Saturday, December 12, 2015

Keeping a Dream Alive

It has become one of my favorite icons in our retirement home town — weathered boards nailed to an old utility post with a slightly off-kilter metal hoop that looks as if it might have come from Dr. Naismith’s original peach basket.

It could be any boy-crafted  basketball goal in any back yard of the midwest where I grew up, except for this master touch: with a bristle-deprived brush and the dregs of an old paint can someone has marked this as “PAN AM.”

You’ve got to know some college basketball history to appreciate this.  “Pan Am” is short for the Pan American Center at New Mexico State University, a 13,000 seat arena where the Aggies basketball teams play.  When Neil McCarthy coached the Aggies (1985-97), most of those seats were filled for every home game, and the Aggies won more than 20 games every year, and for seven consecutive seasons the team went to the NCAA basketball tournament, once even reaching the Sweet Sixteen. Every kid in Dona Ana County who ever threw a basketball at a home-made goal aspired to play in the Pan Am.  It was during this period that the goal on Fairacres Road was erected.  It still stands, recently enhanced with a new net.

Only seven basketball players of the Neil McCarthy era ever graduated from NMSU, and the NCAA found the school guilty of repeated and egregious violations of academic standards to keep players eligible.  The university fired McCarthy who sued for breach of contract and won.  The school paid the court’s judgment and was too broke to hire another coach.

Enter Lou Henson.  Lou had coached a state champion high school team in Las Cruces, then coached at NMSU and took a team to the Final Four.  The University of Illinois hired him away from the Aggies and he established a winning tradition there, including regular runs deep into the NCAA tournament. He had retired to play golf in sunny Las Cruces when the McCarthy settlement impoverished the NMSU athletic department.  Lou agreed to come out of retirement and coach the Aggies for $1 a year.

The Pan Am rocked again and there were great games, like the one against heavily favored arch-rival New Mexico when Lou switched to a zone for the last inbounds play of the game, which so befuddled the Lobos that they threw away the ball and their last chance at winning.  “There’s a reason the man has won over 700 games,” said his star player at the time.

The court at the Pan Am is called “Lou Henson Court” and Lou is in the college basketball Hall of Fame.  Under his successor, the former NBA star Reggie Theus, and now under Coach Marvin Menzies, NMSU continues to be a winning team, with frequent post-season appearances in the NCAA tournament.

Every now and then someone freshens the “Pan Am” paint on the makeshift goal on Fairacres Road.  I like to think that kids still go there to shoot hoops and dream of playing in the real Pan Am.  Perhaps some day one of them will lead a local high school team to a state championship and receive a scholarship to play as an Aggie.

ESPN talking heads will call him “the Latino Larry Bird” or “the Hispanic Stephen Curry” and he’ll get hot in the NCAA’s and take the Aggies to the Final Four, or maybe to the championship game, or even, perhaps, invoking the miracles of Villanova in 1987 or Texas Western (now UTEP) in 1966, New Mexico State will beat Duke or Kentucky for the national championship. It’s all about dreams.

And someone keeping a dream alive  with a ramshackle goal nailed to a utility pole on Fairacres Road.

Friday, December 11, 2015

It's Time to Say, "Enough!"

Have we not had enough of this bloated ego, inflated with rancid wind and putrid fart-gas — this empty-headed, racist, rich white boy — this blond-plumed turd regurgitating hate and filth — this bloviating fool who makes the United States a laughingstock among the intelligent citizens of other nations?

Now the mainstream media are covering themselves covering Donald Trump and some wonder if it’s, gee whiz, not “balanced” for others to call him what he clearly is— a lying, fascist maniac, a modern-day Hitler aborning. It’s time for Matt Taibbi, author of the face-sucking giant squid, to coin an equally adept metaphor for this cyst on the anus of American society. “Unhinged,” as Jeb Bush put it, is too drab.

Perhaps there should be a contest for the best derogatory term for Trump, with the winner given the right to pitch a severed pig’s head onto the steps of one of his mansions.

Hillary Clinton said she no longer “thinks he is funny.”  Did anyone with a brain ever think this jerk was funny? Only in Amerika!

Even the right-wing nut-cases who share his pursuit of the Republican presidential nomination agree that he has gone too far out the window with his call to prevent muslims from entering the United States.  At last! The bile Trump has spewed from the moment he entered the campaign — “rapists” spilling across our southern border! — disqualified him from the very outset to be a serious candidate for the presidency.  That anyone qualified to vote considers him so indicts the entire electorate as a ship of fools.

There have always been idiots, bigots, psychopaths and lunatics in our population and there always will be.  As lone individuals loose among us they are dangerous enough, but when others begin to take them seriously, to applaud their ranting and raving and their hatred, to consider them leaders, entire societies are at grave risk.

It is time to ring down the curtain on this man Trump.  The leadership of the Republican party, the media, those who once thought he was “funny,” or “entertaining,” or “quirky” or whatever — it is time for these people to end the theater of the absurd.  It is time for them to send Donald Trump off into some dark corner of the loony bin, unheard, unquoted, uncelebrated and unwanted.

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Good Country for Old Horses

An old white horse ambled across a fallow field today at the foot of Mt. Robledo with the late autumn sun approaching its optimal angle of ambience. It was an image that cried out to be captured and would have been, when I kept a camera in the pick-up truck, always loaded with a fresh roll (back then) of KodaChrome 25.

Even after I dragged myself into the digital age I kept an SLR in the truck, just in case.  Can’t remember exactly when I quit doing that.  In any event, the images I capture these days are for my mind’s eye, not albums or data bases. Brandi and I take leisurely drives to favorite old places and loll there, just thinking about good old times, letting the mental images scroll by at their own pace, in their own time.

We were heading toward the back entrance to Broad Canyon when we spotted Old White.  He did not move fast but he moved with purpose; he knew where he was going, and why. In the adjoining field, in a grove of trees, the last operations of the pecan harvest were going on.  It’s all mechanized now, and very efficient, but maybe some of the elders in the harvest crew remembered when Old White hauled a harvest wagon down the rows of trees, collecting the nuts as they fell.  Perhaps they remembered to leave an apple or other treat near the fence line when they passed by, and White was going to collect his reward as of old.

