Tuesday, October 31, 2023

Is Halloween A "Death Cult". WSJ Hack Barton Swaim Claims It Is - And Why He Comes Over As A Puritan School Marm


                                                "I control Barton's brain! Yes, I do!"

                                            "Halloween is a damned industrial death cult!"
                              "Gimme a treat, Swaim, or I'll TP yer house!

The inimitable WSJ op-ed hack Barton Swaim is at it again, this time taking shots at Halloween  ('Down With Halloween's Ironic Death Cult.') arguably the only secular holiday of the fall-winter  season.   Swaim opens his screed with the following babble:

"I’ve never been a fan of Halloween. In recent years, as celebrations have become darker and more gruesome, I’ve started to dread its onset.

Part of my aversion arises from my own hidebound premodern Calvinist outlook, in which death is no laughing matter and necromancy is forbidden by God (see Deuteronomy 18:9-13). Forgive my Puritan sensibility, but I find the whole spectacle ugly and offensive and vaguely sinister. What sort of “holiday” deliberately terrifies children with images of murder and ruin and treats torture and death as a joke? "

Sheesh! Give it a rest, boy.  It's fantasy, get it? Kids are releasing their inner terrors via publicly sanctioned cosplay, and it serves powerful purposes. As my tenured psychology prof niece put it when I asked her about Swaim's objections:

"Kids exposing themselves to a nonexistent fear object and making fun of their fears by cosplay in Halloween, allows them to simulate their fears, or reenact them by pretending. This entails enjoying the sensation of fear based on a sense of safety. To put it another way, it is 'a way to play with emotions and fears without risking any real cost'.  Especially in this era of insanity and mass school shootings it provides a powerful release mechanism – which only a scold or puritan would deny."

So can we conclude Swaim is a scold? Yes, we can, and also a confirmed ideologue and theocratic -leaning, Calvinist-style drudge.  As when he goes on:

"I grew up in the 1970s and ’80s, when Halloween consisted of trick-or-treating, jack-o’-lanterns, apple-bobbing and maybe a viewing of “It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown.  Halloween has since become a kind of industrial cartoon death cult. Its appurtenances—candy, costumes and yard ornamentation, including giant skeletons and faux cobwebs for the shrubbery.."

So what, son? I grew up in the 50s, and relished many of those same things as well as wearing my favorite red devil mask - which I must have put on for 3-4 years while collecting pillowcases full of candy.  In all the intervening decades I have not seen Halloween become an "industrial cartoon death cult" but rather a rationally understood public holiday in which participants can let off steam and  politics, religion don't enter. No squabbles with Uncle Boris about Trump like at the turkey day table, or arguments about what Christmas means with ornery Christian nationalists.   Hence, its saving grace is as the only major secular holiday that has the added benefit of discharging fears vicariously.  Capitalist ideologues need not apply unless of course they are Barton Swaim - as when he writes:

"Not being a Marxist, I’m reluctant to engage in class analysis. But it’s impossible not to notice that Big Halloween is a bourgeois phenomenon. Maybe it’s a matter of income, but I wonder if it’s also an expression of religious indifference."

Huh? What manner of monkey pissed in your brew, Barton? Marxism? Class analysis? Bourgeois phenomenon? You're overthinking Halloween and making yourself miserable while doing it. It's a welcome secular celebration predicated on spontaneous cosplay and a beneficial vicarious discharge of fears.  Which literally glut the nation at the moment making its importance even greater. An expression of religious difference? Yes, dummy, because the very essence is secular - not religious! 

 But leave it to Calvinist scold Swaim to take exactly that route as when he fulminates:

"Lower-income homes are far likelier to be observant, and religious people tend not to find amusement in images of hell, torment and butchery. An adjacent point: For the working poor—those struggling to pay their bills and hold their lives together—death isn’t so far away as it often seems to the well-off. In poor neighborhoods, people die younger. Experiencing so often the aftereffects of death makes one, perhaps, less inclined to celebrate it in an amusing communal ritual."

In fact in my observations lower income homes have been least observant and actually relished the opportunity presented by Halloween to stack up on candy goodies that otherwise weren't affordable. Also, none of these lower class folk obsessed over "hell" or images of it, only the chance to collect large bags of tasty goodies  that otherwise would have stretched budgets beyond repair.  Yes, in many poor neighborhoods people die younger, but it's not because of Halloween skylarking and candy collecting - but inadequate medical care.  Especially, in the red states Swaim adulates so much in his pathetic columns, which have pulled back on Medicaid benefits since the pandemic slowed.  Doing this by lowering the eligibility qualifications so that once a poor earner gets two jobs (or a better job) she is disallowed by making $16 an hour as opposed to $14.50 to qualify.

