Sunday, April 29, 2012

Middle class to California: Drop dead


California, where I lived for more than 10 years, is an American tragedy writ large.

By now no one doubts that. Even Californians who used to express a smug condescension toward less favored parts of the formerly United States can't hide from reality. The state's quality of life has been all but destroyed other than for the very rich. There are people who have made an art form of writing obituaries -- at the old pre-tabloid Times of London it was a respected, plum job -- but the demise of the Golden State is so sad that it's painful to consider.


California can't be fixed, except perhaps in a purely economic sense that leaves out of account almost everything that formerly lured Americans to the place. (Even that is doubtful.) Maybe there is some point in analyzing the cataclysm that has turned California into Mississippi with Mexicans on the plantation and millionaires in the plantation house.

Steven Greenhut, writing in the Orange County Register (the county is a tapestry of suburbs south of L.A.), still wants to believe in the "Dream" but seems to recognize it's near hopeless. His commentary is headlined, "California to middle class: drop dead."
The state is run for the benefit of the very rich, the very poor and public employees. As a result, population growth has slowed as younger people and businesses are pushed out. ...

The state is still growing, but this decline in the rate of growth is a symbolic turning point: The California Dream is over. People don't want to come here even though this is, with little question, the most beautiful state in the union. Americans – even those who like to mock our state – ought to think about what this means for our nation.
California has always been a magnet – a land that has attracted people from across the nation and the world. It's a place that was known for its entrepreneurial spirit and open culture. But it has been turned into a regulatory and tax nightmare, a place where those who already have money can live in their coastal palaces and enjoy the splendor of the landscapes, but where it's unnecessarily difficult to move one's way up the economic ladder. The USC study doesn't reveal anything new as much as it confirms established trends.
We'll get back to that in a moment. First, though, Greenhut does understand some of the state's apparently statutory dysfunction:

California's elected officials have been doing as little planning as possible, unless one counts planning to spend tens of billions of dollars the state doesn't have on a high-speed rail line that will partially replicate what the airlines already do. Our leaders are battling new water-storage facilities and punishing farmers with absurd water-use restrictions. They impose roadblocks to building new highway systems, and land-use regulations make it nearly impossible to build the homes and businesses necessary to meet the needs of a growing population. You can hardly call that planning. ...

This is not a healthy society. And the demographic changes point to an aging population. Far from reducing the burdens on the state government, this will increase them. State officials are not building to meet future needs, but they have been squandering future dollars on excessive pay and pension packages for public employees. Look for a battle between spending to provide services for lower-income Californians and retirement benefits for the most powerful special interest group in the state, public employees. There's no chance the state's most serious fiscal issues will be solved or even addressed soon. Earlier this month, Democratic Assembly leaders announced that they have no time to deal with the governor's modest pension reform plan. They do have time to deal with hundreds of other bills, most of which range from the silly to the crazy.

In other ways, though, Greenhut misunderstands the California problem. Like many of his fellow citizens, and certainly not only in California, he thinks the trouble is about not enough growth. He is typical of homo economicus; he can't conceive of a good life that isn't tied up with more of everything, including population.


"Four million more people have left California for other states in the past two decades than have come here from other states, according to demographer Joel Kotkin," Greenhut says. "The population growth has been coming mainly from immigrants and in-state births, but now the USC study shows that immigrants are going elsewhere. A cynic might say that California's liberal elites have ended the state's contentious battles over illegal immigration by destroying opportunities here."
If I read him correctly, he thinks population growth is by definition a good, or a necessary condition for good. Immigrants "going elsewhere," that's by definition bad. He concludes his tangled thought by implying that destroyed opportunities are a bummer because illegals look for better opportunities elsewhere.


Greenhut calls Joel Kotkin "an old-time liberal." I wouldn't go that far; I'd go farther, call Kotkin insane, an America-hating sickbag. He thinks immigration is our only hope, along with "America’s successful evolution toward a society that will eventually be majority nonwhite, a factor that could prove critical in U.S. relations with developing nations, who will dominate the world’s economic growth for the foreseeable future." You can almost picture him rubbing his hands and salivating as he imagines "persons of color" the dominant ethnicity.

