Sunday, April 22, 2018

Reflections on Earth Day

This year I jiggered together a sort of semi greenhouse out of Wal-Mart shelving, animal fencing and a heavy plastic drop cloth. I set out trays of Cherokee Purple tomato seeds saved from last year's crop (lost one tray because it got too hot one day, and they cooked!), long pepper seeds -- we could pretend they're Hatch chiles, but they're not, they're seeds from garden variety Anaheim chiles grown in Texas, a tray of wildflower seeds, and pots of Indian corn and bolita beans, cantaloupe, acorn and butternut squash, catnip, lavender, and other flower varieties. Most of the seeds have germinated, and the tomatoes and peppers are almost ready to transplant to larger peat pots. I think I'll have plenty to give away this year just as was the case last year. Some of the people who took the plants last year said they had the Devil's own time trying to get any fruit off the vine, but tomatoes are touchy. It's simply a fact that it's very dry in New Mexico, and tomatoes like lots of water. I know one year I grew tomatoes here and for a while, the plants seemed to flourish and then they declined, never had more than one or two tomatoes from each plant, and then they seemed to shrivel and die. I'd grown them in large pots with good potting mix, and so their decline seemed strange -- until I pulled out the plants and discovered that only the top couple of inches of the soil had any water. Most of the soil in the pot was bone dry; I hadn't watered them nearly enough, though to my eye, and to my California conditioned watering hand, they'd had more than enough water. Lesson -- sort of -- learned.

This season, we had the driest winter in many years, and it has affected everything. I've started watering the trees and lilacs and other long term residents of our property here, but some,  I think, aren't going to make it. They've had many years  of drought stress before this only occasionally relieved with "good years" of reasonably abundant rain and snow. And a "good year" is dry by any common measurement.

The Indians abandoned this area in the 1670s during a severe drought and famine exacerbated by Spanish colonial Franciscan padres who simply saw the suffering of the Indians as God's wrath for  idolatry and whatnot. By the time the nearby pueblos were vacated, there were only a few hundred Indians left. They mostly joined pueblos on the west side of the mountains along the Rio Grande -- which apparently still had some water in it. This area was left more or less uninhabited for many years. The raiding tribes would set up temporary camps amid the ruins, and from time to time Spanish settlers would run their cattle and sheep over the range. But otherwise, it wasn't until the early/mid-1800s that small settlements were set up on the lower slopes of the mountains, and re-settlement of the plains (without the Indians) only got going in the early 1900s.

It's not easy land to farm, and drought is a persistent risk. I'm sure the early dry-land bean farmers were shocked the first year the rains didn't come. And the next and the next and the next. Eventually, they realized they couldn't rely on summer rainfall and winter snow to grow their crops, and somebody decided to drill down into the aquifer that underlies the whole basin. Sure enough they hit water, and ever since, such crops as are grown here have been under irrigation. But it's an uneasy balance.

There are a few farms still operating, but mostly such agriculture as there is around here is cattle raising, and when things get too dry -- as they seem to be right now -- the cattle... disappear. Where they go is one of those.... mysteries. Most I imagine go to slaughter right away. A few go to feed lots or greener pastures in Texas and Colorado. 

The farms grow beans and corn and alfalfa and a few other crops for the animals, not so much for people. I'm one of several trying to get some varied vegetables to grow here. It's possible with enough water, soil amendments and care, but it's not easy.

For one thing, the soil lacks nutrients. It's mostly heavy clay with some sand, and it's highly alkaline. Organic matter is nearly completely absent, and all our attempts to establish a compost pile have failed. There are no earthworms, and practically no soil bacteria. Compost doesn't form because the material you're trying to compost doesn't decompose. It petrifies.

They say there's a way to make compost in buckets if you're patient and you keep it wet and introduce bacteria and earthworms, but I haven't figured it out yet. The two open piles we started are kind of hilarious what with their petrified garden debris and food scraps. One has grown quite large, but nothing has happened. Everything is as it was deposited, just dessicated.

In pots -- and bags and other containers -- things can grow very well. The only things we've been able to grow in the soil have been tulip and daffodil bulbs, but even they are stressed by the super-dry winter, and this year they are pretty peaked and wan.

Our farmer friend down the road supplements his soil with fish emulsion and manure. It gives him good crops, mostly beans and corn, but he's had only middling luck with vegetables. They will grow, but it's like they don't want to. He's preparing to grow some vegetables in greenhouses, but his first attempt failed when some kind of disease in the greenhouse killed off most of his plants. I don't think he's going to try again this year, but his kids have set up two vegetable plots outdoors. They set out lots of plants one weekend. Couple of days later, there was a hard freeze overnight. They'll have to replant when the weather warms up enough.

My beans and corn germinated in the greenhouse a week ago, and that same hard freeze killed most of the beans. Even though the greenhouse has heat (a number of 25w pads) I forgot to turn them on that night, and by the time I remembered, it was too late. The corn is struggling, but looks to be surviving. I'll plant more shortly.

So far, the squash and melons have not germinated though they were planted weeks ago. I'll give them another few days, then try again. Oddly, some hollyhock seeds that are at least five years old are starting to germinate. We'll see. They can be really tough to grow. You never know.

Though there have been some failures and disappointments so far this year, all in all I'm pretty pleased with the way my modest attempts at growing things are going. Freezing overnights have not quite ended, though, so I might have some more losses. It's not all that cold right now (early morning -- about 5am, about 37°) but the prediction is for it to freeze again by 6am. I've got the heat on in the greenhouse just in case.

I've just got to keep learning and trying.

Meanwhile, we don't do nearly enough R, R, & R, though I think we do much more than most others. Our garbage can, for example, is hardly ever full, unlike that of our neighbors -- some of whom have two cans overflowing, week after week. We recycle, reuse, and repurpose as much as we can, and so we send much less to the landfill than we might.

We learned about "living lightly on the Earth" many years ago and those lessons have stayed with us.

Even our house is a recycled pioneer adobe. From time to time, I think about doing another renovation/remodeling, but since we're getting up there in years, I'm not so sure it's going to happen before we shuffle off this mortal coil. We'll have to make do in the meantime..

Reflections on Earth Day? Over the decades, the lessons are largely ingrained and unconscious now. Sometimes the advocates get too enthusiastic and expect too much from individuals and not enough, it seems to me, from civic bodies and institutions. There's a constant tendency to approach the issues of Earth Day from a position of superiority over those who haven't got the message yet. Demanding, directing, disapproving, hectoring, yadda, yadda. It seems to me, too, that the whole thing is so very, very... white. Ain't much of a Rainbow Coalition. Those who have adopted some of the principles, however, or who have always lived by them, aren't nearly so white or so judgmental at all. We just do our thing!

Keep on keeping on...


Saturday, April 14, 2018

Moar War, War Fever, Scandal! Scandal! Scandal!

What a freaking mess. What have we done to deserve this? [I'm sure the many targeted peoples under the bombs raining down on them from the Empire Above wonder the same damn thing...]

Views from Damascus overnight resemble Baghdad on Shock n Awe night so many years ago. Remember? I don't know anymore whether people do. There's been so much misery, mayhem and bloodshed Over There, it's hard to keep track, isn't it?

The proximate cause of the latest "coalition" air strikes (primarily from off shore missile launches) of yet another Middle Eastern city is the supposed use of prohibited chemical weapons against a rebel stronghold in the suburbs of Damascus.

Whether it actually happened and who did it if it did is subject of some dispute. There are statements that it didn't happen at all. There are statements that it was staged. There are statements that it was done by outside forces. There are statements that it was done by the rebels themselves... Yadda, yadda.

None of us is in a position to know. Whether our military and civilian rulers know much more than we do is a mystery. All we can say with any certainty is that the protagonists of these wars and rebellions tend to be dissemblers.

The launching of retaliatory missiles is essentially de rigeur these days. It's what's done to show the non-compliant who's the boss. It hasn't worked very well with the Assad regime, and it doesn't seem to quell rebellions either. It's just a Thing. Blowing shit up is the way things are done by the Empire and by the Rebel Alliance. Sometimes I think they cause misery for the fun of it.

So they just blow things up. People are in the way, oh well!

Jeepus, I hate this. I was going round and round about the Stephon Clark Thing in Sacramento. My point was that I just want the killing to stop, and he didn't quite get it. Huh? Whut?

The killing. To. Stop.

We seem to be locked into this situation where killing is the number one option when things go sideways or there's a perception of a threat of some sort. When police kill, they're just taking their cue from our Dauntless Leaders. Killing is their Go To solution to practically everything. They're no too bright are they?

Meanwhile the White House (and many other prominent elements of society) are enveloped in one scandal after another. I don't think we've ever had a mobbed up gangster sitting on the throne, but we do now, and our institutions have no idea how to deal with it/him. He's been hamstrung in various ways, but that's not sufficient. He uses what powers he has remaining for making much mischief and propping up his frail ego. This is hardly presidential, but I don't think it much matters any more.

