Wednesday, October 31, 2007

A Diet for Recovery

"Recovery from what?" you may ask. "Of a couple things simultaneously," I answer. Here are a few modest, reasonable, and non-traumatic dietary changes I've made recently in my own life which I hope will increase my chances of personal recovery from disease and addiction. Others might want to consider them also, because these kinds of changes (not these exact changes necessarily), if adopted by large numbers of Americans, might ease some of the pressure of human demands on Mother Earth.

I've cut the number of eggs I consume in half -- eggs and toast for breakfast every other day. Raisin bran with two percent milk is the alternative.

No more butter; hummus instead.

Cheese and bread a couple times a week rather than every day. Mayonnaise is out, replaced by a health food store product called Vegenaise, which tastes wonderful and is exactly what it sounds like. Pizza, which used to be the default meal, and is now banished from the table.

No beef, no pork. Chicken and fish are okay, but I find myself eating each of those about once a week at this point.

For years I've been vitamin deficient from not eating enough produce and avoiding raw food altogether. I'm eating more cooked produce now, and one of the most important items in the new diet is the daily orange.

Approximately four nights a week I have brown rice cooked with a combination of three or four of any of the following: pinto beans, broccoli, bean sprouts, spinach, cashews, mushrooms, carrots, frozen peas, seaweed, celery, or lentils. Top with soy sauce and chow mein noodles, or skip the noodles if you're a gluten-free person.

Yogurt for dessert.

Others adopting such a regimen may feel differently, but for some reason I don't feel like this involves any sacrifice on my part. Maybe that's because the most important and least healthful item in my diet is still my Big Enchilada, joy, crutch, and ever-faithful true love: big, strong, bolshy tasses of hot black coffee.


Sunday, October 28, 2007


We've been sleepwalking into the future for years. Now the future is here. Crude oil closed at $91.86 on Friday. A month from now it'll close at $101.86. Welcome to the future; do yourself a favor and check your favorite fantasies and delusional behaviors at the door.

So today as my cigarette habit sets noisily in the west, I'm doing a little sleeptalking to myself. I know the routine so well I don't have to be awake to recite it. The Revolution will be televised. Forget Lenin and Robespierre. The foundations of Empire will soon be demolished to powder by organic carrots and armies of pacifist mystical chanting Buddhist vegetarians.

Americans are still dreaming that they'll be able to keep their insolent chariots running somehow -- on biodiesel, or electricity, or hydrogen, or French-fry grease. Meanwhile, Paris (France, not Texas) has begun to free itself from the embrace of the four-cylinder dinosaurs and rediscovered the bicycle, with the most progressive city in the U.S., Portland (Oregon, not Maine) soon to follow. As in so many other facets of the current economy, the past is the future.

Meanwhile, the numbers of house foreclosures set new records in September. They'll set new, and unprecedented ones in January, February, and March of next year. Real estate prices are going to drop anywhere from 50 to 95 percent in the next 40 months or so, depending on whether the property in question is viable (i.e., fairly close-in to a center of commerce and within reach of public transportation) or some loser McMansion in the farthest distant reaches of Slurbia. Those will end up abandoned, the yards turned into weedy jungles and the green swimming pools breeding mosquitos, and unsellable at any price. The cost of gasoline and heating oil and electricity will see to that.

It's nice to know that the gangsta lendahs who victimized the gullible during the first half of the decade, the Countrywides and the DiTechs, are losing their butts, but the problem is the collapse of the finance "industry" hurts a lot of us little guys too. This is certainly a very bad time to be in debt, and the more debt, the more trouble, for as the value of the dollar weakens against other currencies, debtors will be forced to repay expensive dollars with cheap ones.

But what it all means for people who have more assets than liabilities is hard to say. I don't really understand the dismal science of economics all that well, and a lot of what I read seems self-contradictory. However, another non-economist like myself, Manuel Garcia, provides an interesting look at future possibilities with his article called "Homes of the Crash Test Dummies."

Obviously the prices of some things are going to rise astronomically -- gasoline and all other forms of energy especially, but also stuff like insurance. The cost of other things, such as housing and a lot of consumer items such as furniture will fall rapidly. Hundreds of thousands of construction workers are or soon will be out of jobs, but on the other hand our now-arrived future will provide a tremendous market for people who know how to repair things.

Food is the most interesting and unpredictable commodity, because local farmers' markets and food cooperatives will start to come into play, and begin to elbow out the Safeways and Winn-Dixies, purveyors of our current diet of overpriced, overprocessed agribusiness stuff. But nobody knows how much influence alternative, local sources of food will have, or how quickly they'll come into their own.

Health care for the masses is a gigantic question mark.

It seems to me we're entering a sea-change as or more significant than the Great Depression, and that the economic crisis whose beginnings are now upon us will accomplish what decades of revolutionary rhetoric couldn't -- an end to our various war machines and their incessant wars, on Iraq, on Iran, on terror, on drugs, and mostly on common sense and sanity.

Saturday, October 27, 2007


OK, I think we've got a good working definition of insanity here.

The facts are simple: Nancy Pelosi traveled to Syria, and wore a head scarf while visiting the 8th-century Omayyad Mosque.

Whether or not you think Pelosi shold have visited Syria, the head scarf thing was a simple act of deference and respect when visiting someone else's house, sort of like a male gentile wearing a yarmulke when he visits a synagogue. But Matt Drudge's indignant report on the event didn't see it that way. One does not defer to them Mooslim A-Rabs, and respect is out of the question. It was most likely a commenter at Drudge's blog (the source is unclear) who responded that Pelosi was "donning the garb of America’s enemies," then asked "What’s next — a suicide bomber belt?"

