The PBS show NOW had an informative 19 minute documentary on Ron Paul last evening. It can be viewed here.
The timing is interesting because Dec. 16 is the next big money bomb day for the Paul campaign. If Dr. Paul is able to raise millions more tomorrow his issues will be forced into the mainstream media requiring that substantive discussion take place. Even if one doesn't espouse libertarian ideas or Austrian economic principles it's worth and investment in the Ron Paul Revolution to get important issues under discussion: ending the war, not interferring in the affairs of others, getting the central bank under control, shrinking the bureaucracy, etc. etc.
A lady in her eighties, a retired English professor, writes a memoir of her depression childhood on an Iowa farm and reminds us how much our world has changed. Only a couple generations ago almost everyone grew up on family farms where large extended families worked together raising animals and food. Those my age, a generation younger than author Mildred Armstrong Kalish, were exposed to farm life because pockets of the milieu described in Little Heathens survived into the fifties. Likewise, the psychological overlay lasted as well. Consider this: “One thing we children all understood: The adults were the ones who made the decisions and the generation gap was not to be breached. Childhood and early adolescence were looked on as a kind of unmentionable affliction, somewhat like the huge goiter that tilted Great-aunt Maggie’s chin way up in the air; it was there for all to see, but no one ever commented on it. The desired condition was to be any adult. We also understood that we couldn’t do or have anything that cost money. Nor could we ever suggest to the old folks that we were bored or didn’t have anything to occupy ourselves, for in no time they would have had restacking the woodpile, scrubbing the porches, or picking up fallen apples...” One of the most frequently heard sayings of my youth was “Children should be seen but not heard.” My dad was raised on a depression era farm in Virginia, my mom in a log cabin in Montana. Continuous work was their way of life. Milking, planting, harvesting, hauling wood, pumping water and do it all over again. Mildred Kalish relishes her memories, which are quite detailed, and writes a page turner of a book, with little gems in nearly every paragraph. One wonders if the time will come soon when we will all have to regain the skills and knowledge that were once second nature to all rural Americans: using a spider web to dress a wound, ear wax to stem a bee sting, gleaning wild food, milking a cow, capturing a bee swarm or stealing its honey, plucking a chicken, saving tomato seeds, and on and on. In the thirties, folks didn’t routinely go to doctors. There were home remedies that worked. There were no supermarkets. Everyone had a large garden. Entertainment was found with people and social events, with pets, in the fields and woods. Schools were very local. The world was a smaller place when you couldn’t jump on a jet for Mexico or decide to drive a thousand miles on a whim. We might find it getting smaller once again. Reading Little Heathens might help you get ready for what could come, remind you of what the world was once like or make you feel regret for what we’ve lost.
You can read the first chapter on Ms Kalish’s website here.
I’ve been following the Ron Paul Revolution closely as it’s the only campaign this political season that is the least bit interesting. (Guiliani seems to be a gangster. Romney is a phony. McCain is lost. Huckabee’s campaign manager is Jesus. Clinton we know too well. Obama (wouldn’t it be cool to have a black guy as President?) might not be as good a candidate as his wife. Edwards (I live in one of the two Americas; guess which one). None of them turn me on. They are all boring and really only seem to believe in getting elected.
So, it’s not surprising to me that someone who seems to have real principles is gaining traction.
To follow the campaign of Dr. Paul is to be drawn into the world of Libertarianism which seems to range from the Ron Paul model (calm and reasoned) to the survivalist model (The survivalists suggest finding a “retreat” in N. Idaho or W. Montana with clear fields of fire, a natural spring or good well, stationing weapons, food, generators and other gear, planning a getaway to the retreat, etc. This guy explains why Western Washington, for example, sucks as a potential retreat).
With small towns in Norway being flattened by our criminal sub-prime mortgage scandal and formerly respected institutions like Washington Mutual
being implicated as complicit in the crime it’s seems time to have a detailed discussion of monetary policy. I would like to ask Congressman Paul how the free market would have prevented the mortgage mess, or as the blogs call it—”the big shit pile.”
Libertarians and Dr. Paul believe that the free market will solve and is the answer to every problem. This discussion gets a bit too esoteric for me. Libertarians are also supposed to hate government as a matter of course. I find it easy to dislike government but it takes a bit too much energy to hate it.
On the other hand these ideas of Dr. Paul are interesting and intriguing: bring the troops home, quit interfering militarily in other people’s affairs, quit printing money when you need it, try and get government out of everyone’s hair, let state’s decide more, stop the war on drugs, dump the IRS etc. etc. If you are interested you can read them on his web site. If you want to follow a sane discussion of the campaign and libertarian views you can check in on http://www.lewrockwell.com/blog/.
Ron Paul got lots of attention from independently organized money bomb last month. They are going to do another one on Dec. 16. More millions raised will at least get some of Paul’s ideas entered into the debate. Another independent group is trying to raise money for a Ron Paul blimp. Progressive and right wing blogs are both aghast at the interest and attention Dr. Paul is receiving and are pushing back hard. It’s all very entertaining.
