Friday, December 31, 2010

happy new year

Happy 01/01/2011, everybody.

I wish I felt optimistic about the year we have in store, but I'm afraid things are looking bleak.

Maybe we can have some good times in spite of all that. So why dwell on it? Let's have a party!

please stop

If you watch TV news or listen to the radio you hear them every day -- tired, worn-out clichés inserted mindlessly into the political conversation by interviewers and politicians alike.

For example, it would take a little effort to identify a specific spending measure one dislikes, and to say what's bad about it, but condemning "pork-barrel politics" is as easy as falling off a roof. When politicians vow to "reach across the aisle" I sigh audibly, and contemplate sending an e-mail asking what on the other side of the aisle is so tempting that it's worth reaching all the way over there.

So let's hope that we won't have to resort to a hail Mary pass to keep the national economy afloat in 2011, which should be fairly easy if legislators could learn to think outside the box, and maybe stop reflexively condemning those tax-and-spend Democrats.

Yes, back up a moment. Think about it a second: raising money with taxation, then spending it on the country's needs. Might be a feasible way to grow the economy.

future past

Photograph by Margaret Bourke-White, 1937, taken at the time of the Louisville (KY) flood. Click on the image for a larger view.

the good life

Big Brother tells us there's no significant price inflation happening right now, but their figures measure "core inflation," which doesn't include food and fuel -- the two things besides housing that everybody needs!

Over the past couple of months the price of crude oil has crept up to a "new normal" of $90 a barrel, replacing November's new normal of $80 silently, with very little media attention. The normal price of gasoline will soon be $3.50 a gallon. Get used to it.

There's been significant inflation in food prices lately as well, but since these things are not included in "core" inflation, they don't count.

There is no emergency! Nothing to see here. Please return to whatever it was you were doing.

Our old way of life is going, going, gone, and none too soon. The problem is, there is no new way of life to replace it, so everybody just keeps soldiering on, trying to act as if nothing has happened.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

clear and cold

I usually try to stay away from weather blogging because when I do it I feel like a slacker. However, conditions today are so spectacular I can't resist.

I'm sitting in Starbucks in Ballard right now, having walked the mile down here through the clearest and coldest morning we've had so far this year. This is January weather in these parts -- the new year arriving a few days early.

Sitting outside a few minutes ago in coat, hat, and gloves, I was comfortable and quite able to enjoy the bright sunshine in spite of the air temperature of 33 F, one degree above freezing.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

bye bye 2010

During the past year Wikileaks shocked the world by releasing secret U.S. government documents pertaining to the Iraqi and Afghan wars, and secret diplomatic cables which detailed the U.S.'s double dealing with many foreign governments.

But to follow the main outlines of the continuing collapse and demoralization of our yoostabee democratic republic, formerly founded on the rule of law, we don't need access to secrets. We can keep score with nothing more than any daily newspaper. During the last twelve months we have witnessed:

January -- Annals of corruption: The Supreme court ruled that corporations can contribute unlimited amounts of cash to political campaigns and issues. Welcome to the Corporate States of America.

February -- Department of "It's not illegal if the government does it:" Dick Cheney admitted publicly that he encouraged waterboarding. No criminal indictment or prosecution followed.

April -- Rewriting the Constitution: Obama authorized the plan to assassinate an American citizen living abroad who has been accused of terrorism.

April -- The secret agent from Kenya: The Arizona House of Reps passed a law requiring Obama to present his birth certificate before he can run for re-election in that state.

May -- Make sure you're oiled up before going out in the sun: Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour encouraged tourists to "Enjoy the beach" as tarballs and dead fish from the BP spill covered Gulf Coast shorelines.

June -- Commie plot dept: Congresswoman Michele Bachmann refused to fill out her family's census form.

July -- Has anybody looked under Maliki's mattress?: The Defense Department admitted it doesn't know where 96 percent of the money designated for reconstruction in Iraq has gone.

August -- "I have a nightmare:" Glenn Beck claimed that he is the modern-day Martin Luther King.

September -- The job isn't finished till the paperwork is done: A Florida bank foreclosed on the house of a man who didn't have a mortgage, having paid cash for the property.

November -- Dept. of fixing it when it ain't broke: Oklahoma voters approved a measure that would protect them from the imposition of Sharia law.

November -- "Yer damn right I did heh heh:" George W. Bush admitted authorizing waterboarding. No criminal indictment or prosecution followed.

December -- Dept. of Demolicans and Republicrats: Barack Obama approved an extension of the Bush tax giveaways for billionaires, as well as extending tax cuts for everybody else, thereby blowing another huge hole in the deficit. (But he promised to "fight really hard" to allow them to expire in two years.)

All this and much, much more at Tom Tomorrow's "The Year in Crazy."

