Friday, December 31, 2010

Year-End Doom Blogging

Let the Hanky Wringing and "Oh, dear, noes!" continue. Things are going to get worse for the vast majority of Americans in 2011, there's no two ways about it. The question, as always, is what -- if anything -- Americans will do about it but take to their fainting couch and have another Take and Bake while watching the Game on their Big Screen.

As a rule, I'm not into Doom Blogging, one of the most popular genres in the field. The Aga Saga Woman can make me laugh uproariously when she goes off on one of her panics:

"Run for your lives, Children! We're all going to diiiiiiiiie!!!

And we see Doom Blogging everywhere; it was especially prevalent during the BP Gulf Oil Blowout, when it was just accepted as common knowledge that the Gulf was "dead" and could not be restored; there was no point in even considering an alternative.

Now that the Batshit Republicans are about to be restored to power in the House of Representatives, it is widely understood that we're doomed as a nation, as a people, as a self-governing society. That's as may be, but if it is true, the proximate cause of our doom is not the Restoration of the Batshit Party to to power in the House of Representatives. It's been in the cards for quite a while, in other words, and all the political factions have had a role to play.

Yet there is a sense of palpable dread that has been a-building relentlessly since the Impeachment Circus of 1998 and following. That's when the notion of Self-Government in the United States went off the rails, and it has never been restored. Without that mooring of promise and responsibility, the notion that at least some of us are doomed has a growing resonance.

The Impeachment Circus was followed by the casual, lawless intervention of the Supreme Court to install the Court majority's favorite on the White House Throne. This was recognized at the time as a serious breach of Constitutional authority by the Court, and yet, all the Powers That Be acceded to it. Those who were paying attention knew that the lawless installation of George Bush the Lesser and the submission of the entire Ruling Class to this usurpation would not work out well, and most were sure that it would lead to unprecedented levels of corruption, looting, and aggressive war. Sure enough. That's exactly what happened. But it happened on a scale and speed that surprised even the most gloomy doom-sayer at the time.

Now it almost seems as if Doom has been delayed. Repeatedly. And when Doom is delayed so often, one's expectations of Immanent Doom grow greater and greater.

The transition of Congressional power next year will have an influence on everyone's sense of well-being, and because the White House is not about to move off its Hooverite "Progressivism", most people's sense of well-being will go into a further tailspin. On the other hand, it wouldn't have been any better for most people if Democrats had stayed in charge of the House.

The question will be just how bad it will get.

As I've said before, we're likely to see the complete paralysis of regular government function and the substitution of something else again, which most people will welcome as better than what was going on before. In the Koch series, I suggest that we are already living in their future, with the semblance of institutions still functioning, but they don't actually work, and real rule occurring well behind the scenes involving a shrinking cadre of Owners and Stakeholders. But next year, I suspect, what's still somewhat hidden will come out of the shadows, and we will see clearly, perhaps for the first time, that Our Rulers simply have no interest in We the People, and do not intend to gain an interest.

What Americans ever do about it is anyone's guess. The only crypto-Revolutionary movement this country has seen in decades are the TeaBaggers, and they are going to be in power. So... if things get worse on their watch? They'll double down, of course. It's what they do.

For those who haven't seen it, I recommend (Astro)Turf Wars for an idea of who the TeaBaggers are and who runs them -- and what the intent is.

I recommend The Century of the Self to understand how Americans are so easily hoodwinked.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

What the New Year Holds

This is apparently what The Powers That Be want us to endure next year: the Pauls, Father and Son, holding forth endlessly, and bringing the operations of the Government to a grinding halt while they propound about the Constitution As It's Supposed to Be (cf: the Confederate Constitution) and the Universe twirls around them, first around the one and then around the other.

I put the Son before the Father (sacrilege, I know) for the simple reason that he will be seated as a Senator from Kentucky, and as a Senator, individually, he will have essentially unlimited power to bring the body to a screeching halt. This is a power all Senators have, but only Republicans are allowed to exercise it according to the rules and ancient traditions of the body. The Father cannot single-handedly bring the House to a halt, but he will no doubt do his best, and likely will achieve his objective by strategy -- a strategy of burying the House in investigatory fervor, everything being "wrong" and all. Since 1787. So it all has to be "reviewed."

Why The Powers That Be would want this is something of a Mystery, but clearly they do, and no doubt while the Government is completely paralyzed, they will set in motion their Final Solution. The outlines have been obvious for years. They don't believe in Constitutional Self-Government and they want to replace it with something more like a "Directed Democracy" in which the constitutional forms of the past are retained in large part, but they are non-functional. Instead, Rule is achieved through and from what amounts to the Throne, which is not so much an independent executive as it is the agent of the Ruling Faction of Private Interest. The People, essentially, have no say in the matter, nor are they even expected to know what's going on. The Government is to exist as the enforcement arm of the Ruling Faction of Private Interest, nothing more. The heady days of "self-government" will be well and truly over.

A dictatorship? Well, it could be, especially if the Pauls, Father and Son, are able to completely paralyze the functioning of Government. There will have to be a sharp -- and quite possibly final -- intervention from... somewhere... which will have the effect of irrelevating Congress altogether. If Obama can't engineer it and implement it appropriately, I have little doubt he will be replaced, and not with Joe Biden. The most likely replacement would be General St. David Petraeus who would step in as a kind of Interim Protector, the Presidency and Vice Presidency being temporarily vacant.

That role could easily become permanent.

It's already quite clear that internal factional disputes within the Ruling Class have reached critical mass. There will be a fierce and potentially violent struggle between factions for ultimate control, a struggle that will make the internal factional disputes of the Clintonian Interregnum seem almost quaint. How it will resolve is difficult to tell. But whatever the result, the New America that emerges will look little like what we once knew, its path will be set in a different direction, and just like today, many around the world will follow.

Whatever the case, it is not our struggle.

[Note: I am recovering from pneumonia. I refused hospitalization -- for the simple reason that the last time I was hospitalized I was nearly killed (twice) through medical error and neglect. Recovery will be long and slow at home, but it wouldn't have been any faster in the hospital...]

Sunday, December 26, 2010

The Year of Julian Goldstein

It really has been remarkable how Julian Assange (aka "Goldstein") has been able to dominate so much of the "news" this year, given especially the rather tepid interest in most of the Secrets Revealed that has been his stock in trade.

The key understanding here is "stock in trade." Julian Assange/Emmanuel Goldstein is no dilettante anarchist by any means. He is a very savvy businessman who acquired -- shall we say -- purloined commodities (ie: "secrets") from the US Government, apparently through the agency of a low-level military intelligence drone, one PFC Bradley Manning, who is now being held in solitary at Quantico on various charges of violating the UCMJ.

The way this is supposed to have worked is that Manning surreptitiously downloaded a huge trove of military and diplomatic reports that had been made available to an extraordinary number of individuals with security clearances (some 3 million) through the essentially unsecured SIPRnet System used by the DoD and State Department to "share" timely and pertinent information on what's going on in the world.

Once downloaded, Manning then cast about for what to do with the information, and finally he gave it over to Julian's business enterprise, WikiLeaks. Then, supposedly, he bragged about it to one Adrian Lamo, an FBI informant, online, and by and bye Manning was arrested and charged with violations of UCMJ Article 92 and 134. He languishes in pretrial confinement awaiting an Article 32 hearing preliminary to court-martial.

According to his lawyer, David Coombs, the defense (ie: Coombs) made a number of unspecified pretrial motions which caused the prosecution to request a delay in the Article 32 hearing until the classification level of the case can be determined. Granted. Article 32 is likely to be sometime after the New Year, Court-martial to follow likely in the spring.

Manning's conditions of confinement have been loudly protested by members of the Libertarian online commentariat -- not so much because of what they are (loudly claimed to be "torture"), but because of who are being applied to, ie: Manning, who, as a Hero, should neither be held at all nor prosecuted.

Meanwhile Julian's antics have been widely covered all over the world, especially the Sex Crimes he is accused of in Sweden, in many ways largely obscuring the content of the purloined materials he received (apparently from Manning) and distributed through his Media Partners (in the United States, exclusively through the New York Times... well, except for the State Department cables, which he withheld from the Times in "retaliation"* for an insufficiently flattering profile of himself by the redoubtable John Burns... well, except, the State Department cables are being released in the United States "exclusively" though the New York Times, as the Guardian UK provided the trove to the NYT, no charge, when Julian refused to.)