The presidency itself has long since been diminished by various unfortunate and unpleasant occupants and their scandals, deceptions, and military adventures. It's close to time for something else again.

The Ruling Class seems happy to have the Rabble wallowing in it. Distraction? Sure. Entertainment? Yep. A masque?

The downward spiral seems inescapable.

And yet, there must be hope somewhere.


Wednesday, April 11, 2018

"The Crisis Is Upon Us"

We've been hearing this for over a year now, ever since Trump ascended the throne and before.

"Existential Crisis!!!! Run and Hide!!!! Resist!!!!! The Republic is Doomed!!!!! Russia! Russia!!! Russia!!!!" Yadda, yadda.

And  I've been thinking all this time that if the situation really is as described by the Doomsayers then surely there would be an intervention. Surely there would be.

Our government is quite adept at dealing with existential crises by any means necessary. And over the course of the current regime, we've seen plenty of instances in which this or that crisis or looming catastrophe brought on by Himself has been... handled... one way or another to mitigate the damage and effects that following the dictates from On High would have caused.

That's not to say things have been stabilized by any means. This has been a roller-coaster ride of unprecedented whipsawing and violent slides. It's wild, but I get the impression that the Overclass is so far fine with it.

If they felt any of the previous Existential Crises brought on by the regime were significant enough to do something about, they would have done it by now. That they haven't done it by now is the clearest sign I can think of that they're satisfied that Trump has been sufficiently limited in his ability to precipitate real Existential Crisis and that what he and his wrecking crew are allowed to do is essentially just what the Overclass wants done and would have done through any pretender to the throne.

Mrs Clinton would have gone about it somewhat differently, but the outcome would have been essentially the same. Maybe not so much Crisis and Chaos, but following the same path toward the same denouement.

But this time, what I see of the punditry (remember, no cable teevee in the Ché household --ever) seems to be saying "It's different." As if this were the Real Thing, we're reaching the end of the roller coaster ride, and it will be over sooner rather than later.

Skepticism is warranted. Too many people are profiting too much from keeping the ride going to shut it down now. Trump has shown that he can be rather easily hamstrung from doing what would jeopardize class and gang interests while he can be guided toward actions which enhance their interests.

The tax cut for the wealthy* was a step, not the end point, of an overall scheme to recreate "government" as the ham-fisted, jack-booted enforcer of Overclass interest. Of course, it's always had that aspect, but over the last generation or so (since Reagan), the purpose of government has been shifted almost entirely away from "public interest" toward private, pecuniary interest and enforcement of increasingly oppressive rules and laws over the Lesser People.

As has often been pointed out, the so-called tax cut actually increases tax liability for a significant percentage of the middle and lower classes. That's by design -- and it happened under Reagan, too. The Overclass simply doesn't believe it should be paying for government. Like medieval lords, they believe the Rabble should be paying them to lord it over all creation, and that all taxes should be extracted by any means necessary from the Rabble. That's the direction we've been headed for a very long time, and the tax cut is just another step.

When we examine what ICE and other agencies are actually doing we see the outline of what Our Rulers have in mind for all of us: No protection from social/political predators and despoilers at all. Unless you have the power (and money) to hire your own fixers and Guidos, tough luck, suckers.

Gangster rule.

Some people -- and it seems most People Who Matter -- are fine with it. It's what they've wanted all along. So now they're closer than ever to it. Calling it "The Crisis" may be accurate enough, but they're not planning to do anything about it. And even if there is a Dem Wave this fall, so what?

Apart from style, what would really change?

And even style may not be that different.

So despite all, I'm not seeing buy in from the Overclass that Trump has to go. He's proved his worth to them as entertainment for the masses over and over again. He's also a money-maker for them. Pence wouldn't be that. Not on a bet, and likely, if he rose to the presidency, he would have to be removed for cause. Not so much for Trump.

So let's say Trump does something really stupid and it has negative effects on the Overclass. The Crisis manifests in ways they don't like. What then? Remember, "Never let a crisis go to waste. Every crisis is an opportunity." In other words, "So what, let's make money."

And so it is likely to go.

The Crisis has been upon us for a very long time, hasn't it?

No matter what else happens, we'll still be in Crisis. Our Rulers like it like that.



Monday, April 9, 2018

A Spate of Police Killings Hits the News

[Note: as this hiatus continues, I've been going to physical therapy to try to deal with my increasing left-side lameness. Mixed results: able to walk a bit better most of the time, but various hip and back pains following treatments suggest the onset of sciatica -- which the therapist acknowledged might be triggered. What a drag it is getting older...]


There's been a fairly regular spate of police killings in the news lately, reminding me a bit of the coverage uptick after Michael Brown was shot and killed in Ferguson, MO, all those years ago. (Can it be almost four years now?) Of course, it was the shooting of James Boyd in Albuquerque in March of 2014 that set off numerous protests, not just of his killing by police, but of dozens of killings over the previous few years. I was involved in some of those protests though not as much as I might have wanted to be -- thanks to my lameness even then.

The killing of Stephon Clark in his grandmother's Sacramento backyard was very disturbing. I didn't know him, but I know the Meadowview neighborhood where it happened, and it's easy to imagine how terrifying the whole thing has been. Meadowview is not an easy place to live, but many people who live there have no choice. They have been pushed out of other neighborhoods, either through gentrification or because of some stain on their records.

I understand Stephon's grandmother had lived in the neighborhood for decades, and for all the trouble with the law Stephon had been in, he was a potential community leader with a magnetic personality and a vibrant presence who was "turning his life around."

This is a common enough story in many communities of color throughout the nation. What's also common is that up and coming black male community leaders are intentionally or accidentally targeted for elimination.

This seems to be an "accidental" elimination perpetrated by a couple of panicked cops on the hunt for someone who was reported to be breaking car, truck and house windows. They found a Negro who they thought had a gun and blasted away at him until he was a riddled mess of bullet holes and then let him bleed out until he was dead, dead, dead.

In New York, Saheed Vassell, well-know to be a harmless kook in the Crown Heights neighborhood of Brooklyn, was shot down pretty much on sight by specialist crew of killer cops deployed because of reports of a Negro with a gun threatening people on the streets.

In American society, cops consider an armed Negro or the report of an armed Negro -- doesn't have to be with a gun -- to be an existential threat to be neutralized promptly. Saheed was reported to have a gun. He didn't, but it didn't matter. The reports were sufficient, and apparently cops are not trained or required to ascertain the truth of the matter; in the case of Saheed, they were deployed to kill, which is what they did, BAM, BAM, BAM. Dead.

There was a recent incident in Portland, OR, in which a deranged white man, said to be armed with a knife, was being hunted by police based on accusations of a carjacking earlier in the day and a wreck of said car on the poor side of town. Man enters homeless shelter, shirtless and acting bizarre. He has a knife and (apparently) is threatening to kill himself with said knife. Police converge, man is cornered and (according to reports) man starts stabbing himself in the neck. Police "deploy lethal force." Man is "deceased."

And so it goes. It should be stated this goes on all the time. More than a thousand times a year, every year (looks to be even more this year) are killed by police, and some of these killings become news items that garner a lot of attention nationally and internationally. The US has a widely recognized problem with gun violence, police killings and mass shootings, a problem that seems completely intractable on some levels, is rather easily dealt with on others.

Police killings are an issue because the officers involved are almost never held to criminal account, are rarely even reprimanded by their departments. Many times, officers who kill -- regardless of circumstances -- are rewarded and hailed as heroes, in part because police consultants like David Grossman and William Lewinsky have been going around the country for decades telling police that killing the Bad Guy is their highest accomplishment, and they'll have the "best sex of their lives" afterwards. No lie.

Many of these killings are nothing but summary executions disproportionately afflicting black,  brown, and poor white subjects, many suffering mental health crises for which no treatment or services are available. Obviously something is wrong but supposedly nothing can be done about it.

Much like periodic episodes of mass shooting, it's just something Americans have to live with as "the price of freedom." Or something.

It's happened so much for so long, I believe we're dealing with deliberate, cynical and cruel policies of murder/mayhem that are intended to keep the Rabble in fear and helplessness... Over and over again, the Rabble are shown that they cannot rely on police or officials to protect them; over and over again, they are shown that they are helpless in the face of American Gunners. Over and over again, they are shown that they are targets of whoever wants to target them, and there is nothing they can do about it.

So here we are, again.

And what do we do about it? Ideally we change it, but our policy makers don't seem to be interested. They're satisfied with things as they are (except for the movements and demonstrations that arise). A relatively steady number of police killings, infrequent but increasingly deadly mass murders, constant low-level gang and other murders, constant suicide by gun, all of it just fine with our Overclass -- because it never (or very rarely) affects them. It is always something for the Lower Orders to deal with. Too bad if they can't.

I'm too old and infirm to have much of an effect on these things anymore, but I hope and pray the young folks will make the changes necessary. As many people have testified in the recent cases, "We know what's wrong and we know what to do about it."

