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Putin the Putz

Vladimir Putin’s an ass.  Ex KGB, authoritarian, hates gays, corrupt as fuck.  If he were American, he’d be a teabagger.  His actions in Crimea were totally out of line.  He’s like the little kid (I was like this as a little kid, too, but I outgrew it) who perked up in history class when it came time to study Alexander the Great and Genghis Khan, and thought “Someday I’d like to conquer the world.”



The fact that he’s getting away with it doesn’t make him any less of an ass.  There was no real need for Russia to take Crimea.  They had a naval base there already (as we have one in Cuba, which is even weirder), and their commercial shipping had plenty of access to Ukrainian ports.  Nobody was threatening to shut that down.  Russia gained nothing, except the thrill of conquest.

Now this.  He wants to start up a new internet, a Russian internet, because he thinks the Internet is a big CIA plot.  Good luck with that.  If he succeeds in setting up a Russian version of the internet, it will only be visited by Russian speakers.  Admittedly, that’s a pretty large number of people, but compared to the number of people who use the real internet it’s small potatoes.

Russian scientists are still going to want to use the real internet because, despite Russia’s great contributions to science over the years, the vast majority of the world’s scientists are not Russian.  Some are American, some are British, some are Brazilian, and Indian, and Korean.   If Putin doesn’t want Russia to fall behind in science, he’ll have to continue to allow access to the real internet.

Russian cat lovers are going to want to stay on the real internet, because there are so many cute photos of cats.  Putin may have a point that the CIA is using the internet to spy on everybody, but even the CIA doesn’t have the manpower to keep up with the sea of crap that is facebook.

Also, if he wants to separate Russian users from the rest of the world, he will be depriving thousands of hot, young, Russian women of gainful employment in the porn industry.  A loss for Russia and a loss for the world.

Putin’s past actions have shown that he may be enough of an ass to actually try and pull this off, but I’d rate his chances of success as doodly-squat.  Sure, a couple of countries – Iran and North Korea are the examples that spring to mind – have placed limits on the internet, but one should note that those countries are not doing so well in their international relationships.

Give it up,  Vlad.  You didn’t invent the internet, and you don’t control it.  The CIA doesn’t even control it, although I’m sure they’d like to.  If you try to turn it off, a whole lot of Russian people will be seriously pissed off at you.  Not to mention the rest of the world.

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Shakespeare’s Birthday? Well, Close Enough

Since I’ve got a book out called ’155 Sonnets,’ it’s pretty clear I’ m interested in Shakespeare.  Sure, there are lots of scholars out there who know more about his life than I do, but I’m interested enough that I would be remiss if I didn’t dedicate this blog to his birthday.

First of all, we don’t actually know if it is his birthday.  The first sonnet in my book is called “April 14th”, and it’s a birthday poem for Shakespeare, so obviously at the time I wrote it (sometime in the early 90s) I thought that was the date.  What we know is that he was baptized on the 26th, so the 23rd is a fair guess and it makes a nice story, dying on his birthday, a bookended life, so that’s the day people seem to have decided on.  Basically, his birthday is April 23rd at the latest.

Why does this matter?  It doesn’t, much.  If he was born on the 23rd, he was a Taurus, if he was born a day or two earlier, he was an Aries, but that’s not really relevant.  We have his work, and if we can’t figure out his personality from that, knowing his birth sign isn’t going to help.

Actually, there is a lot we don’t know about Shakespeare.

I celebrated the day by going to a seminar given by my friend, Alex Went, who has studied the man in far greater depth than I have, and it was pretty interesting.  He talked a bit about some different theories – was Shakespeare gay, was he a secret Catholic, did he ever visit Prague? – showed some slides, and then we had cake.

We  don't even know if this is really what he looked like

We don’t even know if this is really what he looked like

I’m pretty convinced, based on Sonnet #20, that he had sex with at least one man:

A woman’s face, with Nature’s own hand painted

Hast thou, the master-mistress of my passion

a woman’s gentle heart, but not acquainted

with shifting change, as is false woman’s fashion

In other words, I like having sex with you because you look like a girl but don’t go all crazy and shit the way they do.

He may have been a secret Catholic.  My understanding of Elizabethan history is that she had sort of a “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy with regard to that.  He certainly wasn’t an overt Catholic, since that was a good way to get your head chopped off, but he clearly wasn’t a fanatic Protestant, either.  (His wife was, but he didn’t like her much.  Their relationship stands as historical proof that the phrase “Behind every great man is a great woman” is nonsense.) I suspect he wasn’t any more religious than he had to be.  It certainly isn’t a major theme of his work.

As to whether he ever visited Prague, that’s something the literati living here like to talk about, but there’s no real evidence for it, or in fact that he ever left England at all.

In any event, he would be 450 years old today.  Or maybe at some point in the last couple of weeks.  Happy Birthday.

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The Case for Elizabeth Warren

First, Elizabeth Warren says, without any ambiguity, that she is not running for President.  That’s O.K.  There’s still lots of time for her to change her mind, for the moment it’s good for her to concentrate on doing her job in the Senate, the election is still over two years away, and there’s nobody, on either side, who has definitely said they are running.

