Wednesday, September 30, 2009


I was going to write a blog post about the Obama administration's desire to bomb Iran and murder its civilian inhabitants, which it is now pursuing with as much passion and dedication to mindless violence as the Cheney/Bush administration before it did.

What I'm finding, though, is that increasingly I'm unable to even think about such stuff, much less write about. It makes me too angry and upset, and exacerbates a medical condition I suffer from.

The U.S. government's desire to commit criminal mischief in Iran is an old story going back 30 years now. It dates from the time the Ayatollah Khomeinei returned from exile in Paris to re-take possession of his own country from the American imperialists and turn it into an Islamic theocracy. At that time he declared America "the Great Satan" and added, "We will cut off their hands!" -- the Islamic punishment for theft.

I don't hold with theocracy, but I don't blame him. And I have no arguments with his characterization of us either.

However, that's as much as I can write on this topic, because I'd be doing myself harm by going into any more detail than this. So I'll leave the heavy lifting to Glenn Greenwald, here and here, who probably does a better job of exposing American lies and hypocrisy pertaining to this subject than anyone. That's why pays him the big bucks.

The Oakland rapper Mike Franti sang it years ago: "Hypocrisy is the greatest luxury; Raise the double standard." And this is just the latest chapter in the ongoing American saga called Perpetual War, or how to make enemies and convince the rest of the world they can't live with you. I've been done with it for some time, and now I'm done with even thinking about it. The Iranians will do what they need to do to protect themselves, and so will I.

Illustration: stencil by Chris Stain: War in the Streets

Sunday, September 27, 2009


"Last night I went to sleep in Detroit City..." the old song says.

Remember that Bobby Bare song? Suppose Rip van Winkle went to sleep there and woke up this morning? Detroit, or rather the ruins of it, is on the cover of Time magazine this week.

Detroit is the U.S. The strength of the Republic, for the 110 years between 1865 and 1975 was its eastern and midwestern, Great-Lakes-region cities. Now the industrial belt is gone to rust -- a rust belt. It's a ruin, and so is the country. The old U.S. I grew up in is vanished like a ghost.

The shouting matches that unwind via the electronic media sound like the degenerated ruins of political debate and discussion.

Even still, a ruined empire tries to carry on a ridiculous, hopeless war at the ends of the earth. That's not even a policy, but only the reflexive twitching of a nearly-dead foreign policy based on world hegemony.

We need to bring the troops home, and transfer them from the army to a revitalized Civilian Conservation Corps that will salvage and partially rebuild Detroit. We need to resuscitate the factories and re-tool them to build locomotives, and rolling stock for our railroads.

If the U.S. is going to rise from its ashes, it'll have to be a salvage operation.

Photo for Time Magazine by Yves Marchand and Romaine Meffre

Saturday, September 26, 2009

living small a the ultimate cure for what ails us. Consuming less, spending less, using less, leaving a smaller footprint -- these are expressions of sanity, but also acts of passive resistance.

I'll soon move into a small apartment in the city -- the standard deal right now seems to be $750 a month for a one bedroom layout with a kitchen/living room combo, the two spaces separated by a dining counter. I don't know what size this place will be, but I'm certain it'll be well under a thousand square feet, which would be very uncomfortable for anyone who couldn't reduce material existence to a few fundamental possessions. However, I don't expect any problem with that.

My only requirements for my new place are that it be within walking distance of a supermarket and sited on a major bus line, because at the same time I move I'm going to reduce the number of miles I drive by at least 90 percent, out of choice and because I have to, due to a medical condition.

There are several blogs devoted to living small, at,, and my favorite, whose header characterizes the way of life described above as possessing "subversive power," among other things.

That it does. Right now the most foolish thing we could do in resisting the enraged and violent mainstream culture we live in is to cling to romantic and childish notions of revolution like what we saw in the movie "V for Vendetta," such as "manning the barricades" and other antique clichés. At this point, opposing violence with violence would be the quickest way for us to get ourselves killed for no purpose. The way to undermining this regime of war and larceny is through nonviolence, passive resistance, and most of all refusing to feed this monster, whose mind is a cannibalistic computer program, whose veins are running with oil, and whose only value is cash payment. The military-industrial-insurance-banking-media-medical-complex and the tyrannical state founded on it can't long survive a population which refuses, either out of necessity or by choice, to continue to underwrite its madness.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

here comes the judge

Is there a chance that Justice Sotomayor might do more to jump start real progress in our political system than our weak, wimpy, timid, and status-quo-loving President Obama?

