Archive for June, 2010

Anarchist-Communist Realities and My Dreams

Wednesday, June 30th, 2010

Regarding the Anarchists taking over the country, I don’t seriously think Anarchists would ever be able to do such a thing. Anarchists have no plan, no strategy for taking power and nothing but vague notions as to what to do after taking power. How could any serious minded citizen follow the leadership of a group that has no place to take them? Anarchists promise paradise on earth, but they have no pathway to get there. They talk about different ideal ways to structure a society, based on committees, consensus or at best a town council. But they have no concrete proposals as to how to deal with the current set of problems we encounter or do they? Perhaps we are simply looking in the wrong place.
Anarchists believe in a volunteer based society. But so do Libertarians. How do you maintain a sufficient level of services when you have a totally volunteer society? The Libertarian answer is simply let the market take care of it. If there is a need some bright entrepreneur with figure out how to provide that service and make a profit at it. That is market capitalism. Privatize hospitals, utilities, road maintenance, welfare for the poor, prisons, the military, you name it and it can be privatized. We have seen quite a bit of that under the Carter/Bush deregulate and privatize presidencies.
What do Anarchists propose? Well we have coop bookstores and some coop groceries still exist. There is “Food Not Bombs” a free food for the homeless program that serves a vegetarian meal to people on the street once a week in various cities. There is the “Homes Not Jails” housing rights group in San Francisco and Boston, that occupies abandoned buildings and lets homeless people squat in them. They do secret and publicly notified occupations to advertise the plight of the homeless. More interesting is the “Take Back the Land” based in Miami who occupy foreclosed homes. This group initially built Umoja Village on public land with the help of local anarchists. It was burned down mysteriously 6 months later. But these activities in the USA are small potatoes compared to the activity going on in Latin America and South Africa.
Latin America has the liberated zone of the Zapatistas in Chiapas, Mexico where there has been a stand-off with the Mexican Army since 1994. At this time the Zapatistas are more of a consciousness razing and propaganda organization than an active military and political presence with some 32 villages under their control in and around the Lacandon Forest. Their politics are reminiscent of the original Zapatista Liberation Army with its slogans of Land & Liberty, they represent agrarian peasant and indigenous peoples interests. In Mexico that is a big deal there are some 20 million Native Americans. But although they now claim libertarian socialist goals, their founders were from a Maoist group based in Mexico City. Liberation theologians in the 1980’s helped them and brought them to Chiapas in 1983 where they worked with the indigenous population to defend their rights and foment revolt.
But as much as people like the EZLN, they are small potatoes compared to the South African “Poor People’s Alliance” which is made up of several direct action organizations that are specifically anti-hierarchical, democratic and will not participate in electoral politics. They don’t call themselves Anarchists, but they have taken on a lot of the principals of Anarchism through the Left Marxist Jaques Ranciere, who is considered a theoretical source for much of their ideology. One group based in Kwa-Zulu-Natal is “Abahla base Mjondolo” which has battled with the city authorities in Durban to gain recognition of the rights for the shantytown dwellers to exist and for the implementation of government services including water and electricity. They also fight evictions and have gained in principal the government’s aid in improving the housing for the poor. They are autonomous, have no NGO control, their goal is living Communism by recreating the commons from below with a series of communes.
Another group is the “Anti Eviction Campaign” based in Cape Town. They are the oldest of this new wave of anti-hierarchical, anti-NGO, anti-political party groups. They have 15 chapters and their leaders are called coordinators because they are facilitators not Leninist style bosses. They do direct action sit-ins and demonstrations at homes where people are to be evicted to stop the authorities. If that fails and people are evicted they move them back in and if they are removed permanently they destroy the property to make sure that it won’t be used again by the ruling classes. These groups are working with thousands of people in South Africa.
Again if you want to get big you have to go to Brazil where the MSI or “Landless Workers Movement” has some 1.5 million members. They have their own university the “Florestan Fernandes School” in Sao Palo. This organization founded in 1984 with a mixture of Liberation Theology, Palo Freire Pedagogy, Marxism and admiration for Cuba, yet they came up with a relatively anti-hierarchical structure. Each member has to be part what is called the ‘nucleo de base’, a grouping of 10 to 15 families who select a man and a woman as representatives to the ’settlement group’, and in turn they are part of the ‘regional group’. This regional group elects members of the “State Coordinating Body” which is made up of about 20 members from each state with a total of about 400 members 90% of whom are active members of a nucleo de base. The theory being that this keeps them grounded in the real needs of the people. They fight Monsanto and against the spreading of genetically modified seeds in Brazil. They occupy abandoned land and then fight in court for the right of the people to stay there and win. They have an environmental plan and have support groups around the world. Anarchist, no but pretty damn close for a Marxist based group. These are heavyweights in World Social Forum and the Global Justice Movement.
We in the USA need to look to these models in the so called third world to see where the future of the social revolution is to come. The beast is being surrounded by a pack of radical dogs and pretty soon it will be stuck up in a tree. Then we can just shoot it or wait for it to starve.
Anarchism may not have the answers but it is part of a current that includes a lot of people who identify as Marxists. I think we are coming to a time where both of those theoretical systems will be outmoded and some new synthesis will be the working theoretical frame for the future.
And now for some personal news, my latest dream sequence.
Forward into the abyss, that seems to be a good motto for our times. We don’t know if we are falling off a precipice, bounding into outer space or doggedly plodding on the concrete. I myself have flights of fantasy at least every other day. Then there is dreaming, which I have started to have again despite the way antidepressants tend to mould the dream into a narrative with a moral. I like my free floating dreams better.
This is an example of the antidepressant dream. Last night, or rather this morning I dreamed of being in some kind of spiritual community in a storefront/warehouse. One guy was selling shirts cheap. I wanted one of the brown plaid ones but he didn’t have my size. Then I was outside on the street. It looked like my old neighborhood in Santa Monica. I notice that my French ex is sitting at some kind of outdoor cafe, she is dressed up like someone out of Breakfast at Tiffanies only all in black and she has a young guy, he looks like a college student, enchanted with her charms.
I grab the guy and pin him up against the wall and ask him if he is serious our just infatuated. He answers infatuated. So I let him go. Its ok. He is just a passing fancy. Then I go up to her and ask her if she is still married to Gaddagarage her Hare Krishna husband. She answers that he is saving her life, that he is a good devote, and I take that as a yes. Then she tells me the people in the storefront/warehouse are karmies and are not following the principals. What she means is they are not members of ISKON but are from another Guru in the Gaudiya Vaisnavites, but ISKON devotees like to think they are superior in some way, more correctly spiritual. Then I awoke.
Do you see what I mean by a narrative driven dream? It is as if people are reading a script. Also it is very judgmental. Another dream was about the Titanic, the movie version. It even had the same actors in the starring roles. That is not what my dreams are normally like. They are usually more open ended, less narrative driven and normally less judgmental.

