Saturday, June 4, 2016

Ali Dead at 74

Ali Dead at 74

By Dan Cooper

“Don’t count the days, make the days count.” –Muhammad Ali

The man named Sportsman of the 20th Century has departed. One of the true icons of our civilization has passed from our midst. Impossible as it may seem for those of us old enough to remember his youth, Muhammad Ali is dead.

Ring announcer and journalist Howard Cosell might say--and indeed might actually have said of Ali--that he was an icon, and that he didn't so much create some of his iconic ring techniques, as he made them scintillatingly popular: The Ali shuffle; float like a butterfly, sting like a bee; rope a dope. He unquestionably introduced the mystique of poetry to boxing. His poetry was expressed in words, but even more powerfully in his majestically graceful ring performances. 

Ali fought some of the most memorable prizefights in history. There were the three classic matches against Joe Frazier and fights that he was supposed to be incapable of winning against the brawler Sonny Liston and the immensely powerful George Foreman. When the boxer meets the puncher, acknowledged ring wisdom declares the victory usually goes to the puncher. But this consummate boxer took on the biggest and strongest of the punchers, and he beat them convincingly. And he did it with a style that was more unforgettable than any the ring has seen before or since.

In 1999 Sports Illustrated named Ali the Sportsman of the 20th Century and the title could easily have included the word, "undisputed." He was the undisputed Heavyweight Champion of the World, and after losing it regained that title an unprecedented twice more to become the only three-time heavyweight champion. That may have secured his place in history for the record books, but by that time he had already secured the title of Most Revered Athlete in the World in the hearts and minds of fans across the globe.

Also in 1999, the BBC voted Ali the Sports Personality of the Century. One of the more telling facts is that in this voting he received more votes than the combined total for all four of the other notable contenders for this honor. An Olympic Gold Medalist himself in 1960, nearly four decades later, his hands palsied but his eyes clear, he memorably lighted the Olympic Flame at the beginning of the 1996 games.  

His accomplishments exceeded his ring exploits, leading his racial heritage to newfound heights and his country to a better place in multicultural acceptance, in reformulation of the concept of duty, and in shared societal identity. His stand against authority at the cost of his ability to continue his chosen career, refusing military service when it conflicted with more overarching ideals, cemented his place in our cultural heritage more than any performance in the ring could ever do, even by one as great as Muhammad Ali.

His many early critics have been long since silenced. That brash boastfulness he displayed early on was fully supported with performances in the ring. His career accomplishments will be respected as long as our culture endures. His long list of honors both in and out of the ring will do the same. But the greatest of all honors to be bestowed upon Muhammad Ali will be the number of tears shed in his memory the world over, on this, the day after his death.    

Ali, your memory lives on. Thank you for those memories. A hero to millions, you remain forever The Greatest. Thank you, and rest easy now. This fight is over. And you won.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Buckminster Fuller: The Genius I was Too Busy to Meet

In the late 1960s, when I was a student at Southern Illinois University, I had the opportunity to seek out a gifted genius in architectural design who was on staff there. R. Buckminster Fuller was a professor lecturing on staff there at the time, and for some reason it never occurred to me until after I had left, that I should have met the man.

Fuller's genius is as undeniable as my own stupidity in this neglect. I can imagine no greater embarrassment for me unless Frank Lloyd Wright had been there, as well. And I certainly have no excuse, as in 1967, I went on a family vacation that included the world's fair in Montreal, Expo 67. There, the United States exhibit was housed in a giant biosphere designed by Fuller, a geodesic dome 200 feet tall with a 250-foot diameter. His most famous architectural contribution, geodesic domes became a sort of trademark. One of my own characteristics, a lack of foresight, became my trademark for a while.

Fuller and I both returned to SIU to go our separate ways, him to gain a full professorship and me to flounder in scholastic indecision for another couple years before the campus was shut down due to the Kent State affair. By the time I returned to finish a degree, Fuller and my chance to meet him were both gone.  