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

sticky wiki

Atrios admits to being puzzled by the lynch-mob mentality the establishment press is displaying toward Wikileaks and Julian Assange, but I don't know why. He knows as well as anybody that all mainstream media types, especially broadcasters, are paid to act as stenographers for the Empire and corporatocracy, and that the last thing they want or need is somebody like Assange butting into their precious little world and reminding them of what they'd be doing if they actually did their jobs.

Glenn Greenwald, whom Atrios links to, describes how he has "done many television and radio segments about WikiLeaks and what always strikes me is how indistinguishable -- identical -- are the political figures and the journalists. There's just no difference in how they think, what their values and priorities are, how completely they've ingested and how eagerly they recite the same anti-WikiLeaks, 'Assange = Saddam' script. So absolute is the WikiLeaks-is-Evil bipartisan orthodoxy among the Beltway political and media class (forever cemented by the joint Biden/McConnell decree that Assange is a 'high-tech Terrorist,') that you're viewed as being from another planet if you don't spout it. It's the equivalent of questioning Saddam's WMD stockpile in early 2003."

What neither Greenwald nor Atrios understand is that whether something is true or not is irrelevant; what's important is that if it's orthodoxy, everyone is required to believe it, and expressing disbelief makes you a heretic, a nut, and possibly dangerous to yourself and others. Such is the price for insisting that people be real, i.e., acknowledge reality in political debate.

Photo: numbered bodies in an Afghan mass grave. Click on the image for a larger view.

Monday, December 27, 2010

louie the magnificent

Even with the super-abundance of essays, encomiums, and scholarly analyses of Louis Armstrongs's music and career, I wonder how many listeners fully appreciate his virtuosity as a vocalist, or recognize that what he played with his cornet (later replaced by a trumpet) was an extension and elaboration of the things he did with his voice, which always remained the primary vehicle of his profound musical imagination.

Armstrong was at the very peak of his creative powers in the years right around 1930, when the Great Depression was beginning to wrap its skeletal arms around our economy and the lives of the people. I find myself listening over and over to two three-minute masterpieces from that period, and never grow tired of them. Both are sad love songs, usually played at a slow tempo, which Louis picks up to a medium speed so that they swing gently rather than dragging along.

These gems have now been made into what I call YouTube semi-videos -- audio tracks accompanied by a picture of the 78-rpm discs' labels. By the time Armstrong cut these sides in the studio he'd moved beyond the multi-voiced combos of the Hot Five and Hot Seven years, and fronted "smooth jazz" orchestras which showcased his horn and vocals -- what I've come to think of as "the two voices." For reasons I can't explain or understand, the cornball sound of the vanilla-textured sax sections augment rather than detracting from the total effect.

I Surrender, Dear

Body and Soul

And if you've never heard Armstrong's Stardust (the "Oh, Memory" take) from the same period, do yourself a favor and listen to that as well. This is the tune that I believe Ken Burns designated as the greatest jazz number of all time by placing it at the very top and out of chronological sequence in the five-disc music CD compilation that accompanied his PBS series, "Jazz."

Saturday, December 25, 2010

christmas 2010

I'm spending the day with my sisters and all my wonderful nieces and nephews in the small and picturesque town of Port Orchard, Washington. We've decided to go giftless this year, which unloads all the excess baggage from this holiday and reduces it to its essence, so I can appreciate it for a change.

Right now my sister Chris is a few feet away in the kitchen, working like mad getting the meal ready, so I should probably go in there and see if there's anything I can do to help her.

I decided to try to beat the throng that's most likely choking the roads about now, and left the apartment before daylight this morning to catch an early sailing of the ferry M.V. Klahowya, arriving on the Kitsap Peninsula just at what passes for sunrise this time of year in Western Washington was coming up. I got here very early, so I wanted to take this opportunity to wish that everybody who's reading this has as good a Christmas as I'm having, which is to say the best Christmas ever. And let's also hope for the best in the New Year, which is shaping up to look like a voyage to the stars, with great difficulty.

Ad astra, per asperam.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

the dirty dozen

Woke up this morning feeling good, so what else is new? It's become kind of boring, because every day I wake up at 5:00 or 5:30, have that first cup of coffee, and realize that's as good as I'm going to feel all day. But I can easily live with that kind of boredom.

I'm sure one of the reasons I feel so chipper is because I'm very careful about what I put inside myself, and very much aware of what to avoid. Therefore, I would urge everyone reading this to be knowledgeable about the food you eat and the dangerous levels of pesticides and other poisons on some of our most common produce.

A non-profit watchdog organization, the Environmental Working Group, has compiled a list of the 12 most heavily-pesticided fruits and vegetables which they call the dirty dozen. For example, when we eat a stalk of non-organically raised celery, we're taking in as many as 67 different pesticides. The foods on this list all have soft skins which makes them more likely to absorb the poisons they're sprayed with. They are:

1. Celery

2, Peaches

3. Strawberries

4. Apples

5. Domestic blueberries

6. Nectarines

7. Bell peppers

8. Spinach, kale and collard greens

9. Cherries

10. Potatoes

11. Imported grapes

12. Lettuce

When you buy these items, you should either pay the extra money for organic or avoid them altogether.