Chasing Goldstein/Assange became a huge story for a while, until that is, he was run to ground in England. Well, as the story is told, he contacted Scotland Yard (or was it his attorney) and said he would present himself at the local station after breakfast, on the basis of the INTERPOL warrant, issued by Sweden regarding those Sex Crimes, if that was all right with everyone, pip-pip, cheerio. It was, he did, the law in its majesty took its course, and he his now free on bail, confined, however, to a British supporter's country mansion, forced to wear an ankle bracelet so that his location may be monitored more easily from afar.

While there has been plenty of huffing and puffing from the Inner Party that Goldstein/Assange is some kind of rogue anarchist/nihilist intent on blowing everything up just to see it burn, the evidence is strikingly otherwise.

What we learn from his interviews and statements is that Assange/Goldstein is essentially a standard-issue (if somewhat naive) Anglo neo-colonialist/neo-imperialist who believes, apparently sincerely, that the current course of regenerating the British Empire as a New Anglo-American Empire is being done wrong -- and for the wrong reasons -- largely because of American incompetence, greed, brutality and folly. In other words, the New Empire is not the problem, the Americans are the problem.

In order to hamstring further American troublemaking in the world, Assange/Goldstein and his sponsors apparently believe that their form of "transparency" -- by releasing purloined American documents through selected Media Partners -- will minimize the threat they feel America represents to "getting on with it." Ie: remaking the world the way it should be.

The British, especially, have long complained of American corruption, greed, brutality and incompetence in the Imperial Project that has been under way since 2001. Australians have had their own complaints. What it boils down to is that Americans are "doing it wrong" and if they would just desist, those who know how to do these things would be able to bring peace, light, harmony and democracy to all the benighted peoples of the world, as it is their mission from On High.

The focus on Julian, of course, makes all this high-mindedness of Empire vanish. And we see that though Julian himself is an expert at raising his own profile, he is eagerly collaborated with by nearly the entire global mainstream media. They love this character, and at this point, they will do almost anything to continue to boost his profile.

Meanwhile, whether his efforts are effective in any way -- except for boosting his own profile -- remains to be seen. The Imperial Project continues, under American control and authority, as brutal as ever if not actually more so. The Powers That Be still rule us with a rod and a staff, and if these PTBs are replaced with others, there is no indication whatsoever that the burden on the masses would be in any way ameliorated.

The "knowledge" that supposedly comes from the purloined documents is being used and massaged by the Media Partners to advance particular agendas -- in the case of the NYT, an even more bloodthirsty future than the past. And in the United States, the NYT's spin on the docs, all of them, is the standard narrative for almost all mainstream media.

From the beginning, I've suspected that WikiLeaks being used as a factional player -- if it isn't actually a factional player -- by a segment of our government to force a certain (and not very pretty) future on all of us. So far, nothing has suggested to me anything else. It still has all the trappings of a factional fight within the government for power and control.

Meanwhile, Michael Chossudovsky has an interesting take:

Who is Behind WikiLeaks?

Especially interesting is his notion of "Manufacturing Dissent." I'd go farther. It's not just the manufacturing of dissent, it is the careful manipulation and managing of dissent.

In addition, some people are beginning to realize that not everything in the cables and the other documents dumped by WikiLeaks is factually true. In fact, a substantial proportion is false. Now what is one supposed to do with that bit of knowledge?

Nevertheless, this has been the Year of Julian Goldstein. Will we get a New Goldstein next year? Or has the Permanent Enemy of the State now been settled on?

*This is how Greenwald put it:

They're [WikiLeaks] trying to train these newspapers with their favors - that's why the NYT was frozen out this time: in retaliation for that Burns article, and it's why the WashPost will never get anything, but they still feel like they need those papers to make a big impact.

To say the least, I laughed out loud. This is exactly what the Government does with its super abundance of "secrets" that are traded as commodities with favored reporters and outlets. In this case, stolen "secrets" are now being traded as commodities by Julian Goldstein and are being used as "training devices" to punish those whose reports on Julian are insufficiently laudatory. Exactly the way the Busheviks treated the press.


Friday, December 24, 2010

How Hoover Did It

[Click to enlarge]

There was no state/national Unemployment Insurance in 1932 when this ad ran in Good Housekeeping Magazine. And of course, Hoover, et al, were not about to originate any kind of program to assist the masses of unemployed -- without the permission of the corporatists and plutocrats of the time. What they would allow then is pretty much what the Republicans and many Libertarians seek to institute now: a more or less leaky and rickety system of private charity provided through churches, community fund drives, and large charitable institutions, to the "deserving unemployed/poor" only.

Everyone else to fend for themselves.

That's the way it was back in the Hoover era; that's the way it had always been in this country, and that's the way the Hooverites and their corporatist/plutocratic sponsors believed it should always be. After all, only a few had ever starved or died of exposure or untreated disease during previous economic "readjustments." So it would be this time.

But by 1932, the nation was in the grip of a worsening Depression that had begun 3 years before. The situation for the masses was untenable, and there was a real whiff of Revolution in the air. The Hooverite approach to the economic catastrophe was to shower benefits and government pump-priming efforts at the top (hardly Keynesian, but it is not at all true that the Hoover government did nothing) and wait for things to get better "down below."

Hoover was a Progressive Republican, after all. Little understood is Hoover's massive efforts to feed Belgium after its conquest by Germany in World War I, subsequently to run an American food program once the United States entered the War, and then, after the defeat of the Central Powers, to feed all of Europe, including in time the new-born Soviet Union. This was a monumental task under extremely difficult -- and politically fraught -- circumstances which in previous eras simply wouldn't have been done at all. Famines were strategic weapons of the powerful, and millions of starving and dead were a good thing in the eyes of the Powers That Be more often than not.

When Hoover said, "These people will be fed," and fought those Powers he became a hero, not just in Europe but in the United States as well.

That's part of why his reaction to the Great Depression in the United States seemed out of character for him given what he had already shown he could do. In fact, what he had demonstrated already was that he could be far more of a radical on behalf of the People than Roosevelt would turn out to be. Hoover would not let anything stand in the way of his mission.

But in reacting to the Depression, he was slow, he was focused entirely on the plight of the upper-upper crust, and he was almost shockingly indifferent to the increasingly horrifying situation of the poor and the working classes.

It was as if he forgot everything he learned about doing what was necessary to ensure some sense of well-being at the bottom of the pyramid rather than devoting all interest at the top.

The continuing indifference of our rulers today to the expanding tragedies at the bottom of the American Pyramid is only going to get worse as the government transitions from "Democratic" to partial Republican rule. What had been a breathtaking level of indifference to the plight of the masses is about to become a deliberate campaign of demonization, vilification and scapegoating by Republicans, which will undoubtedly be picked up and sallied forth by many Dems as well. It won't stop with the unemployed. The sick and the elderly, the poor, the halt and the lame are all about to get thoroughly bludgeoned by the 2 X 4s wielded by the Marshalls of Austerity, on behalf of the Rich and the Super-Rich world wide.

I can't see at this point any sign that the White House will stand in the way.

We are going back to a much rougher time.

The question remains: how will Americans respond. So far, they have shown no sign at all that they can even conceive of the kinds of actions necessary to reverse the trend.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Musical Interlude: "Flesh Failures/Let the Sunshine In," from "Hair", Arizona Theatre Company, 2008

Feeling a little better, so it's time for a good cry.

The videos ain't so good, but it's one of the finest contemporary productions of "Hair" there has been anywhere, and there isn't any other number in the American Musical Theatre that can reduce me to a blubbering wreck every time I hear it or see it performed.

"Flesh Failures/Let the Sunshine In" does that to a lot of people, and not just of my generation, surprisingly enough. It did it when I first saw the show in 1969 in San Francisco, and it's done every time I've seen the show since (in revivals in which the cast had no clue to what the show was about... oh, dear.) The one time it didn't do it was when I saw the movie. I could intellectually accept the transformations Milos Forman was making with this and other numbers and appreciate what he was doing, but when it came down to it, he had sucked almost all the emotion out of the show and left it just "a movie."

Much as I denounce Arizona for cause, this production of "Hair" -- which played in Tuscon and Phoenix -- was outstanding. Of course, they'll probably never do it again.

A side note about "tribalism." "Hair" was promoted as the "tribal love-rock musical," partly on the basis of how the casting was done (not looking for a lot of bubble-headed American Musical Theatre Perfessionals), and the kind of literal tribe the producers and directors were trying to create with every company, back from the very beginning. It wasn't entirely revolutionary at the time -- it was an adaptation from the Living Theatre -- but the way it was done with "Hair" seemed most successful.

The point of making the company into a tribe was primarily for cohesiveness, of course. It's not an easy show to approach or do, and it wasn't easy back in the day, either. It took courage and talent, but it took trust even more. At least at first, it didn't have stars. There was no "name part." The story was relatively simple, but it was complicated to tell it, and that complication made it a "star" vehicle for practically everyone in the cast. There was no chorus and first and second leads and all that, at the time, and still, typical of the Broadway Musical. Every moment counted.

