The Town Scryer is a mixed bag of humor, socio-political observations and ephemera from the perspective of a eclectic Pagan veteran of the counter-culture.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

That's Indoctrination.

     As a result of being recently unemployed I have been watching the television lately, something I haven't done much of for some time. For the past few years my viewing has been limited to "Fringe" and films that I was interested in but didn't deem worth ten dollars plus a bank loan at the snack bar. It all started innocently enough. I have a friend who is a big fan of "NCIS". I had promised him I would check it out. One thing lead to another. Three months later I noticed a disturbing pattern. In all too many of the "police dramas" that I watched actual investigation was replaced by the convenient device of electronic surveillance. The investigator would call up the images on security cameras without leaving their office. A few minutes later they would call up the suspect's cell records in real time and then use his cell to track his movements. In the new series, "Hawaii 5-O", the leading man regularly has his girl friend in the US Military call up  spy satellite images to help him in an investigation.

    I was tempted to simply write the whole thing off to lazy script writers, but the phenomenon is too pervasive. What if the government is paying Hollywood to run pro-surveillance programming? If we see "the good guys" doing it on TV maybe we won't complain as Big Brother begins to watch our every move.

     "Oh come on now!" I can hear you say, "Those are the ravings of a paranoid!"

       What is stopping our government? It did exactly that with the War on Drugs for years and when it was revealed that they had been paying for anti-drug plots on TV dramas. few even took notice, let alone objected.*
    I wonder if Wikileaks will some day reveal that the Bush White House signed off on the "24" scripts. It would explain their obsession with torture.

    I am not necessarily saying that this is happening. What I am saying is that the actions of our government over the last ten years or so make it impossible for me to assume that they would not do it.

    It is a sad and terrible thing to have to admit that about one's government.

    Be seeing you.


Wednesday, December 22, 2010

High Crimes and Mythdemeanors

     Wikileaks and its founder Julian Assange have been in the news much of late. Much of the United States Government seem to want to arrest him, except for those who want to assassinate him. There are those who say that he is a journalist and/ or a hero, but few of them are part of the executive or legislative branches of government. A few people have pointed out that outside of some rather unusual charges in Sweden involving unprotected sex, he actually has not committed any crime. This has caused a lot of public prosecutors to franticly try to find something to charge him with. The current favorite is the Espionage Act of 1917, which had very little to do with busting spies and a lot to do with finding a way to throw union organizers and Socialists like Eugene Debbs into prison.

     All of this discussion seems to be ignoring two facts that strike me as being of more than passing importance: 1) Mr. Assange is not a citizen of the United States, and 2) He does not reside in the United States or it's territories or possessions and he was not on American soil when the alleged crime took place. Now lately we have on occasion, gone into other countries and seized their citizens on terrorism or drug charges  and tried them here. There is a technical term for this. It is called an act of war. If you don't believe me, read up on the early history of this country. The War of 1812 was at least in part caused by the British Empire impressing American citizens into the Royal Navy. Currently a dozen members of the C.I.A. stand convicted of kidnapping and other high crimes for acts of extraordinary rendition on Italian soil.

    There is no indication that the Obama administration has any intention of surrendering the agents involved. Extradition was ignored at the time of the trial by the Bush administration.

    Lately the phrase "American exceptionalism" has come to mean, "The rules only apply to those other people." That is why so many people hate us.

    Be seeing you.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

An Open Letter to President Obama

    Dear Mr. President,

   It was just under two years ago that I stood next to a young Black woman as she watched you, her eyes filled with tears of pride and joy, as you took the oath of office. I watched through the day as she worked next to me and the day flew by for her because her heart was, for a while, lighter than it had been. You were for her, at long last the fulfillment of Dr. King's dream. The day had come that her mother and her teachers and her preachers always said would come one fine day and my, what a fine day it was!

   What happened?

   Good men and women marched and were tear gassed and fire hosed and fucking lynched so that one day a man of African heritage might sit in that oval office. You owe them something more than being just another toady to the corporate oligarchy.

   You campaigned on HOPE and CHANGE YOU CAN BELIEVE IN.

    And so, trembling, we believed one more time. For some of us it will be the last time.