Lots of people like to brag they don’t watch TV. We have joined that group. We no longer watch a TV either. Ha. We now watch shows on the internet on our gleaming 24” iMac. So, we can now make the smug claim that we own no TV and still watch Dancing With the Stars, Beauty and the Geek, America’s Next Top Model, The Bachelor, 30 Rock and The Office. For those who don’t watch TV I will bring you up to date. On Dancing, Mel B (Scary Spice of the Spice Girls, the one who is engaged in a child support battle with Eddie Murphy) revolutionized the Viennese Waltz by doing a series of four consecutive splits, a fantastical scissoring like move aided by her partner Max. You have to see it to believe it. Can’t really even explain it to those who don’t watch TV. Try and find it on YouTube someday. On America’s Next Top Model, Heather (the one who is supposed to have Asberger’s syndrome that is—high functioning autism) is functioning like a sure winner. Heather is geeky enough to be on our other show but when they put a camera in her face she metamorphoses and proves once and for all that the camera loves some more than others and that maybe there is something to this modeling thing. (The bad thing about Top Model is that Tyra Banks is on it too). We were disappointed on Beauty and Geek when our favorite couple Shay and Joshua got the boot. Shay was a sassy, bossy, compassionate black beauty queen who was saddled with one of the homeliest little white fellows one could hope never to see. She liked him and improved him and benefited as a result. They should have won. The producers ruined the show this year by introducing two ringers, a guy beauty named Sam and a geeky girl partner. Sam wins all the challenges because, unlike most of the other beauties he knows stuff. The Bachelor ended with a stranger whimpering sound as too-good-to-be-true Brad Womack failed to offer the last rose to either of the two finalists, Jennie or DeAnna. It was as if Brad got tired of playing the TV game and said, “Screw it.” It was a stupid ending to a stupid show but one which always fascinates in a guy’s eagerness to love more than one woman at one time and with the willingness that the women go along with it. I could go on about 30 Rock and The Office, but you probably watch those already.
Once upon a time I went to Officer Training School:
"It took me awhile to get the hang of OTS (officer training school). At first I was too stressed out about it. Physically prepared. That wasn’t the problem. I’d run all summer getting ready and in the preceding year, my senior year of college, had worked my way up to three hundred pushups and as many situps a day. But I wasn’t ready for the head games that Captain Kafer sprung on us. He was the FTO (flight training officer), a regular Air Force captain (as opposed to a reserve officer). This was his permanent assignment, herding twelve OT’s (officer trainees) at a time through the ninety-day-wonder commissioning program that had been around since WWII.
Kafer was about five feet five and had the classic little guy complex. In fact, he looked a bit like Napoleon B. himself. Dark hair with a bit of wave, wide nose and thick lips. A bit heavy around the middle, he didn’t look like he could do half the stuff he made us do. But he ground on our flight with an amused smirk on his face, giving us the impression that none of us would ever make it. And, it’s funny how when they work you hard, throw lots of strange stuff at you, and sleep deprive you, you could start to believe that this Mickey Mouse little program was something akin to airborne training. Not even close. It was serious, though, in that it temporarily screwed up the lives of those who washed out. You had to be a college graduate to get there, but if you failed the program you were looking at four years as an EM (enlisted man), a big ego buster though not the end of the world.
Kafer enjoyed making us miserable and his favorite form of misery was the room inspection. He’d show up early in the morning wearing white gloves and run his finger across the window sill or the floor. I’d be up way before reveille to clean the linoleum with my bare hands. This saved having to hide a dirty rag. Then he’d poke in the closet to see if uniforms were hung properly and according to the drill. We had one drawer that we could actually use to keep stuff in. Everything else was a display and not useful. Kafer’s favorite part of OTS was writing up “gig slips”—AF Form_____ with comments like: “Woolies in corner.”
I didn’t even sleep under my sheets. Once I got the sheet tightened down with a Rube Goldberg arrangement of paper clips and rubber bands and my blanket snugged in, I slept on top of it. It was warm in San Antonio from August to November. Hot when we got there; cooling off when we graduated.
We had arrived in San Antonio at dawn after a red eye flight from Seattle on a commercial airliner. The sun was coming up, back lighting some puffy, blackish clouds and the air was thick and warm at five a.m.. Five or six of us had taken the oath together at a recruiting office down by the Navy Pier, said goodbye to our folks and been loaded onto a military bus and run down to Sea-Tac where we had tickets on a Continental flight that had mechanical problems and sat at the gate for several hours before takeoff. They wouldn’t serve us a drink as we were recruits...
The whole thing here
We didn’t see Sicko in the theater but finally caught it on DVD which might be better because of the excellent “special features.” It’s clear why opponents hate Michael Moore. The guy is a beauty and a master at inserting the needle at the most vulnerable point. Having worked in the insurance industry nearly thirty years I wouldn’t trust them as far as I could throw them. This wasn’t always the case. The insurance industry, before the eighties, had some integrity. I have to agree with Moore. They no longer belong in the health care business. The most chilling scene for me was Nixon and Erlichman discussing Nixon’s deal with Edgar Kaiser to begin the HMO concept. Most moving was in the “special features” where Moore arranged to have a street in LA’s skid row sealed off. He set up a large screen and had a premier of Sicko for the street people who sat outside in folding chairs and ate popcorn as they watched with rapt attention. Most effective was the Cuban interlude, where the Cubans gleefully cooperated with Michael to treat 911 heroes as well as the evildoers were being care for at Guantanamo. Moore makes the case strongly that we are victims of our own media propaganda machine and really don’t understand what’s going on in other countries. He spent a lot of time in France. Fox news and others pushed back hard against Michael Moore’s contention that the Canadian, British and French systems (and Norwegian in the special features) were superior to the US system. There was a segment in the film on SOS Medecin, the 24/7 house call service available in France. We actually used SOS Medecin on a trip to Paris in 1987. Twice. Both times doctors appeared in hotel room within an hour and charged a reasonable fee. Our health care system is a mess. It’s driven by greed and profit motive. Former Labour MP Tony Benn featured in the film and at length on the DVD special features had an excellent explanation about how government, not responsive to peoples needs and wants, is able to maintain control by managing the attitudes of the population. Sicko is a great documentary. It points out the moral bankruptcy of our system and presents a case study as to why the free market isn’t free and probably wouldn’t solve all our probems if it were.
