Wednesday, March 24, 2010

The Important Thing

The Done Deal Health Care is pretty much Old News, no matter the fulminations of our Republican Friends. After all, they got what they wanted, though someone else had to do it for them. That's kind of the way it goes, isn't it? They sure love to rule, but they can't govern worth shit -- except as Banana Republic dictators.

Barack Obama is now the best Republican President since Clinton, so what the TeaBaggers and their ilk are crabbing about is anybody's guess. Crabbing to be crabby, I think. But what do I know?

There was no way either a Medicare for All or a Public Option (whatever that might have been) could be passed in this environment. And there is a reason why: Medicare's costs are going through the roof, and there still aren't any controls on Medicare or overall healthcare costs. Until the cost curve is "bent" -- runs my theory -- our rulers can't do the right thing and institute universal single payer health care. But my suspicion is that once costs are tackled and some containment is instituted, wah-lah, we'll see something like Medicare for All. At least from the rhetoric coming out of Big Insurance, it appears that going after those costs is the major project still to be done. And Big Insurance is not just a Stakeholder but the major player in cost containment.

We'll see. We'll see.

Yes, in the short term, it will be very costly for very many. But kind of like the Enron/California Energy Crisis Thing, people get used to the higher costs. After a while they don't notice. We're going on ten years since the "crisis" that led to raising utility rates in California by as much as 50% to pay off the bonds that were sold to buy electricity at outrageous prices from the market manipulators. We've been paying higher utility rates in California and most of the West because of it all this time, and those higher rates look to be permanent now, because no one -- no one at all -- is talking about lowering them as the bonds are paid off. No, instead, they'll just move the rates around some. So that residents of the Central Valley aren't stuck with $400-500 a month electricity bills every summer to cool their haciendas. Instead, they'll pay $350, and residents of the naturally cooler Bay Area will pay slightly more...

Meanwhile, there is a very important aspect of the overall picture we need to pay a lot more attention to. I've brought up the policies that foster this Endless Recession, the deliberateness of the languid indifference to continuing high unemployment, the forcing of ever more millions into poverty and the underclass "year over year." There are no accidents here, no oopsies. The People In Charge know what they are doing, and what they are doing is carrying out the Neo-liberal phase of our ongoing nightmare.

Jerome a Paris posted something over at dKos the other day that made clear just what has been going on, and how it has affected people in the United States and Britain.

To wit, from the Economist:

IF YOU need an explanation as to why political discontent is so widespread on both sides of the Atlantic, take a look at figures compiled by Dhaval Joshi of the hedge fund RAB Capital. This recovery has benefited companies a lot and workers not at all.

In the US, Joshi calculates that, in cash terms, national income has risen $200 billion since the depths of the recession in March 2009. But corporate profits have risen by $280 billion over that period, while wages are down by $90 billion. One would have to go back to the 1950s to find profits outperforming wages in absolute (cash) terms, and even then it was on a much smaller scale. In Britain, national income rose $27 billion in the last two quarters of last year. Profits were up £24 billion and wages just £2 billion.

Yes. Well, well, well, isn't that interesting? Profits rise as income for the masses falls. And it is policy that it be so. This is no accident.

US productivity has outpaced European largely because the US has been quicker to sack workers. This is a decidedly mixed blessing. In theory, it is good for resources (inclduing labour) to be relloacted to more productive use. Thus it would be OK if the workers were quickly rehired by new, growing industries or if they were at least retrained, but there is little sign of such a positive development.

Of course. People have been forced out of work by the millions upon millions, and they are not being rehired. Well, how about that? Huh. And profits rise. Even paying them a pittance of unemployment benefits is loudly protested by the TeaBaggers, for reasons that -- as usual -- don't make any sense, and radio hate mongers go on and on about the lazy and shiftless unemployed, (used to be Lazy N-Word, but can't say that, unless you're a TeaBagger protesting a member of Congress)...but there are no jobs. Everybody knows that. They aren't being shed quite as quickly as last year, but there is no net gain in employment, either. The United States is down tens of millions of jobs since the Endless Recession began, and our rulers do nothing but get their nails done and tut-tut the sadness of it all. "There's nothing to be done." To paraphrase Larry Summers.

