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Brion McClanahan, 9 Presidents Who Screwed Up America and Four Who Tried to Save Her

Who have the greatest American Presidents been? Who are the worst? The answers may surprise you.

As the author says, the problem with academic polls on this matter isn't the questions, but rather the perception of the executive office, a perception that has been skewed by the success of the United States in the 20th century and the growth of the power of the executive branch relative to the other branches and levels of government. The historians who usually participate in these polls lack an originalist perspective of the Constitution, and thus rank the presidents based on the outcome of their policies, not on how they upheld the oath they took when sworn into office, to preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States of America. It is on the latter basis that the author ranks the best and worst US Presidents.

Among the worst, those who screwed America up, are Andrew Jackson, Abraham Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt, Woodrow Wilson, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Harry S. Truman, Lyndon B. Johnson, Richard M. Nixon, and Barack Obama. Among the best are Thomas Jefferson, John Tyler, Grover Cleveland, and Calvin Coolidge. Those judgments depend on whether a given President upheld his oath of office or not, not on the results of his time in office. The Founders of this nation were terrified of untrammeled executive power unchecked or poorly checked by other branches of the government, and set up the new nation's government to provide checks and balance that would keep any one branch of the government, especially the executive branch, from seizing and wielding inordinate power not granted by the Constitution.

Not that any given President in the "Naughty" list was or is a bad man or a disliked one; nor were those in the "Nice" list necessarily "great" in the normal sense, that is, the sort of people about whom spectacular movies are made and that sort of thing. "Did they uphold the Constitution during their term in office, or not?" is the one measure by which Brion McClanahan ranks the Presidents, which is also a measure of the degree to which Presidents have protected our liberties or damaged them.

This book is an eye-opener. These days, thanks to rapidly declining standards in public schools and our colleges and universities, the average American citizen is not learned in Constitutional law and its applications. This book is a great introduction to that subject, in terms of both its history and the men charged with upholding and applying it, and a way for repairing the shameful gaps in our education when it comes to civics and American history.
Yuval Noah Harari, Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind

I am not happy with this book.

In Chapter 2 of this book, "The Tree of Knowledge," the author discusses the "fictions" that hold us together as societies and cultures and enabled us to dominate our world, the most successful of all vertebrates. (Let's not go into the matter of rats, the inevitable outriders of civilization, able to establish huge colonies right under our cities, thriving on the detritus and forgotten storehouses of our world.) Yes, we do refer to binding contracts, the names of countries, and various legal rituals as "legal fictions<" but anything that can cause massive chances in our lives and the lives of other forms of life that exist all around us the way towns, cities, nations, map grids, last wills and testaments, etc. can are as real as earthquakes, droughts, massive population movements, and anything else in the human world (and beyond). The author tells us that gods and spirits don't exist, though they are useful fictions that bind us together as societies, as well, even though most Magickians, sorcerers, witches, priests, and others wielding Magickal power and/or representing whole religious communities honestly believe in such things. It never occurs to him to ask why they do, nor why attorneys believe in laws and legal systems. Beliefs are founded on what works, and what works either references real things or draws on them to create their own reality, and those who traffic in beliefs are generally no fools, not psychotic, but able practitioners of their own Arts and Sciences.

But there's an even deeper issue. All the things the author labels "fictions" are information. True, what information is, what it means and what it implies, are non-physical entities. Encoded in matter and energy, information is neither -- and yet it determines the course of human history and, indeed, life itself, of whatever kind, wherever it may be found. Apparently biological reality believes that information is real; all biological entities are encoded in biochemical "blueprints" such as DNA, RNA, or more exotic molecules, the information in which determines the course of development in each living being, its reproductive behavior, and all the other things that enable it to survive and pass on its genes. Yes, genetic information is nothing but patterns found in certain types of molecules -- but without it, there would be no life, and no us.