Swaim displays a further loss of his rational functions with the following blather:

"Halloween, in its present iteration, is the perfect holiday for secularized and affluent sophisticates: The supernatural isn’t real. Evil isn’t a lurking spiritual force but the consequence of bad societal arrangements or an underfunded education system."

Here again we see why Swaim is such a boring pain in the ass, interjecting his pseudo-religious bunkum into the tapestry of a secular holiday.  This capitalist Trumper freak can't tolerate the fact so many Americans love Halloween for being what it is - basically a safe holiday minus the freight of religiosity or politics - so he feels it's incumbent on himself to inject it.  And he's relentless in doing so.  

There is also an inescapable irony here in a guy who isn't scared shitless of Trump - who has vowed to end American democracy if he ever attains power again - and fantasy Halloween images on the tube. As when he writes:

"As I watched a National Football League game, one ad after another appeared for Halloween-themed horror shows. Images flashed across the television screen of a screaming little girl, an ominous figure with a long knife emerging from the dark, a man staring petrified at something out of sight. These scenes would have terrified me as a child. Why are we allowing little eyes to see them?"

Obviously, he forgot - or never processed - the endless similar TV ads that appeared in the 70s-80s or even the 50s-60s (though he can be excused for not recalling the latter as he didn't live then.) But I recall in the lead up to Halloween every year in Miami, "The Dungeon" coming on WCKT with its macabre host, M.T. Graves. Who would unravel kids' brains with his tales of blood while showing images too - of Dracula rising from his grave, of Frankenstein etc.

But Swaim writes such scenes would have "terrified him as  child", yet now as an adult he's quite ok with a serial traitor who's already incited an insurrection, e.g. 

Should Trump Be Held Accountable For Fomenting Terror Strike On Capitol? Yes - No Less Than the 9/11 Terrorists

And has now vowed to butcher what's left of democracy in this country. Indeed in my Nov. 23, 2021 post I skewered Swaim's WSJ piece ('The Impossible Insurrection', p. A13, Nov. 21-22),  wherein he actually wrote this debased twaddle:

"Trump won the nomination in 2016, and even more his election to the presidency, was an anguished outcry against decades of aggressions. It wasn’t wise or sensible, but it was understandable as a frantic attempt to stay the hand of an uncompromising cultural leftismThe leftward-inclining elites who dominate American institutions didn’t interpret it that way. They classified it, as they had classified the tea-party revolt of 2009–10, as an expression of racism and hatred,"

In an earlier iteration ('Trump and the Expert Class', Jan. 22-23, 2021) Swaim was just as clueless, claiming that Trump "never praised Nazis", while seeming to forget  or dismiss   the extremist protest in Charlottesville, Va., in 2017, when Trump said there were “very fine people on both sides.” 

His blather here shows why no one should take his yammering about Halloween fears seriously. Certainly not if -  even today with a presumably more functional brain-  he treats a veritable existential threat to our democracy so frivolously. 

Finally, at the end of his kvetching - realizing he's sounding like a Puritan school marm -  we behold:

"Nobody likes a scold.....But the yearly observance that used to be Halloween has taken a dark and unwholesome turn."

Sorry, Barton, you're still a scold. And the worst kind: One who picks the wrong target at which to direct his officious opprobrium.

See Also:





An illustrated guide to surviving an attack by Dracula, the Mummy and other monsters


Scams are targeting teenagers. Here’s how to keep your kids safe.


Friday, October 27, 2023

Robert Reich Nails The Reason Too Many 'Muricans Are Turned Off By Biden


                        Civility-sanity or madness, that's the choice next November!

In an Associated Press-NORC poll last month, 77 percent of Americans overall and 69 percent of Democrats said Biden is “too old to effectively serve” a second term. Indeed, I had noted this in a previous post,   

Note To Age-Biased Voters: It WILL Be Biden Vs. Trump Next Year - And Don't Even Think Of Sitting This One Out - Or Voting 3rd Party! 

and then queried how the hell this could be, after quoting Financial Times columnist Jemima Kelly who wrote (Sept. 3rd):

"Trump may be guilty of sexual abuse of women, lying, cheating and insurrection but he "also has all sorts of redeeming features: charisma, charm, relatability, huge stamina and the ability to be very funny, among other things.