Brandi watched White with casual interest; he was the only moving thing in our serene desert landscape at that moment.  I followed the old horse with a keener eye; here was a fellow geezer, still alert and alive and taking his pleasure from the land where he had lived and worked his lifetime.  Go for it, Old White, whatever,  and wherever,  “it” might be.  Go for it.

We weren’t far from the last vestiges of an old wagon road down which my son, David, and I had ridden mountain bikes toward  the old Butterfield Trail, looking for the ruins of one of the forts on its route.  We knew it was out there somewhere, but we both lost tires to the cacti and had to turn back.  A sheriff’s car was waiting beside the truck when we walked the bikes back to the main road.  “You guys OK?” the deputy asked as we approached.  “OK,” we said, “except for punctured tires.”  We added by way of explanation, “we were looking for the old fort on the Butterfield Trail.”  “Did you find it?” he asked.  “Nope.”  “Better luck next time,” he said, and drove off.

There was a next time and we did have better luck.  Poked around the ruins for half a day or so, taking pictures and wondering how it must have been, riding that stage through Indian country, less than a day’s journey from the site of the Cook Mountain massacre.

I’ve reached that age of awareness that each visit to a favorite place might be my last.  I tend to linger longer, savoring what’s there.  Today I had an urge to hike down that old wagon rut, find the remains of that old fort, relive the joy of discovery that David and I experienced — how long ago?  Can’t remember exactly.

But the metal replacement hip was hurting, and the failing hip on the other side as well.  The sun settles quickly behind the western mountains these shortening days.  Suddenly it’s no country for old men.

Brandi and I drove slowly past the field where we’d seen Old White.  He wasn’t there.  I know that somewhere between the road and Broad Canyon there’s a cattle tank and an old corral and some other amenities for ranch horses.  There’s still plenty of browse between here and there.

What more could an old horse want?

We Failed Franklin's Challenge

Alas, Dr. Franklin, we did not keep the republic you bequeathed to us. It has been swept away in  bitter tides of war, ignorance, corruption, apathy, greed, hatred and self-deceit. It cannot be restored.

Each of these tides, in its own manner, lethally eroded the ideal of the republic.  In creating the most monstrous war machine in history, we have remolded our nation into an oligarchy of warlords. Militarism and all its appurtenances have become so rich and powerful a force in the United States that it can never be turned back. Only this week, the military industrial complex itself gave us the material for a metaphor. From Bath, Maine, the largest destroyer ever built for the U.S. Navy began to navigate the winding Kennebec River toward the open ocean for sea trials — the 600-foot, 15,000-ton USS Zumwalt. Imagine, if you can, 100 brave swimmers, pushing against her prow, trying to shove her back to port.  Now imagine a tenfold increase in the size and power of the ship, and a reduction of the number of swimmers to ten. The swimmers’ chances of stopping and reversing the course of that monstrous ship are roughly the equivalent of the hopes for success of a peace movement in the former republic of the United States.

In willful ignorance we heard but did not heed the warning, 54 years ago, of an outgoing president against this monster aborning.

Concurrently, our civic apathy enabled ever growing corruption in government at every level.  The republic formed by Dr. Franklin and his peers in that Philadelphia hall envisioned a process by which laws would be fashioned by direct representatives of the people, elected by the people and responsible to the people.  Today, laws are made in secret by a non-government entity created and funded by multi-billionaires such as the Kochs, then handed to bought-and-paid-for office holders for a rite of passage that mocks democracy.  This process takes place at every level of government, enslaving The People in a system designed to perpetually enrich the oligarchs and their institutions while depriving the citizenry of even the most basic and necessary government protections.  Eventually, the common people will be seen only as fodder for the war machine.

Until the final takeover of everything by the oligarchy, a pretense of democratic form functions in the former republic.  We hold elections.  A few of us — too few — actually vote, driven by the self-deceit that our votes “count.”  Cut off by corporate media from the truth about our government and its policies, the electorate responds, as the oligarchs intend, to appeals to the basest facets of their nature.  Hate and its obverse image, fear, increasingly motivate the masses.  We fear “them” because their skin is not white, or they practice religions other than our sick version of Christianity, or they wear non-western clothing, or they speak funny languages. And so we vote for some bloviating demagogue named Walker or Rubio or Cruz or — heaven forefend! — Trump.

Thus, day by day, in ways large and small, does our ignorance feed our self-deceit, and our self-deceit serve the interests of our corporate masters, exponentially engorging their obscene fortunes, and debasing the lives of the commoners.

In his historic warning 54 years ago, Dwight Eisenhower urged us to always be cognizant of “the need to maintain balance in and among national programs -- balance between the private and the public economy, balance between cost and hoped for advantage -- balance between the clearly necessary and the comfortably desirable; balance between our essential requirements as a nation and the duties imposed by the nation upon the individual; balance between actions of the moment and the national welfare of the future.” 

When we lost that balance we began to lose Dr. Franklin’s republic.

And this is the final irony: if somehow we shed the yoke of ignorance and sought through massive rebellion to change the things that are, our rebellion must fail, suppressed by the massive, militarized police state we have allowed to grow up around us.

Saturday, December 5, 2015

Let the Joyful Voices Ring

’Tis the season to broadcast Christmas music.

“O, Holy night . . .”

(Under cover of darkness, Republicans in the United States Senate voted to deprive all but the wealthiest Americans of health care, to ensure unlimited  access to war weapons  for everyone, and to deprive women of the right to control their own bodies.)

“The hopes and fears of all the years are met in thee tonight . . .”

(The United States has dropped so many bombs on Iraq and Syria that it’s running out of bombs.  “We’re in the business of killing,” an Air Force spokesman said, “and business is good.”)

“Joy to the world . . .”

(On average, there is a mass shooting every day in the United States that injures four or more people.)

“Sleep in heavenly peace . . .”

(Donald Trump says the way to deal with people he disagrees with is to kill their families.  He is the leading candidate for the Republican party’s presidential nomination.)

“Bless all the dear children in thy tender care,
And take us to heaven, to live with Thee there.”

(United States wars around the world have killed more than 500,000 children since the invasion of Iraq began.  The U. S. -led wars have created a global refugee crisis yet none of the orphaned children in the refugee horde is welcome in the United States, especially Texas.)

“Peace on Earth and mercy mild . . .”

(Lawmakers in the United Kingdom and Germany have voted for their countries to join the fighting in Syria’s bloody civil war.  The United States president boasts that he has bombed nine countries since taking office.  Russia is fortifying a second military base to facilitate its warfare in Syria. We even bomb hospitals.)

“I am a poor boy too
Pa rum pum pum pum
I have no gift to bring
Pa rum pum pum pum”

(The richest 20 families in the United States control more wealth than half the total population. In the “land of the free and the home of the brave,” 46.7 million people live in poverty. More than 15.5 million  children under the age of 18 live in poverty. Nearly five million seniors 65 and older live in poverty.)

“It’s the most wonderful time of the year . . .”

(Especially if you own a factory that makes weapons.  Or fossil fuel. Or yachts for the one per cent.  Or if you  sell your votes in congress to the highest bidder.)

" . . .With the kids jingle belling and everyone telling you "Be of good cheer" 

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

A Mad Turk and Nuclear Winter

Some brainless jackass in Turkey may have launched World War III.  Whether he had the advice and consent of an equally brainless jackass far up the United States military command may never be known.

If we believe his government ’s story — but why should we? — he shot down a Russian warplane that invaded Turkish territory.  NATO and the United States support this version of the event.

But even the United States acknowledges that if —IF — the Russian plane, engaged in fighting rebel groups in  the insane Syrian civil war that the U.S. created, did in fact violate Turkish territory, it did so for — all of five seconds.

The Russians say the plane never strayed beyond the border of Syria, where it was engaged in fighting not just what the U.S. calls ISIS or ISIL, but all of the forces that seek to overthrow what is, like it or not, the legitimate government of Syria. Russia is there at the Request of the Syrian government and with the formal blessing of the United Nations.  The United States is there because its rmilitary-industrial oligarchs demand unceasing war somewhere, preferably where the war-hawk government of Israel wants war to be.

The Turks insist they “warned” the Russian aircraft ten times.  Ten times in five seconds?  C’mon man!

The plane crashed in Syria.  Someone on the ground shot one of the pilots as they parachuted toward earth.  This violates the Geneva Convention; it is a war crime.  The whereabouts of the second pilot is unknown as I write this.  If he landed in turf controlled by one of the rebel groups that the U.S.  supports, he will meet or have already met the fate of a Jordanian pilot who baled out and landed there:  immolation in a steel cage. This goes beyond being a war crime; it is a barbarian affront against civilized humanity. Unless, of course, it is done by a United States ally.

United States “policy” in the Middle East — and around the globe — has become such a mish-mash of illogical shooting first and asking questions later, if at all, that future historians will never decipher it all.  If there are any future historians.

Because whatever is left of this planet when the war launched by this Turkish asshole is over will probably not be inhabitable.  If there are pockets of habitability in the nuclear winter, they will probably be in the large land-mass countries — China and Russia — that we have chosen to alienate in our own pursuit of endless war all over the globe. Not to quibble with Einstein, but there may not be enough people close enough to one another to fight the next war with clubs, sticks and stones.

The Turks, by shooting down the Russian plane, have assured that every nuclear power on the globe now has a stake in what follows.  Vladimir Putin, the Russian president who is perhaps right now more popular with his own people than any other head of state in the world, cannot retain that support without responding in some warlike fashion against Turkey.

Turkey is a member of NATO, whose Article IV maintains that a strike against one is a strike against all.  That would require a host of nuclear powers to retaliate against Russia.  Russia would respond with its own nuclear arsenal, and its treaties with China and other nuclear powers would bnring their A-power into the carnage.

Our pal in Israel, Benjamin Netanyahu, would no longer be under any restraints from using his nuclear arsenal. Bibi would go to his own obliteration happy in the knowledge that before he turned to cosmic dust, he had nuked Iran into nothingness.

Who or what will survive this madness?  Read Cormack McCarthy’s  “The Road.”  It is, if anything, too optimistic an answer.

The American Way of Racism

The three other liberals here in southern New Mexico often remark to me, usually with a shudder, how frightening it is to consider a Trump or Carson presidency — or whichever other right-wing lunatic happens to be rising in the presidential preference polls.

What’s really frightening is the hatred that has saturated the electorate, and accounts for the popularity of the Republicans’ thinly-disguised racism, contempt for non-Christians and their arrogant dismissal of the impoverished and dispossessed as creatures less than human.

The war-mongering profiteers who have taken over our country despite former President Eisenhower’s warning against them understand that the wars that sustain their infinite greed require the manufacture of a Great Evil for the masses to fear and hate.

Orwell depicts this brilliantly, of course, in “1984.”

I grew up being taught to hate The Hun but especially The Jap.  For World War II we interred, impoverished and mistreated far more Japanese-Americans than German-Americans or Italian-Americans.  The non-Christian yellow dogs were far easier to hate.

After World War II the new Great Enemy was the Soviet Union.  We cowered in our bomb shelters during the cold war knowing that if we let down our guard for a millisecond those atheistic communists would slaughter our women and children and burn down our Christian churches.

When St. Ronnie Reagan tore down the Berlin wall and broke up the Soviet Union, single-handedly, the way Erroll Flynn sank the Spanish Armada,  we had to look around for new Great Enemies.  

Atheistic Commie China was handy but then Dick (I Am Not a Crook) Nixon did ping-pong diplomacy and big trade money was at stake so we had to cool it a bit with the Yellow Menace crap.

Muslims! Islam!  Now there was a Great Enemy you could drum up some real hatred for, especially if, like Iraq, they had weapons of mass destruction they were ready to use on our kindergartens and hospitals.  Had to fight ‘em there or we’d be fighting ‘em here.  Same for Iran.  Libya.  Yemen.  Afghanistan.  Pakistan.  An endless supply of Great Enemies for our staggeringly profitable policy of endless war.

But you’ve got to be taught to hate and fear and sometimes it helps to have enemies near.

Wetbacks!  Black people!  Brown people!

Trump: The Black Lives Matter guy “needed to be roughed up.”  (Translation:  Things will settle down around here when we put Uppity Niggers back in their place.)

No Syrian refugees!    No more “free stuff” for people of any color.  Build a wall along the border.  Make “them” register so we can build a data base.  Keep the refugees out (even though it was United States policy that created the refugee crisis). Support your police (especially when they shoot unarmed black guys in hoodies with their arms raised in the universal gesture of surrender).  Put more guns in the hands of more white Americans  so they can Keep Our Neighborhoods Safe!

In a recent poll, nearly half the respondents said the United States has a major racism problem.  Highest percentage ever recorded on the question.

Yes we do.  In fact, as a people, we ooze racism from every pore. We love it when our blathering white politicians threaten to bust heads, kick ass and “rough ‘em up.”  Doesn’t matter the color, as long as it ain’t white heads or asses we’re kickin’.

America the Beautiful.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

A New Era Dawning to the North of Us?

As we Yanks have learned from the Obama presidency, campaign promises are one thing, performance in office quite another.  Yet the slate of promises young Justin Trudeau made to the electorate in Canada en route to a landslide election victory last week merits close scrutiny by those who aspire to high office here.

Trudeau, the 43-year-old son of former Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau, began the race in third place in the polls.  Many of the things he espoused were considered to be politically suicidal.  But he persisted and he won big. While his anti-austerity economic plans received the most attention down here, he also proposes to, for example, restore home delivery of mail, and require the government revenue office to pro-actively inform Canadians who have failed to apply for government benefits of their right to do so.

Pledges to end government secrecy are nothing new, and few candidates have ever failed more spectacularly than Obama to deliver on them.  Yet here is Trudeau vowing that Canada’s “access to information law” will apply to the offices of the Prime Minister and his cabinet. That cabinet, by the way, is to be made up of equal numbers of men and women in the Trudeau government. 

Trudeau said he wants to establish real Parliamentary oversight, with all political parties participating, of Canada’s national security agencies.  He also wants to end the Stephen Harper administration’s war on science, appoint an independent commission to assure that all government advertising is non-partisan and have all Parliamentary committee chairs elected by the full House by secret ballot.  (They are now appointed by the ruling party, as in the United States.)

Trudeau has promised to appoint a commission on electoral reform whose task will be to produce, within 18 months, legislation to change the present unfair and unrepresentative electoral system.  Even within his own Liberal Party the real pros of politics are dead set against this.  Time will tell.

Trudeau wants to reinstitute family reunification as part of government immigration policy.  This would enable, for example, elderly parents to join their families in Canada as permanent residents, eligible for full health care and other government benefits.

Stuffing pork, or odious deregulation, into omnibus spending bills became common practice in Parliament under the conservative Harper government, just as it is common practice in Washington.  Trudeau promises to end the practice in Canada.

Reversing the Harper government’s draconian meanness, Trudeau proposes to invest heavily in education improvements for Canada’s First Nations indigenous people.

He wants to restore funding for public broadcasting in Canada, no strings attached.

And he wants to address climate change.  He has promised to work with the governments of the provinces to achieve consensus on meaningful reduction of greenhouse gas emissions.  He has said he is committed to having Canada take a leading role in the global efforts to deal with climate change.  The upcoming world climate talks in Paris will offer the first test of his commitment.

He has already delivered on one campaign promise:  pulling Canada’s combat  aircraft out of war-stricken Syria.

A promising start to one of the most ambitious political agendas this sorry old world has seen in a long, long time.

Monday, October 26, 2015

Big John v. Stevan Edward Pearce

America’s Worst Congressman is back at his favorite pastime, turning chicken salad into chicken s—t.

Stevan Edward Pearce (R-N.M.), the multimillionaire who voted against feeding starving children, health care for the poor and improved education for members of minority communities, really gets off on giving away public lands to rich corporations. His latest such ploy is called the “Luna and Hildalgo Counties Wilderness Study Area Release Act of 2015.”  It would wipe out the last vestiges of protection of landscape and wildlife habitat for nine Wilderness Study Areas on public land in New Mexico. This would enable developers to bulldoze and build, extraction industry rapists to drill and frack and new industrial sites to pollute and  plunder.

The Wilderness Study Area designation calls for wild lands to be managed for their wilderness characteristics, a period of evaluation designed ultimately to lead to greater and immutable protection under the Wilderness Act of 1964.  This process has already led to full protection of such remarkable New Mexico sites as the Organ Mountains Desert Peaks National Monument, the Prehistoric Trackways National Monument and the Rio Grande del Norte National Monument.

Pearce fought tooth and nail against the Organ Mountains and Prehistoric Trackways protections in his district.  Thanks especially to New Mexico’s two U.S. Senators, Martin Heinrich and Tom Udall, President Obama paid heed to ten years of citizen input and environmental study by designating them national monuments.

America’s Worst Congressman isn’t about to let his profiteering friends in the extraction industries be shut out again.  Hence the stealthy “Release Act,” designed to cut the public out of the decision-making process so that his rich pals can quietly suck their obscene profits out of our land, yours and mine. One thing about Pearce, he’s consistent.  If it will fatten the profits of a one-percenter, he’s for it.  If it will enhance the quality of life of the commoners, he’s agin’ it.

One of the WSA’s he wants to give over to his rich pals is in the Florida Mountains outside of Deming.  Almost 20 years ago, my wife and I were wandering around in those mountains looking for a trail up to a prominent feature called the Needle’s Eye.  A bear of a man in motorcyclist’s gear appeared in the rocks above us.  “If  you’re lookin’ for a trail,” he called out, “there ain’t none.”

This was Big John, long-haul trucker for six months every year, citizen of the wild for the other six.  Steve Pearce had better hope that he never runs into Big John in the wilderness areas he wants to degrade.  Big John could skish the Congressperson with one hand. And Big John knows the areas targeted in Pearce’s legislation like the back of that hand.

Big John, whose conversational style is as rough-hewn as his appearance, became a poet as he described to us the beauty of the wild lands in the part of New Mexico he had adopted as home.  Big Hatchet Mountain, the Floridas, the Peloncillo Mountains, Gila Lower Box, Alamo Hueco Mountains, Blue Creek, the Cedar Mountains, Cook’s Range and Guadalupe Canyon — these and other places, including a large array of magnificently preserved petroglyphs, he knew well.  The hand-drawn maps he sketched for us on paper napkins were remarkably accurate in their detail.  They led us to places that convinced us we wanted to become New Mexicans when we retired from our jobs Back East.  Which we did.

We never saw Big John again.  I’d like to think that he’s still around, for at least six months every year, soaking up the richness and wonder of life in the last of the wild places.  I’d like to think that he’d fight like hell, and prevail, against the perverse legislation Stevan Edward Pearce wants to sneak past us into the law books.

We need more Big Johns in these parts.  And fewer Steve Pearces in Congress.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Notes. Notions. Orts. Figs.

Bravo, northern cousins!  You’ve shed the yoke of the Tories and put another Trudeau into office.  Long may he rein, undoing the Harper malfeasances.

Shut down the damnable tar sands! Refund and rejuvenate public services!  Renew the social contract!  Keep faith with the native cultures! Spare your natural resources the plunder they suffered south of your border. O Canada!

*   *   *
New e-mail disclosures again portray former U.K. PM Tony Blair for the unmitigated sleaze we always thought he was.  In bed with Bush II on invading Iraq long before the idea was exposed to public scrutiny, even as he lied blatantly to his constituency.

*  *  *
Thanks, too, to Edward Snowden, for calling our attention to Hillary Clinton’s blatant lies in the Democratic presidential debate about “protections” for whistleblowers.  They don’t exist, and haven’t since the cowardly congress passed the atrocity called the USA Patriot Act.

*  *  *
Britain’s MSM are no better than their American counterparts, who repeat government lies as “news” and hew to the Washington line, no matter how far from truth it strays.  Apparently Jeremy Corbyn, the new Labour Party leader, failed to sing the national anthem during a public sing of the thing.  From the outcry in the press you’d think he’d pissed on a Buckingham platter at a luncheon with The Queen.  Turns out he simply had never bothered to learn the words.  Remindful of how the Yank MSM pounced on Dennis Kucinich’s harmless idiosyncrasies (including being short) rather than listening to the public policy profundities he uttered, sometimes with Lincolnian elegance, as in his powerful “Prayer for America” speech.  That speech ought to be put with the Gettysburg Address as required recitations for schoolchildren.

*  *  *
CNN to my knowledge has not denied reports that its real-time polling of viewers showed Bernie Sanders receiving 82% support as the winner of the Dem debate — but that it never screened the numbers and ordered its talking heads into “Clinton won” mode after the show was over.

*  *  *
Utterly lacking any scientific basis (like, say, a Republican candidate for president), I offer herewith my proof positive of habitat degradation in New Mexico lands mismanaged by the Bureau of Land Management:  Number of rattlesnake sightings (by me), 2001-2008, 19.  Number of rattlesnake sightings since: zero. 

*  *  *
I’ve seen this mentioned a couple of times online, but seen no satisfactory explanation: Where do the rebels and jihadists in Libya, Syria, Iraq, Yemen etc. get all those pickup trucks? And why are they all Toyotas?

*  *  *
Jim Webb did the right thing by pulling out of the campaign for the Dem nomination.  His performance on the stage in Las Vegas last week was an embarrassment not just to him, but to those who recognize the real contributions he has made in his public life. Now he should whisper into Lincoln Chafee’s ear. (Martin O’Malley, on the other hand, should hang around, if only to keep reminding us that 100% renewable energy is not an impossible dream.)

*  *  *
Some literary awards are richly deserved.  Cormac McCarthy’s Pulitzer and others for “The Road” come to mind. Now there’s the 2014 Man Booker prize winner, “Narrow Road to the Deep North,” by the Australian, Richard Flanagan.  Powerful. Powerful.

*  *  *
As the autumnal light limns our landscapes so magnificently, I give profound thanks that the abomination called Daylight Savings Time will soon end.  Daylight cannot be “saved;” there is so much of it and that’s it.  The idea that fiddling with the damned clocks twice a year accomplishes anything good for mankind is one of the great scams foisted on a gullible public by their guileless leaders.  A pox on it and them.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Brandi's Fifth Birthday

On his fifth birthday, Brandi, the Rhodesian ridgeback:

—Chased two coyotes out of his desert yard.

—Peed on the UPS man’s foot.

—Ate (uninvited) some of his human companions’  grilled tri-tip roast (he likes the rare part).

—Barked at the neighbor and his dog when they went out for the morning paper.  They’ve done this every day for more than 1,800 days.  Brandi still doesn’t think they ought to.

—Sorted through his collection of partially-chewed bones, which he keeps on the floor of his crate.  He immediately detected that one — the one he wanted at the moment — was missing.  He launched a search.  Soon the house looked like a cyclone had passed through it.  Brandi eventually found the thing, under a chair cushion, where he had buried it.

—Scared a jack rabbit from its hiding place behind a creosote bush during his morning ramble in the desert.  He gave chase for exactly 20 feet, as he always does, then quit, because he knows you can’t catch those damn things.

—Protected his pick-up truck while it was parked in the drug store parking lot.  He drove off an 82-year-old widow with two shopping bags, a kid with a Hershey bar, two guys in cowboy hats with brown paper bags from the liquor department and a pharmacist on his way to work.

—Declared the tennis court parking lot off-limits to other dogs, including a dalmation, three fluffburgers, a chocolate lab and an assortment of mixed breeds.

—Peed on both rear tires of the pick-up truck

—Peed on the neighbor’s rose bush.  Probably retribution for the morning excursion to fetch the newspaper.

—Pooped on a desert thistle.

—Obeyed at least one command — and immediately demanded payment in “cookies,” i.e., small dog training treats.

—Ran ten times around “Brandi’s raceway,” the circlular trough he has worn in the sandy soil of his desert backyard.

—Chewed a hole in his brand-new squeaky tennis ball on his third “fetch” of the toy.

—Found an old ball under a shrub in the yard and demanded that it be tossed for a fetch.

—Refused to surrender the old ball for a second “fetch” on the grounds of “finders keepers . . .”

—Took a nap on the new sofa cushions that he absolutely, positively, under-pain-of-death is not allowed on.

—Joined a human companion for a jog on Old Box Canyon Road. The human did a mile.  Brandi did 20.

—Polished off supper, licking the steel bowl sparkly clean, in 11 seconds — two seconds over the all-time record.

—Decided, exactly at the moment of the kickoff of the football game, that he wanted to play more fetch. He pestered so persistently that his human companion finally caved, went outside to toss the slimy ball, and missed the 72-yard touchdown pass.

It was a day like all days, filled with those events that alter and illuminate a dog’s life.

Happy birthday, dear friend.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

What's Big, Gray, Has a Trunk and . . . .

The American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) was the proverbial elephant in the room last night in Las Vegas.

Three of the five aspirants to the Democratic presidential nomination were unafraid to stand up to the lobbying power of the National Rifle Association (NRA).  But not one uttered a single word that wouldn’t pass muster with AIPAC, whose political clout on foreign policy makes the NRA's domestic might look like the mewing of a pussycat.

Jim Webb talked about a “deal allowing Iran to acquire a nuclear weapon,” and the absurd assertion went unchallenged.  Neither the moderator, Anderson Cooper of CNN, nor any of the other debate participants cited the fact that the “deal” Webb referred to actually guarantees that Iran cannot ever, without outside assistance, develop nuclear weaponry.

Lest there be any doubt that Benjamin Netanyahu is his shadow foreign policy chief, Webb named Israel as “our greatest ally.”  Take that, U.K.and NATO!

Martin O’Malley, former governor of Maryland, alleged that  “nuclear Iran remains the biggest threat” to American security.   

Hillary Clinton glibly listed ”the Iranians” among the enemies she is “proudest to have made.”

No questions were asked, and no candidate volunteered to talk about America’s Israel-backed policy of causing “regime change” by any covert or openly nefarious means necessary wherever in the world a legitimate government refuses to knuckle under to the AIPAC/neocon ideology that has become official U.S. policy. While the myth of “nuclear Iran” and the bashing of “bullying (Vladimir) Putin” got big applause, nobody talked about the genuine nuclear threat raised by the unilateral U.S. withdrawal from the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty in 2000 and the domino effect that has had throughout the world.

Lincoln Chafee came out of his fog long enough to become the only panelist to cite the fact that “bully” Putin had binding, legitimate international alliances with the legal government of Syria that account for Russia’s presence in the Syrian civil war.  Nor had anyone the courage to say that only reason for the United States presence there is its policy of “regime change.”  Bernie Sanders did recognize Syria as a “quagmire within a quagmire,” but offered no specific solutions. Nobody else did either.  That may be because AIPAC’s only solution is to bomb Iran, and the Democrats aren’t quite ready to be that hawkish — yet.

For all of their shortcomings, the Democrats presented a show that strongly resembled  a debate on “the issues important to the American people,” a stark difference, as most of them pointed out, from the blather of the Republican shows.

The fact remains that the one presidential aspirant who makes the most sense on most of the urgent issues of our times was not and never will be on a presidential debate stage.

Her name is Jill Stein and she’s the Green Party candidate. If you want to see apoplexy, just mention her name to an AIPAC supporter.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

The Little Cloud That Deceives Us

There are too many straws in the drink.  Making the drink bigger doesn’t solve the problem, although it might alleviate the symptoms for a while.

These are lessons we were exposed to this year in the Rio Grande valley.  We were exposed to them but I doubt if we learned them.

The winter snow pack in the San Juan mountains, which delivers water to the Rio Grande, was not big enough to suggest any alleviation of the severe drought  that had plagued the area for a decade.  But then came what we call the monsoon season, and it delivered more rainfall than we’d had for almost a decade.  Even without release of stored water from the diminished supplies in the River Grande reservoirs, the river flowed bank-to-bank for weeks on end.  We’d become accustomed to walking across dried sand where once the river was, beginning as early as August.  Farmers once allocated 11 acre feet of irrigation water from the river drew less than three, and tapped ever deeper into ground water tables, where there was ground water. Here it is October, and only recently has the Rio Grande in our backyards begun to recede into mudbanks and sand flats.  

Glory Hallelujah!

But wait.  The total of all water resources currently available and predictable is insufficient for the needs of the booming population.  Our agriculture, a mainspring of our economy, relies heavily on income from pecans, chile, lettuce, cabbage, onions and alfalfa.  Of these, only alfalfa is sustainable from naturally available water resources. If current per capita levels of water consumption are allowed to continue, our growing number of people will drink and bathe us dry in half a century.  Limits on human use are the obvious answer, but these would be politically unpopular and our politicians are loathe to even consider them. We are rolling merrily along —toward disaster.

Wake up, people!

No, as long as Nature continues to tantalize us with years like 2015, giving rise to a million false hopes and a regeneration of lies about “cyclical” drought, we’ll stroll down to the nearest bridge across the Rio Grande, look over the side to where they were playing beach volleyball last year, and say, “Look at all that water!”  

And we’ll go back home to admire green lawns in the desert, green golf courses in the desert, swimming pools in the desert and Vegas style fountain-filled landscaping around our desert mansions.

Life is good, we’ll tell ourselves.

But the water table beneath our feet is 100 feet deeper than it was ten years ago.

Climate science warns us that weather swings from one extreme to another will be more frequent and more pronounced.  This year’s rainfall might never be replicated. The drought that  saw brief respite this year might never really end.

We’re treading on dangerous ground, ground whose natural state is dry, dry, dry. 

But what the hell! The shrubs are green and there’s another rain cloud, off there to the southwest.  We’ll drink to that!

Monday, October 5, 2015

We Are the Problem

There have been so many school shootings in the United States since the Sandy Hook massacre that no two responsible data-gathering agencies can agree on the precise number, which might be as high as 142.

“Stuff happens,” said Jeb Bush, prince-in-waiting of the presidential dynasty from Texas.

United States aircraft bombed to smithereens a hospital in Kunduz, Afghanistan, killing 22 patients and medical staff.

“Collateral damage,” said an official statement by the U.S. military there.

Can this craven, war-obsessed, bloody-handed nation sink any lower?

Spare us the “few rotten apples” argument.

This is a sick, evil nation.  The relative handful (among millions) of perpetrators of the school massacres, the My Lais, the helicopter assaults on innocents in Baghdad — these relative few are not the problem.  WE are the problem.

