Wednesday, February 28, 2007


Injustices 'r' Us!

Injustices? You betcha! You want injustice, you’re in the right country, bubba! The latest is, of course, fallout from the disclosure of shitty conditions at Walter Reed. The VA budget gets cut; we send troops into combat with inferior and/or inadequate equipment; none of those war-mongering swine have ever had bullets fired at them, but they continue to send young men and women into the meat grinders known as Iraq and Afghanistan.

I still don’t understand why lies lies and more lies are not impeachable offenses.

Walter Reed patients told to keep quiet
By Kelly Kennedy - Staff writer
Posted : Wednesday Feb 28, 2007 10:42:37 EST

Soldiers at Walter Reed Army Medical Center’s Medical Hold Unit say they have been told they will wake up at 6 a.m. every morning and have their rooms ready for inspection at 7 a.m., and that they must not speak to the media.

“Some soldiers believe this is a form of punishment for the trouble soldiers caused by talking to the media,” one Medical Hold Unit soldier said, speaking on the condition of anonymity.

It is unusual for soldiers to have daily inspections after Basic Training.

Soldiers say their sergeant major gathered troops at 6 p.m. Monday to tell them they must follow their chain of command when asking for help with their medical evaluation paperwork, or when they spot mold, mice or other problems in their quarters.

They were also told they would be moving out of Building 18 to Building 14 within the next couple of weeks. Building 14 is a barracks that houses the administrative offices for the Medical Hold Unit and was renovated in 2006. It’s also located on the Walter Reed Campus, where reporters must be escorted by public affairs personnel. Building 18 is located just off campus and is easy to access.

The soldiers said they were also told their first sergeant has been relieved of duty, and that all of their platoon sergeants have been moved to other positions at Walter Reed. And 120 permanent-duty soldiers are expected to arrive by mid-March to take control of the Medical Hold Unit, the soldiers said.

As of Tuesday afternoon, Army public affairs did not respond to a request sent Sunday evening to verify the personnel changes.

The Pentagon also clamped down on media coverage of any and all Defense Department medical facilities, to include suspending planned projects by CNN and the Discovery Channel, saying in an e-mail to spokespeople: “It will be in most cases not appropriate to engage the media while this review takes place,” referring to an investigation of the problems at Walter Reed.


Cheney: an unwelcome visitor, apparently

I don't want anyone to think I haven't been keeping up with the latest of the latest. I'm happy to see that someone actually noticed that the security in Afghanistan is no better than the security anywhere else. The "War on Terror" is about as effective as the "War on Drugs," only it's costing a lot more. Maybe that's the idea.

Taliban 'knew of Cheney visit'
27/02/2007 12:07 - (SA),9294,2-10-1462_2075713,00.html
Islamabad - A suicide attack at an Afghan air base where US vice-president Dick Cheney was staying shows that the Taliban and al-Qaeda have penetrated local intelligence agencies, analysts and officials said.

The blast early on Tuesday at Bagram air base near Kabul also highlights the increasing sophistication of the extremist outfits as they prepare for a feared spring offensive against Western troops, they said.

The day before the explosion Cheney warned President Pervez Musharraf of neighbouring Pakistan to crack down on militants regrouping in Pakistan's tribal areas to mount attacks across the border and further afield.

"This shows how much the militants have penetrated the intelligence of the Afghan security forces. It is a most shocking attack," retired Pakistani general turned analyst Talat Masood told AFP.

Visit unannounced

Cheney's visits to Pakistan and Afghanistan were unannounced and shrouded in even tighter secrecy than when US President George W Bush travelled to the two countries in March 2006.

Author Ahmed Rashid, who has written a book on the Taliban, said the bombing was a "very provocative" move by the Taliban.

"They were waiting for a high-level visit to carry out an attack. This visit, although highly secretive, was known in circles in Kabul and Islamabad," he said.

A senior Pakistani counter-terrorism official said the "sophisticated" attack "indicates the militants' preparedness and the quality of their intelligence collection in the run-up to the so-called spring offensive".

He added: "They must have had information (a) few days before that the US vice-president would be in town and stay at Bagram. This is not something you can plan with 12 hours notice."


Instant Karma's done got us, folks!

...Nothing so much emphasizes our moral fraudulence than the way we treated [Indians] from the time we hit shore to the last fifteen minutes. God must squint, turn his face and puke, when he’s not busy elsewhere.”

