Category Archives: Spiritual

On the road


 

Kickstarter update on the road away from prohibition.

This is an account of a one-day side-trip on the road in pursuit of the “Tales of Mary Jane”. Every day of that year-ending five-weeks was as interesting and satisfactory as (I hope you will agree) this one.

The first four chapters of the book have been distributed to the backers, and I’m polishing chapter 5 for posting soon.

Here’s to 2015 being better for you, and more productive for me.

Sincere best wishes,
Jack Large

PS to backers of either or both of my Kickstarter projects: Forgive the appearance of multiple identical updates, if you will. It takes a lot less time to apologize in advance than it does to forestall it when your tech skills are as sketchy as mine.

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Tales of Mary Jane: The Children of Prohibition


A year ago, I took my first step into the world of crowd funding. A success, the backing I received enabled me to present a collection of photographs I took while living in Seattle’s Pike Place Market, as a gift to the Seattle Public Library. In return for their help, I promised backers a “reward” in the form of a book with information about the images in the collection, including a narrative about the period (1966-’68), places, people and cultural context portrayed.

Today, minutes ago, I launched a second appeal titled, “Tales of Mary Jane: The Children of Prohibition”. The campaign will run for 14 days. The money goal is modest, far less than will be required to produce the best quality outcome. I may be over-optimistic in thinking the project will capture the interest of anyone who marvels, as I still do from afar, that states of Washington and Colorado (two of my favorites), have legalized recreational use of marijuana since I launched the first campaign.

This is significant because it shapes my perspective on the first Kickstarter effort (“KS1”). Some, a few dozen, of the images in the slide collection show people engaged in various activities associated with casual or habitual use of marijuana. Because this was a criminal activity then (and in most places still is today) the photographs, like the drugs, might have been considered contraband, or at the very least, evidence to support prosecution and, upon conviction, incarceration if we had been so careless as to be caught, as many have been, and are still.

In writing the story of the slide show while poring over the pages of slides in the collection for the purpose of tagging and logging them before sending them on to Seattle, a small but prominent group of images expanded in my mind. They are shots of the small children whose parents were the adults shown smoking pot. The adults were a light-hearted group then and now, and the photos suggest nothing sinister or fear inducing, contrary to the expectations of what at the time was called “straight society”, before the more explicitly sexual connotation attached to the phrase.

As I wrote, my thoughts turned more and more to those children. I wondered, what became of them? A few of them, I know today. For the most part, they grew strong, intelligent, worldly, capable, even accomplished citizens. To all appearances, they were wholly unimpaired by the conditions of their childhood. I can’t say, nor do I have any basis to speculate, what has been the fate of the others. The questions that have grown in my consciousness while writint of them are intensified by not knowing.

Is it possible to predict the mindset of one who grows up gradually more aware that those closest are, crudely put, habitual criminals? How does such knowledge shape one’s interaction with the contrastive world beyond the front door of the family home? Does it influence their choice of friends? Does it make them more or less likely to indulge in a subculture of marijuana use or other proscribed behavior themselves? Are they more sophisticated about the whole range of substances and their abuse? Do they form coteries of peer support outside the traditional systems in their communities.

I intend to gather and tell these “Tales of Mary Jane”. I will find these possessors of unique insight, elicit their stories, and share the stories with a world several generations behind them in its awareness of what, although illegal, has been pervasive. All those having deep familiarity with marijuana and its use, and effects on users are in a position to help inform those who lack it.

A majority of US citizens now agree that the criminalization of marijuana has been a mistake. I will present the evidence I find for and against that conclusion, through the personal narratives and detailed accomplishments of those who understand the much-maligned herb better than can any other, in their way: the children of prohibition. I will need all the help I can get, to do it justice, and justice is really what it’s all about.

Stop a Head when Flashing


[note] I wrote this for a publisher who wanted something about the people, days and events in it. After he accepted it, I checked it with Charlie and he objected to what, in his memory (admittedly somewhat more acute than mine, for reasons that will become apparent). I pulled it, so you’re reading it fresh. Rather than change it, I’ll just call it a work of pure fiction, and add Charlie’s objections in the home stretch. Let the reader make of it whatever he or she likes.

Charles Potts and I met in Pocatello not long before he left for Mexico, so I didn’t get to know him well until he showed up months later in Seattle. Charlie and LSD came on me at about the same time. Acid was stronger, but had nowhere near Charlie’s legs. He was staying with a friend in Olympia, intent on starting a poetry magazine in Seattle. I had quit my job at Boeing the day after dropping my first acid. I had a room in Abie Label’s “artist’s colony” on the eleventh floor of the Frye Hotel at 2nd and Yesler.(It wasn’t all altruism-the elevator went only to 10. The rooms on 11 were just over 6 ft high on one side, sloping up to about 7 and a half on the other to allow for drainage from the roof.)


I had been reading publications like Screw and Fuck, a lot of Ed Sanders’ and Tuli Kupferberg’s stuff, and other arcana of hipness at Jean Andre’s Id Bookstore on 1st Avenue at Yesler, kitty corner Pioneer Square. Sitting around the Id a lot, one lighthearted day (if that’s the right body part), I wrote a send-up of Poe, encountering his eponymous Raven on acid.

Everybody I read it to thought it was cool, naturally, so I was having my 15 minutes when Charlie came back from Mexico with poetry, or more accurately producing a poetry mag on his mind. He didn’t have a name for it yet, and in my new-found acid consciousness, I reached down into memories of my boyhood and found “Litmus”, with its cool dual entendre of the little strips of paper chemists use to test solutions for acidity, and the alliteral allusion to literature. This account is disputed by the estimable, and otherwise absolutely dependable Larry Kent,  also present and the time, and making the same claim for himself. Maybe we had become the same person in that moment. The difference was that I knew exactly what the idea had sprung from.

My father had given me a chemistry set for Christmas back when you could still get one with everything needed to make black powder. His demonstration of the use of litmus paper was magical, indelible in my memory. I’m not sure Charles is ready even now to acknowledge that I named Litmus. I let him down in the stretch, leading up to the appearance of #1, by failing to get the big old multilith printing machine into orbit, that I had acquired in hopes of ensuring book quality printing work.  I was also smoking a lot of weed by, and during, the time he was laboring herculanimously to get #1 out, and off, and on multiple fronts. He took a job at a motorcycle tire dealer to save enough to move to Seattle from Olympia, where he had, in a very short time, become a popular reader in the [name?] coffeehouse.

I’d had friction with some of the artists at the Frye by then. Their underwear bunched up at my plan to move a noisy printing machine into their Zen sanctuary, as it might disrupt the flow of lissome art groupies fluttering in and out of their ersatz ashram. With no appetite for another war, ‘Nam nowhere near over yet, I bailed from there.

Charles and I took an apartment together for a couple months in Belltown, on 2nd Avenue. We found it tastelessly ironic that our new pad was directly above the navy recruiter’s office. That any of our crowd had to pass the “Go Navy” sign to reach our door, tickled us nonetheless. It was there where I took the photo of Edward Smith in the same bathtub where Charlie has written elsewhere that he had found his roommate breaking up a “key”, and it was also there where I shot the picture of Charlie uprooting the Space Needle, both hands under the cap as if it were a great metallic fungus.

Edward Smith was one of several persons that Charlie and I met in the poetry workshops we led together for the Magic Mountain’s Miriam Rader and her Free University of Seattle project, who would become influential in our lives. I was a farce as far as being a poetry teacher goes. I was a humorist abusing the privilege by pretending to write poetry. While the occasional jokes might amuse, they didn’t make for good poetry. A redeeming fact, perhaps, was that I recognized this before anyone else, with the outcome being that I dumped the A B Dick lemon on a guy eager to strike a blow against the man in the form of a magazine for transvestites, and I bailed.

This left Charlie holding the growing poetry bag-Litmus, poetry class, and all, but with with a pair of good hands. I moved into the back room at Jack Cabe’s Zig Zag Gallery in the Pike Place Market, where I would still be in a position to help Charlie host the “Theodore Roethke Gladness Wake” (he still has the flyers!) About that event I can say that on that evening, Charlie, Edward and another former Pocatellan, Clair Oursler, showed me how exciting a live poetry reading could be; it really had to be if it was to do more than merely derive from others’ earlier work, however magnificent.

Of course I did my Poe turn, which was already tasting stale in my mouth. Edward read his feminist call to arms, “Rise up my cunted ones”; Charlie read “I dream of Oaxaca” (which I had been the first person to hear, earlier, when he finished writing it in Belltown), and Clair, astonishingly enough, read the product liner notes from a package of VA douche powder, by the light of an electric lint remover. Whatever one thinks of Roethke, his name lost some of its luster that night, or if not, at least the 30-odd poets and hipsters who attended the readings left less inclined, probably, to use reverential tones when dropping the name.

Another poet who read was David Hiatt. Because I didn’t know him well, I lost complete memory of him and his reading until recently, although I was always aware that there was a hot poetry connection between him and Charles Potts. I recently got a Facebook friend request from David, and in a subsequent exchange of messages he debunked my presumption of propinquity between him and the too-soon-gone poet, Ben Hiatt, he reminded me that I had given him a small amount of “walking around money” at that reading. Maybe Facebook is as close as we have yet come to the global electronic village promised us all those decades ago by Marshall McLuhan and Tim Leary.

My Poe takedown appeared in Litmus #1, which also used my B/W photo of a spider on a chrysanthemum on the cover. From then on, as a result of having met David Horton, already a master photographer espoused to another of the dozen or so brilliant attendees of the poetry class, he became my mentor in a visual art form for which I thought I had more aptitude than for writing poetry. Prose was always more “my thing”, and we all know its not the same.

I was probably a little jealous of the bond I watched grow so quickly between Charles and Edward; they are, or were, now Ed is deceased, both eminently loveable men. The final cooling stroke in the relationship between Charles and I was delivered in the person of Janice P, a lively Nordic blonde, with  a large Alsatian, and  also in the poetry class. We thought of her as our groupie, as she had put a lip-lock on Charlie before you could say “fellatio trumps cunnilingus”. In the end, she threw us both over for a guy who “could beat her at tennis,” but I chalked it up to a rough first acid trip. Twenty years later, either one of us would have accepted the tennis challenge, switching gender roles for the Bobby Riggs-Billy Jean King Classic match-up result, but I didn’t come here to take up sports writing.

For awhile, as time was reckoned in the Summer of Love, it was fair to say she was Charlie’s girl. One day she came around the gallery looking for Charlie, so she said, and I don’t claim otherwise. Charlie wasn’t there, nor was he usually, for if not at his job, he would be very busy working to get Litmus out. Before anyone but the rare clearheaded person realized what was happening, Janice and I were putting the wood away on the gallery floor while the Alsatian licked his balls in the corner.

I felt a little self-conscious about it afterward, all our fashionable pretensions about the correctness of free love notwithstanding. I didn’t think Charlie was too pleased about it either when I told him later, but the damage was done. A few months, a thousand poetry publishing headaches, and a few issues of Litmus later, and Charlie was off to meet his alter ego, Laffing Water in Berkeley (cf. Vol II, Valga Krusa, Green Panda, 2007, Cleveland).

It’s been said that if you remember the 60’s, you weren’t there, and there may be truth in it. I sent the above text to Charles, expecting his memory to be as good or better than mine. Our versions don’t match, but I have neither an argument against his, nor an inclination to vary mine, since I remember it. Even so, I concede to Charles’ account of his motivations, intentions and actions. His mind wasn’t nearly as addled with weed, wine and psychecelics as mine, then or ever. His account of the time follows:

“Per the biography, my memory is substantially different from yours. I did not return from Mexico or move to Seattle obsessed with publishing a poetry magazine. When we re-met in Seattle, you and David Wagner and others whose names escape me were planning an anti-war anti-establishment magazine that was to be called Shrapnel. For which Wagner had made a proto typical cover misspelling the word as Scrapnel I believe.

What I offered in those late days of August was to procure some poetry for this magazine as I had left Pocatello feeling slightly guilty that I had let Bob Serpa talk me out of including Dawn, Clair, and Mary Heckler in an anthology Serpa and I published called Do You Want to Be in Our Zoo Too? which contained the works of Serpa, CP, Zig, and Geoffrey Dunbar.

I had read Ford Madox Ford’s It Was the Nightingale which was a nightmare about publishing The Transatlantic Review and I had determined never to be the editor or publisher of a magazine.
As time went along, and the name of the projected magazine changed to Litmus, it became apparent that you and Wagner weren’t going to be able to produce. I was perfectly willing to let down my friends, Oursler, Dawn, and Mary Heckler one more time and let the project languish. It was only after the 3rd meeting of “Poetry—Language—Now” at the free university when Ed Smith read “The Queen of the Blue Fox” and we had a poem that had to be published, did I become obsessive about getting the first and second issues out, and subsequently took over the publishing in order to finish it.
Those are the most substantive objections to the portrayal of me in those days. Per the Theodore Roethke Gladness Wakes, the first one was you me and Clair. Ed Smith read at the 2nd one along with Paul Malanga and Bobby Byrd. [Charles Potts, personal email, 11 March 2009]

Sequelae: I sought Charlie out in Berkeley alongside a “buying trip” I had undertaken, as necessitated by seekers from Seattle in those early days of designer chemistry. I arrived at the airport early in the morning, bought a newspaper and took the bus into Berkeley. The headlines blared the the cops raiding Black Panther headquarters in Berkeley, killing two men, including Bobby Seale, and arresting Eldridge Cleaver and Huey P. Newton. It was not unexpected push-back by the police, and was viewed on the streets as the cops getting even for the Panthers well-established habit of “patrolling the pigs”, or cruising the streets of Oakland and Berkeley with serious firepower protruding from every window. It was a policy ostensibly designed to awaken all to a perceived need to protect local citizens from being harassed by police for walking while black.

Reaching Charlie’s room, I woke him up to read him this news, as he had as yet no inkling of it. It was a delicious moment for me, that rare one when any of his friends learned a salient fact before Charlie, always so diligent in his pursuit, and rarely forgetting anything. I imagine it enabled me to somewhat refuel Charles’ esteem of me as a reliable participant in our scene. I have been lucky in that way.

If you have read this far with any interest (and how could you not?)  and yet are unfamiliar with Valga Krusa (in 2 vols: The Yellow Christ, and Laffing Water, which details the hair-raising and heart-rending experiences of Charlie in Berkely, culminating in his descent into psychiatric hell, and subsequent (and quite brilliant) recovery, the book is available by contacting this space.

The Best of the Billionaires


Since I put the idea out there for them to embrace with the alacrity and verve we find so appealing in them, America’s billionaires have been slow to recognize the real opportunity my plan represents. This is hard to explain. After all, who’s better known for seizing an opportunity to become even more financially rotund than the commercial behemoths produced by the US system of trickle down, Hoover up freemarket capitalism.

The plan in a nutshell, you may remember, is a unique combination of reality TV and game show, with an American Idol twist. It starts with a move every billionaire can get behind, and divides up the planet between a number of the most competitive billionaires (weaklings under $2bn net worth need not apply.) Each billionaire is allowed to compete with up to one billion of his or her own money, and whatever profits are gained from their enterprise in the competition are theirs to keep, after all expenses have been settled.

Every day brings new ideas and insights to the scheme, and today’s come from the sale of the Shine Group, owned by Rupert Murdoch’s daughter, to the mogul himself, price tag: $672 million. The old fellow wants the company, we are told, because of all the great things it’s goint to add to the content-creation arm of his behemoth media empire. He may envision improvements to his FOX Broadcasting unit, where the need for help with quality content is sorely needed, if we can’t believe what we’re hearing and seeing there, and it seems we can’t. Good luck with that.

So here it is, Ms Murdoch, here is the gem that will help ensure that the new Shine on the Murdoch fortunes is real, and not just a reflection of the stage lights on Dad’s ego. Pick up the option on this program and produce an instant hit. I say start with the 50 states and give one each to a billionaire with no current financial holdings in that state. Charge them with building a team of idea people, researchers, managers and engineers, and public relations and marketing people who are presently unemployed in that state. Start by landing one or more of the many unemployed human resources professionals wandering around looking dazed and confused and go from there.

All they have to do to get started is to verify that they have placed $US one billion in escrow for the project, and the game is on. Round up the local media teams to keep an eye (and a camera) on their their every move, as they begin to shape a new industry for the state, or to improve its existing resources to a level of fiscal productiveness. Make sure they all get exactly the same breaks, in terms of obeying the local laws. Air weekly or even daily reports on the action, answering questions on the minds of local viewers: Who’re the players? What’s the action?; How much is being spent, and on what?

Empanel a group of experts to evaluate the moguls’ projects in terms of whose ideas are generating the most good for the most citizens of each’s respective state. Finally, set up a method, a la American Idol, where the citizens can make their own opinions count, in terms of how they are receiving that which is being put in place for them. Use an algorithm combining the findings of the panel with the votes of the public to allot a number of points per week to each player. The billionaire with the most points for the week is the “Best Billionaire”.

I’m looking your way, Ms Murdoch, for the same reason I first offered the idea to Donald Trump. I figured he’d jump at the chance to do it, and earned a well-deserved Nobel, thus putting him a giant step closer to the US Presidency that he feels so uniquely qualified for. He’s ignoring me, possibly because it’s easier to just keep building projects that shave money off those of his own class. Who can say?

I reckon that, if you know anything at all, Ms Murdoch, you must know media. I think you will see the merits in this plan, if your imagination is as good as we imagine. This project has the potential to produce more media revenue in the first year alone, than Diddums is forking over for your Shine Group. Here’s your chance to build another one, even bigger and better, and in less time, without even breaking a sweat. Call it Spit Shine. Call it whatever you want, once it’s yours. Call me.

Jack Large

Seoul

The reality TV show I’d like to see


The United States, according to Forbes Magazine has a minimum of 400 billionaires. Almost half that number are worth $2 billion or more, give or take. When you’re standing on the mountain, its hard to know the size of it.

Donald Trump, at $2.6 bn, has his eye on the top of the pile always, and not just the money pile. He wants to be president. Fair enough. We’re taught from a very young age that, in America, we can be president if we want it badly enough, and if we work harder to get there than the runners-up do .

The Donald has once again inflated the trial balloon, and once again generated as much ridicule as support for the notion, partly because he claims the right no to decide until after the current season of his hit reality show, The Apprentice, has been put to bed.

I have given the matter a lot of thought (strangely enough) and I have divined a path, a Yellow Brick Road, if you will, that ends with Mr. Trump elected POTUS. It is not only plausible, but if he can just go out and pull it off with the same deftness he demonstrates in getting the members of his class to spend on other Trump enterprises, I will vote for Donald Trump myself.

The reader who doesn’t know me will be muttering “Here’s another fool with a disposable vote!”, and that’s fair enough, at least in part. I am a kind of American socialist; our votes are, thus far, the very definition of disposable in our country. Yet, that here is a socialist acknowledging even the possibility of voting for a man whose life e, should give any politically literate person a double-take. So here it is; it needs a name and yours may be better than mine. I call it American Mogul. I am not shy in my triteness.

Four hundred billionaires, if parity was possible, would mean eight per state. Only half of them have enough money to play in this contest, cutting the total number of billionaires eligible for it to four. Eligibility rests on one qualification. Each would-be mogul must be willing to place, at the outset, one billion dollars in escrow if they mean to play. The eligibility pool will contain but 50 contestants, or one per US state. An entry fee of one million dollars will be collected from the escrow funds.

To become the American Mogul, contestants will be judged by a method combining the small administrative skills of an expert panel, a la The Apprentice, and American Idol, with the local perceptions in the state theater of performance, by a panel composed of judges from the ranks of government, education, business and the public-at-large, and finally, by the tally of phone-in votes for candidates as regarded by the national citizenry.

A lottery would pair each mogul with a state. Ground rules requiring each to reveal the extent of their current business activity in the state allotted to them, so that the likelihood is minimized of their approach doing no more good than merely adding substance to an already substantial holding there.

The action required of each mogul, is to devise and implement an investment plan, to be completed within a set period of, say, 4-5 years, that can be shown to produce the greatest amount of financial, social and tax benefit to his/her allotted state, and as the demonstrated result of the mogul’s plan.

The economic spin-offs from media presentation, employment opportunities, bandwagon-jumping investor mogul wanna-bes should be significant and fun to watch. Close scrutiny to guard agains cronyism, corruption, insider trading, sweetheart deals, offshore accounts, and outsourcing of key elements should be recognized as real risks, and rules put in place to minimize and penalize their occurrence.

The perception of most people is that most moguls got their money the old-fashioned way: they inherited it. Furthermore, it is generally perceived that, without teams of lawyers, accountants and managers, most moguls would end their lives with less than they started with.

Here is a chance for them to put us all in our places. Donald Trump can lead the orchestra, and if he does so, successfully, he would deserve the Nobel Peace Price, the one that would make believers of us all, and put him in the White House.

So come on, Mr Trump!  Stand and deliver, you other billionaires! Show us what you’re made of. Prove to us, all and sundry, that Laissez Faire capitalism, even the taxed and regulated kind, is the way to the Promised Land. Or don’t, and continue to confirm our worst suspicions.

No Adult Left Behind


Growing up in the Fifties was an exercise in out-of-body experience. One unforgettable first-time encounter was with the term “brainwashing“, as applied to citizens of the former Soviet Union and their indoctrination with the tenets of Marxism-Leninism. Distorted, mutated, warped and terminally twisted by Stalin and other totalitarian apparatchiks, they were the subject of great derision by the American pundits of the day. The idea that propaganda and indoctrination via repetitive training and education practices could result in mass acceptance of principles so obviously false to us more discerning citizens of Freedom and its enterprises, had Uncle Sam’s collected heads shaking for over two decades.

The Soviets were spectacularly successful at brainwashing, if we accept as given a complete surrender to and subjugation of the citizens’ free will and thought to the prerogatives of the Soviet State. The accomplishment is all the more remarkable given the comparatively primitive state of delivery mechanisms then (blackboard, reel-to-reel audio, hypnotism, etc.) and those of today. The influences on public thought and discourse are nothing if not numerous, diverse and undifferentiated by the usual constraints of cultural respectability at one extreme, and cultural tabu at the other.

We have hundreds of cable channels, the Internet, designer drugs, free porn, mass marketing, commercials, haute couture, Play Station, peer pressure, competitive consumption, Word of God, NeoCon men and women, poor physical health born of self-destructive habits, -its a lengthy list getting longer. It takes little time in the presence of these pervasive influences to develop the kind of serious mental and emotional dependency on them that produces withdrawal discomfort in withdrawal. A slang word for such withdrawal from heroin is “jones”, noun or verb. “Keeping up with the Joneses” thus produces the tastiest double entendre we’re likely to discover for awhile.

We are beginning to glimpse a future when the human proponents of unbridled material consumption and behaviours associated with it, are called to the streets by their dealers in the name of “grassroots organizing”. Wiser heads have tagged this an “astroturf” movement, marshalled and bankrolled by those whose obscene affluence came from producing, promoting and dispensing the products, e.g. the information, disseminated by such choice purveyors as Fox Broadcasting (no, make that anything possessed by Rupert Murdock), big insurance, big pharma, big for-profit health care, big banking, big chemical, big petro, big mining, and big a-hole (as in the vote-for-hire GOP/Dem hacks who live in their pockets).

Our disdain for the Soviets turns out to have been spot-on, for at their most influential, given that their people didn’t have the facts at their disposal when they swallowed the Big Red Lies. On the other hand, US citizens today have more facts at our disposal than at any time in human history. Virtually nothing stands between us and comprehension of our current precarious national condition but our own apathy, disinterest, arrogance and the self-assuredness that we already know all we need to know to fight Obama on any and every issue.

There are, roughly estimated, maybe 100  million adult US citizens who are free to operate vehicles, buy and use firearms, range across public lands unhindered, or to disrupt public meetings on healthcare reform, but are incapable of naming more than a handful of government officials in agencies as obscure as the Cabinet, the Supreme Court or the House and Senate. They can name 10 brands of beer, every sports franchise in every city that has one in the NBA, NFL, two major baseball leagues, and pro golf and tennis, but they can’t identify the Group of 8 advanced nations on an outline map of the globe.

This is our big problem. It’s big enough to warrant special attention in the media, and study by Congress and thinking people everywhere, to look for remedies that will de-program these citizens and get them learning to think for themselves again, instead of for those whose entire business it is to maximize profits on discretionary goods and services to which their business practices have addicted so many of us.

