Friday, July 4, 2014

COME AND SING A SIMPLE SONG OF FREEDOM...

On this Fourth of July, I sit behind fences covered in razor wire, watched over by guards whose job is to seriously curtail my freedom.  Tonight we may be able to glimpse fireworks from the local town, but what are we to think upon when they light up the night sky?  No one here is "free" in any sense of the word, but we brought this on ourselves.  We made choices which put us here.  What is your excuse?

     I once heard a speech in which a prominent Silicon Valley icon expressed his view that all freedom is economic.  It is only when a nation's economy is healthy and the widest swath of its population benefit from this, are the people really free.  If you are afraid to leave a job you hate...if you can't leave a city of state because you can't sell your house or don't have a job or have lost your house or can't afford to buy or rent one anywhere else...if your health is held captive by plans you only receive through your employer or because you are dirt poor...if jobs are so scarce or offer such low wages you can't afford to live where you are nor seek to relocate...if workers allow themselves to be pitted against one another in an economic race to the bottom by abandoning the one power they have-to bargain collectively-then how free is anyone in this land on this day?

     This nation was founded on a principle of representative government...a republic.  Does anyone feel today's government, whether in Washington, Sacramento or locally, represents us or our wishes?  Americans in poll after poll say they want more jobs...they want a more robust economy...they want educational opportunities and a chance their children will be able to achieve more than their parents...they want a foreign policy which is honest and which sees solutions outside of the brute use of military force...ironically President Obama is being constantly dinged in popularity because he seems to be listening on foreign policy)...yet, the grease which coats the wheels of government is not popular opinion or popular elections, but rather the billions of dollars ponied up by those for whom the word populist is an anathema.

     Would a truly free people allow one half of one percent of the population to keep to themselves 80% of the wealth produced in this country?  Wouldn't a truly free people storm the halls of Congress demanding change...demanding the end of special tax breaks...demanding that investment income be taxed at the same rate as income generated by labor...demanding, as they did at the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries, the capitalists share more of their profits with those who produce them?

     Would you like something to smile about...a note of optimism...a lesson from history on this Independence Day?  Would you like some hope?  At the beginning of the 20th century, the so-called Gilded Age, the gap between the rich and poor was as dramatic as it is today, perhaps worse.  Congress was bought and paid for by the Morgan's, Rockefellers, Carnegies, Stanford's, Hopkins, Crocker's and Huntington's who also owned most of the media.  Yet, people rose up...they elected Progressive politicians...they passed laws making it easier to form unions, outlaw child labor, create a 40 hour work week even the beginning of an environmental movement and the creation of national parks and nature sanctuaries.  Monopolies were broken and worker's pay began to rise.  The people demanded and got government to mandate cleaner food and drugs and safer places to work.  Safety nets were created to keep people from falling so far into poverty it could kill them.  All of this was done by Americans, populists who demanded change and received it from the Roosevelt's, Taft's, Lafollette's and others.  It can be done.
     I am not free today.  However, I'm not sure how free I was before I became a guest of the federal government.  How free are you?  How much do you feel in control of your life or the lives of your children and neighbors?  Are you free to express any opinion you wish?  Are you free to change jobs, or move to a better city?  How free are you to affect the direction of this nation?  Are you free from fear and anxiety?  Is this a nation where everyone has a shot or has it become a collection of oligarchs where only the privileged few get to participate freely in all the benefits this nation has to offer?  Am I significantly less free than you on this 4th of July behind my fences and razor wire?

  It would be nice if on this day if we engaged in a few moments of reflection, in between the beer, burgers, dogs and fireworks, on the promise this experiment represented on July 4, 1776.  We appear to be at a similar crossroads as were the founding fathers.  Will we continue to be oppressed by a far off government which doesn't represent us, or will we again declare our independence and throw off the economic and political chains shackling us at the direction of those who want to preserve an oligarchy very similar to the one in place in London 238 years ago?


     I hope you have a glorious holiday and hope even more, after the last sparkler and piccolo Pete is fired, you will step up and demand this nation change for the better from sea to shining sea.

Monday, June 30, 2014

THEY DIED FOR WHAT?

In a small town in Pennsylvania, parents and friends of Americans killed in Iraq are joining the ranks of Cindy Sheehan and asking what possible reason could there be for the sacrifice of soldiers from their town in the war in Iraq?

