Thursday, June 30, 2011

And Another Thing About Greece

It seems to be conventional wisdom that Greece will default on its debts. Not immediately, but soon enough. And the only point of the draconian austerity measures being imposed by the Bankster cartels and their captive governments is to squeeze the most possible out of the Greek People before the inevitable default.

Makes sense to me.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

It's Greek To Me

I heard Weisbrot on an NPR story the other day discussing the Greek situation with an absolutely giddy bubblehead who was practically peeing herself over how the Greek parliament would be forced to submit to the demands of Greece's creditors, and how the People of Greece would be punished -- finally -- for their profligacy.

Weisbrot was literally shocked at this woman's complete idiocy and said that if this were happening in the United States, millions more would be forced out of work than already can't find work, and the Recession would go on indefinitely. Is that what she wanted? He pointed out that what is happening is a devastating blow to the ordinary people of Greece, and there is no way in hell that they deserve to be forced to pay for demands of bankers.

She sputtered for a bit, but could not suppress her glee at seeing other people forced under the thumb of the powerful.

My stomach was churning through the whole interview. But that's the state of our media: loves it when other people are forced to comply with the demands of the Powerful. Loves it.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011


And illuminating.

It's an hour and fourteen minutes of stomach churning and fury.


The Greeks are currently engaged in a national General Strike, a necessary step in throwing off the shackles of the International Banksters.

"Peripheral Europe" must all follow suit.

The German and French People are being lied to. They must wake up.

And one day, maybe Americans will put aside their constant obliviousness and wake up too.

NeoLiberalism is Slavery.

NeoConservatism is Death.

Tumbrils and guillotines, people, tumbrils and guillotines.

Ian Welsh on Cuomo and the NY Gay Marriage Thing

This is so true and it cannot be made any clearer:

  • 1) The left sells each other out for either small tactical gains, or nothing at all (hello national NARAL) all the time, so why shouldn’t the gays promise to help Cuomo in his next election for giving them gay marriage, even if it screws unions and helps an austerity governor?

  • 2) The reason gays get anything is that unlike the rest of the left, they did two things: they cut off the donations, and they got ugly in people’s faces. They stopped playing nice. They stopped playing by the rules. They stopped worrying about whether people in power “liked” them (hello National NARAL) and started playing rough.

  • 3) Given that the left doesn’t hang together, which means that the choice is “gay marriage + austerity”, or “no gay marriage + austerity”, well, why not gay marriage plus a shitty economy?

Of course it is impolite to say so. It is always impolite to point out that on the "left" there is no solidarity, only a competing series of discreet interests, vying for the Royal Nod, and in the case of gay marriage, it's been obvious for years.

(I've never been a fan of gay marriage as an issue at law. Marriage, in my humble opinion, is fundamentally a religious sacrament -- banging that Old Tyme Catholic gong, don't you know -- that has no place in Law. If religious/faith practitioners want to sanction same sex marriage, I say hurrah. Some have been doing just that for decades. No, these marriages have no legal standing in most jurisdictions, and that's a problem. But the way to deal with that, in my opinion, is to get the Law and the State out of the marriage business altogether. To the extent the Law and the State need to recognize and/or sanction marriage unions, it is solely as a civil matter, without regard to religious interests or issues. Therefore, the only legal and state interest should be in gender neutral "civil unions". That's it, period, nothing else at law. That way, religious freedom and custom is preserved and protected, and so is the interest of the people, community and the state. The whole push for gay marriage has in my view been off base -- and intentionally offensive to traditionalists. But that's not actually what Ian is pointing out...)

No, what's he's getting at, which I essentially agree with, is that the New York Gay Marriage measure is effectively a trade for votes, votes for policies that will cause great harm to millions of New Yorkers by advancing 'Austerity' and Bankster Protection. But, hey! Gay folk can get married now! Yay!

Ian's view about it may be too sour by half, but at the same time he's right.

The Fires

The sense of place around here in New Mexico includes an understanding that Fire will come, and sometimes it will be... awful.

When I was driving east through Gallup this trip (two weekends ago), the smoke from the Wallow Fire in Arizona, some 150 miles away, was settling on the town in a choking gray and yellow fog. It was pretty bad, but the situation in Albuquerque the previous week had been much worse, as the smoke lingered over the city like a shroud. People were advised not to use their swamp coolers or open windows or doors because of the smoke. Oh. Swamp coolers are the main cooling devices in this part of the nation, and going without them in triple digit temperatures is probably worse than breathing the smoke after it's been washed by the water cooler filter pads. Well, you would think anyway.

After I got out here to our place in the East Mountains, the smoke situation was mostly tolerable, though there were a couple of days when it was severe.

The Raton Fire caused much grief up north, but it's mostly out now. There were some smaller fires in the Manzanos and around Estancia, a really big one by Carlsbad, and another over by Clovis, but all of those have been mostly contained.

I could see the smoke plume from the Pacheco Fire up in Santa Fe when it started, and I thought, "Oh no." The fire has been burning in the Santa Fe National Forest pretty much uncontained ever since. It's not pleasant for the locals but the fire is not burning toward nor particularly near the city, so... it's become kind of the New Normal, at least for now. I saw the smoke plume from the Pacheco Fire when I was up in Santa Fe on Sunday, but there was little or no smoke in town which was a relief.

As I was leaving town on Sunday, though, I saw a HUGE new smoke plume rising from the Jemez Mountains to the west, so astonishing that people were stopping on the highway to gawp at it.

That's the Las Conchas Fire that's burning so close to Los Alamos (and Cochiti Lake, but who has ever heard of that?) right now and has caused the full evacuation of the town of Los Alamos and the closure of the Nuclear Lab. Los Alamos suffered terrible fire damage about 11 years ago, and the locals are not amused that it could happen again, though there is some relief that the forests that burned in 2000 haven't regrown to any great extent. The Lab personnel claim they have been doing forest thinning around the Lab since the 2000 fire, so they aren't expecting things to get really bad even if the new fire comes much closer to the Lab than it already has (some spot fires quickly put out.)

Hundreds of homes were burned in Los Alamos in 2000, and that's what they're worried could happen again. Yes. It's a valid concern all over New Mexico and wherever people live in the forest. There have been many devastating fires over the years, blasting through the forest sectors like bombs, leaving nothing but cinders in their wake.

The Governor is pleading with New Mexicans to avoid buying or using fireworks this Fourth of July, and I've noticed that my neighbors around here, some of whom like to blow off fireworks all year round -- cause it's fun and pretty! -- have been very discreet. If they are blowing off fireworks, there's no sign of it.

People know how dangerous it is.

They say the Las Conchas Fire was probably started by downed power lines. Other fires have been started by sparks from ATVs, and one in the Bosque in Albuquerque the other day was apparently started by some fool with fireworks (oops!). Typically fires at this time of year start from lightning strikes, but there's been very little of that. There's no rain, none to speak of since February -- and that was snow. There are very few clouds. It is major drought time, as severe as I've ever seen it here, though old timers say it was worse about ten years ago. That was the worst drought any of them had witnessed in these parts. But this is dry country even when it isn't in drought.

Fire is part of the natural cycle.

It's usually not so pervasive. Even when the fires are relatively distant, there are times when you feel surrounded just the same. It's part of the Place.

Monday, June 27, 2011


I've been in New Mexico for a couple of weeks now, and I plan to stay till the July 4th Weekend when I expect to hightail it back to California and stay for another three weeks or so and then come back here. It is part of the continuing process of leaving a long-time home in California and setting up permanent residence in New Mexico. It is a long and drawn-out process for us with many moving parts.

I took the picture above in March when I was here for a couple of weeks and took a trip up to Santa Fe for some exploration off the beaten path. That's the view toward Santa Fe on the road I take, the Sangre de Christo mountains in the distance.

I went up to Santa Fe yesterday and attended a lecture on the topic of "Captive Women" -- exciting, no? -- in the context of the Slave Culture of the Southwest. (pdf link to a book review) Well, it's a somewhat complicated topic. This region is in many ways still culturally a part of Mexico (much as Los Angeles and most of Southern California is). But it also has a very strong Native American cultural influence (which Southern California largely lacks.) The Anglo gloss over the top of it all is still widely considered to be a form of entertainment -- and is not expected to last.

