Saturday, February 28, 2009

Hot Links

Ever get sick of hearing the well fed and well off whine about being "forced" to help the less fortunate?

Ever get the feeling that they go on and on about "responsibility" only because they're a bunch of grasping, self-centered, small-minded, mean greedheads?

Then you owe it to yourself to read Angry Mama by Sybil Vane at Bitch, Ph.D.

This post deserves some kind of award. It rocks.

Oh, man, I'll tell you, it's not too surprising, but still disturbingly portentous, how sick the majority of us are of stupid Republican bullshit.

Incoherent Interface

I don't understand these people at all. It's one thing to lie, but it's something else again to try to have everything both ways, to the point where one's message becomes totally incoherent.

Such is the case when conservatives try to put daylight between themselves and Bush, now that there's a consensus on this utterly failed presidency. It started when the election was heating up. There was a bit of standard rhetoric going around that when push came to shove, McCain and his crew would try to establish six degrees of separation between the candidate and Bush, although as Atrios points out "I never believed this because for 8 years the entire identity of the conservative movement was George Bush. There was no way to do it."

And there still isn't any way to do it, but that doesn't stop them from trying.

Yesterday, TalkingPointsMemo spoke with David Keene, the chairman of the CPAC-organizing American Conservative Union and a former aide to Bob Dole, who suggested that conservatives have been frustrated with Bush for years. He said criticism of Bush was “consistent with the belief we’ve had for some time.”

Uh-huh. Is that why the same Dave Keene just last year was so filled with "delight" that Bush would be addressing the Conservative Political Action Conference? Is that why he said that Bush speaking at the conference was “a great opportunity for thousands of conservatives to evaluate the accomplishments of his administration.”? Is that why when Bush stood up in front of them, the assembled conservatives were rapturously on their feet chanting "Four More Years!"?

Yet they still keep trying to push this "Bush is no REAL conservative" veshch, along with "we've had differences with him for oh-so-long," and I've even seen it crop up occasionally on this board. I knew when I saw it, I'd seen everything.

People like this seem to think that the rest of us will never notice that the narrative they're attempting to construct is so full of self-contradictions that it makes absolutely no sense whatsoever. There's no way you can have a debate with anyone as completely incoherent as this, and my only question is, do they think they're being clever, or are they truly delusional?

Friday, February 27, 2009

Comedy? or Tragedy?

I hope that Louis CK is aware that he is a comedian satirizing serious issues rather than an analyst engaging in a serious discussion of the economic catastrophe and associated social turmoil we're currently dealing with. I couldn't tell from his demeanor whether he knows he's the former or thinks he's the latter.

His satire works this way: he discusses trivial matters, such as the awkwardness of using the old rotary phones, or the fact that old-time banking, in the days before ATM's and debit cards was inconvenient and time-consuming, as if these things possessed the same sort of gravity and consequence as last week's 635 thousand-plus new jobless claims, or the fact that the most common cause of bankruptcy in this country today is medical bills that render families insolvent.

If he knows he's a comedian making light of a serious situation, I applaud his talent, since he's very convincing. He really has a great delivery -- provided he actually knows what he's doing.

But if he thinks for one second that he's making a serious argument, then I have to worry for his sanity, because in that case the intellectual dishonesty and disconnect from reality are both truly staggering.

Monday, February 23, 2009


Due to pressing personal matters, some medical, some legal, and some having to do with family and friends, I need to suspend activity on the Catboxx blog for a few days, or maybe longer.

I've really enjoyed sitting in front of my Lappy 486 for several hours each day over the past few years and honoring the world with the benefit of my opinions on all things political, social, cultural, or artistic, which I'm currently doing from my lofty position here at sea level. However, I really don't have the time to even have an opinion at the moment. More pressing matters have intervened and I must attend to them. It's neither an exaggeration nor an over-dramatization to say that life depends on my doing so.

For any readers who might have an interest in my personal life, I'll continue to blog that at my old site, Omnem Movere Lapidem. I'll post a link in the sidebar over at the left.

And in my absence, the world will just have to run without me. I leave it in the sanctified hands of St. Barack, pictured above.

Is there anybody else here besides me who sighs with relief at least once a day realizing that Dubya is gone and not coming back?

