Sunday, October 31, 2010

more politics

I voted, but I "wasted" one vote. And now I'm sorry.

Rep. Jim McDermott (D-Seattle) got my vote of course, altho' I don't think he actually needed it. His so-called opponent seems like some veck nobody ever heard of.

But I didn't vote for Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA), who appears to be auditioning for the earmark princess tiara. I wasn't going to vote for that real estate guy running against her either, so I did a write-in and voted for Pedro.

And now I regret it. That one is going to be really close, and it pains me to think I might have contributed in however a tiny, small way to that schmo Dino Rossi going to the Senate.

It's the same old quandry as always. The Democrats are uninspiring, and there will tend to be a lot of 'em any progressive person is tempted to reject. But then, if you don't swallow hard and vote for those Democrats you don't like, those damn Republicans get in.

You can't win, but Karl Rove and John Boehner and D boyz can.

no respect

I've been losing interest in politics somewhat lately because thinking, talking, and writing about it (them?) seems so futile most of the time.

But the interest was re-awakened this morning by Frank Rich's weekly Times column, which contains the best political analysis I've ever read by anybody, anywhere.

Ever notice how much disdain the GOP heavyweights -- Rove, Boehner, McConnell, etc. -- seem sometimes to have for the tea partiers, those fired-up ordinary citizens in tricorn hats? Rich explains how and why the teepers allow themselves to be used, like the naive maiden who thinks it must be true love.

That's all. Anything else I might say would be superfluous, so at this point there's nothing left but direct you toward Rich's prodigious work.

The painting of the mad tea party from Carroll's Alice in Wonderland is by Anne Vansweevelt, acrylic on fiberboard.

Friday, October 29, 2010

those good old ff's

I keep seeing right-wingers -- Glenn Beck is the best but not the only example -- genuflecting before the images of what they take to have been the founding fathers, and the other day on my favorite discussion group, a poster from a far-off, antique land asked if Americans worship the ff's.

Well, of course we worship them. Actually, not them but images of them.

If you're trying to appeal to the rightward leaning you always want to have pictures of guys wearing knee britches and tricorn hats in anything you mail to them or have up on TV, along with at least one picture of the Constitution.

As for the founding fathers themselves, they're all dead, of course. So the closest approach we can make to them is by reading honest history books, of which there are plenty, but I don't know how many people actually read them, compared to the number who just look at the pictures.

My favorite ff, the one I feel closest to, is John Adams, I guess 'cause he lived in Boston and was a Unitarian. I used to go to his church when I was back there, and they've still got what's left of old John in the basement, along with the remains John Q, his son, and their wives. I liked JQ too, but he was not a founder.

Mostly I think a lot Americans think they worship the founders and the constitution, but really they don't. They just worship the images of those things in their heads, which makes them unconscious idolaters. And that's especially true if the images in people's heads correspond not at all with the real thing, living or dead.

Robert Anton Wilson, where have you been all my life?

Thursday, October 28, 2010

root of all evil

The Prez did a q&a with a bunch of liberal bloggers yesterday, but they seem to have been overawed by the majesty of the office and asked softball questions.

Following that, he did 30 minutes on the Daily Show, where Jon Stewart was a little tougher on him than the bloggers had been. Obama's responses were sometimes prickly, and he spent a lot of time talking about all the awesome things he's done.

However, neither the bloggers nor Stewart addressed the bottom-line issues that have characterized the crushing failures of both this administration and the one that preceded it, namely their inability or unwillingness to rein in the out-of-control military-industrial-security complex which continues to grow and suck up a greater and greater percentage of the national budget, and their failure to enforce the law in response to the blatant criminality of the largest banks.

These epic failures are due, of course, to the fact that the Pentagon and the banks have penetrated the workings of government so thoroughly that to some extent they ARE the government.

What we're seeing isn't just the failure of the Obama administration, but the failure of the American system of governance, and this has created a pre-revolutionary situation in which people will respond to the crises that befall them by having to go outside the law, and take matters into their own hands. I have in mind the buyer who purchases a house that's been foreclosed upon, only to be subjected to foreclosure himself because he bought the house from an institution whose claim to ownership is challenged by another institution, or the reservist who is forced to serve five tours of active duty in Iraq and Afghanistan.

I'm talking about things that everybody knows are wrong, and that happen every day because neither the Bush nor Obama administrations have been willing to even honestly address the root causes.

When integrity and honesty are criminalized, only criminals have any integrity. Just ask Julian Assange.

