Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Say Hell No! To Walmart

Crosman MK 177 Tactical Air Rifle
Here's a little food for thought regarding the recent shooting at a Walmart store of a young man by police officers in Beavercreek, Ohio. Beavercreek is an affluent, mostly-white suburb of Dayton. The young man, who was not white, had picked up a BB gun in the toy department. It was apparently a Crosman MK 177 Tactical Air Rifle, pictured above (all the pictures on this post come directly from Walmart's website http://www.walmart.com/tp/bb-guns).  

What in the world, you might ask, is a "tactical" air rifle, and what is Walmart doing encouraging children to acquire "tactical" weapons. Before I opine on that, below are a few other choices the young man, who was not white and who was shot dead by police (shades of skin unknown by myself), may have found in the toy department at this typical Walmart in a typical, mostly-white affluent suburb of a large city.

 What ever happened, you might ask, to BB guns that don't look like real-life assault weapons. Not to worry. Here's one below, part of a kit complete with human targets...for practice in case you want to grow up to be a police officer in a mostly-white, affluent suburb.
Given that these pictures are all proudly displayed on Walmart's own website and are worth a thousand tortured words, here's the next question you might ask: Does Walmart have any second thoughts about being the mass purveyors of such merchandise in a country already overcharged with such an idiotic ideology as Idiotic Teabaggery and this bizarre ideology's accompanying fixation on assault weapons and the resultant plethora of mass shootings with assault weapons? Well no, says a Walmart spokesman. Ohio, you see, is an open-carry state.

So you do see, don't you, that it's not only perfectly legal for Walmart to display and sell "tactical" BB guns, it's just as perfectly legal for a young man to be carrying a real gun in a Walmart store... if you follow the logic, which I hope you can't.

It appears by every measure that the young man's real crime was to be of the wrong skin type while carrying a gun--real or BB--in a Walmart store. So, as promised, I'll leave you with some food for all your thinking: Would it have been a shootable crime for the young man to have been carrying the BB gun pictured below, also sold by Walmart, while black?
Are we there yet? Can we start evolving now, or at least start talking like grown-ups?

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Columbia River Song by Bill LaCroix

Well, I can't quite figure out how to link up my video to the proper tab on my page yet, but I think you can access my sample here. The fiddle player and back-up singer on this tune is the inestimable Tom Robison of Bozeman, Montana. 

Woody Guthrie was a shameless plagiarist, and I think everyone can agree that he advanced our culture inestimably. As Pete Seeger's dad once said, "Plagiarism is the cornerstone of Civilization." I agree, and I believe if Woody could see what they've done to his river, he'd probably change his tune a bit about singing the praises of the Bonneville Power Administration, too. 

So here's my version. Changed, just a bit. 

Note: If anyone wants the whole CD, or can offer tips on how one gets what one wants out of  these exasperating 21st Century gizmos, give me a call: 406-363-1329.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Note: I'm experimenting with posting photos. If I can get this to stick I'll publish the accompanying post (which I haven't written yet) soon! Thanks for your patience...all five of you!

Sunday, August 17, 2014

In Favor of Kids and Their Cochlear Implants

The tax warriors are at it again, and this time it’s personal. We have an eight-year-old daughter who was born deaf and has two cochlear implants which allow her to hear. The reason she has these implants and the necessary technical support that goes with them is that we have fought, fought, fought our insurance providers over their attempts to classify cochlear implants as “hearing aids” and therefore not medically-necessary and therefore none of their concern. They are, of course, correct. Health insurance providers are concerned with making maximum profits, not with childrens’ health. Duh. But that’s the system that’s been forced on us and our kids and trying to wriggle out of their ethical responsibility to cover cochlear implants (a relatively new technology to Pleistocene-era insurance executives who have a tendency towards cannabalism) has been common-scheme robbery for them for a couple decades.

Now it appears that Medicare and Medicaid bureaucrats are feeling the political clout of this hopefully-soon-to-be-extinct species, executes mafiosus, and are giving this sham a try themselves. “In Order To Save Money” (makes you want to kneel down a pray just thinking about it, doesn’t it?) This proposed rule change, to declare certain cochlear implants “medically unnecessary”, would make this technology that should be as universally accessable as cell phones virtually inaccessible to most deaf and hard of hearing kids who depend on Medicare and Medicaid for their healthcare needs.