The sort of reductionist thinking that the author engages in closely resembles the grand folly of neo-Skinnerianism. B. F. Skinner, the founder of behaviorist psychology, decided that since you cannot weigh or measure the mind, the mind itself cannot be a true scientific subject, but behavior, which can be recorded and analyzed through objective means, can be. All right, as far as it goes. But then along came the neo-Skinnerians who, acknowledging that you can't weight and measure the mind, have decided that therefore the mind does not exist. (I asked my friend Fred, who was taking a survey course of all the psychological disciplines during his senior year and had learned this from the course, how the hell the neo-Skinnerians came to such an asinine conclusion. Shrugging broadly, Fred said, "Introspection?" Yes.) Similarly, the things that author Harari tells us are "fictions" sure are unusual forms of things that supposedly don't exist: they are information, not energy as such, not matter as such, but real in their own way and encoded in matter-energy media. They are not "real," because their reality does not exist in and of themselves, but rather in how we or other supposedly real entities experience and interpret them; they range from the nucleic acids that encode the genes to the characteristics of matter and energy that cause things around them to behave certain ways in response to them, to the millions or billions of documents and books printed up and published every year, to what we see on our computer screens (arrangements of colors and patterns encoded electronically and painted onto our screens due to the actions of our computers), to the behavior of the brain and other major organs in response to the information encoded in chemicals, physical impacts, and sound waves and printed missives created by other human beings, and so on and on.

Above all, if Harari is right, the mind itself doesn't exist, but is instead a plausible fiction -- i.e., a lying idea -- that we decided to believe in because it's convenient. And the same is true of everything the mind is involved in -- language, the processing of sensory input, decisions about what to do about stimuli coming into the mind from outside, and so on. We have no way to know objectively whether anything exists beyond the confines of our individual skulls -- but that doesn't keeps us from living our lives and making decisions as if it does.

No, I don't think Harari realized that that is what his arguments about human "fictions" come down to. But simply put, in a commendable effort to simplify certain aspects of human reality for the sake of making his arguments more understandable to the reader, he has opened the door to the sort of monster that can reduce all arguments, analysis, and thought to so many ideational matchsticks in the wind.

Needless to say, as bugged by the second chapter of Sapiens as I obviously am, I am not going to wade through the rest of it. I will leave that to braver and more enterprising explorers of the philosophical universe. Wish I could do more, but now I have this headache, because of which I will now bow out of the task of reading this tome and get on with other things.

Suspicions confirmed?

Someone just told me that there's a strong possibility that many of the posts on Facebook and other social media seemingly in support of Donald Trump are actually the work of Communists and/or people paid by the Democrats and even some Republicans to create them. These are the posts that seem to be written by non-stop pottymouths and functional illiterates or created by cartoonists to be as repulsive and vicious as possible. The posts in question seem to attack liberals and Democrats, above all Mr. and Mrs. Obama, Hillary Clinton, and Bernie Sanders, in ways that are utterly puerile, cruel, and stupid. They are driving many people to utterly reject not only Donald Trump, but all Republican nominees in all offices whatsover by creating sympathy even among Conservatives for the apparent targets of these attacks -- which may not be attacks at all, but rather left-handed ways of getting the country to vote for Democratic candidates and follow the liberal lines.

Whether that's true or not, those posts are so repellent that they turn one's stomach. The Billinsgate and nonstop verbal and graphic sewage with which these posts are replete aren't doing the Republicans, Libertarians, and Tea Party any favors. I don't care how well-intentioned you might be -- and we all know what road is paved with good intentions -- and how much you want to defeat the Democrats in the coming November election, you aren't doing their opposite numbers any favors whatsoever with such posts. (If I see any more posts replete with runs of four or five exclamation points or posts talking about "Muslimes" one more time, I will vomit.)