That’s from Jim Harrison’s The Road Home. That pretty much summarizes what I feel must be God’s hourly responses, these days. From the furor over some bimbo’s body, baby, and booty to the Vice-President’s latest thunderings about the war effort, it’s amazing God hasn’t been hospitalized from too much puking. Our “newsmen” on CNN, NBC, CBS, in the New York Times, the Washington Post, they open their mouths and our pours utter drivel. Any twelve-year-old with a semi-functioning brain can tell it's pure bullshit.

I guess America does deserve what it gets. Assuming there’s some sort of karmic retribution for our treatment of the Indians, Africans, Mexicans, etc., etc.—and now Iraqis, this country should be in for a shit-storm of chickens home at last to roost above us. And rain crap on us from now until the sun falls out of the sky.

And it goes on. History, someone said, doesn’t repeat itself. But people do. Last night I watched some old clips of Lyndon Johnson speaking about Viet Nam and George Bush 43 speaking about Iraq. Almost word for word, Bush spouts the propaganda left over from Viet Nam. Same metaphors. Same sulky optimism: you better believe we’re winning or else! I’m not the best educated turnip in the patch. I certainly don’t have the benefit of dozens of advisors and a huge research staff, yet I can see the insanity in our current international position. What the fuck are those guys in Washington smoking?

So, this awareness penetrates farther and further into the caves of my brain than it has before. We're dealing with crazies, folks. We can go into outrage, we can wave banners announcing the latest government gobbledy-gook from the roof-tops, but the fact remains: we are being led by crazies. And we are finally paying the cost of centuries of hypocracy, exploitation, and arrogance. Is there any way around this? I don't think so. We have the government we deserve—and, as far as I can tell—continue to deserve. Can we change it? Not until we pay the bill. And it's a big one.

Thursday, February 22, 2007


Sacred Sites at Hanford in Danger of Contamination

The River People. Smohalla. Seven Drums. Most Americans know something about the spirituality of the Plains' Indians. Most of it may be wrong, but TV, movies, and books for years have told about sweat lodges and sun-dances and sacred pipes. It's too bad that people think that is the main spirituality of Native Peoples. Along the Columbia River, and in the basin of that vast lifeline, there is another spirituuality, quite different from that found on the prairies.

It was Smohalla who first spoke the lines many people have heard and attributed to Chief Joseph of the Nez Perce: "Shall I plow my mother's breast?" For the River People, the soil is the breast of their mother, Mother Earth. Too bad more people don't believe that way.

Tainted Hanford site still sacred

By Phil Ferolito

Yakima Herald-Republic


HANFORD NUCLEAR RESERVATION — An icy wind cuts across Rattlesnake
Mountain as Dana Miller combs its snow-covered ridge for any recent disturbances or
unnatural activity.

Miller and a few other workers with the Yakama Nation frequently visit the area to see if there have been any new trespassers to the peak that rises more than 3,000 feet just west of the Hanford nuclear reservation and roughly eight miles north of Benton City, Benton County.

The mountain once served as a place to pray, hunt and gather food, and is regarded as sacred by Northwest Indians.

Smoholla, a Wanapum spiritual leader considered a prophet by many, often journeyed up the steep grade to communicate with the Creator and receive direction in life, says Russell Jim, with the Yakama Nation Environmental Restoration/Waste Management Program.

But in the mid-1950s, an anti-aircraft missile-defense system was erected on the mountain to protect the Hanford site. Remnants of a radio tower still stand on the ridge near a few other buildings.

Although the mountain has been dotted with structures and equipment, its cultural significance is still recognized by the Yakama Nation, says Jim, who for years has been working with the federal Department of Energy to address the tribe's cultural concerns in the area.

Like the mountain, all of the 560-square-mile Hanford nuclear reservation lies within an area where tribal members retain their traditional rights to hunt, fish, gather food and perform sacred ceremonies.

Since 1989, when Hanford converted its operations to full-scale cleanup, the Yakama Indians have taken an active role in monitoring and identifying sacred sites on the nuclear reservation.

Lawsuit pending

The tribe is concerned about the harm plutonium production may have had. For the past five years, it has been embroiled in a lawsuit against the federal government seeking an assessment of natural resources and unspecified damages.

Last year, both Washington and Oregon and three other Columbia River tribes — the Umatilla, Nez Perce and Warm Springs — joined the lawsuit. The two states want the federal government to cover the cost of assessing any damages.

