It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…”

but most of the time, it seriously sucks.

A few weeks ago I wrote about experiences that make living enjoyable(http://zacharykleinonline.com/personal-experience/my-cousins-comment/) but the past two weeks have left me a whole lot less enamored with the world I’m living in. Not simply because of the horrible Boston bombings and the incredible abrogation of civil liberties imposed upon our metropolitan area by the state, F.B.I. and myriad other agencies. This “shelter in place” (i.e. “lockdown”) had all the earmarks of martial law without being declared. And it makes no difference to me whether people were okay with it or not. Welcome to the rest of the world. Again.

I understand the need to capture bombers, the need to determine whether there are more explosives, whether there are more accomplices. All important, but important enough to run roughshod over people’s legitimate rights?  I don’t think so, but again, welcome to the rest of the world.

Worse, there were about eight murders during the manhunt totally unrelated to the bombs, but they only deserved a paragraph mention in the newspaper. No manhunt for those killers. No “shelter in place.” No 24/7 news coverage. No media trucks and hoards of reporters (finally, a good thing) surrounding the victims’ houses. Nothing.

Pick a day and just read the headlines of any newspaper, and what do you see? Pick a local news station and watch a compendium of who went psychotic and killed someone flash across the screen followed by a weather report and sports. Just your typical news.

But all the above is minor league shit compared to what we as a species do to each other every single hour of every single day. There are the drones blasting houses, bombs destroying villages, people fighting over whether or not countries ought to have the nuclear capability to destroy the planet.

We’re still negotiating whether it’s okay to have the weapons that can destroy the fucking planet!  Pick a continent, pick a country, pick a religion, pick a sect, pick an ideology, pick a people, and what do we find? Murder, mayhem, shattered lives, limbs, families. This is who we seem to be.

So this is why we sit on top of the food chain? To kill, maim, blow each other up and decide who can and cannot annihilate the world? Not content with simply slaughtering that which is supposedly on a lower rung, we aren’t satisfied unless we’re slaughtering each other. And we call this civilization? Sorry, we’ve left the realm of right or wrong, good or evil. Frankly, it all seems insane. Really, really insane.

And, for what? Sure, every war has its reasons, every religion a purpose to its blood-shedding, every ideology a leg to stand on, every invasion a rationalized reason, every country its enemies (well, maybe not Canada). So fucking what? Ultimately, is it really that important whose dick is bigger?

I haven’t even begun to list the atrocities our species has wreaked.

How a about a small sample of wars:

