To Shantanu Narayen, Scott Belsky, Anil Chakravarthy, and all the other thieves at Adobe.

I bought one of the first versions of Photoshop back in the 1990s and upgraded to every version through C6. The software was good and the company reliable.

Then they went bad. They changed from selling their software to forcing users to rent it. That’s where I drew the line, refusing to go beyond Photoshop version C6.

Adobe had built into C6 a “validation” thing where, if you wanted to move your copy of Photoshop to another computer, you had to unload it, install it on the new computer, then validate it with Adobe.

I did exactly that a few years ago, but the validation was no longer automated. I had to call Adobe to validate my copy of Photoshop. When I called, I was told Adobe “no longer supported” version C6.

Nice. When I would try to use the software I would be blocked with the message that I had to validate it. Which meant calling Adobe service. Which meant being told they no longer supported that version.

Which means Adobe effectively stole my copy of Photoshop. It is no different than if they had hacked into my computer and dismantled the software.

That’s actually what they did, if you think of it in terms of “pre-hacking.” They built into the software an ability to stop me from eventually using it if I didn’t buy into their rental scam. I’m sure they cynically compounded this scheme in the secure probability that every user would eventually have to change to a newer computer. Exactly the kind of scheme that has caused many of us to lose all respect for American businesses. The only thing you can count on these days from American enterprise is greed and indifference to anything but profit.

As far as Photoshop itself goes I really don’t care all that much. There are a multitude of software programs that do the same thing and that cost a lot less. Some of the best are even free. A few years ago, no longer able to use Photoshop because of Adobe’s corrupt practices, I started using Gimp.

This stupidly named free software, in my experience, does everything Photoshop did. At the same time that I changed to Gimp I switched over to Lenux, an open source free operating system that replaces Microsoft Windows (another corrupt, infuriating piece of American crap that actually does not work in case you haven’t noticed). I’ve been very happy with those changes.

So all in all I’m better off disconnected from all Adobe and Microsoft products. Life is better without them, but I resent the way both of those companies are able to dominate and thrive through thievery and greed. American needs a consumer protection agency with teeth to advocate for us. But don’t hold your breath.

If you are using Photoshop, give yourself a break and move to open source software. You’ll be happier, less stressed, maybe even get rid of your hemorrhoids. And save a lot of money.

Modify the ResMed Airfit P10 CPAP Nasal Pillows face mask for a better fit

ResMed P10 Nasal Pillows face mask modified with cheek cushions and adjustable strap.

The purpose of this article is to show how one user of the ResMed CPAP P10 nose mask made the head straps adjustable, cut down the size of the harness to keep the top and back straps apart through the night, and added padding to prevent morning face lines.

As a long-time user of the ResMed CPAP machine I have tried many face masks. The one I have been using since it came out a couple of years ago is the Airfit P10. Or, as ResMed’s literature refers to it, the Nasal Pillows system.

I will refer to this as a “mask,” or “face mask,” but it is actually a nasal cannula because the business part goes into the nares, or nostrils, and there is no actual mask over the face. So even though I say “mask” you will know what I’m talking about.

ResMed P10 Nasal Pillows system.
Figure 1. The ResMed Airfit P10 face mask.

I like this mask a lot but it does have a few drawbacks. One is the one-size-fits-all approach that has infected so many American products. The strap that attaches to the cannula of the P10 comes in only one size, as far as I know. ResMed does make an adjustable headstrap for the nasal pillows but for me it falls far short in the way it adjusts.

The nasal pillows themselves come in the three standard sizes that we have all been programmed to think of as enough choices to cover the whole world of whatever the product is: small, medium and large. Whether that narrow field of choices adequately covers the universe of different nose shapes and sizes, I have no idea. The “medium” works for me so I don’t dwell on it.

The harness, which as I mentioned comes in only one size, is packaged with a couple of little plastic thingies that are supposed be used to tighten the straps if they are too loose.

I tried a long time to get those thingsResMed plastic clips for P10 mask. to work but never had very good results with them. I have never been able to get them to work the way ResMed says to use them; the straps just pull out of them. I’ve tried numerous other ways to use them, like tying them in knots in various ways. But that created uncomfortable lumps. And after the straps had stretched enough to require readjusting, the knots were hard to untie. Especially in the middle of the night.

So that’s the first problem. We need some way to easily adjust the straps, and to re-adjust when they have stretched too much to hold the nasal pillows snugly in position.

The second problem—these problems are not in any order, by the way—is the length of the strap. When it is not right for a particular head the over-the-crown part of the strap tends to slip down, wanting to join its twin strap at the back of the head. The back strap can also tend to slip upward.

The head strap is divided into two straps in its middle. The two places where the strap splits I refer to as a “Y.” The purpose of these two Ys is to provide a strap over the top part of the head and a strap behind the head down closer to the upper neck.

If the Ys are far back—that is, the sections of the strap between the cannula and the Ys are too long—the upper and lower straps won’t have enough of your head between them to keep them apart. This is for some people a second problem with the P10 headgear. The solution I have found for this is to shorten the strap at the cannula ends.

The third problem is that lines across the cheek can be caused by sleeping on one’s side. In my case these lines, caused by lying on the strap, would be quite prominent and sometimes would be visible all day. They could, I feared, become permanent. I don’t need any more lines on my face than I already have. This problem I have solved with pads, or cushions, the the cheek sections of the head strap.