Best Regards
Dave B

Sunday, February 22, 2009


Les Reactionaires are all in a lather about the fairness doctrine. Pelosi says she wants to see it come back. Obama has no interest in it. I don't really care one way or the other, since it's a silly idea that implies either a) framing political discourse within the confined space of "acceptable" or "responsible" opinion, so that any issue is limited to the Republican and Democratic points of view, (Which do you like? Coke or Pepsi? Rock or country?) or b) instituting real, actual fairness, which would mean everybody would get air time in which to bark, including the Vegetarian Party, the Prohibition Party, and the We're-all-going-to-be-kidnapped-by aliens-invading-earth-in-UFO's Party.

The fairness doctrine requires that everyone get equal time. So if a broadcast station gives half an hour to the party that believes regulation of the banking industry is a socialist ploy, they would be required in the interest of fairness to give half an hour to a spokesperson for the party that believes private property should be abolished and all the means of production given to the workers.

If NPR has a ten-minute interview with an anthropological geneticist who explains that Darwin's theory is proved beyond any doubt not by the fossil record, but by the small number of differences between the DNA sequence of humans and that of chimpanzees (the number is one), they also have to give ten minutes to Reverend Bob of the Born Again and Don't You Forget It Baptist Church so he can counter with the proposition that the earth is 6,000 years old, that Noah had dinosaurs on the ark, and that there's no such thing as DNA anyhow. It's only fair.

If we can't be fair and treat everybody equally, what good are we?

The fairness doctrine is kind of like equality under the law. Since everybody is equal under the law, it means that Donald Trump or Warren Buffet will be arrested if they sleep under a bridge, steal bread, or urinate in public, just the same way as homeless people are arrested for those things.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

When the Sun Goes Down

This is one of those "lyrics by various artists" songs, performed admirably by pianist LeRoy Carr accompanied, by Scrapper Blackwell on guitar, way back when.

In the evening, in the evening
When there's no one else around;
In the evening, baby
When there's no one else around,
Ain't it lonesome, ain't in lonesome babe,
When your love is not around?
When the sun goes down.

Last night I lay sleeping,
I was thinking to myself.
Last night I lay sleeping,
I was thinking to myself.
Well what I been thinking is
why that the one you love
Will mistreat you for someone else,
When the sun goes down.

The sun rises in the east
And it sets up in the west.
The sun rises in the east, mama,
And it sets up in the west;
And it's hard to tell, it's hard to tell
Which one will treat you the best
When the sun goes down.

Yeah hay
Hee hoo oh
Yeah hi
Hoo hoo ee

Good-bye old sweetheart and pals.
Yes, I'm going away;
But I may be back to see you again
Some old rainy day,
Well, in the evening, in the evening
When the sun goes down;
When the sun goes down.

Carr's quiet and reflective treatment of this gentle lament is an early thirties classic. Unfortunately, LeRoy Carr did not live to record many more gems like this one. He was felled by that old devil alcohol at a young age.

If you have a strong desire to hear it, Amazon will sell you the MP3 for 89 cents on your credit card.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Farewell, Socks

Socks the Cat, born in 1991, died today.

He was Chelsea Clinton's cat, and lived in the White House throughout the entirety of the Clinton era. I'll always associate his handsome face and beautiful markings with happier days, frothy times when the worst we had to worry about was the prodigal penis of our philandering POTUS. Nobody ever lost a job or a pension or got foreclosed upon because of the lust of bimbintern Monica Lewinsky and her exalted paramour. Clinton lied, and nobody died.

Some of his political enemies came close to keeling over dead though, because the thought of all that hot, naked getting busy in the Oval Office gave numerous among them brain lesions, perforated eardrums, gastric ulcers, and deviated septums. And it couldn't have happened to a more deserving crew.

R.I.P. Socks. We already miss you, just as for some time we've missed the time of your life.

Thursday, February 19, 2009


"I just stopped by
To see what condition my condition was in..."

--Pop song performed by
Kenny Rogers and the First Edition, 1971

According to my teacher's translation of Patanjali's third aphorism, Yoga Sutra 1.3, our minds will be able to perceive clearly only after we have overcome our conditioning. But what is this conditioning of which she speaks?

