Old Gnuz: Look Back in Irony

While clearing out an old magazine rack, we ran across – surprise! an old magazine!  (Seriously, we almost never buy any magazines.)  Actually, it was the ‘People Magazine’s 2006 Sexiest Man Alive’ issue, with George Clooney on the cover – which may explain why we happened to have that particular issue.

But don’t worry, this isn’t going to be about sexy men.

Nope – it’s about Donald Trump, Jr., and the “Scoop” in that People issue: 

“Another Trump on the Way”

“The Donald may soon be known as The Gramps.  Donald Trump, Jr. and his wife of one year, Vanessa, have confirmed to Scoop that their first child – the mogul’s first grandchild – is due early next summer.  “Everyone’s very excited,” says Vanessa, 28. Although “if you mention the ‘grandpa’ word [to Donald Sr.], he might not be so excited.”

Complicating the family dynamics:  The new baby’s uncle Barron (son of the elder Trump and his wife Melania) is just 8 months old.  “They’ll be more like brothers, or brother and sister,” says Vanessa, who wants her baby’s sex to be a surprise.

What kind of father will Donald Jr., a Trump Organization executive VP, be?   A lot like his own dad.  “Trumps don’t do diapers,” says Don, 28.  But he does vow to be more hands-on – think playing catch – with his own kids.  “She [wants] five,”  Don says. I’ll wait till [sic/mine] she cranks out one, and then I want to renegotiate that back a bit.”  Spoken like a Trump.”

Looks like he’s had to renegotiate more than just the number of kids his wife “cranks out” – now it’s more like the number of kids he gets to see.    “Spoken like a trump,” indeed.

Open thread – what’s on your mind?

The Watering Hole; Thursday September 8 2016; F.U.! (Intended for Donald Trump, His Surrogates & His Supporters)

“The master class has always declared the wars;
the subject class has always fought the battles.
The master class has had all to gain and nothing to lose,
while the subject class has had nothing to gain and all to lose–
especially their lives.”
(Eugene V. Debs, Speech in Canton Ohio, June 16, 1918)


I doubt I’m alone when I say that I’m more than a little tired of hearing, day after day, the never-ending litany spoken by Donald Trump and his surrogates concerning his (totally unimpressive) LACK of knowledge in re military situations of any sort, including strategies, armaments and/or outright war. To be honest, his remarks invariably lead me (and, I hope millions of others) to the sole but obvious conclusion: Trump (and his surrogates, his supporters) know absolutely NOTHING of the history of military, of war(s), and the impacts thereof; nor do they care one single whit.

It is for those very reasons that I have developed this online instructional institution named F.U., the abbreviation for FRUGAL UNIVERSITY, an instructional unit intended to ultimately enlighten Trump AND his supporters (the ones who can read, at least) concerning each and every matter that may, in some way, serve to enlighten the unenlightened masses — a.k.a. Republicans, or fascists, or right-wingers — both here at home and anywhere abroad, without regard to skin color be it white, black, brown, orange, etc., or to ethnicity, IQ, hairstyle, or even hand-size.

Since F.U. is a no-charge and not-for-profit institution, the only instruction we can offer is courtesy of others from days past, even days present, who knew/know the essences of TRUTH on any given topic, TRUTH that was recorded and remains available for presentation. And when speaking of TRUTH, it’s always wise to recall Emily Dickinson’s words, now become F.U.’s guiding mantra:

The Truth must dazzle gradually / Or every man be blind —

Today’s topic from the “dazzle gradually” Department: The History of War, its faux purposes, and the consequences thereof as spoken in these randomly-selected quotes by noted historian, the late Howard Zinn:

“There is no flag large enough to cover the shame of killing innocent people for a purpose which is unattainable.”

” History is important. If you don’t know history, it’s as if you were born yesterday. And if you were born yesterday, anybody up there in a position of power can tell you anything, and you have no way of checking up on it.”

“ Have we learned nothing from the history of imperial occupations, all pretending to help the people being occupied? The United States, the latest of the great empires, is perhaps the most self-deluded, having forgotten that history, including our own: our 50-year occupation of the Philippines, or our long occupation of Haiti (1915-1934) or of the Dominican Republic (1916-1924), our military intervention in Southeast Asia and our repeated interventions in Nicaragua, El Salvador and Guatemala.”

“If your starting point for evaluating the world around you is the firm belief that this nation is somehow endowed by Providence with unique qualities that make it morally superior to every other nation on Earth, then you are not likely to question the President when he says we are sending our troops here or there, or bombing this or that, in order to spread our values–democracy, liberty, and let’s not forget free enterprise–to some God-forsaken (literally) place in the world.”

“We must face our long history of ethnic cleansing, in which millions of Indians were driven off their land by means of massacres and forced evacuations. And our long history, still not behind us, of slavery, segregation, and racism. We must face our record of imperial conquest, in the Caribbean and in the Pacific, our shameful wars against small countries a tenth our size: Vietnam, Grenada, Panama, Afghanistan, Iraq. And the lingering memory of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. It is not a history of which we can be proud.”

“Civil disobedience is not our problem. Our problem is civil obedience. Our problem is that numbers of people all over the world have obeyed the dictates of the leaders of their government and have gone to war, and millions have been killed because of this obedience. . . Our problem is that people are obedient all over the world in the face of poverty and starvation and stupidity, and war, and cruelty. Our problem is that people are obedient while the jails are full of petty thieves, and all the while the grand thieves are running the country. That’s our problem.”

“[T]he removal of the Soviet Union as the false surrogate for the idea of socialism creates a great opportunity. We can now reintroduce genuine socialism to a world feeling the sickness of capitalism- its nationalist hatreds, its perpetual warfare, riches for a small number of people in a small number of countries, and hunger, homelessness, insecurity for everyone else.”

“[A]nyone who goes around the country, or reads carefully the public opinion surveys over the past decade, can see that huge numbers of Americans agree on what should be the fundamental elements of a decent society: guaranteed food, housing, medical care for everyone; bread and butter as better guarantees of “national security” than guns and bombs; democratic control of corporate power; equal rights for all races, genders, and sexual orientations; a recognition of the rights of immigrants as the unrecognized counterparts of our parents and grandparents; the rejection of war and violence as solutions for tyranny and injustice.”

[Not long after passage of the Espionage and Sedition Acts of 1917] “close to 1,000 people were in prison for protesting the war. The producer of a movie called The Spirit of ’76, about the American revolution, was sentenced to ten years in prison for promoting anti-British feeling at a time when England and the United States were allies. The case was officially labeled The US. v. The Spirit of ’76.”

“Civil disobedience is not our problem. Our problem is civil obedience. Our problem is that numbers of people all over the world have obeyed the dictates of the leaders of their government and have gone to war, and millions have been killed because of this obedience. Our problem is that people are obedient all over the world in the face of poverty and starvation and stupidity, and war, and cruelty. Our problem is that people are obedient while the jails are full of petty thieves, and all the while the grand thieves are running and robbing the country. That’s our problem.”

“There is something important to be learned from the recent experience of the United States and Israel in the Middle East: that massive military attacks, inevitably indiscriminate, are not only morally reprehensible, but useless in achieving the stated aims of those who carry them out.” ~Howard Zinn in the Boston Globe; September 2, 2006

“[I]f an action will inevitably kill innocent people, it is as immoral as a deliberate attack on civilians. And when you consider that the number of innocent people dying inevitably in “accidental” events has been far, far greater than all the deaths deliberately caused by terrorists, one must reject war as a solution for terrorism.”

“The history of wars fought since the end of World War II reveals the futility of large-scale violence. The United States and the Soviet Union, despite their enormous firepower, were unable to defeat resistance movements in small, weak nations – the United States in Vietnam, the Soviet Union in Afghanistan – and were forced to withdraw.”

“[W]ar is terrorism. That is why a ‘war on terrorism’ is a contradiction in terms. Wars waged by nations, whether by the United States or Israel, are a hundred times more deadly for innocent people than the attacks by terrorists, vicious as they are.”

The history-guided Wisdom of Howard Zinn — in today’s world, it’s a manifest.

