Archive | January, 2012

Government Of the People, By the People

Today’s diatribe takes a little while to unfurl. So take a deep breath before reading any further. DO NOT READ THIS WHILE DRIVING.

The History of the United States began with Dutch merchants creating profit-making colonies, Englishmen fleeing oppression for their religious beliefs, and Frenchmen, curious as to why anyone would deliberately live in a wilderness when they could live in France.

The history of the nation expanded with Irish, fleeing starvation; Scaninavian/German/Polish landless farmers seeking land; innumerable eastern, southern and Mediterranean Europeans fleeing otherwise inescapable poverty and oppression; and, slaves.

The rift between slave-holders and non-slaveholders was apparent by the time the Declaration of Independence was signed. It was addressed, with increasing acrimony, in every piece of territorial legislation until 1860, when acrimony overcame legislation and the urge to beat some sense into the Other Guy overwhelmed the process of government.

The Civil War was fought over two opposing idealisms. Within the sometimes brutal bigotries and exclusions of the times (no women were welcome in the workplace, for instance), it still broke out this way:

– In the North, all men were equal. No one was considered intrinsically superior to another.
– In the South, some men were considered superior by birth; genetically superior.

That’s what it was all about.

Everyone believes at some level that This Family/nation/people is The Best There Is. It’s probably unhealthy to think otherwise, at least, while you’re growing up, but it’s a lousy form of government. In fact, it’s the basis of all monarchy.

Even in the face of the well-known bloody, murderous histories of almost all the crowns of Europe, up until 1915, belief was still fervent throughout the continent that royalty ruled through “Divine Right” – because They were better than Everyone Else, A coup was no more than Trial By Combat, don’t you know. Keep in mind, the Europeans invented The Dark Ages.

One of the main reasons Europeans came here was freedom to govern their own lives, to rule themselves. When you examine Lincon’s wartime decisions, you find they all reflect his belief that this nation needed to stand for individual equality. That was the basis for his eventual abolishment of slavery. This nation, alone in the world in its declaration of freedom for all, was among the last Western government to permit enslavement of part of its populace.

Self government requires The People to operate the government.

To be candid, our government scares the shit out of me. I couldn’t even begin to operate it. I feel the same way facing a voting machine I’d feel looking at a control console for Hoover Dam, or the New York City subway system. I’m not much more responsible operating a voting machine as I would be piloting a 747. Or so it seems.

That’s why our legislators don’t have term limits. We’re all thinking, “I can’t run this thing!! They’re pros. Let them do it. They know how to get things done. ”

[here insert hollow laughter]

Maybe that worked for a while. It wasn’t the way it was intended, though, and it doesn’t work now.

Legislating was never supposed to be a full-time job. Senators, Representatives, at neither the Federal nor the State levels were supposed to be full-time employees of the government. That’s what Civil Service workers are for – to keep track of everything, so that part-time legislators can get things done.

Just ask yourself: if you were Eric Cantor’s father, and he brought hom the kind of report card he could show you today, how would you feel? What would you do, now that spanking is reserved for private entertainment?

See, Eric Cantor walks like a suburbanite, talks like one, too. He looks sort of like You&Me. He could work in your bank, your accounting firm, your car dealership. But, he doesn’t. He works in the Federal Congress, as one of its decision-making executives.

He’s not eligible to work there.

He’s not One Of Us. He’s not actually one of his own constituents. He’s got other things on his mind.

We are no longer being governed by our peers. Ever since the late 50’s, Congress has voted itself pay increases that would make Teamster officials blush, if they still could.

Legislating is supposed to be part-time work for civic-minded citizens. And we should live in a world that doesn’t require every second of our lives to pay for it. And it’s up to us to demand it.

Aw, shit. Here I was amusing myself, and suddenly I’m trying to Mean Something or another.

See, I was in the middle of a piece, where the Costa Concordia was wrecked because one of the passengers with a cabin next to the bridge was listening to a Rick Santorum podcast, and the engine-room telegraph line suddenly just snapped.


GOP Mass Debates Out-Do Themselves

On the eve of the New Hampshire primary, the Republican effort to undermine the elective process bent the envelope of American credulity to new standards of bloated surreality by conducting not one but TWO public mass debates within twelve hours of each other.

“You know you’ve been to Looneyville and back when people think Rick Santorum is saner than Rick Perry,” said Dr Phineas Windsock, of Amherst.  Dr Windsock went on to characterize the performances as “four hours of communal, mental self-abuse.”

“I’ve done this sort of thing myself, of course. We all have. But that’s when we’re eight, and at summer camp,” he said. “It’s part of the explorations of youth. As such, it’s understandable. And, when we did it, we made sure we were out of sight of the adults.” Dr Windsock, holder of a PhD in Philosophy from Willard Scott University, is currently the weekend manager of Adele’s SpeedStop and Gas, in South Hadley, just outside Amherst.

“Personally, I was impressed they could get it up for a second round,” said Geraldine Swinbourne, of Bayou Lucie, LA. “Especially that Ron Paul. He must have more lead in his pencil than I thought. On a Sunday morning, even I usually sleep in.”

Michael Vickky, President of the Upper Gutchkee Chamber of Commerce and an ardent supporter of the debate system, said, “Hey, it’s kind of like putting six ferrets in a 55-gallon drum and spraying them with hot sauce.”