If you haven't watched the news this week you might not know that Republican/Libertarian congressman and medical doctor, Ron Paul of Texas, raised $4.2 millions in one twenty four hour period. Actually, he didn't raise the money. The money was raised for him by a website not directly associated with his campaign. As a result, Dr. Paul made all the news shows this week. It's been fun to watch. And, if you missed it you can catch up on this web site, an always interesting libertarian site and big Paul booster. It's fun to see someone shake things up and Ron Paul is an attractive candidate for he seems like the last honest man, someone who has never taken a congressional junket, who won't participate in the congressional pension plan, who returns part of his office budget to the treasury, who voted no on the Patriot Act, the war, any tax increases, etc. Liberal blogger Kevin Drum writes him off telling his followers to "grow up." His blog on Paul resulted in more emails from Paul supporters than he'd received before. Paul isn't a completely pure libertarian. His views on abortion, for example, fall out of the libertarian mold. But he seems pretty close to pure. And it's the purity of his views combined with the practicality gained through twenty years in the US Congress that makes one want to listen. I personally don't have the faith in the free market that Dr. Paul has. Libertarian ideas of government often seem a bit like science fiction and one wonders how they could ever be brought into the mainstream with so many of us on the dole and loving it. But the man with two first names is certainly a refreshing alternative to the posers running for the Republican nomination. I hope Ron Paul can keep raising money and does well in the early primaries so that his views, particularly his anti-war and personal liberty views get a fair hearing and become part of the Republican debate.
I've been fascinated with this short video ever since my friend Dave sent it along. Dave and I have been sharing bits and pieces since the eighth grade. That's more than fifty years! If life's arc boils down to age then we've been on the same graph line for a long time. In the early days we would hold conference on sex and girl friends and whether or not to skip school. In the last few years we've conferred on things like when to start Social Security and where the best place to live out those last years might be. I laughed like hell when I first watched this clip. Actually, I still laugh each time I view it. But now I'm wondering if Dave isn't sending me a subliminal message and that message is—don't lose speed. One thing you notice as you get older is that you begin to lose your quickness, your ability to react. I think back to those days when I had two good knees and could juke and dodge, or spin out of control and get my feet back under me again. Then I think about a few years ago losing my nerve on a single track, going too slow and, as a result, flying over the handle bars of my mountain bike. The fact is that you need some speed in this life. Speed will carry you over some ruts and some bumps. You have to keep your speed up. You have to keep moving. Watch the video again. This old gent (I'm going to take a guess that he is early seventies) approaches the escalator. Granted, it is somewhat odd that he carries an old style sachel briefcase while wearing shorts and what appear to be running shoes. There is no one else in the security camera for the entire forty second sequence. There's no other human appearing anywhere in the frame. So, I'm going to guess that he's one of the old folks who go to the mall early to walk for exercise. Probably has his jacket and a book in the briefcase. He's probably ridden the escalator a hundred times. Why, then, does he lose speed on this day? Why does he lose his nerve? Why does he just stand there waiting for the escalator to tip him over? Why doesn't he move forward aggressively? Instead, he stands on that first step, letting the machine do the job. He even fails to keep his weight forward and the first step emerging out of the ground spills him onto his back. He does fight back. He isn't completely passive. The knockdown wakes him up. He holds onto the railing, manages a spin move, gets his feeble legs downhill and begins to recover as we lose sight of him. Hopefully, no one was there to witness his humiliation (if you don't count the 5725 people who've watched this on Youtube). I like to imagine that he had regained his composure and a standing position by the time the escalator made it to the next level and that he briskly stepped off the contraption and began to stride quickly around the mall perhaps setting a personal record for most laps walked. Hopefully, it was a reminder to him, as it is to me, and maybe to Dave, and possibly to anyone reading this to keep our speed up as high as we can avoiding the possible ignominy of starring in a widely circulated video. As my Aunt Peggy is fond of saying, "Old age ain't for sissies." As this old guy has taught us, if you can't go fast, at least lean forward.
Juan Cole has a pretty good idea. Cut off funding for the massive US Embassy in Baghdad to put pressure on Bush to pull out of Iraq. State Department personnel, who are not soldiers, are nearly being Shanghai'd to serve in Baghdad. Here's the gist of Cole's argument:
...here is how closing the embassy works for the anti-war movement and for the Democratic Party (and anti-war Republicans). The public just won't mind. If you cut off money to the troops, they will mind. Only a plurality of Americans wants all troops out now, immediately. And if the Dems embargoed the military budget, the hawks would run on the their having sent our boys off to duel "al-Qaeda" with "spitballs" (a la Zell Miller). But the Republican hawks, having spent decades tearing down the State Department, will be helpless before a measure that closes down the US embassy in Baghdad. It is quite delicious.
