Category Archives: General

Sometimes A Pair of Pants Can Give You Vertigo

Between the experience of living a normal life at this moment on the planet and the public narratives being offered to give a sense to that life, the empty space, the gap, is enormous.  The desolation lies there, not in the facts.

— John Berger, “A Man with Tousled Hair” in The Shape of a Pocket, May 11, 2003

A few days ago, as I stepped into my pants to start the day as is my habit, I happened to notice the label at the waist band.  It read “Gap,” and the sight of this word sent my mind spinning into a whirling contemplation of this void that lies at the center of life today, a subject that has disturbed me for a long time.

I had earlier that morning made the mistake of checking the news headlines on the computer.  This too is a habit that I no doubt share with millions of other people.  It is a dastardly habit no sane person should inflict on oneself.  To rise from one’s night dreams and step into a litany of hyperbolic headlines shouting doom and gloom at every turn is to inject oneself with a poisonous drug before the sap of life has a chance to rise in one’s veins and one’s imagination might give birth to new possibilities.

Standing in my pants, I felt as though I were hovering over Berger’s enormous empty space, and if I didn’t wake up, I would tumble endlessly away.  Thoreau’s words floated up: “To be awake is to be alive. I have never yet met a man who was quite awake. How could I have looked him in the face?”

So I stepped over the hole at my feet and tried to shake the monotonous clatter of the monstrous media’s messages from my mind.  In my vertiginous state I dared not look in a mirror.  So many of the media’s lying words that I had already ingested with coffee seemed to float around and within me in an unreality disconnected from the actual world, even the world they were ostensibly reporting on.

I too had written many words about the drastic condition of our world today, thinking somehow my words, different from the corporate media’s, could move the world by pulling back the curtain that the powerful have created through clichés to conceal the sordid reality they have made of this beautiful earth.  Yet the presentation of facts seemed to make no difference.  Very little, if anything, made a difference.  Most of those who read my words more or less already agreed with me. And many, even friends and family, just ignored them, anticipating that they would disturb them.  And the mainstream publications shunned them like the plague.

Between my desire for a changed world and the world that seemed to change only for the worse lay the desolation Berger identified.

Many people feel it, I know, especially dissidents who fight in various ways against the powerful.  But we prefer not to go there, to see what it consists of and how we may transmute it into acts and words that might make a difference. We prefer to make believe we are making a difference by repeating ad nauseum the same prefabricated responses, usually directly political, to the atrocities committed daily.  We are caught in what Czeslaw Milosz, writing in a different context, called “ontological anemia” – “among this illness’s symptoms is the nothingness sucking from the center in.”  We try and try but seem to devour ourselves by repeating the same approaches, as if all the slaves know is what their masters have taught them.  Milosz knew this because he was an artist and a spiritual seeker, not just a political analyst, and also had personal experience with the totalitarian mindset that is descending on the West.

The twists of history can make one’s head spin.

In writing about Vincent Van Gogh, whose hunger for reality drove him to produce works of achingly loving beauty, John Berger, the quixotic Marxist, writes:

Reality, however one interprets it, lies behind a screen of clichés.  Every culture produces such a screen, partly to facilitate its own practices (to establish habits) and partly to consolidate its own power.  Reality is inimical to those with power.

Yet while Van Gogh sought reality by breaking the mold, the rich and powerful have devoured the results of his efforts and have transposed them into commodities.  Last year, his painting, Laboureur Dans Un Champ, painted from an asylum where he had committed himself, sold for $ 81.3 million at Christie’s after a frenetic auction.

A humble peasant working in a field becomes a trophy for the rich, who keep the working man slaving away.  Words and deeds are turned upside down on desolation row where:

Between the windows of the sea where lovely mermaids flow
And nobody has to think too much about Desolation Row1

We need to think again. Imagine!  Today we are caught in a void of clichés and in the clutches of rapacious elites.  Only acts of creative imagination will free us from their clutches.

I look to my right and on a shelf I see a vividly painted Matryoshka doll.  It startles me into the thought that like Matryoshka dolls, so many of our personal habits that deaden us to imagining a way across the gap to a better world are nestled within social habits of thought, speech, and action. We are so often encased like tiny cloned dolls in the social clichés that make us smaller versions of the powers that we say we oppose but which we mimic.  We are carved and painted in their likeness, and caught in the habit of reacting to them in ways that reinforce their control.

We must disrupt our routines.  We must find new ways, not to just respond, but to take the initiative.  When we react according to habits, although we may not realize it, we are being controlled and not in control.  Habits, like the word’s etymology reveals, may reassure us that we have, hold or possess a position of strength from which we can move the world in our direction, but the only Archimedean lever and fulcrum capable of that is inspiration.

That involves a new way of seeing, not vertiginous but visionary.

I think I’ll change my pants.

  1. Bob Dylan, Highway 61 Revisited, 1965

Capitalist Society Under the One Party of Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum

The delay of the socialist revolution engenders the indubitable phenomena of barbarism — chronic unemployment, pauperization of the petty bourgeoisie, fascism, finally wars of extermination which do not open up any new road.

— Leon Trotsky, In Defense of Marxism

While the citizens of the rich world are protected from harm, the poor, the vulnerable and the hungry are exposed to the harsh reality of climate change in their everyday lives…. We are drifting into a world of ‘adaptation apartheid.

— South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu, United Nations Human Development Report 2007-2008

That puking up barbarism phenomena in this enclave of genocide and perpetual war, resource theft and global toxification come in a coat of many colors. In the simplest terms I see it daily in my job as underpaid and spat upon social worker jiggering with the penury, punishment and putrefying systems of bureaucratic hell and legal rape exemplified in the schizophrenic American version of capitalism.

In no way am I ever NOT entertained by the magical thinking and retrograde beliefs of those I serve – homeless veterans who in some cases decry welfare for the masses while picking up their welfare checks and benefits from the Veterans Administration. On top of that, they feel entitled because they ended up in the economic draft of the US Military Industrial Complex. These are not the ones who saw “battle” overseas, but the ones who were snookered into thinking a tour here or there, in a non-combatant role would get them somewhere in life.

Broken people come to the military, and the military breaks them again, and, the gift that keeps on giving are the systems of oppression and criminalization of living life in Trump’s “MAGA, MAGA über alles, über alles in der Welt.”

Reality is that this thing called America, united snakes one in all, was running on that manifest destruction at the moment those Puritanical misanthropes ended up on the east coast with their fears, dark perversions, warped criminal religiosity and white DNA primed for a taking, eminent domain and killings far and wide.

On the one hand, my clients with mental strains beyond repair and hobbled with a truck-load of PTSD, and another container ship full of physical ailments believe their “service” was honorable, somehow divorced from the huge welfare trough that is the military-private contractor complex, and more so, suspended from the reality that their own kind — fellow soldiers ranging from the likes of a Private Gomer Pyle to Gen Schwarzkopf — screwed them in every which way possible inside the human frame of exploitation and downright pathological assault on every front.

Screwed them with shitty equipment, shittier intel, rampant rotten orders, and a million environmental assaults that have rendered millions of men and women who individually barely served a few years into the walking-wheelchaired-vegetative state wounded.

There have been a million battles and skirmishes that were set up as suicide assaults.

Then on the other hand, some of the clients who are self-declared  deplorables — who believe in Trump as something more than a rotten, lying, wimp of a man with his self-anointed Six Star General’s Bully Epaulets and Bone Spurs Yellow Streak Academy Jumpsuit — are not limited to a bunch of uneducated cretins, but also those who thought time served would be a touchstone in their lives.

Constantly, I have to wrestle with my clients’ reprobate ideas that anything about the government sucks and everything about private capital shines. It’s a reverse ideology of anti-Americanism: against teachers, against librarians, against the postman, against scientists and doctors and others from the so-called Great American Democracy as products of state schools, state governments, municipalities, and the like. They’ll root for these pathetic sports teams, both college and the pros, rendering stupid their concept of where those facilities are and where the billionaire owners get their sports gladiators.

Delusional, really, as my clients shudder with spiritual epiphany at those millionaire preachers like the Billy-Frank Graham Klan and hyper-millionaires running the retail show and all those attendant systems of destruction in the Big Pharma-Big Prison-Big Energy-Big Mining-Big Ag-Big Construction Complex they so often defend as the Defenders of Democracy in Private enterprise.

Here’s a common link to the duality of systems of oppression, that structural violence that leads communities and entire classes and races of people into more and more dungeons of despair and destruction:

One fellow, 62, homeless because the apartment management tossed him out as the maintenance man, with the free apartment in the mix. Out of a job and no longer making the dough to pay rent, he was forced to squat for a while before the iron jaws of the sheriff department came in and served him eviction papers.

Lapsed car insurance, lapsed driver’s license, and, alas, a speeding ticket in a school zone. And, now, 8 years later after eight years on the road and homeless, this little shithole town of King City has him in their vise for $1700. The original ticket was $700 with the add on’s of court fees, administrative costs and other highway robbery checks and balances. So, this fellow is in need of a driver’s license, but these cities have been colonized by those PRIVATIZERS – in this case some multi-millionaire outfit out of Gig Harbor, Washington, which takes on the collections. Imagine, we want to set up a payment plan, even though this fine has passed the statute of limitations. But the City of King City, OR, puts a hold on releasing licenses until every red-blooded Yankee cent is paid off.

We can only imagine what the cut is for this Little Eichmann outfit collecting fines from hundreds of cities, maybe thousands. The interest of a thousand bucks might be waived, but still, the $700 is probably only pennies on the dollar for the city as the Collection Agency (AKA mob in MBA clothing) racks up the largess of the original out of wack fine as profit running their boiler rooms of collection workers.

Punishment, boomerang retribution. Name one place and one job where a personal vehicle can easily be pushed aside as part of the work routine, discounted as a necessity of getting to and from work, or the fact that blue collar work never requires a driver’s license for using company vehicles. Right! A driver’s license is a right, not a privilege, in this bunkered society!

The great American rah-rah, fighting for one’s country, fighting for these evil punks like a Trump, just doesn’t cut it when the ex-soldiers start adding up the contradictions and outright lies of the elite class, which a Trump and his cronies signify and exemplify.

The core of these systems of pain and recurring punishment generates hate, fear, resentment, anger and violence – of the mind, violence of the soul and possible violence exacted on the innocents and not so innocents around them.

These characters I work with mostly never look at the concurrency of pathological serial shooters and these racist, homophobic anti-tolerance military experience, or how these synagogue attackers were subliminally and overtly recruited into the Armed Services with the true blue Yankee Doodle Dandy and Johnny Comes Marching Home Again glee perpetrated again by the neo-fascist army of Republicans and Trump Lagoon Monsters, all of which the Democrats simultaneously hide from and deal with.

Colonized With Hive and Mob Mentalities Simultaneously

I’ve signed permission passes (we force adults to sign and ask for permission to leave a homeless facility!) for overnight stays away from the shelter where I work for people who have brokered this idea of “anomie” into their very existence, a lack of meaningful and structuralized social life in return for Black Friday, the height of meaningless self-gratification at the expense of not only the planet but the faceless and nameless people charged with running this engine of Retailapithecus restlessness. As Émile Durkheim the sociologist stated, we are a modern culture where the individual follows an increasingly “restless movement, a planless self-development, an aim of living which has no criterion of value and in which happiness lies always in the future, and never in the present achievement.”