There was another point to the tribe: bringing the audience into the show. Letting them join in, freely, uncoerced. It worked.

But then, as time wore on, casts became jaded, much of the glow and luster of the early productions dimmed. They became... "shows" almost like any other. Audiences could sense it even before the casts did in some cases.

"Hair" closed on Broadway well before the end of the Vietnam War. It was still playing on tour at home and abroad, but on Broadway, it had fizzled out.

At least by that time there wasn't any draft any more.

So there is that.

The first video above has been made private for some reason. This is a video of the same scene(s) from the 2009 Broadway revival of "Hair" -- the staging is almost identical, and I'm not sure, but I think the Claude is the same actor.

[Update: No, it's not the same actor playing Claude in Arizona and on Broadway. The Arizona Claude, whose video of him singing a knock-out performance of "Flesh Failures" is Kyle Harris; the Claude on Broadway (who was no less good) was Gavin Creel.]

Monday, December 20, 2010

What Constitution?

[Note: I've been dreadfully ill since returning to California from New Mexico. I hope this episode won't require hospitalization, but if things don't start showing signs of improvement soon, I just may have to buckle under, and where that will lead... I dread to think.]

"And so it begins," as they say.

The Fourteenth Amendment is the one that will be under immediate and relentless assault as soon as the New Model Congress and State Legislatures assemble in January. The rightists and reactionaries have been quite up front about what they have in mind: restricting "birthright citizenship" to those born to citizens.

The opening wedge, of course, will come via Arizona's bizarre rightist brown-people hater, one Robert Pence, author of the execrable SB 1070 that made it a crime to be unable to produce proof of citizenship or legal residency on demand of an Officer of the Law.

The assault on the Bill of Rights (except for the Sacred Second) has been underway since the Founding, and the limitations and restrictions on those "rights" (so-called) have been expanded to such an extent that most are now subject to the interpretation of whomever wishes to assert authority over someone else.

It's that bad.

Anyway, the 14th Amendment has stuck in the craws of many reactionary rightists over the years because it does two impermissible things: it extends citizenship to everyone born on US soil (who is subject to US jurisdiction) regardless of the legal status of their parents, and it:

Protects rights against state infringements, defines citizenship, prohibits states from interfering with privileges and immunities, requires due process and equal protection, punishes states for denying vote, and disqualifies Confederate officials and debts

Every bit of it is hated and despised by the reactionary rightists, and I note with interest that many of the Libertarians are still obsessing on Julian and Bradley Manning and what's to become of WikiLeaks.

The more important consideration for most Americans when it comes down to it is what is to become of the 14th Amendment. If the rightists succeed in weakening it -- which looks like a possibility in these difficult times -- it will open a door they have long wished to have access to:

  • Restricting citizenship rights in general.

  • This has long been a goal, not only of rightists and reactionaries as a class but of a significant number of Libertarians as well. They all believe that only the "right kind" of person should be granted the privileges of citizenship, and that doesn't include the masses. They are too ignorant, too lazy, too bone stupid to deserve such privileges. Besides, most of them wouldn't miss their citizenship rights if they were taken away. Most Americans don't use them anyway.

    Here's a quick squib from TIME Magazine from 1924 which will give you a little taste of how deeply resented the 14th Amendment has been since its ratification in 1868:

    In New Orleans, a suit has been filed in the Federal District Court to oust Walter L. Cohen, Collector of Customs of the Port of New Orleans. Mr. Cohen is a Negro, and the petition, filed by Edwin H. Both of Washington, D. C, and Carl E. McHenry of New Orleans, alleges that he obtained his appointment in the U. S. revenue service by subscribing to an oath that he was a citizen of the U. S. when, as a matter of fact, he was "of African descent and, therefore, incapable of becoming a citizen of the United States." The basis of this contention is that the 14th Amendment to the Constitution was never legally ratified by three fourths of the states. It was submitted, it is charged, by a Congress from which the Southern States were excluded. Also, it is said, the six Southern states which ratified it did so "under compulsion" and New Jersey and others withdrew their ratification.

    The validity of the 14th Amendment has frequently been discussed as an academic question. This suit, however, marks the first time it has ever been before the courts. Said The New York Tribune: ". . . an engaging attempt at nothing less than the juristic revision of the Civil War. . . . The confidence of these two Southern gentlemen in the Supreme Court is monumental. Not even Mr. LaFollette ever charged that it could remake history."

    Read more:,9171,769107,00.html#ixzz18fdH6VsB

    Indeed. The whole point of Jim Crow laws in the South was to cancel the 14th Amendment, and it was largely successful for nearly 100 years. But Jim Crow style workarounds to the 14th Amendment were instituted throughout most of the rest of the country as well, the whole point being to limit and restrict the civil rights of citizenship to the "right kind of people."

    We've only lived a few decades under a profoundly different regime, which takes the 14th literally, and given the reactionary and rightist make up of today's Supreme Court, we're liable to go back to the way things used to be. The 14th cannot be struck down, but just as legislatures and courts did during the Jim Crow era, it can be relatively easily circumvented. It's not just about citizenship, either. It's the whole ugly notion of "equal protection under the law."

    They can't rewrite it, and they can't very well repeal it, but they will try every work around and subversion that creeps into their rotten little minds until the 14th is effectively inoperative once again.

    That's the game plan.

    Civil Liberties Fanatics, where are you?

    It will be interesting to see what positions and actions they take on this issue come January.

    My prediction: they'll find something else that is so much more important.

    Michael Waldman opines:

    Nino has his say:

    [You see, it's not just about the Messicans, you people. It's about Teh Ghey, too. Eventually, it will get back around to the Negroes, not to forget the Wimmens.]

    As the SacBee puts it:

    Monday, December 13, 2010

    Travel Notes

    It's a long haul between Northern/Central California and Central New Mexico, as I'm sure everyone who's driven it knows, and those few who might stumble on this little corner of CyberSpace have seen me write about a few times.

    It's about 1100 miles each way, two days driving, one overnight stop (usually in Kingman, AZ), about 10 hours on the road in one segment, 11 hours in the other. The route I take is very historical for a lot of American migrants: down California's Central Valley on US Hwy 99 to Bakersfield, across the Tehachapis on California State Route 58 to Barstow, then on to NM on I-40 -- which parallels the old Route 66, the Mother Road, America's Main Street, and from which many segments of Route 66 are still easily accessible.

    The longest stretch of the actual Route 66 I'm aware of that's still in use is now SR333 in New Mexico, also called Central Avenue (or just "Central") in some places. Although officially it only runs from Tijeras to Moriarty, about 27 miles or so, it actually runs all the way through Albuquerque, along Central to where it hooks up with I-40 at Paseo del Volcan, which is easily another 25 miles or so. And then I-40 is either on or directly parallel to the remainders of Route 66 most of the rest of the way west.

    [As a personal side note, this trip was something of a struggle for me, much more so than any previous trip, and while in NM I had quite a scare as I was putting up Christmas lights. The episode passed, but it was a not-so-gentle reminder of, shall we say, mortality, my own in this case. What -- if anything -- to do about it is still being worked out.]

    While driving, I thought a good deal about what sort of connections I've had to this road since I was an infant. In an earlier post I wrote that when I left Iowa where I was born, it was in the backseat of a 1942 Packard driven hellbent for leather westward, much of the trip -- at least from St. Louis on -- was on Route 66. As far as I know -- and I can't be absolutely certain at this point, it was many years ago after all, and I wasn't taking notes at the time (heh) -- it was pretty much the route from St. Louis, through Missouri, Oklahoma, across the top of Texas, through New Mexico, Arizona and the Mojave Desert in California, to Barstow, then up to Bakersfield, and finally over to the Coast on what is now the 46, taking the 101 south to Santa Maria. But the route could have almost as easily followed Route 66 through Los Angeles and picked up the 101 from Pasadena or wherever. In fact, given some of the household moves when I was a child, from Santa Maria to various places in the Los Angeles Basin along what was still the Route 66 route, I highly suspect that it was that route that got us to the Central Coast, not the upper one through Bakersfield.