The "slave culture" of the Southwest has to do both with the common practices of Native American societies and with the commonplace colonial practices of the Spanish in America. Capturing slaves and holding them -- and/or selling them -- was what was widely done by Natives and Hispanos, apparently until quite recently.

But it is complex because in Native society -- and to an extent in American-Spanish society -- slaves captured in raids become members of the household and often marry into the family. It was just the way things were.

Anglos on their High Horses disapproved, of course, and many religious Anglos came out to the Southwest from Back East to redeem the slaves of New Mexico -- only to cause a spike in the slave trade because, of course, they were paying cash money for redemption of slaves. So more were captured to be turned in for cash.

In a marginal economy like New Mexico's still is in some respects, what are you going to do?

The fact that slaving was relatively commonplace in New Mexico up until fairly recently (reports of slaves in New Mexican households go right up to the 1940's) and that almost all the captives were women and children from various Indian peoples (some from Mexico itself), and that going on periodic slave raids was what was done, and that being taken captive wasn't necessarily all that terrible a thing is one of New Mexico's long held "secrets." Of course it was a "secret" out in the open, but there you are.

It was not the same as black chattel slavery in the American South, not by a long shot -- because it was based on Native practices rather than justified by reference to Biblical cant. And as far as anyone is willing to say, it was never as brutal nor as ridiculously restrictive, nor as racist, nor as inhumane as black chattel slavery. On the other hand, it's not an excusable practice for those reasons. I say from the saddle of my Anglo-Irish High Horse!

It's part of the history and culture of the Southwest and New Mexico in particular, and it shouldn't be sidestepped because "you just don't talk about such things."

The stories that a couple of hundred of us heard told yesterday -- quite a turn out, I would say, for a lecture on a fairly obscure topic -- were partly "lifting the veil" stories, telling us things we didn't know. The point was made that we pass by all sorts of sites on our travels around New Mexico that are primary sites of the Southwest slave trade and genizaro communities, and we might never give it a thought. We should give it a thought. We should never forget. We should recognize and honor those captives and the contributions they made to New Mexico's history and culture.

Much of what we think of as unique about New Mexico, and why this is often considered to be "another country," is the result of a much more complicated past than most of us realize.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Saturday, June 25, 2011

On What Works

The Ruling Class and their tireless agents in the Republican Party have it made it very clear that they do not retreat, they do not surrender; neither do they negotiate in good faith, nor do they compromise. They are the Ruling Class, after all. They declare, they command, they order, they rule.

Everyone else has the choice to submit. That is their only rational choice. Should they choose to do otherwise, they will pay a heavy price for their insolence.

This behavior of the rentiers and their tireless agents has been going on for so long now that it seems to be the normal state of affairs. Orders and commands are issued and by and bye they are obeyed.

Of course, it means that ordinary people are sacrificing practically everything they have on the command of the Ruling Class and their tireless agents. If they can manage to keep a job at all, ordinary people are working harder than ever and they are earning less, sometimes 75% less, than they did just two or three years ago.

They are paying more and ever more for necessities.

Their retirement security is being stolen from them piece by piece: first their pensions, then the value of their retirement accounts, then the value of their homes and property, then their Social Security and Medicare benefits.

More and more overseas wars of aggression are started in their names, others are continued into the indefinite future.

We see in the protests in Europe that the Ruling Class is not just unmoved by popular unrest, they in fact have doubled down on their demands for austerity, imposing even harsher conditions on the hapless populations than previously thought.

The nominally Socialist governments yield, without any fight at all. They believe they have no other rational choice than to yield and by yielding, they seal their own political fates, but maybe that doesn't matter. Perhaps they are rewarded by their Owners and Sponsors for "doing the right thing," ie: putting the entire burden of the financial and economic collapse on the masses, putting none of the burden on the financiers and rentiers.

That is, after all, the point of "austerity," no matter where it is imposed, and no matter the precipitating cause. The masses, the People, must and will be made to pay for the recklessness of their financial Overlords.

Street protest, which has roiled Greece and the other countries being squeezed dry by the Financial Interests, has had no positive effect at all. Governments ignore the Street in "Peripheral Europe" just as they once did in the Arab World. Oh, but that changed, didn't it?

In the Euro-Core -- ie: France and Germany -- which is ostensibly being "protected" by the austerity measures being imposed on Peripheral Europe, the public is being propagandized to believe that they are being "forced" to work harder and longer to bail out Greece and the other Peripheral countries, and they are steaming mad about it.

But they're being lied to. "Greece" as a nation, and the People of Greece are not being bailed out. National sovereignty is being extinguished, and the People of Greece are being forced to pay off the gambling debts of the financial class, in full. With interest. The People of Germany and France are being forced to pay off those same debts, not Greece's debts, the gambling debts of the Euro-Banksters, just like here in the United States, where the Banksters have been paid off for the same losses over and over and over again. Once the cycle starts it is almost impossible to stop.

Governments are so completely in thrall to their financiers and Banksters, they cannot imagine saying "No!" to the extortion demands they face, and when Iceland, alone, said "No!", the propaganda went into full cry insisting that's not what the People and their government said at all. It's astonishing to witness.

But as usual, peoples are being set against one another in these trying times.

Iceland said "No!" Years ago Argentina said "No!" All over Latin America, governments came to the conclusion that the austerity measures that were being demanded of them for more loans simply weren't in the national or popular interest, and more and more they said "No!"

Surprisingly, the world did not end.

Nor did these nations collapse. Saying "No!" was what these governments needed to do then, and it is what the governments of Peripheral Europe need to do now, but they are paralyzed with fear of the consequences to them, personally, of saying "No!"

They cannot do it. Not yet.

The plug has to be pulled on the financial class once and for all.

The way that's done is the way it's always been done: by effectively nationalizing the banks, strictly regulating currency and financial transactions, prohibiting and punishing speculation, and seizing assets of the hyper wealthy. The financial class may try to fight back, by freezing credit, but they can only go so far in that direction before they are face to face with their own intrinsic vulnerability. As we have seen whenever the demands of the financier class are refused and rejected, the financiers rather quickly back off and seek out other marks for predation.

The class is highly vulnerable because they don't deal in either a product or a service, they deal in fantasy. Most of the bubble wealth and the extortion they thrive on is simply phantom wealth; but it's all they know.

Convincing governments to do what's necessary to free the People from the predation of the financiers is no simple task, though. We see that the pleading of the People -- such as has been taking place in Spain and Portugal -- doesn't work. Anarchist riots (as in Greece) don't work. Replacing governments (as in Ireland) doesn't work.

What does work are sustained General Strikes. Surrounding and shaming the wealthy can be very effective. Making their lives miserable, and making it impossible for their companies to function are the key ways of bringing about necessary liberation from their thrall, but it is necessary to shut down the operations of the complicit governments as well, and all of this involves greater or lesser physical and financial risks in the short term that, for the most part, ordinary people are not particularly willing to endure -- unless they are relatively certain of success.

Ian Welsh posted an outline of strategies for resistance and change that's worth considering. There is more, much more, to effective resistance. The key is to shut down the operations of the Overclass -- which is probably easier in this technological age than many of us realize -- and hamstring their governmental servants. Make it impossible for them to function. Suddenly, their tune changes, and what was once implacable is suddenly yielding.

Right now, of course, they are yielding nothing because they don't think they have to. In fact, they are redoubling their demands. Governments are yielding en masse.

But that can change in a twinkling.

"Broadening the Tax Base"

This is the Dream of Dreams for our governing class: Make everyone pay "taxes," instead of the barely 50% who currently do. By "taxes" is meant the individual income tax, of course, the Holy Grail of taxation for Our Rulers because it provides the bulk of the operating (non-borrowing) revenue that the Government requires. It's a wonderful tax mechanism for the Government because it is revenue withheld directly from wage-earners' paychecks; since they never see it, they never (really) notice it's gone. They've become so accustomed to living on less than they actually earn that they'll even front the Government X-number of dollars over the course of the year, only requesting the overage returned when when it comes time to filing tax returns -- providing the Government with a short term interest free loan. Excellent.

But only about half the wage earners in this country are subject to the individual income tax because they don't make enough money to qualify. A goodly number not only don't pay individual income taxes, they receive a refundable credit from the Government -- which can amount to thousands of dollars -- merely for working at all and having a family.