When the CPAP head straps are too long

To deal with the first problem—some way to adjust the tightness of the straps on the head—I simply cut the bottom strap and added Velcro. Begin by removing the strap from the nose part. Here is the graphic from ResMed’s instructions showing how to do this.

ResMed instructions for removal of head strap.
Figure 2. Instructions from the ResMed P10 mask literature on how to remove the head strap from the nose part of the nasal pillows face mask. Fine these instructions and more here.
end of cpap head strap showing parts.
Figure 3. ResMed P10 strap removed from stabilizer struts. Note that the “Back of head” and “Crown…” parts of the strap applies if this strap is connected to the left side of the mask. These are reversed if the end of the strap as shown is attached the right side.

Figure 3 shows one end of the head strap removed from the mask. Both ends are the same. The end shown in Fig. 3 would be attached to the right side for use (but see caption).

The sides of the strap are different colors. The blue side goes next to your face and head, and the grey side is the outside. The older the strap the harder it is to identify these colors. Just remember that the buttonhole side of the strap is the outer side.

If you are modifying an older strap that has had some use, you will probably find that one of the two head straps is longer than the other. It is generally a good idea to cut that one and, when you are done, make sure it is on the bottom when you reattach the strap to the mask. If you need to shorten both the upper and the lower head straps then left-and-right is not an issue.

The straps are constructed of some sort of elastic material and I have found that cutting them with a knife is not easy. Scissors are.

Measure the strap you are going to cut and make a mark close to the middle if the amount of adjustment you need is not great. If you need you need significant shortening you may have to cut out a section from the middle with two cuts. That is, mark the middle and then make marks one-half the length of the section you will remove on each side of the middle mark.

Figure 4. Mark close to the middle of the strap where you want to cut. If you need to significantly shorten the strap you will want to remove a section, rather than make one simple cut. Cutting the strap in this picture, It would be best to select the upper strap since it appears to be longer.
Figure 5. Cutting the head strap to apply Velcro for an adjustable strap.

Once you have made your cut, or removed sections from both straps, attach the Velcro.

Figure 6. Velcro up close, in case you are not familiar with it. It is called hook-and-loop fastener and made of two parts. The “hooks” are on the left above and are the scratchy part. On the right of the picture is the “loops” part. It is soft. (es:Usuario:Alberto_Salguero, CC BY-SA 3.0)

I recommend you use a longer section of the loop part and shorter section of the hook part. Put the hooks on the side away from you head, the loops on the side facing your head. That way it should not scratch you in use. I suggest you use about a 3/4-inch piece of the hooks and 1½-inch for loops.

The Velcro tape I bought has adhesive on the back for sticking to cloth. It does “fix” after a while and be harder to pull off, but my wife sewed the pieces on to make them permanent. I can’t attest to the self-adhesion of the Velcro’s sticky back.

Be sure to cut the Velcro lengthwise to fit the head strap. If you don’t you may find it uncomfortable and tending to pull your hair out. If you are thick skinned and bald then it may not make any difference.

Figure 7. Strap cut and Velcro applied. The piece on the left is loops (soft), and the piece on the right is hooks (scratchy). Note that the right-hand strap is twisted in this picture. Another way of putting this is: one part of the Velcro is on the gray side, and the other part is on the blue side of the other strip. Do this to keep the strap from being twisted when connected.

When the top CPAP head strap keeps sliding down

Due to the shape and slope of the back of my head, the top head strap was always a problem. Tight or loose, during the night it would repeatedly slip down to the level of the lower strap on the back of my head. When that happens it is impossible to get an air-tight fit of the cannula at the nose.

I would wake up several times during the night, mouth as dry as Denver air in winter, and have to move the strap back up to the top of my head.

I found the solution was to shorten the distance between the ends of the strap and the Ys. In other words, for me the Y was too far back and needed to be moved forward.

Figure 8. One end of the P10 head strap disconnected from the nose piece. Make this modification to both ends of the head strap to stop the top strap from slipping down.

Cut the strap at the end of the buttonhole as depicted in figure 8. If you think the strap needs to be even shorter, adjust where you cut it accordingly. Use the end you just cut off as a guide to the location where you will cut the new buttonhole. HOWEVER–TWO CAUTIONS!

Caution one: Do not put the cut-off section on the absolute end where the cut is. Move it down an additional ⅛-inch or so. This is because your closure of the end is likely to take up more of the strap than did the original. So give yourself a little extra space.

Note: If after you have finished your modification and reattached the straps to the cannula you did not position the buttonhole ideally, you can fix it. If there is a wrinkle between the button and the end of the strap, the hole is too far from the end. Carefully make the hole longer toward the end. If the buttonhole is too close to the end, sew the buttonhole tighter and cut it an equal amount away from the strap end.

Caution two: Do not cut through both layers of the strap when you cut the new buttonhole. Put something like a popsicle stick inside the strap (it is a tube). That way you are cutting against a firm background and you will not cut through to the other side. I doubt that anything very drastically wrong would occur if you did happen to cut through the face side of the strap, but it is better not to.

Use a sharp, pointed knife to cut the buttonhole. The stuff of the P10 strap is tough. Make the buttonhole the same length as the original, or no more than about a quarter of an inch.

Once your buttonhole is made, and not before, sew up the end of the strap where you cut off the end. You can do the sewing by hand or with a sewing machine.

Make sure you have at least about an eighth of an inch from the end of the buttonhole to the closure on the end (that you just made by sewing it up).

Repeat on the other end of the strap.