    A note on Highway names: In Southern California it is the custom to refer to all freeways and numbered highways as "The" -- whatever. For example, Interstate 40 is called "The 40," and Highway 101 up the coast is called "The 101." In Northern California, highways are called by their number or other designation without "The", so for example, one travels on "99" up and down the Valley, or on "I-5" on the West Side. Cross over into Arizona, and you call the northern Interstate "I-40", without "The", much the way Northern Californians refer to their highways, but when you get to New Mexico, things get a little hinky. You may refer to the Interstates as "I-40" or "I-25" or just "40" and "25." Or you may say the cardinal directions, "north and south," "east and west" "on the Interstate", and that's sufficient to know which one is being referred to, unless you're in Las Cruses, and I'm not sure what they say there, since I-10 picks up in Las Cruses for the southern route west.

    State highways in New Mexico are called whatever people want to call them, including the numbers they have now, numbers they used to have, or names that they were once called or are currently known by.

    For example, SR333 used to be Route 66, and some people still call it that. It's also called "Central." SR550 used to be 44W, and some people still call it that. SR14 is also called "The Turquoise Trail," and so on, but whatever the case, one is just expected to know most or all of the variations on highway names and designations in New Mexico, and one of the surest signs you're an outlander is if you don't, or if you're confused about it. I still get confused, though I'm learning. Ha ha.

    So I was thinking as I was driving along during this last trip that Route 66 was the way I got to California in the first place, and it's the way I've been trying to leave it for some years now, so far without complete success. Parts of the route still preserve some of what used to be, but much of the mythology of Route 66 makes it into much more than it ever was back in the day. It was just a road. To get from place to place. Back before there were freeways.

    Of course it brought all those refugees from Oklahoma and the Dust Bowl to California when time was. And that trek was a trial, often dismal and heartbreaking, and not just because the road was a challenge. People were a challenge. Especially eager to challenge refugees.

    Road travel was not easy in this country until the advent of the Interstate Highway System during the Eisenhower administration, and the Interstate system was advocated at the time on the basis of Defense. They would be roads that would make it easy to transport military materiel and personnel when the dreaded Soviets invaded. Or whatever. The pre-Interstate system was a patchwork at best, and in many places, it was lousy, run down or difficult to get through without breakdown or harassment. The notion that Route 66 was somehow this grand Main Street through the country, so very pleasant and appealing every inch of the way, with happy merchants eager to serve their traveling customers is just silly. It wasn't like that. In fact, it was rough.

    But then, all roads and highways in this country were essentially rough back in those days, and it really was not easy to get goods and people from place to place by road. The alternative, of course, was the train, and that was how most people and goods got from place to place, not by road.

    Along the highway route today there are numerous trains, almost all freight trains, loaded down with shipping containers in an endless -- and colorful -- stream, going this way and that, taking some of the shipping burden off the Interstate, but still the Interstate highways are dominated by truckers. Before the economic crash, trucks were so pervasive on the Interstates and State Highways, it was often difficult or impossible to maneuver through or around them. There is still a predominance of truck traffic, and in many areas, especially in California, the trucks have nearly destroyed the Interstate highways and other roads. There are places in Arizona where the Interstate has been allowed to deteriorate significantly, but for the most part, it still isn't as bad there as it is nearly everywhere in California. In New Mexico, on the other hand, much of the Interstate highway system (and quite a few sections of state highway) has been rebuilt from the ground up in the past few years. It's mostly in very good shape, and the completion of reconstruction I-40 and most of I-25 in and around Albuquerque has made an astonishing improvement in road travel through there, one that is visually striking almost every mile of the way. The I-40/I-25 interchange in Albuquerque (called "The Big I") is stunning, both functionally and visually. It is one of the easiest big interchanges to navigate I've seen (well, except when parts of it are shut down for various reasons). And visually, it borders on stupendous. I won't go so far as to say it is "beautiful," but for what it is, it ain't bad.

    But then, practically every overpass on the Interstates in Albuquerque is a work of art, meant to appeal to the aesthetic senses of drivers. Think about that. Here's a road that's just supposed to get you from place to place efficiently, and everywhere along the way through Albuquerque, there's Art, at least an attempt at Beauty, and some of it is really intriguing stuff. Besides which it is laid out well, the signage is good, and while some of the drivers are wild, you can generally get where you need to go without too much of a struggle.

    There is no other city on the route I take that has put so much care into the appearance and the functionality of the Interstates that pass through. Albuquerque is in a class by itself.

    And in Albuquerque, too, the legendary Route 66 lives on in all kinds of ways along Central Avenue. It is still the main surface street through town, and much of what once was there is still there as if little or nothing had changed. It's still very busy, littered with roadside attractions and city services (though many of the motels and restaurants that catered to tourists are gone there has been an effort to preserve some indications of them, and in some cases the actual sites and buildings as well). But Central is a vibrant commercial street; things come and go. There is little permanence, but there is a lot of history, from the Old Town Plaza (c.1706) to the University of New Mexico, and everything in between, including Downtown.

    Farther out along Central/66 to the east, a lot of the stops and attractions are gone, but some of them are still there, still as vital as ever, and for the most part they don't cater to tourists at all, or only peripherally. They are local businesses, with a largely local clientele, and if by chance a Route 66 aficionado happens by, that's fine, if not, that's fine, too!

    So many people, including so many people I care a lot about, have made the trek west -- or in some cases east -- along the storied Route 66 and its successors. Despite all the changes there's a strong sense of ...stability to be gained from what's been preserved along the way, and from what so many of the travelers or their descendants have become.

    One day, though, I'll have to do some riffs on what it was like in the backseat of that 1942 Packard. I don't remember the trip west specifically (but I still carry some simple memories of the car and trips made in it) but I could go on at some length about that backseat. It became almost like another room in my home. But that's a whole other story for another time.

    Then there are all the stories of Pismo Beach I could tell.


    Saturday, December 11, 2010

    Get Your Kicks

    Today and tomorrow are travel days. Back to California, most of the route to Barstow paralleling, and in some cases actually on, The Mother Road - America's Main Street - Route 66.

    It's quite a trip. So much history. So much present. Even some future.

    Friday, December 10, 2010


    Yesterday, we went up to Cuba. Yahhhhhhssss. Cuba. We've been going to Cuba for years, or rather we did until we actually bought a place in New Mexico, in the East Mountain area. And then we didn't go to Cuba any more. There were so many things to do getting the house restored and livable, and after it was at least habitable, there were so many things that still had to be done that going to Cuba was something there just wasn't time for.

    So we didn't. Until yesterday. The trip was an eye-opener, I'll say that. So many things have changed along the way -- a way we haven't traveled in quite a while -- that it almost seemed like we were entering a different country than the one we'd known before. We went along the usual route, but things were very different. The roads had deteriorated somewhat, but towns along the way showed a good deal of prosperity, a good deal more prosperity than we expected given conditions east of the Sandias, where prosperity is not the rule. Bernalillo, in fact, appeared to be thriving, almost overwhelmingly so, and even little San Ysidro was in better shape than I remember it. Cuba itself, while not exactly thriving, looks pretty damned prosperous all things considered.

    For those who don't know, Cuba is a little town in the northwest quadrant of New Mexico on the way to the Chaco Canyon ruins. It's in a high mountain valley on the Rio Puerco and it is closely affiliated with Regina ("reh-heen-na") and La Jara ("la har-ra") to the north and east. Cuba is sort of the big city of the three, but it is tiny. Cuba's claim to fame, if you will, is a restaurant, El Bruno's, that is run by Hazel and Bruno Herrera, both local people who have been in the restaurant business for more than 30 years. About 5 1/2 years ago, their restaurant burned down. It was a very sad incident, and much that the Herrera family had worked for was lost. It was my understanding they had no insurance. For a time, it was thought that their restaurant -- famed throughout New Mexico and much of the region -- was no more, but Hazel insisted it would open again, and within a few months, she and her staff had taken over the abandoned Foster's Freeze across the street and opened a tiny stripped down version of El Bruno's. I stopped there once, soon after the re-opening and was delighted with the food and service. But I didn't have a chance to go back.

    In the interim, the Herreras had acquired most of the property on that side of the road and had expanded from the Foster's Freeze -- which is now the kitchen -- by remodeling the house on the property and enclosing the space between the house and the Foster's Freeze to become the main dining room.

    It's beautiful, very much in keeping with Hazel's vision of the now abandoned ruin across the street, but in many ways it's even better. The food was outstanding, every bite, and the flavors, unique to El Bruno's, were the same as I remember.

    We sat with Hazel for a bit and chatted. She's a truly remarkable person who we've felt close to almost since our first encounter. She's been through some real trauma, but she's shown incredible resiliance and spirit. Cuba could not be the place it is without her and without El Bruno's.

    It was great to be back.

    And Hazel let us know how grateful she is just to still be standing. Bless her heart!

    Thursday, December 9, 2010

    On the Inability to Comprehend the Concept of "Captive Government."