Almost all workers, of course, are subject to payroll taxes, however -- to fund Social Security, Medicare and Unemployment Insurance. Social Security taxes are only collected on wage income up to $106,000, though.

The payroll taxes are in effect a Flat Tax on wage income, and a Flat Tax is advocated by some to replace the not very steeply graduated income tax that attempts to impose a higher rate of income taxation on higher earners, but often enough, higher earners pay a lower effective rate of taxation than lower income wage earners. Much snickering at the Country Club over that little factoid you can be sure.

Interestingly, Flat Tax advocates are at odds with those who want to "broaden the tax base" because as a general rule Flat Taxers would exempt the first $20,000 or even $30,000 of income from being taxed. Tax Base Broadeners would, on the other hand, apply the income tax to every dollar that a worker earns, closing "loopholes" and eliminating "exemptions" -- and of course eliminating tax "expenditures" such as the Earned Income Tax Credit. The point being to subject everyone who works for wages to the individual income tax, even if it means they only pay a few tens or hundreds of dollars in individual income taxes.

Income taxes were initially imposed on only the highest 2% or 3% of earners, not on "everyone," nor was the income tax ever intended to be applied to "everyone," so those who now advocate for "broadening the tax base" by applying the individual income tax to "everyone" are actually making a radical proposal for restructuring the income tax and its application from what it has been historically to what they think it should be.

From the indications, some of them seem to think the individual income tax should be like the payroll tax: it should apply to every dime of wage income, up to a certain point, when -- magically -- "poof," it doesn't apply any more.

It would really be something if they finally got their way. Advocacy for "broadening the tax base" has been underway for decades, at least since Roosevelt, and quite likely since Wilson. At this point, they are nearly there, what with the Simpson-Bowles Plan actually promoting the idea as part of a radical reinvention of the tax code.

Those who see taxation as punishment are the ones most likely to favor an income tax scheme that applies to everyone who earns less than a certain amount -- just as the Social Security tax does now. In their world, you should pay less tax the more money you make as a reward for your Success. Ultimately, in that scheme of taxation, the lower-earning taxpayers would be the only taxpayers, and their taxes would be used first for the military. Any surplus would be used to subsidize the projects and lifestyles of the High and the Mighty, under whose sufferance the lowly are permitted to live. It's a Randian wet-dream.

But we're not quite to that point yet. Not quite.

The more pressing goal, it seems, is to revise the tax code so that lower earners are indeed subject to paying individual income taxes, many for the first time; in addition, the plan seems to be to reduce or eliminate tax expenditures, such as the Earned Income Tax Credit and the home mortgage deduction (among others). EITC reduction or elimination will, of course, impact only lower income wage earners. It will have no effect on the High and the Mighty at all. The elimination of the home mortgage deduction might affect them -- especially if their palace has recently been refinanced -- but it can be easily offset by reducing tax rates on the Highest and the Mightiest, and by eliminating all sorts of nuisance taxes like the so-called Death Tax.

The precipitous reduction of tax rates at the highest end is a further goal of tax base broadeners. The idea is that if the lowly are finally paying Their Fair Share (haha), the High and the Mighty won't have to pay as much as they do now. So their rates can be reduced significantly and the Government will still take in more money. It's win-win, you see.

The truly radical would eliminate any taxation on the incomes of the Very Wealthy, and they might even go so far as to offer the handsome subsidies to the very top of the heap in order, say, for them to have an "incentive" to employ a few Proles in some menial jobs to keep them from rioting. The beauty part of that is that the lowly would actually wind up paying their Betters to be employed at all. It is genius.

"Broadening the tax base" is mentioned periodically almost in passing during the intense "debate" over the budget and raising the debt ceiling and whatnot, but it seems to be some kind of peripheral interest of tax wonks, not a core principle of the radical reactionaries who have largely bought and paid for the Government. Much like the payroll tax cut that was instituted as part of the tax bargain made at the end of last year, though -- without debate and without the knowledge of the public or media prior to enactment -- these radical proposals for "broadening the tax base" are likely to be enacted stealthily, without debate and without the prior knowledge of the public.

And once they are, more than likely there will be wild cheers and parties among the Governing class and their Sponsors, there will be shrugs among the tattered remnants of the middle class, and there will be OUTRAGE!!!™-- with no outlet -- among the impotent lowly.

(The only saving grace here is that my Predict-o-Meter has been on the fritz for a good long time, and therefore none of this may come to pass. What will come to pass is something No One Could Have Predicted. And whatever it will be is worse. By far. We'll see.)

Thursday, June 23, 2011

What's the Point of Lifting the Veil?

Lifting the Veil from S DN on Vimeo.

This is Metanoia's long-awaited documentary follow-up to their previous exposés about what's really what, and while I think it is an excellent piece of documentary filmmaking of the utter outrageousness of the economic situation we've been facing for years now and the complicity of the political system in keeping things this way, unless there is an action plan to really change things, knowing what's behind the curtain doesn't help in the least.

Knowing how Our Betters have been misbehaving and robbing the rest of us blind all these years without any plan or even intention to reclaim any of what's been stolen from us -- and is being stolen -- by the High and the Mighty Bandits gets us nowhere at all. It's just adding to the worry and the frustration and the anger that's already there without any productive outlet.

When lifting the veil is an end in itself, as it is more and more to the many Veil Lifter Entrepreneurs that proliferate in bad times and good, there's little point in it.

At some point, we don't need to know any more about how rotten Our Rulers and their Sponsors are.

At some point, action is more important than knowing what's behind the curtain.

Nevertheless, watch the film. Take your blood pressure medicine. And be on the lookout for strategic actions in your neighborhood.... ;-).

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Why Is The "Left" So Deeply Invested in Republicans?

For a little while, I thought the rather absurd focus on Republican candidates, characters, office holders and policies on the "left" had abated. But I was wrong. The "left" is entirely invested in the Republican Party, Republican candidates and Republican policies, and can consider and talk about almost nothing else.

It doesn't matter that the "left" is often critical of or mocking Republicans. So long as they are the center of attention -- "all eyes on them" as it were -- Republicans rule.

As if they held complete power in a one party state verging on totalitarianism.

The United States has long been an authoritarian society -- often much more severely so than it is now -- but it has generally resisted totalitarianism. Now, I'm not so sure. As the economic situation continues to deteriorate for the millions, while those on top prosper as never before, a kind of home grown totalitarianism may be inevitable.

For quite a while, each political party was eager to pick the other party's presidential (and sometimes congressional) candidates, or at least to have a significant influence on the selection. It was a game of sorts, sometimes involving dirty tricks, but typically revolving around "chatter" and where possible, voter limitation and suppression. By controlling what was said and heard and who voted, each party sought to dominate the other. The People had little to do with it -- except to the extent they could be manipulated to go along with the program of the political consultants.

But what I see going on now is qualitatively different. Yes, of course, controlling what is said and heard is still important, as is voter suppression -- which is now quite deliberate and out in the open. But now it is no longer a matter of choosing the other party's candidates or influencing the choice. For all intents and purposes, it appears that the Democratic Party has collapsed as a political entity. It has become a pseudo-oppositional subsidiary of the dominant Republican Party, much as Congress and the courts became appendages of the Executive Branch during the Bush Years, something the Obama administration has only partially reversed.

A vestigial Democratic Party is simply uninteresting to observers. Democrats have no power or authority as a political party since they seem to be in complete thrall to their Republican Overlords, indeed more and more Democrats appear to be Republicans themselves -- perhaps Rockefeller Republicans, but Republicans nonetheless.

And as this One Party State develops, what you can do and what you can say and what your future will be diminishes.

You either conform to the will of a tiny minority of primarily banking interests (a totalitarianism of Banksters?) that insists on impoverished drudgery for those who can continue to be employed (ah, shades of Orwells Proles!), and irrelevance for everyone else.

The political Parties are nothing but Show, and not a very good Show at that. Meaningless elections can continue, but Rule is closely held and more and more personal among a diminishing handful of Favorites at the Top. We the People have nothing whatever to do with it.

The "Left" (so-called) is so deeply invested in Republicans and what they do and all their clowning and bizarre antics because the Republicans are the purest expression and face of the Rulers over us. The Dems are not even putting on a good show anymore.