On April 26, a U.S. District Court judge in Yakima will hear oral arguments on a motion by the federal government to dismiss the case. The Department of Energy maintains the cleanup must be finished before damage to natural resources can be assessed.

Tribal officials say a damage assessment must be conducted before any thorough cleanup can be done and that the tribe's cultural dependence on the area for hunting, fishing and food gathering — all inseparable links to their beliefs — must be considered.

Department of Energy spokeswoman Megan Bernett in Washington, D.C., said federal law is guiding the cleanup.

"We are currently conducting extensive sampling for contaminants in water, sediment, soil, and [the region's plant and animal life] so that cleanup decisions continue to have a solid scientific basis for the protection of human health and the environment," she said.

A report published in October by RIDOLFI, an environmental-restoration firm in Seattle, details how water was diverted from the Columbia River to cool nuclear reactors, treated with chemicals to prevent corrosion of reactor components and then dumped back into the river.

Hazardous chemicals from the site continue to make their way into the environment, the RIDOLFI report says, and there are billions of cubic yards of solid and diluted liquid waste containing radioactive and other toxic material there.

In an area about 35 miles north of Richland and adjacent to the Columbia River, roughly 11 square miles of groundwater is contaminated with chromium and radioactive elements. Although the groundwater isn't being used as drinking water, it pours into the Columbia River, which supplies communities downstream with drinking water, the report says.

In another area, significant concentrations of hazardous chemicals such as uranium and cyanide were found in groundwater, according to the report.

Cleanup continues

Meanwhile, the Department of Energy has been working to clean up the area, and has committed to removing roughly 99 percent of the waste being stored in underground tanks.

"They want to take 99 percent of the waste out of those tanks and call it good," says Phil Rigdon, deputy director of the tribe's department of natural resources. "I think it's those kinds of decisions that we need to have some involvement with."

"One of our greatest concerns is that everything is done on such a fast track, that sometimes they forget about the natural resources and don't do a good job of assessment," Rigdon says.

But it's not just tribal members who would benefit from such an assessment since others, including sportsmen and residents, rely on the area's resources, Rigdon says.

Jim, who isn't a party in the lawsuit, says a damage assessment would not only help with cleanup, but better protect workers by identifying what's exactly in the ground.

When a cleanup crew runs into any remains or artifacts while digging, the tribe is called to survey, document and inventory the site, he says.

There are numerous burial sites and remnants of ancient villages throughout the area.

"We're very concerned about what is there," he adds. "Are these people jumping down into something that they can't smell, see, that may be very dangerous?"

Jim has been working to put together guidelines outlining the tribe's physical and spiritual ties to the area's natural resources in hopes of launching a thorough cleanup.

"We are tied to everything," he says. "We're trying to cover everything, foods, medicines, fish, animals ... right down to the smallest microbe."

Turning his thought to the mountain again, Jim tells how its surrounding lower-than-normal elevation provides for moderate winters while its relatively tall peak allows foods to grow late into the summer.

Many elders whose ailing bodies limited their ability to travel often stayed there year-round, he says.

"It was also a place that served as the next step when you left this land to go to the next world," he says. "That was the belief of some, and it's very easy to understand when they speak of that in our [traditional] language.

"Very significant."



Pot Laws As Insane As Any Elected Official? Yup.

And old friend of mine, down in California, is facing prison because he grew and distributed medical marijuana. If he goes in—he’s not a young man—he may not come out alive.

America’s marijuana laws are utterly stupid. They’re vindictive and irrational.

A new study, from the Bureau of Justice Statistics, shows that it costs US taxpayers somewhere over $1 billion annually just to imprison pot offenders. That’s not counting the money spent on lawyers and prosecutors and narcotics cops, the DEA, and god knows who else is involved with the “war” on marijuana. A billion dollars a year would make sure a lot of kids got good medical care, or a lot of people had decent places to live.

Pot Prisoners Cost Americans $1 Billion a Year

By Paul Armentano, AlterNet. Posted February 10, 2007.
The latest numbers are out: nearly 800,000 Americans were arrested on marijuana charges in 2005. When will the insanity stop?

American taxpayers are now spending more than a billion dollars per year to incarcerate its citizens for pot. That's according to statistics recently released by the U.S. Department of Justice's Bureau of Justice Statistics.