You know who you are. The problem for you is, so do we, that part of the electorate that is literate, who think with our intellects and not our gonads, who appreciate skilled use of the English language and really don't much cotton to the endless and revolting tide of verbal filth and those ghastly cartoons about politicians' wives. You're either Communists, out to shoot down conservative America, or useful idiots who think they are helping conservatives but are doing precisely the opposite. To the former, we've had more than enough of you and your Islamist allies; to the latter, please SHUT UP AND STOP MESSING UP THE CHANCES THAT OUR COUNTRY WILL SURVIVE AS A CONSTITUTIONAL NATION OF THE SORT ITS FOUNDERS ENVISIONED.
“You Keep Using That Word, I Do Not Think It Means What You Think It Means.” -- Inigo Montoya, in The Princess Bride

Yesterday I saw a very ugly two-panel political cartoon comparing Michelle Obama, as a very ugly, dykish woman who has transitioned from a burly, hairy man, wearing a dress that doesn't fit right and doesn't compliment her, to Donald Trump's wife, Melania, shown as a very glamorous, spectacularly comely woman. As I'm sure many of you know, I am a Conservative, and favor neither the Democrats nor Liberals. But that cartoon, obviously intended as a poke in the eye for the Democrats, liberals, and the Obamas, did not strike me the way you might think it should have: it was a nasty example of vicious bullying of the First Lady.

More: it was a damned lie -- I have never seen any evidence suggesting that Mrs. Obama is less than slender, svelte, very good looking, and ladylike. That doesn't mean that such evidence doesn't exist -- or that it does. But so far, nobody seems to have produced evidence concerning Mrs. Obama's pulchritude or lack thereof that would be acceptable medically, scientifically, or in a court of law. In short, it seems to be pure, sickeningly malicious slander, the result of someone spreading bad gossip with malice aforethought.

Granted, Donald Trump's wife is a beautiful woman, but Michelle Obama is neither ugly, nor a cross-dresser, nor someone transitioning from male to female. That ugly, ugly caricature of Michelle Obama was something that a group of beautiful, vicious high-school girls would come up with by way of bullying another girl at the high school, a graphic version of the nastiest sort of ad hominem argument, i.e., insulting someone rather than giving a fair critique of that someone's work with good evidence to back up the critique.

In short, it looks like something that a puerile Republican/Conservative would come up with to mock a female Democrat/liberal. OR something that an underhanded, high-IQ Marxist would come up with to make people think that American conservatives and our Republican party include nothing but low-class, racist, gynophobic buffoons who have nothing better to do than make fun of the President's wife. It could be either -- but it sure suggests that the latter possibility is the true one.

If you are a Conservative, either Libertarian or Republican or member of the Tea Party, and you don't want to make your like-minded allies and friends look bad, DON'T have anything to do with such cruel digs at Mrs. Obama. They would also make you out to be a liar, spreading bad gossip for the sheer, evil joy of it without providing any proof that is not a damned lie. And if you are a Liberal or a Democrat, don't YOU circulate such tripe with the intention of making the Conservatives/Republicans/Tea Party look bad. Some of us are onto you, you vicious little yahoos . . .

Review: DIETLAND, by Sarai Walker

Dietland, by Sarai Walker

A revolution is brewing . . .

Plum Kettle, whose "real" name is Alicia (the reason for those quote marks becomes apparent in later chapters of the novel), wants to be thin. Oh, how she wants to be thin! But she weighs 300 pounds, and shedding any of that weight seems to be impossible, so she does the next-best thing: she does her best not to be noticed, because when you're fat, to be noticed is to be judged. Or mocked. Or worse.

But she has a plan: bariatric surgery, which would leave her unable to eat anything larger than a walnut.

Then Plum notices that she's being followed by a mysterious woman in tights as colorful as Lifesaver candies, wearing combat boots. And so begins her fall down a rabbit-hole of strangeness into the world of Calliope House, a community of women who live life on their own terms, not on those of men, fashion designers, porn-makers, and all the others who work to keep women terrorized into behaving like objects, suppressing their own needs in order to please others.