    As the WikiLeaks Thing proceeds, it's helpful to keep in mind that the Government -- which is supposedly trying mightily to suppress the Leaks -- is "captive." It is captive to its Owners and Stakeholders, and they are not us: We, the People. The Owners include a shrinking cabal of domestic corporate interests, a substantial number of foreign governments and corporate interests, and a relative handful of Old Line Wealth-and-Power families that have "always" been in influential positions.

    The Stakeholders in general include the continuous associations of private interest such as the Military-Industrial Complex, the Medical-Industrial Complex, the Financial-Industrial Complex, the Petroleum-Industrial Complex and the Prison-Industrial Complex among others. They are generally represented by the lobbyists and specific "owned" representatives in the White House and in Congress Assembled.

    These are the true rulers who hold the Government captive. The People have little more than an advisory role most of the time. Frequently, they don't even have that.

    The media, you could say, "orchestrates" the interplay between Government, its actual constituency and the People.

    And this situation is built in to the kind of government we have. It's a feature, not a bug in the theories of Constitutional Self-Government that were fundamental to the founding of the Republic.

    The Government exists to protect and fulfill the interests of the Owners and Stakeholders. In effect, the Government is a subsidiary of the rich and powerful and well-connected.

    When you internalize the nature of Our Government, many of its otherwise inexplicable actions make sense. Why are the banks constantly bailed out, but not the People? Why are wars continued indefinitely? What is the function of the Empire? Who is being served and why?

    And you understand better why the interests of the People are so often completely irrelevant to the interests of the Government and the Interests the Government serves. The Government is not "yours." It is the captive of its Owners and Stakeholders.

    I've pointed repeatedly to the "languid indifference" of the White House -- and Congress -- to the plight of the ordinary people in this country, but rarely have I got very deeply into the question of why they are so indifferent, apart from acknowledging their understanding that Americans aren't going to do anything about it. In fact, if anything, most seem to be as indifferent as their government.

    When you understand that the Government serves the interests of its Owners and Stakeholders, not the abstract interests of the Constitution (ie: Holy Writ) or the practical and real interests of the People, then much of the Hysteria surrounding the Julian Assange/WikiLeaks episode seems a bit misplaced. To say the least.

    The Government has no self-interest -- except, of course, self-perpetuation. If we want to pretend that WikiLeaks is an existential threat to the Government, then we have to wonder just what kind of rank nihilists are behind the outfit and its activities. Unless you are obsessed with destruction for its own sake, you do not pose an existential threat to the Government -- or any other standing institution -- without some kind of replacement vision in mind and widely shared by your cohorts. Cf: Luther, Martin. You just don't.

    But are WikiLeaks and Goldstein/Assange an existential threat to the Government? Not likely. From everything I've been able -- or willing -- to learn about the docs that have been released so far, there is nothing -- at all -- Government-shattering in them. And Julian has never been much devoted to the anarchism/nihilism of many of his followers. He seems to me to be a fairly standard issue Anglo-Neo-Imperialist and Idealist who sincerely believes that current regimes are doing it wrong, and that "transparency" as he defines it is the curative.

    He seems to believe that a Prissy Puritanism is preferable to what he apparetly sees as the licentiousness of practice.

    But what he seems to miss -- and what his followers (especially the Libertarians) completely avoid is the fact that Our Government is not Ours. The actions of this government are not controllable by "us," and bringing "transparency" to its actions on Assange's terms helps not a whit to improve matters. The problem of absurd levels of secrecy in Government is real. But so are the problems due to the captivity of Government by limited company of private interests, and their levels of secrecy.

    What I've seen happening from the beginning of the WikiLeaks brou-ha-ha (even prior to the April 2010 release of the "Collateral Murder" video) is what looks like a factional fight within government for power.

    Much the same sort of thing was apparent when the Gingrichite bombthrowers were going after the Clinton White House. The difference is that much of what was going on during the Clinton Drama was on the surface. It's not so now.

    It's not so much an attack on the White House by a Congressional Faction and its constituency. That battle has already been won. Now it is faction against faction within the Captive Government. The opportunist Libertarians want a seat at the table and a piece of the pie. What happens to every one else is of even less concern to them than it is to the Captive Government. They want to have a turn at the reins.

    The Nihilists, of course, just want to destroy everything and piss on the debris.

    It is their bliss.

    Our problem is Captive Government. That problem is built in to our Constitution and the Government that arose from it and continues to this day. "Going back" to the Constitution as it was simply reinforces the problem, it does not in any way rectify it.

    What we need is a complete overhaul of our governmental and economic systems.

    What we are experiencing is a consolidation of some of the worst aspects of the system we have. I'm sure in the eleventy-dimensional realm so many gamers live in, that's a Good Thing because it will lead eventually to the collapse of the whole damn thing.

    But there is nothing to replace it with. And that is only pleasing to Nihilists.

    There is so much work to do.

    Wednesday, December 8, 2010

    Santa Fe Diversion; Then Anti-Obama Fever Rises

    Photo of a "typical Santa Fe sunset" (yeah, sure) taken in August, 2006. In fact, this sort of sunset view is far more common in New Mexico than you might think. It's not every day, but it is fairly frequent. Some folks go out on the hillsides to watch, and they applaud the show. The only other place I encountered that phenomenon was in Florida.

    Went up to Santa Fe yesterday, up to the Museum of Indian Arts and Culture on Museum Hill. It was only the second time I'd been to this museum, and it was as captivating as before. The only problem with the museums in Santa Fe, or in New Mexico in general (in my experience) is their overabundance of material to display. As it was, I was hours in the museum yesterday, going through some of the same exhibits I'd seen before, and I could have spent hours more. On that note, I've been to the New Mexico History Museum over behind the Palace of the Governors one time, spent hours there, only got through Sala Uno, the first of a plethora of "rooms" of New Mexican history. And I didn't complete all the exhibits in that one "room." Frustrating. Even spending the whole day wouldn't be enough time to see, let alone appreciate it all.

    The core exhibit at the Museum of Indian Arts and Culture is called "Here, Now & Always" and it deals with the continuity of Native American presence, culture, and arts in the Southwest and its transformations over time. Sounds dry as dust and boring, but it's not. Every other exhibit in the museum complements this core, and the visitor comes away almost overwhelmed with the living story of the Indian Peoples of the Southwest whether they thought they knew it already or not.

    If they're like me, they'll go back for more.

    The Harry Fonseca exhibit is poignant for me. I knew Harry in California, and it was his decision to move to New Mexico that helped me to seriously consider doing so myself. The works on exhibit are actually few, but they are extraordinarily moving to me for what they represent of Harry's extensive output (what a thing to call an artist's body of work!) and for the deeper meaning he was constantly aiming for -- and which he felt he often missed. The people who selected these works for exhibition chose what would best summarize Harry's artistic sense and sensibility, who he was as a human being, and how he approached his muse and his struggle. He was a remarkable man with an often hilarious vision and a brilliant talent. He is missed.


    Meanwhile, anti-Obama fever is rising.

    More drama.

    Tuesday, December 7, 2010

    Mass-steria -- Julian Run To Ground! Boycott Everything!!!!

    Good doG.

    I've only had time to check the headlines and peer momentarily at the ravings on show among Glenn's commentariat, but from what I can gather, Julian presented himself to Scotland Yard in London today, and at some point, he will stand before a magistrate who will decide whether he should be handed over to Sweden (depending mostly on whether the paperwork is in order, apparently) for disposition on sexual misconduct allegations that have been simmering off and on for months now.


    Because there is some sort of "law" involved here, and something called "courts" are involved, along with a special employment category called "police", obviously Julian has been unfairly "arrested," on the demand of the evil American Central Government which runs everything. In the World. All the Time.

    It was agreed that after breakfast, Julian would present himself to the police in London where he would be arrested and held until he appears in magistrate's court in Westminster. [UPDATE: Apparently Julian has duly appeared in "court," and has demanded that charges against him be provided in a language he understands, specifically English. And he denies everything. No disposition has been announced on my radio-machine.]

    All very cut and dry.

    And of course Rupert Murdoch's "The Australian" today publishes Julian's op-ed regarding his being The Messenger who Should Not Be Shot.

    Of course, the ravers are convinced that this is all a CIA set-up. The only charges pending against Julian are the Swedish misconduct ones, and there are claims that one of the women who made claims against him is a CIA-associate.

    Could be, who knows?

    According to those who follow these matters, the course of events in Julian's case closely mirrors what happened to Scott Ritter when he forcefully and publicly disputed the Bush Administration's claim of "weapons of mass destruction" in Iraq.