Her teacher, Gary Kraftsow writes in his book "Yoga for Wellness" that conditioning is "the result of our particular relation to our interpersonal and social environments; the result, in fact, of all our past actions." (Page XVI)

Kraftsow sees as conditioning as the primary influence on our every behavior, as we memorize and recall those techniques that seem to work for us (while avoiding those that don't) through the "twin processes of neuromuscular organization and socialization. Meanwhile, those particular patterns we each acquire and develop are always imperfect in some way, in relation to wellness: even though they allow us to function -- in fact, because they allow us to function and are therefore reinforced -- they inhibit our optimal development. The consequence of this conditioning is imbalance at various levels of our system, accumulation of stress, ultimately, dis-ease."

Now, consider the Hollywood movies produced and marketed during a fifty-year window of, say, 1920 to 1970. These wildly popular commercial vehicles traded on the fantasies of average and unremarkable people by depicting the kinds of protagonists and heroines the public wanted to see. As such, the paradigm of masculinity cultivated by Hollywood served not just as a fantasy, but as an agent of socialization, and as an ideal for boys and young men to emulate.

The classic Hollywood cowboy or soldier hero was always an idealist who revered women in general and his mother in particular, and because he believed in justice, was quick to risk his own life and fortune on behalf of the powerless and downtrodden. At the same time he was notably violence prone, never shrinking from demonstrating his superior mettle with his fists and, when the occasion arose, firearms, artillery, airplanes, or other explosive devices. He was brave to a fault, and despite his supposed virtues seemed to relish the violence which was inevitably the most important test of his character and the main pretext for these mass-appeal dramas. Always emphatically heterosexual, he nevertheless rode into sunset rather than settle into domesticity with the fair maiden, who was usually left standing by the road with her bosoms heaving, tearfully watching this unattainable apex of masculinity depart. "Love 'em and leave 'em," along with "Fight 'em and kill 'em" seemed to be his twin mottoes.

I would suggest that much of the trouble we're now experiencing as a people is traceable to this ideal of masculinity, which has conditioned American men to to behave in ways that are, as military planners like to say, "counter-productive." The violence on our urban streets now mirrors that in our entertainments, and the collapse of our consumer-oriented society at the hands of the Pirates of Wall Street reflects the "winner-take-all," "It's-a-jungle-out-there" world of predation and counter-predation depicted in our most popular dramas and stories over the last century.

It's a dog-eat-dog world, and will be as long as we continue to think of ourselves as dogs. A healthy dose of insight for everybody, one which dares to question our national conditioning, might ameliorate the situation. Fewer heroes would be called upon to stick up for the downtrodden in a society which treads more lightly than ours. As William Blake said, "Mercy would be no more / If there was nobody poor; / And pity would no more be / If all were as happy as we."

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

The National National Bank

What if the government takes over the banks that are in trouble? Remember, not all of them are.

What if banks in trouble get eaten by the FDIC?

Will you, the poor harried, victimized, put-upon taxpayer have to foot the bill for all the bad debts those banks have run up? NPR had an expert on the radio this morning speaking to that subject, an economist from the University of Chicago, no less. Raghuram Rajan said yes, you will have to pay all the bad banks' bad debts.

But another frequent NPR guest and economist, Dean Baker, points out that that's not true, that the government has no legal liability to cover the bad debts of bankrupt banks.

Baker reminds us that the FDIC historically has re-compensated depositors and bond holders when banks couldn't cover them, but adds the FDIC "would be under no legal obligation to repay all of this debt at 100 cents on the dollar."

So when the bank nationalization thing starts to heat up and get closer and you're debating and arguing with right-wingers who are going bananas over this, don't let anybody tell you that if the government takes over the zombie banks, that the taxpayers will be stuck for trillions and quadrillions and quintillions of dollars.

It just ain't true, Joe, if for no other reason than banks like WAMU ran up such incredible debts that paying off at face value would represent more money than ever existed in the history of the world.

As usual, a wave of the scoop to the indefatigable Atrios for this.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Rural Vampires

It may be you know someone who has driven the Swansonville Road late at night, an acquaintance, perhaps, or the friend of a friend. If so, then you've noticed that such a person is more likely than not to have the distracted aspect of one who has glimpsed sights not meant for mortal orbs, and dares not broach the ghastly secrets to which he or she is now privy. Nocturnal mechanical breakdowns are unusually commonplace along that lonely stretch of two-lane blacktop, especially near the curve where the ominous, discolored shell of the old Baptist Church rises up discordantly out of the boggy ground, with its small, fenced burying ground hemmed in by the writhing, twisted yews whose branches creak and groan as they are rubbed together by the wind.

