Thursday, March 15, 2018

I Wrote a Second Movement for the String Quartet (or Quartette, if it's a girl)

I had written a movement of a string quartet, but they usually have at least three movements, so I was honor bound to write follow-up movements.
I had initially decided to write a sort of standard Haydn-like movement, because I was trying very hard to write a conventional piece, rather than an off-the-wall Archie-type curiosity.  But this tune came into my head, and I went with it.  Hope you like it!!

String Quartet, 2. Andante

Sunday, February 25, 2018

Why we are upset at the Federal Government

Well, we’re most of us always upset at the Federal Government, but seldom to this degree.  But I have thought about this at length, and there is something to be learned about ourselves, and about our fellow-citizens, and about people around the world.
Focusing on the US for the moment, think about the services that we depend on.  Many, if not all of these, continue being provided unless something comes up to throw a wrench it in.  Goodness knows that an amazing number of wrenches have been heaved onto the Washington bureaucracy by the GOP and the White House, many of which have been sidestepped, while half the country heaves a sigh of relief, and the other half curses.  (It actually is about half and half, though we thought everyone wanted the country to run in a manner that those reading this blog approved of.  Unfortunately no: about half, or at least a significant minority, appears to believe that everything is being done wrong, and has sent forward Mr. Trump to fix it.  We can talk about that another time.)
As I have mentioned before, an enormous volume of money comes to localities from the Federal Government, and it is this money that keeps the wheels of towns, cities, counties and states turning, especially in little ways, such as keeping roads repaired, police patrolling the streets, keeping agro-businesses from selling questionable food items in supermarkets, etc.  But lots of services of the government that do not have to do with daily life have definitely been impacted: National Parks, Wildlife Conservation, Ocean oil drilling, and so on.  Gun laws have been relaxed, people have been shot, and the rhetoric coming out of the Capital is: Suck it in.  (Thoughts and prayers, etc.)
Looking further afield, those who are listening hear a great sense of sorrow from foreign countries; even from reasonable citizens of such countries as Russia and the Ukraine.
It may appear that the World is afraid of a nuclear disaster.  But I don’t think most people are fearful for themselves.  They are sorry for what Americans are facing.  Some are embarrassed for America, but others are simply sorrowful for the way the government has been surrendering the gains made in various areas: Health reform, Marriage equality, Bank procedures reform, Environmental initiatives, Energy sustainability, and numerous other regulations that have been viewed with dislike by people we have thought of as ignorant.  They may be ignorant, but they know enough to vote, and enough to intimidate people at the polls, and sneaky enough to steal the Democrat trick of gerrymandering.
You and I care about what is going on, to some degree for our own sake, but arguably for the sake of the people at large.  Australians are upset, people all over the world are upset, mostly for our sake.  Why?  Because over the years they have learned to care, and have thought of Americans as their friends.  The US Government has not always been a friend, but the American People have convinced the people of the world that we have their backs.  It is not a matter of simply sending in the Marines; it is a moral belief.
Undoubtedly, Trump views this from the Business point of view, and says: that’s too expensive; we can’t afford that.  This is one principle on which he ran as a Presidential candidate: I can run the government better, because I’m a stinking businessman.  I know all the tricks.  (Sorry: I meant “businessman”.)
But leaving politics aside—and I really don’t want to focus on politics in this post—this matter of being concerned for reasons not having to do with self-interest is something we need to look at.
Religious folk, especially Christians, are taught that they have been put on the earth to do God’s work.  (Sometimes the principle gets distorted, and they begin to believe instead that they have been put on the earth to keep religious ministers in comfort, and make Christians out of everyone.  Obviously that’s a lot easier than doing “God’s work.”)
As an atheist, it gives me comfort to learn of this almost universal concern that is being expressed.  I have read messages such as “We’re so sad to see you guys in the US frying with all this crap!  The gun laws in the US are such a shame!”
Obviously, our gun laws do not affect their safety.  So this outpouring is purely motivated by concern and empathy.  At one time, we were the empathy champions of the world.  But we have been left behind.  Nevertheless, the fact that empathy exists, without necessarily a religious motivation, is a heartening thing.  Of course I can’t prove that religion has nothing to do with it.  I do believe that most of this empathy has nothing to do with religion, just on faith!  Does that sound funny?
Unlike Christians, though, I don’t believe that matters will become better because God will jump in.  Nothing is going to happen unless we do something.  But it is a matter of Atheist Faith that we can do something.
Already in Pennsylvania, where the districts had been Gerrymandered so heavily that the GOP could win every election for the foreseeable future (except for elections for Governor), the State Supreme Court intervened, and rejected the most recent—ultra-Gerrymandered, evidently—redistricting that had been proposed by the heavily Republican House.  They were given a brief time to bring in an acceptable redistricting map.  That, too, failed.  Then the Supreme Court created a redistricting considered fair by itself, which infuriated the House and Senate.  Now there is an initiative to impeach all the judges of the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania, which will probably fail, but . . . it just goes to show that there is light at the end of the tunnel, or at least that the tunnel is being lit.  Oh man, I do love this state, warts and all!
[Aside: My wife was just now deploring the fact that there is so much preaching on faceBook.  Then we agreed that there would not be any preaching if people didn’t care.  The liberals and the Democrats are like: OMG, what’s wrong with these people?  Pass gun laws NOW!  The GOP and the conservatives are like:  Take away our guns?  No freaking way!  And the Cynics are like: Just be quiet.  Don’t you realize that whenever there’s a threat to the NRA, people just go out and quickly buy more guns?  It’s a marketing ploy!  The NRA gets huge money from the gun manufacturers!
Be that as it may, there is caring.  Of course I think the true caring is among the liberals, and the response of the conservatives is largely retaliatory.  Still, the existence of concern is, to me and other atheists, a justification of our philosophical position.  And faceBook seems to support this belief.  So it’s doing something right.]