Absent from this weekend’s double-dip, Michele Bachmann sent best wishes to all the candidates from her vacation home on Mars.



Alone in Armenia

I’m working in WordPress 2.3.1.

Whenever I open my administration page for this website, I am greeted with “WordPress 3.3.1 is available! Please update now.” As you can see, there are two links here. Presumably, they are here to help me Do The Big Update.

Some weeks have passed since I last had to take this nightmarish software seriously. My wounds are closed.  Thanks to some superb nursing, and the secret knowledge of  a South Carolinian herbalist, most of my scars are invisible. Nevertheless, I am cautious, even chary, as I approach the interface. I know these people for what they are, namely, deranged gearheads, hooked on PHP and XML,  living lives of junk food and 5-Hour-Energy (or, worse, Red Bull) in windowless soundproofed basement rooms reeking of cigarette smoke because the 23-year-old “boss” smokes four packs a day. I’ll have to progress inch-by-inch, ever on the lookout for loose ends of razor wire whipping my face and concrete blocks lying at cockeyed angles under the muck, waiting to trap my feet and rip the tendons out of my ankles.

The first link goes to a promo for the New&Improved WordPress version. There’s no information I need here. Its presence pisses me off more than I am already, and I’m mighty pissed off.  WordPress’s WestCoast tendency to provide promotional copy rather than the instructional help needed makes me want to kill. The ramp-time from “Gee, OK, how do we do this?” to “How much force does it take to push my thumbs through your c-spine?” shortens to instantaneous.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. What’s that second link do?

WordPress Updates

Last checked on January 5, 2012 at 8:31 pm.   Check Again

Important: before updating, please back up your database and files. For help with updates, visit the Updating WordPress Codex page.

If you’re like me, you’d expect the next phrase/link to be about “How To Backup Your Database And Files.” However, the next sentence here is,

An updated version of WordPress is available.

This is what I was warned not to do until I backed up my db&files.

So I click on the ‘back up’ link:

Database Backup Instructions

Don’t you believe it.

But they do let something useful slip through their groovy and really friendly foggy “information”. “Your server…”

Got it. WordPress doesn’t have a backup interface for the database. Do it yourself, on your server.

That’s all they need to say. Instead, they give links to every control panel currently in use so that users can do shit with their own files on their servers. What do I know? Maybe they’ve got some information I can use, after all?

My server uses “cpanel” to administer stuff, so I click on the “cpanel” link for more instructions.


On your main control panel for cPanel, look for the MySQL logo and click the link to MySQL Databases. On the next page, look for phpMyAdmin link and click it to access your phpMyAdmin.

cPanel Access Databases

cPanel Access to phpMyAdmin

Can you see how to access your WordPress database? Never mind that my cpanel doesn’t look anything like this. It’s been ‘upgraded’ twice since this now-useless screen grab was made. Never mind that ‘backing up’ a database consists of exporting an XML textfile to your computer, and you need to click on “Export”, once you’ve found your WordPress database, and there’s nothing called ‘backup’ in the phpMyAdmin interface. WordPress provides specific instructions every bit as useful as those above for all those other interfaces, and then, pages later, tell you what my ISP support told me in the 26 words italicised above.

That’s why you need an ISP with strong, 24/7 live customer support. To protect you from WordPress.


That’s only half the backup process. We still need to find and back up The Files. Stylings? Copy? I’m not sure what “and files” means.

I have all the copy in its original textfiles. The pictures are all in their folder. What I don’t have are any Categories, Tabs, external links, etc. But: wouldn’t they all be in the db?

How about the formatting? The WooTheme I’m using (“Canvas”) – where’s all that shit?

I’m gonna have to check with my Woo Guru. She’s in London, I think. 5 hrs ahead.


 Oh! I think maybe I have it! After scrolling down until I can’t scroll any further, I’ve come across a link (fourth in a column of seven) – “Backing Up Your WordPress Files“. It goes to another page.

“There are two parts to backing up your WordPress site: Database and Files.” it says. I find it reassuring.

“Everything that has anything to do with the look and feel of your site is in a file somewhere and needs to be backed up. Additionally, you must back up all of your files in your WordPress directory (including subdirectories) and your .htaccessfile.”

That’s cool. But if I’m backing up all the functional software, all the programming and everything, what’s going to be “upgraded”?

Slowly comes the dawn. I’m “backing up”. In case something bad happens in the upgrade to 3.3.1, I can at least go back to 2.3.1 and try my upgrade again.

See, if everything goes right, I won’t need this backup. Ever. If things go wrong, however, it may save my ass. Fine. I can deal with that.

What’s confusing me, I realize, is that I didn’t install WordPress on my server. My ISP did.

Back to the phone: “Do you do this, O Provider of Internet, or do I?”

Well: I do. OK.

Only one other thing to check. Where’s the WooThemes stuff? As I back up the javaScript and the php, I see it flying by. Fine.

Then – and only then – do I notice, at the top of the administration ‘dashboard’, the menu item. “Updates”, it says; and when I roll over it, “2 theme updates” are mentioned under the pointing finger. Sheepishly, I click.

“Hi, you’re done, Welcome to 3.3.1. Watch for the wonderful new features…”

Good programming. Very flexible. Still developing, and I think doing a damned good job. Awful documentation, though. You’d think, software for writers, there’d be more instruction in the manuals.