You wanna know what nuts looks like? It looks like that.

To make the vast leap from a head scarf, a simple act of respect, to a suicide bomber belt, the most inflammatory and extreme talisman of the committed violent sectarian, at once lumps all Muslims and all Arabs together, and lumps Pelosi, who rightly or wrongly was making a simple fact-finding diplomatic mission in with them. It betrays a disconnect from reality, a level of hysteria, and a "kill-em-all" mentality that makes rational discourse with such a person impossible.

But by far, the best example of wild-eyed screaming yellow balls-to-the-wall moonbat wingnut stark raving craziness I've seen, ever, is provided by a recent essay by Philip Atkinson, "Conquering the Drawbacks of Democracy." where you'll find this sage advice about how Atkinson believes George Bush should have conducted the beginning of the Iraq War:

"The wisest course would have been for President Bush to use his nuclear weapons to slaughter Iraqis until they complied with his demands, or until they were all dead. Then there would be little risk or expense and no American army would be left exposed. But if he did this, his cowardly electorate would have instantly ended his term of office, if not his freedom or his life."

Until they were all dead?

Hey, what's the big deal about a little genocide when you're God's chosen people, and the biggest, baddest son of a bitch in this or any other valley?

Enough said.

In 1957 the psychiatrist Carl Gustav Jung wrote that "For every manifest case of insanity there are, in my estimation, at least ten latent cases who seldom get to the point of breaking out openly but whose views and behaviour, for all their appearance of normality, are influenced unconsciously by pathological and perverse factors," and added that "They are...despite their small number in comparion with the population as a whole, dangerous as sources of infection..."

The infection Jung speaks of is bound to spread, of course, if a group of these "latent cases" manages to capture the highest offices of government. The result is that mass craziness breaks loose, such as for example, large numbers of Californians in recent days whispering among themselves that the state's recent wildfires must have been caused by "the terrorists."

God save us. Nobody else can.

Friday, October 26, 2007

On Strike?

From the Associated Press:

The preznit is saying Congress has "set a record they should not be proud of: October 26 is the latest date in 20 years that Congress has failed to get a single annual appropriations bill to the president's desk."

So I'm sitting here wondering, is this just the usual incompetence and inability of our corrupt and indifferent Congress to function properly, or have they come up with some sort of secret plan?

Shutting down the legislature and going on strike might be a way to bring the preznit to his senses on issues such as the war in Iraq, making war on Iran, health care, and bunches of other stuff. This is assuming, of course, that he has any sense.

The story goes on to report that the preznit "chided Congress for failing to approve more money for Iraq and Afghanistan."

Come on, Harry and Nancy, wake up!!! Failing to approve more money for Iraq and Afghanistan is a GREAT PLAN. You guys are like clocks that have stopped and are still right twice a day. You can't help but do the right thing by accident sometimes. And I would strongly encourage you to "fail) to get a single annual appropriations bill to the president's desk" indefinitely.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Among the Ruins

Historians everywhere will one day try to pinpoint the exact moment the United States passed over the frontier separating Constitutional democracy from military dictatorship. It won't be easy. It's fashionable today to blame George W. Bush, and it's true that his wars, tortures, and domestic spying, all of them illegal because they're imperial, are an executive coup of sorts.

But accretion of power to the executive at Congress's expense has been going on since Roosevelt's depression-era "alphabet" economic initiatiatives were cooked up in the White House and hastily approved by a subservient legislature. Truman oversaw the beginnings of the enormous expansion of the military, or rather its refusal to ever completely demobilize at the end of World War II, as well as approving the creation of the CIA, a private army beholden only to the executive. By the time Eisenhower warned us of the growth of "the military-industrial complex," the war machine in all its illegitimacy and illegality was already the leading branch of government.

Obviously, neither the republic nor democracy are going to be restored. It's too late for that. But there remains a question of whether Congress must accept its current state of enfeeblement and total impotence, or whether its members might be able to exert themselves sufficiently to regain enough influence to at least partially check the dictatorship.

A test of this question is at hand, as the dictatorship is attempting to force Congress to endorse the administration's desire for retroactive immunity from prosecution for the telecommunications companies it forced to engage in domestic spying. Domestic spying is, of course strictly illegal, and if Congress caves in on this issue, it's as good as approving the idea that the rule of law is an antiquated concept, and that the president of these United States is now a monarch who is a law unto himself.

One U.S. Senator, Chris Dodd of Connecticut (also a presidential candidate, but an irrelevant one), is determined to stop this push for retroactive immunity for telecoms who have violated the law. He would ideally like to see this proposal never get out of the Senate Judiciary Committee. Currently, one committee member favors granting immunity, two are opposed, and 16 are sitting on the fence. To find out who's who, and to see how you can influence the resolution of this extremely important constitutional issue, visit

Monday, October 22, 2007

How to Get a Clue

Thanks largely to the strenuous efforts of our corporate-financed mass media, the American public has now become so fucking clueless that it sets new, daily records in its ever-increasing levels of cluelessitude. Sort of like the price of crude oil.

With an assist from the teevee nooze, we the people set a new benchmark for willful ignorance last week, and one that took us waaay off the charts. For as the price of crude oil briefly topped $90 and the stock markets melted down last Friday, the talking heads continued to chatter about the agonies and ecstasies of His Gayness, Senator Larry Craig of Idaho, and the underpantslessness of Britney Spears. You know, important stuff we need to know about.