Index of Warfare


  Abyssinian War
Afghan Pakistan War
Algerian War
Alliance Afghanistan War
America Mexico War
America Spain War
Anglo Afghan War, 1st
Anglo Afghan War, 3rd
Anglo Boer War, 2nd
Anglo Dutch Wars, 1st
Anglo Dutch Wars, 2nd
Anglo Dutch Wars, 3rd
Anglo Iraq War
Anglo Spanish War
Argentina Uruguay War
Aztec War
Balkan Wars, 1st
Balkan Wars, 2nd
Balkan Wars, 3rd
Bishops War, 1st
Bishops War, 2nd
Boer War
Bolivian Guerrilla War
Bosnian War
Boxer Rebellion War
Brazil Argentina War
Bulgaria Serbia War
Burmese War, 2nd
Byzantine War
Carlist War
Castille Granada War
China India War
China Manchuria War
China Mongol War
China SE Asia War
China Taiwan War
China Tibet War
Christian Civic League
Congo War, 1st
Croatian War
Cyprus Genoa War
Dalriada Bernicia War
Egypt Crusaders
Egypt Iraq War
Eighty Years War
Ethiopia Somalia War
Falklands War
Flavian Emperors
French Indochina War
Grand Alliance
Gulf War, 1st
Gulf War, 2nd Gulf War, 2nd
Holland Sumatra War
Holy Crusades, The 1st
Holy Crusades, The 3rd
Holy Crusades, The 4th
Holy Crusades, The 7th
Huguenot Wars
Hundred Years War
Hungarian Insurrection
Hungary Byzantine War
Hungary Slovakia War
India Pakistan War
Jacobite Rebellion
Jenkin’s Ear
Korean War
Kosovo War
Leon Almohades War
Libya Chad War
Libya Chad War
Long War
Long War
Lothian Picts War
Magyar Invasions
Maratha War, The 2nd
Marcomanni War
Mercia Wales War
Mongol Hungary War
Mongol Hungary War
Mongol Khwarezm War
Mongol Korea War
Mongol Persia War
Mongol Punjab War
Mongol Samarkand War
Mongol Tibet War
Mongol Vietnam War
Moorish War
Muslim Rebellion
Mysore Wars, 1st
Mysore Wars, 2nd
Mysore Wars, 4th
Napoleonic Wars
Navarre Moors War
Nurachi Dynasty
Orange Dynasty
Paraguay Bolivia War
Peace Bureau
Picts Lothian War
Portugal Castille War
Portugal Moors War
Portugal Morocco War
Romania Moldavia War
Sand War
Scotia Bernicia War
Scotia Pict War
Scotland Ireland War
Scotland Scotia
Serbia Albania War
Serbian Uprising, 1st
Seven Years War
Sicilian Vespers
Sikh War, 1st
Sikh War, 2nd
Six Day War
South Africa Angola War
Spain Leon War
Spain Moors War
Spain Naples War
Spain Peru War
Spain Portugal War
Sri Lankan Civil War
Sudan War
Suez War
Suleyman’s West War
Syria Lebanon War
Taiping Rebellion
Ten Years War
Texan Civil War
Thity Years War,
Tripoli WarUganda Tanzania War
Uganda Tanzania War
Uganda Tanzania War
Valois Hapsburg War
Vietnam Kampuchea War
Vietnam War, 1st
Vietnam War, 2nd
Viking Invasions
  Visigoth Greece War
Visigoth Spain War
War Devolution
War Succession
War the Spanish Succession
World War, 1st
World War, 2nd
Yom Kippur War

And if wars don’t float your boat, well take a look at how we now live:

World Poverty Statistics

Total Percentage of World Population that lives on less than $2.50 a day 50%
Total number of people that live on less than $2.50 a day 3 Billion
Total Percentage of People that live on less than $10 a day 80%
Total percent of World Populations that live where are widening 80%
Total Percentage of World Income the richest 20% account for 75%
Total Number of children that die each day due to Poverty 22,000
Total Number of People in Developing Countries with Inadequate Access to Water 1.1 billion
Total Number of School Days lost to Water Related Illness 443 million school days
Child World Poverty Statistics
Number of children in the world 2.2 billion
Number of Children that live in Poverty 1 billion
Total Number of Children that live without adequate shelter 640 million (1 in 3)
Total Number of Children without access to safe water 400 million (1 in 5)
Total Number of Children with no access to Health Services 270 million (1 in 7)
Total Numberof Children who die annually from lack of access to safe drinking water and adequate sanitation 1.4 million
Year Ratio of People at Poverty to Wealthy Level
1820 3 to 1
1913 11 to 1
1950 35 to 1
1973 44 to 1
1992 72 to 1


We as a species don’t give much of a shit about anyone or anything but ourselves. I have mine so fuck everyone else, the planet as well, what the hell. And if we can manage it, what’s mine is mine and what’s yours is also mine.

Yes, there were great acts of kindness and caring in Boston after the blasts.There were people who risked their own lives to save others, but we all love our cheap running shoes and cell phones—and don’t really think about their expensive cost to the people who made them. I’m not condemning individuals per se; this is a condemnation of our species’ conception of humanity.

There was a time when I thought the first fish that took a breath of air outside the water was a giant evolutionary step forward. Not so sure any more.

And now let’s return to American Idol.