In addition to the dirty dozen, the EWG also lists the "clean 15" roster of non-organically-grown produce which is relatively safe to eat. Most of these have a thick outer layer which protects their insides from contamination.

1. Onions

2. Avocados

3. Sweet corn

4. Pineapples

5. Mango

6. Sweet peas

7. Asparagus

8. Kiwi fruit

9. Cabbage

10. Eggplant

11. Cantaloupe

12. Watermelon

13. Grapefruit

14. Sweet potatoes

15. Sweet onions

I've noticed that carrots, oranges, and bananas, which many people eat every day, are not on either list. I always buy organic carrots because they're thin-skinned, but I don't mind eating non-organic oranges and bananas because they're thick-skinned.

And remember, celery stalks at midnight.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

odds and ends

On this last day of the old year there are several important news items, and rather than write about them I'll simply encourage readers to go to the sources.

Glenn Greenwald's Salon column this morning begins "In The New York Times today, Mark Mazzetti and Dexter Filkins expose very sensitive classified government secrets -- and not just routine secrets, but high-level, imminent planning for American covert military action in a foreign country,.."

Greenwald goes on to congratulate the Times, whom he has frequently harshly criticized, says they are publishing "exactly the kind of secret information journalists ought to be revealing,' and adds that Mazzetti and Filkins are doing "exactly what good journalists ought to do: inform the public about important actions taken or being considered by their government which the government is attempting to conceal."

It seems to me that Julian Assange's most valuable contribution to contemporary journalism is in evidence here. He's shown others that real reporting requires telling the truth, and getting that truth requires breaching the wall of secrecy.


With the transformation of Barack Obama from the guy who wanted to "spread the wealth around" to the unabashed servant of corporatocracy now complete, Robert Reich synopsizes the social consequences of The year Washington became "business friendly," also at Salon.


If you appreciate using the free and uninhibited internet we have now and don't want to lose it, you need to be aware of the FCC chairman's dangerous plan to compromise net neutrality. Senator Al Franken has the details at Huffpo.

Monday, December 20, 2010


A year ago today I wrote this:

"December 21 is the day the sun dies and is still, but only for a day. He's reborn on December 22, and begins his new life, working toward full fruition on the other side of the year, 182 and 3/4 days up ahead. His death and rebirth were observed and anticipated by humans watching the skies even before history began, and holds the secret of the origin of our most important religious beliefs, rituals, and celebrations.

"They've been telling two myths around the shores of the Mediterranean since time began. One is about the soldier hero who fights in an overseas war, then gets lost with his men and runs into a bunch of snags attempting to sail home, and wanders around the sea for years. The other is the story of a god who dies and then comes back to life, and that one originated in the winter solstice."

The Winter Solstice is always a symbolically significant event, but its portentousness this year is amplified a thousandfold, due to of the ominous and foreboding nature of recent political and economic developments, and also because it coincides with the occurrence of a total lunar eclipse of the full moon, occurring in the pre-dawn hours of tomorrow morning.

The last time this happened is not quite certain. Most sources say 1638, but I've also seen 1554 offered as a possibility. It's very hard to determine whether long-ago lunar eclipses were full or just nearly so, but this one will be total, and if the moon is not obscured completely by clouds here in the northwest it will shine blood red during the time of its full shadowing.

Eclipses were feared in premodern societies as harbingers of doom, and this one's simultaneous appearance with the death of the sun is truly momentous and ominous. But the sun is reborn on December 22, and if our current regime of financial and political secrecy, duplicity, and ineptitude is doomed, it's sure to be replaced by something new and presently unforeseen. Civilization is tougher than the clowns of the political circus assure us it is, when they bluster and claim civilization would collapse without them.

Still, the day of the blood red moon occurring on the day of the sun god's death is a moment filled with astonishment and dread.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

the walrus and the carpenter

We need to stop listening to Barack Obama, and watch what he does instead. Listening to him is like listening to the used car salesman who says "I'm your friend."

We might have listened during his campaign when he said he wanted to "spread the wealth around," but now we know he was blowing smoke, because a few days ago he got the extension of the Bush tax giveaways for billionaires he was planning all along.

He was under very strict orders to deliver those cuts on schedule.

He's no different than those "reluctant Republicans" I've heard people talk about, crying crocodile tears about TARP and pretending to be opposed to it before they gave up their pretend indignation, ham acted for the benefit of a gullible public, and did what they were told to do.

After all the theatrics and hand wringing for the benefit of the teabaggers was over, most Republicans -- a majority -- lined up behind TARP and followed orders.

Their routine was similar to the song and dance Obama recently acted out for us, making a big show of being opposed to the tax cut extension before HE followed orders and executed the plan.

But why does anybody believe them any more, considering what they keep doing to us? It's worth repeating: by their fruits you will know them. We ask for bread and our government hands us a dog turd. How many times does this have to happen before we wise up?

The police have a game they play with suspects that's literally older than history.

The first cop comes in and threatens you. He's very mean, and might even get violent with you.

Then he leaves and another cop comes in. He's sympathetic to your plight, and very understanding. "Look, I'm on YOUR side," he tells you. He's actually the more dangerous of the two.

In Lewis Carroll's The Walrus and the Carpenter, the walrus sympathizes with the oysters. "I feel your pain," he said as they both were devouring every last one of them.

Obama is the con cop. He's a walrus, working closely with his partner, the mean cop/carpenter to do the job they were ordered to do. On us.

`It seems a shame,' the Walrus said,
`To play them such a trick,
After we've brought them out so far,
And made them trot so quick!'
The Carpenter said nothing but
`The butter's spread too thick!'

`I weep for you,' the Walrus said:
`I deeply sympathize.'
With sobs and tears he sorted out
Those of the largest size,
Holding his pocket-handkerchief
Before his streaming eyes.

Illustration by Mervyn Peake, English author and artist, 1911-1968.

Friday, December 17, 2010

glox news

I'm always grouching about how bad TV is, but even I have to admit that even though almost all of it is bad, some TV is worse than other TV.

A University of Maryland study has found that regular Fox News viewers are significantly more misinformed than other TV news watchers. By "misinformed," they mean that Fox News viewers do not know or refuse to recognize provable facts.

By provable facts I mean things that are so well documented and recorded that there can be no doubt by anyone who isn't delusional or habitually lied to, such as, the San Francisco Giants won the most recent World Series.

Fox watchers more often than not believe that the opposite of the provable facts is true. For example, regular Fox News viewers tend to believe that:

1. The Obama stimulus package caused job losses and did not include any tax cuts;

2. Most economists estimate the health care law will make the deficit worse;

3. Most scientists doubt that climate change is occurring;

4. That their own income taxes have gone up (I love that one!);

5. The bailout of the auto industry ONLY occurred under Obama;

6. That when TARP was voted on in Congress, most Republicans opposed it;

7. That Obama was not born in the U.S.

I don't know if the U. of Maryland researchers quizzed respondents on whether they believe Joan of Arc was Noah's wife. Probably not, but the results are bad enough without that.

Considering the number of people who watch Fox News regularly and how big a segment of the total population they are, these findings make an extremely sad presentation of the fitness of the U.S. voting public to participate in a Democracy. Millions upon millions of people believe things only idiots or lunatics could believe, or, if not that, people getting most of their information from tainted and dishonest sources. "Disinformation," that's called, and those who swallow it are so misinformed that many of them believe with an almost religious intensity the outrageous lies of a media source which insults and demeans them at the same time it lies to them by telling them that unlike other citizens of the John Q. Public, they're in the know.

Illustration: "Glox News" is the satirical presentation of a news channel from a parallel universe where the new anchors and commentators are gastropod-like space aliens. It appears occasionally and irregularly as the weekly cartoon in Tom Tomorrow's "This Modern World."

Thursday, December 16, 2010

tsa goes crotchal

I heard last evening on NPR that some TSA personnel are now using the term "crotchal area," apparently to designate the nether boundary of places they allow their hands to roam into when performing pat-downs of air travelers. The newscaster remarked that he thought "crotchal" should be recognized as "word of the year" along with "refudiate," the nonsense syllables sent out to her eager public via Twitter by former half-term Alaska governor Sarah Palin.

I agree with the sentiment, but must point out that "crotchal" and "refudiate" are not words, and thus should be designated "non-words of the year," which goes along well with the TSA's practice of diligently invading travelers' most intimate personal space searching for dangerous objects and substances they don't have, and heroically countering non-existent threats.

And if they have to inspect someone's crotchal area, they don't go there themselves, but send a canine instead. You have to sound official when you say these things.

I haven't flown since the advent of this latest outrage against the autonomy and dignity of a passive and obedient populace, but a friend of mine who flew from the west coast to New York State recently described it this way:

"Oh my gosh - the TSA's! They became so invasive that I feel they are the new terrorists. With all the travels I do, I am beginning to feel that I need to change my ways of getting around to avoid those TSA's. In addition to taking off my shoes, coat, jacket and scarf, I had to take off all metal stuff including my jewelry, and after a full body screen they patted me down, especially around my breasts. Maybe they felt I had two bombs. Then they moistened my hands with some liquids to check for residues of explosives. At that point I was ready to explode. Not only do I feel that they are invasive, I also feel that they are another burden on taxpayers along with FBI, NSA and the many other agencies created to protect us."

And that begs the question, who's going to protect us from them?

I urge anybody who's reading this to boycott commercial airline travel for the time being. Do you really have to get anywhere that fast? We can always take a day or two extra and drive, which actually wastes fewer resources over long distances and provides the best way to avoid the insults, groping, and nonsensical diction of the semi-trained and apparently semi-articulate agents working the "security" detail for the gangster empire.

TSA Checkpoint sign by Oleg Volk, 2008.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

gangster empire II

Bradley Manning is being tortured by the U.S. government. From Glenn Greenwald's Salon column this morning:

Bradley Manning, the 22-year-old U.S. Army Private accused of leaking classified documents to WikiLeaks, has never been convicted of that crime, nor of any other crime. Despite that, he has been detained at the U.S. Marine brig in Quantico, Virginia for five months -- and for two months before that in a military jail in Kuwait -- under conditions that constitute cruel and inhumane treatment and, by the standards of many nations, even torture. Interviews with several people directly familiar with the conditions of Manning's detention, ultimately including a Quantico brig official (Lt. Brian Villiard) who confirmed much of what they conveyed, establishes that the accused leaker is subjected to detention conditions likely to create long-term psychological injuries.

Since his arrest in May, Manning has been a model detainee, without any episodes of violence or disciplinary problems. He nonetheless was declared from the start to be a "Maximum Custody Detainee," the highest and most repressive level of military detention, which then became the basis for the series of inhumane measures imposed on him.

From the beginning of his detention, Manning has been held in intensive solitary confinement. For 23 out of 24 hours every day -- for seven straight months and counting -- he sits completely alone in his cell. Even inside his cell, his activities are heavily restricted; he's barred even from exercising and is under constant surveillance to enforce those restrictions. For reasons that appear completely punitive, he's being denied many of the most basic attributes of civilized imprisonment, including even a pillow or sheets for his bed (he is not and never has been on suicide watch). For the one hour per day when he is freed from this isolation, he is barred from accessing any news or current events programs.

It's worth noting the pertinent section of the U.S. Constitution, to remind us of the specific laws our government is violating by abusing this young man before he's been convicted of anything. Even though Manning is a member of the armed forces in time of (perpetual) war, he's still a citizen, therefore the Sixth Amendment guarantees that he be tried and convicted before punishment is administered.

The U.S. government is torturing Bradley Manning. It's obvious, plain, and simple.

Keeping people in solitary confinement for long periods causes them to go insane.

Torture is illegal.

Any government that flouts is own laws is not a government, but a criminal enterprise, and doesn't deserve to live.

Monday, December 13, 2010


I understand perfectly that when musical combos such as, for example, gangster rappers use lyrics that are vulgar, profane, obscene, or otherwise offensive. that some broadcasters choose to ban them from their airwaves. But Fred Waring and his Pennsylvanians?

If you want an indication of how much our lives have changed in less than a century, consider that the Pennsylvanians' recording of Cole Porter's now-classic "Love for Sale" was banned from radio play in 1931. The song scandalized theatre-goers when it was first performed as part of the Broadway musical "The New Yorkers," based on a story by the New Yorker magazine's star cartoonist Peter Arno and E. Ray Goetz, and starring Jimmy Durante, who also wrote half a dozen of the show's songs. Porter wrote the rest of the music including the song that caused all the trouble, sung by Kathryn Crawford with back-up singers, Waring's Three Girl Friends, in front of a set depicting Reuben's, a popular New York eatery.

Love for sale,
Appetising young love for sale.
Love that's fresh and still unspoiled,
Love that's only slightly soiled,
Love for sale.

Who will buy?
Who would like to sample my supply?
Who's prepared to pay the price,
For a trip to paradise?
Love for sale.

Let the poets pipe of love
in their childish way,
I know every type of love
Better far than they.
If you want the thrill of love,
I've been through the mill of love;
Old love, new love
Every love but true love
Love for sale.

One type of criticism the song unleashed, as indicative of the differences between American culture then and now as the radio ban, was partially placated when the producers pulled the young, attractive, and caucasian Crawford and Waring Girls from the performance and gave the part of the prostitute to the Afrcan-American singer and actress Elisabeth Welch, accompanied by suitably black back-up singers and performing in front of a set of Harlem's Cotton Club. For most white Americans in 1930, an attractive white girl playing a hooker onstage was emotionally unacceptable, and if they were not thrilled with a black woman playing the same part, they were more likely to tolerate it.

"The New Yorkers" closed in May of '31 after a relatively short run of 168 performances, but "Love for Sale" turned into one of the biggest hits of the year in spite of the radio ban, or perhaps because of it. Waring's version went to number 14 on the pop music charts, and a version sung by Libby Holman topped out at number five.

To hear a rendition by the Three Waring Girlfriends (without Kathryn Crawford), go here.

Pictured at top: Fred Waring (center) and his Pennsylvanians with their letter sweaters, 1927. Poster designed and illustrated by Peter Arno, who also collaborated in creating the story that would eventually give birth to "The New Yorkers." At left, the three Waring Girl Friends as they appeared in the show. I have been unable to discover their names.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

weapons of mass integrity

Corporate giants who consider themselves important players in the Gangster Empire (such as PayPal, Amazon, VISA, and Mastercard) may have been intimidated by Joe Lieberman's fascist bully-boy tactics, but there are some companies who aren't afraid of such low-life threats. A couple of these are surprising.

1. Xipwire is a Philadelphia-based online payment company still welcoming and facilitating donations to Wikileaks.

2. Flattr is not a straight-ahead online payment company, but it is set up to help people contribute to any web site they like including Wikileaks.

3. Datacell, an Icelandic company which processes debit and credit card payments. They're pissed at VISA and Mastercard for screwing up their business.

4. OVH, the French data server Wikileaks moved to after getting kicked off Amazon.

5. Twitter, which Wikileaks relies on, appears safe for the site. They've been accused of blocking Wikileaks, but they deny it.

6. Facebook recently released a statement saying they have no intention of blocking the Wikileaks account, which has nearly 2 million fans. Kid Zuckerberg just scored some points with me!

Got this info from Alternet.

Pictured: a hand-woven Afghan war rug, decorated with depictions of Kalashnikov rifles, grenades, bullets, and a rocket-propelled grenade launcher (RPG).

Friday, December 10, 2010

gangster empire

Guest Post by Drawout

Lets face it folks, the US has nothing to back the dollars we owe the Saudis.

We have been providing them military protection in exchange for them making the dollar the only way to buy oil for a long time now. In other words we're like gangsters running protection rackets, so doing a hit on Iran would just be business.

I believe Saddam threatened to accept currency other than dollars for oil and it had something to do with why we went there too.

If we are going to have the largest military in the world and not produce anything we will have to resort to a life of crime collectively for survival's sake. We are already the biggest seller of guns and drugs in the world and get violent when other drugs come into our country.

Maybe we should think of ourselves as a gang.

Illustration: portrait bust of Emperor Probus on a Roman coin, 3rd century C.E.

Thursday, December 09, 2010

why wikileaks?

The reason it's illegal to disseminate information the people need to know in order to make informed decisions is because it's in the interests of those who rule -- the banks and military/industrial complex -- to keep such information secret.

So of course it's illegal. Those who rule make the laws, so the laws naturally protect their interests.

For example, the reason this country entered World War I on the side of the Entente (England and France) is because the Wall Street banks had lent money to both sides, but much more of it went to France and England than to Germany. When it looked like England and France might lose the war, we jumped in on their side. We had a financial interest in helping them secure victory.


This was not known outside government and Wall Street at the time. Of course, the government spearheaded an anti-German propaganda campaign which the public swallowed, and patriotic young men lined up to volunteer for combat in the trenches. The truth only came out when the pertinent government documents were unsealed years later.

But in a democracy the people decide. They can only do so if they have truthful and real information. That's why this Wikileaks controversy is so very important.

New York Times photo: Charlie Chaplin presides over a war rally on Wall Street, 1918. Click on the image for a full-size version.

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

sad santa

The Holiday time has always stirred up melancholic feelings in my old doomer pain-in-the-ass heart, but never more so than now. There's a stubborn desperation in the denial of impending disaster this year which permeates the weary discharge of obligatory customs and traditions, and causes the Christmas music piped over the speakers at Starbuck's to sound very sad indeed.

It seems that nearly everyone except the usual malcontents like myself, from retailers who are barely hanging on to suburban homeowners doing the same, is furiously hoping and praying to get through one more New Year without experiencing some sort of collapse -- bankruptcy, or foreclosure, or losing the job, or the ultimate and inevitable disaster, the U.S. dollar losing its status as the universally recognized standard global currency, which would knock what's left of our money and our economy into a cocked hat.

I would encourage everybody during this anxious and uncertain season to forego the exhausted and moribund seasonal ceremonies except for the family gathering, and to begin to consider ways of living as if the worst disasters had already happened, so as to learn how to deal with less prosperous circumstances as easily and gracefully as possible.

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

a simple manifesto

The value of the Wikileaks dumps is that they provide incontrovertible proof of what we already knew, and that proof comes right from the very laptops of the perps themselves.

Knowing something is one thing; being able to prove it is something else again.

Against the government's claim that it has a right to keep such information secret, the revolutionary counters, "No, you don't." As such, the Wikileaks releases are revolutionary acts, and their purpose is to undermine the ruling authority, with the ultimate objective of helping to overturn it.

I support these aims, since I also know (and can prove) that the ruling authority in the United States ultimately resides with institutions and individuals such as banks, insurance companies, weapons contractors, and war profiteers.

Note to Big Brother: WE are watching YOU, Slick!

UPDATE: Read Julian Assange's response to his critics dated today, "The Truth Will Always Win."

Monday, December 06, 2010

sardine balloon

The revolution is over, and the politicians missed it. They were occupied, gazing at a sardine balloon.

A sardine balloon is an encoded term (encoded by my daughter and me) meaning "a hallucination."

