Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Pipelines Heating Up: What Now?

Well, Trump did it, just like we knew he would[i]. Five days into his corrupt, illegitimate presidency he signed an “executive order” directing career functionaries within our (that’s OUR) government agencies[ii]  to stand down and let the Keystone XL and DAPL pipelines have their way with the Land. 

This Trump has a lot of admirers, you know, so don’t fool yourself. We can joke about his orange skin and tiny hands, his pathological lying and his temper tantrums. But he’s a dangerous man, this Trump. He has admirers. What are we going to do?

I suggest we start at the beginning.

When Chief Leonard Crow Dog of the Scangu Lakota tribe formally forgave the U.S. Army via Wesley Clark, Jr. and several thousand other veterans at a ceremony on the Standing Rock reservation last December, he said something that has been on my mind for a long, long time.  

“We do not own the Land,” he told Clark and the other gathered veterans. “The Land owns us,” and “We are Lakota Sovereign Nation…we have preserved the caretaker position”.

These are important distinctions in our time of trouble for a couple of big reasons, I think.

First of all: The land is not ours to do with as we want. We are hers to do with as she needs. How could it be otherwise? We last a few decades and then we’re dust. The Land, it lasts forever, nurtures our future generations and so by definition is wiser than us. Why would we not listen to Her? Why is this so hard for so many of our people to understand?

Second of all: A movement the size of which we need now and have seen before, those huge, unstoppable transformational movements, are grounded on achievable goals and spirituality, not dispersed agendas a la the model “liberals” so love to replicate for ever and ever, ad naseum til the next trainwreck of an election. Moral authority is another name for it, what real movements claim and, if they last, what they have. That’s because of simple math: if they don’t have it, they don’t last.

There are many novel interpretations for current events that are coming at us fast and that we must figure out, and do it quick. Is there such a thing as “alternative facts”, for instance? You may laugh at that one, but remember: Trump is a dangerous man. More to the point of the kind of corporate news you’ve no doubt consumed too much of these past few months: should a lie be called a lie? Most of your pundits don’t seem to think so, and our (that’s OUR) politicians seem to agree. They offer up the limp argument that they cannot call a presidential candidate, a president-elect or (now, thanks largely to a limp press) a president a liar because, unless you can climb into his head and know his intent, how can a fair and balanced pundit know whether or not he’s merely crazy? And a fair and balanced pundit can’t call a president crazy, can she? Better just stick to some unoffending platitudes or code phrases lest some sponsor think you’re biased and cut off your funding. 

This, to be as kind as I can about it, is the opposite of moral authority. It's what we used to call moral relativism, and I guess we call it "news" now, the kind of news that Fox, CNN and, tragically, NPR have been hawking for years, the venal, ugly ill-wind that everyone who passes within smelling distance of it knows for what it is. 

One of the big differences between lying and moral authority is that moral authority has always come from the Earth, while lying never has. Lying is a human construct whereas, with moral authority, we are just one of her many host species. Both, to be fair, are easily identifiable, so here's a quiz: Who’s talking about real-earth issues these days and who isn’t? Is it someone like Mike Pence and his religio-fascist backers? Or is it someone like Chief Leonard Crow Dog?

“We have preserved the caretaker position.”

I’m just a writer, not an expert, and an environmentalist at that, whose “keep it wild” philosophy has supposedly long been at odds with indigenous peoples’ views about the Land. So I’ll claim the right of the Innocents to simplify a very deep and profound subject: Maybe we’re finally here, at this place where a highly-complex, technologically-oriented society that has ignored a truth staring it in the face every time a sunrise occurs finally bumps itself up the side of its head hard enough to acknowledge that truth, and a simple one at that.

“We do not own the Land. The Land owns us.”

Why would this not be so?

C’mon, think like a tree.

You got a better idea?

[ii] Such as the Army Corps of Engineers which is holding up the permit for Energy Transfer Partners to drill under the Missouri River at Standing Rock

Yet NPR, the public corporation to whom so many well-meaning “liberals” donate millions of dollars a year to in the hopes of hearing honest discussions about vital issues is one of moral relativism’s worst practitioners[ii] . More on this in a later post, but for chrissakes! Don’t give them any more money at the very least if you hold the Earth dear. NPR is not our friend anymore.