Yes, I’m overreacting, and no, I don’t have all the factoids right at the tip of my brain ready to do battle with some corporate shill. But anger is a legitimate response to the barrage of crap these bastards keep throwing at us in the name of “austerity for the poor” and below’s all you need to effectively broadside them with your public comment about how they spend your public dollars! A relatively-technical but far-reaching issue like this probably doesn’t get too much response from an unaware public, so even a handful of aware responses could make a difference. My goal is to generate ten.

Please take a minute and visit helpnowhearalways.com and use their link CMS' comment site and ask CMS to reject rule change #CMS-1640-P. Pass it on.

My Comments to the Center for Medicaire/Medicaid Services (CMS)
“Regarding CMS-1640-P: My eight-year-old daughter has two cochlear implants and, because of that, can hear. We had to fight, fight, fight with our (various) insurance providers to force them to admit that cochlear implants are not superficial "hearing aids" and therefore not in need of their coverage. I see this proposed rule-change as yet another example of the heartless heavy hand of a soulless industry that should have been banished in 2009 in favor of Medicare-for-all/ Universal coverage, a solution to this despicable healthcare train wreck we suffer under that a large majority of American taxpayers still favor. If you adopt this rule-change, our daughter will suffer, we will suffer and thousands of kids born deaf will never get the chance to hear because their parents simply can't afford this readily-available technology.

As always, the "tax warriors" who wish to impose restrictions like these on citizens favor political expediency over reality and I, as the parent of a deaf child, am getting heartily sick of it! If taxpayers are the only concern in this rule change, as it must be because the kids sure aren't, please consider how much more money it's going to cost to keep thousands of lower-income kids deaf.

Medicare and Medicaid managers: Do your jobs! Quit wasting time and resources with this political pandering to the Crazy Right. Why are you forcing parents like us , who clearly have enough on our plates due to all the local tax-warrioring in our school districts that provide little to no services to our child in order to "save money", to even comment on this nonsense. It's a no-brainer. You work for us and you owe it to the kids to reject this see-through rule change.”

Friday, August 15, 2014

An Antidote

Funk and Wagnalls Logo


Bigotry has not the capacity.
Superstition the knowledge or discipline.
Fanatics have not the patience.
Intolerance the disposition.
                                                                      “To draw out and twist…
                                                                       To extrude…
                                                                       To whirl or cause to whirl rapidly…
                                                                       A downward spiral motion.”

                                                            Paraphrased definitions from a 1946 Funk and Wagnalls’ Dictionary

When definitions get out of hand --as they surely have these days--when public information becomes less and less so and you have a yearning to recall the sound of reality—as you should—I recommend you find yourself an old dictionary. They are so valuable at countering today’s corporate spin that if the spinmeisters were doing their jobs correctly—which, despite what they constantly tell you, they’re not—we would be bombarded with idiotic messages that old dictionaries are the seditious documents that they are. In fact, by merely taking a rough sampling of our cumulative public discourse and observing its general trajectory, I have no choice but to conclude that things will get so out of hand that our plutocrats and their hirelings will soon find it necessary to locate all remaining “hard copies” of this damning evidence and burn them. That's why I'm posting some of my favorite definitions ahead of time. You can't burn cyberspace...can you?

            I found my old Funk and Wagnalls set in the early eighties at the Missoula dump (as “sanitary landfills” were known in those far-off times). The old guy who leased his land to the city was still allowed to be there in those days, his portable shack stationed at the entrance of whatever fill site was currently being used. Everyone entering the dump was required to pass his inspection before they entered so that he could high-grade their pile of obsolete or broken consumer crap and pull out the still-useable nuggets, which he’d display on the dirt around the shack in the tradition of an open-air flea market, a moveable feast, now extinct.
I forget what I brought up that day—probably a small pile of unredeemable consumer crap--but I remember it was drizzling, and after the old guy gave my pile the nod I parked my van and perused the goodies like I always did when I visited the dump, and there, in the rain and dirt, I found my two-volume set of Funk and Wagnalls’ NEW PRACTICAL STANDARD DICTIONARY. They were still in pretty good condition and, after over thirty years of nearly constant use, they’re still in good enough shape for an old guy to pull out of someone’s unwanted pile of refuse and set aside for a another pass at Being Useful.
America’s Depression-era generation, which this Gatekeeper of Knowledge was a member of, was just emerging from World War Two in 1946 when the volumes were published, and the word “hubris” wasn’t in common use then, because it isn’t in my old Funk and Wagnalls. But it was hubris that put the volumes in the dirt and drizzle there for me to find, and subsequently to endlessly peruse and to cherish as I chased down an old-time thread of a word as though I were reading my grandparents’ minds--which I am. Isn’t it funny?
I sleuth Depression-era insights out of my volumes, along with their antonyms and synonyms which, if you give them enough time, put any e-thesaurus to shame. The lack of definitions for words like hubris only serves to speak volume about that over-serious word and about our over-serious selves. It’s no exaggeration to say that I have loved and used this two-volume set of old books more than any other hundred books in my personal library. They’ve helped shaped my thought. Why not? You gotta start somewhere, and I, for lack of a better imagination, am starting in 1946.
   Think about melting ice caps and the rare-earth minerals now available for exploitation below what by worldly rights should have remained the stomping grounds for polar bears and penguins. Think about Newspeak and the language-o-cide of our tweety techno-spin world we have created for ourselves and have forced our youth to come to terms with. Think about how they’re messing with words these days, horribly so. Isn't it important to draw a baseline in the sand before the whole English language, perhaps our only recourse to counter the P.R. gibberish emitting from a billion cyber-gizmos, gets washed out to sea with the rising shorelines?
An old dictionary is the antidote to the ballyhooing bastards. I rank an old dictionary on the top-tier among our most valuable, ubiquitous and readily-obtainable historical records of what our society used to think, rather than what some seabed-mining monster who bears a striking resemblance to Godzilla or a Koch brother wants you to believe they thought. An old dictionary is usually heavy enough to serve as an anchor, if nothing else. Try anchoring yourself to an “app”.
Anyone who makes their money selling souls by bastardizing language should fear an old dictionary. Think what you want but, please, think.

Note: It appears this website has deemed it proper or proprietary to make it difficult to post photos anymore, even ones I have taken myself. I suppose I'll have to figure it out, and maybe there's an innocent-enough techno-explanation. But don't you think this copyright mania has been carried to culture-killing extremes? The bastards...

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Guy M. Brandborg (left), Nez Perce Forest, 1930s

"No more fine words. No more nifty websites. Hard deeds. Now.”  Bill McKibben

All who seek to heel the wounds inflicted on the Land by our species
Passively or with hearts purple in anger
You have to know
The reason why so little progress has been made.

There is a spot in your head that—You!--are not using yet.
It must be activated now.

Nobody knows what or where that little spot is
Anymore than the whole combined world of scientists
Knows of the existence of 90% of the species on this Earth
Let alone given them their Catholic names.

For the sake of argument
Let’s call it a bit of fat with nerve endings
Or religion
Who cares?
Just dig 

Until you find your way
And then
Figure out the thousand ways
To give directions to the one in a thousand 
who will give a damn.
because remember:
only one in a thousand 
will give a damn
And that's all that's needed 

From us 
Now! To merely seek the end of a Thousand Paths 
where the stone in the creek lies just right
at the crossing
to be worth the first step across.

Stretch your brain goddamit!
Is all I’m saying.
How else do you think we made it to this sorry point to begin with?
It's been done before
and is not Rocket Science

And by the way
There’s nothing worse
Than a conceited monkey
Don’t you agree?
Evolve, my friends.
Why not?

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Penny Cliffs II

S.S. Yucatan In Ice
Bearing Sea
June 13th, 1908[i]

Another trouble with dams is that if you want to examine the consciousness that birthed the environmental movement as we know it you have to consider them, and that’s a complicated ball of worms that no one seems to know how to handle properly. Dams have been the harbingers of the End Times to conservationists since the beginnings of both dams and conservationists, so pondering dams is deeply troubling if you don’t like them. How does it happen, a thoughtful conservationist has to ask, that the same hundred years that spawned the Children of Thoreau simultaneously spawned 70,000 dams? It doesn’t exactly speak to the success of the movement. At least it doesn’t on the surface. How does one properly handle a ball of worms? I don’t know, but I’ll claim the nobility of process here as opposed to results. I’ll give it my best shot and invite you to fill in the blanks. 

