The Town Scryer is a mixed bag of humor, socio-political observations and ephemera from the perspective of a eclectic Pagan veteran of the counter-culture.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

That's Indoctrination.

     As a result of being recently unemployed I have been watching the television lately, something I haven't done much of for some time. For the past few years my viewing has been limited to "Fringe" and films that I was interested in but didn't deem worth ten dollars plus a bank loan at the snack bar. It all started innocently enough. I have a friend who is a big fan of "NCIS". I had promised him I would check it out. One thing lead to another. Three months later I noticed a disturbing pattern. In all too many of the "police dramas" that I watched actual investigation was replaced by the convenient device of electronic surveillance. The investigator would call up the images on security cameras without leaving their office. A few minutes later they would call up the suspect's cell records in real time and then use his cell to track his movements. In the new series, "Hawaii 5-O", the leading man regularly has his girl friend in the US Military call up  spy satellite images to help him in an investigation.

    I was tempted to simply write the whole thing off to lazy script writers, but the phenomenon is too pervasive. What if the government is paying Hollywood to run pro-surveillance programming? If we see "the good guys" doing it on TV maybe we won't complain as Big Brother begins to watch our every move.

     "Oh come on now!" I can hear you say, "Those are the ravings of a paranoid!"

       What is stopping our government? It did exactly that with the War on Drugs for years and when it was revealed that they had been paying for anti-drug plots on TV dramas. few even took notice, let alone objected.*
    I wonder if Wikileaks will some day reveal that the Bush White House signed off on the "24" scripts. It would explain their obsession with torture.

    I am not necessarily saying that this is happening. What I am saying is that the actions of our government over the last ten years or so make it impossible for me to assume that they would not do it.

    It is a sad and terrible thing to have to admit that about one's government.

    Be seeing you.


Wednesday, December 22, 2010

High Crimes and Mythdemeanors

     Wikileaks and its founder Julian Assange have been in the news much of late. Much of the United States Government seem to want to arrest him, except for those who want to assassinate him. There are those who say that he is a journalist and/ or a hero, but few of them are part of the executive or legislative branches of government. A few people have pointed out that outside of some rather unusual charges in Sweden involving unprotected sex, he actually has not committed any crime. This has caused a lot of public prosecutors to franticly try to find something to charge him with. The current favorite is the Espionage Act of 1917, which had very little to do with busting spies and a lot to do with finding a way to throw union organizers and Socialists like Eugene Debbs into prison.

     All of this discussion seems to be ignoring two facts that strike me as being of more than passing importance: 1) Mr. Assange is not a citizen of the United States, and 2) He does not reside in the United States or it's territories or possessions and he was not on American soil when the alleged crime took place. Now lately we have on occasion, gone into other countries and seized their citizens on terrorism or drug charges  and tried them here. There is a technical term for this. It is called an act of war. If you don't believe me, read up on the early history of this country. The War of 1812 was at least in part caused by the British Empire impressing American citizens into the Royal Navy. Currently a dozen members of the C.I.A. stand convicted of kidnapping and other high crimes for acts of extraordinary rendition on Italian soil.

    There is no indication that the Obama administration has any intention of surrendering the agents involved. Extradition was ignored at the time of the trial by the Bush administration.

    Lately the phrase "American exceptionalism" has come to mean, "The rules only apply to those other people." That is why so many people hate us.

    Be seeing you.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

An Open Letter to President Obama

    Dear Mr. President,

   It was just under two years ago that I stood next to a young Black woman as she watched you, her eyes filled with tears of pride and joy, as you took the oath of office. I watched through the day as she worked next to me and the day flew by for her because her heart was, for a while, lighter than it had been. You were for her, at long last the fulfillment of Dr. King's dream. The day had come that her mother and her teachers and her preachers always said would come one fine day and my, what a fine day it was!

   What happened?

   Good men and women marched and were tear gassed and fire hosed and fucking lynched so that one day a man of African heritage might sit in that oval office. You owe them something more than being just another toady to the corporate oligarchy.

   You campaigned on HOPE and CHANGE YOU CAN BELIEVE IN.

    And so, trembling, we believed one more time. For some of us it will be the last time.

    You owe the people of this country more than slick promises and weasel words now that the time has come to fulfill the promises made, let alone those implied, in your campaign.

   Something more than jive.

   If you cannot do even this for the people who brought you to the power you possess we will find someone who will. Most of us are out of work now and we have lots of spare time. Might as well spend it manning phone banks and ringing door bells.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

There's An App For That

    With every advance in technology there is something lost as well. Often it is something that is not needed. Other times it may be something of value. There is always a trade. For example, Facebook allows us to keep in touch with one another and to find people that we had lost. In exchange we lose a measure of our privacy and we tend to neglect longer forms of communication. Cell phones allow us to never miss a call. They also make it hard to avoid the unwanted ones. They do something else that most of us never think about. They weaken our memory. I once had at least twenty phone numbers committed to memory. I now have three. I have only a basic phone. Those of you with high end phones are probably incapable of remembering an appointment without your calendar reminder. Come on now. Tell the truth.

    It has always been this way. The mariners of 500 years ago could navigate by finding the position of Sirius by day or night. They could see it by day. Now no one can. While this may be due in part to the presence of air pollution even on the high seas, it may also be because we no longer need to see it. The star has almost certainly not gotten dimmer.

    What if our reliance on electronic aids has weakened our ability to remember? Don't scoff. No one really understands how memory works. We aren't even sure all of it involves the brain. There are intriguing hints that some of it may be stored in the blood.

    What brings all of this to mind is that Alzheimers seems to be more common than it was twenty years ago. Perhaps this is in part due to the memory not being used.

     In any case, I wanted to write this down before I forgot it.

     Be seeing you.

Friday, December 3, 2010

A Shadow Falls Across My Path

   The days slide by
    Should have done,
    Should have done, we all sigh

    Warren Zevon- Accidentally Like a Martyr

      Some close friends of mine are sitting deathwatch over a stricken friend. He was brought down by a stroke when he had barely crossed into the vestibule of middle age. The mind skitters across the whole emotional spectrum in seconds upon hearing such news if one is of a certain age, that age being "too young to die", but old enough that it is all too possible as we have just been reminded once again. The wake up call to our own mortality is like being slapped in the face with a carp fresh from the refrigerator if it is a friend of long standing.

    So it is that I feel for my friends tonight. The slow, terrible waning of hope as it is replaced with glum resignation, the gallows humor lest we shed a tear that once shed opens the flood gate, I remember that place. It is walled up on the deepest corner of my memory in a place I seldom visit save on nights like tonight.

    In a few days these good people will, unless the truly miraculous occurs, begin to compose eulogies and testimonials. It is of these that I would speak to you, my gentle readers. Eulogies are too often filled with all the kind words and praise that we have waited a little too long to say to the living. That is why they are delivered with tears. If it is considered bad form in our society to speak ill of the dead it is equally certain that we are taught to be embarrassed to display affection for our fellow man while he yet lives--especially if we are male.

    One of my favorite scraps of poetry is from W. H. Auden:

    We must honor while we can
    The vertical man
    Though we value none
    But the horizontal one.

     The wheel of the year is about to turn again. In a few weeks the slow rebirth of the land will begin as the sun begins its return. Take a few minutes and tell someone, some friend or relation, how much they mean to you. They may already know, but it is still good to hear and maybe it will warm them against the cold night when their need is great.

     You may find that it warms you as well.

     Be seeing you