According to the new BJS report, "Drug Use and Dependence, State and Federal Prisoners, 2004," 12.7 percent of state inmates and 12.4 percent of federal inmates incarcerated for drug violations are serving time for marijuana offenses. Combining these percentages with separate U.S. Department of Justice statistics on the total number of state and federal drug prisoners suggests that there are now about 33,655 state inmates and 10,785 federal inmates behind bars for marijuana offenses. The report failed to include estimates on the percentage of inmates incarcerated in county and/or local jails for pot-related offenses.

Multiplying these totals by U.S. DOJ prison expenditure data reveals that taxpayers are spending more than $1 billion annually to imprison pot offenders.

The new report is noteworthy because it undermines the common claim from law enforcement officers and bureaucrats, specifically White House drug czar John Walters, that few, if any, Americans are incarcerated for marijuana-related offenses. In reality, nearly 1 out of 8 U.S. drug prisoners are locked up for pot.

Of course, several hundred thousand more Americans are arrested each year for violating marijuana laws, costing taxpayers another $8 billion dollars annually in criminal justice costs.

According to the most recent figures available from the FBI, police arrested an estimated 786,545 people on marijuana charges in 2005 -- more than twice the number of Americans arrested just 12 years ago. Among those arrested, about 88 percent -- some 696,074 Americans -- were charged with possession only. The remaining 90,471 individuals were charged with "sale/manufacture," a category that includes all cultivation offenses, even those where the marijuana was being grown for personal or medical use.

These totals are the highest ever recorded by the FBI, and make up 42.6 percent of all drug arrests in the United States. Nevertheless, self-reported pot use by adults, as well as the ready availability of marijuana on the black market, remains virtually unchanged.

Marijuana isn't a harmless substance, and those who argue for a change in the drug's legal status do not claim it to be. However, pot's relative risks to the user and society are arguably fewer than those of alcohol and tobacco, and they do not warrant the expenses associated with targeting, arresting and prosecuting hundreds of thousands of Americans every year.

According to federal statistics, about 94 million Americans -- that's 40 percent of the U.S. population age 12 or older -- self-identify as having used cannabis at some point in their lives, and relatively few acknowledge having suffered significant deleterious health effects due to their use. America's public policies should reflect this reality, not deny it. It makes no sense to continue to treat nearly half of all Americans as criminals.

This article originally appeared in the Washington Examiner.

Paul Armentano is the senior policy analyst for the NORML Foundation in Washington, DC. (, 888-67-NORML).


Round and round the mulberry bush...

My brain is gone. I'm adrift.

For three weeks, now, I've been trying to get myself back over to the municipal swimming pool, where, back in October, I fell and my leg broke. I know all the stuff about getting back on the horse that threw you, otherwise you'll never do it. Never been thrown off a horse. If I had been, and my leg had broken as a result, I'd be quite thoughtful before I even considered getting back on the animal. But...

I need the exercise. There's nothing as good as water exercise for me. Zero gravity, lots of painless motion, warm water, even a cardio-vascular component. There's also the super jacuzzi pool, which is bliss when it comes to relaxing sore muscles and the rest of me.

So why haven't I done it? How about: I'm afraid.

No, there's nothing rational about it at all. I can take my walker so I'll have plenty of support getting into and out of the pool. Beth said she'd stick around while I was in there. Then she got sick for a week, of course. Hmm.

I'm over psychologized. Sometimes, the time just isn't right. That's all. No deep-set psychological tangles: hasn't been the right time.

Saturday, February 17, 2007


Stalking the stories

I sure had a lot of stuff saved up. Even though I sense a futility about posting all these stories, I can't help tuning into them. I stalk them like a fly-fisherman stalks the wily trout. OK, or like a fly-fisherwoman stalks the wily trout. My desktop gets cluttered with these stories and my comments. This is where they go. Whoop-de-do.


Be Positive as the Boss puts his foot on your neck

And, for all of you who have to deal with nearly-limitless piles of corporate bullshit, here’s some thoughts from Barbara Ehrenreich:

Get Promoted with a YES! Attitude? Yuck.
By Barbara Ehrenreich, AlterNet
Posted on February 10, 2007, Printed on February 10, 2007

First, starting way back in the 1950s, you had to be "positive" to get ahead in business, i.e., ready to see the glass half full even when it was lying shattered on the floor. Then, somewhere in the first few years of the 21st century, the bar was raised to "passionate." It wasn't good enough to feel "positive" about spending your day doing cold calls to potential customers in Dayton, you be had to be "passionate" about it. And now, apparently, even that isn't good enough -- you have to develop a YES! Attitude, as in throwing back your head, balling up your fists, and screaming YEESSS!!!