FY 2009

Wednesday, October 27, 2010


Folks, I don't know how to break this to you gently, so I guess I'll just have to come right out with it.

I've been intensely studying some little-known but extremely informative lepufological texts which have convinced me that we are indeed in grave danger, but not from Islamicists. Rather, we are finding ourselves under attack from space aliens invading us in their flying saucers whose objective is to steal all our rabbits.

The aliens piloting these ships either look like very large rabbits themselves, or are wearing bunny suits. My investigations are in too preliminary a stage to be able to make the call on that point as yet.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010


Mesopotamia -- what a magical name! The land between the two rivers, the cradle of civilization, where Adam and Eve rode their pet dinosaurs in the Garden of Eden. The land in the middle down through the ages has been the envy of Kings, the treasure lusted after by impoverished nomad hordes, and the temptation of conquerers.

Trajan drove on deep into Mesopotamia, and took it in 116 CE. Acting as his own commanding general in the field as he always did, the aging conquerer lamented only that he was too old to follow in the Great Alexander's footsteps and power on through to India. Still, he sent a letter to the Senate back in Rome saying "Mission accomplished." But as he departed the Persian Gulf for Babylon trouble broke out in his rear, and his conquest of Mesopotamia was revealed as imperial overreach. With his health failing, the old emperor left the land between the two rivers and, shortly thereafter, the earth.

And now the Empire of the Pentagon is engaged in the painfully slow process of disengaging itself from that ancient land, the latest in a long, long list of disappointed conquerors. And as we depart, a full record of our deeds and misdeeds there is finally published for the world to see. Thanks to the latest Wikileaks documents dump, the history of this unnecessary conflict can now be written, even as the last chapters are playing out.

The released documents contain a lot of stuff the Pentagon didn't want us to know, but there is nothing hidden that will not be revealed.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

sunday sermon

Even though I'm a non-Christian, I'm an admirer of the man Yeshua ben Yusuf, who I think anticipated the career of Mohandas K. Gandhi by nearly 1,900 years.

I also think, as did T. Jefferson, that good old Yeshu has been hijacked from us by scriptural revisionists, starting with Paul, but that it's possible to more or less rough sort the Gospels and supporting material into Jesus and not-Jesus parts. The best way to begin this process is to throw out all the biographical material, and reduce the texts to the parables and sayings.

Jefferson wrote his own version of the gospels, available today as the Jefferson Bible, and in 1813 wrote a letter explaining his rationale for having written it in which he said:

In extracting the pure principles which he taught, we should have to strip off the artificial vestments in which they have been muffled by priests, who have travestied them into various forms, as instruments of riches and power to themselves. We must dismiss the Platonists and Plotinists, the Stagyrites and, Gamalielites, the Eclectics, the Gnostics, and Scholastics, their essences and emanations, their logos and demiurges, aeons and daemons, male and female, with a long train of … or, shall I say at once, of nonsense. We must reduce our volume to the simple evangelists, select, even from them, the very words only of Jesus, paring off the amphibologisms into which they have been led, by forgetting often, or not understanding, what had fallen from him, by giving their own misconceptions as his dicta, and expressing unintelligibly for others what they had not understood themselves. There will be found remaining the most sublime and benevolent code of morals which has ever been offered to man. I have performed this operation for my own use, by cutting verse by verse out of the printed book, and arranging the matter which is evidently his, and which is as easily distinguishable as diamonds in a dunghill. The result is an octavo of forty-six pages, of pure and unsophisticated doctrines.

"Instruments of riches and power" indeed, and not just to priests.

The Jesus who emerges from the Jefferson Bible segues pretty well with the book twentieth-century scholars abstracted from the common material in Luke and Matthew (and to a lesser extent in the third synoptic gospel, Mark), the Gospel "Q," or synoptic sayings source, and both reveal a teacher who spoke plainly, in pithy aphorisms, was a radical pacifist, but a trouble-maker and anti-authoritarian, so much so that the authorities decided to get rid of him.

I can well understand, though why people who embrace the political manifestation of end-stage monopoly capitalism along with its sinking empire would also embrace the most obscure, complex, and esoteric interpretations of the sayings of a maverick rabbi. peasant agitator, and party animal who ate his meals with women, and even invited people with skin diseases to break bread with him -- a major taboo.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

cast ironies

This unspoiled cast-iron artifact of the late 19th century stands guard over the grounds of Rose Hill Mansion, a gothic revival mini-castle set in the coastal lowland of South Carolina. Today we rarely see a black lawn jockey, and this one both memorializes and, with its cockeyed blank gaze, seems to mock an earlier American culture which combined innocence, paternalism, and fear, and remains with us today as a stew of barely suppressed and misunderstood emotions and impulses.