And finally a Libertarian point-of-view:

“[T]here developed in Western Europe two great political ideologies … one was liberalism, the party of hope, of radicalism, of liberty, of the Industrial Revolution, of progress, of humanity; the other was conservatism, the party of reaction, the party that longed to restore the hierarchy, statism, theocracy, serfdom, and class exploitation of the Old Order…. Political ideologies were polarized, with liberalism on the extreme ‘left,’ and conservatism on the extreme ‘right,’ of the ideological spectrum.” (Libertarian Murray N. Rothbard, 1965)

So, Donald and all-y’all wingnuts out there, that’s it for today. Your assignment is to read the above History lesson, then try that new-to-you strategy some of us refer to as


And Don, take it from me,  the Founder of F.U.: even you might be amazed by the powers implicit in rational thinking! No, really! You might even learn to never forget the well-known truism that “War Is Hell,” maybe even learn that (a) you don’t wanna go there because of your sudden discovery that you might even have a mind! It can happen! And if/when you should ever feel the need for further intellectual instruction, feel free to contact me here at


the institution whose enduring shibboleth shall always remain:

Wage Peace, Not War!


P.S.: Frugal University, as opposed to Trump University, is tuition free and NOT a milk-the-people SCAM!! 😀


Sunday Roast: Memorial Day

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

~Lt Col John McRae

This is our daily open thread — In Memoriam of those service members who died while serving their country.

The Watering Hole, Saturday, April 16th, 2016: This Day in History

History.com lists various events that occurred on April 16th in history, some of which have continued relevance these days. For instance:

– In 1943, Albert Hoffman, a Swiss chemist, “accidentally consumes LSD-25, a synthetic drug he had created in 1938 as part of his research into the medicinal value of lysergic acid compounds.” Hoffman’s notes on the experience state:

“Last Friday, April 16, 1943, I was forced to interrupt my work in the laboratory in the middle of the afternoon and proceed home, being affected by a remarkable restlessness, combined with a slight dizziness. At home I lay down and sank into a not unpleasant, intoxicated-like condition characterized by an extremely stimulated imagination. In a dreamlike state, with eyes closed (I found the daylight to be unpleasantly glaring), I perceived an uninterrupted stream of fantastic pictures, extraordinary shapes with intense, kaleidoscopic play of colors. After some two hours this condition faded away.”

Since that discovery, efforts by (most famously) Dr. Timothy Leary and Ken Kesey to promote LSD as a recreational drug eventually led to the drug being banned even for medicinal use in the U.S., and later by the United Nations. Research on the drug became nearly impossible, but a recent study explains a bit more about how LSD affects/stimulates parts of the brain:

“A team at Imperial College London says they found it broke down barriers between areas that control functions like vision, hearing and movement. The study was with a small group – 20 subjects – but the researchers say it could lead to a revolution in the way addiction, anxiety and depression are treated.”

– In 1947, Bernard Baruch coined the term “Cold War.” In a speech he gave at the unveiling of his portrait in the South Carolina House of Representatives (in which he also discussed industrial labor problems, in part calling “for longer workweeks, no-strike pledges from unions, and no-layoff pledges from management”), Baruch stated:

“Let us not be deceived-we are today in the midst of a cold war. Our enemies are to be found abroad and at home. Let us never forget this: Our unrest is the heart of their success. The peace of the world is the hope and the goal of our political system; it is the despair and defeat of those who stand against us. We can depend only on ourselves.”

– Also in 1947: while loading ammonium nitrate fertilizer, along with tobacco and “government-owned ammunition” onto a freighter in Texas City, Texas, a massive ammonium nitrate explosion killed 581 people as it blew the freighter to smithereens.

Coincidentally, on April 17th, 2013, the West Fertilizer Company in West, Texas, exploded, killing 15 people and injuring scores more, and caused massive damage and destruction of nearby property. Apparently in 66 years, Texans hadn’t learned that ammonium nitrate is dangerous.

– In 2007, a disturbed student who should never have been able to own a gun killed 32 fellow students and faculty at Virginia Tech. According to History.com:

“Two days later, on April 18, NBC News received a package of materials from Cho with a time stamp indicating he had mailed it from a Virginia post office between the first and second shooting attacks. Contained in the package were photos of a gun-wielding Cho, along with a rambling video diatribe in which he ranted about wealthy “brats,” among other topics…
The public soon learned that Cho, described by ex-classmates as a loner who rarely spoke to anyone, had a history of mental-health problems. It was also revealed that angry, violent writings Cho made for certain class assignments had raised concern among some of his former professors and fellow students well before the events of April 16.”

Uh, yeah, so what have we learned from that, what has changed to prevent a similar disaster? ABSOLUTELY FUCKING NOTHING.

– And on this day in history in 1956 – 60 years ago – my oldest friend, Laurie Miles, was born. We’ve been friends since we were about 4 years old, beginning soon after our families moved to North Road in Brewster Heights, a brand-new development (aka subdivision) set on top of a hill overlooking the Middle Branch Reservoir.

Top Photo: the Sechny 'homestead' ; Bottom: Laurie's dog Winnie

Top Photo: the Sechny ‘homestead’ ; Bottom: Laurie’s dog Winnie

Everyone should have a friend with whom, even through time and distance, one can just pick up and continue that friendship, wherever/whenever. Laurie and I enjoy that kind of friendship, wherein we’ve been connected for so long that it’s wired into our DNA.

So Happy Birthday to my oldest and dearest friend, Laurie.

This is our daily Open Thread–better late than never!

Sunday Roast: Antonin Scalia is no more*

Via RawStory (various headlines):

“On behalf of the court and retired justices, I am saddened to report that our colleague Justice Antonin Scalia has passed away,” Chief Justice John Roberts said in a statement on Saturday, calling Scalia, 79, an “extraordinary individual and jurist.”

My dear old Mom always said, “If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all.”  So here’s me sitting quietly…

Here’s how Antonin Scalia’s death changes the balance of the court and alters the 2016 presidential race.

Minutes after Scalia’s death right-wingers seek to block nominee Obama hasn’t even appointed yet.

Obama speaks about passing of Supreme Court Justice Scalia.  Our President is such a kind man…

Jon Stewart shreds Scalia’s marriage-equality dissent:  “He had no problem telling voters to ‘f*ck off’ in Citizens United.  Feel the Bern…

And finally, this apropo headline from The Onion:

Justice Scalia Dead Following 30-Year Battle With Social Progress

*HT to John Cleese in Monty Python’s “Dead Parrot” sketch for the headline of this post.

This is our daily open thread — Leave your thoughts in the comments section, while I sit here quietly.

Sunday Roast: Dia de los Muertas

The Day of the Dead is a celebration held every year on November 1 and 2, mostly in southern and central Mexico, but celebrations are held all over the world — sometimes called “All Saints Day” or “All Souls Day.”  They are days to remember departed loved one, and celebrate their lives with prayer, food, flowers, and sugar skulls that bear the name of the departed on the forehead.

Traditions connected with the holiday include building private altars called ofrendas, honoring the deceased using sugar skulls, marigolds, and the favorite foods and beverages of the departed, and visiting graves with these as gifts. Visitors also leave possessions of the deceased at the graves.

Although I have never visited a loved one’s grave after burial, and never intend to do so, I like the Day of the Dead because it’s a celebration of life, rather than a remembrance of illness, tragedy, and death.  And sugar skulls — which are amazing works of art!

This is our daily open thread — Don’t forget that annoying time change thing.

Sunday Roast: Taino Genocide Day

This is a few years old, but still pertinent, as Thom scrapes away at the white-washing — literally and figuratively — of the life and actions of Christopher Columbus.  It’s absolutely sickening, and a horrifying indicator of the coming genocide of the indigenous peoples of the Americas.

Thank goodness the holiday isn’t until Monday — you have time to get to the mall for that big sale.

This is our daily open thread — Barf.

Sunday Roast: Confederate Flag Removed in SC

That’s what I call an excellent start.

I’m sure some you out there in the Land of the Interwebs are wondering to yourselves and others, “Why all the pomp and circumstance around removing the heinous Confederate flag?”