In a word, yeah, there is.

I picked this up at a blog called Bitch, Ph.D. (see left sidebar), who got it from a blog called Lawyers, Guns, and Money, who got it from an article by Jess Bravin in the Wall Street Journal.

In her maiden Supreme Court appearance last week, Justice Sonia Sotomayor made a provocative comment that probed the foundations of corporate law.

During arguments in a campaign-finance case, the court's majority conservatives seemed persuaded that corporations have broad First Amendment rights and that recent precedents upholding limits on corporate political spending should be overruled.

But Justice Sotomayor suggested the majority might have it all wrong -- and that instead the court should reconsider the 19th century rulings that first afforded corporations the same rights flesh-and-blood people have.

Judges "created corporations as persons, gave birth to corporations as persons," she said. "There could be an argument made that that was the court's error to start with...[imbuing] a creature of state law with human characteristics."

Uh, yeah again. Since about 90 percent of the political backwardness in this country stems from the twin judicial fictions that corporations are people and money is speech, I'm really glad to hear somebody finally say this out loud, especially somebody who also happens to be a Supreme Court Justice.

So how long before that dildo Tony Kennedy retires? Obama himself may be a dud, but if he appoints a couple more like this we might finally have something going.

Apropos of nothing at all, I also have to say that the WSJ editorial page sucks big time, but the paper often has some excellent reporting.

dr payne

Here we have the doctor, preparing to perform one of his frequent prostate exams on the American public. This will undoubtedly end with the advice that we really ought to be feeling good, because our recent troubles are definitely over, and a full recovery is in progress.

To be perfectly fair, it wasn't Uncle Dr. Larry who authored the nonsensical happy chatter that follows, but the Reuters syndicate. I merely found it on Dr. Larry's home web site, CNBC, so I'm perpetrating a little guilt by association here.

The unsigned Reuters story reports that "Initial claims for state unemployment insurance declined to a seasonally adjusted 530,000 in the week ending Sept. 19 from a revised 551,000 in the previous week. Analysts polled by Reuters were expecting claims to rise to 550,000 from a previously reported 545,000." Then comes the astonishing conclusion: "U.S. stock futures moved slightly higher on additional evidence the economy is pulling out of a severe recession."

I don't know how any sane observer could possibly conclude that "the economy is pulling out" of its ongoing disaster simply because things are not getting worse as quickly as they were a few months ago.

All throughout the corporate-owned Wall Street cheerleader media, and on a daily basis "no longer in free fall" is conflated with "recovery." This is no different from claiming a terminal patient is recovering when the rate at which he is dying slows down.

Try as they might to sell this phony "recovery," Wall Street cannot hide the simple facts: many more people are still losing jobs than finding jobs, more properties are being foreclosed upon than sold, and banks are not lending money to anyone who actually needs it. These ludicrous claims remind me of a conversation between Alice and the Red Queen in chapter two of "Through the Looking Glass." This was early in the story, and Alice was still orienting herself to her new surroundings, felt lost, and was saying, "I thought I'd try and find my way to the top of that hill -- "

"When you say 'hill,'" the Queen interrupted, "I could show you hills, in comparison with which you'd call that a valley."

"No, I shouldn't," said Alice, surprised into contradicting her at last: "a hill can't be a valley, you know. That would be nonsense --"

The Red Queen shook her head. "You may call it 'nonsense' if you like," she said, "but I've heard nonsense, compared with which that would be as sensible as a dictionary!"

As an example of what the Red Queen was talking about, consider the claim that over half a million new jobless claims last week, because the number was slightly less than what was posted the week before, and slightly lower than what was anticipated, is evidence of a "recovery."