    Suddenly, sex charges against Ritter were uncovered and put into the public square, ostensibly by an intrepid reporter, and the existence of these sex charges was sufficient for many people to suddenly denounce Ritter and dismiss his claims about the lies and deceptions of the Bush Regime.

    This was bizarre on its face. But it was widely assumed at the time that the revelations of charges against Ritter was a ploy by some element of the Bush Regime to discredit Ritter, and that it worked.

    Much the same is claimed with regard to the charges against Julian.

    And it may be, I don't know.

    The calls for Boycott!!! are running into an ideological barrier, though. The Boycotts now include Amazon, Mastercard, PayPal, and on and on, all high-profile private companies who are alleged to be "buckling" to American Government Pressure.

    But they are private companies; whether or not they are actually "buckling" to the Evil Government, they are acting in their self-interest, which is what companies do, and their actions (whatever the motivation) are perfectly in keeping with their purposes.

    The Boycotts are being called almost exclusively by the Libertarian cult fringe, and those who are calling them seem incapable of recognizing the irony of calling for boycotts against the very companies they would otherwise be celebrating if the companies were doing what they are doing on their own, without any government involvement, to an individual or organization that was on the Libertarian cult fringe's shit list.

    Pointing out -- as I sometimes do -- that the Government they so despise (and Fear) is the captive of a cabal of private companies, and that the Government serves their interests not yours or mine is really pissing up a rope. These people believe the Government controls the private sector, not the other way around, despite all the evidence to the contrary.

    The private sector no doubt would very much like to squash any effort by Julian to reveal confidential information about them. So far, that effort appears to be successful, as the BofA dump that Julian was teasing has not happened.

    Whatever the case, it is something of a relief not to be too caught up in the Hyper-Drama of the Saga of Julian.

    May head up to Santa Fe today to visit the Native American Museum. There's an exhibit by a deceased friend up there, and the cultural exhibits are outstanding.

    Happy Pearl Harbor Day. Well, not exactly Happy. But you know...

    Monday, December 6, 2010

    Here in New Mexico

    The picture above is of the ruins of some nameless motel in Mountainair, a little town nestled at the foot of the Manzano Mountains. I took the picture in the summer of 2008 when I stopped there for... something... I don't remember what, and got captivated by all the images of what was and what is that are sprinked through the town and round about. There are ruins. Everywhere. Some of them dating back many centuries, both to the Spanish Era, and well before it. What's called the "Salt Mission Pueblos" stand in a kind of forlorn majesty, what they used to be detectable in the masses and shapes of the ruined pueblo quarters and the colonial era churches still standing, all built from the carefully laid reddish sandstone that is everywhere around the area. They were abandoned in the 1600's when starvation due to drought and Apache and Kiowa raids from the south and the east made it unproductive to stay. The populations went over the mountians and fused with the pueblos to the west, and when the Pueblo Revolt came in 1680, these pueblos, so they say, did not join in.

    So. The Salt Mission Pueblos sat, century after century, abandoned. But because they are made of stone -- at least in part -- they do not melt back into the soil the way adobe ruins do. They "flake" away. The stucco falls off the walls, roofs collapse, wood members rot, the freeze-thaw cycle causes bits and pieces of the constructions to flake away into dust or shards that litter the ground everywhere.

    Their ruin is much like that of Chaco, in other words, though smaller of course, and for the most part much newer. But still, we're talking centuries. And centuries. And centuries.

    Many of the descendants of the builders of the Salt Mission Pueblos are still living in the pueblos on the west side of the mountains, particularly at Isleta, but there are other locations their ancestors settled. These ancestors in turn claimed to be the descendants of those who built Chaco and the other spectacular ruins farther to the west. While some, particularly the Navajo, dispute their claim, most archaeologists and anthropologists accept it. It makes sense. There was drought and misery to the west. Migrating east, the peoples found good places to settle along the Rio Grande, and their descendants live there still.

    Which is remarkable given the history of the place. But that's as it is, and that's the way it has been, and that's the way it will be.

    Living poor, living well, living happy, with plenty of time and plenty of room for rivalries and feuds, laughter and ceremonials, loves and foolishness, creativity and abandonment. Forward, back, and stay right in place, all at once.

    Yes, fundamentally it's a tribal society, deeply rooted in place and time, in ancestry and lines of descent, in family, in clan, and in the three general groupings of New Mexicans: Anglo, Spanish, and Indian. Years ago a colleague came out to California from New Mexico where she had been a fundraiser for one of the major arts organizations. She was from DC, and she'd worked for years at the NEA before she moved out to NM and started dealing with Things As The Are Here. She was, she said, appalled at what she found, because she said, the society in New Mexico was the most racist she had ever encountered, including the Jim Crow South. Now, I wondered about that. Whatever did she mean?

    Well, you have your three grand groups, Anglos, Spanish and Indians, and they all hate each other.

    I see. Hmm. Is that right?

    They live in their own hermetically sealed communities, never interacting with anyone else.

    Are you kidding? They're interacting all the time.

    They're at each others throats, she said.

    Well. Sometimes, I said.

    No, she insisted, it's that way all the time, and just try to get Anglos to fund Spanish arts or Indian arts; it can't be done.

    Of course it can, I said. It's done all the time. Just in ways you might not recognize.

    Another collegaue went out to New Mexico a few years later, having heard that it wasn't that bad and there were opportunities for a charming young man like him, and sure enough, he was picked up by one of the Cultural outfits in Santa Fe to be assistant marketing director, and he left in disgust and outrage within two years, because he found the same sort of ethnic/barriers in support systems, and he couldn't break through them.

    "Why did you think you had to?" I asked, noncommittally.

    "They can't survive in their own little pockets and closets and perspectives; it's for their own good to get them to break through."

    Oh. I see.

    "For their own good." I get it. I pointed out that the broader divisions and the finer division have been a basis for culture and society in New Mexico for centuries and maybe, just maybe, New Mexicans like it like that.

    "But it is so discriminatory!"

    Well, yes. It is. For the individual. But as groups, the broader and finer divisions within New Mexico seem to get along with one another pretty well, and there is little open "warfare" between them most of the time. In fact, there is much mutual cooperation on many issues and projects, and a really high degree of mutual respect, at least in public. No, the cultures aren't "integrated" according to ideals set in much of the rest of the country in the '50s and '60s, but then each culture is very proud of its independence, and its ability to be independent, to contribute to the whole, and to get along more or less well.

    "Integration" is not the objective here. Independence and survival within that independent -- yet interdependent -- framework is the objective. Despite many, many ups and downs over the centuries -- and all the ruins that litter New Mexico -- it's worked pretty well.

    (Not to be too coy, but there are plenty of efforts by a strident minority, mostly Libertarian cultists, to blow it all up. Nihilism is everywhere.)

    Saturday, December 4, 2010

    Travelin' Man

    The rest of today and most of tomorrow are traveling days for me. May or may not have internet access en route and at my destination. It's kind of how these things go.

    At any rate, I'm sure the tracking bots will know exactly where I am at any given moment. Credit cards, cell phones, etc. provide excellent coverage of stops enroute and destination locations. We all know this, don't we? And very few fuss about it.

    So. When I get where I'm going, there will be more stories to tell around the campfire.

    Still More Shiny Objects -- And It's Coming to a Head

    It's hard to tell -- and it's not so hard to tell -- what's going on these days.

    The WikiLeaks Leaks initially seemed benign enough, certainly nothing (much) in the Leaks that would raise more than momentary domestic ire, regardless of what was happening in the embassies, presidential palaces, and sultans' seraglios overseas. Not exactly a tempest in a teapot, but really, not-that-bad either, unless you were intent, like some Libertarians who wear the Masque of "Progressives" -- Greenwald being one -- to cripple and if possible bring down this Government and substitute it with something else; if Jane were in her Kali-phase, I have no doubt she'd be slashing away with her scimitar at all the "lies" and "phoniness" and "corruption." But she's seemed to be almost somnolent through this latest set-to. Another dog that doesn't bark? I dunno.

    When it is realized what the information is, how it was obtained, how lax -- actually absent -- security for the system was, and how mostly benign the cables are, one sees or should see that while it's never wise to have all diplomacy conducted in the open, what's been going on (at least from the perspective of the levels of confidentiality these cables deal with) is pretty much to be expected given widely understood assessments of the World As It Is.

    So the relative languidness of The Powers That Be toward the Revelations seemed fitting. What was curious was that apparently nothing (much) was done to secure the Information Retreival system these documents were from until just recently. Clearly there was no intent to do so, until...