The Rose Hill web site contains a short but revealing history of the lawn jockey, whose universal design honored Oliver Lewis, the first jockey to bring home the roses at the Kentucky Derby in 1875. In those days, the site informs us, all jockeys were black, and the tendency of the owners of these iconic hitching posts and/or lantern holders to paint them white in our own time for fear of being accused of racism overlooks their intended purpose of honoring rather than belittling the jockeys who served as their model.

Over the years the lawn jockey has persisted in suburban front yards, but the new ones come out of the factory as white as alabaster. These also differ from the originals in body type, being generally taller and leaner than the stocky and cartoonish ornaments of our shady past. The evolution of the lawn jockey might serve as a metaphor for our treatment of the less palatable aspects of our own history; when we see something we don't like, we whitewash it.

One commentator on American culture who refused to participate in whitewashing the past, instead presenting it in ways deliberately intended to provoke discomfort, was the rural Georgia author Flannery O'Connor. In the early '50s, before she died of lupus at age 39, O'Connor wrote "The Artificial Nigger," about a pair of rural bumpkins, father and son, whose misadventures in the big city (Atlanta) are capped by their encounter with a crumbling fragment of decorative statuary characteristic of the golden age of lawn jockeys.

"...he saw," O'Connor writes of the father, "within reach of him, the plaster figure of a Negro sitting bent over on a low yellow brick fence that curved around a wide lawn. The Negro was about Nelson's (the son's) size and he was pitched forward at an unsteady angle because the putty that held him to the wall had cracked. One of his eyes was entirely white and he held a piece of brown watermelon."
"It was not possible to tell if the artificial Negro were meant to be young or old; he looked too miserable to be either. He was meant to look happy because his mouth was stretched up at the corners but the chipped eye and the angle he was cocked at gave him a look of wild misery instead."

Friday, October 22, 2010

their customs and superstitions

On my favorite political discussion site, a faithful correspondent writes::

The problem with the "tea party" the "coffee party" the "vodka party" there's no real leadership or sense of direction. They want people to jump on their bandwagon while they are still figuring out who they are.

To which I responded:

I beg to differ. The teepers may not know who or what they are, but some of us do, since it's just not that tough to i.d. them. For example, here they are in San Diego yesterday, partying like it's 1939.

We know who their leaders are as well. As this photo of typically pale, geriatric, and Social-Security-drawing tea enthusiasts was snapped, they were being regaled by one of their most prominent leaders, Me-star Gingrich. Others include, as everyone knows, Sarah Palin, Glenn Beck, and the somewhat fading but nevertheless still viable Mr. Rush Limbaugh.

We even know who their historical precedents were, but I'm not allowed to go there for fear of breaking Godwin's law. So I'll just say that a few centuries down the road, future historians and archaeologists will study with great interest the artifacts, customs, and superstitions of the early 21st-century tea parties.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

gym time

As winter sets in tomorrow (today was the transition day) Seattleites will stock up on vitamin D and mothball their bicycles, knowing they may not see the sun again for six months or so. This winter will be a challenge for me because I've made the recent discovery of how important cardiovascular exercise is, and don't want to stop my daily heart-lung workout just because the bike is hibernating.

I may have to do something radical, like joining a gym. It would be strictly for the treadmill and stair-steppers, and I'd do about an hour a day.

The benefits of fredquent, vigorous cardio exercise, besides its strengthening of the heart and respiratory system, are apparent to everyone who does it, and include:

*Improvement in skin tone and color;

*Increased muscle tone and firmness, which improves one's appearance;

*Increased strength, including the strength of the immune system;

*Drug-free mood elevation, partly due to increased energy.

Add to that list the fact that there are no negative effects of a moderate-to-intense cardio workout (intensity will vary according to personal preference and physical capacity), and there's no reason not to do it regularly, unless of course it's cold and wet outside.

So for most of the next few months, it'll be good-bye mountain bike, hello treadmill.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

final days

The scene along the Alaskan Way Viaduct looked much like it does in the picture this morning as I motored south, making my one significant commute of the week, to teach yoga in Normandy Park. As the autumn sun lit up the white trellises of Safeco Field and sprinkled the water of Elliot Bay with blindingly bright sparklers, I couldn't help reflecting that this is the last of this we'll see for a while. The forecast is for sunshine and 60-degree temperatures for the next two days; after that the winter glurk sets in for the foreseeable future.

I've accepted as well that I'm in the autumn of my life, and that the joys and passions of youth are never coming back, for better and for worse. And likewise, the weary earth spins toward the grand finale of our species' dominance of the stage. The play won't end here of course; there was another act with other players before us and there'll surely be others to follow. But those things may as well not exist for as much as they concern us.

Meanwhile, the air is clean and bright for those still able to breathe it. The weary land still gives us food crops every year -- the abused mother still caring for her children. The songs of the bright denizens of the trees still pierce the quiet afternoon hours, though there are significantly fewer of them than in past times, and they are gradually replaced by the crows, who come dressed in mourning for the passing age.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Huntin' and Fishin'

Feeling threatened by the pacifists, vegetarians, and animal-rights types among us, hunters and anglers in several states are working to have a citizen's right to hunt and fish added to their state constitutions. A Reuters story posted at Yahoo! today says:

DALLAS/PHOENIX (Reuters) – Worried that their pastime may get waylaid by a growing animal welfare movement, U.S. hunters and anglers in some states are seeking constitutional safeguards.

When voters in Arizona, Arkansas, South Carolina and Tennessee go to the polls to cast their ballots in the congressional elections on Nov 2, they will also be asked if they support making hunting and fishing constitutional rights.

"When you have something protected in your constitution, then it is very difficult to use the courts or other types of ballot activities to thwart, for example, hunting and fishing," said Steve Faris, a Democratic Arkansas state senator and the bill's lead sponsor there. "They start with cats and dogs and the next thing you know, someone says it's inhumane to shoot a deer. It's like buying an insurance policy," he told Reuters in a phone interview.

There's a lot to ponder in Faris's remarks, starting with why anybody in his right mind would want to shoot Fido or Fluffy for dinner. And I'm not sure why shooting a deer is like an insurance policy. I'll have to think about it. But actually, even though I'm mostly vegetarian, I don't think shooting deer is such a bad idea right now. The deer population in North America is way above what it's ever been, and in many suburban and exurban areas they've turned into regular pests. Plus they taste good.

However, the article notes that "deer season is starting in many states and millions of Americans (are taking) to the woods, firearms in hand," and that right there is the main reason you'll never see me out chasing mammals around with a rifle in hand. As the deer season gets into gear in the next couple of weeks, we know in advance there will be some human beings in the body count. It happens every year; because there are people out there shooting that have no business doing so, and the results are sometimes tragic, sometimes funny.

Like the guy who was walking up a hill on a two-lane roadway in Maine a few years back on opening day of deer season. He heard what he said later "sounded like a deer" coming up the other side of the hill beyond the crest. He lowered his fire stick, and when it crested he put a round right through the radiator of an old Ford pickup truck.

Fishing is a little safer and can be fun, but I have seriously seen people who were actually too drunk to fish, and I'm sure that leads to mishaps sometimes.

So all you guys that like your huntin' and fishin' go for it. I'm a little late this year, but I might even join you for salmon season next year.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

wordle is fun. You can take a speech or piece of writing and turn it into a graphic. Here's one of a couple of paragraphs of Glenn Beck's big speechoid at Teabaggerpalooza in D.C.

Click on the imahge for a larger view. Click again to embiggen even more.

gandhi moment

Attorney-General Eric Holder has announced that the Feds will aggressively enforce marijuana laws in California even if Californians approve the initiative legalizing the drug in their state.

When that happens, the campaign of massive civil disobedience that follows will baffle the federal authorities. What will they do then?

And the action will have social repercussions way beyond the marijuana issue. People will become re-acquainted with their own power to make revolutionary change.

It will become what we call "a teachable moment," or a Gandhi moment. Game on!

Thursday, October 14, 2010

political science

Susie Madrak, proprietor of the Suburban Guerilla blog, posted this conversation she overheard in a local eatery under the title "Political Science."

Two retirees were leaning on the diner counter, talking.

“It’s terrible, what’s happened to this country,” the one with the green flannel shirt said to his friend. “They’ve screwed everything up, and now these new bastards will come in and make it even worse.”

“We used to make things here,” he said, reeling off a list of once-local products. “Now all these factories are empty, they make everything in China while these fat bastards get rich and everyone here gets laid off.

“I don’t know what people are gonna do.”

His friend shook his head in vehement agreement.

“It’s over. It’s over. America? It’s never gonna be the same again. People aren’t even gonna remember we used to have it good here for awhile.”

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

where the southern cross the dog

WC Handy's musical education was spotty and catch-as-can, but his ability was as natural as breathing. In his autobio, "Father of the Blues," he cites some of his earliest musical inspirations as "whippoorwills, bats and hoot owls and their outlandish noises, the sounds of Cypress Creek washing on the fringes of the woodland, and the music of every songbird and all the symphonies of their unpremeditated art"

The other source of the earliest musical education of this preacher's son from small-town Alabama was the Sunday services at his father's church, but dad disapproved of the guitar young William brought home one day, and forced him into organ lessons instead. The organ lasted just long enough for Handy to quickly master fluency with those little black dots we call written music, and when he quickly (and secretly) switched to cornet he had sufficient knowledge of European forms and methods to qualify as an educated musician.

During his youth he was pressured by parents, peers, and especially employers to adopt a more European-derived sound and repertoire, but Handy had a deep and abiding love of the spontaneous and deeply-felt indigenous music of his own people, and all his life borrowed from every available source, both African-American and European, while carefully documenting all of them. Despite disagreements with his father over the lifestyle he subsequently pursued, he remained deeply religious all his life, and the sound of the church choir was never entirely absent from his compostions.

In 1903 at age 30, Handy was already a veteran of many minstrel shows, medicine shows, and the directorship of the band at a negro agricultural and mechanical college when he was offered the leadership of a dance orchestra, the Knights of Pythias, in Clarksdale, Mississippi, and eagerly accepted. It was while waiting in a depot for an hours-late train to Clarksdale in the little Delta town of Tutwiler that the young, worldly, and sophisticated bandleader made the acquaintance of the music that would define the next three decades.

As he sat on a bench in the Tutwiler depot trying to nap, as Handy described it years later, a "lean, loose-jointed Negro had commenced plucking a guitar beside me while I slept."

The man was obviously poor and dusty. One bony knee protruded through a hole in his threadbare pants, and his toes were peeking out the fronts of his worn shoes. His song was repetitive, with each line sung three times:

"I walked all the way from East St. Louis and didn't have but one thin, lousy dime."

"As he played," Handy wrote, "he pressed a knife on the strings of a guitar in a manner popularized by Hawaiian guitarists who use steel bars. The effect was unforgettable. His song, too, struck me instantly."

"I'm goin' where the Southern cross the dog..."

"The singer repeated the line three times, accompanying himself on the guitar with the weirdest music I had ever heard. The tune stayed in my mind. When the singer paused, I leaned over and asked him what the words meant. He rolled his eyes, showing a trace of mild amusement.

"Perhaps I should have known, but he didn't mind explaining. At Moorhead, the east and west bound met and crossed the north and south bound trains four times a day. This fellow was going where the Southern railroad crossed the Yazoo Delta railroad, (nicknamed the 'Yellow Dog'), and he didn't care who knew it."

The lyrics would reappear in Handy's "Yellow Dog Blues," one of his earliest compositions to have the word "blues" in the title, although strictly speaking the song is not a blues, but a fox trot.

Ever since Miss Susie Johnson lost her jockey, Lee,
There's been much excitement, and more to be...
She's wonderin' where her easy rider's gone.

Dear Sue, your easy rider struck this burg today...
I seen him there and he was on the hog...
He's gone where the Southern cross the Yellow Dog.

To get an idea of what Handy's itinerant guitarist sounded like, check out this YouTube of Texas songster Mance Lipscomb playing Blind Lemon Jefferson's "Jack of Diamonds" with a knife in his left hand, a broken finger on his right, and looking none too chipper. I'm grateful to the person who posted this wonderfully authentic piece, even though he carelessly misidentified the suit, alerting me to never partner with him in bridge.

*Bessie Smith's inspired version of the song has one mis-heard lyric. Handy wrote "Everywhere that Unce Sam has rural free delivery," but Bessie apparently didn't understand the line and sings "Everywhere that Uncle Sam is the ruler of delivery" instead.

Monday, October 11, 2010

klumbus day

Tomorrow is Klumbus Day, which is not much celebrated or condemned any more. Few workers (about one in 10) will get the day off, and those who do probably won't think much about the accomplishments and crimes of Cristobal Colón, or Klumbus as we call him.

