Monday, December 31, 2007

Christmas Present

I parked in the public lot behind Palm Canyon and walked out past Ruby's to the main drag. It was relatively cold (around 50 degrees) for a sunshiny morning in the desert, as it often is the week before Christmas. A few feet from the statue of Palm Springs's most beloved departed patriarch, St. Sonny Bono, an old guy in a wheelchair sat in the sun.

"Morning," he says to me. "Merry Christmas."

I stopped and waited for the "Can you help a guy out," but it never came.

Curious, I walked over closer to him. "How are you this morning," I asked.

"I'm doin' good," he says. And still, he didn't ask for anything. Although probably younger than me, he appeared old -- no teeth, and little hair. He had one wooden leg and one stump.

"Do you need anything?" If he wasn't going to panhandle, it was on me.

"Ya know, I could use a pretzel from Jamba Juice, so I can feed my birds," he says. "Let me give you some money for it."

"No," says I, "I got it."

Returning with the pretzel, I sat for a few minutes and listened to his story. Disabled and legless after being struck from behind by a drunk driver 23 years ago, he'd been living on the street ever since.

"Welfare doesn't want to pay enough for me to get an apartment," he said without a trace of self pity. He's independent, sober, self-respecting.

I went to get coffee and a scone at Starbucks. When I walked past him to return to the car a few minutes later he was inundated by pigeons flocking to feast on pretzel crumbs. No passers-by had any objections to him feeding those dirty birds.

Saturday, December 29, 2007


By: Bernard Chazelle

Benazir Bhutto's assassination is a tragedy for her relatives and those of the 20 others who died in the attack. It is a sad day for her supporters.

Ms Bhutto was courageous to the point of recklessness. Her father was both Pakistan's great hope and bitter disappointment. But she lacked his considerable political skills. Upon her return to Pakistan at Bush's behest, Musharraf made mincemeat of her. It is doubtful he had anything to do with her death: in fact, his political future is now in jeopardy. If anyone besides her killers has blood on their hands, it is Bush, who sent her to her death in a harebrained scheme.

Bhutto's two stints as Prime Minister were marked by massive corruption and gross incompetence. But she agreed to do America's bidding and so she was merely, in the words of the New York Times, "imperfect."

In the corridors of power in Islamabad, few will mourn her passing. In fact, Agatha Christie could have written the script: the victim is dead and all the usual suspects have reason to celebrate. The military hated her; the master triangulator Musharraf couldn't stand the thought of the power-sharing agreement the US was trying to shove down his throat. Her nemesis and chief rival, former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, had been mentored by Zia-ul-Haq, the man who killed her dad. The Inter-Services Intelligence (the infamous ISI) wished her dead. So did the Islamists and tribal leaders.

Pakistani politics is not for the faint of heart. One can imagine Iran's president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, muttering to himself: "And they think we are the crazy Muslim country!"

One man wasn't too thrilled by yesterday's events: Bush. His entire Pakistan policy is in tatters. For this he can also thank torture-loving John "Musharraf is our indispensable ally" Negroponte. The US gave Musharraf $11 billion in 6 years and the good general used that money to rid Pakistan of the last vestiges of American influence. He may well meet Benazir's fate one day or be ousted by his former protege and replacement as Army Chief, Ashfaq Kiyani, but don't discount his extraordinary survival skills. In particular, for years now Musharraf has been running circles around American policymakers; or, for that matter, the imperial satraps manning the fort at the New York Times.

Washington must now call for new rules

Washington must also demand

[Washington] must insist that

Washington will need to send the same message

How about "Washington must learn to mind its own business"?
Now, on to the nut graf.

American policy must now be directed at building a strong democracy in Pakistan that has the respect and the support of its own citizens and the will and the means to fight Al Qaeda and the Taliban.
This is a statement of breathtaking ignorance. A strong democracy in Pakistan that had the respect and the support of its own citizens would have neither the will nor the means to fight the Taliban, an organization that Pakistan helped create in the 90s to pacify its Tribal Areas and maintain its influence in Afghanistan. The US is losing the war in Afghanistan and is pressuring Pakistan to fight the good fight for us. Trouble is, Islamabad has long nurtured a careful relationship with the tribal belt and has no desire to start a full-fledged civil war within its borders. The low-level skirmishes that the Pakistani army wages (and usually loses) in Balochistan and the North-Western regions are more than it can handle.

