Wednesday, January 30, 2013


The other day, the gunners descended on the New Mexico Capitol, the Roundhouse, and demanded that the legislature enact no more gun restrictions, no matter what. They pretty much got their way, too, as the committee considering a bill that would require background checks for all gun sales and transfers, including private ones between individuals, tabled the measure as it could not pass out of committee. The committee vote was tied, and at least for now, the measure is dead.

Meanwhile, the measure by secessionist Republican Nora Espinoza to make a felony of enforcement of Federal gun law in New Mexico doesn't seem to be going anywhere, although it is widely supported by gunners and it mirrors similar legislation introduced in Wyoming, Tennessee, Texas and so on.

The hot button notion of civil disarmament is hardly considered at all in New Mexico as the gunners really have the upper hand, and no one wants to cross them for fear of triggering something unpleasant. The implicit threat of mayhem from the gunners is, I believe, what has long prevented any sort of civil disarmament movement or legislation, and not just in New Mexico. It's nationwide.

When a member of Congress is shot down, as Gabby Giffords was in Arizona two years ago, and Congress fails to act at all on the matter of excessive gun violence in this country, you pretty much know they are in fear for their lives should they do anything to cross the gun fanatic community. The fact that a few are only now raising their voices and proposing legislative responses to the violence is hardly a badge of courage.

The idea that the excess of gun violence in this country is somehow protection from tyranny is one of the most absurd arguments there is, especially given the nearly complete abrogation of the other provisions of the Bill of Rights since the advent of the so-called Glorious Global War on (or of) Terror.

Tyranny in America -- though it may be "soft" at this point (well, depending) -- is a fact, and the gunners, for the most part eagerly support it now as they have from the outset. They aren't worried about preventing tyranny at all, they just want to be sure they are the ones to impose it.

And they're getting their way.

The excess of gun violence, in the United States which I have characterized as equivalent to that of a nation experiencing a civil war, is part of the process of tyrannizing the population: it's the tyranny of fear, fear of mayhem, chaos, random massacre and slaughter, fear of your neighbor, fear of strangers, fear of authority, fear piled upon fear. It is quite deliberate in my view.

More guns and more gunners simply leads to more fear and more violence. Guns pervade poor neighborhoods where often gun violence seems to be out of control -- and fear is rampant. Is it unintentional? I think not. The more fearful the downtrodden are, the easier they are to control. Yes?

The fact is, the High and the Mighty among us live in fear of gun violence just as everyone else does, but they believe they have the means to protect themselves from the random mayhem that afflicts everyone else. Barricades and armed guards and gate keepers and law usually keeps the gunners away from the rich and the powerful, but there have been exceptions. Oh, the assassination record shows there have been many enough exceptions, but the exceptions have typically been due to... strategic and ideological issues shall we say. Stray from the path of Righteousness and watch out...

Civil disarmament is another kettle of fish, to be sure, and it can't realistically take place until the civil war is ended. That may not happen in our lifetimes.

To end the civil war, either the combatants have to tire of the conflict or a faction has to declare or believe its victory.

The United States is the victim of an ongoing class war with many, many aspects, including the drug war. All of these aspects of the class war/civil war are meant to ensure that the People stay divided and thus more easily exploited and controlled. Random acts of murder, mayhem, and massacre certainly haven't hindered division and control of the masses, have they?

Consequently, though there will be continual hearings and debate over "gun rights" and "gun issues," I don't expect anything significant to be done. We are likely to stay on this path for another generation or two, simply because doing anything about gun violence can be destabilizing to those who benefit and profit from it...

The Senate Judiciary Committee hearing is about to begin... Gabby Giffords vs Wayne LaPierre. Fireworks are guaranteed, eh?

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Nest of Rebel PhDs

I was in a nest of PhDs yesterday, and noted something interesting: the comment was repeatedly made that one or another of them was "probably doing something illegal" by making their papers freely available to anyone who asked -- after they had been published in one of the scholarly journals.

"It's probably a violation of copyright, but I don't care," quoth one. They expressed nothing but dismay and contempt for the scholarly journals because the journals were preventing public access to published papers by charging outrageous fees to read them online ($35 is typical for one paper). But that wasn't all; they charged libraries outrageous subscription fees (a figure of $1,000,000 a year in aggregate paid by the university library was mentioned) for providing limited access to students and faculty. The library counters by opening to anyone. The public at large is always welcome.

They pointed out that practically all their research is funded by the public through the university or various agencies of the government, and it is completely unacceptable that the journals continue to maintain strict policies that prevent public access to the results of their research. A movement is afoot to bypass the journals (and therefore JSTOR which maintains a digital library of journals and published papers and also serves to prevent public access to it despite claims to the contrary). They are seeking to publish and make their papers freely available independent of the journals but say they are stymied for the time being by university expectations/requirements that they publish in "respected journals" -- which puts them right back where they started.

How far their rebellion will get is anyone's guess at this point, but I was glad to see there is an ongoing rebellion regarding public access to academic research and papers.

They never mentioned Aaron Swartz, but it was clear that their fury at the journals and JSTOR was no less than that of Swartz, and in their own way, they are doing what they can to subvert a system that actively prevents public access to their work.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Pondering the Local Mass Murder and What It's Done to the Gunners

Mug Shot of Nehemiah Griego, alleged local mass murderer

Let's be clear, New Mexico's culture is still very much linked to Times Gone By, including the romance of the Wild West period. People have guns, they shoot guns, and there are far too many shoot outs and shoot-em-ups in New Mexico for a sense of relaxation and ease. There is an edginess pretty much all the time. To put it mildly.

But the Griego Thing was and is something else again. It's partly because Greg Griego was so well known in town. This was not some random gang-banger nor was this an isolated incident of gun mayhem brought on by drugs or alcohol, longstanding feud -- or so far as anyone knows, abuse.

No, this was a very well-known and well-respected high profile Christian -- Born Again Christian -- household, the father a pastor, the mother a stay-at-home-homeschool-mom, the children (there were ten of them, I didn't realize, but most did not live at home) little angels. Angels, I tell you. Including Young Nehemiah, the confessed murderer.

Angels, the lot of them.

People have glommed on to violent video games as the possible culprit, the trigger shall we say, and apparently the uncle has been going around to the teevee shows blaming Young Nehemiah's 12 year old girlfriend for egging him on. Of course, the obvious issue was that there were accessible guns in the house.


Sure, if he was intent on murder, he might have taken a hammer or an axe -- or tied everybody up and burned the compound down around them for that matter. Those who insist that guns are not the issue will perform any acrobatic exercise necessary to divert attention from the proximate source or tool for the bloodshed.

There are plenty of curiosities and issues that may have been contributing factors, for example, Greg Griego's resignation/leave of absence from his position at the Calvary Church last year (for personal reasons...? What might they have been? Was it a resignation or a leave or something else?) His inability to find another job until he landed the overnight caretaker position at the homeless shelter... eh? "Find another job" when he was on leave? Financial problems ensued that left the family on edge and barely getting by so they say.

Wait. From appearances, this was not a poor family by any stretch of the imagination, and the whole issue of his leaving the Calvary pastor-ship might be worth exploring in a bit more depth. Nobody's talking. And appearances can be deceiving.

Why would the boy go to the church (with his girlfriend) after murdering his entire household and spend the day there while a workshop was underway about the topic of mass murder (oh my) and then attend services that evening as if nothing were wrong at all... and then rather casually mention to the security guard (or someone, accounts differ) at the church that his whole family was dead... well, that part of the family that lived at the Griego compound in the South Valley was dead at any rate.

The notion that the boy is not a Monster -- while he's behaving like an archetypical Teenaged Monster -- is peculiar. The girlfriend is being posited as if she were some sort of demon, in fact. She made him do it, don't you know. And she-the-demon would have led him to many more murders at the WalMart down the road (oh really?) if something hadn't intervened... the Hand of Divine Mercy, perhaps? Charge the Girl, for she is in league with the Devil. 12 years old. Demon spawn.

How is it that none of the rest of the family in or out of town was contacted by the boy?

On and on. This is a very strange story, but then what mass murder in recent times hasn't been?

According to sheriff's investigators, Young Nehemiah loved to play "Modern Warfare" and "Grand Theft Auto," both of which are considered to be desensitizing and conditioning games, ones that have been implicated in numerous killings, including some in New Mexico.