But why should they do anything when profits are UP? Clearly the Recovery is Underway. Rejoice!

Profits are UP because employment is down and because the last few pennies are being extracted from the vanishing middle class through all the bailouts and handouts Washington has been so eager to "help" our struggling industrial and financial sectors with.

Who'd a thunk?

And except for the unformed rage of the TeaBaggers, the People are passive.

Note, from the statistics, things are not as bad, overall, in other countries as they are here. And why might that be? Could it be because their people are NOT passive? Hm? Yathink?

And in Iceland, the People went so far as to say, "Thank you and fuck you, we ain't gonna pay your extortion" Twice. Notice, they've been having some nasty volcanics lately. Maybe they better revisit their intrasigence?

Could be we're dealing with forces of Nature here....

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Documenting the Atrocities

Jeebus, the Hysteria.

The stark raving madness surrounding the now-admitted-by-everyone to be a pretty much ideal Republican Health Care Insurance Reform measure so infected the public square and the blogosphere that I just stayed away. The Crazy is catching, and I simply did not want to play.

When you have an amiable drunk like Dick Armey stirring up the masses to Rise and Revolt, and he's the only one doing it, then you know the situation is well out of hand -- and well out of your hands. When Men of Principle like the perpetually peevish Dennis Kucinich can be -- ahem -- persuaded to go along with what is arguably The Best Republican Health Insurance Reform measure evah, then you know the fix is not only in, it has been in for months if not years.

And the hysteria over it just won't quit.

This is politics in America today, and when things get this wild, even though all the Stakeholders are pretty well satisfied, then you know it's all for Show, a Show that is meant to keep the People entertained while their betters abscond with more of their loot.

That nearly the entire blogosphere fell into it and two sites that I frequent -- or used to -- FDL and dKos -- went balls-to-the-wall with rivalry and hysteria, mutual anathema and fury, simply confirmed to me that "Health Care" was being used as a business leader by both of them, with the primary desire and function to increase revenues for their proprietors.

Much as Dick Armey has very successfully done with his "Freedom Works" TeaBagger outfit.

TeaBagging is now the model. First they made it OK to bring up the R-Word, "Revolution". Now they make it OK to be bat-shit insane, and mostly to value myth and falsity over fact to make their point.

The shape and outline of the "Health Care" was set very early on last year, by April or May, and was all but complete by June and July. After that, everything was theatrics piled upon theatrics, and jockeying for attention by all and sundry. It really troubled me that it was being done this way. I still don't know whose bright idea it was to let things devolve into such a continuous goon show, but there you are. "Day of the Locusts" -- and it wouldn't end. It just kept going and going and going...

Couple of things happened, though, that made it almost seem smart (well, that remains to be seen...): 1) the factions pretty much exhausted themselves in virtual combat with one another and with The Powers That Be; 2) the bill that has been (is still in fact being) cobbled together comes across as "Moderate" compared to the foam-flecked fury it has unleashed among the commentariat and the proles. Moderate and wise, considered and responsible, a celebration of the Public Interest, the "Health Care" seems (almost) Just Right. Or something like that.

There is very little energy left to fight the Power, or to fight this fait accompli... or to do much of anything.

Jane posted her Manifesto over the Betrayal, yadda yadda, and something jumped out at me from it: She writes about how exciting and rewarding it was to cover what was going on. As a Journalist. New Media and all that. And then she refers to how difficult it was and frustrating it was to take what she learned as a Journalist and turn it into political action -- ie: to be a Player.

And how the next step has to be this or that to turn political knowledge gained as a Journalist into successful political action as a Player Without Portfolio. Basically to be as influential as any high priced lobbyist on K Street. Or as influential as any other noisy media outfit.

What is the point of Documenting the Atrocities if you can't use them for... good? Well, for what you want.

And this is the core difficulty among political bloggers. They want -- in some cases desperately -- to be Players on the political field, and they want to Win. (cf: Markos, Arianna, Aravosis) They believe that being Journalists is the way to Glory and Winning on the Field. Documenting the Atrocities (in the form of constant Media Criticism) is one of the core functions of the Blogosphere in general, and it is a sure way to -- eventually -- gain Notice. And Notice, somehow, is supposed to translate into Power.

Only it doesn't, not really, when it comes to Blogging. So called Progressives got nothing out of the "Health Care," not even a wink and a nod. At best they got a kick in the nads and a slap in the face, and a demand for their lunch money to boot. And like always, they pay up. It's their role and their function. Surprisingly, Jane has not yet gone into Kali-mode demanding the Heads of all who thwarted her again. Especially the Head of Obama Himself. But one shouldn't be surprised to see her turn when the situation is ripe.

Interestingly, some Republicans are complaining that they got "Nothing." Interesting especially because the measure is for all intents and purposes a Republican measure, barely recognizable as anything but a pay-off to vested interests at the crippling expense of the Public -- the way it is supposed to be in Republican Land.

It's arguably better in that regard than the Republicans on their own could possibly have made it. So what are they crabbing about?

Oh, I see.

They couldn't and didn't do it.

Someone else had to be brought in, Young Mister Obama.

That's the deal.

That's what they're crabbing about. And they will never forgive him for it.


Note: somebody at the Signing just said, "Thank you. 36 years trying to do this..."

Well, there you are.

Saturday, March 13, 2010


I've been back in California for about a week, still a little zzzz-y from the trip. Well, it's eleven hundred miles, 20 hours solid on the road, and as many times as I've driven it, it's still something of a challenge getting from here to there and back again.

It's not just a change of location, it's a change of culture.

I've never much cared for Arizona, but passing through it these days is becoming a real chore. Arizona's culture is antithetical to the Indians and the Mexicans who long predated the Anglo interlopers who squat there now and parade around with their guns out, refusing to pay taxes and threatening any brown person who happens by. What with the closure of the highway rest areas and the state parks and the attempts to sell off the state buildings, the whole notion of government of, by and for the People of Arizona has become a sick joke. This is America? No. It's Arizona, and these days it sucks to be there.

In Arizona, nobody wants to pay taxes, so they don't. If the state is really interested in cushioning its bottom line, and the government really wants to sell off its assets and shut down, which is the way they are behaving, then I think they should sell it all to the Indians and lease it back, if the Indians are so inclined. Or let the Indians run things. At least they have casinos, and they seem to run just fine. Tell me, have you ever had a bad time at an Indian casino? I ask you.

In New Mexico, things are different. Thankfully. Or maybe not, it's a little hard to say these days. Not only did I have a visitation from The Plumbers which turned out OK in the end, the house has been reinfested with skunks, and that was pretty bad, and is still not completely solved. In the past, the skunks have been a nuisance, this time they were pests. They nest under the house, with the feral cats. We had eleven skunks trapped and sent to Otero Canyon last year. I don't know how many there are now, but I can bet there are at least two, and probably more. Last year, they got along with the cats pretty well; this year not so much. In fact, there seemed to be a nearly constant war between them, which of course led to endless skunk spray.

There is a specific remedy for it. Vinegar. That's right. If the stink is severe, as it was, over and over, when the cats and the skunks contended, warm the vinegar and spray it liberally, or place a dish full of it in front of a fan and let it blow over the vinegar for an hour or so. Usually, that will take care of the stink, almost like magic.

Keeping the skunks out means making it impossible for animals to get under the house, and that's been the trick. When The Plumbers were there, they opened a hole outside under the bathroom and suggested that the hole stay open for a while to help dry out the area under the house where the water from the clogged drain had collected. I left it open for three or four days, and of course skunks moved in. The war began and it didn't stop until the day before I left. I wouldn't be surprised if it has recommenced.

There's another place where The Plumbers were several years ago when they replaced the supply piping, and that hole, though repeatedly closed up gets dug up by creatures, and the animals get in that way, too. So it's a constant struggle. The fact that we're not there more than a few weeks a year means the struggle is ongoing.

Hate to whine about it, but this time the skunks were much worse than ever before, so we're going to have to find a more or less permanent solution. I have some ideas.

Meanwhile, of course, the NM legislature came up with a grand plan to keep their schools and parks and stuff open: raise taxes on the poor and near poor. Not on the rich, oh no no no no no. Can't do that! This from a Democratic state administration -- Dems all the way down. Outstanding! Outrageous!

And the Rs are salivating. They figure, perhaps rightly, that with only two choices, the Dems or the Rs, the electorate will install Rs come fall, since the Dems have raised taxes on those least able to afford them. So throwing the bums out seems like a clever plan. Except... putting the Rs in will mean no reduction in taxes on the poor and near poor, but it will mean a significant reduction in services, and probably a further reduction in taxes on the rich and on corporations.

Our electoral system is insane.

Your choice is Bad or Worse. Now choose.


Of course things are no better in California. Arguably they make things in Arizona and New Mexico seem very mild by comparison. Taxes have been raised, budgets have been cut, and still things are spiraling out of control. The rich are refusing to pay any more in taxes, and the unemployment rate is enormous and getting worse. Local governments are going broke, the state is tens of billions in the red, and nobody knows what to do about it or how to do it. Stalemate.

Or checkmate.

So a Hail Mary effort to change the budgeting rules is apparently going to be made, and then we get to pray.

All this is happening while our friends in DC continue to dither.

So I'm slowly recompressing but reluctantly.

After a while, you just get sick of it.

Friday, March 5, 2010

What to do with the Rich

The New Mexico state legislature has been sitting in special session in the Roundhouse in Santa Fe in an effort to resolve projected budget deficits due to the Endless Recession.

The Legislature is controlled by the Democrats, and the Governor is former Clinton apparatchik Bill Richardson. So rather than simply cut the budget, as Republicans demanded, the legislature chose to both cut the budget and raise taxes to raise revenues to cushion the blow of budget cuts.

But this is how they've done it: They chose to raise the Gross Receipts Tax (Sales Tax) by 1/8th percent, to raise cigarette taxes 75 cents a pack and to reimpose a 2% sales tax on food.

These tax increases, of course, affect the poor far more than they do the rich, and New Mexico progressives have been expressing their outrage, disgust, and contempt for the Democratic legislature and the governor. Why do moms going to the grocery store have to pay an extra 2% to the state, while big-box stores and the wealthy continue to receive tax breaks they have been benefitting from since 2003? It is assumed that Richardson and the legislative leadership simply would not accept any tax increases on the big-box stores, corporations and the wealthy. Increased taxes on the poor and working classes, fine.

A minor adjustment to a loophole that allowed the wealthy to deduct their federal tax payments from their income will result in slightly higher tax payments from the very well-off, but the basic problem with the income tax in New Mexico is that it is essentially a flat tax of 4.9% for all incomes from about $25,000 to infinity. While some progressives wanted to add a higher tax bracket for those making over $200,000 a year, the Governor would have none of it, according to reports.

Those least able to afford an increase in taxes will be paying them in New Mexico, and the Democrats -- according to all reports -- will suffer for it in the fall. They will probably lose control of the legislature and the governorship.

I think we know why neo-liberals like Richardson prefer neo-liberal tax-the-poor and hold-harmless-the-rich solutions to budget problems.

The question is, when the only political alternative is worse -- ie: the Republicans -- what are the People to do?

Already, the rich in New Mexico live as nearly as possible apart from the People, behind walls, gates, and often private guards and surveillance cameras. The People have been long-suffering, but this action by the legislature -- and the Governor when he approves the budget and tax increases -- is a forthright slap in the face of the People.

They are to pay. That's all there is to it.

Just as the People are to pay off the gambling debts of the Banksters.

The rich are to be protected.

No matter what.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Election Day

Tuesday was local election day here in New Mexico, but since I am not yet a registered voter here, I wasn't able to cast one of the fewer than 500 ballots that were handed in. The hardware store owner mounted an insurgency against the incumbent mayor. The incumbent had had what could only be called a wretched term of office, with one damn thing after another -- culminating with the recent refusal of Santa Fe to approve stimulus funds to improve the area water supply and sewage treatment. "Dead Man Walking" came to mind when I saw the incumbent holding court in a parking lot down the street from the city hall.

