Friday, September 26, 2014

Good Grief!

How does one deal with the 21st Century?! I’m not talking about such rabid declines into corporate fascism as peaceful anti-war activists getting put on Hilary Clinton’s thuggish “Be On The Look-out” list (BOLO)[i] while serious Clinton-haters like Bundy’s Army[ii] not only don't get arrested and roughed up but are allowed to continue causing their homegrown brand of armed, terrorist mischief [iii] Maybe I should.
            But not today. Today, I’m upset about my own deficiencies, more specifically about my not being able to figure out these *&^%#$!#! websites and cyber-gizmos and such.
            To point: Several people have commented on my blog without “my” blog informing me. I’ve tried to fix it and, so far, I can’t. To be fair to myself, when I ask for advice from a tech-savvy person, their directions sound something like this to me: “Why it’s simple! Just go to New York City and turn right on 4th Street!”
            But never mind, I'm admitting that this is my problem, and that I’ve let it go on long enough. Therefore, to all of you who are wondering if I exist somewhere other than in the vacuum of cyberspace, here’s my own, personal, unencryptioned email address: .
I know, I know I shouldn’t do this. I’ve just publicly called Hilary Clinton a thug and a hypocrite (and maybe misspelled her name which I refuse to look up!), and look what happened to Ray McGovern for doing less than that. I'll probably get hamfisted now at some airport by one of those people who took advantage of that wonderful T.S.A. government jobs program. For the record, please check out the links below and see if you don’t agree that things are truly whacky, but for God’s sake don’t say it out loud unless you’re a teabaggin’ terrorist who fancies snakey flags while riding a horse and pointing loaded assault weapons at real federal agents! They, apparently, can get away with it. You, if you're the peaceful sort, apparently can't.
      I think we're far past the point of fearing our government...our government or of blithely saying "Oh, all that stuff doesn't effect me. I'm not doing anything wrong." I hate to point out the obvious, but by now rationales like that have allowed us to degenerate to the point where you're probably doing something "wrong" enough to get put on some thuggish list just by reading this.

Once again, to point, all I'm saying' is: 
  • To the N.S.A., Screw you.
  • To my friends and readers, please call.
Whatever you say say nothin'
When you talk about you know what
For if you know who should hear you
You know what you'll get
They'll take you off to you-know where 
For you wouldn't know how long
So for you-know-who's sake 
Don't let anyone hear you singing' this song.

You all know what I'm talking' about
When I talk about you-know-what
And I fear it's very dangerous 
To even mention that
For the other ones are always near
Although you may not see
But if anyone asks who told you that 
Please don't mention me.


You all know who I'm talking' about
When I talk about you-know-who
And you know who could hear me
You know what she'd do
So if you don't see me again
You'll know I've gone away
But if anyone asks you where I've gone
Here's what you must say.


That's enough about so-and-so
After mentioning such-and-such
And I better end my song right now
I've already said too much
For the less you say and the less you hear
The less you'll go astray
And the less you think and the less you do
The more you'll hear them say.

Whatever you say say nothin'
When you talk about you know what
For if you know who should hear you
You know what you'll get
They'll take you off to you-know where 
For you wouldn't know how long
So for you-know-who's sake 
Don't let anyone hear you singing' this song.
                                                         Words and music by Colum Sands, Elm Grove Music

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

On Bats and Birds, Ebola and the Lungs of the Earth

                                                                                                                                                                                          Watercolor by Daniel LaCroix

I’ve been on the ash-handled end of ecological restoration work for decades. I’ve planted hundreds of thousands, maybe millions, of trees and owned and operated a native plants nursery when family obligations kept me closer to home. I kept my hand in the game, saved more than a couple postage-stamp areas of habitat with reclamation techniques that were, in my opinion, the most enlightened for their day. So I feel qualified to share a few thoughts about the 1964 Wilderness Law, Senator Jon Tester’s “Forest Jobs and Recreation Act”, which releases millions of acres of Montana wild lands for exploitation, and trees.

The most recent Ebola outbreak in West Africa is already ten times greater in magnitude than any previous outbreak and shows no sign of getting better before it gets a lot worse. Past outbreaks measured human deaths in the teens and hundreds. Large numbers of chimpanzees and gorillas also perished, but they’re hard for us humans to count. So strictly on our terms, which ecological events never are, this outbreak’s count is already in the thousands and climbing daily. One ecological factor strongly linked to Ebola outbreaks is forest disturbance and the resultant fragmentation of its canopy. Deforestation. The unsustainable killing of trees. Sound familiar?

Lyme Disease has a similar ecological amplifier of interest to the only Great Ape on the North American continent—us. As forest habitat is fragmented, like the Tester bill would do, and is otherwise destroyed through gentrification and suburbanization such as we’ve seen occur in the Adirondacks and countless other places, its species diversity declines. Usually that means the predators go first. Mountain lions and wolves, of course, but also the owls and hawks and various other forest creatures who keep the main actor in the burgeoning Lyme Disease drama, the White-footed Mouse, in check. You can have a verdant suburb with as many bushes and trees in your yard as suits your idea of “the country”, green belts nearby with cute little bears carved out of leftover tree stumps. You can be just down the street from a “conserved” patch of forest, two patches, three or even four, and your forest will still be fragmented, compromised, unable to support the rich array of species that it needs to keep such diseases as Lyme in check.

Combine this with another little tidbit of news, just in from the National Audubon Society. It reports that more than half of the 650 species of birds studied in the United States and Canada are at risk from global warming. Again, you can have your bird feeders, with plenty of bushes and non-native trees growing in your yard and in pretty patterns all over the countryside, patterns dictated not by Nature and her requirements but by property owners and theirs. You can have cowbirds and starlings, in other words, or no birds at all. How silly.

Can you imagine a world without birds? Rachel Carson could sixty years ago, when she kick started the era that birthed such political poetry as the Wilderness Law. And yet we continued on our merry way, didn’t we? We should have known better, and yet we have consistently acted as though we didn’t. And now look. So it goes.

Senator Tester’s so-called “Forest and Jobs Recreation Act” is another tragic example of saving a few pieces of wilderness and grinding up the rest for the sake of politics and money, which always fragments the whole and renders any “saved” parts effectively meaningless. Release language within the law opens vast tracts of wild lands to frackers, for instance, who look at trees on top of “their resource” as just the first, relatively minor sacrifice in their quarterly-statement game. That’s enough trees for you, the corporate operatives and their politicians say, and they say it over and over and over again. That’s pretty enough for you. We’ll take the rest.

Senator Tester’s a nice guy in the wrong game, because when energy executives talk about trees, they’re talking about killing them, whole hog, whole forests, no matter what fragments they say they’ll “leave us”, because what’s left are always, always by any ecological definition, fragments and not functional in terms of healthy systems capable of sequestering hardy viruses that will spill over into human populations and become, within an evolutionary blink of an eye, deadly to us and to the balanced ecosystems our lives depend on. 

Here’s a hard-won restoration secret of mine. Politics, by necessity, is the only true restoration project left to us, because trying to save postage-stamp pieces of land one at a time won’t do, and it’s a tremendous amount of work to try at all. My secret to all the siloed-up progressive organizations who, true to our species can’t quite see the forest for the trees, is that the politics that’ll save us has to be the poetic kind, the deep kind, like Howard Zahniser’s Wilderness Law, not the “forest and jobs” kind, which makes a mockery of the beautiful depths Zahniser pioneered for us. Don't be afraid, I think he'd say if he were around today, of holding your breath for a little while.

Here’s another restoration secret. You don’t have to be an infectious disease scientist to understand the connection between trees and our specie’s well-being. We should know better. As we diminish our forests, so we diminish ourselves. So please, do think twice before allowing politicians or energy moguls to convince you that we simply must cut down a few more of our remaining, irreplaceable, intact forests for the sake of jobs or whatever other excuse they’ll wave in front of you like a matador’s cape to make you a more-fearful and compliant actor in their staged eco-tragedies.

We still have large, relatively intact ecosystems in Montana that are not protected, and they are now at risk more than ever, with Tester’s bill, with fracking, with Global Warming and with whatever other human impudence you care to name. We as a species are demonstrably not capable of fully comprehending how much of our remaining intact ecosystems are enough for our children’s children to survive on this planet. We are simply capable of humility, of saying, and meaning, “stop destroying what’s left”.

A tiny bit of Universe in the perfect form of round blue water spins around a giant of fire, over and over again for billions of years while simultaneously supporting life. Notwithstanding the randomness of Nature that our scientists observe and accurately report on, how is a mere human supposed to make sense such things without a little poetry?

So here’s a little poetry, the political kind if you will: Balance is what the Land seeks and Balance is what She will achieve. For the sake of our kids and theirs, let’s strive much harder than we currently are to be a humble and thankful part of a balance that doesn’t necessarily have to include us.

Think Hurricanes Sandy and Katrina. Think Ebola and Lyme Disease. Think relatively-intact ecosystems and the watershed laws that have successfully, though tenuously, protected them and us up until now.

How about it? Let's evolve.

(Thanks extended to David Quammen and his excellent book, “Spillover: Animal Infections and the Next Human Pandemic”, W.W. Norton and Co., 2012)

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  

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 color 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 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...