In fact, there is an eerie parallel between the Griego Murders and the Cody Posey Murders that took place at Sam Donaldson's ranch out of Roswell some years ago. In some ways they're practically identical. Cody Posey was 14 when he slaughtered his entire household with a gun back in 2004. Cody was released a couple of years ago, so I'm led to understand, after spending a relatively brief time in juvenile custody. He was said to be obsessed with playing "Grand Theft Auto." Police indicate that Young Nehemiah likewise enjoyed the bloody game which is said to give players higher points for head shots. All the Griego family members were said to have been shot in the head.

Of course, they differ, too, in that the Griego family did not experience divorce and remarriage, nor had Young Nehemiah's mother been killed in an auto accident (though supposedly, that's what Nehemiah said happened to her when he texted a picture of her dead body to his girl friend...) Though they lived in a semi-rural compound in Albuquerque's South Valley, they were not way out in the country, as there was a WalMart within easy driving distance -- a WalMart where the authorities say Young Nehemiah intended to kill many more before going out in a blaze of police gunfire... Cody didn't really have that opportunity if he had contemplated such a thing. So far as has been reported, neither Nehemiah nor any of the other children were abused by their parents, unlike Cody's situation -- which according to some reports was really kinky and violent.

Some of those who knew the Griego family said that video games were not allowed in the household, and even television viewing was severely restricted.

Yet apparently he had access according to the police. Was it through the Demon-Girl, perhaps?

(The internet defense of violent video games has reached epic proportions, but that's another issue for another day...)

Of course there have been many calls to curb the easy access to firearms that is so commonplace in the United States. At first, I thought the Griego household, like so many survivalist and apocalyptic households (and there is no indication at this point that the Griegos were survivalists/apocalyptics), had an arsenal that the boy had used for his murderous task, but apparently there were only two guns, a .22 rifle and one of those dandy AR-15's that seem to show up in mass murders so frequently. And of course, there was plenty of ammunition. Neither the weapons nor the ammunition were apparently kept under lock and key.

There has been much push back, however, from the gunner community and their reps in the state-house and congress, including one bill designed to prevent enforcement of any federal gun regulation within the state of New Mexico. Nice. The gunners' fear of losing their guns or easy access to more weaponry and ammunition runs high. In some sense, it's an irrational fear, but very little of the gun debate in this country is rational.

Authorities have been criticized for releasing too much information about the murders and the accused young man who is said to have confessed to the crimes. But what has happened has profoundly affected many thousands of 'Burquenos who knew the Griegos, as well as many thousands of others. These killings went right to the heart of the extended caring community in Albuquerque.

Unfortunately, the caring community is too often caught in the crossfire of the peculiar American obsession with personal firepower.

I've said before that the level of gun violence, murder and mayhem in the United States is equivalent to that of a nation experiencing a civil war, and in a way, that is what has been happening in this country for many years, a low-grade, constant civil war with many factions.

My answer has long been "civil disarmament" -- ie: strictly limiting the personal possession of firearms and ammunition among the civilian population for the duration. As desirable as that might be, however, it's not likely to happen so long as government in practice and in the abstract is so distrusted by such large segments of the population. It's not that many people have firearms to protect themselves from government tyranny, it's that they can't trust the government or the police to protect and defend them, or to act on their behalf in any manner.

There would have to be a real change in the level of trust in authority, and until there is, few of those who have weapons and arsenals would be willing to give them up.

Many people have guns because they feel they have to have them; often gun regulations or bans are seen as forms of punishment for "law abiding citizens." Households with guns are far more likely to experience gun violence, and from time to time, some of them will be victims of mass murder by one of their own members -- guaranteed.

But until it happens, they will be "law abiding..." won't they?

There are ways to change the situation, but it requires changing some of the power relationships that have become institutionalized. Doing that is not easy, especially not when certain powerful interests benefit so much from keeping things the way things are.

So long as they feel protected, murder and mayhem among the rest of us is just fine...

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

What We Forget About Martin Luther King -- Stumbling Against the Future

I watched parts of the Inauguration yesterday, and because it was also MLK Day, there were plenty of references to the legacy of Martin Luther King and the long and difficult struggle for civil rights for all in this country -- a struggle that continues, of course. Many inspirational words were offered in tribute.

Well. I've pondered -- and participated in -- the civil rights struggle for many a long year, and I cannot for the life of me understand why, after all these years of struggle, civil rights are still in jeopardy, perhaps more now than at any time since the institution of Jim Crow. The success of the movement has led to what?

For many Americans, it means taking for granted the civil rights and liberties at the foundation of the nation as belonging to all of us, not simply a favored few (as they did at the foundation of the nation.) But we find that taking these rights and liberties for granted has meant that they are once more jeopardized as voting rights, especially, are more and more restricted, and rights to privacy, fair trials and due process and so forth evaporate before our very eyes.

During the controversies over "non-violence" within the Occupy movement, I pointed out that rigidly following King and Gandhi in today's environment is bound to fail and for a very simple reason: Our Rulers have learned many lessons since the days of Indian Independence and the American Civil Rights Movement. They will not ever allow that kind of movement and resistance to succeed again. What they will do instead is infiltrate, co-opt and destroy if they can't use the means and methods of the King/Gandhi non-violence principles against the movement directly.

When I pointed out that many of those who were advocating strict adherence to King/Gandhi "non-violence" were actually advocating for the interests of Our Rulers against the interests of the People (I like to use the example of the use of Non-violent Communications by Our Rulers as one of their ways to employ "nonviolence" against the People -- as I was trained in Non-Violent Communications when I was a government employee, and I know all too well how it works...)  all hell would sometimes break loose.

The problem is not that the principles of non-violent resistance are necessarily wrong, it is that they no longer work in the context of modern, supposedly democratic, states, and when they are employed in People's Uprisings and Revolutions these days (and for quite a long time past when you think how long its been since the Soviet Union fell) they almost inevitably lead to a Neo-Con/Neo-Liberal victory.

And that is not what the People rose up to accomplish. Is it?

Both Gandhi and King understood that their use of nonviolent resistance was part of a larger strategy to undermine the power of and eventually force the capitulation of oppressive and intrinsically violent political systems. That overall strategy was not limited to nonviolent resistance campaigns by any means. In both India and the United States, sabotage and armed resistance were taking place simultaneously with non-violent campaigns. The eventual success of the non-violent campaigns was in part due to the presence of -- or the threat of -- violent revolutionary alternatives.

So often in the modern conception of 'non-violent resistance,' however, there is no alternative path; there is only The One, as codified not by Gandhi and King but by Gene Sharp, whose influence on the Color Revolutions of the '80's and '90's was significant. Their success, however, led -- in every case that I'm aware of -- to the establishment of a Neo-Con/Neo-Liberal regime which calls itself "Liberty."

"Liberty" for whom? To do what? This is something that Sharpian 'non-violence' advocates dast not answer, for many of them must know the truth: it leads to "liberty" for the predators to exploit and impoverish the masses.

Both Gandhi and King well understood that economic "liberty" as it was understood by the Ruling Class led directly to the impoverishment of the masses and enormous social destruction. They sought ways and means to counter that sort of "liberty" as they were pressing for independence in the case of India and civil rights and racial integration in the case of the United States.

Just being able to fly your own flag or to vote or to sit at a lunch counter was not enough. And they knew it.

Of course today there is little or no mention of the economic justice programs of Gandhi and King; after all, both were assassinated well before their campaigns for economic justice could even begin to overturn the corrupt and destructive systems they witnessed in their own time.

Gandhi's assassination may have had more to do with the political situation in newly independent India, but it seems clear enough that King's assassination was driven at least in part by his shift from a primary focus on civil and political rights to anti-war and economic justice campaigns that threatened the Powers That Be in ways they could not, at the time, accommodate.

King seemed to understand, too, that his shift of focus would further jeopardize his life.

The tragedy is that the legacies that might have been were violently cut short, and memories of what might have been have been suppressed, replaced with idealized images of what never really was.

King's final book was titled: "Where Do We Go From Here? Chaos or Community?" published in 1967. In it, he acknowledged the progress that had been made in securing political rights for Negroes (the term used in those days) but he clearly focused his attention on the fact that political rights by themselves did not lead to paradise, not by a long shot, and that promise of America would only be secured through the establishment of economic justice. 

Now more than ever, that clarion call from so long ago needs to be heard again, for every year, millions more Americans are forced into poverty, their hopes and dreams destroyed, their homes confiscated, their livelihoods vanished, their future gone. This is the cruel truth of the economic situation since the advent of the Perpetual Recession. The American poverty rate, once on the decline, has been skyrocketing, right along with homelessness and hunger, and for all intents and purposes, nothing is being done about it by the Government except to reinforce policies which ensure ever greater levels of poverty and suffering.

