Monday, September 30, 2013

Medicare Advantage Sticker Shock


I just received my Presbyterian Senior Care (Medicare Advantage) Notice of Changes for 2014.


My co-pays are going wayyyyy up. Many have doubled, others are up 50%-70%. These are huge increases for people on limited incomes, though Presbyterian claims that the maximum out of pocket expense for patients on this plan will only go up by $400 -- which still isn't chicken feed for a lot of folks.

I assume this is happening because some of the excessive payments and reimbursements for Medicare Advantage providers are being reduced, and so the providers seek to recover from their patients. I don't know though.

We had no warning, no hint at all that co-pays were going up so steeply.

Of course even with these increases, out of pocket expenses are still a good deal less than with Medicare alone, there's no additional charge for drug coverage (though the co-pays are much higher than they were), and all in all, except for some higher rates for the first three days of hospitalization, patient co-pays are similar to or lower than the Kaiser coverage we had in California -- that cost $800 a month.

We're lucky enough to be able to pay these higher costs, but what of old folks who are just able to handle the out-of-pocket costs imposed by Presbyterian now but do not have -- and won't have -- an additional $400 for medical care? They're not poor enough for Medicaid, but don't have any additional flexibility in  their budgets, either. What are they supposed to do?

(I can hear it now: "Do you really need a dog? What you pay in dog food alone, not to mention the vet and stuff, would easily pay for the higher medical co-pays. Priorities. You know?")

It's gonna be a tough year for a lot of folks come January.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

There's A Chill Is Coming On

We don't expect there to be a hard freeze for a while yet, but you never know. New Mexico has apparently been cited by the Weather Channel for the most extreme weather for 2013, and I'm not in a position to prognosticate. But there is a distinct chill in the mornings now, and I've even run the heater -- once -- to take the edge off and see if the dang thing still works. I took the air conditioners in the bedrooms out of the windows, too. None of the windows are left open overnight any more, either. And I thought about covering the tomato plants so the late fruit could ripen on the vine, but I didn't do it last night, so after the sun comes up, I'll take a look at how the plants held up overnight.

The tomatoes are about the only things we planted this year that actually did pretty well. Most of the rest either perished outright or came up stunted and then perished. Oh, the sunflowers were pretty productive, even though they were stunted somewhat. Some of the other flowers were attacked by bugs and withered. None of the vegetables made it. Some of the beans never even germinated.

Even most of the wild flowers and the other things that grow on their own around here were fairly stunted overall, and we really don't know why it's been that way. We planted earlier than we should have, and planted everything in pots rather than in the ground or in the raised beds we were planning on. We'd been told that planting in the ground wasn't a good idea because of the alkalinity of the soil. The planting soil we used, though, may not have been ideal, and I'm pretty sure the alkalinity of the water we were using to irrigate with was also a problem. Then, of course, I wasn't sure how quickly things would dry out in the wind. I think a lot of the plants got too dry too often in the early growing season, and that's probably the main reason why most plants either died or were so stunted.

The drought's been bad to be sure and the older trees are really showing the stress. There were also huge dust storms, one of which overwhelmed the sky, enveloping everything in brown, gritty fog. It was an unexpected and amazing experience. Right out of the Dust Bowl.

The enormous amount of rain we've received lately has helped regenerate the flora; it's surprising the amount of new growth in the last few weeks, for example. But now that it's getting colder, the leaves will fall and most of the plants will shrivel and dry up. We're happy for the Cherokee Purple heritage tomatoes; they've done very well, and we had some excellent tomatoes in our salads all summer. Yay!

And next year, we'll try again. Hopefully, we'll have raised beds built by then; we'll use a different planting soil, we'll try planting later and keeping a close watch on soil moisture so things don't dry out as much as they did this year before the rains came. I'm not sure the quality of the water is really the problem, as the farms around here irrigate with the same water and they seem to do OK. They no doubt correct the soil ph, but beyond that, probably don't do much.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

To Mora and Ocate -- Hi Lo or the Faraway Nearby

Ocate Peak
Grazing herd

Ocate Mesa
Downtown Ocate

Frack No!
Mora Driveway

The beetling cliff that looms over what little is left of the town of Ocate, New Mexico, comes as a distinct shock as you drive toward the remnants of the place from the south on NM 442 from La Cueva. You're not expecting it to be so high nor so dominant, especially if your eye has been caught by Ocate Peak over on the east, a round mound looming over the temporarily lush ranches of the Durans and the Montoyas where sparse herds of Angus and other breeds of cattle graze or laze in the early fall sun.

Ocate became a destination because of Ol' Abe, one of our neighbors in Sacramento. Ol' Abe was pushing eighty, and he would come over sometimes to chat about God and his girlfriend's reprobate son and he'd tell me how lucky and blessed he was to survive his strokes. He was a wonderful character who took care of Fred and Rosemary's place across the street when they were off gallivanting or kyaking or doing whatever they wanted to do in their retirement. Ol' Abe was retired, too, of course, as I was when Abe and I got to know each other better than just nodding "hello" at one another now and again.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Apocalypse Diverted?

A Wounded Elaine Dang is led out of Nairobi mall (Reuters)

The Nairobi Thing seemed to come out of nowhere, and suddenly it was all over the "news" and being flogged mercilessly (in a manner of speaking) to "mean" something or another (at first, it was flogged as a "mass shooting" then as a "terrorist attack" then as "an act of war," and we'd better get ready, because just this sort of thing could happen here, right here In the Homeland, at any minute.)