I am told (repeatedly) that I have bad tone. That is, when I speak, usually when offering constructive criticism or helpful suggestions my tone is unacceptable, or to put it more simply—bad. “I don’t like your tone,” is often the response I get to some off-hand comment. What then ensues is a discussion about my tone rather than a detailed exploration of the issue which I hoped to bring under discussion. One could suggest that the “bad tone gambit” is nothing but a diversion. If this thesis is put forth the critique of my tone escalates. I often suggest that bad tone may be in the ear of hearer (as evil is in the eye of the beholder), that there could be a perception of bad tone where no malevolence is intended. I hold to the theory that unless there is, in fact, evil intent, a scheme to harm, or premeditated cruelty, then one should not be put down for tonal shortcomings. One of my key principles guiding intermarital discourse is that intent should be the hinge pin of any dispute over alleged bad tone. It is simply not fair to play the tone card in every case where there is a simple disputation. I don’t think my tone is that bad and certainly my motivation is mostly altruistic. I wish to help. So, I have decided that I should, for the sake of keeping discussions on point, provide my own adverbial description of my tone so there can be no equivocation. I have been practicing a new speech pattern in which I offer a qualifier to help my listener understand my intent. My theory is that if she were reading my helpful suggestion or, in some cases, my bon mot, tone would not be an issue, for the author (me) would describe how I said a certain thing. Therefore, it is just a case of speaking as if one were writing. Consider the following in italics to have been spoken out loud as written: It seems like if we’re able to keep a bowl full of useless antiques utensils on the counter that I could keep a flashlight, which is actually useful, by the door instead of always having to hunt for it, he said in a burst of loving helpfulness. Clearly, the adverbialness of this minor complaint is clear and unequivocal. There is no bad tone. Only a suggestion that will increase the safety of the household. Another example first without the new technique where bad tone becomes an issue then with my new improved adverbial technique.
“Boy, it’s too bad you don’t have enough space to display all your doodads.”
Response: You say that gleefully. (Discussion of tone follows).
New improved: Boy, it’s too bad you don’t have enough space to display all your doodads, he said with heartfelt sympathy.
I really don’t understand why I didn’t think of this years ago (like forty years ago).
Husbands, boyfriends, significant others, partners, whatever, take control of your tone.
TPM Media's masterful video editor watches the Republican Debate for us and discovers that those presidential candidates have already annointed Hillary Clinton as the Democratic nominee. In fact, they are obsessed with her, can't quit talking about her, for they have discovered that mentioning her name results in a Pavlovian reaction from the base. I particularly enjoyed Mitt Romney's Superman like curl in the early scenes and John McCain's pretty good line about Woodstock which got him a standing "O." Take a guess at the final Hillary Count before you watch.
Gas is $90 a barrel. Chess Grand Master and Russian presidential candidate Gary Kasparov says on Bill Maher's show that Putin has incentive to stir things up in the Middle East to keep oil prices high. High oil prices keep Putin’s repressive regime in power. Oil may be the root of all evil. In the Omnivore's Dilemma, Michael Pollan reports that the average meal travels about 1500 miles to get to the store. The eat local movement points out that eating local uses way less fuel and puts more money in the farmer’s pocket helping to keep them in business and keep a local economy going. So, shopping at Trader Joe’s beautiful new Bellingham store yesterday, I had to ask myself some serious questions. Did I really want rice from Thailand? Did I want green beans from Mexico? Did I want to save money buying food virtually all of which came from somewhere else, usually a far distant somewhere else. Sure, Trader Joe’s has lots of “organic” stuff but, as Michael Pollan and others have pointed out, corporate agriculture has hijacked the organic brand and made it almost meaningless. And what is Trader Joe’s organic commitment? The Bellingham Food Co-op also sells beans from Mexico and packaged food from all over the place and corporate organic stuff but they do have a true commitment to organic and, when they can, provide produce from local farmers. CSA’s (Community Supported Agriculture) offer a direct link from farmer to consumer during the harvest season. We even have an organic farm nearby where you can drop by and pick up produce from the cooler and leave your money in a basket. Just grabbed two bunches of beets and a head of lettuce, as a matter of fact. Ideally, I’d like to grow most of my own food and trade with others for what I can’t grow. This dream is probably several years in the future. But I hope it comes to fruition about the same time that gas shortages put a permanent crimp in Costco’s and Trader Joe’s marketing plan and causes Putin to go under. Costco and Trader Joe have taken full advantage of cheap oil and interstate highways. Kudos. But, I think they will fade away some day in the not so distant future. I don’t want to get too reliant on them. We'll drop by once in awhile and get some stuff, but the majority of the time we’ll shop where we can buy mostly local (and pay a little more) while we work on making a garden of our own productive.
Dancing With the Stars has a new director and he knows what he's doing. Back in July of 1996 I criticized the director of So You Think You Can Dance for his manic cuts and closeups which made it difficult to even watch the show. There are a couple of comments on that post criticizing me, one of which sounds like it was written by the director himself and another by, perhaps, his personal assistant. Anyway, Dancing With the Stars has a new director, a guy named Alex Rudzinki and it's apparent that he goes to rehersals and knows how to film the dance so as not to detract the dancers. Props to Rudzinski. May he keep this job a long time.