The purveyor of this new over-the-top, fan-like, enthusiasm is Jeffrey Gitomer, in his brand new Little Gold Book of YES! Attitude. What attracted me to the display in the bookstore was the odd packaging: a hardcover, but smaller than the average paperback, with a bright red ribbon for a page-marker (a biblical touch, someone in the publishing industry explained to me.) Most of the pages contain fewer than 200 words, but don't try filling in the margins with notes: The pages are too slick and shiny for your average pen, so if you want to make notes, get your own damn paper.

How do you achieve a state of transcendent YES!-like excitement about your job? Brainwashing is recommended. Gitomer himself read Napoleon Hill's 1937 classic of delusional thinking -- Think and Grow Rich -- over 100 times in one year and watched the same motivational video five days a week plus weekends. While reading the gurus and reciting the prescribed self-affirmations, it helps to cut off contact with the outer world. In particular, Gitomer says, don't watch the news. It's all "negative" anyway.

Of course you'll have to purge your environment of "negative" people too, as all the motivational gurus advise. Gitomer tells us he walks away from their "pity parties" to "focus on me." "Let nothing or no one get in your way."

Now, with Darfur, global warming, Iraq and any recently bereaved or otherwise afflicted co-workers out of the way, you can "SMILE ALL THE TIME." "A simple smile," Gitomer tells us, "is a powerful atti-tool." Smiles "show your internal feelings, externally." And if you don't actually feel smiley internally, just fake it till you make it.

Nobody said it would be easy. In fact, the YES! Attitude takes constant maintenance, and one of the illustrations shows Gitomer wearing a blue work shirt with the label "Positive Attitude Maintenance Department" on his chest. Read something "positive" every day, say "positive things all day long." Practice being "selfish on the inside" while exuding helpfulness on the outside.

Don't be distracted by the crude selfishness. What Gitomer and countless other motivational gurus are recommending is the mentality of a crafty slave: "Oh master, I am SO glad you transferred me to the Dayton accounts (even though they've been inactive for 18 months), and, while I'm at it, would you like me to polish your shoes with my neck tie?" Smiles, at least in human society, are gestures of submission, and routinely demanded of women as a token of subordinate status. The happy slave smiles; the well-trained "lady" smiles; now even the male white collar striver has to keep his lips pulled back in an expression of eager compliance. Only the top guys get to snarl and snap their way through the day.

Here's another idea, one that's every bit as "positive" as the gurus advise: Call it Constructive Complaining. Don't avoid "negative" people -- seek them out and talk about what needs to be changed. Remember the movie "Nine to Five," where the much-put-upon characters played by Jane Fonda, Lily Tomlin and Dolly Parton finally get together to share their woes and plan the overthrow of an abusive boss? Take your grievances seriously and turn that "pity party" into a revolutionary strategy meeting.

Barbara Ehrenreich is the author of 13 books, most recently "Bait and Switch: The (Futile) Pursuit of the American Dream."
© 2007 Independent Media Institute. All rights reserved.


Affordable housing in motels?

I’ve posted before about some of our area problems. Bend, of course, is not alone. The boom in ourdoor sports and retirement homes has infected many small western cities and towns.

All through our area, as well as in other places, trailer parks, mobile home “villages”, are being destroyed—the land is too valuable for trailers. Thousands of people, most of them on fixed and lower-to-moderate incomes, are being displaced. Workers complain they can’t find affordable housing. Teachers can’t afford housing in the districts in which they work. It’s crazy.

So, the NY Times reports that a couple of resorts bought motels so their workers could have affordable housing. What fun. What degradation. No doubt it's better than camping in a ski-hut, but as far as wanting to live in a community? If the community was zoned to keep out employees, there would probably be lawsuits. By simply pricing them out, or into segregated housing, no problem.

The New York Times

February 17, 2007
Big Sky Journal
Boom in the Mountains Creates a Housing Shortage

BIG SKY, Mont. — The Big Sky region, just north of an entrance to Yellowstone National Park, has boomed in recent years, attracting skiers and other outdoor enthusiasts and fueling a construction and employment boom.

But soaring land prices and building costs have put the price of housing far beyond the reach of many new resort and construction workers.

