October 31, 2012

all hallow's eve . . .

A soul cake is a small round cake which is traditionally made for All Saints Day or All Souls' Day to celebrate the dead. The cakes, often simply referred to as souls, were given out to soulers (mainly consisting of children and the poor) who would go from door to door on Halloween singing and saying prayers for the dead. Each cake eaten would represent a soul being freed from Purgatory. The practice of giving and eating soul cakes is often seen as the origin of modern trick-or-treating. In Lancashire and in the North-east of England they were also known as Harcakes.

The 1891 song contains the following lyrics:
A soul! a soul! a soul-cake!
Please good Missis, a soul-cake!
An apple, a pear, a plum, or a cherry,
Any good thing to make us all merry.
One for Peter, two for Paul
Three for Him who made us all.
In 1963, the American folk group Peter, Paul and Mary recorded a version of this traditional song, titled "A' Soalin," whose verses include the following:
Soul, soul, a soul cake!
I pray thee, good missus, a soul cake!
One for Peter, two for Paul,
Three for Him what made us all!
Soul cake, soul cake, please good missus, a soul cake.
An apple, a pear, a plum, or a cherry, any good thing to make us all merry.
One for Peter, two for Paul, and three for Him who made us all.

October 30, 2012

Should FEMA be a political issue? . . .

Yes, of course. It is a political issue . . . Republicans want to send the responsibility back to the states . . . Democrats want the responsibility to be with the larger community . . . Yeh, it's a political issue, the difference between libertarian "I got mine, screw you" and the larger sense of community notions that we're all in this together . . . All it takes for a libertarian to become a short-term community-minded citizen, is a little need for help (check out Ayn Rand's history and Republican governors' conversions when their states have natural disasters) . . . but when the need is gone, it's back to the "I got mine, screw you" philosophy . . .

October 29, 2012

'Spiegel im Spiegel' . . .

Ry Cooder and David Lindley . . .


To win one World Series in this era of parity and expanded playoffs is hard. Two in three years bespeaks a continuity of success rarely acheived.
The Giants are the second team to accomplish the feat since the playoff field was doubled from four to eight teams in 1995. The other was the New York Yankees, who won three in a row from 1998 to 2000. The Giants, Yankees, Marlins, Cardinals and Red Sox have won multiple titles in the wild-card era.

The Giants also got hot at the right time, as many title teams do. They finished their run to the championship with seven straight wins. Their longest winning streak during the regular season was six.

And a group of players who spoke so often about "team" put their final rally where their mouths were.

Read more: http://www.sfgate.com/giants/article/SF-Giants-win-World-Series-3989059.php#ixzz2AgXTr8DB

October 28, 2012


Colcannon is traditionally made from mashed potatoes and kale (or cabbage), with scallions, butter, salt and pepper added. It can contain other ingredients such as milk, cream, leeks, onions and chives. There are many regional variations of this dish. It is often eaten with boiled ham or Irish bacon. At one time it was a cheap, year-round staple food, though nowadays it is usually eaten in autumn/winter, when kale comes into season. An old Irish Halloween tradition is to serve colcannon with a ring and a thimble hidden in the fluffy green-flecked dish. Prizes of small coins such as threepenny or sixpenny bits were also concealed in it.
The song "Colcannon", also called "The Skillet Pot", is a traditional Irish song that has been recorded by many artists, including Mary Black. It begins:
"Did you ever eat Colcannon, made from lovely pickled cream?
With the greens and scallions mingled like a picture in a dream.
Did you ever make a hole on top to hold the melting flake
Of the creamy, flavoured butter that your mother used to make?"

The chorus:

"Yes you did, so you did, so did he and so did I.
And the more I think about it sure the nearer I'm to cry.
Oh, wasn't it the happy days when troubles we had not,
And our mothers made Colcannon in the little skillet pot."


Armed and accelerating, the San Francisco Giants became the first team to throw consecutive World Series shutouts in nearly a half-century, blanking Miguel Cabrera and the Detroit Tigers 2-0 on a chilly Saturday night for a commanding 3-0 lead.
Hunter Pence, who scored one run and drove in the other during a 2-0 win in Game 2, drew a four-pitch walk to begin the second. It was a telling sign - Sanchez had not walked a right-handed batter since August.

Pence stole second, took third on a wild pitch and, with the Tigers' infield playing in, trotted home when Blanco tripled off the wall in right. Crawford looped an RBI single with two outs for a 2-0 lead, and Rick Porcello began warming up in the Detroit bullpen.

October 26, 2012


Hunter Pence: "We played good small ball today. We played a great game of baseball, had outstanding pitching and great defense and we found a way to get it done."

October 25, 2012

blue note in A major . . .

just so you know that I know . . . for A . . . based on the latest polls, color NV and OH blue for now . . . if the blue doesn't fade, that colors Obama President, regardless of VA, FL, NC, CO, IA and NH . . .

October 23, 2012

Sunny, shelter pup from Houston on boards in NYC . . .

I haven't seen the headline in the Chronicle, "Dog from Houston makes debut on Broadway" but then maybe the Chronicle doesn't do that type of story . . . too busy endorsing Romney and losing my online readership (long ago lost me as paying member of the home delivery paper) . . . long story . . . never mind . . .

The dog playing Sandy in the current revival of "Annie" on Broadway, is none other than the Houston native, Sunny . . . According to the current (October 22, 2012) copy of The New Yorker, Sunny was a pick of the litter (and I continue to read The New Yorker even though they've just recent endorsed Obama . . . go figure. She was first choice among three applicants:
... It came down to three: Sunny (who came from a shelter in Houston), Casey (Nashville), and a dog from Indiana named Bart Star ... Bart Star was eliminated. ... Sunny won top billing over Case partly because of the mournful black rings around her eyes - the perfect Depression mutt.
Bart Star was male and a little too easily aroused to be a good choice as a Depression mutt.

thinking on Galileo . . .

Saw this on The Raw Story: Six scientists jailed for failing to predict 2009 Italian earthquake . . .
Seismologists said they were horrified after six of their colleagues were sentenced to six years in jail for manslaughter Monday on charges of underestimating the risk of an earthquake that struck Italy in 2009.

“We are deeply concerned. It’s not just seismology which has been put on trial but all science,” Charlotte Krawczyk, president of the seismology division at the European Geosciences Union (EGU), told AFP.