Basically conceding Trump's feral, bombastic and aggressive nature is what has earned him polling advantage among too many American voters, especially in the age category. But still it doesn't fully account for why so many are so 'lost at sea' when Biden has performed far beyond any realistic expectations of what any president could have done the past 3 years - faced with the same problems.  Some of the reasons for this were explored in a post a month later, when I lambasted comedian Bill Maher's nonsense calling for Biden to pack it in:

But now, in a recent contribution to Substack, former Obama Treasury Secretary Robert Reich (see link at very end of post) has nailed what I am convinced is the most plausible explanation for why so many are turned off Joe Biden despite his many accomplishments (including one of the most superb speeches to the American public, pleading for the support of the "indispensable nation" last week). Reich in his blog post wrote:

"This raises a third theory: Biden doesn’t communicate in ways that today’s media and much of the public are able to hear.

I think there’s a lot to this.

I’m old enough to remember when President Dwight D. Eisenhower talked to the nation. Despite Ike’s flat delivery, which was often punctuated with throat-clearing, the public listened and responded, usually positively, because Americans in the 1950s were able to process non-emotive messages. They might disagree with him, but he gave reasons for what he did or proposed and invited voters to deliberate rationally.

The media of that era felt duty-bound to transmit those non-emotive messages.

By “non-emotive,” I mean messages that are straightforward. They don’t cause the recipient to be entertained or inspired, don’t play on fear or bigotry or any other strong negative emotion.

This is no longer the way the media transmits information or how Americans process it. Now, a message has to pack a wallop to be heard.

Everything Trump says and posts is designed to spur an emotional reaction. His anger, ridicule, and vindictiveness are intended to elicit immediate, passionate responses.

Trump gets attention because the media lives off emotive messaging. The more charged the message, the more likely viewers will stop scrolling. The fiercer the words, the more likely readers will take notice.

Joe Biden still lives in the world of rational, non-emotive messaging. He has been in politics for 50 years. He is steeped in rational, conventional argument — the kind Dwight Eisenhower delivered.

When it comes to “messaging” about his accomplishments, neither Biden nor his surrogates do the emotive work that our media ecosystem demands and the American public is now primed to respond to.

When voters tell pollsters they think Trump is “stronger” than Biden on foreign policy or the economy, the “strength” they feel comes from the emotions Trump stirs up — rage, ferocity, vindictiveness, and anger. These emotions are connected to brute strength.

Biden projects strength the old-fashioned way — through mature and responsible leadership. But mature and responsible leadership doesn’t break through today’s media and reach today’s public nearly as well as brute strength."

Which sums up the media disparity between what we behold now and what was accepted 60 plus years ago. In 2 words: "Non-emotive messaging".   People watching the 1960 Kennedy -Nixon debates, for example, as I did, expected no histrionics from the participants - like we beheld from Trump in a 2020 debate, e.g.

Trump The Racist Thug Proves He's Unfit To Debate - Or To Lead This Nation

By contrast, the Kennedy-Nixon debates were almost sedate, but viewers were glued in to the content not the emotions.  Readers who wish to see a sample of the first 1960 JFK-Nixon debate can do so here:

The First Kennedy-Nixon Debate of 1960 - YouTube

Thus, two different media worlds, one (today) which panders to bombast and emotion, the other which elevated reason and discourse. No pacing around, like Trump displayed in his debate with Hillary in 2016, nor any attacks directed at the moderator.

I explored some of the similar aspects to what Reich covered in a February, 2021 post:


"the propaganda strategies used, like rallies, have stayed remarkably the same, even as information mediums have changed. Mussolini used newsreels, Hitler used radio, and Trump had used Twitter, with his misspelled words and grade-school vocabulary playing into his “everyman” persona.

Over a century, a central paradoxical truth seems to hold: The more skilled the leader is at mediacentric politics, the more his admirers see him as authentic, as real.  This also opens the door to swallowing his lies especially if repeated often enough."

All confirmed by Mr. Reich in his post, especially in gravitating to entertainment news that spiels propaganda (i.e. FOX), as well as too many having already been radicalized by Trimpkin hate, e.g.

Republican radicalization takes its toll

See Also:

by Robert Reich | October 24, 2023 - 7:17am | permalink


by Rebecca Gordon | October 26, 2023 - 6:39am | permalink

— from TomDispatch

Sometimes the right wing in this country seems like a riddle wrapped in an enigma encased in a conundrum.