For the debased and inbred people of this district, most of whom have crossed eyes, twelve fingers, and twelve toes, the melancholy, sometimes startling noises which pierce the silence of the dark night are a commonplace, and the natives never remark on them.

Unfortunate is the lone traveler whose vehicle breaks down on the Swansonville Road, and more unfortunate is he who suffers this fate after twilight has faded. But most unfortunate of all is the one abandoned on foot on this dread vicinity, near the curve where stands the church, after midnight during the dark of the moon. For it's then that the coyotes howl, the owl is abroad, and he whom fate has chosen as the unlucky centerpiece of perverse desires and unclean rites discovers the horrible truth -- that there are vampires living here.

Except you can't exactly call that "living."

And the most amazing and horrifying aspect of all this: these are rural vampires, who listen to Merle Haggard.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Lost Wages

Las Vegas, the spiritual center and holiest ground of American culture in the '80's, '90's, and first seven years of this decade, is falling into ruin.

I've known for some time that this would happen. Even back in the days when I was occasionally making the five-hour drive to Vegas from Bakersfield to worship in the immense holy temples of Something-for-Nothing that (in Alan Ginsberg's words) "stand in the long street like endless Jehovahs," I could envision what this latest incarnation of the western desert boom town would look like as a ghost. As I watched it through the '90's, spreading like a malignant amoeba over the bleak desert sand, so unjustifiable in its prodigal gluttony for the scarce resources of an arid land, I saw the future, and now it's here.

For decades, Las Vegas, ripe with new construction and economic development, burgeoned into a shimmering urban carnival, a recent article at ominously begins, then tells us that Las Vegas edged Detroit last year to become "America's most abandoned city."

This is certainly not the end of civilization. It's not the fall of the Roman Empire. But our way of life is changing, and the party's over. The shallow glamor, glitz, and easy money of times so recently passed by is suddenly neither popular nor attractive. I think we're going to become, once again, a stay-at-home nation of smaller cities, one-car families and boring relatives, provincialism, modester pleasures, and homelier aspirations.

Good-bye Vegas, it's been good knowin' ya, you toxic whore.

We had our fun, but How are the mighty fallen in the midst of the battle! O Jonathan, thou wast slain in thine high places, says Second Samuel 1:25.

As much as I'd like to see the Vegas strip's Venetian Casino after it's abandoned, I know that it would be too dangerous to go there. The city will be the biggest ruin in the world.

"I am Ozymandias, king of kings;
Look on my works ye mighty, and despair."

Sunday, February 15, 2009

The Horror

"The Horror of the Bush Years," says Atrios at his famous blog "Eschaton," "No matter how bad you imagine it to be, it's even worse."

Then he links to this Harper's article by Scott Horton detailing the confession of former Gitmo guard Brandon Neely, who regrets his role in this shameful chapter of American history, and is highly motivated to tell all.

Conservatives are making fun of Obama for taking a year to close this monument to the illegal, immoral, and inexcusable behavior of a criminal regime. However, it's safe to assume that even though the scene of the crime remains open, the torture now has stopped. This by itself is reason enough to celebrate the election of Obama and the eclipse of Republicanism, for it's a sign that the republic is being restored to sanity.

Bush and Cheney, with their "America does not torture" are low-life, lying scumbags, and Brandon Neely has borne witness to the state of their perjured and condemned souls.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

The Cure

"Stocks fall as investors can't shake economic woes" reads the Associated Press headline at Yahoo! Finance this morning. For investors looking for "creative instruments" to park money in, hoping to see the pile double in size, these are hard times. And let's hope hard times are here to stay for such people.

This country is not just suffering from recession; it's in transition from one way of life to another. The changes necessary to this process will be painful, but in the end we'll be better off for it. The foremost prophet of our time, James Howard Kunstler, says of our current predicament:

Peak energy has combined with the diminishing returns of over-investments in complexity to pull the "kill switch" on our vaunted "way of life" -- the set of arrangements that we won't apologize for or negotiate. So, the big question before the nation is: do we try to re-start the whole smoking, creaking hopeless, futureless machine? Or do we start behaving differently? (The emphasis is mine.)

