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.”