The verdict struck at scientists’ right to speak honestly and independently, she said in a phone interview from Germany.

“All scientists are really shocked by this,” said Krawczyk. “We are trying to organise ourselves and come up with a strong statement that could help so that the scientists do not have to go to jail.

“People are asking, ‘Is this really true?’ ‘What does it mean for us?’ And, ‘What does it mean for talking in public about risks?’”

“People are stunned,” said Mike Bickle, a professor of earth sciences at the University of Cambridge.

Roger Musson at the British Geological Survey (BGS) said the verdict was “unbelievable”.

He and other seismologists said it was impossible to forecast an earthquake, and scientists pressed to give a black-or-white answer could unleash panic or lose all credibility if nothing happened.

“Seismologists are more or less reconciled to the fact that the chances of predicting when a large earthquake is going to strike are somewhat more remote than finding the Holy Grail,” said Musson.

Where is that damned grail . . . ?

let the fun start . . .

So you may think that the St. Louis Cardinals really belonged in the series this year and that the Giants are just plumb lucky . . . maybe, maybe not. It brings to my mind the last time I sat in Candlestick Park in 1971 and watched as Willie Mays made an amazing catch in the outfield saving an inning . . . I don't remember how he hit that night (or how Willie McCovey) hit but that catch is mental picture for me that rivals his best long balls . . . best all-round ball player. Best. Tigers will be uphill for this team but then the Cardinals were uphill also. Let the fun start.

October 20, 2012

Quote for 10/20/2012

Today's quote from thepeoplesvoice.org . . .
'Wall Street owns the country. It is no longer a government of the people, by the people, and for the people, but a government of Wall Street, by Wall Street, and for Wall Street.' - Mary Ellen Lease, lecturer, writer, and political activist, advocate of women's suffrage, Kansas Populist, a speech in 1890

wha th hell . . .

So this is what poetic justice really means. Utah's largest newspaper, the Salt Lake City Tribune Endorsement: Too Many Mitts
... Politicians routinely tailor their words to suit an audience. Romney, though, is shameless, lavishing vastly diverse audiences with words, any words, they would trade their votes to hear.


In the first months of his presidency, Obama acted decisively to stimulate the economy. His leadership was essential to passage of the badly needed American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. Though Republicans criticize the stimulus for failing to create jobs, it clearly helped stop the hemorrhaging of public sector jobs. The Utah Legislature used hundreds of millions in stimulus funds to plug holes in the state’s budget.

Update note: If interested, Meteor Blades on his Open Thread for Night Owls at Daily Kos has an updated list of newspaper endorsements for the election.

October 19, 2012

Jesus Wept

If this is for real, we may have an answer to the question I posed in my last post ...

How'd it come to this?

Been a bit preoccupied this week: Going over a bump in the road health-wise; plus, I've been kinda wrapped up in the baseball playoffs. After all, I am still an American male, and as a kid, back in the days when it really was the American pastime, baseball was my first love. Though I haven't followed the game much at all since the days of the Big Red Machine (the '75 Series was the best ever, in my estimation [why is Pete Rose not in the Hall Of Fame?]), of all the major sports, baseball has changed the least - the game itself, not so much the players - over the years. But (I hope this doesn't come across as maudlin) this very well could be my last chance to witness a World Series, and, with the Tigers and (it looks like) the Cardinals in it, both teams with long traditions, I just don't want to miss it.

So ... How the hell did we get so far up the creek? Always seeking to go to the roots (ain't that what a radical does?), and being a life-long amateur student of anthropology, I am drawn back to somewhere between 5,000 and 10,000 years ago, during the time when full-blown agriculture was becoming firmly established in the so-called "centers of civilization." Before some clever Mesopotamians invented literacy, pretty much the only evidence we have to go on is archeological, and that kind of evidence, notoriously, severely limits what we can know, or even reasonably guess, about the minds of those who left it. Nevertheless, we may still draw many illuminating conclusions and insights about the lifeways of pre-literate people from the artifactual clues they left. This kind of evidence has been steadily accumulating for many decades now, if not longer, to the point that we can now confidently say that the time-frame I'm focusing on marks a decisive watershed in the evolution of human social, economic, and religious practices (among others).

Before the time when we humans started living in year-round settlements, somewhere around 12,000 years or so ago, we were all hunter-gatherers (probably just scavengers for a long time), and it's that way of life that we are - today still - equipped for in body and in mind. It's very clear, both from the admittedly sparse archeological record and from the millennia-long, increasingly abundant ethnological evidence, that, in terms of social and economic arrangements, hunter-gatherers, even that tiny remnant still surviving today, are by nature strictly egalitarian, and have survived by cooperating, not competing. To be blunt, this means nobody runs the show, except ad-hoc, by agreement, and temporarily; and nobody owns anything, beyond small personal items, which, in any case, are easily replaceable by nearly everyone. And this egalitarianism is both explicit and enforced - every so often, some yo-yo gets it into (nearly always) his head to steal from or lord it over the others, but such are sooner or later brought back into line, if need be by being escorted into the jungle (or desert, or whatever's handy) and "lost."

But be the third millennium BCE, we have not only "written" documentation but abundant archeological evidence of elaborated hierarchy (to include several leisure classes), institutionalized warfare, and marked social and economic inequality in a number of the "centers of civilization" -eventually, all of them. This "breakthrough" has since spread over the entire globe, like bacteria in a Petri dish, until now scarcely a living being has not been engulfed in its seeming inexorability. (As with those bacteria, inevitably, we are now within sight of the edges of the dish; but, unlike the bacteria, our own Waterloo offers hope of a reset - to those with eyes to see and ears to hear.)

How did all this happen so quickly and so thoroughly? It's a question that's baffled me, and therefore fascinated me, all my adult life. Why have 99% of humanity allowed the other 1% to climb on their backs and ride them so mercilessly for so long? Even more perplexingly, why have they failed to recognize that it is well within their power to make an end of it? I've never been able to come up with an answer that satisfies me; it may well be that there is no ultimate reason, but rather a congeries of factors that, together, is enough to do the trick.

For now, though, I fear that this post has already exceeded many attention spans; besides, I have pressing business to attend to. I'll post again, hopefully, this weekend, to offer some possibilities for discussion. In the meantime, as maybe a kind of teaser, I offer two quotes that seem pertinent:

The first man who, having fenced in a piece of land, said "This is mine," and found people naïve enough to believe him, that man was the true founder of civil society. From how many crimes, wars, and murders, from how many horrors and misfortunes might not any one have saved mankind, by pulling up the stakes, or filling up the ditch, and crying to his fellows: Beware of listening to this impostor; you are undone if you once forget that the fruits of the earth belong to us all, and the earth itself to nobody.
 — Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Discourse on Inequality, 1754

I should like to see, and this will be the last and most ardent of my desires, I should like to see the last king strangled with the guts of the last priest.
— J. Messelier (clause in a will, Paris, 1733)

October 16, 2012

Cutting to the chase

I don't have much time left, so I'm gonna dispense with most of the niceties I'd planned, and just lay out what I want to say. Should there be time (and interest) later, I'll back-fill.

I. The shit is already hitting the fan, folks; nothing can be done to stop it, and very little, at this point, to ameliorate it. The easy pickings of the fossil fuels we've been running on the last 300 years are gone (not to worry, for now, at least, because the production and burning of said fuels will continue, albeit ever more sparingly and sporadically, until nobody can make any more money from it). Habitat destruction, climate change, and the continuing, ubiquitous poisoning of the entire planet have already launched us into Earth's 6th Great Extinction, which will now run its course. The great "elite" economic enterprise of theft and slavery, especially as manifested in the last 500 years or so as the ideology and practice of capitalism, is finally showing itself to be a house of cards, a gigantic chain letter which has finally hit its end. Depressing? Yes, if you're happy with the way things have been going for the last 15,000 years. The only consolation, if that it may be called, is that the brunt of this great unraveling will likely not fall upon us of the infamous baby-boom generation (the last who had a real chance to make a difference, which we blew, spectacularly), or even our children, but their children will almost assuredly begin paying the price.

II. Though there's little basis for real hope in the short- and middle-term, there is reason for great hope on the other side of the impending crash (slow-motion as may be). For starters, we are in desperate need of a drastic reduction (something in the neighborhood of an order of magnitude) in the sheer numbers of humans on this planet - and that is coming, one way or another, like it or not. For another thing, the institutions and practices that have been foisted upon us, by the thieves and slave-holders who have been so proud to call them "civilization," and that we have so docilely accepted, will be swept away, if for no other reason, by the utter lack of resources needed to support them. Ain't gonna be no rich folks like what we got now after what's coming, and that'll be the best chance in thousands of years to make sure there won't ever be any more.

III. What is still available to us old folks now is the opportunity to teach - and the best way to do that is by example. If we want change, as we claim, then we must start practicing that change in our daily lives and in our way of thinking. It is not enough to belong to or contribute to some organization or political action committee, or to march and carry signs in some demonstration or protest, or even to vote for a candidate (though a few, especially at the local level, are deserving of a vote) if we are not, at the same time, practicing real change every day. (For this notion [and much more besides] I am forever indebted to Mr. Wendell Berry; c.f. especially Chapter 2 of The Unsettling Of America.)

I offer an example from my own life, not to pat myself on the back or to proclaim my moral superiority, but to illustrate the kind of practice I'm talking about: In the past 33 years, I have not owned an automobile for 30 of them. For the first 7 years, it was much more a matter of necessity than virtue: I just couldn't afford a car. Then, from 1986 to 1989, I could (or thought I could) have one, which I did. Then, hitting another lean stretch, I went carless again, and though, later, I could once again have bought and operated one on several occasions, I've refrained, mostly because I've discovered that I can survive without one. Yes, there are many times I miss (sometimes sorely) the convenience of not having a car; but I have saved myself many many thousands of dollars by not having one, and I've also avoided injecting well over 200,000 pounds of CO2 into the air, and adding to the habitat destruction and social breakdown directly attributable to automobiles - not to mention contributing to the bottom line of some corporation. Near as I can figure, there are something like 7 million undecided voters in this presidential election. Can you imagine the effect these people, representing a bit more or less than 5% of eligible voters, would have if they parked their cars for even one year? A damn sight more far-reaching in many more dimensions, I assure you, than whether they vote for Obama or Romney.

IV. Dismantle your TV with a heavy blunt instrument, and do it immediately after reading this. The last event worth watching on TV was the Watergate story; before that, the JFK assassination. Everything else is highly refined and nearly perfected indoctrination, designed to make you a docile "consumer" of whatever notions, none of them ever explicit, the sponsors want you to respond to. You will not be able to even begin thinking clearly until you've completed this prerequisite.

... wanting good government in their states, they first established order in their own families; wanting order in the home, they first disciplined themselves  ... - Confucius, The Great Digest
You don't need to wait for anybody else. Start today. "If not us, who? If not now, when?" 

October 15, 2012

holes . . . in our world . . .

It was Adlai Stevenson who campaigned with a hole in shoes . . . a brilliant guy . . . he pointed me toward the type of politics that had some appeal for me . . . but it was George McGovern who campaigned with a hole in his heart . . . more than just a decent man, a man of much compassion . . . he is in hospice near the end of his life. Remembering what he attenpted . . . this deserves a candle in the window . . .

sublime . . .

Utah Phillips again and again . . .

- Das Archiv der Arbeiterbewegung.


When the union's inspiration through the workers' blood shall run,
There can be no power greater anywhere beneath the sun;
Yet what force on earth is weaker than the feeble strength of one,
But the union makes us strong.

Solidarity forever,
Solidarity forever,
Solidarity forever,
For the union makes us strong.

Is there aught we hold in common with the greedy parasite,
Who would lash us into serfdom and would crush us with his might?
Is there anything left to us but to organize and fight?
For the union makes us strong.

Solidarity forever,
Solidarity forever,
Solidarity forever,
For the union makes us strong.

It is we who plowed the prairies; built the cities where they trade;
Dug the mines and built the workshops, endless miles of railroad laid;
Now we stand outcast and starving midst the wonders we have made;
But the union makes us strong.

Solidarity forever,
Solidarity forever,
Solidarity forever,
For the union makes us strong.

All the world that's owned by idle drones is ours and ours alone.
We have laid the wide foundations; built it skyward stone by stone.
It is ours, not to slave in, but to master and to own.
While the union makes us strong.

Solidarity forever,
Solidarity forever,
Solidarity forever,
For the union makes us strong.

They have taken untold millions that they never toiled to earn,
But without our brain and muscle not a single wheel can turn.
We can break their haughty power, gain our freedom when we learn
That the union makes us strong.

Solidarity forever,
Solidarity forever,
Solidarity forever,
For the union makes us strong.

In our hands is placed a power greater than their hoarded gold,
Greater than the might of armies, magnified a thousand-fold.
We can bring to birth a new world from the ashes of the old
For the union makes us strong.

October 14, 2012


story circling about on Internet . . . (I saw it on TPM)
Wondering if you heard the quote from a pollster that EJ Dionne mentioned on (I think) the Rachel Maddow Show. Anyway, the pollster, according to Dionne, said, “When I come out with a poll with bad news for Republicans, they want to kill me. When I come out with a poll that’s bad for Democrats, they want to kill themselves.” I think that comes really close to explaining the difference between the two parties and what has been happening since that first disastrous debate.

more Sunday reading . . .

We got trouble right here in River City - except our professor didn't concoct the trouble he is warning us about. We need to band together and learn some new tunes. Nicholas Carnes, an assistant professor of public policy at Duke University and author of the forthcoming book “White-Collar Government: How Class-Imbalanced Legislatures Distort Economic Policy-Making in the United States,” tells us about the choices we really have.
Elections are supposed to give us choices. We can reward incumbents or we can throw the bums out. We can choose Republicans or Democrats. We can choose conservative policies or progressive ones.

In most elections, however, we don’t get a say in something important: whether we’re governed by the rich. By Election Day, that choice has usually been made for us. Would you like to be represented by a millionaire lawyer or a millionaire businessman? Even in our great democracy, we rarely have the option to put someone in office who isn’t part of the elite.

If millionaires were a political party, that party would make up roughly 3 percent of American families, but it would have a super-majority in the Senate, a majority in the House, a majority on the Supreme Court and a man in the White House. If working-class Americans were a political party, that party would have made up more than half the country since the start of the 20th century. But legislators from that party (those who last worked in blue-collar jobs before entering politics) would never have held more than 2 percent of the seats in Congress.

Sunday reading . . .

Chrystia Freeland, the editor of Thomson Reuters Digital and the author of “Plutocrats: The Rise of the New Global Super-Rich and the Fall of Everyone Else,” has from which this essay is adapted. an essay adapted from her book in today's New York Times SundayReview.
...what separates successful states from failed ones is whether their governing institutions are inclusive or extractive. Extractive states are controlled by ruling elites whose objective is to extract as much wealth as they can from the rest of society. Inclusive states give everyone access to economic opportunity; often, greater inclusiveness creates more prosperity, which creates an incentive for ever greater inclusiveness.

The history of the United States can be read as one such virtuous circle. But... virtuous circles can be broken. Elites that have prospered from inclusive systems can be tempted to pull up the ladder they climbed to the top. Eventually, their societies become extractive and their economies languish.

That was the future predicted by Karl Marx, who wrote that capitalism contained the seeds of its own destruction. And it is the danger America faces today, as the 1 percent pulls away from everyone else and pursues an economic, political and social agenda that will increase that gap even further — ultimately destroying the open system that made America rich and allowed its 1 percent to thrive in the first place.

Even as the winner-take-all economy has enriched those at the very top, their tax burden has lightened. Tolerance for high executive compensation has increased, even as the legal powers of unions have been weakened and an intellectual case against them has been relentlessly advanced by plutocrat-financed think tanks. In the 1950s, the marginal income tax rate for those at the top of the distribution soared above 90 percent, a figure that today makes even Democrats flinch. Meanwhile, of the 400 richest taxpayers in 2009, 6 paid no federal income tax at all, and 27 paid 10 percent or less. None paid more than 35 percent.

October 13, 2012

the truth will out . . .

William Rivers Pitt at Truthout gives his take on Big Joe and the Joyful Noise:
Anyone who tells you the vice presidential debate was a tie, or that Mr. Ryan prevailed, is trying to sell you a diamond mine that ain't worth a dime. The ultimate impact and import of what went down during Thursday's debate won't be immediately known, but the simple fact is beyond dispute: Joe Biden owned the night, and owned his opponent, in a way rarely seen in modern debate history. It was, in every respect, just what the doctor ordered for the Democratic presidential campaign: a high-energy, aggressive and fact-laden stand taken by a battle-scarred party elder who, for all time, dispelled any and all preconceived notions that he is some half-addled gaffe generator who cannot be counted on when the chips are down. Joe Biden came to play Thursday night, and the public works employees of Danville, KY, will be spending the next couple of days sweeping up little pieces of Paul Ryan because of it.

Biden—at times laconic, at times incredulous, at times simply pissed—gave a clinic on debate management over the course of 90 minutes. He left no stone unturned in attacking the weak points of his opponent's arguments and general philosophy, handily managed to make Mitt Romney the absent and hopeless star of the show, and in the process delivered a rousing defense of both the Obama administration and Democratic Party principles that was deeply reminiscent of Bill Clinton's speech at the Democratic National Convention. Mr. Biden's presentation was, like Clinton's, both folksy and factual, and—most important of all—he did not allow Mr. Ryan to slip even one lie into the conversation without covering it with bite-marks, bruises and blood. [...]

This much is certain: what took place on Thursday night in Kentucky was a clinic, a deconstruction, a masterpiece, a thunderclap. The sun came up on Friday morning to shine upon a world that will never, ever underestimate Joe Biden again. For those who needed what he gave, it was a joyful noise indeed.

October 11, 2012

Who's this dude (reprise)

Bill's been posting quite prolifically since I joined up, and because it is, after all, his blog, I've kept quiet, except to comment a little. But my soap-box sap is rising, so here I am again; what I'd like to do this time is try to give a better sense of where I'm coming from.

The short version: By nearly all lights, conventional or non, I am a specimen of that variety of American most to be despised and/or pitied by all decent Americans: A Loser. I am both a high-school and a college dropout (though I did, at age 28, get a useless GED certificate). I never had anything resembling a career, rather a "careen," jumping from one low-wage job to another (well over 50, all told), punctuated by long periods of unemployment, nearly all my life (my total lifetime earnings, from age 16, when I started working, until I finally "retired," as calculated by the Social Security Administration, came to slightly over $150,000). I am a convicted felon: Bail Jumping, a Class D felony in my state, punishable by up to 5 years in prison (I got 2 years, probated for 5 years, to time already served in the county jail), for failing to show up in court on a bounced rent check charge (if you are a low-life, like me, disrespect for the court is the most serious mistake you can make, regardless of the original charge). I was a serious pot-head (or, these days, I guess it's "stoner") for 15 years, until the cost of my habit became too prohibitive. For over 20 years I experienced numerous episodes of homelessness, at first on the sofa circuit, in the back seats of cars, and in hospital lounges and waiting rooms, later in homeless shelters, after they became fashionable (and available). Today, I'm what some would call a "fat old fuck," living in a housing development for the elderly poor, surviving only on a Social Security check that puts me at 77.8% of the poverty level, waiting to die from lung cancer.

But there's more to it than just that. As Terry (Marlon Brando) said to Charley (Rod Steiger) in On The Waterfront, "I coulda been a contender." I was certainly bright enough: IQ 135 (for whatever that's worth), full 4-year scholarship to a parochial high-school, National Merit Scholarship Semi-Finalist my junior year in high-school; perennial teacher's pet (I learned in the 3rd grade how to snow the teachers), junior class treasurer, debate team, drum-major in the band, starting offensive and defensive tackle on the football team (linemen were never "stars" in those days, or nowadays, either, at least not as unlikely as in the days when a 6'0'', 205-pound boy could play tackle). But a deteriorating domestic situation (I was a product of a single-family household, with 2 siblings, as a result of my father's death in 1954, when I was 8 years old), the cold realization that even a full 4-year scholarship for tuition, books, room, and board, which I was virtually assured of by dint of the National Merit program, wouldn't cover the full costs of college, and, frankly, an overpowering distaste for the idea of even more schooling, forced me (at least, as I saw it) to take another course. So, shortly after turning 18, I joined the Army.

I've never regretted that decision. I unequivocally assert that no institution of higher learning in the United States - not Harvard, not UC Berkeley, not Northwestern, not Vanderbilt, not Notre Dame, not Columbia, all of which I'd been considering in high-school - could have come anywhere near, at any price, to providing me the kind of education, a true liberal education, that I got thanks to Uncle Sam. Eight weeks of basic combat training in the sandy hell of South Carolina (though I detested it at the time) threw me for the first time into intimate contact with people with wildly varying backgrounds and abilities, and forced me as near as I've ever been to my physical and emotional limits, not to mention impressing on me the value of cooperation, of covering your buddy's ass, and of making enough effort to keep your buddy from having to cover your ass (which I appreciate more and more the older I get). Then nearly a year's intensive (and I mean intensive) study of a non-Indo-European language (resulting in real fluency, not just touristy passability) in the northern California Big Sur Coast setting of Monterey, once again surrounded by people from varying backgrounds - except that we were almost all National Merit people, or very near. Then several months in the nation's capitol, at last learning what Uncle had in mind for us to do. Finally 2 1/2 years in rural Bavaria, surrounded once again with people like Bill Boydstun - intellectual equals, if not superiors, all - with ample opportunity to absorb, not just sample, the cultural riches of continental Europe and a way of life, while not totally alien from the American way, at least different enough to provide an illuminating perspective on both. In short, I consider my Army experience priceless, and if I had my life to live over again 20 more times, I'd repeat it each time.

Problem is, it ruined me forever after for living anything resembling a normal life. Thanks to learning how to think in Magyar, talking with and learning from people like Bill, and getting inside an "un-American," if you will, way of life, I have never since been able, as Hank Jr. put it, to "go for that old stuff anymore." If I'd been able to make the right contacts, and to screw up my courage to a high-enough level, I'd have been one of the hippies who moved to the hills. Instead, I spent my life trying to make a go of it from where I was at the time, constantly struggling, constantly "failing," and progressively painting myself into a tighter and tighter corner.

The upshot is that I've lived life from the very bottom, or quite near it, and I think I've got a pretty good handle on how it looks from down here. Most of all, I see that there's not much being heard from us low-life folks about what it looks like, and I see that as a situation that needs rectification, whatever little I may be able to offer. Testimony from any other Losers out there would be most welcome. Let's start talking about this shit, people - that's the absolute first step in changing it. Whaddya say?

maybe not too much . . .

Gail Kerr in The Tennessean makes a point:
Much has been made in this election cycle of the “too much government” argument from voters who believe we are over-regulated at every level. This past week underscores the need for government to intervene in our lives.

The nation’s health care system was mobilized this week after doctors, starting with an alert Vanderbilt physician, reported mysterious illnesses that have now been determined to be a rare outbreak of fungal meningitis. It’s made more than two dozen people sick in nine states, killing several. It was a government agency that connected the dots. It was a government agency that already had cited a Massachusetts specialty pharmacy that produced the medicine for regulatory violations. That pharmacy has now surrendered its license.

October 09, 2012

right on . . .

Do people still say, "right on"? If not, then, this is exactly right (which is another way of almost saying "right on"). This is right on.
For weeks many Beltway insiders had written off the Romney campaign as dead, saying the candidate had dug himself into too deep a hole with too little time to recover. However, with a month to go before ballots are cast, Romney has pulled even with President Obama, and the former Massachusetts governor credits his rejuvenated campaign to one, singular tactic: lying a lot.

“I’m lying a lot more, and my lies are far more egregious than they’ve ever been,” a smiling Romney told reporters while sitting in the back of his campaign bus, adding that when faced with a choice to either lie or tell the truth, he will more than likely lie. “It’s a strategy that works because when I lie, I’m essentially telling people what they want to hear, and people really like hearing things they want to hear. Even if they sort of know that nothing I’m saying is true.”

“It’s a freeing strategy, really, because I don’t have to worry about facts or being accurate or having any concrete positions of any kind,” Romney added.

Romney said he is telling at least 80 percent more lies now than he was two months ago. Buoyed by his strong debate performance, which by his own admission included 40 or 50 instances of lying in one 90-minute period, the candidate said he will continue to “just openly lie [his] ass off” until the Nov. 6 election.

October 08, 2012

the secret heart of America itself . . .

2012 race-baiting . . .

Ron Rosenbaum over at Slate has a well argued article Is the Republican Party Racist? that should be read and discussed. He misses many of the nuanced complaints of the anti "he said/she said" folks but does lay a logical path to at least acknowledging the GOP continued strategical reliance on the openly racist "Southern Strategy" of the Nixon folks. Without that reliance, and the race-baiting to keep it energized, the GOP would have very little clout in the electoral college vote.
In a way mainstream media outlets who promote a false equivalency between the two parties by failing to note at the very least the neo-racist supporters of the Republican Party are themselves complicit in the charade that the GOP is a morally legitimate entity. Not that racists don’t vote Democratic, and yes I know the GOP was, was, the party of Lincoln, but that was long ago in another country.

I would hope that before the election comes there are at least some discussions in some newsrooms about how to make this clear. How to avoid false equivalency.

Why is it that we have to be reminded that the Civil War was not a war of moral equivalence? Just blue and grey, both sides brave and good. Sorry, no way. The issue is likely going to come up again later this year if, as is expected, the Supreme Court reviews the Voting Rights Act, one of the greatest pieces of legislation ever passed by Congress, because it put the spotlight on the rancid racist history of Southern states that sought to continue the shameful legacy of the Confederacy through a history of racist voter denial. Is this a matter of moral equivalence too? In other words, should historically racist states be treated as equal to states that did not legally institute racism by the courts when it comes to voter discrimination? I don’t think so.

It’s not just an intellectual exercise deciding whether Southern racism is still a factor. The current Supreme Court could rule the Voting Rights Act unconstitutional this term, on the grounds that all states are morally equivalent and history should play no role in assessing their behavior. They would be wrong to do so. That’s a fact.

Speaking of reminders of why we need to end the false equivalency. Consider this one, a thrilling comment from someone who was once at the forefront but who hasn’t spoken out on the subject for some time. Obviously he felt it was something people needed to think about anew.

In a recent interview with Rolling Stone, Bob Dylan said:

This country is just too fucked up about color. ... People at each other’s throats because they are of a different color. It’s the height of insanity, and it will hold any nation back—or any neighborhood back. ... It’s a country founded on the backs of slaves. ... If slavery had been given up in a more peaceful way, America would be far ahead today.

Yes: “A country founded on the backs of slaves.” And a party cravenly unashamed to base its existence on the backs of slaveholder states. Journalists, start telling the truth about the GOP.

not perfect . . . just much better than the alternative . . .

Joel Bleifuss over at In These Times argues that this year’s Obama Biden ticket may not be perfect, but, like life, it is much better than the alternative. I think it is a point of view that I feel much sympathy toward while realizing the strengthes of some of the opposing arguments.
In his 2003 book, The Postmodern Prince: Critical Theory, Left Strategy, And The Making Of A New Political Subject, John Sanbonmatsu applied the lessons of Italian political theorist Antonio Gramsci to the post-1968 world. He wrote that the American Left has done itself a disservice by pursuing a politics of self-expression over strategic thinking.
In electoral politics, this current has manifested itself as a tendency to view the ballot as a personal statement. Any number of tiny parties on the Left will be running presidential candidates in 2012; to vote for these parties is to “vote one’s conscience.” But what if your ballot is not your voice? What if, in fact, your ballot is really just a small quantum of power, to be deployed strategically in concert with other like-minded persons? In the words of Carl Davidson, a former SDS leader who is a fan of Sanbonmatsu, “In the long run you need both self-expression and strategy. You need the inspiration that can be provided by self-expression, but you need a smart strategy that enables you to win.” [...] Of course, it could be worse. The Chicago-based anarchist group Revolutionaries for Romney is organizing under the (satiric?) slogan: “It needs to get worse before it gets better.” In 1933, anarchists in Spain believed the same thing. They urged people to boycott the congressional elections, arguing that the Right’s “victory will favor our plans.” It didn’t quite work out that way.

October 07, 2012

mulling (without adequate spices) . . .

Okay, I've mulled this over for a day or three and I have a slight gripe. How come the New Yorker keeps putting Romney on its cover (and always without President Obama) . . . I almost understand (which does not equate accept) the debate cover coming out, but there he was on Oct 1 this year reading a newspaper (more erudition than I had necessarily assumed that he possessed) and now he's talking all by himself as if he can successfully accomplish this alone . . . I'm not exactly pissed, but I would point out to the editors (and I may decide to do it directly) that the annual contribution (similar to a Roman tribute) exacted on my purse strings exceeds that exacted by the also very readable (and without a single Romney cover [that I can remember]) Texas Highways and the more necessary This Old House . . . just thinking about this . . .

stop eatin' steak and go back to beans . . .

First posted this video in May 2009 . . . some things are worth repeating every three years of so . . .

Even in Texas folk and country music circles, singer and guitarist Don Walser is regarded as unique. The songs Walser specializes in aren't exactly current; he sings classic old Western swing tunes. In a sense, he's a man on a mission: keeping the old Texas country songs alive. Songs like "Cowpoke," "Tumbling Tumbleweeds," and "Mexicali Rose" are signature tunes for Walser, who is also one of the country's premier yodelers. Songs penned and popularized by Bob Wills, the Sons of the Pioneers, Hank Williams, Faron Young, Merle Travis, and Johnny Horton are all part and parcel of what you're likely to hear in the course of a typical Walser show.

voting absentee by mail in Texas . . .

When you sign your name, what does your "r" or "k" look like? Do they look like the same "r" or "k" in an earlier signature of yours? Or do you sometimes sign your name slightly different for whatever reason. Were you sitting before and standing now, were you using your favorite pen that flowed like magic or an oddball ballpoint that required extra muscle to leave a trail of ink?

A and I mailed in our ballots yesterday for the Nov 6 election and I think we did it with a touch of smugness that our votes were in without an hour or so in line. This type of voting in Texas is available for those of us who have previously celebrated our 65th birthdays - remember the kids, the cake, the wine and all of the grandchildren - what a party! A and I realized that we live in a state where our choice for president will end up uncounted (except for those who look at the popular vote as though it held some real significance); however, it did not occur to me that there is some risk in having the vote counted at all because it was not punched into some machine. Look, I'm already uncomfortable with the machines and the possibilities of data manipulation on some local or regional basis but what caused me to choke a bit on my coffee this morning was that our local election board might decide to toss our ballots without even opening the envelope . . .
. . . the local elections board met to decide which absentee ballots to count. It was not an easy job.

The board tossed out some ballots because they arrived without the signature required on the outside of the return envelope. It rejected one that said “see inside” where the signature should have been. And it debated what to do with ballots in which the signature on the envelope did not quite match the one in the county’s files. “This ‘r’ is not like that ‘r,’ ” Judge Augustus D. Aikens Jr. said, suggesting that a ballot should be rejected.

Ion Sancho, the elections supervisor here, disagreed. “This ‘k’ is like that ‘k,’ ” he replied . . ."

October 06, 2012

vaporous babbler . . .

This is one of the BS artists whose guidance we are supposed to follow for deficit reduction . . .

October 05, 2012

we like yellow birds . . .

And we support Big Bird . . .

effective job stimulation . . .

From 2009 to 2011, Jared Bernstein was the chief economist and economic adviser to Vice President Joe Biden and executive director of the White House Task Force on the Middle Class. He now is a senior fellow at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. According to his blog "On the Economy" his areas of expertise include federal and state economic and fiscal policies, income inequality and mobility, trends in employment and earnings, international comparisons, and the analysis of financial and housing markets. The below excerpt is from his Daddy, Where Do Jobs Come From?
What about fiscal policy? How does that chain work to create jobs and what are the weak links? Well, though economists tend to discuss fiscal policy as a lump, it actually comes in a lot of different flavors and they’re not all created equal in terms of bang-for-buck job creation. Basically, the more indirect they are—the more links in the chain between the policy and job creation—the less effective they are.

Jared BernsteinFor example, for a stimulative tax cut to create a job, a) the recipient must spend, not save, the money from the cut, and b) she must spend it on domestic goods (I mean, of course, that’s what has to happen for the tax cut to create a job here as opposed to in China). Again, if you’re in a deleveraging cycle, step “a” is a problem. Also, if your tax cuts go to wealthy people who are not income constrained in the first place, don’t expect much in terms of job creation.

Other fiscal measures have more reliable job-creation chains. Increasing unemployment benefits or food stamps helps because those folks typically spend the money. And new infrastructure is a pretty direct way to go. Same with state fiscal relief. I remember during the Recovery Act, mayors cancelling planned layoffs the day they received Recovery Act funds.

The punch line is a simple one, but it’s one that seems to have been forgotten amidst our increasing love affair in America with laissez-faire economics: the more direct the policy measure—i.e., the fewer links in the chain between the policy and the job—the better it will work.

I’ve seen these processes at work close up and I’ve come to view this simple insight as a lot more important than I think most economists realize. Even Keynes had relatively little to say about implementation and the relative effectiveness of different types of stimulus. He famously quipped that if the government can’t find something useful for people to do, just pay one group to bury bags of money and another group to dig them up.

Ha-Ha. Very helpful, Sir K. But I actually think the great man was onto something. The most direct way to create jobs, the only surefire way to be sure that stimulus will work, is direct job creation. Everything else, including all the Federal Reserve stuff, involves crossing your fingers and hoping the chain holds. [...]

So, the next time we hit a recession, I’m going to be out there advocating for, if not direct jobs in the public service, something as close to that as we can get, like infrastructure, fiscal relief to states, and subsidized jobs for the disadvantaged.

October 03, 2012

Who's this dude, and what's he doing here?

Bill has graciously offered me the chance to share "peripatic patter" with him, and with much trepidation, I have accepted.

I'm an old Army buddy of Bill's – we went to the same training posts (though not concurrently) and spent about a year and a half together at the same duty post in beautiful rural Bavaria, doing the same job. We went our separate ways after we separated from the military, but I ran up on him again, I guess a couple of years ago now, on a "social media" site (which will remain nameless and which I no longer frequent); since then, we've been gradually rebuilding our friendship, via email discussions of this and that. (Bill's living in Texas, and I'm in Kentucky, so it's reasonably unlikely we'll ever meet in person again - but one never knows, does one?)

He appears for all the world [grin] to have maintained the sharp, alert, open-minded outlook he had in our glory days, and, to his eternal credit, he's still interested in the wider, and more important, deeper perennial issues we used to gnaw over. He has also flattered me by asserting that he thinks I have (shall we say) interesting things to say about stuff, which I guess is what led to his invitation. Anyhow, for better or worse, here I am.

But here's where the trepidation comes in. As I've related to Bill, I harbor deep misgivings (to put it mildly) about blogging and "the blogosphere." My own view is that nearly all blogs are very shallow and hopelessly ephemeral, tending to deal with some issue du jour, as often trivial as not, in sound-bite and bumper-sticker terms. This seems to be to be a terrible waste: The 'Net, and even the now nearly hopelessly commercial Web, offers hillbillies and cowboys like me and Bill, and everybody with access to even free public library computers, a priceless opportunity to seriously discuss with and learn from each other the things that are important to us in the terms we understand and that have meaning for us, without being confined to what some talking head or think tank thinks is important. From Bill Greider, Who Will Tell The People:

Strange as it may seem to an era governed by mass-market politics, democracy begins in human conversation. The simplest, least threatening investment any citizen may make in democratic renewal is to begin talking with other people about these questions, as though the answers matter to them. Harmless talk around a kitchen table or in a church basement will not affect anyone but themselves, unless they decide that it ought to. When the circle is enlarged to include others, they will be embarking on the fertile terrain of politics that now seems so barren.

A democratic conversation does not require elaborate rules of procedure or utopian notions of perfect consensus. What it does require is a spirit of mutual respect — people conversing critically with one another in an atmosphere of honesty and mutual regard. Those with specialized expertise serve as teachers, not commanders, and will learn themselves from listening to the experience of others. The respect must extend even to hostile adversaries, since the democratic objective is not to destroy them but to reach eventual understanding. At its core, the idea of democracy is as simple as that — a society based on mutual respect.

This obvious human quality, seemingly available to all, is what's missing from American politics, drenched as it is in mass manipulation and deception and sour resentments. Indeed, mutual respect, above and beyond the usual social and economic distractions, is missing from the general fabric of American life. A society that regularly proclaims democratic pieties also devotes extraordinary energy and wealth to establishing the symbols and trappings of hierarchy, the material markings that delineate who is better than whom.
Now, Bill and I, though probably in general agreement about, especially, the value of everyday, anonymous "unimportant" people, differ enough in our approaches (Bill, it seems to me, fits well enough into the "progressive" mold [though that observation could lead to our first debate], while I tend much more to something like anarcho-syndicalism) to create a sort of tension or space that could be most amenable to serious, in-depth debate and fruitful discussion.  I don't mean at all to imply that this should be between Bill and me; quite the contrary, I should be most gratified to see people from whatever perspective jump in with their $.02 worth - the more the merrier. But, unless you're an intrepid soul, leave your glib sound-bites wrapped up tightly in your rhetorical toolbox, or I, at least, shall jump ruthlessly into your shit. In any case, even if it turns out to be just Bill and I, that'll be OK, too.

This screed has gone on far too long. I didn't mean for it to be this lengthy, but I get, frequently enough, virulent attacks of soapbox-itis. If it starts to get on your nerves, just rap me on the knuckles, or hit me between the eyes with a 2X4, or something, and just I'll go away and pout for a while.

Hey John!

John Efferding

7 Sept 1941 to 30 Sept 2012

October 01, 2012

Maria Elena: Ry Cooder & Flacco Jimenez

Fine playing . . . fine musicians . . .

Rebecca Solnit: We could be heroes . . .

I saw this on Daily Kos. Meteor Blades posted this excerpt from TomDispatch by Rebecca Solnit. TomDispatch by Rebecca Solnit. A follow-up for some of thoughts from our post yesterday . . .
One manifestation of this indiscriminate biliousness is the statement that gets aired every four years: that in presidential elections we are asked to choose the lesser of two evils. Now, this is not an analysis or an insight; it is a cliché, and a very tired one, and it often comes in the same package as the insistence that there is no difference between the candidates. You can reframe it, however, by saying: we get a choice, and not choosing at all can be tantamount in its consequences to choosing the greater of two evils.

But having marriage rights or discrimination protection or access to health care is not the lesser of two evils. If I vote for a Democrat, I do so in the hopes that fewer people will suffer, not in the belief that that option will eliminate suffering or bring us to anywhere near my goals or represent my values perfectly. Yet people are willing to use this "evils" slogan to wrap up all the infinite complexity of the fate of the Earth and everything living on it and throw it away.

I don't love electoral politics, particularly the national variety. I generally find such elections depressing and look for real hope to the people-powered movements around the globe and subtler social and imaginative shifts toward more compassion and more creativity. Still, every four years we are asked if we want to have our foot trod upon or sawed off at the ankle without anesthetic. The usual reply on the left is that there's no difference between the two experiences and they prefer that Che Guevara give them a spa pedicure. Now, the Che pedicure is not actually one of the available options, though surely in heaven we will all have our toenails painted camo green by El Jefe.

Rebecca SolnitBefore that transpires, there's something to be said for actually examining the differences. In some cases not choosing the trod foot may bring us all closer to that unbearable amputation. Or maybe it's that the people in question won't be the ones to suffer, because their finances, health care, educational access, and so forth are not at stake.

An undocumented immigrant writes me, "The Democratic Party is not our friend: it is the only party we can negotiate with." Or as a Nevada activist friend put it, "Oh my God, go be sanctimonious in California and don't vote or whatever, but those bitching radicals are basically suppressing the vote in states where it matters."

Presidential electoral politics is as riddled with corporate money and lobbyists as a long-dead dog with maggots, and deeply mired in the manure of the status quo -- and everyone knows it. (So stop those news bulletins, please.) People who told me back in 2000 that there was no difference between Bush and Gore never got back to me afterward.

I didn't like Gore, the ex-NAFTA-advocate and pro-WTO shill, but I knew that the differences did matter, especially to the most vulnerable among us, whether to people in Africa dying from the early impacts of climate change or to the shift since 2000 that has turned our nation from a place where more than two-thirds of women had abortion rights in their states to one where less than half of them have those rights. Liberals often concentrate on domestic policy, where education, health care, and economic justice matter more and where Democrats are sometimes decent, even lifesaving, while radicals are often obsessed with foreign policy to the exclusion of all else.

I'm with those who are horrified by Obama's presidential drone wars, his dismal inaction on global climate treaties, and his administration's soaring numbers of deportations of undocumented immigrants. That some of you find his actions so repugnant you may not vote for him, or that you find the whole electoral political system poisonous, I also understand.

At a demonstration in support of Bradley Manning this month, I was handed a postcard of a dead child with the caption "Tell this child the Democrats are the lesser of two evils." It behooves us not to use the dead for our own devices, but that child did die thanks to an Obama Administration policy. Others live because of the way that same administration has provided health insurance for millions of poor children or, for example, reinstated environmental regulations that save thousands of lives.

You could argue that to vote for Obama is to vote for the killing of children, or that to vote for him is to vote for the protection for other children or even killing fewer children. Virtually all US presidents have called down death upon their fellow human beings. It is an immoral system.

You don't have to participate in this system, but you do have to describe it and its complexities and contradictions accurately, and you do have to understand that when you choose not to participate, it better be for reasons more interesting than the cultivation of your own moral superiority, which is so often also the cultivation of recreational bitterness.

Bitterness poisons you and it poisons the people you feed it to, and with it you drive away a lot of people who don't like poison. You don't have to punish those who do choose to participate. Actually, you don't have to punish anyone, period.

We Could Be Heroes

We are facing a radical right that has abandoned all interest in truth and fact. We face not only their specific policies, but a kind of cultural decay that comes from not valuing truth, not trying to understand the complexities and nuances of our situation, and not making empathy a force with which to act. To oppose them requires us to be different from them, and that begins with both empathy and intelligence, which are not as separate as we have often been told.

Being different means celebrating what you have in common with potential allies, not punishing them for often-minor differences. It means developing a more complex understanding of the matters under consideration than the cartoonish black and white that both left and the right tend to fall back on.

Dismissiveness is a way of disengaging from both the facts on the ground and the obligations those facts bring to bear on your life. As Michael Eric Dyson recently put it, "What is not good are ideals and rhetorics that don't have the possibility of changing the condition that you analyze. Otherwise, you're engaging in a form of rhetorical narcissism and ideological self-preoccupation that has no consequence on the material conditions of actually existing poor people."

Nine years ago I began writing about hope, and I eventually began to refer to my project as "snatching the teddy bear of despair from the loving arms of the left." All that complaining is a form of defeatism, a premature surrender, or an excuse for not really doing much. Despair is also a form of dismissiveness, a way of saying that you already know what will happen and nothing can be done, or that the differences don't matter, or that nothing but the impossibly perfect is acceptable. If you're privileged you can then go home and watch bad TV or reinforce your grumpiness with equally grumpy friends.