Wednesday, December 31, 2008


When the History of this era is written, I'm pretty confident that the Bushevik Regime and all its operatives will be deemed an Outlaw regime. The question will be whether history will romanticise this set of American Outlaws or will they be condemned?

America loves its Outlaws. No matter how bad the Busheviks have been in real time, they have some supporters, not all of whom are drooling, braindead zombies.

After all, a whole cohort of financiers and others became incredibly rich under the Bush Regime, and most of them still have oodles of money with which to buy any kind of future history they want, regardless of the wreakage all around them.

But Outlaws they will be. They were put in office by an Outlaw Supreme Court majority, a majority whipped by the Court's most notorious Outlaw Justice, Antonin Scalia, a man who should have been impeached and then arrested long ago. But that didn't happen, and given all the hooey over letting bygones be bygones, water under the bridge, tut-tut, and not bringing any of the Busheviks and their running dogs and fellow travellers to account, it wouldn't be at all surprising if these Outlaws were held up as romantic idealists by writers of the future.

The stunning lawlessness of the Bush Regime will have quite a legacy, too. The formerly balky and deeply flawed Constitutional Republic is now a balky and deeply flawed Autocracy run out of the White House and its ancillaries and bunkers. That's unlikely to change any time in the near future, barring the upheaval of revolt and revolution -- something which still seems impossible in America thanks to the fact that most Americans simply don't care what kind of government they have.

And that's how these Outlaws are getting away with it.

OT: The Cat

This is Mao:

He hated having his picture taken, always expressing his supreme annoyance by cutting his eyes and turning away.

He was 16 1/2 years old, been at Casa Ché since he was born, and he died this afternoon and was buried in the back yard with his favorite red bird and yellow squeaker mouse toys, and with a stick, for nothing at all made him happier than playing "Stick!" any time of the day or night all the way up to nearly his last days.

He was the smartest cat I think I've ever known, and one of the most loving. Whenever I picked him up, he would wrap his arms around my neck, rub my cheek with his, and proudly pose there like I was his trophy, and wait for others to admire his prowess.

He knew many words in English and could say some of them. "No!" for example. And "Out!" He would query carefully if he wasn't sure of something or someone, and chat almost mindlessly when the spirit moved him.

His mother was purebred Siamese; his father was a drunkard and a brawler from the alley, but who's to complain. He ran off and we didn't hear any more of him. His mother wound up going back to San Francisco when her "owner" decided he wouldn't be a reliable caregiver.

Mao was truly the friend of nearly everyone -- except other cats, who he would drive off his property with a furious outrage that was a wonder to behold. He was the best friend the residents of Casa Ché.

As I mentioned, home hospice care has been under way here since October for an elderly relative, a woman who adored Mao. When she was in the hospital this last time going through constant torments, she said one night when she was feeling particularly horrible, she heard a voice, not a human voice, a cat's voice, and she said, "Is that you?" The cat responded softly, "Mao..." She said, "Are you here? How did you get in here? They don't let cats in the hospital!" She heard him say, very softly, "Mao..." She said, "Let me touch you to be sure." She said she thought he was on the bed, but she felt all over and couldn't find him. She's blind so she couldn't see him. She heard him say, "Mao..." softly, and she said she reached over the side of the bed and she said she touched him. He was on the floor, and he rubbed her hand and she could feel him purring. She said she heard him say, just as plain as day, "You're going to be all right, and you're coming home. I'm going to make sure. I'll stay with you tonight, but don't tell anyone. It's a secret. Just you and me." And she said she broke down crying, because he'd come to visit her and promised she would come home again.

And he was right there when she arrived home from the hospital, so weak she couldn't hold her head up. And he stayed with her for day after day, drawing the illness out of her, giving her strength. If she needed anything, he would call out or go get someone to help. He slept with her, stroked her with his own paw, and he "helped" when she was strong enough to stand, and "helped" some more when she took her first few steps after coming home. She's been devastated today, disconsolate -- like everyone else around here -- but she said she was so grateful he had been so determined to get her to come home and had done so much to help her get better.

I said, "If Mao had been a person, he would have been a doctor. As a cat, he was a natural healer."

During his last illness, he made clear what his wishes were. He didn't want to see the vet unless there was no other choice. He wanted to feel feline to the end and he wanted to be warm and he wanted to be with the people who loved him. The last couple of days, weak as could be, he wanted to go outside, and go next door to Joe's house. Joe was our neighbor until three years ago in January, when at the age of 100, he fell and broke his hip and had to be placed in a residential care facility. He and Mao were good buddies, and Mao used to sit on his porch and watch the clouds roll by while Joe trimmed the hedges or puttered with his flowers. Joe died a year after he went to the home, and Mao seemed to sense his passing. He didn't go over to Joe's house very often, and when new people moved in, with their own cats, he stayed well away. But he decided he wanted to go back and sit on Joe's porch and watch the clouds again, and he did for a little bit. And then he gave me a look that said, "I want to see Joe again."

And I said, "You will, you will." And I held him so close, tears rolling down my cheeks and I took him back home, where he was warm and with the people who loved him, and this morning, he went outside one more time, and he came in and lay down and said his good byes, so softly, and he did not get up again.

I hope he's with Joe now, and I hope they're sitting on a porch watching clouds roll by and listening to the mocking birds and thinking about playing "Stick!"

You're both missed, buddies.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

The Center Table

A common fixture of middle class and more pretentious homes of the Victorian and early 20th Century eras was the center table, most often found in the parlors and later living rooms, but also typical of practically any room in the house except the bathroom.

The illustration above is from the 1912 Sears home heating catalogue, a supplement to the Sears Kit Home catalogue, and it shows a kind of ideal home life of the period, the family gathered around the living room center table, Father in his easy chair reading the papers, Mother reading to Young Daughter in her arm chair next to the table, Young Son on his stool listening raptly, Older Daughter practicing her postures nearby. The lamp on the center table illuminates the scene, somehow providing enough light for all their scattered reading activities while, of course, giving the best light to Father's newspapers. There are books scattered on the center table, as well as Father's cigars and a piece of good pottery that goes with the pots and statuary on the glassed in bookcase in the background. There is an open bookcase next to the glassed one which we note has empty shelves. I've always thought the reason was that the open bookshelf was awaiting future tomes acquired by the family.

While there may be a sofa (called a Davenport) out of view, it's just as likely there wasn't one, nor any occasional tables, nor any other furniture at all except the center table and a collection of chairs scattered more or less randomly, plus some bookcases and possibly a drop front desk, at least not in this era. You'll note the grand piano is in a room of its own, suggesting more than a little bit of prosperity for this family, though the "music room" idea was not all that uncommon, even if the room was small and the piano an upright.

Pictures adorn the walls, the historic portraits probably rotogravure prints which were very popular at the time. The triptych might be an allegorical painting or print, something about the conquest of barbarians by the forces of civilization, a popular theme at the time. The landscape, on the other hand, was quite likely an actual oil painting by an up and coming regional artist whose work now commands tens of thousands of dollars at auction, but at the time, the picture cost in the neighborhood of $50 with frame, and that was considered expensive.

Family photographs and Kodaks of family outings are no doubt leaning against the wall on top of the bookcase. They were likely matted by a creative member of the family.

The center table was used as the depository for all sorts of items and projects. Current books being read, the newspapers, the mail and telegrams, decorative items, linens and pottery, crafts projects under way (such as matting photos), the primary room light, all found a home on the center table, and sometimes meals would be taken there as well -- always if there was no dining room and no room in the kitchen for eating.

This explains why there was a center table in nearly every room large enough for one. It was the work place and the gathering place for the room, and most rooms in most houses were used for more than one thing. A bedroom could also be a sewing room or a reading room. The dining room might serve as a general work room for anything that didn't involve food. The kitchen, if it was big enough, had a center table usually covered in oil cloth, where much of the food preparation went on, informal meals were taken, and messy projects were done.

The institution of the center table was so strong, for so long, yet it is almost unheard of and unknown today, except in dining rooms and occasionally in large foyers, rare as they are in modern homes. In former times, even the dining room table was solitary in the center of the room, the dining chairs set around the walls of the room rather than around the table and only brought to the table at meal times.

Vestigial center tables in today's homes include the ubiquitous coffee table in front of the sofa and the kitchen island. But it's not really the same.

The illustration I chose for this post is from the Progressive Era, and it is in some sense a reflection of Perfect -- and Progressive -- Domesticity as it was conceived in those days. There were some holdovers from the Victorian Era, including the all-important institution of the Center Table, but in many other ways, it was a new and exciting time. Public health was being addressed and longevity improved dramatically. The condition of the poor was recognized and here and there was being ameliorated. The national Frontier was closed and overseas empires were being acquired, mostly at the expense of natives and decrepit old Empires (Spain and Hawaii come to mind.) The American presence was expanding world-wide, and the peoples of the world were looking to the United States to lead the way into the future.

In 1912, the Soviet Union was barely a gleam in some exiled revolutionaries' eyes.

We could be on the cusp of a similar era, it's hard to say.

The United States went down a long and dark path some years back, and it has reached a natural stopping point. Whether a new door will open, new horizons be found is yet to be determined.

The Center Table once provided American households with a focus for each households' endeavors. It was the family's center from which flowed their domestic harmony or its lack. From that center, the family drew its ultimate strength. Definitions of who we were were found around the Center Table became the touchstones for national progress.

I've been trying to determine just when the institution of the Center Table was abandoned in America, so far without a lot of success. It was completely gone by the 1950's. But it had been vanishing through the '30's and '40's.

My guess? The advent of Radio in the 1920's -- unlike the advent of the household piano, even a player piano -- made the institution of the Center Table redundant, and that, ultimately, changed everything.

How 'bout another episode of Nick Danger?

Saturday, December 27, 2008


Obama's nation has begun.
Join the (Patriotic, Resilient, Conservative)Resistance!
-- Grassfire motto

If you listen to Right Wing Hate Radio at all, you've heard poorly produced ads declaring La Resistance to President Obama and his Socialist Agenda.

Wealth redistribution and higher taxes? We Resist! Government takeover of more and more of our lives? We Resist! Open borders, amnesty and undermining of our uniquely American culture? We Resist! Taxpayer-funded abortions and a radical anti-life agenda? We Resist! The weakening of our military and retreat in the war on Terror? We Resist! Socialized health care? We Resist! The end of marriage and the exaltation of LGBT rights? We Resist! International taxation and submitting our nation to the ideals of “global citizenship”? We Resist! The Courts stacked with leftist judges who betray our Constitution? We Resist!

Well. It's about time.

When I first heard the ad I thought it was some sort of Lefty parody, but no. This is for real. They are going to Resist the Obaman "Brave New World" of [Leftist] collectivism in pursuit of Individual Liberty. Hundreds of thousands of them Resisting.

And how will they do this?

Why, by waxing warmly about the Obama Regime and its Leader, The President of the United States, Leftist Commander in Chief of America, The Honorable Barack Hussein Obama, Non-Citizen. They will be so warm and generous toward this uppity and unqualified African-American because the Left was so nasty and unforgiving, truly un-Christian toward George W. Bush, Annointed By God. These Resisters will never stoop to such depths of depravity by name-calling and demonizing Barack Hussein Obama. Oh no.

As they say:

Conservatives are not rebellious – we understand authority.

That's for danged sure. Sure glad rebellion has never entered their pretty little heads. It's all about ideas, not so much about action, ya know? Whew.

And just to make sure:

Second, we will be resilient. From Day One, we will be there, watching every move, monitoring every action. We will not be chided into silence by the personal attacks on conservatives, our leaders or our motives. We will stand for principle. And we will not back down.

Third, this will be a Conservative Resistance. Our resistance will not be partisan, it will be ideological. The real political struggle underway is one of a clash of worldviews—collective liberalism and freedom-based conservatism. We are not here to fight for the Republican Party to take over once again – certainly not the Republican Party that failed so miserably on so many fronts in recent years. We will resist on the basis of ideas alone, not political games. We have been stripped of our political authority which actually frees us to stand on principle first and foremost.

By now it should be clear that this outfit is modeled on the Gingrich pattern of organizing -- whipping up enthusiasm for some harebrained scheme ("Drill here, drill now, pay less!") among the Republican Base and then juggernauting it onto Congress as The Popular Will.

Gingrich has actually been pretty successful with these little ventures -- each of which prolly makes him several million dollars before he goes on to the next -- and it keeps turmoil on the front burner.

The Left -- so called -- has never been able to do anything like it. The closest they ever came, of course, were with the huge protest marches against the Iraq War, protests and marches that were organized and implemented by the few remnant Communists there still are in this country, International A.N.S.W.E.R and its Brothers and Sisters around the world, which caused some, shall we say, discomfort among the masses who turned out to protest when they discovered that, say, this outfit is run by Commies! Well I never!

Of course Progressives -- which is to say, the Internet's self-declared Progressives, led by a bunch of made-over Republicans (Markos, Arianna, and Aravosis are also Greek, I wonder what that tells us?) -- were never on board with the Marches, thinking them counterproductive and anachronistic and silly. "This isn't the '60's anymore!!! Stay home! Blog!"

And Steve Elliot, the Regent University grad who's behind this Resistance3! Outfit, is busy using the Internet -- and radio and billboard and whatever publicity he can get his hands on -- to further the Call to Arms against the Leftist Tide overwhelming Our Great Nation.

The Big Idea? It only takes a tiny spark to change your world.

Well. He's got that right.

And so, with that:

The Resistance States:
As an American citizen, while I will show respect to President-elect Obama, I oppose the far-Left and socialistic elements that comprise the centerpiece of his agenda. I recognize that it will take a patriotic and resilient Citizen Resistance to block implementation of this agenda and I join with others who oppose these threats to our liberties.

Specifically, I Resist:
  • Socialistic wealth redistribution including any and all tax increases and big-government welfare programs.
  • Silencing conservatives through the Fairness Doctrine and other efforts that restrict free speech.
  • Open border anarchy including amnesty for illegal aliens and promotion of multi-nation “unions”.
  • Government-run health care that weakens our system and imposes more tax burdens on citizens.
  • Weakening of our military through rapid pullback from Iraq, defunding our troops and overall disarmament.
  • Social liberalism including radical pro-abortion agenda, the end of marriage and the homosexual agenda.
  • Liberal court activism that undermines faith, family and liberties while expanding government control.
  • Post-American globalism that diminishes our global role and threatens our national sovereignty.
  • Environmental extremism, the CO2 tax,
    undermining coal and nuclear, and bans on
  • Weakening the 2nd Amendment through unconstitutional gun laws that take away or penalize us for owning firearms and our right to defend our family, our property, and ourselves.

  • You see how it's done? Every Right Wing Base base is touched, all wrapped up in a pretty little package, coherent (in its own context) and fused with Action!


    Wednesday, December 24, 2008

    Taking Stock of the One Party State

    As everybody knows by now, the selection of Rick Warren, High Priest of the Saddleback Churches in Southern California, to invoke Divine Blessing on the Inauguration of Barack Obama has caused something of a schism in "Progressive" ranks primarily due to Warren's repeated and unrepented dismissal of gay folk as sinners and the equivalents of pedophiles and miscegenists. Well I never.

    Of course then he denies it.

    And the Team Obama basically says what they always do when some issue or individual gets the peripheral members of the team all riled up: "That's OK. We're bringing people together. You can get on board or get off the bus. Whatever."

    Which sort of puts hissy-throwing off the list of Appropriate Actions.

    More often than not, the hissy-throwers find some other target for their ire, Team Obama goes on with its business -- that of reconstituting the State -- and that as they say is that.

    Reconstituting the State, yes, but also Redeeming it.

    Throughout the two long years of the Obama campaign for the Presidency, the theme of Redemption was strong, sometimes overwhelming. It's ironic because the Bush Regime was supposed to be "Redemption" for the religiously catasrophic Clinton Era.

    Redemptionists see the American Presidency as the equivalent of the rule of a Biblical Priest-King. Priest-Kings must be morally stainless and blameless, and of course, Bill Clinton failed that test spectacularly. Ergo, the Nation had to be Redeemed from the Stain and the Sin of the Clintons, Redemption that was thought to have come with the Divine Selection of George W. Bush to be President.

    Things big and small started going wrong from the outset of this Selection (hardly Divine), and the 9/11 attacks merely confirmed the Divine Displeasure with the Nation's Sinfulness (as made clear by America's Former Preachers, the Late Rev. Fallwell and the still Present Rev Robertson. It was Divine Judgement for the Sins of Abortion and Homosexuality that brought Retribution in the form of airplanes used as fuel-air bombs to destroy The Twin Towers. Yes it was. The High Priests at the Temple said so.

    The Bushevik wars were then supposed to Redeem the Nation, only soon enough it was clear that the wars were simply going to make things worse. We learned very early on of atrocities committed in Afghanistan by our supposed allies, sometimes with American forces looking on or even participating. We learned early on of the lies and deceptions used throughout the Afghanistan campaign. Redemptionists set those things aside in the hope that over time the Annointed Ones in the White House would do the right thing according to Divine Will.

    But they lied some more and decided to invade Iraq where things almost at once went from bad to horrible, as the situation stagnated into a bloody and futile mess.

    Redemptionists imagined that eventually the Busheviks would get things right according to the Divine Order of Things, but somehow they never did.

    In times of Tribulation, Redemptionists call out for Divine Guidance through the Annointment of Some Other King, and behold. In what's left of our faulty self-governing Republic there is a mechanism for choosing a New King, and surprisingly enough, that Mechanism "selected" Barack Obama to Redeem the Nation from its Original Sin as well as all the piled on Sins of History.

    An African, well, part African, raised up By The Lord, to Rule in Majesty over Our Troubled and Broken Land.


    We have all but lost our secular moorings.

    And Redemption for the Great Sins of Our Nation will require adherence to Biblical Command. That will not be an easy path, but it is one that the Busheviks (being in many cases barely reformed Trotsky-ites) could not and did not take.

    President-King-Emperor Obama, on the other hand, seems quite clear, and quite firm in his commitment to Redeeming this Unhappy Land. And that means that The Rev. Warren will Invoke Divine Blessing at the Annointment-Inauguration whether anyone likes it or not.

    The United States is a One Party State, directed by the Divine Spirit in this reading of our history and current Unhappiness. The Divine keeps appointing failed governance over us; we are supposed to take lessons in Submission from these failed leaders and give ourselves over completely to the Divine Will.

    Obama fits perfectly into the pattern.

    The question then is whether we will ever return to the Enlightenment and the principles of Secular Self Government. Or will we continue blindly on our path toward Imperial Byzantine Autocracy/Theocracy, with pastors great and small determining all aspects of our lives and calling it "Divine Liberty"?

    Sunday, December 21, 2008

    OT: Ancestors

    Some of  the begats, c. 1880

    The picture above shows my German great grandparents, Reinholdt and Veronica, and their numerous offspring, among them my grandmother, Anna Eleanorizabeth, standing above that starved looking child.

    This is the only picture I have of that side of the family, and for years I knew very little about them except that Reinholdt died around the turn of the 20th century. Veronica died in 1916.

    After digging around quite a bit, I found that the elders had come from Germany, via Amsterdam, in 1848, leaving -- perhaps fleeing is the better word -- Frankfurt due to some unpleasantness among the masses. How fortunate for them. They settled in the Midwest, waxed prosperous in farming and banking, and had many children.

    They were good Catholic burghers, as you can probably tell, though you might wonder...

    I'd been told that they were great philanthropists, and I was shown Reinholdt's sturdy stone house on the bluff above the Mississippi River which he'd willed to the Church at his death and which the Church in Its Wisdom had turned into a girl's school.

    In doing some research, though, I came upon a whole branch of the great grandparental family who were Jews, mostly in Germany and Holland, though a few were apparently in Switzerland, and I asked around and found out that yes, Reinholdt's ancestors were Jewish, though his parents -- or was it grandparents? -- had converted and were baptized in the Holy Catholic Church sometime in the 1790's. Veronica? Well, not that much was known about her and her family, but it was certainly possible she was descended from conversos as well.

    It was quite a surprising and wonderful discovery for me at the time, though I was told that many German Jewish families converted in the late 1700's due to the spread of the Enlightenment. There may have been some other issues involved as well, including a sense of compulsion, especially in Bavaria.

    In the fullness of time, Anna Eleanorizabeth married William Henry, my grandfather, who was descended from an Irish-American Catholic family, one that first settled in America in the late 1600's, though his immediate ancestors didn't arrive till sometime around 1715. While there was something of an aristocratic pretension on his father's side, my grandfather's mother, Alice O'Brien, had been a refugee from the Potato Famine, arriving in New York in 1848 or 50 in the hold of a fever ship, just lucky to survive. Somehow, she made it to the Ohio Valley, where she met and married my grandfather's father, James, and soon enough they set out on their own for new prospects on the banks of the Mississippi.

    That story was told with great relish at some of the family gatherings. Needless to say, it was considered a delightful opportunity to denounce the British and their murderous practices in the Emerald Isle, and to go on at some length about the confiscated lands and estates now occupied by British squatters and reprobates none of whom would have anything if not for what they could and did steal from the Irish.

    I learned to hold my tongue about who stole what from whom in the long pageant of Anglo-Irish and American history. We start down that path, we'll never return. For as bad as things were and have been for the Irish under British rule -- and there is no doubt whatsoever it was terrible in ways that most Americans can't begin to imagine -- what was done to the American Indians was at least as bad and in many ways worse, only now beginning to be made up for. I will say this, though, the grudge holding of the American Indians cannot compare to that of the Irish. After all, my own father could denounce the British interlopers who stole the ancestral land by names, titles, and degrees of perfidy. Oh, they hold a grudge!

    The question arises: if what was done to you was so awful, why in hell's name do it to others?

    Thursday, December 18, 2008

    Good Times!

    The Clinton Rules are Back!

    All right, so Bush and Cheney both admit to war crimes and worse on national teevee during their "exit interviews" by the American MediaPlex, and their admissions are duly reported, but as soon as they are, the MediaPlex shifts its gears and goes after Blagojevich and Obama, lights in to Caroline Kennedy, and generally goes insane pursuing the irrelevant and mostly mythical "misdeeds" and "incompetence" of Democrats.

    Ah, good times!

    That's the way it was meant to be. Welcome back to 1999. They pick up where they left off. The Bush years haven't really happened, and the accusations against the press are over their lapdoggery on behalf of Obama. Bush? Bush who? Oh that guy who got the shoe thrown at him? So what?

    Couplea things enter in to this consideration. One: the MediaPlex in this instance is primarily composed of cable teevee gasbags and bloviators who need something to do to justify their multi-million dollar salaries, and Democratic scandale is always appropriate for that. Republicans just don't do scandal well; they circle their wagons, defend one another, attack and insult the press, and they almost always get away with it. Democrats, on the other hand, run fleeing from any accusation, any accused, screaming, demanding immediate resignation and ostracism of the target, impeachment, jail time, whatever. They push each other out of the way to get in front of the teevee cameras to denouce one of their fellows, they accept accusations as fact hardly ever questioning them, and they allow the media and Republicans to set the terms of consideration, debate and discussion without a qualm.

    Republicans don't let Democrats do that.

    The other thing is that online "Progressives" are guaranteed to get hysterical about The Clinton Rules, throw themselves on their fainting couches, and practically have an aneurysm because... well, because!!!

    Media criticism is basic to the online world; it's impossible to imagine a blogsphere that isn't fully engaged in tearing apart the "trad media" all the time. Left, right, center, it doesn't matter, the point of the 'osphere is to hammer the press relentlessly. And they do.

    They've been predicting a return to Clinton Rules the minute a Democrat was elected to the White House, and sure enough, here we are. And they are in heaven! Yea! Expectations Realized! Whoo-hoo! We are the Champions!

    One of the things that was striking about the Democratic Primary coverage on the "Progressive" blogs was how thoroughly most of them had internalized the Clinton Rules criticisms and accusations against The Clintons, to the point where most of them were being parrotted almost mindlessly, as if everything the media and the right wing noise machine made up about the Clintons back in the day was obviously... true.

    The attacks on Hillary and Bill Clinton in the "Progressive" blogosphere were constant, relentless, and were often based on lies and innuendo from the hated media back when going after the Clintons was nearly the only thing media was interested in.

    When this was pointed out, internet "Progressives" became even more hostile and contemptuous of the Clintons and anyone who defended them, taking on the Clinton Rules as their own, magnifying the tiniest fault into major Issues, and on and on and on.

    It was amazing to witness it in real time.

    And now to see the sudden "Progressive" fretting and hankie wringing over the Clinton Rules being applied to Obama... oh well! Pity.

    The Clinton Rules are stupid no matter who is engaging in them, no matter the target, no matter the excuse.

    Wednesday, December 17, 2008

    Home Aid!

    Back in the '80's -- Reagan Era -- the banks decided it would be in their interests to foreclose on family farms so as to enable farm conglomerates to scarf up properties at low prices and drive individual farmers out of countryside. Several thousand, perhaps tens of thousands, of family farm properties were involved, and it was a fairly simple process: deny the farmers credit for planting and equipment, raise the interest rates on previous loans, wait for the farmers to default, move in, foreclose, take the farm, re-sell to conglomerate, dispossess the family farmer, or sometimes keep them on as tenants, but usually just add the property to other holdings.

    Protests were mounted all over the country, fundraising concerts were held to help the farmers stay on their land, banks were excoriated, some were even shamed into backing off -- at least temporarily -- and some family farms have been saved from the sheriff.

    Farm Aid concerts are still going on, even though the situation now is somewhat different than in 1985.

    Today, millions of Americans are seeing their homes foreclosed on year in and year out, in waves and waves of defaults, foreclosures and evictions, and nothing at all is being done about it by government or lenders -- except perhaps for making the situation worse for many, and there are no concerts, no fundraising efforts, no marches on Washington with torches and pitchforks, nothing.

    Millions of Americans are being thrown out of their homes every year.

    And the expectation is that this will go on for many more years to come. Some state governments have tried, rather ineffectively, to intervene. The Federal government, while dumping trillions upon trillions of dollars into the laps of the banks and the lenders, absolutely and rigidly refuses to do anything substantive to assist homeowners facing foreclosure, despite the fact that most of the economists say the fundamental problem with the economy is all those foreclosures which continue to drag down house prices.

    The answer has been repeatedly stated: help the homeowners first. And top to bottom, the lenders, government agencies, and Congress refuse. They have been refusing for years.

    And the People do nothing. They sit passively in front of their Big Screens, a take and bake pizza at their side, while millions get thrown out of their homes every year, millions more are thrown out of work, the overall economy swirls down the toilet, and the Plutocracy -- Kakistocracy, Kleptocracy, what have you -- sucks up every last dime there is in the whole world.

    And nothing is done...

    At least in Reagan's time, people actually did resist, and sometimes their resistance actually did change the course of some events.

    Now, some fellow throws his shoes at Bush in Baghdad, and it's on endless loop on the Big Screens, entertainment for the masses. That's all it is, entertainment. Because Bush was amused, so must we all be.

    Monday, December 15, 2008

    Shoes for Industry!

    Shoes for the Deaf!

    By now, everybody in the whole wide world knows that Dear Leader was assaulted by a pair of rogue shoes thrown by an Iraqi journalist at the Sacred Head of the Free World while His Leaderness declaimed from the podium about the Astonishing Success of the Surge.

    The journalist tossed off some cute phrases, too, before he was wrestled to the ground and hauled away by Security:

    (as reported at FDL:)

    First Shoe:

    This is the gift from the Irakis this is the farewell kiss you dog.

    Second Shoe:

    This is from the widows, the orphans and those killed in Irak

    Obviously not mentally stable. Certain adjustments will no doubt be made be made.

    Meanwhile, when asked about being assaulted by native shoes in Baghdad, His Extreme Eminence had this to say:

    So what...?

    We say we'll only have to put up with this crap for a month or so longer, a month that can't pass quickly enough for most people, but the question is why so many people in America and around the world put up with this crap at all. Of course there is a simple answer: It's a matter of Power. When someone like Bush has the Power to annihilate most of Creation and appears to be just itching to use that Power on anyone and everyone who gets in his way, it's understandable that most people will let him get away with it. Stand aside. Smile while they're smoldering with rage and outrage.

    The exceptions to this rule will always be few. It's human nature.

    The Iraqi Shoe Thrower may have catalyzed something, though.

    The realization that for all his Power, Bush has been a real weakling throughout his tenure on the Throne. He's been played for a fool over and over again, used as a puppet by Cheney and all kinds of nefarious "interests" -- not just the Neo-Conmen, but very prominently by them -- and will leave office with little but economic, political, and material wreckage to show for his term in the White House. Quite an accomplishment.

    Throwing shoes may lift the spirit for the moment, but the Legacy of Bush and his cronies will be a tough one to overcome.

    Therefore, an episode of Nick Danger, Third Eye is definitely called for:

    Tuesday, December 9, 2008

    You say you want a Revolution...

    Image by Beth Rooney for the New York Times

    The story of the worker's sit down strike at the Republic Windows and Doors plant in Chicago is getting a little bit of play these days. Certainly not the first strike in our history, nor is it by any means a very large action, but it may turn into a catalyst for further worker- and peoples-direct action in the face of mounting financial pressure from the oligarchs and the banks.

    The workers have received a surprising amount of support from the political establishment, from Cook County and the State of Illinois to the Incoming President.

    Bank of America looks very bad. They're the ones who precipitated the plant's abrupt closing, a closing in which the workers weren't paid wages or benefits. Cutting off the credit lines of businesses has an effect.

    And the banks that are doing this (BofA isn't the only one) are doing it in order to have cash on hand with which to scarf up other banks in trouble. Acquisition fever. As if we haven't been down this path before.

    Blame Paulson, then, for not requiring banks to act in the public interest if they are receiving public funds (BofA has received tens of billions).

    And blame Bush, and blame Republicans for the whole mess. All well and good, but also recognize that the economic situation we face is the result of an ideology of greed and personal interest that has overwhelmed common sense and has resulted in what could well turn into the worst economic catastrophe in history, with all the implications that suggests and all the global struggle that implies.

    It isn't just Republicans to blame, it's an entire political and economic system.

    One that is under increasing strain; one that may not survive much longer.


    Look at history...

    Monday, December 8, 2008

    Let's see. Where are we now?

    With the economy now apparently headed straight to the crapper and Arch-looter Henry Paulson demanding all the rest of the Wall Street Bailout cash NOW, NOW, NOW, and the Obama Regime getting ready to maintain as much of the Status Quo as possible under the dire circumstances, and the American People being completely forgotten in this Maelstrom of Misery that everyone knew was coming but nobody wanted to -- or could -- do anything about, where are we now? Really?

    Often, I've said, "Look to China; there's your Future." And of course this has been met with your typical American Blank Stare. If it isn't on the toob, or in the NYT it doesn't compute. Now if it isn't on the Blog, it doesn't compute, either.

    Authority must be maintained at all costs.

    But China is still showing the way to the Future, as authoritarian, undemocratic, and politically repressive as it is, what you see there is what you will be seeing here sooner or later. Don't forget, China OWNS the USA, and China's lead will be followed.

    China, after all, is way ahead of the Wall Street Looters in working its way out of the economic difficulty they too face thanks to the appalling lack of plain business sense displayed by the Masters of the Universe. China is ahead, way ahead, because they know how to do this.

    And because they are our Owners, they're going to show us how to do it, too. Whether we will comprehend and follow instructions is another story.

    I've wondered why the Real Left, while critical of the Obama Regime's imperialism and corporatism, has largely been silent so far during the transition from Bushevism to Obama-mania. And I've wondered if it isn't because, apart from some marginal issue -- like imperialism and corporatism (!) -- the Real Left actually agrees with the Obama Program, as much of it as they can parse out of the carefully couched phraseology.

    Even the imperialism and corporatism, even the militarism, doesn't get the Real Left all that upset, and we already know that the right wing is practically rapturous over the "steady hand" they see on the tiller. Nothing fundamental is going to change at all; we'll just get poorer and enjoy working for our New Chinese Overlords, who we will find, in the end, are actually pretty decent and smart as whips (errr... ) compared to the long discredited Masters of the Universe we used to serve.

    Even right wing whack-job David Horowitz now loves him some Obama. Bill Kristol sings the praises of Big Government. George Will is now nothing but a crank.

    Eyes on the Prize, people. Eyes on the prize.

    Wednesday, December 3, 2008

    Update -- Hospice Care At Home

    Text not available
    Home Care of the Sick By Amy Elizabeth Pope, American School of Home Economics, American School of Home Economics

    Eventually I get around to things.

    As you may know, I've been taking care of an elderly relative, in a hospice situation at home. Basically, I'm on 16 hour daily shifts, handling pretty much everything for an old and frail woman suffering from the complications of congestive heart failure. She was hospitalized for two weeks in October, treated to extended episodes of what could only be called torture, which ultimately we decided was "unproductive."

    She was sent home, after an extraordinary struggle with doctors who wanted to keep her in their care for another three to five weeks or longer, feeding her through various tubes and shunts and so forth and medicating her up so much she wouldn't know what was going on. They figured she was not long for this world, and at least at the hospital she'd have access to prompt care if something should go wrong -- and something did go wrong the night before she was discharged.

    She had a "cardiac incident" which was only controlled through massive intervention.

    For a week, she'd been saying she wanted to go home, did not want all the invasive and potentially life-threatening and counter-productive treatment. She wanted to be left alone to sleep at night, and she wanted, most of all to eat and drink like a normal person.

    And the doctors said "No."

    Finally, when I had a rather heated heart to heart talk with her attending physician, with many references to keeping her body alive while killing her soul, and pleas to refrain from subjecting her to more pain for no gain (her condition had deteriorated dramatically since the angiogram and insertion of stents in her cardiac arteries), and with the intervention of her primary physician, we managed to get an actual discharge from the hospital, though at that time she was weak as a newborn, could not stand, could not walk, could not even lift her head.

    She's been getting -- slowly -- better ever since.

    She can stand, she can walk with help, she eats and she drinks like a normal person, although she can't feed herself and needs help, she no longer receives physical therapy (she hardly used the service anyway), she gets a once or twice a week visit from a hospice nurse.

    Her initial goal was to get rid of the tube feeding. That was accomplished the day after her discharge.

    Then she wanted to stand and to walk; it took several weeks of exercises and practice, but she has been getting up on her feet and ambulating with her walker and with help for a couple of weeks. She wants to get to the point where she can actually walk to the bathroom on her own, but that may be in the mid-term future.

    She has a venous ulcer on her leg; her next goal is to heal it. The wound has been difficult. She's had a number of visiting hospice nurses who have been flummoxed by it, and a couple of them had no idea what to do and subjected her to intense agony as they fussed with it this way and that, until we had to tell the hospice service to send no more untrained and unqualified nurses to make her condition worse. Either she gets the same nurse who knows what to do and can do it relatively painlessly (with the help of a minor amount of morphine), or we terminate the service. The issue was consistency of care, and this -- generally very highly regarded -- hospice service made no effort at consistency at all until we said, "No more of this shit," and things got a lot better, fast.

    I feel exhausted by the long hours and rewarded by signs of progress. Hospice care assumes the patient's condition is terminal and that it's all a matter of time, making the patient comfortable, and prayer (it's a Catholic hospice service, after all). The patient is not expected to "get better," not in any global sense, and we were informed over and over that there would be no effort at "cure."

    So her progress, though slow and with setbacks, comes as something of a surprise to the service providers. There is no telling how much longer she'll live, but she's already surpassed expectations by weeks. That may not seem like much, but given where we started, it's great.

    We got the hospital bill the other day. $189,000 and then some (we've been getting periodic other bills, some of which seem odd or possibly even fraudulent, but who can say? Hospital billing is all completely opaque.) Actual amount billed to the patient, however, has been less than $2,000; Medicare takes care of most of the hospital bill and is taking care of the hospice service.

    Tell me again why Medicare isn't expanded to cover everyone?

    There have been many difficulties and missteps through these last few months; it has not been easy for anyone. And we don't expect it to get easier.

    We just do what we can.

    Saturday, November 29, 2008


    Our government is struggling mightly to shovel out trillions of dollars to the plutocrats and oligarchs who pull the strings at the White House and in Congress, give this money away to a class of unwilling and protesting bankers and speculators and investors before the spectre of Socialism descends upon the land and Class War (by other means) gets under way in earnest.

    They can't shovel the money out fast enough. They can't find enough plutocrats to give it to. But they keep trying.

    Meanwhile, millions of people are losing their jobs, social services are groaning under the additional caseload of people at the end of their ropes, foreclosures continue to mount, inflation looms on the horizon, people who are still working are seeing their incomes fall and expenses mount, factories and merchants are shutting down, cities and counties and states are running out of money, running out of alternatives, civil society is cracking up.

    And our government in Washington not only won't do anything about it, they are actually engaged in policies and practices which are making the problems worse, far worse, and they are doing it in the face of a shocked and astonished populace that just voted for a "Marxist" president and the "Most Liberal Congress in History."

    Why can't the government in Washington do anything -- at all -- on behalf of the People of the United States of America? Why are they so utterly intent on emptying the treasury -- apparently for generations to come -- into the pockets of the super-rich, who say, bless their hearts, that they don't need and don't want the money?

    What is keeping the government from acting on behalf of the People?

    It's Ideology.

    Our government has become ideologically incapable of recognizing let alone doing anything about the situations faced by the People. Since the Reagan Revolution and its consolidation under the Busheviks, the government has become fully integrated with and accountable to the Plutocracy only. The People, at best, are an afterthought. Ideologically, the People are of no consequence at all. They may as well not exist.

    And unfortunately, the People of the United States of America have accepted this state of affairs as if it were natural and normal.

    And yet they just elected this Big Marxist Redistributor to the White House. Surprise, surprise. So far, he has shown no interest in the plight of the People at all, has repeatedly reassured the Plutocrats that their interests shall continue to be served by the government -- and that everyone else will just have to tighten their belts and suck it up.

    This Big Marxist Redistributor.

    Who is apparently as aligned with the Powers That Be as any of those who went before him since Reagan.

    Surprise, surprise.

    If the People continue to be passive in the face of what is going on, can we really blame the Plutocracy and their Government for ignoring them?

    Monday, November 24, 2008

    What Should Happen

    I actually heard a version of this notion on the radio as I was driving this afternoon listening to the Tom Sullivan show. Right wing hack that he is, sometimes Sullivan lets a smidge of uncommon sense slip through.

    The idea goes something like this:

    While trillions upon trillions of dollars are being shoveled out of the Treasury to support the lavish ways and styles of the plutocracy, the common folks are withering on the vine, their homes foreclosed, cars repossessed, jobs disappearing, credit evaporating. The crunch on Main Street is gathering steam even as the hit on Wall Street is deeply cushioned to say the least.

    So why not do a "bottom up" stimulus? This is something people have been clamoring for and it is something the Powers That Be have resisted with all their souls and all their might.

    So do it anyway. And the way to do it is to issue a credit account to every taxpayer, an account of say $100,000 for individuals, $200,000 for families (more or less), that could only be used for certain things, such as:

    • to pay down or pay off a mortgage with the limitation that the mortgage must be at least 24 months old.

    • to pay off credit card balances more than two years old.

    • to purchase a new fuel efficient vehicle and/or pay off a car loan

    • to pay off certain other debts (such as medical bills)

  • to purchase certain kinds of efficient appliances or to weatherize or improve homes, etc.

    Any amounts not used within, say, 12 months would revert to the treasury.

    Something like this, essentially getting large amounts of money into individual taxpayers' hands to use for specific purposes intended to "turn the economy around" could well do the trick.

    Throwing more trillions at phantoms of wealth on Wall Street and in the bankers' boardrooms can't and won't do it.

    Putting significant amounts of money in circulation at the bottom of the pyramid just might.
  • Saturday, November 22, 2008

    Congressional Uselessness

    It's really nuts-making.

    The Lame Duck Congress met and heard from the Big Three Automakers regarding a $25 billion bridge loan to tide them over until some of their restructuring and adaptations to the New Economy can be made. The usual huffery and puffery transpired, and much hoo-hah about corporate jets and what not, but eventually the real issue became clear: American car makers are in a bind; the market for new (big) cars has collapsed and it is not going to revive soon, especially not if the other parts of the economy don't improve. So. The car companies say they need a loan for now in order to stay in business while they restructure for current conditions, making sure their suppliers are paid, their workers are employed, their retirees are taken care of.

    It makes a lot more sense on its face than the Paulson Extortion Scheme the Congress was Johnny-on-the-Spot improving and approving just a couple of months ago.

    But Congress could not bring themselves to approve the Big Three automakers' request for loans and loan guarantees. They cannot bring themselves to approve a moritorium on home foreclosures and the restructuring of mortgages to keep people in their homes. They cannot bring themselves to approve anything that would actually keep ordinary people working and in their homes.

    The only thing they can do is hand over trillions of dollars to CEOs and Smart Guys -- the very Wizards who brought on the financial collapse -- on demand and under orders.

    They cannot do anything for people. Oh. Sorry. They did extend unemployment benefits for a few weeks.


    The foreclosure crisis that is at the bottom of the economic collapse has been going on for two years or more, and Congress has dithered about it the whole time. Done nothing. They have been told by some of the Smart Guys who were extorting them that they better not do anything about the mortgage crisis, for it would be "unfortunate" to interfere in the market that way. "Let it sort itself out."

    Yet the longer this drags on, the worse things become. There is now real panic abroad in the land because the economy is not recovering and all the trillions paid in extortion to the financial sector has done nothing to bring relief. In some ways, the extortion payments have made things worse.

    Congress approved those payments -- essentially giving a blank check to the Treasury Secretary to do his will -- and the American People were ripped off in the biggest and most obvious heist in world history.

    But comes an opportunity to actually do something positive for the American People, the answer is "No."

    Congress is completely useless for the purpose of representing the interests of the American People. All they can do is take orders from the White House and serve their corporatist/imperialist masters.

    This government needs a re-boot.

    Wednesday, November 19, 2008

    Surprise Surprise.

    Parts of the "Progressive Blogosphere" are getting all pissed off at the multiplicity of Obama-Betrayals of "Progressive Values".


    Yeah, he's moving with all deliberate speed to put in place a Serious Adult Administration, staffed with people who are considered by the Netroots to be traitors to the Nation and the Cause. People like the reviled and despised Hillary. People like the reviled and despised Rahm. People now like the reviled and despised basically unknown Eric Holder. Etc. Etc.

    And yeah, he's been doing plenty of flipping and flopping and offering support for the corporatist/imperialist line about this and that issue, whether it be support for retroactive immunity for telecoms or NAFTA or the Paulson Extortion Program or even supporting keeping Holy Joe in the Dem Caucus and letting him run the Heimat committee.

    He ain't no Liberal. Ain't no Progressive, either.

    Yes? So? You voted for him anyway, didn't have any choice. Your purple passion hatred for Hillary blinded you to some of the flaws in Barack, and now that he's doing pretty much what he said he was going to, surprise, surprise.

    No. Come on. Barack did not run as a Liberal or a Progressive. He ran as a "centrist" -- read, rightist -- Democrat, slightly to the Left of the lunatics in the Republican Party. So many people projected so many expectations on him, believed so strongly that HE was what the nation wanted and needed, and that HE would set to rights all that the Busheviks had done wrong.

    Well, no. He didn't run on that premise. He made plenty of rhetorical stabs at accepting some Progressive Agenda items, but most of the time, he was just happy to have Progressive support (and money) and leave the matter of a Progressive Agenda for some other time. That people thought he was some kind of Big Progressive or Liberal is just bizarre. He never ran as one.

    In some ways the situation now illuminates what might have happened if Howard Dean had got the nomination and then went on to win the Presidency back in the day. Howard was -- and is -- very much in the mold of a Progressive Republican (like his parents, surprise, surprise) not really a Liberal Democrat at all. And he ran as what he was. Anyone who followed his campaign and its rhetoric understood he was really all about being a responsible Progressive on the Republican model of the early 20th century. But lots and lots of people saw him otherwise and were convinced he was some Big Liberal Savior. No. He never was. He was basically a Republican in Democratic garb and with some Democratic cachet.

    Obama is not that much different.

    It's not a bad thing to be.

    What is bad, though, are all the expectations that he'd be different. And all the disappointment. Turning to anger at betrayal.

    He didn't betray anyone who was paying attention. But it's clear that a lot of people were too wrapped up in the fantasy image of who and what they wanted him to be to understand who and what he really is.

    Surprise. Surprise.

    Sunday, November 16, 2008

    SPAM is not cheap

    Stories are going around, triggered by this one in the New York Times, to the effect that now that the country has hit the economic skids, sales of SPAM -- that rectangular canned delicacy made up of ground pork, ham, salt, pink coloring and sodium nitrate -- are booming because it is so convenient and so cheap.

    Uh. No it's not.

    In my area 12 ounce cans of SPAM go for up to $3.99, always over $3.00, and usually around $3.79. This translates to over $5.00 a pound, quite a bit more than either canned or smoked bone in ham from the meat cases.

    And yet, all the stories in the media claim it's "cheap." It's not. Not even close. It used to be pretty cheap in the Old Days, but those days are long gone.

    "Cold or hot... SPAM hits the spot!"

    What I remember when I was a kid and times were lean in our house was Creamed Chipped Beef on Toast. Known colloquially as "Shit on a Shingle" or "SoS."

    Maybe that's because both my parents were in the military.

    Chipped beef (dried but not jerked beef slices) came in a glass jar, but I haven't seen any in a market for years. They say it's still sold, though, and Stouffer's makes a frozen version of "SoS."

    I'm sure it costs a fortune. Specialty food. For hard times.

    What are you doing to cope with the worst economic crisis since 1932?

    [SPAM Image: Back cover of National Geographic Magazine January, 1945]

    Friday, November 7, 2008


    No I didn't forget. I was even watching the call -- right after the polls closed on the West Coast -- on teevee. It was really something. The excitement in the air was palpable, and the numerous crowd shots on all the channels, the joyous tears of the multitude, the shouts of glee, all were very moving.

    It was a long time coming. A hard fought battle. And a battle won.

    The future prognosis is guarded.

    No one can say with any certainty what the situation will be like in the few months it will take for the transition. I was looking for signs before the election that the Busheviks were actually going to vacate the government they had for so long used and abused for their own selfish purposes and interests, and there were no such signs. Now they seem to be everywhere (though whether Darth Cheney will actually leave his undisclosed location is anyone's guess. Maybe he'll hole up there permanently with Holy Joe Lieberman and we'll just have to cement over the entrance.)

    Bush is actually leaving. Or so it would seem. Good riddance. It won't be soon enough for millions around the world.

    I saw Obama's press conference on the economy, thought he did OK, though he seemed to be somewhat halting in his responses to reporters' questions. Halting, and compared to the loquatiousness of so many presidential types, he was very brief. Mercifully so.

    There's something very Zen about him.

    And I think that he will surprise everyone.

    This could be a good thing...

    Sunday, November 2, 2008

    Marxist! -- WTF??!

    They've gone totally off the rails, totally.

    This whole notion that Obama is some kind of Marxist who will turn the nation into a Socialist/Communist/Maoist/Stalinist Hell has reached epic proportions among the wingnuts. George W Bush and Dick "I'll shoot you in the face" Cheney are more Marxist (not to mention totalitarian) than Obama has ever hinted at being.

    And yet the wingnuts and their manipulators are constantly "arguing" -- if you want to call it that -- that Obama and Pelosi and Reid are some kind of Unholy Trinity who are eager to hand the nation over the the Soviet Union, to fly the Red Flag and parade around in Red Square.

    (The last time I paraded around Red Square was at the University of Washington. Their Red Square is eminently paradeable.)

    Is it complete lunacy or is it something else?

    I'd sure like to see any, you know, evidence of Obama's Marxist orientation.

    But that would be allowing reality to intrude on reverie.

    Never mind.

    Friday, October 31, 2008

    More Totally OT -- Stickley, Craftsman, Greene and Greene

    Those who have followed this blog any length of time know that I have an interest -- shall we say -- in houses and domestic issues, particularly as they relate to the period from about 1900-1960.

    The illustration above is interior from Gustav Stickley's "Craftsman Houses" c. 1905 . There are a lot of Craftsman style bungalows in my neighborhood in California, and our place in New Mexico was started right around 1900 and has some Craftsman touches in woodwork and style, although it is not really a "bungalow" at all.

    So I enjoy Stickley's magazine ("The Craftsman") and his books of houses that are available online through Google Books. As I page through them, and as I recollect my visits to all sorts of Craftsman bungalows here and elsewhere, I get very strong images of what life must have been like for up to date households at the end of the 19th and the beginning of the 20th Century.

    Something tells me it wasn't necessarily very nice all in all.

    The Stickley houses are type models of what was Modern then. Their clean lines, built in furnishings, rational floor plans, and adapable spaces were all the height of progress at the time, and these houses were considered to be very easy to live in compared to the overly fussy and badly planned houses of the High Victorian era. Because the Craftsman bungalows were considered so advanced -- and became so popular -- Stickley houses seem relatively "modern" even today, though modern households have to undergo considerable adaptation to live in them. In my California neighborhood, the Craftsman bungalows are treasured, preserved, maintained in pristine condition, or if they have been mucked up over the years, they are restored to pristine condition, and then shown off with enormous pride by their owners.

    Their owners scour the shops and online for genuine Stickley Mission Oak furniture, and they pay handsomely for the real thing. Authentic light fixtures, rugs, draperies, plein air paintings in rough oaken frames, family photographs and prints from the first decades of the 20th century (even if they aren't your family), colorfully bound books to fill the glass enclosed bookcases on either side of the copper hooded fireplace, a tall upright piano, all are eagerly sought. Brass or painted iron beds are placed in the bedrooms, bathroom fixtures are original or authentic reproductions.

    The only place in these houses where significant changes are made is in the kitchens, which are often in the original houses, very small and dark and dreary. Sometimes the whole back end of the house will be rebuilt to make room for a decent sized and well-windowed modern kitchen. If I can find it, I will post a picture of a bungalow kitchen from about 1915, and it is a horror. It's poorly laid out, it's dark, and it's perhaps the dreariest room you can imagine a person working in, and working as hard as housewives had to work in those days, lighting a fire in the wood stove -- if she didn't have a gas stove yet -- dealing with the ice box out on the back porch, doing the laundry by hand or in a hand-cranked machine using tanks of boiling water, tanks she had to fill and heat on the stove, cooking each meal for hours and hours, and cleaning up in a dark and mildewed corner of the kitchen where all the pipes were exposed and nothing was ever really clean. There was never enough space for all the things she had to do, never enough time, never enough equipment. Just washing the dishes was a major undertaking.

    While some of these houses had four or five or sometimes even six bedrooms, there was usually only one bathroom or at most a bath and a half. I've found only one plan with three bathrooms, and one of those was for the servant(s). Some house plans had no bathroom at all.

    Bedrooms could be very large or very small, some of them no more than six by seven feet, barely enough room to get a bed into it and turn around.

    Rooms were often dark, partly due to the dark oak or other species of woodwork, but also due to the deep porches which shaded the sometimes very large windows of the principal rooms. On the other hand, they were probably not as dark as some of the High Victorian middle class houses they came to replace. Those Victorian houses hid their rooms behind heavy velvet draperies, sometimes layers and layers of them, whereas the Craftsman ideal was for a most a double layer of window draping, and often we see no more than sheer glass curtains at the windows.

    There was electricity, and most Craftsman houses were lit by electricity from the outset. But it was usually very dim electric light, maybe the equivalent of 40 watts tops in any one fixture, and often the Craftsman shades for these lights were of heavy colored glass or semi-translucent mica. Thus we see a plethora of fixtures, often four or six wall sconces, and a multi-bulbed center light in each room. Still, the night experience could be quite dim. There were very few electrical outlets in the rooms, and in early Craftsman-type bungalows, the one or two outlets in each room were the screw in kind which were certainly inconvenient to use.

    Stickley himself tried heroically to encourage Craftsman afficionadoes to pare their household furnishings to only what was necessary and beautiful. Plain but beautifully made quarter-sawn oak furniture became the standard for bungalows -- as uncomfortable and inconvenient as much of it was. The discomfort of some of these pieces (particularly settles) cannot be overemphasized.

    We own some oak pieces from the era, but we have avoided the settles and lounge chairs and such, because they are almost cripplingly uncomfortable (ymmv) -- not to mention cripplingly expensive if they are authentic.

    But most of the rooms Stickley showed were sparsely furnished with a single center table, round or oblong, the top often covered with leather, an arm chair or two, a low stool, a drop front desk and chair, one or two lamps, perhaps a Craftsman piano, some pottery, metal ware, and sometimes small landscapes on the walls, and that's it. Everything else was built in or eliminated.

    Most people really couldn't live comfortably in this sort of environment so they tended to fill up Craftsman empty spaces with cushioned furniture, bric a brac, odd items, and accessories.

    I remember visiting an old friend of the family when I was very young in the early 1950's; she had a large-ish Southern California Craftsman bungalow built I would guess in the early 1920's or perhaps during the late teens. She had painted all that dark oaken woodwork an ivory color. The box beams were also painted ivory. If I remember correctly, she even painted her brick fireplace. She had lots of furniture, none of it Mission Style fumed oak except for her dining set which she and her husband bought when they were first married. Most of the rest was mahogany dating from the Thirties and Forties. She'd painted the dining room built ins, and they were FULL of china. It was spilling out all over the room. There were plants and flowers everywhere. Knicknacks, doilies, fragile ceramic lamps with silk shades, fussy lace curtains, all kinds of 'feminine' appurtenances were applied over the basic Craftsman lines of her house. She was a widow, her husband having died just after the War, and she had lived alone for several years. While she had no intention of leaving her home, she was constantly busy changing it, making it more "modern," and making it more comfortable.

    Around here, most of the Craftsman houses have either been preserved as if in aspic or are being re-built as if they had been preserved. "Updating" them is considered little short of a crime. I was visiting neighbors not long ago. They've been working on restoring their bungalow for perhaps ten years, and to my eye it's pretty much done, but they aren't satisfied. Still have to restore the kitchen (modernized sometime in the Fifties). And one of the bedrooms still has paint on the woodwork. But the rest of the house reflects the Craftsman ideals in nearly every respect, even to the point of sparse, uncomfortable furnishings and dim lighting.

    Pictured above is one of my favorite neighborhood bungalows. Obviously there's something a bit odd about it. It was built in 1915 as a firehouse, but it was decommissioned years ago and turned into a dwelling. Recently, it was bought by an architect who decided to restore and expand it (it's now actually two units). The results are quite striking. Down the street is a bungalow that's being rebuilt from the ground up:

    The epitome of the Craftsman style of domestic architecture are the Greene and Greene houses concentrated in Pasadena but scattered all over California. They are amazing accomplishments of the carpenters', architects', and furniture-makers' arts, exquisite examples of the Craftsman style, and the surviving examples are treated more like temples than homes.

    They are dark as caves.

    These are some interior and exterior pictures of the Gamble house in Pasadena, taken soon after completion in 1908, just to give you an idea:

    One of the houses in my neighborhood that I tried to photograph, not very successfully, is/was like a miniature Greene and Greene house, really very small, but with many of the strong design features that make Greene and Greene houses so unique. The exterior was shingled in weathered redwood (it weathers to a rich black color), with deep overhangs, exposed rafters, "artistic brick" porch columns, deep front porch, big windows, a redwood (rather than oak) interior with heavy box beams, high wainscot, plate rails, brackets, and so on, characteristic brass and copper light fixtures. Stone foundation, artistic brick fireplace chimney. The works.

    There were some problems with rot and termites (odd for redwood which has been celebrated for its resistance to such destruction) and so the owners began a renovation project a few years ago, starting with the foundations and moving upwards. In the process, they essentially destroyed the charm of the house. They replaced the redwood shingle siding with what looks like Hardi-cement shingling, in a pedestrian gray color. It's not as bad as the asphalt or asbestos shingling that was put on many houses in the '30's, '40's and '50's, but it's bad. It looks just... wrong. They replaced the windows. This can often be a tragic mistake in and of itself. There is a tendency to put in dual or triple paned windows for energy savings purposes, but often the openings have to be reduced in size, or changed in some other way, and the window style rarely matches the original -- except at very great expense. So too many times, replacement windows in Craftsman houses look completely out of place. In this case the windows are fair reproductions of the orignals, but some of them have that sucked in look that characterizes some dual pane brands.

    They painted some of the interior woodwork. The reasons were simple enough. Despite the big windows, the house is heavily shaded by ancient trees, and the interior was dark and gloomy, moreso than your average Craftsman bungalow, and the owners wanted some cheer inside.

    Unfortunately, these changes have transformed the house from one that was very unique and delightful (at least if you didn't have to live in it) into something very ordinary -- if you can call any Craftsman house ordinary.

    And that's the thing. As much as I admire Craftsman houses, I criticize them for being so dark and sometimes inconvenient. But almost never have I found a Craftsman house that was "ordinary." They may have many similarities, and some are duplicates of one another, but each one has a timeless feel and a unique presence. People who own them love them.

    Of course there are lots of online resources availble.

    The Gamble House, for example, has a beautiful site online:

    Greene and Green Archives:


    The Craftsman:


    The Daily Bungalow on Flickr:

    And of course there are many, many more.

    Tuesday, October 28, 2008


    While it's never been my intent with this blog to get too much into religion and religious belief, my situation these days is one that allows me to listen to some of what is put out on Catholic Radio to a willing flock.

    Yesterday, I happened to hear parts of an impassioned sermon against abortion delivered by a priest from the pulpit. He was doing fine, I thought, imploring women not to have abortions, describing in lurid detail what happened to their "babies" during an abortion procedure, and even injecting some humor into the picture when he described how he would have been a "one-issue voter" if the abortionists scalpel had been scraping at his left arm when he was still in the womb.

    There are plenty of reasons not to have an abortion, and most women don't have abortions, so hearing an impassioned sermon against abortion shouldn't trouble most people, and it doesn't trouble me.

    But then this priest went off the rails. And his argument failed spectacularly.

    His premise was that abortion was the only real issue that mattered in this or any election, and his objective was to elect anti-abortion candidates, even if their records weren't all that pure, or even if they sometimes voted the "wrong way" on this all important topic. Baby steps. Can't make perfection the enemy of the good and all that.

    But then he destroyed his argument, literally blew it to smithereens, with one of the most morally repugnant, indeed morally depraved statements I think I have ever heard from any clergy-man (and that's saying a lot.)

    "But Father," he said someone asked him, "if you are such a supporter of the 'Culture of Life,' why aren't you actively opposed to the War (meaning the Iraq War)?"

    And this man had the nerve to say this [paraphrase, of course]: "Well, I said to him, 'Look. Even at its height, the Iraq War was only claiming 9 American soldiers a day. Abortion kills 5,000 babies every thirteen minutes. Which is more important to oppose?"

    This is not moral equivocation or moral relativism, this is complete moral depravity. The war in Iraq does not involve solely American soldiers, and the deaths and destruction there is literally "uncounted." We don't know how many dead innocents there are there, but there are a lot, all of them -- every single one of them -- a consequence of the American invasion. For this hideous man, this disgusting, depraved, appalling representative of the Catholic Church to dare claim that "only 9" American soldiers were being killed each day at the height of the Iraq War and therefore opposing the war was not as important as stopping abortion simply destroyed his argument altogether.

    There is no "moral" foundation to his opposition to abortion at all. If he limits his knowledge of what has been going on in Iraq since the American invasion to the highest number of American soldiers killed per day and uses that as a basis for his relative passion against abortion and absence of passion against the war, this man has no business ministering to the public.

    And this is one of many reasons people turn away from the Church. No, it's not a Mystery of God. It's a failure of man and it is a massive failure of the institution of the Catholic Church.

    And it is not solely the Catholic institution that has failed.