The answer is we'll start behaving differently because we have no choice. We simply don't have the resources, financial or otherwise to continue with the foolish, wasteful, prodigal, offensive, frivolous, excessive, selfish, and destructive way of life we've pursued the last 60 years.

Here's an example of what I mean: this past week I had a dreadful experience with the local arm of the medical-industrial complex. A simple office visit to a doctor turned into a high-pressure attempt to railroad the patient (me) into submitting to a series of highly technical, highly expensive, and highly questionable diagnostic testing procedures, at least one of which was totally unrelated to the complaint that had brought me there. Fortunately, I saw in an instant what was happening, that the patients of this particular mega-clinic are not being treated so much as farmed for whatever insurance money is accessible to these white-coated vampires and their Darth Vaderish masters hidden away in the corporate suites.

We're not going to continue to do "medical care" that way in this country, and the sooner people rebel and refuse that kind of "treatment," with its outrageous expense and unjustifiable complexity, the sooner we can rationalize our health care system, whether it remains private, becomes public, or we opt for some kind of public/private combination.

My solution was to call my yoga teacher and ask her if she knew of a holistic practitioner in the area. She does, and I'm in the process of setting up an appointment with an MD practicing in an urban Seattle neighborhood who does not accept insurance, but instead charges an affordable fee. That's the sort of thing we're going to have to go back to.

That's just an example. Name any topic -- transportation, domestic industry, banking and finance, agriculture -- (especially agriculture, because many of the people now working in cubicles will before too long be working on farms and ranches instead) and we're looking at a future characterized by less complexity, less money, less consumption, and a way of life based on the production of tangible assets of real value rather than schemes and scams and sharp practices.

This is going to be a great country again. We're going to re-learn how to manufacture things, and build things, and grow real food. And we're going to learn how to cooperate rather than compete, and how to pull together instead. We will no longer have the time or inclination to listen to greedheads who cop a towering resentment at the fact that it costs money to operate a civilized society, and that everybody needs to contribute proportionally to the enterprise. Taxes is what I'm talking about. If people don't like it, my advice is "Love it or leave it, Baby."

We're going to get over ourselves. A sure sign of this is that the elephant is an endangered species, and not long for this world.

And in the future we'll do away with the artificial distinction between public and private enterprise, which is the source of every swindle, ponzi scheme, and second-storey operation currently afflicting an impoverished and buggered working class. Work is work, production is production, value is value, and it matters not whence it came.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Our Unhappy Rulers

Our corporate rulers and their lackeys in government don't seem to be too happy with us lately.

The stimulus bill is "generational theft," says John McCain, after he'd voted for tax cuts that would cost about four times what the stimulus bill will cost.

The stimulus is “destroying my daughters’ future. It is like sitting there watching my house ransacked by a gang of thugs,” says Arnold Kling of the Cato Institute.

(Both these spear carriers for the corporatocracy are quoted in Krugman's Times column today.)

I don't know about anybody else, but if they're that mad at us because of the Depression they caused, I think we ought to give them something to really be pissed about.

Why don't we figure out how to live without buying their shit and stop supporting these clowns?

I've read in a couple of places over the last month that this economic meltdown is being fueled by the fact that people are buying only what they need. Think about the ramifications of that simple statement for a moment: buying only what they need!

Ever thought about moving closer to your work and getting rid of your car? Renting a car if you need to go somewhere far away, or maybe joining City Car Share? If you've lost your job, you might have to get rid of your car anyway, and ride the bus.

Mass transit, anyone? Yeah, I know, it's tax-supported and it doesn't make a profit.

I won't even go into how such changes would benefit everybody by addressing the peak oil situation, the ecological meltdown, etc.

The revolution this time won't include shooting people. Instead, we'll hit them in their most vulnerable spot -- right in the wallet.

Forty years ago, a movement was underway among young people who had seen the future, and realized the kind of society we lived in then (and still do) wasn't in it. We wanted to drop out of that society, and form a society of our own. But we didn't have the means, or the numbers, or sufficient motivation for that idea to work.

But we're still here, and we're still right.

The most revolutionary thing you can do today is get rid of your car.

Walk to work every day. You'll save the environment and give some plutocrat a coronary.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

The Desert It Ain't

I'm sitting here looking out my bedroom window and watching the tide go out. The sun coyly peeks out from behind the cloud cover every once in a while, then after a few seconds hides again. The air is dense, quiet, and heavy with moisture. Moss grows on everything.