G-20 Summit And Anarchist Social Infrastructure

Monday, June 28th, 2010

I am reading some reports about the G-20 summit protests. The media gives it about 30 seconds on the TV with pictures of the most violent action. There is no analysis of why the protesters are there, no interviews, just a voice over comment that “these protests have become a regular occurrence with the summits.” Then a mention of the cost to the city of Toronto $900 million on security and then a mention that in Nice, France next year there should be less security needed. What the French protestors are less violent?
I checked a socialist site with “Real News” feeds, where they protested one of their reporters being punched by the Toronto Cops a couple of times. They ran an article critical of Anarchist Black Block Protesters because they said on the day before the Black block broke some windows and torched a police car, the media coverage was focused on police brutality. The next day it focused on the anarchists trashing stuff. The Toronto Media Coop published an issue of a newspaper called the Spoke in which there was a short article alleging that the police had provocateurs planted who may have burned the conveniently abandoned police car to make the protesters look more violent and anti social.
The media video clips love scenes of chaos and mayhem. The new pattern seems to be alternating images of destruction and violence with mindless babble about celebrity sightings and happy talk about babies and pets. There is almost no analysis, unless you want to go to print media or to watch a documentary on the History Channel or on PBS. There you get rehashes of World War 2, Bible stories dressed up as history, Saddam Hussein as a Nazi, and the occasional report about an issue of the day with PBS doing much better, The History Channel is basically entertainment.
There are some real sources of Information. Democracy Now and Toronto Media Coop, Vancouver Media Coop, Real News and in many cities there are Indymedia Centers that report on local events for the most part.

Anarchists seem to do reasonably well with media relations. Many who when they get tired of street protests, squatting, dumpster diving and the gritty “get down to the basics” part of the Anarchist lifestyle, then graduate to a either some form of cooptation or compromise with the system or become some kind of media person. I went through that media phase and the street phase, although I did my street living not as an anarchist but as a more amorphous hippie commie long haired freak in the seventies. I did not identify as an anarchist until I had entered the University and started a radio show playing punk, wave and reggae music. But as anarchists get older then they tend to drift into academia, disability, become entrepreneurs, social workers or work in one of the coop bookstores etc. Some maintain their anarchist contacts but you see very few anarchists past their mid twenties. It seems to be almost strictly a youth culture phenomenon.
There are older anarchists and Anarchist Communists. Those who do self identify as such are often in the IWW, the Industrial Workers of the World. I managed to stay active on and off all my adult life. But now I am disabled and dependent upon the government for a check. I earned it having worked for some 30 years or more. But the program is government run. It brought to my mind, what are the Anarchist social programs? I know in the past in places like Spain the anarchists and anarchist-syndicalist unions had infrastructure for the disabled, retired, injured etc. but I know almost nothing about them. The only such organization I know of currently is the Anarchist Black Cross which is a prisoner aid service limited to class war prisoners. Also there are groups like Food Not Bombs that feed homeless, and Homes Not Jails that attempt to find housing. But that’s it. If there was an anarchist revolution would they merely take over the infrastructure as it stands? That would imply a certain level of taxation.
Would they withdraw the troops from Afghanistan and all the other places around the world we have bases, or would these anarchist leaders find themselves like Barak Obama becoming tools of a preexisting establishment and bureaucratic structure? This is an interesting question. There are treaty obligations. Would they simply tear up the treaties like a Bush in reverse? Would they open relations with Communist states only, that means Cuba, China, Vietnam, Laos and maybe Venezuela. Or open to all progressive regimes? When they read the CIA secret information and the NSA feeds, will they feel that these countries are as progressive as they once thought? What about surveillance of right wingers? The FBI is perfectly capable of surveillance of the right or the left? And what of competing communist groups? Would they want to keep an eye on preventing a new Bolshevik coup?
How easy would it be to implement change? We can see what happened when the Cambodian Communist Khmer Rouge sent the city dwellers into the countryside and attempted to create an agrarian paradise. It caused the deaths of millions. Would the Anarchist government shut down all oil drilling, causing shortages at power plants and a gas shortage? Would they then ration gas for only emergency and utility vehicles and trucks used in transporting goods? Leaving the working people dependent on mass transit? Or would they do a more gradual transition, say a ten year phased transition? Would they require every business that had employees to become coops, worker owned, worker managed? Would this lead to major disruptions in production while the workers hashed out what and how to run things? Russia tried something like this with the Soviets. They were dismantled soon after the Bolsheviks took power, first under the necessity of War Communism and then under the NEP and eventually utterly destroyed by Stalinism. I suspect under an anarchist regime there would be a transition period with companies with less that 50 or 25 employees being exempt or allowed a 5 to 10 year transition and larger companies becoming trusteeships or becoming nationalized and run by technocrats with input from unions and workers associations.
What of hospitals? What of utilities, disability payments, retirees? Will they force everyone to go back to work? There is a government bureaucracy set up now to deal with these things. Will they exempt government workers from the workers councils or will the government become the model of the new way of doing things? I don’t think any anarchists have thought long and hard about these issues that I have read. Perhaps in academia but certainly not in the anarchist press. They may go as far as suggesting community policing and prison reform. But taking on the whole structure of the US or any other modern state, I have seen no serious suggestions. It is because Anarchism is a phenomenon almost solely among the romantic youth who simply want to see change but are incoherent and vague about what that change would be? Certainly we do not want a world of squatters and dumpster divers, a sort of Road Warrior future. Such a world would involve killing off about 9/10’s of the population and make the world safe for a few homicidal maniacs.
Doing a Google search for Anarchist Social Policy, I came up with Colin Ward’s “Social Policy” a book mostly dealing with squatting and history of alternative housing in Great Britain according the table of contents on Amazon. There was an article on line called “Anarchism and the Welfare State” about the Peckham Health Centre in London that was opened in 1935 and was closed during the war and reopened in 1946 until 1951 when it was closed due to the National Health Service having become the norm for British residents. The center was run by a couple of Doctors who wanted to focus on staying healthy and patients paid a monthly subscription. The facilities were paid for by donations from wealthy donors. This is played up to be the anarchist alternative although there is nothing that I can see about the facility members that were specifically anarchist.
There is an interesting article by Brian Martin called “Anarchist Science Policy” originally printed in the Raven a British Anarchist publication. He discusses the issue of fluoridation of water, the pros and cons and an anarchist way to keep everybody happy among other things. But other than that I see lots of references to Colin Ward but little else. I would like to find more information especially since I am now dependent on the state, how anarchists would deal with disability and poverty and the myriad social policy issues that make up the modern welfare state. It would also be nice to come up with a plan, not a master plan that had to be followed but a basic how to plan that helps anarchists figure out how to turn bureaucratic institutions such as the modern American state in to an anarchist communist society without falling into the primitivist “let em all die and go tribal with the remains” or buying into the Libertarian Capitalist line of simply reducing the state to a minimum. The world is complex, interdependent and everything we do on a macro level affects everything else. Time for a serious Anarchist-Communist attempt at a solution to the current crisis or we might as well just listen to the preachers tell us everything depends on Jesus or Obama or head for the hills.

Comments On A TV Preacher & Cockroaches.