The corporate media's criminal malfeasance and nonfeasance in these matters is duly noted in Jim Kunstler's coverage of last week's Association for the Study of Peak Oil and Gas meeting at their annual get-together in Houston. It's new today on his Clusterfuck Nation blog, and it begins with an overview of the conference's host city, Houston, a place I've personally never been to, and I earnestly hope never to go.

Highlights of the conference included a presentation by Robert Hirsch, described by Kunstler as a "co-author of the now-famous 2005 Hirsch Report, commissioned by the US Department of Energy, which, much to the consternation of its sponsor, first told the nation in no uncertain terms that it was heading for a catastrophic set of disruptions in 'normal' American life if we heedlessly continued energy business-as-usual."

And of course, what we've done since 2005 is heedlessly continue energy business-as-usual.

Hirsch told the APSO conference attendees that things are now worse than he originally thought, and he predicts "a future of 'oil export withholding,' panicked markets, and allocation disturbances that would make the 1973 OPEC embargo look like a golden age."

Another speaker was Matt Simmons, an investment banker specializing in oil industry finance, who analyzes the industry from the "futures" point of view. Simmons is certain that "market allocation problems in the near future (will) almost certainly induce 'hoarding behavior' among the public that (will) cripple the economy, lead to enforced rationing, and shock the nation."

And so it went, with speaker after speaker delivering more bad news which, incidentally, the corporate media will never share with a public who doesn't want to hear it.

I'd strongly encourage anyone who's interested in personal survival in a state other than total impoverishment to read Kunstler this morning, and to turn off the television. It's now virtually impossible to get any real, useful information from the box, which was never anything more than a platform for corporate advertising anyway.

The news that you won't hear on teevee is that this country is living like a methamphetamine addict who refuses to acknowledge his illness and doesn't believe he can actually die, but at the same time holds the thought somewhere in his mind that if he should die, he wants to do so with a full load of happy dust in his brain.

The Cheney administration's solution to this, of course, is to bomb another Middle Eastern country with four letters in its name. So if you'd like to die a slow, painful, agonizing death, vote Republican.

There are solutions to our energy crisis, a crisis which no longer lies in the future but is here now. But all of them are hard, and all of them require sacrifice and self-denial and the breaking of an addiction. There is not a single solution to these difficulties that doesn't necessitate the end of the age of happy motoring as we've known it.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Oh, I Soooooo Don't Care I'm About to Faint

Over on the Beliefnet U.S. Politics board, about half the threads on the front page are now Limbaugh threads. First there were half dozen or so har-har-har chest thumpers about the Harry Reid anti-Rush letter the dittoheads auctioned off on E-Bay in a frenzy of mutual masturbation, followed by a couple of anti-Limbaugh scrolls, most notably couldntgetjustscott's "Lies" thread, which provided an amusing and necessary laxative to the congested proceedings over there.

But I must say, I care about Rush Limbaugh and the moonbats who take him seriously about as much as I care about the South Beach Diet, or NASCAR, or owning a 5,000-square-foot home with a swimming pool, or the World Wrestling Federation, or who's going to win on "Dancing with the Stars," or Pray-er in our Skew-els, or Lawrence Welk reruns on PBS, or going shopping at Wal-Mart, or pimped-out pick-em-up trucks, or wearing a Rolex watch, or...or...or...

Maybe I should care about him more, since I understand he's very influential. I even know a couple of people who reverently listen to him, but my attitude toward that is to pity the less fortunate.

And until the political situation reaches the point in this country where I suspect the dittoheads have enough power to lock up everybody who knows more than they do, I'm not going to think much about him, or them. He, and they, are boring, silly, and clueless.

And actually, I wouldn't mind owning a Rolex. They're overpriced and ugly, but I've heard they more than pay for themselves in the amount of female attention a guy gets when wearing one.

Friday, October 19, 2007


Contrary to what I thought before, Phred Thompson has ideas. But unfortunately, they're 18th- and 19th-century ideas.

He knows it's '07, but he doesn't know it's 2007.

At a Family Research Council conference today, Phred revealed that he's an admirer of the writings of Andrew Roberts, a pro-imperialist throwback to Eurocentrism, and an apologist for genocide. The website TPM Muckraker reports: "Thompson approvingly quoted the words of one Andrew Roberts, a right-wing British historian who has been hosted at the White House by President Bush and has dined with Vice President Cheney and Karl Rove — and whose writings are quite literally an apologia for 19th and early 20th-century imperialism, concentration camps, and massacres of indigenous peoples."

Roberts was described in a New Republic article six months ago as "a man with links to white supremacism, whose book is not a history but an ahistorical catalogue of apologies and justifications for mass murder that even blames the victims of concentration camps for their own deaths."

Nice going, Phred. How's life in the time warp?

And from my Netherlandish correspondent Charikleia, this wonderful unattribued quote: "'Only fools do those villains pity who are punished before they have done their mischief,' Kim quotes, as he shoves a horrid rednecked oaf out of the lifeboat. The sharks cut his his screams to a bearable pitch and period."

Walkin' to New Orleans

Back in the fifties, Fats Domino sang "I'm walkin' to New Orleans." And now in the zeroes, we're all having to walk there 'cause we can't afford to drive.

The economic disaster Republicans and other mentally challenged individuals such as economists said would never happen is suddenly here, with the price of crude oil about to hit $90 a barrel, and $100 a barrel on the horizon, mainly because of the weakening dollar.