Some guys here make a living scraping the moss off people's roofs; I've seen the advertising on their trucks. I'm definitely nowhere near the desert now.

Unless you live in a place in the Pacific Northwest that's paved over or manicured, you're surrounded by a profusion of greenery. Evergreens, maples, birches, wild shrubs, long, high walls of blackberry, and explosions of ferns pop out of the mossy ground like mushrooms and become dense and tangled with one another if untended. Portions of Seattle used to look like that until the 1970's; large parts of the Olympic Peninsula, where I'm living now, still do.

Armies of large, salad-eating banana slugs -- one of nature's most repulsive and most useful creatures -- possibly keep the vegetation from suffocating all other life forms. Slugs' bodies are composed almost entirely of soft tissue; they're moist, slimy things, with a single foot which oozes and undulates along, sliding over the wet earth. If you see a banana slug, you can be certain that the place you're at is the exact opposite of the desert.

It's very quiet here, and what sound there is seems muffled. It's a good place to live. Right now the air wants to rain, but it's not quite full enough to overflow.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

The Solution at Hand

Right, so here's the thing. For a number of years now California's prisons have been one of the state's few growth industries. The prison population has reached obscene proportions; neglect and abuse of the prisoners is common. It's a disgrace and a scandal.

Now, a federal judge has ruled that CA ought to reduce its 170,000-inmate population by about 40,000 over the next few years.

So here's my plan: the prisons let go all the people in there for nonviolent crimes. Then the state should encourage them to grow either pot or industrial-grade hemp. It could even rent the land and hold classes on how to do it.

Then the state could slap, say, a ten-dollar-an-ounce tax on commercial-grade marijuana and so much money per pound on hemp. If the DEA came sniffing around the California people could take them to lunch or something.

This would accomplish a number of things:

*The California prison population would be halved, and the days of using incarceration as a growth industry in the state would be ended;

*California's budget deficit problems would soon be over;

*Thousands of semi-unemployable people in a non-existent jobs market would have an honest living;

*Cotton farmers would have to either switch to hemp or go out of business. Cotton is a soil butcher and has been an ecological disaster for California because it's water intensive.

*Everybody would be great happiness. The liking life would occur. Cleanness would be floating around.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

The Truman Show

The Adventures of Accordion Guy in the 21st Century is a pretty darn good blog. Its rationale for existence (and mission statement, sort of) is "In the infinite set of universes, there had to exist a particular universe in which the events in our lives were being watched as a TV show."

H/t Grace.

Now here's a deep thought in the manner of Atrios: How come people say "I'm gonna throw a big party," but nobody ever says "I'm gonna Los Angeles."?

Monday, February 09, 2009

Suicidal Elephant

It's stuff like this that convinces me the Republican Party is committing suicide.

In announcing his support (for Obama's stimulus bill) Friday night, Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Pa.) pointedly read from a Chamber of Commerce endorsement (of the stimulus). The National Association of Manufacturers has also weighed in (in favor of it), telling Republicans that votes on the bill “including potential procedural motions” may be considered for designation as key votes in NAM’s scoring of their legislative record.

In other words, big business wants this bill. They need it. It's a matter of survival for some of them.

Yet nearly all Republicans remain unalterably opposed to and enraged by this bill, and impervious to the suffering of their own base of support.

As John Cole says at his blog Balloon Juice, The main purpose of the Republican party is to support the interests of big business (this is also one of the primary purposes of the Democratic party). I’ve always thought, though, that some day the Republican party would become so insane that it would begin to frighten big business. That day may have arrived.

That's putting it a little too mildly, I think. Any group that cuts off its own life support has to be delusional.

Good bye, Elephant; you've become irrelephant. We won't miss you, because any more you're just in the way.

Sunday, February 08, 2009

It's a World, So Have a Day

I remain convinced that this is a really crappy world we live in, mainly because of the way people treat each other. It's a world in which war and economic exploitation cause immense amounts of unnecessary suffering. If we were living in God's world, it would be different, but we're not. Take a look around you; this world we're in was made by us, not by God. Walk down a city street, and God's presence is there in a few blades of grass and the occasional tree or wild mouse. And maybe deep in our own, bruised, suffering souls as well. But for the most part we live in a world of concrete, exhaust fumes, and meanness.