But is Greenhut any different, really, from Kotkin? Greenhut says:

California's leaders want a slower-growing population. Many Californians, even more conservative ones, will be happy that there will be fewer people and less development. But it's disturbing that California's official policy has been to punish people who want to pursue their dreams here. The state's Draconian land-use policies involve limiting growth, thus inflating the cost of property near the coast and pushing less-affluent people inland and to other states.

Greenhut has it backwards, or at least, his view is entirely one-sided. California may be inviting the middle class to drop dead, but the middle class feels the same about California. High taxes and kudzu-like regulations are part of the reason, but unlike demographers and economists, ordinary people have some human values left. According to the Public Population Institute of California, "With just over 37 million people, according to the 2010 Census, California is one and a half times as populous as second-place Texas (25 million). By 2020, California’s population is projected to reach 42 to 48 million people."

No amount of planning can deal with even the state's current overpopulation, let alone an additional 5 to 10 million. The best that planners can do under these circumstances is forcing greater density -- squeezing ever-greater numbers into the same space. More high rise Tokyo-style dwellings. More people commuting in the kind of mass transit cattle cars typical of New York and Boston. Greenhut thinks this will enable immigrants to "pursue their dreams."


"What I find reprehensible beyond belief is that the people pushing [high-density housing] themselves live in single-family homes and often drive very fancy cars, but want everyone else to live like my grandmother did in Brownsville in Brooklyn in the 1920s," Kotkin said, pointing to the "smart-growth" policies that dominate development decisions across California.
It sounds like he's not arguing against high-density housing; rather, he wants it to be equally forced on the wealthy, so they can discover the joys of Brooklyn slum dwelling with families packaged eight or ten to a room. Another post on his blog, however, reveals that he's made his peace with the single family house ... as long as it's home to a big immigrant family.

Some companies, such as Pulte Homes and Lennar, are betting that the multi-generational home — not the rental apartment — may well be the next big thing in housing. These firms report that demand for this kind of product is particularly strong among immigrants and their children.

Lennar has already developed models — complete with separate entrances and kitchens for kids or grandparents — in Phoenix, Bakersfield, the Inland Empire area east of Los Angeles and San Diego, and is planning to extend the concept to other markets. “This kind of housing solves a lot of problems,” suggests Jeff Roos, Lennar’s regional president for the western U.S. 

No it doesn't. A neighborhood of single-family houses shared by three generations is a horizontal Brownsville, with almost the same problems of crowding, noise, and traffic. 

You begin to understand the California disaster. Greenhut probably thinks he's ideologically opposite, or at least different, from Kotkin. But they both believe the future depends on population growth -- Kotkin because he worships immigration, Greenhut because he worships, well, any kind of growth as the road to an abstract prosperity. Neither can imagine that lots of Americans detest, and many middle class Californians are fleeing, the ever-denser Hell of their common Utopia.



Thanks to a gracious fellow blogger, Stogie at Saber Point, who more or less rebuilt the site, Reflecting Light has been returned to something like its previous appearance. There will be further retouching -- for one thing, I don't see any way for the reader to call up a posting from the six years worth of previous blogging, assuming anyone should contemplate such a folly -- but we're back in business.


Friday, April 27, 2012

The passionate weasel: A view from the politically correct right

A self-described "middle aged political heretic" asks in a column for the Baltimore Jewish Times, "Where is the outcry?" Edward ("Braveheart") Leventhal is unhappy about the George Zimmerman lynch mob led by the usual ambulance-chasing reverends.
I do know that the public persecution of George Zimmerman, by “black leaders” such as Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton, black fascists of the New Black Panther Party, liberal idiots such as Spike Lee and Roseanne Barr and by the supposed unbiased mainstream media has been an utter travesty of justice. Former NAACP leader C.L.Bryant accused Jackson and Sharpton of exploiting the tragedy to racially divide the country.  
Okay, I suppose it is some sign of progress that Braveheart feels safe in publishing unkind words about the black Tweedle-Dee and Tweedle-Dum. But then, "Former NAACP leader C.L. Bryant" has given him permission.

