Thursday, December 20, 2018

Hello again, Blogger

**Well, that didn't work out. First, I didn't keep blogging. Then, Tumblr took a tumble in the news, so it looks like it's not the right site for this material. The posts here record a significant part of my life in the 2000s so it has some possible historical value. I don't know if I'll continue blogging but if I do, it'll be from this site. Until I find another option.

Tuesday, June 06, 2017

Taking the Tumbl

**mt_space is now on Tumblr

Hi there, lonesome blogspotters. When I started this blog in 2002, blogging was a hot new publishing option, and Blogger by Google was one of the hot new venues for those creations. So I started writing about stuff that was in my head at the moment and kept it up for a number of years, though with some long lapses. As a matter of course, mt_space became a chronicle of some of the most important changes in my life, the major one being my break with theism in general and with the CS belief system and institutions in particular. A perusal of these posts shows that it was a time of great stirring and some might say trauma.

My interests always included politics, technology, and (real) science, as well as events in my life and the lives of friends. Though I wasn't as faithful a blogger as I was told I should be, I didn't mind because I knew hardly anyone was interested in keeping up with my thoughts. So it became a somewhat safe nook on the Web to vent. Plodding along this way, I managed to go fourteen years without noticing that not only had I changed, but the blogosphere had also changed.

I got invited by a friend to participate in a blog she was setting up. It was on Tumblr. I asked, why Tumblr, and she replied it was the hip new blogging venue that came with a larger potential audience. This made me think about whether I want a larger audience. It was nice having a semi-private room to noodle and doodle about things in the space that is my consciousness. On the other hand, why not try something new? And if it gets too rowdy, I can always crawl back to the boonies of Blogger and indulge in semi-private writing.

I haven't yet been able to get the 450 entries of this blog to transfer to Tumblr so until I do, I'll just continue there.

I've also moved my collection of poetry from Blogger to Tumblr

Saturday, May 27, 2017

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Twenty Chapter Headings on Tyranny

** This is a most provocative book that every American should read, even those who were deceived into voting against their own best interests in 2016. I hope I can be forgiven for quoting these chapter headings because my intention includes inspiring readers to buy the book, which is quite inexpensive at $3.99 Kindle, $6.15 paperback.

Each heading is followed by incisive lessons from twentieth-century history and their striking parallels to the present moment in the US. I must confess that some of the topics are difficult for me, i.e., "Make eye contact and small talk," but at least I know that the effort is worthwhile.

“Timothy Snyder reasons with unparalleled clarity, throwing the past and future into sharp relief. He has written the rare kind of book that can be read in one sitting but will keep you coming back to help regain your bearings. Put a copy in your pocket and one on your bedside table, and it will help you keep going for the next four years or however long it takes.” – Masha Gessen

1 Do not obey in advance.
Most of the power of authoritarianism is freely given. In times like these, individuals think ahead about what a more repressive government will want, and then offer themselves without being asked. A citizen who adapts in this way is teaching power what it can do.

2 Defend institutions.
It is institutions that help us to preserve decency. They need our help as well. Do not speak of “our institutions” unless you make them yours by acting on their behalf. Institutions do not protect themselves. They fall one after the other unless each is defended from the beginning. So choose an institution you care about— a court, a newspaper, a law, a labor union— and take its side.

3 Beware the one-party state.
The parties that remade states and suppressed rivals were not omnipotent from the start. They exploited a historic moment to make political life impossible for their opponents. So support the multi-party system and defend the rules of democratic elections. Vote in local and state elections while you can. Consider running for office.

4 Take responsibility for the face of the world.
The symbols of today enable the reality of tomorrow. Notice the swastikas and the other signs of hate. Do not look away, and do not get used to them. Remove them yourself and set an example for others to do so.

5 Remember professional ethics.
When political leaders set a negative example, professional commitments to just practice become more important. It is hard to subvert a rule-of-law state without lawyers, or to hold show trials without judges. Authoritarians need obedient civil servants, and concentration camp directors seek businessmen interested in cheap labor.

