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  "Black Waters, Black Waters Run Down Through The Land" 51 comments
picture29 Sep 2007 @ 12:38
Nobody sees a flower---really---it is so small it takes time---we haven't time---and to see takes time, like to have a friend takes time.

---Georgia O'Keeffe

Let us be moral. Let us contemplate existence.

---Charles Dickens

We learn something by doing it. There is no other way.

---John Holt

Many of us here in the coal mining regions of Appalachia can hear Jean Ritchie's sweet voice in our imaginations by just reading her lyric in the title up there. Black water refers to the toxic sludge that kills all life in the creeks and streams near mining operations, particularly what's called mountaintop removal. Sometimes whole hillsides of the stuff falls down on top of properties owned by people for generations. Folks have been killed in those landslides, but there's little recourse since Bush made the previously banned practice legal 5 years ago.

So when I learn a good Republican Christian boy decided to name his private security company Blackwater, and stick it in North Carolina, I thought there must be some kind of---er---black humor involved. Maybe there is. Erik Prince was making the Navy Seals his career until his mother died and left him the family fortune. His sister was the chairperson of the Republican Party in Michigan, and wife to gubernatorial candidate Dick DeVos. Erik moved South, set up Blackwater, and also sits on the board of Christian Freedom International, a group helping "Christians who are persecuted for their faith in Jesus Christ". [link]

This was 10 years ago, when Erik was 27. Now, we learn, "Blackwater is currently the biggest of the US State Department's three private security contractors. At least 90% of its revenue comes from government contracts, two-thirds of which are no-bid contracts." [link] To be well connected thus seems the best way...and maybe the only way...to really get in to the true American liberty we call global capitalism. Papa Bush introduced it as The New World Order, but wasn't that a mite Roman Empire? So the following presidents just talk about the freedom and democracy of globalization. We know quite a few families have gotten very rich from all this, but many of the rest of us look at our tax bill and feel we're financing the whole thing. Are the returns worth it?  More >

 Justice Texas Style12 comments
picture4 Jul 2007 @ 10:50
Habit, laziness, and fear conspire to keep us comfortably within the familiar.

---Poet Jane Hirshfield, whose BA from Princeton was received in its first graduating class to include women

For eight straight years George Bush hasn't displayed the slightest interest in anything we care about.
And now that he's after a job that he can't get appointed to, he's like Columbus discovering America. He's found child care. He's found education.
Poor George. He can't help it - he was born with a silver foot in his mouth.

---Texas Governor Ann Richards, who was defeated for re-election mysteriously by George Bush's son, also named George Bush

We went from being a party of confidence and fiscal restraint and individual liberty to being the party that encouraged intervention in Terry Schiavo's case, the disastrous experience in Iraq, Katrina, and an $8.5 trillion debt. It was hogs feeding at the trough from Jack Abramoff to Karl Rove. I'm just sad and angry.

---Author Christopher Buckley, the son of National Review founder and supreme conservative William F. Buckley, Jr.

Before a television set was in every home, American families used to sit out on the front porch after dinner every evening. They'd call greetings to neighbors and watch the world go by. After that, they might set up a card table in the living room and play a game. Sometimes a game might be saved when somebody had to go to bed, and brought out to be continued the next night. Canasta games might go on for a week.

Among the board games there was Monopoly. I always had mixed feelings about that game. There was an edge to it that seemed to encourage the person who was winning to gloat and ridicule and inflict emotional pain on the others. Losing in Monopoly felt like drowning. And so I probably shouldn't have been surprised when one afternoon in 1965 as we were playing the game, my friend from Tyler, Texas, Tony Andretta, reached around to his desk, opened a drawer, took out a loaded six-shooter, and placed it on the table.

I use Tony's real name because, while it is highly unlikely he still is alive, I would love someone who knew him to discover this article and let me know whatever happened to him. We both were in our first teaching jobs at a school in The Bronx. He taught science and I, hired to teach English, ended up chairing the social studies department. He was a bit older than I was and had fought, he said, in Korea. He'd received a wound to his stomach, which for some reason never could heal and he had to change the dressing all the time. It didn't seem to slow him down much though, and he actively pursued a life of women, brawling, smoking and booze.

We were unlikely friends I guess, but somehow our differences made us curious. He came from an oil family and so this teaching stuff was just for the heck of it. Maybe there was temporary friction with his father, something like that. He'd been married a few times and always seemed on the verge of doing it again. About the gun, he told me later that's how they do things in Texas. He said he always had a gun in his glove compartment, because in Texas if a trooper pulls you over you come out shooting. One time we pretended to be federal inspectors in a Woolworth's pet department, concerned about the condition of the creatures in there. Under threat of being shut down, the manager gave us some lizards Tony wanted for his terrarium.

After a couple of years, we went our separate ways and lost track of each other. Tony lived loud and big, and could back it up. He was the first Texas male I'd ever met. In my experience, Texas women tend to be quite different from the men. Not the loud and big part, but in how liberal and democratic they like to be. I wish a couple of them still were around to comment on the Scooter Libby business.

The Bushes may run a lot of Texas but Texans know they aren't really from there. In fact, Ann Richards in that same famous 1988 speech before the Democratic Convention said, "I am delighted to be here with you this evening because after listening to George Bush all these years, I figured you needed to know what a real Texas accent sounds like." [link] But the George Bushes of the world keep trying to be the real deal, faking bravado at the Alamo until finally a Mexican soldier's bullet takes them down.  More >

 There Are No Conspiracies 44 comments
picture7 Apr 2007 @ 11:05
Western laziness consists of cramming our lives with compulsive activity, so that there is no time at all to confront the real issues.

---Sogyal Rinpoche

Tu Fu comes from a saner, older, more secular culture than Homer, and it is not a new discovery with him that the gods, the abstractions, the forces of nature, are frivolous, lewd, vicious, quarrelsome, and cruel, and only men's steadfastness, love, magnanimity, calmness, and compassion redeem the night-bound world.

---Kenneth Rexroth

The search is what anyone would undertake if he were not sunk in the everydayness of his own life. To become aware of the possibility of the search is to be onto something. Not to be onto something is to be in despair.

---Walker Percy

Photo: [link]

I first became aware of the chief weapon of the new conservative around 1960. The weapon is mockery and it was used effectively against my friends and me at Bates College. The school had a requirement to attend chapel a few times a week for programs of a non-religious character---but it was a chapel of vaguely Christian architecture. You also had to take a couple religion courses and fees were collected from all students to support the Christian Association. The CA had a locked bulletin board, to which I had a key and where I used to post rather leftist material.

The emerging leaders of culture war attacked all of this. Their models and mentors appeared to be Ayn Rand and William F. Buckley Jr. Buckley particularly was on television all the time debating liberals. His method of discourse always was a sneering dismantling of the bleeding heart of concern for the downtrodden. If you are lazy and stupid you should expect to be trod upon in this life. I remember 2 hours of excruciating embarrassment as Buckley mocked out James Baldwin for his passion on civil rights. I recall Buckley concluded one of his "Firing Lines" by warning the audience America is being watched on all sides by greedy eyes in faces "upon which there are no smiles." Mockery was established firmly upon a foundation of fear.

When questions arose surrounding the assassinations of John Kennedy, Robert Kennedy, Martin Luther King, the phrase "conspiracy theorists" showed up. We learn there always will be unanswerable questions about such events carried out by lone nutcases, and if you won't accept that reality you will be mocked. Questions about 9/11 and the Twin Towers? Same deal. We don't have time for this stuff: we must put it behind us and move forward. Weapons of mass destruction. A mushroom cloud could result if we delay our preemptive war. The Christian right delivered Shock And Awe, and there was talk of Judgment Day in the Cradle of Civilization. (At this time of year, one wonders why Jesus didn't move preemptively against Judas.)  More >

 Hot Internet Discourse6 comments
picture20 Feb 2007 @ 10:50
Well-being means to be fully born, to become what one potentially is; it means to have the full capacity for joy and sadness or, to put it still differently, to awake from the half-slumber the average man lives in and to be fully awake.

---Erich Fromm

How far you go in life depends on your being tender with the young, compassionate with the aged, sympathetic with the striving, and tolerant of the weak and the strong. Because someday in life you will have been all of these.

---George Washington Carver

In the midst of the plain
sings the skylark,
free of all things.


Who could have guessed? There now exists a scholarly periodic journal entitled CyberPsychology & Behavior. Actually I'm relieved the psychologists are on this situation. I wouldn't be me if I hadn't run afoul already of various challenges social interaction on the Internet has created for the species.

Fortunately I have been spared the most extreme examples, such as leaving one's wife and children to marry a woman in a faroff land with whom one has carried on only in a chatroom. Or tracking down some guy on a message board who's flamed you once too often, going to his house, and punching him in the nose. Or finding a teenage lovely at MySpace and trying to arrange a chance to spy on her at the Mall. But I've been close enough to understand these strange behaviors.

But what is there to understand, and why do people react differently to Internet situations than ever they would face-to-face? Today an essay appears in The New York Times on the activity known as "flaming." One time I made a guy so mad at me at a group I was in (now merged with Yahoo) that he booted me out and, since he was an assistant webmaster or something of the thing, found other groups I was in, joined them and proceeded to terrorize me wherever I went. Here are some reasons they think we do stuff like that~~~  More >

 Our Beautiful Planet And The Little States Upon It24 comments
picture7 Dec 2006 @ 11:03
I long to accomplish a great and noble task, but it is my chief duty to accomplish small tasks as if they were great and noble. We have to learn to live happily in the present moment, to touch the peace and joy that are available now.

---Thich Nhat Hanh

To fill the hour---that is happiness; to fill the hour and leave no crevice for a repentance or an approval.

---Ralph Waldo Emerson

The only wisdom we can hope to acquire is the wisdom of humility: Humility is endless.

---T.S. Eliot

It's an unusually full and urgent Thursday for news. I don't know why but so many things are bursting forth on this Pearl Harbor Day. Yes, of course the necessary stories about Iraq, that Russian spy case, recent water on Mars (will some alien be looking for traces of water on Earth someday?), the tragic dad in snowy Oregon, Jennifer Aniston's happiness and all the new movies, poor Tony Blair deserve our attention. But there are a few beneath the surface that don't get headlines this morning and that we might miss---like the startling images that illustrate this message. What are they? The top is surface ocean temperature and the bottom is phytoplankton productivity. So what? Please read on~~~  More >

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