When the CPAP strap creases your face from sleeping on your side

One of the nice benefits of sleeping with a CPAP machine is that it allows you to sleep on your back. Some people, however, never sleep on their back. And those of us who do, don’t do it all night.

Most of us spend at least a portion of our time sleeping on our side, and that means the P10 strap is going to be between your face and the pillow. And that in turn means you are likely to wake up with a crease on your cheek that looks something like a dueling scar.

Fixing this problem is fairly simple. All you need is a cushion on the cheek section of the P10 strap.

ResMed P10 Nasal Pillows face mask.
Figure 9. ResMed P10 head strap with face cushions (the fluffy white things) to prevent facial disfigurement.

As you can see in figure 9 I have added face cushions to the cheek section of each side of the strap. The cushions pictured here are made of fleece fabric and I have to say they are a bit too much. The fleece fabric is fuzzy and tickles my sensitive skin, so wife Christine made two new ones from a less fuzzy fabric. But the procedure is the same regardless of which material you use.

Begin with your chosen piece of fabric about 3 inches long and 2 inches wide. (You will duplicate these instructions for the second cushion.)

diagram for material to make cheek cushion
Figure 10. Material pattern to make cpap cheek cushion.

With the material inside-out and folded in half, sew a seam along the length of the material forming a loop or tube that is about ½ inch on the inside. It can be less (tighter) than this, but not by very much. Trim as much of the excess material as possible without damaging the seam.

Feed the tube through itself to turn it right-side out, putting the seam inside the tube so it will be away from your face when in use.

Now thread the end of the face strap through the tube.

Figure 11. Threading the face strap through the finished cushion. The pencil is dull to keep it from puncturing the closed end of the strap. I probably could have used the eraser end of the pencil for this.

Repeat for the other end of the head strap and your P10 should now look something like the headgear in figure 9.

Your head strap (straps, if you did both the top and back strap) is now adjustable. You have probably discovered that there is range of tightness that is best; not too tight, but tight enough to prevent leakage around your nose. You will find this much easier to achieve with this new, easier method of adjusting the straps.

A mugwump’s discourse on Republican dystopia

batcons at a trump political rally

I write this at a calamitous and dystopian time in America. A troglodyte Donald J. Trump of immensely meager quality occupies the U.S. presidency, a national election is just two weeks away, and he has threatened nothing less than a coup if he is not re-elected. He and his Republican enablers are busily destroying democracy at home with OrwellianBritish author George Orwell who wrote a dystopian novel Nineteen Eighty-Four. It was published in 1949 and contained many social and political dystopes that have recently come to pass. It is generally considered a bad thing to be Orwellian. tactics and vilifying us abroad while their corporate and Wall Street masters loot and pillage. Meanwhile the Democrats remain true to form by seeking safety in cowardly inaction. They back away from every fight so they can live to not fight another day.

“What’s wrong with these people?” Indeed, what is wrong with them?

Note: Role the cursor over underlined wordsSee what I mean? for further information.

Naive and uninformed voters

Driving past a neighbor’s house the other day I was surprised to see a re-elect Trump poster in their front window. They are both retired public school teachers, educated, reasonably intelligent-seeming, with grandchildren who are the focus of their lives. Those are all qualities one would like to think militate against being a Trump supporter.

One of them, when challenged about their Trump support, reportedly said, “What difference does it make? They’re all alike.”

That comment struck me as extremely naïve and uninformed, to put it charitably. How many other people I know, I wondered, are in their category (for lack of a better term). It reminded me of my long-ago experiences in Europe. I was a musician and worked all over Europe, but my home base was in Germany. So I was around, knew and interacted with a lot of Germans. This was in the 1960s, which was not really all that long after the end of World War II.

Germany’s Nazi past

Whenever I met a German for the first time, if the person was old enough to have been an adult during the war, I would wonder if that person had supported or been a member of the Nazi Party. Many of them must have been because just before the war 43 percent of German voters voted for Hitler and his National Socialist German Workers’ Party (the Nazi party). But there was really no way for me to know who had and had not been a Nazi because they never voluntarily talked about the past and it would have been a social faux pas for me to bring it up.

Hearsay was the only way I learned anything about Germans’ political positions before and during the war. A fellow musician, Igon, for instance, told me about three close members of his family who had survived the war. His older brother had been in the Hitler Youth, a Nazi organization infamous for its National socialist propagandizing of its members. His brother was still, at the time I knew Igon, fervently in support of Nazi ideals, although he was quiet about it and only his closest family members knew. The Catholic Jesuits would understand this. They’re the ones who say “give me a kid till he’s seven and we’ll have him for life.”

Igon’s uncle and mother had believed in the tenets of the Nazi Party up to and into the beginning of World War II but later came to regret their support. Like Igon, most of the Germans I knew who were too young to have been Nazis had stories of relatives and other people they knew who had at one time or another been Nazi regime supporters. I eventually concluded that there were three reasons — either altogether or singly — people came to regret their Nazi involvement or support: Guilt, embarrassment, and political correctness. But they felt that way only after their world began to crumble and the writing on the wall became evident to all except the most ardent supporters of the Third Reich.

About the Germans back then I was mostly just curious. Today my curiosity about Republicans is much more serious because it appears to me the United States is in a condition somewhat similar to Germany of the 1930s when the National Socialists were forming and coming to power.