Yep.

Monday, March 26, 2018

Some Thoughts

Of course I've been paying attention to events, but there's such a level of chaos on so many fronts it's hard to know what's worth the time to explore more and what's just "entertainment."

1) Propaganda. We are immersed in propaganda, sales pitches, and false narratives from the media, politicians, commercial interests and others all the time. We know this, don't we? As a rule, the truth of things beyond our immediate reference point is rarely knowable to most of us. Yes, even science and scholarly research can produce false and misleading information.

Thus, it is always wise to be skeptical about what we are told by authority or somebody trying to sell us something. Not all of it is false, but much of everything we're told is framed to make us believe certain things in certain ways that may not have anything to do with reality.

The Russia Thing has been all about propaganda and the effective use of propaganda for political objectives. There's been an effort to blame-cast Russian propaganda for electing Trump -- which to me has always been simply stupid. Incomprehensibly stupid.

There was Russian propaganda at play, but there was lots and lots of other propaganda coming from many, many sources during the election campaign and afterwards. We used to joke about the Macedonian teenagers spreading false stories about Hillary on Facebook and Twitter and various websites. Yes? So? Apparently there were whole troll farms running internet propaganda campaigns from many locations in and out of the USofA, a good deal of it automated, and yes, they were effective among those particularly vulnerable to what they see, read, and hear on the internet.

I think far too much has been made of anti-Hillary, pro-Trump propaganda, however.Trump won the presidency not because the American people elected him -- far from it -- but because the Electoral College elected him based on 70,000-80,000 unverifiable votes in three states. The voters chose Hillary by more than 3,000,000 votes overall, so it's simply false to say that a majority of the  American People elected Trump. They didn't.

The propaganda of the campaign was effective in disparaging Hillary mostly among those already so inclined. There was no comprehensive or comparable propaganda effort to disparage Trump. That may seem strange given how over the top some of the denunciations of Trump have been since the election, but consider this:

Media gave him and still gives him nearly limitless coverage for anything he says or does or for pretty much anything anyone else says about him. The circus sells. So, they cover it obsessively. The internet has come to set the standard narrative about things such as Trump, and media falls into line. If Trump is trending, which he always is, the media covers him and everyone -- pretty much -- around him. It's a goon show and they love it. Can't get enough of it. It doesn't really matter what kind of coverage he gets, positive or negative, so long as he gets coverage. If that ever stopped, on the other hand...

There has never been any comparable level of coverage for Hillary or Democrats in general, something that once was noted regularly.

What this means is that Rs and now Trump are able to sell their product almost without impediment whereas in so many cases, Ds can't even come up with a product to sell. But even if they did, their sales technique, indeed, their product itself, wouldn't differ much from that of the Rs. The propaganda and the lies would be nearly indistinguishable. What foreign interests and internet meme generators, fake news purveyors, and what have you do or don't do don't really matter all that much -- they are all part of the game being played. Our rulers lie to us. All. The. Time. Some do it more subtly that others, but they all do it.

That Russian and other foreign and domestic interests exploited these characteristics of American politics to sow discord and "influence the election" should be taken for granted. That one or another campaign was entangled with these interests and activities should be seen as the way the game is played.

What should be clear by now, though, is that Americans are way too vulnerable to these tactics and too many of them lack the tools and skill to sort through the garbage. They believe what they believe and whoever/whatever confirms it. Thus, propaganda is more effective than it should be.

2) Gunz. The nightmare continues. I was impressed by the size of the crowds at Saturday's marches for Our Lives. Sadly, however, we know that marches per se, no matter their size, are routinely ignored by Our Rulers, simply because they can and they want to stick it to the Rabble one more time.

On top of the issue of school massacres, there is obviously still a problem with police executions and murders, street mayhem and murder in various cities, and the ridiculous and deadly insanity of the gun lobby's constant demands for more gunz no matter what.

The thing of it is, despite the absolute number of gunz in private hands, fewer and fewer Americans own them. Ponder: something like half the gunz are in the hands of 3% or so of the population. Only 30% or so of households have a gun, and the number is declining. The rest -- apparently -- are in private arsenals like the one maintained by the Las Vegas mass murderer, or... well, something is going on with those arsenals.

There are always so many gunz available in the black market. There are always so many gunz available on the legal market too. Dude in Florida could walk in to his neighborhood gun shop and buy anything he wanted as long as he had the bucks -- which he did somehow -- and could pass the so called "background check" which didn't pick up any of his sketchier behavior and threats. No problem. It's a puzzlement that all of the reports and calls and tips and so on about him were apparently ignored by layers of authorities who were informed and chose to do nothing. If he were Muslim or black or some other disfavored minority, who knows, he might have been tortured on the rack and thrown in the hole for the rest of his life, but apparently, he was a favored minority.

There is some dispute over whether he is an ethnic Hispanic. He was apparently adopted by a Hispanic family and was given a Hispanic name, but that he is not ethnically Hispanic. Most reports say he's "white." Beyond that, it's a muddle.

But despite being a double orphan, he had plenty of money to buy gunz and he did. This happens with some frequency among the mass murder contingent.

I think we can admit that gunz are far easier to get than they need to be, and that the failure of Our Rulers to do anything about it -- except make it easier -- represents policy. A policy of bloodshed as a corrective for the Rabble, keeping them in fear and thus relatively tame. It's not pleasant, but it works.

Thus the kids must fail in their crusade, and they must be seen to fail. We'll see. Even if/when they manage to expel the electeds who insist on the policy of practically unlimited gun access and periodic mass murder, there is more than a little suspicion that the policy won't change much. Because it is effective in keeping the Rabble in its place, fearful, powerless and under control.

We'll see.

3) Another bimbo eruption. Oh dear. The Storm(y) has hit. Of course no one is shocked -- least of all I imagine Melania. But trying to take out Trump over this sort of thing -- no matter how many women come forth (up to 27 at last count) -- seems somewhat silly. I think Clinton showed that you don't get rid of a president because of his sex life. You just don't. It's ridiculous. But here we are, going through nearly the same thing with Trump as with Clinton, and it's deja vu all over again.

Please.

The entertainment value is high, of course, other people's sex lives being endlessly entertaining, but that's about all it is. (Personally, it all makes me kind of ill; I really don't want to know and don't much care.)

But entertainment in these cases always has a purpose. The purpose is to keep you 'n' me distracted while something else, much more important to Our Rulers, is taking place.

What's important to Our Rulers are the policies being enacted: tax cuts, regulatory relief, theft of public resources and wealth, wars and aggression against designated and ever changing enemies, that kind of thing.

That's going on at an accelerated pace no matter the dazzling show.

There's much more of course.
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I've started a whole bunch of seeds, and have more to start during the next week or so. My health is better but not fully up to par. Will probably be starting physical therapy soon. Ms Ché is getting her BFA in Creative Writing in May and then starting the MFA program in August. She will not be the oldest graduate, but close to it. And she's having the time of her life!

In the midst of all the hoo-hah, there's always something else again.

I may take another long break over the next several months.

We'll see how things settle out.







Saturday, February 17, 2018

American Shooting Gallery

Yet another mass killing at yet another American "safe space" -- a school this time (again) -- and the fury in Parkland, FL, seems to be somewhat greater than Our Rulers are used to.

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

While stewing

I've been stewing over the last year (and some) of this shit show coming from DC, and I noted while doing so that nothing that could have been done has been done to stop it.

It is as if the PTB are happy to have a shit show in DC.

Well, I think they are.

The Trump Shit Show has immense entertainment value that translates to ratings gold.Where there is money to be made, plenty of our Overclass are ready, willing and more than able to cash in. Trump has cut his chops making money for the Right People, and he's shown skill at doing it for the Overclass in general as President.

It's not just his entertainment value. There's more to it.

For many years, the point has been made -- sometimes sotto voccei -- that Trump is mobbed up like mad. He's a gangster and runs with gangsters and everybody knows it and has known it for decades. There should be no mystery about it. But for some reason, it's ignored by those who know, even by those who are so eager to promote the Russia Thing  -- which is itself a gangster story, though you wouldn't know it from the hype over "troll farms" and "election meddling" and what have you.

Our Overclass is fine with having a gangster and his cronies in the White House and fine with running the government as a mob operation -- as long as they get their cut, which they did with the tax overhaul, which is nothing but a huge give away to the already rich beyond measure.

All the unending scandals of the Trump regime and their cronies in Congress -- and they do go on, don't they? -- serve the function of entertaining the masses while the looting and killing go on unimpeded. By anything.

I'm convinced there's little -- maybe nothing -- we can do about it. "We" as in We, the Rabble. This is all about our Overlords and how they want their rule to proceed.  Making a bad joke of the presidency is a feature not a bug. It's not unlike the effects of installing a morbid, bad "democracy" in Iraq to replace the severe and decadent rule of the Saddam family. It made Iraqis and many  others in  the region hate the bastard "democracy" they were subject to. And so, I suppose, it will be for us.