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

the road to happiness

With apologies to Snoop Dogg, I got to tell you, I'm stayin' off the street, smokin' domestic, munchin' on berries and juice;
laid back (with my mind on my intestines and intestines on my mind).

It's a long and winding road, the intestinal tract -- anywhere from 17 to 30 feet in a normal human -- and without doubt is the road to joy and happiness, if not ecstasy. This is especially true in those of us for whom the tract has been a source of torment for any length of time, like, for instance, 45 years or so. In the dark and endless days of our Babylonian captivity, we scarcely dared think of the joy awaiting us upon our deliverance, which seemed uncertain at best until it actually happened.

For years I continued to eat in restaurants, even though I knew better. Eventually, forced to mostly eschew that habit, I never imagined what damage white flour was inflicting -- that bleached-out, nutritionless substance Michael Pollan calls "the original fast food." Each day these refined flours would produce enough methane in my gut to re-float the dirigible Hindenburg and made my life a misery, although probably not as much of a misery as the lives of the people living and working close to me.

The joys of romantic love and the bliss of meditation certainly have their merits, and the happiness they bring I'm sure may equal, but does not surpass the tranquility of body and mind that accompany healthful eating, healthy digestion, and successful intestinal negotiation.

Monday, September 21, 2009

cleaning the mirror

I'm always encountering mysteries in pranayama that require time and study to figure out. Patanjali, the ultimate authority, tells us that "the mind...attains serenity through prolonged exhalation" (aphorism I.34), without going into detail about how that works, However, Bouanchaud's commentary* on the Sutras makes clear that the emphasis in I.34 is on exhalation because that is the means "by which we eliminate impurities on the physiological, psychological, and even spiritual levels."

I hadn't thought about this possibility before. I knew already that the main physiological purpose of the exhalation technique learned by all pranayama students -- drawing the belly toward the spine -- was to bring the impurities in the intestines closer to the fire of third chakra so they could be burnt and easily eliminated. I also knew that my daily life today is on a new footing, having been transformed in the gut-wrenching fire of divorce and separation from addictive substances, and that such transformations involve the whole being, not just the body.

But I was unprepared for the lucidity that followed in the train of this methodical elimination of impurity through prolonged exhalation, the kind aphorism I.36 refers to as "luminous lucidity." This is the second practice, additional to the practice of prolonged exhalation, which has enabled me to adopt a proactive approach to the sicknesses and blockages I encountered in contemplating past relationships, and in the persistence of unacknowledged emotions generated by them. It seems I was emotionally as well as physically ill, and that the emotional illness predated its physical manifestation due to acting out of angry and destructive impulses, which I can now see with a clarity that only comes when impurities have been cleaned from the mirror of the mind.

I recently wrote about the specific nature of these emotions and impulses in another essay to which I now refer the reader.

At the beginning, the sage tells us that if we pursue the practices in which he instructs us and thereby "focus" our minds, that the inner being would then appear "in all its reality." He does not disappoint.

*Bernard Bouanchaud, "The Essence of Yoga" (Sri Satguru Publications, Delhi, 1997).

Sunday, September 20, 2009

misplaced instinct

One of the problems with nationalism (among many) is that for rationalists and secular humanists, nationalism often replaces religion, or "spirituality" as most prefer to call it nowadays.

Once the state begins to acquire attributes previously possessed only by deities, it takes on many of those same characteristics in the minds of devotees -- infallibility, immutability, and so forth, when actually modern nations are among the most fallible and mercurial human-made entities.

We all know somebody like this, and for many of us it's someone close to us who thinks of himself or herself as a superior type who has this "religion thing" all figured out. After all, it's "just superstition," etc. Such a person is likely to declare that "There is no God" and feel smug in the knowledge that he (or she) has evolved beyond such a backward and primitive mode of relating to the universe.

Silly people! You don't even know yourselves, and the joke, unfortunately, is on you. Dr. Jung* knew you better than you ever knew yourselves, and he wrote the book on the mind's deep, instinctive religious impulse, which can only be satisfied by genuine spirituality. Jung knew as well that if someone denies himself the usual objects of veneration demanded by this powerful instinct, the mind will automatically transfer those feelings to another object, and this is, sadly, where misplaced and fanatical love of country rears its ugly head in our degenerated time.

