America’s Cult of Ignorance


asimov-culture-of-ignoranceIsaac Asimov wrote in the 1980s: “There is a cult of ignorance in the United States, and there has always been. The strain of anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge.”

He describes a sad history of vilifying erudition, then Adlai Stevenson, now Barrack Obama; as well as unthinkingly accepting the proudly nonintellectual like yesteryear’s George Wallace or today’s Donald Trump.

The hippies gave us “Don’t trust anyone over 30”. By the time they were well into their 30s, community began to fall away to isolation. They shed their beads, donned work wear and started saying “Don’t trust the experts”. Hence the onset of the age of fear of elitists.

In 1980, Asimov wrote, “As soon as someone shouts “elitist” it becomes clear that he or she is a closet elitist who is feeling guilty about having gone to school.” While this is still true of elitist hunters within academia, it is also now true that many calling out the sin of elitism are expressing a deeply-suppressed shame for their own ignorance.

Asimov’s concerning message of decades ago has only amplified and accelerated in the current age of instant and global communication. Today’s levels of national willful ignorance and anti-intellectualism have risen to a legitimate national security risk.

Pay-to-Play Olympian


Di SilvestriAdmittedly, I didn’t recognize the flag of Dominca when I saw it waving at the opening ceremony of the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics. I did recall that Dominica is a small Caribbean island nation and that was about it. The man waving the flag did not look Caribbean. But the world is a beautiful mix of peoples, and race does not tell one’s full history. The event in which he would compete, cross country skiing, isn’t a Caribbean sport. Yet, Jamaica had famously produced a bobsled team that won the hearts of the world, even if it won no gold. When the commentators noted that the man carrying the flag wasn’t actually Dominican, I was curious. They went on to explain that Gary Di Silvestri has no direct link to Dominican ancestry. Rather he is a Staten-Island born, Georgetown/Cornell educated investment banker who blessed Domica with a little philanthropic benevolence. For this he was awarded citizenship. The rest is Olympic history.

Dominica is a small island nation. Unlike many of its more famous neighbors, Dominica is not blessed (or cursed depending on your perspective) with tourist-attracting idyllic beaches. It does however have hot springs, water falls, lush tropical forests and thankfully a national park system to try to protect these treasures. This is terrific for the natural environment and wildlife, but essentially useless to a country’s growth percentage. A nation will make money where it can. The Commonwealth of Dominica does so, as many of her neighbors, by offering tantalizing tax havens where accounts are officially sealed from outside eyes. They also offer economic citizenship to those seeking a valid second passport. For a cash contribution, Dominica will waive the 7-year residency requirement to gain citizenship. This costs $105,000 for a single applicant. Tack on another $25,000 for a spouse or dependents. This allows the Dominican “citizen” to travel to around 90 other nations and territories without a visa. This is just the sort of benefit that would appeal to the kind of people who feel the need to seek tax havens in the first place. Dominca has specifically designated Government Approved Economic Citizenship agents to help clients, or soon-to-be citizens, with all the paperwork.

This is likely the sort of philanthropic outreach that garnered di Silvestri his Dominican citizenship. It likely required deeper philanthropic passion to secure the title of Olympian. Although, di Silvestri claims the Dominca Olympic Committee approached him and his wife, knowing they were cross-country skiers and apparently the best Domincan snow-sporters in the world to represent their country. Granted, di Silvestri and his wife must be able skiers; they did have to qualify to compete after all. However, this pay-to-play approach seems to undermine the meaning of the Olympics. Before one can carry the flag of a nation in the Olympics, one must carry the flag in their hearts. That is not to say there is no room for immigrants in national sports. Countries like the U.S. and Canada would not be the winter Olympic powerhouses they are without immigrant national athletes. These athletes worked hard in the nations they came to represent.

Of course there are occasional situations where there is an athlete who plays the official citizenship card to represent a smaller country with a conveniently less dense pool of competition. More often than not, there is a family connection. The Briton who chooses to represent Egypt where he/she or his/her parents were born, as just one example. Gary di Silvestri’s Olympic scheme is something else entirely. It is in particularly poor taste because, at its essence, it is a rich guy taking advantage of a poor country to boost his own interests.

In a way, it is like modern global economics itself. Wealthy bankers boosting their bottom lines on the backs of the browbeaten. This pay-to-play reality also embodies, more and more, the Olympics as a political power. The oligarchs of Russia have the cash to finance the games and subsequently to silence, or at least marginalize any critics. The rest of the world for the most part looks the other way, because after all everyone is going to benefit from this little quadrennial banquet.