Faced with a severe housing shortage for its workers, at least two resorts, the Yellowstone Club and Big Sky Resorts, picked an unusual solution. Each bought a motel it intended to continue operating for travelers, as well as for housing workers and contractors.

With its purchase of the Whitewater Inn, formerly a Comfort Inn, Big Sky Resorts picked up 56 rooms.

“We’re a growing resort with 900 staff, and we want to attract the best staff,” said Dax Schieffer, public relations manager for Big Sky Resorts, which is owned by Boyne U.S.A. “The plan is to have the employees stay here during peak season.”

The Yellowstone Club is the new owner of Buck’s T-4 Lodge, a 72-room motel just up the road from the Whitewater Inn.

The owner of the Yellowstone Club, Tim Blixseth, said his company had 500 employees and 1,000 subcontractors. Using Buck’s to help house them will help reduce the “couple of million” dollars a year that the company spends for buses and mileage.

“It was a good strategic buy for us,” Bob Sumpter, vice president for real estate development for the company, said. “We do not plan to change the operation one iota.”

Both companies said workers would receive discounts on rooms, which rent for $100 to $150 a night depending on the season. Who gets those discounts and how much they amount to depend on what a worker’s “job is and how much we need them,” Mr. Schieffer said.

Many workers are choosing to double or triple up to save money, which can make for lively, if cramped, quarters.

Copyright 2007 The New York Times Company


Evolution part of Jewish anti-Christ plot

And now for something utterly insane.

Representative (state) Ben Bridges of Georgia, has distributed under his name a memo that says evolution is actually a religious fantasy coming from an old Jewish sect. The sect, he says, is actually the anti-Christ. Mr Bridges also points people to a web site that says the earth is fixed and the sun rotates around it.

I believe there are medications that would help him.

Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Evolution memo prompts call for apology

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Published on: 02/16/07

The Anti-Defamation League is calling on state Rep. Ben Bridges to apologize for a memo distributed under his name that says the teaching of evolution should be banned in public schools because it is a religious deception stemming from an ancient Jewish sect.

Bridges (R-Cleveland) said he is considering filing legislation this year to remove evolution from Georgia's public schools, but he denies having anything to do with the memo.

One of his constituents, however, said he wrote the memo with Bridges' approval before it recently was distributed to lawmakers in several states, including Texas, California, New York, Illinois, Pennsylvania and Ohio.

"Indisputable evidence — long hidden but now available to everyone — demonstrates conclusively that so-called 'secular evolution science' is the Big-Bang 15-billion-year alternate 'creation scenario' of the Pharisee Religion," says the memo, which has Bridges' name on it. "This scenario is derived concept-for-concept from Rabbinic writings in the mystic 'holy book' Kabbala dating back at least two millennia."

The memo calls on lawmakers to introduce legislation that would end the teaching of evolution in public schools because it is "a deception that is causing incalculable harm to every student and every truth-loving citizen."

It also directs readers to, which includes model legislation calling the Kabbala "a mystic, anti-Christ 'holy book' of the Pharisee Sect of Judaism." The Web site also declares "the earth is not rotating ... nor is it going around the sun."


The National Center for Science Education, an Oakland, Calif.-based organization that defends the teaching of evolution in public schools, said the assertions in the memo are "completely bizarre."

Find this article at:

Valentine's week, I unilaterally decided, deserved some time off. We went to a hotspring down in the Great Basin country. An alkalai lake bed, marshes, cattle ranches, skeletal lombardy poplars. The ground around the hot spring was littered with chips of obsidian and chert; people had been going to that spring long before gun-powder and bullets came to the Basin. It was a lovely restful place.

We need more of those places in our lives. More places without TV, with barely understandable radio reception, and no jazzy inputs. We need more eagles, harriers, crows, red-wing blackbirds, magpies. Deer and coyotes. Long, wide skies without buildings forming borders.

And, as usual, when I come back, nothing much has changed: maybe some locations or situations or rhetoric, but things are still the same ol' same ol'. Current events come at us like hail, but things don't change all that fast. Congress, for example, moves glacially; the President moves irrationally and seldom forward; the economy teeters, but we're reassured the period of "adjustment" is nearly over—only whatever happened to the housing bubble? Yeah, yeah. So, no matter how awful things look at any given moment, they're going to look equally awful in a week or a month or a year. It just goes on. That's what soaked into me in that 100 degree mineral water, out under the stars. "And so it goes," Vonnegut wrote, over and over. Always—and so it goes.