There's no recovery from such a perversion of the presidency. But then, I know the white supremacists and their cronies believe sincerely that elevating a black man to the presidency was a worse perversion. And so it goes.

But! The good news is that the Ché household is netting an additional $50 a month (for now) thanks to the revised withholding tables. On the other hand, I better not get sick again. My Medicare Advantage co-pays have mostly doubled (again), and I'm now assessed an additional monthly premium in addition to Medicare premiums which have also increased. Neat.

We will get through this phase but it's not at all clear what comes after.


Saturday, January 20, 2018

Refugees

While doing some random pondering the other day, I came upon a news item saying that the regime had cut the number of admissible refugees from 100,000 a year to 20,000 and suggesting that the real number let in this year would probably be less than that.

This in a world of displaced people -- most of them victims of the various wars of aggression instituted, supported and maintained by our dauntless civilian and military warriors -- numbering upwards of 65 million and growing thanks to the effects of climate change.

Well. How special.

As we know, the immigration fight, including the admission of refugees, is part of the budget impasse that has resulted in yet another "government shutdown" which may or may not get resolved some time soon. Ya never know with these things, but every time there's been a "shutdown" something else appalling is integrated into the formulas for budgeting and operating the government of These United States. With Shitball in the White House, you can bet a whole raft of Awful will emerge with the restoration of government function (probably some time in March) and few will be the wiser. So it goes.

Meanwhile, I was thinking about the plight of refugees in general and particularly how some of my ancestors were themselves refugees from the policies of Great Nations and Empires which found it useful to scapegoat, starve, and run out of their homes certain segments of their own populations and those of nations, empires and imperial conquests they went to war with -- thus creating any number of refugees in the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries.

The practice never really ended, did it?

I learned recently of the Huguenot French heritage of my mother's father and his paternal ancestors. They were refugees driven out of France during one of the intolerances of the 1600s and wound up in England where they weren't exactly welcomed and assimilated. So about 100 years later, they emigrated to America, winding up on the Frontier -- such as it was -- first in Virginia and then Kentucky, moving on to Indiana in the 1830s. That's where my mother was born and that's where some descendants still are.

I've known about my Irish ancestors for some time, but I wasn't told the truth about them when I was growing up. An elaborate fiction was created connecting them with a prominent colonial family in Maryland and their arrival in America between 1688 and 1705. Or so.

But there is no connection between my ancestors and that family. There may be a distant connection in Ireland well before then, but there's none now.

Instead, it looks like my Irish ancestors were in fact Famine refugees who arrived in America between 1848 and 1854.

The Famine was never mentioned in the family lore I heard. Nor was the journey from Ireland to eventual settlement in Iowa ever detailed. Over time, I've learned a little bit about it, and how anti-Irish/anti-Catholic sentiment in Ohio, where my ancestors first tried to settle in America, drove them out and set them on a long route across the Mississippi River to take up homesteads in Iowa's Scott County.

Not only were they refugees from Ireland, they were among many internal Irish and other domestic refugees in the US.

Meanness was endemic among some Americans then as it is now.

I'm still trying to find out more details about my German ancestors. There are some indications they might not have been ethnic Germans at all. Indeed, there is family lore that they were Jewish conversos, and some of the DNA evidence suggests they came from somewhere in Eastern Europe, possibly from territories of the Russian Empire, likely some time in the 18th century. They settled in Baden and in the Palatinate and converted to Catholicism. But it seems their settlement was uneasy at best.

In 1850, my father's German grandmother's large family all left Koblenz for America, almost immediately heading west to Iowa where many of their descendants still are. They settled as farmers and merchants and their descendants are now found all over eastern Iowa.

Were they refugees? I don't know, but I suspect they were. During the 1840s and '50s what would become united Germany in the 1870s was wracked with rebellion and revolution. Some of the victims included Jews and conversos who were subject to all manner of discrimination and sometimes death presaging in part the later Nazi anti-Jewish programs.Those who could get out did so -- sometimes under compulsion by authorities or the mob.

I think something similar might have happened to my father's German grandfather Reinhold. But there was a twist. He left his town in Baden in 1854 -- when he was 14 (or maybe 16 or even 17, records suggest he was not truthful about his year of birth. He said it was 1840, but it was probably 1837 or 1838). He was not the first of his family to leave. His older brother left in 1852, his parents would leave in 1856, and his younger siblings would leave shortly thereafter. Ultimately, the entire family emigrated to America.

Reinhold went to France and sailed to New York in 1855. He stayed in New York apprenticed to a book binder in Brooklyn until 1863 when he went out to Iowa. Some of his relatives were already there. Shortly after he joined them, he married my father's German grandmother, and over time, they  had many children, including my father's mother Elizabeth who was the great beauty of the family, though she was deaf.

Thinking about when Reinhold left Baden and then when he left New York, I find a common thread: the military draft. If he was 17 when he left Baden, then he was of draft age. There were military campaigns throughout the region against rebels in those days, and so it's quite likely he sought refuge from the draft. There were draft riots in New York during the Civil War, and I can well imagine he went out to Iowa to escape the draft in New York.

Refugee? It's possible he felt the sting of antisemitism in Germany that was part of the revolutionary fervor of his youth, and it's likely that he wanted no part of military service in either Germany or the United States.

But it's as likely that he was descended from refugees who escaped pogroms in the east.

And then there are my English ancestors, all of whom arrived in America between 1620 and 1640. They settled in New England and New Jersey which suggests to me that they were probably religious dissenters, but I haven't found any details to confirm it one way or another. Religious dissenters of the era were in many cases refugees, and some of them, when they got to America, became refugees from persecution by earlier arrivals. There was little respite.

But the point of going through this is that were it not for refuges like America and the US many of my ancestors probably wouldn't have survived the conditions they faced in their homelands, conditions created by forces beyond their control. Their situation was in some ways comparable to the refugee crises of today.

The US has had both "open door" and "closed door" policies toward refugees. When the door has been closed, as it was during WWII and its lead-up, millions of people were sacrificed abroad so that nativists at home could feel protected from their taint. It was a shameful display of racial, ethnic, and religious prejudice that we seem to be headed into once again. Since 1924, the immigration door has been either closed to "undesirables" (ie: non-Northern European Christians) or cracked open just a little bit.

The lie is that the US has had an "open door" immigration policy at any time since 1924. It's false.

Asylum for refugees has always been limited since 1924 as well.

Now it looks like immigration and asylum will be further restricted. There may be reasons to do so, but the anti-immigrant and anti-refugee campaigns are full of lies and deceptions and should be rejected as unworthy of the nation's best qualities.

On the other hand, "open door" immigration -- which enabled many refugees to immigrate, survive and prosper in the US -- had a deliberate and devastating effect on Native Americans, a topic to explore in another post.

Thursday, January 18, 2018

"Hostiles"

We went  to a movie screening in Santa Fe last night. The picture was called "Hostiles" and it's set for release in Santa Fe tomorrow. This was a special screening sponsored by IAIA to benefit its cinematic arts department.

I'd read a bit about the movie, and I didn't care much for what I read. It was said to be a western and a very violent picture about the travels and travails of a Native Cheyenne family from captivity in New Mexico to their home place in Montana under the escort of a military company led by a captain who despises Indians and who had killed many, including some of the warriors, women and children associated with Chief Yellow Hawk, the dying Indian who wishes to return to Montana with his family before the end. Going Home.

In some ways the story is formulaic, in others it's a modest step beyond Hollywood formula westerns, a genre repeatedly raised from the dead.

The picture is essentially an allegory and as an allegory it is as formulaic as practically any western I saw on television as a child. Through hard lessons, warriors on both sides of the pony soldier/Indian divide learn respect for one another and eventual peace -- though most of both sides have to die first.

So here we go again.

Starts off with an isolated pioneer family, the Quaids, being massacred and burned out by some wild Comanches, who kill and scalp the father, and kill the three children as they are running away with their mother -- who is the only survivor. Barely. Comanches in the audience were already on edge at their depiction in this movie, and at the end, some complained. There's a long, long history of Comanche/Pueblo interaction in New Mexico. Memories are long, and forgiveness can be tough to come by. I won't descend into Both Sider-ism. Comanches have an earned reputation for cruelty among the local tribes. But they were and are also long-time trading partners and sometime marriage partners between Pueblo people and Comanches. It's complicated.

But.

This story is taking place in 1892. Supposedly. The frontier had closed. The Indian Wars were supposedly over. Comanches specifically had been "pacified" for decades. Renegades? Maybe. But the premise is that these were known Comanche raiders just like raiders of old, and the isolated pioneer family were just like isolated pioneer families of old... The whole set up is an anachronism which might have had a point, but it didn't really. In 1892 it was almost unheard of for pioneer families to be out in the Nowhere by themselves. What the Quaids were doing there, I have no idea. They didn't have a farm, nor did they have cattle. They had a corral with horses, and the horses are supposedly what the Comanche raiders wanted -- besides satisfying their simple savage bloodlust, of course.