Thursday, February 22, 2018

Knowledge and Vocabulary : The joys and sorrows of broadening the mind

The more you learn, the more special-purpose words you use.  This is something everyone guesses; little kids who read a lot tend to use bigger words (and depending on their family, they get criticized for it, or admired for it).  One thing that should happen in college is that undergraduates should become more aware of the actual meanings of words (in contrast to what they may have thought they meant) and their use of language1 should become more exact.
Something that irks people is that college educated people tend to speak with more difficult words, and often with longer sentences.  The difficult words are because they are probably thinking more difficult (and nuanced) thoughts and trying to get them across; longer sentences because they feel the need to set limits on every thought.  Here's an example: "We need to have stronger laws concerning the buying of guns--though, of course, we have some laws now, but they don't seem to be working."
I got on to this subject by reading an article in Wikipedia, called Cultural Relativism.  This is an idea that came up a few years ago when I was a member of a committee that steered the better students at our school in a special ongoing program, which presented extra seminar topics over their four years of college.  We were studying the Middle East that semester, and one of my colleagues introduced this idea, and he was philosophically opposed to it.  To make it clear, the basic idea, expressed precisely, is that when it comes to studying other cultures, it is impossible for us to be objective.  Our own cultural background most definitely gets in the way.  Expressed crudely and inaccurately, as it is expressed by some people in the government: our culture is better than your culture.

