Sunday, December 22, 2013

Tis the season : Poem for December

White Christmas

Punctually at Christmas the soft plush
Of sentiment snows down, embosoms all
The sharp and pointed shapes of venom, shawls
The hills and hides the shocking holes of this
Uneven world of want and wealth, cushions
With cosy wish like cotton-wool the cool
Arm's-length interstices of caste and class,
And into these folds subtracts from sight
All truculent acts, bleeding the world white.

Punctually that glib pair, Peace and Goodwill,
Emerges royally to take the air,
Collect the bows, assimilate the smiles
Of waiting men.  It is a genial time;
Angels like stalactites descend from heaen;
Bishops distribute their own weight in words,
Congratulate the poor on Christlike lack,
And the member for the constituency
Feeds the five thousand, and has plenty back.

Punctually, to-night, in old stone circles
of set reunion, families stiffly sit
and listen;  this is the night and this the happy time
when the tinned milk of human kindness is
upheld and holed by radio-appeal;
Hushed are hurrying heels on hard roads,
And every parlor's pink pond of light
To the cold and travelling man going by
in the dark, without a bark or a bite.

But Punctually tomorrow you will see
All this silent and dissembling world
Of stilted sentiment suddenly melt
Into mush and watery welter of words
Beneath the warm and moving traffic of
Feet and actual fact.  Over the stark plain
The silted mill-chimneys once again spread
Their sackcloth and ashes, a flowing mane
Of repentance for the false day that's fled.

W. R. Rodgers
Irish poet

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Lesson Learned

Each generation accepts the world it finds.  Even if they learn that once the world was greener, cleaner, richer, they are unable to do more than pass on a feeble warning to the next generation who will accept what they find.
And so it goes, until the day we accept the desert.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Reach out and touch someone?

President Obama's mouthpieces have told us that he didn't know the NSA had listened in on personal cell phones of other world leaders.
Does he think this makes us feel better?  Does he think it makes him look good?  Is it even true?
If it is true, then the President should be angry as hell, condemning the practice in strong language and starting a deep investigation into the management and practices of the agency. 
If he doesn't do something like that, then I will know the alibi is a lie.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

"We don't talk politics here."

"We are too high-minded for that."

As a young man making contact with the world of strangers, I would often hear from people at first acquaintance the following statement "We (or I) never talk religion or politics," or something like that.  Even without their adamancy the statement surprised me.  Two of the most interesting and important areas of our life and we can't talk about it.
Such seems to be the attitude of some blogs that I enjoy visiting and reading.  These blogs are usually of the literary kind, a place where books and poetry and writing and authors are discussed, analyzed, praised and damned.  Most of the time I find their posts enjoyable, and often I am enlightened by their original views.
Occasionally, however, a post will begin with a lament on a writer who, on a particular occasion, fell from grace by writing about a public matter that addressed the uses of killing people in order to protect us all from evil.  This issue, along with a disparate variety of other issues, is generally dumped into a refuse bin called "Politics."  Noses turn up at the offensive odor from this bin.  People look at their hands and inside their minds to see if anything got soiled.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Where was I?

I have been feeding raw peanuts (in shell) to the squirrels who live in our trees.  Blue jays and cardinals like the peanuts too but they have to work much harder to open the shell. 
An element of trust has developed in the behavior of the birds and squirrels.  They don't run or fly away when I open the door.  They sit on the outdoor furniture waiting for the gift.  In fact, there are two squirrels who sidle up to me and let me bend down to offer a peanut in my hand.  They gently take the peanut in their teeth and scurry away.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Blogging stopped.

It's been a while since I have posted anything here.  I apologize if it has inconvenienced anyone. 
Fair to say there will be no posts for a while.  I need a break.

Friday, August 30, 2013

The Police State is here and now

In Florida , the Prosecutor could add another charge: "resisting arrest without violence."
Be sure to watch the video.


Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Incompetence rules

The outrageous scandal of NSA and CIA intel collection and use is a serious problem but, even  more serious, is the growing violence in the Middle East.
The Bush invasion of Iraq was not the cause of this violence but it was the catalyst.  The consequential uprisings from Tunisia to Libya to Egypt to Syria were labeled the Arab Spring.  That always sounded like a marketing term, a typical American approach to a serious undergrowth of religious and political resentment.
President Obama couldn't keep from involving our country in all of these conflicts.  He has bungled every intervention.
The latest error was approving the shipment of 1300 cluster bombs to Saudi Arabia. What are they for and who will use them?  And against whom shall they be used?
Now there is talk about firing weapons at or in Syria.  Why?
Another war for America.   Just what we need.
Eight years of George Bush.  Five years of Barack Obama.  Two of the most incompetent and dangerous Presidents I can remember.  And Obama has three more years to go.  What will be left to pick up and rebuild with?
Question: where did Syria get the chemical weapons? 
UN inspectors are in Iraq to assess the truth of the matter.  Some American officials say we can't wait for a report.  Secretary of State Kerry says it doesn't matter what the report might be.  We must act.
Where have I heard this before?  Oh yeah, the WMD's in Iraq.  Remember the mushroom cloud?

Eagle Valor, Chicken Mind 

Unhappy country, what wings you have!  Even here,
Nothing important to protect, and ocean-far from  the
nearest enemy, what a cloud
Of bombers amazes the coast mountain, what a hornet-
swarm of fighters,
And day and night the guns practicing.

Unhappy, eagle wings and beak, chicken brain,
Weep (it is frequent in human affairs), weep for the terrible
magnificence of the means,
The ridiculous incompetence of the reasons, the bloody and
Pathos of the result.

Robinson Jeffers (American poet)

Friday, August 23, 2013


Her daughter in shorts and sport bra sits victoriously on the floor, her arms raised above her head, a mouthpiece dangling from a crooked smile.  Victory over a young boy in a cage fight.  The mother leaves her seat in the stands with a bouquet in hand to present to her daughter.  As she nears the ring she pulls back hair from her unsmiling face, a face reflecting confusion, the clash of her ethics with those of her youngest girl.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

What is Conventional Wisdom?

Conventional Wisdom is a euphemism for Collective Ignorance.

Oh no. That word again.

Reobert Sheer has wrtten a column at Truthdig from which column I gleaned this section:

AP/Vincent Yu

By Robert Scheer
How do you justify criminally charging a government contractor for revealing an alarming truth that the public has every right to know? That is the contradiction raised by President Obama now that he has, in effect, acknowledged that Edward Snowden was an indispensable whistle-blower who significantly raised public awareness about a government threat to our freedom.
Unfortunately, the president didn’t have the grace and courage to concede that precise point and remains committed to imprisoning Snowden instead of thanking him for serving the public interest. But Julian Assange, no stranger to unrequited integrity, nailed it. “Today, the president of the United States validated Edward Snowden’s role as a whistleblower by announcing plans to reform America’s global surveillance program,” the WikiLeaks founder said in a statement posted Saturday, the day after Obama’s remarks.
While boasting, “I called for a review of our surveillance programs,” Obama avoided the obvious fact that this review was compelled not by a sudden burst of respect for the safeguards demanded by our Constitution but rather Snowden’s action in making the public cognizant of the astounding breadth and depth of the National Security Agency’s spying program.
Once again, Obama managed to blame not those responsible for government malfeasance, himself included, but instead the rare insiders driven to do their duty to inform the American people. “Unfortunately, rather than an orderly and lawful process to debate these issues and come up with appropriate reforms, repeated leaks of classified information have initiated the debate in a very passionate but not always fully informed way,” he said.
How disingenuous, to put it mildly. Without the leaks, there would be no reforms. We, the voters, couldn’t initiate a debate about the wisdom of this extensive spying because the government officials who authorized it, from the president on down, kept us in the dark.
 There it is again, that word 'disingenuous' applied to the thinking of President Obama.  In an earlier post I commented on this word so commonly applied to the President.
I say again, this is not the President being disingenuous.  He is too intelligent to make such a common mistake so often.  When the President speaks like this he is using what I call "CIA Speak."  In other words, he is mis-informing, he is re-defining history, he is lying.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Obama fails again.

When Edward Snowden revealed the extent of NSA surveillance of foreign countries, President Obama was called upon to  address the issue at a press conference in Africa.  The following quote is part of what he had to say.

"We should stipulate that every intelligence service – not just ours, but every European intelligence service, every Asian intelligence service, wherever there's an intelligence service … here's one thing that they're going to be doing: they're going to be trying to understand the world better and what's going on in world capitals," he told a press conference during a long-scheduled trip Tanzania. "If that weren't the case, then there'd be no use for an intelligence service."
"And I guarantee you that in European capitals, there are people who are interested in, if not what I had for breakfast, at least what my talking points might be should I end up meeting with their leaders. That's how intelligence services operate," Obama added.
Nevertheless, he acknowledged concern over the revelations in Der Spiegel and the Guardian and said the National Security Agency would evaluate the claims and will then inform allies about the allegations.
"What I've said to my team is: take a look at this article, figure out what they may or may not be talking about, and then we'll communicate to our allies appropriately," Obama said.
As the White House seeks to contain the diplomatic fallout from the controversy, Obama also sought to reassure fellow world leaders that the scale of US espionage against friendly nations did not signify a lack of trust.
"I'm the end user of this kind of intelligence," he said. "And if I want to know what Chancellor Merkel is thinking, I will call Chancellor Merkel. If I want to know President Hollande is thinking on a particular issue, I'll call President Hollande. And if I want to know what, you know, David Cameron's thinking, I call David Cameron. Ultimately, you know, we work so closely together that there's almost no information that's not shared between our various countries."

"Disingenuous" is too kind a word to apply to this verbal tripe.  Besides, disingenuous has been applied to so many of Obama's explanations during his 4-1/2 year Presidency that it is no longer valid. It is an excuse.  The man deceives and spins and dances away from the truth.

At least Obama is consistent.  He tells foreign heads of state the same nonsense he tells us.  Obama wants us to believe that, because he is "the end user of this kind (italics mine) of intelligence," they and we have nothing to fear.  After all, he is saying, I am the Leader of the Free World.  Trust me.

Bullshit, I say.  President Obama, I don't believe anything you say.  I don't trust you at all.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Daniel Ellsberg on Edward Snowden

Below is a quote from Daniel Ellsberg as it appeared in the Washington Post.  The complete article can be read here.
What I find most interesting in Ellsberg's remarks is the difference in available physical freedom between his time and the times we live in now.  Think how much more effctive Snowden could be if he were permitted to speak to the American public.

" Yet when I surrendered to arrest in Boston, having given out my last copies of the papers the night before, I was released on personal recognizance bond the same day. Later, when my charges were increased from the original three counts to 12, carrying a possible 115-year sentence, my bond was increased to $50,000. But for the whole two years I was under indictment, I was free to speak to the media and at rallies and public lectures. I was, after all, part of a movement against an ongoing war. Helping to end that war was my preeminent concern. I couldn’t have done that abroad, and leaving the country never entered my mind.
There is no chance that experience could be reproduced today, let alone that a trial could be terminated by the revelation of White House actions against a defendant that were clearly criminal in Richard Nixon’s era — and figured in his resignation in the face of impeachment — but are today all regarded as legal (including an attempt to “incapacitate me totally”).
I hope Snowden’s revelations will spark a movement to rescue our democracy, but he could not be part of that movement had he stayed here. There is zero chance that he would be allowed out on bail if he returned now and close to no chance that, had he not left the country, he would have been granted bail. Instead, he would be in a prison cell like Bradley Manning, incommunicado.
He would almost certainly be confined in total isolation, even longer than the more than eight months Manning suffered during his three years of imprisonment before his trial began recently. The United Nations Special Rapporteur for Torture described Manning’s conditions as “cruel, inhuman and degrading.” (That realistic prospect, by itself, is grounds for most countries granting Snowden asylum, if they could withstand bullying and bribery from the United States.)"

Friday, July 5, 2013

Saying Grace in a public place

I found this essay on Front Porch Republic.  I recommend it for reading.   But, first, take a moment to study the picture below the link.


Thursday, July 4, 2013

What are we celebrating today?

Today is the 4th of July.  I don't feel like celebrating.  Here's why.

Since 9/11 the United States Postal Service has been photographing and storing the images of billions of pieces of 1st class mail under the auspices of a program called Mail Isolation Control and Tracking Program.  I wonder what that program costs.  Such information is probably classified as SECRET.
How did we find out about this program?  The information "seeped" from the FBI during their search for the source of the ricin-tainted letters mailed to the White House & Congress.  "Seeped" is very different from "leaked."  You may go to jail for the last one while getting a mention in newspapers for the first.

Then, challenged by the neo-cons and hawks to use American POWER to get countries to cough up Edward Snowden, the administration watched from behind the scenes as allies forced a landing of the plane carrying the President of Bolivia who was returning home after an official mission.
Think of that.  A Head of State, a President of a sovereign nation was forced to land to see if the fugitive Snowden was aboard his plane.  I hope the blowback from that arrogant act lasts 100 years.

Now I understand why Assange and Snowden fear returning to the Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave.  This corrupt and rotten administration, like the last administration,  is capable of anything.

Tonight there will be noise from fireworks on every block.  Their use is illegal but with a nudge and a wink the police know there is nothing to be done.  The local news will remind viewers to keep their cats and dogs inside so they don't break away from fear and get lost.  Viewers are also reminded to cover the cages of their pet birds as the explosions cause some birds to throw themselves against the cage.  Out in the western part of the county, what we call 'horse country,' nervous horses will be given light tranquilizer doses to help them cope.
Patti and I will take turns holding our dog Mia who shivers and shakes from fear.  We'll play music at louder than normal levels to disguise the explosions.  Slowly the noises will taper off and stop, usually around 1:00 AM.  Then we can sleep and wake up tomorrow with a return to normalcy in the outside world, i.e., return from stupid to venal.

Sunday, June 30, 2013

George Carey speaks his mind

I came across the following quote by George Carey reported by Gene Healy of the Cato Institute on a website called Front Porch Republic.

I quickly found out how much the Bush years had radicalized him. I remember his words better than the place—I think it was over burgers at the Tombs, surrounded by World War I propaganda posters—where he said to me: “I want—and I’m very serious about this—I want to see Bush and Cheney impeached, removed from office, then put on trial as war criminals.” To hear this from someone as genial, gentlemanly, and temperamentally conservative as George Carey was electrifying—like hearing Jimmy Stewart curse a righteous blue streak.

Suddenly I don't feel so alone. 
RIP, Mr. Carey

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Two quotes from Lord Acton

Everything secret degenerates, even the administration of justice;  nothing is safe that does not show how it can bear discussion and publicity.

There is no error so monstrous that it fails to find defenders among the ablest men.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

On Freedom

Recent developments compel me to re-publish the following  post at this time.  It is even more important now than it was when posted in 2011.