Yes, it could. We're sitting ducks, every one of us, and it is a wonder it hasn't happened already. Er... maybe it already happened, it was just routine...

Why the holy hell didn't the Panopticon pick up on it -- or any of the recent mass shootings -- is one of the many wonders of the modern age.

Of course that's not what the Panopticon is for. It's never going to pick up on potential mass shootings or domestic or foreign terrorist actions against the common people for the simple reason that the Panopticon exists to surveille and assess the common herd for threats to the High and the Mighty. The rest of us are not being surveilled and categorized and classified for the purpose of preventing mass shootings and terrorist attacks against us. Our Rulers long since accepted those as useful tactics -- along with many other cruel and unusual tactics typically involving the arbitrary imposition of authority -- to keep the Rabble in line.

The Nairobi Thing is useful in much the same way. The stark horror of the attack, in a shopping mall for cripes sake, is a universal. The fact that the shopping mall was in Nairobi rather than Neosho makes it even worse. It is obvious that the Westgate Shopping Mall is essentially identical to every other consumer paradise, and it was apparently full to bursting with Kenya's Best and Brightest out for an afternoon of relaxation and shopping joy. This is what life is all about, isn't it?

I've heard tell that a famous Ghanaian poet, a British architect and his girlfriend, and the nephew of the Kenyan President and his pregnant girlfriend were among those killed in the massacre, along with many others. A teacher who was well-known and said to be beloved in New Mexico's Navajoland was wounded. Elaine Dang is also connected to UC Berkeley and , San Diego, CA. There are so many connections, some of them surprising, with so many places and people around the world, even such out of the way locations as Crownpoint. Apparently, a list of six(?) Americans involved in the attack was read off by the gunmen during the operation. Americans! Think of it! Apparently, they were Somalis from Minneapolis, the very definition of the American Heartland -- which the Somali connection makes. A British woman was also listed among the attackers. British? OMG!

What's going on?

According to official reports the attack on the Westgate Mall in Nairobi was in revenge for Kenya's crackdown on Somali militants who are active in both Kenya and Somalia, a crackdown which apparently is quite bloody and indiscriminate. I don't know much about it, except that Somalia-Kenya tensions have been running high for quite some time. Kenya is apparently becoming highly neo-liberalized (thus the Westgate Mall, fergawdsake) while neighboring Somalia is Warlord Country. The Alshabaab outfit has apparently been trying to create an Islamist Emirate amid the rubble, whereas "the world" -- as in the neo-liberals -- has been doing whatever is necessary to prevent it. Thus Kenya has taken a leading role to suppress and in some cases exterminate the Alshabaab insurrectionists wherever they are found. Thus, it's War, don't you see.

And yet it was initially reported as another "mass shooting," this time in Nairobi, but involving people from all over the western world.

All by itself, that seemed odd in the extreme. Only somewhat later did the Alshabaab connection come to the fore. And now it seems that Alshabaab has suddenly become a global terrorist threat. How these stories evolve is one of the fascinating aspects of modern propaganda media. But that's another issue for another day.

The question for the moment is how this attack will be used to impose and enforce ever more restrictive policies on the everyone, for the benefit of Our Rulers -- who never let an opportunity like this go to waste.

The Four Horsemen never rest, do they?

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Movie Night

You don't need a Weatherman to tell which way the wind blows...

I've heard about the "Weather Underground" film done by Sam Green for KQED in San Francisco for a decade now, but until yesterday, I hadn't seen the whole thing. Well... (I recently signed up to Snag Films on the internet, where "Weather Underground" and a number of other films and documentaries I've wanted to see are available free but not without commercial interruptions... like with some of the other online film services you have to turn off your adblock software for the duration.)

Memories... I wasn't part of SDS or the Weather Underground back in the day, and by 1969 I was becoming somewhat more socialized to a standard adult lifestyle though hardly as a member of the bourgeoisie.

The rebel in me would not permit that.

Though I wasn't part of the Revolution by 1969, I followed SDS and Weather Underground more than casually, them and the Black Panthers and American Indian Movement and so many others who actually engaged in a kind of Revolution as the '60's got going and then petered out, slip-sliding through pools of blood and misery right here at home. Not quite on the scale of Vietnam, no, not even close to that scale, but the bloodshed here at home had a profound effect on the counterculture.

Let it be said and let it be known.

What hasn't been explored, however, is how the bloodshed here at home affected the Establishment, because it most profoundly did. We who were not Establishment rarely look at things from the other side, so it can be difficult to grasp and gauge what kind of effects the radicals and the revolutionaries were having in real time, and it's still difficult to understand how those effects have played out since then.

Sam Green's film doesn't directly explore the question of how the radicals and revolutionaries affected the Establishment, either, and Mark Rudd, Todd Gitlin and others interviewed essentially declare that the Revolution was a failure and leave it at that -- as they go back, with a big sigh, to their sinecures in various academic settings and NPOs.

Oh. Yes. Wasn't it all such a very big waste in the end?

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Biopsy Update

Both of Ms Ché's biopsies came back negative. Yay! We are both so grateful at the results. Now to heal the probage and excisions. Yeek!

Friday, September 20, 2013

Two Lane Blacktop; Art and Found

On the way to Santa Fe

"Do you get to Albuquerque much?" asked the Native American film maker sitting next to me at a meeting in Santa Fe on Tuesday.