[I forgot to explain the meaning of the title of this blog post.  Most interesting topics of learning require learning new words and phrases: technical terms.  For this reason, it gets daunting to delve into these topics, though many of these 'new' words are just words borrowed from ordinary language, which are (temporarily, within that subject) given a special meaning.  For instance, in geometry, we have the word eccentricity.  In ordinary language it means a little not right in the head, or having a set of assumptions that is different from the norm; but in geometry it describes how far an ellipse is from being a circle.  Anyhow, I was just thinking how difficult it was to read the article, simply because of all the new words, and as I was going along, I was alarmed to find that I was learning the meanings of words that I had sort of ignored all this while, and was feeling resentful at all this forced education.]
I started reading casually (since it has been many years since I got heated up with this topic) with the view that, hey, it seems a lot of fun (I'm kidding; actually, it's pretty heavy going) but not really relevant to me, when I came up against a related concept called moral relativism.  I was marveling at how beautifully these guys and gals expressed themselves; you had to admire their skill at getting across some really tricky ideas, and some incredibly fine points, and believe me, some of the ideas are among the trickiest I have encountered.  And to my amazement, there was a practical application, and an important one at that.
Right after WWII 2 the United Nations decided to come up with a Universal Declaration of Human Rights.  But the anthropologists warned that it was looking very much like a declaration of Western Human Rights, and not universal at all.  This was a issue of moral relativism, but an important one; for instance if the Declaration had things in it that said guys had the Right to have any number of wives they wanted--as was the custom in many non-Western cultures--it would become something that Westerners could not support; on the other hand, if they said One Man, One Wife (at most), it would have been a Right that people in those other cultures could not support.  (In the end, luckily, no mention was made about marriage at all, which probably was good, considering the chaos that has ensued 3 because of what I consider the gains in marriage equality in the USA.)
The belief that one's own culture is superior to all other cultures was observed with interest by Western anthropologists studying other cultures.  They came up with a name for it: ethnocentricity.  They declared that it was a serious shortcoming of those cultures, and used in some quarters to illustrate how immature those cultures were.  But it was gradually realized that the strongest instance of ethnocentricity was Western ethnocentricity; in old-time anthropology--which was conducted almost entirely by Westerners, every new culture they studied was compared to Western Culture as the implicit standard, as the undisputed most superior culture.  This meant that if Western anthropologists were to continue business as usual, the validity of their findings would be destroyed.  The only way around it is to study as wide a spectrum of cultures as possible, and avoid judging any culture by any other culture.
In earlier posts, I have struggled to understand and to explain the value of a college education, but now I think I would probably say it this way: a young person who has been through a (good) college education will not make the mistake of judging other cultures, but instead see the value in them, and their importance in the life of that graduate.  The language I used was that education enables a person to appreciate things (cultures) that may be far removed from everyday experience.  This would flow not only from the courses the graduate has taken, but also from the diverse sorts of fellow-students he or she would meet in college.  (Even at the grade-school level, this is one reason to avoid home-schooling; but some families do have special needs, and cannot tolerate cultural conflicts.)
I do not recommend the Wikipedia article to everyone; you have to have the time to read and enjoy it.  But every time I encounter 4 a great article in Wikipedia, two things happen.  I marvel at the time and thought that has gone into writing it, though of course, it must be a topic close to that writer's heart; and secondly, my vague feeling that the world is going to hell is reduced a little, and I think to myself, like Shakespeare, O brave new world, that has such marvels in it!  Wikipedia is a treasure of our times, and should be appreciated, despite the fact that many people are scornful about how little authoritative it is.  To paraphrase Bernard Shaw, it is not that the dancing dog dances well, but that it dances at all.
This presents education as a survival skill.  It is getting increasingly harder to keep cheerful in the face of the carefully planned chaos that seems to be creeping in.  An appreciation of numerous wonderful things does help to slow down the hopelessness!  But you have to be ready to learn some new words.