So the Quaids are massacred and their log house (it's much grander than a cabin) is burned and the horses are absconded with. Rosalie Quaid alone survives by running into the hills and hiding under a rock while clutching her dead and bloody baby to her bosom. For plot purposes, the Indians can't find her.

She returns to the burned out homestead and we will meet her there again soon.

Meanwhile at Fort Berringer, NM, after rounding up some Apache no-goods (a young couple and their son), Captain Blocker (Joe), notorious Indian fighter, is ordered by his colonel, with authorization from the president, to escort dying Chief Yellow Hawk and his family back to their ancestral lands in Montana. He is to do this against his will in order to secure his military retirement pension. Or something.

Joe says no. Colonel says, "You will." It is explained that Yellow Hawk and Joe have history of mutual slaughter. Joe will not be party to escorting and freeing the savage. "No punishment is 'too much' for Yellow Hawk" and his people. After some tussling over the role of a warrior pony soldier in conflict with the savages and mention of the many atrocities on both sides, the soldiers' atrocities always justified, of course, Joe reluctantly agrees to the colonel's order. That pension figures prominently.

The expedition to Montana is organized. Yellow Hawk, his son, grandson, daughter and daughter in law are put on horses for the long journey north, escorted by a rag-tag band of soldiers, and they set off.

Joe is filled with anger and rage, and as soon as the party is out of view of the fort, he orders Yellow Hawk to take up a weapon so he can kill him. Yellow Hawk refuses, so Joe has him and his son placed in chains and the women humiliated ("take out the bitches' braids") and they continue on until they come upon the burned out Quaid place where they find Rosalie and her dead children inside. "Shh, they're sleeping," she says. Wesley Quaid is dead and scalped outside.

After some struggle, she is persuaded to part with the dead so they can be buried, but she insists she will do it herself. It doesn't go well. Eventually her husband and children are buried nevertheless, and Rosalie joins the party heading north, though she is initially terrified of the Indians she will be riding with.

As one of the consultants to the picture remarked afterwards, they're ALL PTSD. Oh yes.

I don't think I need to detail the rest of the plot except to say they make it to Montana, Yellow Hawk succumbs to his cancer, and every body else dies either along the way or in a shoot out at the Montana burial grounds, except for Joe, Rosalie and Yellow Hawk's grandson. The three of them make their way to the railroad at Butte. They get on the train for Chicago.

The end.

Well, I didn't want to see it and I wasn't very happy that I did.

While I wasn't happy about it, I did get some story ideas for a dramatic approach to the continuing problem of police abuse and murder in the US, a problem which is closely related to our various imperial wars of aggression, and is more distantly related to the original sin of Native American genocide.

I'll contemplate that for a while, and then...

We'll see.

---------------------------------------------------
A well-crafted and insightful review of the movie:

https://screenrant.com/hostiles-movie-reviews/

Saturday, January 13, 2018

Hiatus

I've got at least four pending posts, but I haven't been able to finish any of them. Events keep intervening. All I can say is that the rocky national road we've been on for so long now looks to be getting a lot rockier this year than it was last year.

As if more bumps and jolts were needed.


Saturday, December 30, 2017

Year End Review

Ha!

Wrech.

What a goon show.

And yet, all the signs say it is a show and the show is obscuring what's really going on. We see that behind the scenes our neoLibCon rulers are accelerating their plunder of the common rabble. Death and destruction beyond measure has filled their many war theaters with blood and ruin (rarely acknowledged let alone mourned unlike the relatively few drone murders of the Obama regime), and climate change is wreaking havoc while the ruling clique celebrates.

The world of hurt is growing and spreading, and they are laughing. "They" as in Our Rulers.

Something might have been done about it before the inauguration, but nothing was done. The Russia Thing is silly but it keeps attention away from the decisions and effects of the ruling clique. As long as that's the case, and as long as it works, so long will it continue. The spiral down becomes a slide, and there appears to be nothing We, the Rabble can do about it.

We need to consider our options.


Thursday, December 28, 2017

At Mabel's Place For Christmas

One of our principal destinations in Taos is "Mabel's Place," Los Gallos, the rickety old adobe house on a little ridge at the end of Morada Lane. Mabel Dodge Luhan and her husband Tony built it on 12 acres bordering Taos Pueblo land at the edge of town (well, it was then) starting in 1918.

The Big House, "Los Gallos"
The welcoming portal at Mabel's


Mabel lived there or in one of the smaller houses built on the property till her death in 1962. Tony died shortly afterwards. I understand the Big House and the various little houses the couple had built on the property were neglected until Dennis Hopper bought the complex in 1971, christening it The Mud Palace where he hosted a free-form counter-culture get together for the next three or four years.

The place was neglected again until a Santa Fe educator, George Otero, bought it in 1976 and began rehabilitating and expanding the deteriorated facility. He ran workshops at Mabel's Place for the next twenty years and continues to return annually with educational workshops.

My understanding is that the size and the scope of the rehab project turned out to be more than Dr. Otero could be responsible for, and so he sold it to the Attiyeh Foundation in 1996. The foundation continues the work Dr. Otero started. They operate the facility -- which includes the Big House and a number of ancillary buildings, some dating from Mabel and Tony's time, some built since -- as a bed and breakfast hotel, a conference and workshop center focusing on the arts and healing, and a center for the community.

The Big House was designed and built largely to house Mabel's and Tony's guests when they made the arduous trek up to Taos from wherever in the country or the world they'd started from. Nearly all were artists, writers and philosophers, some of whom were already famous, others were "up and coming."

There are numerous bedrooms -- eight or nine I think -- plus a series of reception rooms, a large dining room and a kitchen. Mabel had a room on the second floor just behind the deep porch in the photo above. The bed that was built for her in the room is still there. The windows in the bathroom next to Mabel's room were painted by D. H. Lawrence in 1924 to provide her with some privacy when she went to the loo. They say he was scandalized when learned that Mabel would do her business in front of uncurtained and unobscurred windows  in full view of everyone inclined to look.

But enough of the history of the place. There's plenty of information available online and in books for those who may be curious.

Our association with Mabel, such as it is, began through D. H. Lawrence surprisingly enough. Ms. Ché directed a Tennessee Williams one act called "I Rise in Flame Cried the Phoenix" years ago. The play is about D. H. Lawrence and his Brunhild-esque wife Frieda (a close friend of Mabel's as was Lawrence off and on) near the end of his life. The play centers on the disastrous exhibition of Lawrence's erotic paintings in London in 1929.

Those paintings were on display at the La Fonda on the Plaza in Taos the first time we visited the town more than 30 years ago and I took the opportunity to pay the small fee to have a look at them. Ms. Ché herself took a pass on the exhibit as she was indisposed. We'd been driving all day and into the night, having come from Meteor Crater in Arizona where we'd stopped that morning for a look-see.

I saw the paintings and couldn't quite figure out what all the fuss was about. They were not technically well done, and their eroticism was as much in the eye of the beholder as in the paintings themselves. Art and sex did not combine well in these supposedly scandalous works. But at least I saw them.

While I wasn't fond of his paintings, I was almost overwhelmed by his novels. Lawrence became my literary hero, in part because I thought he captured something in his characters that only I knew about from my own family and life experience. It was through these novels, but particularly "Sons and Lovers," that I began to suspect that my mother wasn't Irish like she seemed to think but was of English descent, for the Lawrence characters based on his own mother were so much like my mother they could have been sisters.   Later, I would discover that my mother was in fact mostly of English descent, but her English ancestors arrived in New England, New Jersey and New York in the 1600s. She had no recent connection with England at all. Of course, I had red hair and a beard (in those days) like he did, too. So far as I know, I wasn't tubercular then or later, but I'm currently being treated for pulmonary fibrosis, so...
[Edit to add: My mother's paternal grandmother was a Lawrence, but her paternal ancestors came to America from England some time in the 1640s and she probably had nothing to do with D. H. (David Herbert) Lawrence, although she was married to a D. H. (David Henry)]

Ms. Ché attended a poetry writing workshop at Mabel's Place several years ago, and that workshop was part of what spurred her to go ahead and get a degree in creative writing that she's working on now. She should graduate next May. Perhaps their oldest graduate, but what the hay! It's what she wanted to do.

She said that Mabel's Place and the spirits of Mabel and Tony and the many hundreds of artists and writers who have spent time there over the last nearly 100 years affected her deeply.

I felt much the same sense of the place on my own brief visits.

This year we decided to spend a Christmas overnight at Mabel's Place, as a kind of R&R and renewal.

Christmas at Mabel's is a simple affair. A large tree is set up in one of the living rooms, and smaller trees are in other rooms. Simple wreathes are put on some of the doors, and I understand that luminarias were put out on Christmas Eve but they were gone by the time we arrived on Christmas Day.