“Deutschland, Deutschland über alles, über alles in der Welt.” Germany, Germany, above all, above all in the world. This is the first verse of the German national anthem, and it is now illegal in Germany to include it when the anthem is sung. “Germany above all.” That kind of sentiment is implied by “Make American great again”: Amerika über alles. And here is a typically Republican phrase from our own national anthem: “Then conquer we must, when our cause it is justLyric from the full version of “The Star Spangled Banner.” (And you thought you knew all the words to the U.S. national anthem.).”

The total social, civic and political disruption in Europe that resulted from fascism and nationalism has already begun in the Western world. Many find it easy to ignore reality and pretend everything is alright. It is not. Malevolent menMostly men, but there are plenty of malevolant women, too. have been elevated to positions of power, abetted by a largely somnambulant electorate in thrall to corporatists and thugs. There is in fact a national malaise that defies any description I can come up with. Today my fellow Americans are unhappy in a deeply unAmerican way. The country has drifted away from the sense of purpose and optimism that used to be its driving force. Its élan vital.

Liberal democracies and authoritarian tyrannies

Liberal democracies all over the world are giving way to sinister, horrifying authoritarian tyrannies. Barbarians are in the ascendance, breathing new life into fascist hype and blather, subverting language, eviscerating values, punishing courage and replacing it with their own loutish bullying, and blurring vision and critical consciousness with a relentless stream lies and obfuscations.

So who are these perpetrators of barbarity, and who are their supporters? What makes them tick? What can be done about them? These three questions have been on my mind a lot the last several years — since 1979, actually, when the Brits elected Margaret Thatcher, and 1980, when the U.S. elected a vacuous actorRonald Reagan who immediately began dismantling everything. The political road has been downhill ever since. The coup de grâce came in 2016 when America went berserk and elected a vile, phony dipshit president. That is, it will prove to have been the final, killing blow if Trump is re-elected in a couple of weeks.

[Update: Since I wrote this the election has been held and Trump lost to Joseph Biden. Trump is now busily proving his insanity by denying he lost. The Electoral College certified Biden the winner of the election and Trump has become the whiny Loser-in-chief.]

We know who many of these barbarians are, whether we want to or not. There are plenty of mad-eyed citizens loudly proclaiming their conservative convictions at the drop of a MAGA cap. Many are armed and dangerous. Not all conservatives are loudmouths, of course. Many are not first- or even second-brick throwers; they are malevolently quiet; lurking, mewling, say, in the anonymity of a Trump political rally or watching it on TV in their darkened homes. And there are clearly many who are closet conservatives and only occasionally feel strong — or deranged — enough to make their political position public. Like my neighbors who surprised me with the Trump sign in their window. After being challenged they removed the sign and have not been seen since. That was a disappointment because if people insist on being stupid I would like them to at least have the courage of their convictions.

There are conventional conservatives who strongly dislike Trump but who will vote for him because they prefer the poison they know over the poison they don’t. As far as I’m concerned that is an operational definition of shit-for-brains. Far too many on the political left also fall into that category, voting for whomever the Democratic Party tells them to. There is plenty of that kind of ignorance around; ignorance has become the primary stanchionWhen I was growing up in farm country a stanchion was a frame that held the head of a cow in place, especially to facilitate milking. Think about it. of American Society.

Mussolini and Hitler standing side by side.
Benito Mussolini of Fascist Italy and Alolph Hitler of Nazi Germany, c. 1939.

Sun Tzu, in The Art of War, said “know your enemy.” Americans don’t. Liberals don’t know much about conservatives and conservatives don’t know much about liberals. In my early adult years I was what today would be called a political operative. I ran, co-ran, and helped in numerous Republican electoral campaigns ranging from county commissioner to governor. In those years I had plenty of opportunity to observe Republicans of every stripe. My conclusion about them was that conservatives are hardly ever deep thinkers. They would almost always rather spend more of their time in action than thinking. Democrats, on the other hand, are more devoted thinkers but seem to have never seen a fight they couldn’t run from.

Based on my own experience — and on his high esteem among conservatives — I would say Russell Kirk’s 1953 landmark book The Conservative Mind is a good source of information about how conservatives think, their principal beliefs and principles in general, and how they differ from liberals. A brief and more concise online overview of Kirk’s idealized version of conservative values can be found in his article, “Ten Conservative Principles.” You can read a brief biography of Kirk in “About Russell Kirk.”

My reference to Kirk is simply to provide a readable source on mainline conservative values. In my opinion he was (he died in 1994) a middleweight thinker who, along with William F. Buckley, Jr. and the Kristols, did much of the (shallow) thinking for a long list of conservatives. (Frank Meyer, George Stigler, Milton Friedman, Phyllis Schlafly, George Will, Peggy Noonan, Nixon, Thatcher, Reagan, Bush … need I go on? Trump is not mentioned in this list because he does his own, well, whatever it is that passes for thinking with him.)

Conservatism and liberalism and the anterior cingulate gyrus

Mainline conservatives and liberals (as distinct from the radicals of either direction) differ in ideologies which in turn stem from differences in perception. We now have plenty of neuroscientific evidence — particularly in the form of functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) — that brain physiology contributes to, or even determines, conservative or liberal orientation. The cognitive styles of each are different and correlate with the size of the anterior cingulate gyrus (smaller in conservatives) and the right amygdala (smaller in liberals) in their brain. These differences are present very early on, perhaps at birth.