"Oh," I said, "about as often as we get to Santa Fe. It's about the same distance to go to one or the other, but the route to Santa Fe is a lot nicer..."

We travel to and from Santa Fe via NM 41, an iconic two lane blacktop highway through one of New Mexico's less populated regions. NM 41 aligns along a former railroad route that runs between the what used to be the AT&SF tracks south of the central mountain chain, and the northern tracks that run through Lamy, which was once the rail-stop for Santa Fe, though it is 18 miles or so east and south from the Plaza. The railroad builders at the time said they couldn't go into Santa Fe proper because the terrain was "too difficult." I suspect it had more to do with the amount of money they could or could not extort from the City Fathers.


There are some towns and former towns of a sort along NM 41, Estancia and Moriarty being the most populous with up to 1,000 people in each, but there's McIntosh, Otto, Buford and Stanley in the Estancia Basin, and then over a rise and through rolling country in the Galisteo Basin, you get to Galisteo itself, a dusty, ancient adobe town beside the often dry but recently roaring Galisteo River, a town with no services, yet one that serves as a kind of outpost suburb for Santa Fe these days.

NM 41 stubs out at NM 285 just east of Lamy. Two-eighty-five north takes a route across the railroad tracks and through the semi-rural El Dorado suburb of Santa Fe. After passing through El Dorado, you pick up I-25, whooshing by at 75 miles an hour north and west another few miles (the signs say 8, but I don't think it is) to the Old Pecos Trail exit, where you sort of follow your instincts -- and in my case, imprinting, since I've done it so often -- till you pick up the Old Santa Fe Trail and wend your way as best you can into Town, which for us is the Old Town around the Plaza.

Santa Fe is not a big city; it's quite small, actually, so it's not really all that likely you'll get lost in urban sprawl or anything like it, but the way the town is laid out and roadways, streets, and paths operate, it's very easy to get lost while trying to get from place to place within Santa Fe, or even get lost trying to find the Plaza. It's not as easy as it may seem.

The Actual Surveillance State

I've been saying ever since the NSA Domestic Surveillance story broke that there is a whole vast apparatus of domestic surveillance that is much, much closer to the ground than the almost Star Trek fantasies of the NSA.

The NSA is part of the National Surveillance State, of course, but I have maintained that its surveillance of Americans is relatively less significant than the surveillance that goes on all the time by commercial interests and local, state and federal police forces. For whatever reason -- and I have my theories -- those more fundamental aspects of domestic surveillance were routinely dismissed or ignored while quite a few of those on the internet were literally ordering people to only pay attention to the story of the NSA, nothing, NOTHING else mattered.

Comes now the story of the ACLU's ongoing investigations into the breadth and depth of domestic surveillance as described in Suspicious Activity Reports filed with local, state and federal police forces by suspicious citizens and others and processed by authorities at 77 fusion centers throughout the country.

This is part of the domestic surveillance apparatus I have been railing about for months, but because there were few or no sensational media stories about it, people had a hard time focusing on it. It was much easier to focus on the NSA -- because it was a sensational story, even though it is a story that serves to mask just how deep and pervasive domestic surveillance is and long has been.

And this is still only a part of the surveillance apparatus in place and affecting all of us all the time. There's much, much more to it.

I maintain that the NSA should not be the focus of concern about domestic surveillance largely because its contribution to the domestic surveillance apparat is relatively minor compared to the daily surveillance by government and private agencies we're all under all the time, and due to which some communities and individuals face terrible and too frequently arbitrary consequences.

This is the reality of domestic surveillance that the obsessive focus on the NSA story has all but completely obscured.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013


Random notes that have come up over the last few days that I didn't think warranted a full post at this point.

On the Surveillance State: one of the repeatedly heard issues about the Surveillance State is that  the compromises of corporate integrity and user privacy forced by the government on their corporate partners in surveillance has mortally wounded the American IT Business abroad to the point where no one will do business with them.


Despite emphatic predictions of waning business prospects, some of the big Internet companies that the former National Security Agency contractor showed to be closely involved in gathering data on people overseas - such as Google Inc. and Facebook Inc. - say privately that they have felt little if any impact on their businesses.
Insiders at companies that offer remote computing services known as cloud computing, including Amazon and Microsoft Corp, also say they are seeing no fallout.
Meanwhile, smaller U.S. companies offering encryption and related security services are seeing a jump in business overseas, along with an uptick in sales domestically as individuals and companies work harder to protect secrets.

"No fallout?" "Little if any impact?" How ever can it be? We'll see. All I would add at this point it that the NSA's corporate partners have been notorious "untruth" tellers from the day the revelations of massive NSA surveillance broke last June, and I wouldn't take anything they say about anything at face value. They -- like the NSA -- lie. So I question even the statements in this story.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

"And What The American People Need to Understand Is... We Did It All For You!"

I'm completely gobsmacked by Hank Paulson going around to all the shows on the 5 year anniversary of the Lehman Bros Implosion making the claim that the bank bailouts (which have never stopped, let it be said) were done to protect the American People from something dreadful, something incalculably worse that what has happened, and never-ever was it on anybody's mind to "protect the banks." Oh pshaw. The very idea. They did it all for us, so quitcherbitchin, get with the program and carry that load. Ya hear?

I'm just... stunned. He ought to be mortified, but he's clearly out selling snakeoil, still.

Who are these freaks, and who let them have the wheel to the national economy?

Freaks. That's what they really are, freaks, the lot of them, and Paulson is right up there on top, still running the show, just as he was when the meltdown happened.

Millions upon millions of Americans have been forced into poverty by the policies he and his friends and relations in Wall Street and its many branches around the world have put into place and enforced since the collapse of the real estate bubble back in 2008.

The freaks in charge have gained trillions while the People suffer and go hungry and die by their own hands.

The freaks in charge think it's just fine.

And they did it all for us.


Sunday, September 15, 2013

Diplomacy Will Out? Let's Not Get Ahead of Ourselves Just Yet

The story being retailed is that Russia and the United States have come to a diplomatic agreement to take care of that little chemical weapons problem in Syria within the next year or so, and this is being hailed far and wide as an example of diplomatic skill almost unparalleled in the modern world, as -- for once in our miserable lives -- war has been averted.

Well. That's good. The less war the better for most of us, and the ideal would be no war at-all, at-all. But of course the Syrian civil war shall continue without let up, much as all kinds of resistance actions and civil wars continue regardless of diplomacy, sometimes for decades or generations, and eventually whatever is left of Syria will be ground into powder by the Israelis, yes?

This is all for Israel's benefit, is it not?

We don't know that. Israel is part of the Problem of the Middle East and is constantly agitating the Arabs to do dirt to one another so as to ensure they are too debilitated to do dirt to the Israelis. It's a form of "diplomacy" I doubt most of us would want to talk about, but it has been going on for thousands of years and it's sometimes successful in preventing a wider struggle from breaking out, or in ensuring that certain interests stay above the fray while the Lesser Ones fight among themselves.

What has happened with Syria is that something along those lines has been worked out on behalf of the "parental units" -- ie: Russia and the United States -- and the Crazy Uncle (Israel) as well. The Syrians will keep fighting among themselves till Doomsday, with active support and armaments from the Powers, but supposedly without the wherewithal to deploy WMD. Only Israel in the region will have that particular grim agency.

I thought it was interesting that Assad said in his interview with Charlie Rose that until Israel disposed of its WMD arsenal, Syria could not agree to do any such thing itself -- while not admitting that there was a Syrian arsenal. Israel is the Problem, after all. And until Israel complies...

But Israel won't comply, and as a client (?) state of the United States, the United States has no interest in compelling compliance.

Assad then agrees to the Russian framework for removing chemical weapons from Syria (in due time), which the United States then agrees to. Success! Or something.

Of course, there are those who will insist till their dying day that all this was nothing more than a kabuki distraction from the Real Story of NSA Surveillance of Americans and the Whole Wide World.  Well, yes, I suppose it is in some sense, though the NSA Story was evaporating on its own, as there were no plans to scale back the Surveillance/Police State despite the complaints. But everything is Kabuki eventually, everything is a distraction from everything else. And it's all a show. What's taking place backstage and behind the scenes creates the "show" we are so fascinated by -- whatever show it is at any given time.

We are not well equipped to observe and appreciate more than one show at a time, it seems.

I was certain that there was Something Big coming After Labor Day, and I was right. It was Syria, yes, but -- apparently -- not in the context of another Anglo-American Imperial War of Aggression. So in that sense, I was wrong, in that I thought we'd see more bloodshed led by American military might. It could still happen, of course, but the likelihood of it is relatively slim.

The punditocracy is furious, of course, because they didn't know in advance what was going to happen. They were as bindsided as anybody else, and they don't like being in that position. They're better than the Rabble, aren't they? Aren't they?

The pundits insist the Real Issue is whacking Iran, the sooner the better, but as we've seen, the whackage planned for Iran never seems to happen. Doesn't mean it won't, but the likelihood diminishes year by year. Or so it seems.

Meanwhile, the Rabble keeps paying for all the miscalculations and destructive policy decisions coming out of Washington and Wall Street.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Biblical Floods? Biblical? Eeeeyikes,

Gallinas River in Las Vegas NM, September 13, 2013

Estes Park, CO, September 13, 2013

Rio Rancho - Southern - Flood

flood in Las Vegas NM

Colorado and New Mexico are getting hammered by unusual (for September) rainfalls, deluges if you will, inundations, quite frankly, that have spared little of the southern Rockies from flooding and washouts. In parts of Colorado and New Mexico, entire communities are isolated, surrounded by or cut off by flood waters.

Emergency Services is... stunned.

We're in the Estancia Basin, a level plain, rather high in elevation but not mountainous, though we are just east of the backsides of the Sandia and Manzano Mountains. Though we've had a lot of rain recently, the water has mostly soaked into the ground, and we haven't experienced floods right here. (There is a leak in our roof, however!)

The run off from the mountains has caught some people off-guard and I'm sure there've been some harrowing adventures as the rains have poured from the skies and run down the mountainsides.

Many areas of Albuquerque, the pueblos north of town, the Roswell area, Carlsbad, and Truth or Consequences to the south, and other widely scattered areas of New Mexico have been hard-hit by flash flooding and rivers rising, to the point where Susana la Tejana, Our Governor, has declared the entire state a disaster area. Well. Who'd a thunk it? She's actually been pretty good during disasters, given her sometimes rigid R politics.

But whatever is happening in New Mexico -- and I haven't caught up on the overnight news -- it has been much worse in parts of Colorado, particularly in the Front Range and in the Denver metro area. Much worse.

For the residents there, it has got to be literally terrorizing.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

For Those Who Thought Occupy Was Dead

Occupy Network

We're coming up on the second anniversary of Occupy Wall Street -- really? Only that long ago? Wow. -- and for some time now, I've been hearing the chatter that "Occupy is dead." or "it was a tragic failure" or what have you.

The fact is Occupy doesn't get a lot of mainstream media attention these days, and it doesn't get very much alternative media attention either. So it may seem to have disappeared, but that is hardly the case.

My email inbox now has many thousands of messages from and about various and ongoing Occupy endeavors all over the country. Recently, there was the Second Occupy National Gathering in Michigan. There is an almost unlimited number of Occupy related activities in dozens of cities nearly every day.

I'm amazed, really, that after the brutality of the Occupy suppression during the fall and winter of 2011-2012 and the absurd level of public animosity toward anarchists and the Black Bloc led by Chris Hedges following the J28 actions in Oakland, anything of the movement survived.

But it did.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Repost: "Incrementalism"

Excerpts from a post entitled "Incrementalism" originally posted
Wednesday, December 23, 2009

All through the Bush years, Incrementalism was touted on the so-called Progressive Internets as the Only Appropriate Response to Bushevik Radicalism. The very fact that the Busheviks were Radical and (counter)Revolutionary, especially in their foreign policies and their overthrow of the remnants of Constitutional law and so forth, was frequently denied or obscured by prominent Lefty bloggers ... so as not to stir up the masses too much about what was going on. Or one supposes the rationale behind the Incrementalist fervor during the Bush years was simple self-protection.

After all, the Stasi was watching, and at any time, so the thinking went, the round ups could begin, starting with anyone and everyone spouting off against the Regime and calling for Revolution Now! There was one incident over at [Greenwald's] that highlighted what THAT was about when [a frequent commenter] freaked over something I said: "Who should be first against the wall when the Revolution comes?"

O. M. G. You'd think the "Marxist Cell" that is the Greenwaldian patch of the Internets had been discovered. I'd used the quote before (it's from Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, c. 1972, and it has a long history in geeky comic lit. The quote from Hitchhiker's Guide runs as follows:

The Hitch Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy defines the marketing division of the Sirius Cybernetics Corporation as "a bunch of mindless jerks who'll be the first against the wall when the revolution comes," with a footnote to the effect that the editors would welcome applications from anyone interested in taking over the post of robotics correspondent.

Curiously enough, an edition of the Encyclopaedia Galactica that had the good fortune to fall through a time warp from a thousand years in the future defined the marketing division of the Sirius Cybernetics Corporation as "a bunch of mindless jerks who were the first against the wall when the revolution came."

And this has been making the rounds for decades. Yet both times I used the quote/idea in postings on the internets the proprietors and/or their agents ... have gone ape shit in fear that someone would break down their door at midnight and drag them and their family away to the Konzentrationslager forthwith.

For advocating "Revolution."

Honestly. The mind boggles.


Ms. Ché had a biopsy on Monday and is scheduled for another one next Monday. It's unexpected and we're on tenterhooks until we get results -- whenever that will be.

My own sense is that it's just a precaution as there is no history of cancer in her family. But unfortunately these days you never know.

At any rate, the tests themselves require some lifestyle changes, and until we become acclimated to them, we'll be at a disadvantage regarding our other activities. She will be indisposed for a while, and I'll be looking after her as best I can.

Apocalypse Averted? How Can This Be?

Oh, I don't know that I'm going to hold my breath over the latest developments in the Syria Thing, but there are signs and portents that indicate we may have barely averted catastrophe once again.

It could be that the military solution to the Syrian Crisis is for the moment set aside while furious efforts are under way to secure whatever chemical weapons the Syrian government has from use, misuse, theft and dispersal.

Might-could-be. Hard to say.

I watched Charlie Rose's interview with The Devil Assad last night, and it seemed to me that the soft-spoken Assad was running rings around Rose, literally tying him in knots and forcing numerous errors as Rose was exposed again and again as simply acting as the spokesman for the Obama Regime, not as a journalist at all. He was clearly ignorant of anything about Syria that he hadn't been fed by the White House, DoD, and State Departments. Assad easily exposed Rose's ignorance and hypocrisy as he pointed out repeatedly that the US has presented no evidence whatever that the Syrian government used chemical weapons on August 21, the date of the alleged sarin gas attack on the Damascus suburb of Ghouta. None. Zero. And he offered a plausible explanation for what happened: there may have been an accidental release of home-made sarin by the rebels. His point was that with current information, there is no way to tell for sure, but in any case, there is no compelling evidence that the Syrian government -- rather than some other interest involved in the Syrian civil war -- was responsible. There is only assertion. And in the end, even so-called "evidence" -- such as that presented by Colin Powell at the UN to justify attacking Iraq, can be false.

The US has no credibility in these matters in other words.

Meanwhile, diplomatic efforts, triggered by John Kerry's "rhetorical" offer to withhold missile strikes on the Syrian government if it agrees to turn over all its chemical weapons to "international control" within the week, are apparently underway in earnest as the Russians and Syrian government have agreed to attempt to comply. Oh my, who would have thought?

Some people are saying this is Obama's brilliance in action; I will withhold judgement on that. It's obvious to me that preparations for direct military intervention in the Syrian civil war by the United States have been under way since spring at the latest and were probably in work well before that. I recently read a series of stories in the Economist published in May that explored the possibilities and potentials of direct US military intervention in Syria, stories that indicated that preparations to intervene had been made long before.

The notion that the whole Syria Thing is nothing but a distraction from the NSA revelations has been taking hold among some of those who see the NSA Thing to be Bigger Than God. Well, I don't see it quite that way.