I’ll tell you why:  Because we were brought up with manners, and it’s best to remember that — always.

Wait…what?  Yeah, you heard me — manners.

Had the horrible, shameful Confederate flag been removed from the grounds of the South Carolina statehouse by the on-duty maintenance man, who promptly tucked it under his arm, walked to the nearest garbage bin, deposited said horrible flag, and then kicked over the bin — the way we all wish it had been done (or worse) — the ENTIRE story in the media would be the weeping and wailing over the lack of respect given to an important part of our history.  Which would give rise to us missing the damn point.  AGAIN.  STILL.

The Confederate flag is a part of U.S. history — like it or not.  History that is not kind or good, nothing to be proud of, nor is it remotely humane — like much of our history.  But like so much of our history, a story was built up around the Confederate flag and the Civil War, and it became romanticized through novels, movies, television series, and even our history books.  We found a way to live with ourselves — to generously forgive ourselves — for perpetrating the unforgivable crime of enslaving our fellow human beings to lay the foundation of our promising new nation, and enrich ourselves in the process.

The flag became a fanciful imaginary symbol of “Southern Pride,” whatever that is, and Southern “heritage,” which is claimed to be in no way racist or hateful.  But here’s the problem with such notions:  They. Are. Not. Reality.  The Confederate flag was created and acknowledged as a symbol of the Confederate States of America, whose purpose was to continue slavery and enforce white supremacy, along with other treasonous ideas.  More info in this article on Vox.

So the shameful Confederate flag has had more than its fair share of exposure and misplaced pride/nostalgia, and it’s time to put it in the Smithsonian museum with all the other relics, where we’ll teach and learn (re-learn, if necessary) the facts about one of the most terrible times in our history and the fall-out that continues to this very day.

If it takes remembering our manners and a bit of pomp and circumstance to achieve that with a minimum of fuss (or what counts as a lack of fuss these days), I can live with it — because it’s an excellent start.

This is our daily open thread — Let’s brace ourselves for the backlash…

Sunday Roast: Flag Day


The U.S. flag was adopted on this date in 1777, and the day became an official “thing” in 1916, by order of President Woodrow Wilson.

I learned all about flag etiquette in Girl Scouts, but I don’t remember ever actually owning a flag.  Not that I was opposed to it, but I just never bought one.  It grates on me that the American flag is manufactured anywhere other than the United States.  Too picky?  My step-mother has the flag that was presented to the family at my dad’s memorial service, so I suppose it might come to me one day.

After September 11, 2001, with all the flag pins on politicians, ragged Made in China flags waving from sticks on car windows, and so-called “patriots” virtually dry-humping the Stars and Stripes — I acquired what I call “flag fatigue.”  As it turns out, it’s a fairly chronic condition.

“Uber-patriots” have wrung out any real symbolism our flag held, while completely forgetting (if they ever knew) what the flag, patriotism, the Constitution, and being an American actually mean.

Anyway, Happy Flag Day, everyone.  Lawdy, I’m such an old crank.

This is our daily open thread — S.N.A.F.U.

Sunday Roast: Mt St Helens anniversary

May 18, 1980, thirty-five years ago tomorrow, Mt St Helens in Washington State went off like a bomb, killing 57 people and turning hundreds of square miles of beautiful forest into a wasteland.

Here’s a handy dandy graphic from the Wiki page of what happened during the blast:

I was living near Lake Shasta at the time, and working at the K-Mart just off I-5 in Redding.  I was amazed at the uptick in the numbers of travelers going north; we could tell who they were because they were buying stacks and stacks of crappy K-Mart air filters for their cars.  My thought was, “Why drive into that mess on purpose?,” but I guess they had their reasons — maybe selling crappy air filters to the masses.  😀

Thankfully, no one in my family was living in northern at the time.  My parents and younger sister moved to Moscow the next year, so they could establish residency before my dad started law school in 1982.  To hear the old people around Moscow tell it, they received anywhere from a couple inches to 12 feet of ash.  As much of a nightmare as it was, I’m pretty sure it was closer to a couple inches than it was to a foot — let alone 12 feet.

Exciting times!!  My inner geology geek was pinging like mad…

This is our daily open thread — where were you the day Mt St Helens went off?

Sunday Roast: Happy Birthday, Pale Blue Dot!

I’m only a day late, but it’s been 25 years (yesterday) since the famous photo was taken by Voyager 1.

I don’t know about all y’all, but every time I hear Carl Sagan talking about “the only home we’ve ever known,” I weep like a baby.  It’s so hopeful, but, at the same time, it’s a severe reality check.

This is our daily open thread — Remember, we’re all in this together.

Sunday Roast: Lack of Outrage is Killing Democracy

Mike Papantonio is one of the best liberal voices we have in this country.  We should listen to him — ALWAYS.  Especially when he’s mean.

Here’s a link to some text of this talk.

This is the first Sunday Roast of 2015! — Listen to the whole video!

Sunday Roast: Turbulence & Van Gogh

Wrap your head around this one!

Although it makes a weird sort of sense, to me anyway, that a mind in the midst of extreme suffering might perceive things in a different way than a calmer mind.  It is rather simplistic, but thinking about it that way feels good.

Let’s not neglect the gobbledygook math thing…on second thought, let’s do.

And now, a beautiful quote from one of my favorite episodes of Doctor Who, Vincent and the Doctor.

The Doctor:  Between you and me, in a hundred words, where do you think Van Gogh rates in the history of art?

Curator:  Well… um… big question, but, to me Van Gogh is the finest painter of them all. Certainly the most popular, great painter of all time. The most beloved, his command of colour most magnificent. He transformed the pain of his tormented life into ecstatic beauty. Pain is easy to portray, but to use your passion and pain to portray the ecstasy and joy and magnificence of our world, no one had ever done it before. Perhaps no one ever will again. To my mind, that strange, wild man who roamed the fields of Provence was not only the world’s greatest artist, but also one of the greatest men who ever lived.

Can anyone doubt that Vincent van Gogh is my favorite artist?

This is our daily open thread — Get on with it.

The Watering Hole; Friday July 25 2014; Wisdom

The World English Dictionary defines Wisdom as “the ability or result of an ability to think and act utilizing knowledge, experience, understanding, common sense, and insight.” I find it most interesting that those nineteen words clearly manage to automatically disqualify a remarkably substantial portion of today’s American electorate, including (being kind here) no less than 99.999% of all on the political right, and regardless of party affiliation.

The obvious question arises: has America always been so . . . ummm . . . so intellectually dense destitute as it appears to be today? Has our “leadership” always been so contaminated with the equivalent likes of (to name but a handful) John Boehner, Louie Gohmert, Pete Sessions, Ted Cruz, Michele Bachmann, Sarah Palin, Rick Perry, et al.? The answer is a simple one: NO!

Some fifteen years ago I ran across a book, a small hardcover masterpiece entiled The Wisdom of the Native Americans, ed. by Kent Nerburn (ISBN 1-57731-079-9), and it leaves no stone unturned as it presents the “uncompromising purity of insight and expression” gathered from Native American “orations” and “other first-person testimonies” most of which were originally “recorded only in imposing governmental documents and arcane academic treatises.” Following is a small sampling of the wisdom included, along with attributions.

