Tuesday, July 31, 2007

A Voice -- Make that Two Voices -- Crying in the Wilderness

And it came to passe in the fourtieth yeere, in the eleuenth moneth, on the first day of the moneth, that Moses spake vnto the children of Israel...Behold I haue set the land before you.
--Deuteronomy, I:3 and 8 (King James version, 1611)

If you're going to San Francisco,
Be sure to wear some flowers in your hair...
--Scott McKenzie, 1967

It's been a biblical generation -- 40 years -- since the "Summer of Love" in San Francisco, a time which becomes more heavily romanticized and idealized as it recedes into the fog of time. But the reality of life on the street in the Haight-Ashbury neighborhood in the summer of 1967 was considerably harsher than the idyllic legend would have us believe, as thousands of runaway teenagers from all over the country converged on the already-crowded district. Broke, homeless, and an easy mark for predators, this horde of migrant children was more likely to find a dirty, abrasive, hand-to-mouth existence on the San Francisco streets than the lovefest they'd anticipated.

The late sixties as I remember those years was a troubled and turbulent time. The country was at war then, as it now is again (or maybe I should say "still"), and the conflict in Vietnam threatened to spill over into open warfare at home, as the domestic generational and ideological struggle sparked by the war intensified between 1965 and 1970. It actually did break out in open and widespread violence at several times and places, most notably at the Democratic convention in Chicago in 1968.

The "Summer of Love" in the Bay Area was immediately followed by sporadic, sometimes intense violence between antiwar protesters and the Oakland Police during "Stop the Draft" week in Oakland in October, 1967. At one point during the week, the National Guard was called in to restore order and clear the streets in front of the Oakland Induction Center.

"Even though an official has warned us that we’re disobeying the law, the cops give no warning," reads the October 17, 1967 entry in protester Peter Vincent's diary. "They just start charging down Clay Street, pouring out of the garage as well, swinging clubs & spraying tear gas with smirks on their faces. People beaten & dragged through the streets. Bodies piling up. Bloody scalps & burning eyes."

A Gallup Poll taken at about the time of the Stop the Draft Week riots records that 23 percent of Americans defined themselves as "doves" and 61 percent as "hawks." The intense, confrontational antiwar protests were undertaken in an atmosphere of general support for the war.

Fast forward to the present day, and two lonely teenagers walking a hot, rural July highway in Iowa, in the middle of a two-person, coast-to-coast protest march to try to generate active opposition to the Iraq War. Despite the fact that an overwhelming number of Americans oppose the current war (a recent CNN poll shows that a mere 30 percent now support it, while 60 percent want us out of Iraq by a year from now at the latest), and in sharp contrast with the national identity crisis brought on by Vietnam, active opposition to the war has been weak and ineffective despite the conflict's massive unpopularity.

"It seems like the country is asleep," says the male half of the March for Peace team, Michael Israel, 18, of Jackson, California. "A lot of people we meet are against the war. But it doesn’t seem like many people are doing anything about it."

The brainchild of 19-year-old Ashley Casale of Clinton Corners, NY, the two-person March for Peace wasn't what she had in mind when she set up a website (http://marchforpeace.info) and sent out flyers to colleges across the country announcing the march. Israel was the only volunteer who offered to join Casales in committing to the whole journey, although others have joined the pair for portions of the walk since they set off from San Francisco on May 21, right after their first face-to-face meeting 10 minutes earlier.

"Although it's always nice to have as many people as possible, it's more about the message and we haven't been disappointed there aren't tons of people walking," the always-upbeat Casale says after covering 1600 miles, going through three pairs of sandals, and enduring sunburns and blisters. The pair has sometimes faced taunts and obscene gestures as well, and one farmer who had given them permission to camp on his property made them leave after he found out they were a two-person peace march.

However, Casale and Israel have gotten mostly positive feedback along the way, even if they haven't initiated a groundswell of antiwar activity. Many people have given them a place to stay for the night, others have fed them, and one gave Casale a new pair of shoes to replace her treadless sandals. Supporters have also bombarded Casale’s cell phone number, which is posted on the Marchforpeace.info website, with sympathetic messages and encouragement.

