Thursday, January 29, 2015

Happiness is...

The billion, trillion, ogighqgaeivhdignoi - illion dollar question is pretty clear: What is happiness and how can I get me some? What if you knew the answer? How much dough could you get from unhappy bazillionaires? A cool million? Well that's not all that stimulating nowadays is it? How about a billion? I bet you could get more. I bet you could get a number of dollars that we haven't made a number for yet. You could probably sell your secret to happiness for one ogighqgaeivhdignoi - illion dollars! In "The Grapes of Wrath," John Steinbeck wrote,

“If he needs a million acres to make him feel rich, seems to me he needs it 'cause he feels awful poor inside hisself, and if he's poor in hisself, there ain't no million acres gonna make him feel rich..."

A good place to start my literary inspection of what famous authors think of happiness. I like old Steinbeck. He was one of the few authors I READ instead of renting the movies of his books or getting the Cole's Notes. Of course I DID rent the movies too, they're pretty good, but I really DID read Steinbeck! Honest Injun! lol (see Valentine's post)

Steinbeck is one of many who will tell you that money can't bring you happiness. So I guess my idea of selling the secret to happiness would be a self-defeating process. Ironic at best. I guess I'll have to give it away for free then. But if I were to come up to you and say, "Friend, I have the secret to happiness and I'm going to give it to you absolutely free of charge," you'd think I was selling something wouldn't you? I would just have to be more careful in the selection of my words I suppose. But even if I could somehow convince you that I wasn't trying to sell you a product or attract you to my club or religion, I would have to convince you somehow that I was smart, or at least sane. And that could prove difficult to do...

"Sanity and happiness are an impossible combination." Mark Twain

"Happiness in intelligent people is the rarest thing I know." Ernest Hemingway

Stephen King, (and I LOVE the fact that he's now included on lists like this with literary greats!), says, "Happiness should remain unexamined for as long as possible." I guess the examination of it, the thoughtful, intellectual evaluation of it, is what he is implying will destroy it.

Douglas Adams in "The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy" wrote, "I'd far rather be happy than right any day." Again the old "ignorance is bliss" argument. And don't you kind of envy the blissfully ignorant who have no need of fact or reason or logic to mount an aggressive offensive against you? "Never let the truth stand in the way of a good story." Or a good argument, to take my own liberty with the quote. There is some debate as to whether Mark Twain said this or not so to avoid dispute I'll just credit it to, oh, Samuel Clemens.

"If you tell a big enough lie, and tell it frequently enough, it will be believed." Adolf Hitler

What? Hitler was an author! And it's a quote that segues nicely into my next one:

"The choice for mankind lies between freedom and happiness and for the great bulk of mankind, happiness is better." George Orwell

Well? Isn't freedom about the biggest lie EVER? It's up there for sure. But anyway, back to our purpose, is the true source of happiness to be ignorant enough to not know that there are terrible people compromising your rights and freedoms and, indeed, your happinesses? THAT sounds contradictory too, doesn't it? If you remain ignorant to increase happiness, but that happiness is decreased, thus ends the ignorance. Ignorance can only lead to happiness if that happiness remains undiminished, no?

This leads us in two directions: 1. You can choose to break out of the ignorance and espouse the Thomas Hardy, Buddhist philosophy illustrated in the quote, "Happiness is a mere episode in the general drama of pain." Or 2. you can always fake it.

"Actual happiness always looks pretty squalid in comparison to the overcompensation for misery. And, of course, stability isn't nearly so spectacular as instability." Aldous Huxley

Let's start with the second one. The "overcompensation for misery." I love that! How often we see it, as if the world actually HAS developed Huxlian Soma! (Soma was a "happiness" pill in "Brave New World") Wash that misery right outta your brain! Act as if. This really bugs me. Now I know it's nice to have upbeat, positive people in the room. Oscar Wilde said, "Some cause happiness wherever they go. Others WHENever they go." And really, what post with great literary quotes would be complete without one from Wilde?

Anyway, I like positive people as much as the next guy, but I don't like forced positivity. I think it's unnatural. Me and Fyodor Dostoevsky. "Man only likes to count his troubles; he doesn't calculate his happiness." So I suppose it's a strategy to employ a kind of self-delusion and force your brain to somehow think happiness into existence.

"I must learn to be content with being happier than I deserve." Jane Austen

"Happiness is a gift and the trick is not to expect it, but to delight in it when it comes." Charles Dickens.

A HA! Maybe this is the source of unhappiness! Our incessant expectation of happiness. Heck, the United States guarantees its citizens the right to the pursuit of happiness! Who are we to think we deserve happiness? Isn't that kind of arrogant? Is this just another example of the increasingly entitled mentality of the priveleged? How often do we bitch about a hard day even though most of the world has it worse than us? I'm guilty.

Just yesterday I woke up late. I had a day off work. I got on my computer and the wifi was excruciatingly slow! It passed in and out and interrupted my conversation with my friend, Paula, on Facebook as well as some games of Trivia Crack I was having. I was really annoyed! Then I went to the kitchen to make some brunch. The kitchen sink tap wouldn't shut off and when it's left on it squeals loud enough to hear in my room. It's been like that for months and nobody will fix it. Also annoying. The community fridge door was left open and my milk for my tea wasn't cold. All happiness-killers.

Then the POWER went out. So I took a shower, in the dark, and went into town to get some groceries. When I got out of the supermarket the sky was clear all around but it was raining a bit. I decided to walk home for the exercise. The sky was cloudless upwind yet miraculously the rain got heavier and heavier! A weather anomaly not unheard of in rainy season in Indonesia. I was soaked and so were my groceries by the time I got home. And, of course, the instant I got in the door the rain stopped.

The power was back on so I decided to turn on the air conditioner to cool off. Even though I was soaked with rain it was a warm rain. The batteries in my remote control for the air conditioner were dead. I had some batteries. Wrong size. Nobody in the place had the right size. I stood on a shaky chair in my room and with a spatula tried to hit the manual power button on the air con. It turned out to be just a light. There IS no manual way to turn the thing on. I went the entire night with only a couple hours of sweaty sleep.

I was bemoaning my plight when I came across, on my functioning internet, a list of famous authors' quotes on happiness. And it put it all into perspective. It might have been Kurt Vonnegut's quote, "I urge you to please notice when you are happy, and exclaim or murmur or think at some point, 'If this isn't nice, I don't know what is." I have said for a while now that if I ever get a tattoo I'll get one that says, "Appreciate what you have." And I'll get it somewhere that I can see it a lot every day. So then I re-evaluated my day.

I had a day off for crying out loud! Free to do whatever I wanted, within reason. I had internet, such as it was, I had power to run my computer, I had a computer, and I had a place to live in which to put that computer. A desk, a chair, a coffee... I had a friend! Long time friend from high school, Paula, thousand of miles away and we were just shootin' the breeze. I had a fun game to play. We played Trivia Crack while we chatted. I had my health, my youth, I wasn't hungry or thirsty, I wasn't fighting a war, I actually had it pretty dog-gone good! Better than most people on the Earth. I made some nice spaghetti with meat sauce and some garlic toast, watched a couple movies I had somehow managed to get on my computer, and I had a really good day. And I was whining and complaining to Paula.

I think this is the purpose of my existence here. I have to cultivate this strategy for happiness. I'm not like Jack Kerouac who wrote, "Happiness consists in realising it is all a great strange dream." I don't think so. I could be wrong, or I could be thinking more clearly than a guy who liked to keep his mind in a semi-dream state of chemical alteration a lot and frequently wrote IN such a state. I think life is shit. Basically. If you look at all the brutal things happening with governments, corporations, banks and militaries all over the world, you could get pretty depressed. We're almost in a state of Orwellian dystopia now, some would say we ARE in one. It's pretty crappy and I have come to the conclusion that it ain't getting any better. But I believe it has a purpose in its unhappiness and, as Edith Wharton wrote, "If you make up your mind not to be happy, there's no reason why you shouldn't have a fairly good time."

As the Taoists say, "Find joy in the suffering." And there, my friends, is the key. Find your joy. I find joy in travel, eating, drinking, friends, new cultures, fishing, sports, writing, games, watching family and friends grow up, having good conversations, and hundreds of much simpler things. One author I was morally outraged NOT to find on the list I'm taking most of these quotes from is Tom Robbins. He wrote a story, I think you can find it in "Wild Ducks Flying Backward," about what he would order for his last meal on death row. It was a magnum opus about a tomato sandwich. That's it. A tomato sandwich that was so succulently described that after reading it I made myself a tomato sandwich.

I don't think we need to have grandiose strategies regarding our pursuit of happiness, I just think we need to train our overstimulated brains to slow down and appreciate the really great stuff we have. "If this isn't nice, I don't know what is." You don't need to be winning an Olympic gold medal or planting a flag atop Mr. Everest to utter these words. You could be eating a really great tomato sandwich.

I'm not saying I've nailed this strategy. I think I'll still be working on it till the day I die. It's TOUGH! But I need to keep reminding myself and striving to do it. For instance, I now want a tomato sandwich but I'm out of tomatoes. Instead of cursing the high prices of tomatoes at Ranch Market and the other tenants here for clogging the fridge with their food that just stays there month after month, goes bad and takes up space I could have used for tomatoes, I have to tell myself, "Hey, I still have some spaghetti sauce from yesterday. It has tomatoes in it." Call this overcompensation for misery if you like, but I'm going to eat some spaghetti with some nice garlic bread and a glass of milk. I'm pretty sure that is going to make me happy.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Almost Valentine's Day

It's almost Valentine's Day. As I get farther along life's path and nearer the grave, holidays change for me. I still like Christmas but not as much. Birthdays are only remembered because of Facebook. "Oh would you look at that. Three people are having birthdays today: Kelly, Sandy and ME! It's my birthday today? Oh yeah!"