     They are reacting to the swift collapse of Northern Iraq in the face of aggression from the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) forces...attacks which resulted in Iraqi army personnel refusing to fight, running away, stripping off their uniforms and banging on doors begging for civilian clothes to disguise the fact they were in their own nation's army.  These are the same Iraqis that American taxpayers spent billions training and equipping only to see them fold like a house of cards at the first sign of danger.

     It would appear Americans died to set up a sham-democracy so corrupt and venal that Sunni citizens would rather be conquered by al Qaeda-like forces than be governed by the central authorities in Baghdad led by Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki.

     Ironically, all of this was predicted by President George Herbert Walker Bush (Bush 41) when he rejected pleas by national security advisors like Dick Cheney, Paul Wolfowitz, Richard Pearl, Douglas Feith and politicians ranging from John McCain to Lindsay Graham to Mitch McConnell who all wanted him to keep American tanks rolling into Baghdad in the first gore in the Gulf.  Bush famously proclaimed Saddam Hussein wasn't worth one more American life and added taking Baghdad would leave a power vacuum which America would have to fill to prevent civil war.  Unfortunately for almost 5,000 American soldiers, those same voices were able to con Bush's son (Bush 43) into thinking he was wiser than his daddy and America could impose democracy in an area where Sunnis and Shiites had not shared power since 950 CE.

     Now these same American parents and friends, who lost sons and daughters in a war to prevent Iran from controlling the entire region, face the prospect of America coordinating and cooperating with Iran to try and save Iraq.  They have to watch as Iran increases its influence over Iraq, and at the same time props up the Assad government in Syria and attempts to control Lebanon, while pursuing a nuclear weapons program and yet might end up as an ally with America in an attempt to stabilize a nation on the brink.  What?  We are imposing crippling economic sanctions on Iran to force it to give up its nuclear ambitions yet now want, or have to beg? for their help?  This is through the looking glass sort of stuff.

     While Iraq is in crisis, in this country the same voices who got us into this situation...who cost America over $ 1 Trillion, 5,000 dead, hundreds of thousands wounded...who created a deeply divided nation which is now decisively isolationist...are at it again.  John McCain wants airstrikes and boots on the ground now.  Cheney attacks a weakened President Obama as Lindsey Graham accused the president of being soft on terrorism, all laying the current disaster, one of their creation, at Obama's feet.

     Columnists in the Wall Street Journal are harkening back to the scare tactics of Vietnam creating a new "domino" theory which goes if Iraq falls there goes Syria, Jordan, Lebanon, Israel, Egypt and eventually ISIS will be on the border with Texas.

   A new poll says the majority of Americans disapprove of Obama's handling of foreign policy.  So, are these Americans saying he shouldn't have ended our involvement in Iraq?  Do they want a continued military presence in Afghanistan?  Do these recently polled Americans want U.S. military forces introduced into the Syrian civil war and are they also in favor of a military strike and war with Iran?  Aren't these the same Americans who tell pollsters America should fix problems at home and stop trying to be the world's cop and stay out of foreign adventures?  House Speaker John Boehner accuses the President of napping while Mosul burns, but when asked what he would do differently, he runs for cover saying he doesn't have enough information to offer a solution.  What?  This is the mantra of all the regressives and the regressive corporate media...Obama is a weak-kneed sissy-boy, a modern Chamberlin presiding over a new Munich, but when confronted with questions about what the foreign policy of the GOP would be, the silence is deafening from most and positively frightening from McCain, Cheney and Graham among others who want to use a broken military and young Americans as cannon fodder to prop up a government in Iraq so hated and corrupt people would rather be conquered than continue to live under Maliki's oppression.

     Maliki has been told unless he reforms his government...unless he includes Sunni officials in key positions...unless he stops persecuting minorities...unless he puts Sunnis and Kurds in top positions in the military, America will not act.  So far he has refused to do any of it.  Now, Obama is saying Maliki needs to go even though he was just re-elected.  This is nuts.  Iran is sending troops into Iraq to fight and diverting more from Syria while refusing to yield on its nuclear program.  Should American military assistance be used to help Iran solidify its control over this Islamic crescent?