That isn't what he sees as the missing outcry, however. The proud heretic then launches into a weaselstrike.

Weaselstrike is a word of my own coinage, as far as I know, meaning an allegedly conservative argument that "concedes the primacy of non-conservative values."

So, at a moment when the ethnic cleansing of whites by blacks is gathering momentum, our Baltimore Braveheart is looking for the outcry ... against crimes committed by blacks against other blacks.
A special report by the Bureau of Justice Statistics in 2007 revealed that somewhere between eight and nine thousand African Americans are murdered annually in the United States of America. Of these murders, African Americans account for 93% of the perpetrators. This analysis is supported by records of the Federal Bureau of Investigation which also showed that in 2005, 49% of all homicide victims in the USA were black and that it came almost solely at the hands of people of their own race. So what we have mostly are young black men killing other young black men. Our jails are filled with young black men not only for crimes of violence but also for drug related crimes adding to another problem in the vicious cycle of black life
The news isn't all bad, though.
What do we know about George Zimmerman? Well, the first thing we found out is that he is not Jewish. And honestly speaking, how many of you reading the Jewish Times right now breathed a collective sigh of relief as I did, because his name sure sounds like he is one of our tribe.  
Braveheart then returns to his regularly scheduled programming.
Just as surely as hypertension, diabetes, stroke, and heart disease are risk factors for death, so is being a young black male living in the inner city. And the dirty little secret is that no one wants to say anything about it. Someone has to stop this genocide before it is too late.
Uh huh. And just as surely as hypertension, diabetes, stroke, and heart disease are risk factors for death, so is being a white person when black mobs are on the prowl.

Someone has to stop this genocide before it's too late.


Still circling Moose Jaw

Later I will see what I can do about reversing my inadvertent self-sabotage of the old template. Wish me luck. Perhaps I was born too early to understand intuitively all this technological carry-on. If I have to re-design the site, well, let that be a lesson for me: save the bloody template regularly.

Thursday, April 26, 2012


Blogger, in its wisdom, has seen fit to change the interface for posting. The explanation: the usual blather about "the completely new, streamlined blogging experience that makes it easier for you to find what you need and focus on writing great blog posts." Through unfamiliarity with the new streamlined super-duper 3-D turbocharged look, I found myself unable to make a small change to the sidebar by editing the template, got flustered, and must have made a wrong turn. The old template disappeared in a puff of smoke, leaving what you see now.

As time permits I will see if the old template is recoverable.

Without excusing my own undoubted carelessness, I have to say Blogger's making a tossed salad out of the old familiar way of posting is typical of one of the curses of our age: endless "updating" and "upgrading" to no purpose. Nothing about the cooler-than-cool interface makes posting any easier; as far as I can tell, it's just the same stuff rearranged. You have to waste time figuring it out and developing new habits.

They used to call this "planned obsolescence," a term usually applied to automobile design in the simple old days. What we have now in excess is planned technological obsolescence. Recently my office upgraded to the new version of Word, with the old drop-down menus replaced by a scroll bar at the top and various functions located in different menus. The new Word isn't better; it isn't worse; it's just change. Spare change. Meaningless change.

Things are in the saddle and ride mankind, Emerson said. He would have understood planned technological obsolescence perfectly. The nerdy techno-freaks who keep re-programming stuff get their kicks from the technology as an end in itself. They can't imagine that 95 percent of their customers simply care about the technology as a tool, don't want pointless new features, and particularly resent software revisions that offer no real-world benefit.

If I can't resurrect the old template, I guess I'll have to start with one of Blogger's and tweak it myself (like I did last time). Meanwhile, please forgive this abominable-looking thing.