I absolutely LOVE Halloween! I think I like it even better now! Thanksgiving, American Thanksgiving, Korean Chuseok, hey, any excuse to go all medieval on excessive amounts of food is A O K with me!

But Valentine's Day... Let's just say it's not my fave any more. It never really was. I remember Valentine's Days from early childhood. Not because of the love, because of the stress! When I was in gradeschool we had to give valentines to everybody in our classes at school. EVERYbody! I guess somebody thought that singling out girlfriends and boyfriends in gradeschool was just silly because for the lovers, they're too young to know what love is and for the kids that don't get valentines, they're NOT too young to know what social exclusion is. So we gave Valentines to everyone. I thought that was weird, and so did my other male friends because, although we were too young, (or at least I was), to fully understand what gay was, we all knew we weren't supposed to LOVE our buddies. Oh sure we could love them, but not LOVE love them. You know what I mean.

So being of a family somewhere near the bottom of the financial comfort spectrum, I remember getting those sheets of punch out valentines. Do you remember these?
They usually had one or two good ones and the rest were crappy. Which was good because I usually had one or two good classmates and the rest were crappy. Not like the richer kids in class who gave out cool valentines with REAL superheroes or even the ones from Mcdonalds. They had LOTS of love at Valentine's Day, especially if they attached Mcdonald's gift certificates to their valentines! Remember the valentines from Mcdonalds?

So on Feb. 13th I'd spend some time punching them out and choosing which classmate got which valentine. I'd usually start with the other boys. I'd try to find valentines with pictures of cowboys, spacemen, policemen, superheroes or masculine things like that even though they'd say things like "I'd like to rope you into being my valentine," "You're out of this world," "I arrest you for stealing my heart," or "You're my valentine hero!" I was okay with the inappropriate messages because the pictures carried more weight.
The Aquaman valentine would have been awesome cuz you could give it to a boy OR a girl! But you never got cool ones like THAT on the big punch-out sheets.

And there were never enough! After I took care of the main dudes in the class I had no really good pictures to give to the lesser guys. So they ended up getting the oddly shaped or impossible to understand selections.

What's "Scentimental" supposed to mean to a 7-year-old? Or even sentimental? I don't remember waxing nostalgic when I was 7. "I remember the old days, three years ago, before I had to go to school... Sesame street wasn't so bourgeois back then!" Never said that.

So then, on to the girls. You had to be careful here! Girls actually READ their valentines! But I found that attitude could usually trump most of the words on the valentines. You throw them at the chicks and say, "Here. Here. There ya go. Think fast. Incoming!" and they get the hint that your heart is really not that into it. BUT, if you had that one girl who you kinda dug, then it was a stressful ordeal! Should I toss her card at her with equal nonchalance or should I give her a little extra special chalance? Or maybe I should just wing her a valentine like the other girls but give her the one that had "You complete me," "You are special to me," or even, if I'm feeling extraordinarily daring, "I love you!" Should I sign my name with a heart beside it? Or maybe some exes and ohs for kisses and hugs? Or maybe just the ohs. Our relationship hasn't progressed to kissing yet. This was too much stress for a little boy! So I'd cave under the pressure and just give every girl whatever she got. If she was like Ralphie Wiggum and took "I Choo-Choo-Choose You" personally, whatever! So I'd just give out things like:

Can you IMAGINE giving these out nowadays? Kids would be sent home from school; social services would evaluate parents; kids would be sent to sensitivity classes; rules would be changed; laws would be made; blame would be assigned! "What's that supposed to mean? Your boy wants to BANG my daughter? Hmmm? And where did he learn that?" "My daughter happens to be one fifth Cherokee Indian, but I suppose you didn't know that did you?" "Bee? Bee? Are you gonna even TRY to tell me that has nothing to do with the birds and the bees? What kind of filthy-minded children is my daughter mixing with every day?!?!"

With so many people's moral outrage on a hair trigger these days it's probably a good thing we don't try to spread love around any more. That was the point though wasn't it? I think if you get right down to it, forget the fact that we have no idea about the reason we even celebrate Valentine's Day, shouldn't we have a holiday in which we all try to love one another? I don't mean kissy kissy touchy feely love, I mean at least a solid 24 hours of worldwide harmony. Stop the fighting and hating for just a day. Don't you think that'd be nice?

But getting back from Never Never Land, it's now about the more base and I'm sorry but, silly romantic love. Am I deranged or would any one else my age be cringing every time some woman you are "dating" or "going out with" or "going steady with," (ugh, cringe, cringe, cringe), called you her "BOYfriend?" Boy? 47 years old? Is it me or is everything about romantic love decidedly juvenile? Is it just me, (or is it just me and Louis C.K.), or do any other guys just have a hard time seeing a girl across the room and thinking, "Hmmm... Maybe that could lead to something NICE." Am I super negative or have I just lived too long to be that positive?

Love is grand. Divorce is about 50 grand. This is not just negative thinking, this is statistical fact! And if you could convince me that embittered divorcees think only of the early years, the good years, and forget about the bad years and the ugly divorce proceedings, I might be more willing to get on board the whole relationship thing, but I don't see that happening. I DO have friends and family with really good, long term relationships and I totally envy them, but I'd have to be bat shit crazy to think the rewards outweigh the risks. Wouldn't I?

I guess it happens, doesn't it? But to me? I'm like the Hulk with thick, (not green), skin that Cupid's arrows just bounce right off. Short of regressing to childhood or finding a time machine, I fear romantic love is just something I will avoid in books and suffer through in romantic comedies from now till I die. I doubt it'll make an appearance in my life. And for my part I don't even think I want it to. Too high risk. So, the following is my valentine for this year:

Just back off with that bow and arrow there, Cupid! You're outgunned.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Anatomy of a Terrorist

I don't want to flog a dead horse but I've been taking a bit of flogging myself from friends over here who insist that the Charlie Hebdo incident was all about Islam. If they were, I dunno, out of work drone pilots or in the internet surveillance racket I'd understand but they're mild mannered teachers like me. I'm also noticing that I get very few people commenting or liking my posts about this issue. Am I being ignored? I will not be ignored! (Fatal Attraction? Probly not let's move on). Being on what I'm calling and employment semi-hiatus right now, I realize that I have more time, and maybe more interest, to do research on this matter but is it that big of a leap to think these guys didn't just go from reading the Quran to suddenly slaughtering 17 people? If that's what the general perception is, and if the general perception is right, I'm in big trouble over here in 90% Muslim Indonesia! So why am I not the least bit worried? Let me splain:

It would be like a person in a Christian country getting nervous about THESE whack jobs.

Or take a look at this: It's Fox News, vaunted and respected giant in the industry, ahem, appologizing for having an "expert" on the state of Islam in Europe saying that there are "No-go zones" where non-Muslims fear to tread. Since they could find no evidence for it, (after they'd aired it), it's time to appologize to the court, have it stricken from the record and tell the jury to give it no weight in their verdict. Just another example of massive overreaction. I have a friend who plays professional soccer in England and he tells me that there ARE no-go zones, but that they have nothing to do with something as silly as religion. No they are about the far more important matter of which football, (soccer), team you support. If you walk down the wrong street wearing the wrong colour, you can be beaten up or even killed! "Football firms they're called. Soccer holliganism. But I don't see any news reports blaming the entire sport of soccer or the various rules in it's rule book.

I got to thinking as soon as I heard about the Charlie Hebdo attack and could not imagine any Muslim who didn't want the image of Allah to be seen, committing a high profile act of terrorism, in the name of Allah, (that's important because it makes it way MORE high profile), and expecting the cartoons of Allah to NOT be seen by hundreds of millions of people instead of maybe tens of thousands. But apparently I'm less apt to think of these guys as absolute drooling pussheads than a lot of people. I'm so rarely the positive thinking one!

First let me clarify my parenthetical remark: Have a guess at the percentage of terrorist attacks in all of the E.U. that are perpetrated by Muslims. Go ahead and see if you are within 20 or 30%. Bet you're not. I wasn't. Now I know the introduction of statistics will create all kinds of doubt. Well founded doubt and otherwise. And there will be people criticizing saying, "What do you define as a terrorist attack?" or other such things. Valid points. So take these stats with a grain of salt if you like. But know that there are plenty of other sources that show the same thing: the Muslims are responsible for a small minority of terrorist attacks in Europe and the U.S. The present state of fear and anti-Muslim sentiment and suggestions to prepare our countries for Muslim attacks just doesn't seem to be consistent with these numbers. Why are things this way? The simple answer is the media. Another word for terror is fear and it sells. Islamaphobia is real and it is being nourished by the media. But there are more complicated answers too.

And then when something happens like Charlie Hebdo that makes Islamaphobists say, "Finally! Now do you see what we're talking about?" guys like me, Jimmy Carter, Jon Stewart and some others in this post and in the news start saying things like there were other factors that contributed. It wasn't just a religious attack. This was a group of extremists. And you get people in high positions in the Islamic church condemning the actions and saying these were not real Muslims. I understand. It can get pretty frustrating for those looking to disparage and defame Islam. Nonetheless, I like the truth and I had a feeling this incident had more behind it than some crazed kids with visions of virgins dancing in their heads trying to uphold what they thought was the Holy Islamic law. I thought they were radical Muslims and I wanted to find out what or who had radicalized them.

Amity Coulibaly, the 3rd gunman who shot up the Jewish supermarket said, "The target was France in particular because of its obvious war on Islam and oppressed nations." I won't show all the research but they are involved in Syria, Ivory Coast, Libya, Nigeria, Mali, Algeria and the Central African Republic to name some. They did not, however, support the Iraq invasion. Remember how because of that France was hated so much in America that "freedom fries" were created and pro wrestling had a few French bad guys? Well all they had to do was agree to bomb the shit outta Syria with the U.S. and suddenly they were America's "oldest allies." French fries could be eaten again and wrestling bad guys lost their French accents.

Then I heard about Cherif Kouachi, one of the brothers, telling a French TV station just before dying that he had received funding and inspiration from Islamic Cleric Anwar al-Awlaki. The first thing I thought was, "Hmmm, maybe it WAS just a religious thing if a Muslim imam was a motivating factor. But I looked up the name.

I think the first thing I learned about this guy was that he was targeted and killed by a U.S. drone. That was in Yemen in 2011. Shortly thereafter, his son was also killed by a drone and I believe the article I was reading at the time said that he was "accidentally" killed by a drone. It may have been the NY Times article. They say he was "mistakenly" killed by a drone and leave it at that. "How the hell did that happen?" I thought. So I reckoned I might be onto something. I kept reading and it was like puzzle pieces falling into place. This guy is someone EVERYBODY should read about or study in school! I bet, even though there's no doubt he was complicit in a lot of terrorist activities, recruited and inspired countless young people to be trained in terrorism, there will be a movie made about him someday. His life is a veritable anatomy of a Muslim terrorist.

Seriously, at the time of his death there was little or no doubt of his connection to terrorist actions like Fort Hood, the Times Square bombing, the underwear bombing and others. But his real threat to anti-terror was his powerful oration and his great success attracting young men, even from English speaking countries, the kind of recruits that are most valuable to terrorist factions. I believe I read that he was ranked number two on the American most wanted, or most wanted dead list. So I was surprised when I began reading the chronological story of his life. He was not always that way. In fact he was the guy people talked to if they wanted to know the state of Islam in America. He was on TV shows, in documentaries, even spoke at the Pentagon and other political meetings. But then, shortly after 9/11 when America hastily enacted all kinds of strict anti-terrorism legislation and was able, through SAM's, (special administrative measures), to pretty much throw proper legal due process out the window when it comes to hunting terrorists or suspected terrorists, Anwar al-Awlaki was thrown in jail. No charges laid, no court hearing, he was just thrown in jail.

Try as I did to get any details on the specifics of his imprisonment, I couldn't find them. You'll notice the NY Times article just skips over that part. So does Wikipedia and a dozen other articles I've read. I came across one that said he accused the Jews of perpetrating 9/11 and was put in jail for that, and another that loosely tied it to some tribal conflict, and several that just commented on the whole incident using terms like "ambiguous" or "trumped up." The person who seemed to know the most about the story of Anwar al-Awlaki was a guy named Jeremy Scahill. He reckons al-Awlaki was imprisoned for his magnetic character, his ability to preach using the language of the streets and fluent English attracting a wide variety of young men to his cause, particularly U.S. and U.K. Muslims. Remember, at the time, his cause could not be proven to have anything at all to do with terrorism. Essentially he was put in prison for exercising his right to freedom of expression, but THIS kind of expression was considered an act of war. He stayed in jail for 18 months, 17 of which he spent in solitary confinement. That will mess ANYone up mentally! When he got out, and again I had a hard time finding info on why he was let go, he WAS radicalized! The official explanation for his release had been something to the effect of, "the U.S. no longer expresses a desire to keep him incarcerated." WHAT??? You KNOW if they had anything at all to hold him on they would have. He was railroaded! No doubt about it. I found myself wondering if I wouldn't want to run out and join an extremist faction after going through something similar.

I was sure I'd seen Scahill before on the Daily Show and heard that he had made a documentary called, "Dirty Wars" that dealt in more detail with al-Awlaki. So I got the movie and watched it.

WOAH! My blood ran cold and hot at the same time! I was chilled by the cavalier dispatching of humanity by the U.S. military and it angered me because again I was carried me down a psychological path I didn't wish to travel. I was forced to imagine just how I'd feel if loved ones of mine were summarily erased like the people Scahill shows in the doc. And I don't even HAVE kids of my own. I was relating to the man who said he wanted to declare jihad on America. There's no way of knowing but it made me wonder if I would't do the same thing in his position. It definitely shed a lot of light on why the terrorist hit list continues to grow and why it seems recruiters like al-Awlaki don't have much trouble finding people to join their radical groups. Could it be that these expensive, intensive and defensive anti-terror tactics were actually increasing terrorism? It seemed pretty obvious that that was the case. Could it be that that was their purpose? Certainly not! Could it? Really?

Is this just a massive make-work project for the U.S. military that will eventually lead to what they call "heightened anti-terror security" in other nations? There are already people speculating that the whole Charlie Hebdo attack was planned and carried out by Israeli or American intelligence to lead to just that. I have to admit to, again, giving the gunmen credit for intelligence enough to not leave their I.D. in the getaway car. That just looks suspicious to me. And THIS looks even more suspicious. Why did he kill himself? DID he kill himself? Where's the report. I don't know if there's fire here yet but I'd say there's smoke.

Heightened anti-terror includes more soldiers, guns, bombs, killing, violence, deterioration of civilian rights and freedoms, deterioration of rule of law and due process, and MASSIVE motivation and proliferation of the terror the anti-terror is designed to stop. Well it's already happening, isn't it? Britain and France are already negotiating for some and we've seen signs of it in other U.S. allied countries like my own, Canada. This post has a much higher chance of being viewed and I just might be flagged because of it. I'm not even kidding about that.

"I know David joins me when I say that we will continue to do everything in our power to help France seek the justice that is needed." Barack Obama said this meaning David Cameron, British Prime Minister. After reading the above and watching "Dirty Wars," this should scare the hell out of you!

Al-Awlaki was imprisoned for 18 months to, as Scahill says in the movie, "shut him up for a while until people forgot him." Then he was killed. Both without any charges laid, trials or due process. Then his son, Abdulrahman al-Awlaki, a 16-year-old who had no ties to terrorism at all was killed by a drone bomb just a short time later. No explanation was ever given, no statement by Obama, no apology. About the only official who spoke about this supposed "accident" was Robert Gibbs, former White House press secretary and senior adviser to Obama's reelection campaign who commented the maybe he should have had a more responsible father.

The killing of 17 people in France inspired a million and a half people to take to the streets in protest. How many people do you think a story like this will radicalize or "INSPIRE?" Add to that the increasing number of stories of people who see friends and family killed by anti-terror forces like JSOC, (Joint Special Operations Command, the one Scahill documents in Dirty Wars), and you have a pretty good idea of why that kill list isn't getting any smaller. You also have solid reasons to believe Charlie Hebdo was not just about religion. But if you want one final link that is pretty darn hard to ignore it's this: There was another guy killed along with Anwar al-Awlaki. It was Samir Khan, the creative force behind "Inspire" the militant group's internet magazine. The official American position on killing him was that he was not a significant threat and was not intended as a target. "Whoops. Collateral damage." Muslim magazine man murdered for no reason but the contents of a magazine. Anybody else see a possible connection here?

At any rate, there are way too many articles to link to this about people being falsely imprisoned and rights being trampled on in the name of anti-terrorism. Here's one: Abdulelah Haider Shaye. Just do some surfing, folks. And whatever you do, don't miss the documentary "Dirty Wars."

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Toboggannists and Terrorists

It's an amazing world we live in!

Ever feel like we are going backwards in the name of progress? I'll start with the lighter issue: tobogganning, sledding, sliding, call it what you will, it's a criminal activity now in more and more places. "We just can't allow people to do such a dangerous thing!" When did, "We just can't allow people to..." become such a popular way to start sentences again? Who are the people who are allowing other people to do stuff? It's a fair question. Is it the majority? If so then it might not be a bloggable issue for me. I just watched an interview with an American judge who actually said, "If the people want this kind of system then we'll have this system. If the people rise up and say, 'Let my kids sled down that hill. We're not going to sue if something happens to them.' then we'll have that kind of system." This is a judge, folks. Granted it's on Fox so... here's the link, I can't link directly but:

The important part was what he said just before the quotes. If the people want THIS kind of system, then we'll have this kind of system. What kind of system? It's a system in which anything a lawyer can convince a judge is worthy of liability becomes worthy of liability. We all know the system IS that way. If I am a moronic imbecile and I slip on a banana peel I can either take responsibility for my stupidity or if I happen to have a really good, (expensive), lawyer, I can sue banana growers, distributors, sellers and make sure NObody eats these dangerous, life-threatening, yellow-skinned disasters ever again. And according to this judge, who really ought to know better, the system is like this because the people want it that way. In fact it matters not what the people want, it matters what that one lame-brained, accident-prone nitwit with the high-powered attourneys wants.

So in answer to the question above about who "allows" everybody to do things, it would seem the answer is lawyers and stupid people. I'm going to go out on a limb and say that's NOT the way most of us want things. But contrary to what this judge was saying, people don't get what they want any more. If they ever did...

Throughout history we've had these people who decided amongst themselves that they are just too clever to spare the world from their opinions and much too wise not to force their ideas and behaviours onto us all. They're called politicians. Government. Within reason they DO govern, but as our world marches on in reverse they have moved outside of reason and become meddling busy bodies who want to exercise their control far too comprehensively. Comprehensive control is necessary for situations of innocence or ignorance. And sometimes when danger has been shown. A class full of kindergarteners or a prison full of felons shouldn't be left to their own devices. But a country full of well-educated adults, I would argue that we need LESS supervision, not more.

Perhaps the "well-educated" is the problem here.

What is education like in YOUR country? There may be a link to how controlling the government is. And, as is almost always the case, it all ties in with greed and the lust for money somehow.

On to the more serious issue. There is another group of people that throughout history and still today has been greatly concerned with forcing their opinions onto others. They're known as religious zealots. If you are excited about your God and you want others to share the joy you derive from your religious walk, you are overstepping your proper place if you try to force it on someone who doesn't want it. Even if you believe that person is in danger of fire and brimstone, that person has an inalienable right to choose for him/herself. The same goes for people who are doing things that are against your religion or mock your God. They have a right, in my opinion, to do so and you are being awfully arrogant to believe that YOU know what's best for anyone but yourself. I think we all have a lifetime challenge just to determine THAT!

There is no reasonable argument to be made in favour of the three terrorists who caused the tragedy in France. The Charlie Hebdo massacre was reprehensible and wrong. Many people, as with any violence committed by Muslim extremists, are jumping to anti-Islam sentiment as if the entire religion killed those innocent people. That would probably have a lot to do with the above education situation. But these people, and there are many, are trying to convince the entire world that Islam is the big problem. Some of them just hate religion no matter which one it is and are enjoying the opportunity to blame some more bloodshed on religion. I'm not saying religion doesn't play a part. It obviously does. I'm saying there is another MAJOR motivator that is being systematically ignored. There was a Muslim policeman shot on video by the perpetrators. That would be a pretty good sign that religion was not the sole motivation here.

When I hear the word "terrorist," I think of this:
I have been conditioned to. I suppose it comes from many years of TV in Canada. In fact I have noticed, since moving to a country almost totally populated with Muslims, that I have a lot of negative connotations linked with the Muslim faith. When I see the Muslim religious clothing I often catch myself shying away from the person wearing it for no other reason than practically everything I have read, heard or seen to do with people wearing these clothes, has been negative. I didn't realize how entrenched and automatic this prejudice had become.

By the same token when I think of upstanding, respectable people, I have a habit of thinking of something like this:

That makes me laugh. I mean right out loud. Cuz sometimes ya gotta laugh, right? It's all a guy can do. Even though there is nothing at all funny about the terror and evil this trio has wreaked on the world, (and still continues to), it's absolutely hilarious how they are still thought of and treated like honourable human beings. This is a trifecta of death, destruction and douchebaggery almost without peers. I mean you would have to get historical to come up with better. Pol Pot, Hitler, Stalin, Chinese Communist Party leaders, Lex Luthor... Again, a little levity to cut the tension. It seems this is another issue that doesn't cross relligious lines. While there are hundreds of jokes about other religions and plenty of offensive things said, done and even drawn about other religions, it appears as though the Muslim extremists have yet to develop this grace under pressure, this ability to laugh in the face of death, this gift of tempering tragedy with humour.

I had never heard of Charlie Hebdo until this tragedy I admit. But I read that they are not so much anti-Muslim as anti-religion. In fact I've read that they take more shots at the Christians than they do at the Muslims. It's weird that you only ever hear of Muslim extremists getting so riled up about cartoons. That in itself is almost funny.

But back to the point, which picture do you think depicts the people more responsible for the tragedy? It's pretty easy to pick the picture of the actual perpetrators but I've read statements from their lawyer who says that the major factor in their desire to become Muslim militants was the Iraq invasion. There can be no doubt that a massive amount of what we see routinely called "terrorism" by the media is a direct result of worldwide western illegal occupation, exploitation, killing, torture, and, yes, terrorism in the name of the almighty Dollar.

We debate about other countries and we think it would be tragic to allow, for instance, the Taliban to take over the government of Pakistan. They want strict Muslim rule, total control of the government, Shariah law and they cannot be reasoned with. Two things: First of all who the hell is anybody to say that would be a bad thing? It's probably true that most of the Pakistani people don't want that but we're getting back to the meddlesome busy bodies when we ask ourselves why anybody but the people of Pakistan should be allowed to solve the issue. And secondly the third, and the major Taliban demand always seems to be forgotten about and that is simply for the Imperialist occupiers who are encouraging division and proxy warfare, crippling countries by imposing governments on them who will play ball, accept huge, high interest loans that they can never repay and leave them at the mercy of their debtors, weakening countries and stealing their natural resources, (mostly oil), to get their greedy noses out of Pakistan's business. Many believe that if THIS demand were to be met, in Pakistan and other countries, it would go a long way toward limiting violence and "terrorism" in Pakistan and around the world. Who can say for sure if a Pakistan under strict Muslim rule and Shariah law wouldn't be more peaceful and mellow than it is today? Take a look at Qatar. It's generally regarded, after Saudi Arabia, to be the strictest Muslim country in the world. They adhere to the Wahhabi interpretation of Islam. They have Shariah law. They have an absolute monarchy. They allowed Canadian troops to launch missiles into Iraq during Desert Storm. I have a friend living there who says things are actually pretty laid back. You can drink alcohol or eat bacon if you buy a licence. They are okay with people who don't share their religious beliefs living among them. I hear Saudi Arabia isn't that different. A friend of mine living there recently posted a picture of himself and another man labelled, "Me and my Taliban friend." Maybe his Taliban friend posted the same picture on his Facebook page and labelled it, "Me and my infidel friend."

In the midst of all the Charlie Hebdo media coverage where a handful of people were killed, in Nigeria, Boko Haram massacred over 2000. That went largely unheard of. One of the motivators for Boko Haram is reportedly to reduce western influence, which has concentrated the wealth of the country among a small political elite to be replaced with Islamic fundamentalist government and Sharia law. One of the principles of Islam that I didn't know, and I think a lot of people are not aware of is the condemnation of usury. The Quran outlines a sacred mission to build a just economy in which everyone is treated with equity and respect. I won't cite the passages, (though I have checked them), but there are many promising painful doom to those who devour people's wealth through money lending, charging interest and usury. 30:39 "That which ye give in usury to increase on other people's property has NO increase with Allah, but that which ye invest as ZAKAT seeking Allah's countenance, hath increase manifold." Zakat is money given to help the poor, new converts to Islam, the needy, zakat collectors, slaves, stranded trevellors, debtors, and, you guessed it, those fighting for Allah.

When you look at the situation in Nigeria, a country 46.2 billion dollars in debt to money lenders and interest chargers like the World Bank, I.M.F., Paris Club, and recently another 3 billion dollars in loans were approved from China, one can see how the just economy of the Quran would be highly sought after. Not highly enough to justify massacres or kidnapping of school girls but it is easy to understand the feeling of helplessness Nigerians must have. Their country is rich in fossil fuels, agriculture, mining, even tourism, yet they are buried deep in debt. Throughout the world there are many countries in the same boat, and they are tired of it.

I believe it's pretty clear that the motivation for terrorist actions such as Charlie Hebdo has a lot more to do with political, economic and military interference than we are meant to know. The religion in some cases like Syria, is mostly a scapegoat. There is death, war, killing, torture and even combattants believe it's all about religion. Meanwhile the businessmen and politician who set up the war continue to pull the strings and the death toll rises all because of natural gas, pipelines and oil.

I think back to the days when "Occupy Wall Street" was in full swing. I will be occupying Wall Street soon myself. Ar ar. Anyway, the reporters and writers seemed to all get their information from the same source and they started parroting the same dismissive summation of the whole Occupy Wall Street movement: We just can't get a clear message. We're not sure what the actual message is. There seems to be no organized message to all this. What are they doing this for? We just don't understand! This feigned ignorance may have been encouraged by station owners, or politicians or paid off by wealthy oil and natural gas barons. I don't know. But they likely didn't have to pay many of them. Once a few major media players did it, the followers at smaller station, papers, magazines etc. jumped right into lock step. Then private citizens, who are kept too busy to do their own research, started regurgitating the mantras and swallowing the Soma and before we knew it the relevance of the movement faded.

Probably the most incredible thing about Charlie Hebdo, the Pakistani Taliban child massacre, the multiple mass killings in Nigeria, Yemen atrocities, the Ottawa shootings, the list gets added to every couple of weeks it seems... the most incredible thing about these actions is how they are always portrayed as completely unfounded, out of left field, cowardly, terrorist, unprovoked, mysterious, unwarranted incidents. In the minds of the perpetrators who have seen economic terrorism and suffered for it, there is an element to their actions that is not as much for Allah as revenge. They've seen innocents killed and they are responding in kind. It is not appropriate or acceptible but it is not a giant mystery the way we are constantly encouraged to believe. But the media is in lock step again and has been for quite some time. Unprovoked, cowardly attack, unwarranted, out of nowhere, shockingly random, indiscriminate, curious, confusing, TERRORIST actions. Why are they doing this? We just don't understand!

The solution couldn't be simpler. Stop illegally occupying countries. Stop aggressive and military capitalism. Stop exploiting the debt of the impoverished. Stop illegal and indiscriminate drone strikes. Stop scatter bombing. Stop torturing. Stop taking and doing whatever the hell you want because you have more money and power than other people!

But if you think a Muslim extremist is mentally unstable and impossible to de-program, I dare you to take a crack at talking Penis Cheney out of a barrel of oil. You'd have more success talking a pitbull out of a standing rib roast. The economic terrorists are more zealous than religious or even vengeful terrorists in my opinion. That money sickness is a tough thing to shake. Sorry to my friends who posted this and liked it but I have to give a link here to a bunch of Brits prattling on about the root cause of the situation in France. To divide the Muslims of France and to make other countries abide by Muslim law seems to be what they agreed upon as the root cause of these attacks. They flippantly dismiss foreign policy and people who have suggested this as a root cause and just agree it has nothing to do with it. I wonder if any of these guys are in the oil business, arms, surveillance electronics or any of the businesses that profit from aggressive foreign policy and military actions. Just imagine the shelling a person would take on this show if they say something like, "Now people don't even have to witness attrocities in person any more, they will be motivated to join extremist groups just by watching video like the Kouachi brothers." I would say limiting video that inspires hatred for foreign powers might be a bigger issue than laws or inter-Muslim conflict, and once again it would HAVE to be a more effective strategy in limiting or stopping these attacks. And I don't mean just stop filming militant foreign policy, I mean stop it altogether. They talk about other people dealing with secondary issues but they all seem to be perfectly happy with talking about the defences against terrorists and how to react to terrorism when it happens rather than being proactive and keeping it from happening at all. Here's the link:

Their solution is to beef up anti-terrorist defences. Well this sounds reassuring but all it really means is more military, more killing, more privacy, rights and freedoms being eroded, more paranoia and more money for the war and terror profiteers. Any who believe this is not already the case should read this. This is far beyong invasive, busybody meddling! It's human rights violation. Both the C.H. employees and Syed Fahad Hashmi were exercising their rights to freedom of expression and were punished for the same "crime." The only difference between what is going on with Hashmi and what happened in the Charlie Hebdo incident is that the American treatment of Hashmi stops short of killing. But 2 1/2 years in solitary confinement? 70 years in prison? Reading the description of Hashmi's possible sentence under "Special Administrative Measures" makes me think I'd rather be dead. These SAM's allow anyone suspected of terrorism to be treated that way with flimsy evidence that would result in the case being thrown out under normal circumstances. It was his friend providing raingear and waterproof socks to Al Qaeda. Hashmi just let him use his room and cellphone. Many would say that that was just what he was sentenced for. His real crime was speaking out against American foreign policy and calling it terrorism. I don't know if this is the situation yet in France or England or any other country but it's what is being suggested. Do YOU want this? I don't! But for the people running the planet it's better than playing fair in the battle for world resources and money. For the terrorists this is just more motivation.

In the end Hashmi was sentenced to 15 years in federal supermax prison. Geez, if the wrong people read my blog, maybe I'll share a cell with him someday. As you might expect NObody has heard of Hashmi. With the C.H. artists on the fast track to martyrdom for dying for freedom of expression, I wonder why Hashmi is so anonymous even though he suffered for the same thing. Hmmmm... I'll post a picture of him. Maybe you can guess.
Yup, looks like he should be in prison, doesn't he?

Freedom of expression should not have a double standard attached to it. I even read that in 2009 a contributor to Charlie Hebdo name Maurice Sinet, who writes under the pen name of "Sine" was fired from the magazine for an article implying that Sarkozy's son married into the religion of Judaism for the money. Electronics heiress Jessica Sebaoun-Darty was his bride. Sine commented that "he'll go far, the lad." This was agreed by the magazine's editor to "incite racial hatred" and he was accused of anti-semitism and promptly fired.

So before you start hating, (or treating with contempt, as S.F. might correct), the C.H. gunmen for trying to limit freedom of expression and impose Islamic restrictions on the world let's think about this for a second. Extremist factions all know by now that stunts like this get worldwide attention. Sometimes THAT is a major reason for terrorist actions. Why is it so easy for intelligent people to believe these Muslim terrorists and the members of the faction they belong to, all just missed the pretty obvious idea that far from stopping the cartoons that they consider to be blasphemous, their actions will expose millions and millions more to them? How many people, like me, had never heard of the magazine before or seen one of its cartoons? Now we've seen many and haven't we all seen several "Je suis Charlie" Facebook posts by now? Stephen Fry, a guy I really like, and whose intellect I respect, just reckons they're idiots and says so here. It's just odd to me how incomplete our questioning of this event seems to be. These terrorists had some schooling. How is it so easy to just believe they're morons? Maybe we're still too angry to think straight.

I can relate to people who want to see the Kouachi brothers caught and strung up. I often fantasize about the politicians, bankers and businessmen who are destroying the world being lined up and shot. Violence is a natural first impulse. And I can admit that the motivation for the France attack could have more to do with things other than global economic terrorism. But for all we know that could be a major motivator and when they wanted to strike France for the evil that top 5 in the world oil and natural gas giant Total is responsible for, (for example), the terrorists could have just decided to kill two birds with one stone and hit that magazine where they mock the Prophet Muhammed. This terrorist act is probably not the best example for my point but the problem needs to be solved thoughtfully and diplomatically. And the way I see it our actions are incomplete without including in the dialogue some reference to the culpability of global business practices that stray well into our definition of terrorism.

Trying to stop violence with violence has not, and I believe WILL never work. I agree with one thing that lawyer on Fox said, "If the people stand up and say we won't sue, then that's the way it'll be." It's only NOT like that because the people haven't stood up. Well if the people stand up and tell the OTHER terrorists of the world to stop with the apocolyptic greed, then that's the kind of world we'd have. Peacefully and intelligently. I sure hope it happens.

Saturday, January 3, 2015

Chinada Developing

Read this.

There's a wonderful little story for you! And in perfect keeping with the theme of this post, it took me several tries to post a link to the story here on my blog. No vids and now no links to stories? Is this 2015 or 1984? Anyway, it seems American drug company Eli Lilly wants to sue the government of Canada for 500 million bucks. That's a cool half billion to be paid by the taxpayers, that is, those Canadians who are poor and Pavlovian enough to think they have to pay them, NOT the actual government, who are the real culprits. No, the politicians just create the expenses, they don't pay them. This obliviousness to the concept of accountability is one of many ways Canadian politicians are a lot like children. What did they do this time? Remember NAFTA? Yeah well in it there is a section, ironically called "Chapter 11," in which foreign investors are provided protection from expropriation of their investments so the CAN'T go bankrupt. What that means is if Canada does anything that will affect the projected profitability of a foreign company, like pass a law that somehow limits said company's operations, that company is entitled to civil retribution.

What a sweetheart of a deal for the company! Even if the product your company deals in is found faulty and discontinued, you still pick up a paycheck. And who decides on what your FUTURE profits might have been?

It's a stupid deal. It's one of a great many stupid deals our governments have been forcing on a public who, by and large, would look at the deal and say, "Speaking of drugs, are you on some right now?" But let's look at the details and see just how stupid this is, shall we?

The drugs in question are 1. Straterra and 2. Zyprexa. Yup, sufficiently mediciney sounding names. Straterra is an ADHD drug and Zyprexa is for schizophrenia. I certainly don't want to be the judge hearing a case on the efficacy of a drug for either of these conditions of the mind that by their very nature are behavioural and therefore easy to fake or misdiagnose. But that's what happened. Due to the insistence of generic, (cheap), drug company Novopharm, who wanted a piece of this placebo action, these drugs were put on trial. And apparently Canada has stricter standards than a lot of other countries pertaining to such drugs. Canadians want them to work.

When the inventors of the two drugs applied for the patents they said or implied that they were superior treatments for the two mental conditions. Canadian judges ruled otherwise. Well of course Eli Lilly was outraged at the standards of Canada expecting pharmaceutical companies to supply people with drugs that actually WORK. Here is their defence and I'm not making this up, "Canada has an "elevated standard" when it comes to demonstrating the utility of a new drug and doesn't use the widely accepted threshold that demands only that patent holders show their invention has a "scintilla" of utility." See in other juris dictions, nobody was smart enough to notice that the Emperor was naked.

So for Straterra, Eli Lilly is seeking 100 million and for Zyprexa, (ruled on in 2009 and appealed in 2011, the very year the patent was to expire), they are seeking 400 million. 400 million for less than a year! There must be a LOT of schizophrenics in Canada! What makes you type that, Dave? Heh heh. Or maybe that drug is just a lot more expensive. Who knows how they come up with those numbers? It doesn't matter much to the government cuz they're not paying. The Canadian people are. Well, the REAL Canadian people...

On a related note, here's another story. Only this time I think it has to do with FIPA and not NAFTA. Remember the latest of the stupid, stupid deals our government signed? FIPA. I warned you about it when it happened back in October. We have already seen signs of it like the recently negotiated ability for Chinese to do business in Canada in their own currency without suffering multiple exchanges from Canadian to American then to Chinese again. Wasn't that nice of us! That was shoved down our throats while Stephen Harpoon was in China and could take no heat for it. Again pundits sang the praises of it but the only effects on the average Canadian will be higher taxes and more cheaply and easily exploited natural resources resulting in the inevitable deterioration of Canada's natural beauty.

With FIPA the Chinese got the very same kind of protection the Americans got with NAFTA. So if Canada passes environmental laws limiting fracking or protecting the country from non-stop oil spillage that pipelines will lead to, the Chinese can just sue us for projected profits. I remember all kinds of columnists and media pundits saying things like, "Don't fear the FIPA," when it happened assuring people that the process of litigation isn't worth it and would not be entered into but they no doubt said the same about NAFTA and look where we are now. And I have encountered no group of people more fond of exploiting Canadian litigious shortcomings than the Chinese.

This story hasn't much to do with the Chinese but it's just another nudge from our government so that we don't forget about FIPA, much as we'd like to. That said, the regulation of the internet will make the already slow and expensive Canadian internet slower and more expensive. Who do you think will pay for the internet police, Rogers? Bell? Hah! They didn't get those giant buildings in every major Canadian city by UNDERcharging customers! And with all the bandwidth the internet censors will usurp, we won't be able to download or stream anything anyway on our shitty 100-dollar-a-month internet! I have been to China and used the regulated internet there. It sucks. Just another way Canada is becoming more like China every day. Thanks Crime Minister Stephen Carradine! (a white guy trying to act Chinese. (Kung Fu (the TV series (David Carradine (young people, Google it!))))).

And please, dear reader, allow me a minor digression. Here it is World Jr. Hockey season again and more and more people have been making that part of their Christmas/New Year's holiday tradition. I have looked forward to Boxing Day for years for just that reason. I try to go to and watch the live streams of the games the way I have for many years now while overseas. What do I find? Sorry, you need a Rogers or Bell username or password to access this service. Well there you have the kind of companies Rogers and Bell are! EVERYbody in Canada has cable and will watch the games on it. The live stream on TSN is for the Canadians who are overseas. Overseas maybe because Canada is just getting shittier and shittier. Rogers and Bell just gave all of us a big middle finger there. I recently read in the National Post of Canada how TSN has made the World Jrs. a real part of Canadian culture. And here we are in an age when more than half of the people in Canada weren't born there, more Canadians than ever are working in some other country and we NEED our culture more than ever. Does Bell or Rogers give half a damn? No, they're obviously struggling companies who have to think of profits more than stupid things like Canadian culture. PLEASE somebody start a pirate cable company in Canada! Or maybe it would be good to see the Sony hackers bring down Bell or Rogers or both. They're just too big for their britches.

So I go to Wiziwig to get some live streaming World Jrs. Not as good as TSN and sometimes not available in English but guess what I find there. "Sorry, our site has been shut down by Big Brother." We are losing maybe the last bastion of true freedom in the world! The internet! This year you get a fine for downloading a movie, next year you buy a DVD and watch it at home with a guest who paid the manufacturers, producers, actors, and everyone associated with that motion picture NOTHING, and you are dragged out to the newly built stocks and given 20 lashes. We are progressing backwards, folks. Anyway, I found a Russian site and a couple other sites that have worked okay. I am thankful for people who share what they are paying for! They pay for cable and upload the program for free so those overseas or too poor can watch. Modern day Robin Hoods and the cable companies are Sheriffs of Nottingham.

But back to the topic, that's the problem with business these days and the reason they can do all this crap NObody wants them to. They are just too big. Imagine, just imagine if a big, giant oil conglomerate, or a group of them combined, decided that they wanted to mine for oil up in northern Canada where the nature is still pristine and habitats and ecosystems still remain fairly intact. In comparison to most of Canada they are relatively untouched. These massive oil companies don't want to waste any of their truckloads of money doing things the environmentally friendly way, they have decided to just, oh I dunno, sink some dynamite down to the ocean floor and explode it and see if any oil bubbles to the surface. Okay that's just an extreme example I pulled right out of my arse, but imagine if that happened. What could Canada do? Well first we'd need a whole bunch of people to know about it. That's tough when the oil companies buy off the media. But it could still happen if we keep our internet free. Then we'd need to make some petitions and stir up some moral outrage and after years and years of lobbying finally convince a corrupt government and a glacially slow legislature to outlaw oil mining with dynamite. But during all that time, boom, boom, boom! And then after that time, pursuant to the NAFTA and/or FIPA regulations, the offending oil companies would have civil recourse. They could sue Canada, (you and me), for losses that probably would have accrued if they had been able to do business... blah blah blah.

I keep asking this but how much more like China is Harper going to make Canada? You're saying, "Come on, Dave. You're being outrageous. That'll never happen." At least you're hoping. You might even be saying, "If something like that happened for SURE Canadians would revolt! I mean that's just ridiculous! Hell I would revolt if that happened! But it'll never happen." Well guess what, I DIDN'T just pull that outta my arse, it's happening. Are you gonna revolt? Are you gonna do something about it? Okay, now, in true Canadian style you're saying, "Well hold on here, maybe instead of revolting we could write some strongly worded letters or start a petition or march or do nothing and stay home and watch our expensive cable TV and surf our slow, Big Brother monitored internet."

I don't even know who it is with this crazy idea. It could be an American company or it could be a Chinese company or it might even be a company from somewhere else. Doubtful but... Does it matter? I am hoping to return to Canada someday and retire. I really hope it won't be as big a shock as it was the last time I returned. But I have this funny feeling it'll be even bigger. Canadians are being bullied by bureaucracy, Big Brother, banks and the boys on Bay Street. Right now there is something called the TPP that American politicians are trying to fast track into law. It's pretty much the same thing that has left Canadians helpless and will all but certify that the interests of the people are undermined in favour of amoral capitalism. IF this gets squashed the way it should, then there's a possibility that countries that follow the lead of America, like Canada, might smarten up and squash any similar situations. I don't know how likely that is but I sure hope SOMEhow Canada can see how the country is going down the crapper and do something about it. I'm just getting really really tired of seeing Canada fall apart.

I can't even watch the World Jrs! Well, yes I can, but I have to be really resourceful. Anyway, I feel like I'm cheering for the Canadian people even more than I'm cheering for our World Jr. squad. I have infinitely more hope for the hockey team than the people, let me say that right now. I think Canada will win the gold in a walk this year! Said that BEFORE they nuked the Danes 8-0. But I have so much less faith in our people! All I ever hear is bad news about Canada getting more and more corporate and Orwellian. I sure hope we can snap outta this soon! Before it's too late.


Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Have a SAFE New Year

Well it's New Year's Eve here in the mighty metropolis of Jakarta. There's a stage set up at the end of the "jalan ticos" or "mouse street" that I live on in preparation for some partying tonight. For a country that is so full of Muslims, things have been absolutely dead since even before Christmas. I'm sure there'll be plenty of carrousing tonight and sleeping it off tomorrow. Then hopefully January 2nd things will start rolling around here. I have a ton of stuff to do!

I keep seeing well-wishers telling friends to have a "safe and prosperous" or a "healthy and safe" new year, a year full of love, happiness and safety, and so on and so forth. It seems safety has become a bit more important this year. I don't know if there are more people frightened out of their wits than usual, if those wishing to keep us all that way are working harder than usual, if the world is less safe than usual or maybe I'm just noticing the word "safe" more than ever. Not sure. But let's just see how safe we are, shall we?

Ever just sit down and think of how many times a day you take your life into your hands, or put it in the hands of another person? I mean just get yourself really really bored sometime and start thinking about this. It's uncanny! We trust thousands of total strangers every day with our fragile, little lives! You're saying, "Thousands? Come on, Dave!" I'd be willing to bet that most days it's in the TENS of thousands or even HUNDREDS of thousands. You don't think so? Okay just think of the food we eat. How many deaths were there in 2014 as a result of contaminated food? As usual the stats are hard to come by for most places so we'll have to look at the U.S. As far as I can read on the internet there are 3000 to 9000 deaths a year in the U.S. caused by foodborne illnesses, diseases and contaminations. And if the food is perfectly fine there are 3000 deaths every year just by choking on it.

Think of how many people are directly responsible for the food you ate today. Even if it's something as simple as a piece of fruit, an apple, just imagine how many people have had a perfectly good chance to touch, or contaminate your apple in some way. There's the seed manufacturers and sellers, the planter, the grower, all the people at every stage of production of all the sprays, fertilizers, waxes and whatnot the grower uses during the growing process, there's the people responsible for checking and maintaining the purity of the water used to water the apple tree that grew your apple, the pickers, the handlers, the boxers, the transporters, the wholesalers, the grocers, every customer at the grocery store during the time that piece of fruit was on display, the supermarket clerk, and finally you. You can get into greater detail. There are also the kids in the neighbourhood of the orchard who snuck in on Halloween night and stole apples from the tree your apple grew on. There are the nearby factories that belch contaminants into the sky that get into the clouds that get into the rain that falls into the ground that gets sucked up by the roots of your apple's tree. I mean you can really go crazy and talk about every creature throughout the years that has contributed to the make-up of the soil that your apple's apple tree grew in. If you dwell too deeply on this, you can drive yourself around the bend.

And speaking of driving, think of how many people could kill you every time you go for just a short drive. Not just your fellow motorists who breeze by you going in the opposite direction an arms length or two away at speeds that, when combined with your speed, would obliterate you in a head-on collision if the other driver, or you, should for whatever reason just jerk the steering wheel two inches the wrong way. I'm talking about every worker on every assembly line at every factory that worked on every single part of that car you are driving. Just take one part, I dunno, a lynch pin in the axle let's say. It was manufactured 10 years ago in a small, rural area of Northern China at a factory where people can make better wages than they can farming so long as they work more than the 12-hour days they are contracted for. Imagine one day a sleepy, 12-year-old who had just finished three 18-hour shifts in a row and was in a state of fatigue in which motor skills were deteriorating was working the lynch pin sealant line in the factory. This is a conveyor belt with metal lynch pins on it and workers with hoses spraying anti-oxidant coating on the lynch pins. Cheaper than making them with rust proof material! Well Wang Chung, just one of the 100,000 people you are trusting today, that 12-year-old boy who is now 22 and attending college with all the money he saved from his job at the lynch pin factory, (yeah right!), nodded off for a minute and didn't spray 10 or 15 lynch pins. One of those lynch pins is holding the left front wheel onto your Toyota Carolla. It's been rusting for ten years and at this very moment it snaps and your left front wheel comes off your Carolla and you lose control hurtling off a hundred-foot cliff and into a colony of fire ants on the ground below. All because you unknowingly trusted Wang Chung 10 years ago to stay awake on the lynch pin sealant line.

Now just imagine how many hundreds, or maybe thousands of those very same scenarios happen to us every single day! I swear germaphobes have it the worst! But if you really sat down and thought about things you'd realize that there is absolutely no way of avoiding exposing ourselved to a bazillion germs every day. We try to wash, or sanitize our hands as often as we can but after a few million million million microbes, who's counting really? Microbes, folks. They've been around since the days when the oceans routinely boiled and they represent all the deadly viruses, plagues, bacteria and fungi of many millennea. There are more microbes on your hand right now than there are people on the earth. I don't care how recently you used your hand sanitizer. You might put toilet paper on the seat before you use a public toilet but then you flush using the same handle or button that everybody all day has used then open the door twisting the same lock they twisted unlocked then turn on the same tap that they did then crank the same towel dispenser crank and exit using the door knob that they all used on the door to the washroom. All this time mixing microbes. You use the same buttons on the bank machine as 100 other people with millions of different microbes each. You hold the same handle on the bus as 50 different people. You can try to avoid touching what other people have touched but then you will open a door and it's like shaking hands with dozens of people and a whole history worth of microbes! Phones, shopping cart handles, lightswitches, computers, tables, and then we touch our faces and self-administer all those germs. It's estimated that we touch our faces once every three minutes and that 80% of infectious diseases are transmitted by touch.

Every time you walk on a sidewalk there could be a 100-foot drop below and you are trusting the sidewalk to be thick enough to sustain your weight. Forget about that, we are just trusting that we won't trip and fall. (6000 deaths a year) We speed through intersections even though faulty traffic lights are responsible for thousands of deaths a year. (2000 in the U.S. alone) Elevator cables sometimes break. (30 deaths and 17,000 injured every year in the U.S.) How often are you in elevators? We go outside even though we know we'll get a mosquito bite or two. (800,000 deaths a year by mosquito) Tonight there will be a lot of champagne drunk even though every year 24 people are killed by champagne corks! I'm not making that up! Even the buildings you go in and out of every day. Are they safe? One of my friends here in Jakarta had the roof of her office collapse from the weight of rain on it. Apparently that happens a lot in the rainy season here. Roads cave in. Sinkholes. Disappearing planes. Crashes, earthquakes, tsunamis, Ebola, ISIS, wild animal attacks... it's no wonder people are getting so preoccupied with safety!

Or maybe it's not really that kind of safety people are worried about. There are so many other examples of false safety we have! Ever seen a handcuff key? It's a little metal shaft with a bump on it. Every set of handcuffs known to man has the same key. Duplication is a cinch. Yet you could have Ted Bundy in a room full of female college co-eds wrestling in Barbecue sauce and if he was cuffed, "No danger there. He won't rape, kill or eat anyone because he has these infallable safety restraints around his wrists!" When I was a security guard I had a couple handcuff keys on me at all times. I'm sure a lot of guards do. Just one example in a world choc - o - block full of false security.

I would be remiss if I didn't mention the growing world, (and shrinking safety), of technology. I'm not going to ask how many people HAVE had a bank account hacked into or an incident of credit card fraud. How many people HAVEN'T? How hard do banks and credit card companies try to keep THIS fact a mystery? With the recent Sony hack, how safe does THAT make you feel???

But you know, there are simple solutions to all of these problems. Interac, cashless environments on flights or in hotels, mandatory credit card imprint or number for registration, and other such things are trying to force us all into the unsafe world of credit but I can't remember the last time I heard a story about a house being broken into and a person's saving being stolen from their house safe. Or from their mattress for that matter. I admit there are a few conveniences to credit. I have been travelling, run out of cash and been unable to get any more from the bank machine. I really wanted a credit card then. But had I known a country could just shut down its bank machines, I would have brought more cash. Philippines...

I'm here to tell you that I touch my face FAR more often than once every three minutes and I don't wash my hands all that often. I shake people's hands, high five, use public toilets without my hasmat suit, judge leftovers by smelling them, employ the five second rule for dropped food, I live dangerously! Ironicallly this might be the safest way to do things. I just never get sick any more. A cold here and there but that's it. I think it's got a lot to do with not sweating the small stuff. Can't get much smaller than a microbe. But it also has a lot to do with living a reasonably healthy life. I exercise and eat my fruits and veggies. I fight sickness with strong biological immunity not drugs. I am reasonable, not paranoid, in my cleanliness.

As for bank and internet security, they're not secure. I understand that. So I try to use banks as little as possible and I try not to do anything that I might have to keep a secret. Simple.

When you think about it the world is a dangerous place, our lives are tennuous gifts that are in moment to moment peril no matter what we try to do to change that and EEERRR verybody is living dangerously. Coconuts fall on the heads of a lot of people every year. 150 people die from kepala to the kelapa (coconut to the head). Lightning kills 24,000 people every year. So sleep well knowing all of these dangers, my beloved readers, (450 people a year die from falling out of bed). 20 people in the U.S. alone die every year from COW attacks! That's no bull! Cow! Somehow 100 people a year die from hot tap water! How does that even work??? I guess there are a lot of deaths every year from just being stupid. When you know something is dangerous, it's probably best to avoid it. It is astounding how many people just can't obey this advice! In fact they are somehow driven to the opposite! For them there is no help but eternal peace, but for most of us, all we need to do is be reasonably careful.
I added this pic because I can't upload vids to my blog again. It comes and goes that ability. But just go to youtube and search for croc or log and you'll see it. It's funny because it's true.

So anyways, I don't want to wish you a safe new year. It sounds just a bit paranoid to me. All I want to say from the bottom of my heart to all my readers is just take care of yourselves, don't be stupid and try not to do anything you have to keep secret.

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Tropical Funk

Do you remember the days when sleep was the enemy? I do. I recall the strangest of psychological pathologies we sometimes call wide-eyed wonder that made me fight off the dropsies, you know, when your eyelids are heavily dropping and your head is too and your chin hits your chest and you force your leaden eyelids open again for fear of missing even a little of the miraculous stuff of which existence is composed? Do you remember getting up early when you didn’t have to? I do. Bolting out of bed to meet a new day open to all of the stimulation that life has in store for you.

I bolted out of bed today. One of the cleaners at my kost had put a key into the keyhole of my door. They do that, about once a month, when they have decided to clean the room for me. I have taken to leaving my key in the keyhole for this reason. They cleaner’s key won’t go in all the way so he knows I am home and he doesn’t need to clean. Not that the place couldn’t use it, I just feel helplessly awkward hovering over the guy as he scrubs my mold, slime and build-up off the toilet, sink and shower floor. As he sweeps my hair, dead skin, food particles and the occasional finger or toenail off my floor. And especially when he strips the bed of sheets, pillow cases and the superfluous blanket all soaked in the tropical funk that every pore on my body exudes during sleep here in Indonesia, air conditioning or no. Though I have grown accustomed to the staff here, and vice versa, I bolted out of bed saying, “No, no! No cleaning!” because I’d really rather not have them walking in on me in my old and holy Kiss drawers and nothing else.

Ha ha. “Tropical funk.” Sounds like a new kind of music. I’m picturing Phil Bailey from Earth Wind and Fire doing a reggae song in his super high voice. Ha ha ha. Tropical funk.

While I HAVE grown accustomed to the cleaning and security boys here, I am still a long way from growing accustomed to the heat. It’s just hot. Every day. And now, in the rainy season, it’s hot and more humid than usual. Rainy season trumps the Christmas season. At least it did this year. The yuletide joy and festivities aren’t really observed so much here. When I was a boy pretty much right after Remembrance Day till the second day of the new year it was extreme bolt-outta-bed season. What holiday event, TV show, TV commercial, decoration, food, observance, tradition, visiting relative or whatever might make today exciting? That’s what charged me awake and opened my eyes with an electric jolt that bypassed the morning dreariness and launched me straight into activity.

This morning I got up, stayed in bed rubbing my eyes and trying to keep myself from dozing off again for about an hour. Then the bladder more than joie de vivre encouraged me to face the day somewhat upright. I sat at my computer, my all but decorative, wifi-less computer, and caffeinated while checking the internet connection. Every single weekend the internet is jammed here. I don’t know why but I’ve grown accustomed to that too. I reluctantly added shorts and my Hard Rock CafĂ© Fukuoka T-shirt to my holy Kiss gotch in order to exit my room. I grabbed both of my plastic, made in Malaysia, Lock & Lock water containers. The 1.2 litre I carried in my left hand and the 1.5 litre, still with a swallow of water in it, I tucked under my left arm like a football. Then I bent over to pick up a previously tied off grocery bag of garbage and the swallow of water went all over it and the floor behind the door. That happens more than I’d care to admit. Still, I can blame it on the morning groggies.

I opened my door and made my way to the community kitchen. I dropped my dripping garbage bag next to the kitchen garbage can and proceeded to the water machine to fill up on water. I need a lot of it here in Indonesia since I turn so much of it into sweat. On the way back to my room I ran into one of the Nigerian dudes who lives upstairs to me and we exchanged cordial greetings. I put my water containers into the door of the fridge in my room, then went back outside my door to tend to the router. I am just tall enough to reach it on its elevated, wall mounted platform. While the cleaner guy had a cigarette and watched I took the router down, pulled out the power cord, counted ten and plugged it back in. Time to get on Facebook and check on my games, do some online fishing and maybe comment on a few posts or chat with someone. These are the things that sometimes DO get my lazy ass, (or my lazy ass ass), outta bed on the mornings I don’t have to work. This is one of them. December 29th. It’s a Monday. I would normally have some classes to teach but not this holiday sandwich Monday. In fact for me it’s a job sandwich Monday. I am down to my final client with the place I'm working. I’ve talked to the boss and he knows I’m moving on to greener pastures. I’m still not sure if I will teach Mr. Yoo, my last client, into the new year or not. I’ll have to talk to Mr. Yoo and the boss man about that. I will also have to find out from Herry, the guy who lets me stay in the room I am in, when I need to vacate it.

Last I heard Herry had relatives coming who needed the room in January sometime. I have another friend/benefactor named Rica who has a house that she has offered to me rent free whenever I have to leave. I’m just trying to prep for the move in any way I can right now. You know, not buying much food, especially heavy stuff like cans; collecting boxes and bags; throwing out useful but unnecessary things that have built up like glass jam jars and other such containers. I can rebuild my supplies in the new place.

Then there’s the concerns about upcoming interviews and job changes. I really won’t be doing anything until well into the new year about these things so I should just relax and try not to worry. I should keep some Tropical Funk song like Phil Bailey singing “Every leetle teeng gon be alright ya’ll…” in my head. But I’m like the sheep herder played by Seth MacFarlane in his movie “A Million Ways to Die In the West.” Traffic? Glacial internet? Lack of noise bylaws? Heat? Sweat? Crappy phone service? Crappy taxi service? Crappy service? Hello? Is this thing on? Am I the only one? Then somebody in the bar stands up and says, “Why don’t you shut up?” and slugs me. I fall through a window out onto the street and rub a little blood from the corner of my mouth with the back of my wrist. Then I smoke some weed with a friend to relax while listening to “Every leetle teeng… gon be alright, mon.” and I get even MORE paranoid! “That rat that crawled out of the open roadside ditch there? See him? He KNOWS!!! HE KNOWS EVERYTHING!!! I’m not swallowing right…”

I could make a movie. Heh heh. But seriously, I have done a little bit of Christmassy stuff here. The day before Christmas I was invited to a karaoke party by my friend and former co-worker, Tessa. I didn’t go because I had to play Santa the next afternoon at the Shangri La Hotel and wasn’t sure I’d be able to sing anything without some irresponsible drinking. Hindsight being 20/20 I realize now I should have gone and just sung in my best falsetto, “Don’t worry… about a teeng. Every leetle teeng… gon be alright, mon.” But I didn’t want Santa to be the stereotypical down on his luck boozer just picking up some extra holiday hours as Santa to finance a few bottles of holiday cheer. Hmmm…

Anyways, I didn’t go to Tessa’s party and I was bright eyed and bushy tailed for my gig as the Santa at Shangri La. My former student, Rica, has a sort of party planning business and she suggested that I be Santa months before this. I had expected more than 3 hours of work but one thing led to another and three hours at the Shangri La was all I got. Now I was treated to a GORGEOUS buffet at the Snangri La Hotel early on in my stay here by Annemarie. You may remember that blog post with the bad oysters. Poor A.M…. heee heee hee. It’s a very nice hotel. Upscale. And I’d been told that I would be spending most of my time indoors. I was going to be Santa for 3 hours at a special kids party where kids, (of well-to-do parents), have activities, games, toys, crafts, snacks and a bit of a party and they have Santa and Barney there too. So I assumed there would be air conditioning, and there was. In every corner of the recreation room we were using there was an air conditioner. But they were all off! I saw some of the KIDS sweating in this room! And, hey, Barney was a skinny, young, Indonesian dude and he was sweating like a madman too!

I’m wearing a red velvet, well lined Santa suit that had fur all over it and would have sufficed for an Everest attempt, plus all the beard, mustache and head hair, PLUS a furry, well lined Santa cap on top of that. I think the suit was for an outdoor Santa. Outdoor in Christmas-like conditions in a Christmas celebrating country that is. There I was in the hot, and rainy season humid, air trying to be jolly while hoping the copious lining would soak up the sweat and people wouldn’t see salt stains on the Santa suit. Seriously I had to take off the white gloves half way through because they were soaked in sweat and people were no longer shaking Santa’s hand. My glasses were fogging up and probably worst of all, my bottom lip was getting numb. I have heard this mostly happens to children but it’s a sign that you are dangerously dehydrated. I had a piece of gum so that Santa’s breath wouldn’t stink but the beard and mustache hair had already mixed with that. Combined with the numb bottom lip I was saying things to the kids like, “And wblere you a good blwoy blwis year?” Which shouldn’t have been TOO bad because some of the kids spoke only Indonesian, but, being children of the better off parents of Indonesia, and some of them being kids of foreigners, I’d say 90% spoke English. To make matters worse there was ANOTHER Santa wandering around the place. I didn’t see him but a lot of the kids saw him when they were outside in the fishing pool, riding horses, swimming, in the bouncy castle or on the merry-go-round. Apparently he was a huge guy! Bigger than me and much different looking. And probably better able to enunciate. So the kids knew that at least ONE of the Santas was fake. One little boy looked at me and said, “You’re not Santa.” I tell you what, if I DID go to Tessa’s party the night before I would have sweated out the hangover even before the halfway point!

But, as you know, I’m a complainer. I’m sure it wasn’t nearly so bad and some folks might even say I did an okay job as Santa but afterwards I felt much like I had run a marathon. I was sweaty, consuming liquid non-stop and just really really happy it was over. And I got some money from Rica for doing it so that made it okay. The funny thing was at one point I wandered over to the buffet and I suppose because they weren’t expecting Santa, (and hadn’t paid for him), people went NUTS for pictures! It was the highlight of the day for me! I think it was just nice to be appreciated so much. Santa really didn’t have too much in the way of loot to hand out to the kids so they had better things to do. But it sure didn’t hurt that most of the people I was posing for pictures with at the buffet were the hot wives of the guys who could afford to go to the Shangri La buffet! A couple of them were wearing Christmas finery that was so sexy and low cut that they might have a pic or two of Santa’s eyes where they shouldn’t be! It was in the final hour of my time as Santa so I was too sweaty for them to get TOO cozy with Santa. Probably a good thing.

The day after Christmas, Boxing Day, since the World Jrs. was still a day away, I decided to make some Christmas cards for my two benefactors, Rica and Herry. I drew a Homer Simpson Santa Claus and wrote Merry Christmas Herry, and Rica and then wrote on the inside how it was a time of year to give thanks and I gave them thanks for being so nice to me. It was about 2 PM when I finished the cards and decided to walk to their places, (not that far away), and hand deliver the cards. I looked out the window and the clouds were threatening so I put the cards into a plastic bag and put on a hat. No more than a couple minutes after I got outside and en route to Herry’s it started just POURING. Remember, it’s the rainy season. But this was not a bad thing. You see when I go for a walk when it ISN’T raining here I get soaking wet. With sweat. This was actually quite nice! It kept me relatively cool and I wasn’t a whole lot wetter than I would have been if it were a clear, sunny day. Herry wasn’t home so I left his card with the doorman. He was laughing because the rain was torrential by the time I got there. Many people in shelters alongside the streets were saying stuff to me, waving, laughing and such. But I didn’t give a rip. It was a nice, pleasant, not sweltering hot walk. Rare around here.

Unfortunately, I had worn my sandals. They were good for short, dry walks but because they are not to be worn with socks and because of the Velcro straps that keep them on my feet, the exposed Velcro rubs my feet every step. Now this is not too bad even for a long walk when it’s dry. But when it’s wet and the foot skin is especially soft the Velcro rubs right through it. By the time I had reached Rica’s place I had two pretty blistery feet. She wasn’t home either so I left her card, plastic bag and all, in the handle of her apartment entrance. I hope it was still there when she returned. I still haven’t heard from her or Herry since.

When I got home I had 6 or 7 pretty nice raspberries on my feet but since I had exercised, and since I needed to nurse those raspberries, I just watched movies all day long. Some Christmas movies, some not. I really liked the movie “Nightcrawler.” I think Jake Gillinhall could get an Oscar for it. He was creepy! I also liked “A Million Ways to Die in the West.”

So anyway, not a whole lot of action here to jolt me out of bed in the morning/afternoon. It’s kind of between seasons and jobs and nothing much is happening right now. Most likely the calm before the storm. And the storm should start right about New Year’s Day. I’ll probably blog you all about it. Meanwhile I'll try to keep some Tropical Funk in mind. "Don't worry. About a teeng. Evy leetle teeng... gon be alright."

Take care my faithful readers!