Your cost at the pump is just now beginning to reflect the most recent run-up in oil prices. And of course the effects of record levels of foreclosures are already with us, with worse yet to come. The wave of home foreclosures will become a tsunami in January, February, and March of 2008 due to the record number of adjustable rate mortgages that will reset during that 90-day window.

To all those who have been trumpeting how robust and unsinkable the American economy is for the past five years, I'm here to tell you I told you this was going to happen. I'm sure that'll make me a real popular guy, but not as popular as Jim Kunstler, who for a decade has not only predicted the disasters now upon us with unerring accuracy, but has located the causes of what is now unfolding in the frivolous and immature mentality of the American public, its leadership's capacity for denial, and its media information sources' proclivity for choosing the soothing lie over the difficult truth.

Kunstler says the current crisis "could only happen in a culture that has come off the rails mentally, so to speak, as ours has in the sense that nobody has any sense of consequence, neither the leaders nor those who affect to follow the leaders. The leading religion in America is not evangelical Christianity, it is the worship of unearned riches, and its golden rule is the belief that is is possible to get something for nothing. Its holy shrines are Las Vegas and Wall Street. (And, by the way, has anybody heard the evangelical Christians complain about Las Vegas? They complain about a lot of things, but are themselves among the greatest believers in unearned riches -- given their preference for prayer over earnest effort in the service of solving life's problems.)"

The immaturity and atmosphere of unreality that pervades America's dreamlike descent into economic collapse also characterizes its political process, and the two reinforce one another. In a brilliant column in which he asserts that in its national elections, America shows "the collective maturity of 3-year olds," the New York Times's Bob Herbert reviews the election of 2000 as he analyzes why the current election cycle cannot a produce a candidate of Al Gore's quality, and why a campaign based on sound bites, hot button issues, slogans, and name calling is incapable of producing anything other than shallow and narrow-minded candidates, unfitted for anything even remotely resembling real leadership. Most of all, he zeroes in on the corporate media's tendency to evaluate the personalities rather than the positions of presidential contenders.

Recalling that "Mr. Gore was taken to task (by network news anchors) for his taste in clothing and for such grievous offenses as sighing or, allegedly, rolling his eyes," Herbert reminds us that among these same talking heads, "It was a given that at a barbecue everyone would rush to be with his opponent.

"We’ve paid a heavy price," he then reminds us, although he didn't really need to. "The president who got such high marks as a barbecue companion doesn’t seem to know up from down. He’s hurled the nation into a ruinous war that has cost countless lives and spawned a whole new generation of terrorists. He continues to sit idly by as a historic American city, New Orleans, remains wounded and on its knees. He’s blithely steered the nation into a bottomless pit of debt.

"I could go on."

Indeed he could, since besides presiding over a criminal invasion of the Middle East which coincidentally turned out a colossal failure, that candidate you'd most like to have a beer with is now going to see the country descend into the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression, thanks to his incompetence and ineptitude, and with an assist from our frivolity and immaturity.

What will the result of this crisis be? If it doesn't kill us, it'll make us stronger. We might have to grow up in hurry, and start thinking about how we're going to deal with the end of the age of oil and the automobile, rather than assuming that a cluster of shallow and ignorant leaders whose ineptitude reflects the shallowness and ignorance of the electorate will solve our problems for us.

We might have to stop being shallow and ignorant and talkiing about Britney Spears and Paris Hilton, and judge for ourselves whether we're actually in danger of being bombed by the Iranians, rather than listening breathlessly and credulously to "a tale told by an idiot, full of the sound and the fury, signifying nothing."

Monday, October 15, 2007

Parallel Passages

George W. Bush is a notably dim bulb, much in the same way Jessica Simpson is also kind of stupid, and both have the same goofy expression and beady-eyed stare that make Jessica Simpson look like a vacant, no-talent singer and actress, and that make George W. Bush look like a guy who should never be photographed or televised standing behind a podium, because he’s so much like a piece of wood it would be hard to tell him from the podium except for the fact that he’s not wood-colored, which wouldn’t be so bad if he’d lived 100 years ago when the podium wouldn’t have caused so much trouble because it wouldn’t exist, since the trees that went into making it would not have been harvested yet, and some think I might agree that he only wears that blue suit because his wife told him to, and you know it’s bad if a guy in that high an office has to depend on his wife to know how to dress and not look funny in public, and we all know which one of the two of them thought Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction, just like Pakistan and India, who would hate each others’ guts if countries had guts, and which one wore very short pants in a movie that was about why cousins shouldn’t get married to each other, and Jessica Simpson keeps whoever her boyfriend is a secret which makes her personal life more private and erotic to say the least, while George W. Bush’s wife is known to everybody and it’s in all the newspapers if they even think about doing it and that can’t be any fun, and at least Jessica Simpson has flattering pictures in fanmags and people in Europe and Mexico watch her movies to ogle her body, while Bush is hated by most citizens of his country and all citizens of other countries, but the stress of both their lives might cause their deaths before their old age really even begins, which would pretty much end both the Iraq War and any chance for a Dukes of Hazzard sequel with Jessica Simpson in the part of Daisy Duke’s grandmother.

Sunday, October 14, 2007


You can't spend any time in internet political discussion groups or chat rooms without confronting the Limbaugh phenomenon. The dittoheads are everywhere, and this makes for a very sad and depressing presentation of a supposedly civilized society.

The proper study of this phenomenon lies not in politics, but in psychology.