6 Be wary of paramilitaries.
When the men with guns who have always claimed to be against the system start wearing uniforms and marching with torches and pictures of a leader, the end is nigh. When the pro-leader paramilitary and the official police and military intermingle, the end has come.

7 Be reflective if you must be armed.
If you carry a weapon in public service, may God bless you and keep you. But know that evils of the past involved policemen and soldiers finding themselves, one day, doing irregular things. Be ready to say no.

8 Stand out.
Someone has to. It is easy to follow along. It can feel strange to do or say something different. But without that unease, there is no freedom. Remember Rosa Parks. The moment you set an example, the spell of the status quo is broken, and others will follow.

9 Be kind to our language.
Avoid pronouncing the phrases everyone else does. Think up your own way of speaking, even if only to convey that thing you think everyone is saying. Make an effort to separate yourself from the internet. Read books.

10 Believe in truth.
To abandon facts is to abandon freedom. If nothing is true, then no one can criticize power, because there is no basis upon which to do so. If nothing is true, then all is spectacle. The biggest wallet pays for the most blinding lights.

11 Investigate.
Figure things out for yourself. Spend more time with long articles. Subsidize investigative journalism by subscribing to print media. Realize that some of what is on the internet is there to harm you. Learn about sites that investigate propaganda campaigns (some of which come from abroad). Take responsibility for what you communicate with others.

12 Make eye contact and small talk.
This is not just polite. It is part of being a citizen and a responsible member of society. It is also a way to stay in touch with your surroundings, break down social barriers, and understand whom you should and should not trust. If we enter a culture of denunciation, you will want to know the psychological landscape of your daily life.

13 Practice corporeal politics.
Power wants your body softening in your chair and your emotions dissipating on the screen. Get outside. Put your body in unfamiliar places with unfamiliar people. Make new friends and march with them.

14 Establish a private life.
Nastier rulers will use what they know about you to push you around. Scrub your computer of malware on a regular basis. Remember that email is skywriting. Consider using alternative forms of the internet, or simply using it less. Have personal exchanges in person. For the same reason, resolve any legal trouble. Tyrants seek the hook on which to hang you. Try not to have hooks.

15 Contribute to good causes.
Be active in organizations, political or not, that express your own view of life. Pick a charity or two and set up autopay. Then you will have made a free choice that supports civil society and helps others to do good.

16 Learn from peers in other countries.
Keep up your friendships abroad, or make new friends in other countries. The present difficulties in the United States are an element of a larger trend. And no country is going to find a solution by itself. Make sure you and your family have passports.

17 Listen for dangerous words.
Be alert to the use of the words extremism and terrorism. Be alive to the fatal notions of emergency and exception. Be angry about the treacherous use of patriotic vocabulary.

18 Be calm when the unthinkable arrives.
Modern tyranny is terror management. When the terrorist attack comes, remember that authoritarians exploit such events in order to consolidate power. The sudden disaster that requires the end of checks and balances, the dissolution of opposition parties, the suspension of freedom of expression, the right to a fair trial, and so on, is the oldest trick in the Hitlerian book. Do not fall for it.

19 Be a patriot.
Set a good example of what America means for the generations to come. They will need it.

20 Be as courageous as you can.
If none of us is prepared to die for freedom, then all of us will die under tyranny.

Snyder, Timothy (2017-02-28). On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century (p. 117). Crown/Archetype. Kindle Edition.

Monday, March 20, 2017

A protest song

**Though I've written lots of songs over the years, I can only remember one protest song, and it was from the Vietnam era. Almost everything else has been about love and angst. But recently I received a message from an old friend and partner in the Jefferson Moosical. It told of a project a friend of his, Jerry Berman, has started. Jerry wrote a protest song against current US immigration policy, "Saving Lady Liberty." He also invited other musicians to create their own versions and said he'd post them to his FB page. So I dusted off the equipment and instruments, wrote my own version and produced this:

Saving Lady Liberty

Published under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License

Mario Tosto with Joan Ostrin and David Johnson
Based on a song by Jerry Berman


               G                       D                    C                      G
There's a mist in New York harbor, but it's not rain that you see
           G                  Em      A7                   D7
It's the tears of Lady Liberty flowing grievously
           G                     D                C                           G
She grieves for walled off borders and hearts that won't unfreeze 
       C                  G                           D7                      G
Her muted lips no more proclaim: "my torch, it burns for thee"

             G                   B7               C                           G
We are coming, Lady Liberty, all colors, clans, and creeds
      G                  Em                A7                          D7
An army of real patriots, the kind true freedom breeds
             G                   B7                  C                    G
We are coming, Lady Liberty, your beacon is our guide
       C                                 G           D7                       G 
We welcome the huddled masses, standing side by side

C    G   D7   G

She is weeping in the harbor, whose arms once opened wide,
Embracing hopeful immigrants and all the tears they cried.
She weeps from shame and horror and no more stands in pride.
Bigotry and greed have stemmed our nation's lifeblood tide

We are coming, Lady Liberty, all colors, clans, and creeds
An army of real patriots, the kind true freedom breeds
We are coming, Lady Liberty, your beacon is our guide
We rally to your promise, rally to your side.

C    G   D7   G

Our neighbors forced to leave, their families torn apart
Is this the life she promised? Is this that hopeful start?
No! And we say no again! These orders we'll outsmart –
We'll rally in defense of love and melt the ICE-bound heart

We are coming, Lady Liberty, all colors, clans, and creeds
An army of real patriots, the kind true freedom breeds
We are coming, Lady Liberty, your beacon is our guide
We rally to your promise, rally to your side.
We are coming, Lady Liberty, all colors, clans, and creeds
An army of real patriots, the kind true freedom breeds
We are coming, Lady Liberty, your beacon is our guide
We rally to your promise, rally to your side.

C    G   D7   G

Wednesday, March 08, 2017

Memo to my grandchildren

**This was written in 2012. I have little to add or change, except that since November 9, 2016, events will probably move along even faster.

We were never close either physically or emotionally. But I have thought about you often over the years as I sought to figure out where I stand in the universe, and what it all means. Grandparents have been doing this for eons but until lately it's nothing about which I've thought.
The future is what you were for – well, at least one of the things. Of course, you were also for loving and cherishing and having fun with - if and when you'd let us. But for the most part, evolution is an engine that cranks out grandchildren in order to continue life. You are proof that life is still going on, that it endures beyond a parent's own kids, and that perhaps a memory of our presence here on the planet exists. Grandkids invent the future and carry tokens of the past -- maybe even of grandparents.
But the reason you deserve a special note now is that I deeply fear for your future - not mine since I'll soon be out of the picture. But the world today is in serious trouble. Maybe grandparents have been saying that for eons, too. Except I don't believe the environmental problems facing the planet have ever been so serious or so advanced, at least while people have been on it. My generation should issue an apology for this since we've passed them along to you. Not just my generation, but also a few generations before mine, we started up and maintained some processes that are quickly going to eat up your future. Some legacy!
I know there are voices urging action to avert these disasters, schemes for conservation and wiser use of resources. Noble and morally imperative - on the face of it. But the reason for my concerns is that I feel it's too late for that.
"The Vanishing Face of Gaia" by James Lovelock was instrumental in establishing my position today. He explains that the planet is a complex system of interdependent forces and processes. Although earth has many fail-safe systems in case one or two processes get broken, it has one ultimate solution for anything that threatens to kill the planet. It kills its enemies. Just as white blood cells roam the bloodstream looking for foreign invaders, the earth itself kills off whatever elements would terminate life. I'm talking about life in essence, not any one particular form of life. Forms of life, such as humanity, are ultimately dispensable in favor of life itself.
The processes that are taking place right now, and have been for the past several years, are inexorable. The planet is shutting down and killing off whatever doesn't constitute essential life. It's not yet like a switch that quickly shuts off. Because it takes more time than that, but really not all that much more. Floods, storms, hurricanes, volcanoes, earthquakes and the whole panoply of scary things that humans can't do much about, are nature's way of reducing life to the essences. It doesn't know anything about our dreams, our imagination, our aspiration. It just knows that when greenhouse gasses get to a certain point, temperatures have got to rise. And when temps rise, things that have evolved or adapted to a certain range of temperatures can't take it anymore and they die -- they burn up. Glaciers break off and add to the total water of the oceans, which overwhelms beaches, floods coastal cities, drenches deserts, etc. Forces that used to keep pests in check can no longer keep up with the effects of enhanced breeding conditions that the pests acquire.
By now, of course, you know all of this -- and more. I just want you to know that I've seen it too. And there's nothing I can do about it. Whatever could have been done to avert this had to have been started a long time ago, maybe even before my time.
The reason so few people were alarmed about the great shutdown of the earth is that it happens at a pace far different from what people are used to. If it takes a lot longer to turn around a battleship than it does a motorcycle, imagine how slowly basic changes happen on a planetary scale. But insight is the ability to extrapolate from present evidence to conclusions that may not be obvious at the moment. Insightful observers have explained the processes that are going on. But the populace at large, and the politicians who lead them, do not have such insight, nor much imagination. And so nothing got done. And the switch got thrown.
I still harbor some flicker of hope that the human imagination that you embody, might come up with some kind of solution. (Lovelock suggests that small enclaves could gather in isolated safer areas and start human society over again. Not sure how that's going to work out, or how pleasant it will be, but good luck.) Perhaps earth has had enough time to evolve a brain for itself that can discover ways to avert the coming disaster. If anyone, or any one generation, can do it, it's you and yours. 
Again, sorry for the mess.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

The Bug that Refreshes

**So, here it is two days before our hapless nation receives a golden shower from the Electoral College. Twitler will be in his glory, still heedless of the harm he can cause, and the danger he is in.

But it occurred to me that this travesty might have a redeeming effect. We have never been this close to a dictatorship since maybe the days of Joe McCarthy. I'm starting to believe that Twitler's election may be just what the country needs. I’ve attended two local Democratic party meetings lately and the crowds are gobsmackingly large. I see so much fire and determination, particularly in younger people. We are being brought so close to the horrors of Nazism that their fear fires up their militancy. This contrasts with the complacency borne of comfort that has characterized society in recent years. Comfort and confidence breed laissez-faire: things are fine with me, trouble must be somebody else’s business.

I know this, having lived in Minnesota, Boston and California over the course of 45+ years. These are (or were when I lived there) deep blue states. But living in California most recently brought home to me this comfort-complacency trap. From 2005 to 20014 we lived in northern CA, in the San Francesco Bay Area. I would pity people in Georgia and other Old South states who had right wing jerks for leaders, and a lot of right-wing jerks in the population. If there was a problem, it was easy to say: well, Nancy (Pelosi) will handle it; or, glad we don’t have that problem here. Diane or Barbara or Governor Moonbeam could also always be counted on to stand for and voice the right (Left) thing.

But when I moved to frickin’ Georgia, that all dissolved. Now I had jerks for leaders and some neighbors! Though my area is considered light blue, it is still within an ocean of red in a largely rural state. Shocked into action, I joined a local Democratic Party group and started attending meetings and contributing to their causes. But I wasn’t prepared for the eruption of protest following the 2016 election.
There were so many active people at last Saturday’s Dem meeting in a local library that the group will probably not be meeting there again. Such noise, in a library! That’s OK since larger venues are available and they will also be stocked with people of all ages who are incensed enough at the second electoral robbery in 16 years that they will continue to flock to events that give them incentives to organize and make noise locally.

So maybe we need this irritant, the attack of the poorly educated, to stimulate our autoimmune responses. Here’s to rebellion, and activism and all hell at the 2018 elections!