In order to get to God's world I'd have to travel way out on the Olympic Peninsula, and even there would be exposed to the effects of air and water pollution and deforestation.

This is why I get annoyed when I read or hear the phrase, "Suffering is caused by attachment." It implies that all suffering is caused by attachment, but the truth is that much suffering is existential. The people gassed and incinerated at Auschwitz didn't suffer because they adopted a less-than-useful attitude. A guy who's lost his job at Ford and has a family to support might be said to suffer because he's attached to feeding his kids, but what's the alternative to that?

If a guy gets the flu, he suffers because he's sick, not because he's attached. And of course, while we can always make a bad situation worse by hanging on to a lousy attitude and, say, wallowing in self-pity rather than resolving to do what one needs to do to get well quickly, the root cause of that kind of suffering is existential.

I noticed that Desikachar handles this subject with much more discrimination than I usually encounter, and stresses that if we dedicate ourselves to the practices he teaches, we may be able to "reduce suffering." That's a much more realistic attitude.

And in a world of crap, it's an important distinction.

Saturday, February 07, 2009

High Water Everywhere

The back water done rolled, Lord and tumbled, drove me down the line.
The back water done rolled and tumbled, drove poor Charlie down the line.
Lord, I'll tell the world the water done struck Drew's town.

Lord the whole round country, Lord creek water is overflowed.
Lord the whole round country, man, is overflowed.
(Aside: You know, I can't stay here, I'm bound to go where it's high, boy.)
I would go to the hilly country, but they got me barred.

Now looky now, in Leland, Lord, river is rising high.
Looky here, boys around Leland tell me river is raging high.
(Aside: Boy, it's rising over there, yeah.)
I'm going over to Greenville, done bought our tickets, good bye.

--Charlie Patton
"High Water Everywhere"

According to a new report in the magazine Science, if the U.S. is still around in a couple of centuries Washington, D.C. might look like Venice. Instead of streets they'd have canals. The president, assuming there is one, would have to live with his family on the top two floors of the White House and take a boat over to Capitol Island.

The report says sea levels will rise because the Antarctic ice sheet will melt.

It might not be so bad. If D.C. looked like Venice, think of the tourist possibilities...the picturesque gondolas...submarine tours of the Lincoln Memorial...the alligators.

Scientists contributing to the report believe sea levels will rise by about three feet by the end of this century...

Friday, February 06, 2009

What's Great About It?

What does a Great Depression look like?

It looks like this:

The blue line is the 1990 recession; the red line is 2001 job losses; the gray line is right now.

Of course, I'm sure one more really big tax cut will fix the whole thing.

Thursday, February 05, 2009

Open Door

Expectations? I have no idea what to expect, mainly because since I started practicing a few years ago things have happened that I couldn't have imagined. For example, when I first started doing asanas at age 60, I never imagined that I'd already made my last visit to a chiropractor, but there it is.

So I guess I don't really have expectations, but just an open mind. I'm open to whatever wants to occur, such as...

I don't know quite how or why it happened, but a previously unknown door in my mind has opened, and beyond it is a room I didn't know was there. The room appears furnished, but with what, I don't know. I haven't gone in there yet.

The main thing is, I had no idea.

This must have resulted from the self-imposed discipline necessary for controlled breathing, and also crucial to even an attempt at getting stray thoughts under control during the breathing process.

Also, there are times during breathing practice when I'm looking into the void and see something looking back at me. It looks like a shallow, metallic cone with the point directly facing the space between my eyes or eyebrows. It looks inanimate but seems intelligent. And when I see this thing, I also feel as if another, third eye has opened, only it's an eye inside my head rather than on the outside.

These developments have been accompanied by lucid dreaming of a type very easy to interpret and pertaining to the heart-body, and this in spite of the fact that the most pertinent dream I remember was couched in symbols, as dreams generally are, rather than a direct expression.

I'd better go back to writing about politics tomorrow, or people are going to start to think I've gone nuts.

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Peace of Mind

How I long for peace of mind.

If there was any way to stop thinking about the wars and the economy and the political clusterfuck and laughing stock this country has become, I'd do it. I'm sick of it. I'm so profoundly weary of television's shrieking talking heads and their phony, contrived interviews with wingnut Republicans, smug plutocrats, and hypocritical liberals that I rarely turn it on any more. I can't stand to listen to any more talking points, and I live in fear of getting drawn into political conversations with "the man in the street," who frequently indulges himself in violent fantasies aimed at imaginary villains.

