Thursday, April 30, 2009

The Almighty Dollar

We won't have a viable political system in this country until we get rid of the corrupt system presently in place.

See today's Glenn Greenwald.

Even a top Senate Democrat admits that both parties are "owned" by the corporate ruling class, and especially by the banking and finance sector.

Correcting this situation will require a revolution, either from outside the system or within it, or (the most likely scenario), a combination of the two (outside agitation and civil disturbance in tandem with inside revolt and rebellion). I look forward to it.

All Democrats and all Republicans,
All political creatures great and small;
All things corrupt and ugly,
The corporate ruling class owns them all.

Glenn Greenwald doesn't just assert that Wall Street owns our national government; he shows the actual anatomy, the nuts and bolts of how that ownership works.

This knowledge is lying around in plain sight for anybody to pick up and use. It's no wonder the Republicans and Democrats work so tirelessly to try to convince us that there really are substantive differences between them.

But some of us are no longer fooled.

Of especial interest to me in Greenwald's piece is the information pertaining to the corporate interests bankrolling the ascending career of Indiana's Democratic Senator (and son of an Indiana Democratic Senator) Evan Bayh. In case you've missed it, which is likely because there's been no press coverage of his ambitions and agenda outside of a few minor blogposts, Bayh is waiting for the imminent death of the last Republican. When that occurs, maybe next week, he plans to be the founder and leader of the new "conservative" (read "wholly corporate owned") party, the Blue Dog Democrats, who intend to set themselves up in opposition to the progressive Democrats.

The biggest contributor to Bayh's career, as documented by Greenwald, is Goldman-Sachs. It seems Mr. Goldman and Mr. Sachs have their fingers in everybody's pies.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009


Bouillabaisse is one of the hardest words in the language to spell. But maybe that's because it's not in the language -- not in our language I mean. It's one of those snotty French words, and those people seem to have nothing better to do than sit around and make up stuff that's hard to spell.

But I thought I'd better spell it right because today I'm going to eat some. Julie and I are taking turns cooking, and even though we're not actually competing or anything, we're both doing our best. Last night I made a chicken curry straight from heaven, with whole pieces of chicken (rather than shredded), unpeeled yams, and organic carrots. And today Julie is out in the kitchen making bouillabaisse.

Rachel's been rehearsing with her cohorts every day in Port Townsend. We take her there and pick her up. At night she comes home to her parents, and we have a delicious dinner and then adjourn for the YouTube film festival, with Rachel as M.C. It was while watching one of the great YouTube features, "Exploding Whale" last night, that Julie got the idea to make bouillabaisse today, I think. The video is news footage of an expired California gray whale which washed up on the beach in Florence, Oregon in 1970. The county Department of Public Safety or Sanitation or whatever couldn't figure out how to dispose of the carcass, and finally decided -- very foolishly as it turned out -- to blow it to pieces with dynamite. The local newsman's dry and understated commentary on this fiasco makes a hilarious mockery of bureaucratic hubris and incompetence in the face of the unknown and unwieldy.

I don't know what I'll cook next, but some sort of Anglo-flavored Mexican spread might be in order. Or maybe I should just go on YouTube and look for ideas.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Arlen Sphincter Changes Parties

The buzz today is that Arlen Specter (R-PA) is now going to have (D-PA) after his name instead. Big, big deal.

The AP story says the old con artist's switch came "with a suddenness that seemed to stun the Senate, a moderate's defection that pushed Democrats to within a vote of the 60 needed to overcome filibusters and enact President Barack Obama's top legislative priorities."

Since those "legislative priorities" don't include either ending the endless, zombie war in the Mideast or ending the zombie banking and finance system at home, I don't know what people are so excited about.

This doesn't really mean that much. Specter switching parties will still reserve the right to be Specterish whenever he wants. He'll still be a dick, and still vote against whatever he feels like. His putting on a Dem label and running away from the Frozen Baby Mammoth party is all to his advantage.

The strategizing and micro-calculations of professional politicians are meaningless to all but them, and those here who seeking relief from fascist, reactionary, pro-war, pro-Wall Street, "America -- F**k Yeah!" policy are going to find the Democratic Party a very frail support to lean upon.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Green Shoots, and Leaves

While Wall Street's favorite cheerleader, Larry the Enormous Mouth Kudlow, is talking "recovery" on CNBC and saying "We're seeing bottom" in order to try to get suckers like you and me to go out and invest money in the stock market, those who are in the know are selling billions of shares. Big time.

"Executives and insiders at U.S. companies are taking advantage of the steepest stock market gains since 1938 to unload shares at the fastest pace since the start of the bear market," begins the story at And it goes on to say, "While the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index climbed 28 percent from a 12-year low on March 9, CEOs, directors and senior officers at U.S. companies sold $353 million of equities this month, or 8.3 times more than they bought..."

Barry Ritholtz also has some choice words about what's going on here, and he starts by quoting a wise observer who says "Nobody ever sold a stock because they thought it would go up."

Beware, my friends. There is no recovery, and the Lords of Das Kapital know it. But they want us to think there is one, possibly in the hope that we'll be dumb enough to buy in and further inflate the prices of the securities they're dumping as the recession deepens. That's why they've instructed their servants, like Mr. Bernanke, to talk about products of the imagination like "green shoots," and why the agitation and propaganda machines (or "agitprop") aimed at "the little people," like CNBC, are touting this so-called "recovery."