“It does not require many words to speak the truth.” ~Chief Joseph, Nez Perce

“One does not sell the land people walk on.” ~Crazy Horse, Sept. 23, 1875

“Why not teach school children more of the wholesome proverbs and legends of our people? That we killed game only for food, not for fun… Tell your children of the friendly acts of the Indians to the white people who first settled here. Tell them of our leaders and heroes and their deeds… Put in your history books the Indian’s part in the World War. Tell how the Indian fought for a country of which he was not a citizen, for a flag to which he had no claim, and for a people who treated him unjustly. We ask this, Chief, to keep sacred the memory of our people.” ~Grand Council Fire of American Indians to the Mayor of Chicago, 1927

“Behold, my brothers, the spring has come; the earth has received the embraces of the sun and we shall soon see the results of that love! Every seed is awakened and so has all animal life. It is through this mysterious power that we too have our being and we therefore yield to our neighbors, even our animal neighbors, the same right as ourselves, to inhabit this land.” ~Sitting Bull

“We didn’t inherit this world from our ancestors; we borrowed it from our children.” ~Lakota Proverb

“For the Lakota, mountains, lakes, rivers, springs, valleys, and woods were all finished beauty. Winds, rain, snow, sunshine, day, night, and change of seasons were endlessly fascinating. Birds, insects, and animals filled the world with knowledge that defied the comprehension of man.” ~Chief Luther Standing Bear, Teton Sioux

“Knowledge was inherent in all things. The world was a library . . .” ~Chief Luther Standing Bear

[to the Lakota] “The animals had rights — the right of man’s protection, the right to live, the right to multiply, the right to freedom, and the right to man’s indebtedness — and in recognition of these rights the Lakota never enslaved an animal, and spared all life that was not needed for food and clothing. This concept of life and its relations was humanizing, and gave to the Lakota an abiding love. … The Lakota could despise no creature, for all were of one blood …” ~Chief Luther Standing Bear

“We know that the white man does not understand our ways. One portion of the land is the same to him as the next, for he is a stranger who comes in the night and takes from the land whatever he needs. The earth is not his brother, but his enemy — and when he has conquered it, he moves on. He leaves his fathers’ graves, and his children’s birthright is forgotten.” ~Chief Seattle, Suqwamish and Duwamish

“Civilization has been thrust upon me … and it has not added one whit to my love for truth, honesty, and generosity….” ~Chief Luther Standing Bear

And finally this eye-catcher:

“The white man who is our agent is so stingy that he carries a linen rag in his pocket into which to blow his nose, for fear he might blow away something of value.” ~Piapot, Cree Chief

Who knew there were Teabaggers around even way back then?

One has to wonder just what it is that’s gone so terribly wrong over the last several hundred years? Why have we Americans, in spite of our manifest scientific and technological advances and accomplishments, so completely abandoned The Wisdom of the Native Americans — our forbears in this land? Why have we descended so far into the abyss of intellectual penury that it seems unlikely that we have any chance of ever finding our way up and out?

I suppose we could ask Ted Cruz, or Louie Gohmert, maybe Sarah Palin, maybe even Rick Perry. They seem to know most everything worth knowing these days. Or perhaps it makes more sense to hearken back to the words of Chief Seattle as spoken to one Isaac Stevens, the newly appointed (by President Pierce) governor of the Washington Territory, in the company of a large gathering of Suquamish people on the shores of Puget Sound in December, 1853:

“Your time of decay may be distant, but it surely will come. For even the white man . . . cannot be exempt from the common destiny.” 

Amen to that.

Petroglyph composite-b



The Watering Hole, Monday, December 16th, 2013: This Day in History

Many famous people were born on December 16th, including:

Catherine of Aragon
Ludwig Van Beethoven
Jane Austen
King Leopold I of Belgium
George Santayana
Noel Coward
Margaret Mead
Arthur C. Clarke
Philip K. Dick
Match Game panelists Patti Deutsch and Joyce Bulifant
Bill Hicks (still miss ya, Bill!)

Some not-so-famous people were also born on December 16th:

Elizabeth “Bessie” Cook, nee Burlington (a.k.a. Grandma)
Jane Elizabeth Sechny

Looks like I’m in very good company!



This is our daily open thread–go ahead, talk amongst yourselves while I go back to bed!

Sunday Roast: Veterans Day

Veterans Day, which is noted in other countries as Armistice Day and Remembrance Day, marks the end of World War I.  More particularly, the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month, 1918.  On this day, we remember those who died while serving their various countries.

As I have done in past years, I’m posting the final episode of the Blackadder Goes Forth series, entitled Goodbyeee.

The final episode of this series, “Goodbyeee“, although true to the series’ usual comedy style through most of the preceding scenes, is known for featuring a purely dramatic and extraordinarily poignant final scene, where the main characters (except [the General] himself) are finally sent over the top. To the sound of a slow, minimal and downbeat piano version of the title theme, the four are seen in slow-motion, charging into the fog and smoke of no man’s land, with gunfire and explosions all around, before the scene fades into footage of a sunny poppy field and the sound of birdsong. The fate of the four is left ambiguous. Blackadder’s final line before the charge is also underpinned with an unusually reflective and poignant tone, offered after Baldrick claims to have one last cunning plan to save them from the impending doom:

Well, I’m afraid it’ll have to wait. Whatever it was, I’m sure it was better than my plan to get out of this by pretending to be mad. I mean, who would have noticed another madman around here? …Good luck, everyone.

As fantastic as this final Blackadder series is, I usually cry my way through Goodbyeee. Our amazing advances in technology, rather than being put toward the advancement of mankind, was instead used for unbelievable destruction and obscenely wasted lives of tens of millions of people, both military and civilian, but succeeded only in serving as an incubator for World War II.

I think humans could learn to live together peacefully, but there is money to be made from mayhem and war, and as long as that’s true, there will always be war; and there will always trenches of one kind or another, filled with honorable men and women, who are viewed as a means to an end — stacks and stacks of money — and used as cannon fodder, and if they survive, dismissed as a burden on society.

This is our daily open thread — Discuss.

The Watering Hole, Saturday, September 7th, 2013: Today in History

History.com is an interesting place, full of fun facts to know and tell.

For instance, on September 7th, 1776, the first submarine was employed in warfare. It is amazing to me that “submarines were first built by Dutch inventor Cornelius van Drebel in the early 17th century…” Naturally, it was an American who first thought of using a submarine in naval combat:

“David Bushnell, an American inventor, began building underwater mines while a student at Yale University. Deciding that a submarine would be the best means of delivering his mines in warfare, he built an eight-foot-long wooden submersible that was christened the Turtle for its shape. Large enough to accommodate one operator, the submarine was entirely hand-powered. Lead ballast kept the craft balanced.

Donated to the Patriot cause after the outbreak of war with Britain in 1775, Ezra Lee piloted the craft unnoticed out to the 64-gun HMS Eagle in New York Harbor on September 7, 1776. As Lee worked to anchor a time bomb to the hull, he could see British seamen on the deck above, but they failed to notice the strange craft below the surface. Lee had almost secured the bomb when his boring tools failed to penetrate a layer of iron sheathing. He retreated, and the bomb exploded nearby, causing no harm to either the Eagle or the Turtle.

During the next week, the Turtle made several more attempts to sink British ships on the Hudson River, but each time it failed, owing to the operator’s lack of skill. Only Bushnell was really able to competently execute the submarine’s complicated functions, but because of his physical frailty he was unable to pilot the Turtle in any of its combat missions. During the Battle of Fort Lee, the Turtle was lost when the American sloop transporting it was sunk by the British.

Despite the failures of the Turtle, General George Washington gave Bushnell a commission as an Army engineer, and the drifting mines he constructed destroyed the British frigate Cereberus and wreaked havoc against other British ships. After the war, he became commander of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers stationed at West Point.”

"Turtle" submarine (photo courtesy of navy.mil)

“Turtle” submarine (photo courtesy of navy.mil)

120 years later, another engineering first occurred: an electric car became the first automobile to win the first auto race in the United States:

“On September 7, 1896, an electric car built by the Riker Electric Motor Company wins the first auto race in the United States, at the Narragansett Trotting Park–a mile-long dirt oval at the state fairgrounds that was normally used for horse racing–in Cranston, Rhode Island. Automobile companies sponsored the race to show off their newfangled electric-, steam-, and gas-powered vehicles to an awestruck audience. The carmakers’ gimmick worked: About 60,000 fairgoers attended the event, and many more people read about it in newspapers and magazines.

Seven cars entered the race. Along with the Riker Electric, there were five internal-combustion cars and one other battery-powered machine, this one built by the Electric Carriage and Wagon Company. The race began slowly (“Get a horse!” the spectators shouted as the automobiles wheezed at the starting line), but the Riker soon pulled ahead and won the race easily, finishing its five laps in about 15 minutes. The other electric car came in second, and a gas-powered Duryea took third.”