     Critics of Obama want airstrikes in Iraq and the use of American Special Forces.  (boots on the ground)  They want America to arm "moderate" rebels in Syria even though no one can define what is a moderate and the so-called moderates in Syria can't fight any better than the Iraqi army.


     To his credit, Obama refuses to be stampeded like Bush 41, and perhaps can avoid another disaster.  He is actively listening to his constituents who tell him they oppose the use of military force in foreign adventures while at the same time knocking him for listening to them.  America is schizophrenic right now on this subject and Obama knows it.  Whatever he does it has to be measured and limited and not capable of drawing us back into the quicksand which is Baghdad.

Friday, June 6, 2014

THE RHODES LESS TRAVELLED...

  A number of people have written to me to let me know Randi Rhodes is going to retire.  According to their accounts, she has decided to move to Costa Rica, what a wonderful place to live, with a male friend.  One writer claimed she had just signed a new three-year deal to do her show, but decided to pull the plug anyway.  All who wrote expressed both sadness and dismay about her departure.  I share those feelings.  It also seemed to them Rhodes left feeling defeated and cynical and convinced America is going to hell in a hand basket.

     I was jealous of Randi for a long time.  She was tapped by Air America as one of their national "liberal" hosts and I thought I was as good, if not better, than Randi.  (I thought I was better than all the Air America hosts, but then again I didn't get to where I am today due to a regular sized ego.)  However, when I began to listen to Randi I saw what they saw and realized how good she was and how the information she relayed daily to her audience was solid and prescient.  She did great research and uncovered facts and perspectives which put events into the proper context...a context you were not going to get from the corporate media.  She was also funny and acerbic and summoned up outrage which revealed a passion for her work.  It was clear she wasn't just getting a pay check...these issues were vitally important to her and she wanted her audience to care as much as she cared.

     Perhaps in this way we see the essential difference between progressive and regressive talk shows.  On the regressive side, whether it's Hanbaugh, O'Reiley, Coulter, Ingram, Beck et.al., it has always seemed clear that at the end of the day they were performers who figured out a good gig and milked it for all it's worth.  Perhaps the best example of this is "the Weiner".  The "Weiner" came to San Francisco as a Berkeley educated professor, sponsored and championed by the left of the left including people like Alan Ginsburg and Lawrence Ferlinghetti and fit in nicely with the beat generation.  He was going nowhere until he got a shot on KSFO.  He quickly discovered vitriol and hate and bigotry sold and it was a recipe for making allot of money.  What gets ratings is extreme regressivism, anger and bombast.  He never looked back and has been irate all the way to the bank.  In this same vein, Glenn Beck has now admitted he was making up and faking the attacks and the propaganda he spewed forth and apologized for his performance.

     In contrast, people like Randi and Rachel Maddow and Keith Oberman, Peter B. Collins and Stephanie Miller, Ray Taliaferro and even myself, did what we did because we looked out on a landscape dominated by corporate interests and a news environment where every debate started in the center and moved away from us.  No one has or is in it for just a paycheck and no one shape shifted like their counterparts on regressive radio.

     If you perceive a world in which the audience is misinformed or lied to or truth is covered up and obfuscated, it almost gets to feel prophetic.  A prophet, in Hebrew scripture, acted as the conscience of the people reminding them what is true and valuable and calling them back to ethical and caring behavior.  This is why a prophet is never accepted in his or her own country.  People don't want to hear what they may be doing wrong or how they may have screwed up or that they need to clean up their act and governments and the 1% hate it even more.  (there is nothing prophetic about regressive radio...it's a call to retrench and re-turn to a time of dominance by white males.  It's why it goes down so easily for most ditto-heads.  None of their values or prejudices are challenged.)

     Since 2001, Randi watched a nation stampeded into two wars by the use of lies and faux patriotism and fought off criticism she was soft on terrorism or hated her country or was a commie or socialist and any other number of attacks.  She railed against a Patriot Act which eviscerated the 4th amendment and a government which cut taxes for the rich, put two wars on a credit card and then used the excuse of the debt and deficit to gut the social safety net, crush the labor movement and increase the financial distance between most of America and its moneyed elite.  While she was on the air, an entire generation went to college and graduated with debt equivalent to a first mortgage and no jobs.  She watched as Bill Clinton and George Bush deregulated Wall Street leading to a depression surpassed only by 1929.  Then she had to watch Obama bail out Wall Street and destroy Main Street.  (have you read Geithner's book yet?  It is an admission of exactly what Randi and so many said was really going on) The war on terrorism morphed into a war on civil liberties and privacy.  (thank you Edward Snowden)  Randi has a 2016 presidential race to look forward to between Clinton and Bush again?