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Trump's Finacial Records NOW!


Here's a good one. Above is a picture from Bloomberg, who has been doing a great job of tracking Trump's massive conflicts-of-interests that, as of this date, are still not being treated by congress or the media as anything but a Quirky-Trumpy-Thing-ha-ha…

That's why I'm taking the liberty of posting it without asking first, because it's so blatant and timely. I tried doing my own version of the map, but I got confounded by my computer once more, ended up wasting a bunch of time and so I said to myself "Dammit, this stuff has to get out to as many sources as possible because, god knows, the likes of NPR sure don't spend any significant time informing about such things." (By the way,  progressives: quit sending donations to NPR-carrying public radio stations, but that's another post).

OK. Look at the map. The red countries are the ones Trump's Immigration Ban covers. The tan countries are the ones that Trump has business ties to. Note that Saudi Arabia, the country where the extremists who actually carried out the 9-11 attacks came from, is tan. 

Get it? 

Now call up your senators and demand that they demand Trump's tax records NOW!

photo from Twitter

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Spitshine Me: On Betsy Devos, Amway and the Utter Creepiness of the Unhinged Right

A Cautionary Tale

As anyone who’s been paying attention to creepy doings for the last 40 years or so knows[i], the subject, “the Utter Creepiness of the Unhinged Right”, is too vast to fit into one post. How creepy that ride has been for how long and how long ago we should have jumped off of that spooky train has been, tragically, right in our face all that time. But we’ve--collectively, at least--turned away from it too often, missed too many opportunities to get away and now, alas. The zombies have eaten the last living human. Welcome to the Twilight Zone.
            For those of you who need a quick counter-narrative to what your television set has been selling you these last 40 years or so, I offer up this folksy tale from my own checkered past. My intent, as far as intent goes, is to illustrate what I know of the utter, dismal, creepy danger of one—and only one--of the dozens of utterly creepy Far-Right ideologues Trump and his fawning Congress are now (as you read this) handing out Oligarchy-Appointment-Candy to this month.
            Betsy DeVos is apparently going to be our next of Secretary of Education. As heiress to the (apparently) depthless Amway fortune she and her family have been funding the worst actors of the Creepy Right for decades, including many far-far (far-fa…r) Right schemes to destroy public education in favor of gifting our (that’s OUR) public-education funds to unaccountable, private corporations running religious-indoctrination camps (and maybe a few charter schools if they tow the approved Fundamentalist-Christian line). She’s never attended a public school, nor has any of her kids, and there’s a question as to whether she’s ever actually set foot in one. But let’s not get high-centered on small-mindedness, eh? Let’s think big, like the fact that she’s worth about five billion bucks.
            Now think bigger. Have you ever wondered…these last 40 years or so...how a person like Betsy DeVos (or a person like her brother, Erik Prince, founder and C.E.O. of Blackwater and now consulting Trump on “security” matters) got to be worth so much money, or how our public discourses have been so in the religio-toilet for so long? Well, wonder no more, and look no further than the likes of Amway.   
            So what is Amway anyways, and why are its royal lords and ladies so rich and powerful and… crazy? Isn’t it just a flaky shoeshine company?!? How is it then, that unbeknownst to almost all of you Amway has become the epitome of success at sending whacky-Right extremists to Congress to carry its water all these years and now, a Secretary of Education who doesn’t believe in public education at all?  Is it some religious cult? A pyramid scheme for crooks? A cancer and a pox upon the Land that has never been properly diagnosed?
            Yes, all of that and a little bit more. So once again, welcome to the Twilight Zone. Sit back, and enjoy my little cautionary tale.

