Monday, August 31, 2009

Roadside Beauty

Look at these beautiful, bright yellow daisy-like flowers with orange centers. They're so bright that on a gloomy, foggy morning like today's they absolutely dazzle the eye. And yet they're nothing more than roadside weeds.

They're small; each bloom is about the size of a quarter.

I found them growing beside the blacktop on my way up to the village store to buy bananas this morning. I don't know how common they are because I've never seen them before.

If I had been driving instead of walking I'd have never spotted them. But I'm becoming a big believer in slowing down enough to get rewarded by things exactly like this. These gorgeous flowers provided one of the high points in my day, however humble, unremarkable, and commonplace they might be.


Sunday, August 30, 2009

Cardinal Sins

Check out this very old and very beautiful Death card from Italy, about 1450, which was the very earliest days of tarot.

This is from one of those Visconti Family hand-painted decks. Unfortunately, only four cards remain from this particular pack, which has traditionally been associated with the painter Antonio Cicognara.

The Visconti family had a feud going with the Pope at the time, and it shows in this picture in which Death wears a cardinal's robes. A person who lives in Europe told me some years ago that the tassels hanging from Death's hat are goat-bell tassels, which would be a tremendous insult to the men of the Church, pictorially implying that they're as lustful as goats. This may be as much a political cartoon as it is a tarot card.

People still puzzle over the words on the little speech banner coming out of Death's mouth. One expert (Stewart Kaplan in the Encyclopedia of Tarot, Vol. II) says the words are "san fine," which means "without end." But they look more to me like "son fine," which would be "I am the end."

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Nico the Devil

I suppose yesterday was one to celebrate, since it marked the first time in many years that this old body has been free of nicotine for 30 consecutive days. The problem was I didn't feel like celebrating; It was one of the toughest days wrestling with the devil I've endured in the two years since I more or less quit for good.

I say more or less because during that time I've slipped and stumbled a bunch of times, in addition to wearing a nicotine patch through most of it. But I'm all done with all that now, although yesterday I had my doubts several times.

I know not everyone has this much trouble with quitting smoking. It's hard for everyone, but some are sicker than others, and I seem to be sicker than most. I ate early yesterday, and lay down exhausted from the struggle shortly after five in the afternoon.

It's still early in the morning, but already a much better day today than yesterday. I took an early boat to the city, and I'm getting ready to participate in one yoga class and observe another. It's one of those perfect Seattle days, weather wise -- light rain and warm temperatures this morning, which will burn off into one of those perfect, mild late summer days by this afternoon. All in all, it's a good day for a celebration.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Are We There Yet?

Is Tom Ridge, former Director of Homeish Insecurity, telling the truth?

Did the Bush administration manipulate terror alert levels for political gain? That's the question, right?

Well, let me ask you this. Is the King an aristocrat? Is the Pope German? Does a bear live in the woods?

Is a frog's butt water-tight?

Is there life after death? Is there sex before birth?

Do dogs really like that stuff that comes out of the can? And what is it about drinking out of the toilet they like so much?

Right now I'm listening to Sidney Bechet and Wild Bill Davison so can't be bothered with politricks.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Those Who Were Here Before Us

They were a quiet, reserved, and subtle people, and they still are.

During the centuries this gentle land belonged to them, the salmon practically walked up to the long house door. During the summers they smoked the fish for the winter while eating the favored portion, the cheeks, as they worked. When the rains came they retired to their lodges for the winter dances.

They were mild and harmless, little inclined to war. Their society was a complex hierarchy which included nobility, commoners, and slaves. Neighboring groups, whether villages or adjacent tribes, were related by marriage, shared feasts and religious rituals, and common territory. Relations were especially close among peoples living along the same waterway. These types of relations among all the peoples of the Puget Sound region were extensive, but there was no formal political organization or political offices. There was no need for such things.

The arrival of whites who came to stay in the 19th century changed everything of course, but most dramatically it diminished the numbers of the Salish people. A smallpox epidemic broke out among the northwest tribes in 1862, and the territorial government, while not the cause, did nothing to try to stem the advance of the mortality, which carried off about half the affected populations. Other diseases took a toll as well, so that by 1885 the native population of the Sound region had dropped from a pre-contact high of over 12,000 to fewer than two thousand.

They and their culture have made a comeback, however, and they're preserved the memory of their way of life for all of us. We may have to draw on the wisdom embodied in that memory very soon.

Monday, August 24, 2009

The Knight Between Death and the Devil

Today I consulted the oracle, so if you're the kind of person who thinks that oracles, astrology, reading the auspices, etc., is nothing but a bunch of foolish superstition, please stop reading now and go to another site. I have no wish to annoy you.

The consultation was a little startling. Any draw which includes both Death and The Devil is bound to be, especially if it's only a three-card draw. However, there's nothing here to be afraid of. Unlike the knight in the picture, death is behind me, and that's certainly a true reflection of the actual state of affairs. My mother's death, the death of my marriage, and the disappearance of my old life are all in the past now. Time to ride on.

Also unlike Dürer's knight, who has the devil behind him and now confronts death, I have the devil in front of me. I look forward to wrestling with him. Struggling with the devil calls forth a lot of energy, and my adversary, while clever, is incapable of creating anything; he can only destroy.

In Dürer's 1513 woodcut, which he called Der Reuther (The Runner), an aging knight rides easily past a pig-snouted and horned devil, whose single most prominent, crescent-shaped horn is suggestive of Islam. Mounted securely atop a muscular and vigorous stallion and accompanied by his faithful dog, the knight appears confident and invincible, but death, astride his pale and gaunt horse, waits alongside the road in front of an ominously eroded wall of earth, holding up his hourglass for the knight to see. But does he see it, or the pale rider accosting him?

Click on the image above to get a larger view. This is the first of a series of three of the artist's greatest woodcuts, called collectively Meisterstiche. The other two are St. Jerome in his Study (1514) and Melancolia I (1514).

Friday, August 21, 2009

Sic Transit Gloria Mundi

Ukelele Ike was as big a music star as ever hit Hollywood and broke into the movies. He sold over 70 million records in the 20's and 30's. He worked all the time, first in vaudeville, then on the screen, was in demand, and made top dollar.

He was also a remarkable, original, and unique vocal talent. In 1928 he scored a number one national hit record with "I can't Give You Anything but Love," (though it's the "B" side's "That's My Weakness Now" that has the real fireworks, with a scat chorus that goes straight through the roof). The following year his smooth, upbeat rendition of "Singin' in the Rain" topped the charts for three weeks.

But Cliff Edwards, for such was Ukulele Ike's real name, derived neither happiness nor fulfillment from his notoriety and fortune . He lived carelessly and thoughtlessly, drank too much and played too hard, married too often and spent recklessly. And though he reinvented himself several times over, turning from a crooner into a "B" westerns sidekick-type character actor, and finally in 1940 becoming the voice of Jiminy Cricket in the Disney feature "Pinocchio," nothing could compensate for the ongoing train wreck of his personal life, dominated by divorces, bankruptcies, drugs, and that old devil alcohol.

In the fifties Edwards got a little work from Disney, mostly on the Mickey Mouse Club, and continued to record, but by the time he died in 1971 at age 76 he was alone and forgotten, a welfare ghost whose body lay unclaimed for several days in the indigents' nursing home from which he invisibly exited stage left. The Screen Actors Guild eventually got word of his passing and arranged services, and Disney Studios put up the money for a modest grave marker.

Ukulele Ike's story is a Shakespearean-sized tragedy conveying an admonition we can't hear too many times: wide celebrity, high fortune, and the attentions of beautiful but inconstant lovers -- these are the glittering but superficial attractions of our modern lives. Even worse, fame and fortune are dangerously destructive if poured into a vessel that sits on a shaky foundation, and that lucky person who appears to be living high, wide, and God knows what, is likely to be more miserable than the humblest wage worker.

Consider the fate of Ukelele Ike, one of the biggest star-celebrities in the history of American showbiz, then note that he personifies the words of the Buddha: "At first a fool's mischief is sweet -- sweet as honey. But in time it turns bitter, and how bitterly he suffers."

This lesson is repeated ad infinitum in our cultural heavens, dominated by oversized stars. Is there anyone reading this who doesn't feel grateful on reflection not to have been Michael Jackson?

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Dangerous Acquaintances

The first time I attempted Chaucer it didn't last long. Unfortunately, at that time I drew one of the worst teachers in the history of inept and incompetent teaching, someone (I now realize) who was struggling with alcohol. I ended up dropping the class after the drop deadline and taking an "F," and that was all the time I gave to Mr. Chaucer till now.

46 Years later, I have a much better teacher (in fact, he wrote the book -- the translation of the book I mean) and adequate time for the subject, since I'm taking only two classes right now. Okay, "Canterbury Tales" isn't actually a class, but it is a serious and demanding, if enjoyable study.

I took my teacher Pete's advice, started with the Miller's tale, and immediately recalled that anyone who wants to read Chaucer in the original has to read very, very slowly, sounding out each word carefully and leaning heavily on the modern English translation for meaning. This is labor-intensive and time consuming. I wonder if modern Dutch speakers can read it more easily than modern English speakers. It sounds sort of like Dutch.

The Miller's tale concerns an old fool and his way-too-young and way-too-sexy wife, and two of her admirers among the medieval townies who populate these down-to-earth narratives. The characters in the one story I've read so far and in the one I'm reading currently (The Reeve's Tale) seem strangely modern, almost as if they were people I know. They're mostly the kind who would do anything for money and a good screw.

"Thus swyved was the carpenteres wyf" says Chaucer, by way of saying she got screwed by one of her admirers and fooled the other into kissing her bum. Actually, he was probably kissing a great deal more than just her butt, judging from Chaucer's blunt and earthy Anglo-Saxonisms.

But for all the low high-jinks in these two stories, a discerning ear immediately hears Chaucer's high art in these musical-sounding rhymed couplets. Once able to sound them out a little more accurately than a rank beginner, I found meanings where before there was only gibberish, and soon was reading about half the lines without having to translate. As Lewis Carroll said, "Take care of the sounds and the sense will take care of itself."*

The Reeve's tale begins with a long, off-topic prologue in which the speaker, a skinny, sour old guy, moans about the frustration and unhappiness attending an old man's waning sexuality, which he describes so accurately as to break your heart -- if you happen to be an old man. For some reason, though, it made me laugh.

The story that follows is full of the stuff you'll find in most any good literature, from the Old Testament to "Of Mice and Men" -- duplicity, betrayal, sex, and violence. I'll finish it tonight.

*Carroll was playing with the words of a proverb: "Take care of the pounds and the pence will take care of themselves."

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

And We're Climbing the Stairway to Heaven

I'm staying here beside the green water and it suits me.

Hanging among the green trees by the waterside, and it's peaceful.

In a fourplex by the side of the road in a remote place.

Where I can climb the stairway to heaven any time I want.

I think I'll forget about politics. Politics is caca.

Pericles, that old Greek politician guy, said way back in B.C. during the Peloponnesian War that "You may not take an interest in politics, but you can be sure politics takes an interest in you" (this according to Thucydides in his history of that war.)

I wouldn't want to be the one to argue with somebody so illustrious who's been dead that long, and anyway he may be right. I always thought if I at least knew what was going on, I'd know when they were coming to get me.

But any more I just can't do politics. No way. Not since it got so twitterfied, and all weirded out and nutted up with all this "death panel" &c. &c., and stuff.

I just can't do it any more since we went full frontal wingnut. Sorry guys.

Now, does anybody want a hot trip to heaven?



photo by me

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Ancestor Worship

What an incredibly beautiful woman my great-great grandmother was.

Elizabeth Carrico, from old Kentucky.

She was my mother's father's father's mother.

Monday, August 17, 2009

2 by Johns

Jasper Johns, who painted the two versions of the American flag here and here, was inspired to take up this subject by a dream.

According to a 1988 New York Times article, One day in 1954, Johns casually mentioned to (fellow artist Robert) Rauschenberg that he'd had a crazy dream the previous night. ''How crazy was it?'' Rauschenberg asked. ''Well,'' Johns replied, ''in this dream I was painting the American flag.'' The American flag? Rauschenberg didn't think it was crazy at all. ''That's a really great idea,'' he said.

The immediate result was Johns's original encaustic-on-fabric pasted-on-a-board flag, the conventional-looking red, white, and blue one. This was in the mid-fifties, and Johns was 24. He had no idea that acting on his dream as Rauschenberg suggested would make him famous.

The proprietor of the site "Sacred Narrative," from which I got this information, suggests that "Dream work is easy."

"To make your dreams work for you," she says, "you have to do three things:

"1) remember them
2) listen to them
3) act on them"

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Kill Your Television

It's not just Fox News.

Hardly anything good comes out of the cyclops in your living room. It's essentially a brainwashing machine in the service of the corporatocracy. Watch it with a critical eye and you'll soon understand how Americans got to be as dumb as they are now.

For example, after previously debunking Palin's "death panels" claim for the stinking lie that it is, ABC News chose to treat the uproar over this fleck of dreck as a genuine debate and difference of opinion.

On the August 13 edition of Good Morning America, correspondent Kate Snow characterized the "disagreement" this way:

Sarah Palin is taking on President Obama in the battle over health care. In a new Facebook posting, the former governor says the president is, quote, making light of concerns about a provision in the House bill that would pay doctors for consulting with patients about end-of-life care. Palin says because of pressure to reduce health care spending, it's no wonder some might view those consultations as a way to minimize end-of-life care. But the president contends the provision is voluntary, and no one will force a senior to make choices based on cost.

Less than an hour before this rancid example of "it's no wonder," ABC's medical editor was explaining on air that the provision Snow referred to makes end-of-life counseling "entirely voluntary."

Billions for weapons, guaranteeing our taxes go to support a warfare state, but no universal guarantee of health care. That's us, the class idiot at the back of the room in the U.N. And it's no wonder.

One of the reasons we're the world's idiot is because that box in your living room has become a sewer pipe for fascist propaganda. So kill your television, and while you're at it stay away from McDonald's. This country doesn't need any more round morons, with arteries full of grease and heads full of right-wing garbage. We've already got a surplus.

Image: "Radio Propaganda" by Boris Artzybasheff, Russian-American (1899-1965); unknown medium.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Don't Buy from These Fox News Advertisers

I encourage anyone who cares about the truth and considers himself or herself an enemy of disinformation to boycott Fox News Network advertisers.

All of 'em. Even the U.S. Post Office.

A boycott is a passive act of economic warfare. It's a hostile act, meant to inflict damage on an enemy.

The object is to hit the oligarchy where it hurts them the most -- right in the wallet.

Current Fox News Advertisers ( as of 8/9/09 )
AARP Insurance
Accu Chek Aviva
ADT Security
Ally Bank (
Brita Filter
Broadbive Security
Conservatives for Patients Rights
Ditech (
Golden Corral
Healthy Choice
HSBC Life Insurance
Mens Warehouse
Radio Shack
Rapid Wash
Red Lobster
Sargento Cheese
Super8 motels (
Superior Gold Group
United Healthcare Insurance
United States Postal Service
Wallstreet Journal

Friday, August 14, 2009

Occupied Territory

Face it, you're living in an occupied country. And I'm not talking about the Obama socialist-Marxist-anti-white-pro-gay-agenda-Chavez-lovin'-euthanizing tyranny bullshit nonsense lies and fantasies either.

Atrios says it best as usual; that would be Duncan Black, aka Atrios, proprietor of the blog Eschaton and a master of concision. I love the way this guy writes, and today he says:

In many ways massive inequality is a symptom of an unjust system rather than something to be considered about in and of itself. Still, as we've seen recently it's rather obvious a wealthy class has managed to capture the apparatus of government for its own financial benefit.

Boy, you wanna talk about "that's it in a nutshell."

And the hyperlink will take you here: via Krugman we learn that nearly a quarter of total income goes to the top 1 percent of Americans, nearly as high as the most recent peak, in 1928. (Notice any correlation of events?).

Yes, I do. We're occupied by rich fuggers, who also use the electronic media which they own to spew forth their incessant ruling-class propaganda night and day.

Now, here's what we must do:

1) Kill your television, before it kills you. Killing your TV will change your life.

2) Don't smoke or drink diabetes juice.

3) Do not allow yourself to be referred to as "a consumer."

4) Boycott all Fox News advertisers. A complete list will be appended soon.

5) Grow your own; roll your own; play your own; sing your own; be your own; make your own movies, shot with eyes. Paint the flag green.

6) Most importantly, starve the beast, and re-imagine America.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Love Persists

Right. The couple you see in the picture are still together.

At the time they were a local upstate New York item, two 20-year-olds who had been dating for about three months, Bobbie Kelly and Nick Ercoline. On the morning of the last day of the concert they were captured embracing in the early morning chill by a young photorapher named Burk Uzzle.

Today they've been married 38 years, are still going strong, have a good-looking family, and a long life together to show for it. And now, 40 years to the day later, they just met the photographer for the first time, as documented last night on NBC nightly news.

Neither of them is as pretty as they were in August of '69 when the picture was taken, but then none of us are. However, we're still here, and we're not done yet.

We were accused at the time, and still are today, of wrecking America. That's half true. America is a wreck, but it wasn't us who wrecked it. All we ever did was call attention to its diseases -- materialism, militarism, greed, and a total lack of authenticity.

It's not too late to erect the country we always wanted and that everybody needs (whether they know it or not) on the ruins of the old one, but we'll have to paint the American flag green.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

That Sound Again

Yes, indeed. At the senior center, they have automatic doors for people who use walkers or are in wheelchairs, etc. Big square pushbuttons to open those doors are on the walls about seven feet out in front of them.

So comes the old woman with the walker, and opens the doors to go outside. She is still getting herself around, but has seen better days and is not completely present either. Still, she's doing OK.

After she waits in the driveway a couple of minutes, the van arrives to pick her up. The front door opens and I hear it -- the toxic drone of right-wing hate radio -- coming from inside the van, which is driven by a younger old guy. Maybe a son, that would be my guess.

Then he snaps at her as she's getting in, because she's having a hard time getting her walker and all her stuff in, then she gets the seat belt tangled up in the door.

Finally the door closes and off they go. God, what a messed-up country we're living in.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

This is What a Lunatic Looks Like

This is a very sad and sorrowful presentation of an argument or anything purporting to be thought, this teabagger outbreak. It's tragic, really.

What a sad and tragic state of affairs we've come to in this country.

Here we are, broke, washed up, while bankers and clowns are making off with the last big puddle of money available -- taxpayer money.

We're also caught up in the serpentine coils of a war machine that's got I think three (is it three?) pointless wars going at the moment, and which refuses to let loose its grip on the billions of dollars it consumes every year -- money we no longer have and certainly can't afford, considering the dire needs of our people, millions of whom suddenly find themselves unemployed and without the resources to live.

And are we talking about these things? Is that what the public conversation we're having these days is focused on? No, not even, because our public discourse has been hijacked by lunatics.

Lord have mercy on our poor demented and decomposing country.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Three Books

If you were shipwrecked on a desert island and could take only three books with you, which three would they be?

I didn't have any trouble deciding when I asked myself that question this morning. The first would be the King James Bible, and I'd want to take the copy I have now, a facsimile of a latter-day reprint of the 1611 edition, with the original 17th-century spelling preserved. Besides being the ultimate repository of wisdom and the primary of the two main sources of western literature (the other being the scattered literary treasure of classical antiquity), the book's language is incredibly beautiful, with its archaic spelling matching and amplifying its equally antique turns of the phrase.

For example, in Chapter IV (or IIII) of Genesis, God says to Cain, "What hast thou done? the voyce of thy brothers blood cryeth vnto me from the ground," which packages the instinctive human need for revenge and exacting retribution for crimes in the neatest possible metaphor. The KJV is an inexhaustible source of these kinds of intensely poetic moralistic images, and its histories are as exciting and entertaining as any ever written, if one takes into account their ideological, tribal slant.

My second choice is pure history, but with strong poetic tendencies: the Modern Library's one-volume edition of Gibbon's "Decline and Fall." Edward Gibbon's Roman epic actually embraces the history of the entire Mediterranean region and beyond, and extends nearly 16 centuries, from the dawn of the current era to the beginnings of the Renaissance and the final conquest of the Eastern Empire by Islam. It includes chapters on the rise of Islam and on the spread and early success of Christianity, and serves as a primer of all the knowledge anyone serious about mastering the fundamentals of western history should be familiar with.

Finally, I would spend many of my free hours on this desert isle, of which I would have 24 a day, immersing myself in Dante's Divine Comedy, one of the few indisputably essential works of the western canon. I've only read an outdated English translation of the first third of Dante's masterpiece, which functions among other things as a literary bridge connecting the middle ages with the gateway to modern times, the Renaissance. I'd want an edition with the original Italian on one page and the English translation on the facing page, so I could learn medieval Italian in my spare time.

With Gibbon, Dante, and the Old Testament prophets for company, life on the desert island would certainly be more tolerable that it would be without them. However, I'd still hope to be rescued.

Click on the image for a larger view.

Sunday, August 09, 2009


Right. So if you're Sarah Palin, you don't have to read the proposed healthcare reform act itself, you can just make shit up, such as "Obama's 'death panel' wants to euthanize my Down Syndrome baby."

Now of course, Palin knows that's not true, and is perfectly aware she's just blowing chunks, even as the words are coming out of her mouth. And yet, even though she knows what she's saying is a lie, she believes it. This is the magic of doublethink, without which fascism cannot exist.

What's obvious to me through all of this is that a state of civil war already exists in this country, because the corporate paymasters and their political bagmen in Congress, the remnant of the Republican Party, have now made common cause with the most extreme, fantasy-driven fascist nutjobs at the ragged right edge of the political spectrum. This is what happened in Germany in the very early thirties.

These braying jackasses are now determined to make it impossible for the rest of us to live with them, and we need to act accordingly.

Friday, August 07, 2009

My Demographic -- Old White Guys

A correspondent writes:

89% of Republicans are WHITE ANGLOS.

What should all those aging White Guys do?

They should live in mobile home parks in the Mojave Desert of Arizona and California, and play lots of golf -- full-size golf (XL) and miniature.

They should go to McDonald's and ask for senior coffee. They should play bingo on Friday nights.

They should attend church and be sincere believers in Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior, but not let the teachings of Jesus interfere with their political views, because that's the most important part of their religion.

They should have large-screen TV's in their mobile homes and watch re-runs of "Seinfeld," whose jokes they still do not understand after all these years.

As time goes on it will be increasingly risky for Republicans to drive, and they will spend their final years tooling around their mobile parks on golf carts, sometimes bumping into one another.

In the background The Who is singing, "Talkin' 'bout my demm-ographic..."

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

What is Fascism?

Fascism is a modern-day response to the breakdown and disappearance of traditional societies and traditional sources of authority. Fascist governments and political movements attempt to re-connect with lost traditions and to substitute new kinds of strong loyalties, especially loyalty to the nation, in modern-day societies which have lost their direction following the breakdown of traditional forms of authority. We have to a large extent lost confidence in the old ways because pre-industrial ways of thinking have disappeared along with pre-industrial modes of production and consumption.

"Today we live in a new world," one analyst declares, which has witnessed tremendous scientific and medical progress, but has also seen "the breakdown of the family structure, with its related increase in unwanted pregnancy, divorce, depression, crime, and suicidal and even homicidal children."(1) We are all, to some extent, victims of the social anarchy that attends social dissolution, and fascism is one of several competing modern philosophies that attempt to remedy this state of affairs.

The central feature of fascism is its peculiarly modern form of nationalism, which inevitably acquires the overpowering intensity and transcendent qualities formerly limited to religious expression. Since fascist movements also encourage their followers to observe the ancient religious forms (and usually to ignore their otherworldly contents), religion and nationalism combine, and the nation -- its soil, its symbols, and its heavily redacted history -- becomes sacred, holy, and the repository of the citizenry's most profound emotions.

This nationalism is accompanied by a sense of national destiny and the absolute conviction of the superiority of one's nation over all others, accompanied by the belief that the nation needs to have a strong and aggressive military presence in the world for purposes of securing its "rightful place," or in other words, an empire at the very least, and global dominance in the most pronounced cases of fascist statism.

Other characteristics of fascist governments include partnership and collusion with the nation's largest business concerns, state control of the nation's modern forms of mass communication for purposes of blanketing society with fascist propaganda, and intimidation of and violence against any opponents of fascism who have the nerve to speak up once the dictatorship is established, especially "intellectuals" such as teachers, journalists and scientists. Because the basic appeal of fascism is emotional rather than intellectual, any person, group, or philosophy committed to rational, dispassionate analysis based on evidence rather than nationalist hysteria and naked self interest is treated as an enemy and a threat. Science is especially feared and hated by all fascists, for science is the study of reality, and reality is the enemy of fascism, which is inevitably based on the fantasy of national superiority, infallibility, and invincibility.

Benito Mussolini is generally regarded as the founder of fascism, and his fascist dictatorship in Italy of the 20's and 30's as the template for all fascist movements which followed down to the present day. I found Wikipedia's biography of Mussolini thorough and well crafted, and believe it serves as an excellent introduction to this subject.

For anybody who's still confused about what fascism is, I'd suggest listening to Rush Limbaugh for five minutes at random, or watching a quarter hour of Fox News.

The typical fascist believer of a modern nation hasn't changed much since George Orwell described him (or her) in 1948, consumed with patriotic hopes and fears, and "expected to be competent, industrious, and even intelligent within narrow limits, but it is also necessary that he should be a credulous and ignorant fanatic whose prevailing moods are fear, hatred, adulation, and orgiastic triumph."(2)

I find this to be the state of mind exhibited by about one-third of our fellow citizens.

1) Gary Kraftsow, "Yoga for Transformation," p. 152-3.

2) George Orwell, "1984," p. 192

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Fascism -- Alive and Well

For those of us who until recently thought the Republican Party was dying and fascism in the U.S. a spent force, it's disconcerting to suddenly realize that not only are these people refusing to go away, but that they're now as dangerous as ever, if not more so.

As I write this and as you read it, well-organized cadres of citizen storm troopers are disrupting meetings called by Democratic officials to discuss health care reform with their constituents, bullying the speakers and shouting down any attempt to keep the public discussion of health and insurance issues on track. The tactic is a replay of the so-called Brooks Brothers Riot of late 2000, which was extremely instrumental in halting the Florida recount, and led to a handful of rogue judges at the Supreme Court installing the fascist Bush administration in the White House.

People who take comfort in the Democrats' majority status need to be reminded that neither Hitler nor Mussolini ever received majorities at the polls prior to assuming power, and that now is the perfect moment for a resurgence of fascism, as the weak, wimpy, spineless, delicate and anemic Obama administration dissolves into a sad puddle of utter irrelevance.

Where's the widely-celebrated intelligence everybody talks about whenever Obama's name comes up? This is a guy so infatuated with the nobility of his own intentions that he actually began his administration with an apparently sincere appeal for "bipartisanship," as if the fascist ideologues, seething with hatred and obsessed with a racially-tinged compulsion to destroy him, were actually capable of "putting the past behind us" and conversing in good faith. He may as well have invited hyenas to his dinner table, and scorpions to inspect his clothes closet.

America today, with its fuzzy, unfocused liberalism and ignorant good intentions is replaying the tragedy of the Weimar Republic. Meanwhile, the fascists are equipped with clear objectives, and boldly embarked on a well-defined mission. For them there is no lie so outrageous and no treachery so immoral that it can't be excused when employed in achieving the ultimate objective -- absolute fascist dictatorship and the destruction of all fascism's enemies, real and imagined.

I fully expect the fascists to triumph, maybe as soon as 2012. As the tarp comes off the Obama administration's wholesale failure in the months ahead (Jim Kunstler's characterization of it is that "'Change you can believe in' has morphed into 'a status quo you will bend heaven and earth to hold onto.'"), look for the Great Charismatic Leader to appear -- and I'm not referring the towel-mouthed flash in the pan from the Great North, Ms. Palin. HE will offer simple solutions to our most complex problems, and satisfyingly emotional cures for the self-pity afflicting our confused and disoriented citizenry. And he will lead our Great and Sovereign Nation in a Restoration of its former Dignity and a Return to its Rightful Place in the World.

And then the shit will really hit the fan, because make no mistake, these people are out of their fucking minds.

Monday, August 03, 2009

San Seattle

Yesterday I took the two-hour drive from my little corner on the west side of Puget Sound down through Tacoma, crossing the Sound at the Narrows Bridge, then proceeding up the east side of it to Seattle. (See Google Maps: "Puget Sound.")

Ordinarily I take the ferry, but the wait for a boat was over two hours yesterday, what with vacationers and weekenders returning to the city, so it was easier to take the long way.

It turned out to be a revelation as well. The air pollution on the Seattle side is shocking right now.

I hadn't been to the east side of the Sound since before the big heat wave started about July 27. The hottest day -- Wednesday the 29th -- broke all records when Seattle hit 104 degrees in the middle of one of its worst air inversions ever.

I didn't think I'd ever live long enough to see the atmosphere in this region look exactly like Southern California's, but right now there's no difference. Coming up the freeway through the Kent Valley yesterday, I looked at the surrounding hills, obscured by that same gray-brown haze that has given the hills of SoCal their characteristic look for decades.

Population growth and the associated activities collectively know as "development" have reached and then surpassed their limit in this area, and we can be grateful that the environmental degradation that accompanies "progress" has now slowed somewhat, thanks to the recession. I keep hearing talking heads on TV and reading economists on line chirping about "recovery," which not only isn't going to happen, but is an outcome to be dreaded and feared. We don't need more of what got us here.

Anyway, as wiser heads such as the Angry Bear ( understand and have pointed out, this isn't a recession, but a collapse. Now that we've established that, can we please have our air back?

Sunday, August 02, 2009


David Sirota's indictment of our corrupt political system's lame performance on the issue of health care for everybody is the sort of thing you'll never see or hear in any corporate medium. It begins with a brief review of the sad history of the past decade:

The 21st century opened with a handful of Supreme Court puppets appointing George W. Bush president after he lost the popular vote—and we all know the costs in blood and treasure that insult wrought. Now, the decade closes with another cabal of stooges assaulting the “one person, one vote” principle—and potentially bringing about another disaster.

Here we have a major congressional push to fix a health care system that leaves one-sixth of the country without coverage. Here we have 535 House and Senate delegates elected to give all 300 million of us a voice in the solution. And here we have just 13 of those delegates holding the initiative hostage.

He proceeds to name them -- six senators and seven representatives who control key congressional committees -- and to divulge how much money they have collectively gotten from the health insurance lobby to do their dirty work -- $12 million. Sometimes I'm amazed at how much the government we have today resembles that of the late nineteenth century, in those grim days before Teddy Roosevelt and the progressives began putting some mild restrictions on the corporate dictatorship of that era, and hedging the power of the trusts.

I found Sirota's conclusion to be the most important part:

Of course, there is talk of circumventing the 13 obstructionists and forcing a vote of the full Congress that cannot be filibustered. Inside the Washington palace, the media court jesters and political aides-de-camp have reacted to such plans by raising predictable charges of improper procedure, poor manners, bad etiquette and other Versailles transgressions.

But the real crime would be letting the tyrants block that vote, trample democracy and kill health care reform in the process.

This is a crucial test for Obama. If he has any serious intention of actually becoming the leader he represents himself as being, he'll demand such a vote, and will not flinch at the accusations of disrespect for congressional procedures, traditions, and protocols.

It's really too bad, but it's going to take a bit of dictatorial heavy-handedness to straighten out the parliament of whores.

If Obama fails this test, then the responsibility for forcing government to respond to the needs and will of the people, as Jefferson intended, will once more rest with us, and I don't know if we're up to it.