Sunday, June 27th, 2010

There is a preacher on the TV, one of the basic cable channels who is preaching something like China is buying the assets of America, the dollar is collapsing and the country is full of immorality. This is Pastor John Hagge of the Cornerstone Church somewhere deep in the Republican Heart of Texas. He says get right with god when all hell breaks loose. He says get you families together and in a tight circle. Get out of debt. Debt is a prison without bars. Don’t buy stuff you can’t afford according to this preacher. He says get right with god. He is doing a prayer that in Jesus name all the people in his church will be debt free. But he is asking for a pretty impossible thing. How are most people ever to buy a house? If Americans waited to buy a house until they had the cash, the housing industry would collapse. He has come up with a series of sermons that preach a militant right wing Christianity. He preaches support of Israel and that a nuclear Iran is evil. He also is asking the people to get out of debt by not consuming until they have saved enough wealth. This may seem like commons sense but since the 1920’s at least American consumption has been financed by debt. This stimulates the economy and keeps industry working. America is a 2/3 consumer driven economy. If we were to eliminate debt we would have to totally reorient the way we do business more like China and in the transition we would probably fall into a deeper depression than we have ever known in our lifetimes.
We can sustain incredible levels of debt if the economy is productive. Other countries invest in the United States because they see the USA as being a safe investment. That means we have economic policies that are investor friendly. If this preacher has his way, the USA will become more militaristic, attacking Iran and defending Israel, he also would cut entitlements. He specifically stated that according to the Bible if you do not work you do not eat. I hope he did not mean women, children, the disabled and the elderly. But then he might really mean it. Bring back child labor. Women can squat to have babies then get back to work. The disabled better learn how to work and grandma and grandpa, get to work. But the main thing he preached about today was the decline of the dollar. He blames it not on the flight of capital investments from America to overseas because of the cheaper labor, instead he blames it on the Congress spending too much. His solution, don’t spend money you don’t have and put the Dollar back on the Gold standard.
That is simply reactionary politics. Why does gold have to be the standard for money? It is only a metal that is not intrinsically any more valuable than any other metal. Money is a means of tracking exchanges and attaching a value to that exchange. The value could be in terms of cowrie shells, cows, or anything else you wanted to use as the standard by which you gauge the value of the exchange. When the Europeans came to America they traded cheap consumer items for valuable land, furs and if they could find it gold or silver. For the natives at first encounter, they had plenty of land, and it was held in common by the tribe not by the individual so the very concept of private ownership of land was alien. If some guy on a boat wanted to give the people some cool stuff that might be impressive at the next gathering of the tribe, sure let him use the island. Or the piece of the bay he wants. Furs were plentiful and that yellow and gray metal that is too soft for weapons, but makes nice trinkets, would be a fair trade for an iron pot and a metal axe. It is all a matter of perspective.
The preacher harped on getting out of debt. His prayer was to make people ask Jesus to help them get out of debt. He implied that when the dollar collapsed you don’t want to be in debt. But think about it if the dollar collapse you debt won’t be worth any more than the dollar it is valued in. He is probably envisioning something like the German hyper inflation of the 1920’s when a wheelbarrow of currency was required to pay for a loaf of bread. But Germany had suffered a military defeat and was forced to pay an indemnity which amounted to a third of the gross national product. The British insisted in payment in gold. The French and Belgians occupied the Ruhr Region to extract payment in coal and steel. The German Government had nothing to back their currency so it deflated against the dollar when the paid out all the gold they had in reparations. At one point in 1923 it reached a value of 1 billion Marks to the Dollar. People were paid twice a day and given breaks to go buy what they needed before the next inflation made what they earned valueless. Some things, Gold, land, and foreign currencies retained value so wealthy people were able to invest in more stable items. The poor had nothing to start with so they simply stayed poor. The middle class were hurt the most. As one analysis put it debtors came out ahead. Creditors lost. Speculators made bundles and the average person had a headache just figuring out what things cost relative to what they used to cost to try and guess if they were a bargain in inflated terms or not. Hungary and Zimbabwe have undergone even greater inflation. So if you are in a fixed loan debt you pray for inflation to devalue your loan. Maybe the preacher is working for some loan company.
But back to my preacher, he may be trying to scare Americans into good old fashioned responsibility according to the principals of his youth. What those maybe are hard to say. We can assume he was born after World War 2 and his parents grew up in the depression. That means they were from an era when money was scarce and work was important. But he also discounts the efforts of President Roosevelt to help people get though the depression. The preacher took a neo-conservative view that Roosevelt’s entitlements were the problem. In fact he didn’t even mention the depression. He was only concerned with inflation.
This preacher even went so far as to lie about what happened and said Roosevelt packed the Supreme Court with liberals who gave him the go ahead for his social policies. That is simply not true. The Supreme Court under Roosevelt was split between conservatives and liberals. Roosevelt had several of his programs declared unconstitutional such as the NIRA and the AAA. After his sweeping victory in the elections of 1936, his second term Roosevelt came up with a plan to pack the Court with allies by expanding the number of justices to 15. At the time there were 4 conservatives and a swing voting justice. The Supreme Court has been set at 9 members since 1869. But popular opinion seemed to believe the number 9 was sacrosanct and the Democrats were divided on the issue. So it did not pass. Roosevelt has less opposition from the later court because the swing voting justice who had been voting conservative changed to supporting the liberal justices after 1937. This is an interesting coincidence that he decided to vote with the liberals but not a result of court packing. Certainly the Preacher was wrong when he said the Supreme court was packed by F.D.R. If only he had really done it we might have a social democracy instead of this capitalist bastard state.
The preacher should stick to preaching the gospel and not try to interpret history and twist complex economic and social realities into his simple Biblical bedtime story. People may yearn for simple answers but in this world, that kind of thinking is a ticket to fascism or worse some kind of religious state similar to what ended up happening in Iran.
God bless the peacemakers and the people who keep god in their lives. But don’t let politically ambitious preachers with an agenda try to dictate to you what god wants. Do you really think Jesus cares what you loan balance is? He said give all your money to the poor and follow me. Does that sound like a good plan for your portfolio? We are in a complex world and have to deal with it as honestly and intelligently as we can and if we have the social good in mind then perhaps we will plan a world that is supportive and cooperative rather than one that is full of strife and stress caused by the extraction of wealth by the few from the many. This preachers ranting only help the few continue to control the many by setting people up for failure with is no debt philosophy. If he had said lets limit debt to things that make sense. Then I would say right on. But this no debt is a nonstarter.
As for his claim that China owns the USA because of all the debt they bought in US Treasury Bills, well China has been diversifying. Las t heard the Japanese were our biggest debt holder. Should we be looking at another version of the 1980’s Japanese peril? Besides the debt holder has a vested interest in making sure that the debtor does not default. At this point the USA is really to big to fail. The monetizing of the debt with the Department of Treasury buying some of its own debt is a worry but it is not critical as long as the economy continues to improve and the rest of the world is still not as safe an investment as the USA.
These are just scare tactics. Like worrying about Iranian nukes, which even if they had one, what would they do with it threaten to blow themselves up if the world didn’t do what they want? Only credible if they take out the Straits of Hormuz and I don’t think the Iranians are stupid or suicidal. As for constant support of Israel, we certainly want to support Israel’s right to exist. But to give them the blank check we have been giving them has only served to piss off our other allies and encourage Israel to exhibit bad behavior for a western style democracy. Not that the USA is any sweetheart in our international dealings. But there are standards, laws and treaties.
Reread your Bible Preacher and stop trying to place modern times in a Biblical context. We are in a different age or at least get your facts straight.