We elect the blathering fools who fund the senseless, endless wars; we look the other way while profit-gorged war mongering oligarchs take control of our country and its laws; we tacitly affirm the “right”  to arm this nation to the teeth, so that anyone, anywhere, can legally assemble the wherewithal to kill six, eight, 20 people at a time. We allow the NRA to perpetuate the lie that the Founding Fathers wanted it this way when they wrote the Second Amendment. We “Support Our Troops.” We wave the flag

We allow armed criminality. Some of us fervently endorse this, somehow conflating “freedom” with weaponry.  Abetted by the media, we seek out comforting euphemisms for our criminality.  We do not call these crimes what they are.  Murder. Massacre.  Genocide.  

We wallow in our delusions of national greatness, traditional morality, American exceptionalism.  Even as the carnage mounts and the innocent continue to die.

We lack the courage to acknowledge what we have become, clinging to a belief in an America that never existed.

We walk with The Enemy and don’t even know that he is Us.

Friday, October 2, 2015

Honey-Chile Goes Gun-Shopping with Mom

“Mommy, why are those men in aluminum suits running around pushing wheelbarrows?”

“They’re our friends from the NRA, honey.  They have to hurry to the offices of the Congressmen they own.  The wheelbarrows are full of cash for the Congressmen.  The cash serves as a reminder of where their loyalties should be.”

“And where is that, Momma?”

“With the Second Amendment to the United States Constitution, honey child.  The one that guarantees everyone’s right to own as many guns as they wish.”

“Everyone?  Could I have guns, Momma?”

“Of course, honey child.  It’s your right as an American.”

“But I’m only seven years old . . .”

“Never mind.  If they restricted your right to own guns, just because you’re seven years old, the next step would be to restrict everyone’s right to own guns.  Give ‘em an inch and they’ll take a mile.”

"Does the NRA take its wheelbarrows to Congress every day, Momma?”

“Not exactly every day, honey child dear.  Today it’s important to do so because the bad people who would take away our guns will be all over TV talking about taking away our guns.”

“Why would they want to take away our guns?”

“Because there was an unfortunate bit of business yesterday in Oregon.”

“What kind of business?”

“Some person who is NOT representative of all the millions of responsible gun-owners in the USA went into a school and did some shooting.”

“Did this irresponsible, probably deranged person who is NOT representative of the millions of legitimate gun owners in the USA . . . did this bad person hurt anyone?”

“Sort of.  Nine people were killed and a few more injured.  We are sorry this happened, but it  sometimes does happen because there is a bad guy with guns and not enough good guys with guns at that particular spot.  Good guys with guns prevent bad guys with guns from doing harm to people.  But the people who would take away our guns have imposed so many silly restrictions on getting guns that sometimes there aren’t enough good guys with guns to go around.  So then a bad guy with a gun is sometimes able to hurt people before the good guys with guns can kill him.”

“I want to be a good guy with guns, Momma.”

“Of course you do, sweet honey boy. There’s a gun show in town.  We’ll go over there right now and shop for a nice, boy-sized semi-automatic.”

“Can I have a cowboy six-shooter, too?”

“Of course you can.  This is the NRA’s USA!  We’ll put one on lay-away until you’re old enough to lift it.”

“Oh, boy.  I am one lucky little gun-owning kid.  God Bless America.”

Monday, September 28, 2015

In the Wake of The Pope's Visit

Pope Francis has ended his much ballyhooed visit to the United States.

While here, he preached a little sermon to the U.S. Congress about its duties:

“Your own responsibility as members of Congress is to enable this country, by your legislative activity, to grow as a nation. You are the face of its people, their representatives. You are called to defend and preserve the dignity of your fellow citizens in the tireless and demanding pursuit of the common good, for this is the chief aim of all politics. A political society endures when it seeks, as a vocation, to satisfy common needs by stimulating the growth of all its members, especially those in situations of greater vulnerability or risk. Legislative activity is always based on care for the people. To this you have been invited, called and convened by those who elected you.”

Of course, the hypocrites of the House and Senate applauded these and other lines delivered by the leader of the world’s Catholics.  So did the Catholics of the Supreme Court, including the  Opus Dei  member Antonin Scalia, who thinks corporations are people and that women should be kept barefoot, pregnant and in the kitchen. This is called “family values.”

I suspect that even the Pope realized that his speech to the Congress was an exercise in futility, that what passes for minds in those chambers could not be changed even by his persuasive rhetoric. And, as some critics have pointed out, much of that rhetoric rang somewhat hollow, coming from someone who only reluctantly acknowledged that bishops were guilty of “wrongdoing” when for eons they shielded from prosecution the priests who sexually abused children, honored with sainthood a priest who had been among the worst debasers of native Americans in Spanish colonial America, and who himself was mute in his Jesuit leadership when thousands of citizens were “disappeared” in his native Argentina.

None of this diminishes the importance of his messages about climate change caused by human activity, criminal economic inequality in the capitalist world, government guilt in the worst refugee crisis to confront humanity since the last great war, the blood-gorged oligarchs of an arms industry that feeds on human death and suffering, or a human society that increasingly dismisses the Golden Rule as old-fashioned nonsense.

And these are the messages that his applauding audience in congress choose to ignore.  They would defund the organization that does the most in our society to provide medical services to women too poor to get them otherwise.  They would deny black Americans the right to vote.  They would provide military weapons to police officers who shoot unarmed men with their hands up, or in wheelchairs, or with their backs turned, simply because those men are black, or wearing ‘Fros, or hoodies. They would  impose an intolerable tax burden on its working poor while collecting virtually nothing from its greed-gorged oligarchs and obscenely profitable corporations. They would blindly pursue a policy of endless war, endorse Israel’s genocide against Palestinians and hurl fusillades of lies against those who dare to try to take tiny steps toward peace somewhere in a benighted world.

They applauded the Pope even as they plotted new methods of debasing “those in situations of great vulnerability or risk.”

They are scum.

What Passes for Whale Vomit Stateside?

“Lump of whale vomit sold at auction in U.K..” reads a headline on the BBC news website.

I asked an ex-pat friend in England about this seemingly odd transaction.

“Not surprising, i assure you,” he writes from the garden of his country home near Maidstone, Kent.   “Like all my neighbors, i myself have several fine lumps of whale vomit on my mantelpiece.  My wife wears one on a chain.”

This suggests to me the existence of a lively trade in whale vomit amongst our cousins across the pond.  How, I wonder, do the whale-vomit shops and auction houses verify the authenticity of the specimens? Might the winning bidder at the recent auction have actually bought, say, a lump from a round of gorgonzola that went down with the Andrea Doria?  Is there an odor test? Must there have been witnesses to the actual act of whale puking?  It’s rare enough for a landlubber like me to have seen a whale breaching, let alone to have observed one voiding its plankton.

I first supposed that the election of the likes of Maggie Thatcher, Tony Blair and David Cameron might account for this odd British interest in whale vomit.  The Establishment’s reaction to Labour’s election of Jeremy Corbyn to head the party does suggest some form of animal waste, but nothing quite as exotic as whale vomit. 

And if whale vomit collecting reflects a society’s political discourse, one would expect that United States voters would be imitating their British cousins, perhaps embracing specimens from more typically American animals.  Bear scat?  Mule turds?  Turkey poop? (Benjamin Franklin, remember, much preferred the turkey to the eagle as an American symbol.)

If what spews from the craw of, say, David Cameron, stimulates whale vomit-collecting, then the bile from the mouths of Donald Trump, Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio et al ought to trigger at least an outbreak of road-kill collecting. Bovine excrement has also been suggested, of course, but it somehow lacks the panache of whale vomit.

Now that they’ve brought down John Boehner, what sort of mantelpiece trophies might the Tea Party crowd like to collect to rival the U.K. Tories’ taste for whale vomit?

Not many of the modest ranchers in, say, Rowan County, Ky., even have mantelpieces.  So what else might good, conservative Republicans do with their political keepsakes?  Door stops?  Knick-knack shelves?  Garden ornaments?

’Tis a puzzlement.

Also, on further reflection, I realize that my friend in Kent is apolitical, certainly not Tory.  The specimens on his mantelpiece are simply whale vomit, no more, no less. Read no political meaning into them.

But do keep an eye on what’s being auctioned these days in red states.  You never know!

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Listen to the Bang-Bang, Lemmings

When I need to throw my mind into neutral and just unwind, I watch the western movie channel with the sound muted.  You don’t need sound to understand what’s going on, who are the good guys and who are the bad, who betrayed whom and who’s got the fastest draw.  Justice always triumphs. Very reassuring.

Especially in these times and in this country, where justice is just some antiquated concept kept barely alive by hopelessly naive liberals.

But a bad western is playing out in real time and the black hats are winning.  They seem to have all the gold and all the firepower.  All the white hats have is truth, science  and expertise.  You know, the nerds with eyeglasses and no iron on their hips, who couldn’t hit a whiskey barrel shooting a six-gun from three feet away.

That, as I see it, is where we stand on the agreement between six western nations  and Iran regarding the Islamic Republic’s use of atomic energy.

For years, Israel and its allies have ridden the range hurling threats and accusations at Iran.  

Here are a few facts about this range war:

Iran has signed the nuclear non-proliferation treaty.  This treaty — international law — guarantees its inalienable right to peaceful development of nuclear energy, and requires that it submit to inspections to verify that it is NOT attempting to build nuclear weapons.

Israel is NOT a signatory to this treaty, this international law.  Israel already HAS a stockpile of nuclear weapons, probably a big one, thanks to technology given to it by its best friend, the United States.  The size of Israel’s nuclear weapons stash is uncertain because Israel has never been inspected by the IAEA, the enforcement arm of the non-proliferation accords.

The IAEA, under two successive directors from neutral countries, has never found credible evidence that Iran is doing anything with its uranium enrichment program that would enable it to create a nuclear weapon.  Yet Israel and its cronies have continued to insist that Iran has a “nuclear weapons program” and  have imposed harsh economic sanctions on the country to force it to stop doing what it isn’t doing.

Finally Iran elected a more moderate president than it has had since it became a republic, and this guy —think John Wayne with a white flag tied to his rifle barrel, emerging from Fort Apache to face the Indian chief — said to the western powers , “let’s palaver.”

The Israeli leadership — think Gene Hackman as the  gunslinger who keeps taunting challengers to face him and then guns them down mercilessly — orchestrated choruses of distrust, conjured up false flag nonsense that the western media bought lock, stock and barrel and tried its best to put together an international posse to bomb Iran back to the stone age or beyond.

But Barack Obama, up to this point a gutless sheriff, caught a rare dose of iron in the spine and agreed to join a group of nations called the P5+1 in talks with Iran to try to hammer out a mutually acceptable accord that would end the economic sanctions on Iran and give the rest of the world reasonable assurance that Iran would never join the nuclear arms race.

By damn, they got one.  The UN ratified it.  Nations of the world are free to lift their economic sanctions on Iran, give Iranians access to their own funds which have been frozen in banks around the world, and do business with a market that despite years of sanctions, promises to be quite lucrative for western businesses.

But Gene Hackman, whose real name is Benjamin Netanyahu. doesn’t give in to softies.  His political party in the United States, called AIPAC, which owns the Republican party in the House and Senate, as well as all of its politicians who aspire to the presidency, has put together a war chest of many millions of dollars to finance a virtually unprecedented propaganda war against approval of the nuclear accord by the United States Congress.  By law, Barack Obama doesn’t need congressional approval, but having used up all the iron in his spine by deciding to go to the negotiating table in the first place, he agreed to let Congress “review” and vote on it anyway.  This enables windbags all over the right side of the American political spectrum — even witless and powerless flatulents like Rush Limbaugh, Bill O’Reilly, Roger Ailes and Donald Trump — to prattle, pontificate and make dire prophecy.

The media eat it up.

Meanwhile endorsements of the Iran accord are pretty much ignored. 

But they come from the likes of Hans Blix, former chief inspector for the IAEA; the nonpartisan Arms Control Association whose panel of 75 nuclear nonproliferation specialists called it "a net-plus for nonproliferation,” and whosaid the agreement is ”strong, long-term, and verifiable" and  "advances the security interests" of the United States and its allies; a group of retired U.S. military generals and admirals who, in an August 11 open letter, called the agreement “the most effective means currently available to prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons;” most of the academics with expertise on Iran and the Middle East— anthropologists, historians, physicists, economists, etc.

Alas, it is oh, so very hard  to hear them over the bang-bang of all those armed-to-the-teeth black hats.