Christmas tree at Mabel's 
The Big House is stretched out like open arms. Staff is welcoming and serene as always. And so we return.

We've had no snow this winter at our home south of Santa Fe; it's been too warm, too dry, another La Niña winter. And it didn't seem like there was any snow in Taos, either, but as we explored, sure enough, there were patches of snow here and there, left over from a brief storm several days ago. 

Just enough to remind us that sometimes winter in Taos is just that (and also the title of one of Mabel's books.)



We had the Dasburg room for our stay. This is the one Ms. Ché wanted. It's in the Juniper House, a newer building -- but not that new, it's 40 years old -- with eight guest rooms and a conference room. We knew that it had a view of the sacred Taos Mountain, but we didn't know it had a little outdoor terrace (actually the roof of the room below) from which to watch the Mountain.

Juniper House at Mabel's Place, shadows of your correspondent and Ms Ché in the foreground.

The Mountain from the Dasburg "terrace"

Mabel's Place was full up on Christmas Eve. Many guests were attending the dances and Christmas Eve feast at the Pueblo. We were otherwise occupied on Christmas Eve as that is Ms. Ché's birthday. But Christmas Day was an ideal one to settle in. 

Up a steep set of stairs in Juniper House, we found the Dasburg room, named after  one of Mabel's artist guests, Andrew Dasburg, one of Ms. Ché's favorite New Mexico artists. We almost bought one of his drawings last year, but we decided to put it off for now, and it is probably for the best, as Ms. Ché was involved in that wreck in January of this year and I've been contending with the co-payment costs of very expensive RA treatment. While the price of the Dasburg drawing was certainly fair, it was a heavy expense for us at the time, and we would soon have some other expenses we didn't anticipate. cough.

I was disappointed there was no Dasburg work in the room, though there was a Georgia O'Keeffe (another of Mabel's friends). I sketched out an image of the Mountain while I was there, terming it "after Dasburg", intending to leave it in the room when we left, but I forgot. Sigh. Well. We'll just have to go back, won't we? (Smile.)

The Mountain smiled on us the whole time. It's hard to put into words the effect Taos Mountain has on us. In its own way, the Mountain has a kind of protective-watch-over energy. We can see and feel it. The Mountain is there as both the dominant element of Nature and as a stern and strong 'person' -- hard to explain.

Artists have been captivated by it for generations, and many thousands of paintings, drawings, photographs and prints have tried to capture its essence. I don't think any have quite succeeded. You have to see it for yourself. And then hope that your lines and colors will at least convey a partial sense of what the Mountain is in the flesh -- as it were.

The view is blocked by the Big House and Juniper House and the many trees bordering the property so that from most locations at Mabel's you can't see the Mountain at all, or at best you only have glimpses of it. Even in winter when the trees are bare, you only see bits of the Mountain through the branches from ground level.  From the second floor, you can see it better if you're in the right place, and from the third floor solarium, you have a 360° view of the whole property and well beyond.

We were in the Dasburg room on the second floor of Juniper House with an expansive view of the Mountain and its companions on either side. It was breath-taking though not quite as heart-pumping as the view of the Mountain from the Pueblo of Taos itself. There you are in the presence of... the ineffable.

Andrew Dasburg drew and painted the Mountain many, many times. This is an image of a more or less generic Dasburg mountain, but it's obviously based on Taos Mountain.

New Age types come to Taos and often settle there to infuse themselves with the Spirit of the Mountain. I don't know that they get what they come for, but oh well. It's not for me to judge...

I had the thought of doing some sketching with pastels while I was at Mabel's this Christmas, and so I did. It was both relaxing and inspiring to get out my pastels and have at it. Fun, actually. For years, I couldn't -- or alternatively didn't want to. Just the thought of drawing or painting made my joints ache, and it was better for me not to think about it.

But I've been getting used to the fact that I can do things now that I daren't even think of when time was. Even climbing the stairs at Mabel's is possible now though not necessarily easy. There was a time when climbing stairs was an almost impossible struggle for me. Holding a pencil was sometimes likewise challenging. So much of that struggle is over thanks to the treatments I've been given for RA. Even breathing in the rarefied though somewhat smoky winter air of Taos is... possible.

Simple things mean a lot.

I was most grateful to be able to enjoy Mabel's Place with Ms Ché without worry or fear of being unable to negotiate this or that problematic area that is obviously not handicapped accessible. The only areas that were difficult to manage were difficult for both of us.

Some areas of the Big House have low doorways on which tall people hit their heads, and there are tricky steps between one level and another which can trip you up if you aren't careful. Ah but slow and easy does it, and even if you hit your head on one of the doorways as I did, it's laugh-inducing rather than an Owie.

A pointed arch doorway at Mabel's Place -- watch your head, watch your step!


Ms Ché saw our Christmas at Mabel's  as an opportunity to renew and refresh after a very intense school year. She had put in so much time and energy that a break of this sort was essential. To take a break at Mabel's was invigorating. Even if it was only for a day -- this time.

A friend in California says we're in "Disneyland," meaning these sorts of experiences we're having aren't really "real" -- are they? Well, I guess it depends on your point of view, doesn't it?

After a wonderful breakfast in the dining room of the Big House, we packed up to leave, we really didn't want to. The daytimes and overnight we spent at Mabel's have stayed with us so strongly, though, we feel we haven't really left.

Breakfast isn't quite ready




It was a Christmas to remember!

Sunday, December 24, 2017

Christmas Comes But Once A Year

Shiny Brite wreath


Today is Ms. Ché's birthday. She was a Christmas baby and throughout her life she's had two celebrations at Christmas time. She said when she was young, she thought all the Christmas hoo-hah was for her and I suspect she still thinks that.  Heh.

This year, we'll be going out to dinner this evening at Los Poblanos in Los Ranchos de Albuquerque, then tomorrow we'll head up to "Mabel's Place" (Los Gallos, the Mabel Dodge Luhan House) in Taos. We'll try for Christmas dinner at Doc Martin's, but I dunno. The town gets packed at Christmas time, and we may have to settle for a couple of Lotaburgers at Blakes. One makes do... ;-)

We were concerned about the weather when we made reservations a month or so ago. It looked like and it felt like we might have some snow for Christmas (always nice but not good for traveling), but no. Not even a hint of it. Sunny and dry and usually very warm day after day. They say there's a La Nina underway, but this is the driest and warmest December I can remember in New Mexico. Earlier this week, the prediction was for very cold overnights and mornings -- below zero in both Taos and our place about 100 miles south -- but no.

Right now, about 6am, the temperature outside here is 42; even in Taos, it's 27. Not "cold" by New Mexico winter standards at all. It feels odd. But because of Climate Change, I'm expecting it to become the New Normal. Actually, we've been having more frequent and more intense droughts for years now.

Drought is what drove many people out of New Mexico time and time again. The three big pueblos on the back side of the central mountain chain were abandoned in the 1670s due to drought (among other reasons, the Spanish padres and their delight in suffering being one), but there are ruins and remains of many other pueblos scattered through the east mountain area, most of them abandoned during earlier droughts. Some were reinhabited, but most, once abandoned, were not rebuilt or returned to.

The last long and severe drought in our area was in the late 1940s and into the 1950s. Old timers say it was worse than the Dust Bowl years, and that was bad. Most of the few people who lived in this area left for greener pastures. If they could find them. So it has gone throughout the centuries in New Mexico, so even as worrying as the situation is now, most folks are at least somewhat prepared for the worst.

So this Christmas with no snow and balmy temps will stand out in our memories, even if it wasn't Ms Ché's significant b-day (she's... drum roll... 70).


Taken at Christmas 2010? I forget. The scene is down the road from our place.

Best Wishes to all, and to all a... better New Year!

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Ten Years -- And The Apocalypse

[Today marks the tenth anniversary of the start of this blog.]

[Props to lea-p who's been commenting here from day one and with whom I've had some fine conversations. Yay!]

A couple of months ago I was thinking about doing some kind of commemoration of the tenth anniversary of this corner of Blogtopia (h/t Skippy) but somehow it passed my mind and I forgot all about it as often happens the older and not necessarily wiser I get.

Yes, ten years ago, 21 Dec 07, I wrote and posted my very first ChéWhatYouCallYourPasa entry, and thousands of posts later, I'm wondering if "progress in the face of the Modern American Imperium" is possible any more. Or if it ever was.

Have we been fooling ourselves all this time? What a question.

Before I started this blog ten years ago, I was an occasional commenter on a number of sites, at the time primarily at Glenn Greenwald's Unclaimed Territory, now archived somewhere on the farthest corner of the intertubes, and later his postings at Salon. If I had to say anything, I attempted to approach it with humor, not very well executed, but not in a hurtful or negative way. Sometimes -- well, often -- I had a contrary opinion to this or that, but I looked at it as merely adding to the ferment and froth of the topic, not trying to take away from anyone else's point of view.

Ah, the Old Days!

Glenn hosted an interesting group of regulars. I see that some are still with him at The Intercept, but most have long since departed for whatever reasons. Because Glenn tends toward Libertarianism (and denies it, or used to) many of his regulars were Libertarians spouting Libertarian cant while presuming to take on the mantle of the weakened or absent Left. It was in that environment that I realized a political Left no longer existed in the United States, and the rhetorical or philosophical Left was so weak it probably should have been put out of its misery.

To me the idea of Libertarians presenting themselves as The Left was appalling.

But it was a needle Glenn wanted to thread back in those days, and some of his "regulars" wanted to go along with him.

I had chosen an ironic online name Ché Pasa some time before I started commenting at Glenn's Place, and some wag had appended "what you call your" between the Ché and the Pasa, and I liked it. At least he or she seemed to get the irony. I've tried to explain it as reference to something that is happening and yet has passed. Che is an icon of the Left, of course, but he's gone. Murdered in Bolivia ages ago. Ché itself is a Belgian "men's magazine" (do they still have those? I don't keep up.) more ironic, humorous, and biting than Playboy or what have you.

But what's in a name anyway?

I didn't see myself as an avatar of The Left, but that's how I was interpreted by some of Glenn's regulars and by Glenn himself. We'd tussle now and then, but mostly from my perspective I was pointing and laughing in both directions, at The (so-called) Left and at the often very rigid Libertarianism trying to claim the "unclaimed territory" of the disintegrated Left.

Someone suggested I "start my own blog." This is typically the online equivalent of purging a commenter whose point of view isn't welcome at some site, but in this case, it wasn't like that. My comments tended to be infrequent but they were often long, and in some ways they were more suited to stand alone posts. I had so little free time in those days (work and travel kept me very busy in meat-world) that I couldn't see making enough time to blog more than intermittently, but during December of 2007 I had a break, and thought why not try it?

The Blogger software was free and relatively easy to navigate. Both Digby (where I occasionally commented) and Atrios (where I had sometimes commented but stopped when the comment section became a surreal pudding bath) used Blogger as did Glenn's Unclaimed Territory, so it couldn't be too hard, and sure enough, it was pretty simple to put something together and publish it. Whoo-hoo!

Why this blog launched on the winter solstice, 21 December 2007, I don't remember. I know I had two, maybe three weeks off that December (whew!) and the time off may have begun the week before. Whatever the case, it launched with a generally positive perspective on what was possible in the face of what had become a soul-crushing empire and the farcical politics of the day.

We were living in interesting times. Bush2 and Cheney had put us and many others through several roiling nightmares.

I had had a couple of previous blogs starting back in the mid-'90s (oh my, dial up was the best, wasn't it?) but I couldn't stick with them due to the press of other responsibilities. One dealt with Mars exploration, another was a sort of Random Notes type thing. I don't think I realized how dedicated you have to be to keep a blog going. I found out to my chagrin, and blogging on dial up was a pain anyway.

DSL made it easier and faster, but it still took more time than I had available.

In 2007, while I was still working and traveling a lot, I had periodic breaks, and so it was possible to think about blogging again, and once I started up this little corner of Blogtopia (h/t Skippy), it was easier to keep up than I thought.

So here we are, ten years on, and what's changed?

Personally, I'm retired now, so I have plenty of time -- or so it would seem. We moved from California to New Mexico in 2012, which for us was a very positive change in environment. We still have lots of connections in California, but New Mexico is very definitely our home-place now, and we're glad it is.

Ms. Ché and I often remark on how this part of New Mexico is very evocative of our more or less rural California childhood homes (me on the Central Coast, she in the Central Valley.) California was very different then and much less crowded and crazy-making. We live in the country now. Well we're a couple of miles from a very small town that was founded as a railroad pit stop around 1900. When Route 66 went through in the '30s, the town relocated north and today is an Interstate pit stop, with three truck stops, and plenty of ancillary hoo-hah, but at heart this is farm and ranch country, like we knew when we were young, the kind of environment we were initially socialized in.

Cowboys, ranchers and farmers are our soul-kin.

This is a portrait of former NM governor Bruce King at his ranch not far north of our place. It's really evocative of where we are and of people who inhabit this region. Tip o' the hat, ya ol' galoot..


We're an hour from Santa Fe, forty-five minutes from Albuquerque so we can, when we want, share in their urbanity and sophistication -- if you want to call it that. We don't have a ranch or farm ourselves, in fact our place is more like a quirky suburban (without the urb to sub) outpost. We're two miles from "town" -- such as it is -- but our house is in a cluster of residences built mostly in the 1950s when 'progress' came to the area. Our house (started around 1900) was originally a hand-built two room adobe ranch house on about 160 acres but the land was sold for development, and so here we are. We have views of the mountains when the trees are bare on the west and north and there are mesas on the east and south. The Interstate is a few miles north and we're only a half-mile from the state highway that runs north and south and connects us with Santa Fe, Taos, and so on.

Rural living is simpler, much simpler, and it's taken us some time to de-compress from the hurly-burly of urban California. But we've done it. At least I think so.

Living where we do and associating with the kinds of people we do has had an effect on my perspective. I no longer have that much interest in changing/reforming things, nor of making headway against the Imperium. I'm more convinced than ever that if Progress is to be made -- if it can be -- it will be small scale, localized, and to the extent possible, independent of the national government.

Putting Trump on the throne and protecting him there has, I think, irredeemably sent the national/imperial enterprise off the rails and perhaps directly into the long-awaited Apocalypse.

How that happened is something to be pondered, but the details are not as important as the bigger picture. The Despairing White Working Class is not the reason why. Something else is going on, and I doubt it is healthy for children and other living things. We are ruled by nihilists who seek the End, and they just might get it.

I've always tended toward optimism, but it's harder and harder to maintain a positive point of view. We (collectively) haven't been able to reverse the trajectory of the Empire since the failure of the anti-Iraq War demonstrations in 2002-3. I think that failure was a turning point, and I think it was an engineered failure as well. It was meant to shatter what was left of the anti-war movement and to inspire hopelessness and despair among a wide range of activists who thought they were getting somewhere against an implacable foe. It worked to some extent.

As time has gone on, it is more and more up to the Black Clad Anarchists (who get themselves arrested) and the Pussy Hat wearing WimminFolk (who don't), the disabled, the disadvantaged, and the persecuted to take to the streets against the depredations of the High and the Mighty, but even they are tiring of this game. The victories are few and far between, and the prize turns out to be tin.

During the last several years, I've had some serious health problems (primarily rheumatoid arthritis) that caused me to be less and less active due to intense joint pain. Only in May of this year was I given treatment that seems to be working to relieve the worst of the symptoms and pain. I have infusion treatments every six months or so and I take heavy doses of immunosuppressants in addition, The combination seems to be effective. I'm grateful for that, but it was a long road to get to this point, and I'm pretty sure the medication has affected more than the pain. Of course some of the changes I've noticed are clearly due to age as well.

What a drag it is getting old...

During the worst of the Period of Pain, I wasn't prescribed any serious pain medication at all. Prednisone was supposed to be sufficient, but even in high doses it was not. The situation was getting worse and worse, and just after I started infusion treatment with Rituxan, I was given a prescription for Tylenol-3 -- hydrocodone and Tylenol -- to have on hand if the Rituxan didn't work. I've never taken it, and I'm not sure it would have worked prior to Rituxan treatment anyway.

This is as close as I've gotten to an opioid treatment for pain. And I had to be in extremis for my doctor to prescribe it at all. I only mention it to note that despite the hoo-hah over opioids these days, at least in my experience, doctors are extremely reluctant to prescribe opioid pain relief if there is any alternative -- even if the alternatives clearly aren't working.

It often seems like the last ten years, indeed the last twenty or more, have been catastrophic for the nation and its people and for far too many people around the world. I think of the devastation that's been wrought in the Middle East, North Africa and South Asia -- but not just in those places -- as a consequence of the Imperial hubris with which our governing classes have been afflicted for far too long. Dozens of cities have been destroyed, millions of people have been displaced and at least hundreds of thousands of civilians have been killed in the Forever Wars undertaken against the ever-present and ever fluid "terrorist threat." In some ways Vietnam may have been worse, but this new-ish Forever War has led to so much murder and destruction with no end in sight. Blowback has been constant (not so with Vietnam) and I can't help but think that the consequences have only begun to be felt domestically. The destruction wrought abroad is bound to circle back to its source. We''re in for some nasty times ahead.

Why haven't we been able to stop it? What impels Our Rulers to such slaughter and destruction?

Millions of Americans were forced into poverty by the Financial Unpleasantness of 2007-10. Many of those who survived are still in poverty, and there they shall remain until the End. While we are supposed to hail the "booming" economy today and the historically low unemployment statistics, that won't solve the problem of those too old or too beaten down to take advantage of it.

