that She lovingly prevented any permanent damage to dear Oso. May She continue to extend Her protection and love over all beings.

October 05, 2002

Laughter is another state of consciousness in which we're closer to Divinity

I found the jokes in the Laugh Lab web site extremely funny, and the information there interesting. Think of the times you laughed so hard it almost hurt. Even remembering those times does us good. That's why stories are so important: even a story about a good story carries much of the power of the original. This story illustrates that well.

October 03, 2002

If I could think of a title for this I'd use it; since I can't, I don't.

During the last few months, after Cindy died, I have been very bad in maintaining correspondence with my friends. My friends, even if I sometimes neglect them, are among the most important entities in my life and I feel very guilty about my lack of communication. So in order to assuage my conscience I have decided to start this web log and invite my friends to visit it if they're so inclined, so any time you wonder how your friend Emilio is doing visit here and Goddess willing you'll find some information. This does not mean that we will not keep corresponding privately, please e-mail me any time you desire and I shall respond, eventually.

Not that I REALLY feel guilty; I have worked long and hard � don�t laugh, I CAN work long and hard, and Goddess knows that too many times in my life I have � to rid myself of that artificial, pernicious feeling, the only purpose of which is to control the behavior of the victims. It's just a feeling that neglecting my friends is unskillful behavior; not the sort of thing that my self-image requires.

Self-image! That's another snare for the unwary. When you have dumped external masters you still have to deal with yourself. But once you become aware of the traps your self-image places in your path it becomes easier to re-write your character.

My natural laziness is taking over my life increasingly. Sitting at my desk and lying in my bed I can see through glass sliding doors the forest that surrounds my house and I like to look at the soothing green and let my mind wander. Sometimes I may even not be thinking of anything... Does this mean that I have attained enlightenment? Hardly! But it is pleasant, and relaxed and peaceful. There is blessed silence in the area, which suits me well. I sometimes long for periods of sensory deprivation: no sound, no light, etc.; a little like the three monkeys covering their eyes, their ears and their mouth, but beyond that.

War? (yes, again)

I recommend I'll Have a Side Of World Peace With My Fountain of Youth.

I strongly dislike the de facto unelected acting "President", and disagree with Tess' opinion that "The only thing I see that's truly diabolical about Bush is the way he massacres the English language." Horrid as his mistreatment of the English language is, in my opinion there is a lot more than that wrong with the de facto unelected acting "President" and his right-wing gang. But I think Tess makes several good points about the lessons of history on the impossibility of "rational discourse" with madmen.

Psychopaths sometimes have to be forcibly restrained for the protection of others. In the case of an isolated madman the paramedics are called, but in the case of a madman at the head of a country and commanding armies military action may be necessary.

I am as much against war as anyone; war is horrible and to be avoided at ALMOST all costs. But let us remember that without war the unholy institution of slavery would still exist, we would still be British subjects, the Nazis would rule over any area of the world they had chosen to invade. In some cases war may be a necessary evil, and the lesser of various evils.

Why have there not been other horrendous atrocities of the magnitude of 9/11 since that day? We will probably never know, but a possible and in my opinion likely explanation is disarray caused among the terrorists by the pounding inflicted on them by the US Armed Forces.

A Stephen Gaskin quotation

"Religions only look different if you get them from a retailer. If you go to a wholesaler, you'll find they all get it from the same distributor."
--Stephen Gaskin

I read this quotation in the signature file of a message someone sent to the Pagan Unity Campaign Political Action Committee [PUCPAC] mailing list. I had never heard of Stephen Gaskin and I thought the quotation was well-worth looking him up. My search found many sites, among others Stephen Gaskin resources, I thought worth reading.

Going back to the quotation, and if you�ll pardon the military analogy, different religions are like the various branches of the armed forces: the Navy and the Air Force travel in different vehicles, have different rituals, structures and uniforms, but they both answer to the same Commander in Chief (except, of course, in some "countries" where sometimes one branch fights another for control of the government, but that is a different story; I'm talking about serious countries here). It would be inconceivable for the Navy to say that flying planes is evil and to attack the Air Force because they fly planes instead of sailing ships. They are supposed to cooperate and support each other in pursuit of common goals.

Now that I think of it, some religions even use military analogies themselves, and refer to "the armies of the Lord", "[adjective for the followers of a particular religion] soldiers". Well, soldiers should not fight sailors, airmen* or marines... [* I'm afraid that women in the Air Force are also called "airmen".]

But many religions act more like corporations peddling the same product: God. "Our God is better than theirs, and besides only we can sell you the proper instruction manuals to use Her. If you worship Her according to any but our instructions, anywhere but in our institutions, She will not love you and you will be doomed to eternal suffering. Don�t gamble with your salvation, use only our brand of God. It's just better."

Like the four elements Water, Air, Earth and Fire, the fifth sacred thing, Divinity/Spirit is freely available to all who seek Her, and cannot be owned.

Attempting to trademark God is probably the ultimate folly in the long sorry history of human hubris.