Friday, March 27, 2009

Too Late for Tumbrils?

I always had this notion of a Grand Parade of Tumbrils down Pennsylvania Avenue with all the hucksters and (neo)conmen who have been robbing and killing and raping with such utter impunity for years and years trussed up and hauled forth to their disposition on the steps of the Capitol.

But no.

We're still too polite for that.

It should be glaringly obvious by now that the Current Administration has no intention whatsoever of interfering in any way with the continued payment of extortion to the Masters of the Universe who order them around just as they ordered around the Busheviks in the Previous Regime.

It should be further obvious by now that the Current Administration has no intention of doing much of anything to provide more than minimal (and hard-to-get) aid and succor to the millions of proles who are down on their luck and out on their asses right now, nor for the millions more yet to be surplussed.

And the People continue to take it.

It may well be too late for tumbrils or any effective Peoples' Action against the looters and murderers who control this country with an iron grip.

Who could have imagined...?

Another New Mexico Story

"Salt of the Earth" (1954)

It's still one of the most inspirational Labor movies of any era, and it really puts to shame the languid indifference and/or passive argumentation that passes for "opposition" today.

That it is set in New Mexico, based on a real strike at a real mine in 1951, is a bonus. The movie deals with racial, ethnic and gender discrimination quite openly and productively; labor exploitation of course is central. But what moves people still is the fact that the strikers take charge of their own fate, they are prepared to suffer, be gassed, jailed, starved out, run over by rogue cops, etc. in order to achieve their objectives -- which they do -- and they are supported by hundreds of thousands of workers all over the country and the world.

Of course the picture was made by blacklisted Hollywood types who ran afoul of the Red-baiting of the post WWII era. But their work stands tall, today as yesterday, and it should be seen now as a reminder -- as a forceful reminder -- of just what "struggle" means.

Also available in a somewhat better version at Internet Archive.

"The People, united, will never be divided..."

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Here in New Mexico, otra vez

About Albuquerque.

The Marrakesh, the Timbuktu of America, The City at the End of the World.

V. B. Price speaks of the Albuquerque he found in 1958, and speaks of the freedom, the liberation he felt crossing the Arizona/New Mexico state line on Route 66 (through one of the most baroque clefts in the mesas you could ask for, but he doesn't mention that) and I know just what he means. I feel the same liberation feeling every time I drive through that cleft. My heart soars. A big grin plastered on my face. "Home."

KNME has lots of online videos at its site. Worth spending some time exploring.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Here in New Mexico...

Well, not exactly. I'm back in California now.

I was intending to post while I was away in New Mexico last week, but discovered an internet connection was impossible to maintain for more than a few minutes at a time and my laptop was giving me headaches with frozen/nonfunctioning browsers. Rather than rassle with it and try to make it work, I let things stew for the duration, didn't even get off more than an email or two, and busied myself with chores and other business neglected since I was there in August of last year.

There was plenty to do, as there always is at that old adobe ranch house we picked up "cheap" in 2005. It needs fairly constant maintenance and attention which it doesn't get when I'm as tied up with other things (like hospice care at home), so coming back to it after so many months away made for many discoveries and a lengthening lists of items to take care of.

Starting with the landscaping. This was something that got put on hold when the nice lady we'd engaged to do the preliminaries, planning, cleanup and whatnot flaked on us and disappeared. I'm not all that surprised, actually. It was a challenge, to say the least, and I know she was frustrated at many turns as she tried to get helpers from Albuquerque and the local area to work on the trees, prepare plantings, lay out paths, get some gravel in and so on. But then, she kept saying she was hauling the cuttings and whatnot out to Bernalillo County's landfill in Tijeras, and she had to pay every time, and I thought that was kind of crazy because it was over 30 miles, and as far as I knew there was a recycle site not more than a mile away from our place where they took everything, including garden debris and cuttings, and they didn't charge. I told her about it, and she just seemed flummoxed, and continued hauling to Bernalillo. Yikes. After she got the high grass cut down and most of the trash taken away, she was gone. Left no plans, nothing, and we got a bill for all that hauling in addition to what we'd paid for the cleanup and the plans.

I understand from neighbors, however, that there is a man in the neighborhood who is interested in picking up where she left off. I've talked to him briefly, and when I have more time -- which I didn't have during this trip due to other priorities -- we'll get together and figure out what to do.

Well, let's hope anyway.

One of my priorities while I was there was taking care of some wiring issues, and to do that, I needed some wire nuts, a handful, you know, this sort:

common as the day, and you'd expect available most anywhere.

Only you'd be wrong. There's an Alco store -- something like a Woolworth's -- that has a modest hardware section, a few miles away in town and there was not a wire nut to be found. There were other sorts of connectors, but not what I needed or wanted, so I thought I'd go to the Ace Hardware and feed store a few miles away in the other direction. They always had what you needed though it might take some time to find it.

Closed. Shut down. Out of business. Oh.

Well, there were other Ace Hardware stores in other towns nearby; there was even a dreaded Wal-Mart no more than ten miles away, and surely they would have wire nuts, right?


Checked the Wal-Mart first; no wire nuts. The first time I went there a few months after it opened, for a shovel, they didn't have any pointed blade shovels, either. What exactly is the point of Wal-Mart?

The Ace Hardware that had been at the crossroads? Gone. Not even a sign that it had ever been there. Next town over, same thing. No hardware store.

So what I eventually wound up doing was going all the way to the Lowe's on Juan Tabo in Albuquerque, on a crazy expedition for a handful of wire nuts. At least I knew they would have them, right?

Well, as I sought them out, I almost thought they didn't, every other kind of electrical connector imaginable, but not common wire nuts, at least not until the very end of the aisle, where finally I found them. Whew. Mission accomplished.

Of course by that time, I almost forgot what I needed them for.

But boy, it got me to thinking. Thoughts that had been in the back of my mind for some time, the sort of "What If" thoughts that nobody really wants to contemplate:

"What if things you take for granted are no longer available or easy and convenient to get? What do you do?" In New Mexico, this is a reality that people have been dealing with for centuries, so people who are adapted to the way things have long been in rural New Mexico rarely let the absence of something bother them too much.

They make do, find substitutes, or they do without. It's a way of life.

For a city boy like me it takes some getting used to, and sometimes I'm better at it than others.

An expedition like I did, for wire nuts, was silly, at bottom, and I knew it at the time, but I wanted to see what was happening to some of what we do take for granted as the economic collapse ripples through the country and what kind of impact it's having on rural areas in NM especially.

Locally, the impact was more pronounced than I at first thought. Not only was the Ace Hardware and Feed Store gone, but lots of businesses had closed -- well, "lots" in a comparative sense, not being so many to begin with. The losses left swaths of vacant business properties along the main road, some sporting For Lease signs, but some just boarded up or even abandoned altogether. Restaurants had closed -- I counted three that were no longer in operation, though one that had been marginal at best last year was apparently thriving now. Even the Flea Market appeared to be shut down, though I wasn't sure and didn't ask anyone.

The real estate market had essentially collapsed. Nothing was being bought or sold, only one property transferred in the last six months.

The grocery store was well stocked, and the in-store hot food and deli section was mobbed at lunch time, which I thought was a positive sign.

One gas station had closed and was completely gone -- as if there had never been one there at all. Others had changed hands, doing what looked like a kind of musical chairs -- the Chevron station had become a Conoco, the Phillips 66 had become a no-name discount station, Texaco at the truck stop had been replaced by Shell, etc.

I even found a new hardware store in town, next to the surviving rib joint, in what had been a small vacant building last year, so my expedition wasn't really necessary, but if I hadn't done it, would I have discovered what I did?

