Monday, March 31, 2008

Almost Wierd Enough

"Golly, you hear a lot of strange and unnatural things about the world these days. Lazlo and Nixon are both gone now, but I don't think I'm going to believe that. Not until I can gnaw on their skulls,because it still hasn't gotten wierd enough for me."

Hunter S Thompson



Too bad Hunter didn't live to witness this circus. I woke in Elko Nev. this morning and choked down some motel coffee while watching the Fox News report on our glorious success in negotiating a cease-fire in Basra. A Whirling Dervish could not spin with such ferocity. By the way, every motel in America has it's TV tuned to Fox. That's what we're up against.Nobody really pays much attention but like with country western music, the narrative gets through. Anyway, it seems we spent a trillion dollars training the Iraqi forces and those that didn't defect couldn't take the city. Augmented with US air power! Did they not read the Petraeus manual on counter-insurgency? Poor translation?



But at least our government is proposing tough new regulations designed to avert a future economic crisis, whew, what a relief to know they are on it! Certainly re-newed my confidence in the System. What a coincidence that the Secretary of Housing resigned (to spend more time with his family) just three minutes after the Big Proposal was unvieled? Hopefully he managed to get Pervez Musharrif a condo in Miami Beach before being busted. Whatever happened to Larry Craig?



Bill Clinton will be in Montana this week and though it is unlikely he will describe the Reverend Wright as an Uppity N----r I'm sure he will get the point across. All the old friends I visited in California are liberals and will be voting for Obama despite Bills efforts. Even my old man, a registered Republican, is voting for him.They are all "hopeful" there will be "change". Something else we are up against. One in eight people in Michigan, (more in Rhode Island ) recieves food stamps? Did I hear that right?

Anyway, lots of those same old friends and aquaintances we visited expressed feeling a sort of disorienting state of wierdness, a down-the-rabbit-hole discombobulation mixed with anger and frustration that they struggled to explain. Especially in light of their "hope" for "change". By and large they weren't ready for my radical analysis or annotation of some of Clintons, Carters, Kennedys crimes, lots of uneasy throat clearing and sideways glances, but they have something to chew on which explains a lot of wierdness and they know how to reach me.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Tan ,Rested and Ready

California is just so....so... California! Ten days in this Live In Amusement Park is about my limit,really. Palm trees swaying in the breeze, sunglassed blondes in convertible Beemers, organic apricot juice with a twist of lemon.(eleven bucks!) We spent yesterday watching the homosexuals and doing TM. It is a land unto itself and Im glad it exists but I will also be glad to be getting back to Montana, where men are men and so are the women. Thankyou for your wine and I wish they all could be, but frankly this much change at this pace is not healthy for man or beast and it all still races along with no end in site. If America is all about consumption it is partly because California made it sleek and sexy but it is hard to imagine what the endgame is supposed to be to all this new wealth creation. I have not noticed a happiness surplus to go with the tans.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Trout Goes Local

With a day off in front of me I thought "what could be more exasperating than a public meeting with our County Commisioners over zoning regulations? Why.. ,nothing!" so off I trotted to "get my fair share of abuse" ,as Kieth and Mick put it. Interestingly ,I found myself sympathizing with the wacky south valley residents who exemplify those "victims of modernity" I write about occasionally. Historically, they were the simple folks who proudly worked their knuckles to the bone for such Conglomerates as Champion Int. and Plum Creek Timber. They had decent jobs and an IDENTITY,they were in fact the very embodiment of the rugged individualist Western mythos until their corporate masters got greedy? greedier?followed the logic of capitalism and tried to cut every last tree.



Fast forward to the eighties and some new science which showed the rapacious logging responsible for all kinds of degradation, fisheries, water quality and quantity, species loss, and on and on. Lawsuits get filed and it is the "damn environmentalists"and government regulators that are out to destroy their way of life. The Giant corporations take the money and run, shut the mills, sell the butchered land they own as real estate and leave the Public Lands for the next generation to clean up. We get armed uprisings and militias and sieges and a simmering, seething mistrust of all things new, new rules , new residents, new lingo like "consensus building" and "public processes". From 1979 to 1984 I worked as a choker setter and skidder operator and rode in the 4 am dark packed into "crummys"(company crew cab pickups) drinking coffee and finished my days in logger bars drinking stronger potions so I know directly of what I speak.