More and more of the clients I work with have as their end goal individualized happiness, their 40 acres and a mule dream, for me myself and I. They come from a hive of military brainwashing and propaganda, one where leaders are followed and hated at the same time, one where the broken system of war, empire, manifest destiny, nation invasions and nation building (sic) is their ultimate plan of self-gratification – I joined to protect the flag, our way of life and to protect our borders from savages and invaders. Except the borders, as anyone knowing the history of these here United Snakes of America, is all about Norte Americanos encroaching and breaking the borders of others.

As Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz states in the Boston Review:

Even during the Civil War, both the Union and Confederate armies continued to war against the nations of the Diné and Apache, the Cheyenne and the Dakota, inflicting hideous massacres upon civilians and forcing their relocations. Yet when considering the history of U.S. imperialism and militarism, few historians trace their genesis to this period of internal empire-building. They should. The origin of the United States in settler colonialism—as an empire born from the violent acquisition of indigenous lands and the ruthless devaluation of indigenous lives—lends the country unique characteristics that matter when considering questions of how to unhitch its future from its violent DNA.

So, when I speak to the veterans and their families I work with on this matter of America’s soul wrapped in the banner of decimating other peoples who were here first, there is bloviating, knee-jerk proclamations that the victors enjoy the spoils, and that there is a god-given right to the American (white) ideal of moving the world toward His image.

This calculus I deploy for the homeless, those who have been screwed-blued-and-tattooed by the systems of oppression, by those debt collectors, those police and sheriff departments, by the judges and lawyers, top and bottom feeders all: I remind them that the so-called victors in their America are the One percent, including cretins from Hollywood, all the way to former generals/lobbyists/ contractors, and to include their sacred religious snake oil men like Graham. I remind them the wars they maybe have participated in were wars of oppression and wars of profits, completely tied to the ideals of screwing and stealing from your neighbor. That karmic doozy comes boomeranging back in the form of the victors on Wall Street, in the Boardrooms, and at the corporate tables of the Military-Pharma-Med-Prison-Education-Real Estate-Chemical-IT-Retail Complex. These too are the American ideals they supposedly signed up to protect with their lives in someone else’s country.

Again, what are we fighting for, sir?

This country’s leaders have always been Bill-Barak-Donald; Bezos-Adelson-Walton; CNN-FOX-Breitbart. “Money talks and money rules” is not some new Mar-a-Lago printed saying on Trump Condoms! As I continually told my 32-year military veteran father, his “work” in Korea, Vietnam, Saudi Arabia, Germany, France, Japan, et al was work for-by-and-because of the elites, the ones making two-bit Tin Soldiers jump through burning buildings and forced marches up another Pork Chop-Hamburger-Gizzard Hill. Marching orders by these bastions of money power and debt dread have been the history of these Un-united States.

Of course, the soldiers who are of color rarely jump on this Sherman Tank towed “bandwagon,” but to be sure, we talk about their own dire circumstances enveloped in the same sort of so-called “The Victors Enjoying the Spoils” mentality. The spoils include a complete but suppressed history of theft, lynchings, treaty breaking, incarcerations, land despoilments, eminent domain.

Black men and women fighting against black men and women from their mothership — Africa. AFRICOM. Imagine, a Black Alliance for Peace, and a movement to stop US military involvement in Africa, and again these disruptions of the narrative of white supremacy get flummoxed, and the irony of brown and black and red soldiers fighting for what, who knows, but definitely part of the system of oppression of their own people.

So, again, I go for the jugular, the fact that my old man and I argued much about the military’s legitimacy while on the same hand he agreed in my pursuit of journalism, writing, teaching, and education:

Not only does there need to be a mass movement in the U.S. to shut down AFRICOM, this mass movement needs to become inseparably bound with the movement that has swept this country to end murderous police brutality against Black and Brown people. The whole world must begin to see AFRICOM and the militarization of police departments as counterparts.

 Netfa Freeman, of Pan-African Community Action (PACA) and the Institute for Policy Studies (IPS). Freeman represents PACA, a BAP member organization, on BAP’s Coordinating Committee.

It cost $267 million to fund AFRICOM in 2018. Probably a lot more in dark money and secret budgets; let alone the billions coming from the Economic Hit Men:

That money is stolen from Africans/Black people in the U.S. to terrorize and steal resources from our sisters and brothers on the African continent. Instead, that money should be put toward meeting our human needs in the U.S. and toward reparations for people in every African nation affected by U.S. imperialism.

—  Vanessa Beck, BAP research team lead and Coordinating Committee member.

So, them’s fighting words, as the white damaged veterans reach for words, epithets, rejoinders, and false dichotomies in the form of, Might Makes Right. There is a greater good in what us mere mortals see. Money Talks, of course, as many of them believe this irreligious, woman thumper, chubby bully, inconceivably smut-riddled man is THEIR commander in chief.

This ground truthing isn’t a hot commodity on the lefty or progressive or socialist web sites, for sure, where their own respective tidy thinking is vaunted over messy shit coming from the mouths of people scratching for a living doing this dirty work of counseling assuredly lost, wounded, broken and in many cases, mean as cuss souls.

That 35,000-foot Noam Chomsky view is heralded over the gutter view, and it’s no deep search for meaning to understand the hive and the mob mentality colonizing those Democratic Socialists of America folk, those pro-Israel-at-any-cost Bernie folk, those Pried from My Cold Dead Hand NRA folk. You got the Godfather Cuomo in Albany getting some robed lion of repression judge to legally change his name to Mario Amazon Direct Cuomo, with all the dildos and vibrators free for life!

Trump or Biden, Adelson or Soros, Chris Wallace or Rachel Maddow, Daryl Hannah or Caitlyn Jenner. Charmin or Cottenelle. Coke or Pepsi. Prozac or Zoloft. Raytheon or Northrup Grumman. Mad dog Mattis or Old Blood and Guts Patton. Steelers or Florida State. A Star is Born or Bohemian Rhapsody.

The trenches are rarely delineated or written about, just these huge “investigative research white papers” on the power of the elite to powerfully corrupt all systems that were supposed to be set up to help-aid-assist-protect-empower-develop we the people’s communities. However, there are no more communities, just chaos (controlled chaos), disruptive technologies-economies-structural systems of repressions. Just Madison Avenue, Just Manufactured Narratives, Just Fallen Anti-Heroes, Just Entertainment.

Feeding the dopamine hits as the marketers of disaster-demented-demolition capitalism control all markets, all psychologies, all media, all armies.

The fact that millions of people share the same vices does not make these vices virtues, the fact that they share so many errors does not make the errors to be truths, and the fact that millions of people share the same forms of mental pathology does not make these people sane.

— Eric Fromm, The Sane Society

Lying About Age: The Legal Efforts of Emile Ratelband

Oscar Wilde famously warned that one should never trust a woman who revealed her true age; anyone so inclined to do so was bound to tell you anything.  He also, in his characteristic stab at modern manners, suggested that no woman should be quite on the money about her age for another reason: “It looks so calculating.”

Emile Ratelband, from what reports suggest, is not a woman, but a distinctly insecure man on a mission of pure calculation: to secure a different age in the public domain.  While biologically impossible, despite claiming that his ageing has stopped, the Dutchman is testing the legal waters to see if he might slash off some 20 years off his birthdate, making him a more youthful 49.  The world might be slowly going to hell in a hand basket, but the monumental nature of the trivial shall have its day in court.

Ratelband’s view is that of any person feeling an identity pull crying out for legal recognition.  He is inspired by other role models – not merely the insufferable Tony Robbins of US, life coach optimism, but transgendered people, who supply him a shameless ground of comparison.  Despite being a motivational speaker himself, his optimism does not extend to the impediments of age.  “We live in a time when you can change your name and change your gender.  Why can’t I decide my own age?”

Open slather has been declared in the identity market, and to that end, he has gone so far as to subject himself to a psychiatric evaluation as to whether he was a “victim of the Peter Pan syndrome”.  Another evaluation might be in order after Ratelband’s address to the court, in which he claimed that President Donald Trump was “the first person who is honest” in showing his feelings on Twitter.  “He’s a new kind of person.”

His fruit salad reasons are, like others obsessed with “the real me”, selfish, having “to do with my feeling, with respect about who I think… I am, my identity.”  Reducing his age by two decades would open doors shut to the aged and ageing.  “If I’m 49, then I can buy a new house, drive a different car.  I can take up more work.” (These are things Ratelband could probably do anyway, given his frame of mind, but let’s leave his mind to its own, curiously absorbed devices.)

There is the issue of dating, that minefield of human interaction where initial impressions, toxic, deodorised or otherwise, tend to be everything.  “When I’m on Tinder and it says I’m 69, I don’t get an answer.  When I’m 49, with the face I have, I will be in a luxurious position.”

Why Ratelband does not take a leaf out of the book of mendacity that has characterised human dating since bipedalism became vogue is hard to fathom.  Again, lie about your age; many people do so with calculation and determination.  Appearance, of which he cares much about, will carry you over.  But the adventurous, if seemingly vexatious Dutchman does have a point: every liar should sport a phenomenal memory, which is a damn bother if you don’t have one. “If you lie,” he told the Washington Post, “you have to remember everything you say.”

The judges of the Arnhem District Court found little to merit this effort at jigging time, and the law.  “Mr Ratelband,” claimed the court bench with cool reserve, despite initially showing, according to the petitioner, a giggly, girly disposition, “is at liberty to feel 20 years younger than his real age and to act accordingly.”  Altering any legal documents pertaining to age, however, would lead to “undesirable legal and societal implications”.

Some of these implications centre on the issue of assigning duties and rights by the mere fact of having an age – the issue of voting, for instance, or the obligation to attend school.  (Neither apply to the applicant in this case, but courts are always distracted by the issue of floodgates and their irrepressible breach.)  “If Mr Ratelband’s request was allowed, those age requirements would become meaningless.”

The judges were also concerned about the sheer number of documents that would, quite literally, cease to have any relevance.  To amend the date of birth “would cause 20 years of records to vanish from the register of births, deaths, marriages and registered partnerships.”  An administrator’s nightmare.

The field of discrimination could have supplied Ratelband his ammunition.  The judges, however, needed more convincing.  While the court bench was not immune to the possibility that discrimination might, in some cases, be open, Ratelband had failed to show that he had suffered it, suggesting that “other alternatives” were available “rather than amending a person’s date of birth.”

Ratelband, for his part, is undeterred.  His irritating positivity is both balm and encouragement.  “The rejection of [the] court is great… because they give all kinds of angles where we can connect when we go on appeal.”

Ratelband sounds vain, insufferable, insecure and keen to be heard.  He is entitled to, but this is a selfish time that denies the immutable nature of death (delayed as it is) and presumes that those who age will do so noisily into the social media night.  As Ratelband is unlikely to avail himself of time dilation, a delightful consequence of Einstein’s theory of relativity, he will have to seek his change via legal processes.  That might entail moving to a different jurisdiction, and mindset, altogether.

Lying About Age: The Legal Efforts of Emile Ratelband

Oscar Wilde famously warned that one should never trust a woman who revealed her true age; anyone so inclined to do so was bound to tell you anything.  He also, in his characteristic stab at modern manners, suggested that no woman should be quite on the money about her age for another reason: “It looks so calculating.”

Emile Ratelband, from what reports suggest, is not a woman, but a distinctly insecure man on a mission of pure calculation: to secure a different age in the public domain.  While biologically impossible, despite claiming that his ageing has stopped, the Dutchman is testing the legal waters to see if he might slash off some 20 years off his birthdate, making him a more youthful 49.  The world might be slowly going to hell in a hand basket, but the monumental nature of the trivial shall have its day in court.