Inventor Riker in his electric car (photo courtesy of wheels.blogs.nytimes.com)

Inventor Riker in his electric car (photo courtesy of wheels.blogs.nytimes.com)

Considering the fact that electric cars have been around since 1896, one has to wonder what our world would have been like now if electric cars became the standard of the automobile industry. Unfortunately for all of us, the internal-combustion engine eventually prevailed, and we – humans, the environment, the planet – are all suffering because of it.

This is our Open Thread. Wonder what will happen today that will eventually become “This Day In History”?

The Watering Hole, Monday, August 19th, 2013: From Baseball to “Cracker”

It’s a good thing I was paying attention during the Mets game today, otherwise I’d have had to think of something else to write about.

The Mets were playing the San Diego Padres, and Keith Hernandez, announcer for the Mets and California native, was talking about the California state flag with, as Keith said, the grizzly bear as the state’s official animal. I wasn’t quite sure if it was a grizzly, so I decided to look up the official state animals and, sure enough, Keith was right…

…and here we are.

On the “State Mammals” list from statesymbolsusa.org, poor Indiana, Iowa, Minnesota and Rhode Island don’t even have their own state animals (mammal or otherwise); a couple of states didn’t have photos/videos of their state mammals, so I have provided them.

New Hampshire's official State Dog, the Chinook

New Hampshire’s official State Dog, the Chinook


Washington's official "State Endemic Mammal", the Olympic Marmot

Washington’s official “State Endemic Mammal”, the Olympic Marmot

The list is fun to delve into for us animal lovers, and for history buffs, too – after all, a state wouldn’t pick an official animal that wasn’t integral to the history and development of that state.

I noticed that several states have horses as either the official state animal, or in a separate official ‘State Horse’ category. When I was little, horses were my first love, then dogs – it took a while for me to get to cats. I have yet to pore through some of more intriguing and unusual official state dogs. But I digress.

Zooey, whatever you say about Idaho, they’ve got the best State Horse, the Appaloosa. I always found them fascinating, not only because no two are alike, but because the foals are born dark brown/black and develop their spots later.

Appaloosa mare and foal

Appaloosa mare and foal

Appaloosa colt

Appaloosa colt

What suddenly caught my eye among the state horses was the “Florida State Heritage Horse” – the “Florida Cracker Horse.”
According to the website, “Florida designated the Florida cracker horse (or Marshtackie) as the official state heritage horse in 2008 (expires July 1, 2018 unless renewed).”

A handy video explains the history of the Florida Cracker Horse: as with many early American horses, their ancestors came over with Spanish explorers, including Ponce de Leon. After roaming wild for generations after the Spanish left, the horses were utilized as part of Florida’s overall agricultural development, and were essential to their cattle ranching industry. According to the video, the Florida Cracker Horse was named after:

“Florida cowboys, nicknamed ‘Crackers’ because of the sound of their whips cracking in the air.”

Hmmm…”Florida”…”Cracker“…where have we heard a kerfuffle over the word ‘cracker‘ recently? Oh, yeah, that travesty of justice in which the murder of an unarmed 17-year-old black teen was turned into a distracting and disgusting game of ‘Who’s the Real Racist?’ (Sigh)

This is our daily open thread — Sorry for the rant. Enjoy the animals!

The Death of a Nation (a retropspective on the W. Bush era, Part 3: FISCAL)

Mitt Romney is sounding so much more like the worst side(s) of George W. Bush with every passing day, with every ‘new’ political forum/event, that it’s starting to get freaky out there! In the following overview (written in late 2004 and early 2005) of the fiscal policies brought into play during George W.Bush’s first term, there are — everywhere embedded — highly visible shades of Mitt Romney, 2012; the dilemma, the curse of conservatism, remains, apparently a long way from its own demise. Stated another way, The Death of a Nation remains on schedule. Conservatively speaking, of course.  (Part 1 & Part 2)



“A modern gentleman is necessarily the enemy of his country. Even in war he does not fight to defend it, but to prevent his power of preying on it from passing to a foreigner.”  ~ George Bernard Shaw

In his first address to Congress on the budget, on February 27, 2001, not yet six weeks into his first term, George W. Bush said: “My pan plays down an unprecedented amount of our national debt.”  Perhaps the obvious dyslexia in his statement should have warned the nation that he had no “pan” to ‘play down’ anything at all, nor did he have a ‘plan’ to ‘pay’ anything down; but he did have a plan to pay back those who had financed his campaign, those who paid big money to elect a Texas dyslexic who had never succeeded at anything he’d ever tried across the entire span of his life.  If ever there were questions as to why corporate power interests were willing to finance the election of what has been, in effect, a literary nitwit to the top seat of power, they’ve probably all been answered in the four years that have since passed.  Let it be noted that when George W. Bush took office, the fiscal figures he inherited from his predecessor Bill Clinton were among the rosiest the US had seen in half a century: the budget was actually running a surplus, and the huge national debt burden was being reduced.  It took Bush only a few months to turn things around completely. Continue reading

The Death of a Nation (a retrospective on the W. Bush era, Part 2)

Below is Part 2 in a series of essays which seem to have become, in retrospect, history-based observations of the consequences  actual and potential  of the first administration of POTUS George W. Bush, all penned early in his second term, i.e. by the end of April, 2005.  Read Part 1 here.

Listening to Mitt Romney speak to today’s world doesn’t exactly serve as a confidence-builder that anything has really changed (or ever will, for that matter) for the better.


The Death of a Nation

“If ever we put any other value above liberty, and above principle, we shall lose both.” –Dwight D. Eisenhower (1960)

Imagine a modern society which is ignorant of history, of the arts, of literature, poetry, and drama.  Imagine a society that doesn’t care about its ignorance because it’s been taught, instead, that all there is of value in this life can be measured in dollars and cents and the goods which can be purchased therewith.  Imagine a society which believes wealth refers only to the accumulation of money and/or assets which carry a price tag.  Imagine a society which collectively is not well-informed enough to locate any particular nation on a globe, but which cheers when its leaders order invasions and occupations, a society which yawns at revelations that its leaders have ordered both torture and mass murder as a matter of policy.  Imagine a society once seen by its fellows around the world as a grand and glowing bastion of liberty and justice for everyone, no matter the accident of their birth, but now – suddenly – become feared, mistrusted, and even loathed; a society now emerged and perceived as untrustworthy and a danger to all of civilization, and in fact to Gaia, the very soul of Earth herself. Imagine a society – a nation –  so rife with political and corporate corruption that lies are now spoken as if truths, that what was once good is now bad, where right is wrong and wrong is right, where dreams are now become nightmares.

If imagination fails, simply stand forth and take a close look at the United States of America, circa 2005 A.D.: Land of the Free and Home of the Brave now become Land of the Tyrant and Home of the Scoundrel.

Much has happened on the American political scene in the last five years, and even to the unpracticed eye, none of it looks good.  Genuine truths, facts, lies, observations, trends, and tendencies have joined forces in a disturbing suggestion: that we may currently be witnessing the unveiling of events which one day will come together and define Constitutional America’s demise. Continue reading

The Death of a Nation (a retrospective on the W. Bush era, Intro)

Twelve years ago right about this time of the year I was looking forward to the 2000 election, hoping to do, by voting, my tiny part to keep George W. Bush in Texas and OUT of Washington DC. Then I had a (sudden and unexpected) grand mal seizure, ended up in the hospital, and two months later had brain surgery to correct the causative congenital circulatory disorder. In between, I voted for Gore, had another seizure, watched as the SCOTUS bungled the election and appointed Bush to the presidency, and slept through Bush’s inaugural address whilst recovering in the ICU.

It was a total bummer of an experience, i.o.w., that so-called “election” of 2000, made evermore worse by that which went down in the next eight years of the Bush “presidency.”  By late 2004 I was hopeful — not optimistic, just hopeful — that common sense would prevail and the electorate would toss the monkey in the White House out on his ear. We all know how THAT turned out. Anyway, beginning late in 04 and continuing through April of 05, I wrote a series of essays which I collectively titled “The Death of a Nation: An Examination of America’s Descent Into the Maelstrom.” And today, here we are some eight years down the road and approaching election 2012 even as, once again, my optimism wanes and I’m left only with a dash of hope.