Our Rulers truly don't care. It doesn't matter which team they're playing for. We are as dust to them.

And so one of the worst examples of the type has been sent to the throne to rule over us in majesty, and it's an ugly thing to witness, but that's where the recent past has led us. Maybe it was inevitable. I don't know. But I don't think it can end well.

I'm not as optimistic as I was. We can still learn to live simpler lives, advocate for peace and the downtrodden, lift up the good and shun the worst, but the road forward is rough and potholed. New Mexico hosts many examples of those who have tried alternatives to whatever disaster/horror has confronted them. Most have failed, some spectacularly. But there are survivors.

The Pueblos, for example, derive directly from the collapse of the Anasazi era signified by the Chaco Canyon and other ruins that dot New Mexico and the Southwest. They not only survived the collapse, they survived Spanish invasions, conquest and massacres, and later American ones. They aren't what they were, they've adapted and grown in wisdom, but despite all, they're still here, and their influence is profound.

A few of the hippie communes that were established in the late '60s and into the '70s are still functioning though on a somewhat different basis than previously. They are not communes so much as business enterprises derived from communitarian ideas and ideals. But that's how they've survived and in some cases flourished.

"Alternative lifestyles" and artistic interpretations of being here are constantly tried, and some survive for the long haul.

Those survivors will be around long after whatever happens to the Imperium.

In another ten years, I'm pretty sure we'll know what that will be.

Strap in, the wild ride continues.

Cheers,

Ché

"Let the Sunshine In"







We starve, look at one another, short of breath
Walking proudly in our winter coats
Wearing smells from laboratories
Facing a dying nation of moving paper fantasy
Listening for the new told lies
With supreme visions of lonely tunes
Somewhere, inside something there is a rush of
Greatness, who knows what stands in front of
Our lives, I fashion my future on films in space
Silence tells me secretly
Everything
Everything

Manchester, England, England
Manchester, England, England
Across the Atlantic Sea
And I'm a genius, genius
I believe in God
And I believe that God believes in Claude
That's me, that's me, that's me

We starve, look at one another, short of breath
Walking proudly in our winter coats
Wearing smells from laboratories
Facing a dying nation of moving paper fantasy
Listening for the new told lies
With supreme visions of lonely tunes
Singing our space songs on a spider web sitar
Life is around you and in you
Answer for Timothy Leary, dearie
Let the sunshine, let the sunshine in
The sunshine in
Let the sunshine, let the sunshine in
The sunshine in
Let the sunshine, let the sunshine in
The sunshine in
Let the sunshine, let the sunshine in
The sunshine in
Let the sunshine, let the sunshine in
The sunshine in
Let the sunshine, let the sunshine in
The sunshine in
Let the sunshine, let the sunshine in
The sunshine in
Let the sunshine, let the sunshine in
The sunshine in
Let the sunshine, let the sunshine in
The sunshine in
...

Friday, December 15, 2017

Norms


The special Senate election in Alabama to replace Jefferson Beauregard Sessions was won by the Democrat Dave Jones last night [This was started Wednesday] turning the world upside down once again. No Dem has won a Senate seat in Alabam for ages, and it was widely thought impossible for Jones to win even against an accused child molester and Biblical freak like Roy Moore.

After all, everyone knows that norms were shattered  with the election of Trump last year, and there can be no going back -- right?

I noticed the news coverage was all about Moore, almost nothing about Jones, and I thought it must be strategic that way. By focusing almost exclusively on Moore and his supporters in Alabama and elsewhere, including the White House (ie: Trump) and Breitbart (ie: Steve Bannon) the freakishness of Mr. ("Judge") Moore was spread around. The Moore Taint as it were.

Of course, the video of Moore attempting to ride his horse "Sassy" pretty much sealed the deal. What a maroon! You'd think if he were so incompetent a horseman, he'd have the good sense NOT to ride in such a public setting.


Note: I haven't been on a horse in decades, and I'm not sure I can get on one anymore because of a bum left leg, but were I to try, I'd make it a point to do it out back where only selected individuals could see -- and I could watch them point and laugh.

In other words, Roy Moore's very public horsing around (the poor horse!) was a major judgment fail.

As much as "norms" were overturned by the presidential election last year, and a New Normal was initiated, apparently even notoriously reactionary Alabama wasn't ready to throw all sense of sanity and decency to the winds in order to stick it to somebody they believe is inferior -- like the Libtards and Nigrahs.

Sticking it to somebody has been one of the consistent (new) norms since the advent of Trumpism, and the whole point of putting up freaks like Roy Moore is to be able to nyah-nyah at the hated Other.

Norms of the Bygone Era say that's impolite.

But being strategically impolite is one of the hallmarks of the New Reactionaries. Moore, Trump, Bannon, the White House personnel in general (oh my, Sarah, Stephen Miller, Kellyanne, and many more, though some have been dismissed or replaced...) are impolite a a matter of course, daily hurling their anathemas and insults at their many enemies, demanding their outbursts be accepted by the masses as "normal." It's what they do. It's who they are. And if there's a problem it's yours, not theirs.

Of course this is what arrogant bullies have done for time immemorial, and all these people are doing is showing us who and what they are -- as if we didn't already know.

Believe me, we do.

Know, that is.

Moore became a kind of red line for the Norms of BeforeTrump, beyond the which the Good People of Alabama would not go -- apparently. In California, we had a good friend who was from Alabama. She was black, and she'd moved to California to go to college back in the '60s, and she got her degrees and had a career, and she retired to do her art and enjoy herself.

Last time we saw her around the late '90s, she said: "I'm moving back to Mobile."

What? Are you insane, woman?

"Oh no," she said. "Far from it. I have a lot of friends who moved back South, and they've been saying 'you ought to come; it's better here.'"

"Better than what?"

"Than it used to be. There's still racism, of course there is, it's the South. But people are more honest with you."

"You mean than they are here?"

"Yah. So many white folks in California seem to have no idea how racist they are, how condescending, how cruel --and how much they really hate and fear black folk. At least in the South you know where you stand with them. And if they are so racist they don't want you around, they'll let you know. Here you don't find out until they stab you in the back. Or worse."

"Did something happen?"

"You bet. It's been going on for a long time, and I'm tired of it. At least if I go back home to Mobile, that kind of thing won't happen. At least I hope it won't."

She wouldn't tell us exactly what happened, but we knew she'd recently broken up with her white boyfriend, and we suspected that was a major factor in her decision.

She sold her condo and indeed moved to Mobile where we lost track of her, but Ms. Ché did an internet search a couple of years ago. She'd stayed in Mobile about 10 years and then moved back to California, She had set up her art studio in Mobile and taught art to young people of color, but for whatever reason she decided not to stay.

It may have been money. When she came back to California, she set up the same kind of program and apparently received a lot of grant money to fund it which I'm pretty sure she didn't get in Alabam.

Does money and at least the appearance of support cancel out the deep-rooted and often masked racism in California? We didn't have a chance to ask her because we didn't know she'd returned. And we left ourselves shortly afterwards. She passed away the same year we moved to New Mexico.

Roy Moore's campaign of course featured liberal doses of typical cracker racism, but the media focus was ever and always on the charges he'd been soliciting young girls for dates and more when he was a young-ish DA. A pedophile. A molester. A... well, somebody tried to explain his penchant for underage females in Biblical terms. Patriarchs in the Bible were always seeking young females. It was the only way to assure their "purity" and as long as the parents agreed, there was no problem. And too, in the South, at that time, the age of "consent" was lower, much lower. While he could still be criticized, there was a (sort of) rational explanation for Moore's behavior.

M-Kay.

Never mind he was a freak even by Southern standards and his opponent wasn't.

Well, at least not that we know of.

There were many reasons not to vote for Moore. The violations of norms of behavior certainly figured into the reasons why the majority of those who voted in the special election voted against him, but I'm sure it's more complicated than it superficially appears.

Roy Moore's freakishness has been well documented for years, and it is very deeply ingrained in his character and behavior. Don't forget, he's been removed from the bench twice for defiance of judicial rules, norms and the constitution. He used his judgeship to promote his own particular version of Xtianity, the Devil take the hindmost. Like many Dominionists, he refuses -- even now -- to acknowledge the constitution's secular nature. He denies the validity of much constitutional law, and has even suggested the constitutional amendments beyond the first ten should be repealed.

His level of defiance of those norms in particular is off the charts, and his intent is clearly to stick it to anyone who disagrees.

While I'm not sure that should disqualify him or anyone from serving in public office, it is certainly reason to censure and remove a judge, and to vote against him for any office he chooses to stand for.

He's called on God to undo the election and put him in office no matter what the voters said.

We'll see.

Meanwhile, norms of the past are in jeopardy all over the place. Some of them are worth jettisoning, just as "Victorian Morality" once was. On the other hand, "sticking it" to opponents as the foundation of the New Normal is a Pandora's Box of grief.

Is this was what we really want or need?