It doesn't have to be that way. It never had to be that way. The increasingly desperate situation so many Americans find themselves in could be reversed in a twinkling, too.

But we have a government that resists any policy solution to the increasing problem of poverty in America, that denies any positive ability to change things for the better, that no longer bothers even to talk a good line regarding the now seemingly permanent and scandalous unemployment problem, let alone providing any sort of household debt relief.

All of these issues could be addressed, should be addressed, and won't be addressed willingly by the Ruling Class -- which obviously is quite unbothered by the economic difficulties of the People, in fact, it seems to enjoy increasing the cruelties the People are made to suffer.

So long as that Ruling Class is lavished with the kinds of considerations, benefits, and literal welfare they receive (and believe is their right), and so long as their own debts are covered, why should they care about the sufferings of the masses? They don't and they won't.

Americans have not lived with this level of routine indifference to their plight by their representatives for generations, and it is not easy to grasp just how destructive current policies are.

King ultimately realized that social acceptance and political rights mean a great deal, but they can be eclipsed by failures to establish economic justice and by a perpetual war making machine. So it was near the end of his life, and so it is once again today.

It's a moral issue. It's the fundamental moral issue of our time.

As we stumble against the Future, we are called on to end the perpetual war making machine and establish economic justice for all. 

Monday, January 21, 2013

The Local Mass Murder

We were in town (Abq) yesterday to take care of an errand for a friend and to check out an exhibit at the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center (Zuni Map Art Project). We watched the films on Maria Martinez and Pablita Velarde after touring the rest of the exhibits, and when they finished we tried to follow the same path back to our starting point -- only to discover that the place was locked up tight and the lights were out. Oh, oh. We're locked in the museum. What shall we do? We took the elevator back downstairs where we thought we might find an available exit only to be confronted by a very nervous young guard.

"The museum is closed," he said grimly.

"Yes, apparently so. We're locked in."

He seemed confused. "The museum closes at 5:00p,"  he said gruffly.

"That's fine," I said. "We're trying to find a way out and we're not getting very far. Maybe you could help. What time is it now?"

"5:25. The museum closed at 5:00pm."

(Sigh.) "We were watching the videos. I thought I saw something that said the place was open till 5:30. Anyway, we still haven't found a way out."

He shook himself out of his befuddlement for a moment. "Oh. See this brown line on the floor?"

"Yes, of course."

"Just follow that till you reach the end of the room beyond which there is a set of stairs and an elevator. Go up to the first floor, then turn left, go through Governor's Hall and the Rotunda, and you'll see the exit doors."

We smiled.

"Here, I'll go with you to the stairs," he said. And he did. At this point, he actually became rather pleasant, though I thought he was still in a kind of daze at encountering us. No doubt he would have to fill out reams of paperwork...

The strangest thing, though. Or it seemed strange at the time. We had passed through this exhibit room originally, following the brown path on the floor, and there was no set of stairs or elevator or exit that we recalled... one went around in a sort of spiral instead, and came out at the point where one entered. There was no "back way." Except then I recalled the encounter we had with the docent before we began this historical exhibit. After explaining what the exhibit was about, he said, "When you get to the end, you'll come to a wall, and you'll think you can't go any farther, but... you'll see. Have a pleasant journey!"

And sure enough. There must have been a wall, but there wasn't one any more... and we climbed the stairs and emerged from the Underworld in a kind of replay of the Sipapu stories we've heard and were told, and we found our way back to the Upper World, and in some ways I'm kind of stunned at the whole experience. Something unusual happened.

We had dinner at Hazel's (El Bruno's) and then headed out of town, back to our place in the country. It was dark and there seemed to be a heightened amount of police action. Some of it seemed quite strange, but then, what do we know. Cruisers patrolling slowly with their flashing lights on -- sometimes sirens too -- drivers stopped (at random?) and so on. Were they looking for someone in particular?

At the time, we hadn't heard the news, so we didn't know about the murder spree in the South Valley the day or night before (I'm still not sure of the timing.) A pastor (who I believe we have met; his name is familiar, and his picture looks familiar, but I couldn't say we knew him), his wife and three of their children were murdered in their home -- by their surviving son, it would appear, using one of those assault rifles that gun nuts insist are benign and anyway they're not "assault rifles" so stop saying that.

Oh. Right here. Well, in the South Valley, which is part of Albuquerque and is considered a rougher part, [said to be] riven by gangs of young toughs and what have you, drugs and so forth, "the mean streets." [Having Goggled up the Griegos compound, however, I would definitely not characterize the area where they lived as anything but deluxe. It's semi-rural, and quite beautiful.] "Barrio" but not exactly "ghetto," but not the North Valley or Los Ranchos or -- damn -- Corrales, either, the areas of and near Abq where we tend to do the majority of our hanging out it would seem.

A mass murder, here, in Abq during the fury of the National Conversation we're having over Gun Violence, on Gun Appreciation Day, no less. People are seemingly getting shot all the time in Albuquerque, and the Po Po are under Justice Department investigation due to all the Police Involved Shootings that have been happening (a lot). But this was something else again.

The story that is emerging of what happened is very troubling, even in the context of American Mass Murder Culture.

It seems that a fifteen year old pastor's son, Nehemiah Griego, had been involved with some sort of paramilitary make believe -- whether derived from video games, who knows, for there are other sources of the paramilitary lifestyle and belief system, some of them closely related to apocalyptic endtimers. His household had collected an arsenal of weapons (here we go again), and something happened which caused young Nehemiah to go on a shooting rampage Saturday night, slaughtering his parents, his brother and his two young sisters, then calling Emergency Services. (One story says he told a friend what he had done, and his friend called Emergency Services, but whatever.)

It appears that the story wasn't known beyond the crime scene until well into Sunday, and it wasn't reported widely until Sunday afternoon when we were in the Underworld at the Pueblo Cultural Center... so we missed it.

The murdered pastor, Greg Griego, was the brother of Eric Griego, who ran against Michelle Lujan Grisham in the Democratic primary for the Congressional seat being vacated by Martin Heinrich who was running for Senate. Griego was actually my choice, but I couldn't vote in New Mexico at that time. Lujan Grisham won, sadly, and is now the Congressmember from my district. Heinrich won the Senate seat easily.

At this point, it becomes a very small-town kind of story because of all the interrelationships -- everybody knows everybody else, or knows of them, and there is hardly anyone in the region (including our own selves) who isn't touched in some way by this murder spree. It gets worse. Three of the Griego victims were children. One was two years old. Add that to the fact that one of the children killed at Sandy Hook, Emilie Parker,  was a recent Albuquerque resident... the sense of wrenching dislocation is profound.

How much longer can this sort of thing go on?

Too many Americans still see disarming the civilian population as a form of punishment, in part because of the way the right to keep and bear arms has historically been used to arm one segment of the population while disarming another. No matter the firearms bloodshed in this country -- the equivalent of casualties you'd see in a civil war -- we can't even mention civil disarmament because of its punishment factor.

Of course, there's more to it than that, especially since we can't really trust the police or the justice system to operate on behalf of the People.  Relations between the People and the Po Po are not as bad in Albuquerque as they are in Oakland, but I wouldn't say they're good, especially not among communities of color.

The toughs and the gangs and their guns are arrayed against one another for the most part, but then there are the survivalist and apocalyptic believers who've amassed their arsenals to ward off... exactly what? I don't know. If they're raptured, after all, none of it will matter. And if they're not, they're in the same boat with everyone else. They might want to consider cooperation and mutual aid before they turn their weapons on the others who are left behind.

The Griegos may or may not have fit into the "apocalyptic" gun cult, but there are apparently very may more of them than most of us realize. What triggered this mass murder, who can say? We never seem to know enough about them.

And "knowing about them" doesn't seem to stop the bloodshed in any case.

For some reason, all the hundreds of millions of firearms in this country don't seem to be preventing the imposition  of tyranny either. In fact, it sometimes seems as if the guns are the source of tyrannical rule ... how drole.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

On The Vietnam War Crimes Book

The chatter about Nick Turse's "Kill Anything That Moves" is sort of like an out of body experience in that there seems to be a belief abroad in the land that because of Powell and My Lai -- or something -- the government successfully covered up the many other atrocities and war crimes that characterized the Vietnam War and nobody knew what was going on over there.

Oh yes, we knew. The Vietnamese certainly knew as well. So did pretty much anybody around the world who bothered to pay attention.