Having joined the women of Calliope House, reluctant but intrigued, Plum agrees to experience a series of challenges her to face the real costs of becoming "beautiful." At the same time, however, a dangerous guerilla group apparently led by someone named Jennifer -- about the most generic name for a girl or woman you could find in America -- begins to terrorize a world that abuses women. Two bags, each containing a man, are dropped from the Harbor Freeway Interchange, the tallest in Southern California; the bodies fell all the way down to the Century Freeway. The authorities later said that the drop should have killed the men, all by itself; the countless cars, trucks, and other vehicles that ran over the bags before they were found and removed from the freeway were just icing on the cake. It turned out that the two men were among those who had raped and murdered United States Army private Shonda Brown, scraping and burning her hands, making deep bruises all over her body, and burning her genitals with bleach. After a cursory exam, Army doctors had ruled that Shonda had "committed suicide," like other servicewomen who had "committed suicide" in Iraq by highly improbable means, such as multiple fatal gunshot wounds (at least one of which was in the back of the head), or being run over by a truck.

Then there were the twelve men, each of whom was guilty of crimes against women and even children but never punished for it, who disappeared and then, days later, were pitched out of a skydiving plane without parachutes at an altitude of at least 10,000 feet onto the floor of the Nevada desert below. After many such incidents, the public was in a panic, and authorities were frantic to find and arrest the terrorists who had done this, above all their ostensible leader, Jennifer.

Part coming-of-age story, part revenge fantasy, Dietland is a bold, original, and often hilarious story that slams the beauty industry, gender inequality, and the American weight-loss obsession from the inside-out in a battle to the finish that takes no prisoners.

The 4 Horsemen of the Apocalypse

When I was s kid, there was a pack of boys, all brothers, at my elementary school that some of the parents and teachers referred to privately as the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, giving each of them appropriate nicknames to go with that. (As for us kids, we called them Boogersnot, Double Boogersnot, Turdface, and Peehole, but when they heard us use those names for the Pack of Four, the adults just told us "That isn't nice" and that we'd have to go to the principal's office if we did that any more, then went back to whatever they were really interested in. Their parents, Evelyn and Bill Anderson, who named them William, James, George, and Marty, were rather proud of their four hellions, and probably encouraged them in their depredations.

War was a big, fat, but rather muscular boy who liked to beat up smaller children, right up until a girl in his own grade whose father had "bully-proofed" her -- enrolled her in a Bujinkan dojo at age 5, where she'd been going ever since -- beat War up because he'd given her little brother a shiner and a broken jaw. War avoided all children and most adults in his school all year after that, and at the end of the year, after a Talk with the school principal, the school nurse, three teachers, and a sheriff's deputy, the Andersons moved to Chicago, and were never heard from again. We all sighed in relief.

At any rate, Famine was almost as big and belligerent as his older brother, War. He regularly beat up other children on the playground, stealing their lunches and/or lunch money

Pestilence caught and carried every infectious condition known, from measles, scarlet fever, and Panamanian root-rot to the flu, jumping cancer, infectious colitis, and several different types of fungus. Up until the Andersons moved away, the CDC studied Pestilence. They were on the verge of having Pestilence declared a National Resource so they could take him to their labs, where they and the US Army could perhaps use him to develop brand-new biowarfare materiel, when their prey slithered out of their grasp by dint of moving away.

And. last but not least, there was Death. Death was a crack shot with a .22 rifle, which his dad had given him when he was about six years old. Death used it to shoot neighborhood pets, wild birds, squirrels, and anything else that was a visible, moving target. He once shot the mayor in the seat of the pants. That was the only time his parents ever did anything about it, threatening him with death if he ever did it again. But that did little, if anything, to slow him down, though he didn't shoot any more members of the city government . . .

Scientists have discovered a powerful new strain of fact-resistant humans who are threatening the ability of Earth to sustain life, a sobering new study reports.

The research, conducted by the University of Minnesota, identifies a virulent strain of humans who are virtually immune to any form of verifiable knowledge, leaving scientists at a loss as to how to combat them.

“These humans appear to have all the faculties necessary to receive and process information,” Davis Logsdon, one of the scientists who contributed to the study, said. “And yet, somehow, they have developed defenses that, for all intents and purposes, have rendered those faculties totally inactive.”

More worryingly, Logsdon said, “As facts have multiplied, their defenses against those facts have only grown more powerful.”

While scientists have no clear understanding of the mechanisms that prevent the fact-resistant humans from absorbing data, they theorize that the strain may have developed the ability to intercept and discard information en route from the auditory nerve to the brain. “The normal functions of human consciousness have been completely nullified,” Logsdon said.