There are  two generations in the United States today who have never known true freedom.  The best example of proof for this statement is the ambivalent response to the release of documents by Wikileaks.  Some people welcome it as exactly right.  Some consider it a traitorous act.  Most are made uneasy by it with shifting feelings of "it's good"  or "maybe not so good."
I don't understand why people are willing to say that they don't need to know everything our government does or plans to do.  Is it the label of SECRET that frightens them?  Or is it the burden of knowing?
In 1955, there was a re-issue of a book titled Generation of Vipers by Philip Wylie.  When this book first appeared in December 1942 it was controversial.  Partly this was due to Mr Wylie speaking his mind in the midst of a world war.  It was also due to his original and iconclastic thought and plain expression thereof.
Mr Wylie wrote a number of footnotes for the re-issue of 1955.  The following is one of those footnotes.  It appears in the last chapter of the book.

"We can have one categorical premise only:  the democratic premise - leaving no room for any other - demanding the right to all information as the route to all understanding and judgment, and transcending in private, national and international existence all special pleading..
It is the steady loss of this right which, since 1945, has caused me to assert in every possible medium that liberty is perishing in U.S.A.  Common man did not see, after Hiroshima, that to make any part of abstract science a secret was to deny to all mankind access to basic truth.  Uncommon man, a very few physicists excepted, did not see that formidable point, either.  And neither group perceived that a little start at making mere knowledge secret would inevitably spread, so that much knowledge would soon be hidden, much policy would in consequence be shaped in secret, and the people would no longer be "properly informed" wherefore able to make "appropriate decdisions" - indeed, any decisions.
In 1945, and every since, I have published the view that a failure of the Soviets to enter into an open, free, inspected world community of scientific knowledge, including what is called "military secrets" must be regarded by the American people as an intolerable affront to American freedom and therefore an obligatory cause for ultimatum.  I have continuingly pointed out that the only alternative - a secret America - a land where even the elected representatives no longer can be "cleared" to learn all the facts, truths and data relevant to good government - leads to what in effect amounts to dictatorship, since it is not free and open government.
I have said that such a condition - recognized or not - would breed increasing fear in a people thitherto accustomed to knowing (by their constitutional rights) all the facts.  I have said that their automatic terror -conscious or not- would lead the people of this country into a state of hysteria - a state of inappropriate response, a state in which some would become apathetic to every peril, othes would seek to vent their unidentified terror by punishing "whipping boys,"  and still others would try to escape by attitudes of "eat, drink and be merry," or by plunging into religious paroxysms- "trusting" God to accomplish duties they would not themselves even face, or embracing fugue and fantasy-imagining that "it can't happen here" or that little men from outer space would save us from the bombs.
As early as 1946, I named the years to come - these years- "The Terror"  (always providing we kept failing to see that a secret Russia, by compelling secrecy on U.S.A., abrogated our basic freedom to know).  The hysterias I predicted are manifest in our national life today.  So far, we have failed to see that awful meaning of our lost liberty;  we have failed to take the formidable, self-evident steps against Russia;  we have failed even to realize that we are now a kind of permissive "dictatorship" wherein the man in the street no longer controls his government because he no longer knows what "secrets" effect its policies, its plans, its expenditures, and so on.
It is not surprising, then, that we exhibit the classical forms of hysteria on a wide scale -or that we do not appreciate these symptoms for what they are:  such self-blindness is one symptom of the familiar disease.
There is no such thing as a free and uninformed people;  there is not even such a thing as a free press in a land of government by restriction and classification.  Without all knowledge, liberty expires;  so all of us who think we are still free are bitterly deluded."

Friday, June 7, 2013

Who are we anyway?

Spare me all the bluster, please, about the 'harvesting' of phone calls from Verizon.  Do you believe it is only Verizon? 
There is no reason to be shocked if you are someone who reads a daily newspaper and an occasional book.
Nuggets of news about US Government intrusion into our lives appear almost monthly.
Just last month, you should have read this from a former FBI agent.
In 2010, Dana Priest and William Arkin provided a comprehensive survey of the total national security complex.  The survey consisted of five daily reports in the Washington Post.
Here are some nuggets of news from that report:

"The top secret world the government created in response to the terrorist attacks of 9/11/2001 has become so large, so unwieldy and so secretive that no one knows how much money it costs, how many people it employs, how many programs exist within it or exactly how many agencies do the same work.
Some 1,271 government organizations and 1,931 private companies work on programs related to counter terrorism, homeland security, and intelligence in about 10,000 locations across the United States.
An estimated 854,000 people, nearly 1.5 times as many people as live in Washington DC, hold top secret clearances.
In Washington and the surrounding area, 33 building complexes for top secret intelligence work are under construction or have been built since September 2001.  Together they occupy the equivalent of almost 3 Pentagons or 92 U.S. Capitol buildings - about 17 million square feet of space."

Since early in the Bush administration and into the Obama administration, Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon has repeatedly complained about the interception of phone calls and emails by NSA and other Government agencies.

Everything required for a police state exists in these United States, is in place and ready to use.  It is a system that has been constructed over the years by both parties and by many different politicians good and bad. The Patriot Act, the National Defense Authorization Act, and a number of Presidential Signing Statements are the foundation for this new more dangerous America.
Unless one wants to be considered as unknowing and out-of-touch, how could any American not know or, at least, suspect that our Government was collecting our phone calls and emails?

June 7, 2010

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Our world in stupor lies...

Thus wrote the poet Auden, and the words are as true 74 years later as they were when written.

An example:  five decades ago, when I was in my twenties, enterprising hard-working young Americans could work their way through college, paying their tuition costs from their efforts.
That is no longer true.  Now Americans are required to obtain 'student loans' and incur debt running to thousands of dollars.
No one asks why or how come?  No one protests. 
What went wrong?  No one seems to care.
'Our world in stupor lies...' 

It has been remarked by one of the most astute minds in America (Chris Hedges) that if France told its young people that from now on they would have to borrow $50,000 to pay for college, the government would be gone in a week.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

The Revolutionary (poem by Vernon Watkins)

The Revolutionary

I was that youth.  Now, from myself estranged,
After the revolution I was seeking,
I stop stone dead, to hear another speaking:
'Change nothing; you yourself must first be changed.'
I travelled seas and learnt to read a chart,
Knew how to navigate through dispossession,
The hardest straits, yet wrote in my confessions:
'All triumph was resisted by the heart.'
Much evil and much good remain, and yet
The heart has no immaculate remedy.
Life, to be won, is won less easily;
The stars remind us:'Your own eyes are set.'
Say of this patience that impatience gained;
'When others left their station, he remained.'

Friday, May 10, 2013

What science can't prove, it sometimes denies.

Lately there has been  much back and forth jawing on the internet between the faithful and the skeptical.  Not much changes because people tend to be more steadfast when finished speaking than before  they spoke. 
Whenever science presents a new finding or a successful advance in knowledge, the atheistic members inject a tone of smugness about their 'rational' position on this issue.
Try as they might, they will never explain nor accept the observation recorded in the essay below.

In  The Bird and the Machine,  Loren Eiseley opens with his reading the newspaper at the breakfast table.  The paper has a story on the advances in machines and robotic engineering.  The most dramatic changes are in the smartness of machines and their enhanced brain capacity.  The joyous extrapolations the journalist draws from these scientific events leave Eiseley questioning the conclusions.
 Eiseley  recalls an experience from his time as a young archaeologist, one of a party of scientists exploring the wilderness of the upper mid-western United States in order to, as Eiseley puts it, 'capture the past.'  He describes coming "into the valley through the trailing mists of a spring night.  It was a place that looked as though it might never have known the foot of man, but our scouts had been ahead of us and we knew all about the abandoned cabin of stone that lay far up on one hillside."
He writes that they "had, in addition, instructions to lay hands on the present.  The word had come through to get them alive - birds, reptiles, anything.  A zoo somewhere needed restocking  It was one of those reciprocal matters in which science involves itself.  Maybe," Eiseley writes, "our museum needed a stray ostrich egg and this was the payoff.  Anyhow, my job was to help capture some birds and that was why I was there before the trucks.
"The cabin had not been occupied for years.  We intended to clean it out and live in it, but there were holes in the roof and the birds had come in and were roosting in the rafters...I got the door open softly and I had the spotlight all ready to turn on and blind whatever birds there were so they couldn't see to get out through the holes in the roof.  I had a short piece of ladder to put against the far wall where there was a shelf on which I expected to make the biggest haul.  I had all the information I needed, just like any skilled assassin.  I pushed the door open, the hinges squeaking only a little.  A bird or two stirred-I could hear them-but nothing flew and there was a faint starlight through the holes in the roof...
"Everything worked perfectly except for one detail - I didn't know what kind of birds were there.  I never thought about it at all, and it wouldn't have mattered if I had.  My orders were to get something interesting.  I snapped on the flash and sure enough there was a great beating and feathers flying, but instead of my having them, they, or rather he, had me.  He had my hand, that is, and for a small hawk not much bigger than my fist he was doing all right.  I heard him give one short metallic cry when the light went on and my hand descended on the bird beside him;  after that he was busy with his claws and his beak was sunk in my thumb.  In the struggle I knocked the lamp over on the shelf, and his mate got her sight back and whisked neatly through the hole in the roof and off among the stars outside...He chewed my thumb up...and lacerated my hand with his claws but in the end I got him, having two hands to work with.  He was a sparrow hawk and a fine young male in the prime of life."
Eiseley puts the bird in a box too small to allow him to injure himself, performs some repairs on his hand and retires for the night.
The next morning, Eiseley writes, "I was up early and brought the box in which the little hawk was imprisoned out onto the grass where I was building a cage.  A wind as cool as a mountain spring ran over the grass and stirred my hair.  It was a fine day to be alive.  I looked up and all around and at the hole in the cabin roof out of which the other little hawk had fled.  There was no sign of her anywhere.
"Probably in the next county by now," I thought cynically, but before beginning work I decided I'd have a look at my last night's capture.
"Secretively, I looked again all around the camp and up and down and opened the box.  I got him right out in my hand with his wings folded properly and I was careful not to startle him.  He lay limp in my grasp and I could feel his heart pound under the feathers but he only looked beyond me and up.
I saw him look that last look away beyond me into a sky so full of light that I could not follow his gaze...I suppose I must have had an idea then of what I was going to do, but I never let it come up into consciousness.  I just reached over and laid the hawk on the grass.
"He lay there for a long minute without hope, unmoving, his eyes still fixed on that blue vault above him.  It must have been that he was already so far away in heart that he never felt the release from my hand.  He never even stood.  He just lay with his breast against the grass.
"In the next second after that long minute he was gone.  Like a flicker of light, he had vanished with my eyes full on him but without actually seeing even a premonitory wing beat.  He was gone straight into that towering emptiness of light and crystal that my eyes could scarcely bear to penetrate.  The light was too intense.  Then from far up somewhere a cry came ringing down.
"I was young then and had seen little of the world, but when I heard that cry my heart turned over.  It was not the cry of the hawk I had captured, for by shifting my position against the sun, I was now seeing farther up.  Straight out of the sun's eye, where she must have been soaring restlessly above us for untold hours, hurtled his mate.  And from far up, ringing from peak to peak of the summits over us, came a cry of such unutterable and ecstatic joy that it sounds down across the years and tingles among the cups on my quiet breakfast table.
"I saw them both now.  He was rising fast to meet her.  They met in a great soaring gyre that turned to a whirling circle, and a dance of wings. Once more, just once, their two voices, joined in a harsh wild medley of question and response, struck and echoed against the pinnacles of the valley.  Then they were gone forever somewhere into the upper regions beyond the eyes of men."

I have read that essay many, many times and it still gives me a lump in the throat.

The quote below below is confirmation from The Outermost House:

“We patronize the animals for their incompleteness, for their tragic fate of having taken form so far below ourselves. And therein we err, and greatly err. For the animal shall not be measured by man. In a world older and more complete than ours, they are more finished and complete, gifted with extensions of the senses we have lost or never attained, living by voices we shall never hear. They are not brethren, they are not underlings; they are other Nations, caught with ourselves in the net of life and time.”
Henry Beston

Monday, April 29, 2013

Leech Alert

I am indebted to Michael Gilleland who owns a blog called Laudator Temporis Acti for the bracing piece of common sense which follows:


Ambrose Bierce (1842-1914?), Antepenultimata (New York: The Neale Publishing Company, 1912), pp. 306-308:
That I should give my hand, or bend my neck, or uncover my head to any man in mere homage to, or recognition of, his office, great or small, is to me simply inconceivable. These tricks of servility with the softened names are the vestiges of an involuntary allegiance to power extraneous to the performer. They represent in our American life obedience and propitiation in their most primitive and odious forms. The man who speaks of them as manifestations of a proper respect for "the President's great office" is either a rogue, a dupe or a journalist. They come to us out of a fascinating but terrible past as survivals of servitude. They speak a various language of oppression and the superstition of man-worship; they carry forward the traditions of the sceptre and the lash. Through the plaudits of the people may be heard always the faint, far cry of the beaten slave.

Respect? Respect the good. Respect the wise. Let the President look to it that he belongs to one of these classes. His going about the country in gorgeous state and barbaric splendor as the guest of a thieving corporation, but at our expense—shining and dining and swining—unsouling himself of clotted nonsense in pickled platitudes calculated for the meridian of Coon Hollow, Indiana, but ingeniously adapted to each water tank on the line of his absurd "progress," does not prove it, and the presumption of his "great office" is against him.

Can you not see, poor misguided "fellow citizens," how you permit your political taskmasters to forge leg-chains of your follies and load you down with them? Will nothing teach you that all this fuss-and-feathers, all this ceremony, all this official gorgeousness and brass-banding, this "manifestation of a proper respect for the nation's head" has no decent place in American life and American politics? Will no experience open your stupid eyes to the fact that these shows are but absurd imitations of royalty, to hold you silly while you are plundered by the managers of the performance?—that while you toss your greasy caps in air and sustain them by the ascending current of your senseless hurrahs the programmers are going through your blessed pockets and exploiting your holy dollars? No; you feel secure; power is of the People, and you can effect a change of robbers every four years. Inestimable privilege—to pull off the glutted leech and attach the lean one!

This April Afternoon

Except for wind that stirs Lombardy leaves
To watered silk first dark then silver-shot,
And mingling with their rustle interweaves
Its late lament with mine for what is not,
This April afternoon is counterpart
Of such a day of silver sun and thunder
As when we walked like children light of heart
Together lost in labyrinths of wonder.
Returning is a journey only dared
When all evasive efforts to forget
Have failed to quite annul the love we shared-
How long I feared to come this way and yet,
Now that I stand alone where then we stood
The wind absolves for me the empty wood.

Dorothy R. Howard

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Downton Tabby

This is Puddy, a domestic long-hair calico cat.  We first met her in 1999 as she crossed our yard on her way to somewhere.  She was thin but her coat was shiny and there were no signs of disease or infection.   Her bearing was regal.  Unlike most cats she disapproved of being picked up or even petted.  She had a way of communicating her rules of engagement when approached.  If you were too dense to observe them, a bloody scratch was your reward.
 Our first thought was that she was an abandoned cat, or lost.  On occasion she would lie on our patio, stretched out on her side.  I remarked to Patti that the poor thing looked like roadkill in that position.  She was that thin.  I started calling her Splat the Cat.
Shortly thereafter we learned Splat belonged to a home on our street.  The new couple who lived there were childless and both were away all day working.   They had four other cats and one cocker spaniel.   We decided Splat was very unhappy in that setting,  being much too regal to fight for food.  Royalty doesn't eat at boarding house tables.
We resisted the temptation to feed her.  She was not our cat and we felt sure her owners would soon see  she was thin and needed  more food than she was getting.
As time passed, Splat spent more time sitting or sleeping on our patio.  She developed a habit of climbing the fishtail palm that grows close to the front of our house.  From there she would leap to the roof, cross the roof and drop down onto the table in the rear patio.  Nothing prevented her from walking around the house except her deep need to let the world know that she did things her way.
One day she came to our house with a small wound on her neck.  She found an open closet door and settled in to clean herself, and sleep.  The next morning I came from our bedroom to find this lovely cat sitting by the sliding glass patio door, looking outside.  I opened the door and she left. 
That evening I was on the couch, reading.   The patio door was open to enjoy the air and Splat came in with a field mouse dangling from her mouth.   She put two front paws on the coffee table in front of me and dropped the mouse there.   She drew back and sat on the floor, waiting to see if I understood the meaning of this gift.  I did, and I expressed it to her with words and touch.
This was a life changing moment for Splat and us. We began to feed her occasional meals, and we began to call her Puddy.
A few weeks later Puddy's owners left for a nine day vacation.  The husband came to our house to collect his cat.  He said he wanted to be sure she was safe and cared for while they were away.  Someone had been hired to visit the house daily and tend to the animals.  We had to let her go with him.
Nine days later, just before noon, Patti said to me:  "What's that noise?"  I stepped out front  and saw Puddy, two houses away, walking toward me, meowing continuously, an angry complaint of sound.  Obviously it had been no vacation for Puddy.  She had been let out and her first stop was our house and a hearty meal.
The former owners were knowledgable enough to know that cats, like souls, select their own society and they made no further effort to convince  the cat they called Fluffy to stay with them.  She was Puddy now.


Thursday, January 24, 2013

The 'dependency' Problem

Recently I was notified by Florida Power and Light that my electric meter has been replaced with a 'Smart Meter.'  This type of meter has many advantages including the ability to be read  remotely.  Thus FPL has eliminated the occupation of meter reader.
Technology continues to remove working men and women from the rolls of the employed.  Bank tellers, ticket agents and checkout cashiers are finding their jobs in jeopardy.  The Labor Department reports that more than 1.1 million secretaries lost jobs between 2000 and 2010 due to software that allows bosses to take their own calls, arrange their own trips and conferences.  The Department also reports that the number of telephone operators fell 64 percent, word processors and typists by 46 percent.  These are a few of many examples.
It occurs to me that technology may be the force or element that is creating a 'society of dependency.'  Governor Romney placed the blame on government and its social welfare programs.  But these programs are a response to the problem, not a cause of it.
I fear a day is coming when millions of people will be unemployed or underemployed because technology has replaced them.  This would not happen at such a rapid rate if we applied moral and philosophical thinking to the impact of new Technologies.  There are gains and there are losses.  We should ponder the long term effects of each.
I know we are supposed to believe that 'job training' will solve the problem.  It won't. 
Nothing will change until Technology finds a way to replace Congress.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Friday, January 11, 2013

Gentrification of thrift stores

I have been a fan and customer of thrift stores for a long long time.  Probably this is due to my  interest in things that have been discarded or abandoned.  When I was a boy the collection of garbage was common only in metropolitan areas.  Rural communities had no such program.  The outcome was the appearance of dumps on remote  fields or wood lots.    My brother and I learned that these dumps held treasure for our use in games and play.  It was as much fun to look through the jumble of things no longer regarded as useful  as it was to sort through the boxes and crowded shelves of the first generation of thrift stores.
I don't recall where or when I entered my first thrift store but I saw quickly that it was a good place to buy books.  They were cheaper than second-hand bookstores and contained a variety of titles to compete with them.  Without a doubt, I have purchased more than one thousand books from thrifts over the years. 
As time passed I saw thrift stores begin to improve their appearance and expand their inventory of things for sale.  Kitchenware, electronics, vinyl records, clothing, tools, etc, etc.  And I began to purchase these items as well.  Not only because I saved money.  I like things that have been well-made and well-used and to give them a second life is to fully appreciate the purposes of design and craft.
The first big change occurred in the seventies (if my memory is working) when the craze for collectibles began.  There was a sudden interest in nostalgia and many things once considered cheaply bought and personally useless became valuable things to own and to resell.
Charities began to rent store fronts and to plead for donations for resale.  The monthly take in some stores exceeded six months sales in the original part-time thrift shops.
Regular customers began to notice that upscale automobiles were appearing in the parking lot.  People who owned Cadillacs and Lincolns and Mercedes were shopping in thrift stores.  To meet the needs of this new customer, thrifts gave a section of the store over to something called a Boutique.  Here there were chairs to sit in.  There was more room between the displays and racks.  The clothing had been culled and the best articles were sold in the Boutique.  At higher prices, of course.
Hardcover books that once sold for 50 cents began to follow the new trend and were one dollar each.  Today they are either two dollars or three dollars  And they aren't old anymore.
Now  twelve thrift stores, in three neighboring towns in two of the richest counties in America, have created an association.  They are uniting to find new ways to 'improve' their stores and increase their profits.  One way now being used is the issuance of coupons offering 15% or 10% off purchases.  Just like real stores!
The Association is sponsoring an event. A trolley will spend an 8 hour day tour of these local thrifts.  There are 30 seats available at a cost of $30 per person.  The price includes a box lunch.
For me, this development marks the end of the thrift shop as a source for low income people.  It is an example, admittedly small, of how the piece of the economic pie that belonged to the poor continues to shrink.  Wealth continues to move away from the poor toward the well-off.

Remembering Ol' One-Shot

The brouhaha over that awful expression 'gun control', the ranting, the raving, the mad-dog personalities pro and con send me away to find a quieter place and time.  Thus I found this passage from Harper Lee's "To Kill A Mockingbird."  The passage occurs just after Atticus Finch has killed a dangerous mad dog with one shot, leaving his children surprised by this unknown talent in their father.

"Forgot to tell you the other day that besides playing the Jew's Harp,  Atticus Finch was the deadest shot in Maycomb County in his time."
"Dead shot..." echoed Jem.
"That's what I said, Jem Finch.  Guess you'll change your tune now.  The very idea, didn't you know his nickname was Ol' One-Shot when he was a boy?  Why, down at the Landing when he was coming up, if he shot fifteen times and hit fourteen doves he'd complain about wasting ammunition."
"He never said anything about that," Jem muttered.
"Never said anything about it, did he?"
"No, ma'am."
"Wonder why he never goes huntin' now," I said.
"Maybe I can tell you," said Miss Maudie.  "If your father's anything, he's civilized in his heart.  Marksmanship's a gift of God, a talent - oh, you have to practice to make it perfect, but shootin's different from playing the piano or the like.  I think maybe he put his gun down when he realized that God had given him an unfair advantage over most living things.  I guess he decided he wouldn't shoot till he had to, and he had to today."
"Looks like he'd be proud of it," I said.
"People in their right minds never take pride in their talents," said Miss Maudie.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Truth Be Told

Many politicians (mostly Republican) call Social Security an "entitlement."  Whether they use this term from ignorance or from a malicious desire to make the system seem undeserved I don't know.  It's not accurate but the term has stuck and is repeated in debate after debate.  No wonder nothing gets done in Washington.  They are trying to fix  something that doesn't need repair.
Social Security is an investment.  Money is taken from payrolls to fund it.  Money is taken from payrolls for other investments, i.e., pension plans, health insurance, 401k's.  The difference is that investing in Social Security is required.  However the money taken from one's salary is returned later in life, and, according to the critics, more is returned than was invested.  Which sounds like a wise investment.
Social Security is often tied to the debate about national debt as if it were a major cause of that problem.  It isn't.  In fact, the Social Security Trust Fund has been used by various Presidents (beginning, I believe, with LBJ) to hide budgetary failures and weaknesses.  In 1983 President Reagan and Congress reworked the System in order to assure the Trust would be funded for the Baby Boom generation.  They did this by raising taxes on the middle class and the working class.  Successive Presidents used these taxes like income taxes and funded the General Budget with them to conceal the real size of the deficit.
 There is enough money in the Fund today to keep Social Security going till 2038,  another 25 years, if nothing more were done.  There could be much more if the IOU's were to be prepaid.

In 2010 and 2011, there were no increases in Social Security checks.  One would think that there would be a visible reduction in government debt after two years of no change in payments  IF Social Security was a factor in the problem of debt.

Now there is talk about re-working the formula for cost of living increases for Social Security investors in order 'to save the System.' .  President Obama has suggested this also.  Currently the rate used for this year's increase is 1.7 percent.  This is too high?  After two years of no increase at all?  Give me a break.

This year my increase is $18 per month.  My monthly premium for Part B Medicare is up $5 to $104.90.  The part B deductible has been raised $7 to $147.  The Part A deductible (hospitalization) has increased by $28.  Let's do the math.  My Monthly premium increase ($5 x 12 = $60) plus the two deductibles ($7 + $28= $35) = $95 which is the first five months of my Social Security increase before I leave the house to check the REAL inflation rate at the gas station and supermarket.
In 2012 my wife and I spent $1918 our of our pockets for copayments to Medicare.  $18 x 12 = $216.

Don't mis-understand.  I am not complaining selfishly.  We're not poor.  We will make it.   There are many more people far worse off than we are.  Many of them will make it too.  I only wish we could make it without being attended by the lying, the stupidity, and the mendacity of  our political leaders.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Happy New Year!

When our Collective Imagination fails, we get reductionism in Science, fundamentalism in Religion, fascism in Politics.

Are we there yet?