Back at the meeting, these refugees from a simpler time stood as a group in the back of the room with their beards and ball caps and checkered shirts and felt alive again as they took on the powers that be. They said they "just want to be left alone!"Little matter that their arguments and reasoning and facts were totally skewed and incomprehensible, that they had no concept of the forces at work or what exactly it was they were resisting. They want what was. They are terrified of the huge question mark which stretches in front of them, the real possibility of further impoverishment, exploitation and powerlessness. What they asked for is the right to secede, to opt out of the county-wide process, to live on their little island and not have to deal with the complexities and uncertainties of a fast growing and changing society. I say let them have their refuge, their illusion, for as long as they can maintain it. It can be like Jamestown or Frontierland at Disneyworld. Like the Taliban or the Mennonites, maybe they can find refuge in a time bubble. More likely it will become a Mecca for Libertarian nut jobs the country over and they will unwittingly bring on a flood. So it goes.

"Excessive" Greed

Across the TV, radio and print media spectrum, capitalism has gone into high gear to "explain" the current crisis to it's consumers, er ,I mean citizens, and reassure them that it is ALL UNDER CONTROL. The dominant narrative was pretty well laid out by NPRs Adam Davidson, one of their top propagandists, who described recession as "healthy", much like "the effects of a forest fire in maintaining a balanced system". Yes, Adam, a nice bit of naturalistic explanation thrown in with the usual spiritual parlance of moral punishment and reward. "We are very aware of the moral hazard" said Treas. Sec. Henry Paulson as he justified the Federal Reserve bailing out Bear Stearns. "It was unclear just how much risk the Feds were taking on" says the New York Times.

There is a lot that is "unclear", in fact, like how come all the "monetary policy experts" and pundits and Harvard MBA s were assuring us about the "basic soundness" of the economy a mere two weeks ago? Today they are trying to avoid " a systemic meltdown in financial markets" and running in circles. They are "stunned" and "shocked", JUST SHOCKED! The mixed messages don't help, with Bush saying in last weeks radio address that "it is not the role of the government to intervene" and today saying he will do whatever is necessary. ( this means giving huge welfare checks for Lehman Bros. and Merril Lynch) I like John Mc Cains approach, just head for Baghdad, as violence flares and we celebrate five heroic years of occupation.

Apparently Bear Stearns (and soon Lehman Bros and others) were brought down by "excessive greed", that is they crossed that unclear,arbitrary and amorphous boundary between the good greed which drives the capitalist system and too much greed, which all good Christians recognize (when they see it). I know the traders and brokers who are my fishing clients dance like angels on a pinhead around that delicate border, smoking fat Cuban cigars and drinking 12 year Scotch after wolfing down a porterhouse and creme brulee. These "Masters of the Universe" believed their own rising tide would lift all ships. They also believed little elves would make the shoes each night! They will be scapegoated as bad actors, like the dead Enron dude? and Michael Milken, Abramoff and Dot Com bubblers and Loan Sharks everywhere. They were excessively greedy!

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Axis of Evil Idiocy

Certain individuals were predicting a Venezuela- Colombia conflict based entirely on their total lack of understanding of the dynamics of the region, the same thing they base basically all their analysis on.(Check out Che Bob for more on this phenomena ) These people are still looking for the WMDs in Iraq, an attack in the Gulf of Tonkin, Cuban patriots to rise up in the Bay of Pigs, an al Qaeda -Saddam connection, a harmonious Zion, jobs created by NAFTA, and on and on. Condi "Peace Process" Rice is threatening to put Venezuela on "The List" and Sonia is comparing Chavez to Hitler. Senator Kyle of Arizona says all the events leading up to the invasion of Iraq are "water over the dam", that is, gone, irrelevent, erased, "history". Post surge "we are winning in Iraq" (lets not forget the role of torture in this "winning", John!) Meanwhile in China , the games go on, in this case we are not going to let a little violent repression get in the way of baseball or the Olympics. (Lot of money involved, as there is in Venezuelan oil and "re-building" Iraq)

Speaking of money, it looks like Bear-Stearns is just too large to let fail. Of course the people whose credit card debt and sub-prime mortgage they had hoped to profit from are allowed to fail, because they are the little people, (Thankyou Leona Helmsly) and the Market must punish little-people-who-fail in order to teach them a moral lesson (about prudence, humility, that sort of thing) Bear-Stearns get the Fed-Chase-Morgan bailout because morality is a huge joke for the ruling class. Here is how Mr. A put it (Theodore Adorno) :
"As naturally as the ruled always took the morality imposed upon them more seriously than the rulers themselves, the decieved masses today are captivated by the myth of success even more than the successful are. Immovably, they insist on the very ideology which enslaves them."
We saw the documentary In Debt We Trust last night where another irony was illuminated. Poor people are better victims for credit card companies (predators of the modern jungle) and therefore targeted especially because they feel more remorse about failing to pay a debt than the wealthy.