1  That is, speech and writing
2 World War Two
3 Quite unnecessarily, but inevitable, I suppose
4 Come across

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

All About BS

 [New, with corrections, 2018/3/15]
I know that at least some of my readers are reading the title of this post with alarm and distaste, but the fungus of BS is growing inside the walls of Academia, and all aspects of written communication, unaddressed by any sort of serious critic, and it's time that even someone as insignificant as I (or me) should set his sights on the fungus.
People use the description BS in different ways, so let's indulge in some disambiguation.
Often, when someone is required to describe something, or report on something, they write it up, and then proceed to embellish it with all sorts of additional material, intended to make it appear more substantial than it really is.  This is the sort of BS that I want to address mainly.  Let's call this Flab.
Then, sometimes, someone gets started on a topic, but then he or she is unable to switch off once the message is delivered.  This is a mostly innocent situation; many of us like to hold forth when we have the floor, as the saying goes.  It does waste everybody's time, but we should bear in mind that any of us could be guilty of this behavior, so be sparing in your condemnation, but the culprit should be reminded that if they carry on too long, their audience might forget the main point they were trying to make.  Remind them that less is more, the more they go on.  There's nothing much to say about this problem; let's call it Dribble, since it bears a resemblance to the difficulties that elderly men have with passing water.  (Something to look forward to.)
Then there is this: you're asked to write a report on something that you don't have clue about.  You create a piece of work that is absolute bluster, with nothing substantive in it.  It's double-spaced, and the margins are widened, and it's all wind and fury, signifying nothing.  Let's just call this crap, because it's of no use to anyone.
All this starts in high school.  A new teacher thrown into the arena is likely to recall his or her own high school (or middle school; these days the rot goes all the way into the basement) experience, and decides to assign writing.  This syndrome has well-intended origins.  Most teachers ascribe whatever success they have had in college to learning to come to terms with writing papers, and even coming to master the art of writing.  Of course, they have mastered the art of BS, but they don't see it as a negative thing.  "The World expects BS," they tell themselves, "and my little darlings must learn to do it well!"  And so, the innocent budding scholars are launched on a lifelong habit of BS-ization from which they cannot turn away.  It makes an ignoramus feel like an educated ignoramus.
In case you're wondering why I got onto this rant, let me confess my inspiration.  My wife works for a County government, and is put perforce on many committees that have to scrutinize various proposals: new businesses that need approval, new strip malls that need permission to be built, new strip clubs that want to locate near elementary schools, and so on.  One of these committees receives a half-dozen applications for a state grant, and so a group of committee members are volunteered to read through the applications.  (I, too, have done something similar, and one learns to skip-read very fast.)
Because this was a long weekend (apparently Government workers get Presidents' Day off, even if nobody else does) she brought the applications home to read.  To her horror, she found that one of them was an entire 60-page book, with blank blue sheets separating each section of the application (I guess I've blown her cover; wait, I think they were pink sheets.  Heh heh).  Within minutes she was groaning.
Most employees of County governments in her position have had a college education, and so are moderately comfortable with writing and reading, but the lady of whom I speak has had professional writing experience, and professional editing experience, and is naturally frustrated with poor writing that has been jazzed-up with lots of bling.
Let us go back to the college days of the creator of this artifact, and his or her English teacher.  Well, what's a teacher of writing to do?
Students of writing come from all sorts of backgrounds, and have a variety of goals.  They want to go into the workforce and do well, or become a famous author or poet, or want to go to graduate school and teach other idiots how to write, or just want to get through the writing classes, thinking to themselves "I won't ever write for real; I'll make self-help videos for YouTube and make a million!"
I thought, when these words came to me, that this whole thing was hilarious!  But wait.  This is what is actually happening.  There used to be real writing, back when America was Great, and even kids who dropped out of school could actually write moderately well (except for a number of rugged individualists).  Then mediocrity became institutionalized, and Flab entered the picture, and finally, Crap entered the picture.  But now we have Flab and Crap ---with Bling!
I have trouble pointing the finger at your English writing teacher in the trenches.  They're doing as well as they can, given the training they have been given, and given the students they have been inflicted with.  But in a world that demands compulsory Flab, and compulsory bling, what are they to do?
A problem I have personally confronted is how to motivate weak writers? I teach geometry to prospective high school teachers, and I hoped to get them engaged by offering a significant amount of bonus points for an album of geometric proofs with lots of illustrations and bling.  Many of my students did not get started on the project until the last minute, and slapped something together and handed it in, trusting to my generosity to grade leniently.  However, because there were some students who took the assignment seriously, really crappy submissions did not get too far.  Still, the prospect of using a certain amount of Bling motivates weak writers to approach the writing task with a positive attitude.  But I have to say that the culture in Education circles is drenched with Bling.  Evidently today's elementary school kids demand bling, as do many heads of corporations.
Remember Junk Mail?  Well, the days of plain ol' Junk Mail are departing.  I have friends (you know who you are) who specialize in Junk Mail With Bling.  I guess we shouldn't deplore it too much, because it keeps several dozen people employed.  Have you watched the TV News recently?  Little content, but man, is there ever a lot of bling.
It is becoming clear why this is happening.  Some of the most powerful people in the US are not very sharp, and do not have much of an attention span, and I don't mean just those in the House of Whiteness.  Only significant amounts of Bling can engage them.  Even if teachers of writing,  Corporate Communication, and Marketing, are not consciously thinking of these mental midgets as the primary audience of their students' writing, over time this climate cannot help but influence how students produce and present their writing.
There isn't a moral to this rant.  Flabby writing with bling is better than no writing at all, but a good teacher can nudge a good student towards writing with good content and good style, and only moderate bling.  Good writing begins with being interested in the topic.  It is not a matter of allowing the student to pick a topic close to his heart, such as Notre Dame, Athletic Powerhouse, or whatever.  It is a matter of having the skill of being interested in almost anything, at least long enough to write a good paper.  On reflection, this is probably one of the better by-products of a college education.
When you're applying for a grant, or permission for something, well . . . I was about to say that you should cut out the Flab, and most of the Bling, and all of the Crap, but I suppose you've got to know your audience.  If your audience loves Crap, I guess it would be a good strategy to give them some.  But chances are they're hoping for no Flab, no Crap; and the Bling quotient needed is anybody's guess.

Thursday, January 18, 2018

Inexplicable Vandalism / Beware of Darkness

I read this morning about an incident in which perpetrators unknown have destroyed and burned scores of beehives.  People are baffled by this illogical act, which seems to raise concerns about the sort of person who would do such a thing.  Some thoughts come to my mind, and I'm going to give it a shot to put the incident in perspective.  (Once I get too unmotivated to do this sort of thing, I hope others will fill the need; it has to be done.)

[Added later: It turned out that the culprits were a pair of teenagers.  But this tells us little; who inspired these fellows to carry out their act of vandalism?  Most of the discussion below probably still applies.]

(1) First of all, bear in mind that this might just be disinformation, and the photograph might be one of either an incident in the distant past (In the killer bee days, perhaps?) or an altered photograph.

(2) Such a thing could actually happen; try not to be too shocked.  The first reason is: ignorance.  Not everyone knows that bees are essential to agriculture, and to the environment in ways too many to count.  This is why education in the broadest sense is so important, especially education in the home.  (We know that some parents work too hard to 'waste' time chatting to their offspring about things that seem so irrelevant to their lives as the importance of protecting bees.  We can excuse them, to a certain degree.  The problem of earning enough to support a comfortable lifestyle in the face of serious obstacles to it from the 1% is daunting.)

(3) It could have been that someone who hates bees, or is allergic to bee-stings, decided to go on a rampage in a fit of rage.  This is, again, a sort of ignorance.  Educated citizens do not lose their temper at the slightest thing.  We're talking about education in the broad sense, again.  Lots of students have learned their lessons well enough to answer their examinations very well.  But teachers are also learning, to focus their questions very narrowly, not to stray into concepts that might be politically sensitive.  This is not education.  We have to find good, mature, wise people to be our teachers, and then cut them a bit of slack and not micromanage the curriculum too much.  But unfortunately, school boards are notoriously filled with uneducated conservatives (or superficially educated folks), who have a deep distrust of book learning.  We have to live with this.  This is the price we pay for giving up elitism, and embracing universal education.  Remember, No Child Left Behind-type initiatives are broadly in line with the liberal agenda: we do not want weak students marginalized, because weak students are often (but not invariably, witness the leadership of the Education branch of the administration) minority students, and underprivileged students.  Conservatives want elitism the way it was when America Was Great, which is where these voucher programs are headed.  If you think it's complicated, it is, That I can tell you.  This country might not be great enough to do all we want its education system to do.

(4) Lastly, and I hope this is not the case, it (the vandalizing of the beehives) might have been done to put certain people in trouble.  Let's not focus on that possibility.  This is now not just ignorance; it is criminal.

As you can see, it comes down to a broad view of education.  Education is so important because, ironically, the size of the population, the influence of the twisted economic principles we live under, and the diverse population we have in the US puts great strains on the thinking of all adults, and some are just not up to the job.  This is why, on the one hand, the Christian Right is anxious for Christian moral principles to be spread widely; they hope that the fear of hell will make people think twice about burning bees.  This is also why some people want to reduce the diversity of the population (by deportation, by violence, and by creating an inhospitable atmosphere).  In the administration, it is not a matter of gut-level hatred; it is a calmly thought out policy.

It's easy to lose one's temper.  That's a form of self-gratification.

Monday, January 15, 2018

Rabia of Basra

One of the earliest Sufi women about whom knowledge has been passed down to us is Rabia al-Adawiyya, associated with the city of Basra in Persia (modern day Iran).  Sufi-ism is a movement on the fringes of Islam, considered heretical by conservative muslims, but of great value to to those of us interested in the concepts of Islam unobscured by its laws and rituals.  One story recounted about Rabia of Basra is as follows.

"Running with fire in one hand and water in the other, Rabia explained, “I am going to burn paradise and douse hellfire so that both veils may be lifted from those on the quest, and they will become sincere of purpose. God’s servants will learn to see Him without hope for reward or fear of punishment. As it is now, if you took away hope for reward or fear of punishment, no one would obey."

As you know, I have not made a secret of the fact that I am essentially an atheist.  But this does not mean that I reject all teachings of all religions, because most religions have core teachings of value to everyone.

One aspect of theistic religions, especially those in the Judeo-Christian-Islamic tradition, is the conviction among believers of lesser intelligence and perception that it is the very principle that Rabia addresses, namely that it is fear of punishment that keeps the faithful in the law, and it is the hope of reward that urges the faithful to acts of charity that go beyond the minimum expected by the law.  However pathetic this condition is, in the mega churches in the USA, their enormous revenue is based on the hope of the congregation for reward in heaven, which results in their ministers and preachers living quite a comfortable lifestyle in public, and sometimes quite Trumpesque lives in private.

Rabia's words can be interpreted as follows.  Take away the punishment and the rewards, take away the carrots and the sticks, and then we will see the true believers and those who love god by their actions.


Tuesday, January 2, 2018

George Carlin

Greetings to all!!
Well, this seems a strange topic to begin the New Year with, but I have to catch these opportunities as they come, because my memory is not as good as . . . What was I saying?
Oh, George Carlin.
Just this morning, my stepson happened to have left his tablet on the table open to faceBook, and someone had posted a link to a George Carlin clip on YouTube.
My stepson was quick to declare that he did not take these sorts of links seriously anymore, because he was getting a lot of conservative spam.  I assured him that George Carlin was anything but, and he looked at me uncertainly, and I repeated my assurance, and went off and indulged in an orgy of George Carlin, which kept me chuckling for a whole hour!
Introducing a twenty-something young liberal to the late George Carlin might not be a kindness.  I will elaborate presently.
Not everyone is familiar with George Carlin enough to be able to recognize all his moods, and the background to some of his comedic "pieces" -- for lack of a better word--and some might not know about him at all.  If our species survives this generation, we could hope that Carlin recognition is built into the genes by Darwin, or whoever is in charge of evolution these days.
I have it in for Capitalism.  I tolerate the Capitalism of the old Pre-Reagan days, but the most recent flavor of uncompromising Capitalism is evil and misguided.  George Carlin explains why it is so.
I have it in for Nationalism.  Nationalism made sense in the world when new nations were struggling against colonial powers.  Today, emerging nations are still fighting against paternalistic restraints--c.f. Catalan politics--but to say that America is fighting against colonial powers is so funny that whoever says so should not be allowed to speak henceforth.  Carlin explains this beautifully.
Carlin described fake news long before fake news was cool.  If you learned to recognize it then, you would know how it has evolved to what it is today, and how fake those who habitually use the phrase today are.
Advertising is a pet peeve of George Carlin, as it is mine.  It isn't very different from fake news; in fact, it is the friends and relatives of fake news mongers who craft and disseminate advertising copy.  I would nuke Madison Avenue (or whatever is the address of contemporary hype), and if George Carlin were alive, he would probably nod approval.
He opposed stupidity.  He opposed US militarism.  (Oh, you should definitely check out his video clip on American military adventurism; one listens with amusement, and anger.)  Golf courses.  Religion.  Materialism.  The Real Estate business.  (It isn't obvious, but it is there, hidden in his commentaries on modern US culture.)  Racism.  I'm not sure he was particularly close to blacks and people of color, but he could certainly spot racism at any distance.  Economic inequalityEducationParents.  And finally: politicians.  (But he lays the blame squarely where it belongs: on the electorate.  That is, the US Public.
Unexpectedly, or rather, not unexpectedly, if you knew the reason: George Carlin is cynical about the environment.  He laughs at Save the Planet rhetoric.  The planet, he says, is going to be around long after we're gone.  This is undeniable, but how are we to think about both our anxiety to preserve the environment, and George Carlin's shrugging it off?
Well, what exactly do we mean by preserving the environment?  We mean to keep the planet the way it is, as much as possible.  Why?  So that future generations can enjoy it (or that we can enjoy it a little longer).  But Carlin takes the view that the human species will not last forever.
One doesn't need to think too hard to conclude that this is absolutely true.  While we may not embrace the rapid deterioration of human living conditions with great glee as Carlin does, we have to realize that, from an objective point of view, our ecological efforts are merely a desperate rearguard action against the inevitable.  As modern Ecological agnostics must believe, saving species from extinction for a few more decades in the face of their vanishing habitat is an exercise in futility.  Whether or not the GOP thinks that way, it makes it easier for them to balance the budget without raising taxes, and as we all know, what the GOP loves is money, far more than the beauty of nature!  Gotta love 'em.
How did George Carlin get this way?  If you watch enough of his videos on YouTube, he explains it.  It is a psychological defense mechanism.  The best way to avoid soul-eating disappointment is to give up all expectations.  He says that he never voted; he just stayed home.  Cynicism, in the end, is a crude form of self-preservation.  This was not Carlin's invention; it is the main principle of Buddhism!  More about that another time.

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