And now I'm a recovering Democrat, a revolutionary who believes the revolution has already happened. We and our politicians need to run to catch up with it. The two major parties are not addressing the country's real problems because they're acutely nearsighted and sidelined by their inability to cope with reality.

Democrats are stuck in the 20th century, back there with "The Way We Were." The Republicans are -- I'm not sure -- stuck somewhere between the outer reaches of the Milky Way Galaxy and the early 19th century with John C. Calhoun, living in the good old days that never existed -- the way we weren't.

Either way, you miss the boat. And where is that boat? One of the few people (but the numbers are rapidly growing) who knows what's happening and how to describe it, James Howard Kunstler, wrote a piece this morning everybody who cares about this stuff ought to read. Just go to Kunstler dot com and click on the "Jobs" essay's title. The money paragraph from that essay is:

Among the surprises I've suggested over the years is the idea that people used to spending long hours in cubicles staring at video screens may, at some point ahead, begin to spend their days in the fresh air, cultivating food crops. I'm sure this sounds outlandish. But we begin to see the new dynamic of this world resolving in the nexus between a crisis of capital, climate change, and peak oil.

It's a new world, with lots fewer jobs and cars, and lots more home-grown vegetables, bikes, and buses. Our leaders may not be able to see it, but like the rest of us they have to live in it.

Sunday, December 05, 2010

local treasure

Ken Wiley's "The Art of Jazz" radio broadcast comes on every Sunday afternoon on the local NPR station, KPLU, between three and six. Since I moved here I've never missed it, and in the 28 years he's been doing the show, neither has Ken. Today his playlist will be heavily into Dave Brubeck who turns 90 tomorrow, and in fact Wiley's second Brubeck "side" is spinning right now.

The fact is, Wiley is heavily into anybody who ever played jazz music in any and all its incarnations, and with one of the world's largest collections of 78 and 33 rpm records, each thoroughly scrutinized, catalogued, and cross-referenced, he is able to illuminate everything he plays in fascinating detail. Listening to Wiley week after week enables a listener to feel as if he is getting a bird's-eye, panoramic view of American musical history, with our social history as a subtext to the music.

"The Art of Jazz" provides Seattleites with an unparalleled opportunity to learn directly from one of the world's premier scholars in his field, and at no charge excepting our donations to our local NPR station, of course. I thought I knew pretty much everything about early jazz and blues, but every week Wiley introduces me to musicians, songs, and occurrences in jazz history I didn't know. And his knowledge of the moderns is just as strong as his mastery of the early history, because he truly loves it all.

The Time Magazine cover portrait of Dave Brubeck is by the Russian-born Boris Artzybasheff and appeared on November 8, 1954. As a sign of our disjointed times, Brubeck's penetrating gaze and cerebral-looking, high-rise forehead appeared sandwiched between weeks which saw the CEO of General Motors (whose name was W.R. "Bill" Blop or something like that), who made the cover on November first, and a bland hack who'd just been elected Governor of Pennsylvania, George A. Leader, who appeared the week after. Of the artist, the businessman, and the politician, the artist is the only one of the three still widely known today (although the unmemorable Leader is still alive). That says something about whose contribution to society is most valuable in this degraded time we live in.

Friday, December 03, 2010

smells like a garbage can

When you add it all up, there was really nothing earth-shattering in the latest Wikileaks batch. It's all stuff anybody who's got eyes pretty much knew or easily could have figured out.

What's cool about it is that the slick, media-created outer wrapping of the empire gets ripped away, and we see the sleazy operators and our often equally sleazy allies operating sleazily. It's like the scene in "Wizard of Oz" where the dog knocks the screen over and we see the little guy working the levers of the b.s. machine.

Understandably, there are some dorks people who get very upset when somebody like Julian Assange or Daniel Ellsberg comes along and pulls the empire's covers. On CNN I hear they're so upset they never talk about what's in the leaked documents, but only about catching Assange and stuff related to that. They're apoplectic over the audacity of someone so rude as to pull the lid off the garbage can, forcing all of us to see and smell what's inside.

They're really, really, really scared of Assange, and desperate to shut him up. This is the first time in a long time I've seen the guardians of empire and their apologists showing real fear, rather than the fake kind that informs all their blather about terrorism. For that reason, Julian Assange is a hero to me.

Thursday, December 02, 2010

fool and magician

We don't know much about the origins of the mysterious oracle and playing card deck known today as the Tarot, only that the cards originated some time in 15th-century Italy, pretty much in the same form as we know them today.

We don't even know whether they originated among the aristocratic rulers of society, thence filtering down to the masses, or whether they were birthed by the commons and worked their way up the pecking order. But we can be certain that whoever invented these strange and wonderful symbols -- for symbols the trump cards at least certainly are -- that they did not intend to imbue them with occult meanings and "the secrets of the universe, knowable only by a few initiates."

The originators of the tarot were gamers, not occultists. If the trump pictures stand for something, and they certainly do, it's because they're the product of an endlessly creative, fertile, and playful culture.

For example, the sixth trump, which we call "The Lovers" but was originally designated simply as "Love," and number seven, "The Chariot," called "Victory" in some of the earliest decks, are simple and straightforward emblems of love and war, and their adjacent placement in the sequence reflect the key social roles of these eternal cardinal elements of the human condition.

Others, such as the Tower and number 12 which shows a man hanging upside-down by one leg remain cryptic and their meanings the topics of intense speculation, but we can be sure those who created them had something in mind.

In addition, contemplating these pictures over a period of years leads one to personal and unique interpretations of some of them as the icons combine with the viewer's personality characteristics.

The Fool is the most interesting card, as he has no place in the sequence. He originally had no number, not even the zero we assign to him today, since the earliest cards, if numbered, took Roman numerals, and there was no zero in ancient Roman arithmetic. The homeless and possibly mentally ill vagrant and drifter symbolized by this picture likewise has no place in society, and is shunted by those with places to the very margins. You see these people in city parks, pushing shopping carts and smoking hand-rolled Top Tobacco cigarettes -- people with no place.

The Magician or conjurer, on the other hand, has with effort secured a place at the very bottom of the social totem pole, but it is at least a place. He lives a hand-to-mouth existence by virtue of his wits and through the skill or strength of his hands, and for his work he is rewarded with a number -- one -- and a spot in the sequence. The magician is most of us -- most of society in any age, and the Magician is everyone who works for a living -- all "peasants and workers" as the Russian revolutionaries styled us. And in a sense, all working people really are magicians; they come into the world with nothing, and only over time acquire the "moxie" it takes to make a living out of nothing.

The ruling orders of society lay claim to much more of the deck's territory than the 90 percent or so of us below them, whose symbolic representation is limited to the first trump and the deck's outcaste. The Female Pope (one of the strangest and most inscrutable cards), The Empress, The Emperor, and The Pope represent the first and second estates of the societies that immediately preceded our own, aristocrats and clergy, the secular and spiritual authorities, and occupy trump places two through five.

I've drawn The Fool in my last two monthly short (three- or four-card) spreads. This tells me I have no home at the moment and I'm wandering, spiritually as well as in the everyday sense. This has been true for a number of years, but now I'm going somewhere and the subordinate signs around the symbol of the homeless wanderer bode very well.

The Bell-Decae Wizard Board was designed by Harlequinn Bell. Click on the image for a bigger picture.

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

haters of democracy

Amy Goodman interviewed Noam Chomsky today, and among other things they talked about the similarities and differences between the newly-published Wikileaks cache of documents and the Pentagon Papers, which Chomsky had a hand in publishing 40 years ago.

What they both reveal, according to Chomsky, is the internal workings of governments -- and not just our own -- motivated by a profound fear and hatred of democracy.

"The Brookings Institute just a few months ago released extensive polls of what Arabs think about Iran," Chomsky said, citing concrete documentary evidence to back up his claims rather than just using the rhetorical talking points of a propagandist. "The results are rather striking. They show the Arab opinion holds that the major threat in the region is Israel -- that’s 80. The second major threat is the United States -- that’s 77. Iran is listed as a threat by 10%."

So why is it, then, that when our government tells us "The Arabs think this," or even when they try to cover up that a certain royal family wants us to bomb the Iranians, the picture is so radically different from the one painted by the Brookings poll? Chomsky says it's because we're only told what Arab dictators are saying and thinking, not the Arab people.

In attempting to conceal their own violent tendencies, dictatorships all over the world reveal their true estimation of who really matters and their profound contempt for the governing capacities of ordinary people.

"With regard to nuclear weapons," Chomsky continues, "rather remarkably, a majority -- in fact, 57 (percent of Arabs) – say that the region (it) would have a positive effect in the region if Iran had nuclear weapons. (My edits.) Now, these are not small numbers. 80, 77, say the U.S. and Israel are the major threat. 10 say Iran is the major threat. This may not be reported in the newspapers here -- it is in England -- but it’s certainly familiar to the Israeli and U.S. governments, and to the ambassadors. But there is not a word about it anywhere. What that reveals is the profound hatred for democracy on the part of our political leadership and the Israeli political leadership. These things aren’t even to be mentioned. This seeps its way all through the diplomatic service."

The entire interview is at Alternet, and I found it via Susie Madrak.

Julian Assange will not be free to advocate for democracy much longer. He's got the dictators of the earth aroused, and will soon be either assassinated or nabbed on some trumped-up charge and shunted off to some obscure and secret corner of the American gulag. What I find puzzling is that this will be cheered not just by the American government but by a significant number of its citizens subjects, who exhibit the same fear and disgust for democracy as their dictatorial rulers. These are people who have swallowed so much bullshit emanating from the boob tube that they've forgotten what real democracy tastes like.

Welcome to the Soviet Union of America, comrades! The good news is it won't be around that long. We just have a few items of business we have to take care of in Afghanistan, and then...