Bush got mad at Musharraf for negotiating with the Taliban. Never mind that
Britain and the US are currently in negotiation with the Taliban in Afghanistan. (Has the NYT noticed that European diplomats were expelled from Afghanistan last week?) The hypocrisy is staggering.

Speaking of which, President Bush said this today:

The United States strongly condemns this cowardly act by murderous extremists who are trying to undermine Pakistan's democracy
Forget about the use of words: the "cowardice" of suicide bombers; the murderous extremists (not to be confused with the murderous moderates). How can Bush speak of those "trying to undermine Pakistan's democracy"? What democracy? The US has been propping up a dictator to the tune of $11 billion for 6 years, and The Decider goes after the Underminers of Pakistan's democracy...

Why must Orwell always have the last word?

Friday, December 21, 2007


Huckleberry is campaigning in Iowa and getting rave reviews. By way of Atrios, I found this little nugget from the NY Times coverage of this triumphant campaign.

“Who is your favorite author?” Aleya Deatsch, 7, of West Des Moines asked Mr. Huckabee in one of those posing-like-a-shopping-mall-Santa moments.

Mr. Huckabee paused, then said his favorite author was Dr. Seuss.

In an interview afterward with the news media, Aleya said she was somewhat surprised. She thought the candidate would be reading at a higher level.

“My favorite author is C. S. Lewis,” she said.

They tell us to make lemonade when life gives us lemons, but what are we supposed to make when the polticial system gives us morons?

“What’s wrong with our country, what is wrong with our culture, is that you can’t say the name Jesus Christ without people going completely berserk,” Mr. Huckabee told a crowd in Dike, a tiny farm town about 80 miles northeast of Des Moines, where people also stood to applaud.

God, what a complete and utter dildo this guy is.

And yes, the wild nut rat was right. Fascism has arrived, wrapped in the flag ad carrying the cross, and it's going to get worse. It's going to get stupider.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Mohammed the Unitarian

Edward Gibbon's description of Mohammed's God says, "The prophet of Mecca rejected the worship of idols and men, of stars and planets, on the rational principle that whatever rises must set, that whatever is born must die, that whatever is corruptible must decay and perish. In the author of the universe, his rational enthusiasm confessed and adored an infinite and eternal being without form or place, without issue or similitude, present to our most secret thoughts, existing by the necessity of his own nature, and deriving from himself all moral and intellectual perfection. These sublime truths, thus announced in the language of the prophet, are firmly held by his disciples, and defined with metaphysical precision by the interpreters of the Koran. A philosophic theist might subscribe the creed of the Mohammedans; a creed too sublime, perhaps, for our present faculties. What object remains for the fancy, or even the understanding, when we have abstracted from the unknown substance all ideas of time and space, of motion and matter, of sensation and reflection? The first principle of reason and revolution was confirmed by the voice of Mohammed: his proselytes, from India to Morocco, are distinguished by the name of Unitarians; and the danger of idolatry has been prevented by the interdiction of images.

Edward Gibbon, The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, Chapter L, "Description of Arabia and Its Inhabitants,"

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Santa Claus Sexually Assaulted

The war on Christmas by Islamofascist terrorists and alien foreign immigrants from other lands continues. These are people who want to destroy our way of life, our religious observances, and our busy retail outlets.

The latest blow in this cultural war was struck in Danbury, Connecticut this past weekend when a crazed female woman whose national origin is not known at this time, but who has way too many vowels in her names, sexually assaulted Santa Claus.

Santa Claus says that a woman who sat on his lap was naughty, not nice. A Santa at the Danbury Fair mall said the woman groped him. "The security officer at the mall said Santa Claus has been sexually assaulted," police Detective Lt. Thomas Michael said of the weekend complaint.

This latest incident, along with the usual annual spate of nativity scene vandalisms and chain stores whose flyers include phrases like, "Nothing says Happy Holidays like Free Shipping!!" are potent evidence showing that the war on our sacred traditions, our family gatherings, and our precious bodily fluids continues.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Halcyon Days

I had occasion earlier today to write something about the first band I was in, the V.I.P.'s, in Marin County in 1963 and '64, when I was 19 and 20. We played around town for a little money now and then: Stones and Beatles covers, along with the Kinks, Van Morrison's first group, "Them," and work by a local group, the Beau Brummels. They were quite good.

We were a good band. We played cleanly, and with vigor. We were young and hot and out to get laid, and I can assure you we did. We were just boys, really.

Those were magic days, and we had only a vague notion of how specially lit up they were. I look at the very young Stones and wonder if they knew how good some of that stuff was they were doing. They must have felt it, yes?

That was when I learned to get drunk, stoned, etc., with band members Shari Pandit and Joe Mulder. When we listened to new music, it was like a flight into the unknown. I won't forget the struck-by-lightning feeling of hearing the Stones' "The Last Time" for the first time. That would have been, I think, late '64.

We didn't last long, us V.I.P.'s, and I being the oldest and only one in college. Moved on first. But we were together just long enough.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

War and Capitalism

We've entered a serious economic downturn, maybe the worst one since 1930--1940. We'll get through it the way we got through the last one, by eating lots of rice and potatoes and throwing potlucks for entertainment.

The more interesting question is what we're going to do to recover from it. Historically, big capital recovers from its periodic collapses by having wars. It's been that way since modern times began. When the economy is in the bucket, building a war machine, then using it, is always a road to recovery.

European societies recovered from the economic downturns of the 1870's by unleashing an orgy of colonialism on the parts of the world that weren't already under their control, and toward the end of the century carved up Africa like a turkey. Many short but quite violent and destructive wars accompanied the end of the age of imperialism -- the Sikh War in Punjab, The Boer War, and the Russo-Japanese nightmare.

The U.S., done with conquering North America, got ino that race partly to recover from the stagnant economy and very tight money supply of the '90's. Teddy Roosevelt built us a modern navy of steel ships fitted with guns that could shoot exploding artillery shells, and we jumped into a very cool little war to pick up territory and prime the economic pump.

Hitler understood almost instinctively that the quickest way for Germany to recover from the hyperinflation and economic collapse of the Weimar years was through massive defecit spending for military purposes, which suited his intentions anyway. Defecit spending doesn't matter, because if you've got a big enough, technologically intimidating army, you can always get that money back.

The New Deal notwithstanding, we didn't begin recovering from the depression of the 30's until after the buildup for WWII began, first with lend-lease and then to produce the hardware for our participation. But the U.S.'s main role among our allies was as "the arsenal of democracy," or in other words, the main supplier of materiel for the allied war effort. The money that was made by manufacturers in Detroit, Chicago, Cleveland, and Pittsburgh during those hectic days when they made the tanks, planes, bullets, and bombs was the embryo of our present-day war machine.

Capitalism's business cycle hasn't changed since the beginnings of modern times. it always follows the same familiar pattern of growth and exuberance, followed by boom and mania, followed by hysteria and panic, followed by collapse and depression, followed by slow recovery. And in modern times, recovery means preparation for war, then war.

Now is the time for us to start preparing for the future. We actually do have choices, and this endless cycle of boom, bust, and war does not have to continue. We can actually have a different kind of world, but we have to be able to envision it first.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Stagflation Nation

Back in the seventies we had "stagflation," a new economic term coined at the time to describe something that had never happened before. It was right after President Drahcir Noxin was chased from office and Gerry Ford had stumbled into the presidency and there was an oil embargo. Stagflation is what happens when there are rapidly rising prices (the "flation") at the same time as the economy slows down and wages and new jobs dry up (the "stag").

Then Jimmy Carter got elected and he had no more idea what to do about stagflation than Ford did. It was the old bipartisan shoulder shrug.

Today we found out that inflation jumped up more in November than at any time in two years. The AP article on this new round of inflation reports that "In a troubling juxtaposition, the rise in inflation is coming at a time when economic growth is slowing sharply under the weight of a steep slump in housing and a severe credit crunch."

Long story short -- prices are going up real fast at a time when there's very little money out there. Very little money and just a lot of bad paper left over from the last gold rush.

"We are in store for a period of very weak if not recessionary growth and uncomfortably high inflation," says the chief economist at Moody's. "People are going to get hit with both a weaker job market and having to pay more to fill their gas tanks and buy groceries."

It's a pretty alarming article, ostensibly about the stock market drop today, but really covering the whole spectrum of disturbing economic changes occurring right now.

Inflation is one of the most socially destabilizing economic phenomena. I once had a history teacher who said the only thing more destabilizing than inflation is food shortages. Nowadays I would think gas shortages are right up there in the same league as food shortages.

Inflation is especially bad when there's little money because credit has dried up. Most people can still buy food and a little gas, but we're not going to be able to move those microwave ovens, or be able to move those color t.v.'s (apologies to Dire Straits). And that means more layoffs, more foreclosures, more people sitting at home wringing their hands and crying all day long wondering how they're going to pay the heating bill.

Merry Christmas to you, too, Mr. Greenspan.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Hysteria and Hardessedness

Now that Huckabee's under the microscope, because it looks like he's going to be the one, since he's more or less acceptable to all Republicans, his position on immigration had to be checked for RPC (Republican Political Correctness). It was duly checked and found to be ok. He's for sealing the border and patrolling it with pit bulls.

Republican Political Correctness consists of alternating enraged yells of "Get those bastards!" with tearful, solemn recitations of "God Bless the USA." It's an emotional ritual.

In the New Yorker profile on him, Huckabee sounded real reasonable on the immigration issue. He even said he understood why a family man with kids to feed might feel like he's being forced to come here illegally (rather than wait seven years to have it done legally, while his family starves). But when push comes to shove, he comes down for the most hardass possible position. That's the Republican way, and it's half of the two-part ritual.

It's like a church service with them. The fear and rage are so predominant in the Republican mentality that they are projected onto anyone perceived as a threat, even a trivial one. Thus immigration needs to be shut down, we need to "double Guantanamo" as Romney or Giuliani or one of those pinheads said (I forget which one), and we need to bomb a couple more countries where the scary brown people live.

What we got going on in this country and under the Empire of the Pentagon right now is a kind of half-assed debate in which one side is trying to discuss the issues in a factual sort of way, using statistics and citing historical facts, and the other side is going "Shoot 'em! Hit 'em harder! Punish 'em! Get those bastards!" alternating with "We're so lucky to live in this the most wonderful country on earth, blessed by God and filled with our spotless virtue."

It's starting to seem really silly, besides being pointless.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Satan's Face

I'm proud to say I never served in the U.S. armed forces. My splendid opportunity to do so came during the Empire of the Pentagon's murderous and totally pointless season of carnage in Vietnam, a 14-year-long conflict that ended in the Empire's utter defeat, and judging from the recent barrage of lies directed against Senator Kerry, is still going on in some deluded heads.

Well, bring it on, assholes.

I chose not to participate in this crime called Vietnam, but was reminded of it this past week when I re-read some of Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn's masterpiece "The Gulag Archipelago," a passionate factual account of what happened in the Siberian death camps of the U.S.S.R., where somewhere between ten million and 100 million innocent victims froze and starved to death between 1930 and 1980. Neither the actual numbers, nor even an accurate estimate will ever be known.

Reading Solzhenitsyn is like looking in Satan's face, because in those pages the reader encounters the indifference at best, and raw sadism at worst, of the bureaucrats, stool pigeons, and torture masters who made up the lists of people to be rounded up in Russia on any given night during the years of the Stalinist terror. I get much the same feeling when I look into the faces of the Empire of the Pentagon's Masters of War during the Vietnam era, under Lyndon Johnson: Rusk, Laird, McNamara.

Not satisfied with killing a million Vietnamese in its war against a country which had done absolutely nothing to us, the fear, rage and bloodlust of the Pentagon was only satisfied when the Masters of War employed their violence against the very soil of Vietnam itself, dumping thousands of tons of a deadly herbicide -- Agent Orange -- on the croplands and waterways of that unfortunate country. The long-term effects of this deadly poison included loss of health and longevity for thousands of American servicemen, and are still playing out in the form of birth defects among the affected portions of the Vietnamese population today.

In addition, the Dow Chemical Corporation made millions from selling their product Napalm, an incendiary jellied gasoline, to the Masters of War, which they proceded to drop on any Vietnamese who resisted us as well as any Vietnamese the Masters suspected might possess the capacity to resist. This led me to the conclusion at a young age that the chief difference between Lyndon Johnson and Adolf Hitler was that Hitler had loaded his victims on trains and took them to where the gas was, while Johnson loaded the gas on planes and took it to where the people were.

But I didn't learn to hate the Empire, at least not enough. After 1975, for the next 30 years, I assumed the Vietnam war was an aberration. It took Bush, Cheney, and the Neocon clique surrounding them to teach me the whole truth -- that war is the normal and natural state of the Empire of the Pentagon.

After causing nearly a million civilian deaths in Iraq and presiding over the demolition of that country's infrastructure, the Empire of the Pentagon can proudly take its place among the rogues' gallery of murder empires of the 20th and 21st centuries, along with Hitler's Reich and Stalin's Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, and its insatiable thirst for blood puts the blood sacrifice cults of the Ancient Aztecs in the shade.

I need to point out, however, that the Empire of the Pentagon is an entirely different entity from the United States of America, a large geographical area whose inhabitants are mostly overweight and increasingly impoverished "consumers," living for the most part in a state of debt peonage and rising illiteracy, and hypnotized by disinformation fed them 24/7 by the corporate media. They're also basically kind and good-hearted, and increasingly politically disconnected. Interacting with people over the past few days, the two things I've noticed about most of them is their political naivete and disconnectedness and the unaccountable kindness of strangers.

Sunday, December 09, 2007


I keep wondering when large numbers of American voters are going to completely, once and for all, reject the political establishment, Republicans and Democrats alike, and move on. We've been given more than sufficient reasons to do so.

I think the only thing preventing it is lack of imagination. "Move on to what?" people ask. To whatever happens next, is what I answer.

A story in the Washington Post this morning provides further proof of the Democrats' complicity in the crimes of the last seven years. Its lede paragraph:

In September 2002, four members of Congress met in secret for a first look at a unique CIA program designed to wring vital information from reticent terrorism suspects in U.S. custody. For more than an hour, the bipartisan group, which included current House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), was given a virtual tour of the CIA's overseas detention sites and the harsh techniques interrogators had devised to try to make their prisoners talk.

Now we now why impeachment was "off the table," eh? The court where you can haul in defendants and accuse them of crimes in which you yourself participated hasn't been born yet. The Post story goes on to say:

Among the techniques described, said two officials present, was waterboarding, a practice that years later would be condemned as torture by Democrats and some Republicans on Capitol Hill. But on that day, no objections were raised. Instead, at least two lawmakers in the room asked the CIA to push harder, two U.S. officials said.

Too many people who regularly participate in this forum are distracted and hypnotized by the Republican vs. Democrat diversion, and bogged down in pointless ideological tennis games on threads like the ones started by our own version of Sideshow Bob. I've pointed out before that if the Republicans were the main perpetrators of the crimes of the last seven years, the Democrats were their main accomplices, and today's Post story proves it.

With one known exception, no formal objections were raised by the lawmakers briefed about the harsh methods during the two years in which waterboarding was employed, from 2002 to 2003, said Democrats and Republicans with direct knowledge of the matter. The lawmakers who held oversight roles during the period included Pelosi and Rep. Jane Harman (D-Calif.) and Sens. Bob Graham (D-Fla.) and John D. Rockefeller IV (D-W.Va.), as well as Rep. Porter J. Goss (R-Fla.) and Sen. Pat Roberts (R-Kan).

I don't know who the "one exception" was, but I do know I'll not spend any more time in criticism of Republicans, or patiently explaining to a pair of earplugs why it's certain that Bush is a liar. From now on the brunt of my anger and political efforts will be directed against the Democrats, with a few, nonestablishment exceptions.

The Democrats are traitors and Pharisees. They're hypocrites who pretend to be on our side and then stab us in the back at the first opportunity. And they've done us again, in the matters of first the Iraq War, then torture, and now Social Security (a work in progress). Like the Republicans, they are the enemy, and they will be destroyed.

To hell with these people.

We don't need an election in this country, we need a revolution. And I ask you, what good is an election if it doesn't give us an opportunity to overthrow the government?

Saturday, December 08, 2007


The popular website Beliefnet, was recently purchased by Fox Entertainment. Liberal posters at the the Beliefnet political forums, upset and imagining that Fox might impose some sort of censorship on the discussions there, stirred up a bit of a mini-tsunami on several threads and in innumerable internal e-mails. So of course, I posted my own take on the situation.

The one change I would hope for under the new owners is that they finally obtain enough bandwidth to run this sucker, so it doesn't take two or three minutes (on dial-up) to go from one page to another. I assume Fox is a little more flush than the old owner, which was AOL if I'm not mistaken, and that they've got enough money and interest in seeing this place thrive to make the necessary upgrades.

The purpose of BNet, when you boil it down, is no different than television. It's a platform for advertising, and all those fancy ads that have cute little gizmos that pop up and flash and make noises when you drag the mouse over them require mucho bandwidth to run efficiently.

As with television (thank god for remotes with "mute" buttons) the stupid ads can be and will be ignored by most of us. But don't lose sight of the fact that those ads are what this place is all about.

As for Fox subjecting the content here to some test of ideological purity as some have suggested and others apparently advocate, I think you're suffering from delusions of grandeur. Nobody really cares what you or I think about things, or what our political opinions are, and as long as liberals have money to spend there'll be niche markets for the kind of stuff they like -- hiking shoes, organic blueberries, hybrid cars to make them feel less guilty, and places like this where they can go and vent about George W. Bush and the evils of our heartless, soulless capitalist society.

Thursday, December 06, 2007


He lived in no place, which is exactly midway between here and there.

Believe me, I've been to San Francisco and Seattle and Frankfurt and Tokyo. Those are places. Omaha is no place.

Born in an unremarkable time, bearing no distinguishing characteristics, and having no attributes worth noting, he lived a short, bleak life among the televisions, public institutions, retail outlets and fast-food joints, and what pass for families in the place that is no place, in a time frozen at the precise wrong moment.

Weak-eyed, long-haired, immature, with no particular academic inclinations and no identifiable ambitions or desires or passions, he became a high school dropout at 17.

Kicked out of the parental hut for his multiplicity of failures, then taken in by a sympathetic household, his life seemed a short while marginally tolerable, though it would never qualify as pleasant by any standard.

But then came the inevitable breakdowns -- loss of the job at McDonald's; the optional girlfriend bails out of this nowhere scene.

It's hard to imagine a life of such stark, brutal, and unremitting spiritual poverty. I'm surprised more such lives don't end in blood and mayhem, but mostly they don't. The majority of them, lives of "quiet desperation" (as Thoreau said) simply peter out the usual way.

This one, however, exploded under pressure. After leaving a note in his adoptive home explaining, "I'm a piece of shit and now I'm going to be famous," Robert Hawkins, 19, of Omaha, Nebraska, went to a local shopping mall where he shot and killed eight people he didn't know, then himself.

Years ago, during the sixties, I met a 15-year-old runaway girl who was beginning to get a handle on life after a rough transition brought on by her leaving home at 14. "Living this way," she said to me, "in this place, it's like somebody putting you on a piece of steel, then saying to you, 'OK, live.'"

Isn't it wonderful? We're living do-it-yourself lives in a do-it-yourself world.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Bye Bye

I saw bits and pieces of Bush's Tuesday presser on NBC News last night, and it looks to me like the Geo W Bush administration is over a little early. It's kind of hard to tell who's running things right now.

Bush gave that little speech yesterday that insulted the intelligence of anything marginally smarter than a brick, and now it's time for him to take the advice the King of Spain gave to Hugo Chavez. The timing of the release of this NIE, which effectively ends the Bush/Cheney years, is very odd.

The country's basic foreign policies haven't changed, and the incoming president 13-1/2 months from now, whether a Republican or a Democrat, will continue to try to implement them just as the neocons have done. These basic policies are:

1. The United States must control and run things in the Middle East (more specifically, the Persian Gulf).

2. The way to do this is to form close alliances with as many countries there as possible.

3. Those who hate us and refuse to cooperate with us have to be crushed.

Bush and Cheney won't get to bomb Iran like they wanted. But the policy requirement that Iran somehow be crushed hasn't changed and won't go away. How we're going to do it simply hasn't been decided yet. That'll be priority one for Hillary or Mitt or whomever.

The next president, again whether a Republican or a Democrat, is now also locked into an Iraq policy that has us there permanently, with four or five huge permanent bases requiring a permanent complement of 45--60,000 personnel. That's not going to change either.

The Bush presidency was a disaster, but many of the policies that began with him will now continue no matter which party is in power. The way to change in this country is no longer through elections, and any genuine and significant political change movement at this point can only come out of the grass roots.

I'm afraid there isn't all that much to celebrate in the end of the Bush/Cheney show. If anything, I'll miss the comic relief that Bush provided every time he flapped his slack jaws.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007


All creatures suffer, as the Buddha taught. It's the one thing we have in common with each other, with weasels and wolves and wombats.

All creatures grow old, grow sick, and die as well, but we're the only ones that know in advance those things will happen. The weasels and wolves and wombats are off the hook of that sorrowful knowledge.

Some suffering is inevitable, but other kinds are optional. Smoking was always optional in the old days, and now my heroin is nicotine. It's like a demon that's determined not to let go, so the struggle and the suffering will go on, probably a year or more. All I can do is take each day as it comes, and take them all one at a time. After a year has gone by I'll re-assess my relationship with this dirty fighter, who makes me sick in other parts of my body besides brain and lungs, and will go to seemingly any lengths to avoid relinquishing control of me.

It was probably good, in that case, that I was called out this morning to make a 12-step call, and asked to intervene in the case of a young alcohol addict coming off a nine-day run on hard booze. He was a pitiful sight by the time I got to him -- red as a hunk of corned beef, shaking, and blind in one eye.

"I guess I didn't take my contacts out for a week," he said.

And he was grateful for the ride to rehab, where he'll spend the next three days or so detoxing. I've never done it, but I've heard it involves significant amounts of intense suffering. So it goes, as Vonnegut always said.

"For a while the fool's mischief
Tastes sweet, sweet as honey.
But in the end it turns bitter.
And how bitterly he suffers!"

After I grumbled, rolled out, got some hot water on my sore back, and generally scraped myself off getting ready for that 12-step call this morning, I ran into the old lady from up the street who takes care of cats when people are gone, and has an unknown number of her own. She asked about my twin tomcats, then said,

"That new little kitty that I got sure thinks I'm her mama."

And it hit me, as I said goodbye and turned away, how many people in the world are only looking for something warm-blooded that they can love, and that might even love them back. The incredible loneliness of the human soul hit me like a bullet as I walked away, and the tears stood in my eyes, and I wept bitterly to think of all this suffering.

Monday, December 03, 2007


I'm beginning to wonder whether people are supposed to be living in these things. Since they're designed as temporary shelter, living in a trailer takes some doing, sort of like living in a tent. You've got to be kind of a permanent outdoors/maintenance person.

That's not as true of the double-wides, which are intended to be semi-permanent structures sitting on foundations, but even they feature the same mix of cheap materials and hurry-up workmanship as travel trailers. There are the ubiquitous fake-wood panelled interior walls -- really a type of cardboard, and the same tinny furnaces, substandard plumbing, and flimsy wiring in nearly all these things. Believe me; I've been inside a few, and seen the way they leak through the seams at the first hint of rain.

The newer ones are often built of vinyl, the new universal building material, and there are definitely third-world undertones to seeing Americans housed in vinyl or plastic huts. From what I've seen, those living in them are engaged in constant struggles keeping the plumbing functioning, the air conditioning from blowing out the breaker box, the seams caulked sufficiently to hold the water out, and so forth.

It's a part-time job and some people jump right into it. Living in a trailer is a challenge that requires a do-it-yourself self-reliant type of person, and a lot of these older guys in trailer parks really enjoy that kind of stuff. It helps them feel useful in retirement, and still good for something.

I had an electrical fire here a couple nights ago, during the great one-day deluge. I never thought twice about that electrical coupling lying on the ground in a layer of rotting vegetation, the one connecting the main cable from my box to the park's power source. But when that coupling got wet inside and burst into flames, I was fortunate not to have lost my hut or worse. It should have been off the ground, and minimally sheltered from the elements, but how am I to know such things?

I've never in my life done "stuff," and I didn't retire from my last job to become a maintenance man and gardener. I don't have the knowledge or inclination to do maintenance, and gardening hurts my back. I remember when I lived in apartments, if something went wrong I called the landlord to send someone to fix it, plus the guys with the truck came every week and did the yard.

Still, it's kind of nice living here in the tin shack, and I'm learning, slowly. I'm going to have to think about this some more. If the trailer doesn't kill me it might make me stronger.