It's pretty obvious I haven't effected any change in the mess. Darn.

But, I've had some pleasant changes. My leg has healed enough that I don't need the big clunky hinged knee brace. I'm basically off the crutches and onto a nice cedar cane I made out of a piece of wood I found a couple of years ago. I'm ambulatory. What a relief! My jeans fit over my leg. Life is pretty good. It would be better if I had a pile of money, but, no big deal. Fuck those bastards in Washington.

Friday, February 09, 2007


Anna Nicole v. Reality

We do live in a delusional world, you know?

If you ever watch morning TV (my sweetie likes to and sometimes I do, too), you’ll have noticed that the food segments of morning shows are often followed by ads for diet products; stories on diet are followed by ads for fat-crap foods. It’s weird and contradictory and I think it makes people a little crazy to get so many mixed messages.

Well, TV is the opium of the people. Religion offers a certain amount of the drug, but not on a twenty-four hours a day schedule. Tune in and turn off: let them tell you what and how to think. And how to get distracted from the problems at hand… God knows, we all have such immense and intense personal problems we need all the distractions we can get—or some such bullshit.

The Huffington Post

Anna Nicole Smith Died. So Did Three American Troops.

I can't stand it anymore. For the last two days, on every cable news network, it has been non stop coverage of the death of Anna Nicole Smith. Look, I am sorry she is dead. And my heart goes out to her family. Really it does. But this is not a major news story.
Not even close.

As a veteran of this war in Iraq, I beg all Americans to please keep things in perspective while the networks fill you with images of a buxom blond celebrity who was only famous for being famous.

CNN, Fox and MSNBC are all guilty of it. MSNBC (which was really getting better for a while) has been the worst. Yesterday afternoon, while a war raged in Iraq, Hammas met with Fatah in Mecca, and a House investigation into botched Iraq reconstruction efforts continued on Capitol Hill, MSNBC gave us over three straight hours of almost entirely uninterrupted coverage of the death of the spokesperson for TRIMSPA. The coverage of Smith's death has rivaled that of former President Ford's.

The week I got back home from Iraq in 2004, the number one news story in America was Janet Jackson's breast being exposed at the Super Bowl. I was flabbergasted to see that this was what the American media cared about, as my friends were taking mortar rounds and sniper fire in Ramadi and Tikrit. Now, three years later, troops are returning home to see this crap about Smith on TV 24-7.

Anna Nicole Smith died about 24 hours ago. Over the same time period, at least three of our troops and countless Iraqis have died in a war that might turn out to be the greatest foreign policy blunder in our country's history. Even as I write this, all three networks are covering a live press conference by Smith's attorney. I want to put my fist through the TV.

Wake up, America. This is not news. It does not matter. Think of our troops. Think of the Iraqis. Think of the families of people serving in Iraq right now.

You want to really support the troops? Tell the media to pay attention to the war they are fighting and dying in! Call the networks and complain, write letters to the producers, and change the damn channel.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007


O'Reilly & Beck: Laurel and Hardy Theory of History proponents

TV is the blustery medium. The Nationalist Right loves to pontificate and expound to the mob. Two of the biggest blusterers are, natch, Bill O’Reilly and Glen Beck. It’s interesting that they both spoke up about the Biden fiasco.

Big Bill actually said “I’m afraid to say anything” about African-Americans. As if. He just feels so hindered that he dare not even give compliments to African-Americans.

And Beck, well. He’s afraid now he might be in an “open conversation” and say something that would be taken wrong—that’s why he doesn’t have many Black friends. Not his fault, huh-uh. It’s them. They made him not have...ah, you know. The old Laurel and Hardy gig: “Now see what you made me do?”

O’REILLY: Now you got to feel sorry for us white folks here, because I’m telling you now I’m afraid to say anything. You know, you’re an articulate guy, doctor, but I’m never going to say that. You’re a smart guy. Is that bad if I say you’re a smart guy? … Yes, absolutely, instead of black and white Americans coming together, white Americans are terrified. They’re terrified. Now we can’t even say you’re articulate? We can’t even give you guys compliments because they may be taken as condescension?

BECK: You know, Shelby, I don’t know if anybody else in the audience — oh, this is just going to be a blog nightmare over the next few days. But let me just be honest and play my cards face up on the table.