Steam shovels were the original loudmouths. “If you can do it”, these 19th Century by-products of the Industrial Revolution growled at the People, “why not?” John Muir, one of the first conservationists recognized as such by a national audience, knew why not, and he tried to warn the People away from wreck and ruin with eloquence, a standard conservation tactic at the time.
At stake was the Hetch Hetchy Valley located in the northwest corner of the newly created Yosemite National Park. The Tuolumne River ran through the Hetch Hetchy, and those who knew that remote valley before its demise claimed it was a smaller, more beautiful version of its famous sister, the Yosemite Valley at the headwaters of the Merced. San Francisco developers, however, had been wanting to dam the Tuolumne at the narrow neck of the Hetch Hetchy for some time, to flood its natural bathtub basin and build an aqueduct across central California to the coast—a massive project for its day--where the Hetch Hetchy waters could be more perfectly cashed in for the real gold in California--real estate.
There was a biblical snake involved, and his name was James D. Phelan, former mayor of San Francisco, financier, and the prototype of a long, long line of shamelessly lying dam promoters. He was good at it, and like any good plunderer he knew an opportunity to exploit the suffering of others for his own personal gain when he saw one. That opportunity was the San Francisco Earthquake in 1906, and Phelan didn't waste any time. Even as people were still searching the rubble for loved ones, he publicized an unsubstantiated claim that there would have been plenty of water to fight the fires resulting from the earthquake had his bid to dam Hetch Hetchy several years previous not been hung up by political maneuvering in Washington and been more promptly approved. Everyone who actually fought the fires knew that there had been plenty of water available at the time, but most of it was undeliverable because the pipes had ruptured from the violently moving Earth. The resulting huge mud morasses actually made rescue efforts more difficult. Additionally, even if Phelan’s request to dam the Tuolumne River—which he serendipitously owned the water rights to--had been approved on the day of its receipt in Washington, it would have been many years after the disaster before any Hetch Hetchy delivery system could have gone online.
But Phelan’s timing, like that of a long line of similarly successful liars, was impeccable. Immediately after the quake people were near hysterical concerning anything to do with water, and besides, there was an actual devil involved. Spring Valley Water Company was the monopoly that had been gouging San Franciscans for decades before the earthquake with extravagant water delivery prices, and so people already had this evil entity to hate, and Hate is always a useful tool to employ when inconvenient facts need obscuring. This was the tail end of the Gilded Age, after all. The spoils system was firmly entrenched in the national psyche as the only way to do business and most well heeled citizens agreed that Spring Valley was only doing its fair share of skinning. All knowledgeable citizens concurred, that Phelan was only trying to get his own fair share. But Phelan knew when you’re digging in the rubble for loved ones, common sense need not apply, and so, with Phelan's active stoking, San Franciscans hated Spring Valley Water Company with renewed intensity, including some of the high-minded founding members of the Sierra Club living in the Bay area at the time. It didn’t take much eloquence, then, for Phelan to lay the blame for the earthquake’s devastation at the doorstep of the corporate entity that stood in the way of his own aspirations for a publicly-subsidized fortune, which is where, in the minds of the movers and shakers and too many conservationists, the blame stayed.
Muir knew the Hetch Hetchy well. He’d camped in its difficult-to-access nooks and crannies and explored it more than any other human being until the valley became part of his heart, just like the Yosemite had. So in 1907, a year after Phelan’s pitch, Muir made his own pitch in the form of a Sierra Club resolution to Theodore Roosevelt’s Secretary of State, James Garfield.
“Since there are other adequate sources of water supply available for San Francisco, it is only just to the nation at large, which is vitally interested in preserving the wonders of Yosemite National Park, that their destruction or alteration should be avoided if it is possible to do so, as it most certainly is when the question resolves itself into one of mere expense.”
Muir wanted to save the Hetch Hetchy Valley for its own sake, which was a watershed concept at the time toward steering the general public on a course of environmental consciousness based on science, economics, spirituality or any combination of the three.
The snake, however, was already in the tree and whispering into ears, and nothing against snakes, but they're smooth. Hetch Hetchy crystalized into the watershed moment that split the waxing conservation movement into two superficial factions, the Pinchot-style utilitarian “conservationists” and the Muir-style, poetic “preservationists”. Not enough of the People would listen, in other words, even within Muir’s own creation, the Sierra Club, whose members were drawn heavily from the recently shaken-up San Francisco area. These members who supported the damming of Hetch Hetchy had supported Muir in his poetry and even his vision, but because of their hatred of Spring Valley Water Company and Phelan’s whisperings, they now openly suspected that Muir was somehow pimping, either unwittingly or otherwise, for Spring Valley Water!
“I most earnestly protest against the Sierra Club being used as a catspaw to pull chestnuts from the fire for the Spring Valley Water Company…” a well-heeled Sierra Club member wrote. This member was a prominent attorney and he, like Phelan, knew how to talk[ii].
So in this very first battle against the Dam, Muir was tarred by some of his own freshly converted “conservationists” as either aiding and abetting Spring Valley Water or in not being a “conservationist” in the utilitarian sense of the term. Ah, the games we play with words, and such serious games! Muir was the premier conservationist of his time who could rightly claim more ownership to the term than any other single American. Yet by the time the Hetch Hetchy affair was through, Gifford Pinchot became that word’s champion, while Muir, who personally disliked Pinchot, was relegated to the spanking new ranks of “preservationist”. Most of us today who share Muir’s fear for the fate of the Land would call ourselves both, but this was the start of the Great Divide which undercut the Sierra Club’s effectiveness in presenting a solid front against Hetch Hetchy’s loss and has, in the final analysis, given us 70,000 dams in spite of ourselves.
Phelan’s successful ploy in presenting himself and his backers--which he euphemistically labeled “the City of San Francisco”--as “true conservationists” worked, and so the battle line of whether or not there should be a dam at Hetch Hetchy was arbitrarily drawn by conservationists as well as by developers to include an inappropriate dam somewhere in the “solution” no matter whose poetry won out. When that other card carrying founder of the modern conservation movement, Theodore Roosevelt, caved in favor of drowning Hetch Hetchy, the deal was done and the die was cast for the next hundred years. “True Conservationist” versus “Unrealistic Preservationist”. As Jesus might well have said about the whole thing, “How…how boring!”
 Muir was haunted by the debacle for the rest of his life. As bitterly disappointed as he was by the success of the dammers, he was even more so by the split within the conservation movement. No less than Warren Olney, for example, within whose law office the Sierra Club had been born and who had served as its longtime director, had testified before Congress for the Dam’s approval.
“Wrong cannot last,” Muir wrote in 1914 shortly before he died. “Soon or late it must fall back home to Hades, while some compensating good must surely follow.”
Muir believed in biblical snakes, and he was right and still is, because when you’re talking about dams, you’re talking about the double-edged tragedy of the modern conservation movement that has retarded its evolution in coming to terms—through science, economics or sheer nostalgia—with what the First Americans have been saying all along: Coyote did it! And there’s such a connectivity to the complexity of the World that you'd better just stick to that explanatory tale if you want to behave like a human being rather than a bunch of planet-devouring aliens[iii]!
Additionally, since Hetch Hetchy was the first visible fracture that has become the seismic split in the movement’s effectiveness, it’s fair to view the otherworldly fake grey cliffs we take so much for granted for what they really are; giant tombstones the likes of which we humans seem to have such a proclivity for erecting as a prelude to our really screwing up. We've surely seen these sorts of otherworldly public works projects before. Pyramids come to mind, and you know what happened to those people.

Next—Echo Park and the Black Ford Sedan

[i] The S.S. Yucatan was the steamer my Grandfather, D.E. Cooper, took to Nome, Alaska during the Gold Rush after he and his brother lost their Market Street streetcar concession to the San Francisco earthquake. It’s also the ship that floated the Rough Riders to Cuba during the Spanish-American War. It’s shown here stuck in the Arctic Ice, waiting for a thaw, its smokestack belching carbon. Somehow it seems like a good fit here.
[ii] “The Life and Adventures of John Muir” by James Mitchell Clarke, Sierra Club Books, 1979
[iii] “Independence Day” 1996, 20th Century Fox, grossed almost $1 billion. I don't know how much Coyote makes, but you’d think we’d learn…