Saturday, April 21, 2012

Hey, Jude

I am not a Catholic, but I have always been fond of St. Jude, one of Jesus's disciples and the patron saint of lost causes. There is probably zero historical knowledge of Jude, but his importance is symbolic: the Church assures the faithful that when God is in the picture, no good cause is ever truly lost.

Paul Weston, the head of the British Freedom Party, is fighting for a cause that in my opinion is already lost: stopping the U.K. from becoming an Islamic, Sharia-enforcing country. As he shows in this video, of a speech he made in London on April 7, Islamization isn't something theoretical; it isn't in the mists of an unforeseeable future; it is occurring now and is well along.


Even today, it's hard for Americans to comprehend what a risk Paul Weston is taking merely by publicly expressing an anti-Islamization view. He could be arrested and charged with a thought crime for this speech, and no mistake. That is Britain today: softened up for 60 years by the Left, which now works hand in hand with radical Muslims, each imagining the other a tool to be discarded later.

Weston looks like a fairly young guy with a lot of time ahead of him. He is taking a chance that he will spend his prime years behind bars in the developing Islamic State of Britain, simply for opposing Muslim domination.

St. Jude, I ask your protection for this man, and for his country.


Thursday, April 19, 2012

Happy talk blues

Yesterday I had an MRI test, where they insert you into a tube and you listen to what sounds like machine gun fire and other sinister noises as the device pings whatever region of your corpus is a bother. While the lab technicians were readying the MRI machine, I was in a waiting room where CNN was playing on a wall-mounted TV. All in all I preferred the MRI experience, and not only because it is one of the wonders of modern medical diagnosis. CNN did more to set my teeth on edge.


We won't get into CNN's politics. There was nothing political about the news except a brief tape of The Failed Messiah continuing his 3.5-year campaign for a second term. I didn't listen; he probably didn't either. He was talking at a factory in Ohio I think. All that registered on me was "jobs ... jobs ... jobs ... jobs ... ." It reminded me of the description in Hunter S. Thompson's Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail '72 when he and his co-psychos were holed up in a motel room, stoned on some astonishing mixture of drugs, with Nixon on the telly. According to Thompson, he could only make out from the president's speech, "sacrifice ... sacrifice ... sacrifice ... ."

I can't claim to have ignored CNN, though. I have deliberately been without cable TV for so long it was a novelty. Two things I noticed. One was what so many race realists are complaining about: half the people in the ads were blacks. Rather an over-representation for a non-race (race is only a social construct) that is 13 percent of the population. Naturally they all looked middle class or professional, or were sports stars I'd never heard of.


The other thing was the behavior of the news anchors and reporters or commentators. What a lot of happy talk!

You know what happy talk is, right? It used to be mostly on local news programs, where they get finished with the day's shootings and building collapses and the anchors engage in light banter with the weather forecaster or sports reporter.

"Okay! Time to check in with Lew Mandible and see what the skies have for us. How's it, Lew?"

"Great, Jill. Terrific news for all of you who are sick of this balmy spring weather. There's a backlash front heading our way, should be sitting on our heads by tomorrow morning. We can look forward to three days of bat guano mixed with used frying oil raining on us."

"Oh boy, Lew, is that the best you can do for us?"

"Ha ha, Jill, knew you'd be overjoyed!"


Except now this chit-chat seems to be de rigueur for every story that involves cutting away from the anchor to an on-the-scene report. "A shocking story from Lansing, Michigan, where a teenage mutant allegedly blew up a skid row flop house, spreading dirty roomers around town, then allegedly led police on a 400 mph chase in his Citation V until he was finally pulled over to the side of the air by an unmarked UFO. We go now to Marie Scaffoldmaker standing by at the scene of this shocking event. Marie, what can you tell us about this situation, a real shocker?"

Satellite-bounce pause. Marie stares at the camera like a python hypnotizing a bird.

"Hi, Billie! Yes, everyone I spoke with is simply stunned. Absolutely no one was expecting it. This community is in deep shock ... ."