There is no recovery. This is a suckers' rally. Don't be fooled.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

A True Fact I Learned from Matt Groening

There is no such thing as a live sardine.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Quit Iraq Now

During a surprise visit to Iraq two weeks ago, Obama revealed the full extent of his hypocritical double-cross of everyone who voted for him by embracing Bush's war in a spasm of adolescent enthusiasm. Yes, it's true; our new president digs this war.

"From getting rid of Saddam, to reducing violence, to stabilizing the country, to facilitating elections -- you have given Iraq the opportunity to stand on its own as a democratic country. That is an extraordinary achievement," Obama said as he addressed US troops in Baghdad. I couldn't believe he actually used the "d" word, thus taking ownership of a war launched by swinish criminals six years ago on the basis of stinking lies and crude fabrications.

And about 45 minutes ago "democracy" in Iraq played out the way it has for the last six years. From the New York Times front page:

BAGHDAD — More than 60 people were killed and 113 injured in two explosions in Iraq on Thursday that shook a quiet residential Baghdad neighborhood and a restive city north of the capital where Iranian tourists were targeted.

In the first attack, a woman wearing a suicide belt exploded herself in the Karada district of Baghdad as dozens of people lined up at a food giveaway, killing 28, including 12 police officers, and injuring 50, according to an official with the Interior Ministry.

In the second attack, in Muqdadiya in Diyala Province, a bomb went off inside a restaurant where a group of Iranian tourists were eating lunch, killing 34 and injuring 63, according to police officials. All but five of the dead and injured appeared to be Iranians. It was not immediately clear whether the explosion had been caused by a suicide bomber.

It's time for Obama to show some spine, to stop timidly and cravenly caving in to the Pentagon and the war profiteers, and to stop mouthing the double-talking, fork-tongued nonsense with which he tries to inject new life into Bush's illegal, immoral, and and insane war for oil (which, by the way, it looks like we won't get much of).

It's past time to end this madness, and get our sorry asses out of the Middle East, so as to not cause any more death and destruction among those long-suffering people, as well as to avoid raising up another generation of enemies who wish to destroy us -- and for good reason.

Barack Obama, we demand that you end this madness now.

The New York Times/Reuters photo by Mohammed Ameen shows a US soldier at the site of one of today's bomb blasts.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009


After getting agitated early in the morning, it was great to dissolve the mind into a full yoga practice and leave the noise and nonsense behind.

The source of this a.m. discomfort was the political right wing, in the person this time of Richard B. Cheney, a.k.a Vlad the Impaler, refusing to let go of their ridiculous and blasphemous contention that torture was "a success." I say "blasphemous" assuming that the foundation of this country involved at least some spiritual (but not religious) principles. But then, I suppose we should thank such people for providing a working definition of moral bankruptcy.

It took some concentration, but I managed to quell the noise in my brain about halfway through the movement (asana) part of the practice, then moved on to a 22-breath, tranquil and disciplined breathing practice (pranayama). That part now includes working to quiet the trembling and shaking of the right hand and arm due to Parkinson's, and rather than considering this a distraction, I've come to regard it as an integral part of the practice.

So with mind and body enhanced, I'm ready to finish getting ready to face the day, and to go on to make something of it. I plan to clean house, write a paper, and sort through a little bit more of the enormous cache of material my mother left behind when she died, determining a final dispensation for some little bit of it.

"Nearly Hit," oil on canvas, by Paul Klee

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Shooting Large, Slow, Stupid Animals at Close Range

Yes, Tom Tomorrow is merciless. Tom Tomorrow hits the bullseye every time. But Tom Tomorrow is, after all, aiming at a very easy target. Even though the right wing is getting smaller, it's now backlit by the bright fluorescent tubes of the insane asylum. And when the inmates gather in herds for a group freak-out, as they did this past week, they give a satirist an opportunity the equivalent of shooting fish in a barrel.

Personally, I wish TT would stop picking on the clueless, the delusional, and those who are out of power, and start looking at the new president. I don't know why he doesn't zero in on the blatant and disgusting hypocrisy and broken promises of this phony Obama administration. I know he's not scared of the Obamaniacs or how they might react, 'cause I've seen enough of Tom to know he's fearless.

When Obama made a surprise visit to Iraq earlier this month, he made a speech to the troops there in which he said ""From getting rid of Saddam, to reducing violence, to stabilizing the country, to facilitating elections -- you have given Iraq the opportunity to stand on its own as a democratic country. That is an extraordinary achievement."

How's about TT doing a "now and then" strip, comparing the way Obama used to talk about Iraq (or a number of other things) to the mealy-mouthed boilerplate that dribbles out of his mouth now.

Obama has gone 180 degrees, from not wanting the United States to become involved in a "stupid war" when he was in the Illinois state senate, to applying the "D" word to Iraq, signaling that he's now on board with the Bush/Cheney version of reality.

I guess if you want to be president these days you have to drink the Kool-Aid the Pentagon and the CIA hand you, or they'll find something else for you to do.

In recent weeks Tom Tomorrow has been incessantly targeting the wingnutosphere, and his subject week before last was that lunatic Glenn Beck, a guy who really should not be walking around in public unsupervised. Isn't this kind of like hunting game in one of those wild beast parks where rich guys go to shoot an animal? I'd much rather see him turning his sights on that phony double-crosser in the White House.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Barackus Obamus Imperator

People like Jonathan Turley keep talking about the Constitution and the law as if those things still actually meant something.

Turley, besides being a frequent guest on Keith Olbermann's MSNBC liberal gabfest, "Hardball," is a constitutional law scholar, so it's natural for him to condemn "Barack Obama’s failure to investigate and prosecute officials for the American torture program, a clear war crime under existing treaties," and to solemnly pronounce that "Obama is in open violation of international law due to his failure to uphold the clear legal and moral obligations of this country."

Of course, he's right. Under the law, Obama's Justice Department is not allowed to pick and choose which criminal behavior they'll prosecute and which they'll ignore. But strict adherence to the rule of law in our time is an antiquated concept, and sometimes I feel like asking people like Turley what kind of a world they think they're living in.

The Constitution was originally a hand-written document. It wasn't even typed, much less composed on a computer. The problem is we're not in Kansas or the 18th century any more.

I know the laws are still on the books, and that Congress still goes into session, just as the Roman Senate did under Hadrian. But we're an empire now, and empires are run pretty much by executive fiat, and Congress (like the Roman Senate before it) has evolved into mainly an opportunity for people to gain a lot of influence by directing flows of money, thereby enriching themselves and their reputations.

The Romans of the imperial age liked to pretend they were still a republic too, just as we like to pretend we are. They left all the old forms and institutions in place and paid lip service to them, just as we do. But as far as Obama not having the legal authority to pardon self-admitted torturers, so what? He's the emperor, and he can do whatever he wants within certain limits having nothing to do with the Constitution or the law.

Those limits are that he can't cross any person or institution which holds significant real power within the imperium (such as the CIA for example). Emperors are not subject to legal constraints, but they can be overthrown or assassinated. That's the only real limit on imperial power. Obama knows this; doesn't even Jonathan Turley, deep down, know it too?

A constitutional law scholar might, I suppose, still be trying to find the parts of the Constitution that deal with the CIA, the NSA, Centcom, the Federal Reserve, and whether the imperium has authority to torture.

What I'm finding is that I'm able to live in this world and in this Empire as long as I understand it, and as long as I'm able to tell the truth as I perceive it.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

The Buddha Watches

You are as the yellow leaf.
The messengers of death are at hand.
You are to travel far away.
What will you take with you?

You are the lamp
To lighten the way.
Then hurry, hurry.

When your light shines
Without impurity or desire
You will come into the boundless country.

Your life is falling away.
Death is at hand.
Where will you rest on the way?
What will you take with you?

From Dhammapada (sayings of the buddha) 18, "Impurity," from the Pali canon, Shambhala Pocket Classics (London, 1993). Rendered by Thomas Byrom.

Friday, April 17, 2009

The Conquest

By Raymond Kerecz

Far, far, far to the east the conquerer wanders
For 13 years, forsaking home and family,
East of Delphi, east of Eden, even east of Nod.
High, high into the heavens they follow him,
clambering over the ancient Pāriyatra Parvat,
Just below God's throne.

And then across the desert at the top
Of the world, his dusty fighters dying of thirst,
Neither wishing to stop, nor willing to go on,
Until at last that fabled stream, the Oxus
Reaches out to them, renews them, and
So they cross over, into the enchanted place --
Bactriana beyond the Kush.

Drunkenly veering, slashing, and cutting
A crimson eastward-trending gash across the land,
Living on blood, hung over at the van of a screeching mob
Of dusty savages in rusty breastplates,
Neither aware of his crimes nor knowing why
he does them, leaving a harem of sore-butt boys
in his train, now the conqueror pauses at last.

Bactriana! land of strange and hairy beasts,
And well-horsed warriors who fly like wind
On their shaggy ponies, but who stood like stones,
locked up with fear when Iskander's name comes to their ears.
But he, knowing that his numbers are reduced,
And never by careless arrogance seduced,
Looks round for sheltering walls.

A local baron with a marriageable daughter
Prudently offers the conqueror shelter, rest and water.
Barely sixteen, but spurred by ambition and her only chance,
This embryonic Queen of the World adorns herself to dance.
And there at the roof of the world, stars fell in showers of gold,
The night Roxanne of Bactria danced for the conqueror of old.

Northern Indian miniature: "Roxanne and Alexander." Click on image for a larger view.


Thursday, April 16, 2009

It Ain't Over Till It's Over -- Updated

There's no doubt any more that this is the Great Recession we've been dreading since the last one. And now there's no doubt that we haven't seen the worst of it.

From the AP: The number of people receiving jobless benefits exceeded 6 million for the first time, the government reported Thursday, and housing construction unexpectedly plunged to its second-lowest level on record — fresh evidence that the recession is far from over.

Analysts expect the labor market to remain weak for the most of this year with companies reluctant to hire new workers until an economic recovery is well under way. And the latest housing data show the slump in that market, a major factor in triggering the recession, has yet to hit bottom.

The longer this thing goes on and the deeper it gets, the more people are going to figure out how to live and get an income of some sort pursuing activities that involve work, but not necessarily "a job." In the long run, that might be a good thing for everybody.


Update: Paul Krugman agrees with me. Among other things, his NYT column of 4/17/09 tells us that the big banks' announcements of large profits last quarter are part of the banksters' ongoing propaganda campaigns, that which seek to avoid and deny rather than reflect reality.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Roadkill and the Stairway2Heaven

This is the stairway to heaven in the middle of a world gone nuts.

A beneficial byproduct of getting well is learning. It doesn't take long for one recovering from dietary and drug abuse problems, emotional dysfunction, and the difficulties arising from lack of exercise to realize that this country, and indeed much of the world is living all wrong.

Like the Sorcerer's Apprentice, the architects of the modern world created a Frankenstein's monster of mechanized, petroleum-and-money-fueled landscapes now beyond our control. This zombie behemoth has devastated the planet, and possibly all life on earth along with it.

Roadkill is the unintended consequence living "normally" in our horrible and frightening world of money and machines, a world with a calculator for a mind.

But there is a way out, and that's to live as much as is possible in harmony with this intelligent earth and universe of ours, and abjure the world of money and machines, and "Throw away the cars and the bars and the wars," as the poet said.

And I did say "intelligent universe," even though that sounds like "creationism." Rabbits, those frequent roadkill victims, are numerous throughout the world, but overran Australia when humans decided to import them there. They dealt with few predators there, and proliferated to a point that would have been impossible in the balanced environments usual in the natural world, ecosystems so complex and minutely balanced the human mind can scarcely perceive them.

"It does not seem to me philosophically retrograde to attribute intelligence to the universe as a whole," says South African writer J.M. Coetzee, " intelligent universe evolves purposively over time, even if the purpose in question may for ever be beyond the grasp of the human intellect and indeed beyond the range our idea of what might constitute a purpose

"...People who claim that behind every feature of every organism lies a history of selection from natural mutation should try to answer the following question: Why is it that the intellectual apparatus that has evolved for human beings seems to be incapable of comprehending in any degree of detail its own complexity?"*

Coetzee goes on to explain why we can never really know anything definitive about this intelligence, and how his belief in an intelligent universe is not an argument for the existence of God, much less "a God who demanded to be believed in, a God who had any interest in our thoughts about it ('him'), or a God who rewarded good deeds and punished evildoers."

So waste no time or energy on vain and pointless speculations on the existence or nature of God. It's enough to know we're children of this intelligent earth and thus belong on it. So do no harm. Be kind and compassionate. Be what we used to call back in high school "a nice person." Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants, and plant a garden if you have space and time enough. Exercise appropriately, and don't abuse drugs and alcohol. Stay away from rage, cynicism, resentment over trifles, anxiety when facing the unknown, and sharp practices. To the extent that it's possible to do so, lose the car. And don't plug in an electricity-driven machine to do something you can just as easily do by hand.

This is all simple enough stuff. The only hard part is living it, but it's doable. It's important for me as a student, a teacher, and an example, to practice these things in my own life.

None of this will change the world. But circumstances are afoot that will gradually force the race to adopt more sane and rational modes of living which people will realize are better once they're established.


Quoted from J.M. Coetzee, "Diary of a Bad Year," (2007), pages 84-85.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Stop the Wars

Don't put away the picket signs and marching shoes just yet. Obama has double-crossed us; having promised peace he's now engaged in escalating a couple wars, in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

He's not the first Democrat to pull this bait-and-switch. Remember Uncle Lyndon?

He turns out to be not so smart after all, this young and ambitious Chicago pol who's working that old threadbare formula, wearing the "moderate" label and "ruling from the center." And we may have to "save him from himself," as Norman Solomon remarks, if we can generate the wattage to do it. "Good luck with that," as they say, but we're obligated to make ourselves heard and register objections whether it makes any difference or not.

See Solomon's week-ago column, which says in part A report from the Carnegie Endowment began this year with the stark conclusion that "the only meaningful way to halt the insurgency's momentum is to start withdrawing troops. The presence of foreign troops is the most important element driving the resurgence of the Taliban." (Ex-California State Senator Tom) Hayden made the same point when he wrote that "military occupation, particularly a surge of US troops into the Pashtun region in southern Afghanistan and Pakistan, is the surest way to inflame nationalist resistance and greater support for the Taliban."

In Afghanistan, Obama is increasing troop strength from 38,000 to 68,000, and in Pakistan our drone attacks have killed 14 al-Qaida, while simultaneously killing 687 civilian bystanders. With recruiting tools like these, how can "the terrorists" lose?

Photo schnorred from Agence France Presse News Service

Monday, April 13, 2009

Tuna Wars

For starters, I'm glad Captain Phillips was rescued and that his ship and crew weren't hijacked. In a violent and life-threatening confrontation, both the victims and the U.S. Navy acted appropriately, and really in the only way they could have.

Having said that, it might behoove us to ask why there's this sudden spike in piracy around the Horn of Africa, and whether there might be a better way to deal with it in the long term. On Saturday, Associated Press reporter Todd Pitman filed an article explaining in brief how Somalis' subsistence fishing, the only livelihood available to many of those impoverished people, was destroyed, and how the fishermen, who began by trying to defend their living against encroachment from those richer and more powerful then themselves, gradually evolved from victims into predators.

...Somalia has suffered nearly 20 years of anarchy, chaotically ruled by rival clans backed by pickup trucks mounted with anti-aircraft guns. Its nominal government controls barely a few blocks.

With no coast guard to defend its shores, Somalis began complaining that vessels from Asia and Europe were dumping toxic waste in their waters and illegally scooping up red snapper, barracuda and tuna. The rampant illegal fishing began destroying the livelihoods of local fishermen.

According to a memo prepared last month by the staff of the U.S. House Armed Services Committee, Somali clans began resorting "to armed gangs in an attempt to stop the foreign vessels. Over time, these gangs have evolved into hijacking commercial vessels for ransom as an alternative source of income."

Besides reminding me of the reasons for the florescence of piracy in the Atlantic during the early 18th century -- the desperate poverty of the lower classes in England, driven off the land by "enclosure" (sheep ranching), and the draconian conditions of service in the English and continental navies -- the rise of Somali piracy begs the question, "Aren't we shooting at the wrong people?"

Maybe we should be aiming our torpedoes at Japanese factory-fishing vessels in those waters instead. Chasing them out of the Gulf of Alaska wouldn't be a bad idea either.

I'm not saying the people running the "vessels from Asia and Europe" cited in Pitman's story are evil, or that they intended to destroy subsistence fishing in Somalia. But the fact is, when we who are so wealthy, drive our marvelous cars, trucks, and buses over the river and through the woods, we're not even aware of the violent deaths of half the little creatures we crush as we proceed on our merry way.

The painting, "Tuna Fishing," is by Salvador Dali. Click on the image for a larger view.


Sunday, April 12, 2009


Easter, the ultimate Christian holiday, is also our only special day whose name derives from pagan sources. Old dame Eostre, the northern equivalent of the Latins' Primavera, and the goddess who used to rule the earth during the season of the hare moon, has managed to hang around nearly two thousand years now in the Germanic cultures, lending her old fertility totem and talisman, bunnies and eggs, to the feast of the resurrection.

When Eostre ruled the spring rather than Jesus there were 13 months, not 12. This is why, in Walter Scott's version of Sherwood Forest, Robin Hood and his men sang "How many months be there in the year? There be 13 I say..." And it works out, too, because 13 months X 4 weeks = 52 weeks.

Some years have 13 full moons, and some don't. We'll have 13 this year, with one at the beginning and another at the very end of December. That might be the blue moon, I reckon.

Thirteen is a very magical number, partly because it's prime and also because of its calendrical significance. In the Christian era it acquired ominous meanings and became associated with "bad luck," because there were 13 gathered at the last supper, supposedly. The real reason the early church fathers tagged 13 as an "evil" number, however, is because of its significance to pagans the world over, and paganism always had to be represented as the work of devils and demons. Hence, that unlucky day, Friday the 13th.

There are 13 cards in a suit, and for Americans, the revered, almost mystical origin of the nation in 13 colonies.

I've also found that my own life tends to run in 13-year cycles, the end of which always see a significant closing and equally significant opening.

But that's only if you believe in that kind of stuff. And I do, sort of, in a way.


Saturday, April 11, 2009

The Best Thing in the World

So the bumper sticker this morning was asking something like, "How can you love animals and call them pets when you eat animals and call them dinner?"

It's a good question, and made me feel a little guilty for a moment, until I realized that most of the animals we keep as pets eat other animals too, because they're carnivores. I can always think of some way to rationalize my behavior.

Actually, I eat very little meat anway, mostly chicken and fish, and I'll keep on doing it because a) it helps me keep weight on, and b) it tastes really good.

Especially chicken soup. There is no other food I know of that's both as tasty and spectacularly nutritious as chicken soup. It's so nutritious because all the nutrients in the meat and vegetables stays in the soup itself, if you simmer the concoction slowly
with the top on tightly, just venting a little for steam.

Today I used four chicken legs in a two-quart pot about two-thirds filled with water. Boiled the water; skimmed off tne white stuff; covered and simmered for an hour, then took the meat out, leaving the water hot.

Took half the meat and ate it fresh out of the water, with nothing on it. I love eating chicken this way. It's better than a prime steak.

Added chopped up carrots, celery, some leftover organic baby spinach, and two tablespoons of brown rice, salt and pepper to taste. Simmering now for another hour, which will be up in about 20 minutes. Will serve with crackers and cheddar cheese, and I'll enjoy it, too, I can assure you.

Off Road

I got the last of my stuff out of storage today. Shut down the unit and ended the transit period. I won't live in this condo for much longer, but I'm home to stay.


Friday, April 10, 2009

This Guy is on Dope

I saw this at Tom Tomorrow's site, If I hadn't seen it there I wouldn't have known about it, because I'm about as likely to watch this guy on TV as I am to eat hair.

On his Fox News show, Glenn Beck got into this "Obama, why don't you just set us all on fire?" thing. Then he took a gas can and spent about three minutes pantomiming setting a colleague on fire.


Say what you will about crazy, but it looks to me like there are some heavy-duty pharmaceuticals informing this man's bizarre behavior. I'm good at spotting this kind of thing. I pegged Tammy Faye Baker as some sort of speed freak the first time I saw her, back in 1977.

And that Jim Cramer on CNBC also. He's another one who's not acting naturally. To paraphrase Shakespeare, "There is methedrine in his madness."

Video link

Thursday, April 09, 2009

City Life

Motored and boated into the big city today. The picture shows the ferry about to enter the slip in Edmonds, just north of Seattle.

I'm undecided about moving to the city. It would be a lot more convenient and practical than where I am now, and I'd use the car a lot less. I'd be close to the yoga studio, groceries, etc. But I've gotten used to the tranquility and greenery of a more bucolic setting, and the peace and quiet grows on you. I may stay on "the other side," and just move to someplace a little closer in. I might even relocate to a suburb on the Seattle side, which is something I never before imagined doing, old suburb hater that I am. But times change, and so do we.

Seattle is a happening town. It's suffering from the recession like everywhere else, but not nearly as much as places like Phoenix, or Atlanta, or Sam Berdino. JP Morgan is still operating WAMU branches here, but they're shutting down nearly all their offices downtown, which hurts. Boeing will start laying off soon, and the end of the F-22, a Pentagon dinosaur, will cost a lot of jobs. But tech is strong here -- IT (information technology), dot-com related enterprise, and so forth, and that's not going anywhere. And the state's second-biggest employer (after Boeing), the University of Washington, will experience some cuts, but will remain the major player it is now.

It's a sophisticated, educated, liberal town, full of coffee-drinking Unitarians, politically-correct, non-fundie Christians, and various other elements of a semi-enlightened middle class. They wear Gore-Tex from LL Bean, suck up the cold and drizzle, aggressively recycle, buy organic vegetables and cage-free eggs, drive Priuses, and enjoy the short, spectacular summers with family outings and wholesome picnics. Altogether, not such a bad place. A guy could do worse.

Seattle's got the same urban problems, drugz'n'gangs, as any other large metro area in the U.S., but not as abundantly. It's noisy and the traffic is some of the worst in the country, but the air is clean, rents are bearable, and every coffee shop, and there are three or four for every business-zoned city block, has wireless high-speed internet. In fact, that's what I'm using right now.

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

The Eek Conomy

You're right, it's getting harder and harder to "eek" out a living, and with inflation headed our way it's not going to get a whole lot easier any time soon. However, there are signs that the meltdown is getting ready to bottom out and level off. It hasn't done so yet, and things are still getting worse. But according to Barry Ritholtz, one of the economists who has a track record of accurate prediction, they're getting worse more slowly.

His opinion contrasts with those of significant interested parties, most notably Ben Bernanke, who saw "green shoots" in the recent market uptick, and says we've bottomed out. Big Ben takes the Hooverish view that prosperity is just around the corner.

Ritholtz explains why Bernanke's optimism is unjustified: "In recent weeks, I have keyed in on 4 data points that the mainstream has spun positively, despite the actual data being horrific. These four factors include ISM data, New Home Sales, Existing Home Sales, and Non Farm Payroll."

ISM stands for Institute of Supply Management, an independent, non-governmental agency which surveys levels of manufacturing activity in the U.S. and reports on the amount of industrial capacity the country is utilizing. Its most recent report shows that U.S. manufacturing activity is continuing to shrink, but not as rapidly as it has for the past year and a half.

New house sales took the biggest one-month jump in 13 years in March, almost 14 percent. But they did so because builders dramatically lowered prices. In some places, like parts of Southern California, house prices are down as much as 40 percent from a year ago. Also, that number, favored by the Wall Street Journal, CNBC, and other corporate media is deceptive because it's a month-over-month figure (March new house sales were up from February's). This category of sales was, we can be sure, way below what it was a year ago, as it was in February: there were over 40 percent fewer sales in 2/09 than in 2/08.

Existing house sales were down in March, but not very much. That market has been considerably less volatile than the one for new houses, but has experienced continuous shrinkage for the past year and a half.

Unemployment statistics are the worst news, as each week hundreds of thousands continue to lose their jobs or have their hours cut back. The government Bureau of Labor Statistics reports 663,000 workers thrown out of work in March. This is fewer than January's and February's frightening numbers of over 700,000 each month, but still intolerable. There are now about 13 and a half million of us out of work, and as long as unemployment remains that high, spending will be depressed and money will be tight, even if the currency inflates and we get "stagflation," like we did back in the seventies.

I suppose we should be glad the economy is not still in free-fall. But don't look for things to get better any time soon. The best we can hope for is that at some point before too long the situation will start to stabilize.

Graph schnorred from the Wall Street Journal.

Everybody's Talkin'

Item: Obama is talking about nuclear disarmament.

Consider the supreme achievement of the human race. We now have the capacity to destroy all life on the planet, if we choose to do so.

Isn't it great? In the middle ages the closest thing to a superweapon they had was something called Greek fire. To this day nobody knows exactly how it was made (it was a military secret), but pine resin and sulfur were certainly two main ingredients. They'd set this stuff on fire and throw it with catapults, and it was a terrible weapon indeed.

But blow up the world? They couldn't get close to doing that back then. They weren't as advanced as we are.

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

It's a Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood

Not only is it a gorgeous day here, but it's our third in a row. I hiked up to Ludlow Creek Falls and snapped this pic late this morning, because tomorrow, when the clouds come in, it'll be too late.

In the Nuze

#Bobby Gates intends on getting rid of many of the Cold-War weapons programs that are costing us billions uselessly spent every year. Good for him and good for Obama. Should reduce the overall war machine budget by about 15 percent, which is about right for a down-payment. Now, if they'd get us out of those stupid Mideast wars and maybe substitute a serious effort to catch bin Laden, to keep the proles entertained if nothing else, we might get somewhere.

#Peter Boockvar, writing at Barry Ritholtz's economics blog "The Big Picture," explains why inflation is inevitably coming our way, and it's not at all hard to understand, if you're intimidated by economics. And in case you're wondering why Obama and Geithner don't get out in front of this problem, Boockvar also explains that "that's their main goal." What he doesn't explain is why they should wish such a thing for us, and that, too, is easy to understand: debtors (read "the banks") benefit from inflation; it's the savers who are hurt by it, along with working people who are barely making it, the unemployed, and various others who don't matter.

Enough news. It's starting to cool off here, even as I write this. Life will soon be back to what passes for normal.

Monday, April 06, 2009

Playin' With His Rockets Up In His Room

So what's the big deal here? Kim Jong-Il shot off a rocket that probably had a communications satellite on it. He got all orgasmic about it. I guess that means he could put a bomb on one and hit Japan with it.


But, we kind of knew that already, didn't we?

And all I know about Hillary is that the statement the State Dept. was putting out today was that this rocket shoot "was not a victory for North Korea." Sounds like something she'd say.

Boy, if there's one thing I'm NOT gonna lose sleep over it's whether or not Kim Jong-Il shooting off his rocket is a victory for him. All I can tell you is, it's either a victory for him or a victory for us. Or maybe it's a flush for him AND two pair, aces high for us.

Playin' with his rockets up in his room,
The hour of one 'o' clock did loom...
Kim Jong, Kim Jong Il,
King of the Wild Far East.

Sunday, April 05, 2009

Wud I Say?

Every once in a while I need to step back, take a look at what he said and she said and I said some time in the past, and say "I told you so." Two years ago, six months before the "official" collapse of the real estate market and beginning of the economic meltdown, housing prices were already beginning to slide. But the corporate media, most of the public, and especially the wingers were unwilling to admit that we were in trouble. They persisted in trying to convince everyone, but mostly themselves, that real estate's eroding prices were merely a temporary speed bump.

I make no claim to superior wisdom, since everything I've ever learned I learned from someone else, and on this topic the most significant influence on my thinking has been Jim Kunstler. Whether a person acquires knowledge or not is largely a function of who one's teachers are, and it's no mystery how ideologues who depend on professional propagandists and ruling-class whores like Charles Krauthammer or Sean Hannity to Tell It Like It Is get to be as dumb as they are, and are consistently wrong about everything.

Remember "They'll greet us as liberators."?

Mostly I remember the threads on discussion boards in late 2006 and early 2007 in which posters endlessly chirped about how wonderful the American economy was, how "the markets" were a self-regulating, magic wealth machine and automatic prosperity pump, and that people who saw trouble in the tea leaves didn't know what they were talking about, because they were boo birds who took perverse pleasure in emphasizing the negative, etc.

You know who you are. So dig this, and listen up: I told you this was going to happen.

So, does this mean that people who were right back in early 2007 about what was on the horizon are going to get some respect and gain a little credibility for having been right? Guess again.

Saturday, April 04, 2009


When I stumbled across a YouTube video of a Devo live performance on French TV from 1978, it validated what I already felt about this band. Underrated and sometimes regarded as a novelty act, Devo were easily the equals of the greatest performers in the 35-year (or so) history of rock 'n' roll music (roughly 1950--1985). As a songwriting team, Mark Mothersbaugh and Gerry Casale were as good as Lennon/McCartney or the Supremes, and probably better than Jagger/Richards. And the band's live performances exploded with energy as concentrated as those of the very best among rock's pioneers -- Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis, Fats Domino, and Little Richard.

The earliest incarnation of the band was in 1973, and its music from the beginning was "message" oriented. Devo's name began as a bit of cultural pessemism -- a joke, really -- cooked up by a couple of Kent State art students and escapees from Akron, Gerry Casale and Bob Lewis. "De-evolution," first expressed in the pair's art class projects, is the idea that the human race stopped progressing some time in the recent past, and the species is now in a retrograde, de-evolutionary mode, headed back down the ladder toward early primatehood. The concept was the theme of the band's breakout LP, "Are We Not Men," and after they'd achieved success Bob Lewis successfully sued Devo for theft of intellectual property.

Early Devo included Bob Lewis as a vocalist and several drummers, the longest tenured of which was Mark Mothersbaugh's brother Jim. As with a lot of other bands, ultimate success hinged on finding the "just right" drummer who would complete and drive the group's sound. Devo first refined itself and became a remarkably symmetrical unit consisting of two matched sets of brothers from Akron: Mothersbaugh and his brother Bob (Bob1), and Casale and his brother Bob (Bob2). They were fortunate at this point to obtain the services of Alan Myers, a seasoned and accomplished player who took the band to what people like to refer to as "the next level." Myers was not part of the Akron crowd; he was an outsider, and the quality of his playing, added to the already-strong guitar-and-keyboard instrumentation, gave the group entree into the big time

One of Devo's big problems over the course of its ten-year run near the top was that their first album was so good they could never top it. Every cut on "Are We Not Men" is a small masterpiece, from the postmodern lament of "Space Junk," in which the singer's girlfriend is killed by falling post-orbiting debris, to the controversial and politically incorrect "Mongoloid," in which a Down Syndrome victim passes for normal in his community, because:

He wore a hat,
And he had a job,
And he brought home the bacon
So that no one knew...
Mongoloid, he was a mongoloid.

"Mongoloid," like all great rock 'n' roll, is visceral as opposed to intellectual, with a sharp edge of hostility toward society. It is also simple, repetitive, driven at top speed, and bursting with overpowering energy due to Myers's smoking and relentless drumming. His contribution on Devo's cover of the Stones' "Satisfaction," on the same album, is so flawless and original that it elevates that piece to possibly the group's greatest effort, and a version of the song superior even to the great original. Myers here breaks up four/four time into discrete quarters, and plays it upside-down, with the accents on the first and third beats of each measure rather than the usual "backbeats, two and four. This gives the song an off-balance feel and an irresistible downhill momentum.

When searching for Devo videos, avoid footage from their "reunion" tour, which might have been called the old, fat and low-energy tour. The band's reprises of their classic pieces do not bear comparison with their beat-down-the-walls performances of 25 and 30 years ago, and they would have been better advised to stay home.

But looking back, how fitting that the final great flourish of one of America's indigenous art forms should have been home-grown in Akron, Ohio, of all places, which is also the birthplace of Alcoholics Anonymous. I suppose there are other places a band like this could have germinated, Youngstown, for example. In the grimy, post-industrial environment of the rust belt in the early seventies, pessimism and hopelessness must have been unavoidable. America got lucky (again) by domestically germinating some kids who, entirely under their own steam and using only their own, instinctive, youthful wisdom, cooked up a way to have a load of fun with pessimism and gloom.

Thursday, April 02, 2009


As far as I can tell, the Obama "War on Terror" isn't a whole lot different from Bush's "War on Terr," except that it's not characterized by overheated rhetoric, overt torture, daily threats, demonstrations of insecure masculinity, and other pinheaded cowboyisms.

But while the rhetoric has gone AWOL, the substance remains the same: just like Vietnam. Different decade, different place, same thing. We're treated to detailed discussions of strategies that will lead to success, all of which ignore the fundamental truth of the situation: we've deployed our war machine to invade somebody else's country, and they want us gone. And since they have to live there, and won't ever give up the fight, sooner or later we'll leave, having achieved nothing but a pointless expenditure of money and lives. The eventual outcome is not in any doubt whatsoever.

People who acknowledged these obvious realities under Bush were called "defeatists" and lots worse things. People who acknowledge them under Obama are told, "Ah, give the guy a chance, fa chrissake! He's only been in office for two -- okay, three months!"

Deja Vu all over again, as Yogi Berra said.

As with Vietnam, the war policy is fueled by fantasies so obstinate and obtuse you have to wonder what they're smoking at the highest levels of government. From an Associated Press story earlier this week we learned:

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told an international conference on Afghanistan on Tuesday that those members of the Taliban who abandoned extremism must be granted an "honorable form of reconciliation."

"This matter was also raised in the past," said Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid, referring to comments last month by Obama, who spoke of reaching out to moderate Taliban.

"They have to go and find the moderate Taliban, their leader and speak to them. This is a lunatic idea," Mujahid said by telephone from an unknown location.

Because the "moderate Taliban" is purely a fantastical invention of the Obama White House, the outcome of this phase of the "War on Terror" is a foregone conclusion. "If the U.S. plan fails to show results, analysts say, time is on the Taliban side." Ah, those un-named analysts again. I guess I'm an analyst too, since I know what comes next: Clinton dispatches CIA guys with dollars to Afghanistan to hire people to go on TV and play the part of "moderate Taliban," and some people in the U.S. are dumb enough to believe this ludicrous charade. So the "War on Terror" continues with our approval.

The Iranians have been busting our little bubble as well. After Obama recently invited the Iranians to tea, he had to throw in that he was hoping talks would convince them to stop being "a nuclear threat" and dissuade them from supporting terrorists.

The theocratic dictator of that country, much as we may dislike his mode of governing, responded intelligently to this idiocy by saying he had no interest in talking to someone who would openly and blatantly lie about his country's policies and intentions the way Obama did, adding, "We cannot see any change. What is the change in your policy? Did you remove the sanctions? Did you stop supporting the Zionist regime? Tell us what you have changed. We can't see change even in the words of the new American president."

Actually, it's a lot worse than that. There's been no change since 1965.

"A fool is incapable of learning," the Buddha said. "Knowledge only cleaves his head."

The only hope for us is to stop being fools. I would have thought 9/11 might shock us out of our foolishness, but it seems to have only made it worse.

Map schnorred from Jesus' General.

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

On the Farm

The "official" estimates are in, and it looks like the U.S. lost another three-quarters of a million jobs in March. Revised figures also show nearly that many were lost in February as well. Another million and a half people will now be drawing unemployment and hitting the streets, just since the end of January.

Heckuva job, unregulated free markets.

So what do you think the chances are that about half the people working in office cubicles and retail stores today will be working as farmhands and ranch hands in the not-too-distant future, say within five years? I'd expect such jobs to pay room and board and maybe a couple hundred bucks a month.

Since "agribusiness" will be the next domino to topple, going the way of the hedge fund and the wooly rhinoceros, I'd say the chances of that happening are about 100 percent.

Factory-style agriculture with its enormous petroleum "inputs," mostly fertilizers and and pesticides, is economically and ecologically unsustainable, and won't survive the second decade of the new century. It's been a horribly destructive set of practices, contributing to the epidemics of diabetes and obesity through the imposition of overdoses of high-fructose corn syrup on the American diet, as well as leading to crop choices that make money for big, subsidized farmers and corporations, but make absolutely no environmental sense at all (rice and cotton in California!).

So good-bye ConAgra and ADM, hello again family farms, complete with well-conditioned young farmhands. Go organic if you want to make some money, and hide your number one cash crop in the corn rows. Remember, pesticides suck; compost happens.