In the Spring of 1971, I joined the Navy and was sent to Boot Camp in San Diego. I was 18 and as far as I knew (which wasn’t very far) I didn’t have to join the Navy at all. My parents sure didn’t think so, and they tried their hardest to talk me out of it. A war was raging in Vietnam, I was enrolled in college and I hadn’t even done them the courtesy of finding out what my draft number was. But like so many innocents raised on patriotism and war movies, I signed up anyway, waved goodbye to my weeping mother from the dirty window of the Greyhound bus we were loaded into, and three hours later we were unceremoniously transferred onto the battleship-grey Navy bus that carted us off to camp, where the process began of teaching clueless kids like me that we were nothing which, clueless as I was, I have to admit I hadn’t considered before.

As anyone who has been through a boot camp knows, this is a formal, abrasive, thoroughly-thought-out and effective educational experience, tried and true, meant to save us from getting shot in a jungle…or something…like that...I think…
And that’s how I remember my Navy Boot Camp: vaguely and disturbingly, which brings me to how I met my first Amway salesman.
I didn’t know he was an Amway salesman at first, didn’t know anything about Amway for that matter, other than that it was a flaky shoeshine company. I also didn’t know about creepy corporate-religious cults, pyramid schemes or any of that. I had just joined the Navy during wartime, for chrissakes. I obviously didn’t know anything about anything. But that changed quick, thanks, in no small part, to an Amway salesman.

He was the "commanding officer" of one of our sister recruit companies. This really meant that he was a fleet chief petty officer who had pulled shore duty as a boot camp “drill sergeant”: which meant he fit the definition of a Frustrated Man. San Diego was graduating out about 1000 recruits a week into the fleet in those days, with about 100 recruits to a company[ii]. Any given company had about 9 sister companies, then, working their way through the three-month program, all to graduate on the same day and each with a frustrated, usually angry, fleet chief petty officer at its helm bulldogging them through.

One of the most common methods used on naïve kids who could end up being shot at by strangers in mere months was to teach them impossibly obtuse minutia about how to fold their clothing and shine their shoes and then to punish them severely when they screwed up which, happily for the bulldoggers, was inevitable.

We were taught how to properly fold our Navy-issue underwear (“skivvies”), for instance, and where to properly place them in our locker. Then we were inspected on how well we had learned these new life skills. If we missed a fold or creased them crooked, or we placed them on top of the properly-folded dungarees instead of the properly-folded t-shirt we were punished. This meant that punishment was a seamless vapor that enveloped us like a winter fog we forgot how to live without --and since our commanding officer/chief often slept in the same barracks with the recruits own and therefore had to maintain enough good will with us in order to not get murdered him in his sleep, he worked in tandem with this chief from a sister company in the classic “good-cop/bad-cop” scheme.

We saw this bad-cop chief often because, in spite of the “good-cop” persona he tried to project to us, our own chief was really kind of a sadist, too. So this other chief would come over about three or four times a week, whenever us “worms” (the endearing term used in Boot Camp for recruits) needed to be shaken down a notch or two, when a hundred push-ups needed to be meted out for the insubordination of neglecting to dust the top of a World-War-Two era light fixture 15 feet off the barracks floor, when an M-1 rifle needed to be held at arms length for an hour for the outrage of forgetting where the skivvies went and where the socks didn’t, or when a double-time jog around the camp was called for to impress upon us the importance of having immaculately-spitshined shoes which, as you might have guessed by now, was this chief’s particular fetish. In fact, during personal “inspections” he would purposefully step on the toe of a newly-shined boot and grind down into the pavement until the wearer winced, until he knew he was not only ruining the kid’s shoeshine but hurting his toe, and then he’d yell at the top of his lungs to drop down and give him fifty push-ups.
There are a few things about shining your shoes in a Navy boot camp that need to be mentioned here. First, Navy-issue boondockers were made of coarse leather and were not at all shiny when they were issued to us along with our other clothing items shortly after arrival. They were work boots. They weren’t designed to be shiny. That’s important to remember.

Second, at least in Navy Boot Camp, special attention was paid to the toe of the boondocker, which was required to be shiny enough to reflect your commanding officer’s sadistic grin whenever he so chose, which meant always, which meant that young kids who were just beginning to get an inkling that they were expected to think of themselves as nothing developed an entirely-unhealthy fetish for shining their coarse, unshineabe boondocker toes. This is also important to remember.

Third, we were only allowed to use Kiwi bootblack and spit to accomplish this unnatural feat, which led to most of us developing a religious aversion to Kiwi shoeshine tins, which in turn explains a lot about religious indoctrinations in general, but I digress.

Imagine then, a hundred relatively-innocent kids who hadn’t even figured out what they’d gotten themselves into yet let alone what they were going to do about it sitting in the California sun laboring over the shining of the toe of their work boots for hours. And hours. And weeks. And months. That was Boot Camp.

Okay, so along comes Graduation Day, and ten (or so) companies march perfectly about each other out on the parade grounds in machine-like precision, a thousand whitehats get thrown in the air with a whooping cheer (We’re free!...?) we go back to our barracks to pack our duffel bags with our perfectly-folded skivvies and other perfectly-folded clothes for our first leave and our next duty station, and there we find the bad-cop chief. He's all smiles now, shaking hands, patting backs and he’s telling us that, now that we’re “out in the fleet”, we can use anything we want to shine our shoes so long as they’re shiny, and that only a worm would continue to do it by the spitshining method he had been forcing us to unnaturally perfect these last three months, and that he just happened to have a few boxes of this shoeshine spray with him to help us along our way to…Singapore, the Philippines, Spain, Vietnam…The world, he wanted us to now know, was now our oyster, and Amway was going to help us slip that oyster down our gullets. This, then, was the moment he chose to reveal that he was, in reality, nothing but an Amway salesman.

But what an Amway salesman he was! Like I pointed out above, each and every week there were (about) ten companies of 100 recruits each graduating the same day, and the chief drove around and visited them all with (probably) a carload of his Shoeshine Spray. He probably sold hundreds of them a week, making a fortune off of our boon dockers for the heirs of that fortune, Betsy DeVos and her mercenary brother, rich people getting richer off of our boon dockers, ultimately to become the self-proclaimed “deciders” of which rat hole this country should aim itself down. Our boondockers, along with the massive tax-cuts for the rich that have been dished out since Reagan and common-scheme pyramid swindles and cult-like promotion of grade-B products that should never have contributed to the overloading of our landfills not to mention our Congress, with unnecessary crap. Support our troops, indeed. Like I said, this subject is too huge. Look it up.  

In the meantime, let me share a bit more of my personal history. My daughter is deaf, and we have had to fight every step of the way (under Obama!) to get her the services she needs and deserves and is legally entitled to receive from our public schools, and have found the only safety net we have been able to fall back on consistently when it came time to threatening school officials who have found it so hard to find time and money for our child has been the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), the bedrock law that mandates that public schools throughout the country provide our children with those services (WHICH WE PAY FOR!!). Betsy DeVos, on the other hand, who may or may not have ever actually set a toe in a public school facility, had to admit during her congressional hearing that she didn’t even know of IDEA’s existence and that at any rate “those kinds of things” should be left to the states. "Nothing", she condescendingly admonished Senator Al Franken on the congressional committee when he questioned her about her astonishing lapse of knowledge, "is really 'free'".

A simple definition for “Creepy” should suffice to describe Betsy DeVos as our next Secretary of Education: “A feeling as if something were crawling over your skin, shivering, chilled with fright, causing an unpleasant feeling of fear and unease.”

Maybe the Amway Chief was selling product with mere “religious fervor”. This would jibe with the long history of the company in building a pyramid scheme of profits on the backs of dupes, half of whom make no money at all.

Another way to describe the Chief’s—and his bosses’—behavior is this: they’re a bunch of crooks, who use moral relativism as a smokescreen for their crusade in the pursuit of wealth. Christians indeed. 

Mabye if Betsy gets in, we’ll be blessed with a nation of cultish salespeople “loyal to their brand”, hawking wares for their rich overlords who promise them a “seat next to Christ” instead of actual wages. After all, targeting naïve people is her family’s forte.