There is very little I enjoy more than not watching TV news. The more I don't watch, the more I love it. Enough to do a little happy talk.


Monday, April 16, 2012

Public service denouncements

Join Parents Without Children,
America's Fastest Growing Social Group!

When a radio or TV station has a time slot that no advertiser wants to buy -- typically in the "backside of the clock" (very early morning) or Sunday -- it runs what are called public service announcements, or PSAs. I sometimes played them during commercial breaks when I worked, in desperation, as a radio announcer for a Santa Fe FM station.


Some PSAs are created as a public service for charities by ad agencies, but often are produced by the government. I happened to have the radio on in my car last Sunday when they ran a block of PSAs. One in particular sticks in my mind.

It opened with a "cute" conversation between a man and his son. That was followed by an announcer reading a script that concluded with something like, "Talk to your kids. It's important to them. If you'd like more information on communicating with your children, call this toll-free number ... ."


Did anyone who had anything to do with this PSA take it seriously? Are there actually people in the government who believe that some jackass will hear it, pull over to the side of the road, and write down the phone number to call for a pamphlet with tips about raising kids?

"Oh my God! I haven't talked with Mikey since ... let's see ... I've been away on his past five birthdays, but it seems like I asked him if he'd fetch the newspaper from the front drive only a few months ago. No, wait, that was the dog. But there was that day we went to the garage workshop and I showed Mikey how to work the power saw, uh, that was Sally come to think of it. 

"Yeah, Mikey's always had trouble communicating, ever since I pushed his head in the bowl of Quaker Oats when he was two years old and mouthing off. Just think, he's now 25! They sure grow up fast these days.

"Anyway, yeah, it's time we had a good mano a mano talk. What'd I do with that phone number, do you suppose they have operators standing by now? I mean, it's Sunday, after all. I'll call for information Monday, they even said it's free, and it's from the U.S. Department of Health, Children's Services, Everybody's Services, Human Rights, Environmental Awareness and Parental Upbringing. Is this a great country or what? Oh, damn it, I'm in a six-day meeting starting Monday, well, next Sunday then."


This morning it was a public service ad on the back of a bus: "Don't shake your baby!" And, you know, feed it and like that. Or if you shake your baby and forget feeding time, at least have a good talk while you're shaking and forgetting. It's never too early to start developing good parenting skills.


Saturday, April 14, 2012

London university to have Sharia Zone

In rapidly Islamizing London, the Muslim tail wags the dog.

Sayeth the Telegraph:
Prof Malcolm Gillies of London Metropolitan University said he wants to create alcohol free areas on campus out of “cultural sensitivity”. About a fifth of students at the university come from Muslim families – many of them young women from traditional homes.

For many of them, the drinking culture among students marred rather than heightened their student experience, he said.
Prof Gillies, an eminent Australian music scholar, said that he was consulting with staff and students about creating alcohol-free areas on the university’s two campuses as part of a major redesign.
The Muslim students whose experience was "marred" by having to share space with alcohol consumers could simply have not gone to the drinking holes with the infidels. But that isn't enough; followers of The Prophet do not wish to sink a glass of firewater, so busybody "Prof Gillies" is determined to carve out a part of the campus where their tender souls need never encounter a feature of British life that has been around since, oh, Julius Caesar's soldiers cursed the cold and rainy northern climate where they'd been sent.

Why stop with alcohol-free zones? I'm sure there are many other facets of London student life that sensitive Muslims take exception to. The best answer might be to have a walled-off Dhimmi Zone, in counterpoint to the Sharia Zone, with separate classes, buildings, student cafeterias, etc. And, naturally, separate drinking fountains.


Thursday, April 12, 2012

A Dangerous Method


Since most movies are made these days for adolescents of all ages, we must be grateful for the few outliers that try for something more ambitious. A Dangerous Method is one such; and while its reach exceeds its grasp, we can be thankful for what we have in this drama about Carl Jung, Sigmund Freud and Sabina Spielrein, a young patient of Jung's who undergoes his talking cure, becomes his mistress and eventually his colleague.