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Michelle Bachmann: The Republican Nightmare?

I took the following quote from a news source a while back. I didn't see or hear her make the remarks, but for the sake of argument I assume the quote is accurate.

In an attempt to rally support, Michelle Bachmann is quoted as saying, "… what people recognize is that there's a fear that the United States is in an unstoppable decline. They see the rise of China, the rise of India, the rise of the Soviet Union and our loss militarily going forward. And especially with this very bad debt ceiling bill, what we have done is given a favor to President Obama and the first thing he'll whack is five hundred billion out of the military defense at a time when we're fighting three wars. People recognize that."

Really, Michelle? Are we blaming the wars on Obama, too? And hasn't the Soviet Union been defunct now for how long? Seems like two full decades to me, but of course, unlike Michelle I could be mistaken.

And what of this ominous "rise of India" Michelle is warning us about? What a threat to world peace and order this must certainly pose if there is some sort of "rise of India" occurring (which, of course, there isn't, much to the chagrin of East Indians). What dream world is Bachmann living in? I think of it as The Republican Nightmare. That party is now officially held hostage by the radical right.

I feel (almost) sorry for the representatives of Republicanism today. They are forced, by virtue of their now powerful radical constituents, to espouse some foolishly extremist rhetoric in order to court that same radical element. But the really unfortunate aspect of this is that some of them actually appear to believe some of this stuff.

India is a "threat" to rise to world prominence.

The Soviet Union is alive and well, and constitutes a "threat" to the United States.

The military is sacrosanct and above scrutiny in a time when militarism has been out of favor for a couple of decades, but we are involved in "three (of Obama's?) wars" and really need our military to remain strong at all costs. That kind of bullshit is what gets us into more wars instead of getting us out of the one's we already can't afford to be in.

By passing the "very bad" debt ceiling bill, we have done "a favor" to President Obama.

Funny, but I don't recall any of the many previous debt ceiling increases being called "a favor" to anybody in particular. I must have missed that. At any rate, it is obvious that Michelle would have preferred the opposite. No passage of the bill, and no debt ceiling increase, would have resulted in quite a bit more drastic a result than what we have now. Not that what we have is a good thing, but it certainly is better than what we could have achieved through Michelle's weird world. Good thing? No. Better than the alternative? Definitely. The negative result we have come to know as our own, is a direct product of the bickering in Congress over whether or not to pass the bill. Michelle would have preferred seeing us flushed immediately into the toilet, instead of buying some time to maybe avoid the flush. Yeah, that must be quite a sell-out "to Obama" when you preserve the possibility of survival, instead of admitting defeat, and deliberately permitting the leading economic engine on the planet to go into a tailspin.

Conclusion: Every politician winds up courting some faction with speeches and rhetoric. It is a telling indicator of a person's depth of character, and overall interests, to determine who it is they are courting.

The radical right cares nothing about representing mainstream America, middle America, moderate America, or you and me. They care only about representing the radical right. And they feel that the conservative factions in mainstream America will naturally and necessarily gravitate to them simply because they are over there "on the right." Being the representatives of "the right" Republicans will automatically gravitate to them as the true representatives of the "values of the right."

What they fail to realize, as do so many these days, is that the right, as well as the left, is made up of a range of opinions. There is, despite the best intentions of conservatives to belie this point, still a RANGE to the political spectrum.

There is, in fact, still a viable political spectrum. It's not just a case of TeaBilly fanatics, and then everybody else. Representing the extreme right is not a guarantee of garnering the support of everyone to the right of center, much less the support of any independent moderates anywhere near the center (a group of voters that, for their own sake, Republicans had better start considering).

Republican politics has degenerated to a point that must make it difficult for some Republicans to admit they are Republicans. Still, the election just hours away now should prove interesting for those trying to forge a future of any kind for Republicanism in America. The party's decisions beginning next week will make all the difference in the world as to whether there even IS such a thing as the Republican Party.