But think about it; the results of Klumbus's voyages were profound. He was sailing west to try to reach the east, a revolutionary move in itself, when he accidentally bumped into an island he didn't know about. And that little island was just a minor prelude to unknown continents, a whole world he had no clue about, and never did figure it out.

Though curious about such things, he was more interested in his own fame and fortune. And Klumbus was a seriously socially backward and perverted criminal, killing and torturing people to try to get the gold they didn't have.

But his act of blind discovery changed everything. After Klumbus, Europeans first invaded, then occupied, then made a home of North and South America, displacing or intermingling with the earlier inhabitants, creating new bloodlines in the process. For better or for worse, nothing would ever be the same again.

Leif Ericson the Viking was in Canada centuries before Klumbus bumped into that little island in the Caribbean, but his discoveries led to no permanent occupation of the new lands. And it was Amerigo Vespucci, another Italian adventurer, who figured out just what it was that Klumbus had stumbled across. But neither of them can match the significance of Mr. Klumbus and his remarkable transformative boat trip of 1492.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

a binary kind of day

In about seven minutes (sorry I can't be more precise) a digital readout of the date and time will show:

10/10/10 10:10:10

This is the kind of day beloved by computer geeks, digital-type thinkers, those who tend to think of everything as dichotomies, physicists who study matter and anti-matter, and fraternal twins.

Even I think it's kind of cool, and I'm an analog kind of guy.

Of course, we'll be treated to a similar temporal circumstance next year, and again in 2012. After that we'll have to wait nearly a century.

Saturday, October 09, 2010

evil under the sun

Though acutely aware of the prevalence of evil in the world, the wisest among us have always stressed the possibilities of individual liberation. Jesus's teachings emphasize our ability to take responsibility for what we do, say, and think. The Buddha taught that through acts of will and discipline, whoever wished for it sufficiently could make a life of wisdom and compassion, rather than surrendering to fear, greed, and selfishness.

Each of us holds the power to learn to avoid acting in ways that hurt both others and ourselves, but doing so requires casting off the illusions that we're all conditioned from childhood to believe in. Jesus told a parable about a man who thought he had found happiness and security after he spent much time and effort storing up considerable wealth in barns and storehouses. "But God said to him, 'Foolish man! This very night you will have to give back your soul, and the things you produced, whose will they be?' "*

The Buddha teachings stress eliminating delusion and purifying the mind, so as to eliminate the restlessness and hollowness which cause our minds to suffer anxiety, insecurity, and self-doubt. The messages of both these wise men are tools we can use to get better, not dogmas or orders that we need to follow to avoid being punished, although suffering certainly does result from illusory thinking. That's not the same thing as God punishing us for being bad, however. Practical wisdom, not faith, is the primary virtue.

Make no mistake: satisfaction as well as peace and clarity of mind are nearly always possible for each of us, even in a world dominated by violence, greed, and the anger born of the will dominate others, if we are willing to face and eliminate our own misperceptions of reality. Achieving this calm clarity of mind requires work and effort. The sage Patanjali, author of the Yoga Sutras, taught that this effort should be directed to systematically "direct(ing) and focus(ing) mental activity," and that "with the attainment of a focused mind, the inner being establishes itself in all its reality."**

*Quoted from the Gospel "Q" in Burton Mack's "The Lost Gospel: The Book of Q and Christian Origins" (Harper San Francisco, 1993), pps. 77-78.

**Yoga Sutras 1.2 and 1.3, from Bernard Bouanchaud's "The Essence of Yoga" (Sri Satguru Publications, Delhi, 1997) p. XIX.

Illustration: screenshot of Werner Krauss as Dr. Caligari, from the film "The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari" by Robert Wiene (Berlin, 1920).

Thursday, October 07, 2010

lost horizon

American researchers have discovered a dying language spoken by a tiny remnant of about 1,000 tribespeople in the remote Indian state of Arunachal Pradesh.

Linguists previously thought that Koro was a dialect of the more widely-spoken Aka language, but the most recent investigations have uncovered its vocabulary for such things as numbers, body parts, and other concepts, which distinguishes it from Aka. The two languages have completely different repertoires of sound, and the sounds are produced differently.

Arunachal Pradesh is nestled on the lower slopes of the Himalayas and shares borders with Bhutan, Tibet, China, and Myanmar, formerly known as Burma. Its tribal residents live by subsistence farming and hunting, and weave their own clothing which favors the more brilliant shades of red. Because their lifeways and languages are fragile and endangered by outside influences, travel there is possible only for those receiving a permit for entry from the Indian government at Delhi. Even if a traveler obtains permission to enter Arunachal Pradesh, access to the people of the region is not easy. The National Geographic team pursuing the present investigation had to cross a wild mountain river on bamboo rafts and scale steep hillsides to reach the settlements of bamboo houses resting on stilts.

I find this story doubly interesting because I'm currently re-reading James Hilton's 1930's novel "Lost Horizon," about a quartet of westerners who are spirited off to the remotest possible human habitation concealed in the fastness of the impenetrable Himalaya, a small, gem-like valley which rests in the shadow of a mysterious and inscrutable lamasary called Shangri-La. That it proves to be the closest thing to a paradise on earth is essential to the story, of course, along with the impossibility of such a place actually existing. But now I have to wonder whether Shangri-La might actually exist after all, and if we've found it.

You can judge for yourself by watching the National Geographic special that will inevitably follow upon this fascinating discovery.

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

vote for pedro: UPDATED

Laugh if you must, but I really am going to vote for Pedro.

Heretics will introduce other names into nomination at the convention in 2012, but Obama will not be seriously challenged.

I don't know what the Republicans will nominate. I assume it will be human, but you never know.

There will be numerous unserious third-party candidates such as Polly Zucchini of the Vegetarian Party, Earnest A. Radical of the Pizza Freedom Party, Nodum Sane of the Greens, and of course the ever-unpopular Lyndon LaDouche, etc.

However, on my absentee mail-in paper ballot, there will be space for write-ins, and I plan to write in a single name for President of the U.S.: "Pedro."

UPDATE: I voted for Jill Stein (Green) for prez in 2012, & for Pedro in the WA Senate race, since I could not bring myself to vote for party hack Patty Murray.

la niña

La Niña is back in the equatorial Pacific, and that means a cold and snowy winter ahead for those of us here in the northwest.

La Niña ("little girl") is a characterized by unusually cold water in the Pacific equatorial zone, and is the oppositional counterpart of her brother, el niño. Both have significant effects on global weather patterns. Besides colder and wetter conditions in the Pacific Northwest, weather will be warmer and drier than usual in the north-central states, excepting the Great Lakes states which will be wet. The Old Confederacy will be warmer than usual, and it will be colder than usual in the southwest.

However, even though this is a strong la niña event, I don't expect the snow to fly before Thanksgiving. The little girl has her greatest impact between December and February, so expect a replay of December, 2008. Merry Christmas!

Monday, October 04, 2010


Ya gotta have friends, as the song goes.

A little less than two weeks ago when my bike was stolen out of the locked and well-secured garage of my apartment building, I figured I had done all the riding I was going to do until I bought another in the spring. I'm saddled with medical bills right now, and limited in the number of even worthwhile expenditures I can make.

Anyway, it's going to be a long, tough haul until spring. Another La Niña winter is nearly at the door. Not much opportunity for riding when there's two feet of snow on the ground.

But yesterday, when I told my tale of woe to a group of lovely and sympathetic yoginis while in a training session for a Children's Hospital/yoga therapy study we all hope to take part in, one of them, a gal I went through teacher training with, told me her husband had a bike he was looking to get rid of. He bought it three years ago, and it's been gathering dust in the garage ever since.

Of course, I offered to buy it. "You can have it," she says. "Really, we'd just like to get rid of it and free up the space."

So today I took delivery on a brand-new, virtually unused Magna brand mountain bike, very similar in design and function to my lost Schwinn. I'd never heard of the maker before, but my apartment manager saw it and assures me it's a very well-reputed brand of off-road machines. And it certainly seems solid and well made.

The tires are down right now because it's been sitting for a long time, but they don't appear to be rotted, and tomorrow I'll pump some air into them with a compressor, and we'll saddle up and ride.

It's amazing sometimes what sympatico friends and serendipity can do for you.

Saturday, October 02, 2010

serfing usa

An unknown number of foreclosed-upon citizens, possibly numbering millions, certainly in the hundreds of thousands, may retain possession of their houses, whose titles are now in a state of legal limbo. I don't know if this is the first shot of the revolt which will end with "the world turned upside-down," but it's certainly a case of the people winning out over the banks.

The fundamentals of this developing story are as follows:

On September 24, three liberal representatives in the House wrote a letter to Fannie Mae pointing out that the lender is using "foreclosure mills" to process eviction orders. These are “law firms representing lenders that specialize in speeding up the foreclose process, often without regard to process, substance or legal propriety.” The Florida AG was already on to these law firms fabricating documents to make foreclosures and evictions happen.