When Spielrein (Keira Knightly) shows up at the Swiss clinic where Jung (Michael Fassbender) works, she is all grotesque gestures and defiance. The psychoanalytic relationship begins developing sexual undercurrents, a hazard of the profession -- especially in those days of the early 20th century when Jung was still Freud's disciple and the id was always prancing around.

It would not, perhaps, be correct to say that Jung cures Spielrein. Their lovemaking is masochistic (on her part -- it's not clear what satisfaction Jung gets). The film is no more explicit about the kinky side of their affair than it needs to be, and at least some of the time there's a genuine erotic charge that enables us to believe we are in deep waters psychologically.


But Jung is married to the English aristocrat Emma (Sarah Gadon), a pretty but perhaps overrefined waif, and his super-ego demands a break. Spielrein is devastated but determined to go her own way as a psychoanalyst in training, and eventually gravitates toward Freud in Vienna.

It's an awkward dramatic transition, and the movie begins losing steam there. Jung and Freud (Viggo Mortensen) dominate the screen for a while, but their growing split over the nature of the unconscious is spelled out heavy handedly and unconvincingly. There are hints of Jung's idea of the unconscious as a mysterious, supra-rational source of spiritual power, but I'm not sure that a viewer unfamiliar with the psychological history would get a clear picture of what all the carry-on between the two was about.


A Dangerous Method was directed by David Cronenberg, from a script by the English playwright Christopher Hampton. I don't think I ever saw any of Cronenberg's films before, probably because I got the impression that he goes in for the sensational and shocking. His direction here is a mixed bag. Many shots are visually impressive and apt for the atmosphere he wants. He also seems to have a sound instinct for letting a scene play for just the right amount of time, never dragging anything out once its point is made.

As an actor's director, he's less convincing. I don't know what to make of Fassbender: he plays Jung as stolid and reserved. Freudian analysts were supposed to "disappear" as far as the patient was concerned, encouraging the patient to project emotions and conflicts onto him and thus bring them to light. So Fassbender's portrayal may be authentic, but it's rarely compelling to watch.

Mortensen gives a strangely one-note performance as Freud, despite having screen presence to spare. It feels like Cronenberg didn't know what to do with him. Except, ridiculously, to have him smoking a cigar every minute he's in front of the camera.


Keira Knightly gives rise to strongly divided opinion. From what I've seen she is incapable of giving a dull performance, but I understand what people mean when they say she is technique-bound. She has great acting instincts and deploys them cunningly, but it's hard not to be conscious you're watching acting. For this role, that is no hindrance because she plays a self-dramatizing woman, and rivetingly.

There are oddities about Dangerous. Was this a low-budget job? The computer visual effects are poor, the actors outlined almost like cartoon characters against an obviously artificial background in many of the exterior shots. When the boat carrying Jung and Freud to the United States enters New York harbor, the Manhattan skyline looks suspiciously like the present-day one minus a few prominent skyscrapers.

And what's with having Sabina and Emma constantly wearing lacy white dresses? If it's some kind of symbolism, it makes no sense. For Emma, the "correct" and presumably "repressed" wife, it might be appropriate, albeit crude italicizing. But Sabina is supposed to embody the allure of the dangerous.

I don't mean to harp on flaws, though. This is an intelligent film mixing sex and ideas, with that rarity today, a literate script. It's especially recommendable to anyone interested in the early days of psychoanalysis.