    You owe the people of this country more than slick promises and weasel words now that the time has come to fulfill the promises made, let alone those implied, in your campaign.

   Something more than jive.

   If you cannot do even this for the people who brought you to the power you possess we will find someone who will. Most of us are out of work now and we have lots of spare time. Might as well spend it manning phone banks and ringing door bells.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

There's An App For That

    With every advance in technology there is something lost as well. Often it is something that is not needed. Other times it may be something of value. There is always a trade. For example, Facebook allows us to keep in touch with one another and to find people that we had lost. In exchange we lose a measure of our privacy and we tend to neglect longer forms of communication. Cell phones allow us to never miss a call. They also make it hard to avoid the unwanted ones. They do something else that most of us never think about. They weaken our memory. I once had at least twenty phone numbers committed to memory. I now have three. I have only a basic phone. Those of you with high end phones are probably incapable of remembering an appointment without your calendar reminder. Come on now. Tell the truth.

    It has always been this way. The mariners of 500 years ago could navigate by finding the position of Sirius by day or night. They could see it by day. Now no one can. While this may be due in part to the presence of air pollution even on the high seas, it may also be because we no longer need to see it. The star has almost certainly not gotten dimmer.

    What if our reliance on electronic aids has weakened our ability to remember? Don't scoff. No one really understands how memory works. We aren't even sure all of it involves the brain. There are intriguing hints that some of it may be stored in the blood.

    What brings all of this to mind is that Alzheimers seems to be more common than it was twenty years ago. Perhaps this is in part due to the memory not being used.

     In any case, I wanted to write this down before I forgot it.

     Be seeing you.

Friday, December 3, 2010

A Shadow Falls Across My Path

   The days slide by
    Should have done,
    Should have done, we all sigh

    Warren Zevon- Accidentally Like a Martyr

      Some close friends of mine are sitting deathwatch over a stricken friend. He was brought down by a stroke when he had barely crossed into the vestibule of middle age. The mind skitters across the whole emotional spectrum in seconds upon hearing such news if one is of a certain age, that age being "too young to die", but old enough that it is all too possible as we have just been reminded once again. The wake up call to our own mortality is like being slapped in the face with a carp fresh from the refrigerator if it is a friend of long standing.

    So it is that I feel for my friends tonight. The slow, terrible waning of hope as it is replaced with glum resignation, the gallows humor lest we shed a tear that once shed opens the flood gate, I remember that place. It is walled up on the deepest corner of my memory in a place I seldom visit save on nights like tonight.

    In a few days these good people will, unless the truly miraculous occurs, begin to compose eulogies and testimonials. It is of these that I would speak to you, my gentle readers. Eulogies are too often filled with all the kind words and praise that we have waited a little too long to say to the living. That is why they are delivered with tears. If it is considered bad form in our society to speak ill of the dead it is equally certain that we are taught to be embarrassed to display affection for our fellow man while he yet lives--especially if we are male.

    One of my favorite scraps of poetry is from W. H. Auden:

    We must honor while we can
    The vertical man
    Though we value none
    But the horizontal one.

     The wheel of the year is about to turn again. In a few weeks the slow rebirth of the land will begin as the sun begins its return. Take a few minutes and tell someone, some friend or relation, how much they mean to you. They may already know, but it is still good to hear and maybe it will warm them against the cold night when their need is great.

     You may find that it warms you as well.

     Be seeing you

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Something Went Horribly Wrong

  (simultaneously posted at my live journal)

    A young woman went in the hospital for a "routine gynecological procedure". She was supposed to be out the same day. Instead she lost both her legs.

     Just reading the story is enough to enrage. Then you start reading the comments by all the racists and the right-wing trolls and the self-declared   "Christians" who assume the procedure was an abortion although there is no indication of such at all, and spew pious venom about "God's justice". The Christ that I was taught about would smite these people with a flaming 2X4.