     Despite the first 14 years of this century, which would render any optimist moot, I do not share Randi's's cynicism, if that is accurately how she felt, about the direction of the country.  All is not lost and knowledge is still power.  The American people will respond when given the information.  If it isn't going to be on terrestrial radio then it may be through pod-casts and Internet streaming, but there is a thirst which needs to be slaked.

     I sit in a prison where I have experienced random acts of kindness convincing me of the goodness of so many people.  It is also a system which begs for reform and when the average American finds out how their taxes are wasted and how this system just perpetuates itself, they will demand change.  When they are informed about the need to change the college system...change the tax code so it treats the 1% the same way the other 99% are treated...resists the building pressure to export domestic oil and natural gas and the war drums beating again...is informed enough to resist the call for military force to replace diplomacy and demands a government who cares about the middle class more than the uber class, change will come.

     There is still a need for prophetic talk and information, but being a prophet takes its toll.  You paint a target on your back and you fight every day and lose more fights than you win.  One day you wake up and long for someone else to come along and take up the cause and let you rest.  Randi Rhodes gave her all and says she has had enough.  She has served her nation and audience well.  The thought of living in Costa Rica is very attractive.  In her stead others will have to continue the fight...continue to entertain and inform...continue to inspire...continue to expose the truth about capitalism and the 1%...continue to call on the best of people rather than appealing to selfishness and greed...continue to progress into the future and not champion a regression into the past.  You will have to support them and listen and rally to causes so cynicism does not triumph.

     Please email or tweet or write to Randi and thank her and wish her well.  She is a class act who deserves a "well done."


PS Would one of you be kind enough to email her, or whatever, and send her my best wishes.

Saturday, May 31, 2014

REMEMBERING...

Memorial Day is an opportunity to remember Americans who gave their lives in defense of their country.  Ceremonies will be held at all national cemeteries, at the tomb of the Unknown Soldier, flags will be prominently displayed and the president will give a speech honoring the fallen.  All this pomp and attention is nothing more than sentimentality unless we truly remember what this day is and isn't about.

     We should remember the over 5,000 Americans who lost their lives in two wars over the last decade which were immoral and unnecessary.  As we wind down our involvement in Afghanistan, and acknowledge the disaster which was Iraq, we need to remember how jazzed, gung-ho, emotionally charged, Americans were to go to war after September 11, 2001.  The country was jingoism central, egged on by a White House where the end justified the means, and we wanted a chance to get at those "rag-heads", "sand-niggers", "A-rabs" and get our pound of flesh.  Voices of opposition, moderation, caution were drowned out by the martial music introductions of the latest on CNN and the corporate media and accused of being soft on terrorism, unpatriotic, traitors.  Americans ignored the colossal incompetence in Afghanistan which allowed Osama Bin Laden and Mullah Omar to escape at Tora Bora.  (Omar still alive and well and leading the Taliban and killing Americans)...ignored the fact Saddam Hussein and Iraq had nothing to do with September 11th (over 70% of Americans thought Hussein had a hand in the planning and execution of the attack at the time we invaded)...ignored the lies and propaganda from the White House and Congress (don't forget Hillary Clinton, John Edwards, and John Kerry were among the Democrats who voted to go to war.  What would President Hillary Clinton do today about Syria, Ukraine, Nigeria and China?)

     Young Americans were used as cannon fodder for political gain.  They were used to "force" democracy on the Middle East.  They were sacrificed on the altar of political gain.  In Afghanistan, they had their legs cut off as resources were diverted to prepare to invade Iraq while still fighting a war in Afghanistan.  (at one point Special Forces troops who spoke local languages were sent to Iraq replaced by forces that spoke Spanish)   In Iraq, despite testimony by the joint chiefs it would take as many as 500,000 troops to successfully invade and pacify the country, the war was conducted on the cheap.  Calamitous decisions were made to disband the Iraqi army and to fail to impose security and civil order leaving an inadequate American force caught in the middle of a growing civil war.  All of this based on lies emanating from the White House and amplified by a corporate media more interested in profit than truth.  (does the name Judith Miller ring a bell?)