I recently resurrected the essay collection, read it for the first time in years, and found it interesting from both the historical and (current) political points of view. It is, indeed, a blessing that George W. Bush is no longer on the Amurkan throne BUT, unfortunately for all of us, the damage he did persists to this day, and should the political right happen to regain full power in the government either this year OR (for that matter) ever again . . . well, the obvious question becomes ‘how much worse can things get before national collapse becomes the defining reality?’ Continue reading


“Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” –George Santayana.

In 1818, the English poet Percy Bysshe Shelley wrote:

I met a traveller from an antique land
Who said: `Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. Near them, on the sand,
Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown,
And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command,
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them and the heart that fed.
And on the pedestal these words appear —
“My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:
Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!”
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away.’

Ozymandias was a fictional character, but even Shelley’s fourteen line sonnet provides a compelling “historical” tale of the rediscovered visage of a fallen leader in a fallen land, and reminds the reader of the truth in Santayana’s observation. For me, the combination brings to mind the current American political season along with the (far too oft-repeated) myth of American Exceptionalism which, when examined through history’s unbiased eye falls on extremely hard times. In that vein, I offer a (somewhat lengthy) perspective, one based on truth and historical reality rather than on popular mythology. Does one dare to hope that we as a nation might catch on before it’s too late? I can only suggest that based on current signs, optimism is tricky at best. Still, it can’t hurt to try. Right? Following is an admittedly narrow — but historical — preview of tomorrow’s American interregnum, a reflection on the potential consequences of our emergent period of diffuse groping and political stumbling.

For at least a thousand years prior to the early sixteenth century European invasion of the Americas, intellectually-advanced aboriginal populations were leaving their indelible marks on human culture and knowledge.  Whether Inca, Maya, Aztec, Hohokam, Salado, Mogollon, Sinagua, Anasazi, Iroquois – to name but a few – their cultural remnants persist in ways which both puzzle and enlighten those of us whose ancestry is far less remembered, far less culturally profound.  The Iroquois Nation has been called ‘the oldest participatory democracy on Earth’, and there are more than casual evidences that ideas contained in the Iroquois Gayanashagowa, their ‘Great Binding Law’, were incorporated into the Constitution of the United States by America’s founding fathers.  Few argue the immensity or accomplishment of, e.g., the Mayan culture, and we can only speculate about what might have been lost when the Spanish Padre Diego de Landa saw to the destruction of countless ancient Maya texts, codices and documents on the basis that they were ‘heathen’ works.  That the great pre-Columbian cultures in the Americas were highly advanced in astronomical observation – far moreso than their European contemporaries who were barely escaped from their own religious Dark Ages – is seldom questioned.  And yet, the first order of business of the invaders was to destroy, plunder, and pillage – and, of course, ‘save’ the heathen by converting them to whichever version of Christianity they brought with them.

In the American Southwest, the Great Cultures escaped the wrath of the invaders, they had already disappeared a hundred or more years prior to Columbus’s “discovery”; their descendants remained, however, and faced the original onslaughts of both soldier and priest.  The Hopi, Zuni, and Pima all suffered at the hands of the Spanish military and religious cadres, as did the relative newcomer (Athapascan) Navajo and Apache peoples.  Overall, the scenario covering the nearly 700 years from 1200 C.E. to Geronimo’s surrender in 1886 (which heralded the cessation of the Indian Wars in the Southwest) reflected a period of immense change for indigenous peoples, though the change was not of singular cause.

The younger Anasazi cliff dwellings in northern Arizona  – known today by the Navajo names Betatakin and Keet Seel – were constructed in the early- to mid-1200s and were abandoned about 1300, probably due to the protracted drought which began circa 1276 but which apparently built upon accumulated effects of a fifty year drought that desiccated the landscape between 1130 and 1180.  Drought in arid lands, even when brief, imposes a severe impact on local populations – an obvious proposition, but one which is all too easily ignored or dismissed until it’s too late; a lengthy drought must invariably prove fatal.

When the Spaniard Francisco Vasquez de Coronado rode north in 1540 in search of the rumored Seven Cities of Cibola, he first encountered the Zuni villages in present day New Mexico.  After looting, raping, pillaging, and plundering the Zuni, Coronado’s representatives located the Hopi village of Awatovi in Arizona, and eventually met with Hopi representatives in Oraibi.  There were no obvious riches there, however, so contact was intermittent until 1598 when Juan de Oñate arrived and arranged that the Hopi formally agree to become subjects of the King of Spain.  In 1629 the Franciscan Missionaries arrived and began the task of converting the Hopi to Christianity, a task which, to this day, has never been accomplished; the Hopi were (and have remained) strong enough in their own beliefs to resist the calling of the white man’s God, to resist participation in what the Hopi came to refer to as the “slave church.”

In 1680, the proud descendants of the Anasazi – Hopi, Zuni, the Taos pueblo, et. al. – came together in revolt against the ruthless Spaniards, the Castillas.  Every pueblo in the region revolted, and by the time it was all over some 500 Spaniards were dead, including 29 missionaries; churches, along with government and church records, were destroyed, and the remaining Spaniards fled to safety in Mexico.  By the spring of 1700, however, the Spanish priests had returned and managed to baptize 73 residents of Awatovi.  Not long thereafter, the other Hopi villages banded together, attacked Awatovi, killed its residents, destroyed the village, and purged themselves once and for all of the “slave church”; Awatovi remains in ruin to this day.

Meanwhile, far to the south, Spanish Jesuit missionaries were busy establishing visitas and building churches in Mexico’s Pimeria alta, the land of the upper Pimas, now southern Arizona.  The Pimas were hunter-gatherers who some believe to have been descendants of the once grand Hohokam civilization which a few hundred years earlier had prospered along present day Arizona’s Gila and Salt rivers.  The Hohokam were accomplished farmers and builders of extensive irrigation canal networks in the desert valleys adjacent to the perennially-flowing rivers.  Though no one knows for certain, it’s thought that it may have been a consequence of too much water rather than drought which finally forced the Hohokam to move on. The Salt River Valley demonstrated the problem to early anglo farmers when, by virtue of the free-flowing river and irrigation of peripheral acreage, the subsurface water table rose high enough to force salt to the surface which killed the crops (high water tables are no longer a problem – ground water pumping has drastically lowered them, sometimes to depths which have cause substantial land subsidence).  Similarly, before the Salt and Gila Rivers were controlled by upstream dams, flash floods in periodic wet years often inundated their adjacent flood plains which have long been considered to be choice and easily irrigatable farmland.

Given the strange hydrological proclivities and paradoxical precipitation deviations of the northern Sonoran Desert, it becomes almost as simple a task to propose, as reason for the disappearance of the Hohokam, too much water as it does to propose drought.  Perhaps we’ll never know for sure. In any case, what is certain is that the Hohokam, the Anasazi and all other advanced pre-Columbian civilizations once indigenous to the present day American Southwest disappeared, each and all within the same approximate time frame.  The artifacts and ruins each culture left behind are compelling to archaeologist and historian alike, and most surely speak of peoples who understood that their position in the natural world was neither greater nor lesser than that of any other life form, that they, too, were simply a strand in Nature’s web of life.  These were intellectual peoples who were well-advanced in a great many ways, ways which the white invaders, themselves recent refugees of a multi-century Christian-insisted medieval darkness, would not begin to either appreciate or master for several centuries to come – if, indeed, ever.

Enter now the year 2012 C.E., more than 500 years beyond the ‘discovery’ by Europeans of the Americas; much has changed even as much remains the same.  The white race has brought its people, its culture, and its religion to this new world and has superimposed each on top of the peoples, cultures, and religions which were here long ago.  The United States has become the world superpower which many seem to believe has long been its due; but in spite of the nation’s power and ‘wealth’, all is not well.  North America’s once presumed inexhaustible resources and riches have been slowly exhausted and spent, and Nature seems to have become a bit angered by extractive and polluting practices which are slowly overcoming all efforts, however bold or feeble, thus far expended on means to either preserve, protect, or even restore lands, forests, wetlands, etc.  It’s often noted that the U.S.A. contains roughly five percent of the Earth’s total population but is using nearly twenty-five percent of Earth’s resources, all in effort to preserve a ‘standard of living’ which is variously referred to as elevated, prosperous, extravagant, or wasteful.