Ratelband’s view is that of any person feeling an identity pull crying out for legal recognition.  He is inspired by other role models – not merely the insufferable Tony Robbins of US, life coach optimism, but transgendered people, who supply him a shameless ground of comparison.  Despite being a motivational speaker himself, his optimism does not extend to the impediments of age.  “We live in a time when you can change your name and change your gender.  Why can’t I decide my own age?”

Open slather has been declared in the identity market, and to that end, he has gone so far as to subject himself to a psychiatric evaluation as to whether he was a “victim of the Peter Pan syndrome”.  Another evaluation might be in order after Ratelband’s address to the court, in which he claimed that President Donald Trump was “the first person who is honest” in showing his feelings on Twitter.  “He’s a new kind of person.”

His fruit salad reasons are, like others obsessed with “the real me”, selfish, having “to do with my feeling, with respect about who I think… I am, my identity.”  Reducing his age by two decades would open doors shut to the aged and ageing.  “If I’m 49, then I can buy a new house, drive a different car.  I can take up more work.” (These are things Ratelband could probably do anyway, given his frame of mind, but let’s leave his mind to its own, curiously absorbed devices.)

There is the issue of dating, that minefield of human interaction where initial impressions, toxic, deodorised or otherwise, tend to be everything.  “When I’m on Tinder and it says I’m 69, I don’t get an answer.  When I’m 49, with the face I have, I will be in a luxurious position.”

Why Ratelband does not take a leaf out of the book of mendacity that has characterised human dating since bipedalism became vogue is hard to fathom.  Again, lie about your age; many people do so with calculation and determination.  Appearance, of which he cares much about, will carry you over.  But the adventurous, if seemingly vexatious Dutchman does have a point: every liar should sport a phenomenal memory, which is a damn bother if you don’t have one. “If you lie,” he told the Washington Post, “you have to remember everything you say.”

The judges of the Arnhem District Court found little to merit this effort at jigging time, and the law.  “Mr Ratelband,” claimed the court bench with cool reserve, despite initially showing, according to the petitioner, a giggly, girly disposition, “is at liberty to feel 20 years younger than his real age and to act accordingly.”  Altering any legal documents pertaining to age, however, would lead to “undesirable legal and societal implications”.

Some of these implications centre on the issue of assigning duties and rights by the mere fact of having an age – the issue of voting, for instance, or the obligation to attend school.  (Neither apply to the applicant in this case, but courts are always distracted by the issue of floodgates and their irrepressible breach.)  “If Mr Ratelband’s request was allowed, those age requirements would become meaningless.”

The judges were also concerned about the sheer number of documents that would, quite literally, cease to have any relevance.  To amend the date of birth “would cause 20 years of records to vanish from the register of births, deaths, marriages and registered partnerships.”  An administrator’s nightmare.

The field of discrimination could have supplied Ratelband his ammunition.  The judges, however, needed more convincing.  While the court bench was not immune to the possibility that discrimination might, in some cases, be open, Ratelband had failed to show that he had suffered it, suggesting that “other alternatives” were available “rather than amending a person’s date of birth.”

Ratelband, for his part, is undeterred.  His irritating positivity is both balm and encouragement.  “The rejection of [the] court is great… because they give all kinds of angles where we can connect when we go on appeal.”

Ratelband sounds vain, insufferable, insecure and keen to be heard.  He is entitled to, but this is a selfish time that denies the immutable nature of death (delayed as it is) and presumes that those who age will do so noisily into the social media night.  As Ratelband is unlikely to avail himself of time dilation, a delightful consequence of Einstein’s theory of relativity, he will have to seek his change via legal processes.  That might entail moving to a different jurisdiction, and mindset, altogether.

The Banality of Evil Creeps into those Who Believe They Are Good

I was at a city hall meeting in Beaverton, Oregon, the other day when a few questions I had for the presenters dropped jaws. We’ll get to that later, the jaw-dropping effect I and those of my ilk have when we end up in the controlled boardrooms and chambers of the controllers – bureaucrats, public-private clubs like Chamber of Commerce, Rotary, and both political operatives and those who liken themselves as the great planners of the world moving communities and housing and public commons around a giant chessboard to make things better for and more efficient in spite of us.

Look, I am now a social worker who once was a print journalist who once was a part-time college instructor (freeway flyer adjunct teaching double the load of a tenured faculty) facilitating literature, writing, rhetoric classes, and others. The power of those “planners” and “institutional leadership wonks” and those Deanlets and Admin Class and HR pros and VPs and Provosts to swat down a radical but effective teacher/faculty/instructor/lecturer isn’t (or wasn’t then) so surprising. I was one of hundreds of thousands of faculty, adjunct,  hit with 11th Hour appointments, Just-in-Time gigs and called one-week-into-the-semester with offers to teach temporarily. Then, the next logical step of precarity was when a dean or department head or someone higher got wind of a disgruntled student, or helicopter (now drone) parent who didn’t like me teaching Sapphire or Chalmers Johnson or Earth Liberation Front or Ward Churchill in critical thinking classes, it was common to get only one or many times no classes the following semester. De facto fired. They fought and fought against unemployment benefits.

Here’s one paragraph that got me sanctioned while teaching in Spokane, at both Gonzaga and the community college:

As for those in the World Trade Center… Well, really, let’s get a grip here, shall we? True enough, they were civilians of a sort. But innocent? Gimme a break. They formed a technocratic corps at the very heart of America’s global financial empire—the “mighty engine of profit” to which the military dimension of U.S. policy has always been enslaved—and they did so both willingly and knowingly. Recourse to “ignorance”—a derivative, after all, of the word “ignore”—counts as less than an excuse among this relatively well-educated elite. To the extent that any of them were unaware of the costs and consequences to others of what they were involved in—and in many cases excelling at—it was because of their absolute refusal to see. More likely, it was because they were too busy braying, incessantly and self-importantly, into their cell phones, arranging power lunches and stock transactions, each of which translated, conveniently out of sight, mind and smelling distance, into the starved and rotting flesh of infants. If there was a better, more effective, or in fact any other way of visiting some penalty befitting their participation upon the little Eichmanns inhabiting the sterile sanctuary of the twin towers, I’d really be interested in hearing about it.

We are talking 17 years ago, Ward Churchill. The Little Eichmann reference goes back to the 1960s, and the root of it goes to Hannah Ardent looking at the trial of Adolf Eichmann, more or a less a middle man who helped get Jews into trains and eventually onto concentration camps and then marched into gas chambers. The banality of evil was her term from a 1963 book. So this Eichmann relied on propaganda against Jews and radicals and other undesirables rather than thinking for himself. Careerism at its ugliest, doing the bureaucratic work to advance a career and then at the Trial, displayed this “Common” personality that did not belie a psychopathic tendency. Of course, Ardent got raked over the coals for this observation and for her book, Eichmann in Jerusalem.

When I use the term, Little Eichmann, I broadly hinge it to the persons that live that more or less sacred American Mad Men lifestyle, with 401k’s, trips to Hawaii, cabins at the lake, who sometimes are the poverty pimps in the social services, but who indeed make daily decisions that negatively and drastically affect the lives of millions of people. In the case of tanned Vail skiers who work for Raytheon developing guidance systems and sophisticated satellite tethers and surveillance systems, who vote democrat and do triathlons, that Little Eichmann archetype also comes to mind. Evil, well, that is a tougher analysis  – mal, well, that succinctly means bad. I see evil or bad or maladaptive and malicious on a spectrum, like autism spectrum disorders.

Back to Beaverton City Hall: As I said, last week I was at this meeting about a “safe parking” policy, a pilot program for this city hooked to the Portland Metro area, where Intel is sited, and in one of the fastest growing counties in Oregon. Safe parking is all a jumbo in its implications: but for the city of Beaverton the program’s intent is to get three spaces, parking slots from each entity participating, for homeless people to set up their vehicles from which to live and dine and recreate. Old Taurus sedans, beat-up Dodge vans, maybe a 20-foot 1985 RV covered in black mold or Pacific Northwest moss. The City will put in $30,000 for a non-profit to manage these 15 or 20 spaces, and the city will put in a porta-potty and a small storage pod (in the fourth space) for belongings on each property.

This is how Portland’s tri-city locale plans to “solve” the homeless problem: live in your vehicles, with all manner of physical ailments (number one for Americans, bad backs) and all manner of mental health issues and all manner of work schedules. Cars, the new normal for housing in the world’s number one super power.

This is the band-aid on the sucking chest wound. This is a bizarre thing in a state with Nike as its brand, that Phil Knight throwing millions into a Republican gubernatorial candidate for governor’s coffers. Of course, the necessity of getting churches and large non-profits with a few empty parking spaces for houseless persons is based on more of the Little Eichmann syndrome – the city fathers and mothers, the business community, the cops, and all those elites and NIMBYs (not in my backyard) voted to make it illegal to sleep in your vehicle along the public right away, or, along streets and alleys. That’s the rub, the law was passed, and now it’s $300 fine, more upon second offense, and then, 30 days in jail for repeat offense: for sleeping off a 12-hour shift at Amazon warehouse or 14-hour shift as forklift operator for Safeway distribution center.

So these overpaid uniformed bureaucrats with SWAT armament and armored vehicles and $50 an hour overtime gigs and retirement accounts will be knocking on the fogged-over windows of our sisters/ brothers, aunties/uncles, cousins, moms/dads, grandparents, daughters/sons living the Life of Riley in their two-door Honda Accords.

Hmm, more than 12 million empty homes in the richest country in the world. Millions of other buildings empty. Plots of land by the gazillion. And, we have several million homeless, and tens of millions one layoff, one heart-attack, one arrest away from homelessness.

The first question was why we aren’t working on shutting down the illegal and inhumane law that even allows the police to harass people living in their cars? The next question was why parking spaces for cars? Certainly, all that overstock inventory in all those Pacific Northwest travel trailer and camper lots would be a source of a better living space moved to those vaunted few (20) parking spaces: or what about all those used trailers up for sale on Craig’s List? You think Nike Boy could help get his brethren to pony up a few million for trailers? What worse way to treat diabetic houseless people with cramped quarters? What fine way to treat a PTSD survivor with six windows in a Chevy with eight by four living space for two humans, a dog, and all their belongings and food.

The people at this meeting, well, I know most are empathetic, but even those have minds colonized by the cotton-ball-on-the-head wound solution thinking. All this energy, all the Power Points, all the meeting after meeting, all the solicitation and begging for 20 parking spaces and they hope for a shower source, too, as well as an internet link (for job hunting, etc.)  and maybe a place to cook a meal.

While housing vacancy has long been a problem in America, especially in economically distressed places, vacancies surged in the wake of the economic crisis of 2008. The number of unoccupied homes jumped by 26 percent—from 9.5 to 12 million between 2005 and 2010. Many people (and many urbanists) see vacancy and abandoned housing as problems of distressed cities, but small towns and rural communities have vacancy rates that are roughly double that of metropolitan areas, according to the study.

This is the insanity of these Little Eichmanns: The number of cities that have made homelessness a crime! Then, getting a few churches to open up parking slots for a few people to “try and get resources and wrap around services to end their homelessness.” Here are the facts — the National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty states there are over 200 cities that have created these Little Eichmann (my terminology) municipal bans on camping or sleeping outside, increasing by more than 50 percent since 2011. Theses bans include various human survival and daily activities of living processes, from camping and sitting in particular outdoor places, to loitering and begging in public to sleeping in vehicles.