The same day, California AG Jerry Brown asked GMAC to stop foreclosures and evictions until it could prove it was attempting to work with borrowers to make arrangements for payment that would prevent foreclosure.

Next, according to the linked "Truthout" article, "On September 29, the Washington Post reported that a top federal bank regulator had directed seven of the nation’s largest lenders to review their foreclosure processes, after learning about widespread mishandling of homeowner evictions. Besides JPMorgan Chase, they included Bank of America, Citibank, HSBC, PNC Bank, U.S. Bank and Wells Fargo."

All the biggies.

The basic problem is that most of these mortgage contracts have changed hands so many times that nobody knows who actually has title to the property. It's been lost in the endless electronic shuffling of the contracts. The Truthout story does a pretty good job of explaining the details of this mess.

What's important is the practical meaning of these new developments for us (the serfs) and for the banks (the lords of the manor). Think of all the questions this raises, for example:

Will foreclosed-upon house owners be able to stay in the properties-in-limbo from now on and never pay another dime?

Will underwater owners be able to stop paying and not have to worry about foreclosure?

How many people who have been evicted already will be able to resume living in the houses in question?

And how long will it be before the banks, who are going to be the Big Losers in all of this, having taken another huge hit to their balance sheets, come crying to Obama and Geithner for another handout?

This time we can't allow them to get paid off. If we can prevent it, the people, especially the ones who still have roofs over their heads thanks to the banks screwing themselves, will have won a significant victory.

It would be just, fitting, and beautiful to see the Wall Street banks that caused the depression we're suffering through today get hoisted on their own petards, and the people who those banks attempted to swindle out of property, savings, and/or lending obligations, walk away from the table with more than they came with. Reversal of fortune it's called.

Friday, October 01, 2010

good man gone wrong

I've been wrong about Obama. His intentions were always good, and his heart's in the right place. The problem is he has no spine.

Bob Woodward's new book, "Obama's War" explains a lot about why this good man has gone wrong. Yesterday Michael Moore quoted the book in the process of proving the U.S. is now a military dictatorship:

Everything you need to know can be found in just two paragraphs from Obama's War. Here's the scene: Obama is meeting with his National Security Council staff on the Saturday after Thanksgiving last year. He's getting ready to give a big speech announcing his new strategy for Afghanistan. Except...the strategy isn't set yet. The military has presented him with just one option: escalation. But at the last minute, Obama tells everyone, hold up -- the door to a plan for withdrawal isn't closed.

The brass isn't having it:

" 'Mr. President,' [Army Col. John Tien] said, 'I don't see how you can defy your military chain here. We kind of are where we are. Because if you tell General McChrystal, "I got your assessment, got your resource constructs, but I've chosen to do something else," you're going to probably have to replace him. You can't tell him, "Just do it my way, thanks for your hard work." And then where does that stop?'

"The colonel did not have to elaborate. His implication was that not only McChrystal but the entire military high command might go in an unprecedented toppling -- Gates; Adm. Mike Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff; and Gen. David H. Petraeus, then head of U.S. Central Command. Perhaps no president could weather that, especially a 48-year-old with four years in the U.S. Senate and 10 months as commander in chief."

And, well, the rest is history. Three days later Obama announced the escalation at West Point. And he became our newest war president.

They didn't even send a one-star general to inform the president that his office no longer has authority over the military, as the Constitution specifies. Instead, he was punked by a bird colonel!

In 1951 President Truman fired his insubordinate commanding general in Korea, Douglas MacArthur. They met in Hawaii so Truman could sack the narcissistic general while looking him in eye. That was Truman.

Without having access to what was actually said at that private meeting, I'm sure MacArthur told Truman, "If you do this, I'll ruin you." And he did. He retired and mounted a tireless campaign against Truman for the next few months. It worked, and Truman was so unpopular by the next year that there was no way he could run for the White House again, even though he was eligible.

I'm equally positive as well that Truman responded to the general's threat with "Do your worst, you son of a bitch." But Barack Obama is no Harry Truman, and a timid head of state is nothing more than a quick meal and a satisfying belch to a clique of audacious usurpers.

This country is headed for either a period of radical reform or, failing that, a full-out revolution. Either way, the first order of business afterward will be the dismantling of the illegal military dictatorship, and disestablishment of the coven of usurpers with stars on their shoulders who have done the crime.