     On this Memorial Day, it isn't enough to remember the dead...to put flags on their graves...to play TAPS and give 21 gun salutes if that is all we do.  We need to remember.  We need to refuse to be stampeded and act like sheep.  We need to be much more cynical and realistic about the use of force and what it can and cannot accomplish.

     President Obama is getting whipsawed in public opinion polls for not being tough enough in his foreign policy.  Americans tell pollsters they want a more muscular president and don't like his over dependency on diplomacy.  These same Americans are the ones who also say, by more than a 60% margin if the Wall Street Journal poll is to be believed, we should fix what needs to be fixed here at home and not get militarily involved in new foreign conflicts.  So on Memorial Day which is it?

     Should we send troops to Syria to depose the Assad regime?  (there are reports they are still using chemical weapons to attack their people)  Should NATO, which means us, station troops in Eastern Ukraine to oppose Russian forces?  Should we somehow force Russia to give back Crimea?  Should we be planning a military assault on Iran to stop their nuclear weapons production?  What about American boots on the ground in Nigeria to rescue the kidnapped girls or as peacekeepers in Mali, South Sudan or Somalia?  What about China?  Should we be signing mutual defense pacts with Japan, Vietnam, the Philippines or Taiwan promising to come to their aid, which means sending young Americans into harm's way, if they get into a conflict with China?  Should we go to war to protect Israel?  (Senator John McCain says if he were president he would have sent troops into Nigeria to find the girls whether the nations leaders agreed or not.  Really?)

     It is so easy to get into wars, but as we now know not very easy to end them Cindy Sheehan once asked President Bush why her son had to die in Iraq. (a nation falling apart at the seams as we speak)  On Memorial Day do we have any better answers as to why Americans died in Afghanistan, Vietnam, Lebanon, Grenada et.al.?

     There are drums beating again in this country.  Despite annual reminders on Memorial Days, Americans once again have forgotten the cost associated with foreign adventures.  Obama is pilloried for not being tough enough.  (which means being willing to sacrifice American lives)  Yet, because of previous political/military failures, he commands a broken military with skyrocketing suicide rates, sexual assaults, and posttraumatic stress and, despite national rhetoric about honoring the nation's soldiers, a Veteran's Administration which can't meet the medical needs of those who have already served let alone those in the future.


     Perhaps the best and most moral response we could make on Memorial Day is to remember not to treat the military like it’s a video game and protect those who serve their country.  Perhaps our leaders might remember not to use American's soldiers to make political points or to rise in polls.  Perhaps we need to decide which it is...fix what needs to be fixed at home and reduce a bloated military budget or police the rest of the world while everyone else sits back and watches.  One thing is clear.  We insult the memories of those who made the ultimate sacrifice if we don't learn from our mistakes and promise to be more careful in times to come.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

PEACE...

Modern life is anything but peaceful.  We are on edge and on the go constantly.  Our waking hours, and perhaps even in our sleep, are dominated by concerns about how to pay bills...care for, or be a part of, family...work (which we may not like nor have passion for or find fulfilling) or searching for work at a time when the economy is in limbo and a job, any job, is a keeper.  We are bombarded with cultural messages to spend and consume.  (which means acquiring the money to do so)  Do we have the latest phone, TV, car, dress, purse, Jimmy Choo shoes, skinny jeans or the latest styled jacket?  We are on edge over a love life, or the lack of one.  Adolescents are tweeting about fears of what they will be when they grow up and adults self-medicate because of how their lives have unfolded.  Add to all of this the sheer, real, ear-splitting, nerve-jangling noise which is a constant of modern life and the last thing that one can say is we know a lot of peace.  (is it any wonder anti-depressants are a multi-billion dollar industry and a new study says depression among adolescents is up over 60%)

     As we approach the celebration of Easter, we do so fragile and splintered yet the whole point of Easter is we have a chance to restore peace to our lives.  What the apostles, and others, discovered that Sunday morning is an insight...a hint...an epiphany about life and how to have a peaceful one where you do not have to be afraid.  See, this is the key to the good news.  Jesus' message was not about heaven, or afterlife, or kingdoms to come.  From His baptism in the Jordan by John the Baptist, to His appearance in the upper room, Jesus consistently told those around Him to be at peace and not to be afraid.  Why was he so sure?  Why was He seemingly fearless and peaceful?  What did He know that we didn't?