We knew from the beginning that this was an atrocious, monstrous, vile thing going on in the jungles and on the riverbanks and in the rice paddies and in the cities of Vietnam, that it was criminally engaged in and chewing up thousands and thousands of Americans, and who knew how many Vietnamese (we couldn't find out the truth -- or anything close to it -- until after the war was over) in a slaughter and blood fest of gargantuan proportions, a campaign of almost unimaginable destruction and annihilation that seemed to go on forever.

We knew.

We even knew a lot of the details -- the many murders, rapes, and plunders that went unremarked on in the mainstream but were extensively reported in the alternative media of the day, "Ramparts" for example, or in "The Nation." We knew, too, because soldiers came back, broken and soul-destroyed, and told their stories, not just at "Winter Soldier" conclaves, but one by one, to families, friends, co-workers.

We knew.

We couldn't escape it.

Why do you think so many of us opposed this monstrous thing?

Of course not everybody did oppose it. And that's the key understanding about the Vietnam War and why it went on, despite the growing opposition, year in and year out with ever greater levels of crime and atrocity. In fact, most Americans did not opposed it at any time during the war, they applauded it. They cheered on the slaughter, the mayhem, the monstrousness of it all. As long as it was mostly Gooks getting their heads blown off and their nuts crushed, Yay! Americans loved that shit.

They still do.

To pretend that it went on -- and on and on -- because "we didn't know" is absurd. Of course we knew.

But many Americans who knew what was going on approved of it, heartily.

Killing The Other and taking their stuff -- or just killing and maiming them for sport -- after all, is as American as apple pie and motherhood. Vast ideological struggles don't enter in to it. It doesn't matter who the designated Other is or what they believe or where they are. What matters to many Americans is that they be exterminated and their goods and chattel seized. Period.

In other words, the crimes and atrocities in Vietnam -- which were no mysteries when they were going on -- weren't monstrous enough in the eyes of many Americans because the Gooks were still fighting back, they were still winning, and ultimately they won. And today they rule, and they are our best friends in Asia. Go figure.

Though it takes many fewer Americans in the various theaters and outposts of the Great and Glorious War on Terror, the crimes and atrocities of the Vietnam War are repeated on an even vaster -- and bloodier -- scale today. The wonder is not that it goes on, the wonder is that there is such muted opposition.

Of course Nixon's genius was to end the draft, not the war. Ending the draft pulled the rug out from the opposition to the Vietnam War, and once that was done, the thing could go on "quietly" in the background, and be ultimately be wound down and brought to a conclusion. The wonder too is that the Vietnamese "enemy" has never sought revenge for what was done to them.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

There's Your Trouble...


Until I saw the post over at Digby's Place, I wasn't aware of the active conspiracy theory about the Sandy Hook Massacre. I had no idea that MaoSatanHitler King Obama had staged the whole thing so as to enable the confiscation of your firearms (and mine, for that matter -- even though we gave away the guns we had before we moved [they were props, people, in shows we did...]), which is what all governments seek to do in order to establish tyranny; confiscate the guns first, then set up Socialism/Nazi/Commonist rule.

Now that I know it was all staged, and the whole point of it was to kill some kids to get the guns -- talk about Shock Doctrine, eh? -- I'm just gobsmacked.

Would they do this?

Of course they would. Eagerly and with bells on. The problem with the Conspiracy Theory in this case is that Our Rulers are not at all concerned about whether you and I have firearms, and they seem to enjoy the spectacles of the seemingly random massacres.

The massacres (always by Lone Gunmen, of course) are wonderful fear generators, aren't they?  

And always, despite the calls and the urge to Do Something about the slaughter, nothing is done. Haven't you noticed? When even a member of Congress is subject to the Lone Gunman Bloodfest and nothing is done about it then it should be obvious -- OBVIOUS -- that Our Rulers see benefit to themselves in continuing the slaughter and especially the threat of random slaughter among the common herd indefinitely.

Your guns will not be confiscated therefore. In fact, you'll be urged to get more of them as fast as you possibly can.

Even with HiltlerStalinObama's 23 Executive Orders on Gun Violence, we are unlikely to see a curb on the number of those who die by gunfire in this country, a number equivalent to that in a nation enduring civil war. And random slaughter will continue as long as it is useful.

And Conspiracy Theories will continue just as long as they are useful for keeping those susceptible to them ensnared.

Wheels within wheels, indeed.

Cranes! (Again....)

We had to go into town (Albuquerque again) the other afternoon and there was some time to kill after taking care of our errands, so we stopped by Old Town for a bit. As we were headed back to the Red Van, we passed a gallery showing mostly local and regional plein air paintings. We decided to go in to take a look around and walked out with a rather nice painting of Sandhill cranes at the Bosque, painted by Placitas artist Linda Heath.

When we headed back to our place, there were an uncounted number of cranes on the ground at the ranch nearby where we'd seen them before, only this time, the cranes and the cattle had traded places and the cattle were closer to the road than the birds. As we passed by, a small part of the flock rose into the air and flew low to the east.

Some time later, not more than a few minutes, as we were feeding the feral cats at our place,  we could see formations of cranes in the air low to the north. It seemed they were coming not just from the ranch up the road but from farther north as well, wave after wave of them, not unlike the exhilarating sight of them coming in for the night at the Bosque. 

Cranes by the hundreds passed over our place. It was almost as if they were using it as a landmark. Some formations turned east as they flew by, others continued on south in a straight line. When we were at the Bosque del Apache (maybe 80 miles south as the crane flies) in the evening during the Festival, cranes were arriving from both the north and the east, and we were wondering where they were coming from. We know now that at least some of the flock routinely comes up as far north as our place and even farther north during the day, but where the cranes on the east go or come from, we aren't sure.

As the cranes were flying and honking and calling to one another overhead, we could hear -- but not see -- someone on the ground honking and calling along with them. Was he mocking? Hard to say. The sight of these huge birds by the hundreds gliding so apparently effortlessly in the air can take your breath away. It's hard -- no, it's impossible -- to ignore. It's no wonder some people want to call and honk in unison with them, even if they are mocking the sounds the birds make.

Linda Heath's painting of cranes at the Bosque now hangs in the bedroom on the opposite side of the dresser from the mysterious painting of a solitary man walking by a log house in the moonlight and the snow -- a painting by an artist whose name we don't even know. That one has been one of our favorites for years.

Collecting art that calls out to us is one of our indulgences. We have acquired a good deal of Native art -- mostly pottery and jewelry -- over the years, and yesterday we purchased a necklace of turquoise and garnet and crystal from a very chatty and quite delightful Native (Tewa) jeweler from the Santo Domingo Pueblo on the Old Town Plaza. We realize we're very lucky to be able to do this, to be able to make these kinds of purchases basically on impulse. But we've also long felt an obligation that -- if we are able to do so financially -- we should be supporting (mostly) local artists by purchasing their works.

And so we do...

Friday, January 18, 2013

On Guns And Slaves And Indians and Militias And Oh My!

The Gun Rights issue is getting very heated in parts of New Mexico, and much of it is getting stupider by the minute. There was someone on the teevee the other day pontificating about how horrid the tyrannical Obama background check will be -- because it'll keep the "good people" from getting guns, you see, and then only the "bad people" will have them, eek. We're doomed. Again.

The Single Action Shooting Society people are pressing the locals to let them run their Shooting Ranch year round and open to the public instead of just members and guests, and the locals are up in arms about it (in a manner of speaking) given that the shooting events they hold at the Ranch as it is have raised something of a ruckus what with the constant pow-pow-pow of gunfire and the traffic and the costumed Wild West Characters and all the rest of it. It's a big deal, this Gun Thing.

In fact, on the way into town (Abq) yesterday on the highway, I spotted a billboard I'd never seen before demanding that local, state and federal governments protect rather than curtail rights to free speech, religion ...and guns.

What a country.

Yes, and guns are a big deal around here. It's genuine cowboy country (well, there are some poseurs, but mostly the cowboys in these parts are real cowboys, not the ersatz you see in the City), and the Code of the West still lives proud and strong. I've never seen any problem with the SASS and their costuming and play acting and shoot-em-ups, because from what I can tell, they're self-aware and honest enough to know that what they do at the Ranch is in the nature of a show and a hobby. They aren't going out shooting up one another or the countryside.

Some of our neighbors are active game hunters, others have been in the habit of varmint hunting, for varmints can be a real problem around here (ask me about the skunks sometime). But as I've said before, most of the people around here are highly conscientious and responsible. There are probably some crazy gun-nuts among them, but if there are, they keep their profiles low.

I'm not into guns personally. But I don't begrudge most people who keep and fire arms -- so long as they are conscientious and responsible. Unfortunately not everyone is or can be, and it only takes one man (rarely a woman) with bad intent and a gun to cause utter mayhem.

Thom Hartmann raised quite a ruckus himself the other day with his piece at Truthout asserting that the Sacred Second's purpose was to preserve slavery by prohibiting the federal government from interfering with slave revolt suppressing militias. He's been called every name in the book for making this outrageous assertion, even though most of those expressing outrage and calling him "dishonest" acknowledge that he's "partially right."

Of course he is. But it goes a little farther than the preservation of the peculiar institution. Militias were also charged with running down the Indians and slaughtering them.

I've written before that the Sacred Second is derived from the English Bill of Rights imposed on William and Mary in 1689. In the English Bill of Rights it is specifically stated that the King's subjects "that are Protestant" shall have the right to keep and bear arms appropriate to their status. What is left unsaid is that the King's subjects that are Catholic are to be disarmed -- regardless of their status. Just so, the Sacred Second itself did not apply to slaves, to Indians not taxed, or to anyone else so deemed unworthy to keep and bear by the states. The armed militias were organized to suppress -- to murder if need be -- these groups, after all.

And in some ways, that's the reason why the Second is so Sacred. The right to keep and bear arms is the emblem of those with the ability and sometimes the authority to oppress, or in the USofA, the right of the Free Citizen, and taking it away, or even limiting it in any sensible way, is seen as reducing the status of the Citizen to that of subject or outcast or worse.

In other words, there the Rule of the Second requires that someone be disarmed.

The right to keep and bear arms was denied to large numbers of Americans from the beginning, and even now, it is not by any means a universal right (nor should it be in my view.)

But restricting it is a terrifying thing to many of those who believe their ability to have and keep firearms is a mark of their humanity and citizenship.

Take away their guns, or make it more difficult for them to get armaments, and you have reduced them to the status of subjects -- or slaves.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Free Platinum! (Or, The Coin That Wouldn't Die)

Back in the Day, c. 1896
My grandfather was born about the time that the Free Silver movement got under way, and my father was born at the tail end of it. So Free Silver lasted about a generation, and it never seemed to accomplish its aims.

Nevertheless, it got unanticipated results, many of which are with us today.  The Fed, for example...

I doubt that many of the Platinum Coin enthusiasts know -- or care -- much about the Free Silver movement after the Civil War (from about 1873 up to about 1900), but it was a very high profile populist effort that ultimately involved the Democratic Party and Democratic presidential candidate William Jennings Bryan, whose "Cross of Gold" speech of 1896 remains one of the most important American political speeches of all time.

So far, the Platinum Coin effort hasn't produced anything close to the populist fervor of the Free Silver Movement, or anything like the eloquence of William Jennings Bryan, nor has it even begun to generate  a populist movement itself, primarily -- I'd say -- because it is a fairly esoteric strategy discussion confined to portions of the internet and television "news."  It could turn into a populist crusade, but it hasn't yet.

Much as happened with the Free Silver Movement, the Platinum Coin effort might lead to completely unforeseen and unintended consequences for good or ill.

When I was first learning about Free Silver, I did not understand it at all. It seemed to make no sense. At the time I was first hearing about it, sometime in the 1960's, silver coins of all denominations and genuine silver dollars were still in circulation, and I had a few silver dollars, some of them minted between 1879 and 1900, and from that evidence, it seemed to me that silver was being coined extensively throughout the period of the Free Silver movement, just as the Silverites were demanding.

But it wasn't so. In fact, there was far less coinage of silver during the period of the Free Silver movement than advocates were demanding. The situation was not unlike the current economic and financial conditions in which a handful of hyper-wealthy individuals and their chosen financial institutions have almost complete control of the economy and can exploit and prey upon any population segment they choose.

Through their control of the economy, they also control the government.

The People have little or no say in policy decisions affecting them.

Americans seem to have little or no understanding of the circumstances of most Americans' lives during the Post Civil War period. I don't claim to understand it completely myself, but what I do know is that most Americans at the time were barely getting by if they were doing well (enough), and many were not doing well at all.

Bluntly, this was a Third World country -- with a Frontier. The Frontier made a number of things possible: nearly endless natural resources for extraordinary exploitation at very little cost; somewhere for people who were not making it in the city to go and try their luck on the land; convenient dumping grounds for all sorts of experimental, marginal and rejected people and ideas. Oh yes, and "freedom" -- which in the case of the Frontier too often meant liberty to slaughter humans and animals at will.

Without the Frontier, the pressure of the economic exploitation of the 19th century corporate class would have likely led to continuous revolt and revolution; as it was, the People endured a lot of suffering and bloodshed as part of the constant -- and very violent -- efforts of the Overclass to suppress popular movements and uprisings which were ongoing throughout the period.

By the end of the 19th century, the Frontier was officially "closed." There was no longer that particular outlet for discontent on the one hand and extensive "free" exploitation of resources on the other. Yet even while there was an apparently open Frontier, the American People were heavily burdened by debt and by constant economic boom and bust cycles that put millions of Americans in economic and physical peril.

The Free Silver movement was intended to relieve some of the debt that kept so many American bound and in poverty, particularly farmers, and it was hoped that Free Silver would begin to tame the wild fluctuations in the economy that had raised up a few to enormous wealth and left most in poverty and misery. Ultimately, it was even believed that Free Silver would be the mechanism by which the government would finally be put in the hands of the People themselves rather than solely functioning on behalf of financiers and corporate interests who owned and controlled it.

Free Silver was never successful directly, and yet, in a way no one anticipated, many of its objectives were achieved indirectly, at least for a while.

Free Silver was  one of the many elements of 19th century Populism, a phase of American political history that is not well understood, and which is often confused with the rise of Progressivism.

Progressivism, rather than being a populist political movement, was a reaction against the rising tide of populism in the 19th century, and it arose out of a mostly Republican and corporatist framework. Rather than continuing to battle the People and Populism, the Progressives saw that the way forward was to adopt some of the elements and demands of the Populists, adapt others, and ensure that a technocratic class of experts would be charged with governing on behalf of "what is best."

Free Silver was deemed not to be "best," and instead a complete overhaul of the financial and monetary system was undertaken which resulted in the establishment of the Federal Reserve among many other changes, efforts undertaken in reaction to the ever worsening cycles of boom and bust and the social and political dislocations and disruptions they caused.

The Frontier was closed, immigration was restricted, worker protections began to be implemented among many other changes.

Free Silver was never adopted, but when the Sherman Silver Purchase program got under way, coincidentally the economy promptly went into a tailspin (the Panic of 1893), which was the worst economic depression the nation had experienced up till then. It was a traumatic event. Some Americans blamed the adoption of some Silverite demands for the Panic and the subsequent depression, and this belief led to the widespread rejection of Populist and Free Silver economic demands. That in turn left a wide opening for the acceptance of Progressivism as an alternative.

All of which led to many intended and unintended consequences.

The Platinum Coin hasn't reached the level of popular interest and advocacy that the Free Silver movement did, and it may never reach that level. It may not have to. By breaking the thrall of the financial interests -- at least for a moment -- that own and control the government, by pointing out that there are viable alternatives in the economic and political spheres, that bold action to change the situation on behalf of the People is possible, the Platinum Coin has the potential to open up a wide range of alternatives for consideration.

The Coin itself may never be minted -- and it may never have to be. An alternative more like the advent of Progressivism may well arise, providing some of the relief sought by advocates of The Coin, but leading ultimately in another direction.

If the Debt Limit issue is allowed reach international crisis levels, we may be surprised at what is done... May be sooner than we think, too.


Sand Hill Cranes just down the road...

While we were coming back home from taking care of some errands we said we'd do for a friend up by San Antonito, we spied what looked like a good sized flock of Sand Hill Cranes in the stubble field of a ranch just down the road from our place. Sure enough, when we turned around and took a look, there were hundreds of them, taking the sun, playing, enjoying themselves at ease on a bright, cold day.

We see them flying overhead, often in flocks of 30-50 or more, every day, and we knew they had to be landing fairly nearby, but this was the first time we have seen them on the ground in our area. And so many of them!

Tuesday, January 15, 2013


Snow cold

We're supposed to go into town today ("town" being Albuquerque in this case) to get some tests done at the med center, pick up some medications, take care of some errands, and possibly attend a literary event for the author of "The Feminist and the Cowboy" this evening, but when I woke up this morning, I noted a distinct chill in the air -- despite the fact that the heat was on at its usual 68°.

Something must have happened.

Looking outside, the snow is glittering brightly in the morning sun. It's gorgeous, but...