There is a vestigial Real Left in this country, but you would never know it from appearances. In time it may reemerge, but for now, it is essentially underground. In the meantime, more and more Americans are simply withdrawing from the Perpetual Show that has taken the place of the Public Interest in the political realm. They are turning their backs and developing alternatives.

The Government may be in total thrall to the Banksters and their determination to extort the last dime and drop of blood from the masses, but the People themselves have long been strategizing ways to thwart them. If Government really does descend into a kind of neo-Feudal totalitarianism -- the direction its headed -- "opting out" will become more and more common. Our Rulers won't care, at least not until their extortion payments are no longer forthcoming.

And then?

Well, "Hello Greece!"

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

The New Normal Ain't What We Thought It Would Be

The local PBS station has been running a BBC series on NASA and the early days of the Space Program called "The Space Age: NASA's Story." (Yes, we're very deluxe here now. We have some broadcast TeeVee, meaning lots of PBS and Religion stations. Amazing.) It's a remarkable series in part because it is so fascinatingly able to evoke the spirit of an Era of Endless Possibility that is now long gone. An era so distant in the past now, it's like it never existed. It's all a myth, isn't it?

As if there never was a Space Program and Mankind never went into space. Or if it happened, it was just a Big Mistake. Never mind.

Isn't that something?

What with millions of Americans being forced into poverty every year of this Endless Recession, and millions of Europeans being forced into poverty every year, and millions of Arabs and other Muslims not only being forced into poverty but being subject to random Death From Above thanks to an extensive American drone program, and millions of Russians long since forced into poverty and on and on, all to pay off the gambling debts of a number of high flying private sector financial interests, the Future Americans and Europeans and Russians once thought would be theirs is now barely even a memory.

Space? Who cares? How about a little more interest in what goes on down here on Earth?

Paying off the gambling debts of financiers at 100% is more important to our governments than anything else in the whole wide world, and they choose to pay those debts on behalf of the financiers at the expense of the People, and without the consent of the People.

Naturally enough, this is a somewhat volatile situation, which apparently Our Rulers are aware of, but for which they seem to have no effective answer apart from outright repression.

What's going on in Greece is very dramatic to be sure, but it is merely a heightened version of what has been going on in much of Europe for months, even years. The public is up in arms -- well, unarmed, but that's another issue -- over the draconian impositions and cutbacks required by the EuroBanksters. The People are up in arms because they know full well that the Banksters are demanding full payment (with interest) from them for losses the Banksters incurred through their own gambling obsessions and addictions. The People are up in arms because their Future is being stolen from them right before their eyes with the full complicity of their nominally "Socialist" governments.

It seems to be dawning on the truly frightfully stupid and greedy Powers That Be that squeezing the People endlessly in order to fill the coffers of the Banksters in perpetuity may have a Downside that ought to be considered. Austerity for the People may not be the answer to the Banksters' dilemma, though they still call for it in unison, not only in Europe but everywhere in the West.

In the East, particularly in India and China, not so much. Not yet, anyway.

The People are seeing all of their governments in total thrall to a handful of financial interests, without the slightest concern for the interests of the People. Governments all over the West simply ignore the People and their OUTRAGE!!!!™ at being constantly pillaged and plundered and impoverished to serve the Banksters and their pecuniary demands.

This is quite a different situation than any of us -- that is, the Common Folk -- could have anticipated even as recently as two years ago. It's certainly not the Future any of us believed would come about through our hard work and dedication.

One of the things I think many of the Common Folk realize is that our hard work and dedication has already paid for the Better Future we... thought... would be ours, and that Future has been... stolen... by a handful of incredibly stupid and incredibly greedy individuals (think Enron on a global scale) who are convinced they are Smart and Generous to a Fault, and that all wealth and the fruits of other people's labors are theirs by right.

The problem, as always, is that the People do not know what to do about it, and they are very reluctant to take on the additional risk of doing anything about it when they are being pillaged.

The people (and dogs!) in the streets of Greece -- and elsewhere in Europe and the Middle East -- are taking those risks in part because they have little or nothing left to lose. Not only is their Future gone, their present is being squandered and shuttered, and their history is being sold off for pennies. All to pay off the gambling debts of a handful of Banksters.

Meanwhile, Mother Nature seems to be knocking on the door. Fires, earthquakes, tsunamis, tornadoes, hurricanes, floods and droughts should be reminders of just how puny our little lives really are in the face of the Omnipotence of Nature.

Then there are the nuclear meltdowns and what have you.

The question is, who will understand what's happening better and sooner?

Sunday, June 19, 2011

The Continuing Obsession with Republicans

You've got to hand it to the Republican Party Powers That Be: they have fielded such a troupe of energetic clowns and mountebanks that almost the whole Democratic/Progressive political class is utterly mesmerized.

dKos has been All Rs All the Time for weeks now, and it looks like the diversion from anything "Democrat" over there might be permanent. As you scour the so-called Lefty blogosphere you will find constant discussion of Republicans, Rightists, and their Fellow Travelers, almost nothing about their ostensible political opposition -- except note taken of the fact that the Dems have caved once again, and the White House is making nice with the Rs -- though the Rs continue to hurl epithets and curses no matter.

As the motto says, "All publicity is Good Publicity," so even when the Rs are being mocked and denounced in the so-called "Lefty" blogosphere, the fact is they are the constant -- permanent? -- center of attention, and as long as that's the case, there is no real opposition to them. They Rule, completely.

It reminds me of what happened with the recent AARP flap. Rupert Murdoch's Wall Street Journal published a front page article implying that AARP had "changed its position" and would now "accept cuts" to Social Security benefits. All hell broke loose on the so-called "left." Now there are plenty of reasons to be less than enthusiastic about AARP, but this story was just phony from the word go. It was -- you might almost imagine -- a deliberate provocation by Murdoch and his tools at the WSJ to see what could be stirred up. The so-called "left" went into hyperdrive denouncing AARP and all it stood for, which must have pleased Murdoch no end, as he had been busy stirring up the same sort of denunciations of AARP from the Right for years. The only problem was that the story was... not true. You can argue with AARP's positions on a lot of things, but they haven't changed their position on Social Security, and the implication that they had was false, deliberately false in my view.

But the story became the center of an absolute firestorm on the "left" for days. Just so, almost any one of the R presidential candidates can set off days of howling denunciations or distracted criticism on the "left." Practically any R office holder can do the same (Scott Walker, anyone? Rick Scott? The Devil Himself, John Kasich?) Or how about Newt?

The Problem here is that all this obsessing on the Rs leaves essentially no room for anything else, like coming up with something better and strategies to get there. What it means is what I posted over at Digby's Place: "Murdoch pwned the left. Again."

What passes for the "left" is now a wholly owned subsidiary of the Republican Party and its media tools -- because the so-called "left" can focus on nothing at all except what the Rs are doing and what the corporatist media says is important.



UPDATE: Apparently others have noticed the total spectrum dominance of the Republicans at dKos among other supposedly "lefty" sites on the Intertubes, and behold, dKos comes up with a break in Constant Republican Promotion on the Front Page to actually suggest there might be an alternative.

Their "Think Big" front page series finally starts (on the Internet, everything always "starts," nothing ever finishes, though) to consider the idea that there might could be an alternative to the Rightist Future of Decline and Despair that's been pounded into us for decades.

Think Big: Labor Law

Think Big: Small Business Administration

Think Big: Higher Education

Think Big: Pick Your Fights

Caveat: none of these Big Thinks are all that Huge when you get down to it. In fact, they are more like Internet-favored "Baby Steps". They "go back" to the way thing either used to be or are supposed to be, reflecting a very strong Restoration ethic that you'll find among so-called progressives just as much as you'll find it among the most reactionary Rightists. Everyone, it seems, yearns to return to a Better Time.

Yes. Well.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

This is How It's Done -- Kanellos, the Legenday Greek Riot Dog

Or is it Loukanikos?

Is the NetRoots Pathetically Ineffective? Discuss.

One of the favorite epithets NetRooteviks love to throw around is: "This isn't the '60s anymore! Demonstrations don't work! Give it up!" when people take to the streets. This has become the standard, almost rote response of the NetRoots whenever Americans take to the streets for any reason, though when the good folks in Wisconsin took to the streets and occupied public property (like the Capitol in Madison) for weeks on end, the NetRoots scolds sat on their hands fearful of saying anything too outré about the people in the streets freezing their nuts off in protest.