Do they want to strengthen the government in line with the once-fringe doctrine of the “unitary executive,” concentrating most official power in the hands of a president who would then rule more or less by fiat? That’s the fascist position.

Or would they prefer to destroy the government, to “starve the beast,” something anti-tax activist Grover Norquist used to call for decades ago


by Robert Becker | October 29, 2023 - 6:28am | permalink

Would a taped murder on Fifth Avenue shred cult loyalty by Christian nationalists, abortion-crusaders, gun fanatics, or anti-government extremists?


Don't Blame Biden For Ongoing Inflation -- And Why Only An Idiot Would Make A Big Deal Over Biden's AFA Fall


by Bruce T. Boccardy | October 29, 2023 - 5:48am | permalink


Media Angst

Some of the media are preoccupied with a baffling question; Why are Americans not celebrating the economic accomplishments of the Biden administration?

A poll from the Suffolk University Sawyer Business School and USA TODAY released this September reported that 70 percent of Americans believe the economy is worsening; 84 percent said their cost of living was rising.

The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Research reported this August that 36 percent of adults approved of the Biden administration’s direction of the economy.

A CNN poll this July reported that 58 percent think that his policies have exacerbated the economic conditions in the U.S. This is an increase of 8 points since last fall.

Highly regarded progressive author and radio talk show host Thom Hartmann asserted that the problem for the Biden administration is the fault of the corporate media to report those economic accomplishments.

The accomplishments are well, just not enough.

Many Americans do not recognize them for valid reasons.

It has been suggested that it is the result of a mass “menticide,” a scientific term from Latin meaning “a killing of the mind.” Webster’s defines it as “a systemic and intentional undermining of a person’s conscious mind.” Perhaps Americans are susceptible to the pathological normalization of lies spread by Mr. Trump and his collaborators.

Revisiting Fraunhofer Diffraction (2): The Diffraction Grating

  We now consider the case for diffraction with slit number > 2, which we describe as a diffraction grating.  Basically, we are dealing with the case of multiple slit interference patterns produced and it is of interest to examine the differences, e.g. from the single slit case, more closely.  The diagram (Fig. 1) below) is instructive:

Fig. 1: Multiple slit interference patterns

 In embarking on Part II we note first, from the diagram, that as the number of slits is increased, the primary maxima become narrower but remain fixed in positions (Check the abscissa values in relation to peaks). Note also that that the number of secondary maxima increases as the number of slits is increased.  The decrease in the intensity of the maxima - indicated by the dashed lines - is due to diffraction. 

In terms of practical applications, note  that any  arrangement of elements which is equivalent in its action to a number of parallel equidistant  slits of the same width is called a diffraction grating.   Not surprisingly, this feature makes the grating a powerful instrument for the application of spectral analysis, an aspect my 2nd year physics students enjoyed both at Harrison College and the Univ. of Alaska- Fairbanks.

In this case of a diffraction grating each of the slits gives rise to a separate diffracted beam – such as depicted in Fig. 2, but which are so narrow that the diffracted beam from each spreads out over a sufficiently wide angle to interfere with all other beams.

                                                       Fig. 2

 But it is precisely this property of dispersion that makes spectral analysis possible. In Fig. 2, suppose q is taken so that ab = l, the wavelength of the incident light. Then it follows that cd = 2l, ef = 3l and so forth. (Note the first order maximum occurs when ab = l.)  Note that the waves from all these elements, since they are in phase at the plane of the grating, are also in the plane along the oblique line AA’  and therefore all reach P in phase.

Now, if the angle q is increased slightly, wave fronts from the grating elements no longer arrive at AA’ in phase with each other. Note here that even a relatively small change results in almost complete destructive interference. Hence, the maximum at each q is an extremely sharp one.  If q is increased enough we find another maximum (2nd order) where ab = 2l, cd = 4l, ef = 6l etc. The wave fronts at AA’ are again in phase. It follows from this that we can write:

ab = ml

where m = 0, +1,+ 2, +3,, …… where m  is the order of the diffraction grating.

Then the condition for a maximum is: d sin q =  ml/d


 sin q =  ml/d

To see an example of such dispersion - how it works to separate different wavelengths, consider a grating which has  5 x 10 5 lines per m, and monochromatic light of wavelength 6 x 10 -7 m is incident.  Then we first obtain d (the spacing) by taking:

d =   1m/   5 x 10 5   =   2 x 10 -6 m

The various dispersed angles are than obtained by substituting for m, i.e. m = 0, m = 1. m = 2 etc.