How can anyone explain to such a person that the U.S. has become a criminal enterprise? It's like telling a devout Catholic that the Pope is a hypocritical and incestuous monster who has fathered a bushel of bastards with his niece. Whether the accusation is true or not is never a question for the confirmed devotee, for whom all such accusations are impossibilities and the work of the devil, true or not.

Such was the situation I found myself in 40 years since, when the U;S. turned a fateful corner and started off in an ominous and disastrous direction, hurrying toward its destruction in Vietnam and, ultimately, slouching toward Bethlehem to be re-born.

*See Dr. Karl Gustav Jung, "The Undiscovered Self," (Princeton U. Press, Princeton, N.J., 1990).

Friday, September 18, 2009

paging dr freud

How many of us don't know ourselves because we live in fear of our own thoughts and feelings? I would say, looking critically at the friends and relatives I know well, that most of us are locked up in what Neo's mentor Morpheus* called "a prison of the mind."

When he was still young, before he became a doctrinaire old narcissist and sexist, so full of himself that he tolerated no disagreement with any details of his theory, Sigmund Freud conducted a number of sensitive and ground-breaking analyses of women suffering from hysteria. Perhaps the most brilliant of these was his work with Ilona Weiss, a young Hungarian Jew suffering debilitating and sometimes crippling pain in her hips and thighs, which Freud correctly surmised was emotional in origin.

Elisabeth von R, as she was pseudonymously styled in Freud's beautifully-written account of the case, was a self-sacrificing girl who had given up an opportunity to marry someone she loved in order to care for her dying father. She later fell in love with her brother-in-law, and one day found herself wishing her sister would die so he might be free. These feelings generated such strong conflict within her mind, between her desire to be loved and loyalty to her sister, that she not only rejected the feelings, but all knowledge of them as well. She continued to feel them, but they manifested as intense pain and sometimes paralysis in her hips and thighs rather than as conscious thoughts. Her condition became much worse after her sister became ill and actually did die.

With the help of Freud's intercession (which she resisted until after her sessions with him ended), Weiss was eventually able to recognize and acknowledge her feelings. She recovered from her symptoms, began to socialize, and the last time Freud saw her was engaged to be married -- but not to her former brother-in-law.


Many of us, perhaps most of us, harbor feelings and thoughts that others, and often we ourselves might find unacceptable. If you think I'm overstating the case, imagine a good friend telling you he has a strong desire to rape his sister or kill one of his parents. Such things are never said, but they are sometimes done. Yet for the most part even the criminal seeks to avoid any knowledge of the thoughts which give rise to these horrible acts.

This is actually a benefit for the society we live in, since someone unable to accept his or her own desire to commit rape, robbery, incest or murder is highly unlikely to actually commit the crime. For most, however, such fears have to do with much more pedestrian stuff, such as an overpowering desire to do something disturbing and disruptive at one's ex-fiancé's wedding, for example, or at one's father's funeral. And for most of us, it's not a fear that we will actually do that unacceptable and disturbing thing we desire to do, but merely the fact of a conscious awareness of the desire itself we find so unsettling.

I am just now, at a very late age, acknowledging and processing feelings (or, in some cases, a lack of them) I've carried around for years, directed toward people close to me, and toward those I've worked with and for through the decades. Unable or unwilling to do this until now, I find it not just liberating, but absolutely essential to any legitimate claim of comprehensive self-knowledge.

The experience has also led me to observe that most of the people I know well or casually, meet occasionally or often, talk to frequently or just now and then, are hiding something from themselves, and that the concealment warps and deforms their personalities as it did mine. And the form this warping usually takes? Mild hysteria and inappropriately high emotionalism, mostly. In other words, what we're looking at here is the usual source of garden-variety neurosis.

*Neo and Morpheus are characters played by Keanu Reeves and Laurence Fishburne, respectively, in the Hollywood film "The Matrix."

Thursday, September 17, 2009

hayfever leaves -or- the goldenrod comes in

He: What say we drive down to Cicero tonight? I know a place where they've got great table hockey.