Friday, April 06, 2012

Wilson Van Dusen (2): Entering Reality

A few postings ago I talked about psychologist Wilson Van Dusen's phenomenological observations of madness, which he had many opportunities to see as a therapist in a mental hospital. It would do his explorations a sharp injustice to suggest that his version of depth psychology was centered on pathology. Van Dusen concluded that the "natural depth in man" (after which he titled the book under discussion) was the path to spiritual experience.
In a mystical experience the limited self is opened up, revealing a beyond with a host of new meanings. In mystical experience is the ultimate that the individual can discover. Though it has a considerable range of depths, there is no higher, no deeper, no greater experience than what is found in the surprising union of the individual with his fundamental source.
He acknowledges hesitation writing about this kind of experience, partly for the usual reason that words for normal experience are inadequate to transcendental consciousness. He's also acutely aware that "we touch on realms that are normally considered religious. Some grow deaf and irritated at the mere mention of this. Religion is a terrible baggage of nonsense for them. To them it looks like weak-minded people's wishful thinking."

I know what he means: when I write a post about psychical research I can too easily picture stimulating the gag reflex of some readers. It is so easy for the ignorant to associate the subject with spooky ghost stories, magic rings, spoon benders, storefront fortune tellers, etc. that I feel the need to write a lawyer-like disclaimer -- dead boring.


Undeterred, Van Dusen plunges on.

How do you open to mystical experience? Through ordinary experience -- but pure, unmediated experience, he says. (Zen Buddhism has the same goal.)
In some real ways [ordinary experience] is the most profound of all the possible mystical experiences though it is rarely appreciated as such. The problem is that we are too used it. ... What is missing is amazement at the mystery of ordinary experience.
Suppose you had just this moment been born as a full-fledged adult, with your present mind and understanding. You would be absolutely stunned at the things and people around you. Most of the day would be taken up with "ohs" and "ahs" as you went around feeling things. It would be a frightfully impressive and awesome mystical experience. You would be stunned by the beauty of simple things such as the graceful form of plants. This is one of the hallmarks of the mystical experience, to find things fantastically beautiful and good just as they are.
He might have been remembering Emerson's observation: "If the stars should appear one night in a thousand years, how would men believe and adore; and preserve for many generations the remembrance of the city of God which had been shown! But every night come out these envoys of beauty, and light the universe with their admonishing smile."


For another level of mystical experience, Van Dusen adopts the word satori from Zen, probably hoping to avoid language weighted with theology. The expression satori was relatively unknown in English at the time he wrote in the mid-1970s, although it is common enough now that I can get away with, "I sat down hoping for a novel experience, but all I could come up with was a short satori."

As a description of the indescribable, Van Dusen's is one of the best modern examples I know of:
The way into satori is quite clear. It is along the lines of the lower levels of mystical experience itself. Instead of departing from reality, the individual enters into it more fully. ... There is a growing feeling of Oneness. This Oneness is alive, real, and immediately present. There may or may not be a feeling that one is dying or dissolving. There is forgetfulness of self. ...
All personal values are suddenly shattered. There is only God. The One and Only then shows itself through all the levels of creation. With painful love the One chooses to create Itself into the individual who gradually awakens again as a person. There are secret understandings exchanged between the One and the individual.
The stunned individual gradually returns again to personal awareness. It is not uncommon for the individual to be dreadfully disappointed at finding himself alive again in the ordinary world.
You got a problem with that?  Well, in glum moods (i.e., most of the time) so do I.

Who wouldn't love to "find things fantastically beautiful and good just as they are"? I'm not trying to be a smart-ass, but what if "things just as they are" is the pain of cancer or a bone crushing blow? Can you find beauty in the moment when all you experience physically is pain? The Stoics believed the greatest good was to be able to rise above anything, conquer one's fears and exert self-control, but they never called it fantastically beautiful.


And of course there is the age-old question, which not even the most high-minded spiritual teaching answers for me: how can God, the ultimate Good, allow the horrors we read about in the news every day? They may be unreal once you are an enlightened guru; in Hindu terms, all suffering may be just part of lila, God's play. But it's hard for us poor sods to get the joke.

As Pliny the Elder said, "Young boys throw stones at frogs in jest; but the frogs die in earnest."

It may be all we can do now is keep faith that we will grow in spirit, someday no longer to be the spiritual children we are now. And not throw stones at frogs in jest.