     Jesus knew how close He was to God...the more He trusted in God...the more He let go of things, the more peace flowed over Him.  He describes this closeness as like that between a mother or father and a child...intimate...Abba.

     Now comes the good part...Jesus proclaimed this same relationship with God is ours for the taking.  We too could be so close to God that peace will flow like a river.  We too can take all the noise, pressure, stress, which is day-to-day life and let it roll off of us like water off a duck's back.  We can trust in God so implicitly that not even death can stop us nor do we have to fear it.  Resurrection, which we celebrate on Easter, is ours too.  This is the good news.

     It sounds so easy.  Who wouldn't want to be at peace and not to be afraid anymore?  Yet, when we look around we don't see allot of peace...don't feel peaceful...we worry and fear...the world certainly isn't peaceful, so what happened?  Sin is what happened.  We have freely chosen to attach to things...to this world...to our basic desires for pleasure and satisfying our desires...for ego and pride...and the result is not intimacy but rather separation.  (since God created all "things", God by definition cannot be a "thing", God must be "no-thing"...nothing.  When we hold on to things...prioritize things...seek out things...we lose intimacy with God) There is no clearer reason why I am in prison and why I chose to hurt my family and myself than an obsession with things and a failure to trust in God.  (interestingly, this is the same message of Buddhism  which teaches the more you let go of things, the better you can handle the suffering which life throws at you)

     Jesus' message is constant.  Love your neighbor.  Love your enemies.  Turn the other cheek.  Forgive an infinite number of times.  Whatever you do for the least of your brothers and sisters you do for God.  Implied in all of this is a focus on others, developing a closeness with God which promises you two things...you will be at peace and don't have to be afraid any longer.

     Have you ever had a genuine moment of peace?  A moment of living without fear?  If not why not?  If so, how badly did you want to experience it again and again...seek it out...try to replicate it if you could?  In the upper room, on His first appearance after Easter, Jesus breathes on them (recalling God breathing on Adam and Eve in Genesis) and says, "...peace, my peace I give to you."  This is the central message of the gospel.  We can do what Jesus did.  We can be intimate with God.  We can experience peace because we trust in God.  Sin sews doubt and fear, but Easter is the celebration of a man who was at peace and wasn't afraid...even when faced with his own death...sin lost.

     This is my last Easter in captivity.  I will come out of this place, and this experience, less afraid and more at peace than at any time in my life.  All I needed to achieve this was to have my ego crushed, pride stripped, every "thing" taken away and the time to contemplate the state of my relationship with God.  I was forced to let go and to trust, which was so, so hard, in God.  I am still a work in progress, and I still love certain things, most especially my wife and children, and can be filled with fear, but the Easter message, ..."Alleluia, Alleluia, He is risen," fills me with joy and I wish all of you that same joy.


     Happy Easter, and please remember the world is alive with the grandeur of God.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

FYI...

Hello fellow fans of the Lion of the Left!  Some of you have asked for the Lions's mailing address. Here's the information that you asked for:

Mr. Bernard Ward
#90569-111
FCI Low
3600 Guard Rd.
Lompoc, CA  93436

You can only send envelopes that weigh 16 ounces or less.  Don't send any stationery, stamps, travel magazines, books, or porno.  The Bible is the only book that is permitted.  The Lion would love personal hand-written letters from you and greeting cards are O.K.  Have fun!

               

SELFIE...

On a recent phone call, my son informed me he had read around 10 pieces from this blog.  "Dad, I got bored and thought I could be watching HBO instead, so that's what I did."  I took no offense.  That he was reading them at all was a triumph for me.  One of the reasons I decided to write this at all was to show my children I wasn't crushed nor was I going to just fade away into the night under a cover of shame and embarrassment.  The other reason not to take umbrage was these comments were coming from a member of a generation which has raised the art of navel gazing to a sacrament, so naturally commentaries on politics, foreign policy, circumspection or theology will create a dissonance forcing them to look up and actually perceive what is going on around them.