The psychiatrist Carl Gustav Jung believed that for every case of full-blown insanity in modern societies, there are ten more who are teetering on the brink, and "whose views and behaviour, for all their appearance of normality, are influenced unconsciously by pathological and perverse factors."*

I'm not sure the murderous rage of the dittoheads, openly flaunted as if it was a virtue and source of pride, qualifies as possessing the "appearance of normality," but Limbaugh's listenership and fan base is widesperad enough that it's become part of the landscape.

Jung says further of these semi-lunatics that "the relatively small numbers of the population figures they represent is more than compensated for by the peculiar dangerousness of these people. Their mental state is that of a collectively excited group ruled by affective judgments and wish-fantasies. In a milieu of this kind (a society constantly agitated and stimulated by mass-media entertainments and sensationalist information) they are the adapted ones, and consequently they feel quite at home in it. They know from their own experience the language of these conditions, and they know how to handle them. Their chimerical ideas, sustained by fanatical resentment, appeal to the collective irrationality and find fruitful soil there; they express all those motives and resentments which lurk in more normal people under the cloak of reason and insight. They are therefore, despite their small number in comparison with the population as a whole, dangerous as sources of infection..."

The infection Jung speaks of and its manner of spreading is immediately apparent to those of us who spend any amount of time in internet discussion groups. Superpatriots and cheerleaders for monopoloy corporatism, military dictatorship, and endless war burst into these forums in a state of high excitation, agitated by resentment and rage. They accuse anyone who disagrees with them of all manner of crimes, and of sinister and evil motives -- collusion with the enemy, wishing for the impoverishment and misery of their own people, hoping for the triumph of moral degeneracy over virtue, and so forth. The accused naturally enough are offended, get angry, and are suckered into responding in kind, rather than doing what they should, and responding calmly. That's how the contagion spreads.

This all makes not only for a sad and tragic state of public discourse, but for truly dangerous and potentially violent domestic politics. And on the world stage, of course, the violence isn't potential, but real, massively deadly, and destructive of everything this country once stood for.

It's time to stop debating. We need to call in the police and mental health authorities and show them the evidence, which will consist of any Rush Limbaugh broadcast chosen at random.

*All remarks quoted from Jung are drawn from his essay "The Undiscovered Self," available in "The Undiscovered Self with Symbols and the Interpretation of Dreams," published in 1990 as part of Princeton University's Bollingen Series and sold on

Friday, October 12, 2007

Brokesoul Mountain

And I looked, and behold, a pale horse, & his name that sat on him was death...
--Revelation 6:8

I had a dream last night so clear and vivid that I remembered it in all its details upon awakening.

I was in a room with half a dozen or more cowbyoys, and a mean-looking, lousy crew they were. All around the walls were hung with pistols in holsters, and these holsters hung on belts all stuffed with bullets. The cowboys each took a weapon or weapons from the wall and started for the door.

They went out the door single file, some firing as they went. I couldn't see out, so I have no idea what they were shooting at.

The last cowboy, an old guy, turned back into the room and with an angry look began sweeping weapons off the wall with his hand. Pistolas clattered as they hit the floor, along with large numbers of bullets knocked loose from the belts, and some of these discharged on impact.

The old cowboy was hit with about a dozen of the stray projectiles he'd unloosed. As he lay dying with blood coming out of his head, I could see by his face he didn't give a damn, even for his own life.

And I know for a fact we're in much worse trouble than we think.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

The Groovy Side of Torture

People keep coming onto internet discussion groups and chat rooms and emphasizing the negative things about torture. There are also some very nice aspects to torture. We know this is true because there are some people who actually enjoy being tortured.

Some people even like to torture themselves, although this can be hazardous, and those who enjoy self-inflicted pain should probably always use the "buddy system" to insure safety, as the two bims young women in the picture are doing.

Take this guy for example -- a conservative Christian minister, a graduate of Liberty University, and a personal friend of the late Rev. Jerry Falwell.

Rev. Gary Aldridge, 51, was found dead in his home. Police said he was home alone at the time of his demise, and his death was accidental.

At the time he died Rev. Aldridge, pastor of the local Thorington Road Church since 1991, was wearing two wet suits, a rubber face mask, a scuba diving mask, a pair of slippers, a pair of diving gloves, a set of rubber underwear, two ties, five belts, and eleven straps disposed in various ways. For example, one plastic cord secured his ankles to his neck. He also had a dildo in his butt.

The cause of death was asphyxiation.

I hope this settles the debate about torture always being bad once and for all.

It also answers the question, "What do you folks in Alabama do for fun, anyway?"

Role Models

We never outgrow the need for role models, people older and more accomplished than ourselves to serve as examples for us to emulate. One of my most important role models for some time now has been Doris Haddock, better known as Granny D. An excellent writer and speaker, very much in the old-school style, Granny D. is living proof that it's never too late to try to change the world.

On the 18th of this month HBO will run a documentary profiling her rise to fame at an advanced age, "Run, Granny, Run," airing at nine p.m. It will cover her unsuccessful run for the U.S. Senate from New Hampshire in 2004 and her cross-country walk at age 90 to publicize the need for campaign finance reform. The pilgrimage from Santa Monica to Washington D.C. took over a year, and is chronicled in her book, "Granny D: Walking Across America in My 90th Year."

"(T)he ida of walking across the United States at my age seemed a less than perfect idea. I was being foolish," Haddock wrote in 2001. "The country is too big for an old New Hampshire woman with a bad back and arthritis and emphysema and parched lips and a splintered hat. These were not so much my own thoughts but doubts planted in me by others."

I know what she means. First you have to stop telling yourself you can't do so-and-so, then you've got to stop listening to other people who are telling you that you can't do it. And I also know what she means when she speaks of emphysema, the result of fifty years of smoking. Been there. Done that. Got that.