Wednesday, April 04, 2012

Laboring under a misconception

Your tax dollars at work

The Daily Caller reports that the U.S. Department of Labor has installed in the elevators of its Washington headquarters (and, at a guess, its satellite offices elsewhere) a poster showing Obama's Labor Secretary Hilda Solis marching alongside the inevitable reverends-without-a-church Jesse "Shakedown" Jackson and Al "Tawana" Sharpton.
The photo depicts Solis acting as an emissary of the Obama administration protesting against Alabama’s strict new law combating illegal immigration. Solis has her arms locked with Sharpton, and Jackson is a few feet away. The poster also carries a message for federal government employees — who are traditionally expected to be apolitical in the performance of their duties.
To put it another way, a U.S. government agency's head is acting as a role model encouraging federal employees to march in support of illegal immigration.


In theory government agencies are servants of the citizens who pay their salaries, not a politicized shadow army. That was the idea back in the days of the Republic, prior to the present Empire.

No drug is as addictive as power. The dosage must continually be augmented. So it has been with federal bureaucracies. Some of them were started generations ago with good intentions, such as protecting small farmers from price gouging by monopoly railroads. But once the power drug passes the blood-brain barrier, which happens quickly and easily, it takes over. Eventually the agency becomes a hypertrophied super-elephant responsible to no one but the politicians who appoint its Grand Vizier and oversee its budget.

What is this Department of Labor?

As of 2009, it had 16,848 "full-time equivalent employees" according to its own statistics. Its mission: "To foster, promote, and develop the welfare of the wage earners, job seekers, and retirees of the United States; improve working conditions; advance opportunities for profitable employment; and assure work-related benefits and rights."
Apparently the agency head sees her involvement in protest marches against state laws preventing illegal immigration as "foster[ing], promot[ing], and develop[ing] the welfare of wage earners."

What else do those 16,848 civil "servants" do to pass the time? Again, according to the Labor Department, they are involved with the following (when not marching for illegal immigration):























The meaning and importance of most of these functions is obvious ... to a bureaucrat. A few might cause puzzlement at first glance, although the Department is quick to explain them via links:

The Department of Labor (DOL) is strongly committed to the well-being of the Hispanic American workforce. The following list highlights some of the Department's Spanish resources. This list is intended for English-speaking audiences who are looking for information in Spanish about DOL missions to share with the Hispanic community. Please contact the agencies or visit their Web pages for more information.

There you go. The DOL is there to "foster, promote, and develop the welfare of the wage earners." But it's (especially) "strongly committed to the well-being of the Hispanic American workforce." Not that they're overdoing it, mark you; probably no more than four or five thousand of the 16,000 and whatever DOL employees are toiling to provide "English-speaking audiences who are looking for information in Spanish about DOL missions to share with the Hispanic community."
The Immigration and Nationality Act (INA)
The Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) sets forth the conditions for the temporary and permanent employment of aliens in the United States and includes provisions that address employment eligibility and employment verification. These provisions apply to all employers.
As part of this noble effort:
Documents and Forms - Links to the forms needed to obtain foreign labor certification under various programs, including the Application for H-1B and H-1B1 Nonimmigrants (form ETA-9035), the Application for Permanent Employment Certification (form ETA-9089), the Application for Alien Employment Certification (form ETA-750A), and Part B of this application: Statement of Qualifications of the Alien (form ETA-750B), and the Application for Alien Employment Certification for Agricultural services (form ETA-790).
The Daily Caller story says of this taxpayer- and loan-funded department:
A Labor Department spokeswoman did not respond to The Daily Caller’s request for comment on whether Solis is encouraging federal workers to use their positions to promote a political agenda. Even so, an official sign describing the posters’ purpose indicates that may be the case.

“These posters help remember history, shine a light on the contributions of employees, and celebrate accomplishments,” the sign reads. “But more than that, they help spark a conversation about the impact and importance of our work.”
If I can help spark a conversation about the "impact" of your work, consider this posting my contribution.