While reaffirming the gloomy assessments of the study, Logsdon held out hope that the threat of fact-resistant humans could be mitigated in the future. “Our research is very preliminary, but it’s possible that they will become more receptive to facts once they are in an environment without food, water, or oxygen,” he said.
"Magick is the Art and Science of causing change in conformity with Will."

That is the definition of Magick as given by Aleister Crowley (see, e.g., Magick (Thelema) - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia and The Science and Art of Magick), and it's an excellent one. For one thing, clearly no Magick is done for no reason; always it involves the application of Will to whatever the purpose of any Magickal (or, for that matter, alchemical) operation. For another, the only things that do Magick are living creatures of one kind or another, and the hallmark of all life is purpose, willfulness in the service of survival and reproduction.

Which leads to "Life is the Art and Science of causing change in conformity with Will." Whose Will? That of the organism performing Magick, who may or may not be human or even terrestrial. For what purposes? Those of one or another manifestation of Life. Which could, at least in theory, be an entire biosphere, or the vast clouds of cold molecular gas and dust out of which stars and planets are born. Individual instances of life as we normally know them, such as a tree, an insect, a clam, a human, or some other organism of the sort with which we normally deal, though creatures and individuals in their own right, are also manifestations of the worlds into which they are born or hatched. And as such, they manifest the Will of their ecosystems and biospheres.

But there is more.

Successful Magick often entails manifestations of nonlocality, action at a distance, perhaps a great distance, in time and/or space (see, e.g., Quantum nonlocality - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia, Journal of Nonlocality, etc.). In the last few decades, quantum physicists have shown that examples of nonlocality are part and parcel of reality at the smallest of scales. Successful Magick entails many examples of non-local processes and phenomena at much larger scales, such as those in which we live our own lives, or even those in which planets, stars, stellar clusters, galaxies, galactic clusters and superclusters, and perhaps even universes exist. The same is true in the physical realm, especially on scales on which subatomic particles exist. And there is evidence that the biological realm is replete with certain instances of nonlocal biophysical and biochemical processes (e.g., Quantum biology - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia, Quantum Nonlocality – Biological Route? | Frontier Science News, https://arxiv.org/ftp/q-bio/papers/0510/0510039.pdf, Nonlocality beyond quantum mechanics : Nature Physics : Nature Publishing Group, CiteSeerX — Citation Query Biological utilization of quantum non-locality, etc.). This is more evidence that Magick and life are exactly the same thing, reality looked at from two different points of view that agree exactly. Crowley himself points out that in the end, the Magical universe and the objective universe are the same thing looked at from two different directions, and if the results don't agree, then somebody, somewhere screwed up.

So here we have a definition of life in terms of what it does, simple and inclusive of everything else it does, and show that esoteric (subjective) and exoteric (objective) reality are one and the same, though operated on in different ways and observed from different points of view.

Question: where do we go from here?

What was that weird arthropod?

Granted, arthropods are weird, all of them, what with entirely too many legs and a tendency to end up just where you don't need or want them. But the one that met its end in my bathroom last night was one for the record books.

It was 8-10 inches long from the front of its face to the tip of its abdomen. It had large, gauzy wings, and its body was black in color. Its long, slender body seemed to be covered in short black fuzz. It had long, very slender legs, as well. It was resting on the wall right next to the toilet. I grabbed some toilet paper and tried smooshing it, but instead of smooshing, it lifted off from the wall, buzzing angrily, and then returned to the same place. I had to try three times before I finally nailed it, at which point it and the toilet paper went into the toilet and were flushed down.

Praying mantises are, as far as I know, green in color, and somewhat shorter in body-length. Walking-stick insects may be longer, but they're tan or brown, like a branch or stem. And whatever they say about Alaskan mosquitoes in summer, this was no mosquito; it was far bigger than any mosquito I've ever seen, and didn't seem to have a proboscis like the one a mosquito has.

Anybody out there have any idea as to what that insect was?


Let&#39;s Roll
Yael Dragwyla

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