There has developed a disconnect between Olympians and Olympics. As the Olympics as a corporate machine becomes increasingly corrupt, the Olympians themselves still represent the best of who we are and what we can achieve through hard work and fair play. Di Silvestri undercuts this balance and puts the athlete square on the side of the opportunistic corporation.

Reflections, September 13, 2001


Two days after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, holed up in my Bangkok apartment, I spewed my thoughts and feelings down on paper. I wanted to relate my perceptions for my family and friends back home. Red Smith said, “There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and open a vein.”  It’s true the writer has little control over what comes out and where it flows.  Well, I suppose I sat down at my computer on Sept. 13 and opened my stomach if not a vein. What came out was a bile-filled mess that spewed in every direction. It reflects at the time my ignorance, my innocence, a desire for peace, a desire for vengeance. Confusion and shock. Sorrow, hate and love. 

Indomitable, September 13, 2001

There is a large upscale mall in Bangkok called The World Trade Center.  I was reading contentedly when the phone rang.  A close Thai friend told me that a plane crashed into the World Trade Center.  I immediately felt a shock but not the sort of shock you did when you first heard this.  I thought she was talking about the mall.  I am ashamed to say I felt the same kind of fleeting disbelief that I feel when I hear about another bomb in the middle east.  Sadness, horror disbelief but ultimately it is another people, far away.  Killing and dying for reasons I have tried to comprehend but can not and have grown weary of trying to understand.  I imagined a small plane crashed into the lobby of the mall.  Dead people, hurt people but surreal.  Then I heard her say New York.  Then I heard her say two planes.  Then I felt my heart rate quicken.  I remembered her husband is in new york city.  My mind raced.

Thai TV didn’t help much with explanation but the images I saw were the same that you saw and that told me all there was to tell.  Then it escalated, and escalated and escalated.

Celebrating Palestinians?  I don’t care if they are Muslim, Christian or circus clowns, they are celebrating mass destruction and Massive, massive death.

How has the world come to this place.  Where did we turn, what map have we followed that has left us lost in this stark place?

What brand of person can commandeer a plane full of people and slam it into a building full of more people sending rubble pouring over the heads of still more people.  What kind of person is this?  Where is the soul?  Moreover, what kind of person witnesses this and then pours out into the street in jocular glee, handing out candy to children and neighbors in celebration of such a dire, bleak act.

You loft your hands in the air and dance in the street over the greatest single act of malicious violence in history.

Ussama Bin Laden denies involvement but states that he supports the action.  –  Then, with those words, welcome to the row.  Accept responsibility for your beliefs and opinion.  You believe in killing the innocent in the name of god.  I believe in personal religious interpretation.  I believe in establishing a personal set of morals based on  a personal relationship with god butYou are, quite frankly, wrong.  You are, quite frankly,  insane.  You do not, quite frankly, deserve the life that god has given you.  You will not break us.  You can not conquer us.  We will all die before you sink your evil fingers into our homeland.  But that is what you want isn’t it.  So, bring that aggression to us.  Come and see what we can do.  See, how lazy and complascent our fat capitalistic asses are when we are pushed in a corner.  How dare you bring your mismanaged psyche and politcs to our yard.  How dare your extort the lives of OUR brothers and sisters for YOUR asinine Jihad?  How dare you kill in the name of GOD!

If they are as Tony Blair said, “utterly indifferent to the sanctity of life” then perhaps they do not deserve the life they have been given.  Perhaps their gift should be eradicated as well.  I swear I never thought I would feel this way, I never thought I would say it and possibly even TRULY BELIEVE it in my heart, but maybe it is time to extract an eye for our eye lost.

I can’t think that way…. but I do.

Bush: “quiet unyielding anger”

We have sacrificed for your skirmishes.  WE have tried to help mend your wounds.  WE have orchestrated meetings and open fists into open arms.

Right now my infolifeline to the world is cnbc – financial news pap.  They are the best I have here and all they talk about are  issues like what will the loss of all the personnel of morgan, Stanley Dean witter, what will that loss have to do with the market and the margin rate?  This is really disgusting.  Ah, my bottom line.  My portfolio.  My stock options.  Could I potentially profit from this bleak day?

What about the mother who won’t be coming from work again ever.  The father who won’t be pull into the driveway ever again.

Bitter enemies:  My country is hated

IF I have any bitter enemies in my life they would be the motorcycle taxi drivers here in Bangkok.  Our relationship could be better described as symbiotic tolerance.  But at the end of my darkest night.  My “bitter enemy” asked me where I was from and expressed his sympathy.  I don’t know how he had heard so quickly?  But…. He was sincere and I thanked him.