As long as the minds of so many of our countrymen are abandoned to the forces of greed and consumption, our collective future is mortgaged to them. Until the problem is acknowledged, quantified and addressed by policy and programs, it mightn’t be a bad idea for those of our “friends” who have accepted US military presence in their countries to wonder out loud in their national press, and between diplomatic communicants, exactly when such efforts might get underway.

When other nations have, or aspire to get, weapons of mass destruction, we speculate about the outcome should a country succumb to widespread civil disruption of the sort that might create conditions where control of the weapons should end up in the hands of less than rational forces. The recent Bush Administration was such that this very situation might have come about in the US. It wasn’t someone else’s country. It was an administration of The United States of America that showed itself willing to torture and invade and snoop and lie and steal and terrorize and break any law if it would serve the prevailing neo-con ideology to do so.

We elected President Obama intending that his administration would divert (one wants to say arrest, but)  this dismal current. They have barely slowed it down, but already many of us show signs of subsiding into the lethargy and inattention necessary for matters to get as bad as they did in the past. If the election result had turned out their way, our lives would already be immeasurably worse, for the people who are sending these mobs of brainwashed citizen tea-baggers, birthers and America uber alles mokes spawned in the hundreds by the ideological centers of vested interest, would be running the show instead of screaming from the astroturf outside  the doors and windows of public meetings. These, our fellow citizens, are not the root cause of the problem. They are but one of many symptoms. They are the cannon fodder placed in the path of refoms by those of the deep pockets and the kind of cynicism about notions like the social contract that these have characterized these force historically.

Something must be done to deprogram  and educate fools and true believers, and for no better reason than to save them from their own folly. They have been left behind, accidentally or by their own option. We who are their kin should accept the responsibility to point out for them the full extent to which they have been duped into the embrace of lunacy, to serve as simple tools for shaving policy and intimidating policy-makers in the decreasingly United State of America.

Everybody Eats!


I take a nap almost every day. I become torpid from eating a full meal at midday. Before and after my nap, whether I am at home or at work (Yes, America, you too can nap at work!) I am likely to spend an hour or two reading news on the Internet, which is lately about the impending demise of newspapers. Today, I’m watching Arianna Huffington’s presentation on the subject to Sen. John Kerry’s committee. Fortunately, La Huffington delivers more stimulating product at the Post than she does at the podium. Most of what HuffPost delivers is essential for an informed progressive-minded person to know, but not all.

I can let the C-Span video run and surf on, this time arriving at a post so outrageous that it almost causes me to stop breathing as I read, so entirely am I offended by it. Growing up in agricultural regions of the United States, and reading about the hunger experienced in much of the Third World, and in war-torn regions of more developed and developing parts, I have ever been conscious of a vague guilty unease, knowing that only greed and politics stand between a well-nourished humanity, and that very different one of our experience. At least, I consoled myself, I was fortunate enough to be born into a country where babies didn’t have to go to bed hungry.

So today, as I perambulate the pages full of stories about the trillions going to so-called “defense”, and mega-billions to bailout banks and insurance companies, and millions being skimmed into the pockets of government contractors and office-holders and bagmen and bosses in every big industry, I must also read that millions of American children will, indeed, go to bed hungry tonight, and tomorrow night and every uncounted night that selfish, greedy, arrogant xenophobes in high places continue cockroaching about in the utterly self-absorbed orgy in pursuit of authority and material gain.

There is a criminal conspiracy between corporatists, authoritarians, social conservatives, anti-intellectuals and religious obscurantists that together are the cause of these pestilential practices that have brought our once-robust country to the brink of total dysfunction. If almost one in five American children is experiencing even one day without adequate food, then exactly what makes the United States of America so special after all? I encountered former US Secretary of Agriculture Cecil Andrus outside the offices of the Snake River Alliance in Boise a few years back, and I asked him if he was happy to be back in Idaho. He replied that, Yes, he was, because he ran into a lot fewer people in Idaho that needed to be watered daily. Looking back on the moment, it occurs to me that we should have stopped watering them long ago, in the hope that the most noxious would simply dry up and blow away. Replace them with varieties of human cultivars that bear more heavily, so that when outsiders inquire how things are back in the USA, we can say at the very least that “Things are still all fucked up by politics and greed, but at least everybody eats!”