    All of a sudden, something happened. The usual bluster and threats had been coming out of the Government bunkers, but then all of a sudden, CyberWar got under way in earnest. Strenuous efforts are being made for the first time, so far as I can tell, to shut down not only WikiLeaks ability to disseminate classified information (no matter how benign) but to prevent government workers and the general public from accessing the documents, world-wide if possible. There is apparently "hot pursuit" of Julian under way as well, the lack of which had always puzzled me before, as his peripatetic wanderings on public airlines and his widely advertised public appearances made his whereabouts extraordinarily easy to track.

    Now it looks like full-on panic mode from the Government. And like the lack of response to the massive security breach that the doc dumps represented, the New Panic Response isn't normal.

    It all seemed to come to a head when Julian announced the upcoming dump of internal memos and documents from a large financial institution widely assumed to be Bank of America. That's when all hell broke loose. And Holy Joe got up in his pulpit and demanded retribution.

    OK then.

    So does my early impression that WikiLeaks might be an aspect of a factional war within Government still stand? Truly, that is still mysterious to me. It could be. During the Clinton interregnum between the Bushes, there was a battle royal going on between Gingrichites and Clintonites, in other words, factions of the Governing Class, which Clinton ostensibly "won" -- by beating the Impeachment rap -- but which ultimately led directly to the installation of Bush II on the Throne, and all the wild and crazy shit that followed. The Bushevik reign went down in flames when their Imperial Project crashed on the rocks and it was torpedoed by the collapse of the economy. It was a pretty serious situation.

    The Busheviks were replaced by cold blooded technocrats whose job it was to consolidate the gains of the Bushevik era, correct the errots, right some of the furniture, keep the masses tame, and leave things in good order for the next round of lootage and bloodshed.

    It was going well until the TeaBaggers popped out from under their rocks, funded by KochPelf and whipped to a frenzy by FOX"News". Oh my. The furiosity of the antagonism toward the cold-blooded technocrats in office took them by surprise, to say the least. The effectiveness of the Furies, driven as they were by mindless contempt and rage, and constantly threatening domestic insurrection, was striking.

    The Lesson Learned for the leaders of the TeaBag Uprising was that if you want to have your way, you better go balls to the wall. And so... they did. And the technocrats recoiled in horror.

    There's been one insurrection after another, and now the technocrats are bunkered down, seemingly as much as the Busheviks were toward the end.

    This will not end well.

    The Panic from the Bunkers is not good. Arsonists intent on Burning Down the House may think it is Wonderful, but that is merely a sign of narcissism (heh) and nihilism. For them, it's destruction for its own sake, not "creative destruction" at all. (This is what the Kalis among us never seem to comprehend. There can be moments of creative destruction, but mostly it's just... destruction. And then what? Nihilists have no answer, and Kali doesn't care.)

    The Panic is a sign that something seriously dangerous has been uncovered or unleashed. It may actually have nothing to do with WikiLeaks per se; it may be something else altogether. The fact that directives would go out to the federal workforce not to access WikiLeaks -- even if they had access to the documents leaked -- was absurd. Some of the efforts to prevent access by the public are bizarre. the directives coming from Holy Joe ordering (suggesting) that private companies stop hosting WikiLeaks OR ELSE are seriously whack. What's worse is their compliance. The repeatedly bungled "manhunt" for Julian looks like an exercise in futility and powerlessness. Panic is a sign of weakness, not solely of the Leader, but of the Government as an Institution, and when we get to that point, we should all be very... uh... nervous.

    A panicked US Government is unpredictably dangerous. Not just to itself. But to everyone. Not just at home, but everywhere. This is quite a step up of the Shock Doctrine.

    And that's what's got me puttin' on the tinfoil today.

    Hoo-boy, batten down.

    Friday, December 3, 2010

    Aux Barricades!

    From time to time, I mention that the Government of the United States has retreated behind a security perimeter of walls, gates, guards, surveillance, biometrics and so on, practically endlessly. The Government is actively working on all kinds of new and improved self-protection authorities and weapons, too. This has been an ongoing project for many a long year, pre-dating 9/11 to be sure, but put into hyper-drive in the aftermath of the attacks on that date.

    Your Government is now behind its own barricades, and it is on those barricades ever watchful of the Enemy. And that would be whom, exactly.

    Yeah. Right. That would be you. And me. All of us. We. The People.

    Yes, we are the Enemy which the Government is protecting itself from.

    It became abundantly clear during the TSA Uproar that that's what was really going on. There was no pretense at all about it: You -- and I -- we are ALL potential Terrorists in the eyes of the Government as expressed through the probes and scans of the TSA during passenger processing at airports. Not everyone, of course, would ever be in a position to experience the intimacy of the scanning and probing and groping that went into the New Procedures that were instituted just before the Thanksgiving Holiday Travel Rush. Not everybody takes an airplane to their destination. But everyone can relate to those who do, because traveling by air is such a common means of transportation that it is taken for granted.

    [I'm so old, I can well remember my first trip on an airplane -- it was a DC-3 flying out of Chicago's O'Hare -- and how very exciting and hoity and toity it was, and how rare it was for most people. Imagine.]

    What passengers and crews were experiencing at the airports before the OUTRAGE!!!™ got up full steam was only the tippy-tip of the iceberg of Government fear and surveillance of you and of me. And it was pretty bad.

    Imagine what goes on internally.

    What is the point of it, you might wonder. They cannot track us all, and furthermore, there are damned few who have any intention of damaging the Government or Overthrowing the Beast. So what's all this Stasi-Business all of a sudden?

    Good question.

    One of the projects that was attempted after 9/11 -- but as far as I know, it was abandoned -- was a very East German/Nazi style "block watch" program in which neighbors would be recruited throughout the land to literally spy on and report on the "suspicious activities" of their friends and neighbors. People were signing up for it, and there still may be "block watch" neighborhood spies on duty. Who they are reporting to is a mystery though, since I'm not sure there's Office of Neighborhood Spy Results in the Government.* But who knows. There's probably a voicemail number and an email drop. Neither of which is ever monitored. But that's as may be.

    The point is that totalitarian-style surveillance policies, programs and projects were put in place literally as soon as Bush ascended the Throne, and they were turbo-charged after 9/11. They've been reviewed and refined ever since. They are still very much in place.

    Note the date this started: as soon as Bush ascended the Throne, NOT "after 9/11". The process of barricading the Government behind its walls and gates and surveillance activities merely speeded up after 9/11.

    The TSA Uprising was the first real indication that The People had reached their surveillance tolerance breaking point, and you will notice that the TSA -- while blustering that it wouldn't do so -- promptly backed off and put its New Procedures in the cooler for a while. How long this will last, I don't know. There are indications that they are slowly ramping up the scans and probes again, but I can't really say.

    The point was that when there was a credible threat of systems shutdown, the Stasi-Nature of the whole thing collapsed momentarily.

    That's a lesson to be savored, and the tactic, I'm sure, will make many more appearances after the New Model TeaBagger Congress is seated in January.

    It won't be about pulling the plug on surveillance of the People, it will be about who controls the mechanics of it and to what purpose.

    The Government is Afraid of You. The Government is Terrified. Of You. I can't begin to tell you how strong the internal Fear level is in Government. And besides barricading themselves and surveilling the shit out of EVERYONE, they really don't know what to do. You see this in the periodic revelations of the military and civilian police agency spying on Grannies for Peace and such. You see it in the continuing -- and pathetic -- roundups of Leftist dissenters, protesters, and -- as they say -- "Eco-terrorists." The focus of Government domestic police action is still largely where it was decades ago, on the Left and on the Druggies. Periodically, there are roundups of slow-witted Muslims who have been entrapped by the FBI or paid informants or whomever to assert an intention to mayhem. Some of them, no doubt, are actually inclined to the terrorist-jihadist path, but most really seem to be patsies, set up -- and then railroaded -- for Show, for statistics.

    And in the meantime, everyone is being Watched. With a more and more sophisticated surveillance apparatus.

    The main point of this is Government self-protection against You.

    The problem is that they seem to be incapable of recognizing the true threat the Government is under. They don't seem to realize the domestic subversives they are protecting themselves from are already well inside the gates, and they are sapping the walls from within.

    Sometimes you almost want to scream out like Kevin McCarthy in Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956)

    Dr. Miles J. Bennell: Listen to me! Please listen! If you don't, if you won't, if you fail to understand, then the same incredible terror that's menacing me WILL STRIKE AT YOU!


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    [*If memory serves, actually part of this hands-on, field level surveillance is still in place, and I'm a little leery about bringing up what it is. I know that many people are aware of it, but many people are not. And there's been a lot of confusion and denial about it from the local agency and Federal level. Do you know who is spying on you, directly? Someone is.]