Finally, a little update on Suzy from the last post. This is how she finished her letter: "If you want our land, don't take it by zoning and takings, pay the fair market value for development rights and do with it what you want.That is called fair. That is what America is about."
She nailed it in my opinion, profitting from an inflated real estate market IS what America is all about. The "fair' part is tricky ,because her great grandparents stole it from the Salish Indians, but that is "water over the dam". I have told my neighbors I am putting in a motorcycle race track unless they pay me "fair market value". Capitalism is a beautiful system. Unlike many parts of the country, lot's of people are still moving here with lots of money in their pockets (traders for Bear-Stearns) because there is still lots of scenic beauty left, just waiting to be trashed and homogenized. Ending on a bright note, here is an excerpt from a letter to the editor that followed Suzys' : (there is still hope)

"Years ago I would have fought and yelled at any politicians who tried to tell me what to do with my own land...twenty years of watching the water and wildlife have wised me up a bit...I think it is a good idea for the county to restrict building, especially in riparian zones. Setbacks protect newcomers and goofs like me from making costly mistakes that adversely affect ourselves, our neighbors and our qualities of life."

Sounds like a damn socialist! By the way, I just read that Wal Mart has given up on it's plans for a SuperCenter here. Dissapointing The Citizens For Free Enterprise who were pushing it. ( is Suzy a member?)

Sunday, March 09, 2008

Fear and Loathing in the Rockies

As the order of things begins to crumble, the reactionaries do what they have always done, revert to violence to maintain the order and a sense of control. A headline from our local paper here in the rural Rockies:
"Potential Violence Over Zoning Process a Growing Concern"
The local meetings over land use planning or forest travel planning or resource management have always been contentious affairs ,not for the faint hearted. But as the Spectacle gets more spectacular and the US slides into anarchic chaos (as Yeats put it: "The center cannot hold") people up here start packing heat. Our local Director of the County Planning Department cited recent comments heard at meetings such as "heads will roll" and "there will be blood" and "they should be lynched" which remind us all of the violent history of confrontation between government and citizens we have here in our little valley. Encouraged by a general sense of licentiousness, Bushes insistence on the right to torture just for instance, these vigilante types are re- banding back together to fight for property rights, moral values and the American Way of Life. Suzy Foss, who co-owns a huge gentleman ranch and whose husband is one of the biggest real estate brokers around sums it up like this in a letter to the editor :"We are told we need to consider what is best for everyone. Since when did we become a socialist state?"

The curious alliance between the git er done rednecks, out of work loggers, Christian Right and the Real Estate lobby is just another manifestation of the old Sage Brush Rebellion/ Montana Militia/ Libertarian Patriots coalition which had us in the national news a decade ago. Unfortunately, as the economy crumbles and US prestige around the world evaporates, these folks grab weaponry and start to target "the enemy within". Every regulation becomes the Creeping Red Menace or Devil in Disguise. Egged on by Country-Western Music and Glen Beck bad things can happen.

The modern state system of "molecular, integral, invisible control" is also subject to entropy. William Blakes sensitive ear picked up the subtle signs : "In every cry of every Man, In every infants cry of fear, In every voice, in every ban, the mind-forged manacles I hear". Of course the key to consent has always been to get people to auto-repress, to forge their own mental mannacles out of their own best hopes but when those hopes turn out to be an illusion, the image rather than the reality, chaos can ensue. Debord realized that "Once the running of the State involves a permanent and massive shortage of historical knowledge, that State can no longer be led strategically." Control of consumerist society requres that same massive shortage but we are learning that such methods can also have dangerous consequences. "Annie get your gun!"

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Bogeyman

Im sure it's just pure coincidence that Hugo Chavez is being "Noriegafied" at the same time the price of oil hits an all time high while the US economy "slows .(Bushes characterization) Turning him into the new Saddam only takes a little co-operation between press, pundits, candidates and oil companies, nothing new there. One top purveyor of the Capitalist line is old Thor Halvorssen, writing for the Washinton Times and the Daily Standard:

"Chavez supports terrorism" and has "sympathized with global terrorism"... From the Heritage Foundation we read: "At home ,Chavez faces mounting inflation, food shortages caused by his anti-market economics and soaring crime rates". His "truculent and trigger-happy approach" is augmented by his "package of Russian military hardware". See where this is going? Chavez is trigger happy while the Colombian troops doing the shooting are freedom fighting democrats. By the way, inflation is dropping in Venezuela, food is hoarded as a political weapon. Crime has been high for fifty years.

How about Simon Romero from the NY Times Americas desk, always the objective journalist: Speaking of"The emphatic support for Colombias guerrillas expressed by Hugo Chavez" we must assume it is Chavez's demand that FARC be recognized as a belligerant with a legitimate army and political goals that has him so incensed. I am not defending the tactics of FARC, only pointing out the Spectacular use of the term "terrorist" now in vogue. The OAS (Organization of American States) to which the US has no current ambassador, supports the calls for Colombia to respect the sovereignty of it's neighbors.

Of course ,the candidates must weigh in and prove their own security toughness. Here is Barack Obama: "The Colombian people have suffered for more than four decades at the hands of a brutal terrorist insurgency." It is one way to describe a civil war, the Bush way, quite dishonest and anti-historical. Here is Hillary in fine form: " Chavez is openly siding with terrorists that threaten Colombian democracy and the peace and security of the region." The putative "peace and security" is about as real as the "democracy" she touts, displaying both her ignorance and corruption in one fell swoop. Talk about murdered union leaders, Oxy Oil, Coca Cola, the 'War on Drugs", anything please, but pathetic jingoism and pimping for arms manufacturers and DOW chemicals.

The Tyrant for the Day meme is so old one wonders how they can keep trotting out the same tired skit but hey, I just saw the fifty year reunion of the Osmonds on tv (or was that an acid flashback?) and the old fans were rockin out to Donnys Soldier of Love. Menken had it right about underestimating the intelligence of the American people.

Monday, March 03, 2008

Frank Littles Grave

I am to lazy to try to download my pictures but use your imagination. Bright, cold,cold, Butte Montana morning, fifteen assorted Wobblies, many of whom have met for the first time over bad Chinese food and assorted alchoholic beverages just the night before. We stomp through the snow out to the forlorn back edge of the windy cemetary and put our buttons and momentos on the tombstone of the fallen martyr Frank Little and wonder how he might feel knowing his spark has lit yet another fire, 81 years after his vicious murder. Old miners, teachers, students, electricians, doctors, carpenters, fishing guides sing some of the old songs, visit Socialist Hall and the site of the Speculator Mine disaster, 166 men trapped and smothered a thousand feet below the surface. Regular folk come up to us and tell us that they were starting to lose hope that the labor movement would ever show any real fight again. We tell em it aint over till it's over. We sign up three new members and the old bartender tells us he used to carry a red card. We slip on the ice and sleep on the floor and sell every T-shirt we have.

Saturday, March 01, 2008

Market Sense

According to MSNBC "The US governments humanitarian relief agency will significantly scale back emergency food aid to some of the worlds poorest countries this year because of soaring global food prices."

What can you say? When the Market "speaks" or signs your death certificate or grants your temporary pardon or just tells you to fuck off and die all you can do is curl up with your bloated stomach and flies in your eyes and follow it's "commands". The Market has a wisdom and will punish. The Market adjusts and balances, it delivers judgements, it condemns and praises. The Market creates order and makes sense in a mathematical way. Currency = Food.

Apparently they are facing a 120 million dollar "shortfall", about what they spend for a few hours in Iraq or what a CEO gets for a Christmas bonus or a movie star spends on a home re-model. Because the PRICE of food went UP, because of supply and demand, because a corpse is negotiable on the futures market and pork bellies are down while derivitives remain stable . The Market sorts it all out. A bowl of "fair trade" rice converted to ethanol has no value in the sub-prime market with Bears and Bulls running wild and casket orders on the rise. It all makes sense. Buy low and sell high. Don't be born with dark skin. A penny saved is a penny earned. Thats something you can bank on, convert the interest to a gmo ear of corn, and send it air mail to Africa. You can do well AND do good! We appreciate your business!