She: Shoely, dolling, you must be Joe King.

Meanwhile those ordinary-looking blooms on the table behind them are silently, invisibly, odorlessly, and tastelessly filling the intervening space with pollen -- the dread advent of hayfever leaves. They have been known to cause unsuspecting renters of flophouse rooms to go mad with hysterical laughter.

We all know that dramatic effect, but rarely has its verity been better demonstrated than in the current bout of Hay Fever at Sal's Oyster House in Witonkin, Minnesota. Run by a neurotic, theatrical family enmeshed in unhappy love affairs - but there all sanity ends. It seems like forever since Hay Fever has been seen in Boston (for some reason).

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

only a lad

Things are much better now that the supervisor everybody hated is gone.

Yes, I know, his actual title wasn't "Supervisor." In today's corporations, which are more hierarchical and top-down directed than ever before, there's always a great deal of effort expended to create an atmosphere dominated by "teams" of "associates" who give "input." But everybody always knows who's got the mojo.

So, a decision that should have taken a couple of weeks dragged on for months. But why complain? It's over now.

His parents gave up; they couldn't influence his attitude
Nobody could help
The little man had no gratitude...

--Oingo Boingo
"Only a Lad"

Good riddance. And don't ask if the powers that be learned anything about their own inadequate responses to this situation. After all, it was they who hired this clown, and promoted him, then refused to inform themselves what was going on in his department, and then were paralyzed with a fear of acting. For months.

Meanwhile, little Johnny just went on being himself.

You really can't blame him
Only a lad
Society made him
Only a lad
He's our responsibility
Only a lad
He really couldn't help it
Only a lad
He didn't want to do it
Only a lad
He's underprivileged and abused
Perhaps a little bit confused...

Sunday, September 13, 2009

but he yelled it in a nice way...

So Rep. Joe Wilson (R-SC) hollered "You lie!" during Obama's big speech.

OK, that's old news now, huh? So what else is new?

Nearly every public pronouncement you hear any more is totally bogus. I can only think of very few that aren't lies, and those are cases where the speaker has nothing to gain by lying. For example, when the judge announces that Al Franken won the election, it means two things: 1) Al Franken won the election, and 2) Coleman's people did not get to that particular judge.

As Bernard Chazelle points out at the blog "A Tiny Revolution," pretty much everything you hear nowadays is a lie: You turn on the radio and hear commercials (lies), then some guy tells you we're making progress in Afghanistan (lies). Then you're stuck at the airport and the PA system tells you your plane is only an hour late (lies). The president, of course, is the liar-in-chief. He tells you Afghanistan is a war of necessity (lies) and it is part of the American character to care for one another (funny lie that one). Obama said that, without your trillions of dollars to Wall Street, the world would come to an end. We now know it was a lie. Elizabeth Warren (bless her soul) says that the world of Wall Street would have come to an end but everyone else would have been basically fine. Not long ago, another president assured us that Saddam had WMDs, etc, etc.

So Joe Wilson is kind of like a clock that's stopped -- he can still be right twice a day, as he was in this case. My only question is, why didn't he just throw his shoes?

But then, the Iraqi shoe-thrower set a standard for behavioral integrity that would be very hard to equal, much less surpass, especially by some clueless Neanderthal knuckle-dragger like Rep. Wilson of the Palmetto State.

I just wonder, as does Bernard Chazelle, why we're so docile and unoffending, considering we're getting lied to all the time. I keep telling myself that the next time somebody says to me "We're sorry for the inconvenience this is causing you," I'm going to holler "Bullshit! You're sorry all right, but not in the way you mean." But I never do. I just shrug my shoulders and suck it up, like everybody else.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Culture of Death

Today -- 9/12, or the morning after -- might be a good day to commemorate what we used to be, and to take stock of what we've become. We were well on our way to becoming what we are before 9/11, but it's certainly helped cement us into what is apparently our permanent condition.