I am living hand to mouth, so to speak. I make $17 an hour with two master’s degrees and a shit load of experience and depth of both character and solutions-driven energy. This is the way of the world, brother, age 61, and living the dream in Hops-Blazers-Nike City, in the state of no return Nike/Oregon Ducks. Man oh man, those gridlock days commuting to and from work. Man, all those people outside my apartment building living in their vehicles (I live in Vancouver) and all those people who have to rotate where they live, while calling Ford minivan home, moving their stuff every week, so the Clark County Sheriff Department doesn’t ticket, bust and worse, impound.

I have gotten a few teeth – dentures — for some of these people. Finding funding to have a pretty rancid and nasty old guy in Portland measure, model and mold for a fitting. That’s, of course, if the people have their teeth already pulled out.

Abscesses and limps and back braces and walkers and nephritic livers and dying flesh and scabies and, hell, just plain old BO. Yet, these folk are working the FedEx conveyor belts, packaging those Harry and David apples, folding and stacking all those Black Friday flyers.

Living the high life. And, yet, these Little Eichmanns would attempt to say, or ask, “Why do they all have smart phones . . . they smoke and vape and some of them drink? Wasteful, no wonder they are homeless.”

So that line of thinking comes and goes, from the deplorables of the Trump species to the so-self vaunted elite. They drink after a hard day’s work, these houseless people. Yet, all those put-together Portlanders with two-income heads of household, double Prius driveways, all that REI gear ready for ski season, well, I bicycle those ‘hoods and see the recycle bins on trash day, filled to the brim with IPA bottles, affordable local wine bottles, and bottles from those enticing brews in the spirit world.

So self-medicating with $250K dual incomes, fancy home, hipster lifestyles, but they’d begrudge houseless amputees who have to work the cash register at a Plaid Pantry on 12 hour shifts?

I have been recriminated for not having tenure, for not being an editor, for not retired with a pension, for not having that Oprah Pick in bookstores, for not having a steady career, for working long-ass hours as a social worker. The recrimination is magnificent and goes around all corners of this flagging empire. Pre-Trump, Pre-Obama, Pre-Clinton, Pre-Bush. Oh, man, that Ray-gun:

He had a villain, who was not a real welfare cheat or emblamtic of people needing welfare assistance to live back then in a troubling world of Gilded Age haves and haves not. That was January 1976, when Reagan announced that this Welfare Queen was using ”80 names, 30 addresses, 15 telephone numbers to collect food stamps, Social Security, veterans benefits for four nonexistent, deceased veteran husbands, as well as welfare. Her tax-free cash income alone has been running $150,000 a year.”

Four decades later, we have the same dude in office, the aberration of neoliberalism and collective amnesia and incessant ignorance in what I deem now as Homo Consumopithecus and Homo Retailapithecus. Reagan had that crowd eating out of his hands as he used his B-Grade Thespian licks to stress the numbers – “one hundred and fifty thousand dollars.”

Poverty rose to the top of the public agenda in the 1960s, in part spurred by the publication of Michael Harrington’s The Other America: Poverty in the United States. Harrington’s 1962 book made a claim that shocked the nation at a time when it was experiencing a period of unprecedented affluence: based on the best available evidence, between 40 million and 50 million Americans—20 to 25 percent of the nation’s population—still lived in poverty, suffering from “inadequate housing, medicine, food, and opportunity.”

Shedding light on the lives of the poor from New York to Appalachia to the Deep South, Harrington’s book asked how it was possible that so much poverty existed in a land of such prosperity. It challenged the country to ask what it was prepared to do about it.

So, somehow, all those people reminding me that my job history has been all based on my passions, my avocations, my dreams, that I should be proud being able to work at poverty level incomes as a small town newspaper reporter, or that I was able to teach so many people in gang reduction programs, at universities and colleges, in alternative schools, in prisons and elsewhere, at poverty wages; or that I was able to get poems published here and stories published there and that I have a short story collection coming out in 2019 at zero profit, or that I am doing God’s work as a homeless veterans counselor, again, at those Trump-loving, Bezos-embracing poverty wages.

Oh, man, oh man, all those countries I visited and worked in, all those people whose lives I changed, and here I am, one motorcycle accident away from the poor house, except there is no poor house.

Daily, I see the results of military sexual trauma, of incessant physical abuse as active duty military, infinite anxiety and cognitive disorders, a truck load of amputated feet and legs, and unending COPD, congestive heart failure, and overall bodies of a 70-year-old hampering 30-year-old men and women veterans.

They get this old radical environmentalist, vegan, in-your-face teacher, and a huge case of heart and passion, and I challenge them to think hard about how they have been duped, but for the most part, none of the ex-soldiers have even heard of the (two-star) Major General who wrote the small tome, War is a Racket:

WAR is a racket. It always has been.

It is possibly the oldest, easily the most profitable, surely the most vicious. It is the only one international in scope. It is the only one in which the profits are reckoned in dollars and the losses in lives.

A racket is best described, I believe, as something that is not what it seems to the majority of the people. Only a small “inside” group knows what it is about. It is conducted for the benefit of the very few, at the expense of the very many. Out of war a few people make huge fortunes.

In the World War I a mere handful garnered the profits of the conflict. At least 21,000 new millionaires and billionaires were made in the United States during the World War. That many admitted their huge blood gains in their income tax returns. How many other war millionaires falsified their tax returns no one knows.

How many of these war millionaires shouldered a rifle? How many of them dug a trench? How many of them knew what it meant to go hungry in a rat-infested dug-out? How many of them spent sleepless, frightened nights, ducking shells and shrapnel and machine gun bullets? How many of them parried a bayonet thrust of an enemy?

How many of them were wounded or killed in battle?

Out of war nations acquire additional territory, if they are victorious.

They just take it. This newly acquired territory promptly is exploited by the few — the selfsame few who wrung dollars out of blood in the war. The general public shoulders the bill.

And what is this bill?

This bill renders a horrible accounting. Newly placed gravestones. Mangled bodies. Shattered minds. Broken hearts and homes. Economic instability. Depression and all its attendant miseries. Back-breaking taxation for generations and generations.

For a great many years, as a soldier, I had a suspicion that war was a racket; not until I retired to civil life did I fully realize it. Now that I see the international war clouds gathering, as they are today, I must face it and speak out.

More fitting now than ever, General Butler’s words. Structural violence is also the war of the billionaires and millionaires against the rest of us, marks and suckers born every nanosecond in their eyes. Disaster Capitalism is violence. Parasitic investing is war. Hostile takeovers are was. Hedge funds poisoning retirement funds and billions wasted/stolen to manage (sic) this dirty money are war. Forced arbitration is war. PayDay loans are war. Wells Fargo stealing homes is war. Lead in New Jersey cities’ pipes is war. Hog  excrement/toxins/blood/aborted fetuses pound scum sprayed onto land near poor communities is war. Fence lining polluting industries against poor and minority populations is war.

So is making it illegal to sit on a curb, hold a sign asking for a handout;  so is the fact there are millions of empty buildings collecting black mold and tax deferments. War is offshore accounts, and war is a society plugged into forced, perceived and planned obsolescence.

Some of us are battle weary, and others trudge on, soldiers against the machine, against the fascism of the market place, the fascism of the tools of the propagandists.

Some of us ask the tricky questions at meetings and conferences and confabs: When are you big wigs, honchos, going to give up a few hours a week pay for others to get in on the pay? When are you going to open up that old truck depot for homeless to build tiny homes?

When are you going to have the balls to get the heads of Boeing, Nike, Adidas, Intel, the lot of them, to come to our fogged-up station wagon windows in your safe parking zones to show them how some of their mainline workers and tangential workers who support their billions in profits really live?

How many millionaires are chain migrating from California or Texas, coming into the Portland arena who might have the heart to help fund 15 or 30 acres out there in Beavercreek (Clackamas, Oregon) to set up intentional communities for both veterans and non veterans, inter-generational population, with permaculture, therapy dog training, you name it, around a prayer circle, a sweat lodge, and community garden and commercial kitchen to sell those herbs and veggies to those two-income wonders who scoff at my bottle of cheap Vodka while they fly around and bike around on their wine tours and whiskey bar rounds? Micro homes and tiny homes.

My old man was in the Air Force for 12 years, which got the family to the Azores, Albuquerque, Maryland, and then he got an officer commission in the Army, for 20 years, which got the family to Germany, UK, Paris, Spain and other locales, and I know hands down he’d be spinning and turning in his grave if he was alive and here to witness not only the mistreatment of schmucks out of the military with horrendous ailments, but also the mistreatment of college students with $80K loans to be nurses or social workers. He’d be his own energy source spinning in his grave at Fort Huachuca if he was around, after being shot in Korea and twice in Vietnam, to witness social security on the chopping block, real wages at 1970 levels, old people begging on the streets, library hours waning, public education being privatized and dumb downed, and millions of acres of public sold to the “I don’t need no stinkin’ badge” big energy thugs.

I might be embarrassed if he was around, me at age 61, wasted three college degrees, living the dream of apartment life, no 401k or state retirement balloon payment on the horizon, no real estate or stocks and bonds stashed away, nothing, after all of this toil to actually have given to society, in all my communist, atheistic glory.

But there is no shame in that, in my bones, working my ass off until the last breath, and on my t-shirt, I’d have a stick figure, with a stack of free bus tickets, journalism awards, and housing vouchers all piled around me with the (thanks National Rifle Association) meme stenciled on my back:

You can have my social worker and teaching credentials and press passes when you pry them from my cold dead hands!

Vanquishing the Republic: Harry and Meghan in Australia

The establishment of a republic… means insurrectionary war, it means the desolation of a thousand households.  When the question shall arise, it will be determined… by balls from cannon and from musket, by grape and shrapnel, by bayonet and by the sword.

— Sir Alfred Stephen, NSW Legislative Council, June 16, 1887

The republic has tended to be a dormant idea in Australian politics for decades.  The People’s Advocate, a Sydney-based publication, was unduly optimistic in its June 17, 1854 note which spoke of, “The independence of the Australian colonies” being more than an “abstract idea.  It is certainly approaching as it is the dawn of tomorrow’s sun.”  Occasional flashes of republican sentiment can be found in the historical record, but these have been, in the main, suppressed in favour of a monarchy housed in residences ten thousand miles away.

In 1999, the Republic idea was essentially buried by vote, a feat not without some genius on the part of the then Prime Minister, John Howard. Sensing that more than a few Australians were keen to detach the British dominion from its monarchical moorings, Howard first initiated a “people’s convention” which, he sensed, would botch up any prospect of advancing a decent model to vote upon.  The Republican grouping, distant and smug, was (and here, history is instructive) led by the now deposed Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull.

Pro-monarchist groups such as Australians for Constitutional Monarchy pursue a line not merely paradoxical but absurd.  The British Crown is raised to the level of sacrosanct mother, protector, and unifier. How this squares with sovereignty is a baffling exercise of self-delusion, but one happily embraced by such individuals as Gregory R. Copley, President of the International Strategic Studies Association based in Washington, D.C.

As the globe is fractured by bursts of populist dissatisfaction, suggested Copley at the Annual Conference of Australians for Constitutional Monarchy held at the New South Wales Parliament earlier this month, monarchy was indispensable. “It is an appropriate time, then to ask where Australia would be today, without the enduring presence of the Crown – our most visible icon of sovereignty and unity — in Australian life.”  In a paean to monarchical systems of government, Copley goes dew-eyed at the fate of monarchies in the 20th century, whose collapse “was the precursor of today’s global framework.” This unfortunate turn of events left “a global strategic framework which was inherently fragile.”

The visit by Prince Harry and his new wife, Hollywood second (third?) tier actress Meghan Markle, Duke and Duchess of Sussex, has turned the Australian public — or a good part of it at least — to a grotesque, gibbering sight. This is not sovereignty extolled but emotional slavery demonstrated, the psyche imprisoned in a historical, hereditary system of government. There have been scenes of imbecilic insensibility as the couple do the rounds. Young mothers, with their barely sentient offspring, have been waiting at strategic points for the young couple as they arrive at various venues. Bad weather has proven no deterrent.

People of all age groups have gathered, phones at the ready, to take those snaps that will be shared with the enthusiastic dissemination of a nymphomaniac with venereal disease.  Hours have been expended in the hope to gain a fleeting glance of the royal candy. Even more unforgivably, nominally respectable journalists have taken to holding flags in anticipation, becoming the very spectacle they are covering.

The words of the Dubbo speech by Prince Harry have been poured over with a reverence befitting subjects rather than citizens, an immaturity that does much to dispel notions of a firm egalitarian sensibility.  The prince was, after all, speaking to “the salt of the earth”, the “backbone of this country.”  Harry had turned shrink — or at least a patient healed by one. The rural occupants of Australia’s farming communities, earth’s salt and national backbone, duly listened. “We know that suicide rates in rural and remote areas are greater than in urban populations and this may be especially true among young men in remote regions.” He spoke of “one huge community and with that comes an unparalleled internal support and understanding.”

The Duke and Duchess were being portrayed as the accessible royal couple, and those who dare venture into the outback. “The best part about visiting country Australia,” claimed the prince, “is the people.”  Well and good, but Harry was merely following a scheduled pattern stretching back to 1954 when his grandmother made Dubbo a stopping point to visit her subjects, all part of visiting “her people”.

Former residents made their return just to see another royal visit. The Dubbo-born sisters Elizabeth Atkin and Sharon Askew (nee Hind) expressed their gushing desire to revisit some family folklore, given that their grandmother had been asked to prepare a posy of flowers for Queen Elizabeth on that Dubbo tour. “It’s because of this history and it is important to us,” explained Atkin, “it has become your family folk-law.” The Daily Liberal, one of the papers covering the events in Dubbo enticed readers to search through any pictures that might have been snapped of the Duke and Duchess of Sussex during their “Picnic in the Park.” “See if… you’re in our pictures.”

Some local must always be selected for the occasion, the point where the royal meets subject, and that subject, it so happens, was Luke Vincent of Buninyong Primary School. Of immediate interest to the child was the Prince’s beard — the royal facial hair within hand’s reach. Principal Anne van Dartell was beside herself in ecstatic observation; Luke’s mother, Danielle Sparrow, “just started crying and shaking” being “happy because that’s just Luke and the love he shows.” The lachrymose campaign had taken hold. “That’s our Lukey, the Lukey-love-effect, he’s just full of lots of love.”

The visit had brought out the obsessives, the surveillance vultures keen to capture every single moment of the tour.  An Instagram fan page dedicated to the couple notes with somewhat creepy insistence each “special moment”, a “pretty much minute by minute” account on “cute” scenes. The vanquishing of any Australian republic, without bayonet, cannon or musket, has been assured, not merely because of a continued desire to see monarchy as the tit of reassurance, but its youth as modern celebrities of a social media world which has sacralised them as creatures to be revered rather than mocked.

  • Related: “Canada’s Head-of-State.”
  • Work, Shame, and Art

    The story broke of former Cosby Show actor Geoffrey Owens working at Trader Joe’s, despite the fact that Mr. Owens himself was more than happy to move on, the story spread as people suddenly discovered that actors have to pay the bills like everyone else.  The actress Tamara Braun summed it up on her Instagram:

    What I also know is that being an actor, musician, writer, dancer, photographer or artist/creative of ANY kind is REALLY HARD. Most have other types of jobs while pursuing their craft. Unless you come from family money it is practically impossible not to. I have had MANY jobs to pay the bills while pursuing my career.

    It really is strange that Geoffrey Owens’s story spread so widely because tabloids and rumor mills have been pointing out that actors take other jobs for years.  Twenty years ago there were stories that Lee Majors was working in a school cafeteria to survive (actually he was helping out at his daughter’s school).  Despite appearing on Seaquest DSV and still being recognized as Lana Lang from the Superboy series of the early 90’s, actress Stacy Haiduk admitted to driving for Uber.  Alan Ruck explained the situation in an interview:

    So here I am, working at a Sears warehouse, and because Ferris Bueller had been out already, people were clocking me and going, “Do you know you look like this guy in this movie?” And I was, like, “Yeah, yeah, yeah. Not me. It’s not me. I’m not that guy.” Because I didn’t want to get into it. I thought that they’d probably go, “You were in the movies and then you wound up here? We should just beat you for being stupid!”

    There is a larger issue here that leads into the unspoken bias as to which jobs are considered acceptable and which ones are not.  The entertainment industry is a billion dollar business, but the Arts, in general, are not considered an acceptable career (until artists have a proven return on investment).  If a former actor ended up working as a banker or a lawyer, or some other high paying professional class career, there would not be any shaming, but because the retail and service industries are generally “unskilled” (another shaming term) they are vocations considered to be a step down from a previous level of success.  It is even worse for artists who have not yet broken in because despite years of training and honing of talents, most artistic disciplines are not considered “marketable skills.”  So in order to keep a roof over our heads and food on the table, artists of all types take whatever jobs we can find to pay the bills.

    An unfortunate necessity, and a cold hard reality, but there is a deeper issue that has been overlooked.  A lot of people, in their eagerness to defend Owens and other artists, have come out and spoken about the “honor” of work, and we should all be grateful that we have it.  While it is generally a good trait to be grateful for what blessings we have in our lives, especially compared to so many other people around the world, I have never considered work to be honorable or something we should be grateful for.  It is a brutal process whereby we must cede a third of our lives to a disinterested Other under threat of starvation.

    The professional classes need to learn that for many people, but most especially for artists, we do not seek personal realization or validation from our job.  That is what our creative work is for.  Artists have chosen to adopt a life on the margins, knowing that we may never be successful at doing what we love, yet we do it anyway.  The real question is this: These are the people who create the art and tell the stories that give meaning to so many, or at the very least offer a bit of an escape from the relentless marketization of our lives; why are they forced to those margins in the first place?  It recalls the words of author David Graeber who once said: “Where is the next John Lennon?  Probably packing boxes in a supermarket somewhere.”

    As World Burns, Half US Population Chronically Ill . . .

    Stealing Life with the Big Bad Retail King — One-third of All Buying Transactions 

    Good name in man and woman, dear my lord,
    Is the immediate jewel of their souls.
    Who steals my purse steals trash; ’tis something, nothing;
    ‘Twas mine, ’tis his, and has been slave to thousands;
    But he that filches from me my good name
    Robs me of that which not enriches him,
    And makes me poor indeed.

    — Iago, Shakespeare’s Othello

    It’s more than disconcerting to hear the blathering now, September 2018, about Jeff Bezos. About Amazon dot com as richest company ever. To hear the fawning love of the rich guy, now, when we were predicting a slave master killing publishing, killing independence; news reports and tribute after tribute for this full-fledged Midas of tax cheating, our homegrown monopolist of the highest order, anti-American who gives a shit about main street America, a misanthropic fake news purveyor, a full-bore felonious PT Barnum and smoke and mirrors double shuffle guy who thinks of his tens upon tens of thousands of warehouse workers as spindles, interchangeable parts, and to hell with their precarity, their one nose-bleed from homelessness.

    This is a time of same sides of the coin of the realm: the conservative and the liberal, the War-Mongering Democratic Party drooling at the McCain fiasco and the Sycophantic Zio-Christo Republicans confused about who is going to own what while scampering away like rats into the alleys as the headlights of their narcissist-in-chief blowtorches the world.

    The most important characteristics of Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) are grandiosity, seeking excessive admiration, and a lack of empathy. These identifying features can result in a negative impact on an individual’s interpersonal affairs and life general. In most cases, on the exterior, these patients act with an air of right and control, dismissing others, and frequently showcasing condescending or denigrating attitudes. Nevertheless, internally, these patients battle with strong feelings of low self esteem issues and inadequacy. Even though the typical NPD patient may achieve great achievements, ultimately their functioning in society can be affected as these characteristics interfere with both personal and professional relationships. A large part of this is as result of the NPD patient being incapable of receiving disapproval or rebuff of any kind, in addition to the fact that the NPD patient typically exhibits lack of empathy and overall disrespect for others.**

    ** Note that NPD runs through the DNA of these ministers like Jimmy Swaggart or Billy-Franklin Graham, through the family RNA of so-called royalty of the world, in the brain chemistry of the likes of a Henry Kissinger or Adolph Hitler, in the hypothalamus of fruit-salad bedecked generals and in the frontal cortex of all great and not-so-great thespians, from politicos to actors.

    Moreover, this Bezos, our great Albuquerque-born plumbing showroom huckster peddling absolutely all the stuff we do not need piled up in his fulfillment centers, represents those two sides of the same coin: powerful, libertarian, ruthless and spirit-less, driven to conquer/distribute/hawk all the stuff in any sort of catalog that exists out there to fulfill the needs and mostly not so necessary junk of obsolescence and consumer addiction. A cold anti-philanthropy multi-billionaire, whose net worth of $160.7 billion is headline news now as the TV clowns present the Top Five, Top Ten/Twenty diligently, Bezos is the top of the dung heap according to another rag with all the news unfit (for humanity) to print . . .

    . . . Who is the richest person in the world? While Forbes updates their list of the world’s billionaires in real time as markets fluctuate, the magazine also releases a more static list each year. The total net worth of these money-makers when the 2018 list was released in March was $7.67 trillion. Click through to see 2018’s top 20 richest billionaires on the planet.

    forbes-cover-03-31-2018.jpg

    With his company — which epitomizes the heights of death star techie logic, next gen robotics, drones, massive crisscrossing of products through a digital satellite-fed network of Prime Time orders — Bezos has continually kicked out with the help of Seattle PD we protesters with one share of his shit stock at shareholder meetings protesting his sadism around refusing to air condition fulfillment centers while instead putting rent-an-ambulances outside the doors! Oh, this economic disruptor of small and large businesses, all part of that gift of unfettered homicidal capitalism a la retail conglomeration, is reviled, hated, but will be the big section in those econ books from many years to come.

    Bernie Sanders wants a special tax on this white shark-eyed Jeff Bezos? Funny follies of the political kind. Imagine, justifying all the tax evasion and felonies of the billionaires and millionaires and banks and hedge funders and the rest of the elites — that’s the cool truth of our state of misrepresentation in Washington. Never political cries of “tax them all for their externalities — all the damage capital and capitalists have done to the world.”  Major and minor municipalities and entire states fall over themselves with money dripping tongues out of their mouths while courting this company with so many freebies in the billions to get another load of office buildings or fulfillment centers or even another headquarters/campus or pod of fulfillment centers. At any cost.

    Image result for fulfillment center

    Walmartization of the world, or was it McDonaldization first, or Fordization, but now Amazonization of the culture outstrips anything up to this point in this country’s lunacy. You can get anything anytime anywhere for anyone from this five and dime on steroids.

    Or,

    The Details About the CIA’s Deal With Amazon: A $600 million computing cloud built by an outside company is a “radical departure” for the risk-averse intelligence community

    Just in Time Employment, 11th Hour appointments, Permanent Temp, a Precarity defined as the New Almost Slavery Gig gigs — Coulda Been HuffPost Slave

    Yet, on Democracy Now, again, in September 2018, we are led to believe we now have to be aghast about those fulfillment centers and those Americans being worked to the bone, worked down to the shredded screws in their hip replacement hardware, worked to confusion and exhaustion and then discarded for not working hard enough for this Master Blaster of the Retail Monopoly.

    Juan Gonzalez of DN tells us about these “cutting edge” stories from his Rutgers University Department of Journalism and Media Studies students working on this “breaking news,” while Juan laughs and smirks at the reality of “us” (not me) ordering everything on Amazon.

    Here, the DN reports:

    As Amazon Hits $1 Trillion in Value, Its Warehouse Workers Denounce “Slavery” Conditions

    Exposed: Undercover Reporter at Amazon Warehouse Found Abusive Conditions & No Bathroom Breaks

    Ahh, but we over at DV have been printing these stories for more than six years:

    Nichole Gracely / May 21st, 2012

    Pennsylvania’s Lehigh Valley (LV) is a distribution hub, and many fellow Amazon associates and Integrity Staffing Solutions temps had previously worked in other local warehouses.

    I have and I can say that they’re typically rough workplaces.

    At first glance, Amazon’s LV fulfillment center appears benign.

    Primary red, yellow, green and blue splashes of color brighten the place, and motivational posters and friendly educational signs that feature cute characters provide guidance. Hundreds, sometimes thousands of workers populate the warehouse at once, diligently taking direction from hand-held scanners or computers, and the place is enormous so it doesn’t appear cramped. Seriously, the place could house a small city.

    Physical strength is not a necessary qualification to perform any of their warehouse job functions, and management is ostensibly concerned with worker safety. Just about anyone could staff Amazon’s FC, especially since it only takes a couple of hours to train workers to perform any specific job function. It’s safe to say that anyone laboring in an Amazon FC has fallen into hard times, and many of my former coworkers’ resumes featured distinguished past titles, impressive demonstrations of manual skill and ability, and/or lofty educational attainment.

    Many never thought they’d wind up in a warehouse and so, yes, this was all foreign for many. Other workers who staffed other warehouses in the past didn’t know what to make of the place because there is something different about Amazon, something alien.

    “Chairman” Bezos once said that Amazon workers don’t need a union because we own the company. “Chairman” Bezos has zero tolerance for union activity and several Amazon unionization attempts were summarily squashed.

    After two years on the job an Amazon FC associate is entitled to eight shares of stock. If Amazon is trading at, say, $250 a share, that’s $2,000. Ownership? $250 per share is a generous projection. Seasoned investors are baffled by AMZN’s current overvaluation because of its unhealthy 188:1 (fluctuates, yet always unhealthy) price to earnings ratio, and they’re waiting for the bubble to burst.

    Nichole went on to write a piece in the Guardian: Amazon Seasonal Work  And the Guardian published another one, more than four years ago: Being homeless is better than working for Amazon

    Bread and Roses — 106 Years Ago, Back to Now: Strike Amazon, Strike US Correctional Institutions, Boycott

    I got this from a friend, Andy Piascik, a long-time activist and award-winning author whose most recent book is the novel In Motion. He can be reached at ###.

    In the end, in the face of the state militia, U.S. Marines, Pinkerton infiltrators and hundreds of local police, the strikers prevailed. They achieved a settlement close to their original demands, including significant pay raises and time-and-a-quarter for overtime, which previously had been paid at the straight hourly rate. Workers in Lowell and New Bedford struck successfully a short while later, and mill owners throughout New England soon granted significant pay raises rather than risk repeats of Lawrence. When the trials of Ettor, Giovannitti and a third defendant commenced in the fall, workers in Lawrence’s mills pulled a work stoppage to show that a miscarriage of justice would not be tolerated. The three were subsequently acquitted.

    More than a century ago and it’s rabbit-holed history . . . and what do we fight for in this country now? We have fear of unions, we embrace the gig economy/outsourcing on Kratom (called near slavery by socio-economists), and the unimaginable bullshit and shit jobs have generated aimlessness, screen addiction, be mean to thy neighbor mentality, cold hearts and Homo Retailipithecus. Bullshit jobs, as Graeber states:

    A world without teachers or dock-workers would soon be in trouble. But it’s not entirely clear how humanity would suffer were all private equity CEOs, lobbyists, PR researchers, actuaries, telemarketers, bailiffs or legal consultants to similarly vanish.

    Shit jobs tend to be blue collar and pay by the hour, whereas bullshit jobs tend to be white collar and salaried. We have become a civilization based on work—not even “productive work” but work as an end and meaning in itself.

    What is Labor Day or May Day now in a world of Marvel comics and infantilization of every intercourse we have with every sort of humanity? Do we care about solidarity? Do we know how to build communities? Do we see neighbors and people in and on the streets as equals, people, us? What is the value of work when it is drudgery, dog-eat-dog, king of the hill and top of the dung heap relationships? We have to go beyond now this simpleton way of seeing the world from the bifurcated Groucho Marx eyeglasses. This is a great time of upheaval, splintering, hot house planet, Sixth Mass Extinction, a world of capital making more capital off of war, resource theft, thievery of other nations’ and cultures’ futures.

    Jobs, Who Doesn’t Choose to Collapse, Hothouse Planet, People

    As I continually teach young people to think, you are what you eat, what you do, what you think, what your read, what you say, what you believe, what you aspire to, what you hope for, what you do or not do to be one with humanity. If your life is one of toil, what is inside the heart, and what do you do with those beliefs and philosophies while slogging away? Are you a believer in exceptionalism, Zionist or Christian superiority? Is the white shade of skin the defining element in your life? Do you have passions that are your own, or are they manufactured, designed, and cajoled by the money changers and propagandists?

     The worker must have bread, but she must have roses, too.

    This line was from a speech by Rose Schneiderman, Polish-born socialist and feminist and prominent labor union leaders in America. It’s a phrase embodying everything today we workers need to utilize as a galvanizing force upon our souls to break away from these people like Bezos and the entire master crafters of our pain, poverty and penury. When I say “our,” I mean the world’s collective pain in the form of billions of people, for whom Western Culture (sic) has set loose a wildfire of forced displacement, murder, resource extraction, war and disease of the mind and body.

    It was also a successful textile strike in Lawrence, Massachusetts, during January–March 1912, which is pretty much universally referred to as the “Bread and Roses” strike. Pairing bread and roses not as counter-balances — fair wages and dignified conditions. Defining “the sometimes tedious struggles for marginal economic advances in the light of labor struggles as based on striving for dignity and respect,” as Robert J. S. Ross wrote in 2013.

    I imagine the Bezos types wanting every last penny from every last $2-a-day inhabitant on earth, and I imagine this fellow is as steely-hearted as any in an Upton Sinclair book — and note this first quote by Sinclair is for me about men and women working today, even though Sinclair was writing about a living livestock animal torn from life:

    One could not stand and watch very long without being philosophical, without beginning to deal in symbols and similes, and to hear the hog-squeal of the universe…. Each of them had an individuality of his own, a will of his own, a hope and a heart’s desire; each was full of self-confidence, of self-importance, and a sense of dignity. And trusting and strong in faith he had gone about his business, the while a black shadow hung over him, and a horrid Fate in his pathway. Now suddenly it had swooped upon him, and had seized him by the leg. Relentless, remorseless, all his protests, his screams were nothing to it. It did its cruel will with him, as if his wishes, his feelings, had simply no existence at all; it cut his throat and watched him gasp out his life.

    ― Upton Sinclair, The Jungle

    It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends on his not understanding it.

    ― Upton Sinclair, I, Candidate for Governor: And How I Got Licked

    Delusions  of Terra-Forming and Mickey Mouse Grabbing Adults’ Attention

    So what do we do with these Titans of idiocy, with their billions and their algorithms, with their broken telescopes peering into the black hole of humanity?

    What about the 150,000 chemicals in human cells created by the industrialists, those synergistic variant effects we have zero knowledge about, which have helped push our American society into a chronically ill species of over 50 percent of a population cycled through Western (Un-)Medicine. Children with autism or on the spectrum — count that as possibly 30 percent of all births by 2040. Diabetes 1 and 2, more than 15 percent or more of the population by 2040.

    According to Dr. Winchester:

    This is a really important concept that is difficult to teach the public, and when I say the public, I include my clinical colleagues.

    Still, atrazine is not the only human hormone-altering chemical in the environment. Dr. Winchester tested nearly 20 different chemicals and all demonstrated epigenetic effects, for example, all of the chemicals reduced fertility, even in the 3rd generation.

    Still, why do 150,000,000 Americans have chronic diseases?

    Researchers believe that every adult disease extant is linked to epigenetic origins. If confirmed over time with additional research, the study is a blockbuster that goes to the heart of public health and attendant government regulations.

    According to Dr. Winchester:

    This is a huge thing that is going to change how we understand the origin of disease. But a big part of that is that it will change our interpretation of what chemicals are safe. In medicine I can’t give a drug to somebody unless it has gone through a huge amount of testing. But all these chemicals haven’t gone through anything like that. We’ve been experimented on for the last 70 years, and there’s not one study on multi-generational effects.

    Environmental Working Group tested more than a dozen brands of oat-based foods to give Americans information about dietary exposures that government regulators are keeping secret. In April, internal emails obtained by the nonprofit US Right to Know revealed that the Food and Drug Administration has been testing food for glyphosate for two years and has found “a fair amount,” but the FDA has not released the findings.

    Ahh, the melting planet, the water cycle’s disrupted, the entire mess of planetary re-shifting is on a collision course with Homo Sapiens. Everyday I get more and more notifications from friends and thinkers about the impending collapses, the impending peak this and peak that (Peak Everything).

    Globalization makes it impossible for modern societies to collapse in isolation, as did Easter Island and the Greenland Norse in the past. Any society in turmoil today, no matter how remote … can cause trouble for prosperous societies on other continents and is also subject to their influence (whether helpful or destabilizing). For the first time in history, we face the risk of a global decline. But we also are the first to enjoy the opportunity of learning quickly from developments in societies anywhere else in the world today, and from what has unfolded in societies at any time in the past. That’s why I wrote this book.”

    ― Jared Diamond, Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed

    Feudal Factories of Propaganda and Propagating .001 Percenters — Water, Man, Water

    We trust ourselves, far more than our ancestors did… The root of our predicament lies in the simple fact that, though we remain a flawed and unstable species, plagued now as in the past by a thousand weaknesses, we have insisted on both unlimited freedom and unlimited power. It would now seem clear that, if we want to stop the devastation of the earth, the growing threats to our food, water, air, and fellow creatures, we must find some way to limit both.

    ― Donald Worster, Under Western Skies: Nature and History in the American West

    We are seeing this circling of the billionaires’ wagons (vultures circling the 7.8 billion marks, us), this Bezos and Musk lust for space, for some planetary gated-armed-Utopian community. These fellows and dames are something else, and the conjurers of news unfit to consume fall over them, recording and publishing story after story about their wisdom and foresight and shamanistic ways of predicting the future.

    Remember George W. Bush and his big ranch buy in Paraguay? That was 12 years ago, readers, yet, back to the future, with news (sic) report after news report (sic) keeps tracking the next billionaire economic ejaculation. W, and we thought he was only painting pets!

    Image result for george bush painting pets

    Image result for george bush painting pets

    The Chaco is a semiarid, sparsely populated area known — to the extent that it’s known at all — for its abundant wildlife, rapid deforestation, nothing in particular… and what lies beneath it…

    Our Real Wealth Trader and Outstanding Investments contributor Jody Chudley thinks he knows the true gen about the Bush land grab.

    Jody says he has a “secret” about the Bushes. And he adds, “It has to do with an investment idea that’s hardly on anyone’s radar.”

    The real reason Jody thinks Bush 43 and family snapped up nearly 300,000 acres in those semiarid, sparsely populated wastes of Paraguay?

    Water.

    That’s right, blue gold. Bush bought the rights to a veritable ocean of fresh, clear-as-glass, Grade A water.

    His land rests atop one of the largest freshwater aquifers in the world: Acuifero Guarani, by name.

    According to Jody, “Acuifero Guarani covers roughly 460,000 square miles under parts of Brazil, Paraguay, Uruguay and Argentina. It is estimated to contain about 8,900 cubic miles of water.”

    If you can’t quite imagine 8,900 miles of water, picture a pool nearly three times the size of California. That should give you a decent idea.

    A fair amount when you consider that 98% of this planet’s water is salt water.

    Of the other 2%, almost 87% of it is trapped within glaciers, hence inaccessible. Jody’s “trusty calculator” informs him that only 0.25% of the water on this cosmic ball is fresh (underground, or in rivers and lakes). Just a drop in the figurative bucket…

    Now, we knew this sort of stuff was going on with the elites, who look at us all as easy marks, broken money bags, the fat cows or broken pigs of their global stockades.

    What’s happened is this trickle-down lust-love-longing for these people who get plastered in the headlines as being grand and philanthropists, deserving of every cent and every billion made on the back of people, earth, cultures.

    Their trans-capital and monopolies  and viral presence like Google, Facebook, Walmart, and on and on sucks the revolution out of revolutionary, since we are now shackled to their ways of doing things. The goal of the capitalists is to harmonize their theft with our survival, whatever it takes to put five to a studio apartment (of course, sneaking the other four into the room in the dead of night), whatever it takes to just float through a gridlocked urban and suburban world. So, from Bush and Paraguay, to this Gawker Killer Thiel, we have enough evidence of their feudal ways, their slippery snake eyes methods of shitting on we underlings:

    Here is Robert Hunziker:

    Peter Thiel, the PayPal billionaire and renowned super-super-super libertarian and unapologetic Trumpster love-fester achieved New Zealand citizenship in only 12 days and bought not only his citizenship but a $13.8 M estate in Wanaka, a lakeside community.

    According to a phone interview with the former PM of New Zealand John Key, “If you’re the sort of person that says I’m going to have an alternative plan when Armageddon strikes, then you would pick the farthest location and the safest environment – and that equals New Zealand if you Google it… It’s known as the last bus stop on the planet before you hit Antarctica. I’ve had a lot of people say to me that they would like to own a property in New Zealand if the world goes to hell in a hand-basket.

    USA-TRUMP/

    Hell in a hand-basket, from the former prime minister of New Zealand — 1935 Book, quote:

    If the average white New Zealander takes the Maori seriously as a human being, he is usually rather too ready to blame him for characteristics which more careful study will show not to be inherent at all but actually the result of the coming of the Europeans themselves, the extensive destruction of Maori life and the virtual dispossession of the Maori people. Little attempt is commonly made to understand the causes which produced, for a time at any rate (for they are passing) those Maori characteristics which have become almost proverbial amongst us. To put it frankly, we blame the Maori for becoming what we have made him. It is interesting to realise that similar circumstances of the contact of peoples have occurred before, and in view of the people referred to there is one instance which it seems particularly fitting that we should bear in mind. The instance comes down to us from the days when another great Empire, an ancient one, was civilizing native peoples. There is on record a letter from a wealthy Roman landowner to his agent in Britain telling him to ship no more British slaves “as they are so lazy and cannot be trusted to work.” Similar causes produce similar effects; we should be less ready with hasty judgment and hasty blame. There is a widespread belief, and it is one certainly cherished by the average white New Zealander, that no native people have ever been so fairly treated by Europeans as have the Maori people. As a matter of fact, if it is fully and frankly told, the story of the contact of Europeans with native peoples is much the same everywhere. What we have are so many varieties of what a leading anthropologist has recently termed “the tragic mess which invariably results from the impact of white upon aboriginal culture.” It is true that the Maori people have survived, but this, on careful analysis, proves to be very largely due to their own qualities and their own efforts rather than to any specially favourable mode of treatment. If we are honest there is little ground for pakeha self-congratulation.

    Ahh, the evidence of climate change (global warming–hot planet) was there in 1896 researched, formulated and discoursed by Swedish scientist Svante Arrhenius (and then later, amateur G. S. Callendar ramified the greenhouse effect of burning fossil fuels, and then later, C. D. Keeling measured the rising CO2 levels tying that to the greenhouse hot house effect), but for which has been swept into confusion by those marketers and mad men. Imagine, average planetary temps going up from  2.5–11°F by 2100. Imagine that!

    The more civilizations evolve, the more energy dependent they become, so it’s possible that trillions of civilizations in the great continuum of space evolved, rose, fell and disappeared.

    If you develop an industrial civilization like ours, the route is going to be the same. You’re going to have a hard time not triggering climate change. For a civilization to destroy itself through nuclear war, it has to have certain emotional characteristics. You can imagine certain civilizations saying, ‘I’m not building those [nuclear weapons]. Those are crazy.’ But climate change, you can’t get away from. If you build a civilization, you’re using huge amounts of energy. The energy feeds back on the planet, and you’re going to push yourself into a kind of Anthropocene. It’s probably universal.

    —  Adam Frank, astrophysicist

    Interlude, Interglacial Periods, Working for the Homeless — Flailing at Windmills

     

    Comparison between summer ice coverage from 18,000 years BP and modern day.

    Yeah, these big ideas I broach with homeless veterans and their attendant family members, and while the Gates-Kochs-Zuckerbergs-Bloombergs-Adelsons-et al have zero concern about us, the proles, the  detritus of their Capital, I believe working to change one life at a time — even if it’s a life riddled with evictions, felonies, relapses, epigenetic familial hell, PTSD, trauma, spiritlessness, physical decay — has meaning since in that process I have incredible interchanges with people who sort of want the same thing — paradigm shifts and de-industrialization and ecosocialism a la Marx 3.0.

    I try to find peace in writing, even these polemics at DV or LA Progressive; and in my own world of fiction-poetry-creative nonfiction, the windmills abound because of a rarefied culture of the M-F-A (masters in fine arts) elite — those gatekeepers of the small literary kind, or even the National Book Award kind. This country is not big on real outliers in anything tied to the arts, and I am one of those round pegs looking to splinter the quintessential square hole.

    Short story collection? Who the hell would read that? Well, try out a project of mine to get the stories —  thematically (sort of) threaded (sort of) to the “Vietnam experience” — as a hard copy from a small press, Cirque. You can read one of the stories, “Bloody Sheets,” here, starting on page 115.

    The collection, Wide Open Eyes: Surfacing from Vietnam, is a gathering of fiction, much of which has been published in literary journals. I have succumbed to a Go Fund Me “deal” to help balance-offset the costs of printing a book on paper with ink.

    I have no idea if a Go Fund Me will even take off. The first and only donation is from filmmaker Brian Lindstrom. Amazing, a struggling documentarian throwing in FIRST.

    But we are in a new normal of shitting on writers, expecting us to have our day and then our night jobs and then write-write-write for free.

    That is the question, really, who wants to spend their time reading short stories, outside the very narrow readership of Masters of Fine Arts aficionados who in many regards can be pedantic and puffery artists?

    Vietnam, no less, in a time of Tim Burns rotting the foundation of the war we committed, or the Obama administration’s scrubbing of the war in his effort to commemorate it (Obama gives killer Kissinger awards).

    Vietnam. One of my short journalist pieces for an old weekly I worked for in Spokane.

    How many died in Vietnam and Indochina? 3.8 million? Oh, that Nobel Cause (War) myth I run into daily at a homeless veterans shelter, that is was winnable and worthy. Killing farmers, man, in their rice paddies! Whew, only a Zionist could write that script.

    Read my short story collection for a different way to frame creativity and that time period, that narrative framing, that time in history that has defined and redefined the ugly wars of today. I am going to give this a shot in a time of blatant skepticism and group-think/act/do.

    Wide Open Eyes: Surfacing from Vietnam. Be part of the creative impetus. The energy. The publication of a short story collection. With that “ask” of the reader who then gives will receive another book of mine, Reimagining Sanity: Voices Beyond the Echo Chamber.

    In my view [Dan Kovalik], this Noble Cause myth may be the most powerful and enduring propaganda trick ever perpetrated. And, it works so well because the audience for the trick — the U.S. people — are such willing and eager participants in the charade.

    To explain the power of the Noble Cause myth, Marciano quotes from Harold Pinter’s 2005 Nobel Prize lecture.  I set forth a larger quote from the lecture than appears in the book because it is so profound:

    The United States supported and in many cases engendered every right wing military dictatorship in the world after the end of the Second World War. I refer to Indonesia, Greece, Uruguay, Brazil, Paraguay, Haiti, Turkey, the Philippines, Guatemala, El Salvador, and, of course, Chile. The horror the United States inflicted upon Chile in 1973 can never be purged and can never be forgiven.

    Hundreds of thousands of deaths took place throughout these countries. Did they take place? And are they in all cases attributable to US foreign policy? The answer is yes they did take place and they are attributable to American foreign policy. But you wouldn’t know it.

    It never happened. Nothing ever happened. Even while it was happening it wasn’t happening. It didn’t matter. It was of no interest. The crimes of the United States have been systematic, constant, vicious, remorseless, but very few people have actually talked about them. You have to hand it to America. It has exercised a quite clinical manipulation of power worldwide while masquerading as a force for universal good. It’s a brilliant, even witty, highly successful act of hypnosis.

    John Steppling, my fellow writer who studies intersections of culture-mimesis-art-politics (My review of his book,  Aesthetic Resistence and Dis-interest. That Which Will Not Allow Itself to be Said, here at DV) discusses the MFA phenomenon, a true watering down and controlled form of check and balances fiction:

    So, the fact that The Rockefeller Foundation underwrote (and still underwrites) a good many MFA programs (and not just in literature, but in theatre and fine arts) is both relevant, and not. Or maybe a better way to address this is see The Rockefeller Foundation as symptom. I received a Rockefeller fellowship, which I hadn’t applied for. But, the very fact that creative writing programs boomed after WW2, and permeated the academic landscape is without question linked to the patronage of institutions like The Rockefeller Foundation (and the MacArthur Foundation, and…). And to deny that the tacit influence of these institutions is idiotic.

    Now, it’s also true that what John Crowe Ransom and Stegner and Burrows preached is correct. Or it’s correct up to a point. It is revealing that Melville was derided, because Melville wrote a lot of ideas, and additionally observed the ways those ideas and that knowledge existed in the world. But it is equally true that you do not observe those harpoons so closely, or closely in a particular way, that all you get is a harpoon description. And a so described harpoon that never participates in riots or social unrest, and whose production is unexamined and the harpoon company that distributes it is left blank…the better to describe the fluted morning dew that bifurcates my tabby cat’s shadow on the harpoon handle, and etc etc etc is only a individual’s sensory observation. The harpoon must be known, not just observed.

    The real point here is that what Iowa started, and many other University programs followed, was to narrow down the definition of “fiction”. Dante would not be considered fiction today. While there is a point in demanding a concrete description, and not a generality, the exclusive focus on the concrete meant that ideas were being eliminated in fiction. The world is not abstract… but that includes History and politics and tensions of daily life. Those offices in New York, or those bad marriages, are not separate from the Chinese Revolution, or U.S. Imperialism, or the blockade of Cuba or the present two million men and women in prison in the United States. ‘Greatness’, whatever that means, and I have no problem with that word, or the ideas behind it, is in discovering both what that connection is, and ..and this is important I believe…how our own personal emotional and psychic formation, and development are related to both Mao and our failed marriages (or, even the successful ones).

    The emphasis on observation, on brute description, however eclipsed ideas as a subject for fiction. You may not sit down to write ideas, per se, but you certainly have an idea of what a harpoon is. You have to know certain things, and, in fact, the best writing is that which tells you what you don’t know, not describes nicely what you already do know. And there is a tendency in young writers to generalize. So on the one hand it’s natural to emphasize the concrete, but the result, perhaps intentional, or partly so (given the Rockefeller project) was the elimination of ideas in prose, and the narrowing of the definition of what constituted “fiction”

    Traditional Fantasies: US Designs on Venezuela

    The irresistible allure of invasion and interference has never been far from US law makers.  The imperium needs its regular feed and what a feed it has been over the decades, notably within the sphere of influence discomfortingly termed Washington’s backyard.  The current US president has shown himself a keen follower of the idea that the US military, that old, and not yet diminished strongman of capitalism, might come into play to rid Washington of various irritations in Latin America.  Venezuela has featured very highly in that regard.

    It was Venezuela’s Chávism that turned so many policy makers off in Washington, spurred on by an attempt to quell what Dan Beeton and Alexander Main described as “Latin America’s resistance to the neoliberal agenda”.  Any policy reeking of poverty alleviation tends to set bad precedents for those in the United States.  The poor must be kept in docile ignorance of their lot as the money is made.

    Interest in Venezuela has verged between cognisance and complicity.  In 2002, when dissident military officers and members of the opposition in Venezuela were chewing over the prospects of a potential coup against President Hugo Chávez, the Central Intelligence Agency swooned: this more than mildly disruptive man might be on his way out. And he was, if only briefly, returning to power on April 14 emboldened and popular.

    The Agency noted then that “disgruntled senior officers and a group of radical junior officers are stepping up efforts to organize a coup against President Chávez, possibly early as this month.”  The level of detail, and insight into the mind of the plotters, was extensive.  Those involved would attempt to “exploit unrest stemming from opposition demonstrations slated for later this month”. The response from the Bush administration was a plea of ignorance: the leader had brought it all upon himself.

    The Latin America WikiLeaks files go further, showing the habitual nature of Washington’s interference in the internal affairs of countries in the region.  They show threats and cajoling to left-wing populist government figures, and logistical support for right wing dissenters wishing to cause mayhem. As one cable noting the words of the US ambassador to Bolivia, David L. Greenlee, goes, “When you think of the IDB (International Development Bank), “you should think of the US.”  Not that this was “blackmail”, continues the ambassador. This was “simple reality”.  President Evo Morales had been put on notice.

    The campaign against Caracas over time has been characterised by variously fashioned weapons, most notably sanctions.  Destroy the economy, and you foment the basis for reaction.  These have been weapons of choice for the policy planners in Washington, featuring such blows as those against the state oil company PDVSA in 2011 and the state arms manufacturer CAVIM in 2013.  The following year, specific government officials were also targeted.

    In 2017, Trump added his little cameo in entertaining options for overthrowing the Maduro government.  This was yet another example of Trump as the apotheosis, high-water mark of US aggression, outing the nastier habits of the imperium.  No soft treading required, nor the graceless posture of non-interference, just an open use of force with charging marines.

    Statements in August about an outright invasion were coupled with other possibilities.  As he told his staff, “We have many options for Venezuela and by the way, I’m not going to rule out a military option.”  Then secretary of state Rex Tillerson was perplexed; then national security adviser H.R. McMaster recoiled.  The next day, Trump elaborated his views at his New Jersey golf course at Bedminster: “We’re all over the world and we have troops all over the world in places that are very, very far away, Venezuela is not very far away and the people are suffering and dying.  We have many options for Venezuela including a possible military option if necessary.”

    When these suggestions made the light of day, they were treated as acts of dizzy lunacy, the fantasies of an insane steward of empire.  As José Miguel Vivanco, America’s director for Human Rights opined on August 11, “No one had helped Maduro as much as Trump and this nonsense that he said today.”

    Republican Senator Marco Rubio of Florida has been the latest voice to join an already heavily laden bandwagon, giddy from the rum of democracy he hopes to export.  In an interview with Univision 23 in Miami, he explained how he had for years “wanted the solution in Venezuela to be a non-military and peaceful solution, simply to restore democracy.” While the US armed forces “are only used in the event of a threat to national security”, an argument could be made “at this time that Venezuela and the Maduro regime has become a threat to the region and even to the United States.”

    Such fairy floss logic barely withstands scrutiny, taking the issue of desperation within Venezuela as the starting point for regional instability and threat to US security, an instability, it should be added that has not been helped by the more than occasional fiddle by US authorities.

    This fantasy of military backed intervention comes with a slight twist: the comments from Cruz grudgingly acknowledged the prospects of a multilateral negotiated transition, one that might permit perpetrators to get away in a new Venezuelan order. “We’ll have to bite our lips a little bit and watch a solution that has perhaps some form of forgiveness.”  Ever the sentiment of the imperial brute, appropriating the means of molestation, punishment and ultimate forgiveness.

    John McCain as Metaphoric Myth

    Every notion of progress is refuted by the existence of the Iliad.

    — Roberto Calasso, The Marriage of Cadmus and Harmony, February 8, 1994

    The spectacle is the nightmare of imprisoned modern society which ultimately expresses nothing more than its desire to sleep. The spectacle is the guardian of sleep.

    — Guy Debord, The Society of the Spectacle, 1967

    It’s still the same old story.  The best propaganda places individual stories within a larger framework.  The individual is extolled or damned in the service of the controlling myth.

    Senator John McCain is a case in point.  As an individual, he is not important, except as the glorified stories about him and his own confabulations about himself can be used to enhance the controlling myth.  American history is replete with such bloodthirsty, war-mongering individuals, whose lives and stories serve to enhance the American myth of being “God’s New Israel” and Americans being God’s chosen people whose mission is to spread “freedom” and “democracy” around the world with our “terrible swift swords.”

    As Bob Dylan put it:

    But I learned to accept it/Accept it with pride/For you don’t count the dead/When God’s on your side.

    Myths are the invisible narrative skeletons of our outward lives. They are limited in number and keep getting reused in different forms.   All we do hangs upon their bones.  This is true for nations and for individuals.  Myths are what people take for granted and do not question.  Our lives are telling stories, and myth means story.

    We tell our lives by living stories.  Then others tell those stories about us when we are dead.

    Of course, some control freaks try to manage their myths from the grave, as did McCain, who knew how the game is played, and who got his brothers-in-arms, George W. Bush and Barack Obama to polish his myth as he lay silent before them.

    “We Lost a Good One,” blared the New York Times, as McCain was lying in state, and liars of state, Bush and Obama, were preparing to shill for him as they shilled for war and the overthrow of foreign governments for their masters.  Another member of the Club, Joseph Biden, had done his part in the mythologizing a few days earlier when he shed his famous “regular guy” tears as he spoke of his dear friend.  For those outside such a small circle of friends – the millions of passive TV spectators in the society of the spectacle – tears seal the deal, set the myth into an emotional space that just feels right. In mythmaking, feeling is all; facts don’t matter. And the military and religious symbolism, the pageantry and the majesty of the setting, make the eulogies resound more loudly.

    It is through symbols, not just words, that the “people” are brought together to celebrate their mythic uniqueness, for the word symbol comes from the Greek, meaning to throw together, and for the in-crowd that is what they do.  We are in this together, one nation under God….while outside, as McCain, Bush, Obama, et al never failed to remind us “folks,” there lurks the diabolic (to throw apart) devils from Iraq, Iran, Syria, Afghanistan, Libya, Russia, etc. ready to divide us from within and attack us from without.  We are the good “insiders,” they are the evil “outsiders.”  Such verbiage constitutes the essence of cultural myth creation and the core of American Exceptionalism.  It is practiced by the politicians and mainstream corporate media every day.

    In speaking about McCain, Bush and Obama did so from within the frame of this great American Myth of Exceptionalism and God’s Chosen People.  McCain, who is a small piece of a much larger myth, was just another name added to the Pantheon.  Bush once said, “Like generations before us, we have a calling from beyond the stars to stand for freedom.”  And Obama once confessed, “I believe in American exceptionalism with every fiber of my being.”  One can easily understand why McCain chose them.

    Bush eulogized McCain thus: “In one epic life was written the courage and greatness of our country.”

    Wasn’t it great to kill millions of Vietnamese and Iraqis?  Only the courageous from the home of the brave can perform such honorable duties, especially from the air.

    “He respected the dignity inherent in every life, a dignity that does not stop at borders and cannot be erased by dictators,” said Bush, adding:

    Whatever the cause, it was this combination of courage and decency that defined John’s calling, and so closely paralleled the calling of his country. It’s this combination of courage and decency that makes the American military something new in history, an unrivaled power for good.

    And I too saw Satan laughing with delight, the day McCain died and was then eulogized by Bush.

    Moreover, Obama intoned with such eloquence:

    And finally while John and I disagreed on all kinds of foreign policy issues, we stood together on America’s role as the one nation, believing that with great power and great blessings comes great responsibility…But John understood that our security and our influence was won not just by our military might, not just by our wealth, not just by our ability to bend others to our will, but from our capacity to inspire others with our adherence to a set of universal values. Like rule of law and human rights and insistence on the God-given dignity of every human being.

    Now I wonder what John’s and Barack’s dead victims in Libya and Syria would have to say about their “universal values” and respect for the “rule of law”?  Can the dead laugh sardonically?

    The recent spectacle over John McCain’s death is a perfect example of myth creation.  McCain is, however, a metaphor for the larger ongoing narrative that has been going on for centuries and seems to have no end.

    McCain’s apotheosis is a made for TV American hero movie, one that he first helped create and one that John Wayne would envy, as blatantly jingoistic and racist as Wayne was in “The Green Berets,” a movie released in 1968, the year after our hero McCain’s dubious involvement in the tragedy of the USS Forrestal aircraft carrier that killed 137 sailors, his being shot down while bombing North Viet Nam, and his subsequent years in captivity.  No doubt Sydney Schanberg’s devastating expose of McCain’s explanation of his years as a POW will play no part in the today’s mythologizing.

    If only Wilfred Owen’s words could have been piped into the National Cathedral during the funeral ceremony, maybe the myth-making would have ceased and truth revealed.

    If in some smothering dreams, you too could pace
    Behind the wagon that we flung him in,
    And watch the white eyes writhing in his face,
    His hanging face, like a devil’s sick of sin;
    If you could hear, at every jolt, the blood
    Come gargling from the froth-corrupted lungs,
    Obscene as cancer, bitter as the cud
    Of vile, incurable sores on innocent tongues,—
    My friend, you would not tell with such high zest
    To children ardent for some desperate glory,
    The old Lie: Dulce et decorum est
    Pro patria mori. ((Thought to have been written between 8 October 1917 and March, 1918.))

    But that is wishful thinking in this land of make-believe, where such poetic obscenities are not allowed in the Cathedral of God’s People.