[i] Starting with Ronald Reagan and his alliance with the Rev. Sun Myung Moon during the Nicaraguan “Contra” War.
[ii] This is my best recollection. I’m almost sure the companies were 100 recruits each, but not so sure about the numbers of companies per week. It was a lot.

Friday, January 6, 2017

Donald Trump Is A Fascist and a Fraud and Should NOT Be Normalized or Even Tolerated--Starting Now

Don't Refrain or Defer: Trump's a Fascist. Call Him One.
Steven Harper, of The Belly of the Beast, recently put into words what has been on my mind since  the daylight-heist of yet another presidential election:   "...A frustrated plurality who never wanted a President Trump now say, 'I feel helpless. What can I do?' Help is on the way, but it won’t be an easy or quick fight. The winning strategy will test a people whose attention span is short and whose need for instant gratification is profound (emphasis mine). Only an organized, systematic effort can combat the chaos that President Trump is already inflicting from Trump Tower…"
There is a rise in the topography within the Oceti Sakowin camp at Standing Rock (the overflow camp on the floodplain where most people like myself ended up camping) dubbed "Facebook Hill". It was dubbed that because that's where you could usually get cellphone reception that was illusive at best in most other places in and around the camp. Cellphone reception, for better or worse, is now part of our 21st century DNA. It's critical, in fact, to counter the narrative of lies and omissions that corporate news depends on for its continued existence in this 21st century world (don't you love irony?!)
But, as PeeWee Herman once said, "Everyone's got a big 'but'", and mine's this: Mark Zuckerberg is not our friend. This should not be news to anyone, but there is a tendency to give these gizmo-creating techies a pass, because gizmo-worship is so ubiquitous now, and to use these "tools" like Facebook as if they're benign, which they most certainly are not. To be clear, I agree with the analogy of Facebook being a "tool". Of course it is, but it's certainly not "nothing but a tool". A hammer is a tool, and a useful one, too. But try dreaming about someone's sexy selfie while you're swinging one and see where it gets your thumb. There's a much more multi-faceted, and darker side to Facebook than there is to a hammer. We've evolved that much anyway, which proves that we do evolve, if there was any doubt in the first place about that, and I think there has been. It's merely the fate of us humans, I believe, to choose which way we want go with that natural law.

So, Facebook….Below is a Facebook screenshot from journalist Kevin Sessum's Facebook page. He's a mainstream author who seems to specialize in covering celebrities, so he's not someone who you'd think would be tarred as a "threat" by corporate media (which Facebook is a main organ of, like it or not).

Nevertheless, Mr. Sessum was blackballed by Facebook, for a day, for calling Trump a fascist. Facebook told him he had violated their "community standards" policy. In other words, calling a fascist a fascist isn't OK with Zuckerberg now that he's going to have to curry favor with a fascist president and on and on…you know the song and here's the link

Mr. Sessum's response was to post the below picture and message--on Facebook--and request that others do so. I did, and a day later, Zuckerberg backed down. Nice of him, huh?

I fully agree with Steven Harper's statement that "Only an organized, systematic effort can combat the chaos that President Trump is already inflicting from Trump Tower…" I would, once again, point to the doings at Standing Rock and the deep movement those doings represent as Exhibit A for that flavor of activism. Hundreds, thousands of such doings will be required now, have been required in fact but, due to our collective "short attention span" and "profound instant-gratification need" have not been realized and so we have a lot catch-up to do n'est pas?

Be mindful, then, of these new tools you use. They represent profound technological changes happening within our lifetimes, maybe as profound as the evolutionary development of hammers into weapons. Act wisely and forcefully, and know how to effectively protest within the confines of these new gizmo-infested mediums. 

Post this screenshot on your Facebook page. Keep doing it. Make 'em back down. They won't--can't--do it otherwise.

You're the change you've been looking for. Evolve--toward the light, please.

Thursday, January 5, 2017


A Definition
Politics is a poorly-understood Human condition whereby, if you put two people in the same room you may or may not have it, but if you put the same two people in a bathroom, you will.