Senator Elizabeth Warren (Democrat, from Massachusetts)

Senator Elizabeth Warren (Democrat, from Massachusetts)

Still, we can make some good guesses.  Hillary is running.  Maybe Joe Biden.  They’re both a little on the old side, but there’s no law against that.  There are 5 or 6 other Democrats who may jump in if they think they’ve got a shot.  On the Republican side, Rand Paul will run, Marco Rubio will run, and Rick Santorum will probably run, giving us all another chance to laugh at him.  Ted Cruz wants to run, but there’s a serious question about his eligibility and I’m pretty sure the answer is no.  He was born in Canada, to Canadian parents, which puts him in exactly the same boat as Arnold Schwarzenegger.

So, the Republicans are in for another joke of a primary season and whoever gets the Democratic nomination will win the presidency.  Which makes that Democratic nomination a really important goal.  Here are a few of the reasons I think Elizabeth Warren  is the best choice.

She has just written a book, called “A Fighting Chance.”  Writing a book, of course, is what originally brought public attention to Barack Obama, so maybe writing a book is the new prerequisite for the presidency.  I’m O.K. with that.  If you expect to manage the most powerful country in the world, you should be able to write a lousy book.  Hillary Clinton, of course, wrote a book, too.  But “A Fighting Chance” is a much better title than “It Takes a Village.”

Warren would satisfy two key groups within the Democratic Party.  Women who just want Hillary because she is a woman (which is a big part of Hillary’s base), would be able to rally around Liz Warren.  She is, in fact, a woman.  Also, Warren would appeal to people like me, who think that Democrats should stop being fucking wimps and start being Democrats.  A bit less like Obama and Bill Clinton and a bit more like FDR.

Republicans are  geared up to fight against Hillary, to wage a nasty, personal campaign and a Warren candidacy would leave them with nothing except “She’s really, really liberal” which they were going to say about any Democratic candidate anyway.

So, ignoring for the moment that there is a crucial congressional election happening this November and that a million things can change between now and 2016, I am going on the record now: Warren should run.  She would win.

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Ishtar, Eostre, Whatever. It Ain’t All About Jesus.

Yesterday (before going up to the cottage), several people had copied on facebook a little thing about how Easter is actually named after the ancient Assyrian Goddess Ishtar, goddess of sex and fertility and stuff like that, and the eggs and the rabbit are symbols thereof.  Then, today, I found this, from a site called The Belle Jar.

Rebirth of Spring, by Pable Montes

Rebirth of Spring, by Pable Montes

Well, it ticked me off for a couple of reasons.  First, she said it came from the page of “noted misogynist and eugenics enthusiast Richard Dawkins.”  I am a supporter of Dawkins because, seriously, we’ve got few enough atheist spokespeople out there and that’s what he’s really drawing flak for.  He’s not a “noted misogynist,” he’s a “noted atheist” and people who don’t like him say he’s a misogynist.  I don’t know.  Never met the guy.  And eugenics gets a bad rap because the Nazis believed in it, but there are degrees to these things.  When eugenics is used to mean “consciously trying to improve the future of the human race by paying attention to breeding” it is a very positive idea.  I married a smart woman because (among other reasons, obvs) I wanted smart kids.  Cows and pigs have made far more evolutionary headway over the last 200 years or so than human beings have, and it’s all down to breeding.  But when eugenics means breeding a blonde haired, blue eyed master race and killing everybody else (which I’m sure Richard Dawkins has never suggested) it’s a very bad thing.

The other reason it ticked me off, though, I must confess, is that it debunked something I had swallowed whole.  As I read through her piece (I’m assuming that a site called The Belle Jar is written by a woman), looking for things to attack her with (because I do that), I realized  that her basic premise is probably correct.  Easter is probably not  named after Ishtar, and we really have no idea how that was pronounced, because we weren’t there and there were no recording devices.

However (and she doesn’t disagree with this), Easter is a co-opting of ancient pagan festivals by Christianity (and quite possibly named after the Goddess Eostre).  Of course, there is going to be a Spring festival.  It’s the end of winter, flowers are blooming, creatures who lay eggs are laying eggs, and rabbits (and sheep, and many other animals) are having babies.  Humans can be born at any time.  Many animal babies are born in spring, so they will be able to consume lots of grass and get big and fat before winter.

One thing she said that I strongly disagreed with was “Most Christians…. know that Jesus wasn’t really born on December 25th, and they know that there were never any actual snakes in Ireland, and they know that rabbits and eggs are fertility symbols.”  Certainly not the Christians I’ve been hearing from.   They believe that Noah’s Ark is a true story, that the Earth is only 6,000 years old, and that we atheists are waging a war on Christmas, because it’s Jesus’ birthday and that’s that.

Still, she was right about more than she was wrong about and I give her credit.

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Easter Weekend

This will be an abbreviated blog because I am at the cottage in beautiful Cesky Raj for Easter weekend, so I am experimenting with alternate technology. I tried typing it on my kids ´ tablet but that didn ´t work very well at all with my fat fingers. I am aware that many of you regularly communicate in social media using your phones. You upload photos, add a comment, do tags, whatever the hell they are, and all between bites. I don’t see how you do it.  So now, I am dictating  this to my wife who is typing it on her iPhone. I promise you a real blog tomorrow.

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