I was thinking about this just last week. I don’t have a lot of African-American friends, and I think part of it is because I’m afraid that I would be in an open conversation, and I would say something that somebody would take wrong, and then it would be a nightmare. Am I alone in feeling that?


Cree Indian girl sings "O Canada" in Cree at NHL Game

The America First-ers, or whatever name they go by, make a bit deal out of the American National Anthem being sung only in English. I wonder why they haven’t demanded our dialect be known as “American” instead of “English.”

Canada shows some class:

Edmonton girl makes hockey history, singing anthem in Cree
Last Updated: Sunday, February 4, 2007 | 9:57 AM ET
CBC News
A 13-year-old Alberta girl made history at centre ice in Calgary's Saddledome on Saturday night when she became the first person to sing O Canada in Cree at an NHL game.



Congressman proposes new "Trail of Tears"!

Hitting the dirt, again. For those who understand American history, one of the most disgraceful acts committed against American Indians was the removal of the “Civilized Tribes” from their homelands to what was called “Indian Territory.” Andy Jackson, revered as the ultimate folksy American politician, ordered the Creeks, Cherokees, Seminoles, Choctaws, and Chickasaws ethnically cleansed from east of the Mississippi River.

The US Supreme Court found his action unconstitutional. Jackson made a crack about wondering how they planned on enforcing his order, and sent in troops. Thousands and thousands of Indians were rounded up, held in what amounted to being concentration camps, and then herded out to Oklahoma. It’s been known ever since as “The Trail of Tears.”

Thousands died.

It was as bad as any event that befell the First Nations within the United States.

And, now, some foolish and ignorant Iowa congressman has proposed a “Trail of Tears” as a “path to amnesty”…”for those who haven’t been deported.”

His name is Steve King. I hope the consciencious voters of Iowa remember his name come the next election. He’s shameless. And probably ill-educated, to boot.

Congressman Vows to Make Immigration Amnesty a “Trail of Tears”
By Gerry Smith | Friday, February 2, 2007, 04:41 PM

With the Iowa caucus a year away, here’s what one congressman from the state had to say Friday on immigration reform: “I’m determined to see to it that the path to amnesty will be a trail of tears for those who haven’t been deported,” said Rep. Steve King, the ranking Republican member of the House Immigration Subcommittee at a three-day Republican retreat in Baltimore.

King’s hard-line stance contrasts that of Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack, a 2008 Democratic presidential candidate, who has supported a pathway to citizenship for illegal immigrants.

King said $65 billion worth of illegal drugs enter the country from Mexico each year.

“I mean, if you put $65 billion down there to defend that border, you can lock that down so there wouldn’t be any cockroaches getting across.”


Coffee: the last legal high

Last week-end, we drove down to Summer Lake Hot Springs, a couple of hours from here, down in cowboy country. Turned out to be a swell place: a properly funky bathhouse made out of corrugated tin with sufficient bullet holes in the roof, and rather modern little cabins with coffee makers, microwaves, fridges, and two burner stoves. I looked out the back door and there were obsidian chips on the ground; debris from the original inhabitants of the area.

Very relaxing and very satisfying. A nice way to sidle back into exercising in water, after the three months lay-off with a broken leg…

It was so quiet and calm down there, it’s been hard to get back into watching the world go to hell in a fighter jet.

—got to get on the stick. Ahh, a cup of coffee! For years, some of us have been kvetching that Starbucks’ coffee was over-roasted. It always seemed to have a burnt flavor. Apparently, other people feel the same way.

Saturday, February 3, 2007 - 12:00 AM

A bitter shot for Starbucks: McDonald's wins taste test

By Seattle Times staff and news services

NEW YORK — There's nothing average about the Joe at McDonald's.

The Golden Arches beat out java giants Starbucks and Dunkin' Donuts, along with Burger King, in a coffee taste test run by Consumer Reports magazine.

The magazine proclaimed McDonald's Premium Roast Coffee had "no flaws" and was easiest on the wallet.

"Try McDonald's, which was cheapest and best," Consumer Reports says in its March issue. "Or make your own coffee."

Of the four, McDonald's cost the least, $1.35, on average.

It "was decent and moderately strong," the magazine says, "although it lacked the top notes needed to make it rise and shine."

Starbucks might have the most vocal fan club among the caffeine crowd, but its $1.55-a-cup brew was deemed ordinary. "Strong, but burnt and bitter enough to make your eyes water instead of open," the report said.


Copyright © 2006 The Seattle Times Company

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