And lest we forget, another debt ceiling bill approaches us at a fast pace. Michelle and other radicals will soon have another chance to derail the nation and send us spinning into debt collection at the hands of China. Climbing the sheer face of a financial mountain like this one amounts to more than just deciding whether to stay on or jump off the cliff. If you can't even get past that decision without causing the country to lose its credit rating, then you really have no business climbing mountains in the first place.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Party Politics and the Worst of Two Evils

By Dan Cooper

What is it about politics and religion that drives people to such craziness?

We should probably leave religion for another discussion, but in the world of politics, religion has unfortunately taken on considerable importance. Not that it is an overarching importance anymore. Especially since the eccentric differences in Mitt Romney's Mormonism could so easily be overlooked in the name of Party Politics. In today's political world, all you require is an 'R' after your name. If you've got that, you can even subscribe to a faith that flaunts pagan symbolism and requires magic underwear.

Party politics: What a concept. When the idea was first brought forth, party politics was simply an organized voter base of like-minded individuals, who agreed on a sufficient number of key ideas to form a voting bloc. It was not a popular idea with many leaders. Our first President never had a party affiliation, and argued against the formation of parties. In retrospect, George Washington appears to have been right about that.

Partisan politics was born of the realization that the new republic would require the winning of popular support for ideas. From such simple beginnings the concept has seen numerous transitions as the importance of specific issues has waxed or waned, and the utility of certain coalitions has developed or diminished. Parties have come and gone as a result of the changes society has experienced.

Today's two major parties have had their day, with periods of genuine cooperation and productivity. But this most recent Congress has been so hopelessly deadlocked along party lines that it has the dubious distinction of being the least productive Congress in the history of our nation. And this occurred at a time when the nation needed action by Congress to speed an economic recovery from the worst financial conditions since the Great Depression. In light of this, it must be observed that the Party System has definitely not 'done us proud.'

Against this depressing obstructionist backdrop we are now faced with a Presidential and Congressional election that may be the most significant in several generations, perhaps even the most significant in the nation's history. In a few days the nation will decide if we need to change Presidents, and if we can continue to function with the gridlock of a partisan Congress. But what is really at stake in this election goes well beyond the normal bounds of picking one party over another. What is at stake in this election is a choice, make no mistake about it. But that choice no longer reflects the simple distinction of party preference. It now takes on the pallor of some sort of game of Truth or Consequences.

What we have seen in this election cycle represents the worst of Presidential campaigns in modern history. While an argument might be made for the Dukakis campaign, to my mind there is no campaign in recent history that comes close to the incompetence, and in this case also the outright fraud, perpetrated by the Willard Mitt Romney Republican campaign of 2012.

An increasingly popular trend in recent years has been the rise of the independent voter, and the resulting choice made by that voter between the candidates of the two major parties. The frequently heard refrain is that a choice must be made between two almost equally unattractive alternatives, and the selection decided upon will be "the lesser of two evils." But this year it is a bit different. This year, the distinction between the two major party candidates is really quite clear. While the "lesser of two evils" refrain is still heard, the party faithful on both sides, as well as most independents, are clearly drawn to one candidate or the other without having to resort to the trauma of selecting a least-objectionable "evil" from the two.

Through a disgustingly partisan "news" media and the increasingly popular meme-infected social networks, we have been conditioned to approve one candidate over the other. But if we strip away the memes and the "news" we still have the ability to make a clear choice on principles, issues, and track record. If we look beyond the memes we can still make an intelligent selection based on substance. And what we see after stripping away the garbage that today passes for news and information, is a disturbing sight.

The President, as is always the case, can run on his record and his established accomplishments. The challenger must do without that advantage, and draw on his other experience to flesh out his credentials. In this case, however, we have a President who has experienced the most flagrantly obstructive Congress in the nation's history, that Congress led by the opposition party whose stated agenda for the past three and a half years has been solely to oust the President from power. No bones about it. That was their entire agenda. Which, of course, made it far easier to block all that legislation. None of it mattered as much as their stated priority, and any of it that passed might make it appear that this President had actually accomplished something. If it is ALL blocked--even bills written by Republicans if favored by the President--then the President will have NOTHING to claim as an "accomplishment."

That's a pretty neat trick if you can get away with it without looking like a complete ass. You have to have the complete loyalty of your voter base, though. You must have your loyal Republican following well in line or it won't work. There can be no defections, or support given to a Democrat.

And guess what? It almost worked. As foolish as it makes you look to literally BLOCK EVERYTHING, this neat little plan almost worked. Yes, there have been some significant Party defections, but the whole thing really backfired significantly because of just one little flaw. They picked the wrong presidential candidate to run against the incumbent. Apparently, there wasn't quite enough magic in his underwear.

The scary part of all this is that it did almost work. And the most frightening part is that the Republican electorate was on board with this foolishness. They actually appeared to LIKE the idea of a campaign built on flip-flops and lies if it could achieve the stated objective of ousting Obama. Now that's pretty frightening to any who call themselves Americans. What is it, exactly, that prompts otherwise intelligent people to this kind of craziness? Has partisan politics (or the lack of real news) erased that portion of the mind that deals in critical thinking? Has the importance of Party superseded the importance of character? Or truth?

With this election cycle we have left behind--far behind--the notion of a "lesser of two evils" in our voting preference. With this election we have descended to a new low in moral depravity, at which we now select our candidates based on the worst of principles, or perhaps in the absence of principles.

For the Republican Party this election descended to the point where no amount of evil was unacceptable in electing their candidate. Any lie, any exaggeration, and any about-face on any issue whatsoever, was acceptable, so long as the election could be won. The end justifies the means. Get rid of Obama at all costs. Even if those costs include your own honesty and credibility as a thinking human being. And what does Mitt Romney stand for? That is difficult to determine, since his stance on issues is as flexible as a leaf in the breeze, and he will quite literally say anything that his immediate audience is perceived to want to hear. The logical question emerges: Does even Mitt Romney know what he stands for?

This was a face-changing campaign for the Republican Party. It was designed to change the color of the face in the White House. But it also changed the face of Republicanism, perhaps for evermore. This campaign devolved to a selection of the "worst of two evils" in that no descent to any level of evil deception was out of bounds. Even the worst evil is acceptable as a viable choice if it replaces a Democratic evil.

And now, regardless of how this election turns out, as a society we are left with the challenge of facing what it means to descend to a level where the worst of two evils is actually a preferred choice by some, so long as it replaces another depicted evil of which they have grown weary.

Talk about scary.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Romnesiac Mythomania: New Category of Mental Disorder

The current political fervor that is winding to a conclusion (finally) in the United States, has drawn the usual measure of accusations, flying back and forth like some sort of verbal fireworks display. In this now rather customary performance of chest pounding and bravado-enriched name calling, we are used to seeing the label "liar" thrown around rather loosely. But as typical as this bombardment has always been, this year has seen the birth to a new breed of fabrication--one that has never been so boldly experienced in American politics.

This year's "liar" labels will forever reshape the political landscape with newly acquired depth of meaning for American politics in general. In fact, there has never been a time when lying has been so universally exploited as a primary strategy for success. This 2012 election year will go down in history as a milestone, marking the point at which brazen lying became not just another tangential component, but THE major focus of a presidential campaign strategy.

In earlier years the use of deliberate fabrication has had its moments of influence both in political campaigns and after their respective elections. The words, "They have WMDs," and "I am not a crook," still ring with a vibrancy that is unmistakable. And while a case can certainly be made for there being a systematic formulation of a network of lies in both of those cases, they pale in comparison to the tightly sewn fabric of UNRELATED lies produced in our current election cycle.

You see, this year things are different. It isn't just an occasional lie, a slight bending of the truth for momentary gain. And it isn't so much a meshwork of interrelated lies, for the purpose of supporting a specifically related agenda, as was the case with the WMDs, for example.

This year we have planned, rehearsed, scheduled lies on a scale never before measured. But these lies are not related to an agenda like justifying the invasion of a sovereign nation or the illegal bugging of an office. No, this year's network of lies indeed has no formal structure, no melding together of a baseline set of opinions about any specific event or agenda. In fact, it isn't even a network. It is, instead, just a series of fabrications based on the researched tendencies of the audience in question. The only agenda involved here is the presentation of what the audience wants to hear, and there is no curbing that agenda with any prior statements to the contrary. It couldn't matter less what has been said before. Only what needs to be said right now is of any concern. Only what THIS GROUP wants to hear is of any importance whatsoever.

But just for fun let's cite some examples. You are on record as saying, "Let Detroit go bankrupt?" Does that present a problem now that a lot of folks are out of work, and lots more who ARE working, are doing so in the companies you would have allowed to go bankrupt? No problem. You ignore what you said previously and state matter-of-factly to your audience of Michigan voters, "I would never do anything to hurt Detroit."

You stated when you campaigned for Governor of Massachusetts, that you were Pro-Choice, and would never do anything to change the existing laws protecting that choice. But in the primaries of your 2008 Presidential campaign--obviously speaking to a group of Pro-Lifers--you said that while Governor, you "came down on the side of Life every way" that you knew to be possible.

You claim that you resigned from the infamous Bain Capital in 1999, so you couldn't have had anything to do with the many Bain-controlled companies that went bankrupt, and the many jobs that were lost accordingly during BAIN's rather ugly period of "harvesting assets." But public records indicate you were the CEO and sole stock holder in Bain for at least three more years after 1999. No problem. Just say again, unequivocally, that you resigned in 1999 and had nothing to do with Bain during that period when you were being paid by Bain.

In March you publicly announce your support for the Roy Blunt amendment, which would allow employers to deny contraceptive coverage to employees. Seven months later you emphatically state in a presidential debate, "I don’t believe employers should tell someone whether they could have contraceptive care or not. Every woman in America should have access to contraceptives."

With the Romney campaign in full swing, it is easy to see the major focus and overriding strategy has become the perpetuation of old lies and the promulgation of as many new ones as possible. His campaign continues to run advertising containing critical falsifications that have been soundly debunked by those who do that sort of thing. But Mr. Romney has already covered that minor inconvenience by stating that he would not allow his campaign to be run by fact-checkers. Apparently, he has an equal aversion to the facts, themselves. After all, who needs facts when you make up the statements you require, as the need arises?

This serial falsifier is the first recorded case of Romnesiac Mythomania. It is a term I proudly coin based on the brilliant contribution of some anonymous Obama campaign worker who came up with the name, Romnesia, for Mitt's particular brand of selective forgetting.

It can only be hoped that in a few days, our country can get back to the business at hand, and do some selective forgetting of this Romney campaign, as well.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

President Romney and the New American Reality

By Dan Cooper

     I want to project a couple of months into an alternate reality. As unattractive and improbable as it may be, I believe it behooves us to take a serious look at what it could be like.
     On January 20, 2013, the 45th President of the United States is sworn into office by Chief Justice John Roberts. On January 23, President Mitt Romney confides to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that Romney's oath of office included the assurance that he "would protect the independence of Israel at all costs."
     January 24: The president names his Cabinet appointees, and specifies three new posts, ambiguously titled, and filled by representatives of the national energy lobby, agribusiness, and the American Bankers Association.
     January 25: President Romney meets with Democratic Party leaders in Congress, assuring them that he will co-operate with them on key legislative issues if they will consent to major policy concessions. They agree, if he will agree to retain Obamacare. The president agrees.
     January 28: President Romney assures Republican leadership in Congress that he will sign whatever repeal of Obamacare they are able to bring to his desk.
     February 5: The president represents The United States in a key summit of World Leaders on the subject of Climate Change, at which time he signs a new accord on the subject. The details of the accord are widely publicized.
     February 8: The president assures Republican leadership in Congress that the media have distorted the actual content of the recently signed World Climate Accord, and that it actually stipulates that the United States is exempt from restriction to any binding commitment.
     February 11: President Romney signs a Presidential Memorandum suspending all government inspections and restrictions to energy companies based in the United States, who are actively seeking new oil reserves. The memorandum authorizes them to implement their own internal inspection programs.
     February 13: President Romney signs an executive order legalizing and encouraging the use of waterboarding as a means to extract information from detainees who were incarcerated "on suspicion of terroristic behaviors or associations."
     February 15: President Romney meets with representatives of the U.S. Global Change Research Program (USGCRP), assuring them that his administration will support their continuing research commitments and policy guidelines.
     February 19: The President signs into law a functional gutting of USGCRP, replacing it with a new department of Global Operative Policy and Informational Fact Formulation (GOPIFF).
     February 22: Romney signs a bill limiting funding for the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP), returning its funding limits back to levels prior to the Obama administration's expansion of that program.
     February 22: The president signs into law a defunding of Medicare, and the formulation of a replacement privately funded voucher system, RomneyCare, to take effect immediately.
     February 22: Romney signs into law an expansion of the United States military by 40,000 employees, and recommends an across the board increase of budgetary funding for the military by $1.3 billion "to re-build America's military strength and counteract the imminent threat of terrorism in the world."
     March 4: The president signs into law the Economic Recovery Plan and Tax Equalization Act (ERP-TEA), maintaining existing tax levels for Americans earning $600,000 or less, while reducing tax liabilities for those earning over that amount.
     March 5: Romney bows to the will of food industry giants, Sanderson Farms, Pilgrim's Pride, and Tyson Foods, by de-funding all federal government inspections of poultry farming in the U.S. This, the president claims, eliminates needless bureaucratic expense and streamlines the food industry when it is most in need of increasing its ability to meet the nation's rising demand for food. This action, he claims, will not only speed the food production process, but will reduce the cost to the consumer, helping to alleviate the difficult economic conditions "left to us by the previous administration."
     March 15: The president signs into law a budget to dramatically reduce the government programs that require for their maintenance a continued borrowing from nations like China. This new budget--known as the Big-Bird Budget--makes an across the board cut of 25 percent in funding for the federal agencies in charge of Commerce, Education, Agriculture, Labor, and Health and Human Services. Slightly less drastic cuts of 20 percent are mandated for Transportation, Veteran's Affairs, the Department of the Interior, the Federal Trade Commission, the Social Security Administration, and the Environmental Protection Agency. The budget for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) is singled out for a deeper cut of 50 percent.
Funding is eliminated entirely for each of the following independent agencies and government corporations:

Corporation for Public Broadcasting
Advisory Council on Historic Preservation
National Endowment for the Arts
National Endowment for the Humanities
Corporation for National and Community Service
Election Assistance Commission
Federal Labor Relations Authority
National Science Foundation
Commission on Civil Rights

And that would just about wrap up Mitt Romney's first couple of months of work as President of the United States. He would be due for a three-week vacation at Camp David "with a few close friends," where he could plan the possible accomplishments of his next few months in office.

  This article cross-posted at and

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Tertium Organum: Best Book I've Read

I have finished Tertium Organum. With as little time available for reading as I have, that's a major accomplishment. But this is the most important book I have ever read, so no matter how short the reading-time installments, this kind of book is worth the effort.

Tertium OrganumTertium Organum by P.D. Ouspensky

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

View all my reviews