I'll put it this way: the government operates on numerous parallel tracks all the time. While it often seems to be responding to various pressures -- whether driven by the media or by its corporate partners or what have you -- in fact, the government is juggling a bunch of shit all the time, and it is quite capable of asserting and acting on its own interests as chosen (at the top) from a menu of options at any given moment.

In other words, the government can easily use something that's in the to do list pipeline to overwhelm something else that has been captivating the media -- especially captivating summer stories.

And so it is with the Syria Thing. Is it a "distraction"? Hardly. It's serious as fuck. It's Post Labor Day now, and the Summer Shark and Missing White Boy stories would have faded on their own -- because that's how the media works. Now the news cycle is dominated by the White House and the Serious Matters that the White House has to deal with. That would have happened with or without the Syria Thing.

Of course, the White House and whatever Spookery has been running the summer con (I say it's likely to be the CIA) are going to use Syria and whatever else is in the offing to tamp down the NSA story or at least make it a minor issue rather than a major one. Of course they are. How much the Congress gets its panties in a collective wad over domestic surveillance remains to be seen, but I suspect the only real upshot is that certain categories of the Overclass will be granted the exemptions and immunities they seek while everyone else will be subjected to ever more intrusive surveillance. That's what the indications have been since the opening salvos of the Story of the Century. Or Summer. Or whatever.

We should understand that the CIA has been operating in Syria at least since last year and probably well before that, attempting to undermine the Syrian government enough to enable their favored rebel factions to march into Damascus and take over. It's not been going well, and I wouldn't be surprised if the CIA didn't blame the difficulties they're having in Syria on bad intelligence from the NSA. And it would be surprising if they'd try to cripple the NSA and run their own intelligence operations as they've done in the past (to often disastrous results.) These sorts of Inner Party squabbles have been commonplace for many decades. What we can see of them is usually only a tiny portion of what's really going on.

Keeping the public focus on Syria or the NSA or what have you is useful to those who are squabbling over their prerogatives and powers behind the scenes. We won't be likely to know for years what this whole thing is really about -- if we ever find out. But what we are allowed to see is rarely more than a glimpse of the whole picture.

If the Apocalypse has actually been averted and the diplomatic solution to the apparent crisis is implemented, we can breathe a sigh of relief -- at least temporarily. But never forget, as the Bard once put it:

There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio,
Than are dreamt of in your philosophy.

And that's putting it mildly.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Moody River, More Deadly...

Sometimes things arrive from the ether, and you have no idea why. Such was the case this morning when I woke up hearing the melody to "Moody River" going round and round in my head. Whut the... ?

As I rubbed the overnight crusts from my eyes, I couldn't get the lyrics right, though I remembered the rhythm and the melody correctly. I kept thinking the lyric was "muddy river" and couldn't get the following lyrics at all. What could it be? "Torments me?" What could it be about? The Rio Grande?

We don't live close to the river, but we were near it yesterday when we went on yet another literary adventure, this time to Albuquerque to see and hear Dennis Herrick discuss his historical novel "Winter of the Metal People, the Untold Story of America's First Indian War." Herrick is a friend of Ms. Ché's.

The book is Herrick's novelization of what's known as the Tiguex War of 1541-42, when the Spanish adventurer Vasquez de Coronado set himself on the conquest of the dozen or so pueblos dotting the Rio Grande Valley between present day Albuquerque and the bluffs north of Bernalillo.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Annual Green Day Post

Since we seem to be on the verge of yet another Imperial War of Aggression -- even if the Congress say nay -- seems fitting to put up my annual Green Day Post, this time featuring the full-length "official" video.

♪"Wake me up when September ends..."

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Surviving the Coming Collapse by Defiantly Having Fun?

For thousands of years there have been cries that the End is Nigh. We are to Repent Now or be swept away in fiery floods and collapse and extinction and whatnot, having displeased the Divine or crossed some uncrossable line.

Yes, well.

The Prophets of Doom never seem to get their timing quite right, and they never seem to see what's in store clearly enough or soon enough to affect the disaster that will surely come if we are only patient enough...

Whatever the case with the Prophets of Doom, the Innocents always pay for any transgression. Those who precipitated the Catastrophe -- if they can be identified at all -- never do.

Nowadays quite a few of those who ponder the Ineffable are in a frame of mind to suggest that this time we really are facing the End of Days, actual Extinction and the Ultimate Environmental Collapse from which the Earth cannot recover.

Oh. Dear. That sounds terrible, doesn't it?

Whatever shall we do?

Friday, September 6, 2013

Pasa Tiempo -- And So To Zozobra... Finally.

2012 Burning of Zozobra, video posted to YouTube by Luke Fitch

2013 Burning of Zozobra, video posted by the Santa Fe New Mexican

Last night, among tens of thousands of other revelers, we hiked up to Fort Marcy Park above Santa Fe's Old Town for the singular experience of the 89th Annual Burning of (Will Shuster's) Zozobra, the fitting kick off to the final weekend of the  301st Annual Fiesta de Santa Fe, and like so many others at the event, we said "goodbye to care."

This was our first attendance at the Burning of Zozobra, as always before when we might have gone other matters intervened and we couldn't. Many -- many -- years ago we inadvertently attended the Entrada portion of Fiesta when we happened to be in the Plaza of Santa Fe as the re-enactors of the Conquistadores arrived on their horses with banners flying, settlers and refugees in tow, to symbolically reclaim the City Different from the uppity Indians who had driven them out in 1680. Little did we know...

The Entrada (actually wouldn't that be Re-Entrada?) was quite a spectacle, but it was far too solemn compared to the mockery of Fiesta and its solemnity that takes place up on the hill beforehand.

Zozobra is the product of one of the more humor oriented members of Santa Fe's artist colony in the 1920's, Will Shuster, whose other works are highly prized today, but none of them have the sheer brilliance of Zozobra.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Peace -- Building A Better Future

The wardrums continue pounding for the cause of whacking Syria on the way to the Ultimate Prize of "Doing" Iran. The Birth Pangs of the New Middle East simply go on and on and on, unendingly, and yet the vessel is empty. No New Middle East has been birthed. Or if one has been, it's a monster.

While sitting in the auto-repair waiting room yesterday, the teevee was showing a Fox "news" panel discussion of the Syria Thing, actually fairly rational given the source, and one of the panelists -- I have no idea who -- put forth the proposition that "doing" Syria was a waste of time and effort and military might. Everyone knew, he said, that the Real Objective was Iran, so why not just "do" Iran and get it over with? These diversions into places like Syria and Lebanon and Iraq and whatnot were not helping accomplish the Objective.

Well, yes. Iran is the primary objective of the War Party as it has been all along. As someone on the Internets pointed out, the end game of this misbegotten foreign policy is to surround Russia and China with bases and to make it impossible for either of these potential superpowers to rise far enough to threaten United States hegemony for ever and ever, so let it be written, so let it be done, amen.

Peace -- the very idea of it -- is forbidden for the duration.

And the duration may be forever.

Peace is not an acceptable solution to anything so long as there are "threats" -- whether real or fabricated.

Yet Peace is the only rational solution to the war-madness we have been immersed in for far too long.

There is no hint of a movement toward Peace in the current spate of warmongering over Syria and the use (or perhaps accidental release) of Sarin gas in the ongoing civil war there, a civil war that appears to be the product of American Imperial Provocation and Aggression, if the stories of CIA trained death squads roaming at will are to be believed.

How do you get Peace out of this mess?

Peace flows naturally from the three vital principles of Dignity, Justice and Community previously mentioned in this series. Given the appropriate foundational principles, Peace is the almost inevitable outcome.

But Our Rulers have made clear that they don't want Peace, no way, no how. They want perpetual wars, wars of provocation, wars of aggression, a destructive paradise. We, the Rabble, are to have no say whatever in their plans for endless war and devastation.

And yet we must declare their error and we must reject their violence. We must avow Peace as an ultimate goal and reward.

Peace will enable a better future for all, and that is something Our Rulers will fight to the bitter end to prevent.

I say Peace is the natural outcome of adherence to the principles of Dignity, Justice and Community; others may disagree. But without those principles and priorities, we will inevitably be mired in war.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Community -- Building A Better Future

Community has been the basic human social unit for as long as there have been human beings. We may call community by different names, but at the foundation of all of them is the notion of a group formed and maintained for mutual interest and support. That's really all a community is.

The interests of the community are always in tension with the interests of the individual. That tension can be destructive as well as creative. The upshot, however, is the survival of the community whether or not the individual is so lucky. Often enough, however, communities are unable to survive the pressures on them from outside.

The United States has a deplorable reputation for the the destruction of pre-existing communities, whole cities, and even entire nations so as to be able to impose by main force and command a new community, city or nation more closely aligned with the interests of the United States of America. The destruction of what is in order to create what will be has been a hallmark of the American ethos since long before the establishment of the United States, and it has often been accomplished through extreme levels of violence, brutality and genocide.

Communities, whole cities, and even nations have disappeared under the not-so-gentle ministrations of American authority, only to be remade into something new and more compliant to the will of the USofA.

And yet a few pre-existing communities have managed to survive.

Climate Change -- Everyone is Noticing

And yet still, "nothing" is being done. Of course, "nothing" is not quite correct. A great deal is being done, if only through economic collapse and retrenchment, but whatever is being done is not enough to curb the climate change that has been under way for many years.

I suspect that "not enough" is being done because long ago, scientists determined that at best the period of climate change that we entered into 30 years ago or so could only be slightly mitigated through strategic reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, it could not be stopped or reversed.

No one has ever explained what "enough" would be, after all, "enough" to stop or reverse the change that's under way. What actually would have to be done?

No one will explain it, because it is not a pretty picture. Stopping or reversing climate change -- if it were possible at all -- would likely require a substantial reduction in human population around the globe. Like... I don't know... two-thirds reduction, or maybe even more. There is no way to do that... pleasantly.

It would require the survivors to live very simple lives in the few pockets of lush environment suitable for human habitat. Humans would have to vacate the rest or live so lightly on the land they would be barely perceptible.

In other words, it would require a return to a long-forgotten way of life for the survivors.

This fate may come no matter what, simply because the climate change that is under way, and which appears to be irreversible at this point, has already had and quite likely will continue to have increasingly catastrophic consequences, from earthquake, tsunami, violent storms, sea level rise, and so on.

One of the consequences is playing out in Japan right now with the unprecedented destruction of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant and the release of large amounts of radiation and radiation products into the nearby and global environment. Exactly what is going on is still something of a mystery, but recent reports indicate that the reactor cores have melted through their containments and into the earth beneath and have reached the water table, contaminating the water and releasing radioactive products into the environment, including into the ocean. So far as can be determined, it will be impossible to even begin to control this situation for another two years, and even then there are no guarantees that control will be effective. It will not, in any case, be permanent. Though something will be tried, in effect, "nothing" can be done.

How many other catastrophic situations have been routinized and regularized is hard to judge, but the levels of destruction from storms and earthquakes alone have been almost unprecedented. It's not simply a matter of unprecedented destruction, either. In addition to all the lives lost and the ruin left behind, there's been a growing resistance to rebuilding beyond the provision of temporary shelter for survivors -- if that. Sections of cities and whole cities are being abandoned, whether due to the consequences of storm and earthquake or due to man-made economic collapse.

Economic collapse and neo-liberal reconfiguration seem to be working in tandem with climate change and other natural catastrophes to reduce the human footprint bit by bit. In other words, what "can" be done is being done -- to the extent that anything is being done about climate change.

The complaints that "nothing" is being done or "not enough" is being done about climate change seem to revolve around the notion that there ought to be a united global initiative to tackle the issue, and there isn't one. The notion that all peoples everywhere around the world can or should be united in common purpose has long been a chimera, an unachievable -- and perhaps quite an undesirable -- goal of some people for many generations. It's never been realized and it is certainly not being realized now, certainly not under the umbrella of Climate Change.

And yet...

It seems that perhaps unconsciously, perhaps quite deliberately, our ruling elites have figured out what has to happen for their own protection if not for the benefit of anyone else. Their goal seems to be to make life as miserable as possible for as many people as possible, let them fight among themselves, and let them perish from the earth in the process. This will inevitably lead to the desirable outcome of a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions; surprise, surprise. While the climate change that is under way cannot be stopped or reversed in the short term, the comfort and convenience of the ruling elites can nevertheless be assured -- with enough money. Enclaves can be prepared and protected and the rich can be taken care of -- no matter what happens to the rest of humanity.

That seems to be what's taking place. It's a rather simple scheme.

The question is will it work? And for whom? And for how long?

Monday, September 2, 2013

On This Labor Day

A video sing along from Wisconsin:

An excerpt from "History of the American Working Class" by Anthony Bimba, revised edition, 1936
Recent tendencies, 1933 - 1936
The following main tendencies characterize this period:

(a) Inability of the ruling class to overcome the crisis.

(b) Contradictions in the ruling class over the uneven distribution of profits under the New Deal

(c) Disillusionment of large sections of workers, farmers and petty bourgeoisie with the Democratic and Republican parties, giving rise to the development of a Farmer-Labor Party movement

(d) The struggle for industrial unionism in the trade union movement

(e) Growing menace of fascism

(f) Inner crisis of the Socialist Party -- widening gulf between left-wing Militants and old-guard reactionaries

(g) The growth and influence of the Communist Party and the development of a movement for a united front.

The glowing promises of President Roosevelt to usher in prosperity through his New Deal did not materialize. The country still finds itself in the depression. The National Recovery Act has been ruled out by the decision of the United States Supreme Court which declared the N.R.A. unconstitutional for the simple reason that it was no longer needed by the uppermost strata of the ruling class. The N.R.A. had accomplished its mission. Prices had soared sky-high, the standard of living of the masses had been lowered, the profits of the big bankers, great corporations, and the trusts had been restored and greatly increased, the illusion of the workers that the N.R.A. guaranteed the right to organize and strike had begun to be dangerous. The Supreme Court had to act according to the wishes of the Bankers' Association and the Manufacturers' Association.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

The Roadblock

Interesting developments on the Syria Front. Indeed, it makes one wonder if there isn't some other game being played here than simply wars and distractions and palace intrigues.

The Obama campaign to send Sadda... erm, Assad a "message" ground to a halt as the week came to a close. The British Parliament had said "no" to Blighty involvement in the operation; Hollande in France said he was eager to participate, but the French People said "non!" The Saudis suddenly put on the brakes. Even the always belligerent Israelis were skeptical of a Syrian operation at this time...

Obama went before the cameras -- once the protestors were removed from beyond the West Wing of the White House -- and said he was still ever-so-firm and ever-so-resolute, and he would put the question of further actions against Sadda... err, Assad to a Congressional vote, and the Congressional leaders said, "OK, we'll get back to you after our vay-kay, mkay?"

Yeah. Right.

Something -- ooou my, what could it be -- occurred between the Kerry Speech on Thursday and the Obama Apparition in the Rose Garden on Friday Saturday. There was an intervention of some sort by someone.

The very kind of intervention, if I may be so bold, that I and many others longed for to put the brakes on the misbegotten Imperial adventures of the Bush/Cheney Regime. The very kind of intervention that never came.

But last week, at the last moment, Somebody Who Matters said, "No. We're not going to do this thing now, maybe not ever."


Who'd a thunk?

Of course many sabers were being rattled during the run up to the Aktion. Among them were Russian and Iranian sabers, direct threats to our client states of Israel and Saudi Arabia. If we were to "do" Syria -- at this time at any rate -- then there would be more than Hell to Pay, capice? Of course it's gangster business, but we've known that all along. The whole world has become a gangster world, hasn't it? Maybe it always was one.

Someone must have said, "You know, this could be serious."

Yes. Well.

So are all these Imperial aggressions. So are they all.

I guess we can return our focus to the NSA now.

Carry on.

Surely there will be a good story about Greenwald any minute now...

UPDATE:  This is what they're saying happened to forestall the Syrian Aktion. Make of it what you will.