The U.S. is an economy dependent on war, a culture devoted to war, and a society which thrives on war and its culture of death. In a passionately-argued column yesterday explaining why those who were adamantly anti-war before the Iraq invasion began (because they knew we were being lied to), even to this day when everyone knows they were right, are described as "lunatics" by the establishment media, Glenn Greenwald concludes:

(W)e continue to fight wars endlessly and will almost certainly continue to do so -- even as Al Qaeda turns into little more than a scary image and myth. The Washington Post now appears to be having a hard time deciding if we should attack Iran or Venezuela next. Our political culture is embedded with the notion that "war" is inherently right, good, important and Serious. Those who advocate it are deemed intrinsically more Serious than those who oppose it, no matter what the war is or what its justification might be. And our leading institutions are all designed to benefit from more wars rather than fewer. Here is what Leslie Gelb -- former enthusiastic Iraq war supporter and President Emeritus of the Council on Foreign Relations -- wrote in the current issue of Democracy Journal:

My initial support for the war was symptomatic of unfortunate tendencies within the foreign policy community, namely the disposition and incentives to support wars to retain political and professional credibility. We “experts” have a lot to fix about ourselves, even as we “perfect” the media.

Gelb is certainly right -- as I've written before -- that America's "Foreign Policy Community" is centrally designed and incentivized to justify and cheer on wars. But it extends far beyond that. That's the central premise of our political culture generally. When it comes to credibility, supporting wars trumps everything -- including truth. Nothing illustrates that better than the fact that (anti-war Democratic Rep.) Jim McDermott (of Seattle) and those like him are considered "crazy" -- still -- while those who supported the disaster of Iraq are highly respected and credible.

What Greenwald didn't mention is why war is the "central premise of our political culture:" Because it's really good business, Glenn, and good for business, and sometimes you've just got to invest your kids -- well, maybe one or two of them anyway. That's what Dennis Perrin talked about yesterday.

That baby in your belly, that child blowing out his or her fifth birthday candles, that sullen pre-teen wrestling with puberty and peer pressure -- all are potential cannon fodder in our glorious crusade. Embrace it! Celebrate it! Plan for their funerals in advance! Teach them that this is their patriotic duty, their ultimate destiny!

George W. Bush got the ball rolling. Barack Obama is keeping the track slick with blood. Oh, what a magnificent time to be alive! Our enemies, both foreign and domestic, should quake in the shadow of our righteous cause!

Be sure to visit Perrin's site and check out the Dead Kennedys vintage performance of "Kill the Poor," which is the easiest thing in the world. You just send them to Afghanistan, or wherever the war du jour is. Hey, somebody's gotta do it, and it's the highest possible American cultural expression, as George Orwell knew, to die courageously, nobly, and needlessly for one's country.

The photograph was taken in the wake of an American massacre of retreating Iraqis in Kuwait during the first gulf war, February, 1991.

Friday, September 11, 2009

poverty in america

I don't know why they're so late with the news, but yesterday the Census Bureau announced that median income in the U.S. fell significantly between 2007 and 2008.

The U.S. Census Bureau announced today that real median household income in the United States fell 3.6 percent between 2007 and 2008, from$52,163 to $50,303. This breaks a string of three years of annual income increases and coincides with the recession that started in December 2007.

The nation’s official poverty rate in 2008 was 13.2 percent, up from 12.5 percent in 2007. There were 39.8 million people in poverty in 2008, up from 37.3 million in 2007.

Keep in mind the Census Bureau figures are from the days before the recession really got cooking. Since 2008, things have continued to get worse.

So exactly how poor do you have to be to be "considered in povery?" Pretty doggone poor, as it turns out:

As defined by the Office of Management and Budget and updated for inflation using the Consumer Price Index, the weighted average poverty threshold for a family of four in 2008 was $22,025; for a family of three, $17,163; for a family of two, $14,051; and for unrelated individuals, $10,991.

Felix Salmon's blog (linked above) also contains information from a Brookings Institution study by Emily Monea and Isabel Sawhill (which shows) that “the poverty rate will increase rapidly through 2011 or 2012, at which point about 14.4 percent of the country will be in poverty”, and that the number of children living in poverty could rise by 5 million, or 38%, to 18 million.

Poverty is now at a higher level in the U.S. than it's been in a decade. The official figures don't reflect it, but there are close to 30 million effectively unemployed in this country today, and over 40 million with no medical insurance.