If you don’t have time to spend two hours a day reading blogs, clicking through links and searching pertinent info, here are a couple recommendations to keep you on the cutting edge of news and opinion. Now that Times Select is defunct we can read Frank Rich's column again every Sunday morning. He’s always on point (in my opinion). However, Steven Colbert, columnizing in the NY Times today summarizes Rich’s columns thusly: “Bad things are happening in countries you shouldn’t have to think about. It’s all George Bush’s fault, the vice president is Satan, and God is gay. There. Now I’ve written Frank Rich’s column too.” Okay, so Mr. Rich is pretty liberal. But he is a clear thinker and writer. (I’ve liked him since 1987 when he gave our son’s play a good review). Reading Frank Rich will take you five minutes a week. A second recommendation: four days a week, Monday through Thursday, Josh Marshall at Talking Points Memo does a video summary (scroll down and look for TPM TV) of the news, an opinion piece or an interview. These are short and informative. Often Monday’s video will recap the Sunday news shows. If there is a debate, the brilliant Talking Points Memo video editor will clip it for you.These videos are normally about six minutes. So four times six plus five for Rich—in about thirty minutes you can get a good dose of news.
Some of us worry about Peak Oil, but in the southeast of the United States there is a real and immediate concern about water. The city of Atlanta is down to less than a four month supply after the driest period in many, many years. A dry winter is in the forecast. Other southeastern towns are virtually dry and government is scrambling to try and find ways to at least provide drinking water. This article is a good summary. When Georgia Tech isn’t allowed to water their football field you know there is a serious problem in Georgia. We take gasoline and water for granted. Knowledgeable folks thought water problems would come first in a completely different part of the country. It’s a wonder the southwest is still able to fill all those swimming pools and canal decorated desert subdivisions. Some years ago I read a brilliant book called the Cadillac Desert which traced water development in the west. The author, Marc Reisner predicted bad times ahead for Arizona and other states relying on depleted acquifers and the Colorado River. It hasn’t happened there yet. But Reisner’s concerns still make sense to me. Yet who would have thought that Atlanta would have water shortages before Phoenix?
The New York Times broke a story this week that the Gonzales Justice Department had, in 2005, approved a range of techniques (waterboarding, slapping, freezing, etc.) that had previously been deemed as torture. Though the Bush Administration still denies it, it’s evident that the US tortures people. My question is, and I haven’t seen it answered: when did torture start working? Until Mr. Bush and Mr. Cheney and their crew took over the philosophy of the USA was that torture was illegal per international treaties and morally repugnant. But in addition, it was the doctrine of the US military that torture didn’t work. Sometime back in the early seventies I was sent to a two week Interrogation Course at the Army’s Intelligence School at Ft. Holabird, Maryland. It was an interesting class; one of the best military classes I had taken and taught techniques that are useful today. All the techniques were based on skill in dealing with another human being. Establishing rapport was the key. Good questioning skills were crucial. Even techniques like “good cop, bad cop” and “the dossier or we-know-all” were all based on psychology and clear use of language to elicit information. It was drummed into us that torture didn’t work. So, when did we decide that torture did work? Who decided? Why did they decide that it did? Where is the proof? The evidence? If for years US military doctrine, gleaned from the experience of WWII and Korea, declared that torture was not effective to get quality information, what happened to change this doctrine? Torture will elicit a response. Imagine yourself with a compound fracture of the femur. Then imagine someone twisting that leg and asking you a question. (This actually happened to more than one downed US pilot in North Vietnam). You will try to answer the question in a way that will please them and stop the twisting. The desire to torture, it seems to me, comes not from a patriotic motive, but from some inherent meanness of spirit and, taken to extremes, makes the logical transition from cruelty to evil. No one has yet made the case that torture works which leads one to the conclusion that there is a certain type of person or group who just likes to torture other people, who doesn’t want their power inhibited in any way. Many of us would prefer not be included in their company.
We are doing our own version of moveon.org getting ready for the mover to arrive tomorrow to load us up and take us on our next adventure. A quick count leads me to believe we have filled one hundred boxes with treasured momentos and assorted possessions. (This doesn't not count the truck load of stuff from our mini storage and part of our house furniture which the movers picked up earlier this year). As I tend to continually raise the question, “Why do we need this crap, anyway?” I have been instructed to “Go blog myself” which accounts for the renewed flurry of activity on this site. Last evening I was accused of not appreciating living in an artistic environment. I countered with “if by living in an artistic environment you mean cramming articles of little or no interest to me on every flat surface, then, no, I don’t really appreciate it that much.” Such are the tensions of moving, something, with God’s grace, we might never have to do again. Sometimes it seems a lot; sometimes not so much. For, as anyone knows, small glass or porcelain articles wrapped in paper or bubble wrap take up lots of room in a box. I have been to Bi-Mart and Home Depot at least ten times for packing material and have scrounged dumpsters for larger boxes and even huge pieces of cardboard. Driving through the alleyways of Medford the other day I thought I spotted a mattress box which we could use to pack some big paintings. I wandered through a gate and noticed an employee on a ladder just inside a warehouse door. He was bleeding from a wound on the back of his hand. He wondered if he could help me. I asked if I could have the box. He emerged from the warehouse and I saw he was also bleeding from a wound on his leg. Blood was dripping off this guy. “The mattress business must be pretty tough,” I offered as a way of conversational gambit. No conversation ensued. The box wasn’t a mattress box and though he offered it I declined. He then escorted me out of the dumpster area, closed and locked the gate which ended my day of dumpster diving.