Correlations have been found even in very young children. Whether the differences are there at birth, or are the result of environmental influences, is not yet known. But this goes a long way toward explaining the hard-headed stubbornness of conservatives to any form of rational argument against their beliefs.

People with a relatively larger cingulate gyrus have shown in research to be more amenable to belief change. But not a lot! Take any fundamental tenet of conservatism and try to get a liberal to agree it has any merit at all. You will see the same intellectual brick wall for which conservatives are notorious. They just won’t pull a gun on you.

ambiguous figure-ground image
Ambiguous figure-ground. Some people see a vase, while others see two faces in profile.

The (probably) genetic differences between conservatives’ and liberals’ cognition explains why they see the world differently. Liberals see the glass as half full while conservatives see it as half empty. A more subtle test might be the way people see ambiguous figure-ground illustrations. Looking at the illustration on the left, the conservative initially sees a vase while the liberal sees two faces. I just made that up — which sees one or the other — but I’m probably right.

On the other hand, if one looks at an ambiguous figure long enough it tends to flip back and forth. One minute you might see the vase, then suddenly all you can see is two faces. Then it might flip back again. And so on. Does this mean that people can be conservative or liberal at will? Or if a liberal stares at at conservative long enough does he begin to look like a liberal? Nah. Not a chance.

Unless you can get them to look you in the eye for an extended period of time, and you do the same to them.

Eye-to-eye bonding

Eye-to-eye gazing causes positive affect and social bonding. You see it happening between just-born children and adults, and between pets and their people. Although it usually drives pet people nuts because they can’t figure out what their dog wants, just quietly staring at them. The dog doesn’t want anything, he’s just adoring you. Stare back and he’ll love it.

Just so you’ll know there is science behind what I am saying, here’s what happens. The eye-to-eye gazing causes the amygdala to produce oxytocin which is secreted by the posterior lobe of the pituitary gland. This is sometimes referred to as the cuddle hormone. “Cuz that’s what makes ya wanna do it, Dopey.”

Don’t try this eye-to-eye gazing with just anyone. Pick the wrong conservative and you might get shot. There’s a lot of that going around.

This might be a more practical example of the difference between conservative and liberal thinking: Observing themselves and fellow human beings, conservatives come to the conclusion that humankind is not perfectible and therefore must always be kept under control by external forces. On the other hand, the same observations by liberals convince them that humans are infinitely malleable and utopia is possible along with great individual liberty and freedom.

Cognitive predilections of liberals and conservatives

Cognitive predilections do indeed have a profound influence on what we perceive. We might see the same things but what we perceive can be quite different. We don’t see eye to eye, as the expression goes.

Liberals are optimistic about human potential whereas conservatives believe Edmund Burke was correct when he wrote, “…nothing could be more fatal to mankind than his success.” This at least partially explains the strong dislike conservatives have for anything that smacks of socialism. Liberals generally have less trouble with it. In fact, the Republicans have made themselves so hated by the thinking classes that there is now a whiff of democratic socialism in the air. Populations here and around the world are beginning to rebel against the predatory capitalism of neoliberalism which has concentrated much of the planet’s wealth in the hands of a hateful, undeserving financial elite.

The financial elite have found willing henchmen in evangelical Christians and batshit crazy conservatives like Moscow Mitch McConnell, Lindsey Graham and William Barr. I avoid listing Donald Trump because he is mentally disturbed and belongs in either an asylum (other than the White House) or just, you know, dead. [Update: Barr just resigned. Good riddance.]

Modern Republicans’ characteristics

Today’s Republicans are despised by the Left and frankly by everyone capable of finding their way out from under a MAGA cap in the dark. You know a Republican when you see one, but you might not have taken the time to inventory their characteristics. I’m about to do that. Keep in mind that no one is likely to be all of the things at any given time. Also keep in mind that there can never be a complete list because Batcons What else could we call them? They’re just batshit crazy conservatives, as opposed to just garden variety conservatives. lie awake nights thinking up ever new ways to be mean and obdurately stupid.

  • Facts are foolish. Batcons will always choose alternate facts when they don’t like the real ones. In fact, most facts are anathema to them because facts force reality to intrude on their fevered dreams.
  • Government is bad. The less there is of it, the better. Which goes to show the Batcon’s almost total absence of rational thought in light of the next point.
  • Batcons MUST have a leader. Clearly they will follow anyone who can properly feed and maintain their self-delusions. The only requirement is that the presumptive leader must (1) already wield some power; (2) be willing to throw the first brick; (3) be male; (4) be annoying, painful or destructive to everyone and everything hated by the Batcon (and that’s just about every intelligent, civil and worthwhile human on the planet); and (5) be generally as batshit nuts as they are. (Cf. Trump.)
  • Global warming is a myth concocted by prissy liberals “who think they’re so damned smart just ’cause they got college degrees and shit like that.” After all, climate change is normal and to be expected and, anyway, even if there were such a thing, it’s certainly not our fault.
  • Everyone but us is lazy. People have to be forced to make their own way. Nothing should be free. Anyone can get a job who’s willing to work and lift themselves up by their own goose-stepping bootstraps. Hence any form of welfare (except bank and corporate welfare, of course), free healthcare, or any other form of freely given largess will only subvert capitalism and put a dent in human ambition. Any weakening in a leftward direction must be resisted.
  • The death penalty is good. It helps cut down on the number of Negroes and Mexicans running loose, and other elements of the surplus population. An additional bonus is that it feeds the Batcons’ insatiable need to hurt and kill anyone who disagrees with them. (Why else would firearms be such a fetish, and absolutely essential, for them? There are other bases for a fascination with guns, of course, but that’s an unrelated topic.)
  • Commies, queers and darkies should be killed when they riot. And every left-leaning demonstration is to be considered a riot. What else are we supposed to do with all these guns? Oh yeah, and Mexicans too. In fact everyone who ain’t white like us. Probably Gypsies too [spit]. And the towel-heads (that’s Muslims to you, you over-civilized mugwump). [Okay, my bad. No Batcon is likely to know what a mugwump is. I’m a mugwump. A person who remains aloof or independent, especially from party politics.]
  • Socialists should also be killed. Capitalism, although only dimly comprehended by your garden variety Batcon, is the only acceptable system. Free markets and corporations should be unhampered by taxes and government regulation.
  • Guns are good. They are not to be controlled in any way, in case this needs repeating.
  • No universal healthcare. Like Medicare for all, for example. Again, in case this needs repeating: Freeloaders must not be encouraged. (Keep in mind that this sentiment is held even by the Batcons who are on Social Security and Medicare. They are supremely ignorant of almost everything except what they have been told to believe. And, being true believers, they believe fervently.)
  • The United States is a Christian nation. Everyone should be Christian just like us. A Christian theocracy in the U.S. would be just fine. Forget all that science and all those fake facts. Just pray (beats the hell out of having to actually think about anything because thinking is hard!).
  • Same-sex marriage and all forms of gender difference are bad. Forget all that alphabet crap lgbtqrsdbd…argh!
  • Batcons really, really hate logic, reason and rational discourse. Thus they deprive themselves of even the simplest understanding of civilization’s foundations and everything that is the result of several millennia of human thought, value and work toward a civilized world.
  • Batcons are driven by anarchic impulse. The world is so screwed-up, in their opinion, so far from being the way the garden variety Batcon would like it to be (not that they really know in any detail how they would like it to be), that only destruction can produce improvement. Anarchy is welcome.
  • Equality is unrealistic and unachievable. [A belief also commonly held by mainline conservatives.] That goes for every kind of equality. No two things in this world are exactly alike. You want to be equal, you should have been born a white male. If that’s not what you are, go back where you came from. And if you are a white Christian male, and you don’t agree with me on every single point, drop dead. Here, let me help you with that…
  • Utopia is impossible. [Related to the point above and also commonly held by mainline conservatives.] Not only is the concept of utopia unrealistic, it would be fiendishly boring if ever achieved. If no utopia is possible then any effort in that direction is a waste of time. THIS IS A KEY TENET IN BATCON THINKING! All attempts at liberal achievement are considered a waste of time, energy and — this is particularly important — resources, some of which either belong to the Batcon or are provided through taxes. Therefore they are to be stopped and eradicated at all costs. This partially explains why Batcons are so mean, cruel and despicable. At least in the view of anyone with even the slightest leanings toward Enlightenment values.
  • Batcons have a Manichean vision of the world. They are in an irreducible struggle between good (themselves) and bad (everyone else). There are no shades of gray.
  • Private property ownership is the foundation of all great civilizations. [Another belief held also by mainline conservatives.] An attack on the concept of private property is an attack on civilization. That is, civilization as interpreted by Batcon warped metrics, of course.
  • Compassion is for sissies. Don’t bother me with all that touchy-feely crap.
  • Wisdom is whatever I say it is.
  • Meta-cognition is stunted. Okay, this one is a toughie to explain to anyone who is not a cognitive scientist. It is the collection of mental processes that guide our thoughts. In addition to emotions, motives, and visceral responses, thoughts are also influenced by other thoughts. That is what meta-cognition is about. Meta-cognition helps us:
    — Check ourselves when we are wrong.
    — Investigate complex issues to gather a broader range of perspectives other than our own. Legitimately consider the diverse perspectives of those with whom you don’t agree.
    — Construct a big-picture view.
    — Recognize the limits of ones own knowledge and experience intellectual humility.

These, then, are at least a beginning list of the primary descriptors and characteristics of Batcons. There are others. There will always be others because Batcons do not have values. They entertain only the unfounded beliefs that have been handed to them by those who know how to manipulate and control them to forward their own selfish ends. Batcons readily and willingly serve the wealthiest, elitist elements of society.

Batcon mentality

A Batcon’s mentality can only be comprehended through an understanding of the mentality of his masters, whom Batcons will unquestioningly follow. No assault upon a Batcon’s beliefs and attitudes will change them except in the unlikely event the assault is from Batcons’ enablers. Batcons are notoriously hard to proselytize, once they have committed to their leaders, because they have been inoculated against any information that (1) deviates from their received dogma or that (2) does not come directly from their leaders.

Just as measles virus cannot invade an inoculated host vaccinated against it, new or opposing ideas cannot gain purchase in the mind of a Batcon inoculated against them.

Reasoned discourse with Batcons is a fruitless waste of time. The inoculation of Batcons has rendered all forms of logical discourse and reasoning ineffectual.

The recruitment of Batcons in America takes place primarily through conservative talk radio, Fox News, and social media (Facebook and Twitter). How talk radio came under the total control of batshit conservatism is a story in itself, and Fox News has long been recognized as a primary Batcon propaganda ministry. Batcons have voluntarily subjected themselves to thousands of hours of far-right-wing propaganda spewing out of these media sources. Few humans can withstand that kind of sustained, withering brainwashing.

Nascent Batcons are initially attracted to illogical tenets of batshit conservatism because it seems to offer them strength to compensate for their own unacknowledged weakness and vulnerability, and retribution against those they have come to hate. They are quickly and easily hooked. The daily media doses of far-right drivel indoctrinate them beyond redemption. Thus is constituted both their instruction and their inoculation against any and all opposing views. Like the citizens of North Korea they are soon beyond saving. There is no logical, reasonable, humane way to break through their self-chosen bubble of irrationality and hatred, and their sense of invincibility.

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They are frightening. Fox News, Rush Limbaugh, and the many conservative talk radio stations are frightened by their audience. They live in terror of the monster they have created.

Censorship, though, is not the solution. The way to combat bad ideas is with good ideas. But it is now obvious that Fox News and talk radio must be dismantled if we are ever to get control over the Batcon epidemic among the susceptible.

One of the reasons there is such a large susceptible segment of the American population is the failure of our educational system. It must be reconstituted and begin teaching children the Enlightenment values so essential to the kind of culture and society in which most people prefer to live.

So how many Batcons are there in the world? This brings me back to my earlier comments concerning my curiosity about how many of the Germans I met were ex-Nazis. How many Americans truly fall into the Batcon mental sewer?

There is no way to be sure and the number is constantly changing because, as with any structurally defined population unit, there will be at least a few on the fringes who slip in and out of the defined group, depending upon how they think the world is treating them at the moment. But here’s an educated guess.

Standard normal distribution curve showing conservative and liberal distributions
Standard normal distribution curve showing possible percent of Batcons in the larger society.

Begin with the assumption that the genetic tendency toward conservatism or liberalism is normally distributed in the population. As you can see from the normal distribution curve on the left, half of the population is conservative leaning and half is liberal. The beliefs and behavior of those in the very middle region of the curve might be hard to distinguish one from another, while those who fall into the farthest right and left are the more rabid cases; liberals on the right side conservatives on the left. On the farthest left are the Batcons. (Please note the intentional reversal of traditional “right” and “left” in the diagram.)

Considering the best evidence I have found (certainly nowhere near conclusive), I estimate the percentage of the American population that are Batcons to be nearly ten percent. About 75 percent of Americans are 18 or older. With a total U.S. population close to 330 million, that puts the adult population at roughly 250 million (or near-adult population, one could argue).

According to my estimate, then, there are close to 25 million Batcons in the U.S. I don’t think they are evenly distributed around the 50 U.S. states but if they were that would be about 495,000 in each state. You can see by the U.S. map below the political ideology of the population in each state. Whatever the distribution of Batcons actually is, there are plenty of them to go around.

Map of U.S. political ideology by state in 2020
United States political ideology by state in 2020 according to Gallup information.

To say that one out of every ten Americans are Batcons might seem a lot, but frankly I have the impression they are everywhere. Maybe it just seems that way because they are so noisy and obnoxious.

There used to not be nearly as many as there are today. About a half a century or so ago when I was active in conservative politics there were a lot fewer Batcons. As noted above, conservative talk radio and Fox News have really done a number on the American population, serving to divide as nothing else has since the Civil War.

And keep in mind that over and above that number are the hard-core conservatives who can still be plenty unreasonable. They are the people represented in the right-hand side of that 13.59 percent part of the curve (the second gray section left of center), between minus one and minus two standard deviations from the mean. (You don’t have to know about standard deviations if you don’t want to, just know that “deviations” in this context is a statistical term, not a slur on conservatives. At least, not intentionally.)

Batcons’ threat to society

Batcons are clearly a threat to civil society, a kind of threat that extreme liberals will never be. Not from overt aggression, anyway. It is the Batcons who are the domestic terrorists (they fashion themselves “militias”), killer cops, and kamikaze drivers into crowds of demonstrators. Most of them are too far gone to be converted into compassionate, thinking human beings. And they cannot be allowed to run rampant over everyone else. They can only be subdued, and to do that requires a massive, concerted effort on the part of those who recognize Batcons for the miscreants they are.

The more rational conservatives have already begun attempts to reign in the Batcons. There is widespread awareness that conservatives’ fortunes are sinking and American culture is turning against them. Their views, commonplace only yesterday, are coming under more and more condemnation. American conservatives’ redoubt, the Republican Party, has show itself willing to tear the country apart rather than face a bleak future of failure to win elections. Their main strategy is to narrow the electorate to give it a better chance of winning legislative majorities with a minority of votes. They have stacked the courts with incompetent, Batcon-leaning judges who can be relied upon to vote as their corporate sponsors direct. The henchmen of this disturbed and sinking order are the Batcons, and they must be constrained.

To get moderate conservatives on board with this will require shunning of Batcons, ridicule of them, and outright rejection by the rest of society. Only when Batcons are widely shown to be foolish and inept — and only when the Batcons themselves realize how foolish and inept the rest of the world considers them to be, even though they will never agree — will they pull in their horns and go back into philosophical and political hiding. They have to be forced back under the rocks from whence they came.

However, it is extremely important that things not be made to look hopeless for the more moderate conservatives. If they come to the conclusion that they will be permanently excluded from government by electoral politics, they may well reject democracy altogether. Some of the more benighted Republicans in Congress are already making disparaging remarks about democracy and representative government. Some of them would clearly rather bring down the whole national edifice than lose their cushy jobs and preference.

What it will take to get America’s Batcons on the run

The kind of concerted social demonstration needed to send the Batcons running will require participation by moderate conservatives, and to get them onboard will require a minimum of two things:

  1. Conservatives must not be made to believe that all conservative causes and concepts have forever been plowed under. There must remain a glimmer of hope for them and they must be made to believe that losing elections in a democracy is preferable to winning in a state of anarchy. Some might of course actually prefer anarchy under the delusion that their own personal “specialness” and exceptionalism will keep them on top of the heap. They must be disabused of such thoughts.
  2. Liberal extremism must be toned down. Liberal principles need not be abandoned, merely moderated and made less extreme. This does not mean there should be movement toward the middle in the way the DNC and mainline Democrats would like to see. That would merely be continuing to kiss the collective ass of the One Percent. Mainline Democrats — but not progressive Democrats and some Independents — have been doing that for too long. It is that prolonged butt-smooch that has contributed in large measure to what got us into the current mess in the first place. It must be avoided at all costs.

So changes will have to be made on both sides of the divide. But the biggest, most important changes will be required of the conservatives. They have already damaged their standing and reputation, perhaps beyond salvage. Already there are clear signs of many Republicans trying to distance themselves from Trump and his ilk. But whatever their fate, they must re-join the more humane segments of the people and embrace the tenets of liberty, equality, and reason. Batcons must be vanquished and dispersed, and anyone who sides with them should suffer the same fate.

NATO – Costly geriatric military alliance that’s lost purpose and meaning

nato flag

Sometime around next February the U.S. will send 20,000 troops to participate in a joint NATO military exercise in Europe called Defender 2020. There will be a total of 37,000 troops involved.

That’s 20,000 from us and 17,000 from the rest of NATO. There are 27 current European Union members 22 of which are members of NATO. So, what, five European countries are getting a free ride? And why are the European members contributing only 46 percent of the troops while we, the U.S., only one of 29 members, dishing out 54 percent of the personnel?

The national differences between European countries were put aside when NATO was formed after the last world war. But World War II ended 75 years ago and now those differences are resurfacing with a vengeance. Which detracts significantly from the primary objective of NATO has always been protecting the Europeans from Russia. It is time to call it quits. We can’t even protect ourselves from Russia’s vile influence (otherwise what’s all that noise about their interference in our elections?).

Besides, of total membership of NATO only Poland (and maybe France?) are contributing to the costs of NATO which they agreed to share a long time ago.

The NATO war games next February have been designated Defender 2020 but to me that seems disingenuous. The number refers to the year of course but I can’t help ruminating about the ophthalmological implication. It stands for perfect vision which we certainly do not have when it comes to anything military.

For instance, we are in the grip of global warming caused in no small part by the burning of fossil fuels. To that end Defender 2020 promises to make a significant contribution. Not to the solution but to global warming itself.

There is no way to even begin to estimate the carbon “footprint” of such a military exercise. Boeing C-17 Globemaster III jet planes will probably be used to transport the troops from the U.S. to, say, Ramstein Air Base in Germany. It will require 170 flights—yes, one hundred and seventy—to get the troops there. And of course they will have to eventually be brought back. What that costs us will never be made public by our government. In their mania for secrecy even public knowledge about something as silly [1] as the cost of one toilet seat to be a threat to national security. Conservative estimates range from 106 million dollars to over 200 million. That’s just for the transportation to get our well-heeled warriors there and back.

For what? Is it just a show of force? If that’s it it is not likely to impress anyone. When I was in the Army in Europe there were something like a quarter of a million of us there. Moving a mere 20,000 military meatballs a quarter of the way around the globe carries little threat to people like Russia’s Vladimir Putin or China’s Ski Jumping or whatever his name is (yeah, yeah, I know, it’s Xi Jinking; easily googled).

A typical U.S.-Europe round-trip flight produces between one and two tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) per person. You know, that much loved and adorable greenhouse gas that is killing our planet. So if we multiply, say, one-and-a-half tons by the number of U.S. troops involved we get something in the ballpark of twenty to forty thousand tons of carbon dioxide. I don’t know what the correct number will be—does anyone, really?—but it is a lot.

The United States Environmental Protection Agency says that “CO2 remains in the climate system for a very long time: CO2 emissions cause increases in atmospheric concentrations of CO2 that will last thousands of years.”

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What does that mean in comparative terms? The U.S. EPA calculator [2] tells us the amount of CO2 generated just to get the troops there and back will be the equivalent of the amount of CO2 created from generating the electricity used in one year by 2,395 U.S. homes. Or the burning of more than 21 million pounds of coal.

What would it take to sequester that amount of CO2 and keep it from entering the atmosphere? It would take 23,538 acres of forest a full year to do it. Or, if you were to plant 330,704 tree seedlings and nurtured them all into full and healthy growth they could sequester the CO2 in ten years. Or of course they could just not do this kind of stupid crap.

Our military is committing this rapine on our environment, and blowing countless tax dollars, all to justify their ability to re-fight World War II. Or to just keep fighting the endless wars predatory capitalism keeps coming up with to make ever more profit.

It is past time to put an end to all the war mongering warrior worship that has contributed so much to bringing us to the edge of extinction.

Starting now the Pentagon budget should be cut in half each year for at least three years, then re-evaluated. To do that will require replacing the current political leadership (?)—meaning Republicans and Centrist Democrats like Pelosi and Schumer—with people like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Bernie Sanders.

I realize none of this is likely to happen, even on the smallest scale. But, hey … I can dream.