It took her 14 months, but she made it all the way from the California coast to D.C. Some time earlier in her life, at about age 70 I would guess, she made it all the way from nicotine addiction to complete recovery. So there's hope for me, and I have someone to emulate as I begin the long recovery process.

Now, about that walk to publicize the need to dismantle the war machine...

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Don't Ever Be Right

Don't ever be right -- about anything, the price of oil, the Iraq War, because if you do you'll be wrong. It's much better to be wrong, but in the right sort of way.

Back in 2002 Barack Obama was right about the Iraq War before it even started. Now he's in big trouble for it.

There's this Fred Barnes guy, a Fox talking head on a thing called "The Beltway Boys," and on last Saturday's show he says of Obama, "You know, I’ve thought for a long time that Obama’s not in quite as strong a position on the war in Iraq as he really thinks he is. Remember, when he famously came out against the war, it was back in a time when the entire world believed that Saddam Hussein in Iraq had weapons of mass destruction, that he would probably be willing to use them himself at some time or pass them along to terrorists who would use them. And yet, Barack Obama was against going to the war at that point. I don’t think that shows that he is very strong on national security, which he needs to be."

Exactly. It was very wrong of Obama to be right about that. He was supposed to believe what "the entire world believed," because the fact that he didn't showed that he's not "very strong on national security."

I see. So back in March, 2003, when I was watching the teevee and realized we were actually going to invade Iraq, I said out loud, "Boy, these clueless morons are gonna get themselves and rest of us in soooooooo much trouble..." And that shows that I secretly sympathize with the terrorists.

Obviously, anybody who's right about stuff should not be taken seriously.

Which leads the NY Times columnist Paul Krugman to observe, "Look at a typical lineup on the Sunday talk shows, discussing the war: you very rarely see an 'expert' on the issue who wasn’t pro-war. Look at a recent panel at Brookings, advertised as representing a 'uniquely broad' range of views on Iraq — from liberal hawks all the way to conservative hawks.

"The fact is that in our national discourse, at least in DC, you’re still considered 'not serious' if you were right about Iraq. And you’re also considered extreme and shrill if you were right about Bush."

So be very careful about that being right stuff. Chances are, anybody who was right about Iraq, is right about Iran, and knows where oil is going is not at all serious. Such people are wild-eyed radicals with lots of strange, liberal ideas, and most of them are probably closet Marxists who believe the government should impose public transportation on innocent motorists.

Monday, October 08, 2007

But Is It a Cult?

"Although the authority and tradition of the Christian religion were decomposing in the New World's freedom, there was a counter-desire to escape from disorder and chaos," Fawn Brodie wrote in 1945. She was commenting on the yeasty, sometimes overwrought cultural atmosphere of early 19th-century America, which birthed two important homegrown religions, Mormonism and modern Unitarianism.

I got into a debate earlier today on the subject of Mitt Romney's candidacy, and invariably someone brought up the question of whether the LDS Church is a cult. Another poster suggested that Unitarianism is a cult.

The Mormons have two holy books. One is the Bible, the other is the Book of Mormon, purported to be an amplification and completion of the Bible.

It is, in fact, a crude hoax, badly written by an impoverished and highly imaginative New York farm boy in his early twenties, in 1829, in a mock-King James style. The phrase, "And it came to pass" occurs in this ridiculous volume more than 2,000 times. Mark Twain described it as "Chloroform in print."

The book asserts, among other preposterous claims, that Native Americans are descended from an immigrant party from among the lost tribes of Israel who journeyed to the New World. This nucleus actually spawned two groups -- good descendents who remained white, and bad descendents who turned dark. Later on the dark people, called "Lamanites," wiped out the white people.

If this isn't a cult, then I don't know what is.

Fawn M. Brodie didn't write the Book of Mormon, but she wrote the book on Mormons. An apostate who grew up in Utah and whose uncle was president of the LDS Church, her 1945 biography of the Mormon founder, Joseph Smith, launched a brilliant career in the History Department at UCLA. "No Man Knows My History" is also the book that inspired me to return to college and learn how to do historical research, in 1980 when I was 40.

Brodie went on to write numerous highly-regarded biographies, especially her life of Thomas Jefferson, which for the first time broadcast knowledge of his black descendents to a wide public.


Unlike the Mormons, still in awe of the work of their founder, Modern Unitarians have little knowledge of and less interest in their forebears such as William Ellery Channing and Ralph Waldo Emerson.

Unitarian-Universalists, those hyphenated nonbelievers, are hardly a cult, though what they are is hard to say. They claim they have no creed, and look baffled when someone reminds them that believing it's best not to have a creed is in itself a creed.

I'm a Unitarian. That means I believe that if there's a God, there's only one of her. But I don't go to the Unitarian-Universalist Church.

When I was a kid I did go, with my parents, to a Unitarian church. Nearly all the members, including my parents, were atheists, and a few were agnostic holdouts. For some reason these people wanted to spend their Sunday mornings sitting in a building that looks like a church and singing songs that sound like hymns and listening to a guy who looked and dressed like a protestant cleric deliver a humanist speech that sounded sort of like a sermon. Why they took comfort in this ritual I don't understand to this day.

My point is, that's not the behavior of cultists, but simply the behavior of people who are confused, and not very introspective.

Saturday, October 06, 2007

T.J. Faulkner's All-White Blues Band

We were a garage band without the garage.

The guitarist David Higginbotham e-mailed me earlier today and asked me to recall and write down everything I could about a bizarre chapter in our lives, a short-lived association with an improvised and seat-of-the-pants blues band we were part of in San Francisco forty years ago. Its official name was Mother Blue, but I always thought of it as T.J. Faulkner's All-White Blues Band.

In 1968 I was working the sandwich counter at a well-established, sleazy, and sometimes frightening dive on Upper Grant in North Beach, the Coffee Gallery. T.J. Faulkner was one of the local musicians who played there frequently for a chance to pass the hat. T.J. was tall and emaciated, with sandy blonde hair and huge John Lennon-style glasses which constantly slid down his nose. He played only slide guitar and always in the key of open D, usually the Roll and Tumble Blues, an old Delta standby, and often the first tune young kids in Mississippi learning that style try to imitate. His guitar sounded kind of like farm machinery, and his vocal style was that of a man whose feet hurt. It was definitely bluesy, and boozy.

I don't know how T.J. got wind of the fact that I knew how to play drums (although I hadn't played or owned a kit for six years). Probably my girlfriend, a plump, pretty, black-haired Jewish girl just arrived on the west coast from New York City, told him. She was always trying to promote me, even after we were married and she knew better.

T.J. introduced me to his partner, a harmonica player named Albert Ponzi who performed under the stage name Albert Rush. He had a fat wife whom he loved passionately, and was a mild and harmless person. I offered to rent a kit and show up for a rehearsal, and when I did I was surprised to discover that I could play as well as I had when I stopped drumming, six years earlier, as if I'd never missed a day.

We rehearsed, amazingly enough, in T.J.'s second-floor San Francisco apartment, and even more amazingly, never got any noise complaints, even though rehearsals were frequent and amplified. We'd show up at about ten in the morning to be greeted by T.J., trembling and shaking from heavy drinking the night before, trying to roll a cigarette and scattering Top tobacco all over the place. Then he'd give one of us fifty cents to go downstairs to the corner store to get him a quart of beer. It was the only way he could steady himself enough to play. I remember the ritual well -- a puff on the cigarette, simultaneously pushing his glasses up to the bridge of his nose, then a quick swig on the quart bottle.

T.J. lived with his wife, a pretty woman with a shriveled leg and a perpetually fear-stricken look on her face, as if catastrophe was about to strike at any moment. She seemed to consider it her lot in life to be living with an alcoholic street singer.

There were four of us. I never figured out how we secured the services of David Higginbotham, a young, blonde, neat and fastidious North Beach hippie who managed to give the group a fairly fat sound. He played a conventional guitar -- a Telecaster I think -- with a heavy emphasis on the bass strings, to compensate for our lack of a bass player.

Our first job (if you could call it that -- we mostly played for free beer, which was fine with T.J.) was at an all-black bar across the street from the Cow Palace. That was a nerve wracking night, but it actually came off pretty well. We had about 20 songs, about half of which were variations of the Roll and Tumble Blues. We also covered "No Expectations" by the Rolling Stones, and Robert Johnson's "Walking Blues," as well as an obscure twelve-bar goodie called "Duckin' and Dodgin'" by an obscure prison singer, Hog Man Maxie. The name was soon applied to David the guitarist, whom T.J. ever after referred to as Hog Man Higgins. Probably our best songs were covers of Savoy Brown's version of "Shake 'Em on Down" and Bo Diddley's "Don't Let it Go."

After the Cow Palace job we had another beer gig in Berkeley, and then a job that actually turned into something down in Palo Alto. By that time we had an ersatz manager named Jim Rose, and when he saw a film crew shooting in the Palo Alto bar while were playing, he cornered the guy in charge and shook him down. We got about 50 bucks apiece that night.

There were also a couple of bass players, but they didn't last. One guy showed up for rehearsal, sang and played well, and obviously felt like he was better than the group, which he was. He came along for a free-beer matinee Rose fixed up for us at a little bar in Bernal Heights, and sang about half the tunes. Afterward, T.J. accused him of "trying to take over," and that was the end of him.

About this time the three-month rental on my little three-drum, one-cymbal kit was up, and I'd had enough of T.J.'s delicate condition. Whenever we played, we'd always have to get enough alcohol into him so that he'd stop twitching and be able to play fluently, then work to keep him from downing so much that he ended up on his lips. He also fought with his poor wife a lot, and the drama was beginning to get on everyone's nerves. Plus I'd just been indicted for refusing the draft and I was expecting to go to jail soon for a fairly long stretch.

I never did go to prison (I was eventually acquitted), but I was glad to be done with T.J. Faulkner's All-White Blues Band just the same. I didn't lose contact with Higginbotham (we were practically neighbors) and later on he and I were togther in even stranger adventures. But that's another story.

Friday, October 05, 2007

Tin Shackin' It

Things are very quiet in the tin shack right now. I'm using hardly any electricity; the little refrigerator is plugged in, but not running at the moment, and there's a small fan blowing the stale air from the back room. No air conditioner (I don't have one), and it's cool enough to leave the swamp cooler off all day.

I drove about a mile and a half round trip to the corner store to get cigarettes, and that's all the driving I want to do today.

Outside the wind is gusting and blowing leaves about, but that's not a noise-pollution type sound. It's both natural and seasonal. The sun is shining intensely, but with the wind the temperature will barely top 80 degrees today.

It's very peaceful and quiet here. Most of the residents aren't back from their summer travels yet, and the park's generous vegetation has assumed that shaggy, overgrown look typical of the season. There's almost no traffic, no dogs barking, and only rarely does the sound of a human voice break the stillness.

All this makes for a contemplative atmosphere, and today it agrees with me.

Mad Bombers

Billions spent on weapons systems hardware is just the beginning. Many of the 600 billions (a new record) we will spend next year on "defense" will go to the maintenance of the American Empire, and the three wars we will be fighting to expand it.

This empire consists of between 700 and 1000 overseas military bases. The official number is 702, but that doesn't count the huge installations in Kosovo and Iraq, or the more modest ones in Afghanistan, Kyrgyzstan, Qatar, and Uzbekistan. Building new bases and maintaining the old ones costs billions.

In addition, Seymour Hersh informed us this past week in his latest New Yorker article that the long-anticipated attack on Iran is imminent. So instead of going to Congress next year with multi-billion dollar funding requests for two wars, Bush will be juggling three Middle-East campaigns at once.

The attack on Iran will be a turning point in the rest of the world's relationship with the American Empire. The civilized nations of the earth will turn against us with startling unanimity. We and our empire will be isolated.

The public is now unprecedentedly alienated from the workings of what has become an imperial government. Approval for the president and the Congress are both at all-time lows. And our political system provides no remedy for this dissatisfaction.

With most Democrats voting with the Republicans for a de facto declaration of war against Iran, both parties have shown themselves to be willing tools of the military-industrial complex and the lords of empire.

Anybody who expects justice and redress of grievances from the Democrats is trying to get blood out of a turnip.

The only solution to the problems which are destroying us, the problems of militarization and empire, is for the people to take matters into their own hands. But there is no sign of revolution stirring, and no prospect of people rising up to do what was done to the old Soviet Empire in the early '90's, or for that matter, to the British Empire in 1776.

We need to break the grip of this war machine and its empire on the life and bank account of the nation.

Only when the people are able to grasp the reality of their own power and their potential to force change will the solution to our depraved and suicidal behavior be at hand, for this is behavior which manifests as paranoia, military belligerence, and a doomed attempt to dominate the globe.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

The Roosevelt Manifesto

The American economy is on the brink of revisiting 1929. American citizens are increasingly running into debt in their struggle to pay the doctor, make the house payment, make the car payment, AND buy $3 gas. We have to wonder how we got here. America is supposed to be the place where everything always gets better and better.

But we've been here before, and it was the same kind of laissez-faire economics which put us in the poorhouse in the 30's that have led us to disaster today.

Addressing the prevailing wisdom that unregulated free markets will automatically solve all of society's problems, the 32nd president, Franklin Roosevelt in 1937 aggressively asserted the role of government in establishing "that security and peace essential to the pursuit of happiness" for everyone.

This was the second of Roosevelt's four inaugural addresses, and its lessons need to be relearned if we're going to deal with the economic disaster unwinding today and sure to intensify with the next wave of foreclosures this coming January, February, and March.

Declaring that when he took office in 1933, "We of the Republic pledged ourselves to drive from the temple of our ancient faith those who had profaned it," Roosevelt added, "We have always known that heedless self-interest was bad morals; we know now that it is bad economics. Out of the collapse of a prosperity whose builders boasted their practicality has come the conviction that in the long run economic morality pays."

Roosevelt skewers the notion that government regulation of business is evil, and instead insists it's necessary to "bring private autocratic powers into their proper subordination to the public's government. The legend that they were invincible—above and beyond the processes of a democracy—has been shattered."

The same kind of immoral, unregulated lending and securities practices that gave rise to the Great Depression have once again brought us to the edge of disaster. Roosevelt speaks from the grave, telling us what we need to do.

Now all we need is for the present-day political system to produce a leader with Roosevelt's stature and courage.

Until that happens, we'll have to be happy just watching the ghost of Franklin D. Roosevelt beating up the ghost of Milton Friedman.

Monday, October 01, 2007

Planning the Crime

George Grosz, "Sonnenfinsternis"

The preznit was putting out through a spokesperson today that he wants a peaceful solution to the "Iran problem." I guess the independent press still has some clout in this country, since Bush's sudden pacifism was in response to Seymour Hersh's new Iran article in the current New Yorker, which just hit the streets and the web over the weekend.

"The president has said that he believes there is a diplomatic solution that we can use to solve the Iranian problem. And that's why we're working with our allies to get there," said Bush spokeswoman Dana Perino, quoted today in an Associated Press article.

Bush is lying, of course (so what else is new). Hersh's article details how he and Cheney are planning to give the orders to attack Iran very soon, and that the key to their being able to do so is the collapse of opposition to such an attack within the Pentagon.

There's a good synopsis of Hersh's article at Tom Tomorrow's site, This Modern World, which also links to the full New Yorker piece.

The most important points:

*Since the generals weren't buying their plan to bomb Iranian nuclear facilities and other infrastructure sites, the White House came up with a new plan this summer. According to Hersh, "Now the emphasis is on 'surgical' strikes on Revolutionary Guard Corps facilities in Tehran and elsewhere, which, the Administration claims, have been the source of attacks on Americans in Iraq."

Also according to Hersh, "The revised bombing plan for a possible attack, with its tightened focus on counterterrorism, is gathering support among generals and admirals in the Pentagon."

And that's the key: the new plan is endorsed by the brass hats, and there is virtually no opposition in Congress to an Iran attack, which proves conclusively that the current Democratic Party is the biggest bunch of Judases in American history, and possibly the biggest bunch that ever walked the earth.

I'd suggest reading the entire Hersh article. The White House, of course, is sniveling about all the un-named sources, as if Hersh's contacts in the Pentagon and White House would allow their names to be used. This is tomorrow's news today.