In post-invasion North America, lines were eventually drawn on maps in order to define the boundaries of Canada, the USA, and Mexico, the three separate nations that today embrace the continent which was historically home to hundreds of separate cultures – Peoples – but with no distinct borders.  Among their numbers, those aboriginal cultures ranged from cosmopolitan and intellectually advanced ‘civilizations’ to the more primitive hunter/gatherer tribes, but all shared at least one apparent near-constant philosophical concept: a genuine religious sense of integration with Nature, with the Earth Mother herself.  Such a philosophy was in direct contrast with the incoming European Christian idea that man had been granted, by the Judaeo-Christian God, dominion (and, by extension, ownership) of Nature’s entire.  The clash was inevitable, and very quickly the lives of Native American tribal nations across the continent were irrevocably altered by the emergence of a capitalistic economy wherein the land, water, animal, and plant resources that historically sustained native cultures became simple commodities in market support of ever-increasing numbers of white Europeans and their descendants.  The invaders brought disease, guns, and insurmountable numbers; with ultimate victory ensured, they signed treaty after treaty with the tribal nations, and forthwith broke treaty after treaty, always in selfish pursuit of riches the lands offered.

By the mid-twentieth Century, the remnant populations of nearly all aboriginal North Americans were confined to reservations (‘reservation’ now synonymous with lands the newly-emplaced ‘Dominant Culture’ presumed to be valueless for either habitation or resource exploitation), many of which remained bastions of human poverty and hopelessness within a nation that had, by the mid-twentieth century, come to be defined by its now white majority as “… one nation, under God, with liberty and justice for all.”  The words rang hollow to the victims of the fledgling superpower’s presumed and so-called “Manifest Destiny” even as the reservation residents were force-fed the white man’s culture and religion, even as the now Dominant Culture did its best to erase or destroy all vestiges of native culture, mythology, legend, and belief.

Nevertheless and despite myriad local indiscretionary behaviors, America initiated, in the latter half of the twentieth century, a ponderous progression in the direction of human rights for minority peoples.  The 1964 Civil Rights Act demanded equal treatment under the law regardless of skin color, or gender, or national origin (for some, a series of radical concepts both then and now); but never has there been an effort to reverse the rescinded treaty obligations with aboriginal tribal nations, all of whom were forced, post-conquest, to make do with what little was left to them.  In spite of the attendant hardship, many tribal nations have finally found ways and means to enrich their financial coffers by offering both services and resources which satisfy Dominant Culture’s consumption urges: whether via gambling casinos or oil, gas, and coal leases, tribal nations have learned to take advantage of the mega-society’s inbred gluttony and greed.  In result, there finally are accumulating tribal financial resources which may, eventually, relieve at least some of the poverty and the intellectual starvation which has been the result of long-term and enforced privation.

Today, America’s facade is that of a world superpower, an advocate of democracy and freedom for all people everywhere, a facade which represents the presumed envy of all who covet personal and societal wealth and prosperity.  But there remains a firm, albeit well-concealed, hollowness implicit in those claims.  As with an old storefront sporting new siding and fresh paint in the midst of an otherwise deteriorating mining town, a glittering facade can easily mask rusted plumbing and crumbling foundations in the basement, dry rot in the walls and rafters, plus aid the concealment of a healthy population of roof rats in the upstairs clerestories, maybe even an infestation that covers the entire top floor. Unfortunately – and sadly – it doesn’t take much creative thought to apply that entire metaphor to present day America, circa 2012 C.E.

There are curious undercurrents in today’s America, undercurrents that far too many deem to consider the norm, but which are, without a doubt, serious harbingers of unpleasantries that lurk just over yon hill.  The undercurrents arrived with the European invaders in the early years of the sixteenth century, and have since come to be seen as noble traits, but sans the traditionally attendant noblesse oblige, those well-understood obligations of nobility.

When, in 1519 Hernán Cortés and his Spanish Conquistadores arrived in Mexico, he was welcomed by the Aztec leader Moctezuma in Tenochtitlán as Quetzalcoatl, the Aztec version of the bearded white god who was commonly a part of the mythology throughout pre-Columbian America.  Cortés soon betrayed Moctezuma’s hospitality, however, as he laid siege to Tenochtitlán; by 1533, with Cortés’s victory complete, all of Mexico was claimed by the Spanish Crown.  Of course, Cortés was not by any measure a god, he was simply a warrior in search of gold and its power implicit. He was also a sworn agent of The Great (Christian) Commission to “make disciples of all nations”, to Christianize the heathen savages which populated the entire of the North American continent.  Cortés was not alone in either mission; virtually all contingents of European immigrants brought approximately the same agenda to serve upon all who inhabited the New World, and over the next several centuries, European immigrant colonists arrived with regularity and in sufficient numbers to alter forever both the natural and cultural face of the continent.

In 1756, John Adams wrote that when European colonists first arrived in America, “… the whole continent was one continued dismal wilderness, the haunt of wolves and bears and more savage men.  Now the forests are removed, the land covered with fields of corn, orchards bending with fruit and the magnificent habitations of rational and civilized people.”  Those same “rational and civilized people” and their descendants soon spread across that continent, from ‘sea to shining sea’.  As they did so, they presumed to conquer the “dismal wilderness” by, in effect, exterminating all of the “wolves and [grizzly] bears” and by killing/exterminating all of the “savage men” – and women, and children – who got in their way (some might consider the word genocide to be an adequate descriptor of that gruesome reality) .  They staked claim to the land and its resources as they went along, and in the process destroyed natural assets which had supported tribal nations for untold centuries.  The buffalo population on the Great Plains, for example – long the principal sustenance of the Plains Indians – was reduced from approximately fifteen million to only a few thousand – in less than ten years. Why?  For sport, and/or for the buffalo’s tongue and robe which each brought a few dollars on the open market.  That slaughter is perhaps one of the most revealing records of colonial atrocity available, and serves to describe, both then and today, the mores and values – or lack thereof – of America’s emergent and now Dominant Culture.

With (and during) the conquest of the continent, Nature was set aside.  In the process, a great many species became extinct (the passenger pigeon and prairie chicken are oft-cited two of many), and hundreds, perhaps thousands more, are ever-increasingly endangered; wild lands have been tamed, rivers dammed, forests logged and clear-cut; vast prairies have been converted to farmlands or paved over as cities; waters are polluted or contaminated with common industrial waste products and with esoteric (often indestructible) man made chemicals; air pollution over large cities has become legendary, and extractable resources which once seemed inexhaustible have been exhausted, or nearly so.  Meanwhile, underground aquifers are drying up even as golf courses are watered daily; widespread use and aerosolized discharge of chlorofluorocarbons has resulted in a huge ‘hole’ in the earth’s protective ozone layer over the south pole, and though efforts have been made to reduce the release of ozone-destroying chemicals, the reality is that it will take Nature a hundred or more years to reverse the damage already done; carbon emissions from the burning of fossil fuels are both causing and exacerbating a global warming trend to the point where the polar ice caps are melting and the ocean levels are slowly rising.  There is, quite literally, no end to the list of problems the Dominant Culture is bringing down upon itself, and for what good reason?

Wealth, of course.  Wealth as defined by money, by dollars.  Wealth equates, to the simplistically minded, with power; power – dominion – is primal to any sense of accomplishment in the Dominant Culture, and in the Dominant Culture, dominion is considered to have been granted to Human by none other than God Himself – the Judaeo/Christian/Islamic God, that is.  Dominion approves and enables the generation of wealth; generation of wealth requires consumption, which requires production, which requires extraction of resource.  Consumption is, therefore and by definition, fundamental: the more consumption, the more wealth for some, the better for all.  Waste, trash, garbage, litter, end products of production or discarded products themselves are all inexorably tied to consumption – which yields wealth, which IS power.  Therefore, waste is never contraindicated and resources ARE there to be used, not conserved.

Hernán Cortés brought the wealth/power/dominion equivalence with him from Spain and put it to good use in his conquest of Tenochtitlán. In the subsequent Spanish explorations, conquests, and Christian missionary forays into what is now the American Southwest, others carried the banners with equivalent zeal.  Today, in both New Mexico and Arizona are many remnants of the Spanish period including place names, architecture styles, and mission churches either still active, or in ruins.  But here the Spanish, too – and their religious converts – were ultimately overwhelmed by America’s Manifest Destiny and have, as such, become parcel of and subservient to the Dominant Culture.

As I write this, the American Southwest — the historical venue of those advanced civilizations we refer to today as Hohokam, Sinagua, Salado, Mogollon, and Anasazi — is at least fifteen years into an ever more severe drought, and no end is in sight.  Scientists have suggested it could last anywhere from twenty or thirty years to even a thousand years or more.  And though it’s quite likely that a thousand years is a bit of an extreme guess, in practical terms it really won’t make much difference if the lower range of twenty to thirty years proves accurate.  Fifty-odd years ago, for example, the state of Arizona’s human population was barely over a million; today it’s well on its way to topping six million.  Phoenix, its capital city, has grown to become the fifth largest city in the United States, and even though more than half of Arizona’s current population lives in the greater Phoenix metro area, the pressures of supporting such a huge metroplex are spread across much of the rest of the state, the Southwest itself, and especially the watersheds west of the Great Divide in Colorado.  Note the word: watersheds.

Water.  Water is the key, the ancient key, to arid land civilization. Water. Today, Lake Powell, the upper reservoir on the Colorado River formed behind Glen Canyon dam, has more than once shrunk to less than forty percent of capacity, low enough to force reductions in hydro-power generation, low enough to severely restrict recreational boating on the lake itself because of high and dry marinas, and low enough to expose ancient ruins which have been underwater since the floodgates on the dam were first closed in the middle 1960s.  Spring runoff from snow melt in the Colorado Rockies has been reduced for the majority of the last fifteen years because of drought.  Downstream, Lake Mead’s level will slowly shrink as well, more rapidly once releases from Powell either slow to a trickle (or cease completely if/when the lake should completely dry up and become nought but a reminder of better times and wetter climes).  The so-called Lower Basin States (Nevada, Arizona, and California) are strongly dependent upon water allocations from the Colorado River; however, when crunch time arrives, Arizona is, by virtue of the Colorado River Compact, the first loser – California is legally entitled to preferential treatment and will be the last to suffer from shortages.

One wonders if the current situation isn’t somehow similar to that which arose in the thirteenth century, when drought apparently finalized the fate of the Anasazi.  If the current drought persists “only” as long as the Anasazi’s final drought (24 years, from 1276-1300 C.E., based on tree ring data), will Phoenix and other desert population centers find the means to survive?  Was it ever a wise choice to construct cities which are home to millions atop arid desert plains?

What of the huge forests which cover much of the West’s higher elevations?  In the last decade, millions of acres have burned, the bulk of the fires courtesy of Human’s carelessness with matches, cigarettes, campfires, etc.  If forests don’t burn, will their weakened trees further succumb to pine bark beetle infestations which have already claimed millions of trees in just the last few years?

Time will, of course, provide all of the answers.  Meanwhile, it seems terribly obvious that Human may do well to reconsider the fundamentals of his presumed dominion over Nature; he might also consider the possibility of seriously evaluating the collective impact of his constant assaults on the natural world, consider restructuring his culture and society in order to be less environmentally intrusive.  Perhaps the time has come for Dominant Culture to assume the philosophies of life which guided aboriginal peoples, behavioral concepts which allowed them to prosper, to run free, for however many millennia they existed before the European invasion and conquest called a halt to the idea of living in balance with the Earth.

Much work must be done; dare we hope for leaders wise enough to understand the problems, to take positive action toward equitable solution?  If recent history is predictive, the answer is very likely a resounding NO!  In November, 1980, C.E., a new tyranny assumed control of America’s destiny, of her future.  Across the ensuing years, the emphasis has been singular: to reward political patrons with legal favors which honor corporate America even as they spit upon the common man.  Meanwhile, religious fundamentalists – Christians – have gained a new foothold of political power and are using that power to insist the nation take a course which honors class hatred and bigotry.  They attempt to subvert science in favor of their own mythology: that hollow, biblical, Creationist agenda which proclaims Human to be of divine origin and therefore unique – and worthy of dominion – amongst and over all of life.  The first eight years (at least) of the 21st century bore witness to the mass overturning of environmental progress with new roads in roadless areas, huge increases in timber cutting, relaxation of air and water pollution standards, habitat destruction, and cessation of protections for endangered species.  The wave of destruction initiated by, among others, John Adams’s “rational and civilized people,” has returned, but with heightened and renewed energy. The likelihood that Human has finally signed his own warrant has increased proportionateley; Nature has begun to fight back, after all, and Nature will not lose.

Meanwhile, we ponder Human’s arrogance, once again, through the words of the poet Shelley:

I met a traveller from an antique land
Who said: `Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. Near them, on the sand,
Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown,
And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command,
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them and the heart that fed.
And on the pedestal these words appear —
“My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:

Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!”

Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away.’

Fiction? Historical record?  Predictive metaphor? Whichever be the case, it’s at least as thought-provoking as are any of the multitude of Genesis myths which seem to underlie the philosophical imperatives of today’s grossly imperfect Dominant Culture.  If it’s indeed true that Ozymandias offers an accurate reflection of the consequences of arrogant leadership, and if the reward for such arrogance is “two trunks of legless stone” with a “shattered  visage” lying “half sunk” in the sand, then America’s current leadership has surely been described, the nation’s ultimate fate defined and cast in stone.   All should be advised that to find Shelley’s “visage” which sports a “frown, and wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command” we need look no further than Washington D.C., and to the person(s) therein ‘in charge’ of this country, “leaders” who are, each and all, completely true to the spirit of Ozymandias himself.  Q.E.D.: quod erat demonstrandum.

The times are once again dark and dangerous; there is much work to be done.

The Watering Hole, Thursday, September 6th, 2012: Speech! Speech!

Over the last several days, through the Republican National Convention and the Democratic National Convention, most of us political junkies have seen way too many speeches. There have been good speeches, bad speeches, and ugly “speeches”. And there have been a couple of great speeches. Tonight, President Barack Hussein Obama will need to give a great speech when accepting the nomination.

I ran across a treasure-trove of other historical political speeches at a site called “The American Presidency Project.” This website is just chock-full of archival information – check out the varied offerings on the “Document Archive” sidebar – including but not limited to:

All of Mitt Romney’s campaign speeches, from June 2nd, 2011 through August 14th, 2012;
All of President Obama’s campaign speeches, from July 5th, 2012 through August 22nd, 2012;
Presidential Nomination Acceptance Speeches, from Abraham Lincoln’s letter of acceptance in 1864, through Mitt Romney’s speech on August 30th, 2012 (the site will be updated to include President Obama’s acceptance speech);
– Transcripts of all of the Republican Presidential Candidates debates – yes, all twenty of them!

For pure historical fascination alone, this website is invaluable; but I believe that its value for us today, during this Presidential election, is its usefulness for fact-checking, quote-verifying, and flip-flop tracking.

This is our Open Thread – enjoy!


The Watering Hole: Wednesday, June 20, 2012: Does it really Matter?

Ok, so for the next few months, if you’re in a “swing” State, you’ll be inundated with SuperPAC commercials designed to get you to vote against your own best interests. We will also be systematically bombarded with messages from the Mainstream Media designed to influence our thinking.


If the Powers That Be really want Obama out, all they have to do is raise gas prices to about $5.00/gallon. Instead, gas prices are going down, heading into the summer vacation season. That’s not to say they won’t go up between now and the election – but they are an accurate predictor of where our economy will head. So, pay attention to the pump, not the talking heads.

Ok, that’s my $0.0199 cents. And you?