     The anonymity of the internet has turned over some rocks in the collective national psyche. It is unpleasant to behold that which has scuttled out from that dark moist place.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

On Supporting Our Troops

   "The cause for the fighting
     Has long been a ghost
     Malice and habit
     Have now won the day
     The honors we fought for
     Are lost in the fray"
    "Fires Which Burned Brightly"
     Gray Booker and Keith Reid

     One sees the phrase, "Support our troops" a lot on public forums during the holiday season. This is a noble sentiment. There are a lot of young men and women who will be spending Christmas in some of the most wretched and dangerous places on earth. It is right that they be in our minds and in our hearts.

    If you can, send them a package or give to one of the worthy organizations that does.
   Or send them cards and letters.
    But for the love of what ever God you pray to,

   Send them home.

    The blood of the brave is far too precious to squander for the mere saving of face.What remains of the original mission is far too nebulous to articulate or define.

   Bring then home and let them heal.

   Be seeing you

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Death March With Sleigh Bells

     Thanksgiving draweth nigh. That day when Homo Urbanicus assembles in tribal clusters to gorge upon the carcass of specially bred mutant flightless birds and divers nameless casseroles until, all but the hardiest shamble off to collapse into a tryptophan-induced torpor. This he does in preparation for the high holy day that follows:

                                                      BLACK FRIDAY

     It is then, with the first light of the rising sun, that they are drawn to the Mall (n, probably derived from maul no doubt in analogy to encounters with large predators). There devotees of the religion of Capitalism lay down offerings at the shrine of the patron saint of commerce, Adam Smith. This day begins the month long festival that ends with Christmas. During this period they will purchase various trinkets to exchange by means of complicated promissory notes. It is thought that this practice gave rise to the alternate name for the seasonal festival; Yule, thought to derive from the first first word of the common exclamation, "You'll be paying for this 'till Easter!"  The festival period is also marked in some tribes by a competition to out-do the neighbors in creating to gaudiest, most elaborate array of flashing lights and lawn ornaments. The competition ends with Christmas Day (Rumored to have once commemorated the incarnation of a deity. Just which one is lost to history ) or the first rotating brown out, whichever comes first. With this second feast day the tribe reassembles and dines on another roasted mutant flightless bird and exchanges the trinkets they have collected which are ornately wrapped and decorated.
    During the following week the decorations are left in place and the unconsumed remains of the roasted fowl are consumed in a variety of unpalatable forms. This ends with the Feast of the Circumcision on January first which is celebrated by drinking of Ale and watching several contests having to do with ritual combat for possession of a pigs bladder.
    The high holy days of winter end with this celebration. The next festival is the penance of Lent which takes the form of forty days of self-denial that begin with the first reminder notice from the credit card company.

     Be seeing you

Monday, November 15, 2010

Vox Populi

    The revolution may finally be beginning. The American people may, at long, long last, have finally have had enough. If this indeed turns out to be the case, let it be written here that the final weight that  broke the poor patient dromedary's back was not the hundreds imprisoned without a trial, not the wiretaps or the wars about to begin their second decade, but the TSA airport pat-down and the whole body scan.

     In San Diego a man refused to submit to either a body scan or a groin grope, and recorded the entire exchange with TSA on his cell. The airline pilot's union is urging all of its members to refuse body scans over concern for cumulative whole body radiation exposure.Chesley "Sully" Sullenberger, the pilot who captured the hearts of the nation when he successfully landed flight 1549  in the Hudson River without loss of life, has publicly come out against them. Now there is a campaign on the internet for a national day of refusing the body scan. If even ten percent refuse air traffic will be severely delayed or planes will take off half empty.

    Future would be despots take note. There is a lesson to be learned here. You may torture all the brown people you wish. Start a war or three on the flimsiest of excuses. Tap our phones and read our e-mail, but if after a decade of bloating our bodies with the high-fructose crap that passes for our food you let strangers peer beneath the facade and gaze upon our quivering flesh we will rise up with one voice and say "No!"

     The garden of Eden is long gone and we cannot bear the sight of what our own naked flesh had become. We are not about to allow your low rent brown shirts to see it...and don't even think about patting down my crotch let alone that of my children.

   Once the people learn that they can say no to the minions of the State I suspect they will like the feeling.

    You had better get used to it.