The play OPERATION EPSILON, is about the six months that an elite group of German scientists, including Werner Heisenberg and Otto Hahn, were confined in an English  country house after the German surrender which ended World War Two’s European chapter. These scientists had spent their professional lives in Nazi Germany working on atomic research, each with different takes on the so-called neutrality/purity of their work—though most often we hear them proclaim to simply be scientists and not the politicians who made operational decisions about their findings. Although the play (based upon transcripts taken from the bugged house) presents an extreme set of circumstances, after I saw it, I began thinking about the issues of morality that follow us all in our professional and daily lives.

Two characters who really caught my attention were Werner Heisenberg and Otto Hahn. When Hahn is informed privately by their guard that the United States had dropped the atomic bomb on Hiroshima, he burst into heart-wrenching sobs, believing that, as the person who actually discovered the fission of uranium and thorium in medium heavy atomic nuclei, he was responsible for the hundreds of thousands of deaths. Later that night when all the scientists heard the news on the radio, their reaction was stunned disbelief, then an angry debate about how the Americans could have possibly done the science when they, the Germans, were supposedly the top dogs. Those who were overt Nazis quickly turned on Heisenberg since his work had commandeered most available research funding while his calculations suggested the creation of a bomb was impossible. Virtually nothing was said that night about the devastation wreaked by the atomic bomb.

Later in play, when news reached the house that Otto Hahn had won the 1944 Noble Prize for chemistry, a joyous party ensued among the scientists and there Hahn was, proud as a peacock, about the very discovery that had sent him into a paroxysm of tears about all those dead Japanese.

Morally speaking, is science a special category because its findings turned into reality can directly affect people? And, if so, are these ethical issues limited to wartime? Or do pharmaceutical researchers have the same burden when they see their employers short-cut their way to creating products suggested by their work? And what about all the research that might be considered “benign,” like infant studies. Should all scientists feel responsible or be held accountable for the effects of their studies despite not making the decisions about how their research is used?

From where I sit science is not a special category because I believe the same issues of neutrality or responsibility is an everyday question for damn near everyone.

For the most part we don’t ask our foot soldiers to shoulder the moral weight of killing. Further up the military food chain, it certainly comes into play. “Just following orders” didn’t fly at the Nuremburg Trials. Even Errol Morris’s documentary, The Fog Of War, basically a two hour interview with Robert McNamara, raises these concerns. At one point McNamara, who was part of the decision making process that unleashed the firebombing of Tokyo where around 100,000+ of men, women, and children were burned to death in about one day, remarks, {Curtis} LeMay said, ’If we’d lost the war, we’d all have been prosecuted as war criminals.’ And I think he’s right. He, and I’d say I, were behaving as war criminals. LeMay recognized that what he was doing would be thought immoral if his side had lost. But what makes it immoral if you lose and not immoral if you win?

Once you step away from the obvious situations where people and their professions have live or die impact upon others, what happens to the question of our responsibility to identify our own moral imperatives? If the idea that “everything is political” and has humanitarian consequences, is it an artist’s responsibility to manifest his or her political/humanitarian point of view in their work? Certainly Picasso’s Guernica represented his as do many paintings by different artists, books by writers, plays by playwrights, and music by musicians.

But what of the artist who clings to the belief that it’s necessary to stand outside the society, culture, politics to genuinely express his or her vision? Or the journalist who believes it’s unethical as a neutral reporter to pull a child out of a fire? Are they simply refusing to acknowledge that morality is always embodied in their work, whether meant to be or not?

I imagine the issue of personal responsibility has raged throughout history. Certainly during wartimes, but not only. How many people felt an individual responsibility to publically condemn slavery? An individual responsibility to openly reject the oppression of children before child labor laws were passed?

Truth is, the list of issues is endless with no clear cut answers about the integration of morality into one’s daily life. We basically leave it up to the individual to decide their own responsibility to others on the planet. But I wonder if that’s really good enough to create a world without starvation, disease, and brutal wars.

And it cuts closer to home than that—albeit with different consequences. What about buying SodaStream from an Israeli company parked on Palestinian property? Or, the choice to abandon urban public schools by the middle and upper middle class? Or, our willingness to allow decent people to lose their houses because of institutional greed and avarice?

No one told us that being a responsible citizen would be easy. But difficulty can’t be used as an excuse. Had McNamara and his cohorts refused to fry Tokyo’s population, or refused to napalm the North Vietnamese, or if we refuse to allow the notion of amorality, despite morality’s incredible contradictions, might not the world be a better place?


This is the time of year where every major sports league has something exciting either taking place or about to. A kaleidoscope of starting times, match-ups, rival networks, and television stations bursting into sports bloom.

For me, it just doesn’t get any better.

We’re hours away from discovering who will be this year’s men’s and women’s college basketball champions. It’s exciting even though I have no dog in the games. Actually, I might be the dog myself, salivating at the excitement of a final contest. Like my cousin Hank says, we’d watch any final of any championship including sports we know nothing about. Badminton, anyone?

Football’s free agency has slowed to a crawl, but when it was hot there was a great deal of player movement, something that fans love. Trades in any sport often remind me of slavery—only these slaves usually end up with millions in their pockets after the musical chair game is finished. The team owners always end up with more, but hey, that’s capitalism for you.

And here come the N.B.A. playoffs where I do have a dog. A real underdog. The Boston Celtics are limping (literally our two stars, Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett on ankle injuries) into the final regular season games hoping to cling to the seventh spot so they don’t see the Miami Heat in the first round. Although the Celts have been amazingly resilient throughout the course of this injury-plagued season, losing eight out of your last eleven games with nine to go doesn’t bode well for playoff momentum. (But the games won’t be decided before there are the jump balls so the Celts still have a chance for another banner. Just don’t bet the rent. I sure ain’t.

I’m not much of a hockey fan until their playoffs, which, in this strike-shortened season, is almost upon us. I follow the Bruins enough to know a couple of trades brought the eventual Hall of Famer who is on the downside of his career, Jaomir Jager, to the team. Since I really don’t know too much about the sport I’ll have to watch some games just to see what he looks like. Of course, those games will be in the Championship Series.

Now, the absolute best! Baseball season has begun. Yeah, April is the cruelest month and playing ball with knit facemasks leaves a lot to be desired. But opening day (this year ESPN jumped the gun and turned it into opening night) is always the harbinger of spring and the hope that comes with it.

I know, I know, the Red Sox aren’t supposed to be very good this season. After a huge salary dump to the Los Angeles Dodgers at the end of last year, the Sox bought themselves a few second tier dirt-dog players in the hope of a better clubhouse attitude and a bridge to potential star minor league players. Not exactly a catbird seat situation. But virtually all 162 games have yet to be played so forgive me for not quitting on my team. I like our starting pitching despite potentially losing one to an injury during the first game he pitched (John Lackey). Love our bullpen big time, and one of our budding stars, (would be two except the Sox spent 9.5 million for a one year shortstop so Jose Iglesias will be sent down as soon as nine and a half is ready to play), Jackie Bradley Jr., a twenty year old outfielder, has started every game and held his own—especially in the field. I don’t know if they’ll keep him in the majors all season or send him down for more seasoning, but he sure looks like the real deal.

I’m certain that in every major league city, fans are doing what I do—thinking, hoping to find rationales for why their team will be in the race. You know what? That’s what spring is for—no matter the temperature. The thought makes me smile.

But it’s not just the rooting that grabs my chops when baseball season begins. It is, as I’ve written in other posts, the game itself. Which is why, when people rightfully complain about ticket prices, ballpark signage, refreshment costs, parking, and steroids, I frankly don’t give a shit. Truth is, I’ve been priced out of Fenway for a decade. Which is why for a buck twenty I buy MLB.com, which allows me to watch every team outside my home area for the entire season.