I can't do it any more. Not today, anyway.

Why can't we dispense with the hysteria and just live and let live? It's obviously the hysteria, composed of equal parts paranoia and greed, that's got us into the mess we're in.

Maybe I can stop thinking about it, and writing about it, and talking about it. In order to do that I'd have to stop experiencing anxiety over it. I've got no debts and a little bit set aside, but I'm worried that the big inflation our ruling class has planned for us, which they're going to set in motion to wipe out their own debts, will leave me with nothing. So I sit around jonesing over the coming inflation, as if there was something I could do about it.

Inflation. Kunstler calls it "the eraser of debt, the destroyer of fortunes, the suicide pill of governments."

Maybe the best advice I ever got was the admonition to "accept the things I cannot change." Since tranquility and serenity are what I'm looking or right now, I'd better accept it.

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Melting Elephant

You'd never know it from listening to CNN and all the other corporate shills, but the Republican Party is melting down.

Tom Tomorrow's cartoon strip this week, "The Incredible Shrinking Republican Party," includes some essential information about this phenomenon and leaves out some.

It includes the factual nugget that there are only five states left where a majority of voters identify themselves as Republicans (I don't now which ones they are, but I'll bet Idaho is one of them).

TT left out mentioning former Senator Phil Gramm's incredible insulting and demeaning of ordinary voters with his "nation of whiners" speech in which he said we're suffering a "mental recession." Gramm's stupid, callous, and factually wrong remarks received wide press coverage and did more damage to the Republicans during the last election cycle than anything McCain or Palin said.

However, TT DID include Limbaugh's now-famous "I hope he fails" comment, and notes that it cmes after eight years of the same guy accusing Democrats of disloyalty because (Rush says) they wanted Bush to fail. To understand the amount of damage such talk does to the Republican Party, you have to take into account that Obama is the most wildly popular president since JFK.

I wonder if the Republican Party is going to die and the Democratic Party is going to split in two? That's my prediction, and I give it five years.

Monday, February 02, 2009

Why He's a Prizewinner

Usually I've got better things to do here than channel writers who are already famous, celebrated, and read by millions every day. But Krugman's column is so timely, right, wise, and important today that I can't help myself. Read this if you don't read anything else today.

Just a brief snippet: Question: what happens if you lose vast amounts of other people’s money? Answer: you get a big gift from the federal government — but the president says some very harsh things about you before forking over the cash.


Just to be clear, I’m not talking about the Obama administration’s plan to support jobs and output with a large, temporary rise in federal spending, which is very much the right thing to do. I’m talking, instead, about the administration’s plans for a banking system rescue — plans that are shaping up as a classic exercise in “lemon socialism”: taxpayers bear the cost if things go wrong, but stockholders and executives get the benefits if things go right.

When I read recent remarks on financial policy by top Obama administration officials, I feel as if I’ve entered a time warp — as if it’s still 2005, Alan Greenspan is still the Maestro, and bankers are still heroes of capitalism.

“We have a financial system that is run by private shareholders, managed by private institutions, and we’d like to do our best to preserve that system,” says Timothy Geithner, the Treasury secretary — as he prepares to put taxpayers on the hook for that system’s immense losses.

Sunday, February 01, 2009

Mmm Good...Mmm Good

In the wake of the recent peanuts/salmonella scare, it's good to know that the Food and Drug Administration at least tries to closely regulate the amount of filth allowable in our canned and processed food. For example, the FDA allows:

*No more than 30 insect fragments in every 100 grams (3.5 ounces) of peanut butter;

*No more than 35 fruit fly eggs in eight ounces of boxed raisins;

*No more than 11 rodent hairs in every 1.8 ounces of ground cinammon;

*No more than five fruit fly maggots in every 100 grams (3.5 ounces) of canned mushrooms;

*No more than five milligrams of rodent droppings in a pound of sesame seeds.

Oh, noes, not baked chicken coated with sesame seeds and rodent droppings again!

Source: The Brunching Shuttlecocks.

An unillustrated and slightly shorter version of this post appeared at Omnem Movere Lapidem, on August 30, 2005.