Saturday, May 28, 2005

Hog Pond

May 25th the Hog Pond opens over at Warm Springs and the crazed one (me) was walking the high bank, staring into the clear,shallow water for the torpedo shapes of huge trout. Spotting one I would scramble down to the edge, strip out some line and attempt to cast a single size 18 nymph into the path of the cruising behemoth. After two hours of searching and casting I finally got one to turn and come for the nymph,which he ate just fifteen feet (about the length of my leader) off the end of my rod. Oh my.

After a long day I managed to hook five of these fish, all but one sight casting. All rainbows between 8 and 12 pounds. Still crazy, after all these years.

Saturday, May 21, 2005

Other Hat

Tommorro I will head over the Chief Joseph pass (named in honor of the Nez Pierce leader caught in an ambush at the bottom of the pass while trying to lead his tribe off the reservation to freedom in Canada) and down the beautiful Big Hole valley. I may drive from the top of the pass for an hour and twenty minutes to Wise River and only pass three cars. It is one of the most forlorn and unchanged places in the West, due primarily to the unhospitable climate. I will see deer, antelope (probably playing), possibly elk and moose, hawks and eagles and have on various occasions spotted bear and mountain lion from the highway. Surrounded by snowcapped peaks I will follow the winding river down from its headwaters on it's way to the Gulf, on a path I have followed perhaps thousands of times now but of which I never grow tired.

This valley will be my home for the next four months and the river that runs through it my office, as they have been for the last eighteen years. I will drag my raft off the trailer and into the coffee stained water of this river I love so much. I will grab my oars and start to pull as hard as this fifty one year old body will still allow and begin focusing on trout and away from blogging and politics and agitating and all the other activities that occupy my wintertime brain. For four months I will become absorbed in the rythms, sights and sounds of the Big Hole (and various other rivers) becoming as much a river creature as the trout themselves. This means being totally cognizant of aquatic insect activity and the corresponding activity of riparian birds, watching weather and water levels for clues to fish behavior, reverting ,in essence, to the ancestoral predator with his instinctual powers of awareness that make me an angler and a guide to anglers in a basic, even existential form. Troutsky is replaced by DJ and I may not pick up a news paper, or see a tv for some time.

In this way I keep the world of events and conflicts and men's struggles from overwhelming and consuming my tired and battered intellect, I have that most precious of all commodities, time to reflect on and absorb all that I have learned so that I can organize and prioritize the knowledge I will find most usefull in continuing the struggle. I will also be re-energized by the natural world and the elements of nature, the gurgling song of the river and the graceful swoop of the eagle.

I will get to this blog occasionally with new thoughts and may recycle some of the old. Maybe someone will come along to read them, maybe not. The writing helps me form a coherant response regardless, so I might contribute something of value. The feedback is welcome but obviously not necessary to the work. The work is what is necessary.

Thursday, May 19, 2005

Do It For Money

Paul Edwards, president of the Montana Environmental Information Center is not one to mince words. Describing state politics, he puts it rather succinctly: "We have had, in Montana, twenty years of the most purposefully destructive environmental policy that the tiny ,venal minds of the political tools of massive,piratical extractive industries could devise."

I spend some time each legislative session in Helena watching the machine grind away and "tiny, venal minds" is certainly an apt description of the many reactionary troglodites sent by the people to represent them in government. For the most part these are just simple minded ideologues who do not gain personally from their bootlicking. But this doesn't describe the lobbyists or "technical witnesses" who do it for money.

Reading Chris Mooney's article "Some Like It Hot" in May-June Mother Jones we learn of "40 Exxon Mobile funded organizations that have either sought to undermine mainstream scientific findings on global climate change or have maintained affiliations with a small group of 'skeptic' scientists who continue to do so. Beyond think tanks (American Enterprise Institute, Competitive Enterprise Institute etc), the count also includes quasi-journalistic outlets, a journalist and even religious and civil rights groups." Like Mr.Edwards, I won't mince words, these are all corporate whores, selling themselves at the expense of the planet. These organizations, journalists and scientists recieved more than 8 million dollars from Exxon between2000 and 2003, in exchange for the time spent on their knees.

Its one thing to be a ditto head or a greedy ,soul dead corporate exec, or a podunk politician with a "tiny ,venal mind". This we expect in a capitalist system. But when the scientists and journalists start spreading their legs for cash even the illusion of democracy gets harder and harder to maintain. When these folks are shown to be on the take ,those last vestiges of trust are mashed into the cynical disenfranchisement now so prevelant.

Of course we all get up in the morning, drink our coffee,read our paper and head off to sell another little piece of our soul to capital production and accumulation. What do you do for money? How does it affect others, or the environment? How about your investments, or consumer choices? We have all learned that coy smile with the outstretched hand.

Sunday, May 15, 2005

Luces' Ghost

Henry Luce asked Americans "to accept wholeheartedly our duty and our opportunity as the most powerful and vital nation in the world and in consequence to exert upon the world the full impact of our influence, for such purposes as we see fit and by such means as we see fit". Heady with power following the victory of WWII he envisioned an American Century. Adventures in Korea, VietNam, and Latin America notwithstanding, the neo-cons of today continue to envision a New American Century about which much is being blathered.(As I write this Ben Wattenburg is browbeating some poor liberal on PBS on just this issue)

Lets combine this nationalist vision of greatness and empire with a more hegemonic description of the relationship between state and capital. In this version the nations role is "the maintenence and defense of an economically open international system conducive for capital penetration and circulation coupled with a concomitant global geo-strategy of containing social forces inimical to capitalism."

We see the new plan is nothing but the old plan dressed up a bit in lingo they hope to be a bit more inspiring to the American people. Leave the parts about "infuence" and "capital penetration" and insert the more altruistic "spreading freedom and democracy" and suddenly imperialism has a much more Jeffersonian ring to it. Their "lavender revolution" becomes our open market and voila'. Bush and Condi promise US support to the "peoples movements "if they will rise up and throw off the yoke of totalitarianism and what a noble cause this is, until the students in Afgahnistan start burning US flags or the workers of Uzbekistan threaten our oil supplying, terror fighting dictator ally. Then they are shot in the streets and not a peep.Or the poor people of Venezuela democratically elect a buddy of Castros. Remember, anyone, how the Kurds were promised support if they rose up against Saadam? Remember Allende?

When democracy clashes with capital penetration, capital trumps every time.
Far from being just different lingo for the same thing, democracy and capitalism turn out in fact to be antithetical. The American people can be enlisted to help spread liberty, they hesitate a bit when asked to spill blood or bankrupt the treasury to open markets. This frustrated old Henry Luce and still frustrates his ghost.

Saturday, May 14, 2005

Northern Exposure

Driving past the country store between Corvallis and Hamilton I saw the big ,handlettered sign stapled to the power pole asking that we "SECURE OUR BORDERS". I pulled over and found petitions adressed to the President and members of congress beneath the sign asking that they stop the flow of illegal immigrants, oppose "amnesty and temporary worker proposals",agressively deport illegals and support English first legislation. In the parking lot were a couple old trucks with bumper stickers such as : Fight Poverty - Work and Race Mixing Is Genocide so I knew they had a receptive audience. The web address on the petition guided me to a site which alerted me to other dangers to the American Way of Life such as stem cell research, gay marriage, unfair taxation, teaching evolution and teenage abortions. Oh yeah, and porn.

All I can say is it's about time somebody woke up to the threat these damn Canadians pose to our sacred institutions, with their commie health care system and Michael Moore hugging peaceniks. It's a long, cold ass border but if the Jews can build a wall around their country there is no reason a people as great as Americans can't get this done post haste. Keeping the Canucks at bay must become a national priority.

Friday, May 13, 2005

A Few Anthros

Anthropography 1a: a branch of anthropology dealing with the distribution of man as distinguished by physical character, language, institutions and customs.

America was supposed to change all that, a revolution to form a nation based not on racial or cultural similarities but on the shared value of certain ideals, such as democracy and self-determination. So whats all this talk of a "Christian nation" or of" traditional "marriage or keeping immigrants out of "our " country?

Anthropocentric 1: considering man to be the most significant entity of the universe.
Just wrong

Anthropomorphic 2: ascribing human characteristics to non-human things.(supernaturalism)
Our Father Who Art In Heaven

Anthropophagus : feeding on human flesh
also wrong

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Where DID you get those Shoes!

Watching a documentary on Imelda Marcos last night I racked my brain for a while, struck by her resemblance to someone... but I could not connect the dots. Then it clicked, the memorized spiel, uncomprehendingly delivered with a practiced sincerity, the unavoidable smirk of one who believes their position to be divinely inspired, the embarrassing confidence of a naked emporer. Counterposed to that haughty sureness , the desparate, slightly psychotic edginess that betrays a deep fear,a nagging suspicion that the world may suddenly awake to their finely crafted charade, the fear they could be duped into walking around without clothes and not know it.

Imelda could blithely prattle on about her symbolic value to the people as an emmisary of Beauty and Culture, hoarding jewelry, cash and shoes while "her people" groveled in unimaginable poverty and destitution. George Bush also appears to relish the way those big words role off the tongue, Freedom and Democracy, sent out to uplift those unable to obtain a Yale degree or inherit fabulous wealth and priveledge. Each time he tries to explain one of his Big Ideas,like democracy makes good neighbors, you can tell he only just read the position paper yesterday but liked the wat it sounded. As iconic images of an internalized Spectacle, history is presented as a play about a play. As surreal as anything by Brecht or Dada.

I also sadly realized they both had an uncanny,illogical appeal to the people who should most despise them. Imelda has Aquinas murdered, embezzles the national treasury, her fashion fetish is exposed and all she has to do is sing a couple songs, bat her eyes , make a few promises and the people stampede down to elect her to office. Bush lies to get us into a war, bankrupts the treasury, antagonizes and alienates the rest of the planet and gets re-elected to a second term.

"In every cry of every man In every infants cry of fear,
In every voice, in every ban
The mind-forged manacles I hear." William Blake

Monday, May 09, 2005

Natural Nature

"He who dares to undertake the establishment of a people should feel that he is, so to speak, in a position to change human nature." Rousseau

Here is Rousseaus' challenge to the would-be revolutionary, his warning of responsibility and his affirmation of the "plasticity" of human nature. It is just this debate over anthropological essentialism that I confront almost daily in my advocacy for revolutionary change, the firm knowledge by so many of true human nature. Inevitably the argument reaches the same impasse; it is "human nature" to do such and such.

This is certainly not a new quandry, the discussion about instinct, sub-conscious, archetypes and the different facets of the self goes back to the first philosophers. Just what is basic or fundamental, as in biologically instinctive? To what degree has it evolved or kept pace with intelligence and the mind? Just how plastic is the psychological self, the id, the objective psyche and the ego/self axis? How does our collective nature relate to our experience?

The buddhist gives us the concept of "transformative nature",believing buddha nature lays dormant and buried in every individual, so that the possible is always present. The Christian, on the other hand,faces the immutable, fixed, depraved and condemned nature, born "fallen" and saveable only on the soul level, after body death.

In bolstering the revolutionary project, Marx inverts Hegel so that rather than the Idea creating the actual, where the actual is the external appearance of the idea, the Idea becomes nothing more than the material reflected and translated in the mind of man. In just this way the political and intellectual history of each epoch is FORMED, irregardless of any subjective" human nature",by the prevailing mode of economic production and exchange and the social organization which necessarily follows. Awakening our revolutionary consciousness is like awakening our buddha nature.

In other words the "forming" is done and the nature adapts willingly or unwillingly, it's plasticity demonstrated by the variousness of forms of social organization throughout history. How much of the human being is still related in any way to the natural environment in which we were formed as a species for millenia? Some more than others, I would argue.

Sunday, May 08, 2005


"The Spectacle is the ruling orders non-stop discourse about itself,it's never ending monologue of self praise, it's self portrait at the stage of totalitarian domination of all aspects of life" Debord

Scene: Halloween party at the home of Henry Kissinger. Tom De Lay, dressed in his usual hammer costume is speaking to Secretary of State Rice over by the hot tub. Ms. Rice has fashioned a costume meant to resemble an oil tanker, which hangs about her waist.

Tom, obviously distressed and sweating profusely: ..all I'm sayin is we have GOT to git shed of these damn activist judges, like the ones who killed old Terry...uh..we must never forget young Terry...uh..uh..
Condi: Shiavo
Tom: Yes, Shiavo, we shall never forget. Reverend Robertson had it right, those judges are more dangerous than a plane full of A-rabs. The liberal media and universities and librarians and judges should all be drowned like a bunch of damn kittens.
Condi: Tom, for Christ sake, chill. For the good of the party you've really got to tone it down.
Tom: Yeah ,right, when Bolton goes off you call him a "tough reformist"...
Condi: You've seen the polls, and we don't have "level headed" Powell to drag out and parade around anymore. This whole thing could blow up if you can't control the Jesus freaks AND keep your face out of the trough..
Tom: Well darlin, if you can't keep Sharon out of the construction business there will BE no trough and no Peace prize either..
Condi: Screw you, you rug headed loser. (she takes a swing but the prow of her costume keeps her out range)
Tom: You wouldn't know how, you freak of...

Friday, May 06, 2005

Koolaid, Anyone?

What do the Kansas school board , the victims of the Jonestown mass suicide and the US State Department have in common? They are all members of that dangerous breed of self righteous, true believers that lack any sense of the ironic or hypocritical, those who have traded in their empathy, even their senses of humor for a determined and supremely confident faith. They respect those who "stick to their guns", even if they ARE wrong. Like the new Pope, they don't buy any of this relativism ( not only was Darwin wrong, so was Einstien!) fighting off even the notion of doubt with strong Belief. To stand in another mans shoes or to try to see through another mans eyes is to doubt that ones own perception is the Truth.

It is easy for us on the Left to simply think of reactionaries as confused but they are far from it, frighteningly, they lack that particular capability. Confusion means doubt, and doubt, as Abraham showed,and true believers are taught at a young age, must be annihilated.

Asked if the US might not be viewed as a nuclear bully by other nations they look perplexed and answer "of course not, the US is a responsible nation". Ask if it is hypocritical to ignore Israels illegal nuclear arsenal while threatening other nations who have nuclear ambitions they answer"of course not, Israel is a responsible nation." Ask the Kansas school board what credible evidence undermines evolution and they answer "it is just a theory ,not a fact" and theory implies doubt. If you could have asked one of the members of Jim Jones' little prayer group in Guyana if he had any doubts he was doing the right thing, if he wasn't just a little worried he might be brainwashed he would have answered "here, have some kool-aid."

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

Re-invigorating Praxis

Since beginning the blog I have been engaged in conversations across the ideological spectrum and find several recurring themes, the "demise" of the far left being prominent. I have found myself in the role of Mark Twain, arguing that the obituary is premature. And then ,as fate would have it, comes a new ally in the persona of Machiavelli, that oft quoted but little understood Florentine theorist.

Gopal Balakrishnan helps us mine for still relevant gems in his essay "Future Unknown" in the Spring 05 New Left Review. Speaking of this percieved demise, stagnation, atrophe he begins"the enervation of collective resistance ( us) under these conditions (advanced capitalism) seems to signal the advent of an order of things in which praxis has become an enigma." Even the so-called "globalistas" exist on the margins of symbolic protest and intellectual preaching to the choir. They may be human rights activists, environmentalists, labor organizers even feminists, but how many of them want to rebuild rather than reform the structures?Who will even say the word revolution?

Can the radical person exist today? Gopal notices that"behind these outpourings of nostalgia for more activist citizenries there lies a profound discomfort with the very idea of abandoning the security of the status quo, our deeply apolitical form of life" (I am often warned that there is no guarantee the outcome of a revolution won't be worse than the present, in fact there is near universal consensus that it leads to totalitarian catastrophy) It is, of course, only natural that coming out of the last horrifically bloody century we would desire pacification and avoid disorder. The Straussians enjoying leadership today want to"establish limits on human enterprise and nuetralize the chaotic nature of modernism with a return to classical ancient political philosophy and Scriptural traditions." This also leads to a fair amount of gore. When the Eurorean revolution failed to materialize, capitalism with it's compliments Fascism and Fordism rose to fill the void.

I will at this point be accused of spouting "revisionist" history. It may be impossible to "know history from the disparate, tendential accounts of the victors and survivors", again ,Machiavelli,"there is nevertheless a method of interrogating these accounts." A method ,I might add, nearly lost in the vacuity of the public sphere. Expecting us to accept the narrative, they protest when someone fights for their mind.

The dominance of the status quo also benefits from the modern fetishism of the commodity. Tocqueville prohetically wrote that great revolutions will become rare because democratic societies tend to become more materialistic, and more and more people will aquire possesions they will not want to imperile." Change is frightening .''For the greatness of the thing partly terrifies men, so that they fail in the first beginning."

"For Machiavelli, the ban on imagining a new republic was lifted as long as one does not shy away from thinking through the hard measures that accompany the undertaking." And this brings me to the final point of obligation and duty, the true ethical imperatives that sustain the long term project and which need to re-invigorate revolutionary praxis. In a modern age full of those bouncing back and forth between ideologies, it seems to me there is something virtuous in maintaining fidelity to a cause.In an age demanding instant results and gratification Machiavelli heps us to remember it "is the duty of a good man to teach others the good that you could not work because of the malagnity of the times or of fortune, so that so that when many are capable of it, someone of them more loved by heaven will be able to work it."

Monday, May 02, 2005

Pride In Tobacco

She sat on her porch watching me work, smoking one cigarette after the other and occasionally barking out that little, gravelly cough. All set up in her lounge chair on the front deck, newspaper spread out at her feet and her ashtray by her side, the lady in the next condo over spent the morning browsing through the flyers and chain-smoking. I was re-modeling the kitchen across the driveway. It seemed a welcome diversion in her day.
As I hung the new cabinets and installed the sink, Joe, the condo’s owner, divided his attention between my work, his Steven King novel, and the always on television. It was tuned to sit-com re-runs of the seventies, many of which I pathetically recognized. He lived alone, retired, with long days to fill and he too chain-smoked. He also had that regular, gurgly, little cough.
I had just moved to the South after living twenty-three years in Montana, found work with a kitchen contractor, and was still scouting out this new terrain. For some odd reason I was struck by the similarities between Joe and his neighbor across the way. Physically they were both thin, almost hollow looking, and seemed old beyond their years. Both lived alone and filled the hours with distractions and an endless chain of cigarettes. Down here in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, Tobacco is a force, almost a palpable presence and it is attached to this region in many ways, the names of towns and streets, parks and museums being the most obvious. The politics, history and mythology of tobacco clings to nearly everything, like the odor in Joe’s old couch or the gray cloud wafting about his ceiling. Tobacco built this town, this state and it demands a certain allegiance, even as it slowly suffocates and kills its followers. Tobacco builds the fine universities and supports the arts, bestows power on the politicians and a livelihood to the people. But it’s blood money and they all know it. It is reflected in their eyes and in the windows of their churches. Nicotine stains the school buildings, the highways and the lovely parks but it’s never mentioned. It seems to me this pervasive denial is lethal, both literally and spiritually.
She watched me load up the truck, alternately coughing and dragging on yet another smoke. Beyond her old, black Cadillac, with its license plate holder professing “Pride In Tobacco”, I could see her gaunt face, eyes set deep in their sockets. We were just far enough away that acknowledging smiles seemed unnecessary.
In Montana our mythological symbols, such as the Cowboy, the Pioneer or the Grizzly have an indirect way of poisoning people’s spirit, creating a climate of fear, prejudice and a dangerous nativism.Montanans also seem unwilling to face certain aspects of their collective past. We choose instead to de-construct or better yet, simply deny the exploitation, the slaughters, and terrible injustices’ perpetrated in the pursuit of wealth and empire. The blood money. Here in North Carolina it seems a more straightforward process, the symbol and the poison one and the same. Here they just cut to the chase and poison themselves with poison.

Roosting Chickens

I don't put much stock in electoral politics,but from a sociological point of view it can be fascinating to watch the dynamics. Here in Montana, where Republicans have ruled arrogantly and in their incredibly inept style for twelve years, they finally lost the Governorship and both State houses last November and they have been in dissaray ever since. In their desperation during the campaign, they allied with some of the most extreme right wing factions, "Freeman types", religious fundamentalists and corporate robber barons, all of whom are calling in their chits right now.

The fiascos that got them into this mess were the effects of NAFTA and energy de-regulation, both promoted by Republicans as the best thing since separate water fountains. They used to explain away the dismal wages and social services by blaming environmentalists and patriotic sloganeering but when peoples electricity bills went throughthe roof they freaked.

Even on the national scene, we see moderate repubs trying to distance themselves from the Taliban-wing of the party, but promises were made. Lichanos has a great photo-montage of our own fearless Imman.Tommorro we have school board elections here with a few creationist proponents hoping to spread the Word through our public schools. Sometimes I feel like Im stuck in a Vonnegut story.

Sunday, May 01, 2005

If Thats What It Takes

Venezuelas fiesty leader Hugo Chavez says he will not visit the USA until it is liberated. I say lets bring Hugo over. This administration is talking up democracy for the rest of the planet, there could be some unintended consequences.

Another idea, what think ye of an American Boat Lift, hundreds of boats, full of people sick of the ridiculous sanctions, leaving Miami for the shores of Cuba. A great way to show solidarity and what would the coast guard do, on the six o'clock news with a bunch of people from the land of the free exercising their rights?