We had a fair amount of snow yesterday, enough to make a small snowman in the front which was fun. It wasn't all that cold, maybe in the high 20's or so, and there wasn't a lot of snow and ice build up to deal with on the roads. The prediction was that temps would drop into the high single digits overnight, so we took the usual precautions against frozen pipes and such and went to bed.

Well, the hot water pipe is frozen in the bathroom, even though (we thought) we left a trickle flowing through the pipes overnight (there's still hot water in the kitchen; it's usually the other way around when we go through a Big Freeze). When I checked the temp on the internets a few minutes ago, it was -6°. Yikes.

That cold a temperature was not expected. We're getting used to the fact that weather predictions in New Mexico are rarely on the mark, especially with regard to timing of weather events and temperatures -- whether hot or cold.

We're not used to such bitterly cold temperatures, however, and the fact that there will probably be a good deal of ice on the roads today and tonight may make us rethink our planned expedition and postpone it till things warm up a little bit.

It's one of the less familiar balancing acts we're becoming accustomed to out here on the Frontier... 

[More about that Frontier in due time.]

Monday, January 14, 2013

The Rise and Fall of The Coin

It's been kind of fun to follow the internet Coin Frenzy. "Mint the Coin!" screams Paul Krugman and a surprising number of others, none of whom have seats at the table, go right along. They might not have seats at the table, but they do have a presence on the InterTubes, and that's pretty much all that's necessary for Blogger Triumphalism to take hold. Let the Par-tay commence! Yay!

The Coin! Mint The Coin! Now! Bugger all, Mint The Coin!

This Coin Business has been a fiery frenzy to be sure, one that was doused over the weekend by the unequivocal pronouncement from the very White House that there would be no Coin, periodendofdiscussion, find something else to rave about you Hippies. Punch.

The dousing was announced by none other than Young Ezra, preparing the way as it were, for the final elimination of the Coin Option for dealing with the Debt Limit, and at least in theory for dealing with the debt itself, forever and ever amen.

I'm no expert in these matters (please), but it seemed that the MMT People, the Cult if you will (all of economics seems to be filled with cultists, hucksters, grifters and con artists, much like the rest of the workaday world), got this big idea that because there was this recurring problem regarding The National Debt and the Debt Limit Crisis, the workaround was to mint a $1T or even a $60T platinum Coin that would take care of it once and for all. Hah hah. The theory being that because the United States is monetarily sovereign, the government can issue money in any amount and pay its bills with that money in any amount, without incurring debt; it's almost Magic. The Debt and recurring Debt Crises are all illusions.

Yes, well...

The Coin was to be the specific workaround for the problem of the Debt Limit: simply mint a platinum coin in a high enough denomination and deposit it at the Fed, and the Debt Limit is wiped out, the Debt along with it if so desired. In addition, the hostage taking by the radical reactionaries in Congress is thereby thwarted. Won-der-ful! An end to these manufactured Debt crises is a situation devoutly to be wished, né? If The Coin would do it, then why not do it? Yes?

Well, the answer was no.

A very, very firm NO! Way!

Sigh. Oh, too bad, so sad, no Coin, not even an alternative workaround. Nope. Na gah happen.

No workaround of any kind, not even the Constitutional option of the 14th Amendment.

What is this telling us? What is the Message Being Sent by these pronouncements from On High?

I watched a bit of one of the Sunday Shows yesterday during which The Coin and its demise were smirkingly discussed, and it looked like a bit of pure Hippie Punching done for the hell of it. According to the pundits, there was never any chance that The Coin would be minted or that there would be any workaround to the Debt Limit, and all the hype and hollering over it was nothing but Internet nonsense, don't you see. It's the same thing as the Free Silver hooey of the late 19th Century, an idée fixe sold as a "solution" to a problem that is so very much more complex. There is no single "solution."

The Coin was just silly.

Well, yes. The Message Being Sent is that the United States is bound by its obligations to the Global Financial Community -- to that diminishing handful of the masters of international finance. This has always been so and it will remain so forever.  Sometimes the United States is a player, sometimes the United States is played, but always, the Untied States is tied, bound in fact, to the needs and desires of the financiers and there can never be any escape. Ever.

The People can rally and rage all they want about it, it makes no difference. The People cannot escape any more than the US government can; the best the People can do (and this includes  people on the Internet) is to raise issues and discuss them among themselves. Argue away! The High and the Mighty have other priorities.

The Coin was just like Free Silver, or Single Payer, or any of the other populist fantasies, something that is not going to happen, but something to keep those parts of the public who glommed on to them fixated, amused and/or entertained.

Something, in other words, was better than nothing.

I'm all for entertainment, but the Triumphalists were braying mostly about the success of the marketing campaign that got Coin Placement in ever so many outlets. Straight out of Bernays. Of course there was apparently no object besides "placement." Maybe in 50 or 100 years there might be a glimmer of acceptance of The Coin Option at the top of the heap, but for now, it's enough to get the idea out there.

Well, when everything is reduced to marketing and triumphalism requires nothing more than "placement" -- ie: people hearing about it (whatever it is) -- then we're not really getting anywhere. 50 or 100 years in the future maybe there will be some sort of denoument, but there would be one anyway, for the course of events, with or without the earlier marketing campaign for this or that product, would quite naturally lead to... something.

Ultimately The Coin was never a serious option. It was never meant to be. It was a marketing ploy. In a certain sense, it was a con meant to get the meme "out there"  and meant to get the attention of the Highest and the Mightiest, and it's "success" was measured by the vehemence of the White House beat down of it.

Wheels within wheels is putting it mildly.

Unfortunately, we're going to have to go through an extended series of these meme marketing efforts before something actually takes hold.

Friday, January 11, 2013

The Problem With Borosage, He Say

In his widely touted "Budget Bedlam" piece over at Campaign for America's Future, Bob Borosage has written the kind of piece that roils the waters but confuses the issues in such a way that one can be certain that nothing will be done. Apart from relentlessly pointing out the obvious, he provides no real prescription for action -- almost as if he might not want anything to be done about the "bedlam" except continuation of the argument.

His bullet points are self evident:

  • 1. The economy is still broken. 

  • But let's be clear. Broken for whom? Stipulate that the economy is not working to the advantage of the those whose incomes are derived from their labor, but isn't that how it is designed? And don't the policies of the government since the outset of the Perpetual Recession all those years ago ensure that workers' incomes will continue to fall, middle class wealth will continue to erode and evaporate, and unemployment will continue to be scandalously high essentially "forever?" But if this situation is maintained by policy, doesn't the economy work just fine for someone or some class of someones? Of course it does. The economy is working just fine for what's commonly known as the Rentier Class, the exploiters, predators, looters and plunderers who have amassed ever greater portfolios of assets and resource control as the middle and working classes have seen their assets (if they had any) stripped and natural resources have been plundered at an ever greater rate. The economy "works" for those at the top of the heap better than it ever has, something Borosage and his ilk are loathe to admit.

  • 2. You can't "fix the debt" without fixing the economy.

  • Oh? Is there someone who wants to "fix the debt?" Or is there someone using "Fix the Debt" as a marketing slogan for a cabal of bazillionaires intent on ensuring their perpetual low taxation and their looting and plunder? By now, isn't it obvious that The Debt is NOT the real issue? Perhaps it's time to acknowledge that Nobody Who Matters cares a whit about The Debt; what they care about, really care about, is that their ability to loot and plunder and accumulate assets not be interfered with in any way and that their tax burden not be adjusted upward unless every dime of such adjustment is distributed at the Top. Again, nobody Who Matters cares about The Debt. Going into perpetual debt (as the United States Government has been doing) is not The Problem. The Problem is Who Pays and Who Benefits. As long as the working and middle classes, as well as the non-working parasites and drones, are benefiting but not paying the majority of taxes to pay for their benefits there will be pitiful complaints about The Debt and attempts to bamboozle the rest of us to "do something" about it. The economy works just fine for the High and the Mighty; it doesn't need fixing. What's being demanded is that the Low and the Miserable pay for everything -- including The Debt.

  • 3. You can't fix the economy by "fixing the debt."

  • Again, whose economy for what purpose? The point of all the yowling about The Debt is ultimately to shift the burden of carrying The Debt onto the already groaning shoulders of the working and middle classes and to eliminate insofar as possible the benefits said classes derive from shouldering a substantial portion of the burden. Look at Europe or anywhere that neo-liberal policies are being or have been implemented with a vengeance. The whole point of the neo-liberal program is to ensure the betterment of the High and the Mighty and to diminish the potential for the Lesser People to rise -- or do anything about it.

  • 4. You can't "recover" to the old economy.

  • This is the tell to me that Borosage and his outfit exist to keep the "left" as tame as possible while the looting and plunder by their Betters continue unmolested. This is as pure a statement of the necessity for economic "restructuring" -- ie: redistribution toward the top -- as any I've seen in the ::Left-o-Sphere::. Most of those who think about these things and practically all of those who are acting on the "left" have no interest in recovering to the old economy of bubbles, boom, bust and recovery to the top.

    Restructuring by redistribution from the top is part of what's required, but getting off the bubble, boom, bust cycle is even more important. Renovating infrastructure is all well and good, but to what object? To address climate change? Really? How so? Describe it. Unfortunately, Borosage and most of his colleagues write dandy platitudes, but when it comes to specificity, they grow mute. It's not that they don't have ideas, they do. Their muteness is due, in my view, to the fact that their ideas either support the return to a bubble economy, or they support redistribution to the top. In other words, recovery to the old economy, with a slightly improved sense of responsibility.

  • 5. You can’t build by focusing on what to dismantle.

  • What does that even mean? Building and dismantling are two distinct functions, but sometimes dismantling is necessary before the rebuilding can commence or sometimes they need to happen simultaneously. It's possible to do both at once.

    "Rebuilding the middle class" is almost meaningless as well. It's a political slogan, but what constitutes "rebuilding" in the case of the middle class? Borosage doesn't say. What he does say is "rebuild infrastructure." How that rebuilds the middle class is left to the imagination.We can fill in the blanks and connect the dots if we want, but when we do, we're right back where we started from, a restoration of the status quo ante (with a somewhat greater sense of social responsibility), which can be practically guaranteed to get us to where we are today.  This is not what we really need. But if the goal is to rebuild the middle class as it was (more or less) during the '50's and '60's, we're going to wind up in the same pickle.

    How about reconception? Dismantle and build at the same time?

  • 6. Washington needs more Hippocrates and less hypocrisy.

  • Really? And what's that supposed to mean? Get rid of politicians and substitute technocrats? That's what it says to me. We need a different kind of politics to be sure, but the technocratic solution, the top-down authoritarian response that is destroying social, economic and political systems all over the world in order to substitute the neo-lberal theology/ideology of redistribution to the top. It's always sold as being good for the People in the long run.

    The political system is broken in part because it cannot be responsive to -- or responsible to -- the People except in the abstract. It is fully captured and beholden to a handful of increasingly irresponsible billonaires who simply don't care what happens to the People -- when they're not being intentionally cruel just for the hell of it.

    It's useless to say what the government should be doing -- we know what should be done. We also know it can't be done by this government under the current political and electoral rules. We need systemic reform, and that's not going to happen so long as the focus is on trying to make a broken system "do the right thing."

  • 7. Focus on the predators not the prey.

  • This means what? In the Borosage world, it means focusing on cutting back health care costs. Really. While I would never be one to assert that the health care field isn't full of predators, that's not what he's getting at. He wants systemic reform of health care costs to bring down the debt. 

    "The Debt" is a marketing slogan, a con in other words, wielded for whatever slight of hand is necessary to continue the looting and pillage without interference. The predators are the ones who profit from the looting, and for the most part they are not the health care professionals that will face cuts -- in staffing levels and salaries -- which are already taking place in an effort to keep healthcare costs down in order to enhance profits.

    Anytime someone talks about reducing health care costs, what they are generally talking about is restricting access, limiting treatments, reducing staff levels, reducing salaries and payments, increasing co-pays and so on.

    The focus needs to be on improving care, access to care, and utilizing preventative care. Most of all, we need a single payer health care system modeled on those already in operation.

    Borosage is someone who really wants to preserve the status quo in the short term and revert to the status quo ante (pre-2008) over the long term. The status quo cannot be preserved in the face of the successful ideological/theological economic revolution of the neo-libs. What we need is something else again, something better, not a restoration of what used to be.

    Then There's This -- Survival Under Nuclear Attack

    I remember seeing this one back in the day, probably in elementary school, probably around 1953 or 1954.

    People like Rummy and Darth were convinced that nuclear war was quite survivable, and they seemed always eager to test their thesis. I think movies like this were part of what convinced them that there was a way.

    Thursday, January 10, 2013

    That Bee Eater Rhee Business

    Watch The Education of Michelle Rhee on PBS. See more from FRONTLINE.

    [Was meaning to get this posted yesterday but ran into time issues...]

    Michelle Rhee is widely regarded as a grifter and con artist among segments of the educational community.

    Her tenure as the DC public schools chancellor was tumultuous and divisive. This Frontline episode gets in to the tumult and divisiveness, but it barely explores the upshot of her brief sojourn in DC: becoming a national political player through her lobbying outfit, "StudentsFirst," which is closely aligned with the public school privatization efforts underwritten by the likes of the Arnolds and the Kochs and others of their ilk.  It may or may not be of interest that she is married to one of the headliners of public school privatization, former NBA player and current Sacramento, California, mayor Kevin Johnson. His St. HOPE and other charter school efforts remain deeply divisive in his own home town.

    Though I have never encountered La Rhee myownself, I have had some dealings with KJ, and I would say "grifter" and/or "con man" is something of an understatement. What makes it kind of weird, though, is that it's not because he doesn't provide any value from his end, it's more because the way he sees it, everything is a Deal, and the Deal is his ostensible reason for being.

    He seems to have conned a lot of people into doing things that they otherwise might not and somehow he winds up with lots of money in his pocket in the end -- or in the cash box of one of his innumerable for- and non-profit enterprises -- and that makes him happy. Well, judging by his overly toothy grin anyway.

    I notice La Rhee has the same sort of massive-toothed grin -- when she gets her way. When she doesn't, oh dear... pout...

    From the indications in the Frontline piece, Rhee is in it for the Power, and if it looks like her wings are going to be clipped, she's out. Buh. Bye. For her it's not so much the money, it's the control of the money, what she can do with the money. Her tenure in DC was tumultuous because she was high-handed, obsessive, intentionally cruel.... and often wrong. This last barely comes through in the Frontline piece, but while she claims huge gains in student achievement as measured by test scores when she was cracking the whip, in fact, it appears that while there were gains, they were modest at best, and the "massive" gains were bogus, either through direct manipulations of the test scores (which hasn't been officially proved) or some other means. Once security protocols were in place which limited or eliminated the possibility of cheating, test scores fell to more likely and modest levels.

    In other words, the gains she touted under her strict -- and some would say demonic -- rule were actually quite small and might have been achieved through other,  more humane, ways.

    Her educational theories might be relatively reasonable or they might have been naive or crackpot, but it is her personal hostility and utter lack of human compassion, as demonstrated by her treatment of DC school employees, as well as students, officials, and the People of DC, that primarily put her at odds with practically everyone in DC and got her out on her ass in the end.

    She defends her cruelty in much the same way that the usual neo-liberal suspects do -- as something necessary for the Revolution they espouse. It is a revolution of privatization more than anything.

    Rhee uses the rhetoric of Revolution proudly -- as do many neo-liberal ideologues -- but it seems to have missed the notice of many observers and commentators. Or if they notice, they tend to like it. Perhaps in the end, they might profit or be able to wield immense arbitrary power over others, even the power of life and death if they play their cards right. This sort of power or the money that makes it possible is intoxicating. A Revolution that is going to give you that -- or that you believe will -- is hard to resist. It's a very different animal than a People's Revolution as conceived in the many resistance movements around the world that seek to better the human condition for everyone.

    As for public education... it is a battle ground, isn't it? And so it has been for nearly all of its existence in this country. Public education has been deeply resented, feared, denounced, and often interfered with by a vocal and sometimes very powerful minority throughout its history. I'm a product of California public education primarily in the 1950's and 1960's, during a period of extreme expansion and the accompanying growing pains, and any honest assessment would acknowledge both good an bad in kind of education we received. The major benefit of the kind of education I received is that I learned how to learn. It's not something that seems to be taught any more.

    But public education in my day was fraught with fads and propaganda and all sorts of nonsense, including infamous episodes of witch hunting and Red baiting, and of course toward the very end of my high school days, it was fraught with student rebellion which ultimately led to street battles with Authority and all the social and cultural upheaval the '60's are notorious for.

    Much of the information we were fed was straight-out propaganda about America The Wonderful, including many lies and distortions about American history and the Evils of Communist Russia. The truth, or something like it, would come out eventually, because it was still possible to learn how to learn, and primary research could still be undertaken with few restrictions.

    Schools were not prisons in those days and they were not run like prisons. One didn't feel oppressed in school -- at least I didn't. One wasn't surrounded by suspicion, searches, surveillance, armed guards, high fencing, razor wire, locked gates, intricate permissions and so on. "Security" was barely thought of.

    Despite a media obsession with Juvenile Delinquents (it was intense), there was actually very little of what we were supposed to be so very afraid of -- Youth Running Wild In the Streets, gangs of Young Toughs, and all the rest of it. There were Toughs, yes, and there were nascent Gangs, but they were rarely if ever what they were made out to be in the hyperventilations of the media of the era. "Style" is not the same thing as "action." A hair do is not a gang fight.

    On the other hand, one wasn't treated like a Precious Treasure by parents or school authority. Far from it. There were certain general expectations of both behavior and educational accomplishment. Failure to meet them could be and sometimes was harshly punished -- though not necessarily physically.

    The social melieu was that of the aftermath of the Depression and World War II; it was still highly, some would say rigidly, militarized, organized, and characterized by enforced conformity. Physical punishment wasn't typically necessary under the circumstances. Psychological persuasion was quite effective in enforcing a certain level of adherence to social and cultural norms.

    One thing to keep in mind is that the differently abled were not necessarily accommodated in public schools at all. Sometimes they were, but it was rare. There was a separate and not necessarily equal system for the blind and the deaf and the crippled and the defective (as they were known in those days).

    Schools were not necessarily racially integrated, either. Sometimes they were (such as some of the elementary schools I went to), but often they weren't. In the South, of course, racial integration was a huge and divisive issue, but it also affected public schools in the North and West, and it's not wise to pretend otherwise. There were riots over it, and not just in the South.

    There were private schools, primarily Catholic. I don't recall anything about them until I was in high school, and they didn't seem to be all that different -- except that nuns taught the classes, and students had to do certain religious rites and rituals during the school day. No big. I heard about corporal punishment in Catholic schools, but no one I knew ever reported being subjected to it.

    I'm one of those who claims that public education promptly went to shit after my high school class graduated. It's not so far from the truth, either, because Ronald Reagan was elected governor of California the year I graduated, and he set his people to work transforming and undermining public education (which he was politically opposed to in any case) as soon as he was inaugurated. His vow was to crush the student rebellions then under way and to make them impossible ever again in the future.


    Here we are, eh?

    Of course Rhee and KJ and all the rest of the Edumacation Reformationists (ie: those neo-libs intent on privatization) are too young to know anything about this. They are the product  of the period after the transformations of public education put in motion by Reagan. What they believe is what they were taught after the Reagan Revolution.  One of the intentions of the Reagan Revolution was to destroy public education.

    Oh yes.

    So. They have nearly accomplished their goal, and if Rhee's "StudentsFirst" lobbying outfit is successful, it will mean the final end of what we used to think of as "public education" in this country.

    If they had something decent to replace it with, I might have a better opinion of the effort, but they don't, so I don't.

    Grifters and con-artists rarely offer anything better, do they?

    [When I get some time, I may add some additional links...]

    Tuesday, January 8, 2013

    Note on a Friend

    A friend here in New Mexico has been enduring a health crisis for months now. She's been in the hospital with a blood clot that was discovered last Friday during pre-op for a hip replacement. Needless to say, her hip replacement is on hold.

    She's on Medicare and has been through the usual series of frustrations, delays, incompetence and lack of communications that have long characterized American health care, and at this point, she's just beat. She's been barely able to walk since Thanksgiving when she was hospitalized the first time with these issues. Complicating the situation with her disintegrated hip joint is sciatica in her other leg, making it almost impossible for her to sit for more than a few minutes, let alone to lie down. She wasn't treated for that until she absolutely demanded that something be done. She's been in pain and misery almost constantly.

    She was looking forward to hip replacement as she at least would be able to walk again, but because of the blood clot in her leg, they couldn't do it. She'll need to be on blood thinners for at least a couple of months, then off of them for at least a month before they can do any surgery, and it may well be longer -- much longer. She said that at least in the hospital she could sleep better than she could at home.

    It's a sad and aggravating situation -- for our friend most of all, but for her family and friends as well. She's not alone, thank goodness, as she has family in town and friends throughout the area, but she's lived alone and has been independent for most of her adult life, and being dependent on others as she has to be now is driving her nuts. That and the pain and the frustration and being unable to walk more than a few steps at a time.

    We're helping out as we can. It isn't all that much, but it's something. We've been through this kind of thing our own selves and taking care of another, so it's not all that unfamiliar. You go into a kind of auto-response of "Oh, this is what you do, this is how you get through it, etc." It's surprising how easy it is to slip back into that routine. Or maybe it's hard-wired.

    At any rate, it's taking a good deal of our time, so posting may be light for a while.

    Another cliff looms...

    Monday, January 7, 2013

    I'm Old Enough to Remember When They Were Panicking About the Young

    American Bandstand was on the teevee every afternoon; it was, all by itself, creating a generation of Juvenile Delinquents!

    Damb, I'm old enough to remember JDs and DA haircuts and all the panic and fear that was being raised in the media practically every day about young folks running wild.

    Now, of course, fear and panic are being ginned up about the Old Folks* getting older, retiring, and sucking up all the Good that should be going to the young, or if not to them, at least to someone more deserving.

    This propaganda campaign against the Old Farts and their nasty pensions and their over-abundant Social Security and their icky illnesses has been going on for years nonstop, relentlessly, pretty much daily in all the major media -- and in a lot of the new media, too. The propaganda has been ratcheted up recently, what with the Doom of the Fiscal Cliff and the Disaster of the Debt Limit to keep the pot stirred and the panic at a fever pitch. The Old, the Sick, the Halt and the Lame cost too much. We cannot sustain the expense! We must Do Something NOW!!!!

    Yes, well... isn't that always the case?

    Actually, what's really going on is that the rich people who have been getting massively richer over the past few decades of tax cuts, corporate welfare, wars of aggression, lifestyle subsidies, bankster bailouts and what have you, see that in the near term future -- if something isn't done! -- they will have to pay some of their ill-gotten gains back to the public treasury, and they are adamant about refusing to do so, especially if it means that even a dime of revenue from them goes to pay for some geezer in a nursing home. They. Will. Not. Pay. Period. End of discussion.

    They will not pay. So far, no one dares to go up against them mano a mano. And there is absolutely no one among them who will break ranks and say for the record that those who have benefited the most from the economic policies that are producing so much disaster for so many have an obligation and a responsibility to anyone beyond their own circle and those they choose to assist. There is no sense of the overall Public Interest whatsoever. It's been abandoned completely.

    All they want is to ensure that those pitchforks, torches, tumbrils and guillotines they keep hearing about from their spies among the rabble are kept at bay.

    They will pay, in other words, for a massive and quite mad National Security State which can and does project its power globally. That is worth it to them. But almost nothing else is. Well, that and whatever bailouts and welfare they can suck up. Priorities, after all.

    Generally, all the relentless propaganda that accuses the old of living too long and costing too much is little more than projection. Isn't it really the rich and their running dogs that live too long and cost too much? Do we even have to debate this? Look on your teevee any Sunday, and you'll see exactly what's meant: all these cranky, rich, and often elderly mouthpieces yammering endlessly about how other old folks are taking all the Good, and of course threatening the very existence of the Republic in the process.

    We should know the truth: those who complain the loudest on the teevee (and in the rest of the media) are typically the ones who are living the longest and costing the rest of us the most.

    The only thing they really want -- and will pay for -- is the ability to suppress, repress, and oppress the seething multitudes. Propaganda works wonders in preparing the battle space as they say, and we have been drowning in anti-old-fart propaganda for years.

    It's tracking closely with the Anti-Iraq (mutated now into Anti-Iran) propaganda that led to the Mesopotamian debacle of unpleasant memory. Hm, it appears Our Betters are not only innately stupid, they are incapable of learning.  Well, I shouldn't say that. They do learn -- in the sense of learning how better to manipulate and suppress dissent -- but they don't learn the lessons they need to about how to live in the world.

    The way to deal with this nonsense is to recognize the propaganda and immunize oneself and one another against it, to state clearly and relentlessly what needs to be done, and to accept nothing at face value from the media or the institutions that supposedly serve the Public Interest.

    Recognize the lies.


    Build a better future.

    [Meant to say that today's Old Farts are the same people as the JDs and the Hippies of yore. In other words, the panic and fear has been a factor of the Boomer generation from the beginning...]