Then: o = o.  

 q1 = 17 o        (e.g.  sin q1  =  1 ( 6 x 10 -7 m)/ 2 x 10 -6 m )

q2 = 37 o       (e.g.  sin q2  =  2 ( 6 x 10 -7 m)/ 2 x 10 -6 m )

3 = 64 o    (e.g.  sin q3  =  3 ( 6 x 10 -7 m)/ 2 x 10 -6 m )

 And a simple sketch of the grating image can show the dispersed wavelengths. Also that there is no  q4   given that the result is unphysical.  (I.e. this is impossible since no sine value for any angle can exceed 1).

Applying this condition across different orders m, one obtains the intensity graph shown below:

                                      Fig. 3: Intensity distribution for diffraction grating.

Example Problem:

 A grating with 1,000 lines/mm is illuminated by monochromatic light of wavelength 400 nm. How many diffraction images are produced?


 We have:  l  = 4 x 10-7 m and d =  1 mm/1,000 =

 10 -3 m/ 1,000 = 10 -6 m

Then: (10 - 6 m) sin q =  = 4 x 10-7 m

Therefore, the first diffraction image is at:

sin q1 =   4 x 10-7 m / (10 -6 m)  » 0.4

whence: arc sin (0.4) = q1 = 23o.6

The second diffraction image is at: sin q2 =  2l/d

And: sin q2 =  2(4 x 10-7 m ) / (10 -6 m)  » 0.8

q2 =   arc sin (0.8) = 53o.1

 For third order:

sin q3 =  3l/d =  3(4 x 10-7 m ) / (10 -6 m)  »  1.2

 But, this is impossible since no sine value for any angle can exceed 1.  Hence, only two images are produced, i.e.  of orders 1, 2.

Intensity Distribution for an Ideal Grating:

To obtain the intensity distribution formula for an ideal grating  we employ the method of adding complex amplitudes.  Then, denote the number of slits by N, and the phase change - from one slit to the next by d .  The resulting complex amplitude is the sum:

A exp(i q) =  [ 1 + e id   +  e i2d   +  e i3d  +.......     exp(i(N-1) d)

To find the intensity we must then divide by the complex conjugate, so that:

2   = a 2  {(1 - cos Nd )/  (1 - cos d)

Using:  1 - cos (x) =  2 sin 2  (x/ 2)    we write:

2   = a 2  { sin 2 (Nd /2)/ sin 2 (d /2)}  =  a 2 sin 2 Ng /sin 2(g )

Where - as in the double slit case- we let   =  d/ 2  =  ( pld sin q

Then a 2  represents the intensity  diffracted by a single slit.  After inserting its value:

a 2  =  A o 2   (sin 2 bb 2)

And we get:

I   =   A o 2   (sin 2 bb 2)  (sin 2 Ng /sin 2(g )

The intensity in a Fraunhofer pattern for an ideal grating.  To find the minima for:   (sin 2 Ng /sin 2(g ) we just note when the numerator = 0.  This occurs at:  N= 0, p,  2p,  3p, .....pp.  The condition for a minimum is in general:

=  pp / N

Excluding p-values for which p = mN.

The   p-values correspond to path differences: 

d sin q   =  l/N,   2l/N,  3l/N, ........(N-1) l/N,  (N + 1) l/N, 

Omitting values:  0,  l/N,  2l/N,......

Which apply to principal maxima.

Angular dispersion:

The separation of any two colors (wavelengths): l1  and l2 ,  increases with the order number. We express this separation using a quantity called the angular dispersion.  It is obtained by differentiating the grating equation with respect to l.   Then:  d cos q  dq     =   m d l

Or:  dq    = m /  d cos q

Or, using finite differences: 

Dq /D l   =    m / d cos q

This equation shows for a given small differences in wavelength  D l  ,  the angular separation  Dq  is directly proportional to m, and inversely proportional to the grating spacing d.

Suggested Problems:

1) A diffraction grating has 600 lines/ mm. Find the angle q for the second order maximum if yellow light of l = 550 nm is used. 

 2) Two spectral lines in a mixture of hydrogen (H2) and deuterium (D2) gas  have wavelengths of 656.30 nm and 656.48 nm, respectively. What is the minimum number of lines a diffraction grating must have to resolve these two wavelengths to first order (m= 1)?

3) Two spectral lines at 6200  Å.  (doublet) are separated by 0.652  Å.    Find the minimum number of lines a diffraction grating must have to just resolve this doublet in the 2nd order spectrum.

Remember  1  Å  =   10- 8  cm

See Also: