Sunday, July 27, 2014

You Can't Fall Off A Mountain


Matterhorn Peak, CA

Now when I went around that ledge that had scared me it was just fun and a lark, I just skipped and jumped and danced along and I had really learned that you can’t fall off a mountain. Whether you can fall off a mountain or not I don’t know, but I had learned that you can’t. 'The Dharma Bums' -- Jack Kerouac

The South Bedroom and the Jesus Room



South Bedroom Alight
Unless we have overnight guests and need a place to put them, we keep the South Bedroom and the Jesus Room shut during the wintertime to save on heating costs and don't open them up unless we need to in the summer time to help keep the rest of the house cool.

Our house is not all that large, but it is large for an adobe pioneer house. It's been added on to at various times by various owners, so it kind of rambles about, with wings and spare rooms and whatnot, and it's not very well insulated among other things, like the finish polished pine floor is also the subfloor in some rooms so sometimes when the wind blows in the winter, the cold air seeps up from below.... There is no central heating or air conditioning, only a large free-standing gas heater in the living room that puts out abundant heat but it's kind of iffy getting said heat well distributed to distant rooms. In fact, we use electric heaters in those distant rooms to supplement the main heater when the temperature falls. There are some portable air conditioners, and we run the one in our bedroom through most of the summer to keep things in there nice and cool for sleepy-time.

The South Bedroom has become another library room; there are books and bookcases in every room in the house except the bathroom, where there are stacks of magazines instead. We picked up two new bookcases at Claudio's in town -- his brother builds them out of scrap lumber and they're very rustic and southwestern and nice -- and we thought that would be enough for the books we planned to put in there, but of course they filled up right away and we had to get another one. A skinny one this time because we were running out of room to put more bookcases. Most of our "good" books are in the South Bedroom, that is the ones that have some special meaning or financial value, the many signed copies, the still nice old ones, and some are kept in a glass fronted bookcase that dates from the 19teens or sometime like that that we brought with us from California. One of those Craftsman pieces that are practically worshiped by subcultures of house restorers. We sometimes stack bookcases on top of one another, so they reach toward the ceiling and we should probably have a ladder handy to get to the books at the very top. Practically every flat surface except the bed has stacks of books as well... We'll need to find some place for another bookcase some day.

Jesus Room Shrine Corner
The Jesus Room also has books: your missals and prayerbooks and catechisms and whatnot but also some cook-books and how-to books and so on, simply because we didn't have room for them in the kitchen and other places.

The Jesus Room also has lots of paintings and religious statues and icons and so forth. Many of the paintings are paint-by-number items that I picked up at thrift stores, and some of them are quite nice examples of the genre. The Gethsemane picture above the shrine is paint-by-number, for example (if that weren't obvious). Other paintings are what you might call "motel-commercial." They're actual paintings and they're technically very well done, but their subject matter is so generic, whether landscapes or marinas or city skylines, that they seem to be cranked out rather than thought through. They were probably originally bought for motel rooms or offices or set up on easels on tourist byways.

There is a stunning photograph, too, of what I think is a Mormon Temple in Hawaii or maybe it's Mesa, Arizona -- very dramatically lit with pinks and golds and a sunset sky -- I just like it, and so it hangs in the corner away from the corner shrine with all the other Jesus (and Mary and St. Francis) stuff. Wouldn't want to cross contaminate... There's a small carving of St. Francis in the shrine that keeps falling down, and I sometimes take that as a "sign," though I'm pretty sure it happens because one of the feral cats that sometimes gets in the house goes exploring the way they do. Cats love to explore. The shrine is like a cave for them. The items on the semi-altar below the shrine also get knocked about from time to time. That's why I think it must be the cats.

There's a pressed tin Our Lady of Lourdes that all the silver has worn off of so you don't really know right off what it is, and then it hits you and it's pretty cool because it is very three-dimensional and serene; There's a huge gold-framed print of The Last Supper that must have come from a church hall somewhere, but I don't know where. Of course there's a photo-print of Our Lady of Guadalupe from her shrine in Mexico. That's her hiding above St. Anthony peeking out behind the door to the shrine in the photo.

Yes, of course, most of the iconography is Catholic, though there are a few overtly Protestant or Mormon or Orthodox items as well. I suppose some of the crosses could be considered "non-denominational" -- though whether they are or not depends on one's point of view. My favorite is the miniature replica of the San Damiano Cross, the one that allegedly spoke to St. Francis in the ruined chapel of San Damiano in Umbria below Assisi, the one that told him "Francis, go, rebuild my house..."

There are "oriental" paintings --*ha ha*-- of the Paint-by-Number kind but nothing, really that be-speaks the Buddhist light behind a lot of this stuff. Except for St. Francis. Who I think must have been a veritable "Dharma Bum." And thus was himself a Buddha.

Nevertheless, we keep the Jesus Room and the South Bedroom shut during the winter and don't open them unless we need to in summer so as to save on heating and cooling costs.

Must be our practical natures.

I'm kind of ticked though because I wanted to go to the Spanish Market at the Santa Fe Plaza today, but I'm too lame and can't really get around for long enough or well enough to make it enjoyable; that and the heat of course. We're having quite a heatwave, the last couple of days in the mid-upper 90s (which is high for here) and it's uncomfortable to be outside, especially if there's little or no shade. It would have been a chance to get together with Nicolas Otero, a remarkably serene santero whose works are beautiful and spiritual and who illustrated several of Rudolpho Anaya's recent children's books -- "How Hollyhocks Came to New Mexico" and such. But not this time. Not today.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

We Want the Killing to Stop

It seems like such a simple thing, doesn't it? Stop the killing. Cease fire. Put down your weapons. Take up the cause of... true righteousness.

The killings in Albuquerque -- the recent bludgeoning deaths of two homeless men and the even more recent execution of a fleeing suspect -- have garnered attention in part for their sheer mindlessness and cruelty, especially in the case of the homeless men, but as we learn more about the execution, it becomes clear, there's something deeply foul in the minds of those who set out to assert power over the common herd.

They kill because they want to, first of all; and they kill because they think they're supposed to: the correct path in their minds is Death to the Other. "The Other" being literally anyone in the way of... (their) power.

The three boys who have confessed to killing the two homeless men (both Navajo-Diné) in Albuquerque probably thought they were doing nothing wrong -- if they thought about what they were doing at all. I think we'll find out as the story unfolds that at least two of the boys, and maybe all three, are part Indian themselves, so it cannot be considered a racially motivated crime the way some people are already trying to make it out to be. No, the men they killed were not so much of a different race as they were just different enough to be... threatening. They were homeless, and thus a few rungs farther down the social ladder. They were apparently drunks. But harmless drunks. Their very harmlessness was part of their vulnerability and part of the threat they posed to someone -- in this case, three adolescent boys -- looking to assert their own power. The homeless men hurt no one, they wished ill on no one, and that was part of their weakness and their vulnerability and their threat. The boys who killed them probably saw weakness and vulnerability in the Other as a threat to their own status, one it's possible they only managed to secure -- in their own minds -- through violence and cruelty toward The Other.

And where might they get the idea that violence and cruelty toward the weak, the poor, the homeless, the drunk or the addicted was a way or the way to secure their own status or well-being?

It's not as if they haven't had examples. In Albuquerque, for example, a homeless mentally ill man was summarily executed on a hillside, infamously video-recorded by the killers themselves, then hailed by the police chief as a "justified" shooting-murder-execution. Dozens of individuals have been killed by Albuquerque police in the last few years, but that homicide rate is easily bested by the homicides among the people of Albuquerque with no police involvement. The killing goes on with seeming abandon, and when we try like anything to curb some of it -- that part of it generated by the police, for example -- we're liable to see some horrible murder spree take place that the police took no part in. Except... as examples.

Examples of how to properly treat the mentally ill, the homeless, the drunk, the addicts, and the down and outs among us. If you don't kill them outright, then beat them bloody and drive them away or haul them off somewhere and dump them. If you can, you kill them. Why not? They're just useless space takers anyway.

If this is how the police treat them, under the color of authority, and with the full confidence in all the legal protection the city can provide, then why shouldn't a few teen-age boys who see what's going on do likewise? Why shouldn't they?

We want the killing to stop, but why should it stop when The Powers That Be engage in the very same kind of violence they claim they want to thwart? What is this nonsense? If they are the examples to follow, in some ways it's a wonder there isn't much more violence and cruelty and mayhem than there is.

Those who have the power have for long wielded it irresponsibly and then blame the victims of their irresponsibility for the outcomes.

It's sad and sickening.

We see the same methodology and mindset in almost all the conflicts which seem to be engulfing the world this summer. Irresponsible power-madness, continual victim-blaming, and  endless bloodshed. The destruction of Gaza merely one of numerous similar endeavors by powers and would-be powers who think they're doing what's necessary and what they are supposed to do to assert their status.

We want the killing to stop, and that means we want those who wield power in our world to do so responsibly, and this they refuse to do.

Refuse. Outright. They insist that what they do is right and proper, but anyone who emulates them (without "authorization") gets whacked; anyone who defends themselves against the irresponsibility of their rulers gets whacked; anyone who speaks out against the madness is tracked, and if it looks like they might turn into a threat to power, they are whacked.

We want the killing to stop, and we take what actions we can to monkeywrench the killing machine, but every step forward is countered by what seem like many steps back. When someone like David Correia takes to defending police brutality -- because no gun was unholstered and used -- then we have to wonder, is this the world we envision for the future: as much brutality from the police as they can get away with, so long as no one is shot? Absurd.

No, those who wield power must be brought to consciousness of their responsibility. They've lost any sense of it.

Those who wield power set the example for the rest of society, and when that example is filled with violence, bloodshed, and cruelty, is it any wonder there are so many emulations among those who take their cues from the powerful?

This is a simple -- and too simplistic -- understanding of human nature, but until those in power learn to act with dignity and with justice, as opposed to violence and vengeance, the killing won't stop, it will simply get worse. It's a descent into madness.

We want the killing to stop, but we want more than merely that.

We want to live with dignity and justice, community and peace.

It's not too much to ask and expect.








Thursday, July 24, 2014

A Passage

Namaste ~ Graphic In Hindi



This passage just whapped me up side the head (From "The Dharma Bums" by Jack Kerouac, 1958):

[Japhy and Ray are up in the mountains above Bridgeport, CA, on a hiking adventure, about to make camp for the night. Ray says:
  ...I have a prayer. Did you know the prayer I use?
What?
I sit down and say, and I run all my friends and relatives and enemies one by one in this, without entertaining any angers or gratitudes or anything, and I say, like, "Japhy Ryder, equally empty, equally to be loved, equally a coming Buddha," and then I run on and say, "David O. Selznick, equally empty, equally to be loved, equally a coming Buddha," though I don't use names like David O. Selznick, just people I know, because when I say the words "equally a coming Buddha" I want to be thinking of their eyes, like you take Morley, his blue eyes behind those glasses, when you think "equally a coming Buddha," you think of those eyes and you really do suddenly see the true secret serenity and the truth of his coming Buddhahood. Then you think of your enemy's eyes.
 Anybody can do it.

Name. Name any name, make up a name, name a group, name your enemies, one by one and in batches, and think and say: ")Name(, equally empty, equally to be loved, equally a coming Buddha" and think of those eyes and suddenly see the true secret serenity and the truth of their coming Buddhahood.

Namaste.

"The Dharma Bums"

Clickage will make the image big enough to read the dialog. It's funny.


As something of an antidote to this Blood Summer, I ordered a couple of books from afar (no, I don't use Amazon, these were ordered from Abe Books): "The Dharma Bums" and "On the Road -- the Original Scroll" both by Jack Kerouac -- and they came yesterday. There was a yellow card in my post office box with a whole series of hand-written numbers scratched off, and at the bottom was my box number with a (2) beside it. That's how they let you know you've got to go to the counter and pick something up. They don't actually tell you that, they just leave the yellow card in the post office box, and one day when I was laid up Ms Ché checked the mail in the box and found one of those yellow cards and she didn't know what it was. She thought it was maybe a mistake so she left it there and it stayed there for days. She was expecting a package though, and she said to me that it hadn't come, and she wondered what happened. I said that when there is a package, they'll leave a yellow card sometimes and you have to go to the counter to pick up whatever it is.

"Oh. There was a yellow card in the box the other day. I didn't know what it was, so I left it there. I thought it was a sorting thing or they made a mistake or something."

No, that's how you find out there's a package. So when she went to the post office that day, the card was still there and she took it to the counter, and sure enough, there was her package, waiting.

Yesterday there was a yellow card in the post office box and I took it to the counter and the woman at the counter said, "Good morning, Mister Ché. I see you have a package." and she took the yellow card from me, "No, I see you have two packages! I will be right back." And she disappeared around the corner to where the packages that have arrived are kept. Sure enough, within a few seconds she returned with two bubble packs, looking about book size, and placed them on the counter. "Here they are, Mister Ché. Will there be anything else?" I told her that no, I was fine, and then I dropped a few of the other mail pieces that had been in the box, "except I'm dropping everything this morning." She laughed. "Would you like some stamps?" "No, thank you. I'm fine." As I picked up the things that had fallen on the floor and scooped up the bubble packs from the counter, she said, "Well you have a very nice day, then, and we'll see you next time."

There are times when I've had my differences with the Post Office, like just a few days before, but this was not one of them, and I wished her well. I think her name is Lorene, but I get her confused with Mary who is also quite friendly and well-wishing and they don't wear name tags so I'm not sure which is which. I wished her well as well and went on my way.

When I got home I opened the bubble bags and there were the books, new Penguin editions, large format paperbacks, really quite nice, and they made me smile and then I laughed out loud when I read the cartoons on the end flaps of "The Dharma Bums." I will attempt to scan and add them to this post in due time.

"The Dharma Bums." It was, as far as I can recall, the first Kerouac book I read, but it may have been the second, after "On the Road." One loses track. It was a long time ago. At least 50 years ago. I opened the book yesterday and skipped over the scholarly introductions (imagine "scholarly introductions" to a Jack Kerouac novel fifty years ago!) and went right to the meat and was transported in a sense back to that time fifty or more years ago when I first read it.

And I've been more or less devouring it ever since -- well, except for this break to write something about it. It's an odd sensation because I read the book all those years ago and it made quite an impression on me, but I didn't actually carry it around with me and use it as a kind of talisman or bible or anything, I just read it and said, "Whoa," or maybe "Wow." As I'm reading it now, the words and images and sometimes whole passages are firing off in my memories, "Oh yes, I've been here before..." oh yes. Absolutely. But here's the thing, what Kerouac is writing about, the places at least, are places I have been, or near where I have been, like Berkeley and Santa Barbara and Los Angeles, and climbing in the Sierras and San Francisco and so forth, and North Beach and all of that, I've been there, spent lots of time there, traveling up and down the state of California and eventually traveling into Oregon and Washington, and up into the mountains and getting drunk on cheap wine in San Francisco with friends and talking all about everything far into the night with friends I thought were smarter than me and certainly much more fashionable, some of whom even became famous.

I didn't know anything about Buddhism when I first read "The Dharma Bums," so many of the references and even the title went right over my head, or maybe they entered somehow and germinated there eventually, because as I read it now, I know what most of the Buddhist terms refer to like "Bodhisattva" and so forth, and the various things you do when you're a "Zen Lunatic" and what not. It's all very familiar to me now but I can't imagine I knew anything about it when I was 14 or whatever when I first read the book, so I've been trying to figure out how I might have imagined what all this foreign gobbledegook meant at the time, and I can't do it. It couldn't have meant anything, and yet it must have, because now it all seems just right.

Practically everything seems just right now.

It's surprising and a little bit scary.

I realize I'm writing somewhat in the style of Jack Kerouac right now. It's because his influence is very strong on me and it's a style I've always liked. It's a style that always seemed very real and honest to me, far more so than the styles of so many tamer novelists who make their livings churning out the same thing over and over again that never actually says anything. Kerouac is saying something different and whipping you about this way and that and making you look at things you may never have seen before -- or like me, you may have been seeing or doing them all your life but never actually paid attention. As I re-read "The Dharma Bums" I wonder if he actually had more of an influence on my life than I could even imagine.

No, I say to myself, just because I have been to some of these places, done some of these things, known some of these people -- well, people like them or people who actually knew the people he's writing about  -- it doesn't mean very much in the vaster scheme of things. Everybody could say the same thing, couldn't they? They did and they knew many of the same things some novelist or other did and knew as well, didn't they? We're all related in some way like that, aren't we?

I don't know.

I don't know. And so I'll read some more and see how much more I remember. It was fifty years ago or more after all, and who can remember everything?

One thing I keep thinking about which may not mean anything at all is that Kerouac wrote "the Dharma Bums" in the mid or late 1950s and I read it in the early 1960s and I felt it was very contemporary, that it wasn't about a previous time at all. And I feel the same way about it now, it's not about a previous time or an earlier, safer and saner and more innocent era, it's about right now, today. These things and these people are going on right now, today, in some of the same places, in contrast to the chaos and the bloodfest our rulers are delighting in. Of course it was different then, but it wasn't. Not really.










Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Another APD Killing

Moments ago. Little news. Suspect dead. ATF and APD attempt to serve a warrant on a fugitive -- they say. Two shots fired.

It has been just about three weeks since the last shooting death of a suspect. Right on schedule...

---------------------------------------------
Ah yes, "pulled a gun from his waistband" excuse. It's used frequently: the man was a suspect, sometimes even a fugitive, and "he reached into his waistband" they said to pull out a gun. He needed killing. And so it would be. Pop-pop. Dead. Besides, he had a long criminal record and was wanted for something, in this case: parole violation.  Strangely, inexplicably, in this case, ATF was trying to serve a warrant.

Wouldn't be surprised if the "weapon" in his "waistband" was a cell-phone, but maybe they'll find something scary like a cap gun or even a BB gun. That, as we know, is a sure death sentence. Or maybe there was no "gun" at all, the cops just thought there was one.

So sick of this shit.

 

Gaza (Death From Above) Live

The sounds of drones and explosions are constant though you may not see anything but flares in the night sky...



Broadcast live streaming video on Ustream


The Blood Summer Strikes Again

I've been trying to digest the story I first heard yesterday or perhaps the day before about two homeless men bludgeoned to death in Albuquerque while they slept. Three teens, the youngest 15, have confessed to the crime and seem to be boasting that they have committed altogether fifty or more other attacks on the homeless in the last few months. Fifty or more.

Caveat: I don't know any more about this incident and the series of incidents that it seems to be part of than what has been in the news, and I've been shocked and appalled at what I've seen and heard, I really haven't wanted to follow it in any detail, so I suspect that a good deal of what I write about it here will be very incomplete and/or erroneous.

Fifty attacks in the last few months. Yes, there has been some mention made from time to time that this or that homeless wanderer has been attacked while he (generally it's a he) sleeps somewhere on the streets or in a vacant lot or wherever he can find a moment's rest, a little shelter. There have been stories of men or women run over by drivers seemingly looking for homeless wanderers to brutalize and kill. There have been stories or bludgeonings and frantic escapes. There have been so many stories of pain and misery and bloodshed.

Victims rarely report the crimes, they rarely go to the police, they're terrified of the police. They are terrified not solely because of the executions of the homeless which the police commit with impunity but because the police treat any homeless wanderer with routine contempt and violence; they are no protectors of the vulnerable. That's for Father Rusty at the St. Martin's homeless shelter. He'll get right on it.

The men who were killed over the weekend were called "Cowboy" and "Yazzie" according to reports, and they were from the Gallup area. Navajo. Not unusual for Indians to travel around, to live off the land, to get drunk and get by as best they can. Their friend, called "Skeets", was beaten up but survived and escaped and described the killers to police. Within a day, the boys, Alex Rios, 18, Nathaniel Carillo, 16 and Gilbert Tafoya, 15, were rounded up. Police say they confessed and provided extensive details of their other attacks on the homeless in Albuquerque the past few months.

Almost as if they were boasting.

They were doing their part, no? To clean up the riff-raff, the vermin, the losers lower than them.

Doing their part.

The police want others who might have been victims of these boys to come forward and make reports, but the victims live in fear, fear of the police certainly, but also of a system that has no regard for them, no place for them, wherein they have no home and no voice. They will not go to the police willingly. So the police are doing what they call "outreach," by sending plainclothes detectives among the homeless -- "our homeless" they're being called by suddenly compassionate news outlets -- to conduct surreptitious surveillance and interviews, to try to further develop cases against these boys. It's not, in other words, on behalf of the homeless, it is on behalf of the system, and on behalf of the police themselves.

The authorities will get to the bottom of this!

Well, no. No they won't.

The system the authorities serve has no use for drunken Indians (for God's sake!) out of Gallup who somehow made their way to Albuquerque and died there with their skulls crushed by rogue youths out for a lark. Too bad, so sad. They are simply surplus, disposable -- and anybody would understand they were going to die anyway. There was no way the system was going to salvage them, so maybe it's better for them and for everyone that... they're gone now, to their reward in Heaven or wherever... human waste disposal took care of it.

Too bad for those three boys who will now have to live with the consequences of what they did for the rest of their lives -- or at least until they are 21, when they might, under other circumstances, be released from juvenile detention. In fact, we're told, they will be tried as adults and face adult consequences for murder most foul, and that might be some consolation, but for the fact that there are no doubt others who think like they do, and when the spirit moves them (what kind of dark spirits are afoot), they will go on their own killing sprees, disposal efforts, removals of the unwanted...

I can't say what motivated these boys to do what they say they did, but I do know that they, like all of us, are immersed in a culture of impunity, a culture in which crimes of this sort are committed by authority with complete impunity (as with, for example, the cases of James Boyd and Mary Hawkes in Albuquerque, and how many tens or hundreds or thousands of others all over the country?) Abuse and killing of the homeless by authority is hardly considered worth the time to discuss these days -- except as a caution to others not to get out of line, or it could happen to you. Yes, you.

The situation in Albuquerque has been highlighted since the execution of James Boyd in March, and the situation in Albuquerque is definitely bad, awful, appalling and all the other terms used to describe police misconduct in this country, but in actuality, the problem is nationwide and getting worse.

Police misconduct, murder, abuse and impunity has reached epidemic proportions, at least if you follow the news. There are stories at least every week of some horror committed under color of authority including numerous questionable killings. There are entire YouTube channels devoted to documenting police misconduct, and (primarily libertarian) think tanks have devoted whole sections of their operations to studies and reports of police misconduct. It's a cottage industry in the land of the free and home of the brave.

Statistics show somewhat less certainty that things are getting worse, but statistics can be manipulated to show pretty much anything. Statistics appear to show that overall murder rates have plummeted to nearly an all-time low, which may be part of why so many murders now seem to gain so much attention, whether committed under color of authority or just because. They are actually so rare, at least according to statistics, that murders almost command attention by their very rarity. Seems counter intuitive, but there you are.

Police killings and abuse may or may not be on the rise. It is hard to say because data is scattered. There is no comprehensive statistical data. From what is available, it appears that police killings of suspects and bystanders run about 500 a year, year in and year out, practically without change. But that figure may be low. Reports of abuse run into the thousands, tens of thousands, but it's hard to say whether it's worse over time. Those with some memory of the past will often say that things were once far worse than they are now...

Yet we are conditioned to believe that the situation we face today is the worst it has ever been... It's always bad and getting worse, unless we fight.

Nevertheless, murders like those committed over the weekend in Albuquerque tear at the conscience and the heart. It's not a matter of "why" -- it's a matter of such horrors happening at all, and it's a matter of the overall sense of powerlessness in the face of such monstrousness.

This is what millions of Americans feel, but also what millions, perhaps billions, of people around the world feel in the face of the mounting cruelty of the world as it is and is becoming, and the blank-faced disinterest of those in power to do anything about it.

Powerlessness that's being countered to an extent, even on the mean streets of Albuquerque, by notions of common interest, mutual aid, concern. No only are the police doing "Outreach to Our Homeless," so are the many, many, many agencies and offices set up to help.

Even the frequently absent mayor of Albuquerque says "we must do more."

Well. Good.

Yes, do more. But understand, when authority is allowed to behave with impunity toward those who... don't fit, let's say, whatever standards of behavior or appearance that are required at any given moment, is it any wonder boys like those who confessed to the murders of these homeless men do what they do?

The problem starts at the top, not the bottom. Change the culture at the top, and what happens below changes too.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Playing Rough in the Abattoirs



The summer slaughter season seems to be just revving up if the news out of the various global abattoirs is any indication. Yesterday's slaughter and destruction in Gaza seems merely a warmup for what is to come in that corner of creation, and the saber rattling over the Malaysian plane crash in Ukraine is looking more and more like the prelude to a military attack on Russia. Even a light tap could have immense repercussions.

Is this 2014 or 1914?

Has no one learned anything?

Or is this merely the playing out of the "Creative Destruction" and "Chaos for Change" theory so beloved of post modern economics and the rump nations states that exist to serve financial and economic elites?

Those who love to blame the victims for their dire situation and fate are having a field day.

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For the record, Chris Floyd has been writing up a storm on these topics over at his place. Check it out.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Summer of Our Discontent

What a blood-soaked summer we're in, and it's not even half over. The slaughters throughout the Middle East crescent go on and on, more and more mountains of bodies piling up, or like that poor man I read about in Gaza, collecting the parts of his exploded child in a plastic shopping bag. I gagged and then I cried. What is the matter with people that allows and requires this to go on?

The Malaysian plane shot down in Ukraine is only a handful of dead compared what I'm hearing are thousands already killed in the conflict, many tens of thousands forced to flee, villages and parts of whole cities left in ruins.

And the bloodletting goes on and on and on while our leaders celebrate it, yes they do, each and every one, gleeful at the spilling of more and ever more blood. It is a passion among them, this thirst for blood.

Victim blaming continues without let up.

The victims are always to blame, the rebels are always to blame, the dead are to blame.

It's insane. And it is becoming more and more universal.




Friday, July 18, 2014

The Ayman Mohyeldin Thing at NBC

I was quite struck by Ayman Mohyeldin's reporting from Gaza for Al Jazzera during the horrid Cast Lead operation by Israel against Gaza; he was intrepid, obviously trying to true and accurate reporting, and he was clearly affected by the carnage he witnessed and the lies of the Israelis about it. All of this made for compelling news.

Later, he was assigned to the occupation of Tahrir Square in Cairo, and he appeared to be one of the only reporters on the scene who actually knew what was going on, who the major players were, and who could conduct his investigations in native Arabic and thus get closer to the truth than most other reporters. Richard Engel also speaks Arabic and has been widely respected for his reporting on events in the Middle East, but Ayman was able to get even closer to the principals and the action.

Ayman was on Democracy Now! in 2010 and gave a fairly comprehensive account of his background.

When Ayman joined NBC News, apparently at a huge increase in salary, his reports were somewhat less intense and frequent, but they were sometimes more informative and often quite personal, making the people he featured into real and very human, mostly victims, of the carnage unleashed upon them.

The other day, he was a witness to the slaughter of four children on a Gaza beach and the wounding of several more in front of his hotel. He helped to rescue and treat the survivors. He reported quite passionately what he saw and did during the incident, and his reports were widely considered outstanding first-hand accounts of a terrible tragedy.

Strangely, though, his reports were not featured on NBC Nightly News, in fact, there was not mention of him. Richard Engel, reporting from Tel Aviv was made the lead reporter on the story, a story which was covered extensively on the program, and during which Engel appeared to report accurately and pulled no punches, using footage shot by Ayman's team.

It was just that Ayman himself was missing from the story and the reporting. It seemed odd to say the least.

The next day, Glenn Greenwald reported that Ayman had been abruptly "pulled from Gaza" by an NBC executive and was not being permitted to report on the story any more. The story of the 4 children killed on the beach in Gaza was modified to include Israeli defenses of it, and eventually the story was all but scrubbed, or at least was no longer featured on news cycles.

Down the Memory Hole?

Or something even more sinister? Observers noted that as the story of the children killed on the beach faded, more and more Israel-centric stories appeared, often with no recognition of a Palestinian point of view, and featuring intense denunciations of Palestinians/Hamas to the exclusion of any reporting on the miseries and death the Palestinians -- especially in Gaza --  are enduring as a result of Israeli operations and bombardments. As the death toll rises, the victims more and more are being dehumanized and blamed.

As a rule, Engel has not engaged in that kind of reporting, and to the extent I know anything about it, Ayman never did.

Many are questioning Ayman's removal from Gaza reporting for NBC, but if I recall correctly, he was also expelled by the Israelis from Gaza during the Cast Lead operation and had to report from the border fence rather than from inside Gaza. Engel is widely respected in the field, so he's not the worst replacement for Ayman under the circumstances. The issue is that Ayman was replaced at all without explanation or reason given. He was just gone suddenly, completely and inexplicably.

Of course Greenwald is speculating on motives the way he does, but NBC is keeping mum, and apparently Mohyeldin has been successfully gagged.

Americans have fewer and fewer reliable sources of news from areas of conflict, and while he was reporting from Gaza, Ayman Mohyeldin was one of the few whose reports could be considered both informative and accurate. While I wouldn't consider Richard Engel to be a complete propagandist and tool, he does have a very different approach, one that is based in a certain viewpoint about the United States and its role in the Middle Eastern conflicts (not necessarily a positive one, but one that starts from the American viewpoint) and so his focus tends to be less involved with the realities of Palestinian life under siege and attack -- which was a specialty of Mohyeldin's -- and more how it all looks from an American perspective.

Some of Ayman's reports before he was pulled:






He also Tweeted extensively about the events he witnessed and provided numerous images on his Instagram account.

By now, we all know that commercial as well as much alternative news is very tightly controlled in the West and the United States in particular in order to promote a particular version of events; we could go into extraordinary detail about how our "news" is often intended not so much to inform as it is to shape opinion and promote propaganda, to set narratives, and to extend the power of elites. 

Ayman was not immune from the pressures to conform to those interests, but his reporting was a distinct contrast to those who saw their role as one to support rather than challenge or provide other insights than the dominant narrative (which we have notices is nearly universal throughout the media).

Ayman Mohyeldin's reporting was actually a small portion of a whole, and his removal doesn't affect that whole to any great extent. What it does is narrow the narrative NBC has been marketing. That's a business decision that will mean that the public which relies on NBC News will have less information by which to understand events in the Middle East, and the less information they have, the more closely the public opinion can be manipulated.

The more we see this happening, the fewer alternative points of view we have to consider. 

None of this is new, but to see it again, so starkly, is more than a little disturbing.

I'm sure we will see more examples as time goes by and the grip of the oligarchs tightens. 

----------------------------------------
UPDATE: According to word out of NBC, breathlessly announced and spread via internet outlets, Mohyeldin will be returning to Gaza this weekend. NBC's announcement is terse and uninformative, the way they tend to be, but Mohyeldin twitted thus:

 


There is a good deal of high stepping blogger triumphalism at the moment, but exactly what happened is still as murky and mysterious as ever, and we will likely never know the full story.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

False Flag Over Ukraine?

I dunno.

A Malaysian Airlines plane with 298 passengers and crew was shot down over the rebel areas of Ukraine this morning. No one took immediate responsibility, but Twitter and Facebook accounts attributed to "Strelkov" -- said to be the military commander of the Donbass rebels -- announced a shootdown shortly after the Malaysian plane was lost.

There is some question of whether these posts were made by Strelkov, as they were deleted shortly afterwards.

As we've known for some time, it is more than possible to manipulate social media accounts for the propaganda and social engineering purposes.

We'll know soon enough how this horrible, indeed inexcusable, incident is used beyond its propaganda value. Is this a false flag to ensure NATO enters the conflict directly? Is it further provocation of the Russian Bear?

Was it a tragic accident? Intentional? Stupid?

We'll see. I doubt it will end well.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Renewing the Anti-War Coalition?

Could be.

Given the ridiculous disparities in casualties in the current round of bloodletting in Israel-Palestine, the ludicrous propaganda from the hasbaraniks, the truly vile and disgusting support of the Gazan slaughter by nearly every western power, and the grotesque arc of suffering and bloodletting throughout the Middle East these days, it's as close as it's been in more than a decade for the many domestic and global anti-war outfits to coalesce once again and say "No more" to war.

Our governments have long behaved as if the People and the public interest don't matter. They certainly seem to get a thrill at governing contrary to the public interest and will, quite openly and actively supporting the interests and will of an oligarchy that simply cares nothing for anything that is not immediately profitable to their bottom lines. The multitudinous wars and police actions they engage in to force neo-liberal policies on resistant local populations, whether in the Middle East, North Africa, South Asia, Africa or southeastern Europe, merely serve to reinforce the notion that "there is no alternative," and all must fall into the orbit and follow the directives of the international bankers and financiers and the governments they sponsor -- or else. Misery, death and destruction are guaranteed.

Can a revival of the anti-war coalition of the past reverse this trend?

Not immediately, no. But if people see their common interest is to be found in thwarting the warring mentality of their Betters, refusing to go along with it, countering it with peace, dignity, justice and community, we can see a time in the not too distant future (probably after my lifetime, though) when war will once more be seen as the abomination it is.

I've noticed that in Albuquerque, the A.N.S.W.E.R. coalition is far and away the most active and reliable community group organizing against police abuse. A.N.S.W.E.R. was also the in the lead of the anti-Iraq War protests more than a decade ago, and at the time, no one really knew who they were. Many people still have no idea. It didn't matter at the time, because they were organized and they were the energy behind protest marches that involved hundreds and hundreds of thousands of people domestically, millions overseas. Those protests did not stop the Iraq War of course.

What may have had a more profound effect was the simple shaming action taken by Cindy Sheehan and others on the roadside near the entrance to the Bush's Crawford ranch (known as the "Pig Farm.") Though Cindy has since been denounced and dismissed as a Communist and a crank -- oh my! -- her efforts brought enormous shame to the Bush - Cheney regime, and it has had a cumulative effect over time.

By combining the efforts of a highly organized outfit like A.N.S.W.E.R. with the individual shaming efforts of those who have suffered irreparable loss, it's conceivable that a new global Anti-War Coalition can be generated.

Bloodshed and destruction seem boundless at the moment. It's past time to reverse the trend.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Victim Blaming as Art Form, Sport

In the latest round of slaughter and murder in the Middle East -- now stretching in a big arc from the Gaza Strip in the south to the streets of Damascus in the north to the besieged cities of Iraq in the east -- the active participants love to blame the victims of the slaughter for their own demise.

The victims, for the most part, are only trying to stay out of the way of the drones and bombs and missiles and bullets, but unfortunately in the modern practice of "warfighting" there's no place to go. Every place in the "battle space" is a potential or actual target and there are no shelters for the victims.

Blaming them for their demise doesn't even work as a rationalization. It's simply a formula.

The Israelis, of course, have perfected the formula.

Here is an example of nearly perfect hasbara:
  

 


It's simple. Just stop attacking Israel with rockets and missiles, aimed arbitrarily (but hopefully with the intent of hitting civilians, preferably children), give up the objective of destroying Israel, and concede that Israel has a right to exist, and all this can be resolved.
Hamas uses civilian sites to launch it's deadly cargo. When Israel notifies civilians their buildings may be attacked, Hamas insists the residents remain and be martyred. Is no one bothered by Hamas' willingness to sacrifice its own people to further its reprehensible policy of annihilation, or are all of you indignant (to put it mildly) critics really in favor of denying Israel's right to exist as a sovereign country.
And don't get into the "Jewish" state nonsense. Name me one Arab country which isn't de facto, if not de jure, a Moslem theocracy. Also, you might ask why the considerable Christian Palestinian population has practically disappeared from the West bank and Gaza.
They didn't leave voluntarily. It's my understanding many of them went to Israel, where they joined a very large Moslem minority, few if any of whom are leaving Israel for the outside Arab world.
No other country would tolerate this kind of aggression from a neighbor without retaliation.
To my knowledge there were no Jewish populations in Europe attacking the Nazis with hand guns, no less rockets, nor did any Jews declare the intent to destroy any European entity.
The Jews of Europe posed no threat to any state or other political, or societal entity.
Comparing the Holocaust to the present situation in the middle east is nothing more than a subterfuge for anti-semitism. Expecting the Jews to behave differently than any other similarly situated country in a world where outright slaughters are going on (for example Syria and Iraq) with far less justification and a lot less regard for human life says it all.
As far as Israel's so called control of Gaza, again why should Israel concede its sovereignty to a terrorist organization dedicated to its destruction. Israel doesn't occupy Gaza. This latest round started with rocket and missile attacks from guess what - Gaza. The chances are just as good that if Israel withdrew totally from the West Bank and those Palestinians were granted statehood without a comprehensive peace agreement, Israel would be subject to attack not only from the north and south but also the east. There is nowhere in Israel that is out of range of ordinance Hamas now possesses (and is eagerly using). So from a purely defensive perspective, Israel has no choice but to react.
If Hamas gave a damn for its own people, it would cease its aggression, concentrate on improving the standard of living of its people by negotiating in good faith with both Israel and Egypt. Remember Gaza has a border with Egypt, but for some reason all the vitriol is aim,ed at Israel. Wonder why.
The reason Israel imposes embargoes on Gaza is to prevent even worse incursions over it's borders.
The author apparently ran out of time to finish the thought. But it would be a surprise to few if this hasbara was followed by a revisionist history of the region, going back at least to 1948, if not to 1948 BCE.

The formula mixes fact and fiction with repetition and victim blaming, always with the intention to leave Israel and Israelis utterly blameless, heroic and justified. All the responsibility for the deplorable state of conflict is on the shoulders of Hamas and the Palestinians. The people of Gaza deserve what they get -- because they are who they are and they do what they do.

Thence comes the dehumanizing of the foe. They are animals, savage, barbaric, subhuman, inhuman, vermin. Oh, it never fails. Just as in times past the excuse for killing the women and children of the savage foe has been that "nits breed lice." Ergo, kill them all. God will know His own.


Thus even babes in arms are held responsible for the horrors unleashed against them in classic victim-blaming fashion.

The Israelis are behaving barbarically towards their captive Gazan foe, on the theory that "nits breed lice" and killing a sufficiency of the Gazan women and children -- a sufficiency that varies arbitrarily -- will teach the Garzan warriors a lesson: to yield and surrender is their only option, and even then, it will not be enough to end the slaughter, for they and they alone are responsible for the slaughter, and as they hold human life to be of no particular value -- as opposed to the high value that those who kill them hold it -- they will pay forever with their own lives and those of the people they purport to love.

I've  remarked on the tendency of elites and those in power to cast responsibility downwards. According to their own lights, the elites and the oligarchy they serve are not responsible for anything bad that happens. Only the lower orders have responsibility for such evil. They and their various "Hitlers" -- whether in the West Bank and Gaza or lurking under the beds of the high and mighty -- are the responsible parties; the elites and oligarchs who stand with one another to denounce them never are.

Victim blaming is a constant, an art form and a sport.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Summer Slaughter Season

Map of Europe, c. 1940. The Summer Slaughter Season was under way and wouldn't end for years to come...

[Note: I found the map above in my collection of maps and atlases a couple of weeks ago. The map is in a Rand-McNally Atlas that was published in 1936, but the interesting thing to me was that the owner of the Atlas had taken a pink colored pencil to it and shaded in the then-current conquests of Nazi Germany. They include Austria, Czechoslovakia, Poland, Denmark, Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg and Norway. Albania had been invaded and occupied by Italy in 1939, and it is included in the conquests. Also indicated as partially absorbed into the Fatherland are Lithuania, Estonia, Latvia and Finland... We know that the Axis wasn't by any means satisfied... Don't forget Spain and Portugal...]

The sharks are in the water. Have you noticed?

The Summer Slaughter Season is upon us, and the various conflicts in the Middle East and elsewhere are in full swing. Bloodlust is catching.

Of course the slaughter in Gaza rivets the attention of many among us -- partly because it is so telegenic, what with the constant exploding shells, the running, screaming Arabs, holding the broken bodies that once were their children, and of course the breathless "terror" of the Israelis dashing to their shelters if by chance one of the Gazan "missiles" gets through the protective Iron Dome. (Actually, according to statistics I've seen, most get through. It's just that they land and explode -- or not -- where they have no effect.)

It's telegenic, too, because of the massive propaganda campaign Israelis undertake when they go to slaughter Arabs, a campaign that has only been matched recently by the coup-regime run by the Freaks in Kiev (h/t Saker) as they go to slaughter in the Donbass and along the Black Sea coast, committing atrocity after atrocity, but none as telegenic recently as the slaughter of Arabs in Gaza.

What became of this Ukrainian slaughter? It's still going on, with sieges under way, villages destroyed, hundreds then thousands of dead, millions made refugees. But the news is practically nil. The businesses that bring us the "news" are almost entirely focused on the slaughter in Gaza, for that's where the real action is.

Word has it that the ethnic cleansing an extermination campaign in Ukraine is perhaps going better than planned -- assuming it was planned, and I'm not sure it was -- partly because "Putin blinked" and refused in the end to send more than token assistance (if that) to his Russian/Russian speaking comrades in the Donbass and southeast. The rebels are on their own.

And so, recognizing that they cannot hold out indefinitely, and there's probably no profit in trying to do so, many residents, targets of the coup-regime run by the Freaks in Kiev, are leaving. By the tens of thousands.

Slaviansk fell to the Kiev coup-regime last week, and reports from there have practically ceased. We don't know how many executions there have been, in other words, but given previous indications, we can rest assured that the wet work is proceeding with all due diligence and speed. The armed rebel faction may have abandoned the city, but their collaborators are everywhere within it, no? And how does a bogus government like the Kiev coup-regime establish its authority over resistant areas and peoples? By killing rebels and their collaborators on a massive scale.

See the coup-regime in Cairo for a not-too-long past example.

The killing goes on in Syria unabated, and now the Syrian slaughter -- they say -- has spread to Iraq with the conquests of the ISIS Caliphate which has abolished the border between Syria and Iraq, and is -- they say -- intent on reestablishing the historic rule of the Caliph from Baghdad where once he held forth.

It's an interesting idea. No, really.

There was a time of relative peace and prosperity throughout Araby. It was much more recent than the Caliphate. It was during Ottoman times. Barely a century ago, within the historical memories of most of those in Arab lands today. Anglo-Euro-Americans have no memories of it, because in their histories, they created the Arab nations out of nothing at all; the Ottoman period barely registers.

The arrangements the Ottomans made among the various Arab peoples (and with the Jews too) seemed to work out fairly well all in all, limiting tribal conflict, resolving disputes, providing a reliable sense of security and safety throughout the region for peoples to do pretty much as they wished.

If that or something like it is what the ISIS Caliphate party is trying to re-establish, who am I to say "no?" Except, from reports, it's not. The Ottomans were progressives compared to the Caliphate. Or so we're told. The Caliphate would be going backwards a thousand years, and it would be terrible for the well-being of the people and the region. No, really.

 So we, or rather they, can't have that. Must be crushed. And so the anti-ISIS campaign is supposedly under way to re-take the various cities in Iraq that have fallen...

Deja-vu all over again.

We've done this before, haven't we? Wait, wait. We've been on this road so many times.

Fascism/Nazi-ism back in the day was a means of coordinating/uniting fractious Europe's elites and common herd to oppose the Dreaded Communists of the Soviet Union. A rightist form of populism, if you will, intended to do physical battle with the Soviet Bear, which it did with not a lot to show for it.

The Soviet Union dissolved on its own decades after the disaster of the Fascist/Nazi expansion period (with a nudge or two, to be sure).

But now we're in a political/ideological situation where it seems Our Betters believe that the Fascists and Nazis were too advanced, too progressive. Too organized.

Disruption and chaos are now the operative principles of global elites. Disruption in the Middle East and South Asia has been going on for many years, the idea apparently being to prevent any sort of comprehensive -- or even localized -- organization among the Arabs and to disrupt/dismantle any organization among the non-Arabs (such as Persians, Afghanis, and so forth).

Chaos and disruption serve the interests of the High and Mighty, but they cannot do so permanently. At least not historically. At some point, a new status quo has to settle in, but for some reason that is not allowed to happen in the Middle East and adjacent lands.

The current slaughter in Gaza is part of Israel's ongoing attempts to maintain chaos and disruption in its almost-conquered dependencies of Gaza and the West Bank. To what object is the question. How are Israeli interests served by such tactics?

But we can ask the same questions about Iraq or Syria or Libya or Ukraine or pretty much anywhere chaos and disruption -- and slaughter -- are the current ruling principles. How is anyone's interest served more than temporarily, indeed more than momentarily?

There have been more than a few suggestions that the ISIS advance in Iraq is a false flag engineered by the United States in order to disrupt/overthrow the corrupt regime of al-Maliki who was previously installed by the US. That would be par for the course given the way the Great Game has been played from the bunkers of the West for some time now, but there's no telling whether it's true -- or even relevant if it were true -- at this point.

The indications are that the Ukraine Thing was engineered by the US and EU over a long period, indeed over decades, and came to fruition by "accident" when Yanukovych said "no" to EU/IMF demands that would have caused domestic chaos and disruption in order meet them. Chaos and disruption ensued anyway.

Much the same can be said for Syria, Libya, and anywhere else the neo-imperial project is being implemented.

There is no escape apparently; there is no way to avoid the impositions and social/political/economic destruction that ensues.

Much the same was the case in Europe and the Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere in prelude to the American entry into WWII.

While Americans were content to sit back and watch things spiral out of control in 1940 and '41-- at least until the attack on Pearl Harbor -- today, it appears the US Government, or a faction of it, is leading a global campaign of disruption and chaos.

We have become the enemy we once fought against...


Saturday, July 12, 2014

300

When the death toll from the current Israeli killing spree reaches around 300, the operation should start to ratchet back. A 100 to one killing ratio seems to satisfy the Israeli bloodlust temporarily. 3 Israeli teens killed vs 300 Palestinians should just about do the trick.

For the time being.

Until the next round.

Crazy the fruits of imperialism. No?


Thursday, July 10, 2014

Is That All There Is?



There's a long well-written piece over at the now nearly moribund Intercept that informs us that five prominent and well-connected Muslims (or four and and atheist, accounts vary, even within the piece) had their emails intercepted and spied upon by the NSA -- or maybe it was the FBI using technology provided by the NSA, accounts are unclear -- from about 2003 to about 2008, though it's neither clear nor certain when the interception started and whether it has stopped.

What is apparently clear is that the email interception and surveillance happened, and that these five men agreed to be interviewed for the Intercept, and their stories are interesting.

As I say, the article is quite long, some 8,000 words, and there are embedded videos that continue their sagas in some detail. All of these men were and are well connected in the American Muslim community, and most were very well connected with Power. Some were fairly frequent visitors to the White House and one ran for office. The idea that these men were subjected to surveillance -- by having their emails intercepted and read -- is apparently supposed to shock our consciences, as it is patently obvious that these men were not deserving of such scrutiny, even if it was legal, which is not entirely clear. It may well have been legal, but even if it was, these men of all men did not deserve the dishonor and humiliation of being surveilled by the state.

They were and are prominent, important people, you see. Men of substance, gravitas. Leaders among men. High ranking staff of important elected officials. Lawyers. These men, of all men, did not deserve to be treated like the common herd.

Should these men have been exempt from surveillance by reason of their status? That seems to be the upshot of the long anticipated story "naming names."

That only five names are named -- out of a list of several thousand email addresses that was provided by Edward Snowden -- and all of those named are Muslims (or four Muslims and an atheist) has caused something of a stir among the rabble who were so eagerly awaiting the post that would "name names" and be a "fireworks finale" and so on and so forth. Greenwald hyped this thing to the heavens in numerous teevee and print interviews over the past few months, waxing rhapsodic (well, as rhapsodic as he can wax) over the spectacle he was preparing to unleash around the end of June/Fourth of July.

Some of his thunder was stolen by Bart Gellman at the WaPo who wrote -- before the release by the Intercept -- that the NSA actually sweeps up many hundreds of thousands of emails in their surveillance dragnet, and most of them -- more than 90% -- are in no way related to investigations into terrorism or various prioritized criminality. They are "innocents."

Just as Greenwald's named names are.

Of course, in the minds of many Americans, Muslims, per se, are not innocents at all, and the more scrutiny and surveillance they are subjected to, the better. This is pure bigotry in most cases, and the article describes a somewhat astonishing level of crude bigotry that informed the actions of the FBI at the time these men were being surveilled. Good heavens! How unprofessional! Indeed. It was the Cheney era. What does one expect?

Which leads to a consideration of the letdown this supposed "fireworks show" and finale represents for many who have seen it and read it.

If that's truly all there is, it's pretty much a nothing-burger.

Airy but not very nutritious.

Everyone knew, did they not, that American Muslims were being spied upon,  sometimes very intrusively, and in great numbers, said to be justified by the threat they supposedly posed to the good order, peace and security of Regular Americans, thanks in large measure to the attacks on 9/11/2001 which killed several thousand innocents.

Their actual innocence can be disputed, but that's another issue.

The Muslim threat was and is considered real by the malefactors of the State. The threat is not to "innocents"-- the threat is to the State and to the Power of the State.

When Cheney was running things, paranoia was rampant within the government to the point where he ordered a bunker built under his mansion at the Naval Observatory. Thousands were rounded up, protesters were encaged, innocents were rendered and tortured, wars of aggression were ordered and undertaken against peoples who had nothing to do with the attacks, millions have died or been displaced.

That's the legacy of what happened one day in September so many years ago. That's the Cheney legacy, too, for Cheney let it happen -- whether deliberately or not is beside the point. He had and has another priority than the protection and security of the American people: his priority was his own protection and financial well-being and after the attacks, he concerned himself with the protection and security of the State and particularly its executive apparatus.

Anything and everything was fair so long as his priorities were met.

The loyalty he inspired and still inspires within the confines of the Government and its contractors is something of a wonder, especially given the nearly universal contempt with which his ostensible Boss, George Bush, is held.

The five men named and profiled in the long-awaited Intercept report were close to the Bush-Cheney White House, and given the paranoia of the times and the paranoid natures of the men and women in charge in those days, it's no wonder at all that these five men were placed under surveillance. They and many tens of thousands or hundreds of thousands or millions of others were and are subject to the gentle kindness of State surveillance, on the basis of the lingering paranoia that seems to have wormed its way into the foundations of government today.

By no means were or are Muslims the only targets, any more than the NSA is the only or the primary surveillance outfit.

The problem with Greenwald's reporting on the topic all along has been its narrow focus and its obsession with the NSA. Well, that and the endless hype that leads... essentially nowhere.

The stories, when they are well-written as this one is, are interesting but apart from The Debate, they have led to no substantive positive changes in the surveillance state at all. In fact, the argument can be and has been made that the changes that have taken place and those to come have strengthened and expanded the surveillance state, not weakened it at all. The revelations have mostly been of "things we already knew" at least in broad outline. They've filled in details, but the details simply let us know how very pervasive corporate and government surveillance is. It hasn't provided us with tools to do anything about it; in fact, the revelations have essentially let it be known that "you can't do anything about it." And so, knowing they are under surveillance, Americans are more careful about what they say and what they do, aren't they? And isn't that the point of telling people they are -- or at least could be -- under surveillance?

These revelations serve the State, whether they are intended to or not. And this latest article does the same -- in this case by making clear to American Muslims that there is no exemption for even their highest ranking comrades. They are all considered suspect.

But we knew that, didn't we?

So really, is that all there is?

Then let's keep dancing...

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

A Rucksack Revolution


First Page, "Dharma Bums" Manuscript

Dharma Bums by Jack Kerouac read by Allen Ginsberg from Sal Paradise on Myspace.

My man Jack Kerouac let it be known back in the 1950s -- 1958 I think it was -- that when the Revolution comes, it will come via a cohort of Rucksack Revolutionaries:
See the whole thing is a world full of rucksack wanderers, Dharma Bums refusing to subscribe to the general demand that they consume production and therefore have to work for the privilege of consuming, all that crap they didn’t really want anyway such as refrigerators, TV sets, cars, and general junk you finally always see a week later in the garbage anyway, all of them imprisoned in a system of work, produce, consume, work, produce, consume, I see a vision of a great rucksack revolution thousands or even millions of young Americans wandering around with rucksacks, going up to mountains to pray, making children laugh and old men glad, making young girls happy and old girls happier, all of ‘em Zen Lunatics who go about writing poems that happen to appear in their heads for no reason and also by being kind and also by strange unexpected acts keep giving visions of eternal freedom to everybody and to all living creatures.
Except my man himself is quoting here, quoting a character in "The Dharma Bums" named Japhy Ryder (a fictionalized version of American man of letters Gary Snyder of Mt Aukum and Bixby Canyon and so on and so forth) who is predicting the surreal events of a Revolution yet to come some years down the road. And so it does.

It does and then something happens to it, to the Rucksack Revolutionaries, who, like Gary Snyder, or like Japhy Ryder, become tamed somehow and take up their positions of honor, trust and majesty, with their awards and sinecures and their hail-fellows. They continue on their Way, to be sure, but they no longer know or practice revolution, rucksack or otherwise. Their dharma caught up with them.

Can't say when I first read Kerouac, but I was pre-teen, 12 maybe even younger. "The Dharma Bums" was first, and it left a huge impression on me, more even than "The Catcher in the Rye" would when I read it later. I remember reading "Dharma Bums," then "On the Road," and finally, when I was about 14, "Big Sur", devouring them really wondering what would come next, and how could anyone write like that?

Now I wonder why no one writes that way any more.

Of course, Kerouac was fucked up on liquor and drugs, a basket case, dead well before his time, aged 47, in 1969.

His later output could not match the three exquisite novels I read when I was barely an adolescent. At least for me his later stuff didn't. Others may disagree.

I know I have a copy of "Big Sur" here at the house somewhere, I remember packing it -- probably in a box out in one of the sheds -- but I doubt I have copies of either "Dharma Bums" or "On the Road" any more.

I find things now and then, though, so maybe if I dig around enough, I'll find them. You never know.

In the meantime, there's a Dharma Bum Temple in San Diego, and for those more Catholic-ly inclined -- we must recall Jack Kerouac was Catholic and never left the faith -- there is the San Juan Diego Friary in Albuquerque which seems so similar in so many ways...


Monday, July 7, 2014

While John Cook Vacations...

Once again, things are getting weird at the "Intercept" where, from its launch in February, the hype is not matched by the content and the comments generally provide more actual news -- even if only aggregates from other outlets -- than the rare published items.

John Cook, who claims to be "editor-in-chief", whatever that means, has been on vacation according to reports and cannot be bothered. He's had nothing to say for months about his editorial obligations, assuming there are any.

One doesn't know.

Greenwald made an apparently ill-advised announcement that the long-awaited story he was (he said) "working on" would be published at midnight one day. It wasn't. Instead, there was a breathless announcement that the story would be held until a new government objection was investigated.

OK. So the WaPo publishes an extensive story that doesn't name names but does reveal the kinds of "inadvertent" collections of information the NSA deals with all the time, pretty much stealing Greenwald's thunder in any case. If he ever does publish his grand finale fireworks show -- looking less and less likely by the day -- will anyone care?

Greenwald continues to defend himself and hurl insults and invective via Twitter -- so at least we know he's alive. And according to reports, he's still on book tour and doing teevee appearances, so there is that.

As for the other staff at the "Intercept," with the exception of Ryan Gallagher, they have been mighty quiet since they nestled under the Omidyar wing. They have been remarkably quiet given their prolific output prior to becoming "Intercept" staff. It's almost as if shutting them up was part of the deal. The only one who hasn't been shut up is Marcy Wheeler, who just keeps cranking stories out like sausages, though she's been mighty quiet about why she left the cozy confines of OmidyarLand back in May.

Turns out Omidyar's people have been busy bees at the White House, however.

No surprise there, I suppose, given the Omidyar penchant for global power plays.

It's been my pet theory that someone at the WH called Pierre, just as the missing Jeremy Scahill teasingly suggested might happen, and asked politely that Greenwald's story -- naming names -- be held for the time being. Pierre, being the power player he is, said "Sure, why not?" and had one of his lieutenants convey the message that there might be a "problem" with one or more of the names so... would Glenn kindly look into it? 'Kthnxbai.

Greenwald's defense has largely been one of "protecting the innocent." So he can't name names without revealing the names of innocents, and that would be wrong. Unless they want their names to be named. And then it would be right. So in order to name the names all 10,000 or 100,000 names he has have to be contacted one by one, and that's ever-so-hard, and it takes a long time, and many of them may be indisposed or otherwise unable or unwilling to respond, so what are you going to do? It's such a terrific responsibility, after all. So maybe the best thing is not to name the names, just remark on the categories of those swept up in NSA collections, but we're already pretty certain of what those categories are, so is there even a story here? One that could qualify as fireworks? Maybe so, maybe not. Well, the WaPo thought there was a story, and they managed to get one out, but Greenwald's story is so much better....

-------------------------------------------------
It is Summer Shark and Missing White Woman season once again, and the Missing Greenwald Story fits right in with the season. The Absent Story is a Summer Story its own self, with dozens of mentions over the last week or so. Google it. And then there's Cryptome's cryptic non-announcement that the whole Snowden trove will be revealed by the end of the month. Or not.

It's Summertime...






Sunday, July 6, 2014

Clogging, Two-Stepping, and Western Swing



There was a dance hall and resort about 10 miles out of Sacramento called Wills Point; the dance hall had been known as the Aragon Ballroom until Bob Wills bought it in 1947 and moved his operation up from Fresno to settle in for a little while before he went back on tour with his Texas Playboys, leaving the dance hall operation to the boys -- Billy Jack, his youngest brother and Tiny Moore, his mandolin player and all around factotum.

During the War (WWII), the Aragon Ballroom was a hot spot for recruits out at the air corps base, McClellan Field as it was called then. The main gate was only a few miles away over rolling, oak studded ranch land. My parents met at McClellan Field in 1944 and I'm pretty sure they spent some time out at the Aragon dancing.

They might have gone out dancing to Bob Wills and his Texas Playboys, for the band played in Sacramento many a time through the war years.

The dance hall burned down one night in 1956, but the resort carried on for some time thereafter, and when my family moved to Sacramento from Southern California in 1959, I would go swimming out there in the summer. They had a good big pool, though others were closer to where we lived. Didn't matter. There were the memories after all...

They were memories that I mostly didn't have, but my mother and sister did.

I would learn later how it all intertwined.

Yesterday, Ms Ché and I made an expedition into town (Albuquerque) because I saw a flyer at the local market out where we live announcing Western Youth Day, with Western Music and Cowboy Poetry on the Plaza in Old Town. Sounded like it might be fun. It was.

Kids doing stuff that old farts like ourselves enjoy. There was lots of Bob Wills' music to be heard, and what was even better than the old stuff was the new stuff, some of it written by the kids performing it themselves. Now how about that? I thought it was terrific.

It was almost as if time stood still for a few hours yesterday afternoon in Old Town, in a plaza that was laid out in 1706 (or maybe later, accounts vary). I noted much of the audience was of a certain age, not particularly young or spry, but still loving the music -- music which ranged from old time bluegrass and gospel to cowboy and Western Swing, to contemporary country. I noted that no one was clog-dancing or buck-dancing to the bluegrass, and nobody seemed to know how to do a decent two-step to the country stuff, but many were dancing their un-spry versions of Western Swing to just about anything that moved them.

And that was pretty cool.

The music was delivered by some pretty hot youngsters. The Sawyers, from Texas, were a girl fiddler -- who would later play with the headliner, Krystin Harris -- her little brother who played and sang, and their father who backed them up with guitar.

The Anslovers, from Albuquerque, are two sisters ages 19 and 15 and their brother age 17 who present quite an accomplished show. The oldest sister is the three time New Mexico State Fiddle Champion, and her skill was unmatched. I did lean over to Ms at one point and whisper, "They need to get that boy some sangin' lessons!" because on most of the numbers he sang lead for, he could not carry a tune. Let it be said, however, that cowboy singers don't always have the best voices, and on the whole he and his sisters were fine.

Olivia Hobbs, from Richmond, VA,  played guitar and sang in a high, clear voice, mostly spirituals and cowboy songs, some of which she wrote herself. Her original pieces were very good.

Kristyn Harris, also from Texas, wrote a good number of the songs she sang, and she is very much a force to be reckoned with in this specialized but very popular genre.

This is the kind of country (and western) music I listened to when I was growing up. It's nothing at all like most of what passes for "country" today, and like many of the old codgers in attendance yesterday, it's one of the kinds of music I really like. I missed the clog-dancers and two-steppers, though, and wonder whether anyone learns those dances any more...

Cowboy poetry was presented between the musical acts by the Lyman Family -- five of Papa'n'Mama Lyman's six children from up Utah way. The kids were very cute -- four boys and a girl, ages maybe 6 to 13 -- in their cowboy getups, the kind of fringed and hatted outfits I wore when I was younger than they were. They even had the plastic cap pistols, chromed and shiny, that I had. Somewhere there are pictures of me all cowboyed up at the age of four. Most American kids went through that phase back in the late '40s and early '50s, but I also rode and tried to rope -- was never any good at it. One of the Lyman boys -- he was perhaps ten or eleven -- proudly announced that he was putting together his own "herd of cow" and he had ten already. Most of the poems the Lymans recited from memory were by "Grampa Quinn".


The day was hot and muggy down at the Plaza, and on the way back home from a long afternoon enjoying Western music and Cowboy poetry we got inundated by a downpour at Sedillo Hill, rain so hard that it pretty near flooded the interstate. Monsoon has arrived.

The Anslovers did "Wagon Wheel," announcing that it was originally done by The Old Crow Medicine Show before Darius Rucker made it into such a hit. Well, it had already been a hit with The Old Crow Medicine Show. Here's their version at Coachella in 2010:




Sounds something like Dylan... ;-)

Darius Rucker joined them at the Grand Ol Opry in Nashville in 2012, and the next year released his own version.

As someone pointed out yesterday, "Wagon Wheel" is pure bluegrass, gussied up just a little for today...

And if I die in Raleigh, at least I will die freeeee...."


Saturday, July 5, 2014

113


Himself, c. 1930

My father would be 113 years old today.

He was born July 5, 1901, in what was then a vibrant Mississippi River railroad town, a transhipment point for crops and hogs and lumber and such from the vast "New Northwest" of Iowa, Wisconsin and Minnesota.

He was a patriot. Being born on the 5th of July, the day after Independence Day, was always thought significant by his family. He was always considered an Independence Baby.

As he got older, he took up the patriotic cause. He signed up for service in a battalion that was never sent overseas in WWI. As the battalion's 17 year old second lieutenant, he drilled the troops around the town square and took them on bivouacs into the wilds of the Mississippi River islands. By the time his drills and the expeditions were completed, however, the war in Europe was over.

He was drafted for service in World War II.  By then he was a middle aged lawyer, though still quite enthusiastic to serve. He never went overseas. Instead, he was assigned to domestic Army Air Corps bases where he conducted investigations into problems and practices of training which he reported to his HQ at Wright Patterson Field in Ohio before being reassigned to the Office of Contract Settlement of the War Mobilization and Reconversion Office where he spent the rest of the War. He remained in the ready reserves until the end of the Korean Conflict, though he was never called for that one --
so far as I know.

As this is the anniversary of his birth, I did a little research, as I usually do, into his ancestors and their lives before and after they came to America. The Google is sometimes useful but often not when it comes to finding out about one's ancestors. I've tried many times to find out more over the years by plugging in the names of known ancestors only to be led on wild goose chases or coming up against a pay wall -- or coming up blank.

But this year, I encountered for the first time the obituary of my German great-grandfather, and a detailed biography (up to 1911 anyway) of my Irish-American grandfather that explained for the for the first time what had happened to his mother, and why his father was listed on Census rolls as married to someone else.

Transcription of my great-grandfather Reinhold's obituary: (I'll redact the last names merely because it's what I do...)

July 20, 1901: 
Reinhold S_______, an old and respected citizen of C__________, died at his home at 312 9th Avenue about four o'clock Friday afternoon after a long illness. Mr. S_________ lived in this city for a long time and was in the employ of the North Western Railroad continuously for 28 years.
He was born in Weibstadt, Germany, July 21, 1840. He came to this country in 1855 and settled [here] in 1861. In 1863, he married Miss Veronica C_________ . He is survived by his wife and seven children, four daughters, Mrs Anna K__________, Mrs. George F. S_________, Mrs. W. H. C________ (note: she my grandmother), and Miss Josephine at home; and three sons, Frank J., John W., and William P., all of this city. He also leaves one sister, Mrs. A. Dietz of Chicago. He was a member of the Roman Catholic Mutual Protective Association. Funeral services will be held at the German Catholic Church, Monday morning at 8 o'clock.

Brief, to be sure, but it tells me a lot that I didn't know. First, that his date of death was July 19, 1901, the Friday before the obit was published. It was two weeks to the day after my father's birth. I didn't know his address in town, and from what I'd been told, I thought he lived on the bluff above the river, not down by the river essentially next to the railyard. That house is no longer standing as the whole block has been taken up with a supermarket. I didn't know that he'd worked for the railroad itself for nearly 30 years, as I'd been told he was alternatively a carpenter or a banker. He may well have been a carpenter for the railroad, but no one in the family ever mentioned the railroad. I learned much later that his son John had been a banker, and that may have been where the story came from that Reinhold was a banker. I didn't know about his sister in Chicago. I'd been told he was a Roman Catholic converso born in Bavaria or "Germany" -- which didn't exist when he was born -- but I didn't know exactly where or when. I thought from some of the stories I heard that he was born in Frankfurt which was a free city before it was absorbed by Prussia. Weibstadt apparently is -- or rather was -- a village outside of Heidelberg; it has apparently since been absorbed by Heidelberg and no longer exists. Heidelberg is in Baden-Wurttemberg, not Bavaria, so the origin of the origin of the story of Reinhold being born in Frankfurt or Bavaria is something of a mystery. I may have confused stories about him with other German ancestors, or the stories I was told were... wrong.

I didn't know that he had emigrated to America when he was fifteen, in 1855. I had assumed he left Germany after the Revolutions of 1848 and that he was an adult when he left. I didn't know when he was born, however, and thought he was probably born about the same year as my other great-grandfather James, who I knew had been born in Ireland (though exactly where -- County Meath is hardly exact -- I still don't know) in 1833. The  information about James came from census records, but I could find very little about Reinhold in the census records I looked at.

Reinhold died at the age of 61, and I thought he was older. I have found very little information about his wife Veronica, though she was apparently German, born in 1840 as well, and died in 1918.

Their daughter Elizabeth Veronica was my grandmother. She married my grandfather, William Henry in 1899, and in 1901 had their second son, my father, Raymond J.

My father's father was a relatively prominent man in that part of Eastern Iowa, maintaining law offices with his brothers in two towns simultaneously and having lots and lots of children on poor-suffering Elizabeth Veronica. I never knew more than a few of these people -- my grandparents were deceased long before I was born -- so I only heard stories about most of them, and most of those stories were incomplete or, as I would come to find out about the "ancient ancestors", inaccurate. As in... Blarney.

So, when I come upon stories in print/online that I hadn't known before, as I did yesterday, it's with more than a little interest.

This is an excerpt of a story about my grandfather published in the County History in 1911.
"Through struggle to triumph'' seems to be the maxim which holds sway for the majority of our citizens, and. though it is undoubtedly true that many fall exhausted in the conflict, a few, by their inherent force of character and strong mentality, rise above their environment and all which seems to hinder them, until they reach the plane of influence toward which their faces were set through the long years of struggle that must necessarily precede any accomplishment of great magnitude. Such has been the history of William H., one of the most popular attorneys of [this] county and one of her most public spirited and honored citizens.
Mr. C_____ was born ... April 16, 1869. He is the son of James and Alice (O'Brian) C______. The father was for a number of years a prosperous farmer...  He is now living retired in the city and is highly respected by a wide circle of friends and accquaintances. His wife passed to her rest on October 17, 1870.
William H.  grew up on a farm ... and attended the rural schools, and he was graduated from the Dixon Normal School in 1888, receiving an excellent education. He began teaching in Scott County, also continued to teach after coming to [this] county, having been principal...for a period of one year, giving the greatest satisfaction to both pupil and patron, being both an instructor and an entertainer in the school room. Had he continued teaching he would doubtless have become long ere this one of the notable educators of the state, but believing that the legal field held especial inducements for him, he entered the law department of the State University of Iowa in 1892, where he made a splendid record and from which institution he was graduated in 1894.
He soon afterward entered the law office of his brother, [Alexander], in [this city], and has remained in the same office until the present time....  As a trial lawyer he has few equals and no superiors, and he is always a very busy man, his services being in great demand at all times. Owing to his ability and his interest in public matters, he was soon singled out for offices of trust and for the past six years he has filled to his own credit and to the satisfaction of all concerned the office of assistant county attorney. ...Fraternallv, [he] belongs to the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks, the Knights of Columbus, being a charter member of the latter and is past grand knight. He is also a member of Sheridan Club.
Among the many things I learned from this bio was that his mother, Alice O'Brian (alternatively spelled O'Brien), died in 1870, when William H.  was barely one year old. This helps explain why James's wife is sometimes named "Margaret" in subsequent census records I've seen. Sometimes she's not mentioned at all, and in one record, Margaret claims that James has died, though the census worker found him quite alive a few doors down the street and made note of it in her book. I guess James and Margaret didn't always get along, hm? But you know what? Until I saw the census records, I never knew "Margaret" existed at all.

I also learned that my grandfather had been a teacher, something I didn't know previously, and that he had even been a principal for a time. He would have been 19 in 1888 when he graduated from the (quite rural) normal school, and he started law school in 1892 when he was 23, graduating in 1894, when he was 25. Quite an accomplishment given what are said to be the rigors of legal educations today. I didn't know that he served as assistant county attorney, though I knew he was prominent in Democratic Party politics, something that isn't mentioned in this bio. I knew he was a Knight of Columbus but not that he was an Elk or a member of the Sheridan Club (not sure quite what that is come to think of it... does it have something to do with General Sheridan? Dunno.)

Stories of ancestors were limited when I was young, partly because the dead tell no tales. A good deal of what I was told was simple fabrication, too. Sorting it out has not been easy, as it has never been easy to find records. I'm not sure the ones I've found recently are particularly reliable in any case. The living do tell tales, and not all of them are true.

Nevertheless...

Cheers, Dad!