When the mover arrives they will load two futons, three antique cupboards, several smaller antique chests and cases, an antique table, an antique hanging lamp, several oriental rugs (cleaned and rolled), an antique dining room table, fifty or so pieces of art work, a picnic table, ten or so outdoor chairs, ten or so indoor chairs and the one hundred boxes; oh, and the piano which has been stored at someone else’s house for the last fifteen years. It doesn’t actually look that bad on paper. The big problem will be packing the most fragile things being held out for the car and I fear there will not be room for: a new computer still in the box, overnight luggage, a vacuum cleaner, two nearly life sized Skookum dolls (so eerily realistic they scare our adult children to this very day), a large clay rabbit, an antique rocking horse nearly as big as a pony, and a three foot long model of a Chinese junk. Today I will rehearse packing the car to prove or disprove my admonition that “There is no way I can get all that shit in the back of the car.” Some may wonder about the the Chinese junk. What is it’s significance, etc? I wonder the same things. I can only offer, by way of explanation, a poem I wrote many years ago (about our previous residence) trying to explain it to myself:
SECRETS OF THE CENTURY
Strangers enter the room and stop
Stunned with surprise.
A cat sits in the sunlight on a
Gold oak floor.
Friends make a round searching
Like shoppers, asking
What has she done now?
The gray horse rides the wicker sideboard
Wreathed in lace
And on the horsehair couch
Indian blankets patterned
Beige, orange, red, maroon to black.
Open the glass door on
The tea service,
Inside comes outside
The odor of ancient books
Like “Know Thyself” wherein
Is contained the secrets
Of the last century including:
How to pick a wife and
The consummation of marriage.
Meanwhile the room itself
Reveals secrets of that
And this century too.
Grandmother in her hat
Sits neatly on a chair and
From the mantle regards
The room with that look
Of melancholia we can’t forget.
She sees forever many things
Including Aunt Lou’s painting of
The Garden Door, and hats, and
Quilts, an antelope, a goat,
A Chinese hat with dragon on it.
Another horse, a dog, a doll,
Another doll, a sheep, a toy,
An elephant, two drums and
Yes! another doll, a ship,
A tiny bed and more and more
Until one’s patience just runs out
To know each story
If there is one.
The visitor stands and stares
At a lighthouse on a piano
And wonders who bought
All this stuff while from
The dual Klipsch cries Tchaikovsky’s
Romeo and Juliet.
The proprietor of the
“Museum” thus described
Stands beaming at their consternation
And picks a purple rock up from
The mantle and holds it out
Like it has all the answers
“Look at this!
It came from India.”
Here’s something only golf fans worry about—the Ryder Cup, a team competition played every other year against a team of top European players. In alternate years the US plays the rest-of-the-world-not-counting-Europe in The President’s Cup. The President’s Cup just finished last weekend and the US won handily raising the question among golf writers once again: Why can’t the US win the Ryder Cup? See, the US usually wins the President Cup and usually loses the Ryder Cup even though on paper the rest-of-the-world-not-counting-Europe team is stronger than the Americans and the European team is weaker. It’s a mystery to most everyone—except me. A bit of background. Most years the legendary Jack Nicklaus has been USA captain for The President’s Cup. And this guy thinks that Jack is the reason the US normally wins. “The biggest factor, I believe, is Jack Nicklaus. The U.S. captain in four Presidents Cups -- including the last three -- the Golden Bear has had the most impact on the outcome in the event's 13-year history -- player or captain.The reason? Players simply love playing for the man. They respect him, they look up to him and they love winning for him.”
This writer is close to having the answer.
No question that Jack is a great captain and has a very relaxed style in dealing with the competition. He keeps it very friendly. The Ryder Cup, on the other hand, is too much about the Captain. They make a huge deal out of it and the Captain gets picked two years in advance of the matches. In pro golf circles being Ryder Cup Captain is sort of like getting a knighthood. He is even referred to as “Captain” during his tenure. As a result, there is too much pressure on the Ryder Cup Captain which gets transferred to the players. Normally, the Captain is a guy who is just wrapping up his golf career and getting ready to make the transition to the old guy tour (over 50). He has to be someone with a pretty good record and a major victory on his resume. He, and his wife, are given two years to plan for the event which, as far as I can tell, consists of selecting outfits and souvenirs for the players and their wives. The other thing the Captain gets to do is pick four players (used to be two but next year it will be four). The rest of the team qualifies based on performance. He doesn’t get to make his Captain’s picks until a cutoff date a month or so ahead of the matches. This may seem like an awesome responsibility but the fact is that anyone who plays Fantasy Golf could do just about as good a job. You only get to be Ryder Cup Captain once so it’s make or break. Since 1995 only Ben Crenshaw has been able to claim a win and that was after an unbelievable comeback knows as “The Miracle at Brookline.” The other five captains during that period are forgotten to history. They each spent two years getting ready, surveying the course, analyzing lineup, picking out costumes, organizing practice sessions, writing pep talks and stategizing lineups. Nicklaus, on the other hand, makes it look easy. Of course he is Jack Nicklaus. But my argument is that it is easy. You have twelve great golfers and you keep it relaxed and let them play. Jack even lets the players decide whom the will play with in the two man events. What I’m getting at is that the Captain in a golf event can only screw it up. He can’t make the players win. The Ryder Cup committee is picking the wrong guys as Captain. Azinger, Watkins, Lehman, Sutton, Kite. Too intense and too recently in competition with the guys on the team. They should name a semi-permanent Captain—Jack Nicklaus, if he’d do it, Lee Trevino, Peter Jacobsen or Gary McChord, someone who can keep it loose. The Ryder Cup is too much about the Captain.