Of course all the marching and chanting and carrying signs and all the occupations of public property that went on and are still going on through the Midwest did not stop the Walkers and the Kasichs and their ilk from ramming through their programs of restricted rights and slashed budgets for the masses (while heaping favors on the High and the Mighty) in Legislature after Legislature. By now, much of it is "settled law," and even if the Rightist bums who are doing this are eventually thrown out of office (a big IF), their programs, restrictions, and slashed budgets will continue on for the most part.

The demonstrations demonstrated two things: the People are pissed. And they are all but powerless.

NetRooteviks, of course, believe that the People are just 'doing it wrong'. The correct way to oppose the Man is to write a superabundance of furious blog posts and tweets, fill elected officials' inboxes with endless streams of sternly worded emails, and back candidates who flatter your ego.

Except for the fact that that doesn't work either, it sounds all modern and wireless and shit, and it is certainly less... physically challenging (shall we say) than getting out in the streets with signs and giant puppets and other icky 'protest' things like silly chants. Hey hey, ho ho... What do we want... when do we want it...

The sorry fact is that protest from the left doesn't work (in this country), no matter how it's done.

Netrootevik 'gaming' is equally as ineffective as marching and carrying signs. Our Rulers decoupled from the masses quite some time ago, and these days, they really do not care what the People think or want. They love the attention they get from the NetRoots as much as they thrive on the hatred of those in the streets. But they don't care -- at all -- what either marginal interest group "wants."

They believe they don't have to.

And for the most part, they are right. The High and the Mighty can pretty much do what they want -- as long as it fits with the Rightist program of the Government's Stakeholders and Owners. That's all that's necessary.

What absolutely cannot be done under any circumstances is changing the Government's direction toward actually recognizing and serving the Public Interest.

NetRooteviks assembling in Minneapolis may rail and rage all they want about the Imperial White House and its horrible policies. They may keen their laments about the loss of civil liberties, the indifference of Congress, the continuing looting of the Lesser People by the MOTUs, and on and on, but it will have no effect on the Ruling Class.

So they announce their goal is to get their candidates inside the Palace Gates and run things.

How's that working out?

Actually, their real goal is the same as all other institutional interests: Self-Perpetuation. And what that means in context is to ineffectively rail and rage against The Powers That Be -- forever.

Those who march and carry signs may be just as ineffective, but they don't do what they do (for the most part) in order to advance their own careers or to raise their own profiles, nor do they do it to raise money for their online business ventures. They don't do it to perpetuate their chosen form of activism, either. They do it to actually force -- or at least influence -- necessary changes in and by Government.

In other words, the ineffectiveness of the NetRoots and Demonstrators may be similar but the motivation is quite different.

No, this is not the '60s anymore, but so what? The 1960's did not invent the public protest march, nor were marches that much more effective then than they are now. The changes that came about due to the liberationist and communitarian activism of the 1960's happened because of cultural and social factors that no one and no one interest caused or controlled.

The NetRoots wants changes that it cannot quite articulate, and it is no more unified in interest or motivation than any previous activists were.

Right now, nothing at all works to alter the demands of our Governing Class. They are operating completely independently of the People, and they like it like that.

What we can do about it has yet to be discovered -- or rediscovered as the case may be.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Hysteria Redux


The entire left-o-sphere is in a hysterical frenzy about AARP based on a story in the Wall Street Journal that implies the venerable old-folks insurance and lobbying outfit is now OK with cutting Social Security benefits -- as long as the AARP gets a seat at the table and helps in the decision making process about who gets cut, how and when.

Somehow, everyone has forgotten that the Wall Street Journal is a Murdoch paper now, and its "news" is more and more inclined -- shall we say -- toward what's favorable to Murdoch's interests in taking over the world.

In fact, AARP has not said, and apparently has not agreed to, what the WSJ article implies.

But that doesn't matter. What matter are perceptions, and in this case, Murdoch and his tools have come up with a doozy of a perception: AARP is OK with cutting Social Security benefits, and with that domino falling, cuts are inevitable. Hahahahah.

Murdoch and his tools have been fiercely attacking AARP from the right for years; now, apparently they have decided it's time to go after AARP from the left. And it is working beautifully. There hasn't been this much unholy hollering on the left since the last time some libertarian or rightist tool stirred that pot.

AARP's statement is that its position on SS has not changed, and apart from the implied change in the WSJ piece, there is no evidence that it has.

Take issue with AARP's position, by all means, but don't do it based on the kinds of innuendo and misdirection that all Murdoch rags (including the WSJ) are notorious for.


Breitbart is laughing at you.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

The Hidden Hysteria

Journalist and documentary filmmaker John Pilger was set to be in Santa Fe next week for a speaking engagement and the U.S. premier of his latest film, The War You Don’t See. - photo courtesy carlton television

My, my, my. Sometimes I regret getting the high speed internet here in New Mexico. When we only had dialup, it hardly mattered what was going on among the internet denizens, since I couldn't visit very many sites -- given slow loading and all -- and I couldn't fret too much over this or that, either.

But after the old laptop died, I decided to have Qwest do their thing, and sure enough, at the appointed hour the newer wireless enabled laptop -- that I can take all over the house and outside and everything -- fired right up and with only the slightest jiggling, connected to the now "blazing fast" internet. Oh. Dear. Now I could go pretty much anywhere on the WWW, just as fast as I pleased, and I could even see streaming videos for the first time at this house. (Needless to say, I had to watch local Albuquerque boy Neil Patrick Harris host the Tonys... Somehow I know that show business bug will never leave me...)

While that's pleasing, what I notice is that I spend way too much time surfing the internet now that it goes fast, compared to the very limited time I spent (mostly emailing; old-fashioned, right?) on dial up. So I run into all sorts of things that get me more or less annoyed, astonished or OUTRAGED!!!!™.

Such as for example the psyops video I posted yesterday. I wouldn't have seen it at all if it hadn't been posted at Willyloman's Place (much as I would not have seen the recent Adam Curtis series if "Willy" (Scott) hadn't posted them.) But if I didn't have the high-speed, I couldn't have watched them.

And then I got to thinking: what has been gained now that I have watched them? They confirmed what I either already knew or believed on the one hand, and they expanded on those core beliefs on the other, throwing new information or additional information into the mix. On one level, this is good. On another, I'm not so sure.

The question I ask is, "What can you do now that you know?" That's always the dilemma, isn't it?

Willy (Scott) has been going on about the recent psyops use of straight male bloggers (somehow this relates to Neil Patrick Harris's opening number for the Tony's but I won't go there yet) to impersonate lesbian female bloggers being abused horribly by the Dastardly Syrian Regime. This has to be one of the more bizarre uses of sockpuppetry in recent times, but it should be clear to anyone by now that "sockpuppet armies" are deployed all over the internet.

False identities are as much a feature of the internet as cute cats, porn and racy stuff of all kinds, and endless argument over trivia. Sockpuppetry is supposed to be one of the worst things internet users can engage in, and yet it is so common as to be routine, and it should be expected.

I myself have a number of identities on the internet, though I tend to use only one pseudonym at each site. I cannot think offhand of any site at all where I have used more than one at a time, and for the most part, I've consolidated other identities under the Ché Pasa banner and use it consistently. Of course it is not my real name, but on the internet that hardly matters. By using a consistent pseudonym, one is essentially establishing an internet identity that is as solid as almost anything you'd establish with a bank or utility company, or, for that matter, among friends and relations.

But a pseudonym and a sockpuppet are hardly the same thing. There are sites I'm familiar with where the "discussion" -- such as it is -- is primarily a factor of perhaps half a dozen or fewer people "and their armies of sockpuppets" holding forth, picking at one another's scabs and arguing endlessly over nothing. And getting nowhere. Of course, when it is the same person using different sockpuppet identities the "argument" is really a pretense. There is no real argument, in other words. And of course there are the plants, whether from political parties or from other unnamed shadowy interests, who attempt to hijack or "guide" discussion in preferred ways or simply state the Talking Points of the day. It's just a fact of life in internet fora, as it has been for ages. You deal with it -- or not as the case may be. You reach the point where it doesn't really matter, because in this country, at any rate, the internet is primarily a matter of entertainment, not action or even education.