     This is now the era of the selfie.  You buy a cell phone now, not to make or receive a call, but rather based on the quality of the camera...whether there is on the front and the back...the ease with which it allows you to take pictures of you.  It gets even more convoluted.  Studies show people don't actually want to talk to each other directly over the phone.  They prefer to text or email or leave a voice message or post a message on Facebook than engage in actual live conversation.  The phone is ordered for its screen size, touch screen, design, with its actual function as a phone a long, last, concern now resembling an electronic vestigial organ.

     I find myself chortling at the irony of coming from the generation which grew up in the 60's and was accused of narcissism on an Olympian level.  "It" was all about tuning in, turning on and dropping out...make love not war...yippies and hippies vs. straights...we had to have our own music and clothes (sort of dumpster chic) and our politics...we took drugs to turn inward and see ourselves clearly, allegedly.  Today, "it" is all about taking pictures of myself and chronicling everything and anything I do.

     I'm now officially the old, curmudgeonly, grumpy old man shaking his liver-spotted fist at the non-sense of his children's generation.  It is a natural progression and flashing in front of me is Dick Van Dyke in Bye, Bye, Birdie singing about kids and why can't they be perfect like we were in every way.  However, this obsessive need to share and over share with religious-like fervor still cannot be left without some comment.

     Why would I care about where you ate breakfast, lunch or dinner today?  Tens of thousands of pictures are uploaded to the "cloud"  (oh come on you have to love the "cloud"...it now refers to some gigantic storage unit in the sky when for us it was a way to get a contact high in the back of someone's car or their bedroom) of what people ate at their latest meal.  (the next logical progression is the uploading of what it looks like at the other end, an evolution not to look forward to with relish)  The phone you don't call anyone on anymore tracks your every movement so your friends, and "friendly" big brother, can know what stores you frequent, restaurants you like, concerts you attend, political rallies you support.  The phone which no longer has any connection to Alexander Graham Bell, is a game-playing, picture taking, electronic spying mirror which can be used to catalog every moment of your day.  While the premise of all of this is it builds community...keeps us connected to each other...makes us feel social...the same folks who don't want to talk to each other...sit across from each other in a restaurant staring at their phones...refuse to make eye contact when they are pedestrianatiing (and now have to be warned by public service announcements not to cause auto accidents because of their inattention)...completely avoid any intimacy with anyone else.  (they use dating sites because they can't "meet" anyone any other way)

     The ultimate beneficiary of all this is corporate America.  (you remember them don't you?  They keep telling you they wont do any evil and only want to connect the world and are not at all interested in making money off of you)  Samsung got huge returns by encouraging Ellen DeGeneres to take a "selfie" at the Oscars.  (do you think she was paid?)  Boston Red Sox slugger, David Ortiz used a Samsung phone to take a "selfie" with President Obama.  All the mega data being created each day by all the texting and tweeting and pictures and sharing is vacuumed up by advertisers so they can pitch you, prod you, push you, play you into buying their product.  (not to mention what the NSA is doing with all of this information)  Facebook spent $19 billion to buy "What's App" to commoditize every "intimate" activity we have with anyone else.  Hell, we don't even ask for directions anymore (something 60's men were supposedly very bad at) and now use Google maps to get from point A to point B leaving a trail of electronic bread crumbs for anyone to follow and observe.  (ANYONE !!)

     It is not surprising this kind of long form blog could be boring.  Try and reduce discussions about health care or the Russian incursion into Crimea or the raging debate about same sex marriage to 140 characters.  Is it possible young people are not more liberal on social issues, like gay marriage or the legalization of marijuana, than their parents, but rather just take a pass on anything not reducible to a tweet or a selfie?


     Yes, I sound like my parents and their horror over Elvis' hips or the Beatles hair.  However, watching an entire generation turn themselves into a product for corporate profit...observing the emergence of a device even George Orwell couldn't imagine...commenting on narcissism on steroids was too good to pass up.  An additional benefit is it gave me a reason to write about my son, who I love, and the pride I have knowing that he is purposely reading some of this blog even if he gets bored.