There are certain birthdays which seem significant—the sixteenth (driver’s license), the twenty-first (drinking age), the thirtieth (no longer trustworthy), the fiftieth (halfway to one hundred), the sixty-fifth (Medicare) and probably every birthday after seventy (because you are as good as dead). I recall vividly the excitement of the driver’s license exam and the pride taken in that small piece of freedom-giving paper. The twenty-first was celebrated in the bar of a Chinese restaurant in McMinnville, Oregon. The thirtieth has been forgotten but on my fortieth I was surprised before breakfast by a housefull of neighbors and friends as I crossed our kitchen from bathroom to bedroom. The fiftieth was notable as I had achieved my only business goal—retirement. And, today, the sixty-fifth, because I become eligible for socialized medicine. I must admit that it seems to be some kind of cruel joke that one can actually have to say, “I’m sixty-five.” No one ever really imagines themselves being so old or older. We fight it. We aren’t graceful about it. We make inventories of the things we can still do: can still carry a golf bag eighteen holes, can still get on the roof to clean the gutters, can still tote a bag of cement fifty feet, can still chop wood, can still read without spectacles, can still put palms on the floor w/o bending the old knees, can still shoot a version of a jump shot, can still swim a mile, etc. ad nausea. Small victories over decrepitude. But there is no denying the deterioration, the spreading, sagging and fading. For women, this is most often depressing. For men, I think, it is confusing. In our house the confusion is abetted by the magic mirror in our bathroom. It’s original to the house and decorates the medicine cabinet door. When we remodeled this place we saved it because it was worth saving. It’s probably a combination of the old glass, the lighting and the rosy bathroom color but my roommate and I agree that we both look pretty dang good in that mirror. And, then, I’ll see a photo of myself and everything is all gray and wattled. In short, old looking. We should rip that mirror off the wall and take it with us to our new digs and refuse ever to look at a current photo again. Or, instead, suck it up and grow old gracefully. Afterall, there’s there’s Medicare, and those discounts.
Our TiVO blew up and we are not going to replace it. In fact, we aren’t going to have a TV. We’ll watch DVDs and what the internet has to offer on iTunes downloads or free shows on our iMac 24” screen. But for the last three weeks I’ve been watching TV with commercials, something I haven’t done for years and am most impressed and surprised at the number of happy middle aged couples I’ve seen who lounge smiling blissfully waiting for his Cialis, Levitra or Viagra to kick in. Or maybe she’s smiling hoping for some of those horrible side effects to manifest thinking that it really isn’t fair that pharmaceuticals have given her geezer a surge of new urge. In one commercial the couple waits watching a sunset in separate outdoor bathtubs which raises many questions about what will happen later. What’s that one about, anyway? Why two tubs? I’m missing the metaphor.
The commercials clearly tell us that ED pills will save and enhance a relationship but there does seem to be a lot of waiting involved. Perhaps the drugs teach patience which is always useful in a relationship. Or, in the case of the female participant, the lesson of resignation and acceptance. For once the pill is popped one must assume an inevitability, an unnatural, unspontaneous unfolding of predictable events. And what does one do if the result is not happy sunset but the dreaded priapism,the very nasty sounding word describing a six hour erection? Do you just stay in your tub waiting for the sun to come back up? ED is obviously a problem (was going to say a “big” problem but that sounds inappropriate) as evidenced by the amount of spam finding its way to my email inbox offering all manner of medicines, prescription and otherwise, intended to extend (probably not the best word choice either) one’s sexual life. The point is, it wasn’t something I worried about when I had TiVO. Now I have to figure out where to put the two bathtubs.
MoveOn.org has been famously censured for a New York Times ad where they rhetorically posed the question about General David Petraeus, a general who had spent two months preceding his Congressional testimony trying to convince Congresspersons and the media that his surge was working. MoveOn.org raised the question and it was a valid one. Now the American Conservative Magazine tries to give the answer in an article titled,
Sycophant Savior—General Petraeus Wins a Battle in Washington, if not in Baghdad”
“David Petraeus is a political general. Yet in presenting his recent assessment of the Iraq War and in describing the “way forward,” Petraeus demonstrated that he is a political general of the worst kind—one who indulges in the politics of accommodation that is Washington’s bread and butter but has thereby deferred a far more urgent political imperative, namely, bringing our military policies into harmony with our political purposes.” Col. David Hunt, Fox News contributor has written a piece titled: “Top Military Officials, a Disgrace to Those They Lead.” Glenn, Greenwald of Salon.com (subscription required but worth it just for Glenn Greenwald)
spells it out: “So to recap the Hunt/Fox argument: our Generals and other military commanders currently leading our Nation at War are "betraying our troops." They put their own selfish desire to advance their reputations and careers ahead of the welfare and lives of the soldiers they lead. The corruption and betrayal of these brave American Generals are preventing us from winning. These "poor excuses for officers" should be put on trial.”