Most entertaining to me are the posters on "lefty" political sites who insist that they "will never vote for a Democrat again!!!!111" "I'm so mad at these damn, dirty, Dems, I'm going to vote straight Republican ticket this time!" Sure, right. The whole point of this kind of post -- the only point, really -- is to plant the seed in otherwise loyalist Dems and relatively swayable Indies that the answer to their disappointment with the Dems (and who isn't disappointed except the Dem consultants?) is to vote R. That'll show 'em! I laugh to scorn.

Obviously it works sometimes, such as the 2010 elections when Dems and Indies stayed home in droves rather than vote for the ever-so-disappointing Dems, thus ensuring a rather spectacular R victory in election after election.

This is all routine online political psyops. It's done all the time.

But while I was checking out various sites this morning I came across something that struck me as pernicious (not that the psyops just described isn't also pernicious.)

It was a reference to "censorship" by the Lannan Foundation in Santa Fe for the cancellation of John Pilger's appearance (scheduled for today) to discuss media and war, and to premier his new film "The War You Don't See."

Pilger himself went into full hysterical mode in an Open Letter to Noam Chomsky -- that'll get the civil liberties base riled, ne? -- over the shocking treatment he had endured:

What is deeply disturbing about the ban is that it happened so suddenly and inexplicably: 48 hours before David Barsamian and I were both due to depart for Santa Fe I received a brief email with a 'sorry for the inconvenience' from a Lannan official who had been telling me just a few days earlier what a 'great honor' it was to have the US premiere of my film at Lannan, with myself in attendance.

And then he goes on:

Neither David Barsamian nor I have been given a word of explanation. All my messages to Lannan have gone unanswered; my calls calls are not returned; my flights were cancelled summarily. At the urging of the New Mexican newspaper, Patrick Lannan has issued a one-sentence statement offering his regrets to the Lannan-supporting 'community' in Santa Fe. Again, he gives no reason for the ban. I have spoken to the manager of the Santa Fe cinema where 'The War You Don't See' was to be screened. He received a late-night call. Again, no reason for the ban was forthcoming, giving him barely time to cancel advertising in The New Mexican, which was forced to drop a major feature.

There is a compelling symbol of our extraordinary times in all of this. A rich and powerful individual and organization, espousing freedom of speech, has moved ruthlessly and unaccountably to crush it.

Oh. Well. I see.

The issue is not the cancellation. The issue is the lack of an explanation. There is apparently not even the courtesy of letting Pilger know sotto voce why his appearance is being canceled.

This would be considered somewhat irregular in a show business context: usually the reason for the cancellation of an appearance or a show is noted somewhere by someone, if not necessarily publicised. That the featured individual has just gone back to rehab, for example, may not be stated, nor may the fact that some mucky-muck behind the scenes had a spat with the featured individual be made clear, or so on and so forth, but a reason of some sort is usually provided. In this case, there was apparently nothing at all forthcoming from Lannan, just: "Bye!" No show, no story. Nothing.

According to Pilger's Open Letter, not even the local paper could get a reason out of Lannan.

All very odd. And so Pilger, who claims to be friends with Patrick Lannan -- who ordered the cancellation personally -- went into hysterics, which in turn caused mass hysteria among observers, over what they saw as and thought was "censorship."

The absence of any explanation at all from Lannan was the unresolved issue. So yesterday, Patrick Lannan issued a rather snotty statement that explained that after months of promotion, the Foundation had only sold 152 tickets to the event at the Lensic, and the Foundation (ie: Patrick Lannan) did not believe it was worthwhile to present the event to so few people. Canceling Pilger's appearance at the Lensic meant canceling the American film premier at another venue in Santa Fe as well. Too. Bad. Harrumph. "The Foundation will have no further comment on this issue." Good. Bye.

Having been presented with this sort of dilemma myself on occasion when I was a producer of events and shows, and having canceled a couple of them for similar reasons, I'm nevertheless stunned at Lannan's apparent venom and lack of any explanation to the talent, let alone to the public, until long after all hell had broken loose.

WTF? Lannan has been in the presenting business for a long time and should know the basics of how you handle problems like this positively and productively. If it had been me, assuming I was contractually obligated to pay the talent no matter what (which appears to be the case here), I would have gone ahead with the presentation, no matter how few tickets were sold, and I would have eaten any losses (which in this case are substantially more than just the talent fees), because I believe the event was more important than sales, and I would have papered the house if I had to. To cancel based on lack of sales, for something like this, is really very strange. And to do so without any explanation at all is truly bizarre.

Is this a case of official interference? I have no way of knowing. Is Pilger's hysteria warranted? That's hard to say. The failure is Lannan's, for not explaining anything at all until long after the damage was done. And then only explaining partially and publicly, and still apparently not to Pilger personally and directly.

This is just not how you do these things.

So while it may not warrant hysteria, it is a mystery that needs some further exploration.

Nevertheless, apparently these sorts of things are common enough on the "controversial speaker" circuit that one really does have to wonder about the Hidden Hysteria of suppression of ideas and speech by The Powers That Be.

If this were the Soviet Union, in other words, one would assume official interference. But it's not. So what is really going on?

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

This is True

Long, so here's the URL:

As far as it goes, this film is interesting and illuminating, pulling back the curtain on the ways of Our Betters. Of course, it only goes so far, and it is interesting that it only goes up to the pinnacle of the Consumer Society; it doesn't deal with the Crash (though it had already happened when the film was put together) and it doesn't deal with the End of Consumerism, the era we're living in now. Nor, interestingly, does it deal with the primary economic endeavors of Our Rulers, which is to say: Gambling, stealing from one another, stealing from us, stealing from the rest of the world, and War. Our Rulers, in other words, do not operate within the context of that Consumer Society/Economy the rest of us once did -- until it all fell to pieces. They are instead parasitic upon it. And now that it is largely gone, they're just parasites. Why do they continue to rule us then?

Other films in the series are also available at the YouTube link.

There is a problem, though. "Pulling Back the Curtain" -- which these films seek to do and actually do do relatively well -- becomes an end in itself. Potentially a very rewarding one. But knowing what goes on behind that curtain isn't even necessarily useful information if your aim is actually to change things for the better. In fact, knowing how the High and the Mighty "really are" and what they "really do" is pretty useless unless it is combined with or superseded by determined and relentless forward movement toward a Better Future, and that is not really a part of the package being sold as "Pulling Back the Curtain," no matter who is doing it. When curtain pulling becomes its own entrepreneurial industry -- as it has -- then what we're really dealing with is Show. Spectacle. Entertainment.

And who controls that? To what object?

You see how this goes? Wheels within wheels, ne?

(Picked this up at Willyloman's Place. Always an intriguing resource. And no, I'm not in to Truthing... ;-)

Monday, June 13, 2011

In "Dignity" -- and the Weiner Thing

As I was driving east on the Interstate, I was listening to the radio as I tend to do when on the road, mostly NPR, and there were a lot of stories about Anthony Weiner and his predicament with regard to his Democratic colleagues calling for his resignation from Congress over what he's done -- and all those icky pictures and text messages and whatnot. On the other hand, polls suggest his constituents do not universally condemn him nor his actions and that the majority want him to stay in office.

Most of the public condemnation of Weiner so far seems to be rooted in prudery and traditional American Puritanism. Denouncing (and being obsessed with) other people's sex lives is the predominant amusement of prudes and Puritans, as everyone else in the world seems to understand.

But as I listened to the stories about the calls for Weiner to resign, little of it was focused on his sex life or on his lies about it. Unlike the public hysteria -- which of course is whipped to a frenzy by the media -- the official calls seemed to have much more to do with something unstated: Weiner had violated the Dignity of his office and the institution in which he served, not by engaging in "inappropriate sexting" with women on the internet, but by doing it... publicly. It's not that they do these things, in other words, or that they lie about it, but that it becomes public through their own fault and inattention to detail or through the prying of people like Breitbart.

The public hysteria (to the extent there really is any) has to do with Weiner's "appalling" actions and his hypocritical lying about it. Yet the lies are relatively mild, certainly not uncommon in such situations (typical in fact). He certainly isn't lying the nation into war, for example. Or using constant lies to justify murder like the Israelis do.

And if news reports we've been getting for a couple of years now are correct, the "appalling" things that Weiner is accused of doing and has admitted are almost routine among young people (high-school through college age) and are not uncommon at all among Weiner's own age cohort of 40-somethings. Prudes and Puritans, of course, will always obsess on these things and condemn them in public figures. They seem to live for these incidents, don't feel fully alive unless they can denounce the sexual behavior of someone else.

But if the news is right, "sexting" is so common as to be almost universal among the young using social media.

I'm old, and the idea of doing something like that -- sending racy pictures of myself and ribald text messages to people I don't know (or even people I do know!) -- is something that doesn't occur to me. It's just not something I would do, but I think that has more to do with the era I grew up in than any particular shock at the lewdness of it all.

After all, I came up in the '50's and '60's, and the truth is, casual nudity and semi-public sex was not exactly uncommon. Even in the repressed '50's, same-sex nudity in all kinds of situations was expected, in some cases required, and sex, though never mentioned in polite company, was hardly uncommon (!). As part of "modernity", parental and child nudity at home (under the right circumstances, in the bathroom, for example) was widely practiced, and if anything, all kinds of sexuality were quite possibly more widely practiced and accepted (more or less in private, to be sure) than they are now.

"Sex," for the most part, wasn't a public issue in the 1950's because it wasn't discussed. But there was plenty o' sex.

In the liberationist 1960's we didn't have the technology to practice "sexting", and I'm not sure that many people would have done it anyway. Communitarianism along with liberationism wouldn't really allow something like virtual online "sex" such as sexting to substitute for the real thing. I don't think it is entirely a matter of technology, either. I could be wrong, but it seems to me that to even think of sexting, one must be relatively isolated from other people. And back in those days, that kind of isolation was rare. "Community" was a very important concept, and people -- perhaps -- were more connected with others then than they are now.

Then there's the whole "40-something" malaise. Weiner is one of those 40-somethings, but there are lots and lots of others in that age cohort coming into their own, and many of them seem to have, how to put this, "issues."

I think it comes from the fact that these are the offspring of my generation, and all things considered, there's going to be rebellion of some sort. If I'm right, and sexting is simply not something many people in my generation would do -- even if they could -- then doing that would be something generational rebels would be more likely to do.

On the other hand, casual public nudity and even public or semi-public sex was something people in my generation would engage in, probably more than 40-somethings would. It was an act of rebellion in my generation, whereas sexting is rebellious for 40-somethings.

Of course if the practice originated with an even younger generation, how will they rebel against their parents values when the time comes?

Ultimately, these questions are irrelevant to the Weiner Thing -- at least from the Congressional leadership standpoint. They want him gone, not so much for what he has done, but for the violation of the Dignity of his office and the institution his actions represent.

Many of us would agree that our public institutions -- especially Congress -- have no dignity left. They are embarrassments almost by definition, and the notion that any congresscritter's sexual indiscretions could violate the "dignity" of a body that has none is absurd.

But that's us. For them, nothing is more important than their belief in their own moral dignity and standing. When the image they have of themselves is sullied -- by sexual exploits becoming public especially -- they react the way they are doing. And as we've seen over and over (Bill Clinton, anyone?), their shocked, shocked reaction and their huffy denunciations just make them look silly.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

The Smoke

Arrived at our place in New Mexico yesterday afternoon.

You may have heard that the smoke from the Wallow fire on the Arizona/New Mexico border is being blown east and north by the wind. Yes, yes it is. I could see the bank of smoke on the eastern horizon all the way from Holbrook while I drove east on I-40. I stopped at the New Mexico welcome center just over the state line, and I could see tongues of smoke creeping over the fancy mesa against which the center is set. Driving on, the smoke became thicker and thicker until by Gallup, the smoke was heavy, acrid, and very close to the ground. And Gallup is some 150 miles north of the north edge of the fire.

The smoke was thick, almost like a heavy, yellowish fog, all the way to Grants/Milan. The worst was where it was mixed with blowing dust. Then it thinned and rose somewhat, such that in some areas it almost seemed like the air was clear -- except for the yellowish gunk on the horizon. So it was all the way to Albuquerque and beyond. In fact, going over the Tijeras Pass, the sky was clear blue, the first of that I had seen since entering New Mexico, but just over Sedillo Hill, once again you could see thin but obvious smoke relatively high in the air.

A couple of years ago, much of the forest cover on the east side of the Manzanos not far from our place burned, with much structural damage, evacuation of thousands, and ruined mountainsides for miles and miles. It was a terrible fire, but it was confined to the mountainsides, and the wind was not too bad, so the smoke rose relatively straight up in the air and dissipated.

Smoke bothers me. I think I mentioned in an earlier post that I used to smoke cigarettes; quit about 15 years ago. (Used the nicotine patch, worked like a charm, was smoke free within a week, and have never had any desire for a cigarette since. The relief was wonderful!)

But when first I came to New Mexico, I was a heavy smoker, and it didn't occur to me that the altitude here might have an effect on me -- and other smokers -- with predictable results.

Indeed. I've only been to Taos once, a very long time ago now. I used to hate going to Santa Fe, and I loudly despised the town, the people, the idiocy of it all. I was relatively OK in Albuquerque, but if I went up the Sandias too far, all that crabbiness I felt in Santa Fe would return. At the time, I didn't connect the nastiness of my mood swings in New Mexico -- or at high elevations anywhere else -- with smoking. I didn't occur to me.

But after I quit, we were having lunch at a cafe on the Albuquerque Plaza, sitting outside, it was a beautiful day. And the table next to us was occupied by a couple, both of whom were smokers. They hated everything. Just everything was wrong, and they were complaining constantly. I thought, "Hm, where have I seen this before?" Of course, I was like that at one time. And I'd seen the same effect among smokers up in Santa Fe. If anything, it was worse there.

The problem is simple: smokers from lower elevations (and our house in California is barely above sea level) can't breathe in the rarified air of the high desert, which means most of New Mexico. The higher the elevation, the worse it gets for smokers. Sometimes they try to "breathe" by smoking more -- which makes the condition worse.

And that physical phenomenon -- which smokers may not recognize at all -- has a profound effect on mood and attitude. Once you recognize what's going on, you may be able to compensate, either by laughing at yourself when you get all crabbified, or by cutting back on smoking while you're in the high desert. Or by quitting altogether.

I've become so sensitive to smoke since I quit smoking cigarettes that even a burning fireplace can cause a physical reaction in me similar to an allergy attack. So when there's smoke in the air like there is here -- even the small amount there is today (predictions are for it to get thicker later in the day due to wind changes) -- I tend to sneeze and cough and whatnot. I can deal with it, though, because I know what's going on.

But I've often thought that one of the things New Mexico should offer at its welcome centers and rest stops is counseling for smokers: let them know that they will be at a relatively high altitude in most of New Mexico, very high in some areas, and that high altitude has a stronger physical effect on smokers from lower altitudes than on non-smokers. Smokers may feel unaccountably moody, cranky, and even angry for no apparent reason. They may lash out or complain incessantly or feel very depressed. Sometimes, they can control their own moods by understanding that their moods are connected with breathing difficulties they're having -- but not necessarily recognizing -- at high altitudes. Recommendation is to take it very easily while at high altitudes, move slowly, cut back on or stop smoking, and to realize that your unaccountable crabbiness is due to your own breathing difficulties at high altitudes, not necessarily something intrinsically AWFUL about the people and places you are visiting.

Have a nice day! ☺

Friday, June 10, 2011


Well, for days now, the front page at dKos (where my UID -- under another screen name -- is 501, and it would have been lower except I wasn't able to access the site after Markos's Grand Transition to Scoop back in 2003, anyway....) has been absolutely dominated by... Republicans.

This happens over there from time to time, and the excuse is always that the Rs are "doing something." They're on teevee, so they have to be talked about. Criticized. Laughed at. Denounced. Whatever.

But it is always intriguing to me when supposed "lefty" sites become absolutely and completely obsessed with Republican officials and their candidates to the point where there is essentially no room at all (at least not among the Front Pagers) to bring up or discuss Democrats (unless they are being hounded and denounced by their own side, ie: Weiner) or positive and progressive policies and programs.

Nope. Gotta spend all that time on the Rs.

Message: Rs Own You.

True enough I guess...

However, today on the dKos Sidebar Rec List, Happy Rockefeller has a really good essay (I despise the term "diary") "The Failure of Liberalism," which I do recommend highly. The discussion that goes with it is also illuminating. It's not as harsh as Chris Hedges might be, but it is a reasonable and legitimate exploration of how American Liberals have retreated into preserving the status quo rather than leading the quest for Something Better.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Парад Победы

This is really very moving. Most Americans have probably never seen anything quite like it.

The video is of the opening of this year's Annual Victory Parade, May 9, celebrating the Allied victory over the Axis powers in Europe. There are some 20,000 troops from Russia and countries of the former Soviet Union, and from all over Europe and from the United States, too -- the most ever gathered for a Victory Parade they say -- marshaled on Red Square to be reviewed by the Defense Minister and the Colonel General of the Armed Force before marching in parade before the assembled dignitaries arrayed in front of and beside Lenin's Tomb -- which has been decoratively covered by a Russian Federation themed shroud in honor of the day.

A number of things: there seems to be somewhat more Soviet imagery than I recall seeing in previous Victory Day Parades held since the dissolution of the Soviet Union. The Defense Minister greets the troops: "Товарищи!" "Comrades!" I like it. He and the Colonel General are swanned around the Square in Soviet Era parade cars. While this may seem retro, it's actually good because most of the veterans of the Great Patriotic War on the reviewing stands were Soviet citizens. You cannot have a Victory Parade on Red Square without acknowledging the Soviet Union was the victor and it is the Soviet Union's victory that is being celebrated.

It's interesting how the modern Russian Federation integrates Soviet imagery -- and avoids some of it, too -- in these annual events, and it is interesting to see how it changes over time.

Here's a video of the 1945 Victory Parade, Uncle Joe Stalin officiating. It is quite different, yes, and yet not that much different at all:

For Americans, WWII was all about US fighting the perfidious Nazis and Japs. I'm of the Post War/early Cold War generation, and there was little or no acknowledgement of the Soviet sacrifice and ultimate victory over the Nazis. But they were the ones who took the brunt of the War, losing tens of millions of troops and civilians, seeing almost the entire European portion of the nation destroyed. As bad as the situation was in post War Europe, it was much worse in the Soviet Union. Of course, we learned nothing about this in the 1950s; the Soviets were our blood enemies, and their suffering during and immediately after the War was simply not mentioned. I didn't really learn of it until I was in college.

And then, so much of the anti-Communist propaganda we'd been fed throughout the 1950s and into the 1960s made a kind of inverted, sad sense. And it was then that some of us began to realize that the Soviets were not a threat to the United States, and that their "chiding" -- shall we say -- of America's civil rights and other failures and criticism of American impulses toward Imperialism were actually tonics that helped Americans find ways to improve.

We don't have that Soviet mirror any more, and the current Russian Federation version of it is hardly of the caliber of the former Soviet Union.

I've spoken with some of the survivors of the Great Patriotic War, men and women who came to this country mostly as religious refugees from the Soviet Union. When they think back on what they lived through, what they survived, how they did it, who they fought, they have immense and justifiable pride in what they were able to do against all odds, and when it came to that War, they were without question loyal and patriotic Soviet citizens. Even if later their Republic (most of those I've interviewed were Ukrainians) would rebel.

The shame was that the Better World that was supposed to rise after the Victory began to fall apart almost immediately and for too many, it has become or is becoming a nightmare.

We deserve better.

My sort of half-assed translation of the Defense Minister's statement to the troops:

"Greetings Comrades!" They respond something like: "Greetings, Comrade Defense Minister!" He then says something like, "Felicitations on the Anniversary (66th? couldn't quite make it out) of Victory in the Great Patriotic War!" Then the troops commence to roar. You don't see that every day.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Momentary Change of Pace -- "Escalona"

"Escalona" is a 1991 Colombian telenovela that I think I first saw maybe in 1993 on Telemundo, and I'm pretty sure it was the first telenovela I followed all the way through from first episode to last. Of course it was performed in idiomatic Colombian Spanish which can be very difficult for someone more used to Mexican Spanish to keep up with -- for one thing, it is spoken very fast and for another lots of word endings are dropped.

The star is Carlos Vives, a Colombian actor and song stylist. His name is generally spoken "Carlo Bibé" in the Colombian dialect. He's from Santa Marta, Magdalena, Colombia, and in the program he plays a highly expressive and heightened version of the life of Rafael Escalona ("Rafa E'calona"), master of the vallenato form. Vallenato refers to a style of music characteristic of Valledupar and the Magdalena Department of Colombia, which Rafa Escalona popularized throughout the region. The musical style hasn't really penetrated much north of the Columbia and Panama, though you do hear it from time to time in the United States -- Gloria Estefan tried to popularize it here. I did see Carlos Vives when he did an American tour soon after the release of his album of classical vallenato music called "Clasicos de la Provincia." It was a huge hit, and his show in San Francisco was a delight -- and very well attended, a full house, but the site wasn't that big.

I've seen quite a bit of Hispanic "magic realism" drama, but nothing quite approaches what was done with "Escalona." Of course in the extended format of a telenovela, wonderful things can take place, and they did throughout the episodes, all of them filled with music and magic.

I'm told that "Escalona" is still one of the most popular telenovelas on DVD, and it is no wonder. It is really that good. And the challenge of keeping up with the dialog -- a challenge I often failed! -- was.... bracing. ☺

Ché says, if you have some down time and think you can handle the Spanish, check out episodes of "Escalona" on YouTube. Some full episodes are posted along with a lot of short clips. You're liable to be transported to another plane of existence. (Where you might just find Amelia Earhart! Heh.)

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

What's Wrong With This Picture?





Some notes: It really is a fascinating exploration of how we got where we are and who and what had such an influential impact on the course of events. It's similar to what James Burke did with "Connections" all those years ago, but with a harder edge -- because everything Curtis gets into is recent or relatively so.

This series is an incomplete exploration, of course, and it is approached from a decidedly British point of view, but it does help us to see how thinkers and actors on the world stage actually do have an effect on what happens and how.

Some of Curtis's startling observations include the resemblance between what Asian economies went through in the 90's and what we in the west are going through now. His observations about the World Computing Machines (as Edward Teller called them) would enable -- and what sort of strange and pitiless philosophy and ideology would go with them -- need quite a bit of expansion, but I think he's mostly on the mark. Underlying much of Adam Curtis's work -- which I really appreciate -- is the idea that a great deal of what we believe is wrong, and it is wrong because those who brought those beliefs forth, whatever their realm, were deep in error.

But "Truth" is never a finality. It is an ongoing and changing discovery. I like that a lot.

Sky Island -- the Jemez Mountains of New Mexico

Watch the full episode. See more Sky Island.

Watch the full episode. See more Sky Island.

Premiers July 10, 2011 on PBS.

In Northern New Mexico, a range of mountains rises up from the high desert: a wild, rugged land of the Faraway Nearby. The volcanic Jemez are isolated from all other mountain ranges — an island in the sky, surrounded by a desert sea.

In Sky Island, environmental filmmaker John Grabowska (Ribbon of Sand, Crown of the Continent) profiles this captivating landscape and humankind's place within it, examining the global warming effects that have already dramatically impacted the high desert and alpine ecosystems. This exploration of identity, place and perception features breathtaking cinematography, narration by acclaimed actress Meryl Streep, readings by Pulitzer Prize winner N. Scott Momaday and a sweeping orchestral score by Academy Award winner Todd Boekelheide.

The center of the Jemez Mountains is a slumbering supervolcano that exploded more than one million years ago in massive eruptions, creating a plateau of volcanic ash welded into rock up to 900 feet deep. Through the millennia, water sliced through the plateau, cutting myriad canyons that open onto the Rio Grande, which flows south through a massive rift valley on the eastern edge of the Jemez. From the Rio to the heights of the Jemez, the land rises more than a mile in elevation, creating different zones of life as temperature drops and moisture climbs in the steep ascent from canyon floor to alpine peak.

The Mountains -- and drought -- are a constant fact of life for all of us in New Mexico. Yet here in California and many other areas of the country, people are practically drowning in constant heavy rains, floods, snows in May and June, abnormally low temperatures. And of course, the tornadoes are flourishing like never before.

I may mock The Man in the Chair, Harold Camping, for his nonsense Doomer predictions, and yet, there must be something to this Judgement Day stuff as more and more things seem to fall apart...