And now for a completely different subject.

Today I am cleaning my apartment. This is my problem, Cockroaches. I have boric acid all over the place and they walk around it. The roaches seem to know when its safe to come out and when its not. The only time I get to really find them is when I come into the kitchen in the middle of the night. Then there is a roach massacre. I have found a couple of their nests and wiped them out. The rest I hope is just a battle of attrition. I am going to try the beer or wine in a bucket suggestion someone had. You take a bucket line it with oil and then pour some beer or wine in the bottom. I think liquid marijuana would work also. The idea is they get drunk or stoned and then pass out and drown in the bucket. Just a bit of homely advice for you householders out there.

Dealing With Disability

Friday, June 25th, 2010

I don’t feel disabled. But having to be hooked up to a machine 3 days a week for 3 hours each time and having to take 7 or 8 pills twice a day does remind me that although I don’t feel sick. I am functioning on a very short tether.
The next step is dealing with the government. They seem to be telling me one thing and then doing another. One IRS agent gives me a pass for while I am on disability and the other is telling me no I have only got a pass for June. This sucks. I have to sit on hold for 15 minutes wasting my precious minutes on the cell phone while these guys dick me around. It is almost as bad as dealing with the auto loan people. I had better luck with the cable and insurance people.
But be that as it may, I am entering a new phase. I am no longer simply happy to be alive and feeling better after a month of feeling like shit. I am now wondering what my new life has in store for me. My lack of contact with a wide range of people, my bookworm tendencies and my insistence on being right or at least correct has made me a bit of a cranky dude. As I get older and less interested in the petty crap that constitutes pop culture in our world, ie fashion, music, celebrities, movies, gadgets, videos, computers and tv; I find myself drawn to something else. Could it be high culture? I find myself listening to jazz and classical music, even opera is more interesting to me. I find religion in its more traditional forms has more to say to me than it did before. I am following the regime recommended by the doctors and I will stick to it until I find I am betrayed by them.
This new life, being totally part of the system. Not just sort of part of it but totally integrated into it is making me wonder about a lot of my conceits. I had felt before that I was somehow able to stand aloof from it. Only dabble with it when I needed to. But the years of working gradually wore away at that sense of specialness until now I feel like I am just material for them to work with. On the other hand I still have my personality. But how much of this that I consider to be my self is really self?
Are we spirit infused flesh or are we mere flesh. A conglomerate of millions of cells all working together for the greater good of the whole. Conversely each one working for its own self interest and thus because of the great invisible hand of god, cooperating despite themselves would be another model. Communist body or capitalist body which is it? A communist body certainly would be easier to work with. A capitalist one depends on a deus ex machina to make it come together. But under the communist body regime do the parts have individual consciousness or are they simply machines these livers and kidneys and blood cells? The capitalist body implies free will or desire to be free, but they are secretly being manipulated by the deity to harmonize unconsciously. This makes it seem as if free will is merely a conceit. It could be that each level of conscious being has just enough awareness or free will to have autonomy in decision making on the level that it is able to deal with. In other words in the realm of its awareness it is able to make choices. Outside of its awareness it is incapable. The range of awareness is limited to the depth of field in which the organism can function competently. It could fail and function incompetently. But that is the chance when there is choice.
Being disabled, my range of choices have been considerably narrowed. In some regards this is good. It allows me to focus on a few things I do well and keeps me out of the big bad dangerous world of opportunity. So I write and paint, go for walks. Shop, visit the doctors, visit my dialysis machine, cook, eat, watch a little tv, read, clean, make minor repairs on my car, call creditors and ask for relief, talk to friends, do something with my girlfriend and sleep. I could go to protests and such but I a disconnected with that world just as I am disconnected to the workaday world. Perhaps if this stretches into the summer I will expand my range of interests but presently the circle is pretty tightly drawn.
Is this capitalist or communist life? I would say it is a incipient socialism inside of the capitalist structure. The state has gradually built this small enclave of socialism for the elderly and disabled so that life is not totally miserable. Whether there is a soul or a spirit or not it another question. I would say there is a sense of self that is outside of the merely physical. But what that is and what happens to it when the body dies is pure conjecture at this point. I would like to say it lives on and finds a new body or moves on to another plane in the heavens. But who can say for sure. Some guru may know. I can’t say for sure.

McCrystal Blunders, And A Little Surge History

Wednesday, June 23rd, 2010

General Stanley McCrystal may have overstepped the line between himself and his commander and chief. Short of a military coup, not likely at least not this year, McCrystal seems to be on his way out of command in Afghanistan. This all because of an article in Rolling Stone Magazine that is not exactly supportive of the war effort.
This in from the AP as reported by Yahoo News

“WASHINGTON – A senior administration official tells The Associated Press that President Barack Obama has accepted Gen. Stanley McChrystal’s resignation as the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan and is replacing him with Gen. David Petraeus, head of U.S. Central Command.”
So the the miracle man is out. The General who could walk on water just fell in.

This is an excerpt from the article by Michael Hastings in the July Issue of Rolling Stone.

“this tight-knit group represents the most powerful force shaping U.S. policy in Afghanistan. While McChrystal and his men are in indisputable command of all military aspects of the war, there is no equivalent position on the diplomatic or political side. Instead, an assortment of administration players compete over the Afghan portfolio: U.S. Ambassador Karl Eikenberry, Special Representative to Afghanistan Richard Holbrooke, National Security Advisor Jim Jones and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, not to mention 40 or so other coalition ambassadors and a host of talking heads who try to insert themselves into the mess, from John Kerry to John McCain. This diplomatic incoherence has effectively allowed McChrystal’s team to call the shots and hampered efforts to build a stable and credible government in Afghanistan. “It jeopardizes the mission,” says Stephen Biddle, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations who supports McChrystal. “The military cannot by itself create governance reform.”
Part of the problem is structural: The Defense Department budget exceeds $600 billion a year, while the State Department receives only $50 billion. But part of the problem is personal: In private, Team McChrystal likes to talk shit about many of Obama’s top people on the diplomatic side. One aide calls Jim Jones, a retired four-star general and veteran of the Cold War, a “clown” who remains “stuck in 1985.” Politicians like McCain and Kerry, says another aide, “turn up, have a meeting with Karzai, criticize him at the airport press conference, then get back for the Sunday talk shows. Frankly, it’s not very helpful.” Only Hillary Clinton receives good reviews from McChrystal’s inner circle. “Hillary had Stan’s back during the strategic review,” says an adviser. “She said, ‘If Stan wants it, give him what he needs.’ ”
McChrystal reserves special skepticism for Holbrooke, the official in charge of reintegrating the Taliban. “The Boss says he’s like a wounded animal,” says a member of the general’s team. “Holbrooke keeps hearing rumors that he’s going to get fired, so that makes him dangerous. He’s a brilliant guy, but he just comes in, pulls on a lever, whatever he can grasp onto. But this is COIN, and you can’t just have someone yanking on shit.”"

COIN is the acronym for the Counter Insurgency program that has become popular in the US military establishment since it was tried out in Iraq during the surge. There is some debate over the efficacy of this program and how the Surge in Iraq is interpreted has had a lot to do with why we are now having a surge in Afghanistan.

This is an excerpt from an interview with Thomas Ricks & Stephen Biddle the author’s of “The Gamble” and members of the Council On Foreign Relations. The interviews were conducted by the Washington Post Monday Feb. 9, 2009.

“Peaks Island, Maine: Considering quantitatively the reduction in violence, how much owed to paying off Sunni insurgents, how much to Sunnis turning against al Qaeda, how much to al-Sadr’s declaring a truce, how much to ethnic separation including walls and displacement, and how much to the extra 30,000 troops killing or capturing remaining insurgents and al Qaedas?

Who among the thinkers about such things does the quantitative analysis that will provide some sort of answer to the question: What did the 30,000 troops constituting the surge accomplish that probably would not have been accomplished with pre-surge troop levels?

Stephen Biddle: Sorting out the relative importance of the troop increase, the strategy change, and Iraqi events over which we had limited control is a key question for the future. I think the best account from what we know now is that the surge was necessary but insufficient for the violence reduction. Also necessary - but also insufficient - was al Qaeda’s brutality toward Sunni co-religionists, and especially, the Sunnis’ defeat in 2006’s sectarian warfare in Baghdad following the Samarra mosque bombing in 2/06. Before the mosque bombing, Sunnis believed they were the stronger side, and that only American support for a weak Shiite puppet regime stood between them and a return to power. Hence their strategy turned on driving the Americans out through a combination of casualties and general chaos. When al Qaeda in Iraq bombed the Samarra mosque, however, a collection of Shiite militias that had mostly been standing on the sidelines, defending their own population bases - and especially the Mahdi Army - entered the war en masse and on the offensive. The result was a year long sectarian slugfest in the capital in which the Sunnis got a technicolor view of exactly what a true one-on-one battle with the Shiite rivals would look like (we didn’t have the troop strength at the time to prevent this battle, so the Sunnis and Shiites got to fight it out with relatively modest interference from US or Iraqi government forces). To their shock, they lost - badly. Sunnis were pushed almost all the way out of the city in spite of their (and AQI’s) best efforts to the contrary. As a result, it became clear to them that if the Americans left and they really were pitted against the Shia alone, the result would be defeat and possible mass violence against them, not victory as they had previously assumed. This gave them a powerful incentive to seek a negotiated deal while they still could - and the result was the Sunni Awakening movement and its progeny. But this wasn’t enough. Sunnis had tried turning on AQI before, and AQI’s signature brutality had always driving them back into the fold via violent counterattack. Enter the surge. What the surge did was to protect Sunnis who wished to realign against AQI to survive the attempt. The surge wasn’t big enough to suffocate the insurgency by putting an American on every street corner - there weren’t enough Americans. But what it did was to put Americans into a position to team up with realigning Sunnis to combine their knowledge of who and where the AQI cells were with our firepower. That combination rapidly rolled up the AQI infrastructure in western and central Iraq, and in the process resulted in the series of negotiated deals in which the Sunni insurgency stood down. And this in turn changed the Shiite militia’s incentives - and especially Sadr’s - in ways that drove them, too, into ceasefire. The net result is a situation that would never have happened without the Sunni defeat in Baghdad in 2006 (and their consequent desire to realign) *or* the US surge (without which that realignment would have died aborning). And this has important implications for US policy elsewhere: more troops can be important - even necessary - for success. But they cannot necessarily guarantee it without favorable underlying conditions. The time has to be ripe. It was in Iraq in 2007; it may or may not be elsewhere.”

Then at the end of the interview we get a taste of things to come. This was done in early 2009 and Obama had just been elected. The policy for Afghanistan had not been set yet but because of this belief in the efficacy of the Surge, we see the military establishment becoming enamored with the same approach in Afghanistan.

“Auckland, New Zealand: Why doesn’t the U.S. try and negotiate with the Taliban? There seems to be different entities within the Taliban, so why doesn’t the U.S. take the lessons it learned from the Anbar Awakening in Iraq and apply it to Afghanistan??

Stephen Biddle: The applicability of the Iraq experience to Afghanistan is one of the key reasons why the surge debate remains so important. There’s a general consensus in the US right now that negotiations of some kind with at least some factions among the Taliban are the right way to go. So I think something like this is very likely to be pursued. Another part of the emerging consensus, though, is that the military trends on the ground have to be propitious for such negotiations to go anywhere. A key lesson I draw from Iraq on this score is exactly this sensitivity of political success to military circumstances: negotiations with Sunnis in 2007 and Shiite ceasefires would have gone nowhere without two key prior military developments: Sunni defeat in Baghdad at (mostly) Shiite hands in 2006, and US reinforcements and strategic change in 2007. The implication of this for Afghanistan is that *successful* negotiations with any major Taliban faction(s) will probably require substantial military changes on the ground first. It’s fine to start talking now, but for that talk to go anywhere will require military preconditions that aren’t there yet.”

Last year we saw McCrystal a counterinsurgency go getter given command in Afghanistan. The first thing he asks for is a surge. He does it publicly through leaking the troop strength he needs, some 40,000 more to the press. This pissed of Obama but in the end he gave into pressure from the Surge/COIN believers who out flanked Vice President Joe Biden who wanted a much lower intensity involvement in Afghanistan and a concentration on going after Al Qaeda. The withdrawal option did not even gain any voice in the White House.
Now we see the military becoming so cocky and free with the press, for once not a fawning member of the establishment who would edit out any indiscretions, but a real reporter out to make a little history. And look what happened. McCrystal is gone. But the surge remains. Petraeus, one of the implementers of the original Surge in Iraq is back on the ground now in charge of Afghanistan. Will it make a difference. I doubt it. The President has been sold a bill of goods. The Surge in Iraq worked because the Sunnis got their asses whipped by the Shiites according to the scenario presented by Biddle and they were ready to make a deal. The Americans came along with Saudi money and a little extra man power and the Sunnis turned on the Al Qaeda operatives and gave them up to the Americans.
There are no Sunnis in Afghanistan to turn on the Taliban. The best the Americans have is the remnants of the old Northern Alliance to form a counter to the Pashtuns in the south who form the majority of the Taliban. As long as the Taliban can find refuge in Pakistan when the pressure from the US presence is to great, there will be no victory only an ebb and flow. Do we really want to stay there and go with that flow? I think our economic situation would remind us that we cannot afford these eternal wars unless we are willing to sacrifice the well being of our domestic population. A price I consider to be too high. Not to mention the dubious value of having our troops wandering the high desserts of Afghanistan seeking an elusive enemy that we will never beat but might be able to come to terms with.
After all what vital security concern do we have in Afghanistan? What we seem to have is a stubborn insistence to stay the course no matter what because as a friend of mine once said “Nobody fucks with the USA”.
What a way to run a world.

Oil Spill Blues And A Corrupt Judge

Tuesday, June 22nd, 2010

The US government can’t seem to get its head around the fact that we have millions of gallons of oil spilling into the Gulf of Mexico and it has been for some 2 months now with no end in sight. British Petroleum or BP the company that is responsible for the spill doesn’t seem to know how to stop and its preventative measure to avoid contamination of the fishing grounds and the shorelines of Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida have been woefully inadequate. Where are the skimmers? Where are the burn boats? Where are the suckers that will take the oil and water and later separate them. They are there but in inadequate numbers.
Fishermen have lost their jobs as the waters become to toxic to fish in. Some of them have become employed temporarily by BP in some limited attempts at preventing the oil from reaching the vital marshes where many species find their sustenance. In an interview on NPR a net maker said the most important thing he has lost is his freedom. Now working for BP he has to submit to the indignity of drug testing and set hours.
But then there are the service industry people affected and the tourism lost and the business that thrive on tourism and on and on it goes in a multi-billion dollar series of repercussions that will impoverish the Mississippi delta region for decades it the Exxon-Valdez oil spill is any example. Twenty years later fishing is still not possible in that region of Alaska.
We need to revamp our energy policies. The USA is dependent on oil, coal and natural gas. Apparently we have about a 200 year reserve of coal and oil will last maybe another 40 years and we have perhaps that much or more in natural gas. We have about 21 million barrels of oil but about 237 trillion cubic feet of natural gas in our domestic reserves according to the EIA (Energy Information Administration). One Barrel of oil is equivalent to 6000 cubic feet of Natural Gas. According to the EIA Americans consume 19,498 barrels of Petroleum a day and we export 1.8 million barrels a day. The exports are mostly from Alaska going to Japan. These numbers are as of 2009 a time when the economy was down and consumption had leveled off.
We consume over 7 million barrels of petroleum a year in the USA and 71% of that is for transportation. The rest is for heating, petrochemicals and jet fuel. It takes 2.15 gallons of oil to get one of petroleum. Based on those numbers we have 3 year supply of oil. That is if consumption stays at current levels. So what gives?
Interestingly another source said we had a 231 billion barrel reserve that would give us a 1300 year plus supply. Would that it were true that we had such an unlimited reserve.
So we import oil and tinker with alternatives. And we find more oil now and then and we learn to turn shale and coal oil into crude but how much longer can this go on?
Latest word from CNN a federal judge in New Orleans has placed an injunction on the 6 month deep water drilling. How much you want to bet this is a Republican appointee and the oil company lawyers were working overtime coming up with the brief for him. I’ll bet there were some nice perks layered in there. Maybe a trip to some exotic locale, some shares of stock and maybe a visit on the house to some of New Orleans finest bawdy houses are included. The mind reels at the possibilities. The victory of money over the environment, not to mention justice, every time.
This from the Boston Globe, the judge is Martin L.C.Feldman a 1983 Reagan appointee. He was responding to a lawsuit filed by Hornbeck Offshore Services a support company for the oil industry according to the Tri-Parish Times. Governor of Louisiana Bobby Jindal’s office issued a statement questioning the Administration’s moratorium because it was done without consulting the state of Louisiana.
The local Louisiana power structure seems to be concerned about profits and jobs.
This from the Tri-Parish Times.
“This is going to just devastate us, people that were just holding on are going to be sunk. Four to eight jobs will be affected by every job that’s lost, and that will ripple through the entire economy in Louisiana,” said Mike Spears, currently running for U.S. Senate, at an anti-moratorium rally in Houma over the weekend.
This from the NY Times
“Citing potential economic harm to businesses and workers, Judge Feldman wrote that the Obama administration had failed to justify the need for such “a blanket, generic, indeed punitive, moratorium” on deep-water oil and gas drilling.”
This from the Associated Press as posted on Yahoo.
“NEW ORLEANS – The Louisiana judge who struck down the Obama administration’s six-month ban on deepwater oil drilling in the Gulf of Mexico has reported extensive investments in the oil and gas industry, according to financial disclosure reports. He’s also a new member of a secret national security court.
Feldman’s 2008 financial disclosure report — the most recent available — also showed investments in Ocean Energy, a Houston-based company, as well as Quicksilver Resources, Prospect Energy, Peabody Energy, Halliburton, Pengrowth Energy Trust, Atlas Energy Resources, Parker Drilling and others. Halliburton was also involved in the doomed Deepwater Horizon project.”
He also owns less than $15,000 of Trans Ocean Ltd. stock. Conflict of interest here?
Interestingly enough at the very end of the NY Times article is this.
“Representative Edward J. Markey, a Massachusetts Democrat, pointed out that the moratorium did not apply to the vast majority of rigs because they are already in production. He criticized resuming deep-water exploratory drilling before new safety measures are established.
“This is another bad decision in a disaster riddled with bad decisions by the oil industry,” Mr. Markey said. “The only thing worse than one oil spill disaster in the Gulf of Mexico would be two oil spill disasters. This judge’s decision flies in the face of mounting evidence that there are serious safety risks that must be examined with these 33 deep-water rigs before they start drilling again.”
That is it. We are talking about 33 rigs. Not tens of thousands of jobs. Maybe a thousand jobs are involved. The Republicans are blowing smoke trying to embarrass the president and make is administration look incompetent or mean spirited. We need tougher regulation on the oil drilling industry. It eventually needs to be phased out and replaced with renewable energy sources.

Lowered Expectations

Sunday, June 20th, 2010

I am looking at my bank book balance and notice it is going down precipitously. Meanwhile I have managed to lower some of my expenses since I became disabled but not all. Two of the biggest nuts are my auto loan taken out when on too many pain killers because I let the guy know I really liked that Camry. I should have acted as if I could take it or leave it. In fact I should have left but I needed a car. Mine had been totaled when someone ran a red light and took a left turn right in my path. My front end went into his passengers side. The result. He was totaled and so was I. Lucky no one was hurt.
Back to my auto loan so it is too high and they won’t budge. Damn that Wells Fargo. I got a good idea from my dad. He said write to Jerry Brown. He is attorney general. He also said contact the state insurance commissioner. Who is that? I guess I will find out. The reason is because they have a hardship loan modification application but they refused to give it to me. They said everyone was denied. Well in my mind that is illegal. Time we got a little payback from these usurers.
I also have to deal with housing. My roommate moved out when I was in the hospital. Now I need a new one but there are probably a thousand rooms available on Craigs List. I doubt if I will find a roommate there. Maybe I have to put up fliers or maybe move to a cheaper place. I have 10 days to get this one taken care of. The rent is the biggest expense. It needs to be cut in half or more. That’s where a roommate will be a big help. Last time I got the roommate in a couple of days. The economy must be really bad. I have never seen so many ads for roommates.
This may seem weird to you, the fact that I am writing about such personal stuff. But in my mind the personal is political and what happens on a personal level should direct the way I interact on the political level. Too often I have been at protests over Iraq or Gaza or some other issue dealing with the consequences of USA policy. But now we have a crisis here at home. People are losing their homes and jobs. I am facing a serious downsizing due to my kidney failure unless my doctor lets me go back to work at a job I don’t especially love.
My girlfriend would much rather that I go back to work. She sees me all happy and capable but that is only because I am not suffering from the daily grind of a job that is boring me to death and I am undergoing dialysis which relieves the stress on my body that had virtually incapacitated me in the weeks before I went to the hospital. Good thing I paid extra for the extended stay insurance. I was able to spend 5 days in the hospital instead of the normal 3. I need the doctor’s permission to go back to work. As it is I have dialysis on Tuesday and Thursday, doctors appointments on Thursday morning and on Friday. Monday I have to go to the bank to sort out some problem and that only leaves Wednesday free for work. I would rather be working on my writing and my painting than sitting in a dingy office. He said no last time and I do get tiered easily. I had better spend my time recuperating.
I was thinking that this may seem a little brain dead. Not my usual cosmic sweep. And today driving home from my dad’s house I thought about how I am skating on the surface, with my girlfriend and with my life. I am still a kid to my father and I am a man in my fifties. I am a failure in the world. I am disabled with debt and no significant savings. My only comfort is that I have a mind that works and a body that does after a fashion and I have seen more of the world than many but not as much as some.
Now I must give meaning to the rest of my life by creating. If I am a sick man than let this sickness produce art.

The world shrinks.
It is only the time for cooking and pills.
Hooked up to the infernal blood machine
I spend hours reading and dreaming
This is the rest of my life.
A machine to do the bodies work
How I have become part of the technocracy
As the Zen master said
All is change.

By Gary 6/20/10

Some Things Must Fall Apart

Friday, June 18th, 2010

The oil spill in the Gulf has basically destroyed the Louisiana fishing industry, the Mississippi and Alabama tourism on the Gulf and the same for West Florida. I am having a hard time dealing with that mostly because I have been wrapped up with my own personal oil spill or should I say engine malfunction as my kidneys inconveniently failed. Is there a universal condition of things falling apart?
I look to history for a sense of what is happening. The ending of the manned space program is one sign. The collapsed economy may be another but that may simply be a cyclical event in capitalism. It is an unstable economic system to begin with. Another sign is the unending low intensity warfare in the periphery. The people the United States military is fighting would be equated with the barbarians by ancient Roman standards. Interestingly enough we have also inherited the Roman rivalry with Persia in modern Iran.
The American occupation of Iraq is the equivalent of the Roman occupation under Trajan. The Romans eventually withdrew. When we do the Iranians will assert their hegemony as ancient Persia did historically. All we have done is remove the constraints to Iranian control of the region by destroying a strong Iraqi leader and replacing it with an Iranian puppet regime. On top of that we have given the Kurds a stronghold from which they can provide an irritant to the neighboring Turks. Remember that Turkey as the Ottoman Empire ruled the land now called Iraq for centuries until the British invaded and succeeded in taking Mesopotamia from the Turks in World War One.
What does this have to do with things falling apart? Actions have consequences. We gave weapons to the Mujahideen in their Jihad against the Soviets in Afghanistan. The now well trained and armed radicals once the Soviets left Afghanistan were not about to go back to being farmers or tradesmen. They had smelled blood and had succeeded in their minds in destroying one of the two great evil empires in the world. Now they turned their eyes upon the other one, the west and the USA in particular. Armed with the militant interpretation of the Koran from Egyptian radical fundamentalists, young Muslims with a hankering for jihad now had someplace to go. The Bosnian conflict gave many of them further training and opportunities in the 1990s, as did Somalia, and Kosovo in the late 90’s against the west. There was the conflict in Chechnya to participate in to strike another blow to the wounded Russian Bear.
We may not be seeing the triumphant resurgence of Islam in the world but we are seeing a major realignment of the powers and that entails a certain degree of falling apart as we have seen in the former Soviet Union and are to a lesser degree seeing in the United States. The European Union is also suffering a certain degree of collapse and may not even last out the next decade in its current form. If Greece is forced to leave the Union then any state that reaches a certain point of financial instability may be forced to leave. The interesting thing here is that the financial establishment set the Greeks up for failure when the next down cycle in the capitalist system occurred. The question here is did they do this deliberately or were they so filled with hubris that they didn’t see the iceberg up ahead?
If history moves in cycles as Arnold Toynbee predicts then the rise and fall of nations is to be expected. Looking at history that is the case. Only China seems to have maintained a consistent position in the world over the last 2300 years or so as a unified state and even they have had their ups and downs including a period of Mongol domination and a near total Japanese domination more recently. It was only with outside help from the USA that China was able to maintain a portion of itself against the Japanese.
So if we look at the trends we see the USA, Europe, Japan and Russia trembling before the abyss and we see Brazil, India, perhaps South Africa and especially China on the upswing. Room has to be made for them and that means a certain fragmentation at the top. If we thing in terms of plate tectonics, when certain areas are expanding or advancing they put pressure on the areas that are not and that means either contraction or fragmentation and being either pushed up like the Himalayas or being pushed down like the lost continents of Atlantis and Lemuria or whatever you want to call the lands that have disappeared.
For approximately 500 years there has been a domination of the world economy by the west with Japan emulating the west and participating. Over the last century there have been challenges to dominance of the west and the lead maritime power has slipped from the Portuguese to the Spanish, to the Dutch, to the British and finally to the Americans. But now the Chinese want to reassert their centrality and they will use their economic clout to spread their particular vision of how the world should be configured. Islam is embroiled in a battle for the hearts and minds of millions. If the petty dictators are overthrown and the Caliphate restored then there will be a powerful Islamic state to contend with. In the meantime there is only smoke but no fire, or only little brush fires in Iraq, Afghanistan, Yemen, Somalia, Pakistan and the Philippines.
India and Brazil and to a lesser extent South Africa are rising powers. India is a traditional eastern power with a long history, in some regards predating China as an influential state. As a nation that was colonized by the British, India has some issues to deal with regards to the legacy of colonialism with regards to its bureaucracy in particular. Brazil is a new state but I suspect that the archeological work being done in the Amazon will reveal that the land that is now Brazil has a much longer history of human civilization than we currently believe. South Africa is a state with a mixed past. Dutch and then British settlers battled with indigenous Bantu and Zulu peoples among others, in the 19th century and in the 20th century the majority blacks suffered under the apartheid rule of the whites. Now a unified state with majority rule democracy it is resolving internal issues as it gropes its way to its place in the international community.
All these changes are not good or bad, they are merely the changes that come as people become more and more integrated into the modern world system. The old world system worked with fewer people and a less exploitative relationship with the planet. Ships were powered by the wind, the sun and human strength not with oil. The new world system that has emerged over the last three centuries is much more exploitative of the environment and utilizes electricity, something the ancients only saw as a plaything for toys. We have harnessed great powers with our dams and oil extraction and electrical power lines, but we pay a price and as more and more people are enticed to leave the old world system to join this new one the extraction grows until it cannot be sustained. It will have to lead to a return to the old system of using the wind and the sun. But with the population we have there is a question of what level of technology the old system can sustain and what population it can support.
There is the other option of going nuclear. That is the devils choice. That is using a technology that will produce waste that cannot be disposed of safely and is toxic for thousands of years. In any case the USA is going to have to contract to allow these other nations room to expand. If we do it correctly we will remain, just as the British have as an intact national entity if we try to resist the forces of history then we will end up fragmenting and collapse is more likely like the Western Roman Empire. Some things just have to fall apart for the new version of the world to emerge.

Feeling Good Like A Machine Should

Thursday, June 17th, 2010

The body is functioning better. It gets up in the morning and is ready for a full day of activity. Granted the activity mostly revolves around feeding the body, taking pills, going for a walk and running errands. Three days a week I go in for dialysis where I sit for 3 hours reading while hooked up to a machine that cleans my blood.
I have been contacting my debtors to tell them I am on disability and unable to pay at the same level as before. The IRS and GEICO were helpful. Charter Cable and T-Mobil gave me their lowest rates. But when I contacted Wells Fargo Dealer Services my auto loan people, they basically stonewalled me. They were real assholes. They would not budge and even refused to let me apply for the hardship loan modification that they offer. I was both pissed off and dismayed at the way they treated me.
I was so pissed off that I wrote to my congress person. I don’t know if she will do anything. But I think it is outrageous that these auto loan people can get away with charging a hefty interest on an auto loan and then essentially laugh in my face when I am disabled and unable to work. They have the ability to modify the payments but they won’t and that means defaulting on the loan and having the car repossessed. They get my $20,000 of payments and get the car back on top of it. Pretty good scam. There ought to be a law against it. I am thinking that is exactly what I want to do, work on getting a law passed to protect the rights of disabled from scams like this. I won’t default. I will trade in and go for a deal with lower payments. Or I will scrape together the money and make my payments. But is pisses me off that they can be so cold blooded about this.
The other night my girlfriend and I went to see Mic Macs. Great movie about a guy whose dad is killed defusing a mine and he gets a bullet in the brain that the surgeon won’t take out. He ends up with a group of anarchist scrap metal refurbishers who live in what looks like a dump. They decide to take on the corporations that were responsible for making the mine that killed the heroes dad and the bullet that entered his brain. This is a tale that is very Chaplinesque in that there is minimal dialogue and much pantomime and physical comedy. There are lots of sequences where these characters take on and out wit the thugs working for the arms manufacturers. In the end they capture the two corporate heads of these companies and well I suggest you see the movie. Its a lot of fun.
The machine is working, thanks be to Allah and Krishna and Yaweh the destroyer of innocent sheep.

Medicated And Disabled

Sunday, June 13th, 2010

I want to start out by saying I might have given you a poor impression of my girlfriend’s driving. She is a very good driver, better than me. I am a poor passenger though and tend to back seat drive. I need to learn to relax and let other people do their thing.

Nobody seemed to appreciate the humor in my post yesterday. Too bad. It was not meant to shock, but to amuse. Perhaps I have a sick sense of humor. I am simply trying to report my daily life with as much humor as I can without being too allegorical. Most people are taught to dissemble and not face the facts. I personally like to deal with the real thing. I am not afraid of calling a spade a spade. I have placed myself in situations where I had to deal with some of the harshest facts of life, over and over. The one I have not had to deal with directly yet is death. I have danced around it but never faced it directly and of course when we face death we are entering that other world where no report back to the living is allowed.

I am listening to a great program about Wagner and the Ring Cycle as I write. I know, NPR is public radio and as we all know public radio is a project of rich upper class snobs to educate the unwashed masses in the finer things of life. Well sort of. The do have their pop music programs and anyone can listen to them. I like their commercials, always for investment plans for rich people. It kind of tips you off on who their audience is. After all if they were geared to the average slob there would be ads for check cashing places and used car dealers.

What did I want to say about my life today? Not much, I am taking it easy, not pushing too hard at anything, just concentrating on getting my health back. Reading a lot of history, and my Cicero. Been getting spiritual which is sort of strange when you think about it. After all I am in the hands of the doctors and they are dealing with the body in terms that are pretty damn physical. Its all about chemical levels and taking drugs or food to bring thing back into what they consider to be balance. Balance seems to be a pretty physical state of mind. I mean I don’t have as much of a spiritual sense in terms of feeling disconnected from my body like I did before the dialysis. Now I am firmly in my body. I have blood. That make me wonder. This whole blood thing. I was obsessed with blood before the dialysis. I write about blood sacrifices several times and perhaps my subconscious was telling me that there was something wrong with my blood. I was sacrificing it to unknown gods. Perhaps they were demons that were sucking my blood and that is what caused my kidneys to fail. That would be a pagan or even a Christian fundamentalist view of what happened. Certainly before the current era that would be where the witch doctor or sorcerer would seek an answer to my problem. I even went so far as to buy crystals as I was sure they had the answer.
Blood is interesting it is life. You could say it is the physical manifestation of life most directly. Without it we cannot live. When the kidneys fail is affects the whole system and we stop producing enough blood. I was three units low when I went to the hospital and they gave me transfusions. Oh by the way my blood type is A+ and if you feel like donating a kidney please feel free to contact me. I will need one in about a year. I could go to India and buy one off of a poor villager, but that would really be taking advantage of my privilege as a westerner. On the other hand if I am keeping someone from starving by spending a couple of grand on their kidney, considering that is about 2 years wages for a simple villager there, I would be helping the guy set himself up in business. It is an option.

What am I saying? I need a kidney. But I trust that god or the cosmos or whatever will provide me a human donor.

Life is worth living even in the most dire of circumstances. I took a bus ride yesterday to get my dialysis and two people got on with wheel chairs and 3 other disabled people got on. Two of then were developmentally disabled and one who I spoke with was complaining that he missed his wheel chair. Then I got to listen to one of the other disabled guy complain about people who use wheelchairs that don’t need them. They just want to ride the bus cheap. It seems that there is an underground culture of people who are pretending to be disabled just to get the benefits. As a real disabled person I can say that I resent that. I have nothing against people getting the benefits they deserve and worked for. But to take advantage of the system just puts a heavier burden on all of those who work and pay into it.
Here is my point. We work for years, some only 20 like in the military, others for 30 or even 40 years. I worked for my mom as a kid and then started working at jobs at 18 years old. I am 55 and am now on disability. I don’t know if I will be able to work again. There was a period when I wanted out of the sysem and I worked, paid taxes but didn’t file and even sometimes used fake social security numbers to avoid dealing with the IRS. That was stupid. If I was independently wealthy and was trying to protect my wealth then I would have a reason to avoid the IRS. But as a working tax paying citizen all I was doing was robbing my own Social Security account. I thought I was out foxing the system. I was only fooling myself. I ended up going to a tax lawyer and ‘fessing up and making a deal with the government. I had to pay a lot of penalties and fines for not filing. Funny thing is I paid in every pay check anyway. I don’t know what I thought I was doing by not filing. It was some sort of primitive protest against the things in the system I didn’t like, Mostly our international military posture I was opposed to. And our coddling the rich and the fact that up until recently we had no national health care. We still don’t but at least we have a national system of sorts. Now I pay my taxes and file like everyone else.
Enough of my dirty laundry. Maybe tomorrow I will have a spiritual message for the world.


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