They took away our favorite skyline.  L.A has its pacific sunsets.  Chicago towers over rivers and plains.  Seattle points an honorable finger to the sky, to God.  But it is New York that welcomes the promise of each new day.  The city that never sleeps is awake each day to say good morning to life.  The twin towers, those perfect rectangles that reflected sunlight like mirrored sunglasses snugly upon a confident, happy face.

Past tense.

At night, those two dark monolithic silhouettes dotted with lights in the night sky.  Eternal, or so we thought.  Past tense.

They knocked those sunglasses off our face.  They have knocked us down.  We ARE hurt.  We have never been hit like this before.  But we are NOT knocked out.  We are dizzy.  We have faltered.  We will need some time.  But we are NOT finished.

Our great monolithic towers have crumbled.  They are gone.  But these were not the strength of America.  These are not backbone of our nation.  Perhaps this is what they represented.  They were intrepid symbols of a resolute people.  The symbols are gone.  So much life was swept away with these icons.  Yet, New York, New Yorkers, Americans remain to greet the sun, to welcome the promise of each new day.  Our eyes are blackened but the sun has risen again.  We squint into the morning light and we will move on.  We will continue.  When it is all swept up and played out, we will be stronger than our enemies ever imagined.  We are indomitable.

We’ve lost brothers and sisters, fathers and mothers, husbands and wives.  Humanity.

Obama Presses the Flesh


Obama and the Walmericans

On a recent outing to feel the pulse of America, President Obama mingles with the masses. He might have been better received if he’d forgone the casual button down shirt for a dirty wifebeater. A moment after this photo was taken the man pictured called a friend to share his experience. Unfortunately, the man was still talking to the president at the time. Awkward as it was the conversation was recorded, thankfully.

“Hey man, it’s Dale. Yeah, man. No shit? Hang on a sec, Mr. President. I got my buddy Terry on the other line. He’s watching us on CNN. Yeah man, sorry, go ahead. No shit!  That’s hilarious. Record it, dude. Yeah, he’s right here. Yeah man, he totally saw it. He was all like asking about some Japanese dude named Hokusai or some shit. No, man, I told him for reals. I was all like ‘Dude, my buddy Terry did this ink at his shop right here in Jersey. He was all like ‘Whatever’, but then he was cool. Said he liked it. Dude, don’t swell up on that shit, he obviously don’t know jack about tats. Yeah, that’s crazy shit, man. Yeah, that’s Diane. Dude, we hooked up last night. Dude, Obama keeps staring at her dog chain. It’s hilarious. Is she really?! Oh my God your right she is! That’s hilarious. Hey, that reminds me, dude.  Can I get my nipples done next week? Dude, I totally should have done it when I was in there yesterday. Yeah, I know you told me to. Yeah, I know, they’d be all over national television right now. Dude, shut up about it! Damn! Listen dude, I gotta go. No, man, you pick that shit up yourself. I got the president right here, dude. Dude! I gotsta GO! Later. [Hangs up] Shit! Yo, sorry about that Mr. President. What were you saying?”

Moammar Superfly Gadaffi?


E.U. Darling - Colonel Mu'hammar Al Quedahffi (or whatever his name is)

I can remember when Moammar Gadaffi was Mu’hamar Al Quadaffi.  A much more threatening spelling to 1980 American sensibilities. A name worthy of a makeover.  Just as in the aftermath of the Sept. 11 attacks, we finally paid enough attention to Al Queda  to figure out a standard spelling for its leader Osama Bin Laden.  Remember Usama Bin Ladden and all the other derivatives?   Gadaffi got a nice titular tweak along with a wardrobe change, all to match his rapid foreign policy shift.  He’d realized that if he simply stopped bombing airliners, assassinating enemies on foreign soil, and cooking up chemical bombs and dirty nukes western leaders would not only forgive him, but literally welcome him to their dinner tables.  So, he chucked off the Colonel’s garb for a dashiki and a meatloaf of a hat, an outfit that screams jovial oil merchant rather than backwater butcher.  By the way, if you are a dictator of nation with a powerful military at your command, why would you only rise to rank of colonel?  General, at least!  Superior Majestic Overlord even?  Colonel? Come on! You can do better than that.  How about a name befitting his former, if never publicly acknowledged, glory: Superfly?  After all, it’s high time his secret was out. Moammar Gadaffi, Mu’hamar Al Quadaffi, The Colonel, The Nutcase, whatever you want to call him is in fact Jimmy Superfly Snuka.  Just when you thought it was safe to go back into North Africa.  Here’s the proof:

A younger, leaner Gadaffi dominated the wrestling world under the name Superfly Snuka

An older but equally intimidating Gadaffi

A far cry from his glory days for sure.

And just in case you thought the old Colonel wasn't still deadly.