Actually the vote was closer than I thought it would be. The final results were 211 votes for the incumbent, 275 for the insurgent. I really thought it would be a blow out, given all the issues involved, and the Endless Recession and its effects on the local economy, but it was a fairly even fight, and the candidates are good friends. Or were. I don't know how they'll get along now.

The incumbent is a rancher. The insurgent is a merchant. There's always been a tension in the West between the two economic interests, but in a down economy like this one, their differing interests may turn into hostility. We'll see how it goes.

There was a burst of economic activity in town when some stimulus funds were provided for fixing roads and spiffing up signage and stuff. Things seemed to stabilize for a while, then a slow slide down commenced. People are still leaving the area because there's no work. I pointed out in an earlier post how difficult the local situation is even for plumbers.

Just looking around, not having any statistics at hand, I'd say the local population has declined by 10% or 15% since the advent of the Endless Recesssion. The area's biggest employer shut down early in the economic downturn, and nothing has taken their place -- though a couple of businesses (including a micro-brewery) have opened.

In a tiny way, I don't doubt that the anti-incumbent spirit that manifested itself here on Tuesday was part of what will be felt very strongly in the elections this fall. The fact that the Recession will not End, as a matter of policy, and that there is no work for many, and there won't be, no matter what, as a matter of policy, is having a profound effect on the psyches of Americans. Rejecting incumbents is natural under the circumstances, but so often the alternative is worse.

Unfortunately, Americans haven't wrapped their minds around that simple fact yet.

So here's a picture of the pronghorns I saw out in the field yesterday. They were shy and were going to run away when they saw me, then they decided to pose for one picture before they bolted.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010


While I was rearranging some of the books here, I pulled out the Unicorn Book of 1954, a sort of yearbook of outstanding events of the year. It was a fairly significant year and all, what with H-bombs and Dienbienphu, the Army-McCarthy hearings, Brown v Board of Education, and endless crime.

Given yesterday's post about The Narrative and how news has to track The Narrative no matter what the facts show, I was fascinated by some of the items in this popular history tome from more than half a century ago, especially the strong parallels between the way, say, Eisenhower's approach to the Presidency was reported in almost identical terms to those used to describe Obama's approach.

For example:

In a series of messages to congress in January, 1954, Eisenhower proudly presented what he called a “dynamic, forward-looking program.” To his surprise, it was much criticized as well as much praised. “It was as dynamic as the dodo, “ said Democrat Sam Rayburn, House Minority Leader, “and as forward-looking as yesterday.”

Economically, the program was conservative, though it did urge the extension of unemployment insurance and social security. “In a modern industrial society, “ Eisenhower declared, “banishment of destitution and cushioning the shock of personal disaster on the individual are proper concerns of all levels of government.”

Democrats joked. “The Eisenhower administration, “ said Representative Richard Bolling of Missouri, “has just ratified the New Deal.”

“I thought we voted for a change,” cried Republican Senator John Marshall Butler of Maryland.

“If this is the policy of the Republican Party, “ said John W. Bricker of Ohio, “I don’t know what I’m doing here.”

This was hardly the unity the President had expected on his middle-of-the-road program, which he thought would attract both liberals and conservatives. It was Eisenhower’s earnest desire to be considered “President of all the people” -- all 163 million of them -- regardless of party or faction. The ideal fetched up against one hard reality: people do not think alike. As Mr. Eisenhower discovered, no President could be above all controversy.

How very much this Narrative resembles the current one. To continue:

After enunciating his domestic policies early in the year, Eisenhower at first pursued a hands-off-Congress program. He felt it was his job as President to recommend legislation but the job of Congress to enact it. When reporters asked about specific bills, he referred them to recommendations made by Cabinet members, adding: "Now the job is up to Congress."

He sincerely believed he could get on with "the toughest job on Earth" by quiet behind-the-scenes patience. He believed that reasonable men in the executive departments and in Congress could and would work together to solve problems logically, on the basis of facts and in line with national welfare.

Indeed. It should be so simple, shouldn't it? Why isn't it?