The tax policies of the last 30 years have now borne their bitter fruit. Under these policies, income in the U.S. has dramatically shifted upward, away from the middle, working, and poor classes and become more and more concentrated in the hands of the top one percent of income earners. These policies have been delivered to a rich oligarchy by a servile and corrupted Congress, whose members are iced by the very oligarchy in whose service they labor to pass such undemocratic laws.

Pity the poor people of the United States -- so far from democracy and so close to foreclosure, unemployment, and bankruptcy.

Atrios ( supplied the info and links for this post.

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Trouble in Mind

Trouble in mind, I'm blue,
But I won't be blue always;
The sun's gonna shine in
My back door someday.

I'm gonna lay my head
On some lonesome railroad line,
And Let that 2:19 train
Pacify my mind.

Trouble in mind, I'm so blue
I've almost lost my mind;
Sometimes I feel like livin',
Sometimes I feel like dyin'.

My good man has quit me,
And it sure does grieve my mind;
When you see me laughin'
I'm laughin' just to keep from cryin'.

This beautiful 1941 version of the traditional blues tune is sung by Sister Rosetta Tharpe, backed by Lucky Millinder's big band, with some very sweet, very early electric guitar accompaniment by Trevor Bacon.

Tuesday, September 08, 2009


Tomorrow marks a significant place in the calendar, if you put any stock in the idea that numbers mean something.

For me, nines signify endings -- and new beginnings. So at the moment, I find 09/09/09 to be an auspicious number, since I believe that today we face a social and historical situation where many things must and will end: a society based on consumerism, our perpetual and incessant foreign wars, and television, which has infantilized American "consumers" to such an extreme degree as to destroy the national intellect, which once enabled Americans to act in their own self-interest.

Tomorrow's date is significant enough that Yahoo! News is running a story about it. Among other interesting fact, this article notes that:

Any grade-schooler could tell you, for example, that the sum of the two-digits resulting from nine multiplied by any other single-digit number will equal nine. So 9x3=27, and 2+7=9.

Multiply nine by any two, three or four-digit number and the sums of those will also break down to nine. For example: 9x62 = 558; 5+5+8=18; 1+8=9.

Sept. 9 also happens to be the 252nd day of the year (2 + 5 +2)...

See also the Beatles' prophetic Revolution Number 9, which was made at the end of the sixties, in 1969, and might be the first time an artist used sampling in this way.

Monday, September 07, 2009

Walking Again

By the end of next month I should be moved in and settled in a new place -- new to me at any rate -- in the trendy and walkable Greenwood Neighborhood of Seattle.

It's always been my favorite neighborhood, ever since I was a kid. And now, in an era when the ideal of every citizen owning his or her own gas buggy is, out of necessity, passing into history, its eminent walkability is its biggest draw. I know I'll enjoy it because that was the best part of the numerous months I spent apartment sitting at my daughter's place in San Francisco over the past few years.

Of course, I'll be moving there about the time Seattle's winter rains begin in earnest, and I know I'm going to get wet. And I know what that's like too, because I was in San Francisco for March of '06, which was the wettest March on record there. It rained every day except one, but even with that, it was better being there than someplace like Desert Hot Springs, where you're completely dependent on a car every day, for everything.

I'll admit, I've really enjoyed driving over the years. I always went wherever I wanted to go, wasted a lot of gas, and probably did my share of damage to poor old Mom's atmosphere. But now the time for that is over, and if we'd had anything even approaching real leadership in this country during the past few decades, it would have been over long since. Now, under, the additional necessity of quitting driving for medical and safety reasons, this time when I get out of the car will be the last.

Sunday, September 06, 2009

Linky Dinks, Etc.

My favorite writer nobody ever heard of, Grace Nearing, has a preview of Prez. Obama's speech to the nation's students, coming up Tuesday or Wednesday, I think:

...don’t listen to your parents and teachers -- you should know why not by now. Geez, just look at ‘em.

They voted for George W. Bush twice! They think Sarah Palin is smart! They still believe Saddam Hussein destroyed the Twin Towers! They all refinanced into interest-only option ARMs 6 months before the real estate market crashed! They didn’t diversify their 401k’s!