     Be seeing you.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Some Thoughts On Veterans Day

    When I was a boy Grandmother still called the holiday by the original "Armistice Day". The name was changed during the reign of Joe McCarthy in 1954. Since two of Grandfather's brothers served in the American Expeditionary Force in France, she preferred to celebrate peace. Grandfather was one of Woodrow Wilson's "Four Minute Men". He would be called upon to intervene when the patriotic citizens decided to beat up a few squareheads (German-Americans). He was well suited for this task as a bilingual Lutheran minister. Grandmother used to show me the bronze medal and the parchment signed by President Wilson when the other boys wanted me to play at war with them to show me that men of peace were heroes too and got medals and everything. She was the last of that now extinct breed, a liberal Republican.
    Not long after Grandfather passed we went back to Chicago to visit his brother Sigmund who had survived the Great War by virtue of being in the hospital recovering when his unit was wiped out. I was told not to wake him suddenly or make loud noises behind him because he had something called "shell shock". He was a kind and gentle man who sent me a glass cigar tube filled with silver dimes every Christmas.
     In those days Veterans Day (The government says there is no apostrophe before the s. They don't even get to own that.) was a bigger holiday than Memorial Day. We still considered a live veteran to be more important than a dead one back then. Memorial Day was also called "Decoration Day" and it was when we solemnly went to the cemetery and put flowers on the graves of Grandfather and my mother. It was a day for all the dead.
    Now Veterans day is a minor holiday. Most of us don't even get the day off work anymore. Memorial Day is a big deal now because a dead soldier is a great symbol to invoke to stir up patriotism and support for the current war.

    They are a lot less expensive than those pesky living veterans too.

     We must honor while we can
     The verticle man
     Though we value none
     But the horizontal one.

     Be seeing you

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

About That "Christian Nation" Thing...

 Art. 11. As the Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion; as it has in itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion, or tranquillity, of Mussulmen; and, as the said States never entered into any war, or act of hostility against any Mahometan nation, it is declared by the parties, that no pretext arising from religious opinions, shall ever produce an interruption of the harmony existing between the two countries.

From The Treaty of Tripoli which was unanimously approved by the United States Senate on June 7, 1797.

Monday, November 8, 2010

At Last! Scientific Proof of E.S.P.!

    Daryl Bem is about to publish a paper on his blind testing of one hundred student volunteers at Cornell University for precognitive ability. Each student attempted 36 trials at predicting which of two curtains would appear on a screen side by side. The students would attempt to predict which curtain of the two concealed a picture rather than a blank wall. Amazingly, the results showed that the students were successful in predicting the correct location a statistically significant percentage more often than the norm, but only when the hidden pictures were erotic in nature. Non-erotic pictures  produced predictably average results.

For more on the study see the following article at H+ magazine:

Here is a link to a pre-publication copy of the paper from the author's web site:

   Be seeing you.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Haiti: The Day of the Dead

   Haiti celebrated Fete Gede, the Voudoun day of the dead, for the first time since the earthquake killed a quarter of a million and left millions homeless. The festival is both a day of remembrance and an homage to Baron Samedi, the patron Deity of the dead and the graveyard. The following is from the Miami Herald by way of The Wild Hunt:

    Like many, he didn’t know exactly where their bodies were put to their final resting place. So he came to the Universal Tomb, an oversized gray and white concrete structure that long symbolized those who had died violent deaths under army rule. Now it is also symbolic of those killed in the quake as survivors placed flowers, beeswax candles and meals around it, pouring the coffee and perfumed Florida Water on the altar. As each approached the tomb, they knocked its walls with their open palms as if to announce their presence. “Sweetheart, I didn’t bring any cigarette or rum, but I am here,” said one man. 

       The people of Haiti are stoically bracing themselves as Tropical Storm Thomas closes on their island. At the same time Cholera is claiming hundreds of lives. We would do well to remember that no matter who we are or what our station, grief makes brothers of us all.