His friend, General George ("Blood and Guts") Patton, a careful planner as well as a dashing military leader, once pointed to a piece of boiled spaghetti on a table top.

"Suppose," said Patton, "you want to move the spaghetti across the table. If you get behind and push, you'll get nowhere, no matter how much you huff and puff. But if you get in front of it and pull gently but firmly, the spaghetti is far more likely to slide across the table in an orderly manner."

Congress moved slowly. Reluctantly, Eisenhower began to act more like a practical politician, pulling as well as pushing. He was giving "spaghetti" leadership a whirl.

Eisenhower took office in January, 1953. So he'd been in office a year when these passages were written. The frustrations the chattering and political classes had with Eisenhower are very similar to the frustrations expressed by Republicans and Democrats -- and the chatterati -- about Barack Obama. The Narrative seems to be that Presidents who don't act boldly and decisively from the outset are to be criticized and/or dismissed as worthless occupants of the office.

George W. Bush was actually going through this period of criticism and dismissal for lack of decisiveness and bold action (remember his "agony" over stem cell research?) prior to the transformative event of the 9/11 attacks, after which, of course, he was hailed the hero.

Eisenhower never had a transformative event like that from which to "lead" the nation through crisis, though the threat of instant incineration and total annihilation was the constant social and political theme of the era. Yet many Americans believe the Eisenhower Era was something of a Golden Age.

And why not? The Narrative told us everything was fine. Getting better. What's to worry? Enjoy. Laugh.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010


Cloud formations during monsoon weather in Mountainair, NM, August 2008

Since I don't have teevee here and haven't picked up a paper for a while, and since my internet connection is a slow dialup, I'm kind of cut off from the concerns of The World. The News comes from the radio, primarily NPR, but over the weekend, there wasn't a lot of news on the radio. Instead, there were a lot of features, some of which were very interesting (such as the crypto-Jews of Bernalillo), but which didn't really touch on the Big Stories, like the earthquake in Chile.

I've noticed since the weekend that reporters are having to struggle with the difference between their Narrative of What Happened in Chile, and what they're finding on the ground. The First Narrative was that though the earthquake was far more severe in Chile, there was little damage, hardly any compared to Haiti, because the building standards were so much higher in Chile (subtext: they're White, you know). The Narrative insisted that these Chileans were so much calmer and so much better behaved than those dirty Negroes in Haiti, and they were so much better organized to provide the necessary assistance to the affected regions, they didn't really need international assistance. (subtext: so much better to be Chilean than Haitian, what luck, eh?)

The initial reports were coming from Santiago, where apparently some older buildings collapsed, but the newer ones were mostly fine, and everyone was very well behaved, even snarky, about the earthquake and its aftershocks, and this sanguinity was assumed to be the way things were throughout the country.

The major area of damage and disruption was in and around Concepcion, which of course was inaccessible. Nevertheless, because the Narrative said that things were mostly fine in Chile, reporters took their time getting to the region. Besides it was hard. The roads were impassable. Bridges were down. The airport was closed. They had to go through Argentina. It took a while.

But everything was fine.

They saw little damage, and they heard the death toll was modest, a few hundred. Nothing like the massive death toll in Haiti. So it was like sightseeing for the reporters.

Who finally got to Concepcion, and said: WTF?

Damage in some areas was severe. Hundreds of thousands were homeless. There were no services of any kind. The Government was not providing any food or water, no shelter, nothing, and big aftershocks were continuous. Looting had commenced, and some of the reporters were referring to the looters as "gang members," or "gang leaders." The people were angry and frightened.

The military was sent in to establish order and stop the looting. Most of which was food and water from the markets, but some of which was teevees and toaster ovens. Which can't be tolerated, not in a civilized society. The military arrived, and still provided nothing -- except a show of force to keep the people from salvaging food and water and teevees and toaster ovens from the debris.

The reporters were grateful, as they always are, for the military presence to keep the people at bay, but still they were confused, because their Narrative was that there were no serious problems and destruction was modest, and the people were behaving. And that isn't what they were seeing on the ground, and they didn't know how to report it.

Rather than abandon the Narrative, they tried to blend it with what they were seeing with their own eyes and with what they were hearing from the population. Often their reports were hesitant to say the least, as they groped for words to express their understanding of conditions and what was really going on without violating the Narrative they were supposed to be reinforcing.

There was a tsunami, for example, that did terrible damage along the coast, but there was nothing at all said about it for many days, in part, perhaps, because the Narrative said that the tsunami warning was cancelled and people around the Pacific were annoyed and upset that they had had to prepare for a tsunami that never came.

Of course, I understand that my news is filtered through many layers while I'm here, and much of it is fragmentary at best. And of course by now everyone should be aware of how dominant The Narrative is in the news business, for everything, not just major disasters.

But it's still something of a shock to see it so bare in the case of Chile, and to hear how hard it is for reporters to actually report what's going on when what is really going on diverges so much from The Narrative.

So my question is, what will it take to bring the Sunshine of Truth into the news business? Or is it hopeless? Is it necessary to report on the basis of a Received Narrative to begin any big story, and then adjust it as "more facts come in?" Is this the way it has to be? Has it always been this way?

We fret about the propagandistic nature of much of our news. Yet so far, there isn't really another model that has any traction. The alternative media, including the blogging media, provides a different perspective (sometimes) but it is often as locked into its own narrative, and struggles just as hard with the Truth and telling the Truth if the Truth diverges from the Alternative Narrative.

Monday, March 1, 2010


View out the back this morning, snow still coming down.

The other day, I posted a picture of a painting that hangs in the north bedroom at our place in New Mexico. It's a picture of a man in an overcoat approaching a log cabin somewhere in the snowy mountain west.

Last night it started snowing lightly here, and right now there may be 3-5 inches on the ground. The storm -- such as it is -- came late. It was expected Saturday night. But that's the way the weather goes around here.

I didn't grow up in snow, so even though I've spent winters in Alaska and Upstate New York (save me from a winter's day in Rochester and/or Syracuse!) I'm still somewhat astonished by the sight of a landscape covered in snow, and just about any snowflake will thrill me. Though I'm getting used to driving in snow and ice -- even drove through blizzard conditions over the Continental Divide -- it's still in the experimental stage.

My New Mexico vehicle is an old Chevy Astro cargo van. Not exactly made for these conditions, but it is surprisingly good in most circumstances, even without snow tires (they're supposedly "hybrids" that work in all conditions -- and they do). Most people around here have Big Ol' Trucks with giant tires. Of course, if you live in the back country, you don't really have much choice. Roads are usually unpaved, they are never plowed, and getting in and out can be a challenge even in good weather. Before settling on this place, we looked at a house outside of Santa Fe that was down a narrow dirt track that crossed a stream, no bridge of course. The house was beautiful, and the setting was breathtaking, but getting to it -- and getting away from it if need be -- was guaranteed to be a trial at all times of the year.

And so it is for lots of places in this Land of Enchantment. As I've said, much of what I and many other Americans take for granted is a struggle for a lot of New Mexicans, sometimes by their choice. For example, unpaved streets are traditional in Santa Fe County and other places in New Mexico, and there is resistance to paving and other such un-green Anglo nonsense. Hardy self-reliance is an integral part of the local culture and social ethic, and yet people do rely on one another.

Tradition means a lot. Despite the fact that we've been coming here for over 20 years and have owned a house here for almost five years, we're still very much neophytes in matters of Tradition. It's unlikely we'll ever become fluent in local Tradition, but you never know.

We've brought a lot of California here, with more to come. That makes us exotics, especially given the fact that most of the Outlanders who move to this section of New Mexico are from Texas -- this area representing for them Freedom from the suffocation of Texas society and culture. While some of the local families have been here for generations, the area was not open for settlement until about 1900 thanks to an ongoing legal dispute between rival (Spanish) families that claimed the land. Ultimately, the court decided it belonged to neither of the disputants and opened it to settlement by all comers. Our place was one of about a dozen that are still standing that were built by the early settlers. Several of them are ruins or nearly so, but most are still inhabited, and that connection with the Old Days is an important consideration around here.

The older we get, the more those Old Days mean to us, too. Any Old Days.