What I care about is how the catcher calls the game, how the pitcher is spotting the ball, the small adjustments the defense makes batter to batter. The game as a whole and the games within the game. I just love it.

So that’s it from this spring’s sports desk. I understand that what I’ve written isn’t for everyone—hell, Sue’s out there in the yard looking for a hint of green and searching for buds. But if Detroit plays in the World Series (her home town), she’ll be watching.

Heywood Broun: “The tragedy of life is not that man loses but that he almost wins.”


Or do we?

Last week during the N.C.A.A. Men’s basketball play-offs, Florida Gulf Coast University became the first 15th seed in the history of the Men’s N.C.A.A. to eliminate a #2 seeded team in the history of the basketball tournament.

Major media eruption! Not simply sports stations, but national news, local news, and talk shows. You couldn’t turn on the television or radio without hearing about the “Cinderella” story. Florida Gulf became America’s darlings—despite annihilating most of the betting pools throughout the country. No matter, they were the little school that could and did. And when F.G.C.U. clawed their way to the Sweet Sixteen, the media frenzy was overwhelming. Which actually made me begin to think.

Why when it comes to sports do people really enjoy and support underdogs, but seem to despise them in real life? (Sorry my sports’ fan friends—games are only real life to those who play them or work for or own teams.)

Perhaps ‘despise’ is too strong a word. Ignore works and might be a better term. How much attention has any specific family whose house has been repossessed received from the media—other than the very few who have made a huge public stink? No water cooler conversations about the hard working underdog who was the victim of mortgage manipulations by banks and companies who are apparently “too big to fail.”

In fact, where is the public outcry about the term “too big to fail or too big to jail?” Those institutions are over-dogs and I’m not hearing much anger about their oppression of our fellow citizens, much less their slice and dice of the economy which affected us all. Hell, that makes us the underdogs and we aren’t even rooting for ourselves. (Senator Bernie Sanders excepted.)

How often do people sit around the dinner table chatting excitedly about the pay differential between white males as opposed to women and Blacks who work at the exact same job for the exact same number of years? Yes, there are organizations that raise the issue, but it’s a long spit between an organization’s agenda and public fervor.

Unemployment. From where I sit, the only time that receives much attention is when it’s tied to a politician’s aspirations. Unless someone has a friend or relative out of work, I haven’t heard much support for those millions of underdogs. In fact, despite the absolutely clear evidence with regard to the lack of available jobs, I keep listening to bullshit about “If someone really wants to work, there are jobs out there.” Only jobs I ever hear about are “Welcome to Wall-Mart” and just try to make a living doing that. Even the Federal Reserve talks about 6.5% unemployment as acceptable. Acceptable to whom? Surely not one of those 6.5% underdogs.

Homelessness? People to step over, around, and avoid. Yes, here too there are organizations and shelters. Which have to constantly beg for funds. Where’s the hue and cry for these folks? And there’s sure no outpouring of bequests from the over-dogs about this either. Indeed, what I hear is pretty much “fuck ’em.”

Hell, we even have a ‘fuck ’em’ attitude toward those who can’t afford healthcare. Even the minor reforms that Obama initiated which added coverage for three million people was met with hatred. And some states are even refusing federal funds to extend their Medicaid program for their own poor.

Truth is, there are no end of examples where we don’t root for underdogs, but cheer those who make life miserable for most of our population—to say nothing about the way our country bombs foreign villages in order to save them. (See Iraq). This, along with no complaints about our support of dictators whose feet have been stomping on the necks of their people—for decades or longer. We support underdogs?

The only sense I can make out of all this has to do with a huge number of our people who actually identify with the overlords. A belief that they too can wind up on the top of the pyramid, though all evidence is to the contrary. An inability to get their heads around the reality that 5% of our population owns or controls 90% of our wealth (give or take a few % points). I guess we believe the club is still open. Ha!

So Florida Gulf Coast’s run gave all of us our collective misconception that we actually love underdogs. And we do—just not in the real world.