    For more see:
     Be seeing you.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Gulag America

    Chances are if you have a school age child one of his or her classmates has a parent in prison. One out of 28 children does and with education cutbacks class size is a lot larger than 28. This isn't because there is an increase in violent crime. That has stayed pretty constant as a percentage for the last thirty years. It is because we put people in prison for longer and for more things than any other country in the world. We have a higher percentage of Americans in prison than the Soviet Union had under Stalin.
     We have more people in prison than the 35 largest European countries combined.
      We pay $47,000 per year to house these people in illegally overcrowded conditions with substandard medical care. Both of these issues have resulted in repeated Federal court orders mandating an improvement of conditions which often end in threats by the court to order a mass release of inmates.
     By coincidence the California Correctional Officer's PAC has spent over $11,000,000 in political campaign contributions in the last seven years. About half of that went to Governors races.
    Now money is tight in California right now. State workers have been forced to play furlough roulette with Governor Schwarzenegger for over a year now. (some say this has more to do with union busting than economy.) The prison system makes up about 11% of the state budget.

       Why not try something different?

       The vast majority of non-violent crimes are either recreational substance use or unorthodox solutions to the problem of simply not having enough money to make ends meet.

     Well, lets  give them the money.

     Give them the $47,000 it costs to keep them inside for a year and kick 'em loose. Enroll them in a mandatory training program of their choice. We save the cost of the remainder of their sentence. Sure, some of them will go back inside and a few will OD on their chemical of choice. I'll bet you a bottle of single malt that if we try it we beat the 67% recidivism rate that goes with our current system of warehousing the under-class. Even with the same rate  we get to close 7 prisons and save millions of dollars a year. In addition, millions more go into circulation immediately and supply needed stimulation to the ailing economy.

    What have we got to lose? We have cut education, mental health and the Governator even tried to kill the accidental poisoning hotline. This makes at least a much sense as those draconian measures.

     Be seeing you

A quick note

I will begin regular posting as soon as my new computer is up and running. This one is freezing too often for me to post effectively.

Thank you for your patience.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Logic + Politics = ?

   We've barely a fortnight left until election day. The direct mail campaigns are kicking into high gear and both my mailbox and my compost pile are filling up rapidly. It reminds me of another election season back when I was in college. I was taking a course in Logic nights. As an exercise, the instructor asked us to apply the 12 fallacies of argument to election speeches or ballot proposition arguments. It was both entertaining and enlightening.

     I am listing them here with a simplified description of each. I suggest you print it out in a large font and keep it handy as a reference for the campaign ads. You will be surprised, nay astonished, by what you find.

     1)Argumentum ad Baculum: (Appeal to force) Use of a threat to coerce the target into agreement. The jack booted thug obviously, but also a lobbyist threatening to give campaign funds to an opponent or the threat of "the terrorists will win if you don't..."

      2)Argumentum ad Hominem: (Abusive) Calling your opponent a Communist, tax and spend liberal, or a Fascist.. Strictly speaking none of these things rule out competent leadership. They have little or no bearing on the issues. In short, they are name calling in a suit and tie.

      2b) Argumentum ad Hominem: (circumstantial) Basicly, "you have to do "A" because you believe "B". For example "You have to vote against all taxes because you are a Republican." or "You have to be pro-choice because you are a Democrat." While it is true that most of each group seem to go that way in Congress, it is not a requirement.

     3) Argumentum ad Ignorantium: (Argument from Ignorance) "It must be true because no one has ever been able to prove it is not." The lazy man's proof of the existence of God. It is impossible to prove something does not exist. The best you can do is show that it is very unlikely.

     4) Argumentum ad Misericordiam: (Appeal to Pity) "Every time you vote Republican, God kills a kitten."

     5)Argumentum ad Populum.: (Argument to the Gallery) "It is your patriotic duty" "Real Americans will..."

     6)Argumentum ad Verecundiam: (Appeal to Authority) Famous people or people you admire do it so you should too. All endorsements fall under this fallacy. While I may admire Robert Redford as an actor and agree with much of his political views, He may be terribly wrong about candidate "X".

    7) Accident: Applying a  general case  to a  specific. "Because he voted for a sales tax increase in 1974 he will raise your taxes if you vote for him."

     8) Converse Accident: (Hasty Generalization) Making a general statement based on a non-representative sample. Because people abuse narcotics we have made it very difficult for doctors to use them to alleviate pain and suffering.

     9) False Cause: "The tinfoil hat keeps the elephants away." or "The Patriot Act is the reason we haven't had a terrorist attack since 9/11."

     10)Petitio Principii: (Begging the Question)  A circular argument. " People with good taste in literature prefer Shakespeare." "You can identify a person who has good taste in literature by asking him if he likes Shakespeare."

   11) Complex Question: "Have you stopped beating your wife." A question that forces an implied assumption.

   12)Ignoratio Elenchi: (Irrelevant Conclusion) Since 90% of all marijuana smokers smoke cigarettes, tobacco is the gateway drug to marijuana.

   So, there you have it.Have fun! You will be surprised how little is left after all the fallacies are stripped away.

     For an advanced exercise, try it on Glen Beck.

     Be seeing you.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

The Maple Leaf: Mark of Excellence!

  I am cross posting the following from Newsweek by way of Cryptogon because it demonstrated some interesting cultural imprinting and because the all terrain pick up pipeline should be all the proof anyone needs that these wars will be with us a long time.

Via: Newsweek:
As the war in Afghanistan escalated several years ago, counterinsurgency expert David Kilcullen, a member of the team that designed the Iraq surge for Gen. David Petraeus, began to notice a new tattoo on some insurgent Afghan fighters. It wasn’t a Taliban tattoo. It wasn’t even Afghan. It was a Canadian maple leaf.
When a perplexed Kilcullen began to investigate, he says, he discovered that the incongruous flags were linked to what he says is one of the most important, and unnoticed, weapons of guerrilla war in Afghanistan and across the world: the lightweight, virtually indestructible Toyota Hilux truck.
“In Afghanistan in particular,” he says, “[the trucks are] incredibly well respected.” So well respected, in fact, that some enterprising fraudsters thought them worthy of ripping off. The imitations, Kilcullen says, had flooded the market, leaving disappointed fighters in their wake. But then “a shipment of high-quality [real] Hiluxes arrived, courtesy of the Canadian government,” he explains. “They had little Canadian flags on the back. Because they were the real deal, and because of how the Hilux is seen, over time, strangely, the Canadian flag has become a symbol of high quality across the country. Hence the tattoos.”

We visited a very reputable used car dealership—that handles lots of Japanese used vehicles—and asked the owner: Why are there so few utes (pickups) available?
The owner of the used car dealership told us, “Well heeled Pakistanis are pretty much outbidding everyone at the used vehicle auctions in Japan. The utes are winding up in Iraq and Afghanistan. It’s because of the war.”
New Zealand Update: Big Nerd, Little Car (2006)

Friday, October 15, 2010


If you watch a sporting event on TV you will usually see someone holding a sign reading:
                                       John 3:16. 
Now some of you might think that John is getting pretty good odds on the morning line but actually it is a verse from the Bible to the effect that it was pretty cool that God sacrificed His Son so that anyone who believed in him wouldn't be damned.
   Of course that implies that there are rules that God is bound by or He wouldn't have to make the big sacrifice but nobody wants to talk about that one.

   Anyway, I got to thinking. Why not share other Bible verses at sporting events. So, at the next Kings game I'm looking for a friend to help me hold a sign reading:


                                                     Ezekiel 23:20

   To save you the trouble of looking it up it reads, "There she lusted after her lovers, whose genitals were
like those of donkeys and whose emission was like that of horses."

Thursday, October 7, 2010

A Suggestion for President Obama

    The President seems to be having a bit of trouble with the bi-partisan thing. He keeps trying to meet the other party half way. They keep trying to re-define where the center is. Last time I looked it was somewhere in the 16th century. What we need is a little friendly competition on the playing field to re-establish true sportsmanship in the political arena.

    In Bolivia President Morales, along with his bodyguards and staff, challenged the opposition party to an exhibition game of soccer to inaugurate the newly renovated stadium in the capitol city of La Paz. Less then five minutes into the game the President received a foul from an opposing player that opened up a gash on the Presidents leg.

    He walked up to the player who injured him and kneed him in the groin.

     After two years of cheap shots and low blows from what used to be called the loyal opposition, I think a game of rugby between the White House staff and Fox News is just the thing to restore civil discourse to the political arena.

    Be seeing you.