    Tuesday, November 30, 2010

    Koch Brothers One Stop

    It's become clear enough that with the Libertarian focus shifting from Defense of John Tyner to the Defense of the Brothers Koch that the Full-Court Press will soon be under way.

    Anyone who points out facts and makes a stab at discovering the Truth about the Libertarian Movement and its long time BFFs the Koch Brothers will be aggressively accused of "smearing" Honorable Dissenters and of being "tribalists" mindlessly parroting the talking points of the the In Crowd. This is how it goes. But we ain't seen nothin' yet.

    Wait till little curly-headed Rand takes his seat in the August Body, and promptly becomes the vortex around which the Members twirl. Wait till whatever is left of the tattered Liberal Establishment is evicted from the Public Square to be replaced with Koch-funded Libertarians claiming the mantle of Progressives.

    The billionaire factions will have their fights; the Plebes -- even the Libertarians -- will be expected to choose their sides and sacrifice and die for the Honor of their Team. And they'll do it, for the most part willingly.

    Down in the cellars, the samizdat authors will be madly cranking their mimeographs to make enough fliers to surreptitiously leaflet the neighborhoods with information about what is really going on, and who is Behind It All, They will no longer be able to do it online, of course, because their "facts" and "truths" do not fit the received narrative of the Internets, and they are too easy to track down in any case if they choose to take a public stand against orthodoxy.

    Sigh. But it has ever been thus for political activists, ever thus. There is no easy or long open path for the Righteous (watch the Libertarian Cultists' heads explode!) and the Truthful and the Fearless.

    And so, with that, let us begin with

    The Kochs and Uncle Joe Stalin and the John Birch Society

    Continuing: (all episodes are also linked at the top of the page for review at leisure)

    The Kochtopus

    What Does the Kochtopus Want?

    Kochevik "Liberty"

    The Kochevik Future -- Part 1

    The Kochevik Future -- Part 2, Inverting 1984

    The Descent Into Madness

    Over at Teh NooYawkuh, Jefferey Toobin gets into some important territory over why we should care about the abortion of Justice that is the Bush v Gore decision that pushed us all into this maelstrom of chaos and madness.

    I'm not usually a fan of Toobin's because, like many legal scholars, he can become way too dry and nitpicky, and at the same time fail to clarify his topic either as to its overall import or its affect on our own sweet selves. On the other hand, he is arguably the best of the legal scholar lot when it comes to it. So while I may not be a fan on principle, given the choices available, he's one of the better ones.

    That aside, in the New Yorker piece, Toobin sets up and gets into what went wrong, or rather what was wrong, with the Supreme Court's Majority action in Bush v Gore, and he gets into what the legal consequences have been, in the process illuminating some of the direct connections between the judicial activism represented by Bush v Gore, and the current Court's continuing activism under the guise of "conservatism" and "originalism."

    And in his considered opinion:

    The echoes of Bush v. Gore are clearest when it comes to judicial activism. Judicial conservatism was once principally defined as a philosophy of deference to the democratically elected branches of government. But the signature of the Roberts Court has been its willingness, even its eagerness, to overturn the work of legislatures. Brandishing a novel interpretation of the Second Amendment, the Court has either struck down or raised questions about virtually every state and local gun-control law in the nation. In Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, decided earlier this year, the Court gutted the McCain-Feingold campaign-finance law in service of a legal theory that contradicts about a century of law at the Court. (Citizens United removed limits on corporate expenditures in political campaigns; the decision is, at its core, a boon for Republicans, just as Bush v. Gore was a decade ago.) When the Obama health-care plan reaches the high court for review, as it surely will, one can expect a similar lack of humility from the purported conservatives.

    "A similar lack of humility... "

    Indeed. But that is the characteristic of our Government, through and through. It's almost impossible to conceive of how humble, how truly humble, our national government was -- with some very important exceptions -- right through the Clinton years.

    And then it changed, it all changed, with the impossibly lawless act of the Supreme Court when it interfered in the election of 2000.

    The Government has never recovered from it. My impression is that it cannot.

    What happened on December 12, 2000, was a Constitution-shattering event. As ludicrous and theatrical as the Impeachment of President Clinton was, at least it did have a grounding in the Constitution, and Constitutional processes were followed (well, some were invented), and the outcome was an outwardly honorable one. The Nation and the tattered remnants of the Republic could survive the Impeachment.

    Not so with the lawless intervention of the Supreme Court into the 2000 election. That broke the contract between the Government and The People, it appears irrevocably.

    From then onward, the Government withdrew behind the barricades. No longer did the People matter. And the reason why? Simple: apart from occasional futile outbursts of anger and outrage, the People would do nothing while the Government went about whatever it chose to do.

    The Government, its Owners and Stakeholders would make the decisions, and then market them as products to the People. But even if the People weren't buying, they would have no real choice in the matter.

    The notion that the TeaBaggers and their sponsors and allies are going to change all that to what it's "supposed" to be is just silly. First of all, they are the bastard offspring of billionaires taking advantage of the vulnerability of very confused and frightened people; and secondly, the TeaBaggers' impulse is to submit to corporatist authority, which of course is the point of the Koch brothers' efforts to control the Government itself.

    The nascent imperium that we have as a consequence of Bush v Gore is what the Kochs and their hordes want to seize and operate for their own interests and ends. And they are well on the way to doing so.

    They are pushing hard and fast now, and they will brook no opposition. And they are winning.

    But this is not the End of America. It is the final nail in the coffin of the Republic. The Government may well become the plaything of the Kochs and their allies and storm troops, but it will never again -- barring revolution -- be humble before the People, never again be more than marginally accountable to the People, and never again be susceptible to the Public Will (again, barring revolution.)

    It is a descent into madness. And yet so many people are able to adapt and go on. As if nothing were awry, even many of those who know the truth.

    We will survive.


    An hour long lecture by Jeffery Toobin in July 2008 that hits on some of this -- eventually.

    On the Other Hand

    I haven't perused the "news" yet this morning, so there may be other things going on that I might have missed, but I reread the post just previous to this one, and I'm kind of astonished at myself.

    I'm "proud" of career State Department personnel?

    All in all, the cable dump is "good?"

    What's that all about? WTF?

    I look at that and I ask, "Who wrote that? Was that me?"

    And "What was I thinking?"

    (Someone else reading it might thump their chest and assert with confidence that I was doing nothing but expressing my "tribalism" as a former Federal worker. Heh.)

    Indeed. As should be obvious, I was more than a little concerned that the latest Doc Dump would prove an utter embarrassment on the world stage. The United States Government would be seen as a completely duplicitous, hypocritical, and deeply craven institution without honor or even the conception of it. What we would see from the cables was that the game that was being played on the table has nothing to do with the game being played below it.

    We may still see that, but so far, what's been shown in the cables is that pretty much that everything's been up front, on the table, and thoroughly hashed around, by people who actually do know something of what they are doing. If there is an under-the-table game going on (as I'm sure there must be by some of the more shadowy agencies), it is not the State Department's game, even when the Devil's Daughter was running things from her raven's perch as Assistant Secretary of State for Mideastern Affairs.

    That, to me, is a relief.

    That doesn't mean I approve of the policies coming out of the DC workshops and palaces. That's a whole nother topic.

    If the United States is going to engage in statecraft -- as it must -- I would rather it be done well and competently. It appears that that's the case. And it also appears that policy can change, and the career people at State are able to maintain their professionalism at statecraft no matter how the rules of engagement with the rest of the world shift. These are actually important reassurances that competence has not been completely jettisoned in the panic over The International Terrorist Conspiracy.

    What we need now, it seems to me, is a serious and thoroughgoing reevaluation of policy. That was supposed to have been one of the "changes" we would see from the New Regime in DC. It hasn't quite worked out that way.

    To put it delicately.

    Unfortunately, the major push for policy changes is coming from the Rightists, some of whom are now, it is clear, intent on crashing the whole apparatus. The Revolutionary Spirit we saw from the Right during the Bushevik years has not been dampened at all. The Rightist Revolutionaries got much of what they wanted during the Bushevik reign, but they didn't get it All. That's what they're now after.

    And they won't be satisfied until they achieve Ultimate Victory.

    Opportunists, mostly of the more Ferengi Branch of Libertaria, are taking advantage of what they see as a Power Vacuum to insert themselves into the fray so as to grab their piece of the pie when it all falls down. The attacks on Old Line Liberals are only going to increase in the short term.

    For all intents and purposes, Liberalism is a failed cause. The lights are going out in the Enlightenment one by one, and they aren't going to be re-lit any time soon. At least not in the West.

    We're entering a New Dark Age in a sense.

    Maybe my focus on the competence of career State Department personnel is misplaced.

    When self-doubt enters the picture... ack.