Golly! No wonder the Rebooblicans are throwing hissy fits about it.


On a more sinister note, here's a Bill Moyers segment from a month ago which I missed because I don't have TV at the moment. It concerns a young Seattle artist/photographer, Chris Jordan, whose work has evolved into an extremely disturbing graphic chronicle of the dark side of consumerism. The subject may be unpleasant, but then the subject is us.


Saturday, September 05, 2009

They Live There

The main problem with the Afghanistan War is that it can't be won.

We are going to lose in Afghanistan -- for certain. The reason why is simple, and repeated once again, for the benefit of slow learners, in Bob Herbert's NY Times column this morning:

The thought of escalating our involvement in Afghanistan reminded me of an exchange that David Halberstam described in “The Best and the Brightest.” It occurred as plans were being developed for the expansion of U.S. involvement in Vietnam. McGeorge Bundy, who served as national security adviser to Presidents Kennedy and Johnson, showed some of the elaborate and sophisticated plans to one of his aides. The aide was impressed, but also concerned.

“The thing that bothers me,” he told Bundy, “is that no matter what we do to them, they live there and we don’t, and they know that someday we’ll go away and thus they know they can outlast us.”

Bundy replied, “That’s a good point.”

It's more than a good point, of course; it's reality. They live there and we don't. Add to that the fact that, as in Vietnam, we're backing a regime that's worse than a dirt sandwich (that must really help our credibility in that part of the world), and the picture begins to come into focus.

But reality never gets in the way of an empire infatuated with fantasies of its own greatness, invincibility, and glorious purpose.

Afghanistan isn't even a separate war. It's part of the Pentagon's endless, perpetual war for no particular reason which started with Vietnam and has continued intermittently since then. It has two main purposes: 1) it gives the military establishment something to do, and 2) war propaganda televised by the establishment networks helps keep the citizenry passive and stupid, and prevents us from focusing on the real problems of a dying empire.

So how's that "Hope and Change" working out for you guys?

Thursday, September 03, 2009

Removing Obstacles

What should we do when the past is the biggest obstacle we face in trying to find fulfillment in the present? A strong temptation arises to simply try to forget it -- "Put it out of your mind," as people say. But that would involve suppressing one's true feelings -- never a good idea. That which we repress today comes back to haunt us tomorrow.

Removing an obstacle often consists of gradually removing one's attachment to it. If I'm no longer attached to whatever it is that's in my way, it's no longer an obstacle.

The best advice in this case, as in so many, comes from A.A. -- "We will not regret the past nor wish to shut the door on it" (Big Book, p. 83), and consists of learning to see the past to which we are attached in a new light.

I'm still very much attached to a mental image of my recent past, even though I know that image is unreal. That realization is recent, and more, as the wise ones say, will be revealed. And that will happen through practice.

Not of a sudden and overnight are these very large obstacles removed from the pathways of our lives, but gradually and by degrees. We need to be as patient as Ganesh for that to happen.

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Exorcising Ghosts of the Past

Effective introspection begins with the realization that the experiences one believed to be "real" were nothing more than a real state of mind. Today I look at my past life and see that the devoted partner, the idyllic home in a pleasant community, and the opportunity to pursue a life of service in one's work -- that all these things were vaporish mirages, without any sort of substantive foundation in any dimension that might be characterized as "objective reality."

"We are what we think," the Buddha preaches in the first aphorism of the Dhammapada. "All that we are arises with our thoughts, (and) with our thoughts we make the world."

Now obviously, a prisoner does not make the jail with his thoughts. However, the precise attributes of the experience of being imprisoned are his alone, and products of his mind. This is what experienced prisoners are expressing when they say "You can either do hard time or easy time."

This is an important lesson in the process or disillusionment, a word which has no positive connotation. But a moment's reflection tells us that no progress is possible until we are disillusioned. "When they think they know the answers," the mysterious sage Lao-Tzu wrote in the Tao Te Ching, "people are difficult to guide. When they know that they don't know, (they) can find their own way."

Painting by Salvador Dali.