Commenting on the teenagers' lonely and Quixotic march and their attempt to arouse the inert conscience of a nation that seems to have gone into moral hibernation, an International Herald-Tribune reporter offered the opinion that "America's current anti-war movement has been regarded by historians and critics as less vibrant than its counterpart in the Vietnam era. Some attribute the difference to the lack of a draft, leaving a wider gap between anti-war sentiment and actual activism."

Certainly the imminent threat of being pulled off the street and sent into combat in Vietnam contributed significantly to the vigor of the sixties antiwar movement. But there was also an awareness of larger issues than just the Vietnam War informing the protests of a generation ago, and a countercultural awareness of the underlying causes of war which is absent today. "The system isn't human, it's a machine," was the standard expression of the wisdom of the time, "and the machine is out of control." The anti-Vietnam protester used "system" as a shorthand reference for the military-industrial complex and its need for perpetual warfare, or the war machine, as some call it.

As I look at these two, beautiful, heartbreakingly idealistic young kids sweating their way across the country, walking on blistered feet and trying to squeeze a few drops of conscience out of our dried up husk of a country, it makes me wonder whether the majority of my fellow citizens is even capable of remorse any more. As the pair gets closer to Washington, D.C. later this summer and the march gathers more attention, we'll find out.

"Our message is about ending the war in Iraq, but it's more than that," Ashley Casale says. "It's about cultivating peace in our daily lives and responding to things in a peaceful, nonviolent way."

You can get a more complete view of Casale's and Israel's philosophy of peace and a day-by-day chronicle of their odyssey by visiting their website, Marchforpeace.info. Their target date for reaching the White House is September 11. Cindy Sheehan and Code Pink are also supporting the march and post frequent updates on their various websites.

Monday, July 30, 2007


When Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy issued a subpoena for Karl Rove, the White House advisor and political operative sometime known as "Bush's brain" last Thursday, there he made clear he was attempting to compel Rove's testimony in the matter of the ongoing U.S. attorney firings scandal.

"The evidence shows that senior White House political operatives were focused on the political impact of federal prosecutions and whether federal prosecutors were doing enough to bring partisan voter fraud and corruption cases," Leahy said. "It is obvious that the reasons given for the firings of these prosecutors were contrived as part of a cover-up and that the stonewalling by the White House is part and parcel of that same effort."

In private, Rove was not shy about sharing with people like Attorney General Alberto Gonzales or presidential counsel Harriet Miers that he wanted the heads of several of the U.S. attorneys because they were not, in his view, aggressively pursuing trumped-up voter fraud cases against Democrats in their districts, as the White House had ordered them to do. Leahy knows this.

What Leahy may or may not know is that for several years, Rove, in conjunction with the Bush Justice Department, has been actively engaging in precisely the kinds of spurious manipulations of voter rolls which he falsely accused the Democrats of.

The same day that Leahy issued his subpoena for Rove, the website Truthout.org revealed the existence of previously undisclosed documents which show how Republican operatives under Rove's tutelage mounted in an illegal, racially-motivated effort to suppress tens of thousands of votes during the 2004 presidential campaign, concentrating most heavily on Ohio where George W. Bush was trailing the Democratic candidate John Kerry.

Emails obtained by Truthout show that Tim Griffin, a Republican National Committee staffer in 2004 and later appointed interim U.S. Attorney for Little Rock, Arkansas (a post he resigned when the U.S. attorneys scandal broke) led the Republican effort to purge black voters from the rolls in Cuyahoga County, Ohio as well as targeting minority voters in several other "battleground" states -- New Mexico, Florida, Pennsylvania, and Nevada.

The method Rove and Griffin used to try to suppress minority voting is an illegal tactic known as "caging." Political operatives send registered letters to the homes of registered voters. If the targeted voters fail to respond, the operatives try to convince local authorities to remove them from the rolls.

The RNC was caught engaging in this practice in 1981 and 1986. During the latter part of 1986 Republican National Committee officials signed an agreement to abstain from voter caging in the future, but that was 21 years ago, before Karl Rove was the White House's enchilada grande of political technique.

The two sets of documents obtained by Truthout also show that the RNC strategy for 2004 included contingency plans for contesting the results of the election in the event of a Democratic victory, by challenging the eligibility of voters in the same states where the caging efforts occurred, using the same lists of targeted voters employed in the pre-election suppression attempts. This strategy is laid out clearly in an email, dated September 30, 2004, and sent to a dozen staffers on the Bush-Cheney campaign and in the RNC, with the title "voter reg fraud strategy conference call."

Truthout reporter Jason Leopold adds that "Emails among Ohio Republican Party official Michael Magan, Coddy Johnson, then national field director of the Bush-Cheney 2004 campaign, and Timothy Griffin, reveal the men were given documents that could be used as evidence to justify widespread voter challenges if the Bush campaign needed to contest the election results. Johnson referred to the documents as a 'goldmine.' The valuable documents were lists of registered voters who did not return address confirmation forms to the Ohio Board of Elections."

Clearly, the RNC and the Bush-Cheney re-election campaign were preparing for a scenario reminiscent of their tampering with voter rolls and subsequent suppression of a recount in Florida during the 2000 election. The full story of how that tainted election, which propelled Bush into office, was monkeywrenched by Republican operatives is detailed in Greg Palast's book, "The Best Democracy Money Can Buy."

Rove is scheduled to answer Leahy's subpoena this coming Thursday, August 2, but will probably not show up, moving the constitutional confrontation between the White House and Congress to the next level. In a letter to Rove and White House aide Scott Jennings which accompanied the Senate Judiciary Committee's subpoena, Leahy wistfully reflected, "I am left to ask what the White House is so intent on hiding that it cannot even identify the documents, the dates, the authors and recipients that they claim are privileged."

Leahy is being somewhat disingenous. He knows perfectly well what the White House is hiding in the matter of the U.S. attorneys scandal. What is less clear is how much he knows about the deep background of the scandal -- the extent of the Republican habits of voter manipulation and election fraud which they piously accused others of engaging in as a pretext for a partisan purge of the Justice Department. It would be surprising indeed if Leahy was completely ignorant of these matters, and if he didn't have a few pointed questions for Karl Rove concerning them, once Rove is compelled by court decision to show up at the hearings and honor the hot seat which has been reserved for him with his ample posteriors.

Readers can view a more detailed account of this breaking story at Truthout.org

Friday, July 27, 2007

Trail's End?

Is this the end of an illustrious semi-career?

I'm quitting both of the bands I'm in after this weekend's gigs. Actually I don't even know why we call them "gigs," because we never get paid. Sometimes we have to drive significant distances to work these counterfeit "jobs," and even to rehearse. That, and the fact that I don't play as well as I used to are sufficient reasons for packing it in.

It's hard to recall that I used to make a living -- a pretty good living at times -- playing drums and singing. Those were the hectic and intoxicated days in Alaska when we worked, drank, sang, and foolishly celebrated our good fortune. How times have changed.

Now life is harder but more sober, lived cautiously as opposed to prodigally, and parsimonious rather than lavish. Discipline and study have replaced the thoughtless good times, and most of us are now ruled more by Apollo than Dionysius.

I'm not sorry about this, and I have no regrets. And anyway, suppose I'm not really done?

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Haight Ashbury, San Francisco, on a Nice Day

At about 70 degrees farenheit, with bright sunshine and a cool breeze blowing out of the northwest, there's no place on earth nicer than this.

Leave your car wherever it is and put on your walking shoes. Everything you need is right here in the neighborhood. The Alpha Market is small and expensive, but it has the best bread, salmon, and produce in the known universe.

To be among loved ones in an idyllic environment, full of food, sleeping well, and living with a very cursory and flexible schedule, is to know fulfillment. We roll out about six a.m. and Rachel gets ready to go off to her U.S. history class at State College, where she has an excellent lecturer and an interesting study to occupy her mornings. Her mother and I eat a leisurely breakfast and prepare for her return, which of course calls for lunch.

Dogs, cats, pigeons and coffees in the garden at Reverie round out the day.

If it can get any better than this, I'd like to know how.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Reality Wedges (Updated 8/15/07)

I believe I met Owsley in 1967. At least I think it was him.

I was sitting on the grass in Golden Gate Park, dinking unobtrusively on my little tabla, when a smallish, neatly-dressed young guy came walking down the blacktop footpath. He had sandy hair, a well-trimmed beard, and glasses. He wasn't in a hurry, but he wasn't strolling either. He was on a mission, going somewhere.

"It's a pink wedge," he said, handing me a triangular-shaped tablet. "Careful -- it's two hits."

"Thank you," I said to his departing back, for he had many, many pink wedges of strong, pure LSD to distribute in the park that day.

Between 1963 and 1967, Owsley manufactured hundreds of thousands of doses of LSD and gave most of it away. At a time when supplies of clean, reliable pharmaceutical-grade acid had dried up, he perfected techniques guaranteeing a 99.9 percent pure product, and was single-handedly responsible for the shape, content and direction of the Bay Area "hippie" movement of the mid to late sixties.

A lot of his stuff ended up in the hands of people who sold it, but they sold it very, very cheaply.

In addition, Owsley Stanley was an innovative and ground-breaking sound engineer, responsible for the origins of the "wall of sound" approach to amplification, at a time when music and musical poetry were the most important vehicles of revolutionary culture, politics, and economics. His close association with Ken Kesey and the Grateful Dead, and his financial backing of their most important decisions, were decisive in launching the sixties movement. It's not too much of a stretch to say that he was a major factor in shaping our current American culture.

Much of the neocon revolt and the wave of Christianized "movement" conservativism of the last 35 years has been at least in part a backlash against the sixties. If you don't believe me, read Pat Buchanan or any random issue of The National Review.

The main problem with what happened in the sixties is we forgot. We forgot that by the time those of us who are now over 55 were in high school, the American government-cum-military leviathan had become a machine, and the machine was out of control. It still is, only now it's worse. We forgot that the way of life we were and are living is an expression of insanity. We forgot that it's a way of life dependent on resources which will soon run out.

There was a time when these realizations and dealing with them were the stuff of daily life, but we forgot all that because we became first distracted, then consumed by jobs and families and insurance and 401K's and the illusion of security. Nixon was followed by Ford, then Carter by Reagan and Bush I, then came the false hope of the Clinton years, and we forgot.

But now I've noticed people are starting to remember, and maybe just in time.

Owsley went to jail in 1967, and was expatriated to Australia in 1996. He resurfaced in San Francisco earlier this year, and agreed to sit for an interview with a Chronicle reporter. You can read it here.

I was foolish with that pink wedge, by the way, and took the whole thing at once. It was a night to not remember, since I can recall only small bits and pieces of it, like snapshots from another world, leading to (as the song lyrics say) a jingle-jangle morning, sitting shivering with a blanket in the San Francisco fog, overlooking the bay from Telegraph Hill.

UPDATE: The raw material available to Owsley for his social experiment in "consciousness raising," his mission when he began manufacturing acid in the early 60's, was the youthful populations of the Haight-Ashbury neighborhood in San Francisco and the student ghetto in the area of Telegraph Avenue in Berkeley.

As with Telegraph Avenue, many students from San Francisco State and USF flocked to the Haight, which was perfect for multiple roommate setups with its large flats and cheap rents. Marijuana was already commonplace there in 1963 and 1964 when Owsley came on the scene and began distributing his exciting new product. It was at this time that he began his association with Ken Kesey, who had a house in Palo Alto that was becoming famous for its non-stop parties (See Tom Wolfe's 1968 book "The Elecric Kool Aid Acid Test"), with music provided by the embryonic version of the Grateful Dead who played under the name, "The Warlocks."

It was about this same time that Sam Andrew and Peter Albin came together to form the beginnings of the band Big Brother and the Holding Company, and started playing in the basement of a house at 1090 Page Street in San Francisco, where they were soon joined by James Gurley and Janis Joplin. Not long after, in 1965, Jefferson Airplane had their first gig at the Matrix, near the Marina.

The main elements of the countercultural movement in San Francisco took shape quickly, and coalesced mainly around two elements -- the music, and the drugs. It was helped along by the general social malaise and alienation stemming from the Vietnam War.

Psychedelics were the drugs of choice, alcohol and heroin were on the outs, and Owsley acid was the rocket fuel that caused the movement to launch, culminating in the Summer of Love of 1967. That season-long event was enabled and encouraged by several high-profile events in late 1965 and 1966 that drew extensive national media coverage, publicizing the wild happenings in Haight-Ashbury world wide.

In 1965 Kesey ran several "Acid Test" parties at numerous locations in the Bay Area. They were publicized by garish, semi-legible posters, with the dates and locations of these bacchanalias hand-lettered in the lower right-hand corner. The mother of all acid tests, however, occurred in January, 1966, as a one-night component of the three-day Trips Festival at Longshoreman's Hall. Billed as an event that would simulate the drug experience, but without the LSD. Festival organizers of course had no way of knowing whether participants' minds were unaltered or blown to smithereens with Owsley acid, but it's a safe bet that most of the revelers were higher than the Sears Tower.

The Trips Festival was followed six months later by the one-day Human Be-In in Golden Gate Park, which drew 20,000, mostly stoned to the bone young people for a free concert featuring The Jefferson Airplane and Alan Ginsburg. This was the largest event of its type until Woodstock, three years later, and the press coverage was no doubt responsible for convincing many a teenage would-be runaway to forsake school, home, parents and siblings, and the boredom of Cedar Rapids, or Billings, or Victorville, and set off for the land of free love, free drugs, and liberation from all life's cares, in the Summer of 1967.

Owsley set out to transform the world by distributing free LSD to anyone who wanted it. He was convinced that if enough people got high, if consciousnesses were raised high enough, that Americans would recognize the futility of their way of life, and abandon it, and the world would change for the better.

The movement he fueled gathered publicity, and the publicity drew new recruits by the thousands. And when the Summer of Love was over, no one could really say whether the world had changed for the better or not. But following closely on that famous season, the Diggers, a Haight-Ashbury-centered social activist group which had opened a free store and a soup kitchen, staged a "Death of Hippie" parade on Haight Street in October, 1967. It was meant to signal the end of the movement which the Diggers and many other old-timers in the Haight felt had been co-opted, sensationalized, and cheapened by the mass media, and turned into television freak show and an irrelevant curiosity.

Owsley was arrested and jailed in 1967, and pure LSD, while still available, was no longer the norm. Harder drugs, especially speed, began to show up more frequently on Haight Street and Telegraph Avenue, and the violence and psychosis that accompany that dangerous substance began to replace the peace and love of '65, '66, and '67.

The Summer of Love was over, and with it, the countercultural movement.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

The Boys of War

"We made 500 bucks before she hung herself...I guess she was unhappy."

Here's a video that reveals warboy culture in all its sadism and depravity.

I have no doubt that there are many service people who are sickened and appalled by warboy culture. For instance, I remember the American soldier who shot himself in the foot rather than participate in the atrocity at Mai Lai.

But so what? Warboy sadism is still a fact of life, and an unalterable circumstance of war.

If war is hell, lying to fabricate a war on false premises is the work of the devil.

This video is the reality that counterbalances the patriotic wankfest that passes for debate in the American media and all over the internet.

It clearly shows the reason why any unnecessary war, a war of aggression, a war undertaken to "shock and awe" the rest of the world, to secure resources through acts of piracy, is a crime against humanity.

It should be treated as such.

I picked this video up from Stan Goff, the former career military man and U.S. Army Ranger. It should be given the widest possible circulation.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Signs, Portents, and Omens

I don't consider myself superstitious, but I've learned to pay attention to signs, portents, and omens:

*The divorce card appearing in the middle of the future line in a personal reading of March, 2003;

*Uncontrolled weeping the day I left my job and home (a day I had been working toward for years) and traveled south to my new location; black clouds with violent lightning on the horizon as I approached it, driving the straight line of CA 18 through the desert toward Yucca Valley;

*The patriarch acting like a small child at the dinner table on our first night in our new home.

My advice to people is to avoid looking for omens, but to pay heed to those which are large, distinct, unavoidable, and unambiguous as regards interpretation.

Monday, July 09, 2007

Me and You and CO2

I don't enjoy always being the curmudgeon, so it's with some hesitation that I offer my opinion that the Live Earth concert was just a lot of posturing, as are all such musical extravaganzas put on to benefit supposedly worthy causes.

Don't get me wrong. Saving the earth is as worthy a cause as ever came along. But Live Earth, like the assorted paloozas that preceded it over the last 20 years, was vanity-driven exercise in feel-goodism. Such events also give aging celebrity performers a chance to promote themselves gratis, and second- and third-rank hangers-on a chance to do the ohyeahbabyohyeahbabyohyeahohyeah for which they are undeservedly semi-famous.

It takes a real wet blanket to be so cynical about something that everybody agrees is wonderful and significant and the coolest thing since popsicles. Therefore, it was a relief to find, as I opened Jim Kunstler's weekly blog this morning, that there's at least one person who agrees with me.

"There was so much about the Live Earth show that actually expressed what is worst about the current state of American culture," Kunstler groaned. "(T)he obscene posturing of zillionaire celebrities, awarding themselves brownie points for the largeness of their concern -- even while, like Mr. Sting of the band called the Police, they buy-and-sell $20 million Manhattan condos, and burn god-knows-how many tons of Wyoming coal amplifying the bass runs to "Roxanne." And the flip-side of these celebrity pretensions, of course, is the disturbing fealty paid to them by the fans, as members of the public caught up in celebrity-worship are called. Obviously, the whole thing is a kind of self-reinforcing feedback loop spiraling up to ever worse grandiosity on the part of the celebs and ever more pathetic groveling worship of these fake gods by the fans -- until it becomes little more than an object lesson in the tragic limitations of the human condition."

But what about Al Gore? Yes, I still believe Gore is the only serious possibility for leadership we have at this point, even though he disdains to run. Kunstler touched that base too: "Gore..." he said, "could just put aside his pretensions for being a kind of global Wizard of Oz and just cut the shit and run for president of the US, where he might actually make a difference."

The rest of us might want to think about cutting the shit too, and later this year, before fall turns to winter, I'm going to sell my little tin shack in the desert and my automobile that I need for even the most pedestrian daily errands, and move to a city where I won't have a car. Ever again.

Cars are half, or more than half the problem. Carlessness is the wave of the future. And I would hope that vanity fests like Live Earth are not. We can do without any more such hooplas.

Sunday, July 08, 2007

The Limits of Authority

Here's something I don't understand. Conyers and the Judiciary Committee subpoened Sara Taylor, who used to work in the White House. Her lawyer wrote Conyers a letter saying she wants to testify, but the White House won't let her.

How can the White House not let her? She wouldn't be breaking any law, she no longer works for the White House, and Bush and Cheney are not her mama. What are they planning to do about it if she does testify?

Her testimony would be in regard to the U.S. attorney firings.

I don't know of any precedent for "not letting" a former employee testify, or under what authority such action can occur. The situation was revealed this morning on ABC's "This Week" in a question the show's host George Stephanopoulis asked Conyers, Chair of the House Judiciary Committee.

Coyers hinted that impeachment of Bush and Cheney is getting to be more of a real possibility because of their stonewalling of various congressional investigations.

Saturday, July 07, 2007

O'Reilly and the Lesbians

Anybody who still takes Bill Orally seriously better have a brain scan PDQ.

Olbermann's "Worst Person in the World" awards for Friday featured an O'Reilly toofer: he took second place for having his D.C. radio show pulled and replaced by a sports talk show, while at the same time managing to capture first place for reporting the previously unremarked existence of a “national underground network of lesbian gangs carrying pink pistols” who are terrorizing and raping young girls and forcing them into lesbianism.

One of Fox News's paid shils, sitting in with O'Reilly as a guest expert, asserted that there are over 150 such crews in the D.C. area alone.

All I can say is I hope there's film at 11:00. This should be fun to watch. I wanna see those pink pistols.

I think Orally is just resentful of females who disdain a heterosexual persuasion because he hates thinking about all those women out there who will never feel the touch of his fabled falafel. Or is it his loofah? But why bother about insignificant details?

Seattle's Dave Neiwert has all the gruesome details of this heinous threat at his blog Orcinus.

Thursday, July 05, 2007


The Pew Organization has published a poll that shows how low the reputation of the United States has fallen in the rest of the world's eyes, with most of the damage done in the last seven years.

Right. Well, if people elsewhere feel bad about the U.S., there are plenty of current polls showing that Americans feel bad about the U.S. too.

The last polls I saw had like 77% of Americans saying they thought the country was "on the wrong track," or something to that effect.

Everybody feels bad about us and we feel bad too. We all feel very bad. Boo hoo.

As President Merkin Muffley (played by Peter Sellers) in the movie "Dr. Strangelove" said to the Soviet Premier after the U.S. had launched a nuclear strike against Russia, "I'm sorry too, Dmitri. I'm very sorry. All right! You're sorrier than I am! But I am sorry as well. I am as sorry as you are Dmitri. Don't say that you are more sorry than I am, because I am capable of being just as sorry as you are. So we're both sorry, all right? All right."

When we get tired of feeling bad, maybe we'll do something about it. We could start by impeaching Bush and Cheney and getting a little self-respect back. Maybe if we respected ourselves a little more, other people might start to respect us a little more too.

Incidentally, the scenario in "Strangelove" hinged on the nutty breakdown of a supposedly foolproof system. The nuclear strike against Russia occurred because of the efforts of a certifiable lunatic, Air Force General Jack D. Ripper, to monkey wrench and override the system of safeguards, and launch the air wing under his command against the Soviets on his own initiative. That was back in the early 60's, the days when the theoretically sane people were in charge.

Is Dick Cheney sane? Even theoretically?

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Ends and Means

In late March, two members of the Congressional Peak Oil Caucus, Roscoe Bartlett (R-MD) and Tom Udall (D-UT) called a press conference to announce the release of a previously embargoed General Accounting Office report which reveals that the U.S. is "particularly vulnerable" to disruptions in its 22-million-barrel-per-day oil habit due to the imminent peak and anticipated decline in world oil production, and that the U.S. government is "unprepared" to deal with the consequences of these supply breakdowns, brought on either by production shortfalls or political conflict.

Their press conference announcement (two pages, pdf) provides a thumbnail of the GAO document and a link to the full report.

"This GAO peak oil report is a clarion call for leadership at the highest level of our country to avert an energy crisis unlike any the world has ever before experienced," Bartlett said, adding that this supply crisis "could happen at any time."

Udall listed the steps Washington needs to take to deal with the inevitable supply crunch, including "a concerted focus on conservation, higher fuel efficiency standards, energy saving buildings and appliances, (and) revival of passenger and freight rail..."

With the price of crude oil once again topping $70 a barrel, the age of cheap gasoline is already history, and the coming supply crisis a certainty rather than a possibility. The GAO report points out:

*OPEC countries hold most of the world's oil reserves, but the extent of those reserves has not been verified by independent auditors, and is therefore an unknown and unknowable quantity.

*Four countries -- Iran, Iraq, Nigeria, and Venezuela, hold an estimated one-third of world oil reserves. All four are either politically unstable, strongly anti-American, or both.

I'm surprised that Al Gore, who now has to be considered an undeclared presidential candidate, has not picked up this issue and married it to his global warming crusade, since the solutions to the coming petroleum supply disaster are also the solutions to the climate crisis.

I have no doubt that Americans will sooner or later do the right thing in dealing with global warming, just as an obese person in a time of famine is bound to do. Our way of life and our economic regime for the past six decades, dominated by the perpetual horizontal expansion of cities with replicated suburbs spreading farther and farther from the core, and the proliferation of automobiles to negotiate these freeway-linked megalopolises, is rapidly passing away. Whether our transition to a new, high-density urban way of life is relatively easy or catastrophically hard depends on the quality of the leadership we choose to take us there.

It will take more than just electing a president who doesn't have his head in an inappropriate place. Strong, determined, and in some ways implacable and puritanical state and local leadership will be required as well.

Because in the days to come, as the prophet said, Americans will burn gasoline and natural gas "by measure, and with astonishment."

Sunday, July 01, 2007

The Tower Struck by Lightning

In the first year, in the ninth month, on the eleventh day of the month, the tower was struck by lightning.

Here in our present-day Babylon, unlike the ancient nation whose fate is recounted in the first and last books of the Bible, the tower we've built is mostly horizontal, not vertical, and spread over the ground like an amoeba. That part has been struck by disaster also, although of a different sort than that which demolished the vertical portion.

When the tower is destroyed, the pride and arrogance that built it are also demolished and lie buried beneath the rubble. If the builders attempt to hang on to the delusions of omnipotence which caused them to erect such monuments to their own vanity in the first place, they will only cause themselves more grief, and their legacy to their own people as well as others will be more widespread destruction.

When God sees the tower, he regards "this thing they begin to doe: and now nothing will be restrained from them, which they haue imagined to doe." Thus the mighty are brought down, and the proud humbled.

Therefore, the time when the tower is struck by lightning is a momentous and sobering time. It signals the arrival of the day of reckoning, when the illustrious rulers of the mighty Kingdom of Babylon must realize that in their hubris they have violated the limitations and laws of proportion which nature and nature's God have put into place. And this is why they are shown from time to time that their gifts do not confer dominion, which still belongs to a power they are unable comprehend or measure.

As one prophet expressed it, they shall burn gasoline "by measure, and with astonishment.