Some of my neighbors were doing very well on a comparative prosperity scale while others were having a very tough time of it indeed. A number of residences round about had been abandoned or were vacant, while one had burned due to arson, the culprit caught, tried and sentenced already. I realized our house had been in that same abandoned situation for years before we bought it, and it's now occupied only a few weeks a year, and the outside still looks pretty shabby because nobody's around to do the landscaping -- among other things. Thank goodness for neighbors who look out for us. There was a tagging incident last year, "4:20" (for which we're assuming the more benign interpretation), but it hasn't been repeated.

Wasn't able to do a complete assessment, but it appears the local population has dropped by some dozens, from a high of only 1,500 or so anyway.

And the future?

Remains to be seen, but we can say with some certainty that much of what we are counting on just won't be there, many of our assumptions will be challenged, and our expectations won't be met.

How we cope is the question.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

The Plan

(Image from Despair, Inc., where you need to go to consider your ultimate Demotivator­® and then end your sorry existence on our overburdened planet and be done with it.)

So far as we can tell, the Recovery Plan now going forward in the United States does not intend to provide significant debt relief for households. Instead, the Plan will be focused on rescue for the banks and Wall Street, in what looks like a never-ending stream of multi-trillion-dollar bailouts that primarily benefit those individuals and interests that got us into this mess and appear to fully intend to keep us there indefinitely.

We, The People, are to be allowed to focus our attentions on getting out from under the debt burden imposed upon us (as well as that we have taken on ourselves) by cutting back on spending and devoting more of our income to debt service. Those who can't do it due to the contracting economy -- because of job loss or other conditions -- are to be permitted limited opportunities for debt restructuring, sometimes debt discharge, in bankruptcy.

Otherwise, it's pay till you drop. Whatever your creditors demand. And be quick about it.

The economy is tailspinning downwards because there is so little household spending, and so the Government is set to pick up the slack, or at least some of it, to keep the economy from complete collapse.

Government spending on programs and services is to increase substantially -- including aid to the states and to localities for various social services and to help them cover budget deficits due to declining local and state tax revenues -- and a sort of semi-public works infrastructure planning and construction effort is to get under way that is intended to put some of the unemployed (primarily heavy construction workers) back to work beginning sometime this year and continuing for many years to come.

So far as I can tell, there seems to be an effort afoot to restructure the workforce, essentially making some segments of the workforce "redundant", as they used to say in Britain, and potentially unemployable going forward. In other words, a lot of those who have lost their jobs and will lose their jobs in the current economic situation will not return to the workforce, by design.

This is in some ways a return to the way things used to be, pre-Reaganism and especially pre-Clinton Welfare Reform. The problem is that many of the social services and much of the public acceptance of a large body of "unemployables" no longer exist to handle the millions who are being thrust into this condition. Millions have lost their jobs, millions more will lose them. Millions of people have lost their homes, millions more will lose them. And many will not get jobs or homes back any time soon. And, at least for the time being, there will be few or no social services to assist the bulk of them.

By design. By intent.

I'd call this state of affairs Social Darwinism, social engineering on a grand scale, but when the People have essentially no opportunity to contest the situation, and no skills to do it with if the opportunities were there, it's more like an Imperial conquest of yore -- without the bloodshed. Yet.

So we can start imagining what the future holds, just what it is Our Rulers have in mind over the long term, and we can start thinking about what sort of society we want to emerge from the current crisis.

One of the aspects of the Reagan/Bush years that was so startling to me was the absence of any sort of Future Vision, especially during the Bush 2 Regime. That period is marked by a complete disregard for, indeed disdain for, The Future, as if it not only didn't matter, it wasn't going to happen. Period.

Now we're slowly shifting back to a Future Vision perspective that will allow us to imagine what will be and what ought to be even as we pick through the rubble of What Is.

All I'd say right now is that it is very unwise to leave envisioning the Future entirely to the Ruling Class. They've made such a cock-up of the Present, perhaps someone else -- We, the People, for example -- ought to take the lead in this endeavor.