Gee. MoveOn.org just asked a question and brought down the wrath of the right. The right accuses the general and the generals of actual betrayal and there’s not much noise. But what about General Petraeus? Jesse Wendel at the Group News Blog helps us understand the General’s distinguished career by analyzing his ribbons and his Wikipedia entry. (Most people don’t understand military decorations and when one sees a chest full like the General has it is most impressive). Jesse points out that
ribbons fall into these categories:
Valor (including I Forgot To Duck)
I Wuz There,
We Wuz There,
You Can Do X e.g: Shoot a rifle without blowing our balls off, jump out of an airplane, eat snakes, wear girl scout hats (and girl scouts too).
Your Unit Did This Eons Ago So Be Proud you fool
And the ever popular Identification Badge We Hope Will Impress the Rest of The Army With Where We Work aka "We're So Stupid We Have To Remind Ourselves Where We Work"
and tries to answer the question that MoveOn.org didn’t ask: Is General Petraeus a REMF?
Tonight, on "Countdown With Keith Olberman", the Ashland (Oregon) City Council was listed on Keith's "Best Person in the World" segment because they had hired a counselor to try and mediate the personality disputes that have developed on the council since the last election. But if one reads the comments on the internet version of this news story you'll find that most of the commenters think certain Ashland City Council members should be designated "Worst Person in the World." One of the Counselors (Dave Chapman) apparently told another Counselor (Eric Navickas) to shut his fucking mouth when Chapman had the floor and Navickas was muttering under his breath. Chapman has stormed out of meetings in frustration on previous occasions. Some of the commenters believe that a time out may be more appropriate than having the Council spend $37,000 on counseling services. The Ashland City Council used to be dull. Not any more. The voters elected Eric Navickas and knew what they were doing. Most of the folks who supported him don't comment on Daily Tidings news articles but, apparently, just sit back and enjoy the havoc he creates. One presumes they wanted a bit of official havoc for Mr. Navickas has long been a well-known activist particularly where the expansion of the Mt. Ashland ski area is concerned—one of the most contentious city issues. Ashland seems to have developed a strong vein of conservatism if one is to rely on Daily Tidings commenters because Mr. Navickas is trashed on a almost a daily basis. However, I doubt that he will go away or that the counseling will have much effect as Navickas has always been ready to stand his ground, in the past going so far as to protest nude in front of City Hall, before his election. Since we are leaving town I could say that I'll miss the fun. But actually I won't because I can follow it on the internet and see how or if the counseling turns out or if Eric gets reelected next time around.
It's not making much news but someone in the Spanish government leaked a transcript of a conversation Bush had with Spanish leader Jose Maria Aznar in Feb. of 2003 before Bush had his "authorization." Here's Professor Juan Cole's take:
"...The second claim that I made was that Bush was aware of, and rejected, an offer by Saddam Hussein to flee Iraq, probably for Saudi Arabia, presuming he could take out with him a billion dollars and some documents on Iraq's weapons of mass destruction programs. Both provisions were intended by Saddam to protect him from later retaliation. The money would buy him protection from extradition, and the documents presumably showed that the Reagan and Bush senior administrations had secretly authorized his chemical and biological weapons programs. With these documents in his possession, it was unlikely that Bush would come after him, since he could ruin the reputation of the Bush family if he did. The destruction of these documents was presumably Bush's goal when he had Rumsfeld order US military personnel not to interfere with the looting and burning of government offices after the fall of Saddam. The looting, which set off the guerrilla war, also functioned as a vast shredding party, destroying incriminating evidence about the complicity of the Bushes and Rumsfeld in Iraq's war crimes.
Aznar asked Bush if he would grant Saddam these guarantees, and Bush roared back that he would not.
By refusing to allow Saddam to flee with guarantees, Bush ensured that a land war would have to be fought. This is one of the greatest crimes any US president ever committed, and it is all the more contemptible for being rooted in mere pride and petulance.
Note that even General Pervez Musharraf allowed Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to go to Saudi Arabia with similar guarantees, even though Sharif was alleged to have attempted to cause Musharraf's death. A tinpot Pakistani general had more devotion to the good of his country, and more good sense, than did George W. Bush."
There's been a huge distraction from the war recently with the Senate passing resolutions condemning a newspaper ad by MoveOn.org. MoveOn.org is normally referred to by the media as a left wing organization. It's certainly progressive and liberal and on the left side of the political spectrum. I'm a long time member and contributor to MoveOn.org and certainly wouldn't describe myself as "left wing." Semantics, notwithstanding, MoveOn.org has more than 3,000,000 members, probably more active members than either the Democratic or Republican Parties. Our is not an organization that can be dissed, condemned or written off as irrevelant. MoveOn.org, along with progressive blogs, have proven they can raise massive amounts of money for favored candidates and have the ability to punish Congresspersons who say they will do one thing, then do something else. MoveOn's issues are chosen after polling the membership and getting out of Iraq is the highest priority.
MoveOn.org has launched a new project to show Congress and the media that the folks who oppose the war are a broad swath of Americans—and we’re going to keep speaking out until Congress brings our troops home.
It’s called “Americans for Exit” and here’s how it works: You send MoveOn a picture of you which shows how you feel about the war. Then you can also record a voice comment, by phone, to go with your picture.
It’s really easy and it’s a powerful way to send our message to Congress. I already joined in—you should too.
Click here to get started: